Song: The Scientist (by Coldplay) covered by Jessica Allossery (YouTube)
Seventeen steps. Seventeen steps that lead to the top portion of 221 Baker Street. The door to flat B, the door which could usually be found hanging wide open, ready for anyone to barge through, with a case, with a complaint, with grocery bags or take away. For three years that door has remained firmly shut, all seventeen steps up. The good doctor will come home, let himself in, shut the door, and entomb himself each night within the walls of 221b. He'll sit in his chair, and sleep in his bed, and he'll do his damnedest to not think of him. That's how you survive three years. You compartmentalize. You shove all those feelings, those hopes, those dreams, those icky-sticky-hurting-huge feelings way, way down and you don't let them out until you're positively alone and safe and way from prying eyes, which are always asking "Are you okay?" or "How are you today?" or "Feeling alright?" Those blasted questions which aren't really meant casually, but at the same time they're expected to be answered with the least awkward and most socially acceptable terms available to someone who shouldn't still be grieving after three bloody years.
Sherlock gazed up from the bottom of those seventeen steps, aching to bound up them and throw the door open and wrap that grieving man up in his arms and tell him how sorry he is, how much he missed him, and how very, very much he loves him.
But he can't do that, not just yet. He has to take those stairs one at a time, he has to knock on the door, because 221b is no longer his domain to strut about, it's a place and a privilege that he must earn back. His home is wherever John is, and he must ask to return home, for the last time.
He had gone over this scenario in his head approximately five times each day since the day before he...died. When he would come back, back to his life and his heart and John. He would finally tell John what he had known for so many years, he would reveal his sentiment, his attachment, and his love.
It was now or never. Now. He raised his slender hand and slowly knocked on the wood, a tremor of apprehension rushing through him. He was so afraid that this would go south, that John was going to be irreparably angry with him, that John was going to hate him. Sherlock knew that John was not doing well, thanks to Mycroft, who weekly updated him with John's state of being, and he had hurried his hunt, fighting and searching with more fervor than ever and he had won. He had saved John and Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade and Molly and Mycroft and everyone. "But at what price?" he wondered to himself.
He heard John's heavy footsteps, uneven with his limp every other step. His heart was hammering in his chest, his breath rate increased, he could feel a flush working its way up his chest and neck and into his cheeks.
The door swung open and there he was.
His cheeks had hollowed out a bit, dark circles under his eyes, frame thinned. There was an unmistakeable weariness that he seemed to wear like a coat, wrapped loosely around him. Sherlock tried to use these precious seconds to assess John, to deduce and calculate and catalogue and store up everything that he could, he wanted to squeeze all the information of these three missing years from this one moment with John.
John stared hard at the tall man before him. His grip on the door tightened, knuckles standing white against his skin. His heart stuttered painfully in his chest and he felt as if the world would bottom out at any second. He wanted to slam the door right back in that beautiful man's face, and to walk straight into the kitchen and go to the cupboard and pull out that bottle of liquor he had been keeping, drink down the whole thing and get right pissed. His body, however, did not obey. It seemed to go into overdrive and he wrenched himself back from the doorway to let Sherlock pass. Like a ghost, he floated into the room, seeming unsure and cautious, like this was a gift that was going to be taken away at any moment. John seriously considered throwing him out and yelling, but once again his body would not listen. He shut the door behind him, staring wide-eyed and frozen at this stranger before him.
Sherlock was wraith-thin and his hair hung in lanky ringlets that desperately needed cutting and tending to. He looked like he hadn't slept in weeks, like he might possibly be using again, to get through the day. Everything about him reeled John back, back to before the Fall, before he died inside, before he buried his best friend and lost all that truly mattered to him. He had imagined Sherlock coming back, imagined that one last miracle he so desperately begged of his should-be-dead friend. John almost didn't believe that he was real, that maybe he had finally cracked under the pressure. There were a thousand thoughts and emotions running through John and he didn't know which one to catch onto and release first. They stood staring at each other for quite some time.
All it took was that one word, that one syllable, rolling out of that one man's gorgeous mouth to crack the good doctor.
