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A Thorough Examination / In Depth

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"You really don't take very good care of yourself," John said.

It was morning. Sherlock had watched the sun come up. He had two patches on his arm and he was working on his third cup of coffee in the past hour.

"I take care of my mind, John. It's the mind that's important. The body is irrelevant."

"Mm," John said, into his tea. "All the same. You ought to get a check up."

"Why on Earth would I want to do that?"

"It'd make me feel better."

"And why would I want to make you feel better?"

"It'd keep me from binning that mold culture in the back of the fridge."

"I can grow more mold."

"Yeah. Or you could come down and meet me after work and I could check you over and it'd be done in fifteen minutes. Your mold would be safe. And the severed hand in the freezer. I know you've got a month left to go before it's got the amount of freezer burn you wanted for comparison to that Norwich case."

Sherlock was quiet a long time. He'd been working on that hand for six weeks already. He hadn't thought John knew it was in there. "Fifteen minutes?"

"Perhaps a bit more. Not a big chunk out of your evening though. We could get a pizza after."

"Very well."

"Good." John smiled. "That's good. Thanks for being so reasonable about it."

Sherlock watched John's mouth as that smile slid away too quickly. There had been something there, something he'd not had time to analyze. He was left with the unsettling impression of having witnessed an expression that didn't belong on John Watson's face at all. In its wake it left the equally unsettling thought that perhaps he didn't know John as entirely as he thought he did.

+

That evening stretched to twenty minutes, though only because Sherlock balked at disrobing entirely and putting on the ridiculous garment doctors handed out on such occasions.

"I might as well be naked," he said.

"If you'd rather," John said, smiling his little smile, utterly unperturbed.

Sherlock pressed his lips together. "You're buying the pizza."

"Of course."

"Fine." He wore the robe, gap in the front after some hesitation, to put something between the chilly examination table and his rear.

"Bit of a catch-22, isn't it, that thing," John said. He tugged Sherlock's arms loose from their crossed position over his chest and rested an immensely cold stethoscope over his nipple.

Sherlock sucked in air and absolutely did not make any sort of undignified noise whatsoever.

"Sorry, sorry." John patted his shoulder, bare where the gown had slipped. "I don't keep it on ice, I swear, just feels that way."

He laid it on Sherlock's chest, in a more practical position this time. He told Sherlock to breathe, and Sherlock did. He listened to Sherlock's chest, front and back, to his heart and lungs and pronounced them, "Decent enough for all the smoking you did."

Sherlock sat very still, lest he lose what little covering he had. He felt more exposed than the catch-22 gown could account for. It wasn't as if he'd never had an examination before. It must be John, he decided, John knowing him so intimately already and now learning his body as well.

Their intimacy accounted for John's hand on his thigh, too, as John tapped at his patellar tendon to test his reflexes. Surely he didn't touch his patients like that. Then again, Sherlock didn't have a lot of experience  with the whole area of touching in general. Perhaps he was wrong.

John did buy him pizza afterwards, even let him--cheerfully--get anchovies on half. John hated anchovies.

Sherlock was left with three lingering sense memories that he tried and failed to delete from his hard drive over the next few days: how hard his nipples had been for almost the entire exam after that brush with cold metal; the sight of John's hand on his thigh, three fingers entirely hidden under the robe; John's warm smile when it was all over, all pride and approval and things Sherlock shouldn't care about in the least.

+

"Isn't this meant to be an annual ordeal?" Sherlock said, without looking up from his computer screen.

"Ye-es," John said. "For people who eat regular meals, sleep at night, aren't exposed to toxic chemicals on a near daily basis and refuse to wear gloves when handling them, don't chase lunatics across rooftops--"

"That was weeks ago! It's not a habit."

John sighed. "I worry about you, Sherlock. It's not as if I'm asking you to go to Bart's and let some stranger do it. It's just me. Fifteen minutes, once a month. Is that really too much to ask? I don't think I ask for much."

Sherlock was aware, distantly, that John asked for almost nothing from him and generally got less. He tried to focus on the article he was reading (on the timing of traffic lights; could be useful in a chase) but it was proving difficult.

"It's for your own good," John said, mild as ever.

"Oh, fine, as I can see you won't let it go."

"Yes, I think you'll find it's much easier to just give in."

John was smiling that smile again. Sherlock could hear it in his voice.

+

The second time was not much different from the first, except that John bought him Thai food afterward instead of pizza. Except that John soothed the cold touch of the stethoscope with his hand and Sherlock could feel it all through dinner, warmth on his chest, ring finger putting the faintest bit of extra pressure on the hard tip of his nipple, the ticklish trail of fingers all the way down to his hip. Where John's hand had stayed as Sherlock breathed in and out on command.

+

The third time, it was almost routine, until:

"Is that really necessary?" Sherlock shifted on the table. "I'm only thirty-four, surely--"

"It will take literally two minutes," John said. He rested his hands on his hips. "Look, I promise you it doesn't hurt, if that's what you're afraid of. I won't insist on it every month, but you do use your body a lot harder than the average thirty-four year old, and--"

"All right," Sherlock said, resistance crumbling abruptly. "All right. Tell me what to do."

"Good man. Hop down and turn around."

Sherlock did and then let John press him forward with a soft touch on the back of his neck until he was bent over the exam table. John squeezed lightly before he let go, and Sherlock shivered. It was the chill of the room, had to be. The gown barely covered the backs of his thighs now, and then John pushed it up to the middle of his back, and it covered nothing.

"I've done hundreds of these for the Army," John said. "Don't worry about a thing."

John's finger was warm and slick, unnaturally smooth from the latex glove, and Sherlock's breath hitched as it rubbed down between his cheeks and over clenched muscle.

"Ease up," John murmured. "Nothing to be afraid of." His free hand stroked down Sherlock's back and up again, rubbing along his spine. It made the gown ride up still more.

Sherlock gripped the edge of the table hard and made a conscious effort to relax. He couldn't hold back his gasp when John's finger slipped inside.

"Very good," John told him, and then there was a second finger pressing in beside the first, and-- Well. Sherlock hadn't read a lot on the subject of prostate exams and nothing recently. Perhaps the technique had changed.

He couldn't think or rationalize past that. The stretch of muscle was too intense, not quite pain, but a low grade burn that demanded his attention over and over. He shifted slightly to ease his bare feet on the cold tile and gasped again.

John chuckled. "Best not to move. It'll be over soon."

And John was reaching, pressing in, angling for something, and when he found it Sherlock felt his body squeeze down tight around John's fingers, impossible to control.

"Sorry," he said. It came out shaky, and he could feel his face heating up.

"Perfectly natural," John said.

It came just a shade to late for it to be true, and Sherlock pressed his forehead to the table. The paper covering rustled each time he moved, however minutely, and he couldn't quite keep still.

John's fingers twisted inside him, pressing, rubbing, lightly at first and then harder. It sent sparks down Sherlock's spine, and he felt his cock start to thicken. John was standing close behind him now, one warm thigh pressed to the back of Sherlock's, light wool against bare skin.

