No strings attached. That had been the deal from the start (unspoken, but clear as day to both). And it was just convenient really, this arrangement they had. Because John had given up trying to find anyone who could cope with him almost getting killed every other week, or who didn’t mind being abandoned after a text from Sherlock. If such a person existed, they definitely weren’t living in Central London.
And Sherlock… Sherlock was just lazy. Although it had come as a surprise to John, Sherlock did in fact have wants and needs outside of The Work, but he simply couldn’t be bothered (most of the time) to exert himself. John had no doubt Sherlock could walk into any gay bar in London and walk out five minutes later with the partner of his choosing, but Sherlock, it seemed, couldn’t bring himself to waste time or brainpower on flirting or, God forbid, seduction.
So, somewhere along the line – and neither of them quite remembered how it had happened – they found themselves in bed together.
At first, John had never been able to predict when they would end up in one of their respective beds (or on the sofa, that one time) and had simply gone with the flow, never expecting and always pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t long, though, before a pattern emerged. A very clear pattern based on two very important factors: first, adrenalin, and second, boredom.
Their adrenalin-fuelled encounters shouldn’t really have come as a surprise, John realised after a while. They were both adrenalin junkies, after all, and everything Donovan had once told John about Sherlock – that he got off on this – is true. Boy, did he get off. Not that John was far behind him though, because he had the opposite of PTSD (whatever that might be) and every minute with Sherlock was filled with danger. Danger that would always lead to that spike of adrenalin and as soon as they had run halfway across London, or fought a trained assassin, or gone face to face with a criminal mastermind, it was all they could do to get home before they ended up doing something very inappropriate somewhere they really shouldn’t.
On those occasions everything was white hot lust and passion and it passed mostly as a blur of hands and tongues and yes, there and oh God, yes. And there was still usually enough adrenalin pumping around their systems for another round before dawn, until they collapsed with exhaustion. This was, incidentally, the only time they actually shared a bed to sleep.
And then there were the boredom-fuelled encounters (Sherlock’s boredom, of course, not John’s). John quite enjoyed the days between cases, the chance to heal and reflect and just be something like normal for however long it would take until Lestrade had something for them again. Sherlock hated these times. He would get bored within hours and boredom would lead to frustration and on more than one occasion that had lead to holes in the walls. At times like this, John mostly kept himself to himself because Sherlock really didn’t need any provocation (he was looking for one almost constantly, just to occupy his mind) so John just went about his business – watching TV, updating his blog, occasionally (very rarely) meeting Harry for a coffee.
But at some point, Sherlock would be inspired and John would find himself on the receiving end of a seduction, Sherlock-style. This sometimes involved lingering caresses and husky whispers - but more often than not involved him losing his trousers without even realising it and Sherlock’s mouth wrapped around his cock. Not that he was complaining either way.
And that came as a surprise too – that Sherlock (who wouldn’t even fetch his own phone when it was in his own pocket) wasn’t a selfish lover. Far from it in fact, and John almost wondered if he’d read up on how to be the perfect selfless lover somewhere (Sherlock was not impressed when John dared to air this thought out loud). Sometimes though, just sometimes, John would get a chance to take the lead (usually when Sherlock had hardly slept in days and was barely keeping himself going) and he knew now that nothing, nothing, could compare to the sight of Sherlock Holmes completely undone.
John had never really had a relationship like this before. He had had friends that he’d ended up sleeping with and partners who had somehow crossed the line back into friendship, but somehow – whatever happened – the physical intimacy and the easy friendship between him and Sherlock never got muddled up. It was almost like they were having two separate relationships at the same time.
And John relished the friendship almost as much as the intimacy because he knew they had something special here, something unique. He had never had a friend like Sherlock and he wasn’t sure Sherlock had ever had a friend, full stop. They were equals in a strange ying-yang sort of way that John couldn’t really explain, and he enjoyed it: he enjoyed being the heart to Sherlock’s mind.
