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Over Fathoms Deep

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Sherlock takes John’s hand in his and leads him over the scrubbed surface of the deck, shining slick with moonlight, toward the staircase at the back of the ship, back the way they came so many hours earlier but now with their positions reserved, Sherlock leading, John following soundlessly behind, and Sherlock reflects just how much has changed in the short space of time. When he walked this way earlier, he did not know the feel of John Watson’s hands in his hair, the taste of his mouth, how he looked just before he kissed Sherlock, and Sherlock pities this former version of himself for all he did not know, how naïve, how inexperienced was this self from just a few hours ago.

It feels as though they are moving through a dream, Sherlock thinks, as they pass the lights of the party in the captain’s stateroom, still glowing bright, the loud clamor of voices and laughter rippling out over the open sea. The time that he spent in that room earlier this evening feels like lifetimes ago, or as if it were a dream and only now has Sherlock woken up. It is as if he and John occupy a different reality entirely, as though those people laughing behind the lit-up windows are the dream, and only he and John are in the real world.

The walk from their hidden spot behind the foremast down to Sherlock’s cabin is brief, but it does not feel brief to Sherlock; it feels heavy and slow, weighted with meaning, each step bringing him closer to something he has dreamed of ever since the first day he laid eyes on John.

Sherlock’s body feels strange, distant, dreamy, his own heartbeat loud and heavy in his ears, and it is only when he and John come to a halt outside the door of his cabin that John turns to him, his eyes dark in the shadows, to ask him, “Are you all right?”

Sherlock nods in the darkness and John squeezes Sherlock’s fingers between his own.

John’s low voice is a ribbon of heat between them. “Remember we don’t have to do this. We can do whatever you like, and if that’s nothing at all—”

Sherlock lifts his fingers to John’s mouth and settles them against John’s lips.

John falls silent.

John’s lips are soft under Sherlock’s fingers; Sherlock can feel the gentle rhythm of his breath coming in and out, the warmth of it. It makes Sherlock want to replace his fingers with his mouth, right here, in the corridor outside his room where anyone can see them. Instead, Sherlock licks his lips before bending forward to put his mouth to John’s ear.

His voice is heavy and slow, like he feels. “I want everything. Everything you’ll let me have, everything you’re willing to give me. I want it, however long that takes. I’m not going to change my mind.”

Sherlock hears the sudden exhalation of John’s breath, as though he’s been punched in the sternum. He tips his head back, eyes closed, whispers, “Oh my god.”

Sherlock watches him, curious. “That’s the second time you’ve done that.”

John drops his head back and opens his eyes. “Let’s get into your room, before someone comes.”

Sherlock nods, pushes open the door.

The room is as black as pitch within. John waits in the doorway, presumably for Sherlock to light the lantern by his bed before losing all the light from the hallway, but before Sherlock has time to do so the sound of approaching voices echoes down from the top of the stairs, followed shortly by the sound of footsteps descending from the upper deck.

John steps with haste into the room and Sherlock lunges behind him to pull the door shut, plunging them into total darkness.

They stand still, listening to the sound of the women’s voices speaking in fervent whispers as they pass by Sherlock’s room and continue down the corridor. The words of their conversation are indistinguishable but the murmur of their voices continues for several moments more until they bid one another good night and the creak of a cabin door signals the end of their conversation.

Sherlock lets out the breath he was holding, hears John do the same, and realizes suddenly how close together they are standing in the dark.

All at once Sherlock is nervous, the dreamy heaviness of his mood evaporating in the space of a heartbeat, transforming to a torrent of nameless anxiety.

John is with him, here with him, in his room, with the intent of…

Sherlock swallows.

He knows not all of what John’s intentions are.

He is not nervous about what John will or will not do—he meant it when he told John he wanted everything—but rather of his own responses to these things, whether he will know to do them well, or right. He feels suddenly vastly unprepared for what is about to take place, and Sherlock hates feeling unprepared, unpracticed, lacking knowledge.

A thousand anxieties swell to the surface of Sherlock’s mind, quenching his desire as effectively as water to a flame. What if John finds his ignorance, his lack of experience childish, unappealing? What if John decides Sherlock is hideous without his clothes on? What if Sherlock does something to offend him? What if John finds him foolish, awkward, clumsy?

Sherlock feels a hot flare of panic burst open in his chest.

Sherlock knows the details of a coupling between a man and a woman, of course he does. But he does not know quite all the details of how desire is expressed between two men. He has heard the vulgar things that people say about two men together, what they do, but he’s not sure precisely what they mean, or even how they would be possible. Of course, he has had his own imaginings about the things he would like, the things he would do if he and John were alone together, but he has no idea whether these are things that John would also be amenable to.

John must sense his anxiety even through the dark because John’s voice suddenly speaks into the silence, soft and careful. “Sherlock? Should I light the lantern?”

Sherlock feels conflicted. He is both grateful and distraught by the current atmospheric circumstances. He is grateful as the darkness means his sudden panic may remain invisible to John, but he is distraught by the fact that it means he cannot see John.

“It’s alright if you want it to be dark but…” John’s hand reaches out for his and Sherlock gasps at the sudden brush of John’s fingers. “I’d like to see you.”

Sherlock feels John lift the hand that is holding Sherlock’s up to his mouth. Sherlock feels the touch of John’s breath before his lips descend and the feeling is so charged with intimacy that Sherlock shivers from the roots of his hair down to the tips of his toes.

John kisses his knuckles lightly, and then lifts his mouth away to continue speaking. His voice is so soft, so full of heat Sherlock can almost feel its weight against his skin in the dark.

“I want to see the curls in your hair as they catch the light, the shape of your mouth when I kiss it, the color rising in your cheeks as I kiss you here,” John pushes back the fabric at Sherlock’s wrist to kiss the bone, “And here…” John straightens up and leans in to press a kiss to Sherlock’s jaw, “And here.”

His mouth descends to the skin just below Sherlock’s ear and Sherlock’s sharp intake of breath is as loud as a gunshot in the dark.

“You see,” John says, and his voice is a low murmur against the skin of Sherlock’s neck. “I’ve spent a long time imagining just how you would look when I do this to you, and although hearing you and tasting you are probably more than enough, I’m greedy.”

John’s mouth slides down the side of Sherlock’s neck and Sherlock tips his head back, his mouth falling open at the sensation of John’s warm mouth moving over his skin.

“Sherlock Holmes, you’ve given me a thirst I cannot quench.”

In the wake of the heat of John’s mouth against his skin, the issue of whether or not to light the lantern has fled from Sherlock’s mind to make room for much more pressing concerns, such as where John’s mouth will go next.

“J—John?”

John’s mouth lifts off of his neck and Sherlock almost cries out at the loss. “Yes, my love?”

“Will you… kiss me again? On the mouth?”

John’s answer is a sigh of heat against Sherlock’s lips and then John’s mouth is sliding in against his and Sherlock parts his lips in a gasp of pleasure as John’s hands settle in his hair.

John kisses him sweetly, lightly, but Sherlock is having none of that.

