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1. Munich.

"Nice," John observes.

"It's a hotel room," Sherlock tells him, tossing his bag into a corner.

"It's a nice hotel room," John says, shrugging off his jacket.

"It's an acceptable hotel room," Sherlock tells him, watching as John steps over to the (tiny) wardrobe and digs through the hangers. John sighs—they must be the sort that have a little ball at the top that has to be fiddled out of the socket; Sherlock hates those, too—then hangs up his jacket without taking the hanger out and holds out a hand. John missed a spot shaving, just under his left ear; distracting.

"Cold, are you?" John asks him, and Sherlock looks back up (John's mouth, John's eyes). He isn't cold; it's not cold. It's summer; even past midnight, it's pleasant. Sherlock clears his throat and slides off his coat and hands it over, then tucks his fingertips just inside the left pocket of John's jeans.

John's smile widens as he hangs up Sherlock's coat. Sherlock pulls, and John turns towards him, steps towards him, and again when Sherlock tugs more insistently.

"So," John says, close enough that Sherlock can feel it. "You don't technically have a case on right now, do you?"

"I've a meeting in the morning," Sherlock tells him. "With Moran's... associates. But at the moment, no."

"Mm." John laughs a little. "So I—so we agreed that kissing was—acceptable, yes? When you're not on a case?"

"I was thinking that we should take the opportunity," Sherlock tells him, "to—to, um, get it out of our systems."

"Oh, um," John says, and when Sherlock steps back two paces to sit on the end of the bed, John tilts towards him, stumbling, as though Sherlock can affect his gravity. The thought sends a shiver down Sherlock's spine. He unbuttons his cuffs, watching John's face.

John licks his lips, then steps over. He nudges Sherlock's knees with his knees, pushing them apart, and Sherlock catches his breath, hands stilling on his sleeve. John's shirt is askew, a bit, buttons not quite in line with the zip on his jeans.

"Don't think I can get you out of my system," John tells him, very soft.

Sherlock swallows, then looks up at his face. He asks, "Is that a no?"

John reaches out, trailing his fingertips down the side of Sherlock's throat, then murmurs, "It's not even a little bit of a no," and unbuttons the top of Sherlock's shirt.

Sherlock drops his gaze back down to his cuff. It takes him much longer than usual to get the buttons undone, for some reason, and by the time he's finished, John's done with the buttons on the front, hand sliding in under the fabric, along Sherlock's ribs, and Sherlock wants to stop time, right here, right now, until he's had a chance to memorize the difference between the calluses on John's index finger and thumb.

"Scoot back, yeah?" John says, soft, and Sherlock blinks himself out of it, slow and dazed, and John murmurs, "Christ," and bends down to kiss him, cupping his left hand around the nape of Sherlock's neck, his right still resting over Sherlock's ribs. Sherlock thinks John wanted him to do something but he can't think what; John tastes like stale aeroplane coffee and it is delightful. Sherlock's hands feel heavy, so he slides them around and tucks them into John's back pockets, for safekeeping. John exhales and presses his forehead to Sherlock's, saying, "Bit hard on my back, you know," and Sherlock says, "What?" with tongue and lips that feel numb and clumsy and John tells him, "Scoot back, c'mon, I want to kiss you lying down" and Sherlock didn't make that noise, he didn't, there would be no reason at all for him to make that noise. Sherlock takes his left hand back to help push himself back and pulls on John with the other; John puts his knee on the duvet and climbs up after him, pushing Sherlock's shirt back and off his shoulders, until it hangs around his right wrist, and then John bends down to kiss Sherlock's shoulder and Sherlock closes his eyes.

"Sherlock," John says, soft, and Sherlock sucks down a breath, then another. John kisses his cheek and sits back, crouched up over Sherlock's right thigh, Sherlock's fingertips still tucked in his pocket. Sherlock forces himself to take another breath. John asks, "Are you—is this all right?" His eyes look worried.

Sherlock swallows and manages, "I don't know what to do with my hands."

John blinks at him. He says, "You don't—"

"I don't know what to do with my hands," Sherlock repeats, and then squeezes his eyes shut and refuses to be embarrassed.

"You can do whatever you want with your hands," John tells him, and Sherlock says, too fast, "I want to do everything with my hands," and John says, "Oh—I mean."

Sherlock doesn't say anything.

After a minute John says, "Sherlock."

Sherlock swallows.

John says, soft, "Unbutton my shirt."

Sherlock swallows again and nods and opens his eyes, and takes his right hand out of John's pocket so he can unbutton John's shirt. He goes from the top down, this time. On the third button, John leans in and kisses his eyebrow, and Sherlock has to blink twice, hard. When Sherlock finishes John's shirt he keeps going and undoes the button on John's jeans.

"Um—what time's your meeting, then?" John asks him.

"Half ten," Sherlock says.

"So, we've got—what, ten hours, before you've got to go?" John asks, as Sherlock is tugging down the zip. John folds his hand around Sherlock's wrist, light, and Sherlock looks up.

John watches him, steady. He licks his lips. Then he says, "I just mean—we're really not in a hurry."

Sherlock blinks at him. After a minute, Sherlock says, "I'm fairly certain that I could recognize Irene from any square ten centimeters of her body."

John's brow wrinkles, and Sherlock shifts.

"I just mean," Sherlock says, and then clears his throat, and says, "I haven't yet actually quite managed to see you all the way naked."

John's expression clears, and then the corner of his mouth twitches. He says, "You do remember that we took a shower together, don't you?"

Of course Sherlock remembers. "I was distracted," he says, and John grins at him.

"Well," John concedes, "that time we were in a hurry."

"Yes, exactly," Sherlock agrees, and John laughs and then pulls back, leaving Sherlock feeling suddenly lonely and bereft, and stands to push down his jeans.

"You too, you know," John tells him, looking up. "It's not a free show."

Debatable, but Sherlock doesn't think it's worth the time. Sherlock tugs his wrist free from his shirt, then unbuttons his flies, as John peels off his shirt, then his undershirt, leaving his torso bare. The scarring on John's shoulder is not ignorable: faded, but still darker than the rest of his skin, and Sherlock's fingertips remind him that it is raised and rough despite the shiny-slick feeling of each tiny individual contiguous patch, and that it is there because John almost died, which is a thought that makes things happen in Sherlock's head that are completely unacceptable. John always wears boxers, and they are usually white, most likely so that he can wash them in the same load as his sheets, and John has almost no chest hair, which Sherlock has known for ages but is now allowed to think about. John kneels up on the bed and says, "Got distracted, did you," and Sherlock tells him, "Yes," and hooks his fingers into the waistband of John's white boxers and pulls.

"You're still wearing your trousers," John tells him, lying down so he can kick his boxers off. Sherlock wriggles out of his trousers and pants together, saying, "Better?" and John says, "You have no idea," and leans in to kiss him.

While they kiss, John's hands move a lot. He touches: Sherlock's hair (more or less constantly, with one hand or the other), Sherlock's neck (12% of the time), Sherlock's shoulders (between 15 and 22% of the time, depending on precisely where he draws his lines), Sherlock's chest (between 21 and 24% of the time, same reason), Sherlock's back (between 34 and 38% of the time, and how Sherlock loathes imprecision), Sherlock's hips (3% of the time), and what are inarguably Sherlock's buttocks (8% of the time, though a nontrivial amount of the time John's hands spend on his back makes Sherlock feel shivery enough that he feels like that particular dividing line should be moved substantially upwards, anatomical realities be damned). Sherlock, meanwhile, has his left arm crooked under his ear to support his head and his right fisted uselessly, resting on the bedspread between them.

