swissmarg: Mrs Hudson (Molly)
[personal profile] swissmarg
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Part one
Part two


"They're bringing him to his room for the night. I'm going to have Mummy taken home. She's exhausted. The two of you can ride along if you want."

John opened his eyes, blinking against the harsh waiting room lighting. Mycroft. He hadn't even heard him approaching. John felt Sherlock slide his hand away where it had been loosely entwined with his, resting on John's leg. His bottom was numb from sitting so long on the hard plastic chair. Beside him, Sherlock sat with his long legs stretched out, ankles crossed. He was staring intently at his phone and didn't appear inclined to react to Mycroft's suggestion.

John looked at his watch. Almost midnight. Mr Holmes had come out of surgery an hour ago. They'd put in a stent and all the indicators were positive so far. Mrs Holmes had been sitting in the recovery room with him, but apparently the late hour was taking its toll on her as well. Christmas Eve at the hospital.

"Yeah, think we're staying," John told Mycroft as Sherlock continued to stay resolutely put. The three of them along with Mrs Holmes had come together in Mycroft's car, following the ambulance. If they didn't take Mycroft up on the offer now, they'd have to take a taxi later or wait until either Mrs Holmes or Mycroft returned in the morning.

"There's nothing you can do," Mycroft said sternly. "He's stable and resting comfortably. You can't go in now, visiting hours are long over. They'll call if there's any change in his condition."

"He said we're staying," Sherlock repeated, his voice calm but steely.

Mycroft sighed in a put-upon way. "Someone should stay with Mummy."

"You do it then," Sherlock retorted, looking up from his phone. "Or do you have to start a war somewhere? It's Christmas, surely even you can let the world muddle along on its own for a few hours."

Mycroft's lip curled in what John recognised as a sure sign of escalation. Before he could say anything, though, John jumped in: "How about you go with your mother now," he told Mycroft, "and we'll stay here. You can bring her back in the morning then head down to London if you need to."

"When will you sleep?" It didn't sound like Mycroft was concerned for their wellbeing as much as pointing out that John hadn't thought things through properly.

"Don't worry about us. I can kip anywhere, and Sherlock's used to all-nighters." He gave Mycroft a bland smile.

Mycroft appraised him coolly. "Very well," he finally acquiesced. "I shall let the nurses' station know you're staying."

"I'll do that," John said, and stood up. "Could do with a bit of stretching my legs."

"I'll have to go with you anyway, John. Only next of kin can change the notification order."

"Oh, do piss off, Mycroft," Sherlock muttered from his seat.

"That was rather my plan," Mycroft said with a sour smile directed over John's shoulder. "I have business to take care of back in London. I can't actually play babysitter. Why don't you come back and stay with our mother after all, John, if Sherlock insists on playing the martyr here. Surely he does't need you to hold his hand."

Sherlock stood up at that, his entire body telegraphing his displeasure, pushing in between John and Mycroft. John had the same gut reaction at Mycroft calling them out like that, trying to turn the honest sign of affection and support into something childish. Nonetheless, he put his hand on Sherlock's upper arm to stay what he suspected was going to turn into a physical altercation. They were in a hospital, after all, and tempers and emotions were running high all round after that afternoon. Sherlock held back, although he didn't shake John off.

"John is a better son to our father than either of us," Sherlock snarled, oblivious to the alarmed looks from the other people sitting in the area. "You think you can arrange things from afar, toss some theatre tickets their way, make a grand entrance once a year only to spend the whole time on your phone or criticising him for not being posh or smart enough? Or Mummy for having had the gall to waste her talents" -- Sherlock made air quotes -- "raising a family? How many gutters have you helped him clean? How often have you sat down for a cup of tea and asked what he's been up to lately?"

Mycroft remained unruffled. "Of course it's lovely John gets on with him so well, but he's our father, not a pal." He said the last word as if it were something distasteful. "There's history between us that John has neither the benefit nor disadvantage of."

But Sherlock continued undeterred, looming into Mycroft's personal space. "How many times, Mycroft, have you set foot in his workshop? What if we had come back half an hour later?"

