This is the last chapter. I know to some of you it may seem the story is relatively short, but I really wanted to explore one aspect of John and Sherlock's relationship; the return, magnified by the long absence and all that entails. I like stopping when I feel I've said all that's really needed to be said, and I hope most of you have enjoyed the story. Thank you so much for reading and to all of you who have left comments on the story, you don't know how much I appreciate it. Hope you enjoy the last segment!


Chapter 3

Of course Sherlock is aware, because he knows himself and his own nature, that the peace between John and him cannot last forever.

Both Samson and John, after a fitful night of sleep thanks to a newly acquired puppy barking next door, are both tired and grumpy, but Samson, whose childish constitution is not yet trained to withstand a hard day after lack of rest, is in a state of surly moodiness which currently manifests itself in the hunched-up position of his back as he sits on one of the couches, bent over some kind of gaming device which he clicks at in his hands. Sherlock has been but an observer in John's wearing patience as he tries to get his son to release "the DS", as the apparatus is apparently called, and clean his room before dinner, to which Samson constantly replies with the rather cryptic, "I can't dad, I'm in a dungeon", or "I have to beat the boss". Finally, John resorts to calmly pulling the thing from his son's hands and shutting the screen, which causes a cry of protest from the boy with a grief that Sherlock finds bemusing, having never experienced the addictive and hardworking process of killing a virtual monster.

"Samson, enough. I get that you're tired but you know the rules; clean your room, eat, and then you can play. You know how mum hated you being stuck to a screen all day," John says in that deadly calm voice which signals outmost seriousness, but Samson, two blotches of red rising to his cheeks, seems to either not pick up or not care about the stony quality of his father's voice.

"What does it matter what mum hated! She's not here! She's not anywhere! She's dead!" The boy shouts, jumping up from the couch. A corrosive silence falls within the house, and it seems to sting at Sherlock's skin, for he knows exactly what's about to happen.

"Samson..." John says, more softly now, taken aback by his son's sudden outburst, "Just because mum is dead doesn't mean she isn't with us. She-" but Samson is not receptive to hearing platitudes.

"You're lying! You don't believe it, you know she's gone, she's nothing! She's just, just, decomposing!" The boy says, his eyes bright now, the breath in his throat hitching, before he stumbles off to his room as one flees the scene of a crime. John does not move to stop him, seeming too shocked to do anything but watch his son leave. He stands there, stone still, before turning to Sherlock slowly, who is sitting stiffly on one of the kitchen stools, having been invited for dinner the previous day.

"Decomposing? Sherlock, did you...?" John asks quietly, and Sherlock knows there is no point in lying.

"Yes." John runs a hand through his hair, staring at Sherlock.

"What did you say to him?" He asks in a deadly voice Sherlock knows from the past.

"He asked me if I believed in heaven, and I told him the truth," Sherlock replies monotonously. He feels numb, but no need to form a defence. He has never really regretted speaking the truth.

"The truth? The truth," John laughs hollowly. "He asked you if you believed in heaven, and your answer was that his mother is rotting in the ground?"

"Well, it is the truth, isn't it?"

"Sherlock," John says quietly, dangerously, "He's just a child!"

"A child!" Sherlock repeats, beginning to get angry himself, "And when is someone old enough not to be lied to?" John stares at him incredulously.

"Sherlock, you know nothing about the truth in these matters. Let me tell you what happens when someone you love dies. You don't have to believe in heaven or God to known that they stay with us when they die. When people die, they don't die alone. Yes, the process of facing death is a solitary one, but when they actually die, they take pieces of those they loved with them, because there is an unavoidable loss, and emptiness, that is created, of love and feeling that goes with them. And similarly, when someone dies, they leave, they leave pieces behind in the ones they love because we remember them, and we still love them, and all the things that person has taught us, all our memories of them, they don't just die, they don't just disappear. I still feel loved by her, and Samson should too, because that love still exists inside us. So you telling my son that all Mary is now is a corpse is not the truth. It's how you want to see the world. But people don't just die, Sherlock, not until the last fragment, memory, feeling for them, of them, is gone. But how would you know? You're the one that left, right? You didn't have to mourn the death of someone you loved! Who are you to speak of the truth!" John says, his voice rising to a shout. Sherlock clenches his teeth.

