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Over Fathoms Deep

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Sherlock waits, his arms still twined around John’s neck, to see what John will say.

John is silent for several long heartbeats but Sherlock does not even feel afraid, so full up with joy he feels at any moment that he will overflow.

Never before has he felt the way he feels right now, his body is quiet, humming with satisfaction. He feels soft and open, like a flower whose petals have been gently pulled apart, and now all the light of the world is streaming in, filling him with warmth.

There is a quietness in him, a contentedness that he has never before experienced, but at the same time, there is an undercurrent of new awareness thrumming through him, like a secret spring he did not know was in him all along come suddenly to life. He feels alive with possibility, his body tingling, wide-awake.

And John is here with him, here, here between his thighs, his body hot and hard against Sherlock, the force of his arousal still very present against Sherlock’s hip. Sherlock shivers at the weight of it, gently shifts against him, full of pleasure at the thought of helping John find his own release.

But John is still quiet against him.

Sherlock’s face is pressed in against John’s neck—he can feel the hot rhythm of John’s pulse against his cheek, but he cannot see his face. He pulls back a little to see John’s expression.

John’s face is turned away from him but Sherlock can see the sorrow in his expression in the down-turned corners of his mouth.

“John?” he whispers softly, voice full of horror. “What’s the matter?”

John looks down at Sherlock—his face is not so very far away, his weight still supported on his elbows to hold himself above Sherlock—and Sherlock can see tears standing out in his eyes.

“Forgive me,” John says, and then he’s rolling off of Sherlock, pushing the heels of his hands in against his eyes to wipe his tears away.

He stays like that, with his fingers pressed against his eyes, his bare chest heaving in the soft light, and Sherlock watches him, motionless with worry, studying the shadowed grooves of John’s ribs, that grow more distinct with each inhaled breath, that soften with each exhale.

He wants to reach out and touch John, offer him comfort, but it was his words after all that made John react this way, so he stays where he is, frozen with fear, watching the trembling line of John’s mouth grow smaller with every passing moment.

After what seems like an eternity to Sherlock, John lowers his hands, blows out a long breath.

“I’m sorry,” he says, his voice unsteady, his eyes still wet. “I would say I don’t know what’s come over me, but I know exactly what’s come over me.”

“Did I do it wrong?” Sherlock’s voice is smaller than a speck of dust.

John shakes his head, a burst of breathless laughter rising to his lips, but it comes out sounding like a sob.

“No, you didn’t,” he says, smiling briefly before his mouth shrinks, lips bending at the corners before vanishing completely as he presses them together. “No, it’s…”

Sherlock watches the line of John’s mouth shrink again, and feels a prickling wave of dread move through him. He hates it—he hates seeing John look like his heart has been torn out of his chest and then flayed open. It’s all wrong. John should be happy; John should be overjoyed, but instead…

“It’s you, Sherlock. Having you here with me, the fact that you feel this way about me… I’m having a hard time believing this is real.”

John reaches down for Sherlock’s hand, which is lying motionless between them, palm up. He traces a finger over Sherlock’s palm and down to the tip of his middle finger. Sherlock shivers at the touch.

“I can’t believe how lucky I am,” John breathes into the darkness between them. “Hearing you say it, I…”

John shakes his head again, his voice growing thick, and suddenly Sherlock understands. He knows exactly what John is describing. He has felt it almost every day since he first met John. The experience of loving someone so much that it feels as though his body cannot contain it, as though it’s bursting out of him from every pore, as though he will drown in it, be burned up in the heat of his feelings. Perhaps John has felt it all along too, but he didn’t realize that Sherlock felt that way as well, until now, until Sherlock let himself come apart beneath John’s hand, until Sherlock said the words out loud.

Sherlock curls his fingers around John’s; looks down at their entwined fingers.

“So you’re not… actually sad then?”

John lets out another breathless laugh, but this one sounds less like a sob.

“No. No, Sherlock, I’m not sad at all. Quite the opposite.” John squeezes Sherlock’s fingers between his own, so hard it hurts. Sherlock is grateful for the pain. It takes the sting out of his worry; makes the moment feel more real.

John’s eyes flicker up to Sherlock’s face for the first time since he rolled away, and his expression changes yet again, real sorrow flashing in his eyes.

“Oh, Sherlock, love. Don’t look like that. I’m crying because I’m happy, fool that I am. My god, I’ve never been so happy. Oh love, come here.”

John reaches out and wraps an arm around Sherlock’s shoulders, pulling Sherlock to his side.

Sherlock’s worry is gone in an instant, washed away by the feeling of John’s warm naked body against his own, John’s bare arm hard around his shoulders.

He is naked and John is naked and here they are, lying against one another, John’s mouth against his hair.

Sherlock’s body feels so soft, so loose. There is a warm tingling feeling moving all through him, growing louder every moment as he becomes aware of every point at which his body is touching John’s.

His face is on John’s shoulder, his chest pressed in against John’s ribs, his hips tucked in against John’s thigh. As an experiment, Sherlock shifts the leg that is laying against John’s, lifts it so that his right leg twines around John’s left, feeling the slide of skin against skin as he settles it between both of John’s.

Sherlock listens to the sound of John’s breathing growing unsteady above him, and feels delight unspooling hot and fluttering inside his belly. John is here against him, all his, to touch, to taste, to become acquainted with. He shifts his hips a little closer into John, feeling giddy at the prospect.

He rubs his cheek against the smoothness of John’s chest and then wriggles back a bit, readjusting so that his nose is pressed into the warm hollow under John’s arm.

The fact that John is warm and smooth to touch comes as no great surprise to Sherlock—he was already deeply appreciative of the sleek lines of John’s body, the cords of his muscles standing out under the skin—but what’s unbelievable to Sherlock, what was impossible to imagine before now, is the smell of him.

