Chapter 1: Harry's Caravan
It was the hottest day in July, and Sherlock was staring at John as if the heatwave and resulting discomfort was his fault. Mrs. Hudson was on the phone, trying desperately to get a serviceman out to look at her antique, and therefore broken, air conditioning unit before she headed out to visit with her sister in Surrey. Sherlock was laid out on the sofa, intermittently moaning and fanning himself with a Harrods sales circular. John was trying desperately to not open the refrigerator and stand before it like it held the answer to everything. It wasn't because he was trying to preserve the machine's compressor; he was long past caring what kind of mechanical failures would result from his desperate need to stay cool. No, he wasn't in the mood to have half a dozen of Sherlock's "specimens" in an even more accelerated rate of decay.
John looked over at his flatmate again. He was on his back in nothing but his pants, a pair of black cotton boxer-briefs that clung to his skin by virtue of nothing more than sweat and general laziness. Every time he moved he had to peel a limb from the clingy leather, and that only served to refresh his outrage. "Ugh," he groaned as he let the ineffective sales-circular-cum-fan drop from his languid fingertips. "John, do something!"
"What do you want me to do?" he asked, glaring at the pale-skinned man. John removed his other sock. He was now down to his own pants and a vest, and he was very aware that if he didn't do something soon he'd be as naked as Sherlock was.
"Turn off the sun. Fix the unit. Whatever people do to survive in conditions like this."
"I can't actually do either of those things," he said, "and if you were half the genius you present yourself to be, you'd know that already."
"I can't think like this," his grouchy flatmate said.
"Right." John stood from his chair and surveyed the flat. The place was home, but right now every corner of it was hateful. "We're going."
Sherlock turned his sweat-streaked face towards him. "Where?"
"Then I'm going. You may accompany me, but regardless I refuse to sit here and watch you moan at me to fix the unfixable."
John turned and headed upstairs to pack a small bag for himself and call ahead to find out if Harry would let him borrow the caravan she and Clara had purchased as a last-ditch effort to stay married. He heard footsteps on the stairs and turned to find his mostly-naked best friend looming in his door.
"Where exactly in the Lake District?" Sherlock asked.
"John?" Harry asked, her voice was full of concern. He didn't call her often, and every time he did call her he thought he should remedy his guilt over the lack of contact.
"Hello, Harry," John said, then covered the mouthpiece of his phone and hissed at Sherlock: "Ullswater."
"What's going on? Ullswater?" Harry asked, confused.
"Dull," Sherlock moaned, but he didn't immediately turn away and stalk back downstairs.
"Do you and—do you still have that caravan at Ullswater?" John asked his sister.
"Caravan?" Sherlock asked, the scowl on his face making it very clear he was offended. "You want me to stay in a caravan?"
"Yes. Was just there a couple of weeks ago—remember, I asked you if you would join and you said something about a decontamination shower."
John groaned. Ahh, the anthrax scare. Of course. "Right. Well, I was hoping you wouldn't mind if I borrowed it for a few days."
"John, surely there are more . . .suitable accommodations in the Ullswater area."
"Are you taking Sherlock with you?"
John frowned at Sherlock, who frowned right back. "Jury is still out on that one."
"If you do, make sure you clean the linens after you use them. I don't want boy spunk on my bed."
John sputtered, and that stopped Sherlock mid-whine. "What?"
"You heard me."
"I'm going to pretend I didn't."
"What did she say?" Sherlock asked, then he narrowed his eyes and took in every aspect of John's face and form. He's deducing me, the bastard, John thought, and drew his hand down over his face. He was slightly icked out when his hand came back slick with sweat.
"Fine. You can use it. Everything should still be on from when I'd had the services reactivated and it should all run through the end of the month, so stay for a week if you'd like. The key is in a false bottom in the plastic ficus on the front stoop."
"She thinks we're having sex, doesn't she?" Sherlock asked.
John blanched. "Not now."
"Not now? When? Don't wait too long, the services—"
"Who else would you be having sex with?"
John shot a glance at Sherlock that was so full of venom it didn't require his preternatural genius to interpret it. "John? When are you going out? I thought—"
"I'll be leaving this evening," he said, "with or without Sherlock."
"I'm going," the detective said, turning on his heel and, despite being nearly nude, John got the impression of his great coat swirling around him.
"So he's going then?"
"And you'll be shagging him finally?"
"What? It's long overdue, and we both know it."
"I'm not gay."
"So you say. Doesn't matter. Sounds like that one deserves a right rogering. Consider it a punitive measure."
John had to consciously stop nodding. He agreed with Harry about the fact that punitive measures were certainly in order, but rogering Sherlock was hardly the right method.
He ended the call with half-hearted thanks and scowled at himself as he angrily threw some clothes in a bag. It had clearly been too long since he'd been on the giving side of a rogering if the idea of punishing his flatmate that way wasn't unappealing.
It was never any kind of surprise to John that Sherlock wanted the absolute best in things. Once Sherlock decided he would be going to Ullswater with John there began a last-minute rush to find alternative accommodations, because Sherlock had never spent a night in a caravan and didn't think this would be the appropriate time to change his history. Unfortunately for the poncy git, there were no other accommodations available of any measure of luxury; it was, after all, the hottest day in July and John hadn't been the only person in all of England to think of cool bodies of water. They were barely able to get a first-class cabin aboard the train. Sherlock threw himself into the bench seat and scowled as John stowed their bags.
"You didn't have to come, you know," John said. The air conditioning aboard the train at least was fully-functional. Even so he felt the overwhelming desire to peel off his shirt and sit in the cabin bare-chested.
"That's the third time today you've said," Sherlock groused. "You've effectively made your point."
"And yet there you sit, pouting."
"I don't pout."
John frowned and took a seat across from his flatmate. He could pursue this argument to the bitter end; he could leave this cabin and head back to Baker Street alone; he could take a photo with his mobile and text it to Sherlock with the caption: What do you call this, then?
He didn't do any of those things, and he'd be damned if he knew why.
Sherlock had pulled out his mobile and was furiously texting. That was alright, then . . .business as usual. John picked up a medical journal and started flipping through it. John was just beginning to really get into what he was reading—breakthroughs in 3D printing and cochlear implants, incredible stuff—when he got the distinct impression he was being watched.
This wasn't the first time he'd felt this. Frankly, since Sherlock's return from the dead and John's own inevitable (and rather pathetic) return to Baker Street, it had been happening quite a lot. At first it had been a significant distraction; John had spent the first couple of weeks shooting paranoid glances over his shoulder, thinking a sniper had drawn a bead on him as he toweled off post-shower or while he waited on a cab, all the while reflecting on Sherlock's amazing tales of derring-do and asshattery (who goes on an extended crime-ring disruption spree without his blogger/gun/best friend, after all? Honestly?). It had come to a head when Sherlock found him preparing tea, a medieval shield strapped to his back like a turtle shell.
"John, why are you wearing my shield?"
"Because you have one and I don't want to be shot while I make you tea."
"It's an heirloom."
"Yeah, well, right now it's anti-artillery. Pretty sure that was its original purpose."
*sigh* "Put it back when you're done."
John's paranoia hadn't resolved itself until he realized one Sunday afternoon, as the amber light from a startlingly gorgeous sunset spilled through the windows of the flat, that it was Sherlock who was staring at him. John had flipped down one corner of the newspaper he'd been reading at the time to find his flatmate's disturbingly prismatic eyes shining at him, his fingers steepled beneath his chin, his body still as a statue. John had looked around him, thinking it possible that some kind of alarming beastie was looming behind him, so large and so sudden that Sherlock didn't have even the presence of mind to sound a cry of alarm.
