Sherlock woke slowly, and smiled once he remembered where he was - folded safe in John's arms. John was snoring softly, his warm breath tickling Sherlock's cheek.

Sherlock smiled at the sight of him, and reached out a long, nervous finger to stroke his cheek. It was pleasantly warm and soft.

He withdrew his hand slowly, and John stirred slightly. Sherlock tensed for a second, a sudden irrational fear that this had all been a mistake surfacing again. John groaned, stretched and then opened his sleep-blurred eyes. "Whatever you're thinking, Sherlock, it's almost certainly wrong."
Sherlock flushed, and before he could pluck up the courage to take the initiative himself, John leant forwards and kissed him softly on the lips. Sherlock grinned, and returned the kiss. Eventually they drew away from each other again, and Sherlock noticed John's dazed, dreamy expression.

"What are you thinking?" he asked.

It was John's turn to flush. "Can't you guess?"

Sherlock shook his head. "I never guess."

John coughed awkwardly. "I was just thinking that if I could wake up every morning to you in my bed, I think, whatever happened, I would die a happy man."

Sherlock blinked, confused, and then raised his head to kiss John again, because not only was it a strangely touching thing to say, but also the thought of John dying was so abhorrent that he wanted to clutch him close to make sure nothing could ever happen to him. He could feel John's smile against his lips, and drew back a little. John's hand followed his face, cupping his cheek and caressing it gently.

"We should get up," John murmured. "I should think it's nearly midday." His hand moved slightly, and he stroked Sherlock's hair. Sherlock felt a shiver of warmth in his chest, and wondered if John touching him would always feel like this.

"Getting up is dull," he pointed out, his eyes not leaving John's.

John chuckled. "We can't lie here all day, unfortunately," he replied, sitting up, hauling himself out of bed with a groan and staggering to the kitchen for his morning cup of tea. Sherlock couldn't decide whether to be irritated that John had left him, or ridiculously pleased that John had said "unfortunately".

"D'you want tea?" John called from the kitchen.

"Hm," Sherlock replied, knowing that John knew that that meant "coffee" and rolled out of bed himself. After a quick visit to the bathroom, he trudged into the kitchen, the tiles cold on his bare feet. John turned, smiled at the sight of him (he could never get enough of that smile), and handed him a steaming mug.

They perched on the kitchen table side-by-side and sipped silently. Sherlock allowed his wings to slide out through the slits in his shirt and stretched them, wincing, stiff from the night before. When he'd finished, John gave Sherlock a quick peck on the cheek and then jumped down from the table to go and get dressed. When he returned, it was Sherlock's turn to go and dress. Somehow, even though they'd shared a bed the previous night, it would have felt strange to change in the other's presence.

"We should walk down to the village," John called from the kitchen. "It's a nice day – we could go and explore a bit – buy a postcard for Mrs. Hudson?"

"You do realise that by the time she gets the thing, we will have been back home for several days?" Sherlock reminded him curtly, searching through his suitcase for underpants. "The whole exercise is utterly pointless."

"Mmm," John agreed. "But it's still quite nice to do. Anyway, we need to get something for dinner this evening. I'm starving – we should eat lunch in a café or something, as it's a bit late for breakfast."

"We've got that bread we bought yesterday," Sherlock pointed out, pulling on his trousers.

"I know, but we ate all the beans," John replied mournfully.

"We've got milk."

"Yeah, but no cereal. I forgot at the shop yesterday, even after all that palaver about how much milk to get."
"You could eat it with the bread."
"I'm not a hedgehog, Sherlock!"

"You shouldn't feed hedgehogs bread and milk, John," Sherlock informed him loftily, tugging his shirt over his head and returning to the kitchen. "It's bad for their digestive systems. Cat or dog food is far more suitable."

"Mr. Know It All," John said with a smile, turning away from the window out of which he had been staring, and planting a kiss on Sherlock's nose (Sherlock scowled, though it was actually quite nice). "So the solar system is so pointless you can afford to delete it from your memory completely, but you know the exact dietary requirements of hedgehogs?"

