The mood in the car was very different on the ride back to Cincinnati than it had been in the morning. They were all ebullient and chatty, Aronsen intermittently shushing the others as she worked her phone: her friend in the prosecutor’s office, the DA, her boss. At one point, holding for a call that had just come through, she turned in her seat and peered at Sherlock. “Did you really find all that on the Enquirer website?”
“Mostly, and Beerman’s campaign site. The tricky bit was finding someone with power who fell from grace sometime between 2000 and 2004, and who had a plausible connection to a man who might have been P.J. I actually found P.J. in the wedding announcements.”
McGinty glanced in the rearview mirror. “Did you find me?”
“What?” Sherlock said, genuinely surprised.
“I’m pulling your leg…mostly. What he said back there about the cops—all the West Siders--knowing each other is pretty true. I went to Archbishop Elder with Patrick Conley, and my wife’s nephew Kevin is married to the Beermans’ cousin—“
“Doesn’t matter this time, Beerman is still going down,” Aronsen said. “The firm is connected too—yes, hello, I’m still here. Thank you…Senator, good afternoon.” She raised her eyebrows in an I-told-you-so gesture at McGinty and turned back in her seat. “You won’t remember but we met at the partner’s dinner last year…oh, thank you, you’re very kind. Yes. Yes, it’s true. The DA will be giving a press conference tomorrow. Yes. Absolutely. You too.” She disconnected. “The word’s going out now; after the press conference tomorrow every politician in the state will be denouncing Beerman, saying he should drop out.”
Aronsen would like Mycroft, Sherlock thought. “Do you think the charges will stick? Against P.J.?”
Aronsen made a face. “After all this time? It’s a long shot. But Beerman’s never holding office again, I can promise you that. And Darnell Rhodes is getting out of jail, with his conviction voided and a full apology from the city, for whatever that’s worth. That’s what we were hired for. Did you reach Michael?”
“Not yet,” Sherlock said. Michael’s phone had been answered by some sort of assistant with strict orders to pull Michael out of whatever basketball-related activity he was involved in if Sherlock called, but he was supposed to finish in half an hour, so Sherlock told the assistant to have Michael ring him back.
Sherlock’s phone rang a few minutes later.
“Sherlock,” Michael said. He sounded breathless, as though he’d run straight off the court. “Talk to me, man, what’s happening? Did you get him to confess?”
“No, because he didn’t do it,” Sherlock said. “P.J. did.”
Michael whooped. “I knew it!” he shouted. “I knew you knew something you weren’t saying, I could tell last night.”
“I didn’t want to get your hopes up,” Sherlock said with dignity.
“Yeah, right. You get him to talk?”
“I did, but better yet, he verified P.J.’s identity and the prints are a match.”
Michael whooped again and then said, “Okay, tell me everything, but fast, I’ve only got a minute here.”
Sherlock told him, concisely, and Michael said, “You are amazing, you know that, right? So what happens now? When does my dad get out?”
“Let me give you to Lauren,” Sherlock said and passed the phone up. They talked for a few minutes, and then Aronsen handed the phone back to Sherlock.
“Wow, I just can’t believe this,” Michael said when Sherlock put the phone to his ear. “You—“
“Listen,” Sherlock said quietly. “Curtis Harmon has a sister who cut him off years ago and at least one nephew, possibly more. He doesn’t want anything for himself but she should know what he did, that he did the right thing. Do you understand?”
“Absolutely,” Michael said immediately. “I’ll take care of it. I’ll talk to her myself, set the boys up, whatever they want, all right? I’ve got to run, I’m already late and I’ve got to call my sister, but I’ll call you tonight before the game for sure, okay? Thank you.”
Sherlock disconnected. They had reached the outskirts of the city now, and the early winter darkness was closing in. Sherlock felt strangely empty, as though filled with a vague longing, but for what? For Michael? Home? An after-case celebration, cake, sex? Perhaps this was just post-case letdown, magnified by a sense of homesickness. Well, he could find cake easily enough, and surely Cincinnati had gay bars or, if not, there was always Grindr.
