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Over Fathoms Deep

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Sherlock’s dreams are heavy and deep, carrying him far from the narrow bunk where he lies between John Watson’s arms, down into the shimmering landscape at the bottom of the sea.

He dreams of the ocean floor, its caverns and dark grottos, peaks of coral rising up like pale mountains to break the surface of the waves, covered here and there with strange flowers that open and close in the gentle rhythm of the surf, frail golden tendrils uncurling from each flower’s mouth only to recede at the slightest sign of movement.

He dreams of beds of white sand that stretch on and on like rolling plains, illuminated by the sunlight far overhead, striped with green in places from the gloom of nearby weeds.

He seems to float above it all, as though he himself were a fish, a member of this world to which he does not belong, privy to its secrets, its mysteries and dreams.

He dreams of things he can’t remember, images that flicker and fade as soon as they awake within him, vanishing like the storm of bubbles that evaporate in the trail of some underwater creature.

He dreams of a city sunk beneath the sea, its spires and turrets coated dark with algae, the delicate majesty of its intricate architecture now home for schools of fish. Where light once shone upon its rooftops, radiant and clear, now shadows creep and stretch dark fingers over crumbling stone. Eels wind their way through the arches in the colonnade and polyps climb the spines of buildings like multi-colored hands. Where panes of glass once gleamed silver in the sunlight now blank windows gape like empty eyes.

Sherlock drifts above it all, feels an ache within him at the sight, sorrow rising in his heart like a wave breaking over a dam, and just as he wonders how a city came to rest at the bottom of the ocean, he awakens with a gasp to darkness.

He does not know what woke him—some sound from beyond his door, some disturbance in the corridor. Or perhaps the movement of the ship changed subtly. Sherlock lies, eyes stretched wide in the darkness and listens, but the steady creak and groan of the hull around him does not change in tempo.

Something else, then.

Sherlock is so focused on discovering the source of the sound that it takes him a moment to register the feeling of the body curled against him. Looking down through the darkness, Sherlock can just make out the soft contours of John Watson sleeping soundly, his body turned in toward Sherlock, one arm stretched over Sherlock’s hip, his mouth slightly open, his breathing even and deep, golden lashes heavy on his cheeks.

The sight of him, the feel of his solid warmth against Sherlock’s side and the spool of lovely memories his presence brings, fills Sherlock with a spike of joy so fierce it feels like pain. A tiny sob of agonized relief escapes his mouth and Sherlock lifts a hand to muffle the sound, for fear that he will wake John.

It was real then, everything that happened. It wasn’t just a dream.

He settles back against John, head tucked in against John’s chest and lets the soothing rhythm of John’s heartbeat underneath his cheek lull him back to sleep, back to the world of dreaming.

Sherlock dreams he hears the noise again. He dreams it is the rush of angry footsteps pounding down the stairs, that he and John are discovered naked, twined together, the full measure of their sins made glaringly apparent as the flimsy cabin door bangs open, grey daylight rushing in. The entire population of the ship streams forward, fills the room, Anderson at the head of the commotion, sneering and pointing, his smug face twisted up with satisfaction, saying over and over, ‘I told you! I told you they were in here together! Didn’t I tell you?’

The captain seizes Sherlock by the hair and pulls him from the bed into the corridor. John, leaping after, his nudity somehow rendering him all the more glorious, his body lit up by the splendor of his fury like Achilles charging in the heat of battle, jaw clenched and muscles gleaming, but before he can reach Sherlock’s side, he is restrained. It takes half a dozen men to seize him, and when they finally succeed, his arms pinned to his heaving sides, John roars like a lion they have chained.

They drag the pair of them up on deck—John is brave and ferocious and golden, standing completely upright, not a drop of his magnificence tarnished by their filthy hands on his arms. In contrast, Sherlock feels bowed down by the weight of their hateful stares. He is hunched over, shivering in the cold light of dawn, his pale arms drawn around himself, terror and fury and shame all mingling in his belly in equal measure, the captain still holding tight to a fistful of Sherlock’s air.

