Sherlock meets Peter in his first year at university, when Sebastian nudges him at breakfast one morning and point to an outlandishly dressed young man making his way through the dining hall. Cambridge has its fair share of eccentrics but even so, there’s something arresting about this one. He wears lushly textured fabrics that have been tailored within an inch of their lives, and moves with the graceful, precise steps that make Sherlock think of mandolin music and the intricate patterns of courtly dances of ages past.
‘Do that one,’ Sebastian murmurs. ‘Look at him, he thinks he’s the next Oscar Wilde, swanning about the place. Bloody English lit students.’
Sherlock obeys, although he thinks the young man looks interesting rather than pretentious – and any fool could see that he’s studying photography rather than literature. The calluses on his hands and the sharp awareness of his gaze, as though he’s constantly setting up shots of the world around him, are a dead giveaway.
‘Studying photography, not literature,’ Sherlock begins, talking to Sebastian but looking at the man’s clothes and hands as he draws nearer. ‘Smoker. He was out last night drinking heavily; that, in combination with the new and expensive watch he’s sporting, means that he’s celebrating something, likely a birthday.’
Sherlock pauses, smirks. The man is now well within earshot and Sherlock’s voice obviously catches his attention because he looks over. The back of Sherlock’s neck prickles as their eyes meet; he’s aware that people find his own gaze unsettling but this photography student has one light blue eye and one brown.
But Sherlock holds his gaze defiantly and doesn’t bother to lower his voice as he says, ‘And last night’s celebration went very well. He’s not a resident of this college, and the only reason he’s here for breakfast is because he went home last night with a girl who lives here. A girl who, he’ll be surprised to hear, already has a boyfriend.’
Sebastian snorts around his mouthful of toast, predictably. But the man, instead of flushing or getting angry, only halts next to the bench Sherlock and Sebastian are sitting on and draws an old-fashioned cigarette case out of his inside jacket pocket.
‘Almost right,’ he says pleasantly, withdrawing a cigarette and tapping it on the closed case to settle the tobacco. ‘Except that it was both of them that invited me back.’
He tucks the cigarette behind his ear and reaches down to steal Sherlock’s unsweetened black coffee. He tastes it, makes a face, and drags the sugar bowl over to stir in two generous spoonfuls, adding, ‘And they were such a delightful couple that it would have been downright rude to refuse.’
A dull heat burns under Sherlock’s collar. He seems to have somehow lost the upper hand in this exchange; this man wears his sexuality – his sensuality – unashamedly, like his velvet jacket and sweet coffee and expensive cigarettes, and Sherlock’s exposition of him abruptly seems childish and gauche.
The coffee thief is so close that Sherlock has to tilt his head back to hold his gaze. He’s tall enough these days that he’s not used to having to look up at someone and, as if he senses Sherlock’s discomfort, the stranger swings a leg over the long bench and sinks down to sit astride it.
‘Speaking of rude…’ he holds out his hand and Sherlock grips it automatically, ‘…Peter Mayhew. And you are?’
‘Sherlock Holmes,’ says Sherlock. Peter’s odd eyes haven’t left his face since he spotted Sherlock, and Sherlock quashes the impulse to squirm in his seat like the awkward, lanky teenager he’s only just stopped being.
‘Sherlock Holmes,’ Peter repeats. He lets go of Sherlock’s hand, takes the cigarette from behind his ear, and rolls it absent-mindedly in his fingers before sticking it in his mouth.
‘Well, Sherlock,’ he says, and pauses to pat distractedly at his pockets. He finds a box of matches but doesn’t light the cigarette; the sight of him so obviously savouring the anticipation of what’s clearly his first one of the day brings on Sherlock’s own cravings. ‘I hope you won’t think me terribly forward if I say this, but you have the most extraordinarily striking features I’ve ever seen.’
Sherlock stares at him in surprise – no-one’s ever called him that before – but Peter mistakes his interest for the cigarette he’s talking around.
‘They’re clove,’ he says, taking another one out and laying it by the side of Sherlock’s plate, with its half-eaten piece of toast. ‘Try one.’
Now that Sherlock looks properly, the tobacco does appear to be a slightly different colour than usual, but the next instant Peter glances over Sherlock’s shoulder and his face clouds. Following his gaze Sherlock sees a red-faced, irritated hall porter making his way down the long room towards them, obviously not satisfied with the fact that Peter’s cigarette is unlit.