"Um," Sherlock says, "I still don't exactly," when John finally pulls back, and John says, "My hip, then?" and Sherlock says, "All right," and reaches out to touch John's scar.

"Now you're just being perverse," John tells him.

"On this particular occasion, I don't mean to be," Sherlock admits, and then sighs and says, "Does it bother you?"

"What, that you're perverse, or that you're touching my scar?" John asks.

"You like it when I'm perverse," Sherlock points out, rubbing his fingertips along the scar.

"Yes," John says, "I do."

"But does it bother you," Sherlock says, quiet, and John exhales and says, "I've lost some sensation, you know, it's not—it's not really erotic, or anything. But no, it doesn't bother me."

Sherlock takes his hand off John's shoulder and pushes himself up, sits cross-legged. John's eyes follow him, and Sherlock brushes his hand along the outside of John's left arm, down to his wrist.

"That," John exhales, "is, um."

"Erotic," Sherlock says, and looks back up at John's face.

"Yeah," John agrees.

Sherlock watches his face. He runs his fingertips over John's palm, and John's eyelashes sink, just fractionally, as John curls his fingers to meet Sherlock's. Sherlock exhales and turns his hand, hooking their fingers together. He tries to remember the purpose at the heart of this exercise, but—

(The 28th of November, 2007, just past sunset; windows open; crisp, not really cold, not yet; lights out but for that one ancient reading lamp with the tiny 15-watt incandescent bulb, glowing like fine light amber and irritatingly difficult to replace; as Sherlock lay on his back on his bed with his bare feet pressed against the wall as he flipped his phone [smoothsatiny] over and over and over in his hands; with his skin too small too tight, feeling achy, heavy inside his pajama bottoms; with his heart racing and his mind transparent-clear ice-cold and superconductive and a waterfall rush of bursting-fizzing bubbles wriggling about just under his skin, as he thought about everything and didn't touch anything and waited—just a—little bit—too—long—to—d—i—a—l—

—and it'd been awful, after, awful, awful, but at the time it'd been perfect and he still has it stored in his head for whenever he wants it, stashed just around the corner from the British Museum.)

—the objects at the periphery are awfully distracting.

After a minute, he says, "Throat, hands and wrists, um—lower back."

"You or me?" John asks.

"Me," Sherlock says.

"By lower back, do you mean 'lower back' or 'arse'?" John asks.

"Bit of both," Sherlock admits, then clears his throat and looks at the wall and adds, "I like—I like it when you kiss me. Um. Rather a lot, I mean."

"Yeah," John says, quiet.

"So there's that," Sherlock says, and rubs at his eyebrow.

"Yeah," John says, and leans over, and kisses Sherlock's knee, which is the bit of him that's closest.

"I can't tell with you," Sherlock says, then adds, "You—you like oral sex."

"Yes, that's because I'm not dead," John tells him, and then John—he, he must see something, because he pushes himself up to sitting and slides over so his right hip is pressed against Sherlock's, and slides his arm around Sherlock's waist and kisses his cheek and says, "All right, so, you don't like oral sex, then," and Sherlock shakes his head.

"No, I definitely do, I." Sherlock stops. After a minute, he clears his throat and says, "I—I would rather be able to kiss you, if this is." He stops again. He doesn't want to say it.

John's quiet for a minute. Then he says, low, "If this is the last time, right," and Sherlock exhales and drops his head onto John's shoulder.

John's hand is rubbing Sherlock's left side, up and down, up and down. It's not exactly soothing, though Sherlock thinks that maybe if they weren't quite so naked it would be.

"What if it isn't the last time?" John asks, after a minute. "What if it's just—the last time for a while?"

"But we might be killed and then it would be the last time," Sherlock points out.

"Well, always true," John concedes, "but I—I mean, I really am fine with—pretty much whatever. I mean, we're both naked and so far that—that really hasn't gone wrong for me, so I'm definitely not going to complain, whatever you would rather do, but—but I, at least, plan on doing my utmost to prevent either of us being killed for the next—well, several decades, really, so. I imagine that somewhere in there we'll be able to fit in another shag."

"And you can live with the uncertainty," Sherlock says, very low.

"Well," John says, and then sighs, and says, "I—look, Sherlock, I'm not sure if this is something I ought to bring up or not, but—I think I've had, um, a bit more, um." He stops.

"Yes," Sherlock says, lifting his head.

"What?" John says.

"You've definitely had more sex than I've had," Sherlock tells him.

John licks his lips, like he's going to ask how Sherlock knows, which is stupid—only John could possibly want Sherlock to justify a deduction this obvious—but Sherlock rolls his eyes and says, "Not that it is in any way relevant, but I am in fact absolutely certain that you have had substantially more sexual partners than I've had sexual encounters, so I am perfectly willing to concede that the experiential advantage rests with you."

"You," John says, and then stops, and Sherlock watches him count and then say, "That can't be right, you can't be certain, you can't possibly know about girlfriends from before I moved into—"

"You talk about them all the time," Sherlock tells him, and it comes out perhaps more bitterly than Sherlock intended, because John sighs and says, "Oh, Jesus, I—" and Sherlock snorts and shakes his head and says, "It's not like I was—I wasn't pining, or anything," and John presses his mouth against Sherlock's jaw and murmurs, "Well, I was, recently, a bit."

Sherlock briefly considers bringing up Moran, but decides not to.

"Okay," John says, and sighs, and then says, "You're right, it's not relevant, except that I—I think it'll be easier to assume that it won't be the last time we have sex after it's, um, not been the last time we have sex a few more times."

"I don't know that it isn't the last time we'll have sex," Sherlock says quietly.

"I know that," John says. "I mean—I was paying attention. But I—I'd like to believe that it won't be, that it—it doesn't have to be, and I want to kiss you, too, but I—I just feel like we can kind of play it by ear, we don't have to make any—um. Final decisions."

"I still don't know where to put my hands," Sherlock tells him, and John says, "Oh."

Sherlock rolls his eyes, because honestly, sometimes John is intolerably slow.

"That's related to the—er, oral sex question, isn't it?" John says.

Absolutely intolerable. Sherlock snaps, "Well so far that's the only thing I can tell that you especially like, so—"

"All right, yes, shut up," John says, and kisses him until Sherlock's desire to lie down has overwhelmed any more practical concerns and John's stretched himself out half on top of him and Sherlock's largely forgotten what he was going to say. Sherlock finds that one of his hands has ended up in John's hair, and the other one is curled up on the back side of John's ribs, his arm wrapped tightly around John's back. John kisses his jaw, murmuring, "Yes, see, that's—fine," and then takes a detour down beneath Sherlock's ear.

"'Fine' is unacceptable," Sherlock tells him, without opening his eyes, and John laughs against Sherlock's skin and says, "I—I, honestly, it's. It's quite—endearing, you know. That you're worried you're bad in bed."

"Sadist," Sherlock tells him.

"Really not, actually," John tells him, muffled by the hollow of Sherlock's throat. It makes Sherlock's fingers twitch. John licks a clumsy stripe up the side of Sherlock's neck and props himself up on his elbow, looking down at him. His eyes are soft and his mouth is red, wet, and he looks somehow warmer, even, than he feels, pressed down against Sherlock unhurried and heavy. He looks like he should be shot out-of-focus, lit red and golden; the thought is plebeian enough to make Sherlock feel guilty. John looks happy.

John says, "You're just—um. Rather good at everything, you know."

Sherlock is quiet. After a minute, he says, "You should tell me."

