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Precious Things (people)

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Mycroft's people are the first on the scene. It isn't a surprise but it is aggravating. He strolls across the char like a king and his patiently amused smile barely slips when he sees the full extent of what happened. John endures the fussing of the elder Holmes with bemusement but Sherlock cannot bear it. He abandons his brother's concern in order to send a text.

Do not go home. Nor 221B. May not be safe.
SH

Sherlock has been a lot of things in his life but scared is new to him and the adrenaline sits unpleasantly on his skin.

He's secured John's safety -- Mycroft is good for that if nothing else -- and now his mind races around other things (People, Sherlock.) that he may have failed to protect. That he didn't know until an hour ago he wanted to protect. If Moriarty knew all the things that Sherlock knew, would he also know the things that Sherlock hadn't known? He's already underestimated what (who) he was dealing with to an embarrassing degree; he won't make that mistake again.

And if he does know (please, don't let him know) then Sherlock has already failed to protect something that matters. Someone. Thing. Paralogism. Pedantry. He is trying too hard to distract himself from the fact that there hasn't been a reply to his text. He tightens his grip on the phone, in his pocket where no one will see.

Mycroft leaves John's side in order to bully the MI5 agents securing the pool. Sherlock walks over and sits cautiously next to John on the bench. Details flash absently through his mind -- what to do, where to go, things like that -- but he ignores them.

"Sarah will be worried," he says, shocking them both. "You should call her."

John nods. He has his mobile in hand but resists dialing. He's thinking about what happened, and trying to decide if he ought to lie to Sarah about it or not.

"You'll feel better if you know she's alright," Sherlock adds, after another long moment where John doesn't move. The touch of humanity is new to him, and John can see it too, even if he can't figure out exactly where it's coming from.

"You're right; I just don't know what to say." John's hands are steady as ever as he frowns at his knees and doesn’t look at Sherlock. "This has been one of the worst nights of my life, Sherlock."

Sherlock nods. He's never had a worst night before and he doesn't like it. He's had bad nights and boring nights and nights that he'd rather not dredge up again involving accidental overdoses. But never a night like this.

He gives up at the same time that John does. They stand apart to make their calls; Sherlock paces and John stands still. John is more used to the adrenaline crash. He'll be prepared for the bad dreams and the panic attacks. Sherlock has never had a panic attack but he thinks it must be like this infernal waiting, the way that it drags at him and slows him down.

The phone rings. And rings.

"Lestrade."

"Did you get my message? Are you still at the Yard?"

There is a long pause where Sherlock counts out the fluttering beats of his pulse. He can hear chatter and typing in the background which relaxes him minutely.

"I've been working. Was it important?" Lestrade says carefully, as though he can tell what a fine edge Sherlock is tracing. He's a detective, maybe he knows after all. Maybe he can explain how just the sound of his voice, droll as ever, has soothed Sherlock's elevated pulse. Sherlock could work it out, but he doesn't want to know. Not really, not yet.

"Just. Your flat may not be safe." There are more words that stick in his throat. "I'm going to have my brother pick you up, will you go with him?"

Lestrade chuckles and the sound skitters up Sherlock's spine. "You told me your brother was the anti-Christ."

"Well, yes, obviously," Sherlock says impatiently, "but he's on our side at least. Say you will." He hopes Mycroft can't hear him. The smugness will be unbearable if he can. A quick glance over his shoulder places Mycroft at least a hundred yards away. Probably not eavesdropping, then.

"I will," Lestrade agrees. "You're worried about this." It's intuition, not deduction. One of those rare moments where Lestrade sees deeper than usual and more than Sherlock wants him to.

"I have to go," Sherlock tells him, though he doesn't and he rarely bothers to say so before he hangs up. "Don't forget, you promised."