There is soft golden hair underneath John’s arm, slightly damp with sweat, and Sherlock finds when he pushes his nose into it and inhales, there the smell of John is strongest. He smells like clean sweat and heat and sunlight, and truly Sherlock thinks, there are no words to describe the smell of John, other than to say he smells like sex itself.

John makes a soft sound above him as Sherlock buries his nose underneath his arm.

“Sherlock, love, what—?”

But John’s question is swallowed by a gasp of shocked delight as Sherlock opens his mouth and licks at the warm, wet flesh.

He pulls back and settles his weight on his elbows to look down at John. His eyes are serious. “You taste as good as you smell.”

“Oh my god,” John says and his head is falling back against the mattress, his eyes sliding shut.

In contrast to the warm, loose pliancy of his own body, pressed up against John, Sherlock is suddenly aware of the tension present in John’s. There is a tremor running through him, as fine as a ripple of wind across the surface of still water, and Sherlock sits up a little higher on his elbows, feeling determined. He wants to give back to John what John has just given him so selflessly.

Sherlock runs a hot palm down the center of John’s chest, watches John’s torso jerk in response.

“John,” Sherlock whispers, his voice full of reverence, stroking his long fingers down over John’s muscular hip, his thumb lingering in the groove of his pelvic bone. “Tell me what to do.”

John lets out a soft groan and opens his eyes.

“Oh my god,” he says again, and Sherlock notices how black his eyes have become, blacker and blacker with every passing moment until Sherlock is certain he will tip forward into them and drown.

“You’ve said that a lot tonight.” Sherlock’s voice is soft, his thumb still stroking over the groove in John’s hip. It feels so good he never wants to stop touching him there.

John tries to laugh but it comes out all wrong—a breathless, helpless sound. “I can’t handle you looking at me like that.”

“Like what?” Sherlock asks, sitting all the way up so he can hold John’s other hip with his free hand. Now he is holding John’s body between both of his hands. It feels right. He likes the way his long white fingers look framing John’s golden hips. It looks like something beautiful.

“Like you’re a wolf pup that hasn’t eaten in a week. All teeth and dark eyes.” John’s voice is low and heavy, as heavy as Sherlock’s body feels as he leans over John, hands hot on his hips. He feels like any second now he will dissolve, become liquid just so he can pour himself over John, seep into every inch of him.

He notices that touching John there, holding him by his slender hips, where he feels both hard and soft at once, is making his own arousal come flooding back between his legs, hot and insistent, as though it never left. Sherlock shifts slightly to give his stiffening flesh the room it needs.

Sherlock looks down at the swollen length of John’s cock where it’s straining up against his stomach, the head of it flushed and leaking, and feels a hard tug of arousal in his abdomen.

John’s heavy golden lashes are sliding low over his eyes. “Honestly, you don’t need to do much of anything, just go on looking at me like that and I’ll be all set.”

John licks his lips, shifts up to his elbows, and Sherlock releases John’s hips to watch hungrily as John takes himself in hand.

Sherlock sits on his knees, leaning forward with eagerness, his attention rapt on John’s face, the soft ‘O’ of his mouth stretching open as his fingers curl around himself, his eyes fluttering completely shut.

The sight of John like this is breathtakingly gorgeous but Sherlock doesn’t simply want to watch, he wants to know what John feels like when he is touching himself. He wants to be involved.

Sherlock doesn’t ask, he simply follows his instincts, climbing up and over John’s legs and then lowering himself down so that he is straddling John’s thighs.

John’s eyes fly open with a shocked gasp.

“Is this alright?” Sherlock asks, feeling hesitant but not wanting to move now that he has settled into place. There is already so much more information available to him from where he is sitting and oh, it is delicious: he can feel the hard muscles in John’s thighs under his bare arse, can feel the way John’s body tenses under Sherlock’s weight.

“Oh my god, yes,” John says, his breath coming out in one long hiss, his fingers sliding down the length of himself and then back up as his low-lidded eyes take in the sight of Sherlock gazing down at him, face shining with eagerness.

In an effort to bring himself closer to John, Sherlock leans forward and as he does so, he hears the soft silvery sound of metal moving against skin, feels the gentle pull of the chain around his neck, and for the first time since John undressed him, remembers that he is still wearing John’s mother’s necklace.

The locket is warm against his bare chest and looking down at himself and realizing that he is naked except for the thin silver chain, the heavily ornamented locket glinting softly against his pale flesh, he feels his cheeks flush hot. There is something obscene about the knowledge that he is nude except for this keepsake that does not belong to him.

“John,” he whispers, his voice trembling slightly. “Your mother’s necklace. I forgot to take it off.”

John looks up at him and groans, fingers stuttering around himself at Sherlock’s words, eyes flickering over the silver chain at Sherlock’s throat.

“John,” Sherlock repeats, voice still soft with anxiety. “Should I take it off?”

“No,” John breathes, his voice thick and heavy sounding. “Don’t—don’t take it off.”

“But—”

“I like you… in it,” John says, tongue tracing the length of his bottom lip, fingers stilling on his cock. “It’s all I have left of hers. I wouldn’t let just anyone wear it.”

Sherlock sits back.

“Alright,” he whispers, feeling the locket settle against his chest and shivering at the weight of it, the implication that something impossibly precious to John is circling his neck. The realization that the object that lay so close to John’s heart now hangs against his own, fills him with a swooping, dizzy feeling, as though the ship is tilting in a heavy gale. He thinks of Anderson’s cruel words from earlier, about John marking him, and finds that instead of filling him with shame, the association makes his heart beat faster, fills him with a shuddery feeling of pleasure.

“I like seeing you in it,” John says, his hands leaving his cock to lay heavy on Sherlock’s thighs.

Sherlock takes the locket in his fingers, studies the intricate pattern of the interlocking letters, the sweeping curves that twine together like the vines that grow up around young trees. “It’s so beautiful,” he whispers.

“That’s why it suits you,” John breathes, his hands sliding around to cup the curves of Sherlock’s arse where it rests against his thighs.