And then they got to the bedroom and all that just fell away. There was nothing but touch and taste and sensation. He knew every inch of Sherlock by now, knew the feel of him and the taste of him. He knew just when to take it easy, when to go at it full-pelt. And he knew there was a spot just there that always, always made Sherlock moan in an absolutely filthy way.
Afterwards, as they’re retrieving scattered clothing and laughing about John’s ruined jumper, it was as if a switch had been flicked and they were back into friendship mode. And Sherlock ended up ruining another part of the kitchen with some experiment he’d been temporarily distracted from and they argued a little bit, and it was almost as if John couldn’t still taste Sherlock on his tongue. John often wondered why more men didn’t start hooking up with their best friends.
It was in
that John could see Sherlock as the world saw him: this beautiful, dangerous, aloof being that always needed to come out on top. He could see why people hated him, why they called him a freak, why they would do anything to not be around him. And he could see why others (much more subtle, they were) wanted to be close to him, were entranced by those ridiculously good looks and that voice. And sometimes (when he wasn't really paying attention) his brain would get caught somewhere between friend and lover and he’d feel inadequate and jealous for all of five minutes before he remembered the arrangement. No strings.
Things continued in much the same way for months and John was a little dismayed when he realised this pseudo-relationship was the longest one he had had in years. And he was almost forty. He made an offhand comment about it to Sherlock and Sherlock gave him a strange look that told him he had probably broken some sort of rule: one of those implicit ones that were starting to get a bit fuzzy in his head.
And that’s when it all started to go horribly wrong. Not between him and Sherlock, no: their relationship stayed the same and if Sherlock was a little less interested than before, John didn’t really notice (except he did). No, it was in John’s head that everything was starting to get confused. Lines that used to be so clear seemed to have disappeared and he couldn’t remember why he had agreed to this now. Except he could, because one look at Sherlock – naked, glorious – was enough to remind him.
Funnily enough, it was when he was trying to be a good friend that he realised just how far gone he was. Sherlock was determined to go after the diamond thief without backup from Scotland Yard and John had tried to persuade him against it, but it didn’t work. In the end, they found themselves trapped at one end of a warehouse, hiding behind a stack of boxes as the thief’s very own good friends tried to shoot them. Everything went quiet and he thought they were probably reloading, or trying to trick them into coming out, but Sherlock thought they had got bored and decided to leave. It turned out even Sherlock could get it wrong, but John would rather not have learnt that lesson whilst simultaneously trying to stop his friend bleeding from a gunshot to the arm and trying to find a way out of their rather sticky situation.
Later, when they were back at Baker Street and Sherlock was sitting there looking far too vulnerable, his arm in a sling, John realised. It hit him like a bullet and he stood up, ignoring Sherlock’s confused look and seeking refuge in his own bedroom. It was too much and he should have known, should have found some way to stop it. When Sherlock came to his bed later, he refused him (for the first time ever) and used Sherlock’s injury as an excuse. Sherlock probably saw right through it but he said nothing and left John alone with his thoughts. Which really didn’t help. He was well and truly buggered.
John wasn’t sure at what point in his self-induced madness he came up with the plan. It had seemed like a really good plan, to start with, but now John was sitting at the bar, nursing a pint and, God help him, he didn’t even know where to start. It had been so long since he actually had to chat someone up he wasn’t sure he could remember how (plus, he hadn't ever really been that good at it). There was a man at the other end of the bar who had thrown him a few surreptitious looks but he was tall, thin, dark-haired and John didn’t think that was going to help in the slightest. The blonde woman to his right looked more promising (and yes, he realised it was a bit odd that he went for dark-haired men but fair-haired women) but women were much more difficult. He couldn’t decide if trying the dating thing would help, or if he really just needed to get laid with someone who wasn’t his best friend and wasn’t a self-confessed sociopath.
He was still trying to decide when a voice at his shoulder drew his attention.
It was Sherlock, of course. He gave John a smile and slid onto the bar stool beside him, all long-limbed elegance and, damn, that really wasn’t going to help. He gave Sherlock a wordless greeting, a nod, and his attention turned back to the blonde. She was completely the opposite of Sherlock in every way and it was starting to look like a great idea.