“The punishment for the sins which you have committed—is DEATH!”

There is no time to think, no time to protest. He and John are pushed together, their shoulders knocking hard against one another, the crowd surging in behind them with shouts and jeers to press them toward the edge of the deck. John takes hold of Sherlock’s hand, squeezes it tightly as they’re driven toward the railing. The last thing Sherlock sees before they’re shoved over the edge is Anderson’s maniacal, grinning face stretched in a rictus of demonic glee.

“PUSH THEM IN!” he screams, and then they are falling over the side of the ship, down into dark water.

Down, down they plummet, their hands clasped tightly, Sherlock’s legs kicking hard to stop their descent, but his efforts are useless against the force of their plunging bodies.

They break the surface and all the furor of the yelling crowd is swallowed in a single heartbeat by the silence of the waves.

Down, down they sink, never stopping, Sherlock’s legs still kicking weakly without result, the water growing darker the further they sink.

Sherlock’s eyes follow helplessly the stream of silver bubbles pouring from his nose as they travel downward, and he looks up to see the webs of light stretched overhead, bisecting the dark hull of the retreating ship, painting lines through the water like the arches on the inside of a cathedral.

Death may be all around them in the water, but oh, what beauty there is too, down here among the green.

John turns to him, pulling Sherlock close by the grip of his hand.

“Breathe into me. We’ll live down here together, we’ll be safe.”

Sherlock tries to answer but his words all turn to bubbles.

Sherlock cannot breathe underwater; neither of them can. Sherlock knows this but he does not know how to communicate it to John, John whose short golden hair is rippling in the movement of the current, whose smiling face bears no awareness of the knowledge that they will surely drown.

Maybe Sherlock is wrong. Maybe John can breathe beneath the water. After all John is practically a god in human form.

But Sherlock knows that he cannot. He does not even know how to swim. He can feel the water pulling on him, like long fingers trying to drag him down.

Already it has been too long. His lungs are tightening, his field of vision shrinking as he fights for breath.

John pulls Sherlock to him, dawning horror on his face as he realizes what is happening, too late, too late—his mouth closing over Sherlock’s in desperation.

But John is only human. His last breath is not enough.

The last thing Sherlock sees before the darkness takes him is the sorrowful curve of John’s mouth opening before him, screaming his name.

Sherlock wakes with a start to the feel of John’s hand on his shoulder, his John, real John, shaking him awake.

Sherlock turns toward him with a gasp, heart still pounding in his chest.

“Sherlock?”

John’s worried face is leaning down over him. The light in Sherlock’s room is dim, but it is no longer the pitch black of night so he can make out the concern stark on John’s face. “Are you alright?”

“You’re here,” Sherlock breathes in wonder, not yet able to dim the raw admiration in his voice so recently pulled from his dreams.

John lifts a gentle hand to Sherlock’s face. “Yes, of course, I’m here.”

Despite the terror of his dream, Sherlock’s body feels soft and warm, and Sherlock realizes with a little shock of delight that John is still curled around him, just as he was when Sherlock fell asleep, hips tucked in against Sherlock’s thigh.

Sherlock turns toward him with a happy sigh, burying his face in against John’s shoulder. He inhales deeply, savoring the scent that is so distinctly John’s. When he speaks, his voice is muffled by John’s warm skin. “I was afraid it might have all been a dream.”

John pushes his fingers through Sherlock’s hair. “No, love. It really happened. I’m really here.” His fingers card through Sherlock’s hair, and then gently he guides Sherlock’s face until he can see him. His voice is filled with tenderness. “And I really love you.”

Sherlock gasps softly with delight. Every time John says it, it is a revelation to him.

Sherlock shifts forward on his elbows and leans in to press his mouth to John’s.

John tastes different after sleeping, warmer and softer—somehow more like himself—and Sherlock loves every bit of it.

