Warnings: rimming, object penetration, really explicit m/m sex, a serious tattoo kink, mild angst, possessive!Sherlock and happy-with-it!John
Disclaimer: Sherlock and John in this incarnation belong to The Moff, Gatiss and the BBC, as well as to ACD.
Notes: This started life as a small Boxing Day PWP aiming to showcase my rather huge tattoo kink - but I just CAN'T write PWPs, so a fair amount of plot snuck its way in. There are so many fab pieces out there on the subject of tattoos, and what they mean, and their psychological impact; I first started thinking about it after reading a different version where it's Sherlock who gets the tattoo. There's a lot of personal stuff in this story, in that it closely reflects my views on the whole tattooing lark. Anyway, onto the fic! Title comes from the following quote: Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail, by Ralph Waldo Emerson, because I rather think it says a lot about Sherlock and John and what they mean to each other.


Leave a Trail

John walks home from the bus stop briskly, rounding the corner of Baker Street a shade too sharply; his duffel knocks the edge of the building on the far end of the street and he staggers a little from the blow. His step doesn't falter, though. He isn't limping; his left hand is perfectly steady. John shakes his head at himself - it's unbelievable how much of an adrenaline rush he's deriving from what he's about to do.

It's 26th December, Boxing Day, and the streets are once more full of people who've had enough of being cooped in the house with various family members for two days straight. John's thankful he doesn't have to weave through the crowds on Baker Street, not like at the tube station - it's so much quieter here, more peaceful. More, in fact, like Shepherd's Bush, where he'd spent the past couple days since the 24th at Harry's house.

John blinks a little fast, knocking away thoughts of the inevitably awkward Christmas dinner, trying to make stilted conversation with an even-less-coherent-than-usual Harry and wishing more than anything that he was back at 221B, being sulked at by a bored-out-of-his-mind Sherlock who demands tea and biscuits at steady intervals, and then refuses to talk to him again for the rest of the day. The thought is almost restful.

John reaches their front door quickly enough, struggling to fish his key out with cold-numbed fingers. He inhales sharply, recalling what he meant to do the second he got here: he leaves his key in the lock and his bag to prop the door open, walks the few feet over to a clear view of the CCTV camera trained on their flat, and gives it a Look. He makes the universal sign for watching, taps his watch and slides his forefinger over his throat, making a face at whomever is on the other end - he's pretty sure Mycroft will be receiving the inevitable report any moment now. John hopes he gets the message: Stay away from the flat today or face the consequences.

If there's one thing the Army had taught John, it was how to plan. Even after Med School he and the other doctors from his course had rarely planned things beyond the operation itself - instruments were set up by the OR nurse, anaesthesia was taken care of by the Anaesthesiologist and their nurse, so John's only job had been to show up and perform or assist in the surgery.

In the Army, John had had no such luxury available. He might get an assistant, if he was very lucky, but everything else was up to him - the sedation, taking care of his instruments, as well as the intervention itself. So he had to know, at any one moment, what supplies he had for emergency surgery, and maintain them at a certain level.

Moreover, being an officer was all about planning ahead, or so Sargeant Keel had drummed into his head at an early stage. People's lives were at his fingertips, even more because he was a doctor as well as an officer. It taught John that good strategy and forward planning saved lives just as surely as his trusty scalpel.

So he's been biding his time. The obligatory Christmas family gatherings are now out of the way; Mycroft had (just now) been warned; and John had texted Lestrade this morning that he and Sherlock were not to be called out today, come hell or high water (and had gotten a Ha ha in response. He's not feeling too reassured). John is well aware who he's dealing with - the second he gives Sherlock his Christmas present, Sherlock will effectively be out of commission for the day. (At least, he'd better be, or John is not going to be happy - he's put a lot of thought into this.)

He walks quickly back to the door, retrieves his keys and bag and hurries inside, out of the cold. It's warmer in here, warm enough for John to shed his coat as soon as he steps inside, already starting to sweat. He pads up the steps, only pausing to make sure that Mrs Hudson is still not back from visiting her niece in Kent. He drops his bag just inside the door to their flat, braces himself and looks around, expecting some disaster of untold proportions as a result of a Sherlock in a decidedly murderous mood, having returned yesterday evening from a no-doubt trying Christmas lunch with Mycroft and Mrs Holmes.

