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Best of Three

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Best of Three

 

“You want to have sex with me,” Sherlock announces.

It is the first time either of them has spoken in about an hour and to say that John is startled is an understatement in the extreme. He chokes on his tea and starts coughing violently. When he can breathe again, Sherlock is still gazing thoughtfully at him, hands steepled in front of his face, waiting patiently for John’s response. “What?” John demands, aware that he’s red in the face from coughing. He swipes the back of his hand over his mouth. “Excuse me?”

Sherlock is unmoved by his reaction. Without moving his hands, he says, “It’s fairly obvious. I just thought I would share my observation with you.” He is infuriatingly calm.

John can only stare at him, so many potential responses to choose from that he’s completely unable to choose any single one for several moments. Finally he decides against fury or outrage and opts for straight-up negation. “No, I don’t.”

“You do,” Sherlock contradicts him. He waves one of his hands in John’s general direction and then re-steeples it. “You’ll never act on it, probably, but you want to. It’s there, plain to see. You think you hide it very successfully, when you acknowledge it openly to yourself at all – which you normally don’t. You’re very good at denial. In fact, it may be your single best skill.”

He says this as though he’s just paid John a compliment. For a second John thinks about getting out of his chair and punching Sherlock in the face, but doing anything physical regarding Sherlock would assuredly just add fuel to Sherlock’s argument at the moment. Instead, he clears his throat, adjusts his focus back to the book he was trying to read, and says very calmly, “It’s not denial. I just don’t want to have sex with you. As it happens, I’m not gay. Which you know.”

“You’ve certainly said it often enough,” Sherlock agrees smoothly, and as though it doesn’t matter a bit. “As I said: denial.”

John is growing increasingly annoyed. He puts his book down again. “I am not in denial!” he says loudly. “It’s just a question of knowing who I am, and it’s not that. I know what I like.”

“You know what you’ve liked so far,” Sherlock corrects him. “But you’ve thought about it. Fantasised about it, I’d wager. No: you definitely have.”

John feels his lips purse and looks Sherlock in the face. “Is this some sort of misdirected attempt to figure out your own sexuality that you’re projecting onto me?” He’s cross, and it’s not fair to bring up Sherlock’s own admitted lack of experience, confessed late one night when they’d had too much to drink with dinner. It’s not nice to throw that back in his face like this, but John is getting tetchy and Sherlock is obviously trying to start an argument, provoke his temper. “Because,” he goes on to say, “of the two of us, I’m the one who’s actually had sex – lots of it – and I definitely know what I like.”

Sherlock studies him for a long moment, apparently unruffled by John’s barb about his own sexuality, then repeats, “Nevertheless, you want to have sex with me. You’re attracted to me. It’s a fact, John. You can deny it, and I’m sure you’ll continue to do so. I wasn’t entirely certain for a long time.”

John is still finding it difficult to believe that they’re having this ridiculous conversation in the first place. “But now you are, are you?”

“Yes,” Sherlock informs him placidly. “Quite certain. I just thought I would share my findings with you, given that you’re the subject of them.”

John tries not to scowl. The more he reacts, the guiltier Sherlock will think he looks, whereas he’s just pissed off. “Yeah, well, thanks for that,” he says tersely and returns to his book. “I’m not gay.”

“Never said you were.” Sherlock is still gazing at him, direct and unblinking, and it’s off-putting. He can be such a dick sometimes, and obviously he’s just found a new thing to annoy John about. The more attention John pays to it, the worse he’ll make it for himself. The stare continues another ten minutes or so, and John is gamely ignoring it when Sherlock finally speaks again. “I’d be game, if you wanted to experiment,” he offers, as though making a grand concession.

John turns a page in his book. Sherlock is goading him now. Wonderful. “No, thank you very much,” he says dryly. “Kind of you. Thoughtful. But I’m good, in fact.”

“You’re thinking about it, though,” Sherlock says, still observing him closely.

“Okay, that’s getting really annoying now,” John says, refusing to look at him. He’s not even seeing the words on the page.

“Just saying.”

“Well, you can stop ‘just saying’ any time now. I am not gay. Or attracted to you. No offense.” John turns another page he hasn’t read.

“You’re not even reading that,” Sherlock says easily. “This conversation is all you’re thinking about now. You are attracted to me. Everything you’re doing just confirms it.”

John is beginning to want to scream. He closes his book and puts it down on the table beside him and stares back at Sherlock. “You’re going to misinterpret every single thing I do, aren’t you? If I take a sip of tea now, you’ll assume it’s to do with an oral fixation. If I keep trying to read, you’ll take it as an evasion tactic. If I get up and leave the room, you’ll say it’s because I’m not comfortable talking about this and definitely avoiding you.”

“No,” Sherlock says evenly, obviously unbothered by all this, “I probably would have suspected you were going to have a wank.”

John exhales hard. “Have I mentioned lately what an intensely annoying git you can be?”

“Yes.” Sherlock is bland. “Thursday. The maggots in the tea cup.”

“Well, consider it said again,” John says shortly, and wonders how in hell’s name he can possibly escape this conversation.

Sherlock tilts his head to one side. “How certain are you?”

John raises his eyebrows. “Extremely,” he says firmly.

“There’s no ambiguity at all?” Sherlock sounds curious, not disappointed at all.

“None whatsoever.” John crosses one knee over the other and interlaces his fingers over it. Sherlock will probably interpret that as an attempt to hide the fact that the subject arouses him, which it doesn’t. He’s free to take it as closed body language, which is precisely what it is.

Sherlock’s eyes gleam. “Then you wouldn’t mind wagering on it, I presume.”

John’s brows lift again. “I don’t gamble.” Not since that phase in uni, anyway. He’d learned his lesson.

“Not for money,” Sherlock reassures him. “Just your word. Your reputation.”

“My reputation?” John repeats. “Who would know? And how would you quantify that, anyway?”

“No one would know,” Sherlock says hastily. “Only you and I. As for how to quantify it, if you agree to let me try to prove you wrong, then you enter into the experiment willingly, and your word regarding your attraction to me is what’s at stake. Nothing more, nothing less.”

John considers it. “And if I don’t?”

The gleam grows. “Then I’ll assume that you’re unwilling because you know I’m right and you don’t want me to find out.”

John considers sighing gustily and complaining about his luck in landing himself with the world’s worst best friend, but this is patently untrue. After all the mess last Christmas, and then the divorce not three months later, Sherlock has been nothing but a rock in his life. Maggots in tea cups and highly irritating challenges by the fire notwithstanding. Besides, he isn’t going to lose. He’s not gay and it’s not something he worries about. At all. In fact, now that he thinks about it, he’s rather looking forward to proving Sherlock wrong for once. “Fine,” he says at last. “You’re on.”

The gleam in Sherlock’s eye expands into a predatory smile. “Excellent,” he says. He extends a hand. “Shake on it,” he orders.

John looks at the hand. “What exactly am I agreeing to?”

“Can’t spoil it, I’m afraid,” Sherlock says breezily. “You agree to be subjected to my methods of proof.”

“Will there be physical contact?” John asks with great suspicion.

“Yes,” Sherlock says at once. “Not at first, but almost certainly later. If you can prove that you’re demonstrably uninterested in having sex with me after three nights’ experimentation, I’ll concede that you were right.”

“And you’ll never so much as mention the notion again,” John says. Sherlock wavers. “Sherlock.” It’s sharp, commanding.

He caves. “Agreed,” Sherlock says. They shake.

John suddenly feels uneasy. “Starting… tonight?”

His worries are unfounded, however. “No,” Sherlock says, steepling his hands again. “I need to think first.” John is almost relieved, but then Sherlock adds, “Tomorrow night. We’ll start after supper.”

“Wonderful,” John says. Inwardly he wonders what the hell he’s just let himself in for, but he’s got nothing to worry about. This is going to be fun, proving Sherlock wrong, particularly about this. He’s comfortable with himself. Maybe it will be therapeutic for Sherlock in the long run. John is secure enough in his own sexuality and other people’s that he’s not afraid that Sherlock trying to provoke a response in him will throw off everything he’s ever known about himself over the past thirty-nine years. There’s nothing to worry about. Ever so casually, he finishes his tea and gets to his feet, book in hand. “I’m going to bed.”

Sherlock glances at him as though he’s already forgotten John was there. “Oh,” he says. “Good night.”

“Good night.” John takes his cup to the kitchen and goes upstairs. Reassurances to himself notwithstanding, this is going to be very weird. Only Sherlock would do something like this. And only he himself would agree to it, he admits ruefully as he climbs the stairs to his room.

***

Sherlock gives him until quarter to nine the following evening, and just when John is beginning to fidget and wonder if he should ask if the wager is still on or what, Sherlock gets smoothly to his feet and announces that he’s going to his room and that John can join him there in fifteen minutes.

John swallows and watches Sherlock retreat, apparently unconcerned that John hasn’t answered him. The bedroom door is left open a crack and John has a moment of wondering what on earth his eyes will be assaulted with once he goes in. He’s been preparing himself mentally all day for this. He’s not concerned that he’ll become suddenly sexually attracted to Sherlock, but bodies are bodies. If Sherlock provokes him the wrong ways, he could foreseeably have a physical response to it despite not tending that way at all. He showered carefully before dinner, as he assumes that Sherlock will make him take off his clothes to better observe him. If at all possible, John is very much hoping to remain absolutely flaccid throughout this, and he has a few conditions of his own to lay out before they begin to ensure that that can happen. He would like nothing more than to prove Sherlock absolutely wrong about him. He spends thirteen minutes steeling himself for what’s about to happen, and two minutes rinsing out his mouth, not that he expects to be using it at all. Just to be on the safe side. Then he straightens his shoulders and knocks lightly on Sherlock’s door.

“Come in,” Sherlock calls, and John pushes open the door.

He’d half-expected Sherlock to have rigged up some sort of restraint system dangling from the ceiling, or handcuffs to his bed at the very least. John’s surprised to see nothing of the sort. Sherlock isn’t even undressed, himself – just the top button of his deep navy shirt is undone, and he’s barefoot as usual. He’s pushed his bed all the way over to the far wall, leaving a large-ish open space between it and the door, but otherwise nothing is out of the ordinary at all. John glances around and is determined not to let himself get awkward. The point is to keep everything dull and prosaic, after all. He’s relieved that Sherlock hasn’t tried anything ridiculous with music or lighting or anything, though his room is never all that brightly-lit, anyway. The lamp on the night table is on and so is the one on his dresser – the lamps he normally uses. It’s dark outside, so the lighting is cozy but not deliberately so. Sherlock is sitting on the edge of the bed, watching him. John puts his hands behind his back and waits. “So,” he says.

