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The first time it happens, it’s been one of those adrenaline-fueled, testosterone-pumping, outlandishly brilliant cases ending in a spectacular chase that has the two of them sweating and panting against the wall for a solid five minutes when they finally stumble, red-faced and glowing with life, through the door of Baker Street. John huffs out a laugh, blood pumping so hard through his veins he can hardly hear anything over the sound rushing in his ears. Their eyes catch and they break into fresh giggles, Sherlock’s deep chuckle rumbling through John’s high-pitched cackle—the one he can’t help, no matter how hard he tries to suppress it.

Before he can grasp what’s happening, John finds himself pressed further into the wall, shoulder blades scraping painfully against the plaster as Sherlock captures his lips with his own. John blinks hard, neurons short-circuiting when Sherlock's tongue slips into his mouth and traces the edges of his teeth before biting down on his lower lip and growling. Whether it’s the adrenaline or the rush of endorphins or the fact that John hasn’t gotten laid in ages, the reality is this feels bloody brilliant and John momentarily forgets that he’s straight, forgets that snogging his flatmate in the middle of the hallway is probably not the best plan, forgets everything except the taste and feel of Sherlock’s mouth against his.  

John surges forward, plunging his tongue into Sherlock's mouth and pushing at him with all his weight, but Sherlock is apparently stronger than he looks because he just curls his long hands around John's hips and shoves him harder against the garish wallpaper. John's head thunks back against the plaster and he groans when Sherlock's teeth nip along his pulse point. John's hands somehow find their way tangled through dark curls and he's barely aware of anything except the slow grind of their hips, inexplicably harder than he's ever been in his life. The feeling of Sherlock's erection against his thigh is what finally snaps him out of his lust-induced haze.

"Sherlock," he pants, absurdly aware of how breathy his voice sounds. "What," he gasps, "What are you doing?"

"Obvious," Sherlock purrs into his ear, rolling his hips against John's in an increasingly mind-numbing tempo. John feels helpless, overwhelming desire crashing through him and making his breath catch. It's all happening so fast and before he can even think, Sherlock's tugging at his zip, long pale fingers closing around his cock and pulling and John is lost.

"Shhhhit," he hisses, head banging again against the wall. He'll have a lump there in the morning if he keeps this up, but it's hard to worry about that when Sherlock's hand is twisting and sliding and grasping and pumping. He's panting into John's open mouth now, not touching, but humid air gathering between their lips. John's fingers tighten around the fabric at Sherlock's biceps. He's so ridiculously close, worked up and shivering like a sixth former, teetering on the edge of what is sure to be an incredible orgasm when Sherlock licks a trail up his neck and then sinks his teeth into the hinge at John's jaw.

"Oh god," is all he manages and he is coming, slick and hard, cock pumping and jerking in Sherlock's hand. He melts backwards into the wall, knees buckling and legs failing. Gravity takes over and he slides down until he's sitting on the floor, knees and feet akimbo. He's only vaguely aware of the vision before him: Sherlock tugging at the front of his trousers with his clean hand. He's uncomfortably close to Sherlock's groin here, eye level with the activity as Sherlock finally frees himself of his trousers and plunges his semen-covered hand into his pants.

John's brain feels sluggish and sated, but he can't tear his eyes away from the sight of Sherlock's forearm flexing rhythmically as he tosses himself off, using John's come as a lubricant. It's quite possibly the dirtiest, most arousing sight John's ever witnessed and before he can think about it, he finds his fingers tugging at the black cotton of Sherlock's boxer briefs, desperate to see Sherlock's cock.

It's surprisingly normal looking; perhaps a tad longer than John's, but definitely slimmer and currently flushed and slick with John's own semen. John's mesmerized by the sight of the purple head peeking over the top of Sherlock's thumb on every stroke, foreskin pulled back and positively leaking pre-come.

John makes the disastrous mistake of looking up. Sherlock's eyes are focused entirely on him and the intensity of his gaze takes John's breath away. He looks absolutely sinful: a high color along his impossible cheekbones, eyes bright and pupils blown wide, full bottom lip trapped tightly between his teeth, chest heaving with exertion.

"John," he rumbles, a full octave lower than his normal speaking voice and John feels it all the way down his spine, sinking beneath his skin and wrapping tightly around his ribs. "John, open your mouth."

Not even stopping to think, John licks his lower lip and lets his jaw relax, not taking his eyes from Sherlock's piercing gaze. Suddenly, Sherlock's whole body jerks and John feels hot, wet come splash along his cheek, dripping onto his open mouth and down his chin. Without conscious thought, John licks his lips, startling at the bitter, salty taste. It's not exactly pleasant and the realization of what he's doing abruptly crashes over him.

Fuck. Oh, fuck.

The reality of the situation douses through him like ice water. They are barely inside the building, just on the other side of the (thankfully closed) door at the bottom of the stairs. Any second now, Mrs Hudson might come out of her flat and find them, cocks out and covered in come. Sherlock looks completely wrecked:face flushed and sweaty, forearms braced against the wall, prick soft and dangling out of his pants, usually crisp trousers bunched around his knees. John is uncomfortably aware that his own pants are sticky and cold, congealing semen practically cementing his bollocks to his inner thigh. His face is still dripping, Sherlock’s come running down his chin and onto his jumper. Christ, they hadn't even taken off their coats.

Feeling admittedly spiteful, John reaches up and tugs at Sherlock's ridiculous scarf, using the no doubt obscenely expensive fabric to wipe the mess off his face. Sherlock snorts and straightens, tucking himself back together and looking remarkably calm considering the fact that John's whole world seems to have shifted without his knowledge.

He’s just so frustratingly collected that when he extends an imperious hand down to help heft John to his feet, John uses the momentum to pull him in close, mashing their lips together in an unmistakably awkward kiss. John’s suddenly unsure what to do with his hands, so he settles for tugging at Sherlock’s shoulders. Sherlock is completely unresponsive, eyebrows climbing towards his hairline and eyes boring unblinkingly into John’s. After a tense few seconds, John gives up and backs away, more confused than he’s ever felt before. He feebly goes to hand Sherlock his scarf, but Sherlock just quirks a haughty eyebrow at him and smirks, turning on his heel and taking the stairs two at a time.

John is left in the middle of the hallway, zipping his denims and wondering what the fuck just happened.

: :

They never talk about it. It only happens occasionally, and if John’s honest, not nearly as much as he’d like. He’s never been able to initiate their little trysts and on some level, he supposes he resents that, but it’s frankly hard to think when Sherlock is in his space, dominating his senses and bending John to his will. The one time John tried to shove Sherlock back against the sitting room wall, the reaction had been… less than favorable.

“What are you doing, John?” Sherlock had asked, brows furrowed with a look of startled concern in his pale eyes.

“I need you. Now,” John growled into his neck, nipping the skin before Sherlock roughly shoved him away.

“John,” Sherlock had said, firmly keeping him at arm’s length and leaving it at that. He’d straightened his lapels, cracked his elegant neck and sidestepped John smoothly before extracting his mobile from his pocket and tapping out a rapid text.

John had been left frustrated and hard, one hand braced and shaking against the absurd wallpaper and a hard knot of resentment burning in his gut. He’d suddenly felt incredibly used, and not in a good way.

It takes two solid days before John finally calms himself down enough to talk to Sherlock. Sherlock, on the other hand, is completely oblivious for once. He’s knee-deep in a case (almost literally) and it takes every ounce of self-control John has not to scream himself hoarse when he comes back from his shift at the surgery to find himself mired in soot from apparently every single fireplace in the greater London area. All over the floor.

“Jesus…” he starts, fingers pinching hard on the bridge of his nose, takes a deep breath and begins again. “Sherlock? What the actual fuck?”

“Ah, John. Excellent,” Sherlock says and his face brightens for a split second before he’s immersed himself back amongst the bins and bags full of presumably more bloody soot. He has a smear of dark powder across his nose and John tries hard not to think the word adorable, but fails miserably. His rage gets the better of him, however, and just as it looks like Sherlock is about to dump another load of the foul stuff onto the rug, John’s hand shoots out and grabs hold of the deceptively innocent bag.

“John?” Sherlock actually looks startled for a moment before his eyes narrow and John steels himself for the inevitable feeling of Sherlock’s laser-beam irises taking rapid stock of him. With a small oh, Sherlock lets his hand drop. “You’re angry.”

John is incredulous for all of two seconds. “Angry? Oh no, Sherlock. I’m fucking furious.”

This is evidently either completely obvious or utterly ignorable because Sherlock is distracted again, toeing at one pile of ashes and producing a great black smear across the floorboards. His calm state of aloofness pushes John over the edge and before he can think about it, he shoves hard into Sherlock’s shoulder, nearly knocking the man backwards into a pile of soot.

“What the bloody hell is wrong with you?” John shouts, hands balled into fists at his side, pure rage and outright frustration pounding through his skull and making everything sound fuzzy. Sherlock seems to have the unique ability of causing John’s blood pressure to shoot sky high in a mere matter of seconds, regardless of the reason. Right now, that reason is an absolute toxic mess of a sitting room and an infuriatingly calm consulting detective.

“It’s for a case, John,” Sherlock states, as though that is reason enough for piles and piles of black ash trodden into their flooring.

“Well I’d sure as hell hope so!” John explodes, hands sailing through the air in exasperation. He tries to take another calming breath, counts to twenty this time and rubs that spot between his eyes again like it’s the only thing left keeping him sane. “Right,” he finally says, huffing the word out with considerable effort. “Right. You’re hoovering this insanity up right this minute and so help me god, Sherlock, if I find one speck of soot anywhere near this flat when you’re done, I’m out of here.”

“John,” Sherlock says again placatory, condescending and almost amused, but whatever he was about to say is cut off when John’s hand shoots towards his face, fending off the tirade of speech no doubt making its way forward.

“I don’t want to hear it. Clean it up. Now.” John stomps up the stairs to his room, noting with disgust that his shoes are tracking little cakes of soot in their wake.

If John is honest with himself, it’s not just the disaster of their sitting room that’s rubbing him raw at the moment. It’s Sherlock’s complete lack of regard for him in every aspect of their lives. Sometimes, when John is as frustrated as he is now, he wonders what would happen if he actually did make good on his threats, pack up one day and finally leave. It’s not as though Sherlock actually needs help paying the rent if his designer suits and bespoke trousers are anything to go on. What is he even still doing here, really?

And isn’t that just the crux of the problem. The thing is, John isn’t even sure what his role is in Sherlock’s life anymore, nor what his flatmate-cum-lover is doing in his own life either. It seems he’s just around these days out of sheer familiarity. Sherlock doesn’t need him for money, he doesn’t need him on cases (if he ever really did in the first place), he doesn’t listen when John tries to tell him to eat or sleep or take care of himself in any way whatsoever and he certainly doesn’t seem to need him for sentimentality. In fact, the only thing John seems to be good for these days is sex, and that is just not good enough.

Sighing, John tugs off his jumper and settles in to bed. Hopefully the mess will be cleared up in the morning, both the one in the sitting room and the one cluttering his consciousness.

: :

The sitting room is relatively clean again the following evening, just the usual detritus of knick-knacks and books littering the thankfully soot-free floor. Sherlock is nowhere to be found, presumably in his room either sulking or sleeping. Hopefully the latter, John thinks a little spitefully, recalling the most recent bout of insomnia and the resulting mess of a living space.

The tension when he’d left in the morning was nearly palpable and John could feel it from the very moment he’d opened his bedroom door. Tactical retreat seemed the best route, and though John had tried to justify his Speedy’s breakfast and Starbucks coffee with convenience, he’d felt the cowardice follow him through the whole day like a lost puppy. Guilt and anger had warred heavily on the edges of his consciousness, making him short and unusually abrasive with his patients.

John sighs and tries not to think about the ache that seemed to settle along his ribs every time he thought about the nearly wounded look on Sherlock’s face when he’d shouted at him. He knows Sherlock. Knows he can be hurt far more easily than he lets on, knows the way his shoulders tense every time Sally Donovan calls him a freak, knows how hard he tries to suppress his need for his brother’s approval, knows how his features soften when he thinks nobody can see him. John’s seen it all and he’s fairly appalled at himself for turning on Sherlock the way everyone else seems to. John should know better. He does know better, and that’s what bothers him the most.

The flat is too quiet with Sherlock’s door closed tight and Mrs Hudson at her sister’s for the weekend. Nights like this used to nearly break John after he’d been discharged from the RAMC with honors. When the silence in his bedsit became too much and the lure of his illegal Sig used to weigh heavily on the back of his mind, he used to go walking. He’d wander the streets of London, disgusted with his own body’s betrayal, trying to recall what it had been like to be happy here where life went on without the smells and sounds of someone else’s war.

It’s difficult to remember what he’d been like before deployment. Before he’d been broken. Before he knew the taste of blood and panic tainted with smoke and sand. Before one bad decision had led to a small piece of metal tearing through flesh and bone and the rest of his patrol being shipped home in boxes. War changes a man and John’s honestly not sure if he’s changed for the better or much, much worse.

He’s trying with Sherlock, he really is. Ever since Afghanistan it’s been difficult to let anyone get close. All of his old mates from Uni and the weekend rugby club seem to have drifted away. Or, more appropriately, John drifted and they stayed exactly the same: stationary in life with houses and families and steady jobs and nightmare-free sleep cycles. Even Harry had mentioned it, though how she’d even noticed he’d been gone with her blood-alcohol content reaching critical mass was anyone’s guess. Sherlock is different, though.

Somehow, Sherlock always manages to worm his way past John’s defenses, tearing his carefully constructed walls to shreds without even seeming to care. It’s been that way since their very first night together, haring off through London’s back alleys in pursuit of that mad cabbie and his sycophantic death wish.

John sighs again and rubs at his eyes with his palms. Sherlock is a perfect enigma and John has no illusions about his own deductive prowess to even think he stands a chance at figuring him out. That he’s beginning to see chips in the supposedly flawless veneer is nothing but close proximity and begrudging familiarity. He’s beginning to suspect that Sherlock would eventually crack around anyone he was forced to be near with such alarming frequency.

John is not, and never has been, anything special.

The sound of the bathroom door closing breaks John of his reverie. He takes note of the street lamps and his stone-cold tea and realizes he’s been sitting on the sofa, wallowing in self-deprecation for the better part of an hour. His maudlin mood breaks a little at Sherlock’s complete lack of tact when he waltzes into the sitting room and plops down on the worn leather cushions, immediately swinging his feet onto John’s lap as though he’s not even there.

