Actions

Work Header

Bricks in the Fortress

Work Text:

Bricks in the Fortress

 

Sherlock ends the call with an irritated jab at the screen of his phone and sighs deeply.

John looks up from the kitchen table where he’s placidly eating toast and turning pages of the newspaper. (John. A warm glow fills Sherlock’s gut and he is forced to push it away. The very thought of John sends warmth to every corner of his being and actually seeing him is better still. He has to fight to keep his head clear, not let the memory of last night, say, send him reeling all over again. Focus.) “What was that?” John asks mildly.

“Lestrade,” Sherlock says, succeeding in getting his mouth organised and for the words to come out properly. “He’s being annoying.”

John’s mouth quirks and Sherlock wants to kiss it. “By which you mean that he’s annoyed we left the base yesterday,” he says, picking up his tea and taking a sip.

Sherlock is forced to acknowledge that this is precisely the case. “He wants us to go back.”

John smiles at the paper. “So much for my nefarious plans to drag you back to bed, then.”

Sherlock hesitates. He should say Unfortunately, yes: it seems we will have to go back after all but the words are refusing to come out, somehow. “I – ”

John looks over at him, sees his face and then laughs at him, nicely. “I was kidding. Mostly. I guess we should go back, then. I did wonder if this might happen.”

I don’t care, Sherlock wants to say. Is strongly tempted to say. I’d much rather stay here with you. I’m not particularly fussed about ever leaving the house again, to be frank. He swallows back the overly emotive words. “You were correct, in that case. He is quite irritated.”

John looks amused. “Was that the bit where you reminded him that this is actually his job, not ours?”

Ours. Another surge of warmth floods his belly. “Yes,” Sherlock says, trying to remember how to breathe.

John surveys him. “Come here.” He pushes his chair slightly away from the table and Sherlock goes willingly, not entirely sure what John wants but John takes his hands and pulls him down onto his lap, Sherlock straddling his short (strong) legs and putting his arms around John’s shoulders. John’s hands are on his back, holding him in place and he lifts his chin in a clear request (or direction? Sherlock isn’t certain) to be kissed, so Sherlock puts his mouth on John’s. The kiss is warm and slow and makes him feel as though his internal organs are dissolving.

John always has this effect on him. From the startling first time when he put himself outside the bedroom door in his uniform and wanted to be let in, inviting Sherlock to do anything he pleased, anything at all, Sherlock had been floored and not entirely sure what to make of it. He’d never had an orgasm in the presence of another person before. He hadn’t understood then why John had offered, why he’d come in and explicitly invited him to do more or less whatever he wanted. And he hadn’t known whether it was meant to be an ongoing sort of thing or just something John had done to be kind, to take the sting out of Sherlock’s overwhelming humiliation. He’d meant to wait, to see if John would initiate a second occurrence, but he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about it. Constantly craving it, unable to glance at John’s hands without his breath choking in his throat for wanting to them on him again, and John’s mouth was infinitely worse. So he’d been the one to give in and ask, two days later, and John had acquiesced immediately, to his relief. The progress after that was no less careful, but he’d thought that the caution had all been on his side until more recently. The day they’d broken the coffee table and he’d apologised for his sulk, Sherlock had dared to put a little more of it into words, all the while grimacingly acknowledging that his hands were probably already saying too much. He couldn’t help it; John is always particularly soft and relaxed after an orgasm, irresistibly holdable, and he’d kissed John a little too much that time, too, but John had not only allowed it, not pulling away or leaving the room, but kissing back. Rather hungrily, too, Sherlock had thought, savouring the memory of those kisses over and over again in the days following.

He’d wanted to ask if John felt anything for him. The internal pressure to confess his own feelings had been growing nearly overwhelming. He’s always known how he feels about John but never in a thousand years would have been so foolish as to articulate it aloud. He hadn’t been able to get over the hurdle of Sholto, however. It was an obstacle and was going to remain one until he found the right moment to finally bring it up, grit his teeth and steel himself to hear the truth.

He hadn’t expected that conversation to end with John telling him that he loved him, the fact that he’d already gone and said it himself by that point notwithstanding. He’d felt so much in the moment that he couldn’t have possibly achieved any coherent thoughts about the case, because all he’d wanted was to go home and be with John properly for the first time. Not that their sex life and cautiously-blooming romance hadn’t been quite satisfying already, but to get to be with John with the feelings openly spoken and acknowledged between them, to be allowed to finally kiss John the way he’d been desperate to by that point – it was exhilarating. Exquisite. Life-altering. And now John is speaking about their work, their life, all uttered in the same casual, playful sentence as saying that he wants to take Sherlock back to bed rather than return to the crime scene – all of it together is a cocktail so heady that Sherlock finds he can barely function.

He shifts on John’s lap as the kiss lets up, his legs dangling on either side, too long for the chair. “I don’t want to go back,” Sherlock admits, his voice low. It still feels daring to give voice to such thoughts. He knows he is permitted to say them, but he doesn’t want to say too much too soon. Doesn’t want to come off as clingy and make John reconsider.

John laughs again at this, as though everything and anything Sherlock could possibly say is a delight to him. “That makes two of us,” he says. His arms are around Sherlock’s back and Sherlock’s are locked around his shoulders. They kiss again for another long minute, mouths sipping at each other’s, and it’s wonderful but John doesn’t allow it to deepen or get carried away. “But we should, I suppose,” he says after, reluctantly. “There’s always later. That’s the beautiful bit: now there will always be a later.”

Sherlock’s heart clenches so tightly it’s nearly painful. His throat closes and he attempts to clear it, unable to speak, his eyes searching John’s. “Okay,” he manages at last, his voice rasping a little.

John smiles and kisses him again. “Come on,” he says, his hands shifting to Sherlock’s face. There’s one more kiss and then John spills him gently out of his lap. “Let’s go, or Lestrade will call back and nag some more.”

Sherlock sighs and pulls himself together, pulls himself back into himself. Time to put his armour back on, hide away his soft underbelly from the sharks outside this incredible bubble of John, of the two of them. He hates sharing any of this with anyone else, even if he knows that he’ll have John to himself again later. It feels as though every kiss is a brick in the fortress they’re building and at the moment, all he wants to do is stay home and build it. Shut everyone else out. (Never mind. The work must be given its due, as well.) Sherlock puts on his coat and shoes. John passes him to jog down the stairs, hands in his pockets, and Sherlock catches a trace of his scent in the air: deodorant, his own shampoo, laundry detergent. The deeper, subtler scent of John’s skin. He was permitted to taste it last night, put his mouth and tongue all over John’s body, exploring more thoroughly than he’d ever dared before that. And it was thrilling: the sense of permission, of John welcoming it, lying back with his arms folded behind his head, smiling easily as Sherlock’s hands wandered, probing, searching out every secret of John’s body, the smile changing into a pained expression, groaning as Sherlock’s mouth worked over the erection that had been lying flat up against his abdomen by that point, thick and stiff and already wet with desire. Desire for him. It’s frankly unbelievable, and yet the proofs are all there. And later, after he’d recovered, John had turned to him, eyes gleaming predatorily and said, My turn.

Sherlock’s face floods with heat, just thinking about it. It was a wonderful night. They’d gone four rounds (five if they’re being technical, Sherlock supposes; that bit with John’s fingers – yes, definitely five, then), lying in each other’s arms and talking or not talking as the moment and their moods dictated between rounds, then finally fell asleep together, Sherlock feeling so blissfully sated and horribly happy that he could hardly dare believe it was even happening.

He gets into the taxi behind John, hardly aware of the present moment. John puts his hand on Sherlock’s knee and squeezes in an affectionate, slightly proprietary manner, and Sherlock puts his gloved hand on top of John’s at once. (Oh. Too much?) John’s hand squeezes again, though, so he doesn’t take it away. “So,” John says. “Let’s get this sorted out today, shall we?” He glances at the driver and lowers his voice archly. “Unless, of course, you want to hang about there a little longer to enjoy the… scenery…”

Sherlock’s lips compress. “Don’t tease,” he says, a bit stiffly. “You know… what I said.” He means in reference to having told John that it wasn’t soldiers in general so much as it was John himself, at least at the core of the matter.

