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A Life Well-Lived

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It suited Sherlock very well to ignore social cues and body language ninety percent of the time. However, that didn’t mean that he didn’t recognise them. Leaving aside the opinions of Scotland Yard, he knew very well when someone was upset, or quietly angry, or worried. And he definitely knew when someone was attracted to him.

After weeks of watching John making sheep’s eyes at him, blush furiously when Sherlock walked from their bathroom to his bedroom in only a towel and a scattering of water droplets, and surreptitiously flex his fingers every time their hands brushed, Sherlock had reached the happy conclusion that John wanted a closer relationship than that of friends and colleagues. ‘Happy’, because for a surprisingly long time Sherlock had felt an attraction to John that had shown no signs of dissipating, and so he waited with gleeful anticipation for John to make his move.

After all, John had never previously shown himself to be shy in approaching people he fancied and Sherlock expected that, any day now, John would come to him with a diffident request to speak with Sherlock about a personal matter. Just to make John aware that his interest would be welcome – more than welcome – Sherlock increased the frequency of casual touches and requests for John to retrieve his phone from Sherlock’s jacket or trouser pockets, and started leaving an extra shirt button undone.

However, after waiting a truly unreasonable amount of time then Sherlock’s patience, never an abundant resource, expired completely, and he backed John into the least unsanitary corner of the kitchen and kissed him. It was wonderful – John’s lips warm and soft under his, John’s arms strong around his waist – but brief.

After a few glorious minutes of tasting the curve of John’s upper lip and John’s breath tickling his cheek, John leaned back and shook his head.

‘Sorry,’ he stammered, looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights. ‘I-I’m not attracted to… You’ve got the wrong idea.’

Sherlock could only stare at him, entirely confused.

‘No I haven’t,’ he managed at last. Because John had kissed him hungrily until he shrank away; his legs had parted readily at the tiniest nudge of Sherlock’s knee between John’s, and Sherlock could still feel one of John’s hands pressed to the small of his back, fingertips almost brushing the curve of his arse.

But John looked away and muttered, ‘Yes. You have,’ as his hands fluttered up to push against Sherlock’s chest.

Still baffled, Sherlock let him go, and John paused in the kitchen doorway just long enough to say, ‘No hard feelings. I’m really very flattered,’ before leaving with such haste that Sherlock could only call it fleeing. A few moments later John’s bedroom door shut with a decisive click, and Sherlock drifted into the sitting room and sank down onto their sofa, lost in thought. That really wasn’t how he had imagined that going at all. How very unexpected.

He smiled.

How very John.

----------

John wasn’t homophobic, Sherlock knew. The fraught nature of his relationship with his sister was based on her drinking problem rather than any puritanical dislike over who she went to bed with. It could be that John had some unresolved internal conflict about his own sexuality, and so Sherlock decided to conduct an experiment.

Over the following couple of weeks, Sherlock took John to a series of gay bars and cafes, citing a case that needed extensive legwork. At each place, he found a reason to leave John alone and, as Sherlock had predicted, it wasn’t long before John was chatted up and Sherlock was able to covertly observe his reactions.

Each time John seemed surprised, then flattered. He lingered to talk with the man on each occasion, often flirting back, and didn’t pull away at the casual touches to his wrist and arm. John only began to tense subtly and withdraw when things looked as though they might progress further – when the men asked him for a date or, in one instance, kissed him.

In conclusion: John wasn’t homophobic, nor did he have any issues with casual interest from men. It was only when things looked as though they might progress further that he shied away, which begged the question of whether he was actually aware of the degree to which he’d been returning the casual flirting, or the interest he’d been showing in Sherlock.

Two days after John had lied to the latest man, telling him that he was flattered but that he already had a boyfriend (how like John not to want to hurt the man’s feelings by outright rejecting him), Sherlock sat in wait for John in his armchair, feeling a bit like a hunter waiting by the waterhole. He ran through his list of reasoning and arguments in his head, and when John entered the flat Sherlock let him hang up his coat and get a drink of water before opening with, ‘You’re not homophobic.’

John’s eyebrows shot up. ‘Of course I’m not. Lesbian sister, remember.’

‘In fact you’re bisexual yourself; when a man chats you up you show clear signs of returning his interest.’

‘Ye-es.’ John walked out of their kitchen, glass still clutched in one hand and his eyes narrowed in suspicion. ‘But what makes you say– Oh God.’ He covered his face with his free hand and sighed. ‘There wasn’t a case, was there? All those trips out have been just for your own demented reasons. For Christ’s sake, Sherlock, why?

‘You liked them chatting you up, but drew back when they tried to take it further,’ Sherlock said, steepling his fingers beneath his chin and ignoring John’s question. ‘You want me. No, don’t start–’ as John held up a hand and opened his mouth for a futile protest, ‘you do. I’d have to be blind not to see it. And yet you won’t let yourself act on your desire. Why is that?’

‘Christ.’ John exhaled forcefully through his nose. ‘I’m either very angry, or very amused. Has anyone ever told you you’re a persistent sod?’

‘Frequently.’ Sherlock refused to be side-tracked. ‘John, what’s the problem? I don’t care if you’re a virgin, I can understand that you may not have met anyone you liked and anonymous sex with strangers is highly over-rated–’

‘No,’ John interrupted him. ‘No, I’m not a virgin. I just…’ He walked into the kitchen, presenting Sherlock with an excellent view of his rigid spine and the back of his neck, which was slowly reddening. ‘Sex and relationships with men just aren’t my cup of tea.’

‘But clearly they are, at least to some degree.’ Sherlock hopped out of his chair and followed John to the kitchen, ticking points off on his fingers as he spoke. ‘You watch me. You show pupil dilation, increased respiration, and increased skin temperature when we’re in close proximity, and you wet your lips more frequently. You stare at my bum when you think I won’t notice. And most importantly…’ he paused for effect, and John didn’t turn round but Sherlock heard a soft, ‘Go on.’

‘You kissed me back,’ he said simply. ‘John. You want me, and I want you. I fail to see the problem.’

He walked around to stand in front of John who didn’t turn away, although he wouldn’t meet Sherlock’s eyes either. He was deeply flushed.

‘Look, it’s complicated, all right? Yes, you’re gorgeous and I fancy you, but I’ve tried relationships with men before and they’re not really my thing.’

‘How many men?’

‘One,’ John admitted, still looking anywhere but at Sherlock’s face. ‘At university. So if you’ll just–’

‘Messy break-up?’

John seemed to find something amusing in this; he gave a short, humourless laugh before muttering, ‘You could say that, yeah. So–’

‘You already know all of my bad habits,’ Sherlock pointed out. ‘What can possibly be worse than the dead pigeon in the freezer last week?’

John made a face, tension momentarily forgotten. ‘God, don’t remind me.’

‘There’s nothing about me that you don’t know,’ Sherlock insisted, gently taking the glass out of John’s unresisting grasp and setting it on the counter. ‘And there’s nothing about you that I don’t want.’

Sherlock…’ John’s voice was low and warning, but his gaze flicked up to Sherlock’s mouth and then away. When Sherlock stepped forward and gripped his upper arms John didn’t flinch away but leaned into the kiss and clung to Sherlock with surprising force, fingers knotting themselves in his shirtfront.

Sherlock kissed him slowly, thoroughly, and didn’t press for anything more than a soft, shallow touch of mouths. John’s lips and tongue were cool and slick from the water, and it felt like a long drink on a hot day; Sherlock could have happily kissed him for hours. Nevertheless, when John made to draw back Sherlock instantly loosened his grip.

‘Sherlock.’ John’s lips were flushed and slightly parted; they looked so very tempting that Sherlock would have leaned in again if John hadn’t sounded so uncomfortable. ‘What do you want from me?’

Sherlock shrugged, noting how the movement shifted John’s hands where they were still latched onto his shirt. ‘Anything.’

‘Oh come on–’

‘I’m serious. As much or as little as you like.’

John sighed and looked dubious. ‘It’s not like you to be so accommodating.’

Sherlock shrugged again. ‘Maybe you’re a good influence on me.’

At this, John laughed. It was brief, but the sound lifted Sherlock’s heart. ‘Chance would be a bloody fine thing.’ He bit his lip for a moment, looking oddly shy, and then said, ‘Well, I suppose we could give it a try.’

Sherlock’s heart started to pound. ‘Really?’

‘Yes. But did you really mean anything?’

Sherlock nodded. The implied permission of all the things he was now allowed to do with John, to John, made his face heat, and he wondered whether the condoms in his nightstand were still in date. John was a medical professional, of course he would insist on condoms until they could both get blood tests done, never mind the fact that it had been years since Sherlock had even been interested in anyone, never mind slept with them–

But John wasn’t leaning in for another kiss. Instead he was shuffling his feet and saying, ‘Right then. I was thinking about lasagne for dinner. Are you eating tonight?’

It was such an abrupt departure from what Sherlock had expected to happen that the words took a moment to filter through, but when they finally did he nodded dumbly.

Disconcerted, he watched John move away and start to rummage through the cupboards for useable pots. This was… unexpected. But perhaps John was just too hungry for sex to take precedence over food. Yes, that must be it. And after all, Sherlock had said that anything was fine.

----------

Sherlock had cause to repeat that vow to himself several times over the next few weeks.

John didn’t seem to be in any hurry to take advantage of the changed status between them, in fact he was so reticent that Sherlock would have wondered if he had changed his mind were it not for the fact that John would often come to hover far too close inside Sherlock’s personal space, as though he wanted a kiss but wasn’t sure how to ask.

On such occasions they inevitably ended up wrapped around each other and snogging deeply for long, blissful minutes. Leaning against the kitchen counter, tangled together on the sofa, even with John sitting astride Sherlock’s thighs on one of the chairs at their sitting room table, when John had brought Sherlock a mug of tea and Sherlock had gently pulled him down into his lap.

John was a very good kisser, with the perfect blend of light shallow touches that only just dipped past Sherlock’s lips, and deep, hungry kisses that seemed designed to drive Sherlock utterly out of his mind. And John kissed with his whole body; he melted against Sherlock in those embraces in a way that left Sherlock both aroused and fiercely protective. It was a deeply wonderful thing to have an armful (or lapful) of John, flushed and heavy-eyed and just a little bit clumsy with wanting, sweetly pliant all over except for where his cock was hard and straining against the fly of his jeans. John got hard (so very hard) just from fully-clothed snogging, which was enough to dispel any lingering doubts that Sherlock might have had about John’s desire for this.

Yet the thing that was driving Sherlock slowly mad was that, as glorious as those sessions were, John always found a reason to end them. Sooner or later he would pull back –breathless and rumpled and simply edible, but also just a tiny bit skittish – and glance at the clock as he murmured apologetically against Sherlock’s mouth: ‘I have to go to work,’ or ‘I need to leave, I told Harry I’d meet her at eight o’clock,’ or even, ‘S’pose we’d better start making dinner,’ which was frankly the worst excuse that Sherlock had ever heard for curtailing an extremely satisfying kiss.

But he’d told John, ‘Anything,’ (and even if he hadn’t, John’s nervousness was almost palpable) and so Sherlock would remove his hands from whatever warm bit of John they’d burrowed up against and let him go without a murmur.

So Sherlock bided his time, feeling as though he were trying to befriend a wild, wary creature by sitting completely motionless while it gradually crept closer and closer. He stopped all kisses and caresses the instant John started to pull away and later, in the privacy of his bedroom, he used up most of a tube of lubricant in just a few weeks when pulling on his erection in his solitary bed and remembering John’s mouth, John’s hands, and the heavy push of John’s cock against his through all their layers of clothing. He often thought that John’s messy break-up must have been fairly spectacular, if it could have left John – who was otherwise completely fearless – so wary about beginning another relationship. Sherlock would have hated John’s ex but really, if the man had been such a fool as to let John go then Sherlock simply couldn’t be bothered to waste his brainpower on such a cretin.

At long last, an evening came when John sat next to him on the sofa to watch one of those mindless films he loved – all car chases and hi-tech gadgetry. Rather an unlikely passion for a man who had needed to ask Sherlock how to turn off the predictive text on his phone, and who still typed with two fingers, but nonetheless charming.

John leaned against Sherlock and draped an arm casually along the back of the sofa (Sherlock slouched down subtly so that it would come to rest along his shoulders), and John barely had to ask, ‘Can I kiss you?’ before Sherlock was there, cupping John’s face in his hands and coaxing his mouth open with little brushes of his tongue.