"Here we go, then, what you've really been thinking all along, what you've just been waiting to say. Well go on. Accuse me, really accuse me for leaving, because you still don't even understand! I had no choice! I did what I had to do!" Sherlock grits out, getting to his feet in his agitation, but John won't back down.

"You could have contacted me, just once, just to let me know!"

"Oh, is that what I should have done? Really? Put you and your precious wife and son in danger just to appease you? Really, you wanted me to risk their lives just so you would know? Risk Lestrade's, and Mrs. Hudson's, and yours?" Sherlock asks harshly. "And you speak about loss and about death but you weren't the one who was alone all this time! You married! You have a son, and friends, and a new life! You moved on! It was I, John, I who was alone all these years, not you! So don't you tell me about grief and about loss as if I don't understand what that's like! You want to blame me? Fine! But don't talk as if I don't know the truth," Sherlock hisses, stepping closer to John and looking down at him mercilessly. There is a moment of cemented silence, of sinking solitude and stillness, before John's shoulders slump, and his fighting, soldier's stance is defeated.

"You're right," he says quietly, and Sherlock lets out the breath he had been holding, taking a step back, John's presence acidic. "I know, I know you're right but...logic and emotion, they...You can reign your emotions in, you let logic rule you, but it isn't like that for the rest of us. Logically, I know you're right but...Sherlock, I mourned you. I felt so...I just. I know you're right, but I don't feel it. I just...I can't seem to...it just hurt too much," John says softly. Sherlock clenches his hands. There is nothing he can do to defeat emotions, no argument he can construct, no persuasive debate. So why even try? He unclenches his hands.

"That must be tedious," Sherlock says, an olive branch.

"What, having emotion rule instead of logic?" John asks. Sherlock nods. "Yes. It can be. But it can also be wonderful." They stare at each other for a long while.

"Let me talk to Samson," Sherlock says, and John's expression clenches slightly, but Sherlock will not lose this battle. He has too big a bet on this family. "Please. John, I...understand. I do." There is a pleading look in Sherlock's eyes, and John finally nods slowly.

"Sherlock, I can't give you another chance with my son. You-"

"I understand, John. I understand." And he does.

Sherlock finds the door to Samson's room cracked open, and knocks twice sharply before stepping inside. The boy is sitting forlornly on the bed, his hands between his knees, looking upset and withdrawn. Sherlock walks in slowly, sitting on the desk chair.

"You heard the conversation, I presume?" Sherlock asks quietly. Samson nods. "There is merit to what your father says, Samson. I...I don't believe in heaven but...I do understand John's point of view." Sherlock sighs, looking at the slim boy, who has tears collecting on his eyelashes. "If your father were to die, Samson, I would be very upset. And I know that I would lose a part of myself if he did, a part that I only really discovered when he came into my life. I once believed I didn't have a heart but...well, he proved me quite mistaken." Samson looks up at Sherlock, and seems to see more than Sherlock ever intended showing. He nods slowly, and Sherlock returns the gesture

"You can do what you like, of course, but I suggest you apologise to your father," Sherlock says, sanding up. Hesitantly, he places a hand on Samson's shoulder, and squeezes once, before leaving the room. John straightens up from his seat on one of the kitchen stools as Sherlock steps into the living room area.

"Well?" He asks, but Sherlock shrugs, having no real idea what kind of impact the short talk had on Samson. John opens his mouth anxiously, but closes it again as Samson appears behind Sherlock, looking much like a dog with its talk between his its legs. Sherlock moves to the side, and Samson avoids looking at either of them.

"I'm sorry, dad," he says quietly. John smiles.

"It's ok. Come here," John says, opening his arms, and Samson is young enough to crawl between them and let himself be consoled by his father. Sherlock looks away from the sight, and heads towards the door.

"Don't go," Samson says as Sherlock unhooks his coat from the hat stand. Sherlock tries to smile briefly.

