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Something Unusual, Something Strange

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"Why do we never have sex?" John asks across the kitchen table one day, in a perfectly innocuous kind of way.

There's nothing special about that morning, him sipping his coffee and Sherlock tinkering with something that looks toxic and smells antiseptic. But he long ago stopped worried about the things that come out of his mouth sounding strange, because he lives with Sherlock Holmes, and that's just the way things go.

"Pardon me?" Sherlock doesn't look up from the experiment, and John takes another sip of coffee before he explains.

"We live together. There's no point trying to lie, so I assume you're aware that I'm in love with you."


"And those feelings are reciprocated."

"Indeed," Sherlock replies, though this time he actually does look up, and meet John's eye.

"We don't have sex," John repeats, calmly, taking another sip.

"Not my area. I told you ages ago."

"But love is?"

Sherlock shrugs. "Honestly, John."

"I'm serious. You know you sometimes... act like you're coming on to me." John clears his throat, and now Sherlock looks genuinely curious.

"Oh? Explain."

"I don't know, you... drag me around by various body parts," John points out. "Invade my personal space. Sleep in my bed occasionally. Walk in on me naked. Use... that voice."

"What voice?"

"The 'do exactly as you're told' voice. And I'm not talking about on a case. I'm talking about here. At home. And sometimes your pupils are dilated. You look like you're aroused."

Sherlock nods abruptly. "I'm not interested in sex. I'm interested in other things."

John's eyebrows lift. "...other things?"

"Technically speaking, I am an asexual romantic with dominant tendencies. My behaviour as you describe it is likely influenced by the possessiveness I feel towards you, amplified by the aforementioned intervening element of love. I do not indulge in sexual interest; however, I do fantasise about you in an immovable position, underneath me."

John inhales sharply and has to concentrate to avoid choking. "You fantasise about tying me up?"

"There are variations."

John's cock throbs in his trousers. He has to remind himself very sharply that he isn't actually interested in the things Sherlock's describing. "I like sex, Sherlock. And I usually top."

"Yes. I have no intention of pursuing my fantasies in a physical sense."

"But you do fantasise about me?"

"Oh yes." Sherlock's voice is almost a purr, and were he anyone else, John would be leaning over to kiss him fiercely on the mouth. But something tells him not to do that, and instead he stands, comes around the table behind Sherlock, and hooks an arm around his chest, breathing in the scent of Sherlock's shampoo. Long fingers close tightly around his wrist and he lets them. It's no real hardship.


"Sherlock, really," John exclaims with an exasperated sigh when Sherlock flings the door open and stands there in his dressing gown, looking straight at John, wet and naked. Determined not to let Sherlock win, he doesn't immediately reach to cover himself, but instead starts towel-drying his hair.

"Really what, John?"

"You're standing there looking at me like you want to come in here and snog the fuck out of me, which would be perfectly lovely, but I know you're probably really thinking about hanging me from the shower rod or something and doing unpleasant things to my dangly bits."

That, at least, does get Sherlock to crack a smile, leaning in the door frame. "Honestly, John, you must have taken sufficient physics courses in pursuit of your medical degree to be aware that the shower rod wouldn't support your weight."

"Hmph. What do you think of, then?" John asks, tossing the towel over said rod and reaching for his toothbrush.

"Would you like to know? Certain scenarios you will almost certainly find objectionable."

"Yeah. I would," John decides on the fly, not looking at Sherlock as he sticks the toothbrush in his mouth.

"My fantasies are often mundane, in an erotic sense," Sherlock declares. "I simply imagine giving you the same orders I often do, but with the addition of an emotional response from you. Sometimes I think about stripping you naked--" John's eyebrows raise, but his mouth is full of minty foam so he doesn't interrupt "--and inspecting your body to observe your reactions. Or alternatively, simply to have you kneel at my feet."

John's brows knit together as he spits and rinses, then straightens up and eyes Sherlock. "You think about that, then? Me kneeling?"

"Oh," Sherlock smiles, stepping into the close steamy space and murmuring a few centimetres from John's lips. "Often."

His eyes are intense enough to make John shiver, and it isn't until Sherlock leaves the room that he notices his erection.


It's late one evening when John arrives home to find Sherlock sitting in the middle of the sofa, hands steepled in a "thinking" pose in front of his face, looking incredibly at ease in a pair of pinstriped trousers, navy satin peep-toed shoes with at least a four inch stiletto heel, a silky navy camisole, and a smart-looking women's blazer to match the trousers. He's remarkably unsurprised by this development, and he just waits for Sherlock to notice he's in the room before he asks.

"Is this... crossdressing, or are you trans?" John asks, waving a hand vaguely to indicate Sherlock's outfit. It's a little unsettling that despite all the time they've known each other he doesn't know the answer to his own question, but he doesn't find that he has a preference for what that answer is.

"I'm not a trans woman," Sherlock replies, and John notices the specificity. He decides to sit. "You are aware that my brain has two distinct states."

"Yeah, solving a puzzle and shooting up the living room."

Sherlock doesn't smile. "Indeed. The former personality is female. The latter is male."

John frowns a little. "You have multiple personality disorder?"

"No. Expand your perspective, doctor."

John shrugs. "All right. So... when you're solving cases, you're female?"

Sherlock nods.

"Are these clothes more comfortable for you at those times?"

"Yes and no. Cases are not the only times when I occupy my female self."

"They're not?"

Sherlock shakes his head sharply. "I do not, as a rule, choose to dominate another person as a man."

"Oh." John stares. "Uh... not that we're monogamous or anything..." Sherlock snorts, undoubtedly thinking of John's string of girlfriends before he left and the women he still woos on occasion without any real purpose. "...but I didn't think you were dominating anyone."

"I'm not," Sherlock specifies. "I have merely been thinking about it more frequently than usual. For which you should be thankful, as you will find the refrigerator stocked principally with edibles."

Well, that is a pleasant change. John realises, then, a beat later, why Sherlock's been thinking about it, and with whom, and his cheeks flush scarlet.

"Do you, um... prefer female pronouns when you're... en femme?"

"I do."

John sits in his chair, considering that. "Same name?"

Sherlock nods.

"Can you... explain, at all? Why it's female, I mean? Or maybe... not why it's female, but why cases and being dominant are the same part of your brain?"

"You're familiar with my method of solving cases. My thinking is far more active, focused, directed on a particular target... it's much the same with domination. The submissive is the target, their complete submission the goal. Often a submissive person believes that they are in submission at all times, but that is absolute rubbish. To find the tipping point is... intriguing."

"Oh God," John groans. "Please don't say you're looking for my tipping point."

At that, Sherlock flashes him a genuine grin. "Much as I could break you if I really wanted to, John, that has never been my goal."

"Thank God for small mercies," John sighs, and doesn't even blink when Sherlock's high-heeled shoes wind up in his lap. The whole thing is surprisingly--or quite unsurprisingly--uneventful.


"I can hear you thinking," John announces, his voice sleep-groggy as he shifts a little and feels Sherlock's arm tighten slightly around his waist, palm splayed on John's stomach. It's after midnight. Sherlock came to his room without asking, climbed into bed in a pair of navy blue pyjama bottoms, and snuggled up like this at John's back. He's not bothered, but he finds himself having trouble sleeping.


"Tell me?" There is a brief pause, maybe fifteen seconds, before Sherlock speaks in his usual low rumble, spiking a dull wave of arousal in John's lower belly.

"I would have you against the wall," he says, no emotion in it, and John's mind instantly supplies one image before Sherlock replaces it with another. "Your wrists bound with rope. Struggling, of course," he adds, and John feels the smile at the nape of his neck. "But I would place my palm against your throat and you would go still for me, underneath my hand. I would increase the pressure so gradually you wouldn't notice until you had no breath and were speaking my name silently, begging with your lips only."

John breath hitches at this bluntly-spoken fantasy and feels his dick rise under the sheet. He should say something, but he's captivated in the safe cool dark of the room.

"Perhaps I would push you down gasping and have you kiss my shoes, but I haven't decided yet."

John remembers those navy satin peep-toes, and though he'd rather imagine one skimming his calf as he snogs Sherlock senseless, that image is wrong somehow. He can't imagine Sherlock's fantasy either, but his fingers are twitching on his thigh.

"You may touch, John. I am not repulsed."

John doesn't miss the way Sherlock grants him permission, but he'll give him--her, he mentally corrects--that. He's always obeyed Sherlock, just as Sherlock's always known it's not like that for him. His hand shifts under the sheet and reaches inside his briefs, a low groan leaving his lips.

"I believe I would tease you," Sherlock continues. "As I said, I am not repulsed. Arousal doesn't interest me in a prurient sense, but it is useful."

John's cock twitches in his hand at the way Sherlock weaves present and fantasy together, skirting the limits as always. John feels like an adrenaline junkie begging for a hit around her. Sherlock's hand applies a little more pressure on his belly.

"Fuck," John whispers, jerking himself off in earnest. He squeezes his eyes shut tight, concentrating on that firm, circling pressure of Sherlock's hand, and only half-listening to the gentle melody of words coming from Sherlock's lips. Too much, all of it would be too much for John in reality, but he can listen. He can certainly listen.


John has a brief moment of alarm when Mycroft strides into the flat unannounced while Sherlock is still in case mode after a rather complicated one is solved, and she's lounging on the sofa in a silky kind of slip dress, black and lacy at the neckline. Before he can bolt out of his chair, though, Mycroft's just tossing Sherlock a snide look and tapping his umbrella against the floorboards.

"I require your attention, sister dear."

"Fuck off. I'm basking in my glory."

"Hmph. You could've solved that one in less time," Mycroft muses, his eyes sweeping over John and no doubt deducing how many times Sherlock has watched him wank thus far and what brand of cereal he had for breakfast at the same time. "You've been distracted." He raises his eyebrows, but John refuses to rise to the bait.

"Are you here for a reason, Mycroft?"

"Certainly. Mummy requests your presence at Easter, Sherlock."



"What will you to me do if I don't come?" Sherlock parries, re-crossing her legs the other way round, still reclining quite calmly.

"Oh, the question isn't what I'll do to you," Mycroft says, or rather leers, stepping closer to John's chair and giving him a look that John would really rather not decipher. In fact, he's about to stand up and give Mycroft what for when Sherlock abruptly rises, confiscates Mycroft's umbrella in a graceful move, and slices it through the air between them, creating an effective barricade at the level of Mycroft's pelvis. When John looks up to see her face, it is fixed in an icy expression on Mycroft, who smirks once again.

"Well that explains so much," Mycroft declares, gleefully.

"Far less than you think you know," John grumbles in rejoinder, because he hasn't turned into the damsel in distress overnight, and he really doesn't like the elder Holmes sibling deducing his sex life.

"You'll arrive Saturday night and remain through Easter Monday," Mycroft states, ignoring John and holding out his hand. John's certain Sherlock only returns the umbrella because without it Mycroft won't leave, but he does notice Sherlock shifting to stand between Mycroft and his chair, hands on her hips.

It's only when they hear the door slam shut downstairs that John rises to his feet and slips his hands around Sherlock's waist, palms smoothing up to press against her chest. Sherlock covers his hands immediately, pressing against them, and John smiles against the nape of her neck. "You know I don't mind," John murmurs. "If you get something out of standing up for me like that, it's okay. That you're a little protective."

Sherlock doesn't say anything, but she breathes deeply, and John thinks he feels her relax a little against his chest.

"It's complicated, how I feel about stuff like this," John adds after ten or twenty breaths have passed. "But...I'm really not any more normal than you are, even if I'm not a proper genius. So fuck Mycroft. No one gets to get us."

Sherlock turns suddenly in his arms at that, and beams. John smiles, realising he's said the right thing, and tips his head up to kiss Sherlock's forehead. If Sherlock holds him a little more tightly than usual, he's not going to say anything.


"You are mine," Sherlock says four hours later, fiercely, and unexpected as they've been sitting in silence, eating a curry.

John smiles and cocks his head to the side in acknowledgement. "In certain ways that matter," he agrees. "Yes." That'd be hard to deny, with the way Sherlock's flicked away his girlfriends like flies since the beginning, John's objections only half-hearted and unsuccessful, not to mention the long nights chasing Sherlock all over London despite work the next day. He is Sherlock's, more or less. Certainly his time is. Certainly the more important parts of his heart.

"I think about you leaving and it makes me want to crush something precious," Sherlock murmurs. John shivers then, because she almost--almost--sounds like Moriarty. Long-dead Moriarty, John reminds himself, something that he has to mentally repeat sometimes whether it staves off the nightmares or not.

"I'm not going anywhere."

"I know that." Sherlock takes a few bites, then presses her fingers into a grip around John's thigh, her eyes not meeting John's but focusing on his throat. "I would own every part of you, if I could," she whispers. "I want to keep you safe."

John wonders how cracked he is for thinking that's romantic. "Maybe you should stop taking me all over London to confront serial killers, then." Maybe you shouldn't have jumped off a building and let me watch. Except he's here and so is Sherlock and he's not sure how but there's some link between those three years and the solid fact that John and Sherlock are never, ever, letting each other go.

Sherlock sniffs with derision at the suggestion, fingers squeezing.

"Do you wish I were into the things you are?" John asks, his tone carefully soft and non-judgemental. "I mean... into your doing them to me?"

Sherlock considers maybe half a second, then shakes her head sharply. "I like to picture you tied down too tightly and gasping for mercy," she says, so evenly as John's cock sends a little bolt of pleasure up his spine. "But I like it more that you're willing to take those desires as part of me."

"Even though I don't want them?"

"Because you don't want them. Because you are unconditional."

John thinks that might possibly be the most profoundly touching thing Sherlock's ever said to him. He shoves a bite of lamb into his mouth.

"In any event," Sherlock smirks, breaking the moment. "I enjoy crossing lines. I like seeing you frustrated. There is never going to be a bright line marked between what's going on in my head and what's going on between us."

"No," John agrees, with a little smile to himself. "I didn't think so." He sips from his bottle of beer and nudges Sherlock's ankle. "That would be boring."


"Don't take this the wrong way," John murmurs late one night in bed, spooned up against Sherlock's chest and unable to sleep. "But how much of this dominance stuff have you actually... done?"

Fortunately, Sherlock just snorts a little at his ear. "Enough to realize my tendencies would be described by most as sociopathic."

John rolls his eyes, even though Sherlock can't be, and squeezes his hand. "You're not. I've seen you get emotional fulfilment from being what you are to me. Genuine emotional fulfilment."

"You've caught me, John," Sherlock says in a dull tone, but John doesn't miss the firm flat hand between his belly and his chest, anchoring him firmly to Sherlock's body.

"Do you think that's the equivalent of an orgasmic experience for you?" John muses. "Maybe what you get from dominating someone is similar to what others get from sexual release."

"Perhaps, in the sense of endorphin response," Sherlock concedes. "But decidedly less messy. And," he adds after a beat. "Decidingly more revealing."

John wonders what Sherlock has revealed to partners in the past that has left him vulnerable. He takes a sharp breath, wanting to squash any such people like bugs against the sidewalk, but Sherlock's pyjama-clad calf slips between his own and he calms a little. "I was so alone before you," John murmurs, a propos of nothing, into the darkness. It's the first time he's said it to Sherlock aloud, rather than to a forbidding stone of black marble. Sherlock squeezes him tighter.

"It would be hard for you to understand," Sherlock says gently in his ear, the low timbre of his voice soothing. "It is another kind of game, if not the Work it is still a kind of work, physically stimulating and satisfying to work out. Perhaps the point where I came closest to a precipice I never want to cross was on that rooftop..."

"Sherlock," John interrupts, but he keeps talking, tightening his hold to the point that John feels a pressure on his lungs.

"...not literally. But it's the triumph of reading and manipulating another human being that satisfies me, and most would find that sick. I don't know, for certain, for myself, whether I would never turn a partner into Jim Moriarty in my head, or Moriarty into..."

"No," John interjects sharply. "No, Sherlock," he insists with all the air he can force out of his lungs.

"You're playing with fire, John. This itch, it may not be sexual, but it is exciting. It does drive me to do stupid things. Sometimes with you," Sherlock whispers. "I would have your heart."

"You already do," John insists. "Don't try to make me fear you, because I won't. I will not."

"I know," Sherlock murmurs. They lie still for a long moment before he continues, some tension easing in his hold. "Perhaps it is a kind of climax. I have thought of the scene as a build-up to a musical crescendo, as the final movement in a symphony. You have to weave so many bits and pieces together, to build this beautiful thing and then take it down weeping and pick up the pieces." Sherlock shifts a little and the mattress creaks. "My mind sometimes goes quiet on the other side, after a very good session, and all the danger sifts away and I'm almost... responsible." He smiles against John's neck and it breaks John's heart to know that Sherlock considers it strange that he could be so. John knows better, because he's seen Sherlock do the right thing, even when every detail rarely falls into place.

"Responsible for the person you've taken down?"

Sherlock nods against the pillow. "It's known as aftercare. Caretaking, after the scene. You must find it funny to picture, me, taking care of someone." He laughs tightly and John twists in his arms.

"Not at all," he counters, kissing Sherlock's forehead lightly. "Is it nice?"

"Yes. Because they deserve it. It doesn't feel empty."

John wonders if holding him like this feels empty to Sherlock, and almost voices it. He pulls himself up short, but Sherlock grips his head, John's ears slotting between thumbs and fingers, and just breathes with him until doubts melt away.


Another case is wrapped up and unusually, Greg stays at their flat for dinner. It's hardly cosy and domestic, and Sherlock throws an orange at the wall at one point for no reason whatsoever, his masculine edges creeping in more quickly than the last time. But it's still nice, and John finds himself at the window, watching the detective peel away on his motorbike.

"You still have a bloody crush on Lestrade."

"He was helpful to me when you buggered off the face of the planet. Be nice."

"You had a crush on him long before them."

John doesn't deny it, because why bother? "You're behaving like a child. So what if I do have a crush? You haven't asked me to be monogamous. At some point you're going to have to pick someone up for a bit of play, Sherlock, and don't bother denying it."

"I won't."

"Good. Then you understand that at some point I may be sexually interested in someone else?"

"Yes," Sherlock agrees, jaw tightening.

"You don't like it."

"I don't like the idea that you might run away with someone else."

"That's rather bloody dramatic. Have you conveniently forgotten that I broke it off with my girlfriend and moved back into 221B the moment you showed up again?"

"No." Sherlock's face slowly shifts into a grin, and John finds himself grinning back.

"Git." He bends and picks up the orange from earlier, tossing it at Sherlock, who shoots a hand out to catch it effortlessly. "Seriously. I'm going to have crushes sometimes."

"I know."

"I'm in love with you," John reminds him, stepping closer. "With you." Sherlock bends and inhales, his nose against John's hair. John doesn't stop him.


"You're sexually frustrated," Sherlock declares with a grin one afternoon as they slide into the backseat of a cab.

"Sherlock!" John hisses, glancing between her and the resolutely-forward-staring cabbie as his cheeks start to warm.

"Don't be embarrassed, John, it serves no purpose. Camden Town, please."

"Camden? I thought her brother lives in Islington."

"He does. His lover works at a leather goods stall in Camden Market. We're going to question him."

"I'm not going to ask how you know that..."

"Right, then, is it his cologne? It's different today."

"Is it?" John frowns, surprised enough by the particular detail Sherlock selects that he's sidetracked from his indignation for a moment. "I didn't actually notice."

"Hmm. Peculiar."

"Why? Because people are supposed to notice things like that, in your estimation?" John nudges Sherlock's shoe lightly with his own.

"Because you always inhale deeper when you're close to me," Sherlock says, and her volume is lower, though whether out of discretion or a moment of feeling, John can't be sure. She does seem to be more inclined to sentiment since her glorious return, though John would never put it that way, out loud.

"If you must know," John whispers, leaning close, "I haven't had a wank since the case started and the trousers he's wearing today seem to fit particularly well."

"Ah." John's candid admission is rewarded with a wide smile. "At some point, we need to get him into jeans..."


"You know," John muses that night, when he's sitting in the kitchen with a cup of tea and Sherlock's giving some official-looking document a disgruntled look, holding the paper under the overhead light. "You've never asked me whether I was sleeping with him, when you were gone."

Sherlock makes a distracted noise. "You weren't."

"Yes, I know, but you didn't ask. Even if you'd deduced, I would have expected you to ask me why not. I did date. We spent a lot of time together. You're normally more jealous than that."

"Lestrade is straight. Even you do not possess the supernatural power to convert every man toward whom you feel sexual attraction."

John barks out a laugh. "Greg? Straight?"

"Well isn't he?" Sherlock frowns, looking away from the paper long enough to meet John's eyes.

"No!" John grins like he always does when he knows something Sherlock doesn't. "Not at all!"

"His ex-wife..."

"Oh, that." John rolls his eyes. "I just assumed you'd figured it out by now. Though... I suppose you do have a certain gap when it comes to understanding gender."

Sherlock's face falls for half a second, then shifts into something blank and hard, and John immediately slips off of his chair and goes around to wrap his arms around Sherlock from behind. "Of course not, love, not like that at all. If you even think it you're a bigger berk than I realised," he says, kissing softly behind Sherlock's ear with just a light touch that he thinks Sherlock will appreciate rather than suspect.

Sherlock sniffs and holds another document to the light.

"You're the most beautiful woman I know. You do know that."

Sherlock concedes with a very slight relaxation in his muscles that John feels and accepts for what it is.

"I meant my sister. And Greg's ex-partner, who is definitely not female, though I suppose it's not that surprising a mistake. He really doesn't date much, as far as I know. Or hasn't, since. Work and all that."

"It's never work," Sherlock muses. "Ordinary people always make that excuse, but when sexual activity is available and desired, they always find a way around it. Curious."

John smiles, because she's certainly right. "Maybe, but I haven't probed too far into Greg's personal life."

"No, only his arse."

"In my dreams," John snorts, and goes back to his side of the table and his tea.

Sherlock smiles slightly, holding the documents next to one another. "The shape of it, certainly."

"Certainly," John agrees, and doesn't even bother to correct her. It's true enough.


Sherlock lands on John's bed one evening in a terribly dramatic flop. "I'm bored."

"I can see that," John grumbles, slipping his hand as quietly as he can manage out of his pants.

"You're having a wank."


"Without me," Sherlock pouts.

"Yes, Sherlock, without you. I didn't think you were interested."

"Not in your penis."

John snorts. "I'm so flattered."

"Tell me what you were thinking about," Sherlock demands, propping up on one forearm with that "I have something to do" gleam in her eye. It's funny that John doesn't actually think of that instantaneous shift as a change in Sherlock's gender any more than he did before, though he's become used to thinking of Sherlock in her modes with the correctly gendered terms without even thinking about it. It's still "bored Sherlock" and "I have a case and/or a puzzle and/or a way to outsmart the entire world before breakfast Sherlock." And it's suddenly the latter with which he's faced.

"What if I won't tell you?"

"Oh," Sherlock purrs, looking positively luminous as her voice lowers and she dips her head closer to John's. "You wouldn't want to do that."

John bites his lip and makes a decision. "All right. I was thinking about Greg."

Another person might be upset, but Sherlock takes the challenge happily, pushing a hand up under John's shirt and stroking his chest. "Please. Continue. With narration."

John sighs and slips his hand back where it was, making a soft sound at the contact. "I'm not sure I can narrate, Sherlock. My brain doesn't go very verbal when I'm turned on."

"No? Interesting." Sherlock considers for a moment, fingertips gently caressing, and then continues full steam ahead. "Perhaps I can be helpful, then. Let's see. What would John like to do to Gregory Lestrade?"

John groans. He wonders how much Sherlock actually knows about vanilla sexual interests, though Sherlock knows about pretty much everything, so he doesn't expect a naïveté that Sherlock's virginity might suggest.

"You've been eyeing his arse enough. I'm certain you'd like to put your hand on it. Perhaps a smack or two wouldn't be outside your usual realm of activities, provided it's only foreplay?"

And John can imagine that, actually he can specifically imagine Greg in jeans and motorcycle leathers, as he's seen him off-duty quite a few times, and he can imagine giving a few firm smacks even as he tugs Greg into his arms and kisses him senseless. He feels guilty sometimes, when his thoughts towards Greg turn too romantic, but they've been friends so long and through so much, and he just can't see Sherlock minding that, not when it's so obvious that Sherlock holds John's heart.

"You're agitated beyond your normal arousal responses. Why?"

John curses under his breath.

"Tell me. Now." Sherlock's voice is smooth as honey but no less demanding, and though he'd never submit to Sherlock in the bedroom, doing as she says is something John's been doing since the very first day they met.

"I think about kissing him. Having him here. Does that bother you?"

Sherlock doesn't answer at first, and John imagines she's running scenarios. "Here alone?"

"Not necessarily. I mean, I don't know if you want to be doing biology experiments in the kitchen while I'm shagging fantasy-Greg on the sofa, but if you'd like...."

"I always want to be there," Sherlock says firmly, and suddenly she's inserted herself into John's fantasy life just as firmly as she has into his day-to-day, as John's never going to be able to imagine himself fucking someone again without Sherlock right there in the daydream, studiously watching. Maybe Sherlock has more control over him than John would like to admit.

"Okay," he says instead, a little shaky. "Then with you there."

"That's fine. You share a close friendship, as well as sexual interest in your case. I suppose your most forbidden fantasies blend these things?"

John nods before he notices he's doing it.

"Forbidden by whom?"

John frowns and Sherlock pinches his nipple. "Oi! Fuck, okay, fine, then, by you, Sherlock. I don't want to disappoint you."

Sherlock smiles and kisses his forehead. "Not at all, John. But you've stopped," she murmurs. "And I didn't say you could do that."

John hesitates--shaky territory, here, as always with Sherlock, rather liminal--and then plunges ahead.

"So you're thinking about kissing Lestrade. Perhaps here, in your bed. Would you like that, John?"

John nods quickly. Easy enough to imagine.

"I wonder what you would think if I sat in that chair in the corner, watching you fuck him."

John hisses in a sharp breath. Fuck him. Fuck him fuck him fuck him. Sherlock's voice should absolutely be banned. Possibly internationally. He'll get Mycroft on that right after he regains his higher brain functions. Oh God, fucking him. While Sherlock watches. And it's obvious Sherlock didn't miss some tiny biometric signal always being there triggered in John, but fuck-it-all. He may not be an exhibitionist but it's a fantasy, he'll take it.

"Keep going," John mutters through gritted teeth, jerking faster.