John moaned softly and kissed him back with equal fervour, and Sherlock silently rejoiced in the knowledge that this time they had both had dinner, Mrs Hudson was out for the evening and wouldn’t be popping in, and John had no social plans that would draw him away from Sherlock. He sank into John’s kisses willingly, and when John’s fingertips began to toy with the buttons of his shirt, teasing and nudging between them to stroke Sherlock’s bare chest, he felt a thrill of triumph.

Removing his hands from John’s hair, Sherlock quickly loosened all of his shirt buttons and tugged the tails out of his trousers, and then gasped when he felt the first hesitant touch of John’s slightly callused palm on his bare chest and stomach. When John caught a nipple between two fingertips, Sherlock groaned and shoved both hands beneath John’s jumper and T-shirt, stroking the warm skin until John broke away long enough to tug both layers over his head and off, baring himself shyly to Sherlock’s hungry gaze.

Sherlock moved back in for another kiss, and this time he let John’s weight push him down until he was lying on his back on the sofa, John’s weight heavy and delicious on top of him. They kissed each other for long minutes, mouths and faces and necks, until Sherlock was groaning and thrusting up against John’s thigh between his legs. He was so hard, Christ, he felt ready to come in his underwear and he hadn’t done that since his awkward adolescence.

John seemed to be just as far gone, rutting against him and moaning into their kisses, and Sherlock pulled his mouth away just enough to speak against John’s lips.

‘Can I…’ he reached down and covered John’s erection with his hand, rubbing him greedily through his jeans. ‘Can I touch you? God, please let me touch you.’

‘Yes.’ John looked utterly wrecked. His neck and chest had a fine flush spread across them, and he untangled himself from Sherlock and reached down without hesitation to fumble at his jeans.

In moments Sherlock had worked his own trousers and underwear down around his thighs, and when John lay back down he felt John’s cock bumping hot and solid against his hip. Sherlock reached down to curl his fingers around it, and John moaned again.

‘Get back on top of me,’ Sherlock ordered, desperate with wanting as he grabbed John’s thigh and tugged. ‘Here, like this…’

It took some manoeuvring, but eventually Sherlock had his trousers and underwear shoved down to his ankles, far enough for him to spread his knees wide and John to lie between them. He hadn’t wanted to interrupt the momentum to take them off completely, and he felt slightly ridiculous until John’s weight settled on top of him and he felt his erection push up against the coarse hair at John’s groin. John’s mouth smudged kisses along his jawline and throat until Sherlock dipped his head to fit their mouths together, and tried a roll of his hips that made John gasp and his fingers bite down on Sherlock’s shoulder.

‘Here,’ Sherlock said, after a heady period of snogging John and grinding their erections against each other just to feel the tiny noises John made against his mouth, and the tickle of air on his cheekbone as John sucked in breaths through his nose. He licked a wet stripe across his palm and worked a hand down between their bodies, nudging John slightly to make him lean up. ‘Here, let me…’

John’s eyes went very wide when he felt Sherlock wrap his fingers around their erections, and a few moments later he was trembling as Sherlock carefully stroked both of them, sliding his thumb gently across the soft, slick head of John’s cock.

‘Oh God,’ John gasped, eyes squeezed shut, soft shivers turning to forceful shudders as his cock swelled in Sherlock’s clasp. ‘Shit, I’m coming, sorry, I can’t–’

John buried his face in Sherlock’s shoulder and shook as everything suddenly became very warm and slick between them, and Sherlock was left struggling to keep stroking John through his orgasm while trying to coax his head up for a kiss.

When he finally succeeded, it was hard to tell whether the deep flush on John’s face was due to his orgasm or his mortification.

‘Sorry,’ was the first thing John said when he was able to speak. ‘Oh God, I’m sorry, that was… I didn’t think I was going to… I’m sorry.’

‘Hush. It’s fine.’ God, he was aching now – John having an orgasm in his hand was the most arousing thing he’d ever seen – and he used John’s come to slick his own cock and began stroking himself. John shifted his weight onto his good shoulder and his hand reached down to cover Sherlock’s, interlacing their fingers, and Sherlock thrust up into their joined fist until it was his turn to gasp, and his toes curled as he shivered and spurted between them.

When he opened his eyes, he found John watching him with an amazed look on his face. Sherlock grinned breathlessly, cupping John’s face with the hand that wasn’t still entwined with John’s on his cock, holding him gently as he began to soften.

‘All right?’

It was all he could think of to say. John only nodded, but when Sherlock gave a luxuriant, satisfied groan and pulled him down, John collapsed readily on top of him and pushed his face into Sherlock’s neck.

High on endorphins, it took a while for Sherlock to realise that John was mumbling something indistinctly into his skin. He concentrated, and made out vague mutters of, ‘Sorry.’

‘What on earth are you apologising for now?’ he asked, feeling too sated to work up a decent level of irritation.

‘Well,’ John lifted his head, still flushed and biting his lip. ‘That probably wasn’t quite as good as you were expecting.’

‘Oh shush. First times are always over quickly.’ He stretched, and reached for the tangle of John’s T-shirt and jumper. ‘That’s why you have second and third times.’

John looked surprised, and then pleased. ‘Really? A second time?’

Sherlock rolled his eyes. ‘Well, obviously. Or did you think I went to all the effort of propositioning you for a five-minute mutual wank on the sofa? Do try to have a little more faith in me.’

He shook John’s T-shirt free of the jumper and pushed it down between their bodies, kissing away John’s half-hearted grumble of, ‘Couldn’t you have used your shirt?’

‘Right then,’ he said, standing and tugging up his trousers. ‘Bed, before I fall asleep on the sofa.’

‘All right.’ John paused, before saying awkwardly, ‘Well, goodnight, then.’

Sherlock eyed him slowly, making John flush and fidget, before asking, ‘Aren’t you coming?’

‘Oh! Oh, I see. You meant… right.’

‘Of course I did,’ Sherlock said, too confused to be annoyed at John’s failure to keep up. ‘We’ve just had sex, and this is what people do, isn’t it? Besides, my mattress is more comfortable than yours.’

‘I’m not sure I want to know how you know that,’ John grumbled, but he was smiling and following Sherlock into his bedroom.

It was lovely to curl up in bed next to John, to wrap his arms around him and rub his face through his hair in the darkness. Sherlock fell asleep coiled tightly around John, and with a vaguely pleased anticipation that now the dreaded First Time (that John had apparently been so nervous about) was over with, he could get started on the list of different things he wanted to do to John.

----------

Sherlock really should have known, Christ, he of all people should have known that things were never as simple as they seemed. He should have guessed that there might be more to John’s hesitation than just the memory of a bad break-up, but the past weeks had left him too charmed by the sight of John flushed and stammering (and too stupid with lust) for the possibility to occur to him. Also, if he were being honest with himself (and he made a point of always being brutally honest with himself), then the idea of anyone harming a hair of John’s head left him so filled with murderous, impotent rage as to render him entirely useless, and so he generally preferred not to dwell on the idea.

It was a grave mistake.

For John woke him up that night, scuffling and moaning in the throes of a nightmare. Nothing Sherlock hadn’t seen before, on those numerous occasions when he had been working late, noticed the faint sounds of distress coming from upstairs, and gone to rouse John. However, when he tried his usual solution – a hand on the shoulder – John flinched and tried to squirm away, his breathing shallow and too fast.

Tightening his grip, Sherlock shook him very slightly, and in the dim light offered by the streetlights, he could see John shaking his head. Over the faint whisper of his hair against the pillow, Sherlock could hear vague words and phrases tumbling from John, gradually becoming clearer as he rose up out of sleep.

‘No… please… Tom, don’t, no…’

‘John!’

John sucked in a deep, shuddering breath as he awoke and, moving automatically, Sherlock sat up and reached for him. Concern made him hasty, but when John quickly cowered back against the wall and gasped, ‘Please, Tom, no!’ Sherlock sat back, suddenly feeling ill.

He reached over to switch on the bedside light, squinting in the glare, and was met by the sight of John all the way on the other side of the bed, back pressed against the wall and duvet clutched in front of him, shaking and blinking up at Sherlock with wide, shocked eyes.

After a few taut seconds John visibly slumped, all his muscles unclenching and his white-knuckle grip on the duvet relaxing.

‘Who,’ Sherlock began slowly, feeling as though he were inching out over a frozen lake with the ice creaking and popping beneath his feet, ‘is Tom?’

John squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. ‘No-one.’

Even a child could have seen what a blatant lie this was, and Sherlock wasn’t sure whether to be insulted or alarmed. He looked at John, at his sweat-damp hair and the pulse visibly pounding in his throat. He wanted to pull John into his arms, to rub his back and push his hair back off his forehead and pretend that the horrible suspicions coalescing in his mind were nothing more than morbid fancies brought on by the lateness of the hour and the disorientation of waking up so suddenly.

Yet when Sherlock reached out, John tensed and growled, ‘Don’t touch me.

Sherlock froze instantly, one hand poised in mid-air, and John bit his lip and looked horrified.

‘Good God,’ Sherlock breathed, now feeling well and truly sick. He eased his hand back and bunched it in the sheets between them, needing to grip something to prevent himself from reaching for John again. ‘This ex-boyfriend of yours… What did he do to you?’

‘Nothing.’ John sat up, rubbing a hand over his face. ‘Don’t think I’ll be able to get back to sleep. I should go. Let you get some rest.’

Now that was ridiculous, and Sherlock sat up also. ‘John, wait…’

But John didn’t want to wait. He scrambled clumsily over Sherlock’s legs and grabbed at his jeans, almost overbalancing in his haste to pull them up his legs. When Sherlock coordinated his sleep-heavy limbs and made it out of bed to lay a tentative hand on his bare shoulder, John’s back muscles snapped taut with whiplash speed but he didn’t pull away.

They stayed frozen like that for a few seconds (that felt longer, Christ, so much longer) while Sherlock searched desperately for the right words. Eventually John muttered, ‘You should go back to bed. You’ll catch cold,’ before twisting out from beneath Sherlock’s gentle grip and leaving, shutting the door behind himself.

Sherlock climbed back into bed, faintly queasy with shock. He pulled the duvet up around his shoulders and curled into the warm spot left by John’s body but, try as he might, he couldn’t seem to warm up.

After a long time spent staring at the ceiling, his mind reeling, he fell into a fitful doze.

----------

The next morning Sherlock was awoken by the sound of someone in the next room, who was moving around while trying very hard not to make any noise. Still half-asleep, he stumbled out of bed and into his dressing gown, and in their sitting room he caught John in the act of pulling on his jacket while draining the dregs from a mug.

‘John…’

When John turned to look at him, Sherlock was lost for words. He felt heavy and slow from lying awake most of the night, and John’s haggard face showed that he wasn’t any more rested than Sherlock.

John’s eyes met his briefly before sliding away, and he fastened his jacket and patted his pockets to check for his keys and wallet. ‘I have to go to work.’

Sherlock nodded, and then managed, ‘I’ll see you tonight?’

It was a stupid question to ask – this was John’s home, where else would he go? – but John only muttered, ‘Of course,’ and slipped out of the door.

Alone in the silent flat, Sherlock drifted into the kitchen to make coffee. If he had no cases and woke up feeling this sluggish then he would usually go straight back to bed, but not today. His brain was already gearing up for the day and he could feel himself becoming more alert as he took his first mouthful of coffee.

About bloody time you started paying attention, he thought savagely. How could he have missed it? All those subtle signs… John’s hesitation… the way he would skittishly find something else to do the moment it looked as though things might progress farther than kissing…

Sherlock wanted desperately for it not to be true, for his conclusions to be wrong (and that was a first). Surely it was impossible that John, of all people, could have been the victim of an abusive relationship. For God’s sake, just last week John had efficiently disarmed and restrained someone until Lestrade and his team caught up with them, and the man had been almost twice John’s size!

But it was the Army that taught him how to fight, a treacherous voice in his head whispered. You know it was, he’s told you so himself. How capable do you think he was of defending himself before? And how likely to be violent towards someone he loved, even when it was self-defence?

Oh God, John.

Feeling physically sick at the images behind his eyelids, Sherlock reached for his laptop. At the very least he could track the bastard down and, if his life wasn’t already a living hell (because how could such a monster have amounted to anything?), then he could make it so.

But as Sherlock logged into the records of John’s old university, courtesy of a very useful little programme one of his contacts had sent him, he realised that he didn’t know the first thing about the man. All he had was his first name, Tom, which wasn’t nearly enough to go on. How fucking useless; he’d have to speak to John tonight and get more information.

Sherlock shoved his laptop away and glared at the wall. He wanted to shoot something; perhaps he could pin a target to the wall and pretend that it was Tom. But John had already made his feelings on wall damage very clear, and so Sherlock sprang from his chair and went to get dressed. He needed to get out, away from the flat where it felt as though the walls were closing in on him.