No beastie. It was just Sherlock staring at John, his face a neutral mask.
John had flipped that corner of his newspaper back up. He had no frame of reference for this, and he certainly didn't want there to be a conversation about what the hell Sherlock Holmes was staring at and why he thought that kind of behavior was acceptable. Those conversations were a waste of time and breath, and John had learned to pick his battles.
Now as he sat across from his singularly mad best friend on a train heading north to Ullswater, he felt those eyes on him again. There was nothing else it could be. He'd learned to ignore the staring half the time—again, a matter of rationing the frustration—but today wasn't going to be one of those patient days.
He lowered his medical journal. Sherlock was still staring.
John cleared his throat.
Sherlock's mouth quirked into a half-smile.
"So what's this, then?" John asked.
"Why are you staring at me?"
Sherlock shrugged. "Why not?"
"Because it's not on, that's why not."
"Can you be more specific?"
John leaned back in his seat and analyzed the man across from him. That half-smile was almost . . .flirtatious. Yes, that was the word. If he'd seen that expression on a woman's face, there would be no doubt about her intentions. However, because it was Sherlock, there were doubts aplenty.
John cleared his throat again and raised his journal up to cover his face. "Whatever game you're playing, Sherlock, I'd really rather you didn't."
"You have a fascinating oral fixation, did you know that?"
John lowered the journal again with an impatient huff. "What?"
"In the last twenty minutes you've licked your lips no fewer than eight times."
John pursed his lips and buried his cry of outrage. "And why are you—"
"Ah." Sherlock fished a pen and notebook out of the breast pocket of his jacket and began to scribble.
"Ah what?" John asked.
Sherlock smiled. "It explains quite a lot, actually."
Asking either of the Holmes brothers follow-up questions was an exercise in futility, especially when they were determined to be aloof and mysterious. John bit back his questions and determinedly returned to his journal.
"Nine," Sherlock said after a matter of approximately sixty seconds.
"Piss off," John said.
Chapter 2: The Mask You Wear
The rest of the trip was relatively conflict-free, as was the transportation from the railway station to the caravan at Ullswater. Sherlock had descended into a fatuous flame war with Anderson via text message, and it ate up a great deal of the evening as John ushered them into a cab and back out again. Sherlock was chuckling, a deep, rumbling sound of triumph over, and amusement at the expense of, a lower life form as they crossed the threshold into the caravan. It was only when Sherlock found himself ducking that he seemed to realize something was amiss.
"Yes," John huffed, tired and exasperated.
"Why have you brought me into a Hobbit house?"
"You haven't deleted Tolkien? I'm shocked."
"As a doctor, do you really feel it's wise to bring a man of my stature into a space clearly designed for Lilliputians such as yourself? Consider my back."
The discussion devolved from there as both men performed the debate equivalent of scrabbling for higher ground in a bog. Things didn't improve until Sherlock found Harry's stash.
"John, it appears your sister feels her visits to Ullswater also constitute a holiday from sobriety."
"Bugger," John said in a whisper as he surveyed the kitchen cabinets, fully stocked with all manner of alcoholic refreshments.
Sherlock grabbed John's hand. John hadn't realized it had curled into a fist. "Relax," Sherlock said, his voice hushed and pitched very low.
"I'm going to kill her, Sherlock," John whispered.
"No you're not."
"She's not supposed to be doing this."
"Of course she isn't."
"Because she misses Clara, obviously."
John pulled up short. Obviously? How was this obvious? How could there be anything obvious about the stash of booze here and the woman Harry herself had left behind?
"Obviously?" he asked, incredulous.
"This was where they'd honeymooned, correct?" Sherlock asked, carefully spreading his arms to indicate the whole caravan. John nodded. "And they selected the structure and the location together, did they not?" John nodded again. "Why would Harry have kept this caravan?"
John shrugged. "Investment property?"
Sherlock gave him that patented We Both Know What's Going On Here™ look that John had hated once, but then missed desperately, so desperately that he couldn't come up with one single good reason to ever begrudge it again—well, at least, not aloud. "If it was a proper investment property she would have maintained it better, would she not?"
"It's not shabby."
That look again. "The gutters are filthy and the skirting around the anchors is rusty—never mind the fact that she's given it little more than a cursory cleaning any time she's been out here. No, if this was a proper investment property she'd be maintaining it, perhaps even renting it out to adventurous uni students on holidays. My guess is that she can't abide the thought of anyone but family spending time in a place that holds so much sentimental value to her."
"So, what are you saying? That she comes out here to mourn what she had with Clara and drink herself into a stupor?"
"Wouldn't be completely out of character for her."
John frowned. There were several follow-up questions on the tip of his tongue, but only one of them was intriguing enough to risk the asking: "And how would you know about my sister's character?"
Sherlock cut his eyes away and turned his back. "She's an addict and she's sentimental. That's all anyone needs to know."
Sherlock was pulling away from him, and John decided that he wasn't going to abide it. No you don't, he to himself as he moved around to face Sherlock again. "And how could you possibly have any empathy with sentiment?"
Sherlock turned his face up to meet John's, and the expression there was so tempestuous that John was temporarily thunderstruck into silence. He'd seen Sherlock's face through hundreds of different expressions, most of them related to the man's superlative nature: arrogant, cold, smug, calculating, and triumphant. Yes, there had been that time during the Baskerville case when Sherlock had introduced the full spectrum of Fearful emotions to his repertoire, but John was being very careful to not taunt Sherlock anymore, not when his absence—oh, let's call a spade a spade, his death, John Watson, for God's sake—had completely undone everything John knew about himself and his life and—
No. He didn't want to think about those days, the days when his gun sang him a siren's song about surrender and the prescription anti-depressants had promised another form of escape. Sherlock needed a friend, not a moony mostly-heterosexual life partner.
But he couldn't ignore this expression. It was as eloquent of pain and sadness as John's own heart had been during those bitter times.
Sherlock winced away from John, grabbed a bottle of vodka, and stormed out of the caravan.
John rocked back on his heels as if he'd been hit. He couldn't help think again that if that expression had been on anyone else's face, he'd know it instantly: Heartbreak. But because this was Sherlock, Sherlock Holmes, no less, that was impossible—wasn't it? The man scorned sentiment, emotions, even love. John had reflected on this fact often during the man's absence, thinking that he'd been wrong to take exception to Sherlock's heartlessness. It would have been better to be heartless, surely, to be immune to the sadness and loneliness and boredom that resulted from Sherlock's absence.
But what if that wasn't the truth? What if Sherlock, genius that he was, was adept at hiding the truth, even from his own flatmate and best friend? It was possible.
Last question, then, and the one that really mattered: Why was Sherlock heartbroken?
John collected himself and left the caravan to hunt down his best friend.
As John emerged from the caravan, he was struck by how late it was. It was full dark, and for July that meant it was after eight in the evening. There was a lively spate of chatter around him: people gathered in front of caravans in communal areas, playing musical instruments (not the violin, he thought with an undeserved sense of superiority) and singing and laughing and drinking, like people do when they're on holidays in the Lake District. He doubted anybody was at the lake.
He was right. Well, mostly right. One lonesome silhouette was framed against the last gasping light of the disappearing day, perched on the remains of a fallen oak tree. John Watson would know that coat anywhere.
He sat down next to Sherlock. He noted with no small measure of alarm that a full quarter of the formerly-full bottle of vodka had disappeared.
"So what's this, then?" he asked, trying to keep his voice neutral despite the racing-rabbit thrum of his heart.