"Tell you what?" John asks, shifting his weight. Sherlock slides his hand down John's side and over the curve of his bottom.

"What you like," Sherlock says, soft.

"That," John says, and laughs a little when Sherlock squeezes. John says, "Yes, um—and that," and bends back down to kiss him.

The second time, Nick had told Sherlock, Just—turn it off, for a minute, won't you? and Sherlock didn't say anything. John, on the other hand, seems perfectly content to lie about naked in a hotel room in Munich and kiss Sherlock and let Sherlock squeeze his bottom and rub his palm up his back and his thumb down his side and catalogue that the—the a-arse-squeezing makes John press down against him (reflexive; not very hard) and the palm up John's back makes his shoulders tense and then relax and the thumb down John's side makes his erection jerk against Sherlock's, and he doesn't say, Just—turn it off, for a minute, won't you? and his mouth stays on Sherlock's neck and Sherlock's face and Sherlock's mouth and apparently when John says they're not in a hurry, he means it. Sherlock just wishes his own body could agree.

Sherlock has had plenty of experience with masturbation; over the years, he's become clinically efficient in achieving orgasm in minimal time. He doesn't know if he's had occasion to regret that ever before. He doesn't think so. But now they're in a hotel room in Munich with ten hours to make the most of and Sherlock's belly is damp with their shared sweat, with—with precome, and every time John shifts against him, desire pools inside the marrow-hollows of Sherlock's bones, slow and thick and honey-sweet, and ripples out through Sherlock's skin like the very best kinds of high. Sherlock's organs feel foreign to him. He has lost his language: no engraving in Gray's Anatomy ever felt this way; this cannot possibly be explained by his eventual postmortem. The next time John murmurs, "You all right?" Sherlock gasps, "No," without thinking, and then pulls John closer against him, kisses him hungrily, ashamed.

"Um," John manages breathlessly, a few moments later, then asks, "Why not?"

"Because I'm about to come," Sherlock tells him, and then twists his face to the right, which is a mistake, because it bares his throat, and John props himself up on his right elbow and licks one long stripe down the side of Sherlock's neck and Sherlock feels his own moan shake him down to his toes. Then John wraps his hand around both of them together and Sherlock gasps out, "Oh, God—John—" and John says, "Yeah, come on, come on—" and Sherlock explodes.

"Oh, Jesus," John gasps, and Sherlock manages to get enough neurons firing together to say, "Come—come on me, John, I want you to—" and John moans and presses his face to Sherlock's neck and sticks three salty-sticky fingers in Sherlock's mouth and Sherlock sucks and sucks and sucks, pulse still practically vibrating under his skin, as John rubs his cock against Sherlock's hip, panting, "Oh, I—God, Sherlock, I—oh," until he pulses wetly against Sherlock's skin.

"God," John gasps, and then collapses against him, pressing his face into Sherlock's neck, then dragging his fingers in Sherlock's mouth over until Sherlock can kiss him. John tells him, "I—oh, okay, that was."

"Unexpected," Sherlock finishes, and John props himself up and says, "See, I was going to go with, 'great'."

"Oh," Sherlock says, and swallows, and John says, "Because that was—" and Sherlock finishes, "Yes, no, that was..." and John supplies, "Great?" and Sherlock says, "Yes, it was—really, um. Really, really great."

John smiles and leans back down and then sticks his tongue back in Sherlock's mouth, where it belongs.

 

In the morning, the first thing Sherlock does is inventory himself, blinking up at the ceiling. He thinks that something in his brain has perhaps been badly miswired.

It's early, still only half seven by the clock on the bedside table, an hour earlier in London, and John is heavy and sweaty on top of him, face mashed into Sherlock's neck and legs scissored between Sherlock's thighs. Sherlock had barely been conscious by the time John convinced him to get under the covers the night before, and Sherlock hadn't really had anything to say about the way John lay down on top of him and then pulled the blankets up to their shoulders, but now Sherlock is positive that he woke up because he's too hot, and yet his primary interest, it seems, is still split between the fact that John is naked under the covers, which really shouldn't be important, since John has yet to show any significant disinclination towards being naked around Sherlock, and the fact that Sherlock wants to be closer to him, which is both largely impossible and, given that Sherlock really is already rather overwarm, wholly irrational.

Sherlock reaches one arm out from underneath the blankets, the open air shockingly cool against his skin. He exhales, sharp with relief, and John stirs, so Sherlock pets at his hair. He didn't mean to wake John up.

"Mm." John kisses his throat. "Hi."

"Go back to sleep," Sherlock murmurs. "It's early."

"You're too hot, aren't you," John mumbles, and yawns, and rolls off to one side.

"I didn't say you should go away," Sherlock says, and John laughs without opening his eyes, tugging the blankets off of Sherlock's body and wrapping them around his own shoulders, then holding out one arm.

"C'mon," John tells him, so Sherlock slides back over against him, tucking his arm back under the blankets, around John's waist. Sherlock's back is still bare, cooling rapidly. "Mm." John shifts, sighs, and kisses the corner of Sherlock's mouth. He asks, "How d'you always get so hot when you sleep, anyway? You wear a knee-length wool coat all year 'round."

"Don't know," Sherlock tells him, "always have, I'll be fine in a minute." He tucks his knee in between John's and kisses him properly. John still hasn't opened his eyes. Sherlock runs his thumb up John's stubbly jaw and says, "Don't you need more sleep?"

John makes a noncommittal noise and slides closer.

"I have a couple hours," Sherlock says. It feels dangerous.

"Out of your system?" John asks, and Sherlock tells him, "Not quite yet," and John rubs his hand down to the small of Sherlock's back and then keeps going.

It still might be the last time. In fact, at this point, it is much more probably the last time, since Sherlock has to go out around ten and when he comes back he most certainly will be on a case and then they really won't have any excuse at all. But Sherlock finds himself drowned steadily in the rip tides of his desires, and somehow the only thing he can find to hold onto while struggling to surface is his devotion. He slides down John's body with it thumping with every syncopated beat of his heart, how badly he wants to give things to John. It seems paltry, but then John says, "Hey, what about—turn around, then, give me something to do," and laughs, but not meanly, when Sherlock feels the blood rush up into his face. Then John kisses Sherlock's hip and his thigh and then dribbles all over him and keeps losing his rhythm while Sherlock does his best to make it excellent but not fast, suffused with adoration down to his every spinning electron. John comes in Sherlock's mouth and then half chokes when Sherlock comes in his and then laughs at himself and Sherlock wants to fold this room around them, tuck the corners in, and stay.

"I'm sort of awful at this, aren't I," John says, wiping at his mouth, and Sherlock leans in and licks John's jaw and says, "It's endearing, that you're worried you're bad in bed," and John says, "God, you're such a bastard," and Sherlock tells him, "I love you," even though he knows that John knows and that at this point he's just repeating himself, "I love you, I love you—"

Sherlock is almost late for his meeting.

 

Munich turns out to be—well, boring. It's forgery (artifacts, not art; he does give them some credit for that) and it doesn't take Sherlock even the whole of the first day to realize that his entire job description, for the next week or so, has been reduced to repeatedly explaining everything they're doing wrong to four rather cantankerous middle-aged academics and a postgrad who obviously fancies himself the next Neal Caffrey.

"Who?" John asks, stirring sugar into Sherlock's coffee.

