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Sherlock is expecting John to exit his cab in front of Baker Street at precisely 3:47 PM, but as is usually the case when babies are involved, some things can’t be predicted. It’s not until 4:04, after a full sixteen minutes of pacing, staring out the living room window down to the street below, and adjusting cushions one last time, that a taxi pulls up to 221B and slows to a stop. Sherlock bounds down the stairs but stops himself just before opening the door. He takes a deep breath, lets his spine settle into a straight line, and adjusts his suit jacket, forcing himself to slow down and not appear too eager. It wouldn’t do, not when this is apparently a time of “emotional upheaval” for John.

 

The first time John came to live at 221B Baker Street is fresh on Sherlock’s mind as he finally steps out onto the sidewalk, and it feels lifetimes ago. In many ways, it is lifetimes ago, but Sherlock is doing his best not to draw parallels. Instead, he focuses on the present. He strides forward towards John’s taxi, but takes an awkward step back once he’s gotten close, his hands clasped behind his back, his heart beating unusually fast.

 

He’s aware of too many things; the subtle heaviness of impending rain that hangs in the air around him, the sounds of the light mid-morning traffic, the footfalls of the heavyset security guard walking out of Speedy’s and the scent of fried food that wafts out the door as he leaves – but then John steps out of the taxi and Sherlock’s focus sharpens. John leans down to pull out the car seat, exposing the wrinkles on the back of his coat and his rumpled collar and the slight protrusion of his pocket and Sherlock’s mind is overflowing with deductions.

 

Rather than focus on them, though, Sherlock peers down at the baby sleeping innocently in the car seat as John turns around with her. Her face is a mixture of John and Mary, but Sherlock sees only John when he looks at her (or maybe he wants to see only John). His heart speeds up a bit at the sight of her – there is just so much raw data to analyze and memorize and file away – but he takes his eyes away to look at John.

 

“John,” he greets, eyes flickering over the pronounced bags under his eyes, lines of exhaustion in his face, downward slope of his shoulders.

 

John gives a weary half-smile before he turns back to awkwardly pull out a diaper bag with one arm, and then the cabbie comes around, popping open the boot of the taxi. Sherlock goes to the boot and slings John’s bag over his shoulder and takes hold of the suitcase, the cabbie slams the boot, and then it’s just John and Sherlock standing on the pavement outside 221B, staring at each other with words overflowing their brains but none on their tongues.

 

“You’re sure-“

 

“Welcome home.”

 

They say the words at the same time, John questioning the validity of his presence with a heavy, wrinkled brow, and Sherlock assuring him his presence is vital with a small smile, and then Sherlock turns away for a moment, a small smile curling on his lips, as John does the same. Something unclenches in Sherlock’s heart that he hadn’t known was clenched, and he forces his face to fall back into a more neutral expression as he goes to the door and pulls it open, holding it for John. He sneaks through with Iris and gives him a tight smile as he passes.

 

As he follows John up the steps, Sherlock does his best to keep his heartbeat under control, does his best not to immediately tell John that this doesn’t have to be temporary, that this can be forever (please stay please stay please stay) – but he knows he has to take it one day at a time.

 

John opens the door to the flat and takes a few steps inside before stopping. He looks at Sherlock with a raised brow as he takes in the state of the flat. There are no stacks of papers, no body parts, no discarded teacups or crumbs or dressing gowns. It’s clean and neat, and Sherlock does his best not to flush under John’s look. He feels unaccountably defensive, suddenly, but he pushes it down and clears his throat.

 

“If you’d like – um, your room is –”

 

John’s silent a moment, just staring at Sherlock, his mouth slightly open, before he speaks. “Right, I’ll just take these things up, then. I’ll leave her here since she’s sleeping, do you mind?”

 

Sherlock waves John away with relief and John takes his bags and heads up the stairs, sneaking a glance at Sherlock over his shoulder, and then finally, once John is gone, Sherlock turns to look down at her, Iris. He watches as her chest rises and falls with each breath. Her little John-shaped nose resting atop her shiny, parted lips takes the forefront of Sherlock’s mind, and the familiar sounds of John moving around upstairs fall away for a moment as he takes in everything about her that he can. His mind spins fast, imagining what she’ll be like when she’s older, how tall she’ll be, the shape of her face – of course he can’t know, but he can’t help but imagine, and it’s more fascinating than he would have expected. His fingers itch to measure her, catalogue her, file everything away – but the sound of John’s footsteps coming down the stairs break through his thoughts and he straightens, looking at John.

 

“Is it alright?” Sherlock asks, hoping anxiety doesn't bleed into his voice.

 

“Are you serious?” John asks as he sits heavily in his armchair, resting his hands on the familiar arms to get the feel of it once more. He laughs, shaking his head. “‘Is it alright?’ Of course it’s alright, it’s perfect,” John says. “Where did you even-”

 

Sherlock is too keyed up to sit opposite John in his own armchair, even though the remembered domesticity is pulling at him, so he remains standing, his hands clasped behind his back. “Furniture shop owner owed me a favor,” Sherlock says. It’s only partially true, but John doesn’t need to know that. “It seemed…appropriate. Is it too much?”

 

John laughs, scrubbing a hand over his eyes, then looks up at Sherlock. His mouth is open like he’s going to say something and his eyes are shining and amused, but he hesitates, and then says, voice softer than Sherlock expected, “No. No, of course not. It’s perfect; better than anything I would’ve gotten her,” he assures, and something inside Sherlock settles, and he feels tension he didn’t know he’d been carrying leave his shoulders. He nods, eyes Iris for a moment, eyes John, and then nods again. “Tea?” he asks. He goes to the kitchen before John can answer.

 

While he’s there making tea, he hears Iris stir, hears a few small whimpers that start up and die down again. John doesn’t appear to be fazed; he hasn't left his chair, so Sherlock assumes this is normal for her and doesn’t mean she’s actually waking. He’s burning to know the ins and outs of her every sound more than he’s ever wanted to know anything; more than any case, any mystery, anything. It’s terrifying, and he doesn’t understand why he feels a bit like he did in the moments just before his feet met nothing but air after being secure on the edge of St. Bart’s.

 

--

 

Sherlock has seen John hold Iris with two arms, cradling her in the traditional way parents seem to hold newborns, her soft head carefully supported by the crook of his elbow. He’s seen him hold her this same way but with only one arm, propped against a pillow, the other carefully holding a bottle to her lips as she gulps down formula and blinks up at him. He’s seen John hold her in a more upright position, her head tucked next to John’s neck, stomach pressed against John’s chest, as he burps her or soothes her when she’s crying. That’s Sherlock’s favorite way, he thinks, because he imagines she’s smelling John, learning his scent, imprinting him as her most dear person. Sometimes he catches himself thinking foolishly wistful thoughts when he sees John holding her that way, and he tends to stop watching, turning instead to his phone or his computer.

 

He’s seen John hold Iris many ways, more ways than even that, and yet he hasn’t yet held her. John has been back at Baker Street for two days now, and while they’re comfortable with each other, it’s not like it was before. They’re treading softly, carefully, and Sherlock doesn’t know how to change it. He wants to desperately, but every time he thinks about how he can possibly make John feel more at home, his heart starts pounding and he feels lost.

 

And part of it is Iris, of course. She’s an unknown that Sherlock yearns to change to a known, and yet he feels afraid for John to know that, though he can’t explain why; the thought of John watching him holding Iris in the way he’s seen John hold her is terrifying in ways he doesn’t know how to process.