John smiles and shakes his head a little. “I didn’t mean – sorry, never mind.”

Sherlock feels slightly brushed off and doesn’t know what to say, but John doesn’t take his hand away. This is all still so new, so easy to misstep, Sherlock thinks in private frustration. Hence the need to isolate themselves and fortify. (Later, he tells himself.) When the cab stops outside the base, John is quicker than he is and pays before Sherlock can even think about taking out his wallet. He feels very slightly criticised by this, too, and follows John awkwardly out of the cab.

John doesn’t seem to notice the awkwardness. “So,” he says, sounding the way he always does. “There’s a problem with supplies being ordered and never coming, missing invoices, is that about it?”

Sherlock switches his brain to work mode and attempts to shut out all other distractions. “Yes,” he says, the word coming out clipped. “Probably the usual problem of embezzlement, a sloppy paperwork cover-up, and destroyed evidence. Shouldn’t be too difficult. Barely a four, frankly.”

John is leading the way back to the receptionist’s desk to request access to the office they were shown into yesterday. “Then all we have to do is figure out who it is and where the papers are or what became of them,” he says lightly. “Shouldn’t take us long.”

The us makes Sherlock feel slightly better again. “Perhaps not,” he says, reaching past John to open the outer door for him. This gets him a smile that floods his belly with warmth again. He follows John inside and hangs back mutely as John is charming to the receptionist, his handsome face wreathed in smiles – smiles that Sherlock resents, but this is their usual arrangement: whenever people who can be easily offended or likely to prove sticky from a bureaucratic standpoint must be approached, John is the one who talks to them. If acting or light manipulation are required, Sherlock does the talking. He watches John explain in very reasonable tones about their sudden need to depart the previous day, apologising smoothly for their having forgotten to sign out of the visitor’s book or return their passes. He lies smoothly and Sherlock watches his mouth without hearing the words that are issuing from it and thinks instead of that mouth on his body last night, kissing its way from Sherlock’s spent flesh along his belly and chest and throat and finally his mouth, tasting of his own release, salty on John’s tongue. He shifts his weight and clears his throat and both John and the receptionist look at him.

“Of course,” the receptionist says, batting her eyelashes at John and handing over two new, properly dated visitors’ passes to him and taking back the ones John has laid on the counter. “I’ll have someone meet you at the door to let you in again. Major Deacon will be overseeing training again this morning and shouldn’t be there. If there’s anything else, just pop by and let me know.”

“Thanks so much,” John says warmly. “It’s Veronica, isn’t it?”

“That’s right,” she says, a hand coming up to finger her necklace. “Have a lovely day, Captain Watson.” She ignores Sherlock entirely, which doesn’t bother him at all. This is typical for women when John is around.

“Former captain,” John corrects her, smiling. He picks up the passes. “Thanks very much. We’ll see you a little later.”

She’s still goggling at him as they walk away, and Sherlock is strongly tempted to take John’s hand, put an arm around him, something – anything, just to show proprietary dominance, establish a visual claim. Mark John as his and his alone. He’s annoyed and cannot disguise the fact, scowling a little as he strides across the compound to a different building.

“You know that was all for show, of course,” John says, catching up and matching his pace. “Even if we weren’t – there’s no way, Sherlock. You can rest assured.”

“I wasn’t concerned,” Sherlock says briefly, more or less truthfully. “It’s still annoying.”

John grins. “Jealous?” he asks, sotto voce.

Before Sherlock can answer, a young lieutenant hurries over from another building, a ring of key cards attached to his wrist just behind a rather nice watch. Gucci or Tissot, perhaps, something in the five hundred pound range. “Mr Holmes and Dr Watson, I presume,” he says, looking them over. “Recognised your pictures from the papers,” he adds before they can confirm, already sliding his key card through the door’s card reader. It beeps and turns green and he makes a show of ushering them inside.

He is overly effusive, his gaze sweeping appreciatively over John’s chest. John thanks him for having let them in. Sherlock does not, impatient to have the lieutenant gone. He is young and slim and muscular and they’re already discussing jealousy as it is.

The door closes behind them and John grins at him again. “Him too? Fair enough; he’s quite fit, isn’t he?” He pulls Sherlock close by the front of his coat and kisses him. Sherlock doesn’t protest it, kissing back hungrily. “I like you jealous,” John tells him after, his eyes gone dark. “Not too jealous, but a touch is rather fun, actually.”

Sherlock lowers his head to kiss John again in lieu of responding verbally. John is going to think him terribly needy, but it can’t be helped at the moment. He lets the kiss end with reluctance. “I’d much rather be at home today,” he reasserts, feeling it like hole in his abdominal cavity. (Separation anxiety, he reminds himself. Normal. Yet nonetheless painful.)

“I kind of would, too,” John admits. “Still: we’ve got ourselves a case to solve. The quicker we solve it, the faster we can go home again. So let’s get cracking.”

He moves away before Sherlock does, which leaves Sherlock feeling cold, the hunger clamouring all the more within him. He attempts to ignore this and turns to follow John, as though magnetically drawn to him. Through the windows there is another training exercise going on. John gestures toward it.

“Is our major that one out there?” he asks. “The receptionist said he was overseeing something.”

Sherlock looks around the office, searching for a photograph. There, to the left of the computer. He crosses to study it, then shifts his attention to the yard with John, searching. “Yes,” he says, nodding with his chin. “The tall one.”

“Ah.” John watches the man for a moment. “Do you have that duty roster? We could check who’s been ordering the supplies.”

“It alternates,” Sherlock says. His voice sounds unfocused even to his own ears. “It’s never the…the same person.”

John waits, and when Sherlock doesn’t add anything else, follows this up with, “And? What does that tell us, then?”

“I don’t know,” Sherlock says, gazing out into the yard. “Need more data.”

John frowns a little. “You all right?” he asks lightly. “You seem a bit… distracted.”

Sherlock swallows and drags his mind off the memory of John’s lips on his ear, alternately kissing it and breathing words onto his skin like vows, his hands stroking over Sherlock’s body at the same time. He shakes his head a little and attempts to make himself focus. It’s not working. “I – ” He stops, unable to remember what he was going to say and fidgets. (For God’s sake. Focus.) “I don’t know, I…” He trails off again, feeling foolish.

John is frowning harder now. “What is it?” he asks, sounding genuinely concerned now. “Sherlock – I’ve never seen you like this. What’s going on? Do you need something? Want me to go and ask about something? I can, just tell me what – ”

“No! Don’t go,” Sherlock says, the protest instinctive. John looks surprised, but he repeats himself firmly. “I don’t want you to leave.”

John walks over, closing the small distance between them. “Then what is it?” he asks, his voice gentler now. “What’s going on?” He puts his hands on Sherlock’s hips, beneath his coat.

His very touch and proximity both seem to ground Sherlock. His hands come up instinctively to hold John by the shoulders. “I’m – having trouble concentrating,” he admits with difficulty, not looking John in the eyes. “I don’t know why; normally I’m very much able to – shut other things out, but after yesterday – ”

John’s eyes are on his face, probing, and when he speaks, it’s low and very understanding. “I get it,” he says. “Last night was incredibly special. It wasn’t our first time together, obviously, but it was – ”

“It was the first real time,” Sherlock says, not meaning to interrupt but needing to say it. “The first time that meant – what it meant.”

John smiles and Sherlock lets himself see it, looking warily into John’s eyes now. “It’s the first emotional morning after, as it were,” he says. He pulls Sherlock into his arms and hugs him tightly. “I get it,” he says again as Sherlock’s arms come around his shoulders instinctively. “Maybe it was too soon to go out and try to just shut it all away when it’s still so new and rather incredible. Maybe this is one thing that you can’t shut off. If that’s the case, I’m frankly rather pleased, if you want to know.”

