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Pull the Stars from the Sky

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TOUCH HIM AGAIN AND I WILL SKIN YOU.

Sherlock looked at the words, then at the mess in Irene's room. Molly stood with her arm around Irene, who looked stunned. The first thing John did was to knock the bathroom door open wide—had it been closed, no doubt he would have kicked it open. Then he checked the small closet by the bathroom. John even looked under the bed to make certain there was no room for a person under there. He was clearing the room, Sherlock realised. If he squinted, he could half-see the rifle in John's hands. There was no logical reason for the sudden beat of Sherlock's pulse in his throat.

Instead of a rifle, John had his cheap mobile out, provided for the sole purpose of keeping them all in touch with each other in the States. Before dialling, he looked at Greg, "So you just left them alone to come and find me? What were you thinking?" He didn't give Greg a chance to answer, instead dialled and headed back towards the room door. As he passed Irene and Molly, he laid a hand on Irene's shoulder briefly before his call connected. "Harry. Yeah, I know what time it is. Listen. We have a problem." He passed into the hall and closed the door behind him.

Greg was pacing, leaving Sherlock to try to piece together what happened. On an initial glance, it looked as if the room had been vandalised. As Sherlock looked closer, however, it was apparent that—aside from the writing on the mirror—no actual hotel property was damaged. The destruction was limited to Irene's belongings—clothing, shoes, toiletries—nothing had been left untouched. How long would it take to be so targeted and thorough? He looked back to the writing on the mirror. Difficult to tell, as mirror writing wasn't precisely the same as writing on paper... he'd need to compare with the originals to be certain. He headed for the door.

"Right," John was saying, "I should have guessed you'd have a plan for everything. Hang on." He reached out and snagged Sherlock by the sleeve. "Where the hell are you going?"

"Back to the room. I need something there."

"Not by yourself, you're not. Take Greg. I'll stay here with the girls."

Sherlock rolled his eyes, but ducked back into the room. "I'm not to go anywhere without an escort, according to the Captain," he said.

"Bloody hell," said Greg. "I'll come. Let me ring Sally and Anderson."

"Call on the way. I have something you need to see."

 

"Jesus, Sherlock. Were you planning on telling anybody about this?" Greg looked at the two notes, side by side on the dresser. The first, the request to wear the cutaway coat, the second, found after that night at the club:

Is that how you want to play? I can be unexpected as well, love. We'll talk soon.

-J

Sherlock looked at the notes. In hindsight... well, everything was clearer there, wasn't it? "It didn't seem important," he said.

"Not important. Someone sends you notes telling you how to dress and you don't thi—" Greg took a closer look, then laughed. "Oh you cagey bastard." Sherlock moved to pick up the notes, and Greg caught his hand. "You thought they were from him."

Sherlock pulled his hand away. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Yes you do." Greg grinned. "Did I interrupt something earlier?"

"Shut up." Sherlock scooped up the notes. "Come on. Let's get back."

"Christ," Greg shook his head. "It's the same person who trashed Irene's room, isn't it?"

"It might be."

"I never thought I'd miss the days when your creepy fan mail came via the post."

 

When Sherlock and Greg arrived back at Irene's room, everyone but John was standing outside of it. Molly was hovering around Irene like a mother hen; Sally and Anderson, having been summoned by Greg, leaned against the walls across from each other. Neither of them looked happy, but between them, Sally looked the most put out. From inside the room, Sherlock could hear John speaking to someone. "The police are on their way, then?"

"Yes, sir." The voice was respectful, but not subservient. A glance through the doorway and Sherlock saw John, standing with his arms folded across his chest facing a man perhaps ten years his senior. Although John was wearing torn jeans and a t-shirt perhaps a size too small and the older man was wearing a decently tailored suit, there was enough of a similarity in their mannerisms for Sherlock to identify the man as ex-military. Hotel security, clearly.

"And when can we move Ms Adler to her new room?" John asked.

"Right away, Mr Watson." The man looked around the room. "Unfortunately, the evidence must stay here, but we can certainly make Miss Adler comfortable. Contact the concierge for anything she might need help replacing."

John shifted his stance and lowered his arms. "I spoke with Mr Holmes' publicist and we'll be preparing a statement. Can we count on your staff to help keep the press away until then?"

