Skin Deep

Summary: Scars, gender, and personality quirks really are only skin deep. Sequel to "First Kiss"

Rating: M

Author's Note: Set immediately after my fic "First Kiss" since both boys have a lot of insecurities to overcome before they can settle into their newfound relationship.

Thanks to Jess for betaing AND making sure the boys actually sounded British. There were a few unintentionally hilarious Americanisms in the first draft that she was kind enough to point out to me :D

Skin Deep

They'd fooled around a bit more after reaching the bedroom, then poor Sherlock had all but passed out, falling asleep with his face pressed into John's jumper. Chuckling, John had squirmed carefully out of it and curled up with the sleeping man, drifting pleasantly in and out of consciousness.

When he woke up, it was to a decidedly unpleasant surprise. Sherlock was awake and trying to peel off his vest.

"What are you..." he began, quickly reaching to tug it back down.

The other man looked genuinely startled by his reticence, withdrawing his hands immediately. "I just wanted you to be naked, too."

"I don't go topless, Sherlock, even in bed," John told him, voice gentle but firm.

It should have been obvious after years of living together. He would come out of the shower with a too-small towel wrapped precariously around his waist, and he still always had on either a vest or another towel slung over his left shoulder. Hell, even in a bathrobe, it was habitual to cover his shoulder like that, just in case.

"But we're together now," he pointed out, frowning quizzically at him. "Nudity is generally considered part of sexual relationships."

It was absurd to be lectured by Sherlock Holmes about what was expected in a romantic partnership, but John suspected most of the defensiveness he was suddenly feeling stemmed from something else entirely, so he didn't say anything. He looked away, took a moment to breathe and steady his nerves, then smiled gently at Sherlock, leaning up to kiss him.

Sherlock made a startled sound which turned into a low moan as his lips started to move firmly against John's. Their first kisses had found Sherlock largely passive but this time he returned the kiss much more actively. And proficiently. He was already learning.

John let out a moan of his own when Sherlock gently nibbled his lip, mouth falling open. Sherlock, opportunistic in everything, took the opportunity to slide his tongue into John's mouth, exploring clumsily but with obvious enthusiasm. John grunted and nodded, sucking and gently biting Sherlock's tongue and teasing it with his own, encouraging the initiative Sherlock was taking. The younger man stopped far too soon, prompting a soft growl from John.

"God, Sherlock," he protested, leaning in again. "Don't stop."

"You're trying to distract me."

John sighed, starting to draw back, but Sherlock grabbed his hands and held on gently.

"I don't understand."

"Clearly," he grumbled, sliding close to his young lover and wrapping his arms around Sherlock's waist.

"It's to do with your battle scars, obviously, but I don't understand why."

"For one, they can be fairly painful and they don't react well to being touched. And they're... well, they're ugly, Sherlock!" he answered, a little more vehemently than he'd intended to.

"You're self-conscious?"

"There's more to it than that," John told him, shrugging weakly. "Why do you even want to see a bunch of hideous old injuries anyway?"

"Because it's the only part of you I'm not already familiar with."

"You'll wish you hadn't asked," he grumbled, peeling off his vest and mentally counting the seconds until Sherlock recoiled or asked him to cover himself again.

He did gasp, but that was as close as he came to expressing distaste. If anything, he seemed fascinated. Leaning closer, Sherlock peered at the mass of scars, head tilting slightly and eyes darting over the badly-healed skin and muscle. John squirmed, feeling obscenely exposed under Sherlock's scrutiny. It wasn't quite the way he eyed up a dead body or a crime scene, but he was paying far too much attention for John's comfort.

The injury wasn't pretty or neatly-healed. He'd received it in battle, initially treated outside in the dirt by a terrified young medic who'd probably caused more damage than the bullet itself had. He'd suffered an infection from that, and then been cut open repeatedly to remove additional shrapnel and necrotic tissue, and to drain away excess fluids. The result was a patchwork of red and purple scars, and keloids extensive enough to explain why he was uncomfortable going shirtless even in front of lovers. The only people who'd ever seen the scars for more than a few seconds before this were medical professionals; past partners were generally grateful for his willingness to keep a vest on at all times. Now, he was letting his new lover not just glimpse at the damage, but actually study it closely. His trust of Sherlock aside, it was terrifying.

