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Often, even now, John can’t take his eyes off Sherlock. He physically can’t tear his eyes away, his gaze trapped in Sherlock’s orbit as strongly as the pull of the earth to the sun. Even now that he’s allowed to look all he wants, allowed to stare at the curves of that perfect mouth and imagine any number of deliciously wicked activities to keep it busy. Even now that if he’s caught staring, he just grins and Sherlock grins back and anyone who’s within a ten metre radius knows exactly what they’re both thinking about.

Even now that he has a catalogue of all the things that make Sherlock as imperfectly human as anyone else, now that John knows that he sometimes whimpers in his sleep and claws helplessly at John’s bare chest until he’s gathered close with little shushes, how he gets stomachaches from too much takeaway and has to live on mint tea and oatmeal for days until it settles, how his brilliant complicated genius brain fumbles when it comes to an act as simple and innate to John as remembering the lyrics to a Beatles song.

So imperfect, and human, and real. And yet, John is still a bit in awe of him. That wonder that possessed him right down to his bone marrow when they met has never completely left him. It’s only been a half year since John came home, since they became this, and already he can’t imagine ever wanting anyone else, ever having anyone else twined around him at five in the morning, sleep sweaty and pink cheeked and beautiful. If he’s honest with himself, he hasn’t wanted anyone else since he met Sherlock. They waited so damned long, made every mistake it was possible to make, and still somehow miraculously ended up here, grinning at each other like teenagers over their morning coffees and trying to remember that crime scenes aren’t really appropriate places for impromptu blow jobs.

Blow jobs, hand jobs, snogging in the backs of cabs, John’s hand sneaking slowly up the seam of Sherlock’s trousers under the table at Angelo’s while Sherlock nearly gnaws his lip off trying to stay still, Sherlock’s tongue accidentally on purpose trailing hot over the helix of John’s ear as he whispers instructions to him at Scotland Yard...they honestly can’t keep their hands off each other. The last time John had this much sex, he was twenty two, fresh out of boot camp and overflowing with testosterone. Then, it was anyone. Everyone.

Now. Now, it couldn't be anyone but Sherlock. John’s as far from a blushing virgin as it’s possible to get. He’s not bothered keeping track of his conquests, but the number is high enough to teeter on the edge between prideful and embarrassing. But never, never in all his life has he been with anyone who affects him the way Sherlock does. He shines like a white winter moon, glittering and blindingly bright. He takes up John’s whole horizon. There’s no one else, there could never again be anyone else.

I love you’s and ridiculous pet names pour out of John with a rapidity and an earnestness he never imagined himself capable of. He’s never been in love like this, had this kind of giddy elation coursing through him every second of every day, coexisting uncomfortably with the nervous terror that it will all fall away. That Sherlock will get hurt, that one day John won’t be there to protect him, that because of the nature of who they are and what they do, this kind of happiness is a desperately fragile thing. He’s already almost lost Sherlock twice. The thought always lurks darkly in the back of his mind that each casual Love you, sweetheart could be the last one. So he makes sure to say it, always, as frequently as possible.

Sherlock has yet to reciprocate. He meets John’s frequent endearments with a nod and a pleased smile as he tilts his chin up for a kiss. Sherlock’s expressions of love come in actions rather than words. In everything that came before this, before what they are now, Sherlock’s proven the depth of his love to John a thousand times. He’s taken bullets and vicious whippings, broken bones and shredded tendons. His body is a maze of scars, a story of pain and suffering all to protect the life and happiness of ordinary little John Watson.

He shows it in everyday ways, too. He shows it in his quiet caretaking, in remembering to stop and eat while they’re on a case because John can’t function when he’s hungry, the way Sherlock manages to keep the flat at least moderately tidy because John likes it neat, how he lets John read the paper first because Sherlock always mixes up all the sections and crinkles the pages.

John knows how much Sherlock loves him, he does.

He tells himself that he does every night, as he whispers I love you so much, Sherlock into those luscious curls, and Sherlock just hums and twists their ankles together and burrows into John’s side as he falls asleep. John lays there, rubbing his fingertips over knobs of vertabrae and sliding them in between Sherlock’s ribs and stares up at the ceiling. He watches the flashes of car headlamps sweep across the ceiling and down the wall, and wonders why. Why Sherlock, who is in all other ways achingly affectionate, can’t seem to say just three little words.

Then John wonders why hearing Sherlock say them seems to matter so much.

***

“Sherlock, against the wall! Get out of the way!”

John sees a quick shadowy movement beyond the solid form of Sherlock flattening himself against the brick, but it’s not enough to take the shot. He throws one arm across Sherlock’s chest, and raises the barrel of his pistol to his own lips. Shhhh. All John can see in the bare flickering light of this dingy alleyway are the whites of Sherlock’s eyes as he nods. John puts his mouth against Sherlock’s ear and mouths Stay here. Sherlock nods again, and John can feel the roughness of evening stubble against his face, the humidity of Sherlock’s breath billowing down into his collar.

He pushes Sherlock against the wall as he moves past, taking his gun in both hands as he spins deftly around the corner into the adjoining alley. Immediately it’s blackness, no streetlamps in this dank little corridor. He’s got no time to let his eyes adjust before searing pain explodes across the backs of his eyelids and he vaguely registers the clatter of his gun falling from his hand onto the pavement. He tries to stutter out Sherlock’s name as he sinks down the wall, but his mouth won’t cooperate.

He stays conscious just long enough to see Sherlock’s long form launching past him, and to hear the distant wail of a siren. Then he lets go, allows himself to drift into the dark.

***

A migraine. That’s what he must have. His head is pounding, a dull constant throb behind his eyes and down his spine. His throat aches, feels dry and raw. He struggles to remember - did he fall asleep on the sofa again? Did Sherlock put him to bed? Where is Sherlock?

One sore eyelid at a time, John pries his eyes open, and immediately squints against the glare. It’s much brighter than it should be. Their bedroom is always a lovely cosy yellow, the curtains drawn, Sherlock’s bedside lamp tumbling warm homey light through the small space.

Oh. This is...not their bedroom.

It’s a hospital room, telly perched on a high shelf in the corner, the plastic blinds pulled all the way up, spilling sunlight over the pale blue blankets covering John’s legs. He’s in hospital. Shit, what the hell happened?

“Sh…” John tries, and finds his throat is too dry to talk. It rather feels as if he’s got gravel stuffed down his esophagus. He swallows, trying to loosen the muscle, and rasps out, “Sherlock?”

It’s no good. He can’t keep his eyes open, and Sherlock’s obviously not in the room. Christ, his fucking head. His skull seems to have shrunken to half it’s normal size, constricting his brain and his throat and his eyes. He fumbles blindly at the sheets, trying to find the call button for the nurse. The sheets feel rough and foreign, and he doesn’t know where Sherlock is, or how he got here, and there’s suddenly an embarrassing prickle behind his aching eyes.

He’s still feeling around the rumpled sheets when quiet and familiar footfalls sound in the hallway. The impending tears dissolve into a wash of relief, his entire body feeling suddenly and impossibly lighter. Sherlock’s here, it’s alright.

“Oh, John! You’re awake!” Sherlock’s voice sounds beyond exhausted, shaky and hoarse with emotion. There’s the sound of styrofoam squeaking, ice shaking round in a cup, something being set on a table. “You’ve been in and out all night.”

Blinking to try and make himself look at Sherlock through the instinct to keep his eyes shut, John mutters, “What happened?”

“You don’t remember?” Sherlock’s beautiful face crumples as he sits gingerly on the edge of the bed and takes John’s hand between both of his. His skin is clammy and cold, evidence of little sleep, no shower, bad hospital canteen food.

A wave of nausea prevents John from opening his mouth. He shuts his eyes and shakes his head as gently as possible. It still feels like an avalanche inside his skull, and he swallows hard to try and not throw up all over the bed.