Sherlock decides right then and there that open-mouthed kissing is far superior to kissing with mouths closed. Honestly, what a waste of time.

He opens his mouth wider and pushes his tongue with gentle curiosity into the wet heat of John’s mouth.

Oh, Sherlock thinks, as John’s tongue comes forward to meet his own, John’s hands sliding from his hair to cup his face. This is what all the fuss is about, what all the poets and playwrights are sighing over.

Sherlock has always found poetry desperately overrated, but as John’s tongue slips in against his own, John’s moan pouring out like a song from his throat, Sherlock begins to understand why so much ink has been spilled over this endeavor.

Sherlock has never kissed anyone in his life before tonight, and if you had asked him an hour ago whether he was nervous about his lack of expertise in this area he would have blushed and glared at you, while thinking secretly, ‘Yes of course I’m nervous! I don’t know a thing about it!’ But Sherlock is realizing, as John begins licking into his mouth, Sherlock’s own tongue rising with enthusiasm to meet John’s, it is perhaps not something one needs much practice at.

Sherlock pushes his body forward against John’s, his nervousness all but forgotten, and he’s so adamant about kissing John, about getting his body as close to John’s as possible that he’s entirely forgotten where they are until he feels John stumble against the edge of his bunk.

John breaks away, breathing hard, Sherlock’s hands holding his hips.

“I want…” Sherlock kisses him between words, missing John’s mouth in the dark, kissing his chin instead, not caring as he drops his hands to the fabric at his throat. “I want… to feel you…without anything in the way. These clothes…!”

Sherlock is shuddering hard now, like a horse that’s just run a race. He wants the layers of fabric between him and John gone as soon as possible but his shaking fingers make it difficult for him to make any headway.

He tugs with frustration at his neck cloth and then feels John’s hands reaching up to hold his own, the sound of his chuckle against Sherlock’s cheek momentarily pausing his frenzy.

“Easy, easy there. This is why the lantern may be of some use. It’s much easier to do this with a bit of light.”

Sherlock nods, breathless, before he remembers John can’t see him and then gasps, “On the stand beside the bed, there are matches.”

John reaches for them, and it is only a second or two before John’s nimble fingers find a match and are dragging it to life against the tinder.

He lights the candle on top of Sherlock’s desk and then leans over to light the one in the lantern above Sherlock’s bed, kneeling on Sherlock’s bed to reach it.

Sherlock thinks about John Watson’s knee pressing into his mattress and feels heat climbing up his throat.

John shakes out the smoking match, sets it on the desk beside the candle, and then comes toward Sherlock, the ghost of a smile of his face.

John Watson by candlelight is arguably no lovelier than John Watson in the sunshine, his hair shining like a flame, no more breathtaking than John Watson on a misty morning halfway up the rigging, or John Watson in a storm, his face streaming with rain. Sherlock thinks that there is no version of John Watson that he could ever take issue with, but right now, in this moment, it is his conviction that John Watson by candlelight coming towards him with a smile on his face, his eyes blue-black with wanting Sherlock, is by far the best John he has ever known.

“Come here,” John says, stepping up against Sherlock, settling his fingers over Sherlock’s fingers where he’s still struggling to pull apart the fabric at his neck. “I’d like to do the honors, if that’s alright with you.”

John’s grin is so sudden and full of mischievous intent that it is all Sherlock can do to nod his assent. He lifts his chin to give John more room.

“Yes, that’s lovely,” John murmurs as he pulls the strip of cloth free, baring Sherlock’s throat. “Oh god, yes.”

He folds the length of silk with several deft movements before settling it with care on top of Sherlock’s desk. Then he leans in, lifting himself up on his toes to press his mouth to the long white expanse of neck that he has uncovered. He kisses Sherlock where his pulse is throbbing, hot and insistent, underneath his jaw, his mouth so warm, so wet that Sherlock makes a whimpering sound, his hands coming up to clutch John by the shoulders.

John mouths his way down to the groove between Sherlock’s collarbones, pulling wide the collar of Sherlock’s linen shirt, his hands slipping around beneath Sherlock’s jacket, over the ivory and gold stripes of his waistcoat to hold his waist.

“God, how I’ve dreamed of doing this,” John says in a burst of heat against Sherlock’s collarbone.

“You—you have?” Sherlock manages, his mouth falling open as John’s mouth returns to his neck to suck on the sensitive skin. This time, Sherlock cries out, loud and keening, and John’s fingers fly up to Sherlock’s mouth to stop the sound, his laugh a breathless rush of air against Sherlock’s cheek.

“Shh.” He kisses Sherlock as his fingers begin working apart the gleaming buttons on his waistcoat. “I’m sorry. I should have given you fair warning before doing that.”

John grins at Sherlock, the white of his teeth a flare of brightness in the dark.

“But your neck has been driving me wild for the past few weeks.”

“It has?” Sherlock asks, half-curious, half-completely distracted by John’s clever fingers already halfway through the endless line of buttons on his waistcoat. He feels strangely breathless watching John’s hands on his buttons, working them apart. Even through two layers of fabric the feel of John’s fingers against his belly makes him feel light-headed, shivery with want.

“Oh, I’ve spent hours…” John says, his voice wistful, as he pulls the last button free. “Hours and hours thinking of how I would kiss this lovely neck of yours, how it would taste—the corner of your jaw, the shadow here—could it possibly taste as sweet as it looks? There’s only way to be certain.”

John presses his mouth in just below Sherlock’s ear and licks.

Sherlock makes a keening sound, his knees buckling beneath him, hands reaching helplessly for John’s arms as he begins to sink towards the floor.

“Woah, woah, woah. Easy now!”

John grabs Sherlock by the arms and spins him around, pushing gently until Sherlock is sitting on the bed.

Sherlock sits, shuddering hard, gripping the edges of the bed with white-knuckled fists, taking deep breaths, trying to calm the storm of desire that feels like a live thing trying to tear its way out of his breast.

“Easy, easy,” John sighs, like gentling a spooked horse. “Let’s go slowly all right? It’s a lot to take in.”

John kneels in front of Sherlock, settles his warm hands over Sherlock’s knees before running his palms up Sherlock’s thighs, his face tipped up toward Sherlock’s with attentive focus, the curves in his face made soft by lantern light.

“There’s no need to rush.”

Sherlock imagines the touch is meant to be soothing but the feel of John’s callused palms stroking so deliberately up his thighs, sets Sherlock’s entire body to quivering as though he were a harp string John has just plucked.

“John—” Sherlock’s voice, full of desperation, catches on the single syllable, like a fish caught in a hook.

“I know,” John says, his voice low, soothing, as he runs his hands back down Sherlock’s legs to pull off his boots.

Somehow, even the act of John tugging his boots off—an act that Sherlock performs himself every evening with no aplomb—is loaded with erotic force simply because John’s hands are holding his calf as he does so, John’s eyes focused with reverent intent upon the curve of Sherlock’s ankle as he frees it from his boot.

