The last half-year had been... insane. John had thought being in the war to be mad, but it had nothing at all on life with Sherlock. First the murderous cabbie; and hadn't that been more than a little alarming, wondering what would happen to a slave who committed murder, even on behalf of their master? He'd killed the man to save Sherlock, but the courts would have had issue with it nonetheless. After the cabbie, a more direct serial killer, but an apparently invisible one.

The list went on and on, as did the list of 'normal' people who hated Sherlock, starting with most of the Yard. John spent half his time soothing ruffled feathers there, although he no longer bothered with Anderson or Donovan. And then there was Mycroft. After half a year, John still couldn't get a bead on the man. It was obvious he loved his brother, but their relationship was so antagonistic as to be ridiculous. He'd even offered John money to spy on Sherlock at the start despite his slave status. Sherlock had been miffed that he'd turned Mycroft down as they could, quite honestly, use the money.

John hummed to himself on the walk back to the flat with the shopping. He'd been able to find Sherlock's favorite tea again, thankfully, because the other man had literally pitched a fit when it had been temporarily discontinued. John suspected that Mycroft had something to do with it being restocked, but wasn't about to open that can of worms by suggesting as much to Sherlock.

There was actual snow on the ground, more flurries falling as he headed home, and John shivered even though he enjoyed the cold. It was about as opposite as he could get from the war, with all the festive holiday decorations and snatches of carols coming from shops he passed.

He jogged up the stairs, calling out a cheerful greeting to Mrs. Hudson on the way, and pushed open the door. John stopped short on seeing two unfamiliar men and a woman standing in the living room with Lestrade. He immediately looked around, but there was no drugs bust this time, nor any sign of Sherlock. John kept his expression neutral as he greeted, “Morning, Lestrade. Need something?”

“John, I'm sorry,” Lestrade said, face drawn tight with anxiety. “There's nothing I can do.”

John dropped the shopping bags when the two men approached him. “What's going on?”

The woman, a blonde in her thirties who wore clothes that wore off-the-rack he noted automatically, held her hands out, placating, as she said, “It's all right, love. My name is Mary and we're here to help.”

“Help me what?” John demanded, keeping the door at his back as the men surrounded him.

Mary said gently, “You're not being cared for, love, not properly. A call was placed to the Welfare office. We're just going to look out for you until this situation's been sorted.”

John knew he was in real trouble. If he ran, they would hunt him down and he certainly didn't have the resources to stay hidden for long. If he let them take him, chances were Sherlock would have him out just as soon as he called Mycroft. He wouldn't be in their custody for long. John forced himself to stand down, letting out a long slow breath and consciously relaxed. He saw Lestrade relax as well and knew the man had expected John to fight.

John kept his head up as he said firmly, “The situation is already sorted. Sherlock is my owner and has been for six months now. You're making a very big mistake.”

Mary smiled, probably trying to be comforting as she continued, “I'm sure this won't take long to straighten out and find you a much more appropriate owner.”

“There is no more appropriate owner,” John stated flatly. “Look, I know you're just doing your job, but there's nothing that needs fixing here. Lestrade, tell them.”

Greg looked uncomfortable as he said, “They are very well suited, Ms. Morstan.”

Mary fixed her gaze on Lesrtade and said, “You didn't even know John was a slave.”

“Well, no, but that's because Sherlock's rather... unorthodox. That doesn't mean that it isn't a good match, because it is.”

“Have you ever seen John with a permission slip?”

“Well, no.”

“Or a Chain for that matter?”

“No, but...”

Mary turned her eyes back to John and finished, “And if anyone had discovered you were a slave without a Chain or permission slip, what do you think would have happened to you? Anyone off the street could have claimed you as a runaway. As much as I abhor the institution of slavery, its accoutrements protect the slave to a goodly extent. You, however, are as good as naked on the street and vulnerable to any predator. That is not a good situation nor a good owner. A responsible owner would have made sure you were protected.”