“Oh. We were in Whitechapel, tailing that suspect in the Sussex case. And he shot at us, remember? You went after him, and I - I wasn’t - you told me to wait - not that it was your fault, I’m not saying that - I just. He hit you. With his gun. You’ve got a concussion, perhaps a skull fracture. They’ve not done the CT scan yet. You don’t remember any of that, John?” Sherlock’s thumbs are rubbing comforting little circles against the insides of John’s wrist, pressing into the heel of his hand, rhythmic and instinctive.

“No, love, can’t say I do. I’m a bit - foggy. Can I have something to drink?”

“Yes, yes, of course.” Sherlock sets John’s hand down softly on the sheets, and leaps up from the bed so quickly that the mattress bounces.

“Whoa there. Slowly, love.” John bites back another surge of nausea and breathes out shakily through his mouth. His lips ache as air moves over them, feeling deeply cracked and dry.

“Sorry, I’m sorry. Here. Ginger ale.”

There’s a plastic straw pressed against his lips, and he opens up pliantly, drawing a cool refreshing flood of soda over his tongue. It tastes heavenly - sweet and peppery and calming - and he drinks and drinks, head resting back against the lumpy hospital pillows, until Sherlock tugs the straw gently away.

“You’ll make yourself sick, John. I’ll give you some more in a few minutes.” Sherlock lays his hand back over John’s, weaves their fingers together. Sherlock’s hand feels strangely large, his fingers thick between John’s. The minutes stretch silently between them, and John’s just tipping over the edge of sleep again when Sherlock shifts and clears his throat. His fingers tighten around John’s palm. “You scared me nearly to death, you know.”

“M’sorry, love. Dinna mean to.” Speech and thinking are quickly becoming things John can’t actually manage, his consciousness the consistency and density of mushy peas. “Didjoo get ‘im?”

“Yes, John. We got him. It’s alright. Go back to sleep, John. I’ll be here.” Sherlock’s voice is so tender, so frayed from tension and exhaustion. The sound of it pulls at John’s heart, makes him want to wrap Sherlock in his arms and tell him it will be alright.

“I know. Always are.” John mumbles, unable to hold Sherlock the way he wants to, unable to pry his eyes back open, not even sure of what he’s saying anymore. He’s aware only of the familiar warmth of Sherlock’s body dipping the mattress down, the quiet rustle of the sheets as they’re tucked around his shoulders. “Love you.”

“I know.” Sherlock smoothes the blankets down and pulls a chair up to the side of the bed. “I know.”

***

“Honestly, Sherlock, I can walk up the stairs on my own.”

“I am aware of that, John.”

“Okay, well then would you kindly remove your pointy little fingers from my waist before you actually puncture something?”

“I’m helping.”

“Actually not.”

There’s a harrumph of frustration behind him and Sherlock’s hands withdraw slowly from his waist, though John can feel them still hovering at the small of his back.

“Sherlock, I’m not going to fall.”

“Just in case.”

“I have a minor concussion, no skull fractures, I’m fine, love, I’m really fine.

Sherlock doesn’t answer, just reaches his left arm out and around John, trailing his fingers along the fading wallpaper as they walk up into the flat. Mrs Hudson is remarkably and thankfully not there. They’d purposefully not told her when exactly John was coming home, hoping to avoid her well-intentioned fussing until John has a chance to settle in.

“Ah. It’s nice to be home.” John sinks down into the sofa, automatically reaching behind him to adjust the throw pillow. His head still feels overly tight, and he rubs hard at his brow, trying to ease some of the tension.

“John, are you alright? Why are you rubbing your head? Are you dizzy?” Sherlock’s voice is tinged with worry, almost panicky, as he kneels on the floor and leans up to look into John’s face. His sea glass green eyes are roiling with concern, his eyebrows drawn in a sharp v, making that adorable crinkle at the bridge of his nose that just begs for kissing.

“No, I don’t feel dizzy. My head hurts a bit, but I’m okay. I’ve had concussions before, Sherlock. I’ll be right as rain after a few days of bad telly and long naps.” John reaches for Sherlock, making to draw him in to kiss that perfect little nose, but Sherlock sweeps up off the floor before he can and whirls away toward the kitchen.

“You know, I have to say I don’t think they were very thorough with the CT scan. I mean, they only did the one, and I certainly wasn’t at all convinced that there was no fracture. The images were quite blurred. I did encourage the neurologist to do a second scan, but - “ Sherlock’s hands are twirling frenetically round his head as he speaks, and John can sense the beginnings of the kind of manic rant that lasts for hours and leaves John tired and exasperated.

Right. Need to interject, stop Sherlock before he really gets rolling. “Sherlock. Sweetheart. I don’t have a skull fracture. I promise you. I don’t.”

Sherlock’s beautiful lips twist to the side as he arches an eyebrow, clearly unconvinced. “I don’t think we should just assume that. Perhaps we should schedule another CT.”

“Sherlock. Stop. Take a breath. It’s okay. I just need some rest, alright?” As John’s speaking, Sherlock’s eyes flick to a stop and bore into John’s, his hands twisting worriedly together over his sternum. “Come here.”

“No, no. I need to - um, I’ll just get you a blanket and put on the kettle. It’s freezing in here, I swear. We really must look into getting a new furnace -”

“Sherlock. Love. Come here.” Sherlock’s not at his best when John’s not at his, that brilliant brain scrambled by emotion. He needs an anchor. John pats the sofa cushion and crooks his index finger at Sherlock. “Come sit with me.”

Sherlock sighs heavily and relents, his shoulders coming away from his ears as he lopes across the room and crumples to the sofa beside John. The stress is practically vibrating off of him, legs jumping, jaw set tight and tensed.

“That’s it. There we go. Just shhh. I’m alright.” John slips an arm around Sherlock’s waist and pulls him in, leans back until they’re both laying against the back of the sofa. “Want me to play with your hair?”

A pause of consideration, two quick nods, and Sherlock sighs, folds his long legs up with his knees resting on John’s lap. John’s fingers find their way into Sherlock’s curls, scratching gently at his scalp, separating locks of hair to twirl and tug and rub softly between his fingers and thumb. Another contented little sigh escapes Sherlock, and he settles more heavily against John, curling his left arm up to play with the buttons on John’s shirt.

“I just want to make sure you’re alright, John.” Half his words get lost in the press of his face against John’s chest as he burrows impossibly close and tucks three cold fingers under the placket and against John’s bare skin.

“I know, baby. I know.” John rubs his nose against the top of Sherlock’s head, inhaling his shampoo, the smell of his skin underneath. “I always want to make sure you’re alright, too. We take care of each other, yeah?”

“Hm-mmm.” Sherlock nods again, seeming to shrink into John with each passing moment, his voice getting smaller, body heavier. He’s hit that edge of exhaustion John’s become so familiar with, where once he comes down, he crashes hard and stays in a deep sleep for hours.

John runs his fingertips slowly up and down the back of Sherlock’s neck and up into his hair just the way he likes, the way he’s done hundreds of times laying in their bed with Sherlock next to him still naked and gulping air, neck covered in bruises from John’s hungry mouth.

“Shhhh. That’s it,” John says again, quietly, as he presses a kiss against Sherlock’s forehead. “I know you’ve barely slept the whole time I was in hospital. Just relax, love.”

“Don’t want to sleep.” Sherlock stirs and flattens his hand against John’s stomach as if to push himself up. “You need to rest, you need food and hydration and -”

John tightens his elbow against Sherlock’s back and pulls lightly at his hair, eliciting a breathy gasp from Sherlock. “Nope. You’re staying put. You need to rest, too.”

“John.” It’s a question.

“Sherlock.” It’s not a question.

“Fine.” Sherlock acquiesces grouchily, trying to sound annoyed, but the effect is tempered by the loud yawn that escapes him as he kicks off his shoes and uncurls his legs to drape them across John’s thighs. He snakes his right arm behind John’s back and tucks his head snug into the crook of John’s neck.

“And there he is. That’s lovely. That’s perfect.” John nuzzles against Sherlock’s temple, and shifts so they’re mostly laying down, savouring the warm weight of a sleepy Sherlock half on top of him. “See? Needed you much more than I needed to eat, sweetheart.”

“Well, that’s a first.” Sherlock mumbles, eyes still closed as a satisfied little smirk creeps across his lips.