It doesn’t help that as soon as John has set the boot aside, his hands cradling Sherlock’s heel as though it were made of crystal, his mouth is descending to kiss the instep of Sherlock’s long pale foot, his lips so soft that Sherlock gasps in shocked delight.

John strokes his hand over the underside of Sherlock’s foot and Sherlock jerks at the touch, gripping the bed so hard he can feel the edge of it leaving marks in his palms.

John moves his attention to Sherlock’s other leg, pulling off his other boot with equal tenderness, this time running his hands up over Sherlock’s calf, his mouth following in the wake of his hands, not touching, just hovering over the muscle until his mouth finds Sherlock’s ankle where he presses a kiss to the bone, his thumbs rubbing into the bottom of Sherlock’s foot.

Sherlock cannot stop himself from crying out again and he puts his hand up to his mouth to stifle the sound, fingers pressing hard against his lips.

“I know,” John murmurs again, his voice full of sympathy. “I know. I feel it too. Truth be told, I want to devour you.”

He looks up at Sherlock then and Sherlock can see how wide his pupils have grown, the black swallowing up the blue of his irises until they are nearly invisible.

John runs his hands back up over Sherlock’s knees, up this thighs, up, up, until his palms are framing the bulge in Sherlock’s breeches, and he leans in close, his breath hot against Sherlock’s inner thighs, even through the fabric. Sherlock can feel it and he has to close his eyes for fear he will ruin himself before John has even started.

John holds his mouth there, his breath coming out in warm, unsteady plumes as he continues speaking. “I want to eat you up.”

Sherlock cannot bear it. The hunger in John’s voice sends a bolt of feeling straight to his cock, and before he can stop himself, Sherlock’s hands are reaching down and fisting in the material of John’s shirt, dragging him up on one knee to pull John’s mouth against his, lips parting immediately to allow John’s tongue into his mouth.

John kisses him back greedily, his mouth open against Sherlock’s, tongue plunging in to stroke the length of his tongue, climbing to his feet without moving his mouth from Sherlock’s and putting his hands on Sherlock’s shoulders to direct him backwards on the bed.

Sherlock pulls his mouth away, gasping, to turn his attention to crawling up the bed.

He drops himself back against the pillow, his breathing quick and shallow, his entire body trembling with need.

John bends down to remove his own shoes with haste, and then he’s climbing in beside Sherlock, shockingly agile as he maneuvers himself into the narrow space, the gold in his hair glinting in the soft light from the lantern above the bed.

All at once, Sherlock is struck again with the magnitude of what is about to take place. John Watson, his John Watson, who can do anything—who swims in the ocean as sleek as a fish, who runs through the air as though the weight of the earth does not hold him down, who sings like the gods of the world are in his lungs, who battles storms and surf and emerges, triumphant, laughing, his cheeks bright with rain—this man has chosen to lie down with Sherlock in his narrow bunk, and suddenly, Sherlock is wilting beneath the pressure.

John notices the change in him immediately—whether he sees it in the nervous dart of Sherlock’s eyes, or the sudden paleness in his cheeks, Sherlock cannot be sure but he knows John is aware of it, because his body stills, his eyes enormous in the flickering candlelight as he looks down at Sherlock.

“What is it?”

Sherlock feels all his fear rise up and stop his throat. He turns his head away from John’s worried gaze.

“Don’t do that,” John says, reaching down to place one hand over Sherlock’s where it’s clenched into a fist against his side. “Don’t slip away. I need you here, with me. I need all of you if we’re going to do this. Tell me. What’s wrong?”

Sherlock looks up at John’s lovely face, the corners of his eyes creased tight with concern. It’s so difficult to say what he’s thinking, to tell John what he’s afraid of, but he wants so much, and the gentleness in John’s eyes gives him the courage to speak.

“I’ve never…” Sherlock’s voice is shy, choked tight with anxiety. “I’ve never done any of this. With anyone.”

Sherlock sees the flash of distress in John’s eyes. “Sherlock, if I’m going too fast. If we start doing anything you don’t want to do—”

“No!” Sherlock all but cries. “No, it’s not that, it’s just I’m not… I won’t be...” Sherlock swallows hard, forces the words out. “I don’t know what to do! I don’t know… anything.”

The shame he feels at this admission is so great Sherlock wants to curl up into a ball and hide his face. He hates not knowing things, hates admitting to it even more, but he is saying this for John’s sake, so that John will drop his expectations down to the appropriate place, will be prepared when Sherlock utterly falls short in every way.

He wants to be the best for John, needs to be the best lover he has ever had, will ever have, but how can he be when Sherlock doesn’t even know what he’s supposed to do?

Sherlock’s chest is heaving now, not with arousal, but with shame. Perhaps it would be better if he banished John from his bed right now—sent John away so he would never have to taste the bitterness of disappointment.

It takes all his effort not to lift his hands and cover his face, so great is his embarrassment, but the wretchedness in his tone is apparently evidence enough of his discomfort because John squeezes Sherlock’s fingers under his own as though in supplication.

“Sherlock, you lovely, foolish creature, look at me a moment.”

Sherlock swallows hard, looks up at John, his expression full of sorrow.

“It doesn’t matter to me that you don’t know what to do. I don’t care how much you know or don’t know; I want you, Sherlock. And that includes the parts of you that don’t know what you’re doing.”

Sherlock is still tense with doubt; he looks up at John, his lips trembling and John reaches out with his other hand to trail his fingers down Sherlock’s cheek.

Sherlock shivers at the delicate touch before pressing his face into John’s hand.

“Have you ever thought…” John continues, his voice like liquid darkness, like heat itself, “That it might be appealing to me? The thought of being the first one to who gets to do these things with you? The first one to kiss you…” John’s thumb strokes down Sherlock’s cheek, brushing the corner of his lips. “And touch you…” The hand covering Sherlock’s begins to trace light patterns on the back of his wrist. “And see you like this?”

John goes on speaking, his voice like syrup, like honey, like molten chocolate drizzling off a spoon.

“I can’t lie.” Sherlock watches John lick his lips, his pale pink tongue shining in the low light. “The thought of being the one to make you come apart, the first one to touch all the secret places in you that you don’t even know yourself,” Sherlock can hear John’s breathing growing less and less steady as he goes on speaking; the thumb at the corner of Sherlock’s mouth stroking gently over Sherlock’s bottom lip. “It’s kept me up most nights.”

A shudder goes through Sherlock at John’s words.

Hearing John describe the things he wants to do to Sherlock coupled with the way John is looking at him, like he is a feast that John wants to devour, like John is a cat and Sherlock is a bowl of cream—it burns away his shame in a shimmer of heat.

“And if you’re nervous,” John goes on. “Don’t be. I’ll be here to guide you through it. I’ll show you what to do.” John’s thumb strokes back across the plumpness of Sherlock’s bottom lip. “And if you don’t like it—any of it, you just tell me.” His thumb stops stroking abruptly, his eyes deadly serious. “If you want to stop, we’ll stop. It’s all fine by me. But you must tell me if it gets to be too much. Will you promise me that, Sherlock?”

