There were persistent rumours about Sherlock Holmes, the head of the Chemistry department whose tightly focused lectures and infamously difficult exams were often the subject of hatred. His Biological Chemistry paper was notorious for knocking weaker students out of a course altogether, and the way rumour developed, he'd been described to John Watson as a genius who ate his failing students for breakfast.
His first lecture one chill morning did nothing to dispel these rumours. Dr Holmes cut a sleek figure as he paced in before a captive audience of students, his low voice so directed and clear that John imagined he could deliver the lecture even without the microphone attached to his jacket pocket. There was something about his presence that commanded attention. Not one person in that lecture theatre whispered.
"Most in my line of work like to ease your minds into their subject on the first lecture." Dr Holmes' disgruntled expression made it quite clear on his thoughts on those professors. "But chemistry is not a subject to be watered down. We have a lot to get through this semester, and I'm going to assume that you've done your pre-readings. I don't talk down to the majority. I aim my lectures to students who have read what I have told them to read, completed the tasks that I have set, and arrived here today with a questioning mind." He paused, scanning the room with pale eyes that seemed to glow under the lighting. "You may ask your questions as long as they are not stupid. I decide what a stupid question is. Understood?"
There was a murmur of agreement which seemed to satisfy Dr Holmes. He turned to the blackboard, and drew out an amino acid.
"The subject is chirality, and I'm going to assume you read chapter 2 of the assigned text. Now, let's take serine as our example. The centre carbon …"
John's strengths were human biology and anatomy, so he had dutifully struggled over Dr Holmes texts during the holidays in order to play catch up. With years spent working hard to maintain a straight A average, and he wasn't going to let one paper ruin it for him.
But Dr Holmes might be his downfall.
His voice did something to John, who found it incredibly difficult to concentrate on what the languid tones were actually explaining. Added to that his inexperience with the subject matter, over the next few lectures John found he was struggling to keep up. He did his best, and ended up spending a lot more time on chemistry than any of his other subjects, but it was beginning to take his toll.
Every day, John told himself he'd go and ask for help at the end of the lecture. But as soon as Dr Holmes walked in, brandishing chalk like a weapon, John found himself scared into changing his mind. Surely, if he worked a little harder, he'd understand it eventually.
He gathered up his courage a few weeks before the first exam, on realisation that if he didn't, he'd never pass.
Dr Holmes dismissed them that day as usual, with a lazy flick of a pale hand. As everyone around him packed up to leave, John gathered his notes and made his way to the front, swallowing down his nervousness.
"Dr Holmes-" he started, but the man flung out a hand to interrupt him. He was scribbling away in a yellowing notebook. John patiently waited until he was finished, when the professor stood straight and swivelled his attention to John much like a search light.
"What is it?" Sherlock questioned, eyes narrowed.
John inhaled, then started again. "Dr Holmes, I-"
John mentally replaced the name in his head before continuing. "I'm having some trouble with understanding how enantiomers work differently in a living system. It's really interesting, but-"
Sherlock scoffed. "Don't mock me." At John's bewildered expression, he rolled his eyes and clarified. "Don't pretend to find it interesting."
John shook his head, horrified. "No, sir, Sherlock, I really-" he started, only to be talked over again.
"I know what you are." Sherlock snapped his notebook shut with an air of finality. "A medical student, an over emotional creature who wants to dedicate his life to 'helping people' but has to pass my Biochemistry paper in order to get that chance." He ran his eyes over John, and his mouth twitched into an almost sneer, unimpressed. "You're not here because you want to be, you're listening to me because you have to. So please, before you continue, remember that I can see through any inane suck up that you may care to throw in my direction."
John felt his face grow hot in embarrassment. Luckily, the theatre was emptying quickly. The few students left crowded the exits, ignorant of Sherlock's put down. "I'm sorry," John blurted out. "You're right, I'm here because I need the credits. But this subject is necessary for a reason, and if I ignore it to concentrate on what I'm good at I'll make a worse doctor for it. I don't just want to pass this paper. I want an A." He coughed, and stared at his feet. "And for that I need … well, I just need a few things clarified."
Sherlock wasn't even looking at him, having turned away to pull on a long wool coat that flapped around his calves. "Read a textbook," he said shortly.
"I need your help," John insisted. "I won't take up to much of your time. I'm not stupid. But reading something over and over won't magically make me understand it."
