If anyone could turn sulking into an Olympic sport, it was Sherlock, so John finished up with the groceries to give them both time to decompress.
Was Sherlock truly afraid that John yearned to leave after all this time? The prospect hadn’t crossed John’s mind for some time. When he first moved in, there was always the abstract future and vague ideas about a home and wife, but the addictive reality of life with Sherlock had supplanted those whimsies. John had reached the greener pasture quite without knowing it and he’d be damned if he let it go to rot, even if what he currently had with Sherlock was all there ever was to be.
Eventually, John was ready to brave the journey down the hall toward Sherlock’s room. John pounded on his door, an incredibly rude thing to do if it were anyone else. Sherlock had assured him it was the proper volume to get his attention through vibration.
There was no answering thump to indicate John was welcome. It was possible Sherlock hadn’t caught the knock, but not very. John took a gamble and pressed one palm to the wood, turning the handle with the other before slipping in.
Inside, Sherlock was reclined on his bed. He’d changed into his pyjamas and dressing gown and held his phone in front of him, the glow of the screen lighting up the glower on his face. He didn’t need to sign for John to get the message.
John quietly shut the door and approached the bedside. Sherlock gave him a sidelong glance, his expression fading into something less readable.
"I spoke without thinking earlier and I'm sorry for that," John began, a little awkwardly. "I really am. It's not about me and what I find convenient. I know that. I didn't intend it that way. It's about you and what you want to do. What's best for you."
Sherlock just watched him, one eyebrow rising in skepticism, but he didn't look away and that was the important thing. If he refused to read John's lips or hands, it meant the conversation was over.
“I don’t want to leave," John continued. "That’s not it. I’m willing to be your ears, Sherlock, but I worry about the times I'm not there. What if I hadn’t walked in when I did? What if the bomb had gone off while you stood there, completely oblivious?”
Sherlock set to typing something out on his phone. He handed it to John for reading. Should I worry that I can't see toxic radiation in my visible spectrum of light? Should I worry that I can't feel deadly microbes on the surface of my skin? Both could kill me just as easily as a bomb I can't hear.
John handed back the phone. "Well, yes, but you're far less likely to come across those dangers while working as a detective. You’re missing something that most people take for granted."
The point is, we all have limitations, Sherlock signed. I like to think my strengths make up for mine. Whatever the balance, I chose the risks. So did you.
“I know. You’re right.” John shook his head. He hated feeling so powerless. "It’s just difficult when…”
John stopped himself as he realized what was coming at the end of his sentence: It’s difficult when someone you deeply care about is in danger.
Difficult when? Sherlock prompted.
“Difficult when your limitation is something I can easily offset,” John finished.
Sherlock rolled his eyes. Now you know how I feel when I meet stupid people.
Aren't most people stupid, in your opinion?
That earned John a small smile. It's a constant struggle.
Sherlock’s defensive posture had loosened up considerably. He seemed reassured by John’s presence more than any specific thing he’d said. Had he thought John wouldn’t come to him? Sherlock should’ve known by now that John never retreated from a worthwhile fight.
John sat beside him on the edge of the bed. Little Bee? he signed with an inquisitive smirk.
Sherlock’s eyebrows all but disappeared into his fringe. Shut up.
The smirk grew into an infectious smile. Is Little Bee your sign name?
Sherlock petulantly glared at John and let out a long, dramatic sigh. It started as Little Brother, he explained with painful reluctance. Then it shortened to Little B. I had an interest in bees as a child, so it became Little Bee. Mycroft was Big Brother, so he’s Big Bee.
When did he become Go Away?
When I got wise to his tricks.
When was that?
Around the time I started primary school.
John chuckled at that. Even Sherlock grinned broadly. The two bees, so extraordinarily different and yet markedly similar. John much preferred his bee, of course, in every possible respect.
Why bees? John asked.
Bees are deaf. They sense vibrations in the environment rather than true sound. They communicate through scent and sight and movement, and it works perfectly well for them. Look at what they're able to accomplish.
John nodded in understanding. So why not you?
Sherlock’s face went softly contemplative. Yes. Why not me? What does it matter how I get the information as long as I get it? I cannot hear my own heart, but I know it's there because I can feel it.
You aren’t interested in surgery?
Never was. Why risk my only asset? Sherlock tapped his temple with two fingers. I’d rather be deaf and clever than hearing and impaired.
