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It occurs during a moment of quiet, a time of total calm in the flat. There is the sound of the logs on the fire sizzling and popping as flame encounters pockets of oxygen. There too is the slight humming of fingertips gliding against thin, taut metal. Sherlock is lethargic on the sofa stroking lovingly over the length of his violin, pegs to endpin; it’s hypnotic.

Back, forth, fingers so loose and languid as though swimming through air.

John is perched nearest to the fire as comfort will allow, his sock clad heels just resting on the stone where it meets the hardwood floor. The journal that rests in his lap highlighted in various places, violent neon green contrasts with crimson underlines and blue-black notes. Margins are filled with neat, block handwriting.

Entirely everything about the evening has felt perfectly-paced, almost delightfully timeless in a meandering way. There’s nothing on and Sherlock has not wished for anything to be on; it’s remarkable really. Times like these, these blessed times, come so rarely that when John senses an instance oncoming, he takes to it immediately and with ease. He, like Sherlock, will fall into a wordless kind of waking slumber and allow a subtle sort of relaxation take him over.

They move about and around one another, whispers of cloth against cloth and go about their tasks. John makes a hot toddy for himself, sniffs at the whiskey until his sinuses open up and offers the mug to Sherlock with a raised brow. Sherlock takes it easily, gives it a cursory sniff and a sip.

John watches as the muscles in Sherlock’s throat work to swallow. (Art, he thinks.)

A slight inversion of his jaw in the affirmative and John mixes one for Sherlock. They retreat, lazily, to the sitting room and settle in.

They remain at ease and quiet for the better part of two hours, the only sound pages turning and the scratching of pen against paper as Sherlock makes brief notation on his sheet music, before he slides his body from the sofa; he’s a study from John’s periphery. John would compare him to a cat but the image would only reinforce in John’s gut his desire to run his fingers through Sherlock’s hair.

Around his neck.

Down his spine.

John blinks back to his journal, highlights a particularly relevant finding regarding the effects of pulmonary embolism on the lungs, all the while keeping his ears attuned to the detective’s movements. Sherlock paces from the window to the sofa, forefinger and thumb perched across his mouth in thought. “Takeaway?”

It’s the first vocalization of thought in some time and it rings through John’s head, the tenor and pitch so pleasant that it eases a shiver down each of John’s vertebrae. It takes a moment for the smile he feels to curl his lips but when it does, he sets the journal aside and stretches his body out in the chair. John’s arse slides against the seat, towards the edge, his arms over his head. Bones shift and crack, flood his body with a gentle endorphin rush.

He catches Sherlock watching him; neither look away.

“Sounds lovely, I’ll run out.”

Sherlock blinks and very nearly smiles. “I’ll call it in.”

John doesn’t exactly wish to leave the flat - he’s bone-marrow warm - but takeaway sounds just about perfect right now, just the ticket. He hears Sherlock on the phone in the kitchen, ordering up scallop maki and yellowtail roll, gyoza and chirashi, yakitori and shumai, more food than they could ever hope to eat and Japanese doesn’t keep well; John doesn’t have the heart to stop him ordering and so when Sherlock leans over to hand John his card (adding yaki-udon at the last moment) John just takes it with a smile and sets off to retrieve their dinner.

The air stings at his cheeks when he emerges onto the street; he can smell it, the snow in the air, the spice of the city in the throes of holiday preparations. When he was younger, John lived for this time of year; the brightness, the sense of anticipation. He shoves his hands deep into his pockets and picks up the pace, glancing at the store windows as he passes.

Lights in trees and on houses, twisted around lampposts; they all seem brighter than he’s ever seen. This past year, John has been more alive than he’s ever been and perhaps that has everything to do with it. A new kind of perception he can enjoy, thanks to dashing about with a madman. He quells a maniacal smile that slants against his mouth and turns his attention to a window display as he waits for the signal to cross the street.

The storefront boasts pens set against velvet displays and thick, heavy, leather bound ledgers in various colors. He makes a note to return to the store; one of those pens might suit Sherlock. Or perhaps something else entirely; there’s still a few weeks until Christmas. John has time to mull and ponder and stress over what to get for the man who wants for nothing.

