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Senses Fade

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When John finally awakens, the first thing Sherlock notices about him up close is the remarkable softness of his pink, dry lips—and how pleasantly they contradict the scruff of his chin. He notices that John’s body, wriggling restlessly beneath his, is firmer than he expected. He notices John's breath, warm and irregular on his skin.

“Sh-Sherlock?” John stammers, squinting up at him as his eyes adjust to the morning light. “You alright? What’s going on?”

John is not always the best at keeping up with Sherlock’s well-laid plans. It’s likely he wasn’t expecting to wake up handcuffed to his own bed—or with his lanky flatmate lain out over him, pinning him to the mattress.

Perhaps he ought to have been.

***

Earlier that evening...

“You’re going where?” Sprawled out on the sofa, computer in his lap, Sherlock shifts his attention to John.

John stands at the edge, hands on his hips. The amber shades of the sunset coming in through the window do something odd to his features, highlighting the scattered silver hairs on his head. He’s like a silver fox. No—an amber fox.

“New Zealand, Sherlock.”

Sherlock scoffs. "That’s not a real place."

“For a doctor’s conference,” John presses on. “With Sarah.”

“Hm.” Sherlock takes his hands from his laptop and strokes his chin thoughtfully. "That’s not it. There was something else you said. Something unusual."

John rolls his eyes so far that his head tilts back. “There’s nothing unusual about what I've just said. I’ve been talking about this trip for weeks. You never listen when I’m speaking, do you? Just goes in one ear and out the other.”

John appears cross. He often does, though. Sherlock has learned to simply lean into it.

“Mm,” he says agreeably. “I generally tune you out while I’m working. And also, when I’m not working. And at all other times, as well.”

John follows with an incredulous laugh. “Thought as much. Then I suppose you won’t notice that I’ll be gone for a month.” He waves dismissively. “Carry on, then.”

"Sorry?” That didn’t sound real, either. “For how long?"

“A month,” John repeats. “I’ll be back on July twenty-third.”

“A month?” That’s a very long time to be John-less.

Sherlock remains cautiously skeptical, continuing to stroke his chin. "No."

John clicks his tongue against the roof of his mouth and draws it out over his bottom lip. “Pardon?"

“I will need you here. For cases. And for personal entertainment, of course.” Sherlock looks back down at his computer. “Request not granted.” And that ought to be the end of it, but John appears to be on a different page. A different volume altogether, perhaps.

“I don’t remember requesting anything.”

“Could be one of the reasons the request has been denied,” Sherlock offers.

“Look, Sherlock.” John presses his fists into the arm of the sofa and leans in. “It’s already settled. The tickets have been bought, the hotel rooms have been reserved, and my bags are packed. I’m leaving tomorrow morning.”

Sherlock continues typing while John stares at him expectantly. Sherlock's got nothing more to say. He believes he’s made his point clear.

“You hear that?” John leans further, adjusting the cadence of his voice for emphasis. “I’m leaving tomorrow morning.”

“Mhmm.” Sherlock completes his email and presses send with a succinct poke of his index finger. “No you’re not.”

John laughs again as he pushes himself away from the sofa. “Right. I'm going to bed.”

Oh, that laugh, though—Sherlock has become quite fond of that laugh. He's rather fond of John's smile, too. He’s fond of John, actually, even when he’s being cross. And going an entire month without John's laugh? John's smile? John's unresolved anger issues? He can’t imagine what it would be like. He doesn’t want to.

So as John turns to go, Sherlock calls out to him. “John, wait.”

John stops and turns his head slightly over his shoulder. “Yeah?”

“John, if you go, I—" Sherlock pauses. He didn’t actually plan what he was going to say, so he grasps aimlessly for a change of subject. “I don’t—I don’t think I can, erm...work the television on my own.”

John laughs again; even with his head half-turned, Sherlock can see the glow of his smile.

“You’re a genius,” John assures him. “You’ll figure it out. Goodnight, Sherlock.”

Sherlock scowls at him as he walks towards his bedroom, suddenly wishing there were something nearby he could throw at him. He settles for a dirty sock on the floor. “Bad night to you, John Watson,” he murmurs beneath his breath as he crumples the sock and flings it in John’s direction. “Bad night to you.”

