“Will you look at that wanker?” said Phil.
“Hmm?” Lestrade scanned the crowded dance floor from his place along the bar. At irregular intervals one dark head appeared above the rest. Someone seemed to be propelling themselves straight up—unaccompanied, out of time with the music, completely mad.
It was par for the course in the kind of place Phil liked to bring him to. They’d known each other since university, had never managed to become lovers, but had stayed good mates. Every once in a while, Phil would appear, inform Lestrade that he’d spent too much time in that uniformed closet of his (nice closet though it is, he’d say, making a particularly indecent face, all those shiny buttons and looong truncheons) and drag him off to a club where the lights were migraine-inducing and the drinks had funny names.
Lestrade didn’t mind. It made a change, and Phil was good company, even when he was ogling willowy boys much too young for him. To be honest, it was nice sometimes to be somewhere he could be a bit freer, a bit less on guard.
He’d even contemplated telling Phil about the strange encounter he’d had with NSY’s new Consulting Detective, how in an ill-advised moment of charity he’d brought Sherlock back to his flat, had the kind of discussion with him about his family he, Lestrade, never had with anybody, how they’d kissed, and how he’d let Sherlock stay even after he’d been called back to work.
Not that anything had really happened. By the time Lestrade had gotten back, Sherlock had been fast asleep. He’d thrown a blanket over him, called it a night, and in the morning, Sherlock had been gone. But the whole thing had been unsettling, somehow and not just because of how uncharacteristic it had been on both their parts. The next time they’d encountered each other, neither of them had said word about it.
But when he tried to put the welter of things he felt about that strange, exciting night into some version he could relate to Phil, the words refused to come.
“He’s going to hurt himself,” Phil said now, watching the lunatic dancer with amused interest. “He’s going to strain something.”
It was true. The man sprang above the crowd with increasing frequency, launching himself ever higher, like a misfiring pogo stick. He’d even started twirling unsteadily, so that Lestrade could almost see his face.
“Oh bloody hell,” Lestrade said, putting down his (quite banally-named) drink.
“What?” Phil blinked at him.
“I know that man.”
“Him? You know him? I try to get you interested in half a dozen nice blokes, and you know him? Figures, Greg, it really does.” Phil shook his head.
“No, not like that.” Lestrade made a face. “From work.”
“From work? This gets better and better. Member of the Met out on a bender.”
“Shut up, Phil. Have some sympathy. This bloke, he has a few issues with, er, well, with substance abuse.”
“Really? Never would have guessed that. Just thought he was a bit happy, I did.” Phil rolled his eyes.
Lestrade ignored him. “So I think I should—“ he hesitated, steeled himself. “I really think I should get him out of there. Before he hurts himself. Or others.”
He slid down from the bar stool and headed into the fray of gyrating bodies.
“Oho!” Phil called after him. “It is like that, Greg—don’t tell me it isn’t.”
The dance floor was crowded with male bodies in tight jeans and fashionable tops, but Lestrade tried to ignore the occasional sweat-slicked shoulder blade sliding across his field of vision, the occasional arse grazing his hip. It was the second night of Chanukah, but he doubted anyone here cared: they were celebrating their own festival of lights.
At last, he arrived at his destination. Some instinct for self-preservation had made the other dancers open a pocket of space around Sherlock, who either welcomed the extra room or was completely oblivious to his surroundings. Lestrade tried to position himself so that Sherlock would see him on the downswing of his bounce.
“Time to go home, mate,” he shouted above the music.
“Fancy. Meeting. You. Here,” said Sherlock, each word punctuated by perpendicular movement. “Care. To. Dance?”
“Not bloody likely,” Lestrade muttered. Sherlock was dressed as usual, but his close-fitting purple shirt was soaked through, and his wild hair clung damply to his face. His pupils were so large his pale eyes looked almost black.
“Let’s. Get. You. Out. Of. Here,” Lestrade said, and then realized to his dismay that he was almost dancing, his whole body bobbing up and down as he tried to track Sherlock’s face. He shook his head to break the spell of the pulsing music and grabbed Sherlock’s wrist.