Greg elbowed Sherlock in the ribs. "Stop staring."

"He's quite good at this though, isn't he?" Sherlock felt an odd rush of possessiveness, as if John's easy manner in the wake of the unexpected and the frightening were somehow things that belonged to Sherlock.

"Harry's done a good job of coaching him," Greg conceded. "Jesus, Sherlock. Just how far gone are you?" Sherlock looked over to see Greg wearing a broad, knowing grin. "I've never seen you this... moony before."

"I am not moony. I'm keeping an eye on a potentially troublesome situation."

"Yeah, there's a situation, all right," Greg smirked.

"What situation?" Sally asked, stepping over their way.

"Sherlock's situation," said Greg. "With our tour manager."

"Oh for god's sake," said Sherlock. "You don't know what you're talking about."

"Sherlock, if you drive this one off too I bloody swear I will erase every sodding sample loop you brought with you. I'd rather tour with him than with you at this point." Sally's voice carried to the others.

"What's he done now?" asked Anderson.

"I don't know," said Sally, "but apparently there's a situation."

Sherlock scowled over at Greg, who was on the verge of laughter. "Bloody lot of gossips, you are." He turned his back on them in favour of Irene and Molly, who were still standing a bit apart.

"Molly, I'll be fine," Irene was shrugging off an attempt at comfort. "Honestly, I'm more mad than afraid right now." She looked up at Sherlock. "What do you think? Are you the one I'm not supposed to be touching? Or is it John? Because you two are the only two 'hims' I've been touching lately."

"I think... perhaps me," Sherlock said.

Before he could say more, John called his name. "Did you get what you needed?" he asked, coming out of the destroyed room.

Sherlock paused. "I have something you should probably see before the police get here."

"Oh Christ," said John. "We're not going to be flushing anything illegal down the toilets, are we? I mean, you're not—"

"Don't be ridiculous." Sherlock laid his hand on John's elbow and guided him away from the others. He drew the notes from his pocket and handed them to John. "The first one arrived when we were in New York. The second one in Washington."

John's expression darkened as he read them. "And you didn't think I might need to know about this?"

"Not especially, no." That earned him a grim look from John. "It didn't seem important."

"Right. I'll be sure to let Irene know that." A muscle in John's jaw twitched, a pulse that spoke volumes louder than his actual speech.

"I thought—" Sherlock lowered his voice. "I thought they were harmless. Someone flirting with me. It happens, you know."

"Oh, of course."

"You're angry with me."

"Very good. You are a clever one." John studied the notes again for a moment. "So you thought... what. That someone followed you from New York to Washington just to see if they could get a leg over?"

"Yes, that's exactly what I thought."

"Jesus."

"It has happened," Sherlock said.

"You are a piece of work, aren't you?"

"John, I—" John turned away before he could finish his thought, as two uniformed police officers strode down the hallway towards them, trailing the security head.

"Were you able to check the security cameras?" John asked.

Hotel security actually looked sheepish. "The one in this hallway seems to have... broken."

"Great. That's fantastic." John's voice had a harsh bite to it. Sherlock almost felt a little sorry for the man facing him. John nodded at the uniformed pair. "Evening, officers."

"Mr Watson, we'd like to ask a few questions of each of you."

 

As the police interviewed each of the crew individually, John fought the urge to pace, hands jammed into his pockets. He'd brought the notes to the officers' attention first thing—unlike some people. They'd all been moved to Irene's new room so the crime scene people could examine the original room. Lot of good it'd likely do, given how many people had wandered through, himself included. Molly was the last to be seen. When she came back in, her eyes were red and the officer was resting a light hand on her shoulder. "Ms Hooper needs to come down to the station with us."

He couldn't have been more shocked if the officer had declared herself a kiss-o-gram and pulled off the uniform hat. "Molly?"

"I met him, John." Molly's voice quavered like she was about to burst into tears again. "There was a man at the Washington show... he asked where we were staying. I thought he was f-flirting with me..."

It was like watching a puppy get kicked. "It's okay, Molly." John stepped in and gave her a quick hug, giving the officer a questioning look.

"We'd like her to talk to our sketch artist," Officer Fawaz (according to her namebadge) said. "Nothing more than that." She smiled reassuringly. John didn't feel terribly reassured.