‘If you’ll excuse me,’ Peter says, getting to his feet and smiling down at Sherlock, ‘I think I’d better go. I’m in Pembroke College. Do come and find me if you ever feel like going for a drink sometime, won’t you?’
His mismatched eyes crinkle disarmingly as he adds, ‘After all, you owe me a cigarette,’ and walks briskly away without waiting for Sherlock’s answer.
Sherlock stares down at his plate, not entirely sure what just happened. Across the table from him, Sebastian grunts, ‘Pretentious tosser.’
With John’s invaluable assistance – and the rather more dispensable assistance of the Yard – the case is solved, the culprit apprehended, and the kidnapping victim returned to his frantic parents. All that’s left is to return the crucial piece of evidence to Lestrade and though Sherlock would just as happily have gone straight home, John had been insistent, arguing that since Sherlock had pinched it from Lestrade’s office in the first place then he had a duty to return it as soon as possible. John hasn’t lost the military tone of command in his voice, so Sherlock sighs and grudgingly tells the taxi driver to take them to New Scotland Yard rather than Baker Street.
It’s a measure of his regard for John that Sherlock obeys his request, and when he mutters, ‘I hope you appreciate this,’ John only quirks an eyebrow and replies dryly, ‘Yeah, keeping Lestrade from arresting you out of sheer frustration is one of my favourite hobbies.’
At New Scotland Yard they’re waved past the front desk and take the lift up to Lestrade’s division, but they’ve barely gone a dozen steps out of the lift before Sally calls to them. They both turn but it’s only John she wants to speak to; Sherlock takes in her hostile look and returns it with added interest before continuing toward Lestrade’s office.
If Sherlock’s presence here is an indicator of John’s influence on him, then it’s a measure of his respect for Lestrade that Sherlock stays put during the ensuing harangue about taking evidence, rather than just walking away as he would do with Dimmock or Hopkins. Sherlock waits until Lestrade pauses for breath, and then interjects pointedly, ‘But on the other hand, I have just solved a very high-profile kidnapping case for you, with the victim alive and returned to his parents.’
Lestrade seems to deflate.
‘Yeah, fair point,’ he says, scrubbing his hand through his hair. ‘Alright, go on, off with you.’
The dark shadows under his eyes speak of exhaustion and long hours worked while the young boy was missing, so Sherlock holds his tongue against any further comment but just nods curtly and exits.
He makes his way to Sally’s desk; she’s wearing an oddly triumphant look, while John’s face is a picture of guilty conspiracy.
‘Ready?’ John asks, quickly making his way to Sherlock’s side and steering him none-too-subtly toward the lift.
Suspicion flickers at the back of Sherlock’s mind. It may well be that John is just eager to get home – it is past 11pm, after all, and they’ve both been on the go without a break for several days.
But, just to check, Sherlock asks, ‘Whatever have you been up to?’
‘Sally has some plans for Greg’s birthday that she wanted to go over with me,’ John replies readily. ‘And since hell would freeze over before I could get you to come to the party, I’ll assume you aren’t interested. And no, I’m not telling you anything either, you’d just tell Greg out of spite.’
Sherlock places a dramatic hand over his heart, just because he knows it will amuse John. ‘You wound me.’
True to form, John grins. ‘No I don’t. Get a taxi, would you? It’s starting to rain.’
Once in the taxi, John is almost ridiculously quick to divert the subject away from what he was discussing with Sally, but shows none of his other tells to say he’s lying. So. Not an outright untruth, then, but Sherlock can’t shake the sense that there’s more to this than John would like him to know.
This impression is reinforced during their journey. After turning his head once and catching John in the act of just looking away, Sherlock takes to watching his reflection in the dark glass of the window and finds John stealing frequent, covert glances at him. Even when they get home, John unbuttons his soaked shirt but turns away sharply when Sherlock starts to do the same, and Sherlock frowns.
John’s both ex-Army and a doctor – he’s never previously shown himself to have any problems with nudity. But perhaps he’s just reading too much into John’s exhaustion. It has been a long and intense week, after all, and all Sherlock wants to do is sleep.