"It was for a case!" Sherlock said, with dignity. "A little old lady, furious with her neighbours always putting out bread and milk for hedgehogs, despite her repeated advice that it was a bad idea, launched a spectacular and quite ingenious hate campaign…"

"I shouldn't have asked," John smirked, kissing Sherlock on the nose again (the fact that he had to stand on tiptoe a little just made it all the more adorable). "Now, come on – get some shoes on, or I'm going down to the village without you."

xxxxx

They walked down to the village in near-silence, which John found unexpectedly pleasant. Not that he didn't love it when Sherlock talked (hell, just the voice of the man was enough to stun John's brain into a dazed, practically drooling stupor), but it was nice that they felt comfortable enough with each other that they didn't have to resort to awkward, inane conversation just to break the silence. John had had enough gossipy, never-stop-talking girlfriends to know that sometimes, silence was a good thing.

By the time they reached the village, John's stomach was growling impatiently, and when they saw a chippie, he found it impossible to resist. Normally, he would object to the idea of his first meal of the day containing chips (he wasn't a student, for Christ's sake), but today all the rules seemed to have gone out of the window – the sun was shining brightly, he had just spent the night cuddled up next to Sherlock Holmes, and he was starving.

Of course, when Sherlock reluctantly confessed he'd never tried fish and chips (his repertoire of meals that he had actually tried was extremely small, though he seemed to know his way around a Chinese takeaway menu pretty well), it was an even greater incentive.

They emerged, triumphant (in John's case) and sceptical (in Sherlock's) from the chip shop, each clutching a greasy newspaper parcel. They ambled down to a little beach, bordered by a myriad of brightly coloured shops, and sat down on the coarse, dry sand (John with a satisfied thump, Sherlock a little more gingerly). John dumped his newspaper package on his knee and ripped it open without preamble, while Sherlock set his cautiously down on the sand beside him and unwrapped it as if it were a bomb about to go off. When he spent one minute too many contemplating the plastic similar-to-but-too-small-to-be-a-fork that came in the packet, John simply speared a chip on his own fork and shoved it in Sherlock's mouth.

Sherlock gave a indignant "mmph" of surprise, but ate the chip anyway, and then, apparently resigning himself to his fate, started eating his own.

"I know you're not going to be keen on this," John said quietly, after the initial hunger had passed and he was picking at his remaining chips rather than wolfing them down. "But I think we should talk."

Sherlock froze with a chip half-way to his mouth, and John gave a half-irritated, half-amused sigh and kissed him swiftly on the forehead. "No, you idiot. I'm not having second thoughts. I just mean that things are moving quite quickly, and I'd appreciate us just… well… discussing it."

"Hmmm," Sherlock said doubtfully, though he had relaxed again and brought the forgotten chip to his mouth. John had to force himself not to become fixated on the sight of Sherlock eating it.

"So I take it you've… um… had some kind of feelings for me for a while?" John asked carefully, cautious of alarming Sherlock.

"That seems a fairly accurate assessment, yes," Sherlock said curtly, clearing not appreciating the conversation.

"And you want us to be in a proper, romantic relationship, right?"

Sherlock glanced up again, and the guarded, insecure look was back in his eyes. "If you…"

"Of course I would," John said swiftly, and fought the urge to kiss him again. "And erm… How do you feel about… y'know… PDAs?"

Sherlock's brow creased. "I hardly think it's the time to be discussing palmtop computers, John."

John groaned. "No – public displays of affection."

"Since when did you use such juvenile…?"

"Like kissing or hand-holding and stuff in public," John continued, ignoring Sherlock's criticisms of his grammar ("massacring the English language…"). "What do you think about it?"

Sherlock frowned again. "Well, I don't care. You may have noticed, but I don't always obey conventional social norms."

John smiled. "No, I guess you don't."

He ate another chip, thoughtfully. "Listen, Sherlock. I mean, this is a pretty… personal question, and it's fine – absolutely fine – if you don't want to answer it… I shan't be offended, or judge you, or anything like that – it's not massively important, I was just wondering - like I said, you don't need to…"
"Please – John. Your irritating overuse of perfectly unnecessary abbreviations is one thing, but please sort out your sentence structures," Sherlock drawled. John rolled his eyes, thinking how unfair it was that the man could be so annoying and yet still sound so gorgeous.

"Have you ever been in a… relationship before?" John asked quietly.

Sherlock seemed suddenly to be intensely focused on his chips. "No," he said coldly, a muscle flickering in his jaw. He swallowed. "In university, someone… asked me. But I said no."

"OK," John said promptly, trying to sound as casual as possible, and not at all stunned that his suspicions that his thirty-four-year-old flatmate was really as inexperienced as he appeared had just been confirmed. "That's fine. Completely fine."
He hesitated again. "And I… Well, I don't been to be blunt, but about… y'know… sex."

