"Can I?"

On hands and knees on the threadbare rug beside their bed, John hovered over the prone body of his lover. No part of one man touched any part of the other.

"Please…"

There in the shadowy light, John asked for permission.

"Please, Sherlock?"

Strike that. John Watson begged.

"Oh my love," the good doctor whispered, not touching, not touching, and not touching…

Sherlock said nothing, just closed his eyes and arched up into the warm breath pooling high across his belly.

You can do anything John. Have anything, take anything…

But Sherlock didn't say that, because that wasn't what John wanted to hear.

"Oh god…"

What John Watson wanted was absolution. It didn't matter that he'd done exactly what his lover had asked, that there was not one thing Sherlock would change about what had happened in that moonlit room. What mattered to John was that he'd hurt the one person he meant never to hurt, and for that some part of him needed to pay penance.

And to ask forgiveness.

"Can I?"

So Sherlock would give him both.

"Please…"

But not yet.

John stared at the pulse in Sherlock's neck, counting. Onetwo, onetwo, onetwo. He looked at Sherlock's chest and counted there, too. He let his gaze travel everywhere, anywhere but to Sherlock's eyes. Then John looked at Sherlock's left hip.

Strike hard with a riding crop and it'll subtly flex. The stiff fiberglass will bend, curl just enough so that it'll leave a beautiful, terrible wound wrapping from the back of your lover's hip quite nearly to the front. The long, red wound left behind will look feverish, angry, and one will be tempted to touch the swollen flesh. John wanted very much to touch. He didn't.

Instead he looked at Sherlock's other hip, the second place he'd struck and this one made him close his eyes for a moment because he remembered that one more, he remembered thinking about that one more. And he remembered exactly what he'd been thinking.

I want to strike harder. I want to see what he'll do.

And what his lover did was beautiful. John grunted and swung and struck and Sherlock had groaned high and breathy, exactly as if coming. He'd raised his chest off that bed and threw his head back, straining up toward the crop, toward the pain, every long muscle in him trembling with the need.

John had wanted more than anything to strike again and this time hold nothing back and with another grunt, a moan, he did but that third strike, across Sherlock's arse, was misaimed and didn't fully connect and that was just as well because already John felt bad, bad for his desire, bad for wanting, dear sweet god for wanting to do it again, hit him again…

"No, John."

John glanced up, into Sherlock's storm-cloud eyes, then looked down again, at Sherlock's hip and there on hands and knees he waited to be forgiven and the small and gentle warrior warred with the part of him that was not gentle and never small, the part that was as basic and primal and strong as pain and hate and love.

"Yes, John."

Again John looked up. Sherlock's face was shadows and angles yet…soft.

John's intuitive about Sherlock, he understands far more than he should but he didn't understand this. No…yes…

"Tell me," Sherlock said, the student teaching the teacher.

I don't know, John wanted to say. I don't know what you mean, what you want to give or deny or—

"I know you don't think I did anything wrong," John said, still on his damned hands and knees, still not touching. "But I did Sherlock." The good doctor's voice dropped to less than a whisper. "I wanted to hurt you. I really wanted to hurt you."

John stared at some mid-point on Sherlock's chest. At nothing. At his own fucking heart.

Enough was enough already.

Sherlock sat up, which made John rise reflexively, pulling away so that he didn't touch—

Sherlock slid long fingers around John's wrists. "Words. You asked for words, remember?"

Sherlock waited. Waited until the guilt in John's face cleared and John realized his lover wanted an actual answer.

"Yes."

Sherlock shifted, until they were both on their knees on that damned rug, fingers wound together now.

"What did I say John? Just before I hit you?"

John couldn't think for a moment because, honestly? He wanted to pull his hands out of Sherlock's hands. He didn't want Sherlock to touch him. He really, really didn't want Sherlock to touch him yet.

"You…um…"

Gaze again somewhere at the middle distance, John looked for words, found a few. "You said you wanted to hit me because I wanted you to do it. That my wanting made you want."

Sherlock let the echo of the words stroll around the room a couple times before he rose on his knees, until he was chest-to-chest with his lover and looking down at him. "No one else could have done what you did for me. What I wanted you to do for me. What I needed more than I need…breathing."

Sherlock dipped his chin, turned his head, breathed soft against John's mouth. "I needed it so you needed it, John. That's all. I needed everything you had to give and so you gave…everything."

The kiss was soft and warm. It made John close his eyes, the better to focus and feel. It went on for a good, long while, that kiss, first a bit softer, then harder, breathy and then with a smile.

Somewhere in the middle Sherlock went pliant, taking instead of giving and then, when John finally slid his hands up and around Sherlock's back, Sherlock gave instead of took.

"Please, John…"

Sherlock bared the side of his neck, inviting a bite and so he was bitten.

"My love," he sighed, fingers sliding into John's hair.

