“I’m missing something,” Sherlock murmured, a low rumble of frustration into his ear. “It’s staring me right in the face, why can’t I just see it....”
Resigned to his fate, John made a noncommittal noise. He’d long since given up looking at the web of information Sherlock had set up on their wall.
“There’s a crack in these alibis. There has to be. But where...?”
Long, pale fingers toyed with his hands, his wrists. Plucked at his sleeves and fiddled with his watch. John turned his hands over, caught him palm against palm.
Sherlock sighed out, a long, low breath, his chest relaxing only marginally against John’s back. His arms around John tightened and John sighed too, if for another reason entirely.
It wasn’t as if he particularly minded that Sherlock had turned out to be demonstrative. He’d been fully prepared to accept whatever little came: some snogging here, some sex there, and a reasonable amount of lunatic grinning. Which had all arrived, in less than reasonable amounts. Now when Sherlock treated him like furniture, he was a sofa rather than a table, something to sprawl upon and drape over (and occasionally sit on, in very nice ways indeed, but that was another story entirely). The change had occurred, John had accepted it, and when Sherlock had asked, “You don’t mind, do you?”, John had answered, “No, of course not.”
In hindsight, an obvious mistake.
With small secessions and gradual border crossings, Sherlock had invaded the entirety of John’s personal space. He had settled, set up base and clearly had no plans whatsoever to withdraw from his appropriated territory. It was Afghanistan all over again.
John went to sleep with Sherlock on him. He woke up with Sherlock on him. There were clear signs that there had been some period of time in between when John hadn’t been a mattress, but John never seemed to be awake for that interim.
The scalp massages were pretty nice, he had to admit. His shoulders were well-rubbed, his body seldom cold. And Sherlock never left him at crime scenes anymore, always with a hand on John’s back to steer him out. Which was a little embarrassing, but well worth it for the reactions.
The point remained that, like some sort of sexual Napoleon, Sherlock had claimed to be after Shagland only to take over the Republic of Cuddles on his way there. Except this was where the military metaphor of Portuguese sex and Spanish snuggling fell apart, because that would involve Mycroft being set up in Sherlock’s place as the King of Spain, and therefore hugs, and that was too disturbing to consider, umbrellas and all.
“Whatever you’re thinking about, stop.” Sherlock nipped his ear for emphasis. “It distracts me when you’re tense.”
“You could let go,” John suggested. “That’s always an option.”
“Is it?” Rhetorical, already not paying attention. Soft, half-mumbles now, Sherlock’s cheek pressing against the side of his head as the taller man scanned the information pinned up before them.
“I could buy you a teddy bear,” John added. “A great big one. It can keep the skull company.”
“Romantic cliché. Dull.”
“You used the toilet an hour ago, you’re not hungry and your leg doesn’t hurt.” Sherlock tightened his grip on John’s hands. “Stay still.”
“This can’t really be helping you think.”
Sherlock shushed him, which didn’t do much, and bit his ear again, which did.
John didn’t mean to, but relaxing into Sherlock had been steadily trained into him over the past months. For all that chest was narrow, there was a solidity to it. Born of frantic exertion and too few proper meals, terribly hard, it was a chest that begged for something soft, for old jumpers against tight silk. It made John want to sink into him, fill him up. To wear him like a coat, arms buttoned around his front, voice wrapped around his throat like the softest scarf. It really wasn’t fair, the snug, warm intimacy Sherlock could generate without a thought.
Eyes closed, head lolling back on Sherlock’s bony shoulder, John felt himself drifting off. Even standing, it wouldn’t be the first time. It wasn’t all bad, sagging against his twig of a flatmate, wrapped up in his arms, his scent, breathing the same slow, gentle rhythm....
No, none of that was the bad bit.
The bad bit was the door opening. The worse bit was Mrs. Hudson cooing and then the worst bit was DI Lestrade’s dry, “Is this a bad time?”
“No,” Sherlock answered, a bored drawl, his absurd octopus arms a bloody vice around John’s middle.