Sherlock glanced up again, a half-smile dancing in his face at the sight of John's embarrassment.

"I mean – we don't have to, if you don't want to – if you just want to cuddle (or even if you don't want to do that all the time), then that's fine… What I mean is, there's no pressure for us to rush into anything tomorrow, or even next week, or next month, OK? You can have as long as you need – the last thing I want to do is to… push you into something you're not ready for, and…"

"I've had dreams," Sherlock interrupted, with his customary bluntness. His eyes were fixed on John, searching for a reaction. John blinked, a little perplexed, having lost track of his train of thought.

"Dreams? What kind of…?"

Sherlock rolled his eyes again, and John's brain whirred to life.

"Oh, right, I see, oh… OK, um…" He coughed awkwardly, trying not to imagine Sherlock imagining those kinds of things (them, together, bare limbs tangled in the bedclothes), because that made him start imagining them too (Sherlock's heated kisses, those beautiful, beautiful lips, his exquisite, slender figure)… Shit, too late.

He gave an awkward shame-faced laugh, and then tried to return to his "responsible, non-pushy boyfriend" role. Oh dear God, was he Sherlock's boyfriend? It made him sound ridiculous!

"But seriously, Sherlock." He gave a small, sincere frown, to emphasise how serious he needed Sherlock to be. "We don't need to rush into anything…"

"Hn. Talking's boring," Sherlock declared, like a small child who has just learnt a new sentence and then insists on using whenever physically possible.

Long, thin arms looped about him, and a surprisingly cautious mouth was lowered to his. Sherlock seemed to be beaming out as much heat as an over-enthusiastic radiator, and John felt even warmer once Sherlock's lips brushed over his. All the breath left his lungs in a single, heated sigh (as did Sherlock's, by the sound of it), and he relaxed into the kiss, hands sliding up into Sherlock's soft, thick hair, which made Sherlock's breathing falter for a moment. John's heart was pounding, and Sherlock's lips were suddenly so hot and demanding that they were taking his breath away. He decided to take a bit of control back, and slide his right hand from Sherlock's hair and instead took to rubbing his back, deft fingers tracing the wings hidden beneath the fabric.

Sherlock's reaction was immediate and dramatic. His back arched, his whole body trembling, and he took several huge gulps of air. For a horrible second, John thought he'd done something terribly wrong, until Sherlock gave a low, sensual moan, and fell back to kissing him desperately, his breath hitching every time John's fingers began to move again – rubbing gentle circles against his wings, until Sherlock was almost sobbing, his head lolling, fingers grasping John's jumper desperately, a litany of pleasepleaseplease escaping his lips. Taking pity on him, John removed his hands again and returned to gently kissing his mouth and face. Sherlock tried clumsily to reciprocate, which only served to send shivers of desire running down John's spine.

Suddenly remembering they were on a public beach, John drew back again, rather reluctantly. Sherlock's face was flushed, his eyes wide and sparkling bright, his curls in disarray. His lips were red and slightly swollen, and he was still gasping for breath. He was so unspeakably gorgeous that John had to restrain himself from jumping on him – he'd been too rough with him already.

He cleared his throat awkwardly. "Um, are you OK?"

"Fine," Sherlock said, his eyes staring.

"Um…" John coughed again. "We should go and get some stuff for dinner – what d'you reckon?"

"Mmm," Sherlock said, his eyes still dreamily fixed on John.

"And take that look off your face – you look like you've been shagged half to death, and we don't want to offend the delicate sensibilities of that poor little old lady in the shop. We've got to wait until we get home next time."

xxxxx

Thankfully Sherlock had recovered his wits sufficiently by the time they got to the shop to have an enthusiastic argument with John about what to have for dinner. Sherlock, of course, didn't want to eat anything. He was finding it very hard to understand why John was so obsessed with eating.

"John, did you see how many chips we had for lunch? We surely don't require any more food!"

"Yes, we do!" John argued back. "Or, at least, I most certainly do, and you're too skinny for your own good anyway!"

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "I'm not sure that you appreciate the fact that if I become overweight then chasing after criminals will become significantly more difficult!"
John raised his eyebrows, which made his forehead crinkle up delightfully. "You? Overweight? You're skin and bloody bone! A couple of decent meals isn't going to kill you. Now, what about pasta?"

