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Monday morning, he wakes up from a nightmare, fails to write a blog post, and doesn’t leave the flat.

Tuesday morning, he wakes up from a nightmare, fails to write a blog post, and doesn’t leave the flat.

Wednesday morning, he sits up, but he can’t bring himself to get out of bed. He spends the day staring at the fireplace. It’s cold, but there isn’t a fire.

Thursday looks like Wednesday, but he thinks about his Sig.

Friday morning, he goes to therapy.

*

Ella’s office is as quiet as the flat save for the scratch of her pen across her paper. He looks at his shoes. He looks at the tree by the window. He looks at the bust on Ella’s desk. It never looks back at him.

*

He runs into Mike at the park. Mike is pleased. He says that he can’t make any promises, but Bart’s needs someone to teach laparoscopic surgery. Mike will put in a good word. Mike leaves and takes his coffee and his loud tie with him.

The park feels spacious again.

He’s limping by a clump of evergreen shrubs when its branches shake and someone explodes from beneath them and collides with him. He pins the threat’s arms back and pushes his face down in the wet grass.

The threat is growling.

The threat has dark, curly hair.

The threat has velvety patches on its scalp as though it has recently shed antlers.

John revises his strategy.

He lets the creature stand up, but he keeps its arms locked behind its back. It thrashes its legs. It tries to swing its head back to hit John’s, but John is too short for it to make contact. It reeks of soil and sweat and unwashed hair.

“Hey,” John says, bracing his compact frame against the creature’s lithe one, “Hey. Easy. You didn’t mean to hit me, yeah? It was an accident?” The creature stills but remains tense. “I’ll let you go, and if you run, you run. If you don’t mind, though, I’d like to know what made you fly out from under there like a bat out of hell. All right?”

John lets go. He steps back and waits.

The creature stays. It pants, it trembles, but it stays.

John takes in the creature’s prominent ribs and scapulae. If not for the patches where its antlers had been, it could pass as human from the waist up. From the waist down, it (or he, as John now sees) is hopelessly inhuman. His knees bend back like a deer’s hind limbs. Fur grows thick over his hips and sex and sleek over his legs in a thousand shades of brown and black. His hooves look hard and resinous as amber.

He turns around to face John. His pale chest is smudged with dirt. His cheekbones are painfully prominent, and his eyes are bright and feral above them. If the creature were human, John would say that he looked to be in his early- to mid-thirties.

John glances around the park. Either no one else can see the creature, or no one is paying enough attention to notice him. Given the way most civilians behave, John could believe either possibility.

A welt covers the right side of the creature’s forehead. John squints. “That looks like it smarts,” he says, gesturing to his own face. “I might be able to help with the pain. All right if I take a look?”

The creature glares at him, and for a moment, John braces for an attack. Then the creature bows his head low enough for John to examine it. The wound is red and swollen and—John moves close enough to hold the back of his hand over it—radiating heat. It has a dense lump at the center.

“Looks like you had a run-in with a spider. Must’ve been a nasty piece of work, by the look of it.” The creature nods, its expression surprised and then grim. “I can treat it, but I’ll have to pop ’round to the chemists’. Can you wait here?” Another nod, this one with an unmistakable eyeroll. “Sorry, stupid question. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Half an hour and several blocks of walking later, John returns to the park with paracetamol, diphenhydramine, antibacterial wipes, a box of gauze, a roll of tape, a small scissors, and a bottle of water. He waits, and this time, he sees the creature glower from a hole under one of the shrubs and scan his surroundings before pulling himself to the surface. He walks up to John, his movements the fluid, cautious ones of a wild thing, and stops when he’s looming in John’s space.

“Oi,” John says, tilting his face up to the creature’s, “come down here. Nothing I can do for you if you’re all the way up there.”

He does as John asks. John cleans the spider bite with a handful of the wipes, applies a dressing to the worst of it, and scatters pills across his palm. “Now, you’ll want to take these right away, but the diphenhydramine’ll make you tired. Do you have someplace safe to rest?” The creature nods. “Right. Here’s some water. Have you swallowed pills before?” That earns him another eyeroll; the creature takes the water bottle and downs the pills without fuss, then hands the bottle back to John.

John nods. “Right. That should do it. Ideally, I’d take you in for antivenom meds, but I don’t think hospital would know what to do with you. If you have any more trouble—”

John realises that the creature is gone. He hadn’t made a sound. Not until he is climbing the stairs to his flat does John notice that he doesn’t have his cane.

