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The Heart In The Whole

Chapter Text


Two shots.

There had been two shots.


Waiting, back braced against the side of the cubicle, legs tensed and ready.

Waiting, power coiling in his body, his gaze narrow, focused on the gun in Sherlock's hand, and Sherlock's finger as it began to squeeze the trigger.

Waiting, past the point where there was any chance that Sherlock would change his mind or pause in his action, until the moment when the shot became inevitable.

Only then had he moved, releasing all that energy into a burst of acceleration which sent him flying across the tiled floor and straight into Sherlock, arms outstretched to wrap around him, body twisting to maximise his momentum as he sent them both plunging into the pool, even as the fireball from the bomb vest burst over their heads, the force of the blast sending them deep into the water.

Noise, light, pressure, lack of air, all sensations flooding his mind but none of them touching on the underlying horror as his brain caught up with his ears. Sherlock's unresponsiveness, the memory of his body jerking suddenly as John twisted him and the overwhelming, petrifying awareness that he had heard two shots.

Two shots, when there should only have been one…

John lurched awake, stiff and uncomfortable in the hospital chair, his gaze going immediately to the still figure on the bed, then to the read-outs on the machines banked up on either side.

No change.

He looked down at the hand which was wrapped in his own. The strong, capable hand which usually moved with such precision, such purpose. The long fingers which could tame a violin into surrendering its most exquisite notes. So fragile looking now, so still, the blue veins too evident through the pale, pale skin.

He almost smiled, thinking of Sherlock's reaction should he open his eyes and see John holding his hand. The eyebrow would most definitely quirk at such an imposition, he knew.

He shifted his gaze, as if by staring at Sherlock's eyebrows he could encourage their movement but there was nothing. His eyes roamed over the high cheekbones, the long jaw, the surprisingly full lips. The most alive, most aware, most vibrant person John had ever met – where had he gone?

Behind him, the door opened but John did not look round. The staff had tried to keep him out at first, insisting that he wasn't family, had no connection, no rights, but John had put his head down mulishly and refused to budge. Mycroft stepped in before they came close to dislodging him.

They only had a patient at all because of John, Mycroft pointed out, with an approving smile which John barely noticed. It was he who reached and twisted Sherlock, so that the bullet which would have entered the back of his head actually just skimmed across it instead.

There had been arguing but John hadn't listened any more. He had enough experience of the Holmes brothers to know who would win.

"No change?" It was Anthea, making her early morning check on Mycroft's behalf.

John shook his head. He did not want Anthea in the room. Anthea was not concerned about Sherlock. She didn't care whether the figure on the bed still housed his spirit or whether it was just a shell, an empty house. It did not matter to her; Sherlock was just an item on her agenda, she didn't care.

He glanced round. No bandage swathing her head. No needles in her arms. No ventilator keeping her breathing. Eyes open, conscious, alert, awake… he couldn't look at her for long. Why did it have to be Sherlock whose body was lying in this bed? So many other people, none of them so alive as Sherlock, none of them so unique, none of them so important.

As a doctor, John knew that it was wrong to think this way, of course he knew. To resent everyone else for walking and talking when Sherlock could not; it was wrong.

As a man, he didn't care. Better it was almost anybody else, better it was Anthea, better it was John himself, better it was anyone at all than Sherlock Holmes, who would leave such a hole in the world. When he next remembered to turn around, she had gone.

It had been six days and seven nights since the explosion.

The first night of panic, of horror; a blur of motion and colour in John's memory.

The journey in the ambulance, the blood, the shouting, the frantic activity with total stillness at its centre. No response from Sherlock, no reaction. Still alive but somehow already absent.

People prodding John, lights in his eyes. "Shock," they said. "You're in shock." Sitting to one side, back to the wall, staring at a man who wasn't there. Helpless.

The hospital. Sherlock whisked away, emergency surgery to relieve the pressure in his brain. Repairing the damage from the bullet track which ran straight across the back of his skull. The desperate hope that he would survive.

Sitting in the waiting room, both hands shaking now, people talking but it was just noise, meaningless. Words in his head, round and round... Just live through the operation Sherlock, just don't die. Round and round the garden, like a teddy bear. Don't die, Sherlock, just don't die. On and on, until he thought he would go mad.

Then the first day on his own, rudderless, lost.

A day of undrunk coffee and questions from the police which didn't mean anything, didn't make sense, were irrelevant – couldn't they see it didn't matter? What did it matter?

A day of waiting for Sherlock to wake up. To wake up and answer the questions, and demand to be released so that he could go home – didn't they know he had several experiments at critical stages?

A long day, an endless day, a day which went on and on as Sherlock didn't wake up, and didn't jump out of bed to hare off after Mori-bloody-arty, and didn't shout at John for being boring and predictable and an idiot, and didn't wake up... and he just didn't wake up.

Quiet that night. The beeping of the monitors, the hiss of the ventilator, fading into background noise.


'Sometimes, I don't talk for days on end,' Sherlock had warned him. 'Would that bother you?'

John hadn't actually replied to that question, but his answer would have been, 'No,' if he'd said anything at all. It bothered him now. He wouldn't say, 'No,' any more.

The second day, they brought in more experts. For the first time John wished he wasn't a doctor, that he didn't understand the significance of the Glasgow Coma Scale, that he was unfamiliar with the prognosis for Traumatic Brain Injury, that he didn't know how much Sherlock's chances had fallen once the 24 hour mark had passed.

Mycroft was there, he was talking to the doctors, asking questions, demanding information John knew they couldn't give him. No amount of power or leverage could deduce the mysteries of the human brain. There was no way to know when, or if, Sherlock would wake up, or how he would be affected.

The specialists were talking to Mycroft. John could hear them mention possible problems with memory, with speech, with vision, with balance. Sherlock might suffer from mood swings; his personality could be completely altered. The most likely issues would be with cognitive skills – attention, concentration, processing information, all the things which Sherlock most valued in himself, they could be gone.

Would he know? John wondered. If he woke up a different man, an average man, a man like everyone else, would he know what he had lost? Sometimes people didn't – they would emerge from coma in denial, unable to compare post-injury behaviour with pre-injury abilities, not understanding or accepting that they had changed. That would be better, John thought. For Sherlock, that would be better. When he woke up, they would see. When he woke up.

Days passing, merging into the nights, watching, waiting for Sherlock to return. People coming and going while John remained, almost as still as his friend, talking to him all the time. Telling him about their cases, about people they knew, even about the bloody solar system. Leaving only briefly and when he absolutely had to, when Mycroft came to take his place while he showered, ate, did the bare minimum to keep himself functioning.

Mycroft talking, and for him John tried to make an effort. For Sherlock's brother he tried, concentrating on the words, thinking what to say, pushing past the fog of denial in his head. The fog that said this wasn't really happening, that said 'You'll be woken by the violin at four in the morning', that said it was all a bad dream, the worst dream you've ever had; a dreadful business, no doubt, but it can't possibly be real.

Mycroft gave up after a while, looking at John with sympathy in his eyes even though it was his brother in the bed, his family who might never recover, still he smiled at John and patted his shoulder.

He had read the reports, he said, seen the statement John could barely remember making, interrogated the sniper responsible for the shooting. He knew what Moriarty had done, what John had tried to do, how much John had been willing to sacrifice to save his brother. He knew. He knew it all.

Six days and seven nights. One more day until John would have to go home. Go home and try to accept that Sherlock was probably gone, that the body in the bed was just that, a body. Not Sherlock any more. Not Sherlock ever again.

Seven days he had given himself. Seven days to hope and to pray to a God he didn't know was listening, wasn't sure he believed in, but he prayed anyway.

After seven days the ten percent chance of recovery went down to three. Ten per cent was quite good. Ten percent wasn't out of the question. You could hope, with ten percent, you could hope and you could still believe that Sherlock would open his eyes.

Open his eyes and see John sitting there, holding his hand even though Sherlock would hate that, would resent it, would not want John's emotions and sentiment dripping all over him.

He would pull his hand away and give John his most supercilious look, just as soon as he opened his eyes. Soon now, he would open his eyes. Open his eyes and see John, as he waited. Waited for his world to come back.

Darkness. Pain. Confusion. He was floating, disconnected, lost in the void. Disjointed memories, or were they? Were they memories, or visions? Images flashing through his mind. Impressions of noise, of light, of arms closing round him. The void rising up to swallow him again. Blackness.

A presence. A voice. Words not making sense, just sounds, no meaning, but familiar. Sounding warm, sounding safe, sounding like home. Fading.

Touch. Something touching him. Someone. One hand warmer than the other. Disparity. What was that? Who was touching him? Reaching...

John stared down at the hand he held, mouth open, eyes wide.

Had he imagined it? Had his prayers brought a miracle or had his longing just produced a delusion?

No, he was almost sure. Sherlock's hand had twitched. He waited, uncertain, afraid; hope was such a dangerous emotion.

It didn't happen again for several hours, then Sherlock's fingers definitely tightened. John glanced at the other hand – that was flexing too.

He reached for the buzzer, pressing the button that would bring the crowd, that would let Mycroft know his brother could be coming back, trying desperately to keep the treacherous hope tamped down; reminding himself that progress to Level II did not guarantee advancement to Level VIII and that Sherlock could stick at any point in the scale and remain there, lost in his head, for months or even years.

By evening, Sherlock was much more responsive, moving around in the bed, pulling at his bandages and lashing out if touched. He was off the ventilator, breathing for himself and talking, but his words were random, incoherent. His eyes were open but he wasn't looking at anybody, his gaze roaming, unfocused.

"Confused and agitated," the specialist told Mycroft. "Level IV on the Rancho scale. This is excellent." The man seemed delighted.

John allowed the hope in his chest a little room to grow, letting it unfurl just slightly, a cautious, tentative optimism, still braced for disappointment but getting stronger.

"Level III is the sticking point," the expert continued. "If he's made it this far, he is likely to progress further."

Mycroft muttered something and John heard tutting from the doctor. "No, no, I'm afraid that only happens on television. People don't just snap out of a coma; the brain isn't a light switch, it takes time to re-orient itself."

More muttering; John tuned it out, eyes steady on the figure of his best friend. He was taking in every detail, missing nothing. Watching every move made by the most important person in his life, who had yet to recognise or acknowledge him, but who was on his way back.

That night, John slept in a bed for the first time in a week. Admittedly, the bed was in one of the hospital visitor's rooms, he didn't actually leave the building, but Mycroft was sitting with his brother tonight and John didn't trust himself not to unthinkingly take Sherlock's hand, as he had become so used to doing. He didn't want to increase Sherlock's agitation; it was common for brain injury patients to dislike being touched, especially at first. Sometimes they even perceived any physical contact as pain.

It was too soon to judge how much the person who was coming back to them would be the Sherlock they knew. He was certainly making rapid progress – naturally, being Sherlock, he would be in a hurry. The smile almost made it onto John's face this time and he slept deeply, exhausted from his vigil, for once not dreaming of explosions or gunshots, but of Sherlock's eyes, and that penetrating gaze which swept over you and knew all your secrets. He'd have to watch out for that gaze, was John's last thought as he slipped into slumber; have to get his guard back up in the morning, or Sherlock would see... Sherlock would know... John slept.

Sherlock woke the next morning, knowing who he was. He listened to the beeping of machines and heard the rustling of someone crossing their legs in a chair next to him. He could feel a needle in his arm and his head hurt. Hospital, then. He opened his eyes; night time.

More rustling, then a voice. Mycroft, but he was talking nonsense – no change there, then. Sherlock smiled to himself.

He heard a door, footsteps. Wasn't anyone going to put the light on?

Someone was approaching, the stride well-known and sounding like home. "John?"

John's voice answered from his left, but the words sounded wrong. Sherlock turned his head.

John wouldn't wander around in the dark, surely? Was his head bandaged? He reached up to check. There was a bandage, but his face was uncovered.

Sherlock stretched out a hand, which was swiftly taken in a familiar hold.

"John, why can't I see you?"

Chapter Text

"One more step," murmured John. "There, that's it."

"I know how many steps there are to my own flat!" snapped Sherlock irritably, pushing away John's guiding hand as soon as they reached the door.

Irritable seemed to be his default setting at the moment, thought John. Understandable, of course, but John found it difficult to empathise really, if the truth be told. He was still floating on a cloud of relief and euphoria to have Sherlock back at all, and to have him be so much himself, his personality, his intelligence, his essential character… well he'd take the irritability, he'd take it and be glad of it every day.

Sherlock was banging around and John hurried after him, never more than a few steps away since he had first woken up three weeks before.

The aphasia had been worrying, but thankfully short-lived. When he initially recovered consciousness Sherlock could not understand what was said to him, although he clearly recognised different voices and was able to speak himself. This made him very difficult to calm, although John's presence certainly helped; he had held tightly to John's hand from the moment he first grabbed it.

By early afternoon, to the huge relief of everyone involved, he had started picking out words, then phrases, until by evening he was understanding and communicating relatively normally and the problem had not returned. Really, they were very lucky, thought John. Very lucky indeed. It could have been so much worse.

Sherlock had thrown himself down on the sofa in a customarily dramatic pose, arms and legs splayed out like a giant crane fly.

"I'm going mad!" he declared, sitting up again and pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes.

John perched on the coffee table in front of him and gently pulled his hands away, holding on to them as he gazed into Sherlock's eyes in a way he never would have dared before.

"What am I going to do, John?" Sherlock demanded, not attempting to retrieve his hands but instead lowering his head and leaning straight forward until his brow was resting on John's sternum.

The already minimal respect he'd had for personal space and physical boundaries had now completely disappeared, at least as far as John was concerned. John hadn't yet established if this was due to the brain injury, which could certainly lead to reduced inhibitions, or if it was down to the increased dependency enforced by his current situation.

Regardless of the cause, Sherlock almost seemed to regard John as an extension of himself at the moment, accepting his care in whatever way was needed while still flinching away from other medical staff in outraged dignity.

John looked down. Sherlock's hair was re-growing but it was still quite short at the back and along the sides, although familiarly messy on top. It had been cut properly before they left the hospital the week before, no doubt at Mycroft's instigation, so it was no longer obvious where part had been shaved for the surgery. John found that he missed the curls.

His hand was hovering over the back of Sherlock's head and he lowered it, pulling away gently. "You're going to be glad you're alive," he said. "Glad that you're here, glad that you're you."

Sherlock made a low noise and sat back, pulling his hands free and dropping his head into them. "But I'm not me, am I?" he demanded. "Who am I, if not the work?" He lifted his head again. "The work, John, what matters to me is the work – without that, what's left of my brain will rot! If I can't do the work, then what's the point of me being here? I may as well be -"

"Shut up!" John commanded, too loudly, making Sherlock flinch... but there were limits to what he could stand. "Don't even think about finishing that sentence." He rose to his feet.

"You are such a fucking drama queen, Sherlock." He had been nothing but patient and supportive all this time but he wasn't going to listen to this – this needed to be jumped on, and jumped on hard. "Will you just think for one sodding minute about what you're saying?" His voice dropped. "And who you're saying it to?"

He took a deep breath, trying to regain his temper, and turned away automatically even though there was no longer any need to hide his face.

"I am blind, John." The low voice came from behind him. "Crippled and useless. Dependent on you; no good to anybody."

John sighed heavily then moved back to the coffee table, sitting down and taking Sherlock's hands again. "You're not crippled," he said, not for the first time. He wasn't sure if Sherlock was having trouble remembering or if he just didn't believe it.

"There is nothing wrong with your eyes, they're just as..." he caught back the next words. "They are perfectly undamaged, as are your optic nerves."

He raised one hand to the side of Sherlock's head. "The bullet damaged the back of your skull, causing problems primarily in your brain's occipital lobe which houses the visual cortex." He found that his hand was stroking through Sherlock's hair and pulled it away, although Sherlock seemed to barely notice.

"Cortical blindness is still blindness," Sherlock replied.

"No, it isn't," John insisted, moving to grip his shoulders now. "Your eyes are still perfect." He gazed at them again, so close, so much closer than he was used to seeing them. "It's just that their information isn't getting through to your brain at the moment. Your vision may well return... at least to some degree."

"May possibly return," Sherlock corrected, quoting from the specialist. "And what use is some degree to a man like me? My deductions hinge on my observations. The limited ability to avoid walking into foliage is not likely to help me in my work."

"Does everything have to be right now or sooner with you?" John was tired and it sounded in his voice. "It's only a month since you were shot in the head! I don't think anyone expects you to be back at work just yet."

"Shot across the head, thanks to you," was the reply. Sherlock still didn't remember anything about the confrontation at the pool but Mycroft had filled him in on what had happened. This was the closest he had come to raising the topic but John certainly didn't want to dwell on it now.

It seemed Sherlock agreed, as he continued, "You're tired, is it time for bed?"

John realised he was yawning and moved off his rather uncomfortable perch to sit down properly on the sofa. He'd wanted to get Sherlock a talking watch but he was very resistant to any 'blind paraphernalia', as he put it, and even more so to anything related to his TBI. John decided to suggest it to Mycroft; let him take the blame.

Sherlock's recovery really was remarkable though, in John's, perhaps not expert but certainly educated, opinion. His personality and acuity seemed mostly intact – the slightly dependent behaviour could have arisen from his lack of vision just as easily as from the brain injury itself.

He hadn't had any more problems understanding the speech of others, although he still quite often suffered from anomia himself, which caused him huge frustration. It must be particularly difficult for someone like Sherlock, who had always been so eloquent, to find himself unable to identify the word he wanted, thought John. Most people were already familiar with that 'Oh, it's on the tip of my tongue' feeling, as almost everyone suffered from anomia occasionally, but it was clearly a new and very unwelcome phenomenon to Sherlock.

It was the perseveration that meant he couldn't be left, though. Sometimes Sherlock just got stuck, unable to move off a particular topic in conversation, or endlessly repeating an action long after the need for it had been met. When John had found him with bleeding gums, after brushing his teeth for over fifteen minutes, the decision to stay with him as much as humanly possible was quickly made.

"You might as well just sleep with me," Sherlock announced, causing John's mouth to fall open in shock. Sexual disinhibition was one of many possible side-effects to Traumatic Brain Injury but he had certainly never anticipated that it would affect Sherlock. How the hell was he supposed to deal with this one? What do you do when you're offered the golden ticket, but know you can't take it?

"I know you don't go up to your own bed," Sherlock continued, unaware of the confusion currently rocketing through his best friend. "I know you've been sleeping on the sofa in case I get stuck making toast and start a fire... or whatever it is you're worried about." He shrugged his shoulders. "You may as well sleep in my room - the bed is big enough to share and at least you'd get some rest, which you certainly need."

Gradually, John's heart rate started to settle as he understood what Sherlock was trying to say. "How do you know I've been sleeping on the sofa?" he asked curiously – he had tried to be discreet about it, not wanting Sherlock to feel smothered.

"Obvious!" Sherlock huffed. "The third stair squeaks and I hear it twice in the morning instead of once when you come down - the first time is you going up for clean clothes after spending the night down here."

He leaned back in his seat, steepling his fingers under his chin in a familiar pose which made John's heart clench. "The sofa smells more strongly of you than usual, especially at the end nearer the door where I imagine you lay your head, the better to hear me if I wake in the night."

A smile was spreading over John's face as he continued.

"When you are leading me I can feel that you're moving as if your back is stiff, which usually only happens when you have fallen asleep somewhere uncomfortable so would have abated by now if you'd spent the last week in your own bed. Finally…" He paused, appearing almost embarrassed at what he was about to say.

"I know you, John," he said. "I know you're worried about me and concerned for my safety. It is not reasonable, in view of that knowledge, to consider that you would go off to rest upstairs in your comfortable bed, leaving me down here unattended."

John let out a low whistle. "That," he said, "was amazing!"

Sherlock's lips twisted at the remembered words. "It wasn't amazing, John," he denied emphatically, "and it most certainly wasn't extraordinary." He looked disgusted with himself. "If I could see you, I would have known all of that within seconds."

John dismissed this statement with a snort. "Yes, but you just went through a deduction, in exactly the same way I have heard you do a hundred times before, except that you based it on your other senses; the sound of the stairs, the smell of the sofa – thanks for that by the way, I'll have a shower if I'm so odorous – what you learned from being in contact with me as I moved, and your pre-existing knowledge of your subject."

He twisted in his seat and reached out, putting a hand on Sherlock's arm. "OK, maybe where I sleep isn't a matter of life and death, maybe it was a trivial example, but this is what I mean when I say you're still you," he explained. "Your brain is still extraordinary… don't you get it? For God's sake, you could have been a vegetable!" He cringed as the word slipped out; it was hardly a professional way to describe the tragedy of a mind reduced to a continuous vegetative state.

Sherlock still looked profoundly unconvinced, so John pressed on. "OK, what if your intelligence had just been reduced a bit? What if you were no longer a genius? Imagine that you were just like the rest of us, another idiot among the crowd – wouldn't that have been worse than losing your sight, which will hopefully return anyway?"

"You're seriously suggesting that a few IQ points are more important that total blindness?" Sherlock's tone was scathing but John wasn't fooled.

"Not for most people, no, but to you, Sherlock?" John knew better. "Be honest with yourself even if you can't be honest with me," he demanded. "You said earlier that you knew me. Well, I may not have your intellect, but I know you, too."

Sherlock remained obstinately silent. "I do know you, Sherlock. I know you, and I had a week with nothing to do but think about what might happen and how we would deal with it, a week with nothing but fears to pass my time. Let's see who knows the other best... tell me what my biggest fear was?"

"That I wouldn't wake up, I suppose," Sherlock said dismissively.

"Dull!" challenged John, with a certain amount of satisfaction. "Try again."

Sherlock was starting to look annoyed, but that was better than defeated. John could work with annoyed.

"Fine," Sherlock snapped, still not really thinking about it. "That I would be different. Not myself. Brain damage affecting my personality and cognitive function. Possibly amnesia; perhaps you thought I wouldn't remember you."

John was silent for a moment. "That's what you think?" he asked quietly, disappointment so thick in his voice that there was no way Sherlock could miss it. "You were in a coma for a week. We had no idea when, or if, you were going to wake up or how you'd be affected and you honestly think that my biggest fear would be whether or not you would remember me?"

It was a struggle to keep his voice even as he got to his feet. "I think I'll go and have that shower now, if you'll excuse me? Are you OK here for a few minutes? I won't be long."

He was turning away, not waiting for an answer, when Sherlock's hand shot out and grabbed his sleeve.

"John," he said. "John, I'm sorry. That was thoughtless. I didn't mean it, I'm just so..." he sighed. "I don't want to take my frustration out on you, please... sit." He tugged on John's arm, bringing him back down to the sofa.

"I know we haven't talked about it," Sherlock continued. "What happened with Moriarty, or the week that I missed. There was so much going on at the hospital then it's been a big adjustment coming home, not being able to see, problems with words, getting stuck on things, it's all frustrating and difficult and..."

"It's frightening," inserted John gently. "I know, it's OK. I'm probably pushing you too hard, I'm sorry." John was trying to settle Sherlock down so that he could leave, trying to calm himself but he was struggling. All the emotions of the last month were bubbling up, everything he'd suppressed pushing its way to the surface as if that one, unthinking, remark from Sherlock had pulled the pin and there was now no way to avoid the explosion.

He had never cried at the hospital. Too numb at first, he supposed. Then all those endless hours, he'd barely left Sherlock's side and you never knew how much coma patients were aware of, what they could hear. He hadn't wanted Sherlock's only sensory input to be the sound of him crying.

After Sherlock woke up, the time for tears seemed over. John was so happy, everything else had been swept away but now... now the fears he had buried were resurfacing and he could feel that the tears were coming whether he was ready for them or not. He needed to get to the shower, and quickly.

He tried to get up again. "It's fine, Sherlock," his voice was impressively steady, he thought. "We can talk about it tomorrow, if you like. I'll just go and..."

"John," Sherlock wasn't releasing him, still holding on to his sleeve and now he brought the other arm up too, twisting so they were facing each other and holding John in place. "What is it, what's the matter? Your voice is wrong."

"Please let me go, Sherlock." His voice was as calm as he could make it. "I just need to go for a few minutes. I'll have a quick shower, then I'll be back, OK? We can talk then, if you want to."

Sherlock wasn't buying it. John was pulling away from him, trying to stand, now actually attempting to prise Sherlock's fingers off his sleeve. There was something very wrong.

John was always there, at his side, a constant presence that he had just accepted ever since he first opened his eyes to darkness.

Now John was trying to get away from him and Sherlock found he didn't like that at all.

He tightened his grip, then slid his hands up to John's shoulders. "Tell me what's wrong," he insisted. "Is this about what I said? I wasn't thinking – look, I've already apologised, and we both know that I never apologise," he tried to lighten the situation.

John's breathing was getting quicker and he was still pulling away. If only he could see! If he could just get one look at John's face he'd know exactly what was going on. John was clearly agitated, this was so frustrating... Sherlock gripped his shoulders more tightly and shook him. "Tell me!"

There was a sort of choking gasp and then John suddenly switched directions. Instead of pulling away he threw himself forward, wrapping his arms around Sherlock's neck and holding on tightly.

Sherlock could feel that John's body was shaking and there was wetness against his collar bone... John was crying, he realised.

John, who was always the positive one, constantly trying to cheer Sherlock up, telling him how lucky he was, how things would get back to normal, that everything would be all right.

His friend John, who had been there for him almost every minute since he woke up in the hospital, who had rescued him from an array of indignities, who had become almost a part of him, just there, a constant, warm, reassuring presence... just John.

Just John, whose chest was now heaving with great, wracking sobs as he held on to Sherlock and cried into his neck.

Cautiously, Sherlock raised his arms and rested them on John's back, patting it tentatively, not sure what he should do. Why was this happening? Surely his comment had not been upsetting to this degree? Thoughtless, yes, he admitted to himself, but for John to break down like this...

Think! he told himself. John says your brain is still extraordinary, so use it. For the first time since he had woken up, Sherlock started to consider something other than his blindness, his frustration, his fears. He started to think about things from John's perspective.

What must it have been like for John at the time of the shooting? Hearing Mycroft read the report didn't really tell him what John had gone through, how he had felt. He knew that was very important to people – how they felt. He wished he could remember what had happened, but there was nothing in his head after setting off for the pool.

He knew that John had been forced to wear one of Moriarty's bomb jackets, that he had been wearing it when they first saw each other. A shiver went down Sherlock's spine and his hands flattened against John's back as a new thought occurred to him... what if it had been the other way round?

What if it had been John who was shot and left in a coma for a week while he, Sherlock, had been relatively uninjured? What if he had spent a week at John's bedside, not knowing if he would wake up or what he would be like if he did?

Would he even have done that? Would he have kept a vigil for John, as John had done for him? A whole week lost, with no guarantee of a result at the end of it. Seven days and nights in an uncomfortable chair, just thinking about everything that could still go wrong, even if things went right...

Yes, he would, he realised, with some degree of surprise. If it had been John who was lying in that bed then he, Sherlock, would have been sitting in that chair. This was interesting.

He tightened his arms around John, who was still sobbing uncontrollably, and started stroking his back in what he hoped was a soothing manner.

So what had been John's biggest fear? From Mycroft's report he knew that John had offered to sacrifice himself in order to give Sherlock the chance to escape. Clearly his fear would not be a selfish one. He thought back over John's words, hugging him closely and trying to offer whatever comfort a blind sociopath could provide.

After a few more minutes, John started to calm and Sherlock could hear words being muttered against the collar of his shirt. They were muffled but he seemed to be... apologising?

He moved his hands up to John's shoulders and sat him back slightly, before reaching over to the table and feeling around for the box of tissues.

With a muttered, "Thanks." John took a few and sorted himself out before starting up with the apologies again. "Sorry. Sorry about that, I didn't mean to... I'm all right now, just a build up of stress, I think. I'm fine now. Sorry."

"Shut up, John," instructed Sherlock firmly. How he wished he could see, even just for a moment, to see this strange creature who had saved his life but apologised for showing any weakness.

"Your biggest fear was exactly what mine would have been, had I been presented with this scenario as a hypothetical case and not distracted by the blindness, or any other factors."

He reached out to touch John's face, checking his expression.

"You were afraid that I would be left commonplace but remember being unique. You know me well enough to understand that would be the one thing I couldn't face. To recall clarity but no longer be able to attain it. To be dull."

There was a short silence before John responded.

"Thank you," he said.

And even through the blackness, Sherlock knew that he was smiling.


Artwork for this chapter:
Illustration, by kairu321
Home Again, by tigerkatz.


Chapter Text

It was morning. Sherlock could hear the rattle of the council recycling truck as it turned the corner by York Terrace. That meant it should still be fairly dark outside, so the fact that there was no light filtering through his eyelids was not significant and didn't prove definitively that he was still blind.

He waited for a while, trying to discern any changes in the intensity of the blackness without actually opening his eyes. Cortical blindness was unpredictable; there was no way to know when his vision might return, or to what extent. So every morning there was that question mark hanging over his bed.

John must still be asleep because the flat was silent. He would be out there on the sofa in what Sherlock thought of as 'soldier mode', sleeping with one ear open in case he was needed – it was amazing how quickly he appeared if Sherlock called him but he would never stay, always returning to the living room as soon as he could.

It wasn't practical, which was irritating, and John wouldn't explain, which was even more annoying. He just said it was 'inappropriate' for him to spend the night in Sherlock's room. He'd been saying it for a week now and Sherlock was not happy.

He accepted that he needed John close by at the moment but the current arrangement was not at all satisfactory. It wasn't doing John's back any good to sleep on the sofa every night and the rest he was getting was inadequate, which made him unacceptably cranky at times.

It would make a great deal more sense for them to share. Sherlock did not understand why John was being so stubborn. It would be much easier to open his eyes if John were here.

Perhaps it was his room that John found objectionable, or even the bed? There had been that one experiment with the rat, which had decomposed at an unusually rapid rate, but he had turned the mattress over since then. Still, people could be very fussy about that sort of thing...

That would be his next plan of attack, Sherlock decided. If the mountain wouldn't come to Muhammad, then Muhammad would go to the mountain – they could both sleep in John's bed. He opened his eyes. Nothing.

After breakfast, Sherlock sat in his chair, bringing his knees up and pulling his dressing gown around them, his mind wandering. At least the head injury had left him needing more sleep than normal, so there was less time to be bored while waiting for his sight to return. Then his life could start again.

He could hear John tidying up the kitchen – not that it probably needed it, no doubt all his experiments were long gone by now. A thought occurred to him. "John," he called. "What happened to the head?"

"Oh, Molly took it back," John told him, shouting slightly over the noise of the kettle. "Apparently, Mrs Hudson draws the line at anything with a face."

"Mrs Hudson?"

He waited through the sound of pouring water, the fridge door banging, a spoon stirring, then John came over, unwrapping one of Sherlock's hands from around his knees and putting a cup of tea into it.

"Yes," he said, his voice moving away as he sat in his own chair opposite. "She came to the hospital but they wouldn't let her see you. Probably just as well. She's very fond of you, you know, it would have upset her to see you so -"

"Damaged?" interrupted Sherlock.

"I was going to say 'still'." John said. "Anyway, Mycroft was with you so I took her for a coffee and asked her to move anything that wouldn't last a week into the freezer."

"You forgot to warn her about the head?"

"I was worrying about a different head at the time," replied John pointedly. "So, I don't know if freezing will invalidate whatever you were doing but we can defrost a few things if you like? Get some experiments running again? You can tell me what to do, since you enjoy that so much."

Sherlock found that he had a strange feeling in his stomach. He sat up straighter, cradling his mug in both hands and sipping from it. Both John and Mrs Hudson had complained about his experiments repeatedly. The fact that between them they had attempted to salvage his work was most unexpected, especially as they had no idea at that point whether he would ever wake up. Not really ideal to freeze everything, of course, but still it was... good.

He cleared his throat. "Most of it's probably ruined," he pointed out. "But I suppose we could have a look..." He stopped himself. "I mean, you could have a look, at the fingers?"

"The ones in the margarine tub?" Sherlock nodded, and the chair creaked as John stood up. "I'll dig them out now. You can go and get ready while I set everything up."

Sherlock groaned. John always made him get dressed – what was the point?

Half an hour later John was at the kitchen table, bent over a microscope which had 'Property of St. Barts' etched into the side of it while Sherlock loomed over him, apparently assuming that if he got his head close enough to John's, any required data would just leap across the gap.

"It's still too frozen," John said, "and no, I'm not putting it in the bloody microwave." He straightened up. "New rule: No body parts in the microwave. You always put them on too high, then they explode and you don't clean it up properly. I never want to find a toenail in the bottom of my soup bowl, ever again."

Sherlock huffed. "Put some effort into it John, you're being too gentle." He poked the stubborn finger on the slide, then held out his hand for the scalpel. "Let me have it."

John quickly moved his arm away. "No, Sherlock, be sensible." He held the blade out of reach. "It's virtually rock solid, you'll just have to wait."

"Woohoo," there was a rather tentative tap from the open doorway. "Are you boys decent?"

Sherlock turned away, grumbling, and headed back to his chair, throwing himself into it as Mrs Hudson came in. She was moving a little slower than normal and seemed to be giving the wall on her left a wide berth – carrying shopping, then.

There was the rustle of plastic brushing the back of John's chair as she passed, so bags in her right hand too - must be a lot of shopping.

"Morning, Sherlock. Good morning, Doctor Watson," she called, moving into the kitchen and putting the bags on the table. Sherlock amused himself by trying to guess the contents as she unpacked them. He was very good at it, due to John making him help with meals by locating the ingredients.

"Thanks for this, Mrs Hudson," John's voice came from near the sink. "It's very kind of you. The kettle's just boiled, would you like a cup of tea?"

And here we go again, thought Sherlock. He started counting down in his head.

Ten, nine... "Oh, I don't mind if I do, dear. Thank you." Noise of the kettle, fridge door opening.

Eight, seven... "Why don't you sit down for a minute, Mrs Hudson?" The sound of the cushion being plumped up. "Here, take my chair."

Six, five... "So how are you getting on, boys? Anything you need?" Tea being handed over. "Oh, thank you, Doctor."

Four, three... John's cup being dumped in the sink. "Well, there are a couple of things I could do with picking up, now that you mention it. Should only take me half an hour or so."

Two, one... "Oh, do you want to pop out now, dear? I can have a nice little chat with Sherlock while you're gone."

And... Blast off. With a quick hand resting on his shoulder and a promise not to be long, John was away, leaving Sherlock with his substitute babysitter.

He pinned a no doubt unconvincing smile on his face and turned his head towards Mrs Hudson.

"Any news, dear?" she asked, in a rather arch tone of voice.

"I'm still blind, if that's what you mean," replied Sherlock abruptly, then regretted it – he was supposed to be thanking her for attempting to save his experiments, not to mention she had obviously come up here to sit with him specifically so that John could go out which he supposed was kind, although it was hard to feel grateful.

Mrs Hudson took no notice. "How are things going with you and Dr Watson?" she asked. "You sounded very... friendly just now."

So far, so obvious, thought Sherlock. "We are friends, Mrs Hudson."

He could feel her gaze upon him.

"He's sweet on you, you know," she said eventually. "Always has been, of course, but it's more obvious now."

"More obvious, how?" asked Sherlock, with interest. As far as he could tell, John's behaviour since the hospital had been completely professional, with the exception of his mini-breakdown the week before.

"He's less careful now he knows you can't see him," she replied. "Sorry, dear," she added, perhaps feeling she had been a little blunt.

Sherlock waved his arm in dismissal. "Why be sorry?" he asked. "You're perfectly correct. Go on," he invited, intrigued as to how Mrs Hudson's perceptions differed from his own. Usually he would have paid little attention to anyone else's observations but things were different now. He wanted to know what Mrs Hudson was seeing.

"Oh, I don't know," she said. "Perhaps it's not my place to say anything."

Sherlock sighed. Clearly Mrs Hudson was no exception to his general rule about people's reluctance to answer direct questions. He would have to adopt a contradictory approach.

"John is just regarding me as a patient at the moment," he said. "He's a doctor; it's natural that he is more concerned about me given my current infirmity."

"Hmph," there was a delicate snort from the other chair. "If he looked at all his patients the way he looks at you he'd be in a pretty pickle by now, I can tell you."

Interesting. Perhaps he could risk another question. "How does he look at me?" he asked.

Mrs Hudson sighed. "As if you're his whole world," she said.

As John strode briskly to the cash point, he contemplated Sherlock's progress over the preceding week. Physically, he was improving steadily. There had been no more instances of perseveration since the toothbrush incident, which was a great relief, and his intellect and mental capacity seemed virtually back to normal. His attitude, however, was starting to cause John concern.

The first week that they were home, Sherlock had fluctuated between frustration, anger and despair; all completely understandable reactions. Now, however, he seemed to have decided that his sight would return at some point and he was just waiting - as if he would wake up one morning back to normal and just delete this whole section of his life, carrying on as if it had never happened.

He was almost in limbo, John thought, which might not matter too much if his sight did return quickly, but it could be months... it could be never. Somehow, John needed to get him engaged with his life as it was now.

The dinner experiment had been reasonably successful. Sherlock never did the shopping, or bothered cooking anything, so he had no idea what was in the kitchen cupboards. John had set him the task of working out the contents, which may have seemed a ridiculous project but it involved all four of his remaining senses and John wanted him to practice using them and relying on them more for the time being.

Sherlock had been reluctant to bother at first, but when John made it clear that he was going to cook whatever Sherlock identified as the required ingredients, whether or not they were correct, he became more invested and had spent an afternoon shaking, poking, sniffing, tasting and generally making a horrendous mess.

Of course, he'd been brilliant at it and meals had proceeded more or less as scheduled, apart from the rather odd dessert on toast experience – it turned out that it was virtually impossible to differentiate between baked beans and tinned rice pudding just from shaking the cans.

From the cashpoint, to the post office, then back home took John just under twenty five minutes and his stride increased as he approached 221b. Obviously, Sherlock was aware of the charade that he and Mrs Hudson played on these occasions, but they went through it anyway. It was ridiculous really, trying to protect the pride of a man to whom they were so transparent, but they did what they could.

He could hear voices while he was climbing the stairs but they quickly fell silent and Mrs Hudson emerged from the flat, looking flustered. She smiled and nodded as she slipped past him, but avoided his eyes. John stopped and watched her as she scurried back downstairs, before turning to walk into the living room, feeling oddly on edge. Something was going on.

Sherlock was standing by the window, but as John entered he turned slowly around and their eyes seemed to lock, sending a jolt through John's body which left him shaken and off-balance, even though he knew the visual connection was just his imagination.

Sherlock held out a hand and John moved forward automatically to take it, assuming that there was somewhere he wanted to go. Sherlock, however, promptly raised his other hand to John's face, as he had taken to doing whenever he wanted to check his expression.

"Why do you stay with me, John?" he asked.

The flash of panic was automatic, uncontrollable, and clearly displayed on his features.

Sherlock smiled and raised his other hand, and John was immediately reminded of the night at the train tracks, after he had found the wall of graffiti. Sherlock had grabbed his face then, just as he was doing now, before spinning him round until he was even dizzier than the contact had already made him. It had been that night which had persuaded him to ask Sarah out.

"What are you doing, Sherlock?" he asked nervously. It was as if all the effort he had put into maintaining a doctor / patient relationship over the last few weeks had just been wiped out and he was right back to where he started.

"I'm waiting for an answer, John," was the reply. "And I want to see your answer as well as I can under the circumstances." He flexed his fingers to illustrate his point. "You don't mind, do you?"

John was thinking fast; this was dangerous ground. "I bet that finger's softened up nicely by now," he pointed out hopefully. "Best get on with the experiment before it gets too..." Sherlock's hands were moving over his face as he talked, distracting him, "...squishy," he finished, mentally kicking himself for the pause. Sherlock could hear more in a pause than most people could divine from a paragraph.

"Is that a medical term, Doctor?" asked Sherlock, taking a small step forward.

John shuffled backwards to compensate. This felt just like the week before, he thought frantically. Was this going to be Sherlock's new technique from now on? He could no longer observe from a distance so he was going to attach himself to his quarry until he got the information he needed?

"The experiment will be fine, you put the fingers away in the salad drawer as soon as Mrs Hudson arrived - I heard the snap of the margarine tub lid and that drawer always squeaks when you close it because I used the rubber strip as a ligature months ago."

Sherlock was leaning forward now, his long fingers exploring John's face intently. "Do you pity me, John?" he asked.

John drew in a shocked breath. "Pity you?" he repeated. "Do I pity you? Why would you ask me that?"

"Well you didn't answer my first question, so I'm making suggestions," replied Sherlock. "Think of it as multiple choice."

John was finding it increasingly hard to focus. Sherlock had him backed right up against the table by this point and was leaning over him, their faces only inches apart... it would be so easy to... No! Think of him as a patient, he's a patient, John told himself, but it became more and more difficult as Sherlock edged closer.

"Perhaps it's survivor's guilt," he mused. "You feel responsible for me because I was shot and you weren't."

John gasped. Such a thought had never occurred to him. He knew full well who was responsible for Sherlock's injuries and, while Mycroft may have got the actual sniper who fired the shot, John fully intended that Moriarty would pay for what he had set in motion. His face hardened as the hated name crossed his mind, which Sherlock picked up on straight away of course, his lips twisting.

"You are not to go after Moriarty, John," he insisted, leaving John with the feeling that Sherlock's fingers were somehow sucking the thoughts out of his head. He tried to pull his face away, but Sherlock's grip tightened.

Time to go on the attack, decided John. "Perhaps you're working from your own feelings rather than mine," he challenged. "Perhaps you think I'm responsible. Maybe, deep down, you think I could have been quicker? Turned you faster? Taken the bullet myself?"

Sherlock tensed at the last query, but then he shook his head. "That's not going to work on me, John," he said. "You know perfectly well I don't think anything of the sort."

"I would have." John froze. He could almost see the betraying words as if they were still attached to his lips in a speech bubble, but he couldn't suck them back in; they had already escaped, taking most of his resolve with them.

Sherlock's frustration was palpable as his fingertips brushed over John's mouth, which was tightly closed to stop any more errant words from slipping out. It was clear he would have dearly loved to have his sight restored at that moment.

"Why do you stay with me, John?" he asked again. "Why do you put up with me? Especially now, when I can no longer do the things I know you used to admire. Is it just because I need you? Because that sounds like pity to me."

His words barely registered as John's attention was now focused more on the mouth which was speaking, rather than the words which were emerging from it. The edge of the table was pressing into his thighs and Sherlock wasn't backing off, he seemed to have no concept of the inappropriateness of his current position.

John was aware of every point where Sherlock's tall, wiry body was pressing up against his own and all thoughts of trying to escape had fled his mind. He could feel his walls crumbling, the carefully constructed walls which he had started building only days after meeting Sherlock and which he had reinforced and upheld rigorously for the last month... all through the time that Sherlock had been his patient.

His face flushed, lips parting as Sherlock's thumb moved over them and he fought not to react. He could smell the distinctive scent that was purely Sherlock and it seemed to fill his head. His own hands moved to grip Sherlock's upper arms, trying to pull away the hands which were still roaming his face, but his heart wasn't in it.

His eyes moved over Sherlock's features hungrily... the dark hair, still long enough to flop over his forehead, the pale skin, the full lips, and the huge, slanted eyes which, even blind, were mesmerising. John wasn't so shallow as to be attracted by looks alone, but he had to acknowledge that Sherlock's appearance had caught his attention immediately. He simply didn't look like anybody else; truly unique in every way.

Their faces were so close now that John could make out the flecks of different colours in Sherlock's eyes which gave them their changeable appearance, sometimes looking blue, sometimes grey, sometimes even green. He was clearly waiting for a response but John was long past the point where he could come up with one and Sherlock started talking again, his voice flowing over John like a deep, dark river, the words meaningless, but still hypnotic.

John's walls were turning to dust, everything he'd bottled up and buried since Sherlock had warned him off and told him that he was 'married to his work', flooding out and made even stronger by the increased determination of the last month to never let an inappropriate thought cross his mind about a man who was dependent on him, his patient.

The talking carried on, the subject still unknown and irrelevant, as John's eyes were riveted to Sherlock's mouth, his mind filling with all the fantasies he had worked so hard to suppress. He found himself started to stretch up and stopped the motion abruptly. He would never be so crass as to force a kiss on someone who could not see it coming, couldn't choose to avoid it, so he held himself firmly in check, but not even the strongest willpower could prevent his bodily reaction to Sherlock's overwhelming proximity.

It was only a matter of moments now, he realised, before the game was over and Sherlock knew the truth...

The stream of words suddenly stopped and Sherlock stiffened. Not as much as I have, whispered the slightly hysterical voice in John's head.

"So," Sherlock said, and his voice seemed to have dropped half an octave. "Not pity, then?"

listen carefully by concuelo

Artworklisten carefully by Concuelo


Additional Artwork for this chapter:

The Microscope by KrisKenshin

A Matter of Moments by 'Please Forget'


Chapter Text

"Sherlock, I'm so sorry." John's voice sounded breathless. "Please don't think I've been... I mean, I haven't... I mean..." he trailed off, then tried again.

"Look, I swear to you I haven't thought of you this way since the hospital... all this time I've been looking after you I haven't let myself... I haven't... I promise you..."

His voice became fainter as he turned away and there was a slight creak from the table as he leaned on it, followed by a muttered, "Fuck."

Sherlock had stepped back once he realised exactly what he was pressing against and he was now standing in the middle of the room feeling, he would have to admit, rather disconcerted.

However, John was clearly distressed which was unfair considering the way Sherlock had pushed him. He stretched out his hand and moved forward until he could touch John's shoulder.

"It's all right," he said. "I'm not angry, or upset, or whatever else it is that you're worried about."

John had flinched at the contact and Sherlock let his hand fall. "But I don't understand," he added.

John made a low noise, almost a chuckle but there was no humour in it. "No, I don't suppose you do," he agreed. "Did you think I'd got over it?"

"Got over it?" Sherlock queried, in some confusion.

"Well it can't be a total shock, not really," John pointed out, still facing away from him. "You obviously knew that I was attracted to you or you never would have warned me off that time at Angelo's."

Sherlock thought back to that evening. "That could have been a simple misunderstanding, I'd only known you a short time after all."

John snorted. "Yes, and you'd already told me almost everything about myself. The only subject you avoided was my sexual orientation – a bit of a pointed omission I thought later, actually."

"Perhaps I was just trying to clear the air," Sherlock suggested. "Make sure we both knew where we stood."

"Oh, you made that clear all right," John agreed. "I can even quote you, because I've run this conversation in my head a hundred times." He paused. "After you'd told me that you were married to your work, and before you established that you definitely didn't want to get involved with me, you said - and these are your exact words - you said: while I'm flattered by your interest..."

The table creaked again as John pushed away from it and turned around, his voice sounding clearer as he continued. "Why would you say that if you hadn't seen it? Are you honestly suggesting that the great Sherlock Holmes made a mistake? That with everything else you managed to deduce about me, it wasn't also perfectly clear to you that I was Bi and found you attractive?"

There was another creak; he must be leaning back against the table now. Sherlock pictured him with his legs crossed at the ankle and his arms folded, that familiar frustrated look on his face.

"Come on, Sherlock," John insisted. "You never would have wasted time warning off a totally straight and uninterested man – what would have been the point?"

Sherlock wondered why he was bothering to argue about this. It just didn't seem right, looking back, the way he had been so abrupt with John. What would have happened if he hadn't said anything? Would John have made advances towards him? What would that have been like?

"Yes, all right," he admitted. "I did want to 'warn you off', as you put it. But I thought I'd been successful – you've never done anything since to suggest that you still... and then there was Sarah."

John sighed. "Poor Sarah," he said. "She was supposed to be an attempt at getting over you but all she got was kidnapped, messed around, then dumped. I don't think I'm her favourite person to be honest."

"Dumped?" echoed Sherlock.

"You've been awake for a month," John pointed out. "How many dates have I been out on during that period?"

Sherlock could almost hear him rolling his eyes. "You've barely left me at all," he acknowledged. Another thought struck him. "What about your work?" He couldn't believe this hadn't occurred to him before, when had he become so self-absorbed? "John, you haven't been going to the surgery!"

John did chuckle this time. "I guess you've had a lot on your mind," he said. "I quit. Well, that is to say, I quit in the sense that I didn't turn up or get in touch for over a week which, as it turns out, pretty much comes to the same thing." He paused. "Look, do you want to sit down? This clearly isn't a five minute conversation and we need to discuss finding you a new doctor, among other things."

"I don't want a new doctor," Sherlock replied immediately. "You are my doctor."

A chill had gone through him at John's words and he started to regret listening to Mrs Hudson. Information was always useful, but if it was going to cost him John, then he didn't want to know.

More sighing, then John took his arm and pushed him towards his chair, which he folded himself into reluctantly. What would he do if John left him now?

John was beginning to calm down but he still felt extremely odd. Clearly Sherlock was not as immediately horrified and disgusted as he had feared, so the initial panic he'd felt when Sherlock stepped back from him was starting to wane.

He still couldn't quite believe that they were actually talking about this, though. After all this time, almost the whole of their acquaintanceship, working so hard to keep this secret from the one person who could read everyone with a glance, it was ironic to think that it was now, when he was blind, that Sherlock had discovered the truth.

John sat in his chair, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees and regarded Sherlock, wondering what was going through his head.

"Sherlock, you must understand that it's not appropriate for me to be your doctor any more," he started. "I can't care for you medically when I care for you…" he broke off with a huff.

"What?" demanded Sherlock.

John shook his head in disbelief. "It's just so strange to be talking about this," he explained. "Normally I don't even let myself think about it when you're in the room, and then these last few weeks I haven't let myself think about it at all."

"How do you stop yourself from thinking?" asked Sherlock curiously. Presumably this was something he struggled with himself, judging from the bullet holes in the wall.

"Oh, I don't know," John shrugged. "Concentrate on something else. Count to a hundred... think about the football... count to a hundred in French." He laughed lightly. "You see – being an idiot does have its advantages. Only one train of thought to worry about; I don't have half a dozen going at once like you do."

He looked down. "Sometimes I would lose it a bit and I would have to leave, get away, tell you that I -"

"Need some air," Sherlock interrupted, in realisation. "So all those times... I thought you were angry with me."

John sniffed. "I usually was," he confirmed. "But it was risky for me to be around you when my emotions were running high – my guard might slip, and you always see too much." He dropped his head down, running a hand through his hair. "Anyway, sometimes I was so angry I wanted to shake you and that would definitely have been dangerous."

"Dangerous, how?" queried Sherlock.

John groaned. "God, Sherlock, you're making this so difficult! Dangerous because anger and close physical contact can lead to other things… Dangerous because strong emotions don't always stay separate in their neat little boxes – haven't you ever had angry sex, for God's sake?"

Sherlock looked dumbfounded. "Being angry made you want to have sex with me?" he asked doubtfully.

"No!" John protested, then stopped, wanting to be honest. "Sometimes," he admitted, more quietly. "Oh, I don't know." He threw himself back into his chair, stretching out his legs and rubbing his hands over his face. "How the hell did we get on to this?"

"You were saying I needed a new doctor and I was pointing out that I already have one," Sherlock reminded him, his voice disapproving and defensive.

John sat up straight again. "I can't carry on taking care of you now, Sherlock, surely that's obvious? You can't be worrying that someone who is supposed to be looking after you in a professional manner is actually having inappropriate thoughts about you, it's completely unacceptable."

"But that was…" Sherlock's denial trailed off, then his lips firmed. "You said you didn't think of me that way since the hospital. So what does it matter if you were attracted to me before?" His voice lowered and he added quietly, "Everything's different now."

"What?" John was bemused. "You think… No!" He shook his head, even knowing that Sherlock couldn't see him. "You're guessing that your being injured changed my feelings about you?" Did Sherlock really think him so shallow?

"I never guess," denied Sherlock obstinately. "It's obvious."

"Yes, you do, and no, it isn't," insisted John. "I said that I haven't let myself think about you, not that I didn't want to. Have you forgotten what just happened?"

He watched in dismay as Sherlock drew his knees up and wrapped his arms around them, his chin adopting a stubborn angle. "Everything's different now," he said again. He seemed to have decided that John's earlier reaction was just a matter of physical proximity, not really anything to do with him personally.

John couldn't bear to see this proud man so obviously convinced that no one would want him. He knew that he should really maintain a distance after what had happened but nothing could have kept him away at that moment and he slipped out of his chair and moved to kneel in front of Sherlock, putting a hand on his forearm which seemed the least threatening location.

"Sherlock, nothing has changed as far as I am concerned except that you've just knocked down all the defences I had built against this." His hand was automatically stroking up and down in a soothing motion. "To be honest, I don't know that it would have mattered how different you were when you woke up... I think it was already too late for me."

Sherlock put his head down, curling up even further, if that were possible, and his words emerged slightly muffled. "I am blind, John," he said, with an air of finality, his tone implying that he was no longer human, no longer a man.

John rose up onto his knees and brought both hands up to Sherlock's head, lifting it so that they were facing each other. "But I'm not," he replied. "And you take my breath away."

His eyes roamed over Sherlock's face as he spoke, and he could discern a slight lightening of the closed and defensive expression, but it wasn't enough.

For all his usual confidence, his arrogance really, Sherlock never seemed to expect people to like him. True, he didn't often care whether they did or not unless he wanted something, but his own estimation of himself was based almost entirely on his intellect and abilities, which were now reduced, and he clearly felt that his worth had been reduced with them.

John wanted to reassure him and, being a direct and straightforward man, he took a simple approach. He had resisted this urge earlier as too much of a liberty, an imposition, but this time there was no passion involved, no question of anything else happening, it was simply a gesture of... affection.

He leaned forward slowly, very slowly, exhaling gently so that Sherlock would feel his approach, would have the chance to stop him if he wanted to. Even sightless, Sherlock's eyes still widened but he didn't flinch, didn't back away as John moved closer. When only inches separated them and his intention was sufficiently clear, John paused. "May I?" he asked.

Sherlock smiled. "Does this mean you'll sleep with me?"

It was cold outside.

Sherlock used his left hand to pull the collar of his coat closer, protecting the back of his neck. It felt wrong since his hair had been cut, naked and exposed; he didn't like it. Nor did he like wearing the ridiculous sunglasses which Mycroft had produced on his last visit, along with a talking watch and various other annoying paraphernalia which Sherlock had so far refused to consider.

He had reluctantly been persuaded into the glasses though – people had always found his gaze disconcerting but when it was unfocused they seemed to become even more unsettled. John had told him it was a bright, sunny day, so at least he wouldn't look too absurd.

It was odd, Sherlock thought; he'd never been self-conscious before, but now he sometimes felt as if everyone was looking at him. He was used to being by far the most aware person in any given situation but currently even the dullest idiot would see more than he could. It made him feel vulnerable. His grip on John tightened at the thought.

John's arm flexed, returning the pressure reassuringly. Sherlock didn't think he was aware of doing it; such actions were just second nature now. He was finding it hard to credit that John had been attracted to him all this time and yet managed to hide it. He wouldn't have thought John capable of such guile and it made him slightly uneasy to discover that he was mistaken.

Thinking about it now, however, as they walked towards Regent's Park, he realised that John hadn't so much hidden his feelings as he had tried to get over them, without making Sherlock uncomfortable or risking their friendship.

Sarah hadn't just been a cover, John had genuinely liked her but, looking back, he could see that John had always put him first, even before these last few weeks.

The more he thought about it, the more instances came to mind... particularly the night when Soo Lin was killed. Surely it would have been John's natural instinct, both as a man and a soldier, to stay and protect the girl - the assassin's intended target? Instead he had left her to chase after Sherlock. Why had he not seen this sooner?

The sort of relationship which John presumably wanted was not something that had ever interested Sherlock. He had never felt the slightest inclination to become so personally and messily involved with another human being, his fastidious nature cringing at some of the sordid practices which people seemed so keen to engage in. It had always struck him as deeply unsanitary and, with the exception of for procreative purposes, which did not interest him, unnecessary.

Having said that, when John had abruptly pulled away from him earlier with a muttered, 'Bloody hell!' he had been left wondering what would have happened otherwise; what it would have been like if John had actually kissed him instead of jumping to his feet and suggesting they go for a walk because he 'needed some air'.

They must be at the park now because the noises were changing, less traffic and more people, snippets of conversations. Londoners and tourists alike, out enjoying a rare fine day. Someone brushed past his left shoulder and he edged closer to John.

It occurred to him that touching John was not like touching other people – John was different. There was none of the unpleasant awareness of physical contact when he touched John, that slightly nauseating sensation of another person's skin against his own. He touched John all the time and he did not mind John touching him. Perhaps, if it was John, the activities he had always considered so distasteful would not be so bad? He really didn't want to wake up on his own any more.

He took a deep breath, absorbing what he could of the world around him. John was very quiet, he thought, no doubt worrying about what had happened and muddling his way through the ramifications. Sherlock opened his mouth, "Let's get a …" his mind went frustratingly blank.

John must have registered his growl of annoyance because he flexed his arm, squeezing Sherlock's fingers. "Talk around the word," he prompted, which was the best method they had found for dealing with the anomia.

Still grumbling, Sherlock complied. Circumlocution, the technique was called; he could remember that word perfectly well… "Hot, sweet, black, in a cup..."

"Coffee?" John jumped in.

"Coffee, thank you. There's a vendor near here, I can smell it."

John sniffed. "I can't smell anything."

"Wrong," declared Sherlock. "The average human nose can distinguish between ten thousand distinct scents. You can smell hundreds of things, you just can't identify coffee among them."

He stopped walking, turning so that they were face to face. "You don't need to, though," he pointed out. "You can use your eyes."