Sherlock waits a moment or two longer, then gets up and comes over to him, too close as always, but John has stopped even trying to maintain personal space around Sherlock any more, anyway. He relaxes and consciously decides to accept it, decides that he’s fine with Sherlock being this close to him. It’s all part of the game, after all. “So,” Sherlock says in response. “We need to establish the parameters.”

“Yes, we do,” John agrees.

“I think that a time limit is fair,” Sherlock says. “I’ve decided to be kind: one hour, tonight, tomorrow, and the following night. If we have concluded by the third evening that you are demonstrably not attracted to me, then you win.”

“Fair enough,” John says, a touch relieved about the relatively short time frame. He can surely control himself for three one-hour sessions of whatever it is that Sherlock has in mind. “I’ve got a condition, too.”

“Oh?” Sherlock raises his brows. “Let’s have it, then.”

“You can touch whatever you want except for my cock,” John says firmly. “Do what you want otherwise, but touching my cock doesn’t count. It’s a biological response for it to react, to anyone or possibly anything touching it in certain ways. It’s not a reliable indicator of specific sexual desire.”

Sherlock considers this. “Unless you ask,” he agrees after a moment’s thought.

John frowns. “What?”

“I won’t touch your penis unless you ask me to,” Sherlock says. “Let’s leave the possibility open that you will.”

“Sherlock, I am not going to ask you to touch it,” John says, annoyed. “Let’s get that clear from the outset. I’m letting you do your stupid experiment to prove my own point, which is that I’m not gay, even just for you. I’m not going to ask for it.”

“That’s the only way I’ll agree to it,” Sherlock says smoothly, ignoring John’s protest entirely. “No touching your penis unless you ask.”

John sighs heavily. “Fine. Have it your way. But I’m not going to ask.”

Sherlock ignores this, too. “Any other conditions or restrictions?”

John has given this some thought, but is quite sure that he can handle anything else that Sherlock throws at him without responding physically. “No,” he says. “I need to leave you space to try, I suppose.”

Sherlock holds out his hand to be shaken. “Then we’re agreed,” he says.

John shakes it, still wary, but he did agree, after all. “Do your worst,” he says lightly.

Still holding his hand, Sherlock pulls himself closer to John and puts his mouth nearly on John’s ear. “I intend to do my best,” he corrects John, his voice suddenly low and sultrier than John had any idea he knew how to be.

The effect is a bit startling, but he just reminds himself that it’s just Sherlock, for God’s sake, and concentrates. “Right,” he says. “So how do you want to go about this?”

Sherlock takes five steps backwards and surveys him. “Take your shirt off. And your socks.”

John is slightly surprised by the mildness of the request – he was half-expecting Sherlock to make him strip nude from the outset and proceed touching everywhere, but this is easy enough. He removes the requested items, trying not to feel silly as he unbuttons his shirt, like he’s putting on a very tame strip show. He looks around and lays his shirt and socks on the chair besides Sherlock’s dresser, then returns to his original spot in the middle of the empty space and squares his shoulders.

Sherlock hasn’t moved, standing about five feet from him. One arm is crossed over his chest, the other propping up his face. He doesn’t say anything or come any closer but his eyes begin to move over the expanse of John’s chest, slowly and very meticulously. After a bit he begins to circle around John, still at a goodly distance, observing, his eyes taking in more than John knew was there to be seen. He tries not to feel self-conscious while Sherlock is standing behind him, feeling those hawk-like eyes on his skin. It does make him feel a bit uneasy. He almost wishes Sherlock would speak, tell him what he’s observing, but Sherlock is silent. Finally he moves back into John’s range of vision again. His eyes go to the scar on John’s shoulder. He comes closer now, utterly focused on the scar and nearly puts his face on it, he gets so close. John glances down but Sherlock’s face is obscured by his mop of curls. He’s just about to ask when something warm and wet touches his skin and he nearly yelps. He manages not to but can’t avoid the sharp intake of breath. Sherlock is licking his scar. Licking may be too strong a word; Sherlock is touching his tongue to it, at least. His tongue is withdrawn, then touches it again, again, repeat touches as though the taste of it changes every time. It’s decidedly weird. John tries to stop feeling uncomfortable, with mixed success. Eventually Sherlock stops and moves away again. His eyes are on the centre of John’s chest now. A small smile appears, slightly smug. John wants to ask what Sherlock’s seeing that’s making him look so smug, but is determined not to. All he has to do for the remainder of the hour is not react. He can do that. It’s like being at parade rest, a position he sometimes had to hold for hours. He’d always been very good at that.

Sherlock reaches out and puts one finger, his index, on John’s left nipple. Directly on it, no warning. John forces himself not to react, but it is a bit surprising. Sherlock’s thumb comes out to join the finger and rolls John’s nipple very gently, too gently to be called a pinch. “Hmm,” he says, then backs off again. He goes around to stand behind John again, and this time he’s much closer. There’s a whisper of his hair on John’s back before John feels his tongue on his right shoulder blade. Interesting choice, again. Not what he might have expected, but then, it’s Sherlock, he reminds himself again. Trust him to make this as bizarre as possible. This entire premise is ridiculous, but honestly. The tongue disappears and he senses Sherlock move away again. “Take off your trousers,” Sherlock says now. “And your underwear.”

All right, then. Things are moving further into weird territory. John removes his trousers and pants and Sherlock takes them from him before he can move. They’re folded and placed beside his shirt on the chair, then Sherlock is behind him again. John can actually feel his gaze like heat shining onto his skin, feel Sherlock’s gaze travelling down the backs of his thighs, over his calves, and especially on his arse. There’s a rustle of material as Sherlock kneels on the floor behind him and, to John’s startled reaction, breathes against the back of his left knee. At the same time, Sherlock’s fingers slide along both of his calves, firmly, finger tips pressing into the hard muscle there, feeling their shape, trailing through the sparse hair. John’s legs have never been particularly hairy, to his younger humiliation. He doesn’t mind it now, though. Sherlock stops at his knees, hands gliding around to the front, long fingers probing oddly at John’s knee caps. John bites his lip and tries not to laugh. He’s never experienced a grown person exploring his body as though it’s the first (live) nude body they’ve seen before, but then, of course, that’s exactly what this is. He’s long suspected Sherlock might be gay, if Irene Adler hadn’t convinced him to bat for the home team, and given Sherlock’s confession some time ago of his lack of sexual experience, John can only assume that he must be completely asexual or gay. Asexual had been his thought for a long time, but John was fairly certain he’d noticed flickers of interest in those peculiar eyes from time to time, though always briefly and never acted upon. John just thinks privately that it’s a bit rich that Sherlock has suddenly accused John of being interested, when the reverse is much more likely to be true. Well: it has to be, doesn’t it? Given that John is currently standing naked in Sherlock’s bedroom while Sherlock examines, apparently, every pore on the backs of his legs? The wager is probably just a cover to let him experiment in a safe way. He trusts John.

Sherlock is exhaling warmly on the backs of John’s thighs now, and that’s interesting. All right: weird. He can surely do this for Sherlock, though, let him work it out. Explore safely. John won’t lose anything and Sherlock can get it out of his system, decide if it’s something he’d like to pursue with another bloke who’d actually be up for what must surely be an extremely unique experience, of having sex with Sherlock Holmes. Meanwhile, John will gain the smug satisfaction of having proven Sherlock wrong while simultaneously doing something that no other bloke in the world would ever do for him. This is well above and beyond the call of friendship, but it’s also the challenge and John intends to win.

Sherlock apparently decides he’s finished with John’s legs now, at least the back sides of them. He’s still behind John but has got to his feet. Something touches the back of John’s neck – Sherlock’s nose? Yes: Sherlock is inhaling deeply, nose nudging into the hair at the base of John’s neck. It’s too slow, too gentle to be called a sniff. He does it again, then again, taking in whatever scent he’s detected there. There’s a swipe of tongue that almost makes John laugh nervously, and then Sherlock’s large hands descend on his shoulders, thumbs digging into the tense muscle between them. “John,” he says, breaking the silence in disapproving tones, “you’re horribly tense. I thought you didn’t mind this.”

“I don’t,” John says truthfully. “My shoulders are always a bit stiff.”

“You shouldn’t wear that ridiculous backpack to work,” Sherlock scolds, hands beginning to knead. “And you should be getting massages or something.”

“Well, go for it, if you like,” John says, though it’s unnecessary; Sherlock is already applying himself to the task quite nicely. It feels very good; the knots in his shoulders and neck are always rather tight. Sherlock is right; he should go for massages sometimes, but he never gets around to it, somehow. He closes his eyes and lets himself relax into it.

Sherlock, meanwhile, is still inhaling. Now it’s John’s hair he’s smelling, even as his hands work over John’s tight muscles. His nose presses into John’s hair, the back of his left ear, and then his tongue comes out and touches the space right behind the lobe. John can’t help it; he shivers. Sherlock pounces on this. “What was that?” he wants to know.

“Nothing,” John says, a touch defensively. “It tickled.”

“Ah,” Sherlock says, though he sounds a trifle pleased, damn him. “I thought perhaps you were getting cold.”

John scowls but doesn’t say anything else. The massage is very nice, it’s relaxing him and helping him forget – slightly – that this is a truly strange situation. He’s naked as the day he was born while his fully-clothed, completely insane flatmate is massaging his shoulders and back. Whatever. It feels good. With Sherlock’s anatomical knowledge, it could practically be considered clinical. Once John’s shoulders have released, Sherlock moves even closer and slides his fingers gently into John’s hair and begin to massage his scalp. Ooh. Damn him. John has always been rather sensitive to scalp massages. This definitely feels good, almost dangerously so, but he just repeats to himself that it’s Sherlock. If it were an attractive woman, there’d be no questioning his next intentions, but it’s Sherlock. Odd, tragically inexperienced, male Sherlock.

He’s turning into butter under Sherlock’s talented fingers, but can’t quite bring himself to be concerned about it. “Lean your head back against my left shoulder,” Sherlock instructs him after a bit. When John does it, Sherlock bends forward over John’s right and licks over his Adam’s apple. It’s startlingly… interesting. John breathes deeply and forces himself to concentrate. Sherlock does it again, however, his hands slipping under John’s arms, fingers pressing against John’s peaked nipples (and when did that happen, anyway?)

The combination is rather intense, and damn it, a trickle of arousal skates down his spine like a drop of sweat. Concentrate, he tells himself, and hopes a bit desperately that Sherlock will stay behind him and not look down until John’s willed away the beginnings of a hopeful erection. He retells himself all of the things he pre-planned for this instance, reminding himself that it’s a purely physical reaction to being touched and that it has nothing to do with Sherlock.