*

Monday morning, he wakes up from a nightmare, fails to write a blog post, and walks through the park with his eyes on the greenery.

Tuesday morning, he wakes up from a nightmare, fails to write a blog post, and walks through the park with his eyes on the greenery.

Wednesday morning, he writes a blog about the creature. When he’s finished, he reads it, laughs, and deletes it.

Thursday looks much like Wednesday, but Mike calls and asks to meet with him about the job at Bart’s.

Friday morning, he finds his cane on his doorstep. He goes to therapy and absolutely, positively does not mention that he has gone ‘round the twist.

*

At the Criterion, Mike says that the laparoscopic job is already filled, but he adds that John would be a shoo-in for a position in the morgue. “You’re overqualified, of course,” Mike says, tugging at his tie, “but you couldn’t ask for a nicer co-worker. Molly Hooper’s her name. Come by tomorrow, yeah?”

John does. Molly stumbles over her words and knocks a metal bowl containing a human liver to the lino and makes truly execrable coffee that John drinks to spare her feelings. She offers him a job doing lab work. “It's not as exciting as what you’re used to, I’m afraid, but we could use someone with your level of experience. Are you interested?”

“God, yes,” John says.

*

Somebody throws a stone at John’s feet as he walks into Bart’s on his second day of work. He looks around for the culprit and sees no one. Then he hears rustling in a copse of firs, and the creature emerges from it. His forehead is still slightly contused, though John’s not sure that he would have noticed if he hadn't known to look for it.

“You again,” John says, unable to keep from grinning. “Wondered if I’d get a chance to thank you for bringing back my cane.” And for proving to me that I don’t need it, John thinks, but somehow, he’s sure that’s understood. “Looking better, I see. How’re you feeling?”

The creature doesn’t quite smile back, but his expression softens when he looks at John.

“Not so much as a word of thanks. That’s gratitude for you,” John grouses. “Look, if you’re going to keep stalking me and jumping out of trees when I walk by, I don’t suppose I can stop you, but you’re going to need a name. What should I call you?”

The creature startles at something John doesn’t hear and bolts into the copse.

“Oi, John! Woolgathering?” Mike says as he walks into the building.

“Yeah,” John says, watching the firs sway. “Something like that.”

*

He tells Ella about the creature. She nods. Takes it, takes him, in stride. She asks him what he thinks it means that his subconscious has gone to the trouble to create a companion for him (“a friend,” John protests, but Ella isn’t impressed,) and yet, this companion needs John to take care of him. John says he reckons it means he’s crazy as a shithouse mouse, and Ella says that flip answers won’t serve him or his healing process. John agrees, but he doesn’t know what else to say.

*

Molly turns out to be brilliant. She notices the tiniest details on any corpse, runs a spotless lab, and stays late without complaint when they get behind. (John stays, too, though he has taken over making the coffee. There is only so much acid reflux a man can take.)

Molly has terrible taste in men. John has wanted to chin all three of the idiots who’ve shown up to go to dinner with her. He tells her as much, and she says that he reminds her of her older brother. He takes it as a compliment.

*

John is walking from the Tube to his flat when a sleek black car pulls up to the kerb. The window rolls down and a sharply-dressed brunette tells him to get in. He wonders if his subconscious is inventing it, inventing her. If it is, he has the tools to get out of it, if he needs to.

If it isn’t? If the car is real, and he needs to get out?

He has tools for that, too.

He gets in.

He ends up on a folding chair, in a car park, on the receiving end of an icy beak of a stare from a skinny toff of a bureaucrat. John isn’t afraid. He learned long ago that if someone intends to hurt him, they don’t dress up like a Bond villain and send a tony car to pick him up: they hurt him.

“Dr. Watson. My name is Mycroft Holmes. It was so kind of you to treat my brother.”

Oh, God, some patient’s vengeful relative. He longs for the weight of his Sig. “Sorry, come again?”

“Surely you remember. You met at the park. You mended his forehead.”

John can see the resemblance, now that he’s looking for it, but Mycroft looks tame when compared with his brother. “That—that was—”

“Sherlock Holmes, a great mind trapped in what has become a less than ideal body, I’m afraid. He seems quite taken with you. Given that he has avoided humans since his transformation, I found his behavior... notable.”

“Is this the part where you make vague threats about what will happen if I see him again? Because he came crashing out of a shrub, you know. I wasn’t scouting the park for mad cloven-hoofed bastards.”

