[Author's Note: So. Yeah. Extremely long and incredibly smutty. And not actually at all how I expected it to go, but that occurs way too often for me to worry about it anymore. Enjoy! I promise we'll circle back around to the plot. We have this built-in two-week interlude while the footage gets examined, and then we will be hurtling toward our endgame. In the meantime, you wouldn't want to begrudge our boys their fun, now would you?]

John slowly surfaced toward waking, feeling warm and content. Sherlock, he thought, smiling to himself. Sherlock loves me.

He opened his eyes and had to stifle a yip of surprise. The man himself was inches away, crouched over John on his hands and knees, gray eyes staring intently.

"Ah, good, you're finally awake," Sherlock announced. "I have decided which sexual activity I would like to engage in next."

John tried to smother his laughter. "And good morning to you too," he murmured with amusement.

"Social niceties," Sherlock said dismissively. "Now lay still, I wish to examine you."

John shut his eyes, gathering strength. This all seemed like a bit much for first thing in the morning before he had even had his cuppa. "Is this some kind of...medical kink you have or something?" he asked, prying one eye open.

He saw Sherlock's brows furrow briefly, and could almost see him adding the term to his mental list of things to Google later.

"For some unknown reason you still view me as being somewhat vulnerable sexually," Sherlock began, laying his case out like a barrister. "Out of misplaced chivalry you want to do things with me that have not been tainted by my experiences with Seb. I had no interest in doing this with Seb, and if I had expressed such interest he would not have tolerated it in any case. It allows me a measure of control while still being a novel experience, thus satisfying all of your criteria, and it is also something I avidly wish to do. Shall we proceed?"

John's took a moment to wrap his head around all that. "Give me a bit of a snog first, and try me again," he finally concluded. He wrapped his arms around Sherlock's waist, pulling him down a bit until he was sprawled over John's body, both of them sighing as their hips met.

John wound a hand in Sherlock's curls, drawing him slowly down. He lazily explored Sherlock's mouth, licking and nibbling, tracing that decadent cupid's bow with his tongue before suckling that full lower lip. The kiss was soft, and sweet, and tender, intensified somehow now that their feelings for each other were out in the open for the first time.

He hummed his contentment as Sherlock reciprocated, gently stroking John's tongue with his own. John smoothed his hands down the sun-warmed expanse of Sherlock's bare back before grasping a handful of surprisingly lush pajama-clad arse. How a twiggy bloke like Sherlock got a plush arse like that was beyond John, but he wasn't complaining as he tightened his grip and pushed up into Sherlock, grinding their bodies together deliciously.

Sherlock broke the kiss on a sharp inhale, raising his head and narrowing his eyes suspiciously. "You're trying to distract me," he accused.

"Mmmm...is it working?" John felt happy and lazy, and (although he'd never admit it) amiably predisposed to give Sherlock anything he damn well asked for.

"No. I still want you naked."

That sounded promising. "What exactly do you have planned, again?" John asked mildly, already pulling off his vest.

"I want to look at you. Learn you. Everything about you." God, the force of that gaze was an aphrodisiac in itself. How many times had John wondered what it would be like to be the object of that razor-sharp scrutiny?

"Hmmm. So I just lie here? I'm surprised you didn't do this already as I was sleeping." Sherlock was already tugging impatiently at John's pajama bottoms and John lifted his hips, allowing him to pull them free.

"I thought that would be more efficient as well," Sherlock said seriously. "But I suspected that I should first obtain your assent. Plus, I will likely touch you, and you are irritable when woken prematurely."

"Well-reasoned," John said, stretching out on the sheets before relaxing back with his arms at his sides. "Do your worst, then, you ridiculous nutter," he said fondly.

He didn't know what he was expecting, but before the words were even out of his mouth Sherlock was crouching over him again, intent. He started at the top of John's head, fingertips moving gently in John's hair, feeling the bones of the underlying skull. It was quite soothing actually, and John closed his eyes again, relaxing into the touch.

Next came gentle tugs as Sherlock apparently tested the resilience of different parts of his hair, before moving on to his face. Sherlock's fingertips traced the ridges of his forehead, ruffled through his eyebrows, even brushed gently along the curl of his eyelashes. Strong thumbs smoothed over his lips and up the line of his cheekbones before gentle fingertips returned to test the texture of the skin of his eyelids, sliding down to abrade his stubble in both directions. It reminded John of a video he had seen, in which a visually impaired woman had learned the faces of those she met through touch. As he had declared before beginning, Sherlock was truly learning him, memorizing him. It made John feel oddly...cherished.