John thought perhaps mentioning the gun not a good idea at that juncture. He instead said, “I'm a trained soldier, Ms. Morstan was it? I can take care of myself. I am certainly capable enough to get myself out of any dangerous and then call either Sherlock or Lestrade for help should it be necessary.”

Mary just sighed a little and shook her head. “It's precisely that mindset that is so dangerous. But it's neither here nor there. A complaint was made and I've made an official determination that this is indeed a destructive home situation. You'll have to come with us.”

John's heart suddenly thudded against his chest at the thought of someone just taking him from Sherlock. What would happen outside of the other man's control? He looked at Lestrade and said, “You'll tell him, won't you?”

“I've already left a message for Mr. Holmes,” Mary said, walking to John. She put a hand on John and said, “This is for the best, John.”

John felt almost desperate as he repeated to Lestrade, “You'll tell him?”

Lestrade nodded and said, “I promise. I'll find him, John, and we'll get you back to him as soon as we can. And these lot are a good sort. You'll be safe in the meantime.”

John had his doubts about that, looking at the two louts waiting to take him, but only nodded and meekly allowed Mary to guide him out of the only home he'd known in well on thirty years. He was only halfway down when his leg gave out and he had to clutch the rail or risk tumbling the rest of the way down.

“John! Are you all right?” Mary exclaimed, grabbing him around the waist. “What's wrong?”

“He's under significant stress right now. Who are you and what are you doing with my John?”

John closed his eyes in pure relief at Sherlock's voice, gone deep with a quiet fury and a possessiveness he'd never before heard. He looked up from where he clutched the rail to Sherlock, who stood in the doorway. Dressed in his great coat, with his dark, windswept hair and pale skin and eyes, Sherlock looked like some coldly enraged nobleman.

Oh that's right, he is, John thought, unable to completely suppress a giggle.

Sherlock's gaze snapped to him, flickering over John and undoubtedly noting everything in an instant. “John, come here to me.”

Mary stood in front of John, though, and said coolly, “John is coming with me. My name is Mary Morstan and I work with...”

“Slave Welfare, yes. Tell me, how are you sleeping these days? The pills doing it for you? No, you don't want to sleep too deeply or you have nightmares about your husband. No, wait, fiance. You were engaged and he broke it off. Let me guess. He didn't want to be tied down to such a self-righteous...”

Mary's slap across Sherlock's face was stunningly loud and effective in stopping his words.

John's eyes went wide and everyone froze. It wasn't that no one had ever slapped Sherlock; honestly, John was surprised it didn't happen more often. It was more that a public servant just didn't ever do something like that to a private citizen.

Mary colored prettily and said, “I apologize, Mr. Holmes. I shouldn't have struck you like that.”

Sherlock somehow managed to look down his nose at her, even though Mary still stood on the first step. “No, you shouldn't have. But, more egregiously, you should not have tried to take my John.”

Mary straightened and said, “I am taking him, as is my duty. This is an unfit home situation and you are an unfit owner. I've read the complaint about the horrific neglect with which you treat John. I've seen it for myself with a simple home inspection and in speaking with John. He's not safe with you.”

Sherlock went still at that and then he glanced at John for a moment before he stood aside. “As you wish.”

John stared at him in shock, stomach plummeting. “Sherlock, what? You're just going to let her take me?”

Mary petted John's arm and said, “It's really for the best. Even Mr. Holmes sees that.”

“No, but, Sherlock?” John repeated, stopping right in front of the taller man. He hated feeling so uncertain, it wasn't something that happened often.

Sherlock met his gaze, but his expression was utterly unreadable and he remained silent.

Mary pulled John towards the door and something deep inside cracked when Sherlock didn't say a single word in protest. He felt physically ill, as though he might vomit, and tried again. “Sherlock. Say something.”

Sherlock's voice was cool as he said, “She is quite correct, John. You aren't safe with me, you never have been.”