"Can someone go with her?"

"Of course," Officer Fawaz said. John rubbed at his brow and thought about the mess that had been Irene's room. He lingered at the words on the mirror.

"I'll go with her," came a voice from behind him. Greg.

"Thanks, mate," John said. He looked at Molly. "All right?" She nodded, and leaned into Greg when he put an arm around her.

"We'll make it as quick as we can," Officer Fawaz said. "We're nearly done here."

"What do you recommend we do for now?" John asked.

"Well, it seems that Ms Adler is the current focus for... whoever this man is. I'd recommend that she not go anywhere alone for the time being. None of you should, really, but especially not her."

"Right," John said. "Greg, when you get back, you're rooming with Sherlock. I'll stay with Irene. Until then, everyone is sticking with someone, yeah?" He spoke loudly enough for everyone to hear. There was general assent around the room, except for Sherlock, who was focused on John. John met his eyes briefly, then looked away.

"I'd like to go along to the station," Sherlock said, drawing John's eyes back to him in surprise. "If that's all right." He glanced at John with a hint of challenge and a sardonic smile.

"Fine," said Fawaz. "Yes. Maybe you know this guy too."

 

"Well, I suppose I have an excuse to go shopping for a new wardrobe now," Irene said, looking at what little remained of her belongings. Sally had loaned her a few things, the hotel had provided missing toiletries. "My manager said she'd have some things delivered tomorrow. This is just—" she laughed, a bit shakily. "I certainly never expected anything like this on tour."

John had grabbed the most important things from his old room: some clothes, his shaving kit, the absolutely terrible spy novel he'd bought at the last airport. He was settling them into the corner when Irene spoke. He glanced over. "You're sure you're okay?" When she didn't answer right away, he stepped over and gently took her by the arm. "Sit down." She let him guide her to the edge of the bed and sit her down. He grabbed a glass from the desk and filled it with water from the tap. "Drink."

She did, but then said, "No. I'm okay. I just—I had an ex once. Who used similar tactics." John sat down next to her and made a sympathetic noise. "It was... unsettling, is all."

"Of course," John said.

"Sherlock said he thought the message on the mirror was about him."

John huffed a short laugh. "Everything's about him, isn't it?"

Irene's lips twitched at the corners into what might be the start of a smile. "Usually."

"In this case though, I think he's right. With the notes he's been getting."

"And you can't imagine anyone being jealous of me touching you," she said.

"What?" John raised his eyebrows.

"When I got back to my room tonight, do you know what my first thought was?" Irene asked. "I thought that Sherlock was either playing a terrible joke, or that he'd finally lost it." John shook his head, but she continued. "If I'd had my way, that night in DC might have ended very differently. But I saw Sherlock behind you. And I saw the look he gave me."

"What look?"

Irene did finally smile a that, a small tease of a grin. "'Back off bitch, he's mine.' He's never been good at sharing his toys."

Something went dark in John's mind, a tingle of pleasure down his spine at war with a rush of anger. "Oh no. Let's be very clear on one thing. I am not anyone's 'toy'. Not property, either."

"I know you're not," she said, levelling her eyes on his. "That's why I'm telling you this. So you can decide for yourself."

"Decide what?" His voice was harsh-edged, but he didn't drop his gaze from hers.

She trailed a finger up his arm. "If you want to make him jealous or not."

John remembered, briefly, the press of her body against his on the dance floor, the taste of her lips. He swallowed and licked his lips, mouth suddenly dry. "Now who's toying with me?"

"I'm perfectly serious," Irene said, and leaned forward, keeping her eyes on his until their mouths were close enough to touch.

It had been a very long night, exhausting, worrying, and then there was the matter of the interrupted kiss in Sherlock's room, which felt like days ago. He wasn't thinking clearly. As soon as her mouth met his, his lips parted, and this time, so did hers. And that was when it all went wrong. She smelled wrong. And felt wrong. The sound of a guitar playing him quietly to sleep, music brushing across raw feelings, covering the exposed places until John can close his eyes. The low amused chuckle. John pulled away reluctantly, apologetically. "I can't. Irene—I'm sorry."

"Why not?"

"You're clever. You can figure out why."