"I... didn't realize," Sherlock whispered after a moment, staring up at him with wide eyes and an uncertain expression. Curiosity and interest had been replaced by empathy and compassion. From Sherlock. And there was something almost childlike in his quiet, weak, "Does it hurt?"

"Occasionally. If the weather's bad it twinges. Or, if my muscles are tense, then the scars pull on the skin and it can be a little painful." An understatement, meant to spare Sherlock the worst of it. His back and shoulder ached when the weather was bad or changing. When he was tense, the pain was just short of unbearable.

"Is that why you can't sleep when it's cold?"

John swallowed hard, nodding and not bothering to ask how Sherlock knew that. It was Sherlock. Of course he knew about those nights of restless tossing and futile attempts to get a bolster under his aching arm in a position adequate to relieve the pressure from the scars without painfully hyperextending the joint. Getting comfortable in bed wasn't the most uncomfortable topic to consider under the circumstances, so John didn't argue or try to change the subject.

"You use pillows to get comfortable," Sherlock continued, and that didn't sound like a question.

"Yes," he whispered, trying not to think about whether Sherlock had been watching him sleep. Not that he minded the concept, but it meant things had been different between them for longer than he'd known and that was unnerving, if only because it spelled a lot of lost opportunities and needlessly disappointing dates.

"You could use me instead."

John bit his lip since Sherlock couldn't honestly have meant 'use me' like that. "My own personal body-pillow?"

"If you'd like," Sherlock agreed readily, smiling warmly at him.

It was an appealing prospect on some level, yet John was still leery. "This is just an excuse to get me..."

"If you tell me not to touch the scars, I won't touch them," Sherlock answered, sighing and laying back. "And, if you allowed it, I'd be careful."

John sighed, too, at that reaction from Sherlock. Petulance would have been easier to accept, or some attempt to coax or manipulate John into what he wanted, but this meek acceptance made him feel just short of guilty for denying Sherlock.

"Why does this even matter to you?"

"I told you. The scars are a part of you and I want to know you. All of you, John."

"Even the parts of me..." He cleared his throat, considering how to phrase it. Sherlock was no fool and he was not naive by any stretch but, in certain respects, he was inexperienced to the point of innocence.

"Especially the things you worry I'm not ready for," Sherlock answered, shrugging away John's unspoken query. "You wish to protect me, but I don't want to be shielded."

"I have moods Sherlock, ugly ones," he warned since, in truth, Sherlock had never really been exposed to one. When he got into one of his tempers, or started to feel moody, it was standard procedure to distance himself from his friends. But, if they were to be lovers, distancing himself wouldn't always be an option Sherlock was likely to allow him often. He was clingy enough already.

"Because of what happened in Afghanistan?" he ventured slowly, looking like he was trying to make sense of an alien concept.

This being Sherlock, he probably was in a way. The idea of 'dwelling' on something that had happened years ago made no logical sense. There was no reason why it should make sense to Sherlock when John himself couldn't always make heads or tails of his inability to shake off the trauma.

"Yes," John answered, watching him curiously.

It was hard to tell whether Sherlock really grasped the implications of this. It was one thing to acknowledge post-traumatic stress in another, something else to truly understand what it meant for the sufferer. Even generally-astute Mycroft assumed that John didn't actually have PTSD since he so clearly missed the war, but it was more complicated than that. What he failed to see was the sense of safety and purpose that being part of a military unit could give. Missing the war was less about the desire for action than it was about the desire for friends willing to do anything to protect him. Yes, he thrived on excitement and danger, but only as a necessary reminder that, in spite of everything, he was still very much alive, that he still had a reason for being so. What he'd always missed was having men and women readily willing to put their necks on the line for him.

Pale and almost unearthly-looking in the moonlight, Sherlock frowned up at him, those beautiful eyes sad as something seemed to fall into place for him. "It still hurts?" he whispered, and he obviously didn't mean the physical aspect of the injury.

"Yes," John agreed, nodding slowly and reaching down to gently caress Sherlock's cheek. "It does, Sherlock."

"I wish it didn't."

