The sight of Dimmock sitting on the sofa and nursing a glass of alcohol gave Sherlock the briefest of pauses on the threshold of 221B when he returned home that night. He recovered quickly and offered Dimmock a curt nod before proceeding into the flat, kicking the door shut with one foot while he shed his coat and scarf.
“John and Lestrade are out,” he said briskly as he strode into the kitchen. Dimmock swirled the amber liquid in his glass for a moment before taking a long swallow. There came from the kitchen the scraping of glass that indicated Sherlock was switching slides on his microscope, and Dimmock wondered idly what he was working on now. Lestrade hadn’t had a case for him in weeks, which had resulted in a rather irritable Sherlock who was forced to look elsewhere for his distractions. Last week, that had resulted in him setting fire to the kitchen table. Dimmock sighed through his nose; he hoped Sherlock’s boredom would lead to only safe endeavours tonight. He hadn’t the energy to deal with any more disasters right now.
“I know,” Dimmock said at last, wincing inwardly as his raspy voice grated on his ears. He heard Sherlock’s movements in the kitchen still, and then a moment later the detective stuck his head around the corner. His eyes flicked over Dimmock, taking in the cuts on his face and bleeding knuckles.
“You’re injured,” he noted blankly. Dimmock snorted.
“Brilliant deduction,” he muttered. “What gave it away, smart arse?”
Sherlock disappeared again. “Best take care of it. John won’t appreciate you bleeding all over the sofa.”
“If I thought I could stand, I would have done that already,” Dimmock snapped. He immediately felt a flush creep up his neck as he realized what he’d admitted to, and to Sherlock bloody Holmes no less.
It wasn’t that he hated the man; he couldn’t even say that he disliked Sherlock. The detective had angered him in the early days, especially with his presumption that Lestrade existed purely to keep his mind occupied and the rest of the Yard was there only to indulge his every whim. But as Dimmock’s relationship had deepened with the two most important men in Sherlock’s life, first with Lestrade and then, through him, with John, he learned that Sherlock was a good deal more nuanced than that. He was still obnoxious, arrogant, and downright rude, but under Lestrade’s gentle prodding and John’s exasperated-but-loving corrections, he was starting to take notice of other people’s needs. No, that was too simple - he was starting to care about other people’s needs. Sherlock always noticed; he just chose to ignore a good deal of what he observed as far as others went.
Lost in his musings, Dimmock failed to notice that Sherlock was standing in front of him until the glass had been pried from his hands and set aside.
“S’unnatural for someone to be that quiet, you know,” he muttered darkly and reached for the glass. His hand was intercepted by Sherlock, who tugged him to his feet. Dimmock swayed; Sherlock slipped an arm around his waist and brought one of Dimmock’s arms across his shoulders. He then steered Dimmock towards the kitchen, ignoring his weak protests.
“Can you stand like this?” he asked, propping Dimmock up against the counter. Dimmock gripped the edge with both his hands and swallowed hard as the world around him tilted. A hand gripped his shoulder and Sherlock ordered him to breathe, Liam.
“Stay still,” Sherlock ordered as soon as Dimmock came back to himself and was able to give him a shaky nod. He pulled out a first aid kit from under the sink and popped it open. Dimmock could see that it was well-used; no doubt Sherlock was the one responsible for most of the supplies having vanished. Sherlock pulled out an antiseptic cloth and began to methodically clean the scrapes Dimmock had gained that night, starting first with the ones on his face.
“Oi! Careful,” Dimmock grumbled as the alcohol in the cloth aggravated a particularly nasty cut just above his eye.
“This is well within your pain threshold,” Sherlock reprimanded. “I seem to recall Lestrade telling a story about you ignoring a fractured arm for twelve hours before he was finally able to persuade you to go to the hospital.”
Dimmock snorted. “Kidnapped me, more like. Even got Donovan and Anderson in on it. Gits.”
“Mm. Normally I would agree with you, but in this instance it would seem that they were in the right - much as it pains me to admit that.” Sherlock brushed a finger across Dimmock’s forehead and examined it; no blood. Satisfied, he went on. “Lestrade is particularly hospital-averse himself. I believe John is the only one of us who will ever go voluntarily.”
Dimmock blinked. Was Sherlock trying to be comforting? He cleared his throat and said, “Yeah, that’s ‘cos he knows how they work. I don’t like sitting on my arse in a bed, waiting for answers. And they’re so dull.”