 

But now – his heart is beating a little quicker than normal as he stands and moves closer to Iris where she’s lying in her cradle in the living room. John’s in the shower, and she’d been sleeping when he left, but now she’s blinking, her little puckered mouth twisting into a yawn.

 

He knows he has time; John will be in the bathroom at least four minutes longer. He’s risking a lot here because she could (and probably will) cry when he picks her up, but John will believe she just woke and started crying with no prompting because there’s no reason not to think that.

 

He nods, determined, and carefully reaches towards the crib. Iris watches him in the same blinky way she watches everything, and he pauses for a moment, bent over her little form, and swallows. This is the closest point from which he has viewed her, and carefully, so carefully, he reaches out the way he’s seen John do so many times and scoops her up.

 

She doesn’t cry and he holds her with two arms, her head resting in the crook of his elbow. He swallows and is surprised by how thick his throat feels. He wonders how the fabric of his dressing gown feels on the back of her head, if she notices that it’s not John’s flannel shirts or John’s soft jumpers. He’s surprised by how warm she is; he knows, of course, that babies are living creatures and thus warm, but for some reason, he never expected them to be such a source of heat.

 

Almost of its own volition, his hand creeps up to touch her little fingers. They’re impossibly small, like scale models of a human’s. He finds it absurd that there are so many things he wants to know about her and yet he can’t stop staring at her hands, smoothing his finger over the little wrinkles and miniscule nails.

 

And he can smell her, too, a smell both foreign and comforting, soft and warm, and it makes something in his chest clench. He doesn’t understand the way his breathing changes when her eyes seem to lock into his, though he knows she’s too young to be properly focusing on him the way it feels like she is.

 

He’d meant to pick her up and analyze her, memorize her, and yet he thinks he has drastically misjudged what a factor sentiment would play in this moment, and he thinks that’s always the problem with anything to do with John. Instead, he finds himself staring at her, smiling a small smile when her tiny fingers curl around one of his. He knows it’s just a meaningless action, something all babies do, but it feels special somehow, and his heart flutters in his chest.  

 

He watches her breathe, feels her little body expand and contract against his arm, feels the softness and warmth against his chest, and finds himself memorizing that rather than how many wrinkles she has on each finger or the way her little eyelids crease or the ratio of iris to white in her big round eyes; he’ll have time for that later.

 

He’s so focused on her that the world around them ceases to exist, something that often happens when he concentrates so fully, but this time, he’s made aware of it by a sound that has him blinking and coming back to reality to look up and see John.

 

 

John is in his bathrobe, his hair wet from the shower, holding a towel in one hand. He’s looking at Sherlock with a warm smile, his eyes crinkling in the corners, sending lines of contentment to sprawl across his temples. He’d cleared his throat for Sherlock’s attention, and now he just looks at Sherlock, who can only stare back in uncomfortable awareness of the softness of the set of his eyebrows, the gleam of emotion in his eyes, the way his mouth is parted, all because of Iris. He does his best to reel it back in, and John’s smile widens as his eyes soften, and Sherlock’s stomach clenches, though it’s not uncomfortable. He feels like he’s in the middle of falling from the roof of St. Bart’s.

 

“Tea?” John asks, as if Sherlock’s world had not just shifted dramatically.

 

Sherlock thinks of how desperately he didn’t want John to see him holding Iris. He thinks of how desperately he doesn’t want to let her go, John’s presence or not. He thinks of the fact that he’s been the one to make the tea every single time since John’s come back home.

 

“Please,” he says. Iris is a warm, heavy weight in his arms.

 

--

 

Sherlock learns a lot about holding Iris over the next few weeks. He learns that it’s a lot more comfortable for him if he sits in his armchair, the weight of her head supported by a pillow if he’s cradling her with two arms. He learns that holding her with her head next to his neck and the front of her body pressed against his chest is his favorite. He can smell her more that way, and he can feel how warm she is, and it makes him think of the very first time he saw John holding her that way, and how he wondered if she was subconsciously memorizing his scent and imprinting it in his memories.

 

He’s holding her that way now while John cooks dinner. It’s so domestic that it makes Sherlock’s stomach flutter in a way he tries hard to ignore. They’re standing by the window together and since John is in the kitchen and won’t overhear, he talks to her very quietly about what they can see. He tells her about the woman walking her dog who is very clearly about to get a divorce, he tells her about the banker hiding tattoos under his suit, about the pigeons that sit on the power cord and why they don’t get electrocuted, about the teenaged boy about to go on his first date, and he doesn’t realize they’re not alone anymore until a hand, warm and solid and strong, presses gently between his shoulder blades. He does his best not to lean into it.

 

“Sherlock?” John murmurs, and when Sherlock turns and John’s hand falls away, John’s wearing that amused, soft smile again. It almost makes up for the lack of warmth along Sherlock’s spine where John’s fingers just pressed.

 

“Teaching her to deduce already?” John asks. He’s standing close, and his eyes flicker between Sherlock’s. He reaches out and cups the back of Iris’ head, and Sherlock knows intimately the fuzzy warmth John feels under his fingers, which are just centimeters away from Sherlock’s body, and it feels like a shared secret.

 

Sherlock finds himself staring at John’s hand for a moment, feeling a bit short-circuited. “It’s never too soon,” he says after a moment. One side of his mouth twitches up towards his eyes.

 

“God, she’ll be dangerous when she’s older, then,” John muses with a crooked smile, eyes trained on her little form.

 

“Of course she will be; she’s yours,” Sherlock says, and it doesn’t click until a moment later that maybe that was insensitive and he winces, looking hesitantly at John, but John looks up at him in amusement, and he smiles at Sherlock and then the back of his fingertips brush against Sherlock’s collarbone as he takes his hand away from Iris’ head. Sherlock does his best not to shiver, but he’s uncomfortably aware that he fails.

 

“Dinner?” John asks, tilting his head towards the kitchen.

 

Sherlock nods because he’s not sure he can speak.

 

--

 

Iris is crying and she won’t stop. She’s eaten, her diaper is fresh, she’s had a nap, and she has no signs of illness. John is bouncing her up and down and cooing endearments in her ears and rubbing her back, but nothing is helping. Sherlock is watching uncomfortably; he doesn’t know how to help or if he should help or if he should just pretend it’s not happening and it’s been this way for a few minutes.

 

“John,” Sherlock finally says after a moment. John looks up and his jaw is tense and he looks ragged and anxious. “Maybe it would help to put her in the pram and go for a walk?”

 

John blinks and stares at Sherlock for a moment. Sherlock is unsure if he’s overstepped; he’d been sure to end his suggestion in a questioning lilt so that he didn’t appear to think he knows more than John because he knows he doesn’t, not in this area, and he knows he doesn’t have any say in what John does with Iris. He feels nervous for a moment, but then John nods.

 

“Yeah,” he says. He sounds relieved, and Sherlock is grateful for the time he’s been spending reading mother’s message boards on the internet. John nods, smoothing his hands over Iris’ head, exhaling loudly through his nose. “Yeah, that’s…can you grab her hat and blankets?”


Sherlock nods and gets them, along with John’s coat, and follows him down the stairs. He unfolds the pram which now sits next to the little table in the entry way like it’s been there forever, and when John sets her down, her face red and scrunched and her cries uncomfortably loud, Sherlock tucks the blankets around her and pulls her hat on, doing his best to ignore her screams even though they make him unpleasantly worried and on edge. He hands John his coat, and John looks at him for a moment before speaking. “Do you – aren’t you coming?”