It was such a compassionate, pure sentiment that John found himself momentarily at a loss. There was something childlike in that desire for his friend to be free of pain, an un-jaded quality that few would have associated with Sherlock Holmes. As John had always known, Sherlock was capable of far more love and empathy than most people realized. There was more to his mind than simple curiosity, even if he generally had no clue how to express it. On a level he probably didn't even recognize, Sherlock longed for human connections, the same as anyone else did. He fully expected to be mocked and ostracized, which was why he treasured the friendships he did have, because they were so damned different from the way he was normally treated. And, no doubt, it was why he wanted a deeper understanding of and connection to John now. John, the one man who knew him better than anyone else and still accepted him fully.

Still, acceptance and trust went both ways. Hand coming to rest lightly on the warm skin over Sherlock's heart, John slid down slowly, stretching out on his side next to Sherlock with his head resting on Sherlock's shoulder. Swallowing, the other man brought that arm up around John, hand resting lightly on his back.

"Like this?" he asked quietly.

"Just like that," John agreed, closing his eyes and forcing himself to accept the fact that Sherlock's fingers were a hair's breadth from scar tissue that suddenly felt like it was trying to detach itself from the surrounding skin and crawl away. "Good God, I'm cuddling with Sherlock Holmes. That's... unexpected," he tried to joke, voice shaking a little.

"I'd never hurt you," Sherlock murmured, fingers lightly caressing the skin near the injuries without ever threatening to make contact.

That, at least felt good, so John forced himself to relax. "Just... slow and gentle if you..." he began.

Sherlock nodded faintly, silent for a moment as he lightly explored the uninjured areas of John's back and shoulders. "Sometimes, when I play my violin, you don't just listen. You... watch."

"Do I?" he asked, smiling up at Sherlock. He loved to listen to the man play, to lose himself in the gorgeous, ethereal sounds he could coax from a violin. It hadn't occurred to him that he was enjoying the performances on additional levels, but he trusted Sherlock's observations.

"You watch my hands. Your eyes follow my fingers."

Ah.

"You have very... skilful fingers," John answered, wondering if he was imagining the slight rasp in his own voice. Probably not, since he was already imagining Sherlock's fingers relentlessly bringing him towards a climax, moving inside and out in ways ruthlessly calculated to make the normally-stoic man scream and beg.

"My fingers arouse you?" Sherlock guessed, smiling in obvious delight. "When you were masturbating on the sofa, when our hands touched, you were instantly more stimulated."

"I was imagining them," John confirmed, definitely rasping now. "One of your hands wanking me off, and a couple of fingers massaging my prostate."

The younger man swallowed hard at that, looking unsettled. "You mean... inside of your..."

"Don't dismiss it," John murmured, kissing his chest. "It's an amazing sensation. Most men, when they overcome their resistance to the idea of where your fingers need to be, realize that there's no better feeling."

"Then you don't always mind things that are unconventional?"

"Sherlock, you'd be shocked at what I enjoy," John chuckled, smiling up at him and already looking forward to catching him off-guard some night soon. He'd have to buy some silk ropes, he decided, absently licking his lips. Among other purchases.

"Good," Sherlock answered, eyes flickering over John's face. "I'd hate for this to grow boring."

John laughed at that, giving him a mock-glare and snuggling closer. Sherlock wasn't soft and curvy the way his lovers usually were, but he was warm and there was something oddly pleasant in curling up with someone physically larger than he was. There was something just as satisfying about the idea that he could physically dominate this man, as he had during fights and eventually planned to during sex, but right now, he felt small and... protected in his arms. The feeling was gorgeous.

"Sherlock, I..." he began, faltering since it wasn't an admission he made often.

"Tell me?"

"I feel very safe with you," he temporized.

"Ah," Sherlock whispered, understanding obvious in his voice as his fingers found one of the keloids on John's back, lightly tracing the raised ridge of tissue.

The former soldier gasped and tensed, fighting the instinctive urge to lash out against what the more primal parts of his brain were trying to regard as an attack. It didn't take long for that to fade, though. Sherlock's fingers danced lightly against tissue so sensitive that those barely-there touches burned like pleasant fire. Smiling to himself, John closed his eyes and melted against his lover's body, fingers lightly teasing one of Sherlock's nipples. Sherlock moaned softly at that, squirming a little as he continued mapping out the scars on John's back.