John makes it the rest of the way to the restaurant with a warm glow seated at the base of his spine; he feels like he’s lit as though a Christmas tree. Startlingly good, he feels magnificent at the moment. He feels the overwhelming urge to return to 221B (home) and tell Sherlock so, just because he can.

Plastic bag in hand, John saunters back out onto the street and makes quick time getting back.

Sherlock receives their bounty with a relieved, satisfied sigh. John’s pupils blow wide at the sound of it and he finds himself salivating not for the steaming food that Sherlock is spreading across the sitting room table, but for Sherlock. It’s not startling as John has felt this before an untold amount of times, but it is suddenly maddening now. John’s palms it and his teeth shiver in his gums with the want to bite Sherlock’s neck just there.

Just to try.

Just to taste.

Instead of tamping down on the urge, he accepts it and lets it settle tacitly in his mind.

A quick breath sucked in through his nose and Sherlock tips his head up, gaze catching on John as his eyes slip closed, trying to regain his composure. It’s in that moment that he knows; it’s in that moment that John opens his eyes to gaze upon Sherlock to learn that Sherlock knows. And it’s just fine, not startling or earth-shattering, just warm and lovely and keeping with the tone of the evening, meltingly perfect.

Sherlock huffs out a loud breath through his nose, left side of his mouth jumping in a smile that he truly does his best to rein in. John smiles too and takes a step forward, unsheathing the chopsticks from their paper prisons, settling napkins astride plates.

“Care to make us another,” comes Sherlock’s gentle request and tilts his head towards his empty mug. John isn’t sure how whiskey and honey will pair with Japanese food but he can’t be arsed to care and does as asked, heating water and shaking cloves into their mugs.

Padding back into the sitting room, he realizes the heady, pleasant weight has relocated from the seat of his spine to the pit of his stomach and he feels, for a moment, fourteen again. Overcome by nerves, butterflies; John shrugs it off easily as he places their mugs on the table and takes his seat he occupying one side of the table, Sherlock the other..

Their gaze meets once more as John begins, reaching for a piece of yellowtail and he pauses. “Go on,” Sherlock says, voice so low it sounds as though it’s being raked over coals. John manages to pluck the food from the container and place it in his mouth without betraying how much he desperately wants.

They pour tiny little plastic packets of soy sauce into a lid between their plates and eat methodically, unhurried, savoring the delicate food. It’s been quite awhile since they’ve had Japanese and the cuisine almost makes this occasion seem special.

Or perhaps that’s wishful thinking on both of their parts.

They while away at their food, John pausing briefly to stoke the fire and add a touch more whiskey to their mugs. Sherlock gives him a knowing look as John pours and doesn’t look away as he lifts the mug to take a few prim sips.

John swallows thickly and sets the bottle on the table.

“This evening has been...” John moves udon around on his plate, watching as the noodles slip around the tips of his chopsticks before glancing up. “Quite nice.” As an afterthought, he adds, “Thank you.”

Sherlock smiles but still feels the need to say, “Why are you thanking me?” as he dips the last remaining bit of chirashi in soy. He places his chopsticks down across this plate, crosses his arms loosely over his chest and balances back on two feet of his chair, chewing slowly and watching John.

For the time being, John is content to be watched, the affectionate gaze roaming his features as he eats his fill. John slows as he swallows a bite of udon and sits back, chopsticks loose in his hands as he determines what he wants to close the meal out with; he eyes Sherlock who is looking at him with a surprising mix of aloofness and attraction, then glances back at the food.

This is when it occurs, bellies full, bodies thrumming with the warmth of alcohol in their veins, limbs still sweet and heavy and sedate. Sherlock silently reaches across the table, dextrous fingers reaching for the curve of John’s jaw as he perks up to retrieve the last pork dumpling that rests in a container astride Sherlock’s plate. Chopsticks pause mid-grab as Sherlock makes contact.

