It all started because Sherlock was smack dab in the middle of a cold.

And yes, Sherlock does get a lot of colds. He gets the flu annually too, sprains something every few months, and comes dangerously close to breaking a bone at least twice a year. John is often amazed his lover's made it to his mid-30s with all four limbs largely intact.

But back to Sherlock's cold, and day four of what John was calling The Days of Whine and Poses. Setting a cup of tea on their coffee table the good doctor said, "You're growing a beard."

Stretched out feeble on the sofa, Sherlock dragged a tissue across his nose, lost interest in the act halfway, and so left his hand lying on his face. "If I shaved right now my skin would come off." He spoke with the flat certainty of the dying.

"The thing is, I didn't know you could grow a beard." In the few months they'd been lovers so far, John was sure he'd not seen his new sweetheart anything less than perfectly clean-shaven. "I thought you had Native American blood or something, I thought nothing grew in that pale skin."

Sherlock was too tired to be withering, so he just thought about it hard.

Then Sherlock's brain got snagged on the word skin, which made him think about chicken skin, which made him think about rubbery skin, which made him remember he had a small piece of automotive tyre sitting in vinegar on top of the fridge. Must check on it.

"Your beard," John leaned in close, peering. "It's…ginger."

Sherlock didn't have the energy to raise an eyebrow so he just blinked a few times. "That statement is worth italics why?"

John squatted beside Sherlock's prone form so he could see a little better. "Well, your hair is dark, why do you have a ginger beard?"

Sherlock almost made a face. He would have too, ten weeks ago, before he and John became lovers. But now he's extremely aware of changing his behavior—sometimes—so that he's what John might call nicer.

"The color's really more of a very dark red. And no doubt the inhabitants of these isles have been mixing their genes in a multicultural stew for millennia. Pale skin, dark hair, light eyes—clearly there's what's known as Black Irish in my family tree. Hence, a ginger beard."

Silence for three or four seconds.

"Sherlock?"

"Yes John?"

"It's quite possibly sexy beyond all reason."

Sherlock blinked a slow gaze over to the man who had became his lover not quite two and one half months ago. "Is there anything about me—at this stage of our romance—that you don't find sexy beyond all reason?"

John contemplated briefly. "Just your tendency to touch dead or putrid things and then not wash up properly."

"Good to know."

Silence then for the span of one medium-long sigh.

"Are you going to grow it out?"

The detective turned his aching head. His gaze slid over John's face but he couldn't read there what answer the doctor wanted. Interesting. When he can't figure something as simple as this out, Sherlock often stays silent. He knows most normal people feel compelled to fill a silence.

John just tilted his head, waiting for an answer.

Ah yes. The detective kept forgetting that John wasn't most people. He may not even be normal. Look at the company he kept.

"Should I?"

"You should."

That fast. John didn't even pause.

Sherlock scratched absently at the bristles on his chin. "I warn you, I'll look like a mad painter. Van Gogh but with ears. Or worse, like a superannuated university student."

John tilted his head again. "I can't imagine you looking like anything but you. This will be interesting."

"I didn't say I would do it."

John smiled. "Yes you did."

...

Fortunately John's infatuation with the beard lasted only two weeks, which was at least ten days longer than Sherlock had expected.

"It's not exactly a conventional beard, is it?" John had been sitting across the kitchen table staring at Sherlock for the last quarter hour. For ten of those minutes Sherlock had been ignoring him. For the last five he'd been telling him to go away.

John ignored him as if he were a tiny mosquito whose words were nothing but nonsensical buzzing. Instead the doctor stood, came around the kitchen table, squatted beside Sherlock's chair and stared hard at his lover's jaw. Sherlock pretended John was a mosquito and picked up a pipette.

Then the doctor lightly ran his hand over the bright darkness sprouting from Sherlock's chin, smiling at the rough feeling against his palm and Sherlock emphatically didn't close his eyes under these ministrations, though he did let his breathing slow and his gaze blur. He finds himself still surprised when John touches him outside the bedroom. He's still surprised John wants to.

"Sherlock?"

The detective opened eyes he hadn't realized he'd closed. "What?" The word was low and cracked a little. Sherlock cleared his throat, stared at his hands, which were holding something that seemed important.