There is faint stubble on John’s jaw that wasn’t there last night; it’s scratchy against Sherlock’s mouth. He rubs his cheek against it and feels a spark of pleasure skip down his spine.

Sherlock wants to rub his face all over John, discover every part of him with his mouth, but John pulls back, worry still present in his eyes.

“You were whimpering in your sleep.” He reaches up to smooth the hair back off Sherlock’s forehead. “What were you dreaming about?”

Sherlock drops his face back down against John’s chest.

“I dreamed they found us.”

John’s arms come up around him, wrapping warm around Sherlock’s back. “Oh, love.”

“They burst in through the door and dragged us out of bed. They brought us up on deck, then pushed us overboard to drown.”

Sherlock shivers with dread at the memory of Anderson’s face twisted in hatred, the cold dark water closing in over their heads. He feels John’s arms tighten around him.

“You tried to save me underwater. You told me you could breathe for me, that we could live down there together. But I couldn’t do it. You tried to save me but you couldn’t. We were drowning, John. We were both going to drown.”

John’s arms shift against him. “Sherlock, I want you to look at me.”

Sherlock looks up at the note of urgency in John’s voice, and sees John looking at him with deadly seriousness.

“I want you to listen to me very carefully. Are you listening?”

Sherlock nods.

“No harm is going to come to you while you are onboard this ship. Do you hear me? While I am still alive to draw breath, they will not dare touch a single hair on your head, is that understood? They will not hurt you. I will not allow it.”

It’s absurd; it’s an absurd promise to make, impossible to carry out. As strong as John may be, as determined as he is, he is only one man. The ship is staffed by dozens of men. If even half of them put their minds to subduing John, they would win. There is no question about it. Simply by sheer force of numbers, they would win. But something in John’s voice, in his demeanor, inspires absolute belief in Sherlock, makes a chill run down his spine, makes the hair stand up on the back of his neck.

The glimmer of fire that lies at the center of John has rarely had cause to make itself known, but now is one of those times when Sherlock can see it blazing out of him, can see why John survived being pressed to sea with no knowledge of seamanship, why he was able to endure three years in service at war with the French, loading the cannons and lowering the sails in the heat of battle, three years spent up to his knees in blood and bilge-water sawing off men’s legs in the stinking bowels of ships that were being blown to pieces all around him.

There is steel at the core of John Watson that Sherlock has yet to truly witness, that makes him wonder if there is nothing this man cannot accomplish if he sets his mind to it.

Sherlock finds himself nodding, utterly in awe by the change in John’s whole regard.

“Good,” John says, and seems to soften slightly, but the crackle of energy in the air around him in the wake of his speech lingers on, sets Sherlock’s heart to pounding.

“John,” Sherlock says, feeling slightly dazzled in the presence of this new John. He feels as though he has just taken several long pulls from the flask John carries in his jacket. He feels light-headed, his skin spark-shivering with heat.

“Yes, my love?”

“You’re incredible,” he breathes, the awe in his own voice painfully evident.

John laughs softly in response and the feeling of John laughing against him, this John who is so fierce and full of strength, who commands such immediate respect simply with the look on his face, that he can laugh so openly and warmly, just moments after, his torso shaking under Sherlock—that all this can be contained in one small person—it is almost too much for Sherlock to take.

He crawls up John’s body to get nearer to his laughing mouth.

“John,” he says again; this time his voice is pleading. “John, kiss me.”

John’s eyes go dark and he slides his hands low on Sherlock’s back, just above the swell of his arse, to pull Sherlock in against him.

John kisses him long and deep, his mouth opening under Sherlock’s with a low groan that seems pulled out of him almost against his will. The sound of it makes desire leap to life in Sherlock’s belly, makes Sherlock spread his legs around John’s muscular thigh and rub himself against John in a slow, needful thrust.

John’s tongue is warm in Sherlock’s mouth; pushing softly against his own, and then John’s hands are sliding down to cup his arse, fingers kneading at the muscled flesh.

Sherlock makes a whimpering sound and thrusts against John’s thigh again, his tongue slipping over John’s.