John was across the room before Sherlock could even react and a fist connected soundly with his left cheekbone, the flesh smacking sickly, stars blinded him. He hit the wall and slid to the floor with a great thump and stared up at John, dazed and silent. John stood before him, shoulders lifting with each huffed breath, face red and contorted with pure rage. His hands were fisted at his sides and he was vibrating with pure energy. He stalked into the kitchen and returned with an arm full of cups, hurling each one at the wall, crying out.
"You were dead!" He shouted finally as ceramic mug shattered a foot from Sherlock's head. He didn't flinch. John's breath was heaving, and he kept yelling, about how Sherlock should be dead, how he buried his best friend, he asked if Sherlock ever cared, how could he betray him in such a way, what the fuck was wrong with him, why didn't he tell John sooner. So many questions which Sherlock was dying to answer, but he could not open his mouth, not without receiving a mutinous glare from John before snapping his mouth closed. This was John's time.
Eventually, John calmed perceptively. He stomped over to Sherlock, jerked him up off the floor and grasped his thin—too thin—shoulders to inspect him. His ragged hair, split lip and faintly bruised cheek. John saw the healing scar just below the detective's hairline, and a possibly week-old set of bruising just at his nose. Sherlock was stock still, not daring to move a muscle, while every single fibre of him was willing his arms to wrap around the doctor and explain everything. But he must wait. He must wait for John.
John was still clearly fuming, but he had stopped yelling. He asked in a quiet voice, "Are you back for good?" Meeting Sherlock's eyes, silently asking Will you leave me again?
Sherlock nodded slowly, trying his best to answer John, to silently reassure him that he was never leaving again. John jerked his head in affirmation once before releasing his grip on Sherlock's shoulders. He took a deep breath.
"I—I'm going to leave now. I can't stay here right now. I can't look at you or talk to you or deal with...you...right now. Not while I'm feeling like this." He took Sherlock's hand, it was shaking. "Don't...don't go anywhere. I—fuck, fuck, fuck—I will come back. Please, for the love of god, don't be gone when I come back, okay? Still be here." And with that John lifted Sherlock's hand to his mouth a pressed a small kiss to his fingers before all but running out of the door.
He went down those seventeen steps and out the door away from Baker Street.
Waiting is something Sherlock has never been inclined towards. He may bide his time, hunt as long as it takes, wait for a clue, but just waiting? When he could be doing...something? Anything? Well, it's the rarest of occasions to find Sherlock Holmes doing just that. However, this was John. This was John Watson. This was for Sherlock's life, and his love.
Sherlock Holmes shrugged his coat off and sat down on the sofa and he waited.
The sun had set and John was still gone.
But John Watson was nothing if not a man of his word.
So Sherlock kept waiting. He went to the bathroom to wipe his face of the blood, ignoring the throbbing pain in his head and in his chest. He showered, went to his room—God had it really been three years?—and he paused when he entered. Something wasn't quite right. The bedsheets were rumpled, pillows still indented with the recent occupation of a sleeping person. Had John let someone sleep in his room? Sherlock shook the thought, no. If someone was staying in 221b Baker Street with John, it would be with John, in his own room—his own bed. Sherlock moved to find some clothes, old t-shirts and worn pajama pants. His dressing gown, maybe. He found his pajama bottoms easily, but he checked all of his drawers for his t-shirts. He didn't have many, but he had some and they were all mysteriously missing. Had John thrown them away? Donated them? Used them as flannels? He didn't know, but he was so tired, he had been across the world and back, fought angels and demons, and none of that compared to the dread and heaviness that John's one punch, his shouted words, had weighed into his bones. His head was positively aching, his arms felt like jelly, his legs sandbags.
So he forewent a shirt, and climbed into his bed. Crawling under the duvet, he turned his face into his pillow, inhaling, searching for that sense of home. He was completely shocked to find that his pillows smelled distinctly different from what he had remembered. His blog 'The Science of Deduction' contained a detailed list of perfume identifications, Sherlock did not doubt that there was something amiss here. He inhaled deeper, searching his hard-drive for what it was. The only thing that he could think of was that it smelled like John. It had that spicy soap and shampoo scent. It was unmistakeable, as the scent blossomed through his mind. John had slept in his bed.