"Mummy was about to go out--"

"And would she have known what to do? Would you? Other than call for one of your faceless assistants?"

"Mumtaz is fully certified in First Aid and CPR and carries a defibrillator in the boot," Mycroft reminded him, meaning the driver who had spent the afternoon cooling his heels -- or rather warming them up -- at a nearby cafe.

"John saved our father's life," Sherlock said savagely, jabbing a finger in John's direction. "You would be planning his funeral right now if it weren't for him, rather than trying to find the quickest escape route back to London. Or maybe you'd have left that to John as well."

"I'm going to ignore that, given the circumstances," Mycroft said with a pointed look. "Of course I'm grateful for John's quick and professional actions. Thank you," he said to John, adding after a beat, "again. That doesn't change the fact that he cannot make changes to the care sheet," Mycroft said, returning his attention to Sherlock. "So if you both insist on staying--"

"I'll go with your mother," John said, just to put an end to the bickering, although he really would rather have stayed with Sherlock. He'd taken the whole thing quite hard, not that John blamed him a bit. Mycroft was right that there was nothing to be gained by staying at the hospital, and that it would do Sherlock (and him) more good to get a few hours of sleep than to sit in the waiting room surrounded by strangers and fret. But John also understood how important it was for Sherlock to stay. The whole thing was complicated by Sherlock's history. The two times he'd been forced to leave. Moriarty and Magnussen.

"He should go, if he thinks she needs minding," Sherlock said, biting the words out in Mycroft's direction. "She's his mother, as he'd be the first to point out. Although she's somehow managed without you for the past thirty years, you'd think she'd make it one more night."

"It's all right," John said, squeezing Sherlock's arm, which he was still holding. "I don't think either of your parents will be helped by you fighting."

"Quite right," Mycroft said superciliously. "And I've reconsidered, I believe it would be best if I go with Mummy after all. Speaking of whom, I really should be getting her home. I'll inform the nurses' station on my way out. John?"

Mycroft inclined his head toward the corridor and started down it, checking that John was coming with him. John intensely disliked the way Mycroft was jerking them around, but in the interest of getting rid of him as quickly as possible, he said a few words of reassurance to Sherlock that he'd be right back, and followed after Mycroft.

"Don't let him out of your sight, John," Mycroft said in a low voice once they were out of hearing range. "His all-nighters don't come naturally, if you take my meaning. I'd hate for this unfortunate incident to be the cause of a relapse. For Mummy's sake, if nothing else."

John stopped short, incredulous. "For your mother's sake? You know what? I know you're upset over what happened, running on your sixth cup of shite coffee of the night, not yourself and all that, but Jesus, you're a piece of work. How about for Sherlock's sake? Has it ever occurred to you that one reason he turns to drugs is because he's trying to regain some control? Because he feels that people don't trust him?"

"Frankly, no. But it has occurred to me that his last major relapse was triggered by someone he cared a great deal for leaving him, to his belief permanently."

"He was the one who was sent away, no thanks to you, and I would have gone with him in a heartbeat if I'd been kept informed of what was going on!" John hissed fiercely.

"I'm not talking about what happened after the distasteful business with Charles Magnussen. I am referring to your wedding. Do not presume to lecture me on familial duty, John Watson." He looked down his nose at John, his mouth downturned in disparagement. Then without another word, he turned and walked away, the sound of his polished soles echoing crisply in the tiled corridor.

======

They made it back to Sherlock's parents' house just after nine the next morning. Mycroft was as good as his word, staying at the house overnight and returning to the hospital with his mother first thing. Mr Holmes was awake by then too, alert and responsive, and they'd all been able to visit with him briefly before the nurse came in to take his vitals and change the dressing on the insertion site. Mycroft had then had his driver drop John and Sherlock off before continuing on to London. Mr Holmes would be in hospital until at least the following day, and they intended to stay until he was home, maybe even a day or two longer if no interesting cases turned up.