John halts. “Did you just throw a dirty sock at me?”

“Don’t know what you mean. Goodnight, John.” Sherlock is finished with him for now. Though John is stubborn, he’s also seldom right—and unbeknownst to him, Sherlock has already begun to construct a foolproof plan for keeping him here.

***

John often underestimates the number of hidden talents Sherlock possesses.

He doesn’t know, for instance, how skilled Sherlock is with a pair handcuffs. Or how many he’s swiped from Lestrade over the years. Or that they are quite readily available to Sherlock at all times, and that several of those handcuffs still have the keys that will unlock them, somewhere.

John also underestimates how much of a heavy sleeper he is. Few people actually know this about him. Sherlock knows, of course, from their time sharing a flat.

People of questionable morals popping in at all hours don’t stir him. He continues to sleep as Sherlock’s boredom and his revolver carve bullet holes in the wall. He's slept through thunderstorms, through Vivaldi and Stravinsky on the violin (the latter of which is not easy).

Once, Sherlock set fire to the kitchen (completely intentional) and screamed for Mrs. Hudson at the top of his lungs (in a purely controlled, civilised tone). The fire alarms did their jobs well, and Mrs. Hudson clambered upstairs with the loud, enormous fire extinguisher to put out the flames.

John was nowhere to be found.

Post-pyrotechnics, Sherlock peeked into John’s bedroom, briefly worried—but John only continued to sleep, snoring like a grizzly bear. At the very least, it was comforting to know that if John were to pass over into death mid-slumber, it would more likely be of sleep apnoea than from Sherlock burning down the flat.

While the aforementioned points are impressive in their own right, they will also greatly facilitate Sherlock’s plans to keep John from going away for an entire month—and that's what matters.

At a quarter past midnight, once John is fast asleep, Sherlock slowly opens his door and sneaks into his bedroom. John is on his back, sprawled out, muttering something about tibia fractures. Sherlock stealthily retrieves his handcuffs and tiptoes towards the head of the bed. He clasps one cuff around John’s wrist with practised skill, and he attaches the other to the bedpost. He steps back to admire his work. Ah, yes. Perfect. All that's left is to await John’s awakening.

And this is where Sherlock begins to realise he hasn't thought his plan completely through.

John will sleep for another six ours at least—and he can't exactly leave him here. It could be traumatising for him to wake up alone, trapped, with no explanation. And though Sherlock wouldn’t be sleeping in the first place, he would at least like to sit or lie down.

But what will he do until then? Sighing, he checks his phone battery. It's nearly dead. He surveys John's room. There is absolutely nothing of interest. The walls are barren and the bookshelves are filled with fantasy novels that are probably set in someplace like outer space or New Zealand.

Ultimately, he elects to sit on the floor and watch John sleep to pass the time. It’s not entirely pointless; if John is to leave for a month (which he isn't), perhaps it's best to retain all the data he can. To study John—from his short, wispy hair to his oddly-shaped toes. To memorise the rhythm of his breaths while he sleeps, or the intermittent sounds he makes as he goes through his REM cycle.

Sherlock finds it quite a compelling use of his time, in fact—John has always been a fascinating subject to study. And for as long as they have known one another, there is a great deal about him that Sherlock has yet to learn. John is a man of many contradictions; there’s something alluring in his aloofness. Something polished in all his rough edges. Something extraordinary in his simplicity; something luminescent in his dullness.

Perhaps he thinks about John more than he'd like to admit. Sometimes, when he thinks of John, he also thinks of things that would make most people blush. He thinks of what it might be like to touch John’s face and study every pore, every wrinkle, every imperfection. What the scent of his shampoo might be reminiscent of, or what the scruff on his face would feel like against his own skin.

Sherlock doesn’t know if he can bear a month without John. He’s grown accustomed to the comfort of a constant companion; to the late night conversations and investigations. To the cold Chinese food and the long runs through the alleyways to escape criminal entanglement.

But he’s aware that John’s got no reason to feel the same. He’s got no reason to miss him. Why would he? He’s got other people besides Sherlock. He’s got his practice. His sister. His girlfriend. His dull conferences and plane tickets and hotel reservations.

As unfair as it feels, Sherlock knows in the back of his mind that he ought be happy for John—not attempting to keep him entirely for himself.