He isn't disappointed. The smell permeating the flat is frankly distressing, and seems to originate in the kitchen. John is almost afraid to go in there; but he'd missed Sherlock more than is strictly decent while he'd been away. He ventures to the entrance only to see a bunch of tubes hooked up together, containing five eggs in various stages of decomposition. Sherlock is sitting at the kitchen table and staring moodily into the contraption, tapping a pen impatiently on a pad of paper covered in short-hand notes and viciously scratched out doodles in the margin. He acknowledges John's return with a small but genuine smile and a fond "John". It shouldn't be as endearing as it is, to see Sherlock perk up just from seeing him return. He's like a puppy that's been left miserably alone for too long, all but wagging his tail in greeting.

"Dare I ask what's happened to our kitchen table?" John says mildly, doing his best not to breathe through his nose.

"It's an experiment in the life cycle of salmonella at room temperature, obviously. And how's your sister's cat? A little stressed, is he?"

"How- oh, never mind. Yes, he's shedding like it's going out of fashion, and he hasn't been eating much, either. Harry's taking him to the vet tomorrow. How was your family lunch?" he asks in retaliation.

The face Sherlock makes is priceless. It says volumes about bad smells, and how eggs going off couldn't possibly compete. "Bearable, but only just," he drawls shortly. "Mycroft has put on another pound and a half, and he stayed away from the roast potatoes. They're his favourites." The smirk on Sherlock's face is equal parts delighted and vindictive. John tries to stop himself from sniggering, then realises there's no point, and lets it out in a burst of amusement. A moment later Sherlock joins him in that peculiar, quiet way of his that makes his eyes crinkle and his lips twist in interesting ways.

John makes himself a cup of tea while Sherlock huffs impatiently and opens all the windows in the flat. It leeches the heat from the room, but it takes the evil smells with it, so that's alright.

"How much longer?" John asks, resigned.

Sherlock scrunches his nose in disgust and sweeps the contents of the tubes into the bin with sharp, disappointed gestures. "I was mostly finished, anyway. I've done this experiment before, and the results aren't all that different depending on air pressure, it seems. Last time it was extremely low, while now it's rather high for the time of year. Dull," he concludes with a disaffected sniff.

John rolls his eyes and leaves his tea to brew while he grabs the binbag and makes the trek downstairs to chuck it out back in the dumpster. When he runs back upstairs the stench is thankfully mostly gone, and Sherlock is sprawled all over the sofa, sipping at John's misappropriated cuppa. John doesn't even bother to protest, which is ample evidence as to just how miserable the last two days have been. He makes another cuppa and lets it stew again while he pulls shut all the windows and lights a scented candle. He'd felt like an absolute girl the first time he'd done it, but to his surprise it really has helped with the smells Sherlock generates with alarming frequency. He'd bought Molly three candles of different scents and sizes as thanks for that little tip. He collects his tea from the kitchen and settles carefully into his chair with a deep sigh of satisfaction, wiggling a little to savour the tiny spike of sensation in his arse that the shift in position allows.

Apart from the eggs meeting their doom, the flat is looking remarkably tidy for a change. There are no feathers covering every available surface, or muddy shoe prints in ten different sizes decorating their living room carpet, or marks all over their sofas from wet branches belonging to seven different trees making an impact from various directions. In fact, it's almost untouched from when John left three days ago. He lets his eyes drift around the room and come to linger on Sherlock's long limbs splayed over the sofa, turning on his elbow every now and again to take a sip out of his pilfered beverage and smirk a challenge at John. It's quiet, calm, peaceful, and for once Sherlock isn't protesting the hatefulness of the scene. John smiles to himself, charmed against his will.

He debates when the best time would be for unveiling his present to Sherlock. Sherlock might not be in the mood for it, considering that he hasn't even kissed John yet, hasn't even touched him since he came back through the door. Sherlock might prefer a quiet evening to what John has planned, and he's almost tempted to leave it at that - but he's put too much thought and effort into this; and frankly, just the thought of Sherlock's reaction is enough to make his stomach tighten in anticipation and his blood rush south.