Sherlock’s hands begin to rove over his chest now, sometimes lightly, making John shiver, sometimes firmly, always coming back to his nipples and playing with them. Damn him. Had he been able to tell just by looking at them that they were rather sensitive? Had he really deduced just from staring at John how much John likes this? Sherlock is all but kissing his throat now, lips closing over John’s pulse point as his tongue flutters against it. His body is lined up completely behind John’s, the expensive fabric of his clothing whispering over John’s back and arse. He’s all but hugging John to him, mouth attached to John’s throat, hands roaming freely over John’s unclothed torso.

If it were a woman, he would have turned his head to turn it into a proper kiss by now, but no woman has ever felt like this, towering over him and surrounding him the way Sherlock’s larger frame is doing. There is no mistaking those huge, if delicate, hands for anything but a man’s. John reminds himself of all the things which make Sherlock masculine and doesn’t let himself think what the same actions would feel like from a woman, because that would definitely be arousing and he cannot afford to let himself be aroused. (Only he is, a bit. He can’t help that; it’s just a physical response.)

Without warning, Sherlock moves away from him. John is actually shocked by how disappointing this is. No, not disappointing: surprising. He was just wondering what Sherlock was going to do next. “What are you doing?” he asks, as Sherlock is still behind him.

“Just a moment,” Sherlock says, which doesn’t tell him anything. There is more rustling of fabric, then the sound of a zip (John feels a thrill of anticipation at this – unpleasant anticipation, that is), and then Sherlock is back, stepping into the exact same position.

Only this time he’s basically nude, having stripped down to only his underwear.

And hard.

John’s brain is resounding with shocked silence. This is certainly something he’s never experienced before: the feel of well-muscled, decidedly masculine arms circling his chest, a large and equally masculine mouth lipping at his throat again, and the extremely masculine bulge of a cock poking into the small of his back. The presence of it is limiting how close Sherlock how can get to him this time, not that that’s any comfort given the rest of what’s going on. And John can’t help it: it’s like a sympathetic response to knowing that your mate is aroused. He can’t help that he’s got… a sympathy erection. Yes. That’s exactly what it is. It’s not for Sherlock, it’s more like with Sherlock.

Sherlock, without making any more space between them, fits his nose into the same space behind John’s right ear this time and lets his tongue taste the skin there, lips closing around John’s earlobe while his hands slide down John’s back to squeeze his arse without warning. And just like that, John goes from being uncomfortably interested to hard as a rock. His cock is standing at a one hundred and ten degree angle, flushed and swollen and yes, a bit wet. He is going to die of embarrassment. He breathes deeply and tries not to clench his arse muscles in Sherlock’s hands – Sherlock, meanwhile, is still sucking on his earlobe. John realises that he’s actually shaking, and this absolutely won’t fail to escape Sherlock’s notice. “Wh – what time is it?” he blurts out, hating that he stuttered.

Sherlock pauses, then says, “It’s been thirty-two minutes.”

Damn him for not just saying the time, for answering John’s real question. He’s just given away the game a bit, but still: this isn’t about Sherlock. It’s just that someone is touching his body. It doesn’t matter who it is; it would feel good no matter what. Sherlock presses closer, rubbing the hardness in his pants over the upper curve of John’s arse and into the small of his back again and he’s shivering over it. What the hell is that about? Just the sympathy reaction, of course, but of all inconvenient times for his empathy to manifest itself so… tangibly. Sherlock moves his hands to John’s hips, fingers skating dangerously low, following the lines leading downward to John’s embarrassingly erect cock. He isn’t breaking the rule, not yet, but it’s horribly suggestive. His fingers tighten and he pulls John back against himself by the hips, his head bending. The sensation of Sherlock’s teeth at the junction of his neck and shoulder is a surprise, and at the moment, a rather unwelcome one. (Welcome one, his cock might have said.) Well, who knew: apparently he doesn’t mind things a little rough. That will be very useful information to have in the future. John squeezes his eyes closed and tries to forget this is happening.

Sherlock bites his neck again and it makes John swear aloud, despite himself. His cock is now actively dripping, which is rather humiliating. He pulls his head up off Sherlock’s shoulders, needing to shield himself from that scrutiny somehow, and Sherlock doesn’t protest. Instead he shifts slightly to the left and puts his left hand in the centre of John’s chest as though anchoring him in place, pinning him back against Sherlock’s. His right hand migrates from John’s right arse cheek to hover over the centre, and suddenly he’s a bit nervous. “John,” Sherlock breathes into his ear, which makes him shiver and silently curse himself again, “have you ever…?”

“Have I ever what?” John gets out, trying not to pant actively.

“Do you touch yourself, here?” Sherlock asks, voice low and velvet-smooth and not sounding the least unsure of himself at all, damn him. His middle finger settles like silk directly onto John’s crack. “When you’re pleasuring yourself – do you ever?”

(How is he supposed to answer that?) Might as well be honest, he supposes. “I have,” he admits reluctantly. “Now and then.”

“I’m not surprised,” Sherlock says, his voice so low and melting that it might as well be made of butter. “Prostate stimulation is said to be… extremely satisfying.”

John swallows hard. “Sherlock… are you… you’re not going to…” He can’t bring himself to finish the question. He didn’t stipulate that it was off limits, after all.

But Sherlock reassures him swiftly. “No,” he says. “I’m not going to put my fingers in you.”

John’s relieved, but he’s also wondering what else Sherlock does have planned for the remaining twenty minutes or so, and how much longer it will be before he can escape to the safety of his room, find something safe to fantasise about, and have the longest, hardest wank of his life. This is completely ridiculous. It must be a nervous reaction to being touched in such weird ways, somehow psychologically coupled with his sympathetic reaction to Sherlock’s physical state, or… something. John tries to keep his mind on these concepts while Sherlock’s hands rub firmly against his left nipple and right cheek, the hot length of his body pressed up behind John, and it’s not really working. John is so turned on he can barely breathe, his breath catching like cotton in his lungs, hot and tangled and thick. He’s oozing, he can feel it. There will be drops of his pre-come all over Sherlock’s hardwood floor for Sherlock to find later, analyse under his microscope, maybe even taste. (Oh God, stop it!) John squeezes his eyes even more tightly closed and vows to stop thinking altogether. There is nothing safe; his brain is officially at the point where everything is a stimulus and he can’t handle it.

He’s only just aware that Sherlock is moving him, pushing him toward the wall behind the door. “Lean,” he instructs, so John puts his forearms up and buries his flaming face against them. Next Sherlock’s bare foot nudges against his right calf. “Spread your legs.”

(Oh, dear God.) “Sherlock – !” John hears the alarm, the near-panic rise in his voice. “What are you – ”

“Relax,” Sherlock says, leaning forward so that his lips touch John’s ear as he speaks. “Not that.” He trails his hands over the sides of John’s back, then massages his arse again, fingers digging deep, and in his current state John has to choke back a moan at this. There’s a gust of hot breath in the small of his back next; Sherlock is kneeling, it seems, his hands pushing John’s cheeks apart and he has just a moment to clamp down on full-on panic before Sherlock’s face is right there oh holy fuck and his tongue stabs directly into John’s arse, right into his hole.

John lets out a gasp that's a half-strangled yell, a completely weird, undignified sound that he was one thousand percent unable to prevent. He wants to say Sherlock’s name, say something like What in God’s name are you DOING except he’s sickeningly afraid that what would come out is something more along the lines of Oh my God do that again NOW, so he focuses on keeping his mouth shut even as Sherlock’s tongue assaults him again. The sensation has absolutely no right feeling that inhumanly good. Damn his body and damn Sherlock to a thousand hells. He will absolutely kill Sherlock for this – or maybe just if he doesn’t do it again.

He does it again, and this time John manages not to react vocally, though his breathing has gone right to hell. He’s gasping raggedly, concentrating only on not moaning. This is so intensely dirty – Sherlock’s tongue is piercing him, penetrating him, his lips unabashedly sucking right at his hole, and John would be more relieved he’d showered so thoroughly if he had space for any thought other than how fucking amazing this feels. This is completely unfair. This is worse than if Sherlock had just dropped to his knees and blown him, but he has kept to the letter of the law, if assuredly not the spirit. The thought of Sherlock touching his cock now – well, he can hardly deny how good Sherlock’s mouth feels on his arse and pretend in the same breath that having a hand, any hand, stroking his cock about now would just complete the picture entirely. Although John is beginning to be horribly afraid that he might not even need that – he’s well on his way to embarrassing himself spectacularly, because this is so good that he could well come from it, his cock entirely untouched. Sherlock’s mouth is relentless, somehow terribly sensual (and he’d kept that side of himself a dark secret now, hadn’t he?). John can’t help but think it rather unfair that he didn’t know this aspect of Sherlock even existed before he agreed to this.

His thighs are trembling. Sherlock licks a long stripe all the way up his crack, then down again, tongue just nudging at his balls before plunging into John’s hole again. John is swearing steadily and silently and trying with every ounce of his willpower not to come, except that his treacherous body is straining toward the exact opposite goal. He wants desperately to reach down and jerk himself off, but can’t let himself do that. If he told Sherlock he couldn’t touch his cock, John can’t touch it, either. That would be conceding defeat.

Sherlock’s hands are touching every part of him they can reach with the exception of the one restricted part, and at this point it hardly even matters. John feels tears of frustration spring to his eyes, wetting his forearm. He is already biting down on the skin of his forearm and might just bite through it if he’s not careful. His entire body is quivering under Sherlock’s relentless assault of what’s rising into blinding pleasure. He’s not going to be able to stop it. The orgasm is working its way through him like a drill and it’s about to explode out of him; he’s teetering on the edge of it – Sherlock plunges his tongue as deeply into John as it can go and John loses it. His cock jerks and erupts come in positive streams all over Sherlock’s wall, which is filthy and yet he can’t stop coming from Sherlock’s tongue inside him. He turns his face sideways, riding it out, beyond humiliated as another round pulses out, and then another. When it’s over at last, Sherlock releases him and withdraws his face. When he speaks, he seems to be breathing with difficulty, himself. “Fifty-three minutes,” he announces breathlessly. “Erm – I think perhaps we can call it an hour. Close enough.”

John can’t look at him. In the morning he is going to deny this ever happened. In the meantime, he needs to leave this room right now and go upstairs and have a stern talk with himself and his disobedient body. “Okay,” he says, hating that he’s still panting, his body nearly limp from the strength of his orgasm.

“Don’t worry,” Sherlock adds, with a huff of laughter. “Best of three.”

