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“John?”

Sherlock’s voice broke into his thoughts. With a supreme effort, John turned to the detective. “Yes?”

Sherlock frowned, not speaking for a moment before he opened his mouth and licked his lips. “Nothing,” he said.

John barely heard, his brain stuck on the sight of Sherlock’s tongue running over the surface of his lips. Jesus, he needed to get himself together. What had he been thinking, following Sherlock into a dance club? Of course the suspect had been a dancer, but John had imagined ‘ballroom’ rather than ‘exotic’.

He’d also imagined ‘female’ rather than ‘male’.

As it turned out he was wrong on both counts.

It was hard to deny your bisexuality when you could hardly take your eyes off one of the men in a club like this. He was incandescent, moving and whirling, his body barely stopping; John could see a sheen of sweat on his skin from the heat and presumably the concentration required to do what he was doing. It was mesmerising and John almost forgot what they were here to do.

Fortunately for them both, Sherlock hadn’t.

Unfortunately for John, the man he couldn’t take his eyes off was Sherlock.

When had he ever been so attractive? Certainly before the leather pants, the black shirt open several buttons’ worth, the curls that had never looked so tempting before. When Sherlock finally spotted their quarry it was straightforward arresting him, at least for the undercover police. John stumbled out after Sherlock, fighting both his desire to stay in the place Sherlock had been so amazing and the uncomfortable bulge in his trousers. A cab appeared and they tumbled inside, Sherlock immediately staring out the window, John trying to catch his breath.

Were they going to go right back to where they had been? He couldn’t. How would he be able to tolerate Sherlock whirling around like a dervish, casually throwing himself in the path of danger, failing to eat? Falling asleep on John after two days with no sleep? Deducing John with the smallest glance?

Impossible.

And now the atmosphere between them was tense. It was as though Sherlock’s aborted question had left things hanging unresolved, and neither could quite move past it. John hoped arriving home would jolt them back to their normal rhythm. They could forget about all of this and just get on with things.

Home, and the rain was pounding down as they ran from the cab to the door, throwing themselves through with the dramatic flair Sherlock adored. John was panting, leaning against the wall with a half-smile on his face. He could feel Sherlock beside him, and this was their normal coming to the fore again. Running from something, a story about their day most people would decry as made up. But it was John and Sherlock together in these unbelievable moments, and that was the thought that made John move without considering…anything.

He turned, Sherlock standing exactly as John knew he would be. Slouched against the wall, head lolling back against the wall, lazy smile directed sideways at John. The smile dropped a little as John’s hands reached for him and there was a moment suspended in time. Faces an inch apart, breathing the same air, hearts beating a dozen racing beats at the same time. And as Sherlock’s eyes dropped to John’s mouth, his tongue darted out to moisten his lips.

John pulled him in, pressing their mouths together with no further preamble. Sherlock was obviously startled, but kissing him back; he was tall enough to bracket John’s body against the wall. John sank his hands into Sherlock’s hair, tugging at it as he tilted his head to kiss deeper, chasing the taste of his detective. From the way Sherlock whimpered he was into it; the shaking hands on his face told John the same thing.

The frantic kissing couldn’t last forever, and John found his face tingling. He was hyperventilating. He pressed another kiss to Sherlock’s mouth and pulled back. It wasn’t enough – the wall stopped him, plus Sherlock chased him – so he put his hands on Sherlock’s chest, pushing gently to put some space between their bodies.

He blinked, focussing on Sherlock’s face, which took a few seconds. When he registered what he saw, John swallowed hard, resisting the urge to pull Sherlock in again. Lips full and wet and parted and tempting. Eyes fuzzy, blinking hard and with pupils wide as they stared at John. Curls even wilder than John expected.

Jesus.

“Come on,” he said, voice rough. Sherlock still looked like he wasn’t quite sure what was going on, so John grabbed his hand and pulled him up the stairs. When they crashed through their door, John gasped, pressing Sherlock against the door.

“You okay?” John asked, holding back his desire to ravish Sherlock again.

Sherlock nodded.

“Shall we…can I kiss you again?” John asked.

Sherlock nodded.