John, flabbergasted, “Sherlock-” and then peers into Sherlock’s eyes; the chopsticks plink and patter against the table when John’s hand slackens. Sherlock’s lip is nearly brushing his bottom lip and John sucks in a breath, their eyes meeting, so close. Sherlock swallows, the tension so much, but he’s unwilling to break it.

It’s simply too present, electric, like touching a live wire.

After a moment, the detective sucks in a breath and John says, “Oh,” and then Sherlock is kissing him, just like that.

Mouths pliant and sweet, tinged with salt from the soy and John’s palms find purchase on the tabletop, skin squeaking minutely as he shimmies his hips flush to the table and straightens just so, wraps his hand carefully at the nape of Sherlock’s neck.

It’s a delightfully tranquil bit of kissing and when Sherlock stands from his chair, managing to keep their lips open and pressed together while rounding the table, John sighs into his mouth. John feels a bit weak in the knees and slides back down into his chair, pulling Sherlock along easily. Sherlock dominates the kiss for a time, moving to stand in the open vee of John’s thighs, John tilting his chin just so and they meet comfortably in the middle.

Sherlock is more languid than John would have suspected. He is flat planes and sharp angles but his lips are a different matter altogether, they are methodical and plaint, warm and giving. They slant and pull and nip differently than a woman’s might and John finds it entirely, overwhelming pleasing, the way this man kisses him.

John’s hands find Sherlock’s hip and he grasps gently for a moment before standing, the reassuring weight of John’s hands at his sides an indication not to stop. Don’t you dare stop. Trip-walking back to the couch, they tear away only momentarily for John to sit and Sherlock to straddle him carefully. When he leans back in it’s nearly coy, eyes sparkling beneath a dangerous curtain of fringe.

Sherlock begins at John’s temple and maps a serpentine route down, over eyebrows, cheekbones and nose.

“I won’t patronize you and the obvious signs of your arousal to ask if this is quite alright,” Sherlock slurs into the underside of John’s chin.

John’s answering hum is shaky but confident. “No, no, don’t do that,” he agrees, turns his head away and down, reaching to cup Sherlock’s cheek and bring him in for another kiss. It is exactly equal parts all-encompassingly terrifying and completely natural, kismet.

They separate only for a moment to share a look that is naked in its meaning, it’s entirely bare. Eyes are clear as crystal and John brings a hand up to stroke through Sherlock’s hair. “Upstairs...”

Sherlock presses his nose in just to the left of John’s; they breath together. “Downstairs, my... my room.”

John nods, once. “Alright.” It’s a whisper, as though even the slightest decibel higher with shatter this moment.

Sherlock blinks one last time at him and then unfurls off of the couch and takes a step towards the kitchen. “Deal with the fire please, John,” he asks, back still turned and disappears back into his room. There’s no abject necessity to this; it’s not a moment of neediness unparalleled but very nearly so. John’s body feels heavy with arousal as he rises and covers the food on the table, places it all back in the bag and puts it in the refrigerator.

The cleaning can be left for later. John spends a moment taking in the living room, breathing, and then moves in to snuff the fire down; grate closed, he wipes his hands on the front of his trousers and steps back. He’s never thought about how to walk before; he’s never thought about putting one foot in front of the other and moving but he does now, gauges the distance between himself and Sherlock’s room and falters when putting out a foot.

John needs a moment to work it all out, the mechanics of walking and finds himself laughing at the entire absurd situation. One foot in front of the other, he begins slowly and picks up his pace when he reaches the hall, realizing how obscenely glad he is to have taken off his shoes upon entering the flat.

Nothing quite kills the mood as someone pausing to remove their shoes. Fingers against the jamb, John pauses only for the briefest moment before crossing the threshold.

When he enters the room, the small lamp on the bedside table is casting a faint glow over an empty room. About to leave, he turns when the door to the bathroom eeks slowly open.. Sherlock shuts the bathroom light and rounds the bed to where John is standing.

