This is surprisingly finished! Thank you so much for all the lovely reviews and to everyone who has read this. I hope you enjoy the end!


Sherlock's latest obsession seems to be staring at John. And wasn't the normal type of staring; John had been sure Sherlock's gaze couldn't get more intense and yet, there was proof that once again Sherlock Holmes had defied expectation.

This stare was obtrusive, fixated and uncomfortable, as if Sherlock was plotting the best way to peel back John's eyelids, scoop out the eyeballs and see into his brain.

"Must you?" John asked as Sherlock leaned in even closer.

"Does it annoy you?"

Was that meant to be a trick question? "Just a bit."

"Do you wish me to go away?"

There was a distinct possibility that he was being tested.

"No. I just want you to aim your eyes at something else," John stared back down at the paper, folding it so that it was more comfortable to read. "One of your bloody experiments perhaps."

The stare just came closer.

"Do you want something?" John asked, trying to ignore the urge to shield away.

"No."

Really? John wasn't entirely sure that Sherlock wasn't being deeply insulting by assuming he was thick enough to buy that.

Sherlock hadn't been exactly absent from the flat. More he'd been…distant. Waiting. As if John was about to stumble into a different personality at any given moment. The worst thing was John could feel his temper starting to prickle from the constant observation.

The next time he looked up Sherlock was so close that John wouldn't be surprised to see him doing a thorough inspection of the inner workings of John's bloody ear.

"You have got to be doing this on purpose," John sighed. "What's the matter?" he asked, thudding the paper onto his lap.

"I'm observing you."

For the love of God almighty.

"Why?" John asked wearily, almost despairing of finding an answer that wouldn't make him want to pull out his own hair.

"To see if there is anything I should have noticed."

"Such as?" Even John can hear the danger in his own voice.

Sherlock hissed and pulled back. "Now you're insulted," he sulked.

"If I have managed to fool you to this point do you really think that exhaling all over me will reveal my secret desire to be a complete tosser?" John stood angrily. "And given that there is only room for one of those in here, I will bow to you for that."

"I've upset you," Sherlock sat back to his side of the sofa (finally).

The slightly wounded tone was enough to make John pause and reassess the situation. "I just…I get it, but…" He turned, pressing his back to the door to look at Sherlock. "You…I guess it hurts that you think I could. And I get why you think it," John said hastily when Sherlock, wearing a peeved expression, opened his mouth, "But still, it's an illogical reaction. Sentiment," he added with a self-deprecating shrug.

Sherlock nodded.

Probably best that he went up, John thought reaching for the knob. Relax, have a shower…a cold shower for what must be the hundredth time this-

"I will not be penetrated."

"Right." John opened the door. "Well, you do what experiment you want…"

It was only half way up the stairs that the words slide into place.

Embarrassed, John winced and hissed at himself.

God, he was going to have to go back down and admit he was beyond thick.

With the air of a reluctant child about to be scolded, John skulked back down and into the living room where Sherlock was sat up properly, a smile twitching at the edges of his lips.

"Can we pretend I didn't do that," John asked, closing the door.

"Do I need to explain further-"

"No." John walked over and then hesitated between the desk chair and the sofa. "No, I was just…No."

Feeling Sherlock's gaze, John sat down, pulling the desk chair closer so they could talk easier.

"So is this the discussion about what you don't like?" John asked hesitantly.

"Possibly." Sherlock looked so defensive that John imagined touching him would be akin to reaching out for a spooked hedgehog right now.

"Okay," John rubbed his hands together. "Um…not sure how to…" Fuck it. "Giving or receiving the penetration?"

Sherlock stared at him as if he'd gone mad. "Why would you wish to do that?"

It's a pity Mycroft did such a good job with Garret. Perhaps he wouldn't mind digging up a foot so John can ground it into powder. "Receive?"

Sherlock nodded.

"I…I've not done it often." Three times. "But I enjoyed the last few times. First was just weird."

Sherlock's eyes narrowed.

"In a normal, 'there's something in me' way." John clarified. "I'd…I'd like us to try it that way one day."

Inexplicably, Sherlock looks lost at the idea, but at the same time his eyes lit up a little.

Baby steps with that one then.

"And um…" God, now was not that time to be delicate. "Fingering?" John hated the fact that he sounded like a fifteen year old chatting about last night's party. "Is that in or out."

Sherlock snorted, seeming tickled despite himself at the pun. "Possibly. I…possibly."

John nodded and waited, hoping Sherlock would offer some suggestions. But Sherlock, utter wanker that he could be, just sat back and fixed John with an expectant gaze.