"Just a bit more," John said. "Don't think about it, that's my advice. What do you want for dinner this time? Anywhere you like."

This was surely, surely not the way it was meant to go. Not these short thrusts that had Sherlock's toes curling against the tile, that shook him and made his thoughts rattle around loose, that made him breathe too fast and bite his lip to stay quiet. He interpreted the growing tension and heat and sheer electricity in his body and calculated he was roughly sixty seconds away from the first non-solitary orgasm of his life.

"John," he said, and there no disguising how rough his voice was, or how low.

"All done," John said, and pulled his fingers gently out. "I'll just leave you to get dressed."

The sound of water running: John washing his hands in the small bathroom next door. Sherlock levered himself off the table and could do nothing but hold onto its edge for long minutes while his knees remembered they weren't made from jelly. He was so hard he ached, and John almost certainly knew that. He was a doctor, after all.

Getting back into his trousers was excruciating, but John was still in the bathroom, and Sherlock could hardly ask him to get out just so he could bring himself off. He was buttoning his shirt when John came back.

"It just takes some people that way," John said, kindly. "It's really nothing to be ashamed of. Where are we going for dinner then? You never said."

"Zora," Sherlock said. It was Japanese, which John wasn't fond of, and expensive.

John agreed at once, and, when they got there, didn't even protest when Sherlock ordered the octopus. Sherlock sat through dinner with a persistent ache in his balls and a determination to google prostate exams as soon as he got home.

Somehow, with one thing and another, he never did.

+

John was the most contradictory person Sherlock had ever met; less iron fist in velvet glove and more unexpected granite center to a chocolate that by rights ought to have been strawberry creme. You'd never guess from the outside, and if you bit down too hard, you broke your teeth.

They'd stopped at Sainsbury's after the fourth check up (uneventful but for the way John was perfectly, carefully professional in every respect, but for the way John kept his hands strictly to himself, but for the way Sherlock felt afterwards, which was not relieved at all), and a woman in the vegetable aisle tried to pick up Sherlock over the aubergines.

John had wandered over, apple in each hand, looked her up and down, and said, "Leave off, he's out of your league."

Her cheeks had flushed and she'd mumbled something inaudible and gone off, holding onto an aubergine she probably didn't want.

"That was...not very nice," Sherlock had said, uncertain, because John was always nice, and Sherlock was a terrible judge of nice, and perhaps he had misunderstood?

John had shrugged and touched the small of Sherlock's back to guide him toward the cabbage. "It was true."

John had cooked for him that night, last night, a surprisingly good Chinese stir fry.

Sherlock hauled himself off the sofa and out of his thoughts and went to heat up the leftovers. John had made him promise to eat a decent lunch, and somehow Sherlock had agreed to John's definition of decent (includes vegetables and protein) as opposed to his own (includes caffeine).

Sherlock's life was awfully full of John recently. Sherlock's head was awfully full of John. Sherlock's arse had been awfully full of John. And he still hadn't checked on the authenticity of John's examination technique, which could only mean he didn't really want to know.

He decided, over rice and stir fry, that this must be one more thing that was wrong with him. John had figured it out, and that was why the fourth time had been so...impersonal. So he would carry on being impersonal, and there would be no further problems.

Sherlock nodded sharply and dumped the rest of his food in the bin, appetite gone.

+

The fifth time, it was late. Sherlock stopped at John's office on the way home from a crime scene (world's most boring murder-suicide), and John was the only one there.

"Almost done," John said. "Just a bit of paperwork, be right with you." He handed Sherlock a cup of tea and sat at his desk, head bent down, light from his desk lamp splashed down his neck and shoulders in a warm haze.

Sherlock drank the tea and changed into the wretched little gown and thought about where he could get John to take him for dinner tonight. Five minutes passed. "Are you going to take all night?" he called.

"Not long now."

Ten minutes. Sherlock stretched out on the table. The room felt warmer than usual, and his eyelids were heavy. Odd. He'd slept last night, a solid four hours. He let them close.

Next: his arms were stretched tight over his head, both his feet were touching cold metal, and when he pried his eyes open he saw John fastening his left ankle to a metal stirrup with a leather strap.

He swallowed hard. "Something in the tea," he said.

"A mild sedative. Would you like some water?"

Sherlock nodded, cautious, certain this was not a good situation at all, and yet everything in John's stance and expression said this was...fine. Normal. John was Sherlock's touchstone for normality, for what was fine and what was not, for right and wrong.

"What is this?" Sherlock said.

John cupped the back of his head and tipped a glass to his lips. The water was cool and welcome, his mouth so dry it seemed to absorb it on contact.

"I thought it was time for a more in-depth examination," John said lightly.

He pulled up a wheeled tray filled with instruments. Sherlock recognized perhaps half of them. The speculum and the scalpel were the most worrying.

"In depth," he repeated.

"Mm." John unwound a length of gauze and wrapped it around Sherlock's eyes, round the back of his head, over his eyes, again and again until the world went from blurred to white to entirely black. "Just a few tests." He flipped the edges of Sherlock's gown open, baring him entirely.

"John..."

"A few questions first. You're not currently sexually active, correct?"

"That's-- Yes, that's correct."

"You never have been."

Five months of data rushed through Sherlock's head, bright and sharp and suddenly coalescing into quite a different picture than the one he'd had so firmly in mind since last time.

"You've spent all this time--

"Preparing you," John said.

"Manipulating me."

"It was easier than I thought it would be." He paused and laid a hand on Sherlock's thigh. "But this isn't really your area, is it?"

His hand left Sherlock's skin, and he made some adjustment--sound of metal on metal, in need of oil--and the stirrups moved out and away from each other, spreading Sherlock's legs wide.

"I must learn not to theorize ahead of data."

"There are a few other things you need to learn, too," John said.

"And you mean to teach me?"

"Of course. This is my area." He was standing between Sherlock's legs, hands resting lightly on Sherlock's knees. "And I am your doctor. Only a fool doesn't listen to his doctor, right?"

John's heat vanished from between his legs, and Sherlock heard footsteps, the shift of something not metal on something metal. What he felt was cold, and it took him a second to interpret it as the stethoscope, now pressed over his nipple and held there.

"The body's more than transport, Sherlock. You can make your voice do what you like, but I can hear your heart. Coming up on ninety beats per second. You do run fast, but that's excessive even for you."

There was a moment of silence, or a moment which neither of them tried to fill. Sherlock heard traffic outside, the faint sound of an ambulance siren, the wind-driven rain against the roof and the window.

"Well. Where were we? Oh, yeah. Never been sexually active. Correct?"

"John..."

"Sherlock. It's an important question. I need to know these things to determine your treatment."

"Treatment?" Sherlock was not used to confusion, and he was now as confused, as uncertain as he had even been in his life. It wasn't that he didn't understand what John meant to do (more or less, probably he lacked some detail, which his imagination was only too happy to supply). It was his own reaction that left him feeling desperately out of his depth.

John sighed, a disappointed sound, and he was certainly standing with his hands on his hips as he had before, a posture and expression to indicate that Sherlock was being unreasonable.