"John, are you deliberately seeking to be exceptionally mundane, or is it accidental?"

"OK… Do you fancy cheesy sauce or tomato sauce?"

Sherlock shot him a look that could have fried most humans from thirty yards away, but it just bounced off John. Maybe it was something to do with the jumpers (he was wearing a rather pleasant green one today).

"Maybe tomato," John said to himself under his breath. Sherlock wondered if he talked to himself in Tesco, when he wasn't yelling abuse at self-service checkouts. "Because whenever I try to make cheesy sauce it just curdles," he added mournfully, apparently for Sherlock's benefit. "Looked like vomit last time. Whereas tomato, you can buy in a jar and just bung in a pan. Sherlock, could you pass me that jar of Dolmio?"

Sherlock turned and located the jar on the top shelf. He passed it down with a smirk, which John ignored.

"OK… We've got pasta, we've got sauce… Um, let's get some cereal for breakfast tomorrow, shall we? Or what about some jam or something?" He looked up at Sherlock, chewing his lip, as if the matter was one of national importance. That was another thing (just one of a very very very long list of things) that Sherlock liked about John. He could be deep, he could be philosophical, he could discuss the innermost motivations of the human race, and he could also become almost comically fixated on the most petty and bizarre of subjects.

"I think jam," Sherlock said seriously, because if they started looking at cereal now they wouldn't get back to the cottage until dark, and he didn't think he could survive not kissing John for that long, and if he did it now he might get overenthusiastic and knock over one of those tottering displays of value orange juice.

However, to Sherlock's abject dismay, the small shop provided a bewildering range of jam, probably due in no small part to the culinary endeavours of the local women (and men, since one didn't want to be more sexist that was necessary). There was raspberry, strawberry, and orange, but fairly soon John was examining jars of gooseberry, blackberry, apricot, redcurrant and loganberry. After a few minutes contemplation he apparently decided that maybe raspberry was a wise choice after all, and they finally made it to the checkout, with a postcard for Mrs. Hudson as well. The same little old lady from the previous day was there, still, oddly enough, perusing the same magazine. She greeted the two of them like old friends.

"Back again, dears? You know, I saw Maureen at the post office earlier, and I said to her that I'd seen the two young men what were renting the cottage, and then she said…"

"Lovely weather," Sherlock said quickly, pushing the packet of pasta in her direction.

"Ooh, it is that – only April, and it's been so warm…"
Sherlock rolled his eyes at John in desperation. In return, John gave him The Look, which meant Sherlock was to stop being rude. It was normally only partially successful, at best.

They finally escaped, and Sherlock was quite willing to sprint the mile home, so desperate was he to start kissing John again, but John insisted that they walk. Sedately. Sherlock was sure he was soon going to go mad, and he was also sure that John knew that very well. They trudged down in the road at a snail's pace. Just when Sherlock had decided that really he would just kiss John now and hang the consequences, John turned and gave him a placid, gentle smile just deliberately intended to try Sherlock's willpower, so he managed to grit his teeth and resist the urge to kiss John so hard that he would fall over.

However, when they made it back to the house, John had barely set the bag of shopping down on the worktop in the kitchen when Sherlock lunged at him, pinning him against the kitchen units and kissing him frantically. John gave a deep chuckle, and then a little moan, and shoved Sherlock backwards so that all of a sudden he was the one pushed against the cupboards, and John was the one taking control. Sherlock moaned haplessly, giving in to John's lips and ohdearGod tongue until he was nothing but a puddle of desperate pleasure.

John laughed again, and drew back, pressing a final soft kiss to Sherlock's lips before going to fill the kettle. Sherlock remained half-collapsed against the kitchen units, trying to recover his breath, and deeply envying John his unruffled composure.

"Tea?" John asked, and Sherlock nodded his acquiescence, going to sit down on the table again.

John switched on the kettle and went to get the little box of teabags from the cupboard. Sherlock watched him intently, wondering how he could bring the thoughts swirling around his mind out into the open.

John made the tea and brought Sherlock his mug, before returning to lean against the units and watch Sherlock with a contemplative air. "Come on, then," he said kindly, smiling at Sherlock over the top of his tea. "I can tell there's something on your mind."

Sherlock hesitated. "What you said on the beach..."
"Mmhm. What particular thing?"

"About... sex."

"Mmhm."

"Could we do it now?"

John choked on his mouthful of tea. "Shit, Sherlock!" he spluttered. "Now?"

