John knew something was terribly, deeply wrong when he came back to the flat and found that Sherlock had made dinner.
The two settings at the table had seven pieces of cutlery, four plates, and three glasses each. Sherlock looked up from the stove, on which every burner was occupied, as well as a rack balanced precariously across two of the pots, and glared at him. "I said seven."
"It's quarter to," John said, still frozen in the doorway, staring.
"If I meant by seven, I wouldn't have said at seven," Sherlock said.
"Right," John said. "I'll just go away again, then, shall I?"
"Yes," Sherlock said, then paused and frowned. "Wait. No."
"No?" John said, eyeing the door. He would have liked a chance to nip downstairs and ask Mrs. Hudson if anything had happened—chemical fire, delivery of illegal drugs—
"No, that was the wrong thing to say," Sherlock said. "Never mind. Come in and take off your coat. In four minutes you can open the wine."
"All right," John said, resigning himself to his fate, and closed the door. He sat down and watched, grimly fascinated: ingredients had been assembled along the worktop in mugs and teacups, petrie dishes—John hoped those had been washed beforehand—small bowls and large spoons. They were disposed of in precise order, going into different pots according to some master plan evidently only in Sherlock's head. John checked the wall just in case.
"Now," Sherlock said, as the minute hand ticked over, and handed him a bottle of wine.
"Er," John said. "This is very good wine."
Sherlock's spoon arrested in mid-air. "Do you know it?"
"No," John said, "but you've left the fifty-four quid price tag on."
"Interesting," Sherlock said. "I wouldn't have expected you to remark on it. A bit rude, isn't it?"
"I wouldn't have expected you to buy it," John said. "Are we—reconstructing a murder?" he asked, with a sudden hope.
"No," Sherlock said, "although I did once solve a case where arsenic was added to lamb kidneys bourguignonne, which will be the fifth course."
"Ah," John said. "Delicious."
"I doubt it," Sherlock said. "Acute arsenic poisoning causes a metallic taste."
"Hallucinogens in the consomme this time, then?" John said.
"Of course not," Sherlock said. "Why would I make a whole dinner just to drug you?"
John looked at him.
Sherlock scowled. "I have not drugged any part of this meal. The wine, now, if you please," which unfortunately crossed off nearly all the remaining options John had been able to come up with.
Three courses in, still not poisoned, high, or unconscious, John put down his fork and gave up: it was obviously something, and he was out of other ideas. "You do know that I'm fine," he said, without much hope.
"Obviously," Sherlock said. He was doing something vaguely inappropriate looking to a defenseless roast duck that had just come out of the oven.
"I mean, I'm really all right again, now," John said. "I've been all right for a month."
"No," Sherlock said, "you've been out of danger for six weeks, able to get about for four, comfortable the last week and a half, and had recovered most of your energy as of two days ago, judging by the steadily increasing distances you have traveled each day."
"Yes," John said, staring: Jesus, it was this. "Like I said, I've been all right for a month. Sherlock—"
"Kindly do me the courtesy of not imagining me neurotic," Sherlock said, irritably. "And if I were still concerned about your well-being, making you a large and unhealthy dinner would be an idiotic gesture."
"So it's in the nature of a—celebration?" John said. "Or—um—an apology?"
"What? Why would I apologize?" Sherlock said.
"For getting me thrown off a building?" John said.
"I didn't throw you off it," Sherlock said. "Garrideb did."
"True," John said, "but it's that or—I have no idea, actually. What are you doing?"
Sherlock ignored him and finished dismembering the duck, ladled over the sauce, and deposited it on the table. John looked at the duck, considered the odds of wrangling an answer out of Sherlock against his will, and reached for the serving fork.
After three more courses, cheese, and another glass of the indeed very nice wine, John belched and said, "All right, I've worked it out. We're testing to see if it's possible to poison someone just with the chemical interactions of ordinary food. It's the tuna carpaccio and the limburger, deadly beyond belief."
Sherlock was at the stove again, poking the coffeepot, and didn't dignify that with a response.
"Well, it's either that, or you're trying to oh dear God," John said, sitting up. Sherlock's back stiffened, almost imperceptibly, but he didn't turn.
John heaved a deep breath and put his forehead against his clasped hands. "Do be careful," Mycroft had said, two weeks ago, after sending Anthea to waylay him, this time in a BMW 640.