John had let the practise where he was filling in know the situation, and they'd been understanding. It had been a bit strange to say it out loud to someone else: my partner's father. As if it were real; official. He and Sherlock hadn't discussed it, hadn't made any promises or declarations. And yet since they'd kissed -- since the outing to the dockyard, really -- it was as if a rubber band that had been straining between them had snapped. The sense of navigating uncharted waters in an unfamiliar craft was gone, replaced by a steady hand at the rudder, a confidence that their vessel was seaworthy. There was no need to fear if they lost sight of the coastline. They were in it together. His partner.

There also wasn't any question or discussion of sleeping arrangements as they undressed to their underwear and dropped into Sherlock's bed together. Sherlock on the left side, John on the right. There was still some wrangling with the blanket, but this time there was no care given to maintaining a polite distance, no imaginary barrier between them. John settled on his back, Sherlock on his side facing him. Sherlock's hand found its way to John's shoulder, his knee bumped up against John's leg, and John's hand rested comfortably on Sherlock's bare thigh. That was it. Nothing sexual. Just being there for each other, with each other. Knowing that the one would protect the other, and that when they woke up, they would still be together. Like otters holding hands as they drifted on the water.

John was already more than half asleep when he heard Sherlock ask: "What was it like for you? When your father died?"

John struggled back to consciousness, tried to make sense of Sherlock's question. Not sure how to respond, he tried to address the underlying issue first. "Your father's not going to die, Sherlock. Not today, and not this week anyway." He rubbed Sherlock's leg with his thumb.

"You don't know that."

"Yeah, I do. Doctor here. If he takes his meds, which he will, and doesn't go climbing up on the roof and fall off, which he won't, he's going to be around for a while yet."

Sherlock fell silent. John considered. This wasn't a good time for this conversation. They were both exhausted, keyed up emotionally and physically drained. Honesty, though. It was the one thing he'd demanded of Sherlock when he agreed to come back. It would be pretty shabby of him not to hold himself to the same standard. Especially now.

"And erm," he said, his heart pounding in his ears, "my father's not dead."

Sherlock didn't answer. Had he fallen asleep? John opened his eyes and turned his head on the pillow. The curtains were drawn and it was an overcast day, so it was quite dim in the room. Still, he could see Sherlock was watching him, eyes alert despite the dark circles under them. Calculating. Deducing. John straightened his neck and closed his eyes again. It was easier this way.

"Not as far as I know anyway," he continued. "I think Harry and I would have been informed, still next of kin."

He waited for Sherlock to piece it together. To spare him saying the words out loud.

"Where is he?" Sherlock asked finally.

"Up in Kilmarnock. He's serving a mandatory life sentence but he'll be eligible for parole next year."

Another silence. Then, quietly but with an unmistakable air of having finally made sense of something: "Your mother."

John nodded. His mouth was dry. He'd never told this to anyone. Not even Mary. He didn't know anymore whether he'd actually told her they were dead, or whether she'd assumed, as everyone did, and he'd never corrected her. It was easier that way. Dead parents, common enough, especially at his age. A quick condolence, never mentioned again. The truth, though, that would stick to him, to every interaction, every look, every word. It would colour irrevocably his image in the eyes of those who knew it. His heart beat frantically. He wasn't sure he could do it. But he already had. Sherlock had already figured it out. He'd taken the burden upon himself for John. His hand still rested securely on John's shoulder. His leg a pillar of warmth against John's.

"She and her boyfriend," John said. "They'd been divorced for three years already. Split up as soon as Harry moved out. He couldn't stand to see her happy."

"You were overseas."

"Harry blamed me. If I hadn't been over there, she said..."

"She's an idiot."

John opened his eyes again to look at Sherlock. Indignation at Harry, anger, maybe at Harry, maybe at John's father. At John, for not telling him earlier? Definitely curiosity. He had no doubt Sherlock would be looking up the case at the first opportunity. As long as John didn't have to explain. He didn't know all the details himself. Maybe it was time for him to read the file. He'd tossed away Mary's memory stick for the same reasons. If he'd taken a look at the contents, maybe much of the ensuing heartache could have been avoided.