"Sherlock, I need to know. I realize it may be a bit embarrassing, but I am your doctor. You've got to trust me."

He did trust John. Even now. That was the hell of it. He didn't know how not to anymore.

"Correct," he said. It came out less firm than he'd meant it to, a quiet, choked word in a room full of silence.

He heard John's shaky sigh, and then nothing while he counted in his head, trying to keep calm. Twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three--

"That's good, Sherlock. Thanks." John's voice was perfectly steady again. He sounded quite himself, but for a certain deeper tone that had to do with tension held in the throat, usually caused by strong emotion, often a good indicator of dishonesty but also anger, fear, and arousal--

John's hand rested on Sherlock's lower stomach, an inch from his cock. Sherlock's train of thought derailed, a spectacular crash, broken tracks, fireball, no survivors.

"But you do masturbate?" John said. "No problems with achieving an erection or ejaculation?"

Sherlock shook his head.

"That's encouraging."

Sherlock almost laughed. John even sounded encouraging. He really was good at this. Had he done it before? Clearly he'd never been caught, and no wonder if he was this careful, this precise, this patient. Sherlock sifted through the last five months again. He needed more information.

"Sherlock." Sound of stretched latex snapping back into place; gloves. A tube uncapped. "Don't drift off, please. If this is going to work, I'll need your full attention, and I will have it."

Slick warmth between his spread cheeks, John's finger again, pressing in. Sherlock squeezed his eyes shut behind in the blindfold.

"You have questions," John said.

He ought to have answers, but John did have his full attention now, and he couldn't make his brain work properly. One finger was quickly followed by a second, and they twisted together inside, curved up, and made him see stars as he closed his eyes still tighter. His cock was stiffening, and his breath was coming hard and ragged. Still, he needed to know.

"Who else?" he gasped. "Anyone?"

"Not this far. I've pulled the prostate exam bit a few times."

"Easy to--let people's embarrassment--" He was panting now. John's thrusts were much harder than last time, much more precisely judged, hitting home every time. He pulled against the straps at his ankles and shifted restlessly, paper rustling beneath him.

"Yes, quite. No one wants to think about it, let alone talk about it. Half a dozen Army boys with sexual identity crises. That's about the extent of it."

He pulled his fingers out, and Sherlock's body clenched on nothing. Sherlock turned his face toward his shoulder, searching for somewhere to hide.

"It's not the extent of what I've thought about, of course," John said. "I guess I was waiting for the right moment. Or the right person."

"And that person is me?"

"Seems that way, doesn't it? Relax now. Just a bit more lubricant and then we'll get on."

John pushed cool gel into him until Sherlock found himself trying to shift away. It was impossible, of course, and he was stuck with this feeling of being too wet, too slick, too open and exposed.

"Problem?" John said.

Sherlock dug his nails into his palms. "If I asked you to stop," he said, haltingly, forcing every word out. "Would you-- Is there any chance--"

"Sherlock."

He recognized the tone of John's voice. It was similar to the one he used himself when John was being unbearably dim. From John, it was much gentler, and Sherlock found himself indescribably grateful for that.

"No, I suppose not," he said. "Not having come this far."

"I'm glad you understand," John said.

There was ratcheting sound, and the stirrups swung up and back, and Sherlock's legs with them, until his knees were nearly over his hips.

"This may be a bit uncomfortable, but you must tell me if it hurts, you understand? It shouldn't hurt. You do trust me, don't you, Sherlock?"

"Yes, John." He did, but there was a thread of fear winding through his thoughts now, fear that came with the certainty that there was no way out of this, that his updated knowledge of John's thought process and personality was still forming and he couldn't predict how far John would go, that no prediction wouldn't help him in any case.

Something much harder and smoother than John's finger pressed inside him. Thicker, as well, and he gasped.

John's hand was briefly soothing on his thigh, but then his fingers were running greedily around the edge of stretched muscle. The skin was tight and slick and too sensitive, and Sherlock tried to flinch away. He failed.

"Lovely," John murmured, and then his fingers were gone, he was moving, manipulating the thing (speculum? the dimensions seemed to fit the one he'd seen on the tray) inside Sherlock, and yes, that was what it was because it was getting bigger, stretching him wider.

"John."

John paused. "Does it hurt?"

After a long few seconds of adjustment and cooling sweat on his chest, he was forced to admit that it didn't. It was uncomfortable and unyielding, and he felt immensely full, but it didn't actually hurt. He shook his head.

John kept going, spreading him open, pausing every now and then to touch the stretched skin of his hole, to turn the instrument lightly from side to side. It produced a deep, itching almost-pleasure that made Sherlock bite his lip and shove his feet harder against cold metal.

"Hm," John said, when Sherlock all but trembling and sure the thing must be open as far as it could go. "Not as good a view as I'd hoped for. We'll have to go to the next size up, I'm afraid."

Sherlock could barely hear the noise that revelation forced out of him, and he was trembling as John pulled the thing slowly out-- "Can't close it all the way, sorry, tissue can get caught." --and out, and the widest point was at the very end, and he was left feeling empty and trying desperately to close his legs, body momentarily beyond his control.

"I have got a spreader bar I can use for your knees if you make me," John said absently. "So I imagine you'll want to stop that."

Sherlock sucked in a breath, thought hard about the opening notes to Prokofiev's Violin Sonata No. 2 in D major, and did stop it. It was not easy, but the threat of still more restraints was more than sufficient motivation. His heart was a constant percussion in his chest; each beat shook his body.

"Better," John said. "Now let's try this again."

By the time the second, larger instrument was seated and open inside him, there were tears stinging Sherlock's eyes. It was all pressure and slick intrusive movements inside him, sensations that walked some fine edge between too-intense pleasure and violation, and over it all, John's soft voice telling him how well he was doing.

"It's really lovely, how sensitive you are. Just impossible to resist. Let's see how sensitive, shall we?"

John was feeding something into the space left by the speculum, something thin and rigid, the tip of which fitted into place against his prostate. John gave it a few nudges, and then there was a click, and the thing started to vibrate.

Sherlock's back arched, and he panted, shifted his hips madly from side to side, but John must have fixed it in place somehow, because nothing he did got him the slightest relief.

"John-- John!"

John laughed. "Hush. I know that doesn't hurt."

"I can't, I can't--"

John moved, and there was a rough hand over Sherlock's mouth. "Not so loud, please." The hand was replaced by another length of gauze that John wrapped around the back of Sherlock's head and fitted between his lips. It pulled at the corners of his mouth and muffled and distorted his words. He was almost grateful for that last: seconds more of this and he'd be begging.

"You can," John said. "We're nowhere near what you can handle yet. Most people mean pain when they talk about the body's limits, but pleasure can be just as intense. Am I right?"

Sherlock couldn't answer, couldn't even really form words inside his own head. His cock was hard and pulsing pre-come that leaked down the shaft and stuck to his stomach. He was so close, muscles shaking with it, cock hot and aching. If he could just touch, it would be over in seconds.

"Of course, pain has its place, too. In controlled situations. Like this one."