----------

He wasn’t sure how long he walked, or how far, but when he felt his mobile buzzing in his pocket Sherlock stopped and ducked into a nearby doorway, too distracted even to look at the display before answering.

‘Hello?’

‘Hello, Sherlock.’

‘Mycroft. To what do I owe the pleasure?’

‘Can’t a man call his only brother just to say hello?’

As Mycroft had ever done anything without an ulterior motive. ‘No.’

‘Oh very well. I want to know what’s got you and Doctor Watson so agitated. Have you heard from that Moriarty fellow again?’

‘No.’

‘Sherlock, need I remind you that he could be a threat to national security–’

No.

‘Then what else could make you both so– Oh. Oh my.’ Sherlock could hear the sudden realisation in Mycroft’s voice, and when he spoke again he sounded as though he were smiling. ‘How inexcusably slow of me. I ought to have been expecting this.’

‘Are you spying on John again?’ Sherlock hated the slightly questioning tone in his voice, but he couldn’t suppress it. He’d already been debating the wisdom of dropping by John’s workplace just to see him.

‘Yes. He looks… not as well as might be expected. Were your overtures unwelcome?’

Very welcome, actually,’ Sherlock snapped, and then bit the inside of his cheek. He hadn’t meant to give quite so much away, but Mycroft only chuckled.

‘Congratulations to you both. In that case there’s no need to distress yourself; all new relationships are prey to a few teething troubles.’ Sherlock made a noncommittal noise, but Mycroft obviously sensed something. ‘Or are these troubles perhaps something a bit different from the usual?’

Sherlock was silent for a moment before he began, hesitantly, ‘I need… a favour.’

‘What is it?’ Without losing any of its warmth, Mycroft’s tone had become competent and businesslike, and Sherlock was abruptly reminded of being very small. Back then, he used to bring all his problems – from a broken toy to a grazed knee to an overheard row between their parents – to his older brother, who always knew how to fix it.

‘I need information. On a man that John used to… know. At university.’

The momentary silence on the other end of the line was deafening, and then Mycroft murmured, ‘I see,’ in the tone of voice that said that he did indeed see everything. ‘Oh, Sherlock…’

Sherlock couldn’t stand to hear the warm, thrumming sympathy in Mycroft’s voice, and interrupted. ‘His name’s Tom.’

More silence, and then Mycroft prompted, ‘And his surname?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Date of birth?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Do you have any more information at all on this man?’

‘No.’

‘Sherlock…’

Mycroft sounded resigned, and Sherlock’s stomach turned over as he insisted, ‘You must be able to find him, you must.’

‘My dear boy, despite what you think, I haven’t actually been keeping track of John Watson since his birth. And there are many people called Tom or Thomas – not even I can track down which one it was without more information than that.’

Sherlock grit his teeth. ‘Fine. I’ll ask John tonight.’

‘That might not necessarily be the best idea.’ Mycroft’s voice was heavy with warning.

‘What?’

‘Has he given any indication that he might be open to the idea of talking about this with you?’

Thinking of that morning, the way John’s eyes had refused to meet his, and the way John had all but fled his room last night, Sherlock had to admit, ‘No. But–’

‘Then don’t push it.’

‘But I have to know!’

‘Sherlock.’ Mycroft was uncompromising. ‘This isn’t about you, or what you want. It’s about John.’

‘I can’t do nothing.’

‘No, you can’t. Instead you should remember your Aesop, my boy.’

Sherlock’s grip tightened on his phone. ‘Mycroft, now is not the time to be cryptic.’

There was a soft tsking sound. ‘You should re-read the fable of the sun and the wind when you get home. It would do you good. However, in the meantime, look across the street.’

Sherlock looked, and saw nothing out of the ordinary. Dull people, going about their dull lives. No black car parked pointedly by the curb (as though he’d have missed that), and no John Watson. ‘What?’

‘You’re opposite a supermarket. Make him dinner.’

‘Oh, for–’

‘John appreciates good food, as does anyone who’s had to subsist on Army rations–’

‘I take him out to the best restaurants in London!’

And,’ Mycroft cut loudly across his protests. ‘John appreciates effort, and people going out of their way for him. You more than anyone.’

Sherlock drew a deep breath. As annoying as it was when Mycroft was right, ignoring his advice had never gone well. ‘All right.’

‘Good. And Sherlock…’ Uncharacteristically, Mycroft hesitated before saying, ‘Tread gently,’ and hanging up.

Moments later, while Sherlock was still skulking in his borrowed doorway, his phone chimed. Opening the text, he found a few words from Mycroft (Try this. I’m told it’s impossible to go wrong with it.) and a recipe for risotto. Oh honestly. Sherlock rolled his eyes. He wasn’t completely incapable.

----------

John walked into the kitchen that evening, and looked as though he was about to pass out from shock. He stuttered, and repeated himself, and gawked until Sherlock, despite his stomach-churning uncertainty over what to do with this new facet of John, was sufficiently nettled to snap, ‘If it’s going to turn you into such a bloody idiot then I won’t do it again. It’s risotto, John. Not fucking astrophysics.’

‘Or the solar system,’ John muttered, pulling himself together enough to come up with a decent riposte.

John.’ Sherlock wheeled around, holding a spatula in a threatening manner.

‘All right,’ John agreed, holding up his hands. ‘Shutting up now. Or I will be, after you tell me what I can do to help.’

With that, the tension evaporated and dinner was easy and amiable between them. John challenged Sherlock to deduce what patients he’d had at the surgery, and looked gratifyingly awed when Sherlock got all but one of them right. It was only when they’d both finished and John was staring furtively at the open collar of Sherlock’s shirt, blushing and averting his eyes when Sherlock caught him at it, that everything flooded to the forefront of Sherlock’s mind once more.

‘John…’ he began awkwardly, just as John cleared his throat and said, ‘Sherlock.’

They both stopped, and Sherlock gestured for John to continue. He cleared his throat again, and offered, ‘Sorry about last night.’

‘No,’ Sherlock interrupted, before elaborating, ‘no apology needed. It’s fine.’

John gave a short, humourless laugh. ‘That all depends.’

Sherlock said nothing. He’d learnt, from interrogation of countless witnesses, that sometimes silence was the best question.

‘Tom was… someone I knew at uni,’ John said, after a long silence. ‘We got together one night when I was drunk, and we went out for a few months before we broke up.’ John licked his lips and started to fiddle with the fork lying abandoned on his plate. ‘Tom was so… confident. Sort of larger than life. He was the first bloke I slept with. And I… I just thought…’

John’s voice died away awkwardly, and he gripped the edge of the table before exhaling and shoving his chair back. ‘I’m sorry, Sherlock, I can’t do this. I thought I could talk about it, but this is–’

‘Wait.’

Without making a conscious decision Sherlock was on his feet and moving around the table to stand in front of John, close but not touching. John looked up at him miserably, no trace left of their easy banter over dinner.

‘If you can’t tell me the whole story,’ Sherlock began slowly, feeling his way forwards, ‘then would it make it easier if I asked yes or no questions? Just to get the bare minimum?’

After a few seconds, John blew out a breath and nodded. ‘Yeah. That might work.’

‘Right then.’ Sherlock gestured towards John’s chair. ‘Sit back down. Would you like some tea?’

John’s face cracked into a smile, doubtless at the proposed solution of tea: the great British remedy to everything from mild tiredness to emotional trauma or a broken limb. ‘Yeah, thanks. Tea’d be great.’

When they were once more sitting opposite each other, a steaming mug in front of each of them, Sherlock began.

‘So he was someone from uni?’

‘Yes.’

Sherlock hesitated, wanting to know if there were particular physical areas or aspects where he needed to be wary and hoping that John wouldn’t take his question for mere prurient curiosity. ‘So… You went out for a few months. Presumably you had sex with him, then?’

John squirmed, staring down at his mug of tea. ‘Yes.’

‘Did you like it?’

‘Mostly. Some bits I wasn’t so keen on.’

Sherlock steeled himself, needing to ask the next question even though his stomach rebelled at the idea; perhaps doing this after dinner hadn’t been such a good idea after all.

‘Did he hit you?’ The next words almost stuck in his throat and Sherlock had to force them out, trying to sound gentle rather than interrogatory. It was with an effort that he was quashing the impulse to seize John’s wrist and demand, Tell me everything, right now. You have to tell me what he did to you, and tell me where he is so I can fucking well find him and–

Sherlock cleared his throat. ‘Did he… did he rape you?’

‘No!’ John looked horrified, and shook his head in vehement denial. Thank God. Sherlock clutched his mug tightly and took a mouthful of tea to cover the knee-weakening surge of relief as John stammered, ‘Christ, no, nothing like that.’

John sighed, and took a drink of his own tea. ‘He was just… a big bloke, and he didn’t always know his own strength. And if I said anything then he would point out that I was a rugby player, and that I ought to be able to handle it. And besides, blokes are stronger, they’re bound to be a bit rougher than girls. So it wasn’t much to complain about, really.’

John fell silent and stared meditatively at his tea again, and Sherlock bit his tongue and silently counted to ten in German, trying to settle the knot of fury in his ribcage at the sound of John making excuses for the man.

‘What was his name?’

‘What?’ John didn’t look up, still distracted by his memories. ‘Why?’

‘Well, surely you’ll want to prosecute… I mean, at the very least you’ll want to–’

‘No.’

Now John’s attention was fully back on Sherlock, who protested, ‘But he assaulted you.’

‘No, Sherlock.’ John’s voice was like iron. ‘No, he didn’t. All of it was consensual. I might have not been that into some of it, but I never actually said no.’

Would he have stopped if you had?’ Sherlock shot back, quick as a snake, and his insides congealed when John hesitated before replying.

‘Yes. I’m sure he would. But anyway, it’s all in the past now.’

How on earth could John be so calm about it all? Ever since Sherlock had woken up in the small hours of the morning to see John in the grip of a nightmare more heart-stopping than anything Afghanistan had flung at him, he felt as though his world had been turned inside-out.

‘But your dream,’ Sherlock persisted. ‘John, you sounded terrified.’

John sighed again. ‘Look, I get nightmares a lot. Sometimes about places and events that actually weren’t that bad originally. It’s just something that happens. My subconscious is a bit fucked up, but you knew that already.’

It was like a physical pain, this need to touch John, to reassure him, and Sherlock’s hand was halfway across the table before he stopped himself, not sure whether it would be welcome. John saw his aborted movement and scowled darkly. He reached for Sherlock’s hand, gripped it hard and set his mug down with a bang.

Sherlock,’ he snapped, ‘don’t look at me like that. I’m not broken, I’m not a victim, I don’t need fucking therapy for this. I’ve seen and done worse things in Afghanistan, things that even you can’t imagine and, by God, I’m glad you can’t. I hope you never find out what it feels like to see your friends dying around you, dying under your hands when there’s nothing you can do to save them. I’ve shot men and then had to listen to them die, because I would have been killed myself if I’d tried to go to help them.’ Still clutching Sherlock tightly, John scrubbed his other hand wearily over his face. ‘So, to be honest with you, a bad relationship doesn’t even come anywhere near the top of the list of things that stress me out.’

John paused, taking a slow, calming mouthful of tea. And then, amazingly, he blushed.

‘I mean,’ he murmured, his cheeks ruddy, ‘this might be a bit boring for you. I don’t have much experience. I was never able to get past thinking of… him… any time a bloke chatted me up. But you’re pretty… well, you’re pretty exceptional.’

John smiled at him, quick and shy, and then looked away again.

‘You’re not boring,’ Sherlock managed. His mind was whirling, but this thought was uppermost. ‘You’re the least boring person I’ve ever met.’

‘Thanks,’ John murmured, grinning and looking pleased and still a bit pink.

‘Are you sure you don’t want to–’

‘No.’ John’s fingers tightened on Sherlock’s wrist, and his voice was adamant. ‘There’s nothing to pursue.’ His mouth twisted wryly. ‘Unfortunately it’s not actually possible to prosecute an ex just for being a wanker.’

‘So what do you want to do?’ Sherlock asked softly, turning his hand underneath John’s to lace their fingers together.

‘Well…’ John looked down at their clasped hands and bit his lip. ‘Right now… I want to have an early night. I’m exhausted after last night, and thinking about stuff all day. Maybe… in your bed? If that’s okay?’

‘Oh for–’ Sherlock began impatiently, before biting his tongue. More calmly he said, ‘Of course that’s okay. Come on.’

They cleared the table in silence, piling the washing up in the sink to leave for the next day, and went up to the bathroom, locking the door to the flat on the way. The casual domesticity of it all – John wrapping up the leftovers for the fridge, locking the door, and standing side by side to brush their teeth – made something warm uncoil in Sherlock’s ribcage. Sentiment. But apparently not quite as dull as he’d always thought.

