“I believe it should be - special,” said Sherlock. He looked up through his eyelashes. “At my first communion I pledged to wait until after marriage.”
He frowned at his reflection in the mirror. That had been hopeless. Maybe if he wore a discreet cross?
“I entered this profession…after I left the seminary,” he said, letting his voice tremble a little. Should he aim for shy? Unlikely to work, since Janine had already spent a substantial amount of time with him. Monastery, would that be better? Tibetan monastery? No, Janine was most likely Catholic. Also she had probably read the papers around the time of his absence, so this backstory might strike her as implausible. And she might find it somewhat suspicious that he hadn’t mentioned his fervent beliefs about premarital sex any time before now. He clicked his tongue in frustration.
“Keep it simple, don’t you think?” he said, glancing round at where John was supposed to be. The empty chair was in his place, stolid and indifferent.
Sherlock gazed at it with hatred, then returned to contemplating himself. This was a waste of time, Janine was never going to buy it. He considered Plan B again: giving himself a disease, which at least would have the merit of fitting with a credible history of drug use. Not very attractive, though, was it? And Janine wasn’t exactly the nursemaid type.
Intimacy. How to build up intimacy in a maximum of four weeks. To get someone relaxed, and open, to have them in a position where they felt they could confide all their secrets, all their employer’s secrets…He studied himself for another moment. Janine found him attractive. Sexually attractive. She still thought he was most likely gay, of course, but she was open-minded; she wouldn’t turn him down on the grounds of a little ambiguity. She’d had at least seven partners in the last year and several of them had been one-night stands. She had expectations in line with her age, background and social milieu. They’d been on two, maybe three if coffee counted – dates – already, and he sensed that she was becoming doubtful, or impatient; he’d had to fake an urgent call from Lestrade so that he could leave early on the last one. And tonight she’d invited herself round to 221B, her intentions clear. Either he would have to stop things in their tracks now, or –
He arranged his features into an expression of melancholy. “During my time away, just before I returned, I was captured. I suffered some…trauma at the hands of my captors.” He glanced away to one side, tilting his profile, and then cut his eyes to check in the mirror; yes, very noble, very Lawrence of Arabia.
“It will take me some time to be comfortable with,” he bit his lip, “with…intimacy.” He raised his eyes soulfully to meet his gaze in the mirror, and let his expression instantly slip away to a scowl.
Just because an explanation was in some respects true didn’t make it any more convincing. And Janine knew Mary. Women were said to talk about such things. So were couples. Pillow talk, wasn’t that precisely what Sherlock was trying to achieve?
Well. There was always Plan C. If only he’d been a woman, this would have been so much simpler. Or if Janine had been a man, though in that case….He shook his head fiercely. Plan C. Research required. He went to fetch his laptop, mentally retrieving the names of John’s favourite sites – a quick flash of John and Mary on their honeymoon, in bed, laughing, hit him and his mouth twitched – and then sat down to watch some normal, extremely boring porn.
“So, now,” said Janine. “You’ve been holding out on me.” She sounded slightly breathless. She was sitting on Sherlock’s lap, on his chair, very close to him. They’d been kissing – snogging, Sherlock mentally substituted – for almost twenty minutes. She’d barely got in the door before she’d pushed Sherlock against the wall and kissed him. He’d been slightly taken aback, but had thought it best to respond in kind. It had been a long time, years, since he’d done this, and it was satisfying to discover that if Janine’s responses were reliable, he could keep up. He concentrated on doing the things she seemed to like, setting his own reactions to one side. He might be lying to Janine at every step, for a greater good, but there were some things he wasn’t going to do, and thinking about someone else while snogging her was top of the list, mentally underlined several times.
Janine took one of his hands and set it on her breast. He could feel her bra under the flimsy shirt. He looked at his hand with a sense of disconnection, and then slid it down to Janine’s side.
“I have something to confess to you,” he said.
“Oh?” she said. “Does it involve handcuffs?”
“You’ve been wondering why we haven’t had sex yet.”
“Huh,” said Janine, smiling at him, unfazed. “Yeah, I suppose – I mean, I don’t always shag someone on the first date, but you are pretty fit.”