A trail of sharp pricks ran up the inside of Sherlock's right thigh. It was distracting more than painful, but the higher up they went, the more sensitive his skin became. When it rolled over his balls he sucked in breath and went very still.

"Wartenburg pinwheel. Designed to test nerve response. They make disposable models now, but I like the steel myself. What do you think?"

It ran up the underside of Sherlock's cock, sharp, so sharp against skin stretched tight. Sherlock's chest heaved, and his orgasm retreated. John ran it up over the head, and he clenched his jaw tight. Up his stomach and chest, back down, and his skin seemed to grow new nerve endings in its wake.

Inner thighs again. It was almost ticklish now. John had a light touch. Sherlock shifted, and the points pressed hard into his skin. He let out a shaky breath at the bright spot of feeling that caused. He couldn't even manage to classify it. Pain, or pleasure, or something else entirely; it was beyond him.

"You do seem to be responding nicely," John said. He sounded amused.

There was a click, and the vibration inside Sherlock intensified, at least twice as strong, and his head hit the table, neck bent awkwardly as if some contortion might result in relief. There was no relief. The little spikes started up his thighs again, over his balls, down to the soft, vulnerable skin stretched around the speculum.

John stayed there, going in little circles, bright specks of almost-pain followed by the press of his finger. His fingertip, slicked again, pushed and wiggled between the edge of skin and the edge of the instrument and the edge of Sherlock's resolve. A choked whimper forced its way from behind the gag, and Sherlock bit at the inside of his cheek.

"Beautiful," John said, softly.

Then it was the pinwheel again, crawling up to his stomach, tracing around his cock, not quite touching, but a constant threat. The muscles of his stomach twitched, and he was pulling hard at the bindings that held his wrists. The pinwheel left his stomach and came down lightly on his cock.

"This is how you're going to come," John said. "It's a bit of a balancing act, you see? The vibrator and this. Your body can't decide which to respond to, so it draws things out."

It didn't hurt. Sherlock wanted it to hurt. It would be easier if it hurt. He could classify it, file it away in his brain, understand it. Instead he had the constant nag of this maddening, ticklish itch, like something crawling up and down his cock. It fought with the vibrator just as John said, and when it rolled over and around the head it was enough like pain to make Sherlock's breath hitch.

It vanished, and John took his cock in a gloved, slicked hand, and stroked him firmly, only once. It was enough to make him arch off the table as much as he could, enough to make him  start begging for just one more touch because he knew that would be enough.

"Please," he said, but it came out mangled by the gag and he didn't even know if John could understand him. The pinwheel was back, light prickling and pulling him back from the edge.

"Sixty seconds," John said. "Count it out in your head if you can manage it."

Sherlock tried, but he must've lost count. He was only on forty-seven when John's hand closed around him again and drew up from root to tip, firm and warm and perfect. Then it was the pinwheel again, and Sherlock's throat and eyes burned hot with frustration.

"Sixty seconds," John said again. "I'm trying to help you out here, Sherlock. To do this test properly I shouldn't be touching you at all."

It was seventy-six seconds this time, by Sherlock's count, and the smooth glide of John's hand was the best thing in the world. Either he was miscounting or John was being deliberately imprecise to throw him off. His time sense seemed to be going. How long had John had him like this? Normally, he would know to the minute. Now he could only estimate within a 30 minute margin of error, and that was unaccepta--

"I think you're drifting again, Sherlock." John took him in hand again, gave him three rough strokes, and he was so close he couldn't feel anything else, not the table under him or the bite of leather against his ankles or his own nails in his palms.

"Please, John, please, please don't stop--" He couldn't hear himself at all or guess how he sounded. The words broke into whimpers as John stopped touching him entirely and the vibrator jacked up another notch inside him.

He came in long spurts across his chest and throat. Colors swirled behind his eyes, and every muscle strained. When it was over, he collapsed and lay bonelessly still, mind empty of any thought.

"Good," John said. "Now we can really get started."

Sherlock would've tensed up at that if his body had been capable of it, but in fact nothing happened directly except that John cut his gag loose. Round-tipped scissors, blunt and cool on his hot cheek. Saliva-soaked gauze peeled away. The gloves were gone, and John touched his face gently and rubbed at the sore spots at the hinge of his jaw.

"Blindfold on or off?" John said. "Just for a bit."

Sherlock hesitated. John stroked damp hair back from his forehead and waited. On was better in some ways. It was easier to pretend this wasn't real. A dream or some drug-distorted version of actual events. But Sherlock wasn't one for false comfort, or even much for true comfort if it came to that. And he wanted to see John's face.

"Off," he said. It was a whisper. He couldn't manage anything louder.

The blindfold, too, was cut off. John cupped his hand over Sherlock's eyes to filter the light as the room came back into focus. It was so familiar, this place. He'd been here not just for the check-ups, but to wait for John to finish work so they could go out, to drag him away to some crime scene, to get stitches after a particularly deep cut (not case-related, a bagel cutting accident, John had laughed so hard Sherlock had ended up laughing too), a tetanus shot, relief for his utter, all-encompassing boredom.

The lines of John's face were equally familiar: the set of his eyes, the slant of jaw and cheekbones, the almost unnoticeable pock mark near his right eyebrow from when he'd had chickenpox as a child. Sherlock knew exactly how his mouth and eyes creased when he smiled or laughed, how he held himself when he was uncertain (and he wasn't uncertain now), the tilt of his head that meant he wanted to ask questions but didn't want to interrupt Sherlock's thoughts. He knew John better than he'd ever known anyone, perhaps even Mycroft. With John, he'd paid attention.

This was a huge thing to miss.

John had a warm, damp towel, and he was cleaning Sherlock up; not just the semen, but sweat as well, and drool that had escaped the gag. His hands soothed aching muscles, and he readjusted the bindings on Sherlock's wrists to ease his shoulders.

Perhaps he hadn't missed anything. There was always something about John that made Sherlock keep looking, that kept him from dismissing John as a solved riddle. Most people were so easy to figure out. They had great, huge, obvious buttons and if you poked them, they behaved in expected ways. Sherlock had begun to think John simply didn't have those buttons, but maybe they were only better hidden.

Maybe this was the ideal position from which to discover them.

He coughed, and John's eyes were on him immediately. "Water?" Sherlock said.

"Yes, of course."

John held his head up again and helped him drink. Sherlock let himself be supported, and when John took the glass away, he tipped his head to the side and brushed his lips across John's wrist.

John froze. "Don't," he said.

Sherlock pressed a kiss against thin skin. He could feel John's pulse against his lips, and John stayed as still as if he were the one tied up.

"I'm not going to stop," John said. He'd looked away at the first touch, eyes fixed on the far wall. He looked back now and met Sherlock's eyes.

"I don't believe I ever asked you to. Quite."

John laughed, breathy and shaky. "I should've known better than to stop even for a second. Got yourself back together, have you?"

"Somewhat."

"Just means I'll have to take you apart all over again."

"Why are you doing this, John?"

"You're the genius. You tell me."