“Right,” John says, abjectly mortified. He abandons his clothes in favour of getting himself out of the room without another word, not looking back at Sherlock.

It occurs to him later that Sherlock never even came around in front of him, never even looked directly at him, not even at his cock.

***

He doesn’t sleep a lot that night. After an hour of struggling to shut off his thoughts and not think about what just happened, John finally manages to drop off to sleep, only to wake again a couple of hours later. He can’t remember what he was dreaming about but his cock is stiff as a rod and he can wager a guess. John breathes deeply and tries to ignore it, but it’s too hard already. It would be vastly easier to just deal with it, only he’s half-afraid of his own thoughts now. If he can only focus on something else… he closes his fist around his cock and tries to concentrate on a particularly lovely set of breasts he’d seen in a porn video last week. He loves breasts and has always used this as mental fortification for the fact that he couldn’t be even slightly ambiguous in terms of his preferences. He knows what he likes, damn it. As he strokes himself, he can’t help but let his thoughts wander back to what happened in Sherlock’s bedroom. It wasn’t about Sherlock, damn it – any person in the world, male or female, could have done that to him and his body would have reacted that way. This thought is immensely comforting. He’s not gay. He doesn’t have some sort of secret thing for Sherlock that he’s somehow repressed all this time. He loves Sherlock; they’re best friends. There’s no repression about that. Sherlock has literally turned his life around twice now, and John loves him for it. But not like that. Not like this, he thinks, his fist moving faster. Where did those tits go? Bring them back. There, good. He wonders if Sherlock thinks about tits when he wanks. No, he probably thinks about arses, wouldn’t he? Of touching them and squeezing them the way he’d done with John’s, of burying his face between a firm set of cheeks and pushing his tongue into a tight hole –

John’s own gasp takes him by surprise and he comes all over his hand. Shit, shit, he thinks, breathing hard as the orgasm dies away. He just did it completely by accident: came while thinking about what Sherlock was doing to him earlier. He doesn’t even know what that’s called. He didn’t know it was something that people did. (Why would he have? He’s straight, damn it!) John shuts his eyes and for one shameful nanosecond admits to himself that, straight or otherwise, it’s one of the very best things he’s ever felt in his life.

And it would have been if anyone else had done it: that’s the point he was trying to make here. He’ll have to explain that to Sherlock, that – that, whatever one calls it (having one’s arse licked? Only “licked” doesn’t come anywhere near describing it, isn’t strong enough a description – getting fucked by someone’s tongue? Oh, God) – in no way indicates a specific attraction to males in general or Sherlock in particular. He’ll just have to sit Sherlock down tomorrow – well before the evening – and explain that. Explain how it wasn’t fair, wasn’t an accurate test. Yes. That’s exactly what he’ll do.

John turns on his side, hand still tucked between his legs, and goes back to sleep.

***

It’s Saturday, so he sleeps late and finally goes downstairs half hoping that Sherlock will be out or something, but no such luck; Sherlock is sitting at the kitchen table peering at something in the microscope. John decides to pretend that everything is completely normal and goes to plug in the kettle before heading into the shower. He has quick showers down to an art, knowing exactly how long he can take before the kettle will boil, if it’s full when he turned it on. Normally on the weekends he takes his time, but he doesn’t want Sherlock thinking that he’s getting himself off in there, so he showers briskly, towels off, and wraps his dressing gown tightly around himself before going back into the kitchen. He’s literally been in his dressing gown and nothing else in front of Sherlock hundreds of times before. No point getting squeamish now, just because Sherlock had his tongue up his arse last night. (Stop right there. Dear God.) The kettle is just boiling, so John swallows and goes to make tea. He gets out a cup, pauses. “Tea?” he asks Sherlock.

“Sure,” Sherlock says absently, that out-of-focus tone his voice gets when he’s not really paying attention, but somehow today John thinks he’s faking it. He glances back over his shoulder but Sherlock really is gazing into the microscope. Hmm. Perhaps not, then. He doesn’t know. He makes Irish Breakfast and takes the pot and two cups over to the table. When the tea has steeped, he pours Sherlock a cup and then himself. “Sherlock.”

“Hmm?” Still that dreamy, unfocused sound.

“Last night,” John says sharply, wanting his full attention.

That does the trick. Sherlock looks up, eyebrows lifting. His face looks like it’s trying to look innocent but it’s not quite convincing. “Yes?”

“That wasn’t quite fair,” John says. It’s early for this conversation, but he might as well get it out of the way.

Sherlock blinks at him. “It didn’t impinge on your condition.”

“No,” John says, trying to keep from getting angry, “and that’s fair, but I’m just saying, you can’t use that as an indicator of any attraction for blokes in general, or for you specifically. I – my body would have reacted that way to anyone doing that. It wasn’t because it was you.”

For a moment, Sherlock’s lower lip tenses, pressing upward into his upper lip, which gives him a look of child-like obstinacy, but then he nods stiffly and looks down at his tea. He pulls it toward himself but doesn’t lift it. “Fine,” he says, just as stiffly. “I’ll keep that in consideration for tonight.”

So he doesn’t think that John has necessarily lost the wager, then. (Good.) John picks up his own tea and sips it. He doesn’t want Sherlock to be hurt, but given how strongly Sherlock is pressing his point, John doesn’t have much option but to squelch it rather firmly. Still, though. “Have you eaten?” he asks, changing the subject.

“No.”

“What are you studying?” Sherlock is doing his best to be evasive and shut off now, but John is persistent.

He gets a slight shrug of response. “It’s an experiment.”

“I rather thought,” John says dryly. “I figured you might elaborate.”

Sherlock doesn’t respond, just continues staring motionlessly into the microscope, the bright light turning his eyes aquamarine.

“Want to go out for breakfast?” John presses.

Another half-shrug. “I’m not particularly hungry.”

“Aha,” John says, mustering some false cheer. “‘Not particularly hungry’ means a little bit hungry, usually. Come on. Let’s go to that place on Marylebone High Street, the one with the good eggs benedict. I'll just get dressed and we can go.”

Breakfast is a recurring weak spot in Sherlock’s war on food and John knows it. And Sherlock was the one who discovered this particular place, and he especially prefers going out for breakfast to staying in and John is well aware of this, too. He can see Sherlock weakening, and despite the unsettling events of last night, feels a strong spot of affection for him. John turns away and goes to put his clothes on, privately satisfied when he catches Sherlock sliding off his chair and silently slipping into his coat in his peripheral vision. This will make things feel normal again, John thinks. Saturday brunch: perfect. No need to think about last night – or tonight – at all.

***

That night, John has prepared a goodly number more thoughts with which to bolster his mental fortitude, this time bearing in mind that a tongue up his arse is one of the possibilities to be considered when making said mental preparations. He’s also decided to never ever think about that again. At precisely five to nine, Sherlock gets off the sofa (John has had the distinct impression that Sherlock wasn’t paying attention to the news at all, anyway) and says, “Five minutes. My bedroom.”

He waits for John to meet his eyes and nod, which he does reluctantly, then disappears down the hallway. John runs through his mental list of things to remember tonight, taking deep breaths to calm himself. It’s too late to wish that he did yoga or tai chi or something. He’ll just have to fall back on military discipline. He shuts off the telly and walks unflinchingly to Sherlock’s bedroom.

He closes the door behind himself and goes to stand in the middle of the open space as he did last night, willing himself not to glance at the spot on Sherlock’s wall where he’d come off like fireworks all over the place.

Sherlock is sitting on the edge of the bed, one knee crossed over the other, gazing with cool interest at him. He picks up his phone, presses something and turns it silently outward toward John, showing the stop watch. When John nods, he gets up and sets it on the dresser. “I’ve been thinking,” he says, turning to face John, brows arched in detached observation. “You had a point this morning. So tonight we’ll make sure that your focus is specifically on me, rather than on your own sensations. Same conditions: I won’t touch your penis unless you ask.” He waits for John to nod in acknowledgement, then says abruptly, “Take off your clothes. All of them.”

John swallows. Cutting to the chase tonight, apparently. Despite himself, he’s curious as to what Sherlock means, that they’ll keep the focus on him. (Is he going to ask John to touch him?) Suddenly John realises with unease that he never said anything about refusing to touch Sherlock’s cock. He wonders if it’s too late to add that now and decides it probably is, or Sherlock will insist that they start from scratch with the same parameters throughout. He’s a scientist, after all. John takes off everything he’s wearing, confident in his cleanliness, if nothing else. After last night, he wanted to be genuinely prepared for anything and consequently had another (extremely thorough) shower while Sherlock was out picking up Chinese from the place on the corner. His body is what it is, but he’s grown accustomed to it. If he feels a bit self-conscious it’s only because he’s aware of Sherlock’s intense scrutiny. (He suddenly catches himself wondering if Sherlock finds him attractive and realises he doesn’t know whether he wants him to or not.) Still turning this question over in his mind, he sets his underwear down on top of his shirt and jeans (he hadn’t bothered with socks, given that this was in the works) and squares his shoulders, facing Sherlock, who has neither moved nor taken his eyes off John.

His eyes move from John’s face, down his chest, over his belly, and seem to get stuck on his cock. John is more uncomfortably aware than ever that Sherlock never even looked at it last night. What is he thinking? Does he like it? Does a bloke like him look at a cock and automatically want to suck it? (No, bad thought, stop immediately.) John realises he isn’t breathing and tries to remedy that. (Is he sucking in his stomach? Why? Is he really trying to impress Sherlock?) He balls his fists and tries to force himself to relax.

Sherlock clears his throat, and John notices that a small amount of colour has come into his cheeks, though that could just be the lamplight. He’s not sure. His eyes flick back up to John’s face at last. “I want you to watch me,” he says, his voice soft and low and somehow a bit mesmerising. “That’s all you have to do. For now. Watch me.”

“Okay,” John says, a trifle uncertainly.

“Don’t take your eyes off me,” Sherlock says, and it isn’t until hours later that John remembers the other time he said that and has a chance to almost laugh at the odd comparison. For now he just nods and keeps his eyes on Sherlock’s. Long fingers pluck at the top button of his shirt, slip it easily out of its hole. Sherlock’s eyes are on John’s, boring into them. Then the second button. Then the third. It’s slow now, meticulous, and Sherlock is watching John like a hawk. His tongue comes out to touch his lower lip and John doesn’t even know if that’s part of this, something intentional, or if Sherlock did it unconsciously. The fourth button is undone. Sherlock is standing about four feet from him, just far enough that John can take in his entire body. There’s nothing ridiculous about this; if Sherlock were trying to put on some sort of cheesy strip show, it would be funnier than anything else. It’s not stilted or awkward either, though: Sherlock is simply undoing his buttons one at a time, no hurry, no fuss, his eyes trained on John’s. The silence has grown very loud to John somehow. The last button is undone and then Sherlock, not taking his eyes off John’s, undoes his cuffs one button at a time. When he’s finished that, he doesn’t take off the shirt, but slips his right hand under the front of his shirt to rub at his left nipple. His own breath hitches very slightly, only noticeable because the room is so very quiet.