"He's—no one, it doesn't matter," Sherlock says, mentally cursing Molly and her laptop's extensive collection of terrible American television as he tosses his new socks on top of the rest of the darks. ("Cold water, John, cold water this time—" "You know, seeing as how you're such a princess, you could always wash them yourself, so—" "I will repeat that I'm perfectly happy to use some of the truly grotesque amount of money Moran is paying me to send our laundry out—" "Yes, fine, shut up, I'll wash them on cold, Jesus, Sherlock.")

John sets Sherlock's coffee on the edge of the desk, and his shirt is blue today, so Sherlock drops whatever irrelevant piece of fabric has found its way into his hands and slides his hand into John's hair. It's not as easy to do as it was yesterday morning; John was out when Sherlock came back last night, and he returned just before seven with takeaway in one hand and snipped ends all over the inside of his collar.

John looks up at him. "You're working," he says, but his mouth is quirking up.

"Hm, no," Sherlock says. "At the moment, I'm waiting for a phone call."

"For work," John says.

"And while I'm waiting," Sherlock says, ignoring him, "I am sorting the laundry, which is not, in fact, noticeably more dull than the actual job."

"But you do have a job," John persists.

"Not a real one," Sherlock argues. "It's a job that is very much like not working at all."

John licks his lips. He says, "You—you said you needed to be stopped, before."

"I changed my mind," Sherlock says.

"Last time we shagged while you were working, you were really a bit of a bastard to me, after," John reminds him, which is true, so Sherlock slides his hand out of John's hair and drops down onto his knees and says, "This isn't the same. You should let me apologize to you."

"Oh, Jesus," John says, which Sherlock has noticed he tends to do when he feels like he should say no but doesn't want to, so Sherlock puts his hands on John's hips and pushes him back up against the foot of the bed and John really isn't at all stupid, so he sits down.

This, Sherlock reminds himself, doesn't count. It doesn't. Not really. He won't be the one who loses himself in this; even at fifteen he could almost make this, by itself, just a game. The carpet is hotel room carpet, short, not remotely plush, and hard on his knees. That, too, will be a reminder; he focuses on that and not on the way his heart is going a bit too fast and his fingers are not as dexterous as they ought to be when he works open the button on John's jeans. John's hand comes down and settles in Sherlock's hair, and Sherlock's first thought is, That's nothing like the way Nick did that and then his second thought is, Well, of course not, it wouldn't be, would it? and then he has to rest his cheek against John's thigh for a minute to catch his breath.

John keeps scratching his fingers against Sherlock's scalp, saying nothing.

"That's nice," Sherlock tells him eventually, a little bit muffled by the denim.

"Want to come up here?" John says, very soft.

Sherlock shakes his head. This isn't about him, it's not about him. He's the one on his knees.

"All right, then," John says, and when Sherlock gets himself together enough to go back to John's zip, John pushes himself up with his left hand braced on the bed and doesn't move the right one at all, and Sherlock drags John's jeans and boxers down together while John's fingers slide through Sherlock's fringe and down over his cheek. John murmurs, "You don't have to, you know," but he lets Sherlock tug all his pointless clothing down over his feet and toss it aside.

"I don't do things I don't want to," Sherlock reminds him, looking up, and John's whole—mouth, and—and face, and everything, are unbearable, so Sherlock presses his face down into the crease between John's groin and hip with John half-hard against his cheek and John rubs his hand through the back of Sherlock's hair and murmurs endearments Sherlock feels in his bones but refuses to hear too closely and this is already going badly, badly wrong. Sherlock breathes in, deep, filling his lungs with the bits of John that John doesn't need anymore and then presses his knees down into the carpet until they hurt, and then sticks out his tongue and licks, just a little, just a taste, and then turns and presses his face back into John's thigh, shoulders heaving.

John pets his hair. "Okay," he says, a minute later, "this is—both, um, very hot, and very worrying, so—"

Sherlock turns his head, fast, sliding his right hand over to guide John into his mouth, and John exhales above him, hand tightening in his hair. John tucks his right foot over the back of Sherlock's left calf, and Sherlock feels that touch vibrate straight up into his throat and escape.

"Oh, f—" John is saying, and this is—this is rapidly turning into an exercise in things Sherlock can't handle, like John's hand in his hair and John's bare foot tucked over his leg and John leaking into his mouth, heavy and salty and thick in Sherlock's hand pressed up against Sherlock's mouth with John in his mouth, and fuck! This isn't—this isn't, this isn't how it was supposed—this isn't what Sherlock—he pulls off gasping and leans up, desperate, stretching to meet John bending down to kiss him, instant and urgent. Sherlock puts both his hands on John's cock and rubs it because he can, aimless and ineffectual. He keeps pressing his hips against the foot of the bed like he's some sort of—and John is biting at his mouth and saying, "Oh, God, I—you—" and Sherlock knows that the next thing John is going to say will be come here and then Sherlock will have to so he pulls back and drops his head back down and takes John as deep as he can, which is not half as deep as Sherlock wants him to be but still very deep indeed.

"Okay," John says, a little high, and then gasps and laughs, a little, and then pets at Sherlock's hair, too fast.

When Sherlock pulls up to breathe again his face is burning. He says, "You can pull if you want," rough, and then swallows John back down, then up—breathe, down, up—breathe, with John panting above him, and then John tugs, very lightly, and Sherlock moans and swallows him again to shut himself up, and John gasps, "Jesus—" and pulls and Sherlock comes in his pants and chokes and chokes until John pulls out because Sherlock can't remember why he's not getting any oxygen.

"Fuck—Sherlock—" John is saying, kneeling down next to him, running shaking hands over Sherlock's face and Sherlock's throat as Sherlock coughs and swallows, coughs and swallows, as John says, "Are you okay, are you okay—" and Sherlock coughs and fists his hands in the front of John's still-buttoned shirt and nods, rasping, "Sorry, sorry—" and John says, "Jesus Christ," and wraps his arms around Sherlock's shoulders and leans back against the foot of the bed, pulling Sherlock over against his torso because Sherlock's muscles have all gone liquid and uncoordinated and he doesn't appear to have any say in the matter.

"God, you scared the crap out of me," John breathes, and kisses Sherlock's hair, and Sherlock lets himself slide down to rest his head on John's bare thigh, and then John puts his hand over Sherlock's mouth. Sherlock looks up at him.

John's face is flushed. He says, "Don't even think about it, Sherlock."

Sherlock looks back down at John's lap, at the disarrayed mess of the tails of John's shirt, at John—at John's cock, still mostly hard and wet with Sherlock's saliva and so close it practically makes Sherlock's eyes cross. Sherlock shifts his hips for no reason, then reaches out and wraps one hand around John and then looks back up at John's face. He can't read John's expression, so he squeezes, not too hard, sliding his hand, and John gasps, so Sherlock parts his fingers and slides them down around the sides, slow, then up again. It's. Compelling. The fourth time, John licks his lips and says, "Promise me, hands only." Sherlock nods, heart in his throat, and John drops his head back against the foot of the bed and looks up at the ceiling and says, "Oh, Jesus, I'm a terrible human being," which means yes, and that is compelling, too.

Sherlock shifts a little bit for a better angle and then settles in, watching his flesh move over John's flesh, feeling John's fingertips sliding down over his cheek, his throat, up into his hair, as John's breath comes faster and harder and John's thigh tenses up under Sherlock's head. Sherlock can already feel the ghost of arousal stirring along the line between his tailbone and his groin, and he licks his lips and swallows around nothing and says, "I want you to come on my face."

John makes a noise about an octave higher than any Sherlock's ever heard out of him before, then gasps, "You—I—"

"Do it," Sherlock tells him, and then looks up at John's face and says, "I wanted to taste," and John groans, "Oh, God," and Sherlock slides closer and rubs his cheek up John's cock and John comes half in his fringe before Sherlock can shift around enough to catch any of it with his tongue.