John looked up and felt a lump come to his throat. The sadness in Sherlock's voice had an edge of acceptance which was both necessary and heart-breaking. He stretched out a hand but then let it fall; Sherlock wouldn't want his sympathy.

Looking around, he spotted the vendor on the other side of the water but that side was in the shade and it was a cold day. There was a bench near their current location so he steered Sherlock towards it and left him sitting in the sun, promising to return in a few minutes with coffee.

He glanced back a few times as he walked down to the bridge then crossed over it. Sherlock had raised his face to the sun and John suddenly wondered what he'd look like with a tan, but found he couldn't imagine it at all. His thoughts veered off in dangerous directions and he switched tracks immediately, as he had become so used to doing during these last few weeks.

He knew that he should never have taken on Sherlock's medical care, feeling the way that he did about him, but there just hadn't seemed any choice at the time. Sherlock had been desperate to come home and get away from the hospital, and it had been the only way they would release him.

In some ways it was a relief to have things out in the open, now that the initial shock had worn off, as it had been getting increasingly difficult to keep his thoughts in check. The stronger, the sharper, the less helpless Sherlock became, the harder it was for John to view him as a patient. He would have had to say something soon anyway, though God knows he'd had no idea how to go about it.

He reached the vendor and placed his order, his mind wandering as the coffee was prepared.

He would have to insist on the doctor issue. Now that Sherlock had broken down that wall, he knew there was no way he could completely reinstate it. If they were going to continue as friends; as flatmates and colleagues, then John would have to step back.

It had always been perfectly clear that Sherlock had no interest in a relationship, he just wasn't wired that way and John accepted that. He didn't expect anything, he wasn't asking for anything, although he'd be glad when Sherlock got over this obsession with their sleeping arrangements. He seemed bizarrely opposed to John's occupation of the sofa and just would not shut up about it.

Even today, after finding out how John felt about him, he still wanted them to share a bed. Really, thought John, as he paid for the coffees, the man had less concept of appropriate behaviour than a typical two year old. He sighed; it had already been a long day and wasn't showing any signs of getting easier.

John turned back, a drink in each hand, his eyes automatically searching out Sherlock on the other side of the water. He was still sitting on the bench, long legs stretched out in front of him, hands deep in the pockets of his coat. His head was down, chin resting on his chest and John's sharp eyes could detect the breeze stirring through the curls lying on his forehead.

John's gaze roved over him, then widened and he froze, the coffee falling from his suddenly nerveless fingers. For a brief, horrible moment he was paralysed to the spot, then his army training kicked in and he launched himself forward, hand reaching uselessly for the gun which he had left at home, before grabbing his phone instead. Barely glancing down to hit speed dial two, he raced along the path towards the bridge, snapping the phone to his ear.

"Regent's Park, Clarence Bridge, NOW!" he barked into it, weaving between tourists and families who gaped at him in astonishment as he sprinted through them, never taking his eyes away from his target.

Sitting on the other end of the bench, staring with sick fascination at a completely oblivious Sherlock, was Moriarty.

Chapter Text

As John walked away to get the coffee, Sherlock lifted his face to the sun, feeling the warmth of the rays on his skin. It was a novel sensation to him, as he was usually more interested in observing his surroundings rather than absorbing them.

There was a click of heels as someone approached then sat down on the other end of his bench, followed by the rustling of a packet being opened. A sudden whiff of dry roasted peanuts assailed his nose, then the woman started crunching noisily.

Sherlock turned his head, fixing the glare from his lenses in the direction he estimated her face would be, based upon the length of her stride and the impact on the bench when she sat down. After just over a minute there was a huff, followed by more rustling, then the bench creaked as she got up. He allowed himself a small smile as her heels clicked away down the path.

Less than two minutes later, there were more steps and another interloper took her place. A man this time, average height and build, wearing a pair of very new trainers judging by the squeaking. This one smelt strongly of menthol cigarettes with - Sherlock sniffed the air gently - an underlying aroma of cheap soap. Were there no other benches in the park? Did everyone have to come and sit on his bench?

He would get John to write in about it, Sherlock decided. Clearly Regent's Park was desperately in need of additional seating. He tucked his head down onto his chest grumpily and decided to ignore the man; it seemed that having a whole bench to yourself on a fine day was just too much to ask.

There was a commotion coming from the bridge, he realised, turning his head in that direction. He could hear a few cries of 'Oy!' and 'Watch it!', as if someone were barging their way through. Perhaps it was a pickpocket who had been spotted? Sherlock wondered if they would come this way and, if they did, whether he would be able to anticipate their timing well enough to stick out a foot and trip them. Then he wondered where John was; it wouldn't be like him to let a criminal escape if he could avoid it. He sat up straighter and focused his attention towards the bridge, registering at the back of his mind that the intruder on his bench was getting up.

"Sherlock!" It was John's voice he could hear, and now running footsteps coming along the path, but only one pair of feet so John wasn't chasing someone. Not just running, but racing - why was he racing?

He started to stand but John's voice came again, much closer this time. "Sherlock, stay down!"

Seconds later John was there, jerking to a halt in front of him and keeping him in place with a firm hand on his shoulder. John started talking, but clearly to someone else – he was on the phone.

"Heading west away from Clarence Bridge, south side of the boating lake. Move it!"

There was a strong smell of coffee. Sherlock reached out - John's jeans were wet just above the knees, the material still hot.

"Where the fuck are your people?" He had never heard John sound so angry. "No, I'm not leaving him. Hold on."

John's hand moved to his elbow. "Up, Sherlock!" It wasn't a request; the hand was pulling him to his feet then tugging him sideways, round the end of the bench. "Back," John commanded, pushing and turning him so that Sherlock was facing away from the water, John still pushing him on, forward now, towards the smattering of trees he knew bordered the edge of the park.

"John, what -"

"In a minute, Sherlock, just move!"

He didn't like this. John wasn't guiding him as usual, just pushing him from behind. He stumbled; he couldn't tell where he was going. "John -"

"Trust me, Sherlock, please. Keep going, nearly there."

John was blocking him, Sherlock realised. He was using his body as a shield, that's why he hadn't moved to the side as normal. Sherlock stopped dead.

"Tell me what's going on," he demanded, turning so that they were face to face. The next moment he was knocked off balance as John simply barrelled into him, the momentum forcing him to retreat a few more paces until his back hit a tree with a thud, although John's hand had come up to protect his head, he realised, leaning forward immediately to relieve the pressure on his fingers. That must have hurt.

John gave no indication, simply pulling him round the tree until he was pressed against the other side.

"Did he touch you?" he questioned urgently. "Sherlock, the man on the bench, did he come into contact with you at all? Approach you? Do anything?"

John's hands were all over him, pulling the glasses off, brushing through his hair, checking the side of his neck, then running over his face and down onto his chest.

"Sherlock, talk to me. Did you feel anything, like an insect bite, or a spray, anything?"

John's panic told him more than any words could have conveyed.

"It was Moriarty," he realised, pushing John's hands away. "Moriarty was the man on the bench. John, you could have caught him!"

There was a short silence. "This wasn't a coincidence, Sherlock. Our surveillance team is missing – I could have chased him into a trap."

John's phone buzzed and he turned away, his left hand coming up to hold Sherlock against the tree. "Yes?" he snapped.

Presumably it was Mycroft or one of his minions on the phone, thought Sherlock. Clearly there was a lot more going on than he had been told – more secrets that John was keeping from him.

John was talking again. "Are we clear? Right. Is the flat still clean? Check it. Yes, we're coming back now." He listened for a minute. "They OK?" A pause, then John spoke again, his voice slightly lighter. "Ten minutes."

He snapped the phone shut. "I don't know anything more than you've already worked out since I reached you," he said. "It hasn't been a secret, just a precaution and you've had enough to worry about this last month."

"And the sniper?" Sherlock challenged.

John's hesitation was fleeting. "There was no sniper, we're clear," he replied.

Sherlock was not fooled. "But you thought there was, or that there could be," he pointed out. "Mycroft told me about the pool. You thought there might be a sniper again and you're a crack shot. You worked out where he would be if there was one and you blocked his line to me – that's why you didn't chase Moriarty, not because you were afraid of a trap."

John was silent and Sherlock could almost feel him squirming. "Are you ready to go?" he asked eventually.

"John, -" Sherlock started, but he was interrupted.

"We can talk when we get home, if you want," said John. "But we need to go – I want to get you into the shower, just in case."

Sherlock raised his eyebrows suggestively.

"Oh, bloody hell!" John exclaimed. "You're just going to torture me about this, aren't you?"

Sherlock smirked, but took his arm without saying anything.

An hour later, John was back in their living room, sipping a cup of tea and contemplating what had happened. The missing surveillance team had been located, thankfully just unconscious, but Moriarty had been gone by the time the back-up arrived. They had found the long coat he had been wearing stuffed into a bin, but the man himself had vanished.

Sherlock was adamant that Moriarty had not come into contact with him at all, had remained at his end of the bench, so the worst of John's fears were allayed somewhat, although he had still insisted on the shower. He couldn't understand why Moriarty would go to these lengths, put himself at risk, for no apparent purpose. After all, John could almost certainly have caught him today – why would he chance that? It didn't make any sense at all.

He took another mouthful of tea and gazed out of the window, deep in thought until a noise from behind made him turn around then he spluttered, coughing, tea spraying everywhere and making a mess on his jumper.

Sherlock was standing in the doorway, wearing only a towel.

A small towel, John noted, which hung dangerously low on his narrow hips. If John had been holding on to the hope that he would be able to shove his feelings back into their box and return to 'doctor mode', that hope was now well and truly shattered.

"Sherlock!" he protested, urging his legs to turn him back around to face the window. They didn't seem to be listening. "Bloody hell, are you trying to kill me?"

His eyes raked over the tall, lean figure in front of him, taking in every detail. He had seen Sherlock half dressed before, of course, even helped him with bathing a couple of times in the hospital, but he had been scrupulously careful not to look, not to even think.

This time, however, Sherlock knew how he felt and yet still stood in front of him wearing only a towel. A small towel. What the hell was he playing at?

"Is this your idea of a joke?" he demanded.

Sherlock look surprised. "No, John," he said. "I thought this was what you wanted?"

"What I..." John echoed, shaking his head. "This is a reward then, is it? A free show to say 'Thanks' for blocking a non-existent sniper?"

Sherlock tipped his head to one side. "You're upset."

John sighed, suddenly feeling exhausted. "You're right." His hand was throbbing from the impact with the tree and his legs were stinging from where the coffee had scalded them. He'd had one of the most terrifying experiences of his life, seeing Moriarty so close to Sherlock and being too far away to do anything about it, and now that the danger was past the adrenaline had gone with it, leaving his body drained and sore.

He dumped his mug on the table and sat down heavily, dropping his head and rubbing his hands over his eyes.

"It's your turn to have a shower now." Sherlock's voice came from much nearer than John had expected and he looked up, startled. Really, the man moved like a cat, he was already right next to John's chair, then he perched on the arm of it, towel gaping distractingly.

"You've got coffee on your jeans and," he leaned forward, sniffing, "tea on your jumper. Give me your hand."

John obeyed automatically, half of his mind wondering what on earth Sherlock was up to now and the other half just accepting being instructed, with something like relief. Sherlock's fingers were running delicately over his bruised knuckles, feeling where the skin was abraded, the joints swollen.

"Does this not need treatment?" he asked, concern evident in his voice.

John shook his head, then remembered himself. "No, it'll be fine, there's nothing broken," he said. "I'll put some antiseptic on it later."

"What about your legs? Are they scalded? Did you spill the coffees or drop them?"

"Honestly, I think I just let them go," John replied, not wanting to dwell on it any longer.

Sherlock pursed his lips. "Go and have a shower, a cool one, while I get dressed," he advised. "Then come back here so we can sort out your legs and your hand."

His fingers were still stroking gently over John's knuckles as he continued. "Then we can order a takeaway and put on one of those ridiculous talk shows, and you can describe to me the odd examples of humanity who voluntarily subject themselves to such mockery."

He smiled at John. "How does that sound?"

John breathed out a sigh, letting some of the stress of the day go with it. "That sounds perfect," he said.


In Regent's Park, by Concuelo

Artwork :

In Regent's Park, by by Concuelo
Additional artwork for this chapter:

The Man on the Bench, by CaptainUSSR

Chapter Text

It was warmer than usual, John realised, his brain surfacing sluggishly from the depths of sleep. As always, he listened for any sound from Sherlock's room, but it was quiet.

Moments later, he registered the explanation for both of these facts.

He was lying on his left side on the sofa, facing out into the room; the usual sleeping position he had adopted over the last two weeks.

What was not usual; what was, in fact, distinctly unexpected, was the arm which snaked under his neck and lay draped across his chest, not to mention the hand resting on his hip and absolutely not mentioning the body which was pressed up against the full length of his back, or the long legs which were tucked in behind his own.

He was being spooned by Sherlock Holmes.

Truly, this must be national 'Torture John Watson' week and no-one had warned him.

He thought back to the previous evening, trying to establish how he had come to be in this situation. The talk show watching had turned into more of a lesson in observation as Sherlock demanded increasingly bizarre facts about the people on the programme, until John got fed up and changed the channel just so he could eat his dinner in peace.

They had settled on a quiz show in the end, which John had tried to get involved in while Sherlock merely declared the questions to be either 'obvious' or 'irrelevant' depending, presumably, on whether or not he knew the answers.

John could remember feeling drowsy, his head nodding as he sat in the chair. The second time he had failed to respond to a question, Sherlock had told him to get ready for bed, for once not protesting when he settled on the sofa, merely asking if it would bother him if the TV was on for a little longer and confirming that, of course Sherlock could manage to get himself to bed, didn't he usually?

After that... nothing. Obviously, at some point Sherlock had slotted himself in behind John and gone to sleep. He glanced down at the arm lying across his chest, just visible in the early morning light. It was clad in a blue dressing gown, so Sherlock must have got ready for bed; it wasn't just that he wanted to lie down to listen to the telly.

About to get up, John suddenly paused, considering. From the gentle snuffling against the back of his neck and the relaxed attitude of the limbs around him, it seemed that Sherlock was still asleep.

Would it be so wrong, he wondered, just to relax and enjoy this for a few minutes? After all, Sherlock did know how he felt now, so it wasn't as if there was anything underhand about it.

John was not going to make a habit of sleeping with Sherlock, however tempting it might be or however practical at the moment, knowing that to do so would only make things more difficult.

Could he allow himself the indulgence, just for a few minutes on this one occasion, to stay where he was in Sherlock's arms and imagine that this was how he woke up every morning?

It wasn't wise, he knew that. The sensible course would undoubtedly be to get up straight away – that's what the voice in his head was telling him, no question about it. Just get up, put the kettle on, and pretend this had never happened; resist the temptation and carry on as normal, put the whole thing out of his mind and get off the sofa… get off the sofa right now... John closed his eyes.

He closed his eyes and concentrated on what he could feel. The wiry strength of the arm stretching around him, the way it fit so perfectly between his shoulder and his neck. The weight of the hand resting on his chest in what he could almost believe was a possessive manner. The other hand on his hip, not gripping, just resting there – he could feel each of those long fingers, could picture them clearly as he had watched them in action so many times, now only a couple of thin layers away from his bare skin... touching him, as he had so longed to be touched by this man.

The surprising warmth of Sherlock's body, which he could feel from his head right down to his feet. Sherlock's breath blowing gently against the back of his neck. John shivered and Sherlock's grip on him tightened, the fingers on his chest splaying out and pulling him back further while the hand on his hip slid up across his belly and around his waist, settling there, clutching a handful of the T-shirt he used as a pyjama top.

John could have wept. Everything he wanted, everything he had dreamed of, was wrapped around him but he knew he couldn't keep it. Sherlock was not like anybody else. He didn't get bogged down in relationships and affairs and the messy business of personal interactions, it was all just transport to him, he was above all that.

This had been a bad idea.

He supposed he should leave really, once Sherlock was better able to manage for himself. If he had any self-preservation at all he would have left months ago, as soon as he realised what this attraction was turning into and how absolutely futile it was.

Somehow, though, he had never been able to do it. Even in his most despairing moments, when he recognised the pain he was signing himself up for, he had still known that he couldn't leave, that he was connected to this man in a way he could not understand, that didn't seem to make sense. There was a bond there between them which even Sherlock seemed aware of, in his own way, hence his acceptance of John's help when he denied everyone else.

Taking a deep breath, John pulled himself together and started to ease gently off the sofa.

Immediately, there was a grunt of protest and the arms around him closed in, holding him prisoner.

"John," the voice was sleep-roughened and husky and it seemed to set John's nerve endings on fire. He pulled away again but the arms held firm.

"Say something, John," Sherlock commanded.

"What are you doing?"

Sherlock seemed to relax at his words. "Well, I was sleeping until you started squirming about," he replied, hot breath tickling against the back of John's neck and not doing anything to slow his pulse rate.

"Yes, but why are you sleeping here?" insisted John. "I thought it was your objective to get me off the sofa, not put yourself on it!"

"You didn't seem to mind at the time," Sherlock said cryptically.

"What does that mean?" John demanded, trying to turn his head but currently unable to do so. What was Sherlock on about now? Had something happened last night? He racked his brain but couldn't remember anything past settling onto the sofa.

"I want you to stay with me, John," Sherlock replied, ignoring his query. "I'm tired of all this talk about my needing a new doctor; I don't want anyone else poking and prodding me."

John's eyes glazed over a bit at the thought of poking Sherlock, but he tried to focus on his meaning.

"I want you to be my doctor," Sherlock insisted. "And I want you to sleep with me. Or..." he lowered his mouth towards John's ear, cutting off his attempted interruption. "Or, I can come and sleep with you. I don't mind either way."

John groaned in frustration, rounding his shoulders and tucking in his chin in an attempt to escape the distraction of Sherlock's mouth. He tried to turn around again but Sherlock held on tighter – perhaps he thought this conversation would go better if neither of them could rely on visual clues.

"Sherlock, how many times do I have to tell you that's not feasible?" he pleaded. "You can't have a doctor who is, well..."

John cringed a bit, but he just wasn't getting through any other way. "Who is, quite frankly, lusting after you," he finished, gritting his teeth. "It's just plain wrong!"

Sherlock sighed. "You're treating me as if I'm normal," he pointed out.

"You are normal, Sherlock," John replied. "I keep telling you, just because you're blind at the moment doesn't mean..."

"No, John," Sherlock interrupted. "I'm not talking about my current problems. I mean, you're behaving as if I react to situations the way that other people do." He stroked down John's arm until he reached the injured hand, which he smoothed his thumb over gently.

"Why should it matter to me what's going through your mind when you're looking after me?" he asked. "Does it make any difference to the treatment?"

John was speechless, partly from Sherlock's words, partly from the feel of his stroking fingers, and partly from the way his chest rumbled with every sentence, sending vibrations all the way down John's back.

"I know Sally told you that I 'get off' on crime scenes," Sherlock continued, quote marks audible in his tone. "Does that mean that I shouldn't investigate them? Would the victim be better served by a detective who didn't enjoy it?"

John tried to get his head around that for a moment, then gave up – clearly Sherlock's logic was not the same as normal, human logic and there was no point trying to unravel it.

"It's not right," he repeated stubbornly. "Especially in your current situation." His voice had adopted a mulish tone which would have been immediately recognised by any member of his family.

"Why especially in my situation?" Sherlock sounded in no way ready to give in.

"You can't see what I'm doing," John explained. "I'm sorry, Sherlock, but that makes you vulnerable. I could take advantage of you."

Sherlock snorted, releasing John's hand and wrapping both arms around him again in what was unmistakeably a hug. "I don't believe that you would, and I don't much care if you do," he replied.

"You don't care if I..." John felt bewildered. He stopped trying to turn around, thinking perhaps it was for the best that he couldn't see Sherlock, less embarrassing that way really. An idea was dawning on him which he was finding hard to credit, but he had to know...

"Sherlock, why did you come into the living room in your towel yesterday?" he asked.

He could feel the shrug even without seeing it. "To show you that you could have what you wanted," Sherlock replied, the words murmured so close to his ear that John could feel them against his skin, even as they echoed around his mind.

"That is what you want isn't it? A physical relationship between us?" Sherlock asked, as if he was offering an extra slice of toast or the sports section of the newspaper.

John was aware that his mouth was opening and closing but he just couldn't get any sound to emerge. It was no good; he had to be able to see Sherlock's face to make any sense of this.

Sherlock had loosened his grip when John relaxed, so he was able to squirm around until they were face to face, although he found that Sherlock still had his eyes closed.

"What about what you want?" John asked, keeping some distance by pressing his palms against Sherlock's chest so that his thundering heart beat didn't give away the crazy hope racing through his veins. The hope that that perhaps he had been wrong about Sherlock's attitude, made too great an assumption about his lack of interest.

Sherlock shrugged again. "I've already told you what I want," he said. "Repeatedly," he added, with a frown. "Physical relationships have never held any appeal for me but I don't think I would mind so much with you."

John thought it was probably just as well that Sherlock couldn't see his face.

"I am aware that we have a connection," he continued, eyes still closed in the dim light. "You are not like other people. You have saved my life on several occasions and risked your own for me on even more. If a physical relationship is what you want, then I am not unwilling."

John felt his hope fade, leaving his heart heavy and his body cold. He pushed away from Sherlock, who let him go this time, until he slipped off the sofa and sat beside it instead, drawing his knees up and resting his elbows on them.

"You can't throw yourself at me like you would throw a bone to a dog just to stop it from barking," he said sadly. "I don't want your pity any more than you want mine."

Sherlock sat up, looking frustrated. "It isn't pity, John," he insisted. "Does everyone have to have the same reasons for doing things?" He waved his arms around for added emphasis. "You want to sleep with me and I want to wake up with you. I don't see the problem!"

There was a silence. Sherlock had shut his mouth with a snap, as if regretting his words and John latched on to them at once. He would never have anything like Sherlock's deductive powers, but he had enough to recognise that there was something wrong with that sentence.

"So, it's not the sleeping you have a problem with, despite all that talk about me having a bad back from the sofa," he theorised. "It's the waking up."

Sherlock's lips tightened but he didn't say anything, which John took as confirmation.

"So, what is it about waking up on your own that you don't like?" he mused, not really expecting an answer - which was just as well because none was forthcoming. He regarded Sherlock carefully. "Sherlock, are you going to open your eyes?"

If he hadn't been watching so closely, he might have missed the slight twitch of Sherlock's right hand, but there was no-one who watched Sherlock Holmes more closely than John Watson, so he spotted it immediately.

He reached across and put his own hand over Sherlock's, who, after a moment, opened his eyes, then shook his head. Nothing.

"Every morning you think your sight may have returned," John realised. "Every morning you hope you'll be able to see again." He could have kicked himself. It was hope. Treacherous, dangerous hope. The same emotion he had struggled with when Sherlock first started to come round from the coma. An emotion that Sherlock himself was not immune to.

As a doctor, John had treated women who were trying for a baby and he had seen what they went through every month. Analysing every feeling, convincing themselves they felt queasy, wanting to believe that this month... this month would be different, this month would be the one.

Sherlock was going through that every morning, and he didn't want to do it alone.

"I'm sorry, Sherlock," he said. "I should have realised." Again, only his close attention caught the almost imperceptible twist of Sherlock's lips, but he did see it and it made him pause. "Is there something else?" he asked.


"There's something else, isn't there?" he pressed. "What is it?"

Sherlock shook his head, clearly feeling he'd admitted to quite enough weakness for one morning, but John was like a terrier, he wasn't going to give up. He thought back. What problems did Sherlock have now that he hadn't had before? Just his vision really. The occasional word blindness seemed to annoy, rather than worry, him and was no more likely to happen in the morning than at any other time.

So was there anything he feared returning or occurring, which might affect him in the morning particularly? Or was it more to do with waking up...

"Sherlock, there's no reason to think the aphasia will come back, you know," he tried tentatively.

"I know that," Sherlock snapped.

"Then why did you want me to say something today, when you woke up?" John queried. "Come to think of it, why do you always seem a little on edge first thing in the morning, before I've spoken to you?"

Sherlock looked as if his instinct was to move away, but John was still gripping the back of his hand, holding it pinned to the seat, and he wasn't letting go any time soon. After some internal debate, he appeared to accept the inevitable and sat back, tipping his head up and resting it against the top of the sofa cushion.

"I thought Mycroft was playing a trick on me at first, when I woke in the hospital," he said. "I could recognise his voice but his words were just a jumble of noise, not even a different language, just gibberish." He exhaled sharply. "I even thought it was funny because I often accuse him of talking nonsense."

He turned his hand over underneath John's, so that they were palm to palm. "But then you came in and it was the same thing. Your steps, your voice, your touch," he squeezed John's hand, "but your words were all wrong and I knew then that it was me."

John got up off the floor and moved to the sofa, hitching one leg up so that he was sideways on and stroking his free hand through Sherlock's hair.

He got a weak smile. "Everything was dark and nothing made sense. I didn't know what was happening – what had happened or how long it would last." Sherlock swallowed, dropping his head forward and John's hand slipped to the nape of his neck. "I was..." he stopped, then tried again, "It was..." he was clearly struggling.

"Not good?" suggested John tactfully.

Sherlock smiled briefly in acknowledgement. "Not good, no."

He didn't resist when John tugged him sideways and they sat quietly for a few minutes, right hands still clasped together, John sitting up with one leg tucked under him and Sherlock's head resting against his collar bone.

Eventually, John spoke again. "You know," he pointed out. "If you'd opened that talking watch Mycroft brought, you could have used it to check whenever you wanted."

Sherlock just grunted, which was his normal response to any mention of the watch, the rest of the 'blind stuff' or, indeed, his brother.

John hugged him closer, then gave in to impulse and kissed the top of his head. "Bloody stubborn man," he said. "Come on, we need to get ready." He started to rise to his feet.

Sherlock didn't release his hand. "John?" he queried, not saying anything more.

Sighing, John sat back down. "I'm not saying that I'll sleep with you, Sherlock," he warned. "But I'll think of something."

Sherlock looked unimpressed.

"Oh, and one more thing," John continued, pulling his hand free and using it to turn Sherlock's face towards him. "If I am going to be your doctor, then you tell me immediately in the future if you have any medical concerns whatsoever, do you understand?" He didn't wait for an answer. "Even if it's just an irrational fear, you tell me, Sherlock, or I will find you a new doctor and that will be that. Are we clear?"

"Yes, John." Sherlock's smile was that of a man who has got his own way. He was obviously trying to avoid looking smug, but the hint of a smirk at the corner of his mouth made it a piss-poor effort, in John's opinion.

He made it to his feet this time. "We need to get dressed," he announced. "Mycroft's coming later to bring you up to date."

"Joy," muttered Sherlock.

"I don't understand," declared John, several hours later.

The flat stank of menthol cigarettes, the smell emanating from the coat which Mycroft had brought with him, tightly sealed in an evidence bag. It was now spread out across their kitchen table, with the three of them grouped around it. Sherlock was bent low, going over it with his fingers after having made John describe it down to the last detail of stitching.

Sherlock was clearly engrossed, so Mycroft spoke up. "Moriarty used the coat to ensure that Sherlock wouldn't recognise his scent," he explained. "Overkill, perhaps, but he seems a thorough sort of chap."

"No, I get that," John said. "That was pretty obvious," he added, not relishing his position as the thickest person in the room.

"What I don't understand is what Moriarty was doing there in the first place. How did he know where we would be, so he could be prepared with the coat? And Sherlock said he smelt of cheap soap, which I can't imagine he normally uses, the poncy git."

He paused to collect his thoughts. "And how did he know I would leave Sherlock on his own?" Would that regret ever fade? he wondered. "And why did he bother at all? Why risk it? What was the point?"

By this time, Sherlock had his nose so close to the coat he appeared to be attempting to inhale the inside pocket, so it was left to Mycroft to step in again.

"Your habit of 'constitutionals' is well established, John. My brother has never walked so much in his life." Mycroft smiled at this. "The weather yesterday was unusually fine, so it would not be unreasonable to assume that you would step out at some point during the day."

He moved out of the kitchen, turning up his nose at the smell, and sat down in Sherlock's chair before continuing.

"Presumably, he had someone watching the flat and was notified as soon as you left. You almost always head to the park, it being so close, but he may, of course, have been prepared for other destinations."

John moved to the doorway between the kitchen and the living room, the better to keep an eye on both brothers, and attempted to be logical. "So, his efforts with the coat and the soap suggest that he wanted to get close to Sherlock but be unrecognised by him," he said, trying not to make it sound too much like a question. "Did he just want to check that Sherlock really couldn't see him? And why go to all this trouble?"

Sherlock straightened up. "I'm sure someone with Moriarty's resources will have already seen my medical file," he said. "I think he wanted me to know that he could walk right up to me, sit down next to me, and I wouldn't even be aware of it. He wanted me to know that I was no longer a threat to him, that he had won."

It was interesting, thought John, although perhaps worrying would be a better word, but even though he was talking about Moriarty having won, Sherlock didn't sound at all defeated – there was an odd note in his voice which John couldn't quite place, but it made him uneasy.

"That's why you had to be nearby, John," Sherlock continued. "You've seen him before. You would recognise him straight away and tell me what had happened. His victory would be hollow if I wasn't aware of it. He needed you to be a witness."

John was about to go through his outstanding questions again, when Mycroft took up the conversation.

"As you quite rightly point out, my dear John," he said, with a smile, "Moriarty could not have relied on the two of you separating as you did, especially as it is so very rare for you to leave my brother's side." His smile became even more approving, making John feel quite uncomfortable, before he continued. "He must have had some plan to divide you which, as it turned out, he didn't need to implement."

There was silence as they all contemplated this, until Sherlock gave a sudden exclamation and turned back to the coat, picking up the left cuff and inhaling deeply. "Happy," he announced.

John and Mycroft looked at each other and John took some satisfaction in not having the only blank face in the room.

"I couldn't quite place it before, it's extremely faint, but it's Happy," Sherlock repeated, his head swivelling around between the two of them; he seemed disappointed by the lack of reaction.

"The woman, John," he prompted. "Did you see the woman who sat on my bench? She was wearing Clinique Happy." He waited again for a response. "Peanuts!"

John began to edge towards his chair, but Sherlock thrust out a hand demandingly and he reluctantly changed course to take it. Sherlock pulled him in and gripped his shoulders.

"John," he said, "What's the easiest way to distract a doctor?"

"Er..." John couldn't see where he was going with this, so just focused on the question. "Medical emergency?" he suggested.

"Exactly!" declared Sherlock. "What would you have done if we had been walking along the path when a woman nearby apparently started choking on a peanut?" he asked. "If a cry of 'Is there a doctor here?' went up as we were passing?"

"Well, I suppose I would have gone to help," said John.

"Of course you would, obviously you would – and then I'd be on my own, wouldn't I?" He was smiling now. "So then Moriarty could have made his move and, when you returned from dealing with the miraculously recovering woman, you would have seen him standing next to me. Voila: mission accomplished."

"As it turned out, of course," he added, "they didn't have to bother because we made it easy for them."

John was still perplexed. "So, how do you know about the peanut plan, again?" he asked.

"The woman, John," Sherlock sounded exasperated. "The woman whose perfume is on Moriarty's sleeve, the woman who sat on my bench first, was eating peanuts. They were loud. It was annoying. She left after I appeared to glare at her – then Moriarty came. Do you see?"

John was still bemused but Mycroft was nodding. "You took less notice of the man, because of the woman," he said. "If he had just sat on your bench out of the blue, you would have been much more interested in him but, because of the woman, you gained the impression that it was just a very busy day in the park."

"I ignored him," Sherlock agreed, finally starting to sound angry with himself. "I was fed up of the intrusions and I just ignored him, as he knew I would." He smiled reluctantly. "Oh, he is good."

John found himself disapproving profoundly of this statement and he pulled away from Sherlock, moving round to drop into his chair.

"I still don't see why he risked it," he muttered grumpily. "If they'd used the peanut plan I wouldn't have been so far away, I could have caught him. I would have caught him."

Mycroft uncrossed his legs and sat forward. "Forgive me John, but does Moriarty know how you feel?"

"How I feel about him? I would have thought it was bloody obvious!" John replied. "I feel he's a man who would be greatly improved by a bullet in the brain."

Mycroft shook his head gently. "No, John. I'm sorry," he clarified, lowering his voice. "I mean, does he know how you feel about my brother?"

John could hear Sherlock huffing from where he had returned to the kitchen and low mutterings of "Did everybody know?" and "Was I the only oblivious one?" emerged from behind him.

He thought back to the encounter at the pool and Moriarty telling him, 'You've rather shown your hand there, Dr Watson'.

"Yes," he replied slowly. "Yes, I rather think he does."

Mycroft spread his hands wide. "Then that's all he needed," he said. "If he'd had a knife, for example, or a gun; if he had threatened Sherlock before you reached them, would you have kept going or would you have let him escape?"

John groaned and dropped his head down, until he felt Mycroft's hand patting his knee.

"Speaking of which," he continued, calling through to the kitchen. "How do you think he did escape, Sherlock?" John was sure that both of the Holmes brothers had worked that out long ago, but he appreciated the attempt at distraction and gave the man a small smile.

Sherlock emerged from the doorway and perched on the arm of John's chair, resting a hand on his shoulder. Mycroft's eyebrows rose minutely and John blushed, which annoyed him – he felt that if he was going to be embarrassed, at least he should have something decent to be embarrassed about, not just a bit of hugging on the sofa which had been more about restraint than affection. He didn't shake off Sherlock's hand, though.

"He was wearing trainers," Sherlock replied. "New ones, they were squeaky. The park is full of joggers. He dumped the coat as soon as he was out of John's sight; probably had a tracksuit on underneath, perhaps a cap in his pocket – instantly he's just one among many, nothing simpler than to jog out of the park amid a crowd of others."

Mycroft nodded and rose to his feet. "Well, I'd best get back," he said.

"More governments to bring down?" Sherlock enquired, with what John felt was unnecessary sarcasm. He stood up also, nudging Sherlock deliberately in the process so that he almost lost his balance.

Mycroft was beaming at them, clearly not harbouring any resentment for John's swearing at him the day before. "Surveillance will continue, of course," he advised. "Although, I think the threat may perhaps be reduced from this point."

"I concur," said Sherlock, who seemed very pleased about this development.

After showing Mycroft out, John returned to Sherlock, who was standing by the window.

"What are you so happy about?" he asked. "I would have thought you'd be disheartened by what happened yesterday."

Sherlock turned around and grinned at him. It had been several weeks since John had seen that particular smile and it made him feel light-headed.

"Moriarty views the connection between us as a weakness," Sherlock said. "He used it against us this time and yes, he won that round. But do you remember what you told me yesterday, when I said I was blind?"

John thought back. "I said, 'But I'm not'," he responded, assuming that the rest of his sentence was irrelevant to the current discussion.

"Exactly!" cried Sherlock gleefully. "Don't you get it, John? Don't you see? After yesterday he doesn't expect anything from me – he will have written me off. We're one up on him!"

John was bemused. "I still don't understand," he said.

"John!" This was the old Sherlock and it warmed John's heart to see him, even though he hadn't got a clue what he was going on about. Actually, that might be why, he thought – his not having a clue made the whole thing much more realistic.

Sherlock grabbed his shoulders and squeezed them tightly. "I may not have the use of my eyes at the moment, but I've got you, haven't I?"

John swallowed. "You've got me," he confirmed.

Sherlock smiled brilliantly. "I'm going to teach you to observe," he said.

Chapter Text

Sherlock lay in bed and contemplated the complete failure of his latest plan.

Who would have imagined that John could be so ridiculously pig-headed?

John, who would come half way across London to send a text message for him, who had given up his job and his girlfriend to take care of him, who had risked life and limb for him on more than one occasion, who had killed a man to save his life, for God's sake.

John, who certainly wanted, possibly even loved him. The same John who now adamantly refused to 'take advantage' of him.

Sherlock rolled over and thumped his pillow, which produced a gentle snort from the other side of the bed. The other side of the Great Wall of Cushions, more accurately.

Admittedly, he had no personal experience in these matters, but Sherlock would have thought that seducing someone who professed to 'lust after' you, would be much less of a challenge than this.

The most annoying aspect was that he knew full well he had only himself to blame. Himself, and his infernal pride, which had stopped him from admitting that he was quite intrigued by John's desire for him, and that things which had never interested him before were suddenly looking, if not exactly attractive, as he had no frame of reference, then certainly worthy of investigation.

He would also have to admit that being told he couldn't have something was producing the frustrating result of making him want it more, which Sherlock felt was an irritatingly human reaction.

He thumped his pillow again. It was that damned night on the sofa a week ago which had done it. Before that, he had thought that developing a physical relationship with John might perhaps be tolerable; he was willing to try it, if it was what John wanted. The fringe benefit of sleeping together would certainly be welcome and it would resolve the annoying 'new doctor' issue.

However, the memory of that night, and one part of it in particular, had kept popping back into his mind ever since, making him think about things he hadn't wasted time on before, making him wonder about gaps in his knowledge and whether it wasn't about time that he filled them...

Of course, Sherlock had never had any intention of going to his own bed that night. He sat in front of the television, waiting for John to fall asleep. After such a stressful day, it didn't take long.

Sherlock switched off the TV and made his way unerringly to the sofa. John was meticulous about keeping the furniture in place at all times and the flat was, of necessity, much tidier than it used to be, although Sherlock had pointed out that he could have learned to navigate the mess just as easily, as long as it didn't move around.

He lowered himself to perch on the edge of the seat, reaching out carefully to check John's position. He was lying flat on his back, one arm at his side, the other up over his head, hand dangling over the end of the sofa.

Sherlock had known, of course, what John was capable of, the sort of training he had undergone and the remarkable skills he possessed. However, experiencing them at first hand, when he himself was so profoundly helpless, had impressed upon him just how competent and dependable John really was.

He brought his hand up gently to check John's face, wondering if he was relaxed now or still tense, perhaps dreaming about what had happened. He knew that John still had nightmares, although neither of them ever mentioned it. Though outwardly open and friendly, John was quite reserved in many ways. Not proud, exactly, but reticent, self-contained. Even now, when his 'secret' had been exposed and Sherlock knew how he felt, he wasn't smothering at all, didn't let his emotions leak all over the place. Sherlock liked that. He liked it very much.

John seemed peaceful and Sherlock went to get ready for bed, familiar now with doing things in the dark, finding everything he needed exactly where it should be – John's doing again.

On returning to the sofa, he discovered that John had rolled onto his side, which was most helpful. Carefully, he eased himself into the small gap along the back of the seats. It was a tight fit but he wriggled a little and John shuffled over obligingly, without waking up. Presumably, he already had some experience at sharing a sleeping space.

That left Sherlock lying full length, but he still didn't quite know what to do with his arms. The right one was no problem, that was free and could just rest along his side, but the left was squashed under his body uncomfortably. He bent his elbow and propped his head up while he considered the problem.

It occurred to him that this was probably the closest he had been to another person during the whole of his adult life. He was aware of John's body against his own all the way from his chest down to his feet – in fact, John's feet were resting on top of Sherlock's, he could feel the toes flexing gently as they settled into their new position. Sherlock pulled the throw rug off the back of the seats and covered their legs; he didn't want John to wake too soon due to the cold.

Although he had been pushing for them to sleep together for a week now, Sherlock had still been concerned about feeling claustrophobic with someone so close to him, invading the space which he usually defended so rigorously. It was pleasing to discover that there were no such negative feelings involved in this experience with John.

Indeed, being wrapped around John was surprisingly pleasant; he was most definitely not like other people. Sherlock was aware that something was different in their relationship since he woke from the coma, quite apart from the obvious blindness related dependency. There had always been some sort of connection between them, John had stood out from the crowd almost immediately, but it was much stronger now. It was almost as if John was no longer an entirely separate entity. Perhaps it was due to his head injury, decided Sherlock; he certainly seemed to be getting terribly fanciful.

He turned his attention back to the current problem. He was getting tired and he needed to resolve the issue of his left arm. Using his right hand to check positions again, he realised that there was a perfect space for his arm just under John's neck. Sitting up slightly, he supported his weight with his right hand on the edge of the sofa and slowly started to edge into place.

The procedure was going well and he was nearly up to his elbow, when John started to stir. Sherlock froze where he was. If John woke now and found Sherlock leaning over him, he would not be happy. Not happy at all. After a moment, John rolled slightly on to his back, until his weight was leaning against Sherlock rather than just lying next to him. Then he settled down again.

Sherlock waited for a minute, then moved his arm a little further – just a few more inches and he could lie down. Almost there... John stirred again. Sherlock kept going, too late to stop now, then he felt a hand at the nape of his neck... a hand with no trace of hesitancy or diffidence, a hand which gripped firmly and pulled him down, and down, guiding his head with total precision and competence until he found himself in a new and completely unexpected situation.

John was kissing him. He didn't seem to have woken up, but he was kissing him just the same, lips moving smoothly and slightly parted so that Sherlock could taste a rather different flavour of toothpaste to his own, together with something he could only identify as 'John flavour'. Sherlock didn't know what to do. His instinct was to relax his right arm, which was holding him up, and lie down on John, but this seemed an extremely odd and dangerous impulse, so he resisted it.

John's body was relaxed, his right arm just resting along his side, so he definitely hadn't woken but he was still kissing Sherlock, holding his head in place so that their mouths were pressed gently together, the tip of his tongue now just brushing against Sherlock's bottom lip. Sherlock tentatively returned the pressure, allowing his lips to part a little and, oh... that felt... really, very interesting indeed.

John's hand was loosening, he was drifting off again. Their lips parted and Sherlock found himself seeking John's mouth once more, following his head as it settled back down and stealing two more kisses, until John breathed a sigh and murmured "Sherlock," against his lips, before turning and rolling onto his side, settling into slumber once more.

Slowly, Sherlock lay down behind him, his left arm now wedged firmly under John's neck. He bent his elbow so that his hand rested over John's chest and eventually fell asleep, soothed by the regular beat of the steadiest heart he knew.

Now, a week later, Sherlock was annoyed to find himself, yet again, spending precious time debating whether or not to tell John about the kiss.

On the one hand, if he told John what had happened and that he had liked it and wanted to explore it further, then surely that would go some way to persuade him that Sherlock was not just asking out of a combination of pity and indebtedness, which John currently seemed irrevocably convinced of.

On the other hand, Sherlock feared that it would be a 'big deal' to John. To know that he had taken Sherlock's first kiss, but would never remember it... that might upset him. Sherlock didn't know. Perhaps it wasn't important, perhaps it wouldn't matter to John? How could he tell? People worried about such odd things. But Sherlock had a feeling that it would matter and he couldn't quite bring himself to risk it.

The sensation was a novel one. There were other people he cared about, of course, he wasn't completely inhuman. His brother, he supposed, Mrs Hudson, even Mummy, although she barely remembered him any more. But he couldn't think of anyone else for whom he would be willing to censor his own behaviour.

Angrily, he rolled onto his back again and determinedly switched his mind onto more important matters... at least until John woke up.

Sherlock was already awake; John could tell before he even opened his eyes. He could feel the waves of plotting emanating from the other side of the barricade.

"Good morning, Sherlock," he said immediately, as he always did. Sherlock started attacking the cushions at once, throwing them far and wide. He seemed to be aiming high today, perhaps thinking that if he got some on top of the wardrobe, John wouldn't be able to reach to get them down again.

When the cushions were all gone, they turned to face each other. John raised his hand to Sherlock's cheek and Sherlock took a deep breath, then opened his eyes. After a moment, he shook his head. Nothing.

They stayed like that for a little while, Sherlock presumably resigning himself to another day of darkness and John just watching the play of light over his face. Eventually, Sherlock sighed and rolled onto his back, while John sat up and stretched before twisting to put his feet on the floor.

"So, what's the lesson plan for today?" he enquired, in a resigned tone.

Sherlock chuckled behind him. "Do I get an apple?" he asked.

When the proposal of teaching him to 'observe' had first been made, John had reacted with alarm and dismay. He had brought up Sherlock's somewhat scathing response to his last attempt in that direction and demanded if the phrase 'you missed almost everything of importance' rang any bells.

Sherlock had just laughed. "No, no, John, you misunderstand me," he said. "I'm not expecting you to master my skills. Certainly Moriarty would have little to fear from your deductions," he added, somewhat unkindly, although John found being treated like an idiot strangely reassuring in this situation.

"But you've got eyes, haven't you, you can see?" Sherlock continued. "If you can learn to observe accurately, and pass that information on, then you can leave the deducing to me."

John still had reservations; many of them. He doubted his ability to provide the level of detail that Sherlock required and he was deeply concerned about the two of them going up against Moriarty with only his own observations to rely on. John had no problem leading when necessary, in situations where he was confident in his own skills, but to have Sherlock relying on him in matters of deduction felt all wrong; it was not the way they were.

However, seeing Sherlock so much himself again, alert and interested, John did not have the heart to object. He had already been worrying about Sherlock's apathy, his general disinterest in coming to terms with his situation. If Moriarty's appearance had shaken off his inertia, then perhaps some good had come of it. So long as it was a good while before they encountered the psychopath again, preferably at a time when John had his gun and all he needed to observe was the direction of the wind when lining up his shot.

One side effect of Sherlock's plan had been the resolution of the sleeping together issue. When he'd promised Sherlock he'd 'think of something', John wasn't sure what he was going to do; vague ideas of setting his alarm early flitting through his mind at the time.

However, the knowledge that Sherlock planned on going up against Moriarty once more, even at some distant point in the future, left John barely able to stand having him out of sight at all. Suddenly, the sofa seemed a ridiculous distance from Sherlock's room and John had followed him to bed that very night without a word of protest.

He hadn't gone empty handed, however. One night squashed together on the sofa was certainly not definitive proof that Sherlock was a cuddly sleeper, but there was no way John could risk waking up like that again.

Sherlock had looked bemused as the cushions started landing on his bed – John had gathered all he could find from the flat and cleaned out Mrs Hudson's lounge to boot. The resulting haul had been impressive and now a dense row of cushions divided the bed right down the middle.

They had lain side by side that first night, both flat on their backs.

"John?" Sherlock's tone was enquiring and he had turned his head to the right, towards John.


"Why has my bed turned into a soft furnishings emporium?"

"You want me to be here, yes?" John responded, still staring straight up at the ceiling even though it was so dark he could barely make it out.

"Yes, most definitely." Sherlock's reply was immediate.

"Then the cushions stay. As long as I am asleep, or trying to sleep, in this bed, with you in it, then the cushions stay put. There will be no moving, dislodging, rearranging or otherwise disturbing of the cushions. Are we clear?"

"But why, John?"

"Why?" John was getting fed up with Sherlock's lack of empathy. "Why?" His voice was rising. "I'm pretty sure you were there when we were talking about my feelings for you. What if I molest you in my sleep?"

Sherlock made an odd sound but, without being able to see his expression, John took it as amusement.

"You can laugh now," he said grumpily. "You won't find it so funny when you wake up in the middle of the night to find me humping your leg."

There was a shocked gasp from Sherlock's side of the bed, which John found quite mollifying. That should shut him up.


He should have known better. Nothing silenced Sherlock for long if he had questions to ask.

"What now?"

"What if I didn't mind?"

John sighed. Sometimes dealing with Sherlock was like dealing with a child, he didn't understand anything at all.

"It's not a question of minding," he said, realising that waiting for empathy was entirely pointless.

"Sherlock, please just go to sleep. I'm here. I'll be here in the morning. Please don't make this any more difficult than it has to be."

There was silence for a while and John briefly hoped that Sherlock had actually paid attention to his words.

"What if it didn't have to be difficult?"

Even though he knew the lack of light was irrelevant to Sherlock, John still found it easier to talk into the darkness. It was more intimate, safer somehow to say what he really felt, without feeling embarrassed or shy about it.

"It's difficult because I want you... and you don't want me," he replied. "At least, not in the same way," he added. "I know that it's not personal, I know that you don't want anybody. But please, this is hard enough for me. No more wandering around in towels, Sherlock. It's not funny, it's just cruel."

"But what if I did want you?" asked Sherlock quietly, after a minute or two.

"I'm afraid that ship has sailed," said John, sadly. "Please, Sherlock. I'm doing my best. I can't..." he paused, collecting himself. "I'm here. I will stay with you because I... because you need me and there's nowhere else I want to be. But if you care about me at all; please, just go to sleep."

John rolled onto his side, back turned. Conversation over.

There had been several more attempts since that night to convince John that Sherlock was open to a relationship, but John wasn't buying it. As far as he was concerned, Sherlock had made his position perfectly clear and John was not about to take advantage of any gratitude or dependency he might be feeling.

At least his 'education' had given them something else to focus on.

Sherlock had started him off with memory games, pointing out that, while it had always been his custom to make deductions as he went along, John may need to retain information for longer in order to pass his observations on, so he needed to maximise his visual memory. It had reminded John of watching 'The Generation Game' with his Mum, as a child. He was confident that he'd win a lot more than the cuddly toy after a few sessions with Sherlock.

Next, they had dug out some old case files and John had tried to describe crime scene photos sufficiently well that Sherlock could identify which case they were from and then prompt John to look for whatever details had been key to his deductions at the time. This worked well for the interesting cases, which he remembered with startling clarity, but was a dismal failure for anything Sherlock had deemed 'dull' at the time, as he had since deleted it.

On the agenda for today, it would seem, was a field trip. Out and about around London for the day, for observing and describing practice. About time too, thought John, who didn't like to be cooped up indoors for too long.

By unspoken agreement, they turned away from the park and headed into town, where they spent the day wandering around, often stopping for coffees and people watching. To his pleased surprise, John found that he was much more naturally observant when it came to real people than he had been with photographs, a fact which Sherlock attributed to his training as a doctor, which had given him the habit of studying the whole person in order to make an accurate diagnosis.

Sherlock often made him go up and ask people what they did for a living, or where they had been on holiday, to check how accurate they were being as a team and they certainly improved over the course of the day, although some deductions were still way off the mark, which didn't seem to bother Sherlock as it normally would, presumably because he blamed any mistakes on his partner.

It occurred to John that they looked very much like a couple as they strolled around, whispering in each others ears, often laughing at some of the wilder misses, Sherlock's arm through John's as he guided him. John liked that feeling, that people would assume they were lovers. It made him a little wistful but he shook it off, just enjoying the warm glow it gave him to be out with this man, who had so quickly become the centre of his world.

Eventually, they headed back home, Sherlock still doling out advice along the way.

"Don't ever just tell me that someone has a tan," he instructed. "Always look at wrists and necklines to determine how the tan was acquired – business related will have tan lines, pleasure will not."

They stopped to pick up a takeaway, then carried on down Baker Street and Sherlock was still going.

"Observing isn't just about what you see – it's about not making assumptions regarding what you don't see... It's the difference between saying 'Miss Jones washed her hair' and saying 'Miss Jones went out of the room and came back in with a towel round her head'. Do you see, John?"

"I see our flat," replied John. "And I see our dinner." He opened the front door, then followed Sherlock up the stairs. Following Sherlock up the stairs was one guilty pleasure he did allow himself. It was best on warmer days, when Sherlock sometimes took his coat off first. Today, all the exertion had clearly raised his temperature sufficiently. John walked into the kitchen with a smile on his face.

After they had finished eating, Sherlock sat in his chair, pondering again how to persuade John that his thoughtless words from the week before had been just that: thoughtless, i.e. without thought, and not his considered opinion at all. Anyway, even if he had meant them a week ago, he certainly didn't mean them now. Weren't people supposed to have the right to change their minds? Or was that just women?

He had been very pleased with John's progress today. There had been a couple more points he had been going to make, but John had probably had enough for now. Anyway, there was no point talking to him when they were coming up the stairs, as he knew from previous experience that John wouldn't take in a word that was said to him. Sherlock had been careful to remove his coat first, in order to encourage John's thoughts in the right direction.

There was clattering in the kitchen as John finished putting everything away, then he moved past Sherlock, heading towards the bedroom, making some mention of tidying up. Sherlock knew what he meant. He was going to re-install the cushion blockade. Suddenly, it seemed imperative to stop him and Sherlock turned his head. "John!"

Something in his voice must have caught John's attention because he halted immediately and returned to Sherlock's side, dropping a hand onto his shoulder.

"What is it?" he asked, his tone sounding worried.

Sherlock threw his left arm around John's waist and pulled him close, leaning his head against John's abdomen.

John grunted in surprise and put both hands on Sherlock's shoulders, trying to push him gently away.

"Sherlock, we talked about this," he reminded, referencing several conversations from the preceding week. "No inappropriate clothing choices, no suddenly deciding to brush your teeth when I'm in the shower, and no grabbing - other than in exceptional circumstances."

Sherlock just held him tighter. Somehow, it seemed very important to get through to John this time. He decided to try a different approach.

"John, do you remember insisting that I practice my remaining senses?"

John seemed to relax a little, perhaps relieved not to be facing a re-hash of the argument they'd been having all week. He twisted in Sherlock's grasp and perched on the side of the chair, resting his arm along the back of the seat for balance.

"Yes, of course," he replied. "How could anyone forget rice pudding on toast?"

"Well, I need your help with one of them," Sherlock continued, ignoring the reference to what he still viewed as a personal failure.

"My sense of smell is excellent, as you know, and I have no problems either with taste or with hearing." Leaning against John's side, Sherlock could feel the sudden tension in his body, but he persevered.

"I've never really been touched, John," he said. "Nor have I explored the sense of touch with anyone else." He shrugged his shoulders. "Most of the people I come into physical contact with are already dead."

There was silence. Sherlock wished for the thousandth time that he could see, if only for a moment. Just a snapshot of John's expression would be enough to tell him everything he wanted to know. "John?" he prompted.

John cleared his throat. "Sherlock, are you telling me..." he seemed lost for words. "Do you mean you're a..." Obviously an entire sentence was beyond him.

"I told you that physical relationships have never held any appeal for me," pointed out Sherlock. "Until now," he added.

"Yes, well, I realise that the whole area is uninteresting to you, obviously," John replied. "After all, you made that pretty clear." He seemed completely shocked. "But I assumed that you would have at least experimented? I can't imagine a man like you being happy to have an area of ignorance. And how else would you know you didn't like it?"

His arm had slipped away from the back of the chair and was now resting across Sherlock's shoulders. "Perhaps at university?" he suggested, clearly unsure whether to actually believe that a human being could make it to their thirties without experiencing any sexual curiosity at all.

Sherlock shuddered. "You met Sebastian," he pointed out. "The rest of them were just as bad. They barely tolerated me and I certainly had no desire to become involved with any of them."

He twisted a little in his chair, his hand sliding from around John's waist to rest on his hip, and raised his head. They might not be much use at the moment, but he knew that John found his eyes attractive.

"John, until recently, I had never considered becoming physically intimate with anyone." He felt a slight shiver run through John's body at his words, which he took as a good sign.

"What I told you last week was inaccurate but based on truth," Sherlock continued, his hand now squeezing John's hip.

"We do have a connection and you are different to other people; at least, to me you are. Looking back, I think I was aware of this some months ago, long before any of this happened." He waved his hand vaguely in the direction of his head. "I just never gave it any thought - there was always some case or other, it never really occurred to me."

He paused. "But there were moments, weren't there? Moments when we would look at each other and there was something... I just never recognised what it was."

John was silent at first, then his hand slid up to Sherlock's neck. "There were moments for me," he replied, his voice quiet and sounding dazed.

For the first time, Sherlock gained the impression that John was wavering. He chose his words carefully.

"There is time for us now, John," he said softly. "No cases, no distractions. Nothing but the two of us." His voice was low and hypnotic.

John was completely still. Desperate to see him, Sherlock raised a hand and placed it over his heart. It was racing.

"So," John said, eventually, his voice not completely steady. "Try it then? You're certain?"

Sherlock nodded and started to lean forward in his chair, raising his head in anticipation. He was stopped by John's hand on his chest.

"Oh, no," he said. "I'm not kissing you."

Sherlock raised his eyebrows in surprise and, if he was honest with himself, disappointment. Didn't these things normally start with kissing?

"A kiss is far too intimate," John told him. "I'm not kissing you until you're absolutely sure that you want me to."

He stood up and took Sherlock's hand. "You say you've always avoided physical contact," he observed, "so let's start with something simple."

He tugged until Sherlock rose to his feet. "We'll see how you like being touched," he said, leading the way to the bedroom. "What do you think about a massage?"

Feel, by somachiou  

Artwork :

Feel, by somachiou

Additional artwork for this chapter

The Great Wall of Cushions, by tigerkatz


Chapter Text

John's mind was racing as he led Sherlock to the bedroom.

He glanced over his shoulder. If anyone else this gorgeous had claimed to have had no sexual experience at all by his age, John would have assumed that they were winding him up; but somehow, he couldn't bring himself to doubt Sherlock. His face had been unusually expressive in describing both his interest in John, and his distaste for anyone else.

He was still skittish, though, despite his claims about what he wanted. As much as he had decided to investigate, it was still possible that Sherlock would change his mind, would find physical intimacy too intense, too messy for him. Time to establish some ground rules, which would hopefully put him at ease.

He led Sherlock to the bed and tugged him down so that they were sitting next to one another.

"OK," he said. "Since this is all new to you, let's agree what's going to happen, so you know what to expect."

Sherlock gave him a small smile and seemed to relax a fraction.

"Just hang on a second," John told him, squeezing his hand before getting up and going to the bathroom, where he grabbed a couple of large, fresh towels.

When he returned, Sherlock had risen to his feet again and was standing, a little awkwardly, next to the bed.

"Relax," John told him. "We don't have to do anything if you don't want to."

"No, I want to," Sherlock said immediately, shrugging off his jacket and throwing it at the chair behind him.