John cleared his throat.
Sherlock shushed him again.
After weighing his options – surrender, escape, and death by mortification – John went with escape. Which Sherlock physically disagreed with and Lestrade laughed at. Mrs. Hudson resumed her cooing but thankfully did not offer a story about her late husband. John had to take his silver linings where he could find them.
“I’ve been trained in self-defence, you know,” John informed his captor. “I could flip you into the wall.”
“You’d feel bad about it.”
“You’d be surprised.”
“I would,” Sherlock agreed. He had the gall, the absolute cheek, to kiss the side of John’s head.
“If I’m not interrupting anything,” Lestrade said, “there does happen to be a triple homicide I’d like to ask you about.”
John fought down the urge to climb into Sherlock’s suit jacket and not come out until he’d finished dying of embarrassment. He settled for an irritated hum, which only made Sherlock’s thumbs press circles into his skin.
“I’m nearly there,” Sherlock huffed. It was his turn for a frustrated noise and then he – oh no, no – and then he rubbed his cheek against John’s hair like a great sodding cat.
“Oh, boys,” Mrs. Hudson gushed.
John dared a horrified glance to find Lestrade twitching down some sort of facial expression that should never be allowed to come to fruition. And he did not, John absolutely did not press back into Sherlock in defeat, not even a little.
Sherlock went right on with that absentminded nuzzling. He was like this ridiculous animal, something brought home on a terrible whim one Christmas that wound up growing stupidly tall and destroying the house. Crawling into beds and making messes and looking so heartrendingly sad when no one scratched him behind the ears.
“He says it helps him think,” John tried to explain. His escape plans, he could relinquish, but he wasn’t particularly keen to hand over the remainder of his dignity. A frankly minuscule remainder, but it was a matter of principle.
Lestrade, even more dryly than before: “Does it really?”
“Oh!” Sherlock exclaimed and hugged him tight, just shy of a Heimlich manoeuvre. “Oh! That’s it!”
Sherlock immediately released him and began whirling about the room, picking up papers, navigating his phone, chattering away the whole while.
John, stunned and oddly cold, could only watch him in amazement.
“Huh,” said Lestrade.
“Told you,” said John.
“...How long were you...?”
“I’d rather not say.” John caught sight of himself in the mirror and smoothed down his hair as best he was able.
“I have the address!” Sherlock announced, tearing a pamphlet off the wall and shoving it into Lestrade’s hands. “The killer’s address, it’s time for a house call. Mrs. Hudson, don’t wait up.”
“Have a nice date,” Mrs. Hudson bid them. “Be safe.”
“We will,” John answered, the response automatic. “I mean- I mean we’ll be safe.” Entirely meant for that second bit, not that first bit at all.
Lestrade didn’t even pretend to be coughing. “I’ll leave you two to your taxi, then,” he said by way of goodbye. All the way down the stairs, not pretending to cough.
“Sherlock,” John groaned, aggrieved and ill-used.
Sherlock bundled him into his jacket before hauling him out onto the street. At some point in the process, John was sure he’d heard Mrs. Hudson say something about young love. Sherlock flagged down a taxi, opened the door, and guided John into it, that ever-present hand warm on his back despite the many layers between.
The address rattled off, the car in motion, John wasn’t remotely surprised at the leather-clad fingers sliding through his own. He looked to his flatmate, perfectly ready to give the man a piece of his mind, and the words melted away like mist before the sun.
“Thank you,” Sherlock said, so soft, so simple. Sincere, even. As if it were John who had done something remarkable, performed some feat of brilliance.
John’s tongue darted out, across his dry lips. “You’re welcome,” he said, voice perfectly steady. The cab turned and John let inertia do what it would.
And Sherlock, leaning in but not quite sure: “You don’t mind, do you?” Gray eyes curious, half-guarded. As if it wouldn’t matter either way when, really, it did.
“Of course not,” John said, and was soundly, breathlessly kissed.
In hindsight, he’d made worse mistakes.