Sherlock nods, his eyes wide, and then, because he’s tired of waiting for John’s thumb to start moving again, he pushes his mouth into the palm of John’s hand, parting his lips against it, his breath stuttering out in a plume of heat. He presses a kiss to the center of John’s hand and then pulls it down to clasp it with his own against his stomach.

He watches John’s eyelashes flutter closed at the touch of his mouth and at the sight of John so visibly affected by this simple gesture, Sherlock feels tingling warmth fill his body.

“Good,” John says, his eyes growing darker as he lowers his mouth down to Sherlock’s. He licks his lips before pressing them to Sherlock’s, his voice rough with longing. “Then let’s begin. Let me draw you out.”

Sherlock barely has time to suck in a breath before John’s lips are covering his and moving over Sherlock’s, soft and slow and wet. Sherlock pushes up into the lovely heat of John’s mouth, parting his lips, inviting him in, his fingers tightening around John’s where they lie against his belly.

John kisses him slow and deep, the hand not entwined with Sherlock’s sliding into his hair, pulling gently at his curls and Sherlock’s entire body jerks in response to the slight pressure on his scalp.

Sherlock breaks his mouth away, shocked, breathless.

“John! Do that again—”

John tugs gently, tilting Sherlock’s head back on the pillow, baring his throat, and Sherlock can feel his entire body filling with heat, his arousal gathering force between his legs. He can feel their joined fingers rising up and down with the rapid movement of his belly.

“John—” Sherlock’s voice is plaintive. “Kiss me while you’re doing it…”

John tugs at the curls, lowering his mouth to Sherlock’s and Sherlock cries out low in his throat, his body surging up against John’s, his free hand reaching out to clutch at the material of John’s shirt to pull John closer.

His body is electric, shivering, overwhelmed with the desire to feel John against him, all of him, every inch of skin and bone and muscle on top of him, touching him, but John holds himself at a distance.

“Sherlock, wait.” John’s breathing is ragged. “God, there are things I want to do to you…” Sherlock watches John shut his eyes and take a deep breath. “You’ve got to help me go slow, all right? You’ve got to… stop me.”

“Why?” Sherlock gasps, thrusting up against John, parting his thighs, pulling John down into the heat between his legs, not conscious of what his body is doing just wanting, wanting, wanting.

“Because,” John gasps as their hips come together in a spark of heat. “You’ve never…” John licks his lips and Sherlock pulls his mouth down against his. “You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.”

“Then tell me,” Sherlock breathes against John’s mouth, “Tell me what you’re going to do.”

John drags his mouth over Sherlock’s in a not-quite kiss, his lips barely touching Sherlock’s in a slow slide of temptation, causing just enough friction to make Sherlock mad with the need for more of it, the heat of his breath unsteady over Sherlock’s mouth.

“Do you really want to know?” John asks, teasing, the corners of his mouth curling over Sherlock’s.

Sherlock tightens his hands in the fabric of John’s shirt, half-mad with frustration. “Yes,” he pleads, not even bothering to disguise the whine of need in his voice.

“Shh,” John kisses the corner of Sherlock’s mouth, soothing, but Sherlock can see the glitter of mischief in his eyes as he leans back a little to continue speaking. “I’ll tell you.”

He sits back so that there is space between them, causing Sherlock to give another little whine of frustration but from here, now, he can see more of John, and his eyes as they fall heavy on Sherlock almost make up for the absence of John’s thighs against his own.

Sherlock can feel his breathing quickening just from the look in John’s eyes—John’s gaze on his body, almost as visceral as the touch of his hand.

“First, I’m going to rid you of all of these beautiful clothes.”

John trails a hand down the front of Sherlock’s chest and Sherlock sucks a breath in and holds it as John’s hand moves all the way down to his belly button and over his hip, where it rests, warm and light, fingers spread over the top of Sherlock’s thigh.

“And I’m going to look and look.”

John leans back down against Sherlock, until his lips are at his ear.

“And then I’m going to kiss every bit of you I can reach until you can’t bear it anymore, until you’re begging me to touch you in one particular place…”

Sherlock, emboldened by the sudden force of his desire, by the warm weight of John’s hand on his hip, turns his head towards John’s mouth, parting his own lips against it, his voice light, breathless. “I think I might know where that place is already.”

“Good,” John purrs in low satisfaction, one hand coming up to hold Sherlock’s face, his thumb smoothing at the hollow of Sherlock’s cheek. “That’s very good.”

John’s lips part under Sherlock’s, his tongue invading Sherlock’s mouth in a burst of heat. Sherlock opens his mouth wider, his own tongue pushing up against John’s to feel the lovely thrust of that muscle that is so intimately John.

The feel of it—John in his mouth pushing into him, stroking him, hot and slick and wet, makes Sherlock melt, at the same time as it incites a fire inside him that feels as though it can never be quenched. It’s not enough. He needs more, so much more.

There is still space, infuriatingly, between John’s body and Sherlock’s, and John, Sherlock notes with vivid dismay, is still fully dressed in his jacket and shirt. This is intolerable, Sherlock thinks.

Sherlock reaches up to loop his arms around John’s neck and pull John down against him, his hips writhing against the mattress, desperate, seeking friction.

“John!” Sherlock pulls his mouth away to try and communicate to John what he needs. “I need you. I need—”

John’s hands settle on Sherlock’s shoulders, pressing him back gently against the pillow.

“Tell me,” John says, his voice soft and rough all at once.

Sherlock whimpers as John’s hands hold him not quite gently against the mattress, his palms on Sherlock’s shoulders leaking heat.

“I need you… against me…” Sherlock licks his lips. “With… no clothing between us, just you. Just me.”

The sound John makes in response to Sherlock’s words hits him right between his legs. He surges up against John in an effort to pull John down closer against him.

The buttons of Sherlock’s waistcoat are all undone but the garment is still around his shoulders, flapping open at his chest to expose the expensive linen shirt beneath, the quality of the fabric so fine, it is soft as a breath against Sherlock’s skin as he squirms against the mattress, desperate to bring John’s body into contact with his.

He reaches up to tug at the knotted fabric around John’s throat, his fingers trembling as he struggles to pull the knot loose and John sits up, pulling himself out of Sherlock’s reach, settling back on his knees to undo the knot and pull the fabric free.

Sherlock lets a whine of displeasure escape him as John pulls away from him but it dies in his throat as he watches John, tugging the material from his neck, shrugging out of his dark jacket and tossing both garments to the floor beside the bed.

“Is that better?” John asks, sliding back down against Sherlock, his voice low and rough, like the purr of a cat.

“Y-yes,” Sherlock gasps, but also thinks No, as John’s shirt is still on him, keeping John’s chest from Sherlock’s eyes, preventing it from touching Sherlock’s skin.

He doesn’t say anything though because John is back against him now, his hands pushing the waistcoat off of Sherlock’s shoulders, his mouth at Sherlock’s ear, gently coaxing him to sit up so he can free him of the garment.

John takes the expensive material between his hands, begins to fold it, but Sherlock makes an impatient noise, and pushes the fabric out of John’s hands so it drops to the floor.