Sherlock’s eyes are closed, his cheek resting on John’s head and he feels his entire being drinking in John’s proximity and touch with the same amount of relief and heady satisfaction that an addict receives with the first hit after a long dry spell. He loves John. Is addicted to John. It was too soon to try to turn all of that off and attempt just behave normally in public around him. He feels that the bonding process is still incomplete and wants nothing more than to complete it, for however long it takes. “I’m addicted to you,” he says aloud, his eyes still closed.

John makes a very contented sound at this. “It’s quite mutual, you know.” For a long time after that, neither of them speaks; they just stand there in the major’s office with their arms around each other. Finally John says, “What if we try for a compromise? We try a little deduction and I try to give you some incentive to solve it?”

Sherlock’s interest sparks in spite of the hole of want. “What sort of incentive?”

John’s voice is low and seductive in his ear, his lips brushing Sherlock’s skin. “Well, we can’t have sex in here, obviously, but what if I… get you started, as it were?”

“What do you mean?” Sherlock’s pulse spikes.

“Come here.” John steers him over to the window, turning Sherlock to face it and putting himself behind him. His arms are still around Sherlock’s middle. “Watch them,” he instructs. “Figure it out. Use all of those observational skills of yours. I’ll just… how did you put it once, years back? I’ll be your conductor of light, to the best of my abilities.”

Evidently John’s notion of conducting light is very hands on, Sherlock thinks, as John’s palms are smoothing across his chest and abdomen. He has to fight to suppress any sort of vocal reaction. “And this is supposed to – not distract me?” he manages to get out.

John’s laugh is dark in his ear. “Sort of,” he says easily, not remotely put off this. “It’s an experiment. I’m trying to give you a bit of what you want, or need, just enough to – sustain you while you work. Maybe it won’t work, but any excuse to touch you is worth a try, don’t you think?”

Sherlock privately agrees wholeheartedly. He puts his hands on top of John’s and makes himself say, “I don’t know…” It’s weak, though, and John will know it.

If he does, he chooses not to confront Sherlock over it. “Concentrate,” John says instead, his chin on Sherlock’s shoulder. “What do you see? Is anything out of place? Anyone behaving unusually? What do we know?”

“That it has to be one of Deacon’s men,” Sherlock says, hardly breathing. John’s touch is leaving trails of pleasure on his skin through his clothing. The questions help, though; his brain is beginning to find its tracks of focus once more.

“How do we know that?” If the touch was any lighter, it would be ticklish, but John knows precisely how to touch him.

“Lestrade said that all the invoices came through this office.” Sherlock trains his eyes on the officers at the edges of the yard. “The captain on the right: he’s twitchy, but I suspect it’s because he’s having an affair rather than embezzlement.”

John’s hands don’t falter. “How do we know that?”

“New haircut. New shoes. Sprucing himself up for the mistress. Lines around his eyes suggestive of late nights, not enough sleep, and that’s already his second coffee of the day.”

John sounds astonished. (Even after all this time, he can still astonish John.) “How do you know that?”

Sherlock points. “Coffee cup on the bench, same label: same café. Not a very impressive deduction, honestly.”

John hums a sound of approval in his ear. “Brilliant,” he murmurs, contradicting Sherlock. “Go on. What else do you see?”

Sherlock swallows; John’s fingers are pressing into his nipples through the layers of his suit and shirt, his coat pulled back to allow John access. He can feel himself twitch and begin to stiffen. “The – lieutenant with the clipboard,” he says, the words somehow coming out in the correct order. “Probably not him.”

“How’s that?” John’s hands untuck his shirt and slip up under his shirt.

“Too new. Recent transfer here. I recognise his face from the personnel list. Not a deduction at all, I’m afraid.”

“Still good,” John assures him. He shifts closer. “What else?”

Sherlock trains his gaze over the recruits, who had been standing and listening to an instructor and are now spreading out into formation. “Where did you train?” he asks instead, the question coming instinctively to his lips.

“Fenham Barracks, Newcastle upon Tyne,” John tells him, his lips at the nape of Sherlock’s neck.

“You did all this?”

“Of course. Year after year.”

Sherlock opens his mouth, then stops.

“Go on,” John tells him, unbuttoning his shirt now to get better access. “Ask whatever you were just going to say.”

“Did you ever oversee the training?” Sherlock asks. “Give the orders, like Major Deacon?” Speech is becoming difficult as he hardens still further. Good thing no one is looking their way. The sun will be reflecting off the windows from this angle at this time of the day, but even so.

“Mm-hm.” John’s mouth nips at his ear, his voice as low and sultry as it goes, and Sherlock feels weak. The difference between now and before it was all said, before John was actively trying to have this effect on him, or at least actively pursuing his desires to act as freely as he would have liked, is ground-shaking. “Do you like the thought of that?” he goes on, his hands low on Sherlock’s abdomen. “Me commanding a lot of people at once?”

Sherlock’s mouth fills unexpectedly with saliva and he can only make a sound of fervent acquiescence to this. He swallows as John laughs gently and says, “I like it when you get authoritative. Especially with other people.”

John’s chuckle resonates into Sherlock’s neck. “Do you think about that?” he asks, his voice light on the surface with currents of darker undertone. “Me barking out orders at my squadron?”

Sherlock shivers, imagining it vividly. “Sometimes…” He swallows again, his eyes closed. “John…” He puts his hands over John’s and pushes them lower, half-expecting John to resist and tell him to do his job, solve the case.

He doesn’t, though, taking Sherlock’s extremely obvious hint and sliding his hands down to cup the erection trapped in his trousers. “Keep going,” John breathes. “What else?”

Sherlock opens his eyes, leaning actively back into John. “I think about you in training like this, doing field exercises, marching…”

He feels John’s laugh almost more than he hears it. “I meant what else do you observe, but I’ll take that,” John says. He sounds amused but also pleased. “I was always good at the formation exercises, though.”

Sherlock exhales vocally, looking out at the young recruits and seeing John in amongst them in his mind’s eye. He must have said John’s name again because now John is kissing his neck and unzipping his trousers, his small (perfect) hands slipping into Sherlock’s underwear to (finally, mercifully) begin stroking him. Sherlock twists his head back and John doesn’t deny him this, either, kissing his open mouth, tongue rubbing against his. It’s not just John’s hands on his skin, Sherlock thinks hazily. It’s all of it – being intimate with John, being close to him. Kissing him, especially now, with the knowledge that John really does feel the same way, is exquisite. It’s what he was made for and never knew it before John was there.

John breaks off too quickly, though. “Sher – we have to – ” His hands slow a little, though Sherlock can feel his heart pounding into his back. “The case,” John insists. “The sooner we solve it, the sooner we can do this.”

“John – ” Sherlock can hear the note of pleading that can’t be kept from his voice.

“I mean it. You can’t just – come all over the floor in here,” John says firmly, and Sherlock’s entire body convulses at the mental image. John keeps touching him, but not enough to work him into an orgasm. It’s still very pleasant, though, his fingers stroking and cupping his testicles. “Think,” he reminds Sherlock. “What do you see?”

Sherlock groans despite himself. He can feel John’s answering arousal even through his coat, its hardness protruding into the underside of Sherlock’s cheek. He pushes himself back against it, grinding against John in circular motions, and is rewarded by the sound of John cursing softly. “I see – a major overseeing a training exercise that a captain could easily handle on his own,” he manages, the observation occurring only just then, in the moment. “Which begs the question of why he would rather be outside doing that instead of here in his office.”

John’s breath draws in sharply. “Indeed,” he agrees. “Or why he wants to be seen as having been outside rather than in here.”

Sherlock’s mental senses sharpen. He looks around the office and spots it: an empty rectangle on the tiles with a miniscule amount of dust surrounding it. “Paper shredder,” he says, half-panting and pointing with his right hand. “The invoices were destroyed here, but the shredder’s been moved since. The next question is: does the major have an accomplice or has someone stolen his shredder?”

John’s hands stop moving. “Who else has keys to…” he trails off, and Sherlock looks back at him over his shoulder, thinking of that rather nice watch he just saw.