He was answered not by words, but by the very slow and very deliberate raising of the bottle of vodka to Sherlock's lips. He turned his head slightly to watch as Sherlock closed his eyes and grimaced against the burn of the liquor.
"You don't have to talk," John admitted, his voice hushed. Something massive lived in the space between them, not a beastie but a beautiful monster, and he could feel it breathing there. He didn't want to scare it away. "I can just sit with you."
Sherlock sneered. "Like a nanny?"
"If you like."
Sherlock closed his luminous, otherworldly eyes and John watched as his face softened into that neutral, indifferent mask he wore. That was it, of course; John was sure now. It was a mask, a carefully constructed neutrality that Sherlock had cultivated to hide an immense well of passion. People could hardly take his indifference—how could they ever be bothered to stomach his desires?
The mask was good, too, almost a work of art. It had fooled John for the better part of a year and a half, had been so complete and convincing that John had yelled at Sherlock for being a machine and abandoned him to attend that fateful meeting with Jim Moriarty alone. He'd had the time and space to regret leaving Sherlock, but in the end Sherlock had wanted him to leave, so John had left.
But not now. John would never leave now.
The beautiful monster laid out between them sighed.
"I would have wanted to be with you," John whispered.
Sherlock's face cramped, one violent explosion of the truth he hid behind the mask. He settled back and let the vodka come to rest on the wood beside him. The mask wasn't quite so complete as it had been just moments before.
"I always want to be with you," John breathed. He was surprised to discover he had moved, two inches of the space between them evaporated and absent. All traces of daylight were gone from the sky now, and Sherlock's face was awash in starlight and accented in shadow.
He's not human, John marveled. He can't be.
Then he thought about that heartbroken face and guessed again. He reached out for the bottle of vodka because damn it, not even an invalided army doctor can be expected to put up with all of this emotional nonsense without a little help from a fermented beverage. His fingers brushed Sherlock's.
Sherlock gasped and pulled away as if he'd been stung.
"Sherlock?" John asked, suddenly completely aware and alarmed.
Sherlock got hurriedly to his feet. "While I appreciate your attempts at friendly banter, John, I really do think it would be far better if we refrained tonight." John looked up at him and saw that his mask—such as it was—had slipped sideways, and a fury of emotion was roiling under its surface.
The beautiful monster whined and followed Sherlock and the vodka back to the caravan. John stood slowly, then noticed an irregularity in the tree trunk he'd been sitting on. There had been dozens of carvings there of course, varying in their age and message (he even noticed one of the I Believe in Sherlock Holmes tributes that had been so common after Sherlock's fall), but the freshest one was one of the simplest:
SH + JW
A thin pocket knife was stuck through the plus sign.
John gaped at it for a solid two minutes before he closed his mouth, set his jaw, and marched back to his sister's caravan.
Chapter 3: The Difference Between an Instinct and an Impulse
Sherlock wasn't in the cramped sitting area of the small space. He wasn't in the relatively large and well-appointed master suite, where John expected him to be. He wasn't in the small second bedroom that doubled as the office, a bunk bed shoved like an afterthought against the far wall.
John felt a wild stripe of panic rip through his body but forced it down, deep down. Panic never helped him. It had compromised him in Afghanistan and gotten him shot. It led him to overreact to Sherlock's shenanigans at Baskerville. And, not to belabor a point but it was a point he'd been avoiding and it appeared to finally be time to face it, it had torn him away from Sherlock in favor of comforting Mrs. Hudson on that fateful day, a comfort the woman turned out to not need at all until . . .after.
He took a deep breath and forced his limbs to still. Those two minutes he'd spent staring at the characters carved in an old fallen oak's trunk had been a revolution of mind and spirit and he was still quaking with the aftermath, but right now nothing mattered but finding Sherlock. They'd been dancing around each other too long, being careful, being respectful, and trying to read each other's minds to determine how they should act. Those five simple characters carved in wood had made John immediately weary straight through to his bones of being careful. His hands were steady and he was sure. He wanted to be reckless. He wanted, finally, to be honest.
He stepped out of the caravan and heard a small, soft sound that pulled on his heart. The sound had come from his left, a broken, sad sigh of weeping.
"Don't," a compromised baritone commanded before he was able to lay eyes on the man.
"Sherlock, please," John said, but he slowed his steps and did not turn the corner to where he was sure Sherlock was crouched beside the caravan.
"I said good night," Sherlock said, and John could tell he was attempting his old arrogant defiance, but it was a brittle effort.
"You did. I don't care. We're having this out now."
It was a few moments before he heard a deep, ragged breath being drawn in. "I didn't think it would be so difficult," Sherlock said carefully, his voice barely above a whisper. "I made the plans with Molly, planned the . . .the magic trick, the illusion of my death. I thought it was clever, don't you see? I could be one up on him, play his game through to the end and still find a way to win." A bitter chuckle. "Rather like besting the Kobayashi Maru."
John smiled at the Star Trek reference and wondered if Sherlock had kept the information from a childhood spent admiring Spock or if it had been a new acquisition, based solely on his experiences since meeting John. Not relevant to the topic at hand, so John disposed of the question. "Go on."
"I knew that it would take a great deal of fortitude to leave London behind, leave behind the cases and the routine of it all. Actually, that part of it was almost appealing, because I knew chasing down Moriarty's network would keep me from being bored." Another deep sigh. "I never thought I would be so . . .so lonesome."
"You were lonely."
"John, please. If you keep interrupting I may never be able to finish."
"Sorry. Thought I'd—thought I should let you know I'm still here."
A choked sob, and Sherlock's voice continued, a bit rougher than before. "I know I hurt you. Well, I know that now. At the time I thought that you would be fine—shocked, certainly, but not invested in what had happened. It surprised me when you took it all to heart, what everyone was saying about me. By the time I realized the impact it would have on you, the game was already on and there was nothing I could do to change it.
"But you have to believe, John, you simply must understand that . . .it hurt me, too." Another sigh, softer, defeated. John wished with all his might he could see Sherlock's face. "Not the separation from the cases or the flat or even London, but . . .the distance from you. He was right, you know, in the end. His aim was to burn the heart out of me. I do have one."
"Sherlock, may I see you, please?" John asked, surprised by the forceful need in his voice.
A slight sound of scrabbling—John was sure that Sherlock was pulling himself to his feet. "I-I don't let people see me like—like this," he said, and John was sure he heard effort in that voice, an effort at control and self-possession.
"I'm not people," John said softly as he rounded the corner.
Sherlock's mask was in tatters, but he stubbornly held it over his face with both hands and peered out at John with eyes full of fear and wonder and weakness. John wondered what his own face must look like, because whatever expression he wore caused Sherlock to take one step back and turn those deeply emotional eyes away.
John's panic had receded and he found he was able once again to think. He crossed his arms over himself. "Right then. Come on."
Sherlock lifted his face to John's again. "Come on? Where are we going?"
"Don't argue with me, Sherlock," John said, and there was no denying the sound of military command in his voice. "I'm very tired and very sad, and I don't want to argue with you right now. I want you to get out of that ridiculous coat of yours—for God's sake, it's the hottest night of the year!—and I want you to march down to the water and get in it."
"In my jacket and trousers?"
"Get as undressed as you like, but I insist you get in the water."
"What if I can't swim?"
John let out a sharp bark of laughter. "Did you forget that I've seen you swim?"
"That was the Thames, John. That doesn't count. It's like swimming in an especially thick custard. One can nearly walk on it."
Sherlock straightened and pushed past John, headed towards the water. John noticed with some relief that the mask was nowhere to be seen.