"I wonder if you would try to be quieter, knowing that you weren't alone in the room. I think you might at first, out of some sense of propriety. But Greg... no, I don't think so," Sherlock pronounces with a wicked smile, breath moist and hot at John's ear. "I think he'd enjoy being fucked with an audience, and I think he'd be greedy for it. Perhaps he'd beg for your cock and you'd be so shocked, you'd forget to be embarrassed."

John hiss-moans in a pained sort of way, coming before he has a chance to shove his pants down. He could pretend he doesn't hear Sherlock's next words, except in some part of his brain maybe he wants to hear them, far-off and thoughtful in a tone that suggests she hasn't even noticed John's orgasm. "Perhaps... he'd thank me after you had finished." John doesn't know what thank me means here, exactly, but there's something in Sherlock's tone to suggest it's more significant than it sounds. John fumbles for Sherlock's hand, and catches his breath.

Chapter Text

When John tells Sherlock he's going over to Lestrade's flat for a pint one night, he gets the mother of all smirks in return, but at least Sherlock sends him off in peace rather than whining about being bored or insisting on his presence for an experiment. They're starting a second beer when the topic of relationships comes up, and Greg just lets out a little groan of frustration.

"Don't even start. At least you've got Sherlock to live with, bloody crazy as he is. This flat doesn't feel any less empty over the years."

"Then why not do something about it?" John asks. "Loads of gay pubs in London, how hard could it be?" True, it's been years since he actually went to one, but he's pretty confident Lestrade could pull given his physique and that slight bad boy edge.

"Hard enough," Greg shakes his head. "Most of the blokes at the pub aren't looking for someone like me."

"What, a copper?"

Greg smacks his good shoulder with a pillow. "Oi, fuck off."

John grins. "What, then?"

Greg shakes his head. "I have... unusual tastes, mate, let's leave it at that."

"Like what? Nothing's so strange that you can't pull. You're an attractive man," John says, taking a quick drink from his glass so he doesn't show his embarrassment at admitting it so openly.

"Ta," Greg smiles, seeming to debate a moment and then letting it out. "Look, don't tell Sherlock or anything, but... I've been a part of the leather community for a really long time. My partner wasn't just my partner or my husband, he was my dominant, if you catch my meaning."

"Oh." John takes another big swallow of beer, but keeps talking before Greg misinterprets his surprise. "That's... huh. Well it's not that unusual, though. I'm fairly certain."

"Sexually not that unusual," Greg agrees. "But it's easier to pull for a night than it is to find someone to make a flat less lonely," he says, then barks out a laugh, shaking his head. "Sorry. I'm really not this pathetic, it's just... a complicated situation."

John nods. "I understand." Complicated situations involving one's love life, he certainly understands. "If you don't mind... I do have one question, though."

Greg waves his hand in agreement. "Go on."

"If you like... the kinky stuff..." John starts awkwardly, "do you, erm, like sex, as well?"

Another laugh stutters up out of Greg's throat and he gives John an incredulous look. "Fucking right I do! As well, along with, any way you want to slice it." He shakes his head. "What gave you the idea to ask that?"

John shrugs, forcing himself not to visualize any of the scenarios Greg's just hinted at. "I... know some people," he says vaguely. "Not everyone who does the dominance and submission thing makes it sexual."

"No," Greg agrees, nodding and becoming more serious. "That's true. But I definitely do. Sex, relationships, all of that, it just goes with the kinkier stuff. I like my submission to be blended in with some fairly run-of-the-mill shite. And I can't believe we're talking about this."

John smiles and then he realizes that if he doesn't take this opening, he may not get another. Steeling himself, he takes a deep breath and puts the beer down. "You know, I actually can," he admits, scooting across just half the distance between them on the sofa. "Just last night, I had Sherlock in my bed, supplying dirty thoughts that featured your thighs and Sherlock's riding crop. And I was wanking. And thinking about fucking you." He gives Greg his hardest look, imagining Sherlock's own fantasies in reverse and considering what Greg might like now that he has the benefit of this new information about his friend. "That wasn't the first time, either. You know, that's what Sherlock does. Not fucking, but dominating people. Sherlock tells me about kneeling and kissing shoes and boys begging to be beaten. You wouldn't guess from looking at Sherlock, would you, Greg?" He's purring now, confident because Greg looks like a small startled animal but he's also red and still and not moving away as John presses up against his side and strokes Greg's jaw with his fingertips.

"You're fucking with me," Greg whispers.

"Hopefully I'll be fucking you," John counters. "Sooner rather than later."

Greg lets a sound loose that's a little like a whimper and John grips the back of his neck. Greg tries to push forward into a kiss, and John wants that so badly but he resists, pulling back and holding Greg where he is. Greg blinks and stills, and John almost thinks he sees what it is that Sherlock likes in the surge of power he feels and what he sees in Greg's eyes. Still, he stops, because the next bit is important.

"Wait," John murmurs. "There's something else we need to talk about. And I don't want to do this without him."

Greg frowns, but nods. Sherlock would kill them both, and John's pretty sure Greg gathers from John's little tale that Sherlock wants to be present when John's doing anything like what he's implying right now.

"I'm not exactly sure how to explain this," John admits, putting a little bit more space between them and lifting his glass from the coffee table. "But I think it's best you get your questions out with me, and see whether you're still interested. Even if it's just a scene or whatever, it's still us, and it's going to change things."

Greg nods. "Couldn't not," he agrees, voice a bit rough and pupils dilated. John really wants to get his clothes a bit more rumpled, but he's not having a quick shag with Greg, not now that he's privy to this information that Sherlock doesn't have, and not with Sherlock's--well, frankly, Sherlock's rule--hanging over him.

"You're gay, right? Pretty much 100%?"

Greg nods.

"Well, I'm not. As you may have noticed. Maybe 60/40 towards women. And this thing I'm going to tell you was sort of a surprise, but sort of wasn't. Didn't get in the way of things, at any rate." John smiles and shakes his head. "All right, the basics... Sherlock isn't just one gender. Not like multiple personalities, I mean Sherlock, the one you've known for years, isn't just male. He sort of...slides. And most of us are too dumb to notice."

Greg blinks. "Slides?" He frowns, shifting his weight and giving John a look of confusion. "So he what, crossdresses sometimes?"

"No. Well, yes, you'd think so, but that's not really the point of it. Sherlock doesn't really make distinctions like that, I mean the coat and scarf aren't particularly masculine..." John stops, not wanting to veer too far into a tangential point, and puts a steadying hand on Greg's knee. "It's not like putting on female and taking it off and he's male. All of it's entirely Sherlock... actually, you know her better than the male side, because her case mode is her female mode. So it's more a matter of shifting how you're thinking of her then than it is Sherlock having changed at all. It helps me to see it that way, anyhow. It makes a lot more sense than you'd think, once it's explained to you."

"Bloody hell." Greg scrubs a hand over his face. "I should've known this would be confusing. It is Sherlock."

"Yeah," John agrees, giving his shoulder a sympathetic squeeze. "I don't even know if all this is really an issue for you in terms of the submission stuff, because Sherlock doesn't do the sex part. And I don't do the kink part," he adds hastily, because he can see how Greg might have got that impression from his behavior.

"No?" Greg raises an eyebrow and gives him that deadly sexy smirk he takes on when he smells triumph. "Could you be convinced?"

John laughs and shakes his head. "Not of all the stuff Sherlock describes, mate. I'm happy to top in bed. Very happy," he amends, giving Greg's body a quick up-and-down with his eyes. "But trust me on this, if you really want the kinky stuff, she's a far better choice. And...very good at it, I gather."

"Of course he is," Greg mutters, then corrects himself with a blush. "She, sorry, that might take some getting used to."

"I figured. I know it's new, but I just can't see being intimate the way we're talking without you knowing. And, well, back to my original point, no sex. So you might consider whether you're actually interested in the kinky stuff with a woman."

Greg nods. "I've done it before," he says, surprising John. "I mean, that's not really what sexual orientation's about if we're just talking about casual play. When someone's flogging you, who cares what parts they have, right?"

"I suppose," John agrees, thinking unwillingly to Irene.

"But, like you said, it's going to be hard to make it just a scene, even if we only do it the once. And if we like it, we're around each other enough that it's likely to come up again. So it's more... intimate, like you said, than just going to a club because you want to hurt."

John nods, wondering how often Greg goes to clubs "just" to hurt, and what that even looks like. "Honestly, I like the idea of her topping you. I don't like thinking of her going to some club where I can't make sure she's all right and don't know who..." He shrugs sheepishly. "I suppose we both have a bit of a jealous streak. But you're different."

"Flattered," Greg murmurs, turning his glass in his hands. "I've never had a relationship, or anything ongoing, with a woman. But then you're telling me I already do, in a way. I mean, Sherlock..." Greg shakes his head with a smile that to John, indicates disbelief.

"Do you want to sleep on it?"

"Honestly? No. I'm not desperate or anything, but... the basics of this make sense for us, and I'm tired of meaningless encounters, you know? And if there's one thing Sherlock couldn't be, it's meaningless."

John nods and clinks his glass to Greg's. "That's a yes, then?"

"I think it is, yeah," Greg agrees. "I mean... it's not as simple as being about his body. I'm attracted to people I perceive as men. But..."

"And that will change with Sherlock," John interrupts. "You'll start thinking of her as a woman on cases, and probably when she's topping you. Honestly, I'd be put off if you didn't. And she's not going to change her clothes to suit you. She likes the feel of fabrics... Well, you know that."

"Bloody expensive ones," Greg agrees.

"Yeah. Sometimes I think the coat and scarf are a bit like covering. Protective barrier. You know," he adds. "This may come as a surprise, but I think she needs more validation, once you know. She needs you to take her seriously whether she's in female mode or male. It's a point of vulnerability with her. And if you ever laugh, or make fun of her, or tease about the gender stuff, I'll shoot you with your own gun."

"I'd do the same," Greg replies with an unexpected intensity in his unblinking expression. John supposes it shouldn't be unexpected--they both have a dedication to protecting Sherlock when Sherlock is vulnerable.

"Good. Should we go, then? He should be home."

"Yes, please," Greg replies, and John can't help but laugh at the gleam in his eyes when he grins. Like spoiled children, they are, the lot of them.


"Hi. I've brought Greg," John announces as he walks into the living room, finding Sherlock in his chair. Thinking, maybe, but not locked inside his mind palace, as he responds readily enough.

"Good evening, Inspector. What are you doing here?"

Greg flashes John an uncertain look, but John shakes his head and motions for him to step all the way into the flat.

"We had a talk tonight, Sherlock. Greg and I." At that, he meets John's eyes, brows raised. John forges on, not wanting Sherlock to put voice to any conclusions he's drawn until he knows what was actually discussed. "You didn't know that Greg was, erm... in the same scene as you, I don't think." John does actually get a shift in facial expression at that, but he just keeps going, wanting to get everything out. "I told him. I thought it was relevant, about... the dominance stuff. And the gender stuff too, all of that, I mean, if we're going to... if there's a possibility at least that we might... the kinds of things we've discussed would be... I know it's private, but I really think he needed to know, and he's not going to tell any..."


John's mouth clamps shut, adrenaline flowing through his veins. He actually hadn't thought too hard about privacy and all that, because Greg's known Sherlock longer than he has, and there's no way they could go here if Greg didn't know. Even if only John and Greg fucking, with Sherlock present, John wouldn't be able to trust his ability not to let on certain things about Sherlock through his language. He's relieved, though, when Sherlock doesn't snap at him or storm out, but instead rises langorously from her chair and presses two fingertips under John's chin, lifting it ever so slightly. Sherlock's expression very slowly, deliberately, shifts into a smile.

"How long, do you think, given my particular and lengthy history with the Detective Inspector, would it take for me to slot this new piece of data into place and deduce everything there is to know about him as a submissive?" Her words are for John but her eyes are hot on Greg over John's shoulder, travelling from floor- to eye-level.

"Thirty seconds?" John suggests, just a bit cheeky. Did I actually say the word submissive? he wonders, but can't recall.

"Mmm." Sherlock's voice is a low rumble now, breath warming John's face. "But there's always something to miss," she murmurs, sounding eager. The challenge, John thinks. It wouldn't be much fun for Sherlock if she literally knew everything right off. "Did you tell him that this isn't a sexual interest?" she asks. The question is loud enough for Greg to hear, and despite what John now knows about his friend, he's surprised that there's no frustrated response to Sherlock acting like he's not even in the room, treating his opinions as irrelevant. Hesitating, John turns to see Greg standing behind him and is almost taken aback by how red Greg's face is, how excited he appears to be. His hands are behind his back for some reason and it looks like he's sweating a bit. He definitely doesn't look angry or frustrated. It suddenly occurs to John that rather than their fantasy scenario of Sherlock watching John and Greg, John may be the one watching here, at least at first, and he wonders what he's going to see.

"I told him," John murmurs.

"And you're comfortable being dominated by a woman?" Sherlock asks, eyes meeting Greg's this time. "John told me that you're gay."

"I have been dominated by a woman," Greg admits. "And I am gay. I wouldn't want to have sex with you... while you're a woman," he says, tripping a little over the vocabulary. "But I want you to top me. I haven't really gone down in a long time. And if it becomes uncomfortable later, with the femininity, I can always tell you then." John takes note of the fact that Greg's definitely not framing it as a one-off, and he wonders if it's wishful thinking or if this really could be a thing. Given that Sherlock's involved, maybe it has to be.

Sherlock cuts him off though, waving a hand, and pulls away from John slightly. "It's silly to waste time considering a hypothetical." John watches as she gives Greg one more long, considering look, then speaks. "You will strip fully naked now."

John gulps, hard, but Greg doesn't flinch. "Yes, Ma'am," he replies evenly, before Sherlock has closed the space between them with two long strides and calmly gripped his chin hard enough to bruise.

"Miss," Sherlock rasps. Greg nearly squeaks it back.

When Sherlock brushes past Greg to turn the deadbolt on the front door, John gets a good look at Greg, still red as a beet, eyes wild, shedding his jacket. His trousers look uncomfortably tight around the zipper. Sherlock stalks past them both, looking triumphant, to her own bedroom, and John only pauses a moment before following her.

"Holy shit," John whispers once he's closed the door behind himself. "You... you're going to let me watch, right?"

Sherlock answers with a grin. "I thought you might like to be a participant observer," she suggests, toeing off her shoes and going to her wardrobe to remove a riding crop. Whether it's the same one she uses to flog corpses, John isn't going to ask. He licks his dry lips and shifts his weight.

"Why do I get the feeling that's a dangerous suggestion, when it's you?"

"Because you know it is, John, don't be dull." She sits on the bed to work her feet into a pair of leather women's boots, rolling the cuffs of her trousers up to zip them to mid-calf. "The thrill you get from danger is a most welcome addition to this equation. Surely Gregory will want you to fuck him when we're through."

John groans softly and gets another grin from Sherlock.

"If I let you," she adds.

"You're lethal," John murmurs, tipping her head back with his hands and just looking at her face for a moment, their knees brushing. "All right," he concedes. "Tell me what I'm supposed to be doing for this. Are there rules?"

"Generally the word 'red,' or simply 'safeword,' is a universal signal to stop. Otherwise, don't be the good doctor and try to thwart me. I know what I'm doing," she declares, reaching up to brush a finger over John's jaw. He holds back the unexpected urge to suck the fingertip. "If you need to leave the room, you may. I'd rather you stay."

With that, John knows he isn't going anywhere. "All right." He nods. "Your lead."

"Always," Sherlock agrees with a hint of menace behind it. John leaves the bedroom first, and nearly missteps when he first sees Greg, stark naked and kneeling in the middle of their living room.

"Well the porn got one thing right," John mutters under his breath, and it's a sign of her dominant headspace perhaps that Sherlock doesn't giggle.

"Forehead on the floor," Sherlock says in a crisp, clear tone. She doesn't bark the order, but Greg responds quickly, tipping forward with his hands behind his back and his head bowed. Sherlock stops next to him and brushes the end of her crop down Greg's spine. John decides to take a seat in his usual chair, as good a vantage point as any.

"I suppose we should start with the tedious preliminaries if this is to serve as a properly educational demonstration for Doctor Watson. Hard limits?"

"Elimination, for the most part. You can negotiate piss. Same with blood." John stares, but keeps his mouth shut tight. He wonders what kind of man would offer Sherlock Holmes his blood. What kind of man other than him.

"I can negotiate anything I like," Sherlock interrupts, giving the left buttock a light whack that earns her a hiss from Greg. "Hard limits only."

There's a brief pause before Greg continues. "Being left unattended. Permanent damage. Anything that could be reasonably interpreted as a serious violation of RACK," he adds after a moment's contemplation. "I wouldn't bother asking for SSC with you, Miss." Though John doesn't know what that means, he hears an edge of humour in Greg's tone, and Greg gets a much harder smack to the right buttock for his trouble. Greg cries out and Sherlock smirks.

"I won't ask what you like. I'm going to find out," she declares, circling Greg and nudging the toe of her boot against his forehead. "I may allow you to do these later. You may kiss them now."

John's throat feels parched as he watches Greg lift his head just enough to reach forward and press his lips softly, reverently to the leather toe. He takes his time, lips parting slightly, but doesn't leave the surface wet. His eyes stay down as he shifts to the other, bestowing it with the same gentle kiss. John doesn't know why that gesture gets him, but it does, and he groans softly under his breath.

"John," Sherlock grins, redirecting her attention, though she shifts the tip of the crop to Greg's lips without looking, and it gets similar treatment from Greg's deferential mouth. John wonders how much of what he does is some kind of collectively-understood protocol, and how much is Greg's own style. He has a desire to know more about the little details of Greg's own habits, details that others don't.

"The hands-off rule only applies to the submissive," Sherlock declares, interrupting his thoughts. "Please," she says, voice low and suggestive and more demanding than pleading, "take liberties." John holds her gaze with heat in his expression, palm pressing down as he spreads his legs, and Sherlock's eyes almost seem to promise "later," though what later means is unconventional for them.

Sherlock taps the crop lightly against one of Greg's cheeks, then the other. "Look at me," she orders, putting it under Greg's chin. John resolutely does not think of Irene. "How long has it been since someone hurt you?" Sherlock asks.

"About... four months."

"Did he put you under?"

"No, Miss."

"Why not?"

"Because I wouldn't allow it," Greg replies firmly. Sherlock looks almost proud when she hears that answer.

"Since someone put you under, then?"

"Two years... two years and a month."

"Christ," John mutters. He's not sure a submissive dry spell is quite the same thing as the usual, but still.

"John sounds sympathetic. I like John, so I'm going to make you beg for me, Gregory. Do you want to fly tonight?"

Greg closes his eyes briefly and his body visibly shudders. "Please, Miss."

Sherlock's lips turn up in a quirky grin. "You're going to want to watch this, John. I have a feeling Gregory is going to be spectacular."

John's so unused to hearing compliments from Sherlock's lips that he feels a brief surge of jealousy, but the way Sherlock looks at him eases that ache, making him feel very much a part of their little world. He nods his acceptance, lowers the zip on his trousers, and Sherlock looks satisfied.

"Get up," she orders, whacking Greg's flank as he starts to rise. Though John hasn't paid much attention to what heels do for Sherlock's height, as she always towers over John, it's noticeable when she's standing next to Greg in those stiletto boots, giving her four inches on the detective. "Clear off that ottoman, and put it in front of John. You'll put your cheek on his thigh if you think you can behave yourself," Sherlock commands, stroking a finger over Greg's mouth to make it clear exactly what she means.

"Yes, Miss," Greg murmurs. "I will." As he moves stacks of books and papers, Sherlock turns to John and quirks a smile at him.

"Good so far?" she asks in an intimate tone, putting one knee between John's thighs and shifting her weight forward. John instinctively leans back into the chair, his hand pausing on his dick.

"Yeah," he agrees, licking his lips. Dangerous, dangerous, his inner voice supplies, a breath hitching in as Sherlock crowds him, knee pushing right up against John's balls through his trousers. Sherlock reaches up to touch his face, but not with her free hand, the leather-wrapped handle of the crop pressing into his cheek. He wonders if it'll leave a brief pink mark of its pattern. "It's going to look worse than it is," Sherlock whispers in a warning, but then she smirks. "Or maybe not. It'll be pretty bad."

John nods. "You'll make it good for him."

"He likes it to hurt," Sherlock agrees, a kiss of breath puffing over John's lips before Sherlock pulls away to make room for the ottoman. "Down," she orders, and Greg doesn't ask any questions, just flattens himself over the ottoman, glancing up at Sherlock for permission and then pressing his cheek against John's thigh when he gets it in the form of a nod. John licks his lips again and rests a hand tentatively in Greg's hair, the other tightening at the base of his cock. Slow, he reminds himself.

"Don't count," Sherlock orders. "And no need to thank me, it's implied."

The sharp sound of leather on skin startles John, though Sherlock isn't hitting that hard, using speed over strength to start. The quick flurry of slaps doesn't abate, though, and John doesn't think he'd like to feel it on his skin.

"Atta boy," John murmurs, feeling absurdly silly. Greg moans softly, though, and says something John almost doesn't hear, lips moving against cloth.

"Thank you, Sir."

John frowns, looking up to see if Sherlock's heard. She has, but her expression is lenient, eyebrow raising to leave it up to John without breaking stride.

"I think... just John, please. Is 'boy' the right thing?"

"Please," Greg agrees, his voice sounding a little shaky as Sherlock's strikes become harder and more spaced. "Please, if you don't mind."

"Not at all," John agrees, fascinated by this new side of Greg and by how Sherlock draws it out of him. John's hand grows more confident in Greg's hair, stroking gently and using his nails to scratch. With his other hand he strokes himself in slow, long pulls. He wonders if he's really going to be able to fuck Greg after this, and whether it matters. When Sherlock catches his eye again, their gazes locked as Sherlock brings her arm further back and really lays into Greg's arse and thighs, John gives himself up to a deep shiver. Blood pulses into his genitals and he whimpers just barely. The heat in Sherlock's eyes shows that she hears it, even over Greg's groans and bare shouts.

"Not so loud," Sherlock orders, and John quickly bites his lip. Sherlock smiles. "Not so loud, boy," she rephrases. John feels his own blush. "Don't want Mrs. Hudson to know what a slut you are, do you?"

"No, Miss," Greg gasps through the pain. His hands clench John's thighs, and John doesn't stop him.

"You're all right," John murmurs, wondering how he can feel both protective and intensely aroused at the same time. "Just breathe through it, you can do it. You look amazing."

Greg's eyes don't move, maybe because Sherlock hasn't told him they can, but John does catch his smile. As he breathes and Sherlock continues without showing any signs of exertion, Greg starts to go more relaxed under John's hand, his breathing slow and even. John frowns, uncertain, but Sherlock nods when he looks up. It's expected. It's okay. John turns his attention to his own need and lets himself rub faster, intending just a little bit more before he warns Greg...

But suddenly, Sherlock swings her arm in a wicked arc and Greg cries out, head snapping up instinctively. At that sound, at that sudden movement driven by only instinct, Greg's face slack and open, John's suddenly coming, gripping Greg's hair, painting his face with semen.

"Oh... oh shit, I'm sorry, I'm..."

"No," Sherlock snaps, catching John's eye as she very deliberately hits Greg that hard once more. John gasps and holds that hard gaze as another stream of come paints Greg's nose and cheeks. Fuck it. He is so far gone.

"Mmm," Greg murmurs, and John looks back down, realizing that Greg's beaming, looking almost loopy as he licks his lips. John raises his eyebrows. "Don't wanna get'yer trousers dirty," Greg mumbles cheerfully, sounding a little like he does when he's drunk but not quite the same. John looks up. Sherlock's not hitting Greg anymore. He wonders if he's messed something up.

"No," Sherlock purrs. "We wouldn't want that." She lays the crop down on the other chair and kneels behind Greg, tugging him back by the hair. John lets him go easily, catching his breath as he watches Sherlock hold Greg with a strong arm tight across his chest. Sherlock rests her chin on Greg's shoulder and breathes in deeply, sniffing, John realizes. He's going to die of mortification. "Interesting," Sherlock declares with a bright smile. "Don't think we're done, boy," she warns, pressing her teeth hard to Greg's neck and grinding against his arse. Greg whines high in his throat, clearly trying to stifle the sound.

"No, Miss!" he gasps. "Please..."

"Go to the toilet. Clean your face and have a piss. Put on tea and coffee, and be back in twenty minutes."

Greg follows instructions wordlessly, and John shoots Sherlock a confused look. "That won't take twenty minutes."

Sherlock rolls her eyes. "He'll find a way to amuse himself." She tucks John back in, zipping him up, and then straddles John's lap, up on her knees, cupping the back of John's neck and guiding John's head to her chest. "Do you want to fuck him later?" she asks conversationally, and John laughs against expensive fabric.

"You really haven't changed."

"Of course not." Sherlock sounds almost offended. John leans back a little to see the excited flare in her eyes.

"You have more puzzle to solve with him."

"Mmm. I have much more puzzle to solve with him," Sherlock declares with the kind of glee that usually only comes when the Game is on.

"Will you let me do a medical check?"

"For that?" Sherlock sniffs. "I'll give you something to do a medical check on, don't worry. But not yet." Danger, John's brain reminds. He holds Sherlock close again and tells it to bugger off.


Chapter Text

John shouldn't be surprised when Greg re-appears just at the ordered time, carrying two mugs at the perfect temperature--tea for John, sweetened coffee for Sherlock. Sherlock has shifted to sit in John's lap sideways, legs flung over the chair arm, and they haven't been talking much. Greg doesn't blink an eye at Sherlock's position, just hands them their mugs and then kneels in front of the chair, awaiting further instruction.

John is surprised when Sherlock shifts, swinging her legs around, and props her calves up on Greg's shoulder, legs crossed neatly one over the other. "Uh... Sherlock, really, that can't be comfortable."

"Oh, I'm fine," she grins, sipping at her coffee. John rolls his eyes though he can't be seen and splays his free hand on Sherlock's stomach.

"Clearly not what I meant."

"Gregory, are you comfortable?" Sherlock purrs. Greg's mouth quirks in a little smile.

"Quite, Miss."

"Why don't you explain why you like it? John could benefit from hearing this."

"Because you've put me in headspace, Miss, and being used in this way is calming when I'm in headspace. I appreciate quiet moments."

"And I suppose you deduced that?" John asks, taking a sip of his own tea and then nuzzling Sherlock's shoulder blade.