“The lieutenant,” they say at the same time. Sherlock sighs in frustration as John stops touching him.

He comes around to face Sherlock, looking apologetic. “Going to have to save this,” he says, giving Sherlock’s achingly-hard erection one last stroke. “Shall I zip you away, or would you prefer to…?”

Sherlock grimaces. “I’ll do it.” He gets himself back into his trousers with no small amount of discomfort and frustration. “If we’re not going to finish this now, I could really do with a cold shower.”

“Sorry,” John says, sounding genuinely apologetic. “If it’s any help, I’m in a similar state, myself.”

“I know,” Sherlock informs him. “I could feel it.”

John reaches down and adjusts himself and the sight doesn’t help Sherlock a bit. “Come on,” he says. “Let’s go and get our man.”

“In a minute,” Sherlock says, his voice coming out sounding strangled. “You can’t possibly expect me to run anywhere like this! Just – give me a moment here!”

John laughs, and that doesn’t help, either. Sherlock looks at him, and after a moment he begins to laugh, too. “Look at us,” John says, still snickering. “This is ridiculous! Maybe we should have stayed home…”

“I told you we should have,” Sherlock says, trying to glower, but it doesn’t work at all.

***

Both Major Deacon and his sidekick with the expensive new watch have been quietly arrested, Lestrade is happy, and Sherlock could not possibly care less. They burst into the flat and thunder up the stairs, nearly tripping over each other in their haste. Sherlock has no idea about John, but his erection never went fully away, and the rush of adrenaline that comes with the successful solving of yet another case has caused it to go hard as a ramrod again, aching in pulses of driving need as they stumble into the flat, pulling their clothing off as soon as they’re inside. They start kissing and somehow find themselves in the kitchen, John’s hands wild on his body. John hoists him directly onto the kitchen table, pushing the bowl of oranges to one side and depositing Sherlock roughly onto its surface. One hand reaches down, probing, and Sherlock pulls his left foot onto the table to give John access. John has a tube of lubricant in his hands – where did he get lubricant from? (Never mind, Sherlock tells himself) – and is squeezing it onto his fingers before returning them for a second pass, slipping into Sherlock and twisting.

“You’re bloody brilliant,” John breathes against his mouth, and Sherlock groans. “You got them to say enough to incriminate themselves in what, three questions? Bloody amazing!”

“John…” It’s a plea and a ragged one at that, but Sherlock doesn’t care. His erection is flat up against his belly, smearing damply onto his skin. “Please!”

John’s fingers are thrusting into him but he puts his mouth onto Sherlock’s and kisses him violently. After a moment, he removes his fingers and wraps them around Sherlock’s erection to tug it roughly, and Sherlock gasps against his mouth. “You ready?” John asks, his voice so husky with need that it’s strained. Sherlock nods frantically and makes a sound rather high-pitched to allow for dignity but it doesn’t matter. John grasps both of his hips. “Lie back and hold on!”

Sherlock does exactly that, reaching back and to the side to grip the edges of the table and moaning loudly as John grabs his hips, pulling them forward to drive himself into Sherlock in one hard, smooth push, making as much noise as Sherlock is. He leans forward over the table between Sherlock’s thighs and Sherlock puts his legs around John’s back to hold him there. All of the build-up from the morning has made this unstoppable, both of them needing this so badly they could barely function by the time they got back to the flat. John slams into him and it’s good, even with the slight ache of the hasty preparation. “Harder!”

John groans and accelerates his pace immediately. “I’ve mentioned recently that I love you, haven’t I?” he pants, the question entirely rhetorical as he pounds into Sherlock hard and fast, at what Sherlock would normally consider his ‘home stretch’ speed. It seems John is capable of going even harder than that, though, because they’ve only just started.

It doesn’t matter. “Harder,” Sherlock requests again, or demands. He puts all ten fingers into John’s hair and twists, tightening his legs around John’s back. John’s front is rubbing lightly against the underside of his erection as he thrusts, and although it feels good, it’s too light. He needs more. “Touch me!” he begs.

John makes a desperate sound. The bowl of oranges is vibrating against the table as the table takes the beating of having two grown men copulating on top of it. John shifts his weight and attempts to reach between them to take Sherlock in hand when, without warning, the table splits down its centre and deposits them both on the floor, the oranges bouncing down and rolling about on the floor with them. “Jesus!” John sounds more surprised than anything else, his hands reaching for Sherlock’s head and catching it just in time to keep it from hitting the kitchen floor.

“Don’t stop!” Sherlock is frantic, digging into John’s back with his heels, and John growls and pushes him even farther back and gets his fist around Sherlock at last, jerking him harder and faster than ever before and Sherlock hears a series of wails tear from his throat in a steady crescendo of desperate need. It turns into breathless, voiceless suspension, his entirely body wound tighter than a spring and then he bucks into John’s fist and comes with force, his teeth gritted as streams and streams erupt onto his stomach and onto John. He can’t seem to stop coming now that it’s finally started, and John is swearing breathlessly, his hips snapping forward again and again despite the wreckage of the table digging splinters into Sherlock’s back as the orgasm wracks his frame.

It stops at last, white flowers blooming into fireworks behind his retinas, and just as his legs begin to go limp, John’s back spasms and he comes hard, his breath stopping in his throat, buried so deeply into Sherlock’s body that Sherlock thinks he should taste it as John floods him with his release. There’s one more hard, deep thrust, another stream of heartfelt profanity from John’s mouth, another rush of heat within him, and then John collapses onto him, still inside him. “My God,” he says against Sherlock’s shoulder, his back heaving. His breath is leaving damp condensation on Sherlock’s shoulder and Sherlock loves it, loves feeling any and all of John on his skin like this.

“You can call me Sherlock,” he pants, the joke feeble, but John’s harder exhalation of laughter is worth it.

They lie there, struggling to get their breath back amid the shards of wood and scattered oranges, and after a little John says, “The table. Fuck. We broke another table.”

“Mrs Hudson’s table,” Sherlock adds, his heart rate finally slowing to normal rates.

“Think she’ll be upset?” John is still speaking into his shoulder.

“It’s rather a moot point now,” Sherlock points out.

“Maybe we can fix it.”

“The splinters in my back would suggest otherwise,” Sherlock says dryly, and John lifts his head, looking concerned.

“Are you all right?”

Sherlock shrugs this off. “I’ll be fine.”

John surveys the pieces of table on both sides. “I think you’re right about the table being past salvaging,” he says. He pulls out of Sherlock at last, bringing a sticky flow of mess with it. He gets up carefully and pulls Sherlock up with him. “Let me see your back.”

“Mm. In a minute,” Sherlock says, wrapping his arms around John instead, still craving the proximity even after the act itself.

John indulges him and holds him, not minding Sherlock’s need to crowd up against him, face buried in the softness of John’s hair. Instead, his arms are tight around Sherlock’s back. “I love you,” he says, perhaps sensing instinctively that Sherlock wants to be told again, which he does.

The words send floods of warmth coursing through his veins and Sherlock hears himself make a sound not unlike that of a very contented cat. “I love you, too.”

John’s arms tighten. “Good,” he says, sounding satisfied. His fingers begin to probe, searching out small bits of wood in Sherlock’s skin. “Shower?” he asks. “The splinters will come out easier if your skin is warm.”

Sherlock assents readily. “And then I suppose we’ll have to deal with the table.”

John pulls back just enough to look into his eyes. “First things first,” he says firmly, and kisses Sherlock, and all thoughts of the splinters in his back or of the table dissolve entirely.

***

Mrs Hudson is even less happy than anticipated, her voice reaching spectacularly shrill tones previously not experienced. She goes on at length about how this particular table had apparently belonged to her mother’s sister, who had received it from a treasured uncle in turn. She natters on and on and Sherlock stands where he is and endures it, trying not to sigh too obviously. With a bit of bad luck on their part, she discovered them carrying the pieces down to the bins, each of them bringing half of it, the splinters already swept up and put into the kitchen bin upstairs. She’d exclaimed and made dismayed sounds and then the indignation had come next. She’d followed them back upstairs and has been going on about it ever since, both of them standing in the empty space in the middle of the kitchen as she airs her every opinion on the subject.