John is still on the phone, speaking softly to Sarah. Sherlock does his best to not listen in, but he can hardly avoid it. Mycroft is strolling casually their way and Sherlock turns his attention to that instead. He goes to meet his brother halfway. If it were any other circumstance, he wouldn't

"I don't know if John will want to go to Sarah's but we can't go back to Baker Street tonight," Sherlock says. Mycroft's face remains placid, though Sherlock can see he wants to make a remark about what John will do. He hasn't given himself away yet but he will. He can't help it, now. "You've prepared something for us?"

"Well, yes," Mycroft begins to say.

Sherlock cuts him off. Ripping off the bandage is the best way. Probably. "And Lestrade. I said you'd pick him up." He can't say any more but Mycroft knows, now. He's always been cleverer, of the two of them. Social nuance doesn't baffle and annoy him the way it does Sherlock.

There is a funny bit of a smile lurking around the edges of Mycroft's lips. Fond, Sherlock classifies it. And of course, condescending. Mycroft is still his older brother, after all. "Are we ready to go then?" he asks. Rhetorical.

John is done with his conversation and slips his mobile into his pocket with a faint frown, though clearly not because of his talk with Sarah. "Hotel?" he asks, as though he'd been listening all along. "Or is there something else?" When John does it, the knowing is nice and not at all infuriating.

"We've arranged a flat for a few days," Mycroft says. "Nothing special but it should give us time to clean up a bit."

It's a euphemism. Sherlock doesn't care to know exactly what for but the implication is clear enough. He wishes it was because they had to spend all weekend picking brain splatter out of the walls but that seems enormously unlikely. It's better to assume he's still out there, lurking in dark corners.

"You're coming with then, John? Well, that will be cozy," Sherlock says. He doesn't mean cozy, he means safe. His things (people) will be in the same place and he won't have to worry (Is this worry? Do people live like this all the time?) that something will happen while he's not there to stop it.

They climb into the Jaguar saloon car that ferries Mycroft everywhere. It's much warmer in the car, though Sherlock hadn't noticed the chill until it was gone. Unimportant. John rubs his hands together. Not cold, satisfied. His conversation with Sarah must have gone well. Sherlock's phone is a heavy weight in his pocket. He's not used to controlling his impulses but he knows, logically, that he's already confirmed Lestrade's well being and another call or text won't appreciably change the situation.

He counts to ten and pulls the phone out anyway.

Working much longer?
SH

This time, he has to wait barely a minute before he gets a reply.

Not much. The car is already here.

Mycroft's second is fiercely competent, as are all the people Mycroft employs. Sherlock relaxes another tiny notch. There is not a high probability that anything untoward will happen between now and when Lestrade reaches their temporary quarters. Not with so many people keeping watch on him.

John has clearly not yet noticed the state Sherlock is in. Then again, John's ability to extract facts from data is still rather limited, even with repeated instruction. Mycroft, on the other hand, has more than enough data to extrapolate rather more than he ought. There will be some unpleasant teasing later on but for now, Sherlock is satisfied (relieved) to put that occasion off for as long as possible. Sherlock's nerves (Nerves, even! It's unconscionable.) won't stand for any mockery in their current state.

If Mycroft hadn't stayed behind to supervise, blood would have been spilt by the Holmes brothers. Sherlock never would have been so thoughtful. He likes fighting with Mycroft, though. Until recently (Moriarty) it had been one of the few things to keep him sharp.

The pink elephant that infects every thought it touches.

"How was your girlfriend?" Sherlock asks, grasping for distraction. "I thought you might go to hers."

"No," John says softly, "I think I've dragged Sarah into enough danger without her consent. She'll be safer if I don't see her for a while."

"She won't thank you for that," Sherlock says, watching the city flash by though the window. "They never do."

John shrugs, but then he does have more practical experience with women than Sherlock does. "She's not that upset. I didn't tell her everything but I wasn't really sure what would be okay. Better for her to be a bit mad at me than, you know."

In the line of fire. He does know. He doesn't like to know and would give just about anything (but no longer anyone) not to.

The car slows to a stop in front of a string of dull brick terraced houses, each virtually indistinguishable from the next except the brass numbers near the doors. Sherlock steps out of the car on his own, while the driver opens the door for John. The cold is noticeable, this time. He bounds up the steps and tries the door at #7 which opens easily, as he expected. The heat's been on for a while and there is a teasing lure of lamp light just past the foyer. Probably a kitchen, but Sherlock wouldn't put money on it.