Sherlock's heart tightened painfully. He gripped the pillow to him, wrapping himself around it, curling up and pressing his face into the fabric. When he did so, he felt an odd lump under the soft cushion, it felt as if someone had stuffed a flannel under the pillow in a quick dash at cleaning up. He wrapped his hand around it and tugged it out slowly, only to be utterly dumbstruck when he unveiled a soft and crumpled up NSY t-shirt. His NSY shirt. The shirt he had pilfered for a case about five years ago, when he had first come under their consultantship. He lifted to his nose and inhaled. John. John had been sleeping with this. Sherlock imagined John, curled up in the middle of his bed, with this shirt tucked under his chin, holding it to himself, and the thought made Sherlock's whole body ache with an impossible sadness. Under the duvet, in his bed, it all smelling so deeply of John, Sherlock felt so unimaginably small, and so completely alone.
Even though tiredness wracked through his body, after several years of a fucked up sleep schedule and bouts of unescapable insomnia, Sherlock did not sleep long. A few hours, at most, the sky was an inky black, though London still ran on even in the wee hours of the morning. Sherlock was twisted and caught in the mess of sheets and he had intwined himself in the duvet with astounding complexity. He had slept fitfully, dreaming of John's shouting, his leaving, and the strange and doubting fear that he would never return. Sherlock didn't fully remember his dreams, just the empty feeling that had set itself into his bones as he tried to admit to himself that John would come home, he had promised. So he continued to lay in bed and stare up at the ceiling of the now-darkened room, the shirt that smelled like John pillowed under his head.
Eventually the dull pounding in his head grew into a great throbbing behind his eyes, which was enough to draw Sherlock from his the safety of his John-scented bed to the kitchen in search of a paracetamol. In his hand, he loosely carried the shirt he found under his pillow, like a child carries their blanket from room to room, a comfort object. He's still shirtless, goose flesh erupts across his skin at the chill of the flat, a stark difference to the warmth of his bed-sheet cocoon, as he padded down the hall and into the kitchen. His chemistry set sits in a cardboard box on the far side of the table, its glassware covered in a fine layer of dust, each item carefully placed, papers neatly folded into a manilla file folder that is tucked into the side, labeled 'His research' in John's precise script. His research? Why not his name? Why not just label the whole box Sherlock and be done with it? Thoughts of painkillers pushed to the back burner of his mind, he pulls a chair out and lifts the envelope from the box and flips through the files, dropping the T-shirt in his lap as he sits down. The pages are yellowing, pencil markings fading, dust motes disturbed from the box float through the florescent lighting of the room. He remembers these experiments, journal entries, old case files...essentially all the shite that Sherlock had left lying scattered across the table, each item carefully stacked—nearly in chronological order—Sherlock noted.
He replaced the folder, headache bursting to the forefront of his mind and he picked through the cupboards fruitlessly. He knew that John had to keep medicine somewhere considering he was a doctor after all. A first aid kit, perhaps. Sherlock settled for making some tea, hoping a decent dose of caffeine would stave the aching in his head off a little. He located John's tea kettle, idly thinking that he would have to purchase the good doctor a new one, as this one seemed to be on its last leg, and set water to boil.