“Sherlock,” John said, hearing the plea in his voice.

“Kiss me John,” Sherlock said, the desperation in his voice far outstripping John’s.

That was good enough.

He pulled Sherlock close, kissing him again, gratified when Sherlock’s arms wound around him. Their bodies pressed together and John was startled when his erection pressed against something hard.

Of course.

He’d forgotten that part.

With a groan, he pushed his hips forward, reaching up on his toes to better reach. Sherlock gasped, sinking down. John couldn’t tell if Sherlock’s knees had buckled or if he’d done it on purpose, but either way it worked. Their kissing faltered, each panting too hard to concentrate. Hands grasped and their hips stuttered together. There was nothing as fancy as a rhythm, but as they each chased the bursts of pleasure, their cocks slid past each other enough to keep things breathless.

When that pressing wasn’t enough John stopped, pressing his face into Sherlock’s shoulder.

“Bed?” he asked. Kissing was one thing, and even this frottage had grown naturally from it, but John had no idea how experienced Sherlock was when it came to…whatever they might be going to do. In bed. Together.

Sherlock’s eyes were wide. His mouth was open and John had the impression he had no idea what John had said. Affection rose in John.

“Sherlock?” he said quietly.

“Yes?”

“Do you…I’d like to take you to bed,” John said. He kept his voice even, not wanting to startle Sherlock. He studied the expression on his face. “Have you…is that something you’d want?”

For the first time John could remember Sherlock was speechless. John waited until the curled head bobbed.

“Yes?” John checked.

“Yes,” Sherlock whispered.

“Okay,” John replied. He could see Sherlock was hesitant, and somehow, that made it easier. Sherlock needed him. Needed him to be in charge. Calm came over John at the familiarity in this sea of strangeness. He knew how to do this.

“Come on,” John said. His need was still there, still throbbed powerfully in his groin but he could push it to the side now. He looked down, threading his fingers into Sherlock’s. The moment was quiet and calm, and John looked into Sherlock’s eyes and took a deep breath. He watched Sherlock copy him, the deep, slow breath calming him.

Sherlock nodded again, this time with more conviction, and his fingers tightened around John’s.

They walked together into Sherlock’s bedroom – familiar surroundings would be better for Sherlock, John reasoned – and he turned to Sherlock. Neither spoke as they looked into each other’s eyes for a long moment, and then John’s heart jumped when Sherlock lowered his head to kiss him again.

Much as he would have liked to remember every detail, the next moments were like an old movie, jumping from one flash to the next.

Sherlock was kissing him, slowly at first then with increasing confidence and passion.

Sherlock was pulling at his clothes, panting into his mouth.

Sherlock gave up on John’s clothes and started on his own, still trying to kiss John at the same time.

“Slow down,” John managed, trying to kiss Sherlock and speak and undo his own buttons all at the same time. Sherlock either didn’t hear or didn’t listen; either way, he was down to open shirt and pants very quickly, hands on John once more. It made removing his own clothes more difficult, but somehow they were both standing mostly undressed, kissing again, skin pressing, electricity singing across John’s skin as Sherlock’s hands explored.

Somehow they ended up on Sherlock’s bed; John had no memory of how they got there, but Sherlock was wound around him, the length of their bodies as close as they could get.

“Sherlock,” John tried again as Sherlock managed to get their hips to align. One thrust and their erections slid along each other, dragging Sherlock’s name into a groan from deep in John’s throat.

Everything else receded as John’s hips instinctively kicked forward, chasing the sensation again, ducking his head into Sherlock’s shoulder. Christ, at this rate…

John had no idea how long it was but surely the thought was barely out of his head when Sherlock thrust against him again then stiffened, shaking, fingers gripping John hard. It could only mean one thing. John gathered his self-control – noticeably absent in the last few moments – and took a deep breath. Jesus, he’d been so sure he was going to take it slow, make sure Sherlock was okay, and then it had all gone to hell in a handbasket.

“Sherlock?” John asked again. His own erection, almost painfully hard, was the last priority right now; he needed to see if Sherlock was okay. Right now all he could see was dark curls, but he could feel Sherlock’s breath hard and uneven against his clavicle. Gently, John shifted so he could see Sherlock’s face. “You okay under there?”