The car glides off silently, and John closes the door behind them. Sherlock sheds his coat and scarf onto the rack before wandering off to explore (secure) their temporary lodgings. The light is from the sitting room but as it attaches to the kitchen he doesn't feel he was especially wrong.

There is a small WC tucked behind the kitchen, a round table with three chairs off to one side, and a cozy arrangement with bookshelves and a much nicer sofa than the one at Baker Street. Sherlock makes a circuit of the room, checking the windows and pulling the curtains as necessary. There's a tiny courtyard in the rear, lined with planters and ivy. He yanks the curtain across the sliding door with extreme prejudice.

John has settled wearily on the sofa during Sherlock's reconnaissance and Sherlock ignores him in favor of exploring upstairs. There are several (three, Sherlock, count them) bedrooms and a spacious bath. He claims the least defensible bedroom for himself; it has the most windows and is furthest from the stairs. He tugs the curtains closed as he goes. They're heavy and dark, blotting out the faint light from the street. It's very comforting.

Sherlock slinks back down the stairs after his inventory. John has moved, but only slightly. His head is barely visible over the top of the sofa, slouched into the cushions as he is.

"Do you cook at all?" Sherlock asks as he inspects the refrigerator. It goes without saying that he won't order in. He could make some sort of fry up. Maybe. It's been a long time since he used a stove for more than boiling water.

John peers over the sofa to meet Sherlock's eyes. "I suppose I could, if our survival depends on it."

"That remains to be seen." There are more cupboards, after all.

If it comes to desperate measures, Sherlock is fairly well convinced he can make a cheese toasty without any kind of accident. Or at least bully John to do it. There isn't anything else of interest in the cupboards. He puts the kettle on, in any case.

"Sherlock, are you in there?" There's a thump as the door closes and another in Sherlock's chest as his heart stutters furiously against his ribs. Stupid, to not hear it opening in the first place. And more stupid that he didn’t think to lock the door when they first came in. He hates to be surprised.

"In the kitchen. Did you bring us dinner?" He can hear the rustle of a plastic bag but the smell is rather more obvious.

Lestrade's eye roll is evident even before he enters the room. "It was suggested that if I wanted to eat something more than cheese on toast, I ought to pick it up." He turns and offers Sherlock a very sweet, very rare, and very private smile. "Don't think I'm going to make it a habit. I know what you're like."

"I’m sure you were going to say 'delightful in every way'," Sherlock replies. He liberates the takeout from Lestrade and inspects the contents. Chinese, but not from any of the places that he and John frequent which means either Mycroft was being exceptionally nosy or Lestrade was being exceptionally insightful.

"I wasn’t sure what you like best but hopefully something will suit. Your brother picked up the tab so I just ordered a bunch." Lestrade pushes Sherlock’s hands out of the bag and sets the cartons on the counter. "We’re not eating out of the boxes, Sherlock, I’ve had too much of a night for that. Get me some plates."

There is a moment where Sherlock literally cannot move. The smell and weight and warmth of Lestrade are all the things that were missing and they’ve just shifted into place against Sherlock’s shoulder. Lestrade nudges him and motion is possible, though perhaps not desirable, once again. Plates and mugs are stacked on the counter and, feeling somewhat pleased with himself, Sherlock digs up the silverware without prompting.

"Are you asleep, John?" Lestrade asks. There is no acknowledgement from the sofa, but John’s breathing obviously indicates consciousness. "Come and help yourself whenever you like."

Sherlock has already taken that advice and piled a plate with fried rice and mixed veg. In a fit of philanthropy (Is it contagious? That bears looking into.) he makes tea for the room; sugar for everyone, milk for John, and extra milk for Lestrade. More useless facts cluttering his hard drive. He’s tempted to put together a plate for Lestrade as well, but experience has taught him that people usually find that weird.