Sherlock was fully submerged by the time John made it to the lakefront. He found Sherlock's coat, jacket, shirt, and trousers draped elegantly over that same oak tree. The clothing covered the lovelorn message that had been scratched there earlier.
He's in the water in nothing but his pants, John thought to himself as he noted the shoes and socks placed carefully next to the tree.
He turned and looked out across the water. The moon was full and the sky was perfectly cloudless; despite this, not one single other soul was out enjoying the spectacle. To all outward appearances he and Sherlock were alone in this beautiful world of silver lakes, the stars glittering brightly against the rich black velvet of the night.
Sherlock was facing away from John, his shoulders rising above the still surface of the water, as pale and beautiful as the wings of a swan. Sherlock hid from the world behind his mask, but it wasn't because he wasn't appealing; rather, the mask was certainly a coping mechanism to turn away those unworthy of the overwhelming passions of the man. John's certainty of this was baffling, considering that he hadn't even known the mask existed this morning (Dear God, could it have been just this morning that he'd been trying to figure out how to get Sherlock to shut the hell up about the broken air conditioning?)—but there it was. He didn't know the exact depth and breadth of Sherlock's passion, but he knew that nothing would be more rewarding than revealing that dizzying scope. Truthfully, having Sherlock's passion directed at him would very likely be the death of him, but nothing, absolutely nothing would be more worth dying for.
He would go to his death eagerly if only he could spend the rest of his life with this mad, exhilarating, beautiful genius.
He stripped quickly and—surprise, surprise, the man who always felt the need to advise people he wasn't gay—completely before entering Ullswater. He noticed Sherlock's spine stiffen as his clumsy entrance made the water splash and ripple.
"Look at me," John said softly. He didn't touch Sherlock. He didn't dare.
It didn't seem to matter much. The thrill of being so close to . . .something . . .with this otherworldly Lazarus was draining the blood from his brain and rerouting it to regions south of there.
"I can't," Sherlock said. A strained, strange sort of laughter was in his voice, and John thought it sounded very much like incredulity.
"What's so funny?" John asked anyway, still afraid—no, the word is certain—that he was completely undeserving of this level of intimacy. He was in a goddamn lake, starkers, with the world's only consulting detective. What sort of asylum inmate would write a fairy tale this insane?
"Before you think one more thing about how it can't be you, please understand, John, it can't be anyone but you who sees me this way." Sherlock was shaking—not just shivering, but properly shaking, full body tremors betraying his distress clearly.
He wanted so badly to reach out and touch, to give comfort and to take it in his turn but, even now as he watched Sherlock tremble, he didn't dare touch him. It was too much, too dear, too dreamed for. He searched his mind for something to say, then, something that would assure his best friend that he wouldn't leave, he would never betray, he was as immovable as the Cliffs of Dover and as constant as the tides.
"What?" John asked in contrast to his plans, then thought it would be fine if he could swallow his tongue and never speak another word again.
"I've been dreading this moment," Sherlock said, his voice just enough above a whisper to carry to John. "I've known it was coming, of course. Every day since I came back, I've known. Being near you every day, your face, your voice, your smile, your jumpers, your tea—God, John." Sherlock's voice broke again and John's hands twitched, his body at least desperate to give the man some reassurance that he wasn't alone, he wasn't, he never would be again, not as long as John was alive . . .. "It's been everything I missed while I was—while I was gone, everything I dreamed of. You were a presence in my . . .in my mind, you filled up the lonesome places in my . . .my mind, you were an insistent presence. Do you understand?"
John did understand. He understood that every word Sherlock said was a placeholder for every word he couldn't say. He was clinging to the last strands of his self-control, desperately afraid to fall without some guarantee that he would be caught.
John would never let him fall again.
He reached out, finally, and let his hand do what it was itching to do. He placed it gently against the luminous skin of Sherlock's arm, just a light touch on his tricep. Sherlock stiffened, then relaxed, and his trembling slowly, steadily quieted.
"You're afraid," John said softly, very slowly inching closer to his—what? Flatmate? Best friend? Partner? Reason For Living? "I'm not."
"How can you not be?" Sherlock turned his head and peered down at John over his shoulder, his eyes drawn and suspicious.
"Because I can see what you hide from the world," John said. His hand slid further against Sherlock's arm, his fingers grazing now over his bicep. "I can hear what you're not saying."
Sherlock turned just a little, just a fraction of his full range of motion, but it was enough for John to see a slight smirk on his face. "That obvious, am I?"
John put more pressure against Sherlock's arm and turned him the rest of the way around, then moved his own body forward until they were separated by a matter of mere inches. "Transparent," he breathed, his hand moving up Sherlock's arm to his shoulder. He watched the movement, mesmerized by the sight of his hand on Sherlock's naked skin, the feel of the smooth skin under his fingers, and then he moved his eyes up the long column of throat to the man's face.
Oh, Sherlock, John thought. Sherlock's plush lips were slightly parted and his eyes were focused on John, his pupils blown far wider than was justified by the darkness of the night.
"Please, John, be sure this is what you want," Sherlock whispered, his own graceful, ghostly fingers coming to rest over John's.
"I killed a man to save you the day after I met you," John said. "I'm a man of instinct, and I don't question my instincts."
"So this is an impulse?" Sherlock's words were hesitant and betrayed his fear, but his body was having none of it. He leaned in, his face close enough now that John could feel his breath on his cheek, his eyes roaming hungrily over John's own features, searching for the truth.
"I shouldn't have to explain to you the difference between an instinct and an impulse," John said.
"Please," Sherlock whispered, "don't hurt me—"
John closed the distance and placed his mouth over Sherlock's.
Sherlock moaned and his lips trembled. The first kiss was simple, chaste, and didn't seem capable of containing the full story of its own importance to the two men who shared it. Written between their joined lips were so many things:
Oh Sherlock, how could you ever think I would hurt you?
John, my heart, you are my heart, it's in your hands, fragile, be careful . . .
I still wake up worried you've been a dream, Sherlock. You are my dream, the best I've ever had.
So much, need you so much, want you so much, love . . .
Sherlock's hand drifted down from where it had cradled John's and slid down John's shoulder just as John's hand moved up Sherlock's neck to his face. John carefully tilted Sherlock's head and deepened their kiss, mindful even now that Sherlock might startle and flee like a skittish deer.
Deerstalker, his blood-deprived brain supplied unhelpfully. It was obviously the best John's brain could do under the stress of so much happy new experience. He opened his mouth just a fraction, claiming Sherlock's upper lip between his own and caressing it softly with the tip of his tongue, desperately trying to reassure and give comfort and not get ahead of himself and the urgent telegraphs he was getting from his cock that Yes, dear God yes, this, all of this, more more more, now now now, Sherlock!
After several moments of a shy, far-too-contained kiss, Sherlock finally seemed to understand what was going on here and how much of the action had been left up to him. His hand seized John's arm in a firm, almost painful grip and he pulled John tight against him—then froze.
Bugger, John thought as his cock gleefully pressed into Sherlock's upper thigh.
"John," Sherlock whispered. John opened his eyes and found Sherlock staring at him, eyebrows raised.
"Are you . . .naked?"
"Ah." Sherlock shut his mouth with a snap and averted his eyes, a bright crimson blush flooding his cheeks and making the moment almost unbearably precious.
John growled. Here he was, pressed awkwardly against the man he hadn't let himself acknowledge he was overpoweringly in love with until mere moments ago, and he wasn't sure if he should apologize to his flatmate for being bonkers or pull him down for another kiss and take whatever pleasure he could get from this moment, because surely there was no way Sherlock would allow this to continue.