“Shut up and go to sleep, Sherlock.”

Sherlock’s only answer is a delicate little snore and his socked foot rubbing a slow rhythm against John’s calf. John leans his head back against the armrest, lazily stroking his fingers between Sherlock’s shoulder blades. As his hand stills and his mind drifts closer to sleep, he remembers dreamily the first time this happened, the first time he woke up with an armful of Sherlock. Just a few weeks after he’d been home, and he still hadn’t been entirely sure what Sherlock wanted, so he was careful, cautious, treating Sherlock a bit like a wild animal that could be easily spooked. That night had been quiet, no case on. They had eaten dinner separately, John having a sandwich while he worked at the computer, Sherlock scarfing cold curry as he watched Kitchen Nightmares. When John finally closed the laptop, he looked over to see Sherlock curled on the sofa, long arms wrapped round knobbly knees, curls tumbling across his forehead, mouth hanging open, and looking about nineteen years old. He was enchanting.

John hadn’t been able to help himself, moving across the room as if being pulled, until he was kneeling beside the sofa and gently brushing Sherlock’s fringe out of his eyes. Charcoal lashes had fluttered open, and those beautiful eyes had looked up at him sweet and drowsy. John. Stay. Stay with me. Without even considering it, John had obeyed, wriggling into the scant space beside Sherlock and gathering him up into his arms. Sherlock had sighed and rubbed his face against John’s jumper and fallen back asleep almost immediately. John had lain awake for hours, not knowing what to do with himself, only bursting with wonder at finally, just finally.

Lulled by the sweetness of that memory, John allows himself to fall asleep, one hand still twined in Sherlock’s hair.

***

When John awakes, he’s sprawled on his back, one leg hanging off the side of the sofa, with an afghan tucked around him. A fire is crackling merrily in the fireplace, the flames reflecting flickeringly off the maroon tiles. The flat smells like tomato sauce and fresh bread. It’s completely dark outside. He must have slept most of the day away, for hours and hours longer than Sherlock, certainly.

John yawns and stretches, pushing his feet against the end of the sofa, wiggling his shoulders down into the cushion, rubbing at his eyes. He feels unaccountably good, headache all but gone, his entire body pleasantly heavy, comfortable. Sherlock appears in the kitchen doorway, a dish towel in his hands, his shirtsleeves rolled up to his elbows.

“Well, hello, Sleeping Beauty. Hungry?” Sherlock says fondly, wiping his hands on the towel and tilting his head to the side as he watches John still waking up. He’s calmer for having slept, and his cheeks are beautifully flushed from the warm kitchen. He always claims he doesn’t need sleep, but it’s such utter bullshit that John stopped paying attention to it years ago. When he’s well rested, he’s like this - charming, sweet, tender. His normal stroppy disposition has much more to do with consistent sleep deprivation than with temperament.

“Mmm, a bit. Actually, what I’d really love is a shower. Haven’t had a proper one in days. Or a bath, god, that would be glorious.”

“Well, have a bath, and then we’ll eat. I made lasagna.”

“You made lasagna?” John doesn’t mean to sound quite as disbelieving as it comes out, but somehow he’s too relaxed to be able to modulate his tone.

Yes.” Sherlock sounds thoroughly put out. “I can cook, John.”

“I know, baby,” John drops his voice down an octave, indulgent and placating. “You’ve just - never made lasagna before.”

Sherlock shrugs and throws the dish towel over his shoulder as he moves toward the sofa. “You like lasagna.”

Sherlock reaches down, palms up, and John takes his hands, lets himself be pulled up to standing. Standing quickly after laying down for hours makes his head swim and he wraps his arms around Sherlock’s waist to steady himself. Sherlock responds immediately, smoothing his hands up John’s back with a throaty hum and pulling him against his chest. Their height difference is always the most obvious in this position, John’s head fitted perfectly into the gentle curve of Sherlock’s neck and shoulder, smelling Sherlock’s deodorant, their laundry soap, the lingering scent of garlic and peppers from cooking.

The smell of Sherlock is intoxicatingly good, good enough to send a little thrill of desire singing up John’s spine and he’s suddenly aware of how long it’s been since they’ve made love. He’s been in hospital three days, and the two days before that were nothing but cold coffee and piles of evidence photos and paperwork at Scotland Yard, takeaway at midnight and John falling asleep sitting up in his chair.

He pulls back enough to aim a seductive glance at Sherlock as his fingertips delve just under the waistband of Sherlock’s trousers. He nibbles at his bottom lip, and looks up through the cage of his lowered lashes to see Sherlock’s cheeks flush a shade darker and his tongue dart out unconsciously to trace his own lips.

“Mmmm, I might need - some help. In the bath.” John grins crookedly, wriggles his hips a little.

Sherlock’s tongue flicks into the corner of his mouth as the skin around his eyes crinkles up amusedly. “Oh certainly. You could slip.”

“I could definitely slip. I could lose my balance.” John stretches up and presses a kiss in the hollow of Sherlock’s throat, rubs his nose in a little circle against the softness of his earlobe.

“You could trip on the bath rug.” Sherlock breathes, nudging his cheek against the side of John’s head.

“Hit my head on the sink.” John allows his eyes to drift closed as he drags his mouth up over the hinge of Sherlock’s jaw, and behind it, where the skin is softer, pliable enough to pull just a little between his teeth...Sherlock makes a sharp mewling noise that ends in a gasp and John shivers, already feeling the heady rush of desire buzzing down his spine, making his scalp and the nape of his neck tingle.

“You would - you would definitely get a - skull fracture from that. Oh.” Sherlock’s head drops back and to the side, exposing more throat for John to nuzzle. His arms tighten around John’s waist, pulling John up on his toes and forcing him to lean almost his full weight into Sherlock’s embrace.

“Definitely. I’d end up back in hospital. We wouldn’t want those poor doctors to have to endure another round of righteous anger from Sherlock Holmes. I think you nearly broke them last time.” John closes his mouth around Sherlock’s earlobe and tugs, flicks at it with the tip of his tongue.

“Oh, I wasn’t that bad.” Sherlock tips his head toward John’s mouth, strokes his thumb against the sliver of bare skin at John’s hip where his shirt’s come untucked.

John drapes his arms around Sherlock’s shoulders and leans back, arches a disbelieving eyebrow at him. “Sherlock. You told my neurologist that your brother could have his family deported.”

“Well, that’s true.” Sherlock rolls his eyes toward the ceiling, his lips trembling with suppressed laughter.

“Oh my god, alright, but you don’t say things like that to people.”

“I do.”

John throws his head back and guffaws, amused as he always is by Sherlock’s unabashed rudeness. “Yeah, yeah, you do. I love you, you awful, rude, obnoxious berk.”

Sherlock dips his head down, grinning, covers John’s mouth with his own. “Let’s get you in the bath before the lasagna congeals into something inedible.”

“Yeah, sounds good.” John kisses Sherlock back as they turn towards the hallway, and tries not to think about the fact that Sherlock yet again managed to avoid saying I love you, too.

Five minutes later, John's clothes lay kicked haphazardly in the corner of the bathroom and the mirror over the sink is already fogged with stream. John watches admiringly as Sherlock bends over the tub, pouring some kind of posh heavily fragranced bath oil under the tap.

“You have a really spectacular arse, you know.”

“You’ve mentioned it once or twice.” Sherlock says dryly, without turning around.

“It’s worth mentioning. God, the things I want to do to that arse…”

Sherlock turns and looks over his shoulder at that, one eyebrow arched up. “Is there something left that you haven’t done to it?”

“Well. Certain activities bear repeating.” John throws Sherlock his most salacious smile and licks his lips.

After you’ve had a proper meal and some more sleep. I swear, I don’t know how anyone gets well in hospital, with that wretched food and nurses coming in at all hours to wake you, prod at you with everything under the sun. It’s absurd -”

John holds up a hand. “We were flirting. Don’t ruin it.”

Sherlock flutters his eyelashes, shakes his head and grins, acquiescing. “Fine. I’ll save my criticisms of the NHS until pudding and coffee, shall I?”