“… honestly, I don’t even see how it was possible to a break a whole table, even you,” Mrs Hudson says, which is rather petty and obviously aimed at him, specifically.

Sherlock clenches his jaw and presses his lips together. “I didn’t know it was a treasured family heirloom,” he says, heavy on the sarcasm. “If it was so special to you, perhaps you should have kept it downstairs.”

“It’s not that it was all that special, Sherlock, that’s not the point – ”

“Then what is?” Sherlock interrupts, his temper kindled.

“Sherlock,” John says, keeping his voice down, though it also sounds as though he’s suppressing the urge to laugh.

Mrs Hudson wrings her hands. “I’d just like to know what you were even doing, to break a great big table like that, is all!”

Sherlock’s irritation overflows its bounds. “We had sex on it, all right?” he snaps.

Mrs Hudson’s kindly face is shocked. Then she recovers herself and instantly changes her entire demeanour. Her hands come up to her face, her mouth opening in an O of delight. “Oh, Sherlock!” she exclaims, and transfers her beaming gaze to John as well. “How wonderful! Oh, that’s just – that’s splendid! I can’t tell you how pleased I am!”

Sherlock is still irritated. “Oh, for God’s sake,” he says. “It’s not as though we just discovered the cure for cancer or something!” Beside him, John snorts with laughter, unable to contain it any longer.

Mrs Hudson ignores this, still pleased as punch. She waves her hand in front of her face. “Forget all that. It’s fine. It’s lovely. It was just a silly old table. I’m just so pleased for you both! After all this time!” She fixes John with her eyes and turns a bit stern. “It certainly took you long enough,” she comments, but immediately pats him on the shoulder. “Not that anyone’s complaining now, I daresay! Oh, this is wonderful! I’ll go down and bake you a cake!”

“Mrs Hudson – you really don’t have to – ” John starts, taking a step after her already retreating figure, but she won’t have it.

“No, no, let me!” She stops and turns. “You take your young man out for supper, why don’t you? And when you’re back, come by and we’ll have a slice of cake together!”

She goes and John looks at Sherlock. “I don’t even know whether you’re supposed to be my ‘young man’ or I’m yours,” he says. “Which of us was she talking to there?”

Sherlock shakes his head, grateful for the respite at last. “Who can know,” he says rhetorically. “It’s not a bad idea, though.”

John smiles at him and comes closer, putting his arms around Sherlock’s waist. “No, it’s not,” he agrees. “Well, ‘young man’ of mine, where shall we go?”

He’s smiling up into Sherlock’s face and Sherlock feels a rush of dizzy happiness all over again. “I don’t care,” he says, and means it. “Anywhere. And then after the cake business – ”

“Yes,” John says, and it’s a promise.

***

After two weeks of this, Sherlock begins to worry that his constant need for John has not yet shown any signs of slowing or fading. He feels restless, almost irritable, after as little as twenty minutes with no contact. He can keep it under control sufficiently to read or check his email or blog if some part of John is touching him, but even then his focus has suffered. And when John goes to work, it’s nearly unbearable. Sherlock has actually called to make last-minute appointments just to see John, and John has nicely not even got angry about this, his face brightening even as his eyebrows lift in an unspoken oh really? upon seeing Sherlock in the doorway of his examining room. He’s only had to work four days since this began for real, but even four days have proven terribly difficult. On the fourth day, the receptionist told Sherlock when he called that she was terribly sorry but that Doctor Watson was booked solid through the afternoon and he’d had a terrible twenty minutes on the sofa, pulled into himself and aching fiercely for John’s presence, his heady proximity. His phone had pinged with a text, though. He’d snatched at it to find a picture of John’s smiling face, clearly a self-administered photograph with the message, I’m sorry there wasn’t time! Only two hours, though, and then I’ll be home! Sherlock had felt approximately sixty-seven things at once, all flushing through his frame like a chemical rush. He’d alternated between pacing, cleaning, starting a new experiment only to abandon it immediately, unable to concentrate, then launched himself out onto the pavement on a whim to buy flowers, which he then placed on the desk, as they have yet to replace the kitchen table.

John had come home exactly when he’d said, explaining that he’d cut the last appointment short just to be sure to get a cab and get home as fast as possible, all the while matter-of-factly stripping off his clothes as Sherlock had watched from the sofa, his mouth falling open. John had had to remind him to get his own clothes off and he’d scrambled to comply, stepping over the new coffee table to get to John in his hurry. Somehow they’d ended up in his chair, John in his lap, lowering himself onto Sherlock, fingers clenching his hair, and the relief of it, of being joined again, was nearly as powerful as the pleasure of it. Sherlock’s scattered and irritable thoughts had finally calmed, looking up into John’s face as John panted down at him, encouraging Sherlock as he thrust up into him, hips snapping up beyond his own control. John had helped, too, throwing his weight down onto Sherlock until Sherlock had come, cries guttering out from his throat. John had given him a moment or two to recover, then half-stood, half-knelt on the chair in front of Sherlock to let him finish him off with his mouth. Once he’d come, they’d somehow ended up slithered onto the floor, John’s chest heaving damply against his own, arms around each other, until John had finally laughed and said hello properly, kissed him, and said he was going to start supper. Sherlock had reluctantly put his clothes back on and gone to join him, and John hadn’t told him off for standing behind him and kissing his neck as he chopped onions rather than actually helping.

It’s worrying. How is he supposed to function like a normal human like this? It’s been two days since the chair incident and now they’re in Sherlock’s bed, his heart is still racing. They were watching the news, hands and legs in each other’s laps on the sofa, until John announced that it was boring and slid to his knees on the floor, his fingers slipping the zip of Sherlock’s trousers down before pulling them and his underwear down to his ankles and off. “Shirt,” he’d ordered, and Sherlock had complied at once.

“Are you giving me orders? I’m not a soldier,” he’d said, though the fact that he’d already obeyed mitigated the statement somewhat.

John had dropped his head into Sherlock’s lap to suck his already-interested penis into his mouth, able to capture nearly all of it at once in its then-current state. He’d listened to Sherlock gasp incoherently as he sucked him into hardness, then lifted off and said, his eyes glinting, “You’re always free interpret such things as requests, if you prefer.”

Sherlock hadn’t been able to answer and John hadn’t waited, anyway, returning his mouth to what it had been doing and Sherlock was reduced to helpless, breathy moans, clutching the sofa cushions behind his head and thrusting compulsively into John’s mouth, his legs over John’s shoulders and squeezing. He’d come down John’s throat with a cry of absolute ecstasy and then, when the white spots had cleared from his eyes, found John’s eyes and said, “Bedroom. Now.”

John had stood, his trousers tented obscenely in front of him. He’d hauled Sherlock to his shaking legs and kissed him hard, his clothed body quivering with need as he pressed himself to Sherlock’s skin. They’d stumbled down the corridor, still kissing, and had to stop just outside the bedroom for all four of their hands to tangle together in their frantic attempts to get John out of his clothes.

“Take your socks off,” Sherlock ordered, and John stripped them. Sherlock had smirked and John caught it, shaking his head slightly.

“You forget, Sherlock, I was a captain. Not a general. I gave orders and took them just as often as I gave them. I’m good at doing what needs to be done as the situation calls for it.” He pulled Sherlock’s mouth back to his and kissed him for a long, intense minute, then released him and said, “But now I’m going to fuck you. All right?”

“Yes – please – I want you to – ” Sherlock had tripped over his words in his haste, and John hadn’t wasted his breath talking any more after that point, spending the minimal of time on preparation, getting Sherlock open with his fingers and then pushing into him with a groan of relief and gut-deep pleasure both.

Now it’s over and Sherlock’s arms are wrapped possessively around John, and for the moment his need is sated. He has John right here, exactly where he wants him. John’s arm is curled over his middle and it’s perfect. He does not require further reassurance or confirmation, though – it never goes amiss, really.