“I have some…issues,” said Sherlock, trying to strike a balance between ‘playful’ and ‘nervous’. His hesitation was half-genuine, half-feigned. “I mean – “
“I did ask you if you were gay,” said Janine, sitting back a bit. “So you’d better not be telling me now – “
“No, not that,” said Sherlock. He sighed, and held her in place, a solid, warm and not unpleasant weight on his knees.
“At the wedding, outside the church, when I deduced that man, you remember? It was a - a Freudian slip. I was telling you something about myself.”
Janine frowned. “Outside the church – oh! You mean that you….”
“Yes,” said Sherlock. He wished he could make himself blush on command, and settled for an expression of pained embarrassment.
“I can’t, that is, I haven’t always been able to – it’s been a long time since I tried, with a woman, and I didn’t want to let you down…” Should he add some compliments here? Janine was looking thoughtful. He reached up and brushed her hair back behind her ear.
“You’re an attractive woman,” he said. “You could have anyone. I thought if I mentioned it earlier, the, umm, the dysfunction – you would think that I was – “ He bit his lip. “Do you think that you could still…?”
“Oh, Sherly,” said Janine, and kissed him, hard. She sat up again and gazed at him fondly. Sherlock tried to look plaintive.
“I’m kind of relieved,” she said. “I thought you just didn’t fancy me – well, I thought you probably didn’t fancy women at all, to be honest. But if you’re interested and it’s maybe just the mechanics, then – ” she shrugged. “I mean, it’s not that you don’t want to do anything, is it?”
Sherlock blinked. It was important to be clear, even if it risked Janine giving up on this.
“Of course I fancy you,” he said, cautiously. “Who wouldn’t? But I don’t wish to try penetration.” Now he was blushing, which at least would contribute to the act. “And I’m unlikely to – you know.”
Janine cut him off with another kiss. “I get it,” she said. “If you don’t want me to, I won’t try. But there’s plenty of other stuff we could do, right? If you’re up for it – oh God, sorry, that was terrible – ”
Sherlock laughed, for once unfeigned, and Janine grinned. Then he sobered up. Other stuff. That was what his research had been for, after all. He took a deep breath.
“Yes,” he said.
“Great!” said Janine. She smiled, slyly. “I’ve been wondering what your bedroom looks like.”
“Let me show you,” said Sherlock. Best to get this over with. He shifted Janine’s weight and then stood up; she put her arms round his neck with a surprised noise as he lifted her.
“Show-off,” she said.
Sherlock raised an eyebrow at her. She was heavy, but not too heavy. He walked down the hall, kicked open his bedroom door, and set her down on the bed. The room was dim, though the light of late evening filtered through the windows. He wondered whether he should turn a light on.
“I’m impressed,” Janine said. “Come here.” She patted the bed beside her, and Sherlock sat down. She leant in, licked the shell of his ear, which sent a not unpleasant shiver down his back, and spoke softly.
“I’m going to take off all my clothes and get into your bed,” she said. “After that, we can do whatever you want.”
The porn had been dull and obviously faked, but it hadn’t taken long to find a variety of advice purportedly written by women themselves. After what seemed like the proper amount of kissing, Janine warm and pliant beside him, Sherlock slid a hand around to cup her breast and gently circled her nipple, watching her bite her lip. Reading about sex on the internet had been distasteful and entirely unarousing. Having a woman there, beside him, was – well, from a sexual point of view, it wasn’t especially exciting, but from a scientific perspective, when was he likely to have this opportunity again? Janine pulled him down to kiss her again and he responded, letting one hand slide down between her thighs. Janine made a noise, and Sherlock drew back a little, concentrating, considering his reading and her reactions and stroking gently, exploring. Janine’s hand on his shoulder tightened, her eyes squeezed shut and her body jerked under Sherlock’s hand; he smiled, pleased with himself.
“Like that?” he said, “or like this?”
“Oh!” said Janine. “God, either, yes, that’s good, that’s really good, oh Christ, Sherlock, keep doing that – ”
Sherlock obeyed instructions, throwing in a little variation for good measure. Janine, if anything, seemed to be revelling in his scrutiny, unabashed about taking pleasure. He wished he could time this, or take notes. Janine gasped more loudly, moved a little faster, and then he felt her, actually felt her, clenching hard under and around his fingers. He stilled his motions. His skin was hot, and his body felt restless; he was aware that he was half-hard. A sympathetic reaction, it must be. He ignored it.