What he did was a matter of instinct, and John hadn't been lying about being a man of instinct. He ran his hand down the front of Sherlock's body, noting as he went the ripples of the muscles under Sherlock's glorious skin, hearing the soft inhalation of breath and the aborted whine. He could feel Sherlock's eyes on him, on his hand as it dipped under the water and—
John smiled. Sherlock wasn't unaffected, no, not at all.
He looked up into Sherlock's eyes and saw two things very clearly: Desire and Fear.
He removed his hand quickly, oddly thankful that he was not tall and therefore not threatening. Sherlock should never fear him, not ever. "Sherlock, what's wrong?"
Sherlock swallowed audibly and his fingers pressed into John's shoulder. It wasn't his good shoulder, and the pressure against the old scar made John wince. Sherlock blanched and let go. "Sorry," he mumbled, and it became clear that he would have run far and fast if he hadn't been submerged in the water. John was thankful to that specific instinct, the instinct that had insisted that he get this wary genius into the water and immobilize him as much as possible. It was clear there would be no other way to have this out.
"What are you sorry about?" John asked, moving his hand again, this time to tilt Sherlock's chin back towards him until he could catch his eye again.
"I haven't—I don't—I . . ." Sherlock groaned, and it was crystal clear that he was frustrated by his inexperience and his inability to make that inexperience sound like a clever virtue.
"You haven't done this before," John said, rendering his words intentionally ambiguous so Sherlock could take them however he wanted.
Sherlock swallowed and nodded, indicating that John could now take it however he wanted. "But John, I want . . ." His gaze roamed over John's face and his eyes tightened. He firmed his jaw. "I want."
"You have nothing to be afraid of," John whispered, now wishing he were just that much taller so that he wouldn't have to pull at Sherlock, wouldn't have to tug him down into another kiss. He wanted Sherlock to feel in control, at least for now. "If you want, then have. Take anything you want." As he spoke he lifted Sherlock's hand from his shoulder, keeping his touch on those long, graceful fingers light and reassuring, and slid that hand down over his own chest until it was over his heart. "Anything."
Sherlock pressed his hand against John's chest. John was staring into the man's face, mesmerized by the prismatic eyes that could be so many things: as intense as a storm-grey sky, as vicious as a bolt of lightning, as placid as the cool blue of Ullswater by day. He winced at the memory of how they could also be as shattered as broken glass on a pavement outside a hospital. Right now, however, they were as luminous and compelling as the moon above them.
Has the moon ever seemed so unsure? John wondered as he covered Sherlock's hand with his own and pressed it closer.
"I can feel your heart beating," Sherlock whispered.
Only for you, John thought, and he had to bite his lip to keep from speaking the words. Surely that would be too much. Too sentimental, at the very least.
John waited for a few minutes that seemed like an age, then saw Sherlock's jaw set. Those miraculous eyes engaged John's again. John watched as Sherlock's mask slid back into place and he was sure that, to all strangers, it would seem a perfect fit—a high-functioning sociopathic persona if ever there was one—but it would never seem so to John, never again. He saw what lay beneath, and he would always see it, and he wanted to be the only one who could see it.
"Take me home," Sherlock said in that rich, velvety baritone, and John knew he didn't mean the caravan.
John smiled as Sherlock leaned down to him and took what he wanted.
Giddy anticipation—John was completely at sea with it at the moment. He'd been dating since his early teens, and not since those early, heady days had he felt so lost and unsure of himself. With the women he'd dated not so very long ago he was far more assured, confident of his ability to seduce, to charm, to beguile them into seeing something more than he was. He'd joked with his rugby mates that it was his superpower, and as a result they'd nicknamed him Three-Continents Watson, the Grand Illusionist.
That kind of trickster behavior wasn't going to work here, not with a man who'd peered into his physiology and deduced a psychosomatic limp within two minutes of their acquaintanceship. Sherlock didn't just see John, he observed him, and that meant John was now stripped of all of his armour and weapons. This battlefield would be entered naked.
John giggled in the backseat of the cab from the train station to Baker Street. Sherlock cast a suspicious glance at him, but was quickly reassured that there was no teasing or duplicity involved and smiled. "What's so funny?"
John leaned his head against the seat and turned his face towards Sherlock. Sherlock's eyebrows were raised, and he was fighting against a tentative smile. "We are."
"Why are we funny?"
John shook his head, then reached his hand across the seat towards Sherlock. Sherlock cast his eyes warily at the cabbie before wrapping his long, cool fingers around John's warm and tanned ones. It was a gesture that spoke of acceptance, John knew; it was acceptance of everything that had changed between them, acceptance of John for himself, and acceptance of a future neither of them could yet see clearly. He sighed happily and, in the absence of all of his fears, John felt exhaustion reclaim him. "I'm knackered," he murmured, unconsciously tracing patterns onto Sherlock's hand.
"You're gorgeous," Sherlock argued, his voice pitched low so only John could hear him. He leaned close and brushed John's hair with his lips. "Do you know that, John? Do you know how simply gorgeous you are?" He leaned back again, but not far, and he brought his other hand up to gently stroke John's face and card through his hair.
The stress and strain John had been feeling since—well, he might as well be truthful now—before Sherlock's final problem with Moriarty seeped out of his body with every caress of Sherlock's hand. He was being deduced and he knew it but, rather than be embarrassed or self-conscious like most of the world was, John felt privileged, reassured, and contented straight through to his soul. Sherlock cared for him, perhaps even loved him, and that would be true no matter what he saw now. It may even be true because of what he saw now. How could the negligent adoration of anyone else compare to Sherlock's cautious evaluation and scrutiny, and the complete abandon of his passion?
John didn't remember the rest of the cab ride or even the process of getting upstairs to the flat. He did remember a sense of refreshing and blessed cool, evidence that Mrs. Hudson had been able to get the air conditioning fixed before she'd headed out to visit with her sister. Sherlock helped him through the kitchen to his own bedroom and made quite a fuss over John sleeping in his bed. John didn't argue. He was exhausted but, more than that, he wasn't a fool. He fell into a deep, restful sleep, surrounded by the scent of Sherlock in his sheets and the knowledge that he wouldn't wake up alone.
Chapter 4: The Process
He had never been so happy to be right.
John woke in Sherlock's bed, curled on his left side and wrapped in long, strong arms. He felt Sherlock's breath whispering along his left ear and he smiled. John Watson was at his most elementary immediately upon waking; things were either Good or Bad with no room in his consideration for appropriateness or moral conflicts. This beautiful warmth and intimacy with the most important person in his life was most certainly Good. It may have been the absolute Best thing he'd ever known.
Well, so far at least.
He closed his eyes and concentrated on what he could feel. Sherlock's arms were strong, yes, he'd always known that, but they weren't trapping him. They were light around him, just a reassurance of Sherlock's presence. John's legs framed Sherlock's left leg. Sherlock's sheets lay softly over them, and John's back was pressed comfortably against Sherlock's chest. It was cozy and warm, and he could imagine both spending all morning in this singularly satisfying position, and rolling over to greet Sherlock properly.
I will have the opportunity to do both if I'm lucky, he thought to himself.
Sherlock's breathing was slipping out of the depths of sleep and into the shallower waters of wakefulness. John brought his hands up to cover Sherlock's where they rested on the sheets, hoping to convey to him through the simplicity of touch how glad he was to be in this position, how welcome the continuation of it was.
"John," Sherlock whispered.
"Good morning," John responded, his voice rough with sleep.