John swallowed. Since when had just watching Sherlock remove his jacket affected him so strongly? Since you first laid eyes on him, said the voice in his head, but that wasn't strictly true. Knowing that he was going to be touching the skin under the clothes in just a few short minutes, definitely took the sight to a whole new level.

Sherlock had moved on to the buttons of his shirt and John stepped forward, covering his hands to stop him but unable to prevent his own palms flattening, middle fingers just stroking back and forth along Sherlock's collar bones.

"Wait," he said, hearing the catch in his voice.

Sherlock dropped his hands obediently, looking disappointed when John led him to sit on the bed again, at an angle this time, so that they were turned towards each other.

"Nothing specifically sexual is going to happen tonight, Sherlock," he told him. "If this sort of situation is as alien to you as you say, then I certainly don't want to dive right into anything that's going to overwhelm you."

Sherlock snorted in disgust. "I'm not a child, John," he replied haughtily. "I may be blind but I don't need mollycoddling. I'm perfectly capable of making decisions for and about myself." He looked extremely affronted.

"I'm not suggesting anything of the kind," replied John soothingly. "I'm just saying that it's best to take things slowly – you wouldn't jump into an experiment without gathering the necessary data in advance, would you?"

Sherlock tipped his head to one side, wearing an expression of deep suspicion, until a slight smirk appeared at the corner of his mouth - John's only warning of what was to come.

"So," he said. "Are you telling me that if, on one of those moments I mentioned..." He raised both hands to cup John's face, angling his head so that they were nose to nose.

"On one of those nights when we came in from a case, high on adrenaline, hearts pounding, out of breath..." His voice was getting lower as he spoke.

"On one of those times in the hallway, when we leaned against the wall and looked at each other..." His eyes seemed to be burning now, even though he couldn't see.

"On one of those moments," Sherlock said. "If I had acted on the impulse I failed to recognise at the time, and leaned over and kissed you," he pressed their foreheads together, the words breathed out huskily only inches from John's mouth.

"If I had pushed you up against the wall and pressed our bodies close and kept on kissing you, until neither of us remembered we were supposed to be breathing..." His fingers stroked along John's jaw.

"If that had happened, back when I had my sight... are you saying you would have stopped me and insisted on taking things slowly?" He released his hold and sat back, clearly feeling he had made his point.

John could feel the flush rising all the way up his chest and over his face as Sherlock perfectly described one of his most recurring fantasies, as if he was watching it play out on video inside John's head.

He cleared his throat and tried to reply, but his voice wouldn't work. He raised a hand, saw it was shaking, and let it fall.

"Sherlock." It came out as a croak. He tried again. "Sherlock." That was better. "When you said you had no experience, did you really mean NO experience, or just that you hadn't actually had sex?"

Sherlock was looking increasingly impatient. "I meant what I said, John," he replied. "It's never interested me at all – whatever intimacy you're currently wondering if I have participated in, the answer is sure to be 'No'. Do you want to be more specific, or are you going to answer my question?"

John ran a hand through his hair. "I'm sorry," he said. "But that was a fuck-hot description of a kiss for a man who's never had one. You can't blame me for wondering."

A strange look passed across Sherlock's face, but he just raised his eyebrows. "I may be inexperienced but I don't live in a bubble, John," he said. "Sex is a primary motivator in crime. My factual knowledge is both extensive and wide ranging." He was clearly still waiting for a response.

John drew a deep breath. "OK," he said. "If that had happened, just as you described it..." He paused to clear his head again. "Then no, I wouldn't have stopped you. Stopping you would have been the last thing on my mind."

"But," he added, putting his hand over Sherlock's. "But... If I had known that you were a virgin..." He ignored the slight grimace the word produced.

"If I was worried that this was just an experiment for you, and that you would change your mind as suddenly as you had made it up..." His thumb rubbed rhythmically over the back of the hand he held.

"If I was afraid that this one time was all I was ever going to have... then, yes," he confirmed, sitting back. "Yes, I would have stopped you."

He paused, then added honestly, "Even though it would have half-killed me to do it."

Sherlock raised a hand to John's face again, just checking his expression this time as he so often did. He must have been able to feel the heat from the flush which had yet to dissipate and, after a little while, he nodded.

"All right, John," he said. "This is your lesson, you're in charge." He shrugged his shoulders. "Go ahead."

John tried to pull himself together. "OK," he said. "Have you ever had a massage?"

Sherlock shook his head. "I don't like strangers touching me," he explained. "Well," he added, "I say strangers. I don't really like anybody touching me. Except for you, John." He smiled. "I think we have established by now that you are the exception to most of my rules."

John cleared his throat. "Well, I'm not trained in massage, by any means, but that's not what this is about. Let's call it... an experiment in touch."

He took Sherlock's hand in his and turned it over, then started running his index finger along the inside of the wrist, gradually moving over his palm, then along and between his fingers.

"There's a towel in the middle of the bed," he said, unfastening the button at Sherlock's cuff and stroking lightly up his inner arm, then back down again.

"I'm going to go and fetch a couple of things, while you get ready." His eyes were following the progress being made by his finger as it moved over the pale skin before him, tracing the delicate veins of Sherlock's wrist. "I would suggest you change into your pyjama pants, if you're comfortable with that, then lie down on the towel. Your back seems a good place to start, so lie on your front."

He turned Sherlock's hand over again and laced their fingers together. "Does that sound all right?" He looked up.

Sherlock's lips were parted and his head was down. He nodded, but didn't say anything.

"Right," continued John, getting to his feet. "I'll be a few minutes so take your time. I'll knock before I come back in."

He left the room quickly, before the temptation to just push Sherlock down onto his back and climb on top of him became overwhelming.

Running up the stairs to his bedroom, he grabbed the bottle of massage oil from the back of his nightstand then headed to the kitchen, where he filled a bowl with hot water and stood the bottle in it, flipping the top open at the same time. Leaving it to warm, he walked into the living room and moved to the window, raising his hand to rest on the frame and looking blindly out at the street below, wondering what the hell he was doing.

Was he just torturing himself? Did he really believe that Sherlock Holmes... genius, self-professed sociopath, aloof, proud, prickly madman, actually wanted to become embroiled in one of the messy, personal relationships which he so despised, and with him – John Watson, the very personification of ordinary?

John closed his eyes and leaned forward, resting his forehead against the glass. Wasn't it more likely that Sherlock was bored? Bored and curious and with only John available to experiment on?

He squared his shoulders, pushing the negative thoughts out of his head. It was impossible for him to judge Sherlock's motivations, since he wasn't sure that the man understood them himself and his brain functioned on an entirely different level anyway. John didn't know what was at the root of this sudden interest, but he chose to believe that Sherlock would not deliberately just use him.

He would need to proceed with care and caution if he wanted Sherlock. And he did want Sherlock. He wanted Sherlock very badly indeed. The fact that he had always assumed Sherlock was the one thing he could never have, had not lessened his desire in the slightest.

Fine. He would never have pushed for anything, or taken advantage in any way, but if the game was on, with Sherlock as the prize, then John was going to do his damnedest to win.

He straightened up, determination lengthening his stride as he collected the oil from the kitchen and made his way back to Sherlock's room, where he tapped on the door as promised.

"I'm ready, John," came the deep voice from within.

He opened the door, then stopped dead one step into the room. Sherlock was lying face down in the centre of the bed, as requested, but he wasn't wearing his pyjama bottoms. Clearly he was determined to test the limits as far as possible. John supposed he should be glad that he had, at least, retained his underwear.

He set his jaw. Right. Two could play at this game, and only one of them knew what he was doing. The fact that his desire for the body he now saw laid out before him seemed to be getting stronger each day, was just another challenge to be met.

He was not going to let Sherlock have his way and get what he wanted immediately. He was going to keep that interest focused on himself for as long as possible; make sure that Sherlock still had more to learn, more to investigate, more to keep him coming back to John.

Eyes on the prize, Watson, he told himself, and stripped off his shirt.

Sherlock was very aware of John's position as he moved around the room. There was a dull thud as he put something down on the table, then a rustle of clothing – was John getting undressed too?

No, just his shirt by the sound of it, but then – he didn't take those off over his head; he must have removed his T-shirt as well. That meant they were both topless.

Sherlock shivered, even though the room was warm. He felt quite exposed, lying here in only his shorts, but it wasn't an unpleasant feeling.

The footsteps paused at the bottom of the bed. There was no reason for John to stop there and Sherlock felt the hairs on his legs stand up as John's gaze swept over him.

He half expected to be asked again if he was sure, but John didn't say a word. Perhaps he had taken to heart Sherlock's reaction at being patronised earlier – a kiss in the hallway must have been something he had thought about himself, judging from his reaction, because he had clearly assumed it was his own fantasy that had been deduced and described so emotively.

Sherlock couldn't divulge that it was actually he who kept thinking of those moments; that ever since their sleepy kiss a week ago, it was Sherlock who often found himself dwelling on what if?, his own imaginings which he had ruthlessly used in order to make his point.

A slight scraping noise brought his focus back to the present, as what sounded like one of the ceramic bowls from the kitchen was placed on the nightstand next to Sherlock's side of the bed.

It struck him how quickly he had got used to having a 'side' of the bed, rather than just sprawling across it as he had always done. Surely that should have been a bigger adjustment? It was altogether strange how John had just slotted into his life.

Sherlock had moved the pillows when he lay down, and had both arms raised and folded under his head, with his face turned towards the door. This meant that John was effectively behind him now and Sherlock felt the dip as he sat on the edge of the mattress, removing his shoes and socks.

Sherlock lay still, waiting. Everything was silent, then a voice spoke by his ear.

"You are beautiful," it said, breath gliding over the skin of his neck and shoulder. "The most beautiful thing I've ever seen."

John sat back and it occurred to Sherlock, who had always considered beauty to be one of life's more significant irrelevancies, that he was glad. He was glad that John found him attractive.

He liked it when he knew that John was looking at him – even before, when he had mistakenly thought that their conversation at Angelo's had eradicated any romantic interest, he had still been aware that John found him aesthetically pleasing, had known better than to talk to him when they were going up the stairs.

Had this feeling always been there, then, just simmering under the surface? How ironic that it took blindness to open his eyes, to make him see that he wanted John to want him.

He heard sounds of liquid, water, presumably, in the bowl and something more viscous. Oil, he realised.

Sherlock lay in his darkness... waiting, anticipating, wondering what John would do and how it would feel.

John rubbed the oil between his palms, then swung one leg over Sherlock's hips so that he was kneeling astride him. He looked at the expanse of smooth, pale skin before him and then he looked at his hands; they were completely steady.

Heart pounding loudly in his ears, still finding it hard to believe that he was actually allowed to do this, he lowered his hands until they rested lightly on either side of Sherlock's spine, just above his hips.

He waited, feeling the contact like static running up his arms, just gently flexing his fingers. Sherlock had tensed at first but he was relaxing again now. John skimmed his hands lightly up, over the shoulder blades which gleamed palely in the light, and across, then out and down over the ribs, returning to where he had started. He moved slowly and deliberately, wanting to give Sherlock time to get used to the sensation.

Repeating his actions, he leaned forward and let his eyes travel with his fingers, identifying scars, admiring the breadth of shoulder and the lean muscles; his hands splaying out as he passed over Sherlock's ribs again – not quite so evident now as they had been, due to more regular meals and less jumping across rooftops.

Several more passes and he was pressing a little harder, movements getting slightly bigger, hands straying more widely. They brushed along Sherlock's lower ribs, just at the sides of his body, and Sherlock squirmed.

John didn't say anything, keeping the motion going, pressing in with the heels of his hands on the way up, and with his fingers on the way down. After a couple more circuits he strayed to Sherlock's sides once more, testing.

Sherlock wriggled again, a strange gasp bursting from his lips, and John leaned forward, leaving his hands where they were.

"Sherlock," he murmured, watching goose bumps rise where his breath fell. "Sherlock, are you ticklish?" He brushed over the sensitive areas again.

"I don't know, John." The response was breathless. "I think I must be. Don't..." he squirmed again and John relented, smiling, moving his hands onwards and finally lowering his body so that he was actually sitting astride Sherlock's hips.

How could anyone get to their mid thirties, he wondered, without even knowing that they were ticklish? In a way, that was even odder than the lack of sex and John suddenly felt sad for Sherlock, and for the lonely life he had led all these years.

A life busy with work, with the thrill of the hunt, with The Game, but also an empty life in many ways, with no-one who cared if he didn't eat for days, no-one to admire his incredible achievements and abilities, no-one to patch him up if he was injured or to give him a hug if a hug was required. There was just Sherlock... the closest thing to an island any man could be.

John's hands were making half-circles now, working together up one side of Sherlock's back and then the other, and it came to him that he should stop worrying about whether or not Sherlock really wanted him, wanted this. That was important, certainly, John would always respect people's choices, but Sherlock needed him.

It was a strange and alien thought to John, who was not remotely egotistical, but he could see the truth of it now. Sherlock with John worked much better than Sherlock alone. Not just 'worked' in the sense of his work, although that too, certainly. But Sherlock the man, the brilliant, lunatic, dazzling man; he needed someone like John to ground him, to hold his strings and stop him getting lost in his head, to remind him that he was human.

Except, there wasn't anybody like John. That was the thought which was so shocking. For some reason, out of all the people he had met over the course of his life, the only one Sherlock had accepted was John... they just seemed to fit together.

Sherlock was stretching now, rolling his shoulders in time with John's movements and... was he humming? John leaned forward, sliding his left hand up to the back of Sherlock's neck and reaching for the oil with his right, managing to tip a little into his palm one-handed, so that they never lost the skin contact.

He brought both hands to Sherlock's shoulders and started kneading the muscles a little more deeply and yes, there was definitely some sort of noise coming from the man beneath him – it sounded like a low hum, with an occasional rumbling growl thrown in. John wondered if Sherlock was even aware that he was doing it.

He rose up on to his knees again so that he could lean further, his hands moving along Sherlock's upper arms now, where they were raised supporting his head. Sherlock moaned quietly, twisting his neck until his head was facing down, forehead pressed to the mattress, and then he stretched his arms straight up, muscles flexing as his hands found and gripped the railings of his headboard.

John caught his breath and had to remind his hands to keep moving as the vision before him set off an entirely new chain of fantasies... Sherlock tied to the rails rather than holding on to them... Sherlock on his back, naked, his mouth quirking in that suggestive way he had, helpless and yet still thinking he was in charge... John demonstrating the error of that assumption, breaking him down using every trick he'd learned over the years until Sherlock was writhing beneath him, head thrown back as he tugged against the restraints, yet not really wanting to be free.

John's heart was thumping and his jeans were uncomfortably tight but he kept going, edging up the bed and smoothing his hands right up Sherlock's arms until his oiled fingers were laced between Sherlock's own, reinforcing their grip, before stroking back down to focus once more on his shoulders and the sides of his neck.

He lowered his head again. "You feel amazing," he murmured, allowing his mouth to graze the outer edge of Sherlock's ear. "I could do this to you for hours."

He felt the shudder run right the way through Sherlock's body and the hands holding the railing clenched hard, knuckles standing out white even against the pale skin. At this stage, thought John, he would have to say that the experiment in touch seemed to be going very well indeed...

Sherlock had never imagined anything like this.

It had taken a while to get used to the sensation of hands moving over his skin, but soon it started to feel soothing and warm and really, very pleasant indeed. He wondered why he'd never tried having a massage before, but then considered the thought of someone else touching him, with hands that weren't John's hands, and he knew the answer.

When John's fingers had grazed over the sides of his lower ribs, he found himself squirming – it was too sensitive, the feeling too intense and almost itchy. Perhaps this was not for him, after all. But John had moved his hands away, chuckling something about being ticklish, and then lowered his weight down until he was actually sitting astride Sherlock, giving him something else to focus on.

He could feel the fabric of John's jeans rubbing against his flanks, even through the material of his shorts. It would be better really, more comfortable, if John wasn't wearing them – he opened his mouth to suggest this, then thought better of it. He didn't want John to get up. He would tell him next time, Sherlock decided. Perhaps by then they could have dispensed with these annoying clothes all together.

John's hands were alternating now, making it difficult to determine exactly where the next pressure point would be. It felt wonderful, it felt like... he tried to think, but his brain seemed to have switched to 'Stand By' mode. It felt... it felt as if John's feelings were seeping out through his fingers and warming the flesh beneath, Sherlock concluded, slightly hazily.

He was aware as never before of how much he meant to John. He knew that he wasn't an easy man to love; very few people had ever got close enough to try, not that he would have wanted them to. But John had. John really did love him, regardless of whether he had said the words or not, that was irrelevant. It was in everything that he did, every move he made, irrefutable.

It had taken a lot of courage for John to risk this, Sherlock realised. He knew that caring left people open to pain. John had taken a chance on him, a big chance really, Sherlock being as he was. It was quite a responsibility; he didn't want to hurt John, his only friend.

He would stop pushing and let John set the pace, Sherlock decided, his thoughts trailing off as John's hands kept moving and he felt as if he was getting warmer – to a greater degree than he would have expected from friction alone. He flexed his shoulders gently, stretching and arching his back as John's hands stroked over him. It was odd; in one way very relaxing, and yet at the same time he was aware of a growing tension.

When John's focus moved up to his shoulders, it felt amazingly good. Then the weight was gone from his hips as John leaned over him, hands smoothing over his upper arms. Sherlock could picture in his head how they must look; himself stretched out on the bed, almost naked, with John virtually on top of him, stroking him, completely focused on him.

He was surprised by the sound that escaped his lips, and stretched again, hands reaching up over his head. His fingers brushed against the railings of the headboard and he took hold, suddenly wanting to anchor himself against the feeling that was running though his body.

He heard John's breath catch, then hands were moving along his arms, right the way up to where his own were wrapped around the railings. John linked their fingers together, his breathing becoming heavier, and it suddenly felt as if John were restraining him, holding him down. Sherlock felt something coiling low in his belly, the tension he was feeling growing stronger.

When John's lips brushed his ear, his body started trembling and he tightened his grip on the railings. This was fast becoming too much, the sensations too overwhelming and strange; perhaps John had been right to insist on taking things slowly, because Sherlock's physical reaction was far beyond what he was prepared for, and yet... and yet he didn't want to stop...

As if sensing how he felt, John eased back, his touch growing lighter as he shifted down the bed until he straddled Sherlock once more and started simply dragging the tips of his fingers down from shoulders to hips, then circling lightly back and doing it again, the pressure reducing each time until it was just the lightest of brushes over the surface of his skin.

After a few minutes, John's hands finally stopped moving, coming to rest where they had first started, as if they couldn't quite bear to lose the contact.

There was a brief silence, then John spoke, his voice husky. "Do you want me to do your front?" he asked.

Sherlock shivered. Although John's hands had gentled towards the end, his movements as he worked had been rubbing Sherlock's hips against the bed and he was well aware that his body's reaction would be only too evident if he turned over.

He propped himself up on his elbows and turned his head towards John, deliberately displaying the flush in his cheeks and the rapid pulse beating in his throat. He opened his eyes, knowing that his pupils would be blown wide.

"That," he said, his voice sounding unusually deep, "would depend entirely upon your meaning."

An hour later, John lay on his back in the dark, fingers stroking through the still damp curls on top of Sherlock's head.

There was a warm body pressed up against his side, an arm wrapped around his middle, leg thrown over his own, so that John was effectively pinned in place. Not that he wanted to go anywhere; not at all.

Once John had declared the massage over, Sherlock had stayed face down for a few minutes before going off to take the first shower. When John returned from his own time in the bathroom it was to find the room in darkness, with Sherlock right in the middle of the bed and not a cushion to be found anywhere.

He had made a half-hearted attempt to look for them, but when Sherlock assured him that he was wasting his time, it seemed pointless to try any longer; although how a blind man had managed to conceal such a large quantity of bulky items was anybody's guess.

His hand slipped down to the back of Sherlock's neck. He wasn't asleep, John knew. He was no doubt replaying this latest experience; categorising, classifying, analysing everything as he always did. After a little while, John gathered his courage and asked the million dollar question.

"What did you think?" He spoke quietly, but the words still sounded loud in his ears.

Sherlock tipped his head up and exhaled, his breath hot across John's collar bones. "Don't know," he replied. "Dangerous to jump to conclusions. Need more data." He wrapped his arm more tightly around John, squeezing him closer and speaking into his neck. "Need lots more data," he said.

John opened his mouth to reply but was interrupted by the chime of a text message. He stretched towards the bedside table but wasn't able to reach his phone with Sherlock pinning him down, and the man seemed in no hurry to release him. John sighed. "Could be dangerous," he tried.

Sherlock snorted. "That's my line," he objected, but he leaned across anyway, his longer arm reaching the phone easily. "I miss texting," he complained, handing the phone to John.

"You used to make me send them half the time," John pointed out, pushing Sherlock off so that he could sit up. "You can dictate a reply to this one as well, it's for you." He scrolled down the message quickly, as Sherlock sat up too and rested his chin on John's shoulder, arms slipping around his waist.

"It's from Lestrade," John reported. "Sorry to contact you so late... blah, blah, blah... He's asking us to come down to the Yard in the morning, wants your advice on a case." He looked round. "What do you think?"

Sherlock's face was illuminated by the light from the phone, and he was smiling. "I think we're ready, John," he said.

Artwork for this chapter:

The Massage by KrisKenshin

An Experiment in Touch by Haigidal

I Think We're Ready, by tigerkatz


Chapter Text

"Hello, freak."

Lestrade opened his mouth, obviously meaning to reprimand Sally, but John caught his eye and shook his head; Sherlock was smiling.

"Good morning, Sally," he replied, as she walked into the office where the three men were standing. "How lovely to hear your dulcet tones again, it's been too long."

Sally smiled, a little sadly, at John, who nodded to her as she gave the file she carried to Lestrade before moving to the seat in the corner. That couldn't have been easy, John realised. Most people were tiptoeing around Sherlock, which he hated, but she had clearly decided to treat him as normal, even though it left her open to criticism in the circumstances. John had never really had much time for Sally, but he appreciated her consistency.

Lestrade spoke up. "You're sure about this, Sherlock?" he checked again. Sherlock ignored him.

"We're sure," replied John, flexing his arm to squeeze Sherlock's fingers in reproof. Considering how eager he had been to come in to The Yard today, you'd think he could put a bit more effort into being pleasant. Then again, that didn't really sound like Sherlock.

"OK," Lestrade began. "We're looking for a missing Au Pair."

Sherlock's eyebrows rose. "Well," he drawled. "Thank goodness you haven't called me in here for anything trivial."

"Ha ha," retorted Lestrade, apparently relaxing a little as Sherlock proved that his character, at least, was unaffected by his injury – he was just as snarky as ever. "This particular Au Pair went to a job interview, gave the home owner a fatal blow to the skull, then disappeared with a substantial amount of jewellery and cash. So far we've tracked her as far as the railway station, but that's it. We can't turn up any leads, we've got virtually nothing to go on and we're-"

"Out of your depth?" interrupted Sherlock.

John noticed Sally rolling her eyes in the corner, but she was smiling. She saw him looking and shrugged.

"A fresh perspective would certainly be welcome," admitted Lestrade. He passed a few photographs to John. "These are from the crime scene – the body was discovered two days ago, so there's nothing to see..." He froze at his own terminology but then just smiled apologetically and carried on. "I can tell you about the case, the steps we've taken…"

Sherlock held up his hand to stop the flow. "John?" he said, turning to face the man whose arm he hadn't released since they left their flat.

John studied the first photo. "OK, average sized sitting room, pair of armchairs at right angles to each other set back from the fireplace. Victim is lying face down on the rug in front of the chairs. Evidence of blunt force trauma to the back of the head, impossible to determine the weapon from this photo. Position of the body and angle of wound suggests that she was sitting down when the blow was struck from behind, but it must have been quite forcible as the victim is some distance from the chair, with arms out-flung and her shoes have come off."

He paused and Sherlock squeezed his arm encouragingly. "Victim has shoulder length blond hair, average height and build, smartly dressed. Skin, physique and apparel would indicate fairly young, probably in her twenties."

John looked up at Lestrade. "What makes you so sure the Au Pair did it? Surely the husband is usually the first to be suspected?"

Lestrade's eyebrows rose. "Looks like you've picked up a thing or two, John," he said.

John noticed Sherlock's half smile from the corner of his eye before Lestrade carried on, glancing at the file as he recited.

"Philip Harbrook, quite a bit older than his wife, has a young daughter from previous marriage – hence the need for an Au Pair. Was a widower until three months ago, when he married the deceased. Whirlwind romance, apparently, he was certainly in a right state when he had to identify the body."

Lestrade was usually more sympathetic than that, John thought. Clearly he hadn't liked the husband.

"He left for work at eight a.m.," Lestrade continued, "dropping his daughter off at nursery en route, and was in constant company from nine o'clock until his wife's body was discovered by the woman who turned up to be interviewed at two. We've already spoken to the ten and eleven o'clock appointments, so Mrs Harbrook was definitely alive when he left."

John glanced through the other photos. "There are a few close-ups," he told Sherlock. "Nothing much to add; minimal jewellery, but it all looks clean – just a gold necklace and bracelet, and her wedding ring." He peered at the photo more closely. "It looks a bit tight and there's an inscription but I can't read it..."

"It says, 'Now and Forever' with their names and the date," chipped in Sally. "Is that important?" she asked, looking hopeful.

"Unlikely," Sherlock told her dismissively, before turning back to Lestrade. "We need to see the crime scene," he stated. There was silence and he shook his head. "Oh, don't be so pedantic. Fine, we need to go to the crime scene so that John can see it and I can visualise it. Is that better?"

"I'll take you," Sally volunteered, quite possibly to the surprise of everyone in the room. "What?" she demanded. "I'm not a total bitch, you know!"

Sherlock sat in the taxi, pondering his current situation. There was no point thinking further about the case until he had more data, and he was more than capable of maintaining several trains of thought anyway. He found his mind kept circling back to John, and the way their relationship had changed since the previous evening.

The massage had been… well, almost overwhelming really. Unlike anything else in his experience. It seemed clear that the whole area of physical relations was worthy of further study.

He had never really taken much notice of his physical self, other than to be annoyed when it let him down and insisted on food or sleep at inconvenient times. Now he realised that he would need to pay closer attention to his body's reactions, in order to better understand John's. He thought back, remembering the moment when he woke face down on the bed that morning and realised that his left hand was resting on John's belly…

Very low on John's belly. It was interesting, when one considered that John's 'pro-cushion' argument had largely been based on his fear of molesting Sherlock in his sleep; because it would initially seem that the opposite scenario was much more likely. John still lay flat on his back, on his own side of the bed, just exactly as normal. It was Sherlock who had thrown out a possessive arm, which was now laying claim to John in a most decided manner.

There were no signs of an imminent awakening and Sherlock stayed very still, concentrating on the sensations in his hand. The experiment in touch had been exceedingly one-sided thus far, which struck him as unbalanced and unacceptable.

He could feel a thin sliver of skin along the line of his middle finger, and used his thumb to delicately nudge the bottom edge of John's T-Shirt up, until he could feel bare skin beneath the top half of his hand. John slept on and Sherlock gradually moved his hand up, then slipped his little finger under the waistband of John's pyjama bottoms, making way for his fourth finger also, until his hand was resting in the exact position he had woken up in, but this time under John's clothes instead of on top of them. That was much better.

Focusing again, Sherlock could feel the line of hair which was widening the lower his hand reached. It felt different to that on his own abdomen, surely? Carefully, so as not to wake John, he slid his right hand underneath his own body until it mirrored the position of his left. Interesting.

John's hair was thicker and felt more… furry? The lack of visual information was extremely annoying. Encouraged by John's continued slumber, he flexed his hand gently, concentrating his attention on the information gathered by his finger tips. John's skin was surprisingly soft... and very warm.

Both of his hands had slipped slightly lower, just for comparative purposes, obviously, when something grazed the knuckles of his left hand. Sherlock froze, mentally chiding himself.

Although they rarely troubled him personally, he was aware of the phenomenon of morning erections – it should have occurred to him that John might be in this condition.

Two things then divided his attention, the first being the surprisingly strong urge to turn his hand over and wrap it around John. Sherlock resisted this impulse, part of his brain warning that to take such an action towards a sleeping man, with whom one was not yet intimately involved, could certainly be considered overly familiar. The second distraction was the unexpected fact that his own body seemed to be reacting to mirror John's, which was somewhat uncomfortable in his current position.

He was still debating the best course of action when John mumbled something in his sleep and then stretched, spine arching off the bed as he did so. Sherlock took the opportunity to slip his hand up to a less controversial area and turned on to his side.

"Good morning, Sherlock," John muttered, clearly still half asleep. Sherlock was startled to realise that, for the first time since leaving the hospital, the fear of the aphasia returning hadn't even crossed his mind. He opened his eyes, trying to make less of an issue of it, but everything was still black.

John rolled towards him, then stopped abruptly. "Oh," he said, obviously surprised to see Sherlock's eyes already open. "You OK?"

"You're very distracting," Sherlock complained. "I want to know things about you."

John chuckled. "I'm distracting?" he queried. "You're the one with his hand up my T-Shirt, thank you very much." He reached out his own hand to smooth over Sherlock's skin, duplicating the movement of the palm which was now resting on his lower back. "Anyway, what do you want to know?"

"Everything," said Sherlock, deciding to follow John's lead and just ignore the odd erection situation. "I want to know why you are different to everybody else and if you always will be. I want to know why you want me, and if you also want anybody else and if you've ever wanted anybody else the way you want me and how long this is going to last. I want to know why the hair on your belly feels different to mine and what other differences there are and how they feel. I want to know what your face looks like when you're aroused and I want you to kiss me and I want to know why you wouldn't."

"Bloody hell," said John. "It's a bit early for the Spanish Inquisition."

Sherlock huffed. "I'm not asking you questions," his tone clearly added the word 'idiot' to the end of his sentence. "I will deduce the answers."

"Well, best of luck with that," replied John good-naturedly. "Let me know if you get stuck on anything."

Sherlock was snapped out of his reverie by a question from Sally, who was sitting on the flip-down seat across from them.

"So, how are things going?" she asked.

"It's a bit early for a conclusion, isn't it?" Sherlock replied, his eyebrows rising. "Surely, even a consulting detective needs a little more to go on?"

Sally sighed. "I meant with you," she clarified. "How are you getting on with... everything? Have you been going to classes, that kind of thing?"

"Classes?" echoed Sherlock. What on earth was the woman going on about now?

"You know," Sally tried to explain. "How to cope with blindness, getting your independence back, learning to manage on your own, that kind of thing. You know, classes?" She sounded as if she regretted asking at all.

"Why would I want to do that?" Sherlock asked her. Really, it was no wonder the police force was in such a sorry state. "I have John," he added, just in case she still didn't understand.

There was silence. Sherlock slightly tightened his grip on John, who returned the pressure as usual. He assumed the line of enquiry was finished with, but it seemed Sally was merely getting her breath back.

"But..." she was apparently experiencing some word blindness of her own. "But... you can't expect John to be available to you 24/7," she protested. "He has his own life to lead. He's a doctor, for God's sake!"

"He's my doctor," pointed out Sherlock.

"He's your doctor, so he's not allowed to have any other patients and has to be on call every hour of the day and night?" demanded Sally. "Does that seem reasonable?"

"How do you put up with him?" The last question was clearly not directed towards himself.

Sherlock turned his head, interested to hear how John would explain their situation.

"I think we're here," said John.

The apartment they had pulled up at looked affluent and John took the opportunity to quiz Sally further about the case, moving thankfully on from the awkward conversation in the cab.

She seemed happy enough to answer his questions as they walked towards the building, John muttering directions and warnings of steps under his breath.

"Mr Harbrook had some money from his first marriage, but this place was paid for by the deceased – she had a sizeable trust fund, although they couldn't touch the capital. The income alone was enough to pay for all this." She waved her arm around to indicate the general splendour, as she put the key in the lock. "They're still living here, Mr Harbrook and his daughter, although they're out at the moment, but the living room is taped off as a crime scene," she explained.

"What happens to all the money now?" asked John, still thinking that the husband was a far more likely contender than some mysterious disappearing Au Pair.

"Oh, he gets it," Sally told him. "Various charitable donations but then it's his, free and clear." They exchanged looks. "Believe me, if I could pin this on him, I'd do it in a flash, but his alibi is rock solid and there's no evidence that he had anything to do with the job applicants – his wife advertised the position, made the appointments, all the diary notes are in her hand-writing and she's the only one the others spoke to. There doesn't seem to be anything to tie him in at all."

By this time they had reached the room and Sally lifted the tape, John putting his hand on the back of Sherlock's head to guide him as they ducked under it.

Sally carried on. "Also, the missing woman did get away with around half a million pounds worth of jewellery plus an unspecified amount of cash – Mr Harbrook wasn't sure how much was stolen."

Sherlock wanted to stand exactly where the victim had been found, while John described the room in meticulous detail, from the furnishings – posh, the décor – cold, the artwork – modern, the photographs – all of the little girl, who looked around three years old on the more recent snaps, the layout of the room, the open desk diary, which just showed 'Miss J', 'Miss B' etc. written under appointments, with a pot of pens to the left and the CVs of the job applicants to the right – all present apart from the mysterious 'Miss K', who was noted down as the twelve noon interview.

He then positioned himself in the chair in which the victim was supposedly sitting at the time of the attack, while John read out the autopsy report.

It turned out the murder weapon had already been identified as a heavy statue which usually sat on the corner of the desk; it was of two hands holding up a globe. "Looks a bit like the World Cup," John explained, but Sherlock didn't seem to find that information at all helpful, so he returned to the strictly factual.

"Injuries consistent with a single blow from the murder weapon. Not a massive amount of strength required if the victim was sitting at the time. Angle of blow suggests assailant was probably left handed, death virtually instantaneous."

"Describe the body, John," requested Sherlock, who had his hands steepled together under his chin. "Ignore what you know, or think you know, and just give me the facts."

John glanced through the report again, examining the photos more closely. "OK, white female, mid to late twenties, five feet five inches tall, around 130 pounds. Fair skin, blonde hair, blue eyes. C.O.D.: massive blunt force trauma to the head. Some abrasions to both knees, scraping evident on knuckle of fourth finger of left hand, calluses on the finger tips of the left hand and the nails are bitten short, but the nails on the right hand are longer." He looked up. "Is this helping?"

"Oh, I think so," replied Sherlock, smiling. "I think things are becoming very clear, don't you?"

John and Sally looked at each other. John shrugged, Sally rolled her eyes. "Do you want to go to the railway station?" she asked. "There's some film of the Au Pair heading into the cloakrooms, we tracked her that far looking at CCTV footage from the street but we haven't been able to spot her coming out – maybe you'll have some ideas?"

"I think that would be entirely pointless," said Sherlock. "Morgue next, please. And Sally, could you bring the victim's personal effects? And possibly Lestrade, also?"

Sally looked taken aback and glanced questioningly at John, who shrugged his shoulders again. It would seem that Sherlock was on to something, but what it was, John had absolutely no idea.

"So why do you want D.I. Lestrade?" she asked. "Going to explain the whole thing to him, are you?"

"Oh no," replied Sherlock, smiling smugly as he stood and held out his hand for John. "I'm not going to tell him anything." He turned as he grasped John's hand and pulled him nearer. "John's going to show him."

Sherlock could feel John's frustration as they got into a taxi, leaving Sally to make her own way back to Scotland Yard. It was a strange sort of awareness and didn't seem to have any logical basis, but he tugged John closer anyway, wrapping an arm around him.

John huffed. "Are you going to tell me what's going on?" he asked. "Or are you just going to wait for me to make a prat of myself in front of Lestrade?"

Sherlock shrugged. "I only know what you told me," he pointed out. "I could be wrong."

"Yeah, like that's going to happen," muttered John.

Sherlock smiled; John always had such confidence in him. It was completely justified, of course, but nice all the same. The case was almost certainly solved and Sherlock started to consider what Sally had been saying in the taxi earlier. "Do I take you for granted, John?" he asked.

"Yes," said John, immediately. Perhaps a little bit too immediately, Sherlock thought. He let his arm fall and John sighed, nudging against him until he replaced it.

"It's not a new thing, you've always done it," John explained, moving his hand to rest on Sherlock's knee. "Good grief, you dragged me half way across London to send a text for you the night after we met."

"And you shot a man to save me that same night," Sherlock observed, quietly.

"I did." John seemed to come to a decision. "So, it's OK. Yes, you do take me for granted, but only because I let you." He squeezed Sherlock's knee and turned to face him. "You can't take advantage of someone against their will. It's my choice."

Sherlock wasn't sure how to respond, but he sensed that this was important to John, so he waited.

"I could have wounded that cabbie when I shot him, but I didn't," John continued, his voice low. "He threatened you and I killed him." He paused, before admitting, "I would have killed a hundred cabbies to save you."

"Even back then?" Sherlock was surprised.

"Almost straight away," John told him. "I couldn't have even told you why, at first." He shrugged. "I mean, I knew I was attracted to you - that was immediate."

"And obvious," Sherlock chipped in smugly.

"Yes, OK, thank you," John carried on. "But I felt connected to you way beyond that. I'm not going to call it 'love at first sight' because I think that's ridiculous, I didn't know you at all. It was more like..."

"Recognition," Sherlock agreed.

By the time Lestrade and Sally got to the morgue, John was getting worried.

He didn't know what Sherlock expected him to do, or how to go about it, and Molly had wheeled in the trolley then burst into tears and disappeared, leaving them with the body. The situation, John felt, was less than ideal.

Sherlock had no such qualms. "Come on, John," he prompted. "I want to see the body. Well," he added, "the hands, at least."

John was just leading him to the table when the door banged as Lestrade and Sally arrived, Sally carrying a bag which presumably contained the effects Sherlock had asked for.

They looked towards the table, where Sherlock was using his fingers to examine the victim's left hand. "John, what do you make of this?" he demanded.

Lestrade spoke up. "You'd better have something solid for me Sherlock," he warned. "If I've just trailed all the way down here for some speculation, I'm not going to be happy."

"You called us, remember?" Sherlock pointed out. "John," he spoke again. "Look at this hand."

Raising his arms in a gesture of defeat towards Lestrade, John moved to the body and examined the appendage in question. "OK, yes," he confirmed. "The knuckle on the fourth finger is badly abraded, more so than was evident from the photograph."

"But what of the hand all together?" asked Sherlock. "Does anything strike you, doctor?"

John looked at it again. It looked like a hand. "Well, there are the calluses on the ends of the fingers – perhaps she played a stringed instrument?" he ventured.

"Good," said Sherlock. "Go on..."

John was thinking about playing instruments. "She'd have an advantage there because she has big hands," he said. "Well, big in proportion to her size."

"Excellent," said Sherlock, as Lestrade shuffled his feet impatiently. "Big hands and..."

John glanced down the trolley. "Yes, big feet too," he confirmed. "Wait; no-one's mentioned her feet. How did you know that?"

"What size would you say, doctor?" Sherlock asked, clasping his hands together.

Sally was rummaging through the evidence bag. "Size six," she said, pulling out a black court shoe.

Everyone looked doubtfully at the feet on the trolley.

"Go on then," invited Sherlock. "You might as well try it."

Sally passed the shoe to John, who did just that, but it was immediately obvious that the shoe was much too small.

"No Cinderella, this girl," said Sherlock. "Allow me to introduce the absent Au Pair."

Lestrade was open-mouthed. "So, if this is the Au Pair, where's the wife?" he demanded. "And how..."

"Why don't you take us through it, Sherlock?" prompted John.

Sherlock grinned. "The first crime scene photo showed the victim wasn't wearing her shoes – shoes don't just fall off that easily, especially not both of them, there had to be a reason. Also, the wedding ring was tight – she's only been married three months, her ring should fit perfectly, so... clearly something wrong with the body."

He was enjoying this, realised John. This was Sherlock in his element, and he was a sight to behold.

"Next, we have the crime scene," he continued. "There are photographs in the room, but none of the wife, not even a wedding photo? Seems a bit odd. Pens on the left of the diary indicate the wife was left-handed, but the victim was clearly right-handed..."

"Er..." Lestrade started to interrupt

"Look at her fingers," Sherlock demanded. "She plays the guitar: longer nails on the right hand for plucking, short nails and calluses on the left from sliding along the strings. Therefore: right handed."

"So," he went on. "If the facts don't fit your solution, then your solution is wrong. Autopsy report suggests the assailant is left-handed – the wife is left-handed. Go from there... Mrs Harbrook interviews Au Pairs, having first selected applicants of a similar physical type to herself. She picks the best candidate, bops them over the head and switches clothes. But she hit a snag – the victim has big hands and feet. The shoes won't fit and have to be left by the body. The ring, however, the engraved ring – that has got to be in place so she forces it on, hence abrasions on the knuckle of that finger."

"Amazing," said Sally. Everyone turned to her and she coughed. "Er, I mean, why would she do that? And how are we going to find her?"

"I would suggest following the husband," Sherlock replied. "He identified the body, they're obviously in it together – you said her money was in trust, they couldn't touch the capital?"

"That's right," said Lestrade. "If they'd staged a fake suicide with no body, they'd have to wait years for the money. With murder, they get it straight away." He shook his head. "I couldn't take to that man at all, what a cold-blooded bastard."

"That poor little girl," said Sally.

John had been thinking. He knew that this was usually a waste of time around Sherlock, as he was almost inevitably wrong when it came to deductions, but this time he couldn't help wondering.

He turned to Lestrade. "What happened to the first wife?" he asked.

"Bloody hell!" said Sally.

Chapter Text

He wanted John, Sherlock realised, as the two of them travelled back to Baker Street.

He wasn't sure exactly in what way, but he definitely wanted John. He wanted to touch him, wanted to feel his skin... how warm it was, how hot. He most definitely wanted to kiss him again, to kiss him properly this time, to find out how he tasted, how they fit together.

Would John be dominant, as he could be sometimes? He had been so self-controlled up to this point, so reluctant to take advantage, always calling a halt. Being careful of Sherlock, so very, very careful; so annoyingly, frustratingly, maddeningly careful.

Sherlock wondered what it would take to break that control. Was there a point at which John would snap, would accept that the attraction was mutual and finally take what he wanted?

He shivered at that thought. He had always needed to be in charge, never liked being told what to do, hated it, even, but the thought of John losing his restraint, giving in to this... whatever it was and just taking him. Well, that thought was a lot more interesting than Sherlock had ever imagined it would be.

He had decided to let John set the pace though, had determined that it was unfair to push him. John had done so well today, being his eyes, letting him work, making him whole. John was important, John was necessary, John was essential. Sherlock's gloved hands clenched on the edge of his seat.

Keep your hands to yourself, John repeated in his head as the taxi made its way through the London traffic.

They hadn't spoken a word to each other since leaving the morgue, but this wasn't their usual, companionable silence – this was anything but. Sherlock had been pleased with him today, John knew. He felt huge relief that Sherlock had solved the case, that he hadn't let him down, that he'd done enough to allow Sherlock to work.

It wasn't relief in the air now, though. This was one of Sherlock's 'moments' – the post-case, adrenaline-high, heart-pounding moments... the difference being that it wasn't just John who was aware of it now. He looked to his left, at Sherlock's hands as they gripped the seat tightly. No indeed, it wasn't just John this time.

As he watched, the arm nearest to him lifted; then Sherlock's other hand moved across and slowly, inch by inch, finger by finger, pulled off the glove, his right hand looking pale and naked as it was gradually revealed. Very deliberately, Sherlock stretched out his arm and rested his hand, palm up, on the seat between them.

That wasn't the hand which had been sneaking into his pyjama bottoms when he woke up this morning, thought John. How a detective of Sherlock's genius had possibly imagined that anyone could sleep through his little grope-fest earlier was almost beyond John's comprehension. He really was as innocent as he claimed.

It had certainly been an unexpected way to wake up and he had lain there, the knowledge of exactly whose long fingers were skimming along the top of his pubic hair, causing him to get very hard, very fast. He had wondered at first what he should do, immediately ruling out the first three ideas which jumped into his head. The fourth possibility had merit; he considered it seriously with the part of his brain which wasn't totally frozen with the words 'Sherlock's hand, Sherlock's hand' playing on a continuous loop, but in the end he decided to just wait and let Sherlock explore, wondering how far he would go.

It was only when he seemed to get stuck and not know what to do, that John had taken pity on him and staged his 'wake-up', resigning himself to yet another shower. At least it wouldn't have to be a cold one, he thought. Since the week before, when Sherlock had insisted that he didn't care what went through John's head, he no longer bothered trying to repress his fantasies.

He looked now at the hand which was lying palm up, as if in offering. The experiment in touch had been a success and Sherlock was clearly ready for more. The question was, how much more?

Sherlock waited, his hand feeling cold and exposed, to see if John would accept his invitation. This wasn't pushing, he reasoned to himself, this was just offering. It wasn't the same thing at all.

Would John understand what he was saying, what he was asking? How could he really, when Sherlock didn't even understand it himself. He just knew that he wanted more. More data... more connection... more John.

His thoughts trailed off as a warm hand closed around his fingers and the heat of it seemed to scorch a trail up his arm. Touch was really an unusual sense, he decided. Less consistent that those on which he was used to relying. How was it that he could hold John's elbow and it would just be for guidance, he could wrap his arms around John, in bed even, and it would simply be comforting and warm, and yet at this moment, with only their hands in contact, he felt naked?

He broke the silence. "John?" His voice didn't sound quite normal.

"Sherlock." John's voice was odd too, a little low, somewhat tense.

Sherlock considered how best to phrase his request, in the end abandoning his usual eloquence in favour of, "Hallway?"

He heard John's indrawn breath and the fingers around his own tightened abruptly, before slackening again.

"I can't," said John. "I can't kiss you like that, not yet, not until you're sure."

Sherlock gritted his teeth. Why on earth was he so drawn to somebody who was so infuriating?

"Don't give me that face," John told him. "I don't mean the same thing that you mean." His thumb traced circles on the back of Sherlock's hand. "I can try to explain it to you but, in all honesty, I don't know if you're capable of understanding."

Sherlock half turned his body and adopted an attentive attitude, one eyebrow raised. This should be interesting.

John sighed. "Kissing is... can be," he corrected, "a very intimate experience." There was silence, just the heat of John's grip and his thumb moving rhythmically over the back of Sherlock's hand.

"With almost anything else, you can distance yourself," he continued. "That may sound odd to you right now, but sometimes you need to do that, to take a step back in your head. Perhaps to prolong things so it's not over too quickly, you don't come too soon – it can be better if you wait. Delayed gratification; do you follow me?"

Sherlock nodded, although it felt very odd to be having this conversation. He'd never discussed this sort of thing with anyone before.

"Kissing isn't like that," John said. "At least, not for me," he added. "It's very personal, you're right there, in that moment, with that person. You're connected."

Sherlock felt his attention sharpen at that word, which he often used in his head in relation to John.

"How personal it is, how intimate it feels, depends on who you're kissing and your emotions towards them," John continued. "I could probably kiss someone else and not have it be that big a deal."

Sherlock frowned. He didn't want John kissing someone else. He certainly didn't want John to be connected to anyone else.

John squeezed his hand more tightly. "It's OK, I'm just trying to explain," he said. "I'm not kissing anybody else." He paused, clearly thinking. "Wait, wasn't that on your list from this morning, of things to be deduced?" he asked, but didn't wait for an answer. "Well, I don't want anyone else, so you can cross that one off."

His thumb went back to the lazy circles. "But to kiss you, Sherlock." He swallowed. "Kissing you would be the biggest deal there ever was." Sherlock cautiously ticked another item off his morning's mental list.

John was still talking, but his voice was from a slightly different angle; he must have his head down. "I've thought about kissing you a thousand times," he said. "Hell, I even dream about it. Recurringly." He sounded fed up with himself. "But I'm glad I haven't. I know we agreed to try this." He lifted their joined hands briefly to illustrate his meaning. "I know you want to explore the sense of touch, investigate the possibilities of a physical relationship and that's fine with me." He cleared his throat. "More than fine," he added.

"But until you have a conclusion, I need to protect myself a little bit. Because I don't want to have to leave if you decide that it's not for you. Do you understand, Sherlock? I don't want to do anything that might make it impossible for me to stay."

At this point, Sherlock realised that his entire contribution to the conversation thus far had been John's name and a prospective venue. It seemed time for him to volunteer a little more.

"And kissing would be over that line?" he asked doubtfully.

"It could be," John confirmed.

"But anything else is fine?"

"Anything else should be fine."

Sherlock thought about that. It was difficult, really, to understand John's perspective. It seemed to go against the typical route of sexual progression as he understood it. However, he had to concede that John's level of self-awareness in this area far exceeded his own. If that was how John felt, he supposed he would have to accept it.

"Look, I'll leave it to you, all right?" John interrupted his thoughts. "You can kiss me when you're sure," he continued. "As soon as you've got enough data, if your conclusion is that you want to be in a proper relationship with me, then fine, go for it."

"But Sherlock," he added. "I'm asking you, as my friend, don't rush that decision. I know you always want to know everything, and it's always now or sooner with you, but please, for my sake, wait until you're sure, OK?"

Sherlock's lips twisted, realising that he had been backed into a corner. He couldn't just announce now that he was sure, John would never believe him. Also, the threat of John leaving was enough to make him more cautious than usual. He would have to wait. He sighed. He hated waiting.

Part of Sherlock's brain had automatically been tracking their route, noting every twist and turn of the journey, and he knew that they were now almost home.

"Fine," he agreed begrudgingly, sighing again. "I just wanted you to kiss me, that's all," he added, aware that he sounded petulant.

There was a flurry of motion, a hand on the side of his jaw and the press of something just below his ear. A touch of lips, a nip of teeth, Sherlock gasped in surprise and something else; something that was more like... anticipation.

John pulled back, but not very far, his words hot against Sherlock's neck. "Oh, I will kiss you, Sherlock. I have no problem kissing you," he said. "I'll kiss you anywhere you like." He grazed his teeth up to Sherlock's ear. "Except on the mouth," he added.

The taxi pulled up on Baker Street and John paid the driver while Sherlock opened the door and climbed out. As John stepped onto the pavement, Sherlock took his hand and placed it carefully over his belt buckle. High enough to be decent, but low enough to make his meaning clear. "Anywhere?" he queried, one eyebrow arched invitingly.

John stumbled as he shut the cab door behind him, but quickly steadied, sliding his other arm under Sherlock's coat and round to his lower back, then squeezing his hands together so he held Sherlock's abdomen sandwiched between them. "God, yes," he breathed.

John's mind was reeling as he released his hold and turned towards their front door. Had he really just agreed to give Sherlock Holmes his first blow job? It certainly seemed that way.

He half wondered if Sherlock was truly ready for that sort of intensity, but quickly dismissed the thought. At least now he had the experience of the massage to draw on, and if he felt confident enough to make the suggestion, then John decided he would respect that decision. After all, John was only human… the chance to get his hands, to get his mouth on Sherlock was not an opportunity he could resist any longer, not when it was so freely, even eagerly, offered.

His right hand closed around Sherlock's wrist and he tugged him quickly towards the front door, left hand searching through his pocket for his keys.

It was at this point that Sherlock froze and placed his other hand over John's, which was just putting the key into the lock. "Wait, John," he said. "Someone's here."

Before John even had chance to look round, Sherlock groaned, then leaned forward until his forehead thudded against the door.

"Good afternoon," Mycroft's voice spoke from behind them. John turned around. The older Holmes was smiling politely, but there was an edge to it; he didn't look happy.

Sherlock spoke without moving. "To what do we owe the displeasure of this extraordinarily badly timed visit?" he asked, with what John felt was understandable rudeness.

"Shall we go in?" Mycroft suggested, gesturing towards the door. John glanced at Sherlock, who looked extremely fed up, then turned the key and led the way inside.

The two brothers sat opposite each other in the armchairs, seemingly engaged in a silent battle of wits while John bustled around making tea. Once everyone had their mugs, the room fell quiet. John leaned against the table, deciding to keep out of it as much as possible.

Eventually, Mycroft spoke. "Are you being entirely wise?" he asked, directing his words towards Sherlock. "Only a week ago, you were happy that Moriarty appeared to underestimate you and yet now, here the pair of you are," his disapproving gaze moved over John also, "deliberately drawing attention to yourselves."

Sherlock curled his lip, but declined to comment.

"He solved the case, you know," John pointed out. "Two cold-blooded killers off the street."

Mycroft looked unimpressed and turned back to Sherlock. "Is it your intention to continue to endanger yourself?" he asked. "To go on playing the blind detective until Moriarty makes another attempt to stop you? An attempt which John may be unable to thwart this time."

"What would you have me do?" demanded Sherlock irritably. "Just sit around until my brain rots completely?"

"I expect you to let me do my job, so that it will be safe for you to go back to doing yours," Mycroft told him. "I have good people working on the Moriarty situation. He won't be a threat forever."

"You don't have anyone as good as Sherlock," John spoke up. "You should be letting him help if you want to catch that psycho; he's probably the only one who can."

Sherlock's lips twitched in a half smile, but Mycroft rose to his feet and his face was cold. "You surprise me, John," he said. "You surprise me very much."

He swung his umbrella to and fro before leaning on it. "I would have thought, given your feelings," there was a slightly disdainful note in his voice, "that you would be more interested in protecting Sherlock and less keen to encourage him into dangerous and potentially deadly situations." He looked down his nose at John, making the most of his height advantage. "I confess myself to be disappointed," he added.

John looked over at Sherlock, whose lips were set in a thin line. Mycroft was displaying a clear example of what John thought of as 'Big Brother syndrome'. He loved Sherlock, but he didn't really respect him. He recognised his brother's genius and was happy to utilise it when the occasion arose, but he still treated him as a child, which, of course, only made Sherlock more determined to be childish.

This explained why Mrs Hudson had mentioned to John early on that the rent was taken care of, and why every time he used the cash point machine the balance seemed unchanged. It also explained why Sherlock had been so unused to praise, despite having a sibling who clearly cared about him. Mycroft was happy to nurture and protect his brother, but he didn't like him making his own choices.

John stood a little straighter, his posture changing along with his attitude, until the man facing Mycroft was the soldier he had first met.

"I understand that you want what's best for Sherlock," he said. "And I recognise that you supported me in the hospital, and since then, because you assumed that my priorities were the same."

He held Mycroft's gaze as he spoke and his voice was strong. "I may be several things to your brother, and it's clearly no secret that I want to be more, but I'm not his keeper." He threw a quick glance towards Sherlock, who looked startled.

"If I try to stop Sherlock from doing what he loves, from being the man that he is, then I might as well shoot him myself," he said bluntly. "If that's what you call love, then you can keep it."

Both of the Holmes brothers wore matching expressions of surprise, and both automatically blanked their faces as Mycroft slowly turned back so that they were facing each other. It occurred to John that Mycroft didn't really need to bother at the moment, but perhaps he thought Sherlock would regain his sight and not admit it... Actually, that was just the sort of thing that Sherlock would do, at least as far as Mycroft was concerned. John shook his head at the pair of them.

Mycroft sat back down, his gaze moving between the two of them, and John noticed the slight twitch of Sherlock's hand which seemed to beckon him. He moved over and perched on the side of his chair, Sherlock's arm immediately wrapping around him.

After a few minutes, Mycroft nodded and got up again. "Very well," he said. "Is this what you want, Sherlock?"

John felt the hand on his hip tighten.

"It is," replied Sherlock, and John experienced the familiar feeling that there was a lot more being communicated than was actually being said.

"I'll send Anthea round shortly," Mycroft told them. "She can bring you up to date on the current information."

John moved to stand up, but Sherlock's hand tightened further and he subsided.

Mycroft quirked a brow. "Don't get up, John," he said. "I can find my own way out." His gaze passed over them as he turned to the door. "See you very soon," he added, before departing.

The flat was quiet after he had gone and John turned his head to look at Sherlock, who had a most unusual expression on his face. A slow smile was growing and John suddenly found himself in motion as Sherlock used both arms to pull him sideways, sliding down into his chair at the same time so that they ended up with Sherlock stretched out and John lying back on top of him.

He grunted in surprise and Sherlock adjusted his grip, his left arm spanning John's chest to hold him in place and the other sliding down, fingers skimming under the waistband of his jeans, the position reminiscent of how he had woken up that morning. He arched back at the sensation and Sherlock's voice was low and husky in his ear.

"John," the voice said. "John, if there is anything you want..." John closed his eyes as he felt Sherlock's lips brush his neck. "If there's anything you have... imagined..." The lips moved up and Sherlock's teeth caught the lobe of his ear. "Anything I can do for you..." John's whole body shuddered and he grabbed the arms of the chair to steady himself.

Sherlock's hand slid up and started unfastening his belt. "Now would be a good time..." he whispered.

Chapter Text

Sherlock could hear John's breathing becoming harsher as his head fell back, could picture the flush which would be rising over his features as his weight settled along the length of Sherlock's body.

His fingers were steady as they finished unfastening John's belt, but he released only the top button before dropping his hand to John's thigh, feeling the tension in the long muscle as he ran his palm down the outside, as far as he could reach, then started stroking his fingertips up the inside... slowly following the line of the seam as it led higher, up a little, then down again, circling, reaching a little further each time.

He ran his nose along the side of John's jaw, murmuring his name. He liked the way John smelled, he decided. There were elements of soap, shaving cream etc., but underlying everything was a warm, slightly earthy smell which simply said 'home' to Sherlock. He wondered what it would taste like. The kissing ban was quite limited in scope, so there seemed to be nothing to stop him finding out. Carefully, he pressed his mouth to the side of John's neck, parting his lips so that his tongue could taste the flesh over the pulse beating there.

John's body jerked in his arms, startling him, but he returned his lips to their previous position almost immediately, using the tip of his tongue to stroke a line upwards. John was actually trembling, he realised; perhaps he had managed to do the right thing unknowingly.