 

Sherlock blinks and for a split second, his brain freezes and spins all at once, and then he nods sharply and hurries up the stairs, grabs his coat, and turns back around, shrugging into it as he hustles down to meet John. He opens the door and helps lift the pram out to the sidewalk, and then falls into step beside John. He shoves his hands in his pockets as they walk, and John is still murmuring to Iris, though she probably can’t hear it over her cries.

 

A disgruntled man passes them while he’s on his cell phone and gives them a dirty look, presumably for the noise, and Sherlock rolls his eyes. “He’s cheating on his wife with his secretary. Dull,” he says to John, loud enough for the man to hear, and John stops walking and turns his head to the side to laugh, caught and overcome by surprise, and Sherlock sneaks a glance at him and smiles, a small smile that he lets fade away when John turns back. Iris is still crying, and John grins at him then turns to Iris. “Alright, Love,” he says. “We’ll keep moving.”

 

And they do, walking together in whichever direction the traffic lights favor. Iris’ cries soften after a few minutes until eventually they disappear altogether and she falls into an exhausted sleep. Tension seeps from John’s shoulders, and Sherlock feels unaccountably relieved.

 

“This was a good idea,” John says.

 

Sherlock shrugs. “Babies like motion,” he says.

 

John turns to him, takes in his expression, and then looks straight ahead again. “You’re good at this,” he says.

 

Sherlock wrinkles his brow. “At walking next to you whilst you push the pram?” he asks. He’s genuinely confused.

 

John huffs out a laugh. “No, idiot,” he says, and Sherlock feels a little pool of warmth in his chest. “At taking care of Iris.”

 

“Oh,” Sherlock says, his brows high on his forehead. “John, you should know I – “ he stops and clears his throat, his heart beating fast. “I hope that I haven’t offended you or overstepped in any way –“

 

“Of course you haven’t,” John interrupts, and he says it with such conviction that Sherlock feels an unexpected thickness in his throat. “This is all – I have no idea what I’m doing.”

 

“Oh,” Sherlock says again. He keeps his eyes trained ahead of him, and when John brushes their elbows together, Sherlock looks up at him questioningly.

 

“I’m glad you’re here,” John says.

 

Sherlock’s eyes subtly scan over John’s face but he sees no sign of a lie. He smiles, and he thinks it’s alright that John sees it, but he turns away before he replies. “Me too,” he says, though it seems inadequate.

 

They keep walking for a while, eager to let Iris sleep so that she doesn’t cry again. Occasionally, someone smiles at them, usually women with children of their own; there are plenty out at this time of the afternoon. Sherlock wonders if they think the three of them are a family; that John and Sherlock are Iris’ fathers. His palms grow clammy in his pockets and his heart speeds up at even the mere suggestion in his mind. He pushes it away and focuses on the present.

 

--

 

John leaves Sherlock completely alone with Iris for the first time a week later. John’s just going to pick up some groceries, but he seems to think he’ll be gone for at least one year if the frantic instructions he leaves for Sherlock are anything to go by.

 

“If she seems too warm, though, there’s an inner ear thermometer-“

 

“John,” Sherlock finally interrupts. John’s eyes flicker from where they were trained on Iris’ face up to Sherlock’s. Sherlock is holding her expertly, feeding her a bottle in his armchair. “I highly doubt that in the thirty minutes it takes you to go to Tesco, Iris will suddenly develop a fever, and if she does, I'm quite sure you’ll be home in time to take care of it.”

 

John just stares at him for a moment, his left hand flexing and unflexing a few times, before he nods. “Right. Yeah.”

 

“If you want me to go, I will,” Sherlock volunteers, eyeing John shrewdly; he’d been going for the last few weeks, after all.

 

John shakes his head. “No,” he says. “I should – I haven’t had any time to myself. I’m going mad.”

 

Sherlock nods and ignores the little twist of pain he feels at the thought that John needs time away from him. John shrugs his jacket on and then comes over to the armchair. He leans down and presses a kiss to Iris’ head, then stays bent down for a moment, looking at her face, his fingers stroking over her fuzzy hair. His hand rests against Sherlock’s arm a bit due to their proximity, and Sherlock is dimly aware that he’s hardly breathing and staring at John’s head and watching the soft smile on John’s face.

 

John stands a moment later and looks at Sherlock. He hesitates for just a moment, then reaches out and squeezes Sherlock’s shoulder. “See you in a bit, yeah?”

 

Sherlock nods, some of the pain from John’s earlier statement receding at the look on John’s face and the warmth of his fingers. It occurs to him suddenly that maybe John just needs time for himself, not specifically away from Sherlock, and he allows himself the indulgence of the thought as John leaves the apartment and Sherlock is left alone with Iris.

 

He looks down at her. She’s staring up at him as she drinks and he smiles. She breaks away from the bottle for a moment and gasps for breath, coughing a bit and looking confused as to why she had to stop.

 

“You don’t need to drink it all at once, Iris,” Sherlock tells her. He refuses to talk to babies in a singsong voice on principle, but he knows that his tone of voice is much more patient than usual when he talks to her. “You’re making yourself choke. You should slow down.”

 

Of course she doesn’t understand what he says, but she is relieved when she’s caught her breath and he guides the bottle back to her mouth. Of course, she drinks greedily again, and this time when he smiles, he can feel his whole face twist upward with his mouth. It occurs to him that he’s alone with her, that John trusts him enough to leave them on their own. He doesn’t think anyone he’s ever met would trust him alone with a pet, let alone a baby.

 

“Is your father very stupid or is he perfect?” Sherlock murmurs to Iris. He flushes the moment the words leave his mouth, and something inside him aches with a strange mixture of agony and joy when he thinks of John trusting him with Iris, of John’s head so close as he bent to kiss her before he left, of John bumping his arm while they walk together with the pram, of John sleepily coming into the kitchen in the morning with Iris tucked warm and safe into his side, of John igniting his desire for something he’d never known he’d wanted.

 

Iris finishes her bottle and Sherlock sets it aside, shifting her so he can burp her. He settles her against his cloth-laden shoulder and gently pats her back, the whole of which is easily eclipsed by his hand. The flat feels quiet and empty without John, but it’s different than it was before, when John had been married. It feels light now with the promise of John’s return, and Sherlock turns his head to the side, pressing a soft kiss to Iris’ head, something he likes to do when he knows John can’t see.

 

His phone buzzes with a text a moment later, and he smiles, knowing it will be from John.

 

Still alive?

 

Sherlock leaves off burping her for a moment to write a quick, one-handed response to john.

 

Obviously. –SH

 

He goes back to gently patting Iris’ back, wiping her face when she spits up a bit onto the cloth. When she falls asleep, he carefully pulls the burp cloth away and keeps her there rather than put her in her crib. It feels nice to hold her knowing he can be completely unguarded.

 

Is she sleeping?

 

Another text from John, who is clearly having a hard time being separated from her for the first time. Sherlock huffs a quiet laugh and takes a picture in response. It’s mostly of Iris tucked into his shoulder, but a bit of his face is in the frame, too, and there’s a small smile on his face that makes him flush when he looks at it. He hesitates, thinks maybe it’s too obvious, but he remembers the way John squeezed his shoulder and the way John looked at Iris before he left and he sends it, and then sends an accompanying message.