He can’t really handle being weird just then. It’s been such a long day.

There is a brief internal struggle about which side of the table gives the greatest security, though the answer is none of them. Sherlock takes the chair most facing the room, which seems to be the best compromise available.

"Are you ever going to explain what happened?" Lestrade asks. He naturally takes the seat to Sherlock's left, which has the second best vantage. Sherlock is privately pleased.

"I was hoping to put it off," Sherlock says around a mouthful of broccoli. "Today was a wretched cock up and I could use some more time to process." That line was borrowed from John's therapist and from his quiet snort he recognizes it as such. Most of what she says is rubbish -- through no fault of her own, it's an occupational hazard -- but Sherlock finds that cribbing from her repertoire will get him excused from a lot of things he's not interested in dealing with. Like explaining to Lestrade all the different ways Sherlock blundered what could have been a very simple investigation.

The self-doubt is also new and unpleasant. Sherlock is hoping it will wear off by morning. Thursday at the latest.

Lestrade says, "If you must," in his detective voice. It gives him a delightful air of menace. Sherlock is a fan of the detective voice, even if it usually spells trouble for himself. Never the fun sort, always the getting arrested sort.

He watches Lestrade eat; surreptitiously, of course. He can't tear his eyes away, now that they're all together. (And safe, safe, safe.) He has one ear on John, in case his breathing changes or he decides to remove himself from the sofa, but his eyes are for Lestrade.

There is a growing catalogue of frowns and sulks and furrowed brows and yet Sherlock finds them all more interesting than irritating. That it holds his attention at all is something of a miracle. He's known Lestrade for years already, he should know all these things -- and he does, in a way -- but the minutia have never mattered.

"Why put it on your plate if you don't like it?" Sherlock asks as he watches the tiny curl of disgust every time Lestrade spears a carrot. He could work it out, but John says people prefer to explain themselves and that being told what you think before you can work it out for yourself is annoying. That bit's a work in progress.

Lestrade offers a cheeky grin. "Builds character, according to my mum."

"Your mum is a nutter," Sherlock says, but under his breath in case Lestrade takes offense. Most people will defend their mums, whether they get on or not.

"That's normal," Lestrade tells him gently. Explaining. John does it too, pretends like Sherlock says things because he doesn't know better. Of course, Lestrade has more practice at it, more nuance.

Sherlock nods and begins to steal the carrots from Lestrade's plate. Normal is boring, anyway.

"Sherlock, get me my tea," John mumbles from the sofa. "I'm going to sick up if I eat anything but the tea's going cold."

Sherlock scoffs but he goes over to the counter anyway. It's possible John has noticed the current pliable state and is taking advantage. That is entirely out of character, of course, but it's possible. John doesn't usually ask Sherlock for things. More likely, he's too tired to recall his usual etiquette.

"You know you can make more?" Sherlock says, with a calculated amount of testiness. He passes the mug over the back of the sofa, making sure John isn't going to just spill it all over himself before letting go. "You can even reheat that particular cuppa, if you're so inclined."

Lestrade is smiling in a way that suggests he's calling Sherlock's bluff but he doesn't say anything when Sherlock slouches back into his chair. He pokes absently at the bits of food left on his plate but he's no longer interested in eating.

"Is anyone else for bed?" Lestrade asks. "I'm exhausted."

"Sleeping on the sofa," John mutters, slurping at his tea.

Sherlock snorts, as he dumps the plates in the sink and boxes up the leftovers again. "You aren't, either. There is a perfectly decent bed for you upstairs. You can kip on the sofa at your girlfriend's place, if it means so much to you."

John barks out a laugh, too loud for the room. "If Sarah's sofa was this comfortable, I would have."

"The bed's still better," Sherlock assures him. "Are you sure you don't need to eat?"

Both John and Lestrade stare at him. It's a struggle to not feel defensive (Can't he be concerned?) when he knows they're both thinking he's cracked a bit. And he has, to be frank. There is no precedent for what he's feeling. Thirty is awfully old to start mucking around with feeling shite things for the first time.