He's wondering how best to introduce the subject when Sherlock sits up suddenly, a filthy smirk on his lips that John hadn't even known he was capable of a few months back. He puts his empty mug on the coffee table, steeples his fingers together and gives John his most penetrating look. John can physically feel the mad genius' attention focusing solely on him; he feels himself being peeled like an onion, all the way down to the core. It's an adrenaline rush the likes of which he's unlikely to ever experience outside of this setting, not even while chasing dastardly suspects half-way across town. His skin sings with awareness; the patch just under his navel in particular is growing so sensitive that he only barely manages to suppress the rough exhale fighting to come out. He clutches his mug to stop himself from reaching down and rubbing it; he doesn't want to give Sherlock any warnings.

It's kind of strange, how much of his whole being has become centred on this man in a measly few months; how much of John orbits Sherlock like light orbits a black hole, on the event horizon just before total immersion - Sherlock, in turns dismissive and possessive, uninterested and obsessed with what makes John tick. John has never considered himself to be all that interesting - but there must be something there, something under his skin that Sherlock can't quite get enough of. And Sherlock himself is under John's skin now, in more ways than one. Even if Sherlock ends up getting bored of him eventually and casts him aside, John knows that he will never, ever get over Sherlock. He hoards these moments of focus, of interest, of having Sherlock's undivided attention on him jealously; collects them carefully inside where they make him feel alive in ways nothing ever has before; keeps them in the hope that when Sherlock gets tired of him, they might keep him going until the pain eventually dulls, even if it would never go away. John is used to holes punched through his flesh healing, and what's one more in the grand scale of things?

John lives his life in the here-and-now, another thing the Army taught him. In the here-and-now, he smiles at Sherlock while he finishes his tea, distracting himself with the familiar taste, giving Sherlock's massive intellect time to unwrap him as he pleases. Sherlock won't see this coming; for all his brilliance and fragile ego, the amount of insecurity that lurks under the surface is staggering. John knows that Sherlock has trouble believing that John is for real - that he meant it when he said that he'd never leave, that it really was fine if Sherlock wanted to keep that one mutual adrenaline-fuelled release as a one-off, as a mistake. It would hurt and rankle, of course it would; but it was fine, it was all fine. John doesn't think he'll forget for as long as he lives the violent, almost frantic light in Sherlock's eyes as he'd looked at him for a long moment, then clutched John's shoulders with bruising strength and yanked him forward to be kissed breathless, mindless. The undeniably possessive love bite under John's navel from that first incident had taken weeks to heal; Sherlock taking painstaking care to nibble and suck at that particular spot again and again every time they got naked together had not helped matters.

John has found over the years that he enjoys watching a plan come together, and this particular reaction to his careful handling is going to be one for the history books.

Sherlock's eyes narrow as he looks John over again and again. John tries not to smirk - he'd done everything physically possible to stop Sherlock working his plan out, from getting the deed done the afternoon before he'd gone to Harry's, to taking care not to behave in any way differently the previous week, ever since the idea had popped into his head. It had been a stroke of sheer luck that they hadn't had a chance to have sex (because of the latest gruesome case), and Sherlock's mark had had time to heal properly for once. Sherlock wouldn't be Sherlock if he didn't suspect something, but John has at least made sure that his theories have nothing to fuel them, and that this is going to come as a complete surprise for the suspicious bugger.

"John," Sherlock rumbles, narrowing his eyes, and John feels a shiver travel down his spine from hearing his name in that half-warning voice. He doesn't know when hearing Sherlock say his name became quite this much of a turn-on; "Dr Watson" had been bad enough, but his first name falling from those delectable lips in that deep, thrumming voice, has the power to stop John in his tracks.

"Not here," John murmurs and stands, throws Sherlock an expectant look over his shoulder as he walks to the door, picks up his bag and heads for the stairs, keeping the game going for as long as possible. He hears Sherlock climb the stairs behind him two at a time, at his heels, almost touching him; John can feel the heat of Sherlock's body all the way down his back. His heart is pounding with anticipation and his breathing gets heavier, supplying the extra oxygen his racing pulse demands. John doesn't allow himself to dwell on Sherlock's likely reaction - he's getting unbearably aroused as it is.