The move is at once so utterly thoughtless and so characteristically Sherlock that John almost laughs. Trust this man to be the most complicated and overly analytical human being in the world and yet make absolutely nothing of the spectacular row they’d had not twenty-four hours ago. John hears the small huff of exasperation and affection escape his throat without clear effort and Sherlock shifts a bit, peering over his steepled fingers through his fringe.

“Problem?” he asks, left eyebrow climbing up his forehead like a restless caterpillar.

John’s lips stretch into a surprisingly easy smile. “Not at all.”

He flips on the telly and finds something suitably mind-numbing for the duration of the evening. He knows he should try and talk to Sherlock about their relationship, the undercurrent of tension from their spat the night before, or even the state of their kitchen, but he’s honestly not even sure what it is he wants and he’s loathe to enter into any conversation lightly.

An hour later and three quarters of the way through the latest episode of Top Gear, and Sherlock’s stomach grumbles loud enough to be heard over Clarkson’s review of the newest BMW. He looks genuinely startled at the noise and John can’t help a small chuckle.

“When was the last time you ate?” John asks.

“Irrelevant,” Sherlock replies, eyes closed and fingers still steepled beneath his chin like a bloody nun.

“Sherlock.”

Sherlock sighs and fixes John with a petulant stare. “Not sure. When did you make beans on toast?”

John’s brow creases involuntarily. “Christ, Sherlock. You haven’t eaten since Monday?” At his pointed stare, John digs in his denims for his mobile. “Right then. I’m ordering take-away. You will eat it and there will be no more discussion on the matter.”

Sherlock sighs deeply and stares back up at the ceiling, for all the world a put-upon child with an unfair punishment. “Yes, mother,” he grouses and John throws a cushion at him.

“Sod off, you adolescent tosser.”

“Kinky,” Sherlock retorts, lips quirking up at the corners and John feels his lingering tension fade. God he’s missed this: the easy friendship and constant jibing at each other like a pair of old grans. It’s something John has grown to crave with Sherlock and ever since that first time in the hallway, he’s felt it markedly missing in their lives.

John orders curry while Sherlock toes at his side, trying to make him laugh while on the phone by tickling him of all things and John can’t help the muffled giggles as he gives the address for delivery. As soon as he rings off, he dives for Sherlock, secretly loving the way he yelps and tries to shove away despite the clear lack of space. John gets an elbow to the diaphragm for his troubles, but it’s worth it to see Sherlock squirm and laugh helplessly when John gets his fingers up around his ribs.

John is merciless, having spent a lot of his time as a child fending off similar attacks from his physically larger sister. For some reason, he sincerely doubts that was a common occurrence in the Holmes household. John’s momentary pause at the mental image of Mycroft doing anything so ordinary as tickle his younger brother is all the leverage Sherlock needs to flip them over, pinning John down into the cushions and trapping his hands at his sides. 

He’s clearly pleased with himself as he tosses his hair out of his face and grins widely down at John. It’s incredible to see Sherlock’s expression split into something as free and easy as a playful tickling match on the sofa. They’re both still giggling, tiny helpless huffs of laughter escaping as they attempt to catch their breath. John doesn’t even have to think about it as he leans up and brushes his lips lightly across Sherlock’s.

Sherlock freezes above him and John silently curses his own lack of thought. For most people, this would have been the natural progression of the evening: quiet cuddling on the couch, playful banter and foreplay disguised innocently as a tickle fight, followed by dinner filled with increasingly asinine innuendo and falling into bed after for mind-blowing sex. But Sherlock is not most people and this is not exactly a date.

“John,” Sherlock rumbles, and it almost sounds uncertain. John closes his eyes and tries to check his libido, unaware apparently of the difference between a willingly pliant date and this impossible man.

He’s spared having to respond by the sound of the buzzer going at the door. Sherlock stares intensely at him for a few more seconds, an unreadable expression clouding his usually sharp gaze, before he shifts off and allows John to collect their dinner.

John scratches the back of his neck as he remounts the stairs, wondering when this whole thing had gone so extraordinarily pear-shaped. If this were a normal situation, he’d have his date eating out of the palm of his hand by now. John’s not an arrogant man, especially next to the likes of Sherlock bloody Holmes, but he’s pretty confident in his pulling capabilities and he’s slept with a fair enough share of the populace to wager he knows a thing or two about getting a leg over. Sherlock just doesn’t follow any social rules as far as John can see, so he feels like he’s navigating without a compass most of the time.

Sighing, he reaches the sitting room and drops back onto the sofa. To his great surprise, there are two plates and cutlery already laid out on the coffee table, and Sherlock is headed towards him with two wine glasses and a bottle. He must have a look of utter incredulity on his face, because Sherlock halts halfway through the sitting room door and his brow furrows in attention.

“Did you not want a drink?” he asks, sounding impossibly uncertain.

John’s eyebrows shoot up and he swallows hard. “Erm, no. No, that’s… fine. Great, actually. Thanks.” It’s all a bit awkward, but John resolutely unpacks the curry, extracting the small containers of rice and plastic boxes that smell positively divine.

For all his earlier grumbling, Sherlock attacks his food with an indecent amount of vigor usually confined to teenage boys and American tourists, and John can’t help but smile. At least he’s doing this much good in Sherlock’s life: feeding him up when he would normally have let himself starve. The curry is spicy and John is happy for the cool chardonnay that slides down his throat with probably too much ease for comfort.

They’re relatively quiet through dinner, limiting their small talk to fairly innocuous topics. John talks about his incredibly crap day at the surgery and Sherlock attempts to explain his newest kitchen experiment. It almost feels like normal; well, their version of normal anyway, and John finds himself wistfully pleased with the evening.

Apparently his earlier stolen kiss is not to be spoken of, since Sherlock seems to have forgotten the incident entirely in favor of waxing poetic over the growth rate of mould cultures in petri dishes. John finds himself smiling at Sherlock’s obvious enthusiasm, an expression that is returned whenever Sherlock catches his eye mid-sentence. Eventually, their conversation wanes on its own and they fall into a comfortable silence, sipping idly at their wine and picking at stray pieces of rice.

John stretches back into the cushions, full and remarkably happy. Sherlock looks drowsy and satisfied, actually bringing the plates into the kitchen and dumping them into the sink before snatching up his wine glass and flopping down next to John. He stretches his absurdly long legs out and rests his feet on the coffee table, bare toes wiggling in the air like a child. The aura of utter contentment is seeping through the room like smoke, and John finds himself vaguely reluctant to break whatever spell seems to have fallen over their flat. Without actually thinking about it, he drops his head onto Sherlock’s pointed shoulder and sighs into his own glass.

To his amazement, Sherlock just chuckles lightly and maneuvers them both so he’s reclining slightly into the sofa, pulling John’s head to rest against his chest instead. He begins trailing lazy patterns on the back of John’s neck with two incredibly long fingers. John feels the tension of the past few days draining from him entirely and he can feel the slow tendrils of sleep creeping in along his consciousness.

Sherlock sips at the last of his wine before shifting over and dropping the glass onto the rug. He reaches forward and tugs John’s glass out of his fingers as well before kissing him lightly on the top of the head. John is so startled by the easy affection that he blinks up at Sherlock in something like shock. Things have been so complicated lately that he almost forgot what it felt like to simply be around his best friend.

It’s so easy. Sherlock leans forward and presses his mouth to John’s, slow and sweet. It’s just a brush of lips, meant as simple affection and John feels his heart clench tightly around this new feeling. Sherlock makes a small humming noise in the back of his throat and pushes forward a little more, allowing his tongue to trace delicately at the seam of John’s lips, dipping inside and sliding along John’s slowly and deliberately. It feels like an apology, like a benediction and like a promise all at once.

It’s suddenly not enough and John allows his arms to slide up Sherlock’s shoulders, turning in his lap to straddle the man and bring their bodies into full contact. Sherlock groans, low and deep and John feels his control slip just a little bit more.

His lips graze across the long expanse of pale neck and feels Sherlock shudder beneath him, large hands sliding up John’s thighs to encircle his waist and pull him closer.  John takes it as an invitation and buries his fingers into thick, dark curls, tilting Sherlock’s head back and sucking a light bruise into the side of his neck.

“Yes,” Sherlock sighs into his mouth, tongue a bit more insistent now, but no less tender.  “Yes, John. Yes.”

It’s slow this time, passion and heat building between them with every gentle caress of flesh, every reverent kiss. Sherlock is languid and pliant beneath John, mouth soft and hushed against John’s skin. John can feel himself falling, spiraling out of control as the moments stretch and grow between them.  When Sherlock finally begins easing John out of his clothing, it’s careful and worshipful, brushing his lips along every new stretch of naked skin until John is a quivering mess of sensation and emotion.  

Sherlock’s eyes are wide and dark, pupils dilated into large pools of fathomless depths. John imagines himself tumbling into them and never reaching the bottom. Sherlock whispers John’s name against his sweat-slicked skin, quiet and decadent as a prayer.

All the usual frenzy is replaced by slow deliverance, Sherlock’s body cradling John’s as they move together towards climax. When John finally comes, it feels like liberation, pulsing out of him in thick waves that leave him breathless and unburdened. Sherlock follows closely behind, orgasm shaking him to the very core, shuddering and arching beneath John, head thrown back and mouth moving around the shape of John’s name.

They’re quiet afterwards, cocooned and warm in the safe haven of their sitting room. John can feel the shift of their relationship; tectonic plates rearranging their world and creating new chasms in which to fall. He knows how perilous this is: the tentative calm before the storm that is life with Sherlock.

Eventually, the air in the room cools enough to pull them out of their heady embrace. John moves first, gathering his discarded vest and dabbing gently at their mingled ejaculate on their bellies. Sherlock’s abdomen shifts and tenses under John’s hands, muscles flexing at the attention. He pulls John back in for a lingering kiss, mouths sliding together in delicious friction and John melts into him, boneless and sated.

When they do finally stand, it’s on shaking knees and trembling thighs. Sherlock’s hand slides softly into John’s, fingers automatically tangling together as he tugs him gently towards his bedroom. John feels slightly bewildered, caught in between radiant joy and tentative hope. They’ve never spent the night in Sherlock’s bed and the wide span of expensive cotton and fluffy duvet is slightly intimidating.

Sherlock folds John backwards, easing him down amongst the pillows and duvet before smiling down at him with such heartbreaking tenderness that John gasps. Sherlock’s expression sharpens at once, but one corner of his mouth is still upturned with lazy warmth. He quietly reaches for the side table and turns off the light. John feels the mattress dip as Sherlock slides between the sheets, immediately curling around John and wrapping him tightly in miles and miles of long limbs and pale skin.

John can’t keep the shy smile off his own face as he allows himself to sink into Sherlock’s embrace. Whatever switch has been thrown in Sherlock’s brain, John doesn’t want to move it one iota. It feels as though they’re waiting, standing on a tender precipice that can either leave them falling indefinitely, or jumping together willingly. He can just make out the steady beat of Sherlock’s heart beneath his ribs and he allows the regular pulse to lull him into the first decent sleep he’s had in weeks.

: :

John wakes the next morning alone and slightly disoriented. It takes him a moment to remember why he’s feeling quite so content, but when he does, the smile that splits across his face must be absolutely besotted. He’s briefly glad Sherlock is not here to witness his teenaged-girl moment, but the cool slide of cotton against his searching fingers is a bit maddening nonetheless. His limbs feel stretched, but comfortable and he allows himself a moment to simply rub against the expensive thread count, reveling in memories of last night. It had been absolutely beautiful and the hopeless romantic side of John wants nothing more than to luxuriate in the afterglow of feeling loved.

There is no denying that was the permeating feeling wafting around their sitting room last night. John’s heart seems to expand at the thought, pulse skipping beats in its haste to pump oxytocin through his system. John knows he can’t stay here, grinning like six different kinds of fool, and simply waiting for Sherlock to reappear. Sleeping together had been wonderful, but John’s not stupid enough to think Sherlock will change old habits just to make him feel more comfortable. John doesn’t want him to.

With a heartfelt groan of sated satisfaction, John rolls over and searches for his pants, forgetting for the moment that all of his clothes are probably still strewn around the flat, looking like a crime scene. Laughing quietly to himself, John spots a brush of dark blue silk against the stark doors of Sherlock’s wardrobe and, feeling more than a little mischievous, slides the dressing gown over his bare skin. It smells like Sherlock: warm and slightly spicy aftershave mixed with London rain and car exhaust and nicotine and chemicals and John can’t help but bury his face into the collar. It’s overtly luxurious, the slide of elegant silk along his bare skin and he suddenly understands why Sherlock spends so much of his time in the garment. The very idea of Sherlock’s skin rubbing tantalizingly against the fabric is making John’s cock twitch and he marvels at the way his libido seems to think he’s back in secondary school.

Running his fingers through his hair in attempt to smooth some of it down, John opens the door and wanders into the kitchen. Sherlock’s back is to him, bent over the worktop and clearly doing something unspeakable to what looks like some kind of sea slug in a petri dish. John takes a moment to rake his eyes over the way Sherlock’s obscenely tight shirt clings to his shoulders before tapering down elegantly to highlight his slim waist. Sherlock’s trousers are pulled tight across his arse and when he shifts his weight, John finds his mouth salivating without his permission. He swallows audibly before stepping further into the room.

Sherlock still hasn’t noticed him. Or, more likely, he’s noticed and dismissed him as unimportant at present. John doesn’t take offense to this, as it only seems to confirm his hypothesis that Sherlock is entirely comfortable around him. John carefully sidesteps a more ominous looking biohazard box on the floor and comes to stand directly behind Sherlock, sliding his hands around the man’s waist and bringing his lips lightly along the edge of his hairline.

Sherlock stiffens immediately, hands frozen around an Erlenmeyer flask and his protective goggles. John’s fingers rub lazy patterns into Sherlock’s abdomen as he brings his body flush against the man’s taller frame.

“Morning,” he says, smiling quietly against the skin.