 

I believe it’s redundant to say ‘like a baby’ when she is one, but it does seem apt. –SH

 

Sherlock hopes John gets the picture in the middle of the aisle at Tesco and stops and smiles at his phone in such a soppy way that he loses track of himself and someone yells at him for blocking the aisle. His lips twist in annoyance at the ridiculous nature of his fantasy, and he’s about to set his phone aside when it buzzes in his hand.

 

Lovely.

 

Sherlock swallows, his mouth dry. What’s lovely, he wants to know? Iris, of course, but Sherlock was in the picture, too, wasn’t he, and he wonders – his lips twist for a moment and he’s thinking about how to reply when a text comes again.

 

Fancy chicken marsala for dinner? I’ll make it for us.

 

He’s blinking at his phone, fixating on the “for us” tagged onto the text, his own bias towards John making him read into things he knows aren’t there. This closeness between them feels cruel, suddenly, and his vision blurs for a moment and there’s a sharpness in his chest and heaviness in his throat he doesn’t like before he blinks and blinks and it’s clear again.

 

Fine. –SH

 

His heart is beating fast and he holds Iris close, setting the phone on the table. He thinks suddenly of Mycroft, warning him of the dangers of sentiment. He rubs a thoughtful hand over the back of Iris’ head and wonders what exactly he thinks he’s doing, playing house like this.

 

His phone buzzes and he sighs, reaching for it.

 

Don’t sound too excited or anything. Would you rather something else?

 

Sherlock rolls his eyes and laughs, though it’s a bit weary and watery.

 

No. Chicken marsala is good. –SH

 

The reply comes almost instantly.

 

Ok. Wouldn't want to force it on you or anything. :)

 

“You could never,” Sherlock murmurs, setting his phone aside. He cradles Iris’ head again, presses a kiss into the exact spot John had kissed earlier. He inhales her warm, clean scent and kisses her again, just because he can.

 

--

 

When John comes home, arms full of groceries, Sherlock is still sitting with Iris, holding her while he thinks; he has a lot to think about. He doesn’t even notice that John has come home until he hears the thud of John kicking the door shut behind him, and he looks up, startled, to find John staring at him.

 

He glances back down, but relaxes when he sees that Iris is still sleeping. “You’re back,” Sherlock says. He stands, heading towards the kitchen, Iris still in his arms. “She’s been fed, and she’ll need changing when she wakes up, but she’s fine for now. Tea, John? I’ll make it; you just got home.”

 

He takes a few more steps towards the kitchen, but when he hears no response from John, he frowns. He turns around and steps into the living room and stops abruptly when he sees John.

 

“Oh,” Sherlock says. He feels like he’s been kicked in the chest. John’s standing in the doorway, groceries on the floor, and he’s staring at Sherlock and clenching and unclenching his fist, his breath coming faster than usual, with an expression of anxiety on his face; his eyebrows are pitched upward where they meet and his eyes are wide. Iris suddenly feels heavy to Sherlock, and he swallows nervously, his hands clenching on her. “John, I’m – I’m sorry, I overstepped, I shouldn’t have – “

 

John shakes his head. “No – Sherlock you – it’s not that.” John stops, takes a deep breath, and straightens, looking at Sherlock attentively, his face settling into something less anxious and more focused. Sherlock can’t read his facial expression. “You care,” John says. “Why do you care?”

 

Sherlock blinks. He feels cold. “Why do I – what?”

 

“About Iris,” John says. “Because you do, Sherlock.”

 

“Oh,” Sherlock says again, his mind racing. “Of course I care about Iris. She’s endlessly fascinating, John.”

 

“Is she? She’s not an experiment, you know,” John says, searching Sherlock’s face for something Sherlock can’t be sure of.

 

Sherlock feels frustrated and out of touch with the conversation, unsure of the source of John’s anxiety but knowing it’s somehow related to him. “Of course she’s not an experiment,” he says in a rush. “She’s interesting and fascinating because she’s part of you.”

 

He blinks once the words are out of his mouth and he freezes, staring at John, then immediately looking away. Iris stirs against him, and John takes a few steps forward, Sherlock’s heart beating increasingly faster with each step, his body held carefully still. Sherlock’s eyes are trained on John, but John’s staring only at Iris. He carefully rubs a hand against Iris’ back, then leans forward and presses a kiss against the top of her head. His hair rustles against Sherlock’s cheek and Sherlock tries again not to shiver and fails miserably. John straightens, but he keeps a hand on her head for a moment before taking it away.

 

“Just…will you sit?” he asks, gesturing towards the couch with his head. Sherlock goes and they sit, side by side. John settles his hands in his lap. His left is clenching, just a bit, and he looks away and exhales loudly through his nose.

 

“Sherlock,” he says, turning back towards Sherlock. His tone of voice makes Sherlock look at him sharply. John hesitates. “I’m not – I’m not good at this, talking about things.”

 

“I know,” Sherlock says. He’s sure to keep himself composed, but the thoughts he’s been having are swirling inside of him, forming and convalescing into a truth he’s known but hasn’t been able to ever give voice to. His thoughts feel like deductions at a crime scene, pulling at his tongue for release to the world in the form of words he can never take back. His hands are shaking just a little bit around Iris and he hopes John can’t see.   He feels certain John is about to tell him that he’s leaving, that Sherlock has overstepped, that Sherlock is not necessary in this equation.

 

“You-”

 

“I’m sorry,” Sherlock interrupts, before John can speak any further.

 

“You’re – what?”

 

“All I’ve wanted since the day I jumped off St. Bart’s was to make you happy. I made a mistake every single time. It appears I’ve done it again.” His hands are shaking in earnest now, and he’s looking straight ahead. He doesn’t dare look at John.

 

“Sherlock-”

 

“I thought of you every day while I was gone, John, and all I could think of was how happy you’d be when I came home to you, but you moved on, and it was foolish of me to ever think it would be any different. I knew we could never go back to how we were, and Mary made you happy in ways I couldn’t, so I did what I could for the two of you, but I was wrong again; I should’ve seen Mary for what she was, and I didn’t because I wanted so much for you to be happy.” He ignores the way John tenses at the topic of conversation because he needs to keep going; this may be his last chance, after all.

 

“That’s all I’ve wanted, all this time, but I’ve never managed to get it right. In my whole life, I haven’t been as wrong as I have been with you, John, and it’s because never before have I felt such sentiment. Mycroft warned me not to get involved; he says it’s a weakness. Maybe he’s right.” Sherlock swallows hard and forces himself to keep talking.

 

“But you came back, John, and you’re finally here and I’m trying to make you happy, but I don’t know how. And now you’re thinking of leaving and maybe you really will if I keep talking, but when I look at Iris, I see you, and I see all of the mistakes that I’ve made, but I see you, and so I can’t help but love her.” He clears his throat, wills himself to keep going. “I always thought I ruined everything we had, but she’s just a blank slate and when I see her, she makes me think maybe there’s a chance and I want to-“

 

Sherlock stops talking because John is suddenly clutching his arm. He looks away and closes his eyes, breathes, fights the nausea he feels when he thinks of the words he just spoke, and turns back. John is staring at him, and Sherlock’s heart is still pounding.

 

“Sherlock,” John says. He stares, clears his throat. Breathes through his nose. “Sherlock,” he says again. His voice is rough. “I’m not good at-” He stops abruptly and takes a deep breath.

 

“Talking about things? Neither am I,” Sherlock says. His voice sounds strange.

