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the beatings will continue until morale improves

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The media cleared out eventually and so did the rest of the company. So did John. Sherlock sighed collapsing into his armchair and let it receive his full weight, feet skidding across the floor a few inches with a scrape of irritation. He stared up at the ceiling, the old familiar ceiling, the old familiar lumps of the chair, the threadbare patch on the rug almost precisely where it had been, indicating that Mycroft hadn't sent people to poke through his files more than half a dozen times — he'd have to make sure they hadn't left anything out of order — and the healthy layer of dust remaining across the mantlepiece confirmed that Mrs. Hudson hadn't come in past the doorway since she'd first cleared out the refrigerator two years ago. Everything nearly as he'd left it, as he desired it to be, with one conspicuous alteration — one conspicuous absence.

But really that was all for the best as well, wasn't it. John had found himself two ideal occupations for his empty hours. His tedious little job in his tedious little clinic with his tedious little patients — that reminded him, he would have to tell John the old woman he'd seen Tuesday was being carefully poisoned for her insurance money. "Quite clever really," Sherlock said. "Mostly murderers haven't got any patience, they overreach, but this one has the good sense to give her a bit of this poison, a bit of that, not enough to kill her but sufficient to establish a track record of mysterious complaints, emergency calls, perhaps a spot of paranoia. No one will think twice when she finally has an acute attack, most likely a few weeks from now — are you listening?" he demanded, lifting his head, and of course John wasn't there. Sherlock hissed in aggravation and let his head go back again with a thump.

No, John wasn't here; John was off with his fiancee, his other new occupation. Perfectly reasonable thing for him to have done, and a perfectly reasonable sort of woman, if you went in for that sort of thing. Nothing particularly dreadful about her to dig up. Of course, it would be trivial to manufacture something. Nothing that would land her in prison, but something that would matter to John, something he would find distasteful. And of course John would believe him, long enough to undermine —

Sherlock frowned. This wouldn't do. There wasn't the least need to do anything about Mary. She was as ideal a partner as John could have found. Complacent about John's working with him, clever but not brilliant, not overly demanding, saw John at work so she didn't require substantial amounts of his time outside those hours. Did she want children? Sherlock considered the problem. The answer wasn't immediately obvious. He would have to arrange to meet her family — he'd drop in at some gathering the next time John was going to one. Very little was more revelatory of a woman's childbearing intentions than introducing the topic of grandchildren to her parents while she was present. In any case, even a desire for children wouldn't necessarily be a dealbreaker.

There was absolutely no call for sabotaging the relationship. In fact, he ought to do everything in his power to promote it. He'd stand as best man, of course. A reason why these persons may not lawfully marry — oh, John would be fantastically angry if Sherlock managed to come up with something at that point —

Sherlock angrily kicked the chair — the empty chair — across from his. It tipped over onto the floor with a thump. This was intolerable. "It's nothing, go away," he snapped, when the door opened behind him, and then the slightly too-loud creak of the floorboard told him it wasn't Mrs. Hudson after all. He frowned. "You came back," he said. He ran through possible reasons and came up blank.

"Yeah. Yeah, I did," John said. He crossed the room. He picked up the chair and righted it and sat down across from Sherlock, lacing his hands over his stomach. "I saw Mary home, she sent me back."

"Why?" Sherlock said warily. Tolerance was one thing, explainable by disposition, personality, self-sufficiency, combined with the five months during which she and John had already gone through the initial first glow of their relationship. Sending John back to him for the night unnecessarily — what could possibly be her motivation for that?

"Funny thing, that. She had this idea that you'd be sitting here working up ways to sabotage our relationship," John said.

Sherlock scowled. "Absurd. Nonsense."

"Right, so, in the just impediment bit, you wouldn't — "

"Of course not," Sherlock snapped. "And it's not just impediment anymore — " He stopped, too late; John was already smiling in that small taut way.

"Right," John said. He put his hands on the arms of his chair and fixed a stare somewhere near the threadbare patch of the carpet and pushed himself up.

Sherlock grimaced. He began to marshal arguments, but John was already standing. Moving towards the door? No, he was — Sherlock stared up at him.