Sherlock tracks Peter down, a couple of weeks after their unconventional introductions, and they spend an evening drinking wine in Peter’s room and talking about everything and nothing. After a few hours Sherlock implies delicately that he wouldn’t be averse to whatever Peter wanted to offer, but Peter turns him down so matter-of-factly and with such little hesitation that Sherlock’s ego is left smarting.
‘Oh, don’t look like that,’ Peter exclaims, handing Sherlock his cigarette case and motioning for him to help himself as he refills their glasses. ‘You’re gorgeous, as you very well know.’
He strikes a match and leans forward to light Sherlock’s cigarette, an old-fashioned courtesy that Sherlock has never had directed his way before. Along with the carelessly thrown compliment, it unbalances him; despite what Peter may think, he’s more used to barbed comments about his unwelcome deductions than praise about his looks.
‘Gorgeous, intelligent, and a good sense of humour,’ Peter continues, lighting his own cigarette and shaking the match out. He insists that cigarettes lit from a gas lighter don’t taste the same, and Sherlock suspects he might be right. ‘I’m sure you’re fending off prospective suitors with a stick, but I’m afraid you’re just not my type. I’ve barely met you, and already you seem like you’d be far too high-maintenance for me. Christ, it’d be like trying to play with a young leopard: all fun and games until someone loses a limb.’
Sherlock chews at the corner of his mouth, unsure whether to laugh or be offended at this comparison, but Peter grins at him and laughter wins out.
That isn’t to say that Peter has no interest in him. In the days after their first meeting over breakfast, Sherlock had caught himself thinking Extraordinary. He called me extraordinary. And striking, taking the words out to savour like a man unfolding a much-read and treasured newspaper clipping. And after several more meetings Peter repeats the sentiment, following it swiftly with a request for Sherlock to pose for him, to which Sherlock readily agrees. He enjoys Peter’s company; contrary to Sebastian’s assumption, Peter is refreshingly direct and unpretentious in his approach to life, and he sets up his shots with an obsessive attention to detail that Sherlock recognises in himself.
Sherlock poses for Peter throughout his time at uni, at first only occasionally but then increasingly often when he moves out of halls and his tenuous friendship with Sebastian lapses. He consents to work with Peter on his final-year project and, at the end of the year, attends the exhibition of final-year students’ work, where Peter’s shots of him win an award. Toward the end of his time at uni, when he and Peter know each other better, he even lets Peter take several nude shots of him. By this time Sherlock has finished growing into his long limbs and has even filled out with a bit of muscle, and Peter locks the door to his little studio and tells Sherlock exactly how to sit and stand and angle himself, ordering him around competently but reassuringly until Sherlock’s momentary discomfort has melted away.
Sherlock isn’t prepared for how beautiful the finished photos are.
‘I’m telling you, you’re perfect for this,’ Peter says, watching him like a hawk as Sherlock looks through the nude shots and tries to absorb the fact that this is him: this tall, Byronic, leanly muscled man who seems to loftily accept the camera’s adoration as nothing more than his due. ‘You should think about doing this professionally.’
Despite Peter’s enthusiasm Sherlock doesn’t really give it any serious thought, until the first autumn after he graduates from Cambridge.
Once the tang of frost and falling leaves is in the air, he grows restless. In previous years this was the time that he’d be thinking about a new set of studies to follow, disdaining the prescribed curriculum and going his own way, secure in the knowledge that he could still turn in all the required coursework and pass his exams.
This year, bereft of his access to the chemistry labs, he’s bored and directionless. Perhaps he should have taken up one of the several PhD offers he’d received, but the idea of a career in academia doesn’t appeal to him any more now than it had then.
When Peter calls to talk excitedly about an audition with some fashion company – Sherlock can’t be bothered to note which one, they’re all basically the same – for one of their new campaigns, he shrugs and thinks Why not. At least it’ll be something different.
The morning after their case is solved Sherlock wakes with a groan, his stomach protesting loudly about the lack of food over the past few days. He staggers out of bed, clad only in his pyjama bottoms, and reaches for his favourite blue dressing gown before pausing.
There’s no time like the present to examine a new problem. John’s covert glances are fresh in Sherlock’s memory, including the way his eyes had flickered to Sherlock’s bared chest before quickly turning away last night, and so Sherlock deliberately leaves both of his dressing gowns hanging on the back of his door and wanders out to the living room where he hears John watching the morning news.
‘Morning,’ he says, or tries to while being interrupted by a yawn.