John let out a long breath. "She felt guilty herself. Our father blamed our mother for Harry being gay." There was a long pause, Sherlock letting John figure it out. Letting him decide how much he wanted to lay out in the open. Finally, John went on: "I suppose at some level it all ties in. You know, to my... I only dated women, you know? Except that's not true. Well, dated is the wrong word." This shouldn't be so hard. He was lying in bed with a man, had acknowledged him publicly and privately as his significant other. He loved him, deeply, in a way he wasn't sure he'd ever loved another person before. There was a sexual layer too, regardless of what manner they acted on it, that attraction was there, undeniable.

"You had a fling," Sherlock supplied. Guessing, maybe. Was it news to him too? Or had he known, back at the wedding, or even earlier?

"It was a mess," John agreed. "All the wrong reasons. I told myself it was to get back at my father, which I suppose was true in some way, but that wasn't all. I mean I wouldn't have... if I weren't..."

Sherlock waited a moment to see if John would continue. When he didn't, Sherlock slid in closer so their torsos were pressed together, hooked one leg over John's, his chin on John's shoulder, his breath cool on John's neck. Waited again.

John swallowed, his throat tight. He didn't deserve this man. Didn't deserve him at all. "This isn't like that," he said, insistent despite the hoarseness of his voice. "This isn't to get back at Mary."

"I know." Sherlock hugged John in the half embrace.

"Yeah." John reached across with the hand that wasn't pinned to his side under Sherlock's weight and took hold of Sherlock's hand that was curled around his shoulder. He tilted his chin down and kissed it. Sherlock nestled in closer, kissed John's hand on top of his. Nudged his face in closer and kissed John on the mouth. Slow and deliberate. John kissed him back, harder, teeth pressed against the inside of his lips, squeezing his hand so tightly it must have hurt. He kissed him until he felt the tightness loosening, until the air flowed back into his lungs. Sherlock's air. Sherlock's breath. He gulped it in when he finally pulled back, but at least his throat was clear and his eyes dry. He gripped the back of Sherlock's neck to hold him there, cheek to cheek, noses nuzzling. Sherlock gave him a couple more pecks, little feathery things, before gently easing back to his own pillow.

"Hm. Oh God," John said, pressing the heels of his hands to his eyes. "It's Christmas morning," he realised.

"It is." John heard the smile in Sherlock's voice. He lowered his hands and looked over at his friend. His truest one. His partner. His lover.

"I have a present for you in my bag," John said. He'd bought it before all this, of course, and it seemed insignificant now: a set of titanium surgical scalpels that he'd got at a deep discount through his last locum assignment.

"You can give it to me later. I have one for you here." Sherlock nudged John with his lower body. He was soft, so John didn't take it too seriously, but the risque flirting dissipated the last of the emotional tension. John started giggling.

"Oh my God. You can give that to me later too. I'm so tired I don't even know what I'm saying anymore." I love you, was what he wanted to say. So much I don't know what to do with it. Maybe some of the message came across through his expression, because he saw the same thing reflected in Sherlock's eyes, in his smile, in the hand sliding down his arm to grip his hand beneath the cover.

"Merry Christmas," Sherlock said.

"Merry Christmas."

======

"Mummy wants to know if it's all right to switch to taking the Plavix in the morning. He takes his other pills in the morning too and it would be easier to do all at once." Sherlock looked up from his phone, which lay beside him on the kitchen table, where he was trying out his new scalpels on Molly's Christmas present.

John paused in typing up his notes from the case they'd solved that afternoon. Sherlock had said it looked interesting enough to end their visit for, although he probably would have said that about a dognapping. Four days at his parents' house was apparently his limit. His father was doing well, having been sent home yesterday afternoon. He was taking the stairs slowly but not getting winded or experiencing any chest pain. The incision was healing well too. John had checked it one last time before they left that morning, deeming even the light dressing no longer necessary.

The case that drew them away had turned out not to be the waxworks at Madam Tussaud's coming to life during the night, disappointingly, but rather a homeless woman with a sense of humour who was trading sexual favours to the night watchman in exchange for being allowed to sleep in the museum. At least it had got them out, away from the whole vortex of emotional upheaval, and back in the game.