When they reached downtown McGinty passed Sherlock’s hotel and turned instead into the Fountain Square garage.
Aronsen looked up in surprise. “Where are we going?”
“Graeter’s,” McGinty said. “Sherlock here has a sweet tooth, and we can’t let him leave town thinking the best we can do is Frisch’s hot fudge cake, can we? I’m going to buy him the world’s best ice cream sundae.”
“But which do you think is the best sundae?”
“The 1870 tower! Everyone knows that.”
“No way. The best sundae is the cherry cordial.”
“You’re crazy, woman. That has vanilla ice cream! The 1870 tower has the black raspberry chip…”
They argued about it all the way up the stairs and out onto the square until Sherlock said, “Fine, I’ll have them both.”
So they got both sundaes, and a scoop of chocolate chip for McGinty, and a nectar phosphate for Aronsen, who claimed not to want any ice cream but who ended up eating almost half of Sherlock’s cherry cordial. Secretly Sherlock agreed with her that it was better, but they were both magnificent. He was already wondering if he could make it back for a banana spit before he left.
When they’d finally finished Sherlock shook hands all around and set out across the square toward his hotel. He had to detour around where an outdoor ice-skating rink was being set up and ended up crossing right in front of the fountain, which was how he came to glimpse a plaque bearing its name: The Genius of Water.
Sherlock tilted his face up, curious. Now that he was looking properly, he saw that the little figures around the fountain were, in fact, all using water: drinking, bathing, irrigating crops. The falling water caught the rainbow lights of the square and glittered like diamonds in the darkness; it was beautiful. Sherlock looked at the fountain, thinking. He thought about the well where Victor had been lost and John found; about the pool; about the aquarium. The freezing waters of the fjord, the expanse of Lake Michigan, the uncaring immensity of the Pacific. About Eurus saying deep waters, Sherlock, all your life, all your dreams. He thought about how the molecules of water that currently raged around Sherrinford would one day flow through this fountain, in a city at the center of a vast continent, a thousand miles from the sea.
Sherlock looked at the water and thought: it’s time to go home.
Sherlock was smiling as he walked back to the hotel. He no longer felt empty; he felt filled—well, of ice cream mostly, but also with a sense of having completed his journey. He was still smiling as he stepped out of the lift and felt his phone buzz in his pocket.
“Hey,” Michael said. There was a great deal of noise in the background, but muffled, as though from the other side of a door. “I’ve only got a minute—I forgot the game’s on ESPN tonight, so we have to do some interviews, but I had to thank you. You don’t know what this means for me, not just for my family, but for me—you made me remember the person I want to be, the person I meant to be, I can never thank you enough and I owe you so much—“
“No. You don’t,” Sherlock said, cutting him off. He shut the door to his room behind him and crossed to the window without turning on the lights. “It was I who owed you. If it hadn’t been you, that night in Chicago, I never would have gone through with it. I’d never even know the person I was meant to be—in more ways than one, because I wasn’t even sure I wanted to carry on being a detective until I did this case. We’re even now. No one owes anyone anything, we’re friends.”
“Just friends?” Michael said, teasing.
“Well…friends with benefits.”
“So what happens now? Where do you go?”
There was quiet for a moment, and then Michael sighed. “Damn. I knew it could never have worked between us, but…I kind of wanted to try, you know?”
“Little rabbit,” Michael said, very softly. “You take care of yourself, okay? Don’t be too crazy. I know how you get.”
”I’ll try. At least until you’re out of law school. It will be such a comfort to know a good lawyer.”
Michael laughed and then there was the sound of a door banging open and the background noise suddenly got much louder. “Rhodes! You coming? They’re waiting for you.”
“Coming,” Michael shouted and then, clear and strong into the phone, “Gotta go. I love you, man. Be careful.”