John realises he’s holding his breath again and makes himself let it out. This is strange, watching Sherlock touch himself while Sherlock pins John to the floor with his gaze. It’s just a nipple. It’s no big deal. The fact is that he’s much too aware of what Sherlock told him that night a few months ago, that Sherlock has never touched himself in a sexual manner in front of anyone else in his life. This is a bigger deal than just a nipple. Sherlock is touching himself while John watches him do it. John swallows. Sherlock’s brow is slightly creased and his throat moves as he swallows, either consciously or unconsciously mimicking John. Now his other hand comes up and rubs the opposite nipple and his hands cross on his chest, stroking himself the way he’d done to John last night. John’s eyes are watching the dance of Sherlock’s hands on himself, not his face, though he’s very much aware that Sherlock is still watching him. After a bit, Sherlock pulls the shirt off and tosses it past John to the chair, a gesture of practised ease, the nudity of Sherlock’s torso emphasising the natural grace of his movements, his careless coordination and – it has to be said, if never aloud – beauty. He is a beautiful man. Everyone knows that. It’s not just John or something. John is certainly mature enough to be able to appreciate the physical beauty of an object or creature that he feels no sexual desire toward. Horses are beautiful. Architecture is beautiful. Sunsets are beautiful. Sherlock is beautiful. And he does not want to fuck any of them, thank you very much.

Sherlock takes a step toward him then. “Undo my belt,” he says, his voice still hovering just above a whisper and falling just this side of a command. Fine. A belt. That’s fine. John drops his eyes to the belt but Sherlock chastises him. “Eyes on my face,” he says, a soft note of warning there. “Unless you see something you like down there.”

John looks up and glares at him, forced to work at the belt without watching what he’s doing. This is worse, he realises: staring Sherlock in the eye while actively removing his belt feels too much like a challenge, an act of attempted seduction. His fingers fumble a little, working the end of the belt out of the loops, finding the single prong and easing it out of his hole. Sherlock doesn’t move as John pulls the belt free of his trousers, but their proximity feels… too close, when John is doing this. Almost… not magnetic, but too charged. John gets the belt free and tosses it in the direction of the chair without taking his eyes from Sherlock’s.

“Good,” Sherlock says softly. He steps back again and begins, without ceremony, to remove his trousers. Apparently that’s all he was wearing. When John sees that Sherlock is nude beneath his trousers, he has to swallow again, suddenly confronted with a Sherlock who is completely nude right before his eyes. Nude and sporting a partial erection. (Oh, God.) John wants to close his eyes but knows that Sherlock won’t permit that, would (rightly) call it an evasion tactic. “Watch,” Sherlock commands, and begins to stroke his cock.

If the nipple-touching was too interesting, this is decidedly worse. Sherlock is touching himself unhurriedly, his left hand squeezing and sliding along his growing erection while his right goes back to caressing the rest of himself – his chest, his lithely-muscled stomach, his throat, his face. His arse. His inner thigh, then both hands are working over his cock, one hand reaching lower to squeeze at his balls. It’s like watching porn, and the fact that it’s a bloke isn’t preventing John’s body from responding at all. That’s only fair, he thinks to himself: in porn a person typically identifies with one of the participants. He’s just identifying with Sherlock. It’s a sympathy erection he’s developing, again. It’s a bit mortifying that there is no way whatsoever that he can hide the fact that he is getting hard, watching this little show Sherlock is putting on for him. He almost wants to talk, just start chatting, just to break the intensity of the silence. He clears his throat and tries to make his voice sound conversational. “I didn’t know you did that,” he says, and it almost works, almost sounds passably normal.

Sherlock’s eyes, which have been fluttering closed, open and gaze right into John’s skull again. “I do,” he says, his voice a bit tight, definitely aroused. “Sometimes I used to wonder if you would hear me, in your room.”

More or less something normal that two men who have been flatmates for years now, with a large interruption or two in there, might say to one another after a certain level of friendship has been established – and in their case, it certainly has – but the way Sherlock says it is what’s not good. John swallows again and hears the unspoken implication, too – does that mean that Sherlock could hear him, sometimes? He can’t ask, doesn’t want to know. That’s private. He doesn’t want to discuss it. “I see,” he says instead, aiming for neutral territory.

Sherlock isn’t having neutral. “Usually I would be on my bed, though,” he says. “On my back.”

“Okay,” John says, trying not to react to this at all, internally or externally. Sherlock’s bedroom is directly under John’s. Would he have been staring at (through) the ceiling, picturing John lying on his own bed above him as he touched himself? John feels his face warm. (Think of blood testing, he tells himself. Of sterilising medical equipment. Dull, boring, unsexy things. Paying the heating bill. Breathe.)

“I’ll show you,” Sherlock says, and backs over to the edge of the bed and sits down, still stroking himself with one hand. He pulls up his left foot and places it on the edge of the bed, balls fully on display now, and keeps fisting himself. His eyes close again and he swallows, exhales with a bit of sound to it. His cock is fully erect now, engorged and flushed dark with arousal, the head shining wetly and John has to swallow again as saliva gathers in his mouth. Sherlock turns himself and lies down on his back, his right leg dangling over the edge of the bed, the left still bent at the knee so that John’s view of the cock-in-fist display is completely unimpeded. Very thoughtful, he notes dryly. Sherlock’s hand is working faster now and he’s starting to moan regularly. “I would try to be quiet if I knew you were home,” he pants. “But if you weren’t home, then sometimes I would make a bit of noise. Sometimes a lot. Sometimes I still do.”

John’s cock is at full mast now, just watching this obscene performance, but he can’t take his eyes from it. It’s so taboo, seeing someone else pleasure themselves like this, male or female, and he can’t actually believe that Sherlock is letting him see this at all. (Won’t he be terribly embarrassed if he loses the wager?) John wants to grab at himself, at the base of his prick and stop the drip that’s dangling from the head, but Sherlock will notice. (Will he? He’s starting to sound like he’s forgotten John’s there.)

It’s a feint, of course. Sherlock stops suddenly and looks over at John. The colour is high in his cheeks. He looks directly at John’s aching erection and he doesn’t say anything about it, to John’s wary relief. “Sometimes I put my fingers in myself,” he says, his voice breathy and a bit hoarse.

(Oh, God.) John closes his eyes momentarily. Is Sherlock actually going to do that in front of him?

“Open your eyes,” Sherlock remonstrates. He swings both legs around and gets to his feet, comes closer to John again and opens a drawer of his dresser, removing a small bottle. He shows it to John. “Anal lubricant,” he says, and never have those medical sounding words sounded so filthy. “Do you use it when you do it?” The question is framed as innocent curiosity, but John can hear the provocation beneath it.

He forces himself to meet Sherlock’s gaze for a second before looking away again. “Mostly just, er, lotion. Whatever’s on hand.”

“You should try this,” Sherlock recommends, shaking the bottle. “It’s very smooth. If you want to borrow it sometime, let me know.”

“Thanks,” John says curtly. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

Sherlock exhales a short laugh through his nose and looks down. “Or I could let you try it right now, on that,” he says, openly acknowledging the elephant in the room: John’s persistent and obvious erection.

“No thanks,” John says at once. “I’m good.”

“You’re impressively hard,” Sherlock says. “You can touch yourself. It’s all right.”

“I said I’m good,” John repeats, gritting his teeth. (Of course he’s going to as soon as he leaves the room. He might not even make it to his room. The bathroom, maybe. Another shower. But not a minute before that, and Sherlock can’t touch it, either – it’s the rule.)

Sherlock ignores his own erection and gets down on his knees. “Does the no touching rule apply to mouths?” he asks, looking up at John through his lashes.

“Yes!” John says hastily, in alarm. “You definitely can’t put your mouth on it!”

Sherlock is at direct eye-level with his cock and looks at it for a long time. “Pity,” he says, and continues looking at it. “It’s very nice,” he concludes after awhile. “Large without being freakish. A satisfying girth. It has a pleasing appearance. I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned what a nice cock you have before.” While John is still wondering how the hell one is supposed to respond to that, Sherlock somehow condenses himself further, turns his face and breathes on John’s inner thigh. It’s a good deal too close to his cock but it’s not directly on his cock, so he’s not allowed to complain. Sherlock’s tongue follows the warm breath, then his lips and a scrape of teeth that has no right being that pleasant. Sherlock repeats this all over the insides of his left thigh, then turns to the right one and does the same. His fingers trail gently over the backs of John’s legs but he stays in front of John this time, licking at the line that leads from John’s groin to his hipbone and dragging his nails over John’s arse.

He’s so hard now that he might just come in Sherlock’s face if he doesn’t cut this out soon. “What time is it?” he asks desperately, just to do anything to get Sherlock away from him for a second, to give himself space to calm down. Again, he can’t be faulted for being aroused when Sherlock is licking and mouthing at the entire lower half of his body with the sole exception of his cock, and because John ruled it out earlier, his arse.

Sherlock responds by taking one of John’s balls directly into his mouth and giving it a hard suck.

John groans so loudly it’s almost a shout. “Sherlock!!” He pushes at Sherlock’s head. “That’s cheating, you can’t – ”

Sherlock releases him and sits back, looking puzzled. “That’s not your penis,” he says, as though genuinely confused, but John thinks it’s complete bullshit.

He’s annoyed. “You know damned well that ‘cock’ implies balls, too!”

Sherlock raises his eyebrows. “Apologies,” is all he says.

“Besides,” John tacks on rudely, “you’re touching me again. I thought we were focusing on you tonight.”

“Yes, of course,” Sherlock says. “We still have twenty-three minutes.”

“You didn’t check,” John says.

“I don’t need to.” Sherlock shrugs, gets to his feet, and goes to look at the phone. He holds it outward to John. “See?”

He’s right, damn him. “Fine,” John says shortly.