As though on cue, John shifts closer still and presses his lips into Sherlock’s chest, his eyes closed. “I love you,” he says. “You’re phenomenal. In every single way. Including at this.”

“At – sex?” Sherlock is slightly taken by surprise by this, albeit pleasantly so.

“Yeah.” John’s face is smiling, his eyes still closed. “I love when you get all needy and demanding like that.”

Sherlock’s face warms a little but he doesn’t comment on this. “And when it’s the other way, you still think – ?”

“Oh, yeah.” John sounds quite positive. “Absolutely. You’re a very good lover, you know. You’re far more considerate than anyone would ever think. But then, they don’t know you for real.”

Sherlock turns this over in his brain for a moment. “No,” he says after a bit. “Only you do.”

John opens his eyes and lifts his head, smiling at him. “Yeah. I do.”

He lowers his mouth to Sherlock’s and kisses him for a long, slow, terribly intimate moment, and Sherlock closes his eyes and lets himself drown in it, drinking it in. He reaches up for John’s face, holding his head with both hands, his fingers in John’s soft hair. When it ends a little while later, Sherlock’s heart is thumping in his chest. He doesn’t mean to sound clingy, but it’s far too late to preserve any illusions on that score as it is. “It scares me, how easily we could have missed this,” he says, saying it out loud for the first time.

John’s face is the most beautiful thing in the world at the moment. Hovering just above Sherlock’s, it becomes the moon, an entire planet for him. There is nothing else but John. “How do you figure?” John asks, his voice gentle and very tender. Patient, Sherlock thinks. John can be so patient when he wants to.

“Just – all the other things that could have happened,” he tries. “You could have never walked in on me that day. I could have chosen not to tell you that it was Mary who shot me, only I was afraid for your safety. You could have decided that Afghanistan was an aberration not to be repeated. Or Sholto could have gone to see you when you were wounded. If he had, maybe we wouldn’t have even met in the first place.”

John shakes his head. Some of the lines around his eyes have come out at the mention of Sholto, but he doesn’t shield himself from Sherlock in any way. “No,” he says, and it’s a beautiful word. “Not possible. I would have figured it out eventually, with you. I’m not as bright as you and obviously it took me a stupidly long time to get there, but I did. And I would have found out about Mary. The lies would have come out eventually. And how do you think I ever would have let up at you about wanting to know who shot you?”

Sherlock concedes this point, but is waiting for the rebuttal to his final point. “And,” he prompts.

John caresses the side of Sherlock’s face, his small thumb tracing the line of Sherlock’s lower lip. “The last part is – that never would have happened, Sherlock. I’ve already told you that I never loved him. It was one time. I barely even touched him.”

“You kissed him,” Sherlock states. It’s been a sore point, though he’s tried to keep this fact private. Somehow this bothers him more than any of the other people John has kissed over the years, and there have been many of these.

As though to counteract it, John bends and touches his lips to Sherlock’s once, then again, lingering longer the second time. “I did,” he admits. “But I was drunk. And sad. And not expecting it. Once it started, it just – I told you about all that. It was just a case of a soldier in a war zone grasping at life in any form he could get it. It had very little to do with him.” He falls silent for a moment, then adds, “And you know, it wasn’t just that he never came to see me. He avoided me actively. He had to see me to process my discharge, since I was invalided home. I was angry about being discharged, angry that I was unfit to serve, angry that I was being sent home when I didn’t even know what ‘home’ meant any more. I hadn’t been in London in twelve years except on leave. I didn’t want to go. And I was angry at him, too. That night had happened maybe three weeks before I got shot. It was recent. So I brought it up, confronted him about it.”

Sherlock discovers that he is listening intently, hardly breathing. “And?”

“He denied it ever happened,” John says shortly, a crease appearing between his eyebrows. “I don’t remember what I said, exactly. Something to the effect of him not having come, and he said he’d got busy, reminded me that we were at war and all that. I went on and said something about how he could have taken the time, considering what had happened that time, and he just got all curt and said that it had never happened. I started to get angry and he kept interrupting me and finally threatened to make my honourable discharge a dishonourable one if I kept up my ‘insistence on making up slander’, as he put it. I was furious, but I kept my mouth shut. Dishonourable discharge means no pension, no support, nothing. He also sneered at me for having started seeing the trauma counsellor they’d assigned me to and that hurt, too.”

Sherlock doesn’t know what to say to this, but feels vehemently indignant on John’s part. “You wouldn’t have even had a choice about that while you were still actively serving!”

“No, I didn’t,” John says, biting the words out, but Sherlock knows that the ire is not directed at him. “I realised later – much later, maybe, but – that he must have panicked a little after the fact. I mean, that could mean a court martial or his own dishonourable discharge, hitting on a junior officer like that. The whole thing happened at his initiative. I’d never made a pass or anything like that, never flirted with him – never even thought of it. If I’d talked about it and exposed him, it could have cost him his entire career. But he could have been nicer about it. Apologised later on, when he realised I hadn’t said anything to anyone. And I could have.” John pauses, the hand not touching Sherlock’s face propping up his head. “The thing is, I’d really looked up to him. That’s sort of ingrained into the entire experience of the military hierarchy. He was very good. I respected him. When it comes to being in an active war zone, you just have to be able to trust that your superiors know what they’re doing, and with some it comes easier than others. He was someone that did command that automatic respect. But then his incident happened and he went to pieces.”

“Was he discharged after it?” Sherlock asks. He’s looked for the file, of course, but the specific record of the end of his career had been redacted even in the military’s secure database.

“Yes, on the grounds of emotional/mental trauma,” John tells him dryly. “How’s that for a good twist of irony? He refused to keep his appointments and his behaviour fell apart, or so I heard. He became an embarrassment. When it happened, I was only just back in London. He never reached out to me, checked to make sure I was all right. He was too absorbed in his own drama, his own problems, and it was around then that I realised one day that I’d lost all respect for him. He’d always been good under a certain type of pressure, but once he’d lost face, he just crumpled like tin. It made me realise the measure of what he really was. Is. I kept in touch myself, but it was out of kindness, since I’d heard that everyone else had abandoned him. The shoe was on the other foot by then. I was the one who had it together and he was the mess. I could be kind to him even if I’d lost my respect for him. You should have heard him even at the wedding, Sherlock – he still managed to get in a dig about me seeing a therapist, as though he’s above all that or something. And you saw how he refused to give up his uniform and all that. He won’t move on or learn how to process his experience like an adult, and that’s just the way he is.” He moves his hand back to the side of Sherlock’s face to cradle it. “So there you have it: the whole story. Do you see why he’s not a threat in any way? He’s a small person and not who I’d thought he was. And even if he’d come to see me when I was shot or sent some sort of message – I was never interested in that with him, Sherlock. It had never even crossed my mind until it happened. Even if I had never met you, it never would have happened.” His eyes search Sherlock’s intently. “Okay?”

Sherlock nods, his eyes on John’s. “Okay,” he says, and for the first time, allows himself to feel cautiously relieved about this. He does believe it, he realises. Then he says, spontaneously, “Thank you.”

This makes John laugh, a sudden sound in the dark of the room. “You’re welcome,” he says, and puts their mouths together again. Sherlock puts his arms around him and John rolls back onto him as they kiss, their bodies twining and rubbing together as it goes, and it’s pure bliss, Sherlock thinks, his voice making unrelated sounds out loud as they frot against each other. It’s perfection. The only question now is how to stop needing it every single second of every single day for the rest of his life.

***

The next time John has to work, Lestrade calls with a case. Sherlock decides to go and see how serious it is before bothering John at the clinic, which he hopes John will appreciate. It ends up being disappointingly simple and he solves it in less than an hour, pointing out to Lestrade that even he could have solved it had he not failed to overlook the refrigerator.

“Bugger. You’re right,” Lestrade admits, rubbing his temples. “Did you already suspect it was the courier? Before you got here?”

“No,” Sherlock responds, frowning at him. “Why?”