"Let's go," John said.

"What?" Sherlock said, but John had reached forward and gripped him by the shirtfront and was hauling him up to his feet while Sherlock tried to work out what exactly was going on. He almost wanted to ask John, but he couldn't possibly reveal how little he understood — John was hauling him into the bedroom. The floor hadn't been tidied in here. John trod on three shirts pushing Sherlock down on the bed.

"I don't want to have sex with you," Sherlock said irritably.

John blew out a breath and said, "Yeah. Yeah, I know. I think what you want is this."

The slap cracked across his face, hot and sharp and startling, so hard it knocked him sprawling down to the bed. Sherlock blinked away dazzle and found he was gripping the unmade bunched bedcovers in two fists. John was taking off his coat, and his suit jacket, and rolling up his shirtsleeves.

"John," Sherlock said, and his voice sounded peculiar in his own ears, attenuated and wobbly. His brain categorized the breathy quality, the degree of shake, matched it to arousal —

"Yeah," John said, hauled him up, and slapped him the other way. This time Sherlock landed with his face buried in the pillow. His cheeks were stinging and hot. The musty feathers heated against his skin and his trapped breath. He didn't try to get up. He lay, baffled, contemplating the mounting evidence of his physical symptoms while John stripped him: shoes, socks, trousers, pants, one after another.

Sherlock lifted his head. "But how could you — oh God," The gasp rushed out involuntarily as John's hand came down on him.

John smacked him hard again, on the other buttock. Sherlock buried his face back in the pillow. His breath whined out of him in short bursts with every blow. He shuddered with pleasure and rage. This was ridiculous. There wasn't the least cause — oh Christ, fuck, Christ, yes — there wasn't any explanation for this, how could John possibly have — "Oh, God, John," he moaned aloud, and he hadn't meant to do that at all, he hadn't made the slightest conscious decision to —

John stopped. He was breathing heavily in exertion. He rubbed Sherlock's ass with the flat of his palm, like a man soothing a horse. "So that's it then," he said, hoarsely.

"Apparently," Sherlock said sullenly. Eliminate the impossible, and whatever remains — He didn't lift his head from the warm dark-rose cavern of the pillow. His entire body was trembling, waiting. How on earth had John worked this out before him?

"Just so we're clear," John said. The long zipper on his trousers was going now, and that was the quiet rustle of them being taken off, draped over the chair. "I am getting married in six months. You are going to be the best man, and you are going to behave yourself, and you're not going to make up anything about Mary or make her life a living hell — "

"Yes, yes," Sherlock said, muffled and impatient: obviously not, as long as she wasn't going to object to this, to — "Christ," John's cock pushing into him, rather large proportional to John's size but well-lubricated, no real difficulty — "Yes," Sherlock said, as John slid deep enough to come smack up against his sore hot skin, and began thrusting, each stroke slapping his hips against Sherlock's ass, John's strong fingers gripping his thighs. "John. John."

John fucked him thoroughly and comprehensively, twice, and by then Sherlock was greedy enough to struggle, to make John put some real muscle into it. "Come on," Sherlock said, pushing him hard against the wall. "Come on, put me down properly," and John muttered, "Oh, I'm going to enjoy this," and punched him neatly in the solar plexus, knocking the air out of him entirely.

Sherlock crumpled to the floor, wheezing helplessly for breath. John got him under the arms, heaved him up onto the bed, shoved his dangling legs apart, and fucked back into him.

"This is why you didn't tell me, isn't it," John said.

"Yes," Sherlock said, closing his eyes luxuriously. "Yes." Now that he was over being annoyed that he hadn't realized sooner, it was a relief to know. He'd kept trying to tell John how precisely because he hadn't had a reasonable answer to why.

"You wanted me to be angry," John said. "You wanted me to be out of my mind angry — "

"Angry enough for anything," Sherlock said. "Yes."

"Well, brilliant fucking job," John said, pounding into him. "Say you're sorry."

"I'm sorry," Sherlock said. "Oh, I'm sorry, John, I'm so very very sorry. Please do it again."

 # End