“John,” Sherlock grits out stiffly. John rubs his hips against Sherlock’s tantalizing arse and hears the satisfying sound of a bitten off gasp. John is hard already, the silk of the dressing gown rubbing delicately along his skin and contrasting beautifully with the texture of the fine wool of Sherlock’s trousers. John rolls his hips again, trying to produce more of that sound, but Sherlock suddenly turns, grasping both of his wrists in a bruising grip. John sways a bit and is startled by the cold look in Sherlock’s pale eyes, the indifferent mask of cool aloofness firmly back in place.

“I’m working, John,” he says, voice tightly controlled. He releases John’s wrists so quickly that he staggers, thrown off balance by the constant tumult of Sherlock’s emotions. He realizes he’s standing there, gaping at the back of Sherlock’s head as he firmly straps on the goggles and starts up the butane torch.

John’s head is spinning, rejection and anger boiling dangerously in the pit of his gut. The warm, loved feeling that had been happily setting up residence in his solar plexus seems to shrivel and freeze, turning his blood cold and making him shudder with the impact.

“I…” John starts, at a complete loss at how to process what seems to be happening over and over again. He feels completely out of control in a way he hasn’t felt since the war.

What, John?” Sherlock snaps, tilting an imperious glance over his shoulder.

I thought you loved me flashes dangerously through John’s head, but he knows better. This is such a monumental cock-up he doesn’t even know where to begin the explanations. John shivers and realizes he’s standing in the middle of their kitchen in nothing but a drape of flimsy silk, pride and besotted heart bruised irrevocably.

“Nothing,” he clips out, tugging the dressing gown closed and trying to rein in his temper. He can feel his jaw tensing, can feel the muscles in his arms clenching his hands into fists, can feel the soldier in him slowly taking over. John welcomes the change, sliding into the indifferent skin easily and silently grateful for his body’s coping mechanism to pain. Feeling his shoulders stiffen to attention, he pivots on his heel and marches up the stairs.

And if his leg twinges a bit, well, Sherlock’s not there to see it happen, is he?

: :

John is late for work. His frustration is clear in every movement he makes and unfortunately, his patients bear most of the brunt. He takes several breaks during the day, trying to calm himself with deep breaths and strong cups of coffee, but nothing works. He finds himself distracted and irritable, snapping at a few nurses for not filling out paperwork correctly and immediately feels a surge of guilt at their startled and hurt faces. It’s really not their fault and John absolutely knows better than anyone how it feels to carry the blame for other people’s emotional turmoil. The fact that Sherlock is under his skin, picking away at his carefully constructed walls and making him short and disagreeable with the rest of the world is making John’s irritability ratchet up another notch. Sherlock is just so infuriating.

By mid-afternoon, his agitation wanes into something much more resembling despair. He’s just so tired of it all. Sherlock’s mood swings have never been more apparent, and though they affected John’s life before, they weren’t actively aimed directly at him. He feels lost and confused, hurt and rejected and incredibly used. It’s not something John is used to and he’s uncomfortable with the implications. He can’t believe he let himself fall so unabashedly when he knows Sherlock better than anyone.

He knows what Sherlock is like: how the work will always take precedence over anything else in his life, how any sort of vulnerability makes him shrink back and overanalyze everything, how even the barest brush of emotion will send him into a tailspin of insecurity masked as hostility. John knows all of this, and yet he cannot help but feel hurt by Sherlock’s blatant rejection.

The worst part is, John feels himself to blame for at least part of the situation. If he’d just had even a modicum of self-control, none of this would ever have happened. He knew what he was getting into and he’d still fallen head-over-heels with the one man on earth destined to drive him absolutely mad. Sherlock hadn’t exactly asked permission that first time, but John hadn’t stopped him either. Guilt by omission is still guilt and John hates that he doesn’t actually regret anything. Sherlock is impossible and unrealistic and practically inhuman in his demands, but he’s also incredible and brilliant and gorgeous and John isn’t entirely sure when the situation got quite so out of hand.

Sighing, John leaves the surgery in the late afternoon, taking the 74 bus instead of the tube if only to play for a bit more time. He’s unsure what he’ll walk into when he gets to Baker Street, but all scenarios in his head are pointing towards another row and he’s not exactly keen on negotiating anything while he’s this on edge.

He is therefore completely flabbergasted when he trudges up the stairs to find Sherlock sprawled out on the sofa in nothing but a pair of charcoal grey boxer briefs and a cheeky smirk. John pauses at the door, hand grasping the handle a bit too hard and leaving creases in his palm where the metal grates against his skin. Sherlock’s eyes are dark and smoldering, his bottom lip trapped between his teeth and he stretches when he sees John watching, all long lines of pale skin and sinew arching against the brown leather in a way far too enticing to be allowed. John feels his heart rate speed up, blood pumping through his veins and heading south with a rush of fresh arousal. It takes a solid thirty seconds before the remembered offense from the morning stings back into his consciousness and he finds himself trembling.

“I’m not doing this,” John states plainly before turning on his heel and moving back out into the hallway.

Sherlock is up at once, catching the door before it swings closed and crowding into John’s space. “Come now, John,” he whispers against the shell of John’s ear. “I’m apologizing.”

John huffs out a laugh, a little on the wrong side of hysterical and feels himself shiver involuntarily as Sherlock trails his long fingers up the back of John’s arm, no doubt feeling the tension radiating off him in waves.

“Really? Apologizing?” John says a bit too loudly. “This is not apologizing, Sherlock. This is seducing me out of a well-deserved argument.”

“Mmm,” Sherlock hums, lips a hairs breadth away from contact with John’s skin. His clever fingers have begun plucking at the buttons of John’s shirt, the fabric parting and sliding across John’s oversensitive skin as Sherlock finally lowers his mouth to the scar tissue on his shoulder.

“I am sorry, John,” Sherlock murmurs into his skin. John’s head falls back of its own accord and he hears the pathetic whimper that seems to be torn from his throat without his permission. This is not at all how this afternoon was supposed to go and John hates how weak he feels in the shadow of Sherlock’s wake.

“Sherlock,” he starts, fully aware of the tremor in his voice. “I can’t do this right now.” He can actually feel the sting of tears at the back of his eyes and suddenly realizes just how far into this he’s fallen. The realization hits him like an ice bath and he freezes in Sherlock’s arms.

“John,” Sherlock purrs, voice smooth as silk gliding down John’s spine and making him shiver.

No, Sherlock,” John says, tugging his shoulder out of Sherlock’s spidery fingers and secretly pleased at the steely note his voice managed to produce. He holds on to his anger like an anchor, grounding him amongst the sweet seduction pouring out of Sherlock’s very being.

Sherlock runs the back of his knuckles up the side of John’s neck and it takes all of his strength not to lean into the touch. Instead he wrenches his shirt back up his shoulder, shielding himself from the onslaught of pheromones singing through the air. He can feel Sherlock’s breath against the back of his neck and knows he’s fighting a losing battle. Doggedly, he clings to his resolve and turns to face the man.

Sherlock’s eyes are heavy lidded and dark. As John watches, he drags his obscenely wet tongue over the sinfully full curve of his bottom lip. John feels his breath catch and knows he’s lost. Sherlock is the most beautiful thing John’s ever seen and he feels bits of his stance crumble at the movement. Sherlock quirks his eyebrow, clearly reading every subtle shift on John’s face and John finds himself at a loss.

After a very pregnant pause, Sherlock’s demeanor shifts from aggressively sexual to calculating. His eyes narrow and John can practically feel their gaze travel over his tensed shoulders, his creased brow, his rapid pulse and his clenched teeth. John can see the wheels spinning, Sherlock deducing everything as though spread out on a great map in his head. He knows the precise moment Sherlock comes to some kind of conclusion, his gaze focusing into an intensity that John’s come to associate with crime scenes and particularly caustic experiments.

“I’m certain that it hasn’t slipped past your notice that although you and I have participated in many sexual acts, penetration has not yet come into play?” Sherlock asks, eyebrow cocked in calculated indifference. John feels the flush rising up his neck and refuses to admit that he’s somewhat cowed by the thought. Nobody has ever dared try to fuck him and although the idea has some appeal, it’s not something John had ever even considered. Until now.

He can feel the fury rising again at the unbelievably conceited assumption and grasps at it desperately, hoping for some kind of anchor to tether him to his own mind. He refuses to acknowledge the seed of heated arousal that seems to be blossoming low in his abdomen at the idea of Sherlock inside him and instead focuses on the infuriatingly calm man in front of him.

“I’m not just going to bend over and take it, for Christ’s sake,” John bites out.

“Of course not, John. That would be boring.” Sherlock’s voice is slightly disdainful, though there’s a hint of hunger to it now bordering on lewd and John’s pulse quickens at the thought. Of course it would be this man, this impossible man who would attempt to break him first.

“I’ll have you begging for it,” Sherlock rumbles, voice full of possessive heat and John stiffens immediately, hating how much that thought turns him on but not willing to go down that easily.

“I’m hardly one to beg for anything, Sherlock,” he replies, allowing a bit of edge to his words and knowing Sherlock will hear it clearly.

“Yes.” Sherlock’s voice is dangerously low and full of dark promise and John finds himself leaning almost imperceptibly towards him, “That’s precisely the point, Captain.”

John shivers, pleasant sparks of anticipation mingling with the lingering hesitation of anger and causing gooseflesh to rise up his arms. John has never thought of himself as particularly submissive and it rankles his military background a bit to be challenged quite so overtly. He’s also still hurt and confused, reeling from this morning’s blatant dismissal and Sherlock’s complete about-face. He’s not sure where he stands at all and that is shaking him more than any physical threat ever could.

Sherlock moves towards him slowly, closing the small distance between them in measured steps and practically radiating authority. His hand on the back of John’s neck is firm, tilting John’s head back before devouring his mouth in a kiss so laced with desire John can feel the tremors running all through his skin. John moans, giving in a little in the face of such blatant possession and knows it to be a mistake the minute he feels Sherlock’s growl of triumph rumbling through his chest.

He feels as though he’s drugged, head so full of confusion and arousal that he can hear his pulse pounding in his ears. Sherlock’s hands are quick, tugging at clothing and pushing fabric aside until John stands in the middle of the hall in nothing but his pants, shaking slightly and completely overwhelmed.

Sherlock abruptly moves back, breaking all contact and John shamefully feels himself sway on his feet before catching himself and blinking his eyes open. Sherlock’s cock is so obviously hard in his pants that it’s nearly laughable. His slim abdomen is heaving with barely controlled breath and his pale skin seems to shine with a thin sheen of sweat. John realizes he’s staring a moment too late and snaps his mouth closed with an audible click of teeth. Sherlock’s predatory grin is disconcerting and John feels himself turned towards the stairs, a surprisingly gentle, but firm hand on the small of his back.

He allows himself to be guided up to his bedroom, feeling the haze of too many emotions warring with the curl of real fear in the base of his spine. How had this happened again so quickly? His body seems to have agreed with whatever Sherlock’s desires are without even consulting him and he’s not exactly prepared for the onslaught of trepidation reminding him that he’s never actually done this before. Hand jobs in the hall, in the sitting room, or even that one time at the morgue are not precisely considered normal for flatmates or even friends and shameless rutting against another person would produce orgasm in anyone with a working cock, but sex, real penetrative sex with Sherlock will mean more to him than it will to his friend and John already knows he’s in too deep.

He tries valiantly to find his earlier anger, to ground himself in any way against the rise of chemicals in his brain telling him this is exactly what he wants. If he’s honest with himself, he does want this. He wants Sherlock in any and every way he can have him. He wants to feel Sherlock against him, over him, on top of him, inside of him, craves the feeling of completion sex usually brings to a relationship. He knows he’s treading very dangerous waters, but John is desperate for some kind of commitment from this, for something to prove that he means more to Sherlock than just a convenient fuck buddy.

John is so immersed in his own thoughts that he almost misses it when Sherlock tugs gently on the waistband of his pants, sliding the cotton down over his legs and onto the floor. It feels like the beginning of something new and John can practically taste the anticipation in the air as Sherlock moves behind him, just close enough that John can feel the heat passing between them and sinking into his skin like fire.

John can feel Sherlock’s breath soft against the sweat-slick skin of his shoulder blades. He’s still not touching John, merely invading his personal space, forcing John’s nerves to stand at attention. The air is heavy and dense with want and every labored lungful is thick with the taste of desperation. John’s fingers twitch against his thighs, unable to keep still while adrenaline runs fast and harsh through his veins.

He’s vaguely aware of the soft keening and whimpering noises escaping from his throat, but he’s unable and frankly unwilling to stop them. Every time Sherlock exhales, gooseflesh runs like wildfire across his skin, the twitching becoming nearly violent in its vehemence.

The atmosphere seems to shift and John’s heart rate speeds up, pulse heavy like honey on the back of his tongue. When Sherlock’s lips finally, finally brush across the nape of his neck, John jerks so violently he staggers and manages to stay on his feet by the sheer force of Sherlock’s arm moving tightly across his abdomen. He is weightless and feels his mind go blissfully blank, safely cradled against Sherlock’s lean body. The man is so hot, skin burning against John’s back; a veritable inferno belying the alabaster tone of his impossibly smooth skin.

When he is idle, John likes to find all the flaws in Sherlock’s skin; noting with glee all the freckles dotting along his narrow shoulders, pressing kisses to all the dark beauty marks speckled up his long neck like constellations. If John is honest, he finds all of Sherlock’s idiosyncrasies and physical flaws comforting in a way. It makes him more human and that grounds John somehow.

Sherlock’s mouth moves against his skin again and John is pulled back into the moment, feeling the tight band of Sherlock’s forearm pressing insistently into his diaphragm. His other hand is wandering up John’s chest, smearing perspiration across flesh and bone, sliding up John’s pectorals, following the tendons of his neck until he finally buries those long, clever fingers in John’s hair and tugs his head back.

John’s gasp is loud and he lets his head fall back to Sherlock’s shoulder, pressed tightly against all the long lines of sinew and muscle. His hands are still hanging idle at his sides, but his hips are moving; grinding back into the cradle of Sherlock’s hips. Sherlock’s rumbling growl is low and dark, making the hairs on the back of John’s neck stand up and he can feel the noise as it travels out through Sherlock’s chest and up John’s spine. 

"John," he purrs, whisper soft against the back of John's neck. The sound that comes out of him in that moment is completely involuntary and probably the most honest noise to ever emerge his vocal chords. It's raw and feral and laced with so much need and relief it feels like a catharsis.