"Naturally. Gregory enjoys a touch of protocol. He normally goes for masochistic pleasures because they're easy to obtain, and sufficient trust is required to reach at least some level of headspace easily, without the severe pain that naturally triggers an endorphin response. He can sink at least part of the way into his subspace through orders and manipulation, but reinforcement such as this helps. He'll be going much deeper this evening, and therefore a period of rest is beneficial to ensure his endurance. I wouldn't want him giving up on me before I'm through," Sherlock says, slow and sharp. John can't see his eyes narrowing but he can guess, as Greg's looking like a cross between a deer in the headlights and a man desperate for a wank. He bows his head slightly.

"What are you going to do to him?"

"Mmm. I haven't decided yet. Further experimentation. We're going to find out what makes our friend tick, and then I'm going to exploit it while you watch. If he's good, he'll get a reward. You'll like the reward too, John."

"Well, thank God for small mercies," John mutters, half hard with Sherlock's weight in his lap. He gulps down some more tea.

Sherlock laughs lightly and shifts her feet, leaving one on Greg's shoulder but pushing the other against the front of the opposite shoulder, digging the heel into naked skin. She does it again, an inch lower, and John watches the tiny round marks appear as she continues, sipping his tea. Greg still seems relatively relaxed, breathing slowly as she pokes at him. As one heel scrapes up the front of his shoulder, the other goes up the back of the other, and the Sherlock's simply scraping and pressing at random, as far as John can tell. It can't be enough to really hurt, but it must be an uncomfortable pressure.

After a few minutes, she drops her feet to the floor, shifting forward onto the chair between John's legs, and leans forward to stroke Greg's face. As John watches, her nails scrape over his cheek and jaw, then trail lower, fingertips stroking his neck. He expects her to continue ramping up the pain, but she doesn't do that at all, instead simply stroking Greg's chest, his thighs, all light random touches. Greg's breathing is still steady, and John decides it must be deliberate as Sherlock rises and circles him, crouching down to administer the same treatment to his back. John puts his teacup down and meets Greg's eyes, and he realizes with a little thrill that Greg's holding his gaze because he thinks John wants him to.

John's not a dominant, exactly, but nor is he submissive in this, so he doesn't ask Sherlock before he leans forward, kissing Greg lightly on the mouth and stroking his cheek. Greg remains silent, but he relaxes into the kiss, letting John indulge himself. Sherlock doesn't vary her pattern, though John does feel Greg's body jerk when her fingertips caress his sides. As they work together, John starts to figure out what she's playing at, exactly. Greg's half-voiced sounds provide a clue, growing more and more needy as the minutes pass.

"Killing with kindness, are you?" John smiles against Greg's mouth.

"Mm," Sherlock agrees. "His knees won't hold up much longer. Help him to the bedroom."

John decides to ignore the fact that those words were more or less an order, and instead grasps Greg's forearms, giving him support as he gets to his feet, groaning a little as his knees stretch out straight. He doesn't actually need help, though, he's not fragile, and so they simply walk to Sherlock's bedroom, John going in first.

"Open your mouth," Sherlock purrs, and John twists around quickly to see them standing face to face, Greg's jaw obediently slack. Her nails dig into his cheeks, scraping slowly downward. John sits on the edge of the bed and watches as she does it again and again. They're staring directly at one another, and it should be very strange to watch, but a thin trail of saliva drips from the corner of Greg's mouth after a minute and John feels his submission like a punch in the gut. He presses his palm against his returning erection and watches Sherlock smirk and lightly smack Greg's cheek. "Swallow."

John just stares and debates whether it's a good idea to put his hand on his cock again when he's been all but promised a later fuck. Sherlock makes up his mind for him, gesturing for him to scoot to the side.

"Get up on the bed," she orders Greg. "Chest to your knees, cheek to the mattress. Palms flat next to your face." The order's clear enough and Greg responds quickly, spine curving as he assumes the position ordered. Sherlock grabs something from the desk and John raises his eyebrows. It's a standard metal letter opener. Sherlock just grins at him and puts the point to Greg's left buttock, pink from the earlier cropping. "John, put your hand on the back of his head. Make sure he doesn't move."

Greg doesn't seem particularly inclined to squirm at the moment, but John does as he's told, resting his hand on the back of Greg's head and applying a bit of pressure. He watches her dig the metal point in and trace, seemingly at random, Greg's muscles clenching and then relaxing as he gets accustomed to the sensation.

"Wait, are you writing something?" John asks, trying to follow the pattern of the letter opener.

Sherlock smirks. "The prime numbers. Only as high up as I can remember them."

Greg groans softly into his forearm and John can't help but smile. "Sadist," he murmurs fondly.

"Oh, you'll see," Sherlock agrees, her voice deep with promise. When she finally finishes up with the numbers, Greg's skin is criss-crossed with swirls of angry lines. Sherlock fetches a hairbrush next, an item she surely doesn't actually use but it does appear to be effective on Greg's back, metal bristles nearly breaking the skin. Greg whimpers softly and John swallows hard.

"Those could draw blood," he observes.

"Mmm," she agrees. "They could. But I use something different for that."

John's eyebrows go way up and she meets his eyes in challenge, her hand still working steadily. John blinks and looks back down at Greg, his fingers stroking salt-and-pepper hair in a soothing motion. "You all right?" he asks gently, not wanting to interrupt her authority, exactly, but still needing to check in.

"Yes, John," Greg agrees quietly, sounding oddly relaxed.

"Feels nice?"


"All right. You... enjoy that, then," John says awkwardly, face flushing a little as he looks up again. Sherlock just grins. She puts the brush aside and grabs at Greg's arse, squeezing firmly and getting a pained whimper out of him. "Flat on your stomach now, boy. Cheek to the pillow."

Greg shifts and Sherlock nudges his thighs apart with her knees, settling there and starling John when she starts to punch the join between arse and thighs, alternating sides, the thudding sound of fist against muscle making John wince instinctively. He's not sure why this bothers him more than the other things did, but he has to look away for a moment, catching his breath. He looks back when he hears Greg moan, the sound unmistakeably erotic, and he licks his lips before whispering "more, please, Miss." John raises his eyebrows but doesn't say anything out loud, stroking Greg's hair. Sherlock scratches with her nails in between sets of punching, arse and inner thighs and the backs of them, too, giving John a distinct "I told you so" look at one point. John stops worrying and reminds himself that they're both grownups. When she finally stops Greg is keening and boneless, and John doesn't want what just happened for himself but he can't help but be a little envious of that deep relaxation.

Sherlock digs her hands firmly against Greg's skin then, alternating and pushing each hand up from arse to shoulder, as if massaging Greg's back. He lets low, rumbling sounds loose from his chest, and for some reason this is more unnerving than watching Sherlock hit him. John isn't quite sure why that is, except that there's a sort of blurred line between dominance and intimacy and it's hard not to think of late nights under the covers with his flatmate.

"Next time I want to do needles," Sherlock tosses out idly, John's head predictably jerking up in response. "Not tonight, as there are some things I need to explain to the good doctor." She smirks at John and he just scowls. Sherlock laughs. She pinches at the bruises and Greg whimpers, his mouth slightly open.

John shifts and watches as she balances on one knee, her heel and sole rocking a path down Greg's back, over his arse and down the back of his thigh. Greg's eyes are closed and he looks quite peaceful, moaning softly as if in the middle of a pleasant dream. John thinks that that cannot be comfortable, but it certainly can't be dangerous, so he just watches, still stroking and raking his nails over Greg's scalp. She shifts and then it's both boots, hands taking some of her weight on the mattress to either side of Greg's body. Eventually she lies down along the length of him, thigh slipping between his, hands at his hair, and yanks his head up. He gasps and her palm presses against his throat, her lips rasping wicked in his ear.

"I could tear you apart."

"I... would beg, Miss," Greg mumbles. He sounds like he's speaking through a fog, like someone who's just come up from anaesthesia. John tries to temper his fascination but isn't sure he can.

"Oh, I know that," Sherlock coos. She lets Greg's head drop again, then reaches down between his legs and his back snaps back up into an arch again of its own volition as he howls in pain. Before John has a chance to do anything, Sherlock shoves him down with a hand between the shoulder blades and evidently loosens her grip, hissing in his ear. "Breathe, boy. Steady." The next time she grabs him, Greg whimpers and his eyes water but he doesn't scream. "Good boy," she whispers in his ear. "Good slut." John moves to the chair, biting his lip and crossing his legs. Five times, he counts, five rounds of that and he'd be screaming a safeword so loud the flat the other side of Speedy's could hear, but Greg doesn't stop her. Sherlock's still murmuring when she finishes, still feeding Greg praise that John can barely hear as she presses her weight against him.

"He's far down," Sherlock announces, louder, her hands kneading against his back.

"Okay," John says, uncertain. "Should I...?"

"I'm going to hurt him some more," Sherlock says. "Because this feels like fucking heaven, doesn't it, boy?" she adds with a smile that's almost fond.

"Mmm," Greg agrees, humming and limp all over. "Miss."

"Endorphin high," Sherlock explains unnecessarily. "With the edge of a mindfuck. Fetch me the bag of clothespins on the top shelf of the armoire. And leave if you need to."

"No," John decides, going to get the plastic zip-top bag he finds with about two-dozen standard metal clothespins inside. "I'll stay."

Sherlock nods, takes the bag and breathes in deeply with her nose near his cheek before she turns back to Greg, tugging his thighs apart again with her hands. John watches her pinch the clothespins on, all the way down his inner thighs, then flip him and do his sides, his nipples, his balls last as John winces and bites his lip again, hard. Greg's eyes are a bit glazed, his breathing slow. John checks his pulse unobtrusively at the wrist just because it feels like the right thing to do as Sherlock grips his chin and breathes into his mouth. She orders him to keep it open again and bites savagely at his lips and jaw, at his neck. Marks, John thinks; Sally's going to take the piss, but he's surely not going to mention her here. Sherlock removes the pins one at a time, slowly, and John realizes Greg is matching his breathing to hers, not even crying out with the pain but breathing through it instead. A learned technique, must be, and John's watching a bit in awe as she does every last one, right down to the testicles, and he just grunts a little, keeps his eyes held on hers. She covers his throat with one slender hand before beckoning John over.

"I don't want you taking him out of this," Sherlock says, and John doesn't miss the fierce protective note in her voice. He smiles at it and noses at her neck, nuzzling there.

"I don't have to... I mean I could..."

"No. You can fuck him. On his belly, so he doesn't have to work. It's good to float like this."

John nods and turns to Greg, stripping off as he does. "All right?" he asks, stroking Greg's cheek. "Do you want me to fuck you? You don't have to say yes."

Greg's grin in return is loopy. "But whatif I want to, Cap'n?"

John snorts and bends for a kiss. "Then I will." Sherlock presses lube and rubber into his hand, playing the Girl Scout, and John sees her take the chair in his periphery as he starts to finger Greg's arse. "Feel good, don't you?" he smiles, dropping another kiss onto Greg's mouth.

"Fuckin' spectacular," Greg mumbles.

"You were a very good boy for her," John praises, then grins sheepishly at himself, scissoring his fingers and kissing the inside of Greg's bent knee. "I sound like a right berk."

"Hmph." Greg closes his eyes and John decides to just focus on the parts he knows about, stretching Greg open and then flipping him over, groaning as he pushes slowly inside. He has to pause a moment, teeth clenching around a bit of skin next to Greg's spine, because it's been quite a while since the last time he fucked anyone in the arse and despite the earlier blowjob and the condom tempering the sensations, he's still quite keen. Greg's arse feels impossibly hot against his skin, and he can just imagine what it'll look like in the morning. He doesn't look at Sherlock, because he's too afraid she might be taking the piss, but after a few minutes, once he's started thrusting in to the strong willing body below him, feeling the relaxation in Greg's muscles and hearing his encouraging whimpers, he does finally meet her eye and loses a whimper of his own in the fierce spark that ignites in his chest at her expression. Hard, intent, and focused entirely on John, she sits in that chair with her ankle crossed over her knee and he wants to fall to his knees and worship her with his mouth, no matter how incongruous the thought. He blushes and wonders if she can read his mind, or whether he cares.

He doesn't call out a name when he comes, but he does curl around Greg when he's finished, spooning up behind him on their sides with his cock still inside Greg's arse, and whispers gentle praise as he wanks his best friend off. Sherlock doesn't say no, so John assumes the permission is implied, and he doesn't think too hard about it when she ends up on Greg's other side, taking care of the condom and then stroking both their hair, tugging a sheet up over Greg's body and watching over them like a mother hen as they both drift off to sleep.

Chapter Text

"Your husband," Sherlock starts abruptly, when John and Greg are eating a curry at the table and he's poring through a scientific journal writing what John has no doubt is snarky commentary in the margins. Neither of them say anything for a moment, then Greg thinks to reply.

"Civil partner, yeah," he corrects, rolling his eyes at the technical term.

"He did cheat."

Greg cocks his head to the side as if he's thinking about it. "Well... not exactly."

"What do you mean, not exactly? He either did or he didn't."

John hides a smile at Sherlock's insistence and waits for Greg to explain, sipping his bitter.

"Your deduction wasn't wrong, if that's what you mean." Greg shrugs. "He didn't cheat in the sense of breaking an established rule against having another boy."

John frowns a little. He knew Greg's ex was a man, but he didn't know the infidelity was more than a sexual fling.

"In what sense, then?" Sherlock asks, eyes focused and narrowed.

"In the sense of...breaking an unspoken rule, I suppose. I didn't expect him to pull away like he did. I thought we'd always be primary partners despite the power differential. And maybe that was naive, but it's why I stayed as long as I could, to see if things would shift back." He smiles a little at Sherlock. "I wasn't quite the doting idiot you assumed."

Sherlock snorts. "He took another boy, then. Fell more in love with him and out of it with you." John only just stops himself from butting in, but Greg's used to the unemotional starkness of Sherlock's observations.  "Why?"

"Jesus," Greg mutters, scrubbing the heel of his hand over his forehead. "How should I know? Got bored, I suppose."

John thinks that maybe this is a dangerous thing they have going, because if Sherlock's known for anything it's boredom. But again, Greg knows that well enough. He's certainly an adult.

"Show me his picture."

"What? Sherlock..."

"Do it, boy," Sherlock demands. Greg hesitates a moment, then sighs and fishes his mobile out of his pocket.

"He'll find it anyway," Greg points out, smiling weakly at John. "Civil partnerships are public record." John thinks it says something that Greg knew he was going to object, but he doesn't interfere as Greg pulls up a Facebook cover photo. "There. That's him."

John looks, even though he's seen another photo before, as Sherlock steps up behind Greg's left shoulder and peers at the image.  The man Greg's pointing to is middle-aged but handsome in jeans that highlight strong thighs and a leather vest adorned with colorful badges.  His head is bare but he keeps a neatly trimmed salt-and-pepper beard, and his broad grin is admittedly attractive. In the photo he sits on a picnic table, boots resting on the bench with a young man kneeling in between them. The boy--John doesn't have to know much about bdsm to know what he is in leather trousers and a thick black collar above a tanned bare chest--is conventionally pretty with light eyes and a club-kid haircut, conditioned brown locks swept across his forehead.  Greg's ex holds a simple chain leash loosely in his hand at the edge of the frame.

"Obsessive compulsive," Sherlock bites, jabbing his finger vindictively at the touch screen. "Fixated on his appearance, insecure about aging and early hair loss, confident in his abilities as a dominant but predictable as a sadist.  Fear of loss and loss of status, particularly in his community.  Compulsive exerciser." John frowns watching the stream of deductions. It's not to make Greg feel better; Sherlock just wouldn't know to do that. It's not the usual showing off, either. There's an edge as Sherlock rattles off his conclusions, a tension in the line of his back. He's angry, John realizes, not necessarily at the man on the screen but maybe afraid of his own emotions. He spits out a few more insults before he peters out, his stare hard but almost pouting.  

"Feel better?" Greg asks, putting the phone down and a hand to the back of Sherlock's neck.

"No.  Polyamory is a ridiculous idea." 

John raises his eyebrows. "Um, Sherlock? Remember that kinky threesome thing we're trying?"

Sherlock flips a hand dismissively, but John can see that he's relaxing slightly as Greg's fingers push into his tendons. "Completely different. Polyamory, from the Greek for many or multiple and the Latin for love. We have one love in which Lestrade is now participating.  Far more practical."

Neither of them bother to question the logic.  An unspoken agreement states that when it comes to Sherlock, it's better that way.


"I can't believe you let him see Paul's Facebook page," John comments later, when Sherlock is fully absorbed in an experiment and the two of them are lying side-by-side in John's bed upstairs.

Greg shrugs. "Not any more than he could find out on his own."

John has to concede the point. He puts a flat palm on Greg's chest, rubbing with his thumb. "Where have you been going, since him?  I mean... to get hurt, like you said.  I don't know much about S&M dungeons."

Greg laughs. "Well we had a dungeon in our flat," he teases, and John's eyes go a little wide picturing that. "In a spare room.  But sometimes that's all they are, parties in a house with a good setup.  When I was with Paul, we went to this one kind of Old Guard leather space, and it's just a loft with a corner where you can drink and chat and then stations all around to play. All one big room, in Mayfair. It's a great setup, actually, I miss the equipment.  I've been going to a smaller place since we split, younger crowd. More like a club, but it's dry. I prefer that if I'm playing with strangers."

John nods. "Good. And you... just show up there? Ask someone to hurt you?  Like you're on the pull?"

Greg laughs. "Basically. You wait for someone to chat you up or you start a conversation. Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you come up dry."

"And you ask for...what?" John asks, fingers tracing down over Greg's stomach. "A beating? Not like what Sherlock did."

"Oh, no," Greg laughs. "I haven't had a scene like that in... well, ever, really. I mean, it's Sherlock."

John giggles in spite of himself. "Believe me I know."

"Yeah." Greg smiles. "Wanna kip now or fancy a blow job?"

John groans. "You really don't have to ask."


"Tea," Sherlock declares in the sitting room late on a Wednesday night.  Both John and Greg start to move to their feet and Greg gives John a pleasant smile.  

"Don't worry. I've got it."  Greg disappears into the kitchen and John frowns, just a little.  Thirty seconds later he follows.  

"I'll have a cuppa, too. And he takes a lot of sugar." John doesn't know why he says that. Of course Greg knows how Sherlock takes his tea.

Greg, for his part, looks up at John, holding his gaze for a moment, and then smiles sheepishly. "Sorry. This is your thing for him, isn't it? I wasn't thinking."

"What? No, it's fine. Is this some... submissive thing?" John doesn't even know why he feels prickly, when someone else is making the damned tea for a change. Hasn't he wistfully wished for this moment?

"Yeah, kind of. It's okay if you're into service, John.  It doesn't mean you have to do anything else with it. I'll just work around you."

"Service?" John frowns. "Is this another Watson is Holmes's lapdog jokes, cause really Greg..."

"It's not like that," Greg interjects quickly. "I just mean... I didn't think of it because you're not a masochist or a bottom or anything, but you are a bit submissive to him, and I should've recognized that. It's part of why your relationship works, unorthodox as..."

"Hey, wait!" John exclaims. "Making his tea isn't submissive!!" He's about to give Greg another piece of his mind when he feels a warm breath at the back of his neck and whips around suddenly.

"Does it matter if it is?" Sherlock asks, his tone quiet and almost hurt. John gapes for a moment. He does not want to manage this situation.

"Sherlock," he sighs. "We've talked about this. I'm not a submissive."

"No," Greg agrees over his shoulder. "But you do as you're told sometimes. No shame in that."

John doesn't turn around, though he does soften. "Sherlock, I... this isn't going to be a slippery slope. I'm happy with us."

"So am I," Sherlock agrees, tone affronted.

"John, everyone has their little rituals," Greg inserts gently. "It's soothing sometimes. Doesn't mean you're something you're not. We can work it out." 

John sighs and turns around, pulling Greg into an apologetic hug. "Yeah.  Sorry, I didn't mean to go all caveman on you."

"Oh, I don't mind," Greg grins into his neck, and everything settles back into place.


"Can you explain what service is, in the context of your world?" John asks a week later.  They're camped out at a coffee shop, waiting for a text from Sherlock, who's swanned off in the middle of a case as usual.  At least Greg doesn't have anything he can be doing but wait, and so John has company. It's weird without Sally and the team hanging around, but now Lestrade calls Sherlock in because some other DI is getting desperate, and Lestrade's role is simply supervisory--Sherlock-minding, John knows the Sergeants say when they think he and Greg aren't listening.

"Are you sure? I'm sorry, I really didn't mean to ruffle any feathers about the tea, I just thought it was something you accepted."

"Probably did, but I don't know the jargon and all that," John points out. "I've tried Google but those sites give me the creeps.  Go on."

Greg laughs a little and sips his coffee. "All right. Service is what it sounds like, really. Serving someone's needs. Could be like a butler or a housekeeper, or sexual... it might be in a dom/sub relationship, where you have a whole service protocol worked out for everyday stuff, or it might be something you do for someone for a weekend or at a party. And there are plenty of people who like that but not S&M or other kinds of power exchange, which is why I wondered. I mean it's really not unlike just doing things because you like to be helpful."

"But fancier?"

"It can be. Most of my experience... okay all of it, until Paul let me go... was in the leather community.  Which is bdsm but it's specific, I mean there's an actual community that has some protocols beyond one relationship, and there are titles and language you use and formal ways to enter the community and... family structures." Greg frowns. "I won't be maudlin, but my leather family is a big part of what I lost, along with Paul. His boy stayed in the family and I didn't."

John frowns, putting his hand over Greg's.  "Do you want that again?  A family like that?"

"I don't think so.  The whole experience didn't really end with me on good terms with the London leather scene.  Being publicly disgraced didn't help, either. There are a lot of leather people on the force, and career military, stuff like that."

John squeezes Greg's hand harder. "Sherlock..."

"It wasn't really about him. It's okay. And the intimacy is more important to me than anything.  It may only be three of us but I've had more of that in two weeks and three scenes than I had in the last three years of my relationship."

"Well," John laughs. "If there's one thing Sherlock's not, when she's... her... it's distant."

Greg laughs, reaching for his pocket. "Speak of the devil..."

John fakes a groan, swallowing the last of his coffee. "And we're off to the races."

Chapter Text

When Greg shows him the house book, John nearly pisses himself laughing. Formidable as Greg may be, the idea that anyone could keep 221B even vaguely organized couldn't inspire any other reaction. Once he's done, though, Greg just smiles fondly and kisses his neck.  "Let me show you. It's not exactly what you think."

And when John sees what Greg's been working on--not a physical book, but a Word Document on John's laptop--he has to admit he's impressed.  It's a brief document, but entirely customized to their own unique relationship, with bits of data Greg's accumulated from grocery preferences to Sherlock's measurements to website passwords to his own limits. John's eyes linger there, seeing Greg's boundaries enumerated in lists labelled "soft" and "hard."

"I suppose it's not really necessary.  She's already said she has a veto over pretty much everything but my hard limits," Greg laughs.  John frowns, looking away from the screen and brushing Greg's jaw with his fingertips.  

"I could talk to her. If you want... more space or something. More choices."
Greg shakes his head sharply. "No.  But thank you." He bends slightly to kiss John, then smiles to himself. "Honestly, I don't mind. She's obsessive, possessive, but... it's better than the alternative."
"Paul?" John enquires gently, his hand pressing to the small of Greg's back.
"He was... more likely to be neglectful than obsessed. Really, this is my preference." John wants to punch the man in the chest, but he settles for another kiss, warm and affectionate.  He hugs Greg tighter, resting in the embrace until the door flings open and Sherlock marches in, a black leather case in hand.
John raises his eyebrows, but Greg sits, and it's obvious that's what Sherlock meant when he approaches Greg and holds the box out.
"A gift." They've been seeing Greg for a month now, maybe, but John doesn't believe Sherlock would bother to remember an anniversary. He sits, too, curious about the contents as Greg puts the box on the table and opens it.
"Sherlock," he breathes with an awed excitement in his voice that's completely out of proportion, in John's opinion, to a box of brushes and tins and rolled-up white towels. It could be forensics related, except John would recognize more in that case and Greg doesn't do hands-on work much these days.  He looks up at Sherlock for a clue.
"Your old kit was his.  I wanted you to have your own."
Greg beams. "Thank you, Miss. It's brilliant."
Sherlock makes an impatient noise, but John notices she's gone slightly pink. "And practical. Eat first, then you'll help me get ready."
"Get ready for what?" John asks. "I thought we were having a night in."

"Boring," she replies dismissively. "We're going to a place I enjoy, from time to time. It will be enlightening, John, for you."
"Sherlock... Are you taking us to a kinky sex club?"
"Technically, it's not a sex club."
"But yes," Greg grins at John. "Don't worry, Doctor, we won't let the scary sadists bite you."
"Oh, go eat your tea," John grumbles. "And what's this then?" he asks Sherlock once Greg's disappeared into the kitchen, slipping his arms around Sherlock's waist.
"Bootblack kit."
"Think military care of boots, but service-oriented rather than simply functional. It used to be part of Greg's usual routine."
"You deduced?"
"Of course.  You should eat with him.  And don't get changed yet. You can do that after."

"Gee, that's reassuring."

"It's not supposed to be."

John rolls his eyes and joins Greg at the table, letting him deal with the actual food while John clears enough space for plates. He watches Greg methodically prepare their tea and a thought comes to him unbidden.

"Do you ever feel weird about the boy thing?" he asks, and Greg raises his eyebrows at John over his shoulder. "I mean... when Sherlock's playing with you, and I say you're a good boy, I want you to feel good but I also wonder if you're ever thinking hey, that's bloody weird, I'm five foot eleven and in my forties, who are you calling good boy?"

Greg laughs and shakes his head. "No, not really. I don't think of myself based on my age or my height. Is your self-perception colored much by being a short-arse?"

"Hey!" John grins. "I know where she keeps her toys."

"Believe me, if I thought that would work, I'd insult you more." Greg winks as he sets the table. "Seriously though, my size has little bearing on my self-perception. It's frustrating that the gold standard for a sub is young and gorgeous and Sherlock's physique, but that's more likely to make me insecure than feel silly when someone does recognize me as a boy. I've pretty much always been submissive, and it fits in with other things about my personality. Being a copper, acting tough, it's something I do for work as much as your bedside manner is."

"So do you think the way I'll feel about calling you 'boy' will shift as I get to know you more in that way?" John suggests.

Greg smiles as he serves up the food. "I hope so. Being a boy is pretty fully assimilated into my sense of self."

John considers, taking a few bites and thinking about what he know of Greg. "Is being a good boy?" he asks, meeting Greg's eyes, and he's surprised at the blush in response.