"Tell me anyway."

"Oh—fuck you." John stood up and stalked away. "If you knew, why kiss me?"

"Maybe I wanted to make sure that you knew too."

"You. Jesus Christ what is wrong with you two? What would you have done if I hadn't stopped? Did you think that far ahead?" John's hands worked of their own accord, opening, closing.

"We'd have had a lovely evening and I would have suggested tomorrow that he start looking elsewhere."

"I just need to know, do you two do this sort of thing all the time?"

"Compete?" Irene said, leaning on her hands against the bed. "We've always competed. I wasn't competing over you, though."

"Then what—ohh. Yes. Very clever. You two are a matched pair, aren't you?" John almost laughed but the sound was strangled. "It's another bloody test, isn't it? Did I fucking pass this one too?"

"In as much as you proved conclusively that you find both men and women attractive, but will choose emotional connection over scratching an immediate itch... yes." She looked very... smug. She looked remarkably like Sherlock. "Finding someone who thinks Sherlock's attractive... that's not hard. Finding someone who wants to be with him... also pretty easy. Finding someone who won't screw him over? That's the hard part." She paused, kicking her leg over the edge of the bed, back and forth. "John, he's my best friend. I had to be sure."

"So, what. You're going to ring him with the results?"

"Nope."

John rubbed at the back of his neck, then walked to the room's sole armchair and started pulling it towards the door.

"What are you doing?"

"Well, we've got one bed, and I'm bloody well not sleeping in it next to you. Besides, if I'm in front of the door, no one can get in." He pushed the chair into place and settled into it, grabbing his book on the way. "Good night."

 

The next morning, after roughly two hours of sleep and several cups of thankfully excellent coffee, John dropped Irene off at Sherlock's room, essentially exchanging her company for Greg's. It had taken prodding to get her to agree, but he'd finally managed by pointing out that someone had gotten through a locked door the night before for the sole purpose of destroying her belongings—how much worse might it have been if she'd been in the room?

He tried not to think too hard about what the topic of conversation might be between Irene and Sherlock while John was off at the theatre. His back was sore from sleeping—dozing, really—in the chair, and his shoulder was already complaining. He had no energy to worry about what sort of games Irene Adler and Sherlock Holmes might get up to with each other. He refused to be a bloody football again.

"You're in a mood this morning," Greg noted.

"Don't ask," John said. "What happened with the sketch artist? You never called."

"That's because we didn't get back to the hotel until nearly three." They walked side by side down the street, both clutching takeaway coffee cups.

"I was still awake."

"Well, there wasn't much to tell. We have a sketch, but not a very good one. We can at least give copies to venue and hotel security, but I don't know if it will do much. Mols said it was too dark to get a good look at the guy. It might not even be him, who knows? Maybe he was flirting with her." Something in his voice made John look over.

"You're more worried about that than you are about Sherlock. That someone flirted with Molly." Suddenly John's morning seemed much brighter.

"Bloody wanker. Of course I'm worried about it. I like her!"

John laughed and gave Greg a shove in the shoulder. "Fuckin' adorable, that's what you are."

"At least I can admit it," Greg said. "Unlike some other people I could mention."

"I know," John said, drawing out the vowel and doing a passable impression of Harry at fourteen. "I wish Donovan and Anderson would just shag and get it over with." The two of them stopped and looked at each other, then cracked up.

"Yes," Greg said between laughs, "because that was exactly what I meant."

 

One of the last things Harry had said to John before letting him go face the police the night before was, "I'm going to have to notify Mycroft Holmes. He'll be calling you sometime, soon, I'm certain." Then she paused. "I'm sorry." She wouldn't say anything further before ringing off, except to remind him of his fifth birthday party, when he'd singed off his eyebrows. "I just found the pictures," she'd said. "If you're very nice to me, I won't pass them around."

He was helping Sally set up the merch display when his mobile rang: an unfamiliar number from the UK. "John Watson," he answered.

"Captain Watson, I'm glad to have caught you. This is Mycroft Holmes." The elder Holmes' voice carried the same public school intonation, but higher-pitched and more crisp. John knew a tone of command when he heard it.

"Ah, yes. Harry said you might call." He motioned for Sally to go on setting up without him and walked outside the theatre.