In a way, Sherlock’s answer made John a little sad. He’d never know the sound the wind made on a warm spring day, never hear a hearth fire crackle or the crash of waves upon an ocean shore. So much beauty in the world would never be his to experience. Worse, there was no way to convey to him the sheer joyous breadth of sound. Did he find any value in what was lost to him?
Curious, John cocked his head. “If you could have one sound, what would it be?”
Sherlock looked at him without responding for what felt like a dreadfully long time. Eventually, he lifted his fingers. Guess, he signed.
The most important sound to Sherlock had to be one which provided a real, practical benefit. “The sound a gun makes when it goes off,” John said immediately.
Sherlock shook his head. No. Think, John.
Something more personal, then? “Erm… the sound of London? Just the city itself. All the people and cars and everything.”
Going by the smile growing on Sherlock's face, he enjoyed making John work for an answer. Try again.
John rolled his eyes. “How about the ridiculous whooshing sound your coat makes when you chase criminals.”
"Okay, either that sign means the answer is Lestrade or I'm nowhere near—" John paused and thought about it. “Wait, would it be a— a voice?"
An edge of tension crept into his eyes. Yes. It’s a voice.
"Your mother’s voice?”
Sherlock made a scandalized face, as if wanting to hear your mother's voice was the most illogical thing in the world. And make it even more difficult to ignore her? She's insufferable as it is.
"All right, what about Mrs. Hudson?" Now she was a proper motherly figure in Sherlock's life.
Could be useful, Sherlock conceded, but no.
“Well, yours then," John declared, quite proud that he'd made the non-obvious leap. "You’ve got to be curious about how you sound.”
Sherlock’s expression went passive. How I sound doesn’t matter.
"But it's your voice,” John reasoned. “It's you."
It's not, Sherlock calmly signed. My voice is in my hands, my expressions, my actions. Speaking is a tool, but it is not me.
He was right, of course, although John had never thought of it that way. He sometimes made a fool of himself with his hearing-centric ways, but Sherlock never bore any ill will over it.
“Yeah, all right,” John said. “Just thought with you being you and all…” He narrowed his eyes after a moment. “It can’t be Mycroft, can it?”
Sherlock shook his head.
He looked a little disappointed that John had given up. For a second John thought Sherlock meant to keep it from him as the price for his failure, but then his hands moved with deliberate care. If I could have one sound, Sherlock signed, I would choose your voice.
His fingers went quiet, but he didn't look away. Warmth sprang to life inside John's chest and his heart seemed to stutter in surprise. “Mine?” he said, not sure he'd read Sherlock's fingers correctly.
Sherlock's next sign was unmistakable. Yes.
John didn't quite know how to respond. Sherlock's eyes were locked onto him, taking in everything, trying to read every scrap of information from his face. Might Sherlock be signaling what John thought he was signaling? His pulse pounded so hard it threatened to jump out of his skin. God, he couldn't get this wrong, couldn’t misinterpret it to mean more than it did. John cleared his throat as casually as he could manage. “What would you have me say?”
Sherlock's mouth curved into the faintest of half-smiles. My name.
The simplicity of his wish was like a hot poker through John’s stomach. “Sherlock,” he said immediately, as if wanting it badly enough might make him hear it.
Sherlock’s eyes were at his mouth, the small smile still present. It was all just motion to him, wasn’t it? John might as well be mouthing the word for all its tangible effect.
Then John got an idea. Sherlock’s brow furrowed as John slid closer. He took up Sherlock’s hand and guided it to his throat, right over the vocal cords so that Sherlock might feel the vibrations. “Sherlock,” he said again.
Sherlock’s eyes widened with awe. It was the same look he got when his deductions fell into place, but this time it was due to something John had done. It stole John’s breath away, that he could make Sherlock look like that simply by speaking his name.
John no longer cared whether he was egregiously misreading things. He couldn’t allow the moment to pass without sharing what had been building inside him for all the months and days since they met. Sherlock deserved to know he was loved, just as he was. "Sherlock," he said again, infusing the name with everything that had gone unspoken, before leaning in to kiss Sherlock right on his astonished mouth.
The fingers at John’s throat released in surprise. John cradled Sherlock's face with both hands and kissed him deeply, not daring to think about how this might be the only time he'd ever feel the soft fullness of his lips, the heady closeness of intimate contact, the warmth of Sherlock pressed against him. A shudder rippled through Sherlock but there was no push of rejection to indicate that John was not welcome to keep on kissing him.