"As you said, this is not my area. A hint, perhaps?"

John took his hand away and bent down to kiss Sherlock's forehead. "Conservation of energy," he said. "Two birds with one stone. That sort of thing." He reached behind him for the tray. "I think you need a distraction."

He laid two pairs of forceps out on Sherlock's chest. "This will hurt a bit, I'm afraid," he said. "But I suspect you'd prefer that at this point."

"Yes."

"Good to know you're predictable occasionally."

He opened one pair, fitted Sherlock's left nipple between the open end, and closed it. Sherlock's breath caught in his throat as John locked it shut and let it fall against his chest so that it twisted the skin caught in its grip ever so slightly.

"You're so sensitive there," John murmured. He ran a thumb over the trapped point of flesh. "That first exam, your reaction-- You might've avoided this if you'd bothered to hide that at all."

"I couldn't."

John fastened the other one in place and turned away. Sherlock tried not to move. Every time he did, the weight of the handles moved across his skin and dragged at his nipples. The pain wasn't much, but it was as distracting as John had promised. And it wasn't just pain. There was a certain heat as well, a sensitivity that grew and spread out over his chest.

"I did think of piercing you there," John said, as he returned.

Their eyes met while Sherlock's first, idiotic, emotional response was still showing on his face. John's eyes widened.

"You like that idea."

Sherlock felt himself flush and looked away. "Glad I'm not completely predictable."

"You're mad."

"Evidently, so are you."

John shook his head slowly. "Evidently."

He moved closer and wrapped fresh gauze over Sherlock's eyes, and Sherlock fell back into darkness with something like relief.

The relief didn't last. He had only a minute or two before John was touching him again, closing down the speculum and easing it out in silence punctuated by Sherlock's soft gasps and groans he couldn't repress. John worked patiently, carefully, adding more lube when needed, and Sherlock was still a twitching mess by the time the thing was finally out of him.

John ran a finger around his loosened hole, dipping in without effort as the muscle had yet to recover, stroking him inside. "That's a lovely sight," John said. "I wish I could show you. Should I take a picture?"

"Don't." Sherlock put as much warning as he could into that, difficult though it was when he was still having trouble getting a full breath. A tactical error, maybe, but he didn't think so.

"Telling me what to do? That's not too smart. I've got my mobile. Hell, I've got your mobile. I could snap a few shots and post them to your site right now. I know you've got that email posting whatsit set up."

"But you won't."

There was a pause. "No. Glad you know me that well at least."

There was a hint of reproach there, Sherlock thought. It was almost enough to make him laugh, but it also made him recall what John had said earlier. It was easier than I thought it would be.

There were no conclusions to be drawn yet. Don't theorize ahead of data. And any theorizing would be incredibly difficult anyway with three of John's fingers stroking easily into him. He swallowed, and John stopped abruptly.

Footsteps, the clink of metal from the instrument tray, and  John stood by his head and pushed something into one of his hands.

"What's that then, genius?"

It was metal, thin, long. Flat at one end, rounded through most of its length, curved at the other end. Sherlock's knowledge of medical instruments wasn't extensive, but this was easy enough to place, especially since John was now ever so carefully cleaning his cock with soap and warm water.

"Van Buren sound."

"Very good. I'm not using that one, of course. It's a bit small besides having your hands all over it now."

"It--" Sherlock swallowed and cleared his throat. "It doesn't feel small."

"I keep telling you, I will not hurt you. Don't you trust me?"

"Yes, John." Sherlock pitched his voice low and soft, and John's hands stilled on him. It was just for a moment, and then John was rinsing soap away, washing his hands in the small bathroom, returning to stand silently by the table.

"Ready?" John said.

"Does it matter if I'm not?"

"No."

"Are you sure?"

He could hear John swallow.

"Sherlock, stop it. This won't work."

"That assumes you know my goal."

John didn't ask what his goal was, which was just as well. Sherlock would've been hard pressed to come up with something plausible. In truth, he didn't know himself, beyond a desire to finally unravel the last secrets of John's character, to simply make John react.

"Right," John said, after an audible breath. "You're to tell me immediately if it hurts, and I mean actual pain because it will feel a bit odd."

"You're shoving nearly a foot of steel up my prick. It did not occur to me that it would feel in any way normal."

"The gag's only off so you can tell me if you're in pain, not so you can get stroppy with me."

"You like to hear me talk." It was true, though Sherlock had never quite pinpointed the reason. John would let him talk for hours about any subject under the sun and even give a reasonable appearance of attention.

"Yeah, well, right now I'd like to hear you shut up."

Sherlock did, because John had his cock in one hand and was pressing something--plastic, not metal--against the tip. There was pressure, the sensation of something liquid, or nearly so, going in where things were only meant to come out. Sherlock's face twisted up of its own accord, and the only word he could come up with was eurgh, which he wasn't about to say out loud.

"Lube," John said.

"I've seen videos of this online," Sherlock said quickly. It made John pause, which was the point. "No one seems to bother with all this preparation."

"Then they ought to be more careful and they deserve every UTI they get."

Cold, slick steel touched the tip of his cock, and Sherlock became abruptly aware that the lurching sensation in his stomach might in fact be terror. The blunt tip of the thing slid and rocked over and around and then, barely, inside.

"Don't," Sherlock said. He hadn't meant to, but it slipped out, loud and sudden, as if speech were suddenly a non-voluntary bodily function, like the beat of his heart.

"Are you feeling any pain?" John said.

Sherlock shook his head because if he opened his mouth he was going to say, No, but don't, please don't, please stop. He could feel it on his tongue, all lined up. And he wasn't going to say that. Not when it wouldn't do any good.

"Then we'll continue. It'll feel a bit like you need to urinate, a bit like you need to come, but again, there shouldn't be any pain."

It was John's doctor voice, calm and sure, and Sherlock made himself focus on that. The only other thing he had to focus on is the spiraling panic winding up in his chest as John turned and eased the thing further inside his cock. It wasn't painful at all, but it was wrong, so wrong he didn't know how to process it, and it only got more intense the deeper John went.

It made his toes curl, and it made him shift until John told him firmly to keep still. Keeping still was the absolute limit of his ability and nearly beyond it. It burned, but with something that wasn't pain, felt like the far edge of arousal but without even an erection, and finally slid home all the way to touch and rub inside him until keeping his mouth shut and keeping still were mutually exclusive.

"Fuck." It burst out of him, such a relief that he said it again immediately. "Fuck, John, what, don't, I don't, what is this, please--"

John turned it slowly, a quarter turn, perhaps less, and Sherlock threw his head back and panted.

"I think we could go a size up," John said. "Hold on. Out's generally better than in, at least that was my experience."

Some part of Sherlock's brain said: He tried this (all of this?) on himself first. The rest was busy howling silently as John swivelled and turned and worked the sound up and up. Better might be one word to describe it; worse would be another, and just as apt. It stroked his cock from the inside, and it felt like the drawn out end of an orgasm, already oversensitive and past  the height of pleasure but still needing more. By the time John had it all the way out, Sherlock could feel sweat at the back of his neck and on his forehead.