Lestrade shrugs. “I just wondered why you didn’t bring John. Thought maybe it was because you already knew.”

“No.” Sherlock clears his throat. “He’s working today.”

“Ah.” Lestrade gives him a careful once-over. “Everything all right there, then?”

“With John?” Sherlock privately wonders what Lestrade is angling at. (Does he suspect? He is torn between wanting to keep it a secret and wanting everyone in the world to know, even Mycroft.) “Yes, fine,” he says stiffly. “Why do you ask?”

Lestrade is too casual. “Just wondered, is all. Usually he comes with you. That’s all.”

Sherlock’s shoulders are still tensed. “It’s fine,” he repeats. “It’s – good.” He clams up, wondering if the last was too much, but Lestrade just lifts his brows and shrugs.

“Great. Good, then,” he says. “Anyway, thanks for coming. Your help is invaluable, as always.”

Sherlock nods at him and turns away, striding in the direction of the tube. It’s only a little after four and John will still be at work. No point rushing home, then. His phone buzzes in his pocket and he knows instinctively that it’s John. He pulls it out to read the message. It’s short. What are you up to? Sherlock stops and texts back: Not much. Lestrade called with a case, but it was terribly easy. Transparent. I’m just heading home, or I would have told you about it. He presses send, then waits a moment or two to see if John will respond right away, but there is no answer. He sighs and continues toward the tube. Perhaps at the next break between patients, then.

He rides back to the Baker Street stop and is walking up the stairs twenty minutes later. He opens the door to the flat and stops in his tracks. John is in the middle of the sitting room floor doing push-ups, wearing nothing but his boots and combat fatigues, the ones Sherlock had custom-tailored to cling to his arse (and other parts), tighter in the thighs than they used to be, too. It’s the back view that has drawn Sherlock’s eyes like a magnet now. John has a particularly nice arse, round and firm and the perfect size for his hands to cup, and the material of the fatigues is thin enough to see that John isn’t wearing anything underneath them. His back is gleaming with sweat, his muscles sliding beneath his skin, and Sherlock’s mouth is suddenly full of excess saliva. He swallows hard.

“Oh, hello,” John says casually, turning around and leaning back on his arms, his boots on the carpet with his knees bent and sprawling open, breathing hard. The pose makes his tricep and pectoral muscles bulge and Sherlock suspects that he’s well aware of this. “Glad you came straight home,” John adds. “I wasn’t going to pester you, since you said you were on your way.”

His voice is light but his eyes are a little too knowing and Sherlock swallows again. “I took the tube,” he says, the words sounding utterly meaningless as they leave his mouth. “I… what are you doing?”

John smiles and shrugs a little. “Push-ups. Trying to get back into proper shape.”

Sherlock takes off his coat and lays it on the sofa, not taking his eyes from John. “There is absolutely nothing objectionable about your current shape,” he says, and John’s smile grows.

“Take your clothes off and come here,” he says. There is both command and invitation in his voice, subtle enough on both counts to be interpreted as either one, and Sherlock doesn’t even know which one he is responding to more, but it doesn’t matter: his fingers are practically stripping the buttons from his shirt in his haste, his trousers kicked off seconds later, socks wrested from his feet and thrown away, and then John crawls over on his hands and knees, slides his hands up to Sherlock’s arse to squeeze through his underwear and begins to mouth his rising erection through the damp cotton until it’s poking out over the top, the waistband unable to restrain or contain it.

“John – ” The name chokes itself out of his mouth in a gust and John grabs at his hands and pulls him down to the carpet, on his back with Sherlock above him. He pushes Sherlock’s underwear down and they groan simultaneously. Sherlock’s bare erection is rubbing against the worn-smooth fabric of the fatigues, but more than that, against the hard protrusion of John’s erection beneath it and another moan shudders out of him. “You’re wearing – you – ”

“I know,” John purrs, smirking up at him over his loss of verbal functionality. His hands are on Sherlock’s arse, pulling Sherlock even more tightly against him. “I love it. It always works, doesn’t it? When I wear these?”

“What works?” Sherlock pants, trying to remember how to make his brain function. (It’s not possible. Being naked and writhing against John absolutely takes precedence over thinking functions every time.)

“This,” John states. “I wear the fatigues, and you want to fuck me. You do, don’t you. You’re gagging for it.”

Sherlock hears himself make a sound that would otherwise mortify him, but he is incapable of objecting. His penis is leaving wet trails on the material of the fatigues. “John…”

“Say it,” John orders, his own voice going breathless in the way that Sherlock particularly loves. “Tell me you want to fuck me!”

Sherlock’s chin jerks once. “Iwanttofuckyou.” The words are garbled and indistinct, but it doesn’t matter. He swallows the saliva in his mouth, blinks several times and manages to add, “Take these off. Now. Please!”

“You do want it badly,” John teases, but Sherlock isn’t so far gone that he hasn’t taken note of the state of John’s pupils and pulse. “Saying please and everything,” John adds, but he’s already lifting to kiss Sherlock, hard, their tongues clashing together, biting at each other’s mouths. John kicks off the combat boots and somehow they get him out of the fatigues, their frantic efforts making both of them harder than ever, and by the time it’s done Sherlock’s erection is already pushing into John’s cleft. He moans, knowing he has to hold back, prepare John properly, but he might actually lose it if he has to wait too long.

“John – ” The word is agonised. “I can’t – I need – ”

“Yes – go!” John urges, his voice higher and breathier than it was before. “It’s all right, I got myself ready while I was waiting for you – so just – ”

With desperate relief, Sherlock doesn’t wait any longer, pushing John’s right knee back and sinking into the heat of his body, the grip of it firm around his stiffness. The sounds John is making are positively obscene, his back arching up from the carpet as Sherlock pushes as deeply into him as he can possibly go. When he’s all the way in, he stops to give John a moment, but John evidently doesn’t want a moment.

He draws the leg that Sherlock isn’t pinning back along Sherlock’s side. “Keep going,” he says, exhaling through his mouth. “It feels so good. This is exactly what I wanted today.”

Sherlock concentrates on speaking and rotating his hips at the same time. “Is it?” he asks with difficulty. “Were you – oh – thinking about it – at work?”

“Mm-hm.” John gets his other leg free and squeezes both knees around Sherlock’s rib cage. “Harder!”

Sherlock stops trying to hold back and begins to go for real, the call of the rising pleasure already luring him into its depths like a siren song, and it is music of a fashion, the noises they’re both making, a duet of flesh joining flesh. He plunges into John with all his strength, their eyes locked on each other’s, mouths open as they breathe, unable to speak, joined at the core of their bodies. Then John’s voice takes on an even more frantic urgency, his hands grasping at Sherlock’s skin. Sherlock understands and reaches between them to tug at John’s erection. It’s wet in his hand and John comes after only three or four hard strokes, giving Sherlock the passing, hazy thought that he really must have already been quite worked up by the time he came home. After that there’s no time to think – a shiver flashes down his spine, his body trembling with need as it surges toward his climax.

John is gasping and gently replacing Sherlock’s hand on him with his own, urging Sherlock to do it, just let go. This releases something and Sherlock closes his eyes at last and feels his brain go completely offline as a brief madness of intense, absolute euphoria rages through his body like an electric storm. The apogee shakes through him, expelling from him in hot wetness, buried so far into John that they appeared to be fused together. It comes again, then a third time, his voice making sounds as obscene as John’s. “Oh, God,” John pants when Sherlock finally stops coming. “That was – holy shit!”

Sherlock cannot speak yet; spasms of pleasure are still shuddering through him, ebbing out in last spurts into John and he’s still thrusting weakly, his penis softening but still spending itself. Finally he lowers himself directly onto John’s chest, not caring a fig for the mess there, and turns his head sideways on John’s shoulder to recover, panting hotly onto John’s skin.

John puts his arms around Sherlock’s head and twists his fingers into his hair. “That was a table-breaker,” he says, his heart pounding against Sherlock’s through both their chests. “Good thing we stayed off the furniture this time. That was outstanding. One of our best, I’d say.”