The touch of Sherlock's lips to the corner of his mouth made him jump, rousing him from the sensual haze he had fallen into. He opened his eyes and, god, that bright gaze was still on him, stripping him bare. Half-expecting a snog, he was a bit surprised when Sherlock kissed his temple next, tongue flicking out for a quick lick along his hairline. Then a press of Sherlock's lips to the pulse point in his neck, and another small flicker of tongue. Ah, tasting then. John shifted a little, his arousal growing at the thought of where that might lead.

Sherlock lingered at the crook of John's neck, breathing in with long inhales and out in short puffs. Of course, John thought. Sniffing.

"So go on, what do I smell like, then," he asked lazily.

"Mmmm..." The hum into his neck tickled deliciously. "A little spicy, a little salty. Like John. And sex. And..." another delicate sniff "...a little like marzipan."

John chuckled. "That would be the almond oil, I expect."

"Mmmm," Sherlock hummed again, this time into the crest of John's good shoulder. "If I get an erection next time I'm in a sweet shop, you will be to blame."

John laughed outright at that. "Like you'd ever visit a sweet shop," he teased.

"For a case, naturally."

It felt so fun and easy, this banter between them. Some tension John hadn't even realized had existed was now missing, and it felt amazing. John didn't have to worry about hiding his feelings from Sherlock. This wasn't just some diversion on Sherlock's part, something he would bore of easily before moving on to the next distraction. It could be like this, John thought, for the rest of our lives, and the idea of it made him giddy. He wasn't naive, Sherlock was still likely to behave like an enormous prat at times. It wouldn't be easy, but they could have all of this — sex and laughter, affection and cases. It would be brilliant.

So caught up in his blissful thoughts, John didn't even flinch as Sherlock moved his intense focus to his scarred shoulder. He spent even longer than the night before examining it with his eyes, and then touching it gently with his fingertips. Finally, he even tested the texture of the scarred skin with his tongue, lapping gently at the ridges and whorls of scar tissue, making John shiver a bit.

"Go on then," John murmured when Sherlock finally drew back. "I know you're dying to show off."

Sherlock's eyes flicked to John's, testing his sincerity, before the corner of his mouth curled with a hint of smugness.

"Shot with a sniper rifle at relatively close range, through a 'murder hole' then, not fire from a distance. Not a foreign mercenary — a Chechen or Iraqi sniper veteran — but a poorly-trained local, most likely armed with a scoped Russian SVD. You were in body armor and helmet, but that couldn't protect you entirely at such close range. From the angle of the wound you were kneeling, administering aid to the sniper's earlier victim, but you were also in motion, the arm extended and shoulder blade raised, so you were reaching or pulling — pulling your medkit closer with your dominant hand or dragging the victim to safety. Either way you were square to the sniper, deliberately shielding the fallen soldier with your body. Infection set in, likely due to delayed extraction in the field and the time in flight between Patrol Base Shahzad and Camp Bastion. Between twenty-five and thirty stitches in the front initially, and then two subsequent surgeries for debridement and drainage."

John's pleasant haze had dissipated a bit with Sherlock's deductions. It was a bit uncomfortable, hearing the grit and blood and sand and pain of that life-changing event laid naked to the bone, dissected in that smooth, detached voice. And then Sherlock's eyes flicked upward again, looking to John — not for confirmation, but for approval — and warmth spread through John's chest. "Amazing," he said sincerely.

Sherlock looked pleased and started to move down along John's ribs.

"But..." John continued, "...you forgot something."

Sherlock froze, his attention sharpening. "There's always something," he muttered to himself. His fingertips traced upwards, skimming the scar again. After a few moments he made a disgruntled noise. "What is it — what did I overlook?" he asked John.

John smiled at him. "Think, love. The most important thing."

He saw the change come over Sherlock's face, the sharp clinical focus softening, his eyes warming. "Oh." The dark lashes came down to shadow those silver eyes, and then Sherlock leaned down, placing a gentle kiss on the blossom of John's scar. "It brought you to me."

John stroked his fingers through the dark curls. "Knew you'd get it in the end," he said fondly.

Sherlock raised his head, suddenly looking uncertain as his fingertips continued to trace the scar absent-mindedly. "John, you know that I would never wish you pain — and your career as a surgeon..."

John laid his hand over Sherlock's, stilling the restless fingers. "Don't worry. You don't have to feel guilty. I'm glad it happened too."

"How can you be?"