"I'm... not as sure about that," he admits, and John thinks maybe he wants to lie but doesn't think it's allowed. John doesn't correct him, but he does reach to rub Greg's hand.

"I'll remind you, then," he offers. "This is really nice, Greg, thank you for cooking."

"Of course," Greg smiles. "I could do the shopping too, if that's not important to you."

"The grocery shopping?" John raises his brows. "I mean, it's important to me that we eat..."

"I meant like serving the tea. If it's something you'd rather do?"

"Oh God, no," John laughs. "If you'd enjoy that, it's all yours."

"I would," Greg smiles. "Actually."

John shakes his head. "You make no sense, but if it keeps me from Tesco, I won't complain."

"Excellent." Greg laughs and finishes his food in silence before he excuses himself to "get ready," whatever that means. John does the dishes and then heads into the sitting room, finding Greg on the floor with a couple of towels spread out as he removes the contents of his new kit. He's naked as he does so, and John admires his form for a minute before he even notices Sherlock on the sofa, her curls wet and dripping on a black silk chemise. The top half off her isn't the most impressive, though, by far. The short leather skirt and thigh high stiletto boots get a low whistle from John, and she just smirks, gesturing to his army boots on the towel. 

"Sit. Put those on."

"What, before I'm dressed?"

"Yes." Sherlock looks up with a wicked grin. "You want them on for this."

John just shakes his head, unsure why boot polishing is supposed to be such a thing. But he does sit and put his boots on, reaching for the laces but stopping when Greg waves him away. 

"I'm going to take those out anyway."

"Oh. Right." John leans back against the sofa and watches as Greg finishes getting himself organized, unable to avoid staring rather lewdly at his body. The laces do come out first, Greg's fingers working quickly to remove them. It's not until Greg starts doing Sherlock's that John realizes they lace up the back, and he's mesmerized as Greg works them out blindly, kissing down the front of each boot as he goes. Sherlock watches in that unnerving steady way of hers, pushing up gently under his chin with a toe when he finishes and keeping him there for a minute before she lets him sit up and put the long silky black laces safely out of the way. The process itself is not unlike normal polishing of shoes or boots, but there's a kind of energy in the air between them, and John could swear he sees Greg dropping down into subspace as he carefully scrubs the leather with saddle soap, spritzes the soap away and then starts to work the polish in, first on John's boots and then Sherlock's. 

John slips his hand into Sherlock's but doesn't look at her as Greg buffs each of the four boots, then conditions the polished leather. When he's finally done, hands stained with black, he rubs Sherlock's calves through her boots and John almost wants to ask for the same, who the hell cares about his trousers. But Sherlock interrupts his thoughts, speaking for the first time since the process began. 

"Go ahead and get dressed. Jeans and a button-down shirt. The boy will lace your boots for you in the meantime."

"All right," John agrees. Greg has already started lacing Sherlock's, lips touching the leather from the toe up in a reversal of the earlier process. John thinks it's probably in bad taste to be jealous of your own girlfriend, and also that he sucks at being vanilla. He hurries to the shower before he changes his mind.


The first thing John does inside the main room of the club after they've stowed jackets and the majority of Greg's clothes is try not to stare at a woman's breasts. They're surprisingly perky, resting atop a leather underbust corset, and she's full-figured with dusky nipples he can't help but see. When he averts his eyes, he sees that of course Sherlock was looking, evidenced in her smirk. 

"I didn't... realize it would be mixed," John mutters.

"No." Sherlock stands straight, posh as ever. "Though one would assume it makes no difference as to whether you can control yourself. You don't stare at men's penises like that." John just guffaws, and Greg suppresses a smirk behind them that Sherlock nonetheless notices, pinning him with a sharp stare as she stops dead and spins on her heel simultaneously. "Perrier. Flat water for you and tea for John. Go."

Duly chastened, Greg hurries over to the bar and John shakes his head, quiet for a moment until Sherlock's silence becomes unnerving. "So should I... find an unobtrusive spot, or...?" He's looking directly into Sherlock's eyes to avoid seeing anything he can't unsee, and she looks amused enough that he's sure she understands what he's doing.

"You're not here to observe, John," Sherlock replies, and John can't tell whether the sarcastic lilt is directed at his limited observational abilities from Sherlock's perspective or simply the absurdity of his coming to a sex club as a strict voyeur. John doesn't think the latter would be so strange, but he does realize there's a distinct lack of sleazeballs jacking off along the wall, and perhaps that's specifically frowned upon here. 

"Are you going to hurt him?"

"Just so," Sherlock grins. "But he wants to serve," she adds, hand jerking back to fist in Greg's hair as if she had eyes in the back of her head as he approaches her left shoulder. John's damn impressed that he stays still enough not to spill the tea. "Isn't that right, boy?" 

"Yes, Miss," Greg agrees, holding the tea out for John and then taking one of the bottles from under his arm, unscrewing the cap. "Miss." Sherlock takes it, then crooks her finger and leads them to what looks like a wide wooden ladder with thick polished dowels for rungs. It's arranged on a sturdy base with thick beams making it look like it will remain quite immovable whatever Sherlock plans to do with it. 

"You're going to serve me tonight," Sherlock purrs, low enough as she pushes Greg back against the ladder that John has to rely in part on lipreading to understand. "With your pain, boy. With your endurance. I need to hit someone who's not going to stay stop tonight." Greg's eyes flash with something--fear? John's watching closely as he puts Greg's water and his tea to the side, her tone making him nervous--but he only nods. 

"It would be my pleasure to take that for you, Miss."

"No," Sherlock counters sharply, and her hand presses against the front of his throat, squeezing. "Give it to me. You will give it to me. Give," she whispers, hand tightening before Greg can respond. 

"Sherlock..." John interjects, unsure. A slender hand flicks out palm-first, the gesture for "stop." Her eyes don't leave Greg's for an instant, though, and John watches Greg mouth the word "yes." Sherlock lets go and then turns to John, taking a sip of her water.

"You may stand on the other side. Touch him however you like. But don't interfere." John's brow furrows but he doesn't quite say no. He steps closer, Sherlock's leather clad calf brushing his denim, and rests his hands at the small of her back.

"You need this?" Sherlock nods quickly, curtly. "All right." He brushes a hand once through her curls, takes a few sips of tea just to steady himself, and then puts the half-full cup dowm and turns to Greg. "Safeword?"

"Red," Greg responds immediately.

"Use it if you need. Don't be a hero, she can wrestle me in the alley if this doesn't work out."

Greg barks a laugh and John grins, giving him a hard kiss. "Good boy." He shifts behind the ladder, reaches through the rungs and gives Greg's shoulders a firm rub.

"That you are," Sherlock agrees, her smile devilishly sweet. She taps the end of her riding crop against his chest and he barely flinches. John resists the cheeky urge to grab his arse--he's dressed, barely, in his pants and the collar Sherlock put on him when he came in. He does keep his hands on Greg's shoulders though, steadying as she warms him up. 

The first hard thwack of the crop gets a hiss and she strikes him faster, Greg's hands clenching at a rung of the ladder. John grips tighter, intending to provide the sensation of an additional brace against the pain. He notices that Greg's trying to modulate his breathing as she works him over, chest then upper thighs, the same sharp slap of the crop's stiff leather tip. John works with it, pushing down on Greg's shoulders with each exhale and letting up on the inhale. He whimpers at the strikes, sometimes quite loudly, but doesn't squirm much. When Sherlock pauses, John looks up at her and sees an intensity in her eyes, almost like when she's grilling him for a solution, demanding that he catalyze her brilliance to solve the case. She puts metal clamps on Greg's nipples, a chain connecting them, and he breathes in deliberate puffs as she turns him around.  

"Stunning," John murmurs, his grin conspiratorial. In the short time since their relationship became intimate, John's found that Greg softens out his habitual masculine reserve in unexpected ways, so open and trusting that John's naturally effusive in return. He strokes Greg's forehead and gets an answering smile as Sherlock crouches down to tug Greg's pants off, leaving him exposed to the room. 

She takes up two floggers next, identical with black and red falls, and starts in on Greg's back, the handles rotating between her fingers like drumsticks. John finds his focus leaving Greg for a moment; he can't help but stare at her as she competently throws the two floggers in unison at Greg's upper back, heavy slaps falling at a steady rhythm. She gradually shifts it then, the falls alternating to hit him faster, slap slap slap slap slap. John watches the way she holds her centre of gravity, torso twisting slightly, right foot in front with the spike heel planted and the toe rocking back and down, back and down. She shifts again, moving even faster, hands crossing now so that the falls land in an alternating diagonal pattern, striking downward. Greg is zoned out and moaning with his mouth open once she gets to this. Bloody showoff, John thinks with a deep flare of fondness for her.

The next tool she chooses still technically counts as a flogger, John assumes, but its tails are thin and whippy rubber instead of the solid bands of leather. Greg shouts and jerks in response to its kiss against his reddened back, and John flinches in concern as Sherlock keeps striking full-force and Greg's foot lifts and pushes at the bottom rung, howling when a movement tweaks his sore clamped nipple against another rung.

"Hey," John warns. "Hey, breathe with me, come on." Greg whimpers but he does still some, only rocking against the ladder as she flays his back. His face is screwed up against the pain and John touches both his cheeks. "Inhale," he commands, "1, 2, 3, exhale." It works, the shifted focus, not unlike surgery in the field. "Focus here," he says, voice low, and takes a risk, his hand tugging down on the nipple chain. Just enough to get Greg thinking about that one point of pain, to get him breathing through it, the flogging background noise. Fully dilated pupils meet his eyes as Greg sucks air in obediently and John resolutely does not let his conscious mind take over. He keeps petting Greg's face, keeps holding his gaze, when Sherlock finally picks up a thin chain flogger and rubs a deceptively gentle hand over Greg's back.

"Give me your hands," John orders in a flash of inspiration, guiding Greg's forearms to rest on a rung at hip height and letting him squeeze in a death grip when Sherlock starts hitting him with the wicked metal chains. He shouts, full throated, ringing in John's ears, and John keeps himself braced and squeezing Greg's hands. He counts in his head, fifteen times. Fifteen has to be a lot in this state. 

Sherlock stops, but she goes for a very thin rattan cane next, and her eyes are wild. Power-drunk, John thinks, but it bothers him less than it should. He lets go when Sherlock reaches to release the clamps and Greg howls, a hoarse desperate sound. When she comes in with the cane whistling through the air before it smacks into Greg's body, he literally starts climbing the frame he's braced against, getting two rungs up before she just starts in on his arse instead. His yelps sound a bit like a wounded animal and John has to bite his lip not to call Greg's safeword for him. It doesn't feel so controlled anymore, Greg crying and trying to escape, Sherlock laying into him. John grits his teeth. Sherlock yanks at Greg's limbs, coaxing him back down, and gouges angry marks into his skin with her nails. 

More with the cane, then, before she simply drags him back and slams him foward, her body pinning him, and finally yanks his head back onto her shoulder by the hair to bite deep into his neck. He screams and then goes limp against her, eyes stained with tears. John watches, stunned, unsure for a moment how to react. The moment holds, though, silent until John's ears pick up on Sherlock panting, catching her breath. 

When his vision eases out of panic mode, John catches important details--the protective press of her body against Greg's, her arms holding him as if she'd murder anyone who issued a challenge right now. The way her face is suddenly calm and her limbs lax, as if she's exhausted herself right into relieved satiation. The peaceful look of Greg's expression, eyes closed now, tearstained face untroubled. John lets his own breath out slowly, reminds himself that there are reasons why they do this and he doesn't, reasons also why he cares so fiercely for them both.

John takes the cane, puts it on top of her bag, and eases them both down to the ground. In her bag, he realizes with a burst of giggle he can't help, is an orange shock blanket. He wraps it around them and administers water to both, reassuring kisses to Greg and hair ruffles to Sherlock. The smears of blood on Greg's back will need tending to, soon, but he'll relax for now and let her care for it if it's something she needs. John catches the gleam of his own boots in the corner of his eye as he leans lightly against them both, giving Greg slow sips of water, and considers his first trip to a kinky sex club more or less an unmitigated success.

Chapter Text


The morning after their surprise excursion, Sherlock is in a manic mood, tearing across the city chasing a lead without even bothering to ask John for help. As the case is unlikely to be particularly dangerous, merely challenging, John lets him go and resolves to spend a rare quiet Sunday in the flat. 

"Did you want to watch anything in particular?" John asks when Greg wanders into the sitting room after his shower, looking uncertain. Greg spares a brief glance for the programme John's watching on the telly and smiles sheepishly.

"No, that's fine, I... you don't mind if I stay for a bit?"

"Not at all." John smiles up at him from the sofa. "Much prefer it to both of us puttering about alone, actually. Are you feeling all right?" he asks, gesturing with one hand to his own back. Sherlock had treated the open wounds with antibiotic ointment and rubbed the welts and reddened skin all over with aloe the night before, but John can't imagine Greg's having an easy time of it.

"Oh, yeah. Well... no," Greg corrects boyishly. "But it's worth it. I just... do you mind if I...?" He trails off, shifting weight from one foot to another, and John raises an eyebrow before Greg stops trying to explain and just sits on the rug at John's feet, not kneeling like he might do with Sherlock but leaning back, resting against the sofa between John's legs and placing his hands lightly on top of John's bare feet.  "Is this okay?" Greg asks, tipping his head back to regard John upside down. 

"Oh, yes, of course," John agrees, scratching at Greg's scalp as he cards his fingers through Greg's hair. It is a strikingly intimate position, though. He tries to remember, for all Sherlock's disregard for personal space, if he's ever touched John's feet. Half-paying attention to the television, he lets his hands wander with confidence to stroke Greg's jaw, forehead, cheeks with random light touches. At one point, Greg gets up to use the loo and comes back with tea and bacon sandwiches fifteen minutes later.

"Oh, marvelous," John groans, and Greg just laughs. John tosses a cushion to the floor before Greg sits this time and positions it to his left with a foot. In between bites, he lowers his own sandwich to Greg's mouth and feeds him, the gesture meant to be simple and comforting though he can't deny a feeling of warm pleasure that spreads through him when Greg licks butter and bacon grease from his fingers.

"Do I need to have a word with Sherlock?" John asks when they've finished their lunch and he's back to absent petting, Greg rubbing his feet with strong thumbs and making John groan in pleasure at intervals. "About taking care of you the morning after she flays the shite out of you, I mean?"

Greg laughs. "She did check this morning, actually. I told her to go. But she's not comfortable with extended aftercare. And I don't need this, it's just pleasant when offered. My head tends to get into a service space after something hard like that, I just... want a lot of touch and want to be useful. I like staying in subspace for a while." 

"Okay," John agrees. "Take as long as you need. Tell me what I can do to make it work for you."

"This is perfect." Greg kisses John's fingertips. "Let me make tea tonight and maybe share a bath if you don't mind. Sex, early sleep, I'll be perfect in the morning."

John's grin is characteristically cheeky. "Well, I'm happy to help with that," he offers, lightly tapping Greg's cheek with three fingers. Greg grins.

"Did last night meet your expectations?" he asks. "Do you have any questions about what you saw?"

John considers the question seriously. He could ask Sherlock but he's interested in Greg's perspective.  "It was getting pretty crowded when we left. Everyone there is a member?"

"Member or a guest. It's just a formality, though. Some people are around every weekend and some just come occasionally with a partner they play with in the bedroom, or looking to pull."

"Is it more exciting for you, submitting in public like that? Or scarier?"

Greg shakes his head. "Neither, really. But I do feel some pride in it... less because it's a club and more just being seen submitting to someone I respect. It would be the same feeling at a private gathering of kinky people, were I serving or otherwise visible as a partner's submissive."

"Okay, that I understand." John laughs. "It's like being someone's date to a wedding, except with more screaming and blood."

Greg outright giggles at that, snorting back his laughter, and John rubs the nape of his neck, careful to avoid the bite marks at first and then digging right into them when he hears the way Greg moans in satisfaction. "Good?"

"Oh, yes," Greg purrs. "Remind me to button my shirt all the way up tomorrow, though. The whole department would take the piss."

"You're most of their boss," John points out. "But yeah. Buttons for a few days."

Greg smiles and nuzzles the inside of his wrist, taking a sip from the cup of tea sitting near his hand.

"You mentioned that the other space you used to play at isn't so clubbish. How is it different?"

"Well, there's a steadier group of people, for one. More people go to socialize or watch the play... the parties are more structured, so instead of regular open play you have to know that a party's happening. It feels more like going to someone's apartment with dungeon furniture."

"And the people are in your old leather family?"

"Some." Greg is silent for a moment, his thumb circling John's anklebone. "Everyone knows each other, though. I used to joke that there were six degrees of gay leather in London, but really more like three. It's not that big a community."

"Sherlock's not part of that, though."

"No. Honestly, I don't think she'd be welcome...and for once, not because of her charming personality."

John smiles, but only a little. "Because she's not technically a gay man?"

"It's fairly rigid, Old Guard. I don't even know of effeminate Masters, let alone transsexual or...whatever Sherlock is. It's very much a boy's club. That's important to most everyone involved."


Greg shrugs. "Maybe. Before." He nuzzles John's knee. "This is bloody new to me, John. But it's Sherlock. And before I ever knew any of this, it was Sherlock. So I'm not going to be an arse about it."

"All right." John strokes his scalp. "If I can do make things easier..."

"Right." Greg squeezes his foot. "I hear you."

"I know I'm not an expert on any of this. But I do care. About you." John's cheeks go a little pink and he kisses the top of Greg's head. Mercifully, Greg doesn't respond verbally, but just leans against him.


When a dark car pulls up alongside the kerb, John walks two blocks from the clinic before he gets in. The office is small and non-descript and he has four text message alerts by the time he reaches it. He automatically notes exits and potential weapons before he acknowledges Mycroft's presence.

"It's been calm lately, for Sherlock," John points out, pre-empting whatever Mycroft's opening might have been. "To what do I owe the displeasure?"

Mycroft doesn't bother reacting, other than to gesture to a leather visitor's chair. "The question isn't whether it's calm, but why. I ran a more thorough background check on Gregory Lestrade," he reveals mildly, meeting John's eyes. John keeps his expression deliberately blank, waiting. "Disgustingly clean, in most aspects. Nothing of interest. But I did take the liberty of investigating his former partner more thoroughly than the initial check on my brother's Scotland Yard handler required. I assume you know what I found out."

"I assume you know that Sherlock's a consenting adult, and so you're not getting anything remotely interesting out of me. Not about him and not about Greg." John sits, but on the edge of his chair, hands gripping the leather next to his thighs.

"I am aware of Sherlock's lifestyle, Doctor Watson. He hardly keeps it a secret, even if it did take two years and a feigned suicide for you to figure it out."

"I wasn't digging," John says brusquely, resisting to the urge to snap to his feet. He's still raw about that period, probably always will be. Mycroft knows nothing, he thinks, no matter how involved he was in the whole ploy. Certainly knows nothing about John, no matter how thick his file may be.

"No, of course not," Mycroft agrees with a characteristic serpentine smile. John isn't even sure why he bothers pretending at polite anymore, except that maybe he can't turn it off. "Unwavering loyalty. But it hasn't caused you to turn away from him. In fact, it seems that you've brought Gregory Lestrade into his lap. I never imagined it'd be you I'd have to remind that people are not presents, John."

This time, John does stand. "You really don't know the half of it, Mycroft. And if nothing else, you should trust me to take care of your brother by now. Greg's not a threat."

"Ah, but he is. Quite clearly so. A gay man turning to someone who can fulfill his needs only when in feminine guise? Eventually, Lestrade will find someone else. Or perhaps he already has," Mycroft suggests, fixing John with a hard look. "No matter how much you care, I don't imagine a relationship with your asexual, mentally unsteady best friend is sufficient for you, Doctor, and I won't have the two if you abandoning him."

"That's enough," John snaps. "First, it's none of your goddamned business, second, either of us would die for Sherlock no matter what we call this relationship, and third, there is no guise. If you're looking for false pretenses, you have the wrong Holmes. Good afternoon."

It's only when John is stalking past the black car and hailing a cab that he realizes he's given away the fact that they're in a "relationship" at all. He sighs a little and steels himself for the coming interrogation.


"You've seen my brother."

"Your brother is a prat. Do we have to do this?"

"I need to know what he wanted from you," Sherlock counters, his eyes fixed on John as John hangs his jacket and settles into his chair. "None of our recent cases concern him. I haven't caused any national or international incidents in at least two months." John rolls his eyes at that on principle. "Either he has a case for us that I'd turn down, which isn't the case or you'd have a file in your hand and be doing that shifty-eyed thing you do when you're preparing yourself to make an argument you know you'd lose--"


"--or he intended to hound you about our personal life. Which, given your agitation at the present moment, is most likely. What did he want to know?"

John sighs and tips his head back, closing his eyes. "He thinks I'm going to run away with Greg and leave you alone." Sherlock doesn't scoff immediately at the thought, so John looks up again and fixes him with a pointed look. "Which is horseshite."

"Indeed," Sherlock agrees softly, but he does quirk his lips up in a smile. 

"I don't know how long Greg will be around, but..." John grins and shakes his head. "There have been so many better reasons for me to leave you."

Sherlock pouts. "Is that supposed to be reassuring?"

"No." John rises from his chair and stands in front of Sherlock's, reaching to clasp the back of Sherlock's head and physically pulling him to press his cheek against John's chest, one of John's knees balanced on the chair next to Sherlock's and his hand stroking Sherlock's hair. "This is. Mycroft can go rot."

Sherlock smirks against John's chest, but he also relaxes marginally, and his hands come to John's waist. He doesn't pull away.


"WRONG!" Sherlock barks. There's a clang from the kitchen, and a rustling of papers. "Wrong, wrong, wrong!" It goes silent then, and John gets up just long enough to peek, see Sherlock scribbling furiously on a spiral-bound pad, and decide to go back to ignoring him. Greg shifts a bit on the sofa, leg hooking around John's thigh when he sits. Sherlock may be bored, but John will relish the rare Saturday in with his--boyfriend? Something like that.

"I think I may be approaching a conundrum," Greg murmurs in his ear, stroking John's forearm.


"Well... I don't often see him like this, do I? Since we started this, she's usually 'dressed' when I have a reason to come over here. And now that I know, I've started seeing her the same way on cases. Gender-wise. I'm not saying I get it, I mean I really bloody don't, but I do see her as female in those situations."

"Okay," John says softly, twisting to smile at him. "I think that's a good thing, you know."

"Yeah," Greg sighs. "Except on the rare occasion that he's like this," he points out, flinging a hand to gesture to the kitchen and Sherlock, who's dressed today in very well-fitting grey pinstripe trousers and That Purple Shirt, "and I want to beg him to shag my bloody brains out."

John can't help but laugh. He certainly knows the feeling. "Funny, isn't it? That in this head space, he's probably not even trying to be a cocktease."  He rubs Greg's chest with his hand, reassuring. "Or maybe he is, but I suppose that would eventually flip things back over."

"Yeah, and that's the rub." Greg sighs. "I'm really not attracted to women. I'm not even attracted to men in drag, it just... doesn't do it for me. I'm not saying that if she suddenly developed a sex drive, I would say no, but it would be service. I would still be lusting after him as him. And I'd feel damn guilty about it. Do now, even. I can't say I wouldn't like him to order me in there and make me kneel. But I feel like I'd notice the shift, anyway. That side of him isn't dominant in the same way, even if it's the same person. It's just... how it is."

"You should talk to him," John murmurs. "Seriously, Greg. I know it won't change things, but he should know."

"And what?" Greg laughs, squeezes John a bit. "Sure as hell not going to if it might end things here. Not interested."

John smiles and wiggles up to kiss Greg's neck, nipping lightly. He can understand that. "Yeah, but it wouldn't. He's not afraid of emotions. You've seen  that. I don't think he'll be offended that you want to shag him. Knowing him, she'll probably just use it as ammunition and figure out some creative way to exploit it when you play. But he'll be pissed off if you withhold data. Trust me, I know from experience. And he probably already knows."

"Yeah," Greg sighs. "Bloody genius."

"And god help us, we love him for it," John says without thinking. He smiles to himself when Greg says nothing in response.

Chapter Text

After a Saturday afternoon shift at the locum, it's something of a surprise to come home to the scene John discovers of Sherlock and Greg relaxing in the living room. Sherlock is typing one-handed on John's laptop, open on the sofa next to her, lazily still in her pyjama bottoms and dressing gown, which is common enough. But Greg appears to be in some degree of distress despite the calm nature of the scene, sitting on the floor between Sherlock's thighs with her left hand covering his mouth. Her left leg is draped over his shoulder, bare heel pressing into his chest and effectively denying him the use of his left arm. His breathing is deliberate and somewhat labored, pupils dilated as his eyes flick up to meet John's gaze.

"Enjoying yourself?" John queries, a bit sarcastic as he hangs his jacket.

"Mmm," Sherlock replies, distracted. "Following a lead." She doesn't say anything about Greg, though as John steps closer, her hand lifts from the keyboard and casually pinches his nose shut, her eyes still scanning the words on the screen. That explains the labored breathing, at least. John wonders how long they've been doing this as he crouches to Greg's level, smiles, and kisses the back of Sherlock's hand, over Greg's mouth. 


Greg makes a little acknowledging sound in the back of his throat, though it's not very loud without air. John grins and squeezes his shoulder. 

"I'll make tea. Can he have some?"

"I suppose," Sherlock agrees, distractedly, as she releases the pinch. "He's been rather good."

John eyes them both, pushing back up to his feet. "By which you mean...?"

"Not interrupting me," Sherlock replies, pointedly, finally tearing her eyes from the screen to glare at John. He laughs and puts his hands up. 

"Tea. I'm getting tea."

It takes time to wash stained mugs and get the kettle going, and by the time John's returned Sherlock has shifted to sit sideways on the sofa with her full attention on the screen. He presses a mug directly into her hand--she won't notice its presence otherwise--and sits right down on the floor, facing Greg, putting their mugs down next to them. 

"Hello." He leans in for a proper kiss, hands coming up to caress Greg's neck and cheeks. "You look brilliant."

Greg smiles, a hand coming to rest on John's thigh, head tipping slightly to the side. "How do you mean? I haven't even dressed yet."

"No, just..." He mentally reaches for a word to describe that lazy glow Greg gets when he's allowed to just be, both himself and hers for a while. Ultimately he comes up blank and fishes for another kiss instead, deeper, listening for an inhale through Greg's nose and then pinching it shut with thumb and forefinger. Greg tenses first in surprise and then melts against him, fingers grasping John's thigh. He lets go long before he has to; asphyxiation is too common a sexual mistake for him to be fully comfortable with this. But the lust in Greg's eyes is worth it.