Sherlock gives him a sly smile. “Relax, John,” he says breezily. “Anyone would think you’re not enjoying yourself, all evidence to the contrary.” His eyes go pointedly to John’s crotch again, making John want to cover himself like an embarrassed teen, but there’s no hiding it when he’s this hard and anyway, it’s much too late. Sweat and pre-come are trickling down over his balls; he’s damp and harder than rock and rather hating Sherlock at the moment. Disregarding John’s discomfort, Sherlock goes back to the bed, bottle in hand again, and kneels down on the edge of it, his back to John. His arse is perfect, damn him. John has looked it many times – more than he’d care to admit, just wishing his own were that good. It’s what blokes do, compare themselves to determine pecking order, physical dominance. It’s completely normal. And it just happens that he’d be very happy to have an arse that looked like Sherlock’s. Even nude, it’s literally flawless. Muscled, rounded, completely firm. Okay, he’s staring at it. Time to stop that. Sherlock looks back over his shoulder at John. “I’m going to finger myself,” he announces.

John clears his throat and tries to sound detached. “Suit yourself.”

“Unless you want to do it for me.” Sherlock isn’t looking at him any more, head dropping forward as his fingers open the small bottle. He slicks his fingers with lube and tosses the bottle away. John experiences a sudden mental image of going over there and doing exactly that, reaching down and pushing his fingers into that unexplored place, that unclaimed territory, and firmly reins his imagination back into place. Now that Sherlock isn’t looking at him, John can look away, avert his eyes and try to regain control over his wayward body and mind both. But then Sherlock makes a sound and curiosity drags his eyes back.

He has to swallow again; Sherlock has two fingers knuckle-deep in himself already and is twisting, his back arching as he exhales noisily. The motion of his other arm suggests that he’s resumed wanking at a rhythmic, steady pace and just knowing that is killing John slowly, beyond desperate to get his hands on himself. He can’t help it, he’s already holding himself just out of prevention. He can’t let himself actually start stroking, though, or the game will be up in about three seconds flat. However, this is getting to be well beyond the realm of control. It’s completely pornographic, watching Sherlock fuck himself on his own fingers like this.

“John,” Sherlock guts out, his voice tight, tortured. “Come over here. Just come and stand behind me.”

“Why?” John wants to know, guarded and already moving closer despite himself, despite how uncomfortable it is to walk even just a few steps when he’s this hard.

“I’m going to come soon, and I want you to see it. Be here when it happens.” Sherlock withdraws his fingers and bends forward, supporting his weight on his left elbow as his right continues jerking at his cock.

John is right behind him, standing at the edge of the bed. His cock drips a large drop of liquid right onto Sherlock’s arse and they both gasp, John in horror and Sherlock in something that decidedly isn’t horror. “Sorry,” John gets out, mortified and unable to take his fascinated eyes from the way it slides over Sherlock’s perfect arse cheek.

“Are you touching yourself?” Sherlock demands.

Well, he is now. John can’t lie. He’s too far gone now, anyway. “Yes,” he admits. It’s true; he’s so hard that not touching himself stopped being an option, especially when he’s this close to Sherlock when he’s about to have an orgasm. (He can’t even think the word orgasm right now. Far too dangerous.)

“Put your hands on my hips,” Sherlock orders, and despite very much not wanting to let go of his cock, John does it. Sherlock is bucking forward into his own fist, his hips moving under John’s hands. John is standing between Sherlock’s calves, his cock now three inches from Sherlock’s arse. It would be so easy. His eyes are on Sherlock’s arse and his own cock and he’s trying with all of his might to think of anything but this, but he can’t. It’s like falling asleep in an early morning uni class when all of your concentration is on not falling asleep, yet that’s the only thing happening. Sherlock stops moving suddenly. “Do it,” he growls. “I can hear you thinking it so loudly you might as well be screaming. You want to. Just do it.”

Desperation rises like a fog around John’s face. He should ask what time it is – the time might be up by now, but even if it is –

He’s lost the game and he knows it, so why not just do it? At this point it doesn’t matter why he’s hard, why he agreed to this terrible wager, or who he’s truly attracted to – all he knows, and he knows it with every pore of his body, every hair on his skin, and every nerve ending, that he absolutely wants nothing more than to plunge into Sherlock’s body and fuck him harder than he’s ever fucked anyone or anything in all his life.

“Do it,” Sherlock snaps, thrusting his arse back, and it touches John’s cock.

John hears himself make a completely inhuman noise and without a word of warning (Christ, what has he become?), he does exactly that, impales himself on Sherlock in one hard push and dimly he hears them both making a lot of noise, but he can’t even care – he’s digging all ten fingers into Sherlock’s hips and reaming him as though both their lives depend on it. He fucks Sherlock without mercy, so hard he could be breaking him in half, and all that matters is how insanely good it feels. It’s tighter than any woman he’s ever been with and so hot his cock may burst into flame. He’s pounding and pounding and the blood is singing in his ears and Sherlock is convulsing in his hands, his deep voice shouting and he tightens all around John like a vice, his body clenching around John’s cock three, four times as he comes and that does it – John’s body seems to explode then, flashes of light blinding him from behind his eyes and he should really pull out for this but he can’t even do that – he’s still thrusting hard into Sherlock, fully seated as the liquid rush begins, squeezing his body into a tensed, prolonged stillness as he floods Sherlock’s body with his come. There are three long waves of it and then he can finally move again, still rutting into Sherlock as the last gushes of come splatter out and then he’s able, at last, to pull out and crash down on the bed, on his back. His cock is still twitching and leaking but his muscles are wrung out and limp. That orgasm may have lasted five or six straight minutes and he doesn’t think he took a single full breath during them; he’s light-headed and dizzy, only barely aware of Sherlock gasping on his back beside him.

Slowly, the spots fade from his vision and John’s thoughts make a cautious reappearance. He can’t bring himself to look at Sherlock, but he makes himself ask. “Are you okay? That was…”

“That was incredible,” Sherlock says, sounding absolutely dazed. “Vastly better than I’d dared dream.”

That makes John look at him, if nothing else. Sherlock’s eyes are closed, limbs splayed loosely out around him. He must be lying in a smear of his own come but doesn’t seem to be capable of minding anything at the moment. “You dreamed of this?” John asks, his voice still strained and breathless.

Sherlock gives a slight smile, chest heaving with breath. “Everyone fantasises. Imagines what the first time will be like.”

“And that’s what you wanted?” John asks. “For something like that to happen? You wanted to be, uh, penetrated?”

Sherlock makes a motion like a shrug, eyes still closed, still breathing hard. “Either way. I wasn’t particular.”

John turns his face back to the ceiling. “I suppose I’ve lost the wager,” he says, wincing. “I don’t imagine you’ll accept any of the reasons why this shouldn’t count, either, but there are reasons. I mean, you touched me again, and – ”

“And you got hard watching me undress. And harder watching me touch myself. I fail to see the difference between the motivations if the final result is the same,” Sherlock says, not sounding as though he cares all that much at the moment.

John struggles to find something to say to counter this point but gives up after a few fruitless minutes. “I don’t ever think about blokes. Not normally.” He wanted to add Or you in there, but he does feel a particular connection with Sherlock at the moment, given the fact that they, all right, just had rather spectacular sex. Mind-blowing, really. He doesn’t want to hurt his feelings on purpose. Sherlock still hadn’t broken the rule, hadn’t touched his cock, and yet somehow John had ended up not just having an orgasm like last night, but actually caving so hard that he’d actually had sex with Sherlock. Sex that was so good that he knows already he’ll never be able to bring himself to regret it. This will serve as wank material for years. It’s still true that he’s never – consciously – thought about Sherlock this way before, but he fails to see how he’ll be able to avoid it in the future, now that this has happened.

“I know,” Sherlock says after a bit. He stirs, sits up, and looks at John, who is sprawled sideways over his bed every which way. He pauses as though he’s considering saying something else, but then he slides to the edge of the bed and gets up. “I need a shower,” he says, and goes to the dresser. “That was an hour and twenty-four minutes,” he says. “Fair is fair: tomorrow night will only be thirty-six minutes, then.” He goes into the bathroom without waiting for a response, leaving the bedroom door partly open.

John rather needs a shower, too, but obviously it will have to wait. He’s got a lot of thinking to do, clearly. He looks down at his spent, extremely satisfied cock, and silently despairs a little at his own lack of control. He’s already admitted, out loud, that he’s lost, but he has one more try to attempt to control himself, just to prove that he can. He’ll pull every trick he knows. Have a good wank right before it. Think about mouldy food, Margaret Thatcher, the rotting abscess on the skull of one of his elderly male patients. Anything to get through the third and final encounter with his dignity intact. John sighs, unpeels himself from the bed and takes his clothes upstairs to wait his turn for the shower from there.

***

Only, everything changes the next day.

It’s Sunday and Lestrade calls at half-past seven with an urgent appeal for help with a serial killer who has the rather unpleasant hobby of shooting and then skinning his victims. They end up in the Yard by ten to eight. Lestrade hands them both cups of the NSY’s disgusting coffee and lays out the information they’ve got so far, the details of the first two murders. Once he’s finished sniping at Lestrade for not having called him after the first murder, Sherlock demands to see the crime scene. In the taxi they’re both quiet, but it’s not tense. It’s just early and somehow things feel normal-ish, even if John still feels the deeper bond that he’d felt with Sherlock last night. They’re best friends but physical intimacy does matter. Does change things. It’s not just imaginary.

The case grows more complicated as the day goes, until finally they’re crouched outside a warehouse on the south bank of the Thames with Lestrade and eight or nine back-up officers that Lestrade’s commandeered from other cases. Technically they’re not part of the breach, but they’re right behind Lestrade. The signal is given and all hell breaks loose. Shots are fired and the next thing John knows, Sherlock is on his feet and sprinting past Lestrade’s men. John shouts his name and runs after him, but he sees what Sherlock has seen: the short, wiry frame of what has to be Mark Davis, the suspect. He understands even as they’re running: Davis rigged the warehouse to explode as a simple diversion while he was to make his escape, only Sherlock must have guessed that was his intention all along and had been ready. John catches up with Sherlock. Davis stops suddenly and turns, drawing a gun.

“Sherlock!” John barks and thrusts out an arm. Sherlock drops to his knees as the shot rings out. It comes so close to John’s face that he feels the heat and instinctively hits the ground face first, though it would have been two seconds too late had Davis' aim been better.

“John!!” It’s Sherlock’s voice, frantic like he’s never heard it before, not ever. He’s stunned from the shock of the bullet passing so quickly and realising he nearly took it in the face but otherwise all right, and pushes himself over onto his back. Meanwhile Lestrade has caught up and Davis is already on his face in the south bank mud. Sherlock crawls the short distance over, bending over him. “John,” he says again, urgent.

John is still catching his breath, but manages to speak. “I’m okay, Sherlock. I’m fine. He didn’t hit me.”

The look on Sherlock’s face is almost frightening. It’s as emotional as John has ever seen it, more so than when they were stuck in the tube car with the bomb, more than when Sherlock shot Magnussen. His lips are actually trembling. He’s not touching John but his face is less than a foot away, eyes raking over John’s face. He seems to be utterly lost for words.