"Yes," Sherlock said, affronted. He didn't see why that was such an outrageous request.

"But it's... it's only half past one!"

Sherlock raised an eyebrow. "I didn't know there were laws against it at certain times of day."

John rubbed his temple in frustration. "But Sherlock... We only kissed for the first time yesterday, and I can't help feeling it's a bit rushed... I went too far on the beach, and I'm sorry, but I just think..."
"It is because I'm a virgin?" Sherlock asked shortly. "Is that why you don't want to?"

"It's not that I don't want to! I just don't want to rush into anything!"

"Is it because of..." Sherlock's throat closed up, and it took a moment to clear it. "Is it because of the wings? Because I know they're a bit… alien, and I could try and keep them covered up..."

John set down his mug of tea, and his voice was suddenly stern and heart-breakingly sad at the same time. "Never say that," he said.

Sherlock frowned. "But..."

"No. I mean it." John's face was intense and unsmiling. "I love you, Sherlock – all of you. Do you really think I've forgotten that, just because you happen to be different? Of course not. If anything, they just make you more beautiful, and more perfect. I don't want you to ever hide them."

"You... love me?" Sherlock asked. His voice sounded oddly hoarse.

John swore again. "Shit, sorry – I didn't mean to dump that on you so soon. I completely understand if you don't feel the same way yet, or even don't ever feel the same way – I don't want to pressure you into..."

"I think I might," Sherlock said quietly, and John didn't tell him that he didn't or couldn't, or wasn't experienced enough to know yet. He just smiled, took a step forwards, slipped a hand behind Sherlock's head, and pulled him down for another kiss. This one was soft and tender and blissful. Sherlock's wings twitched. "Can I...?" he murmured, around John's lips.

"Of course," John said gently, and pulled back a little. Sherlock didn't know what he was doing, until he realised he was pulling down the arms of his jumper to avoid any accidental skin-to-wing contact. Sherlock tugged free his coat and allowed his wings to emerge, stretching luxuriously, and then curving round so that they surrounded him and John like a feathery bubble, safe and protected from the rest of the world.

xxxxx

John sighed and laid his head on Sherlock's chest. Sherlock's wings were incredibly warm and gentle – John wanted dearly to brush his cheek against the feathers to see if they were as soft as they looked, but fought to resist.

"We can," he said quietly. "Of course we can – it's not like I've ever been able to resist you anything."

Sherlock bowed his head a little so his nose was nuzzling John's ear. They stayed like that for several minutes, John's hands tentatively brushing Sherlock's waist, and Sherlock's arms and wings curled about John's back.

Eventually John sighed and moved back a little – Sherlock allowed his wings to fold back to his body. "We should go for a walk or something."

"Why?" Sherlock asked, sounding as drowsy and contented as John felt.

"Because you can't come on a holiday to Wales and just spend the duration of it inside, particularly when it's sunny. Come on."

They walked down to the beach they'd visited the previous evening, taking the longer route down the cliff path (Sherlock wanted to fly, but John forbade it). When they reached the beach, John sat down in the sand and took off his shoes and socks immediately. Sherlock was rather more cautious, but John finally managed to persuade him. They even went paddling in the sea (the sight of the six foot tall Sherlock daintily tip-toeing through the water, trying not to get his trousers wet, was one John would treasure forever), though they quickly decided that the water was really too cold to stay in for long.

Finally they sat there in the soft sand, a little out of breath from laughing. John shot a glance at Sherlock. He was as beautiful as always, his pale shirt accentuating his waif-like frame, the trousers he had borrowed from John (far too short for him, of course), now soaked with water and clinging to his legs. It was so unusual, somehow, to see him so happy and so uninhibited, that it took John's breath away.

Sherlock noticed his scrutiny and turned an inquiring head. "What is it, John?"

That deep, delicious, melodious voice got him every time. John pulled him forwards by his shirt collar for another kiss.

xxxxx

By the time they got home again evening was already drawing in with surprisingly rapidity. Despite the beautiful sunny days, when the sun began sinking (John had tried and failed to explain the whole science Earth-rotating thing to Sherlock), it wasn't long before dusk truly set in.

Sherlock flumped down on the sofa and tried to check his phone again for any messages ("Lestrade is bound to have a case for me by now!"), while John put the kettle on again and began looking through the cupboards for a saucepan for the pasta. The warm, homely familiarity of it all was comforting. Even though they were in a different house, and Sherlock had wings, and he knew that if he wanted to kiss the man, he no longer needed to resist the impulse, it felt oddly, in fact, beautifully normal.