Sherlock sniffed, and stared into the middle distance for a while. "I have another lecture," he said eventually. "Come to my office at five and I shall do my best to elucidate any problems that you may be having. Come prepared. If you show up with an empty brain and ask me to fill it for you, I will send you away."
John blinked hurriedly. "Thank you, sir," he said quietly. "Sherlock."
"Mm." Sherlock turned and swept out of the theatre, leaving John standing awkwardly by the lectern.
* * *
Sherlock's office was by the newest chemistry lab, an easy to ignore door that John had the sneaking suspicion was purposefully hidden away. But his name was on the engraving, and John knocked neatly on the door.
"Come in, John," called out Sherlock. John couldn't help but grin. He stepped in and shut the door neatly behind him.
If bare, Sherlock's office would be a decent size. It was made smaller by piles of books, a haphazard collection of files, paperwork and marking strewn apparently at random into various in and out boxes. Sherlock also seemed to have his own little experiment on mouse skeletons going on in the corner, the chemical agent they were floating in giving the room a rather pungent odour.
"Would you like me to open a window?" asked Sherlock slyly from his desk, his dark hair curling over his forehead as he leant up.
"It's fine," John coughed, but Sherlock grabbed a pole by his desk and reached back with it, deftly flicking the window open. His shirt stretched over his lithe chest as he moved, and John felt his face heat.
Despite his initial disdain, Sherlock turned out to be a fantastic teacher. He quickly clocked that John was eager to learn, and took the time to go over basic concepts before bringing John back up to speed with the lectures. Time flew by, and when John glanced out the window he was surprised to see it had gotten dark.
"I think I should go," he said, smiling up at Sherlock, who silently watched him over steepled fingers. "Let you get back to your experiments."
"Yes." Sherlock was unmoving, eyes tracing over John's figure as if mentally weighing him up. "Well. You aren't as dull as I thought you'd be, John Watson. Feel free to drop by if you have any other questions."
"I probably will." John pulled his bag over his shoulder, glancing at his watch. "First exam coming up and all."
"You are going to have to work extremely hard to get your A," Sherlock remarked. "That exam is 25% of your final grade for my paper."
John nodded. "You're, uh … you're writing it, aren't you?"
"I have written it," Sherlock corrected him. "Quite a while back. And no, I'm not going to give you any hints."
"I never asked for hints!" John exclaimed.
Sherlock smiled briefly at him. "Goodbye, John. Shut the door on your way out."
* * *
John was utterly murdered by the exam.
He knew he hadn't done his best after sweating in the exam hall for an hour, the rather vicious shouting match with his father over the phone just before doing nothing to calm his nerves, but he was disappointed in himself. The returned paper slapped down on his desk, the first C-minus John had ever received in his life, barely a pass. It was low enough to scupper his chances at an A in the final.
"Sherlock!" he called out, bursting into the man's office, waving his paper in the air. "Sherlock, I got a-"
"C-minus," Sherlock replied, swivelling around in his seat and snapping his textbook on natural poisons shut. "I know."
"Oh." John deflated a little. He stood limply by the doorway as Sherlock considered him.
"Sit down, John."
John slumped, boneless, and Sherlock leant closer.
"It was my fault." John ran a hand through his hair, wincing. "I got myself worked up. I forgot everything, I overthought everything. It was a horrible, horrible exam."
It was Sherlock's exam.
"And what do you expect me to do about that?" Sherlock said coldly. "Trying to make me feel sorry for you, hm?"
"Of course not!" John exclaimed. "I just … I thought …" He cleared his throat uneasily. "If there was any way ... I could scrap this mark and have my final exam weigh more heavily? I know I can do better."
"Out of the question," Sherlock said swiftly, shaking his head. "Now, if that is all-"
"Please!" John exclaimed. "I can do this, I know it. You know it." He slapped his hands down on Sherlock's desk, and Sherlock raised his eyebrows. John was determined. "Let me prove it."
Sherlock dropped his book to the desk. It landed with a thump that rattled John's nerves. Sherlock clasped his long hands together and rested his chin, eyes lazily staring into his own. "John," he said, unhurried. "What are you doing this evening?"
John blinked, confused by the change of subject. "Library and then home, I guess."
"Wrong." Sherlock slapped his own hands on the desk, and John flinched back. "You're coming to dinner with me."
John stammered. "No I'm not."
"Yes you are." A slight smile, perceptive, as if Sherlock had already deduced John's little crush on him.