“Save it altogether, love, if you’d be so kind.” John stands up from where he’s been sitting on the closed toilet lid and lets his towel drop to the floor. “Alright then, into the bath with you.”

“Oh no. Absolutely not. I know where that leads. I’ll help you in and I’ll help you out. That’s it.”

“What if I fall asleep in the water? I could drown.” He shifts his hips, just enough to make his stomach muscles roll a little. His cock bounces against his thigh and Sherlock sucks his lower lip into his mouth, rolling his eyes heavenward in a clear Dear God, why me? expression.

“Goddammit, John.”

John knows he’s won. “Sherlock. You don’t want to upset the patient. What if my blood pressure spikes and I pass out? You’d have only yourself to blame.”

“And I’m supposed to be the incorrigible one.”

“Get in the bloody tub, Sherlock.”

Sherlock huffs but complies, peeling his shirt off and shimmying his well-fitted trousers down over those long lean thighs that make John’s mouth water. As he turns to step in, John’s gaze wanders over the scars crisscrossing his muscular back, shiny ropes of pink and white that bite into the smooth skin of his shoulder blades, twist around his ribs and down over one sharp hipbone. How can I ever doubt he loves me? Look what he did, what he suffered through. God, I’m a petty little shit sometimes.

John shakes off these dark, self-recriminating thoughts as Sherlock curls a hand at him in invitation. The water is the perfect temperature, right on the edge of too hot, little pools of scented oil floating on the surface. John lowers himself down between Sherlock’s knees, leans back into the familiar plane of his chest, the intimacy of sharing a bath like this almost more intense than sex. It’s caretaking. It’s comfort.

One of Sherlock’s long pale arms drapes down over John’s shoulder, then soft lips brush against the shell of his ear. “Wash your hair?”

“Yeah. That’d be lovely.”

Sherlock pushes John to sit forward and scoops water over the back of his head with cupped hands. The muscles in John’s neck start loosening immediately, his head naturally falling back as Sherlock continues wetting his hair for a few minutes, the warm scented water splashing over his shoulders and rolling in rivulets down his back. When Sherlock’s shampoo covered fingers start massaging at his scalp, thumbs stroking comfortingly against the base of his skull, it’s as though every tendon in his body comes untethered. His whole body goes impossibly loose and relaxed, and he can’t help but slide deeper into the water and lay back against Sherlock again, resting his forearms along the top of Sherlock’s glistening wet thighs.

“Oh god that feels good.” John rolls his head to the side, nose against the underside of Sherlock’s chin. “You have no idea how good you are, you know. At all of this.”

“All of what?”

“This. Us.”

"Oh."

John clears his throat, ruminating on exactly how he wants to phrase the tumble of words in his mind. “You make me feel very loved.”

“Well. You are.” Sherlock sounds incredulous. His fingers slow their steady pace and he says much more quietly, slow and cautious, “You are infinitely loved, John.”

John doesn’t say anything, just shuts his eyes and swallows and swallows, tries to make the lump in his throat go away. He doesn’t want to spoil this, doesn’t want to say anything hurtful that he can’t take back.

Sherlock gives his head a few more scrubs and then prods at his shoulders and murmurs, “Time to rinse it out.”

John sits up and tilts his head back obediently, his eyes watching the lazy movement of a single cobweb in the corner of the shower stall. Sherlock begins pouring water over his hair.

He swallows again, his chest feeling very tight. “Then why don’t you - ever,” he sucks in a sharp breath and shuts his eyes, as if that will help. “Why don’t you ever say it?”

“What?” Sherlock stops rinsing John’s hair. He sounds apprehensive and shocked.

“Why don’t you? I say it all the time - all the time, and you never. You never say it back.”

There’s nothing but stillness and silence behind him. Finally, Sherlock makes a choked off laugh that reminds John of the kind of annoyed noises he himself often makes when he’s at his wit’s end with Sherlock.

“Is this something that’s in doubt? That I love you?” Sherlock sounds beyond aggrieved. He sounds on the verge of tears.

A cold shame washes over John. He shouldn’t have, shouldn’t have said a damn thing. “No. I - no.”

“I should hope not.” There’s a finality in Sherlock’s tone that says this conversation is over.

“I’m sorry.” John whispers, turning in the cradle of Sherlock’s body, twisting his head back to press a kiss against the wet edge of his jaw.

“It’s fine.” Sherlock says stiffly. He forces a small smile and runs his fingers down over the curve of John’s bicep. “You’re all cleaned up. Let’s have dinner.”

“Yeah.”

They dress in silence, a chill between them that feels unfamiliar and unsettling. Sherlock finishes first, wrapped in tissue thin flannel pyjama bottoms and an old Army tee shirt of John’s that stretches tight across his slightly broader chest. He throws his dressing gown on over top and leaves the room without saying a word.

Shit.” John sighs to himself and digs his thumbs into his eyes, feeling like the biggest prat that ever walked the earth.

However, when he walks into the kitchen moments later, Sherlock hands him a plate with a huge slab of lasagna oozing cheese everywhere, and holds up a bottle of wine with a forgiving smile.

“Merlot alright? I know it’s not your favourite, but the only other we have is pinot grigio and that’s too light for pasta.”

“Merlot is fine, love.”

Sherlock has cleaned off the table, all his chemistry equipment set carefully on the floor just inside the sitting room. Sherlock pours them each a half glass of wine, dark red and thick, sweet, not a dry merlot at all. It smells of cherries and chocolate and just the scent of it makes John heady. The lasagna isn’t hot anymore, but it’s delicious nonetheless - spicy and rich, thick slices of aubergine and zucchini slathered in ricotta and chunky homemade tomato sauce. It’s heavenly.

“Sherlock, this is amazing.”

“Thank you. I suspect it probably tastes better to you than it normally would, in the aftermath of that horrendous hospital food, but -”

“Sherlock. This is amazing.” John smiles and reaches across the table, strokes his fingers over the back of Sherlock’s hand. “You’re amazing.”

“You don’t have to keep apologising.” Sherlock murmurs, twisting his hand palm up and entwining their fingers.

“I know. I just -”

“Oh, shit, I forgot the bread.” Sherlock breaks in, squeezing John’s fingers briefly before leaving the table and retrieving a loaf of bread from the oven. “Not homemade, I’m afraid. Just frozen garlic bread.”

“Oh, that’s shameful, truly. How dare you not bake fresh bread, you lazy sod?” John teases, finally feeling their normal ease with each other returning.

Sherlock tears into the bread, and splits a chunk between them, holds up his wine glass. “Cheers. To you being home.”

“To you getting me here in one piece.” John clinks his glass against Sherlock’s and they both sip, watching each other over the rims of their glasses. “We make a good team, you and I.”

“Always have.” Sherlock grins.

Now with food in front of him, John realises he’s ravenous. He really hasn’t eaten anything but watery custard and overcooked chicken for three days, and Sherlock is as truly gifted in the kitchen as he is everywhere else. John dives into the lasagna with abandon, sopping up the savoury sauce with his bread and scraping cheese and vegetables off the plate with his fork as though he’s not eaten in months.

Once they've both made quick work of the lasagna, Sherlock clears away the empty plates and pours them both more wine. Wine’s always had a different effect on John than liquor or beer. Wine makes him loose tongued, pleasantly slow-witted. He’s not quite there yet, but he’s on the edge of tipsy. Sherlock’s long fingers are tracing patterns on the inside of his wrist, the kitchen is still overly warm from the oven, and his belly is perfectly full.

Before he can stop himself, the question tumbles out of him again. “So why don’t you? Say you love me?”

Sherlock sighs and rubs one hand down over his face, though looking more annoyed now than hurt. He steeples his hands under his nose and fixes his eyes on John’s, that intense deductive stare that still always makes John quail slightly.

“This is bothering you.”

“Well. Yeah.” John suddenly feels unaccountably defensive. Of course it’s bothering him. It would bother anyone who’s been in a relationship with someone for six months and been in love with them since the moment they met and has never once heard that sentiment returned. Any ordinary person, anyway. Of course, Sherlock’s never been ordinary. “It just seems like you go out of your way to not say it.”