Much to Sherlock’s disappointment, John breaks the kiss and falls back against the pillows, breathing hard.

“We can’t do this now.” His voice sounds resolute, even though his face is filled with longing.

Sherlock wriggles down against him, chasing John’s mouth with his own. “Why not?”

John tips his chin up, pushing his mouth into Sherlock’s until their lips brush, in a not-quite kiss. “The sun is almost up.” John pushes a hand through Sherlock’s hair. The touch feels full of sorrow. “I have to leave you.”

A tiny trickle of cold despair stirs in Sherlock’s chest but he ignores it.

He opens his mouth against John’s, licks the lovely soft expanse of John’s pink bottom lip.

John’s eyes flutter shut in response, another groan sounding low in his throat.

“Not quite yet,” Sherlock says. “They haven’t rung the bells.”

Sherlock lets his mouth skim down John’s jaw to the softer skin under his chin. He licks the skin there experimentally. John’s breath comes out in a hard rush.

“My love…” Sherlock presses his tongue against John’s neck, searching for his pulse. He wants to feel the life of John pounding underneath his tongue. His tongue slides, seeking. John’s hand clenches in his hair. “My love.” His voice is breathless. “I need to get up top before anyone…sees me. I should go now.”

Sherlock knows that John is right. He knows he should let John up, but John’s body is so warm beneath his, John’s skin is salty underneath his tongue, and apart from his words, John is making no sign of protest at the downward progression of Sherlock’s hot, inquisitive mouth.

He licks all the way down the side of John’s neck, marveling at the flex of muscle underneath his tongue as John’s head turns slightly. He continues down, pausing to lap at the hollow in his collarbone, and then down to John’s chest until he reaches the tiny pale pink circle of flesh, which he runs his tongue over experimentally, delighted at the way it stiffens immediately beneath his tongue. Sherlock licks at it again and when John gasps involuntarily, his torso arching under Sherlock’s mouth, Sherlock decides in that moment to be completely shameless. He decides it’s worth the risk.

Sherlock shifts his weight onto his elbows so that he can reposition himself, settling the aching flesh of his now very present erection down against John’s groin. They are still both completely nude, the only thing covering their nakedness the sheet twisted around them both, so when Sherlock presses his hips down into John’s, he is rewarded by the stiff heat of John’s very full and very naked cock sliding in against his own.

John’s breath leaves him in a hiss.

Oh, Oh, Oh—the feel of John against him, the feel of John’s hard cock hot pressing in against his own is so good for a moment Sherlock cannot breathe. What an utterly ingenious idea. Why has Sherlock never thought of this before?

Sherlock’s weight is still on his elbows—although his arms have started to shake from the effort of holding himself up. He lowers his mouth down to John’s and breathes a plea into John’s open mouth. “Please, John, please. Don’t go yet. We can be quick. Just don’t—” He rolls his hips and they both groan together. “Don’t—leave…just yet.”

John’s breathing is labored, his body tense beneath Sherlock’s.

“You are a very bad influence, Sherlock Holmes.” John’s fingers clench on Sherlock’s arse, prompting Sherlock to thrust forward with his hips again, causing lovely friction all along his aching cock. The added realization that the friction is the result of John’s own erection dragging over his, makes Sherlock’s eyelids flutter shut with a soft moan of pleasure.

“God help me, I don’t think I could leave now if I wanted to.”

John lets out a stuttered breath of air, presses his forehead into Sherlock’s.

“Alright, my love. You want it quick? I’ll make it quick.” There is a hard edge suddenly in John’s voice, a roughness that makes Sherlock think of smoke and gunpowder, of John yelling orders over the roar of cannon fire. His eyes are dark in the dim light of Sherlock’s cabin but there is something dangerous glittering at the center of each pupil. The sight of it makes Sherlock shiver in anticipation.