"God, you could do that all night," John whispered to Sherlock, smiling at the flush creeping up his new lover's chest.

"You were afraid you wouldn't like this," Sherlock reminded him, sounding a little breathless as John kept caressing.

"I've been wrong before. Will be again, I'm sure," he answered, gently pinching the rock-hard nipple.

Sherlock gasped, hips twitching. "Oh!"

"I think you enjoy that," John chuckled, shifting position and licking the little nub. "Admit it," he teased, doing it again. "You used to think nipples on men served no purpose."

Leering up at Sherlock, he kept teasing with his tongue, savouring the other man's taste and his obvious pleasure. There was something else there too, a sense of something resembling power at the idea that he would be the first, and likely the only, person ever to make Sherlock feel these amazing new sensations. It was a hell of a responsibility, but one he found himself looking forward to assuming.

Sherlock quivered at that, groaning and nodding. "I didn't realize that sensations like this were possible, John. This is... it's better than cocaine."

"You'll never need a drug fix again," John answered firmly, leaning up to kiss him and feeling a sense of protectiveness that bordered on the possessive. "When you need sensation and... release or distraction that badly, you tell me," he whispered against Sherlock's gorgeous lips, taking his face in both hands. "I can do things to you that will make everything else pale in comparison to whatever drugs once did for you. Do you believe me?"

"Y...yes," he answered, voice shaking. "The idea frightens me, but I'm... eager. Curious."

"I'll show you," John promised, straddling his waist and wetting his lips. "The things a man can be made to feel, Sherlock, by a hand or a mouth or even a single finger. You'll be amazed."

"A single finger. You're talking about penetration again?"

"Not necessarily," John answered, trailing one finger lightly down Sherlock's cheek just to emphasize his point. "Penetration is wonderful, but it's not all there is. It can be completely insignificant, not even a factor in a relationship."

Sherlock frowned at that, absently leaning into John's touch but still looking quizzical. "Sex is the point of romantic attachment, isn't it?"

"No. Well, I mean..."

"Go on," he prompted when John faltered.

"Sex and lo..."

No, stop! Slow down, John! Don't spook him...

He cleared his throat and started again, much more carefully and precisely. "You don't need to care about a person to shag them senseless, and you don't need to have sex with a person just because you adore them. One can make the other better, but it's not a prerequisite. Same's true of sex and penetration. There's a lot a couple can do without actual intercourse and it's all quite pleasant. None of it is more or less important or real. It's not about actions, just intent. So if penetration isn't a concept you're comfortable with, it's nothing that needs to happen."

Sherlock sat up slowly, expression profoundly unsure. "This is all so new, John. I don't know the rules."

"No rules, just exploration. We're learning this together, Sherlock, and that's allowed, I promise."

"You've done this before, though," he protested.

"Never with a bloke and, if we're being honest, never with someone as important to me as you are. I've already let you do things to me that no one else ever has. And it was scary, but it felt amazing, too. So I'm already learning. See?"

"You've always seemed ashamed of your injury, John, but I like it. It's beautiful," Sherlock whispered, long fingers lightly caressing his scarred chest and shoulder.

John closed his eyes, smiling weakly and trying to focus on the wonderful sensations. Beautiful wasn't the word he would have chosen, but Sherlock's touch felt wonderful and there was something comforting about his curiosity and... was that admiration? Why? And how could Sherlock look beyond the ugly surface to see whatever it was that he liked about the wounds?

"Lay down. Let me touch you," the detective directed, planting a tender kiss to the corner of his mouth.

"I'm usually the one giving that order," he murmured, lying back anyway.

"Are you a pushy lover?" Sherlock asked in surprise, obviously having trouble with the concept.

"Not pushy, I just... like to take point. Women seldom complain," he answered, shrugging and thinking this was an odd sort of conversation for them to be having in bed. "It can be helpful sometimes. Some people are too inhibited for their own good. It helps for them to have someone else at the wheel."

"Inhibited?" he repeated slowly. "Like me?"

"I haven't been much better," John pointed out, his own fingertips brushing the ones still caressing his injuries. "That's nice," he added, smiling languidly up at Sherlock.

"May I..." The younger man hesitated, looking unsure.