Sherlock didn’t answer, nor did he meet John’s eyes. He sat up, wincing at what John could see was a rapidly spreading wet patch on the front of his pants.

“I’ll just…” Sherlock started, shifting his weight to roll off the bed. He pulled his shirt around his torso as he sat up.

“Wait,” John said. If Sherlock left, had a shower and got dressed again, it would be like this had never happened. Sherlock would pretend they’d never kissed, that John was simply his friend, and John wouldn’t have the courage to do it again. Reaching out, he took hold of Sherlock’s arm, careful to keep his fingers loose enough for Sherlock to pull away if he really wanted to.

When he didn’t, relief shot through John.

“What?” Sherlock asked, and the question could have been antagonistic but it came out more vulnerable that Sherlock probably intended. A flick of eyes up at John and they skittered away again, flicking across the rumpled bedspread, the wall – anything but John.

Oh, Sherlock.

“Don’t go,” John said. “Please.”

Sherlock frowned, his eyes moving quickly up and down John again as he always did when he was trying to gather data. When he saw the bulge that still remained in John’s pants, his eyes widened and a pink flush rose up his cheeks immediately.

“Oh, God,” Sherlock said, the words a groan of near pain. “I’m sorry, John, I didn’t even…I mean…” he dropped his face into his hands.

“What?” John said, confused. After a second – he had to look down his own body to figure out what was the problem – he realised.

He thinks I’m annoyed because he came and I didn’t.

“No,” John said, rising to his knees behind Sherlock. “Sherlock, that’s not what I meant. I just meant,” he paused. “I don’t want you to go. I don’t want you,” he took a deep breath, “to have a shower and get dressed and pretend this didn’t happen.”

Sherlock didn’t move, but he spoke muffled words John had to strain to hear. “Why?”

“Why?” John repeated. “Why don’t I want to forget this?”

Dark curls bounced as Sherlock nodded.

“Because it’s not a mistake,” John said. “At least for me it’s not. And I’d like to hear what you think about it, or if you want some space to think first that’s fine, but I don’t want to just pretend it didn’t happen.”

Sherlock didn’t move and John’s heart was in overdrive as he wondered how fast that enormous brain was processing his words. John sat back on his heels, accustomed to waiting for Sherlock to find the right words before he said anything.

“Are you sure?” Sherlock said finally, raising his face from his hands. He still wasn’t looking at John but at least he was easier to hear now.

“Yes,” John said. He smiled. “Easy question. I’ve wanted to kiss you for a while. Needed the right moment.” His face flushed, and he made himself admit, “The right case.”

“The right case?” Sherlock repeated, turning to look at John, finally. He frowned, then as understanding came to him, John saw resignation and hurt. “The men at the club aroused you, and you-”

“No,” John said, cutting him off, “I couldn’t take my eyes off you.”

“Off me?” Sherlock repeated. “But I wasn’t dancing, or performing. I was just…”

“Doing what you always do,” John said, “in a place that smelled of sex and sweat and a whole lot of pheromones.” He was cringing internally, admitting this, but he could see Sherlock needed unedited honesty right now. “The atmosphere helped, but believe me, I was a lot more interested in you than any of the dancers.”

Sherlock blinked at him, and John sat calmly while his eyes roamed, probing for evidence for or against John’s sincerity. He must have been satisfied because a tiny smirk appeared on his face. “Really?” he asked.

“Really,” John said with a smile.

Sherlock smiled back, and John’s worries eased. If they were at this point, at least things weren’t going to be ignored.

“I didn’t mean to…” Sherlock waved one hand at the front of his pants, the flush returning to his cheeks.

“I consider it a compliment,” John replied. “‘You were too much and I couldn’t help coming’ is hardly a bad thing.”

“Really?” Sherlock asked again through a fierce blush.

“Definitely,” John said with a grin. “How about we,” he could see Sherlock’s face grow taut with apprehension until he finished, “go and have a shower. Clean clothes after that club is probably a good idea, and then we can lie together on the sofa.”