Never had Sherlock been so frustrated by his blindness. If he had been able to observe John over the preceding week, he felt sure that he would have worked out all his fantasies by now and not just the lucky guess of the hallway kiss, which he hadn't even realised was a shared idea until John reacted so strongly.

After the way in which he had dealt with Mycroft, Sherlock very much wanted to give John something in return. Was it just gratitude? he mused. After all, John had stood up for him in a way he had not expected, and Mycroft could be extremely intimidating when he wanted to be so it had not been an easy thing to do, it had taken courage.

No, he decided. That wasn't it; or at least, not only that. Sherlock's own relationship with his brother had always been tense. He knew that Mycroft loved him, but he never really took him seriously, which was infuriating and led to a barrage of sniping and sarcasm. Today, John had spoken... and Mycroft had listened.

That left Sherlock with a very strange feeling. He didn't quite know how to classify it, or what to do with it, but he most definitely wanted to give John something and what did John want the most? Well, as just about everyone seemed to have long been aware, what John wanted the most was Sherlock. For the first time in his life, he wished that he had taken up some of the offers which had come his way over the years, so that he might have more idea what to do in this situation.

He remembered the sensation of John's teeth against his throat from the taxi and opened his mouth a little wider, biting gently just as his hand reached the top of John's leg and moved up over his groin.

John gasped and his right hand darted quickly to cover Sherlock's, as if to protest his action, but then he groaned and instead pressed their joined hands down more firmly, shifting his hips as Sherlock curled his fingers as much as possible, given the thick denim material.

"What..." John's voice was barely recognisable, "What are you doing?"

Sherlock thought it was an odd question, under the circumstances, but he bore in mind that intellect wasn't top of the list of things he valued in John.

"Whatever you want," he replied, sliding his hand up and down under John's, apparently unconscious, guidance.

"But... but, Anthea..." John stuttered; he seemed to be finding it difficult to talk. "Anthea will be coming..."

Sherlock smiled against his neck. He was aware that a lot of innuendo simply passed him by, but even he couldn't miss that one. He trailed his mouth up to John's ear. "Not before you do," he replied.

As if in acquiescence, John's hand moved back to the arm of the chair, leaving Sherlock free to move and he gripped the tab of the zipper and pulled it down, slipping his hand inside, where he could wrap his palm around John much more easily with only the thin material of his shorts between them.

John was hard beneath his hand and it made Sherlock feel quite awed to know that this man, who was so brave and so loyal, who would face down friend, foe or family for his sake, wanted him so badly. That a soldier like John, who would stand up to anyone, would lay down for Sherlock, would submit himself to Sherlock's wishes, put himself completely into Sherlock's hands - it was a heady feeling.

He soon decided that any barrier was too much and lifted his hand in order to push it below the waistband and back down, gripping John firmly. The heat was startling, the flesh hard and throbbing in his hand as Sherlock flexed his fingers, assessing, measuring, recording every detail of this part of John which had been hidden from him up to now.

Sherlock had occasionally resorted to these actions himself, the odd time when the problem had arisen and refused to resolve itself, so he wasn't completely unfamiliar with what was required, although he had found it tedious in the extreme and never knew what to think about. It occurred to him that in the future he could think about this; about holding John, hot and heavy in his hand, John's weight on his body, John's chest rising and falling quickly under his arm, the taste of John's skin on his tongue.

Sherlock found that his own breathing rate was speeding up as he moved his hand over John; at first just stroking gently, reaching down further to explore with his long fingers, before returning, his hand beginning to move more purposefully, paying close attention to John's reactions in order to deduce the appropriate speed and pressure.

The weight on his left shoulder was abruptly gone as John raised his head, then drew in a sharp breath. Sherlock feared that he was going to call a halt, but stopping seemed to be the last thing on his mind as he bore some of his weight on his arms, raising his upper body. He was looking, Sherlock realised. John was watching as Sherlock's hand moved over him and, judging from the pounding of his heart, he liked what he saw.

The knowledge that John was watching sent a jolt though Sherlock, making him catch his breath and he dropped his left hand to John's waist and started unfastening the buttons of his shirt, his dextrous fingers working quickly. He spread the shirt open, and slid his hand across John's bare skin, wanting to feel his fast beating heart more closely, with nothing in between them.

As his hand skimmed upwards, John gasped and his head fell back once more as he moaned under his breath. "Sherlock," he breathed. "Sherlock, do that again."

Sherlock obliged, keeping up the motion of his right hand as his left repeated its movement, noting this time that John's sharply indrawn breath was associated with Sherlock's fingers brushing over his nipple. He returned to rub it more firmly, fascinated by the way it hardened and by John's reaction – he was moaning steadily now, his body becoming increasingly tense.

Switching to the other nipple, Sherlock circled his finger around it, gradually getting closer as John stretched out on top of him, muscles flexing. Sherlock could feel the tension in his arms and pictured his hands gripping the sides of the chair, knuckles white under the strain. He stroked his finger directly over that nipple, then moved back to the first one and pinched it. John's back arched, and he flung his right arm up over his head and grabbed the back of Sherlock's neck, groaning loudly.

Clearly he was doing something right, Sherlock was pleased to note, although the grip that John had on his neck was extremely distracting. Sherlock could feel his own body reacting and it became more difficult to focus as fingers brushed through the hair at his nape, short nails scratching lightly across his skin, a level of desperation in the hold which suggested that John might be close to climax.

His hands never ceasing their movements, Sherlock obeyed the tugging pressure on the back of his head and lowered his mouth to John's neck once more. It seemed that the time for gentleness was over, and Sherlock no longer felt gentle, anyway. He felt possessive.

He ran his open mouth from just below John's ear to the base of his neck, then bit down; not hard enough to break the skin, but hard enough that John would feel it, hard enough to leave a mark as he sucked at the flesh his lips surrounded, rubbing the flat of his tongue over it and humming in pleasure, both at the sensation and at the feeling of ownership it gave him.

John's hand tightened almost painfully and he cried out, his body jerking in Sherlock's arms, tense and shaking as his orgasm swept through him, pulsing against Sherlock's fingers and gasping for breath.

It seemed to take some time for his body to calm and, after a moment, Sherlock dropped his right hand down to John's leg and moved his left up to stroke the hair away from his forehead, kissing his temple gently. He felt quite shocked, never having witnessed another person's orgasm before. The violence, the surrender of it had surprised him; the way John had given himself over to it, had let go so completely. There was a big element of trust, he realised.

Sherlock knew how he was perceived. He knew people were in awe of him, some respected him, perhaps even admired him, but they didn't trust him. Even the police, who he had helped on so many cases, still regarding him nervously, as if waiting for the day when he suddenly became the enemy.

John trusted him. He had proved it many times, but never as emphatically as this. Sherlock felt a lump in his throat as the strength of his bond to the man in his arms began to dawn on him. He wanted quite urgently to turn John's head and kiss his mouth, but he couldn't. He couldn't because John trusted him, and he had promised.

John seemed boneless now, his arm still raised but just draped loosely around Sherlock's neck, body relaxing and feeling increasingly heavy. Carefully, Sherlock slid forward and lowered them both to the floor, leaning back against the chair and wrapping his arm around John's shoulders, turning him so that they were at right angles and pressing a kiss to the top of his head.

He reached for the box of tissues he knew was near at hand, but there was nothing he could do to clean John up himself; without his vision, he would just make things worse. Lips tightening in annoyance, he offered the box to John, who gave him a weak chuckle in response.

John's arms felt like jelly. It took him two attempts to even get a tissue out of the box and a ridiculously long time to clean himself up and re-fasten his jeans; he gave up on the shirt for now and just left it hanging loose, relaxing back into Sherlock's arms, which tightened around him.

"I can't believe you did that," he said, shaking his head.

"Was it…" Sherlock's voice was unusually hesitant. "Was it OK?"

John snorted, turning his head to press a kiss against Sherlock's neck. "No, it wasn't OK", he replied, "OK is not a description remotely suited to what you just did... it was bloody incredible!" He smiled, still feeling shocked. "I thought it was going to be the other way around."

He twisted, looking up at Sherlock's face and raised a hand to his chest, letting it slide down suggestively. "Do you want me to…" he broke off as Sherlock shook his head. "You don't want me to touch you?" John asked, pulling his hand away, a cold fear suddenly striking his heart. "You've decided then?"

Sherlock looked taken aback. "No! No, John, that's not what I mean at all," he said, quickly. "I do want you to… do… what you said in the taxi. I most definitely do; just – not right now, when this information is on its way and we don't know when Mycroft's minion is going to get here." He searched for John's hand, bringing it back up to his chest and holding it there.

John relaxed, resting against Sherlock's shoulder once more. "So, what brought this on?" he asked. "Not that I'm complaining, you understand." There was a smile in his voice.

Sherlock lowered his head so his words were muffled by John's hair. "I thought you would side with Mycroft," he said. John was silent, and he carried on. "I know how you feel," he pointed out. "And you've been so protective of me since..." he raised their joined hands briefly, indicating his injury. "I felt frustrated, because I thought that you would put my physical safety above everything else and I knew I could stand against Mycroft, but I..." He stopped, and John waited, hoping very much that he wasn't leading up to a simple declaration of gratitude.

"But you didn't," Sherlock said. "You put what I need ahead of what you want." His arm tightened, and he hugged John closer.

"It's not just gratitude, if that's what you're thinking," he added, with his usual acuity. "You proved that I can be with you, and still be me."

John thought about that. He was surprised at how well Sherlock had grasped his feelings, had understood that there was a big part of John which would like nothing more than to whisk Sherlock far, far away from Moriarty and anyone like him. But it was no good thinking like that because that wasn't who Sherlock was, and, in truth, it wasn't who John was either.

"You impressed me, John," Sherlock interrupted his thoughts. "I wanted to make you happy, to give you something, but I can't tell, without observing you, what it is you want, exactly." His tone revealed his frustration. "If I could see you, observe your reactions, watch your face, I would know what you think about when you look at me."

John laughed, feeling that, in this instance, it was probably just as well. "I wouldn't worry, Sherlock," he said. "In this last week alone I've probably fantasised about pretty much any scenario you're likely to come up with, plus quite a few more that would make you do your 'humans are strange' face." He glanced up. "Yes, that one," he confirmed. "In all honesty, you can't really go wrong with me, just the fact that it's you has me half way there already."

Sherlock nodded, slowly. "Is that why you were watching?" he asked.

John shivered, wondering how many times he'd wanked off and pretended it was Sherlock's hand instead of his own, but to actually see it – to look down and see those long pale fingers wrapped around his cock... that was something else again. He sat up, shaking his head to clear it.

"We'd best get sorted out before Anthea gets here," he said, pulling his hand free and pushing himself to his feet.

Sherlock huffed but let him go, returning to sit in his chair as John tidied and straightened around him.

When Anthea arrived, it seemed to John that her usual calm demeanour was a little shaken. She refused his offers of a seat or a drink, instead setting the locked briefcase she carried down on the kitchen table around which they were all standing.

Unlocking the case, she withdrew a thick file and handed it, with some reluctance, to Sherlock, who immediately passed it to John. Anthea frowned, but looked resigned.

"I don't have an audio version of this file, as so few people are authorised to handle it," she told Sherlock. "Temporary clearance has therefore been granted to Doctor Watson, to match your own existing authority."

John's eyebrows rose, wondering why Sherlock had never mentioned having a high security clearance and if there was a case for which it had been necessary.

"This file is current and updates will be advised to you on an ongoing basis. It includes investigations into the financial arrangements of the cases known to be associated with Moriarty," she said. John spotted a tab marked 'Janus Cars' as he flicked through the file.

"Also, progress on tracking the woman he used as a decoy on the bench in Regent's Park last week," Anthea carried on. "As well as interrogation of the sniper apprehended at the pool and extensive interviews with Miss Hooper."

John looked up. "You mean Molly?" he asked. "Molly from the morgue?"

Anthea glanced down at her BlackBerry - out of habit, presumably, as she seemed fully conversant with the details. "Indeed," she replied. "Miss Hooper has had the most interaction with Moriarty and she was eager to assist." Anthea's lip curled slightly. "Although the extreme sense of responsibility she feels over what happened has rendered her..." she paused, no doubt searching for a suitably bland expression, "somewhat emotional," she finished.

"We noticed," inserted Sherlock, his deep voice making John jump as it sounded right by his ear; he'd been so interested in the file, he hadn't noticed how close Sherlock had edged.

Anthea's gaze moved over the two of them from across the table, but her face was carefully blank. She picked up the briefcase and stepped back. "Obviously, the file cannot leave the premises, nor can it be left unattended – you have a safe?"

John nodded.

"Then use it," she instructed. "Also, we would like to install monitoring devices, both inside the flat and in the hallway."

Both men froze, then spoke at once.

"No," said John.

"Absolutely not," said Sherlock.

Anthea raised a well groomed eyebrow. "As you wish," she replied, turning to Sherlock. "I will advise your brother of the situation," she said. "He may have... concerns."

Sherlock ignored her, clearly eager to dive into the file.

"I'll see you out," said John, leaving Sherlock frustrated behind him as he followed Anthea down the stairs. Mrs Hudson had appeared and was waiting at the bottom, her nose twitching at the scent of potential gossip in the air.

"A new friend, Doctor Watson?" she enquired archly, but with an element of disapproval in her tone. "How is dear Sherlock?"

Anthea glanced back at him, smirking - she seemed much more relaxed once out of Sherlock's presence. John rolled his eyes.

"Sherlock is fine, thank you, Mrs Hudson," he replied. "This is Anthea, a colleague."

"Hello," said Anthea brightly, but she kept moving. "I must be off; we'll be in touch, John."

She was gone, and John turned back, knowing that Sherlock would be fizzing with impatience for him to start reading the file.

Mrs Hudson caught his sleeve. "Oh, hang on, Dear," she said. "I'll just get your..." her voice trailed off as she bustled away, then started talking over her shoulder. "He gave me too many, you know," she said, "but I didn't like to say anything, in the circumstances. He caught me just as I was coming in last night."

She disappeared behind her door, emerging a moment later with something in her arms. "I wanted to ask you, to make sure you'd finished with them, but he said you might be a long time," she added, handing it over.

A few minutes later, John walked back into their living room to find Sherlock waiting on the sofa, fingers steepled together in thought, the file resting on the seat next to him.

He turned his head enquiringly as John walked across the room and threw his Union Jack cushion onto the chair. "You told Mrs Hudson that I'd be a long time in the shower?" he demanded.

Sherlock's face cleared. "Never mind that," he said. "Come on, John." He picked up the file and waved it, patting the seat next to him.

John held his ground. "That's what you did with all the cushions last night? You just gave them back while I was in the bathroom?" Sherlock just shrugged and John sighed. "She asked me if I was very dirty," he complained.

Sherlock sniggered. "Seems a fair question, considering the amount of time you've spent in there this week," he observed, before waving the file again. "Come on, John," he insisted. "The game's not going to play itself, you know."

It was with some reluctance that John made his way across to the sofa and Sherlock seemed to pick up on this. "Have you changed your mind?" he asked, as John sat down. "Do you think going after Moriarty is too dangerous?" He looked wary.

John took the file. "There's always going to be danger, with you," he replied. "I don't want to turn Moriarty into some bogeyman. He's not Voldemort." Sherlock looked blank and John sighed again. "I'm not afraid to say his name," he explained. "Moriarty is certainly dangerous, perhaps the most dangerous adversary you'll ever have, but he's human, and I don't have your problem in dealing with him."

Sherlock looked confused. "You mean the blindness?" he asked, but then shook his head immediately. "No. No, that's not what you mean." He frowned. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, I'm not an idiot," said John bluntly, still disgruntled over the shower comment. "I don't care about why, or how, or any of that. I'm not like you - I don't need to talk to him, or challenge him, or play games with him at all."

He looked at Sherlock, forgetting his irritation as his eyes moved over the face he knew so well. "I know it won't be easy," he added. "But you'll find him. I know you will. You'll find him and there will be no discussion, no build-up necessary." John's face was grim. "I'm quite happy just to shoot him." He opened the file.

Chapter Text

Sherlock was dreaming. He knew he was dreaming, but he was still blind in the dream, which he felt was distinctly unfair.

He was alone. There were other people there, he could hear voices; Mycroft, Mrs Hudson, Lestrade, even Mummy (who'd let her out?), but he was alone. He was working, there was a case; people were talking, they talked to him and he responded, but he was still alone.

He jerked awake, opening his eyes automatically before focusing his remaining senses on the surroundings. Smell of discarded Chinese takeaway boxes – living room. Familiar material under his hands – sofa. Low traffic noise – night time; correction... rattle of a milk float turning the corner – early morning. He listened, stretching his hand across the seats to be sure… no John.

It was three nights and two full days since Anthea had dropped off the file. They had stayed up all the first night while John read the reports aloud, going through every document, which took him most of the following day also. He read until his voice was hoarse and he could barely focus on the words, then spent the night dozing uncomfortably on the sofa while Sherlock replayed everything in his head, looking for connections, trying to join the dots, occasionally waking John to check a fact or repeat a statement.

The next day, yesterday in fact, as it was now early morning, John had spent going through all the pictures, describing people, scenes, sketches, everything, before finally announcing that he was going to bed, absolutely not to be disturbed except in case of a non-file-related emergency.

Sherlock had scorned the need for sleep in his usual fashion but it seemed his body had betrayed him; it was harder to stay focused without actually being able to visually focus on something. Perhaps he still needed more sleep than normal in order to recuperate, as he was certainly feeling a powerful urge to go to his bed right now, which was odd as he was usually happy to nap on the sofa when working on a case.

No doubt he could also blame the food which John had forced him to eat, flatly refusing to touch the pictures again until Sherlock's forty-eight hour fast had been broken. Arguments, sulks and harsh words had all been useless; John could be incredibly stubborn. If anyone else had been authorised to read the file, Sherlock would have called on them rather than give in, but there was only Anthea, and that would just... no.

Without really making a conscious decision, he got up, then wondered if John might have returned upstairs now that Sherlock's symptoms, other than the blindness, seemed to have abated, and especially after some of the insults hurled during their dinner debate. He may as well check his own room first, as it was closer, Sherlock decided. He would need to change into his pyjamas anyway.

John was there. The room felt slightly warmer than it did when it was empty and he could distinguish John's warm 'home' smell as soon as he crossed the threshold, then hear his steady breathing as he approached the bed, sitting cautiously on the edge and reaching out with his hand.

John was lying on his left side so his back was towards Sherlock. His right arm was thrown out across the other half of the bed, resting palm down over the place where Sherlock would normally be. He was fast asleep, not stirring at all as Sherlock's hand finished establishing his position, but continued moving over him, stroking up his arm and over his shoulder, then gently running through his hair.

There had been no developments in the physical side of their relationship since that afternoon in the chair, when John had come to pieces so dramatically. As soon as they had started on the file, Sherlock had thrown himself into the case, absorbing all the information John relayed, building up a network of facts in his head, a complex, cross-referenced database which he kept turning over and over, confident that if he just held it at the right angle in his mind's eye, hidden links would reveal themselves.

He had been aware, though, that however much he tried to focus all of his attention on this problem, there was always another level of his brain which was replaying time spent with John, the still secret kiss, the massage, waking up together, holding hands in the taxi (John often held his hand, so why did that time stand out so much?), and the time in the chair... John's reaction, the sheer force of it. Overwhelming.

Sherlock thought about it again as his hand stroked across John's back, absently wishing he wasn't wearing his usual T-Shirt. Although he had professed himself keen to explore this area with John, he couldn't really imagine giving up his control to that degree; the thought of it definitely made him uneasy. He also resented the brain power which was being diverted from the case by this distraction. He had never experienced it before. The case was everything. Always. Everyday details like eating, sleeping, the mundane ongoing tedium of life, they faded into the background when he had a case... especially a case like this one, a bright, shining, interesting case, which warranted his full attention.

John had always been an asset before, and of course he was this time too, there was no denying that Sherlock would be helpless without him at the moment. But sometimes John would say his name and Sherlock would hear his voice sounding very different, breathless and panting. Sometimes Sherlock would hold his hand and remember holding something else. Sometimes the urge to just throw himself at John and demand… something, he didn't even know what, would actually inhibit his ability to absorb information and he would have to ask for repetition of whole sections of a report. It was unacceptable, and Sherlock didn't know what to do about it.

Combine that with the frustration of not being able to study the file himself, the flow of information into his brain being limited by the speed of John's reading, and Sherlock had been just about ready to explode when John had insisted that he eat. The resulting argument had been their most serious since Sherlock had woken from the coma and had given him the perfect opportunity to blow off some steam.

It hadn't really been an argument, though, if he was honest. John had stated his position and refused to budge, while Sherlock had ranted and raved, becoming increasingly unkind as time went on and John still would not give in. If he had thought John would be easier to manipulate now, with his feelings out in the open, then Sherlock had been very much mistaken. He had behaved poorly, he knew, taking out his frustration on John, the last person in the world to deserve it.

He stroked his fingers through John's hair again. To his shame, he had been remote and sulky all evening even though, after they had eaten, John had started going through the photos again without comment, not gloating over his victory, continuing much later than he no doubt wanted to, until Sherlock's demands finally wound down and he had taken himself off to bed. Sherlock skimmed his hand under the covers exploratively… no pyjamas. John must have just stripped down to his shorts and T-Shirt and collapsed in exhaustion.

Sherlock felt bad; which was another new sensation and one he did not like at all. What was happening to him? Why did he have all these feelings now, which he couldn't remember having before? Were they a side-effect of his head injury? This connection with John, the bond which was making him feel so guilty, it could just be dependency, based on the fact that he couldn't manage on his own. How much was real and how much would fade when his vision returned and he could get back to normal?

He wanted to explore the physical with John, sometimes he felt it was all he wanted to do, and perhaps now that he had got all the information into his brain, they would have time; but John had been right with what he had said in the taxi, Sherlock still wasn't sure.

Gradually, he became aware that he was just sitting there, stroking his hand through John's hair. He got up, shaking his head; he must be more tired than he had realised. He took off everything but his shorts, not bothering with his pyjamas, and got into bed, picking up John's hand and sliding underneath, so that it settled on his chest. Moments later, he was asleep.

John came awake from one heartbeat to the next, suddenly on full alert. It was morning, daylight poking round the heavy curtains and silhouetting Sherlock's shoulder and arm as he lay with his back turned; skin warm under John's hand, which was resting at his waist. He was trembling.

John blinked a few times, clearing the sleep from his eyes. Sherlock's breathing was harsh and he was definitely shaking… was he crying? John had seen him cry several times, crocodile tears which vanished as quickly as they had appeared once the desired result had been achieved, but he couldn't imagine him breaking down to that extent in reality. Not that Sherlock was anything like as emotionless as he pretended, but he would be far more given to shooting holes in the walls than allowing himself such a human outlet as tears. Perhaps he was in pain?

John tried calling his name, but there was no response. He moved his hand up to Sherlock's shoulder and pulled, trying to roll him onto his back, but he just curled up tighter. He was moaning now.

His worry increasing, John slid out of bed and padded round to the other side. Sherlock was almost in the middle of the bed as usual, so there was plenty of room to climb in and now John could see his face. Sherlock wasn't crying, but he was clearly distressed. The flickering of his eyelids indicated REM sleep; he was having a nightmare.

John edged closer and put both hands on Sherlock's face, calling his name and telling him to wake up. After a few repetitions, Sherlock did just that, his eyes shooting open abruptly, hands flying to clutch at John.

"It was just a dream, you're OK, it's all right," John murmured soothingly.

"John?" Sherlock's voice cracked on the name. "John, I…" he broke off, straightening his legs from the curled up position he had woken in, then rolling over, pushing John onto his back and moving to cover him. He raised his right hand to smooth his thumb over John's forehead, stroking it back and forth, as if checking for something.

"Sherlock, what is it?" John asked, gazing up at the pained expression hovering above him. "It was just a dream. Everything's all right. You're fine." This was the first time he'd seen Sherlock suffer a nightmare; he wondered if it was something that had happened often, prior to his injury.

His breath rushed out suddenly as Sherlock let his weight fall and buried his face in John's neck, inhaling deeply and also... John could feel something wet. He wondered about tears once more but then recognised the sensation of a mouth against his throat, Sherlock's tongue tasting his skin, as if to verify his presence via every sense available.

John raised his arms and started stroking up and down the large expanse of back which presented itself. The large expanse of naked back, he corrected, allowing one hand to drift lower, under the duvet, checking… he could feel a waistband, but one of Sherlock's thighs was pressed between his own and it was definitely not clothed, so the waistband must be for his shorts only.

John had gone to bed angry at Sherlock, feeling hurt and upset even though he could understand the frustration which had sparked the outburst. Since the coma, it had seemed like the two of them against the world in many ways… there had been disagreements, but their connection had never faltered. Now it felt as if Sherlock was fighting that bond, trying to revert to his old self and becoming frustrated when his physical limitations prevented his success.

However, the man trembling in his arms clearly needed him now, and no amount of anger or hurt could make John turn away from that fact. He bent his knee, placing his foot flat on the bed for leverage, then rolled them both onto their sides, bringing his hands up to cup Sherlock's jaw.

"Do you want to tell me?" he asked.

Sherlock lifted his hand, smoothing his finger over John's forehead again. "We were at the pool," he said, his voice hoarse and raspy. "It was just as you described it, so I don't know if I remember it or am just visualising the scene."

"OK, well describe something I haven't mentioned," suggested John. "What about the colour of the curtains on the cubicles – I don't think that was in the report?"

"No, it wasn't," Sherlock agreed. "They were blue and red, alternating."

"Right," John confirmed. "So, do you remember the whole thing now? What about Moriarty? Because that could be useful – so far you've only had 'Jim from I.T.' to go on, and I don't know if any amount of words can really describe what he was like, how… unhinged he was."

"I don't know, John," said Sherlock, slowly. "It seems that part of this is a genuine memory, the setting at least, and yes, Moriarty was there, I saw him briefly; dark suit – Westwood?, white shirt, silver tie clip, but..." He broke off, lowering his hand to wrap his arm around John's body and leaning forward to press their foreheads together.

"What?" asked John. "What's the matter?" He hadn't put down everything that Moriarty had said, only what he had recalled at the time as being particularly relevant. "Are you remembering something that wasn't in the report?"

"I imagine you could say that, yes," Sherlock replied, his fingers tightening on a handful of John's T-Shirt. "We were both shot."

John pulled back to look at him, but his expression was guarded. "We were both shot?" he echoed. "Dead?" he added, then wished he hadn't, as Sherlock flinched and moved his hand to John's forehead again. The penny dropped. "I was shot in the head?" he queried. Sherlock nodded. "In front of you?" Another nod. "What about you?" he asked.

"Chest," replied Sherlock. "I was shot in the chest. That's when I woke up."

"OK," said John slowly, his gaze falling automatically to Sherlock's bare chest, which he hadn't actually touched before; but now his right arm was squashed between their bodies and his palm was splayed across it. "Well, clearly part memory, part imagination with that one," he said, trying not to focus on the warmth of the skin under his hand. Why couldn't the damn man just wear his pyjamas?

John was getting angry at himself. Whichever way you looked at it, it was inappropriate for him to be getting turned on in this situation. Sherlock was clearly distressed and in need of comfort and understanding, not getting poked in the abdomen by a persistent erection. At the same time, after the way Sherlock had behaved the day before and some of the hurtful things he had said, John didn't want to give him the satisfaction of knowing that he was still firmly in charge of John's 'On' button; because once Sherlock realised he only had to drop his trousers to make John forget what they were even arguing about, then he was well and truly buggered... and not in a good way.

Shifting a little on the bed, Sherlock put his right hand on the side of John's neck, thumb stroking along the edge of his jaw. "I want to kiss you, John," he said.

John's breath caught in his throat, but Sherlock carried on.

"I want to, but I won't, because you were right… I'm not sure." John swallowed and nodded his head, knowing that Sherlock could feel and recognise the movement.

"I want to be honest with you," Sherlock continued. "You deserve that, at the very least." He paused, his fingers tightening. "I'm sorry about yesterday, about the things I said." He really did look regretful, John realised. It wasn't a familiar expression and looked a little as if it had wandered onto the wrong face and wasn't sure what it was doing there.

"You don't really try to control me, that was unfair," Sherlock admitted. "And the other things… I was just frustrated and angry, and I took it out on you because I know that you won't leave me." He frowned. "I must have changed," he decided. "The old me would take advantage of anything like that – I used Molly's crush to get what I wanted from the morgue time after time, then just ignored her." He thought again. "Actually, I would still do that," he added. "Interesting."

He shook his head and John watched, fascinated, as he witnessed Sherlock trying to deduce himself.

"But you are different," Sherlock told him. "Hurting you, hurts me." He looked surprised by this realisation. "I am sorry," he emphasised. "And I will try not to do it again. I do have feelings for you," it was John's heart which was racing now, "but I'm not sure where they have come from, and whether I can trust them."

He pressed closer, ghosting his lips along John's jaw as he spoke. "So even though I very much," his words were interspersed with kisses, "very much want to kiss you properly," he turned John's head so that he could continue his route, "I will respect your request and wait until I am sure." He finished his statement by nuzzling John's right ear, before lifting his head. "Do you still… I mean, will you forgive me?"

John could hardly breathe. On some level he was aware of the question Sherlock had almost asked, and the fact that the depth of his feelings was clearly no secret. However, there seemed to be a distinct lack of blood flow to his brain and he was having issues with coherency.

"Yes," he managed to say, which seemed to cover the essentials and was pretty much his default setting with Sherlock anyway.

"Do you want to get up?" Sherlock asked him, scattering the few threads of intelligence John had managed to gather together. "Only, I need to think, and I'd quite like to do that here, with you, if you feel you could sleep a little longer?"

John drew a shuddering breath, trying to drag his mind out of the innuendo filled gutter and pull himself together. "You mean you want to cuddle?" he asked.

"Is that all right?" enquired Sherlock. "I've got all the data in here now." He tapped his temple. "Thanks to you," he added, pressing another kiss to the side of John's head. "Just need to let it percolate for a while."

John considered his options. He wasn't about to pass up the opportunity to spend a few hours wrapped in the arms of a mostly naked Sherlock, especially after the singular lack of contact over the last few days. However, he was pretty confident that his erection wasn't going anywhere, which would be initially awkward and ultimately bloody uncomfortable.

"That sounds great," he said. "Just let me go and freshen up, have a quick shower; I'll be back in ten minutes."

Sherlock looked doubtful. "It usually takes you fifteen," he pointed out.

John glanced down; for once grateful that Sherlock's eyes couldn't follow his gaze. "I think ten will do it," he said. "Maybe less."

When the call came from Lestrade, John was furious to find himself being woken from a deep sleep. Not furious to be woken, but furious to find that he had slept through over three hours of mostly-naked cuddling, the exhaustion built up over the preceding two nights having caught up with him only minutes after he returned from his 'shower'.

Sherlock, however, had seemed delighted by the call and demanded that John get out of bed immediately and go to put the kettle on. "A change will do us good, John," he had insisted. "You need to get out of the flat for a while."

John had stomped around the kitchen muttering to himself as he sorted out tea and some toast, eventually hearing Sherlock moving around as he got up and dressed before appearing in the kitchen looking immaculate as always.

How did he do that? John wondered resentfully. Even blind, Sherlock looked more put-together and smart than John could manage on his best day. Another open-necked shirt, those collar bones on display again, that long throat exposed; did the man not even own a tie at least? He wondered if he had time for another shower before they left.

"Ready, John?" There was an edge to Sherlock's voice but his face held nothing but polite enquiry and he accepted the toast without complaint, although John would not have forced the issue this time.

Lestrade seemed happy to see them at the crime scene, which was in a deserted office block. "Wish I'd called you earlier over that Au Pair business," he said, his eyes moving over the pair of them. "Could have saved ourselves a lot of time but I didn't realise you would still..." He trailed off. "I mean, we didn't think..."

"Do you ever?" snapped Sherlock, and John offered an apologetic smile as he was pulled forward, Sherlock tugging on his arm impatiently.

"Sorry," he threw back over his shoulder. "Think he got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning."

"I was in the middle, as usual," pointed out Sherlock, not lowering his voice at all as they moved further towards the centre of activity. "It was you who was on the wrong side."

An area of silence grew around them as a forest of eyebrows shot up and 'did he really just say that?' glances were exchanged. John was a little nonplussed. Much as he would love for them to be openly in a relationship, they hadn't discussed this at all and he wasn't sure if Sherlock had considered the ramifications.

"Body, John?" prompted Sherlock, uncaring of the gossip avalanche he had just triggered.

Lestrade stepped forward, casting a quizzical glance at John as he began to explain the problem of the unidentified body found earlier that day.

Once his part had been played, description duties fulfilled, John stepped back and just watched as Sherlock talked to Lestrade and Sally, enjoying seeing him back in his element again until a snide voice spoke from behind him.

"I hear you've been promoted?" It was Anderson, newly arrived at the scene and not at all happy to find Sherlock encroaching on his territory once more.

John tensed. No-one had asked him directly about Sherlock's comment and he wasn't at all sure how to deal with it.

"From dogsbody to guide-dog, I understand?" the slimy sod continued and John exhaled in relief as he realised Anderson had not yet heard the latest gossip, but was just being his usual unpleasant self.

Sherlock turned his head at that point, clearly searching. "John!" he called.

Anderson sniggered. "You know, he says that in exactly the way someone would command Heel!" he said. "I guess 'dog' is about right."

"Piss off, Anderson," John replied, moving forward to re-join Sherlock, whose eyes were narrowing as he approached and whose attention was clearly focused behind him.

"Don't speak, Anderson. It makes you sound stupid," he said loudly, moving in his direction and reaching for John's hand on the way. "Although, judging from Sergeant Donovan, it seems I must thank you for switching to a less obnoxious deodorant." He stopped, right in front of Anderson now, and inhaled pointedly.

"Oh, my mistake," he said, shaking his head. "It seems the congratulations should go to Sally for improving her taste in men, although really..." he turned to Sally, who had a look of horror on her face, "you might want to consider carrying your own toiletries if you're going to have so many late-night case meetings."

Things went down hill from there and as soon as Sherlock had relayed his deductions, John was glad to get him away. The taxi ride home was uncomfortable and Sherlock remained silent, keeping his head down and his hands to himself. It wasn't his 'thinking face' though, John decided. He seemed very much on edge; restless, tightly wound, as if the slightest nudge would produce some unimaginable explosion. After his rant the day before, John was distinctly not in the mood for a repeat performance. As soon as they got into the flat, he closed the living room door and took a couple of steps inside as Sherlock turned to face him.

"Look," he said. "I know you're frustrated by your current situation, I know it's hard." Sherlock's face seemed to twitch at that, but was soon expressionless once more.

"But enough is enough," continued John. "You were horrible to me yesterday and yes, I know you've apologised, but you haven't explained why, not really. Then you were even worse than usual with Anderson, which, OK, I don't mind so much but poor Sally didn't deserve that."

He studied his friend, searching for a clue as to what had brought on this increased irritability and short-temperedness. "What is your problem?" he demanded.

Sherlock's frustration was breaking through the blank visage. His jaw was gritted with tension and John watched as his hands clenched into fists; he seemed to be trying to calm himself. Clearly the attempt was unsuccessful because he took a step forward, until he was right in John's face. "You are!" he exclaimed, swirling dramatically and striding a few steps in the opposite direction.

John fell back, feeling as if he had been punched in the stomach. He barely had time to dwell on the horrible sensation before Sherlock was in front of him again, reaching out and finding his shoulders, pushing him against the wall.

"You're in my head," he said, his voice tense. "I can't concentrate. I can't focus. I block it out but you break through. I keep remembering..." He pulled his arms back sharply and pushed his hands into his hair. "You're driving me mad!" He swirled away again.

John felt better. Much better. Better, in fact, than he had done for a very long time.

"What do you want, Sherlock?" he asked gently, his eyes roaming over the stiff-backed figure in front of him. If Sherlock's curiosity was turning into desire, the last thing John wanted to do was put him off.

Sherlock was still facing away, but he shook his head. "I don't know, John," he admitted, seeming calmer after his outburst. "What use is my brain to me now? I know I want something, but I don't even know what it is." He turned and sank down onto the arm of the sofa.

"Well, if you want my diagnosis," started John, and Sherlock lifted his head quickly, clearly hoping there was a medical explanation for his symptoms. "I would say you're suffering from a classic case of blue balls."

Sherlock looked blank and John sighed. "Sexual frustration," he elaborated, taking a few steps forward.

"I know you got turned on by the massage, which was…" He had to think back, the last few days being something of a blur in his mind. "Four nights ago," he calculated. "You had a shower after that, did you at least have a wank then?" he asked bluntly.

Sherlock's mouth fell open and a faint pink tinge appeared in his cheeks. "I don't… I mean… I have, but I rarely…" The pink was rising as John watched, fascinated. "No." Sherlock replied finally, shaking his head.

John's eyebrows were approaching his hairline but he managed to keep his tone even. "Right. OK, fine," he said, as if he didn't think that would make the top ten on any man's 'weird' list.

"Then, things were pretty intense on that taxi ride, followed, of course, by you getting me off that afternoon." He thought back. "To be honest, I wasn't totally focused on your reactions at that point," he admitted. "But I was lying back on you and I'm pretty sure you were at least partially aroused - would that be fair?"

Sherlock looked as if he would rather be doing almost anything else than having this conversation, but he straightened his shoulders and nodded.

"And you haven't done anything about it, since?" John asked. "You haven't..."

"No." The interruption was immediate.

"Well, there you go," said John, with the air of a man stating the obvious. Sherlock still looked bemused. Primarily embarrassed, but still bemused. John sighed. How could a grown man possibly be this ignorant? Then he remembered the solar system and rolled his eyes.

"You're winding your body up, but not giving it a release," he explained. "Although," he added thoughtfully, "we haven't done anything these last few days, apart from cuddling this morning, I would have thought it might have worn off by now."

Sherlock snorted. "If anything, it's getting worse," he said. "You slept through this morning - I just found it increasingly difficult to focus on anything but you. Now it seems like I just have to smell you to be…" He broke off, waving his arm vaguely but the words alone were enough to focus John's attention on his groin. He was sitting down though, impossible to tell.

John moved until he was within arm's reach of Sherlock and heard the sharp inhalation of breath. Hands came up to grip his hips and pull him forward, then Sherlock leaned to rest his forehead against John's chest.

"Do something, John," he said, somewhere between a plea and an instruction.

John cupped Sherlock's face in his hands and lifted it, then stepped closer so that they were pressed firmly together, feeling long arms slide around his waist to hold him tightly. Bloody Hell, he thought, as their bodies made contact, Sherlock hadn't been kidding.

He knew his voice would be unsteady, but he spoke anyway. "Well," he said. "Obviously there is an issue, which you need to resolve in order to clear your head, if nothing else." He drew a breath, leaning back so that he could see Sherlock's face - although the action pressed their hips together, drawing groans from both of them.

"It seems the only question is whether you deal with it yourself," PLEASE, NO! He made his thoughts as loud as possible, "or whether you want a hand?" Was that explicit enough for someone as new to this as Sherlock? Best be clear, John decided. "Or, you know..." he added. "A mouth?"

Artwork for this chapter:

Do Something, John by Haigidal

Chapter Text

"The only question is whether you deal with it yourself, or whether you want a hand? Or, you know... a mouth?"

Sherlock felt his heart rate elevating at John's words and the mental pictures they conjured up. His current blindness in no way affected his visual imagination, and his brain had already provided several viewing perspectives of the scene in the chair a few days earlier.

He had liked doing that to John, he had enjoyed the closeness, the intimacy, the completeness of John's surrender; in fact he had since spent an unfeasible amount of time thinking of other things he could do to John, several of which he would like to try as soon as possible.

He shook his head to clear it, dislodging John's hands, then tightened his arms to indicate that the gesture hadn't been meant as a negative. They were in rather a novel position with him perched on the arm of the sofa and John standing between his legs – this was what it would be like if John were the taller one, he mused; then dismissed the idea as irrelevant, turning his head to rest his cheek against John's shoulder, glad of the continued silence as he tried to come to terms with the apparent conflict between his brain and his body.

For once, John's deduction seemed entirely logical and it was clear that something would have to be done if he were to make any progress with the case, just as he sometimes needed to sleep, or even eat, if a case went on for too long. However, the thought of things being the other way round, of it being he who lost control, that idea was decidedly... uncomfortable.

John had moved an arm around his shoulders and there were fingers running through his hair. The sensation was simultaneously soothing and stimulating and for a few minutes he just relaxed into it. This was John, he reminded himself. If there was anyone in the world he could trust, anyone he could lower his defences for, then surely it would be this man.

He sat up, acceptance clear on his features, and felt John's momentary stillness before he leaned down, pressing their foreheads together.

"Sherlock," he breathed, and his mouth was so close, just inches away. Sherlock parted his lips, feeling the warmth as John exhaled and knowing, just knowing that John wanted to kiss him, was holding himself back, denying them both. Sherlock found himself raising his head a little more, tilting it to the side. He couldn't kiss John, he had promised... but if John were to give in, well that would be different. He breathed out, wanting to follow the air as it left him and chase it across John's skin.

"What do you want, Sherlock?" The words were soft and he could almost taste them as they ghosted over his lips. Was that an invitation? He stretched up, reaching blindly, but John turned his head. "Anything but that," he said, pressing kisses along Sherlock's jaw. "Anything at all, Sherlock," he whispered. "What do you want?"

That was just the problem. In terms of what John was referring to, Sherlock hadn't the least idea. "I want to be able to think," he explained.

John smiled against his skin, then started kissing down the side of his neck and Sherlock hummed in pleasure at the sensation, tipping his head to give John better access until his progress was impeded and Sherlock felt hands pushing at his jacket. He let his arms fall so that he could shrug it off, dropping it onto the sofa behind, and found that he was trembling. John's hand stroked across his chest to the buttons of his shirt, quickly unfastening the top two and sliding inside, and Sherlock froze.

"Wait," he said. John lifted his head and Sherlock could feel his confusion as if it were passing though the warm fingers resting on his chest and adding to his own.

"What is it?" John asked. "I've touched you before, Sherlock. You climbed into bed with me last night wearing only your underwear, not to mention the massage."

Sherlock thought about that. John was right, of course, he was being illogical. He drew a breath, then brought his hands up, unfastening the rest of his shirt buttons himself. Once he was done, he raised his face again; he didn't know what John saw in his expression but suddenly he was engulfed, wrapped up in an embrace as warm as it was welcome.

"Tell me what you're worried about." John's voice spoke into his ear and a part of him marvelled at their connection, at how John now read him so well even when he was behaving so oddly.

"Can we go to bed?" he asked. "I don't mean for..." he trailed off. "Well, maybe that. But just... Can we? I know it's early, but..."

John chuckled. "You'll never have to talk me into bed," he said. "Come on." He stepped back, taking both of Sherlock's hands and pulling him upright. "I'm all yours," he said, walking backwards and Sherlock smiled, following him blindly even though he knew the way.

Once they got to the bedroom, John released his hands. "Shorts?" he queried, and Sherlock nodded, stripping off his other clothes quickly and sliding under the duvet. He felt the dip as John climbed in beside him and reached out, finding that John was already moving closer, both of them raising their arms to wrap around each other as they lay on their sides.

For a moment, being in the bed brought back the memory of his dream, and Sherlock shivered as the nightmare vision assailed him again; seeing the red dot from the laser sight on John's head turn into a bullet wound, the life draining from his eyes, feeling the rip through his own chest as he was shot in turn, although... there was something wrong there, that wasn't exactly...

John's hand ran through his hair, dissipating the thought; warm, alive fingers trailing through the vision and dispersing it into swirls of meaningless colour as Sherlock buried his face in John's neck and focused instead on the feel of his skin, half wondering if the massage oil was still in the room... But that wasn't what this was about. John's hand smoothed down his back, sliding under the waistband of his shorts, and Sherlock froze again.

"Stop," he said. John pulled his head back and moved his hand up slightly, but didn't remove it; his thumb stroking soothingly in a circular motion.

"Talk to me, Sherlock," he said. "What's going on in that brain of yours?"

Sherlock didn't know what to say. What could he say? 'I want to touch you, but you're not allowed to touch me'? No, that wasn't accurate. 'You can touch me, but only up to a point'? That was closer, but sounded ridiculous. 'I don't want to lose control'? That was the crux of it, but how could he say that to John? It implied a lack of trust which was most unfair. He said nothing.

John gazed at the closed-off features in front of him in frustration. Not sexual frustration this time, although that was always simmering away, but frustration at his own inability to work out what was going on. On the face of it, Sherlock seemed to be at war with himself, his body clearly wanting one thing but his brain overriding it whenever steps were made in that direction. He tried to imagine the situation from Sherlock's perspective, but gave up almost immediately. There was only one thing for it. Eyes on the prize, he reminded himself, raising his hand to the side of Sherlock's jaw to prevent any head dropping or other evasive manoeuvres.

"I'm not going to push you into anything physical, Sherlock," he started. "You know that, don't you?"

Sherlock nodded, John's hand relaxing to allow the motion.

"But I am going to make you talk to me, because if I don't..." He tightened his grip as Sherlock tried to pull away. "If I don't, then this is over."

Sherlock stopped resisting immediately. "Is that a threat?" he demanded.

"No," John denied. "No, that's not what I mean." He tried to think ahead. "I mean that if we can't talk about it, not just this, but anything major which affects us both, then we have no chance."

He leaned forward and pressed a kiss to Sherlock's cheekbone, noticing the way Sherlock pushed into the contact. It wasn't that the man wasn't sensual, or that he didn't like being touched, John confirmed, with relief; and you only had to hear him play his violin to know there was passion under that apparently cold exterior. John was going to work this out. He pulled his head away.

"Right," he said, thinking back. "It seems to me that, before the massage, you were the one pushing things physically and I was the one not wanting to take advantage, is that right?" He was remembering the skimpy towels and the circular arguments. "In fact," he added, "immediately before the massage, when we agreed to try and you reached up to kiss me, I got the distinct impression that you were willing to go as far as I would take you. Was I wrong?"

Sherlock shook his head. "I hadn't really thought about it in detail at that point," he admitted. "I was focused more on convincing you to try." He drew his brows together. "I honestly don't know what would have happened if you'd..."

"Pushed it?" suggested John, half of him wishing he had gone for it when he had the chance and just shagged the man before he had time to engage his bloody brain.

He shook his head to dislodge that image before it led him in a dangerous direction. "Hmm," he mused aloud. "But then, with the massage, you quickly relaxed and that was much more intense than anything we've just done but it didn't cause you to..." freak out? panic? "freeze," he finished.

Sherlock twisted his lips. "You told me that nothing would happen," he reminded John. "You told me it wouldn't lead to anything that night and I believed you." He shrugged. "I argued, of course."

John rolled his eyes, of course he had argued. Sherlock always argued, and that particular argument had been especially memorable.

"Stop rolling your eyes," said Sherlock, just quirking a brow when John drew breath to deny it.

"I love you," he said, instead.

There was a silence. John decided to pretend he hadn't just let that slip out. "So," he continued, clearing his throat, "you relaxed, because you knew nothing else was going to happen – that's the difference now... you're worried about what comes next?"

Sherlock blinked a few times, unscheduled declarations of affection clearly not being something he was used to dealing with. "Yes," he replied eventually. "I wasn't thinking ahead. I wasn't really thinking very much at all." He took his hand from John's back and brought it to his face. "John, I..."

"Moving on," said John quickly. He could feel that his heart was racing, probably in relief at finally releasing the words it had been holding on to for so long, but it wasn't as if the news was anything startling, he reminded himself. It seemed the world and his (or her) wife already knew he was in love with Sherlock - even Mori-bloody-arty had guessed as much.

He cast his mind back determinedly. "But, that doesn't really make sense either," he pointed out, "because the next day, after the taxi ride, when you took my hand and put it over your belt..." He paused, wondering if his assumption at the time had been completely wrong. "I'm sorry if I got this backwards," he said, just in case, "but I took that to mean you wanted a blow job?"

Sherlock moved his hand to grip John's wrist, trying to pull it away from his face. John let go and he ducked his head down, but not before the suffusion of pink making its way up his neck was apparent.

"Sherlock, are you -" John broke off, almost biting his tongue to stop that sentence emerging.

"What?" snapped Sherlock, keeping his head down. "Am I what?"

John looked at him... even the tip of his ear was pink. Of course, he realised; Sherlock would never have discussed anything like this before, at least in connection with himself. No relationships, where this sort of thing would come up. No 'mates', who often compared notes in nauseating detail. No evenings down the pub, where discussions on how long a new partner could safely leave you alone in their flat before you had a wank, were not uncommon.

He recalled Sherlock's use of the rather coy term 'backside' when discussing the body on the beach with Lestrade; his response after the hand job the other day, when he'd tried to reassure John that he still wanted to proceed – the way he'd avoided actually saying anything explicit.

John couldn't keep the smile off his face, but he worked hard to keep it out of his voice. "I'm sorry, Sherlock," he said. "We do need to talk about this but I'll try to bear in mind that you are..." he pushed his brain ahead of his mouth and took out 'adorably shy', replacing it with, "uncomfortable with some of my terminology."

He wriggled a little way down the bed and put his head against Sherlock's chest, butting up against his chin until Sherlock raised his head and John could snuggle in. Hopefully, Sherlock would recover from his embarrassment more quickly if he knew that John couldn't see him.

"John," Sherlock's voice was low and he had wrapped both arms around John now. "About what you said before..."

"My question first," interrupted John. "Was my assumption wrong, Sherlock? Did I misunderstand you?" He didn't try to look up, directing his words instead towards the collar bones which so often tempted him, unable to resist brushing his lips against them and feeling the quiver which ran through Sherlock's body as a result.

"No." The voice above him was a little breathless. "No, you didn't misunderstand. When you said you would kiss me..." he broke off and inhaled sharply as John started nibbling across his chest, but he didn't freeze this time. "You said you would kiss me anywhere... Mmm, John..."

He seemed to be losing his train of thought and John wondered if he should just keep going. Clearly Sherlock was not unresponsive; whatever the problem was, it certainly wasn't physical. Perhaps the body could win out over the brain, if he didn't give it chance to catch up.

On the other hand, he didn't want Sherlock just once. This wasn't about getting his leg over, or proving a point. If there was a problem, it needed sorting out. Cursing himself, he pulled back, turning his head to rest his cheek on Sherlock's chest, waiting for the heart beneath to slow its pace before speaking.

"You're not freezing up now," he pointed out. "What's changed?"

"We're talking, now," Sherlock said, sounding startled. "I mean," he paused. "We're also..." he seemed to be looking for the word.

"Cuddling? Fooling around? Making out?" John supplied.

"Yes, thank you, John," he retorted, with a trace of his usual acerbity. "All of those things, no doubt. But we're talking, aren't we? You're not suddenly going to..." he trailed off again.

"Rip your pants off?" John couldn't resist, deciding it was probably just as well he had stopped when he did.

"If you're just going to make fun of me, we can get back to my question," Sherlock snapped.

John wriggled back up the bed until his head was on the pillow and they were nose to nose. "I'm sorry, love," he said. "I was just trying to lighten the atmosphere. So," he continued, determined to get to the heart of this problem before his balls were permanently damaged, "somewhere between getting out of that taxi a few days ago, and deciding to try some... er, tension relief, today, you, or your brain at least, decided that it had a problem. Am I on the right lines?"

Sherlock raised a hand to John's face, checking his expression. "Do you know you just called me 'love'?" he asked.

Now it was John's turn to blush as he thought back quickly and mentally kicked himself. "Sorry," he said. This was a problem – the first one had just slipped out, which was bad enough, but this time he hadn't even noticed. "Seems the floodgates are open. I'll try to stop."

Sherlock frowned, obviously able to feel the heat of John's reaction under his hand. "No," he said slowly. "No, it's fine." He smiled, a little tentatively. "I don't mind."

John tried to pull himself together. "So what happened between then and now?" he asked, returning to his point in his usual dogged fashion. He didn't really expect an answer from Sherlock, who certainly hadn't been keen to volunteer anything so far, but he hoped that the urge to contradict would override the reticence if John got truly off track.

"Something to do with the case?" he wondered, but that didn't feel right and Sherlock showed no reaction. "OK, not the case," he decided, "then it must be the..." he bit off 'hand job' for now - he was going to have to work on Sherlock's vocabulary. At this point, the implications of his conclusion began to dawn on him and he lurched backwards, pulling away from Sherlock, who made a sharp noise of disapproval.

"It was me, wasn't it? You didn't like it. You should have said! I didn't expect you to do that. I didn't ask you to. You didn't have to do it. I would never-" His words were muffled and then stopped altogether as he found himself crushed against Sherlock's chest, with an arm wrapped tightly round his body and another curving up to the back of his head.

"You're wrong," said a low voice in his ear, with total conviction. "Shh, John, that's not it." He felt pressure as Sherlock kissed the top of his head and stayed silent, hoping that he would keep talking.

"It's the control," Sherlock admitted eventually, his arms still holding John tightly in place. "You lost control, John. At that moment, when you..." He stopped, and John could almost hear him gritting his teeth. "When you climaxed," he continued, and part of John waved a virtual flag, "you were completely unaware of anything going on around you, totally vulnerable."

"And the idea of that scares you," John murmured, almost to himself. It was starting to make sense now.

Sherlock bristled at the suggestion of fear but John ignored it, struggling against the restraining arms until he could wriggle up and take Sherlock's face in his hands.

"I get it," he said, stroking his thumbs along those incredible cheekbones. "You already feel so much more vulnerable than normal because of the blindness. This just seems like a step too far." He gazed at Sherlock's eyes, wishing with all his heart that they were looking back at him. "If you had your sight, this probably wouldn't seem like such a big deal to you but I can understand why it is right now."

Sherlock looked surprised, almost as if he hadn't made the connection with his blindness. "So, where do we go from here?" he asked.

John thought for a moment, but really it was a no-brainer. "I think we should try," he said. "Or at least, I should try... on you, and you should try not to freak out."

Sherlock looked affronted at the thought of doing something so undignified. John took no notice.

"I had really intended to... er, use my mouth," he continued euphemistically, "because that was what you seemed to want before. But perhaps I should try with my hand? You may find that less... intrusive."

Sherlock's expression flickered, the tiny frown appearing so fleetingly John wasn't completely sure he had seen it. "What?" he asked.

Sherlock shook his head. "No, it's fine. That's fine," he said. "You're the expert; I will be guided by you."

John leaned away and studied him, now convinced that there was something. He dropped one hand to Sherlock's chest, just at the base of his neck. "Tell me," he commanded, the voice emerging from his memories of dealing with stroppy junior officers; not a tone he had ever used on Sherlock before.

"You won't kiss me, John," the words were blurted out and Sherlock twisted his lips in annoyance, but continued. "That's fine, it's your choice of course, but I..." he lowered his head, "'s your mouth that I think about."

John smiled to himself. There had been several reasons for the kiss embargo, only one of which he had divulged so far, but this was a benefit he had not actually anticipated.

He tried to organise his thoughts. "OK," he said, after a minute. "Let me sum up. You need to get off, because this frustration is interfering with your work. You want me to be involved and you want me to use my mouth, but you're not sure how far you want to go with another person because you're a control freak and witnessing me going to pieces in your arms has..." he tried to rephrase 'frightened the pants off you' in his head, but struggled due to the distracting image that went with the words, "...alarmed you," he finished eventually.

Sherlock looked annoyed, then resigned. "That seems to be a fair assessment," he acknowledged.

"OK, well think of the situation like a Band Aid," John suggested. "When you need to remove a sticking plaster, do you peel it off inch by inch or do you just tear it off in one go?" he asked. "Because it seems to me there are two possible approaches to this situation. Well," he added, "three if you count 'ignoring it and hoping it goes away', which hasn't been working too well for you so far."

There was a gleam in Sherlock's eye which suggested that John had struck a chord. "Rip it," he said.

"Really?" John tested. "I don't mean I'm just going to..." Hell, this language thing was a problem – what could he substitute for suck you off? "...dive right in, with no build up," he said. "I mean that I would try to overwhelm you, keep your body a step ahead of your brain."

Sherlock looked distinctly intrigued by this suggestion but when John asked, "Do you think that would work?" he shrugged his shoulders.

"I don't know, John," he said. "But I'd rather try that than have every move be a battle." He looked curious. "Do you really think you can overwhelm me?"

John chuckled. "In most things, definitely not," he admitted. "But in this? After the tension you've built up and your reactions so far, then I bloody well hope so." He looked at Sherlock, considering. "If you can make it through the first... let's say five minutes, without thinking about what comes next, just pretending to yourself that nothing more is going to happen; then I'm pretty sure I can take it from there."

"I'm not going to push you, though," he added, just in case that wasn't clear. "If you tell me to stop, then I will stop, of course."

"Don't stop for the five minutes," said Sherlock. "No, that's unfair of me," he continued immediately. "I'm sorry, John. I will control myself."

John snorted. "The whole idea is that you don't," he pointed out. He thought again, trying to anticipate anything which might cause a 'freeze'. "Will you take your shorts off?" he asked. "Only, stopping to remove them is going to give your brain a chance to catch up."

Sherlock looked taken aback, but then nodded, although he seemed uncomfortable. "You too," he said, not making any move to comply.

"Really?" John asked. "This isn't about me, you know."

"I don't want to be naked if you're not," objected Sherlock, apparently gearing up for another argument.

"No problem," said John, shimmying out of his underwear promptly and throwing them out of the side of the bed.