A strange sense of déjà vu set in for Sherlock, as he sat back down at the table and pulled one of John's discarded medical journals towards him. The flat was still and quiet, cars whizzed by outside the window as three a.m. rolled around, Sherlock sits alone in the kitchen, waiting on tea or coffee to brew—just like before. The kettle going off pulled Sherlock from his reverie, and he set himself to preparing a cuppa, leaving the water on warm—just in case John came home and wanted some. Sherlock took his cup and the shirt into the sitting room and curled himself up in his chair, facing John's empty one, twisting and pulling the shirt up against his chest, using it and the tea to warm himself a bit and he sighed, willing the twinge in his chest to alleviate. He surveys the room, nearly unchanged but for the absence of a few of his own personal items. His skull still lay on the mantle, his desk was still cluttered for the most part, a half attempt to straighten it on one side, clearly a lost cause. His eyes rested on his violin case, which was propped up against his desk chair. He stood and crossed the room to lift the case, unlike most of his things, it had no layers of dust. He unlatched the case and brought the fine instrument closer to his face for examination. It clearly hadn't been played, but it had been cleaned, strings adjusted and wood well taken care of. John must have taken it several times to be serviced, and Sherlock didn't quite know what to make of that. Had John intended to pawn it? Sell it? Did Mycroft wish to have it donated? After all, it was a fabulously expensive piece of craftsmanship, so was that the case? Sherlock picked his bow up, fitted with new hairs, he saw. He set the T-shirt inside the case in the violin's place and tucked the instrument under his chin and gave an experimental drag of the bow across the bridge. John had also had it tuned, too; curious.
It had been ages since Sherlock had played, no time during is mad hunt and sweep of Moriarty's web, but the notes came just as easily as they had all those years before. His music reflected his mood; melancholy, repentant, near-desperate, and so very and dearly longing. The tempo pulled up and down, as slow as the beat of a resting heart, before speeding up, fearfully, needfully, like a child trying to keep their feet beneath them as they run, trying to chase. He half played pieces he knew, half broke them down into bridges and melted them into compositions of his own. He played the words he hadn't said, couldn't say, so desperately wished to say. He filled the walls of 221b with music, the notes pressing and absorbing themselves intimately into every crevice, ever corner, every crack, and every space.
Sherlock played for a long time, he played until the sun rose, until his fingers were aching, new calluses rubbing themselves into his fingertips alongside the old. Sherlock used the music to transport his mind far away, through time and space, back to the start, back to Before. He used it as a gateway to the glorious possibilities of the future, a future filled with John. He had so absorbed himself, whisked his mind so far away, so deep, that he didn't hear the click of the front door, that he didn't register heavy and familiar footfalls making their way up those seventeen steps. He didn't notice the pause of those footsteps at the door to the flat, a soft groan of the wood as a forehead was pressed to the other side of the wood, a good doctor with rumpled day-old clothes and a weary face, whose eyes were closed and turned his head so that his ear could be pressed to the door, listening to the music which made his heart ache. Sherlock was not aware of the good doctor, who had pressed his hand to the wood of the door and sighed in utter relief, that stood just on the other side.
No, it was not until John opened the door he had previously leaned against and stepped into 221b that Sherlock realized he had let himself float very, very, very far away. Much farther than seventeen steps should allow. Sherlock experience several feelings at once. There was a staggering sense of relief, at the sight of John; that he had come back (like Sherlock deep down knew that he would). He felt shame; for doubting John, for even thinking that he wouldn't keep his word (because maybe he didn't know that John would come back, maybe thought that he didn't deserve for John to return). The strongest emotion, however, was a bone-crunching, breath-stealing, stomach-twisting fear; that though John may have come back, he was going to leave again, and this time not promise to return. To never return. Sherlock would never regret his decision to save John, because he would rather live his entire life with the weight of John's contempt and hatred for him, to never see that wonderful man again, but to know that he was safe and well and fucking alive. He would save John a thousand times, without hesitation, he would give his life for that man, a great man, far greater than he thought himself. His surety in his own decision did not steel himself any better against the fear, though. Courage does not mend a broken heart, nor does it protect it.
John's face is a mask, one that Sherlock's skills of deduction cannot crack. He is still angry, that much is obvious. What Sherlock doesn't see is John's fear, his sadness, his betrayal, and his complete and total joy. He jerks himself from his frozen spot in the doorway and moves to the kitchen, if he's going to make it through today, he'll need tea. Lot's of tea.
John makes tea, his hands moving with practiced automation, but what he is really doing is busing himself to keep from doing what he really wants. When he walked into the flat, seeing Sherlock standing by the window, holding his violin, playing—oh god what was he playing, it was gorgeous—his violin, his eyes closed, mouth parted slightly, it made John's chest ache. What was worse was the fact that Sherlock was shirtless. The pale planes of his back and chest unbidden by a shirt—it was all John could do not to barrel right towards him, into him and touch and kiss and feel every inch he could get to. It was this inconvenient need that abled John to force his legs into gear and get the fuck out of the sitting room and into the kitchen, into sanity, so that his resolve wouldn't completely crumble.