Nearly toe to toe in the low light and John breathes thinly as Sherlock’s fingers work gingerly to undo the buttons at his wrists. Left, then right and when he’s through, he brings his hand up to skim over John’s neck, the open tails of fabric tickling against John’s sternum. “John am I correct in assuming that you’ve never been with another man before?”

John hums, eyes flitting over Sherlock’s face. “You never assume.”

Sherlock grins, pleasantly surprised, a breath puffing out. “Quite right.” He smooths a thumb over John’s right eyebrow, down next to his eye, over the slight protrusion of cheekbone, to rest just beside his mouth. “Aren’t you frightened?” Sherlock asks this inquisitively as though he truly doesn’t know, his gaze on John’s lips all the while. “Shouldn’t you be... scared?”

John’s head moves slowly, a very deliberate shake in the negative. “Mmm, no. It’s you.”

That causes Sherlock to outright laugh, shuffling his body closer to John’s. His voice is much louder when he speaks, now. “In that case, I’ll be gentle?”

John again shakes his head, just as deliberate as previous. “Please don’t be.” And like that, in three short words, John proves I can handle you and I want to handle you and I want to be handled by you.

Sherlock waits only an instant before leaning forward and pressing his mouth once more against John’s. “I knew, all night,” he whispers as he nips at John’s bottom lip.

“Did you now,” the shorter man drawls back, giving Sherlock’s hips a little shove, helping him to walk back until he’s forced to sit on the bed.

John looks down and Sherlock looks up, a bit tousled, eyes bright and shining, amused. He touches John with a familiarity that should startle him. He touches John like he’s known his body for years and hasn’t just now got around to learning it. John sighs, bites his bottom lip.

It’s so uncharacteristic, so unlike him, but when he settles his hands on John’s hips - strong and sure - he asks, “Didn’t you?”

John just smiles; Sherlock begins work on his trousers, tugging and pulling at John’s belt, working the button and zip. It’s all a bit of a blur, John taking off his shirt and vest and working at Sherlock’s buttons, pushing the slightly-less-posh button up off of his shoulders.

There’s still the thickness of the alcohol in their veins - not enough to encumber, not enough to distract - but it makes them move slowly, purposefully. Still, they collide, they bump, noses glance off of one another as John stoops to kiss Sherlock and he marvels that truly, this is not how he imagined this would happen.

It’s all quite thrilling, watching Sherlock twist and morph into this careful, gentler man. He shimmies up onto the bed, somehow managing to look graceful even as the duvet catches and pulls underneath him. When he rolls onto his lower back to yank off his trousers and pants John laughs, full out and sits on the bed himself, swinging his legs up.

There’s a moment he takes, noting the quality of the mattress, the sheets and the pillows. “Christ, you are a posh bastard, aren’t you?”

John notices then that his flatmate (time to revise that moniker, surely) is completely starkers against the covers and as he’s about to point out this very fact, Sherlock rolls over, one leg between John’s, head against the pillow. John shimmies down against his own pillow and glances at Sherlock; their gazes catch and John tears abruptly away.

“Really?” Sherlock chuffs, “You’re in my bed naked John, I think we’re past awkward, yes?”

“I-” and he clamps his mouth shut because he wants this desperately, he’s feeling a sort of desperate arousal he’s never experienced and yet, he’s entirely sure his gaze will betray how deeply he cares for this man. All of John’s past experiences nearly stipulate that there are talks before this, there are events leading up to landing in bed, but he supposes that he know that they’re well beyond all of that.

Once one is willing to lay down one’s life for another, once one is ready to put it all on the line for someone else, giving one’s body shouldn’t be such an ordeal. John turns onto his side, the chill of the air causing a shiver and jostles himself closer to Sherlock. “I... this isn’t something that’s...”

Sherlock rolls his eyes and with a hand that is probably too insistent, pulls John directly into him, their cocks slotting against one another. “Oh sweet christ that’s...”

Sherlock gasps, “Good?”

“Different,” John sobs, tosses his head back against the pillow and then forward, burrows his face into Sherlock’s neck.