John shifts beneath him; he spreads his legs, bending his knees and settling his feet flat against the bed so Sherlock is effectively clenched between them. Then, using his grip on Sherlock’s arse to guide Sherlock’s movements he begins to thrust up against him, pulling Sherlock down to meet him as he pushes up.

The new position means their cocks are sliding directly over one another, trapped between their bodies. The resulting sensation makes Sherlock gasp aloud, his arms shaking harder than ever as he struggles to hold himself up.

“How’s that?” John asks, his teeth flashing briefly as he grins up at Sherlock.

“It’s… uhhh.” Sherlock’s words evaporate into the sound of a moan as John drags Sherlock’s body harder down against him. Sherlock can feel the muscles flexing in John’s strong thighs as he thrusts, each powerful stroke of his body causing more sweet friction against Sherlock’s throbbing cock.

“Tell me what it feels like,” John says, something commanding in his voice as he lifts his mouth up for a kiss. Sherlock takes it, breathing messily into John’s mouth as their lips slide together.

“It’s so good, John,” he gasps, his own breath panting out around his words. “You feel s-so good.”

“Do I?” John asks, his eyes glinting in the brightening room. “Tell me, Sherlock. Tell me how it feels.”

Sherlock is rocking his hips in time with John’s thrusts, faster now, more controlled; John’s hands on his arse have helped him find the right rhythm.

There is slickness between them, and Sherlock cannot be sure if it is the result of his own leaking cock or John’s, but the feeling of it makes him groan, long and low, dropping his head between his arms as he thrusts.

“It’s so good,” Sherlock slurs, feeling drunk with pleasure, desperate to convey to John just how good it is. “I’ve never felt anything—anything¬—like this, like you. Oh God, John, you’re m-magnificent. You’re everything.”

John digs his fingers into Sherlock’s arse in response to Sherlock’s words, and Sherlock hears John make a sound that can only be described as a growl.

It feels so good but it’s not quite enough. Sherlock wants more pressure, more of John against him.

He plants his hands on the mattress on either side of John, pushing himself up with a shaky burst of strength, so he has a better angle to push back against John.

His thrusts renew their vigor, but still it’s not enough.

Sherlock locks his eyes with John, biting at his lips. He feels a drop of sweat glide down his temple, licks more sweat off his upper lip before opening his mouth to speak. “Harder, John. Please. Please.”

John curses and the sound of it, so filthy in John’s breathless voice makes Sherlock drive his own hips harder down against John, faster, losing the careful rhythm that John has established, his movements uneven, desperate.

“You want it faster?”

“Y-yes, John,” Sherlock pants.

“You want it harder?”

Sherlock nods, whimpering.

“I need to hear you say it, love.”

“Yes! Please, John. Please!” Sherlock whines.

“Shh.”

John slides one hand up Sherlock’s back into his sweat-soaked curls to pull Sherlock’s mouth down against him, his other hand sliding up to rub circles into Sherlock’s lower back. Sherlock whimpers at the loss of John’s hands on his arse, at the loss of the added pressure, his hips bucking wildly.

John slips his tongue into Sherlock’s mouth, and Sherlock gasps in conflicted pleasure. The slow sweep of John’s tongue over his feels so good but he’s desperate for more friction on his cock. He ruts against John, keening into his mouth with need.

“Shh. Quiet, my love. I know. I know exactly what you need.”

“J-John.” Sherlock pushes his quivering body into John’s, unable to ask for what he wants, senseless to almost everything except for the feeling of the blood pumping through his cock.

“I know.” John kisses him again, as if in apology, and then murmurs. “Lift your hips for me, love. Just a bit. I’m going to make you feel so good I promise. That’s it.”

John’s hand shifts from Sherlock’s lower back to reach between their bodies, and Sherlock jerks violently as he feels John’s fingers slide in against him.

“Just you wait,” John whispers against Sherlock’s swollen mouth, his own voice trembling slightly. “It’s going to feel so good.”