"I can be considerate," he snaps at their disbelieving faces. "It's not the first time I've done it."

In fact, it's the twelfth time. And most of those instances have happened in the past four hours. He doesn't mention that part, though from the skeptical brow on Lestrade, it's probably been intuited again. What a ghastly thing, intuition. Sherlock really can't abide by it.

"I don't know if you realize this, but you're never considerate," John says with a sleepy grin.

Sherlock says, "I'm always considerate," with a bit of a sulk and precedes them up the stairs.

Mycroft has provided them with nearly all the amenities they'll need for a comfortable night, though Sherlock is rather missing his worn dressing gown from the flat. Of course there's one hanging in the closet but things are precarious enough without adding luxury flannel to the pile. He puts it on anyway. The pajamas are a bit fancier than the ones he usually wears as well, but he can't sleep in his clothes as they smell faintly of chlorine and explosion.

He sits on the edge of the bed and listens to John and Lestrade take their turns at the sink. The unease is slinking away, though he suspects it will come back to haunt his dreams. He's no stranger to vivid nightmares and he doesn't relish the prospect of reliving the emotional upheaval that's sure to follow. He can tell he needs the sleep, so however appealing another all-nighter seems at the moment, he's quite sure it's not advisable.

The taps shut off and the sound of hesitation echoes for an indomitable moment, broken finally by a soft knock at the door. Sherlock's heart does that thing where it pulses out of synch for several beats before stuttering back into a steady rhythm. He tugs the robe a little tighter around himself and stands to answer the door.

"Fancy meeting you here," Lestrade says when the door cracks open. His hands are tucked into the pockets of his sagging sweatpants -- his own, not borrowed. He must have packed a bag out of his things at the Yard after Sherlock's texts. He looks charming in his thin t-shirt and rumpled hair. Even the dark circles under his eyes add a certain je ne sais quoi that Sherlock can't help but find appealing.

Bad enough to be in the middle of some sort of emotional shenanigans without adding physical attraction to the mix.

Sherlock backs away from the door slightly and manages to keep his hands to himself through years of practice and force of will. "Welcome to my humble abode, Inspector," he says and they share a nostalgic grin. "I assume you're going to ask me what's going on."

"I wasn't, actually," Lestrade says with that blasted sly look in his eyes. "Though if you're offering..."

"I'm not," Sherlock snaps, thrown. He thought for sure it was time for the interrogation. His eyes narrow. "Did Mycroft say something to you? He must have, interfering busybody that he is."

"No, Mycroft didn't say anything," Lestrade says absently. "I didn't even see him." He wanders around the room a little, settling finally on the foot of the bed where Sherlock had been sitting minutes before. "Though I assume things are bad if you're resorting to his help. You once told me that it would take a nuclear holocaust for you to ask your brother for a favor."

"Things change," Sherlock says shortly. He's hovering, but he knows he won't be able to keep his hands to himself if he sits next to Lestrade on the bed.

Lestrade offers a knowing smile that Sherlock very nearly has to close his eyes against. "Finally found something worth more than your pride, eh," he says, as though he hasn't inadvertently seen through every barrier Sherlock tried to erect around his heart. The smile dims at whatever he sees on Sherlock's face. "Sorry," he mutters, clearly embarrassed, "I didn't realize that John was. That you." Lestrade stutters to a halt, unable to articulate that final thought, for which Sherlock is eternally grateful.

John is many things to him, but never that.

It doesn't surprise Sherlock that Lestrade makes that mistake, so many people do, but it does frustrate him how close to the truth Lestrade has come while entirely missing the mark. He doesn't want to explain himself.

Sherlock sighs, aggrieved. "Must you be so thick? You're usually more clever."

"I don't like guessing games, Sherlock," Lestrade says wearily. "And I don't claim to be any more clever than I am."

"No," Sherlock says. "No, you never do." He shuffles over until he's standing close enough that Lestrade can't just look into his face and see everything. He has a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. Liking people is just as wretched as he suspected it would be. "He was starting to target the people that... matter. To me. He got John tonight and I don't know if he's still out there. I couldn't stand thinking that he'd got you, too."