Sherlock stood at the window for a moment, turning the phone over in his hand. He remembered again doing the same thing with Irene Adler’s phone, all those years ago in Baker Street. He’d thought never to see her again, and yet he had; they were friends now, would always be friends. He thought Michael would as well. They would always be a part of each other, just as it was with Irene, and even Victor.
For the first time in a long time Sherlock thought about the list he had been keeping back at Baker Street, the things of which he was certain. He liked chemistry and music, ice cream sundaes and cake. He liked sex. He liked extremes of sensation: the icy shock of the fjord, the utter silence of the desert, the wind in his face on the open road, the ache in his muscles after a hard run. Soft sheets and hot showers. Cases and the exhilaration of deduction. What he had told Michael had been true: he was who he was meant to be, Sherlock Holmes, the world’s only consulting detective; but he was also more. A brother, a son, a friend, a godfather. And one day, perhaps, he would have a partner of his own. He understood now that it had never been sex that alarmed him. Sherlock had tried, all his life, not to love, because to love was to risk, and yet love and loss and pain had found him anyway. The last question, asked and answered: he could fall in love, and someone could love him back. Not Michael, but because of Michael, he now knew that he could.
Sherlock turned from the window. He plugged his phone into the charger, switched on the light, and hung up his jacket; then he unceremoniously swept all the case notes from the bed into a bin and stacked up the pillows. Out of a sort of nostalgic affection he turned on the television and flipped around until he found the game in Toronto and settled back against the pillows, half watching the game—he’d never seen basketball before, but it wasn’t hard to work out—and half thinking about going home. He would get a flight tomorrow, after the banana split of course, buy a postcard for Rosie, and probably he should call Irene to let her know, and tell her she could sell the motorbike…he’d get a new one back in London, maybe a Ducati. When things got dull he could simply take off, go wherever he liked, find a gay bar…why not just go to a gay bar in London? Sherlock frowned, distracted. It wasn’t as though he cared what the general public thought about what he was up to; he’d never cared before, and none of that nonsense had even been true. Whose opinion was he worried about? Mummy’s? Certainly not Mycroft’s. Sherlock had gotten adept by now at recognizing his own mind’s peculiar sleight of hand: there was something he was hiding from himself, but he couldn’t see what it was.
A knock came at the door.
Sherlock looked up in surprise. What could that be? He certainly hadn’t ordered any food. Probably some unnecessary token of gratitude from Michael, or maybe the firm. Sherlock slid off the bed and padded over to open the door, and there stood John.
Sherlock was so taken aback that for a moment he just stood there gaping.
“Hey,” John said. He was smiling, though he looked tired—just arrived from the airport, at least one flight delayed or rerouted—and slightly nervous for some reason Sherlock couldn’t fathom. “Are you, er, in the middle of something? Have you got company?”
“No, why would I have—“
“Good,” John said decisively, and he pulled Sherlock’s head down and kissed him.
Sherlock’s brain went completely offline for at least three seconds before everything crashed into place with a force that physically jolted him, so that he gasped in John’s arms: “Oh!” Then he threw his arms around him, kissing John back as though to somehow compress all the missed kisses into this one moment, all the days and months and years he should have kissed John and hadn’t. Of course, of course, this was why he hadn’t fallen in love with Michael, because he was in love with John. Had always loved John and never known until somehow, miraculously, John had appeared. Now that he was kissing John back the kiss was exhilarating, transcendent, life-changing, completely and utterly right, because it was John. John who knew him for real, a hundred percent; Sherlock had been his best self with Michael but with John he could be his real self and John would still want him, would travel across an ocean and half a country to kiss him.
After a few minutes they came up for air, John chuckling. “You really don’t have company?”
“Of course not, why would I?”
“Can we go inside then?”