The first returned touch sent a thrill of adrenaline pulsing through John's body. Sherlock's broad palms spread gently over his waist, their warm insistent weight encouraging John closer. John pushed his hands upward to nest within the lush expanse of Sherlock's hair. The soft ringlets curled around his fingers and he lightly grabbed hold, drawing a sharp gasp from Sherlock where their mouths met.
John's brain tried to temper his excitement as he snogged Sherlock into the pillow but, Christ, he couldn't help himself; Sherlock was receptive and keen and all the mixed signals were finally clearing up.
A flash of apprehension hit John and he abruptly broke the kiss. He had to know for sure before things got out of hand. Sometimes they were so far off the same page that John questioned whether they were even reading the same book.
When John pulled back, he saw that Sherlock's eyes were closed. They were both breathing hard and still within intimate reach, far closer that they'd ever come. Sherlock looked to be struggling to pull himself together; his chest shuddered with each shaky exhalation and a pink flush stained his cheekbones. His dark hair tangled loosely between John's fingers. God, he was beautiful.
He slowly opened his eyes. Translucent silver-blue gazed back at John, rimmed in dark lashes and overflowing with incredulous wonder. Sherlock just stared at him, his lips slightly apart as he regained his breath. He seemed to have forgotten how to blink.
John lovingly carded his fingers through Sherlock's hair. "All right?"
Sherlock managed to nod a little. His eyes sank to John's mouth and he tugged urgently at John's shirt. Clearly, he wanted more. He wanted John.
In all his previous relationships, whether pursued or merely potential, John had never experienced the intensity of affection that cascaded through him at that moment. Had he ever dreamt that he'd captured the interest of a brilliant, infuriating, intoxicating genius with eyes like celestial bodies and a mind like a supernova, not a day would have passed that John did not let him feel his utter adoration. Wild, exotic things did not belong to the common, but here Sherlock lay gazing at John as if he'd just given him the world entire.
Impatient fingertips pried at John again, this time forceful enough to yank him forward within reach of Sherlock's mouth. Sherlock kissed him like a man desperate for air, his hands trailing up John's back and gripping hard at the nape of his neck to keep them pressed together.
John climbed fully onto the bed, fitting himself in the gap between Sherlock’s bent knees. As John guided him back, a soft moan slipped out between Sherlock’s parted lips, the noise so faint John might not have noticed if not for the warm rush of breath that accompanied it. The sound went straight to his groin, and he knew it was ridiculous to be turned on by something so small. John instinctively bucked his hips against Sherlock and was rewarded with an audible moan whined into his mouth.
And hell, everything became Sherlock. John's hands feverishly searched for more contact as legs squeezed around his hips, grinding them together in rhythmic sparks. Lips sucking, teething, tasting every inch of exposed skin, down Sherlock’s long pale neck and back up, lavishing him in all the ways he'd wanted to do for far too long. A few well-timed thrusts and John had Sherlock reciting desperate little groans into the crook of his neck. Sherlock's voice emerged in pieces, a series of fractured sounds pitched high with pleasure. John wished he'd had the foresight to remove the clothing between them, but every little reaction from Sherlock was so new and exhilarating that he couldn't bring himself to pause.
There was a slurred shout and at first, the strange tone convinced John he had accidentally hurt Sherlock, but one glimpse revealed his face was beautifully etched with the power of his climax. The image combined with his scent, his feel, the miracle that he wanted John to touch him at all, and suddenly John, too, was finishing with a cry.
Their panting sounded identical, John noted with hazy interest as he rested against Sherlock's shoulder in the aftermath. A mess awaited him in his jeans, but it was more than worth it to feel Sherlock's racing heartbeat in the wake of orgasm.
After a time, gentle hands tentatively brushed John's back. He rolled aside, turning to get a proper look at Sherlock.
Slumped against the pillow, Sherlock watched him with a sated, liquid expression that John had never seen. John reached out to sweep back his dampened fringe.
"Still all right?" John asked.
You made me ruin my pants, Sherlock lazily signed.
John chuckled aloud. "And you made me ruin mine, so we're even."
A fond smirk rose on Sherlock's face. He looked so extraordinarily happy. It was obvious, now, that this irrepressible thing had weighed on both of them for want of resolution. John basked in the pure gratification that he'd got it right, that he wasn't mad for wanting his best friend, and that any similar difficulties on Sherlock's part were over now, too.
John sighed contentedly and nudged closer. “You were making noise during, did you know?” he said.
Sudden horror flashed through Sherlock’s eyes and the color deepened in his cheeks. I didn’t mean to, he quickly signed.