Sherlock gasps at the touch, the necklace falling from his fingers. He lifts up, so John’s hands can continue exploring, tracing the swell of his buttocks down to where they meet his thighs.

“J-John,” he pants, shocked at the charge of feeling surging through him like a spark to gunpowder, leaning forward to place his weight on his palms. John’s hands are so warm, so rough against the soft skin of his arse. Sherlock has never thought about this particular part of his body as having any sort of erotic appeal, but now, as John’s hands knead the muscled flesh, Sherlock can feel the corresponding ripple of arousal move directly through his cock.

He pushes back into John’s hands, wanting pressure, wanting… something, he knows not what, other than the fact that he knows he wants John’s hands to do it.

He hears John’s breath catch at the movement, fingers squeezing in response and Sherlock makes a little mewling sound he did not know he was capable of.

“Oh God…” John’s hands leave his arse and Sherlock’s face must show his disappointment because John is apologizing almost immediately. “I’m sorry, love, but I need—”

He interrupts his own words with a moan as he returns his fingers to his cock, and Sherlock lowers his arse back down to John’s thighs to watch.

He decides in that moment that he could never, never tire of watching John like this, the full length of his magnificent cock clenched between his fingers, the muscles in his body lit up gold in the shuddering light of the candles, shifting and becoming more prominent with every movement of his arm.

“Oh god, you watching me like this it’s…” John’s hand tenses, his head falling back, his eyelashes flickering on his cheeks like two streaks of gold.

Sherlock leans forward to press a curious hand against John’s stomach, to feel the muscles flexing in John’s abdomen as he strokes, his eyes raking over John with awed wonder, and John’s breath leaves him in a long hiss.

“Sh-Sherlock…”

The flush is high on John’s cheeks, staining the skin of his throat. Sherlock reaches out another hand to touch it, to see if he can feel the heat.

John makes another strangled noise.

Sherlock snatches his hand back as though he has been burned. “Was that—?”

“No, no, it was lovely. Do it again. I just—you, touching me, it’s… oh, Sherlock.”

Sherlock has seen John in all states of physical duress, has observed the power in his arms as he tows the line, muscles hard and gleaming under the sun, his face running with sweat as he turns the capstan, body bowing against the weight of the anchor; but this state of exertion is like no other Sherlock has witnessed.

It’s like John is more alive than Sherlock has ever seen him. He is like a brighter version of himself, like a lantern that was covered by a shade but now is shining out, undimmed.

His body is hot under Sherlock’s thighs, the muscles in his stomach tensing under Sherlock’s palm, and it’s as though Sherlock can feel all the power in the heart of John thrumming up into his own body.

The feeling makes him hot all over, makes him want to grind down into John, to feel the lovely friction of their bodies coming together—to somehow join himself to the heat and the strength that is John Watson.

“Can I help,” Sherlock breathes, scooting forward, feeling the lovely drag of his arse over the muscles in John’s thighs. He gasps at the sensation, but refuses to be distracted. He leans forward over John, licking his lips, eyes intent on the movement of John’s hand. “Please. Let me help.”

“Oh god, y-yes you can put your hand over mine if you like…”

“Like this?” Sherlock asks, concentrating hard, the world’s most eager pupil, his tongue poking out one corner of his mouth as he leans forward to wrap his long pale fingers over John’s.

John’s breath leaves him in a rush, his own fingers momentarily falling still as Sherlock’s fingers press in against his own.

“Oh, that’s… yes. Yes, that’s perfect. J-just keep your hand there.”

The movement of John’s hand begins to speed up. Sherlock clenches his fingers tighter around John’s, fascinated. He has never experienced another person giving himself pleasure and it is simultaneously nothing like he imagined and so much better because this is John, John at his most vulnerable, at his most intent. In this moment, John is more himself than ever, and Sherlock is a part of it. The realization fills Sherlock with an ache somewhere deep inside himself that seems to throb within him, that he feels will never be satisfied.

Sherlock studies him as his hand moves with John’s, concentrates on memorizing every detail of this new, wonderful version of John that is all for him.

There is a shimmering feeling in Sherlock’s belly growing brighter the faster John strokes. He shifts his hips against John’s thighs, unconsciously seeking friction against the growing heat of his own flesh, licking at his swollen lips.

He has never seen John lose control like this. John, who has such mastery over his body, who is so confident, so sure of himself, to see John, to feel John trembling between Sherlock’s legs, his eyes squeezing shut, his body pushing up into Sherlock’s weight—it is beautiful like the stars are beautiful, like the first curl of frost on the window in winter, like the light of the sun on Sherlock’s cheeks. It is rare and so delicate, so brief, Sherlock wishes there was a way he could capture this moment and all its sensations and bottle it up somewhere, to ensure that he could have some part of it always within himself.

“John?” Sherlock’s fingers tighten over John’s. “Can I…?” Sherlock licks his lips. He cannot seem to stop doing that. It’s as though he’s hungry, ravenous, as though he hasn’t eaten in weeks, and John is a feast laid out just for him.

John’s lust-starred eyes slide up to his. In the shadows of the candlelight they seem to shine with a light of all their own.

“What is it, my love?” His voice is bright with tension. Sherlock can hear the effort it takes him to speak.

Sherlock slides a little closer over John’s thighs, feels the heaviness of his genitals drag against John.

John’s breathing hitches, thighs tensing under Sherlock’s weight, his body so sensitized that even the subtlest shift in movement makes his powerful body quiver like the most breakable thing.

“Would it be alright if I… that is—may I touch you? I mean, just me. I want…” Sherlock licks his lips again, his mouth unspeakably dry. “I want to feel you in my hand. I need to know what you feel like now. When you’re like this.”

John curses then, and it is the foulest string of words Sherlock has ever heard put together.

His cheeks blush hot in the wake of his own request, but also because of the lewdness of what John has just said.

“My god, Sherlock, yes. Jesus Christ, yes, please. Please.”

