Five days later, Sherlock has just slept for fourteen hours straight. He pisses, dresses, and goes yawning into the kitchen to find John drinking tea at the table.
John gives him a hard, slightly speculative look and instructs: ‘Go out. Buy something sharp. Razorblades, a knife, it’s up to you. You’re the one getting cut open.’
Sherlock’s stomach does a flip.
He smiles, and goes.
He proceeds to a ‘personal protection’ establishment where he is already well-known, and where they are happy to show him under-the-counter goods. He selects a left-handed military knife, beautifully balanced, wickedly sharp and legally dubious. The staff member who sells it to him, and who used to be sensible before Sherlock became an icon, takes an unnecessarily awed approach.
‘For Dr Watson?’ she says, seeing him grip the blade with an unaccustomed left hand.
‘Yes,’ replies Sherlock. She obviously thinks he’s smiling oddly at her, when in fact a mixture of anticipation and fear is producing his expression. The roil of feeling fascinates in itself: he wanted this. ‘Wrap it please. It amounts to a gift.’
John arranges the flat while he’s alone. There’s no real need to tidy the kitchen, and he’s breaking his frequent vow to never clear away Sherlock’s messes for him, but it’s symbolic. When he goes into Sherlock’s room he removes the bedding and replaces it with a plastic underlay and clean white sheet that he's bought for the purpose.
Mrs Hudson is out. In spite of Lestrade, John can’t squelch his worry that the paparazzi will be lurking outside, particularly as ‘Holmes returns to form!’ is all over the papers after the case they just finished, but it’s no good putting their lives on hold.
He’s done some shopping of his own. Now he fastens the chains to each corner of Sherlock’s bed, and steps back to observe the pristine white surface. Images parade through his head: fisting, cutting, burning. Sometimes he wonders if Sherlock knows how dark John’s fantasies get, but equally often he suspects Sherlock’s get darker.
When Sherlock arrives back he treads heavily on the stairs, clearly wanting John to hear him. John deposits his coil of rope on the floor of the bedroom beside Sherlock’s cuffs and a couple of strips of gauze, and just stands where he’ll be visible through the open door.
Sherlock approaches. He is unexpectedly nervous – the box he’s carrying is wrapped but Sherlock is ripping his way into it as he walks, shedding fragments of paper, and when he reaches John he places the naked handle of a shapely knife directly into John’s palm and blurts, ‘Cut me!’ His eyes slide towards the chains on the bed.
John closes his fingers around the handle.
‘Yes, that’s in the schedule,’ he says after a long moment. ‘But this needs to be sterilised first, as well you know.’
Sherlock folds his arms and attempts to look relaxed. The fact that he fails is an additional spice, first for John, and then for Sherlock himself as he visibly accepts that his discomfort is a mark of John’s control. Their eyes meet again. Electric.
‘You just strip and put the cuffs on,’ John says. ‘Leave the rest to me.’
Sherlock bites his lip to avoid scowling as John goes to boil the kettle. It would be ridiculous to be nervous about controlled pain, but he wants touch, not the rote duty of fitting his own wrist and ankle cuffs. For days he has been focused on the case, and on John as an adjunct to his purpose, and now he just wants pure John. Is John nervous too? They said playing would come naturally, with no disruption from the nature of their return, yet it didn’t happen. They are trying now.
Still, once Sherlock starts, there is something both lewd and calming about the process of removing his clothes then preparing himself to be hurt, while beyond the open doorway John slips a knife into bubbling water. The sterilisation process seems half military discipline, half rite, and it snags Sherlock’s focus in the moment. Then John glances around, and Sherlock freezes with the last cuff half-fastened, his stomach lurching, because John’s eyes are afire. John is normally so constrained. Sherlock changes that.
He finishes the final cuff, then drops to his knees and bows his head, and waits.
John comes into the bedroom. A slight hitch in his stride communicates that he didn’t expect such submissive behaviour. Neither did Sherlock, in fact.
‘Nice. Now, head up.’
John takes a short piece of rope from the floor and uses it to create a collar with a non-slip knot. He loops Sherlock’s wrist cuffs to the collar, very close up, as if in praying position. Then he picks up the gauze strip, and Sherlock has one last glimpse of his top’s craftsmanlike expression before he is blindfolded, the world is turning first shadowy and then completely black as the material is wound round and round his head.