Sherlock realized they were still standing in the corridor, his back pressed up against the door. Fortunately his key card was still in his pocket. He opened the door and held it open for John to haul his case in. The tiny part of his mind that was not intent on getting his lips on John’s again suddenly snagged on the fact that John was actually here. “What are you doing here?”
“Irene called me,” John said, shucking his jacket. “Gave me a bit of a start; I keep forgetting she’s not dead. She asked if I’d got my head out of my arse and realized I was in love with you yet, and I said yes, ages ago, not that it was any of her business, and she said in that case I’d better get over here because you’d gone off with a superstar athlete and she thought you might be falling for him.”
“That was for a case,” Sherlock said. “I couldn’t fall for Michael, because I’d already fallen in love with you. It’s always been you; I just didn’t realize it until now.”
“So you two weren’t…”
“Not in the way that you mean, no.”
“But you hooked up,” John said, not a question.
John raised his eyebrows. “And were you or were you not actually on a massive sex tour whilst you were cruising around on your motorbike?”
“Yes,” Sherlock admitted.
John began laughing. “I knew it! I knew there had to be something. You of all people going to the Grand Canyon!”
Sherlock couldn’t help smiling as well. “I did get a terrific blow job there.”
John wrapped a hand around his upper arm. His face was a mix Sherlock couldn't begin to read: not quite still laughing, not quite a question. "Did you mean that? What you just said? How you feel about...this. About me."
"Of course I meant it. Why would I say such a thing if I didn't mean it?"
"After everything? All you've done and seen?" John took a deep breath and reached out with his other hand, almost but not touching the thin scar at the edge of Sherlock's left eyebrow. "Everything I've done to you. You still want me?"
Sherlock looked at him, genuinely puzzled. "How could I ever want anyone else?"
John's face cracked into a smile as brilliiant as a desert sunrise. "Getting on that plane and coming here...it was the craziest thing I've ever done, I thought I had to be mad to think you could ever..."
Sherlock was smiling back; he couldn't help it, seeing John beam at him with that radiance. "And you invaded Afghanistan."
John pulled him into his arms again, laughing now, and began kissing him. “Irene says you did things I haven’t even done.”
“Mmm.” Sherlock began walking backwards, pulling John with him toward the bed. “I’m looking forward to finding out. You know how curious I am…”
They hit the bed and fell onto it, bumping the remote and somehow turning the volume on the television all the way up. John sat up and froze, looking over Sherlock’s shoulder. “Wait, is that—is that the guy you were with? Are you watching him on telly? Which one is he?”
“Er…the one who just caught the ball.” On the screen Michael made a spectacular shot from halfway down the court and Sherlock said, pleased, “Oh look, he scored.”
The camera briefly showed a close-up shot of Michael’s beaming face and John’s jaw dropped. “Him? But he’s incredible! He’s so fit, and he’s young, and tall, and--”
“—not you,” Sherlock finished, flicking off the remote and pulling John back down with him again. “And therefore of no interest whatsoever. “
They kissed and they kissed and John threaded his fingers into Sherlock’s hair, and Sherlock turned his head to nuzzle his palm. “Are you going to keep your hair like this?”
“Why, do you prefer it?”
“No, I miss the curls. I used to fantasize about those curls.”
Sherlock smiled against his hand. “I’ll grow it back.” He kissed John’s fingers, one at a time, and sucked the tips into his mouth to see how they tasted. John groaned and pulled him tighter.
“What else did you do on that road trip?”
“Mmm.” Sherlock slid John’s fingers out of his mouth and kissed his way down John’s wrist, unfastening the button of his cuff. “I worked my way through all the Grindr tribes, I had a menage-a-trois, I let a very strange man in San Francisco spank me…” a thought suddenly occurred to him. “John.” He slid up so that they were face to face again. “There is something I haven’t done. Well, I tried it the other way, but I don’t really like topping, and that was…I was waiting. I didn’t know why then, obvious now really, I was waiting for you.”