A brief struggle ensued, as Sherlock attempted to ascend again and Lestrade anchored him to earth. Then the momentum left him and he almost literally deflated. He sagged forward, and Lestrade put one hand on his chest to keep him upright and used the other to loop one of Sherlock’s arms over his own shoulders.
“Say goodnight, laddie,” he muttered, and made a path through the sea of bodies that immediately closed behind them.
Lestrade overrode Sherlock’s mumblings and gave the cabbie his own address. His flat was closer, and besides, he had no idea what they’d find in Sherlock’s if they went there.
“Stay put,” he said, pushing Sherlock down on his sofa. “No bouncing.”
He had a vivid flash of Kanga and Tigger from the Winnie-the-Pooh books he’d loved as a child, and stifled a laugh, suddenly seeing Sherlock with orange stripes and a tail.
Sherlock, thankfully, didn’t catch the reference. “Sick,” he muttered, rolling his head fretfully against the back of the couch.
“Yes, well not bouncing is going to help with that,” Lestrade told him, perhaps not as sympathetically as he might have. “I’ll get you a bucket.”
By the time he’d located an appropriate receptacle, however, Sherlock had lapsed into unconsciousness, sleep, or some state equally inimical to bouncing. Lestrade sighed, arranged him in something like the rescue position, covered him with a blanket—the same blanket as last time, he noted—and left a glass of water on the end table.
He poured a shot of whiskey for himself and made sure the Chanukah candles had burned all the way down. He’d spent the first night with Ruth and Josh and the girls, but some sentimental impulse had made him light two candles in his gran’s old menorah before he’d gone to meet Phil. Smiling, he scraped a bit of wax off the table, downed his drink, and went to bed.
Some short time later he startled awake. He looked about, unsure of what had woken him.
Sherlock knelt by the bed. He was sober enough now that his irises were once more visible. They caught the room’s stray beams of London’s artificially lit night, as spectral as a cat’s. He’d shed his wrecked shirt, and his skin, too, gleamed palely in the light.
“We seem to be making a habit of this, Inspector,” he said, his voice a mossy rumble of sound. “I thought we might take things to their inevitable conclusion.”
It was as dry a proposition as Lestrade had ever received, and yet it seemed like one he’d been waiting for his whole life. Without sitting up, he extended one arm outside his blankets and touched Sherlock’s chest above his heart.
He felt Sherlock go very still, and worried for a moment that he would shove the hand away. But then Sherlock covered Lestrade’s hand with his own and drew it downward, past a nipple that pebbled sharply as his palm dragged across it. Sherlock tipped his head back slightly, and faint sound escaped his parted lips.
Experimentally, Lestrade tugged gently at his hand, and Sherlock followed, straddling him with one ferocious lunge.
“Yes,” Lestrade said. “Yes.”
Sherlock had clearly never learned the etiquette for such things—questions asked, permissions granted—or perhaps he didn’t care. He drove his mouth, his teeth, down into the hollow of Lestrade’s shoulder, bruising, biting, taking what he wanted and moving on, stripping Lestrade of covers and pyjamas, learning his body the way Lestrade had seen him devour crime scenes. This was no dance of seduction; it was a survey, an incursion, and yes, perhaps, a conquest.
Lestrade didn’t usually go for younger men, much less men who indulged in the sort of vices Sherlock seemed to favor. But there was something about Sherlock, something unformed, almost feral—something that launched attacks on social pieties as fierce as any Maccabee’s: it woke some part of Lestrade he’d barely known existed. He would have laughed at the grandiosity of his fancies, but by then Sherlock had turned him over, was opening him with long, ungentle fingers, and he stopped thinking about anything for a long time.
Afterward, Sherlock slept as if his soul had left his body, long limbs sprawled across Lestrade’s bed like sea wrack. Wakeful, Lestrade traced sad circles around the needle marks in Sherlock’s arms and wondered what would happen next.