"I'll tell you if I don't like anything. If I say 'stop' then you should. Otherwise, it's more than acceptable to experiment. New lovers always go through a phase of trying to figure out what works for both of them, especially if their styles or preferences are different."

"Are ours? You always seem very amorous and I've never even wanted to kiss anyone before tonight."

"Pretty sure that just makes you selective," John answered, drawing Sherlock down for a kiss. Smiling against his lips, he whispered, "We'll learn this together, but you don't strike me as that different from other blokes, not in this regard."

"What if I am? Or if I am typical and that's not what you want in a male lover?"

"Sherlock," John sighed, sitting up and kissing him gently. Nuzzling his face, he murmured, "Just relax. I'm not one of those idiots out there who sees you as a freak or a loser. I have always accepted you for whom and what you are. That's not about to change."

"You promise?" Sherlock asked, smiling shyly.

Kissing him again, John murmured, "Of course I do. Now, what did you want to do earlier, hmm?" When Sherlock hesitated, his pale cheeks colouring, John suggested gently, "Why don't you show me instead?"

Smiling shyly, the young man leaned down; slowly pressing his lips to John's scarred shoulder.

Biting his lip at the contact, he nodded for him to continue, caressing his shoulder and arm. "That's nice."

"Erotic?" the younger man asked, staring thoughtfully up at him.

"Not particularly, but it's intimate and kind of friendly. It's... peaceful."

"Peaceful. Good," Sherlock answered, pressing kiss after gentle kiss to the patchwork of injuries. Ever-observant, he adapted as he experimented, the kisses becoming more or less firm against scars of differing sensitivity. He seemed to know which kisses John liked best and kept repeating them over and over.

John moaned softly, settling back with a happy sigh. He already adored Sherlock's lips and this... God, this was amazing and a bigger turn-on than he could have imagined. The sensitivity that had always been a curse because it made direct physical contact painful, was turned into a blessing when the touches became more fleeting. On any other part of his body, those kisses would have felt teasing. On his scars, they were maddeningly sensual and, now that Sherlock was actually applying himself, more erotic than anything John had ever experienced.

If the intent behind them hadn't been so loving, John would have gone so far as to call this the single most carnal experience of his life. His body was on fire and he ached for more. He was fighting the urge to throw Sherlock down on the bed and ravish the inexperienced man. The only thing that stopped him was the desire for this never to end. It was hot, more than hot. It was warm. Safe and gentle, passionate on levels emotional as well as physical. Nothing like what John was used to from foreplay. That tended to be far more sexual and generally more playful, too. This was more serious, the stakes far higher than simple sex.

Wonderful as it was, though, it had him more on edge than he realized. He nearly knocked Sherlock out of the bed when he felt teeth close around a long ridge of hypertrophic tissue where one of his surgical scars had become infected.

It didn't hurt, not physically, but far too many bad memories tried to push their way to the surface at the sensation. He'd been so helpless in the hospital after being shot, cut into so many times. Pressure was always first, and then the pain started. Pain and a sense of helplessness, of weakness and uselessness. That and the terrifying desire to just die and have it over with.

"Don't," he whispered urgently, shaking his head and forcing himself to just breathe. "Sherlock, stop."

Sherlock must have noticed the way John started to move and then checked himself because he had drawn back before the other man had even started to speak. "It's all right, John," he soothed, going back to gently kissing the spot he'd just bitten. "Is this better?"

"Yes, much," he sighed, caressing the back of Sherlock's neck and forcing himself to relax. "I'm sorry."

"Why?" Sherlock asked, frowning blankly up at him. "You said we should experiment. The term implied that not everything we attempted would be successful."

John couldn't argue with that but, still. "Why, Sherlock?" he whispered after a moment. "Why bite me? There of all places?"

"It felt so good when you chewed on my lip. Based on the similarly high degree of sensitivity..."

John swallowed hard, trying to look at it objectively. Sherlock had a point in that regard. He'd have loved the feel of Sherlock's teeth on his lips or almost anywhere else. Being bitten could feel amazing. Hell, he even loved when a partner nipped at his foreskin with just enough force. The pressure and almost-sharpness were wonderful, a giddy combination of 'dangerous' and sensual.

"Do it again," he whispered, clearing his throat. "Just... just softly, but..."