He had been concerned that he would find sex with Janine distasteful, and that it would require a level of deceit that would be hard to maintain at close quarters. But that had been fascinating. He wondered if Janine would mind if he looked more closely, perhaps did some measurements – he could already sense that this enhanced knowledge of female sexual behaviour could come in useful in various scenarios… He moved his fingers tentatively inside her and circled lightly with his thumb, and Janine screwed up her face, her hips shifting restlessly, body fluttering around him.
Sherlock raised both eyebrows. “Should I…keep going?” he said.
“Mmm,” said Janine, out of breath and flushed, hair spread across Sherlock’s pillows. “Yeah, that’s nice, bit more gently for a while and then…”
“How many times can you orgasm?” said Sherlock, curious, then winced: that had been far too clinical.
Janine snorted. “Sound like a doctor.” She blew out a breath, shuddering. “You really – you turn me on, you know? Great hands. So I don’t know, at least a few times – all bloody night if you keep on like that, oh, fuck…”
Sherlock felt a thrill run through him. He bent to speak into Janine’s ear.
“What if we experimented? Kept count? Would you be…amenable?”
“Oh my God,” said Janine. “I’m never letting you go.”
“I have to go out later. For work,” said Sherlock, interrupting Janine’s kisses. It was proving somewhat tricky to combine his planned descent into Shezza with Janine’s desire to spend every evening and seemingly, every night, in Baker St.
“Oh, right,” she said. “Do you want me to head off, then? It’s no problem.”
Sherlock was surprised to feel a little…disappointed. He licked his lips. The different flavours of lipstick were a whole study in themselves, though he hadn’t quite worked out the practical application of this knowledge yet.
“Or we could just, you know, quickly,” Janine said, tilting her head towards Sherlock’s room. “Right here, if you like.”
“Bedroom,” said Sherlock. He had to move that chair, it always appeared to be watching him with weary disapproval.
Janine traced his lips with a finger. “What you did yesterday, you know, with your mouth, that was pretty amazing. I’ve been thinking about it all day.”
“Really?” said Sherlock. He wished John could hear this.
“Can we do it again?”
“Would you object if I left the light on? I like to – umm – see you.”
“If you’re planning on doing that thing with your tongue,” Janine said, already tugging him down the hall, “you can bring in a fucking spotlight and I probably wouldn’t even notice.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to give it a go?” Janine turned over, to face him, and her hand strayed down Sherlock’s chest. He caught it.
“I’d prefer not to,” he said.
“Fair enough, so. Just, you seem a bit uncomfortable, there.”
“It’s fine,” said Sherlock, tight. His cock throbbed. Annoying to have such contradictory and unpredictable reactions; though perhaps not surprising that after years of abstinence, his body would be confused about its desires. Janine’s skin was soft, pleasant to caress, slightly sweaty after his efforts; he’d spent long minutes, in the aftermath, stroking her back as she relaxed almost into sleep, considering the movement of muscles under the skin. Skin, curving under his hand, pliant – it was a natural response to thrust against it, just a little.
“Lend you a hand, maybe?”
Sherlock studied her. Her face was kind. She’d gone to the bathroom and taken her make-up off before getting into bed, and she looked younger, less hard. She wasn’t to be trusted, but in this area, he didn’t think she would humiliate him.
“I would – ” He grimaced at his awkwardness. “If you turned back where you were…”
“Course.” She smiled and stroked the hair out of his eyes. He felt his expression, of calculated fondness, slipping a bit. “You can ask, you know,” she said. “I’m always telling you what to do.”
“I don’t mind,” he said, with perfect sincerity.
Janine’s smiled widened, showing her teeth, and then she turned over and stretched, naked against him. Sherlock was still wearing his boxers, which were uncomfortable, though the friction they provided was interesting. He slid them down, took himself in hand and made an involuntary sound: that was good. Janine pushed back a little and his cock was rubbing across her bare skin, not enough, too much, and he could – if he wanted to, she would probably let him – but there wasn’t going to be time for that, God, this was, he was -
Janine claimed not to drink tea, which was statistically extremely unlikely for an Irishwoman, but she kept the flat stocked with surprisingly good coffee for the mornings. And sometimes she came over straight from work, with bags of M&S food and wine, and heated things up while exclaiming about the filth in the kitchen and the horrors of her day.