Once his tea was brewed and he had calmed, he went back into the sitting room, to find Sherlock standing in the same spot, fidgeting, his right hand brushing nervously at the scar just below his hairline. He didn't look at John, he looked at his bare feet.
Sherlock waited for John to speak. He waited for John to tell him to speak. This was John's turf; his territory. They were going by his rules, he decisions. Sherlock waited. After a few minutes, John finally spoke.
"Explain," is all he said. Precise. A command. A tone that a soldier used speaking to his subordinate, expecting a damn good reason for actions and compliance immediately.
So Sherlock explains. He tells John everything, well, almost everything, if this betray wouldn't be enough to make John want to leave, then finding out that his flatmate, his previously dead flatmate was in love with him surely would be. He tells John about Moriarty, about Moran, about his deal with Molly, his years spent hunting and his eventual victory. He tells him how it was the only way to save him, to save Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade and Mycroft. He's hoping to play off the 'for the greater good' factor, to hide his real reason, his need for John which drove him. John stayed quiet, making no facial expression other than a curt nod here or there. He listened, considered. It wasn't until Sherlock had finished that his jaw tightened and his eyes flashed. His voice was quiet and controlled when he spoke next.
"And when did my opinion about my own life stop being taken into consideration?"
Sherlock bites his lip and meets John's eyes. "When I decided that my life wasn't worth yours." He sighed heavily. "You're a good man, John, but Moran was a better shot," Moriarty wouldn't have burned the heart out of me had I not jumped. Moran would have shot it dead, he wanted to add. Too sentimental for the moment, though. John shook his head tightly.
"That's not good enough, Sherlock." He was getting angrier, "You can't be dead for three fucking years just for one man's life."
"No. Why didn't you tell me?" He hissed.
"John, Moran would have killed you had I not jumped. If you had known what I was going to do, then he wouldn't have believed it. For fuck's sake I barely knew what I was going to do."
"Sod that! You could have told me Sherlock, you know you could have, we could have figured something out, anything out—"
"Moriarty would have seen through it—" he tried to interject but John cut him off again."
"I just don't get why you didn't bloody tell your best friend, your only friend—" Sherlock couldn't stand it anymore, the words wouldn't hold themselves in his mouth any longer.
"Because I'm not going to let the one person in the entirety of humanity that I've somehow managed to fall in love with die!" Sherlock half shouted the last part, his voice breaking on the final word. He had thrown his hands up in the air, and he brought them down to bury his face in them, half shielding himself with the T-shirt that he held in his left hand, he had forgotten that he had picked it back up when he put his violin away, it was balled up in his fist, worried in his nervousness. "I would not have survived it," Sherlock murmured as he dropped into his own chair, keeping his face buried deep in the fabric he held in his hands.
This stops John in his tracks.
Sherlock's heart is pounding in his chest and he can't bring himself to look at John. The good doctor was surely going to leave now, unable to live with an insane man, a traitorous man. Sherlock had put the words out there, and now that he had said them once, he might as well say them again, properly.
"I love you," Sherlock said in a small, but sure, voice as he pulls his face from the balled up shirt in his hands and stares down resolutely at it. He takes a deep breath through his nose, pushing away the angry and ugly curl of fear that was coiling in his stomach, and he looks up to meet John's wide-eyed gaze.
"I...you...what?" John couldn't think properly, he can see that Sherlock is positively vibrating with energy, the thin man curled up in his chair, with the shirt clutched between his long hands, complete vulnerability written on his face. Something in his expression hinted to John that Sherlock hadn't really planned to share this with him. To Sherlock, love, caring, sentiment was a weakness, something to be exploited and tossed out with the rubbish. John could see so many emotions openly in Sherlock right now, he could see the child who shut himself away when he grew older, closing his heart and himself to the world, creating an island among himself; self-preservation.