"Are you gonna make me go through a list?" John asked.

"I'm finding it mildly…less…" Sherlock waved his hand dismissively, as if his feelings in their conversation were barely relevant.

"Uck," John glared up at the ceiling. "You are such a bastard sometimes," he complained.

"Is that the end of the list?" Sherlock asked with some derision.

"Rimming?"

"No."

"Blow job?"

"Yes."

"Hand job."

"Yes."

"I…John shrugged. "I think…we can work with that."

"That is a terribly short list John."

"Bite me," John suggested as he stood.

"Possibly."

Despite himself, John can't help flashing Sherlock an amused grin.


Two nights later, for the first time since their conversation on the moor, Sherlock followed John upstairs.

There had been that odd moment when John had suddenly been aware that all the creeks on the stairs weren't being made by him. He turned, stared at Sherlock, and then continued walking up, his throat suddenly dry.

There was a possibility lurking in John's mind that he might have on occasion taken the wrong approach to this. Just because he wanted Sherlock to tell him what he was comfortable with did not mean that he should make Sherlock ask for things.

He needed to trust Sherlock would say stop.

In his room, John swallowed deeply, then turned to Sherlock and wrapped a hand around his nape, pulling him down for a kiss, slowly. Enough time for Sherlock's lip to form the word or for John to feel tension or reluctance in the muscles under his fingers.

But Sherlock moved with ease, almost as if he were hungry for the contact.


A whispered plea for permission left John's lips.

They were naked. Both of them, for the first time. And, for the first time, John's lips were hovering over Sherlock's cock. Above him, Sherlock was up on his elbows, staring down and looking oddly young while doing it.

There was a hesitant nod.

Slow then.

A loud gasp echoed from above when John took him fully in. He stroked the hip under his fingers reassuringly.

When he looked up, Sherlock was still watching him. There was an uncertain look in his eyes that made John pull back.

"Okay?" he asked, keeping his fingers moving upon the delicate skin at the join of torso and thigh.

Sherlock nodded, quickly rearranging the pillows so he was sat up without the elbows.

When John ducked his head once again, Sherlock let out a pleased sound that made John smile. Relaxing a little, he started to just focus on the task at hand. It had been a good few years since he had last sucked a cock and the noises Sherlock made were lovely-

A hand ghosted over his hair, as if fearful of being there. John looked up and met Sherlock's eyes when the man dropped the hand away.

John winked up at him, an act that made Sherlock gape at him, then smile, and then chuckle. The hand returned, far more sure of itself now as it fondly carded through John's hair in a way that had nothing to do with desire and everything to do with affection.

Taking a slight risk, John sped up his ministration, keeping his eyes on Sherlock who shifted and closed his eyes as if in bliss. Seconds later he opened them, a little dazed looking, as his breathing started to speed up.

Feeling at ease for the first time, John just let himself enjoy the moment, the sounds, the tastes and the textures.

Under him, Sherlock started to tense, his breathing ragged. His cheeks were still flushed with desire and his eyes were closed, lips pressed together.

John tapped his hip deliberately to get his attention. Sherlock blinked his eyes open and his gaze found its way to John's.

John raised an eyebrow, hoping that Sherlock's deductive abilities would translate it as 'everything all right?'

Or words to that effect.

"Can…" Sherlock licked his lips. "May I orgasm?"

May he…

John pulled back and sat back on his heels, staring down at Sherlock who was now watching him with a truly odd mixture of anger, fear and confusion. John needed to say something quickly…

Nothing was coming. The image of Sherlock, younger, begging to be allowed to-

John scrubbed a hand over his face.

"Is that a no?" Sherlock spat dangerously.

"It's a 'you shouldn't have to ask'," John replied, voice muffled by his hand.

"It's courtesy."

"That's not-" John dropped his hand. "Courtesy is not grabbing your partner to force them to stay where they are or doing an announcement to give them a bit of warning before you shoot. Courtesy is not asking for permission to enjoy it."

Sherlock sighed and dropped an arm over his face, the lines of his body still seeming angry.

And delicious.

But mostly angry.

"Would you expect me to ask to be allowed."

There was a very long pause and then, under the arm, Sherlock shook his head. "No," he replied in a resigned voice. "I would not."

"Look," John sighed, "I know it can be a game. And a fun one. But, it's agreed beforehand and it's something you do when the trust is there-"

"I trust you," Sherlock sounded beyond frustrated.

"You're starting to," John concedes slowly.