It had also been a nice confirmation that their newly acknowledged status didn't have an adverse effect on how they worked together. The only difference was John's hand on Sherlock's leg in the cab on the way there, and Sherlock telling the cabbie that his 'partner' (he'd always referred to him before, if at all, as his associate) would settle the fare as he leapt out once they arrived at their destination. Afterwards, they'd gone for takeaway and taken the tube home, their legs jostling comfortably against each other as they sat side by side.

"They should ask his cardiologist this kind of thing," John said now in response to Sherlock's query.

"It's not really the sort of thing worth bothering her for at this time of night."

John sighed. That was true, it was nearly ten and hardly urgent. "Yeah, all right. Let's see, he took it last night so it's been 24 hours. He should definitely take tonight's dose. Then tomorrow mid-afternoon, and the next day he can start on the morning schedule. I don't think it should be a problem taking them all at once, but they should contact their GP or pharmacist tomorrow to make sure."

"Tell her that." Sherlock nodded at his phone. "My hands are gooky," he added defensively at John's raised eyebrows.

"Gooky?" John said, but he set the laptop down and hauled himself up out of his armchair.

"Spleeny," Sherlock specified.

John went over to pick up Sherlock's phone and started tapping out a response. Sherlock's hands -- double gloved, John was pleased to see -- were indeed speckled with bits of blood and tissue. The fleshy lump on the dissecting tray in front of him had been thoroughly picked apart, and slices of various thicknesses were lined up neatly to one side.

"Is this Father Christmas?" John asked.

Sherlock hummed an affirmative. "The decomposition pattern's particularly nice. Another couple of days would have been even more informative."

"Yeah, no. We'll have the health inspectors on us one of these days."

Molly, not knowing they would be out of town for the entire weekend and mindful of the time-sensitive nature of her gift, had had the cooler messengered over on the evening of the 24th. Mrs Hudson had accepted the delivery but simply left the beribboned box on the kitchen table. There, the contents had thawed and stewed for three days. Sherlock had been delighted at the result. John resigned.

The body parts Molly provided Sherlock with these days were no longer illicit plunder from autopsied corpses. She'd been dating a surgical resident for a few months now, who upon hearing of Sherlock's interest, routinely asked his patients whether they would agree to donating anything that was removed to a scientific study. The hospital board wasn't strictly informed of the arrangement, but as the patients were legally in their right to dispose of any excised tissue as they saw fit, there were really no repercussions to fear. Sherlock's current project was the result of a man who had been playing Father Christmas and fallen off the roof, injuring himself so badly a splenectomy had been necessary.

In other words, life as they knew it was back to normal. Except for one thing.... John had been putting it off ever since they got back, but it was getting late now and he was starting to flag after several days on minimal sleep. He would have liked to head up to bed, but... should he actually head up? Or down the hall?

He'd been wondering about it all day. Since yesterday, in fact. Probably even the day before that, when they'd woken up in the early afternoon on Christmas day, groggy and off-kilter from the shifted schedule. Still burrowed under the blanket, a warm nest of unwashed men. Hands finding each other, smiles, a quick kiss before getting up to use the loo and grab some food before heading back to the hospital. How could he go back from that? How could they go back? Two separate beds on Baker Street. Two separate rooms, an entire floor between them.

"You going to stay up and finish with that?" John asked once he'd sent the message and set Sherlock's phone back on the table where he could see it.

Sherlock made a vague sound that John took for agreement as he carefully lifted a slice of spleen onto an empty slide. John waited for more, tried telepathically to make Sherlock understand what he wanted to ask. He was usually so good at anticipating John, but apparently not this time.

"Right, okay. I think I'm going to turn in," John said eventually when the silence became awkward with him still standing there.

Sherlock appeared more interested in his sample than John's announcement, which was only fair. It wasn't exactly a headliner. He probably wouldn't sleep at all. Or else he'd be going to bed so late John wouldn't even notice whether he was in the same bed or not. It was fine. John would go up to his room, alone. Back to normal. It didn't change things between them. As if to prove this, John rubbed Sherlock's upper back and leaned down to kiss him on the head as he said good night. That was all he'd wanted, right? The freedom to express affection the way it came naturally to him? Still, it felt like something of a letdown as he headed to the loo for his nightly ablutions, after the increasing intimacies between them over the past couple of days.

