For the first week in the cottage, they pace around one another like two animals in a cage. Not hostile, but uncertain. Sherlock is solicitous, treating John like an invalid who needs constant care and minding. He keeps John supplied with hot tea throughout the day and prepares all the meals, simple to be sure, but very fresh. Every morning he walks the half a mile into the village to buy fruit, vegetables, eggs and milk, and meat for the evening meal.
The cottage is a compact little thing with two tiny bedrooms, a shared bath, a decent sized main room and a galley kitchen. It is on loan from a friend of Mrs. Hudson's who lets it to tourists. She's done it up in too much English chintz and faded prints in frames, but it's cozy and serves them well for now. The ceiling is so low that Sherlock can reach up and touch it with the palm of his hand. In the end John found that he couldn't stay in London, that 221b and even the streets seemed too claustrophobic. He knows he'll return, just as he knows that Sherlock will be charging into cases again, but both of them need a break for awhile.
Although it's early March and cold, it is surprisingly clear and John spends as much time outside as he can, sitting at the little metal table in the garden where he can look out at the distant sloping hills and the green patchwork that is the English countryside. Sherlock fusses, wrapping him in blankets and scarves and checking on him regularly. John scolds him and complains that he is not incapacitated. Sometimes John reads the fiction that he finds on the shelves, none of the mysteries, but stories of English life, the complete works of Trollope and some Angela Thirkell. Other times he simply watches nature. The cottage has a good set of binoculars and John enjoys tracking different types of birds and the reawakening flora and what fauna he can pick out as it scurries out of its burrows and hiding places. As a city boy, he never thought he'd find this kind of thing interesting, but now he needs to see things alive and free.
When it gets too dark or cold, he comes inside to eat and watch a little telly before retiring around nine o'clock. Often in the night Sherlock will creep with his customary stealth and grace to John's door to hear him breathing and watch the rise and fall of John's chest. John's taking sleeping pills so his sleep is deep and dreamless.
Sherlock is at loose ends. He has brought no experiments with him and the books in the cottage bore him. Sometimes he will walk the hill collecting samples and sketching in his notebook and John will watch him through the binoculars from his chair. Sherlock buys wine in the village, and they will share it of an evening in the garden, John in blankets and Sherlock in his coat as the sun sinks low.
On the eighth night they are sipping Merlot at the small table, barely 18 inches across. John watches Sherlock smoke, the old habit that he has brought home from America. The setting sun creates a chiaroscuro on the angular bones of his face, and the glow of the cigarette, as he brings it up to his mouth, casts momentary glints in his eyes.
"Sherlock," John says in a low voice and Sherlock panics. There are a five different conversations John could be starting and Sherlock wants none of them, because they either end with John leaving or they involve a degree of pain that Sherlock cannot face.
But instead John says, "I'm going to bed."
Sherlock looks at him sharply. "But it's only seven. Are you feeling alright? Is it the cold? I told you that you shouldn't stay out here."
"I'm fine, Sherlock, it's just that…I thought you might want to come with me."
Of all the things that Sherlock has imagined John saying, that is not one of them, and he feels again that shudder inside his chest as of doors being opened that he always feels, has always felt when John surprises him. His whip-crack mind, normally faster than the speed of sound, cannot process it for a moment and he realizes that he's sitting with his mouth open when he hears John falter, "Or not, I mean, well, just forget I said that. It's all fine. It's always all fine."
And then he's leaning across the table to grab John by the jumper and press his open mouth against John's and he wants to run inside dragging John behind him—he'd stay right here and pull him down on the grass if it weren't so cold—but practical John insists on picking up the smoldering cigarette butt that Sherlock's dropped on the ground and grinding it out. And he makes Sherlock take the wine and the glasses while he picks up the blankets to bring them back inside.
Sherlock only just manages to not throw the glasses in the sink as John drops the blankets on the sofa. Then Sherlock is grasping John and pressing him against the doorframe that leads into John's bedroom to kiss him and kiss him again.
John chuckles, for the first time in a long time, low in his throat and chest. He turns them around so that it's Sherlock's back pressed against the doorframe, and Sherlock understands, slides down bending his knees and braces himself so that they are face to face and then mouth to mouth, like resuscitation, like inhalation, the taste of smoke in both of their mouths now along with the sharp tang of the dark wine. John's cold hands are yanking Sherlock's shirt from his trousers, and running up his back and Sherlock has to pull away for a moment because he's keening from the sensation. He never thought he'd get this again; John's hands on his bare skin, the taste of John in his mouth. And oh, the feel of John's hips against his. They're both so aroused that it's almost painful when their cocks rub together through their trousers. For a moment they simply stop, each breathing heavily as they struggle with emotions and a sort of wonder. The whimpers that Sherlock's making are so needy, so broken and John realizes how much it's cost Sherlock to keep himself under control. He remembers again how fragile and young Sherlock is under his cool exterior.