 

John laughs, but it’s tinged with something sad. “Yes you are, when did that happen?”

 

Sherlock blinks, looking anywhere but John. He feels uncomfortably self conscious and over-aware of every part of his body. John’s grip on his arm softens, and Sherlock’s heart is pounding.

 

“When I met you-“ John starts speaking, but he pauses and breathes loudly through his nose again, looking away from Sherlock and clenching his left fist. “When I met you, you gave me a new life. And when you – when you jumped, you took it away. But you – I know why you did it. I do. I forgave you, Sherlock. A long time ago. You know that. But when you came back, I had Mary, and I couldn’t just run to you. But you have to know, Sherlock, god, you have to know that I would have, in a heartbeat, if I ever thought – Do you know that? You – god, Sherlock, you

 

His fingers are tightening on Sherlock’s arm again and he breathes through his nose, relaxes, and looks down at Iris, then at Sherlock, who is stock still, trying desperately to process what is happening.

“Let me try again,” John says. He takes Iris from Sherlock and puts her in the little cradle, and Sherlock watches as if he’s in a dream, holding his hands firmly in his lap, willing them to be still. He absolutely won’t let himself think about the words John spoke, won’t let himself analyze them, but they’re floating around his mind nonetheless. He can’t tell if he’s just imagining them to mean what he thinks they mean because he’s really that desperate, or if John really means this, and so when John comes back and sits beside Sherlock on the couch, Sherlock’s not looking at him.

 

John touches his face, turns it towards him. Sherlock jolts at the touch, but John doesn’t remove his fingers, and Sherlock finds that his heart is racing. He can’t control himself, can’t control his expression, and he knows how vulnerable he looks, he knows that John is seeing every single thing he has worked so hard to hide, but he can’t hide it anymore. John’s eyes soften, and he seems relaxed by what he sees in Sherlock’s face. “I wasn’t thinking of leaving,” he says. “Of course I wasn’t. I was just – I was surprised, the way you look at her is – Sherlock, do you –”

 

“Yes,” Sherlock says breathlessly.

 

“You don’t even know what I was going to ask,” John says. He looks relieved that Sherlock interrupted him, though he’s feigning annoyance.

 

“John, please,” Sherlock says. His voice is soft and he feels as if he’s under a spell. He’s not sure exactly what he’s begging for.

 

John smiles a soft, affectionate smile, and Sherlock’s stomach flutters. He feels goosebumps rise over his flesh because he’s so sure that he’s reading this wrong, that he can’t possibly be understanding this correctly, but John leans forward and kisses him.

 

It’s just a chaste brush of dry lips, quiet and soft but warm and perfect. It’s gentle, but Sherlock feels it down to his bones. He remains still, processing, and John pulls away and watches while Sherlock sits frozen with closed eyes. After a moment, Sherlock’s eyes fly open and he stares at John, searching, something wild in his expression, and John smiles. “Alright?” he asks, his voice a bit rougher than usual, anxiety in his expression he’s trying hard to mask.

 

“John,” Sherlock says. “Is this – if this is – is this real? I can’t-“

 

“Yes,” John says emphatically, very emphatically, and they kiss again.

 

Sherlock’s world shrinks to the feeling of John’s mouth on his, to the feeling of John’s hands cupping his head, to the feeling of John’s mouth parting against his. He feels as if he’s in a haze, and he eagerly opens his mouth to John’s. The silky smooth feel of John’s tongue is heavenly when it slides against his own and he sighs into the kiss, pressing closer to John. He lets his hands settle on John’s waist and then shifts closer still, eager to feel more of John against him.

 

Something in his stomach shivers pleasantly and it’s never been like this when he’s kissed someone before, never. John’s fingers card through his hair and he gasps, shivering when the hand drifts lower, drags down his spine, rubs against his back. John’s lips pull away much too soon and Sherlock automatically chases them with his own, and John presses a chaste kiss against his lips again, rubs his back soothingly, lets the thumb of his other hand slide back and forth, back and forth against his jaw. The sensation is incredible and overwhelming and Sherlock feels as if he’s melting. He closes his eyes and slumps against John, and John pulls him in, cradling his head next to John’s neck. Sherlock breathes him in, his fingers tightening on John’s waist, and John presses a kiss to his temple, soft and light.

 

“John,” Sherlock breathes, barely audible. He doesn’t dare lift his head, lest this whole moment end.

 

“Mm?” John replies.

 

“I can’t go back after this,” he says. He lets the words drift into John’s skin and imagines them sinking in and staying there forever, safe inside of John. He feels lightheaded and dizzy at the thought of knowing he could feel this way, of knowing he could have this, and then not having it. “If you change your mind-“

 

John urges his head up and Sherlock complies, his heart beating fast. He doesn’t want to look at John; he’s terrified of what he’ll see because he’s not sure he can handle seeing rejection.

 

But John’s face is open, his eyes warm. “Do you think I could? Go back to the way we were?” John asks skeptically. He rubs his thumb along Sherlock’s jaw again, and Sherlock leans into the touch, sighing. “God,” John says. “Just look at you. You’re – I never thought you felt things this way until it was too late, and I was - married. But now – it’s not too late, is it?”

 

Sherlock shakes his head and squeezes his eyes closed. He feels overwhelmed, like someone is grabbing hold of his heart and twisting. He wants to stare at John, to take him in, to memorize this moment down to the very last hair on John’s head, but he finds that he can’t, that his throat is tightening, that his lip is twisting. John pulls him forward and holds him again, the same way as before, and he finds it easier to breathe, somehow, with his face pressed against John’s neck.

 

A sharp, loud cry interrupts them a few moments later, and Sherlock is startled into a laugh against John’s neck. If it’s a slightly wet laugh, neither of them acknowledges it, and when he brings his head up to look at John, neither of them acknowledges the redness of John’s eyes, either. Instead, they kiss once more, soft and gentle, and John cups his face and sweeps his thumbs along Sherlock’s cheekbones, presses a kiss against the corner of his mouth, one more soft and lingering on his cheek, one more just below his ear, one more on his temple, until Iris’ cries really can’t be ignored.

 

John stands up to get her and Sherlock remains motionless, doing nothing but breathing, his skin on fire everywhere John’s lips touched him. He looks up after a moment and John’s looking at him, smiling softly as he bounces Iris up and down soothingly. He presses a kiss to her temple, and Sherlock feels a twinge in his chest at the thought that he now knows the feeling of those lips on his skin, too.

 

“Let’s change you, Love, hmm?” John murmurs to Iris. Her only reply is to scream more, and John winces and sends Sherlock an apologetic smile before he heads up the stairs.

 

Sherlock sits on the couch and feels as if his entire being has shifted. He doesn’t know how to process what he’s feeling right now, doesn’t know how to believe that this is real, and he thinks back over the last few moments, trying to sort them into his mind palace. He thinks he’ll need to do some reorganizing, some expanding on John’s wing to fit this.

 

He’s not aware that John’s back until he feels fingers drifting through his hair. He makes a pleased, breathy sound and leans into the touch and then jolts back into awareness of himself, embarrassed, but John is looking down at him fondly, Iris cuddled into his hip and gurgling happily.

 

“Take her a mo while I put the groceries away?” John asks, his fingers still dancing over Sherlock’s scalp. “I’ll make a bottle up for her, too.”