“I don't want to be safe! I want to be with you!” The words ripped from somewhere in his gut and John held Sherlock's arm in a death-grip. “Do you hear me, you daft git? I don't want to be anywhere but with you!”

For a second, it looked like Sherlock might say something in return. He hesitated, which he never did, but then collected himself. “You should go with them, John. Everything will be all right.”

Numbed by the rejection, John didn't fight when Mary pried his fingers from Sherlock's arm and pulled him firmly outside. The cold struck him again, but this time he didn't even notice it. John was far too cold on the inside for it to matter.

* * * *

“You really are a bloody idiot, you know that, right?”

Sherlock glanced over to Lestrade, now walking down the stairs. His heart beat heavily in his chest, a psychosomatic reaction to John's pleading. Begging, his mind supplied. John should never be forced to act in such a manner and anger remained coiled in his gut that that woman had made it happen. Sherlock tugged off his gloves and said, “I have no intention of letting them keep him. John's mine.”

“Jesus, Sherlock you should have told him that,” Lestrade snapped. He rubbed a hand over his face and said, “John thinks that you've abandoned him.”

Sherlock frowned. “I told him everything would be fine. He understands...”

Lestrade interrupted, “Nothing! He understands that you didn't say a word about getting him back or even protesting that they shouldn't be taking you in the first place!”

Sherlock abruptly rewound the entire scene in his head and realized with a sinking feeling that Lestrade was likely correct. He'd misjudged how his words would be perceived by a John too clouded by emotion to think clearly. He met Lestrade's fierce gaze and couldn't control the resulting wince. “Not good?”

Lestrade rolled his eyes. “Just call your brother and get this sorted. God knows what will happen to him in that place.”

Sherlock's gaze narrowed and he demanded, “What does that mean, precisely?”

“It means, precisely, that John's vulnerable from your rejection and that Morstan woman's both exactly his type and in exactly the right position to snake him from you. Sort it, Sherlock, or I'll put a bid on him myself.”

Lestrade left Sherlock gaping after him.

It took a few seconds to regain his composure, but he did and then pulled his phone from his pocket and texted Mycroft.

John taken by Slave Welfare.

What did you do?

Nothing... that I know of. Intervene immediately.

No.

Sherlock blinked a few times at the word, as if that would cause it to change.

Immediately, Mycroft.

No.

Sherlock gritted his teeth.

Please.

There was a long wait and Sherlock's foot tapped impatiently on the floor. He refused to name the anxiety coiling through him that Mycroft might remain unmoved.

Cannot until day after tomorrow at the earliest. Unless you care to assist in my current endeavor?

Sherlock hissed in displeasure. Blackmail at its basest form, thy name is Mycroft, he thought furiously.

Fine. Email details.

Of course, brother.

Sherlock bared his teeth in a snarl and then jogged upstairs to his laptop. He brought up his email and saw the one from Mycroft. He scanned the contents and then opened the attachment. It took him far too long to figure out who the spy was and Sherlock thoroughly blamed John for it. Thoughts about what was happening to his John kept intruding. Was the Morstan woman 'comforting' him? Was he locked away in some sterile cell for his own good? His leg had given way, which meant he would surely have night terrors of the war. No one would be able to rouse him without violence to themselves or, more likely, to John.

Not until nearly six the following morning did he text the newly discovered spy's name to Mycroft. He rubbed dry, gritty eyes upon reading his brother's response, but that didn't change his answer.

The office opens at nine a.m. I will meet you there at that time.

Sherlock stormed through the flat and took out John's gun. He shot up the wall in pure frustration, not even bothering to follow the 'smiley face's' outline. His phone buzzed again and he almost threw it at the text message.

Shooting the wall won't bring nine a.m. any faster. Go to sleep.

Sherlock decided to find every last one of his brother's cameras and destroy them, instead.