A hand finds the small of John’s back and John’s left clutches against Sherlock’s shoulder. His hips roll leisurely, “Different,” the detective breathes and with eyes startlingly wide open, dips his chin to lick at the seam of John’s mouth which John opens willingly.

It’s not so much kissing as Sherlock and John sharing breath as the detective’s free hand slips down to wrap sloppily around their cocks. “Oh, oh christ Sherlock, oh jesus I, I, I...”

Sherlock chuckles, “Yes, you, you, you.” A leg slides against Sherlock’s and hooks around, twining them together in a manner that might be painful if either of them was anywhere even remotely near their right mind. Teeth scrape against John’s chin and Sherlock takes the moment to shift his balance, presses John onto his back and swings a leg over his hips.

Gently, he settles his arse against John’s thighs, runs his slight nails over his nipples. They stare at each other, John’s chest heaving and Sherlock trying in vain not to break into a smile. “Feeling any less awkward?” Sherlock ribs, bending down to lick a stripe up the center of John’s chest.

John doesn’t lie. “A bit.”

Sherlock’s blink takes ages and ages, “Alright.” Scooting down over John’s legs, he shifts them apart and settles between them. There are a few quiet moments and John fights the urge to hide his face as Sherlock looks his fill. “I have so wondered,” he mentions as he presses his nose to the crevice where thigh meets torso. “What you taste like.”

John thinks that Sherlock might swallow him whole but though he moves in with utmost intent, he takes his time, suckling at the glans, tip of his tongue running teasingly along the slit of John’s cock. He hums all the while, slipping the head of John’s cock against the inside of his cheek, because he can. Sherlock suckles and kisses, presses himself around his cock until it threatens his throat. His hands assist, wrapping around the base to stroke, teasing over perineum and testicles.

It’s a wonder he doesn’t buck Sherlock into the ceiling when John slides a knuckle along his arse, pressing against the ring of muscle delicately. “Easy,” Sherlock murmurs as he pulls off to press open-mouthed kisses against the inside of John’s thigh. “Easy,” he returns his tongue to the underside of John’s shaft and flicks up along the thick vein. “Come, now. Let me taste you.”

It’s not an immediate thing, not really, but when Sherlock’s hand and mouth begin working in counter rhythm, Sherlock’s cock dripping against the side of John’s calf, John loses it. He feels his bones melt into the mattress as Sherlock strokes his thumb against John’s cleft.

John can’t swallow and he knows that if he attempts speech the sound that he’ll emit will be none too impressive and so as he feels the heat coil at the base of his spine, he slides his hand into Sherlock’s curls and tugs a bit. Sherlock tilts his head to the right and his hair falls from between his fingers and John comes with a startled, stuttered little exhale and groans, tossing an arm over his eyes.

Sherlock swallows around him, licks him slowly clean, lapping at him slowly until John can’t handle anymore and bark-laughs out an “Enough.”

“Different,” Sherlock laughs, settling his weight on his left hand as he gathers himself back together.

John laughs voicelessly, body shaking without sound. “Yes, but thankfully no longer awkward.”

Sherlock gives him a half smile and lays back against the pillows just as John shifts onto his side. “Perfect, just where I want you.”

John presses a chaste little thing of a kiss against Sherlock’s cheekbone and shifts his hand across his torso. His hand stutters a bit at the hair trailing across Sherlock’s lower stomach. Fingers trip over the head of Sherlock’s penis and his thumb gathers the precome beaded there, tracing it around the crown and down along the shaft. John’s palm is hot and tight around Sherlock and he gives him an experimental pump, two, before whispering, “Like this?”

“Hmmmm,” is the immediate hum and the detective curls a quivering hand against John’s hip as he jerks him. Sherlock noses into John’s neck, humming all the while becoming pliant and open. He doesn’t hurry John along or guide his hand, instead submitting to the supple movements, shifting his hips this way and that when he senses that John’s wrist is seizing.

When John rustles against the pillow, removes his hand from Sherlock and sits up, the detective follows him with his gaze. There is no pausing for permission, and John shifts his body down, body curling as he wraps his other hand around Sherlock and brings him to his mouth.