“Don’t worry about that,” he sighs, leaning forward against John’s chest, sliding his arms around John’s waist.

“But—”

Sherlock swallows John’s protest with his mouth, pushing his body forward into John’s.

Sherlock will never get tired of the feeling of John’s mouth against his own, the soft slide of John’s lips against his. He still feels slightly clumsy, not wholly sure where to put his tongue, how to tilt his head, but it’s impossible to care when John’s mouth is there, warm, and wet and opening beneath his own. The corresponding rush of heat in his belly, surging down between his legs, when John pushes his tongue past Sherlock’s lips, hot and slick, moving with delicious intention, makes Sherlock moan in response, his arms tightening around the small of John’s back.

John pulls back slightly to look at Sherlock, his eyes enormous in the low light of the candles. “You may have no experience but I can tell you, as someone who has a great deal of it, you are getting the hang of things very quickly.”

Sherlock feels a flush of pleasure at John’s words.

John leans back in to recapture Sherlock’s mouth, his breath soft against Sherlock’s lips. “You’re a natural.”

John kisses him deeply, sweetly—the touch of his mouth soft and lingering, the feel of his tongue against Sherlock’s like warm silk—pulling away every few seconds, grinning, to give Sherlock a chance to catch his breath, which just makes Sherlock more desperate than ever, tightening his arms around John’s back to pull him close again.

They are both still sitting upright, John on his knees, Sherlock with his legs folded under him, leaning into John.

Sherlock wants to go on kissing John forever. Of all the pursuits he has taken up in his life (and he has tried many), this is by far the most superior. He never wants it to end. However, the slow, soft slide of their mouths is making the melting heat deep in Sherlock’s belly burn hotter than an inferno, and he finds the need for stimulation between his legs is distracting to say the least. His hips have begun rocking of their own accord, seeking some kind of friction.

Luckily, John is attentive to these sorts of details.

“I think—” he says, his mouth reluctant to separate from Sherlock’s to continue speaking. “We’ve gotten…” Another kiss interrupts his speech. “A bit… side-tracked from our initial plan.”

“Yes,” Sherlock agrees, his response more of a gasp than an intelligible word. “Yes, we were going to…”

Sherlock entirely loses the thread of what he was saying as John’s mouth has moved from his own and is now sliding, hot and open, down under his jaw. He feels John begin to suck lightly and Sherlock whimpers, letting his head fall back.

John’s mouth continues moving down the slope of Sherlock’s neck to his shoulder, where the collar of Sherlock’s linen shirt has slipped down, revealing the pale skin of his shoulder and throat.

“My god,” John whispers, his mouth skimming, hot and open over the bare skin of Sherlock’s shoulder. “You unbearably lovely thing.”

Sherlock sits back a little to give John room, and John’s hands drop to his sides, tugging gently to pull his shirt free from his breeches. His mouth continues down to the front of Sherlock’s chest, still covered by the thin material of Sherlock’s shirt.

Sherlock can feel the heat of John’s breath through the linen and he waits, trembling lightly, to see what John will do.

John presses a kiss to Sherlock’s chest, just above his heart, and Sherlock gasps and trembles harder.

John smoothes his hands down Sherlock’s arms—they are warm and strong—and it is only for their presence that Sherlock does not fall back in shock when John’s warm, wet mouth opens over Sherlock’s nipple and sucks it softly through his shirt.

Sherlock’s mouth drops open, his hands coming up to seize John by the arms, and he cannot even make a sound because the feel of John’s mouth touching him there—there—feels like nothing, nothing, he has ever experienced.

He can feel John smile against him in response and when John’s mouth pulls away briefly the heat of his breath on the damp material of the shirt makes a shudder run through Sherlock that he feels all the way through his cock.

He makes a strangled sound and John shushes him quietly before moving to lower his mouth to Sherlock’s other nipple, this time licking it through the shirt before he sucks. A sound escapes Sherlock that he has never heard before—it is guttural, low, filled with longing, and John sucks harder in response.

Sherlock makes the sound again and John breaks away to kiss Sherlock briefly in entreaty, his eyes laughing, although his mouth is serious. “Shh. You’ve got to be quiet, my love.”

Sherlock kisses him back in desperation, whimpering against John’s mouth. He’s certain that his fingers have left bruises on John’s arms where he’s clutching them; he loosens his grip as soon as he becomes aware.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers, voice trembling as hard as his body. “I’ll try, but… what you did, that was…”

John’s eyes are very close to his, his pupils liquid black. They are filled with humor, but also, hunger that Sherlock can feel down to the very center of his bones. It makes him shiver and press himself forward into John.

“Kiss me there again, John. I promise I’ll be quiet.”

John’s answer is a low groan, his hands falling to Sherlock’s hips.

“Well, if it’s alright with you, before I do that, I think I’ll carry on with our original plan and rid you of the rest of your clothing.”

Sherlock’s breathing picks up at the feeling of John’s fingers at his waist, settling on the fastenings of his breeches.

John’s fingers hesitate. He lowers his mouth to Sherlock’s ear, his voice more heat than sound. “But only if that’s alright with you.”

Sherlock nods soundlessly, pressing his face in against John’s shoulder. He feels a burst of nervous self-consciousness but he knows, he knows that he wants this more than anything else in the world.

John’s fingers are gentle but steady as he pulls the fastenings free and then moves to tug the material down.

“Lie back,” he breathes in Sherlock’s ear, one hand guiding Sherlock down against the pillows, the other warm on Sherlock’s hip, until Sherlock is lying, stretched out beneath him.

John is leaning over him, both hands now back at Sherlock’s waist.

“Lift your hips,” he murmurs, and Sherlock does, all his breath leaving him as he feels John’s hands pulling the material down his hips and to his knees.

Sherlock’s heart is pounding, and he is shaking harder than ever as he feels cool air on the skin between his legs. He feels John’s fingers brush the bare skin on the inside of his thigh as John reaches to tug the material free of his legs and he jerks, once, violently, as though he’s been struck.

John freezes mid-tug and lifts his hands from Sherlock’s legs.

He leans down to press his mouth to Sherlock’s cheek, warm and soothing, both hands coming up to cup Sherlock’s face. “I’m sorry, if I startled you. Shall I stop?”

Sherlock tries to answer but finds he cannot speak, so overwhelmed is he by the feeling of lying underneath John, with his breeches halfway down his knees, almost completely nude except for the linen shirt that falls just past his hips. He feels bare, exposed, and the feeling is as terrifying as it is exhilarating, with John Watson leaning over him, his kind eyes creased with worry, strong hands so gentle on Sherlock’s face.

Sherlock lifts his own hands to cup the backs of John’s, as though in disbelief that John is really here with him, holding him so gently, as though he needs the touch of John’s hands beneath his own to convince him that what’s happening is actually taking place.

Sherlock shakes his head. “Don’t stop. Please.”