After a pause, John said, "That's against the rules."
"So is demanding I change university policy in your favour." Sherlock relaxed back, comfortably elegant as he crossed his legs and looked John over. "And don't be silly, John. You love breaking rules. Staff still gossip about your fresher year."
John couldn't suppress his smile, and Sherlock continued.
"I'll pick you up at your flat at 8:30." He gestured vaguely towards his collection of paperwork. "The address is on file. Dress smart casual, leaning towards smart, I'm going to take you out somewhere nice."
"Sherlock, I …" John stopped. It was like his tongue had dried up, and he found he had nothing to say. But surely this was a win-win situation? He'd innocently fantasised about Sherlock since he first saw him, despite what was more than a ten year age gap. The feeling lingered, though, that what was going on here was quite out of his depth. He sighed, smiled nervously at his feet. "Never mind."
"I don't mind," said Sherlock. "Off you go, now. And call your parents back and tell them I think their son is a fine, intelligent young man and a dedicated student, and if they want him to do well they need to stop harassing him." He shook his head at John's honest surprise. "Your troubles are written over you. I simply see what others don't."
"It was just my dad," John said quietly. "But thank you."
"Mm." Sherlock glanced over him again. "Of course."
John hurried home, leaving Sherlock with his nose buried in his book.
* * *
John twisted over his shoulder to see Sarah Sawyer leaning on the bathroom doorframe in her pyjamas and a dressing gown, a knowing smile on her face. She looked exceptionally pretty, even with no makeup.
"Sort of," John said as he turned back to the mirror to run his hands through his hair again, jittery with nerves. Time leapt haphazardly forward every time he glanced at his watch, and he'd changed his shirt three times already. Every time he looked in the mirror he heard Sherlock's voice in his head, a cold, cutting remark, and his confidence crumbled all over again.
"Sort of?" Sarah sounded intrigued. She looked over her shoulder towards the living room, where the TV was blaring. "Hey, Mike! John's got a sort-of date!"
"John's always got a sort-of date!" Mike called back in mock jealously.
"Sarah," John chided. He tugged at his cuffs, covering up his wrists. "It's just dinner," he said lamely. It wasn't a date. People who aren't dating go to dinner together all the time.
"Are you wearing cologne?"
John stared beseechingly at the ceiling.
"Sorry!" Sarah laughed, pushing herself upright. "She must be something special to get this sort of reaction from you. You were so smooth on our first date. None of this."
"You're a mate, and you always have been. I couldn't be nervous around you if I tried."
"And this girl's not a mate?"
John gave her reflection a look, and Sarah laughed again. "Alright, alright. You don't want to gossip."
The doorbell rang out, and the clock said 8:32.
"Shit!" John exclaimed, suddenly skittish. "Oh, bloody hell!"
He was calmed by Sarah, who came forward in a rush of sweet smelling shampoo and floaty dressing gown to comb her fingers through his hair, letting the strands fall neatly to his forehead. She adjusted his collar, then flicked open the top button of his shirt with a wicked smile. "You go have fun," she said. "You look great."
"You're a diamond, Sarah," John breathed, kissing her on the forehead. He grabbed his keys and wallet, and dashed for the door.
* * *
"I don't think I have enough money for a black cab," John said, rifling through his wallet as he settled back into his seat. And he really, really didn't. Not if he wanted to have more than a garden salad for dinner.
Sherlock waved his hand, staring out the window at the lights flashing by, their momentary glow emphasising the sharp angles of his face. He looked different out in the city, instead of pacing around in a lecture theatre or cloistered away in his office. "Don't worry about it."
That set of warning alarms in John's head. "I'm not letting you pay for me," he said firmly.
"It's not a problem."
John sat up straight. "I'm not letting you pay for me," he repeated, because that would change everything.
Sherlock slowly turned his head to stare straight at John. "I'm not paying for you," he replied, and his pale eyes narrowed, like John was being purposefully ignorant. "We're eating somewhere where I get meals on the house, as the owner owes me a tremendous favour. So, you can afford the taxi. And, as I said, your monetary situation is not a problem."
It wasn't like he was being rude, but John felt thrown. He had to remember to blink. "Oh," he said lamely. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bite your head off."
Sherlock raised his eyebrows, smiling slightly, as if amused by the notion that anything John said would have an effect on him, and turned his gaze back out the window. "Ah," he announced with a brief smile. "We've arrived."