Sherlock’s body remained tense as he thought for a moment before answering.

“Yes please,” he said, the relief evident as his shoulders dropped and he smiled.

John leaned in and brushed a kiss across his mouth. “Excellent,” he murmured.

+++

They showered together, hands not wandering anywhere too interesting. John let Sherlock take the lead. He could see blue eyes ducking down to glance at his cock as they showered; his erection was still full, though the desperation had eased now. John wasn’t particularly nervous about showering with other men after his time in the Army, but he had no idea how much experience Sherlock had with other naked people. Had he thought about it, he probably would have pegged Sherlock as the ‘I don’t pay attention so I don’t care who sees what’ type. All the wandering around the flat wrapped in a sheet supported that idea, but John was still careful not to let his eyes linger too much. Instead he simply asked Sherlock if he’d like help with his back. The immediate response – wide eyes on John’s and a visible swallow – was followed by a hesitant nod.

“John,” Sherlock said, and he looked more nervous about turning around than he did about standing here naked facing John.

“Yes?” John replied, waiting patiently. The water was cascading down Sherlock’s shoulders, and its irregular splatter on his skin was hardly enough for John to soap himself, but he didn’t care. Sherlock was clearly trying to figure out how to say something, and experience told John he needed to be patient.

Finally, Sherlock spoke.

“It’s not as bad as it looks,” he said.

John frowned. “What isn’t?” he asked.

“My back,” Sherlock said. “It’s…I can’t talk about it. Not about…what happened. You can see my medical records, if you want. Mycroft has them. But don’t…ask me. Please.”

John was confused until Sherlock said, ‘please’, at which his confused morphed quickly into alarm. Since when was Sherlock so polite? He took a deep breath, holding Sherlock’s eyes. If he didn’t want John to ask questions, fine. From what he was saying, John figured he’d been injured at some point. It stung that Sherlock wouldn’t tell him what had happened, but he couldn’t do anything about it.

“Okay,” he said. “If you don’t want me to ask, I won’t ask.”

“It’s not about trust, John,” Sherlock said, reading him with his usual accuracy. “But if you’d rather not…I’ll understand.”

“Sherlock,” John said, fighting the impatience running through him, “will you please turn around?”

He nodded, but it was another few seconds before he actually moved, bracing his hands on the tiles and lowering his head.

John assumed he’d be looking at some kind of surgical scar, so when the light caught Sherlock’s back, the breath caught in his throat. There was no way this was ‘not as bad as it looks’. His medical training gave him more information than he probably wanted about the nature of the scars on Sherlock’s back. It was clearly deliberate and though they were all healed, it was clear most had not been aided by medical aid. John’s brain automatically supplied likely weapons (cigarettes, sharp blades, blunt blades, heat…) and he shook his head to clear it.

“Jesus, Sherlock,” he whispered, reaching out but stopping himself. He had so many questions but he swallowed them down, remembering his promise. With a deep breath he asked, “Are you okay for me to touch your skin? I don’t want to hurt you.”

“It’s fine,” Sherlock whispered.

“Okay,” John said. He soaped up a washcloth, hesitating for a second before he pressed it to Sherlock’s scapula. He was watching so carefully he saw and felt the shudder that passed through Sherlock’s body, and he waited a second before he drew it across to the other shoulder. When Sherlock didn’t protest John worked slowly and methodically, feeling some of the ropey scars even through the fabric. He couldn’t believe Sherlock had been able to hide these from him since they’d met. As he thought back over their adventures, a frown pulled at his brow.

He’d seen Sherlock’s back before. And it sure as hell hadn’t looked like this. When was that? It must have been a while ago, near the beginning. Before that terrible day at Bart’s, before Sherlock had disappeared and John had grieved him…And since he’d returned John couldn’t recall seeing him in his sheet. He didn’t flounce from the bathroom to his bedroom without a towel; he didn’t emerge until he was entirely dressed. John couldn’t even remember seeing him without a jacket until tonight. He just considered ‘Sherlock wandering around the flat in a sheet’ as present tense. Now that he thought about it though…it wasn’t at all.