Sherlock’s answering smile was oddly gentle. He pressed a bandage to a cut at the corner of Dimmock’s eye and said, “It would seem we have more in common than you would believe. Close your eyes.”
Dimmock obeyed without question, and a moment later a warm, wet cloth swept over his face, cleaning away the worst of the grime and dried blood.
“Why are you doing this?” he asked quietly. The answer was several moments in coming while Sherlock occupied himself with cleaning the rest of the cuts on Dimmock’s face.
“John and Lestrade are overly fond of you,” Sherlock said at last. “And I am... That is to say, they are...”
He waved a hand vaguely and allowed the thought to hang, incomplete, between them while he taped a bandage across a small wound just above Dimmock’s eyebrow.
“They’re important to you,” Dimmock finished quietly. Sherlock hummed non-committally and turned his attention to Dimmock’s hands.
“You did not acquire these injuries while on duty,” he noted mildly. He took Dimmock’s right hand in both of his own, turning it over, observing the bruised knuckles and crescent-shaped marks on his palm from where he had clenched the hand into a fist. Dimmock’s left wrist was swollen from where someone had grabbed it and wrenched his arm behind his back; that particular man had ended up unconscious on the ground less than five seconds later.
Dimmock lifted his chin. “Problem?”
“You tell me.”
“What, you can’t deduce it?”
Sherlock gave a long-suffering sigh. “Contrary to popular belief, I am not a mind-reader. I can tell that these injuries were acquired in a fight, though not one that you experienced while on duty. You are more inebriated than one drink would normally make you, so you likely stopped at a pub prior to coming here. You normally go home after fourteen-hour shifts, as your flat is closer to the Yard, but you elected to come here, knowing full well that John and Lestrade are out. Were you planning on waiting for them? Waiting for me? Why?”
“Yes, all right,” Dimmock said loudly, cutting him off. “I get the picture. Well done. You’ve correctly deduced my movements tonight.”
“But not your motivation. You don’t want to be alone tonight - is that it?” Sherlock leaned in, steel eyes cold and calculating as he fixed Dimmock with the same look he gave a particularly interesting puzzle. “What’s happened?”
“Oh, what do you care?” Dimmock snapped.
Sherlock shrugged and pulled back, the intensity of his gaze vanishing with a blink of his eyes. “As I said - John and Lestrade are particularly fond of you.”
“So you are as well,” Dimmock murmured, and then out an undignified squeak when he realized what he had said. “Er...sorry. I didn’t mean... You know, with the drink and all...”
He trailed off. Sherlock resumed tending to his hands, seemingly oblivious to what Dimmock had said.
“It would appear alcohol makes you more observant than usual,” Sherlock said finally. He wrapped a bandage around Dimmock’s wrist, looping the fabric through the gap between his thumb and forefinger and securing it. “It’s a pity you aren’t allowed a drink while on duty.”
“Shut it; you were being kind a moment ago.” He had meant for it to sound biting; it came out fond instead. Sherlock raised an eyebrow at him.
“This isn’t being kind?” he murmured, grey eyes locking on Dimmock’s. Dimmock swallowed hard and dragged a tongue across chapped lips.
“Yeah, ‘course it is,” he croaked, shifting under the full intensity of Sherlock’s gaze, thinking that he should probably move away -
- And then suddenly Sherlock was too close, too warm, smelling of spices and ink, his breath skirting across Dimmock’s cheek. It smelled of coffee, bitter and sharp, so magnetic that before Dimmock quite knew what he was doing, he had tilted his head until their mouths slotted together, his hands fisting into Sherlock’s shirt. Sherlock stiffened at the touch, his lips cold and immobile. And then he slowly started to respond, his lips moving against Dimmock’s, the tip of his tongue darting out and swiping along Dimmock’s lower lip.
But then Dimmock’s mind caught up with his subconscious and he abruptly broke the kiss.
“Sorry,” he gasped, pulling away and unclenching his hands. The fabric of Sherlock’s shirt fell out of his grip, the pristine cloth creased from where Dimmock had grabbed it.
Sherlock leaned forward and brushed his lips against Dimmock’s, and then tilted his head to press open-mouthed kisses along his jaw. He paused when he reached Dimmock’s ear, murmuring, “Did I say I wanted you to stop?”