Sherlock finished first and went to his room, changing into his pyjamas and switching off the main light in favour of the small bedside lamp. When John arrived he hovered nervously in the doorway for a couple of seconds. Sherlock’s heart went out to him, but he knew that the quickest way to annoy John was to pity him, and so he just said, ‘Come on then,’ and pulled the covers back.

John climbed in awkwardly, and lay down on his side, facing Sherlock but not touching. Just as Sherlock was about to lean over him to extinguish the light, John spoke.

‘Actually,’ he murmured, one hand fidgeting with a crease in the duvet. ‘I’m… not really all that tired. Do you want to… maybe… do something?’

Any other time Sherlock would have come back with a critical remark on John’s inability to finish a sentence. However, at that moment he only touched the back of John’s hand with his fingertips and said softly, ‘Yes.’

‘Right then.’ John turned his hand over, and the tickling brush of his fingertips against the inside of Sherlock’s wrist made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. ‘What d’you want to do?’

‘Touch you,’ Sherlock murmured back, unwilling to raise his voice any further and break the stillness of the room. ‘I want to feel all the different textures of your skin and, eventually, I want to hold you in my hand and kiss you while you come.’

John scowled at him, his fingers wrapping firmly around Sherlock’s wrist. ‘Don’t coddle me, Sherlock. I’m not going to break.’

Sherlock blinked in confusion. ‘Coddle you?’

‘Yes, coddle. Come on, you can’t tell me that you haven’t been fantasising about more than that. That sounds a bit… well, dull. You don’t have to tone it down just because of… what I told you.’

Oh, that was the sound of a gauntlet being flung down if ever Sherlock had heard one, and it didn’t matter a whit that John hadn’t intended it as such.

‘I see,’ he purred. ‘Well, let me show you how boring it can be.’

Before John could reply Sherlock leaned in and kissed him. It was just a gentle brush of mouths at first, until he coaxed John’s lips apart and dipped his tongue into John’s mouth for a quick touch against his, making John hum in pleasure and press up against him.

Sherlock peeled John out of his clothes, easing his T-shirt off and away, and pushing his boxers down to his knees until he could hook a foot into the waistband to kick them down to the bottom of the bed. He went over John’s body meticulously, bestowing a kiss or caress on each part of newly exposed skin, and thought that this was oddly like picking away the bits of debris surrounding a caddis fly larva, to find the small animal soft and vulnerable underneath it all.

At last he had John naked and aroused in his arms, hands wandering as he chased Sherlock’s mouth hungrily for more kisses every time Sherlock tried to move down to nuzzle at John’s throat and shoulders. He glimpsed John’s face – flushed and heart-wrenchingly nervous – before John reached over and flicked off the bedside lamp in an unusual burst of shyness.

Well. They could argue about that another time (and Sherlock was giddy with the knowledge that there would be other times, that he was allowed to do this again and again with John); for now he was perfectly content to work with what little light was thrown by the streetlights outside the window and the evidence provided by his other four senses.

When Sherlock pushed his hand under the covers to rest it on John’s knee then John’s breathing quickened in their kiss, and when he started to slide it up John’s thigh (solid, with tiny hairs that tickled Sherlock’s skin) then John’s breaths stuttered and skipped until he was almost panting against Sherlock’s mouth by the time Sherlock finally cupped his palm over the warm handful of flesh between John’s legs. Sherlock kissed John harder, more demandingly, as he curled long fingers around his cock, feeling the minute pulses and twitches as it hardened and lengthened in his hand.

He played idly with John’s cock until he was fully hard and straining into Sherlock’s grip, body thrumming with tension as John struggled to kiss and moan simultaneously, and then took his hand away, loving John’s soft groan of disappointment. Still kissing John, Sherlock reached blindly into the drawer of the nightstand and, after some fumbling, returned with a generous handful of lubricant. He muttered against John’s lips, ‘I’ll show you boring,’ skated his hand back down over John’s quivering stomach muscles, and methodically set about taking him to pieces.

He experimented with different touches, finding out what made John merely sigh in pleasure and what made him shudder and clutch at Sherlock. He took John up to the edge of orgasm several times, stopping when he felt John’s body start to tense and his breathing turn to short, sharp gasps, and kissing him fiercely while John writhed against him and groaned, pleas and curses all jumbling together.

On one such occasion, towards the end, John all but sobbed in frustration and grabbed blindly at Sherlock’s wrist, trying to force a return of the tight, slick stimulation, but Sherlock steeled his muscles and let his fingers go lax and useless. John’s moan sounded almost heartbroken, but in response Sherlock only kissed him hard, pushing his tongue into John’s mouth to find out what John’s desperation tasted like, and John loosened his grip.

‘Soon… please, Sherlock, soon…’

John’s voice had been reduced to a hoarse, pleading murmur, and Sherlock pushed an arm beneath his ribcage to hug him closer, cradling him against his chest as he started stroking John’s cock again. Within moments John had pulled away from their kiss to press his face against Sherlock’s shoulder, trying to stifle his moans while hot, sweaty palms roamed over Sherlock’s arms and chest, looking for somewhere to anchor themselves.

‘Oh God,’ John groaned, muffled by Sherlock’s skin but still audible, his hips thrusting frantically into Sherlock’s touch. ‘Oh God, this is it… I’m nearly… fuck, you’re going to make me come.’

Yes,’ Sherlock hissed into John’s ear, and sped up, adding a tiny twist of fingers to push the foreskin up around the head (something that, just five minutes previously, had made John’s spine arch and his heels skitter against the sheets). ‘This time I want you to. Go on, do it.’

John made a sound like he was dying, stomach muscles pulling tight under Sherlock’s rhythmically flexing forearm, and came, slick warmth suddenly covering Sherlock’s fingers while John sealed his mouth to Sherlock’s throat and failed utterly to stay silent. Tightening the arm around John’s chest, Sherlock stroked him through it, pulling each shudder and spasm from him until John was limp and trembling.

‘Oh God,’ John gasped, clinging to him, his eyes still tightly closed. ‘Oh fuck, that was… that was…’

With the hand that wasn’t cradling John’s softening cock, Sherlock stroked his fingers through John’s hair, sticking up in sweaty spikes. John’s chest was heaving as he struggled for air, and Sherlock was moved to say, ‘Relax. Take a breath.’

‘Oh God.’ Before John had even got his breath back his hands were moving, sliding through the come smeared across his own stomach and wrapping themselves around Sherlock’s cock, fumbling a little in a way that Sherlock tried (and failed) not to find endearing.

‘I want to do that for you,’ John muttered into his neck, not looking at him. ‘But you’ll have to… show me how you like it. It’s been a long time since I did this. To someone else, I mean.’

John slid his hand awkwardly along Sherlock’s erection, and Sherlock remembered his own first time doing this with another man, how difficult it had initially been without any direct sensory cues of what felt good. He covered John’s hand with his own, pressing his grip tighter. He slid their joined fist along his cock and wiped their thumbs over the head, and gasped as the hair on his forearms shivered erect at the low sizzle of pleasure.

Soon John found a steady rhythm, and Sherlock let his hand fall away to grip John’s waist, buttocks tightening as he began to hitch his hips up and fuck John’s fist. John was speaking, a low tumble of ‘God, you’re gorgeous,’ and ‘Is this okay?’ and ‘Fuck, I want to feel you come, Sherlock, so much, you’ve no idea.’

It was the last that tipped Sherlock over the edge. The longing in John’s voice, naked and unselfconscious, made Sherlock gasp. He felt the familiar lift in his balls, the almost overwhelming pressure coiling low in his groin, and just seconds later he came, groaning John’s name as John kissed his forehead, whispering, ‘Yes, there, that’s it,’ in encouragement.

When Sherlock opened his eyes and flexed his fingers – cramped from grabbing the sheets to avoid leaving bruises on John – he found John staring down at him in the dim light and looking as amazed as if he had never seen someone having an orgasm before. And if there was just a trace of something else there too, something darker and more complicated, then Sherlock refused to acknowledge it. He wanted John to be here, with him, not tangled up in unpleasant memories, and so he rolled over and wrapped an arm around John’s waist.

‘See?’ Sherlock’s voice was muffled by the slightly sweat-damp skin of John’s chest. ‘Not boring.’

As he had hoped it would, this made John laugh.

‘No,’ he agreed, sounding happier as he wrapped an arm around Sherlock’s shoulders and hugged him. ‘I take that back. Not boring at all.’

----------

Wonderful though that evening was, John’s stubbornness meant that there wasn’t much more that Sherlock could do. Outside of their flat, they were still the same as always. At first Sherlock had tried, in his own awkward way, to show John some consideration, and John had tolerated this with an amused smile. However when Sherlock tried to do so in front of the Yarders, then John gave him such a furious glare that Sherlock almost tripped over his own feet and momentarily forgot where he was up to in his deductions. After that he harangued and bickered with John just as much as he always did, and such antisocial behaviour conversely seemed to unwind the tension from John’s shoulders.

Even in their flat, things continued more or less unchanged. Sherlock still had his experiments that needed close attention, and John still sat at the table and updated his blog with his ridiculous two-finger typing (although Sherlock was starting to find it more appealing than ridiculous). But, as Sherlock discovered to his deep delight, it was now tacitly understood that he was permitted stand behind John and wind his arms around John’s waist, rubbing his cheek gently against the side of John’s head as he waited for the kettle to boil or looked through their post. Or ambush John when he was puttering around the flat and coax him into a kiss while John grinned against his mouth and protested that the tea would be over-steeped or that QI was just about to start.

They weren’t real protests, though, given the way John’s fingers twined into Sherlock’s hair and John clutched at him. For all that John didn’t yet initiate contact, he always came away from Sherlock’s ambushes or hugs looking flushed and pleased with himself.

Only in the bedroom were things different. Sherlock had never been patient in his life but, for John, he was finding that not only did he not mind their achingly slow progression, he actually relished it. He felt like an explorer mapping uncharted lands; there were all the shades and textures of John’s skin to learn, as well as the noises he made when Sherlock put his hands and mouth all over him.

Sherlock watched John like a hawk, pretending all the while that it was just fun and games, the sort of light-hearted tickling and teasing that any new lovers shared. But underneath it he was alert for the smallest flinch or hesitation, and he saw how John’s eyes widened in surprise the first time Sherlock nuzzled his way down John’s stomach to rub his nose along the side of John’s cock.

When Sherlock brushed a teasing kiss over the soft, wet head of John’s erection and purred, ‘I want you to tell me exactly what you like, when a man has his mouth on your cock,’ he spotted it when John fought against the instinctive ‘Don’t know,’ that rose to his lips. Instead he merely stroked Sherlock’s hair with a gentle hand, and murmured, ‘Anything,’ making Sherlock swallow hard against the surge of anger, and vow that John’s first proper blowjob from a man would at least be memorable.

He flattered himself that he succeeded.

John was sitting up, back propped against the headboard and thighs splayed obscenely wide for Sherlock to lie between them, looking like the most gorgeously debauched thing Sherlock had ever seen. When he finally let John come, John’s cock and balls and perineum were entirely slick with saliva and precome, and John was sobbing at the ceiling, head tipped back and hands fisted tightly in the sheets. As he started coming his sobs turned to panting cries, sounding so lost and helpless that Sherlock grabbed one of his tightly bunched fists, wanting to steady him as John’s cock twitched and spurted against Sherlock’s tongue and he shuddered uncontrollably.

Afterwards John melted against him, curling into Sherlock’s arms and shakily whispering, ‘Thank you… thank you…’ into his neck until Sherlock had to hush him with kisses that tasted of sex and himself.

Sherlock also noticed (and once he’d noticed he couldn’t stop noticing) that the first few times John went down on him it was with tensed muscles, as though he was bracing himself, and the resulting fury that swept through Sherlock once he understood what John was anticipating frankly shocked him. It also made it difficult to get off, at least until he looked down the length of his own body to see his cock sliding flushed and hard between John’s lips. Even then, when he’d brushed the backs of shaking fingers down John’s face and groaned, ‘Coming… oh God, I’m coming…’, John didn’t pull away but afterwards he sat up, looking puzzled but cautiously pleased, and wiped his mouth on the back of his wrist as he said, ‘Um… thanks.’

John’s surprised gratitude – for something that was nothing more than common courtesy – made Sherlock want to howl and punch the wall in frustration. That some oaf could have taken John (his John!) and almost ruined him with such selfish behaviour was more than he could stand. Often, in their post-coital lassitude, Sherlock found that he had to lie with his head on John’s shoulder, or curled around John and spooning him, so that John wouldn’t see his expression.