John must hear the evidence of his longing in his voice, must see it in his face, because his mouth is descending to kiss Sherlock, long and deep, and perhaps it is only Sherlock’s imagination but he feels as though he can taste an extra note of urgency in the movement of John’s mouth. Sherlock rises up into the kiss, lifting his chest to press it forward into John’s, inviting him closer with the thrust of his body.

With his mouth still on Sherlock’s, John reaches down between them and pulls Sherlock’s breeches the rest of the way down his legs. He breaks the kiss to shimmy partway down the bed and free first one foot, then the other from the soft material, before dropping it to the floor and out of sight.

John stays where he is, crouched by Sherlock’s knees, and Sherlock lifts himself up on his elbows to look down at John, where he is leaning forward to settle his palms on Sherlock’s shins.

Such a banal place for John to touch, but once again, Sherlock’s body leaps in response to the placement of John’s hands as though he has been struck. John does not take his hands away but his eyes flash up to Sherlock’s face, silver-quick with worry, a question evident in the lines of his face.

Sherlock shakes his head again, licks his lips. “Don’t stop,” he gasps, voice shaking more violently than ever as John’s hands slide around to caress his calves and up to the backs of his knees.

It shouldn’t feel this good to have John’s hands touching his legs in such an innocent place but somehow, Sherlock knows in this moment, there is no place on his body that John could touch that would not be charged with feeling, that would not feel as though his skin were set aflame from the dragging heat of John’s callused palms.

John’s hands circle back around, cupping Sherlock’s knees, his thumbs stroking the curves where Sherlock’s knees become his thighs, and Sherlock can feel the heat rising in his cheeks, in his chest and throat, staining the pale skin over his collarbones a mottled red.

It is not only the touch of John’s hands that is making him feel as though he will come apart at the seams, it is also the sight of John, his thin lips flushed and swollen from kissing Sherlock, his long eyelashes dark gold in the candlelight, heavy with lust as he gazes at Sherlock’s legs; and the sight of himself, clad only in his linen shirt, the jut of his erection all too evident through the thin material, so apparent above his bare thighs, is utterly obscene.

John’s hands slide up his thighs, up, up, up to hold him by the hips, and Sherlock’s breathing is so shallow that for a moment he is frightened he will not be able to draw enough air into his lungs. Sherlock has to shut his eyes; the flood of information is too much, he cannot possibly withstand both the sight and the feel of John’s hands, where they have now slid below the hem of his shirt. Just the feel of them, warm and heavy on his hips is almost more than he can take.

John takes hold of the edge of Sherlock’s shirt, rubbing the thin material between his fingers as he bends over Sherlock, his voice dark and deep—the sound of the shadows at the bottom of the ocean—the feel of it, a wave of warmth over Sherlock’s bared throat. “May I take this off?”

Sherlock nods, eyes still shut, trembling so hard he feels he will shake apart, and then John’s mouth is pressing a kiss into the skin of his throat, whispering, “Can you sit up for me?”

Sherlock opens his eyes to do as John asks, raising himself off the pillows to give John the room he needs to free him from the garment.

John lifts the material in his hands, pulling it off, slowly, over Sherlock’s head, and Sherlock looks down at himself, sees his pale thighs, the dark patch of hair between his legs and then the rosy head of his erection coming free, and embarrassed, overwhelmed, he covers his face with his hands.

He stays like that, his back bowed slightly, his own face hot under his palms, feeling so naked, so horribly exposed, and it’s terrifying, it’s awful—the thought of his scrawny torso, his long pale legs, his very obvious arousal all made plain to John’s eyes—it’s enough to make him want to curl up into a ball and hide, drag a blanket over his head and send John from his side. What John must think of his body, so different than John’s sun-warmed, capable one—so white and frail and useless, nothing more than skin and bone.

Sherlock feels the mattress shift as John leans forward, and he flinches, hunching into himself, pushing his face deeper into his hands.

Gently, so gently, John takes one of Sherlock’s hands between his own and lifts it away from his face.

“Oh, my love. My love, look at you…. Look at you.”

John’s voice is soft and so filled with reverence that at first Sherlock thinks he must be imagining it, but then he feels the warm murmur of John’s breath against the palm of his hand and then John’s mouth is pressing a kiss to the center of his palm and there is no imagining the reverence in the touch of John’s mouth, the way his lips part hot and sweet against the center of Sherlock’s hand and linger there.

Sherlock sucks a breath in and feels something begin to uncoil deep within him.

“Do you know…?” John goes on, his voice hitching slightly, as though he is too overwhelmed to draw breath. “Do you know how beautiful you are? You must know. You must.”

John is pulling the other hand from Sherlock’s eyes and kissing the knuckles, pressing his lips to the curve on the inside of Sherlock’s fingers, to the heel of his palm, the inside of his wrist.

“You rare, rare beautiful thing.”

John lowers his mouth to kiss the slope of Sherlock’s shoulder, the hot humming presence of his lips like a match being dragged over Sherlock’s skin, gathering flame as it goes until there is a burning trail in its wake. One of John’s hands settles in his hair and Sherlock tips his head back slightly, his body uncurling from its hunch of displeasure.

Sherlock can feel himself opening under the touch of John’s mouth, softening and loosening—the tension chased out of his body by the warm slide of John’s lips.

“You’re like a sculpture, carved from ivory.” John’s voice is as warm and soft as the touch of his mouth, as his lips trace the vein in Sherlock’s throat. “You’re like a siren, a mermaid, some sea-wracked god who stumbled out of the deep.” John’s fingers curl in Sherlock’s hair, pulling lightly, and Sherlock gasps with pleasure. “Your mouth is a rose, your eyes the sea. Oh, Sherlock, Sherlock, you beautiful, impossible creature.”

John is a poet, Sherlock thinks, blushing at his words, color rising to heat his pale cheeks, the skin of his throat. He knows the words are fanciful, the claims utterly false, but he cannot discount the feeling in John’s voice, the tone of conviction that tells Sherlock he believes every word. He cannot stay shut inside himself in the presence of such adoration. Sherlock can feel the ice of his own self-loathing melting under the heat of John’s worshipful tone.

He opens his eyes and the sight of John kneeling before him, his golden head bowed over Sherlock’s chest makes him give a little cry and lean back against the pillows.

“Yes, yes, yes…” John chants, his breath still hot on Sherlock’s neck, as Sherlock lowers himself down, John’s body following Sherlock’s until he is crouched over Sherlock, his hands on either side of Sherlock’s naked chest, one clothed knee pressing in against Sherlock’s bare leg. “God, look at you.”

The reverence in John’s voice is unmistakable. His hands are gliding down Sherlock’s shoulders, over the curve of his hip, and Sherlock gasps at his touch, suddenly acutely aware of the way John is looking at him, how awed, how hungry is his look.

The touch of John’s hands, the tone of his voice were enough to make Sherlock forget his self-consciousness, but now, at the look in John’s eyes, Sherlock feels his arousal returning, beginning at the very center of himself and skipping out along his limbs and down to the tips of his fingers in little star-bursts of crackling heat.