"Oh my God," John gasps, as Sherlock sits up, wiping at his fringe. He licks his fingers. "Oh my God," John repeats, and Sherlock turns to look at him. John's eyes are wide. Sherlock props his left arm up on the other side of John's thighs and leans in and kisses him. John kisses him back, though it takes him a minute to wrap his arm over Sherlock's back.

"How—" John asks breathlessly— "on earth—" some time later— "did you make it for twenty years without—"

"It's just mechanics," Sherlock says, rubbing his nose against John's. Sherlock's throat still feels raw.

"I'm not talking about the actual sex," John says, laughing a little, "I am talking about your filthy fucking mind—"

Sherlock swallows.

"Oh," John says, then tightens his arm. "No, no, I—I didn't—that is very definitely not a bad thing, I'm just—surprised, given that—"

"It really shouldn't be a surprise to you at this point," Sherlock says, pulling back and straightening up, "that an awful lot more goes on inside my head than it does for most people, it is after all how I make my living—"

"Sherlock," John sighs, and reaches out and hooks his fingers in between the buttons on Sherlock's shirt. Sherlock could still stand up if he wanted to; it's not like John could actually hold him down. Sherlock stares at the wall and doesn't move.

"Okay," John says, quiet. "Since we're on the subject of things that shouldn't be a surprise at this point, all those things that go on inside your head that don't go on inside most people's heads? Um, bit of a turn-on, so."

Sherlock swallows.

John says, "Stop freaking out."

"I'm not freaking out," Sherlock tells the wall. "Why would I be freaking out?"

"No reason," John says, and then tugs until Sherlock lets himself exhale and lean back over John's legs, tip his head down to press their foreheads together.

"You're freaking out," John murmurs.

"Only a little," Sherlock admits, and John kisses his cheek.

Sherlock twists, so that his next exhalation falls into John's mouth.

"This carpet is awful," John mumbles, later, and Sherlock agrees, "Unhygienic," and John says, "C'mon, then, shower. I'll wash your hair."

 

The call comes in while Sherlock's trying to come up with something clean to wear.

"You can't put that back on," John tells him.

"It's either that or one of your undershirts," Sherlock tells him, and John tilts his head, considering, and then digs one out. Sherlock says, "Absolutely not. I'm a professional."

"Yes, and the come on your shirttails will definitely help you make that point," John says. "The undershirt's fine, put—put your jacket on over it, or something."

Sherlock snaps his fingers, then points. "You, you have a white shirt, I saw it, where is it?"

"In the wardrobe, but it won't fit you," John says, laughing a little. Sherlock steps over to the wardrobe while John's saying, "It'll look ridiculous, come on."

"It's better than nothing," Sherlock tells him, pulling it off the hanger, but in this particular instance, John turns out to be right.

"Stop laughing," Sherlock tells him, peeling it back off. "It's not funny."

"It was, actually," John manages, from where he's half-doubled over, still only wearing his boxers, palm flat on the bed. Sherlock throws the shirt at him. "Your—your wrists, Sherlock."

Sherlock curls his lip at him, then buttons his suit jacket up over John's undershirt and steps out into the hall and tries not to feel like he's in disguise as someone with absolutely no taste at all.

He and John don't manage to intersect again until John slips back in at half two in the morning and Sherlock looks up from his laptop to assure himself that nothing important has changed. It hasn't. John hangs up his jacket and plugs in his phone and then sits down on the foot of the bed to untie his shoes, sighing.

"Tea?" Sherlock asks.

John looks over at him. "Where'd you come up with tea?"

"I abused the coffee maker," Sherlock tells him, standing up and going over to flip it on. "I bought tiny milk, too—we should use it up, won't be safe in the morning."

"You—that's." John laughs a little, with a soft thump as he flops back onto the bed. "Thanks."

Sherlock shrugs, filling up a cup and setting the tea bag in to brew. It's trivial. It's just that John always wants tea when he's upset, which he is, because he doesn't like doing things that Sherlock can't do, too; Sherlock, for his part, knows that it'll be safer if there's nothing for him to reveal if he's asked, so he has to leave this, all of this, to John. Knowing that it's right doesn't make it easy, for either of them.

"Thanks," John says, sitting back up when Sherlock touches his shoulder. He smells like other people's cigarettes, and he's spilled lager on his cuff. He takes the cup and asks, "You sleeping tonight?"

"Probably not," Sherlock admits, and John nods. Sherlock bends down to kiss his hair (safest), then pulls back about ten years before he really wants to and goes over to the desk and gets back to work. It's not as distracting as a real case; he's still aware of John's body when John goes into the bathroom to wash his face and brush his teeth, of John peeling off his clothes and peeling back the covers, of the way John's stomach folds together, softening, when he climbs up into bed. Sherlock hits the reduce-brightness control on his laptop sixteen times, into utter darkness, then hesitates, just for a moment, and then turns it up by one, just as John turns out the light.

He works for another hour, then decides that his back hurts and his shoulders hurt and the chair is awful and uncomfortable and Moran can just damn well wait, so he strips down to his pants and John's undershirt and climbs in next to John's warm solid body, just for the way John rolls over and reaches out for him, without surfacing from sleep.

 

On Wednesday, he's himself again. He wakes up at five and doesn't have sex with John and drinks four cups of coffee and then showers and shaves and puts on proper clothes and beats even Sabine into the lab.

"Oh!" she says, startled, when she opens the door.

"Good morning," Sherlock tells her, and hands her four careful sheets of notes on their latest travesty, saying, "Here's a list of all the ways this one can get you arrested;" she huffs, brows drawing together, but she puts the papers down on her work table and scans them as she puts her heavy grey hair up into its habitual messy knot.

At half eleven, Marcus sidles up to Sherlock's worktable to clumsily request a lunch date, which is irritating, though really not particularly surprising.

"I'm married," Sherlock tells him, without looking up from his work. "Though if you'd still like to ply me with foodstuffs, I certainly won't stop you." His stomach is, troublingly enough, making its presence known.

"O-oh," Marcus says, shifting. He's still leaning against Sherlock's worktable, but now Sherlock can see the awkward sort of tension in every line of his body, even out of the corner of his eye. "You—um." Sherlock wonders how long it'll take him to figure out how to casually lean away.

Sherlock turns to properly look at him. "I'm especially partial to cheese sandwiches," he says, leaning back in his chair and narrowing his eyes. Marcus looks, if possible, even more uncomfortable than he did a moment ago. Since it's almost August and they're probably actually edible, Sherlock adds, "With tomatoes."

Marcus flushes and makes his escape. The next time Sherlock looks up, there are two tightly wrapped cheese sandwiches and a takeaway cup of tea resting a careful two feet away, and Marcus is long gone; apparently, under the right circumstances, postgrads do have their purpose.

"Sabine," Sherlock calls across the lab, tearing another sheet off his notepad and holding it up. Sabine heads over to take it from him, but she doesn't look happy about it. Sherlock tells her, "I'm beginning to think that the first thing you need to do to tighten up this operation is fire Georg. Nothing I've done today couldn't have been done by any half-rate chemist with the better part of an undergraduate degree, and they'd cost your boss about a tenth of what I do."

Georg is glaring at Sherlock from the other side of the lab, his expression mirrored half-heartedly on Sabine's face. Sherlock smiles up at her, showing his teeth, then stands, and gathers up his sandwiches and his tea.