“But this isn’t... This isn’t really your area ,” Dimmock whispered. It was rare that Sherlock had sex with his other two partners, preferring to leave them to each other and to Dimmock. Once in a while Sherlock would join John and Lestrade, and in even rarer instances he would initiate - usually only after a difficult case, when he needed to quiet his mind. But he and Dimmock never slept with one another and, in all honesty, Dimmock had never expected that it would happen. That wasn’t how their relationship worked. They were simply two people who happened to be in love with the same two men; united by a common thread.
At least, that’s what he had always believed.
Sherlock ran a hand through Dimmock’s hair; he shuddered at the touch. “No, not always.”
Dimmock swallowed hard, his heart knocking wildly against his ribcage. He had never, before Lestrade, realized that it was possible to love another person so fiercely. He had never known, prior to John, that the love of three could be so powerful. Their bond wasn’t diminished by the addition of a third - or a fourth. Because it wasn’t until Sherlock - wasn’t until this moment - that he realized just how many different ways it was possible to love another.
“But... now ?” he stammered as Sherlock pressed a kiss to his forehead.
“Right now,” Sherlock murmured against his brow, lips crackling against Dimmock’s skin and breaking the rest of his resolve, “I would like nothing better, Liam.”
Dimmock curled a hand around the back of Sherlock’s neck and drew him down for another kiss, the rest of the world fading at the edges until there was only Sherlock’s hand in his hair, Sherlock’s fingers curled around his hip, Sherlock’s breath in his lungs.
“You’re thinking,” Dimmock whispered much later, as soon as he had brought his breathing under some semblance of control. Sherlock was flat on his back beside him in the bed, sucking in great lungfuls of air through his nose. His sweat-slicked chest glistened in the dim light of the room; his damp hair lay tumbled about his head, making him appear ten years younger. His eyes were closed, but Dimmock could just barely make out his eyes darting under their lids.
“I’m always thinking.”
“More so than usual, then.”
Sherlock rolled toward Dimmock, coaxing the other man on his side so that Sherlock could wind his arms around him. He gathered Dimmock against him so that they were back-to-chest, the pale arms encircling Dimmock like a promise. And then cold fingertips pressed into his chin, tilting his head until he was kissing Sherlock over his shoulder, the other man stealing the breath from his lungs and replacing it with his own until Dimmock was quite sure he was going to drown in Sherlock Sherlock Sherlock .
They broke apart with a gasp; Dimmock tipped his head forward until their foreheads were pressed together, not caring that his neck was protesting the awkward angle.
“How’s this work, then?” he said thickly. “Thought I had it all figured out with Greg, and then John came along. Took me months to wrap my head around that, and now you -”
Sherlock snorted and nudged him until he was on his side again. Sherlock’s nose pressed into the back of Dimmock’s neck, and when he spoke his breath stirred the short hairs there. Dimmock shivered. “Sociopath, remember? I’m hardly in a position to offer you advice on interpersonal relationships.”
“You’re not,” Dimmock said sharply, and the arms around him tensed. He thought for one terrible moment that Sherlock might draw away, and laced the fingers of his left hand through Sherlock’s to keep him still. “S’a story you tell everyone else. But y’don’t have to pretend with us. You’re not a freak or a sociopath or... anything like that.”
Sherlock’s voice was hard. “What am I, then?”
“You’re Sherlock,” Dimmock answered automatically. “Y’don’t have to be anything more than that, because that’s... well, that’s everything.”
Sherlock was very still for some moments, the only sign of his still being awake coming from the shallow breaths that skirted across the back of Dimmock’s neck.
“I believe,” he said finally as he rested his forehead against the back of Dimmock’s head, “that I may very well become quite fond of you, Liam.”
“Yeah,” Dimmock said softly. “Yeah, me too.” And then the arms holding him tightened, and he bit back a laugh as he snuggled automatically into the warm cocoon that was Sherlock’s body wrapped around his own. “Careful, Mr. Holmes. I may fall asleep just like this.”
“Careful, Inspector Dimmock,” Sherlock whispered in response, hot breath ghosting over the shell of Dimmock’s ear. “I may let you.”
Lestrade and John returned to Baker Street several hours later than they had originally intended. John blamed this on Lestrade’s terrible sense of direction; Lestrade believed that it had more to do with a slightly drunk John pulling him into an alley, shoving him up against the wall, and proceeding to snog him senseless while he shoved a hand eagerly down the front of Lestrade’s trousers. Not that he was about to complain, mind.
