Mary paused outside the door to Holmes’ room, tying the sash of her dressing gown over her thin cotton shift. In a fine line at the bottom of the door, a faint flickering light told her that he likely had a fire in the small hearth; however, that did not mean he was awake. Sighing, she moved on down the stairs, finding her way mostly by memory in the merest light from the moonlight coming in the windows here and there. She was too practical to people the shadows with images from her nightmares, and proved it to herself by determinedly not lighting a candle or lamp when she had made her way in even dimmer light many times before.
Some minutes later, she came back up the stairs carefully carrying a mug of hot cocoa. When she reached the top of the stair, a widening shaft of light threw wavering shadows along the hall and behind her as she looked up to see Holmes silhouetted against the warm glow inside his room.
A number of things came to mind, excuses, questions, but none of them passed her lips. Holmes’ head tilted slightly and he held out one hand a moment later, eloquent of invitation and understanding without need for words.
The only light was, as she’d thought, a small fire on the hearth, and he led her to the chairs by the fireplace, waiting until she’d sunk down into one before he turned to take up a poker.
The house was so quiet, she could hear an occasional rustling of branches brushing the house or roof, and the crackling hush of the fire was like a distant conversation held in whispers and hisses. She smiled at her own whimsy, sipping carefully of the cocoa.
“That’s better,” Holmes said, almost too quietly to be heard over the fire, and Mary’s brows rose. He allowed a corner of his mouth to quirk up and sat in his chair as he explained in a slightly more audible voice, “I like your smile better than the memories of whatever it was that disturbed your sleep.”
“Dreams. Nothing but worries given shape,” she dismissed with a brief shake of her head.
“It’s natural that you would miss him,” he said by way of agreement and to show her that he understood what she wasn’t saying. She couldn’t help the rueful twist of her lips into a not-quite-smile. “But the medical conference will only last another three days.”
“I know. You’ve both been away any number of times before. I feel silly to fret now,” she said more truthfully, sipping again, her eyes on the bright dance of flames in the grate.
“Don’t,” he urged simply. She looked over at him, noting that he wore his gray dressing gown over a pair of darker gray pyjama trousers. No dark gray lapels showed at the neck of the dressing gown to indicate he wore the matching pyjama shirt beneath. “You should have knocked before.”
“I didn’t want to disturb you.” It was pointless to deny that she’d halted by his door earlier, or that she’d wanted company.
“Mary,” he murmured chidingly, though too fondly for it to sting, and uncrossed his legs to lean forward slightly and reach across to encircle her wrist with long graceful fingers. Tugging gently, he added, “I should have thought we were beyond that now.”
The firelight cast him in shifting relief, could have made him seem foreboding, sardonic, but she knew what to look for. His grey eyes were kind, the set of his mouth relaxed, and she blushed a little at a sudden vivid memory of those lips upon John’s. Of them upon her own. She turned her hand and he let her slide her fingers into his as she rose to her slippered feet. Setting the mug upon the low table between the chairs, she took three small steps.
Holmes deftly guided her to sit upon his lap, his right arm curved around her, hand at her thigh, his left smoothing down her shift and the skirts of her dressing gown over her legs. After she’d tucked her feet into the gap between his left thigh and the arm of the chair, he retrieved her cocoa and handed it to her with a slight nod.
“It’s different” She said after a drink, cradling the cup in both hands, trailing off as she considered how to put what she wanted to say. The movement of his nearly silent chuckle made the cocoa in the mug waver and swirl slightly, his breath stirring the loose hairs at the near side of her face and neck. Fearing to be misunderstood, she looked up worriedly, “I don’t mean to imply that you’re not—“
“No,” he cut her off with kind firmness. “No, it is different. I know you initially put up with me for love of him.” At her gasp of dismay, he shook his head, not giving her time to argue. “It’s no insult, Mary. It was the same for me, of course.”
She frowned down into the mug, mixed feelings swirling through her as she’d swirled cream into the hot water and melted chocolate.