"I'm afraid I've grown quite exhausted. We can reschedule," he says. He cannot stand the thought of being there much longer, being near John, looking at him, after all that has been said, after emotions have come so strongly to play, muddying the waters of logic, twisting everything inside him into something painful and foreign. Has he been broken by the decade of solitude, he wonders, that logic seems to be failing him in the face of more uncertain things, of the presence of his old friend? He is too tired, now, too worn, fading at the edges, dissipating.

"Let's go to the beach on Friday, then. The forecast says it'll be sunny," John suggests. Sherlock nods, and flees, wondering when, exactly, the will to fight had abandoned him.

...**...

Friday falls two days later, and the air between John and Sherlock is tense once again, the latter of the two wondering if this is how it will be from now on; a constant push and pull until something breaks. Simply put, Sherlock is tired, tired of the chase, tired of fighting and of feeling and of being alone. Oftentimes, when he was younger, he wished for the option of disconnecting his brain, if only to sleep, but now he wishes to quiet other parts of himself, that seem to run with the rush of blood and the beat of his heart, a sort of yearning that stretches over his skin, making his fingertips itch against the absence of something, a feeling which is magnified only by John's presence.

Despite this, the lunch they share with Samson by the waterfront is amicable and calm. Both the child and Sherlock complain about the peas on their plates, to which John responds with amused exasperation. When John asks Sherlock about what he was been up to, Sherlock tells him of the little altercation with the police after the maid at the B&B had found the hands he has coerced out of Molly on his last visit to London, which he kept in the mini fridge he had installed.

"Dead people's hands?" Samson asks with morbid fascination.

"Yes, see, you understand; dead people's hands, it's not like they were being used," Sherlock replies grumpily, not at all happy at the confiscation of his severed limbs.

"Yeah, they should have known better," John says sarcastically, smiling, and Sherlock rolls his eyes with a similar lack of animosity.

Samson talks about school, and the teacher who apparently fancies John, and sings some song about K-I-S-S-I-N-G. Sherlock frowns, biting his tongue, and says nothing, but the thought of it makes the pit of his stomach feel unduly heavy, and he wonders about the quality of the food they have consumed.

On the beach, Sherlock stands slightly apart from the other two, staring at the swarming ocean, which seems to him infinitely empty and endless. John plays with his son on the sand, unrolling the long cord of a kite, as Sherlock thinks of the conversation they had at John's house. As he looks at the father and son, he can almost feel the presence of Mary between them, in their movements and their talk, in John's pose, relaxed from his old soldier stance, in his open smile directed at his son, the deep familiarity and intimacy born not only of shared genes but of shared experiences and loss. In that instant, he knows that John is right, that people survive beyond death in those that they leave behind, because he can feel the woman's character, her ways and her love, decompose within John, fertilizing what an atheist would call the spirit; the intellect, memories, habits and conscience, much as her body makes the earth richer. Sherlock does not have faith in religion, in reincarnation, the afterlife and the soul, not because of what these ideas conclude, but because of how these are reached. He belongs to the world of science, and believes in its premises, not because he lacks faith; that is not something that only religion has claim to, for science also supports itself in unseen forces, in particles and theories that support themselves in what they affect, instead of what the senses can capture, but because of the process upon which these stand; in the tireless testing of reactions, the control of variables, both hidden and tangible, and, most importantly, of the extrication of the human presence from these; to observe how the world works apart from human want or ideals, and to not claim people protagonists, but simply one more entity in a complex world. Science does not seek to comfort, only to explain, and Sherlock finds solace in this. He remembers a summer's day when he was a child, lying on the grass, and a cat having stretched beside him, basking in the sun, and he himself thinking, I am a cat. This simple phrase did not suggest he was feline, but that he was composed of the same material as that being, that he was no more and no less than organic matter, had no more importance than any other creature simply because his cognitive function was beyond the capability of an animal. That the world, or fate, or an unseen entity, did not have a plan for him, that he was free within the limits of physics and biology and chemistry. In his childish, but already sharp and intelligent mind, he was calmed by the thought that his life was not a test for an ultimate justice, or a trial for a better or infinitely worse eternity, but that his existence was it, was the most important thing there was, that it was everything, just as the cat's existence was. That a rock could 'outlive' him, and could have, ultimately, more impact on the world than him, did not trouble Sherlock, but instead gave him space to breathe, to just be, to be able to judge himself as he saw fit. But when he looks on John's broken family of two, and sees the missing piece, he can understand what his friend spoke of when explaining Mary's presence beyond the grave, for a human captures perfectly the phrase, the whole is more than the sum of its parts; that the combination of organs and bones and neurons are more than a simple addition of these fragments, completing into something coherent and alive, and the impact people have on each other transcends a simple contagion of chemistry or biology. Though supported by blood and hormones and brain matter, by Hebbian learning, conditioning, and even more intricate patterns of functioning synapses and action potentials, humans learn from each other through such a complicated pattern of action and thought and emotion that it seems more than that, so that a mere memory or intangible idea can capture a mind and influence a life, and so even when the physical body of somebody is no longer in function, their presence is still alive and well, for it still has impact on those it leaves behind, and how can someone claim the complete death of something when that occurs?