The restaurant was busy, as all the good ones were at this time of night. Sherlock threw a bunch of notes at the driver and jumped out onto the pavement, sweeping off towards to entrance in a whirl of expensive wool coat while John tried to work out what he owed. After a bit of back and forth with the driver he rushed after Sherlock, clutching awkwardly at his wallet.
"Hello, Peter," said Sherlock, smiling his polite society smile at the waiter who held the door open for them. John was given a friendly but thorough look over as he walked through, questioning eyes flicking between him and Sherlock. They were rushed to "Dr Holmes' favourite table" by the owner, who seemed very eager to see them, and after an enthusiastic conversation with a rather less animated Sherlock, they were left with their menus and a newly lit candle. Sherlock wore a dark suit under his coat, the cut casually elegant, and he'd unbuttoned the jacket to reveal a very tight fitting white shirt.
John made a quiet humming noise and firmly directed his eyes away. "He's giving us free food, you know," he said, flipping open the menu. "You could at least try to be polite."
"I was being polite," said Sherlock, peeved. "I did introductions, and I smiled at him." He peered over at what John was reading. "May I suggest the cacio e pepe? Angelo has quite a talent for it."
"I was thinking pizza," said John, with a slight smile at Sherlock's scoff. "Alright, what are you having?"
Sherlock leant back, curling his hands together under his chin. "I've already eaten."
John frowned. "Is this some sort of loophole? We're not eating together, so it's okay?"
Sherlock tilted his head, eyes narrowed. Then he huffed a laugh and turned away, gesturing for service.
The waiter quickly came over to take their order, and they must have been at the top of a list of some sort because it was a very short time before John had his four seasons pizza and lemonade placed in front of him. Sherlock had a glass of water that he didn't even look at, choosing instead to glare at John's pizza like it was personally insulting him. But John was interested in other things, namely the achingly courteous service.
"It's like you're the mayor!"
"I've met the mayor, actually" said Sherlock, with a slight smile at John's astonishment.
"Oh yeah, for that award." John remembered the gossip amongst the students during the first lecture, one of the many talking points about Dr Holmes. "One of the countries top ten lecturers, right?"
Sherlock shrugged it off like it was nothing. "It wasn't particularly surprising. I'm good at what I put my mind to, and I take great care over my lectures." He smirked slyly at John. "Not that you pay much attention to them."
"I do!" John protested. "I'm just … not so good at chemistry."
"Then one can only wonder if you've chosen the right profession, especially considering how important drugs are in modern medicine."
"That's pharmacology, not chemistry," John pointed out. He started cutting the pizza up into slices so he'd have something to do with his hands.
Sherlock didn't sigh, or roll his eyes, but still somehow projected his impatience at John's continual missing of the point. "It's applied chemistry. Much like most things in the world." He pointed at John's food with the tips of his steepled fingers. "Like your pizza, for example."
John glanced up. "Huh?"
"Cooking, John." Sherlock wrinkled his nose at the meal. "Chemical reactions, protein denaturing, precise measurements at a certain temperature. Cooking, as the saying goes, is merely chemistry for the hungry."
"Like molecular gastronomists," said John, taking a deliberate bite of pizza.
"Quite," said Sherlock, with an air of finality. He was getting bored. "Now, we're not at university. Tell me about yourself."
John swallowed awkwardly around his food. "Why?"
"Isn't that what people do?"
John picked at the edge of his placemat. "I'm not that interesting," he said. Nor was he interested in talking about himself to someone who'd be able to construct an estimate of his past after a five minute conversation.
But Sherlock didn't take his word for it. "I wouldn't have asked if I didn't want to know."
"You've got my file," John reminded him, a little bit defensive. His reticence seemed to spark something off in Sherlock, who leant forward in interest at the prospect of something to solve.
"Oh, of course," he said, voice disconcertingly soft as he pinned John with that piercing gaze. "Your file tells a whole story. You're smart, adventurous, not above a bit of rule breaking. You wanted to go on a gap year before starting university, but you couldn't afford it. Although you care about your family, you don't get along with them, but still you ache for their acceptance and put a lot more effort into maintaining the relationship then they do. And you're a second child, your older sibling most likely female."
He paused, looking John up and down again, his eyes lingering over John's tense posture.
"And you've only ever dated women. But every so often you're attracted to a man, although so far you've been far too nervous to act on such a ... difficult impulse."