"John!"

John rolled his eyes – that imperious, aristocratic call – and obligingly went through to the living room. Sherlock was standing on the windowsill, his arm outstretched, a gleeful look on his face.

"I have a signal!" he announced. His phone binged, and he pulled it back towards him triumphantly. His face fell a moment later, and he threw the phone to John (John thanked his lucky stars yet again for good catching skills, which were oddly crucial when living with Sherlock) with a look of disgust, collapsing back on the windowsill with a look of abject depression.

"Mycroft!" he spat.

John grinned and read the text.

Glad you have told John. Wish you every happiness, etc. Please remember to be prudent in your nightly activities (do not bother to pretend to misunderstand me – you are very immature at times). Could be irksome to sort out if you are discovered - scientists are hard to bribe. MH

"Well, at least he wishes us 'every happiness'," John said, still smiling. Sherlock gave a theatrical groan and sagged still further against the window, hand flopping down in a dramatic gesture. John refused to react and encourage Sherlock's bad behaviour – rather, he said, "Try to get the TV working. Pasta'll be ready in twenty minutes."

xxxxx

They ate their dinner side by side on the sofa. At least, John ate his, and then argued, persuaded, blackmailed and bribed Sherlock into eating his. They watched Coronation Street (Sherlock could always predict the future storylines by the actors' behaviour), then a cooking programme, then ITV's latest "hit crime drama", which Sherlock utterly despised and John quite enjoyed.

When it had finished, they sat awkwardly together on the sofa, channel flicking. John's heart was beating almost painfully hard. He didn't know if Sherlock remembered that John had agreed to sleeping together earlier, or even if he had taken John's agreement seriously. Despite his noble sentiments, now it came down to it, he wanted to. Badly. Of course, he couldn't, and wouldn't, pressure Sherlock into anything, and he didn't want to mention it in case Sherlock had changed his mind and was trying to back down quietly, hoping John didn't remember. But what if...?
He had paused for a second on a repeat of Britain's Got Talent, and Sherlock tutted. "You're an idiot."
"I know it's not exactly high-brow," John said defensively. "But you enjoyed that dog dancing last week, didn't you?"

"Not that!"

John turned to him, and soft lips met his. Was it going to take his breath away every time? Sherlock – untouchable, remote, distant Sherlock, his skin warm and flushed, his movements gentle, eyes bright and breath catching a little with desire.

They broke apart, and John paused, one hand cupping Sherlock's cheek. "Are you sure? Totally sure?"

Sherlock nodded and then hesitated. "Unless you...?"

John gave him a serious look, to show that he was still certain. "Absolutely."

They kissed again, but somehow, the mood had changed slightly. It was more serious, more intense. They broke apart again. The room seemed to have suddenly become warmer, and Sherlock's touch was an electric spark on his skin.

"You go in the shower first," Sherlock offered. "I was first yesterday."
"OK."

John stood nervously, and went to the shower. He washed his hair and then stood for a while in the warm water, closing his eyes, letting the water gush down his face. He exhaled slowly, then got out and dried himself off. He considered not wearing his pyjamas, but he wanted this to be slow and tentative and at the pace Sherlock wanted – he didn't want him to feel that they had to rush. Tonight, they had all the time in the world. He pulled on his old, navy pyjamas.

He emerged from the bathroom, his head a little clearer, and was nearly bowled over by Sherlock, clutching his towel and his pyjamas and muttering something about John taking "years".

John smiled and went to sit on the bed. His heart was beating incredibly fast, considering that this was by no means his first time. But somehow, that was what made it hard. Sherlock, for all his intelligence and sarcastic comments, was so innocent and vulnerable. He wanted this to be perfect for him, and that desire was twice as strong than the lust that suggested he should just rip off Sherlock's clothes and have his way with him (noble as his intentions were, John's heart still skipped a beat at that thought). The mere thought of Sherlock feeling uncomfortable or scared in any way was so repellent that it made him feel nauseous. His mind flicked to a horrific image of a young, bruised Sherlock crouching in darkness, and Sherlock's voice echoed in his head. My father… He wasn't the pleasantest of men… I was bad…

He shook his head, as if to clear it. No. He was going to let Sherlock know how much he loved him, how he wanted to hold him close and never let him go – never let him be hurt again. He thought again about the wings, how he'd wanted to run his fingers through them the first time he'd ever seen them, how Sherlock's breathing had faltered, and he'd realised a second later with a thrill of surprise that in was in pleasure rather than in pain.