Sherlock's arms tightened. "Very good."
John smiled. God, if this is a dream, let me die in my sleep. He felt Sherlock snuffling in his hair, felt the way his limbs stretched to dispel the tightness of sleep, that intentional tension giving way to a pleasurable comfort. John leaned back a little further into their embrace. Sherlock's nose moved down from his hair to the space just behind his ear and he inhaled deeply, then applied his lips to John's ear. "Sherlock," John sighed as a light wash of electric anticipation settled into his skin.
"You smell like home," Sherlock whispered softly into the cup of John's ear. "You smell like . . .mine." John rolled further into their embrace so he could see his Reason For Living. Sherlock's face was sleep-creased and his hair was adorably mussed, crushed on the right side and fluffed on the left. He was beautiful. "Are you mine, John?"
"Oh yes," he answered.
Sherlock smiled, emotion welling in his eyes again, his mask abandoned. "Thank you," he said softly, then bit his bottom lip, an expression eloquent of insecurity.
"Don't," John said, knowing immediately that Sherlock was afraid, was on the verge again of breaking down and shutting himself off. He scooted forward on the bed just enough to get the room he needed to roll onto his back, then put his hand on Sherlock's face. "Whatever it is you're thinking that's making you afraid, don't."
Sherlock nodded, then sighed. "Easier asked than implemented."
John smiled. "Right. Then tell me what you're thinking."
Sherlock pressed his lips together, searching for the words, then his eyes lit up. "I'm not sure how to get from here," he whispered, leaning in and softly kissing John on the lips, "to . . ." he gestured at their bodies. "I want to get there, but I just can't determine the process."
John thought the whole thing might have been relentlessly adorable if it hadn't been for Sherlock's overwhelming gravity. Fear and curiosity certainly did make strange bedfellows. He smiled reassuringly at the man in whose bed he was so comfortably wrapped. "Let's start with a kiss, yeah?"
Sherlock leaned in, but stopped just a millimeter from John's mouth. "I find myself suddenly and overwhelmingly resentful of everyone else who's ever done this with you," he murmured, that gorgeous velvet voice bringing John's cock much more fully into the conversation.
"Bugger all of them," John whispered as he tilted up and captured Sherlock's mouth.
Sherlock's plush mouth could easily be a motivator for a crime of passion, and John nearly giggled aloud when he thought that's what they were in the process of committing. Sherlock whimpered and John's levity—oh, hell, his entire thought process—went offline. He mapped the contours of Sherlock's lips with his own, with his tongue, with his teeth, nipping gently at the light smattering of scars at the right corner of Sherlock's mouth. Chemistry lab accident, he reminded himself absently, opening his mouth slightly and allowing his tongue more freedom to trace the seam of Sherlock's still-closed lips. Sherlock opened to him, still tentative, still shy, and John tried to think around the cacophony of Sherlock's mouth, oh dear God, soft, warm, gorgeous, Sherlock's mouth. He finally decided to make some use of his hands and placed them at Sherlock's hips, pressing his fingers into the sharp angles he found there. Sherlock gasped and John took advantage, moving into his mouth the way he'd moved into the man's flat. He teased Sherlock's tongue, touching it with his own once, twice, before backing away. Sherlock's tongue followed, flicking experimentally at John's teeth before testing the texture of his tongue. Sherlock moaned and John's cock surged to full hardness as he felt those long graceful fingers slip into his hair. Yes, John thought triumphantly, rejoicing that Sherlock's essential character, his domineering command, had finally reemerged. Sherlock pressed him down into the mattress as his tongue mapped the inside of John's mouth. The sudden force of Sherlock's embrace brought their hips together, and there was no denying the evidence of their mutual arousal.
There was no way the world's most observant human hadn't noticed it, and Sherlock ended the kiss with a deep gasp. His eyes were nearly all pupil as he stared open-mouthed at John, and John thought he looked much the same as he stared back. Their eyes locked and John watched resolve settle in, firming Sherlock's jaw and narrowing his eyes. He released one of Sherlock's hips and removed one of Sherlock's hands from his hair, bringing the wrist to his lips and nipping at his pulse point. Sherlock watched and growled, a low rumble that reverberated through his chest.
"What do you want?" John asked.
"All of you," Sherlock answered without hesitation.
"I'm here," John answered, then laved that wrist, his eyes never leaving his lover's. "What can I do for you, right now?"
"I . . ." Sherlock's eyes went glassy and John wondered how many fantasies were overloading his processing system. As far as he was concerned he was up for anything, everything, but he hadn't allowed himself to develop the want to the point of fantasy before. After all, John Hamish Watson was definitely heterosexual, but at the moment he was at Sherlock Holmes's complete and utter disposal.
"Anything," John whispered as he leaned up and ran his tongue along that warm, fragrant, delicious space under Sherlock's left ear.
Sherlock shuddered. "Please, suck me," he whispered, the whisper broken and needy and so full of desperate longing it sounded like a long-distance phone call from his soul.
"Absolutely," John said, then without another thought he wrapped his arms and legs around Sherlock, immobilizing him and flipping him onto his back. Sherlock let out a huff of surprise. John smiled down at him and Sherlock bared his teeth. "Listen to me now," John said softly, then leaned in and whispered the next directly into Sherlock's ear. "I am going to suck you, just as you asked, but I'm not going to let you come. I'm going to bring you close three times, but you will not be allowed to orgasm until I'm inside you, do you understand?"
"Yes," Sherlock hissed, and John backed away to see a fan of eyelashes flutter down over a pair of pupils thinly ringed by silver. A tremor of delighted anticipation ran through the body beneath him, and John took another kiss to keep himself from losing his mind.
The kiss was completely lacking in self-control, all teeth and tongues and groans. It was so difficult to leave that mouth behind, but Sherlock had asked John for something and John wasn't in the habit of refusing the man anything he wanted. Of course, he hadn't asked for the thing with any sense of hurry, so John took his time, pressing open-mouthed kisses to Sherlock's chin, jaw, and down that marvelous throat.
"You're clothed," John said, his voice husky but still capable of conveying his annoyance.
"Then fix it," Sherlock responded impatiently.
"Might need your help."
"When don't you?" Sherlock asked, sitting up and yanking at his tee shirt with no shortage of pique. His movements were ham-handed from his nerves, however, so he only got so far as rucking his shirt up to his ribs before he grunted, gave up, and fell back on the bed.
"Oi!" John said, irritated by Sherlock's petulance—then he stopped. That skin, oh God, that skin; Sherlock's firm abdomen was a feast for his eyes, and he was starving. He slid down until his lips could graze, skimming down the seam running from Sherlock's sternum to his navel.
"Oh, John," Sherlock groaned, his muscles twitching beneath the contact, his hands sliding into John's hair. John dipped the tip of his tongue into his lover's navel and felt something firm and insistent tap him on the chin.
"Hello there," he chuckled. He'd never had a personal, erotic encounter with another man's erection before, but he knew by the way his own cock was straining against his pants that this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and he wanted to make a proper first impression. He ran his palm against the front of Sherlock's pyjama bottoms, getting the measure of the man. Sherlock tilted his hips forward, pressing his erection against John's palm, but he removed his hand and replaced it with his open mouth. He could smell Sherlock's musk, a spicy, heady fragrance, reminiscent of John's past female lovers but so essentially Sherlock he thought he might black out from his wanting.
"God, John, please get on with it," Sherlock groaned. John looked up at him, his mouth still bridging a fabric-wrapped erection, and whimpered. Sherlock was the portrait of debauchery, a Technicolor dream of flushed cheeks and bright blue rings shining in his eyes and scarlet-red, kiss-abused lips contrasted by his pale white flesh. He was panting, staring at John with some miraculously transformed version of his old impatience.