“Mmmm.” Sherlock is not yet able to manage anything more than this, but he makes it sound positive, at least. John’s fingers feel good in his hair, his scalp sensitive enough to make this thoroughly enjoyable.

John presses kisses into his hair. “You’re phenomenal,” he says fervently. “Absolutely phenomenal. God that was good!”

Warmth that has nothing to do with the heat of his climax flushes down Sherlock’s back. He lifts his head and looks John in the eye again, not even lowering his mouth consciously, but they’re kissing again, so he must have done. He cannot imagine life without this now. The very concept is completely unbearable. He would die. John has become part of his very being, the fibres of him completely interwoven with everything that he himself is. The separation would be untenable. And he is fairly certain that John isn’t going anywhere, but it’s a source of anxiety nonetheless. He breaks the kiss off to put his fingers into John’s short, fine hair. “I love you,” he says, probably too intensely. “Don’t ever think that I don’t. No matter what else I say or do. Don’t even consider it for one second.”

John smiles so broadly that it makes Sherlock’s chest hurt. “I won’t,” he says. “As long as you remember the same thing about me.” He puts both hands on Sherlock’s face and rubs his thumbs over Sherlock’s cheekbones. “I have something for you.”

Sherlock blinks. “What? John – ”

“It’s small,” John reassures him. “Would you pass me the fatigues? Hopefully it didn’t fall out of my pocket.”

Frowning, Sherlock pulls himself out of John’s body with reluctance and reaches back for the trousers, careful to keep them right side up. “What is it?”

“You’ll see. Give those here.” John takes them from him and slips his hand into one of the pockets. He fishes about for a moment, then finds what he’s looking for, keeping it closed within his fist. He pauses, not giving whatever it is to Sherlock immediately. “Do you remember when Magnussen came here?” he asks.

Sherlock has set himself down on his side, pressed against John’s right. “Of course.” He waits, watching John’s face.

“You said something to his security blokes that’s always stuck with me,” John says. “You told one of them that if they knew who you were, then they would know who I was. And of course it’s absolutely true: I’m not me unless I’m with you, and I think it’s the same for you with me, or it is now, at any rate.”

“It always was,” Sherlock inserts, needing this to be clear.

John almost smiles, but his face is still serious. “It’s become true in an extremely profound way for both of us since this started, or possibly well before that. Either way – it’s just a symbolic thing, but I’d like you to have these,” he says, opening his hand.

Within it are two tattered, scratched identification discs – dog tags, Sherlock amends mentally. John’s dog tags. He looks up into John’s eyes, understanding immediately, his throat tightening. “John – ” He knows what this must mean for John, to give him these, of all things. It’s a tie to Afghanistan, possibly to Sholto (though he believes that there wasn’t all that much there, or at least he does now), and John is giving it to him.

John clears his throat. “In the field, we wear these for identification purposes, obviously. I won’t tell you how many times I needed them, to find out who someone was before he – yeah. Anyway, I’d like to think that if something ever happened to you and these were on you, they’d know who you were because they knew who I was.”

He puts them into Sherlock’s unresisting hand, two steel discs on ball chains, one shorter than the other, and closes Sherlock’s fingers over them. “I’ll wear them,” Sherlock says, his voice gone dry due to the tightness in his throat. “I’ll never take them off. I promise.”

John’s eyes have gone a bit glassy and he blinks hard at this. “I love you,” he says, and they kiss again, their mouths hungry, and Sherlock thinks again that it’s a hunger that satisfies even as it creates new depths of yearning. The tags are clutched in his fist around John’s back, and suddenly he doesn’t want to hold back any of his urges to say ridiculously sentimental things any more.

He pulls back just far enough to look John in the eyes. “Should we get married?” he asks, and as he hears it he wonders whether that’s a stupid way to propose to someone, but John’s opinion on the subject does rather matter. “I mean – maybe you think it would be redundant, given that we already live together and all that, but – ”

John swallows, blinking some more, but he’s fighting not to smile – not a teasing smile, but a genuine, very slightly shy, wonderful John-smile. “You want to marry me?” he asks, his eyes bright.

Sherlock almost hesitates. “Yes,” he says firmly. “Very much.”

“Oh, Jesus,” John says, touching his left eye, then the right, too, dabbing at them and partially shielding his face. “I’m an absolute – Yes. God, yes! I never in a million years thought you would even want to call us lovers, you know, not before a few weeks ago, and now – Christ. Look what you’ve done to me.”

Sherlock studies him, slightly concerned. “But that was a yes, as in, yes, you’ll marry me – ?”

John laughs, his eyes definitely wet. “Yes, that’s precisely what that was. I’d marry you tomorrow, Sherlock. I mean that. Anywhere. Any time. You just tell me when you want to and I’ll be there.”

“Could take a bit more than twenty-four hours to plan, if we do it properly,” Sherlock says seriously.

John’s eyebrows rise. “You want that? To do it ‘properly’? I thought you hated weddings!”

“Not my own wedding, obviously,” Sherlock tells him, and John laughs again and bends forward to kiss him for a very long time, his arms tight around Sherlock, a leg hooked over Sherlock’s thigh.

“God, I love you,” John says, so openly and with such obvious meaning that Sherlock’s gut clenches. “I’m so glad that Mrs Hudson knows, too, you know. I rather wanted to tell her before, but I didn’t even know what to call it, when it was sort of just sex, only it wasn’t ‘just’ anything, really.”

“I kind of wanted her to know, too,” Sherlock admits. “The table was sort of a drastic way of telling her, I suppose, but at least it got it out there.”

“Should we go buy another one tonight?” John asks, arms still around him.

Sherlock nods. “All right. And then maybe we should go and look at rings tomorrow?”

If John’s face grows any more beautiful it will kill him, Sherlock thinks. “Yes,” John says. “Definitely. Let’s absolutely do that.”

Sherlock sits up and fastens the two chains around his neck, straightens them, then asks, “How do they look?”

John pushes himself up into a sitting position and reaches out to touch the longer one, hanging directly over the bullet scar over Sherlock’s heart. “Words fail me,” he says softly. “You look – you look like you’re mine. It’s my name sitting over your heart. I can’t even tell you what it means to me to see you like this. This means as much to me as seeing my ring on your finger will. I mean that. Though I still want you to wear a ring, if you’re willing to.”

“Of course,” Sherlock says automatically. He thinks of Lestrade and the rest. Then he thinks of Mycroft with no small amount of smug glee. “Then everyone will know.”

“That I’m yours?” John asks, smiling dreamily at him.

Sherlock leans over and takes John’s face in his hands to press his lips to his forehead. “That I did find my soldier.”

John’s eyes are closed, his smile still there. “And you fixed this one.” His eyes open, finding Sherlock’s. “You did, you know. You brought me to life again. Saved me.”

“And you’ve saved me, over and over again,” Sherlock tells him intently. “I meant it when I said that, but you already know that. You’re everything my soldier was ever meant to be, only you’re the real thing. You’re – everything. And – ” he makes himself say it – “I can’t live without you, so – ”

John responds by crawling into his lap, all four limbs wound around him, his mouth on Sherlock’s. They kiss and kiss and John interrupts his assault on Sherlock’s mouth just long enough to say, “You’ll never have to. Never. I promise.”

Sherlock closes his eyes and wonders what point there is in anyone believing in an afterlife when such things as John Watson being completely in love with a person exist. Nothing could possibly be better than this. This is what they have, from here on in: shopping for the sturdiest furniture available for purchase in England, enduring congratulatory sex cakes from Mrs Hudson, Mycroft’s sneeriest of sneers, not to mention Lestrade’s endless teasing and horrible joviality once he finds out, and it won’t matter. None of it will matter, because there’s this now: John and life together here at Baker Street and dinners cooked together or eaten in restaurants, late nights and early mornings and quite probably about as much sex as two people can have in between, all bound together by the assurance of the two discs pressing into his chest by John’s own. And, sooner or later, two more discs around each of their fourth fingers.

It’s going to be, to use one of John’s words, phenomenal.

*