As he watches John and Samson, Sherlock feels an old, long unused emotion, which had been consciously alive only in his teenage years, when the heart he claims to have lost was still beating and vulnerable. It is not the feeling of being alone, but a much more corrosive loneliness; that of being with people you don't belong with, that don't see or accept you. When he was young, and he was in the aftermath of someone's vitriolic rant, or a muttered "freak" after what Sherlock though was a simple observation, it would feel as if he were made of one material, and the rest of the world of another; one tin, and the other woven cloth, a metaphor born from the sensation that his very essence was wrong, or at least different enough that the disparity caused an inability to make any sort of human connection, and left him bereft of company or understanding, and stunted his ability to empathise, or to care, and therefore made him use logic as a crutch to function in life. When he was little, he would wonder if Mycroft, at least, felt the same, but his brother, if indeed made of tin, was adept enough at pretending to be cotton, a fact that tormented and infuriated Sherlock in a defensive rationalization in order to explain his own solitude.

Before the fall, he had never felt this way around John, and that this feeling has awaked now is painful, an ache beyond the physical, much deeper and crueller, and something he isn't prepared to deal with, being someone used to broken bones and bruises, but astonishingly ignorant, as John had once expressed, of some things. But in that moment he can no longer lie to himself. There is only one logical explanation for the effect John has on him, for why he feels so bereft, and so alone in his company, for only caring, that damnable disadvantage, can produce the sensation of loss. The magnitude of his despair can only be explained if it is mirrored in his feelings for the other man, the reason for which he is here, beside that cruel and shipless ocean, instead of ensconced amidst the alleys of London, with its streetlights casting halos in the misty nights. He knows then that he must make a decision; he has never been a coward, or even a cautious man, and he sees no point in staying in this town out of some ridiculous pining after having fought for a whole, long decade to come back to a man who has no space left for him in his life. He is done with waiting, and with indulging his self-pity, with self destruction, with solitude. It is not that he has changed absolutely, but in this, in John, he must be resolute; to take the uncertainty of the pill, or the deadliness of the gun.

As he thinks this, sunken deep within his own mind, he is pulled out by the sound of John's voice calling him toward them, a hand beckoning closer, and in a detached manner Sherlock does so, his feet heavy on the sand. But he is met with smiles, and Samson pulls at the sleeve of his coat, the contact surprising Sherlock, who has constructed his own solitude in his imagination so solidly that he is astonished to find it just a mirage made by a parched and starved soul.

"Help us fly the kite," Samson incites, and Sherlock takes it from his small, gloved hands, and puts his face to the wind, taking a few steps towards it, trying to calculate an appropriate algorithm for distance and speed given the velocity of the air.