John lets go of himself, lifting his hand away, and Sherlock leans forward, replacing John’s small competent fingers with his own longer, paler ones. He leaves them there for a moment without moving them, just feeling, feeling every inch of John under his hand.

“Oh John,” Sherlock whispers, completely overcome.

John’s flesh is hard and hot under Sherlock’s hand, but also, soft, so soft, like living silk. Sherlock can feel John’s pulse along the length of him, can feel every vein, every ridge of flesh, and he is breathing hard now, so hard he almost cannot catch his breath.

Sherlock lets his fingers slip down an inch or two, and John’s body rises up beneath his, his mouth parting with a gasp.

“How—how is that?” Sherlock asks, hearing the tremor in his own voice. He is so overwhelmed by the feel of John he realizes his own eyes are half-shut.

“It’s…” John nods with his eyes closed, breathless. “Perfect. You’re perfect.”

Sherlock drags his swollen bottom lip in between his teeth, biting down on it to keep himself from grinding down against John’s trembling body, like an animal in heat. He has more self-control than that. At least, he hopes he does.

“Sh—should I…?” Sherlock is seized with sudden self-consciousness. His voice shrinks until it is barely more than a whisper. “How should I do it?”

John’s eyes are still shut. Sherlock wants to kiss his trembling lashes, so gold against his cheeks.

John swallows. Sherlock watches the movement of John’s throat as he does, wants to lick the length of it. For one dizzying moment, he is seized with the desire to have his mouth on every part of John at once.

“However you like,” John’s lovely voice says, pouring out of his chest like a ribbon of gold. Sherlock can feel the vibration of it between his thighs. His hips give a little jerk in response. “Whatever you do will feel good, my love. Just start out gently and I’ll tell you how it feels.”

Sherlock nods, serious, suddenly all business, and sits up a little straighter on John’s thighs.

John lets out a moan at the movement. His voice is strained. “Whatever you do, just know that I’m not going to last much longer.”

Sherlock shifts his fingers all the way up to the head of John’s lovely cock, finds the moisture there, slides his fingers through it, and uses the slickness to ease the movement of his fingers as they slide back down, the same way John did for him, and—oh god, the thought that John is wet like that because of him—Sherlock lets out a breathy little moan and John’s hips buck beneath him at the sound.

Sherlock starts to stroke John, slowly at first, still in too much awe over the feel of John under his fingers to pay attention to the rhythm of his movement.

“You can—you can hold me a little tighter if you like… and go a little—yes, like that—a little faster.”

Sherlock takes John’s advice to heart, tightening the circle of his fingers to increase the friction as he strokes, and to his amazement he sees the immediate effect it has on John, as his hips thrust upward, his eyes flying open with a low groan.

“Y—yes, that’s p-perfect. Keep going, j-just like that.”

John’s eyes are sliding shut again, his head tipping back against the mattress, and Sherlock can see that the skin of his neck and shoulders is flushed with arousal, the golden line of his throat shining with a fine sheen of sweat.

So many times, Sherlock has seen John’s body glowing under the sun, the muscles in his arms and chest gleaming with sweat, but never, never has he looked as beautiful as he does now, and the sight of him like this, the feeling of his body under Sherlock’s weight, the feeling of his live desire under Sherlock’s hand, sharpens Sherlock’s hunger to an unbearable pitch, makes him reach forward with his other hand so that he can feel John with both hands at once.

Sherlock wraps the fingers of his left hand around the base of John’s cock, slowly, reverently, letting two fingers drift down to touch the hot skin underneath, gathered tight against John’s body, the intimacy of touching someone there (Sherlock can feel the soft hair covering the delicate skin, the intense heat of him) causes Sherlock to gasp aloud.

John makes a sound that is somewhere between a cry of pain and a groan, his entire body tensing under Sherlock’s legs, hands tightening to fists at his sides, hips thrusting upward.

Sherlock would be worried he has hurt John as his neck arches against the mattress, eyebrows drawn together as though in pain, but then he hears the words issuing from between John’s lips, soft and desperate, repeated over and over like an invocation.

“Oh my god, your hands. Your hands, Sherlock, oh my god…”

Sherlock’s own breathing has become as labored as John’s, and it feels for a moment as though they are both fighting toward the same thing. It feels like fighting to Sherlock right now, his entire body coiled up tight with need, making him desperate, light-headed with all the things he wants, but he is determined to help John get through to the other side, god, he wants to help him get there so badly.

He starts to stroke again with his right hand, slowly, but careful to apply the right amount of pressure that before seemed to have such a profound effect on John, continuing to hold the base of John’s cock delicately with his left hand.

This time, John’s reaction is even more intense.

Sherlock watches his mouth fall open in a soundless cry, the muscles in his abdomen flexing as he pushes up into Sherlock’s hand, hands reaching out blindly to clench in the sheets.

Sherlock sees the tension in John’s fists, and can guess the effort it is costing him not to cry out.

“John!” he gasps, pausing briefly in his strokes. “You—you can hold onto me if you like… where you did before.”

John’s hazy eyes look up at Sherlock, at first not understanding, and then Sherlock gives an unconscious twitch of hips and John’s hands reach up to settle on the swell of Sherlock’s buttocks.

Sherlock lets out a little moan of appreciation at the feeling and resumes his stroking.

His hands are full of John, and oh the feel of him, hot and hard and aching under Sherlock’s hands, it’s like nothing Sherlock has ever experienced—Sherlock can feel his own cock bearing heavily down against John’s thigh as his own desire swells in the wake of John’s. He feels John’s fingers tighten against the flesh of his arse in response, dragging Sherlock closer against him.

He cannot help himself; his hips begin to twitch forward against John’s thigh, seeking friction. The movement of his hips mirrors the rhythm of his strokes around John, every slide of his fingers over John’s swollen flesh causing the shivering want in his belly to grow more desperate. He feels so good under Sherlock’s hands—the velvet heat of him, the slickness, the blood red beat of his skin.

