“Maybe you could keep them on. If you wanted to, I mean.” Sherlock casts a fleeting look at Vin's thighs, then bows his head, tucking his chin into his neck, pointedly not looking at her legs, her skin white like cream, and her slender fingers peeling her fishnet tights off as she gets ready for bed.
It's not that she's near naked; well – not exactly. He's seen her in the nude several times now and, although there is no denying she is beautiful, a body is a body is a body.
But Vin... even just the thought of her oozes sensuality. At least he thinks so. It's something about the miniscule wrinkle which appears in the corner of her eye when she is contemplating less than savoury things; the way she presses her lips together ever so slightly into a pout when she is thinking; the arch of her neck when she puts her hair up. Sherlock's always excelled at reading people, and Vin reads like a complex Russian novel: tense, intense, sexual and with a hint of tragedy curling its pages.
And there are things about her he cannot read, not properly. Little tics she's dreamt up for herself to throw people off track. Some, he is getting used to. Her many secret smiles, for example, each with their own distinct meaning. I'm happy. I'm amused. I'm impressed. I'm turned on. I'm going to ram my knife down your throat.
He's quite sure the smile she's giving him right now is one of pleased surprise. Her fingers freeze and she visibly straightens her back, her stance going from resigned to assertive in one swift movement. She loops two fingers under the waist band and drags the tights back up, releasing the band against her hips with a soft snap which resounds at the base of his own spine.
He's new to this. Painfully new. Thirty-six years old and a virgin, and he clings to the fact like a safety blanket. It's not that he hasn't had the opportunity – quite the opposite: women (and some men too) have often made themselves available to him. It's always been a lack of interest on his part. Bodies are a burden, transport. It is bad enough he has to feed himself, clean himself. It is inconvenient, a waste of time. Sex is superfluous, not to mention confusing. And messy. It is yet another instinct to cloud reason; thankfully, an instinct he has (up to very recently) been able to completely ignore.
Vin swings herself around, bringing her legs under the duvet, and looks down at him with her eyebrows arched and that very same instinct makes itself known as pressure an inch or so under his navel. He swallows hard and lies flat on his back with his arms at his side, turning his head quickly the other way. He hates himself for pulling away, for retreating every time he feels something. Four months later, she has learnt not to get her hopes up. This happens and she gets a defeated look in her eye, sighs softly, and turns around to sleep. She's promised she won't push him anymore. Sometimes he wonders why she even sticks around, why she puts up with all this.
And then sometimes he's determined to please her. Like a few moments ago, when he asked her to keep the stockings on. An admittance of desire; he knows she understands, sees the change in her posture. Her excitement, however subtle, startles him. You'll never be able to please her – a voice from the back of his mind, quiet but impossible to ignore.
He looks away and she tries her best not to sigh aloud. She lies down on her back, still in her stockings, feeling like a fool and attempting to sound nonchalant.
His thoughts drift to an early conversation of theirs, from before they became...this... whatever it is they are. It seems like a lifetime ago now, but it has only been a few months.
“I am asexual,” he had told her one evening, as they sat together, an unlikely pair, drinking wine. Friends, they'd decided.
She had taken pause to sip her wine, seemingly nonplussed. “Oh?” She had considered the statement. “I'm not. It's a good thing we are not involved, then.”
“A good thing,” he'd echoed, swirling his wine around the glass, which he held cupped in the palm of his hand, stalk between his long fingers. A nervous habit. “May I ask you something, Hampton?”
“This is purely out of scientific curiosity.”
Her lip had twitched. “I don't doubt it.”
“What turns you on?”
She had taken another long sip, considering his question. If it had surprised her, she hadn't let it show. “Well, darling. A lot of things.” She'd tapped out an erratic rhythm against the glass with her red fingernails. They were permanently red. “Mostly feeling. You know: heat, cold, feathers, lace. That sort of thing. And it turns me on to know my lover is thinking of nothing but me.” His breath had caught in his throat. (She would later tell him hers had, too. She had just been better at hiding it.)
Lace. He's thinking of lace. Her underwear's lace. Black lace. It is another of her quirks: everything is expensive. She wears nothing but finery, and god knows she can afford it, a high-end criminal like she is. Was. He is hit by a sharp urge to run his fingertips over lace and fishnet. Skin, too. Her skin. She smells like honey and lavender and cigarette smoke and it is intoxicating. He would bathe in her scent.
Vin, meanwhile, is taking a deep breath and preparing for disappointment. Not so much disappointment anymore: it is the norm and, for her, it is enough to share his bed. Still, more than that would be so very welcomed.
“Would you like me to stay here, like this; or is it alright if I come hold y...”
The kiss surprises her. It surprises him too, how he is pulled forward by a force almost independent of him but which resides just there, an inch under his navel. He is unsure whether it is the promise of lace on skin, the fishnets, her weight beside him as she shifts down under the blanket, or the breathiness of her voice and her ridiculously posh accent: all he knows is that not kissing her right now is physically painful.
“I'm sorry,” he withdraws suddenly and a redness spreads across his face. “I'm sorry; I had to.” He casts his gaze quickly toward her, then back down at the blanket, which he fingers awkwardly. It is just long enough for him to see her eyes still closed and her hand, which had been making its way to the back of his neck, frozen in mid air.