It’s dark. Sherlock scans for data via his other senses... then lurches as the rope around his neck is unexpectedly grabbed and pulled. He scrambles forwards on his knees, probably towards the bed. The dragging stops, and he hears John fastening the rope around the bed leg. It’s only inches from where Sherlock’s thigh has come to rest. He’s being tethered. Fuck, that’s humiliating... fuck, that’s hot. John’s presence is heavy in the air. He comes around behind Sherlock and ties the rings of his ankle cuffs together.
‘OK. Stay put,’ he says. ‘You can wait a little longer.’
Like Sherlock has much choice. John’s footsteps recede to the kitchen, and Sherlock experiments with movements, shifting his arse and knees from side to side, and changing his hands from dangling so that the rope pulls on his neck to cupped around his chin to folded against his neck. Nothing is comfortable, and while he could in theory get at the knot around the bed leg by falling onto his side and groping for it, John would no doubt be on him in seconds.
He is blind and bound and waiting to be tortured. Not inside his own mind, but in the physical world. John is in control. He hears John moving around the living room, and occasionally returning to look through the bedroom door.
‘I can actually see you calming down,’ says John.
That’s not what Sherlock would call it. And yet there is the feeling of drifting. Thrumming in his head... focus on John... anticipation-fear.
John has gone back to the kitchen. There’s a sound of droplets hitting water as he lifts out the knife. As he examines it and wipes it off Sherlock follows the movements by ear. ‘You’re not afraid?’ John inquires through the doorway, conversational.
Of course he is; but the fear is a little separate from him. So are most things, apparently, and he’s trying to focus on an answer when John comes back in.
‘Well, be afraid now.’ John orders him, suddenly intense. ‘And seriously, do not move.’
He fists a hand in Sherlock’s hair. Sherlock senses the knife slipping into the gap between his hands and his throat, then feels it tapping at his Adam’s apple.
‘Talk to me,’ John says.
‘Yes, I’m afraid,’ Sherlock murmurs, trying to breathe shallowly. Fear slithers down his spine, twisting then turning to heat through his groin. John is calm and deadly. ‘Cut me.’
But the knife withdraws. ‘I’m not starting with your neck,’ John says, a slight laugh in his voice.
He moves off, and Sherlock hears the clink of chains. Presumably he’s supposed to wait again, so he tries to settle into it, but his bound hands feel huge, and there’s nowhere to put them. He shifts them from cupping his cheeks to under his chin.
‘As you’ve probably deduced, being a genius, I’m going to spread-eagle you,’ John says as he works. ‘You should barely be able to flinch.’
Sherlock is silent. John is going to wreck him. This is going to be too much. He should safeword out of it... No. He wants to be hurt and hurt and lose himself. He’s home.
And John is untethering him from the bed leg. He tries to shift his weight, anticipating a push sideways, but John pulls him up by his hair so that he gasps and staggers on hobbled feet, trying blindly for balance. Sherlock has barely stabilised, his vision swimming in darkness, when John drags him around the bed, using the loose end of the collar as a leash, then shoves him backwards. Feet still on the floor he falls, hitting the sheet with a crackle of the underlying plastic, and as his head jerks back his blindfold slips, letting in a slant of vision.
John’s face appears between Sherlock and the electric light. There’s a moment of breathless stillness, then John says ‘Got you,’ with a decided air of smugness, and Sherlock lets out something that sounds even to him like a giggle. John dips down for a kiss; by wriggling his cuffed hands around, Sherlock just manages to cup John’s face and stroke his cheeks, and the moment turns oddly gentle, and John’s breath is warm and his cheek smooth-shaven.
The knife is in John’s hand. The blade is cold against Sherlock’s hip.
‘Be still,’ John orders. The steel edge runs down Sherlock’s naked flank. While the movement is mostly smooth, he feels a small pain flare in his hip. When he cranes his head around he sees a thin red streak welling into droplets.
John has cut him. He’s bleeding. John controls him. He can’t quite think, and here and now that is good. Cut me.
‘I have to undo you and chain you out flat,’ says John in a practical voice. ‘No wriggling, just while I sort the ropes.’