He starts to cry out under his breath, so softly at first he’s almost not aware he’s doing it, a little chorus of ‘oh’s as he continues to stroke, rocking his hips against John’s thigh, the firmness of the muscle a lovely point of pressure beneath his aching flesh.

“Oh, John, Oh, Oh, Oh.”

John’s hands clench on Sherlock’s arse, pulling him forward, so that Sherlock’s weight is bearing down on John’s thigh, finally giving Sherlock the friction he needs. The sudden movement causes the locket around Sherlock’s neck to swing forward between them, the change in position making Sherlock gasp, and he almost loses the rhythm of his stroking so perfect is the new angle at which his body is bending over John’s, connected thigh to hip.

His eyes flutter closed briefly as he loses himself in the perfection of having John’s hands on his arse, John’s cock between his hands and John’s body under his. Never could he have imagined a scenario so absolutely right in every way.

If there is a heaven, Sherlock thinks deliriously, surely it is this.

But Sherlock can feel the tension radiating through the body under his, so he refocuses, concentrating as hard as ever on the speed, the angle of his strokes, searching for the ideal balance between gentleness and pressure, in awe every moment his fingers travel over the slick heat of John’s sizeable girth. He is unable to stop the rocking motion of his body, so he uses it to his advantage to help direct the rhythm of his hands on John’s cock, as though he is stroking John not just with his hands but with his whole body.

The locket around Sherlock’s neck sways forward with the movement, each jerk of his body sending it swinging back against his chest in an obscene counterpoint to his thrusting hips. The metal is warm where it strikes his chest, just above his heart, and Sherlock thinks again how wearing this necklace is like having a part of John around his neck, possessing him. The thought makes him shiver all over again, pushing down with his hips to grind hard against John’s thigh, fingers tightening inadvertently around John’s cock.

John cries out in response, his body arching up beneath Sherlock’s like a bow pulled taut, fingers biting hard into the flesh of Sherlock’s buttocks.

This is it, Sherlock thinks, beside himself with anticipation.

Sherlock can actually feel John’s cock swelling in his hands, feels it jerk, and then spurts of warm liquid are pulsing out to coat Sherlock’s fingers, his wrist, the skin of John’s belly.

John is as beautiful as Sherlock has ever seen him in this moment, his cock still hot in Sherlock’s hands, his head thrown back, mouth open, the trembling arc of his body pressed up close against Sherlock, every inch of bare skin glowing in the light of the candles.

Gold, Sherlock thinks, not for the first time, He is made of gold.

But it’s more than gold, it’s something brighter at the heart of John, as though he’s made of light itself, and now it’s pouring out of him, heating Sherlock’s hands and thighs, his arse where John is holding him.

Oh, how foolish Sherlock has been all this time, to think that John’s hair, the color of his skin are such that they pick up the color of the light. No, no, he’s gotten it all wrong—John is the source of it, and here now, with John as alive as he can be in Sherlock’s hands, the light is pouring out of him, so hot, so bright that Sherlock can hardly stand to look at him without crying out.

His body stays stiff beneath Sherlock’s for several seconds more, his cock gradually softening under Sherlock’s hands as he sinks back slowly to the bed, and Sherlock leans forward, feeling as greedy as ever, overwhelmed by how many places on John he wants to taste in this moment—the gleam of sweat on his bared throat, the fading flush along his cheeks, the moisture in his eyelashes, the soft pink shadow of his mouth—in order to discover how he is just after he has taken his pleasure, whether he tastes as heavy and golden as he looks.

He decides John’s mouth is foremost on his list, so he bends low against John’s chest and with an open mouth, kisses the trembling line of John’s lips.

He tastes just as good as Sherlock imagined—better even, dreamy-sweet and hot, but softer, gentler than he felt before, his mouth opening so easily under Sherlock’s, his tongue less insistent, letting Sherlock’s tongue explore his mouth with no resistance.

Sherlock pulls back after a moment, and John throws an arm up over his eyes, sighing deeply, the sound full of satisfaction.

Sherlock shifts off of John’s thigh in order to lie beside him, nuzzling his face into the sticky hollow of John’s neck, and John hums in approval, eyes still shut, lifting his arm to drape it around Sherlock’s shoulders and pull Sherlock in against him.

Sherlock wants to be good, he wants to lie still and appreciate this new, gentle, sleepy John, whose hard lines have all gone soft as molten fire, whose hand is stroking lazily up and down the line of Sherlock’s back, drawing shivers out of him; but his own cock is hard and aching again, his pulse pounding insistent along the length of it and Sherlock cannot help but squirm a bit against John’s side.

John kisses his hairline, must notice Sherlock’s wriggling because he lets his hand drift lower back down to Sherlock’s buttocks. He kneads his hand into the muscle and Sherlock cries out, hips shooting forward into John as though he’s been shocked.

Sherlock can feel John’s warm chuckle in response vibrating all through his chest.

Sherlock is so aroused he is certain in this moment that if he does not touch his own cock he will surely die.

He slides his hand down between their bodies but before it gets there John’s hand is on his wrist, stopping him, strong fingers curling warm against the bone.

“J-John, I need—”

“I know what you need, love. I’m going to give it to you. I’m going to give you something so much better than you can possibly imagine.”

Sherlock whimpers in response to this.

John kisses his fingers. “I know. I promise it’s going to be worth it. Sit up for me. I need you on your back again.”

Sherlock lifts himself partway off of John, but his body is trembling so hard he can scarcely complete the movement.

John’s strong hands reach out to help him, and in one smooth motion, John is sitting up, hands on Sherlock’s shoulders, guiding him back down against the bed.

Sherlock licks his lips, hips jerking, dizzy with need. He wants to reach down and touch himself but he knows what John will say if he does so he clenches his fingers into fists to stop himself.

“Good. Oh, look at you, you’re being so good.” John’s voice is a low purr of approval as he bends over Sherlock’s body, and Sherlock writhes with pleasure at the sound of it.