"Yes. I heard about the goings-on last night. How is my brother holding up?"

"He's... fine." No sense in putting it off. John said, "Mr Holmes, given the situation, I'm sure you understand that I'd like to confirm that you are who you say you are."

"Of course. Harriet said you were clever. She also said I should tell you she still has the photographs of you without your eyebrows. Is that sufficient?"

"Y-yeah. We're good." John had not expected to be exchanging codewords again in his life—certainly not this soon. "How can I help you?"

"Captain Watson—"

"John, please."

"John, then. It hasn't escaped my attention that you possess certain skills that might be... useful in this situation. I am asking that you use those skills to keep my brother safe."

"That was my intention, sir."

"To make it easier, you will receive a package by courier in approximately two hours. I would be greatly indebted to you if you would keep the contents of that package on your person at all times."

"What is it?"

"Something to make your new responsibilities a bit easier to manage. Please keep me updated. And—it might be best if Sherlock doesn't learn of this conversation. My brother and I have had our differences through the years, but please understand I have only his best interests at heart."

John smiled thinly. "I understand. I have a sister after all."

"Indeed. Two hours, John. I'll be checking in periodically."

He rang off before John could think to ask him how the courier would know where to find him.

 

Two hours later, almost to the minute: "John? There's someone here to see you." He turned around to see a smartly dressed young woman standing in the lobby of the theatre. Whatever he was expecting of a courier from Mycroft Holmes, this wasn't it. He walked over to her and she gave him a cool, business-like smile.

"Captain Watson. Will you step outside with me, please?"

John followed her to where an impressively sleek black car sat idling at the kerb. "You have got to be joking." The courier opened the door and gestured for him to enter. "I don't think so," he said.

"Please, Captain Watson. Mr Holmes will be quite cross with me if you don't."

"Christ do I ever not have the time for this nonsense. Just give me whatever he sent, please." John folded his arms and stayed where he was.

"This will go much more quickly if you'll just get in the car." They stared each other down for a few moments, precious moments that John didn't have to waste.

"Fine." He got in the car, and the courier followed after.

The courier handed him a box. "I need you to open this and verify the contents, please."

Certain every moment that he was about to be kidnapped or something equally ridiculous, John opened the box. Inside was a Sig Sauer P226 with extra ammo and, in the bottom of the box, a shoulder holster. A small thrill went up his spine. "A gun. Your boss is serious about this, isn't he?" He raised at eyebrow at the courier, and when she gave the nod, he reached into the box, the plastic grip cool against his hand. The fit was perfect; the weight was reassuring. He checked the safety and tucked the gun into the back of his jeans, untucking his shirt so the tail fell down to cover it. "Right. So Sherlock's brother has sent me a highly illegal undocumented firearm to carry around the country. Remind me, what does he do again?"

"Mr Holmes is a minor member of the British government," she replied smoothly. "And it's not illegal in the slightest. I have the paperwork for you right here." She handed him a folder, which he opened and flipped through.

There was an ID card in the stack. "Wait. This has me listed as a member of MI-6."

"Yes," said the courier.

"Bloody hell. Am I?"

"No," she said, smiling the way one would smile at a well-loved but not terribly bright child.

"Thank Christ." He tucked the card into his wallet and closed the folder. "Is there anything else?"

"Just that Mr Holmes is indebted to you, Captain." The courier swung the door of the car open and slid out, allowing him room to exit.

"Well, uh. Thanks." He climbed out, taking the box holding the ammo and the holster with him.

 

By the time Sherlock and Irene arrived for soundcheck, John was fighting back the ragged edge of exhaustion with nothing but adrenaline and caffeine. It wasn't the longest he'd been without sleep, not even close, but it was the longest he'd been without sleep during which time he wasn't also being shot at, which had a tendency to keep one alert. He spent the show in the booth with Greg and Molly again, but this time he didn't even make it through the first song before he dropped off into a doze, the P226 biting into his back.

He couldn't even allow himself to fully relax, as he kept jerking awake to scan the crowd for anything suspicious, even though logic said that whoever had trashed Irene's room would keep a lower profile now. Logic had nothing to do with the tension in his gut, the analytical part of his brain that pointed out exactly how many ways the stage was vulnerable to attack, exactly where a sniper could hide. Finally he gave up trying to chase down a nap, and shoved the stool away, rising to give in to the urge to stand guard.