There was no pause, no rest, just another, larger steel shaft poking and prodding and gradually worming its way into him as if it were alive. In addition to everything else, this time there was the sensation of being stretched there, invaded and opened up, penetrated and fucked in a place nothing should even touch.

John touched the tip and pressed it down. The thing sank into him and rose back. John pushed it down again, literally fucking him with it, so slowly and carefully that Sherlock thought he might lose his mind.

It was the ninth or tenth careful little shove that broke him. "Stop it, I can't," he choked out, and he meant it with all his heart.

John didn't even reply until he'd done it another ten times. "That's what you said before, but you can. You will. Tell you what, remember that vibrator I had up your arse? Either I can keep doing this for another, oh, ten minutes or so, or I can put that vibrator on the tip of the sound for sixty seconds. I'll let you pick."

It was inventive. Devious, because the anticipation would work against him regardless of what he chose. Smart, because it wrapped his brain up in this right along with his body.

"Ten seconds to decide," John said.

There was no lesser of two evils here. They were equal choices, equally likely to send him round the fucking bend. Might as well go for the new experience.

"The vibrator." His voice was rusted. His throat ached. He wondered abruptly if John would get around to fucking his throat too, if John planned on touching him with anything but his doctor's hands and these distancing instruments.

"All right. Count it out loud."

Sherlock heard the click and buzz as John turned it on, felt the vibration in the air as it came close. When it touched the top of the sound, it was at least ten seconds before he remembered how to make his voice work, let alone how to count.

He felt it all down the length of his cock, outside and in, and deeper. That spot inside him tingled with it, a fiercer, more direct pleasure than when the thing had been up his arse. He moaned aloud and felt his body arch.

"Eleven," he croaked.

"From the beginning. All of it out loud."

He shuddered and started from one. At twenty, John turned the vibrator up, and he lost count, lost track of the world for a moment as everything narrowed down to unbelievable, unnatural intensity.

The buzzing stopped, and he came back to himself with John's forearm braced across his hips and holding him flat to the bed.

"You've got to keep still," John said. "There's too much risk of tissue damage with you thrashing about like that."

"I can't, I can't do it, John, I'm sorry--" Christ, why was he apologizing? It wasn't his fault, manifestly was John's fault, but involuntary speech seemed to have become the status quo. Maybe it was not so bad because John was shushing him, telling him it was all right, which was far more comforting than it should've been.

At the same time, John fastened a thick, heavy strap over his hips.

Well prepared, Sherlock thought. Then John turned on the vibrator again and every thought in Sherlock's head turned to white noise. Above it, he heard John counting for him. He was aware, even in the middle of it, that the gratitude he felt for that was utterly ridiculous. But he felt it nonetheless.

"Sixty," John said, and everything stopped.

Sherlock fell back against the bed, only then aware how hard he'd been pushing against the strap across his hips. He would have a bruise there tomorrow, a belt of purple and blue. He lay still and shook.

John touched the strap where it dug into his skin. "I should've padded this," he said. "I'm sorry."

Sherlock started laughing. It was a pretty terrible sound, he thought. Hoarse and half-hysterical. It shook him harder than he was shaking already.

"All right," John murmured. "All right." He'd peeled the glove off one hand at least, and he stroked Sherlock's cheek and neck and ran his fingers through Sherlock's hair.

The laughter drained away as suddenly as it had come. "I want to see you," Sherlock said.

"No. We're going to press on."

The strap was loosened, duly padded, and Sherlock tried not to move even a muscle while his brain raced. The forceps still tugged at his nipples--building pain, there, a sharper ache--and the sound still touched him too intimately, but it was bearable now. Whatever John had planned would not be bearable. Less bearable that the vibrator, to judge by the night so far.

John was raising the stakes with each change, each progression and variation. Sherlock could see the shape of it in his head,  like a piece of music. He thought ahead to the crescendo and felt his heart rate pick up until he felt dizzy with it. He didn't have enough information or experience to begin to guess what might come next and even if he could, there was nothing he could do about it. Helpless. He was never helpless.

John moved from his side, around and between his legs again, and his hand never left Sherlock's skin. It came to rest curved around Sherlock's inner thigh. His free hand, still gloved, newly slicked, traced the edges of Sherlock's hole again, and Sherlock couldn't keep himself from tensing up.

John patted his thigh. "I'd tell you to relax, but you don't really need to. You're still quite relaxed down here. Shall I tell you what's coming next?"

"Something else in my arse, I should think." He did and didn't want to know what. Every thought and feeling he had now seemed to be followed by its precise opposite. He wanted to be set free. But whatever was coming next would be easier if he were restrained still more tightly. But that was absurd--if he were free, there would be nothing coming next, nothing else up his arse or down his cock, no more of John's hands on him. He found it difficult to imagine.

"Right you are," John said, and held something there against his hole.

He was still stretched so wide that the tip fitted inside with no pressure at all. It was cold, hard, metal like the sound, and so slicked with lube that he could feel it dripping off the thing and over his skin.

"It's a bit wide," John said. "But I think you can manage it."

No 'tell me if it hurts' this time, but Sherlock didn't need to be told more than once in any case, and besides that, John hadn't hurt him. Or, had only hurt him deliberately, and Sherlock was still finding the pinch of the forceps a welcome distraction.

It felt different from the speculum. Wider, certainly, but also more solid, more of a threat somehow. John was as patient in this as he had been in everything else. He added lube, twisted the thing, rocked it, eased it in a quarter inch at a time. Sherlock could take it, but it drew his mind inevitably forward to what might come next, and that made his breath shallow, made his hands clench.

"John--" He had no idea what he'd meant to say. He only wanted to hear John say something, anything at all, in reply.

"Does it hurt? That's the widest point. You know, I really think I could fit my entire fist inside you right now."

Sherlock made a noise he couldn't even interpret himself, high pitched and more than a little embarrassing if he'd had any room for embarrassment. Even the thought of it was too much, definitely on the unbearable side, and yet he couldn't help but wonder how it would compare to the feeling of this solid chunk of lifeless metal in him.

"No," John said. "We're not doing that."

"You're not doing that," Sherlock snapped. "I'm not doing any bloody thing but lying here."

"Quite right."

John eased the metal plug back an inch, muscle tightening up around it, and then pushed it forward again, hanging at the widest point, turning it slowly, backing off again, pushing until Sherlock sucked in a shuddery breath and strained against the strap over his hips. Only then did John push it past the flare to where it narrowed, push it further and hold it deep so that every tiny squirming movement Sherlock made rubbed it against the same spot the sound was getting from the other side.

John was watching him. Sherlock couldn't see, but he could feel it, and he still couldn't keep his expression blank. He panted, and his breath caught in his chest with every twist and shove John gave the thing. He pulled against his wrist restraints until he heard something creak and wondered if it might be his bones.

John gave a last, almost vicious shove, and then stepped back. Sherlock tracked him by the noise of his footsteps and the clank and clunk of things being moved and sorted through, but couldn't guess his purpose.