John held Sherlock’s face in his hands and looked deep into his eyes. “Really?”
“Sherlock Holmes, are you saying that after all of that, you’re still a virgin?”
“For one very narrow and specific definition of the term, I suppose so, yes.”
John grinned, his whole face crinkling into such beautiful lines. Sherlock wanted to kiss every one of them. “Will you think it’s creepy if I say that I might have fantasized about that too?”
Sherlock raised an eyebrow. “I’m still extremely experienced.”
“I can tell,” John said. “No virgin could suck my fingers like that. Do it again.”
Sherlock did it again, and then he unbuttoned John’s other cuff and pressed kisses into the pulse at John’s wrist, almost drunk with the scent and feel of him. John was working his way down Sherlock’s neck at the same time, which was so distractingly nice that Sherlock kept throwing his head back to moan and then had to nose around trying to find John’s hand again. There was a tiny stain on John’s cuff—beetroot, his mind automatically supplied, strained—oh! “John! Where’s Rosie?”
“At home,” John said, busy trying to work Sherlock’s shirt buttons open. “With Tal.”
“Tal? Talitha? What, at your house?”
“I sold the house. They’re at Baker Street.”
“At Baker Street?”
John pulled back to look at him. “You weren’t listening any of those times I tried to talk to you about the remodeling, were you?”
“Er,” Sherlock said, trying to think of a single thing John had mentioned and failing utterly.
But John only grinned. “Quite all right, Mrs. Hudson and I gave up on you a long time ago. We decided since we were running water lines up for the new kitchen we may as well redo the top floor as well, where my old room was. There’s two bedrooms there now, with a bath in between—that’s where me and Rosie are—and then we turned the old box room into a sort of suite; there’s a bedroom with a sitting area and a little fridge and a hot plate and kettle, with an en suite bath, for Tal. I thought Rosie could have it when she got older.”
“You knew,” Sherlock said in amazement. “When I wasn’t sure of anything, you already knew.”
“Not exactly,” John said, still smiling into Sherlock’s eyes. “I didn’t know this for certain, although I had hopes. But I knew you wanted me back at Baker Street and I knew that’s where we belonged. I moved my things into my old room, but…”
“But you will be moving into mine,” Sherlock said with certainty. “Please,” he added quickly.
John smiled again, stroking Sherlock’s cheekbone with his thumb. “I’d like that,” he said, and pulled Sherlock into a long kiss that made Sherlock feel as though he were melting like chocolate.
Just when Sherlock was thinking they’d best be getting back to the business of his buttons John pulled away again and said, “Do you mind if I just freshen up a bit? This is a momentous occasion. I’ve been on planes for bloody ever, and I don’t want to spoil things being all stubbly and smelly.”
“You could never spoil it, but be my guest,” Sherlock told him.
When John had closed himself into the bathroom Sherlock hopped off the bed and retrieved the lube and condoms from his suitcase, where they had been packed away since he left California, and placed them on the bedside table. He’d been using a roll of towels for a pillow when he slept on the floor so he fetched one of those as well. The shower was still running so he surreptitiously turned on the television to check the score—the Lakers were winning, excellent—and then turned it off again and stuffed the remote away so it wouldn’t get in the way. When John came out, wearing only a towel and smiling all over his face, Sherlock said, “Might just pop in as well,” and nipped into the bath behind him.
Sherlock showered quickly but very thoroughly and returned to the bed, dropping his own towel to crawl in naked beside John, who was beginning to look alarmingly sleepy.
“Oh, hey,” John said, waking up when Sherlock wrapped his long legs around him, “now there’s a warm welcome.”
“Oh, I can be very warm,” Sherlock purred. “Should you like me to show you?”
“I would like that very much,” John said and reached over to switch out the light.