“But it’s not like that now,” she put forth cautiously, taking another drink—more for comfort and having something to do—and then leaned forward over her own bent knees, meaning to return the mug to the table, but it was just out of easy reach. Holmes took the mug and carefully put it out of harm’s way.
“No, it’s not.” He looked down at her and she had to steel herself to return his gaze, not sure what she expected, but still surprised at the warmth in it as he went on quietly, “We’re still sorting ourselves out, of course, but…” he lifted his left hand to skim his fingers along the curve of her cheek, tucking fine golden-blonde hairs behind her ear with a touch so gentle she scarcely felt it. “I’ve come to see in you what he has all along.” His thumb traced an arc along her cheekbone and down to the point of her chin, and Mary felt a gentle warmth whisper through her, like the ghost of the liquid heat that John had always stirred in her, or the only slightly less intense sensation seeing John and Sherlock together stirred in her.
Mary nodded slightly, now unable to look away, and she twisted her fingers in a fold of her dressing gown over her thighs. “I knew—before—but didn’t realize.” His lifted brows told her he wasn’t sure of her meaning and she wondered why it should be so difficult to speak to him thusly, considering that they had shared a bed—and John—a number of times now. “I always admired you, from the very start, and later, when—well, I never had to ask why he loved you.”
It was a wondrous thing to see even the slightest blush touch Holmes’ lean cheeks, to see his eyes flash with something intense and bright before his eyelids half hid them. She felt a smile tugging at her mouth and reached up to touch her fingertips to his jaw, his chin, then let her hand rest upon the gray fabric over his heart.
“He asked me to look after you,” he said in a voice that was barely even a whisper. The warmth in her increased, and yet she smiled, fighting the urge to laugh in surprised delight.
“He asked me the same thing,” she told him conspiratorially. He did laugh, though softly, and she felt as much as heard it move through her.
“What else did he ask?” Holmes' voice had taken on a huskier tone, and he ran his left hand down along her arm to rest it over hers where it lay upon his chest. She grew more aware of the warmth of his body, of the intimacy of their position, and yet it was a gentle progression of awareness, not startling or uncomfortable.
Swallowing, remembering John’s whisper when they were parting at the train station, she knew her lips curved in a hint of a wicked smile as she spoke, “He asked, if we… comforted one another while he was away, that I tell him about it.” His hand upon her hip shifted slightly, fingers splaying. “That I should do what I liked, but he hoped to share it after the fact, vicariously.”
“Did he tell you that he would be imagining us together while he was away?” Holmes asked, a hint of a similar smile lurking at his mouth, and the timbre of his voice, as much as the words themselves, made her press her thighs together at the sudden rush of response where they joined. A little breath escaped her, even so, and she nodded, watching his features and wondering how she could ever have thought him cold. “Since John said you should do what you like…what would you like?”
“I hadn’t thought…” She trailed off, realizing that what she’d been about to say was untrue, and instead grasped his satin lapel, tugging a little as she lifted her face. He didn’t resist, didn’t pretend not to know what she wanted, lowering his head to meet her.
Holmes’ lips were cool at first, though she knew that was more because hers were still warm from the cocoa, and though they had kissed before in the heat of passion, this was different. This was soft, and testing, and she thought of Holmes’ experiments, wondering if that’s how he viewed such things. He moved slightly, catching her lower lip in his and drawing it in very slightly, not quite a nip, not exactly suckling it, more like savouring the feel of it. Liking the idea, Mary did the same to him a moment later, his mouth far warmer than his lips, and the tip of his tongue ran along the seam where their lips touched, hottest of all.
Parting her lips, she turned into him a bit as their kiss deepened, his tongue slowly exploring her mouth, twining along hers as his arms tightened about her. She slid her hand up his chest, over his shoulder, and carded her fingers into the dark hair at the back of his head.
“You taste of the chocolate,” he whispered against her lips, sounding amused. She smiled into his mouth.
“Did you brush your teeth while I was making my cocoa?” The familiar mint taste was too fresh not to have been very recent.