John drops his head to place a kiss on the skin of Sherlock’s belly—close-mouthed, so innocent, but Sherlock cannot stand it, any touch from John at this point might be the end of him. He pushes a fist up to his mouth, biting at his fingers, whimpering around them.

“I know, I know,” John breathes, voice low and soothing, mouth moving now to place a kiss on the bone of Sherlock’s hip.

Sherlock’s hips jerk in response. He cannot take much more of this. He reaches down to grip at John’s shoulders in supplication, his voice breaking. “John…”

“Yes, yes, you’re right. I won’t be able to drag this out as long as I might like. That would just be cruel.”

John’s mouth has moved again and now, oh god, now—where is it going? What is it doing? What does John think he is doing? His mouth has moved along Sherlock’s hip and is hovering above the hair at Sherlock’s groin.

John presses his face in against the base of Sherlock’s cock and inhales, and no, Sherlock cannot take it—his fingers must be leaving bruises on John’s shoulders, his nails biting half-moons into John’s flesh—because John’s mouth is right there against the base of him, and John cannot be thinking—? He cannot be thinking of…

“J—John, what are you—?”

John looks up at Sherlock, his blue eyes glittering and bright, his teeth stretched wide in the most lascivious grin Sherlock has ever seen.

“You can put your hands on my head if you like.”

“John, what—”

And then all thought leaves him as John leans down and takes the head of Sherlock’s cock into his mouth.

John’s mouth, John’s mouth is around his cock—his cock is in John’s mouth. John’s beautiful, incredible, singing, smiling mouth is currently folded warm and wet around Sherlock’s cock.

The thought of it alone would be enough to blow the last of Sherlock’s self-restraint to bits—so obscene! John’s mouth! On him, around him—his mouth! But nothing, nothing on earth could have prepared Sherlock for the feel of it.

Not only is it hot and wet and velvety soft, but John’s tongue, oh god John’s tongue is licking the skin around the head, and Sherlock knows in that moment, that this act will be the death of him because there is no way that he can survive this.

He takes John’s advice without thinking, blindly reaching out to move his hands from John’s shoulders to his head, fingers grasping at the short strands of hair, too short for him to grip properly but so soft, and Sherlock realizes in a delirious jolt of disappointment and amazement that he has never felt John’s hair before this moment—every moment of his life before this suddenly making itself known to him as a complete waste—and it feels as lovely as it looks, as though he can feel the sunny brightness of it shimmering against his fingertips.

John’s hair in Sherlock’s hands is almost enough to finish him—he can feel the tightness in his belly and his loins, gathering like a spring that is about to uncoil, pulling and pulling until he feels as though he cannot bear another second. It as though every part of his body is somehow connected to his cock in this moment; every slight shift of John’s mouth against him sends minute currents of pleasure rippling through him, as though his body is crisscrossed with a network of the finest threads, all culminating in the place where John’s mouth is sliding warm and wet around him.

It is the downward slide of John’s mouth that finally breaks him, slipping down Sherlock’s cock an infinitesimal distance, sucking lightly. Every muscle in his body draws tight, his hips thrusting up off the bed. The feel of it, the slick hollows of John’s mouth enveloping him, cheeks and tongue curling close to enfold the heart of his desire, is what sends the first wave of pleasure crashing through him. But it is also the realization that one of John’s hands is curled around the base of his cock, fingers nestled in the dark curls, his other hand, hot on Sherlock’s hip, pushing him back down against the bed, and most of all the knowledge that this is John—John’s mouth around him—made desperately real by the feeling of John’s hair under his hands as fine as sunlight.

The fragile cords holding Sherlock’s body together seem to break apart, and distantly he is aware that he is crying out, his body drawing up and rising, rising; in spite of the pressure of John’s strong hand on his hip, he feels as though he will go on rising forever, pleasure unfolding from him in continually renewing waves—like the ocean, Sherlock thinks in a haze of bliss, like the never ending pounding of the surf against the side of the ship, surging, powerful, carrying him away in a rush of foam and salt spray.

He can still feel John’s mouth around him, the movements of his cheeks and tongue suggesting to Sherlock that he is swallowing down each burst of Sherlock’s pleasure as it issues from him, and that thought alone—John is drinking down a part of Sherlock—causes a renewed tide of feeling to rip through him, driving him harder up against John with a ragged gasp.

He is breathing so hard he cannot catch his breath, gasping for air as though he has been underwater and his head has only just broken the surface.

Minutes seem to pass before Sherlock’s body sinks back down against the mattress, and it is the soft feeling of John’s mouth sliding off of him that causes Sherlock to open his eyes, to become aware that his body is shuddering, his breath still coming impossibly fast as though he has run a great distance.

John’s hands are smoothing down Sherlock’s flanks. He leans in to press a kiss to Sherlock’s sweat-dampened cheek, his voice as gentle as his hands. “Breathe, my love. You have to breathe for me now. Take a deep breath.”

Sherlock looks up at John with wide, panicked eyes, feels the heaving motion of his own chest under John’s warm palms.

“Do it with me now—in.” Sherlock watches John and does as he says, drawing a long, slow breath into his lungs. “And out.”

Sherlock breathes out with John, before drawing in another long breath. He repeats the motion several times. Gradually he feels his hammering heart begin to slow down.

“Better?”

Sherlock nods.

John reaches down to push the sweat-soaked hair off of Sherlock’s brow, his eyes full of tenderness and something else, something that seems to spark like a living flame at the center of each iris.

“John.” Sherlock’s voice is a low rasp.

“Yes, my love?”

“What you just did…that was…”

Sherlock shakes his head. He wants to convey to John what it meant to him, but there are no words to describe the feeling.

John bends down to kiss his temple and Sherlock can feel his smile in the curve of his lips. “I’m glad you liked it. I was hoping it might have a positive effect on you, but I must say, it went over even better than I had hoped.”