And then all of Sherlock’s breath leaves him, because John has wrapped his hand not only around Sherlock’s cock, but also his own—the two of them together in his grip, the hard, throbbing heat of both of them contained within the circle of John’s fist—and finally, finally it’s the right amount of friction, of pressure that Sherlock has been craving, as John’s hand begins to stroke.

Sherlock moans into John’s mouth, the sound long and guttural, pulled out from somewhere deep within him, his hips rocking into John’s hand in time with his strokes, John’s body rising against him in response. The feel of John’s fingers moving over him combined with the slick length of John’s cock so hot and velvet-soft against his own—it feels so good that Sherlock is afraid he will go mad with pleasure.

John begins to stroke faster and Sherlock thrusts against him with abandon, a chorus of small, desperate noises forming in the depths of his throat.

Sherlock bites down hard on his bottom lip to stop the noises—aware in some distant corner of his brain that he isn’t meant to make a sound, but it’s hard. John feels so good, too good, the slick thrusting heat of John’s cock against his own is almost more pleasure than he can take, the steady rhythm of John’s hand pulling on his cock in long even strokes better than anything Sherlock has ever felt.

His arms are shaking on either side of John—he’s biting his lip so hard he’s about to break the skin. He can feel the peak of his pleasure drawing closer, like a wave gathering force, tightening the muscles in his belly and his legs.

John is making little panting sounds beneath him as he strokes the two of them in his fist. Sherlock risks a look down at him, and can’t stop the groan that pours out of his throat at the sight of John, pink lips parted, tongue pressed against the corner of his mouth, his heavy-lidded eyes focused on the place where their bodies come together, on the movement of his hand between them—the obscene thrust of Sherlock’s hips each time they come to meet him.

John sees Sherlock watching him, lifts his chin in invitation and Sherlock bends down to press his mouth to John’s. He tries to kiss him but he’s too far gone to complete the action with any kind of precision. Instead, his mouth slips wetly over John’s, John’s tongue coming out to meet him, tracing the swollen length of Sherlock’s bottom lip.

Sherlock whimpers into the kiss and feels John speeding up his strokes.

“How does it feel?” John gasps, his words more heat than sound against Sherlock’s mouth.

“S-so, so good. It’s so good, John.” Sherlock shakes his head, feels sweat running down his temple into his hair.

“You’re so gorgeous when you’re like this, do you know that?” John breathes into Sherlock’s mouth, the movement of his hand slowing momentarily as he pushes his mouth closer against Sherlock’s. “The way you feel in my hand…”

Sherlock feels John’s thumb circling the sensitive head of his cock, and he cries out, hips twitching, desperate for John to re-establish the speed of a moment before.

John slides a hand up into Sherlock’s sweat-soaked curls. His eyes are dark and brutal. “You’re going to come when I say so, alright?”

“Y-yes, John,” Sherlock pants, his whole body shuddering.

“Only when I tell you,” John says, his voice a tendril of heat uncurling between them as his hand begins to speed up again. “You beautiful, beautiful thing.”

Sherlock holds his mouth there, panting into John’s as John licks at him, tiny little swipes of his tongue against Sherlock’s, the softest moans sounding in the base of John’s throat, and it’s as if he’s offering them to Sherlock, these sounds he’s making just for Sherlock, sliding into Sherlock’s open mouth and down his throat, and that gesture—the lapping of John’s tongue against his own is so soft, so wet, so utterly obscene that Sherlock can feel his limbs start to shake as the pleasure builds within him, tightening and tightening.

“J-John,” Sherlock gasps, terrified that he is going to break John’s reprimand because he cannot hold it off any longer—he can feel the first ripples building in him low and sweet. He tries to stop himself, tries to hold his body still to keep the exploding force of his pleasure at bay. “I’m—I’m going to…”

“Yes, my love,” John says, pushing his mouth up into Sherlock’s. “Come for me now.”

Then John is lifting his legs and wrapping them around the backs of Sherlock’s thighs, pressing in just below his arse, pulling Sherlock in against him with the grip of his legs.