John skims his knuckles over Sherlock’s bare hip and Sherlock arches his back, lifting his body up to the hungry touch of John’s eyes, feeling something come over him he has never experienced before. He licks at his bottom lip, feels how plump it is beneath his tongue, how sensitive, and then bites down on it, lightly, looking up at John from under lashes grown heavy with desire. The sound John makes in response—urgent, filled with longing—makes Sherlock reach up and fist his hands in the material of John’s shirt, pulling John down against him.

John lets himself be pulled, his clothed body covering the length of Sherlock’s, making Sherlock gasp at the rough feel of John’s trouser-covered thighs pressing in against his own, the heavy weight of John against his aching erection almost more than he can take.

John’s hand is still between them, trailing so lightly over Sherlock’s hip, and Sherlock presses up into it, seeking movement, seeking friction. He is desperate for John’s hand to creep several inches further and take him in hand but he does not know how to ask for it; it feels too intimate, too obscene, so Sherlock parts his thighs instead, urging John’s body to settle closer against him.

John’s mouth is in his hair, close by his ear, and he feels John’s breathing change against him at the movement, and then, in one miraculous, infinitesimal shift, John’s hips have settled against Sherlock’s and Sherlock feels the long, hard length of John pressing into him.

Sherlock’s mouth falls open, and as though of its own accord, his body thrusts up into John’s, his hips pushing John’s erection into his, and the hot rough drag of it—the knowledge that this is John—John—blood hot and hard because of him, his body pushing into Sherlock’s at this most intimate place, is so filthy-sweet that Sherlock cannot make a sound at all; his voice is stolen from him.

John’s fingers tighten on his hip, lips dragging over Sherlock’s ear, and Sherlock thrusts again, grinding up into the heavy weight of John, pleasure sparking down his limbs in response to the friction, and this time, John moans against him, the sound low, unsteady, filled with heat.

It’s glorious, but still it’s not enough, because there is clothing between them creating a barrier between John’s skin and Sherlock’s, and this is intolerable.

Sherlock pulls on the fisted material of John’s shirt, trying to push it off. “I want you too…without clothes on.” His voice is shaking with need. “Take this off.”

“Yes.” John kisses him briefly before sitting back. “Yes, of course.”

Sherlock is almost sorry for the loss of John against him, the absence of his warm weight between Sherlock’s legs, but then he forgets his sorrow as he is treated to the sight of John kneeling in the trembling light of the candles and reaching up to pull his shirt off over his head.

Sherlock has seen John without his shirt before—more times than he can count, and to be sure, he has savored every instance—but this time is different. This time it’s John baring himself for Sherlock’s eyes alone, and this realization, coupled with the sight of John’s muscular shoulders, the swell of his biceps as he drops his shirt beside the bed, the ripple of his abdominal muscles as he twists back around, is enough to make Sherlock moan, long and low, and bite down on his lip.

The look in John’s eyes at the sound Sherlock makes is sinful—how someone’s look can be so sexual is something Sherlock cannot understand. Perhaps it has something to do with the heaviness of John’s eyelids and the depth of darkness beneath those heavy lids, in each pupil a single drop of gold suspended from the reflected candle flame above the bed. But it’s more than that. It’s also the way his fingers settle on the fastenings to his trousers, pulling them apart with slow deliberation, so slowly that Sherlock sits up on his elbows to get a better look, licking his lips, his thighs spreading apart against the mattress as John pushes the material down his hips.

Oh, John’s hips—Sherlock has seen them before, showcased most prominently earlier today—was it really today? How could it be?—when John climbed up out of the ocean, dripping wet, the translucent material of his trousers clinging to the grooves of his slender hips—but now here they are with no fabric to hide them, just the luscious sight of golden skin curving over bone, two grooved shadows pointing toward what Sherlock cannot believe he is about to see. His mouth is actually watering, although he does not understand why.

John sits up higher on his knees to push the material down his thighs and then, oh then, at last, at last, Sherlock can see all of John, and there is oh so much of John to see.

John shifts around to pull the garment off his ankles, tossing it into the darkness at the end of the bed before returning to his knees.

Sherlock was overcome by the sight of John earlier, when the damp material of his trousers seemed to showcase every nuance, every curve of flesh, but now, not only is there no fabric to obscure a single detail, but John is swollen with arousal, the hard length of him curving up against his abdomen, and Sherlock moans again, louder, filled with desperation at the sight of John’s desire, so prominent, laid bare to Sherlock’s eyes, and without any prior thought, he is sitting up and reaching out to settle his hands on John’s slender muscular hips.

John goes absolutely still, and Sherlock pauses too, eyes flickering up to John in question.

“Is it… is it alright if I touch you?”

John’s brows come together momentarily as though he is in pain, and for the briefest of moments, Sherlock is concerned, but then John’s answer is sighing out from between his lips, and Sherlock realizes that the look on John’s face is one not of pain, but pleasure. “Oh my god, yes.”

Emboldened, Sherlock slides his hands up John’s hips, up over his lean muscular sides, fingers rippling over John’s ribs, feeling every muscle, every bone, and he marvels not only at the sight of his pale fingers against John’s darker skin, but also at the feel of John’s warm, living body shifting and breathing underneath his palms.

Tentatively, his slides his hands over the hard muscles in John’s chest and over the flushed circles of his nipples, which stiffen under Sherlock’s touch, hardening into peaks.

Sherlock gasps at the instantaneous effect his touch has on John and looks up at John’s face to see that same look of almost pain, his breath coming in shallow gasps from between his parted lips, his eyes half-shut.

His hands keep sliding, up over John’s collarbones and to his shoulders—oh, his shoulders. Sherlock shifts slightly closer in delight at the feel of that smooth, warm, golden skin beneath his palms. How John can possibly feel better than he looks is a mystery to Sherlock.

“You feel so good,” Sherlock breathes; his voice full of wonder, and John laughs in response, but he can’t quite complete the sound. It comes out breathless, broken, a single gasp of sound.

Sherlock lets his fingers continue down John’s upper arms, his thumbs trailing over the swells of John’s biceps, and by the time Sherlock’s hands reach John’s wrists, his own breathing is as shallow as John’s, breath coming out in short, desperate pants.

“John,” Sherlock whispers, his voice trembling as hard as his hands, not even knowing what he’s asking for anymore, overcome by how much of John he’s already been given, how much more he wants.

His fingers clench around John’s wrists in desperation, and although Sherlock cannot find the words he needs, John seems to understand. His hands settle on Sherlock’s shoulders, pushing him gently back down against the bed.

“Tell me what you need,” John says, against Sherlock’s lips, his body following Sherlock’s down to lie not over him, but just beside, the top of one naked thigh pressing in against Sherlock’s.

Sherlock is hot, so hot, the want in his belly trembling and twisting like a living thing. He knows what he needs—it’s what he’s needed all along, but hasn’t had the courage to voice aloud.

“I want…” His voice is as soft as a sigh, his mouth lifting up against John’s. “I want you to touch me.”

He parts his thighs as he says the words, hitching his hips up in invitation, and at the shuttered look in John’s eyes at his plea he knows John understands.

