"Well," Sherlock said, pasting an idiotic grin to his face, "aren't you a sight for sore eyes."
"I should hope so," Tom replied with a similar grin and stepped closer, pressing the lower half of his body against Sherlock's hip. Sherlock forced himself to stay perfectly still. "Are you starving, or would you rather eat?"
Sherlock was momentarily distracted by Tom's smile. How many teeth did the man have? "Hungry?" He sounded a bit air-headed, but then Cumberbatch wasn't exactly overly endowed in the brains department.
"Yeah. I'm positively famished myself." Tom's eyebrows, extraordinarily mobile, waggled up and down.
"Ah. Ha-ha. Naughty." Sherlock lightly swatted Tom's nylon-clad bum (very tight, he couldn't help noticing) and moved a handspan away. While this wasn't entirely unexpected, as TWH was Cumberbatch's secret boyfriend, and while Sherlock wasn't totally opposed to some transient pleasure and exchange of bodily fluids (though he hadn't indulged in a few years), he wasn't ready to give the game away so quickly. "Give me a minute to catch my breath. It's been a hell of a day." He flopped on the sofa and stretched out. Pretty comfortable, he had to admit.
Tom moved to the sofa, unceremoniously lifted Sherlock's feet, seated himself, and rested Sherlock's feet on his lap. Sherlock bit down on a 'what the hell do you think you're doing' and stayed silent as Tom slipped off Sherlock's shoes. "I should say you have. You're still in costume. And makeup! What happened, did they go late?" One by one, he dropped Sherlock's shoes on the floor and pulled off his socks. He pressed his thumbs into the middle of Sherlock's right foot and began massaging in circles.
Sherlock hadn't had his feet rubbed since he was eight years old and already a chronic insomniac. His father would tiptoe into his room and rub his feet with a camphorated lotion and hum softly until Sherlock, soothed by the smell, the sensation, and his father's voice, fell deeply asleep. The memory was so intense that Sherlock stopped short, briefly overwhelmed by a wave of nostalgic pleasure. "That…that's nice."
"Tell me about your day," Tom prompted.
"I got electrocuted."
Tom stopped rubbing Sherlock's feet. "What?" He shook his head, his mouth agape so that only some of his dozens of teeth showed. "What the hell happened?"
"A minor accident. I grabbed an exposed cable and got a jolt. It knocked me out for a bit." Knocked me into another universe, but we won't go into that at the moment.
"Knocked you out – for God's sake, why didn't they take you to hospital? Why aren't you there now?"
"Calm down," Sherlock said. "They did take me. And Ver – Sue was busy talking to her lawyers just in case I violated some sort of insurance policy."
"The violation's not on your end, damn it. Those cables are meant to be safe." Tom peered closely at him. "You're sure you're okay?"
"Fine. Keep rubbing my feet," Sherlock commanded. It really did feel lovely, and Sherlock rarely permitted anyone to touch him so…familiarly. This is different. Play along.
"Good God," Tom said, obediently pressing his thumbs into the sole of Sherlock's right foot. "When you say 'knocked out' – you mean as in unconscious?"
This one wasn't too bright either. Based on his research, TWH had gone to Eton and Cambridge (nothing special) and was a classics scholar (useless), but that meant bugger-all in the general brains department, evidently. Well, Sherlock had had plenty of school and uni acquaintances who were even more stupid. All of them, actually. "What else would it mean?" Sherlock snapped, then sat up and gave Tom's arm an I'm-just-having-you-on push. "I'm fine. Really. They performed every test under the sun. You know, star treatment." Certainly more than the average idiot on the street would get, at any rate. "I had to rush to make my train, though. That's why I've still got my costume and makeup on."
"Did anyone ride with you?"
"Er, yeah. Martin."
Tom chuckled. "Oh, I can just imagine." He broadened his voice and changed its timbre and rhythm. "'What the fuck did you fucking do, you fuckstick?'"
Not bad. Sherlock cracked a genuine grin. "That's about right."
"Well, as long as you're not hurt. Hey, I had some nibblies delivered, if you really are hungry."