 

Sherlock nods, automatically reaching out for her and pulling her close when John leans down and carefully transfers her to Sherlock’s arms. She makes a pleased sound and mouths at his shoulder with a wet, open mouth, and John snorts. “Yeah, I’ll get on that bottle,” he says, his fingers drifting out of Sherlock’s hair. Sherlock presses a kiss against Iris’ forehead when John goes and breathes her in.

 

--

 

Dinner is quiet, with a few more touches than usual but nothing too out of the ordinary. Sherlock isn’t sure how to act or what is supposed to happen when he feels fundamentally different but everything around him remains the same. When John comes back downstairs after bringing Iris to bed, though, he seems just as unsure. He sits beside Sherlock on the couch, nudges his knee with his own. Sherlock puts aside his laptop and focuses his attention on John.

 

“Alright?” John says.

 

Sherlock snorts a laugh. “Are we reduced to inane chatter now?” he says, but he’s smiling fondly even through the anxiety he feels.

 

“Don’t be a git,” John murmurs, and his tone is so intimate that some of Sherlock’s anxiety melts away, and just like that, they’re kissing again, the atmosphere of the room changing abruptly. Sherlock has been craving this feeling since he felt it only hours ago, and it’s no less transcendent the second time around.

 

He lets his fingers card through John’s hair this time, the short strands silkier than he’d imagined, and then lets them drift over John’s back, exploring, feeling the warmth of John’s body underneath them. In all the times he’s imagined John like this, he’s never realized how warm he’d be, how pliant and solid and real John’s body would be under Sherlock’s hands, nor had he imagined how silky smooth John’s lips would be, the salty taste of John’s skin, the way his own skin shivers beneath John’s fingers.

 

John pulls away after a moment and Sherlock stoops down a bit, leaning his forehead against John’s and closing his eyes, willing John to stay close. John tangles his fingers into the curls on the back of Sherlock’s head and lets his thumb sweep back and forth across Sherlock’s cheek. Sherlock smiles, a small little twist of his lips, and John shifts to press a chaste kiss on his mouth.

 

“Let’s go to bed,” John says. His voice is hushed, and Sherlock’s heart shifts into a fast, heady rhythm as something jolts deep inside of him. “I don’t – we’ve only just, I don’t want to rush,” John says quickly. “We have time, yeah? I just want – we have the monitor. Iris will be fine on her own. Can we-“

 

“Yes,” Sherlock murmurs. It’s barely a whisper; he doesn’t think he can handle more. John kisses him again, soft and sweet, his lips opening against Sherlock’s, and Sherlock parts his own lips eagerly, welcoming the buzz that builds in his stomach and under his skin.

 

John stands, and though Sherlock knew it was about to happen, he’s still left feeling cold in John’s absence, a feeling that takes him by surprise. But then John takes his hand and pulls him up and Sherlock can’t help it, really; he bends his neck down and cups John’s head to kiss him again. He doesn’t feel as skilled at this as John is, and so he just presses his mouth against John’s, closes his eyes, holds their lips together for a moment and relishes the feeling before he pulls away. When he opens his eyes, John is smiling at him. Sherlock has the urge to close his eyes again, but instead, he lets John tug him along to Sherlock’s bedroom, grabbing the baby monitor on the way.

 

Sherlock stands awkwardly next to the bed while John sets the monitor down on the nightstand. Sherlock’s heart is beating fast, and he can do little more than stare at John, who is fiddling with the buttons on the monitor and not looking at him. When John finally turns around, he takes in Sherlock’s face then frowns, and Sherlock starts to feel nervous, but John steps forward, crossing the distance between them and cupping Sherlock’s face in his hands.

 

“Alright?” John asks. He’s holding Sherlock’s face and tilting it down, and Sherlock’s eyes flicker over John’s face, eagerly taking it in from such a close distance.

 

“Alright,” Sherlock confirms. It comes out more like a murmur than he’d intended, and he lets his hands rest feather light on John’s waist. He rubs his thumbs over John’s hips, and feels undone by the fact that he’s allowed to.

 

John smiles at him, but there’s something complicated on his face, something hesitant. “I never thought you felt things this way,” he says. He sounds a bit rueful, and Sherlock blinks, processing, and thinks he must be wrong when he comes to the conclusion that John seems a bit self-conscious.

 

“I didn’t,” Sherlock says. “There was no one interesting enough.”

 

John’s eyebrows rise a little bit. “But I am?”

 

“You have been since the moment I met you,” Sherlock says. “Only I didn’t realize it until it was too late. I’m not…” He pauses, clears his throat, leans into John’s touch when John lets his thumbs mirror the motions of Sherlock’s on his cheekbones. “I’m not good at this sort of thing.” He feels undone and vulnerable, held up only by the feeling of John’s fingers on his head, even though he knows that’s physically impossible. He feels jittery and calm all at once, and he swallows nervously, taking in the way the bedside lamp casts small shadows over the expressive planes of John’s face.

 

John smiles, and the shadows shift. The creases around his eyes come into sharp relief, and Sherlock is overcome with the desire to kiss them. His grip tightens on John’s waist instead.

 

“I don’t think I am, either,” John says a moment later. Sherlock looks at him questioningly, the thread of conversation already lost to him. “Good at this,” John clarifies. “So, we can…” he looks away and his mouth twitches and his eyebrows dip and rise but he looks back at Sherlock with a placid, brave smile. “We can figure it out together, yeah?”

 

The determination on John’s face makes things click for Sherlock, and he feels like his heart has stopped. He suddenly realizes that John really, truly wants this. John feels something for him.   His heart lodges somewhere in his throat. “John,” he says. Desire is pooling in his stomach, and his heart is beating faster. He’s grateful when John tugs him down for a kiss, parting his lips, pressing their tongues together.

 

It doesn’t last long before John pulls away. “Come to bed,” he says. His lips are only a hair’s width away from Sherlock’s and his words feel warm against Sherlock’s skin. Sherlock nods, his nose brushing John’s. John smiles at him, soft and warm, and carefully undoes Sherlock’s top button. Sherlock watches, keeps his hands on John’s waist, revels in the tickle of John’s fingers as he works his way down the shirt and then untucks it from Sherlock’s trousers. Sherlock is breathing heavier, and his breath hitches when John pushes the shirt off his shoulders. It falls but gets caught on his wrists, and then John laughs, bowing his head and leaning into the crook of Sherlock’s neck, high pitched giggles filling the bedroom and his laughter warm against Sherlock’s skin. Sherlock can’t help it, he joins in, and pulls his trapped arms tighter around John until they’ve both stopped.

 

John lifts his head, but not before pressing a kiss to Sherlock’s neck. Sherlock presents his wrists and John carefully undoes the buttons holding his shirt on and then pulls it off, tossing it over the desk chair. He tugs Sherlock’s undershirt off, too, pulls it over his head, and Sherlock feels exposed, cold and vulnerable in the dusky bedroom. But John’s face shifts, turning more serious, and he steps closer once more, kissing Sherlock fiercely. Sherlock responds eagerly, the feel of John’s jumper tantalizing against his bare skin, John’s mouth hot and warm, the sounds of their heavy breathing and wet kisses loud in the bedroom.

 

Sherlock is left feeling hard and desperate and aching as John pulls away and he reaches out for him, pulling off his jumper, feeling a thrill that he’s allowed to do this. They kiss again as soon as the jumper is out of the way, but Sherlock doesn’t like that John is still wearing his undershirt and so he breaks away to pull it over John’s head. This time when they kiss Sherlock can’t help the breathy moan that escapes him at the feeling of John’s bare skin against his; it’s electrifying.