“It seemed prudent,” he replied with a hint of dry humour and she shook her head with a soft laugh before capturing his mouth again. She insinuated her nearer arm between them and untied the sash of his dressing gown while their kiss grew a little bolder, a little deeper. His right arm pressed her closer, encircling her torso, hand high on her waist, while his left arm now lay along her upper legs, left hand sliding up her thigh between dressing gown and shift to cup her derriere.
“Sherlock,” she whispered, breaking off to press her lips against his jaw, his neck, and to nibble the skin there. “I so enjoy how you smell,” she breathed against his skin. Having mastered the sash of his dressing gown, she slipped her hand inside and found the warm skin beneath with a little sound of pleasure. He made a quiet sound that was not exactly a sigh as she ran her fingers along his ribs and around to spread her hand upon the smoothly-muscled line of his back, her arm squeezed between him and the back of the chair.
“Even without the cocoa, you are sweet, my dear,” he whispered. “Your scent, your voice, your skin.” He caressed down her thigh, finding the rumpled hem of her shift and slipping long, warm fingers underneath and upward again. His slightly roughened fingertips were gentle against her skin, and a little sighing murmur of pleasure escaped her when she felt those fingers reach her bottom, spanning most of her right buttock, thumb at the crease where her thigh met her hip. “The sounds you make,” he said as he sought her mouth again.
Mary met him halfway, tumbling into another kiss with abandon, the timbre of his voice and the warm span of his hand upon her bare skin arousing her more and more. She dug her fingers into the hair at his nape, cuddling closer to him in her arousal, and he freed her mouth to nuzzle against her throat and ear, whispering, “If I were John, what would you ask of him?”
Shaking her head a little, she gave a breathy moan when he lightly nipped the skin over the long tendon in her throat and drew her fingers from his hair to find the hand upon her bottom and guide it in a stroking motion, down and then up again, over her hip. “But this is you, Sherlock, and I want your hands upon me,” she said throatily as he continued without her urging, “your lovely hands.”
He caught her mouth again, claiming it more boldly, as if moved by her praise, and his long, sensitive fingers traced the curve of her belly and roamed upward over her ribs to cup her right breast, letting her nipple fall in between two of his fingers. She arched up into his touch a little when he gently rubbed his fingers on either side of the nipple, delicately scissoring it. When he lightly stroked his thumb over the tightened peak, Mary gasped into his mouth, pressing his hand against her more firmly, showing him that he needn’t handle her so cautiously.
Quickly taking to the wordless instruction, he circled the nipple again and again, bringing it tightly erect, and then ran light fingertips across to her other breast. Mary tried not to stifle the small noise of greedy enjoyment that rose up in her throat at the lovely sensations, her hips shifting as warm heat moved through her in response.
“I want to hear you, my dear,” Holmes breathed against her lips. “The sweet little sounds you make for John... don’t hold back,” he urged her before licking into her mouth again with the sort of passion he showed for John’s kisses.
Mary moaned a little in her throat as he teased first one breast and then the other, and couldn’t keep her hips still when he pinched and tugged with just the right firmness and rhythm, very nearly as good as when John suckled her. She practically devoured his mouth, pulling his tongue into her own in the same rhythm, and when he left off the delicious torment of her achingly-tight nipples to trace a path downward along her body again, she almost whimpered.
Parting her legs with a gentle nudge of his arm, he stroked her inner thighs lightly, bringing her to make another encouraging, needy sound into his mouth. When his large, warm hand cupped the dark gold curls at her mound, she lifted her hips into his touch with a moan, bringing a quiet chuckle from deep in his throat just before he released her mouth.
“Yes, that’s it,” he whispered, rubbing his hand slowly over her mound and down along the delicate cleft below, pressing slightly more when he traveled the same path upward again. Mary couldn’t keep from whimpering outright, eyes closed and face pressed into his neck now. “You must tell me what you need, sweetheart,” he murmured, continuing his movements, and she wasn’t sure if he was deliberately going slowly or doing so to be careful with her.