During the last encore, John leaned over to Greg, speaking in his ear loud enough to be heard over the music. "Do me a favour. Can you take care of things backstage? I don't want to send Sherlock into the crowd to sign autographs alone." Greg just raised an eyebrow "I can't, okay? I know I'm probably overreacting, but what if I'm not? What if that creep is here tonight?" Greg nodded. "Thanks."

John left the booth and went backstage. When Sherlock and Irene came offstage, John was ready for them.

"What are you doing here?" Sherlock took a towel from one of the stagehands and wiped his face. "Aren't you supposed to be doing... manager things?" They'd hardly spoken since the night before, and John could see Sherlock was determined to be shirty about it.

"Yes, and tonight one of my 'manager things' is to keep an eye on you. Or more accurately, to keep an eye on the crowd around you." John gestured towards one of the copies of the police sketch hanging backstage. "Irene, are you joining us tonight?" She shook her head. "Right then. We'll be back. Molly should be down to the green room in a few minutes. Stay with her."

"This is ridiculously unnecessary," Sherlock said as they walked through the backstage halls towards the lobby. "No one is going to attack me here."

"Mm," said John. "You expected someone to go after Irene then?" Sherlock didn't answer. "I didn't think so. Until we know who we're dealing with, no strangers are getting close to you without me there. No one's going to get even a chance to hurt you."

"That may be the sexiest bloody thing anyone has ever said to me."

The lobby was crowded as they came through the side door near the merch table. Sally was doing good business; the table was crowded with fans looking for the latest t-shirt or poster. Sherlock's arrival drew attention quickly their way. John took up position behind Sherlock a little to the left, his feet slightly spread, hands resting easily in the small of his back. His face fell into a familiar mask: jaw slightly tensed, head held high and straight on his neck, eyes moving over the crowd. He hoped that his presence, with its obvious, aggressively watchful stance, would deter most forms of trouble.

He could hear Sherlock talking to his fans, but was listening more to the tones of voices than the words, listening for something, anything that sounded off. Sherlock's fans never expected him to be friendly and enthusiastic—they expected sullen and slightly distant, royalty deigning to mix with his subjects. The people who approached him were a nightmare from a security perspective. Each one seemed to have enough hardware pierced through their bodies to be potentially dangerous. He saw several spiked bracelets that gave him a quick image of someone trying to gash Sherlock's throat with one. What the hell was venue security for, anyway?

No one seemed to want to hurt Sherlock so far, but all of them wanted to touch him. More than once an overly-excited fan grabbed his arm or his wrist—once or twice hard enough that John saw Sherlock wince—and John would step forward. Usually a step was all it took.

John also discovered the true uselessness of the police sketch. The sketch showed a pale man in his late-teens or early-20s with pale skin, dark eyes, and dark hair. Which matched roughly forty percent of the people in the lobby, eighty if you considered the level of androgyny in the crowd. Hell, it fairly matched Sherlock. Molly had said the man wasn't overly tall, so that filtered out a few more people, but there were still too many for John's comfort.

Like that one, there. Third back in line, he was shifting from foot to foot, nervous. The man's (boy's?) eyes darted continually from side to side. He didn't appear to be with anyone, unlike the people around him. The back of John's neck prickled, instinct waking and stretching with an internal growl. He loosened his hands behind him, fingers stretching and wriggling.

One more down. The kid was wearing the usual costume of torn jeans, baggy black t-shirt and a leather jacket several sizes too big for him. The jacket—which if security had been doing their job would be in the coat check—hung oddly, pulled to one side. The way it might if there were a weapon in the pocket. Should he step in now? John waited. The kid reached the front of the line and John zeroed in, listening to every word.

"...loved the new album so much," he gushed. "Can you do something for me? It would mean so much..." He reached toward the weighted-down pocket.

John's hand wrapped around the grip of the pistol.

"Can you sign this for me?" The kid drew out a chunk of John at first thought was concrete, then realised was part of a plaster cast. "I missed your last show because I broke my leg." Sherlock signed the piece of plaster with his usual combination of intensity and feigned ennui, and the kid walked away, never knowing how close he'd come to having a gun drawn on him. Jesus, Watson. Pull it together. John relaxed infinitesimally, hands going back to parade rest at his back.

