A.N. - Finally the end is here! Sorry it's been a while. I won't go into details, but hopefully issues are sorted and I'm back now.
Biggest thanks ever go to GoodOldJames for reading over this and prodding me to post it. It would probably have been another month without his help.
John was a rubbish patient. It was nothing to do with being a doctor and all to do with him being John. He refused to take painkillers unless his ribs and hands were stopping him from sleeping. He wouldn't let Sherlock make him tea, he had to do it himself. And he kept bloody tidying up. As if sitting there and looking at the mess somehow made it messier.
"John you have been out of hospital for less than twenty-four hours, vacuuming is not a suitable activity."
"I'm sitting in my armchair reading the paper!"
Sherlock raised an eyebrow. They both knew what he'd actually been thinking about, toeing the rug and staring at the dust accumulating in the groove around the bottom of the hearth. Mrs Hudson must have missed that bit.
John tipped his head to one side, peeking around the page, "You could do it..."
Sherlock did not even bother replying. He just dropped the eyebrow and put his goggles back on.
He insisted on John having another afternoon nap after lunch, seeing as the last one was easily taken and greatly appreciated, and was glad he did when he saw how much effort it took John to get up the stairs. He put a supporting hand in the small of his back, under the guise of impatience, but neither of them were fooled.
"Are you staying?" John pulled back his duvet and flumped down gingerly on the mattress.
"If you want," Sherlock shrugged. But as usual John was better at listening to the words that Sherlock was at saying them, so he just smiled at the apparent nonchalance and budged carefully over to make room. Sherlock stayed on top of the covers this time, steepling his hands upon his chest and slipping his mind elsewhere.
When he surfaced again John was asleep half on top of the quilt, curled to Sherlock's side with their feet tangled together and his soft breath puffing into his shirt. Sherlock didn't go anywhere.
It took two weeks of recuperation and mothering (smothering) from Mrs Hudson (and Sherlock, though he would never admit it) before John was fit enough to go out on a case. And then they only started off gently – no chases, no surprises, boring boring boring. But safe.
On the outside not much had changed between them that evening. Perhaps a gentle hand on the curve of a shoulder, or a significant glance at a rather marvellous deduction, a discreet handing over of ready-warmed leather gloves or fine woollen scarf on a cold foggy evening, but nothing too noticeable, unless you were looking for it.
But as soon as the front door of 221b closed behind them that evening, blocking the world outside, everything shifted back again, to this confusing something-nothingness. John's hand accidentally grazed the curve of a buttock as he followed it up the stairs, trying to wrestle his coat off, but nothing was said and no apologies made. Instead Sherlock's lips brushed the curve of an ear as he passed John filling the kettle from the kitchen tap. It was a natural move, and though he had been surprised by it happening by itself, apparently John had not. He just smiled and carried on as he was.
Perhaps tonight, Sherlock mused. They had been in a kind of limbo for the past weeks; knowing that something was happening and changing, but not quite sure what. Of course, they couldn't do this the normal way – normal was a social construct of a majority people of similar minds finding the method that suited them best. Neither John nor Sherlock were particularly normal, and so it followed that they would do things their own way. And it fitted that, seeing as neither of them seemed to know exactly where they were headed, they would just let things shift and adjust at their own rate. Whatever that rate might be...
"Do you suppose it might be acceptable for me to kiss you tonight?" Sherlock enquired as he accepted the proffered cup of tea and flipped open his laptop one-handed.
John tipped his head to the side thoughtfully and sat down. Separate armchairs stood forgotten and cold as long feet were tucked under a chunky thigh on the sofa. "That might be nice."
Sherlock smiled to himself. Nice indeed.
"When exactly are you intending to do this?"
"When you are placed at an angle more conducive to physical contact," Sherlock replied matter-of-factly, "And without a scalding-hot beverage in your hand."
"You don't need to think about it too much," John said, apparently knowing that was exactly what his flatmate was doing. He sipped at said beverage. It was indeed scalding-hot. He stopped. "Maybe it's just something you should let happen. I don't imagine planning it is a good idea."
"Well, to be fair, I've been planning it for a while," Sherlock admitted.
"I had to be sure it was welcome, and appealing to both parties. Plus, of course, certain that you were recovered enough that it would not place unacceptable strain on your circulatory system."
John laughed, "Wow, I find myself a bit intimidated by this confidence in your prowess."
They were in the upstairs bedroom when Sherlock kissed John. In hindsight, it was probably not the ideal moment, but Sherlock's calculations had been affected by John shucking off his jeans and stepping into his baggy cotton pyjamas. The bare chest had been the last straw and accurate examinations of the situation had been rendered entirely impossible. Sherlock paused in the unbuttoning of his shirt and closed the space between them. Initially it was a chaste contact – a connection of lips, a brief pause and then a disconnection. John hadn't even closed his eyes.
"Nice." John nodded.
Sherlock agreed. Nice, but not enough, not nearly. So he slipped off his shirt and continued. The yellowed bruising on John's chest drew in his hands, and the curve of John's belly drew in his hip and then John tipped his head and his lips did a lot of drawing of their own.
John kissed like a master. If anyone was concerned about what the act was doing to their pulse it should be Sherlock – it was thundering. It wasn't like he'd never been kissed before, but he'd never been kissed like that before.
When John pulled away, Sherlock would have been worried, concerned, fretting, except that those steady capable (only slightly sore) hands remained on his body – one on his bare waist and one curled up around the back of his neck. They squeezed lightly in reassurance and affection.
"Still nice?" Sherlock asked, his eyes searching John's face, skating over the slightly dreamy expression. Blown pupils, swollen lips, increased blood flow pinking his cheeks. Still nice, he confirmed to himself.
"Yeah, yeah. I just... I need to sit down."
Oh, shit. Elevated heartrate, shallow breaths, shaking limbs. Sherlock practically shoved him backwards onto the edge of the bed and sank to the floor with a crack of kneecaps on the floorboards. "Are you okay? Alright? Are you alright?"
Would this ever end? John needed to be better, now. There was guilt, there was panic, there was an uncomfortable wrenching of his digestive organs that made no sense whatsoever.
"I'm fine," John laughed, "The strain on my circulatory system is in no way unacceptable."
Sherlock smiled faintly, trust John to choose this situation to remember his exact words and recall them to tease. When lives and cases were at stake he was frustratingly slow, but now, when it was only ego... Though it wasn't, was it? There was a lot more at stake here. John leaned forward and pressed their lips firmly together, though it was more reassurance than anything else at this point.
Sherlock sat back on his heels. "Do you want me to leave you? I have that kidney downstairs that could –"
"Yes." He said. Forever, he meant.