John captured his hands and held them still, instantly regretful he'd said anything. “Hey, hey! It's fine. It’s all fine. I like your voice. You needn't worry about speaking around me, if you want.”
He let go of Sherlock's hands. The hesitancy slowly faded from Sherlock's eyes as they roamed over John's face, working out whatever it was he needed to know.
Eventually, Sherlock raised one careful hand and traced his fingertips down John's cheek. “John,” he said, a deep and lovely rumble.
John went wide-eyed as a heavy feeling settled in his throat. No matter what Sherlock thought, how he sounded absolutely mattered. It was his voice, no one else's, and John realized it was the one sound he'd choose, as well.
Sherlock's fingers slid under his chin, lifting it, and guided him closer, a hair's breadth away from another kiss. “Johnnnn,” Sherlock purred again, testing out the longer inflection. The rich tone sent a shiver up John's spine. Sherlock arched a brow and curiously analyzed the effect. If Sherlock figured out how to wield his voice, it was going to be the death of John.
Sherlock rewarded him with a long, indulgent kiss, less hurried than before and yet incomparably sweeter. He was already addicted to kissing Sherlock, just as he was addicted to every other part of him.
John brought his mouth to brush against the soft skin just below Sherlock’s ear. “I love you,” he said, ensuring every word fanned out over Sherlock’s skin for him to feel. “God, I love you.”
When he pulled back, Sherlock was frowning at him. What did you say?
That's between me and your ears, John signed impudently. He'd fill them with nothing but whispers of love for all the days to come.
Sherlock considered him for a long moment before a mischievous glint returned to his eyes. Maybe so, but don't underestimate my powers of deduction. With enough data, I can work anything out.
Exploratory hands snaked around John, and he realized with a smile that Sherlock had begun his rigorous procedure for collecting information, as he would with any new object of interest. Touch, sight, smell, and taste converged in his mental hard drive and were filed away for future reference. John was to be catalogued, but as he sank in for another kiss amidst the fingers picking apart the buttons of his shirt, he thought perhaps he’d run his own experiment to test the upper limits of Sherlock's concentration.
Dear Mr. Holmes, the email began. My brother says you've got a knack for working out weird happenings, and have I got a strange one for you. Every morning when I wake up, I've shrunk! Not by a lot, mind you, but when I sit down for breakfast, I can tell I've gone down an eighth of an inch or so. This morning, my feet barely touched the floor! Isn't that the oddest thing you've ever heard? My brother suggested I try standing on my head for an hour every night before bed, in hopes the condition is reversed, but nothing's worked and—
Tapping the screen of his phone, Sherlock deleted the email in a huff. Idiots who fell for inane practical jokes barely rated as a one, and out of the four messages this morning, none showed any promise above a three. John's inbox was probably full to bursting with even more uninteresting pleas for help.
Lestrade it was, then.
Anything good? SH
Sherlock sent off the text and leaned back against his pillow to wait. His back had decided to develop a bit of tenderness from yesterday; bruised from the explosion, most likely, and of predictable future interest for John once he noticed Sherlock wincing. What mattered was that his injuries did not pose a barrier to working, and could therefore be classified as unimportant. Still, the softness of the bed was welcome in light of the discomfort.
He got a response from Lestrade in under three minutes, which indicated a long night of paperwork at Scotland Yard and an intravenous drip of coffee.
Not unless you want to help with clean-up.
Sherlock twirled his phone in frustration. Were all the murderers off on holiday? For God's sake, what did it take to get a good homicide in a population of 13 million?
His phone vibrated with another incoming text from Lestrade.
You’re both all right?
Sherlock glanced to his left. John remained soundly asleep beside him, breathing gently against Sherlock's hip. His hair was a ruffled mess of greyish-blond tufts (softer to touch than Sherlock had hypothesized) and his collarbones bore the fading marks of Sherlock's attentions (doubtlessly a mirrored fraction of what John had left behind in turn), but the part of John that drew his eye was the starburst scar peeking out from under the duvet. It taunted Sherlock with its new availability, as if mocking all the hours he'd spent staring at John's clothed shoulder and trying to deduce its attributes. Sherlock had a museum-quality copy of the elusive scar, as well as every other part of John, now stored permanently in his mind palace.
John is fine. I examined him quite thoroughly last night. SH
Okay. Text if you need anything.