* * * *

It was something of a shock to discover that even his brother had limitations. Sherlock hadn't run into many dead ends that, between himself and Mycroft, couldn't be turned into an acceptable outlet. Not until he had the misfortune to run across Mary Morstan. The woman was incorruptible and righteous and apparently had many, many friends in higher places than one would expect given her low birth.

Sherlock maintained his stony expression as he repeated flatly, “You intend to keep him for a month.”

“I do,” Mary confirmed. “John isn't well and needs a soothing, nurturing environment to recover.”

The audacity of the woman put up Sherlock's metaphorical hackles and his hands tightened into fists as he contemplated killing her on the spot.

Mycroft interceded hastily. “Surely, Ms. Morstan, you want what's best for John?”

Mary's gaze shifted to Mycroft. “Of course, Mr. Holmes. That's why I intend to personally oversee John's case.”

Lestrade's words rang through Sherlock's mind and he hissed, “You just want him for yourself. Well you can't have him, he's my John.”

Mary looked back at him and she said, with a cool amusement that Sherlock might admire under other circumstances, “But he doesn't know that, does he, Mr. Holmes? Now, if you'll excuse me, I have another appointment. Naturally, you are free to contest my judgment through normal channels.”

“Come, Sherlock. We'll see to this another way,” Mycroft said, standing.

Sherlock knew just from a quick glance that his brother was infuriated by the thwarting of his power by this woman. That, too, he might have admired under other circumstances. He stood and said, “You can't stop me from seeing him, which I demand to do as his medical power of attorney. His PTSD clearly flared up yesterday and I wish to see that he's being properly cared for. Now.”

Mary's mouth tightened, but she could only say, “I'll have to see about getting that changed.”

Sherlock smiled thinly. “You won't have the chance.”

Mary kept his gaze a moment longer before standing. “This way.”

Mycroft walked with them only to the main lobby where he said, “I'll call you later,” and left at a sharp pace, umbrella tip clicking against the marble floor.

Sherlock followed Mary through the crowded building, ignoring everyone in his path. They went beyond the offices to the back where 'temporary housing' had been set up for slaves in need of a safe place while their situations got sorted. Sherlock glared at Mary when the woman opened the door to John's room but didn't leave.

She gave him a thoroughly sweet smile and said, “I'm afraid I can't leave you alone with him, Mr. Holmes. Rules. You understand.”

Sherlock's gaze narrowed at her yet again and really, if she hadn't been making his life so very difficult, he might have respected her more. She really was fearless, if the Holmes brothers didn't intimidate her. He stepped into the room, which was barely more than a closet large enough for a cot and a small pair of table and chair. John lay on the cot, eyes closed in a very restless sleep. Nightmare, from what Sherlock could tell.

Kneeling by the cot, Sherlock watched carefully for a moment to determine where in his sleep cycle John was. He waited for a few moments and then gently smoothed a thumb across John's pinched forehead and murmured, “Wake up, John. It's time to wake up,” at just the right pitch guaranteed to break through the dream, but not jolt the man into consciousness.

John's eyes continued to shift beneath their lids so Sherlock massaged his fingers over John's scalp. It took a few minutes for the pain to fade from the slave's face, but it did. Sherlock stood and then stepped back and said, louder, “John. Wake up, John.”

John blinked awake instantly, pitching up on his elbows and blinking rapidly. He let out a breath and then focused on Sherlock. His frown returned and he rubbed at his eyes, sitting up properly and then looking at Sherlock again. “You're here.”

Sherlock's mouth twitched into a brief smile and he said, “Your powers of deduction grow apace, John.”

John rolled his eyes and stood up carefully. “Thanks. But seriously, why are you here? You made your position clear yesterday.”

Sherlock's eyes flickered to the floor before he resolutely looked back at John. “As to that, well, it was pointed out that I might have been... a little obtuse as to my... your situation.”

John's eyebrows went up. “Oh?”

Sherlock scowled and said, “I said everything would be all right, didn't I?”