"I love you," he said, louder now, with more resolve. He'd find a way to tell John as many times as he could before the doctor fled; he'd find his way to hell with those words on his tongue. "I did all I could to fully protect you, because I love you."
Something flicked across John's face which Sherlock was at a loss to comprehend. He vaguely wondered if John was going to punch him again. In a matter of seconds the doctor had crossed the space between the chairs and in one motion he grabbed the back of the gaping consulting detective's neck and then he was kissing Sherlock. His lips mashed to the detective's—it only taking him seconds to catch up, to react, to wrap his arms around the shorter man and move his lips in sync. John was warm and his mouth was soft and tasted like honey and chamomile and home.
Sherlock didn't have time to think, have time to wonder, or be scared or worried. His brain short-circuited, rendered itself incapable of cognitive thought, only able to move and to feel and to feebly attempt to capture and record all the sensory details that he can possibly glean from this moment.
After a few minutes—could it have only been minutes? I felt as if it were hours, days!—John pulled away. The doctor was kneeling on the floor between the detective's legs, one hand still against the taller man's neck, entangled in his dark curls, and the other cupping his cheek. Sherlock had one arm wrapped around John's middle, pulling him flush to his body and his other arm about his shoulders, hand pressed between his shoulder blades. Sherlock could feel John's heart fluttering beneath his jumper, breath coming rapidly. The detective kept his eyes squeezed shut, trying to contain the heaving breaths he was taking, pleading his heart to slow down, his brain to stop flying for once. He worried that when he opened his eyes, he would see the mistake written across John's face, the regret for his actions, the realization that he was wrong, wrong, wrong.
He felt the hand that was tangled in his hair move around to cup his other cheek, the pad of his thumb brushing lightly over his mouth, which parted slightly at the touch.
"Sherlock," John whispered, his breath ghosting over Sherlock's mouth. The detective did not open his eyes, he wanted to keep this moment forever.
"Sherlock," John murmured again, brushing a kiss over his flatmate's mouth. "Open your eyes, Sherlock." The detective obliged.
Sherlock was not prepared for the expression on John's face. For the blinding grin that stretched across his features, his eyes bright and shining and—oh God, why are his cheeks wet? Is he crying? Why is he crying?
John was indeed crying, and at the bewildered look that Sherlock was giving him, a bubble of laughter rose from deep in his chest. Sherlock seemed to relax a bit at John's laughter, though he still seemed a bit wary. John looked down and noticed that The Shirt was still bunched up in Sherlock's lap, pressed between the two of them.
"Why are you carrying around a T-shirt?" He asked.
Sherlock considered for a second, and then answered, "It smells like you," plainly. John laughed again. "Why did you sleep in my bed?" He returned, brow furrowing. John's laughter faded, nearly taking the smile with it, but it still tugged lightly at the corners of his mouth as he dropped one hand to the T-shirt and pressed his forehead against Sherlock's.
"Because it smelled like you," he admitted a bit sheepishly.
He had been sleeping in Sherlock's room since exactly three months after his 'death' when he couldn't take how much he missed his flatmate. He had thought to himself "It'll only be occasionally, when I'm particularly low, maybe after a nightmare." Yet one night turned into every other night, which turned into whole weeks at a time, which eventually turned into every night. At one point, the sheets didn't smell enough like Sherlock, so John went to his drawers and found it filled with neatly folded old T-shirts, a gold mine. The good doctor had taken to wearing Sherlock's old shirts around the flat, an armor against the sadness. Some nights, after a particularly nasty nightmare, he would peel the shirt he was wearing off and bundle it up under his head and inhale deep, his chest aching, wishing things were okay.
Yesterday morning, he must have just shoved the shirt under the pillow, clearly expecting that he would pull it out again that night when he went to bed. In the wake Sherlock's unexpected appearance, he had forgotten all about it.