“He sounds pretty unreasonable, your boss,” Sherlock said, leaning against the counter, posing. Janine liked him best in crisp shirts and pressed suits, he was practically bankrupting himself on the cleaning and ironing service.
“God, you wouldn’t believe the half of it.” Janine tried to turn the oven on, and a knob came off in her hand: she showed it to Sherlock and he shrugged.
“I heard he gets a lot of death threats,” Sherlock said, idly. “Should I be worried about you, or is there plenty of security?”
“Yeah, there’s a guy always with him, he’s a nutcase,” said Janine absently. “Pass me a fork, will you, I can’t get this switch to work.” Sherlock did, and she levered the oven knob on. She straightened, brushing down her work skirt, and took the lasagna out of its box.
“Doesn’t really need much security, though, not in the office. No-one can get in except him, unless I let them into his private lift, and there’s about five layers of security before you even get to it, so…”
“Hmm,” said Sherlock. “What’s for dinner? I’m starving.”
“Oh hang on, let me get my bag.” Janine leant precariously out of bed and rummaged around.
“Bought some stuff.” She came up, triumphantly, with a box, and opened it with a flourish. Sherlock’s eyes widened. He cleared his throat.
“Isn’t that rather…large?” he said.
“Works for me,” said Janine. “Oh, don’t look like that, you’re not that small yourself. Where’s the switch, here, look – hold on, I’ve got some lube here somewhere too.“
“You want me to – “ Sherlock held it hesitantly.
Janine rolled her eyes at him. “You’re the genius, work it out.” Her gaze sharpened. “Unless you’d prefer that I used it on you?”
Sherlock drew in a quick breath. Sometimes, as now, he wondered if he had signally underestimated her. Or underestimated this, this thing that people did together, its unpredictability, its power to intrigue.
“Maybe another time?” said Janine, and Sherlock bent to kiss her, hard, to stop her talking.
“And what’s this?”
“Oh God, that’s my driving licence, don’t look at the photo, it’s fucking hideous and I’m not joking.”
“That’s my security card for work, don’t lose it or I’m screwed.”
“You look, umm, hot in this photo.” Sherlock held the card up the light, scrutinizing it, then put it back carefully in Janine’s wallet.
“What about this photo, who’s this?”
“Oh, that’s my nan and my sisters, look – ”
Janine came into the bathroom without asking while he was in the shower, washing off the grime of his nightly visit to what passed for a drug den these days, brushed her teeth and used the loo. She stuck her head round the curtain, told him without a trace of embarrassment that she was off home and she might see him later, and left the room.
John would never have done that.
“D’you still have a pair of handcuffs?” said Janine thoughtfully.
“I do, as a matter of fact. Shall I…?”
Sherlock climbed out of bed, and fetched them from the top shelf of the wardrobe, tossing them to Janine. She turned them over, clicking them open. Sherlock shivered and got back under the covers, next to her.
“Do you trust me?” she said.
Sherlock blinked at her. She jangled the handcuffs at him. “I didn’t want these for me, eejit.”
“I – ”
“I can see that you’re interested, Sherl. Come on, it’ll be fun. Pretty please?”
Sherlock kept his eyes closed beneath the fabric. Silk scarves, for God’s sake, what next. This was getting ridiculous. At least the handcuffs were real, though Janine hadn’t noticed that the key was in one of his hands: he trusted her, but not all that much, and he needed to know he could release himself if needs be. It was intriguing, his response to these restraints, but not something he required to explore to gain his ends here, and he had to go out again later that evening, he hoped Janine would – that she would -
Janine, who had been kissing his chest almost idly, slid down in one movement and took his cock in her mouth, and Sherlock’s brain catastrophically crashed in a whir of shock and helpless arousal –
“You can always pretend I’m John Watson, if it helps,” he heard Janine say, casually, and then she wrapped a hand around him and bent her head, her hair sliding across his thighs – and that had been completely unacceptable, absolutely outrageous, but Sherlock’s indignant denial came out as a choked gasp, which perhaps didn’t make his case.
Also, he dropped the handcuff key.
Sherlock glanced at Janine before slipping out of the bedroom, dressed in his jeans and hoodie; she’d fallen asleep while he was getting changed in the bathroom, it seemed. Her clothes were lying half-on, half-off John’s chair, now serving as a makeshift wardrobe, she was naked under the covers.