Sherlock slid the arm off of his face. "I would like to finish this," he said with an angry jab at his dick.

"You sure?"

The look Sherlock gave him could kill a man at twenty feet. "Short of shoving your head down, how would you like me to convince you?"

"Politely?" John suggested with a pointed look.

With an unimpressed look Sherlock shifted, "I do not do polite John, be serious."

"Nicely?" John asked, trying not to grin.

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Plebeian word," he scoffed.

"Romantically," John teased, leaning down to ghost his breath over Sherlock's cock. It was a little less hard than it had been second ago but it gave an eager twitch at John's proximity.

"Etiquette lessons," Sherlock replied fondly, clearly remembering their earlier conversation.

Laughing, John nuzzled Sherlock's inner thigh. "You're the genius, you suggest something then."

A hand scooped up his chin. Startled, John looked up at Sherlock.

"You are a wonder John."

"Jesus, don't go overboard," John wriggled out of the grip and settled down to start licking at the head of Sherlock's cock in way that elicited a strangled whine from the man.

"I mean it," Sherlock replied in a tight voice. "My wonder."

My love, John wanted to reply.

Still too soon.

With a pleased noise, John resumed his earlier actions, relieved when Sherlock seemed to tentatively squirm under him and then buck his hips.

"You enjoy this?" Sherlock breathed.

John nodded.

A hand traced his forehead, his eyebrows, his cheeks, as if to commit the entirety of the moment to memory.

"You have no idea," Sherlock murmured. "No idea how extraordinary you are John."

Then he hitched his breath and John could feel everything tense.

"I-" Whatever Sherlock had been about to say was washed away with his orgasm.


It was comfortable, resting his head on Sherlock's thigh. God knew Sherlock's hips would probably jab him in the eye if he tried it with them.

Under him Sherlock was quiet. His mind was clearly focussed on something else.

"It's been a while," Sherlock murmured suddenly. "Since you last did that."

"Is this your attempt at telling me it was shite?" John asked, too comfortable to move to glare.

"No. Your sudden and continuous improvement was simply concurrent with someone remembering a skill."

"Or getting to know a new partner," John added.

Sherlock hummed t that. "I was right though," he said decisively. "You tensed when I asked."

"Yeah," John shifted a little.

"How long?"

"Four, five years?" John squinted as he tried to remember. A stupid fumble in the back of the barracks before he had been made Captain.

"A relationship?"

John looked up at him.

"You know mine," Sherlock lowered a hand to stroke at John's hair. "May I not know the same?"

Propping himself up on his elbow, John nodded. "I guess. Uh…I had a relationship with a guy at uni…well, I say relationship." John grinned. "More…mutual fun! And a few one night stands with men, just as and when really. I had a serious girlfriend for a few years when I was in my twenties so I didn't really go back to the whole gay scene properly."

That seemed to surprise Sherlock, "You seem far more at ease than one would expect from that sexual history."

"Sex is sex," John shrugged. "It's always different. What one person thinks is fantastic, another person thinks is a bit nothing-y. In most ways you always start from scratch when you have a new lover."

Sherlock looked doubtful. "Except in this case," he muttered mutinously. "We seem to be starting from a hundred yards back."

John lowered himself next to Sherlock so that their heads were level. "Tell me what you've learned so far," he said.

The joy of a deduction made Sherlock stretch languidly. "You're very keen on equality. You say it was a number of years between you're last encounter with a man so one can assume that you refused to do so when you were of a higher rank than those you were attracted to. The higher you were, the more limited your choice became."

John nodded, smiling.

"You enjoyed performing fellatio. You liked my reactions. You have not asked for reciprocation because you knew I didn't want to and that is…" Sherlock shook his head with that same look of wonder. "You only enjoy sex when there is mutual pleasure."

So far so goo-

"You had expectations of me when you first kissed me. You waited to see what I would do next, you have been very careful to not let me do what I want without regard to you. You enjoy taking care of a partner but equally part of you now wants someone to take care of you too. You are aware of this subconsciously and are hyper sensitive to our sexual acts because of it."

Whoa. What?

John sat up. "I…what do you mean 'hyper sensitive'?"

Sherlock stared at the ceiling. "You're hardly helping your case by over-reacting."

Fair point. Seconds from sulking, John settled back down.

"You do not put yourself first naturally. You are aware of this and you have either seen or experienced how destructive it can be," Sherlock tilted his head, then nodded to himself. "Witnessed," he decided. "You saw someone bleed themselves dry for another and have their relationship fall apart because of it."

Clara.

John cleared his throat and just nodded.