John had always used to keep his bedroom perfectly tidy, as if a drill sargeant was going to walk through the door at any moment for an inspection. Sherlock had got some sort of obscene satisfaction from messing it up, John is well aware; and now that it's their bedroom, its chances of remaining tidy are much closer to nil. Sherlock prowls through the doorway, still eyeing John like a most interesting specimen. John throws his bag in the corner of the room, heedless of where it lands when Sherlock's strange eyes are locked on him and there's that twist to his lips, the one that says 'I'll solve you, because I am a genius, and I can solve anything'.

John smiles then, because he can't not - looking up into the face of the man who means more to him than his own life, he is ready to be solved - picked apart, if that's what's required of him. Sherlock's eyes are still flicking up and down his frame as his hands reach forward, catch hold of John's jumper and pull it up and off before busying themselves with the small buttons of the brick-red shirt underneath.

John's breath catches when the backs of Sherlock's questing fingers stroke the warm skin beneath the cotton, and it stutters in his throat when Sherlock purposefully strokes over a nipple. John's lips fall open on a rough exhale; Sherlock bends his head down and steals it from his mouth, slips his tongue inside and takes everything John can give him.

"Oh God," John gasps when Sherlock breaks the kiss and pushes him backwards onto the messy bedsheets; he falls on John like a man starved, leaving a trail of reddened bite-marks from his throat down to his stomach, stopping only briefly at his belt. John knows what it is that Sherlock wants - he wants to mark him again, make sure John knows whom he belongs to; he wants to get at his vulnerable underbelly, just below his navel, wants to suck on it and graze it with his teeth until the skin is red, until in a few hours it will turn purple and sensitive, a single spot that tells the story of how much Sherlock needs him, how much they need each other. John's already achingly hard underneath his slacks, and he hasn't even been touched; he shifts a little, rubs his bulge on Sherlock's strong forearms in search of relief. He smiles contently when Sherlock tugs insistently at the leather - the wait is finally over, and he'll get to see Sherlock's unguarded reaction to his present.

Sherlock frowns at John's smug expression, but doesn't stop what he's doing - the need is bigger than him now; it's almost like withdrawal, like needing a hit so bad that your entire world dissolves apart from the burn in your veins. Sherlock finally pushes himself up on his knees and manages to tear the belt off, to flick the button of John's trousers open, licking his lips in anticipation. He slips the zip down - and stares at the swirl of black ink marking his favourite spot on John's body, curling possessively into two simple words that shatter the world and remake it around him - his own name carved into John's pale skin, marking him better than teeth and lips and nails ever could.

The skin is still a little puckered; the tattoo is obviously fresh, would still be a little sore. Sherlock won't get to bite his favourite spot tonight, but he doesn't need to - his ownership is there for all to see.

Sherlock still looks stunned when John says a quiet "Happy Christmas", smiling up at him with his heart in his eyes. His processor feels like it's stalled with this huge, overwhelming inflow of data - all of it John's doing. Sherlock traces careful fingertips over the tender patch, memorising the way John strangles a gasp, the way his lashes flutter over his cheeks, the way he bites his lower lip so hard that there are teethmarks when he lets go. John, who is literally giving himself to him - blood rushes in his ears, and his eyes can't decide where to focus, on John's face or at the place where his fingers still trail appreciative touches over the ornate "Sherlock Holmes".

He can't quite breathe properly; he can't drag enough air into his lungs. John sprawls before him, open and trusting, the most gorgeous thing he's ever seen. There's a need building inside him - it's so savage that it scares him a little, this need to possess, to rip apart, to take, even when it's willingly offered.

"John," he chokes out, eyes boring into John's face in warning, searching for permission.

How could Sherlock ever live without this man? John smiles a benediction down at him even as he sits up and pushes him away, off the bed to give him some space. Sherlock is only confused for the few moments it takes John to remove his trousers and pants, walk over to the head of the bed and kneel on the mattress, cock bobbing with the bounce to paint drops of pre-come on his belly over the tattoo as he makes himself comfortable. He braces his arms on the headboard, bent over in uncharacteristic but complete submission to Sherlock's whims, exposing his reddened entrance and the plug twisted firmly inside, gleaming with lubricant and sweat.