He sighs deeply. Was becoming John’s captor an error on his part? Perhaps, yes. No. Maybe. He can't be sure.

John should probably decide.

"John!" Sherlock bounds up from the floor and calls out for him. "I need your input on an urgent matter!"

John doesn’t stir.

Sherlock makes his way back to the side of John’s bed. "Johnnnnnnn! Wake up! John John John!"

John sleeps on.

"John! Are you dead? Has the sleep apnoea finally taken you?" Sherlock sets a hand on John’s chest and feels his heart beating. Good. He pokes his sternum. "John!"

John coughs. Clicks his tongue to the roof of his mouth. Swallows. Mumbles about squash soup. Goes back to snoring.

"John Hamish Watson!" Sherlock’s voice grows firm. He takes John by the shoulders and gives him a rattle. No response. He hops next to him in the bed and sprawls one knee over his waist until he's got one leg on either side of him. “John?” He shakes his shoulders again. Nothing.

He looks down. He's never actually seen John from this vantage point. He would appreciate it more if he weren’t so annoyed. Crossing his arms over his chest, he lets his body sink down into John's silk pyjama-covered hipbones. There must be something that he can do. But what could be more rousing than fire, or a revolver, or being moderately rattled?

That’s when he’s hit with a memory of his childhood dog, Redbeard. Sometimes, when Redbeard was sleeping, Mycroft would wake him by blowing air into his face. Mycroft is a terrible human. But John is not a dog.

He tilts forwards, stopping just inches above John's face. For a moment, he feels inclined to simply stay like this. Closer to John than he's ever been. Taking in every bit of new information he can.

But he must continue with his current task. He must blow on John.

So he takes a deep breath, puckers his lips and exhales a gust of air onto the bridge of John's nose.

It works like a charm. John's eyelids burst open.

"Good morning, John!" Sherlock’s voice is loud and cheerful. "Did you know you sleep like the dead?" He pushes himself back just enough to look at John's expression, though his eyes immediately fall to John's soft lips. John's uttering of Sherlock's name, however, steals Sherlock's attention from his captivating mouth in favour of his surprisingly firm abdominal muscles.

"Sh-Sherlock? You alright? What's going on?" John surveys the surrounding area, looking over his right shoulder, and then to his left. "Am I...handcuffed to the...?"

"Bed?" Sherlock grins. "You are! Funny story, actually—"

"Oh my god." John cuts him off. He breathes steadily, eyes falling closed again. "Please tell me this is a dream."

"Do you often dream of waking up with me on top of you?" Sherlock blurts. "...Please don't answer."

"Wasn't going to."

"What do you mean by that?"

"It means I wasn't going to say anything." John peers at Sherlock. His patience is already worn thin, though he's been awake for all of thirty seconds. "Please just tell me why I'm cuffed to the bed. And why you're sprawled out on top of me, watching me sleep as though you've been plotting my death."

Sherlock scoffs. "Don't be ridiculous. I would never kill you on purpose, John." He settles back onto his knees, hips coming to rest just above the hem of John's pyjamas. "I can barely stand the thought of you being gone for a month, and death is generally longer than that."

“You’re joking.” John groans and crosses his left arm over his eyes to hide his displeasure. "Is that what this is about? You're pissed off that I'm leaving, so you've decided to take me as your prisoner?"

"Yes," Sherlock responds swiftly, but then he recoils. "I mean, that was the initial plan. But then it occurred to me that perhaps I should ask if that was alright with you, which is why I woke you up."

John unshields his eyes, squinting up at him with disbelief. "Alright. Let me recap, just to be sure I understand."

"Of course," Sherlock says mildly.

"You sneaked into my room while I was asleep."

"Yes."

"And handcuffed me to the bed."

"Indeed."

"So I would miss the trip to New Zealand I've been planning for weeks."

"Ha! New Zealand. But also, yes."

"And! You woke me up at the crack of dawn, after the fact, to ask if I'd be alright with it?"

Sherlock beams. "Well done! But I suppose there is one more thing—"

John holds up one finger towards him, signaling that he needs a moment. He inhales deeply. He must be doing that Youtube technique in which he counts to some arbitrary number to stop his systolic blood pressure from rising to perilous levels.

"What made you think I'd be okay with it?" he finally asks.