"You have mechanisms in place to avoid that. Good ones that have clearly been developed by years of practise. But you want to relax those now. To have someone understand and help with that." Sherlock sighed. "With all respect John, are you sure this is the relationship that will do that?"

"Sherlock," John patted his thigh, "With all the fondness in the world. Piss right off with that one."

Something spasmed across Sherlock's face. "Fondness?" he repeated, frowning.

"Mm," John nodded.

Sherlock sat up so suddenly that John thought something might snap.

"You okay?"

"Fondness," Sherlock turned to him. "That isn't the saying John. That's…"

Then he trailed off, eyes growing wide.

Shit.

Sherlock was frozen, exuding the air of a deer that was startled and about to dart away. He looked completely unsure what to do with the information.

John glared up at the ceiling. "Kindly allow me the courtesy of being able to say the words next time when I want to."

"The words?" Sherlock breathed. "You haven't said them…why haven't you said them?"

The fact that he sounded as if he was asking himself that question did not help John. Instead, he shook his head and rolled out of the bed.

"John?" Sherlock sounded startled. "What…why…you're upset?"

"Yep," John said, grabbing at a pair of jeans.

"I…I don't…isn't that usually a good thing in a relationship?" Sherlock asked, crawling up the bed to watch John over the footboard.

John yanked the nearest t-shirt over his head and started hunting for a jumper. "Usually," he muttered.

Sherlock buried his head in his hands and shook it. "You are being utterly illogical about this," Sherlock complained, raising his head. "I cannot even begin to fathom your motives."

"My motives?" John stopped what he was doing to stare incredulously at the naked man on his bed. "I should damn well be allowed to say 'I love you' when I choose to. And now you've said it for me, you're not going to handle it well and-"

"I'm not going to handle it well?" Sherlock sat up. "I'm not the one stomping off."

"It's going to add to things," John pointed at him. "The last person you were in love with used that against you-"

Something furiously ugly shone on Sherlock's face as he sat back on his heels. "I see. So you feel it should have been your choice of when to say 'I love you' but you decided to choose for me when I was allowed to hear it." He clicked his tongue, "When what? You deemed me to no longer be too fragile to hear it?"

"What am I fucking meant to do?" John asked furiously. "I show you affection, it reminds you of him, I show you desperation, it reminds you of him. I back off, speed up. I don't know how to do this," he almost shouted. "I'm not you. I can't do it right the first time. Or even the fifth time apparently. Everything I do seem to force you into dealing with it in some way and I didn't want to have my declaration of love fall into the same category." He kicked at something on the floor. "I was meant to tell you when I got it right."

Sherlock's face, furious at the start, paled and he just stared, and then closed his eyes.

"I didn't…" John faltered and stared at the floor. "That didn't come out…I'm not blaming you. I just…I wanted it to be right. I wanted it to be said and have you be happy about it, not..." he shrugged, not even sure what to say anymore. Every word seemed to be making it worse.

A hand reached out for his and pulled him close. Startled, John looked at Sherlock.

"Get it right?" Sherlock seemed stunned. "John…you have no idea how right you get it."

"No," John shook his head. "I have a temper, I get short and frustrated-"

"Would you like to compare lists of flaws?" Sherlock asked, still tugging him closer.

"It'd be closer than you think it would."

"No," Sherlock said firmly, "It would not."

"I push you," John shook his head. "In this, I push-"

"It's been over a decade John, exactly how slow do you think I am?" Sherlock snapped. When John didn't smile, Sherlock seemed to change tact. "Do you have any idea how insulting it is to be treated like a damsel, to have you feel as if the entirety of this relationship hinges solely on you and your actions? I choose this because…" Sherlock blinked, as if stunned. "Because it's worth it," he breathed.

"Worth it?" John repeated blankly. "I don't-"

"One day," Sherlock pulled at him until John was flush against the footboard. "One day you and I will have a blazing row and we will fuck." He smiled. "We will be rough and desperate and neither of us will hesitate. And then, afterwards you'll try to make tea and I'll complain an experiment was knocked over. And we will have a smaller spat. And it won't be faked or contrived or…" Sherlock reached up for him. "Unequal. And that John is why this pushing is worth it. That is what I want."

John looked away, not entirely sure if he agreed with that.

"Tell me," Sherlock ordered.

Slowly John looked back at him. Sherlock was sitting with an odd amount of imperiousness for someone naked and on their knees with a sheet twisted around his legs. "I…"

What was the point of holding onto it?

"I love you," John said with a sigh.