His movements were unmistakeable and Sherlock slowly followed suit, keeping the duvet well pulled up. John knew he wasn't unduly self-conscious about his body, so it must be his state of arousal that was causing this usually unflappable man to feel so shy. John found his embarrassment oddly endearing.

He moved closer and wound both arms around Sherlock's neck, stretching his body up. "How do you feel?" he asked, inwardly thinking how odd it sounded to be asking such a question of Sherlock Holmes, who would rarely admit to having any feelings in the first place.

Sherlock wrapped his arms around John's shoulders, then slowly slid one all the way down his back. Probably checking he really had stripped, thought John.

"Nervous." That must have been hard for him to admit, and John kissed the side of his neck, tightening his grip.

"I might feel better if you kissed me properly?" he suggested, and John chuckled against his skin.

"Nice try, love," he murmured, working his way down to resume his collar bone assault, then realised what he had said. "Bollocks. Sorry."

"I already told you it was fine," Sherlock's words were reproving but he had a smile in his voice, which turned into a gasp as John blew gently across his collar bones.

John felt as if it was Christmas morning. Admittedly, a rather worrying Christmas, when there was the significant risk that his presents might suddenly be whisked away unopened, but still.

He loosened his arms as he moved down the bed, leaving his left hand gripping the side of Sherlock's neck and trailing his right down to stroke over the damp skin he was leaving as he kissed his way down the smooth, pale chest before him. He felt Sherlock tense as he started to veer to the left and he paused, holding his position and reaching his left hand round to stroke through the hair at Sherlock's nape.

After a few moments, the tension eased and he immediately slid his right hand down, straight to Sherlock's left nipple, which he rubbed with his thumb. Sherlock's whole body twitched and he inhaled sharply, but he didn't freeze… it seemed to be the anticipation of an action which affected him adversely, rather than the act itself, John realised.

Bearing this in mind, he quickly ducked his head and sealed his lips around the other nipple, circling his tongue around it and sucking gently as he did so, occasionally flicking his tongue over the tip.

Sherlock was trembling now, but he seemed fine. Ideally John would have liked to roll him over, but there was a possibility that being flat on his back might make him feel more vulnerable, so perhaps it was best not to risk it.

He angled his head so that he could watch his hand as it played with Sherlock's nipple, rolling it between finger and thumb, circling around it, just rubbing it with varying pressures... enjoying its responsiveness as Sherlock's breath became quicker above him.

John had dreamed of this for so long, he could happily have played for hours, but Sherlock's body seemed to be ahead right now and he didn't want to give the brain chance to catch up.

He started sucking harder on the nipple in his mouth, largely as a distraction before he changed position, but Sherlock groaned loudly in response. John took the chance to drop his left hand down to take over, simultaneously propping himself up on that elbow and latching his mouth over the other nipple, sucking hard immediately before Sherlock had chance to worry about what was going on.

That freed his right hand and he dropped it straight down to Sherlock's arse – no: backside, he corrected himself. May as well get used to that for now. Sherlock still hadn't frozen again; in fact he seemed quite happy and was making that rumbling humming noise, just as he had during the massage. John could feel the vibrations in his chest.

He took a minute just to appreciate the situation... the taste of Sherlock's skin on his tongue, the responsiveness of the hard nub between his lips, the feel of the muscles under his hand, flexing as Sherlock rocked his hips, probably without realising he was doing so. John ran his palm down the back of each thigh in turn, as far as he could reach, then stroked back up again, squeezing, moving from one side to the other, part of his brain registering his amazement that he was actually allowed to do this, as if he was watching the scene from above in blatant disbelief.

He tried to clear his thoughts, realising that he had to stay focused if he was to have any chance of getting Sherlock off before his own control totally disintegrated. He introduced a hint of teeth to Sherlock's nipple, pinching the other one firmly. There was a sharp catch of breath from above him and he glanced up to see Sherlock biting his lip – it seemed he liked that.

John did it again, definitely nibbling now, using more teeth than he normally would on one side of Sherlock's chest and twisting his fingers on the other. Sherlock had released his lip and was undeniably panting... there wasn't going to be a better opportunity.

With one last, firm bite, John contracted the muscles in his right arm and pulled himself down the bed, leaving his left hand in place as he used his grip around Sherlock's hips to guide him.

"Don't..." the word was breathless but it halted John in place, mouth hovering over his goal, hands clenching in protest. He exhaled and felt the tremor run through the body he held onto.

"Don't stop," Sherlock said, and John engulfed him.

For a moment he just adjusted to the sensation. Sherlock was moaning above him and seemed past the point of objection. If he'd never experienced anything like this before, it probably wasn't going to take long, John realised, automatically starting to swirl his tongue, sucking gently.

He felt torn. On the one hand, he wanted to show off... because he was bloody good at this and he could turn Sherlock's world upside down if he wanted to. On the other hand, Sherlock's main concern was about losing control, so if John completely took him apart at this stage it might actually put him off. Also, with a bit of luck Sherlock might be willing to try doing this himself, so John didn't want to make it seem too complicated.

Then again (he was running out of figurative hands) there was a big part of his mind which was just screaming 'This is Sherlock... You've got Sherlock's cock in your mouth... Sherlock's cock is... In. Your. Mouth.'

He closed his eyes, trying to focus. Control. Sherlock was worried about control. In a flash of inspiration, he reached for the hand which Sherlock didn't seem to know what to do with and placed it on his own head, where the fingers immediately pushed into his hair and tightened, almost painfully. That was good. That was helping. He could concentrate better with the tugging sensation keeping him grounded and it gave Sherlock the illusion of dominance.

He moved his hand back to Sherlock's leg, feeling the long muscles respond as he stroked his palm upwards, allowing his fingers to reach further round than he had done before, skimming up Sherlock's inner thigh this time, overriding his instinct to tease as he remembered that anticipation was a bad thing in this instance.

Sherlock shuddered then rolled onto his back, throwing his right arm up across his face but keeping the other hand firmly on John's head, as if to make sure that John followed his movement. He needn't have worried. John wasn't going anywhere.

He kept the actions of his mouth and tongue going, gripping the sides of Sherlock's hips now with both hands as he rearranged his own body until he was kneeling next to Sherlock's legs and leaning forward. He couldn't comfortably maintain this position for long but it seemed pretty clear that he wouldn't need to.

Sherlock was shaking. John sucked harder and dropped his hand down, feeling Sherlock's balls draw up as he got closer, and rolling them gently. He smoothed his other hand over Sherlock's abdomen, loving the way the muscles rippled and contracted under his touch. He raised his eyes and almost lost it completely.

Sherlock was breathtaking. John ran his gaze over the lean torso, up to the chest, nipples still standing out firmly after his earlier attentions; he couldn't resist reaching up to them again, rubbing each in turn and Sherlock's breath caught, then released in a shuddering cry. His head was tipped back, the tendons in his neck standing out in sharp relief as his cock thickened further in John's mouth, making him want to swallow around it, but he resisted the urge this time – he didn't want to risk Sherlock gagging if he tried to imitate that too soon, should their roles be reversed.

That thought nearly threw him again, and he was almost glad when Sherlock started pulling on his hair. Bossy bastard, thought John affectionately; tempted to reach a finger down and go for his prostate – that would show him who was in charge.

He realised that Sherlock was trying to talk, the fingers pulling harder now. "Enough, John," he gasped out, his body almost writhing on the bed. "Enough."

Bugger. John thought fast. He had promised he would stop, but Sherlock was right there... holding himself back by sheer force of will. If they stopped now, he wouldn't walk straight for a week. But John couldn't force him... well, he could, they both clearly knew that, but it was no good - it would break their trust irrevocably.

He felt almost desperate as the thoughts raced through his mind. If they gave up now, that would be it, he knew... Sherlock would never let himself go this far again.

He gentled his mouth but didn't remove it, reaching up instead with his left hand, tugging at the arm Sherlock had over his face until he dropped it, then clasping his hand, lacing their fingers so their palms were pressed tightly together; John's left to Sherlock's right, their dominant hands. He tightened his grasp, squeezing Sherlock's fingers. 'Trust me,' his grip said and Sherlock inhaled sharply, flexing his fingers in turn.

Time seemed to stop as John waited, afraid to move, watching his happiness, his life, spinning in the revolving door of Sherlock's brain... everything you want / the end of your dreams / your lover's arms / your lonely bed... round and round, while Sherlock battled with himself.

Quite suddenly, it was over. The hand in his hair fell away and the other squeezed harder. 'I trust you,' it said. John didn't allow for second thoughts.

He hollowed his cheeks and sucked hard, his tongue flickering and Sherlock came almost immediately, arching off the bed and crying out, his nails digging into John's knuckles, other hand scrabbling across the sheets before he threw his arm back and gripped the railings of his headboard, his position close enough to John's previous fantasy to almost make his eyes roll back in his head, but he didn't want to miss a second of this, still not sure if it was something he would ever witness again.

He was trying to record everything, the feel of Sherlock pulsing in his mouth, the taste of him, the smell of his skin, the way his hips jerked, the noises he made and his face, lips parted, cheekbones flushed, his expression as John pulled off and swallowed, audibly.

He sat up as Sherlock began to settle, willing his own body to calm for the time being so that he could continue to focus on Sherlock, although looking at him now was most definitely not helping with this goal. He waited while Sherlock's breathing rate gradually slowed, watching as his muscles relaxed, his grip on the rail easing until he released it altogether, the pulse visible in his throat no longer beating quite so hard.

"How do you feel?" John asked again; aware of the tension in his voice, each word feeling heavy in his mouth.

Sherlock clearly heard both the words and the fear, as he always did, and he tugged John forward, bringing their joined hands to his chest. "I feel loved," he said.


Control by Concuelo


Control, by Concuelo

Chapter Text

"Finally, look into the donations," Sherlock said, as Anthea tapped away on her BlackBerry. "The charities aren't obviously linked, but I wouldn't expect a company like Janus Cars, for example, to be giving this much away; it seems in excess of any associated tax advantage."

He sat back in his chair just as John walked through from the kitchen.

"Are you sure you don't want one?" he asked Anthea again, taking Sherlock's hand and wrapping it around the mug. It was quite uncanny the way John worked around his blindness, Sherlock thought; always giving him enough direction, but not too much; guiding, yet not smothering. He wondered if there was some previous experience to explain that, or if it was yet another example of how attuned to him John was.

He didn't hear anything, so Anthea had presumably responded in a non-verbal manner; another thing John was careful to avoid.

"You're always on that BlackBerry," John commented, as the 'tap tap tap' continued. "Do you really have so many messages?"

"It would be quicker if abbreviations were permitted," Anthea allowed. "But Mr Holmes..." She paused, and Sherlock could imagine the dismissive look he was getting, "Mr M Holmes abhors 'text speak'."

"Says it's 'English with all the spelling taken out'," Sherlock commented. "One of the few things we actually agree on."

Anthea took her leave shortly after, John escorting her out in his usual polite manner. Sherlock could hear them chatting as they went down the stairs.

He sipped his tea, smiling to himself. This had been an excellent day; John had been absolutely right about the positive aspects of tension relief. After assisting John with his own situation, in a similar manner to before, Sherlock had slept for ten hours, then spent the day going through salient parts of the file again, coming up with several potential lines of enquiry which he had just passed on via Anthea. Part of him railed against this, but there was certainly no way round it at the moment. There was really nothing more he could do until some fresh information came in. He allowed his mind to drift back to the previous night.

In a way, he felt a little embarrassed about what he had said to John afterwards; love was not an emotion he was either familiar or comfortable with, but it was how he had felt and John deserved to know that.

When John had paused and taken his hand, Sherlock knew that he would stop if he had to, even though Sherlock was helpless beneath him, even though he had clearly realised that it would mean the end of his hopes, that there would never be another chance. Sherlock had believed John when he told him he loved him, but that was the moment that he really felt it and understood what it meant. John's grip on his hand had asked for trust, but his offer to stop spoke of love and Sherlock had ultimately given the trust, because he had finally accepted the love.

"Do you know, I think I'm getting more observant," John said, as he walked back into the room. "Anthea's eyelid definitely flickered when she said Mycroft's initial just before – I wonder what that's about?"

Sherlock snorted, his attention snapping back to the present. "Probably how they refer to him," he replied. "As per those ridiculous films you made me watch."

"Ah yes, Bond night." John's voice held a smile as he moved to his chair and sat down. Sherlock felt a wave of affection wash over him, suddenly wishing he had positioned himself on the sofa instead of in his chair, but he hadn't wanted to risk Anthea sitting next to him.

"You know, there are other gaps in your classic film and TV knowledge which we could probably fill without needing the visual," John mused. "How do you feel about dead parrots?"

Sherlock ignored this odd enquiry and moved on to the question at the forefront of his mind. "How long is it supposed to last?" he enquired. "The tension relief thing, I mean."

John exhaled and Sherlock couldn't tell if he was anxious or amused. "Well, that varies widely according to the individual and the situation," he said. "Some people have a higher sex drive than others, and often in the early stages of a relationship demand will be higher, so the 'relief' period would be shorter."

Sherlock thought about that. "So, how long does it last for you?"

John laughed. "Do you mean on average, since I moved in with you, or since we became... more involved?" he asked. "Because the answers are all different."

Sherlock raised his eyebrows. "After last night, for example," he elaborated. "How long would it be before you felt the urge to repeat the process?"

"I'm not sure this information is going to be helpful to you," John replied. "Because I have wanted you for so long, I've got something of a backlog." There was a short silence. "I would say around half an hour before I was capable, maybe an hour before I was really keen. Less, if you were naked."

Sherlock knew that his expression was undoubtedly betraying his surprise at this statement. "How do you function?" he asked curiously.

John laughed again. "Since I met you, I've pretty much had to get used to it," he explained. "But that's OK. I don't expect anything from you, Sherlock; I'm not making any demands. I can sort myself out."

"But what if I wanted to... assist?" asked Sherlock, hearing the sharply indrawn breath from the other chair. "I want to learn you, John." He got up and moved across to John, pushing his knees apart and settling between them. Then he leaned forward, sliding his hands up John's thighs and lowering his voice to the husky tone he had already deduced got him whatever he wanted. "I want to explore you," he said. "At least with the senses I have available to me."

John seemed incapable of speech and Sherlock sat back on his heels, still stroking his hands up and down. "There'll be no hot water left, otherwise," he added.

There was a huff but then John sat forward and pushed his hands into Sherlock's hair. "Frequent showers are necessary," he explained, "when one is lumbered with a flatmate as... Holy crap!" Sherlock had moved his hands higher and was enjoying the reaction this produced, "...gorgeous and oblivious as you," he finished in a rush.

"Hardly gorgeous, John," Sherlock reproved, his fingers deftly unfastening the belt they had encountered.

John's hands moved to cover them, stopping their action. "Of course you're gorgeous, Sherlock," he insisted. "How can you not know this?" There was a brief silence; John was clearly thinking. "You can test the theory," he said. "See how long it takes you to get me off with you fully dressed, as compared to with you being naked."

Sherlock frowned and shook his head in disapproval. "That's the least scientific experiment I've ever heard of," he objected. Then he smiled and rose to his feet, taking John's hands to pull him up. "But I take your point."

They spent the next two days in bed.

On the afternoon of the first full day, Sherlock was carefully checking if all the bumps over John's vertebrae tasted the same when his attention was diverted by a question posed in an unusually tense voice.

"Can I ask you about something?" John sounded as if it had been an effort to work himself up to this point.

Sherlock paused, mentally cataloguing his results so far. "Go on," he invited, bracing himself for potentially embarrassing language and questions he didn't know the answers to.

"At the crime scene the other day," John started, to Sherlock's initial relief. "Which you need to apologise to Sally about, by the way," he added, ignoring the resultant sniff. "You made a loud and public comment which implied that we were sleeping together."

"We are sleeping together," Sherlock pointed out, edging down slightly; he was approaching an area of particular interest. "Well, at least we would be if we were doing much sleeping at all."

John rolled over and Sherlock sighed. He had already taste tested the entire front of John's body that morning and he didn't want to repeat the experiment until he'd finished with the other side. He put up a hand to check John's expression; it was his 'what planet are you from?' face.

"That's not actually my point," said John. "As I'm sure you're well aware."

Sherlock wriggled up the bed until he could put his head on John's chest, listening to the regular beat. A thought occurred to him. "Do you have freckles, John?" he asked.

"I'm sorry, what?"

"Freckles? Do you have them and, if so, how many and where are they?" How could he fill in his mental picture of naked John without this information? "Do pay attention," he added.

John pushed him back, clearly wanting to see his face which Sherlock raised obligingly, eyebrow quirked in query.

"What about my question?" John demanded.

Sherlock smirked. "You didn't actually ask one," he pointed out. "And you're rolling your eyes again," he added. John said nothing and eventually Sherlock put his head back down and sighed. "What does it matter, John? What does it matter what they know, or think they know? Why should we care?"

"I care, Sherlock," John said quietly. "It matters to me." He started running his hand through Sherlock's hair. "I'd be proud to be openly in a relationship with you, you know I would. But we're not actually, technically 'in a relationship' now, are we?" His tone wasn't quite a question, but it wasn't a statement either. "You're still not sure. I'm not pushing you," he added quickly. "I'm just saying that I can live without the pitying looks I'll get if you change your mind. And also trying to understand what's going on in your head."

Sherlock digested that for a minute. "Is this one of those things we're supposed to talk about first?" he asked. Yet another reason why he had always avoided these kinds of entanglements; they were just so complicated.

"You seem to feel more comfortable now, physically?" John continued and Sherlock smiled against his chest. Considering they had both been completely naked for almost twenty-four hours and he couldn't presently imagine ever being tense again, that seemed to be something of an understatement, even by English standards.

John's practical demonstration that there was no part of Sherlock's body he found unattractive had been both thorough and conclusive, and he had driven out any remaining traces of self-consciousness with an impressive attention to detail. Sherlock drew a breath and attempted to explain himself.

"I have these feelings." He uttered the word 'feelings' in the same tone he would use if talking about smallpox, or soap operas. "But I don't remember having them before my head injury, which leads me to doubt their validity."

John's fingers were still stroking through his hair. "So you think that you'll get your sight back, snap out of it and find yourself in a relationship you don't want to be in?" he asked.

"I don't care about that, John," Sherlock replied quickly. "I'm quite certain that I will never regret anything I've done with you." He pushed himself up the bed until their heads were level. "But I don't want to hurt you, to... what's that expression? To lead you on."

"Right now, it is difficult to imagine not having these feelings," he conceded. "But they came out of nowhere so yes; I suppose I am concerned that they will vanish as suddenly as they appeared." He shook his head. "It's not feasible to assume that one can fall in love whilst unconscious."

John had gone very still. He started to speak but then cleared his throat instead. Sherlock wished that he could see his face. Eventually, John tried again. "So, on the clear understanding that these feelings may be a temporary figment of your brain injury, will you at least explain them to me?"

Sherlock groaned and threw himself back against the pillow. "I don't do this," he said. "I don't know about love. I've never really understood it." He rubbed his hands over his eyes. "I see it, of course, I recognise it as a motivator, but I've never considered it in connection with myself. I don't know if what I feel, or think I feel, for you is love - there is nothing in my experience for me to compare it to."

He felt John twisting on the bed next to him and his voice came from slightly above; he must be propped up on his side. "So, be more specific," he suggested. "What feelings do you have that you can definitely identify?"

That was easier; John was good at asking the right questions. "Possessiveness," was the first thing that sprang to mind, which was easily explained as he had never liked to share. "Connection," he said next. "Although, that's not an emotion specifically but I do feel a connection with you. That's the strongest thing, actually, I should have said that first."

He thought again. "Protectiveness." That was odder, since he was hardly in a position to protect anyone at the moment. "Admiration, respect, affection, frustration, confusion, irritation..."

"I think I liked the earlier ones better," John interrupted. "Perhaps you should stop while I'm ahead."

Sherlock ignored him. "Need, dependency, fascination, desire, frustration..."

"You said frustration twice," John chipped in again.

"Is there any wonder?" demanded Sherlock, rearing up suddenly and pushing John onto his back before lying down half across him. He pushed his hands into John's hair and brought their mouths to within millimetres of each other. "The second one was more specific," he said pointedly, before deliberately placing kisses on either side of John's lips.

He raised his head again and sighed. "Love is supposed to be selfless, isn't it?" he asked. "Yours certainly is."

He supported himself on one elbow and stroked his other hand down the side of John's face. "I don't think that's a word anyone would ever apply to me," he admitted. "If I love you, I'm supposed to put you first, aren't I? I don't know that I could do that. If you wanted to leave me, if you would be better off without me, would I let you go? If there was a way that I could stop you, would I take it?"

Letting his weight fall, he pushed his face into the side of John's neck. "I think I would." His voice was low, he wasn't sure if John would even be able to hear him. "I think I would do anything to keep you. I can't think of anything I wouldn't do." He stopped, hardly able to believe he was admitting these things. "That should scare you, shouldn't it?" he asked finally. God knows, he was certainly managing to frighten himself.

"I don't scare easily." John sounded shocked but his arms had tightened around Sherlock's body. "And I'm not going anywhere."

"I don't do feelings, not like this," Sherlock muttered, pulling his head back. "I just woke up and they were there, although it has taken me a while to recognise them. But even now, when I am starting to see what they are, I don't know where they came from. I don't trust them." He raised his face so that John could see him. "I'm not sure, John. I'm sorry."

He could feel John's shrug. "It's OK," he said. "What you've just said is... well, it's more than I ever expected." He raised a hand to Sherlock's face. "Even if you change your mind, I won't regret this."

"That was one of the reasons for the kissing ban, actually," he confessed, a minute later. "It was true what I said to you," he added hastily. "I didn't lie. But I also didn't want you to just drift into something – I wanted to give you a reason to think about it."

Sherlock decided that was more than enough serious talk to be going on with. "Can we get back to the freckles question?" he asked.

It was late on the second afternoon when Sherlock heard a chime from John's phone. There was no way John could reach it from his current position, and even less chance that Sherlock was going to let him up, so it would have to wait. Some two hours later, he stirred from a light doze as John came back to bed carrying tea and toast and reading a text message.

"Lestrade wants us to come in to Scotland Yard in the morning," he said. "Nothing desperate, but he would like your advice on a couple of cases." He sat down, setting the mugs and plate on the bedside table and putting a piece of toast into Sherlock's hand. "Got to keep your strength up," he said, with a smile in his voice.

Sherlock dumped the toast back on the plate and pulled John down, biting his neck instead. "My strength is fine," he said, rolling them over so that John was beneath him.

"What should I say?" John asked, still holding on to his phone.

"To me? Just stick with the 'Yes' thing," Sherlock advised, kissing a path down his chest.

John groaned. "To Lestrade, Sherlock," he said, squirming slightly. "What should I say to Lestrade?"

Sherlock lifted his head and sighed dramatically. "Fine," he said. "Tell him we'll be there in the morning." He paused until he could hear John typing out the message. "Be sure to say that it had better be good," he added, waiting for John to catch up, "if we're actually going to have to get dressed."

John huffed and Sherlock could hear him repeatedly hitting the delete key as he wiped out the second sentence. "If this is how you really want me to spend my time then that's fine, Sherlock," he said, pressing the send key at last. "It's not as if there's anything more interesting I'd rather be doing."

"Really?" asked Sherlock.

There was a moment in which he felt himself being scrutinised, then a thud as the phone hit the floor. "No, not really," said John, rolling Sherlock underneath him decisively. The chime of an answering text message was conclusively ignored.

"Are you going to tell me about them?" John's voice was soft; more enquiring than demanding and Sherlock felt a warm hand pushing the hair off his face as he lay on his back. He had woken abruptly a few minutes before and resisted his impulse to disturb John, knowing it must be very late. It seemed that John had woken anyway.

"I know you're still having nightmares," John continued, fingers still stroking through his hair soothingly. "I know you're not sleeping for more than two or three hours at a time and that when you wake me in the night it's not really for the reason you try to imply." He edged closer. "Well, maybe partly that," he added. "You don't have to tell me," he said. "But, considering your brain injury, I would recommend it – your dreams could be more relevant than most."

Sherlock sighed. "What do you dream about, John?" he asked, delaying the point at which he would have to respond. "Do you still have nightmares?"

"Not for a while," John replied, clearly aware that Sherlock was prevaricating but letting him get away with it. "And you seem to have supplanted Afghanistan, as if your ego needs that boost." He gave a small, self-deprecating laugh. "To be honest, I mostly dream about kissing you," he admitted. "Repeatedly."

"Do you mean you kiss me repeatedly in your dream, or you repeatedly dream about kissing me?" asked Sherlock. "Your language is shockingly imprecise."

"The second one," replied John, no doubt rolling his eyes again. "Your turn."

Sherlock exhaled slowly. "There are two of them," he said eventually. "The first isn't really a nightmare, I suppose, but it's still… disturbing." He resisted the urge to turn to John, wanting to just get this out. "I'm blind in it, for a start. There are other people around - people I know, Lestrade and such, not enemies... well, apart from Mycroft." John tutted, but didn't interrupt.

"I'm working on a case and I'm supposed to find something, but I don't know what it is or where to start." He shrugged his shoulders. "That's it," he said. "It's not frightening, nothing bad happens, it just leaves me feeling… helpless, I suppose." It sounded even more ridiculous when he said it out loud. "It's ridiculous," he added.

"No," John said immediately. "No, it's not ridiculous; I know what you mean. It's like those dreams when you're running away from something, and you're running desperately hard because you absolutely cannot let it catch you, but you've no idea what it is; you just know you have to keep running. It's like a kind of… nameless dread."

"Nameless dread," Sherlock repeated slowly. "Yes, that is a valid description." He shook his head to clear it. "The other I've already told you about and it hasn't changed." He didn't want to think about that any more. When he'd started having the first dream he had felt aggrieved that he was blind in it but, if given the choice now, he would prefer to be blind in the second one too, rather than see John get shot every time he went to sleep.

He rolled onto his side and pulled John into his arms. "Distract me," he said.

John did.

When they reached Scotland Yard the next day, the first familiar voice Sherlock heard belonged to Sally Donovan. John nudged him.

"Ah, Sergeant Donovan, how nice," he said.


John nudged him again. "I must apologise for my unfortunate comments at our last meeting," Sherlock continued. That was certainly true. He had to apologise, or John had threatened to read out all future reports in a pronounced Northern accent, which he had demonstrated most convincingly. Suppressing a shudder at the memory, Sherlock favoured Sally with a wide smile. After all, he didn't actually have to say he was sorry.

"I was unusually tense at the time," he continued, feeling his hand being suddenly squashed as John tightened the arm he was holding on to, in warning. "And John had not yet resolved the cause of my... situation."

"He's very sorry," John interrupted, tugging him forward to Lestrade's office and virtually shoving him inside. "Bloody man," he muttered. "God knows why I..."

The office was empty and Sherlock quickly released John's arm and slipped his hand underneath the hideous jacket the man insisted on wearing, rubbing circles over his lower back and leaning towards him, although not so close as to appear inappropriate through the glass walls. "I'll make it up to you, John," he promised, his voice low, feeling the shudder which John couldn't hide and hearing his gasp. This power was intoxicating.

"I've created a monster," John breathed, but he pulled himself together as Lestrade entered the room.

"Thank you for coming, gentlemen," he started. Sherlock sniggered and John stamped on his foot. He managed to turn his 'ow' into a cough.

"Sally wanted a word with you, if that's all right, John?" Lestrade asked, clearly opting to just ignore this odd behaviour. "I can start going through these cases with Sherlock."

"Absolutely," replied John, pulling away and heading for the door. He stopped before leaving the room. "Can you do accents?"

"Do hurry up, John," Sherlock said quickly, following and holding the door for him. "Wouldn't want to keep the Sergeant waiting."

As Lestrade started talking about the first case, Sherlock kept part of his focus on what was going on outside the office. He couldn't make out John's words, but Sally's voice was more penetrating. He heard 'that bed comment', 'bite marks' and 'smiling', but it was when the words 'taking advantage' reached his ears that he surreptitiously opened the door a little further with his foot, having deliberately failed to close it properly.

"He's not himself, John," Sally was saying. "Surely you can see that? He actually apologised, for God's sake!" Sherlock was no longer paying any attention to Lestrade. "How is he going to feel about this once he gets back to normal? I thought you were his friend."

Sherlock felt a hard knot of anger building inside him and it took effort not to stride out of the office and shut the damned woman up. John was so maddeningly noble; Sally had chanced upon the one argument most likely to give him second thoughts. He strained his ears to hear John's response, poised to intervene if it seemed necessary. He would sooner out them to the whole of Scotland Yard and hang the consequences than risk John backing away from him now.

"I'm sorry, Sally," John was saying. "It's clear that you mean well, but you don't know what you're talking about." That sounded better that Sherlock had hoped.

"Sherlock has changed in some ways, yes," John continued. "But, other than the blindness, the changes have been subsequent to, and not the result of, his injury. Beyond that, I don't think our personal life is any of your business."

There were footsteps approaching and Sherlock turned his attention back to Lestrade, allowing the door to swing closed again before it was abruptly pushed wide as John walked in, stepping immediately to Sherlock's side and taking his arm. Sherlock could feel his tension and leaned against him.

Lestrade had stopped to take a phone call and Sherlock turned his head to John. "Are you all right?" he asked.

"I'm fine, love," John replied quietly, but he didn't sound it and the direction of his voice indicated that his head was down.

Sherlock nudged him. "You said it again," he murmured.

"I'm sorry, what?" John seemed miles away. "Oh, right," he said. "Sorry."

"I told you, it's ..." Sherlock stopped himself. "I like it," he said. He sensed John's attention sharpen, his head turning so that they were facing each other, and suddenly felt a powerful longing to be back at home, wrapped up in John, with nothing between them and no outside influences to worry about. He became aware that he was starting to lean forward and stopped himself, wondering if his thoughts were showing on his face. "Sorry," he said.

John exhaled and the stress seemed to leave him. "It's fine," he said, and the smile was back in his voice.

There was a cough and Sherlock registered that Lestrade had finished his phone call some time ago. He turned towards him. "Well?" he demanded. "Carry on." He waved his arm in a 'hurry up' motion, pressing the side of his foot against John's unobtrusively. "We haven't got all day."

By the time they were finished, Sherlock's patience was wearing thin. John passed him his jacket while chatting to Lestrade about James Bond, of all things, relating their tedious movie night.

"I'm thinking of trying him on some Monty Python next," he told Lestrade, ominously.

"Blessed are the cheesemakers!" Lestrade exclaimed, which John seemed to find bizarrely amusing.

"I think you mean any manufacturers of dairy products," he replied. They were both giggling by this point, which Sherlock found he did not like at all.

"Come on, John," he demanded impatiently, standing by the door.

The giggles subsided. "Good luck with that," Lestrade said. "Can't see him going for it, myself."

"Oh, you'd be surprised," John replied. At least he was moving towards the door now. "I did manage to get him into crap telly after that Connie Prince thing, you know." His steps faltered. "Except..." He stopped completely and his breath caught.


Sherlock stepped forward and took his arm firmly, pulling him out of the door. "Good day, Lestrade," he said abruptly as he tugged an unresisting John away. He aimed them towards the lift and hoped that John was with it enough to get them out of the building. This seemed to be the case, and they got a taxi without a word being said.

"It doesn't really matter, of course," John said, after a while. His voice was bouncing off the window, he was clearly turned away. "So... you fooled me. You pretended to be fascinated by whatever that day time show was, so that I would go out and leave you free to contact Moriarty."

Sherlock felt he should apologise, but he wasn't really sure where to start. He didn't say anything.

"I already knew you lied about giving the memory stick to Mycroft," John continued. "This isn't a big deal, not really." He didn't sound as if he was convincing himself.

"I'm sorry, John."

"It's OK," he said. "It's just a different kind of deception, isn't it?" He cleared his throat. "Somehow, the lie feels more honest."

When they got home, things were strange. John made lunch, which Sherlock ate despite not being hungry. He read through the latest update from Mycroft but his voice was subdued. He sat in his chair while Sherlock brooded on the sofa.

By late afternoon, Sherlock was fed up. "Can't you just shout at me and get it over with?" he demanded.

John was looming over him seconds later. "I can do that," he said, and Sherlock couldn't help but flinch at his tone and sudden movement. Usually John was so careful not to startle him, he had almost forgotten how fast the man could react.

"How could you be such a fucking idiot?" John asked, leaning forward, and he wasn't shouting but this was somehow worse.

"Going off, on your own, to meet a proven psychopath and killer, in a deserted fucking location, without telling anyone where the fuck you were going, leaving your best fucking friend out of the picture."

He rested his arms against the back of the sofa on either side of Sherlock's head and his voice became even lower and more threatening, sending a thrill down Sherlock's spine which he wasn't sure was entirely appropriate.

"Your best friend, who would die for you, who has fucking killed for you, who fucking loves you, you stubborn... selfish... arrogant... git."

The silence was heavy, broken only by the sound of John's breathing as he brought himself back under control. That had clearly been bottled up for a while.

"Feel better?" Sherlock asked, aware that his pulse rate was considerable faster than normal.

"Let's go to bed," said John.

A few hours later, they were back on the sofa, both in their pyjamas. John wanted to watch some dreadful detective programme – he had suggested that Sherlock stay in bed and catch up on some sleep, but Sherlock hadn't wanted to be parted from John right now so had followed him, saying he had some thinking to do. John had made him promise not to spoil the show.

Sherlock did want to think. He wanted to think about John, about their relationship and about the origin of these mysterious feelings which bound the two of them together so tightly.

He lay with his back against the rear of the sofa and John snug against his front. He had his left arm under John's neck, curled round onto his chest... not playing with his nipples because he'd had his wrist slapped the last time; just resting there, over John's heartbeat. His right hand was curled round John's hip... not trying to sneak under his pyjamas, since that was apparently not conducive to John's viewing pleasure.

He thought back. It was undoubtedly true that he had woken up from the coma with feelings which he hadn't had before. Prior to the brain injury, John had been his friend and colleague. There had been a certain tension between them occasionally, it was true... Hallway, he thought distractedly, before bringing his mind back on track. This had not disturbed Sherlock though, or impacted on their association at all. He had been happy with things as they were.

Fast forward... the next thing he remembered was waking up from the coma and suddenly John was like oxygen. Essential, necessary, a part of him. Connected.

He tried to envisage waking up in the morning without these feelings. Would he suddenly find John's presence in his bed intrusive? He couldn't imagine that at all. They hadn't even had full sex yet – could there be a day when finding out what noises John made during that experience would not seem like a fascinating project?

If he got his sight back he certainly wouldn't be so dependent on John; things could return to how they had been. But then again, he realised that the times when he had most passionately longed for his vision had not actually been work related, but had been because he wanted to see John; to observe his expressions, his reactions, his face now that he wasn't trying to hide any more – he wanted to see the look that Mrs Hudson had described.

He thought about going back to being just friends, not acknowledging the love John had for him, letting it go to waste. Then he thought about how popular John was, how he got on with everybody, about the fact that he was Bi and therefore a target to almost anybody, about how practical he was... he wouldn't shut himself down if Sherlock turned him away; eventually he would accept an offer from elsewhere, possibly many offers. Sherlock felt the bile rising up into his throat and moved his thoughts swiftly on.

He considered his anger when he had heard Sally trying to put John off, and what John had said to her. John clearly didn't see a big personality change, despite Sherlock's own perception of everything being different. Was it possible that, whatever their origin, he had actually grown into these feelings rather than just gradually identifying them?

Sherlock thought about that for a long time.

Eventually, it occurred to him that they were lying together on the sofa just as they had been on that night, the night when John had given him his first kiss without waking up. Their positions were virtually identical. He propped himself up onto his left elbow and leaned forward.

"John," he murmured. There was no response... John had spent nearly two hours watching this ridiculous programme and he wanted to find out 'whodunit'.

"John," Sherlock whispered again, nipping John's ear this time.

"Just five minutes, Sherlock," he protested, hunching his shoulder up. "Can it wait five minutes?"

"It was the window cleaner, John. I'm sure."

"The window... Sherlock!" John was clearly outraged. "Could you not have hung on for a few more minutes? And what do you mean, you're sure? Of course you're bloody sure! You'd probably got the whole thing worked out by the first ad. break, just from the way they sneezed."

"I mean, I'm sure, John."

John froze, then fumbled for the remote control and switched off the TV. He had no room to turn round completely, but he leaned back against Sherlock and angled his head round.

That was perfect. Sherlock found John's hand and placed it on the back of his neck, just as it had been that night, then brought his own hand to John's face for guidance. That bit wasn't exactly right, but it was better than missing his target. John would never know anyway.

"I'm sure," he breathed, and lowered his head.

Artwork for this chapter:

I Can Do That by Haigidal

Chapter Text

'I'm kissing John... I'm actually kissing John,' was the predominant thought running through Sherlock's mind as he pressed their lips together, all his attention focused on the sensation of touching John in this previously forbidden way.

John seemed stunned at first but he recovered quickly. 'No... John is kissing me,' Sherlock amended inwardly, as the hand on his neck tightened and the lips beneath his own parted slightly just as they had before, except this time Sherlock could taste tea and a hint of shortbread biscuit instead of toothpaste.

He wanted to investigate that flavour; he wanted to explore John's mouth as he had explored the rest of his body but, as he started to think about doing so, John suddenly pulled his head back. Unthinkingly, Sherlock followed his movement, bringing their lips together again, and then one more time, until John turned his head completely away, breathing hard.

For a split second, the fear of rejection brushed across Sherlock's mind and he felt the first trickle of a hot wave of humiliation, but then his reason reasserted itself. John loved him. He knew that. If there was one rock he could build his life on, that was it. He waited.

"Am I dreaming?" demanded John, turning to face Sherlock once more, and everything clicked into place. Sherlock smiled.

There was a flurry of movement as John pushed himself upright, and Sherlock did the same, until they were sitting half turned to face each other.

"How did you... How could you possibly know this?" John's voice was sharp with disbelief. "I never told you about my dream, other than it was about kissing you. I never told you where, or how, or... That was exactly... Well, almost exactly..."

Sherlock quirked a brow at him. John would get there, eventually.

"Did that... Was that... It wasn't a dream?" He sounded dazed. "That first time... It really happened?"

Sherlock nodded. Was John going to be angry now? "Should I have told you, John?" he asked. "I wanted to tell you, but I was af-... I thought you might be disappointed."

John was still working it out. "So it was that night, after the park, when you snuck onto the sofa with me. And then in the morning you made that comment about my not minding at the time – this is what you meant."

It wasn't a question so Sherlock remained silent, still unsure how John was going to react. Perhaps it had been a mistake to try to duplicate it, but it had been his first kiss and he had wanted to share it with John, in a way that they would both remember.

"So all this time, when I've been saying 'No kissing on the mouth'... right back before we had that conversation in the taxi... I had actually already kissed you?" John didn't sound upset, just surprised, perhaps a little embarrassed. Sherlock raised his hand to check – yes, that fit his expression.

He nodded. "You didn't wake up. It didn't occur to me that you would have any awareness of it, or I would have said something." He shrugged. "I'm sorry, John; it was my fault. I disturbed you and you – you just kissed me." He smiled, a little ruefully. "I've been nudging you in the night ever since, but you never did it again."

John chuckled, but then fell silent. "Was that your... Did I take your first kiss and not even know it?"

Sherlock tipped his head to one side. "You were asleep, John. Any taking was done by me. That's why I wanted to..." How could he phrase this, without sounding unbearably twee? "...give it back," he finished.

John's emotions were not clear from his expression and Sherlock moved his hand to stroke his finger around the mouth he'd spent so much time thinking about. "Can we start again?" he asked, his voice low. "I still don't understand these feelings but I am sure of them now. I'm sure of us." He could feel John purse his lips.

"What if you wake up back to normal and the feelings have gone, as you feared?" John asked, sounding reluctant yet determined. "What then, Sherlock? What happens to me, then? To us?"

Sherlock found John's hand and brought it to his chest. "They would grow back, John," he said. "Whatever happened, they would grow back." He sat there, holding John's curled fingers against him and just hoping that the man would accept his words, because he knew now, suddenly with a bone deep certainty, he knew that they were true, but they were all he had to offer.

Eventually, John's palm flattened and pressed over Sherlock's heart. "OK," he said quietly, and Sherlock marvelled at his courage, at his faith, at his love. He was still marvelling when John pushed him back against the sofa and straddled him.

"Now, where were we?" John asked, presumably rhetorically as he seemed to have a definite idea in mind.

Sherlock raised both hands to John's face, intrigued to find that their heads were level in this position. Perhaps he would have to upwardly revise his opinion of John's intelligence, as he did have some amazingly good ideas at times.

Leaning forward, he paused, just a breath away from what he wanted. "You're not going to stop me this time?"

He could feel John's exhale and the hands which had been resting on his shoulders travelled up the back of his neck, fingers tangling in his hair. "I'm unlikely to ever stop you again."

Sherlock pulled John towards him, until he could just brush their mouths together in the lightest of touches. It was fascinating how different this contact felt to everything else; he couldn't really account for it. More information was needed.

Slipping one hand round to the back of John's neck, he pressed their mouths together more firmly, in a definite kiss, then pulled back slightly, running his tongue along his own bottom lip appraisingly. Interesting. He moved forward again, parting his lips a little more and feeling John do the same. Were you supposed to aim for the middle of the other person's mouth, or more for one lip or the other? He tried it each way, pulling back more slowly each time.

Two realisations were dawning on him. The first was that he didn't have the slightest idea what to do next. What he wanted to do was to explore the inside of John's mouth in as much detail as he could get away with, but presumably there was some sort of etiquette involved, an approved method of going from here, which was nice but relatively superficial, to there which, to the extent he had in mind, was undoubtedly pretty invasive. Unfortunately, he was sadly unaware of the appropriate procedure.

The second realisation was that kissing was very important to John and something with which he no doubt had a lot of experience. This had several corollary realisations, ranging from immediate and intense dislike of everyone John had kissed in the past, with the possible exception of close family members, to the concern that John might be disappointed with the current endeavour and feel that it wasn't up to normal standards.

In view of their closeness, it was perhaps unsurprising that John seemed to pick up on his uncertainty and, after a couple more kisses, simply asked, "My turn?"

Sherlock smiled against his mouth. "Yes, please," he said, feeling a hand slide round to cup his jaw while the other tightened in his hair. John tilted his head to one side, brought their mouths together and took over.

Sherlock tried to keep hold of his rational approach as John took his upper lip and sucked on it, as John's teeth nibbled on his bottom lip, as John's tongue reached into his mouth and brushed along his own.

He tried to keep his mind separate and record what was happening, so that he would know what to do and could review this experience at his leisure... but John's hand stroked along the side of his jaw up to his ear, and John's fingers stretched up to run through his curls, and John's tongue encouraged his own to reach out and then he started sucking on it and Sherlock could feel his brain going off-line.

He pulled back, out of breath and disoriented, resting his forehead against John's and gripping the back of his neck tightly, to ground himself.

"You OK?" John asked, and he was just as breathless, his voice rough and so wanting, and Sherlock couldn't resist that want, couldn't leave that need unanswered. He tipped John's head back and simply took.

No longer concerned about what he should do, or what was appropriate, for once in his life Sherlock relied on his instinct and every part of his body was screaming at him to hold on to this man and never let him go, to mark him and claim him and bind him so indelibly, irrevocably tightly that he would never again think about anyone he'd been with before and never even contemplate there being anyone else in his future. Because, as sure as night followed day, John Watson belonged to him and, equally as certain, Sherlock Holmes absolutely did not share.

They kissed until there was nothing else, until the rest of the world had faded and drifted away on a cloud of irrelevancy, because anything that wasn't John's mouth, and John's tongue, and John's taste, and John's smell, just didn't matter any more. And at some point their position had become uncomfortable for John, putting too much pressure on his knees, and Sherlock had scooted forward and John had wrapped his legs around him, and Sherlock had twisted and tipped them over until they were lying full length on the sofa, holding on to John all the while, with an arm wrapped tightly round his waist and the other diagonally across his back and up to his neck, so that they fell together, never losing their connection.

Then Sherlock stretched out and snuggled in and tilted his head and pushed his tongue further into John's mouth, and welcomed John's tongue into his own and sucked and nibbled and licked and tasted until he knew everything he had wanted to discover and had mapped every inch of John's mouth and learned everything he could learn about how to kiss, and about how John liked to kiss, and what made John shiver and what made him moan and what made him pull away for a moment so that he could tell Sherlock that he loved him, and that he was amazing, and that he was the only one, the only one that John wanted, the only one that John had ever wanted like this.

And when he knew it all, when he had learned everything there was to learn, and gleaned every bit of new information that could possibly be gained from this experience, Sherlock was surprised to discover that it wasn't enough, and he kept on kissing John and realised that it would never be enough and it dawned on him that he had found a new addiction which made cocaine look like caffeine and he wasn't sure if he was addicted to kissing or addicted to John, but it didn't seem to matter because John was there, and he wasn't going to leave, and he would never leave and at that point it became imperative to stop, and he had to stop, and he forced himself to stop and to raise his head and put his hands on John's face to keep him from following and, "I love you," he said.

And then John choked out his reply and kissed him again and John's face was wet but he was smiling and they kept on kissing, although it was more difficult because John couldn't stop smiling, or was it Sherlock who was smiling, or Sherlock whose face was wet and he couldn't tell, and it didn't matter because they were together... and they went to bed, eventually, but they didn't do anything more, they just lay together, kissing and murmuring and wrapped around each other and Sherlock felt whole... and complete... and perfectly happy, and he wouldn't have exchanged John for his vision, or his life, or anything in the world that he could think of.

Chapter Text

"No! No, no, no..."

John jerked awake as the moans grew louder and rolled over immediately, throwing himself across Sherlock, who lay face down on the bed, his entire body rigid with distress. This was a bad one.

John had long since given up trying to move him on these occasions, as it only caused him to assume a more defensive position, but he leaned forward to speak directly into Sherlock's ear.

"You're dreaming," he said firmly. "It's not real. I'm here, I've got you." He squeezed his arms tightly around Sherlock's body, pushing his hands underneath the shaking figure below him.

"John!" His name was gasped out but Sherlock hadn't woken, he was still locked into whatever scenario was playing out in his brain. "John! No, not John. No..."

"Sherlock!" John spoke a little louder. "Sherlock, I'm here. Wake up!"

There was a sharply indrawn breath, then John was abruptly dislodged as Sherlock threw himself over, his hands immediately reaching out, grabbing hold of John and pulling him forward until they were pressed together from chest to knee before burying his face in John's neck and inhaling deeply, arms snaking around to clutch him tightly.

John tried to pull his head back, wanting to see his face in the lamplight, but Sherlock wouldn't release him, wouldn't let him draw away at all, instead rolling him onto his back and moving to cover him completely.

"John," he murmured, and he was trembling. John brought both arms around his back, and started stroking up and down.

"It's all right, love" he said quietly, kissing the side of Sherlock's head. "You're fine, it's OK, you're safe."

Sherlock made a sound of disagreement against his neck, but didn't move away. His breathing was calming; he was regaining his control quickly, as he always did. After a couple more minutes, he spoke.

"It's not my safety I'm concerned with," he said. "I am not the subject of my nightmares." He lifted his head at last. "I need to get up. Come with me?"

"Of course." John glanced at the clock as they climbed out of bed. It must have been late by the time they finally dropped off to sleep, but Sherlock had managed at least five or six hours, which was unusual for the last week or so.

He moved to brew tea as Sherlock started pacing up and down the living room. There was muttering, but he couldn't make out any words over the noise of the kettle. He glanced round; Sherlock looked agitated, but also angry and frustrated, which wasn't his normal reaction – something must be different this time. John moved to the doorway, the hand holding Sherlock's mug following his motions as he marched back and forth, before eventually giving up and just putting it back on the kitchen table.

"There must be something in the file," Sherlock announced. "Something I've missed but registered subconsciously. We need to go through it again."

John groaned and Sherlock wheeled round, striding towards him. He put his tea down hastily, just as Sherlock reached him and gripped his shoulders.

"He's going to try to take you from me, John," he said. "I can't let that happen. That is not going to happen."

His fingers were digging in and John winced. "I don't understand," he said. "Is this to do with your nightmare?"

"Yes," Sherlock replied. "No." He shook his head. "Yes." He groaned and spun away again. "My dream. The dream where I'm blind, it went further tonight." He paused, then moved back, just as John picked up his tea. He put it down again as Sherlock grabbed him.

"Did I tell you that I felt alone? In the dream there are people, lots of people, but I'm alone. It's the most pervading sensation."

John shook his head, knowing that Sherlock would recognise the motion through the hand on the side of his neck. "No," he said. "You told me you were working on a case. That something was missing but you didn't know what."

Sherlock pulled him closer, long arms wrapping round him tightly. "You are the case," he said, into John's hair. "You are what I need to find. That's why I feel so alone in the dream, because you're missing."

John was dubious. "Look, Sherlock," he started. "It's not unusual to dream about losing someone you care about. It doesn't mean it's going to happen." He stroked one hand up to Sherlock's neck, sliding the other down his back. "I'm fine. I'm here. Do you really think I'm going to leave you now, just when things are getting interesting?" He let his hand slip lower as he spoke, until it was resting just at the swell of Sherlock's... backside; he reminded himself to watch his terminology.

Sherlock huffed, but his grip eased. "I'm not suggesting I have precognition, John," he said, his tone impatient. "My dreams are usually entirely logical and easily relatable to ongoing events, and I only started having these... nightmares after we got that file. It's all tied in with Moriarty; there must be something in the file which suggests he is going to try to take you again."

John was quiet. He privately thought that Sherlock was attempting to use his deductive process to make sense of his newly acknowledged emotions, because he didn't know of any other way to deal with them. "Perhaps you're attaching too much significance to what is, after all, just a dream?" he suggested.

Sherlock released him again and resumed pacing. "But why now?" he was muttering to himself. "Not at the park, but now... what has changed?" He stopped, a look of enlightenment crossing his face, immediately followed by one of disgust. "I'm never going to hear the end of this," he said.

"What do you mean?"

"Mycroft," replied Sherlock. "Mycroft was right, although he was worried about the wrong person." He sank down onto the arm of his chair, then rubbed a hand over his face. "No, I suppose he was right about that, too. Damn."

John wasn't following. "Do you want your tea?" he asked.

Sherlock shook his head, then raised his arm. "Just you," he said. "Come here."

Sighing a little at the high-handedness, John nevertheless moved forward until he was close enough for Sherlock to pull him in.

"He wants to take my eyes, John, that's why my subconscious is portraying me as blind in the dream," he said. "I've been able to work again because of you, and Moriarty is going to try to take that away from me." His arm tightened around John's hips. "It's what Mycroft came to warn us about – drawing attention to ourselves."

"But Mycroft's concern was not directed towards me," John pointed out. "He thought the danger would be to you."

"And so it is, John," Sherlock replied. "To lose you now – what greater way to hurt me?"

"Because I'm your eyes."

Sherlock raised a hand in his usual 'expression checking' move, but John turned his head away. "John, how can you be so dim?" he demanded. "Were you not with me last night?"

John felt a little better. Somehow, the way Sherlock insulted his intelligence was quite reassuring.

Then Sherlock was up and off again. "Why didn't I listen to Mycroft?" he asked himself, his tone frustrated.

"You never listen to Mycroft," John pointed out. "Well, only so that you can be sure not to accidentally do what he wants."

Sherlock's lips twitched briefly, but then he shook his head; standing in the middle of the room, looking more lost than John had ever seen him. "How can I keep you, John?" he asked. "I'm helpless."

The following week was the second longest of John's life. Sherlock was increasingly distant. He wouldn't come to bed at all, just napping on the sofa instead. From having spent so many weeks worried about opening his eyes, now he seemed almost afraid to close them again. Sometimes John would sneak out and sit with him, stroking a hand through his hair as he muttered in his sleep about Moriarty, eyes, John, talking about there only being one shot; but he never wanted to discuss it after waking.

He didn't rebuff John outright. If John kissed him, he would respond, but before long his hands would come up to grip John's arms and set him gently away, with an 'I'm working', or 'I need to concentrate'. After a few attempts, John backed off, constant rejection being something he could do without.

Sherlock was convinced that somewhere in the evidence was a link which established John as a target. He started looking into the Au Pair case again, thinking it had a touch of Moriarty's style. They went to Scotland Yard to go through the details; Sherlock was cold and focused and John got a small smile from Sally, sympathetic looks from Lestrade and actually turned and walked the other way when he saw Anderson approaching.

Mrs Hudson found him sitting on the stairs during one of Mycroft's visits and brought him into her flat, plying him with tea and homemade biscuits. "You've frightened him, Dear," she said. "He's not used to caring and he doesn't know how to deal with it. He'll come around." She patted his knee. It was the most affection John had got in days and it took him two more cups of tea to recover.

The crisis came one evening, when John had taken advantage of Mycroft's presence to actually go out on his own. Well, alone apart from the security contingent who followed his every move, but he paid them no attention, heading for the pub where he sat for an hour over a pint, debating his situation.

He could see what Sherlock was doing, but didn't know how to stop him. His first taste of actual real happiness, followed immediately by a dream in which he lost it, seemed to have sent him into a flat spin. It was all the more alarming for him, because he had no experience of it – like a child who's never had a pet suddenly losing a family member, they have no coping mechanism, they've never learned how to deal with loss.

Eventually, John realised that he would have to go back. Mycroft wouldn't leave Sherlock on his own, but they would probably kill each other if left for much longer. His feet dragged on the way home and he leaned back against the front door after closing it gently behind him, trying to psych himself up to return.

With a sigh, he pushed himself upright and approached the stairs, already hearing voices from above – Sherlock's was quite clear, his deep baritone carrying the furthest; Mycroft's words more muted.

"You have to," Sherlock was insisting. "A new identity, a new country even. Don't pretend you can't do it."

John couldn't make out Mycroft's response, but it clearly wasn't to his brother's liking.

"When have I ever asked you for anything?"

John's steps slowed. He didn't want to eavesdrop, but he didn't want to interrupt either.

"I would owe you, all right?" The thought obviously did not appeal, but Sherlock kept going. "I would be in your debt."

It sounded as if a relocation might be on the cards. Well, that was OK; John didn't really mind where they were, although Sherlock would no doubt get bored within a week and be ready to return. Might do him good, actually, to get away from everything for a while... help him regain his perspective. John continued up the stairs, hearing Sherlock's words more clearly now, even though he had lowered his voice.

"Just don't..." he broke off. "Just don't tell me where he is," he said. "It's better that I don't know."

John froze. What the hell? He took the last two steps together and threw open the door, two heads turning towards him, both faces blanking as he watched them.

"I'm not leaving unless you can convince me that you don't want me here. Which you can't. So forget it," he said, marching past them both and heading into the kitchen, where he picked up the kettle and took it over to the sink.

He didn't want to turn around. Didn't want to see the pity he had already glimpsed in Mycroft's eyes, and didn't want that all-encompassing gaze sweeping over his face. Bad enough that they could both hear the kettle banging against the side of the sink as he tried to stop his hand from shaking. Sod it. He dumped the kettle and rested his fists on the worktop, keeping his back to the room.

"I will speak to you later, Sherlock," Mycroft murmured, as he took his leave. "Good evening, John." John jerked his head in response but didn't say anything, didn't turn around.

There was silence, but he knew that Sherlock was standing in the doorway.

"I can't lose you, John." His voice was final, decided.

"And forcing me away doesn't come to the same thing?"

"At least you'd be safe."

John scoffed. "Have you forgotten 'Could be dangerous'?" he demanded, turning at last and advancing on Sherlock, who immediately went to sit in his chair, face wiped clean of expression... almost looking bored.

John hated that look. "I don't want to be safe," he said. "Safety doesn't do it for me, never has."

Sherlock said nothing, just sat there as if the conversation was beneath his interest - but John could see the rapid pulse beating in his throat.

"So, you'd condemn me to a life of dull and isolated security, would you? That's what I'm worth, all I'm good for?"

"I've made you a target, John," Sherlock snapped. "You'll be better off..."

"Without you?" John interrupted. "That's not what you said last week. What happened to 'I'd do anything to keep you'?" His voice was scornful. "How little your words are worth."

His tone seemed to spur Sherlock into speech. "That was before I..." he broke off, subsiding into silence once more.

"Before you what?" demanded John. "Before you accepted your feelings, or before you realised how vulnerable they made you?"

Sherlock clenched his jaw, then exhaled and visibly forced himself to relax. "If I were myself," he said grittily, "if I were any use at all then things would be different, we could face this together, but I'm not and we can't." He shook his head. "I put you in danger. I made you observe for me, I may as well have painted a bullseye on your forehead. Mycroft will arrange a new identity for you and you will take it, until it is safe for you to return."

"I bloody well will not!"

Sherlock's hands clenched on the arms of his chair, but his face was set. "As you wish, of course," he said, his voice cold. "I will be moving, either way."

"And what will you do, in this grand scheme of yours? Go and stay with Mycroft? You'll go mad. And you'll drive him mad, too."

"It doesn't matter," Sherlock said. "He can shut me away with Mummy until I'm useful again, it makes no difference." He raised his head. "You will be safe."

"Fucking hell!" John yelled, in frustration. He wanted to stamp his foot on the floor, he wanted to punch the wall, he wanted to grab Sherlock and shake some sense into him. Some common sense, the one type he seemed to be lacking.

"Have you completely lost your marbles? Do you hear yourself?" he demanded. "Everything we've worked at over these past weeks, everything we've achieved, you're just going to write it off? Send me away and go and sulk in a corner until your sight returns?"

Sherlock said nothing, his face hard and set. John wanted to slap him. He changed tack, abruptly. "OK, fine, we'll go somewhere together," he said. "If it's too dangerous in London, we can go somewhere else. We can go anywhere you like. The Continent, America, bloody Bognor, I don't care. Somewhere together... Stop shaking your head!"