When he came out, Sherlock was still at the table, looking into his microscope.

"Night," John said again as he passed through. He was almost at the stairs when he heard Sherlock's voice:

"My bed's bigger."

John backed up. Sherlock hadn't looked up, was now writing something on a piece of paper.

"Sorry?" John said.

"I said my bed's bigger." Sherlock seemed preoccupied with his notes but there was a tension in his body, a flicker at the corner of his eye that told John he was actually paying very close attention to him.

John's heart kicked up a notch. "Right, yeah," he said casually. As if he'd already thought about that. Which he had. "My room's more private though," he pointed out. Mrs Hudson's bedroom was right underneath Sherlock's. "We could always move things round."

Sherlock picked up another slide, still not looking at John. "Mine's closer to the bathroom. Might be convenient."

Convenient. For morning showers, of course. Midnight visits to the loo. But also for any need one might have to clean up during the night. For damp flannels. Rinsing out mouths. Washing hands. "Yeah. Of course," John said, hoping he sounded much more matter-of-fact about this whole thing than he felt. "Makes sense. All right then. I'll just..." He pointed upstairs.

"You know where everything is."

"Okay. Okay," he repeated, now grinning broadly because he couldn't help it, and because he couldn't help the next bit either, he went over and kissed Sherlock again, only this time it was on the mouth and there might even have been a hint of tongue, and John hoped to God that Sherlock understood what he was trying to say. He thought he might just, as he had a rather dazed expression by the time John was done with him.

"Enjoy your spleen," John said, and went upstairs to get his pyjamas.

*******

John woke before his alarm the next morning. He wasn't sure what had woken him until he heard the light snoring beside him and smiled, feeling deeply satisfied and surprisingly well rested. He hadn't noticed Sherlock coming to bed last night; either he'd stayed up very late, or John had just been that tired. He checked his watch on the nightstand. His alarm would go off in twenty minutes anyway. No use trying to go back to sleep.

John turned carefully onto his side so he was facing Sherlock, trying not to jiggle the mattress. It was still dark, but there was enough light from outside for him to see Sherlock's outline, the dark mound of him under the covers. It was difficult to resist the temptation to put his arm over him and hug him close, but Sherlock could use the sleep.

John slowly sat up. He was expected back at the surgery that morning. Just as he shifted his weight to put one foot onto the cold floor, a groggy, questioning sound came from the vicinity of Sherlock's pillow.

"I have to go in to work today,"John said in a hushed voice. "Go back to sleep."

A long arm slithered up from somewhere under the covers and slung itself around John's leg, pulling it closer. John leaned over awkwardly to give Sherlock that hug after all.

"Good morning," John said, smiling into his hair.

Sherlock grunted and turned his head, seeking John's lips. He tasted stale, but at least not like cigarettes. Another kiss. Slower. Longer. Noses brushing, chins bumping, a chuckle, just a touch, lips against lips. A breath. A heartbeat. An eternity. What John had intended as a casual morning greeting was somehow turning into something quite a bit more interesting. Settling in, slow and languid, soft, gentle. Asking. Answering. Agreement. Yes. This is who we are. This is what we do. Undeniable. A moment's respite. Breathe. Sherlock's arm still held John's leg firmly in place, but his hand now spanned John's thigh, where it kneaded the muscle, his fingers starting to brush John's inguinal crease. John felt himself stirring in response and swallowed down a moan.

Sherlock made a satisfied sound in response and snugged John's leg in closer, practically dragging it underneath him and forcing John to drop back down to the mattress in order to avoid pulling a muscle in his back.

"I have to go to work," he said, but the protest was token, and they both knew it.

"I've been waiting all night for you to wake up," Sherlock said, cradling the back of John's head with his hand and kissing down his jawline.

John laughed, but it was a breathless sound as Sherlock's lips elicited delicious sensations that zinged straight down to his groin. "You were drooling into your pillow," he tried to say.

"I haven't given you your Christmas present yet," Sherlock said, returning to capture John's mouth.