"John," Sherlock finally manages, "I don't have anything. I didn't think you'd want—"
But what he was going to say is cut off as John kisses him again, pressing him against the wood. There's a flickering weighing of options in both of their minds—butter, olive oil? Is there mineral oil in the cottage? But then John says, "Doesn't matter." To prove his point John works his hand down Sherlock's trousers. There's not enough room in them, even though Sherlock has lost weight, and he can only brush tantalizingly against Sherlock's cock where it's pressed awkwardly down. It's enough to make them both moan.
Now they're stumbling backwards into the room, falling on the bed, frantic to undress themselves, each other, whatever they can reach. Shoes thud against the wooden floor and buttons might be popping. Who cares. Finally skin to skin, pressed together like a closed zipper, the tops of John's feet are touching Sherlock's shins, and even that's electric.
They kiss, but Sherlock is too eager. He's wanted this since he found John in the office, to kiss John, to kiss his skin and to never stop. So he kisses his way down John's chest. John's so thin now. They both are. There are going to be bruises where barely covered bones bash against one another in the struggle. He wants to savor every moment. He wants to rush ahead. He's cataloging everything about John, everything his senses can ingest to bottle them and put them on the shelves in his mind, next to the ones he collected on Christmas Day.
John moans as Sherlock's mouth reacquaints itself with his skin. Those two lost months need to be erased, packed up and put away; deleted if he could. How he's dreamt of this, and like Sherlock, he never thought it would happen. He wants this so much; he's gripping Sherlock's shoulders unsure if he should pull him back up into his arms to kiss or let him continue the path he's tracing.
Sherlock's reached his destination. At first he just holds John's prick in his hands, enjoying the weight, the silken feel of the skin, the raised tracery of veins. He holds John's scrotum, watching with fascination as the skin tightens and whorls like a moving fingerprint. Sherlock flicks his tongue over the tip, slicks down around the head, finally engulfing it with his mouth. John gasps and tries not to push into Sherlock's mouth too hard. Now that it's really happening, it's overwhelming emotionally and physically because he's been psyching himself up all week to make the offer, unsure if that chance was lost forever in Edinburgh. He's not going to last.
"Sherlock," he cries out as he comes without warning. His orgasm surprises him as much as it does Sherlock, leaving him gasping and limp.
Sherlock stays with him, letting John ride it out before taking his mouth away. His hand slides down his own belly to stroke himself as he watches the flush fade from John's skin.
Sherlock slithers back up John's body, unwilling to break contact even for a moment. John pulls Sherlock's head to his, to kiss, to run his tongue along Sherlock's jaw where he remembers Sherlock is sensitive and Sherlock takes a huffing breath.
But soon Sherlock is whimpering, "Please, John, please," and trying to push John's hands down to his cock. They're on their sides by now, and John slides down just as Sherlock had done, to take Sherlock in his mouth. Sherlock takes a little longer and there's more warning, as Sherlock's ahs and moans become faster and louder as he gets harder in John's mouth. Then he's bucking as he comes just as fiercely as John.
He pulls John back into his arms, John's head on his chest.
There are things which need to be said, clearly, but not now. At some point John pads off to the kitchen, naked, and brings what's left of the wine and some cheese and crackers and they eat in bed, affectionate and quiet.
Each of them wake separately in the night and spend a little while gazing at the other. Each has had too many dreams and nightmares to fully trust that this present moment is true.
The morning finds them entangled as if in their sleep they could not bear to let go even as they tossed and turned.
Morning kisses on lips, across bodies, turn into a messy and slightly giggly sixty-nine of moving limbs and awkward interlocking but it works and they are both sucking and stroking and then coming. Sherlock first and then John.
From the foot of the bed, John asks, "What time is it?" Sherlock pulls his watch from the bedside table.
"When do you think the chemists opens?"
Sherlock laughs, "Impatient, John? I thought that was one of my less endearing traits."
But John is quiet and serious when he replies, "Yes. Because I need you. I've dreamt of you every night for two months."
"Oh," Sherlock answers, "I dreamt of you, but I dreamt you were dead."
They are suddenly somber and neither wants to have this conversation now. So they change the subject as they roll out of bed.
"Do you think they open at ten? How long will it take to walk there? Do you think they'll have lube?"
"They're not in the nineteenth century, John. I'm sure we're not the only gay couple in the village."
They laugh again, relaxed again.