Standing at the entry of the doorway, Sherlock waits and fidgets while John wraps his blue scarf around his neck for him, rolling his eyes. He normally likes it when John does up his scarf for him but today, he’s in a hurry and feeling restless. He just wants to get going already. It’s like waiting for the rest of his life to fully begin.
“Easy, love, your appointment is only for noon. No need to rush,” John says, finishing with Sherlock’s scarf and smoothing his hands down the sides of his arms in a now-familiar gesture that means take it easy. He has a knowing smile on his face and Sherlock doesn’t even have the patience to kiss it off right now. He does it anyway, pecking his upturned mouth as though conquering and seizing it for himself.
“Come on, let’s go, John!” He practically drags John out the front door and, as ever, John follows, patiently, understandingly, even if he does grumble a little bit.
It has only been a couple of months, but Sherlock is still surprised anew almost every day that John hasn’t lost patience with him and, most importantly, that he continues to make an effort to understand him and accept him for who and what he is. Even though John always insists that’s never going to change, a part of Sherlock is ever suspicious that it may well could. Today’s appointment could change that, somehow, if only for Sherlock’s own peace of mind. It’s silly and meaningless ultimately, but he needs to do this. For both of them.
They immediately find each other’s hands as they start on their walk and the minutes pass by pleasantly enough, the crisp late morning air creating a comfortable temperature to walk in.
“Are you nervous?” John asks, rubbing his thumb over Sherlock’s knuckles.
Sherlock says nothing.
“Are you excited?” he asks with a hint of hopefulness in his voice.
“Yes,” Sherlock replies, blushing lightly and looking to his feet as they continue to hit the grey block paving.
“Me too,” John says, scooting closer to Sherlock to allow the people passing them by more room. “I must say,” he says lowly, near Sherlock’s ear, “the fact that I still manage to make you blush that way after all this time is really endearing. If we weren’t in public right now, I’d really give you something to blush about.”
Sherlock’s blush deepens as he smiles shyly.
“Alright, come here,” John says, stopping next to the doorstep of a sweet shop. “I can’t not be kissing you anymore.”
He takes ahold of Sherlock’s chin and pulls him down for a slow, lingering kiss. Neither of them seems to care about the fact that they’re stood in the middle of the busy city on a afternoon near lunchtime. This takes precedence.
“Get a room, you lovebirds,” a lady walking out of the shop teases them, smiling.
“Yeah, we might just,” John says to Sherlock’s lips, making them both giggle. “What do you say, love? Should we get a room after this?” His eyes are twinkling and Sherlock wishes the kissing didn’t have to stop.
John pecks him once more before taking him by the hand again and leading them back out onto the bustling pavement.
Even here, in the midst of all these nameless, preoccupied people, in a city that can sometimes feel cold and unkind to individual persons, Sherlock still feels safe with John by his side. He isn’t just another face on the street. He belongs somewhere and to somebody. He has a decided place in the city, in the world, in the universe. There’s meaning to be found in his previously meaningless existence by virtue of their attachment.
“Anyway,” John says after they’ve been walking for some time. “I know I’ve said it a million times and you’ve emphatically asked me to stop saying it, but I just want you to know - again - that you really don’t have to do this. You don’t actually have to go through with it. Like, we could turn around right now and go back home and put on the kettle and get on with our lives and I wouldn’t care at all. I’d never hold you to it.”
“Stop being daft. Of course I’m doing this. I have to do it. It isn’t just for you, although that’s the main reason, of course, it’s… it’s also for me, somehow,” Sherlock admits. “I want - I need - to know that I’m yours, but you’re also mine. I don’t want there to ever be any doubt about that.”
“There never could,” John replies questioningly, as though he wasn’t aware that this was up for debate in any sense.
“I know that. Or, I know you think that, but for me, it’s a little bit more complicated than that. I’ve never… I’ve never had this before and it means so much to me and it’s so big and important that I feel like I have to do something big and important to sort of cement it, if that makes sense? I need this. For both of us. It makes all the sense in the world to me for us to be going to do this today. It may seem trivial, but I need it.”
“It doesn’t seem trivial. Not at all,” John comforts him. “I know exactly what you mean. Of course I do. When you were gone, you lived in my heart and that way, you were mine - permanently. I suppose that was part of the difficulty I faced when you returned: I had built up this fantasy where although you were gone, you were a part of me because you weren’t around to have any say. I romanticised what we were before you left to suit my own narrative. It was easy to forget, in my own longing and grief, that we were just friends.”