"Stop thinking," John says, and Sherlock looks at him. "I know what you're doing, but just enjoy it. Fly the kite." Sherlock stares at John for a moment before nodding, and in his second attempt the kite soars upwards, feigning a dip before taking flight. Samson laughs, and trots after Sherlock, who, after a few seconds of watching the red diamond move with the wind, hands the plastic handle on which the string is rolled to the boy, who takes it happily off his hands, and runs forward, the kite following in the sky. Sherlock goes to stand beside John, who watches his son lunge across the sand happily, and then turns the open expression towards Sherlock, and it does not change, does not close off or guard or sadden. From the depths of Sherlock's memory, a ghost from a drug high past, a phrase trembles and takes flight inside him, mimicking the movements of the kite; If it was your last day on earth, who would you think about? In that moment, Sherlock feels released, as if he, too, was unwound string, a body left to take to the sky.

"I don't want to leave," Sherlock says suddenly, and without the context of his thoughts and doubts, he does not know if John will understand, who watches him amidst the wind.

"No one is asking you to leave," John says after a pause, and Sherlock feels frustrated, because that is not enough.

"I know no one is asking me, but-"

"I don't want you to leave either," John interrupts, though his voice is soft. Sherlock watches him, sees him, his depth and his tremulous waters. He moves to stand in front of him, looking down at that familiar face, which does not back down or shy away from the proximity, and makes his decision. He dips his head to press his lips against John's, a simple touch, a kiss which is sudden and without much preamble, just as their first meeting, case, kill. Sherlock pulls away, and opens his eyes, and John is smiling. And that is how their first kiss is to be; simple and sudden, an, I do not want to be lonely when I'm with you. A, Stay.

So Sherlock stays.

...**...

It is night time, and the dark is cold outside, but Sherlock sits on a kitchen stool, warmed by the interior of John's home. Since their kiss earlier that day Sherlock has thought much about the matter, and though he has reached no particular conclusion, he has calmed himself in his resolutions. The needs of any particular man can be many and varied and always changeable, and Sherlock finds that his life has indeed changed an inordinate amount since meeting John. Typical of the ex-soldier, he has proved many of Sherlock's hypotheses wrong, not about the nature of things, but of himself. He remembers the case of the Chinese mafia, and seeing John tied to a chair, a gun pointed at him and Sarah, he remembers the night at the pool, and John's dead voice as he repeated Moriarty's words, the way Sherlock had not been able to stop himself from ripping the explosives from John's body. He remembers the last moments before the fall, the invisible sniper aiming at John, and all he had done to prevent that. A kiss seems nothing, really, compared to all that, to those sensations, to those sudden fears of loss and feelings of having, having to protect John, or perish trying. And yet he knows there is importance in that soft contact as well, in the need he feels to trace the patterns on John's skin, his scar and his cheek and his military hair. It is all part of a whole which is more than the sum of its parts.

John walks into the living room from ensuring his son is tucked in tight, and smiles tentatively, an expression which brings youth to his face. Sherlock stands up and says,

"I've been thinking about kissing you all day." John looks down, running a hand through his hair as if embarrassed, but he doesn't blush, and laughs softly, moving closer to Sherlock.

"You know, normal people can't usually say things like that with a straight face," he teases, stopping so close that it seems to Sherlock that he can feel the presence of John's warmth.

"I have it on good authority that I'm not normal," Sherlock says softly in a hushed, night time voice.

"No, normal doesn't suit you," John replies in the same, shared tone. "Nor me." They stare at each other, a tense, electric moment, before John leans forward, a tide on parched earth, a sigh, a mixture of hot breaths, and then there are lips pressing, moving, opening to more intimate places. There is a slide of tongues, wet, warm, alive, and Sherlock, for once, can barely think. Hands come up to search, to find, to draw even closer. Closer. A press of bodies and John corners Sherlock against the kitchen counter, and Sherlock wraps his arms around John, taking, finally, what is his, what has always been rightfully his.

Outside, a nightingale calls, and it is pitch black on the wind conquered beach, but where John and Sherlock move, there is light.

...**...

Sherlock has spent the last half-week in London, and John smiles at him in greeting on his return, opening the door to his home at once to let Sherlock in.

"Have fun in London?" John asks, returning to the kitchen where the scents of the cooking dinner are filling the house.

"Fun? Well, I did see Anderson. He's recently divorced and is going bald. That was entertaining," Sherlock says, sitting down on one of the stools after taking off his coat and gloves to watch John.