The bathroom door open, and Sherlock emerged with a cloud of steam. He, too, was wearing his pyjamas, and he was towelling his hair dry vigorously. He turned to see John on the bed, and hesitated for a moment. John rolled his eyes and patted the bed beside him. Sherlock sat down, sweeping his bare, skinny feet on to the bed with him. John looked him straight in the eyes, one more time. "Sure?"

"Utterly positive."

xxxxx

Their lips met tentatively again, and they kissed for a few minutes, John gentle, Sherlock inquisitive. Sherlock's heart was beating fast, his breath catching in his throat. John's skin was hot and his hands were moving desperately through Sherlock's hair. Desire was pulsing in Sherlock's blood, setting his nerves on fire. John's lips moved down, warm moist kisses trailing down Sherlock's neck, taking his breath away. He wanted to reciprocate, to make John gasp and moan, but he found he could only drape himself helplessly over John, fingers scrabbling at faded cotton.

xxxxx

John slowed down a little, leaning back a little from Sherlock so their eyes could meet. Sherlock's were wide and glassy, his pupils blown. John gave him a quick kiss on the forehead, and then reached a hesitant hand towards the buttons of his silk pyjama shirt, giving Sherlock a quick, questioning glance, to check that he was still OK with this. Sherlock gave a swift nod, and reached for John's own buttons.

In a remarkably short amount of time, Sherlock's shirt was off, and at once, his wings unfurled themselves, stretching until they were fully extended, dwarfing John. John hesitated for a moment, unsure of what to do first, and, at once, the eager light died in Sherlock's eyes. "It's fine, you don't have to. I understand."

"No, don't be ridiculous…"

Sherlock was already turning away, cheeks pink with humiliation, goosebumps appearing on his bony chest. John, realising that he had to act now to avoid ruining the situation still further, seized Sherlock's shoulders and dragged him round for another kiss. For a moment he thought that Sherlock had changed his mind, because his body stiffened, but a moment later he relaxed a little again, and John felt it would be safe to draw back.

"I want to do this," he said firmly, not letting Sherlock break eye contact. "I want you to want to do this. And, Christ, if I can't touch those wings this instant, I'm going to lose my marbles."

xxxxx

Before Sherlock could fully comprehend what was happening, John had flung him backwards on to the bed. The duvet puffed up in his face, and he lay there, surrounded by luxurious softness and cool sheets and John. He gazed up at him desperately, watching the flickering of his brown eyes as he took in every inch of Sherlock. It was exciting, thrilling, terrifying, exhilarating. His wings were practically vibrating, feathers rippling and muscles shifting as though he were in flight.

John's body was tanned, muscular and compact, with a light dusting of chest hair that Sherlock himself didn't possess. The scar on his shoulder was a mess of ridged pink-white skin, and Sherlock wanted to kiss, touch, taste it. He reached out trembling fingers, and John closed his eyes for a second, letting him investigate, before leaning down to capture his mouth in another kiss. They kissed until Sherlock felt vaguely dizzy, drunk on the feel and taste and smell of John. When he drew back again, his face was serious. Sherlock saw with a spine-tingling mixture of terror, triumph and stomach-swirling anticipation, that John's hand was hovering an inch above his feathers, and felt glad that despite John's brash words, he was still in control, still concerned that Sherlock wasn't sure.

"Sherlock, are you...?"

Sherlock considered a pithy, sarcastic remark, considered rolling his eyes, considered snorting in contempt at the idea that he was backing out now. But what emerged from his mouth was nothing but a broken, breathy whimper, the exact duplicate of what he had said last time John had been this close to touching his wings (except this time there were no gloves, no shirt in the way, nothing but John's skin, oh God, oh...)

"Please."

John didn't waste a moment - thank God he didn't want to tease Sherlock this time. A single, tanned, gentle hand, smaller than Sherlock's own, descended, as if in slow motion. Sherlock heard his heart beat once, twice…

John's hand touched Sherlock's feathers and the world stopped.