"Go on." John blushes a little. "Drink your tea. I'm not going to become kinky of an afternoon."

"No?" Greg does take the mug but his smile is teasing. "I caught you watching me piss through the open door last night. You had your hand in your lap, but you moved it when I came out. That's pretty kinky."

John groans and feels his cheeks heat. "I didn't... I mean I wasn't..." He is definitely not looking up to see if Sherlock's hearing this.

"It's all right." Greg grins and sips his tea. "Really, John. It's hot. You can watch me if you like. You can wank off to it, I don't mind."

John stares for a moment because he genuinely doesn't know what to say, whether that's even something he wants to do. Maybe his mind has wires criss-crossed with urban legends of men pulling in public toilets and something about the taboo of watching another man piss openly fires funny enough to make him consider. Whatever it is, he doesn't answer but slips his hand behind Greg's neck when he puts his mug down and snogs him hard, effectively silencing the line of inquiry.


"Yoo-hoo! Sherlock, dear, are you in?" Mrs. Hudson calls, coming up the stairs. It's late on a Saturday morning, and John doesn't have to be in till three. He pokes his head out of the kitchen where he's frying sausages and shouts back.

"He's off out, Mrs. Hudson! Come in, though!" A minute later she steps into the sitting room, carrying a plate of pastries, and gives Greg a suspicious look. He's sitting on the sofa, drinking a cup of tea and reading the Times in his jim jams, and his cheeks tint a bit as he looks up at her.

"Ello, Mrs. Hudson."

"Good morning, Inspector." Her eyes peel over to John with a clear question in them, and he steps forward to take the plate from her.

"Baking this morning? These are lovely, thank you. Sorry Sherlock isn't here to enjoy them, he's working on a case."

"Without you?" she queries, eyebrows raised as she looks between John and Greg.

"Yes, well, I'm due in at the clinic this afternoon. He doesn't need me for this bit anyway, it doesn't involve people."

"Ah." Mrs. Hudson's nod is understanding. "Well, do make sure he has some later. He's looking skinnier, dear."

"Is he?" John smiles, bemused, and scratches the back of his head. "I hadn't noticed. Listen, I'd better get back to the kitchen," he apologizes, raising his greasy spatula in explanation. Her eyes flick again to Greg and it looks as if she's going to ask, but then she just leans in and busses John's cheek.

"Of course, dear, go on. Lovely to see you, Inspector."

"And you," Greg agrees, grinning in relief when she shuts the door behind her. He shrugs at John, looking sheepish, and he chucks a cushion before getting back to the sausages.


"Seventeen minutes." Sherlock's tone is crisp and unbothered as the front door swings shut, but Greg's expression is that of a deer caught in the headlights. John raises his eyebrows and flicks off the telly.

"There was... an accident on the Jubilee line, Miss. Earlier today. The whole system's bollocksed."

"Silence," she barks, rising to her feet as John looks on. "Strip." Greg does so quickly, looking terrified. John's clearly missed a vital piece of the puzzle. Sherlock, for her part, goes to the wall and sticks a piece of tape there. When Greg's naked, she taps the wall and he hurries to meet her. "Nose there." She points to the tape and John only realizes her cruel genius when Greg has to stand on tiptoe to touch it. "Hands behind your back. Seventeen minutes. If you put your heels down, John isn't fucking you for at least a week."

"Hey now, wait a minute..."

She turns to face him with a withering look. "Are you really going to challenge my disciplinary methods?" John sighs and hopes Greg's will power is stronger than his.

"No, Miss," Greg replies, quieter. "Not at all."

"Quite right. John, is there any more tea in the pot?"

"Enough for a cup, yeah," he agrees, shaking his head a bit at the situation and taking her mug to the kitchen to refill it. When he comes back, Sherlock is texting and Greg is still standing quietly, perfectly still. "Here you are. Should I order in for supper?"

"No. He'll handle it after his punishment," Sherlock replies, her nails idly scratching at the back of John's neck. He groans a little in encouragement and lowers his head. 

"You can keep doing that."

"Of course I can." She's probably rolling her eyes but he doesn't care, crouching down next to her chair because kneeling would give her ideas.

"Are you really punishing him for the Tube being slow?" John asks when she lifts her hand, glancing up to see Greg still standing there, gritting his teeth. "Doesn't seem like there's much you can teach from that," he points out as he sits in his own chair, sipping his tea.

"I'm not punishing him for the Tube being slow. I'm punishing him for being late. The lesson is that there are no excuses--sometimes you fail because someone else made a mistake, and you suffer the punishment anyway." Sherlock grins, a little manic, eyeing her boy. "My whim is always right."

"Dictator," John snorts, fond, and puts the telly back on as Greg's calves start to tremble.


John's incredibly relieved when they arrive at the playspace on a Saturday night and Greg confirms that for all his anxiety about the venue, Paul isn't here. John hadn't been at all sure about Sherlock's choice to play at a space where Greg's ex and former circle might very well be present, but Sherlock had insisted. She wouldn't be cowed by someone no longer in the picture, and neither would her boy. Still, John can't help but feel protective. 

He probably should've known it was too good to be true. Sherlock selects a leather sofa with a good view of the room that's enough out of the way not to indicate that they're keen to socialize. John watches as Sherlock starts the evening with a spanking, Greg over her lap, and then puts him on his knees, sitting on his heels with her leg and leather boot draped over one of his shoulders. She's a bit less dramatic tonight--these boots have a chunkier, practical heel, despite being feminine, and she's dressed simply in a short black leather skirt and green velvet camisole. Still gorgeous, of course, and John threads his fingers through hers as his other hand strokes Greg's hair.

"Any requests tonight, boy?" she asks. The music is low and it's early enough that the sounds of play don't make it difficult to hear.

"Not specifically, Miss. Perhaps you'd let me worship your boots?" he asks, cheek just barely pressing against her leather-clad calf.


John laughs, toying with the curls at the nape of Sherlock's neck as he watches the room. The loft is neatly divided, with the third of the space where they are, closest to the door, for socializing, and the rest for play. There are a couple of scenes going on, but most of the guests are clustered in the social area, grabbing snacks from a table or getting drinks from the corner bar, manned by someone John imagines might be the owner of the space. There are no ostentatiously displayed breasts here--in fact, John wonders how Sherlock got an invitation to tonight's party at all, as she's the only feminine-presenting person present. The man at the door had given her an uncertain look, but they were on the list and bossy as Sherlock can be, he didn't comment on it. Aside from the gender exclusivity, John also notices that he seems to be the only one in the room, in his jeans and button-down, who's not wearing some kind of leather. Even Greg, naked as he is, has on a leather play collar.

"All right if I get a pint?" John asks after a few minutes, inclining his head to Sherlock. He's not too keen on the idea of some of these people drinking before what they're about to do, but as he doesn't plan to play himself, he wouldn't mind taking the edge off.

"Mm. You stay. Boy, get John a beer, and a couple of water bottles for us."

Greg smiles fondly at the order and turns, starting to rise to his feet, before he pauses, abruptly, in a crouch. John's immediately on alert, following his line of sight, and he sucks in a quick breath when he sees the group that's just arrived. They're a tight bundle of men, all wearing leather, one already kneeling. He's young, and though his hair is mostly hidden by a jaunty little leather cap, John recognizes Paul's boy from the Facebook photo. Paul himself sits comfortably on the sofa, shrugging out of his jacket, which another boy takes over to the coat room. Greg shifts back into movement then, rising to his feet and heading to the bar, though his expression is visibly shaken.

"Shit. Should we…?"

Sherlock shakes her head, her own expression tight but her body unmoving, and holds up a hand to prevent John's involvement. Her eyes are hawkish on the bar, though, as Greg waits for the man tending it to notice him, and she's clearly rattling off a string of silent deductions when a man from the little group approaches Greg.

John's a bit relieved that Greg doesn't look upset to see this member of his former family, though his smile is a bit guarded, even as the man squeezes his upper arm and his eyes drop to Greg's collar. After a moment, Greg raises a hand to indicate John and Sherlock and the man's eyes hold on them briefly, John nodding in acknowledgement, Sherlock as stock still and impolite as ever when she's observing. The man frowns and turns his body slightly in towards the bar, continuing the conversation, and soon Greg too is frowning, looking agitated.

"He's made a comment on my gender presentation," Sherlock elucidates, her tone condescending but not bothered. Clearly the man in question, about John's age, amiable enough with a neatly-trimmed beard and a little bit of weight on him, is beneath Sherlock's notice as one of the common folk. John supposes that's better than the alternative. 

She doesn't make any comment on the old friend when Greg returns with the drinks, but drops a hand into his hair when he kneels again, facing out towards the room. He doesn't try to hide that he's watching his old group, clustered around the sofa where Paul and another man sit, clearly the top dogs of the family. Paul is smoking a cigar now, and his boy kneels with his head tipped back into Paul's lap, the picture of absolute admiration. As John watches, he blows smoke over the boy's exposed neck, then after a minute rolls the ash from the end of the cigar into his own hand. He shakes it a moment then murmurs some command and the boy presses his face into the offered hand--eating the ash, John realizes, with a little expression of disgust. When he looks down, though, Greg doesn't look disgusted at all. He looks shattered, and when the boy, licking at his dominant's hand, drops to Paul's thigh to lick up a bit of ash that's dropped onto the leather there, Greg suddenly keens in distress and jerks his head up to Sherlock.

"Miss, yellow, please, I can't, I can't…"

Suddenly, the scene unfolding a few feet away is irrelevant, and Sherlock's entire attention is on Greg, her hands on his cheeks and her tone disarmingly comforting.  

"Shhh. Shh, now, you can," she murmurs as John rests a hand between Greg's shoulder blades, gently stroking the bare skin. "You absolutely can."  

Greg frowns, obviously not convinced, a little whimper following her declaration. 

"Look at me, boy. Tell me why you're upset."

"You know," Greg murmurs, eyes flicking down briefly before they re-engage with her steady gaze. "You've deduced."

"Doesn't matter," she murmurs, and John is struck by how gentle she is, miles from the reprimand he might've expected at another time. "Say it out loud. Why is seeing him so hard? Is it because you want Paul back?"

Greg shakes his head quickly, sharply. "No, Miss, not at all. I'm yours," he says firmly, looking directly at her. She smiles and rubs the corner of his mouth with her thumb.

"Yes. Go on."

"I don't want him back, I don't want to be Luke, I just…"

"Miss it?" John prompts gently when more words don't come. Greg's eyes flick to him and he shakes his head a little, frowning.

"Not exactly," he disagrees, calmer now that he's engaging with the logical side of his brain, John notices with no small measure of relief. "I don't want to go back. But I miss… having his respect. Their respect."

"You don't think they respect you now?" John asks.

"I think…" Greg breaks off, frowning, eyes flicking uncertainly to Sherlock.
"I'm not one of them," Sherlock explains. "If you came here with another leather man, it wouldn't be an issue, but they see me and they judge you."

"Miss, please don't think… I really don't care…"

Sherlock holds up a hand, silencing him. "Of course you do. But it's not your fault that your former family, for all their rules and protocols and expectations, are a pack of bigots," she sneers. Quickly, she grasps his chin in an iron grip, bending to within a few inches of his face. "Tell me why their respect matters. Don't apologize. Tell me."

"B-because… it made me feel good. To be respected like that. I had a place. It made me feel a part of something bigger." 

And that, John gets. No matter how much it might break his heart to understand, he does. Whether it's the army or the police force or a group of vaguely intimidating-looking men in leather, he knows what it means to be part of a respected segment of society, to be seen as respectable within its dictates. Sherlock, for all her flaunting of her own society's upper class rules, may or may not get that. But John thinks she does. He doesn't think Sherlock could ever honestly say she hasn't been hurt, removed as that experience might be, by the experience of being ostracized. And perhaps Greg is too new to this, to them, to fully internalize the feeling John has, that they themselves are a little pack of two, now three, worthy of just as much respect. John certainly feels as fiercely protective over the two of them as he ever has over his army mates, and it no longer bothers him that to the rest of the world, they're the Freak and his blogger. But that took time, and so he simply lays a hand on Sherlock's thigh, squeezing gently, trying to lend what silent support he can as she decides how to respond. He trusts her to get it right.

"That group of people may never respect you," she finally says, her voice soft and low in contrast to the tightness of her grip. "I cannot make them respect you. You cannot make them respect me. What I want to know, right now, is whether you can focus on me, and let me take you down in front of them. With John. No one else in the room is important. I won't let anyone keep me from a space where I want to play just because they'd prefer I not be there. Can you do that?"

Greg takes a deep breath, and he's obviously considering the question quite seriously, but ultimately he nods, and Sherlock's hand shifts to the back of his neck, the other hand tapping harshly at his mouth with her fingertips. 

"Good. Get up. With my bag."

John lets out a breath he didn't know he was holding, and finally lets his gaze drift back to the little group on the sofa as Sherlock leads Greg over to a suspension frame at the near end of the space, in easy view of the social area. Paul is still smoking his cigar, getting a blow job now, and he meets John's eyes directly. John just nods, eyes sharp, hoping he conveys the message that Greg, whatever conundrum he's in right now, is protected. He looks away then, putting his back to them, and toes off his shoes, standing at the edge of the floor mat and leaning against one end of the frame to watch.

She steps close to Greg first, towering over him even with only a few inches of height advantage, and murmurs an instruction John can't hear. Greg bends to her bag and takes out bundles of rope, laying them neatly to one side of the mat, then a handful of caribiners in a transparent bag and a sturdy metal ring. Sherlock comes to his side and whispers in his ear, holding Greg's wrists behind his back in one hand, and John watches as his eyes close, as the rises and falls of his chest become deliberate. He licks his lips and they rest slightly parted as he listens to her words. He kneels then, in the middle of the mat, hands still locked behind him, head bowed, and is utterly still. John meets Sherlock's eyes and she comes to him, voice low.

"You may want to bring a chair for this. I need the entire area of the mat, plus half a meter. If anyone comes closer than that, dissuade them." John smiles a little and nods. Of course he'd be the scene bodyguard. 

"Yeah. Have fun."

Sherlock just nods and then turns to her equipment. Knowing when he's been dismissed, John hunts down a folding chair and sets it up at one corner of the mat, half a meter away, back to the social area. Greg's just as still, likely sinking into his head, and Sherlock's focused on her setup, re-wrapping the ropes in some different fashion that means nothing to John, tying the metal ring at the center of the frame, attaching caribiners to metal eyebolts elsewhere.

The tie itself starts on the ground, Sherlock kneeling behind Greg and laying lines of hemp rope in flat wraps around his chest. John finds it interesting that she's at his level like this, almost having expected a more overt display of no-exceptions physical dominance given their audience. But then, he realizes, that would have been entirely contrary to Sherlock's modus operandi, playing by someone else's rules. He smiles to himself, watching her work methodically but with a certain roughness, her slow work punctuated by sharp tugs of the rope that cut into his body or cinch his limbs into a more demanding position. A tie that first looks comforting can suddenly wrench into something much rougher, and John wonders where she learned to do all this. For the first fifteen, twenty minutes of the scene, she seems to have forgotten that the sturdy wooden frame even exists, jerking Greg against her body, to the mats, to his stomach. She positions and repositions, adding and removing elements to the tie in a seamless flow that somehow never looks rehearsed nor obviously improvised. She's moving to an internal rhythm, and John eventually recognizes it in his head as a six count--slow, methodical motions for three, then a jerk on four, whether it's one of those tugs of the ropes or a sudden application of nails to Greg's skin or a harsh snap of a rope bundle that makes Greg flinch with his eyes closed. John smiles to himself, knowing now why she had re-tied the ropes at the beginning, as that move is rather dramatic and definitely worth it for Greg's reaction to the sound. The last two beats are a reaction, then, to the rougher movement, a contraction or a processing before the pattern repeats. 

Eventually she does incorporate the frame, tying different parts of his body to it, suspending the chest or the legs or an arm in isolation to make him strain against the stress positions. John's always thought of rope bondage as a fairly benign art, something pretty for pictures of demure Asian women hanging in the air with little physical stress involved. But up close he can see the reactions to pain on Greg's face, first with his eyes closed and then, later, with a whisper in his ear, with them open and glassy. John can also see the way the ropes not only stress the limbs but dig into the skin, leaving gorgeous red marks wherever they're laid and then removed. When Greg's weight digs into a rope that's attached to the frame, applying stress at a single point, John winces. But he also admires the artistry, the commitment Sherlock shows to her work. The focus shifts between muscle groups, pushing Greg nearly to a breaking point and then easing off only to ramp up the pressure elsewhere. Ropes gently laid on Greg's face as he kneels, serving as a blindfold and a gag, suddenly choke him for just a few seconds, long enough for John to grip hard at the metal chair before Sherlock lets up, fingers stroking the ropes and Greg's cheeks and lips underneath.

When Greg's arranged in one position, cheek to the floor, legs in the air, suspended sideways like a wounded bird with one knee bent and the other leg straight up towards the corner of the frame, arms locked uselessly out of place in a box tie, John wishes he had his camera. Sherlock wraps her hands around the top of the frame and hangs, applying her weight through her boots first gently and then with more pressure, dancing on his body. John counts in his head as he watches her so gradually increase the amount of weight on Greg's back--one, two, three, four as Greg cries out and the ropes cut into his skin, and then a release only to repeat it again. 

The scene draws to a close not with the release of the ropes but before that, with Greg curled at the center of mat in a neat little ball, tightly bound, Sherlock unashamed to lie there with him and curl her entire body around his. Finally, now, the harsh "four" of the slow count never comes and her eyes lift to John, a little dazed. He hurriedly gets the orange blanket from her bag and comes to cover them with it, sitting cross-legged as if guarding over them and stroking their bodies as they come down. She feels so fragile under his fingers, shaking slightly, but her face is open and she watches Greg with unchecked admiration. John thinks to how it frightened him, when Sherlock first described the vulnerability of a scene and how revelatory it could be, and realizes that somehow without ever submitting to her he's become part of that revealing, even as a witness.

"Yours," John whispers in her ear, and her hand jerks back like a dart to squeeze his hand until his fingers are numb.

At that moment, he quite forgets that there's anyone else in the room.

Chapter Text

"You surprised me tonight," Sherlock says as she stands against her bedroom wall, watching John and Greg change into pyjamas.

"What?" Greg grins. "Really, Miss?"

"Don't get used to it," she says, though she's cheerful. John climbs into the middle of the bed and just listens, amused. "I expected you to be ashamed to be seen with a woman. I expected you to hide it, certainly, but you weren't hiding anything. You actually weren't bothered by what people might think about you, despite your stress around being excluded."

"No," Greg agrees, frowning. "I'm not ashamed of you. You're beautiful. I'm proud to be seen with you."

"And yet it raises questions about your sexuality. Or perhaps you don't think it does, as I don't bother trying to pass."

"I... Miss, I really don't want to step on a landmine here. I know it's the elephant in the room, but I don't think our relationship is other people's business. And I don't feel a need to take home the gay male of the year award. Submitting to you makes me happy." Greg pauses, then steps closer to Sherlock. "Being with you makes me happy. Can that be enough?"

"Perhaps." Sherlock's still for a long moment, then her hand cups the back of his head. "Likely," she adds, almost too quiet for John to hear. "Do you need John to fuck you? I have an experiment to work on, otherwise."

Greg laughs and shakes his head. "John?"

"Go on. I'm knackered," he offers, smiling fondly at Sherlock. "Try not to make too much noise."

She makes no promises, but leaves as Greg's settling into John's chest, pulling up the blanket, and flips the light switch.

"All right?" John asks, skimming a hand over Greg's close cropped hair.

"I think so. Was that...good enough, do you think? For her?"

"I think it was honest. And that she doesn't really have a lot of precedent to go on in measuring what she wants in a relationship."

"Hnh." Greg shifts a little, gropes for John's hand in the dark. "If it matters, I'm not opposed to calling myself bisexual. Like I said, I'm not exactly welcomed into the gay leather club anymore anyway. I'd feel a bit disingenuous, though, I mean I'm not really into women with the usual package. Or any women other than Sherlock, honestly. Is it terrible to say that I don't think I would be into her if she were a trans woman? I mean... all the time. Or with tits and wig, like."

"I don't think it's terrible," John says carefully. "I think it's Sherlock. And she hasn't indicated any desire to change from how she is now. But I'm not sure you want to say it to her like that. I mean, when she's a woman, she is a woman. I think the lack of any accessories is more about her refusal to give a fuck about what other people think than anything else."

"Yeah. You're right, I just... fuck. I don't want to offend anyone. I don't want to lie, either, but I like her. Not women generally. I'm attracted to men and I'm attracted to Sherlock. Who isn't just a woman, anyway, and I don't know how I'd feel if she was. I suppose it's less complicated since we're not having sex. I don't have to ask what to call things when she's her, or anything."

"Anyway," John laughs softly in the dark, "it's Sherlock. I really can't imagine Sherlock using non-scientific terminology for private parts in the first place."

"No? She talks about your cock. And mine."

"Well, yeah, but she's not going to say something cutesy, like I don't know...ladycock."

"Ladycock!" Greg starts laughing into John's shoulder, clutching his sides. "God, I hope not. That's worse than disco stick."


"Don't ask. I lost a bet involving Lady Gaga once."

"I'm sure I don't want to know."


When Greg comes into the flat on a Saturday in full leathers, hair mussed, John tries hard not to gawk. He doesn't really succeed. Usually, Greg comes to them after work, taking the tube and dressed in his usual suit. He looks less tired like this, tossing John a cheeky grin.

"You're staring, Doctor."

"I'm bloody entitled." John grins and pushes himself to his feet, crossing the room to press a kiss against Greg's mouth, hands stroking over the jacket. "You always look fantastic in leather. The smell, too."

Greg laughs. "It's a bit dangerous, using the bike. The smell of the leather has a strong association with submission for me, and I can't ride with a hard-on."

"Not safely, anyway." John groans and presses up against him, initiating a deeper kiss. "Sherlock!" he calls to the kitchen when they break for air. "I want to fuck Greg."

"I'm busy," Sherlock calls back. "Later."

John groans and squeezes Greg's arse. "I don't know whether to love my life or hate it."

Greg laughs. "Too bad denial's not your kink."

"Not even a little bit. Well come on then," John sighs, tugging him to the sofa. "We can still snog."


Over time, John finds his definition of sex slowly twisting. In some ways, it's clear: what's off limits with Greg when Sherlock isn't present, for example. But when they play, she doesn't really avoid his cock, and for all she's not sexually attracted to him, Greg's obvious arousal makes John wonder why she's comfortable with such things. His mind further expands when one Friday night, out of the blue, Sherlock announces that they're going to a sex shop together. She gives John the option to chicken out, but he stubbornly refuses, accompanying them to Shoreditch and a shop with more fetish and sex gear than John possibly could have imagined without seeing it. His eyes widen at a replica of a man's arm and fist, wondering if that's really made for what it seems, and catches an older man in a leather jacket brazenly smirking at him. Without thinking about it, he shuffles closer to Sherlock.

"Remind me to never take you to the Fetish Fair," Greg teases fondly, lacing his fingers through John's. He blushes at the semipublic display of affection but finds he quite likes it.

"The what?" he asks, skimming a sign about made-to-measure fetish wear.

"The Fair's like this, only temporary and more crowded. It happens every month, a bunch of independent vendors and shops have stalls and there's a playspace attached."

"Ah, right. Kinky market days," John smiles. "Do people even use all this stuff?" he asks, dubiously eyeing something labeled a "lube shooter."

"Sure. Sometimes Paul would kit me out with a utility belt and all these sorts of accessories for a party," Greg smiles, showing John a leather strap intended to hold a bottle of lube. "I came in handy."

John glances at Sherlock to see if she's heard, and her reaction is frankly adorable, nose twitching like a bunny. She leads them to a back corner of the shop, out of the flow of traffic, and snaps her fingers at the floor. "Kneel."

Greg, John's surprised to find, doesn't hesitate, even with a couple browsing down the aisle in line of sight. Sherlock ignores him in favor of tugging John by the wrist to another aisle. 

"Don't worry," she murmurs, paying most of her attention to the shopping but picking up on John's concern nonetheless. "He likes it." John lets out a breath and watches her consider a set of heavy padded cuffs, forming her hand into a slightly opened circle and holding it to the cuff when buckled. She knows the circumference of his wrist by how far her hand goes round it, John realizes, and is struck by the sudden flare of lust in his gut.

Sherlock turns to a medical play section next, which makes John frown, seeing supplies identical to those he actually uses in his profession. He doesn't get how people could kink on pain or injury, but his thoughts are brought up short by the case Sherlock is opening to examine. A gleaming set of urethral sounds sit neatly in their thin compartments, and John's eyebrows shoot up.

"Since when did you take a personal interest in his dick?"

Sherlock doesn't even look up. "Dull, John. Tedious. You're acting as if the function of a penis is limited to its sexual response."

"Well... okay, fair point, but you want to stick metal rods in his cock why? Torture?"

"Not precisely. Sounding is quite psychologically intense for most men. I intend to investigate Lestrade's response."

"Ah." John shudders. "Well. Better him than me."

Sherlock allows a small smile. "As in many things," he agrees, with a sweeping gesture to the shop.


John's comforted, at least, by Sherlock's attention to safety. Perched on the side of their bed in a simple black cotton dress with 3/4 sleeves, a short skirt, and a plunging neckline, she pulls on blue latex gloves and sterilizes everything before they start. 

John sits at Greg's shoulder, stroking his hair as he watches. Greg's still mostly soft, and the way Sherlock handles him as she lubricates the tip of his penis is clinical, her hands balancing things effortlessly as she inserts the sound and gently guides it in, holding Greg's cock at a good angle. Greg hisses, but doesn't look to be in pain, and John squeezes his shoulder. For his part, watching Sherlock handle Greg with such experimental detachment does something weird to his desire, his belly clenching and his cock starting to fill. He feels almost guilty, having sexual feelings about it, but she's never begrudged him his libido.

"Oh my God," John whispers, watching Sherlock slowly fuck Greg's cock, and Sherlock just smirks. 

"Shall I have you record the data, John?" He groans a little. Not a pen he wants to be holding, but Sherlock knows that. She places a hand low on Greg's belly, almost on his pubic bone, and applies gentle pressure. Greg whimpers and John watches his cock shift as it starts to harden.