John did as he was told, pulling the pyjama bottoms down to Sherlock's thighs and laying his eyes on his lover's cock for the first time. He took it tentatively in his hand, familiarizing himself with its heft and weight, marveling at what he was doing. His tongue darted out and licked some of the weeping precum from the head. Sherlock bucked and suddenly John's mouth was full of cock. He let out a sharp sound of surprise.
"John? John, I'm sorry—"
John pulled off, unable to focus. "Shut up, Sherlock," he mumbled before he put his mouth back on that gloriously responsive cock. He remembered the scene in the train on the way to Ullswater, the way Sherlock had teased him: "You have a fascinating oral fixation, did you know that?" He hadn't really thought about it, but yeah, John supposed he did, and he put that fixation to good use now. He closed his eyes and thought about what he liked, then he did those things. After only a few minutes he felt Sherlock's hips twitching, felt his hands pressing against the back of John's head, felt the cock in his mouth lengthening and thickening—
John pulled off. Sherlock whined. John smiled. "That's one," he said, his mouth feeling a bit empty.
"I had no idea you were so cruel," Sherlock gasped. "I underestimated you, Doctor Watson."
John pushed his way up Sherlock's body and kissed him. "You always do."
Sherlock slitted his eyes at him, then pulled John down and plundered his mouth. "I can taste myself on you," he whispered after he pulled back again, and his eyes desperately searching John's for approval, acceptance, anything.
John smiled. "Yes. You're delicious."
Sherlock's face cramped with emotion. He bared his teeth and put his hands on either side of John's face. "I love you, John," he said, his voice tense and low and perfectly honest.
Hot tears blurred John's vision. "Sherlock," he gasped, mirroring his lover's posture and placing his hands on his face. "I would die for you. I almost died without you. I . . ." He shook his head. The words were too large; they were stuck in his throat. Worshipfully, reverently he applied his mouth to Sherlock's beautiful body once again, removing the clothing that had only been shoved aside before. With love surging through his body, John once again took Sherlock's cock in his mouth, letting his emotions out through the movements of his wordless tongue, making love to that part of Sherlock only he would ever know.
It didn't take long; Sherlock hadn't fully recovered from the last almost-there, and John thought it at least possible that he could feel what John was trying to say without words. John pulled off again and cast his eyes over the long, lean body under him. Sherlock's face was turned away and he was panting again. "John, please," he said, his voice broken and barely recognizable.
"That's two," John answered, then gently bit down on Sherlock's right thigh. He leaned back until he was sitting on his heels, then reached over to Sherlock's bedside table and removed some lube he'd put there before, when he'd slept in this bed and wished Sherlock was beside him, when he'd used the lube on himself on those lonely nights when he'd hoped that an orgasm would delete the grief, even for just a moment.
Sherlock hadn't touched it. John wasn't sure what that meant, but this wasn't the time to reflect on the ramifications. He dispensed some of the lube into his hand and held it there, warming it in his palm before he put his mouth on Sherlock's cock again. It was almost unhealthy how much he was enjoying doing this, and he experimented with how deep he could take that elegant length into his throat. He pulled off just enough to say "Fuck my mouth" to the man under him, and felt shaking fingers slip into his hair. He zoned out, his whole world sublimating into this experience, the thrusting, the slickness of his saliva, the hard insistence of Sherlock—it was, admittedly, nothing he'd ever thought he'd enjoy, but because he was deconstructing the one and only Sherlock Holmes, he was enjoying himself immensely.
Once again he felt Sherlock thickening in his mouth, felt his balls draw up—and he pulled off. Sherlock was whimpering and trembling now.
"I want to fuck you," John said roughly, his mouth stretched and useless.
"Yes, please, anything, everything, John, please," Sherlock begged.
"I never beg." John sniggered at the recalled words. Irene, he would never beg from you because, while he respected you, he did not love you. Mine. His heart is mine and it always will be.
"Soon," John growled. He tipped his hand forward and let the warmed lube coat his fingers, then he ran those fingers down past Sherlock's perineum to . . .yes. There. Sherlock gave his hips a shallow pump, and John wrapped his other hand around Sherlock's cock. "Sherlock," he said, his voice as calm as his hands, "I'm going to put my mouth back on you and I'm going to put my fingers in your arse. I need to stretch you, okay?"
"Are you trying to drive me mad, is that it?" Sherlock asked, the impatience making his voice rough. "John, for God's sake—"
John grinned and engulfed Sherlock again, pushing gently with his slick finger and breaching the tight ring of muscle. Sherlock started babbling, canting his hips, alternatingly trying to drive himself deeper into John's mouth and impale himself further on John's finger. John found himself smiling around the cock in his mouth, and on the next pass he forced a second finger past the light resistance at Sherlock's virgin hole. Sherlock's muscles fluttered in welcome around the two fingers, and John gently curled his fingers and pressed against Sherlock's prostate. Sherlock let out a mighty groan and his limbs jerked. "John." Sherlock's voice was deep and hoarse and needy, and it prompted something in John to give, to satisfy. He coached his lover to relax during the push and contract around the pull. John knew that he could have Sherlock come in his mouth this time, this way, if they managed to slip into a rhythm and leave everything else to the future to sort out.
It wasn't what he wanted. He knew from his experience—especially that experience that began with blood on the pavement in front of St. Bart's—that the future wasn't always going to sort things out the way you wanted. He wasn't quite panicky, but he was deeply mistrustful of Fate's whimsy and he wanted Sherlock to always remember this moment, to never want to delete it no matter what the future held for them.
He reared up suddenly, rolling his fingers in Sherlock's ass to give it one final stretch. Sherlock lay beneath him, gazing up at him, and yes, he looked half-mad. If John made Sherlock wait too much longer it may have the extraordinarily unfortunate effect of putting him off sex, and that simply would not do. There was still so much for them to share.
"Are you ready?" John asked.
Sherlock nodded and licked his lips. "Please, I have to come, John," he whimpered.
John lined up between Sherlock's spread legs and took a deep breath. "Do you trust me?" he asked.
Sherlock gave him a weak, trembling smile. "With my soul."
"I will take care of you," John promised, and he hoped his lover understood that it applied to more than just the moment. He quickly rolled a condom onto his cock and coated it with more lube, then, leaning over Sherlock protectively, he pressed in slowly, feeling the resistance, the tightness. "Please, Sherlock, relax."
Sherlock was nearly panting, clearly stressed by the request to give up. He rolled his eyes and wrapped his sweat-slicked arms around John, pulling himself up into John's body. "God, oh God, John," he whimpered.
"Shh. Love. Sherlock, it's me, your John. Let me in."
Sherlock took a deep breath and returned his eyes to John's face. He smiled. "My John," he whispered, then closed his eyes. John could feel it the moment it happened, felt every one of Sherlock's muscles relax as he made the decision to let go. "My John," he purred as his arms loosened and he melted into the bed.
John pushed and felt Sherlock's superheated welcome as he slid in, inch by delicious inch. He heard a low, guttural groan and was surprised to find it was coming from him. He had made love to others, but he had never been inside anyone who had healed him, had given him a passion for life again, had given him a home and a calling and a mad, overwhelming dream. This was Sherlock Holmes and he loved John Watson, and the beauty of the moment took his breath away. John stilled, fully seated in the man beneath him, and closed his eyes.
He opened his eyes. Sherlock was swimming in his vision. John was on the verge of tears. He tried to smile and found the gesture difficult. "Sherlock, I love you—with my whole heart, I love you."