“Oh, no. Nothing so base. I was merely hoping that you would be willing to share, on an ongoing basis, any information that you may gather about my brother. He is quite loath to meet with me, and he hides from the CCTV, which leaves me worried about him.”

“‘Worried?’” John is sure that he looks as sceptical as he feels.

“Constantly.”

“Right. I think I’ll let him decide what you find out about him, thanks.”

“Naturally, there would be a financial incentive for you to—”

John cuts him off. “Not interested.”

A raised eyebrow; the swing of a watch chain. “My, but we are very loyal, very fast.”

“Yep. Curse of the Watsons. What happened to your brother?”

“The story is not mine to share, though I imagine he will tell it to you, in time.”

John frowns. “So he can talk, then?”

“No,” the tall man says, pursing his lips as though in thought. “He can neither talk nor write. Part of his condition. Good night, Dr. Watson.”

On the ride home, he asks Anthea out. She doesn’t look impressed with him, but she gives him her number all the same.

*

It’s cold and dark and Sherlock is standing in John’s flat when John gets home from work. “Oi, you creepy bastard,” John says, “I met your brother a few days ago.”

Sherlock’s face collapses into an expression of such dislike that on a less intense creature, John might think it was meant to be facetious.

“Yeah, I didn’t think he was Mr. Congeniality, either. Look, no offense, mate, but you smell like a power outage in a morgue. How about you stay outside, and I won’t worry too much about how you broke into my flat?”

Forty-five minutes later, Sherlock has used up all of John’s shampoo and conditioner and most of his towels and hot water. Sherlock curls up on John’s bed wearing John’s favourite jumper and sipping sugary Earl Grey from John’s favourite mug. John, for his part, is cleaning the dirt and fur from the bathtub with murder in his heart and Ajax in his hands.

*

John’s date with Anthea isn’t a catastrophe, exactly. If Anthea had actually seen Sherlock glowering his way around the park with them, now, that would have been a catastrophe. As it is, it’s just another first-and-only date with a woman way out of John’s league. John’s used to those. It’s all fine.

*

After his third week of sleeping on the floor while Sherlock sleeps in John’s bed, John announces that his sodding shoulder has sodding well had it. If Sherlock is going to sodding live with him, then sod it, they are going to need another sodding bed.

Sherlock gasps, leaps up, and bolts from the flat in a clatter of hooves. John blinks into the silence.

*

Molly is elbow-deep in a forty-two-year-old male’s abdominal cavity when she says, “Look, John, I know this is going to sound weird, but my flatmate’s moving in with her boyfriend, which I think is silly, they’ve only just met, but she seems confident that—” She slides the small intestine aside with a satisfied grunt. “Sorry, I’m rambling. The long and short of it is, I need a flatmate. And it’s hard to say for sure, but.”

She takes a deep breath and then wrinkles her nose. “Oof, bad idea that close to a corpse. I never learn. Anyway, from the way he flails every time I say your name, I’m pretty sure that Sherlock knows you. I don’t think he knows very many people, and I think—I think he might like having his people in one place. So, um, since my flatmate’s leaving, you could move in with me. If you wanted. And I don’t mean ‘move in’ like—I mean, you’re plenty fit, but I don’t fancy you—oh, God. Stop talking, Molly.”

John blinks. The fluorescent light makes the lab equipment look flat and overbright. “You know Sherlock, too?”

“Yeah. He visits me during lunch. I eat and have a cig or two at that bench at the park down the way. You know the one, it’s by that oak grove? He usually just stares at me and takes my leftovers and nicks my ciggies, but if something’s really bothering me, I talk to him. He listens, I think. I don’t know. It’s mad, but I used to fancy him, the smelly git.”

“I’m just—I’m surprised. His brother, Mycroft, told me that Sherlock doesn’t have anything to do with humans.”

Molly smiles. “Oh, I don’t count.”

John adds Mycroft to the list of men who need to be chinned on Molly’s behalf. He really ought to teach her a right hook, at least.

“When should I move in?” John says.

“Saturday all right?”

“Saturday’s brilliant.”

*

John isn’t sorry to leave his flat. Harry helps him move and unpack what few boxes he has at Molly’s—no, his and Molly’s.

The new place is a two-bedroom, ground floor affair that feels smaller than it is. The building’s an old Victorian that’s been carved up into flats; there’s no central heat, the standing heaters are ancient and shuddering, and the windows wick moisture and admit wind between the frames and the walls, which are of a painted plaster that has seen better days. At least John can afford the rent.