He goes down willingly, face down onto the bed, allowing Sherlock to place his limbs as he likes. He would let Sherlock mold and shape him into anything he wished right now, so supine and compliant, completely trusting. Sherlock's hands are both gentle and demanding, bowing his back and spreading his knees wide. John feels a momentary tic of embarrassment, vulnerable and displayed as he is, but it quickly fades at the sound of appreciation Sherlock mumbles behind him. Elbows bent against the sheets, John buries his face into the cotton, inhaling the intoxicating scent of Sherlock. He’s not sure when it saturated his bed sheets, but he’s not sorry for it right now. John lets it fill his lungs feeling somehow more complete than he ever has in his life.

Sherlock's long fingers are skimming along his thighs now, raising gooseflesh in their wake and causing the muscles to tremble at the light touch. He is teasing along the ridge of hipbones, dipping into the shallow indents of vertebrae and running tantalizing nails down over the swell of John's arse. John's pulse is racing, heart pumping blood thick and fast through his veins and making his cock twitch with every solid beat.

"John," Sherlock says again, deep and low, tongue caressing the letters with almost obscene precision. He brushes his lips lightly across John's spine making John arch backwards for more contact, but Sherlock pulls away with a small huff of amusement. John's nerves are on fire and he's finding it increasingly hard to breathe.

Just as he's actually about to beg, John feels Sherlock's thumbs dig harshly into the muscles of his arse, pulling them apart and exposing his tightly furled hole. John gasps, the instinct to pull away fighting the languidly sexual need in his limbs. He settles for trembling, hooked on the edge of oblivion as he feels warm, moist air brush across the skin of his perineum.

"Christ. Oh, Christ," John groans, grinding his face into the cotton. Sherlock's tongue is flicking delicately against the wrinkled skin of his hole, twitching and sucking and licking and pushing and John is a mess. It's so undeniably filthy and the thought is making John's face flush with heat and confused arousal. Every nerve ending he has seems to be hard wired to the skin currently slick and wet with Sherlock's saliva, making his arms shake worryingly hard.

His breath is coming in quick, sharp pants and he feels lightheaded and giddy. Belatedly, he realizes he's howling in the most undignified way into the now soaking sheets that somehow made their way between his clenching teeth. Sherlock is doing his utmost to thrust the length of his tongue as deep into John's arse as he possibly can and John is caught up in the dizzying space between more aroused than ever before and cringing away from the utter dirtiness of the act. He'd never considered it before. Hell, he hadn't even thoughtabout what it would feel like to have someone else's (Sherlock's, his mind supplies helpfully) tongue anywhere near that area.

The fact that it's Sherlock taking him apart so effectively is more overwhelming than John could ever have imagined. That tongue, so barbed with comments, so derisive with condescension, so quick with wit and deductions, the articulation of that posh accent, elocution and vocabulary rolling off of it with such velvet ease, the fact it's that tongue currently pushing and licking and thrusting and grinding into John is enough to make pre-come leak from the length of his rigidly hard cock. The idea that Sherlock's impossible mouth is currently occupied with the act of thoroughly debauching John has the good doctor reaching between his legs for his sadly neglected erection. Before he even manages one rough tug, however, Sherlock's hand whips out of nowhere and slaps it away, catching John's wrist and pinning it down to the mattress just as he licks a trail of filth and promise up the crease of John's arse to the small of his back.

Sherlock is panting, moist air spreading across John's iliac crest like wildfire. His face is positively drenched with saliva and as he rubs his impossibly hot cheeks against John's skin, all the air in the room seems to disappear completely. Sherlock is breathing like a man lost in the throes of a passion John didn't really think existed in the real world. It's harsh and hot and heavy and wanting. John whimpers and feels his cock twitch again, another bead of thick pre-come dripping down the length of his shaft into his pubic hair.

John is soaking wet from the unconscious tears of yearning leaking out of his eyes to the spit-slick skin between his legs; from the sweat rolling down the back of his neck to his pulsing, leaking erection. His body is in constant movement, hips stuttering and thrusting in the air in desperate need for something to rut against. He can feel the heat rolling off of Sherlock in waves, though their skin is barely touching.

John feels frantic, and he's fairly certain he's never been this hard in his life. He's startlingly aware that he was only moments away from an earth-shattering orgasm and the giddy feeling of denial is causing his breath to stutter. He's uncomfortably conscious of the pathetic little mewling noises coming out of his mouth, but completely unable to stop them.

For long minutes, they just sit there, breathing in the moist air and John tries valiantly to calm his racing pulse. The very air in the room seems to prickle his skin, oversensitive and flushed as it is. Sherlock is quaking against him, arms trembling with the force of his arousal and John nearly comes as he realizes that this act, the solitary effort of licking out John’s arse has Sherlock on the brink of his own stunning orgasm.

John can feel his defenses crumbling in the face of such provocation and before he can stop them, the words tumble from his lips like rain: “Please, Sherlock. Oh god, please.”

Sherlock’s answering chuckle is all sharp seduction and rumbling heat. John feels it rush against his skin, licking trails of fire in its wake and before he can respond, he feels fingers digging into his hips, jerking him backwards and over, limbs sprawling useless against the sheets as Sherlock crawls between his legs.

“Begging, John,” he says, the wicked gleam in his eye overshadowed by the look of pure, unadulterated lust and John swallows audibly. Sherlock looks as though he could devour John whole, pupils so dilated the irises are mere crescents in the dim light. His face is flushed, a pale pink staining his impossible cheekbones and his hair falls across his forehead in a riot of dark curls. He is all pale skin and sharp angles, lithe grace and commanding presence, and John has never seen anything more beautiful and thrillingly terrifying in his whole life.

He leans forward, burying his face in John's neck and simultaneously bringing his hips down to rub tantalizingly against John's groin. John's head tilts back, neck arching into lips and teeth. His chest feels tightly constricted as though there is an iron band clenching systematically around his lungs, making it difficult to breathe. The air is thick with Sherlock's scent, overpowering and intoxicating, much like the man himself. Sherlock lets his weight drop, effectively pinning John to the bed beneath six feet of writhing, hard detective. John feels every single inch where their skin brushes together burn, his body in constant motion, begging without words and pleading with broken sighs and gasps. He's absolutely certain he's never been so hard in his life and he practically sobs against Sherlock's neck when he feels the slick, silky head of Sherlock's cock drag along his hole, catching on the loosened muscle.

"Jesus, Sherlock," John moans, completely unable to keep his hands still, nails dragging up the pale skin of his back and leaving harsh red lines in their wake. Sherlock's teeth dig into the underside of John's jaw, surely leaving purple marks for everyone to see, claiming him in a completely unapologetic, unequivocal way that has John gasping with the yearning to be owned.

John feels utterly wrecked; debauched and helpless caught up in the tide of subconscious emotion and need seeping from every pore of Sherlock's skin. A heady sense of power rushes through John, despite his prone position. Of all the people in the world, Sherlock chose him and surely that means something.

He feels the subtle shift of weight, hips slightly tilted and then Sherlock's cock is pushing insistently at his hole, stretching and urgent. John winces at the friction; hot, sharp pain flaring up through his lust-induced haze. He isn't even aware he'd squeezed his eyes closed until he feels Sherlock still above him, hips resting solidly against John's arse.

"John," he rumbles, fingers surprisingly gentle against John's cheeks, swiping at tears he hadn't even known he'd shed. "John, look at me."

Chest heaving, John blinks his eyes open. Sherlock's gaze is boring into him with such intensity and focus, John feels heat rise to his cheeks, which is ridiculous considering his current position. Sherlock's lips brush tenderly across his cheekbone, tongue swiping out to taste his tears, cataloging and assessing each one individually no doubt. He is shaking, John realizes. The thought breaks through the sharp sense of pain and burrows into the tender parts of John's heart that he thought were lost long ago, spilled across sand and stone.

"Kiss me," John whispers into the shell of Sherlock's ear. He watches Sherlock's tongue dart across his lips once before he leans in and presses an almost chaste kiss delicately against John's mouth.  It isn’t enough and John lunges forward, biting at his ludicrously full lower lip until Sherlock’s mouth opens on a gasp. He pulls back instinctively, and John suddenly realizes why. It’s almost sweet and in anyone else, John would have called it sentiment, but it is, in essence, inherently practical. Of course Sherlock is keeping his distance, given exactly where his tongue had been moments before.

"No," John grunts and drags Sherlock in further. He tries not to think about how indisputably filthy it is to want to taste himself on Sherlock’s tongue, and settles for groaning loudly at the first tentative swipe of the slick muscle against his own. All restraint is lost in the clash of teeth and lips and Sherlock licks into his mouth, immediately overwhelming. John feels as though he's drowning, chest heaving with labored breath. He's so full; Sherlock in him and around him and it's glorious. Hips twitching, Sherlock pulls back until the tip of his cock rests just inside John before pushing insistently in again. John gasps, pain radiating through him and taking the edge of desperation with it. Sherlock's eyes narrow briefly, but before John can say anything he's already stretching up, reaching to the bedside table and tugging at the half-empty bottle of lubricant.

He cocks one eyebrow at John, a small smile tilting the left side of his mouth, but John is beyond words, desire and pain warring for his attention. Without preamble, Sherlock's cock slides abruptly out of John's arse and he replaces it with two slick fingers in one smooth movement. John's back arches, heels skidding across the sheets.

"Oh fuck," he gasps, hands fisting painfully in the sheets. Sherlock leans forward, forearm sliding smoothly under his left thigh and pushing his hips open wider. He runs his tongue along the inside of John's knee, fingers fucking slowly into him and taking him apart at the seams. John's legs are shaking, cock jerking every time Sherlock's long, clever fingers rub tantalizingly against his prostate. It's good, Christ so good and John knows he's falling. His body is wound tight, heat coiling along his ribs and he feels himself unraveling, breaking apart, but right before he shatters, Sherlock pulls back, fingers sliding out of him to trap his hips against the mattress.

"Sherlock," John tries to say, but it comes out a broken sob. His tongue feels thick and heavy in his mouth, orgasm just out of reach. John's eyes flutter open to find Sherlock staring at him, arousal shining hot and heavy in his gaze, absurdly full bottom lip trapped between his teeth.

"God, John. Do you have any idea what you look like," he purrs, voice so low it's practically subsonic.

"Please," he whines, so far beyond dignity it's almost laughable. If he doesn't come right now he may just go mad.

Sherlock's fingers close around his knee, bringing it up and over one bony shoulder before he leans forward to capture John's mouth with his own. His tongue dips between John's lips, drinking him in just as he pushes his cock back into John's body in one slick, smooth slide of delicious friction and heat.

John's head thumps back against the mattress, spine arching and fingers clawing at pale skin. It only takes two quick thrusts before he is coming, cock jerking and painting white stripes across his abdomen, limbs quaking with aftershocks and vision blurring around the edges.

Sherlock is panting above him, jaw clenching and tendons straining all along his elegant neck. His hips snap brutally forward, fucking into John in quick, deep strokes. He seems to be lost in sensation, sweat rolling down his neck to pool in the sharp hollow of his clavicle. John breathes deep, purposefully squeezing his muscles around Sherlock's cock, holding tight and creating an almost vice-like grip. Sherlock's low groan is completely satisfying and John finds himself grinning up through his lashes, face slick with sweat and endorphins, excruciating pleasure still humming along his nerves.

Sherlock's grip on his hips is almost painful, fingers digging vivid bruises into the soft flesh. He's losing control, John can see it. Face flushed and eyes bright he slams into John hard enough to bounce the headboard against the wall. God, he's gorgeous, John thinks taking in the tight lines of sinew and tendon, the high flush along his impossible cheekbones, the sweaty curls hanging in ringlets around his forehead, the too-plush lips open and panting with exertion. John tightens his muscles again and Sherlock is lost. Head thrown back and teeth clenched, he thrusts hard into John's arse, hips pumping through his orgasm, the slick feeling spreading as semen eases the friction around his cock. He huffs out a long sigh, tension easing from his back as John's leg slips off his shoulder, sliding instead to tangle around his waist as he collapses forward.

"Brilliant," John murmurs, voice muffled against a tangle of sweaty curls. He feels Sherlock chuckle into his neck and revels in the feeling of the deep tones resonating through his bones. He tentatively runs blunt fingers down the length of Sherlock's spine, touch ghosting over prominent ribs and vertebrae. Sherlock shivers pleasantly against his chest, arms bending at the elbow to rest his palms flat against John's sternum. Gently, he disentangles John's fingers from his hair and rests his pointy chin on his own hands, staring intently at John as though working through a particularly complex puzzle.

His lips stretch into a lazy grin, and he leans forward to press his lips along John's jaw. When he reaches John's ear, he gives it a quick swipe, capturing the lobe briefly between his teeth before gracefully flopping back down. His cock is still buried inside of John and the sensation of the flesh softening is odd yet not entirely unpleasant.

After long minutes, Sherlock's face splits into an expansive yawn, body stretching and cock finally slipping from John's arse. John feels strangely bereft without the heat and press of him, but he gets over it quickly as Sherlock rolls to his side and pulls John with him. John ends up sprawled across Sherlock's chest, sticky and sated, come seeping slowly from his arse to smear merrily on the sheets. He finds himself strangely content, ear pressed against the solid beat of Sherlock's heart.

"I must apologize," Sherlock finally intones, voice soft and deep. John instantly tenses, fear of rejection hardening his muscles and turning his face grim. He swiftly moves to shift off, but Sherlock's arm is like an iron band, holding him firmly in place with surprising strength. "Don't be dull, John. I must apologize for the discomfort I caused. I got a bit... carried away."

Relief floods through John in waves.

"It's nothing," John murmurs, sleepy contentment washing back through his system and leaving him sated and decidedly boneless. Sherlock snorts, but runs his hand up the back of John's neck and through his hair.

John feels like an overgrown cat, petted and purring at the attention. He hadn't banked on this kind of affection from Sherlock and he's strangely reluctant to break their tentative peace. Almost subconsciously, he nuzzles in closer, wrapping his shorter arms around Sherlock's too-thin torso and letting his weight drop fully onto the other man. Sherlock doesn't even flinch, just tightens his hold and sighs deeply, pale eyes closing in what might have been a post-coital kip were it anyone else.

"This was extremely informative," he says instead, eyes still closed. John shifts to look at him, ethereal and practically glowing with drying sweat in the lamplight.