It was done, or nearly so. It was almost a shame that Janine would hate him, afterwards. He closed the door quietly, trying not to wake her.
Four weeks later
“What Janine said in the papers,” John said.
“Hmmm?” said Sherlock, from where he was lying on the sofa. He’d sensed that John was working up to something as he fidgeted around the living room, putting stuff into piles and then rearranging them. He’d assumed it involved the fact that John had oh-so-casually left the memory stick on the kitchen table the last time he’d been round. He was nominally living with Mary in their flat, but he had used Sherlock’s recuperation as an excuse to spend most days and nights at Baker St. When he was with Mary, he slept on the sofa in their living room. And they hadn’t had sex since the revelation, which was making John even more angry than he might otherwise have been.
“Is it true? All that stuff she told the reporters.”
Sherlock twisted round, carefully, so that he could see John. The gunshot wound throbbed.
“Define ‘true’,” he said.
“You were actually shagging her, weren’t you?” John’s tone was accusing. “You had sex with her, and all the time you were just using her for information.”
“Yes and no,” said Sherlock. “Depends on what you mean by ‘shagging’. And don’t shout, I’m trying to think.”
There was silence for a moment.
“I never made her wear the deerstalker,” Sherlock added. “Obviously.”
“Fucking hell,” said John. He slammed his hand on one of his piles of paper. “Fucking, fucking, hell. The way you treat people. And what’s that supposed to mean, ‘yes and no’? Either you were, or you weren’t.”
Sherlock struggled up on his elbows to give John a look. “Janine’s a grown-up,” he said. “She had a number of apparently very satisfying orgasms every time she stayed here, and she got a country cottage and some cash out of selling her story to the papers. But if you choose to define sex in narrow-minded terms of penetration of vagina by penis then no, we didn’t.”
John stared at him.
“You can close your mouth now,” Sherlock advised. He heard John swallow, and felt, suddenly, ill at ease rather than triumphant.
“Do you mind if I ask…was it because you didn’t want to? Because I can’t imagine that she would have said no to – that.”
Sherlock shifted. “Correct,” he said.
“You and her…”
Sherlock closed his eyes. “Finger-fucking – is that the right term, it seems distasteful – cunnilingus, sex toys – I can be more specific on these if you want – oh, and she gave me a blow-job once while I was handcuffed, turns out I rather liked it though I wasn’t expecting to, since she’s hardly my preferred type – do you want me to go on, John, or is that enough?”
He opened one eye and glanced at John. His cheeks were visibly flushed, and he looked both embarrassed and – Sherlock frowned and looked properly – slightly aroused. Oh. It meant nothing, of course.
“OK,” said John. Sherlock heard him take a deep breath. “OK, I asked for that, bloody hell that was the definition of too much information. We are never talking about this again, right?”
“You brought it up.”
“Yes, yes I did and I should have known better. Christ.” He sat down heavily in the desk chair. “Well. Good on you, I suppose. Sorry that I shouted.”
“It’s fine,” said Sherlock. Silence fell. He tried to return to the issue he was contemplating, but he was distracted. He huffed and rolled over to look at John again.
“It was for a case,” he said. “You shouldn’t think that I – ”
Various possible endings to the sentence presented themselves, and he couldn’t decide between them.
John looked tired and defeated, as he had been all month. Sherlock tried to catch his eye, but John wouldn’t look up, flicking through the papers in front of him on the desk, his mouth tight.
“She said she knew what you were really like,” he said to the papers.
“Yes,” said Sherlock. “Inaccurate, though.” He took a breath. “She knew what I like. Perhaps. But it wasn’t – it wasn’t her.”
John’s hand stilled. “Oh,” he said, and he looked up at Sherlock once, quickly, and then away. Sherlock could practically read the words ‘preferred type’ floating above John’s head, with several question marks attached.
He sighed and lowered himself gingerly back on to the sofa. His chest hurt, and other parts of him. It was exhausting, this dance. He thought briefly of Janine, sipping wine by the fire in her cottage, looking over the downs to the sea. Then he closed his eyes and carefully, deliberately managed to compose himself, so that the sound of John moving to sit in his chair, back where it belonged, faded away before the steady hum of his thoughts.