John hides the Sig in his sock drawer and the bullets under his bed. He knows he should tell Molly that there’s a firearm in the flat, but it being unregistered, he prefers not to mention it.

Molly’s set up the living room for comfort. An overstuffed sofa and an armchair each have a clear sight line to the flat-screen television. There are dishes on the coffee table; Molly clears then away with a litany of apologies.

“Hey, none of that, now,” Harry says. “It’s your home. You do what you want in it. No need to apologise.”

John watches Molly take in Harry’s compact hourglass figure and blush. Harry’s shirt brings out her blue eyes, which are so much brighter than John’s. Her still-golden hair is unbound and shining down her back, and her khakis are snug over what is, John assesses with a sibling’s clinical eye, a well-formed arse. John is certain that none of these things are accidents: Molly never had a chance.

John rattles through the kitchen to give himself a sense of where the important things are stored (kettle, mug, saucers, utensils, a pot or two—the rest of it can go hang, as far as he’s concerned.) He overhears Harry telling Molly that she is a mortician. Molly sounds thrilled. She likes to take care of the dead, too. They’re still talking when John runs out of things to pretend to look for, so he settles onto the sofa and turns on the television.

There are blankets draped over the furniture. John grabs one and pulls it over him while he watches the news. Molly asks Harry about makeup for corpses that come out of car accidents (“ones that are seriously, you know, mauled up and all”) as the two of them leave to get coffee. John grins.

Molly’s been home for an hour and she and John have been reading in the living room when Sherlock, God knows how, lets himself into the flat. Molly’s cat, Toby, hisses for England and hides beneath the sofa. Sherlock smirks.

“Shower first,” Molly says. “You can kip at the end of John’s bed. I threw the futon mattress down for you. Pillows and blankets are in the hall closet.” Sherlock curls his lip at the idea of sleeping on the floor, and Molly adds, “None of that, now. It’s that or outside. Up to you, Sherlock.”

Insofar as he can, Sherlock sulks to the bathroom. John stares at Molly, who, Christ, sounds like Harry already. “Nicely done, Moll. Didn’t know you had that kind of steel in you.”

Molly laughs. “Neither did I, but Sherlock can come and go as he pleases. We’ve got to have some boundaries, or the bastard’ll—oh, sorry, the, uh, git. He’ll walk all over us.”

“That he will, the bastard,” John says.

*

Mike meets John for coffee in the park and asks how the job is going. It’s boring, which John doesn’t mention, and helping him make a life again, which he does. Mike nods and complains about his students and raves about his wife. John shifts his coffee cup from hand to hand, trying to keep himself warm.

*

Molly discovers a large cardboard box in front of the door to their flat. In it are boxes upon boxes of nicotine patches and a note:

Let Dr. Hooper’s cigarettes alone.
If I see you lighting up again, I’ll have you relocated.
-M

Sherlock sulks for three days. He uses the patches, though.

*

John tells Ella that Mycroft and Molly can see Sherlock, too.

“So they’re humoring you, then?”

“No, they can see him. Really.”

“That’s lovely, John. You should bring him here sometime.”

“He won’t come. He doesn’t like people.”

Ella tells him that she’s worried that his coping mechanism (creating Sherlock) is interfering with his ability to perceive reality. John doesn’t blame her, but he thinks he’ll only seem farther gone if he argues too forcefully that Sherlock is real. Instead, he emphasises that he’s still taking care of himself, still working, still getting along with his new flatmate. His life, hallucinated half-deer half-man and all, is as good as it’s been since he was shot.

*

Molly and John share the Tube ride to work in the mornings. Most evenings, Molly goes to Harry’s, and John reads the paper in the living room under Toby’s disapproving glare. When Sherlock comes ’round, he likes to sit in the armchair with his legs folded under him and his hands wrapped around his hooves. He’s gained weight and looks healthier than he did when John met him. His antlers have begun to come in again, though they are still short. He and John have conversations about the day’s news; Sherlock can’t talk, but he can express like no one John has ever known. Sherlock’s whole face, his whole being, seem to be taken over by his feelings; whether Sherlock seems pensive, intrigued, derisive, bored, or amused, John could watch Sherlock’s face for hours. Sometimes, he does.

*

Jeanette is smart and stable and beautiful, and by their fifth date, John would like very much to get a leg over. It’s been an ego-crushingly long time since he has succeeded, but here on Jeanette’s sofa, he thinks that he finally, finally might get lucky.