"Yeah. Sounds good." The rubbing felt glorious, but Sherlock needed a moment. He felt…oddly disconcerted. Actually unsettled. He couldn't quite pick out why, but he didn't like it at all.
Tom lifted Sherlock's legs again and got up. His own legs, bare to the very tops of his thighs, were improbably long, slender, but tightly muscled – an athlete's legs. He bent close, and Sherlock found himself imprisoned (and half crushed) by a pair of wiry, very strong arms. "I'm glad you're okay," Tom whispered, and kissed Sherlock's ear. He detached himself and smoothed back Sherlock's hair. "Back in a flash."
Sherlock watched him go. Backside looks as tight as it feels.
God, where had that come from? Well, he had been preparing for wanton carnality, the typical sex-soaked indulgent celebrity escapade if one were to believe tabloid headlines, and considering the clandestine habits of the ordinary non-celebrities he'd encountered, both as clients and criminals, he wouldn't have been at all surprised. He hadn't quite anticipated the foot-massage, nor the solicitous questioning, stupid as it had been.
John would have picked me up, then told me to stop complaining and clean the place up. Sherlock chuckled, then sighed a little. John had probably said as much to Cumberbatch, and Cumberbatch was likely in hysterics. Idiot. He'll ruin everything.
What was there to ruin, though?
Oh, just your flat, your professional reputation, your status at the Met no thanks to twits like Donovan and Anderson, any and all familial ties, your relationship with your friend –
Sherlock gave another deep sigh. Statistical probability that this was a purely temporary scenario: unknown. He'd brushed up a bit on cosmology and physics after the fake Vermeer incident, but space-time warps had only been touched on briefly, scarcely more than a page in any one of the books he'd read.
Logically, the situation was unprecedented…but in a very broad sense, the notion of a stranger-in-a-strange-land wasn't. Therefore, what to do? Play along as he'd been doing, yes (and if Vertue the Television Woman and TWH the Vacant Boyfriend were fooled, then the likelihood of fooling everyone else was good). It was a universe with London, with hospitals and taxicabs and the internet and doctors in unhappy three-way relationships – not, as it happened, that far from his own reality. But how to find a way out? Some sort of spatial porthole? Open a cupboard and fall into another universe?
Wasn't that something Mummy or Dad had read to – oh, never mind. Wasting time on pointless nostalgia. Admit it – you're stumped.
Not that it was Sherlock's fault. How was he supposed to work any of this out without data? And, presumably, work it out for Cumberbatch as well, because it was obvious that Cumberbatch couldn't deduce his way out of a wet paper bag. Unless it was in the shape of a gigantic hand, with rings on it. God. Biding his time wasn’t Sherlock's style, but he didn't see anything else for it at present, vexing as that was.
Tom re-entered the room bearing a tray filled with cardboard containers. "I had them in the warming oven." He set it down on a low table and handed one container to Sherlock. "Sir. Pick your feet up, please, and let me sit."
Sherlock sat up, looked inside the carton, saw a conglomeration of vegetables and what looked like chicken covered in some thin garlicky-smelling sauce, and put it on the table, wrinkling his nose.
"Not hungry?" Tom dug a fork into his own container and yanked up a heap of noodles.
"Maybe later." Four hours in a parallel universe and already Sherlock was bored out of his mind. If things didn't improve soon, he was going to have to go out in search of some excitement. He wondered who was in charge of homicide and serious crime at this version of the Met and if they'd object to him poking around a bit. Not that it mattered if they did object.
Tom gave Sherlock an odd look, but continued to eat his noodles. "Hey, I know you said no last week, but can't I persuade you to come along to dinner tomorrow night with the RADA set? They're not half-bad, and I promise it won't be an evening of shop talk – most of them don't even act anymore."
An evening with more pampered, self-absorbed, histrionic morons. Sherlock had once had a client whose daughter went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (a commonality in this universe even duller than Internet Explorer, imagine) and talking to her had been purest agony. He couldn't think of anything less fun than dinner with actors.
"Look, just think about it, all right? It's…." Tom shrugged, clearly uncomfortable. "It'd be nice to have you along as support. I'm the only one who – well, as I said, most of them do other sorts of work, and the others mostly – er, theatre and whatnot." He reached out and rubbed his hand back and forth against Sherlock's thigh.