“Sorry, informative?” John asks, not bothering to keep the incredulity out of his voice.

“Mmm, indeed,” Sherlock murmurs, still not opening his eyes. He stretches again and suddenly sits up, dislodging John, who flumps back against the bed, sprawled undignified and more than slightly annoyed. Sherlock’s already halfway across the room, ubiquitous blue dressing gown tugged around his shoulders and fingers flying over his mobile.

John suddenly feels naked, which is completely ridiculous as he’s spent the last hour without a stitch of clothing. As Sherlock flounces out the door with a flourish of blue silk and distracted tapping, John once again reassesses this little arrangement they have.

When he finally gathers enough mental strength and energy to find his discarded denims and trot down the stairs to the sitting room, he's only mildly surprised to find it completely vacant.  Sherlock's not in his room, nor in the toilet, so John checks the hall and finds his coat is missing and there's the distinct scent of cigarette smoke hovering vaguely outside the door.

"Wonderful," John says to nobody. "Just bloody marvelous." He digs his phone out of his pocket and types a quick text, erasing the first few choice words before settling on the obvious:

Where are you?

It only takes a few seconds before his mobile pings, just long enough for John's legs to carry him back up the stairs to his room. He rummages in the laundry for a reasonably clean vest while glancing at the screen.

Taxi to Scotland Yard. SH

John's teeth clench so hard he's liable to crack one soon.

And you were going to tell me this when?

Honestly, John. This will only take an hour or so. Your presence is unnecessary. SH

And oh, isn't that just the understatement of the bloody century. He takes a deep, calming breath and counts to ten before typing again:

Fine. Pick up milk on your way home.

He doesn't get a response, but then again, he wasn't really expecting one. He's so angry he can taste it, hard and metallic on the back of his tongue. He's loathe to sit around waiting on his completely inconsiderate flatmate-slash-lover, so he tugs on a pair of trainers and heads out, intending to clear his head a bit before Sherlock makes his way home. The last thing he needs is another sodding row tonight.

He ends up in the local pub, sipping his fourth lager and arguing with the barman about the latest rugby scores. When the curvy, blonde twenty-something sidles up next to him and puts her newly manicured fingers on his forearm, he doesn't even hesitate before asking her home. She's just as drunk as he is, if not more so and for some reason that doesn't bother him as much as it probably should. He flirts shamelessly with her all the way back to Baker Street, running his hands up under her shirt at her waist in obvious pretense of steadying her on her tottering heels. She lets him and when he stops outside 221 and presses her back against the bricks, she gasps prettily and wraps her arms around his neck.

It's so different, yet familiar and John is ignoring the anxious confusion clamoring for his attention. He doesn't even know her name for Christ’s sake, but the feeling of finally being in controlof something is making him rash and uncharacteristically bold. She giggles into his neck, running her hands up under his jumper and along the heated skin of his back while he fumbles for his keys.

Just as he’s about to open the door, she freezes in his arms, suddenly rigid as a board. He’s about to ask her what’s wrong, but he can practically feel her gaze travel up his neck to the horrendously purple bite mark just on the underside of his jaw. He’s suddenly uncomfortably aware of the stiffness in his back, reminiscent of his spine curving hotly against the mattress, the soreness in his legs from muscles wound too tight for too long and the rather telling wet smear at the back of his pants. He certainly hadn’t showered before he stormed from the flat earlier and he self-consciously realizes he probably still smells of sweat, come and Sherlock.

Her eyes are wide and suddenly far too knowing. She looks as though she’s sobered up a good bit in the past few seconds and before he can say anything, she pulls out of his clumsy embrace.

“Erm,” she says, clearly trying to look anywhere but the sodding love bite on his neck and failing miserably. “I should actually probably go. Early morning, you know?”

“Right,” John says, half relieved already. He hails her a taxi because despite all appearances, he is still a gentleman, and doesn’t ask for her number as he helps her into the seat. He watches the black cab pull away and sighs again, scrubbing at his face with his palms.

Trudging up the stairs feels like a fresher hell than usual, the buzz of the alcohol still in his system, but fading from overzealous flirtation to unnatural melancholy in the space of a few heartbeats. He doesn’t even pause at the sitting room, but continues on up the second flight to his bedroom.

It’s probably a good thing he didn’t end up bringing Whatshername in anyhow considering the state of his room. The bed is a complete disaster: still damp sheets pushed all the way to the foot of the mattress, slick bottle of lubricant staining the cotton where it’s been discarded and forgotten about, pillows flung about the room like a small hurricane. The scent alone would have stopped her in her tracks had she even made it past the sight. The distinct aroma of testosterone, pheromones and sex still hangs heavy in the room, mixed with the unmistakably male scent of overpriced aftershave and semen.

It smells undoubtedly of Sherlock, and John shamefully feels his heart clench a little at the thought. Clearly the alcohol had been a mistake if he’s getting this upset over the pungent scent of come for fucks sake. He doggedly tugs the sheets off the bed, rolling them into a ball and shoving them into the laundry in his wardrobe. He’s too bone-weary to do anything more than strip down to his pants and fall against the bare mattress, barely summoning enough coherence to grab for a pillow before allowing the alcohol to lull him into the safety of unconsciousness.

: :

John wakes with a start, heartbeat thudding heavy and fast through his chest. He’s breathing like he’s just run a marathon and he realizes, probably too late, that his mouth his gasping open. He closes it with a snap and lets out a sound that’s half-hum, half-moan, whimpering as he sags back onto his elbows. Images of blood soaked soldiers, limbs and faces blown apart, but all crying out his name echo blindly behind his eyelids and he swallows heavily against the tide of bile rising dangerously up his throat.

Cool fingers wrap gently around his wrist and he jerks away with a gasp. The previous night comes flooding back to him in snatches of sensation and flashes of images, along with the pounding headache born of too much beer and not enough forethought to balance alcohol with water.

Head falling forward, he closes his eyes against the spinning room, breathing slowly through his nose to abate the nausea. His tongue feels like old leather and tastes about the same. He’s really getting far too old for this kind of ridiculousness.

The fingers are back, pushing the sweaty hair off his forehead this time and feeling blissfully cold in the overheated room. John pushes his head into their soothing touch, an unconscious hum of appreciation escaping from the back of his throat before he can stop it. The fingers instantly disappear and John feels their loss like a physical blow.

“Sorry,” he whispers into the dark, cursing how unsteady his voice sounds, cracked and raw with unguarded emotion.

“Here,” comes the gravelly response, Sherlock’s voice soft and deep from slumber. John’s fingers are wrapped around a wonderfully cool glass of water and two pills are dropped covertly into his other palm. John’s eyes blink open of their own volition, staring helplessly down at the paracetamol for a full ten seconds before Sherlock’s small huff of amusement brings him back to the moment. He swallows the pills gratefully and gulps down the rest of the water as slowly as he can make himself.

Sherlock’s hand brushes against his as he takes the glass back and sets it on the bedside table. It feels far too familiar and John curses himself yet again for allowing himself to become so fucking vulnerable all the time. The water is at least helping with the nausea and John feels the room settle a bit into a more steady space. Sherlock’s long fingers climb up his back and settle in his hair, rubbing small circles into the back of his neck and causing a shiver of pure pleasure to run down John’s spine. The tension is fading from his shoulders, despite his emotional confusion and for the moment at least, he just allows himself to be soothed.

“Come here,” Sherlock murmurs into his shoulder blade, lips catching on skin and causing a completely different shiver to form half-heartedly in the base of John’s abdomen. One long arm wraps tightly around his chest and John allows himself to be pulled back against the bed, bare mattress rubbing slightly against his clammy skin.

Sherlock shifts around, tugging the quilt up from where John kicked it off in his dreams and covering them both before wrapping his lean body around John’s, one knee tucked between John’s legs and wiry arms wound tightly around John’s chest. It’s so heartbreakingly intimate that John feels the hot prickle of alcohol-induced tears threatening at the corners of his eyes. He takes a deep breath for calm and lets himself sink further against Sherlock’s chest, refusing to acknowledge the warning bells screaming for attention in the back of his mind.

After a few minutes, Sherlock seems to relax, melting all along John’s back like a giant bony duvet, left arm sliding up the mattress to cushion John’s head and right hand tracing small patterns against his abdomen. John finally lets his eyes close, lulled into sleep by the thick beat of Sherlock’s heart against his back and the soft huffs of breath along the side of his jaw.

Just as he’s drifting off, John can swear he hears Sherlock whisper, “I’m sorry, John,” into the nape of his neck, but before he can respond, he’s swept away into the black of a perfectly dreamless sleep.

: :

It’s been a very long day. He'd stayed an extra four hours at the surgery to relieve a sick colleague, his shoulder aches with strain and the rising humidity of an oncoming storm and there were absolutely no taxis to be had on the way home, so John had found himself walking from the overcrowded tube stop in the ever-present London rain. He's tired, wet, cranky and in absolutely no mood to deal with Sherlock's antics at the moment.

To his immense surprise, there's a new carton of milk sitting innocently in the refrigerator when he rummages through for Tuesday’s leftover lo mein. The sight of it is so startlingly normal that John just stands there staring at it for a solid ninety seconds before he realizes his fingers are getting cold.

He really shouldn't be this baffled by a carton of milk. He's just so used to Sherlock completely ignoring basic common courtesy that one container of milk has him halting in his tracks. John munches on his leftover noodles while waiting for the kettle to boil and wonders idly when his life became so complicated.

The silence in the flat is strangely oppressive. It's unnerving, sitting in his armchair and trying to complete the crossword without the ever-present tapping and chiming coming from whichever mobile Sherlock's commandeered at the moment, and he notices himself glancing towards the closed bedroom door more and more frequently until he finally moves to the table to stay out of sight lines.

This is utterly ridiculous. John's perfectly capable of entertaining himself after all and he resolutely turns back to the paper, firmly ignoring that part of his brain that's thinking a bit of violin music wouldn't go amiss right about now.

An hour later, when the bedroom door finally swings open, the creaking hinges seem so loud it's almost deafening. John's wound so tight his shoulder aches and he's gotten precisely six words written into the tiny boxes, despite staring at the paper for longer than he can ever remember before.

John taps his biro against the table, trying valiantly to ignore Sherlock's half-open dressing gown as he waltzes into the sitting room, upsetting the mug of tea balanced precariously on a stack of old case files. John barely manages to catch it, a bit of tea sloshing over the side and onto his half-completed crossword.

 "Oi," he grumbles, wiping a drop of PG Tips off of 24 down and smearing the ink a little. Sherlock completely ignores him, instead flopping elegantly across the sofa in his usual melodramatic way. John can feel the tension seeping from his neck. Business as usual then.

The air still seems inexplicably charged and John can feel tingles running up his arms as he gives up on his crossword, consigning it to the bin before draining his tea and moving towards the kitchen. He can feel Sherlock's eyes on him as he rummages around for another clean mug.

"Tea?" he calls over his shoulder.

"Please," Sherlock's says from right behind him. John jumps and nearly drops the cup, but Sherlock's hand darts forward and steadies him.

"Christ, Sherlock," John breathes, skin prickling at their close proximity. His libido seems to have gotten over their argument rather quickly at least. Images of the previous night instantly assail him: of Sherlock’s long, pale neck extended in ecstasy, of the feeling of his hot, wet tongue licking obscenely into John as he wound tighter and tighter towards his orgasm. John can feel the blush as it rises up his neck, staining his ears a dark and unflattering pink.

Sherlock's arm is at his waist, long fingers tugging lightly on the mug in John's death grip. He's essentially trapped against the counter, immovable between the hard formica and Sherlock's body pressed tightly along his spine. John hates how his knees seem to melt at the feeling of Sherlock's breath dancing through the small hairs on the back of his neck.

"I got the milk," he rumbles, voice smooth and sinful, coiling through John and making his chest ache. Sherlock places the cup gently on the counter and moves his fingers across John's abdomen in lazy trails of desire and need. John can feel his defenses crumbling, lust winning out over his more rational brain, pheromones responding and perking his body into heightened awareness.

Sherlock's large hands span easily across his hip bones and he rocks forward letting John feel his arousal in no uncertain terms. Part of John knows this way lies madness, but his cock has very different plans. Pushing back with his hips, John manages to dislodge Sherlock enough to turn in his embrace, bringing their mouths together in a searing kiss full of pent-up frustration and a bit of lingering anger. It’s all teeth and spite mixed with a heady sense of dominance and John is nearly lost in the sensation.

Despite Sherlock's frequent mockery, John is not actually an idiot. He knows how easily this game he plays with his flatmate can turn into an overwhelming inferno and he's familiar enough now with the sensation of Sherlock's amazing pull to walk the edge of just far enough to befuddle Sherlock's senses while holding a tenuous control over his own.

Sherlock licks into his mouth with a precision born of frequency and a hint of arrogance that makes John smile, his lips stretching against Sherlock's.

It feels so wonderfully familiar in a way that it probably shouldn't: like sinking into a warm bath after a long day of questionably legal gunfire. Sherlock is warm and solid, hands sliding down John's back to cup his arse through layers of denim and cotton and John momentarily forgets that he's supposed to be resisting this. The hint of comfort is folded gently in between sensual layers of danger and lust, all warring for attention as Sherlock's hips press John's firmly into the worktop.

John sinks into the kiss, allowing his defenses down for a tiny moment, savoring the taste of Sherlock in his mouth, the feel of his smooth skin beneath his fingertips, the slightly spiced scent of his aftershave wrapping around them both like a cloak. He deliberately slows his frantic movements, one hand drifting up to tangle into dark curls, the other wrapping around a too-slim waist to draw Sherlock closer. He's trying to remember why he was quite so angry and comes up short, the overtone of resentment lingering far longer than his flash of temper. John can feel the exact moment he reaches solemn melancholy and knows full well Sherlock can feel it as well.

Genius that he is, Sherlock senses the change in atmosphere and he lightens the kiss to match John's mood, sliding his tongue over John's in a slow seduction that has John clinging to his resolve like a drowning man on driftwood. He gently breaks the kiss, tongue swiping delicately over John's lower lip before pulling back entirely.

John takes a deep breath, feeling his head swim as the heady cocktail of serotonin, endorphins and pheromones runs thick and fast through his veins. He feels dizzy and far too warm. Sherlock's teeth graze up the side of his neck and he hears himself groan, his body vying for control. Sherlock seems to take the involuntary noise as consent, because he's back to frenzied want: long fingers tugging at John's denims with a speed and efficiency that's frankly alarming.