“Because you say it. And social convention dictates that I should say it back. Yes?”

John squirms and takes a long sip of his wine. “I guess. I mean, it’s just nice to hear, you know?”

“You like to say it. You say it all the time because it makes you feel comforted to say it, to repeat it. You feel that it’s a pact, that it’s meaningful. I enjoy hearing it, but only because it makes you happy to say it. But believe me when I say that I would never in my life need to hear you say you loved me to know that it’s true. I would never need to hear you say it again, period. I don’t, in fact, find those meagre words to be an even somewhat adequate descriptor for what you are to me, what I am to you. That’s why I don’t find it necessary to say I love you, John - because language could never come close to expressing what I feel about you. It’s far too confining, too limited. There hasn’t been a word yet created - could never be - to encompass the breadth and depth of my feelings for you.”

“What do you -” John chokes out, stunned and overwhelmed, his eyes stinging with unshed tears, throat so tight he can barely swallow.

“You. You are -” Sherlock stops, sucking on his teeth, blinking back tears of his own. His neck is mottled red and white, the knuckles of his hands clenched so tightly around the stem of his wine glass that John’s sure it’s about to snap. “You are. The only thing. Person. Presence. That I cannot live without. I’m quite certain I would find a way to survive without oxygen as long as I still had you to help me think it through. If took me apart, if you gutted me, cracked open my rib cage and looked inside, the only thing there would be you.”

“Jesus fucking Christ, Sherlock.”

“So you see, I love you is entirely unnecessary. I breathe you. I bleed you. I would die without you, just simply cease to be. There would be nothing left of me without you. That is why I’ve never thought I had to say it back, to parrot out formulaic overused words that mean nothing to us, to what we are. I thought you knew.”

“God, I did, baby, I do.” John surges forward and up, his chair skittering back across the floor with a clatter that echoes in the small room.

Sherlock looks up from his tented hands, his eyes wide and black, startled. He holds John in them, as surely as if they were physically connected. “Do you understand now?”

“Yes, Jesus, Sherlock, yes. Come here.” John swoops down, bracing himself on the back of the chair with his right hand and cupping his left alongside Sherlock’s jaw. He doesn’t have words at his disposal the way Sherlock does, he can’t say these agonisingly beautiful things. All he can do is show him, show him that he understands, that he feels the same.

Sherlock’s lips are silky soft and warm as they slide against John’s. They part automatically, a gasp of surprise and pleasure escaping into John’s mouth as Sherlock’s hand curls around the back of his neck and holds him there. They’ve kissed thousands of times - deep and hungry, tangled together in sweaty sheets, quick pecks on the cheek before they part for the day, John’s lips pressed hard against Sherlock’s forehead, snuggled on the sofa half asleep - but there’s something new in this one.

John feels it, as Sherlock's tongue slithers over his own, sweet and hot and wet, tasting the wine and spices in each others’ mouths. Whatever lingering wall there was between them, whatever doubts John may have harboured, whatever Sherlock was holding back from him - it’s all gone. There is nothing between them now, not a single atom. Where John Watson ends, Sherlock Holmes begins, swirling around and into one another like an eddy in a stream.

“Sherlock.” John mouths at Sherlock’s bottom lip, breathing hard.

“John.” Sherlock gasps, kneading his fingertips against the base of John’s skull.

“Come to bed.”

Sherlock just nods, their mouths barely parting. A shiver of electricity spreads through John’s nerve endings, his skin thrumming with desire, as Sherlock stands up and runs his hands flat up over John’s belly and chest. He lets his head fall back, Sherlock’s tongue tracing down the stubbly edge of his jaw and over his pulse, circling around his Adam’s apple with slow, purposeful licks.

John slips one arm under Sherlock’s dressing gown and around his back, tugging them closer. “Bed.”

“Bed.” Sherlock mouths against John’s throat.

John has never appreciated how close the bedroom is to the kitchen as much as he does right now, his head foggy with desire and drink, not even wanting to let go of Sherlock long enough to turn around and walk properly. They hit the edge of the bed blindly, the kiss breaking, as they fall across it in a tangle. Sherlock ends up on his back, John half on top of him with one leg slotted between Sherlock’s thighs.

“God, Sherlock.” John props himself up on his elbow and draws his index finger over the curves and angles of Sherlock’s nose and lips, lingering on that Cupid’s bow that makes him crazy.

“What?” Sherlock pouts his mouth, kisses at the tips of John’s fingers.

“What you said. It’s -” John shakes his head, words failing him entirely.

“It’s true.”

“I don’t deserve you.”

“It has nothing whatsoever to do with whether we deserve each other or not. There’s simply no other option.” Sherlock shrugs.

“So you’re agreeing with me.” John grins and rubs his hand down over Sherlock’s ribs, teasing at the waistband of his pyjamas.

“What?”

“That I don’t deserve you.”

“Oh. No, that’s not -”

“I know, baby, I’m just. Being an idiot, frankly, because I don’t know what else to say. I’m gobsmacked. What you said. It was the most - ”

“It was true. Every word.” Sherlock says again, breathlessly, letting his eyes fall shut as John continues his leisurely exploration of Sherlock’s chest and belly by slipping his hand up under his tee shirt.

“You’re so beautiful.” John whispers, feeling suddenly overcome with the need to absolutely worship this exquisite body, to drag his mouth and his hands over every inch of pale white skin, until Sherlock’s trembling with it, until they’re both so drunk on each other they can barely move.

Sherlock smiles up at him, his lips rosy and plump, eyes already hazy with arousal. Two large hands snake around the back of John’s head and pull him down into a hungry kiss, Sherlock’s tongue sliding wet and wine-sweet against his own. Every emotion that’s surging through him pours from his mouth directly into Sherlock’s, through their shared breath, in the little gasps and whimpers pressed against each other’s lips.

They kiss and kiss, Sherlock’s hands drifting down John’s neck, caressing over his shoulder blades and following the dip of his lower back. John leaves Sherlock’s mouth to trace the tip of his tongue over the perfect line of that jaw, up to pull gently at his earlobe with his teeth. Sherlock moans low and deep, digging his fingers into the barest hint of soft flesh at John’s hips.

John presses his tongue into the warm hollow behind Sherlock’s ear, and noses against his hair. “You’re perfect.”

John.” It’s a plea, Sherlock’s hand tugging needily at John’s hair.

“Oh, sweetheart. My wonderful, perfect, beautiful Sherlock.” John pulls back, presses a hard closed-mouth kiss to the lovely curve of Sherlock’s upper lip. “I’m sorry I had even a second of doubt. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s alright.” Sherlock pants out as John’s mouth comes to his throat again. “To be expected. It’s a deviation from social norms, certainly, to not reciprocate when your boyfriend -”

John silences him with a kiss, feels the slow smile spread across Sherlock’s mouth. John flicks his tongue along the silky inside of Sherlock’s bottom lip and pulls the sweet plumpness of it between his teeth. He nips it, Sherlock's sighs ghosting humid into his mouth and over his tongue.

“I’m going to keep saying it, you know. Because - because I just don’t know what else to say.” John laughs at himself a little, self deprecating honesty coming more easily than usual. That second glass of wine’s settling in, his veins running with treacle, slow and trick. He lays his forehead against Sherlock’s and rubs their noses together.

“You’re going to keep saying it because it makes you feel good to say it. And I’m going to start saying it back, because now that you understand how I feel, it doesn’t matter if I love you is too small and too mundane, and because it makes you feel good to hear it. It makes you happy.”

“I am. I have never been happier. Never in my life.”

“Nor I, John.” Sherlock’s voice wavers, breaks with a quiet intensity that makes John tilt his head back enough to look into those changeable green eyes.

Sherlock has never looked more lovely than he does right now, his eyes wide and desire darkened, shiny black curls spread out in an already sinful tangle across the white pillowcase, kiss swollen lips wet and parted. His face is alight with emotion, gazing wonderingly at John as though he’s the answer to every question Sherlock’s ever had.

“You are -” John draws his thumb down over Sherlock’s cheekbone, dips it into the corner of his mouth. “You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Do you even know? Do you even have any idea at all how fucking stunning you are?”