John stood up, his chair loudly scraping backwards across the floor. "Have you been asking questions about me?" he demanded, feeling a swell of rage.
Sherlock stared up at him with a hint of pride in his eyes. "Sit down, John," he said gently.
John carefully lowered himself to his seat, eyes downcast. His hands were clenched into fists on his lap. "None of that is on my file, on any file. Who the bloody hell have you been talking to?"
"I read between the lines, and I've spent a lot of time in your company," Sherlock said in reply, as though that explained everything. "Simple."
"How?" John was honestly curious. "How did you figure all that out?"
Sherlock yearned for an attentive listener. His pale eyes lit up, and he was suddenly a lot more demonstrative. "You're 22 years old, which means you didn't have a gap year. Fine, some students don't, but you crave new experiences. You're obviously adventurous. You moved about as far from your family as possible to come to a whole new city on your own, of course a gap year was something you wanted to do. But you're a student on a means tested scholarship. So, you couldn't afford it."
There'd been plans. John and a couple of his mates, touring Australia and New Zealand. He'd been 18 years old and desperate to see the world.
"… Yes," he said, ducking his head. Sherlock continued.
"And your family. You always, always take calls from your father, even if it's just him yelling at you. That says you want his approval, and he knows it, so he continues to treat you however you like."
John's stomach twisted. "What about me having older sister?" he challenged.
Sherlock smirked. "Well, you're obviously a second child."
John crinkled his brow in confusion.
"And it's because of her that you're very comfortable around women your own age." Sherlock leant forward ever so slightly. "I would say that you're used to them, much more so than you are with men, with whom you always … restrain yourself." His eyes flickered over John, as if calculating. Waiting.
John relented with a smile. "I really want to yell at you to shut up," he admitted. "But all I can think of is how amazing that was."
Sherlock looked almost comically surprised. "Really?
"Absolutely," said John earnestly.
"Oh." Sherlock sat back. "Thank you." He sounded genuinely pleased, and John smiled at that.
"You can do that thing with … anyone?"
Sherlock nodded. "Yes, of course. It's a hobby of mine."
John could only stare in wonder. "Don't get mad when I say this, but why the hell are you a lecturer with a skill like that?" Sherlock chuckled, but John was serious. "You should be a police detective!" he exclaimed. "Or … a psychiatrist! Actually, scratch that, you would be a terrifying psychiatrist …"
Sherlock gave an insincere smile. "I have been told that I am not very comforting."
John raised his eyebrows. "By who?"
John shook his head determinedly. "You can be nice." At Sherlock's questioning look, he clarified. "Like … you're being nice now."
And he was being nice. John remembered when he'd been terrified to even talk to Dr Holmes, but here and now, he was good company, in his own strange way. John had yet again started pondering Sherlock's exact intentions for their dinner when a warm hand pressed over his own, giving the slightest press.
"How do you know I'm not just pretending, so I can soften you up for later advances?" Sherlock murmured. John felt a rush of arousal at the elegant fingers stroking over his own.
"You were planning on … advancing?" He'd aimed for nonchalant, but his voice was tellingly shaky. Sherlock, of course, noticed.
John ended up taking half his pizza back. He'd ordered a large (it was free food) but hesitated at stuffing his face, and Sherlock's easy abstinence made him feel like a glutton in comparison. But he'd been given a box to take it home in.
With now limited funds, they took the Underground back to the station nearest John's. Sherlock pointed out little details about their fellow passengers for his own entertainment, whispering his deductions in John's ear. The missing wedding ring. Shaving foam clinging by the ear. An old photograph in a wallet. Mud stains spattering the hem of a skirt.
It was easy to see how Sherlock was such a celebrated chemist as well as a teacher. He noticed everything.
They walked back in easy companionship, not arm in arm, but close nonetheless. Sherlock was kind enough to slow his long steps, allowing John to keep up. John felt a thrill jolt down his spine whenever their shoulders brushed, a stupid thrill. He hadn't felt this way since he was a teenager.
Sherlock stopped at the junction that turned into John's street. He swivelled to look down at John, his dark hair curling delicately over his forehead, and all John could think about was how strangely attractive he was. And this man had sought John out on purpose, had found his company to be worth bending a few rules for. The thought simultaneously warmed him and turned his stomach to jelly.
"I had a good time," he said, knowing that Sherlock would want to leave now. He couldn't exactly walk John to his doorstep.