"Ah." Sherlock clears his throat. "Good question. I didn't really think that far. I suppose I just—" he coughs. The words he planned to say are feeling a bit chokey all of a sudden.

"You just…?" John lifts a curious eyebrow.

Sherlock gazes back at him, John's expression beseeching but not outraged, as Sherlock assumed it might be. In fact, if he didn't know otherwise, he might believe he detects a speck of hopefulness buried beneath that furrowed brow.

Clinging to the speck, he decides to continue, for better or worse.

"I’m sorry. It’s just that it will be dull and barren and empty without you around," Sherlock continues. "Once you leave, I'm going to miss you. Quite a lot. But I realised it might do me well to get used to missing you. It's doubtful you'll be here at Baker Street forever, and I suppose once I've actually reached the point of kidnapping you, I ought to re-examine my choices…" With that, he can no longer look into John's eyes. He averts them to the empty wall as he begins to predict the many different reactions from John as a result of this confession—none of which are good.

"That’s nothing to be ashamed of, Sherlock."

Sherlock's eyes divert back to his. "You think so?"

"Absolutely," John responds. "We've spent nearly every waking moment together for quite some time now. It will take some getting used to being without one another, but we'll be fine. You'll adjust, and you'll go back to remembering all of the things you like about living alone."

He’s got a valid point. Sherlock does like living alone. Very much—which makes the fact that he really likes John vastly unfortunate.

Sherlock bites his lip thoughtfully, biting harder to keep from arguing. His sight becomes attuned to the tiny fleck of gold in John's right iris which he began studying a few weeks ago. Subsequently, he grows thankful for the hours he just spent studying John. Surely the memories he’s built will be better than nothing.

That’s when he gets another idea.

“John, I’ve got another idea,” he states.

“Alright. Why don’t we start with you uncuffing m—”

Sherlock gives John no time to finish his sentence. He cuts him off by swooping down and settling his body over his. In an equally swift and graceful motion, he ducks his head until he and John are cheek to cheek. He inhales.

John laughs nervously. “Erm...This was your idea?”

“I never knew what you smelled like up close,” Sherlock replies. “Your shampoo, your aftershave, your cologne, all mixed with your unique John-scent.” He turns his head in, brushing his nose against John’s scalp. John’s body tenses ever so slightly. “And now that I’ve begun learning this information, I can store it in my mind palace. Once you’re gone and I begin to miss you, I can simply visit your room there.” He leans his head back as far as it will go, but in this position, it’s not far; his face is still close enough to feel John’s shallow breaths.

John flattens his chin against his neck, meeting Sherlock's gaze. “I've got a room in your mind palace?” 

“Of course you do.” Sherlock tilts his head slightly. “However, I may soon need to carve out an entire John wing, as it's mostly filled to the brim."

John's lips part and he stares back at him silently, blinking a few times, but he doesn't respond.

"So you see," Sherlock continues. "Before you leave, I will need to gather more information that I don't currently have; primarily that which can't be observed from within normal range. A quick sensory examination should give me the knowledge I need.” 

John continues looking up at him, still not speaking.

Sherlock frowns, suddenly concerned that he's making John uncomfortable. Although to be fair, that likely began when he woke up in handcuffs. "Does that make sense?" he asks.

John swallows and pauses as though he's working to retrieve the words. "Oddly, yes."

“There's not much time," Sherlock points out. "So I shall begin the next sensory examination."

"I don't think it's very fair, actually," John interrupts.

Sherlock pauses. "Not fair how?"

"You expect me to just lie here helplessly while you engage in this sensory examination on your own? Don’t I have the right to participate as well—rather than simply as a spectator? What happens if I begin to miss you? Where will all of my data come from?"

Again, a valid point. But that's not what catches Sherlock's attention. "You think there's a chance you might miss me while you’re away?"

"Of course." John shrugs. "I don't have a fancy mind palace, but I'm not heartless."

"No, I suppose not." Sherlock gives an inquisitive tilt of the head. "Are you saying you would like to sniff me, too?"

John bursts into laughter. "When you put it that way, erm, I'm not sure."

"No. Sniff me, John. Please, it’s only fair."

“Alright, then.” Another laugh. Sherlock effortlessly catalogues the sound of it for the hundredth time.