"I'm fine," John had said. "A bit late, but thanks for asking—"
"Yes, yes," Mycroft said. "I mean of Sherlock."
"Er," John said. "As far as I know, he wasn't injured? No bullet wounds, knife cuts, being thrown off a building—"
"He behaved most uncharacteristically while you were in hospital," Mycroft said.
"What do you mean?" John said. "He visited me twice."
"Yes," Mycroft said, meaningfully.
"I'm—sorry, you've lost me," John said.
Mycroft sighed. "Watch him, John. Very closely."
Now John lifted his head again and looked over the wreckage of dinner, around the flat, where things had been—not tidied, precisely; but his favorite chair was unburied, his laptop while not in place was visible, and at least half the newspaper was still left intact from the morning. He rubbed his forehead. Damn Sherlock, anyway, why couldn't he have reactions like an ordinary person, dole out a manly hug and let the matter drop?
"All right," he said, shoving back his chair. "Let's go and have a shag."
"Ah, excellent," Sherlock said, turning off the stove with alacrity. "I needn't have bothered with the trifle, then."
John had idly speculated on how the sex might be, the challenge of keeping Sherlock's interest; as it turned out, he needn't have worried all that much. Sherlock was passionately interested. He shed his clothing efficiently, no foreplay there, but once they were in bed together he was fantastically responsive and not a little bossy, closing his hand over John's on his cock, head falling back as he guided the stroke. "Yes, exactly, yes," he said, voice satisfyingly rough and rising to a gasp when John sucked on his throat, hard enough to leave a mark. "Christ, John."
"My God, I want to fuck you," John said, nearly overcome at the arch of Sherlock's body under his hands, how much a sprawling loose-limbed mess he looked, splendidly coming apart.
"At once," Sherlock said, flinging an arm out eyes closed to catch the drawer of his bedside table, two fingers around the knob pulling it open: neat bottle of lubricant, unopened; box of condoms still in plastic. John supposed that the right thing to do, what a nicer man would do, was to pause, stop to be sure, to walk Sherlock through the whole thing; of course, a nicer man wouldn't have lasted ten minutes in Sherlock's company before being driven off under a withering hail of scorn, so instead he tore the plastic with his teeth, got the condom out and on, and pushed Sherlock's magnificently long legs back.
"Ow. This is boring," Sherlock said, irritably. "Ow. I want your hand again. Or your mouth—"
"Just hold on a sodding minute," John said, through his teeth; talking was taking concentration he didn't have to spare.
"Bo-ring," Sherlock sing-songed. "Boring, boring, bor—" He stopped abruptly on a swallowed gasp and then said, somewhat strangled, "Carry on."
"You're quite sure?" John said, pausing for breath, and not above getting a little of his own back. "I could stop."
But Sherlock had his eyes closed again and wasn't saying anything, which was its own answer and reward; he had taken an iron grip on John's shoulder. John looked down at him and almost laughed aloud for mingled affection and exasperation: he wasn't sure if he should have done this years before, or if he was an idiot for doing it at all. Probably the latter, but he couldn't bring himself to regret it, Sherlock beneath him as improbable as any of their most ludicrous cases.
"All right," he said, gently, to the clenched hand on his shoulder. "All right," and Sherlock took a long shuddering breath of pleasure and satisfaction as John started to fuck him.
"You've really never done this before," John panted, some time later, although it wasn't impossible to believe: Sherlock did seem to have highly unrealistic ideas about the refractory period.
"Shut up," Sherlock said, biting at his throat and shoving John over. John barely managed to heave them bodily sideways and keep them from falling off the bed. Sherlock wasn't paying any attention to minor matters of that sort: he slid down John's thighs and sucked his cock back into his mouth.
"Oh, for fuck's sake," John said, groaning. "Sherlock, give a body ten minutes. Or ten hours."
Sherlock rolled himself onto his back next to John and reached over for his mobile to check the time. "Ten minutes?"
"At least," John said, breathing heavily, glad for the respite.
"Mm," Sherlock said.
"And put that down," John said. "You are not texting while we're shagging."
"Not while," Sherlock said, thumbs darting away. "Until—" He made a complaining noise of protest as John took the mobile away and threw it somewhere into the corner of the room. He folded his arms over his chest and sulked at the ceiling. "This is pointless. What am I to do in the meantime?"
"Well," John said, stretching until his back crackled, deeply comfortable, "you might go and get the trifle."