John laced their fingers together and squeezed. "Because I gained so much more than I lost."

A rare, true smile spread over Sherlock's face like sun shining through clouds, lighting his eyes green from within. John wondered if he was the only person to see Sherlock like this, looking young and happy and unguarded. It seemed like an incredible privilege, that this brilliant, prickly man would show this side of himself to John, and only to John.

Sherlock continued down John's torso, carefully skirting his groin, apparently assessing and categorizing muscle tone, skin elasticity, the taste and smell of every inch. He even put his ear against John's chest, listening to his heartbeat, his breathing, his abdominal sounds. He deduced every scar — falls from his bicycle as a child, rugby injuries, that slip of the scalpel into his right thumb while training, random nicks and scrapes received on cases.

"Turn," he said imperiously, after a thorough examination of John's toes. John turned over, easing himself down on his belly. This felt a little different. He couldn't watch Sherlock like this, couldn't predict his touch. He felt more self-conscious and exposed, and yet somehow that made his arousal burn even hotter.

"Christ," he muttered into the pillow, unable to keep himself from rutting into the mattress a few times as Sherlock's fingers traced their way back up his body, from calves to buttocks to lower back, up the ridges of his spine and across his shoulders, lingering on the scarred surface of the entry wound. By the time Sherlock inhaled and tasted the nape of John's neck, John was in a muddled welter of insecurity and arousal.

"I can't imagine there's that much worth seeing," he mumbled into the pillow.

He felt Sherlock's hand still, tangled in the hair at the nape of his neck.

"John," Sherlock said softly. "As always, you see, but you do not observe. That face you show to the world, that unassuming demeanor — jam and jumpers and an approachable everyman — you can't honestly believe that's what I see, can you?"

John felt a strange tension curling in his chest. "What do you see, then?"

Sherlock's voice was a gentle rebuke. "I see you, John. All of you. Strength and sheer force of will barely contained in this incredible, compact body." Deft fingertips skated down John's spine, making him shudder. "The way you move when you are on the chase — quick and sharp and deadly. The spark that lights your eyes when the situation is grim, the way your breath stays steady and calm in the silence between gunshots." John could feel Sherlock's heat all along his back now as Sherlock's hands smoothed back up his spine to his shoulders. Sherlock leaned in, breathing the next words into John's ear. "Those idiots in your day-to-day life — they think you are a kitten, cuddly and sweet. They are so blind." John could feel Sherlock's words sliding in under his skin, speaking directly to his soul, making his heart pound and his breath hitch. "You are a leopard. Tawny and fierce and so very beautiful. My predator and my protector. That's what I see."

John didn't even remember moving but suddenly Sherlock was crushed beneath him. For an instant he saw Sherlock's mouth caught open on a gasp, eyes blown wide with both surprise and arousal, and then John was devouring his mouth desperately, voraciously, as if he needed the very breath from Sherlock's lungs to survive. John could feel the gnashing of their teeth as he smashed his mouth against Sherlock's, could taste the tang of copper passed from Sherlock's eager tongue to his, and knew he needed to calm, to settle, to get back some of that measure of control he'd been ruthlessly employing since this thing between them had started. But Sherlock was pushing his hips up into him at the same time his grasping hands were pulling John closer; he was practically sobbing choked, eager little noises into John's mouth, and John felt his control slipping even further from his grasp.

He felt every bit as wild and lethal as Sherlock had described, his whole mind focused with deadly intent on one objective — making sure that the brilliant, incredible man beneath him felt every iota of what John was feeling right now: incandescent joy, fierce possession, and love so bright and strong that it could burn them both to ashes and they would revel in the flames.

John held Sherlock's head still with both hands wound in his hair, distantly feeling Sherlock's hands clutching at him mindlessly as he possessed that devastating mouth. Finally he tore his mouth free with a shuddering gasp, pulling air into his lungs before attacking the pale expanse of that neck, sucking and biting, feeling Sherlock's pulse fluttering beneath his tongue.

He could feel Sherlock pushing his hips up frantically, seekingly, the rhythm too erratic to satisfy. He moved one hand to grasp his sharp-boned hip firmly, pinning him with the weight of his body. "Stay," he growled, his voice barely recognizable, and he could feel the impact of it shudder through Sherlock, the body beneath him stilling in both shock and instinctive surrender.

He fumbled for the bottle of oil at the bedside table, spilling it carelessly into his hands. He yanked Sherlock's pajama bottoms down just enough to free his cock before ruthlessly slicking him base to tip.