The abrupt movement causes John to pause. Suddenly, he remembers he's meant to be talking to this impossible man and his head snaps back, breaking contact with Sherlock's plush lips.

"Sherlock, stop," he gasps, hating how shaky his voice sounds. Sherlock completely ignores him, dipping back down to mouth at John's jaw. Through the haze of hormones, John drags his eyes open, musters his strength and physically pushes Sherlock back.

John has to bite back another groan at the completely debauched look in Sherlock's eyes. He's breathing heavy, a high flush painted across his sharp cheekbones, lips swollen and red, mouth almost obscenely wet. As John watches, his dark pink tongue darts out and lingers across the wide expanse of his incredibly plush lower lip. It's all John can do to keep himself from launching himself bodily forward, but the remembered ache in his chest holds him back.

Sherlock's eyes narrow as his focus changes from sexual gratification to deductive observation in the blink of an eye.

"You're still angry," he says, deliberately slow as though by enunciating each syllable, he will be able to make better sense of the matter.

“A bit, yeah.” John’s finding it increasingly difficult to look Sherlock in the eye. It feels like betrayal, even though he’s the one constantly getting fucked over in this scenario.

Sherlock’s gaze flicks rapidly over his face, clearly observing every little nuance of expression John has to offer. His eyes keep narrowing and clearing, as though he’s finding solutions and dismissing them one by one as they become more and more ludicrous in his understanding. Finally, brow creased with apparent incredulity, he says, “You’re angry about last night.”

John huffs a little, unable to find an easy way out of this, but he never was one to back down from a fight. He grits his teeth and takes a deep breath, bracing his hands against his thighs to ground himself to reality. “Last night was Not Good, Sherlock.”

Sherlock’s eyebrows shoot towards his hairline. “I certainly didn’t hear you complaining.” He licks his lips with a lasciviousness that would ordinarily be alarming. At the moment, however, it’s all John can do to hold back his groan. The effect is not lost on Sherlock, sharp eyes no doubt picking up John’s elevated heart rate and dilated pupils. “In fact, I distinctly remember you begging me for more, writhing on my tongue like a common tart. Honestly, John, if you’re about to tell me you didn’t enjoy it, I might actually be impressed with your acting abilities.”

He takes a step in closer and John can feel his resolve crumbling, his limbs trembling with remembered pleasure, neck arching of its own volition. He bites down hard on his own tongue to relieve the need to whimper. He can feel Sherlock’s breath tickling along the side of his neck, so close now the small hairs around his ear quiver with each exhalation.

“But really,” Sherlock purrs, lips so close to John’s ear they brush the flesh with every syllable, “if you require more proof, I’d be happy to oblige. I can show you just how good I am, John.”

John’s head tilts back and Sherlock immediately seals his lips around the already bruised skin, sucking and pulling more blood to the surface. John can practically feel the mark darkening, staking claim on him without any effort whatsoever. Sherlock’s cock is grinding tantalizingly into his hip and muscle memories begin to take over: John’s arms, shaking and helpless as he braces himself against the head board, Sherlock’s cock thrusting hard and deep inside of him as he comes, the feeling of completion and connection holding them together like a tether.

The ache in his chest redoubles and John pulls himself away, shoving his hand against Sherlock’s sternum and holding him at arm’s length. “This is exactly the problem, Sherlock,” he pants, willing himself to calm and clinging to his momentary flash of hurt and anger. “You can’t just take what you want without asking. I’m in this too, you know, and I should have a say in how far we go.”

Sherlock blinks at him, momentarily stunned into disbelief. John finds his hand is shaking, tremors running through his muscles where they curve against Sherlock’s chest. Sherlock’s expression darkens into something harsh and he spits out, “Are you accusing me of forcing you, John?”

John’s hand spasms against Sherlock’s chest and he balks under Sherlock’s rage. “No. God, no. Of course not—“

“Good,” Sherlock hisses. “I may be many things, John Watson, but a rapist is not one of them.”

John recoils at the word, but tries desperately to cling on to his crumbling stance. “I wasn’t… Christ, that’s not at all what I’m saying.”

“Then what are you saying, John?” Sherlock’s voice is tight and low, barely controlled anger simmering through each syllable. John’s own rage rises to match and before he can stop himself, his ire explodes between them like a lit fuse.

“God, you’re completely impossible, you know that? It’s all or nothing with you, isn’t it? I can’t read you at all! One day you’re crawling into my bed in the middle of the night and the next you push me so far away I can barely get my head on straight before you’re diving for my pants and fucking the bloody life out of me.” Sherlock’s face is entirely blank, and John feels his own rage deflating, sinking further into an infuriatingly wounded melancholy that doesn’t suit him at all. John takes a deep breath, teeth clenched against the wave of sadness and resignation that crashes over him when his anger fizzles.

“I can’t do this anymore, Sherlock. I can’t keep guessing. It’s tearing me apart.” John’s voice breaks, barely audible in the stunned silence that follows his outburst.

“John,” Sherlock starts, voice low and wary, an edge of anger still clinging to the words. “You knew who I was the day you moved in here. You know me better than anyone. Are you honestly surprised with what’s become of us?”

“Christ, I don’t even know,” John mumbles. He can feel the sharp prickle of frustrated tears beginning to form at the back of his eyes, but forces his face to harden when he looks up. “I just… I just need something to go on, Sherlock. Something.  Anything.” His shoulders slump in defeat and he can hear the pathetic whinge in his words, but he’s completely unable to stop them. “What do you want from me?”

 Sherlock groans, fisting his hands in his hair and throwing his head back in exasperation. "Why must you make things so difficult? Feelings and sentiment, John. Really? Why can't we just fuck and get on with it?" he opines, emphasizing the k and the t with an obnoxious click that shoots through John like miniature bullets.

John blinks, completely taken aback and honestly hurt. Sherlock has never been one to dwell kindly on other peoples’ emotions, but some small part of John had hoped he might be an exception. "I'm sorry," he stammers, "I didn't think—“

"No. You never do," Sherlock says, dismissive and callous.

John's temper flares; all the rejection from the last few weeks balling up inside of him and creating a hot knot of resentment burning at the base of his spine.

"You know what?" he says, teeth gritted in anger, "You're right. Absolutely right. It's not like you listen to me anyway. I’m sorry to muddle all of your scientific brilliance with my unwelcome and clearly unwanted feelings. I might just as well move out and spare you the idiocy of my tiny little plebian mind."

Shocked silence rings through the flat, both of them breathing hard. Sherlock's hands are clenched tightly at his sides and there's an angry red flush creeping up his neck. John wishes he hadn't seen the momentary flash of panic that crossed over his face in the split second before it contorts into an ugly sneer. His eyes narrow and his mouth twists into a grimace. John braces himself, knowing full well what's coming and completely unable to stop it.

"Yes, John. Why don't you leave? Now that your psychosomatic limp is cured and your taste for danger has been sated, I'm certain you could find yourself a wife easily enough. One who appreciates your sentiment and who doesn't mind your abysmally slow little brain. You're nothing but a distraction. I don't need this and I certainly don't need you." 

John's jaw is clenched so hard he can practically feel the enamel on his teeth groaning in protest. Flayed open again, sliced through to the bone by Sherlock's purposefully malicious intent, but this time it's John on the receiving end of his vitriol and he can feel all the emotions Sherlock hates rising like a tide through his body: hurt, anger, embarrassment, shame and resentment warring for the top spot, but it's the sadness that finally wins out.

“You don’t mean that,” he says, voice broken and searching.

“Don’t presume to know me, John. I thought you were different. I thought this might work, but you clearly don’t know me at all. I won’t fit in to your happy little boxes of subdivided labels. I won’t be sectioned and quartered and molded into something less than what I am. You won’t change me, John; you can’t. If you won’t understand that, then perhaps you’d better leave.” Sherlock’s words tumble thick and fast, each one tearing through John and leaving him gaping open and bleeding on the kitchen floor.

Sherlock shakes his head briefly, hands balled into fists before breathing sharply through his nose, squaring his shoulders and turning on his heel. John hears the slam of the outer door rocket through the flat like a cannon blast. Pain shoots through his right thigh and he crumples to the floor, broken again and finally, for the first time since he was small, giving in to tears.

: :

That night had been one of the worst nights of John’s life. Through all the turmoil and rejection Sherlock’s been putting him through, John has still been holding out hope that one day, Sherlock might come to his senses. He knows it’s a futile thought: Sherlock is callous and unapologetic and rude and caustic and even rather morbid on most occasions, but there was always something, some little quirk in his smile or glint in his eye that made John think he was in on the joke; that even if the rest of the world would never understand him, John was allowed access to Sherlock’s inevitable humanity. To have that hope ripped away from him, to find out that he had so miscalculated Sherlock’s feelings for him burns like acid in his veins.

It seems like every time he voices his opinion regarding their... whatever this is, Sherlock cuts him down faster than he can erect a good argument. John’s tried to quell the remorse, tried to tell himself it’s pointless to feel guilty over wanting something every normal human craves, but Sherlock has never been normal, and John feels like he’s asking so much of the man, even when it would be second nature to anyone with a beating heart. He knows Sherlock wants him, cares about him, needs him in a way that’s alarmingly uncomfortable. The evidence is so glaringly obvious, even a mundane mind like John’s can see it. He doesn’t want to push Sherlock, but it’s getting harder every day to justify his own feelings when Sherlock is so blatantly ignoring his. The fact that Sherlock had accused him of not understanding him, of demanding more of him than John had ever dared ask for makes dark tendrils of rage curl through his consciousness. If Sherlock only knew how much John never says, how much he doesn’t ask, how much he wants, but refuses to take, it would have been a very different argument indeed.

And the part that breaks John the most is that despite Sherlock’s ever-changing moods, his flippant regard for John’s emotions and his blatant refusal to acknowledge his own, John finds himself clinging to whatever he can get. It’s sick, the way he’s still trailing after the man, clutching at whatever small bits of sentimentality Sherlock gives to him and working himself up into lathers of emotional masochism when it’s obvious Sherlock doesn’t feel the same. It’s those small glimpses of Sherlock’s soul that keep John hooked on the edge of sanity, the moments when Sherlock seems vulnerable and wanting, that if John were to refuse him, he would shatter into a million pieces. That protective, possessive instinct is what kept John sane through the war, and the feeling of being needed had kept him alive. After his discharge, he’d felt so listless, drifting on a sea of idle uselessness until he’d met this brilliant, broken man. He’d seen it in Sherlock; that base need and John had scrambled to comply.

Now he feels as though he’s failed. If Sherlock doesn’t want him, if he thinks John doesn’t understand his needs anymore, what use is John to anyone?

John had waged a silent war within himself when the door slammed, the cacophony of emotions and unrequited desire clouding his judgment so even time itself seemed distant and unnatural. Nothing had ever shaken him quite so hard. Even Afghanistan had seemed tame compared to the deserted landscape left over when Sherlock had stormed out of the flat after telling John to leave. He’d finally mustered up enough physical strength to get him up the stairs to his room, only to spend the hours tossing and turning, waiting for Sherlock to return.

He’d come home at half four and even John could hear him stumbling as he mounted the stairs, his usual light-footed stride heavy and leaden with something John didn’t want to think about. He’d been peering at Sherlock covertly over the past few days, looking for any sign of a relapse, but either Sherlock had managed to resist the pull of cocaine, or he’d hidden it enough for John’s medically trained surveillance not to notice.

Every time John thinks about the idea of Sherlock slipping back into his drug habits, a hot wave of guilt crashes through him quickly followed by a bright flare of righteous anger. He flat out refuses to feel guilty for standing up for himself, for making his feelings heard, regardless of how reluctant Sherlock is to hear about them. Sherlock is mad, but not nearly as sociopathic as he pretends to be and the fact that he will not even try for John hurts more than he’d ever thought possible. John tries not to worry, but he finds his eyes wandering towards Sherlock’s open shirtsleeves whenever he stands still long enough. Worst still is the fact that John knows Sherlock is aware of his scrutiny, aware of just how much he’s distressing John and doing absolutely nothing to assuage the thoughts running circles in his head.

Three incredibly tense days later and John finds himself at a crime scene, watching from a reluctantly respectful distance as Sherlock pokes and prods at the latest victim while Anderson seethes quietly in the corner. Sherlock is in rare form, swooping through the police officers like a giant overgrown bat. He scarcely spares a glance in John’s direction and even the MET can clearly tell there’s more tension between them than usual.

The past three days have been miserable and John is frankly exhausted. He’s bone-weary with fighting and feels as though something buried deep in his chest has curled up and died, leaving him vulnerable and drained. Sherlock has barely spoken to him at all, passing him in the flat as though he’s not even there. John feels like he’s living with a ghost, the furniture and fixtures moving around the flat without seeing who or what is disturbing them. The one time he did finally deign to communicate was to ask John when he planned on moving out so Sherlock could arrange for a sublet. That had sliced through John like a physical blow.

Despite his current angst, John finds his eyes straying appreciatively over Sherlock's form as he moves, agile as a cat, his long coat swaying behind him with full dramatic flair. He really is unfairly beautiful, John thinks, watching Sherlock's long legs unfold as he stands and strides over towards Lestrade, who is watching avidly as Sherlock unravels the whole story without taking a breath.

"Surely even you lot noticed the way his fingers have been wiped clean with antiseptic," Sherlock is saying, pacing back and forth and studiously ignoring all propriety as he steps over the body. "It was obviously the brother-in-law, judging by the lack of receipts in the wallet and the entry point. Find Nicholas Effington and you'll have everything you need."

"Alright," Lestrade says, managing to sound both put-upon and begrudgingly impressed. "But how did he get out?"

"Ah," Sherlock says, turning to shoot a positively gleeful look in John's direction, the left corner of his mouth quirking into an almost indecent smirk. Their eyes catch and John can feel the heat of Sherlock's gaze flair all the way up his spine, pale irises alive and bright with the thrill of the chase. "That's the beauty of the locked room mystery. How indeed?"

It’s the first time he’s actually looked at John in days and John feels the familiar curl of delight flare through him like lightning. He’s still angry, but while his temper is short, it’s the residual melancholy that’s been bothering him most. It almost feels normal again and John breathes a sigh of unmitigated relief, tension seeping from shoulders he hadn’t even realized had been seizing all week.