"Oh," Lestrade says slowly. "Oh! So when. You meant that, that I was. Huh."

"Articulate as ever, Inspector."

"Give me a minute, would you?" Lestrade protests with no little exasperation. "I had no idea you even liked me."

When Sherlock has nothing to say in reply, Lestrade offers his hand and tugs Sherlock onto the bed so they're seated side by side. He doesn't know what to do with his hands and twists them awkwardly in his lap. It's not that he doesn't know how this all works. The flirting and the suggestion leading up to snogging and then shagging or what have you. It's just that he doesn't know if that's what he wants. Shagging seems like an exercise in tedium and mess. Except he still can't define the brittle feeling in his bones when he thought Lestrade might have been the next victim. It doesn't mean nothing and Sherlock won't bother pretending it does.

Lestrade nudges him with a knee and he presses back. It's reassuring, which Lestrade probably knew. And not outside of Sherlock's (very limited) comfort zone. At least one of them has practice with touching that isn't also violence.

"I didn't know I liked you either," Sherlock says after a moment. "It seems kind of stupid, in retrospect."

"It's not so awful," Lestrade tells him, gently. Even though he seems to be laughing at Sherlock, it's not all bad. He's clearly charmed by the idea of Sherlock suffering from something so regular as liking someone. "Imagine if I didn't like you, too."

It hadn't even occurred to him. That's the most embarrassing bit of all. Not that he was expecting to suffer unrequitedly. He hadn't thought about the possibility of Lestrade being indifferent to him. Of course, working it out in hindsight, the conclusion is the same. But that he hadn't even gotten that far... Embarrassing.

"Oh god," Sherlock moans, burying his face in his knees. "You can't tell John about this, I'll never live it down."

Lestrade places a warm hand on Sherlock's back and pets him absently. "I know you don't think a lot of other people's intelligence, Sherlock, but he will notice."

"Of course he will," Sherlock mutters. "It will be his first brilliant deduction. I can't wait for the 'married to your work' jokes that are sure to follow."

"You have to admit it's a little funny," Lestrade says wryly. "You've been pulling that one out for years."

Sherlock glances to the side, even though he really only gets a good look at Lestrade's tatty shirt (it's a nicer view than expected) from the angle he's at. "We don't have to go straight to the naked bits, right? I don't think I'm ready for naked, messy, ugh." He feels a little nauseated just thinking about it.

Amazingly, Lestrade simply laughs at Sherlock's revolted face. He's still not offended by anything Sherlock has said thus far. It's the first advantage the liking business has gotten him. "So long as we have a chance to try it out sometime, I don't mind waiting," he says with a grin. "How about a cuddle?"

"What, now?" Sherlock's voice raises a little alarmingly. He's not surprised, exactly. He just thought there would be more time to adjust before the touching parts started. Of course he knows how cuddling works, in theory. He's seen it up close, even. But usually at least from across the room. "Ah, yes, okay. If you like."

"Or I can go back to my room," Lestrade says carefully. He doesn't want Sherlock to feel shamed into the... cuddle. It seems ridiculous, sounded out. Of course he's not afraid of a little touching. Or not that afraid, anyway.

He thinks of that perfect moment in the kitchen, where they were pressed together, and it doesn't seem as distasteful as all that to curl up against Lestrade's warmth. "Don't be absurd." It's meant to sound imperious but it waffles at the end into something more needy.

Sherlock knows he'll get the hang of it, in time. Emotion won't always crawl up his spine and sit like a film over his skin that clouds all reason and rationality. Eventually, he'll be able to sort out his attachment to Lestrade and he'll put those feelings somewhere near cigarettes (cravings), John (comfort), and Mycroft (family but also infuriating).

"Come on, then." Lestrade's instruction has the edge of command to it that Sherlock had been going for, only it's actually successful.