It was slow progress at first. Sherlock gave John the side of the bed closest to the door (not wanting to pen him in), and learned to switch the light on before he woke John from his bad dreams. He often had to bite his tongue to avoid taking out his rage on John; here was a problem that couldn’t be fixed with logic, or the right chemical test, and Sherlock had never felt so impotent and useless in his life.

But Sherlock took consolation, however small, in the fact that John now stayed in Sherlock’s bed after his nightmares rather than fleeing to his own. He even began to let Sherlock hug him close afterwards; tentatively at first, but after a few weeks he was actually curling close to bury his face in Sherlock’s neck, as Sherlock squeezed John’s shoulders until his own arms ached, and wondered whether the reassurance was really as one-sided as they both pretended.

----------

When Sherlock finally convinced John to fuck him, after almost a month of reciprocal handjobs and blowjobs, they were lying in bed at three in the afternoon. At least, John was lying. Sherlock was sitting across John’s thighs, giddy with delight not only because of what the golden summer sunlight did to John’s hair and his skin (still faintly bronzed from the desert sun), but also at how happy and relaxed he looked. Sherlock’s weight was across John’s legs and he was more or less pinning him down, but John showed not the slightest trace of unease or wariness, looking only rumpled and heavy-eyed as he looked up at Sherlock trustingly and rubbed his palms along Sherlock’s spread thighs.

They were just getting to the end of half an hour of lazy, half-naked snogging, and John’s increasing restlessness indicated that he was more than ready to move forward.

Sherlock gazed down at him. John’s lips were flushed and slightly swollen from all the kissing, his hair was going in a dozen different directions and his thin cotton briefs didn’t do a thing to disguise the fact that he was fully erect beneath them. There was a small patch of darker fabric where the head of John’s cock had been steadily leaking, and when Sherlock delicately laid two fingertips on it he felt John’s cock throb and the material get just a tiny bit damper.

‘What do you want?’ John asked roughly. His hands stopped smoothing obsessively up and down Sherlock’s quadriceps to grip lightly, and his gaze met Sherlock’s before sliding back down to his groin and the shape of his cock outlined in his silk boxers.

Sherlock bent down, planted a soft, lush kiss on John’s mouth, and breathed against his lips, ‘I want you to fuck me.’

He had suspected that John might be a bit unsure about it, but he wasn’t prepared for the full-body startle that nearly unseated him.

No.’ John’s fingers dug hard into Sherlock’s thighs for a moment, and Sherlock pulled away far enough to see that John wouldn’t meet his eyes. ‘I’d rather not.’

Yes, I can see that, Sherlock thought, but aloud he merely asked, ‘Why?’

He tried as hard as he could to keep his voice gentle and casual, as though it was just a passing query, and was rewarded when John blurted, ‘I hate the thought of hurting you,’ before biting down on his lip and twisting his face away, looking as though he wished he’d kept his mouth shut.

As the implications of that sank in, it was suddenly difficult to breathe (or think, or do anything other than get that fucking, fucking bastard’s full name out of John so he could track him down), but Sherlock sternly forbade himself to flinch or react.

Instead he said mildly, ‘I can assure you that you wouldn’t. I wouldn’t let that happen.’

He cupped John’s jaw and leaned down for another gentle kiss. For all that John’s mind was unsure, his body clearly had no such reservations; John was still hard and his hands had started to inch upwards along the delicate skin of Sherlock’s inner thighs.

‘Really?’

John’s face was a mess of conflicting emotions – lust and nervousness and wistfulness and excitement – and Sherlock dared to tease him, just a little. ‘John, really now. Do I seem like the sort of person who would endure something that I found staggeringly uncomfortable without complaint?’

John laughed. It was brief, but Sherlock’s heart lifted at the sound. ‘Well, when you put it like that…’

‘Thank you.’

Sherlock stroked the pad of his thumb over John’s mouth, and smiled when it got a kiss. Careful, he had to be so careful here. He had been fantasising about getting fucked by John for weeks now, but the quickest way to get John to agree to something wasn’t to force him (which only ever made him dig in his toes and refuse to budge), it was to dangle temptation nonchalantly in front of him.

So Sherlock offered lightly, as though it was all the same to him, ‘We don’t have to, of course. But I’d like to try it. And we can stop if you decide it’s not quite your cup of tea.’

John chewed his lip for a moment before deciding. ‘All right then. But I want you on your back, so that I can see you.’

Sherlock had thought that the emotionally fraught part of the evening would be over once he had John’s assent. However, when John was kneeling between Sherlock’s spread thighs and Sherlock was shoving a pillow under his hips, stomach fluttering in giddy anticipation, John conscientiously spat into his hand and used it to wet his cock.

As realisation dawned, Sherlock froze and a steel band snapped tight around his ribs. Holy Christ, was that how he… God, it’s no wonder that John doesn’t like–

‘What?’ John asked, catching sight of Sherlock’s expression and quickly growing defensive.

‘Noth–’ Sherlock cleared his throat, trying to look as though his stomach hadn’t just sunk through the mattress and onto the floor, and tightened his legs slightly around John’s waist when he started to pull away. He tried again. ‘Nothing. But here–’ He reached over and scrabbled briefly in the drawer of the nightstand before pushing a tube of lubricant into John’s hands. ‘You’ll find it easier with this. Use your fingers first. See if you can remember your old anatomy lectures sufficiently to find my prostate.’

God, it made him ill that he had to explain this to John, but the quirk of John’s mouth said that he appreciated the feeble joke. There was a tiny fold between John’s eyebrows as he pressed two slick fingertips inside Sherlock, but it smoothed away into surprised interest the first time he gently curled his fingers in just the right place and saw Sherlock arch his spine and curse.

After a breathless fumble with a condom John pushed slowly,achingly slowly, into Sherlock and looked equal parts exhilarated and terrified.

‘Oh God,’ he gasped softly, curling forward and bracing one trembling hand on the pillow by Sherlock’s head. ‘I’m inside you. God, you’re so tight. Are you sure you’re okay?’

Sherlock only nodded, his throat too full of arousal and emotion to speak. John was shaking so hard that Sherlock felt oddly protective of him, for all that Sherlock was the one on his back with his knees over John’s shoulders.

Predictably, given that it was John’s first time fucking a man, he didn’t last long. He only managed a few minutes of erratic thrusting before he was twisting his head away, his face crumpling as he shuddered through his orgasm.

Afterwards, he ran worried hands over Sherlock.

‘Was that… Are you… You haven’t come, did I do something…’

‘I haven’t come yet,’ Sherlock corrected, finally succeeding in capturing a nervous hand and bringing it down between his legs, where he was hard and straining and so close that it took only half a dozen firm strokes to make him spill over John’s fingers.

----------

That was something that Sherlock learned to do whenever John was fucking him. If John was taking him from behind, Sherlock always made sure to take one of John’s hands off his hip and pull it around and down between his legs, so that he could feel how hard and wet Sherlock’s erection was, and how much he got off on John’s cock inside him. And when they were fucking face to face, Sherlock let his every reaction and flicker of pleasure show, knowing that John was watching hungrily for them.

At first, Sherlock didn’t manage to come when John fucked him. It was heart-breakingly obvious that John had no experience of fucking a man – his orgasm seemed to be on a hair trigger, each and every time – but he always looked so mortified by his perceived failure that Sherlock could only pull him close and smother his shame-faced apologies with kisses.

But one evening, it finally happened. Sherlock had given John a very long, very sweet blowjob in the late afternoon; John had been sitting in his armchair reading when Sherlock had approached him and knelt in front of him and, after seeing John’s eyes widen with lust and anticipation, proceeded to distract him very thoroughly. John had ended up with his thighs over Sherlock’s shoulders and his hands clutching white-knuckled at armrests, staring down at Sherlock and gasping for breath while Sherlock concentrated on strong, steady pulls on John’s cock and rubbing two knuckles firmly up behind his balls.

And so this time, when John fucked him, there was no haste or urgency. John’s thrusts were slow and steady, making Sherlock’s toes curl at each flutter of pleasure deep in his groin, and every so often John would lean down for a deep, messy kiss. It ought to have been perfect, but Sherlock found that he still couldn’t get off. He couldn’t stop bloody thinking, that was the trouble. Couldn’t stop himself from picturing a younger John in the same position that he himself was in: gritting his teeth, and not getting off, and privately wondering what all the fuss was about. Sherlock tried hard to concentrate on John as he was now – his eyes wide and dark, sweat gathering at his temples – but it wasn’t really working.

Until John shifted his hands to brace himself up more firmly and groaned, in a voice that was equal parts surprise and arousal, ‘Fuck, Sherlock… You’re getting tighter, I can feel it…’

Abruptly, Sherlock realised that John had never felt a man having an orgasm around him, never felt the tight, hot clutch of his partner shaking to pieces beneath him. The thought of being John’s first for this was astoundingly erotic, and suddenly Sherlock wanted desperately to see John’s face when it happened.

From that point on it was easy.

Easy to let his head fall back and focus on the feel of John’s cock sliding wetly in and out of him, the muscles of John’s waist and hips flexing against his inner thighs. Easy to let each of John’s thrusts push noise up and out of his throat, with a toe-curling throb of pleasure at the apex of each thrust. And, when John reached down to curl his fingers around Sherlock’s cock, it was very easy to reach up and brace himself against the headboard as he begged, ‘Harder… Oh God, John, yes, that’s it, I’m nearly there…’ His fingers were frantic against the headboard, searching for something to cling to, and he couldn’t seem to get enough air. ‘Fuck, harder!

John, wonderful John, was excellent at following orders. He didn’t hesitate or ask if Sherlock was sure, just snapped his hips forward until the headboard thumped against the wall and wiped his thumb back and forth over the wet head of Sherlock’s cock until Sherlock was gone, shuddering uncontrollably and crying out as his orgasm rolled through him.

When Sherlock opened his eyes again – he had meant to keep them open while coming, he’d wanted to watch John’s face when he felt the new sensation, but things had got away from him at the end – John was curled forward over him. His lips were in Sherlock’s hair, and on his forehead, and he seemed to be trying to kiss and laugh and bite down on his groans all at once.

‘Sherlock,’ John gasped, even as he continued to thrust. ‘Oh Christ, that was the fucking sexiest thing I’ve ever seen.’

‘You now,’ Sherlock moaned. Each of John’s thrusts was wringing tiny, shivery aftershocks out of him, and he wanted to feel John’s orgasm before they died away. He grabbed crudely at John’s arse, digging his fingers in as he begged, ‘Come on. You now.’

With a broken noise, John made a last few thrusts and then stilled, pressing his face into Sherlock’s neck and groaning as his hips twitched minutely.

When John’s helpless sounds had died away, he raised his head. His eyes were oddly shiny and he seemed to be having some trouble breathing, giving Sherlock a moment of quiet, intense panic before he realised that, in fact, John was still trying not to giggle.

‘Are you laughing at me?’ Sherlock demanded breathlessly, his heart still pounding against his ribs. He usually didn’t mind John’s amusement at his expense, since John’s giggle was something he loved to hear, but really. There was a time and a place for it.

‘Er, yes. Maybe. Just a bit.’

John gave him a brief, firm kiss, and Sherlock pointed out dryly, ‘I’ve never been the object of someone’s amusement while they were still inside me.’

‘Right. Yes. I mean, no. No, I don’t suppose you…’ John shifted his weight slightly and his voice trailed off, his expression becoming preoccupied. Sherlock had also felt the slight withdrawal of John’s softening cock, and didn’t even try to suppress his sated groan as he squirmed and John slid out farther. Judging from the way John’s eyelids fluttered, it felt equally as good to him, even when he was oversensitive from coming.

Slowly, Sherlock unwrapped his rubbery legs from John’s waist as John held the condom in place and eased himself free with a soft catch of breath. He closed his eyes, feeling the chill of the air on his sweat-damp chest as John moved away to dispose of it, and concentrated on drawing deep, steadying breaths.

The mattress dipped under John’s weight, and Sherlock opened his eyes to see John lying beside him, head propped up on one hand while the other smoothed a possessive line down Sherlock’s side to rest on his hip. John was practically glowing, he looked so pleased with himself – as though he’d climbed a mountain rather than just had sex – but it was such an attractive sight that Sherlock only asked, ‘What are you so happy about?’

John’s grin broadened. ‘I’ve never heard you be so loud. I think I’m flattered, but I hope to God Mrs. Hudson isn’t in or we’ll never hear the last of it.’