"You're terrible," John says, but his laugh bellies the comment.

"Quite. In any case, I sorted all my errands," Sherlock goes on, and John raises his eyebrows in question. "I rented a small flat. It is not equipped with Mrs. Hudson, unfortunately, so it is regrettably sub-par, but it will have to do," Sherlock says. John pauses in his stirring, looking at Sherlock guardedly.

"A flat?"

"Hmm," Sherlock assents. "I also stopped by The Yard, made sure Lestrade's name is cleared once and for all, though he hasn't done badly for himself despite the tarnish. I did manage to use the false accusations as leverage to get them to allow me access to cold and particularly interesting cases, so I will start my detective work again." There is a long pause, with only the sound of the bubbling sauce and the scraping of the wooden spoon to fill it.

"Oh. Well, that's good," John says finally, but he sounds quiet and subdued. Sherlock frowns.

"You're upset. What's wrong?" Sherlock asks, and John shakes his head, more to clear it than a negation.

"No, I'm...I'm happy for you. You're getting your life back together, I know how much you love London," John says quietly. Sherlock stays still for a moment, before threading his fingers together.

"No, you misunderstand me. I will be going to London when needed, but I will mostly be solving cold cases from here. I will be staying," Sherlock says. John turns down the fire on the hob, and turns to look at Sherlock, wiping his hand on a cloth. "I've also been looking for a flat here, though, to be perfectly honest, I did hope to move in here in the near future," Sherlock goes on. John stares at him, but a small smile appears on his face.

"You do, do you?"

"Yes. I didn't want to say anything. I believe it's what people call rushing things."

"Well, we are good at that. I believe I killed a man for you barely three days into knowing you," John says softly, and Sherlock smiles.

"That was a fantastic night, wasn't it?" He says, and John laughs, moving slowly and leaning over the counter. Sherlock meets him half way, kissing John back through their smiles, and feels so utterly calm and at home that he doesn't hear the footsteps approaching from the hallway until it is too late.

"Uh, ew," Samson says, and John practically leaps back, turning to look at his son.

"Samson! We, uh, we were-"

"I know what kissing is, dad," Samson says, looking amused.

"Ah, yes, well, maybe we should talk about this," John says, and Samson shrugs, holding a large book against his chest.

"Like it wasn't obvious. I may be seven but I'm not stupid," Samson replies, walking up to sit on the stool besides Sherlock, who looks equally amused.

"I believe your father is concerned that you may not be familiar with homosexual relationships," Sherlock says, to which John groans as if in pain.

"Sandra has two dads. They kiss and they're really nice. Their house is amazing. And I like Sherlock. He doesn't make me eat my peas," Samson says in a ridiculous simplification of the subject, but his utter lack of upset seems to calm John, who stands there awkwardly. "Look, Sherlock," Samson goes on, as if they hadn't resolved a troubling subject in less than a minute, "I found a book on bees in the library. It's won a prize," he says, setting the book down on the counter and sliding it towards Sherlock, who opens it and flips through is curiously.

"Hm, I haven't looked into apiculture in quite a while. Seems they have made some interesting advances," he says, and John watches Sherlock and his son discuss the insects with a growing smile before turning back to the food.

"Maybe we can get some!" Samson says.

"That is an excellent idea," Sherlock replies, pointing at a viable species. John turns his head to look at them.

"No way. No bees," John says.

"But dad! Why not?" Samson whines, and Sherlock looks like he's about to do the same.

"Because they're...creepy," John says, and Sherlock and Samson gasp. "And dangerous! And since when are you interested in bees?"

"Sherlock taught me about them the other week. They sound cool. We can make honey!"

"You don't like honey."

"Yes I do!"

"Doesn't a dog sound like a better idea?"

"Dogs are boring," Samson says, and John turns to looks at him in astonishment, before looking at Sherlock accusingly.

"Hey," Sherlock says, holding up his hands defensively, "It's not my fault you have such an intelligent child." Samson beams at the praise, and the two of them are lost to John as they return to the book. He shakes his head, but Sherlock catches the wide smile on his face.