Sherlock was already too far gone to pull himself back from the edge, but the feeling of John’s muscular thighs gripping his body, pulling him in down close to John’s, John’s knuckles dragging over the skin of Sherlock’s belly as his hand works the slippery heat of both of their erections marks the beginning of the end.

Sherlock drops his head, his elbows giving way as pleasure rips through the center of him, coursing through his body in great shuddering waves. His body stiffens against John, the muscles in his arse pulled taut, hips bearing down as he shoots pulse after pulse of warm sticky liquid between them.

He presses his face in against John’s neck, muffling his cries in the damp skin of John’s throat, and his cock is still twitching through the aftershocks when he feels John arch up beneath him with a bitten-off cry.

He hears John swear once, feels John’s fingers clenching in his hair, his fingers tightening around them both, pushing, pushing against Sherlock with all his body’s strength and Sherlock marvels at the force of it, the heat of John against him, the warm liquid of John’s release against his belly.

Sherlock collapses hard against John’s chest, and lies completely boneless on top of him, panting into his neck as John’s body slowly sinks beneath him back down to the mattress.

He can feel John’s breathing against him, rapid and erratic, John’s hand smoothing through the damp hair on the back of his neck, over the quivering muscles in his back, rubbing soothing circles.

Sherlock’s whole body is still trembling lightly, his lips pressed in against John’s neck. He feels John press a kiss to the top of his sweaty curls.

“How are you, my love?”

Sherlock lifts his head with effort. When his voice emerges from his throat it comes out dry and cracked. “Thirsty.”

John chuckles against him and kisses his temple. “I bet you are. Here.”

He leans over and reaches for the pitcher of water and the cup that Sherlock keeps beside his bed. One-handed, he pours water into the cup and then settles back against Sherlock, raising the cup to his lips. “Drink.”

Sherlock sits up a little to do so, and obediently parts his lips, suddenly aware of just how thirsty he is as John tips the cup, and the cool liquid slides into his mouth. He gulps at it, desperate, feels water spill down over his chin.

John holds it for him until Sherlock has drained the contents of the cup. He sets it back down, before reaching out to wipe the water from the corners of Sherlock’s mouth with fond fingers.

“I’m sorry if I was a little rough there towards the end.”

“No!” Sherlock says and lifts himself up onto his elbows. “You were magnificent. John, you were—”

He looks down and sees John’s warm blue eyes watching him, gone soft—a deeper blue than he has ever seen them.

“Yes?” John asks, one corner of his mouth quirking up in a smile.

“Oh, John.” Sherlock says, overcome, and bends down to kiss the smile off of John’s lovely mouth.

He lies with his chest pressed against John’s, feeling the steady rhythm of John’s heartbeat underneath his own, and all over again, the thought of John leaving fills him with a fresh wave of despair.

“Don’t go back,” Sherlock whispers against John’s chest, needy, desperate, heedless of the fact that he knows his words are nonsense; that of course, John has to go back, that he should have left five minutes ago. The sun is surely up by now. It’s difficult to judge precisely in Sherlock’s windowless chamber, but the thin line of grey light creeping in beneath the door has grown brighter and Sherlock knows they can’t ignore it for much longer.

“Stay with me,” he begs, knowing the request is impossible, cruel even because John will want to honor it.

“I can’t, my love,” John says, tightening his arms around Sherlock and Sherlock can hear the pain in his voice as clearly as he can see the light seeping in under the door.

“I know.” And then Sherlock feels ashamed, and he buries his face in John’s neck and refuses to let him up.

John’s hands stroke his back for several moments more and then John is shifting his arms on Sherlock’s shoulders, hands sliding down to hold Sherlock by his upper arms, his voice apologetic.

“I’ve got to go.”

Sherlock nods, once, silent and miserable, his mouth drawn into an unhappy bow.

“But I’ll be back.”

Sherlock says nothing, feels once again like a petulant child, embarrassed by the force of his emotion, unable to stop it.

“Sherlock?”