 

He’s hard, harder than he remembers being in a long time, and when John’s hands drift down his back, he shivers, gasping into the kiss, and John pulls away, stroking one hand up and down Sherlock’s spine lightly.

 

“You’re so sensitive,” John says. He’s looking at him like he’s something precious, and Sherlock swallows. He feels, somehow, like he’s breaking apart under John’s attention, and it’s exquisite and torturous all at once. He doesn’t know how to reply, so he remains quiet, and John kisses him again, this time a little bit gentler, and steps closer, pressing his hips against Sherlock’s.

 

Sherlock can’t help the moan that twists itself from his throat when he feels the hard length of John pressing against him. He lets his lips open further and kisses John with more fervor.   He feels hot and over stimulated when John’s fingers slide under the waistband of his trousers, and he is embarrassed by the whimper that leaves his mouth.

 

John pulls away for a moment, and Sherlock is relieved to see that John looks just as undone as he, himself, feels. “Alright?” John asks. His lips are flushed red and he’s breathing heavily.

 

“Obviously,” Sherlock says. He intends for it to be biting, but it’s breathy instead. John grins, and then they’re laughing again, and then they’re kissing and laughing, and Sherlock feels as if he’s going into overdrive.

 

John pulls away after a moment. “Are you…is this too much?”

 

“No,” Sherlock says. John’s hands shift around to the front of Sherlock’s trousers and settle over his belt buckle. He looks up at Sherlock, and he smiles.  

 

“Alright?” he asks.

 

John,” Sherlock says impatiently. John grins and ducks his head, then undoes Sherlock’s belt, thumbs open the button, and carefully eases down the zip. Sherlock’s breathing starts coming faster and when John’s finger carefully and lightly runs down the length of him, separated only by the thin fabric of his pants, his eyes fall closed and he feels like he can’t even stand up. “Oh,” he breathes. His stomach is quivering and John is breathing even heavier now.

 

John holds Sherlock’s trousers up with one hand and lets the other roam up Sherlock’s chest, his thumb flicking over a nipple, and Sherlock twitches and his breath hitches and his head flops forward, seeking John and his mouth. John kisses him gently, and then lets go of Sherlock’s trousers. They pool around Sherlock’s feet, and John gently pushes Sherlock to the bed, urging him to sit down. Sherlock does, kicking his trousers off once he’s seated, and watching as John hastily undoes his own belt and shucks off his trousers. John grins at him and awkwardly takes off his socks, hopping a bit on one foot, and Sherlock smiles in spite of the fire currently consuming his insides and toes off his own. When John straightens, he’s standing there in just his pants, cock straining hard and thick inside of them, and Sherlock swallows, eyes drifting over every inch of him, eager to feel him, touch him, taste him, see him.

 

“John,” he says, and the word feels restricted by the thickness in his throat. He wants, so much. He feels laid bare sitting here on the edge of the bed in the face of the magnificence of the man before him, the man he has wanted so very much for so long.

 

“Lay down,” John says. Sherlock shifts himself up the bed with trembling arms, never taking his eyes off of John, until he’s lying on his bed, and John follows him, lies beside him, turns his body to face Sherlock, and Sherlock turns on his side, too.

 

John reaches out and strokes his face. Sherlock tilts his head and leans into the touch with a breathy sigh and John smiles.

 

“You’re so responsive,” John murmurs.

 

Sherlock’s heart is beating quickly like a rabbit’s. “I’ve never…it’s never been like this,” he admits. His words are soft, quiet, woven into the air between them.

 

“What about Janine?” John asks.

 

Sherlock shakes his head. “We never did anything.”

 

“Nothing?” John asks, his eyebrows high on his forehead.

 

Sherlock swallows. He wants to look away, but he doesn’t. He shakes his head.

 

“Was there…anyone else?”

 

Again, he wants to look away, but he won’t do that to John. He can’t do that to John. “No,” he breathes.

 

“Oh,” John says. It’s soft, almost reverent. He shifts forward, tucks his knee between Sherlock’s. His leg is warm and heavy and real and Sherlock swallows hard and lets his arm slide around John’s waist, tugging him closer. There are mere centimeters between them, and everywhere John’s skin touches him is warm and real. He can feel John’s breath, feel John’s body expand and contract.

 

John’s still stroking his face, and for some inexplicable reason, it makes Sherlock’s emotions rise to the surface, and he closes his eyes, his breath leaving him in a shaky exhale. John shifts again and kisses him, soft and gentle. Their chests brush and Sherlock’s mouth opens into the kiss, John’s breath warm and humid against his lips.

 

John presses closer still, his leg sliding further between Sherlock’s, and Sherlock lets out a strangled gasp when their hips connect and he feels John’s hardness against his own. Something like electricity jolts in his stomach and he presses his fingertips into John’s back, urging him closer.

 

“John,” he pleads against John’s mouth, a whimper escaping him when John rocks his hips and thrusts against him. When John does it again, he’s expecting it, and he rocks forward to meet him and then groans, tangling his fingers in John’s short hair.

 

“That’s it,” John says, kissing him more, his hands moving up and down his back, threading into his hair. Sherlock feels lost to the sensations and when John’s lips trail kisses, warm and open-mouthed and wet, along his jaw and down his neck, he shivers, and then John reaches for the waistband of his pants and tugs, pulling them carefully over his cock, and their legs untangle for a moment and Sherlock kicks off his pants. He pulls eagerly at John’s, and between the two of them, they get John’s off, too, and then they immediately tangle together again and Sherlock squeezes his eyes closed, panting when he feels John’s cock press against his own with nothing separating them. The feeling is sublime; nothing he’s ever imagined has even come close to this, and he’s shaking, breathing fast, making sounds he’s sure he’s never made before.

 

John takes his hand off Sherlock to lick his palm, and Sherlock feels that his brain must be offline because he can’t imagine why John is doing that until John reaches down and takes them both in hand, and he can’t help it, he can’t; he groans, loud enough that John kisses him and murmurs shhhh against his lips. He uses his free hand to cup Sherlock’s face and rub his thumb soothingly against his cheekbone again. But Sherlock can’t be expected to shhhh, not when John’s hand starts moving up and down, torturously slow, and Sherlock’s so hard that he’s already leaking. John smooths his thumb over the head of Sherlock’s cock, spreading the fluid down between them and then moving his hand faster.

 

“John,” Sherlock pants, “John, please.” This is exquisite, more intense than he could have ever imagined. Nothing exists in this moment except John, and he’s overcome by how indescribably good this feels. In all of his fantasies, he’d failed to imagine how real John’s body feels against him, or how everything inside of him has come to life, or how he aches for John, arching towards him like a magnet.

 

John’s breathing fast, and he groans, deep and guttural, as his hand picks up speed. Sherlock feels sparks deep in his stomach, feels restlessness in his legs, feels his toes start to curl in pleasure. “John,” he says, breathing hitched, feeling desperate. “Don’t – oh god, don’t stop.” He doesn’t recognize his own voice, doesn’t recognize the needy way his hips twist with the movement of John’s hands, doesn’t recognize the strange feeling coursing through his veins.