“John,” Sherlock says frankly, “we never never just friends.”
“I know. But on the outside, that’s all we were, especially to one another. To me, though, the more time passed by where you weren’t there anymore, the more you became this beautiful, melancholic dream I kept on adding to. I’d remember something as trivial as you making me a cup of tea and see it through a lens of something more meaningful. I read into everything that didn’t actually mean anything at the time because I just so desperately didn’t want to believe that you were truly gone without ever knowing how much…” he’s choking back sobs and Sherlock squeezes his hand in silent support, “how much I loved you. How special you were. The idea that you had left this world without ever knowing that was abhorrent to me. So my mind built up this complex dreamscape that I actually started to buy into. You become this legend and, our relationship, something belonging more to mythology than to the truth. That way, your leaving without ever having known was easier to deal with. I coped by lying to myself, bit by bit, about what we were to each other. And when you came back, it all came tumbling down around me, the reality of it - you staring at me with that ridiculous, drawn-on moustache - like jumping into a freezing cold pool.”
Sherlock squeezes his hand again and leans into him slightly, bumping his shoulder with his own.
“But now,” John continues, brightening his intonation. “Now, things are so much better than I could have ever dreamed up. You’re here and real and alive and mine and that’s so much better than I ever thought I’d have.” He bumps Sherlock’s shoulder in reply.
“Well, I’m certainly glad I live up to the fantasy version of me,” Sherlock teases lightly, kissing John’s cheek as they round another corner.
John grins, seemingly grateful for the break in the reflectful musings. “Hey, don’t push it,” he winks. “And for the record, even though, on paper, I’ve had this before, I’ve also not exactly had this before. We’re much more than anything I’ve ever had or thought I could have. I didn’t know there was more to be had, in fact. You’re not the only one who’s new to this. It’s big and important to me, too. We’re both still learning, I think.”
Sherlock links his arm through John’s in response.
“I hope…” John starts. “Before... you said that our relationship has never been entirely reciprocal and I just hope that that’s changed. I hope I’ve been able to express just how much...”
Sherlock looks sharply to John. He hadn’t been expecting those words at all. That conversation - ages ago yet so recent - feels like it belongs to another them in another time. “John,” he says soothingly, running his free hand up and down John’s arm that’s linked through his. “John, never doubt what we are. I’m doing this today so that neither of us ever has to again.”
“It was all worth it, then.”
“Hmm?” Sherlock asks, turning again to face him.
“The pain. It was all worth it.”
“Yes, of course it was,” Sherlock says simply, giving John’s arm a small squeeze as they turn into their final block.
They reach the glass-front store and push open the heavy door together. Elaine is at the counter, drawing something intricate. Sherlock spots cherry blossoms delicately framing a portrait and he feels a flood of relief that his design is much more straightforward and simple. Not that he’s afraid of pain; more that he’s afraid of the idea that his body could be so irreparably marked by something so sizable. He considers for a moment and realises he’d do it for John, though. In a heartbeat.
“Hi, Sherlock. You ready?” Elaine asks, putting her papers away.
“Yes,” he says brusquely, too quickly, and both she and John smirk at his response.
Elaine seats him in her chair and shows him the stencil. That something so small and fine could mean so much is a marvel. He nods once and she asks him to remove his shirt and get comfortable.
She cleans the area and places the stencil over his chest in the position they discussed the last time he was in and, once the transfer is done, hands him a handheld mirror and asks if it’s okay.
“Yes,” he barks out again. This time, he reaches for John’s hand as Elaine shows him the sterilised needle. John smiles and takes the petitioning hand, allowing Sherlock to squeeze tight even though the pain hasn’t begun yet.
“Just relax,” John says softly, just to Sherlock.
“Obviously,” Sherlock grumbles, which earns him a fond smile and kiss on his head.
As Elaine gets to work, Sherlock is grateful for her lack of questions about the little holde adorning the center of his chest and notes that the pain isn’t unbearable, but it is extremely uncomfortable. It feels like a blade slicing through the skin, which is a sensation he’s all-too-familiar with thanks to his time in Serbia. It’s not as painful as, say, a severe chemical burn or a hooked chain to the spine or a gunshot wound to the abdomen. He can endure this.