"What would you like to smell?"

"Your hair? It’s what you started with. That will make us even."

Sherlock nods. "Yes, alright. My...hair." That's right. Sherlock's got hair. For John to smell. Sherlock didn't think this was the direction their morning would take, but one never knows with John.

As he advances towards John, a roguish curl tumbles over his forehead, tickling John's nose. “Oh," he mumbles, quickly pushing it back behind his ear. "Apologies."

"No need to apologise," John chuckles as the curl falls forwards again. He reaches up with his singular available hand and tucks it back himself. "That was sort of the point, anyway." He opens his palm and sets it on Sherlock’s head, urging him to continue, and he breathes in as his fingers softly ruffle Sherlock’s hair. 

“How is my scent?” Sherlock doesn’t know why he’s asking. He knows his scent is amazing.

John releases a satisfied sigh. “Your scent is amazing."

Sherlock feels a sudden rush of blood to his cheeks. “I know it is.” That’s when he pulls away once more, mostly because if John continues that magical thing he’s doing with his fingers in his hair, he’ll be far too distracted to move on. “And, you know. You smell...not terrible, too.”

A bit of an understatement. John smells like heaven—if heaven were a small, prickly man.

“Thanks. Always a goal, I suppose. So what’s next?”

“We’ve completed smell,” Sherlock answers. “And now we’ll do sight. Please allow me to look at you.”

“Are you not already?” John asks reasonably. “Isn't observation your specialty? You’re around me most of the time, and my appearance doesn’t change very often. What more could you need to know?"

“True. There are, however, parts of you I haven’t catalogued,” Sherlock states. “Several inches, in fact.” Sherlock clears his throat. “And now that I’ve said that aloud, I feel the need to inform you, as a precautionary measure, that I’m not referring to your penis.”

John purses his lips together, but can’t keep the corners from turning upwards. “That didn’t even occur to me.”

“It didn’t occur to me, either!” Sherlock blurts out, his cheeks on fire. “I don’t think about your penis. I’ve never thought about it. Do you even have a penis? I wouldn’t know, because I have never wondered.” He crosses his arms over his chest and nods sternly. Very convincing, he thinks.

“I definitely have a penis, Sherlock.”

“Good. Congratulations to you.”

"You’re actually quite near it, if you were to move back slightly, you’d have proof—”

“John Watson!” Sherlock exclaims with heartfelt astonishment. “I believe you. It’s fine. Honestly, the nerve of you making such a suggestion! But you will need to remove your shirt now, please.”

“Sorry. Wait, what?”

“Take off your shirt so I can learn more about you!”

“You’re going to study my shirt?”

“Not your shirt! The skin beneath your shirt!” John’s cluelessness is tiresome. He sort of wishes John were on his fantasy island right now. But that desire lasts less than two seconds—and comes to an end when John’s shirt comes off.

“Fine.” John reaches to the hem of his shirt. He lifts it up over his abdomen and chest and then to his head, where he loses his range of motion, and it becomes stuck.

“Little help here, Sherlock?”

“Hush, John,” Sherlock replies; his eyes have already begun wandering over John’s torso. “I’m studying.”

John exhales with frustration and untangles his shirt from his head, pulling it down to cover himself again.

Sherlock gasps in shock.

“You want to study?” John's eyes flit to his own body. “Then you’ll either have to help me get this off…” he glances over his shoulder. “...or remove the cuffs.”

Sherlock rolls his eyes and takes hold of John's shirt. Working in unison, they pull it over his head and his arms until it's dangling from his wrist.

"Perhaps you actually should unlock me now," John suggests. "Otherwise the shirt will still be there. I promise I'm not going anywhere at the moment."

"Mm, yes." Sherlock's eyes are glued to John's magnetic skin. "I'll attempt to locate the key after we’re done here."

"Locate it? You don't have it on you?"

"It's somewhere in my wardrobe." Sherlock notices a freckle just below John's third rib that he's never seen before. "Or perhaps inside my desk. Don't worry, I'll probably find it."

John swallows. "You cuffed me to the bed without the key in your immediate possession?"

Sherlock diverts his gaze back to John's. "Does that make you angry?"

"A bit."

"Would it help if I removed my shirt as well?"

"Definitely."