“No.” Sherlock says, simply, honestly.

“Christ, what you do to me, Sherlock.” Words again fail him, overwhelmed with the enormity of the love, the tenderness, the care that exists between them in this bed, in this home, in this life they’ve built together. “I can’t even - I don’t have the words.”

An enchanting pink blush rises on Sherlock’s cheeks. He voice is stripped completely raw when he husks out, “Why don’t you show me?”

“I plan to.” John murmurs back, dipping his head back down to nuzzle at Sherlock’s mouth. A hard shiver runs the length of his spine, rippling out across his limbs and up the back of his neck. No one has ever turned him on the way Sherlock does, had the ability to make him feel like his skin is on fire, like he’s burning from the inside out. 

Sherlock stretches luxuriously underneath him, rolling his head back against the pillow and lifting his back off the mattress enough to push their hips together, the proof of his arousal dragging hard and blood hot against John’s thigh. The contact makes them both whimper and gasp, Sherlock’s fingers digging almost frantically into John’s shoulders.

“Okay, baby, okay. Shhh. I just want to - I just want to go really, really slow.” John emphasises the last word with a long gentle lick up the side of Sherlock’s throat, and runs his hand down to still the now insistent roll of Sherlock’s hips against his body. “You want me to show you how I feel, then let me show you. No rushing.”

Their normal lovemaking is good. Really bloody earth-shakingly good. But rarely is it measured, paced, their want for each other so long submerged that it’s usually hungry and rough and fast, Sherlock’s legs wrapped impossibly tight around John’s back, John’s teeth leaving purple marks all over Sherlock’s chest and shoulders as their desperate, frenetic cries mingle together and they’re left scratched and bruised, panting exhaustedly into each other’s mouths as John thinks next time, next time we’ll draw it out, next time.

Sherlock whimpers, clawing into John’s shoulder blades. “Please.”

“You trust me?” John whispers against Sherlock’s ear, flicking his tongue ever so slightly into the whorl.

“Yes,” Sherlock breathes.

“Good.” John presses a kiss into Sherlock’s hair and rocks up so he’s sitting across Sherlock’s thighs with his toes tucked under his calves. He runs a hand down the worn olive drab cotton of Sherlock’s borrowed tee shirt, over his peaked nipples, grinning as the touch makes Sherlock arch and bite into his lip with a moan. “I’m going to make you feel amazing, beautiful.”

Sherlock licks his lips, breathing in hard sharp bursts through his nose. His chest is already heaving, his hard cock pressed against the soft flannel of his pyjama bottoms. John tilts his head to the side, taking in every minute change in Sherlock’s expression as John touches him. He runs his hands over his chest, down to trace the smooth planes of his hipbones, up to dance feather light across his collarbones and the curve of his shoulders.

“So beautiful, sweetheart. So beautiful.” Finally John brings his hands together and runs them up the length of Sherlock’s cock, eliciting from him a satisfyingly deep groan. He spreads his fingers out across Sherlock’s lower belly and leans over to press a kiss in the centre of his sternum before moving to kneel at his side. “Let’s get all these off, hmm?”

Sherlock nods, his eyes closed, teeth buried in his lower lip. He allows John to pull off his dressing gown, to pull him up to sitting and divest him of his ratty tee shirt. His bare chest is flushed red and pink, oval nipples dark and peaked. John leans over as Sherlock lays back down, drags his lips over the ridges of Sherlock’s ribs until he finds one erect nipple and closes his lips around it, sucking gently and laving his tongue in wide flat swathes. He nips at it, pulling the hard nub between his teeth until Sherlock’s squirming, breathing out a long string of whimpers and desperate little noises.

“Oh, John,” Sherlock nearly sobs, his voice thin and strained as his strokes at the back of John’s head with shaking fingers.

“I love how much you love that.” John whispers, voice hoarse with arousal. “God, it makes me so hard to hear you like this. You’re spectacular, you’re brilliant. I want you so bad, baby, god you can't know how badly.”

John kisses his way across Sherlock’s chest and laps at his other nipple, relishing how Sherlock can’t be still, his entire body jumping and twitching under John’s ministrations, animalistic grunts and whines spilling helplessly from his throat.

“So good, baby, so good.” John slips a hand into the staggering heat between Sherlock’s legs and palms his cock, murmuring encouragement between licks at the stiff pebbled flesh in his mouth.

Sherlock writhes and whimpers louder, seeking more friction against his cock as he arches up desperately into John’s hand.

“Shhhh, love. I’m going to take care of you.” John rolls Sherlock’s nipple between his teeth, licks at it with the point of his tongue, tasting him. “Take care - of - every - single - inch - of you.”

John shimmies down between Sherlock’s thighs, nuzzling at his chest, kissing at his navel and licking his belly. He loves how Sherlock’s skin tastes, like clean sweat and London humidity, the way the river smells after a thunderstorm.

He tugs at the pyjama bottoms and Sherlock automatically lifts his hips so John can pull them off. No pants underneath. Lovely. His thighs are long and lean, sparse dark hair following the curves of his muscles, and John runs his hands over them as he goes, kneading gently. Tossing the pyjamas carelessly behind him, he finally divests himself of his own clothes, kicking his pyjamas off his feet and yanking his shirt over his head.

He rubs both hands over Sherlock’s left foot, lifting his leg so his mouth rests against the bony protrusion of his ankle. Sherlock’s watching him with hooded eyes, propped up on his elbows, his hard cock laying flush against the tautness of his pale belly. John lets his own eyes fall shut, allows himself to just feel - the weight of Sherlock’s calf laying in his hands, the heat of his skin, the smoothness of his ankle bone. He presses a kiss there, and then in the hollow behind.

The noises coming out of Sherlock are like nothing John’s yet heard in their six months of door-slamming, bed-shaking sex. Usually Sherlock’s nothing but grunting and pleading, his moans so ear-splittingly loud John often fights the urge to clap a hand over his mouth, thinking of poor Mrs Hudson downstairs.

But now. Now Sherlock’s breathing in soft delicate pants, his normally rumbling baritone voice transformed into little mewling cries and shuddering whimpers. His belly is quivering, shoulders shaking, as he tries to keep holding himself up to watch John kissing along the inside of his leg.

“John. Please. Please, please...” Sherlock gasps out, barely audible, as he reaches his arms behind him and slips his hands under the headboard to hold on, his hips and spine undulating in one gorgeous fluid motion that makes John’s mouth water.

“I know, I know. Shhhh. We’re taking it slow, remember? I’m showing you. Showing you how much I absolutely adore you, you beautiful, perfect creature.”

John traces his tongue along Sherlock’s hamstring, scrapes his teeth along the sensitive skin on the inside of his knee. Sherlock sobs and throws one arm across his eyes, head thrashing back and forth against the sheets, the pillow having already fallen to the floor. Laying Sherlock’s trembling leg back on the bed, he crawls up to put their mouths together again. Sherlock meets him hungrily with an insistent tongue, pushing fiercely between John’s already kiss raw lips. John gentles the kiss, slowly circling the end of Sherlock’s tongue with his own, nudging their noses together.

“Slow down, love. Doesn’t have to be hard to be good.” He whispers into Sherlock’s mouth, wanting to make sure he knows how much John needs this, needs to express himself this way because this is what he has. He has his hands and his tongue, his mouth hot against Sherlock’s shivering skin. This is the only way he knows to express the depth of his love, the complexity of his affection.

Sherlock murmurs something unintelligible that sounds like agreement, curls his legs up to bracket John’s hips, and pulls John’s lower lip tenderly into his mouth, sucking softly and running his tongue back and forth along the inner rim. John sinks deeper toward him, feeling as though he’d be content to just dissolve into this moment, their tongues languidly exploring each other’s mouths, Sherlock’s toes tracing a circle against the back of John’s thigh, their bellies already becoming slick with precome and sweat as they find a gentle rhythm together.