‘Ridiculous,’ Sherlock scoffed. He rolled onto his side and fitted their bodies together: chest to chest, with his head tucked under John’s chin and his nose buried in the hollow of John’s throat. John smelled wonderful – like sweat and sex and himself – and Sherlock couldn’t resist licking at his skin, trying to see if John tasted as good as he smelled. John merely tilted his head back slightly, offering better access, and wrapped an arm around Sherlock’s shoulders to push his fingers gently through Sherlock’s curls, and Sherlock insisted, ‘Everyone makes a bit of noise during sex.’

John’s lips were warm and slightly chapped when they touched Sherlock’s forehead, and John sounded like he was trying not to laugh again. ‘Sherlock, love, that was more than a bit.’

It was the first time John had called him anything other than his given name and Sherlock didn’t answer, being too busy mulling over the sound of John’s voice shaping itself unselfconsciously around the pet name.

----------

Unfortunately, John was right. Given that he couldn’t give a toss what people thought then Sherlock didn’t consider it particularly unfortunate but John, who was much more easily embarrassed, certainly did.

The following day, he and John happened to leave the house at the same time as Mrs. Turner’s ‘married ones’ next door (he’d never bothered to retain their names, utterly irrelevant trivia). Sherlock was already down at the curb, flagging down a taxi as he called to John to hurry up.

When John failed to materialise beside him, Sherlock turned back impatiently and found John in conversation with the other two men. Even from this distance Sherlock could see that John’s cheeks were scarlet, and that he looked as though he was praying for the ground to open up and swallow him. No-one was allowed to make John look like that except Sherlock, and so he told the taxi driver to wait and strode over to John to drag him away with a proprietary hand on the arm, glaring at the other two men (who seemed to find something funny).

In the taxi, Sherlock gave John a questioning look, and John stared intently at his knees as he said, ‘They were teasing us. Well, me, really. About, um, last night.’ Sherlock mimed incomprehension – John was being maddeningly cryptic – and John flicked a glance at their driver. Seeing that he was happily listening to the radio, John muttered, ‘You were saying my name last night. Quite… loudly. And then when you called me just now…’ John paused and swallowed. ‘They were saying that they’d been wondering who “John” was. Your voice is quite… well… distinctive.’

‘I see,’ Sherlock said. John glanced at Sherlock briefly and then away. It was a fleeting glance, but Sherlock hadn’t missed the desire on John’s face, and he leaned in closer to murmur straight into John’s ear, knowing that John had a weakness for his voice: ‘You were very good. I couldn’t stop myself.’

‘Mmm,’ John hummed noncommittally, but his hands clenched into fists where they were resting on the seat.

‘I can’t stop thinking about it every time I sit down. Next time I want to get on top of you and ride you. Perhaps you could lean back against the headboard; I’d like to be able to kiss you while I’m coming from your cock in my arse. Or maybe with me sitting in your lap, my back to your chest, so that you can see yourself fucking me.’

It was breathed into John’s ear as softly as a kiss, and John begged in a whisper, ‘Oh God, please stop,’ his face flaming as he looked away and reached down to adjust himself in his jeans.

Neither of them said anything further for the rest of the taxi ride, but every time Sherlock looked over there was a tiny smile at the corner of John’s mouth and, after a few minutes, John’s hand crept across the seat to rest on top of Sherlock’s.

There was more to come.

When they returned home, Mrs. Hudson popped her head out into the hallway with a request for ‘a quick word’, which turned into a good-natured but decidedly not quick ramble to the effect that she’d been meaning to soundproof those rooms for a while now, and how it was lovely that everything was going so well between them but perhaps they might consider using the upstairs bedroom in future.

If John had been embarrassed that morning, this was enough to make him blush so fiercely that Sherlock began to wonder a) how it was possible that an ex-Army officer could turn such a deep shade of scarlet and b) whether he ought to be concerned over John’s blood pressure.

But despite John’s repeated mortification, there were also multiple benefits. John took Mrs. Hudson’s request to heart, and from then on he insisted on them sleeping in his bedroom rather than Sherlock’s. Thus far, Sherlock had been scrupulously careful that all encounters should take place in his bedroom, reasoning that John’s subconscious would surely appreciate having somewhere to which he could retreat if needed. But, the next time Sherlock tried to guide them to his bedroom without breaking their kiss or letting go of John, John practically dragged him upstairs by his shirt collar. And much later, John flung an arm over Sherlock when he tried to slide unobtrusively out of bed and mumbled, ‘Stay…’ into his hair.

John was also a lot more enthusiastic about fucking Sherlock. It would be wrong to say that he’d disliked it previously, but now Sherlock barely had to hint before John would have him spread out on all fours with his head hanging down, or on his back, knuckles white where he was gripping the headboard. Or even riding John, who would be lying flat on his back, drawn-up knees supporting Sherlock’s spine while warm, rough hands cradled the slow writhe of Sherlock’s hips and John’s hungry gaze took in everything from the curve of Sherlock’s arched throat to his erection, hard and almost obscenely wet with precome.

(On one occasion, John had even managed to wring a second orgasm out of a surprised Sherlock, leaving him limp and incoherent and clinging to John afterwards until he fell asleep. John spent the whole of the next day smiling and walking tall, and Sherlock spent it pretending that he wasn’t stupidly enchanted by John’s obvious contentment, and glaring at the women – and men – who had also noticed John’s happy glow.)

Slowly, an increment at a time, John became more physically demonstrative. He had always put a friendly hand on Sherlock’s shoulder or arm, but now he would rest a hand on the small of Sherlock’s back as he bent over the kitchen table to see the results of Sherlock’s latest experiment (it was often removed seconds later as John scolded him, but Sherlock still counted it as a personal victory). John would also now steal up behind Sherlock to wrap his arms around his waist when Sherlock was standing at the kitchen counter or texting someone and, no matter how important the case, Sherlock never turned him away.

John had also discovered that, when Sherlock was tense and bored and irritable, an excellent solution was to tug him down onto the sofa and, gently but firmly, hold Sherlock’s head in his lap and work his fingers through his hair. At first Sherlock had merely tolerated this, wondering what John hoped to achieve with such a ridiculous gesture, but after twenty minutes he had been almost comatose with pleasure, his face mashed against John’s wool-clad stomach, and wondering if this was how pampered housecats felt.

Sherlock couldn’t remember the last time he had felt so contented and, given that the regular sex was making John sleep better (although still not entirely free from night terrors) and smile more than Sherlock had ever known him to do, he assumed that John felt the same.

However, there was still one thing that they hadn’t yet done.

Sherlock had suspected that John had been thinking about it, and that it was only a matter of time before he asked for it. After all, Sherlock had yet to meet anyone like John for pushing himself to rise to challenges.

And sure enough, after That Night (as Sherlock mentally referred to it for several months afterwards), John’s interest in Sherlock’s casual, fleeting touches to his arse grew, slowly but undeniably.

One night, Sherlock was sprawled between John’s legs, sucking him lazily, and John squirmed his legs wide, much wider than needed. It took all of Sherlock’s willpower to ignore such a pointed invitation but he managed it. He wanted to hear John ask for it and, eventually, John did. He struggled up, propping himself up on his elbows, and muttered, ‘You could… you know. Touch me. If you want.’

Sherlock lifted his head, slowly letting John’s cock slip free of his mouth, and looked up. John’s eyes flickered to his wet lips before sliding away, and Sherlock honestly couldn’t tell if the rapid pulse fluttering at the hollow of John’s throat was due to arousal or nervousness.

‘Oh, I want,’ Sherlock murmured throatily. He stuck his index finger in his mouth, wetting it thoroughly before brushing it down between John’s thighs and back, farther than he had ever dared to go before. Very gently, he touched John’s hole with a fingertip and watched avidly as John’s cock twitched and he gave a soft noise. ‘But is this what you want?’

‘Yes,’ John gasped, lying back down and flinging an arm over his face even as his thighs twitched a few more inches apart. ‘I want to try it. Go on.’

That night, Sherlock sucked John and teased his hole with the pad of his wet finger until John was panting and shaking and dangling right on the edge of orgasm. And when John ground out, ‘Coming… Sherlock, coming now,’ Sherlock slid his finger up inside John to rub firmly over the soft-solid bump of his prostate. The resulting orgasm seemed to last longer than usual, and John’s lip bore teeth marks for several hours afterwards.

It didn’t happen overnight, but as time passed John grew bolder. He grew more confident in asking; he progressed from mutely spreading his legs and tilting his hips to encourage Sherlock’s wandering fingers down and back, to actually articulating what he wanted, eyes tightly closed in embarrassment as he stammered into Sherlock’s kisses, ‘Your fingers, Sherlock… I want you to put… put your fingers in me…’

Sherlock never failed to oblige him, and watched greedily as John grew to like it. Even to love it, to the point that the slightest brush of Sherlock’s fingertips along the crease of his buttocks would make his breath catch and his legs part.

After a few weeks of this (unusually for him, Sherlock honestly wasn’t sure how long, he’d been far too absorbed in cataloguing all of John’s reactions), an evening arrived when John asked for something more.

They were both stretched out in bed, with one of Sherlock’s thighs thrust between John’s legs. With Sherlock’s low-voiced, filthy encouragement, John had been rutting against the lean muscle until there was a large slick patch on Sherlock’s thigh and hip from John’s precome. His own erection was pressed between their bodies and entirely neglected, but Sherlock didn’t mind. He was utterly riveted by the sight of John – flushed and sweaty and with three of Sherlock’s fingers deep inside his arse, open and wet with an overabundance of lubricant. Each of John’s thrusts were making Sherlock’s fingers slide in and out of him, and Sherlock curled them at just the right angle to make sure that they pressed against John’s prostate with each rock back and forth.

At first, John had tried to reach down between their bodies to touch Sherlock’s cock, but Sherlock had kept pushing his hands away and murmuring, ‘No. This is about you,’ until John had got the message.

Now John’s damp palms squeezed Sherlock’s waist and shoulder rhythmically as John rode his thigh and moaned helplessly. God, he was gorgeous like this, and Sherlock leaned in to press an open-mouthed kiss to John’s temple, tasting the salty tang of his sweat.

‘Please,’ John gasped, and Sherlock lifted his thigh a little to push John’s balls – already tight and hot – more firmly against the base of his cock. John’s fingers scrabbled on his shoulder for a moment before finding a handhold and gripping hard. ‘Oh God, Sherlock, please…’

‘Easy…’ Sherlock nuzzled a kiss against John’s ear, breathing reassurance to him. ‘Easy now… I’ve got you. Do you have any idea what it does to me to see you like this?’

John licked his lips, and managed, ‘Want you…’

‘You have me,’ Sherlock assured him. He scissored his fingers slightly, managing to flutter them against the small bump inside John that felt firm and slightly swollen from all the stimulation, and had to draw a deep, steadying breath when John gave a choked-off cry and squirmed against his thigh.

‘I mean,’ John groaned, as Sherlock felt the first fluttering contractions around his fingers, ‘I want you to… oh… to fuck me.’

Sherlock bit his lip. ‘Really?’

‘Yes,’ John pleaded, his hips starting to stutter and lose their rhythm. ‘Please, God, please fuck me.’

He couldn’t. Not now, with John vulnerable and flayed open like this. He was almost out of his mind and seconds away from coming; it wouldn’t be fair to him. So instead Sherlock rolled John onto his back, slid down his body and pulled John’s cock into his mouth, working the head with short, sharp pulls as he buried his fingers as deeply as they would go inside him. John all but wailed as he came, one hand fisted in the pillow by his head and the other hanging onto Sherlock’s shoulder as his body squeezed tight around Sherlock’s fingers.

Almost frantic by this point, Sherlock thrust a hand down between his legs and stroked himself until he came, moaning loudly around John’s cock and making John’s knees grip his ribcage as John swore breathlessly at the overload of sensation.

Afterwards, Sherlock lay with his head on John’s stomach, too sated to move, while John ran gentle fingers through his hair. John’s skin was hot and slightly damp, his soft penis nestled against Sherlock’s sternum, and when Sherlock rubbed his face into the softness of John’s stomach he felt as well as heard John’s rumble of contentment.

‘Did you mean that?’ Sherlock asked quietly. He kept his face turned away, reasoning that John would find it easier to speak if he didn’t have to meet his eyes, and John’s hands paused briefly in his hair. ‘We don’t have to,’ Sherlock added. ‘People say all sorts of nonsense in bed, it doesn’t necessarily mean anyth–’

‘No, I… er…’ John cleared his throat, making his stomach muscles jump beneath Sherlock’s cheek. ‘I meant it. If you want to, I mean.’

Sherlock considered this.

‘Well,’ he said at last. ‘I suppose I could. If there’s nothing better to do.’