Sherlock files away this technique as a method of settling John down, and he takes off his shirt.

John makes no attempt at hiding his observation of Sherlock's bare skin. "Wow, Sherlock. You're—"

"Yes, I'm aware that I should get outside more often and eat more regularly; you and Mrs. Hudson remind me almost daily."

"I was just going to say that you’re gorgeous," John says.

“Oh.” Sherlock's stomach does a flip. "Nobody has ever used that word to describe me before."

"People are idiots."

"They are. But it’s time to stop talking, John. Stop talking and examine me."

"It’s possible to do both at once." John flashes Sherlock a cheeky grin.

His grin sends Sherlock’s stomach into a double-flip, this time with a side of lightheadedness. He closes his eyes and realises he's holding his breath. Perhaps it’s time to move on to the next section. Yes, the discovery of the novel rib freckle is plenty.

"Sherlock, are you alright?" John asks.

Sherlock opens one eye and peeks at John, who has a concerned look on his face. "Yes. Why wouldn't I be?"

"You seem nervous."

"No. I'm not nervous in the slightest!" Sherlock fibs. "I’m simply...erm, cold."

"Would you like to put your shirt back on?"

"I'm fine."

"Look, Sherlock." John shuffles backwards to lean onto his elbow. "I know this was your idea, but we can stop any time. Just say the word."

"I'm fine," Sherlock reiterates. "But I think we should move to the next examination."

“Alright. Whatever you say.”

Sherlock steadies himself over John’s waist and extends his arm, palm facing forwards. “Give me your hand.”

“Which one?” John teases.

“Clever.” Sherlock lifts an eyebrow. “Hand.”

John regards him for a moment, lips pursed together. “Alright.” He lifts his hand to Sherlock until their palms are aligned and he presses them together gently. Like a habit, their fingers curl down, interlocking.

John's touch is exhilarating. Intoxicating. A sensory experience unrecognisable to Sherlock, yet pleasant. It stirs something in him like a jolt of electricity, yet safe—like a chill, yet warm.

"Wow," Sherlock breathes, gaze falling to their joined hands. "I wasn't expecting that."

John's eyes grow wide. "Neither was I." He squeezes Sherlock's fingers between his own, and it seems to reignite the waves of euphoria.

Words escape Sherlock. He hums with approval.

"Your hands are also cold," John notes.

"Yours are quite warm," Sherlock observes.

"That’s what we seem to do best, isn’t it?” John smiles softly. “Balance one another out." 

And that, in so many words, is why Sherlock will miss John so dearly. John’s not only his best friend and flatmate. He’s the yin to his yang, the sunrise to his sunset, the heart to his brain. And now that he has his other half, the thought of life without him seems dull and dreary. 

Amidst the joining of their hands and their gazes, the realisation leaves Sherlock feeling far more exposed than the bareness of his chest. He releases John's hand—it’s all a bit too much for now. 

John lets his own arm come back to rest on his chest, but the softness in his expression doesn't fade. "Dare I ask what's next?" he inquires.

Sherlock's worried about the words that may come out of his mouth if he were to explain—not so much the words as the emotion behind them. He decides it would be better to demonstrate.

"Close your eyes," Sherlock instructs.

John takes a deep breath and exhales. "Alright." His eyelids drift shut.

The limitless trust John appears to have in Sherlock briefly restores his faith in his own methods, propelling him to the next task. He sets his hands onto the bed, lowering himself until he’s above John's chest. Parting his lips, he draws his tongue from his mouth. He extends it with calm deliberation, flattening it against John's sternum.

"Oh." John inhales sharply. "You're going to learn my taste, then?"

"Nnn-hnnn," Sherlock responds, trailing his tongue upwards to John’s right clavicle.

“Sherlock.” John shivers and releases a sigh. 

"Whuh?" Sherlock's tongue is still at work, moving from clavicle to suprasternal notch to second clavicle.

"I—" Johns squirms slightly. "If I’m to partake in this sensory examination, I hope you’re alright with my body...responding as it will."

Sherlock's tongue crawls back down John's chest, and he presses it down more firmly as he comes to the crest of John's nipple.

John's hips buck upwards as he releases a short, startled cry of pleasure. 

Oh, Sherlock quite enjoys that. Perhaps he will need to modify further plans for the examination.