"We're too dangerous together, John," Sherlock said, in a gentler tone. "I've seen to that. If we're apart, I'm no threat and you're less of a target."

"Don't make this about me, Sherlock, because we both know it isn't." John felt the beginnings of despair at Sherlock's implacability and he fought against it. "It's not my safety you're really worried about, it's your own."

Sherlock waved his arm in dismissal. "You're being ridiculous."

"Am I? Have you even thought about what I want? About how I will feel being sent off, away from my home, away from everything I care about? Does that matter to you at all?"

There was no response; Sherlock's attitude suggested that any more ranting would just be tuned out.

"Safety isn't everything, Sherlock, what about The Game? That was all you used to care about."

"Well, now it isn't!" He seemed angry with himself for getting drawn back into argument, but he carried on. "Now it isn't, John. You know that." He raised a hand to his face, then straightened his shoulders and dropped it again. "I can't play the game without you, and I will get you killed." His voice wasn't entirely steady, but it was clear that his resolve was unwavering. "This is for the best," he said, his tone final.

John stared at him. Through his mind flashed images of the last few weeks, the two of them together; Sherlock smiling, cupping his face, touching him. Sherlock naked, gasping, holding his hand. Saying he was sure, kissing properly at last, wrapped together on the sofa, Sherlock saying he loved him... but not enough, as it turned out. Not nearly enough. He swallowed, blinking away the hot tears which threatened his composure, trying to hold on - the soldier in him still battling.

"OK," he said, at last. "If you've decided you don't want to risk your heart, then fine. Keep it. Much good may it do you, hiding alone in the shadows. I never took you for a coward, Sherlock."

Sherlock's face darkened at the insult and he rose to his feet. "I am afraid for you, not for myself."

"Bollocks!" shouted John, his control failing. "That is such complete bollocks, and you know it. Physical danger is not going to stop a man like you, any more than it would a man like me. It's emotional pain that you're afraid of. You're shutting me out, pushing me away to protect yourself. Yourself, Sherlock, not me. NOT. ME."

He turned away, breathing deeply, hoping that Sherlock would take his agitation for anger. Once he felt able to speak again, he continued, still keeping his back turned. If he was going to have his heart broken today, then he wasn't going to watch while it happened.

"So, go ahead," he invited. "Do it, if you must. Protect yourself. But don't for one minute pretend that you're doing it for my benefit, when any idiot can see that you're lying."

It was quiet for a long time.

John was so focused on keeping himself under control that he didn't hear Sherlock moving up behind him, didn't see the hands approaching his shoulders until they were already turning him, didn't duck his head quickly enough to prevent Sherlock cupping his face and feeling the tears on his cheeks.

He looked appalled. "John," he whispered. "John, I..." He stroked his finger down the side of John's neck, tracking the anguish as it flowed. "How do you... how do you dare?"

"It's risk versus reward, Sherlock. It always is." John wanted nothing more than to throw himself into Sherlock's arms, but that didn't seem like an option at the moment. "I was so happy a week ago, when you said you were sure, when you kissed me, said you loved me, it was the best night of my life." John had to stop, closing his eyes. He couldn't say these words while looking at the man he loved so much.

"And then ever since, it seemed like you had changed your mind, that you regretted it, and you've hurt me, as you can clearly tell." He paused, taking a deep breath and opening his eyes again. If this was his last chance, he had to take it. "But Sherlock, I wouldn't give up that night for anything. Even if you push me away, even if I never have another, it was worth it."

Sherlock's hands were moving over his face, 'watching' John in the only way he could, his thumbs repeatedly wiping away the tears that were still falling. "I've never had anything I was so afraid to lose before," he said, his voice low and hesitant. "There has never been anything... anyone, that I wouldn't want to live without."

He leaned down until their foreheads were touching. "I'm sorry," he said.

John swallowed. "Sorry that you're going to break my heart, or sorry that you've been an idiot?" he asked, giving up on his voice and letting it emerge choked and broken.

"The latter," said Sherlock.

The latter... John almost didn't dare believe that he'd heard correctly. "Do you mean it?" he whispered.

"I promise you," Sherlock replied. "I swear to you, John, that I will never do anything like this again. I will listen to you. If you want us to stay together, then we will stay together, whatever the risk. I promise you..." His voice cracked. "I promise you... forgive me."

John let go. His knees gave out and he would have fallen had Sherlock not supported him, wrapping long arms around him and holding him close, walking backwards until they could fall to the sofa; Sherlock somewhere between sitting and lying, with John draped across him, hardly aware of their location as the stress of the evening - indeed, of the week - made it's way out of his system and soaked into Sherlock's shirt.

When it seemed that the worst was over and he started to tune back in to his surroundings, John found himself with a mouthful of shirt button and barely room to breath. He pushed himself upright and reached round for the tissues, wiping his face and blowing his nose loudly.

Sherlock made a face. "Is it strange that I still want to kiss you, after that?"

John chuckled, although it was a subdued affair. "I still want to kiss you when you're wrist deep in body parts, so I'm going to go with 'No'," he replied, leaning to the side and resting his head on Sherlock's shoulder.

His breath was still slightly uneven but he was calming, feeling better now after the cathartic effect of tears, something he'd been known to unofficially prescribe from time to time. 'A cup of tea, two biscuits, and a good cry. Not necessarily in that order. Come back and see me in the morning.'

Sherlock's arm was wrapped around him, hand stroking up and down, and John felt a kiss on the top of his head. Then Sherlock's hand moved to cup his jaw, tipping his head back and the kisses moved to his temple, then down the side of his face. John kept his eyes closed, just revelling in the attention, the feel of Sherlock's lips against his skin - after fearing that he would never experience it again.

Sherlock was kissing gently all over his face, but avoiding his mouth, as if unsure whether he still had the right. Gentle wasn't Sherlock's usual style at all, and John blinked his eyes open and pulled his head back so that he could focus.

Sherlock looked nervous, perhaps doubtful as to where they stood now in the light of their fight, and probably disconcerted by all the feelings wafting around the place.

John sighed; it was clear that emotional intelligence was in no way related to the more intellectual kind. "You don't ever do anything like this again," he said firmly. "No unilateral decisions which affect both of us so seriously. Agreed?"


"OK, then," he said, and waited. Nothing happened. Sherlock looked confused.

John gave a dramatic sigh. "Honestly, do I have to do everything?" He wrapped a hand around the back of Sherlock's neck and pulled him down, and Sherlock smiled against his lips and then they were kissing and it was glorious.

Hands in hair, give and take, Sherlock pushing and John teasing, sucking on a lip then pulling back, angling his head then moving in again with a nip of teeth, until Sherlock growled and pushed him backwards, falling on top of him and kissing him hungrily. That's more bloody like it, thought John, absolutely loving Sherlock's weight pressing him down, feeling Sherlock's growing erection against his thigh and pushing up against it, rolling his hips and stretching his body out to get as much contact between them as he possibly could. It quickly wasn't anything like enough.

"Can we...?" Sherlock asked, between kisses - he seemed unwilling to part their lips long enough to get a full sentence out.

"God, yes," muttered John, pushing one hand into the back of Sherlock's trousers and pulling up his shirt with the other.

"Your room," said Sherlock, heaving himself off the sofa and pulling John up also, wrapping around him immediately and pushing him back towards the doorway. His direction was a little off, which reassured John as to how affected he was.

"Why mine?" John asked between kisses, correcting their route. They never slept in his bed, always staying in Sherlock's room which was closer.

"Top drawer," Sherlock explained succinctly, biting his way down John's neck.

Top drawer? John wondered, vaguely, tipping his head automatically to improve Sherlock's access. Top drawer?... Oh! "Oh!" he said, torn between 'Are you sure you're ready to take this step?' and 'When did you go through my room?' In the end, as the mouth on his neck reached his collarbone, he simply turned, grabbed Sherlock's hand, and tugged him urgently towards the stairs.

It took them some time to get to John's bedroom, and neither of their shirts survived the journey. Then they got sidetracked in the doorway. John had managed to get his hand into Sherlock's trousers by this point and Sherlock was grumbling about layers, as it was apparently unnecessary for John to wear another top under his shirt on a warm evening. John ignored him, pushing him back against the doorframe and biting his neck, keeping his head tilted back with a hand in his hair. They virtually fell into the room.

"Hold on a minute." John tried to consider practicalities.

"If I hold on any tighter, I'll cut off your circulation," replied Sherlock. He could be so frighteningly literal at times, John wasn't even sure if he was joking.

"Just let me get what you'll need," he said, pulling his hands free. "You know, from the top drawer," he added pointedly.

"What you'll need," replied Sherlock, not letting go at all. "I want you to do me."

John was startled into temporary immobility. When he had allowed himself to imagine it, he'd always assumed that Sherlock would be a very definite top. He said as much.

Sherlock shrugged. "You're probably right," he agreed. "But you're the only one of us who knows what he's doing. Also, I feel the need to make reparation to you and this seems a suitable method."

John hesitated; he didn't want Sherlock to submit to something that wasn't what he really wanted.

With a huff, Sherlock pulled him forward, tugging his T-shirt over his head swiftly. "For God's sake, stop being so damned noble," he said. "I love you, but you can be absolutely infuriating."

John's heart swelled at the admission, but he had to laugh at the words. "I know how that feels," he said, and pushed Sherlock down onto the bed.

Sherlock lay back as John stripped him with military efficiency. Truth be told, he did feel a little dazed. He'd been through more emotional upheaval in the last few weeks than in the preceding decade and it seemed clear that he was making a complete hash of it. From now on, he determined, he would leave decisions on that side of things to John, it was definitely more his area. This would also leave Sherlock free to focus on more intellectual matters. It was win-win, he decided.

"What are you smirking about?" asked John, as he dropped the last of Sherlock's clothing to the floor and started on his own.

Sherlock quirked a brow at him, aware that the effect might be diluted by his complete nudity and state of arousal, but no longer caring about such things in front of John. "Can't I just be happy to be here with you?" he suggested. "Does there have to be a reason?"

"With you? Always," said John. "Although it's nice to see you smiling." He must be naked by now, Sherlock thought, propping himself up on the bed. The room had gone quiet. He turned his head from side to side. "John?" Both his elbows were suddenly knocked away, making him fall back and then John was there, hovering over him, not quite touching.

Sherlock waited; he would follow John's lead. Hands moved to cup his face and he wished he could see, even just for a moment, to see how John was looking at him now, then he could picture it whenever he wanted. He thought he would probably want to picture it a lot. He blinked, and John kissed him.

Sherlock raised his arms and tried to tug John down on top of him, but he didn't budge, clearly not wanting to be rushed. He was significantly stronger than he appeared. Sherlock amended his approach and pushed one hand into John's hair, quickly sliding the other into the gap between their bodies.

"You sneaky bugger," John gasped as Sherlock's hand closed around him.


From there, things progressed into something of a wrestling match. Sherlock was stronger, but somehow that didn't seem to help against John, with his army training behind him. Likewise, Sherlock was more devious, but John was much more experienced. Sherlock had always thought of sex as something distasteful and rather unsanitary; he had never realised it could be fun.

Eventually, there came a point where they were pressed against one another, kissing softly and getting their breath back. "You ready?" asked John and Sherlock nodded. "Roll onto your front," instructed John, moving away, and Sherlock heard the slide of the infamous drawer as he obeyed.

He supposed he should feel nervous, considering what was about to happen, but he really didn't. It would probably hurt, at least at first, but that wasn't a problem. He could cope with a fair amount of pain, and he no doubt deserved it anyway for what he had almost done earlier. He suddenly flashed back to John's choked voice asking if he was 'sorry you're going to break my heart' and his chest felt tight.

"John?" he said, and John was there. "I'm sorry," Sherlock told him, as warm, forgiving fingers stroked through his hair. "I am sorry." He brought his hand up to take John's and pressed their palms together, thinking about how differently this evening could have turned out and feeling fiercely grateful for the way that John stood up to him.

"I know you are." John's voice held a slight tremor, but he didn't sound upset. "You still OK with this?" he asked.

"Go for it," Sherlock replied and John snorted at his use of the expression. "What?" he demanded. "I can be current."

John was still chuckling as he moved onto the bed and Sherlock opened his mouth to protest further, but then John started pressing kisses down his spine and he shut up, stretching his arms up over his head and humming in pleasure. He could feel John's smile against his skin, but that was all right. He was glad he could make John smile.

John was making good progress, kissing and licking a trail as he moved down the bed, his hands stroking down Sherlock's sides until they reached his hips and pulled them up. Sherlock rose onto his knees obediently, supporting his upper body on his elbows and feeling a little undignified, but quickly forgetting about it because John. Was. Not. Stopping.

He just kept going, with his kissing, and his licking, and his tongue and that was way past Sherlock's spine now and that was really, extremely, very much... unexpected.

Sherlock found that his fingers were digging in to the bed and he couldn't seem to get his breath. John's tongue was circling and flickering and now actually pushing into him and Sherlock almost pulled away, but then he had to stop himself doing the opposite, but it didn't really make any difference because John's hands were gripping his hips and John's mouth was following any movements that he made.

Logically, he thought, it wasn't so strange. After all, John's tongue had been in his mouth, and in his ears, and in his belly button, and this was just... it was just... it was just thrusting into him now and one of John's hands had moved between his legs and when had that happened?

Then the hand on his hip was gone, and so was the other one, but Sherlock didn't move away; he stayed right where he was, thank you very much, because this was where John wanted him to be and clearly John had his own area of genius. He was distantly aware of a wrapper tearing and the flick of a bottle top, then John's hands were back, but slick as they smoothed over him, and John's tongue moved away and a slippery finger immediately took its place.

Before long, there were two fingers and Sherlock squirmed a little, although it didn't hurt exactly, it just felt very strange... but the other hand was stroking him and that was an extremely pleasant distraction from any level of oddness and John's mouth was kissing and sucking again, no doubt leaving red bite marks all over his hips and backside and Sherlock found he didn't mind that either.

Then John's fingers twisted and every muscle in Sherlock's abdomen clenched and he had absolutely no control over the peculiar noise which emerged unbidden from his mouth. He turned his face into the pillow, hoping John hadn't been put off, but there didn't seem to be any danger of that as the fingers continued to rub inside him, more firmly now, and exactly in the right place.

Sherlock groaned low in his throat, feeling that things couldn't possibly last much longer, and the fingers slowed and pulled back a little. With a final kiss to the base of his spine, John knelt up behind him.

"I need you to spread your knees apart and lean forward a little more," he requested, continuing before Sherlock could ask for an explanation. "It will help to stretch you, which should minimise any pain you might feel," he said. "And also..."

Sherlock had figured it out. "You can't reach otherwise," he observed.

John huffed. "Yes, all right, I'm shorter than you. Ha bloody ha. You won't be laughing in a minute," he said, and Sherlock shivered, but it still wasn't nerves.

He followed John's instructions, feeling oddly empty as the fingers were removed, then John was gripping his hips again with both hands and adjusting his position and he could feel something else pushing at him, a firm and steady pressure and part of him thought there was just no way that was going to fit in there... but then it did.

John held his hips firmly, grounding him and Sherlock gritted his teeth because yes, that did hurt, and John was not entirely proportionate to what he recalled of national averages - there was still some way to go. But John was waiting, giving him time to adjust, and Sherlock took a few deep breaths and consciously tried to relax, because this was John and he didn't want John to feel unwelcome.

And then John eased forward a little more and slipped one hand around to grip and stroke him and in what seemed like a very short time John was fully inside and there was a loud moan from behind him and he could hear John catch his breath, and both hands were back on his hips and he could feel them trembling. "Are you all right?" he asked.

There was a huffed exhale. "That's supposed to be my line," John said, and his voice was shaking too. "I'm fine, just give me a minute," he said. "I'm trying not to come straight away like a bloody teenager." He was panting. "Too many fantasies all at once."

"It's fine, John. I'm not going anywhere."

John laughed, which produced some very interesting sensations, but he stopped abruptly. "Sherlock, could you please not talk, for a minute?" he asked. "Your voice is… not helping."

Interesting. Several new lines of enquiry opened up as Sherlock considered this. Quietly. Then he got bored of waiting and pushed back.

"Fuck!" The hands on his hips tightened, then John said, "Right, then," and he started moving and the pain was mostly gone by now so Sherlock was better able to concentrate on the sensation of having John actually inside his body like this which, now he'd got used to it, surprisingly felt quite good, especially when John adjusted his angle and started brushing against his prostate again.

This would be all right, he decided, a little vaguely, if it was something John wanted to do regularly. Sherlock wouldn't object. His mind drifted a little, and he wondered what it would be like the other way round, and that was when everything stepped up a gear, or several, because the thought of doing this to John, of holding his hips and pushing into his body, of possessing him, had Sherlock tipping his head back and groaning again.

Then John leaned forward and wrapped one arm around Sherlock's body to anchor himself, and the other stretched up across his chest, and found his nipple and twisted it and Sherlock's body jerked, which John seemed to enjoy because he immediately reached across to the other side, repeating his action, and Sherlock put his head down and pushed his hips back and bit his lip to stop himself from moaning and suddenly wished John had more hands.

After that, things became increasingly hazy. John must have spent a while teasing his nipples because they were still hard and throbbing long after John knelt up again and one hand was back on his hip, but then the other reached around and John's grip was firm and relentless and knowledgeable and Sherlock could feel everything in his body tensing and his focus narrowing and he'd spent enough time in bed with John to know what that meant.

John clearly recognised the signs too, because his pace increased and he started doing that thing that he did with his hand, which Sherlock wasn't even sure how to describe, but recorded anyway and then Sherlock thought, next time, John… next time… I will be doing this to you, and that concept carried him right over the edge and it was… Goodnight Vienna.

He was dimly aware of John thrusting into him a few more times, both hands on his hips now, before the fingers tensed and John cried out, pulsing inside him, holding him in position when Sherlock would have slumped down onto the bed, and he was probably going to have bruises tomorrow but that was all right.

Then John was pulling out of him carefully, and tipping him to lie on his side instead of straight down, which... yes, that was a much better idea and he could hear John cleaning up the mess on the bed, then felt a soft cloth wiping his stomach and his chest... his chest? Really? Sherlock felt oddly proud, although he supposed John should take the credit, technically.

He probably ought to go and take a shower, he thought, as John tended to him, but he really didn't feel like getting up right now... maybe later, he decided, with an internal snigger.

"You're smirking again," John observed quietly, as he tugged the duvet down with some difficulty, since Sherlock was lying on it. "Should I ask?"

"Probably best not," Sherlock replied. "Although, I think you were right about me."

"Figures," said John, climbing into the bed and kissing Sherlock, before turning and snuggling back against him, pulling the duvet up over them both. Sherlock wrapped an arm around him and pulled him closer, contemplating their position speculatively.

"It will be easier the other way around, though," admitted John. "I should be at just the perfect height for you."

Sherlock smiled against the back of his neck. "Practically perfect in every way," he said and John let out a startled laugh, turning his head to look over his shoulder.

"I don't think this was what Miss Poppins had in mind," he said. "How the hell did that not get deleted?"

"I'll tell you tomorrow," Sherlock said, kissing him before nudging him back round. He was surprised the phrase had slipped out at all; his usual filters were clearly non-functional at present. Probably best that they went to sleep as quickly as possible, before anything else was said. He hoped his dreams would not be too bad tonight.

One shot. There had been only one shot. Sherlock almost woke, his mind stretching out to snag the elusive thought which kept haunting him, but it was gone and he slipped back under, finding himself blind again, searching for John, endlessly searching, except this time... he found him.

He couldn't tell where they were, but he knew that John was here, somewhere close by. A high pitched giggle emerged from the blackness and Sherlock turned his head towards the sound. "Where is he?"

There were footsteps, but not approaching, they were circling him. The voice which spoke was soft. "I've got what you're after," it said. "I thought you might come."

Moriarty. But where was John?

"Do you even know what you're looking for, I wonder? Or do you just wish you could see me?"

"Both," replied Sherlock, turning as the footsteps moved around him. "You think I'm a danger again, so you've taken my eyes."

"Boring!" laughed Moriarty. "You can get an observer anywhere." He walked on a few paces. "Oh, no, I've taken something much more… vital."

His steps were getting faster. "Don't you remember, Sherlock? Did my words really make such a fleeting impression?"

Sherlock's ears were starting to ring and he shook his head to clear it, straining to track Moriarty's position as the smell of petrol filled the air.

"Sherlock, run!" John's voice at last, but cut off abruptly. Sherlock moved towards the sound.

"I warned you," the voice was sing-song and seemed to be coming from everywhere at once. "I warned you what would happen if you didn't back off, if you didn't stop prying."

Silence, then the voice was low and malevolent and right at his ear. "Now you'll never be whole again."

There was the flick of a lighter and Sherlock started to run, but the noises faded, the lights came on, and he was back at the pool, watching helplessly once more as the sniper fired and John started to fall, waiting for the next shot… which didn't come... which had never come in all the time that he'd been having this dream.

He looked down at the gaping wound in his chest, finally understanding, and his true memories came flooding back as he woke up.

The lost half hour, seeing John walk out of the cubicle, the confusion, the absolute horror of the bomb vest, Moriarty's exact words, which John had not reported or repeated and the overwhelming realisation that, despite everything he had believed all these years, Sherlock Holmes did have a heart and that it was currently standing in front of him and wrapped in explosives.

Everything was clear. He opened his eyes and looked at John.

Chapter Text

John woke up alone. That wouldn't normally be strange, but they had gone to sleep together and Sherlock's nightmares usually disturbed them both, so it was a little odd this time.

He checked the other side of the bed, but it was cold, so Sherlock had probably got up for the day. John lay back, snuggling into his pillow. He had a feeling that last night's scenario would not often be repeated, and was tempted to just lie there for a while and luxuriate in his memories; but it was no good.

In under a minute, concern for Sherlock had kicked off the duvet and rolled him reluctantly out of bed, guiding his feet as he trudged down the stairs, picking up both of their abandoned shirts en route and hanging them over the newel post.

He ambled sleepily into the living room, relieved to see Sherlock sitting on the sofa, fully dressed, looking perfectly well and not at all upset as he went through the file.

"Morning," muttered John as he headed for the bathroom, managing to brush his teeth with both eyes closed. After a week of very poor sleep, it was taking him some time to wake up.

Meandering back to the kitchen, he picked up the kettle and took it over to the sink, gazing unseeingly out of the window as he turned on the tap.


What had he just seen?

John put down the kettle. He turned and walked back towards the living room doorway, peering round it uncertainly.

Sherlock was still on the sofa, turning pages rapidly, his hand flicking through associated photographs as he went. Immediately aware of John's scrutiny, he raised his head and smiled. "Good morning," he said, and his eyes were alive again.

John quite literally rocked where he stood, his mouth falling open as he stared. "How?... When?... How?..." he stuttered out.

Sherlock put down the file and jumped to his feet, wincing a little at the move, but then stepping onto and over the coffee table as he strode across the room. "Three excellent questions," he replied, moving right into John's personal space and cupping his face, eyes on full laser beam as they raked across his features.

John wanted to ask his questions again. He wanted to ask why Sherlock hadn't woken him, what level of vision had returned and what they were going to do. Unfortunately, his voice didn't seem to be co-operating and he just stared back as Sherlock regarded him as if he'd never properly seen him before, before throwing his arms around him and hugging him exuberantly, almost lifting him off his feet.

"I'm back!" he declared, before letting go and grabbing John's shoulders instead. "Come on, man," he urged. "Places to go, people to see." He grinned widely. "And I do mean see," he added.

John wondered if he was actually still asleep.

"You're not dreaming," Sherlock told him, turning him back towards the stairs. "Go," he insisted. "Get dressed. We're going out." John felt a push against his shoulder blades, then a slap on his backside.

He turned around again. "But..."

"We can talk on the way," said Sherlock, making a 'get a move on' gesture with his hands.

John didn't budge. He felt completely disoriented, as if he had stepped back in time and the last couple of months had never happened; he'd just got up one morning to find Sherlock excited about a case in an unusually effusive manner. He stood there and stared.

"All right, fine," said Sherlock, with an impatient huff. "I suppose it's too much to expect you take in without tea. Quickly, then." He motioned John towards the kitchen, staying beside him and talking all the while. "When I woke up this morning," he checked his watch, "just over two hours ago, I could see. Perfect vision, no distortion, no blank spots, completely normal. I came downstairs to look through the file for myself - especially the update Mycroft dropped off last night, which you haven't yet read."

John was not distracted by this titbit. "So you just woke up this morning and your vision had returned?" he asked, returning the kettle to its base then turning his back on it. Sherlock reached around him to switch it on.

"That's what I said."

An odd idea popped into John's mind, but he didn't say anything.

Sherlock rolled his eyes anyway. "No, John. I do not believe that your... emissions," he glanced downwards, "have magical healing properties."

"No. No, of course not," John agreed hastily. He thought for a moment, possibly not at the maximum performance level his brain was capable of. "Anyway, I used a condom," he added.

"Yes, John. That's the reason for my certainty." Sherlock was smiling at him, despite clearly being exasperated.

John flushed. "What's your explanation then, genius?"

"I'll tell you later," Sherlock replied, grabbing two mugs and throwing tea bags into them. John was surprised he even knew where the tea bags were, then realised that he probably didn't, no doubt just deducing the information on the rare occasions he needed it, then deleting it again.

"We should go back to the hospital and get you checked out," John advised, as he turned around and poured the boiling water.

Sherlock's voice was somewhere between dismissive and horrified. "And waste half the day? Are you mad?" he demanded. "No." He was moving away; the fridge door rattled. "My brain... that's definitely my decision. No hospitals." His arm appeared as he slid the milk onto the worktop and John grabbed his hand before he could pull it back, tugging so that Sherlock stepped right up behind him.

The news was slowly starting to sink in, as John became more alert. It was strange, he thought. He could be roused abruptly from the deepest sleep and be completely awake if Sherlock needed him, but this had totally thrown him off.

The big part of him was delighted, ecstatic even, but there was also a small, selfish worry about whether Sherlock would still want him now, that was making a knot in his stomach, and John felt ashamed of it. He pressed the hand he was holding against his abdomen while he buried that fear as deeply as he could, then he turned around, leaning back against the counter.

"I'm so happy for you," he said honestly, looking up into Sherlock's face.

The full impact of those eyes, with their owner's intelligence shining through them once more, was not something you could easily forget, but John was still shaken by their force. He couldn't regret this, he realised. Whatever happened - even if they returned to just being friends - he could never wish for Sherlock to be impaired in any way. His smile widened as he recognised this truth and the guilty knot in his belly eased a little.

Sherlock's gaze was boring into him, following the threads of his tangled thoughts and unravelling them for inspection. "Ah," he said. His gaze flicked briefly to the still brewing tea, then he shook his head, wrapped his hand around the back of John's neck, bent down and kissed him.

John felt as if his heart was suddenly in a different time zone, almost stopping, then lurching and racing to catch up. He threw himself into the kiss just as he threw himself in any direction that Sherlock led, aware that it was probably too hungry, too intense for the situation, and almost certainly not what Sherlock wanted right now when he was trying to focus on the case, but completely unable to help himself.

He stretched up onto his toes, pushing the fingers of one hand into Sherlock's hair and wrapping the other arm around his waist to pull him closer. Sherlock allowed it, kissing him back but not trying to take things any further, just kissing, for as long as he wanted, until he was reassured, and happy, and the knot had completely dissolved.

They finally broke apart when he could no longer contain his smile. "Thanks," he said, knowing that his feelings must be written all over his face. Sherlock inhaled sharply.

"That's it," he murmured, apparently to himself.

"I'm sorry, what?"

"Oh, just something Mrs Hudson said," Sherlock replied, smiling at him. "We're together now, John," he continued. "Just to be absolutely clear." He took John's hand and brought it to his chest. "There will be no going back to being 'just friends', or colleagues, or whatever other ridiculous notions are chasing their tails in your head."

It wasn't a question, but John nodded anyway, feeling positively buoyed up with happiness – he hadn't consciously been worrying that Sherlock would revert completely back to his old self if his vision returned, but the fear must have been deeper than he'd realised. He turned his head to regard their, now sadly stewed, morning cuppas.

"I think the tea is beyond redemption," he observed, deciding that never before had drinks been wasted in such a noble cause.

"Hmm," Sherlock mused, releasing John and stepping back. "I may be very new at this love business," he said, causing John's head to whip back round to face him. "But it seems that, in some situations, kisses may be better than tea?"

John nodded in agreement. Then he put the kettle back on. After all, there was no reason he couldn't have both.

"So, where are we going?" he asked, wondering where Sherlock wanted to start. What would he most want to see after being blind for two months?

"Out, John!" he replied. "Scotland Yard first, I think, but the important thing is to be out before Mycroft gets here."

Mycroft was coming? Sherlock must have phoned, or more likely texted, his brother earlier. "What did he say when you told him?" he asked, turning round finally with two fresh mugs in his hands.

Sherlock had an arrested look on his face and a gleam in his eye. "John, you're a genius," he said, smiling widely. "Right, change of plan." He took his tea and put it down immediately. "Go and get dressed, then come back down. If Mycroft's here, don't give me away."

John rolled his eyes. "You haven't told him, have you?" He was oddly pleased to find that Mycroft hadn't known before he did. "Don't you think attempting to fool your brother is a little beneath you? Haven't we got better things to be getting on with?"

Sherlock ignored him, clearly engrossed in his own evil scheme at the moment. "Teach him to deny me in my hour of need," he muttered, shepherding John, together with his tea, out of the kitchen.

"Your 'hour of need' being the decision to send me away?" queried John, standing firm in the living room. "The one we agreed was ranked among the Top Five worst decisions ever made, by anybody, even if we included land wars in Asia?"

Sherlock looked a little uncomfortable but he rallied quickly. "That's hardly the point, John," he objected. "Anyway, there might be advantages to my being able to play 'blind' – think of it as a field trial, rather than an attempt to deceive."

John sighed. "No doubt you've got half a dozen more rationalisations ready and waiting if I try to argue with that one."

"Eight, actually." Sherlock looked smug.

"Well, even if you can fool him, which I doubt, quite frankly; I certainly can't," John pointed out. "One look at me and he's going to know something is up."

Sherlock waved his arm dismissively. "He'll put that down to embarrassment over the sex thing," he said.

John wasn't sure he wanted to know, but still he heard his voice asking, "The sex thing?"

He was rewarded with a quirked brow. "Surely you realised Mycroft was coming back last night? We had not yet come to an agreement and you were standing right there when he said he would speak to me later."

"Coming back?" echoed John.

"Oh, do keep up, John. Why else did I throw our shirts down the stairs, if not as a clear 'Piss off, we're shagging'? That's why he'll call round this morning instead."

"Shagging?" John was almost as thrown by Sherlock's use of the word as by the realisation that Mycroft may well have been standing at the bottom of the stairs while he was rogering his brother at the top of them.

Sherlock was starting to look concerned. "Are you all right?" he asked. "You're a bit pale. Should I kiss you again?"

"That's OK," said John, holding tightly to his tea and heading for the relative sanity of his bedroom. There was absolutely no point in arguing with Sherlock any longer. He staged a tactical retreat, taking the abandoned shirts with him.

He took his time, letting this latest development sink in and trying to consider the ramifications. He found it quite difficult to imagine what their lives would be like now; it was hard to connect the defensive and prickly man he had first fallen in love with, with the more dependent and affectionate Sherlock he had come to know over the last few weeks.

However, the kiss in the kitchen, and Sherlock's words, had gone a long way to reassure him and John, being a sensible and practical man, decided not to worry about it and just to take things as they came.

He could already hear voices as he descended the stairs, and tried to steel himself to disregard the events of this morning and pretend he had just got up. It still gave him a chill when Sherlock's head turned, unfocused eyes looking straight through him. The man was scarily good, John had to give him that. For a moment he wondered if he had dreamed the whole thing, and surreptitiously pinched himself. The side of Sherlock's mouth which was turned away from Mycroft twitched slightly and John relaxed.

Mycroft was regarding him with interest and John concentrated on keeping his expression calm and neutral. "Good morning," he said, focusing on the official reason for the visit. "We're both staying, as you are no doubt aware."

"Indeed," replied Mycroft, turning his head towards Sherlock again. "It seemed clear last night that… negotiations, were well underway."

John flushed at his words and moved to lean against the table, stumbling a little as he went.

"And, as my brother seems to be having some difficulties with his… seat, this morning," Mycroft continued, just after Sherlock had shifted awkwardly in his chair. "One assumes that a satisfactory conclusion was attained."

It must be killing Sherlock not to glare, John thought, very taken aback by Mycroft's words. He would not have expected such personal comments from the usually urbane man. Moments later he realised that Mycroft had been deliberately provoking his brother, as Sherlock started clapping his hands together.

"What gave me away?" he asked.

Mycroft permitted himself a small smile. "I suspected immediately from the air of barely suppressed glee which surrounded you," he said. "But it was obvious when John tripped over the rug."

John sighed in resignation. He should have known he'd get the blame.

"How did it happen?" Mycroft asked but Sherlock fobbed him off, just as he had done to John earlier, running quickly through 'it's back; it's perfect; no hospital' and thankfully leaving out John's fleeting 'magic sperm' theory.

There was silence while Mycroft considered the situation, then, "Does anybody know?" he asked, slowly.

The brothers regarded each other, engaging in one of those silent conversations which always made John feel like a piece of left luggage.

"It's too dangerous," Sherlock said eventually.

John's ears pricked up. "What is?"

Sherlock just shook his head, but Mycroft responded. "We were considering whether keeping the return of Sherlock's vision a secret would give him an advantage over Moriarty."

John thought about that for a while, ignoring the near silent bickering going on in front of him.

"No," he said finally. "Although I don't understand the 'too dangerous' part?"

"So, why do you vote 'No', John?" Mycroft asked, with interest.

John wondered when his opinion had been upgraded to a vote, then turned his head to look at Sherlock. "It will divide your focus," he said. "Observing will be much more difficult if you have to pretend you aren't doing it. Dark glasses can only do so much. This case needs your full attention. Also," he slipped into soldier mode, "what tactical advantage would it give you, really? If you were going to be on your own, then perhaps, but as that will not be happening," he brought out his best stern expression and shared it evenly between the brothers, "then the point is irrelevant, since my vision is not in question. Anyway, if you did suddenly appear somewhere all alone, Moriarty would be sure to smell a rat."

Mycroft was nodding, but Sherlock looked closer. "That's your 'official' reason John, what's the other one?"

John shuffled his feet as Mycroft regarded him again in surprise. It seemed he hadn't realised that John was holding anything back. Sherlock smirked; obviously adding a tick to his side of some mental scoreboard.

"You'd hate it," John said eventually. "Oh, you'd enjoy the secret, no doubt. Have some fun with it, certainly. But you've missed it so much." He smiled at Sherlock, recalling how he looked when truly in his element. "The observing, I mean - seeing everything, noticing everything, pulling deductions out of thin air. Amazing us all with your genius. Using the lab at Barts, conducting your own experiments, finding the answers, uncovering the secrets, all of it."

He could see Sherlock's smile grow as he talked, and this was the genuine article, not a smirk, or a curl of the lip, but a real, warm, happy smile. Mycroft threw him a glance, then couldn't seem to pull his eyes away.

"I want to see that look on your face again," John finished.

Sherlock's eyes were blazing and he seemed to be struggling to stay put. John feared that Mycroft would get a visual to go with whatever he had overheard the previous night, but then Sherlock turned to his brother, his expression growing smug.

"I told you," he said, and John got the impression they were talking about something quite different.

"Indeed you did," agreed Mycroft. "Much as it pains me, I would have to concur." He rose to his feet and turned to John with a smile. "I wonder if you would be so kind as to see me out?" he enquired.

A quick glance at Sherlock showed him looking exasperated but not concerned, so John straightened up obligingly and followed Mycroft down the stairs.

"I believe this is the point at which I am expected to utter some tedious warning against breaking my brother's heart," he said, much to John's surprise. "Although, if Sherlock is to be taken literally, I'm not quite sure how you'd manage that."

John adopted his usual approach when a Holmes was being particularly incomprehensible, and ignored it. "Why would keeping Sherlock's vision a secret be dangerous?" he asked, instead.

Mycroft paused at the bottom of the stairs and turned to him. "If it is known that Sherlock can see again, then any threat from Moriarty will refocus on him and away from you," he replied.

It took John a few seconds to get his head round that, then he felt cross. "So keeping it a secret is more dangerous for me," he worked out. "That's his reason? The bloody man wants to take the danger away from me by transferring it on to himself." He turned to march back up the stairs, but Mycroft caught his arm.

"Don't," he said sharply. "Let him have this, John." His grip relaxed, but he didn't let go. "I've never seen him show fear before last night," he added. "Please, John. Give him this." They stared at each other, heads close together and level with John on the step, Mycroft's hand on his arm. Then John heard a throat being forcibly cleared from above him.

He nodded at Mycroft, then turned and walked up to where Sherlock was waiting with a face as black as thunder. He'd barely made it to the top step when he was pushed back against the wall and then Sherlock was on him, kissing him fiercely, leaning fully against him so that his body was completely pinned and immobile and holding his head in place with both hands to stop him from turning away.

The click of the front door as Mycroft departed barely registered, and the loss of his audience did not deter Sherlock at all. He was sucking hard on the side of John's neck now, marking him, one hand pulling his hair to keep his head tipped to the side and the other slipping round his throat.

There was no one else in the world from whom John would ever have tolerated this; the hand round his throat was a red alert and it was an effort to suppress his instinct to fight back. But suppress it he did.

He brought both hands up and slipped them beneath Sherlock's jacket, stroking up and down from his hips to his shoulders. When that biting mouth returned to his lips he kissed back, stretching up and pushing off the wall as far as he was able so that the pressure was not all one way, tangling their tongues together and riding out the storm until Sherlock started to calm, the threatening hand moving down, then around his body, the fingers in his hair relaxing and stroking round to the back of his neck.

The deep kisses became gentler, the biting gradually reducing to nips, until they were just leaning together at the top of the stairs, kissing softly with their arms wrapped around each other. Eventually, Sherlock raised his head, opening troubled eyes to gaze at John in confusion.

"I'm sorry, John" he said, looking completely disconcerted. "I don't know what that was."

"That," replied John, "was an overly dramatic display of jealous possessiveness, with a side order of repressed dominance and a whopping great dollop of sibling rivalry."

Sherlock shuddered, flushing darkly. "My apologies," he said, attempting to step back. John didn't let him go.

"It was also fucking hot," he added. "And as the alternative would probably have been for you to pee on me, I'm not complaining."

Sherlock grimaced, but then sighed and relaxed again, resting their foreheads together. "What have you done to me, John Watson?" he asked.

"Oh, blame me, why don't you?" John laughed. "If I figure it out, do you want me to stop?"

"No," Sherlock replied. "No, don't stop."

The next few days were a whirlwind. They ran around; they looked into anything and everything. Sherlock wanted to interview the sniper who had shot him, but seemed unsurprised when Anthea reported that he was 'no longer available'. He had to settle for watching video footage of the interrogation, which he found frustratingly unhelpful. John noticed that all the interviews took place on the first two days after Sherlock was shot, then there was nothing. He didn't lose any sleep over it.

They re-examined the Carl Powers case and looked into the connections of Raoul de Santos. They interviewed the man who did the accounts at The Hickman Gallery, and people who had worked at Janus Cars. Mrs Monkford refused to speak to them.

Through it all, Sherlock was just as normal, and yet there were significant differences. In public, his behaviour was more or less unchanged. He stood closer to John than was socially acceptable, but then he always had. He was still impatient, obscure, often irritable; he still called John an idiot, but there was less censure in his tone and more affection. He also had to know exactly where John was, at all times.

Physically, things seemed to be on hold. Sherlock was in full-on case mode, napping on the sofa and refusing to eat more than every other day.

He treated kisses like pit stops. As a man in a hurry might grab a quick mouthful of tea or coffee while on the move, so Sherlock would grab John, kissing him passionately and with complete focus for a minute or two, before releasing him just as suddenly and whirling off again. John got the very clear message that sex would be mostly a 'between cases' activity, classified together with food and sleep. Ah well, he thought; there was always the shower.

They'd just been in to Scotland Yard to check the particulars of the will in the Au Pair case, which Sherlock still believed was one of Moriarty's, when Lestrade caught them in the foyer.

"Body dump. No identification. Care to take a look?" he asked. "Oh, and congratulations." Sherlock and John looked at each other. "I mean on getting your sight back," Lestrade added hastily. "Not seen you since."

Sherlock nodded, but did not look round. He quirked a brow at John to indicate his willingness to help with the case, and John tipped his head to one side and gave him an 'It will do you good' smile. They turned together. "Let's go."

The body had been found in the underground parking area of an affluent apartment building and the place was teeming with officers. Sally pounced almost as soon as they appeared.

"Is it true, then?" she demanded.

"Ah, Sergeant Donovan, that question could apply to so many situations," Sherlock replied, his voice cooler than John would have expected. "If you're asking about my eyesight, then yes, I am once more fully capable of deducing whose carpets are currently affecting your knees."

"Sherlock!" John's voice carried disappointment as well as surprise and Sherlock halted abruptly.

"My apologies," he added, not looking round as he strode towards the centre of activity, tugging John along by his arm.

"That wasn't what I meant, anyway!" Sally shouted after them.

She sidled up again just as Sherlock rattled off a list of questions while examining the body.

"So, are you two a 'thing', now?" she asked. Sherlock ignored her and John just gave an embarrassed half-smile. "You know," she persevered. "An item? A couple? Romantically involved?"

Almost all activity amongst the surrounding officers seemed to be on hold and Sherlock glanced up. "Your area, John," he said, waving his arm towards Sally.

John was surprised. His area? Was Sherlock leaving the decision as to whether they 'went public' to him?

"I don't think that's any of your business," he told Sally, to the rumbling discontent of the crowd around them.

"Shut up!" demanded Sherlock. "I can't think over all this speculation."

Sally gave John a sympathetic smile and lowered her voice to a murmur. "Dumped you now, has he?" she asked. "I did warn you."

Sherlock straightened up and looked around him. "Well?" he asked, of no one in particular. "Information? Data? Answers to questions?" Nobody responded. John flushed as he realised all eyes were moving between the two of them.

"Oh, for goodness sake, you're all obsessed!" Sherlock complained. He took two steps forward, grabbed John round the back of the neck and kissed him soundly. "Now can we get on?"

Later that day, John came grumbling up the stairs, weighed down by grocery bags. If he absolutely had to be followed around the place by a bunch of heavies, the least they could do was give him a hand with the bloody shopping, he thought. He was still muttering as he heaved the bags onto the kitchen table and wandered back into the living room.

Sherlock was sitting in his chair with a pile of papers on his knees - head tipped back, eyes closed, clearly deep in thought - but he stretched out an arm imperiously. John sighed and walked over, stooping to look at the papers, but the arm reached up... fingers sliding into his hair and pulling him down into a kiss.

It was rather more intimate than they had been of late; Sherlock's tongue tracing round his lips, flickering at the sensitive corners of his mouth, and John felt his body stirring as he lowered himself to perch on the arm of the chair, bringing both hands up to cup Sherlock's jaw, then stroking them down the sides of that long, pale neck, so beautifully exposed in his current position - the first thing John had looked at when he walked through the door.

His right hand rose to wind through Sherlock's hair as their kiss deepened and Sherlock moaned; opening his mouth to John and welcoming him in, relaxed and pliant beneath him, allowing John to guide and dominate the kiss for long minutes as he stroked up and down Sherlock's neck.

His unusually submissive behaviour made John's heart pound and he lifted his head, ignoring the noise of protest and tightening his grip on Sherlock's hair to keep his head tipped back as he moved his kisses to that long throat, one hand slipping across Sherlock's chest as he looked down and flicked his nail over the nipple clearly visible through the fine shirt.

Sherlock trembled beneath him. God, he was sensitive there. John rubbed and pinched again, and had a sudden image of Sherlock with a piercing, a ring which would show through his fitted tailoring but which only John would be allowed to play with.

The vision sent his blood rushing south and he had to raise his head to get his breath, but he quickly lowered it again and bit down just at the base of Sherlock's neck, sucking hard as he twisted his fingers and Sherlock shuddered, gasping John's name, his body tensing… and the papers started to slide off his lap.

He grabbed them reflexively, and then stilled. "John," he said, and his message was clear.

John flattened his hand on Sherlock's chest and released the grip on his hair, allowing him to raise his head.

"I'm sorry," Sherlock said. "But I need to finish…"

John sat up, breathing deeply. "So do I," he said ruefully. "But I'll wait. You're going to have to relieve that tension sooner or later."

Sherlock gave him a small smile, his focus already shifting back to the papers, but he grabbed John's hand as he got up.

"I do…" he started, then cleared his throat. "I do love you," he said, not looking up. "But this is the way I am."

"I know." John left him to it, wandering off to the table, which had more papers scattered across it. He should probably have been more reassuring, he thought, looking through the pages aimlessly. After all, he did know what Sherlock was like; he knew the cases would always come first. It was just difficult to be rational when you had a raging hard-on.

His attention sharpened as his body calmed and he found he was holding a list headed 'Charities', his eye moving down the dozen or so names and associated offices, a frown growing between his brows.

"Problem?" Sherlock was looking at him now, and John shook his head.

"No," he said. "No, not at all. Just wondering how much good this lot are doing when they're spending so much money on their premises." He scanned the list again. "Highgate Hall," he picked out, "Reichenbach House, Mornington Manor..." He broke off, disgusted. "A bloody Manor, for God's sake. Any one of these sounds pretentious enough to be a front for Moriarty."

Sherlock suddenly started searching through the papers on his lap. "Mrs Harbrook's will... charitable donations," he announced, gleefully; flicking through a few more pages. "And the first Mrs Harbrook… different charity names, but the same set up."

"It is the charities, John, it must be. That's how he's being paid for his services. Oh, that is genius!" Sherlock was up and out of his chair, not noticing the pinched expression on John's face,

"They're rather dotted around the country, that's annoying," he reflected. "Though we can start with just the likeliest contenders – one of the ones you mentioned and a couple of others."

John folded his arms and leaned back against the table, a sick and familiar sensation settling in his stomach as Sherlock marched up and down, waving his arms and expanding on his theory.

"No one questions donations following the death of a loved one, or charitable legacies in a will – they might even add veracity to a forgery. And the businesses, they're probably even claiming tax relief on their payments, it's brilliant!" He spun round, eyes alight, clearly disappointed by the lack of applause.

"Brilliant," echoed John coldly.

Sherlock's grin died away and he looked suddenly uncertain. "John?"

John regarded him stonily. "Tell me, Sherlock," he started, his tone grim. "Tell me honestly. If you could flick a switch to make Moriarty disappear, would you do it?"

He watched as Sherlock switched gears to follow him, then pressed on. "The greatest adversary you may ever have," he pointed out. "Certainly the only one whose intellect you conceded is on a par with your own." He thought back to some of the words which had rankled so much at the time. "Someone elegant, someone novel, someone who understands what it's like to be bored," he quoted.

Sherlock took a half step towards him, but John's stance was closed off and forbidding and the movement died.

"Sometimes I don't know how you can stand to be in the same room with me," John continued. He was aware that he was being unreasonable, but the knowledge only served to make him angrier. "Plain, boring, straightforward John Watson – how can I possibly compete? I'll never be as 'delightfully interesting' as Mori-bloody-arty."

Sherlock looked as if his favourite cushion had suddenly grown teeth and bitten him on the arse. Yes, arse, John thought, rebelliously. I can bloody well think arse if I want to. "Arse," he said, which didn't really add much to the thrust of his argument, but made him feel slightly better.

Sherlock's eyebrows rose impossibly higher, then drew together in thought. "You hoped we'd be very happy together," he recalled, referring back to their argument after the old lady was killed. "Why didn't I see that you were jealous?" He shook his head in disbelief. "How could I miss that?"

"You were distracted at the time," John replied resentfully. Why did he always have to be the reasonable one, anyway? He was wound up, turned on and let down and jealous; yes, so damnably jealous of this fascination Moriarty held for Sherlock. He had been beyond frustrated during that argument, when those words were uttered; it was the closest he had ever come to leaving.

Sherlock had been obsessed with Moriarty, to the exclusion of all else, and it was almost as if Moriarty was seducing him, luring him away not just from John but from his own humanity, and to a certain extent he had succeeded; Sherlock had been seduced.

"You chose him," John's words were quiet now. "You got rid of me so that you could go to meet him. You chose him over me."

Sherlock steepled his fingers together and regarded him thoughtfully over the top of them.

"Why did you never tell me what Moriarty said at the pool?" he asked.

John was thrown at having to jump tracks so suddenly. "I'm sorry, what?" he queried. "I gave a report, which I know was read to you. Beyond that, we've never really talked about it."

He looked at Sherlock, and made a connection. "Is this... do you mean that you remember now? You got that half hour back?"

Sherlock nodded, then looked away, gazing out of the window. "It's funny how no-one thought it mattered," he said. "Not even me." He shrugged his shoulders. "Just thirty minutes, half of which were spent getting there and the rest which had another eye witness. They don't even call it amnesia, it's perfectly normal not to remember the run up to a head injury... 'Not important', they said."

He seemed unsure how to proceed, and looked back at John again. "I'd been quite happy with our situation before then - with our relationship, I mean," he expanded. "I knew that you were important to me, we worked well together, we just seemed to fit." He looked down... talking about emotions was never easy for him. "The flat always felt warmer when you were in it. Even when you were shouting about my experiments or nagging me to eat, I didn't mind, because I liked having your attention."

John was taken aback. To turn that laser intelligence on himself and analyse his own actions, deduce his own motivations, was something he had very rarely known Sherlock to do.

"There were those moments, of course," Sherlock glanced up with a smile as both men clearly shared a thought involving a certain communal area. "But I never really recognised what they were or paid them much attention." The side of his mouth twitched into a grimace. "My mistake," he added. "Because when you opened your coat and I saw the bomb wrapped around you I didn't understand what was happening to me. I was functioning on the surface, but underneath everything was upside down and spinning and nothing made sense until Moriarty said..."

John's voice was shocked as he filled the sudden silence, "He said he would burn the heart out of you."

"Precisely," acknowledged Sherlock. "And we looked at each other, and I recognised that that was exactly what you were. My heart." He paused, then - as if he just couldn't leave such an ambiguous statement unattended - added, "Metaphorically speaking, of course."

"Of course," John agreed, and Sherlock looked at him suspiciously.

"Don't mock the sociopath, John," he warned.

John raised his hands defensively. "I'm not. God, I wouldn't," he insisted, keeping his smile firmly internal.

"When I woke up from the coma," Sherlock continued, "I didn't remember anything past setting off for the pool. I didn't recall what I had realised, or that I had realised anything at all, but the connection between us, the closeness with you, they remained... and the feelings grew back - just like I told you they would, that night when I kissed you." He was watching John, assessing his reaction. "They grew back until I recognised them again."

John felt somewhat dizzy from this revelation, his anger forgotten in wondering what would have happened if they had both escaped the pool unharmed. Would Sherlock have acted on his feelings? Would he have started watching John more closely and realised that they were reciprocated? Would they have ended up where they were now anyway? Perhaps it was inevitable. He dragged his focus back. "So, your sight?" he prompted.

"It came back with the memories," said Sherlock. "The dream I kept having about the pool..."

"The one where we were both shot?" John asked.

"Not exactly," was the reply. "That's what I thought was happening, but that last time I saw what my subconscious had actually been trying to tell me all along – there was only one shot."

"That's what you kept saying," John chipped in. "When you were being so stubborn and sleeping on the sofa, you kept muttering about there only being one shot. It struck me because I have nightmares about there being two." Sherlock looked confused. "From when you were hit," John explained. "You shot the vest and the sniper shot you – there were two shots, when there should only have been one." He shivered at the memory.

Sherlock nodded in understanding, moving closer now, only an arm's length away. "In my dream," he said, reaching out a finger to brush over John's forehead, "you were shot, but I was bleeding."

"But I thought you were shot in the chest?" John was confused.

Sherlock shook his head. "That was an assumption which, even sleeping, my brain should know better than to make." He sounded most put out with the dream version of himself. "The shot which killed you, also destroyed me," he explained. "Specifically, my heart," he added.

His eyes searched John's face, his own as open and vulnerable as John had ever seen it. "Effectively, you are a part of me, John. I'm not whole without you." Sherlock closed his eyes for a moment and when he opened them, they were burning, and his hands moved to grip John's shoulders.

"So, don't ask me if I really want him to disappear," he said, his voice hard. "Because he took you from me and he threatened your life and you will never be safe while there is breath in his body, so if you give me that switch I will flick it, or if there's a button I will press it, or if he walked into this flat right now I would put my hands around his throat and squeeze... until his eyeballs fill with blood and he is gone from this world; because you are mine and I absolutely will not be parted from you for the rest of my days. Do you understand?"

John didn't know what to say. Part of him wanted to throw his arms around Sherlock and tell him that he loved him and that he always would, but Sherlock had probably had enough emotions for one day and would be feeling awkward enough as it was. He took a deep breath and nodded.

"Got it," he said, knowing he'd made the right call when Sherlock gave him a grateful smile and relaxed a little.

"So... road trip, then?" John asked, nodding his head towards the list of charities on the table.

"Train trip, actually," Sherlock replied, his voice still a little raspy after his outburst but quickly smoothing into his normal tones. "Unless you want me to learn to drive en route? I'm sure it can't be that difficult, they seem to give any idiot a license these days."

The thought of trying to teach Sherlock to drive made John grit his teeth. "The train is fine," he said quickly.

Sherlock's expression had turned speculative. "We could be away for a few days," he mused. "Which should allow time to investigate another very important issue."

John looked at him questioningly. "What's that, then?" he asked.


Chapter Text

Sherlock leaned back in John's chair, apparently deep in thought but actually watching John tapping away on his laptop at the table. He was making arrangements; checking train times, booking tickets, organising accommodation... all the mundane details which Sherlock found so dull and yet, somehow, watching John do it wasn't dull at all.

It was occurring to him, in the light of the words he had just spoken, that his priorities could be a little skewed. From the day Sherlock had first realised that solving crimes was an occupation uniquely suited to his genius, the cases had always come first. Before food, before sleep, before civility, before anything.

But that was before John.

When he had woken to find his vision restored, a few days earlier, the very first thing he had seen was the sleeping face of the man now in front of him. John no doubt assumed that he had leapt out of bed and dashed off immediately, but he would be wrong.

Sherlock had lain in bed for nearly an hour, looking at John and arguing with himself. He had felt torn. The logical and rational part of his brain, which had always been overwhelmingly in charge, was demanding that he get up and put his sight to immediate and practical use.

However, for the first time in his memory, he was feeling an equally strong urge to do something completely emotional. He wanted to pull back the duvet and immerse himself in John; examining every inch of his body and adding a visual to the detailed and intimate tactile sensations forever recorded and backed up in his brain.

It was difficult to reconcile the unseen John, who loved him, with the man in whose bed he lay. The man who looked just like his friend, and just his friend – not his lover, not his partner, not the man who had taken him, only the night before. He wanted to wake John and tell him the news. He wanted to demand that John tell him he loved him, so that he could see his face as the words were uttered, the shape his mouth made as he spoke them, the look in his eyes which would show that he meant them.

But that was wrong, wasn't it? That wasn't who he was, or who he needed to be. In the end, it was fear that drove Sherlock from the bed. The call of the case file from downstairs could not overcome his interest in John, but the fear of losing himself; that tipped the scales. John had taken his heart and Sherlock hadn't even noticed. What else might he take, if given the chance?

He looked at John now, oblivious and focused on the computer screen. No... he stared at John. He knew the taste of the skin under those clothes, could recall with perfect clarity how it felt to stroke along the line of hair which led down from John's belly - but he didn't know what it looked like. Oh, he had visualised it, and there was no doubt that his mental picture would be uncannily accurate, given his general brilliance, but he didn't know. And suddenly, not knowing seemed completely intolerable.

All through the last few days, Sherlock had kept John at something of a distance, physically. Not enough that John would worry, but enough to make it clear that, on a day-to-day basis at least, it was very definitely 'Case First'.

And John hadn't argued, hadn't pushed, hadn't expected anything else. He didn't seem to recognise how hard Sherlock was having to fight to keep his focus exclusively where his brain said it should be. He still very much wanted to do the case, that need to solve the riddle and find the truth was as strong as ever. But now, he also wanted to do John. He repressed a snigger at that thought; his introduction to the world of sexual intimacy certainly seemed to have improved his recognition of innuendo. If improved was the word.

John was rolling his shoulders and Sherlock watched as his muscles bunched and moved under the thin T-shirt he was wearing. Then he clasped his hands above his head and stretched. Sherlock's eyes were immediately focused at his waist, watching as his T-shirt rode up and exposed a thin sliver of skin... but not enough.

Sherlock's own words echoed in his head. John wasn't safe. Moriarty was a threat to him, but he wasn't the only one. John just wasn't a safe sort of person. Neither was Sherlock, of course, but he didn't worry about that. Was his fear of being humanised making him short-sighted? Should he not be making the most of this time, this opportunity? After all, there would always be cases - human nature would see to that - but there might not always be John.

Sherlock's mind shied away from that concept, but he forced himself to consider it. They played a dangerous game. It was irrational to ignore the possibility that one, or both, of them would meet an abrupt and premature end.

John rose to his feet, glancing round and meeting Sherlock's gaze. Immediately, he looked concerned. "You all right?" he asked.

"Fine," Sherlock replied, aware that his voice was lower than normal and fascinated to see John's pupils dilating as a result... even from a single word.

