Sherlock doesn’t forget things. Even when his mind is addled by narcotics and his skin is flushed and perspiring, he doesn’t forget. He wakes up in a lazy, sun-drenched haze with his head pounding and he pieces together haphazard fragments of lost weekends and pulls out the real from the fantasy. Some of the memories are soft and hazy around the edges. Others are jagged and sharp-edged and they slice through his mind when he’s alone in a quiet house or when the sound of Mrs Hudson’s hoover or the careless clink of china against wooden table sets something off like fireworks in his brain.
There are things he tries to forget. Those strange, half-formed whispers of childhood that never make coherent sentences. John in his comfortable armchair giving Sherlock that look reserved for when Sherlock does something particularly irritating. A look that’s part confusion, part frustration and horribly endeared. Sherlock tries to forget the late night grunts and groans from John’s room and he ignores the morning after moments when the house is thick with unspoken desire and hot with an unsettling tension. Mycroft commented on it once, low and soft from the corner of his mouth.
I do hope you’re taking care of that doctor of yours. He looks rather pensive.
Sherlock ignored it as he often ignored Mycroft’s comments. The pointed look towards a frowning John, the knowing squeeze of Mycroft’s hand on Sherlock’s shoulder. Mycroft knows, of course. He would never say as much openly but he understands Sherlock’s heart and he knows exactly where Sherlock’s interests lie. He mentioned proclivities many years ago and gave Sherlock a long speech once about different paths. It was frightfully dull and Sherlock couldn’t wait for it to be over. Yes, yes, he knows it comes from a place of grudging affection but Sherlock doesn’t need Mycroft’s poor metaphors of winding paths and roads less travelled to help him come to the conclusion that he finds the male physique vastly more appealing than the female. He certainly doesn’t need Mycroft muttering things under his breath to underscore the fact that Sherlock is a hopeless mess when it comes to John. It’s all very inconvenient.
Then there’s John, of course. He takes up familiar spaces in 221B Baker Street as if he never left. He settles back into Sherlock’s life with the same ease with which he occupies the comfortable armchair Sherlock never allowed any of their guests to sit in. That chair was John''s, after all. The nights stretch long and dark into the winter and time passes. During the quieter evenings familiar and not so familiar noises drift from John’s closed bedroom door into the room where Sherlock pours over one new case or another.
The sounds make Sherlock’s skin prickle and his body tenses as he holds his breath, just for long to enough to send heat flaring into his cheeks and his heart pounding restlessly in his chest. He knows what John’s doing. As much as he might claim to be impervious to desire and human need, he understands it better than John probably imagines. He understands sex on a scientific level and he understands it on a physical level – the slow slide of fingers over warm skin and the slick, desperate pleasure of two slender torsos pushing against one another. Sherlock wonders what John thinks about in those moments and curses the foolish notion that perhaps, just maybe, it might be him.
Ah, John. Always so determined to keep his own fantasies private and to leave Sherlock guessing at the shapes his mouth might form at the peak of his pleasure, or whether he’d be rough or kind, or perhaps a mixture of the two. These days the dreams which occupy Sherlock’s fantasies are sharper than ever, particularly those which feature John. The unsteady brush of hands together and a terribly messy, awkward kiss which leaves them both laughing into one another’s mouths. Sherlock doesn’t imagine their first kiss would happen with any kind of finesse. He imagines it would be as unexpected as John’s friendship and as tinged with desperate hopelessness as some of their conversations or the way they both watch the sun set in silence with their eyes fixed on another uncertain tomorrow.
The sounds start again and Sherlock closes his eyes. He lets the candle burn and flicker in the corner of the room, casting its soft shadows against the wall. He lets his hand drift. That case. The one with the scarecrow and the peculiar note. The paint on the edge of the porcelain in the British Museum case. The strange, inexplicable fancy dress in the abandoned house in Stoke Newington. The house with an empty wardrobe, a costume for hire and two dead bodies arranged with apparent carelessness.
Sherlock slides his hand lower. It’s not the bodies that make him hard, don’t think that for a moment. It’s the challenge of something so peculiar and mentally taxing it keeps his mind buzzing for weeks. It’s that and the low, breathy sound of John’s sighs through the thin wall. The fantasy of one blissful moment of intimacy for one moment. He misses it. The men. Even the faceless, nameless ones who only reappear as dark shadows when he tries to recall a stolen touch or the sound of his name on another man’s lips, rough with desire and want.