John leaned back from Sherlock, inspecting the purpling bruise that was blossoming across his flatmate's cheekbone. He felt a twinge of guilt; he hadn't wanted to harm Sherlock, not really. Okay, that's a lie. Maybe he had. Maybe he had wanted Sherlock to feel an inkling of the pain that he had felt, was feeling. He had been so angry, he still was, probably would be for a long time. He wanted to fix things, though; to mend his broken heart, and Sherlock's, too. He wanted to forgive Sherlock, completely. He wanted to make things right. They had plenty to talk about, to relearn about each other, old wounds that would need ripping open so that they could be stitched up properly, cleanly, with love and care.
But that could wait, it all could wait, until morning at least, because Sherlock was alive and he was home and damn it, they both were past due for some happiness. John stood and reached out for Sherlock's hand, who took it immediately, and he pulled his flatmate up and into his arms. Sherlock wrapped himself around John, all points and angles, his arms encircling John's shoulders. John rubbed his back and murmured, "I think I'd like to have a lie-down, yeah?" Sherlock tensed before disengaging himself and stepping away, nodding.
"Yes, of course." He was frowning. He should have known that John would want some alone time, some time to think. What did Sherlock think, now that John knew how he felt, and seemingly felt somewhat in the same way, they would jump into a relationship? Or would they go back to the way things were? Just flatmates? Would it be something more along the lines of mates-who-sometimes-shagged? Would they even go there? God, did John even want to?
Sherlock's thoughts were interrupted by John, as he turned around in the doorway leading to the hall. "Are you coming?" he asked, tilting his head to the side and smiling slightly.
Sherlock followed his flatmate down the hall, towards his own room, dazed. John stripped down to his pants and a shirt, before drawing the window covers to block out the sun and crawling into the bed. Sherlock slipped in under the duvet beside him, turning on his side to face John. It was a strange feeling, sharing his bed with another; not just another, but John. John, who had made his place in Sherlock's heart long before any of the mess that Sherlock created (and eventually cleaned up as best he could). John shifted to his side as well, tucking his arm under his head to cradle it in the crook of his elbow. They were close enough that Sherlock could feel John's breath ghosting across his cheeks, he could make out his eyelashes in the darkness, but it felt too far. He kept his instinct to roll himself onto John, to smother him, to attach himself irrevocably and never, ever, ever let go, firmly in check. He couldn't push John; he wouldn't.
He didn't have to wait long, though. Eventually John reached out and brushed a calloused hand across Sherlock's cheek. John's heart skipped as he felt Sherlock's lips part under this thumb as he ran it across that lovely cupid's bow. He pushed his fingers into those dark curls and close the gap between himself and his flatmate to press his lips to that open mouth. God did it feel glorious. It was warm and soft and wonderful and oh so gorgeously Sherlock. The pair gravitated towards each other, bodies pressed flush from chest to thighs, legs tangling together; one of Sherlock's arms snaked around John's middle, while the other was pressed against the doctor's chest, feeling his heart beating madly from beneath the thin cotton of his shirt. John's arm had unfurled from beneath his head and he carded it into Sherlock's hair alongside his other. They soon became a tangle of limbs, of lips and teeth and tongues, fingers across bare skin, soft and sweet like whispered promises; where one began and the other quickly began to be indeterminable. Hands roamed and searched, learned and memorized everything that they could. A gasp came—from which is unknown—when a hand made its way under John's shirt and brushed along the hot skin of his ribs.
The same shirt was soon discarded, left in a pile on the floor, the need for skin-against-skin too strong to resist.
And once their kisses slowed with their heart beats, their fingers became less frantic, their breaths changed to measured and even, broken by soft sighs and yawns, as their eyes drifted closed, the boys shifted, curling against each other, one ear pressed to another's chest, listening to the litany of the other's heart. John broke the silence.
"I love you, Sherlock," he murmured into the darkness.
The detective inhaled sharply, he felt a tingling sensation start deep in his stomach and it washed itself right out all the way to his fingers and toes. He thought he might be having a stroke, briefly. A flush of pleasure rose from his chest, up his neck and in his cheeks and he grinned so wide he thought that his face might actually fracture. It was impossible to keep the smile out of his voice when he replied, "I love you, too."
If Sherlock hadn't felt John's lips draw up against his chest, he would have heard John's own smile in his voice, too.