John finds himself grinning back in return, even though he's completely clueless as to why. He has no idea where the killer could have gone, nor how Sherlock could possibly know it was Effington out of all the possible suspects. Sherlock is still staring at him, eyes gleaming and a high flush spreading across his cheeks. John's vaguely aware of the buzz of police officers around them, Lestrade barking orders to the rest of his team and the forensic photographers snapping away, lights flashing, but all his attention is arrested by the familiar heat unfurling between them.

John feels trapped—caught in the beam of Sherlock's incredible focus. He feels flayed open, pinned to a dissecting tray with innards spilling forth, heart and lungs and intestines displayed. Sherlock's eyes strip him down, tear him open and claim his very being with just one glance. And Christ, how he’d missed this.

Dimly, John's aware of his own body’s reaction: pupils dilating, limbs tensing in anticipation, pulse thudding loudly in his ears. Sherlock's breath catches in his chest and his attitude changes from excited frenzy into something feral, carnal desire altering his whole demeanor. John can feel his own libido answering and wonders idly how the rest of the Yard is missing the distinct swirl of pheromones tingeing the very air. Sherlock's eyes darken and John finds himself biting down on his own lip to stifle the ludicrous groan trying to force its way through his throat.

Something catches in John's peripheral vision: a small movement that seems at once out of order and completely predictable. His body is moving before he's even aware of what's happening, power shifting to his legs as he lunges across the room and rugby tackles Sherlock to the ground, the sound of the shot ringing through the room like a bomb. John feels the sharp sensation of pain in his lower back, a small metal projectile tearing through flesh and bone.

There's a split second of unnatural silence before all hell breaks loose. John can hear Lestrade shouting, panic and confusion infusing the room as Nicholas Effington is tackled to the ground by no less than four police officers.

Sherlock is panting beneath him, his heart beating a rapid tattoo through his ribs and into John's. There's raw panic on his face and his lips are moving, eyebrows drawn together in concern and something darker. John's dimly aware of Sherlock's long fingers curled tightly around his shoulders, shaking him slightly. His mouth is still working, tongue and teeth forming words that John cannot hear. Why can't he hear? There's a buzzing sound drowning out all the noise in the room and small lights seem to be popping in his vision.

John blinks slowly, feeling his limbs slipping into the numbness he's come to associate with major trauma. He can feel the adrenaline coursing through his system, dissipating as the shock sets in and overwhelms him.

The buzzing is getting worse, though John can vaguely hear Sherlock's voice rumbling through the white noise, his tone tight and commanding.

"John. Stay awake. John! Don't you dare leave me..."

But that’s wrong. It’s all wrong. Sherlock told him to leave, doesn’t want him. John’s head feels full of cotton, blinding pain finally catching up with him and searing through his bones like wildfire.

The psychosomatic scent of gunpowder saturates the air and through the haze of pain and shock, John can hear the startlingly loud noise of helicopters overhead and the very air feels charged with the phantom sounds of distant explosions. John blinks heavily, trying to force away the vision of sand and sun, the feeling of heat and exhaustion, rising panic making his breath catch. The hands around his shoulders are not covered in pixilated camouflage, the voice ringing in his head is not of medics or corporals. Long, pale fingers brush the hair off his forehead and John forces himself to focus, Sherlock's voice cloaking him like warm honey.

"Sherlock," he starts, but it comes out wet and pathetic, more jumble of consonants than an actual word. There's a grey fog permeating the edges of his vision, but Sherlock's irises are a bright, clear blue. John feels the muscles in his face moving, stretching into something resembling a smile.

"'M sorry," he slurs and slips into darkness. 

: :

Cold. John is cold. Itchy, over starched sheets rub against his skin, mouth tastes foul. Blearily, John opens his eyes, vision swimming in stark colors of white and red. Lights pop overhead and he’s distantly aware of people talking all around him, though his own voice seems far away and feeble. He swallows around the dry mouth and recognizes the distinct, antiseptic smell of hospital before he remembers what he’s doing here.

Blinking hard to clear the residual haze, John tries to focus. There’s a figure at his left side, long-limbed and obviously tall. John shakes his head slightly, annoyed with the fog that seems to permeate everything. The man shifts, all long legs and bespoke trousers and mobile phone and… pocket watch. Umbrella. Mycroft.

“Ah, Doctor Watson,” comes the honeyed tones, mock geniality thick over gravel and glass. “Glad to see you’re with us once more.”

“Mycroft,” he grits out. John tries to sit up and winces, falling back onto the bed with a gasp of pain. He’s vaguely aware of the beeping heart rate monitor, the IV drip hanging next to his bed and the needle firmly lodged in the back of his hand. Taking a tentative swipe at the sheets reveals a plethora of gauze wrapping neatly around his right hip and the vague metallic taste on the back of his tongue intensifies.

Snatches of memory are beginning to tug at his mind: crime scene, Anderson looking horrid, Lestrade musing on the locked room, the corpse in the middle of the floor, Sherlock’s eyes boring into John’s, Sherlock’s face as the shot rang out, Sherlock’s voice through the cloud of pain… Sherlock.

“Where is he?” John asks, trying and failing to keep his voice steady.

“Ah,” Mycroft actually looks somewhat uncomfortable for a moment, but the expression clears into bemused indifference seconds later. “I’m afraid he’s been unavoidably detained for the time being. However, I am here should you require any… assistance.” He says it like a malediction and John is embarrassingly aware of how much he probably owes to this man for the hospital bills already. The room is startlingly quiet and the absence of fellow patients positively reeks of expensive private wards and close personal attention.

“He’s alright, though, yeah?” John can’t keep the edge of panic out of his voice. The painkillers are making his defenses slow and his tongue loose.

“He’s perfectly well, Doctor. You managed to successfully impede the oncoming bullet, never fear.”

John feels his chest swell with relief. Trying to diagnose himself is useless, he knows. He cannot reach his charts in this position and is not about to ask Mycroft for anything more than he’s already done. Sighing, John resigns himself to his fate.

“How long have I been out?”

“You were rushed into A&E immediately after you blacked out at the scene,” Mycroft expounds, looking politely disinterested: crossed leg swinging delicately through the air, ubiquitous umbrella twirling lightly on its point. “You were in surgery for six hours and have been asleep for twelve. You were fairly lucky. The bullet passed cleanly through your lower abdomen with a minimal amount of damage to your internal organs. It nicked your lower intestine and caused a mild bout of sepsis, but they have you on steroids and antibiotics for that. Beyond that, you’re miraculously well. They expect a full recovery in a mere matter of weeks.”

John lets the relief wash through him in waves, half glad his injuries hadn’t been overly serious and half annoyed at Sherlock’s absence. “So, what? Sherlock just saw me to hospital and buggered off to finish the case?” John asks with a small self-deprecating, disbelieving laugh.

Mycroft’s eyebrow quirks up in a gesture uncannily like his younger brother. John stares at him for a few minutes before realization dawns cold and harsh. With a sinking feeling in his gut, he voices the idea he already knows to be true. “He hasn’t been at all, has he.”

Mycroft inclines his head with a pitying smile. John wants to hit him.  His chest feels constricted, as though he can’t get enough air into his lungs. Sherlock hadn’t been to see him at all. He’d ordered John to remain alive, demanded he stay, but couldn’t be bothered to make sure he followed through with the command. John feels the last restraints in his heart break, but shrugs off the impending tears, blinking rapidly and trying to calm himself.

“Thank you, Mycroft,” John finally murmurs, voice soft and sounding empty even to his own ears. “Your attention is appreciated, but no longer necessary. Did they say when I’d be able to leave?”

Mycroft’s face is inscrutable, but after a moment, his mouth tightens in something that might be resignation. “John...”

John shakes his head stiffly. He doesn’t need Mycroft to make excuses for his brother. Sherlock has quite obviously made his position perfectly clear. “When?”

Mycroft’s sigh sounds put-upon and perhaps a bit impatient. “I rang for the nurse as soon as I saw you begin to wake. The doctor should be in shortly. You can ask him then.”

“Thank you,” John says. Mycroft hovers in his seat for another few minutes before rising gracefully to his feet. John feels numb, emotions bypassing sorrow completely and landing squarely in muted stoicism. He’s vaguely aware of Mycroft collecting his coat from the back of the nondescript waiting chair before turning towards the exit. He pauses at the door, familiar pale gaze sweeping over John in an unnaturally sharp manner.

“Doctor Watson,” he says softly and John feels his head tilt towards him as though in a daze. “My brother exceeds in many things. Where other men fail, he tends to excel without even trying. He’s undeniably brilliant, intelligent and extraordinarily observant. However, when it comes to matters of the heart, he can be unquestionably ignorant. Your patience thus far has been remarkable. I must commend you on your ability to tolerate him when most would have abandoned him as a lost cause.” John can feel his jaw clenching and knows he must be trembling. “All I ask is that you give him another chance. I’ve never seen him better than when he is with you.”

John honestly doesn’t know what to say.

: :

When John finally makes it back to 221 Baker Street, he’s already made his decision. He’d been in hospital for over a week, enduring doctors, nurses, DI Lestrade, half of Scotland Yard, Mycroft, Mrs Hudson, Harry and even Sarah, but Sherlock never came.

John had hated himself a little more every day; hated that every time the door would creak open, a little flutter of hope would start up in his chest, only to be crushed by the face of whomever was visiting him that wasn’t Sherlock Holmes. He’d tried to be pleasant, tried to reassure everyone that he was going to be perfectly fine, that the injuries he’d sustained had been relatively minor compared to what they could be, but the ache in his chest deepened with every new well-wisher and he was sure the pain was showing plainly across his face. For the first time in his life, John was glad he had been injured, if only to have some kind of physical pain to ground himself and act as an excuse to the world for why he grimaced every time someone came in with a bunch of flowers or get-well card.

He doesn’t need much physical therapy, as the bullet had merely grazed the muscles in his lower back before passing through to the other side. He’ll be stiff for another few weeks and he is sporting fourteen stitches that will blossom into two more new and interesting scars, but physically he’s actually doing better than he could have ever expected. Mycroft had come back on the day he was discharged, complete with umbrella and impressively expensive black sedan to escort him home. John had promised the doctors he wouldn’t do any heavy lifting for at least a week while mentally calculating how much it will cost to hire movers. He won’t be able to pack and lift boxes until next week at the earliest, and even then he will have to watch that his stitches don’t pull unnecessarily.

Baker Street is quiet when he opens the door, and he thanks Mycroft for the lift home while avoiding his omniscient gaze. He ignores the overly formal “Take care, Doctor Watson,” and swings the door closed.

The house is oppressively silent. Mrs Hudson is probably out doing the shopping or catching up on the latest gossip with Mrs Turner’s Married Ones. If Sherlock is home, he’s being uncharacteristically quiet. John is almost glad of it. He’s honestly not sure what will happen when he sees Sherlock, but he’d bet another round of stitches whatever it is won’t be pleasant.

The sitting room is predictably empty. There’s a new set of bullet holes marking the ridiculous wallpaper and the refrigerator has absolutely nothing in it one might label “fit for human consumption.” John sighs and resigns himself to going to the shops in the morning.

What had he expected? To be welcomed home with flowers, balloons and a ticker tape parade? John snorts to himself and limps stiffly to one of the kitchen chairs. It’s not that he’d wanted some kind of monumental event to celebrate his return to the world of the functioning, but he would have appreciated some kind of acknowledgement from Sherlock.

The dark void in his chest seems to swell and John decides to make himself busy in the only way he can. Tugging his laptop from beneath several days’ worth of old newspapers, John opens the browser and begins the arduous task.

Two hours later, John’s set up four different appointments in locations scattered across London. None of the flats are much better than his pension-sponsored bedsit, but there’s no doubt in his mind he needs to get out. The sound of the outer door slamming startles him alert. His whole body tenses without his consent and he forces his shoulders to relax. Light footfalls on the stairs, skipping two at a time. Excited then, or possibly in a hurry.

The door flies open with the usual melodrama. Sherlock stops in the door frame, body completely still and rigid in a way unique only to him. He’s devastatingly beautiful: hair wild and mussed from the frigid, damp wind, mercurial eyes sparkling with interest, dark wool coat billowing out behind him with residual momentum.

“Afternoon,” John says, irrationally proud of how normal his voice sounds.

Sherlock’s eyes narrow to their usual laser-beam caliber and John can practically feel them burning tracks in their wake. It’s the most attention he’s given John in weeks and he feels the small tendrils of emotion flare back into life despite himself.

“You’ve begun looking for a new flat.” It’s not a question, but there’s something that looks suspiciously like disbelief or hurt in Sherlock’s pale gaze.

“I have.”

Sherlock looks momentarily speechless, his mouth opening around no words before his teeth click audibly closed. His jaw clenches and John can see his hands ball into tight fists at his sides.

“You’ll be alright,” he says without a hint of question.

“It appears so.” John tries not to grind his teeth too harshly, but it’s a struggle. “Nine days, Sherlock. I was in hospital nine days.”

“Yes,” Sherlock states as though this fact should be obvious. It is, but that’s not the point.

“Didn’t you even...?” John stops himself with a humorless laugh. “No, of course you didn’t. What am I saying? You barely care if I’m breathing most days.” John knows he’s ranting, knows this line of thought will get him nowhere but furious, but all the tumultuous thoughts that he’d been holding back in the hospital are flooding violently to the surface and it’s all he can do to keep himself from punching Sherlock in his smug, bony jaw. John’s palms itch with repressed sensations. Despite his anger, he’s missed Sherlock: missed the slide of his pale, ethereal skin, he’s missed the silky curls of his wild and impossible-to-tame hair, he’s missed the velvet depth of his voice as it caresses all the curves of John’s name.

“Nine days,” he bites out, bitterness laced through every syllable.

Yes, John.” Sherlock sounds annoyed now, hating to repeat himself and impatient with it all. “And if there was anything seriously wrong, Mycroft would have—”

“Mycroft!” John shouts, not even bothering to lower his voice. “Don’t you care about me at all?”

The minute the words are out of his mouth, John wants to swallow them back in. He can practically see them as they drift across the room and Sherlock appears to physically recoil with their impact. Regret forms hot and acidic in his gut and he knows he’s just made the biggest mistake of his life. Sherlock seems to collapse in on himself, folding back all the vulnerability and affection he’s ever shown to John and replacing it with cold, hard indifference. John can see all his defenses snapping into place like a well-worn suit of armor. It breaks John’s heart.