With slight hesitation, Sherlock sheds his dressing gown and climbs under the duvet. Lestrade (clever man) flicks the lights off before joining him. It's already too warm in the bed with the both of them but Sherlock's flustered breathing precludes any deviation of plans.

"Do you want the big spoon or small spoon?" Lestrade asks, sounding a little breathy himself.

Sherlock's face is heated in a way that suggests embarrassment except that he can feel it all over, a tenseness that is unfamiliar but newly desirable. Lestrade's hand, venturing to the edge of the pajama shirt, sends a new trickle of need along the backs of Sherlock's knees. It's not at all what he imagined being aroused by another person would feel like.

"I thought big spoon," Lestrade continues, and his fingers tickle against Sherlock's side, "so you could escape easier, if you need to. But maybe not." He says it casually, to test Sherlock's reaction. It's obvious that Lestrade will be pushing at the edges of Sherlock's comfort with considerable deliberation. "Maybe it would be easier if you can't run away."

"You think you're so clever," Sherlock mutters, though he allows himself to be arranged.

"I have moments."

Lestrade turns Sherlock to one side and pushes up against his back. It takes a minute, but Sherlock relaxes into it, molding his spine to Lestrade's chest. It sucks away all the misery; the way Lestrade's arm tightens around his waist, and the warmth of his breath against Sherlock's nape. He shivers a bit (involuntary) as Lestrade places a kiss beneath one ear and strokes his hand up across Sherlock's chest.

The cuddle seems like a bit of a con now.

"People don't dare touch you," Lestrade murmurs into Sherlock's ear. "They don't know. Lookit you."

Sherlock sighs, he closes his eyes, and tips his head back. "You tricked me into it." He doesn't have any defense for this. His head feels fuzzy, a bit like he's forgotten to eat only nice, too. The hot, sticky want of it slicks up his thighs and he presses his knees together in defense, only to find it makes things worse.

"I never thought I could have this," Lestrade confesses, his lips pressed to the shell of Sherlock's ear. "You always seemed so far away."

Sherlock doesn't say that he never thought about it (he didn't) because Lestrade either knows (thus unnecessary) or doesn't (needlessly cruel). It seems a shame that he hasn't had time to deliberate and examine this thing (feeling) to find its core. He doesn't think he'll ever be able to understand (how is always easier than why) the knotted mess of his feelings but he does so like a puzzle.

"Are we making up for lost time, then?" Sherlock says, sincerely and not aiming for coy. It's all very well to be charming as a trap, but Lestrade knows him well enough to not trust him at his word.

Lestrade's chuckle in his ear is unexpected and it sends a whirl of hot across Sherlock's face and down his chest. "If you think we ought to," Lestrade says, readily.

It must be easy for him, to lay himself out in that way with no concern for being hurt. Sherlock has a brief moment where he feels very impressed with ordinary people and their capacity for masochism. Of course, Lestrade has nothing to fear at this point. He must know, if only subconsciously, that Sherlock has woven him into the gordian knot that keeps most people away.

And Lestrade, however clever (or not), usually manages to be wise.

"Not... just now," says Sherlock, quietly. He takes Lestrade's hand, the one at his waist, and wraps their fingers together. Lestrade's fingertips have slipped up under Sherlock's t-shirt and they pet along the soft skin of Sherlock's belly. There's a curious suspense that creeps along his skin as Lestrade touches him. His muscles tense with every stuttering movement, every unfamiliar caress.

Lestrade chuckles into the curls at the back of Sherlock's neck. "You don't have to hold it back, you know," he says, inviting another shiver from Sherlock. This time, he doesn't bother to restrain the tremor and Lestrade's grip tightens with affection.

"It doesn't mean anything," Sherlock grumbles. "It's just physiological. It's not a grand gesture."

"From you, could be," Lestrade says. "I know what you're like."

Artificial, he means. Good at faking it. Used to faking it. From that perspective, an honest involuntary reaction is certainly something to treasure. Sherlock sighs and tucks Lestrade's arm around himself a little more tightly. If he's going to be giving himself away, there's no point in being halfhearted about it.