When John sits back, his eyes are full of the same bright fondness, his hand still soft in Sherlock’s hair. “I keep thinking, ‘This, this is Sherlock at his most beautiful,’ and then, I see a new side of you, and I have to amend that thought. It keeps happening, so I think it’s safe to say that you are simply growing more beautiful every moment.”

Sherlock flushes hot at John’s words. His voice is shy. “You think I’m beautiful now?”

Sherlock feels like a sponge that has just been wrung out—his body limp, his hair damp with sweat. He is still shaking lightly from the effects of his orgasm; he feels weak, fragile.

John’s face softens at the doubt in Sherlock’s voice. The hand in Sherlock’s hair pushes through the tangle of curls, and Sherlock responds immediately to the feeling, face lifting into the touch, body relaxing. If he were a cat, he would be purring.

“You look like a mermaid just pulled out of the sea—dark hair soaking wet, blue eyes bright, your red mouth the color of sea poppies.”

John’s voice is low and heavy. It seems to work on Sherlock like a spell. That, combined with the feel of his fingers, combing slowly through Sherlock’s hair, pulls Sherlock down into an almost trance-like state.

“Your body is trembling at the shock of the air, the shock of seeing a man with two legs instead of a tail, a dangerous man who surely wants to devour you. He keeps licking his lips, and looking at your mouth, and when he finally leans into kiss you, you think your heart will stop for fear of him, because you do not know what kissing is, and when his mouth opens on your mouth, you are certain he is going to eat you up.”

Sherlock wants to laugh at John’s words, wants to say in an incredulous voice, ‘Sea poppies? Surely, there is no such plant,’ but there is something darkly romantic about John’s words, and the tug of his fingers in Sherlock’s hair, the possessive slide of his hand on Sherlock’s hip makes Sherlock gasp in shocked delight just as John leans down to kiss him.

The kiss is slow and soft and Sherlock parts his lips for John, inviting him to deepen the kiss. John does, and when his tongue slides into Sherlock’s mouth, he tastes completely different, and Sherlock realizes with a little shock that he is tasting himself on John’s tongue. The thought makes him warm all over and press closer into John.

When Sherlock pulls back after several moments to catch his breath, he says to John, in a quiet voice. “I think the same thing about you, you know.”

John’s voice is playful but his eyes are dark. “You’re afraid I’m going to eat you up?”

“No,” Sherlock says with a shake of his head. “That you grow more beautiful every time I look at you.”

“Oh, Sherlock…”

Sherlock hears the break in John’s voice before John bends down to kiss him again, his mouth trembling against Sherlock’s, his lashes flickering on Sherlock’s cheeks as he tilts his head to kiss him deeper.

John’s eyelashes feel wet against Sherlock’s skin, and he pulls back slowly, a note of admonishment in his voice. “John, you’re not crying again, are you?”

John’s shaky burst of laughter in response is all the confirmation Sherlock needs, and he leans back all the way to look sternly up at John, who’s rubbing a fist against his eyes, and smiling in apology.

“I suppose you’re disappointed that a man who survived three years of war at sea goes to pieces at any sign of affection.”

The stern expression stays on Sherlock’s face. “That isn’t what I was thinking at all.”

John sniffs and blinks the last of his tears away.

Sherlock’s voice goes soft. “I was thinking you’re even beautiful when you’re crying.”

“Oh Lord.” John puts a hand up over his mouth as several new tears well up in his eyes.

Sherlock sits up so he can wrap his fingers around John’s wrist and pull John’s hand away from his mouth. He places a gentle hand against John’s cheek, and then leans in to kiss the tear that is sliding past John’s down-turned mouth.

“Don’t cry, John.” His voice is soft and pleading. “It makes me sad.”

“Alright,” John says. He reaches up and places his hand over Sherlock’s where it’s cupping his face. He offers Sherlock a watery smile. “Anything for you. My sea flower, my mermaid, my impossible beauty.”

“You’re ridiculous,” Sherlock whispers, but he’s blushing with pleasure.

Sherlock is still holding John’s wrist in his other hand. John’s pulse is a pleasant flutter against his fingers. For the hundredth time that night he thinks how remarkable it is that he gets to see John like this, so soft and open, that Sherlock gets to have him, so strong, so warm, and his to touch.

He wants to go on kissing John all night long, exploring John’s body with his mouth—there is so much of him to taste, to touch—but the candle on Sherlock’s desk is guttering in its pool of wax, and fatigue is crowding in to slow his thoughts.

John must see his weariness in his face because he smoothes a thumb over the back of Sherlock’s hand, and says, “I think it’s time we got cleaned up.”

Sherlock nods, sighing as John pulls his hand away, and climbs from the bed, his movements as graceful and efficient as ever.

Sherlock watches with sleepy contentment as John pours water from the pitcher on his desk into the pewter basin, his eyes moving appreciatively over the strong lines in the backs of John’s bare thighs and over the muscular curves of his buttocks. John should never be allowed to wear clothes again, Sherlock thinks sleepily as he reaches for the towel nearby, the muscles in his back leaping to vivid life under the soft touch of the candlelight.

This is not the first time Sherlock has seen John’s naked back, but it’s the first time he’s had a chance to study it in detail up close, and for the first time, he sees all the little scars crisscrossing the golden flesh, some of them small and very fine, but others, deeper, longer, the evidence of much more grievous wounds. Sherlock wonders with a feeling of growing horror what might have caused them all.

There is one that is worse than all the others, a deep knot of scarred-over flesh on John’s left shoulder, and Sherlock feels a tightening in his belly at the sight of it. John said he was wounded in the war against the French, that’s what finally got him sent home—the scar on his shoulder must be the result of that wound.

John sets the basin on the chair by Sherlock’s bed, and dips the towel in it, wringing it out before he turns toward Sherlock to wipe the stickiness from his belly.

“What is it?” John asks, seeing Sherlock’s face.

“Your back,” Sherlock says, his voice soft. “So many scars.”

John’s expression goes hard. “Yes.”