"If you happen to see Marcus, tell him thank you for the sandwiches," Sherlock tells them, heading out.

"Where're you going?" Sabine asks. "It's not even two."

"I'm going outside, where the reception's better," Sherlock tells her, "and I am going to eat my lunch, and then, if you are very lucky, I will come back down here and continue to be massively overpaid to do Georg's job for him."

Georg makes an angry noise but if he says anything with actual words, the door closes in time to mute it. Sherlock sits outside and eats a sandwich and a half and drinks all his tea and reminds himself to switch back to English before he texts John twenty-seven times, keeping his phone out and resting on his knee in between the replies, and then, feeling full and warm and very much in charity with the world, he goes back into the lab and works until nine in the evening, just because he can, and then goes back to the hotel and takes John out for dinner, because it seems like a remarkably good use of Moran's money, and then they go back to the room and Sherlock kisses John rather a lot but doesn't take off any of his clothes, because taking off John's clothes is, today, unnecessary.

Wednesday, Sherlock thinks, with John snoring into his collarbone, may just be his biggest success yet. He wiggles his toes under the sheets.

 

Thursday, he wakes up all wrong again.

"Oh—I—um," John gasps, "your phone—"

Sherlock bites his own lip, then manages, "I—I think I'm going to throw it out of the window," and John moans and gasps and pushes up through their interlaced fingers, looking down. Sherlock rubs his heel up the back of John's calf and his phone buzzes again and then falls off the desk.

"How late are you?" John asks, breathless, which is idiotic, because it's not like criminals report to work at nine.

Sherlock doesn't say that, though. He just stretches his neck up awkwardly to catch John's mouth, teeth clacking as Sherlock breathes in John's breath, then drops his head back down onto the pillows and looks down at their hands, at John's cock pushing against his cock pushing through the sweat-slicked cup of their fingers, and says, "Not nearly as late as I'm going to be," and John laughs.

Sherlock looks up at him, not quite able to swallow his wholly inappropriate smile, and John drops down onto his elbow, trapping their hands between them, sticky and slick and hot, and kisses him while Sherlock wonders just how far he can push it, just how many things he can get away with doing to John while Tina Moran is paying him to do something else. The thought is incendiary, and Sherlock licks clumsily at John's jaw and says, "I really, really want to fuck you."

"Fu—" John says, and then laughs, a little desperately, and says, "God, Sherlock, you—"

"You said," Sherlock says, low, thinking about John in his lap in a chair in Mycroft's living room—God— "you said I could, if—"

"You, shut up," John tells him, pushing down hard.

"But I want to," Sherlock tells him, sliding his free hand up over John's arse, just, God. Sherlock can feel the clench of his desire slide down the whole of his body, how desperately he wants to be inside. "You—you can't, you can't know, how badly I want to—"

"Oh, think I do," John says, too fast, and then groans, pushing into their hands, and Sherlock feels John coming over his fingers, flooding Sherlock with mingled elation and despair. John says, "Fuck," and kisses Sherlock's jaw, clumsy, and then pulls back and bends down and kisses Sherlock's sternum, sticks his tongue briefly into Sherlock's sweaty bellybutton, which should in no way be as arousing as it in fact is, and then slides his arms under Sherlock's thighs and says, "Slide up," pushing, so Sherlock slides up until his hair brushes against the headboard with his heart beating double-time. Then John says, "Tell me," and grabs hold of Sherlock's erection, first with his hand, then with his mouth.

Sherlock's spine arches up against his will, which makes John settle one arm heavily across over Sherlock's hips, holding him down. John's mouth is still clumsy, wet and sloppy, and it makes every hair on Sherlock's body stand straight up on end. John pulls off with a soft, lewd sound that echoes inside the walls of Sherlock's veins, and says, "C'mon. Tell me, and maybe I'll let you, tonight."

"Oh my God," Sherlock whispers, and squeezes his eyes tight shut, and when John half-laughs half-around him it's almost more than he can take. Sherlock fists his hands in the sheets and stares up at the ceiling and thinks about John on his knees—no—John against the wall—not yet—John in the shower—later—and says, "In my lap, in my lap, you'd—we'd be more the same height," and John makes a noise that sounds like assent and sucks harder, and Sherlock throws his arm up and over his eyes and gasps out, "I could—inside you, kissing you—" as John pushes down on Sherlock's hips and swallows everything that Sherlock still isn't entirely certain that he can afford to give.

John slides back up next to him and kisses him. John tastes like Sherlock. Sherlock honestly can't understand how people who aren't him do this with people other than John. He doesn't understand how they can stand it. Sherlock can only stand it because John is John and John's thumb is tucked just under Sherlock's left ear, moving in slow, tender circles.

Sherlock's phone buzzes on the carpet.

"Oh, just, fuck her," John sighs, heartfelt, and then briefly tucks his face into Sherlock's neck. "It's—it is Sabine, isn't it?"

"Probably," Sherlock admits. "Unless she's bumped it up the chain, in which case—"

"Yes, well, let's not think about that," John says, and sighs again, and rolls away. He sits up and Sherlock stares at the small of his back, feeling stunned and stupid, as John sits at the edge of the bed and reaches down for Sherlock's phone. John checks the number and then hands it over, saying, "Still Sabine, which is something, I suppose. Call her back. I'm going to have a shower, so I don't tell her exactly where she can shove her early morning God-help-us-we're-lost-without-you phone calls."

"It's half eleven," Sherlock points out, but he flips open the phone.

"Still want to tell her to shove it," John calls from the bathroom, and then turns on the water.

Sherlock's mouth twitches as he hits "Send." "Hello, yes," he says, standing up and stretching until his spine cracks. "Yes, sorry, I overslept, I'll be there in half—in forty-five minutes." He doubts John'll mind sharing the shower.

John doesn't mind sharing the shower, but it still takes more like an hour for Sherlock to make it down to the lab, the ends of his hair damp against his collar and resentment sitting like a stone underneath his ribs. He does what he has to and ignores, to the greatest possible extent, Moran's team; it's harder than it might otherwise be, given that they're really actually very nearly done and that means that Sherlock's lists of problems are getting shorter and shorter and their fixes are getting faster and faster. Just before nine in the evening, Sabine says, "We probably can finish this tonight, if we stay," and Sherlock hunches his shoulders in and doesn't argue, even though his whole body wants to shake with his refusal. John is somewhere else, not here, keeping track of their promises; Sherlock wants to be there too.

It's past three in the morning before they actually finish, and Sabine rubs at her face and says, "We'll give everything one last go-over in the afternoon, everyone sleep on it, meet back at one." Sherlock manages a nod and then slides his coat on with numb and shaking fingers, sliding his laptop bag over his shoulder and staggering out into the hall. He's freezing. He can feel his whole body grinding down: troubling. Never in his life has he needed to sleep this many nights in a row.

The older members of their little cohort are slow, still gathering up their things, no doubt, but Marcus makes it out just behind Sherlock. In the lift, Sherlock ignores him, checking his phone reflexively, even though the battery's been dead since eleven. It takes approximately a year and a half for the lift doors to slide open again.

"Do you want to split a cab?" Marcus is asking Sherlock's back, and Sherlock pauses and turns to look at him, considering.

"Can I borrow your phone?" Sherlock asks. "Mine's dead, I need to—can I borrow yours?"

Marcus shifts a little awkwardly, but he hands it over, and Sherlock texts John quickly, then feels a rush of irrational defensiveness, and clicks over into Marcus's sent messages and deletes the record before handing it back.

"So, the cab," Marcus says.