Sherlock is content to obey. He feels light, as if he were floating just above his body, while John unhooks his hands from their awkward constriction at his chest and stretches first one arm then the other straight out towards the top corners of the bed. As each wrist and then ankle is fixed, Sherlock tests the bonds: taut and secure.
The blindfold, however, has worked almost free of his head. Sherlock wonders if John will replace it when he’s finished sorting the chains, but he doesn’t. Instead, he pulls it completely off. ‘I want –’ John starts.
‘– to see me struggling,’ Sherlock finishes for John, slightly proud that his voice works properly. He remembers: I want to see how much this hurts you, and I want to see how you cope.
‘That’s right,’ says John. He reaches out to the bedside table, and then rights himself, crouched over Sherlock, knees caging Sherlock’s ribs, leaning forward so that his blue eyes are so very close – and he presses the blade to Sherlock’s lips.
Taking the cue, Sherlock kisses it.
John shifts the knife down and draws a long, shallow cut on Sherlock’s right shoulder.
Pain, shocking and bright. Sherlock whimpers, his attention magnetised to the spot. Cricking his neck he can see a line of red welling up. He knows it’s nothing very serious. John will not do real harm. Yet he’s naked and helplessly bound and John, flushed with desire, is starting to caress his left nipple with the point of the knife. John is a sadist. Sherlock is a masochist, but he’s afraid.
‘No,’ he says. He half means it.
John responds with a sharp look at first; a flash of serious assessment. Then he says calmly, ‘Yes, Sherlock,’ and almost playfully nicks the skin close to his nipple.
Sherlock settles, trying not to pant and risk unintentional gashes. John runs a soothing hand over his chest, then returns and finishes drawing a dotted circle of little cuts around his nipple, each one a dipping flicker of hurt. After finishing there, he slices a smooth red line from aureole to clavicle.
Sherlock whimpers. At least, though, he is inside the pain now, acclimatising – until John turns the knife upside down and drags the end of the handle along the length of the raw cut. Coarse, burning abrasion... Sherlock cries out, and John covers Sherlock’s mouth with his hand. To be so casually silenced... anger fuels his arousal. Hopeless confusion of sensations. More.
Sherlock moans, gagged. John slices again, on his breastbone, and again, on his shoulders, at the base of his neck. Breastbone again. A burning drag of the knife handle. The pains blur and mass, throbbing in complex, uneven rhythms. He can’t cry out. John is cutting him. John doesn’t stop. There is John’s blade, and John’s silencing hand.
‘Hurts,’ croaks Sherlock when the hand is finally removed. He doesn’t know if John wants him to speak – but a sweetness is humming through his system, twining with the pain. John must sense it too.
John ignores him. He kneels up straighter, moving cautiously on his bad leg, then pulls his t-shirt off over his head and throws it onto the floor. He bends over Sherlock’s chest and licks a swathe across the cuts. The saliva sends messages of balm and chafe and confusion to Sherlock’s reeling brain. His reactions are not working, and he has learnt this means disease. He is ill... no. The darkness broke. This is their pleasure. John places his palms flat on either side of Sherlock’s head and smiles. Sherlock takes a shuddery breath, and John’s lips descend to his.
Softness, and the taste of iron. Fingers caress his shoulder, catching on raw flesh. John is in him and on him, tongue fucking blood into his body. Sherlock is content.
This is forbidden. Sexy. Desperate. He is cutting Sherlock open. Blood stains the sheet and is sticky between them as John presses in. It’s real, not a nightmare of the fall. He is in control, and he chooses that Sherlock should bleed.
John pulls away from Sherlock’s mouth, rocking back on his haunches. When there’s a sound of protest, he twirls the knife in his hand then rests it point down on Sherlock’s nipple. Sherlock, sweaty-faced, cranes gingerly to look at it.
‘I won’t cut your heart out,’ says John. ‘There are plenty of other things I can do.’
He raises his eyebrows to prompt a response. He needs to be sure that Sherlock is with him.
Sherlock swallows, picking up the cue. ‘Severed thumbs are.. somewhat B-movie,’ he manages hoarsely.
Good. Sherlock is keeping up. John smirks down at him.
John swings the knife, and slashes Sherlock’s throat.