For a long moment, all Sherlock can do is stare, his brain stuck on a loop of John stretching himself open for Sherlock on the guest bed in Harry's house - he's put it in before leaving Harry's, obviously - all the way on the bus and walking back to 221B - good, sweet, kind Doctor Watson, so desperate for Sherlock's cock to fill him that he's tried to do it himself - Sherlock is so painfully aroused, watching John reach back and spread his cheeks for him that he's going to come in his pants for the first time in seventeen years and eight months if he's not careful. All he can do is keen John's name when John draws the plug out slowly, carefully; it leaves his entrance with a squelch and a tiny, almost inaudible moan that falls from John's lips and seems to be wired directly into Sherlock's knees, because they just buckle under him from the spike of need that makes his whole body shudder. He lands ungracefully on the bed, almost face-to-arse with John; his breath hits the wet, reddened skin and he sees John shudder violently and thrust backwards, trying to get any kind of stimulation on his sensitised hole. Sherlock's mouth waters.

He's never done this before; he's never wanted to, never even thought about it, but this is John - his John, and there's nothing about him that Sherlock doesn't love, doesn't crave. The smell is driving him insane - the sharp tang of the lubricant, and underneath it the muskiness that is pure John, the scent of his warm, sleepy skin in the morning, only so much more intense back here, and he needs to know what it tastes like. He leans forward and draws his tongue over the still-stretched rim, tastes the salty sweat and the chemical sweetness of the lube, tastes John - his own cock is so hard that it's trying to drill its way out of his pyjama bottoms, and the constriction is verging on unbearable.

"Fuck, Sherlock, fuck," John groans under him, spreading his knees wider. "Just fucking take me already, for fuck's sake, please!"

Sherlock's brain short-circuits; it feels like he's falling, tumbling over and over down the rabbit hole. John is giving himself over to Sherlock, body and soul, and Sherlock needs to claim him more than he needs heroin, more than he needs the rush of being right. His hands are shaking when he reaches for John's hips - but he can't take him like this. He wants, needs to see his face, needs to see the implicit surrender when he breaches him. He tugs at him a little - "Please, John, please" - throws himself to lie down next to him, stretched out on the sheets with his back propped on the headboard next to John's arms, kicking his pyjama bottoms off viciously.

John throws a muscled leg over Sherlock's narrow frame, shifts so he's straddling his waist, arse poised to sink down on Sherlock's long, curved cock. He looks down at him - the look on Sherlock's face is open, begging, desperate - until John cants his hips and presses down, and the tip of Sherlock's cock slips effortlessly through the pliant muscles to sink inside, inch by thick inch.

John throws his head backwards, but Sherlock can still see the way his eyes roll back into his head, the way he grits his teeth to keep from moaning, the way he widens his legs so he can sink deeper over Sherlock, take him in all the way. He's never seen anything like it; everything they've done before pales in comparison to the way John opens himself to him, guileless, without agenda or expecting anything in return but what Sherlock is willing to give him. The ink stands out starkly on the pale skin of John's lower belly and Sherlock brushes his thumb over it again, still faintly disbelieving, because John is giving him forever and he's never had that before, never wanted it (dull, boring), but John can never be boring, never be dull except when he does it on purpose, when he smiles sweetly in agreement before doing exactly what he'd meant to from the start.

John's hands are clenched in fists where they bunch the sheets to the sides of his head. He stays there for a moment, pressed flush to Sherlock's groin, keeping him inside, as he lets himself fall forward to press their lips together. It's excruciatingly arousing to feel John's breath ghost over his face, to take his bitten lip into his mouth and soothe it with his tongue, to feel their skin slide together when John rocks his hips forward, jolts Sherlock's cock inside him, and it's Sherlock's turn to bite into that lip to stifle his moan. John pulls away.

"Oh no, you don't," he grunts, sitting back up and shifting to draw Sherlock a fraction deeper, bracing himself on Sherlock's bent knees behind him. "I want to hear you. Mrs Hudson isn't here, and the neighbours are scarcely going to notice today of all days. I want all of you, Sherlock. Today, I'm the greedy bastard."

Sherlock can't help but laugh, can't help but love John so painfully in that moment, so desperately, that he's ready to give him everything, anything he might want. It should scare him, how deep he's letting John burrow inside him, for all that he's the one doing the burrowing right now; but he's helpless to resist - he fell some time ago.