“Do you come here often?”
He could hear the smile in Sherlock’s voice and he turned to him, regarding him in confusion. He wondered if Sherlock recognised that for the pick-up line it usually was.
“Yes, John, I am aware,” Sherlock answered, still smiling.
John was definitely confused – was this a new game? Had someone changed the rules again and forgotten to tell him? He stared at Sherlock and that was when he noticed the faint hint of colour in his cheeks, the way he was holding himself so stiffly. Sherlock noticed his look and gave him a smile that on anyone else would be coy.
“Are you usually this unresponsive?” Sherlock asked, “I’m not sure how you meet anyone this way.”
“Are you –“ No, he wouldn’t ask that. “What are you doing here?”
“I think the more pertinent question is what you are doing here, John.”
John didn’t really have an answer for that because it was all too complicated. And he wasn’t sure Sherlock would appreciate an exposé on his feelings.
“Let me buy you a drink.”
Sherlock’s voice was low, practically a purr, and John really couldn’t tell where the lines were anymore. He was pretty sure this was Sherlock in seduction mode but he had never seen it outside of 221b Baker Street and he couldn’t quite figure out what kind of game Sherlock was playing with him.
He wanted to argue but he didn’t get the chance and Sherlock ordered them both a drink (John couldn’t remember if he had ever seen Sherlock drink anything). And they sat there in silence for a moment, both of them regarding their drinks, and John was all too aware of the fact that Sherlock’s leg was brushing against his and his elbow was not too far away either. Sherlock had never been one to adhere to notions of personal space, but right then John was feeling a bit too fragile for this onslaught of Sherlock madness.
The intruder startled them both – it was the man from the other end of the bar - and John turned to him in bewilderment. The man gave him a warm smile but John couldn’t help but notice that, despite the similarities, this man was nothing compared to the one at his side.
“I couldn’t help but notice –“
“Do you mind?” Sherlock cut off what was quite obviously an attempt at a come-on, his hand coming to rest meaningfully on John’s thigh.
“Oh,” the man said, embarrassed, “Sorry, I didn’t realise.” He smiled and held up his hands. “No harm done, I hope?”
“None,” Sherlock answered, his attention already turning away from the other man. The man gave John a long look and then made his apologies again and disappeared.
John turned all his attention on Sherlock, his eyes flicking to the hand still resting possessively on his thigh.
“Shall we head home?” Sherlock suggested before John could say anything. He gave John a moment to answer but, receiving none, took John’s silence as acquiescence. He was already rising from his stool a moment later and John hurried to follow him, even though he was more confused than he was when he entered the bar.
If he had expected to get a chance to talk things through when they got back home, John was very much mistaken: almost as soon as they crossed the threshold, Sherlock was crushing his mouth to John’s, a tiny moan slipping out. John groaned, considered protesting, and then twisted his hand in Sherlock’s hair, drawing his head down to a more comfortable level. Sherlock’s hands were already working on the buttons of John’s button-down as his tongue swiped over John’s top lip, grazing his teeth. John, seizing the initiative, managed to guide them back until Sherlock’s back hit his bedroom door (too many stairs to get to John’s right now) and Sherlock gave it a quick kick, drawing John inside and finally sliding his button-down off and throwing it to the floor. They shared a brief glance and then they were kissing again and John continued to guide them backwards, until Sherlock’s knees hit the edge of his bed.
Sherlock kissed him harder then, tongue sliding into his mouth, his hands gripping at John’s shoulders as John finally found the buttons of Sherlock’s shirt and started working them open. Finally, Sherlock pulled away and shrugged out of his shirt, letting it fall to the floor, before climbing onto the bed and giving John a hungry look. John didn’t need anymore invitation than that and in moments he was on the bed too, covering Sherlock’s body with his own, his mouth finding that flawless neck. Sherlock let out that moan and John smiled against his skin, hands skimming over his sides, round his front and finally finding the waistband of his trousers.
It felt a little intoxicating, this power over Sherlock, and John found himself speaking up before he could really think it through.