Slight movement as John touched the thing inside him. More slight movement as he came around and touched the sound. Sherlock could feel something building in the air.

"This will be a bit odd," John said. "It might feel like pain at first. Difficult to describe."

"What? What are you going to do?"

"I'm sure you'll work it out."

There was a long pause before anything happened, plenty of time for Sherlock's mind to run away with him, fractals of more and more improbable situations unfurling, fear creeping up from his stomach to lodge in his throat.

It was a low pulse when it started. For a moment he thought it was from the plug in his ass, some vibration, but it wasn't that. It was the jump and twitch of his own internal muscles, barely palpable, but undoubtedly not his imagination.

Metal plug. Metal sound. He could feel the tingle and buzz of it all along his cock and much deeper. A closed circuit that passed right over that same damn spot inside him, touched by the plug and the sound, and now...this.

"Electricity," he said. "John, this is--"

"Perfectly safe. Promise. It can hurt, but it doesn't have to. I know what I'm doing. And I'm going to turn it up now."

One click. Two clicks. It was so fast, as quick as his racing heart, but each pulse still separate. Three clicks had it up to a steady thrum, which Sherlock felt should've been easier to bear, but wasn't. And then, with the fourth, something changed. It passed some threshold of speed or intensity, stopped feeling like physical vibration and became something else he'd never felt before.

Five was white hot and strange, and ran straight up and down his spine and he was making noises that were not words at all, or even trying to be words. Six was like fire, and he tried to tell John it hurt, but he still had no words, couldn't even move beyond restless twitches, but John knew anyhow.

"Right there then," he said, as he turned it back down.

The click was the loudest sound in the room, in the world, and the knowledge that John meant to keep him here, at this level of--insanity--filled his consciousness. It was a high-pitched whine of pleasure, like a heated blade stuck right through him. His hands were curled up tight, eyes screwed shut, jaw clenched, every muscle in his body taut. It was too much, much too much to bear, and it didn't stop.

Wouldn't stop. He didn't even think he was properly hard, and if he was, he couldn't come with the damn sound in, and even supposing he did--this had nothing to do with ordinary physical pleasure. Climax wouldn't bring relief. There was absolutely no reason this couldn't continue indefinitely.

And it seemed as if it might. It stayed steady, but Sherlock's reactions to it didn't. He felt himself fray at the edges, all sense of time gone, colored splotches behind his eyes, ringing in his ears, the tingle of randomly fired nerve endings. It would not go on indefinitely after all. Sooner or later, he would very probably pass out.

He only realized he was speaking when he felt John's hand over his mouth, muffling him. John's palm was rough and warm, and Sherlock pressed words and teeth and tongue into it with abandon he'd never allowed himself, could never have allowed himself if he'd had a choice.

"John, please, please, you, this-- You have to-- It's so much, it's so much--"

Not 'too much' some part of him noted, but then that part of him was gone as well. There was no internal observer, only his body, the helpless noises and whimpers spilling out of him, and John's hand catching it all.

The pressure over his mouth was fierce. Sherlock's pulse and blood pressure were screeching ever higher, and so was his need for oxygen. It was some combination of all those factors that put him over the top at last. He convulsed in what ought to be orgasm and wasn't, cried out into John's palm, and sank deeper into darkness.

+

When he came to, John was easing the sound out of him, and Sherlock was so exhausted, so caught off guard by waking up to this that a sob gripped his throat and his blindfold was abruptly wet, eyes hot and stinging.

"All right," John murmured. "You're all right."

Sherlock gritted his teeth, but it got out anyway: "Please, no more. Enough, John. Enough."

"Yeah. It's enough."

The plug was already gone. The sound came free, and Sherlock shuddered and felt his cock stiffen and oh god he did not want that. Didn't want the touch of John's warm, bare hand, either, working his cock gently as he released the forceps. The pain was surprisingly intense, quite a sharp ache that jerked him back toward rationality.

He must've made some sound. John said, "Hurts worse when you're out of it, eh?"

Sherlock didn't answer, partially because of the distraction of John's hand, partially because the phrasing of John's question made him think of other things that might be said to be worse once you were out of them. War, for example.

John kept going, and the simple, normal, physical pleasure was as much a relief as the pain. His orgasm seemed as dim as a candle next to a supernova, but he was so wrung out already that it left him trembling all the same.

A little time passed. He was remotely away of John untying him, of the way his body curled on its side with no help from him, of the blanket John spread over him. He might've slept. He might've simply passed out again.

When he woke, the blindfold was gone. He opened his eyes and scanned the room. Crucial changed details: John standing across the room with handcuffs fastened around one wrist, John's gun and the scalpel on the otherwise empty instrument tray. John saw he was awake, took the other half of the handcuffs, and clicked it closed over the radiator.

Sherlock picked up the gun, as he was clearly meant to. He checked the clip and found it fully loaded. He chambered one bullet.

John sat down on the floor and watched him solemnly.

"You've chosen quite a complicated and potentially painful way to kill yourself," Sherlock said.

John shrugged. "There's after care instructions on my desk. There should be no problem with UTIs, everything was sterile, but there's a course of antibiotics too, just in case. If you don't need them now I'm sure you'll need them for something, eventually."

"And you won't be around to prescribe them. Because I'm meant to shoot you in the head right now, yes? I can think of eight ways to ensure your body would never be found."

John smiled at him. "Only eight?"

"I did just wake up." He picked up the scalpel in his left hand. "I could hurt you quite badly first. Probably for a long time."

"I know," John said.

Sherlock sat up and swung his legs off the table. He wanted to pace, but his body suggested that if he stood it might not be for long. He stayed as he was and clutched the blanket around him. He studied the man across the room from him. His dull, ordinary, completely astonishing John.

"You're very good," Sherlock said. "Some people would probably pay you do that." He spotted the strip of gauze that had covered his eyes, now neatly folded and set aside like a trophy. "I haven't cried since I was four," he said. "And that was because I broke my arm."

He'd thought that might get a smile, but John only dropped his head and rubbed his free hand over his face. Sherlock was still missing something.

"All right. You've been planning this for months. Almost since we met. Never done it before, not to anyone else, just me. You've clearly been fascinated with me the whole time, I always saw that, and who could blame you? I am fascinating."

It was half simply true and half an effort to get John to smile at him again, which he obligingly did. So that was real, that response. Perhaps ninety percent of what John had shown him over the past six months was real. Call it ninety five. Sherlock wished he had a nicotine patch. Or even a cup of tea.

Well. He could make tea. John wasn't going anywhere.

He eased down from the table. The kettle perched across the room on a deep windowsill. He had to clutch at chair backs and counter tops, but he made it. He took it to the sink, filled it, and plugged it in.

"What the fucking fuck are you doing?" John shouted.

"Did you honestly think I'd kill you without figuring this out? No. You know me. You might've convinced yourself otherwise long enough to set all this up--very neatly, the antibiotics are a nice touch--but you must see now what an idiot you've been. Didn't I leave a box of nicotine patches here last month?"

John stared at him, face drawn and pale, and then looked away. "Yeah, but I brought it home a week ago. You were out."