"Are you sure?"

"I wasn't expecting it last time. This time, though... Just try again, Sherlock?" he whispered, gulping. "I'll be expecting it this time."

It stung a bit, but in the thrilling way that fingernails raking down his back or digging into his glutes might. He'd always quite enjoyed enthusiastic sex, the kind where both parties abandoned things like restraint and self-consciousness and just focused on wringing one more ounce of sensation out of the encounter. This was nothing like that, not with Sherlock's typical deliberation and calculation, but John's body still reacted to the almost-familiar cues, despite the lack of spontaneity. Careful exploration or not, it felt like a heated quickie, and the contrast between pain and pleasure left him lightheaded.

"So good," he groaned, tangling a hand in Sherlock's hair. "You're wonderful at this."

Sherlock gave him a quizzical look, seeming to consider John's words and actions. "Is it painful?"

"A little, but..." He hesitated, wondering how to explain without sounding like a masochist.

"You consider the discomfort sexually arousing. Why?"

Yeah, that didn't sound masochistic at all. "Um, ever taken a cold plunge on a hot day?"

Sherlock was quiet for a moment, then spoke hesitantly. "The contrast between the hot air and cold water? Stimuli at odds with each other, forcing your body and brain into overdrive?"

"Yes," John agreed, snuggling close and kissing his shoulder. "More than that, though. The cold water is... it makes you feel so alive."

"Adrenaline, the fight-or-flight response?"

"Do I look ready to fight? Or to run away?" John answered, wetting his lips as he leered up at Sherlock.

"It's paradoxical. You... enjoy stimulus you should resent."

"I'm not alone in that, Sherlock. Sex crosses the brain's wires in ways you wouldn't believe. You stopped being able to think," he pointed out, "and you loved it."

"Yes," he admitted, looking like he couldn't quite understand why that had been the case.

"Such a relief, isn't it? Not being in control for once?"

Sherlock hesitated. "I'm... not used to it."

"Feels good, though?" he pressed, nuzzling Sherlock's cheek.

"Yes, but I don't think it would with anyone else."

"No, of course it wouldn't," John agreed, since having his scars touched wouldn't feel good if anyone else had been doing the touching. Some experiences were meant to be shared only between people with a unique bond.

"Oh," Sherlock whispered, smiling and nodding. "I think I understand, John."

"Do you?" he asked, giving Sherlock an eager, challenging look.

He expected to be pinned at that point, but being shoved facedown onto the bed was startling. Momentarily intimidating, too, until Sherlock's mouth descended on his scarred shoulder and robbed him of the ability to think. Unable to see what was about to be done to him, all he could do was whimper with delight every time lips or tongue or teeth found some new area to gently tease. Sometimes, if a ridge of tissue seemed particularly sensitive, he'd even spend a moment gently suckling it. Every time the man under him whimpered or squirmed with pleasure, Sherlock would let out a low, throaty chuckle that went straight to John's groin.

He hadn't expected Sherlock to continue to be submissive or passive, but he also hadn't anticipated him taking such total control only a few hours into their relationship. Sex was so new to him that John had expected caution.

Sherlock did blunder once; nipping so hard that John swore and pulled away. But he just pressed close to the doctor's back again, murmuring apologetically and kissing the hurt better with his plump, tender lips. His self-assurance was oddly hot, his confidence that he could comfort John as soothing as it was arousing. Sighing with pleasure, John rolled over underneath him, reaching up and drawing Sherlock into his arms.

"This is lovely."

"It doesn't bother you, then?" Sherlock murmured in answer, biting his lip and looking almost shy.

"What doesn't?" he asked, smiling curiously.

"Me, being a male. You've always shown considerable appreciation for the female gender, but indifference towards men. You've always said you aren't sexually interested in other males."

John drew a deep breath, considering this since he had a point. He'd never wanted a bloke before, but he'd also never had a friend like Sherlock Holmes.