Outdistanced his former peers by a considerable margin. They're probably jealous of him and let it out in small, insidious ways – they were privileged enough to go to a prestigious drama school, but not talented enough to move beyond small-time theatre, so their bitterness likely eclipses any sense of fair play they might have. TWH clearly brought up with manners, evidenced by his natural solicitousness, and not in the habit of casual sniping. Too polite to tell them where to go, but still insecure enough to want backup in the form of another famous friend. Not a terribly subtle intimidation tactic, but not altogether stupid, either. "All right," Sherlock said. "I'll go." It wasn't as if he had other plans, after all.
"You will?" Tom beamed. "Ah, thanks, you're a gentleman and a prince."
Sherlock grandly waved a hand. "Think nothing of it." It might be fun to pick them apart. For Tom's benefit, of course. And as a favour to Cumberbatch, not that Sherlock owed him a thing.
"You're awfully quiet tonight."
Sherlock gave Tom a wan smile in acknowledgment of his slight tactical error. Good to know, though: Cumberbatch was as verbose in ordinary life as he was in interviews. He'd rectify that tomorrow. Best to keep up the façade for now. "Oh, you know. It's been a hell of a day."
"Are you completely beat? If you can hang on for a few more minutes, there's something I want to show you." Tom unfolded himself from the sofa again. "Hang on, I'll be right back. Wait, on second thought –" He tugged on Sherlock's arm. "Come on upstairs, I'll show you in bed."
Oh, God, another tactical error. Thank God John wasn't around; he'd have been twitting Sherlock liberally over his slipups. Minor slipups. Obviously Tom wanted to spend the night with Cumberbatch, if they were clandestine lovers. Probably didn't get the opportunity all that often as they were both busy actors, therefore it would look decidedly odd if Sherlock were to refuse outright. He'd think of some way of stalling once they were in bed – feign complete exhaustion, if he had to.
He allowed himself to be dragged up, and let Tom lead the way upstairs to a bedroom nearly the size of the front room and kitchen of 221B combined. Tidy and a bit too sybaritic for his tastes, it was done in a profusion of soft greys and greens, with too much unnecessary and clearly unused furniture.
"Oh, bugger, I forgot the – hold on, back in a flash." Tom pivoted on his heel and left the room abruptly.
Sherlock breathed a sigh of relief and idly examined the room. Not to his taste, but it wasn't bad, for a pampered television star. He opened a door and saw a walk-in closet-cum-dressing room (part of the renovation, obviously, as no Hampstead house's original plan featured a closet this size, unless it had been a servant's room – possible but unlikely), with a row of suits – mostly dark, some dove grey, one flashy Prince of Wales check, and a ghastly sort of cornflower blue – and banks of dark, polished drawers rising nearly to the ceiling. Outerwear: leather, wool, tweed, a terrible salmon-pink striped blazer. Rows of shoes – good God, was that black sequins on one pair? – and several pair of Converse trainers, some desert boots, some motorbike boots, a few hats on a flat shelf, a rack of ties.
Boring. And appalling taste. Sherlock closed the door and opened another, the en suite bathroom.
Not bad, this.
It was large, white-and-black tiled, rather old-fashioned. The bathtub was old, perhaps original to the house: narrow, long, claw-footed, but its fixtures were shining and new, and there was a glassed-in shower stall in one corner. Lots of mirrors – typical – but no bidet, thank goodness. There was, happily, a huge basket next to the tub, overflowing with books and magazines, and a gleaming chrome wire rack across the width of the tub. Evidently Cumberbatch liked to read in the bath – the only trait they seemed to have in common.
The makeup on his face was starting to itch. I wouldn't mind a bath.
He had a piss and was contemplating the tub when Tom pushed the door open. "Hey. You going to shower?"
"Mm? No, no – I was thinking about a bath, actually. Get this makeup off." He gave Tom a smile. Remember: stupid and friendly.
"That sounds brilliant." Tom beamed. "Would you mind listening to this first, though?"
"Alone," Sherlock muttered.
Sherlock beamed. "Nothing. Talk away." He moved past Tom into the bedroom and flopped down on the bed, toeing his shoes off. Comfortable. He was actually a bit drowsy.