Sherlock's leg muscles chose that moment to run out of steam entirely. They dumped him hard onto John's wooden desk chair. He winced. Despite John's care and caution, sitting was not something he really wanted to do at the moment.

John was silent while he recovered and levered himself upright again, while he found tea bags and milk and made tea with four spoons of sugar in.

"None for me?" John said.

"People who rape sociopaths should not expect tea for their trouble," Sherlock said, absently. He caught the flinch it sent flaring across John's face. "Oh, sorry. Was I not supposed to use that word? Maybe you'd prefer lover."

"No." It was a denial of the whole situation. John closed his eyes and turned his head away.

"Do you suppose I don't know what it's like to want something and just take it, because I can? I do it all the time, John. You tell me off for it."

John pulled his knees up to his chest and rested his forehead on them. His cuffed arm stretched out and back like a broken wing.

Sherlock put a lot of effort into not hurting John, usually. People were so easy to hurt. John was more impervious than most, but in living with him Sherlock had, for the first time in his life, learned there were times to just keep his mouth shut. Odd, then, that it was so easy to hurt him on purpose, given he had no practice.

"You could've asked. I might even have said yes. But I don't suppose you wanted that. Negotiations and safewords and all that tedious business. Would that take all the fun out of it?"

John's shoulders hitched. Possibly, he was crying.

Sherlock sipped his tea and watched him for a minute. The mug was one from home, one Sherlock had nicked from Scotland Yard three months before he'd met John. Three months before his life had changed. John hadn't asked if he could have it for work; he'd just taken it. Sherlock had liked that. He'd understood that was a thing friends did: took without asking, gave without begrudging.

He'd like to believe this was a similar situation, but John was too clearly ashamed. The gun, the scalpel said this was something for which he felt he ought to suffer.

Glad you know me that well at least.

It was easier than I thought it would be.

Implying that Sherlock should've seen this coming, that John had expected that of him, that Sherlock had failed him. And now that it was done, he had only one option, which involved suicide by sociopath. Lovely.

Sherlock found, quite suddenly, that he had lost all patience with this. If John wanted to suffer, Sherlock could arrange that. He snatched up John's gun, marched (shuffled, wobbled, sod it) over to him, jerked his head up by his hair, and jammed the barrel into his open mouth.

John froze, and his eyes went wide.

"You didn't get off, did you," Sherlock said. "Not that whole time."

John shook his head fractionally. His teeth clicked against gun metal.

"Can't have that. Unzip."

John did, slowly, with perfectly steady hands. He worked his trousers down and got his cock free from his boxers.

Sherlock thumbed the safety off. He kicked John's knees wider and wedged his toes underneath John's thighs to keep them spread. Partly to keep them spread. Partly because John's thighs were warm and the floor was fucking cold as usual and where were Sherlock's socks, anyway? But he'd look ridiculous wearing just socks and he couldn't stop now in any case, had to go forward, it was the only way.

"You've got five minutes. And I assure you, my count will be accurate."

John's eyes were wide and questioning, very blue and very damp. He'd seen John cry before, once or twice, directly after nightmares. Sherlock had sat on the edge of his bed with not the first idea what to do. In the end he'd done nothing, and John had thanked him for it, thanked him for sitting there in silence as if it were something extraordinary instead of a failure.

"Five minutes to get off. Before I pull the trigger. You like danger, right?"

John squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head again, harder. The gun pulled in fascinating ways at the skin around his mouth. Sherlock pushed it into the inside of his cheek to see the bulge.

"Yes," he said. "Starting now, in fact."

John's one free hand rubbed at his thigh. He shifted, tried to speak.

"I'll help you along," Sherlock said. "Close your eyes."

John did.

"Put your hand on your cock."

John did that, too.

"Think of me, now." Sherlock lowered his voice. "Tied down. Legs spread. Looking up at you. Before the blindfold. You were hard then. You think I didn't notice? Do you honestly think there's anything you've still got hidden from me, John? You've exposed yourself quite thoroughly tonight."

John's chest heaved as he sucked in air, and his cock started to thicken as he stroked it.

"What was it that did it for you? The position, obviously. The restraints, the helplessness. The sedatives. How I must've looked. A bit slow, a bit soft. Vulnerable. Yes?"

John tried to turn his head away. His face was flushed, and it was spreading down his neck.

"You wanted a way in. You wanted me broken down. It worked, John. Did you even realize? Toward the end, I would've done anything you wanted."

John was panting, hard, stroking himself faster. He wasn't going to make it in five minutes, but he wouldn't know that. Sherlock watched him,  wondered what it would be like to touch.

The clock in Sherlock's head ticked over to six minutes, six and a half. He eased the safety back on silently. John might notice the difference when he opened his eyes, but under the circumstances, Sherlock thought not.

"You're running out of time," he said softly, weighing his words, judging their effect. "Are you going to beg? Please, god-- No, no. Please, Sherlock, let me live?"

He eased the gun from John's mouth and pushed it hard between his eyes. The barrel was wet and shiny with saliva.

"Please," John whispered. "Do it. Just do it. I want you to."

Sherlock pitched his voice to match, in tone and breathlessness and desperation, how he'd sounded on the table. "Please, John, oh god, please, stop, it's too much for me, you're too much for me, I'm begging you, I'll do anything--"

John gasped and opened his eyes and came and watched Sherlock pull the trigger, all in the same instant.

There was a moment of silence.

"Eight minutes and twenty three seconds," Sherlock said.

"You put--" John's voice cracked, high and rough. He swallowed. "You put the safety back on."

"Well, of course I did, you utter fool. I wasn't ever going to kill you."

Sherlock dropped down to balance on the balls of his feet and ignored the way his thighs screamed at him. His body needed to learn its place again.

"I am not going to oblige you. I don't know how you ever thought I would. And what's more, you're not going to off yourself either. And you're not going to move out. Does that cover all the possibilities rattling around inside your minuscule brain?"

"That's-- Yeah, that's about it. Sherlock...I don't understand."

"That's because you're an idiot."

It often calmed John down when Sherlock insulted his intelligence. More proof he was unique; that never worked with anyone else.

It wasn't entirely fair in this instance, given that Sherlock didn't understand either. He only knew he wasn't about to give John up. Not over this, and probably not over anything. God forbid John should genuinely want to leave him someday. That would not go well for either of them.

"You can't just forgive something like this," John said.

"I can do what I like. And anyhow I'm not. Forgiveness implies anger. I'm not angry. I'm tired. I suppose I might be angry later. Right now I want to go home and I think after tonight I should fucking well get what I want."

John took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Quite right. Your clothes are over there."

Sherlock got dressed. He picked the lock on John's handcuffs. Apparently John hadn't expected to need the key.

They went home. John made tea. It was almost like it had been before, except that John sat somewhat farther away. Except that Sherlock found he wanted him rather closer. For a while, as they watched something terrible on television, he wondered what that meant. Probably it meant they were both mad. He'd known that already.


[lovely art by sevenswells; just a preview, click through for the full drawing! :D]