With obvious calculation, Sherlock strips off his coat, hangs it on the peg by the door and takes measured steps to the sofa, folding himself onto the cushions with meticulous movements. He looks remarkably disinterested and the shuttered, aloof expression makes John’s blood run cold.

“When are you moving out?” Sherlock asks, carefully blank.

There doesn’t seem to be anything to say to that. John feels himself crumbling; all the emotions of the past month suddenly overwhelmingly heavy on his heart. It’s his own fault and he knows it. If he’d just had the self-discipline to either lay off entirely or just tell Sherlock exactly how he felt. Now he’s actually watching his chances slip out of his grasp.

He considers just launching himself forward, falling into Sherlock’s embrace and letting himself go, just once. He eyes the tense set of Sherlock’s shoulders and his rather forbidding expression and disregards that thought entirely. Sherlock won’t let him come within ten meters of him now and the thought sinks sickeningly down beneath John’s lungs and settles there, black and poisonous.

Gathering what’s left of his dignity, John turns towards the hall. “I’ll be gone by the end of the week.”

He ignores the soft way Sherlock says his name and moves slowly up the stairs.

: :

John tries to ignore the ache in his chest as he calmly folds up the last of his jumpers and lays them carefully in the oversized cardboard box. Tearing off a piece of packing tape, he seals the box closed and takes one last look around his now bare bedroom. He'd folded Mrs Hudson's quilt and tucked it along the bottom of the bare mattress, the only splash of color in the otherwise drab room.

Sounds echo unnaturally through the air as he shuffles the box out into the hall, wincing slightly as his stitches pull a little. He peeks into the wardrobe and sees only empty hangers looking strangely bereft without his collection of shirts swinging cheerfully from them. To his immense discomfort, John finds his throat thick and congested. The room seems so large suddenly and he wonders how he'd ever managed to fill all this space with his small collection of worldly possessions. A shaft of light seeps through the curtains, dust motes swirling through the air and sparkling forlornly.

The violin music trailing up the hall sounds disconcertingly melancholy and John feels a phantom pain shoot through his right leg as he dismounts the stairs, box in hand to join his army trunk and battered hand-me-down luggage. He briefly considers just leaving, continuing down the stairs until he reaches the street and making a clean break of the whole mess. He's hesitating with his hand on the sitting room door when the violin abruptly stops.

The door flies open and John's breath catches. Sherlock looks terrible; eyes dark and sunken with purple smudges surrounding them, hair a tangled mess, dressing gown trailing off one shoulder and deep frown lines across his brow. He's got his absurd bottom lip trapped tightly between his teeth, worrying at the skin and causing John's heart to break all over again. He doesn't seem inclined to break the strained silence, so John finally sighs and clears his throat.

"Listen," he starts, not knowing how to proceed.

"Don't," Sherlock stops him, hand hovering uncertainly in the air as though he desperately wants to reach out. "Don't leave, John. Please."

John closes his eyes against the flood of unwelcome emotions. He has to get out of here before he says or does something he will regret.

"I can't do this anymore," he sighs, hating how cracked and broken his voice sounds. He can’t bear to look at Sherlock right now, so he closes his eyes against the fresh swell of emotion and tries to harden his resolve. He needs to get out. Now.

"I know," Sherlock's voice sounds closer now, the air between them heating slowly. "I'm not good at this, John. Emotions are just a weakness, distracting me from the work. I have no coping mechanism to deal with how you make me feel, John. It's distracting and frustrating and intolerable.” He sounds almost as frustrated and confused as John’s been these past months and it’s almost enough to shatter John’s stance. John’s eyes flutter open to lock with Sherlock’s and the lost expression shakes him to the core. “However, I cannot fathom not having you here."

John feels his heart clench, but he knows this is his last chance to say everything he needs to before he’s gone for good. “It’s not that simple, Sherlock. I’m not just some tool you can use at your disposal. I know you hate to hear about them, but I do in fact have feelings, and I think at this point it’s fairly obvious how you feel as well.” John sighs again and raises his gaze to meet Sherlock’s once more. His eyes are a stormy grey, sharply focused as ever and the look is so quintessentially Sherlock that John feels his heart splinter in his chest.

“John,” he whispers, urgent and sharp and John just can’t.

“I’m sorry, Sherlock,” he says, voice thick and heavy with the definite threat of tears. John suddenly realizes he’s lingering with the hope that Sherlock will say something to fix all of this, to take back all the horrible things he’s said and done, to make the hurt go away. But just as quickly, he knows that’s impossible.

John wouldn’t love Sherlock if he were like everyone else. He wouldn’t need him, the way most people need oxygen. However, John also has enough self-preservation to cut off the gangrenous limb when it threatens the whole body, so he turns where he stands, feeling the shattered remains of his heart scatter on the floor and takes the first step towards the stairs.

Sherlock sucks in a shaky breath behind him and John feels his eyelashes flutter closed. Walking away is the hardest thing he’s ever done, but if he has any hope of getting out of this relatively unscathed, he knows it’s now or never. Pain laces up his right leg, and John stumbles, catching himself on the banister as his body threatens to give out.

He’s somewhat surprised at Sherlock’s continued silence, but seconds later the sound of the violin picks up again, low and heartbreakingly sad. John clamps down on the quick rush of anger, clinging to it and pushing it to the surface; anything to drown out the feeling of hopelessness threatening his very breath. Of course Sherlock has already moved on, dismissing John as a failed experiment and carrying on with his life as usual. Would that John could forget so easily.

Taking a deep breath and shaking himself mentally, John bends down to collect the boxes, wondering idly if he’ll be able to fit everything into a single taxi. He’ll have to stay with Harry for at least a couple weeks, enough time to sort out a new flat and possibly a new, steadier job. He vaguely hears the ping of his mobile, but it sounds like it’s coming from inside the flat and he’s not exactly comfortable going in anymore. He briefly considers leaving it behind, but knows Harry will give him an earful if he ends up without it.

It’s rather amazing how quickly this flat, his home has become so foreign to him. Well, he’s invaded foreign lands before, so why stop now? Finding it all rather ridiculous, John steels himself and pushes open the sitting room door. Sherlock is framed in the window, sawing away at his violin and studiously ignoring John as expected. John rummages around, lifting piles of old case files and shifting sheet music off the floor, firmly telling himself it’s absolutely pointless to get sentimental about the box of desiccated beetle eyes. After a quarter of an hour, John’s patience is wearing thin and his mobile is still stubbornly elusive.

Finally giving up on any semblance of a dignified exit, John turns to his former flatmate in resigned desperation. “Sherlock?” he says, proud that it comes out rock-solid.

“John,” Sherlock replies without even turning away from the window. The bow of his violin is perched delicately along the strings, though it’s stilled for the time being.

“Have you seen my mobile?”

“Coat pocket,” he rumbles and drags a long, melodious tone from the A string. John instantly pats his sides, but realizes with a wave of familiar exasperation that of course, Sherlock means his coat pocket. Crossing the room as quickly as his limp will allow, John fishes in the Belstaff for his mobile. His fingers close around the plastic and brush against something soft at the same time. Curious in spite of himself, John pulls out both items, pocketing his phone before turning to the patch of discolored fabric in his hand.

It is a ragged square of cable-knit wool, spattered across with what is unmistakably dried blood.  John realizes in a flash of something like panic that it’s the bit of jumper the medics had had to cut off of him to get to the bullet wound the day he was shot. With a wave of nausea, John understands: Sherlock has been carrying this around for a fortnight. He must have felt it every time he reached into his pocket for his mobile or his cigarettes. With creeping realization, John remembers seeing Sherlock shove his hand in his pocket more frequently as of late as though it has become some kind of weird tic he can’t seem to shake. John just assumed he was searching for his mobile, but the idea of him reaching to touch this small piece of John is completely unfathomable.

With dawning horror, John realizes the sounds from the violin have stopped. He swallows down the confused tenderness and turns slowly to face Sherlock. He’s frozen in place, bow raised slightly above the strings, violin still perched precariously on his shoulder. His eyes are wide and a little bit fearful and as John watches, his gaze darts quickly between the fabric in John’s hand and his face before glancing away, a bright flush creeping up his neck.

It’s the most vulnerable John has ever seen him and the part of his heart that still resides in his chest gives a great heave of pressure. He looks back down at the wool, worrying the frayed edge with his thumb and trying to wrap his mind around this new information. It’s so undeniably sentimental that John suspects for a moment that it’s all a malicious joke.

“I...” he starts, feeling his throat constricted and swallowing around the lump of emotion. “Sherlock, I don’t understand.”

“It’s nothing, John. Leave it be and get out.” Sherlock’s voice is definitely lacking the venom he intended and John looks up sharply, catching the defeated expression before Sherlock closes his eyes and visibly steels himself.

John narrows his eyes and grips the fabric tighter. “It’s obviously not ‘nothing.’”

Sherlock’s jaw clenches and he lets the violin drop from his shoulder to dangle at his side, bow scraping the sitting room floor slightly. He’s clearly trying to calm himself, taking deep breaths and tensing his shoulders. When he finally looks back up at John, his eyes are hard as cold steel. “I said leave it.”

“Sherlock,” John tries again, taking a tentative step forward.

Sherlock reels back, frigid hostility apparent in every fiber of his being. He’s practically vibrating with tension. “Oh piss off, John. I told you to Get. Out. You clearly made your decision to go a long time ago, so just go and leave me alone.”

John can feel the familiar rise of anger coming to his rescue, frustration and confusion clouding his judgment. “Why didn’t you say something?” he demands, crushing the wool into his tight fist.

“What was I to say?” Sherlock shouts back, violin sailing through the air and coming perilously close to colliding with the table. Startled, Sherlock drops the instrument back into its case before fisting his hands in his hair and groaning loudly. “You obviously weren’t happy with me or our relationship. What more could I do for you than to let you go?”

John feels his head spinning.  He suddenly knows with absolute clarity that this is what Sherlock’s been doing: the most unselfish act he could think of. Pushing John away as a self-deprecating act of altruism, knowing he could never give John what he ultimately thought he deserved.

“You,” John says, breathless and heart racing, “are a colossal idiot.”

Sherlock’s head snaps up, eyes wide and uncertain. John feels his face split into a watery grin and he closes the distance between them in two swift strides, practically launching himself into Sherlock’s startled embrace. Sherlock catches him and staggers back, arms instinctively wrapping around John and crushing him into his ribs. He is trembling, John realizes, shaking like a leaf as he smoothes one hand down John’s back and winds his long fingers into the wool of his jumper.

“Please don’t leave me, John,” he whispers into his hair. “Don’t leave.”                

John clutches him tighter and buries his face into the open collar of Sherlock’s shirt, reveling in the warmth and smell of him. He can feel his chest expanding with overwhelming emotion and runs his lips lightly across Sherlock’s sharp collarbone. He feels the hitch of breath against his own chest and the spasm that shoots through Sherlock’s arms where they wind tightly around his back.

“I’m not going anywhere,” John murmurs into pale skin.

Sherlock tightens his hold, bony ribs and overly pronounced hip bones digging into John’s body in a way far too familiar. John buries his face into Sherlock’s sternum and lets himself breathe. It feels like coming home. All the tension, all the anger and resentment seems to melt as Sherlock squeezes him closer.

“I don’t want you to go,” Sherlock whispers into the top of John’s head. “I can’t bear to think about it, John. I’d be lost without you.”

John feels the giddy happiness bubbling up. Emotional rollercoaster doesn’t even begin to cover it. He feels too much, too many emotions welling up inside his chest, but the incredible relief overwhelms them all.

“I can’t believe you almost let me walk out of here,” John mutters into a sharp collarbone. The words are muffled by the wide grin he can’t seem to suppress. He feels like a fourth former with his first crush.

“You should leave your things down here,” Sherlock breathes, still clearly reluctant to let John out of his tight embrace. There’s no need: John has no intention of going anywhere ever again. Slowly, Sherlock’s words trickle past the shock and drama and John looks up sharply. His startled laughter of utter incredulity is shockingly loud in the small space of the stairwell.

“Sherlock Holmes, did you just ask me to move in with you?”

Sherlock rolls his eyes with the most long-suffering expression John’s ever seen. “Redundant, John, really.”

John knows he’s playing with fire, but he can’t help it as his hands sweep up the long expanse of Sherlock’s back. His voice sounds husky even to his own ears. “If you’re telling me you’d rather I never left your bedroom...”

 "Well, it seems a shame to bring everything back up," Sherlock says, feigning innocence and ruining it by the upward tilt of his lower lip.

John buries his face into Sherlock’s pale neck and allows his lips to linger against his racing pulse.

“Idiot,” John whispers fondly and it sounds an awful lot like I love you. Sherlock finally lets him go, ducking around John and grabbing a few boxes before sending a cheeky wink over his shoulder and sashaying through to his bedroom. John watches him go with a thrilling sense of wonder. As he’s bending to gather his suitcase, he hears Sherlock pause in the doorway.

“I...” He looks hesitant and unsure and that expression alone makes John uneasy like nothing else. John waits with bated breath as Sherlock clearly steels himself before fixing John with his usual piercing stare. “I can’t promise to be everything you want, John. I’m not saying this is easy for me at all. I’ll probably drive you mad with worry, and don’t expect any overt declarations of emotion or overzealous displays of affection. I won’t change, John, but... I’ll try.”

John lets out a shaky breath and closes the distance between them. Wrapping his arms around Sherlock’s bony shoulders, he presses a small kiss against his mouth.

“I know,” he murmurs, pressing in a little harder and sweeping his tongue along the seam of Sherlock’s lips. He shivers when Sherlock’s long fingers skim up the back of his neck. “I know.”

They will undoubtedly fight and they will fuck and they will bicker and they will laugh and they will storm out and they will order takeaway and they will survive on adrenaline and danger and it will be glorious. John feels the slow smile spread across his face, full of affection and exasperation. It won’t be easy, but it will be perfect.  

 

 

You left your thumbprint inside me

Now for months it seems

But mine only brushes your soft surface

And somehow, somehow it leaves me listless

My tongue curls under my lips, oh yes

So I can’t speak to tell you of the months before when I met you, love

~Jason Mraz, 0% Interest