Sherlock nodded. "You are an idiot John. Do you honestly believe that I would push through all this, risk this again for someone I didn't love?"

That startled him. John gaped and then looked around, as if expecting hidden cameras or something.

"It appears I have been somewhat remiss," Sherlock tugged at him again.

"I can't walk through wood Sherlock." John complained when his leg was pressed against the footboard.

"If only you could go round or climb," Sherlock said pointedly.

John, dazed, walked around and sat gingerly on the bed. "I…why have you been remiss then?"

Sherlock reached out finger to John's arm. "I thought you'd felt it," he confessed. "You seemed to be following the letters."

Huh? What-

Then John remembered, the letters Sherlock had drawn on his back when he had given him the massage.

"May," Sherlock said, his fingers tracing the letters as he said the words. "I take care of you too?" He shifted. "You don't respond well to it at all. I thought…you stiffened. I thought it would be a topic we could revisit later."

"I realised they were letters," John mumbled. "I was trying to follow it and talk to you."

"You are intelligent enough to do both," Sherlock complained. "Pay attention next time."

John nodded, dazed.

"Tell me," Sherlock shifted closer. "What upsets you about us?"

"Jesus-" John made to dart away.

"Stop putting on this perfect, understandable act. It's as fake as his," Sherlock gripped John's wrist in an iron hold. "I am not fragile."

John stared at the wall, warring within himself. "I…I can't show you affection when we are in bed together," he said hesitantly. "I hate that it makes you stiffen. I hate that he used that against you and I hate that I can't stop myself from wanting to still do it."

"Affection?"

John nodded.

"Such as?" Sherlock asked curiously.

"Touching your hair, just to stroke it and soothe you, telling you how great you are, how unbelievable it is that I'm the one that gets to share this with you. Kissing you hello because I'm just happy to see you. Letting the people we work with know how lucky I am to have you at the moment-

"Are you planning on leaving me?" Sherlock almost looked amused. "I slightly object to 'at the moment'."

John smiled weakly, a forced expression.

"Stop," Sherlock breathed. "Don't lie to me."

"I…I'm waiting for the day I fuck up and do something unforgiveable," Jesus he sounded pathetic. But he was almost expecting it now. The further they went with this, the deeper the abuse seemed to be and the more John worried he was hindering, not helping.

"Mycroft…he said I was like him."

Sherlock went rigid in fury. "He said what?"

"That you would find it the hardest to trust me because Garret based his 'act' on something that is far too close to me."

Sherlock blinked twice, then laughed. A full, disbelieving laugh.

"You don't agree-"

"Oh for the love of-" Sherlock rubbed at his forehead. "If I were twenty years old we would have issues. But…he painted himself to be as moral as you, yet there is no way on God's green earth you would have an affair with your wife's nephew while still married to said wife. There's no way you would invite people into watch you fuck the nephew. You don't share, you dislike pain. You are far too self-sacrificing and far too kind to be selfish in bed. Do you have any idea the row we would have had and the things Garret would have stooped to by now because I hadn't returned the sexual favour?"

"But you're afraid-"

Sherlock's face darkened at that word, but he seemed to push by it. "I have watched you for weeks cataloguing the differences. Was I afraid tonight?"

"You asked-"

"Habit," Sherlock dismissed. "You always think I'm so much slower than I am. I may have been hesitant, and wanting to watch but I was not afraid."

"So...that's it? We're fine"? John asked doubtfully.

"No," Sherlock sighed. "I…I imagine we will have issues along the way. Memories, habits again. But I have satisfied myself that you are not him. You are…" Sherlock sighed. "Mycroft may be vaguely touching on a pertinent idea that may have merit-"

"Are you trying to say Mycroft was right?" John asked, feeling his lips twitch in amusement.

"No." Sherlock shifted, "Merely that I fell in love with an illusion the first time. And now I have the real thing."

John sighed and leaned forward, resting his forehead against Sherlock's. "I do love you," he said, far fiercer than his earlier attempt. "More than anything in this world."

Sherlock breathed out and nodded. He tugged unhappily at John's top and in the end John laughed and stripped off.


Later, curled up against each other, Sherlock nuzzled at John's cheek.

"John?"

"Mm?"

"I want to…say…" Sherlock shifted against him. "It sounds ridiculous," he complained. "But I think you will appreciate it."

John wanted to turn, but instead he just squeezed his hand. "Okay…"

"I…you have my fully informed consent."

Jesus, now he was going to cry like a baby! John steeled himself and nodded, "Thank you."

"Quite all right."