John startles, looking almost guilty. ‘Christ, Sherlock, can’t you make a bit of noise?’
Sherlock grins, pleased with himself. It’s not every day that he manages to sneak up on an ex-soldier. ‘Where’s the fun in that?’ He looks at John’s mug of tea. ‘What, you didn’t make me a cup?’
John is staring at Sherlock’s hair and, upon running a hand through it, Sherlock acknowledges that yes, perhaps sleeping on his rain-drenched hair has left it a bit more exuberant than usual.
‘Make it yourself, you lazy sod,’ John says, without heat. ‘What am I, your mum?’
‘Hardly,’ Sherlock says. John is very carefully looking anywhere but at Sherlock, meeting his gaze only for a few second before looking away again, and Sherlock adds, ‘You alright?’
John rubs his hand across his face. ‘Yeah, no problem,’ he says, and gives one of the least convincing smiles Sherlock has ever seen.
Sherlock frowns at him. ‘What did Sally say to you yesterday? You’ve been acting all… odd.’
He draws closer to John’s chair, folds his arms, and uses his height to loom over John and try to stare him into submission.
This weapon, however, must be losing its effectiveness on John, because he only says, ‘Perfectly fine,’ in a tone that indicates he’s anything but, before getting up and leaving the room.
John escapes upstairs and a moment later his bedroom door shuts, leaving Sherlock still in the living room and glaring in the direction of the stairs. ‘Perfectly fine’ his arse. This clearly needs further investigation, but fortunately he has a good idea of where to start.
Sally’s away from her desk when Sherlock arrives, but it looks as though she’s only stepped away for a moment, so he settles in to wait and amuses himself by seeing what he can deduce from her desk and work environment.
When she arrives – looking unusually smart, must have been another press conference – she narrows her eyes upon catching sight of him.
‘Freak,’ she sighs. ‘As if my day wasn’t difficult enough already. Come on, out of my seat.’
Sherlock is familiar enough with Sally to know that if he asks her upfront for information then she’ll take great delight in withholding it, dangling it just out of his grasp like someone teasing a cat, so instead he leans back in her chair and kicks his feet up to rest on her desk.
‘Oh, I don’t know,’ he says brightly. ‘I quite like it here. And I’m fairly sure that I could do a better job than you.’ He pauses, and pulls a face. ‘Just please don’t tell me that shagging Anderson is part of the job description.’
She flushes and scowls at him, and he can see her coming up with a retort. Sometimes it takes her a while to get properly riled up with him – and occasionally their exchanges could almost be mistaken for guardedly amicable bickering – but Lestrade must have been especially difficult to manage at this particular press conference because today she opens with the big guns.
‘He’s a better man than you’ll ever be.’
Sherlock only rolls his eyes at this. A poor attempt – holding an adulterer up as an example of moral rectitude – and it’s clear that not even Sally believes what she’s saying. She changes tactics.
‘I wouldn’t be so high and mighty if I were you,’ she says, knocking his feet off her desk and onto the floor with a thump. ‘Given that everyone’s seen you with your kit off.’
Sherlock stills, pausing in the act of twirling a pen through his fingers. ‘What?’
Sally smirks at him, looking triumphant. ‘You heard me. Or had you forgotten about these?’
With that she opens a drawer of her desk, takes out a folder, and drops it into Sherlock’s lap. It’s A4, plain blue card, and at the sight of it a memory stirs in Sherlock’s mind. He’d seen that folder – or one identical to it – on her desk last night, but at the time he’d been too focussed on finding John and going home to care much about what was inside it. But now he picks it up, opens it, and out into his lap slide a sheaf of photos he’d almost forgotten about entirely.
They’re the Calvin Klein photos; on the top is the one where he’s standing with a cigarette and looking away from the camera. It’s quite obviously a photo and not a poster or magazine cutting, and he flips it over to see ‘Sherlock Holmes, 1998’ printed on a label in the top corner. The one beneath it is the one that had made him – briefly – the body of Calvin Klein, with his head flung back and his hands clasped behind him.
‘Oh,’ he says, remembering. For a moment he can almost feel the warmth of the studio lights and the strain in his muscles from an over-long shoot, before Sally interrupts.
‘Yeah. John looked pretty shocked when I showed them to him.’
Sherlock looks up sharply. ‘John saw these?’