Time slows to a trickle as the air in the room grows thicker, the scent of their shared arousal drifting humid and heavy over them as their kisses become more heated, more needy. John sweeps his tongue along the side of Sherlock’s once more and drifts away from his mouth, nosing under his jaw and licking the thin skin, experimentally pulling it between his lips.

Sherlock’s head lolls to the side, exposing the long pale column of his throat. Those thick black eyelashes flit and dance against his cheeks as his chews on his lip and sighs, looking utterly lost to the pleasure of John’s lips and tongue on his body. Little beads of perspiration dot his hairline, curls sticking to his forehead. John dips his mouth again and sucks expertly at the place that makes Sherlock shudder and cry out, grind his hips up against John’s in desperate entreaty.

“Good, baby?” John can’t help the smirk on his face as he soothes over the love bite with his tongue. “You love when I mark you up a bit, yeah?”

“Yes, god, yes, please John, please,” Sherlock begs, mouthing blindly at John’s forearm, resting on the rumpled sheets alongside Sherlock’s head. He succeeds only in licking the crease of John’s elbow, which is strangely erotic.

“I will, I will, shhhh. Put your hands in my hair.” John moves down Sherlock’s body again, helpless against the urge to kiss every stretch of soft white skin he can reach. Sherlock’s fingers flex and tighten against his scalp as John’s mouth falls on him again and again, his own desire building within him, making his chest grow tight and his breathing ragged.

He nibbles at Sherlock’s iliac crest as he nestles into position, spreading Sherlock’s thighs apart with his hands so he can lay between them. Sherlock’s cock is achingly hard, flushed deep maroon against the glowing whiteness of his stomach, foreskin pulled back tightly, leaking precome in glistening smears under his navel. John lays his cheek against the fleshy inside of Sherlock’s thigh and passes a reverent hand over him, cradling his bollocks in his palm and tugging lightly. He presses a fingertip against his perineum and Sherlock chokes out an agonised moan, his thighs tensing and shaking.

“Oh, baby. Christ, you’re beautiful like this. So fucking beautiful.”

“John.” Sherlock whispers, his voice thick with tension, his nails scratching restless little patterns on John’s scalp.

“You’re extraordinary. I’ve never understood it, how someone like you could want someone like me. You take my breath away.” It’s the wine, probably, loosening his tongue, allowing these frighteningly honest words to spill from his lips. Or maybe it’s just that now, having heard the infinite depths of Sherlock’s love for him, he can voice these vague insecurities he’s always had, because he knows there’s no reason for them anymore. He can let go of them now.

You’re extraordinary, John. You never give yourself enough credit. Oh, oh god -

Sherlock’s words taper off into a strangled noise as John pushes up on his knees and closes his lips over the head of Sherlock’s cock. The rush of arousal that always soars through him at the taste of Sherlock in his mouth, at the feel of slick salty skin heavy on his tongue, is more dizzying than ever tonight. He groans around Sherlock as his head goes floaty light, and Sherlock echoes the sound, rocking his hips ever so slightly up to push his cock further into the wet heat of John’s mouth.

John can feel Sherlock’s eyes on him. He looks up even as his mouth sinks lower, taking Sherlock in until his nose is buried in musky dark curls. Sherlock is gnawing at his lips, watching himself disappearing into John’s mouth. His eyes are so black with desire that there’s barely the thinnest ring of green around the pupils. As soon as their eyes meet, Sherlock’s body contracts, his legs curling tight against John’s ears, and his cock thickens and pulses. A salty burst of precome coats the back of John’s tongue and palate as Sherlock shifts and squirms underneath him.

“Oh, John, I’m so close - I’m already so close -”

John glides his hand up over Sherlock’s smooth concave stomach, soothing him, staying him, and slows the movement of his tongue against the sensitive underside of his cock. Sherlock’s hand leaves his hair, finding John’s and entwining their fingers. John squeezes his hand as he pulls off and presses a kiss to Sherlock’s trembling thigh.

“Do you want to come, right now?” And the thought of that is gorgeous - Sherlock shaking and gasping, fingers twisted tight in John’s hair as his come fills John’s mouth, slides down his throat. “I want to draw it out, but I don’t want to torture you.”

“You are most definitely not torturing me.”

“Shall I keep going, then?” John arches an eyebrow at him, rubbing one hand gently over the firm muscle of his right thigh, and dips his head to nuzzle at the crease of his pelvis.

Sherlock nods, bites at his mouth again. “Just - a bit slower - with your tongue -”

“I can do that.” John grins crookedly at the almost shy way Sherlock still talks about sex, even when they’re in the middle of having it. He squeezes Sherlock’s fingers again. “You good, sweetheart?”

Sherlock hums and nods again, allows himself to collapse back against the bed with a whine as John licks slow and purposeful at the base of his cock. He rocks up to get a better angle, and pulls his hand from Sherlock’s grip so he can put one hand on each of Sherlock’s hips and hold him relatively still. He doesn’t take him back in his mouth, but instead does what Sherlock asked, licking and lapping at him unhurriedly. He closes his eyes and concentrates on enjoying every second of this - the solid press of bone against his palms, the taste of Sherlock on his tongue, the tickle of his pubic hair on the end of his nose. John licks at his bollocks, circling his tongue into that soft pulsing point behind them until Sherlock’s tensing again, straining against John’s hands holding him down.

John presses a tender kiss there before kneeling up and reaching over Sherlock’s belly into the bedside drawer. Sherlock sucks in a long shuddering breath and trails his fingertips up and down the outside of John’s thigh almost absentmindedly. He looks destroyed, the hair framing his face soaked with sweat, the dark flush of arousal mottling his pale skin, his eyes unfocused, mouth lax, lips puffy. The expression of rapt adoration on his face as he watches John fumbling like an idiot in the drawer for the lube is heartbreaking.

He lays back beside Sherlock, who rolls instinctively toward him. He tilts his face up and their lips meet in a long lazy drag, a deep slide of lips and tongue, exploring each other’s mouths without urgency. John curls his knuckles against the side of Sherlock’s face, tucks a sweaty curl behind his ear.

“I don’t have the poetry in me that you do, but - just - know I feel the same. I could never be without you. Never could, not since the day we met.” John says, his lips brushing against Sherlock’s.

“I know that. I do.” Sherlock whispers back, snuggling closer to John and slotting a knee between his thighs.

John kisses him in reply, and then flips open the cap on the lube bottle, slicks his fingers. “On your back for me, sweetheart.”

Sherlock doesn’t so much turn as unfurl, his muscles slackened by extended arousal, his legs falling open as he sprawls back against the sheets. John props himself up on his left elbow and runs his right hand down Sherlock’s torso, leaving trails of lube shiny across his belly. Sherlock moans and shifts, stretches his arms above his head, completely given over to John’s veneration of his body.

John closes his hand around Sherlock’s achingly hard cock and strokes him gently, rubbing his thumb in a circle around the head and then firmly against his frenulum, tracing the edge of his foreskin. Sherlock exhales tremulously and thrusts his hips up into John’s fist.

“Yeah, that’s it, my lovely boy, that’s it. Tell me. Tell me how good it feels.” John puts his mouth against Sherlock’s ear, tightens his fingers just enough to provide Sherlock with some friction.

“So good, oh god, John, oh, ohohohoh -” Sherlock’s movements are quickening, his breath coming harder, as he rocks up into the slickness of John’s grip. He turns his head to find John’s mouth, kissing him sloppily, all teeth and hot tongue.

“Do you want to come now, like this? Or -” John stills his hand, kisses at Sherlock’s jaw lightly.

“Inside me, please, please. I want you inside me so badly, John, please,” Sherlock’s insensible now, biting at John’s lips and thrusting urgently and unevenly, no longer able to restrain himself.

“Okay, love, let me just -” John slides his hand off of Sherlock’s prick and massages over his bollocks, slips two fingers into the cleft of his arse. He circles them slowly around that lovely tight furl of muscle, and Sherlock arches, squeezing his arse and his thighs tight as his back lifts off the mattress. John pushes the tip of his middle finger inside, just that much, and sucks at the sweet tender skin under Sherlock’s jaw. “You’re perfect, just perfect. You feel so good.”