After load-out, the seven of them walked back to the hotel together in twos and threes. John stayed near Sherlock, still on alert and scanning everyone they passed. When they reached Sherlock's room, Sherlock said, "Greg, you're staying with Irene tonight. Or put her with Molly and Sally. Either way, I don't care."

"What?" John wasn't sure what he was hearing.

"Come on, you're staying with me." Sherlock opened the door and pushed John through it. John could hear laughter from the other side of the door, and someone wolf-whistled.

"It's about bloody time." That sounded like Sally.

When the door closed, John found himself against it with Sherlock staring down at him, eyes darkened with intensity. "You don't mind, do you?" Sherlock said with a small smirk.

"I thought you were angry with me," John said, tone mild and much calmer than he felt.

"I was. Now I'm not." Sherlock pressed his hands to either side of John's head and leaned in closer. "I thought the notes were from you. I thought you were the one flirting with me." Sherlock closed the distance between them with a fierce kiss, one that spiked the second (third?) rush of adrenaline of the night through John's body.

"Now who's the idiot?" John reacted without thinking, snaking one hand up to catch in the hair at the base of Sherlock's scalp. "If I'm flirting with you, you'll know it. I don't play coy. Ever." He tugged softly and was rewarded with a soft gasp. "Like now, for example." He manoeuvred himself away from the wall, using the leverage he had from pulling Sherlock's hair, twisting them about until their positions were switched. He let Sherlock's hair go, instead pinning one lean shoulder to the door, his other hand moving to cup Sherlock's chin. "I've got at least two stone of muscle over you. Did you really think you would be able to just manhandle me in here and have your way with me?"

"No," Sherlock said, turning his head to lick at John's hand. "I thought you'd give in faster than this."

John's hand tightened, forcing Sherlock's mouth away. He had the satisfaction of seeing Sherlock's pupils widen, darken, just as they had that night in the green room, the first time Sherlock had pushed and John had pushed back. He pulled on the shoulder he was holding, bringing Sherlock's ear down to his level. "That's what you wanted, isn't it? You like me because I say 'no'. Because you know I could control you so easily if I wanted to." Then, because he could, John dragged the tip of his tongue along the outer curve of Sherlock's ear and felt him melt against the door.

"Yes," Sherlock said. "God, yes."

"No," John said, and he stepped back, fighting the urge to smile. He watched a range of emotions play across Sherlock's face: confusion, anger, uncertainty. He held his hand out to him. Sherlock let him draw him over to the bed, where John sat down. Sherlock still wore an odd expression. John laughed. "What, no one's wanted to talk to you before?"

"Not... usually."

"I don't want to play your game. I want you, Sherlock. Not some mask you wear." He pulled Sherlock down onto his lap, nuzzling at the side of his neck. "You. I want the man who played me to sleep." He nipped a pinch of skin between his teeth, making Sherlock gasp. "The one who was honest and talked about how difficult the past few months have been. Show me him again."

Before Sherlock could react, the room phone rang. John growled annoyance and let Sherlock go. He rolled across the bed and answered. There was background chatter, laughing, then Greg said, "Is anyone naked yet?" The background laughter got more uproarious.

"Fuck you," John said.

"Not my job, love. Give Sherlock a kiss for us, eh?" Greg was still giggling when John hung up. He rolled his eyes at Sherlock, who was grinning.

"You might want to take that off the hook," Sherlock said. "They'll never stop calling." John rolled around and reached back behind the nightstand. He unplugged the phone and held the cord up for Sherlock to see. "Even better," Sherlock said. John squirmed around until he was lying properly on his side.

"Come here," he murmured. Sherlock crawled up the bed, settling at his side. John brushed a stray curl from Sherlock's face. "Do you really mean to tell me that nobody has bothered to get to know you?"

"There wasn't much to get to know," Sherlock said. "I was high all the time." It struck John as unutterably sad, and he stroked his fingertips down the side of Sherlock's face before leaning over to kiss him, just once, gently. Then because that didn't seem to be enough, again, lingering. Then nothing seemed to be enough. John pulled Sherlock closer, wrapping his arms around him, kissing with a slow, hungry intensity. He let Sherlock pull the t-shirt away from him, forgetting the weight of the gun still at the small of his back.