He looks down at the small, neat, half-permanent outline and can’t help but feel a swelling sense of pride at the fact that he’s somehow marking John onto himself. They do it almost all the time, unconsciously, with kisses and touches and words and bedroom exchanges, and he supposes that this is simply another way to do it. For everyone, including himself, to see it; visible and irrefutable.
He looks up at John, whose eyes are transfixed by the needle tattooing his chest. He has a small, almost imperceptible smile on the side of his mouth and he suddenly looks at Sherlock as though he knows he was looking at him and Sherlock knows, without a shadow of a doubt that John is all his, too, as much as he is John’s.
“All done,” Elaine says as she wipes the area one last time.
“Already?” Sherlock is surprised.
“Sorry to disappoint you, mate, but if you pick such a small design, it’s not going to take very long. Maybe next time I can design something more ornate for you and we can have you in this chair for longer.”
“I can assure you,” Sherlock says distractedly as he stands to look in the full-length mirror on the wall, “there won’t be a next time.”
He draws in a little gasp of air as he sees himself. The little infinity sign on his chest could bring tears to his eyes right here in the tattoo parlour, if he let it. He glances up in the mirror and sees John’s reflection behind him, focused on Sherlock’s chest, eyes misty and mouth drawn into a tight line that Sherlock has come to know very well. It means he’s trying to hold back the tide of overwhelming emotion, too, usually unsuccessfully. He catches John’s eye before he looks away and there’s heat there; raw emotion and passion.
Elaine covers the tattoo and they pay soundlessly and once they’re back on the pavement, naturally link arms again. The walk back to Baker Street is quiet, both of them in their own thoughts. There’s an anticipation that’s been building ever since they locked eyes in the mirror, and it’s a comfortable kind of tension that coils around and through them as they finally reach the flat.
Without a word, they hold hands all the way up the stairs and turn to each other on the landing, lips meeting lips, tongue meeting tongue, breaths mingling and forming something new. John pulls apart just far enough to remove Sherlock’s scarf, coat and shirt and lets them all fall into a dramatic puddle at their feet. John’s eyes find the covered, fresh tattoo on Sherlock’s chest and he gently places the palm of his left hand over it. He looks up into Sherlock’s eyes and just says, “You,” and they’re already kissing again, this time with more heat.
They clumsily climb the stairs to their room together, stopping for kisses along the way, bumping into the bannister and each other. It takes almost double the time to reach their bedroom but, once they do, the kissing begins again in earnest, all wetness and warmth, no room for anything like uncertainty or sorrow; not even for regret.
“Off,” Sherlock demands of John’s clothes, helping him remove them.
John presses Sherlock onto the bed and takes off his trousers and pants for him, no time for teasing. Once they’re both naked, John sinks to his knees and takes Sherlock’s entire, erect length into his mouth in one motion.
Between Sherlock’s aaaahs and John’s mmmms, John looks up into Sherlock’s eyes through his blonde lashes and Sherlock almost finishes right then and there. Instead, he cradles John’s biceps with his hands and lifts him up and off, pulling him on top of him for a kiss, the taste of John mixed with himself making him lightheaded with desire and affection.
John pulls off and leans on an elbow over Sherlock, tucking one of his long curls behind his ear. “What do you want?” he asks gently.
“Everything,” Sherlock whispers and they’re kissing again, urgent and messy, his and his and theirs.
When John eventually lowers himself into Sherlock and Sherlock yanks him down for another kiss, Sherlock’s little covered patch fits over John’s tattoo and John lifts himself off slightly with a knowing grin.
“What?” Sherlock asks.
“You…” John’s eyes are roving back and forth between Sherlock’s - they’re that close - and his breath is coming out in little, delicate huffs. “This is why you had it done on your right side.” He looks at Sherlock as though he’s a miracle and Sherlock believes it, too, in the moment.
“Yes. I… didn’t see the need to do it over my heart, since you’re already permanently there, so this seemed like the most… logical placement.”
“Sweetheart, I don’t think logic has anything to do with it.”
John smiles as he captures Sherlock’s mouth for another kiss, their tattoos marking yet another place where they’re connected, where John is his, he is John’s, he is his and he is John’s: one half of him belongs to John and the other half also to John. All John’s and John, ever his.