Sherlock pushed his hips against John's belly, stilled them, willing and waiting and willing and waiting…

John's hands slid low, fingertips danced gentle over two pretty, pretty wounds.

"Oh god yes."

A man in motion then, Sherlock rose, tugged, fell all in one grand arch, until he was on his knees again beside the bed, and he was reaching, tugging John toward him until the good doctor was right where he'd been not twenty minutes before, right behind Sherlock, only now he was not quite hard so Sherlock grabbed his lover's hands and placed them right there on his hips and only once John let his fingers trace gently over red skin did Sherlock reach down and start to stroke his own cock and with great and lavish fanfare start to moan.

John. Watson. Can. Not. Fucking. Resist. The. Moaning. Honest to god he didn't know what it was but the sound of Sherlock, the drama, the passion, the silliness even, it didn't matter why he moaned or how real it sounded or whether he was fully dressed or bare bones naked or god damn beating himself off like now, the sound of Sherlock sounding off was a siren's song for John's cock. Every. Damned. Time.

And so John was hard and thrusting against Sherlock arse before he knew he was hard and thrusting against Sherlock's arse.

"Mmmmm," he said, bending over to kiss then carefully bite at Sherlock's left hip, "Mmmmmm," he said, never having stopped, leaning over to lick at Sherlock's other hip. And then John straightened and licked his palm, swiped it over his cock, and did that and did that, again and again, until he was wet with himself and before he could even reach out Sherlock shoved his arse back, grunting, "Yes, yes, yes," as his lover spread him wide and pushed, then pushed a little more, until finally he was—

"Jesus fucking Christ."

—all the way in.

Sherlock tightened himself around John, writhed prettily, moaned louder.

"Jesus," John sighed again, then lost the will to say anything more as right there in that small place where their bodies joined, that really very small place where it seemed a billion nerve endings could happily be set fire, burning through thought and pain and doubts, John felt the fading of just a little guilt.

"Yessss."

John may have given up speaking, but Sherlock hadn't. "Harder John, please John."

Sherlock fisted his hands into the blankets, the leverage letting him shove back against John harder.

"Harder John, harder John, harder."

Mesmerized by the rolling, greedy push of Sherlock's body back against his, then fucking-hell-Jesus unbelievably mesmerized by the sight of his cock pulling in and out of that ridiculously rounded arse, John settled his hands tight around Sherlock's hips and just stopped moving.

"Oh god, oh god, oh god," went Sherlock's litany as he pushed against John, as deep as lover's cock would go, then pulled away until that cock was almost all the way out and hello-and-hallelujah the feel of that, right at the rim, where there have to be a ridiculous number of nerve endings, hell, who needed a prostate when all that action right there pretty much made Sherlock's hair stand on end and his mouth just go and go and go.

"Harder John, John, my John," and since Sherlock was going hell for leather where arse met cock John knew he meant something entirely different, so the good doctor dug one-two-three-four-all his fingertips into hips, into bruised flesh, and when Sherlock rose onto his hands, back arched hard, curved like a damned beautiful bow, and positively roared his pleasure, John had absolutely, positively no hope in hell. He started to come and come and if you deign to tell him it didn't go on for a year John Watson will damn well call you a liar.

...

Sunshine and bunny rabbits were just a small part of the aftermath of that day. There was still guilt, and confusion, and feelings that couldn't easily be named, and so there were still more words to say, most every last one of them for John.

Because it would take him years to be easy with some of what Sherlock needed from him, and this—giving pain, wanting to—was the first and maybe the hardest. Guilt isn't always useful or sensible. Sure it may stop us from repeating an offense, but it can also cause the perception of offense where none's been given.

So, though they would do this again—and soon—there would always be words somewhere. Maybe before. Maybe during. Almost always after. But tonight they'd said almost all that needed saying.

Though there were still a few loose ends to tie up. Metaphorically speaking.

"I love you Sherlock."

Laying on their sides, at last tucked up under blankets, John curled tight against Sherlock's chest. He would sleep in less than a minute, but he was not asleep now, not just yet.

The reply took no time in coming, soft against the top of his head. "I love you John, I love you John, I love you John."

Why say once what three times can underscore, italicize, and bold-face?

Then, literally seconds before John fell asleep, the quiet coda, "Honestly, John, you could make a living at this if you ever get bored immunizing babies or giving old people enemas."

Well, there went that.

John started laughing and didn't quite stop until long after Sherlock fell asleep.

THE END

I am 100% certain I'll revisit the riding crop in a future story. Now that I think of it maybe I should just go hell for leather and combine the crop with…the lisp? Stilettos? With oh-god-only-knows-what-new-kink-tomorrow-will-bring? I guess I'll see what tomorrow brings. Thank you for reading and most especially FOR COMMENTY GOODNESS.