Sherlock sighed up at the sky. "Why must you end an enjoyable evening with a phrase of such crushing mediocrity?"
"Because I am crushingly mediocre."
Sherlock lips twitched, then he met John's gaze and returned the wry smile. He abruptly reached up to stroke a hand through John's hair, narrowing his eyes. His thumb brushed over John's heated ear.
John was completely out of his depth. He leant hesitantly forward, in a movement far more confident than he actually felt, and Sherlock's other hand came to rest almost accidently against his side. He dipped his head tantalisingly closer to John's, casting a shadow over John's face, but there was still a visible shine in his pale, alien eyes.
John could see the beginnings of thought lines on Sherlock's forehead. He could see every fragile eyelash. He wondered what Sherlock, frightfully observant Sherlock, could read from John's skin.
It was the first time John had ever leant up so far for a kiss. Sherlock's hands slipped around to encircle John's waist, pulling him slightly off balance and holding him there, flush against his front. John was almost clumsy with nervousness, and at the dreaded teeth click he felt Sherlock smirk against his mouth. Kissing Sherlock was different from kissing a girl. There was a rasp of stubble at his upper lip and chin, and the smells were wrong, intoxicatingly so. He opened his eyes mid kiss to see Sherlock's gaze boring into him.
John broke away hurriedly. It was too much. "I better get back," he said.
"Of course," said Sherlock, his stare unnerving now. He caught John's hand before he slipped away, held him there.
"I need to get back," John protested, and then froze when Sherlock ducked down to press his lips to John's wrist, right over the pulse point. John felt him inhale against his skin, and repressed a shiver. Sherlock hadn't stopped staring.
"Good night, John," Sherlock said. Then he spun on his heel and swept away, pacing down the streets the way they'd walked up.
John stumbled home, clutching at his half-a-pizza, fumbling for the keys in his pocket with numb fingers.
It was just a kiss. Kisses didn't mean dinners were suddenly rerecorded by history into dates. It wasn't as though he and Sherlock were dating after John, so mesmerised by his professor, had tripped and fallen upwards onto Sherlock's mouth.
"You okay?" chirped Molly. She'd popped out of nowhere to see John sitting alone on a hallway bench by the lecture theatre, head in his hands after a rather intense exchange of glances with Sherlock over crowded heads. His notes were barely legible, he'd been so nervous.
Molly sat down next to him, tucking her skirt under her legs. John could see her huge brown eyes blinking in his peripheral vision, and turned to smile weakly at her. "I'm fine. Just … yeah. Fine."
He suspected his face said differently. He didn't have access to a mirror, but he was pretty certain his expression was more along the lines of 'I am completely and utterly fucked'.
"Ahuh." Molly returned the smile. "Suuuure."
There was a creak, and the door from the theatre swung open.
Molly whipped around with a little gasp and John wasn't even looking but he recognised the collection of slender shapes out of the corner of his eye as though his brain had a special Sherlock Holmes filter. He was carrying a very heavy looking stack of textbooks, straining at the weight, and sure enough as he passed them, his muscles gave up and the books tumbled to the ground. Molly leapt to her feet, her face brilliant red.
"Dr Holmes!" she exclaimed. "You can't take these all the way to your office!" She immediately knelt and started scooping the books into a pile, as Sherlock rubbed at his back.
"Thank you, Molly," he said. "But there's no need."
"Let me carry some," Molly said, blinking up hopefully at him through the wisps of her fringe. She seemed so vulnerable at that moment. John felt a strong surge of protectiveness well up.
"I couldn't possibly ask you to help," Sherlock said, and his eyes narrowed as she stood again, scrutinising. He gestured at her face. "New haircut?"
Molly practically wriggled with glee. She flicked her hair. "Just a trim!"
She looked ecstatic that Sherlock had noticed. But Sherlock didn't seem to notice her feelings. The corners of his mouth tugged down, and he stood up straighter. "You looked better before," he told her, waving his hand towards her. "Your face looks … overwhelmed, now."
John stared at the ceiling as a shocked Molly scrambled to collect her scattered self confidence. She muttered a hurried goodbye and dashed away, her voice trembling a little. Sherlock shrugged off her reaction, reaching down to pluck up half of the stacked books. His critical gaze flicked inevitably to John, who had given up trying to pretend he hadn't noticed him. John looked back, trying to visibly communicate his embarrassment.
"Why did you say that?"
The rest of the books were nudged pointedly towards him by a foot. "John." Sherlock had decided to ignore his question. "Would you?"