John regarded him steadily, then headed for the kitchen. "Drink?" he offered.

Sherlock almost caught his arm and pulled him down as he passed, but stopped himself. "Please," he replied, his eyes following John's movements while his brain debated whether allowing his need for John to affect his behaviour was dangerous. He didn't want to change too much. The last thing he wanted to be was sociable - much less, God forbid, normal.

At the crime scene earlier, he had apologised to Sally of his own volition, which was worryingly out of character. However, on reflection, he realised that he had only done it to appease John; he hadn't actually felt sorry or regretted his rudeness in the slightest. The thought cheered him immeasurably.

He got up and made his way into the kitchen where John was standing with his back turned, gazing into the fridge - holding the door open with one hand and swinging the milk carton in the other. No doubt he was trying to decide what to do about a meal, and wondering if he would be able to tempt Sherlock to eat something.

Sherlock was certainly interested in putting something in his mouth, but food was not high on his list just at the moment. He smirked to himself again. Really, this innuendo thing was a doddle once you got the hang of it.

Unfortunately, it was virtually impossible to catch John unawares. Sherlock was still two feet away when he tensed and looked over his shoulder, giving Sherlock an uncertain smile. "Did you want something?" he asked, half turning and indicating the open fridge.

"Oh, yes," Sherlock replied, but he didn't look at the fridge... he kept his eyes firmly on John, holding his gaze for a few seconds, then re-focusing on his lips before making use of the distance between them and looking slowly down John's body, picturing every inch stripped bare as he went, right down to his toes... then moving gradually back up again, hearing John's breathing rate pick up and noting that his jeans looked markedly tighter on the return journey.

John exhaled shakily. "What do you want?" he asked, his voice sounding hopeful, yet cautious.

Sherlock raised his head gradually to look up at John's face, taking in every detail in between. "I want you naked," he said, his voice a growl... and watched the thoughts chase each other across John's face, as clear to him as scrolling text.

First arousal: an obvious 'God, yes.' Then doubt: a fleeting concern that Sherlock was merely conducting an experiment which required the nude presence of a short adult male. A slight headshake indicated the dismissal of this notion and it was followed by hope: a longing to be wanted as he wanted, but tempered by the memory of Sherlock's recent behaviour and the knowledge that the case was still ongoing. Finally, there was acceptance. He turned and put the milk back in the fridge, closing the door and leaning back against it. Then he raised his eyebrows. "Here?" he asked.

Sherlock considered the light level in the kitchen. Definitely inadequate. "My room," he said firmly. "But first, which bag?"

John just looked at him blankly and Sherlock indicated the groceries on the kitchen table. "Which bag, John? It's my turn this time."

"How did you…"

Sherlock sighed, then studied the bags for a moment before reaching in unerringly and retrieving the pharmacy packet from under a roll of kitchen towels. He turned back to John. "After you," he said.

In the bedroom, John grasped the hem of his T-shirt, then hesitated, looking uncomfortable. Sherlock made an impatient noise and stepped forward, but then stopped himself. This wasn't just about what he wanted. He regarded John carefully, never having seen quite that expression before: he almost looked nervous. Sherlock quickly ran through his mental file of 'by touch' expressions but still didn't find a match.

"What's wrong?" he asked. "And you have to tell me, that's your rule."

The expression changed and Sherlock recognised this one – John was embarrassed. He let go of his T-shirt and pushed a hand through his hair, turning to sit on the end of the bed.

"I'm being ridiculous," he said. "It doesn't matter." He reached a hand over his shoulder to pull his top off and Sherlock cursed himself but stepped forward and stopped him.

"Everything matters," he said. "There is nothing about you that doesn't matter to me." He studied John, then sat down next to him. "Yes, I want to see you, but understanding your reactions is just as important," he added. "Explain."

John shrugged. "You'll tell me I'm an idiot," he said.

"Let's assume that I can refrain from stating the obvious," Sherlock suggested, frowning. "Come on, man, out with it. You'd never let me get away with this sort of prevarication." He considered how John behaved when this type of situation was reversed and raised a hand to his shoulder, patting gently.

John chuckled, leaning against him briefly, then sighed. "You're just so…" he waved his hand up and down vaguely.

That wasn't at all helpful. Sherlock tried to assist. "Brilliant? Unique? Inhuman? Tall?"

John huffed at the last one. "Beautiful, Sherlock," he said, waving his arm again. "Look at you, you're the most gorgeous thing I've ever seen and I'm… I have scars." He looked down. "I was ordinary to start off with, but now I'm… And you're…" He shook his head. "This isn't like me," he said. "I'm not normally self-conscious, not at all, but no-one's ever looked at me as closely as you do… as you will." He glanced up at Sherlock, then looked away again. "What if you don't like what you see?"

Insecurity, Sherlock realised, with a trace of shock. No wonder he hadn't recognised it in this context, John had been leading him all this time with never a hint of such a thing. "You're an idiot," he said.

John raised his eyebrows pointedly. "And so am I," Sherlock added. "Come on." He kicked his shoes off, then moved up the bed until he was lying full length on his side, holding out his arm until John did the same and joined him so that they were facing each other.

"I am not attracted to anyone but you. Therefore, you are the very definition of 'attractive' to me. What you actually look like is almost entirely irrelevant to this issue, although still important to me in a factual sense."

John didn't look very reassured. Sherlock shook his head, frustrated with himself. Why did everything he said sound so damned clinical? He tried again.

"You are not an experiment," he said. That wasn't much of an improvement - words were clearly getting him nowhere. He edged forward. "Kiss me," he requested, and John smiled.

Sherlock relaxed into the kiss. That was so much better. He had his left arm loosely wrapped around John's waist and he could feel the tension easing as John stopped worrying and focused on what they were doing.

Next time: kiss first, request nudity second, Sherlock noted. This relationship business couldn't be that difficult after all - even complete imbeciles seemed to manage it.

His thoughts started to swirl as John's fingers pushed into his hair and he didn't fight it. He had kissed John many times over the last few days, but always with a timer running in his head and an awareness of what he was supposed to be doing. This time, he just let go, sinking with relief into that quiet space where there was nothing but the two of them, allowing everything else to drift away as he focused on the taste and smell and feel of John.

They kissed for long minutes, and Sherlock's hands had worked their way under John's top and were stroking his skin, when he became aware once more of the urgent desire to see what he was touching. He started to ease the material up and John's fingers moved to his shirt and started unfastening the buttons.

Sherlock waited until he had finished before quickly pulling the T-shirt off completely, then throwing it into the corner - luckily managing to get it behind a stack of files, where John would hopefully not notice it. Sherlock certainly didn't want to see it again for quite some time. Having learned from his mistakes, he immediately returned to kissing John before any insecurity had a chance to arise, rolling him onto his back and half lying over him. Sherlock spent the next hour exploring, and it was brilliant.

All remaining clothes were gradually removed, and he ensured that John was appropriately distracted each time. He already knew what John liked, which touches made him shiver, what actions drew a moan from his lips or caused his hips to jerk; but to see those reactions playing out over his features, observe the way his body responded, watch the muscles rippling under his hand... that was simply fascinating.

He didn't devote quite as much time to the shoulder scar as he would have liked, as John seemed to be self-conscious about it, but there would no doubt be future opportunities. He did at least have a complete and comprehensive picture, with all freckles, scars and sensitive areas marked out. He overlaid this image to the tactile and sensory map he had already stored and merged the two together in his mind, immediately feeling better once this was accomplished.

With a satisfied sigh, he moved purposefully back up John's body until he was lying fully on top of him, and smiled. John laughed, but it soon died away; there probably wasn't much room for amusement in his head with all the lust filling it at the moment, Sherlock decided, gazing down into blue eyes, pupils blown wide. He had already had to back off three times to allow John to calm a little, as he wasn't supposed to come until Sherlock was ready, and absolutely not until Sherlock was looking.

"Do you still feel insecure?" he asked, then wondered if that was tactless. Perhaps he should have said 'uncomfortable' or something like that instead? John had tempered his own language, after all, which Sherlock appreciated.

Luckily, if there was a lack of tact, John did not appear to object to it, as he was chuckling again. "Sherlock," he said, stretching up for a kiss. "You've just maintained a... frankly impressive erection," he rocked his hips and both men groaned, "for a ridiculous length of time while exploring every inch of me." He smiled again. "I think you can safely consider me 'over it'," he finished, tilting his hips again.

Sherlock was relieved, especially as he had almost tried to hide his reaction, afraid that it might be inappropriate when he was supposed to be completely focused on John. This confirmed his preliminary hypothesis that hiding things from John was not good. He upgraded it to a definite conclusion.

Now that his examination was complete, at least for today, Sherlock felt the needs of his own body rushing back into his consciousness and everything suddenly became much more urgent. He lifted himself and reached across John to grab the pharmacy bag from the bedside table, then almost dropped it on the floor as John took the opportunity to latch onto his nipple and suck hard.

The sensation shot through him, causing his hips to buck against John's, who hummed appreciatively, and that was an interesting variation on an already intense theme. Sherlock didn't know whether to move back and carry on with his original schedule, or just stay where he was for as long as he could maintain his balance, and enjoy this incredible feeling.

The decision was abruptly taken out of his hands as John bent one leg at the knee for leverage, then rolled them over, immediately resuming his previous activity and bringing up his hand to the other side.

Sherlock just about writhed beneath him. The tugging sensation on his nipple was incredibly powerful, he could feel John's tongue rasping over the tip, circling it, flicking it, then a hint of teeth scraping over the delicate flesh and he was shuddering as the pinching sensation on the other side became almost painful... but not quite, still just on the right side of too much, and the hour which he had spent suppressing his own body's demands was coming back to bite him on the arse, as John would say, because he was unravelling now at an embarrassing rate.

John switched sides, dropping a hand down to wrap around him and Sherlock arched off the bed, fighting to regain the control which had abandoned him without warning, because it wasn't supposed to go like this, with John leading the way again and taking him apart as he was doing now in such spectacular style, and this wasn't how it was meant to end this time, because Sherlock was supposed to be in charge, and he was ready and he wanted to do it, and, damn it all to hell, it was… "My turn!"

John raised his head and Sherlock almost whined at the loss of that mouth, and that tugging, and that delicious suction and those teeth, but he bit it back and stared at John and repeated his words. "My turn," he said. "But not from behind, I want to see your face."

With a nod, John retrieved the bag from where Sherlock had dropped it on the quilt, tipping out the contents, then he unwrapped a condom and, without even looking up for permission or approval, just applied it to Sherlock, but being careful not to block the view, so that Sherlock could see what he was doing, and how to do it. Then he lay down on his back and pulled a pillow under his hips and reached for the bottle of lubricant, but this time Sherlock stopped him and said, "Let me."

And John did let him, and told him when to curve his finger and what to search for, and when he found it John's reaction was beautiful and Sherlock memorised it, as well as the method used to achieve it; then he moved up to two fingers, and then it was time, and he glanced up at John's face, and there was that look again, that 'you're my whole world' look which made Sherlock feel that he wasn't alone any more and that he never would be again.

Then Sherlock had to take a moment just to lean forward and kiss John, and John kissed him back and reached down and guided him into position, but not as if he was instructing Sherlock this time, more as if he just couldn't wait any longer, and Sherlock pushed forward and felt John stretching around him, and John tipped his head back and moaned and Sherlock pushed further until he was all the way inside John's body, as far as he could go, and John was surrounding him and squeezing him, and holding him so tightly - as if he were a precious and valuable thing, and not a freak at all.

"You're inside me," John whispered, his voice hushed and almost awed. "You're inside me," he repeated, as if he just could not believe it. He arched his back. "Oh, God. I love you."

And Sherlock saw the words, for the first time, and he adjusted his balance to free one hand, which he dropped down to grip and stroke John and then he started to talk. It didn't really matter what he said, just the sound of his voice was breaking John down and shattering his control; Sherlock could see the walls crumbling.

But he didn't want his words to be meaningless, so he made a list; a list of all the times John had surprised him, which was actually ridiculously long, when you considered how very difficult it was to surprise him at all. And it was clear that he wasn't even going to get half-way through, not even a quarter of the way, because John was panting and moaning beneath him, and Sherlock concentrated very hard on his list and not on the way it felt to be held within John's body, then he glanced down and that was a mistake because... Oh God, and focus, focus, because he very much, very much wanted to see John come, which meant that he had to concentrate.

Supporting his weight on one arm was becoming a strain, and John batted his hand away and took over and God, Sherlock wanted to watch that, but he was afraid that it would knock him right out of the game, so he leaned forward on both arms and concentrated on John's face instead. And he realised that he didn't have to see and know and do everything all at once, right now, this second, because there would be other times when he could watch John do that, and a mental image of John in the shower made him lose his train of thought and his words ran out, which made John look up at him, his face desperate and so close, so very much on the edge, and Sherlock drove his hips faster and lowered his voice and said, "Mine." He held John's gaze, letting all of his possessiveness and need show on his face. "You are mine and you always will be."

And that was it. John just fell apart, his body jerking and shuddering and Sherlock forced his eyes to stay open and watched for as long as he possibly could, and then he looked down, to where his body was driving into John's, and he could feel his control dissolving and he just let it happen, and it felt as if John were pulling the orgasm out of him, turning him inside out, and Sherlock was suddenly glad that his heart was in such strong and capable hands, because he didn't know if he could cope with this level of feeling just by himself.

o 0 o

"So what's the deal with you and Anthea?" John asked, heaving his bag up onto the overhead rack. He glanced around but, so far at least, no one was sitting anywhere near them – the advantage of travelling First Class, he supposed.

"I'm sorry?" Sherlock dissembled, not fooling John for a moment. He already had his laptop on the table and was tapping away busily, but that didn't mean he hadn't also fully worked out what was on John's mind.

"You and Anthea," John repeated patiently, taking the opposite seat. "She was chatting away quite happily to me on the platform while you were off buying a year's supply of nicotine patches." He regarded the bag with disfavour. "Then, as soon as you appear, it's all formal and 'Doctor Watson' and eyes glued to the BlackBerry. What's that about?"

Sherlock looked up at him and seemed to be on the brink of a dismissal, but then he tipped his head to one side. "Do I have to say?" he asked.

"What do you mean?"

Sherlock waved his arm between them. "Is it a relationship rule, that I have to tell you?" he clarified.

John was taken aback. "Sherlock, no!" He shook his head. "No, you don't have to tell me. It just puzzled me, that's all." He wondered if there was one of those 'For Dummies' books available on the theme of relationships, or if this sort of question was going to become a regular feature of his life.

Sherlock was still regarding him quizzically, so he attempted to explain.

"OK, anything that I ought to know, you should tell me; anything else, you are very welcome to talk to me about but you don't have to. How's that?"

"Define: ought to know."

John rolled his eyes. "Use some common sense, Sherlock," he suggested. "If in doubt, imagine the situation reversed and consider whether you would want to know, if it was me."

"I would always want to know, if it were you."

John sighed. "Fine, bad example." He thought for a moment. "OK, anything which could, or does, affect me or our relationship in any way, then tell me. Anything else is up to you." He smiled, ruefully. "I suppose you should be entitled to some privacy – it's not entirely your fault no-one around you has any."

Sherlock smiled and turned his attention back to his laptop. Ten minutes later, he started speaking.

"Soon after Anthea began working for Mycroft, he sent her round to request my assistance on a case." He hadn't looked up and was still tapping away on his keyboard.

"One of the Royals had become embroiled in an alleged theft from a property on Eaton Square and they wanted it cleared up as quickly and quietly as possible," Sherlock continued. "No police."

"A scandal in Belgravia!" John exclaimed, and Sherlock rolled his eyes.

"Yes," he said, looking up to fix John with a withering stare. "Thank you. That's exactly the sort of ridiculous title you would no doubt have given your blog entry had you been with me at the time, and had the whole affair not been top secret."

"So, what about Anthea?" John ignored the insult with the ease of long experience.

Sherlock looked uncomfortable and returned his gaze to the computer screen. "Yes, well," he started. "I hadn't met her before and she rather, er..." He was struggling. "She rather made a play for me," he finished.

"I'm surprised you noticed."

Sherlock grimaced. "It was difficult to miss," he said, glancing up then quickly back down again. "I assumed Mycroft had put her up to it and made my feelings clear to him."

"But he hadn't?" John guessed.

"As you say."

"And when you expressed your displeasure to Mycroft?" John pushed him.

"Yes, Anthea was there." He shook his head. "Bit not good," he added.

John thought about that for a few minutes. Bloody typical that Anthea had totally blown him off, yet had a go at Sherlock. She must have been pissed when he got involved with John. He smiled at the thought, then pictured her chasing Sherlock round the kitchen table, BlackBerry in hand, while Sherlock tried to defend his honour by whipping out off-putting experiments and hiding behind his skull.

Sherlock appeared engrossed again, but John was still thinking. "People must make passes at you all the time," he observed. "And even if you miss most of them, I know you're aware of some – poor Molly, for example, she was fetching coffee and messing with her lipstick the first time we met and you can't tell me you don't know why."

Sherlock just shrugged. Boring.

"So, either Anthea did something completely outrageous," the version in his head was now attempting The Dance of the Seven Veils, using only Sherlock's scarves, "or that's not what you're embarrassed about..." The penny dropped. "Your deduction was wrong," he pointed out. "That's why you didn't want to tell me this story."

Sherlock sat back in his seat and folded his arms. "Yes, and the gloating is making me so glad that I shared it with you," he said sarcastically.

John decided to move the conversation along and pulled a small piece of equipment from his pocket. "You'd better take the bat-signal," he said, passing it over to Sherlock, who inspected it carefully.

"A transmitting device," he observed. "Powerful, good range, but limited use. A panic button." He looked up at John. "Does it affect bats?" He seemed confused.

John sighed. "Forget the bats," he said. "I must be bats to reference popular culture with you. It's from Mycroft. We don't have an armed escort, thank God, but they won't be far away. Press that, and they come running. Or flying - whatever."

Sherlock handed it back. "You keep it," he instructed. "If we were to get into trouble, attackers would be more likely to search me first, which would give you chance to summon the troops."

John looked at him. "You don't fool me, you know," he said. "You mean that if we get separated you'd rather I was rescued than yourself."

"We'll just have to stay together then," Sherlock replied, neither confirming nor denying John's suggestion. "What a drag." He winked and stretched his feet out under the table, pressing the side of his leg against John's.

The first place they visited was a complete wash out. Any irregularities which had caught Sherlock's eye were soon put down to total incompetence. He was less than impressed. He did manage to work off his frustration most effectively, however, once they retired to their hotel room that night.

John returned from the bathroom afterwards, leaving the light on and the door ajar so that Sherlock wouldn't open his eyes to darkness, and was drifting happily into the sleep of the thoroughly shagged when Sherlock's voice brought him back to the surface.

"My mother is as mad as a hatter," he said.

John kept silent, but rolled onto his side and rested his hand on Sherlock's shoulder, looking up at his silhouette. He was staring at the ceiling.

"I don't mean eccentric," he added. "Although she was always that, certainly." He fell quiet for a minute and John started stroking his thumb back and forth, just to confirm that he was there, that he was listening.

"I go to visit her every month, but she rarely knows me." More silence. "She likes musicals."

"Mary Poppins," John said, softly, and he could see Sherlock's small smile.

"That's her favourite," he replied. "I think it must remind her of Mycroft."

John smiled at the consistency of the brotherly sniping. He had medical questions, but he kept them to himself. Obviously anything which could be done, had been done, and Sherlock was his main concern.

No more words were forthcoming and, after a few minutes, John lay back and lifted his arm and Sherlock rolled onto his side and snuggled under it, pushing his face into John's neck.

"I miss her," he said.

Two days later, they were in Cumbria, and John was standing in the lobby of their small hotel, glaring at his mobile phone in disgust.

"No signal?" asked the owner, who was also the manager and the barman and, judging from his current armful of linens, possibly also involved in laundry. "Are you on one of those city networks? They're no good out here, you know."

"No kidding," muttered John, putting his useless phone away. He supposed they would just have to find this one the old-fashioned way.

"It's up on the hill," the owner/manager/barman/launderer advised, in answer to his query. "Pretty isolated, mind you. Very out of the way. Been empty for years before this lot moved in." He looked at John curiously, then shrugged his shoulders, clearly deciding that paying guests were to be allowed their eccentricities. "If you don't want to drive, then follow the path out the back here, straight on over the ford, then up the hill and you can't miss it, it's about an hour's walk. Reichenbach House; big building – looks impressive, I will say, but shabby on the inside, no doubt."

John thanked him and headed back to the room, wondering if Sherlock was out of the shower yet. He got his answer when the door swung open at his approach and Sherlock grabbed his wrist and yanked him inside, shutting the door immediately and pressing him up against it.

"Sherlock! You're..." John's words were cut off as his mouth was suddenly full of Sherlock's tongue. His body going from nought to sixty in around three seconds flat, John somehow retained the presence of mind to push Sherlock back slightly and look him up and down.

"You can't open the door like this," he said desperately, as Sherlock pushed against his restraining hands then reached down to his zipper. "You're naked!" he pointed out, "and all wet." John glanced down and saw that the front of his shirt was now also damp from Sherlock's shower, then his gaze was distracted. "And, oh my God... fucking hard as a rock," he murmured breathlessly, spinning them around so that Sherlock's back was to the door, and then falling to his knees...

"Why have you changed?" John asked later, once the world was the right way up again and he was wrapped in Sherlock's arms.

"I haven't changed!" Sherlock insisted immediately, his tone defensive. "I'm still me, everyone else still finds me both rude and intimidating."

John laughed softly and tipped his head back to see Sherlock's expression; clearly he had struck a nerve. "I meant with me," he clarified. "Those first few days after your sight returned you kept me at arms length – which was fine, by the way," he added quickly. "I understand your priorities, it was what I would have expected - I'm not complaining."

Sherlock hugged him, smiling; but then his face became more serious. "I don't know how long I'll have with you, John," he said, sliding down a little so they were face to face on the bed. "We don't lead safe lives." He shrugged. "We're not safe people." He raised his hand to John's face. "I know it must seem as if I've suddenly become sex-mad, but it isn't..." Sherlock sighed. "I won't always be like this, if we survive," he said. "It's not the sex, not really – it's you; it's the closest I can get to you, the most connected we can be." His eyes were roaming all over John's face, committing him to memory one more time. "I love you, John," he said.

"Sherlock, you're scaring me." John had a bad feeling. "Do you know something? Is something going to happen? Tell me."

Sherlock shook his head. "No," he said. "No, John. There's no reason. I'm not hiding anything from you, I promise." He leaned in for a kiss. "Perhaps it's just because I got out of the shower to find you... and you were gone."

John huffed. "It's my bloody phone," he said. "Apparently the Three network is not the best in rural areas. I've got no signal at all - I went to try it outside."

Sherlock frowned, then rolled off the bed and went to get his own phone, standing by the window and holding it up in different directions. "We never have this problem in London," he complained.

John threw a pillow at him. "For God's sake put some bloody clothes on before you frighten the sheep," he said.

Twenty minutes later, they set off up the hill; not holding hands, but walking close together, their shoulders brushing frequently. They had been going for around half an hour, and were crossing an open field, when John heard a cry.

"Doctor Watson!" The panting breath came from behind them. They stopped and turned to see a young man jogging up, cheeks flushed with exertion, gasping for air as he spoke again.

"Doctor Watson," he addressed his words to John, clearly knowing who he was looking for. "It's your sister," he said. "Sorry." He bent forwards, leaning his hands on his knees and trying to get his breath back. John glanced at Sherlock, who was looking at the young man disdainfully, no doubt deducing a smoking habit which would kill him before he reached fifty.

"What about my sister?" he demanded. What had Harry got herself into now?

"Don't know," was the still rather breathless reply. "I work at the hotel. There was a phone call just after you left, they said your mobile wasn't on?" John cursed his network provider, yet again. "They said it's urgent. There's a number for you to ring back." He was still panting. Out of shape as well as a smoker. Perhaps fifty was optimistic.

John was torn. He looked at Sherlock, helplessly.

"Don't be silly, John," he said. "Of course, you must go."

"Come back with me," John suggested. "We can try again later."

Sherlock pursed his lips. "I'm more than half way there," he pointed out. "I'll walk up and have a look at the place at least, but I won't go in without you, how's that?"

John wasn't happy, but he felt an increasing urgency to get back to the hotel and find out what was wrong with Harry. She drove him mad, but she was his sister and he couldn't just ignore it if there might be a serious problem. Eventually, the young man offered to accompany Sherlock, saying he could use the exercise - which was certainly true - and John reluctantly agreed.

"So, you'll just have a look then come back down and we can go together later, assuming I can sort out Harry's situation over the phone?"

"Yes, John," said Sherlock impatiently. "Do get a move on, you're wasting time."

John wasn't keen to leave without some sort of contact or reassurance, but they weren't alone and he didn't want to embarrass Sherlock so he turned back and started retracing his steps. He had only covered around fifteen yards when there were quick footsteps behind him and he turned just in time to be engulfed in a hug, as Sherlock wrapped his arms tightly around him and held him close for a few seconds.

He was released just as abruptly and stood there, watching as Sherlock walked away... then he carried on down the hill, feeling much happier. He reached the edge of the field and climbed over the stile, glancing around to see Sherlock just disappearing into the trees on the other side, the young man at his heels. He didn't look back.

Chapter Text

Sherlock strode along, making no allowance for the huffing and puffing behind him. After around ten minutes, the path widened into a small clearing and the young man called out, "Wait!" He was breathing heavily again. "Just give me a minute would you?"

Sherlock stopped and turned on his heel, observing the young man carefully as he stripped off the thin pullover he had worn over a short-sleeved shirt and leaned over again, panting; his rather too long fair hair flopping into his eyes.

"You can drop the act," Sherlock said. "And you won't need the gun, either."

The young man regarded him for a moment, then he straightened slowly, his breathing smoothing out, the expression of slightly vacuous innocence sliding from his face to leave him looking ten years older and infinitely more interesting.

"Oh, very good," he said, and his voice had lost its earnestness, becoming flat and level. "I can see why he likes you."

Sherlock curled his lip disdainfully. "Is this a scenic stop, or are we ahead of schedule?" he enquired.

The man shrugged. "The boss is very particular about timing," he said. "You can either walk slower or wait here for a few minutes."

Sherlock looked around them. The path they were following was not well-trodden, winding across fields and through wooded areas such as the one they were now standing in. The only sounds were from birds and the rustling of tree branches overhead - there was no traffic noise, no other signs of life, no-one to interfere.

He observed the man, who was now standing some feet away, arms folded across his chest, watching Sherlock curiously. He was taller than John - well, most men were - though not so strongly built, but the edge of a prison tattoo was visible on his bicep and there were knife scars on his left arm. He could no doubt handle himself in a fight, even without the gun he clearly had strapped to his calf.

"Not a minion," Sherlock deduced aloud. "Career criminal. You've served time, but not as much as you should have. Confident with that gun, but you also use a blade. No family. Not always a follower, but…" he tipped his head to one side.

The man raised his eyebrows. "You could say I'm his Doctor," he said. "Let's go." He bent swiftly and retrieved his gun, waving it in the direction of the path.

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Redundant," he muttered, turning and resuming his former rapid pace, crashing through the undergrowth noisily. After another fifteen minutes, the trees started to thin, then Sherlock abruptly stepped clear and into the grounds of a large house – a mansion, John would no doubt have called it.

The gun pressed into his back, reminding him that he had paused, and he moved on again without a word, heading for the steps which led up to the imposing entrance. There was no indication that he should stop, so he threw the doors open and walked into a large and high-ceilinged foyer. Double stairs rose from each side of the room, curving round to meet on a balcony above.

"Stop," the man instructed, as the click of heels heralded the approach of a woman from the side. "Check him, Helen."

Sherlock observed the woman as she approached. Five feet, six inches tall, around a hundred and fifty pounds, dark hair swept back into a bun. Solid. Strong. He was quite sure he'd never seen her before.

"We meet again, Mr Holmes," she murmured, and began patting him down thoroughly, checking all his pockets and ensuring he wasn't armed in any way. She then produced an electronic scanning device which she passed over him. It was just as well that John had retained his 'bat-signal', Sherlock decided... even though it might be too late by the time he knew to use it.

"You should cut down on the peanuts," he advised as she stepped back, the distinctive smell of Clinique Happy fading with her distance. It was the woman who had sat on his bench at Regent's Park.

She smirked and looked past him. "Match made in heaven, aren't they, Seb?" she commented, waving them towards the right hand staircase. "He's clean. Boss is in the office."

Again, the gun poked into his back and Sherlock headed for the stairs. Reaching the top, he could see the balcony gave on to a corridor which ran the length of the house, with more stairs leading back down at the far end. There were doors on either side, all shut, bar one half way down on the left. This was their destination.

Moriarty was to the right of the door as they walked through it, leaning back against a desk, arms folded across his chest, clad in another sharp suit. Westwood again. There was a hard upright chair in front of him and Sherlock was pushed to sit down, Seb pulling his arms behind his back and tying his wrists together with what felt like a thin rope. Sherlock tested the restraint as soon as he could, but there was no give.

He watched while Seb brought Moriarty up to date on what had happened, noticing the narrowed eyes at the mention of his last embrace with John. His chest felt tight as that thought crossed his mind, and he hoped to God that the words would not prove prescient.

Eventually, Seb moved across to lean against the wall opposite the door, and Moriarty turned his gaze to Sherlock.

"So nice of you to join me for a chat," he said, his tone one of polite welcome.

Sherlock regarded him steadily. "I can spare you five minutes, if you have anything to say," he replied.

Moriarty smiled, but there was an edge to it which hadn't been there at the pool. He seemed angry, rather than smug, this time. His gaze ran over Sherlock slowly, from head to toe, and he pushed away from the desk and walked forward.

"Not so pleased to see me this time, then?" he said. "Or is it just that there's no Browning in your pocket?" He circled to Sherlock's right, moving out of his range of vision. "Left that with your pet, did you?" The voice came from behind now, then there were hands on his shoulders and a hiss in his ear. "It won't help him."

Moriarty backed off, continuing his circle until he was in front of the desk again. "So brave of you to come here on your own, knowing that it was a trap," he said. "Sending your little friend back to safety. How sickeningly noble you can be." He gazed at Sherlock. "It's almost enough to put me off," he added. "Although, I think we can… burn it out of you." His smile was unsettling.

Sherlock said nothing, although he was filled with a growing unease. Moriarty seemed dangerously unstable, and thus much more difficult to predict than he had anticipated.

"I told you that we were meant for each other," he was saying now, still with that disturbing smile.

"No, you didn't," Sherlock corrected. "The innocent man you had wrapped in semtex told me that."

"Don't pretend you care!" Moriarty moved forward again, bending so that they were eye to eye. "You don't believe they matter, any more than I do," he observed.

"John cares," Sherlock replied, perhaps unwisely. "They matter to him, and he matters to me."

Moriarty's face flushed and he suddenly drew his arm back, then slapped Sherlock hard across the face. "John!" he spat out the name. "Let me tell you what's going to happen to your precious John." He turned and walked back to the desk, leaning against it once more. "He'll have headed back to the hotel to answer his sister's call, just like the good little brother he is." Moriarty glanced at his watch. "In fact, he'd almost be there by now… if he was going to make it back there at all."

It was an effort to keep his face expressionless, but Sherlock did his best. "John usually gets where he's going," he said.

Moriarty smiled... a slow, dangerous smile. "I sent four men to wait for him," he replied. "All armed, all unexpected. I don't think he'll give them too much trouble." He looked at Sherlock carefully, observing his apparent lack of reaction. "After all, it was easy enough to pick him up the last time you sent him off on his own," he added, and Sherlock could not disguise his wince.

"Don't worry, you'll see him again," Moriarty said, in a sarcastic imitation of comfort. "They'll bring him up here to join us… eventually."

Sherlock felt out of his depth, which he didn't like at all. Moriarty seemed to be angry at John, which he didn't understand - unless it was connected with John observing for him, but that was hardly an issue any longer.

"You didn't seem to feel this way at the pool," he probed, trying to establish a line of reasoning.

"Neither did you!" Moriarty retorted sharply, then visibly controlled himself. "Obviously, dear Johnny Boy idolised you, that was only to be expected," he said. "And genius needs an audience, isn't that right, Seb?"

Seb was nodding as Sherlock looked round and recalled his words from earlier. He turned his head back to Moriarty. "He said he was your Doctor."

Moriarty smiled and leaned back as Seb pushed himself off the wall and walked forward. "I am to him what your Doctor should be to you," he said. "What he was, before he forgot his place and took what he had no right to touch." The words were scathing.

He stopped, less than two feet away, and glared at Sherlock. "This man," he waved his arm towards Moriarty. "This genius... courted you." His words seemed to make no sense. "Laid out all those puzzles, all that money, simply to capture your interest and entertain you... and you loved it, you can't deny that. We could all see it. You revelled in it."

He leaned forward, staring into Sherlock's eyes, the zeal of the true disciple shining in his own. "He offered you everything... the only one who could match you… and you turned your back, for the sake of your Doctor," the word was a curse. He kicked the leg of Sherlock's chair, making it rock back. "You're not worthy of him," he said.

"That's enough, Seb," Moriarty spoke, then looked at Sherlock. "So touchingly loyal." He shrugged.

Sherlock was finding it hard to grasp what they were driving at. "Whatever motivation you are suggesting seems unlikely in view of your attempt to kill me," he pointed out.

Moriarty scoffed. "Don't be dull," he said. "I'd already told you I wouldn't be so obvious." He pulled himself up to sit on the desk, kicking his legs to and fro. "One day perhaps, quite probably," he added. "The two of us being as we are. But not when we're having such fun." He smiled again, but it wasn't a sane expression. "Not while there are games to be played."

"No, no," he went on. "I was all set to make you my offer, invite you to join me, at least for a while… I even had a rationalisation all ready for you – the release of your pet, if you came willingly. An excuse you could use, if you still needed one."

His legs stopped swinging and he glared. "And then you had to go and blow the fucking place apart!" he sounded outraged. "I thought we understood each other," he complained. "I thought we were on the same page... it was your suggestion that we meet, after all." He sounded resentful. "You seemed as intrigued by me as I was by you." He raised his hands in query. "What did you think was going to happen?"

"And to risk all our lives, too," he continued, when Sherlock didn't respond. "Such self-sacrifice – not very sociopathic of you." He tipped his head to one side and looked at Sherlock, "It took me a while to work out why," he said. "But I did work it out." His lip curled. "You did it for him. Because of him. Because it's what he would have done and you didn't want to disappoint him again." His words dripped with scorn.

"We could have set this world on fire, you and I," he said, sliding off the desk and moving forward again. "The two greatest minds of our generation. We could have been… incandescent."

He was only a foot away now and suddenly his hand shot out to wrap around Sherlock's neck, squeezing and forcing his head back. "You let him weaken you," he hissed, inches from Sherlock's face. "He made you human, you began to care… because of him." His grip tightened and Sherlock started to choke, which Moriarty watched for a while before pulling his hand back, as if in disgust. "He took you away from me."

Sherlock was gasping for air as Moriarty moved off. It had been difficult not to fight back, to kick out, but he knew Seb was armed and eager for an excuse. "And now... you and your fucking brother," Moriarty was ranting. "Everywhere I turn, cutting off my supply chains, interfering with my funding, taking out key people… my organisation is in ruins." He wheeled around again.

"Oh, I will start afresh," he promised. "With a few trusted supporters." He smiled at Seb, who Sherlock could see preening out of the corner of his eye. "Somewhere else, perhaps, but I'll rebuild." His face hardened. "But before I go, I will see your precious John burn…" His eyes were alight with hate. "Because if you won't play the game with me, then you're not going to play with anyone."

Sherlock forced his brain past the nightmare images which were filling his head. "I will go with you, if you leave John alone," he offered. "I will work with you as long as he is unharmed."

Moriarty looked at his watch again. "Oops!" he said, his tone gleeful. "Too late."

The dread must have been all over his face, and Sherlock made no effort to conceal it. "What have you done?" he demanded. "You said they would bring him here. I will come with you. Let him go."

"Oh, they'll bring him," Moriarty replied. "Most of him, anyway. He'll still be alive, that must count for something?" His tone was placatory.

"It's the hands, you see," Seb spoke up from across the room and Sherlock almost jumped, he had been so focused on Moriarty. "Touching what they had no right to. Taking liberties." He shrugged. "Jim just wanted the fire; I asked for the hands."

Sherlock was shaking his head, fighting to dislodge the pictures which were forming behind his eyes. "No, no, this doesn't make sense," he denied. "At the pool, you still had me shot. It doesn't add up. It isn't true, not any of it. You're lying."

Moriarty's smile was demented. "Oh, that wasn't my doing," he explained. "It seems that even a trained sniper can get an itchy trigger finger when the building explodes. Although, it didn't itch for very long," he added. "Your brother saw to that, even before I could. He's endearingly ruthless, I must say, despite being so dreadfully dull."

Sherlock stared at him, his mind racing, but struggling to repress the horror of what he had heard. He was still staring when the sound of a gunshot echoed through the building.

Seb immediately drew his weapon and glanced at Moriarty, who nodded at him. He went out, leaving a strained silence behind him. Moriarty opened a desk draw and produced a gun of his own, then moved to stand behind Sherlock, grabbing a handful of his hair and yanking his head back.

"How has anyone found you?" he demanded, pressing the gun against the back of his neck. "Helen said you were clean, but perhaps she wasn't careful enough?" His hand released Sherlock's hair and slid down to his shoulder, then across his chest. "Perhaps I should check more thoroughly, myself?" he asked suggestively.

Sherlock curled his lip, repressing a shudder as the fingers which weren't John's fingers unfastened the top button of his shirt. "Not just playing gay then, I take it?" he said, doing his best to keep his voice even and disdainful.

"I'm very adaptable," Moriarty replied, unfastening the second button and sliding his hand inside. "We could have danced for years, you and I," he said, leaning forward and speaking into Sherlock's ear, before biting the lobe sharply. His hand moved up to wrap around Sherlock's throat, stroking up and down, forcing his head to tip back as the gun pressed against his spine.

"We're a matching pair. Above it all, with no need to wallow in this sort of behaviour like the rest of the savages." His hand started to slip down again. "But it seems you've acquired a taste for it." He licked a trail up the side of Sherlock's neck, and the shudder broke free this time as Sherlock flinched away.

The mouth moved back to his ear. "It's not my primary area of interest," Moriarty whispered, as his fingers found and twisted Sherlock's nipple, "but I'm sure I could manage it, if you want to be fucked."

Sherlock was afraid he might vomit. He was trying to think what to do but his brain couldn't seem to get past the massive 'NO' screaming in his head as the touch which wasn't John's touch lingered on his body. His ears were ringing and it took him a moment to register the second shot, which had Moriarty straightening up immediately.

Sherlock forced his nausea down and listened, but there was no further noise; then Moriarty tugged him up roughly, out of the chair, gripping his bound wrists in one hand and keeping the gun hard against his back with the other. He was shoved abruptly out into the corridor, then dragged along sideways as Moriarty moved towards the foyer, keeping his back to the wall and shouting over his shoulder for Seb. There was no reply.

"Seb!" he called again; they were almost at the balcony now and Moriarty was peering round and down the stairs, holding Sherlock in place in front of him. He was surprisingly strong.

The sound of running footsteps on the stairs at the back of the house had him wheeling round, and then John appeared at the other end of the corridor, facing them - his gun in his hand, blood smeared across one cheek but looking otherwise unharmed. Despite their situation, for a moment Sherlock felt nothing but relief.

This quickly passed as Moriarty turned and backed them further away, denying John a shot, then he pressed the muzzle of his gun at the corner of Sherlock's jaw and angled it upwards. "Drop it," he said.

John had been moving towards them but now he stopped, still ten yards away, and Sherlock could see the options running through his brain. For the first time Sherlock wished he were not quite so tall, so that he didn't completely block the little runt cowering behind him.

Slowly, John lowered his gun, then bent forward and placed it on the carpet in front of him. Sherlock's sharp eyes saw him using the movement as a cover while he pressed the panic button strapped to his waist – they had agreed to use it only once Moriarty's presence was confirmed.

John straightened up, raising his hands, and the urge to pull away from his captor and go to him was so strong that Sherlock literally trembled with it. They stared at each other... looking for injuries, but also just looking - each having feared that they might never see the other again.

Moriarty was muttering under his breath. "No, no, no, no, no, no, NO... This is WRONG!" His voice rose to a shout and Sherlock kept very still as the gun jerked against the side of his neck.

"Why are you here?" Moriarty demanded of John. "Seb was sure you believed him and he doesn't make mistakes like that. You shouldn't be here."

"Oh, I believed him," replied John, his tone conversational, and Sherlock gave him a tiny smile. They needed to keep Moriarty distracted and talking for as long as possible, to give Mycroft's rescuers time to arrive.

"He was very good, your man; 'Seb', was it?" John continued. Sherlock hoped the past tense was appropriate. "I was completely taken in, all set to hare back to the hotel on a fool's errand. Never even occurred to me that Harry didn't know where we were."

Moriarty's grip on Sherlock's wrists was becoming painful, nails digging in as he tensed in anger, but he didn't seem to react to the mention of Seb or be concerned at his absence. All his attention was focused on John.

"But Sherlock saw through it, of course," John added.

"The hug," Moriarty said flatly. "The hug was a cover." Then his attitude seemed to change and he sounded almost pleased. "Perhaps you have not become quite so sentimental as I had feared," he directed to Sherlock. "There may be hope for you yet."

Sherlock thought back to the hurried words he had whispered into John's ear during their brief embrace. 'It's a trap. Follow us,' was all he had managed, but he knew it would be enough. The temptation to say nothing had been strong; that would have been his instinct, to send John to safety and risk only his own life, but he had promised. Relief that he had kept his word was the only thing which had sustained him through the increasingly graphic threats earlier. Had he followed his own inclination, and thus been responsible for John's torture and death, only the need to destroy Moriarty would have delayed his turning the gun on himself.

Moriarty was shaking his head. "That decision does not fit," he complained. "It's all wrong."

John chipped in to explain. "We worked out that you could often anticipate Sherlock's choices," he said.

"So I left these decisions to John," Sherlock added.

"Rule number one was... no secrets," John finished, and they smiled at each other.

Moriarty growled and released Sherlock's wrists to grab his hair instead, forcing his head round and breaking their gaze. "Don't look at him," he hissed at John.

Sherlock tried to think of something that would keep Moriarty talking, without becoming too enraged. "Why did you come to Regent's Park?" he asked, genuinely interested since the conclusion he had reached at the time was obviously inaccurate.

Moriarty took a deep breath and rocked his head from side to side. He had moved over a little, now that John was no longer armed, and Sherlock could see him clearly.

"To get you back in the game, of course," he replied. "Couldn't have you sitting around just feeling sorry for yourself. Things were getting dull." His tone sharpened again. "Although, if I'd known how you were actually occupying your time," he glared at John, "the meeting would have gone very differently." John looked startled at being on the receiving end of such a hateful stare.

"You're my perfect match," Moriarty continued, his fingers now stroking through Sherlock's hair. "Underneath your show of being 'high-functioning' and this latest... distraction, you are just like me. There is only one thing standing between us, and soon it will be gone."

He turned his attention back to John. "You've done nothing but weaken him," he said contemptuously. "You took something crystalline and beautiful and sullied it with your sickening normality and your mundane feelings; bringing down a mind which should be soaring above you." He was losing it, the gun shaking in his hand.

"But you only think you've succeeded. He might do what you call 'the right thing', but he won't do it for your 'right reasons'. He solves crimes because he likes the challenge. He catches killers because he gets bored. Now you've got your hooks into him, he might do it for your sake, but he doesn't care about anyone else. He's not a hero."

The grip on his hair slipped down to the back of his neck and Sherlock turned his head again to see John, who was looking calmly back at Moriarty.
"He already told me that," John said.

"You are nothing," Moriarty snapped. "The soft centre he doesn't need and would be better off without. He is not what you think. Let me show you what he is." Moriarty resumed his hold on Sherlock's bound wrists and leaned in to him. "Suppose I gave you a choice, my dear," he offered. "If I said, 'you can save John, or you can save this family, or this town, or this city...' if the decision were real and unavoidable, what would you choose?" He stretched up and kissed the side of Sherlock's jaw, just above where the gun was pressing.

Sherlock flinched away and John's eyes narrowed, his gaze flicking suddenly to Sherlock's open shirt buttons, his mouth tightening. "And be honest," Moriarty added, "or I'll shoot a hole through his other shoulder."

John was watching him now and Sherlock stared back, helplessly. He didn't want to answer. The gun jabbed into his neck. "I would try to save the others," he spoke to John. "I would try, I'm not a monster." Moriarty growled at that. "But I would choose you," Sherlock dropped his eyes, not wanting to see John's reaction. "Even knowing you would never forgive me, I would choose you... because no one else is real to me as you are."

There was silence for a few moments, then John spoke up. "Was that supposed to shock me?" he asked Moriarty. "Because it just seems to prove that he does need me, to be honest."

Sherlock wished he would shut up. Because he could feel Moriarty's fury like a furnace flaming at his back and John didn't seem to understand the depth of hatred and jealousy that was focused on him.

"Come closer," Moriarty instructed John, watching as he walked forward, leaving his gun behind. "Stop there." He was still fifteen feet away.

"I want to see you burn, John Watson," he said, his voice overflowing with malevolence. "And I want him," he jerked the gun against Sherlock's neck, "to see it too."

John's face didn't change, perhaps he didn't realise exactly what was meant, Sherlock thought. Or perhaps he was just too good a soldier to let himself be distracted.

"So, we are all going out to the yard," continued Moriarty, "to see about getting me what I want." John continued to stare impassively. "What do you think, my dear?" Moriarty spoke into Sherlock's ear, nipping at it again. "Is there a limit to what he will do to save you?"

"If you imagine you would survive John for long, then your estimation of your own intelligence is extremely inaccurate," he said, trying to give John some kind of 'don't be a hero' warning with his eyes.

Moriarty ignored him. "First, let's check you don't have any more surprises for me," he said. "Arms out, Johnny Boy. Give us a twirl."

John slowly raised his arms, then turned in place as instructed, but Moriarty tutted loudly. "There's something, isn't there?" he said. "Something you don't want me to see."

"Open your shirt," he demanded. John was clearly reluctant, but there was nothing for it. He unfastened his shirt and spread the sides wide, and for a moment Sherlock flashed back to how he had looked that morning, his clothes still damp from Sherlock's shower as he pulled them off. God, was that only hours ago? It felt like a different world.

John tried to cover with his arm, and Sherlock coughed and trod on Moriarty's foot, which earned him a painful jab in the neck from the gun, but it was no good.

"What. Is. That?"

"It's for bats," Sherlock told him.

Clearly realising that the alarm had been raised and that he wouldn't have time to carry out his threats, Moriarty let out a howl of outrage... then everything seemed to slow down in Sherlock's awareness, sounds stretching out and movements taking three times as long as they normally would. The gun was jerked away from his head and Moriarty started to straighten his arm, his intention obvious.

Sherlock could see John tense, ready to dive one way or the other, but there was nowhere for him to go. He was standing in the middle of the corridor, and the doors on each side were shut and quite probably locked. He had no chance at all.

Possibilities raced through Sherlock's mind in the half second it took for Moriarty to move his arm, but in the end the only thought he retained was John's name. He was focusing power in his legs before his decision was consciously made, and as the muzzle of the gun lined up on John he thrust backwards with all of his strength, sending Moriarty staggering, his shot hitting the ceiling as his back struck the balustrade of the balcony - still retaining his grip on Sherlock's bound wrists as their combined weight broke through the barrier.

"Sherlock!" John screamed, as the sound of splintering wood took over from the echo of the gunshot and both men fell backwards and disappeared from sight.

John sprinted forward, heart pounding in his chest - not wasting time on the balcony but heading immediately for the stairs, looking to the side as he dashed down them and seeing both figures lying still on the hardwood floor below... Moriarty on his back, one leg bent at an unnatural angle, Sherlock face down a few feet away.

The gun was near Moriarty's hand and John kicked it out of reach as he passed, then fell to his knees next to Sherlock, desperate to roll him over but not daring to move him. His fingers felt for a pulse and it took him forever to find the right place. His hand felt numb, he couldn't feel anything. Breathe, he told himself, then tried again... and there it was, strong and steady, and Sherlock was already stirring, John's name the first word on his lips.

"Don't move," insisted John, leaning down and pressing an anxious kiss to his temple. "Do you understand me, love? Don't try to move yet, all right?" He turned his attention to the rope digging into Sherlock's wrists, pulling the knots free as quickly as possible, keeping one eye on Moriarty as he worked - but the psychopath lay still, apparently either unconscious or dead. Hopefully the latter.

John lowered his head to be level with Sherlock, who had opened his eyes and was regarding him slightly dazedly. "Do you have any pain or numbness?" he asked, running his fingers through Sherlock's hair, then down his neck, searching for injuries. Sherlock didn't say anything and John kept going, checking over his back and limbs, but there was no obvious damage - though that didn't mean much at this stage.

He glanced over at Moriarty, who was still unmoving, then heard Sherlock's voice asking, "Are you all right?" and Sherlock was rolling over, stretching his newly freed arms and pushing himself into a sitting position.

John ran a practised eye over him; obviously no spinal damage, his eyes were clear now, brain function appeared normal... he must have landed on Moriarty, who had cushioned his fall, leaving him just winded and dazed. My God, had they actually got away with it? He smiled, relief making him weak. He sagged to the side, throwing out an arm to support himself.

"Always stealing my lines," he said, but his voice broke on the words and then he was in Sherlock's arms at last and they were hugging tightly, holding on to each other with fingers clutching at clothes, at hair, at everything they could reach... then drawing back, hands on each other's faces, eyes searching, and Sherlock's hand moved to stroke down the graze on his cheek, where one of Moriarty's men had landed a blow and John shrugged to indicate that it was nothing and he drank in every bit of Sherlock that he could see and felt his eyes fill with tears, and he looked away while he blinked them back, and... Moriarty was staring at them.

John stiffened and Sherlock looked round immediately, his face hardening. "Gun?" he queried to John under his breath and John nodded to their left, where the weapon had bounced off a plant pot and lay on the floor some fifteen feet away, well out of reach of the broken man before them.

Sherlock slid round until he was sitting behind John and facing Moriarty, then he very deliberately wrapped one arm around John's middle, pulling him back against him, and the other across his chest, hand resting over his heart.

"I should thank you," he said, his voice very clear and echoing around the room. "If you hadn't kidnapped John, I might never have realised what he meant to me." The mad black eyes were full of hate and Sherlock tightened his arms for a moment in an instinctively protective gesture before rising, a little unsteadily, to his feet.

He walked over to where the gun was lying and picked it up, then moved back until he was standing next to Moriarty, staring down at his face. "But my gratitude won't save you," he added, then raised his arm, aiming the gun straight at Moriarty's head.

"Sherlock, no!" John cried, and he paused, turning his head slightly towards John but keeping his eyes firmly on Moriarty.

"It's the only way, John," he said. "You'll never be safe, otherwise." John said nothing and Sherlock flicked a glance at him. "Look at him, John," he pleaded. "He's mad, but he's inventive. No prison will hold him indefinitely and, even if it did, his net is spread too wide. We'll be looking over our shoulders for ever. He only needs one lucky day and I will lose you."

His voice cracked, then he tensed his jaw and straightened his arm. "It's the only way," he repeated.

"No, it isn't," John interrupted, rising to his feet but keeping his distance. Sherlock seemed almost punch-drunk at this point, John wasn't sure how much rationality was still in charge.

"You're right." The soft voice startled them both, and John shifted his gaze as Moriarty directed his words to Sherlock. "You'll have to kill me. I will destroy him if you don't."

The two men stared at each other and John's eyes flicked between them.

"Shoot me now," Moriarty continued, "in cold blood, as I lie helpless at your feet. It's what I would do. Become me, in this at least."

"Sherlock, don't," John insisted again. "You're not a killer. Don't do it." Sherlock threw him a look that combined confusion with frustration.

"John, I can't let him live, you must see that? Why are you being like this?" His sounded torn... and Moriarty was gaining confidence.

"You can do it," he whispered. "You can kill me. We are the same." He didn't even seem to feel the pain of his shattered leg. John couldn't tell if there was a spinal injury which was causing paralysis, or if he was just too insane to notice.

"Shut up!" Sherlock demanded, raising one foot and bringing it down over Moriarty's throat, cutting off his air.

"John?" Sherlock looked up at him. "Please. He'll never give up."

They stared at each other for a long moment while Moriarty at last started to struggle. "I'm not arguing with you, Sherlock," John said finally. "He has to die." He held out his hand for the gun. "But let me do it. I already have blood on my hands."

Sherlock regarded him and John could see the brain clicking into gear once more, taking over from the emotional confusion of the last few minutes as his hand fell slowly to his side. His face smoothed into blankness as he considered John's offer, then he looked back at Moriarty, easing the pressure slightly to let him breath... but not enough to allow speech.

He turned his head to John. "Will you leave me, if I do it?" he asked.

John didn't even have to think. "I'll never leave you."

Sherlock looked back down at the man at his feet. "That's the only thing that could have stopped me."

He raised the gun and fired.

Chapter Text

"Will you leave me, if I do it?"
"I'll never leave you."
"That's the only thing that could have stopped me."
Sherlock raised the gun and fired.

All the timings in this chapter relate back to this moment, which took place in June.

One Minute After The Shooting

John stared at Sherlock, who hadn't changed his position but who was now looking over at John, his face displaying a mixture of defiance and uncertainty.

Defiant because he didn't regret it, and uncertain because he wasn't sure how John would feel about it, John deduced. He glanced down at what had been Moriarty, then back up to Sherlock's face.

"Good shot," he said.

Some of the tension in Sherlock's posture eased and he adopted a much more familiar 'I'm surrounded by idiots' expression. "Really, John - I may not be a marksman by your standards, but even a fool could hardly miss from this distance," he pointed out, turning at last and moving away from the body.

John smiled and took a step towards him, reaching out for the gun which Sherlock surrendered without protest. "Right, that's it," he said. "You are watching Life of Brian, I don't care if you hate it. At least you'll pick up on thirty per cent more of my references, and understand what Lestrade and I are on about - I know how much you loathe feeling out of the loop."

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "We should get out of here," he said. "There were four armed men waiting near the hotel to intercept you, they may return."

John cocked his head to one side and looked at him. "Or... we could collect my gun from upstairs and see if they do?" he suggested.

Sherlock smiled.

One Hour After The Shooting

"For God's sake, don't shoot anybody else!" Mycroft's voice was sharper than usual and Sherlock held the phone away from his ear slightly.

"I don't think there is anyone else," he replied. "John is extremely effective." He looked over to where one of Mycroft's team was examining the scrape on John's face and wiping it with disinfectant. John looked bored, until he caught Sherlock's eye and grinned.

"Indeed," retorted Mycroft primly, but Sherlock barely heard him. He felt a powerful desire to be away from all these people and all this fuss. Just himself and John. Together. Alone. Preferably naked and as soon as possible.

"We're leaving," he announced, both to Mycroft and to the Team Leader whose phone he was using, hanging up abruptly and handing the device back. The man caught his arm as he went to move away and Sherlock bristled angrily, tugging himself free. He opened his mouth to protest, feeling a surge of outrage at being manhandled after his experience with Moriarty, but another unseen hand landed on his arm and all his anger drained away. Sherlock was smiling even before he turned around.

"Ready to go?" John asked.

"Not yet," the Team Leader interjected. "I need some more information before you are cleared to depart." His attention was abruptly distracted and he raised a hand to his earpiece, focusing on something in the distance.

Standing side by side, waiting, John nudged Sherlock with his elbow. "Makes us sound like airplanes," he muttered.

"The word is 'aeroplane', John. I've told you before." Sherlock didn't need to look round to be aware of the eye rolling.

"You can talk," John complained. " What about 'It's for bats'?" He referenced the words Sherlock had thrown at Moriarty earlier.

Sherlock shrugged. "Well, I had to say something," he defended. "I hoped it might confuse him. It worked on me."

When the Team Leader turned back to them, they were both giggling.


It was another hour before they managed to escape, but at least they got a lift back to the hotel.

Sherlock led the way into their room and started to move towards the bed, but slowed to a stop half way there as if his feet suddenly forgot where they were taking him. The adrenaline was fading, leaving him feeling disassociated from his surroundings. He looked around, finding it almost incomprehensible that they had been in this room together earlier on this very same day... it seemed like a different lifetime.

The door clicked and he turned to see John walking towards him purposefully, all traces of humour wiped from his face. Sherlock started to raise his arms, wanting nothing more than to embrace him, but John paused just out of reach. He then stepped forward, stretched up, and very deliberately kissed the side of Sherlock's jaw, pushing both hands into his hair and stroking through it.

Next, he rested his hands on Sherlock's shoulders and moved to his ear, nibbling and kissing all around it. Then he pulled back. "Where else?" he asked.

Sherlock stared at him, feeling a most unaccountable prickling sensation behind his eyes.

"He didn't...?" John glanced downwards, betraying the direction his thoughts had taken.

Sherlock shook his head. "No, nothing like that," he said, shuddering at the idea before cutting off that train of thought abruptly.

He raised a hand to his neck, indicating first the side where Moriarty had licked, then all around his throat. John pulled his collar out of the way but then froze, inhaling sharply and Sherlock realised that the attempted choking must have left finger marks on his skin. Feeling suddenly and irrationally ashamed, he stepped back, pulling his shirt tighter again.

"I'm sorry," John said, his hand falling back to his side and Sherlock turned away, walking to the window and gazing out but not really seeing anything. He raised one hand to the frame, leaning his weight on it.