“Sherlock, I've been taken away from you and you seemed to have no problem with it. If you do, then you need to be explicitly direct. Now.”

John's firm command made Sherlock squirm a bit internally. He looked over at Mary, who appeared to be enjoying the spectacle immensely. He glared at her but there was no help for it, as she didn't seem to have any intention of leaving. Sherlock looked back at John and said, “Very well. If you're going to be an idiot about it and need to have it spelled out precisely... You're my John. No one gets to have you, but me. There's only one of you and I have no intention of losing, or sharing, you. You are far too interesting to allow some ordinary, uninteresting moron to have you.”

Sherlock was often baffled as to people's reactions to his words and this turned out to be no exception. Instead of being insulted by Sherlock's pissy tone and sharp words, John abruptly beamed at him with obvious pleasure. Sherlock mentally threw up his hands and gave up trying to understand.

John peered beyond him to Mary and asked, “Are you really going to keep me for a month?”

Mary pursed her lips but, like most women, could not remain unmoved by John's entreating blue eyes. Sherlock knew exactly how she felt, having had them turned on him far too many times; he'd briefly contemplated having Mycroft label them as a weapon.

“I suppose, if certain changes are made, I might consider letting him retain ownership of you.”

Sherlock's jaw tightened and he demanded, “Such as?”

“You must put a Chain on him. And you need to give him some kind of permanent pass to be out and about on his own. That's non-negotiable. He's simply too vulnerable without them.”

Grudgingly, Sherlock had to admit she might, possibly, have a point and nodded. “Very well. What else?”

“He must see someone about the PTSD.”

“They're all idiots.”

“He needs help, Mr. Holmes.”

Sherlock saw no point in therapists; they were all charlatans and easily swayed by simple misdirection. On this, though, he could see she would not be moved. Scowling, he said, “Fine. What else?”

“I would prefer no more human body parts in your living space, but I've read your blog and know you have many legitimate experiments that use them for law enforcement. That being said, you must find somewhere else to do them. It's not healthy to have decomposing tissue in the living space, especially with as little care as you take to maintain a clean area.”

“That is excessive.”

“That is also non-negotiable.”

Sherlock did not like being held hostage like this, but one look at John's hopeful expression and he folded, as Lestrade liked to say, like a bad poker hand. Sherlock nodded sharply. “Are we done?”

“For now. I'll need to inspect the home before I allow John to return.”

“Now, see here...”

“That's fine,” John interrupted hastily. “Right, Sherlock?”

Sherlock bit back the words he wanted to say and nodded again. “Fine. Bring John home tomorrow morning.”

Mary's eyebrows lifted. “Tomorrow? I've seen your flat.”

“Tomorrow morning. Now. Leave us,” Sherlock snapped.

Perhaps sensing just how far she'd pushed him, Mary nodded demurely and left them alone, though the door remained open.

John's eyes practically shone with happiness as he breathed, “You came for me.”

Sherlock allowed that perhaps Lestrade had been entirely correct that John had no idea how important he was in Sherlock's life. He scowled and said, “You're an idiot for thinking otherwise.”

John smiled at him and said, “Yes, yes, we've covered that. I just, I can't believe it.”

Abruptly, Sherlock couldn't stand the distance between them and grabbed John by the shirt and spun him hard into the nearest wall. He swallowed up John's startled cry with a fierce, almost angry kiss, pushing his knee between John's legs to make him stay. How dare he not know just how vital he was? Ridiculous. He pushed his tongue into John's mouth and immediately memorized his taste, devouring him with a need that frightened him more than a little.

John moaned and dug his fingers into Sherlock's back, holding on just as tight and then kissing back. His tongue thrust against Sherlock's and they made out against the wall for several minutes before Mary's pointed throat clearing interrupted. Breathing heavily, his cock aching for the man he had pinned to the wall, Sherlock rested his forehead against John's and said softly, “My John.”