"John!" Sherlock arched into John's touch, and John could feel his whole body shaking with the force of his emotion. God, could there be anything sweeter than hearing his name ripped from that beautiful mouth, feeling that lithe slender body taut and trembling between his hands? On some level John wanted to slow down, to savor this first touch — but a larger part of him was pushed past all reason. Sherlock was coming to pieces beneath his hands, because of him, and it was incredible.

He stroked Sherlock quickly, mercilessly, and then crowded closer, taking them both in hand. He hissed with the feel of it, the smooth slow glide of their hard flesh together sending waves of pleasure down his spine. Sherlock's silver eyes were locked on his, wide and amazed.

"That's it," John found himself panting. "Feel it, Sherlock. Feel what I do to you." He braced his right arm and ground against Sherlock, his oiled hand stroking them both quick and hard. He felt a feral grin cross his face. "So fucking gorgeous," he gritted out through bared teeth. "Fucking mine."

Sherlock had been panting with every movement of John's fist, a steady whimper of "JohnJohnJohnJohn" falling from his lips. He was so close, so beautifully close, right there on the very edge, and John wanted to do nothing more than push him over into shattering.

John wrapped his other arm around Sherlock and with a heave of effort flipped them, landing on his back with Sherlock sprawled between his legs, his left hand resuming the rhythm, fisting both their cocks. Sherlock had braced his hands on the bed on either side of John's shoulders and was looking down their bodies now, watching John's hand move with fascination.

No longer needing to brace himself upright, John trailed his free hand down to the cleft of Sherlock's arse. "Sherlock," John gritted out, making those mercurial eyes snap up to his. "Come for me, love," he said, as he pressed one strong finger between, and against, and then suddenly inside, twisting, seeking, and then with his unerring surgeon's touch, finding.

He watched Sherlock's face greedily, and it was everything John had imagined —

surprise and realization and then ecstasy stuttering across Sherlock's expression with startling rapidity. It was the face of an epiphany — those unearthly eyes wide and unseeing, that perfect mouth forming a soundless oh of discovery, and then Sherlock was spilling into John's hand, crying out John's name as his orgasm shook him.

"Fuck," John said. "Fuck," and then he let himself go as well, letting the pleasure roll through him, doggedly stroking them both through the waves and the aftershocks until they collapsed in a sticky, sweaty heap. John's head was buzzing, dazed, and so it took a few more moments to realize that Sherlock was shaking, shuddering in his arms.

"Oh Christ," John said, easing his finger out of Sherlock's body as gently as he could, craning his neck to try to see Sherlock's face where it was buried in the crook of his shoulder. He felt ice spreading through his chest. "Sherlock, oh fuck, I'm sorry, did I..."

Sherlock raised his head and John was suddenly giddy with relief. He was giggling, the crazy bastard, silently shaking with laughter, tears gathering in the corners of his eyes. He flopped down on his back next to John, chuckling aloud now.

"You bloody berk," John said feelingly. "I thought that it was too much, that I was too rough..."

Sherlock snorted, the sound marvelously out of keeping with the goofy grin that was plastered across his face. "It was brilliant," he said, still catching his breath. "I'm just glad that I hit upon a solution to overcome that misplaced chivalry of yours."

Then John was giggling too, helplessly, until his stomach hurt. He finally subsided, his body curled up against Sherlock's, his forehead brushing Sherlock's temple, his knees brushing Sherlock's flank. "Another puzzle solved by the great Sherlock Holmes, eh? Compare John Watson to a jungle cat and he'll lose all compunction and shag you as rough as you like."

"Mmmm," Sherlock hummed happily. He turned his head to look at John, those grey eyes suddenly serious. "I did...like, you realize. I'm not going to break, John."

Something about those words and it was just a flash; Sherlock's head on the pavement, blood spreading through the curls, those same grey eyes wide and staring. John felt his breath hitch and he blinked furiously, refusing to let the image take him from this moment. Still, his voice was rough as he spoke. "I'm not going to stop trying to take care of you, Sherlock. It's — I can't."

Sherlock nodded carefully, acknowledging it. "Still," he said, his tone carefully light again, his mouth curving into that charming half-smile of his. "I have an extensive knowledge of the genus Panthera to call upon, as the occasion arises."

John chuckled. "And exactly why do you know that? No wait, let me guess — some poor sod somewhere was killed by an ocelot."

"Don't be ridiculous, John." Sherlock paused meditatively. "It was a Balinese tiger. An ocelot is from genus Leopardus."

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