"It was wrong," he said, his voice low. "It was so, so wrong." He could feel that hand moving over his skin again, sliding down over his chest and touching him. The sense memory was extremely powerful and resisted all attempts to delete it. His stomach roiled in protest.

"Do you want me to go?" asked John's quiet voice behind him. "It's all right if you want to be alone for a while. Whatever you need."

"I need a bath." He didn't move, or say anything more and after a moment he heard John walking away, then the taps running in the en suite. Lucky their room had been upgraded, he thought. Just a shower would have been unsuitable for what he wanted.

When the water stopped running he turned around, seeing John hovering uncertainly next to the bathroom doorway. Taking a deep breath, Sherlock started stripping off his clothes, throwing them carelessly onto the bed with the exception of his shirt, which he dumped straight in the bin. He knew he'd never wear it again. Keeping his shorts on for now, he headed towards the bathroom, grabbing John's wrist on the way past and tugging him through the doorway behind him.

Once inside the room, which was already warm and filling with steam, he turned, waving his arm impatiently to indicate the superfluous nature of John's clothing. John rectified the situation with impressive speed, although his hands hesitated at the waistband of his shorts. Sherlock huffed and stripped off his own and John followed suit, although he looked uncomfortable.

"I'm sorry," he said. "But... you're naked; I can't help it."

Sherlock looked down. Ah.

"I don't expect anything, I'm not..." John was still talking and Sherlock cut off his words.

"Bath," he said. "Now."

It was some twenty minutes later, as Sherlock used his toes to add more hot water to the fantastically large bathtub, that he reflected it had actually been easier to tell John about what had happened when he couldn't see him. He wondered if this was because he had first talked about feelings and emotions when he had been blind; while the fleeting thought that they should get a bath like this at home chased across a different level of his brain. He leaned back against John's chest, feeling warm arms wrap more securely around his waist.

"No-one can touch me but you," he announced, very decidedly. "Not ever."

"Not ever," John echoed behind him, and Sherlock could easily identify the possessive note in his voice. He smiled. John's lips brushed cautiously along his neck and Sherlock tipped his head to the side to indicate his approval for the action. The kisses travelled down, pausing at the site of one of the finger marks which he desperately wished he could erase.

"How do you feel about love bites?" John asked, and Sherlock was briefly speechless in awe at the brilliance of his chosen partner, which, of course, reflected well on his own genius in selecting so wisely.

"Ones that mark," John continued. "Not permanently, of course, but enough to cover other bruises."

"Hypothetically and in general terms, I would be dubious," Sherlock replied. "At this moment and for this purpose, I would be grateful."

He hadn't really expected to be aroused by John's actions, bearing in mind their motivation, but there was no denying his body's response as John sucked on his neck. When the time came for him to tilt his head to the other side, Sherlock took both of John's hands and slid them up over his chest.

"Are you sure?" John breathed against his skin. "Don't push yourself too hard, it's fine if you need time." His hands were flat, just resting where Sherlock had left them. "I know you said what happened was minor, I know we've both seen much worse, but this is you, Sherlock. You're not like anybody else."

Sherlock considered. He would have to admit there was a part of him which didn't want to be touched at all, which wanted to be alone, as he had always been alone, wrapped in the familiar layer of isolation which insulated him as surely as his beloved coat. But Sherlock was not about to let Moriarty take this away from him. Or from John. There was no benefit to waiting.

"Only you, John," he confirmed. "Only you, for all of my life." There was no point being coy at this stage.

John stilled behind him, and for a moment Sherlock wondered if he had said too much.

"I need to kiss you now, if that's all right?" John asked, and Sherlock turned his head, raising his face and closing his eyes in acceptance of John's kiss... opening his mouth in welcome, holding nothing back as his arm rose and wrapped around John's neck, fingers tangling in his hair and scratching lightly up and down.

The kiss was wonderful; deep, exploratory, reciprocated. An affirmation. After a while, Sherlock tried to turn into it, the angle being awkward as it was, but John gradually pulled back... gentling his possession of Sherlock's mouth into several kisses with a slight gap in between, the gap getting longer until he murmured, "Later."

Sighing but compliant, Sherlock resumed his former pose, lying back against John once more, head pillowed on his right shoulder. In practical terms it made much more sense for them to lie the other way round, given their height difference, but it was Sherlock who needed comfort right now... and he was not ashamed to take it from John.

John was doing something, he realised, still lying with his eyes closed. He listened to the snap of a bottle top, then felt something soft running along his collar bones. A sponge, he recognised, with some kind of cleaning agent applied to it. He inhaled. Interesting; John was using his own shower gel rather than the brand Sherlock usually favoured, which he knew had been next to it on the shelf. Was it just habit to select that one, or… he breathed in again. No, it was almost certainly deliberate. The smell was one he associated strongly with John. It made Sherlock feel safe.

The sponge was circling over his upper chest now, gradually moving downwards, and John resumed his kisses along the side of Sherlock's neck - gentler than before but still very pleasant. The sponge skimmed lightly across his nipples and Sherlock's toes flexed against the enamel of the bath tub… very pleasant indeed.

John carried on washing him, running the sponge over each arm in turn, lifting his hands and brushing along and between his fingers, circling over his palm then up over his wrist and along the sensitive skin to his inner elbow - always gentle, but with just enough pressure to be soothing rather than ticklish. Back to his chest again, rubbing with a little more pressure this time over one nipple and then the other as Sherlock's breath caught, then the sponge stroked down... but only as far as his waist, at which point John dropped it into the water and slid both hands back up.

Within seconds, all thoughts of Moriarty - indeed, all thoughts of anything - had fled as John rubbed his thumbs over both nipples at once, alternately stroking firmly across, and making circles around them. Sherlock could feel his body responding in an unequivocal manner and he opened his eyes, looking down at the hands which could only be John's hands, which he would recognise among a thousand others, as they touched him.

He turned his head to glance up, only to see that John was looking also... and Sherlock felt that gaze on his skin, following it down until they were both watching as John's fingers pinched together and pulled at him, seeing his nipples grow hard and elongate under the attention, feeling the heat building in his groin as the fingers rolled and rubbed and watching them do it, knowing that John was watching too.

Eventually, Sherlock's head fell back, toes curling at the edge of the bathtub, and John's left hand slipped away, shifting Sherlock's body slightly sideways and tilting his face so that John could lean round and kiss him, which he did... deeply and hungrily. He wasn't aggressive, exactly, but certainly more forceful than normal. Sherlock felt as if John were re-establishing his rights in the wake of Moriarty's claims to be his 'perfect match', demonstrating how well he knew and understood every physical reaction and Sherlock didn't fight him, didn't compete for dominance, just kissed him back and let John secure his place once more.

After a few minutes, John's hand moved purposefully down and soon Sherlock was gasping into the kiss, making no attempt to restrain himself or hold back at all, words spilling out of him and he just let them go because John was here, and Moriarty was dead, and they had survived, and he loved John, and John wasn't perfect but he was perfect for Sherlock... absolutely perfect for Sherlock in every way.

One Week After The Shooting

"What would you have done?"

The question caused John to raise his head from the newspaper, but Sherlock wasn't looking at him - he was staring down at the screen of his laptop, sitting in his chair with his knees pulled up as if he were a Jack ready to be stuffed into the box.

"Concerning what?" John queried, but Sherlock didn't answer. As usual.

John knew, anyway, but Sherlock wouldn't actually talk about it... he just kept popping out these tangential questions then shying away from them again. John sighed.

"Well, I would have broken his neck rather than shooting him," he said. "That would have raised less questions."

Sherlock looked up, an arrested expression on his face. "You could just break his neck?" he asked. "Really?"

John shrugged. Shock value certainly seemed to be more effective than the softly, softly approach.

Sherlock was staring at him, gaze moving down to his hands, then back up to his face again. "Come here, John," he said, his eyes gleaming in a way which made John's pulse race. "Come here right now."

That wasn't quite the result John had being going for, but he'd take it.


It was much later, and John was almost asleep when Sherlock's voice spoke into the semi-darkness of the bedroom.

"I don't regret it," he said.

John's level of alertness shot up, but he kept his breathing rate slow and spoke cautiously. "I know you don't."

"I would do it again."

John didn't doubt it. "Of course you would," he said.

It was quiet for a long time and John wondered if that was it.

"Do you see me differently now?"

John sighed and rolled over. "That would be rather hypocritical of me, don't you think?" he replied.

"That's not what I asked."

"Then, no," John said firmly. "I don't believe you should advocate something unless you're willing to do it yourself." He looked up at Sherlock, who was staring at the ceiling.

"You shouldn't vote for the death penalty unless you'd be willing to throw the switch," he said "or eat bacon if you couldn't kill a pig – not that everyone has to go round killing pigs before tucking into a 'Full English', but if you can't stomach even the thought of doing something yourself, then you shouldn't expect other people to do it for you."

Sherlock was silent.

"You must have known your argument was specious," John pressed on. "Moriarty would never have gone to prison. If you hadn't killed him, I most certainly would have, or the task would have fallen to Mycroft." He stretched out a hand, just resting it on Sherlock's shoulder. "You did it yourself. I think that was... brave," he said.

"He said it was what he would do," Sherlock pointed out and it struck John that this was the heart of the matter. This was the concept that was sticking in Sherlock's head and throwing him off his game, just as Moriarty had no doubt intended.

"That may be true," John replied. "But would he have lost sleep over it afterwards?"

"I'm not losing sleep." Sherlock sounded defensive. "I never sleep much."

John tried to gather his thoughts into something coherent. "Look, in the movies the bad guy always pulls a gun at the last moment, so the hero is miraculously justified and the whole thing is self-defence," he said, remembering the interminable 'Han shot first' rants one of his comrades always used to go off on after his fourth beer. "But real life isn't like that. Sometimes you have to make difficult choices... and then you have to live with them afterwards."

Something in his tone seemed to catch Sherlock's attention and he turned his head, regarding John intently. "I haven't even asked you," he said, sounding dismayed with himself. "The guards round the house… Seb… Helen… are you all right?"

John made a face. "Of course I'm all right," he said, but he looked away, rolling onto his back. "They were all the enemy, all armed, all dangerous, all standing between me and my objective."

"Which was me."

"Which was you." That helped. Nothing was more important than Sherlock.

The thought gave him pause. Perhaps his customary stoicism was not helping Sherlock at the moment? John sighed. He might be a lot more open than Sherlock in most areas, but this was one topic he usually kept well under wraps. He raised an arm, pushing his fingers through his hair.

"I feel a little badly about the woman," he admitted eventually. "Which is stupid and Harry would give me an earful, but there it is."

He could feel Sherlock's eyes on him. "She was your first shot in the house? The one which caused Seb to go looking?"

John nodded.

"But she was armed?" Sherlock checked.

"Oh, yes." John remembered the surprisingly large revolver the woman had produced and aimed at his head. She had been very fast.

"And she would have killed you?"

"Most definitely."

Sherlock didn't say anything more, but he was no doubt confused. John sighed again. "I could have just incapacitated her," he said. "Gone for the shoulder, taken her gun. I almost did."


"But I didn't know how many more there would be and I was on my own. Even an injured opponent is potentially dangerous, can raise the alarm, might have other weapons on them which they're still capable of using. It's a risk and the odds were too high."

Sherlock was quiet for a while. "What about Seb?"

John snorted. "Oh, I won't lose any sleep over him," he said. "Creepy little fucker." He paused. "Sorry."

"No, that's fair," Sherlock said, with feeling. "He wasn't your biggest fan. Called himself Moriarty's 'Doctor', because of you."

"His Doctor? Really? That's… weird."

"Indeed," Sherlock replied. "He was angry over our relationship. Said you'd taken liberties."

John huffed. "Probably just jealous," he said. "After all, Moriarty didn't seem to give a flying… care that he'd vanished."

Sherlock was silent and John rolled over again to look at him. He was still staring at the ceiling but he looked slightly less tense. He turned his head and smiled at John.

"That's true, isn't it?" he said. "Seb may have been loyal to Moriarty but the reverse wasn't the case at all." He rolled over so they were facing each other and draped his arm loosely round John's waist. "I am no more like Moriarty than you are like Seb," he decided.

He was asleep within minutes.

Three Months After The Shooting

"You're staring at my chest again," Sherlock commented, still typing on his laptop. "Any particular reason?"

His peripheral vision picked up the way John froze in place, leaning against the kitchen doorway where he had been absent-mindedly wiping a mug with a tea-towel. "Sorry," he said.

Sherlock looked up. "You've been doing it on and off for a week," he observed. "And whatever you've been trying to wipe off that mug for the last five minutes is presumably either gone for good or there to stay."

John looked down at the cup in his hand as if it had personally betrayed him, then he shrugged.

Sherlock waited, one eyebrow quirked.

John squirmed. "Fine," he said, abandoning the mug and moving to his chair. "I was thinking about what it would be like if you had your nipple pierced."

Sherlock was startled, which rarely happened to him around anyone but John. "And why would I want to do that?" he asked.

"You're very sensitive," John pointed out. "It could be… stimulating. And it… appeals to me, on some level," he admitted. "It's the only way I'd ever get a ring on you, after all. You hardly seem the marrying type."

Sherlock grimaced.

"Not to worry," John said. "Just a thought." He smiled. "You could bear it in mind if you don't know what to get me for Christmas."

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "I'm confident I can think of something suitable which will not require me to mutilate myself," he said, and went back to work.


A week later he found the conversation popping back into his head as he made his way to the morgue. Was he actually considering such an odd procedure, just to make John happy? He shook his head and lengthened his stride, putting the idea out of his mind. Ridiculous.

Sherlock's steps faltered as he drew level with the viewing window overlooking the autopsy tables. Not what it looks like, his mind announced immediately, reminding himself that John had arranged to meet him here and knew he was on his way. Furthermore, loyalty was one of John's most dominant character traits. He would never be unfaithful - it was out of the question.

Neither of these facts made the slightest impact on the churning sensation in Sherlock's stomach as he looked down on John and Molly, locked in an embrace in the room below. Even as he watched, John pulled back slightly, but then raised one hand to Molly's cheek, smoothing her hair behind her ear.

Sherlock found that he was gritting his teeth, but checked his initial impulse to turn around and leave. Instead he continued on, down the stairs and round the corner, banging open the door with no more than his usual abruptness; his face carefully blank.

John glanced round and smiled at him, but he didn't release Molly. "Look, he even fooled Sherlock," he said, turning back to her. "What chance did we mere mortals have?"

Not this again. Was the bloody woman never going to get over it?

John stepped back, gripping her shoulders. "Come on, chin up," he told her. "No-one blames you." He turned to Sherlock, one arm still around Molly's shoulders. "Do they, Sherlock?" he asked.

Sherlock opened his mouth. Then closed it again. He looked at John's face, so open, showing nothing but honest concern. He pictured how that face would change if he gave vent to the words in his mind. "No," he said. "No-one blames you, Molly."


Later that evening, he brooded in his chair until John stopped banging around in the kitchen and sat down opposite.

"Out with it," he demanded. "What's got your knickers in a knot this time?"

Sherlock curled his lip. "Really, John. Where do you dredge up these dreadful expressions?" he queried. "You watch far too much television."

John tipped his head to one side. "Are you going to go ahead and talk to me or do we need to take this to the bedroom?" he asked, which wasn't quite the proposition it sounded like. John had a theory that important or difficult conversations should take place in bed as often as possible, and preferably naked so that neither party could storm off in a huff too quickly.

Sherlock frowned. Talking. The big relationship downside as far as he was concerned, but John wouldn't let him get away with anything, had actually sat on him more than once and refused to let him up... and there was no breaking one of John's holds when he didn't want you to. Although Sherlock had managed to successfully distract him that last time, he remembered. Seeing him helpless certainly seemed to push some of John's buttons, which was odd as he appeared perfectly happy for Sherlock to top almost all of the time. Interesting. He filed the thought away for later consideration.

"You're bi-sexual," he said, eventually.

"I'm aware," replied John, and Sherlock frowned. "Sorry," John added. "Go on."

"So you enjoy sex with both men and women."

John looked at him oddly. "Not any more," he pointed out. "Now I only enjoy sex with you."

"But won't you miss women?" Sherlock asked. "Being with women, I mean. If that's a part of your nature, your sexual identity, won't you want it again at some point?"

John looked surprised, and a bit hurt. "I would never be unfaithful to you, Sherlock," he said. "Surely you know that?"

Sherlock waved his arm. "Don't be ridiculous, John. Of course I know that."

"Then what's the problem?" John asked, looking bemused.

Sherlock felt a little uncomfortable. "It's not enough," he said.

John just looked at him blankly and Sherlock gave an awkward half-shrug. "It's not enough that you won't betray me," he admitted. "I don't want you to want to."

"Bloody hell!" exclaimed John. "You take possessiveness to a whole new level, don't you?" He shook his head. "I barely even see anyone else when you're in the room... it's takes all my energy just to focus on anything that isn't you. Bloody awkward at a crime scene, I can tell you."

"What about when I'm not in the room?" Sherlock couldn't help asking, thinking back to the scene with Molly.

John huffed. "Then I'm probably admiring your arse as we chase down a suspect," he said. "Sorry, backside."

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "I think I can cope with 'arse' by now, John," he said.

"What's brought this on?" John asked. "Is this about running into Andy the other week? Oh, but no, you said women..."

He was clearly thinking but Sherlock's attention had already been diverted by the mention of John's ex. One of John's exes. A very chatty and outgoing character who'd had half the pub laughing when they encountered him on an ill fated social outing. Short blond hair, brown eyes, muscular, not too bright. About as different to Sherlock Holmes as it was possible to get. He had loudly announced that any man who snared John Watson was a lucky bastard and John had pushed Sherlock out of the door and taken him home before he could start on the blistering character assessment he had lined up.

The unvented words still rankled. "I don't understand how you could go from someone like him to someone like me," Sherlock objected now, making John jump. "He's an idiot."

John sighed. "He's an architect, Sherlock. Not an idiot at all."

"He let you go, didn't he?" That seemed fairly definitive.

"Not by choice." John sounded vaguely regretful, but then he shook his head. "So, is Andy the problem?" he asked. "Or is it something else that's bugging you?"

Sherlock bristled. "I wasn't the one who wanted to talk," he said.

"No, you were the one brooding like an overgrown chicken," John retorted. "Don't give me that, Sherlock. You've got something on your mind so spit it out."

"I don't want sex as much as you do."

John froze for a moment. "Is that a complaint or an observation?"

"The latter."

"So you're not unhappy with how we are right now? You're not finding me too demanding or wishing I would back off?"


John smiled. "OK, then," he said. "So, you have a lower sex drive than me. That's not exactly startling news. You seem just as keen as I am when you do feel like it, would that be fair?"

"Yes, definitely. But you seem to want it all the time. When I'm involved in a case I don't want to be distracted. Or sometimes I just want to play the violin. Or kiss. I like kissing and sometimes that's enough."

"Can I come over there?" John asked. "I'm feeling a powerful urge to kiss you right now."

Sherlock smiled, and it was some time before the conversation was resumed. By this point, they had relocated to the sofa and were stretched out together.

"What about my always wanting to be on top?" Sherlock queried, as John's kisses trailed down his neck. "Don't you miss doing that more?"

John chuckled against his skin, then raised his head. "Bloody hell, I don't care," he said. "I'd have you upside down, sideways, or swinging from the ceiling if that's the only way I could. It doesn't matter."

Sherlock cast a glance at the ceiling dubiously, then dismissed the idea. "You feel like that now," he said, "but if we're going to be together for a long time…"

"Which we are," John interrupted, kissing him again.

Sherlock hid a smile. It was almost too easy. Then he carried on, "Ultimately, wouldn't you miss it?"

John shrugged "I don't know. I won't miss it enough to look for it elsewhere, I can promise you that. If it becomes an issue we'll talk about it, OK? Hell, you'll probably know before I do."

He dropped his head again, kissing Sherlock's mouth this time, hands pushing into his hair, and Sherlock found his thoughts drifting a little out of reach until John pulled back again.

"Look, there's no point worrying about my past or what I may or may not want in the future," he said. "As long as we talk to each other, we'll be fine." Sherlock must have looked unconvinced, because he pressed on. "If you're going to go down this road, then I could mention that you don't even know what you might want in a few years time."

Sherlock raised an eyebrow, unclear as to the point, and John regarded him steadily. "Not that I'd be in favour of this but, scientifically speaking, shouldn't you try sex with other people than me?" he asked. "With another man? With a woman? With more..."

"Stop!" demanded Sherlock, feeling nauseous. "You've made your point." He pulled John down into a hug, wrapping his arms around him tightly. "No-one but you, John," he said, pressing his face into John's neck and inhaling deeply. "Not ever."

After a few minutes, he started thinking about John's request again. Well, not request exactly, but statement of interest. He decided it was best to nip that one in the bud and establish the obvious problems.

"My shirts are very fitted," he pointed out, loosening his hold on John, who propped himself up on his elbows.

"I know," he replied, smiling.

Perhaps he hadn't understood what Sherlock was driving at. "A piercing would show through," he explained.

John's smile grew wider. "It would," he agreed.

Ah. Not quite the deterrent Sherlock had anticipated. He resorted to what he felt was the definitive problem. "I don't want some stranger touching me."

John tipped his head to one side. "Pity you don't know any doctors who could do it," he said.

Sherlock subsided.

John smirked and kissed him again.

The thoughts swirled around Sherlock's head. He still felt vaguely uneasy. It was all very well for John to say he didn't care and that he was happy with what they had, but that situation would not continue indefinitely. It seemed to him that John was giving up more than he was getting, and that was all wrong. There must be something he wanted that didn't include interrupting cases or perforating him.

The half-formed idea he'd shelved earlier came back to him and, the next time his mouth was free, he asked about it. "You seem to enjoy holding me down?"

John looked startled and began to roll off him. Sherlock pulled him back. "I don't mean now," he said. "Obviously. I was thinking of that last time when you were trying to get me to talk… ah, I see you remember."

John was flushing, which Sherlock regarded with interest. He had been so convinced during his blindness that he would be able to work out all John's fantasies once he could see his face, but actually it was surprisingly difficult. Perhaps the personal involvement was getting in the way.

John seemed willing to talk about it, anyway. "Do you remember the massage?" he asked. "No, don't answer that, of course you do," he continued, before Sherlock could respond. "Do you remember stretching up at one point and gripping the railings?"

"You put your hands over mine," Sherlock recalled. "It was almost as if you were restraining me."

John looked slightly abashed, but it didn't hide his excitement. "Exactly," he said. "Sometimes…" He seemed to be struggling to proceed, but then he took a deep breath and tried again. "Sometimes, I think about tying you up." He ducked his head down as if nervous of Sherlock's reaction, then looked back up cautiously. "But being in control was such an issue for you, I never thought it was worth mentioning."

Sherlock felt somewhat alarmed. He had been on a case once involving this sort of thing and various pieces of equipment, many of them painful looking, were featuring on a slide show in his head. He was almost tempted to go back to the topic of piercing.

"I don't want to hurt you, if that's what you're thinking," John said quickly.

"Then what?" Sherlock asked, endeavouring to conceal his relief more effectively than he had hidden his concern.

John gave him a half smile "I want you restrained and helpless," he said, his hand wrapping round Sherlock's wrist and raising it above his head, holding it there in demonstration.

"I want to be able to touch you wherever I want, with whatever I want, for as long as I want." His voice was dropping, and now he had the other wrist in his grasp.

"I want to take you apart and have you be unable to stop me." He raised that wrist also and held it in place, kneeling over Sherlock now.

"I want you to switch off from everything else and focus only on me." He looked at Sherlock the way Sherlock imagined he often looked at John, with possessiveness and ownership in his gaze.

"I want to be your whole world," he said.

Sherlock swallowed. He stared up at a John who was harder edged than the one he was used to seeing at home, more soldier than doctor.

"I'll think about it," he said.

"That will make two of us," John remarked, exhaling shakily and releasing his hold. He lay down again, but not straight on top of Sherlock this time, more on his side, squashed against the back of the sofa. It seemed he was honouring the 'just kissing' proposal from earlier.

After five minutes cooling off time, Sherlock turned onto his side and got on with that plan. It went very well.

"I have a confession," John admitted after a while, his words ghosting over Sherlock's jaw. He didn't wait for a response. "I like kissing, too," he murmured, against Sherlock's ear this time, his warm breath sending tingles spreading in a radial pattern. "In fact, I love it. It's a big deal for me; I hate it when people treat it like trailers at the movies, just something they've got to sit through before they can get to the main event."

Sherlock was surprised. "You must have regretted that kiss embargo, then," he suggested, tipping his head back as John's attentions moved down his neck. He thought about how difficult he had found it, and it must surely have been worse for John, who had more idea what he was missing.

"Worth it," he replied, and Sherlock made an enquiring noise.

"That was one of the reasons, actually," John explained, nibbling his way back up Sherlock's throat. "I was hoping the deprivation would make you keener later on – like with kids who aren't allowed sweets at all becoming complete sugar addicts when they grow up." He'd arrived back at Sherlock's mouth by this point and delved in again, stroking the tip of his tongue along the edge of Sherlock's. It felt gorgeously intimate.

When he pulled away and edged along to the other ear, Sherlock finally assimilated his words. "So, I was an experiment?" he asked, feeling oddly proud. He'd make a scientist of John yet.

"Not just any experiment," John promised, sucking the lobe into his mouth then releasing it. "You were the most important experiment of my life." He raised his head and Sherlock smirked up at him.

"As I should be," he said.

Four Months After The Shooting

"His face when you…" John ran out of breath - giggling and running were a tough combination, however fit you were.

Sherlock leaned against him on the doorstep, making no attempt to get his key into the lock. "Stop it, John," he pleaded. "I can't breathe."

John tipped forward to rest his hands on his knees. "I've never seen anyone drop a gun so fast," he gasped. "You were brilliant."

"I'm always brilliant," Sherlock replied, and that set them off again until John straightened up, the laughter gradually fading as they stared at each other... then both spoke at once.

"Hallway," they said.

After that, it was a fight to open the door, which Sherlock won by dint of picking John's keys out of his pocket and holding them high out of reach, even though that sort of behaviour had clearly been designated as cheating during previous encounters. John decided all bets were off and tickled him, which caused Sherlock to shriek in a range a good two octaves above his normal tones and they both froze as the door swung open, listening for any sound from their landlady.

"Not your best idea, John," Sherlock muttered, but John just grinned and shoved him back against the wall, pushing the door closed behind them.

"I didn't even know your voice went that high," he said, kissing the annoyance off Sherlock's face as he slipped his hands under the coat and started tugging at clothes.

Sherlock flinched away. "Hands!" he objected. "Cold hands! For God's sake, why won't you wear the gloves I bought…"

John shut him up again. Fussy bugger. His hands would warm up soon enough and John fully intended to stick them anywhere he fancied. He smiled against Sherlock's mouth. It was a long list.

There were other hands wandering by this stage, Sherlock adopting his preferred method of bringing John up to his height, which was basically to grab his arse and pull him up onto his toes. John loved it. He leaned forward, resting his full weight against Sherlock and thrusting his hands into the much missed curls, kissing him hungrily until Sherlock spun them around and pushed his thigh between John's legs, rocking against him as they kissed, one hand still firmly holding John in place, the other slipping between their bodies, under John's clothes and up over his chest.

He still had his gloves on, John noticed, groaning at the realisation. The cool leather stroking over his skin felt incredible and when it started flicking across his nipple, John's head fell back against the wall and he had to bite his lip to keep himself quiet. Sherlock was hard and hot against him - this was clearly not a 'just kissing' night - and John put both hands on top of Sherlock's shoulders and pushed down to raise himself higher.

Taking the hint, Sherlock ducked down a little, folded his arms tightly around John's hips, then straightened, grunting slightly under the strain but then leaning forward to use the wall for leverage as he lifted John, who promptly wrapped both legs around him... under the coat, he noticed with the few stray brain cells which still seemed to have a blood supply. Sherlock still had his coat on. John closed his eyes. Bloody hell, he liked that coat. He grabbed the collar to pull Sherlock's head forward then kissed him again, one hand holding onto his shoulder and the other running up from the back of his neck and tangling in his curls once more, while Sherlock adjusted their position until he was at the perfect height and they were grinding together, with John sandwiched in between the wall at his back and the seriously turned on Sherlock at his front. Things didn't get much better than this, he decided.


John was distantly aware of something being wrong, but it didn't really register until Sherlock pulled his head back, breathing hard.

"The hallway, again?" came the exasperated tones of their landlady. "Really, boys, you do rent your own rooms you know."

She made a disapproving clucking noise as John released the grip of his thighs around Sherlock's hips and slid back down the wall until he was standing, somewhat shakily, back on his feet. He still couldn't see Mrs Hudson and looked up at Sherlock instead, both of them flushed but trying desperately hard not to burst into giggles again.

"This is a communal area," she went on. "Communal. That means shared, you know. Public." She tutted again. "It's not that I'm not happy for you both but really, Sherlock - I don't expect this sort of thing from you."

John raised his eyebrows, wondering what that said about him, and watched Sherlock almost spluttering trying not to laugh at his indignant expression.

"Sorry, Mrs Hudson."

"Very sorry, Mrs Hudson."

They escaped up the stairs, stumbling, still not looking round.

"I'll be away at my sister's next weekend," she called up after them. "Do try to get it out of your systems…"

They made it into the living room, then just collapsed on the sofa side by side. "How many times is that?" John asked, covering his face with his hands and trying to calm down.

"Four and a half," said Sherlock, tipping his head back and exhaling. "We weren't even loud, this time," he added indignantly.

"Do you think she has some kind of radar?"

"God, she's like Mycroft in slippers."

They turned their heads to look at each other, both smiling, their gazes locking... and gradually the atmosphere changed again.

"I love you," said John, stretching out his hand. Sherlock took it, then regarded him speculatively.

"That thing you wanted," he said, and John couldn't help his gaze falling to Sherlock's chest.

"The other thing," Sherlock said dryly, and John looked back up at his face, aware that his own must be filled with a mixture of hope and excitement.

"We can try that," Sherlock said. "If you like."

John was almost afraid to assume, and Sherlock tipped his head to one side. "Yes, I do mean that," he confirmed. "Do you have something you can use? I think I've got some handcuffs somewhere, if you want those."

"Not handcuffs." John shook his head. "I want you to be able to pull against them without hurting your wrists." Sherlock's eyebrows rose and John could feel his excitement rising with them. Calm down, he told himself sternly.

"Where…?" Sherlock started, but then shook his head. "My room, of course," he acknowledged. "Slow of me, sorry."

"Railings," agreed John. It seemed he had devolved to one word sentences.

Ten minutes later, he had Sherlock topless, with his wrists strapped together and attached to the headboard. He sat back on his heels, still fully dressed, straddling Sherlock's hips.

"Bloody hell," he said. "You look completely gorgeous." It was the right thing to say. Sherlock smiled and stopped looking quite so uncertain.

"Right," said John. "Some basics." He closed his eyes briefly, trying to focus on something beyond the real life fantasy stretched out beneath him.

"Obviously, I'm not going to blindfold you. In fact, I'm not going to do anything I haven't done to you before, probably many times." He smiled. "As you saw, I've used a belt to tie your wrists. It's soft leather, so you can pull against it and it shouldn't hurt, but I can release it quickly if you need me to." He thought about that. "Speaking of which - you need a word. A word which, if you say it, means I stop immediately and untie you, no questions asked."

"Why can't I just say 'Stop'?" asked Sherlock, looking puzzled.

"No good," said John. "Because you might say that anyway just if something is intense, without really meaning you've had enough all together. It has to be something you wouldn't normally say in the bedroom."

He thought for a moment, then smiled wickedly. "I know," he said. "If you really want me to stop, say... Mycroft."

"I most certainly will not," said Sherlock, looking disgusted. "I am not saying my brother's name when I'm in bed with you, I don't care what you're doing. Absolutely not."

"Fine, how about..."

"Not Lestrade either, and don't even think about suggesting Anderson, if you ever want to touch me again. Pick something inanimate."

"I'm not sure that you're getting into a suitably submissive mind-set," observed John. "OK, how about… cushion?"

Sherlock's expression turned slightly sour at the mention of the soft furnishings he had come to detest. "The cushions strike back," he muttered, then looked surprised at John's laugh. "Good choice," he acknowledged. "I certainly won't be shouting that unless I have to."

John smiled. "Right then," he said. "Last question."

Sherlock looked at him enquiringly.

"Do you trust me?"

They stared at each other... and John could literally see Sherlock sinking into his role, giving up his control, letting his guard down and placing himself completely into John's hands.

"Utterly," he said.

John had never loved him more.

Six Months After The Shooting

"What is that?"

John turned around at Sally's question, feeling slightly anxious. It was overly warm in the Incident Room and Sherlock had just stripped off his jacket. John hoped the attention didn't make him feel uncomfortable. He should have known better.

"Come, come now, Sergeant Donovan," Sherlock was saying. "Clearly you are no stranger to piercings yourself." He dropped his gaze suggestively. "As several of the husbands in this building can no doubt attest."

John tried not to laugh as Sally's jaw dropped.

"Why always the married ones, Sally?" Sherlock asked. "When the only man with half a brain in this place is single and inexplicably attracted to you?"

He stalked off, leaving Sally open mouthed behind him.

John gave her an apologetic shrug and a half smile. "I'm with him," he said, and followed Sherlock across the room, where he was leaning against a desk, frowning as he waited for the rest of the team to join them.

"From Consulting Detective to Matchmaker?" John asked under his breath, when he caught up. "What's next? Wedding Planning?"

"Shut up, John." Sherlock looked fed up, as he always did after he'd done something which he felt might be out of character. He was still concerned about changing too much because of their relationship. "The yearning is distracting, makes it hard to think," he defended. "It's annoying."

John smiled. "Nothing to do with Lestrade letting you into the Black Museum last week, then?"

"Shut up."

John nudged against him and he looked round, his face softening. Then the door opened and he was off, throwing himself into the case with the profound relief of the emotionally challenged.

John smiled fondly and stayed where he was, letting him get on with it and following the proceedings with interest. Sherlock might not want to admit it, but he had changed. It was unreasonable to expect anything else - everyone is the sum of their experiences, after all. It wasn't terribly noticeable with Sherlock, though. Probably no-one else could tell when he was biting back some stinging retort, and he only did it for John's benefit, not because he'd suddenly discovered civility. No danger of that, John thought.

They'd noticed on the last case, though, he reflected. A serial rapist... very nasty business. Sherlock hadn't slept for nearly a week until they got him and had been unusually gentle with the victims.

"You are good for him," Sally's voice spoke from behind him as she walked up. "I was doubtful, but I can see that, at least."

"Thanks," said John, looking sideways at her before nodding towards the group in front of them. "So, what do you think?" he asked. "About Sherlock's suggestion?"

Sally sighed and shook her head. "There's always been something," she admitted, her eyes following Lestrade as he trailed around after Sherlock. "But married men are less of a threat to my independence and I've worked bloody hard for it."

John nodded. "I can see that," he acknowledged, although he far from condoned her behaviour. Still... it was the men who were at fault really, he considered. They were the ones who were breaking their vows - Sally hadn't promised anybody anything.

"Your heart is less at risk if theirs is already taken," he said, and Sally looked at him.

"You're quite the romantic, John Watson," she said, raising one eyebrow.

John shrugged. "I can be," he admitted.

"I'll think about it," Sally said, and John smiled. That sentence generally led to good things, in his experience.

"So, what about you?" she asked, nodding towards Sherlock, who was waving an image plucked from one of the files and demanding to know why they were employing a visually impaired photographer. "Do you have his heart?"

John smiled again as Sherlock glanced round for one of the 'Where's John?' checks he still hadn't completely shaken off.

"Oh, yes," he said. "I've got that, all right."


Author's Note

Phew! Well, this is 'officially' the end, but I did go ahead and write an out-take from this chapter (the 'Five Months After The Shooting' segment) while I was recording a podfic of the story...

Artwork for this chapter:

Only You, by Haigidal
Wash, by tigerkatz
The Hallway by K

Chapter Text



I wrote the out-take while recording a podfic of this unfeasibly long story - there were several requests, which I did honestly intend to take heed of, but it turns out that writing to order is just one more thing that I completely suck at. So, with apologies, I bring you a segment which nobody asked for but which wanted to be written - it fits into the time-frame of the last chapter. (Oh, and the movie referenced is Monty Python's Life of Brian, which John has threatened Sherlock with before.)


Five Months After Moriarty Was Shot

Sherlock opened his mouth for the fourth time since they had got into the taxi, and yet again closed it without speaking. John was angry. Very angry. His knuckles were white where he gripped the hand rail and he was gazing fixedly out of the window. Not yelling, not shouting... he hadn't said a word since they had left the crime scene and was just ignoring Sherlock as if he had the cab to himself.

Sherlock did not like being ignored.

When they arrived home he paid for the taxi, letting John go ahead. He was almost tempted to stay put and go elsewhere for the night, but decided against it. There were occasions when an angry John would calm down if given some space and 'air', but Sherlock had learned enough to recognise that this was not one of those times. He followed the echo of footsteps up the stairs, ruthlessly squashing down any awareness that he might be in the wrong.

John was standing foursquare in the living room, arms folded, facing the door and Sherlock took his time hanging up his coat and scarf, affecting a nonchalance which he was annoyingly aware would not fool John at all.

Deciding to get it over with, he turned back. "I suppose tea is out of the question?"

"We can have tea. We can have tea just as soon as you explain to me what the fuck you were thinking."

Sherlock almost dismissed the query, intending to brush past John and throw himself into his chair, but somehow he didn't quite dare. Interesting.

He shook off the feeling and curled his lip. "Do you really think you could follow?"

John took a half step forward. "He had a knife, Sherlock. A great big, fucking knife. Did you even see that? Did your so-called powers of observation pick that up at all?"

Sherlock found himself suppressing the urge to retreat, which one level of his brain found fascinating. "Would you be referring to the blade which was pressed against your carotid, John?" he enquired, holding his ground with an effort. "Would that be the fucking knife you had in mind?"

John's eyes widened at the rare profanity and he moved to step forward again but then stopped, holding his position in the middle of the room.

"He was targeting you, as you well know. I had the situation under control before you jumped in front of me. How could you be so fucking stupid?" He had unfolded his arms but his hands were clenched into fists at his sides.

"Why did you do that, Sherlock?" he demanded. "What the hell were you thinking?"

"I was thinking that you had a knife at your throat," Sherlock snapped. "Pardon me for assuming that was a bad thing!"

He finally forced himself to move, going to step around John even though his instincts warned against it. Less than a second later, he had his back to the wall and John's arm was braced against his chest, holding him in place. They stared at each other, only inches apart, Sherlock feeling startled and oddly breathless until John's free hand darted to the back of his neck and tugged his head down.

The kiss was more forceful and demanding than anything he had experienced before and the thought of resisting it never entered Sherlock's mind. He opened his mouth to John without hesitation, accepting the fingers which tightened in his curls and the leg which pressed between his own and the hand which slid down across his abdomen to wrap around his hip.

His head thudded back as John's mouth moved down his neck and he moaned in anticipation as he felt the first scrape of teeth against his skin, tilting his head to the side in a clear sign of acquiescence. He wasn't sure what to do with the sudden outpouring of power from this man who usually treated him with such care and reverence, but Oh God... he liked it.

And then suddenly it was gone as John stepped back, quickly moving several paces away.

Sherlock stayed slumped against the wall, not entirely sure his legs would hold him. "What's the matter?" His voice sounded most peculiar.

"I have to go out."

"What do you mean?"

"I need..." John looked wild, the emotions flitting across his face in rapid succession. There was a flash of shame just before he spoke again.

"I need some air. I'll be back later."

"Stop!" Sherlock pushed himself upright. "Wait."

John obeyed automatically but was still half turned towards the door.

"What's the matter?" Sherlock repeated.

"You were almost killed." John's head was down. "Right in front of me." He turned to face Sherlock again and the look in his eyes was fierce... predatory. "I want to strip you," he said. "I want to touch every inch of your skin. I want to prove to myself that you're all right, that you're still here, that you're still... mine." He was leaning forward, as if maintaining his distance was physically painful.

Sherlock swallowed. "That would be... I mean, I would not be opposed..."

John shook his head. "No good. I'm too angry." His eyes were raking over Sherlock hungrily. "If I come near you now, I'll do much more than that."

Sherlock stepped away from the wall, his heart racing. "You told me once about 'angry sex'. Do you remember?" He took another pace forward and John moved back. "Months ago, when I was blind - in more ways than one. When I didn't understand what your words meant."

John stopped retreating, his eyes steady on Sherlock's approaching figure.

"Well, I'm not blind any more, John. And I'm no longer inexperienced. I'll never want anyone else, but you're always so careful with me and sometimes I..." Sherlock broke off, then steeled himself to make the admission. "Sometimes I wish that you weren't." His voice was low and he could feel the colour in his cheeks but he kept his head up, letting John read his face.

The silence between them was heavy, then Sherlock saw the decision being made. His stomach fluttered as John settled into a much more military stance than he usually adopted at home.

"Clear that table," he commanded, nodding towards the kitchen.

Sherlock raised an eyebrow - it wouldn't do to make it too easy. "Why?"

"Because I am going to fuck you on it."


It was like being caught up in a flash flood, Sherlock thought vaguely a little while later.

He was flat on his back, hips at the edge of the table and legs hanging over the end; he could feel his trousers and underwear still dangling from one ankle. John had pulled the other leg clear and was now standing between them, looking down at him. Sherlock gazed back up, fascinated by this new aspect of his lover's personality, which he had suspected but never been successful in provoking before.

John had two fingers buried inside him; Sherlock had been too distracted to note what he'd used to lubricate them but it felt like some kind of oil. He squirmed as the fingers twisted, rubbing in exactly the right place. He wanted more contact but John wasn't touching him anywhere else, just standing over him... watching.

Sherlock tried to concentrate, sparing a brief thought for the experiments which were now strewn across the floor since he had cleared the table by the simple method of tipping it up. There had been a couple of things running which he would have to repeat, but nothing remotely as interesting as John was being at the moment.

"Unfasten your shirt," John instructed, still fully dressed himself. He hadn't even rolled up his sleeves and Sherlock could feel the fabric brushing against the naked skin of his inner thighs, driving home the disparity between them, a constant reminder of who was in charge. He hesitated. The shirt was long and covered his groin at the moment giving some illusion of modesty, however ridiculous that seemed.

Eyes narrowing at the delay, John's free hand rose to the front of his shirt and gripped it. "Undo the buttons or I will rip it off you." There was no hint of doubt in his voice and Sherlock's body tightened around the invading fingers as he bit back a moan. He remembered that the purple silk was one of John's favourites and raised his hands to start on the buttons, already planning which shirt to wear the next time he anticipated pissing John off – the pale green which Mycroft had bought him... he wouldn't mind if that one got destroyed.

"Open it."

Sherlock looked down, taking a breath. Then he glanced back up at John through his lashes and brought his hands to the edges of his shirt, slowly pulling them apart, the silk slithering over his skin and slipping to the sides of his body as he exposed himself fully. He watched John's eyes darken.

"You are breathtaking." John's free hand rose and pushed at his chin, tipping his head back then smoothing down over the skin of his throat, the touch gentle but firm. "Are you..."

"Yes!" Sherlock cut off the consideration, arching his neck into John's grip.

"You're sure you...?"

"Don't stop."

John's hand moved on, roaming over arms and shoulders and chest, and it wasn't even a sexual touch, it was John reassuring himself, but Sherlock's breath still hitched as the tip of a little finger brushed over his nipple. He bent a leg and raised it, bare toes curling around the edge of the table as he felt one side of his shirt being pulled closed, then John leaned forward, mouth closing around a nipple through the dark purple silk.

Sherlock couldn't hold back his groan this time, closing his eyes and picturing what he must look like, laid out virtually naked with John fully dressed and bent over him. He flexed his leg, trying to ease away from the relentless stimulation of his prostate which was making it difficult to think, but John's other hand quickly moved to grip his hip, pinning him down and Sherlock shuddered on the table.

He squirmed again and John pressed harder inside him, the thumb of that hand now stroking over the taut skin around where his fingers were buried, and Sherlock had to force himself not to fight... the sensations were overwhelming. He opened his eyes and brought his arms up, wanting to pull John down on top of him, to wrap arms and legs around him, to get some friction where he wanted it with increasing desperation.

"No." John snapped out the word without releasing him and Sherlock bit his lip because he had to hold on to something... He spread his arms out instead, gripping the sides of the table as John rubbed with his tongue, soaking through the fine material and dragging it across the flesh beneath, his mouth hot and just a little bit rough and Sherlock raised his head to look down the length of his own body to where his erection was curved up against his belly, hard and straining for attention.

"John... please..." He didn't even care that he was begging.

John lifted his head. "You are not in charge of this situation." He pulled back the shirt to expose the results of his efforts and Sherlock looked down, seeing his nipple slick and wet from John's mouth and almost expecting to find a pulse beating there as it throbbed in time with the pounding of his heart. John's focus shifted and he adjusted his position, moving to the other side of Sherlock's chest, then looking up into his face and Sherlock found his own gaze flicking between John's intent eyes, his opening mouth, and his all too obvious destination.

"Oh, God..." His head fell back onto the table, body jerking in response as John licked across his other nipple, free hand sliding from Sherlock's hip, along his side, around his neck and then up into his hair, holding him in place with his head tipped back, which pushed his chest up further into John's waiting mouth. Any attempts to pull away just impaled him more deeply on John's fingers... and it was too much.

Sherlock couldn't focus. His mind flashed back to a long distant taxi cab ride, when he had wondered about John abandoning his restraint and just taking him and now... finally, here they were. The hand between his legs was supremely possessive, the constant stimulation building a pressure which Sherlock couldn't relieve but there was no escaping it, and there were teeth now, nipping at him, the darts of not quite pain shooting out in all directions and sensitising his skin so that even his few remaining items of clothing felt unbearable. He shook the trousers and underwear off his ankle and wrapped that leg around John, trying to tug him closer... and John raised his head.

They stared at each other, Sherlock open mouthed and panting, unable to prevent the way his hips tried to rise in time with John's movements, knuckles white where he was gripping the sides of the table to stop his hands from reaching out, keeping himself in place as John wanted. The hand in his hair released its hold and stroked round to cup his face and Sherlock turned his head immediately and pressed a kiss into the palm.

There was a sharp inhale and John's thumb stroked gently across his cheekbone, then the fingers which had stretched him were withdrawn, there was a flurry of movement as John yanked his top off, the sound of a zipper, then John was pushing into him, and Sherlock arched his back with a shout.

He looked back down as John spoke, voice tight with control and determination. "Raise your legs," he instructed, his hand roaming all over Sherlock's torso and chest, everywhere except where he most wanted the attention, as if to say 'your body is mine, to touch or ignore as I choose' and Sherlock did as he was told, draping his legs over John's shoulders and John took hold of his hips and pulled him right to the edge of the table, keeping him in place as he found the perfect angle and established a rhythm which seemed specifically designed to drive Sherlock completely insane.

He was already as physically aroused as he could ever remember being, and looking now at John it was impossible to think of anything but him. He kept closing his eyes to try to regain his focus but it didn't help – his mind still displayed images of John, the muscles of his chest and arms taut and defined as he held Sherlock exactly where he wanted him; lifting him slightly now to push his hands underneath, squeezing Sherlock's arse as he loved to do and Sherlock whimpered and pressed with his heels, trying to pull John down towards him.

"Stop that." John quickly adjusted his grip so that he could hold Sherlock with one arm, then leaned forward and applied a brisk slap to his backside.

Sherlock stared at him in total shock for one… two… three seconds. And then he came.

His body jerked and shuddered on the table and he forgot the rules along with everything else and threw one arm around John's neck, pulling him down, saying his name over and over, shaking and trembling beneath him and then at last… at last John kissed him, and Sherlock held on tight with arms and legs and urged him on until he came with a wordless roar, back arching so that his upper body was raised from the table, his arms supporting not only his own weight but also Sherlock's, who wouldn't let go, who was clamped tightly around him like the world's longest limbed limpet, still shaking and absolutely wrecked, but holding on. Holding on as if it was the most basic thought in his head, and the only one he still retained.

As John calmed, he eased them down again and rested sprawled across Sherlock, face buried in his neck. Sherlock could feel the trembling in the body on top of him and knew that John was working through the reaction not just to the sex but to what had happened in the alley earlier which had been, admittedly, a very close call.

After a few minutes John lifted himself and pulled away, tugging his jeans back up and fastening them.

"You don't ever risk your life like that again, Sherlock. Not for such a stupid reason. Do you understand?"

Sherlock looked down at himself, then sat up slowly and not without some difficulty. His limbs still felt weak. "Well, if this is your idea of a deterrent, John," his voice was a little unsteady, "I fear you may have miscalculated."

John stared at him, then stepped forward and pulled him close so that Sherlock's head came to rest on his shoulder. "What am I going to do with you?"

Sherlock's laugh was muffled against the side of his neck. "Right now, I'd have to say 'Anything you like'." He felt John kiss the top of his head, but then he was pushed back so that they could look at each other.

"Are you all right?" John asked, more gently. "I didn't hurt you, did I?"

Sherlock shook his head. "Not at all," he said, with a rather shaky smile. "Please feel free to shag me across the table whenever you feel the least bit annoyed."

John gave a startled laugh. "I'm not sure that would be entirely practical," he said. "But I'll keep the option in mind." They smiled at each other, but then the humour left John's face again. "I mean it, Sherlock. You nearly got yourself killed, and for a completely ridiculous reason. You can't do that again."

Sherlock stared back at him. "If someone is trying to rob you," his tone was serious now, "you don't hold out the most precious thing that you own and try to hide behind it."

"I had the situation under control," John insisted. "He would have been disarmed in seconds. You must have been able to see that? You see everything. You jumped in anyway. That was stupid. And dangerous."

Sherlock forced his mind to conjure up the disturbing image of John with the knife at his throat. In retrospect, he could see that John was right. As the scene played out in his mind, he could recall John's tightening muscles and confident stance, deduce the planned move which would almost certainly have succeeded. Why hadn't he seen it at the time?

"I saw only the knife," he acknowledged. "The knife at your throat." He shook his head, disappointed in himself. "I didn't observe."

He looked back up again. John had an eyebrow raised. It dawned on Sherlock that admitting he had enjoyed his 'punishment' may well have been the second worst idea he'd had today.

"Fine," he muttered in defeat. "Bring on the snake comedy."


Ten days later, Sherlock was sitting on the sofa holding grimly on to his laptop while John and Lestrade bustled around, sorting out a takeaway and setting up the DVD which Lestrade had brought with him. He heard the clink of beer bottles and curled his lip, keeping his head down as they moved into the living room.

A plate was deposited on the table in front of him but Sherlock ignored it, then Lestrade spoke, his voice hearty. "Here you go, Sherlock."

He looked up. The man was holding out an uncapped bottle of beer. He checked Lestrade's other hand but it held two more bottles, with no sign of a glass. He opened his mouth to protest this uncouth behaviour...

John coughed.

Sherlock took the bottle.

He concentrated on his laptop for as long as possible, begrudgingly putting it down when the film started. Before long, John and Lestrade were chortling as a group of men pretending to be women pretending to be men dropped a large rock on top of another man for a completely nonsensical reason.

"Good shot," said one, and John glanced round with a reminiscent smile, which quickly faded as he noticed the untouched dinner. He glared, and Sherlock picked up the plate with bad grace and started eating. The deal had been a 'normal evening' with food, drink, a mutual friend, and this strange 'comedy' film; although Sherlock would like to debate that definition. And when he said debate, he clearly meant ridicule.

Another hour marked the sudden appearance of an alien vessel, which seemed to have wandered onto the set from a different movie. The film's main protagonist was taken aboard and abruptly headed off into space. Sherlock wished he could do the same. He reached for his beer.

Some interminable time later, John and Lestrade were both singing along to the dubious lyric, 'Life's a piece of shit, when you look at it'. In mitigation, there did seem to be end credits scrolling up over the screen to distract from the caterwauling, and Sherlock breathed a sigh of relief.

Penance over. He had survived the snake comedy (which had appeared singularly lacking in snakes of any description, let alone pythons) and now things could get back to normal. He pinned a relieved smile to his face and sat back. As soon as Lestrade was gone, he would get out his violin, he decided.

His attention was diverted by the enthusiastic babbling of his lover and his... he wasn't quite sure how to define Lestrade. John would clearly say 'friend' at this point, but Sherlock didn't feel ready for that definition just yet. Perhaps, one day.

This progression suddenly became much less likely as he focused on Lestrade's words.

"So what next week, John?" he was saying. "Holy Grail? Or some of the classic series?"

John frowned in contemplation and Sherlock felt an unpleasant sensation, his eyes moving between the two of them. "There's more?" he enquired, aghast.

"Oh, yes," replied Lestrade. "There are several more films, and the TV show ran to four series - I think the full DVD box set has about fifteen discs - I'll have to check it when I get home."

Sherlock calculated quickly. Fifteen discs. He factored in typical running times with how long they would want to watch per session, working out how many more Saturdays like this one he could potentially be facing.

Visions of John and Lestrade chuckling together, with himself bored and excluded, rose in his mind and he turned to John.

"I'll have the piercing."


Later that night, long after Lestrade had recovered from his sudden choking fit and gone home, and following the truly spectacular sex which John's excitement about the piercing decision had led to, Sherlock was drifting comfortably off to sleep when John sighed, then spoke quietly. "I won't make you watch Monty Python if you really don't like it. You don't have to get the piercing."

Sherlock was tempted to use an expression he had picked up from one of John's programmes but decided against it. He would save 'Duh' for an occasion when John was fed up; it would make him laugh.

"I know that," he said instead.

There was silence for a moment, then John rolled over to face him, eyes curious in the dim light. "Then why?"

Sherlock looked away. Things between them had changed subtly since the... encounter on the kitchen table. He had been concerned that his body's odd reaction might be misinterpreted, since he was quite certain that he didn't want John to start hitting him, but John had set his mind at rest, as usual.

"It's not the fact that I slapped you," he had said with a smile. "I know that's not what you want. But it's as much in your head as your body, with you. I think that - just every so often - you want me to dare."

That made sense to Sherlock, who had immediately felt better, and John had subsequently lost the sporadic hesitance which he had displayed previously. He still followed where Sherlock led, that would never change, but he would now take a kiss if he wanted one, and he no longer seemed to fear that Sherlock would vanish if he held too tightly. And he did hold tightly. And Sherlock wasn't going anywhere.

"Because you want it," he replied at last. "Because it will please you, and ever since you told me it's been like a niggle in my head."

John opened his mouth to protest and Sherlock shushed him. "It doesn't bother me," he said. "It's not something I would ever have thought to want for myself, but I don't mind it."

"I know that you love me," he added. "I know that I demand a lot..." He broke off. "No," he amended. "I demand everything from you and I don't always give you everything in return."

He rolled onto his side and pulled John against his chest, his words a promise. "But I will make you happy if I can."


Author's Note

Positively, and absolutely, the end! A huge Thank You to all those who encouraged and supported me along the way with this mammoth story - it's been a blast!

Verity, xx



Format: mp3
Size: 551 MB (zipped)
Running Time: 10 hrs, 21 mins (My God!)

I have recorded an audio version of The Heart In The Whole, which can be downloaded from mediafire.

Full Podfic:

Obviously, it is massive, as this fic is over 100K words, so I have also put up Chapter One separately, the idea being that you can check my style/accent don't drive you up the wall before committing to download the whole thing:

Chapter One only:

The main podfic is set up like an album with 20 tracks.

Music - there's a little bit at the very start of the story, but then it's just a snippet at the end of each chapter. I have used (with permission) Jack Lukeman's gorgeous cover of 'Crazy', which I listened to repeatedly whilst writing the story, and which seems to embody how I feel about the whole BBC Sherlock phenomenon, how it inspired me to write, which I'd never done before, and now love so very, very much. To discover such an overwhelming passion at my age... does that make me crazy?

Thanks - overwhelmingly to my amazing friend staceuo, who has mastered the whole recording, and whose genius husband gave me some brilliant tips. Without her, I would probably not have got the podfic done at all.



Catalan, by MiyukiChan14

Chinese, by awaysummerirene_dlchengmuakJoyceeeee & kangtacatyat

Czech, by kaathcullen

French, by Shima-chan

Korean, by PasserbyNo3

Russian, by ish_krayot (downloadable from here)

Spanish, by Sugar Swede




Study in Hands: by br0-Harry

General Image: by passerbyno3 's friend DRDR

Gif Set by johnlockcreys

Chapter 2: Home Again, by tigerkatz.

Chapter 2: Illustration ( Click '더보기' on the seventh line), by passerbyno3 's friend K

Chapter 3: The Microscope by KrisKenshin

Chapter 3: A Matter of Moments by 'Please Forget'

Chapter 3: listen carefully by Concuelo

Chapter 5: The Man on the Bench, by CaptainUSSR

Chapter 5: In Regent's Park, by Concuelo

Chapter 7: Feel, by soma chiou.

Chapter 7: The Great Wall of Cushions, by tigerkatz.

Chapter 8: The Massage by KrisKenshin

Chapter 8: An Experiment in Touch by Haigidal

Chapter 8: I Think We're Ready, by tigerkatz

Chapter 12: Do Something, John by Haigidal

Chapter 13: Control, by Concuelo

Chapter 14: I Can Do That by Haigidal

Chapter 20: Wash, by tigerkatz

Chapter 20: Only You, by Haigidal

Chapter 20: The Hallway by K



VIDEO: (Part One, Ch.1-13), by MrJunjouYaoi

MUSIC Fanmix: I Will See You Again, by tati-kuny