John smiled, breathing just as hard, and echoed, “Your John.”

Sherlock straightened and smoothed down his shirt before giving John a pointed look. “I will always come for you, so don't be an idiot like this in the future.”

John's smile widened and he said, “Noted.”

Sherlock nodded and swept passed Mary, ignoring her entirely. There were things to do, if John were to come home.

* * * *

John knew they were in the right flat, but it seemed entirely different with all the clutter gone. It even smelled clean, like artificial lemon, and John wondered just how much overtime Mycroft had had to pay to get the flat sparkling like that. At least the skull was still on the mantle.

John waited impatiently as Mary toured the flat in an orderly inspection. Sherlock stood on the other side of the living room, impeccably dressed, and only the occasional twitch of his finger against his thigh indicated any impatience at all. To say John was still shell-shocked by the previous day's kissing would be an understatement. Sherlock had never once indicated he had any interest in John after that fashion. Sure, there were adrenaline-induced moments where they almost kissed, but John passed them off as momentary aberrations.

Then again, Sherlock could be startlingly childlike at times. Maybe in this case, he simply hadn't noticed John until someone had taken him away.

Mary returned with a small smile in place. “Very nicely done, Mr. Holmes. Now. If you'll just give John his Chain and let me see the note, I'll be on my way.”

Sherlock shook his head and said coldly, “I will not. Not like that. You will leave us and can see it at your next tiresome visit. Go away.”

John held his breath, not sure if Mary would take enough offense to change her mind.

Whatever she saw on Sherlock's face, though, made her nod and say, “Very well. John, it was just lovely to meet you even under these circumstances. You have my number?”

John nodded and said, “I do, thank you.”

Mary kissed his cheek and ignored Sherlock on her way out of the flat.

Sherlock closed the door and locked it after her. He turned back to John, who swallowed at the predatory expression that surfaced. His cock gave an interested twitch and he questioned feebly, “What happened to being married to the work?”

“I have no intention of becoming Lestrade,” Sherlock said, stalking slowly over to him. “I have you and I intend to keep you.”

John's heartbeat sped up and he said lightly, “Do you, now?”

“Turn around, John.”

John bit his lip, but obeyed.

Sherlock walked right up behind him and nuzzled at the back of his head before murmuring into his ear, “My John,” and nipped at the lobe, sharp enough to sting.

John gasped as heat surged through him and he leaned back, resting on him as he said, “Sherlock, please.”

“Please what, John?”

“Claim me.”

It had been building to this from that very first moment in the slave pen when Sherlock had named him flatmate instead of slave. Every subsequent interaction with John, treating him as a free citizen while simultaneously demanding he wait on him hand and foot, had moved them right to this moment. He'd known, subconsciously, that he would have to ask for it.

Sherlock slid a hand down and gripped John's cock through his pants, pushing at it and dragging a groan out of John. “I do what I please, John, you know that.”

John nodded rapidly. He did know, as much as a pain in the arse as it was, most times.

Sherlock let him go, but before he could protest, draped something cool and metal around his neck. John shivered, even though it warmed to his skin immediately. Visible ownership. Everyone would know John belonged to Sherlock on seeing it. He spun and grabbed Sherlock by the back of the head and pulling him into a hungry kiss.

Sherlock maneuvered them while they kissed and they ended up at the bed in short order. Sherlock pushed him back and ordered, “Strip.”

John did so quickly, glad to see Sherlock do the same. They finished at the same time and John reached for him again. Sherlock pushed him at the bed and John climbed onto it, kicking aside the messy blankets. Sherlock grabbed him at the hips and held him still to bite his arse hard enough to hurt. John gasped and his legs slid open of their own volition. Sherlock treated him to another bite on the other cheek and then slapped him hard on each side of it, leaving tingly fire behind as John groaned. He was so hard, so fast, it was as though Sherlock read his mind.