The breath rushed from his lungs in a single, hoarse gasp as that unbearable, unstoppable, fantastic rush of feeling (just like before, only a thousand times stronger) cascaded through his wings. Wave upon wave of that terrible, tingling, beautiful pleasure shuddered through him, until he felt he might break apart. His back was arched, heart thundering, panting for breath. He felt bare and exposed and he didn't care, in fact he relished it,because it was John, oh God, and he just wanted to clutch him close and breathe him in forever. He felt like John's hand was touching him deep, deep inside – there was a delicious, warm burn in his chest, as though this goodness went deeper than all the badness had done before.

"Sherlock, are you OK?"

John moved slightly, as though to take his hand away, and Sherlock, panicking, surged upwards, desperate not to end the contact. It was warmth and loving and being loved, and so fragile and perfect that he couldn't let it stop. John grinned, and bent to kiss him again, soft, tender lips brushing his. Sherlock moaned and let his head fall back so John could trail more kisses down that long pale neck and over the jutting ribs. He paused for a moment, and Sherlock's heart began pounding again, because he knew that he'd found the scars - the pale, near-invisible, secret lines that adorned Sherlock's ribs. He'd made them a long time ago, now, with sharp cold metal, when the drugs weren't enough. The memories were vivid and horrible, and he was so afraid that John was going to stop, going to ask questions, going to...

"Sshhh," John said, and laved his tongue down the line of scars. There was sadness in his voice, but the hand on Sherlock's wings rubbed a soothing circle that made Sherlock moan again. "You're not disgusted by mine, are you?"

"No, no, no, John, no, please..." More desperate kisses, until Sherlock had to pause, out of breath. "Of course I'm not."

"Well, the same is true for yours," John said gently. His hand traced along the line of Sherlock's wing, fingers gently massaging, until Sherlock felt as if those fingers were touching his very soul, fingers wiping away the doubts and fears and leaving peace and love in their place. He stared wonderingly at John, who then took matters into his own hands and bent his head to nuzzle his face in Sherlock's feathers.

Sherlock's back arched again with the shock, and John grinned and began to work on another sloppy line of kisses – across Sherlock's abdomen, meandering down to his lips, and then oh… lower… oh

xxxxx

Some time later, they lay together, happy, warm and sated. John's hand was still touching Sherlock's wing gently. The feathers were delicate and satiny-soft, and John thought he could be quite happy if he never stopped touching them again. When he had tried to take his hand away before, Sherlock had shivered and buried his head in John's chest, so John had replaced it. Somehow it made him feel uniquely closer to Sherlock, as though they were the only people in the world. Just him and Sherlock, and the warm wash of sleep that was beginning to drift over him.

He glanced across at Sherlock. His skin had almost returned to its customary pallor, but there was still a faint pink blush staining his white cheeks. The bright, desperate light in his eyes had faded, and had been replaced by a sleepy, contented gaze that John didn't think he had ever seen before.

Sherlock caught his eye, and smiled slightly. He was radiating a calm, quiet warmth that made John feel impossibly happy.

"I love you," Sherlock said softly, and long fingers reached out for John's face, tracing a line from his ear to his jaw. John closed his eyes in contentment, and wondered how long it would be before he fell asleep. Not long, if the warm heaviness of his eyelids was anything to go by.

He gently removed Sherlock's hand from his face, and held it tightly, fingers linked together. Sherlock snuggled a little closer, tucking his head into John's chest, his legs entwined with John's and long arms wrapped about him. John didn't think he'd ever been happier.

"I love you too."

xxxxx

Author's Note: OH GOD GUYS. I am so so so sorry this has taken so long to do, truly I am! But it is a really long chapter, so please forgive me! Got my first GCSE on Monday (for those of you who live in happy GCSE-free worlds – they're like horrid huge exam things) so have been stressing and not doing enough revision and I've got exams on and off basically until the end of June D: My sixteenth birthday is going to be utterly sabotaged by revision :'(

So yeah, anyway, updates may be few and far between. But I was kind of planning the next chapter just to be a mini finishing off once with them heading back to Baker Street anyway so I can actually concentrate on my work and then maybe flit back to some of my old un-finished stories! Though I wouldn't rule out a sequel ;) And about the sex scene – I went for Lumoa's idea in the end, so maybe there will be an M-rated what-happened-in-between chapter appearing at some point, but for now I really need to work (for some reason I'm doing a GCSE in Latin, so have literally pages of Ovid to learn).

So thank you for reading, sorry for the terribly long delay and also this incredibly long note, and please give me a review if you have the time – you KNOW it will brighten up my day! :D Love you! xxx