He had to stop and think about that, too. It seemed ridiculous to refer to the man as his 'friend' after a night of mutual masturbation and sexual exploration. But 'lover' had inherent problems as a descriptor, too. It was difficult to picture a man like Sherlock falling easily into that role. This experience wouldn't change him fundamentally; he'd still scoff at the idea of romance. If they stayed sexual partners, 'flirting' was likely to consist of a pronouncement from Sherlock that he was randy. Most of their foreplay would probably take place at crime scenes, Sherlock working himself up over this or that puzzle and John working himself up watching that amazing brain in action. Cuddling and romantic meals seemed out of the question with Sherlock.

What had he gotten himself into?

"John?" Sherlock whispered, watching him apprehensively.

"It's a lot to think about," he answered since Sherlock could almost certainly see the doubt on his face. There was no point denying it, especially when Sherlock tended to be tolerant of his foibles. "It doesn't mean I regret this, because I don't. You know me well enough to know that."

The detective bit his lip, eyes seeming even larger than usual. His uncertainty and insecurity were obvious. So was the way he seemed to be searching his mind for... well, who knew what went on in Sherlock's brain?

"I like this," John whispered, taking that beautiful face in both hands and nuzzling it gently. Genius or not, Sherlock was practically a child in this respect. He'd need things explained to him in simple terms. "It's wonderful and I wouldn't change it. It's just going to take some getting used to. All relationships do and, when you're already friends with a person, it also adds a dimension of fear. You don't want to screw up what you already have with a person. Make sense?"

The young man nodded slowly. "I've always felt... very drawn to you, John. I can't normally bring myself to trust people, but I trusted you the first day we met."

"I know the feeling," he answered, smiling and covering Sherlock's face with gentle kisses. "I was sure you were a madman, but I couldn't resist. You gave me so much that I thought I'd lost. You gave me purpose and camaraderie. I'm honestly not sure where I'd be now if we'd never become friends, but it wouldn't be a good place."

"We're... soldiers together?" he ventured, smiling shyly.

"Something like that. Part of a team, at least. We have a shared purpose."

"We make things better for others. That's always been important to you."

"It has," John agreed, moaning softly when Sherlock's lips found his shoulder again.

The detective was a physically affectionate, open man and that was unexpected but wonderful. And he appeared to already be outgrowing his earlier passivity, gently urging his partner onto his back and dancing his fingertips over the older man's face, shoulders, and chest.

"How did you get good at this?" he wanted to know, smiling warmly up at Sherlock as he lay back and just enjoyed the gentle attention.

"Foreplay?"

Biting his lip, John answered, "Well, I meant basic physicality, but... foreplay, too."

"I can be physically affectionate. You've seen me with Mrs. Hudson."

He had to smile at that. It was truer than he had realized until it was pointed out to him. No, Sherlock was not remotely demonstrative with most people, but that had never made him cold, only cautious in whom he found himself able to enjoy intimate attachments. And, while it was true that he and John had always been quite close, it had never been in a way that translated into Sherlock being comfortable with extensive physical contact. Now, though...

Well, at least snuggling on the sofa was back on the table. Laughing happily, John reached up and tugged Sherlock down for another kiss, pressing close and sighing against those plump lips. The sigh turned to a gasp as Sherlock's long fingers closed around his growing erection and tugged gently. He didn't quite seem to have the stroking motion down, but he was close and it felt wonderful.

"Yes," he breathed, nodding and reaching for Sherlock's length. "Slow to start, then faster."

"I remember," Sherlock rasped as John started to stroke him, wetting his lips and staring at him with wide eyes. "You said there are... other things we can do as well?"

He whimpered at the idea of trying to speak coherently when he and Sherlock were wanking each other, but forced himself to pant, "Oral sex..."

"You enjoy fellatio?"

"God, who doesn't?" he groaned, stroking Sherlock harder and faster to distract him from the conversation.

It worked. Choking and jerking against his hand with a cry, Sherlock clung to John, body shaking and hand tightening around his lover's arousal.

John moaned and nodded, free hand rubbing Sherlock's back soothingly as he rocked against his hand and stroked his slippery length. Poor Sherlock was already building towards climax; it would take time and practice before encounters stopped ending so quickly for him. In the meantime, John enjoyed watching Sherlock abruptly fall apart as pleasure overwhelmed him. And he relished the fact that he was the one unhinging his friend so completely.

"John!" Sherlock choked, strong fingers tightening around the other man's aching arousal.

"Yes!" he panted, nodding and rocking urgently into that tight grip. "God, Sherlock..."