Sherlock smiled, and it was an emotional, trusting, stunning expression. "Love me, then," he said softly, and he canted his hips and threw his head back against the pillow.
John obeyed. He pulled his hips back and thrust forward, and he understood now that the orgasm that was building inside both of them would nearly rip them apart when it came. He gritted his teeth and focused as much as he could on Sherlock's pleasure, because his was already more than he could bear. He tilted his hips until he knew he could brush against Sherlock's prostate, and—
"John!" Sherlock cried, his hands flailing and his eyes wide. "John, oh God, I'm going to—I'm going to—"
"Yes," John hissed, and the sight of the man he loved so undone, so wild and abandoned to the physical side of his nature, tilted his pleasure to fulfillment. He took Sherlock's cock in his hand and gave it a warm stroke with still-slick fingers. "I've got you, Sherlock. I'm with you. Come for me."
He did with a gasp and a shout. His ejaculate pulsed out over John's fingers as his body convulsed. John hung on, watching, desperately watching this—then the experience of the orgasm through Sherlock's body caught up with John's cock and he was gone, gone, gone, pouring himself into Sherlock's body, begging for something he couldn't define: "Sherlock, please, Sherlock, God, please, oh please . . ."
"Anything," Sherlock gasped. He wrapped his arms and legs around John and pulled him down into the bed with him. "Everything. Do you want me to tattoo your name on my backside so nobody has any doubts regarding its ownership? I'll do it."
John let out a gusty, high-pitched giggle, a hysterical noise to celebrate the most intense orgasm he'd ever experienced. "I can't—how long does this period of amnesty last, when I can make blanket demands and you'll honor them?"
Sherlock sighed as John pulled out and attended to the spent condom and his cum-slicked fingers. "Don't know. You might want to carefully consider your demands and deliver your requests expeditiously."
John hummed as he sank into Sherlock's arms. "I have only one request."
"What is it?" Sherlock asked, his voice warm and soft and indulgent. "Quit my detective work? Cut my hair? Stop wearing dressing gowns around the flat? Do the shopping once a month?"
John chuckled. "I would never change you, you poncey git," he said, tracing his initials on Sherlock's chest. "I only ask that you are mine, now and always, and you never let anyone else as close to you as this."
Sherlock mirrored John's actions and traced his initials across John's back, very close to the scar there, the entrance wound of the bullet, the door that had led to this life. "How could you think I—"
"Promise me," John said softly. "Don't tell me that all of this," he gestured between them at their sweat-slicked, spent bodies, "couldn't have happened with anyone else, that you only could have done this because you already belonged to me. I need to hear it, Sherlock, that nobody else—no Irene Adlers or Sebastian Wilkeses or anyone else at all—will ever have you this way. That's all I ask. We can continue as before; I'll do the shopping, you'll keep simply awful things in the kitchen, we'll crack cases together, and people will talk. I just want to know—"
"So many words," Sherlock said with a low rumbling chuckle and laid a finger over John's lips. "Yes, John. I'm yours. If someday you decide you want to stand in front of witnesses and make it official, I will not be opposed."
John gasped. "God."
Sherlock shrugged. He still seemed a little giddy and untethered to reality, but John knew that even now every word was careful and considered. "I've been falling in love with you since you shot the cabbie," he said. "Everything about you became precious. I couldn't help the appeal of it, the allure of loving someone who could never love me in return. It was right up my street, do you understand? The impossible case, and actually, the reason for living."
John was silent. That long? Sherlock had felt this way for that long?
"You started dating and I was disappointed, but also somehow satisfied with it. You're a man in your prime, handsome, affable, accommodating—of course you'd want to find a sexual partner. It was right. It fit my deductions about you."
"Then you died."
Sherlock sighed and his arms tightened around John. "More than you know, being away from you and what life I could share with you."
"And I started to realize how much I loved the man I lost," John whispered. "And things were . . ."
"Shh. John, I saw your pain."
"At the cemetery, when I—with Mrs. Hudson."
"Yes. I never want to see that again."
"Then don't leave me."
"Another demand, Doctor Watson?" Sherlock teased, his mouth cocked in a small smirk.
Sherlock's face grew somber again. "Both of your demands are so easy to keep as to be laughable but, my dear Watson, I promise you that I am yours and that I will never again leave you."
"Then I am satisfied." John frowned. "No, that's not right. I'm happy. Overjoyed. Ecstatic."
"Is this going to be along the same lines as your obsession with all adjectives roughly equivalent to amazing when it comes to me?"
"Yes," John said, grinning like a madman.
Sherlock kissed him, and John abandoned his search for synonyms and kissed him right back.
Chapter 5: Epilogue
From John Watson's personal blog:
Hello to all of John's readers.
I have been told repeatedly that nobody reads my blog and, judging by the counter on John's blog contrasted against mine, I will have to admit to some disparity in readership. I can only deduce that the cause is the accessibility of the material and have therefore concluded that my assumptions regarding the intelligence of the general population are thus proven.
I do, however, want to take a moment to make an announcement in a forum that will gain the most traction in a most expeditious fashion—hence, this guest appearance on John's blog. This announcement is not directed at the general population per se. I will admit that I find some benefit in the idea that the entire female population of the United Kingdom will be thus exposed to the information, but that is only a corollary perk and should not be considered the main objective of this communication. I trust John. You may attempt to throw yourselves at him, but it will merely amuse me.
This announcement is instead directed at all of you who would like to use John Watson against me. It has been a very effective lure in the past, but I have to warn you that the consequences have gone from dire to disastrous. Think very carefully about your own lives and what you are willing to risk, because as sure as night follows day I will track down not only you but everyone you hold dear to avenge a thousand times over every scratch inflicted on my John.
He is mine. I will not abide any change to that or any deprivation of him to me. I assure you that my devotion to him has not distracted me or weakened me; rather, I am far more resolved and brilliant than ever. Be afraid.
Oh dear lord. What did I just read?
Sherlock! You should tell me first! I should never have to learn these things this way!
Mrs. Hudson, if you haven't deduced the change by now based on the shift in the dynamics of our vocal interactions, than I can only confess to being deeply disappointed in you.
Make John answer his phone. I'm not kidding, Sherlock. And you'd better have laundered the sheets.
He's a grown man who is currently asleep. He has earned his sleep. Further, we never touched your sheets. Finally, I do not believe we are on a first-name basis, Ms. Watson.
What do you mean, shift in dynamics of vocal interactions? I'm baking a celebratory cake.
It's to do with sex, Mrs. Hudson.
Surprise, surprise. Mention cake and Mycroft appears.
Oh, hello, my dear Watson.
Oh my God.
You hacked my laptop—again—and outed us to the world. I should be horrified.
Your words lead me to believe you are not, in fact, horrified.
For God's sake. You're sitting next to each other.
Thank you for the cake, Mrs. H.
Before you ask, Mycroft, you may come round to visit and take some cake with you. But I have to warn you, things between John and myself will very likely be reaching a critical stage in the next few hours. I would suggest calling at some other point in the future.
Oh my God! Congratulations, you two! Greg just called to let me know what's been going on. I am so happy for you. John, he's always been crazy about you.
Thank you, Molly. I'm mildly uncomfortable with everyone knowing, but really, thank you.
And how is the matter between you and DI Lestrade, Molly? Going well, I hope?
You can't seriously imagine this is still a secret matter, can you?
Right then. This is me attempting to distract him. I'll chat with all of you later.
And this is me popping off to visit my sister again. Vocal interactions indeed.