If Sherlock had had things all his own way, he would have stayed up all night, mapping every precious newfound inch of John’s body, learning what pleased him the most, showing off every skill he had acquired on his travels and encouraging John to show off his own bag of tricks. But John was clearly tired and anyway, they had all the time in the world; they had the rest of their lives. So after Sherlock spent what he felt was a criminally short amount of time reveling in the feel of John’s body against his he guided John’s hand between his legs—where he was already rock hard and damp at the tip—and pressed in unspoken invitation.
“Have you, er, done anything before…”
“Toys--that was quite good.”
“Let me know if you don’t like it, okay? We don’t have to keep going. We can do anything you want.”
“I want to know what you feel like inside me,” Sherlock said. He was impatient, with lust, mostly, and curiosity, but also nerves; he had a strange urge to rush, as though John might change his mind. It came out hoarse and so low his voice sounded like a distant rumble of thunder in his own ears, and John groaned, “Oh, Christ.”
Sherlock remembered to breathe out and bear down when John’s first finger pressed inside him. He was a little surprised at the automatic clench of resistance—he wanted this—but John moved slowly and carefully, and he soon relaxed. John kissed him and murmured to him, a warm litany: “You’re amazing, you’re brilliant, so hot, is this good, do you want more yet” and when he reached Sherlock’s prostate on the second finger Sherlock cried out and spread his legs wide and wanton. He was suddenly greedy for more, and felt a momentary twinge of sympathy for Jeff the Bear: it really was fantastic being fingered, if the person doing it cared about how much you enjoyed it.
John definitely cared, and he was clearly enjoying himself as much as Sherlock. He groaned every time Sherlock whimpered and arched, rubbing his own erection against Sherlock’s outflung thigh; he kissed him long and deep, stroked his aching cock, and crooned as he pushed three fingers deep into Sherlock’s body: “Look at you, you’re incredible, I can’t wait to be this deep inside you.”
“Yes,” moaned Sherlock, half out of his head with pleasure and desperate to feel John’s thick cock stretching him wide.
“Yes?” John said slyly, twisting his fingers so that Sherlock’s whole back bowed off the bed.
“Yes, God, now, yes,” Sherlock shouted.
“Okay, okay,” John said, laughing. He slid his fingers free, which made Sherlock arch his back again, and arranged Sherlock’s hips where he wanted them. Then he fumbled for the supplies on the nightstand. “Nice work this,” he said, flipping a condom out of a package with a dexterity Sherlock couldn’t help but envy; he wasn’t that smooth yet. “You’re quite a good student.”
“Get in me,” Sherlock demanded. “I’ve been waiting my whole life for this.”
“Then you can wait another minute,” John said, maddeningly cheerful, as the lube squirted noisily into his palm. Sherlock writhed until John’s slick fingers stroked over him and then around his loosened opening, groaning and trying to push himself down onto John’s fingers. Sherlock heard the lube being replaced, the sound of John’s hand slicking his own cock, infuriatingly slow.
“Shh,” John’s voice came, inches from his own mouth, and then John kissed him, and when Sherlock took a breath to demand that John fuck him right now John pushed inside and all the air rushed back out of his lungs in a whoosh.
“Okay?” John asked, sounding a bit short of breath himself.
“Oh my God,” Sherlock gasped. “Oh my God.” The feeling of John’s body in his was overwhelming, exhilarating, like the rush of discovery but better, his mind and body all lit up with sensation. It was nothing at all like sex with Jeff. That had felt all wrong: too close, suffocating, like being caught in a trap, but this made him feel…doubled, somehow, as though he were himself and yet also John, and all he wanted was to be closer. “Deeper, more, I want…”
John pushed in slowly, all the way, Sherlock seeing sparkles and clutching him when John’s body was pressed against his as tightly as it would go. “Oh, you’re so beautiful,” John breathed, “fantastic, keep breathing for me…”
“I am breathing,” Sherlock hadn’t been. He could just barely see John in the dark but he was as acutely aware of every inch of him as if John had been bathed in floodlights. “I….”