"J...J..." he whimpered, shaking like a leaf and thrusting wildly against his hand. Weeping with pleasure, he buried his face in John's uninjured shoulder, muffling a cry there.

"Shhh," John soothed, kissing him and murmuring comfortingly as it washed over the detective.

Sherlock sobbed as it took him, yelping and whimpering as his entire body jerked again and again. John sighed with pleasure at the repeated floods of sticky heat coating his hand and stomach, more than aware of how enjoyable such a forceful, productive orgasm must have felt to the inexperienced man. Kissing his hair, he kept stroking and twisting up and down Sherlock's length, gently milking him. From Sherlock's mewling cry, it must have felt wonderful, so John kept going for him, rocking slowly into Sherlock's loose grip until the detective made a startled noise and started to squirm, panting brokenly.

"Shhh. It's all right," John soothed, hand abandoning Sherlock's length and caressing his hip instead, urging him onto his back so he could rest. "You get a bit tender after an orgasm, but that'll pass soon," he promised, reaching down and covering Sherlock's hand with his own, urging those long fingers to tighten around him again since the detective was probably in no shape to remember that John needed release, too.

"J...John," he slurred, nodding and clumsily pumping.

"So good," John growled, nodding and rocking urgently. Pleasure built abruptly, blinding in its intensity, and he started to tense, panting and clinging to Sherlock. "Yes. Oh, God, yes!"

The orgasm took him hard and, despite the fact that he was generally quiet when he climaxed, he heard himself shouting this time. He wasn't used to orgasms like this, wasn't sure he'd had one this powerful since his early twenties. Jesus, it was wonderful, the way molten pleasure just kept pouring out of him, leaving him pleasantly lethargic in its wake. Whimpering softly, body still humming with subdued enjoyment, he snuggled close to Sherlock, closing his eyes and sighing happily.

"Sex is very messy," Sherlock observed, voice as lazy as John's body felt.

"Who cares?" he mumbled in answer, yawning and groping around on the bed until his hand found a blanket. Tugging it over them, he wrapped his arms around Sherlock and held him close, promising, "We'll take a hot shower first thing in the morning."

It had been ages since he'd showered with a lover, not since before he'd been shot. It would be wonderful to do so again, especially with Sherlock.

Sherlock moaned at the idea, nodding and snuggling close. "Do we... sleep in the same bed now?" he asked, tone almost shy.

"I dearly hope so," he answered, positioning his bad arm comfortably across Sherlock's chest and delighted to find it at the most comfortable angle imaginable there. Grinning into Sherlock's shoulder, he draped a leg over his body, too, snuggling close.

"This is nice. Goodnight, John."

"Sweet dreams, handsome," John replied, smiling up at him and kissing his shoulder.

"You think I'm handsome?" Sherlock whispered, staring at John with wide eyes.

"Handsome, beautiful, same difference."

He smiled at that, then shyly pressed his nose into John's hair.

"Shh, it's all right," John promised. "Get some rest."

Sherlock nodded and snuggled close, sighing happily. John smiled and kissed his warm skin, languidly drifting in and out. Sherlock filled his awareness, his scent and warmth and the soft pressure of Sherlock's body against his. There were worse things to fall asleep to, so John didn't fight it. God knew Sherlock was likely to experiment on him in his sleep, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing any longer.

He wanted to speak, to say something profoundly meaningful to his new lover, his best friend, but nothing came to mind and he hoped that Sherlock understood anyway. His girlfriends never stayed the night at his place and he seldom stayed the night at theirs. He didn't let lovers share his bed, yet here he was, drifting off in Sherlock's arms. If anyone could understand the importance of that, it was Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock's breathing slowed and evened out, deep and steady as sleep claimed him. John could hardly remember the last time he'd actually seen Sherlock sleeping, and there was something affirming in the fact that Sherlock was suddenly sleeping peacefully in his arms. For the second time that night. It was hard to believe he'd ever been worried about anything as superficial as gender where his relationship with Sherlock was concerned. For that matter, why had his injuries ever made him self-conscious? A lover worth having could see past them, to the John Watson within.

Sighing happily, he kissed his friend's hair and closed his eyes, drifting into a sound, peaceful sleep.

END