John works at him with gentleness, stretching him first around one finger, and then easing the second into him centimeter by centimeter. The tight heat surrounding his fingers triggers a delicious wave of fresh desire singing down through his nerve endings, and suddenly he’s painfully aware of his thus far completely neglected cock. He eels up tighter alongside Sherlock and rocks against his hip as he pushes his fingers deeper inside.

Sherlock drops his right arm down along John’s back and clasps one arse cheek, encouraging John to thrust against him. John buries his face in the sweat damp curve of Sherlock’s shoulder and shifts his hips in gloriously slow circles, the tension growing and spreading through his belly until he’s heavy with it, until his bones feel as though they’re liquefying.

He twists his fingers inside Sherlock, searching for his prostate, and finds the round protrusion with ease. He knows Sherlock’s body now, better than he knows his own. He brushes his fingertips over the little nub, just with the barest hint of pressure, and Sherlock immediately clenches tight and groans, rubbing his face into John’s hair and whimpering out incomprehensible words that sound vaguely like please and so good.

“Alright, love.” John gasps, teetering dangerously on the very edge of his own pleasure, his cock leaking so much he barely needs lube. He slips his fingers from Sherlock’s body and runs his hand over himself. “On your side.”

“My side?” Sherlock looks at him curiously. They’ve never made love this way before. Usually it’s Sherlock flat on his back or straddling John’s hips, riding him, eager and fast.

“I want to hold you.” John puts his hand on Sherlock’s hip and tugs gently, encouraging him to roll. “And it will feel very good for you this way, I promise. Trust me.”

“I trust you.”

John runs his hand down the toned curves and angles of Sherlock’s back, over the lushness of that absolutely wickedly perfect arse, and places a soft kiss between Sherlock’s shoulder blades. Sherlock shivers and presses his hips back, mouths at the hard curve of John’s bicep where it’s laying under his head.

“Here, love, just come back a bit, there we go,” John pulls Sherlock to meet him, until the lush swells of his arse is fitted perfectly in the cradle of John’s bent legs. He takes himself in hand and pushes the thick head of his cock against Sherlock’s loosened entrance. It’s still incredibly tight, and John exhales, trying to control the urges of his body telling him to just push in hard and fast.

Sherlock’s head sinks back against John’s shoulder, swiveling up and seeking John’s mouth. They can’t really kiss at this angle, so John just rubs his lips along the edge of Sherlock’s jaw, down the side of his throat, as he thrusts insistently into that gorgeous snug heat. Sherlock whimpers and twists in John’s arms, his noises becoming more and more desperate.

“I’ve got you.” John wraps his right arm around Sherlock’s side and pulls him close, whispering brokenly against the nape of his neck, “I’ve always got you, love. I’ve got you.”

“I know, John, I know,” Sherlock pulls John’s knuckles to his mouth and kisses them one by one.

John tucks his mouth and nose in the crook of Sherlock’s neck, half kissing him, as he finds a rhythm. Their limbs are completely entangled, John not even sure whose legs are whose as they fill the room with the sounds of their lovemaking - Sherlock’s delicate gasps mingling harmoniously with John’s harsher groans and growls.

Sherlock grinds back against John, clutching at his hip with exploring fingers. “Oh, John, John, right there, there, oh my god -”

“Right...there?” He angles his hips down and back, pulling halfway out, and then thrusting in shallowly so that the head of his cock nudges against Sherlock’s prostate.

Yes, oh, yes, please,” Sherlock’s grip on his thigh tightens, the pressure of his fingers becoming almost painful as he writhes in John’s arms like a wild animal.

John keeps up a maddeningly slow pace, luxuriating in the glorious wet slide of his cock inside the body of this extraordinary, perfect man. This man who loves John so much that there isn’t a word for the depths of it. This man who doesn’t even allow most people to see him smile, but allows John to witness him like this, boneless and begging, and to see him in the tranquility of afterwards, all soft edges and rosy cheeks.

Sherlock begins to tremble and quake, a rush of goosebumps breaking out across his back. He lets out a low moan and suddenly the tightness surrounding John is increased tenfold. The warm throb of orgasm begins low in John’s stomach, making him tense and curl forward into Sherlock’s back.

John. Please touch me, please,” Sherlock juts his hips up, his breath hitching on every word.

“Oh, baby, yes, I want to touch you,” John slips his hand from Sherlock’s waist down over his belly, and takes him in hand. Sherlock bucks and whines, the sound of his pleasure spurring John to finally quicken the pumping of his hips.

“I’m - I’m -” Sherlock whimpers and rolls his head against John's, grabbing at the sheets, at John’s thigh, at anything he can dig his fingers into.

“Yeah, come for me now, love, it’s going to feel so good. Let me feel it, come on,” John pants, right on the very edge of orgasm, his entire body tight and quivering like an overplayed violin string about to snap.

John swirls his thumb in the wetness at the head of Sherlock’s cock and drags it across the slit. Sherlock’s body goes stiff immediately and he cries out a choked noise that sounds almost surprised as he spills hot and thick over John’s fingers.

“Oh, god, beautiful. Beautiful boy, look at you,” John loosens his grip as Sherlock just keeps coming, thrashing and moaning in his arms like he’s drowning. He spurts again, and again, his release splashing in warm streaks across his belly and the sheets.

“John, John,” Sherlock chants, like an incantation, as he finally stops coming and sinks back heavily against John, weak and spent.

The sight of Sherlock, wrung out and shaking with aftershocks, is too much. Abruptly, John’s tipped over into the void, and his orgasm is cresting, searing up his spine with the heat of the sun.

Sherlock. Christ, I can’t - I have to -” John takes hold of Sherlock’s hip with his come-slick hand and yanks him backward, giving in to the spiraling tension in his belly and just thrusting into him as hard as he can.

He sinks his teeth into the dense muscle at the ridge of Sherlock’s scapula as he reaches his peak, pleasure bursting over him in a shower of heat and light that nearly blinds him. His vision goes white and blurry at the edges, his ears filled with the roar of his blood thudding through his veins. Vaguely, he hears Sherlock sighing his name, and he comes back to himself, gulping air and wracked with delicious little tremors.

Neither of them is able to move for long moments, but lay sweatily pressed together, John’s heaving stomach fitted in the curve of Sherlock’s spine. Eventually John shifts, slipping gently from Sherlock’s body and sweeping a soft kiss against his neck.

“I’ll get you a flannel. Be right back, gorgeous.”

“Mmmmmm.” Sherlock hums, rubbing his face into the sheets and rolling to flop on his stomach.

There’s nothing more hypnotisingly beautiful than a blissed out, well fucked Sherlock, his hair in a riot of tangles, his arse rubbed pink from friction, his thighs glistening with come. John takes a moment to admire the sight of him - draped wantonly across the bed and still twitching with the last shivers of orgasm - before padding into the loo to grab a small flannel from the cupboard and run it under the tap.

Sherlock’s basically unconscious when he returns, so John just rolls him on his back and wipes the drying come from his stomach and thighs, runs the flannel gently over his cock and bollocks. Sherlock sighs and stretches, his eyes fluttering open just a crack.

“Hello, lovely. How do you feel?” John smiles, his heart filled to bursting with affection.

Sherlock licks his lips and yawns, threads his fingers through his hair. “Amazing.”

“Good. Me too.” John runs the flannel cursorily over himself and tosses it in the direction of the hamper.

He retrieves the pillows from where they fell to the floor and puts them back on the bed as he slips under the sheets. They’re sticky and damp, but his body is suddenly leaden and exhausted and he can’t find it in himself to care. Sherlock rolls toward him until they’re nose to nose. John finds his hands under the sheets and twines their fingers together. They kiss sleepily for a few minutes, until Sherlock wriggles down and burrows into John’s chest.

John’s just on the precipice of sleep when Sherlock lifts his head and presses one last soft kiss to the corner of John’s mouth.

“John.”

“Yeah, baby,” John mumbles without opening his eyes.

“I love you.” Sherlock breathes in a hush, smiling against John’s lips.

John laughs quietly, giddy and half asleep as he kisses Sherlock back. “I love you, too, sweetheart. I love you, too.”