“I know.” John nuzzled against his cheek, brushing his lips across Sherlock’s lips and cheekbones. Sherlock closed his eyes. People weren’t meant to feel this much, at least not Holmes people, and he was already so full of feeling that if he kept looking into John’s eyes he was going to come apart at the seams.
John laced their fingers together and rocked slowly, just barely moving inside him. The sensation was not entirely comfortable, the drag a half step below a burn even with all the lube John had used, but Sherlock breathed in and out and concentrated on the feeling of John’s hands holding his and after a bit his body began to relax.
“Better?” John asked.
Sherlock opened his eyes so he could roll them. “You didn’t attract all those women with your sparkling conversation. Show me what you’ve got before I fall asleep here.”
John raised his eyebrows as he shifted up, obviously not fooled in the least. “Oh, I’ll show you…if you think you can handle it.”
Sherlock scoffed. “I told you—fuck!“
John taken hold of Sherlock’s thighs and thrust with unerring precision over Sherlock’s prostate. Sherlock’s entire body convulsed and he saw stars.
“Thought that would shut you up,” John said cheerfully and set to it in earnest.
Sherlock thought, vaguely, that he was meant to be participating in some way—had Jeff the Bear done anything, or just talked incessantly?—but he couldn’t seem to manage anything beyond clutching at the sheets and gasping for breath as John pounded him. It was fantastic. Just as sex had been better than he’d ever imagined, sex with John was better than anything he’d ever experienced. Sherlock felt a moment’s gratitude that he’d spent so much time experimenting with people he didn’t care about, so that he could appreciate how much better it was with someone he loved.
Sherlock slid along the bed on a particularly vigorous thrust and John slowed—“Sorry, you okay?”
“Harder,” Sherlock gasped.
“Harder. Hard as you can.” Extremes of sensation, Sherlock thought vaguely as he got his hands up over his head and braced them against the upholstered headboard. “Harder!”
“Ooookay,” John said. He pushed himself a bit higher on his knees, gripped Sherlock’s leg with one hand and the top of the headboard with the other, and slammed in. Sherlock howled like an alley cat, half out of his head with pleasure and the knowledge that this was John holding him safe as he fucked him senseless. It was as though John were made for him, a bespoke sexual partner, a Grindr tribe of one: Perfect for Sherlock. John would be game for anything Sherlock wanted. He would spank him, slap him, tie him up, fuck him into the ground; but he would also make love to Sherlock with all the love and tenderness in the world. John hit a particularly good angle and Sherlock howled again, arching his back and pulling his own leg back with one hand. John’s thrusts were getting faster and shallower now and Sherlock knew he was getting close. He would have loved to have gone on all night, but a tiny prudent part of his brain thought he’d better let things finish so that he had a chance of being able to walk tomorrow.
Sherlock dropped his leg, braced himself again, and reached to wrap his free hand around himself. The lube had gone tacky, but it didn’t matter: his hand was sweaty and his cock was leaking and he was so turned on he probably could have got himself off with sandpaper. The knowledge that John would feel him come—that John was about to come, inside him, inside Sherlock, tipped him over and he lost his breath entirely, head thrown back and suddenly silent, crying out soundlessly, as heat rushed through his groin and shot wet over his hand.
“Oh Christ,” John groaned, “so beautiful, you’re so…” he let go the headboard and wrapped both hands around Sherlock’s thighs again, pulling out almost all the way so he could push in hard, shouting out his own climax as though to make up for Sherlock’s voicelessness.
When he had finished John draped himself panting over Sherlock for a moment and then straightened, pulling out carefully and stripping off the condom before gently straightening Sherlock’s legs and reaching for the towel to wipe him off. Sherlock still felt shattered: eyes closed, gasping, shuddering with aftershocks. John cleaned him up and then tugged him close, cradling him tightly against the hollow of his shoulder in a way that Sherlock immediately decided would be the only way he would sleep for the rest of his life.