"You have," John said, although he knew Sherlock wasn't referring to his official gift of a tablet computer. John had set it up and tried it out during the long hours without anything particular to do on Christmas and Boxing Day, and though he was probably going to stick to his laptop for anything involving writing, he had to admit the tablet was much more practical than either the laptop or the phone for anything visual, like video consultations on the go or pulling up crime scene photos.

"Not the tablet," Sherlock said, tugging and adjusting until John was stretched out beside him again.

"I know," John said, pulling back to try to see Sherlock's face. "But you have anyway. You really have." He knew what Sherlock meant: his body, the curious bond forged by sex. He felt it too. They were ready. He cupped Sherlock's jaw with one hand and caressed his cheek, ran his thumb across Sherlock's lips. Sherlock had already given him the gift of himself, of his bared soul. Of his trust. John wasn't trying to downplay the fact that he wanted to do this, not at all, but the fact that he was approaching it as lighthearted flirtation, when clearly it was something that meant a great deal to him, made John feel fiercely protective of him, and want to do it just right. Not in a rush on his way to work. On the other hand, would there ever be a perfect time? They were just as likely to be interrupted by a summons from Lestrade, or a drop-in client, or a bomb going off in the street outside, no matter how much time they set aside. And it was somehow fitting that it was here, in their flat, where their relationship had started, in what was now their bed, that they finally took this step.

Sherlock had never shared a bed with anyone, he said, which meant he'd never shared any of this. Or had there been physical encounters that didn't extend to the intimacy of an overnight bed? Loos, alleys, dirty drug dens like the place John had found him when he went looking for Isaac Whitney... or before that, someone's basement with their parents upstairs; the back seat of a first car; sneaking in and out of a bedroom window on a school night?

It didn't matter, in the end, John decided, because this had to be the first time he was sharing this with someone who loved him as fiercely, as deeply, as irrevocably as John did. No one who felt this for Sherlock could ever have left him. John hadn't left him either, he reasoned, despite Mycroft's accusations. Sherlock had left him, and even when John had married someone else, he'd never intended... Never. He hadn't understood, hadn't realised. John pulled Sherlock closer, held him tighter, as if the strength of his embrace could convey the fervor of his sentiment and erase any hurt he might have caused. To both of them.

"I know," John repeated, rocking Sherlock in his arms and finding his lips again. He did, he knew. The desperation. The feeling of being home at last after a journey that had lasted a lifetime.

Their kisses were blatantly open-mouthed now, Sherlock's hand smoothing down John's back, John's sliding over Sherlock's arse, tugging him closer, snugging their hips together. John was hard, and he felt Sherlock's echo against his hip.

If nothing else, Sherlock was no novice when it came to kissing, and John gave himself over to the exploration, the discovery, the wonder of this, the thing he'd never let himself dare to imagine. Having Sherlock here with him, warm and soft and hard all at the same time. Pliant and plying, their bodies curved around and into each other, legs interlaced, hands under t-shirts now, stumbling across skin just becoming tacky with perspiration. The smell of them together, unmistakably male, primal, heady.

John's thighs soon clenched with the effort not to rut, blood surging and urging him forward. He was almost at the point where he was going to have to either pull away or make sure Sherlock really wanted to take this to its logical conclusion. He rolled onto his back, dragging Sherlock with him. Ceding control, letting him set the pace.

Sherlock shifted over, crowding him, invading his space and asserting his claim. John spread his legs to let Sherlock settle between them, his arousal unabashedly prominent inside the shorts he'd worn to bed. Twin groans as Sherlock's heat met his, unfamiliar yet natural, puzzle pieces cut from different moulds but no less well-met. John let his hands wander, discovering the lines and curves, the muscles and sinews underneath his clothes, his skin. Sherlock in turn explored with his mouth, kissing John's jaw, dragging his lips down John's neck, his collarbone, lifting John's shirt to tongue and suck and nip at his chest, his nipples, until John, quaking, drew him back to taste his mouth again.

Time slowed as they exchanged languid, lingering kisses, the tension building, drawing out, stretching. At the same time, Sherlock's swollen, heavy groin bumped over John's as his hips shifted, a slow, sweet drag and release. John chased the contact, tantalising and maddening, moving his hands down now to Sherlock's backside to hold him in place, guide him, increase the pressure where he needed it most. Sherlock eventually caught on, directing and focusing his movements to coordinate with John, his kisses becoming sloppier until he left off altogether and dropped his head to rest it on John's shoulder. His hips pumped in earnest now, blatant and unambiguous, his hands gripping John's shoulders for leverage.