It wasn't like John could politely say no. He pulled himself wearily upwards. "That was … completely unnecessary," he said loudly, hefting the rest of the books into his arms. They were as heavy as they looked, and he huffed in exertion. Turned to continue his rant, he discovered Sherlock had already moved on, expecting John to follow. He had to trot to keep up. "Sher- Dr Holmes!"
"Come along, John!" called Sherlock, sweeping around a corner.
Students bustled past John, who was finding it very difficult to keep an eye on where he was going as well as stop the books sliding off onto the floor. He saw the fluttering of Sherlock's coat towards the elevators and made a beeline for him, apologising profusely to the people he knocked into. He was panting by the time he caught up.
"Why did you talk like that to Molly?" he demanded.
The lift pinged open. "Ah," said Sherlock with a pleased grin, moving in. John sighed, giving up, and followed. "Can you press the button?"
He had to put the books down to do it. His shoulders ached with sudden weightlessness. The doors clashed shut, and with a whirr they were pulled upwards.
"Is there a particular reason you took out the whole library?" John asked, tugging the books up again. Dust from the covers spun up into his face, and he wrinkled his nose to withhold any sneezing. "Can you even take this many books out?"
"These are my books," Sherlock said, moving out as the doors slid open. He set off down the corridor towards the labs and his office, and John followed easily, knowing the way. "I bought them."
"Then, for future reference, I think it's best you buy them a few at a time," John puffed. He swayed unsteadily by the door as Sherlock fiddled with the keys, then dumped them gratefully on the floor once inside. He groaned in relief, stretching upwards and lifting his arms straight over his head. "Or maybe enlist the help of a crane …"
Sherlock slammed the door shut behind them.
He darted forward and scooped John into his arms, still mid-stretch. John yelped in surprise as Sherlock lifted, and he was pulled onto his tiptoes against Sherlock's chest, panting a little. Sherlock stared at him, like he was some sort of curiosity. An interesting outcome to an experiment, but one he could have predicted nonetheless.
His lips were warm and soft, gentle kisses, the press of his nose against John's cheek, every exhale hot over his skin. John slid his hand up from Sherlock's chest, dragging against the fabric up his sloping shoulders, and around his neck, his arms brushing against Sherlock's black curls. He murmured into the kiss and opened his mouth into Sherlock's searching tongue.
It was different from last time. There were no shadows obscuring just who he was with, and they weren't outside of the university grounds anymore. He was here, in Sherlock's office, surrounded by text books and lecture plans.
"Maybe we shouldn't do this," John breathed when they broke apart, feeling the heat rise over his cheeks as Sherlock stared unashamedly at John's mouth, trying to control his breathing.
He nodded vaguely, and tugged John in again. "Maybe," he rumbled, sealing John's half-formed protests with another kiss.
There was absolutely no room. When Sherlock pushed John against some shelves, paperwork was sent fluttering down, essays to be marked and lab reports to be checked spilling across the floor. He seemed to really want to pin John down, although John wasn't going anywhere. They ended up pressed against Sherlock's desk, with John partially sitting on it, gasping against increasingly greedy kisses.
He pulled back, with the realisation that he was in danger of getting hard. Sherlock let him go, smoothing his hands over John's shoulders to as if to memorise his shape, concentrating intensely in a way that should have made John feel uncomfortable, but didn't.
"What do you want?" he asked, slightly breathless. Sherlock glanced up, pale eyes and hair tousled from John's fingers.
"Your notes are illegible," he said simply, eyes flicking over to John's open bag.
John blinked at him, momentarily thrown. "What?"
Sherlock peered back. "When I look at you, you can't concentrate. It's not embarrassment from wishing you hadn't kissed me, it's the signs of a growing attraction. Attraction that I reciprocate." He slid his hands to John's thighs, fingers stroking almost absently against John's jeans, and his eyelids dipped. "I want what you want."
"Look," John started, slightly flustered. "You were right, last night. I've never done anything with guys before. I mean, I want to. But …"
The look Sherlock gave him was first exasperation having his deductions doubted, and then something approaching kindness. But he had a slight smirk that played almost invisible at the edges of swollen lips. "That's fine," he said quietly, unblinking. "We'll start slow."
The door was locked. The open window was four stories up and faced nothing but the sky, letting in only late afternoon light that spilled against John's back as he scrambled more securely onto the desk. They had their privacy.