“Why are you sorry?” She asks, softly. “That felt good.” There is a brief silence; her hand remains where it was, raised, its trajectory interrupted. “Do it again.”
The second kiss does not surprise him, he cares more about how soft she feels. Her hand breaks its course and reaches for his, and he notes the hitch in her breathing -What is she doing? Ah. He finds his hand has been placed on her thigh. She keeps her hand on top of his for a moment longer, as if securing it to the spot, before finally reaching for the back of his neck. He can pull away if he wants to, but he doesn't, because the feeling of fishnet against skin charms his tactile curiosity. The black strands of her stockings press gently into her thigh, whose skin is smooth and warm and yields to the path of his thumb as strokes it – slowly at first, but increasingly confident.
Panic suddenly. You will never please her. You will only hurt her. He breaks away, biting the spot on his bottom lip where her teeth have just grazed. “We should, uh. We should stop. This will get messy.”
“I don't care.” It is a mumbled retort but driven by her pulling him back towards her. This is more like her. Her hold around his neck is a touch less gentle, her kiss a bit less tentative. He would give anything to be able to read her thoughts right now, even though he is sure he could hazard quite an accurate guess. He's learning.
Soft. Her lips are soft though she kisses hard, and again that pounding in the pit of his stomach drives him toward her.
“But...” No words come, no words suffice. Is that him moaning?
This woman. She has stayed where all the others left, but it isn't just that at all. She's clever – her mind intrigues him. It works, from what he can understand, in a way a lot more erratic to his. His is clockwork, mechanical, always spinning – cog by cog – in the same direction: forward. Hers is water, fluid, filling every empty space, every direction, but volatile, icy, burning, curling into wisps of smoke. She surrounds him. What was it they had called her, his voices on the street? Tigress. Yes, he understands. Playful, predatory, patient.
It excites him, more than he is willing to admit, to see the conditioned change in her – to see her docile and compliant. With him, only with him. He likes to imagine he’s tamed her, although he is never entirely sure whether this is accurate or if she is just playing along to appease him. How many times has he asked her now to…
“Say it, Vivienne.” The authority in his voice is not entirely intentional, but she shivers and he imagines that is a good thing. The use of her name, however, is entirely intentional. He is aware that he is the only one who uses her given name now. To everybody else, she is Vin.
He inches away to watch her face, an expectant look on his own. What if she is the Tigress and yet he is the one who needs placating? She licks her bottom lip absentmindedly and shifts to speak in his ear. “I…”
“No,” he pushes her gently away, propping himself up on his elbow. “I have to watch you say it.”
Her eyebrow twitches almost imperceptibly and her mouth twists into another one of her smiles – what does that one mean? – as she nestles her head back into the pillow. She doesn’t say it immediately – no, he knows she understands what the suspense will do to him. And it does. He almost asks her again but waits instead, holding his breath, his lips parting almost as a desire to prompt hers.
“I am yours.”
There. “Mine,” he repeats huskily. The effect of the words on him is almost instananeous. His shoulders relax and he reaches forward to almost cup her face, allowing the frisson to suffice.
She looks him straight in the eye – is she reading him? “I belong to you, Sherlock.”
“Yes.” It is a hissed affirmation. You will only hurt her. No. He allows his hand to make contact with her skin, stroking her cheek with his thumb as his fingers brush over her mouth. “Mine,” he echoes again and she blinks slowly, confirming it.
He wants to believe it. He wants for those two concepts to connect, to be one synaptic impulse. “Vivienne” and “having”. But they are words and words are a fiction. Sherlock owns things by taking them apart, pinning them to a board, labelling them and making diagrams. He owns things by studying slides of them, samples of them in a most intimate, molecular way. Once he has taken them to pieces, analysed them, and re-built them, he can add them to his arsenal. Then, he owns them. He knows this, and it is not the first time he has imagined pinning Vin to a board like a giant butterfly and shining a light so bright on her he can see her blood vessels through her skin.
She is leaning her face into his hand, watching him. She catches the tip of his finger between her lips and kisses it, repeating the line. “You have me.”
He pushes her lips apart with his finger, then leans in close to kiss her. It Is rougher than he had calculated, needier, but she moans in response and that pressure under his navel becomes almost unbearable. He does not understand why he is unable to control it, to will it away. He does not understand why, on so many nights, he finds himself in this situation which should have only one outcome and yet always ends in disappointment. Mostly, he does not understand why he cannot turn his mind off and succumb to sweet, slow, drowsy instinct.
“Only yours, Sherlock,” her tone is pleading. Would it work if she begged? He is not sure he wanted her to. His heart races inside the prison of his chest and as a wave of panic sweeps over him, he pulls away, turning away from her, shutting his eyes very tightly and trying to breathe. He can hear her ragged sigh behind him. He has disappointed her. Again. The rustle of sheets as she turns around, resigned. Why does she stay? Another thing he does not understand.
“Goodnight, Hampton,” he offers, struggling to keep his voice from breaking, from letting his breathiness betray him. She mumbles her response. Perhaps he could turn around now, right now. Have her now, clear away the disappointment from her face. Replace it with pleasure, replace it with kisses. If only he knew how.
Instead, he reaches over and turns off the bedside lamp. There will be time to try again tomorrow. He hopes there would be time.