The doctor shook his head, didn't say anything about the wiry coarseness of Sherlock's beard, how it contrasted in every way with the soft dark hair, and how, yes, it made him look a little bit like an unstable artist whose garret happened to contain a skull.

"Let me shave you."

Sherlock's face remained blank while he counted his blinks. When he reached five he trusted his voice to sound normal (impatient; gruff) instead of…not normal (breathy). "Now?" His hands, he still watched his motionless hands.

John stood, nodded casually toward the moon rock, milk and—he squinted—human blood, that comprised Sherlock's current experiment, started to turn away. "Whenever. Today, tomorrow, this weekend. No hurry."

Sherlock bolted to his feet reflexively then sat back down immediately (as if that erased the bolting). He then stood more slowly and said, as if he didn't care, "Now is as good a time as any."

John was already on his way out of the room, "Okay."

...

When he was seventeen Sherlock grew. And grew. But while his entire body lengthened—face, neck, arms, legs, nothing seemed to broaden. By the time he turned eighteen what Sherlock saw in the mirror, the rare times he made himself look, was one of those spindly flying saucer men from the movies—all scrawny limbs and reedy neck, with a big head to carry around his big brain.

Like a girl with anorexia, or a man in love, Sherlock simply couldn't see what was really there. In his case that was a rare and statuesque beauty that was very sensual, very lush, very male. There was almost too much when you looked at the man: eyes too slanted; lips too bowed; hair a dark corona around a marble face.

But Sherlock Holmes didn't quite see what others saw, so he continued to be surprised when John wanted to touch him, whether with a palm cupping his jaw or a hug Sherlock still found it hard to initiate when one of them came home late.

That didn't mean he didn't want these touches, because he wanted all of them, all the time, until the wanting drove him to distraction, a rare state which for Sherlock consisted of forgetting to continue doing whatever it was he was doing. Dropping a little blood on a rock maybe, or pressing SEND after typing a text, or neglecting to blink until his eyes burned.

He will learn to expect the touches, become arrogant in the certainty of them eventually, but that time is not now. Now it's been twelve weeks since the first time he kissed anyone romantically—bussing Mrs. Hudson is not the same—and he's smart enough to know how stupid he is about these things. Until a few months ago, it was not really his area.

And now he's following John like a faithful hound toward their loo and he's very excited that John is going to be touching him and it has nothing to do with sex.

He loves the sex mind you, but when someone touches you outside of the bedroom—well somehow it's almost more intimate. It's wanting instead of needing and it's a distinction that makes a difference and Sherlock doesn't know why.

When they reach the doorway to the loo, John glances over his shoulder slyly, as if surprised Sherlock is there.

"I'm surprised you're still there."

He was breathing heavy and feeling a little desperate, but Sherlock was still Sherlock so in answer to the tease he gave the doctor a hard squinty glare.

John just smiled back at him, enjoying how easy it now was to fluster his flatmate. All it had taken was a slightly monumental shift in their relationship and suddenly John had something quite resembling power over this powerful creature. It was absolutely fucking intoxicating.

The doctor stepped close, slid a hand into Sherlock's shaggy hair. The detective looked down at him, a little open-mouthed, waiting.

"You're hair's gone long, too, love," John said softly, tugging gently but relentlessly until Sherlock gave in and arched his neck.

That giving in part? That was absolutely fucking intoxicating too.

John stood on tiptoe, kissed the pale length of that neck. He knows how hungry Sherlock is for the simple affection he denied himself so long. For soft touches, for touching words. This doesn't have to be about sex, John's perfectly fine with that. But the slow, soft thrust of Sherlock's hips against his? Well he's pretty sure Sherlock's body has other ideas.

And that's fine, too.

"Another time for a haircut," John said against Sherlock's jaw. "Right now I'm going to shave you. If you like." John let his hands trail along his lover's arms, then fall away. Sherlock's body unconsciously followed those hands, until six feet of want and need pressed against five feet seven inches willing to satisfy both.

Still, John waited, long enough for Sherlock to clue in: "Yes, John. Please."

The asking? The needing? That's fucking intoxicating, too.

"Well then, love, I think it's time."

You know what happens next. Of course you do. Sex, sex, sex. Until then go to atlinmerrick dot tumblr dot com and search for ginger to see what I think Sherlock looks like with dark hair and a somewhat-ginger beard. Warning, the beauty contained in the image you are about to see may sear your retinas.