"I'm sorry, did you not hear me when I said I was married?" Sherlock asks him.

"You don't wear a ring," Marcus says.

Sherlock snorts and stuffs his hands in his pockets, heading down the long hall towards the main doors; all the others are alarmed against exits at night. He says, "Plenty of men don't wear wedding rings."

"In my experience," Marcus tells him, half-jogging to keep up behind him, "when handsome men don't wear wedding rings it's because they're not married all the time."

Sherlock mentally curses Marcus for not being quite as stupid as he looks. Sherlock says, "Well, that's not why I don't wear one, so, bad luck there. Not interested. Go away."

"Just asking you to share a cab with me," Marcus persists, and Sherlock stops and turns to face him.

"Just so you know, John tends to be surprisingly well-armed," Sherlock tells him. "He also spends a nontrivial percentage of his life dealing with people who are trying to kill me, and I usually text him every hour or two, but since my phone battery's died, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he's waiting out the front, and since it's late, he'll be tired and probably more than a little bit jumpy."

Marcus licks his lips.

"I mean," Sherlock says, with his best ordinary-person smile, "by all means, though, if you want to walk out close by my side, after I've just sent him a very belated text reassuring him of my safety from a number he won't recognize, be my guest."

Marcus doesn't say anything. Sherlock turns and keeps walking. Marcus follows him, but a few paces behind, and Sherlock is selfishly pleased to find that John is outside, perched on the edge of a bench with a takeaway cup of what smells like really wretched coffee, right hand tucked into the pocket of his jacket, shoulders hunched. His eyes look tired. Sherlock goes over, saying nothing, and steals John's coffee for a sip (even worse than expected), while John watches Marcus past Sherlock's side, not relaxing until Marcus's footsteps have faded into the muted throb of late-night background noise.

"Who's that?" John asks.

"That one's Marcus," Sherlock tells him, giving him a hand up off the planter then handing back the coffee. "The one who let me use his phone."

"Ah," John says, then adds, "He was—um. Watching you."

"Yes," Sherlock says. They're in the cab before Sherlock adds, "Marcus has—a bit of a crush."

"Ah," John says.

"I did turn him down," Sherlock says, looking over at him.

John glances up at him, mouth quirking. He says, "I wasn't worried."

"Didn't think you were," Sherlock says. "Give me your coffee."

John passes it over again and Sherlock has another sip, then keeps the cup. He tosses it in the bin in front of their hotel; John needs to sleep.

 

"Sherlock."

Sherlock opens his eyes, his awareness snapping into focus in stages; too slow.

John holds out a mug—coffee. Sherlock swallows and pushes up to sitting, the sheets sliding down to his waist. He rubs at his jaw, and asks, "What time is it?"

"Just shy of noon," John says, and Sherlock takes the coffee. John sits down on the edge of the bed, folding his knee up. Sherlock shifts the mug into his left hand and puts the right on John's thigh.

"I need you to catch me up," John says, rather reluctantly. "If you're really as close to finished as you said last night, Ti—Moran's going to want to move you along, and I want to report before we go anywhere else. Too many opportunities for something to go wrong."

Sherlock nods. He says, "I couldn't get photographs, but I used carbons, so I have copies of all my notes. In my bag."

"No one noticed?" John asks, and Sherlock shrugs.

"That's the beauty of keeping things low-tech," he says, and takes another sip of coffee.

"All right, that's good," John says, a little absently. He licks his lips, and Sherlock watches him think.

After a minute, Sherlock tells him, "Notes or not, the fakes aren't going to be easy to prove." John's eyes refocus on his face. Sherlock explains, "The weakest spot in the group is the chemist, Georg Lang, but he's almost certainly a plant. He's a newish hire at the university, so he didn't land in with them from inertia, and there's no way they'd voluntarily be working with someone that incompetent. I had to point out everything he was doing wrong or I would've raised red flags, so it isn't wrong anymore."

"So you're still under suspicion," John says, quiet.

"It'd be foolish of them to trust me," Sherlock says. "No one seems to be looking at you, though. Aside from Marcus, none of them even seem to know you exist."

John nods. "I am being watched, though."

"Don't," Sherlock warns him. "No details, not unless—"

"No, no," John agrees. "Don't worry, you don't need to know. But I should look idiotic enough, I've been spending a fair amount of time trying to get my hands on records—that woman they arrested in Ottawa—it's just the sort of thing you'd give me if it were your case: deadly dull."

"I still think Mycroft needs to make the fakes more interesting if it's going to look like you're working for me," Sherlock says, ignoring the bait.

"I know, and I've told him that," John says. "It's just a time issue, between the two decoy jobs and one real one and there only being the two of us—I just, it can't be too complicated or we won't be spending enough time on it to look like we're really working on it, so."

"True," Sherlock says, and sighs, then takes a sip of coffee.

"Anything else I need other than the notes?" John says, and Sherlock closes his eyes and thinks.

"The suppliers," he says, after a minute. "It—there was a shipping company, I wrote down the name, but that's all. There's—there's layers to this, I'm sure of it, it's not just the forgeries. Something else, coming in from China; they're using the lab as a cache and I'm not sure if everyone there is even working on it. I don't think Sabine knows about it; Felix does, though. Um—Felix Meier, but he's an older man and definitely a bit iffy, he'll have other identities."

John says, "And he is..."

"He's an archaeologist," Sherlock says, thinking. "Marcus is technically his assistant, which—hang on." Sherlock straightens. "Marcus's background is in the hard sciences, I'm sure of it, he was talking to Lea about protein folding—"

"So maybe Meier's not an archaeologist," John says, and Sherlock shakes his head, saying, "No, he is, he's definitely an expert on archaeology, his publishing history is miles long, but if he's hanging about with a postgrad with a background in biochemistry, that's definitely not all he does. I'd guess... counterfeit pharmaceuticals, maybe? Big money, there. Felix would be able to get them travel documents and give them a cover, and Marcus would be able to talk to the scientists."

"Makes sense," John says, nodding. "I'll pass it along."

He stands up, and Sherlock slides his hand up his thigh in protest.

John smiles down at him. He says, "If you're supposed to be back at the lab at one..."

"I'm coming to realize that this is a—a sexual relationship," Sherlock tells him, and John's brow wrinkles. Sherlock frowns and tries again. He says, "I mean, I really did intend to prevent things from developing in that direction, since sex seems to vastly complicate something that really ought to be very simple, but it's become obvious to me that—"

"Sherlock," John says, fondly. "Go and shower. You can explain to me later all about how you have cleverly deduced that we're shagging."

 

John's gone when Sherlock gets back. He's still gone at eight, and at ten, and at midnight. Sherlock rolls up his sleeves and packs up all their things and then repacks all their things neatly, the way John would've done if he were in, and then he repacks all their things a third time, carefully and meticulously organized by function and color. Just before one, he breaks his self-imposed rule about multiple unjustifiable texts within one ten-minute period, sending, Please tell me you're all right, just before he hears John's key beep in the lock.

Sherlock exhales, sharp, and goes over to hold open the door. John smiles at him. He looks tired, eyes lined, mouth stretched thin, and he's carrying his laptop in a new and rather stylish black case.

"Your phone?" Sherlock asks, helping John slide the strap off over his head.

"Battery's dead," John says, and sighs. "Died ages ago, I think it wasn't all the way plugged in last night." He rubs at his face and says, "I got us both second chargers, they're in the bag, but I didn't have anywhere to plug it in."