“Tell me, why the little display of possessiveness back there, Sherlock?” he murmured, his teeth grazing Sherlock’s collarbone and drawing another indecent moan from him, “Were you jealous?”
Sherlock made no answer but his grip on John’s biceps tightened as John worked the button of Sherlock’s trousers free and went for the zip.
“Sherlock…” he near-growled, determined to get a response.
He slipped his hand into Sherlock’s trousers and wrapped his hand around Sherlock’s already-hard cock, causing Sherlock to gasp.
“Tell me,” he said forcefully, “Were you jealous, Sherlock?”
They both froze with Sherlock’s confession and John had to pull back – needed to read the truth of it in Sherlock’s eyes. Sherlock had his eyes closed but as soon as he felt John’s scrutiny, he opened them and John felt his chest seize up with emotion. He had never seen Sherlock so vulnerable, so completely open, his eyes filled with emotion.
“Sherlock,” he got out, his own voice thick with emotion.
Sherlock dragged him back down, their lips crashing together hungrily, John returning to his previous actions. It didn’t take long for him to strip Sherlock of what remained of his clothing, and even less time for Sherlock to return the favour.
There would be time later for gentleness and for everything John wanted to do to Sherlock – and Sherlock seemed to agree – so John wasted no time, leaning over to fumble in Sherlock’s bedside table before returning with lubricant and a condom. Sherlock, apparently having abandoned any semblance of control he might have had, bucked under John’s touch and dragged John on top of him, his teeth scraping John’s lip even as he let out a throaty moan.
“John,” he breathed, “John.”
No more words, John thought, struggling to do everything at once – trying to open Sherlock up with one hand whilst trying to open the condom wrapper with the other. Sherlock finally seemed to notice the lack of results this was producing and moved to help, long fingers rolling the condom on quickly and applying a generous amount of lube.
“Now,” Sherlock grunted, already lifting his legs, drawing John close. And then there was nothing but the feel of Sherlock surrounding him and his hungry mouth and grasping hands.
It was too much – too much emotion – for either of them to last for long and they came together, Sherlock letting out another of those husky moans that seemed hardwired to John’s cock.
They were silent for a long time afterwards, lying side by side, neither of them sure how to start. It was Sherlock who finally dived in headfirst, the backs of his fingers grazing over John’s ribs.
“Did you think I wouldn’t notice?”
“I was hoping you were blind enough when it came to feelings it might be overlooked,” John murmured, a post-coital mellowness perhaps making him more honest than he might have been.
“I can read you like a book, John.”
“You don’t like reading books,” John pointed out with a smile, adding after a moment’s thought, “Unless they’re about murder weapons. Or bees.”
“Ah, but you make a fascinating read, John,” Sherlock murmured, his fingers still stroking over John’s chest almost absentmindedly, “It’s like reading a book where the story changes every time you read it. You never know what to expect.”
There was a pause whilst John absorbed that strange almost-compliment.
“This wasn’t how this was supposed to work,” John said quietly.
“No strings?” Sherlock said, “No. And it seemed such a brilliant plan to start with.”
“Look, I can… I don’t know, find something else. To do.”
“Something that doesn’t involve taking me to bed?”
“Something like that.”
“I don’t think I’d like that.”
They turned to face each other then, John smiling tentatively. Sherlock was biting back his smile, but it lit up his eyes.
“You wouldn’t?” John asked, wanting to hear it again.
“So what would you like?”
“You should probably know I’ve never had a… boyfriend, before,” Sherlock said quietly, not quite an answer.
“I know,” John said with a smile, unable to resist reaching out to thread his fingers through Sherlock’s hair.
“And I don’t like the word boyfriend.”
“But I want you, John.”
“Well, thank God for that,” John breathed, leaning in and kissing Sherlock once, twice.
“And I expect you not to go out looking for other men,” Sherlock said darkly, his hands digging into John’s back, “Or women, for that matter”.
John just laughed, resting his head against Sherlock’s.
“You’re a rubbish sociopath, you know that, right?”
“Do shut up and put your mouth to good use, John.”
Well, John didn’t need telling twice.