Jeanette’s hand is on his zip when there’s a crash from outside. By the time John has put his coat and shoes on, investigated the problem (there is a Sherlock knocking over the building’s bins, to John’s great chagrin and complete lack of surprise), taken his coat and shoes off, and returned to the sofa, Jeanette has decided that she’d rather get plenty of sleep for work tomorrow than have sex.

John goes home and wanks in the shower. On his way to bed, he kicks at the roll of blankets that is Sherlock and says, “You, Sherlock, are the worst. The actual worst.” Sherlock waits until John is under the covers to kick John’s bed.

*

Sherlock spends a week moping on the sofa in the blue silk bathrobe Molly bought for him (“no, John, I bought it for me, really. I don’t need to see all that business every time I turn around, thanks.”) John comes home on Friday evening to find that Sherlock, who is draped over the couch in a picture of dejection, has shot a smiley face’s worth of holes in the living room wall with John’s gun.

“Right,” John says, livid and incredulous and absolutely exploding inside. “You’re bored. I get it. What d’you need, then, besides a bloody shower? Netflix? Rubik’s cubes? A job?” Sherlock’s face turns to a study in desire and despair, and John crosses his arms over his chest, surprised. “You do want to work. Look, I don’t know where you could possibly get a job, given that you’re, you know—”

Sherlock puts his hopes on his face, and John understands.

“Oh, no. Nope. No way. There is—there is absolutely no way—no.”

John and Molly sneak Sherlock into the morgue lab on Monday with the help of a pilfered ID badge, a long lab coat, and a truly ridiculous hat. Sherlock turns out to be smarter and better-trained at the work than either of them.

“You know you’re doing that out loud, right?” Molly says when John can’t stop himself from praising Sherlock (“Brilliant!” “Amazing!” “Fantastic!”) every time John opens his mouth. If Sherlock keeps making the same surprised-then-moved-then-deliberately-blank expression when John does it, John is going to keep doing it. It seems... fine.

*

Another box-with-a-note appears outside their door, this one larger and somehow more expensive-looking than the last.

You were always cold, before.
If that remains true, accept the enclosed items.
-M

The box contains a blue scarf, a Millford-style coat done in some sort of waterproof wool, and a pair of tall boots that look normal on the outside, but are hoof-shaped inside. The coat is tailored within an inch of its life; John is surprised Sherlock can move when it’s buttoned. It flares out from Sherlock’s small waist and is hemmed to fall below the knee. If Sherlock wears the boots and hat with it, he will be able to function around regular people.

“If he wants to,” Harry says, earning her a giggle and an ineffectual slap from Molly, who’s pressed against Harry’s side.

Sherlock sneers. John wraps the scarf around Sherlock’s neck and smooths it over his chest. “Very smart,” John says. “We can go for a walk tonight, if you want to.”

They become a habit, their late-night walks. John talks. Sherlock responds. John struggles to keep up. When he feels short or dowdy, which is often, John reminds himself that at least he’s not as absurd as a deer-creature wearing a ruddy deerstalker, of all bloody things.

*

John sees Ella and tells her at the end of his session that he won’t be scheduling any more appointments with her. Ella nods. She’s concerned about him. She tells him to call any time, should he change his mind. John can’t imagine what could make him change his mind.

*

Molly comments that John and Sherlock have conversations without either of them opening their mouths. Harry points out that the talent’s a blessing for everyone around them. Even Sherlock laughs at that, a bit.

*

John was supposed to have a date with Sarah tonight. When they met, she said that she would text him where and when to meet, but Sherlock ran the tap with John’s mobile under it. John’s mobile is now a soggy, overpriced paperweight.

John is in his pajamas and on his way to bed, and John is livid. “Look,” he says to Sherlock when they pass in the hallway, “I don’t know what you want from me, exactly, but I get it. You don’t want me dating people. Which is—I don’t even know, Sherlock, how to tell you how completely mental that is. I don’t. But you’re my best friend, God help me, and I don’t...”

John sighs, rests his forehead on Sherlock’s silk-robed chest, and breathes in Sherlock’s scent. Sherlock freezes. A few breaths later, he brings his arms up and laces his fingers together at the curve of John’s back. John leans into Sherlock, and Sherlock leans into John. John feels as though they are breathing with the same lungs, expanding together with each inhale, drawing closer with each exhale.

The next day, John finds a new mobile on his bedside table.

*

The package at the door contains an instrument in a case, a great deal of sheet music and, naturally, a note.