‘Yes.’ Sally folds her arms and looks smug. ‘And once he knew they were you then he could hardly get them back in the folder fast enough.’
Sherlock feels a little twinge of something like dismay at that, but quashes it ruthlessly.
Don’t be sentimental, think, he tells himself savagely.
Necessity has forced him and John to strip down to T-shirts and underwear – or even just underwear – on several occasions already, and John has never shown any discomfort or awkwardness about it as he did last night. And combined with his sudden, covert fascination with Sherlock, then John’s discomfort at viewing the photos in front of Sally could just as easily indicate something else altogether.
‘Oh,’ Sherlock breathes, as his heart flutters hopefully in his chest. ‘Thank you, Sally, this has been…useful.’
He jumps out of her chair and offers it to her with a flourish but Sally doesn’t take it, obviously not trusting him not to do something underhand with it.
‘Oh God, what are you going to do to that poor man now?’ she asks.
Sherlock shows her his least reassuring smile.
‘Nothing he’ll object to, I promise,’ he says, and drops the folder on her desk before walking off, not bothering to call a goodbye as Sally mutters imprecations at his retreating back.
He spends the day wandering around London, letting his feet take him where they will while part of his brain updates its mental map of the city and the rest addresses the problem of what to do about John.
For Sherlock’s part, there’s no question of what he’d like to do. He might have underestimated John at first, but ever since he realised that John had shot someone for him then he’d been kicking himself for dismissing him so peremptorily in Angelo’s. But the question is what John wants to do. Or, to be more accurate, how Sherlock should go about convincing John of the benefits of obeying his desires. Because it’s obvious from his body language that John is consciously attracted to him, but Sherlock’s unsure of whether John is ready to act on it yet.
At last, when it grows late and his feet lead him back in the direction of Baker Street, Sherlock makes up his mind. John Watson’s natural instinct, when faced with something that ought to scare him, is to leap in with both feet, and so Sherlock will just have to present himself in as appealing a light as he can manage and trust to John’s instinct.
And, if that fails, persuasion. He’s been told that, given the right motivation, he can be very persuasive indeed.
Several years after Peter persuaded and coaxed and finally almost dragged Sherlock along to the Calvin Klein audition – with more success than either of them had dreamed of – Sherlock is packing up in preparation for leaving yet another lodging. It’s an absolute dump; even the spectacularly disastrous kitchen experiment that prompted his eviction hadn’t lowered the tone of the place that much, but the landlord had carried on as though it were Buckingham Palace.
At least he has this case in Florida to look forward to; he’s leaving tomorrow and, grudgingly, he acknowledges that he would have been packing anyway, although not as much or as thoroughly as he’s doing now. He’s heard of a place for rent on Montague Street, near the British Museum, but he doesn’t have enough time to look at it before he leaves so he’ll just have to dump all the grubby cardboard boxes and black binbags full of his things in Mycroft’s immaculate townhouse to be looked after until he returns. But there’s no knowing when that might be, and Sherlock cheers up a little at the thought of the disruption to Mycroft’s carefully organised routine and the expression of distaste this will doubtless evoke.
He moves around the tiny place, flinging books and papers haphazardly into boxes but wrapping his few pieces of chemistry glassware in newspaper and laying them among packing material almost tenderly. He’s nearly done when on top of the ancient wardrobe – that has mildew growing up the back that destroyed his favourite shirt – he spots a large padded envelope. Curious, he fishes it down. All of his case notes to date are meticulously filed and he can’t think of anything he would have flung up there so carelessly to be forgotten about, but he has his answer when he upends it and the contents spill out onto the sagging mattress of his bed. They’re his old modelling photos – both his professional shots and the ones that Peter had taken at uni – and Sherlock sags down to sit on the edge of his bed and looks through them slowly.
He ought to throw them away, really. Those days are gone now; the portfolio serves no further purpose and keeping it is only indulging the sort of sentimentality that he’s sternly trained himself out of and that he detests in others. It might be different if he had a lover – someone who would linger and coo over the photos, and cherish them as tiny fragments of Sherlock’s earlier life. But previous experiments in that direction have ended in disaster, and Sherlock has come to the conclusion that no-one will ever be able even to tolerate living with him, much less cherish him. He tells himself he doesn’t care.