"This is new, too," Sherlock observes, carrying John's bag over to the desk and unzipping the top. He fishes out the chargers and checks as subtly as he can; surprisingly enough, they're fine. Either John got someone to help him, or he's getting less hopeless about technology. Probably the former.

"My strap broke," John explains, sitting, then flopping back diagonally on the bed with his feet still planted on the floor. "Just—snapped right through. Right after I'd finished buying the chargers, of course, so I had to go back in and try to figure out how to explain to an eighteen-year-old shop assistant why I would actually want a bag that looked like a middle-aged man might carry it—so, I ended up with this one."

Sherlock smiles without looking over. He says, "It's a nice bag," and plugs John's phone in.

"It's a ridiculous bag," John tells him. Sherlock plugs in John's laptop to recharge, too, and then pauses, looking down into the bag. John says, "I'm going to spend every day looking like I robbed a university student."

"We should trade," Sherlock says, and then hesitates, licking his lips. He says, "I mean, I at least actually did rob a university student," and then reaches back into John's bag.

"You shouldn't tell me these things," John tells him, not quite laughing.

Sherlock sits down in the chair and slides it over to the foot of the bed, then reaches out to rest the bottle on John's chest. John blinks down at it, then looks up at Sherlock. His mouth is quirking up at the corners. John admits, "I thought I'd be home earlier."

"Well, it's under 100 milliliters, we don't have to throw it out," Sherlock says, and John laughs.

"Leaving in the morning, are we?" he says, smiling over at him.

"Yes," Sherlock admits, then adds, "We're—um, booked on a flight at eight," and John groans and puts his hands over his face.

"So I get—what, three hours of sleep?" he says, muffled.

"More like four and a half," Sherlock tells him, and slides the chair to the side, then reaches down and pulls John's foot up into his lap to untie his shoes.

"What are you—" John pushes up onto his elbows, and the bottle rolls off his ribs.

"Shut up," Sherlock says. "We're in a hurry. You need to sleep. If you want to help you can undo your buttons."

John laughs a little, and drops his head back down against the bed, then starts to unbutton his cuffs. Sherlock slides off John's shoe, then rubs his thumb up the arch of John's foot, just because.

"Mm," John says, and then, "Four and a half hours?"

"Hm." Sherlock pulls off his sock. "Well, four, at least."

"Three," John suggests, propping himself up on his elbows to slide out of his shirt. Sherlock looks at him. John tells him, "It's easiest to wake up if you sleep in multiples of ninety minutes."

"And you can always sleep on the plane," Sherlock agrees.

"Right, exactly," John says, and then toes off his other shoe while Sherlock's climbing up onto the bed beside him, peeling his shirt off over his head without undoing any of the buttons and ignoring the creak of the seams. John presses his mouth to Sherlock's sternum and unbuttons Sherlock's trousers; Sherlock can't make up his mind what needs to come off first and ends up with his left hand up the sleeve of John's undershirt and his right hand down the front of John's trousers, groping him comprehensively enough but without actually effectively making John any more naked, which may have been a miscalculation. John tugs Sherlock's trousers and pants down to his knees and then twists up awkwardly to kiss him.

"So, about the—" Sherlock says, and John pushes Sherlock over onto his back and kneels up on top of him and yanks off his own undershirt and undoes his own trousers and kicks everything off together and then drops back down against Sherlock and Sherlock says, "Um."

"Bit fiddly," John tells him, sliding against him, perfect, and Sherlock tries to keep his eyes from rolling back in his head. John kisses his throat and says, "When we—when we have some time—"

"Tomorrow," Sherlock gasps.

"After we land," John agrees, breath hot on Sherlock's skin. "We'll have time?"

"All night," Sherlock manages, sliding his hands down John's sides, over John's—

"With your hands," John tells him, and Christ, that really shouldn't— "your hands, first, and you, you can take as long as you want, no rush, just—"

"I'll want to kiss you," Sherlock tells him, squeezing, pulling John against him.

"You can always kiss me," John says, and kisses him, then presses against him—oh God—and murmurs, "Keep going."

"What?" Sherlock gasps, against his mouth.

"Go on," John breathes. "Explain it to me."

"Oh God." Sherlock swallows, hard.

John laughs, low. "Did I finally find your mute button?"

"Shut up," Sherlock tells him, and John laughs, kissing down over Sherlock's jaw, sucking at the lobe of his ear. Sherlock blinks back sparks.

"Go on, then," John murmurs, and it feels like he's telling it to the inside of Sherlock's body. Sherlock shakes. John tells him, "Tell me, tell me how it's going to go, tell me what you want to—"

"I want—your tongue in my mouth," Sherlock blurts out. His heart is pounding. John sucks on his ear, and Sherlock gasps, "while I—while I p—put my fingers—"

He stops, and John whispers, "Keep going," a little rough, and Sherlock swallows and says, "As, as deep as they can go, as—the way you fucked my throat—"

"Oh, Christ," John gasps, and laughs a little, shifting against him. "God, you—you. Keep going."

"I—I think I'll do it for hours," Sherlock tells him, feeling it bubble up out of him, just on the edge of a strange sort of panic. "I'll—I'll kiss you for hours and f-fuck your arse with my fingers—"

"Jesus," John pants. Sherlock bites down on nothing and swallows, feeling John's cock sliding against his, fever-hot, and John whispers, "Keep going, you—you have no idea what this is doing to me, you—"

"I'll keep my fingers inside you for hours," Sherlock tells him, staring wide-eyed up at the ceiling and seeing the walls of another hotel room, fuzzy and vague with imagination. He can feel it, in counterpoint, now with John's knees getting mixed up with his and John whispering, "Keep going, keep going," as then in the future Sherlock pushes his fingers—"two fingers, it'll be—" two fingers, dripping-wet and slick— "I think it'll—I'll keep going until we're just almost out, until the bottle's almost empty, just with my fingers, pushing—" pushing into John's body— "pushing into your a-arse, while you tell me—" Keep going, John groans out, "Keep going, keep going," and Sherlock says, heart pounding so hard it feels ready to burst, "Yes, like that, and I—I will, you—I'll fuck you for hours with my fingers until I can't stand it anymore, until neither of us can stand it any more, and then I'll push my—my cock into you—" and John groans, "Oh, God," and presses fast, desperate kisses against Sherlock's throat and shoulder, shaking, and Sherlock says, in a voice he barely recognizes, "and then I'll push into you and I won't move at all because if I do I'll come, I just know it, and I want, I'll jerk you off until you're just on the edge with—with my cock in your arse and your tongue in my mouth and then when you're—when you're here, just here, where you are right now, I'll just—push—" and John groans so loud it shakes Sherlock's ribs and pushes against him and Sherlock turns to catch his mouth, squeezing John's arse tight against him where Sherlock will be, where Sherlock will be inside him the next time they are like this, ripping each other open, breaking in. Sherlock can see it inside him, before him; prophetic.

Eventually, Sherlock opens his eyes.

"Just," John manages, voice rough and foreign. Sherlock feels him swallow. John says, "Just, for the record—if you can do that just by talking to me—just, you, you really don't ever have to worry about being bad in bed."

Sherlock feels a sharp, unfamiliar pain, somewhere under his ribs, inexplicable.

"I'm going to," Sherlock tells him, and turns to look at him, at John's beautiful face, soft with the aftermath of ecstasy. Sherlock says, very low, "I'm going to do it, I'm going to—I meant every single word, I'm going to, we're going to do that, and we're—we're going to love it."

John smiles at him, too close, hot and secret, and Sherlock thinks, This is my life, now, this is where I want to be, and he feels it crash over him like a tsunami, leaving nothing behind.