"Pleasure response first," she coos, her eyes on Greg's now. "Then pain."

John frowns. "What kind of pain are you...?"

"Shhh," she interrupts. "I know exactly what I'm doing, doctor. Would I ever harm him?"

"No," John's forced to admit, but the idea still makes him nervous as she inserts a thicker rod, slick with more lubricant. Greg doesn't seem bothered, whimpering happily as his cock takes the new sound. "What does it feel like?" John murmurs, needing to know.

"Like she's fucking me," Greg mumbles, his voice subspace-indistinct. "Like prostate stimulation. But not."

"Very eloquent, Gregory," Sherlock deadpans. "In fact, it is prostate stimulation, indirectly. And, in addition, a highly concentrated cluster of nerve endings, not unlike the female clitoral structure."

Greg blushes bright pink, and John bends to give him a soothing kiss. He's surprised when Greg yelps suddenly against his mouth, and sits up again. "What...?"

"Pain play," Sherlock explains, and John looks down to find her fingers squeezing and manipulating the shaft. "This pressure tends to be uncomfortable." That's fairly obvious to John from Greg's little sounds, and something in him just wants to soothe, data be damned. Looking Sherlock directly in the eye first, not hiding what he's doing, he then bends to Greg's ear to whisper.

"Such a good boy. Do you know how gorgeous you look, with your cock stuffed full like that?" Greg moans and John reaches to stimulate his nipples. In turn, Sherlock adds a lot more lube and then inserts a larger sound that has Greg grunting and taking sharp breaths in. "You can do it, baby. So good like that. Just take it for me. Let her fuck you," he adds, quiet enough that it's their own fantasy rather than something distasteful for Sherlock. Sherlock doesn’t stop him from talking dirty to Greg, but she does keep sliding the sound in and out despite Greg’s sounds of discomfort. After a few more minutes of this, though, alternating with Sherlock squeezing his cock and tugging hard at his balls, Greg gasps a single word.


Sherlock’s hand immediately stops moving, the other soothing on his hip. “All right, boy, that’s good,” she murmurs, her tone shifting to something warmer. “I have sufficient data.” Greg just whimpers as Sherlock slowly slides the sound out, talking through what she’s doing and giving him plenty of warning. “John,” she says gently, her voice deep as she points to a jar of disinfectant and a plain bottle of soap. “Will you disinfect and wash these?”

John nods, watching her strip off her gloves and only shifting away from Greg when she lays alongside him, cupping his genitals without any real mission. She murmurs in his ear, too quiet for John to hear, but Greg looks more relaxed, and John turns to his task, making sure each sound is sanitized, clean, and dry before returning it to the case. As he does the routine work, his mind fills in a gratitude that he got to see Greg stop her, even for something simple like this. It’s reassuring to know that he can, that he will, if he needs. Once he’s done, John bins the gloves and turns back to them, a little uncertain whether the scene’s over or whether he should join. Sherlock looks up with an uncharacteristically soft smile.

“I want him to piss. It’s healthy, after. Go with him.”

John raises an eyebrow, but he dutifully walks with Greg to the bathroom, wincing at the slightly off way he’s walking. His cock is mostly soft again, and John finds himself staring. “Does it hurt?” he asks as Greg stands in front of the toilet.

“A little. Mostly burns a bit inside.” He gives John a loopy grin. “Don’t worry, doc. It’s not dangerous.” He starts to reach for himself to aim, but John surprises himself by instead guiding Greg’s hand back so that both arms rest folded against his back. John steps in close and holds Greg’s cock himself, aiming it towards the bowl and resting his chin on Greg’s shoulder. Greg thankfully says nothing, just sighs and lets the stream release. John watches intently, his medical mind pleased to see no blood, but his more personal side fascinated by the image of his hand around Greg’s soft cock, piss streaming into the bowl. He inhales sharply, not sure what to do or say. When the stream eases off to a trickle, he shakes it a little and lets go, awkwardly meeting Greg’s eye. 


“I won’t tell,” Greg murmurs, smiling and kissing John on the mouth. “Wash your hands.”

John decides that is likely the easiest course of action, and tries to pretend that nothing unusual has happened. Perhaps nothing has.


“I’m really glad you’re part of this package,” Greg groans after a rough, comprehensive shagging a few days following the sounding. Sherlock doesn’t have a case, and had to be practically dragged in to supervise due to lack of interest on Sherlock’s part combined with raging libido on John’s. Greg certainly doesn’t seem bothered by the whole thing.

“Hmph.” John kisses his neck. “Because you get fucked?”

“Yeah.” Greg grins and kisses him. “I do love kink. But I need a bit of sex on my cake alongside.”

From the armchair, Sherlock makes a small noise, and they both look up. “Of course you do. You’re a sexual person. It’s unsurprising that the two would go together for you. Obvious.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Greg grins, and John runs a hand over his hair because he can, tugging Greg’s head to his chest with them both facing Sherlock. “It’s more than that, though.”


“It’s… complicated.” Greg’s fingers trace along John’s hand, and it’s obvious even to John that he’s avoiding something. Sherlock snorts.

“I’m certain I’ll understand.”

“Right… well, it’s to do with Paul. Are you sure you want to know?”

Sherlock gives a murderous frown, but nods sharply. “I want to know everything that is relevant to you.”

John squeezes him tighter for support, and Greg starts to explain. “When things got rocky, with us, sex was one of the first things to go. And you know I’m into service… I always was, with him and even before him. Service meant different things with him, from sex to personal care to keeping his calendar. He had a fair number of social things going on, and with the family, and I was in charge of all that.”

Sherlock observes, eagle-eyed, and interrupts him. “You kept those duties. But he denied you sex.”

“Well, not exactly like that. I had to work a lot. It’s possible to manage a calendar and the bills and everything from a mobile. You can’t have sex with a mobile. Well,” Greg laughs, though it sounds slightly bitter to John, “Not really.”

“And then a new boy joined your household.”

“Yes. It was…easy to see what Paul saw in him. I couldn’t blame him, really, for putting me in the guest room. I did come in at all hours, not like it was abandonment."

John shifts a hand to his chest, putting gentle pressure there as he speaks before Sherlock can. “That sounds overly technical to me. It was important to you to share intimacy.”

“Well… yeah,” Greg agrees. “Not just the sex, but they were obviously falling in love, and everything went to his new boy after that. Bathing, shaving, everything particularly close. It was too much, eventually.”

Sherlock seems to consider that a moment, then speaks sharply. “Then I am no more valuable to you than he was before you left. A useful dominant accessory,” he spits, and John can practically feel the horror as Greg jerks up, leaving the bed and going to Sherlock’s chair, hovering a moment as if he can’t figure out how to treat him when he’s not in top mode and then finally settling to his knees regardless.

“Miss, no.”

“Not now,” Sherlock snaps. “I’m not ‘Miss,’ now.”

“Sherlock, then. No, Sherlock. That isn’t it. That isn’t it at all.”

“Explain,” Sherlock demands, voice harsh and body signaling self-protection. John wants to run over and scoop him into a hug, but he forces himself to stay on the bed and watch.

“Sherlock… I’m sorry. But that’s not what I meant at all. You give me so much. You don’t give me sex, certainly, but you give me intimacy. You give me a kind of intimacy I’ve never known,” he adds, almost too soft for John to hear. He can’t see how Greg’s looking at Sherlock, but he does see Sherlock look down, his gaze softening, observing, taking in the details of Greg’s genuine feeling towards him.

“How?” he asks, his voice uncharacteristically unsteady.

“You… find all my parts. Poke at every last one of them,” Greg admits with a fond little laugh. “I know it’s not sex, but it’s almost more than that. It’s more raw, more vulnerable than sex. I explained badly, but I don’t think sex is the only proxy for intimacy. Most of the intimacy I had with Paul involved sex, the intimacy I have with you doesn’t. One isn’t better than the other.”

Sherlock grunts a bit, but he seems to be relaxing, to John’s relief.

“Can I admit something to you?”

“Of course.” Sherlock waves an imperious hand and John has to smile. He looks like he’s holding court in that chair, with Greg on his knees.

“I’ve been wondering, after what you asked me after my old family saw us in the club… about us. About what it means for my sexuality, as a gay man, because I have been intimately relating with a woman. With you as a woman. Honestly, given the play and how we are together when you’re there, I have a deeper relationship with you as a woman than I do as a man. So maybe ‘gay’ isn’t entirely accurate, even if you are just an exception to my norm.”

Sherlock frowns, seems almost cautious when he queries, “And are you… fine with that?”

Greg nods slowly. “I think I am. I think… it’s hard sometimes, that I don’t always know the boundaries when you’re like you are now. When you’re male, and you’re not feeling dominant towards me, and I feel like I’m not really allowed to have a romantic relationship with you in that space, or be affectionate like John is with you when you’re like this. I don’t know what’s welcome, and I don’t have the kind of instincts I have when I’m really in subspace.” He blushes a little, looking between them. “I think… this is becoming more and more like a full-time thing. Like a relationship. And in a relationship, I want to be able to do service for you or be submissive around you regardless of where your head is at the time.”

Sherlock frowns. “You know I don’t feel dominant now. That’s the entire point. I have different ways of being, and this one is not conducive to dominance and submission.”

“And that’s fine,” Greg interjects quickly. “I don’t need you to be in topspace to serve you or be submissive to you. I just think I would like to be able to kneel if I want, even if you don’t feel like topping me. I want to be able to sort out your needs, when I can.” Greg smiles a little, glancing back to John. “Even if they are a moving target.”

John snorts at that. “It makes sense to me, love,” he suggests, moving over towards them and dropping a hand to stroke through Sherlock’s curls. “As long as Greg feels safe. And even though I don’t want to top him, I’m perfectly happy offering praise, making sure he’s okay when you don’t care.”

Sherlock hisses, looking up at John. “I care.”

“Oh, love. I know.” John bends and kisses his forehead. “I only meant… when you aren’t able to manage those needs. You aren’t, always. And that’s okay. It’s good to know that about yourself. It doesn’t make you any less to delegate. In fact, from what I’ve heard about Paul’s approach, I think it makes you more.” 

Sherlock half-growls in agreement. “All right. Fine.” He looks down at Greg again. “However, I still don’t understand your obsession with sexual orientation.”

Greg laughs. “I’m not obsessed. I just… want you to feel affirmed. I don’t want you to think that I’m only into you because you have a dick, or like I don’t think you’re a real woman when you… are a woman.”

Sherlock scoffs. “Completely irrelevant. It’s not as if my dick,” he says crisply, John’s twitching at the word falling from Sherlock’s lips, “is involved in the proceedings. If your interest in me revolved around it you would have left long before now.”

“Well… all right,” Greg concedes, smiling. “I suppose it doesn’t really matter, since it’s only about this relationship. I’m not going anywhere else.”

“Promise?” Sherlock asks, and he looks more childlike than John imagines he would want to portray. John feels fiercely protective as Greg nods firmly and squeezes Sherlock’s calf.

“I promise. Just try to remember that I can’t only be in a relationship with half of you. This has already gone beyond you just calling me over for scenes. I don’t need to play all the time but I need to know that I’m submissive to you, even if you’re ignoring me at the time for mold samples.” 

John snorts a laugh. “Sounds reasonable to me.”

“Agreed,” Sherlock contributes. “You may be submissive whenever you like. And I don’t understand your insistence that John is ‘allowed’ to be more affectionate than you are. As long as you understand that such affection does not constitute the beginning of play, unless that’s what I want, I see no problem with… occasional touch."

Greg grins. “Well, now you’re in for it. John, would you say I’m very good at occasional touch?”

John laughs and bends to ruffle his hair. “Not really. Great bloody octopus you are.”

“Lord protect me,” Sherlock mutters, flat, and consents to a mostly two-sided group hug to seal the deal.

Chapter Text

"There's milk in the fridge," John mutters one morning, suddenly staring down at his mug of milky tea with an expression of mild wonderment. "In fact, there's been milk in the fridge the last three times I wanted tea."

Suddenly, then, he spins around, nearly knocking Greg's toast off the table, and kisses the man hard on the mouth.

"Nghhhh. Good morning?" Greg offers, amused.

"You buy milk," John explains, cheerfully, the meaning of Greg's service tendencies in the context of his own life suddenly coalescing in his mind. Greg just looks at him like he might be slightly off his rocker.

"Toast?" he offers, buttering a piece and rolling his eyes just a bit when John stuffs it in his mouth, holding the slice between his teeth, and grabs his bag.

"Don't mind if I do," he mumbles with his mouth full, and rubs Greg close cropped hair once before he heads off to his shift.


"Bored. Where's Lestrade?"

"He has the girls this weekend. I told you." Sherlock grunts in response, giving John his "not good enough" look from the sofa. "Ah, come off it. Sometimes those of us who aren't named Holmes like a bit of family time."

"Only those who aren't also named Watson, all facts considered." Sherlock raises an elegant eyebrow and John chucks the Union Jack cushion at him, though he knows from experience that all childish projectiles are caught summarily mid-air in this flat. It's still somewhat satisfying.

"Can't you do whatever you did before you had an on-demand boy to torment?"

"Of course, John. Would you like to fetch me your service pistol or shall I pop down by Leicester Square and see if Mackie still has a reasonable per-gram rate?"

"Don't be difficult. I didn’t mean cocaine, obviously, and you haven't stolen my gun since before you came back."

"Haven't I?"

John groans. "Pillock. Figure out something else, then. I'm not about to let you smack me in the face with your riding crop for fun. Assuming I don't have a case of PTSD already, I'd surely develop one quickly." 

"No," Sherlock murmurs, suddenly swinging his feet to the floor, sitting with knees spread wide and fingers steepled, an intense stare leveled on John. "Though perhaps..."

He gives her a suspicious look as a sweeping deductive gaze announces the presence of Sherlock’s female side in the room.

"No. Whatever it is, no. I'm not in the mood for experiments."

"Oh? But I am, John, and you're terribly easy to manipulate when you're thinking with your cock." Her crisp pronunciation is calculated, but he's determined not to fold this time.

"I said, no,” he insists. My plan for this afternoon is to read the paper in peace, write a blog post, ring my mum, and not have all that bollocksed up by your sudden need for entertainment, Sherlock."

"Greg told me about your little piss kink," Sherlock goads in return. "You're not entirely vanilla, Doctor."

"Jesus, Sherlock, I don't have a..." John growls in frustration. "Can't you just let this go?"

"No," Sherlock sulks. John sighs, feeling somewhat resigned. If even the "Captain voice" won't work, then Sherlock's determined, and he can't see this ending well.

"I want you to listen carefully, then." Sherlock does, to her credit, seem to paying attention as John leans forward in his chair, thinking about how to put this. "I was willing to give up sex for you. Indefinitely. Even if you'd demanded exclusivity, I would've seriously considered that, because it's worth it to me to have you around. I never expected this thing with Greg, you know?"

"I know," she agrees, giving him a "get to the point" look.

"I'm still happy with that. I'll be happy even if he leaves eventually. I'd always be happy with you. But if you can't give up kink--even just with me; I'm not asking for you to cut it out cold turkey, but... if you can't accept that I'm not interested in being your second boy, then we have a problem. Because I can't be that."

"I wasn't asking," Sherlock frowns. "That's what Greg is for. You're just being obtuse."

"Yeah?" John feels the burn in this stomach, clenching and flexing his hand. "Well from my perspective, it's not completely bloody unreasonable to wonder whether this will all be over when you realize I'm not actually going to budge on this kink thing. And honestly, I don't think you understand how goddamn essential you are to me. Do you know what would happen to me if you--" John's breath hitches, unwilling to say it. Sherlock stares at him, eyes narrowing. 

"You think I'm going to leave. You believe you're not enough for me."

John lets out a slow breath. "I think you've taken the easy road before. It's a lot to ask, to love someone like I love you." He shakes his head, breath huffing on a shaky laugh. "I've taken a risk for you, love--I've staked everything on you, and I'm not just talking about the sex. I'm talking about everything, about being us, I honestly don't know how to imagine a life without you."

"And you think I can." Sherlock's face is emotionless, and John can't read her body language.

"Maybe not. I don't know. I'm not sure," John admits, hating the way his fears are exposed like this but needing it aired at the same time. "You showed me once that you're able to walk away. And I could never fucking do that. So you hold all the power, in a way, beyond anything kinky." John smiles. "Maybe you do own me." 

Sherlock frowns. "You think I could leave for anything less than a gun to your head?"

"Maybe not physically leave, but... I need you to value what I actually am, not what you can make me into. You've been fixing me since we met, and I appreciate that, you know I do, but not everything about me is broken. There's some basic thing that is me, and if you want to fix that, then I don't know what the hell you're doing here."

"I do value you," Sherlock counters, her voice soft enough now that John has to actually concentrate on listening. She slips off the sofa and comes to kneel in front of his chair, reaching up to touch both his cheeks briefly. "You're an idiot if you can't see that, but I don't know how..." Her eyes flick down, and John's heart tugs at the rare moment of Sherlock needing to fish for words. "I don't know how to be what you want. I don't know how to take care of someone in the usual ways. D/s is the only way I've ever been able to do it...despite what you claim, I know you'll leave eventually. I can’t be sweet or comforting or romantic when you need it." 

"But that's the point," John frowns, reaching to thread his fingers through her hair, combing it back on one side. "I won’t leave. I can't. I don't want to, I need not to... I need you to try to learn for me. Not how to be traditionally romantic, most of that is bollocks, but just… how to bend a little. How to make small compromises." 

Sherlock seems to contemplate this, looking unusually young for just an instant. "Will you teach me?" she asks, and John's anger melts as quickly as it came, his forehead bending to touch hers. "Yeah. Yeah, of course I will."

"I knew I wouldn't be enough," Sherlock murmurs after a moment of silence, of John brushing slow lines down her back.

"But that's the thing," he argues. "You are. You absolutely are." John breathes in deeply, touching her hair. “The point is that I need to believe that I am, too." Sherlock doesn't answer, but pushes up into his lap in the too-small chair and clings hard to him. He has to believe it's a start.


As an apology gift, Sherlock gives John a box of ammunition. 

It’s sitting on the breakfast table the next morning, a box of V-crown jacketed hollow point bullets wrapped with a red bow. John raises his eyebrows, trying to figure out how on earth Sherlock obtained a box of bullets that quickly in London, and then decides he doesn’t want to know. He stashes the box to be sure he won’t forget before Greg returns, and then gives Sherlock a tight hug that he responds to as awkwardly as usual.

“Anything on today?” John asks, tugging at the sides of Sherlock’s dressing gown to keep him close. 

Sherlock shakes his head. “Still boring.” He looks a little uncertain, though, at the admission. John smiles.

“I know, love. I don’t mind your saying so as long as you’re not going to start trying to deduce my fetishes. Want to go harass Mycroft?"

Sherlock makes a face. “He’s out of the country."

“We could bug his flat?"

That does earn John a smile, though Sherlock shakes his head reluctantly. “His security precautions are… rather extreme."

“Meaning he took notes the last time you broke in."

“Loathe as I am to admit it, John, I am no longer twenty-five and a certain physical prowess is necessary for such home invasion efforts.” He lifts John’s own mug of tea to his lips, sipping it slowly and idly scratching a hand up and down John’s back.

“Yeah?” John smiles. “You still leap over various fences and such as if they’re nothing."

“That’s because they are nothing, and you’re uncommonly short."

“You’re uncommonly tall,” he returns, though there’s no heat in it, nipping the mug back and taking a sip. “Your family are like weeds." 

“Harry’s taller than you."

“Yeah,” John agrees. “She is. How did you know?"

“I wasn’t certain. But you react a certain way around taller women, and your relationship with her provides certain clues that increase the probability of your being the shortest one in the family, aside from your mother." 

“My mum’s actually taller than me, too. By a few centimeters."

“Mm,” Sherlock acknowledges. "You don’t talk about her." 

“No,” John agrees. “But I’d expect you to deduce as much from that.” He pulls away to pour some cereal, puttering.

“Oh,” Sherlock realizes softly. “She’s the alcoholic. Not your father.” John’s glad his back is turned. He doesn’t have to confirm it, just pours two bowls of cereal, topping them off with milk, and knows that Sherlock will find his silence enough. He puts both bowls on the table and they eat standing, John nudging Sherlock occasionally to remind him to lift the spoon to his mouth. Sherlock stays mercifully silent until John’s doing the washing up, and then comes to loom behind him, hands pressing against John’s hips.

“How old were you when you understood?"

“Understood?” John frowns, scrubbing out the second bowl. “I don’t know, Sherlock. It probably happened gradually."

“She tried to protect you from it at first. Harriet."

“Yeah.” John barely remembers being so young, but Sherlock is right. She protected him until it was her he needed protecting from, and he’s never quite known how to forgive her. “Can we not right now?"

Sherlock doesn’t agree, but does drop the subject, turning John in his arms when the dishes are done and resting his chin on John’s head, hands stroking John’s back. “When did you come out to your family?” he asks instead. John can’t help but smile at Sherlock’s unique gift for picking out all the uncomfortable topics right in a row. 

“I haven’t, really. I didn’t see a need."


“We don’t really talk about relationships in my family. Unless it’s actually going to be a marriage thing."

“Do they know?"

John shrugs. “They might. But I doubt it."

Sherlock pulls back, examining him for a long moment, and then frowns. “What was it like, growing up normal?"

“Normal?” John barks out a laugh. “I’d hardly know, love. Why do you ask?"

"You had a choice, didn't you? To be perceived as an average heterosexual male. Adolescence was different for me."

John frowns. "Because you grew up in a family of Mycrofts?"

Sherlock snorts. "One was sufficient. I hardly had any 'coming out,' in any event."

"You know," John muses, leading Sherlock to the sitting room by the hand and sitting down on the sofa with him, "I'm surprised he's not a dick about your gender. Was he always like that?"

"He takes it in stride." Sherlock puts his back at one arm of the sofa and tugs John closer with his arms and legs around John's torso. "He could always read my gender at a given moment, but that doesn't make him less of a dick." John snorts. "He used to be rather pushy about wanting me to attempt a sexual relationship."

"Really?" John makes a face. "Why?"

"Normalcy, I suppose. He gave up when his surveillance caught me going into certain clubs. I think he wants to believe I'm having sex there, despite the evidence." 

"I really hope he's not thinking too hard about it. I can't imagine." 

"Not as if he has a world to run or anything," Sherlock snickers, digging a heel into John's thigh a bit.

"Just the sort to be a perv, really. Never trust a politician."

"Said the loyal soldier."

John humphs. "I was loyal to my men and to my country. It's not as if MPs were giving us orders."

"Not directly."

"Still, there's a difference between recognizing that someone has to set foreign policy and having a good opinion of politicians as individuals."

"I'll warn Mycroft not to expect a holiday card. Though technically speaking, he's not a politician." The back of Sherlock's hand traces an idle pattern on John's chest.

"Because he's a spook? Or a spook behind a desk, at any rate."

Sherlock laughs. "I meant more because he's not responsible to any polis. Mycroft makes decisions, and countries fall."

"A bit dramatic, I think," John teases.

"Factual. But he is a drama queen."

John giggles and shifts onto his side, slipping his arm under the small of Sherlock’s back. “I’m not arguing. Seriously, though… can I ask, how old you were when you knew? About your gender, I mean."

“I was no particular age,” Sherlock says, stroking his hand through John’s hair. John’s noticed he does that more when he’s trying to comfort himself than John, and of course he allows it. “I believe I began to understand the way most people perceive gender at four or five, from isolated events. But it’s never quite made sense, that one could have such an unshifting location on the plane we describe as ‘gender.’ Age hasn’t changed that.” 

“I don’t think you’re necessarily wrong,” John admits. “I’m comfortable with my masculinity, obviously, but I don’t think I could tell you what it is, exactly. I’ve thought about it a bit, in the last few months. I think it’s just something I know."

“Precisely.” Sherlock makes a face. “Our language around gender is horribly imprecise, not to mention ambiguous and prone to refer to four or five different concepts at once. It’s hardly scientific.” 

John smiles and rubs at Sherlock’s hip. “It’s language, though. Language isn’t meant to be science."

“Language is categorization,” Sherlock huffs. “I’ll forward you some articles."

John groans, though just a little. The last time a subject of curiosity came up like this and Sherlock promised to forward articles, John ended up with about thirty of them in his e-mail, and Sherlock wouldn’t relent until he could discuss them all at length. “Not necessary, Professor Holmes."

“Mm. Not necessary, but pleasurable. I believe you make a tolerable student,” Sherlock declares, and the statement swells in John’s chest like a compliment. He may never get the kind of raw praise Greg earns at the end of a scene from Sherlock, but he will greedily lap up Sherlock’s half-affirming statements like he always has, recognizing the fondness implicit in them. Sherlock’s language, at least, he understands with relative fluency.


Sherlock and Lestrade don’t get to play for nearly three weeks after the Inspector’s weekend with the children, and John and Sherlock have more alone time together than they’re accustomed to these days. It puts John in a good mood, even if Sherlock does spend half of it stroppy and unaccommodating. When Greg finally does get a couple of days off, and chooses to spend it at 221B, it’s clear to John that Sherlock has really needed her topspace, perhaps as much as Greg wants to submit. She magnanimously leaves John in charge of kisses and cuddles while she preps something in the bedroom.

“Do you know what she’s planned?” John asks, astride Greg’s lap, caressing the naked man’s freshly shorn hair. 

“Not a clue,” Greg replies, grinning as he shakes his head. “Don’t care."

John laughs and smears a quick kiss across his mouth. “Greedy boy. Have you been thinking about it all this time?" 

“Whenever I’m not actively working,” he agrees, squeezing John’s waist. “Especially as I’m falling asleep."

“Mm. Stop, you’ll give me daydreams about molesting you in your bed late at night,” John teases. Greg just groans with pleasure and John indulges him in a longer kiss, squeezing the back of his neck. He’s zoned out a bit on the snogging by the time he hears Sherlock clearing her throat from the direction of the bedroom.

“John. A word.”

John looks up, raising his eyebrows, but she doesn’t elaborate so he climbs out of Greg’s lap and walks into the bedroom, letting her shut the door behind him. There’s an old sheet on the bed, with an absorbent pad on top like what you put on the carpet for puppies when they’re not yet trained. On the nightstand is what looks like a box for fishing tackle, open, and the chair is pulled up close to the bed next to it. There’s also a first aid kit on the floor, and John frowns, looking questioningly at Sherlock. “What’s all this, then?" 

“Needleplay,” she answers him concisely. “I want to give you the option not to watch, if it will bother you."