This is what it must be like, he realizes, to feel part of a family.

...**...

That night, after Samson has gone to sleep, John indulges in a glass of wine as he sits beside Sherlock on the couch. They barely talk, but the silence is soft and tepid, and they float upon its calm waters. John catches Sherlock staring at him and smiles, the expression not wavering as Sherlock's long fingers remove the wineglass from John's hand and places it on the coffee table. In the dim light, in that quiet intimacy, Sherlock traces John's features with his hand, the old lines and the new, mapping John out, leaving invisible fingerprints as if they were markings of need and want. John closes his eyes and lets his eyelashes to be fluttered by pale skin, the bridge of his nose crossed, the lines of his lips drawn. There are no words for this moment, which has taken so long to be arrived to, no need for promises or assurances. It is just John and Sherlock, men of action, not speech. Sherlock leans forward and kisses John, first his cheek, his jaw line, and then his mouth, their lips chapped and dry, and Sherlock moistens them with a tongue which is met by John's as he presses forward, a hand coming up to bury itself in Sherlock's curls, and then down to the sensitive skin at the nape of his neck. Sherlock feels himself tremble, as if overwhelmed by the touch, but he wants more.

"Bed?" Sherlock says, and he does not mean it to sound like a question, but it does. John breaks the kiss and looks at Sherlock searchingly for a moment, saying nothing, but he stands up, pulling Sherlock with him, and they walk in shivering anticipation to John's bedroom, the door closing behind them with a hushed slide.

"We have to be quiet," John whispers, and Sherlock has no qualms with that, agreeing with another kiss, deeper, fuller, and lets himself be pushed onto the bed, lets himself be captured between John's hands and his knees. They drag the kiss along, slow and filling, letting their hands explore, parting clothing away, undoing buttons clumsily with shut eyes. Sherlock has to sit up for a moment so that his shirt can be removed and discarded, and his body can't seem to stop shaking as John slides his bare hands across his torso, his thumb pressing against a nipple, rounding it softly, and Sherlock gasps into John, all warm air, all warm skin, and John kisses the sound right out of him. Sherlock slides John's shirt away from him, and feels the muscles move in his arms, returns to the broad shoulders, squeezing them for a moment, searching for something to keep him afloat, and then releases, letting himself drown. John moves down, lets his lips and his tongue follow the pale skin of a throat which holds the soft noises Sherlock is making, lets them fall on collarbones, their sharp and delicate line, down to where ribs guard precious treasure, where panted breath struggles, and a beating heart races. John explores Sherlock's scars, acquired in that long decade, as Sherlock murmurs their origin, though John has seen enough of wartime to guess. Sherlock threads his fingers through John's hair, encouraging him, and lets himself fall open, unprotected, at a terrible disadvantage. In truth, these touches are simple, and who would have thought that anything with Sherlock would be simple? Maybe underneath the surface there are storms brewing, an intricate and complex pattern of loose ends tangling with each other, but right now, it is simple. It is Sherlock asking questions with his eyes, and John responding with his mouth, a, yes, I will have you, all of you, I will take no more than you can give me, and no less.

John dips lower, and he does not have to ask, just unbuttons the trousers, sliding them down, following with his lips, brushing them on the fine thigh hairs, on the knobbly and dry knees, the arch of a foot, before removing his own. With the pants he is more careful, more devote, tracing just under the edge, and Sherlock slides his feet against the mattress, pleading without words. John nuzzles the tented erection, breathing over it, and Sherlock arches his neck, trying to muffle a whine. The pants are pushed down, down, across knees and curling toes, and off. Sherlock watches with heated eyes as John hops out of his own, laughing quietly as the other man almost falls over, and John shares in the amusement through his teased "shut up". John goes to resume his position, but Sherlock pulls him up.