“I need more,” she whispered, putting her hand over his again, pressing down on his first two fingers and guiding him in a circular pattern, which pressed the folds of her damp, heated flesh against the little bud hidden further inward. “Here… yes!” She gasped when he, ever the clever one, parted those folds with gentle pressure of two of his fingers, allowing another two to slide between them. “Mmm… such lovely hands,” she crooned as his fingers nestled on either side of that eager little bundle of need, not directly upon it—which might have been too much too soon—but cradling it, the pressure not unlike that he’d used upon her nipple at first, but far more exciting.
“I’m glad to know you approve,” he murmured, sounding as if he were a moment away from a chuckle, but not mockingly so. “John always makes this look so easy.”
“Practice, practice… ahhmmyes…” Her quip fell by the wayside when he scissored his fingers on the next pass, bringing a rush of moisture within and an upward lift of her hips into his touch. She clutched at his shoulder, dug her fingers slightly into his back between him and the armchair’s padded backrest, and pressed open-mouthed kisses to his neck.
“So I see.” His tone was lower, a little rougher, and she was not so far gone as to miss the growing point of hardness beneath her. She wondered if she ought to offer to see to his pleasure before they went further with her own; however, the thought leapt out of her head the next moment, for he shifted the angle of his hand and his next movement brought his thumb rubbing directly over the bud this time, and one finger sliding smoothly into her. Mary gave a deep sighing groan of pleasure and nipped at Holmes’ throat, lustily sucking a bruise there, wanting the taste of his flesh in her mouth.
Holmes’ arm about her tightened slightly as she made free with lips and teeth and tongue, and the noise he made deep in his throat was certainly not displeasure. Mary nibbled and sucked, enjoying herself and the little signs of response from him that egged her on, unable to be still as the delicious sensations he was creating with the movement of his hand and fingers drove her further and further into heated excitement. Without more verbal urging from her, he increased his pace, adding another finger deftly, which she lauded with another enthusiastic groan and a stronger buck of her hips.
“Yes, Mary. Just lovely,” he approved a little raspily, and she realized suddenly that the movements of her hips were very likely rubbing him rather intimately, the thought of which only excited her more. Tight, liquid heat coiled in her belly, a promise of her release’s approach, and making for a meltingly delightful journey to meet it.
“More… more,” she pleaded, catching the back of his neck, wanting his mouth on hers again. “Your wonderful fingers… oh, Sherlock!” In immediate response, even as she was speaking, he stroked outward and then inward with a third finger, filling her just enough to make her cry out in approval. He then let her capture his mouth as he continued a little more quickly, his thumb riding that little bud that sent tingling jolts through her and long fingers stroking in and out of her at almost the perfect pace. Their kiss was wild and a little messy and Mary couldn’t get enough, suckling his tongue in rhythm with his hand and her hips.
She soon lost the ability to care what noises she was making, the needy cries muffled by his mouth, all that mattered was the slow, hot, spiraling climb upward toward her release. With astounding perceptiveness, Holmes brought her further and further along, following the clues of her movements and increasingly greedy kisses. Soon she was approaching the edge, throwing back her head against his shoulder and just riding the beautiful motion of his hand as it drove her perfectly onward. One hand digging into his back, the other clutching a fistful of his open dressing gown, Mary shouted joyfully as bright sparks went off behind her eyelids and she was overcome by that eagerly-sought, sharp-edged wave of bliss. Holmes’ rough-edged words of encouragement and approval followed her, buoyed her up, and soothed her as she drifted back down.
It wasn’t any surprise at all that he knew her well enough to cuddle her close afterward, to nuzzle soft kisses at her temple and cheek, and run a soothing hand along the line of her hip and thigh. When she blindly sought his mouth, he met her lips and followed along as she kissed him with lazy slowness, sharing in her afterglow. Mary sighed happily and her thoughts turned to how she might return the favour, making plans on what she would do to reduce Holmes to a similar state of warm, sated bliss.
Just as soon as she had control of her limbs again.