“Er, Sherlock?” Lestrade gives a rather fake cough. He’s kneeling over Davis, one knee pinning him to the ground. “You wanted to question this one?”

Sherlock jerks, as though he’s forgotten anyone else is there. He sits back on his heels and gives Davis a look so venomous it could practically kill. “You,” he spits. “Consider yourself lucky. If you had killed John Watson, you would not have got out of this alive.” His eyes flick to Lestrade. “Question him yourself,” he says shortly. “John and I are going home.”

Lestrade looks as pole-axed as John feels. “What?” he demands. “Sherlock!”

“You’ve got him, what more do you want?” Sherlock retorts. “I’m not interested in this one. We’re going home.”

Lestrade looks at John, who can only shrug; he doesn’t know what’s got into Sherlock, either. “Fine, go,” Lestrade says. “It was really you who led us here anyway, so yeah, we’ve got him. Thanks.”

Sherlock doesn’t even acknowledge this. He stands, holds out a hand to help John to his feet, lowers his voice and says, “You’re all right?”

“Yeah, fine,” John insists. “Really.”

Sherlock lets go of his hand and sweeps by him without another word, heading in the direction of the street. John looks back at Lestrade, who is cuffing Davis and still looking stunned. They exchange another look of Well, it’s Sherlock, who ever knows?, then John gestures wordlessly after Sherlock and Lestrade nods with that resigned understanding that he has.

John catches up with Sherlock, whose hands are shoved deep into his pockets. He doesn’t speak during the ten-minute walk back to a road where they can actually hope to get a taxi, nor all the way home.

It’s close to six now and John wonders as they go silently up the stairs to the flat whether they’re eating dinner or what, but Sherlock goes directly to his room and closes the door the minute they get inside. John feels a bit nonplussed. It’s not like Sherlock to get so recalcitrant, not any more. It used to be, but since John’s divorce and having moved back in, he’s always been more open, not retreating like this. Even in his most annoying moods, he’s been annoying out in the open. He decides to wait before bothering Sherlock about dinner and just see if the storm is going to pass on its own. He also has no idea if Sherlock is still planning on the third night of the wager, if there’s even a point in having a third go. If he’s already lost two of three rounds, and rather spectacularly at that, can he honestly still claim to not be interested in that at all? Okay, moment of truth, Watson, he thinks. You lost the second he stuck his tongue in your arse. Or was it before that? When he first started getting hard? Or even before that, if the ability to get hard over Sherlock in the first place was already there? This is difficult. He cares about Sherlock very deeply and now that he’s confronted with his undeniable latent interest in a heretofore unrealised physical relationship between them, where does that leave him? (Them?)

John sits down heavily on the sofa and realises he really needs to do some thinking. Last night he was too wrung out and – well – sated to do any major thinking, and today they’ve been on the go all day. He wanked in the shower late last night thinking about it, thinking about fucking Sherlock, and thinks he’ll likely think about it every opportunity he has for the foreseeable future. The truth is that it is, even by the light of day, with the clarity that the morning after – day after, whatever – usually brings, John still can’t deny to himself that that was, simply put, the most mind-blowing sexual experience he has ever had. Along with, possibly, the night before it, too. And if this is Sherlock at his least experienced, it could only get better if it were to continue.

In a way, it could be rather perfect: they’re best friends, they already live together, know all of each other’s bad habits and annoying traits, and yet they still love each other, would give their own lives for each other in a heartbeat. He’s always called it best friends. He doesn’t know what Sherlock called it before John gave him the term to use. It seems like it should have been more obvious, but then he wasn’t taking his own stubbornness into consideration on that score. Perhaps it always was obvious. And from the look of stark terror on Sherlock’s face not one hour ago, John is beginning to see that he possibly means even more to Sherlock than he’s realised up until now. He’d thought that everything Sherlock has ever done for him has been in the name of friendship, of a strictly platonic but bone-deep love that they feel for each other, which has never impeded John from loving other people in non-platonic ways. He’d managed to get married without it interfering with what he feels for Sherlock, hadn’t he? He’d always just assumed it was the same for Sherlock.

(Oh, bugger.)

What does this mean, then? John doesn’t know. But he can see all of the possibilities, and sitting there by himself in the gathering darkness, he can concede to himself that he’s not completely averse to them. It could work. It could even work rather well. Perhaps it could just… happen. (Or rather, perhaps he should start shutting up, objecting to it at every turn, and let it takes its course.)

Sherlock’s door opens and he emerges. Walks down the short corridor and stops in the doorway to the sitting room, looks at John. For a long moment, he doesn’t speak. Then he says, “Are we still on for tonight?”

Strange how this is actually a bit of a relief. John manufactures a smile and puts it on. “What? Yeah, of course. If you still want to, after all that, today. That was the deal. Thirty-six minutes.”

Sherlock fidgets and shifts his weight. “Does it have to be later?”

John feels his brows lift. “No,” he says. “You were always the one who decided on nine o’clock. It can happen whenever you like. When do you – ”

“Now,” Sherlock says, and goes back to his room without another word.

John hesitates for a moment. He was going to shower again, wank a bit, get himself mentally steeled, not that that part worked out all that well the previous two tries, but still, it would have been nice to prove to both Sherlock and himself that he’s capable of controlling himself. However, given the slightly dramatic end to the afternoon and Sherlock’s consequent shutdown, John doesn’t really want to say no. He gets up and goes to Sherlock’s room.

Sherlock is the middle of the space, bed still pushed over to the wall, just standing there and looking slightly apprehensive. His head lifts when John comes in and walks over to him, but he doesn’t say anything.

John gives a bit of a smile, though it feels a touch awkward. “Hi,” he says. “Um, so… how do you want to start?”

Sherlock pulls himself out of whatever thoughts he’s lost himself in and pulls out his phone, starts the timer, this time starting it at thirty-six minutes and ticking down. He puts it on the dresser again, then says, “I want you to undress me.”

“Okay,” John says. Not what he was expecting, but certainly tamer than being ordered to strip, himself. He starts at Sherlock’s suit jacket, unbuttoning it and sliding it off. He hangs it on the back of the chair then goes back and unbuttons the shirt, going top to bottom. Sherlock’s eyes are on his face, unblinking and intense, and John has to work hard at ignoring them. Sherlock’s proximity feels different today than it has before. They’ve always been comfortable in each other’s space – sometimes too much so, John has had many occasions to think – but now it feels charged, magnetic, warm. Having had sex really did change the chemistry between them and it seems now that it’s a permanent change. As long as he’d steadily refused to acknowledge the possibility of it, John had been able to keep things platonic, both on the outside as well as in his own head. It hadn’t been a huge struggle; there’d always been women, and – well, Sherlock’s very masculinity to keep everything where it belonged. But now Pandora’s box has been opened and some of the possibilities have become realities and everything is different now. Everything feels different. A cup of tea that they both accidentally drink from will never just be a cup of tea any more. An accidental touch in the hallway or taxi or crime scene will never just be a casual touch. Everything has changed.

He gets the shirt off and lays it over the jacket. When he gets back, Sherlock swiftly pulls John’s knitted shirt over his head and tosses it to the chair, apparently growing impatient. “My trousers,” he says, unbuttoning John’s jeans. “And take your socks off.”

John reaches down to pull off his socks and, since they’re open already, steps out of his jeans and kicks them in the direction of the chair. He gets Sherlock’s trousers off next and slides his pants down with them. As usual, Sherlock is already barefoot. He hesitates, then removes his own underwear. It’s going to happen sooner or later anyway, and he’s aware that there’s less time. (They could certainly ignore the time restriction, but this is Sherlock’s experiment, after all.) “Okay,” John says, waiting.

Sherlock looks at his upper chest for a long moment, not moving, and John can’t help but feel like he’s still upset about earlier. He doesn’t know what to say to this, how to address it. Hey, don’t worry about it, mate – let’s just play our weird little sex game and then you’ll feel better! Perhaps not. So John waits. Sherlock bends a little, puts his hands on John’s hips and licks at his left nipple. (Always the left first. Has he really deduced that the left one is more sensitive than his right? He must have done. Sherlock seems to innately know his own body better than he himself knows it.) He shivers a little, feeling his nipple peak under Sherlock’s firm tongue. His cock is already stiffening in response. He supposes this is inevitable and silently concedes to the fact of the matter. It was going to happen sooner or later anyway, if the previous two nights are any indication.

Sherlock’s tongue is massaging his nipple and John shivers. Then those impossible lips are closing around it, tighter than just lipping at it; Sherlock is actually kissing it. He lingers there, mouth gentle, then moves to the right and then up John’s chest, planting slow, deliberate kisses as he goes. He puts his mouth on John’s throat and his arms come around John’s back, pulling their bodies flush together. John can feel Sherlock’s erection and suddenly his mouth, his body, his proximity – it all feels terribly intimate, and it’s more than just the physical sensation. He can feel Sherlock close to him, not just his body but his being, all of what and who he is. John feels it like vertigo, swirling around him. His hands come up to steady his balance on Sherlock’s arms. Their faces are close; Sherlock is sucking at his neck, just under his left ear, the corner of his jaw. He pulls back just enough to look John in the eye for a brief moment but an entire universe seems to open between them in that second. And then Sherlock kisses him.

John’s knees nearly buckle. Sherlock is holding him, one arm over John’s shoulders and the other around his rib cage and back, but what John is mostly aware of is Sherlock’s tongue on his. They’re kissing without restraint, and it’s not just short or experimental. John can taste and feel everything that Sherlock clearly feels for him in this, as much as he can feel Sherlock’s cock touching his, despite their height difference. This isn’t just a wager, proving a point. This is well beyond the parameters of any game. This is passion and John has the bare wit to realise that he’s lost to it. It feels good both physically and emotionally – it feels like some line has finally been crossed that he didn’t know he was waiting to cross. It feels oddly like relief, almost as though he wants to cry. They kiss and kiss and kiss and Sherlock’s breaths in between are gasping and full of emotion and John holds him closer than ever. Sherlock’s hands rove around his back, fingers sliding over his arse and into his hair, cupping his face and gripping his skin and John knows he is lost. His hands are on Sherlock’s perfect arse and some chamber of his heart has finally unlocked and allowed Sherlock entrance, stopped protesting the very notion of Sherlock being there. As if he hadn’t always belonged there, had John not denied the possibility of it for so long. Self-reproach nips at him but it’s not too late; they got here in the end.

The alarm goes off, startling John. (He’d no idea that thirty-six minutes have already passed.)