“Was Liam staying here tonight?” John asked as he clumsily pulled off his coat. Lestrade shrugged.
“Haven’t heard from him since this afternoon. Doubt it, though. He caught a nasty case this morning. He’ll have gone home immediately after to sleep. That is, if he’s even left work yet.”
“Mmm,” John muttered, running a weary hand over his face. “Poor guy. Though he has the right idea; sleep sounds fucking fantastic right now.”
Lestrade snorted. “Feeling old, are we, Watson? It’s barely two.”
“Says the man old enough to be Sherlock’s father.”
“Oi!” Lestrade crowded John up against the wall, grabbing the other man’s wrists and pressing them above his head. “Watch that mouth of yours, Johnny, or I’ll be forced to show you just how lively I can be.”
John hummed and brushed his lips against Lestrade’s in a not-quite kiss. “I think I just may need to take you up on that offer.” He yawned suddenly, and Lestrade laughed. “In the morning, however.”
“Deal.” Lestrade touched his lips to John’s forehead and released him. “C’mon. Bed.”
“Where d’you suppose Sherlock got to?” John asked as they walked down the corridor to the room that was formerly Sherlock’s but was now swiftly becoming theirs .
“Learned long ago that was a foolish question to ask,” Lestrade said, faintly amused. “He’s probably off doing Sherlock-y things.”
John snorted and pushed open the door to the bedroom. “ Sherlock-y things? Honestly, Greg, I think -”
He stopped abruptly; Lestrade collided with his back.
John pressed a finger to his lips and nodded towards the bed. Lestrade stared. A shaft of dim light from the lamp outside fell across Sherlock’s bed, where the detective appeared to be fast asleep, his arms wound tightly around Dimmock. They were both shirtless, hair stiff with dried sweat, blankets thrown haphazardly across their bodies and leaving little room for doubt as to what exactly they had been up to that evening.
“Well,” John said finally in an undertone, “d’you suppose we can add this to your list of... Sherlock-y things?”
“I’ll be damned.” Lestrade shook his head. “Well, it’s about time.”
“Tell me about it.”
They both stripped down to their pants and crawled into the bed, John on Sherlock’s other side and Lestrade next to Dimmock. It took some careful adjusting and negotiating of the blankets before they were fully settled. Lestrade turned his head to press a kiss to Dimmock’s forehead; it was only then, when his lips met an unfamiliar texture, that he realized something was amiss.
“Oi,” he whispered, brushing light fingertips along the bandages that he could see now that his eyes had adjusted to the dark. “What happened to you, love?”
“Do be quiet, Lestrade,” Sherlock said suddenly, and Lestrade started. “You’ll wake him.”
“ Jesus, Sherlock, don’t do that.”
“What’s going on?” John asked, propping himself up on his elbows. Sherlock’s eyes flickered open and he fixed Lestrade with a stony glare.
“Surely these questions can wait until morning. He only just fell asleep.”
“Right... er...” Lestrade trailed off, thrown by Sherlock’s uncharacteristic kindness. John leaned over Sherlock to peer at Dimmock, frowning deeply.
“Did you take care of this?” he whispered.
“Yes,” Sherlock said stiffly. “Now, please explain to me why you’re still talking.”
“Was he badly hurt?” Lestrade asked before he could help himself. Sherlock’s expression softened.
“No,” he said. “Though his injuries were not acquired on the job and I admit that this... concerns me. He was not forthcoming about how he came to be hurt.”
“Well, that’s Liam for you,” Lestrade said in fond exasperation. “In the morning, yeah? We’ll talk to him then.”
Sherlock gave the briefest of nods; Lestrade leaned over to kiss him.
“Go back to sleep. Sorry we woke you.”
John leaned over Sherlock to press a kiss to Dimmock’s temple and then fitted himself up against Sherlock's back, wrapping an arm around his waist.
“Thank you,” he whispered into the back of Sherlock’s neck.
“For loving him as much as we do.”
Sherlock frowned, his gaze dropping to Dimmock’s sleeping form. “I don’t -”
“Yes,” Lestrade interrupted him, his lips curving into a smile as he felt Sherlock’s arms tighten around Dimmock. “You do.”