John has stopped moving. Sherlock makes a protesting, needful sound in his throat and John smiles, looking down into his face. Sherlock wonders what John sees there.

"I love you," John says quietly. It's not the first time he's said it; Sherlock hopes to any god still alive out there that it won't be the last. It still makes his heart jump as violently as it had the first time he'd heard it.

"I know," he says. He doesn't say it back, because he doesn't love John. There are no words in any language on Earth that can explain, describe what he feels about John, the sheer enormity of how much he feels about him. He surges upwards instead, catching John's mouth again even as he nails his prostate unerringly. John yelps in his mouth, startled, and shifts to bury his hands in Sherlock's hair, tilts his head to invite Sherlock deeper inside his mouth, groaning when Sherlock presses insistently on the inked skin just as he tightens his other hand around John's slick cock and twists.

John breaks the kiss to pant wetly against Sherlock's lips, closes his eyes and lets go, lets Sherlock rip his orgasm out of him and comes with a hoarse yell of Sherlock's name and a clench that he's going to feel for days, especially with the way Sherlock keeps pushing viciously inside him - before suddenly he's pushed backwards onto the bed, and Sherlock slips out of him with a stifled grunt. John frowns, bemused and still shaking from the aftershocks, opens his mouth to ask what happened just as Sherlock wraps long fingers around himself and starts tugging frantically, almost keening, and he gets it. Sherlock shouts a desperate "Oh god, John", before with one last twist he aims his cock over John's belly and shoots, messy strings of come looping over John's own release, smearing them together over Sherlock's name. John groans at the sight, and almost wishes Sherlock hadn't made him come quite so efficiently, because the sight makes something inside him tighten all over again.

Sherlock slumps backwards without warning, pulling John's limp body over with him. John winces - the tattoo is still new enough to sting when it's rubbed, and it feels like it's burning from all the touching. He pushes off Sherlock unhappily, landing on his back with a sigh; he's going to have to do something about it sooner rather than later. He tries to get up, but his legs won't hold him just yet, and he flops back down in defeat.

Sherlock has already cracked an eye and is watching him consideringly. He jumps off the bed - how does he still manage to do that when all my bones have disappeared? John grumbles to himself - walks out the door and returns a minute later with a warm, wet washcloth. He cleans John up so carefully, but it still makes John hiss in discomfort when he passes the rough surface over the tattoo, no matter how gentle he's being. Sherlock winces, too, and throws the washcloth across the room before making his way to John's duffel and upending it on the floor, ignoring the irritated "Sherlock, what the bloody hell are you doing?" that comes from the bed while rooting through the mess of clothes and toiletries. He grunts triumphantly when he holds up a tube of ointment - the same one that the tattoo artist had recommended he get and use at least three times a day.

Sherlock pounces back onto the bed, unscrews the top and squeezes a good dollop onto his forefinger. Then he proceeds to spread it all over the inked skin, careful to cover all the edges. The look on his face is something John's going to want to remember for a long time to come - part reverent, part possessive, all loving. The feeling is delightful, and the ointment starts soothing the burn almost instantly. John sighs happily and relaxes into the blankets. "Thanks," he murmurs, and Sherlock just looks at him like he's from another planet again, the unsaid "You're an idiot" clear on his face.

Once he's done, Sherlock tosses the tube onto the nightstand and curls down to pillow his head on John's bad shoulder, kissing the cicatrix fondly. He won't stay like that for long - he knows how stiff John gets if he puts too much pressure on it, but it's lovely to feel Sherlock's dark curls ghost over the scar. It's about the lightest touch he can still feel on it - it's more numb than sensitive by now. Nevertheless, Sherlock enjoys rubbing his cheek over it for some reason, and John knows Sherlock's being completely truthful when he tells him he likes it, that he doesn't find it ugly. John is puzzled, but grateful.

Sherlock's contented exhale ghosts along the sweat-damp skin of his clavicle. John buries a hand in all that wild hair, rubbing his scalp soothingly. Sherlock hums, throws an arm over John's waist and tugs him even closer, hand trailing to rest just under the white patch of cream working its magic. His fingers stroke around it gently, lulling John into sleep. The last thing John remembers before slipping away is Sherlock murmur "My John," pressing it with a kiss to the sensitive spot on his throat, before drawing the blankets over them both and following him under.

END