"Right. Okay." Tom perched on the bed beside Sherlock and proffered an envelope, slit open at the top. "So I've been getting these letters for a few months now. This is the fifth one."
Sherlock eyed the envelope without lifting his head from the pillow. "Crazy fan?"
"Yeah. How'd you know?"
"Is there any other type of fan?" Sherlock snorted and closed his eyes.
"That's not very nice," Tom replied, swatting Sherlock on the leg. "Most of them are sweet, you know that. They don't want anything more than a photo or an autograph. Granted, I've had some of them send me some odd art, but it's nothing odder than anything you and I have done. Generally." Tom gave a throaty laugh.
"Hmm." Sherlock took the envelope and turned it over. Ordinary DL envelope, plain white, mid-grade, slightly heavier stock than the cheapest bulk box on the market. Printed address, no return, South Kensington postmark, processed two days ago. Good beginning: the writer either lived in London or took pains to travel in order to mail the letter. He lifted the envelope to his nose. Smoke – Dunhill Distinct. Faint odour of a dog, black coffee, chicken tikka. The writer had licked the sticky strip to seal it – not a person who sent dozens of letters, then – frequent correspondents usually had sponges or some other means than the tongue to seal letters.
He drew the letter from the envelope and opened it. Inkjet printer, high concentrated accumulation of ink near beginning of letter. Not a printer that got a lot of use. Message delusional and threatening, first establishing false intimacy and then accusing TWH of lying in an interview, detailed description of physical punishment for said transgression. Stalker falling into resentful category: for reasons valid or invalid, TWH attracted stalker's hostility, incurred desire for revenge and pleasure and sensation of power derived from harassment of victim. Paranoid personality disorders predominated in resentful stalkers, and while the majority made threats, few actually followed through.
"That's quite something, isn't it?"
Tom nodded, his lips folded into a stern line. "Have you ever had one like that?"
All the time. Sherlock shook his head, widening his eyes. "Not quite. Is it really bothering you?"
"It wouldn't if this were the first one, but it's the fifth. I think I ought to take it to the police."
Who will do absolutely nothing of practical use, and there's hardly any point besides. "Maybe you should get a bodyguard."
"That might be taking things a bit far." Tom frowned. "Nothing's actually happened yet. Still…what do you think I should do?"
Sherlock scanned the letter again. "Have you got any enemies?"
Tom let out a nervous chortle. "Enemies? God, what a way to put it…no. Life's too short. Why? You don't think it's someone I already know?"
"Well…." Sherlock did his best to sound doubtful. "I could be wrong –" Hardly. "—but the writer mentions cutting out your lying, thieving…um, prick-licking tongue. Not someone you had a relationship with once?" Were that the case, the stalker could be bumped up to rejected/resentful.
"No." Tom sounded shocked. "I mean, I've had my heart bruised, but not broken, and most of my relationships just sort of ran their course. One girl, Sabrina, tried to brain me with a shoe, but she ended up marrying an earl, richer than me and handsomer too. She invited me to the wedding, so I don't think there were any hard feelings." He slid close to Sherlock and hooked a leg over Sherlock's knee, placing his hand flat on Sherlock's chest. "I think you know about everyone important."
Sherlock did his best not to twitch away. "Ha. Right. Well, you know it doesn't really matter how you perceive a relationship when it comes to stalkers – the only perception that matters is the stalker's."
"You've really learnt a thing or two from that show," Tom said with a laugh. "Well done, you."
Oh, for God's sake. "In any event, I don't think it's anything more than some deluded fan, certainly nothing to worry about. It's not a predator – they tend not to alert their victims in advance. But maybe you should tell the police, if you feel threatened. I'm not sure what they'll do – I suppose they could watch your flat for a while. You're famous, so they'll pay attention to you."
Tom was silent for a moment. "This is a hell of a rotten thing to say, but fame has its advantages."
"Although if you weren't famous, you probably wouldn't be stalked," Sherlock pointed out helpfully.
"There's that," Tom admitted, taking the letter from Sherlock's hand. "Leave it to you to be logical. I don't want to think about it anymore – certainly not tonight. Thanks for listening, though."