"I want to be close to you," he says against John's ear, and John closes his eyes tight, pressing his lips against Sherlock's; hard, consuming, letting his teeth bite briefly because he wants. He stretches to the bedside table and grabs a small pot of Vaseline. Sherlock takes it from him, and draws the palm lines of John's right hand with it, across life, and love, and what the future holds, for those that believe, before kissing the centre, pressing his lips to smear the balm. When John is released, he takes both their cocks in one hand, and they both gasp in unison. Sherlock lifts his knees to press against John, and opens his eyes to watch him, the reddened cheeks and open mouth, the sweat dampening the hair on his temples. He tries desperately to breathe through the slide of John's hand, the feel of his cock pressed against his own, but looses the battle to another kiss.

"Inside me, I want you..." Sherlock pants, and John tempers the pace of his hand, though he does not stop.

"Let's take this slow, Sherlock," John suggests, but Sherlock shakes his head, his curls sliding against the white of the duvet.

"Just your fingers, just your fingers, John," he says. After a moment, John dips again to kiss him. Sherlock takes the Vaseline and spreads it on his right hand, and then John dips his middle finger in it, before the pot is left on the sheets. Sherlock takes both their cocks in hand, his knees lifting to hook over John's shoulders. John slides his arm between them, forearm pressing against his stomach as, slowly, he lets his finger slide into Sherlock, who closes his eyes at the sensation of John stretching him slightly. After a moment of distraction, Sherlock continues stroking their cocks, and it is not long before John is filling Sherlock with a second finger, and when John pushes three fingers in, Sherlock arches his back, making a muffled keening noise normally applicable to dying animals, but now perfectly in context with a breaking man, and he says, "What a strange sensation."

"Strange good?" John asks in a pant, and there is a pause as the fingers push in further, finding the bundle of nerves, stroking it, slightly awkward in their current position.

"Yes, good," Sherlock whispers, and John smiles, and as Sherlock looks at him he knows that John is the same as him, that he is in love. John does not fall in love in that instant, no, that was a voyage embarked long ago, but in that moment, with Sherlock under him and around him and gripping, trusting him, truthful and open and his, John feels the affection like a living thing inside him, a part of Sherlock that has untangled from him and made a home inside John, built a bee-hive of complex thoughts and feelings to create a coherent whole, and the thick honey of it fills John so sweetly, so warmly. John kisses Sherlock's knee, and if only he could kiss his bones, the capillaries on his lungs, the arteries around his heart, he would do so. But this is enough.

Climax hits Sherlock first, and his spine arches as his mouth releases a gasp of air shaped in John's name. John removes his hand, and Sherlock's knees fall to the bed, trembling. After a moment he regains his senses enough to resume stroking John, who leans over him, leaving kisses that are more like hot breath on Sherlock's lips before he, too, comes, and Sherlock swallows all noise into his mouth.

John falls beside Sherlock, and they lie there for a while, resting, John's front warm against Sherlock's side. The waters calm, the tide subsides, and John presses his lips against Sherlock's neck and says,

"Stay."

...**...

It is an almost windless day, and the two Watsons and Sherlock take the opportunity to spend another day at the beach. John and Sherlock sit on the sand by the dunes, watching Samson play by the shoreline, a dog from one of the dog-walkers taking interest and joining the boy.

"I should cut you a key," John says without preamble. Sherlock turns his head to look at him and smiles.

"That seems reasonable," he replies, and there is a moment of content silence.

"I don't think this is going to be easy, Sherlock. You and I...I'm not saying I don't want this, because I really do, but it won't be easy. And there are responsibilities. Samson, he's my priority. But he does like you," John says. Sherlock tilts his head in agreement, understanding what John is saying. Social situations, relationships, they have never come easy to Sherlock, but he is not one to back down from a challenge and he knows that his is what he wants. He has tried being alone, both in London and in wilder cities, has tried friendship, but that is no longer enough, and he will fight for what he wants.

"Easy? Easy is boring," Sherlock says, placing a hand over John's where it rests on the cool sand. John smiles, turning his hand over and lacing their fingers together.

"I'm glad you came back," John says, and Sherlock finds that he is in complete agreement, that in this exact moment he is precisely where he wants to be, whether the world were ending or not.

Silence falls, and Sherlock turns once more to look at the water. For once the tides are still, the waves are calm, and in the distance a pair of fishing boats sway on the endless blue.