Sherlock screams. He bucks in the bondage, almost unseating John. This is Sherlock though – even drunk on fear, John sees him deduce mid-lurch that he has a windpipe left to scream with because John used the blunt side of the knife.
‘Beautiful. I should keep you like this. Tied up and bleeding and terrified,’ John suggests as Sherlock falls back, rolling his eyes with an attempt at nonchalance. Then Sherlock gives up, and nods, and he’s giggling. His whole body shakes with it – endorphins. John thinks, I did this, and a wave of joy washes through him, and he leans forward and wraps a hand around Sherlock’s neck.
‘Enough laughing.’ John squeezes in the way that always seems to affect Sherlock most, not hard enough to cut off air completely but enough to make his breath rattle as his nostrils flare. John needs Sherlock focused. They walk this edge together.
Muscles shift in Sherlock’s neck. His body relaxes a little, though his arousal shows in the fluttering of his eyelids and in the way he opens his tethered hands as if reaching for something. I did this. John’s cock stirs in his trousers and he rubs himself against Sherlock’s ribs, the pressure maddeningly light as he can’t kneel low enough. Sherlock stares, eyes large and dark.
‘You really are a picture,’ says John softly. ‘... Shall I shove the knife up your arse?’
Sherlock goes absolutely still. John watches thoughts cross his face: Yes, I look good... Shove the knife where?
‘Well?’ John prompts, letting go of Sherlock’s throat and seeing a soft red bloom on the skin. Sherlock needs this release, and John needs to see it, but Sherlock will surely work out his intent after the throat slash trick... So John will introduce just enough doubt by lying outright. ‘Blade first.’
‘No!’ croaks Sherlock, and there’s fear, uncertainty and desire in his voice. He cranes to follow as John climbs off him.
‘Lie back,’ John instructs, careful not to let his own voice waver. Once Sherlock obeys, John replaces the blindfold, removes his own trousers and pants, then picks up the discarded pillows and with a bit of struggle inserts them under the small of Sherlock’s back. He’s still too thin, but not so much so that John can’t grip a handful of arse, grazing his thumbnail down Sherlock’s perineum and anus. John’s tongue has explored there, and no doubt his cock will follow but today he fucks Sherlock with the knife.
‘Perfect,’ John says at last, taking up the knife and blindfold gauze. He positions himself crouching between Sherlock’s spread legs.
Sherlock is completely quiet now. John toys for a while with his balls and half-hard cock, stroking with the tip of the knife, then moves down to make small slashes in the sensitive skin of his inner thighs. Sherlock flinches and whimpers quietly. He’s tangibly waiting, fixed on the obscene violence promised him. The fear and trust and expectation wrap around John, sink in, exalt him. He is more than himself.
‘You get hard when I hurt you,’ John murmurs, then kisses Sherlock’s balls, and his cock, and the soft creases at the top of his thighs. ‘You want this. Blade first.’ The point of the knife skims down Sherlock’s perineum then dallies for a while at his hole.
Sherlock whimpers, then begins to pant, high and fast. John wraps some gauze around the knife-blade to make a grip, working swiftly now in case Sherlock loses it and safewords. That done, he licks the exposed handle... then rams it into Sherlock, twisting as he goes.
Sherlock screams. The sound is as frenzied and despairing as if a blade really was rupturing his insides, and for a moment the force of it scares John. What if pulling a mindfuck on Sherlock has triggered something? After enduring so much...
No. John is in control. He caresses Sherlock’s hip, and when the scream ends there is a long, shuddering sigh. This is working.
He kisses Sherlock’s thigh, then starts fucking his arse with the knife.
Sherlock squirms on the violating knife. What he knows to be a handle jerks arhythmically, sending up sparks of bliss, but in his mind it becomes the mutilating blade, and he embraces agony, freefall, death in life. Is this madness?
No. It’s memory, and he lets it in. He’s falling. He falls so far there’s no way back, and the shock of the ground splinters him, and lithium cannot stem the flow of blood into the snow. Blood drags at his hair, and alien hands lift him, and he cannot bear it but it happens, must happen, so there is a shift in his head, and his emotions... but he has no emotions... He must not move or John will die.
For John he will go into fire.