Sherlock coaxed his mouth against John's again, although this this time he was incredibly focused, like he'd learnt what turned John on and was intent on pushing all those buttons simultaneously, bringing him back to a twisting, needy mess on the desk as quickly as possible. John gripped at Sherlock's shoulders and inhaled sharply as the steadily lowering touches crept over his belly, then smoothed easily under his shirt, tugging it up. They broke apart so John could pull his shirt off and then went right back to kissing.
He let Sherlock touch him, and touched nervously in return, unsure if he'd ever get used to the hard shape of a man's body compared to the soft curves of a girl. He couldn't quite bring himself to lower his hands past Sherlock's waist. It was even more galling in that John was used to being confident and in control with his partners, but his experiences were useless with Sherlock. He was, for the first time in a while, scared of doing it wrong.
"Let me show you how it's done," Sherlock whispered against his ear, mouthing at the lobe. John shuddered.
"Oh, god, yes," he blurted out as Sherlock unzipped his jeans and pressed a warm, long fingered hand right over him. He was achingly hard from teasing touches, and at Sherlock's gentle squeeze he had to bite back a moan.
"Responsive," observed Sherlock, and now the smirk was no longer hidden. "Good."
John had always noticed Sherlock's slender hands, their graceful competence, the elegant way he gesticulated when explaining a difficult concept.
He'd never expected to see the same hands in a situation like this, effortlessly bringing John to completion. His insides curled and he squirmed against the desk, feet slipping on the floor and his head thrown back with Sherlock's arm around his waist, Sherlock's hand thrusting fast between them. He came far too quickly with a breathless moan, face heated and flushed red with arousal.
"Your turn," Sherlock growled, his eyes flickering wildly over John, and John tugged at the professor's belt with shaking fingers, his vision still a little blurry. Sherlock braced himself on the desk over John so he could get a good view of both John's body and his hands that wrapped hesitantly around Sherlock's hard cock. His eyelids fluttered shut for a moment when John cautiously thumbed at the head.
It didn't take much to get him off. John replicated the things he liked done to himself, but it was Sherlock's hiss of "harder!" between clenched teeth that did him in. He squeezed tighter, his other hand moving up Sherlock's shirt to scrape at his slender back, feeling the vibrations under his skin as he slowly came undone.
Sherlock shouted, voice hoarse, and spilt over John's hand and wrist. In a flurry of recklessness, Sherlock reached around to pull John over him and they collapsed ungracefully to the floor, limbs splayed over the scattered papers. John half-heartedly tried to pull away, but Sherlock held him close.
Draped over Sherlock's prone form, John's chest rubbed over shirt buttons, his jeans around his thighs. Sherlock was feeling him, his hands smoothing warm trails up and down John's skin, moving over his waist, his arse, the small of his back, and scraping up into his hair to tug him into a sloppy kiss. John moved lazily with him, the angle of their mouths making it awkward, but he was long passed caring.
When they pulled apart, Sherlock looked happily triumphant. "Would you like an A?" he whispered, playing with the hair over John's ear.
"Yeah," John said. He was a little shocked. "But not like that."
Sherlock smiled his clever smile.
They sat up, backs against the desk, and soaked in the afterglow. Slowly, they pulled themselves together, redressing and buttoning up, straightening out each others clothes.
"I need your phone number," Sherlock said, playing with the collar of John's shirt.
John didn't want to refuse him, but he felt uncomfortable. "Look," he said slowly. "I'm not sure about this."
Sherlock tilted his head, questioning. "What aren't you sure about?"
"If we get found out …" John broke off, swallowed, and stared out the window. "I just … well. You could lose your job. And I …"
"You're worried about your friends finding out that you are bisexual?" Sherlock looked disgruntled. "You are who you are, John."
"You'd get fired," John said, folding his arms.
Sherlock scoffed, and swept around to the side of his desk, pulling out a chair. "We are both consenting adults," he said in reply, dropping down and steepling his fingers. "What we do together is nobody elses business."
John shook his head. "You know that this is different. For Christ's sake, Sherlock, you just offered me an A for giving you a handjob!"
"I was joking," said Sherlock mildly. "I require a lot more than a handjob for an A."
"You're impossible," said John through gritted teeth, and he ran his hands through his hair in frustration. Sherlock just watched him.
"It's on file," John told him, and he picked up his bag and left before he said anything stupid, shutting the door behind him.