“Just your body,” Sherlock said, as if he'd spoken aloud. “Your brief affairs, even with women, left you stiff and sore the following day, sometimes even two days after. You favor pain in your lovemaking, even with those you hardly know, which means it's a need. Oh, John. The things I'm going to do to you will leave you aching for far more than a couple of paltry days.”

Without warning, fire sliced across his backside and John cried out, fingers gripping the bedspread. The whistle of the crop through the air cut through the pain only until another strike landed. And then another. And another. His cock dripped steadily, leaving a right mess beneath him, but he didn't even notice.

“I may have to experiment to see just how many lashes you can take,” Sherlock mused, that detached tone sending a shudder of need through John. “You are quite strong, after all, and your pain tolerance must be very high.”

“Gods, Sherlock, please! Please Claim me!” John moaned.

Any more talk like that and John would come without being touched.

The bed dipped when Sherlock climbed onto it and he shoved John's thighs apart, grinding against him from behind. His cock slid along John's crack in a tease, fingers digging into John's hips bruisingly hard. John's world narrowed to that point of contact and he held his breath in anticipation. Sherlock spanked him again and John's breath left him in a whoosh, which was when Sherlock forced his cock into John with exquisite force.

John cried out, back arching as he made his body accept the Claiming, panting through the pain that seemed endless as Sherlock split him open. And then they were plastered together at every point and John moaned in pure pleasure at being surrounded by the other man. Sherlock remained still for a few minutes, biting gently all over his back and licking over the stinging marks to soothe them.

John laced their fingers together and urged, “Do it. Claim me, Master.”

Sherlock hissed against his ear and immediately began fucking him with brutal strength, slamming into him repeatedly. The length of his cock was just perfect, striking John's prostate with enough regularity to make him worry about coming far too soon. He held on only until he realized Sherlock chanted, “Mine,” under his breath as he Claimed John.

A strangled cry escaped John as he came, clamping down on Sherlock and wringing the other man's orgasm from him only seconds later. He lunged into John a last time, humping into him as he filled John with come. John could hardly see straight, he was so fogged with release and pain endorphins. He fell forward to slump onto the pillows and Sherlock fell with him, remaining buried inside his body as he clung to John, shaking.

John wrapped Sherlock's arms around him and held on as his breathing slowly returned to normal. He doubted the entire encounter had taken longer than ten minutes and that was being generous, but his entire world felt as though it had turned on its axis. Sherlock softened within him and then, unfortunately, his cock slipped out. John grimaced a bit at the come and probably blood that slowly seeped out of him onto the bedding. He was the one who would be doing the laundry after all.

Sherlock didn't say anything for several minutes, just breathing against his ear as he held John. “Thank you.”

John didn't expect that, not even a little. Surprise splashed through his exhaustion and he asked, “What for?”

Sherlock hesitated and then said, “For you. You're... like an infinite puzzle. A gift, if you will. I shall never tire of you.”

John chuckled a little and brought Sherlock's hand up to kiss the back of it. “You're welcome, love. I suppose it is the season for gifts.”

Sherlock sounded puzzled as he reached down to pull the blankets over them. “Winter?”

“Christmas, Sherlock.” When the other man didn't respond, John rolled his eyes. “Tell me you didn't delete Christmas.”

“...I may have? What's it about?”

John smiled broadly and hugged Sherlock's arms tighter around himself. Sherlock got the message and pressed up tight to him and nuzzled at his throat. John settled into the embrace with a deep, contented sigh, despite the aches already making themselves felt. He likely wouldn't be fit to move in a few hours, but that was just fine.

Two days ago, he'd never thought to have this man in any way, let alone like this. Two days ago, he hadn't known that Sherlock was his. Now that he did, nothing would take him from this man, or the reverse. Sherlock wasn't the only possessive one in this relationship, after all, and John wasn't at all shy about expressing himself.

John smiled faintly and thought, Sherlock's not the only one who got a gift.