"Where the hell did that come from?"

John felt his face heat up as he drew it from the back of his jeans and tucked it into the nightstand drawer. "It just... seemed like it might be necessary."

Sherlock looked a bit... awed. His fingers brushed lightly across the scar tissue on John's shoulder. "You're serious about protecting me."

It didn't hurt, exactly, but John turned slightly away, sliding his hand down Sherlock's chest. "Right now I'm serious about touching you," he said. He unbuttoned the dark grey shirt Sherlock wore, tugging away the shirt, boots, trousers, undressing him so slowly, watching the shifting expressions on his face.

"John," the word was a plea. Sherlock naked was nothing new. Sherlock naked, stretched across a bed and pleading for him, well. That was new. Biting his lower lip, John stripped out of his jeans and pants with quick efficiency.

And heard his mobile ringing.

"Ignore it," said Sherlock. "It's them again, you know it is." John looked over Sherlock's body, and gave over. He crawled back across the bed, settling down with one knee between Sherlock's legs, his right thigh brushing against the swelling length of Sherlock's cock. John sank down against him, giving a small groan at the feeling of skin-to-skin contact from head to toe. Their mouths met, wet and open and wanting. John couldn't stop touching him, couldn't stop running his hands up and down Sherlock's sides, feeling the slightly-too-prominent ribs, coasting over his hipbones and down his thighs.

"I want—John, god. I want—" He wrapped one long leg around John's, trapping him.

John shifted his weight, and slid back, mouthing his way across Sherlock's pale chest to tease a nipple with the tip of his tongue. "What?"

"You. Everything. God."

Smiling against Sherlock's skin, John trailed his tongue over pectoral muscles, salt and sweat sparking on his tongue. He wet his left hand with his saliva and reached between them to tease his fingers along the underside of Sherlock's cock, drawing out a low, aching moan from him. John shifted again, lifting his right leg to straddle Sherlock's hips. He wrapped his wet hand around his own cock and around Sherlock's, stroking them together, once, twice, gritting his teeth against the urge to go faster.

He pressed his body down again, drawing his hands up Sherlock's sides. God—god the feeling of his cock against Sherlock's caught between their bodies. He buried his face against Sherlock's neck and bit, flexing his body to create just a little bit of friction.

"Oh my god," Sherlock was breathless. "Do that again." He squirmed under John and after a moment's fumbling, they found a rhythm, hips sliding and twisting together. John couldn't stop kissing: shoulders, neck, mouth. His breath came in small panting heaves as he wrapped his hands under Sherlock's shoulders for better leverage, and rode the motion of their two bodies.

"So fucking good," John murmured, biting at Sherlock's earlobe. "I want to make you come, just like this." Everywhere they touched was growing hot, skin damp and slipperier by the moment. Their hips pressed, teased, their muscles clenched and flexed against each other's bodies. John felt Sherlock's fingers digging into his back and groaned loud enough to echo in the room.

"Oh god," Sherlock's normally smooth baritone was higher pitched, almost a whine. "Please don't stop, like that, oh please." The last word was drawn out and John felt the sudden pulsing of wetness beneath him and whimpered in sympathetic pleasure. He watched Sherlock's face, with its glazed eyes and parted lips, and followed him into the depths, hips jerking, shoulders shaking.

Slowly, gradually, John relaxed against Sherlock, trailing lazy kisses over his chest, listening to the low purr-like rumble of contentment it earned him. "I should move," he said.

"Don't you dare," Sherlock said, tightening his arms. "Not yet."

"No, really," John said after a few moments. "We're... sticky." He laughed as Sherlock let him go. A warm damp flannel from the bathroom made short work of clean up—then John's mobile rang again. "Oh for fuck's sake—" John grabbed his jeans to retrieve the phone, looked at it and snapped it open. "Yes. Okay? Happy now?"

Greg laughed. "Good on you, mate. Took you long enough."

"Go the fuck to bed. We're leaving early in the morning." John rang off and looked over at Sherlock, who was wearing a lazy, brilliant smile.

"Come back to bed," he said.