He scoops them back into their envelope, casual snaps by Peter and glossy, professionally lit headshots all jumbled together, and reaches towards the overflowing bin. His hand hovers over it for a long moment before, almost angrily, he flicks his wrist and drops them instead into the last box still standing open.
Once he and John have caught their breath among the sweaty, wrecked sheets of John’s bed – and John has chivvied them both through the shower – Sherlock dons his favourite periodic table T-shirt and a pair of John’s pyjama bottoms and removes all the photos from the walls, piling them neatly on John’s dressing table. John comes to help partway through and, when they’re finished, picks up the stack and rests a gentle hand on the small of Sherlock’s back as he asks, ‘Will you tell me about them?’
‘Alright,’ Sherlock says, and surprises himself by following John obediently down to their living room and allowing himself to be pulled down onto the sofa and wrapped up in John’s embrace. The cool spring evening has turned chilly after sunset and John lies half-reclining on the sofa, shoulders propped up against the armrest, with Sherlock half on top of him and the blanket tugged over their entangled legs.
It turns out that the photos have found someone who wants to coo over them after all; Sherlock suspects that John would vehemently deny it if charged with it, but nonetheless his eyes soften and he wears a half-smile while looking through them. He asks Sherlock about this or that one and listens while Sherlock tells him about Peter, turning his head every now and then to press an absent-minded kiss to Sherlock’s hair or forehead while he speaks. Sherlock stumbles in his story-telling, and hesitates, and repeats himself. The photos have ensured that he’s familiar with being desired, but he isn’t used to such freely given, non-sexual affection. He’s never felt so wanted and it throws him off-balance, but John only tucks him firmly against his side and listens patiently while he speaks.
Predictably, John spends a lot of time admiring the Calvin Klein photo – the one whose success had turned it from a national to a global advertising campaign – and as he looks at it Sherlock’s muscles almost start aching anew. He’d been exhausted by the end of that shoot, holding difficult poses for seemingly interminable lengths of time until the photographer was satisfied.
But John lingers for just as long, if not longer, over a photo that had been taken by Peter, far enough into their acquaintance that Peter had started to tease Sherlock during their sessions, trying to break his habitual impassivity and coax a real smile from him. More often than not he’d succeeded, and John holds one of the results in his hands. Sherlock is laughing in it, with a shaft of sunlight making his hair shine and turning his pale eyes a bright green, but the technical and composition elements of it are unremarkable and Sherlock lifts it out of John’s hands to set aside, saying ‘That’s only mediocre. Now this one, on the other hand –’
But John chases it and steals it back off him, and clings to it when Sherlock tries to take it away again.
‘I like it,’ John insists. ‘Not only has the photographer got those gorgeous eyes of yours, you actually look happy in it.’ He smiles down at the young Sherlock in the photo, and Sherlock watches the lines crinkle around John’s eyes. ‘Was this another one from Peter?’
‘Yes,’ Sherlock says and, out of nowhere, he has an almost visceral desire for a clove cigarette, an urge he hasn’t felt in years. ‘Taken in his studio.’
‘Good,’ John says, brushing an affectionate thumb over the corner of the photo. ‘I’m pleased that there was someone back then who could make you laugh like that.’
He aligns the photos neatly, more careful with them than Sherlock has ever been, and slides them back into their envelope.
‘Here,’ he says. ‘You should think about getting a couple of them framed, they’re lovely.’
John tries to hand the envelope back to Sherlock as he speaks but Sherlock shakes his head, pushes the envelope back toward John.
‘You keep them,’ he says. ‘For now.’
John’s eyes widen.
‘No.’ He looks down at the envelope, and then back at Sherlock. ‘Really?’
‘Yes,’ Sherlock murmurs, uncharacteristically shy. ‘If you want them.’
‘Are you mad?’ John’s grip tightens on the envelope. ‘Of course I want them, they’re beautiful.’ He opens the envelope and tips them partway out to look at again. ‘Wow.’
His eyes slide sideways to glance at Sherlock and he adds, ‘I feel like I’ve been given you – or part of you, at least – for safekeeping.’
Sherlock raises himself up on one elbow and looks incredulously at John; plain, unassuming, delightfully complicated John, who patches him up after cases with infinite care and who fights like a cornered tiger.
‘Idiot,’ he says at last, and leans in to breathe against his mouth: ‘You’ve had part of me for a very long time now. And you’ve always kept it safe.’