"That's it, come on," John grunted, two handfuls of Sherlock's arse, both feet planted on the mattress, pelvis lifting to try and meet his thrusts, to work with him and find a rhythm, feeling as if he couldn't get close enough. No matter how hard he squeezed Sherlock's hips between his thighs, how passionately he pressed kisses to Sherlock's temple, they could never be close enough without inhabiting the same body. Sherlock's face pressed into the crook of his neck, breath coming in stuttering gasps, hands clutching alternately now at John's shoulder, at his waist, his arm. A raw, keening sound building in his throat, in his chest, his lips pressed firmly together as if to contain the onslaught.

"Oh fuck, oh my God..." John's whole body was tingling, a cyclone gathering strength, swirling in toward the centre, hot and wild. A pulsating pressure, untamed, thrashing. And then unleashed, a torrent of sensation. Waves of pleasure, overlapping, exploding, spiraling outward, beyond the borders of his body. Reverberating with Sherlock's, echoing and crashing back over him. Sherlock's mouth on his, swallowing his hisses and choked-off cry, swallowing his very breath. Sherlock's body jerking in his arms, stiffening, his buttocks clenching, heat between them adding to heat, a strangled gasp.

And then the backwash. Strings cut, the dam breached, the reins released. Sherlock sagged on top of him, and John buried himself in Sherlock's damp curls, tasting salt on Sherlock's neck. Slung his leg over Sherlock's, clutched his shirt with shaky fingers, ensconcing and cradling him until he came back to himself, until he was ready to come back ashore. John's own mind was still afloat, comprehension distant, like a will-o-the-wisp teasing guidance. Alluring but somehow ephemeral. Had that really happened? He had to focus on this: on Sherlock. This was reality. His friend, in his arms. All six foot two of him with all his brilliance and quirks, all his insecurities and awkwardness, all of it John's. His. As he was Sherlock's. In this, as in everything.

He would have to get up soon, leave the (now somewhat damp) cocoon they'd created, go into the conveniently proximate bathroom, make himself presentable. Go out in public, act like it was just another day. As if his heart weren't beating back here, inside the chest of an unreal consulting detective with a penchant for piracy.

Sherlock sighed eventually and disentangled himself, flopping onto his back. "Well, that was rather okay," he said, still breathing heavily.

"It was, wasn't it?" John couldn't help the smug smile.

"Always room for improvement, of course."

"You're the genius." John felt for Sherlock's hand and squeezed it. Sherlock interlaced his fingers with John's and squeezed back.

"Clearly. I've got you here."

"Yeah, and if I don't get up soon, I'm going to be here permanently. Glued to the sheets."

"Do you know, I've never thought to run a test on the adhesive properties of semen?" Sherlock said, sounding as if that were an egregious oversight. "Wait, let me get a sample before you leave." There was a flurry of limbs and a whoosh of cold air as the covers were thrown back.

John almost protested, but thought better of it. Sherlock was already halfway to the kitchen in his own sodden pants to fetch a test tube.

This was his life now, John considered as he leaned over to turn on the bedside light. This was what he had chosen: decomposing spleens in the kitchen, his spunk an experimental medium, and a madman in his bed. Sleepless nights and sentient waxworks. The madman's aging parents and pathologically controlling brother his extended family. And, most likely, serious threats to life and limb in the not too distant future. But he'd chosen something else too. Love. Truth. Owning up to who was. The good and the bad.

Sherlock was coming back now. John lay back and peeled away his shorts. "Have at it then," he said, grinning up at Sherlock. Sherlock stopped short, a test tube in one gloved hand and an alcohol wipe in the other. His eyes widened. John grinned even more broadly. He knew it was caveman of him, but he always got a little kick out of seeing people's reaction.

"Oh John," Sherlock said, his expression turning devious. "I have a feeling you're going to be late for work after all."
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