“Uh… define ‘play.’ Is this like acupuncture or something?"

“No,” Sherlock smiles. “More like piercing. Temporary piercing, just under the skin. The needles can be used to decorate the body with bells and ribbons and things, or for pain play… the endorphin rush is often quite incredible." 

“Ah.” John frowns, considering. “Why do I get the feeling you’re not in it for the aesthetics?"

“Well, I’m not. I don’t have an elaborate plan, but I am going to push him. He needs it." 

You need it, too,” John points out, placing a flat palm against her chest. “Don’t be afraid to admit that."

“I’m not,” Sherlock argues. “Staying or going?"

“I’ll stay,” John decides, sitting down on the bed on the side opposite the chair and unbuttoning his sleeves, pushing them up. “Do you need anything from me?"

“I may occasionally ask for your assistance with supplies,” she responds, already heading for the door. “Other than that, no.” 

From the sitting room, John hears the low murmur of voices, and he leans towards the other side of the bed to inspect the open box more carefully. Little piles of needles are divided into separate compartments with colored plastic hubs indicating the gauge, and other compartments hold sterile wipes, twine, medical gauze. They take longer out there than his snooping does, and so he leans back against the headboard, thinking about the plan, trying to decide how he feels about it. It evokes fewer emotions than he expects—in a way, perhaps he should be bothered by the appropriation of medical tools for play by untrained participants, but he’s seen how neatly Sherlock can stitch a wound, and he trusts the man’s abilities much more than he would trust most kinky enthusiasts off the street. He wonders if Greg’s done this before, and whether it frightens him. He certainly looks quite calm when they enter the room, Greg a few paces behind Sherlock. He lays out on the bed on his back and grins up at John, squeezing his thigh. 

“I’m glad you’re here,” he says in a slightly hazy tone that indicates Sherlock was getting him under out there, in whatever way she deemed fit.

“Me too,” John smiles, and now he’s certainly not going anywhere for the world. He takes Greg’s hand and watches as Sherlock kneels up in the chair, which places her over Greg’s chest, and applies a pair of powder-blue gloves before wiping Greg’s chest down with antiseptic. 

“What’s the largest gauge you’ve been pierced with?” she asks almost conversationally, though her voice is sensually low.

“No idea, Miss,” Greg admits. “I haven’t asked."

“Really?” Sherlock gives him a look as if she can’t imagine the lack of scientific curiosity implied in his admission, then huffs and reaches for her box. “Breathe slowly in through your nose, out through your mouth. Keep your eyes open and focused on me."

Of course, Greg does as he’s told, and John watches Sherlock time his breaths so that the first needle, a thin one with a pink hub, pierces the skin of Greg’s upper chest on the exhale. Greg barely reacts as John watches the needle slowly slide out a few centimeters away, though he does have an impressive pain tolerance. The second needle goes into Greg’s chest on the other side, and once John’s seen Sherlock do the first few he relaxes a little, noting with approval Sherlock’s spatial awareness and safe methods, the way she carefully avoids pricking herself as she pierces Greg. He is a little surprised, though, by the pattern, which starts as a tight spiral on each side, the ends of needles crossing underneath each other. After three on each side, Sherlock adds on with yellow-hubbed needles, a slightly larger gauge, and starts to unwind the spiral below the initial spot, towards Greg’s nipples. At ten needles, she pauses, running a hand over Greg’s stomach. “Color."

“Green, Miss,” Greg replies immediately, still breathing carefully as he was told. Sherlock nods and reaches up, pushing down on the the bump of skin at the center of each twist of needles with his thumbs. “Ah!” Greg gasps, his eyes on Sherlock’s.

“Mmm.” Sherlock smiles a little and does it again, flicking the skin before she goes back to piercing. John can tell when it starts to hurt more when Greg grasps at his hand, and John strokes his forehead in return, watching Sherlock pierce up the centre of the chest with the needles neatly crossing, and then across the top, going through thin skin near the clavicles on both sides. 

“Water,” Sherlock demands as she continues her work down one side, and it takes John a second before he realizes she means him and reaches for the water bottle with a built-in straw that she’s started filling for Greg before scenes. He holds it for Greg to sip from, and Sherlock pauses for a bit, letting him drink his fill before she starts pressing and flicking at the needles. Greg gasps and moans in little broken-off sounds, and John strokes his hair, raising his eyebrows when Sherlock reaches for a larger gauge. “Twelve more, boy. Can you do it?"

Greg nods, looking her in the eye. “Green, Miss. Please."

Sherlock smiles and uncaps the first needle. “This isn’t over just because I’m done piercing, boy. You know that?"

“Yes, Miss. I want you to hurt me, please."

Sherlock reacts in a kind of bitten-off growl, her eyes flashing with ferocity before she focuses again and starts the next row of needles sweeping in towards Greg’s navel. John decides he’s not going to mention that Sherlock has essentially drawn a heart, because he’d be mocked for days, but he does appreciate the swirling pattern of needles that decorate Greg’s body. She brushes her fingers over the rows over needles first, carefully avoiding the tips, strumming them. Greg whines and squirms a little, and John strokes his hair soothingly. Her stimulation techniques are gentle, but John imagines it has to be incredibly intense with all those pricks taking over Greg’s torso, any manipulation of his body reminding him that there are several dozen bits of metal penetrating his skin. Greg’s cries get louder when she presses and flicks more roughly, and Sherlock’s eyes are intent and full of heat as she observes her boy’s reactions. John thinks sometimes that she feeds off Greg a little, soaking up the kind of open emotional responses that she herself rarely displays. 

When they’ve gone a while, with a few more breaks for water facilitated by John, Sherlock reaches again for her kit, binning the gloves and cutting off a long piece of twine before she puts on a fresh pair. “A few more minutes, boy. Can you do it?"

“Yes,” Greg whispers, watching her with adoration. She smiles and threads the twine through the pattern on his chest, starting at the crossing needles in the center and then looping around the center points of each spiral, so that when she finishes and tugs the ends taut there are three points of tension, stretching Greg’s skin away from his body. John watches intently, a little amazed. Sherlock stares at Greg like a locked room murder bearing mysteries uncounted, oh-so-gradually increasing the pressure and the pain in turn. Greg cries in non-verbal pleas, high-pitched vocal release without any real objective, but he keeps his eyes on hers, and despite his practical nature John swears he can feel the exchange of energy between them as a physical thing. At the precipice, she holds him there for a few heartbeats, leaning forward, the twine held in a gloved fist almost at her own chest and her mouth almost brushing his own. Then she releases, just as slowly, exhaling over his lips and holding him captive with her stare. 

“Miss,” Greg whispers, full of awe, and she holds his gaze as she suddenly, fiercely tugs at two needles at once, pulling them out not cleanly but with obvious intention. Blood beads immediately at Greg’s chest, and Sherlock fumbles a moment for the sharps container, obviously loathe to take her eyes away. John quickly rises from the bed and walks around to the other side, holding it for her as she removes two more needles with a sharp flourish like a strike, the metal ripped from Greg’s skin. He shouts, and John is a little impressed to realize that he’s fully hard, that he’s not just enduring this. He doesn’t blame either of them, really. The bright red trails of blood as she continues to remove the needles—some quicker and more cleanly, others with that wicked method—are obscenely attractive, erotic in their shock value. By the time she’s got all the needles out, he’s bleeding not an inconsiderable amount. 

“Bottle of juice in the refrigerator. Straw in the utensil drawer,” Sherlock murmurs, and John obediently closes the sharps container and heads for the kitchen, glad she’s taken some consideration for Greg’s immediate physical needs. He finds the bottle of orange juice and a sturdy reusable straw, though he has to pause for a moment in the doorway when he finds her leaning in again, staring into Greg's eyes, gloved fingers sweeping through his blood and pressing at tender spots. She lifts one finger to his mouth and he sucks, eyes falling shut. His cock twitches visibly.

It’s not exactly John’s kink, arresting as the visual is, but he thinks he can understand this, the desire to literally get inside someone and see the evidence of their trust painted on their body. It’s obviously an intense act of submission for Greg, sucking his own blood off her finger. When John quietly steps over and offers him the juice, he makes a little appreciative exclamation that might have been words in Greg’s brain, but doesn’t come out sounding like anything particular. John holds the juice while he slowly sucks at the straw, and Sherlock finally reaches for the wipes again, obviously with some reluctance, cleaning Greg’s chest and stomach in long swipes. John mentally debates whether it’s worth trying to get Greg into a shower before he passes out for the evening, or whether Greg needs some solid food before he tries to stand safely in the tub. He decides to wait on asking, though, given the intense way Sherlock’s still looking at Greg. It’ll keep.


Chapter Text

Lying under the sheets, lazy with the sun at a 70-degree angle in the sky, John strokes carefully along Greg's chest, pressing with gentle fingers to find the invisible sore points under tiny red marks by reaction. "Is it harder with me in the room?" John asks, kissing Greg's shoulder. "When you play, I mean." 

"Harder?" Greg laughs. "No. How does that make sense in your head, unless you’re talking about my cock?"

John scowls and bites his armpit in retaliation. Greg jumps, but laughs. "It's not a crazy thought," John argues. "I don't know if you feel like you have to self-censor. Or if it confuses you having someone vanilla there." 

"Nah," Greg argues. "You're good at finding a place in a scene. It's reassuring, actually. I can take more when I have an anchor point… sort of like how I imagine it is for you when Sherlock’s in the room, while we’re fucking.” John notes mentally in response to the off-hand remark that Greg is, in fact, a detective, and sometimes far more astute than he realizes. "You don't feel like we're pressuring you to get more involved, do you?"

"Not exactly. Sherlock might be waiting for my magic button to reveal itself...but we talked. I think she'll back off of that."

Greg nods. "I don't think of it as this stark, hard line. Obviously the leather community is one thing, but the idea of vanilla doesn't mean much on its own. Everyone likes what they like... and a lot of the things you like are pretty hot."

John grins. "Noted." He bends and sucks lightly at Greg's nipple. "Do you mind? I'm too happy here to go get him," he warns, the implication being that there won't be release any time soon. Greg just waves a hand and encourages John to continue with a hand in his hair. 


“That… th’thing…yeah,” John sighs happily, his head falling back. He can see Sherlock’s eye roll in his mind, even with his eyes fixed hazily on the ceiling. 

“Really, John. You’d get a far better blowjob if you could give him coherent feedback."

“I doubt it,” John mutters, moaning and stroking Greg’s hair. He knows that he tends to go rather nonverbal when he’s aroused, but he certainly can’t help that. As if Sherlock would know. “He’s… r'ly good at this."

“Tell him what you want,” Sherlock urges again in a low, calm tone. “Consider it a challenge. I’ll give the boy a lovely reward if you can use your words.” 

“That’s—“ John loses the thread, huffs a laugh and tugs at Greg’s hair. “—dirty pool."

“Only exploiting your generosity,” Sherlock argues fondly, and just because the bastard’s so smug, John decides to do it. For Greg, anyway. 

“Fine. I can speak,” John argues, deliberately. “Slow down, sweetheart,” he urges, stroking Greg’s cheek. Greg looks up at John and does indeed slow his pace, sucking up to the head and then only halfway back down again, lips stretched wide. “Ahh—that’s good,” John murmurs, narrowing his focus to get more words out. “Give me your tongue, right there.” He rubs his frenulum against Greg’s tongue, flat, outstretched playfully. Greg looks a wreck, but a bloody gorgeous one at that. John gives his cock a tight squeeze as he holds it, delaying his own responses. “You know… this doesn’t make much sense given that he can already give a perfect blowjob on his own,” he quips, lifting his head to smirk at Sherlock. He just snorts in response, looking rather bored.

“No one’s perfect, John. Even Mycroft will admit that, grudgingly."

“Eugh, can we… not think about your brother when I’m getting my cock sucked?” John complains. “That’s good, love, you can suck on it now,” he offers in addition, wiping a bit of drool from Greg’s chin with a finger and smearing it across his cheek.

“Agreed.” Sherlock slips his phone out, types something on the screen. John ignores his ambivalence and tugs a little on Greg’s hair.  

“Bit harder… ah, yeah, that’s good. I love how you look when you’re sucking my cock,” he manages to enunciate, low and confidential, and is rewarded with a little hum of a moan, Greg speeding up slightly without being prompted. “You like that,” John purrs, smiling down at him and holding him to a rhythm by the hair. “You like being watched.” 

“All right, John, it’s not as if you’re auditioning for a terrible pornographic film. You don’t have to talk that much."

John twists his face up at Sherlock, genuinely offended, though offense is normal when living with this man and he’s learnt not to be hurt by it. “Pardon me, Miss Oxbridge,” he grunts cattily. “But he’s never sucked your dick, so you wouldn’t be able to reliably comprehend the effects."

For a moment, John’s afraid he’s gone too far, and nearly backpedals in the silence before Sherlock just huffs, settling in with his elbows on his knees. “You really think you’ve gained a significant degree of knowledge simply from the experience of having someone’s mouth wrapped around your erection?” He's smiling, and John notices he’s back to actively watching, so he just grins to match and tightens his hand in Greg’s hair, slides his hips forward until he feels the channel of Greg’s throat convulsing around him.  

“Yes,” he smirks as the boy gags a bit, and continues on with the show.


Occasionally, Greg at least pretends to still live in his own flat, particularly on nights like tonight when work has been rough on the hours and he could use a nice long sleep and a bit of time alone. John gets home from his shift with takeaway for two, then, and finds Sherlock standing at his microscope next to a rack of test tubes containing various amounts of a suspiciously familiar creamy substance. John puts the food safely on the counter, then bends down to read the labels, inked in Sherlock’s best penmanship.

boy - vanilla sex

boy - masturbation

boy - in subspace

John - vanilla sex

John - masturbation (alone)

John - masturbation (assisted)

John - sex after scene

John - masturbation during scene

John stands and raises his eyebrows. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised."

“It’s valuable data, John,” Sherlock rumbles as he looks up from the microscope and scribbles something in a notebook. “My observations are incomplete without the obvious data points regarding bodily fluid expulsion in coitus.” 

“Uh… other data points?" 

Sherlock hands over the notebook wordlessly and returns his eye to the microscope lens. John quickly realizes, flipping through the tabbed sections, that the entire small notebook is dedicated to observations on his and Greg’s sexual response (or, more accurately, response to both sexual and non-sexual stimuli related generally to arousal in the broad sense). The data on ejaculate covers not only what Sherlock can observe by microscope alone, but also points on color, consistency, volume, frequency, and even maximum distance. John stares at that one for a moment, figures neatly printed along with confounding variables, before he looks through the rest of the notebook. Other topics include pupil dilation, skin temperature, and subjective measures such as “impatience.” John can’t help but smile fondly. 

“You know, most people do this sort of thing on instinct."


John hands back the notebook. “Figuring out what your partners like. So you can satisfy them."

Sherlock frowns, and finally looks directly at John. “That’s not the purpose of this data collection, John. I wish to catalog the differences in response to various sorts of…”  

“For us, though. Only for us."

“Why would anyone else matter?” Sherlock asks, brow furrowing in confusion. John laughs, softly, and presses his cheek briefly to Sherlock’s shoulder.

“Why indeed." 


John has to bite his lip very, very hard to keep from laughing when Sherlock buys Greg a laundry room organizer system for an anniversary gift. It’s about the least romantic thing John can possibly imagine, and he kind of wishes Sherlock had thought to ask him for suggestions, until he realizes that this is Sherlock being romantic. He remembered the date of the anniversary, which John is embarrassed to concede he did not. And apparently, he’s been observant enough of Greg’s habits with the household chores to identify what might most be needed. It’s certainly the first time John’s ever seen Sherlock be observant with chores, and he watches, baffled, as Greg gives their mutual partner a genuine grin and a long hug before taking the system down to the basement laundry room to set it up. He remembers, feeling a bit chastised, that Greg has in fact known Sherlock significantly longer than he has, and that in some ways they have a rapport that is different from John and Sherlock’s. 

Sherlock, for his part, looks slightly sheepish when he meets John’s eyes, fiddling with the cuffs of his shirt sleeves, and John can’t help but reach up to press a calming hand to his cheek.

“You did good,” he promises, and doesn’t even protest when Sherlock’s nose wrinkles up like a bunny.

“Well, John. I did well."

“Yes,” John agrees, and rubs his thumb against one ridiculous cheek bone until Sherlock lets his eyes fall shut, nuzzles into John’s palm, and stops his fidgeting. John can’t help but be terribly charmed.


The second time they go out to the space Greg’s former leather family frequents, Paul doesn’t show up at all. All three of them are relieved, John thinks, though it’s less evident in Sherlock’s case. John’s somewhat surprised when a young man approaches their group with a familiar smile and it’s Sherlock, not Greg that he knows. But then he remembers, watching the kid blush prettily as he says hello, that Sherlock has plenty of experience that precedes them. John’s not quite sure how to feel about it.

“I don’t think I’ve met your friends. I’m Blake,” the kid says with an awkward little wave to encompass the three of them. Sherlock doesn’t look particularly impressed, but nor is she actively glaring, so they must have had a reasonably good time together.

“This is my partner, John Watson.” John reaches out to give Blake’s hand a firm shake, and he can’t help but inflate a little at the word Sherlock chose—whether he meant “business partner” or not. 


“Yeah, same here,” Blake smiles, looking a little flustered. John’s somewhat surprised, since he and Sherlock are pretty much polar opposites in “type,” but he’s flattered. There’s a long pause, and then Blake inclines his head to Sherlock. “And him?” 

Greg doesn’t jump in to introduce himself, but stays just a hair behind Sherlock and to one side as Sherlock replies frankly. “My submissive. And you… here alone?” she asks, though John’s sure she’s already deduced the answer. Greg, meanwhile, is clearly not at all offended by being reduced to a role and not given a name in this conversation. His eyes point down and he looks a bit flushed.

Blake nods in response to Sherlock’s inquiry. “Yeah. I mean, I’ve got a sort-of plan later, with this one bloke… though I’d love to do your boots beforehand, if you’ve got time,” he adds, licking his lips as he glances down at Sherlock’s lace-up low-heeled Fluevogs. 

“Thank you,” Sherlock says with a crisp, perfunctory tone. “But that’s my boy’s right now. Exclusively.” 

“Ah. Lucky boy,” Blake grins. “Good to see you, though.” Sherlock hums agreement, and as the kid shuffles on, John raises an eyebrow.  

“Doubt that’s all he wanted to ‘do’ to you,” he teases, but Sherlock demurs with a roll of her eyes.

“A large portion of it, I’m certain. That’s how I know him. He used to black my boots from time to time when I would come here. But if he were paying any attention whatsoever, he’d notice that they’ve been cared for quite recently.” Sherlock’s hand drops to tuck possessively in Greg’s back pocket, and John snickers.

“Yeah, all right then. Why are you wearing those, anyway? They’re not really your usual style.” 

“Practicality,” she explains, steering them over to a couple of unfolded wrestling mats. “Boy, bring me two folding chairs,” she orders, and Greg hurries away after dropping her toy bag on the mats, leaving John and Sherlock alone. “I thought I might like to kick him around a bit, and that’s a dicier proposition in heels.” 

“Oh, right. So a four-hundred dollar pair of boots is the Holmes version of ‘sensible shoes,’” John laughs, and ruffles her hair a bit just because he can. She makes a face but doesn’t verbally protest, and Greg soon returns with the chairs, unfolding them at the edge of the mat. Sherlock sits down in one, her bag nearby, and nods for Greg to kneel on the mat in front of her. John tugs the other to sit caddy-corner to Sherlock, watching as she just strokes his hair a bit first.

“You may kiss my boots,” she offers, almost too softly for John to hear. “But don’t put on a show. I know how much leather turns you on. Do what you need for your own gratification, as the next part is for me.” 

Greg nods and shuffles back a bit on his knees, giving himself space to bend forward. He doesn’t immediately put his mouth on her shoe, though, resting his cheek on the mat in between her feet instead and closing his eyes, breathing slowly. It looks boring, honestly, to John, but neither of them looks bored. She sits with her fingers steepled, mentally preparing herself for whatever she’s planned, John assumes, while Greg relaxes into the mat, inhaling the scent of leather. It really is a fetish of his, John realizes, or at the very least a strong comfort. When he eventually shifts to press his lips to one toe, his movements are fluid and natural, his expression peaceful. He kisses the other, and then when she lifts a leather strap out of the bag and holds it up to him as he straightens his back, repeats the ritual of breathing in the leather, nose traveling along the length of the wide strap. John finds that he’s oddly aroused by it, letting out a breath he didn’t know he was holding when Greg bestows a line of reverent kisses along the length of the toy. 

Sherlock, for her part, looks rather captivated, and it takes her a moment to act, gripping the back of Greg’s neck with the strap held loosely in the other hand. “Over my lap,” she orders, and efficiently shoves his trousers down to his knees once he’s in position, in profile to John with his arse on the near side. She forces two fingers into Greg’s mouth, pressing his tongue down, and his moan is mostly-but-not-quite swallowed up by the ambient music and conversation in the space before Sherlock brings the strap down solidly at the join of arse and thighs. She whips him with it at an unforgiving pace, red lines coming up on his skin, and John finds himself focusing more on Greg’s face, still not entirely comfortable with this kind of violence. He prefers to watch the reactions, especially the relaxation in Greg’s features when she pauses to rub possessively at his arse.

It’s this preference that has John taking a break, after the strapping, when Sherlock shoves Greg unceremoniously out of her lap and starts to kick him with a surprising amount of force. They’ve been doing this long enough that John trusts her not to hurt him, but he realizes that there’s no real reason for him to stay for the entire scene if he doesn’t want to—they’ve always granted him that. So with a quick nod towards the social area for Sherlock’s benefit, and her acquiescence in a return nod, John heads over to the bar in the corner nearest the door. 

He’s three-quarters of the way through a solitary pint, half-observing the scenes and socializing groups around him, when the boy from earlier slides onto the stool next to him, dropping his bag on the floor and asking for a fizzy lemonade. “Having fun?” Blake asks with a pleasant-enough smile, and John mentally holds himself back from the bitchiness he’s tempted to feel about a sort-of-ex of Sherlock’s. Instead, he shrugs at the young man and offers a smile of his own.

“More or less. This is really more Sherlock and Greg’s scene than mine, but I like it well enough for an evening out." 

“Huh. Are you more the… kinky in the bedroom sort?"

John laughs. “I’m more the not-kinky-at-all sort,” he clarifies. “Or I’m sure I’d be over there participating. But I enjoy being around for them both, afterwards especially."

“Ah.” Blake smiles. “That’s too bad. But you must be something special, in that case.” 

John shrugs disparagingly and takes a sip of his beer. “I do all right. What about you? Do you only come here for the boots and such?” he asks, noticing the stains on Blake’s hands from a bootblacking he must have just wrapped up when Sherlock wasn’t available. 

“Not just,” Blake smiles a bit flirtatiously as John tries not to think about how young he probably is. “But they are my first love. It’s nice to have a skill that you’re damn good at, you know?” 

“I do at that,” John agrees.

“So what’s your skill, then?” Blake smirks a little, and John decides he probably shouldn’t encourage the lad by mentioning his accuracy with a handgun at 50 meters. Instead, he offers an unassuming smile as he picks up a beer mat to fiddle with. 

“I’m a doctor, actually. Used to be a reasonably good surgeon." 

“Used to?"

“I’m in general practice these days. Better to have a flexible schedule, with Sherlock."

“Ah right, the detective work?” Blake shakes his head. “I saw him in the papers once. Sounds a bit barmy, the whole thing.”  

“Well it is,” John admits with a grin. “But a terrible rush, even as a sidekick.” He empties his glass and offers Blake his hand. “I’d better go check up on them. Hope the rest of your night is pleasant.” 

“Mm, me too, Doctor.” The boy winks and John manages not to roll his eyes as he heads back over to the mats. Greg and Sherlock are still playing, but things seem to have calmed down a bit, the scene moving over its energetic peak to something calmer. Sherlock’s seated again in the folding chair, Greg on the mat on his back, and she’s pressing her boots into a rather impressive array of bruises for having been accumulated in such a short time. Then, that’s something John’s learnt since he got wrapped up in all of this—she can go for hours without keeping any track of time, or she can dole out an intense bit of pain and pleasure in a ten minute span. It’s rarely predictable.

“Hey,” John murmurs, bending down and nuzzling briefly at her cheek. “Having a good time?"

“Quite,” Sherlock beams, tipping her head back, and he laughs at her expression. If he didn’t know better he might mistake her for being the one of the two on a post-pain endorphin high. Fetching the other chair, he drags it to sit right next to her. 

“Mind if I ice those later? He’s not getting any younger.”

Sherlock snickers, but she’s in a pleasant mood. “If you like. I desired a workout.”  

“You desired something,” John counters, but he can’t deny the bit of arousal that stirs low in his gut at the little keening sounds Greg makes when she puts pressure on the bruises, lost in his own world. 

“I won’t deny it,” Sherlock says, and slips her hand into his as she carefully rests her boots, crossed at the ankle, over Greg’s throat. The boy goes still, and their fingers twine together. At ease, John slows his mind and feels for the faint pulse of blood under Sherlock’s skin. 


The day after they visit the club, Sherlock’s off halfway across London chasing down something experiment-related, and so John and Greg end up falling into a routine that’s become something of a morning-after(care) tradition with them—bacon sarnies, prepared by Greg and fed to him by John’s hand. Greg sits on a cushion at John’s feet, taking bites of sandwich as they’re offered, and making pleased little coo-ing sounds whenever John incidentally (or not) presses against a bruise with his knee or his foot. Some of the marks are nearly black, and John can’t deny being disturbed by them, but it’s a mild enough discomfort that he can focus instead on Greg’s obvious pleasure and on pampering him today. 

When the sandwiches are consumed, they transition into lazy snogging, and John lets thoroughly-licked-clean fingers press into Greg’s back, scratching gently at intervals. It’s not rushed, since there’s no promise of sex with Sherlock absent, and it occurs to John not for the first time that this odd restriction actually has its benefits in some ways. He’s always enjoyed kissing, and he likes that he gets to take his time with it here. 

When his fingers find Greg’s nape and squeeze just so, Greg lets a full-throated moan loose into the kiss, prompting a growl of John’s own. His instinct is to crowd Greg, push him to the floor, but he holds back instead and just squeezes a bit harder, licking his way into a willing mouth and kissing him breathless for a long minute that has them breaking away panting. 

“Mmm,” Greg grins, cheeky as ever, eyes sparkling. John laughs, a little sheepish. 