I suspect that you are no longer likely to destroy it.
You may have it back.
My congratulations.
-M

Until this moment, John thought that he had seen all of Sherlock’s expressions. He was wrong. For the first time, with his long fingers moving over the strings of his violin and his face tilted into the chin rest, Sherlock looks blissful. His songs sound ablaze from within, each note glowing as it conducts the light. John has never seen anything so beautiful.

*

Sherlock’s summer coat comes in. Between the nice weather and the fact that his antlers have hopelessly outgrown the deerstalker, he spends most of his time in his outside hiding places. Every evening, John opens the living room windows in the hope of catching a cross-breeze and reads the paper while Toby, who seems to have settled for John, purrs in his lap. John texts Molly and Harry so often that Harry finally tells him to quit being a sad sack, put down his goddamn mobile, and tell that uncanny bastard how he feels, already.

John would, but he doesn’t know where to start.

One hot August night, John watches his favourite Bond movie until the small hours of the morning. When it’s over, he brushes his teeth, walks into his bedroom, and startles when he sees Sherlock asleep on the futon. Sherlock has taken to sleeping with his chin tucked to his chest and his legs folded under him; his antlers make it difficult to get comfortable when he lies down. His arms hang loosely at his sides.

John undresses and goes to bed. He kicks the covers off. The air is heavy and still. He sighs. “I love you, you know,” John says to Sherlock, but John is staring at the ceiling, and Sherlock is asleep.

*

John wakes up on his side with Sherlock’s leg draped over his. Sherlock’s too-hot, very human leg.

Nope, John thinks. Lucid dreaming. Never happened before, but there’s a first time for everything.

“John,” Sherlock says, tightening his very real arm over John’s very real chest.

John’s mind—just—can’t.

“You’re naked,” John says, because he has to start somewhere.

“I’ve never been fond of clothes.” Sherlock’s voice is a low rumble in his ear.

“You’re talking.”

“Bit out of practice, but I intend to make up for lost time.”

“And human.”

Sherlock nods. John feels it against the back of his neck. “There was a boy,” Sherlock says. “Victor Trevor. During our last year at Oxford, he said that he’d learnt to use magic. Everyone laughed at him, but I could tell that he wasn’t lying. At least, he believed that he was telling the truth. I tried to find out what he knew, but I may have been, ah, not entirely circumspect in my approach. It seems that pretending to be romantically involved with him in hopes of learning his secrets was—imprudent.”

John brings Sherlock’s right hand to his lips and kisses his knuckles; Sherlock hums and nuzzles behind John’s ear. “He cursed you,” John says.

“Bitterly. I would be inhuman until I learned to love, and the person I loved had to reciprocate. Verbally. It was impossible.”

John rolls over to face Sherlock. He runs one hand over the new, smooth planes of Sherlock’s hips and arse. “Completely,” John agrees, and presses his lips to Sherlock’s.

Sherlock’s mouth is warm and full and responsive. His tongue slides along John’s, and John licks and sucks and nips until that isn’t enough contact, so he guides Sherlock onto his back and kneels over him. John buries his face against Sherlock’s neck to surround himself in Sherlock’s smell, which is still that of a wild thing; he smells like mineral-rich soil and tree bark and skin sweating in the sunlight, and John cannot breathe enough of him.

Sherlock’s hands are strong and frantic over John’s back and arse and arms, and Sherlock’s cock is hard against John’s stomach. John licks his left palm and reaches between them, wrapping his fingers around Sherlock’s shaft; Sherlock moans and thrusts into the touch. John watches Sherlock’s (strange - trusting - overwhelmed) face and lays kisses along his jawline and works his hand slowly, slowly, until John is so hard that he’s struggling to remain aware of anything else and Sherlock is panting, “John, please, I’m going to—”

John moves faster and grips Sherlock tighter, his breath coming fast, the side of his face pressed to Sherlock’s. Sherlock gasps and arches his back and pulses in rhythmic waves over his own stomach and John’s hand; John ruts in the slick heat between them and comes with a shout, his right hand fisted in Sherlock’s hair.

Sherlock falls asleep with his head on John’s chest and John’s arm curled protectively around his back. John runs his fingers over the skin where Sherlock’s antlers used to be and keeps watch, just in case.

*

When their lease runs out, Molly and John leave their flat. Molly and Toby move in with Harry; John helps her move while Sherlock does what Harry calls “the heavy looking-on.”

Sherlock finds a flat where he and John can live together. “And work together,” Sherlock says. “I’ve a plan. You’ll see.”

He stands with John on the front step of 221 Baker Street. “Sounds dangerous,” John says, winking up at Sherlock just as the landlady opens the door.