 

“Fuck, Sherlock, that’s it,” John says. “That’s it, you’re so close, come on.” His voice is rough and deep and breathy and intimately close, and Sherlock feels like he’s on fire, like his entire body is being pulled away from him, like he has no control over himself and he thinks that’s okay because it feels so good, and then the energy in his stomach starts to spike and he pulls John’s body closer, feeling like he’s about to crack into tiny pieces. He’s panting now, fast and loud and he can’t help it and he barely even notices it, and then John’s hand moves faster still, and John groans again, the sound bitten off and breathy. Before he can realize what’s happening, the pleasure comes into sharp focus and Sherlock’s coming, hard and fast. He’s spiraling out of control as John continues to pump his hand, and Sherlock comes harder than he’s ever remembered coming, his whole body shaking and twitching, spurting over his stomach three, four times, and then John makes a choked sound and he’s coming, too, fast and hard. Sherlock feels it hitting his stomach and he closes his eyes, his heart still pounding, his hands shaking, and then John is stroking his face, light and soothing, and Sherlock rolls over, mindless of the mess between them, and curls himself around John, presses himself as close as he can possibly get. He’s shaking, god, he’s shaking. He feels like he has come apart, and he’s clutching John, lying half on top of him, so close it might be painful, but John just strokes up and down his back, presses kisses against Sherlock’s head, murmurs things Sherlock can’t even comprehend in the state he’s in.

 

They stay that way until Sherlock feels like his heart has stopped racing. He’s not sure how long it’s been, but he knows it’s been a while. He blinks a few times and is startled to realize his face is wet. John strokes his hair, holds him close.

 

“Hey,” John says after a moment. Sherlock feels the rumble of his voice against his own chest and it’s heavenly.

 

Sherlock doesn’t know what to say. He reaches up blindly, keeping his face tucked into John’s neck, and tangles his fingers into John’s hair. His hand is shaking. John takes hold of it and pulls it down a bit, and turns his head to press a kiss against Sherlock’s palm. Sherlock clutches him tighter.

 

“Come up here?” John asks. His voice is gentle. Sherlock shifts, grimacing at the stickiness between them. He barely has the energy to shift the few centimeters it takes to be at John’s eye level. He rests his head on the pillow beside John, and John shifts, curling onto his side. They’re facing each other now, like they were in the beginning, and John tucks his knee between Sherlock’s once more. He strokes Sherlock’s face again, looks into his eyes, and Sherlock can’t look away even though John’s face is startlingly blurry.

 

“Alright?” John asks.

 

“You keep asking me that,” Sherlock says. He marvels that his voice can sound the same and he can still speak (albeit more roughly and shakily than usual) after such an earth-shattering, life changing event has taken place.

 

“I keep wondering,” John counters.

 

“On the few occasions I let myself imagine this actually happening, I never came close to how it would actually be,” Sherlock says. He feels cracked open and exposed and it’s terrifying but there’s a strange hope flickering inside him, making him trust John with this.

 

“And how was it?” John asks. He’s smiling.

 

Sherlock swallows, pressing himself closer to John even though there’s scant any space between them. “Perfect,” he murmurs.

 

John smiles. It’s tender, and Sherlock’s throat feels raw and there’s a burning in his sinuses he wants to ignore and can’t. “You’re brilliant,” John murmurs. “You really are. And bloody gorgeous.”

 

Sherlock’s cheeks flush after John’s praise and his heart speeds up again, but he doesn’t reply; he doesn’t think he can. Instead, he stares at John, lets himself enjoy the feeling of John’s fingers against his face, lets his eyes drift half-closed. “I didn’t even touch you,” he says after a moment. He frowns and opens his eyes a bit more.

 

John shakes his head, and his smile doesn’t waver. “It’s alright,” John says. “Next time you can touch me all you want.”

 

Sherlock’s heart skips a beat. He smiles, pleased at the thought that they will do this again. John’s thumb brushes over the corner of his curled lip, and he wants to keep this moment forever.

 

“I’ll be right back,” John murmurs. He leans close and presses a soft kiss against Sherlock’s mouth, doesn’t stop stroking his face. “Just gonna get a flannel, clean us up a bit, yeah?”

 

Sherlock wants to protest, doesn’t want him to go, but he nods, and John climbs over him. He comes back quickly with a warm, wet flannel, and he prods Sherlock until he’s lying flat on his back, and Sherlock melts into the mattress, feeling boneless and pleased. He knows he’s looking up at John with a smile he’d normally want to hide, but he can’t bring himself to care.

 

John straddles Sherlock’s hips. He carefully cleans off Sherlock’s stomach, then runs his fingers up and down Sherlock’s sides and just looks at him. Sherlock shivers again, his flesh twitching against the feather-light touch of John’s fingers, and John smiles, then leans down to press a kiss against his chest, right below his scar. John rests his cheek there for a moment and wedges his forearms under Sherlock’s shoulder blades, holding him close though the position has to be uncomfortable, and Sherlock lets his hands rest on John’s back. They stay that way for a moment before John sits up and smiles at him once more. Sherlock drapes his hands over John’s thighs and John squeezes them, and then gets off the bed, going back to the loo.

 

He comes back and Sherlock curls into his warmth again, already addicted to the feeling of John’s body against his, still marveling that he’s allowed to feel this, wondering if John will still want this in the days and weeks and months to come, but knowing that just this one moment is enough bliss to last him a lifetime.

 

--

 

When he wakes, Sherlock is curled on his side and John is curled up against his back, his chest warm and solid against Sherlock’s back. Sherlock sighs and presses back against him, but then the sound of a crying baby registers in his mind, and John gives his waist a squeeze and presses a kiss against the back of his neck. “Be right back,” he murmurs, his voice low and rough. He presses another kiss, mouth open and lips hot and wet, against the top vertebrae of Sherlock’s spine. Sherlock makes a breathy, wanting sound, and John’s fingers sweep over his side.

 

Sherlock turns over drowsily, letting his arm stretch out over the warm spot where John had just been as John tugs on a dressing gown and ties it round his waist. Sherlock watches with half-closed eyes and smiles when he notices it’s his own, the sleeves dragging past John’s wrists. John bustles out of the room and Sherlock listens to the sounds of Iris’ crying, squinting blearily at the monitor on the nightstand and watching as John goes in and pulls her up out of the crib, cuddling her close and kissing her, then changing her diaper and talking nonsense to her as she continues to scream. Sherlock lets his eyes close and he listens to the sounds of John descending the stairs and then rummaging in the kitchen, Iris still crying, and he is surprised when after a few moments, John’s footsteps come back to the bedroom.

 

He opens his eyes and looks at John questioningly, but John just smiles and comes to the bed, sitting up against the headboard, a screaming Iris in one arm and a bottle in the other.

 

“Alright, Love, I know,” John says, shifting her a bit and then holding the bottle out for her. She eagerly latches on and her cries turn to the sound of satisfied drinking, and Sherlock smiles and shifts closer to John. He throws an arm over John’s waist and burrows his face into John’s hip, content. He drifts into sleep a little bit until he feels John’s fingers carding through his hair, and he realizes Iris has finished her morning meal. He blinks up at John, who’s smiling at him fondly, and then he shifts a bit, enough that he’s slouched against the headboard.

 

He smiles at Iris and leans down to kiss her, just because he can. “Good morning, Iris,” he murmurs, his voice scratchy from disuse. He kisses her again, in full sight of John, and she gurgles and reaches out to take hold of his hair. He laughs and John pries her hand off his curls. Sherlock smiles at him, and makes no effort to hide his expression.

 

To his delight, John smiles back. Sherlock has known what it’s like to fall for a long time, he thinks, but now he knows what it’s like to grow wings.