Sherlock breaks away, looking as startled as he feels. He licks his lips and looks uncharacteristically nervous. “John,” he says, his heart still pounding against John’s chest, but he doesn’t seem to know how to finish. He looks almost afraid, as though John is going to reprimand him for this, somehow.

“Just a second,” John says. He lets go of Sherlock and goes to the phone and switches off the alarm, puts the phone down, and goes back to Sherlock. “Where were we?”

If he was expecting Sherlock to just resume what he was doing, apparently he thought wrong. “John,” Sherlock says, sounding slightly irritated, as though John’s being an idiot, “the time is up. You don’t have to do this any more.”

(Have to?) John blinks back at him. Did Sherlock really just miss all that? That John wasn’t merely going along with the experiment? (Had he not felt everything that was happening between them?) “Sherlock,” he says, not entirely certain of himself or of how to reassure Sherlock, but he’s realising it has to be said. “I wasn’t just… letting you do that. I wanted it. I admit it: I lost the wager. Contrary to what I thought before, it seems I really do want to have sex with you. So can we get back to doing that now?”

Sherlock still doesn’t move except to cross his arms. “The time is up. I don’t want to play this game any more. We can be finished.” He’s obstinate, despite the fact that he’s still hard, his chest faintly flushed from arousal.

John shakes his head. “Now who’s being an idiot?” he asks, voice going a bit rough. He puts his hands on Sherlock’s arms. “Did that feel like a game to you?”

Sherlock looks away. “No.” It’s low, as though it’s a shameful confession.

He still doesn’t get it, John thinks. “It wasn’t for me, either,” he says gently, and pries Sherlock’s arms open, inserting himself into the space, though Sherlock’s arms drop to his sides, not touching him. “Look, I’ll admit it: I was an idiot. You were right. It seems I did want this. I’m saying it, aren’t I? I want it.”

Sherlock looks at him, narrows his eyes. “You want to have sex with me?”

“I think that’s the gist of what I’m saying, yes,” John says, a touch exasperated.

Sherlock shakes his own head, though his hands come up to rest on John’s shoulders. “You’re just single and turning to the nearest convenient thing. All I’ve proven is that you would have sex with anyone who touches you the right way. You said it yourself.”

John frowns at him, not sure which part he should object to first, though Sherlock is right – he did say exactly that.

“And,” Sherlock adds, not meeting his eyes again, “I don’t want that.”

John gets it then, finally. Sherlock really does have serious feelings for him, more serious than he realised when he first proposed the wager. “It’s not that,” he says, and means it. “It really isn’t. Look – I know this is a pretty sudden turn-around. It is for me, too. But when you kissed me – ”

Sherlock’s eyes flick back to his and stay, searching. “What?”

“That’s – I mean, I was already thinking about it, but – yeah,” John says. “That’s when I knew.”

“Knew what?” Sherlock demands.

John lets his eyes close halfway. “Kiss me again and I’ll show you.”

Sherlock doesn’t hesitate this time, but does exactly as requested, his mouth on John's again in a heartbeat. His arms sweep around John like the wings of his coat and their bodies come together again, cocks and stomachs and thighs and chests all touching, and it feels like coming home; it feels right. Within seconds it’s grown heated and John isn’t even trying to keep himself from rubbing against Sherlock. Sherlock is panting into his mouth and finally breaks away. “John. I – are you sure?”

“Do I seem unsure?” John asks, eyes still mostly closed, fixed on Sherlock’s lips.

“Not particularly,” Sherlock says. He moves to kiss John again but stops at the last second. “The thing I did the first night – can I do that again?”

John groans before he can help himself. “Oh God, yes.” He takes Sherlock’s hand and places it on his aching cock. “And you can touch me anywhere you like now,” he adds.

Sherlock exhales heavily and looks down at John’s cock in his hand. “It feels exactly the way I thought it would,” he says. Then he looks into John’s face, eyes searching, then swiftly moves in and kisses him again, hand firm on his cock all the while.

It feels better than it ought to. Sherlock’s hand is large and can cover so much of it at once, and John is trying not to gasp oxygen directly from Sherlock’s lungs. His hand has gone to Sherlock’s cock without even thinking about it consciously, which should have struck him as odd but it doesn’t – it just feels natural, somehow. It’s big and already quite hard and John decides within the first second or two that he really likes touching it. Sherlock makes a sound somewhere in his throat at this, his spine stiffening under John’s other hand. He pushes into John’s fist and kisses him more deeply still, and it’s so intense that it should be overwhelming, yet isn’t at all. John takes his mouth off Sherlock’s just long enough to say, “Bed, now!” and Sherlock makes a sound of assent into his mouth and somehow they stagger over to it and collapse in a tangle of limbs.

Sherlock is over him, moving down his body and John has never been covered by a person so much bigger than him before but it’s Sherlock, whom he knows and trusts (unbelievably, he sometimes thinks) and they just fit; it’s right. Sherlock is mouthing kisses down his belly and then his lips slide down onto John’s cock, not wasting energy on words any more. He sucks it as though it’s oxygen, as though it’s the only thing keeping him alive, tongue and lips and fingers all touching, probing, exploring. John moans and writhes under him and tries not to thrust into Sherlock’s mouth. He’s too close already and doesn’t want to come yet – Sherlock has promised to do that unspeakably filthy, amazing thing again and he wants that rather badly, but before he has to say something in warning, Sherlock lets his cock slip from his mouth and says, “Turn over.”

John has possibly never scrambled to obey so quickly in all his life. Sherlock gets him on his knees, face down on the bed, arse in the air, and Sherlock rubs it with both hands and then buries his face in it. John hears himself making the most unrestrained, undignified sounds but he’s totally unable to prevent it; it feels so good he thinks he may combust. Sherlock’s tongue is freakishly talented and completely unabashed, licking and stabbing into John, lips kissing his hole in the dirtiest manner possible and John is groaning without reservation into Sherlock’s blankets. Sherlock lifts his face and bends over him, mouth near John’s ear, kissing his neck, still rubbing at his hole. One finger pushes inside as John moans helplessly, then another, and it feels about seventy times better than when he does it to himself. Sherlock is fucking him with his fingers alone and John’s body is sparking and shuddering already. He’s drooling onto the blankets, harder than anything and leaking there, too.

“I want to fuck you.” Sherlock’s voice is low in his ear, like smoke and honey, filled with dark promise.

John has only very rarely heard Sherlock swear, and even this is provocative at the moment. He nods before he can even speak. “Yes – oh God, please.”

It seems it was all Sherlock was waiting for. He withdraws his fingers and replaces them with the head of his cock, and his push is vastly gentler than John was with him last night, slow and steady and slick, and John has no idea when Sherlock even got himself lubed up for this but assumes it must have been while he was dying of pleasure from Sherlock’s talented mouth at some point. Sherlock’s cock is thick, the slide of it filling him in a way that’s simultaneously too much and yet completely satisfying. When he’s fully buried inside John, Sherlock stops, still bent over him. “All right?” he asks, his voice tight.

“I’ve never been more all right in my life,” John says honestly, barely able to articulate words coherently.

He can hear the smile in Sherlock’s voice. “Neither have I.” It’s the last thing either of them says for awhile, both absorbed in the feel of Sherlock beginning to move within him, slowly at first as John’s body adjusts to him, then steadily faster and faster. The feeling of Sherlock’s thighs against the backs of his, of his left arm caging John in as his right hand grips and strokes his cock from beneath him is all unbearably intimate, to say nothing of the feel of Sherlock’s cock within his body, harder than rock, but warm, the pulse of it beating against the very core of John’s body. This is more than sex, John thinks. Last night was sex. This is everything that they are, everything that they feel, physicalised at last. This is love.

Sherlock is hitting his prostate regularly, and John was already so stimulated before this that it’s going to be a matter of seconds now. He’s breathing out profane encouragement – no, that’s begging, now – and then his orgasm crashes over him in waves, come spurting out of him in burst after hot burst, soaking Sherlock’s fingers and the blankets beneath them. Even as it’s still going, he can feel Sherlock lose control and realises he was only holding out waiting for John. Now his thrusts are erratic, hard and fast and breaking out of rhythm in a frantic need to come, and when he does, he makes a noise so uncontrolled and animalistic that John’s cock squeezes out another shot or two of come in reaction. Sherlock collapses onto him, panting, and after a moment or two, they manage to get themselves onto their sides. Sherlock is still buried in him, cock twitching in aftershocks.

When John can speak again, he says, “That was the most – I keep thinking this, but that really was the best thing I have ever experienced, in my life.”

Sherlock’s arm is under his, pinning John to his chest. He nudges his nose behind John’s ear. “Really?”

“Definitely.”

“You thought that last night? And the night before?”

“I did,” John admits. “I tried so hard to explain it away. But it’s true.”

“But tonight was the best?” Sherlock presses.

John turns his head as far back as he can so that Sherlock can see his smile. “Absolutely,” he says, weaving his fingers into Sherlock’s where they’re gripping his chest. “And I’ve never been so glad to be proven wrong in my life.”

Sherlock does something to his neck that can only be fairly described as nuzzling. “You’d think you’d be used to that by now,” he muses.

“Oi,” John says. “Just because we’re this now doesn’t mean you get to be mean.”

Sherlock chuckles into his ear. “I thought we would just carry on as before. Thought you’d like that.”

“Well, apparently I’m only just discovering all the things I do like,” John says wryly. His stomach growls then, reminding him that it’s only still only around seven in the evening. “We never had dinner,” he says.

Sherlock kisses him between his shoulder blades. “Fuck eating,” he says succinctly.

John grins, then moves away, letting Sherlock slip out of him. Ooh. That’s going to ache a bit in the morning. He finds he couldn’t possibly care less. He turns around to face Sherlock. “Tell you what,” he says. “I’m going to have a quick shower, and then we’re going to go out for dinner. A date. And then we’ll come home and have another go.”

Sherlock considers this. “Couldn’t we just order in and eat in bed?”

“No,” John says firmly, though the idea does have appeal. (Tomorrow.) “Date. Proper food.”

Sherlock blinks at him, looking like he wants to object, but he doesn’t. “And then we’ll come back to bed?”

He can feel the silly grin pushing all of the most unflattering lines in his face into relief. “Yes. Promise.” He leans in and kisses Sherlock very thoroughly for a rather long time, and when he pulls away again, Sherlock’s eyes practically have stars in them.

“Deal,” he says.

John scrambles off the bed and heads for the shower, stopping in the doorway to look back. “By the way, I expect you to be fully dressed and ready to go by the time I’m out,” he warns.

Sherlock waves this away. “Hurry,” is all he says.

*