Sherlock closed his eyes. "Think nothing of it." He really wanted a bath, but the urge to sleep was even stronger.
"Hey." Tom fitted his body against Sherlock's, and Sherlock felt the press of Tom's genitals against his thigh, through layers of thin nylon and less-thin wool. "Don't fall asleep on me yet. What about that bath?"
"Mm. Too tired."
"You've still got makeup on."
Tom leant close and whispered in Sherlock's ear. "Don't fall asleep, Ben." He slid his hand down from Sherlock's chest to his belly and stroked in slow, languorous circles.
The touch was…discomfiting. Also…yes, slightly stimulating. Sherlock felt a decidedly inappropriate gathering of heat in his belly, and an even more inappropriate stirring in his cock. "I'm exhausted," he informed Tom.
Tom appeared to take this remark as a challenge. He slipped his hand lower and squeezed gently. "Oh my. Not that exhausted."
Sherlock was helpless to stop the moan that emerged from his mouth. He calculated quickly: would it be more or less disconcerting to protest strongly? Sex was nothing unusual for TWH and Cumberbatch, evidently, and protesting might raise questions best left unanswered. Not that he couldn't come up with something on the fly….
His zipper made a rasping noise as Tom pulled it down.
"Just lie still," Tom murmured. The tip of his tongue caressed the inner rim of Sherlock's ear, then the edge of his earlobe. "I'll make you feel wonderful."
Sex was ordinary to most people, who didn't care that their hormones overtook their intellect, feeble as it almost always was, with frightening intensity and frequency. It had been some time since he'd engaged in sex with someone for casual pleasure, longer still since he'd explored anything darker, but –
"Oh. Oh." Tom's hand had insinuated itself between fabric and bare skin and was rubbing, stroking, his thumb brushing against the supersensitive head of Sherlock's penis.
Sherlock bit his lip. Perfectly normal for them. Therefore, don't give the game away. It'll be over in a moment.
It was all simple chemistry, really – a surge in the body's production of bliss-inducing dopamine, that reward circuitry – oxytocin, serotonin, phenylethylamine, adrenaline, endorphins –
"Do you like that?"
Sherlock tensed his thighs. It felt good. So good. It wasn't anything, just chemistry and a mess to clean afterward, why did it feel so God-damned good?
Tom's fingers moved up and down, hot and insistent.
– norepinephrine, testosterone, oh God! Sherlock pressed his lips together to stifle another moan, and his eyes flew open as Tom's mouth descended on his.
"Mmf –" Sherlock opened his mouth and let Tom's tongue touch his. Odd, unfamiliar, but not unpleasant; Sherlock tasted salt and the slight sourness of saliva, but the sensation of taste dissolved as Tom suckled on his tongue, licking and tugging, and increased the pressure of his hand. Sherlock arched upward into Tom's hand: adrenaline surging, fight or flight; no, just desperate need. How many years had it been? Two? Three? He knew that since he and John had taken the flat in 221B together, he'd pleasured himself in the shower six times. Stiff, his hand moving urgently, pressed against the bathroom tiles, water streaming in his eyes, a hand clamped over his mouth so that the smallest noise would stay where it belonged. So John wouldn't hear.
Oh, God, oh God –
He came, shuddering and gasping into Tom's mouth, a thick, milky rope of semen jetting from his stiff prick. Tom detached himself and moved down, licking Sherlock clean, making Sherlock shiver as he delicately swirled his tongue over the tip of Sherlock's prick.
"Stop," Sherlock muttered, putting his hand between his cock and Tom's mouth.
Tom looked up, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. "What's wrong, love?"
"Did I wear you out?" Tom smiled. All those teeth.
"You'd better sleep, then. You can have a bath tomorrow."
"Fine." Sherlock lay perfectly still, letting his eyes drift shut. Eventually, he realised that Tom was stripping him, divesting him of his tight trousers, the jacket, his socks. He felt the duvet and sheet tugged from beneath him, and then a soft warmth. Nice. The light went out, and a body pressed against his.
Sherlock was already drifting. "Good night, John."
He heard a quiet chuckle and wondered what was so funny, but sleep claimed him before he could ask.