John was utterly still and silent, until Sherlock tilted his head and let him see the smirk he couldn’t hide, and John’s chest heaved as he dragged in a convulsive breath.

‘You bastard,’ he said, grinning widely. ‘You complete bastard.’

Sherlock rolled his eyes, just because John looked so appealing when he was indignant. ‘I can’t believe you thought I was serious.’

‘No I didn’t, I knew you were taking the piss.’

‘No you didn’t.’

‘Yes, I really did.’

‘Liar.’

Before John could reply, Sherlock sent his fingers dancing up along John’s sides to seek out his ticklish spots and the conversation (if it could really be called that) degenerated into laughter and tickling and mock-serious wrestling.

By the time they finished they were both breathless and John was sitting comfortably astride Sherlock’s stomach (Sherlock had to admit that Army combat skills counted for quite a lot). But John didn’t seem too inclined to crow over his victory, since Sherlock had coaxed his head down and was kissing John’s lower lip softly, obsessively, while John whispered, ‘Will you? I want you to, I really do,’ looking almost shy with his eyes squeezed shut and his face flushed.

‘Yes,’ Sherlock breathed, abandoning his kisses to pull John down into a hug, mindful of the leg pain that could still flare up at inconvenient moments. He cradled John’s skull into the curve of his neck and murmured, ‘Of course. Yes. Anything you want,’ as though he were promising something more than sex.

----------

Sherlock had never seen the point in waiting when there was nothing to be gained by it. The very next morning he ambushed John in the bathroom as he was towelling himself dry after his shower.

‘Mmmm.’ John was almost purring after Sherlock’s passionate ‘good morning’ kiss, and his eyes sparkled. ‘I thought you were still asleep.’

‘Hardly. Bed’s boring without you in it.’ Sherlock trailed his lips over John’s cheek and jaw to bury his face in the crook of John’s neck and inhale, drawing John’s warm, clean smell deep into his lungs as he growled, ‘Come back to bed.’

Before John could reply, Sherlock pulled the towel gently out of his grasp and added persuasively, ‘I know for a fact that you’re not at the clinic today.’

Grinning, John let himself be manhandled across the hallway to his room, although Sherlock wasn’t certain that it counted as manhandling if it wasn’t quite clear who was pushing who towards the bedroom, and if John was laughing as he kicked the door shut behind them.

John let himself be pulled down onto the bed and kissed soundly, and within a few minutes he was hard and starting to rock against Sherlock’s stomach.

‘So,’ John asked, drawing back slightly. ‘What do you want to do?’

His question was innocent enough, but the way his teeth were worrying his lower lip was anything but, and Sherlock kissed him and suggested huskily, ‘Why don’t you get onto your front?’

Without another word, John obediently rolled onto his stomach, pillowing his head on his arms as he parted his legs. It was such a trusting gesture, from a man who had discovered to his cost that his trust had been badly misplaced in the past, that for a moment all Sherlock could do was stare at the mesmerising lines of John’s back and arse like an idiot.

Until John looked over a shoulder curiously. ‘What is it?’ His face flickered self-consciously. ‘If you’ve changed your mind then… well, obviously that’s fine, we don’t have to–’

God, the man was mad; Sherlock was no more capable of rejecting John at that moment than he was of cutting off one of his own limbs. He stretched out on top of John as John began to roll away, covering the nape of his neck and the side of his face with kisses, and muttering, ‘Idiot.

‘Thanks.’

But John didn’t sound offended, and even twisted his head around to get a real kiss and hummed in pleasure at the soft play of breath and lips.

After a while he reached out, squirming a little under Sherlock’s weight, and retrieved the lubricant from the drawer of their bedside table.

‘Go on then,’ he murmured, flushing a little as he thrust the tube at Sherlock. ‘Do it.’

Taking the tube, Sherlock retreated to kneel between John’s parted thighs. John buried his face in his folded arms again, and as Sherlock looked at the suppressed tension in John’s spine and shoulders he bit his lip in mischievous anticipation. He dropped the tube on the bed, making John gasp at the spot of coldness against his leg, and bent down to kiss the soft hollows behind John’s knees, first the left one, then the right.

Slowly, he trailed kisses up the backs of John’s thighs, and by the time he reached the crease where John’s thigh met his arse, John’s breathing was a mess. John must know what he was about to do, Sherlock reasoned. Surely it was impossible to get to John’s age and have been in the Army and never have heard of it. But Sherlock would bet the more expensive parts of his chemistry set that John had never experienced it.

When Sherlock delicately brushed dry fingertips between his buttocks, John twitched minutely and he shifted his legs wider. But when Sherlock placed his open mouth at the top of the crease and started to lick his way downwards, John seemed to stop breathing altogether. At the first gentle touch of Sherlock’s mouth to his hole, John’s back heaved as he sucked in a deep breath and tried to spread his legs still wider.

Sherlock’s hands were on John’s buttocks, ostensibly spreading his cheeks so that Sherlock could bury his face between them, but in truth they were hardly necessary, since John’s legs were splayed so wide that one of his shins was hanging off the edge of the mattress.

At first Sherlock kept his touch light and teasing, just lapping softly at John’s hole, flickering his tongue across and around it to make everything wet and slick, and although the tension in John’s back didn’t dissipate in the slightest, the stifled whimpers from further up the bed made it clear that it was a different sort of tension. But at the first inwards push of Sherlock’s tongue, John swore loudly and grabbed Sherlock’s wrist as he demanded, ‘What are you doing?’

Sherlock lifted his head. John’s fingers were like steel bands around his wrist, but if he stretched then his hand span was still wide enough to rub his thumb over John’s hole while he spoke. ‘Do you like it?’

‘Well… I…’ John had raised himself up on one arm and twisted to look down his spine at Sherlock. He was dishevelled and wide-eyed, but his breath caught as Sherlock brought his other thumb over and alternated them both in a steady slide over and around and dipping in, just a fraction, to make John’s hips writhe. ‘Yes, of course I do.’ John’s gaze kept coming back to Sherlock’s saliva-wet mouth and chin, even as he said feebly, ‘But you… it’s not…’

‘It’s fine,’ Sherlock insisted. ‘Just close your eyes and feel it. Try to relax.’

And without waiting for an answer he lowered his head again. It took a while for John to relax, but eventually the tight ring of muscle was soft against Sherlock’s tongue and John’s fingers had loosened their grip. John had buried his face in his pillow but Sherlock could still hear his helpless moans, and when Sherlock pushed his tongue in as far as he could and wriggled it, John’s hips bucked against his face and John cried out into his pillow.

When one of John’s moans shaped itself into, ‘More, Sherlock, please. I want… fuck… Use your fingers… please…’ he hurriedly smeared some of the cool, clear gel onto his fingers and pushed one into John. John gasped a curse, possibly at the chill, but his hips rocked back against it. Sherlock pressed his face against the curve of John’s arse and sucked hard, almost-biting kisses into the firm muscle, feeling slightly dizzy with lust for the gorgeous man writhing and begging beneath him.

He pushed a second finger inside, and then a third, encouraged by the way John’s spine was undulating as he fucked himself on Sherlock’s fingers, and John’s increasingly insistent pleas of, ‘Yes, oh God, yes, right there… fuck!

But suddenly John was trembling and gasping, ‘No, wait, stop… God, stop now…’ and shoving a hand beneath himself to grab at his own cock. Sherlock knew what John was doing – he’d felt John shuddering tighter around his fingers as he pushed him closer to orgasm – but it didn’t make the sight of John trying to stop himself coming any less arousing.

Christ, he was so hard it was almost painful, and when John slumped panting against the bed and slurred, sounding like he’d been drugged, ‘Please, Sherlock. I want you to fuck me before I come,’ he scrambled clumsily back up the bed and fumbled for a condom. His slippery fingers made it difficult to put it on, as did the presence of John lying just inches away from him – loose-limbed and sweaty and waiting to be fucked – but eventually he managed, rolling it over his erection and smearing far too much lubricant over himself in his haste.

Suddenly nervous, Sherlock gathered John to him, encouraging him to lean back against Sherlock’s chest and hugging him close to kiss his hair. He tried to calm himself down – it would be such a disappointment if he came as soon as he was inside John, without managing to get John off first – and so Sherlock took several deep breaths and thought of the morgue at Barts and the experiment on mould that he was running in the kitchen.

When he reached down and guided the head of his cock to press against John’s hole, Sherlock felt John tense slightly in his arms.

‘John,’ he murmured, propping himself up on one elbow. ‘Turn your head. Let me kiss you.’

John did so, eyes screwed shut, and as Sherlock kissed him gently and tried to coax the tension out of his muscles, John abruptly shoved his hips down and back. The first couple of inches of Sherlock’s cock slid in all at once, bullying past the initial resistance of John’s body, and Sherlock gritted out, ‘Fuck!’ into John’s mouth.

He couldn’t help it; John was so hot inside and God, so tight, and Sherlock wrapped his hand firmly around his own cock to prevent himself from sliding in too quickly, or John deciding that it was better to get this part over all at once and shoving back any more.

John was panting unsteadily, pulling in jagged, stuttering breaths through his nose, and Sherlock kissed his cheek as he ordered, ‘Breathe. And Christ, John, slow down. There’s no hurry to get this over with. If you find you don’t enjoy it then we’ll stop. But just breathe,’ and Sherlock took a deep breath to demonstrate.

After a pointed flex from Sherlock’s arm wrapped around his chest, John obeyed, and Sherlock nuzzled the side of his face and murmured praise and instructions to him. ‘That’s it. You’re doing so well. Try to relax. It’s no different from having three fingers up you, and you’ve managed that with no problems. Push against me. Yes, there. God, yes, that’s it. Perfect, you’re perfect.’

Sherlock buried his nose in John’s hair, almost overcome with lust and love for John, quivering against him but not telling Sherlock to stop, and fury at Tom, the entire fucking reason that John was still tense, even now, as he subconsciously braced himself for what was to come.

‘I won’t hurt you,’ Sherlock found himself repeating into John’s hair, almost pleading. ‘John, it’s me, and I promise you: I will not hurt you. Never, I could never…’

Gradually, John eased around him, and when Sherlock took his hand away John sank back and Sherlock slid further inside, making him groan, ‘Oh fuck,’ at the tight clutch of John’s body.

John hadn’t spoken so far, but when Sherlock’s (admittedly rather sharp) hipbones were pressed up against the warm curve of his arse, John turned his head to look at him with eyes that were wide and dazed and almost all pupil.

‘God, you’re inside me,’ he murmured, sounding utterly astounded. ‘All of you.’

‘Yes,’ Sherlock managed, rubbing John’s stomach in long, soothing strokes and trying to speak coherently. ‘Are you okay?’

‘Mmm.’ John nodded, and swallowed hard. ‘You could try… maybe try moving. If you want.’

Carefully, so carefully, Sherlock pulled out a few inches and pushed back in, angling his hips to nudge against John’s prostate and knowing he’d succeeded by the tiny shudder that rippled through John and his gasp of, ‘Oh God.’

This was heaven, surely: John in his arms, warm and responsive and trembling with each of Sherlock’s tentative pushes, and slick and tight around him. So tight, in fact, that Sherlock didn’t dare thrust too hard, not only out of consideration for John but also because there was a very real possibility that he would end up coming far too soon.

As a distraction, he slid the hand that had been stroking John’s stomach down between his legs, finding him hard and wet with precome. John moaned at the touch of Sherlock’s hand on his cock, and reached down to lace Sherlock’s fingers with his. Sherlock slid their joined fingers up and down John’s cock, using their thumbs to smear the precome along the shaft and focussing only on making John come. Vigorous fucking and more elaborate positions could wait for another time, on this occasion he only wanted John to come with Sherlock inside him, just to show him what it felt like.

So Sherlock restricted himself to tiny thrusts in and out, just enough to stimulate the nerve endings around John’s hole and rub the head of his cock back and forth over his prostate, and worked John’s cock, feeling it get harder and slicker in their joined grasp.

After what felt like an age – Sherlock was biting the inside of his cheek by the end, trying to focus on the pain – John started to shudder in his arms.

‘Oh God,’ John gasped, sounding absolutely wrecked. He sped up their strokes on his cock and used his thumb to push his foreskin back and forth over the head as he stuttered, ‘Sherlock, I’m… fuck, I think I’m coming…’

Christ. Sherlock struggled up onto an elbow, wanting to kiss John through his orgasm. He shoved an arm under John’s ribs and caught at his free hand, that had been scrabbling uselessly for a handhold in the sheets, clutching it tightly as John’s spine arched and he sobbed, ‘Oh fuck… fuck… fuck…,’ against Sherlock’s mouth as he spurted over their hands, hips bucking erratically and fucking himself hard on Sherlock’s cock.