The sighs. He listens for them. For the subtle flex and creak of springs on John’s bed and the low, comforting grunts of pleasure. There’s nothing. Just a cool gust of air and a throat being cleared as Sherlock palms at himself through his trousers, his hand stilling and his eyes still squeezed as tightly shut as possible.
“Sherlock?” John sounds hoarse. Not angry, particularly. Not necessarily interested either. He just sounds rough and unfamiliar, like he’s not quite sure what’s going on.
“I thought you were in bed.” Sherlock moves his hand from the bulge in his trousers feeling faintly ridiculous. He still doesn’t open his eyes.
“I was. I thought I heard something.”
“Oh?” Sherlock is always so quiet, always so good at biting back moans and gasps until there’s nothing left but the slow exhale of breath from parted lips. A hiss, rather than anything louder. He’s learned to keep his ministrations very much to himself.
“You were…” John clears his throat again and Sherlock finally blinks his eyes open. John’s cheeks are flushed a warm pink and he furrows his eyebrows, knitting them together as he watches Sherlock. “Well. I didn’t know you did that.”
“Doesn’t everyone?” Sherlock turns his eyes heavenward and arranges himself with a little more dignity. Thank goodness he hadn’t opened his trousers. The indignity would have been far too much.
“No, not…not everyone.” John tips his head to the side. “Could you hear me?”
Now it’s Sherlock’s turn to flush, his cheeks and neck hot red. He stands and busies himself doing something other than meeting John’s intense stare.
“Hear you doing what?” Now his voice sounds high and unnatural. He thinks he starts talking about a case, the one with the strange costume and two bodies. He mentions metallic paint chips and he definitely says something about Mycroft, tartan and some whisper of a childhood he doesn’t quite remember. Something about a tree and a bauble. A dog and a beach. Mycroft tap, tapping his cane on the floor and tipping his fingers to his head with a soft brother, mine.
“Sherlock.” John’s voice breaks through it all, firm and fond. He’s close enough that Sherlock might reach out and touch his heartbeat. “What the bloody hell are you on about?”
“The costume, John. It’s the key to it all.” Why doesn’t John understand? John never understands.
“No. No, we’re not doing this.” John is closer still. “We’re not talking about the case just because you don’t want to talk about everything else. It’s past midnight. The case will wait until tomorrow.”
Sherlock breathes out, itching to reach for John. Perhaps he does understand after all. Perhaps he understands everything about Sherlock. The thought is both heady and discomforting.
“What should we do then? If it’s past midnight and you won't allow me to work on our cases?” Sherlock can’t help but smile, his lips curving at the corner. He almost manages to make it sound seductive and he’s not immune to the way the soft glow from the candles sets a certain mood, or the way John’s eyes darken even as he seems to be resisting rolling his eyes.
“It’s lonely. Lying in bed or sitting in here by yourself. Thinking.”
Sherlock snorts. “Thinking? Is that what we’re calling it?”
“Perhaps. For now.” John inclines his head. He looks away from Sherlock and his jaw works. “It’s something I’ve thought about. Of course it is.”
Sherlock swallows. “I wondered. It’s something I’ve thought about too. But you already knew that.”
“Maybe.” John shrugs. “I’m not sure I would have believed it until a moment ago.” He flicks his eyes over Sherlock. “I’m not sure I believe it even now.”
“Ah.” Sherlock steps closer and they are so near now, he can feel John’s warm breath against his face. “Believe it.”
“Yes. I suppose I should, if you insist.”
The first kiss isn’t messy and uncoordinated as Sherlock’s fantasies might have led him to expect. He and John seem to slot together surprisingly well, with John’s fist balled in Sherlock’s shirt, tugging him closer. His other hand tangles in the curls at the back of Sherlock’s head and he pushes them both back until Sherlock's leaning against a surface which isn’t as hard or uncomfortable as it should be. He wraps his arms around John and it’s easy to pull him closer and to weave him into a hug which deepens the kiss and brings their two bodies together as one. John seems confident and Sherlock is supremely so, despite the way his fingers shake a little as they dot, dot, dot down John’s spine as his knuckles find a way to make John arch closer and deeper into the kiss.