“Ah, ah, ah John, ah good...” he hisses through his teeth as he runs his tongue around the crown of Sherlock’s prick before sliding down and around. John tastes his fill, the pungent, salt-slickness and Sherlock and before he even thinks to do it, he wraps his hand around the heft of Sherlock’s prick and twists gently, back and forth.

He’s not sure of what exactly to do, but doesn’t give it too much thought, as Sherlock’s heavy, labored breathing and the stuttering of his hips are giving him the distinct impression that John is doing everything right. He trails the tip of his tongue around the crown before delving in to suck at Sherlock hard and then his arse lifts clean off of the bed, John retreating as he presses up and when Sherlock settles, John continues his onslaught and after long moments it rewarded with a very broken, “John.”

He pulls off with a wet pop and slips his thumb over Sherlock’s slit and jerks him until he’s coming, thick ribbons coating his lower stomach and thighs.

John’s breathing is nearly as heavy as Sherlock’s as it officially sinks in that he’s just had sex with his flatmate. Sherlock huffs and swallows thickly, snatching up some tissues from his bedside table and tossing them at john. They float and land just on Sherlock’s thigh and John blinks, blinks, finally places what Sherlock wants of him and cleans him up.

Surreptitiously, he swipes a pinky through the mess and sucks it into his mouth. “Saw that,” Sherlock hums and just as John finishes, shifts over to claim the left side of the bed, thrashing about until the bed clothes are loose enough to slip beneath.

Forearm across his brow, John unfolds himself from the awkward position he’d contorted himself into and moved to sit, legs over the side of the bed. Over his shoulder, he glances at Sherlock whose eyes are clear and open and staring right back at him. He quirks a brow until John turns, crooking one knee up onto the bed. If he expects Sherlock to say a thing to make this all seem any less strange, he’s out of luck.

John sighs, the sweat cooling on his skin, delicate gooseflesh prickling. He settles back more solidly until Sherlock once more quirks a brow and John rolls his eyes, swinging the other leg up onto the bed. “I didn’t expect this,” he admits, sidling up bedside Sherlock beneath the covers.

John feels sticky, can’t imagine how Sherlock feels but he looks serene, “What did you expect, then?”

He licks his lips and considers; he’s never seen Sherlock this sedate, this static. “Nothing this... this... it’s as though someone reduced you to half speed. You’re... a whirlwind.” The detective tugs against him until he’s close enough to nestle into.

“I can go slow,” Sherlock murmurs, his lips set against John’s neck. “If I’ve the proper motivations.” He settles back against his pillow and runs his tongue over his lips, rucks the covers up to his chin.

John looks down at Sherlock, can’t help but notice the stark contrast of his hair against the void of the pillow. He’s sated and lax and smiling serenely. “Well, I... do I? Do you want me to sleep here?”

“You’re being deliberately awkward now,” Sherlock rolls his eyes and then promptly closes them, noses closer to John’s pillow; Sherlock can’t seem to make up his mind on where he wants to be.

A shoulder nestles into the pillow and John punches it, hard, “Oh, right, of course. And you’re going to sleep as well, throwing me for all of these loops.”

“I certainly will, but you won’t,” he breathes easily. “Please don’t wake me with your thoughts, I always seem to sleep for ages after sex. Still, shower if you must but do be here in the morning as that is where I’ll expect you to be, from now on.”

The audacity, John should be shocked and indignant; instead, he feels a solid little lump forming in his throat. “That so?”
Sherlock’s eyes blink open; he looks only slightly annoyed.

“Problem?”

“I-” John begins and then thinks better of it. “No, no problem.”

Sherlock closes his eyes, doesn’t reopen them. The quiet of it all slams into John’s consciousness and he strains his ears. He hears: Sherlock’s breathing, his own, the sounds from the street below and nothing else. It’s shockingly pleasant, the discordant melodies they breathe together in the night.

True to Sherlock’s prediction, John does not sleep and he is there when the detective awakens and they take it slowly.