John’s arse rippled tight around him, internal muscles clenching, and Sherlock moaned loudly into their kiss as his orgasm pulsed out of him, wave after wave of shivery pleasure.

Sherlock felt utterly wrung-out afterwards, and wanted nothing more than for John to relax in his arms, maybe even rest his head on Sherlock’s chest and doze briefly, while Sherlock buried his fingers in John’s short hair and felt John’s heartbeat leaping under the curve of his jaw.

Instead, Sherlock found that John’s orgasmic panting and shaking wasn’t dying away; John was still shivering and gasping for breath even after his cock had begun to soften in their grasp.

‘John?’ Sherlock asked, leaning up again and trying to see John’s face. ‘Are you all right?’

‘Yes,’ John answered. But his body belied his words – instead of his usual post-coital relaxation, when Sherlock could push and pull him into whatever sleeping pose he wanted, tension was blooming in John’s body. ‘I can’t… I just need to…’

John was shifting on the bed, growing increasingly restless, and his movements made Sherlock slip free of him before he was entirely soft, making them both gasp. Sherlock leaned away to drop the condom in the bin, and when he returned it was to curl a tentative arm around John’s waist.

‘I’m sorry,’ he murmured. ‘I thought you liked it. You seemed as though you…’

Sherlock’s voice trailed off. John had enjoyed it, he was sure of it. John had even had an orgasm as a result of Sherlock fucking him, yet now his hands were clenching and unclenching in his agitation. Sherlock slid his other arm underneath John’s torso, folding John into his embrace, and put his hand on John’s in an attempt to calm the nervous flex of his fingers.

But as soon as their hands touched, John rolled away and got out of bed.

Sherlock sat up. ‘John, what is it? I’m sorry if there was something… not good. I swear I thought you were enjoying it–’

‘I was,’ John interrupted. ‘I did, Sherlock, this… look, this isn’t about you, okay? I just…’

The sentence died away into nothing, but Sherlock pressed, ‘You just what?’

‘I didn’t know,’ John blurted, yanking open the top drawer of his dressing table and burrowing around frantically for some underwear. John’s hair was deliciously askew, his spine was damp with sweat and, if he looked hard, Sherlock could still see traces of his saliva and lubricant smeared at the shadowy crease where John’s slightly-shaky thighs met his bum. The sight made him want to wind an arm around John’s waist and drag him back into bed for a second round even as he struggled to understand what John was muttering. ‘I’d done it before but I didn’t know that… I had no idea that it was meant to feel like… God, that fucking wanker.’

John’s voice dropped to a downright snarl, and he slammed the drawer shut hard enough to make one of the framed pictures of his family wobble and fall. Sherlock was uncharacteristically lost for words. This was all so different to how he’d thought it would happen. He’d thought John would be surprised, had hoped that he would be pleased, and perhaps even affectionate and content to snuggle close afterwards.

Whereas this… Sherlock had known that John had a temper – he had even seen it once or twice – but he’d never dreamed of seeing it like this, while John’s face and chest were still flushed with sex.

When John wrenched open his wardrobe and grabbed a pair of jeans, worry curled tight in Sherlock’s throat and he demanded, ‘Where are you going?’

‘Out.’ John wouldn’t meet his eyes. ‘I need some air, I can’t… Please, Sherlock, I need to go out.’

For Sherlock had leapt out of bed (his knees had almost folded beneath him, still wobbly with the aftermath of orgasm, but he locked them firmly) and stood in front of him. ‘John, wait. Talk to me.’

John shook his head violently. ‘I can’t.’

Please.’

‘Get out of the way.’

Sherlock moved aside instantly. There was an warning note in John’s voice and God, Sherlock had never wanted to hear that directed at him, he had never wanted to make John feel trapped.

‘Please stay,’ he repeated, not knowing what else to say.

‘I can’t,’ John said, angry and miserable, almost falling over in his haste as he shoved his feet into his boots and snatched up a jumper. ‘I need to get out. Go for a walk, or something. I need some space to… think about stuff.’

‘But you don’t have to do it on your own,’ Sherlock pleaded softly. ‘Let me come with you.’

Now fully dressed, John paused with one hand on the doorknob and looked over at Sherlock, standing stark naked by the bed with its ruin of crumpled, sweaty sheets.

‘I’m sorry,’ John muttered, a hunted look on his face. ‘I’ll… I’ll see you later, yeah?’

And without waiting for a response he was gone, out of the bedroom and clattering down the stairs.

Barely an instant later, Sherlock sprang into action, racing down the stairs to his own room and straight to the selection of unobtrusive clothes he kept in the back of his wardrobe. John might think he needed to be alone, but Sherlock would be damned before he would stand idly by and watch John fight his battles unaided. Besides, John had left without wallet or keys or phone; if anything were to happen to him then he would be well and truly stuck. Sherlock flung on jeans, trainers and a hooded sweatshirt – his long coat was far too noticeable – and grabbed phone, wallet and keys as he dashed out of their flat.

When he reached the street, he was just in time to see John turning a corner at the end of the road. He jogged briefly to catch up and then slowed to a walk, staying a decent distance away from John but shadowing him faithfully. He flipped the hood up to conceal his face and became just one more of London’s many pedestrians, each going about their business in the morning rush hour.

John wandered erratically for about an hour and a half, obviously lost in thought and without a specific destination in mind. He turned, and doubled back, and criss-crossed his path, until eventually he reached Regent’s Park. Sherlock slipped through the gate in time to see John sit on a bench near the central fountains, deserted save for a few pigeons. Sherlock dared to get a little closer, since John was staring moodily at the splashing water, and chose a bench about fifteen metres away.

The sky was overcast and a nasty little wind had picked up since they left the flat, and as Sherlock sat there he watched John gradually curl further and further in on himself against the cold. John looked unbearably small and lonely, sitting on his solitary bench without a coat, and to distract himself from the sudden breathless, painful feeling in his chest Sherlock fished out his phone and opened the internet browser. He thought about leaving briefly to buy hot coffee and a pastry for John, since he didn’t look as though he was going anywhere, and wondered whether John’s anger at finding that Sherlock had followed him would be outweighed by John’s obvious need for warmth and sustenance.

Sherlock was so absorbed in searching online for the closest café that he only became aware of a pair of scuffed boots when they were standing just a couple of inches in front of his trainers. He looked up, along the washed-out blue of John’s favourite jeans and arms grimly folded across a worn jumper, to find that John was looking down at him with an unreadable expression.

‘Hello,’ Sherlock tried, flourishing his phone feebly. When John didn’t reply, Sherlock took a deep breath and said, all in a rush: ‘I’ll go away if you want, but you left without your wallet and it’s cold and if you’d like a coffee then I’ve just found that there’s a nice little patisserie around the corner. I’ll buy.’

At this John’s face broke into a small smile, the first one that Sherlock had seen since their kiss in the bathroom just a couple of hours (that felt like ten years) ago. He sat down next to Sherlock, their sides just brushing, and Sherlock cautiously settled his arm along the back of the bench, not quite resting against John’s shoulders.

After a few moments’ silence, Sherlock began, ‘I’m sorry I followed y–’

‘You’re the least likely person I know who would own a hoodie,’ John cut him off, a wry twist to his lips. ‘I’d like to be able to say that it looks ridiculous, but it actually quite suits you.’

‘It’s good for blending in,’ Sherlock replied automatically, preoccupied with the desire to pull John in close for a hug but unsure whether John would welcome it. However, when John reached up to push the hood back from his face and let his hand linger on Sherlock’s cheek, Sherlock brought his arm forward to curve solidly around John’s shoulders and felt John lean – almost snuggle – into his side, muscles loosening fractionally.

‘Sorry I ran out on you,’ John offered, after a short period of watching the autumn leaves dance in the breeze.

‘No, don’t.’ Sherlock’s heart cracked slightly to hear John’s apology, quiet and shame-faced. ‘You don’t need to–’

‘I wanted to think about some stuff.’ Not quite sure whether he was allowed to press for more information, Sherlock settled for a vaguely encouraging noise, and John continued. ‘And I realised that I’m so fucking tired of this. I’m tired of thinking about Tom, and of trying to work out what you’re going to do based on my time with him. I need to stop comparing you two. You’re nothing alike.’

‘I should bloody well hope not,’ Sherlock said tartly, before he could stop himself.

But John only laughed. ‘No, you’re really not. And I’m just really… I’ve had enough of him screwing up this thing between us. I even think that I’m…’

‘What?’ Sherlock asked, almost holding his breath.

‘Well, bored with it.’ John looked vaguely shocked at himself. ‘I’m just really, really sick and tired of thinking about him. Of wasting my energy on him, when I’d rather be focussing on you.’

Good,’ Sherlock growled, and John giggled briefly, making Sherlock’s arm tighten automatically around his shoulders.

‘God, don’t make me laugh,’ John said, a familiar twinkle slowly returning to his eyes. ‘This is… well, I’m fairly sure it’s not the sort of conversation that normal people laugh during.’

‘Normal’s boring,’ Sherlock pointed out, and John turned his head to grin up at him.

‘Yeah. I’ve always thought so.’

Now, Sherlock thought giddily, tilting his head down and parting his lips, and watching as John’s gaze tracked his movement avidly. Now would be the perfect moment for a kiss.

Just before their lips connected, John murmured, ‘D’you know what else I found?’

Mutely, Sherlock shook his head.

‘Once I had some space, I realised that I didn’t want space from you.’

The smile had faded from John’s mouth, although not from his eyes, and Sherlock tried to decide whether cataloguing John’s facial expressions was more important than kissing.

‘Well. That’s… good,’ he said, aware that some sort of response was called for.

‘Yeah.’ John looked tired but calm, and his eyes were very, very blue. ‘I love you. I mean, I thought that you might have worked it out by now, what with… well, everything… but… yeah. You’ve been known to miss important stuff where other people’s feelings are concerned, so I thought I ought to tell you.’

Biting his lip, and conscious that he was grinning like a fool, Sherlock nodded wordlessly.

‘And besides,’ John added, looking back at the swirling leaves again and managing to sound almost prim. ‘I don’t shoot serial killers for just anybody.’

At this, Sherlock couldn’t contain his laughter, equal parts relief and amusement. He squeezed John closer to him, making John exhale sharply, and murmured into his hair, ‘I love you too.’

‘I know,’ John said softly, surprising him. ‘I mean, I hoped you did right from the start, and then when I saw you being so patient with me over these last few months… It made me think – hope, really – that perhaps you were in it for more than just a quick shag.’

‘I am,’ Sherlock whispered, lips moving against John’s forehead. ‘For as long as you’ll have me.’

John pulled him down into a soft kiss, smiling widely against his mouth, and then tucked his head under Sherlock’s chin with a small sigh. Sherlock took a moment to wonder at his own behaviour – snuggling on a public bench – before deciding that the rest of the world could just fuck right off and taking John’s hand, twining their fingers together and rubbing his thumb over John’s knuckles. He looked at John’s capable hands; those hands that aimed a gun, and pushed cups of tea at Sherlock when John deemed that he’d been working too long, and carded through Sherlock’s hair when he was bored and fractious.

Sherlock heard himself ask, ‘Are you ever going to tell me who he was?’ and he bit his lip. In his head, a voice (that sounded very like Mycroft) chided him for being too greedy, for never being content with what was freely given but always pushing for more, but John only shook his head calmly.

‘Not ever?’ Sherlock asked, trying and failing to keep the pleading note out of his voice.

‘No.’ John tilted his head up to look at Sherlock and gripped his hand tighter as he said simply, ‘He doesn’t matter any more. He’s over.’

‘But–’

‘No. No buts.’ For some reason, John quirked a smile at him. ‘You’re the one who’s always going on about information taking up space on your hard drive, and how for each new piece of data you have to delete something else.’ He lifted their joined hands to brush a kiss over the backs of Sherlock’s fingers. ‘Delete him from my memory. Give me some new memories to take his place.’

Sherlock opened his mouth to protest again, because it was wrong that this ‘Tom’ should get off scot-free, but John continued, ‘Didn’t someone once say that the best revenge is a life well-lived?’

John gazed up at him, his eyes soft, and Sherlock suddenly heard Mycroft’s words again: This isn’t about what you want. It’s about John.

‘That’s what I want,’ John finished, sounding calm and utterly at peace. ‘A life well-lived. With you.’

‘With rooftop chases and kitchen experiments,’ Sherlock couldn’t resist adding, and John laughed.

‘With rooftop chases and kitchen experiments, yes. God help me. Now come on.’ John stood, and held out a hand to Sherlock. ‘Let’s go home.’

--End--