Sherlock smirked. He was going to enjoy this new game of innuendo if it regularly went over Lestrade’s head. Sherlock considered snapping a photo of John in his besmirched state and sending it to the DI, but quickly decided against it. As much as he wished to boast to every living person that the most spectacular human in existence had chosen him of all people, Sherlock preferred to keep some things for himself. His first morning waking up with a naked John Watson in his bed definitely belonged in that category.
And John looked good in his bed. Of course, John looked good most anywhere, but the subtle golden tones of his skin and hair contrasted wonderfully with the deep purple-blues of the sheets. It was as if the sun had fallen asleep wrapped up in the night sky.
The sun. Giver of light, bringer of warmth, and the fixed point by which honey bees navigated the world.
Perhaps that was a better sign name for him than ‘soldier’. As much as Sherlock liked reminding himself of John’s former occupation, it was far too formal for what they had become. He needed something more personal for the times they were alone.
My Sun, Sherlock signed at him, trying out the name. John slept on and Sherlock did it again, smoothing out the transition. It felt right. It felt like John.
He wouldn’t tell John about his decision to give him a new sign name. That wasn’t how it worked. Names were given by those who cared about you and were only learned once used in daily practice. Sherlock wondered how long it would take John to understand he had it in his power to give one right back.
When he first moved in, Sherlock had worried that John would insist he make concessions. Despite being trained to speak almost from birth, it was a form of communication Sherlock had come to despise since the ridicule of youth. But instead of asking him to talk, John had voluntarily entered Sherlock’s world: full-bodied, without hesitation, utterly unfazed.
Sherlock never asked him to learn BSL. He was perfectly used to lip-reading, but at their second meeting John had surprised him with a few awkwardly-formed signs of greeting. That night John had saved his life (the first of many times since), the second time that day Sherlock had been caught off guard by the unassuming soldier. His budding trust in John did not disappoint; within a week John had several basic words down, and after that his vocabulary steadily improved. Learning a new language did not come naturally to John and he was rubbish at it for a long time, but every day he persistently signed to Sherlock, adjusted for Sherlock’s inevitable corrections, and tried again.
John treated him like a person, not a disability. John assisted him without making him feel pitied or patronized. In the course of their acquaintance, John had grown indispensable. Sherlock's inevitable fall was hard, fast, and absolute.
Careful fingertips grazed Sherlock’s forearm, seeking his attention. Sherlock looked over to find John awake and sleepily gazing up at him. Sherlock wriggled back down under the sheets to face him, the dearth of interesting cases suddenly not quite so unbearable.
The morning glow from the window lit the river-deep blue of his eyes and painted him in soft buttery golds. John watched him for a time, silent, his gaze traveling down Sherlock's throat and across his chest to examine the aftermath of their evening.
Perhaps he was recalling peeling away Sherlock's soiled pyjamas, or his own jeans being shucked to the floor, or the moment it became simply them, bared and present and so profoundly together. Every second lived on in Sherlock's mind. If he were to die today, it would be with the memory John's touch irreversibly seared into his skin.
When John found his eyes again, he beamed with a bright approval that filled Sherlock with uncontrollable sentiment. Dangerous, that, but John had time and again proven himself a worthy custodian for matters of the heart. If he could not trust in John Watson, he could not trust in anyone.
John reached out to gently brush back the loose curls over Sherlock's ear. Fingers smoothed admiringly down his throat before John pulled him closer, wrapping his arms around Sherlock.
John kissed him deeply, intent and controlled, in marked contrast to his previous wild enthusiasm, as if to reassure Sherlock it wasn't all a fluke of momentary indiscretion. Sherlock resisted the urge to chuckle into his mouth and instead kissed him right back, confident. Of course he knew; the truth of it hadn't left John's eyes since his first impassioned kiss.
The kisses strayed down Sherlock's jaw, until John was nuzzling into his neck and slowly stroking the stray curls at the nape of his neck. John said something against him, a rumble in his chest accompanied by warm air on Sherlock's cheek. Apparently, there were more things John wanted said but not heard.
Being prevented from understanding John would typically drive Sherlock to frustration, but the evidence from last night gave him reasonable confidence in his deductive conclusions. John was saying the same things Sherlock would if he knew John couldn't hear him.
So Sherlock closed his eyes and let John's vibrations wash through him, a tidal ebb of word and breath. The specifics didn't matter. He could happily spend hours just feeling John speak to him, touch him, hold on as if he never wanted to let go.
He opened his eyes again when he felt fingers brushing back his hair and the press of lips to his forehead. John smiled at him, saying nothing and everything at the same time.
They needed no words. They never would.