John kisses him softly, slipping his tongue between Sherlock’s parted lips, as his hand slides down between them, over the trembling muscles of Sherlock’s stomach and along the curve of his hip.

Stretched out naked underneath John, Sherlock’s body feels completely new to him. He’s never felt so alive, so aware; his skin is like an unknown landscape, a whole new country of sensations. He can feel every shift in touch, every slight gradation of texture, of heat—the slow progress of John’s fingers over his hip drawing him out, shivering and raw, until he’s lifting his body up in desperation, moaning softly with need.

“Shh,” John breathes against him. “I know what you need. Don’t worry, love. I’m here. Here you are. I’m right here. You’ve got me.”

And then finally—finally, finally—John’s warm fingers are closing over the stiff flesh between Sherlock’s legs and Sherlock’s entire body goes still as the heat of John’s palm surrounds him.

Oh,” he breathes, his mouth falling open, hips lifting of their own accord, urging John’s hand to move.

Sherlock wants to watch the expression on John’s face but his eyes are falling shut, and he cannot stop them—he is overcome, and with his eyes closed he can concentrate better on the feel of John’s callused palm gripping him, and on the feel of John’s thumb as it slides over the head of his erection, swirling in an agonizing circle.

He is already wet and leaking—Sherlock can feel the moisture slick under John’s thumb, and now his thighs are trembling and he is moaning with want because he cannot take it, he needs John’s hand to move.

He reaches out blindly to seize hold of John’s arms, whimpering, senseless, his voice a dry rasp of need. “John—”

“I’m sorry, love. I know. I was being selfish. I can’t help drawing it out, you feel so good in my hand.”

Sherlock cries out at that, his fingers biting into John’s arms, and finally, finally John’s hand begins to stroke, using the moisture under his thumb to coat the length of Sherlock.

The feel of it—the slow, slick slide of John’s hand around him, the flex in the muscles of John’s arms as he strokes—is so good, Sherlock almost cannot stand it. He tosses his head on the pillow, his breath coming out in short, panting gasps. He can feel perspiration beading on his brow, making his hair stick to the back of his neck.

His eyes are still squeezed shut but he feels the heat of John’s mouth pressing a kiss in against the side of his neck, before asking in a constricted voice. “How does that feel?”

Sherlock forces his eyes open, licks his dry lips and tries to speak, but when he opens his mouth all that comes out is a keening cry of pleasure as John’s fingers shift around him.

John presses a kiss to Sherlock’s swollen lips, pulling back to murmur a warning.

“You’ve got to be quiet, my love. They’ll—” His own breath is lost in a shudder of heat as Sherlock pushes his hips up into John’s hand, urging him to stroke faster. Sherlock feels John licks his lips against him. “They’ll hear us.” His voice is soft with apology. “We can’t let them hear us.”

Sherlock nods, desperate, biting hard on his lip to keep from crying out as John shifts against him, rising up to his knees and leaning down over Sherlock, straddling one of Sherlock’s legs with his muscular thighs, changing the angle of his grip.

John’s mouth is at Sherlock’s ear, his breathing hot and ragged, growing less and less steady with every stroke of his hand.

“My god, Sherlock, you—you’re so beautiful like this. You’re exquisite.”

The hand that isn’t stroking Sherlock is warm against his thigh and Sherlock presses up against it, needing the pressure, needing an anchor, feeling as though he is going to float apart.

Sherlock whimpers in his throat and John seems to understand; the press of his palm against the sensitive skin of Sherlock’s inner thigh as warm as a brand as John pushes it down against the mattress.

Sherlock cannot hold back his cry then, a whine clawing its way out of his throat, and John lifts his hand to press his fingers in against Sherlock’s mouth, a flash of worry in his eyes.

“Hush, my love. Hush now. They’ll hear us.”

Sherlock tries, he really tries but the feel of John’s fingers pressing in against his mouth only make it harder to keep the sounds from slipping out—and Sherlock remembers in a dizzying rush of heat how he imagined this very scenario, John leaning over him with his fingers at Sherlock’s mouth, and the fact that it is really happening now, John, bending over him, his eyes as dark as the shadows beyond the candle flame, the lines of his body gleaming gold in the gentle light, means that Sherlock cannot possibly be quiet now, not with John’s eyes on him like that, John’s hand drawing every ounce of feeling out of him through the touch of his hand.

He cannot stop the chorus of desperate little moans streaming from his mouth, nor can he stop the force of his hips rising up to meet each of John’s strokes.

Sherlock shakes his head on the pillow, clutching in desperation at John’s arm. “I can’t—I can’t! I’m sorry—”

“Shh, it’s alright. It’s alright.” John lifts a hand to cup Sherlock’s cheek, bends low to kiss his mouth, his hand never stopping in the rhythm of his strokes. “I’ve got you. I’ve got you.”

It is John’s quiet assurance that pushes Sherlock over the edge, the gentle feeling of his mouth opening against Sherlock’s.

The sweet, wet heat of John’s mouth coupled with the lovely friction of his hand on Sherlock’s cock drives a spike of pleasure through him so intense, so white-hot with feeling that he fears in that moment that he will break apart.

His body arches, his back lifting off the bed, fingers clenching on John’s arms; the cry that issues from his lips lost in the heat of John’s mouth.

Pleasure bursts open within him, coursing through his veins, and Sherlock has moved outside his body. He is heat, he is light; he is speed without sound, nothing more than a swell of upward movement toward something that he cannot see or describe.

He is shaking with the force of it, so swift, so all encompassing that for one frightening moment Sherlock fears he will be carried away with it and lost, unable to come back to himself; but then, he is crashing back to earth and into the awareness of his body with shattering abruptness.

Dimly, Sherlock registers his body sinking back down to the mattress, his chest heaving with exertion, his forehead damp with sweat.

John has settled fully between his thighs, his weight on his elbows to hold himself above Sherlock’s chest, and he is kissing him, softly, all over his face. Tiny, gentle, close-mouthed kisses against his hairline, his temple, his chin; each one a reassurance and a question in its own right, seeming to ask, ‘Are you alright? Are you alright? Are you alright?’

When Sherlock flutters his eyelids open—his eyelashes sticking with what Sherlock suspects might be tears—he looks up to find John gazing down at him with worry, his hands lifting immediately to frame Sherlock’s face, blue eyes swimming with tenderness.

“Are you alright?” he asks, his voice rough, and Sherlock lifts his arms up around John’s neck to pull him down against him.

“Yes,” he whispers, his lips sticking against John’s cheek, his heart pounding harder than he’s ever felt it with love for the man above him. It’s as if what John has given Sherlock has shaken something lose inside himself—something that was caged up and trying to break free, but had no means of doing so.

It’s as if John has suddenly presented him with the key.

Sherlock opens his mouth, feels his lips tremble with the weight of the words he’s about to speak.

“I love you,” he whispers, voice growing bolder with each word, arms tightening around John’s neck. “I love you, John Watson.”

Sherlock says it again, and this time, the words come easily, come effortlessly, as natural as the wind moving over the sea.

“I love you, I love you, I love you.”