"Sherlock," John warns, biting off a moan. "I need to know that you're okay with this."

Sherlock retracts his tongue, continuing to graze his lips over John's nipple. "I am more than okay with it," he murmurs. "You taste divine; and furthermore, your vocal feedback is captivating, to say the least."

“Yes, well...” John laughs breathlessly, his hand coming to rest on Sherlock's back, just beneath the hem of his pyjamas. “That's not the only feedback you're going to receive."

Sherlock hopes not. As he circles his tongue around John's nipple, John continues the pattern of surging hips and cries of pleasure. Somehow, it only makes him more delicious.

He licks across John's chest to his second nipple to explore its taste—just as sweet as the first. He cradles John’s head in his hands before continuing, his mouth traveling up to his flushing neck. Tastes the beads of sweat forming on John's skin, the vibrations of his Adam's apple as he grunts with arousal. Tastes the irregular throbbing of his pulse. Tastes the scruff of his jaw, and the shell of his ear, and his blushing cheekbones. Tastes one corner of John’s mouth. His unshaven chin, underlying the base of his lips. Tastes the other corner of his mouth.

John's head turns, his lips falling apart. "It’s my turn now." His voice is rough like gravel.

John opens his mouth further, inviting Sherlock's tongue into its slick heat. It slides in effortlessly, sweeping against John's, and oh, god—John's mouth is like nothing Sherlock’s ever known. He’s instantly driven by the need to learn every corner of it, every slick cell. He delves in, examining it inch by inch, again and again.

And although he makes his best attempt to savour it, it isn’t enough. He needs more. And if he loses control of himself, so be it.

"More," he demands, his voice rumbling against John's lips.

John brings his hand from Sherlock's hip to the back of his head, spreading his palm and pressing inwards to further deepen the access Sherlock has been granted. He wrestles with Sherlock’s tongue (John wins, but they are clearly both the victors), learning every bit of Sherlock’s mouth there is.

Still, it's not enough. Sherlock doesn't want to breathe, he doesn’t want to move. He wants only this. Learning the taste of John Watson's mouth is the most superb experience he's ever known, and now that he’s encountered it, he must not allow himself to lose it. He closes his eyes, every part of his brain attuned to this singular flood of sensations. As he moans into John's mouth, he can feel the presence of his own body more acutely than he ever has. He feels John's body, too—every inch of it. Feels John’s fingers trickling down his back as he sets his hand on his hip protectively—in that action, letting Sherlock know that he's safe.

Once Sherlock can't go another second without breathing, he finally pulls his tongue from John's mouth. He finds his fingers knotted in John's short hair, and the both of them panting and out of breath.

John smiles. "How do I taste?"

"No words," Sherlock manages to utter. As his senses begin to redistribute, he realises that he's straddling John's hips—frotting against him relentlessly, and that he’s grown so hard beneath his waist it nearly aches.

"John.”

"Sherlock," he murmurs against his ear. "Is this still something you want to do?"

"It wasn't part of the initial plan," Sherlock breathes. "But yes. Yes, I want this. I think actually, I need this."

"I do too,” John whispers in confession.

Sherlock's head falls forwards to rest on John's chest. As they continue rutting their hardness together, he inhales John's heady scent. He flicks his tongue over his chest. He basks in the sounds they make and the echoing reactions of their bodies. He clings to John as though he’s all he has, and John does the same.

"John," he says softly. He can’t bear the wait any longer. “I need to learn the rest of you."

"Yes. I want to learn the rest of you, too," John sighs. "And just to be clear, you're referring to—"

"Your penis. Yes, John. Remove your pyjamas."

"Yes. Yes. You too. Though I will need your assistance in getting mine off." He coughs. "My pyjamas, that is."

But Sherlock is already fumbling at both of their waistbands, tugging their garments from their bodies. John's several-inched cock springs out, followed by Sherlock's cock of standard inches. Sherlock quickly lays himself down, pressing their naked lengths together, continuing to frot.

For minutes on end, his senses fade to the noises they're creating. To John whispering into his ear that he's beautiful. That he never dreamed this could happen. That if had known, he would not have planned this trip at all; he would have taken Sherlock on a proper date where afterwards, perhaps both hands would be involved in foreplay. That he would savour every moment, every sensation they shared, just as he is now.