No. Sherlock is in Baker Street. John is holding him, fucking him, cutting him. The blindfold slips, loosened again by his writhing; Sherlock looks down at his sprawled body and John is there, violating, claiming, intent. He's kissing a cut on Sherlock’s hip, and when he looks up, bloody-mouthed, Sherlock’s heart leaps, because this is the difficult all of John, and Sherlock has him.
Sherlock fell, and John reached after him. When Sherlock was broken, John set firm and hard. They are joined through the knife, through the violence, through the heave of moods, and Sherlock will not let go. The knowledge takes him, mingling with the darkness. Sherlock merges with the void, and John is there. John has always been there. John strokes his leg. Sherlock drifts, and everything is good, because John is within it.
Gradually, the knife slows.
‘You’re almost done, I think,’ says John.
Reluctantly, Sherlock considers his body. John is right. Nausea is beginning to stir in his belly and his manacled hands are turning numb.
‘Mm,’ he says, and feels the empty chill as John withdraws the knife. Sherlock hears him wiping it and setting it aside on the bed.
‘All right,’ says John, and a hand wraps around Sherlock’s cock, sending bolts of fire to his brain.
‘No,’ says Sherlock, hoarsely but firmly.
He feels John freeze in place. He tries to think. He sprawled on the pavement, unseeing, while John pleaded. Now... he has to articulate...
‘John. Come while... you hurt me. I need to watch you. Please.’
With the angry exception of his first time with Sherlock, in fully sexual scenes John always attends to his partner before himself. It’s the sensible thing.
Well, fuck that. Sherlock specifically asked. John lets go of Sherlock’s cock and leans forward to pull off the blindfold.
‘All right,’ he says, and wipes his forehead with a sticky hand.
Sherlock nods, squinting against the return of light. John studies his face; various tells indicate that he’s pushing his limits. John will not let him fall. He kisses and nips Sherlock’s chest, then climbs off the bed to remove his own remaining clothes.
‘You want?’ he says, pointing to his erection. When Sherlock nods and gropes symbolically with a bound hand, John says, ‘Uh-uh, no touching.’ He puts one knee on the bed and leans forward, just brushing his shaft along cuts and smooth skin and too-prominent bones as Sherlock tries to twist towards him. Then there’s a deeper profusion of sensation as John straddles Sherlock’s torso and grasps his own erection with one hand, raking blunt nails across Sherlock’s bloody chest with the other. Sherlock’s cock must be jutting neglected behind him. Sherlock is splayed out and bleeding, on the edge of endurance.
John will keep him there.
Yes. Control and care and service, strands of his life that never quite fitted until now. Pleasure. They smile at each other. No masks now, as if they ever needed them.
‘Please...’ Sherlock murmurs, focusing with visible effort as John sways above him.
‘Watch,’ says John. He means too many things to express in one word.
Inside him are the moments when he saw Sherlock smashed on the pavement, when he opened the door to find him suspended eleven stories above the snow. The horror remains, but it’s not the sum of their connection. John pulls on his cock, and there is a rhythm to the jerking of Sherlock’s body as if Sherlock were fucking him, he feels Sherlock fucking him, hears Sherlock whimpering, visibly near his limit but unwilling to safeword, and John accepts that gift and rides it, pleasuring himself with one hand while the other tortures Sherlock.
A tear slides from Sherlock’s eye. John leans in to lick it up, tasting the mingled blood, then straightens himself again as Sherlock gives a full-body shudder, struggling reflexively to move in the bondage. He can’t. John, straddling him upright, tightens his legs around Sherlock, absorbing the frantic squirming.
Heavy bliss pools in John’s groin. It coils upwards, refines to a peak, builds higher. It flares and twists like burning paper. John is controlling, hurting, loving Sherlock, who is shaking, keening, mad, safe. They are alive. Simple grace.
John comes. He bucks forwards, riding each wave, a fragment of his brain handling awareness of the need not to collapse heavily onto Sherlock. Sherlock is groaning, gasping, and the thought of him pinned, willing, suffering while John orgasms is a dark sweetness suffusing what remains of thought.
‘Fuck, John!’ Sherlock is moaning. John's come stripes his bloody chest. Pain and sex and homecoming. Blood on his hands and the bed, on Sherlock's living face.
John sways, rolls to the side and fetches up with his head pillowed on Sherlock's upstretched right arm. Their mouths are close enough to kiss and kiss and kiss.