John pushed thoughts of what where when who who WHO and instead focused on Sherlock. His back was clean, and John wasn’t going to suggest anything else while they were in there. Not now. He was reeling a bit, recognising the calm that came over him in pressure situations even as his mind worked fast. Carefully, John reached to turn off the water. He turned and found their towels, draping Sherlock’s carefully over his shoulders before stepping out of the tub. He didn’t even remember that he’d had an erection until he was drying between his legs and realised it had gone without him noticing.

No wonder.

“You alright?” John asked quietly, drying himself absently as he waited. Sherlock hadn’t moved until John spoke, but now he pulled his towel around his shoulders more securely. He nodded once as John finished, but he was still facing the wall. John hesitated, but he figured Sherlock might want a minute to himself. Processing this change to their relationship might take a while.

“I’ll meet you on the sofa,” John told him quietly. He couldn’t tell if Sherlock had heard him, but he left anyway, ducking upstairs and into a clean t-shirt and pyjama trousers. Despite the ‘what if’ scenarios rattling through his brain, John tried to remain calm as he came back down the stairs. The bathroom door was still closed so John hung his towel over a chair. He drank a glass of water and sat himself on the sofa. It was probably for the best that Sherlock was still processing – John could do with a minute to sort things out in his head. He replayed their conversation in his head, resting his head in his hands. From what he figured, Sherlock had been captured or kidnapped or something while he was away from London. If Mycroft knew what happened, Sherlock would have been doing something dangerous, probably unofficially backed by the British Government.

Don’t ask me…please.

Sherlock told him Mycroft knew, then said, ‘don’t ask me’.

Was he saying John was allowed to ask Mycroft? John shifted uncomfortably. He didn’t like the idea of asking Mycroft, especially if he was assuming permission. Did it really matter, the exact nature of the injuries? Physically Sherlock was healed, and as for the rest…John certainly knew about trying to deal with the other kind of scars. And if Sherlock hadn’t told him yet, maybe he just didn’t want John to know. John had the impression he was ashamed, maybe worried John wouldn’t be interested in him with his back in that condition.

As if he would reject Sherlock.

John was still thinking when the bedroom door opened and Sherlock appeared. His expression was apprehensive, and he pulled his dressing gown a little tighter around his waist. He was wearing a similar t-shirt and pyjama trousers to John, and as he crossed his arms the t-shirt pulled up. John’s eyes flicked to the strip of skin before he blinked and raised his eyes.

“Hi,” he said quietly.

Sherlock smiled uncertainly. It was strange seeing him so vulnerable. His confidence was so rarely shaken and John hated that he was part of what was making him distressed. Carefully John leaned forward, shifting his weight until he could rest sideways against the arm of the sofa. He invited Sherlock over with a half-smile and an opened arm. His heart was thumping; this was the moment Sherlock may very well chose to go the other way, putting their shared experience behind them.

John held his breath until Sherlock stepped in his direction. It took a few moments to settle themselves, with Sherlock’s arms and legs longer and more awkward than John imagined they might be.

“How do you squeeze yourself onto your chair?” John murmured as they finally found a comfortable position. John was almost lying down, Sherlock curled around him, head resting on his chest.

“It’s easier when it’s just me,” came the reply.

John hummed, not actually expecting a response. He was tired now, after their long day and the unexpectedly emotional events when they’d come home. Sherlock’s weight was comforting, and his torso was warm; John was pretty sure he could sleep like this if Sherlock didn’t move around too much.

“John?”

John hummed.

“Are you not expecting…” Sherlock trailed off.

“No,” John replied, dropping a kiss on the top of Sherlock’s head. “’m not expecting anything, Sherlock.” He paused, dragging up the energy to speak again. “This is nice. But tomorrow, I would definitely like to go back to bed with you, if that’s something you want.”

“It is,” Sherlock said, his voice rumbling through John’s chest.

Humming really was an excellent communication method, John thought dimly. His voice slurred a bit as he added, “And if you want to keep your shirt on, that’s fine. Or not. We can talk tomorrow. ‘kay?”

“Yes,” Sherlock replied, and John felt him press a kiss into his chest.