And with that, there is but one thing remaining.

"I want to know what it's like,” Sherlock begins. “How you sound. How you feel. How you look and how you taste, John—when you reach orgasm, buried deep inside me."

"Yes. God, yes."

John instructs Sherlock to reach into the drawer and retrieve the lubrication; explains in detail how to smear it generously over his penis. How to seat himself over his lap so that he can slowly, carefully press into him and open him up. 

John holds on to him as tightly as he can, gliding him bit by tortuous bit until he pushes himself in fully; Sherlock slides down, and he fits him like a glove. 

John begins arching into Sherlock's body as Sherlock uses his abdominals to grind against him in forwards and backwards motions. His eyes fall closed and his head falls back. He is awash with every sensation in the universe, embraced in wonder and heat and ecstasy: his curls matted to his sweaty forehead. The aroma of sweat and sex and yearning. The tinny taste of blood from biting his lip too hard; the indescribable noises John makes.

John’s movements become faster and fuller as he drives in further and further, and Sherlock gives over to every movement like a rag doll, bouncing wantonly in his lap. And the love he has for John—for no other word seems worthy—it doesn’t belong to any of the known senses, but somehow encompasses them all. 

He sees John's orgasm approaching before he feels or hears it—his face twisting in a way he's never observed; his nostrils flared, tongue peeking out as he bites his bottom lip in concentration. The sound of it quickly follows; a low, wild snarl in the back of his throat, saying Sherlock’s name so loudly it's nearly a roar. And finally, the physical manifestation—John's stiffening, pulsing cock as he buries himself desperately inside Sherlock, fucking him without restraint.

And amidst all of this, it happens—as John cries out Sherlock's name one final time, the wood of the bedpost begins to crack, and John pulls his cuffed arm away from it. Without missing a beat, he wraps his fingers around Sherlock's cock and tugs up and down, coaxing him expertly towards climax.

Sherlock comes.

He comes with John inside him, himself in John's hand. The sensations he encounters cannot be explained in words. Not in a single paragraph; nor a single book. Perhaps not a million books. But he doesn’t concern himself with the explanation, not this time—instead, he chooses to partake in the present moment with all he has.

Once the two of them are satiated, they collapse at one another's sides, bodies entwined. Sherlock feels whole. Content. Exhausted. But as happy as he is, it won’t stop time from coming.

"You broke the bed, John,” he observes aloud. 

“Yes. I suppose I did. Whoops.”

"Then you are free to go now, if you wish."

"No. You’ve won, Sherlock,” John responds. “I'm not going anywhere.”

Those are the last words Sherlock hears before he dozes off, contentment and exhaustion winning out over the ticking of the clock.

***

When Sherlock wakes up, he's still in John's bed, but no longer in his arms. He bolts upwards in a panic, calling out John's name.

"Yes?" John says calmly.

Sherlock turns. John is still there in bed next to him. A surge of relief fills his chest. "I was worried you'd left."

John settles back onto his side to face Sherlock, resting his head in his hand. "You are very beautiful, and very sexy, and deeply convincing." He smiles. "I canceled the trip, Sherlock. I'm staying here."

"Oh." Sherlock hesitates. “Are you certain? This isn’t some form of—you know, temporary Stockholm Syndrome?”

“Far from it,” John chuckles. “My desire to be near you has been real for a very long time.”

Sherlock is unsure of how to react. His body, however, reacts of its own accord. It lunges forwards, throwing its arms around John's shoulders in an affectionate embrace; its voice murmuring "thank god" as its lips press themselves softly against John's neck.

John wraps both arms around Sherlock and returns the embrace. "And though I guess it doesn’t need to be said, Sarah and I broke up."

Sherlock's body does not care about Sarah. "The important part is that I get to keep you."

"Yes, Sherlock. You get to keep me."

"Promise?”

"Promise. Maybe use less police equipment in the future, though.”

"Fine," Sherlock agrees. "I suppose your word is binding enough."

John lets go of him, takes his head into his hand, and looks into his eyes. "Shall we also seal the deal with a kiss?"

Sherlock beams at him. "Couldn't hurt."

John tilts his face in to gently press their lips together. And yes, it seals the deal indeed.