Sherlock’s mind is blissfully still for a moment as the kiss takes him away from his thoughts and into a place where sensation and the tingling of nerves become more overpowering than the slant of italics in a hurried suicide note that doesn’t quite ring true or the image of Mycroft talking about forests and paths. John’s voice is rough and scratchy when he finally tugs their lips apart and nips at the lobe of Sherlock’s ear.
“Can I watch you?”
“Watch me?” Sherlock stares at John, his heart pounding.
“As you were. Just for a minute.” John nods at the chair Sherlock vacated.
“If that’s what you want.” Sherlock swallows, moving to the seat he usually occupies. John sits opposite, his eyes dark and his lips slick from Sherlock’s kisses. With a low groan, Sherlock begins to palm himself but the room is too quiet and too still. John’s barely breathing and Sherlock’s in danger of losing himself inside his own mind again. “Can you?” He lifts his hand, gesturing to John’s crotch.
“Would it help?”
“Okay then.” John spreads his legs a little and begins to touch himself slowly, his eyes on Sherlock. There it is. The jagged breathing, the little huffs and the low, rough hum of pleasure in the back of John’s throat. The room doesn’t seem so silent anymore with its rustling fabric and laboured breathing which mingles together with the odd soft groan falling from John’s lips.
They don’t take their eyes off each other. Not until they’re both hard and restless and John has freed his prick from the confines of his trousers. With a low growl, Sherlock moves to his knees and between John’s legs. He wraps his lips around John’s cock and takes him down into the back of his throat. John tangles his hands in Sherlock’s hair, crying out and bucking into his mouth with a bitten-off cry. It feels so good, having John’s hands on him. The heavy weight of John’s cock makes Sherlock salivate and he begins to palm himself again, working up to the edge then squeezing and building up the rhythm again. He works over John until John’s writhing and gasping and – finally – coming with a low shout deep in Sherlock’s mouth.
Sherlock makes it up on shaky legs for a kiss. He manages to press close enough to John that there’s no air between them and John’s hand nudges Sherlock’s out of the way. At the confident press of firm fingers wrapped around his prick, Sherlock bites down on John’s neck. They both groan as Sherlock bucks into John’s fist and John’s fingers tighten, his hand moving more swiftly.
The thoughts merge into one. The days of sitting in the empty flat melt away and everything is warm. The candles flicker with promise and the long shadows stretch upwards, holding no horror clawed from the recess of a dark imagination. John is both just as Sherlock imagined and nothing like he expected at all. He’s confident with his kisses and demanding Sherlock’s attention, pulling him back from anything too slow and soft into a desperate, needy present which affords no time for wandering minds or an inability to focus on every last sensation. Sherlock soon spills himself over John’s clenched fist and he kisses John through it, trying to gulp in enough air to steady his breathing.
“Come into my room?” John asks rather than demands, sticky fingers clutching Sherlock’s own. Sherlock looks down at their hands entwined and nods, just once.
“For the night?”
“For now. For after.” John shrugs, looking away. “There’ll always be a space for you, I think.”
“Sentimental codswallop.” Sherlock presses close and breathes into John’s ear. “John.”
“Even when I leave I still feel as if part of this is mine. Part of you, maybe?”
Sherlock keeps John close. “I can’t forget you. Even when I forget everything else, there you are.”
“Then come with me,” John says.
Sherlock follows, into the small room with its crumpled bed sheets. It’s different, now. There’s a past between them with darkness and shadows and the soft light from the living room will only last for so long. They don’t have any definitions and Sherlock is as bad as articulating his emotions as John, with neither of them well able to read one another when it comes to matters of the heart. Yet there are little things which set a tendril of hope blooming in the pit of Sherlock’s belly. There’s the way John presses against the pulse on Sherlock’s wrist, tenderly examining the lines of each finger and watching the way Sherlock shifts and shivers beneath him. There are the slow, easy kisses which seem to send arousal thrumming through them both. There’s the very fact they can exist in this small room for one in a rickety bed which forces their bodies as close together as possible.
“I’ve been dreaming about you,” Sherlock says after cleaning his teeth and standing in the doorway, watching John stretched out on the bed. He’s taken off his clothes now and the sheets barely cover him. He looks divine, strong and pale in the moonlight.
“Any good?” John asks. He sounds hopeful.
“Always.” Sherlock doesn’t elaborate, sliding into bed instead and pressing close to John. He mouths over his collarbone and shivers when John’s fingertips slide down his spine. “Very good.”
“That’ll do for now,” John says.