“Good thing that headboard’s attached to the wall,” he finally managed, when he thought he could speak a full sentence again.
“Nope,” John said, threading a hand in Sherlock’s too-short hair and tilting his face up. “Not doing that. Look at me.”
Sherlock looked. It was not as hard as he’d thought. In the warmth of John’s eyes he felt the last of the armor of his self-possession crumble away like frost in the sun. He looked at John and John looked at him, at his vulnerable unshielded face, and he knew that John had always seen him.
“I love you,” he said. A simple statement of fact, but it seemed the moment to say it.
“Yeah,” John said. He smiled. “I love you too.”
Sherlock smiled and then he nestled his head back against John’s shoulder and this time John let him. John wrapped his arms around him and in a minute his breathing evened out, slow and steady and regular. He was asleep.
Sherlock himself was far too happy to sleep. He wrapped himself entirely around John, as though trying to absorb him through his skin, and beamed into the dark. John! Here, with Sherlock, naked! After all of his searching and questing, the thing he needed most in the world had been right in front of him all along.
And he didn’t just have John now, Sherlock realized abruptly: he had Rosie as well. He had gained a partner and a child all in one night. He, Sherlock Holmes, had a family. Sherlock shut his eyes and let the full weight of joy and awe and responsibility settle over him. A family. No more risking his life to prove he was clever; only to protect them, or to make the world better and safer for them, for Rosie. John had taken care of him, and now he would take care of John and Rosie, and Talitha and Mrs. Hudson, and Molly and Lestrade, and Mycroft, and even his parents and sister, for Mycroft’s sake.
In saving my life she conferred a value on it, Sherlock had said to John, so many months ago. It is a currency I do not know how to spend. Now he knew. He and John would live at Baker Street with Rosie, and they would solve crimes and help people. He thought that Mary would have approved.
Sherlock wrapped his arms even more tightly around John, who said, “Mmf,” wrapped his own arms around Sherlock, and promptly began to snore softly. Poor John, who had been through so much…Sherlock’s eyes snapped open as a brilliant idea struck him. They needn’t go back straight away! Rosie was well sorted with Talitha and Mrs. Hudson, and Sherlock could have a word with Mycroft to keep an eye out. John needed a holiday. He hadn’t even had a proper honeymoon, what with Mary pregnant and being sick every morning and unable to get soused on tropical drinks, and that was well over a year ago.
Yes. A holiday. They would sleep late and have lazy sex, and eat ice cream, and then they would head south—someplace warmer, John had said. Maybe follow the Mississippi down to New Orleans; John had never been, they would need a car, not a motorbike…a convertible! They would hire a convertible. Everyone always thought he should be driving one anyway. They would go to New Orleans and have hurricanes and mad drunken sex and then go for beignets and café au lait to soothe the hangover. When that got old they would head east, stopping at Waffle House every morning for breakfast—Sherlock dearly loved Waffle House—and down into Florida until they reached Miami. He’d show John Frank Hudson’s old nightclub, and go to South Beach, and Sherlock would burn and John would tan and they’d have sex with sand in their hair and it would be glorious. And then maybe they’d drive back up—no, then they’d fly back, over the sea and home. It would be December soon, Rosie’s first Christmas, their first Christmas together, and everything would need to be perfect.
Sherlock closed his eyes again, feeling blissfully happy. It won’t be the same as it was before, John had said, but it might be even better. Clearly John wasn’t an idiot after all, which was good, as Sherlock intended to spend the rest of his life with him. He couldn’t wait to get started. What time would Graeter’s open? How many different types of ice cream could one put on a banana split? Maybe they should get two. And toppings…they would need hot fudge, of course, and perhaps marshmallow, or maybe butterscotch?…and a cherry on top, John would put it into Sherlock’s mouth and then he could lick whipped cream off John’s fingers, discreetly of course, and…Sherlock fell asleep.
They got hot fudge and marshmallow, and it was delicious.