A stream of data sent on a TCP connection is delivered reliably and in order at the destination.
Transmission is made reliable via the use of sequence numbers and acknowledgments. Conceptually, each octet of data is assigned a sequence number. The sequence number of the first octet of data in a segment is transmitted with that segment and is called the segment sequence number. Segments also carry an acknowledgment number which is the sequence number of the next expected data octet of transmissions in the reverse direction. When the TCP transmits a segment containing data, it puts a copy on a retransmission queue and starts a timer; when the acknowledgment for that data is received, the segment is deleted from the queue. If the acknowledgment is not received before the timer runs out, the segment is retransmitted.
An acknowledgment by TCP does not guarantee that the data has been delivered to the end user, but only that the receiving TCP has taken the responsibility to do so.
To govern the flow of data between TCPs, a flow control mechanism is employed. The receiving TCP reports a "window" to the sending TCP. This window specifies the number of octets, starting with the acknowledgment number, that the receiving TCP is currently prepared to receive.