“The one on your shoulder it—is that the wound that took you out of commission?”

John’s hands are gentle as he wipes Sherlock clean, but his face is still hard and distant. “Yes.”

Sherlock’s voice shrinks with fear. “What about all the others?”

John turns to wring the cloth out over the basin, and Sherlock thinks he wrings it harder than he normally might—the whiteness of his knuckles evidence of the pressure. Sherlock cannot see John’s face from where he’s standing and John is quiet for several moments as he cleans himself briskly and efficiently.

When he turns back around, his face is softer but the hard look in his eyes remains. “I’ll tell you someday. Not right now.”

“Alright,” Sherlock says with a sinking feeling, now regretting that he ever asked. He wishes he could take back the question.

John bends over Sherlock’s desk to blow the dying candle out. As he’s straightening up, a loud crash sounds from beyond the door. John’s body tenses in response, immediately poised for action, but he relaxes as several loud and slurring voices follow the noise. It is the sound of several drunken passengers descending the stairs from the upper deck, returning at last from the party to their cabins.

The disruption breaks the uneasiness of the moment, and as John climbs back onto the bed and leans over Sherlock to blow out the candle on the wall, in the moment before the flame goes out, Sherlock sees a smile on his face.

John slides in next to Sherlock, reaching down to pull the sheets up around them both, and Sherlock is so overcome with delight at the prospect that John is going to stay and sleep with him that it takes him several moments to realize John is speaking.

“What?” Sherlock whispers with numb lips, distracted by the feel of John’s warm leg pressing in against his, the curl of John’s toes as he stretches.

“I said, it’s a good thing the party proved such a hit with the passengers.”

Another crash from the corridor confirms John’s words, followed by the sound of raucous laughter.

Sherlock holds himself very still, heart pounding hard against his ribs. He is frightened in spite of himself, remembering with a sudden lurch of unpleasantness just how thin the walls really are, how flimsy a barrier they provide between him and John, and the hostile world of the surrounding ship.

He had forgotten—all through the slow unfurling beauty of their lovemaking—he had forgotten entirely that he and John were not alone in the world. For Sherlock in the last few hours, the whole world had shrunk to the four walls of his narrow cabin, bathed in the light of the candles, heated by the warmth of their bodies coming together.

Sherlock remembers now with sudden, stinging clarity how John begged him to be quiet, how he failed to do so. A slow trickle of horror creeps cold through the pit of Sherlock’s stomach at the realization of just how loud he really was.

“John?” Sherlock whispers in the dark, his voice catching in his throat with fear. “Do you think they heard us?”

“Oh, my love. Come here.”

John’s arms pull Sherlock to him in the dark, and Sherlock acquiesces gratefully, lets John turn his body gently so that he is on his side and John is lying close behind him, tucking his hips in against the curve of Sherlock’s arse.

One of John’s strong arms folds in around Sherlock’s waist, and Sherlock settles back against him with a happy sigh, already feeling calmer, more at ease.

John’s voice is warm against the back of Sherlock’s neck. “No, I don’t think they heard us. I think we were very lucky that the party went so late and that the alcohol was freely flowing. I think most of them were still above deck when we came down, and I imagine the ones already in their rooms were stone cold drunk.”

Sherlock is quiet for a moment, considering this. He feels some of his fear begin to recede.

“However, we’re going to have to be more careful in future. We will not always be so lucky.”

Sherlock feels a twinge of regret move through him. “I’m sorry, John.”

“Oh, love, there’s no need for you to be sorry.” John tightens his arms around Sherlock. “Believe me when I tell you that I want to hear every gasp and cry of pleasure that comes out of your mouth. It kills me to have to tell you to be quiet.” John’s voice is low with sorrow. “But under the circumstances, we have no choice.”

“I know,” Sherlock says in a small voice. He squeezes John back with all his might.

“As much as I’ve grown accustomed to a life at sea sometimes I wish…”

John’s voice is full of yearning, and Sherlock wishes, not for the first time in his life that he was better at comprehending other people’s emotions. There is so much feeling in John’s voice but Sherlock cannot pull apart all the threads to begin to sort out what they are.

“What?” Sherlock asks, uncertain whether he should.

John sighs. “Sometimes I wish that things were different.”

Sherlock does not know what to say to this, so he stays quiet, holding tight to John’s arm.

John’s fingers are moving meditatively against the skin of Sherlock’s belly, through the hair below his belly button. Sherlock shivers in appreciation, pushes closer back against John’s hips.

“John?”

“Mmm?”

“Are you going stay with me all night?”

John presses a kiss to Sherlock’s hair. “I’ll stay with you until the sun comes up and then I’ll have to get back.”

John’s fingers continue their slow, hypnotic movement. Sherlock can hear John’s breathing growing steadier behind him, can feel the press of John’s belly against his back with every exhaled breath. Contentment spirals through Sherlock, slow and sweet. He cannot remember ever feeling so happy. His body feels heavy and sleepy. Sherlock closes his eyes.

“John,” Sherlock whispers, after they have been lying quietly for a time. “Will you sing to me?”

John says nothing, but he shifts against Sherlock, his body curling closer, slightly adjusting his head on the pillow beside Sherlock and Sherlock knows John’s answer by his movements.

In a voice so soft it can only be for Sherlock, John begins to sing in a language Sherlock has never heard.

The melody is beautiful, sweet and haunting, the strange syllables on John’s tongue so close to Sherlock’s ear, so intimate and dark with feeling that Sherlock shivers at the sound.

Although he cannot understand the words, Sherlock can guess at the meaning from the depth of feeling in John’s voice. It is both sad and sweet at once. John’s voice sounds like light piercing through dark clouds, like high cliffs coming into view over the sea through a veil of mist.

The sound of it makes Sherlock’s chest ache, although if you asked him why, he could not put the feeling into words.

Sleep comes to claim him before John has finished singing, tiptoeing up behind Sherlock to draw him down into deep dreams.