He feels soft fingers settling beneath his chin, pulling his gaze up.

“I’ll be back, all right?”

“I know,” he whispers, ashamed of his misery.

John kisses him on the forehead, the placement of his mouth so soft, so sweet that Sherlock wants to cry out from the touch of it almost as badly as he cried out when he came.

“I’ll be back with you again before you know it,” John says, gently shifting Sherlock off of him, lifting his body upright and swinging his legs over the side of Sherlock’s bunk.

He stands in one smooth, graceful motion and Sherlock curls over on his side, drawing his knees up against his chest.

Sherlock lies with his head on the pillow, and watches John brusquely and perfunctorily wipe the expanse of his belly and chest with a rag that he dips in the cold water from the pewter basin. He dabs under his arms and over his lovely, softened cock, and all of a sudden Sherlock wishes he was helping John instead of just lying and impotently watching him, but when he sits up, a question half-formed on his lips, John shakes his head.

“It’s alright,” he says, as if he knew instinctively what Sherlock was about to ask. “I know you want to help but I’ll be quicker if I do it myself.”

All too soon, John has pulled his trousers back on, dragged his shirt on over his head, and shrugged into his jacket. He’s just lacing up his shoes, the line of his back one strong beautiful curve for Sherlock’s eyes when the sound of the ship’s bells sound through the morning haze.

John turns to Sherlock who is sitting naked, with the sheet pooled in his lap; dark curls in disarray against his forehead, watching John with equal parts awe and sorrow. John leans in and presses one last kiss to Sherlock’s frowning mouth.

He’s turning back around to stand when Sherlock asks, his voice a breathless rush. "When will I see you again?"

"Soon."

"But when?" Sherlock presses, leaning forward to catch hold of John’s wrist in desperation.

Sherlock’s heart is pounding. He cannot explain the irrational feeling of dread that if John leaves his side everything that happened between them will vanish like a curl of smoke, as if John’s physical presence will take away all traces of the event, and it will be nothing more than a dream—as if John leaving his side means he will never see him again.

"I don't know," John says and there is real sorrow in his voice. "Whenever I can get away."

He takes hold of Sherlock’s hand. His fingers under Sherlock’s are so strong and warm.

"Tonight?" Sherlock asks, his voice a whisper.

"Perhaps,” John says, and squeezes his fingers.

Sherlock nods and ducks his head to hide the sorrow on his face. Looking down, he sees the gleam of silver on his chest.

“You should have this back,” he says, reaching behind his neck to undo the clasp but John stops him, wraps his fingers around Sherlock's own where they hold the locket and press it in against his heart.

“No,” John says, his voice firm but full of tenderness. “I want you to keep it for me. I want you to wear it. I don’t have many things I can give you. So let me give you this.”

Sherlock, awed by this gesture all over again looks down at where John's hand is folded over his, pressed in against his chest.

John places two gentle fingers under Sherlock’s chin and tilts his head to lift his gaze to John’s. John’s eyes are fathomless.

“Consider it my promise that I’ll come back to you. Consider it a symbol that my heart is yours, if you’ll have it. Will you, Sherlock?” John’s voice is as soft as breath. “Will you keep it safe for me?”

“Yes, of course,” Sherlock breathes and then John is kissing him, his hand sliding up to cup Sherlock’s cheek, pulling Sherlock’s mouth to him, his thin lips warm and full of feeling.

Sherlock lets the necklace drop back against his chest as he leans into the kiss, his whole body melting at the touch of John’s mouth, at John’s strong fingers so gentle on his face.

John pulls away far sooner than Sherlock would like, his breathing slightly unsteady.

"Now I really have to go."

He runs one hand down the curves of Sherlock’s face—his touch lingering, full of tenderness and Sherlock’s chest resounds with the feeling, like the tone of a bell.

“Goodbye, my beauty,” John says, his eyes soft and deep. “Get some rest.”

And then, before Sherlock can answer, John has slipped from the room, closing the door so softly behind him that it does not make a sound.