“You trollop."

“Don’t see you complaining,” Greg returns, licking his lips. “Have you always kissed like that, or is this just a pleasant side-benefit of my kinky persuasion?"

“Hmm.” John honestly considers the question, hand sifting through Greg’s hair and guiding the boy’s cheek to his thigh. “It’s definitely not just that. Maybe I’m a bit more aggressive with you, because I know it’s what you want. But I’ve always been a top, since I first admitted any interest in men.” 

“Just what came naturally?” Greg inquires, nuzzling a bit through John’s trousers.

“Well… yeah, I suppose. I just always imagined myself fucking boys, when I fantasized about them. And when I got the bollocks to do something about it, that’s what I did. Met someone who was into that, and…” John smiles and shrugs. “Worked out quite well for me.” 

Greg snickers. “Yeah, I bet it did. Are you the same way with women?” 

“What, aggressive like?” 

“Well, toppy. I know it’s a bit different with straight vanilla sex, but… even women who like getting fucked are pretty bossy sometimes.” 

“I’ll concede the point,” John groans a little as Greg’s hands wander to one of his bare feet, massaging at the instep. “I think it’s slightly different with women. I don’t think women are naturally weak or any of that rubbish, but I was still raised not to hurt a woman, and I am usually stronger than the women I date. So there’s a difference. But I’ve been with smaller men, too, and I’m more careful until I know a bloke can hold his own. I don’t want to be an arsehole.”  

“Not much risk of that, John,” Greg replies earnestly, continuing to massage his foot. “But I do love it when you’re rough with me. And I can take it. In case there was any doubt."

John snickers and ruffles his hair. “Yeah, none whatsoever."


“May I ask you a personal question?” John inquires during a post-case meal one night a few weeks later, sitting across the same table from Sherlock at the same Chinese where they celebrated their very first mutual victory. She makes an impatient go-on gesture, then twists a string of noodles around her chopsticks with characteristic dexterity. “All right… a while back, when you described your sexuality, you called yourself an ‘asexual romantic.’ I’m just… wondering what that means. I don’t know why I’ve never asked you."

“You’ve never asked because you’re rather reticent when it comes to matters of emotional intimacy,” Sherlock answers for him. “You’ve asked all the requisite questions regarding my and Lestrade’s sexualities, but you prefer romance without words.”

“… I don’t think that’s strictly true.” John frowns, considering a pork dumpling.

“You express affection readily enough. But you shy away from certain topics. In any event, to answer your question, it means what it sounds like. I am disinterested in sex. I am not opposed, in contrast, to romantic relationships, despite relative inexperience.”

“Ah.” The ‘relative inexperience’ bit doesn’t surprise John, nor does he particularly need to know more at the moment. He’s always gathered Sherlock’s kink experience went significantly beyond her experience in matters of the heart, no matter how effortless their own romantic entanglement seems. He’s a supremely lucky man, he’s well aware. “You’ve always known that about yourself?” 

Sherlock picks apart a steamed bun with her fingers, then blows on the tips when the hot filling stings them. “For the most part, I have known.” She quirks her head to the side, studying John suddenly in that intense way that used to be uncomfortable but is now par for the course. “I was forced to admit after some time in acquaintance with you, John, that my previous romantic liaisons may not have involved a certain maturity of feeling. Since living with you, my mind palace has required a more extensive rearrangement than has ever been necessary in the past.” She ducks her head back down at that, chopsticks clacking on a red plastic tray as she fidgets. "You occupy entire rooms. In my taxonomy, this is what most acutely indicates the depth of our romance. That and the fact that I… want to be something good for you.” 

John breaks into a grin, he can’t help it. For all that Sherlock’s coarse and impolite much of the time, sometimes she just comes out with these statements that floor John no matter how many times he hears them. “You are, you daft genius,” he reassures her, wrapping his hand around hers and guiding the chopsticks back to a plat. "Now go on. Eat your food before I start blushing.” The smirk he receives in exchange lets him know that it’s probably too late.



Chapter Text

 A package is waiting for Sherlock just behind the door to 221 when the two of them arrive home one evening after a full, tedious day in court. John’s just relieved that Sherlock managed not to blow his expert testimony due to boredom, and doesn’t say anything at all about his mood as he snatches up the box and then takes the stairs two at a time. He lets out an actual growl of dissatisfaction once the door to their flat is closed behind them, placing the box down gently in his chair but then ripping off his tie quite hastily, jacket buttons following.  

“Wrong!” Sherlock exclaims, eyes searing, and John quickly gets it, slipping behind her to help slide the offending garment off her arms. “Wrong, wrong, wrong.” Court is never fun for her, but it’s particularly bad when she’s in the mood to flay something and is subjected to boredom that she could actually do something about were it not for civic duty. And while the suits and ties aren’t always dysphoric when she’s in a feminine place, occasionally, John has seen her react this way and it breaks his heart a little.  

“You’re all right,” he murmurs reassuringly, draping the jacket over a chair and helping with her shirt buttons. “Lestrade’ll be over when he finishes up at the Yard. Anything interesting in the box?” John asks, noticing the shipping label coming from one of Sherlock’s favorite online retailers of BDSM supplies and thinking it might help to shift her focus. 

“Violet wand,” she replies distractedly, shoving the trousers down in a puddle next to her shoes and stalking off into the bedroom. John sighs and fold things neatly, putting the pile aside for later, and then sits on the sofa to wait. What she comes back in is only subtly different, black turtleneck and charcoal grey trousers that cut off just below her knees, but there’s a noticeable sloughing off of tension. She’s wearing a slim silver bracelet on one wrist, and she sits next to John without being asked, draping her shaved legs across his lap.

“What’s a violet wand?” John asks, hiding his smile as he squeezes her ankle. He has a brief mental image of Sherlock holding a bright purple fairy wand with a glittery star on the end as he flicks open his pocket knife and slices the tape around the edges of the box.

“A handheld toy for electrical play. It has various attachments designed to mildly shock the recipient of the sensation."

“Oh.” John frowns. “How mild are we talking?" 

“Nothing remotely dangerous. The current is very low and I use a GFCI as an additional precaution. I’ve ordered a number of attachments to create intense sensations, but the current only affects the surface layer of the skin."

“Okay…” John’s still a bit skeptical, unpacking the wand itself, which reminds him a bit of the Hitachi equivalent he’s more familiar with, and then a kit of accessories packed in molded foam.  

“I used to have another one years ago, but I used it in an experiment and shorted it out,” Sherlock explains. John can’t help but laugh at that, because of course Sherlock would sacrifice her sex toys for science. “Besides, the newer models are better made. They can be used for a much longer session.”  

“All right, then. Has Greg played with these before?” 

“I haven’t asked. Would you like to observe what it feels like? It might ease your mind somewhat,” she offers, taking various pieces out of the packaging and arranging them on the coffee table. John chews his lip, considering. 

“It’s not terribly painful?"

“No. Also, it has an adjustment switch.” 

“Oh, all right. Turn it all the way down then,” John requests, rolling up one sleeve. Gamely, Sherlock plugs the thing into a little box that in turn plugs into the wall, pushes a bulb-shaped glass electrode into the end, and flicks a switch. A low hum comes from the device. 

“Relax,” Sherlock teases, placing a hand on John’s thigh when he tenses up in anticipation. The glass touches his skin, then, and his brow furrows up in confusion. There’s a slight fizzy tingle on his skin, but nothing more.

“That’s all?” 

Sherlock laughs and turns the intensity knob, and the sensation does indeed start to feel more like sparks, but it’s still not painful. Rather, it’s a kind of pleasurable fizz as Sherlock strokes the bulb up and down his arm, like a series of static shocks. 

“Oh. That’s… actually, that’s not bad.” 

Sherlock smirks knowingly. “It’s actually a little stronger through clothes,” she teases, and then without warning drags the glass across John’s chest. 

“Christ,” he mutters, grabbing the sofa cushions as he gets used to the sensation. “That’s so weird.” 

“Good weird?” 

“I’m… not actually sure,” John says, considering. 

“Try this,” Sherlock suggests, removing the glass bulb and switching it out for a length of cable with a long probe on the end. The wand itself she puts down on the nightstand, and then tucks the probe into John’s waistband before reaching for his face with her bare hands. 

“Oh,” John whispers, caught off guard by the prickling sensation, like amplified goosebumps, that Sherlock is now able to transfer directly through her fingers. 


“Yeah, I think so,” John agrees, watching Sherlock’s face for any expressive clues as she strokes his cheeks and temples, fingertips ghosting over his lips. It feels a bit like stealing intimacy, but she doesn’t show any signs of discomfort, so John allows himself to relax and enjoy the sensations. Her fingers brush experimentally over his scalp, and an actual moan escapes his lips, to her obvious delight.  

“Everyone has a weakness,” she purrs, smiling as she strokes through his hair in slow, circular motions. It makes him think of those first days of learning to move around each other after he learned this about her, the new modes of flirtation that slipped into their routines. 

"And you're just here to exploit it, am I right?"

"Don't be daft," she counters. "I can hardly be bothered with everyone's weakness. In yours, I take a personal interest."

"Mm. Thanks, I think?" His eyes have fallen shut and he relaxes into the light massage, not too bothered by the arousal the scalp stimulation provokes. It's not an urgent thing, and it's rare he gives himself over to pleasure like this without sex in it. Occasionally, her fingers meander to stroke his cheek or his lips, and he doesn't try to direct, only groaning a bit when a sensation is particularly good. 

The rattle of a key in the lock after an uncertain amount of time makes him start, but Sherlock cuts off the reaction with a palm on his chest, keeping him from sitting up straight with a quick shock that dies out with firmer pressure. "Hush. It's only Gregory." John's eyes blink open, and sure enough, into the flat steps Lestrade, smiling at the two of them.

"Hang on... Is that a violet wand?"   

"Shh, you'll frighten his vanilla sexuality," Sherlock replies, but her tone is light, teasing. "Just a demonstration."

"Yeah? He's hard," Greg points out, grinning as he nods his chin towards John's lap. John swats a hand at him ineffectually.

"Likely to be your problem," Sherlock parries, tracing her fingers down the back of John's neck. He shivers. "I'm not finished with him yet."

"I see that." Greg removes his jacket and shoes before coming over to join them. "May I touch?"

"Yes. But don't rush." John groans as she caresses his neck, Greg taking a seat cross-legged on the floor and removing John's shoes. "I'm enjoying him."

"You're enjoying him needy," Greg suggests, and just grins and licks his lips when John glares down at him. Greg's nails on his bare feet are sharper, more urgent. His foot jerks and Greg holds it firmly against his own thigh. Sometimes John forgets how strong Greg is, with him normally doing the manhandling. 

"Too much?" Sherlock asks at his ear, her warm breath tickling. 

"No." Still, he reaches to grip her forearm, holding her hand still against his head for a moment. 

"The current is more concentrated around a smaller surface area," she explains in soothing tones, waiting a moment before she returns to stroking his throat. "It's particularly intense with blades." Her tone is casual, but that's quite an image. "Your feet are particularly sensitive, too. Apparently the boy is in a wicked mood today."

John glances down at Greg and he's looking over John's shoulder at Sherlock, a little smile on his lips. "Shall I let him suck you?" Sherlock asks, and John shudders.

"Is that a trick question?" 

"Hmm. I haven't decided." She pushes his shirt buttons through their holes, one by one, and then pushes the fabric aside to brush over a nipple. John gasps at that.

" electricity on the blowjob."

"It won't make much of a difference," Greg puts in, stroking up a calf with both hands. "Not unless I'm being a real bastard and just licking at it. Constant contact keeps you from feeling the charge."

"So you have tried it."

"A couple of times," Greg smiles. "I like a bit more charge though."

"Yeah, I think I'm good here," John says with a shaky laugh. "Your nails are plenty."

Greg snickers. "A bloke hit me with a thin metal cane once, charged up with one of those. Far cry from sensation play, that."

"Did you like it?" John asks, a bit slurry and loose-limbed again as Sherlock pets his chest.

"Honestly? No," Greg shrugs. "Wasn't my call, though."

"You needn't worry," Sherlock interjects. "I find that metal implements deliver a sting disproportionate to the strike. I prefer more control than that."

"Yeah you do," Greg grins, his tongue poking at his bottom lip in a rather obscene expression. John can practically hear her eye roll.

"All right, John. Put that boy's mouth to work," Sherlock orders, slipping the metal probe out of John's trousers and turning the device off. John grins and unzips, tugging Greg between his thighs by the hair. 

"That's what I like to hear," he murmurs as Greg slides halfway down in one luxurious motion, without preamble. He lifts back up again just when John's cock is about to breach his throat and repeats the motion, establishing a rhythm with his hands on John's calves. Sherlock slides down to the floor and situates herself behind Greg, legs spread on either side of him, and interrupts the flow only long enough to tug Greg's shirt off. 

"Mmm. Bloody brilliant, you are," John encourages, relaxing into Greg's rhythm and letting himself absorb the pleasure without directing much. He catches Sherlock's eyes, though, as she rakes her nails down Greg's back, and finds it hard to look away. Just when he thinks to return his hand to the back of Greg's head, Sherlock does it instead, forcing Greg to hold steady at that slow, inexorable rhythm. She scrapes the nails of her other hand over Greg's skin as she holds John's gaze in a kind of challenge, and the air crackles between them.

Smoothly, deliberately, John lifts his hands to lace behind his head, and forces himself not to close his eyes as a groan falls loose from his throat. Greg performs admirably as a conduit, necessary to the exchange but at the same time secondary in John's mind as everything falls away but himself and Sherlock. Sherlock leans in, close to Greg's back, shifting one hand to John's thigh, and pushes Greg's head down as if his convulsing throat were her personal sex toy. John gasps, fists at his own hair, and contracts his stomach muscles to lift futilely for a moment towards her. Still she keeps the rhythm steady, working Greg up and down John's cock and holding him on the precipice without ever touching his cock directly. It feels like an age of that, energy pulsing between them like something physical, until he gives in to the inevitability of it and finally lets his eyes clench shut with the release. 

"Christ," John murmurs after a few deep breaths, flexing his fingers slowly as he lets his arms draw down to his sides. He feels like she's thoroughly fucked him, and maybe that's close enough to the truth that the difference is mere technicality. After licking him clean, Greg drops into his bum, resting his cheek on John's knee, and Sherlock rises to her feet, disappearing into the kitchen for a moment and then coming back to curl up against his side on the sofa with a glass of water. "Drink," she demands, and then her hand drifts to his hair, petting him, watching him intently. He feels loved in that moment, though the expression of it is unusual, and he decides not to bother thinking too far into it. Perhaps he doesn't always have to be the one doing the caretaking. And maybe sometimes she needs him not to be. 


"Hey, Doctor, do you think you could wrap that paperwork up on your next shift?" Claire asks, standing in the doorway looking sheepish. She's pretty, a petite black woman a little younger than John who wears her hair in twists and favors gold jewelry with the smart skirts and tops she wears as a medical assistant. Before Sherlock and Greg, he might've asked her out, but he feels rather full up at the moment. His smile is simply polite, then, as he looks up from a chart and puts down his pen.

"Sure, if you like. What for?"

"Um, your flatmate? He's in the waiting room and causing a bit of..."

"Christ," John sighs before she can finish, shrugging out of his white coat. "Sorry. He has some outing planned but I told him not to come any earlier than half four." 

"It's all right," she offers. "He's just a bit...straightforward. Mrs. McCulley seems less than charmed."

John smirks and leaves the office he shares with the other locum doctors, walking past her to the waiting room and letting Sherlock stand and follow him out of the clinic. He's about to offer a reminder on manners in the lift when he notices Sherlock's stance, tight but more excited than agitated, a smile flirting at her lips. Her, John's certain, for despite the usual suit and Belstaff, there are little tells to how she holds herself when feeling driven, obsessed with something or another, and therefore entirely feminine. John can't help but return the smile.

"What's all this, then? Where are we going?"

"Shopping," she declares enigmatically, stepping out of the lift at the ground floor and leading the way to the corner where she hails a taxi.

John frowns, considering. "Not clothes shopping, is it? Everything you wear looks gorgeous on you, love, but I honestly think Greg might be a better companion for that." Might be better, he doesn't say, because Greg could happily be forced into holding stacks of skirts and walking along the high street, while John would just feel out of place and awkward. Perhaps the only purpose he might realistically serve would be as bodyguard in defense of his non-confirming girlfriend, though he can't quite imagine the clerks in the kinds of posh shops Sherlock prefers saying anything directly when she's flashing her black card. Sherlock just snorts, though, and squeezes his thigh.

"Of course not. You're a terrible judge of fashion," she pronounces, and he tries not to be too offended. "I want to get something for Lestrade. But...I want it to be together. Not just mine."

"...Okay. Any particular gift you have in mind?"

"Yes. It would be better if I showed you." She turns then to her phone, and John resigns himself to not getting anything out of her until they finally arrive in front of a discreet shop in an upmarket  area. Sherlock leads the way inside, and it actually doesn’t click for him at first, in this soft-lit showroom surrounded by glass displays and satin cases, that what’s actually on display is mostly leather and metal and glass and decidedly fetishistic in nature.

“Are we toy shopping?” John asks in a low tone, for despite the nature of the shop it still has an air of “you can’t afford us” about it, with a security guard stationed by the door and the staff members dressed in their Savile Row finest. It’s the exact opposite of the shop in Shoreditch, with its gaudy displays and row upon row of cheap shelving filling up every possible inch of usable space. Here, there’s only one other customer in the shop, and she’s standing by a glass cabinet conversing in low tones with a male shopkeeper, looking as if she must work in the City in her smart suit and red-soled pumps. There’s no hint of embarrassment about her, even as she points to a steel butt plug with one manicured fingernail. 

“No,” Sherlock replies curtly, approaching the counter with John following. “We have an appointment with Daniel. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson."

“Of course, sir.” The woman is tiny, a brunette with her hair in a severe bun and secretarial glasses perched on her nose. She turns to lead them to a back room and misses the bunny-twitch of Sherlock’s nose in mild displeasure. John reaches for her hand and gives it a squeeze, not complaining when he doesn’t let go.

“Sherlock Holmes,” the man inside greets her with a wide smile, rising from a workbench in the center of the room and offering his hand. “I’ve read remarkable things about you in the papers,” he confesses, tone lightly teasing. He’s jovial, quite tall, and almost certainly gay. Sherlock drops John’s hand to shake the man’s.

“I’m sure it’s all true,” she says, but doesn’t linger in her pride or flirt back with him. Instead, she indicates John. “My partner, Doctor John Watson.” 

“Ah. Lucky boy,” Daniel grins conspiratorially, and John almost corrects him, but then stops his knee-jerk denial, deciding that it doesn’t particularly matter what this posh bloke thinks of him.  

“Pleasure to meet you,” he offers in return. “Though… I’m not entirely sure why we’re here,” he admits, raising an eyebrow at Sherlock. She looks down at him, beaming for just a moment that confirms John’s done the right thing.

“We’re here to purchase a collar,” Sherlock declares, hand sweeping to encompass the small back room, which John realizes is lined with glass shelves displaying collars, cuffs, and leashes of various sorts, almost like a display of glasses at an optometrist’s office. “But not for John,” she adds for Daniel’s benefit. “John is my partner, in every sense. It’s to be a surprise for my boy." 

“Ah,” Daniel smiles. “Apologies, Doctor Watson. I made an assumption."

John shrugs. “No worries, mate. Do you make everything here yourself?” he asks, buying himself a moment to process what Sherlock’s said. A collar. Obviously more of a symbol for Sherlock than for him, but interesting that she’s asked him to come, to buy this for Greg together. He half-listens to Daniel’s description of his work and the kinds of custom designs he does, but his hand falls back into Sherlock's while the craftsman talks and he finds himself drifting off to visualize one of these pieces around Greg’s neck. 

“…I’m inclined to order two distinct pieces,” Sherlock’s saying. “One of yours for play, but also something more discreet for everyday wear. My boy’s quite taken with leather, and I know he’s admired your work on others. But I also want something he can wear to work. Don’t you think?” She looks at John, now, and he clears his throat.

“Uh… yeah, I guess so. I mean… you would know. Do you really think he could get away wearing a collar to work, though?” 

“We do offer several more discreet versions,” Daniel interjects helpfully, leading them to one shelf displaying metal jewelry instead of the more obvious leather collars. “Some find that a simple necklace with a lock best suits their purposes, or if your boy is in a white-collar profession, something like this can be hidden under a suit and tie.” He indicates a simple stainless steel band with an almost invisible catch at the back.  

“I don’t know. I feel like maybe we should talk about this with him first,” John frowns. “I mean… he’s not exactly out at work, and he does unbutton his collar sometimes.” 

“Do you think I couldn’t direct him otherwise?” Sherlock counters, a mischievous smirk pulling up one corner of her mouth. John sighs. 

“You’re incorrigible. What about that one?” he suggests, pointing to a model that’s still swank and shiny, but a very dark grey. “I feel like the color might be less obvious, somehow…” 

“This is also stainless,” Daniel offers. “But the black finish is quite unique. It’s also quick to unlock in an emergency, but elaborate enough to give the submissive a sense of permanence,” he adds, removing the collar from the case and showing them the pin and screw mechanism that locks it. 

“Okay, I get why you’d find that hot,” John concedes, seeing Sherlock’s eyes bright and intent on Daniel’s demonstration. “But I don’t think I’m entirely comfortable with something that he actually can’t remove on his own. What if you’re elsewhere with the key and something happens to him?" 

“Simple,” Sherlock waves a hand dismissively. “He’ll be responsible for the key. He won’t be allowed to use it unless there’s an emergency, but it’s his job to look after it. He’ll love that. What about ornamentation?” she asks Daniel, pointing to a different model with an O-ring hanging from the front, attached by a triangular clasp. “Could this be done in the black finish?”  

“Certainly. We’d need about two weeks lead time, but we could send away for it while I’m working on the leather collar.” 

“Perfect. We’d like to see design options for the leather, then.” 

“Hey — wait. Can we have a second?” John asks, suddenly feeling a little overwhelmed by the whole experience, and not even wanting to think about what the jewelry they just agreed to purchase might cost. 

“Certainly. I’ll step out into the main showroom. Come find me when you’re ready,” Daniel offers. John gets the feeling they’re not the only couple who’s needed to have a private discussion in this room, and probably aren’t going to be the last. He turns to Sherlock with a slightly suspicious look.

“Were you planning to tell me what exactly all this means?” he asks, crossing his arms over his chest.

Sherlock frowns. “Don’t you know? You’ve seen men in collars before. You’ve seen pictures of Greg in a collar.” 

“Yeah, but I never asked him what it meant to him, specifically. And I don’t know that you have."

Sherlock looks a little less confident, at that, and her gaze drops to the floor. “I deduced enough,” she mumbles. “I thought he’d want it.” 

“Hey,” John’s tone softens, and he steps closer, pressing his fingers under her chin. “I’m not saying he won’t. I’m just pointing out that you’re asking me to buy something pretty important with you, for him, as a surprise, and you’re not telling me what it means or what it should mean. I need a little context, here. At least what it means for you.” 

Sherlock sighs, twisting her mouth a bit. “All right. You have questions. Ask.” 

“How many times?” John asks, his smile fond. “Have you done this much in the past?” 

“No,” Sherlock admits, quiet. “Never.” 

“So… it’s as big a deal as it seems, then.” 


“What does it symbolize, for you, Greg wearing your collar? Is it like a wedding ring?” 

“No,” Sherlock frowns. “It means that he’s mine. Twenty-four seven.” 

John nods. “It does seem that way, more and more,” he encourages. “Especially since he’s started doing the boy stuff even when you’re not in active headspace. You’re comfortable with that?”  

“I wouldn’t have allowed it if I weren’t. He… is different, than other men like him.” 


“Obviously,” John grins. “Is this going to come with more rules or restrictions?” 

Sherlock tips her head to the side. “Possibly. I haven’t thought of anything, but he enjoys being accountable to my desires as they fluctuate. There will be rules about the collar itself.” 

John nods. “Okay. What about me, then?” 

“What about you?” 

John snorts. “I’m here. You wanted me here. Why?” 

“Because this is significant,” Sherlock replies, looking adorably confused. “Why would I do it alone?” 

“I’m not kinky, am I? It doesn’t mean he belongs to me.” 

“No. But you are… compulsory. You are part of what it is to be in a relationship with me. I thought I told you that. We are in love with one another, and he is taking part in that. There is no separability in this arrangement.” 

John smiles. While he knows it’s true, he doesn’t dislike the reminder. “Right. Do you need me to contribute financially, then? These things can’t be cheap.” 

“No. I can afford it. But I want you to be there. I want to ask him together.”  

“I can do that.” John frowns a bit, reaching to touch Sherlock’s cheek. “You know… he could say no, right? I believe he’ll want this, but… maybe you shouldn’t be spending hundreds of pounds on something he could reject. I doubt there’s a return policy on a custom collar.”  

Sherlock’s mouth twists up a bit and her spine straightens. “I want to take that risk. I need to take that risk,” she amends. John lets out a breath and allows her that. 

“All right. I’m here for you,” he says finally, shifting his hand to her chest and letting it rest there for a moment before he breaks the contact and gestures to the door leading out to the main showroom. “Let’s talk leather.”  


When the box arrives and he opens it in the privacy of the upstairs bedroom, John’s surprised to find himself a little shell-shocked with emotion. A long box like something that might otherwise contain a man's shirt is padded with a custom blue-velvet mold, shaped to fit the dark stainless collar, the thicker leather version, and its matching cuffs and leash. The custom leather collar, which Sherlock and John had designed together from a catalog of various options, is made from supple black leather and narrow enough to fit comfortably, with a slight chevron dip at the front and a striking rainbow titanium O-ring. The buckle, made from the same metal, comes with a lock, as do the cuffs, but the most elegant part in John’s opinion is a bright royal blue padded lining. Something possessive and a little dark in him preens at the idea of an accessory whose most vibrant part is hidden away where strangers won’t be able to see it. 

Somehow, they end up deciding to present the gift to him after a dinner at home that Greg actually cooks for them. Neither of them are very impressive in the kitchen, but the idea does make John tempted to giggle, as much as Sherlock’s squirming throughout. He’s impressed that Sherlock actually makes it halfway through consuming the food before she makes a dissatisfied noise and rises from the table. 

“This is ridiculous. Come with me,” she demands, stalking off to the sitting room and leaving John to explain before Greg takes offense.

“The food’s delicious. That’s not what she means. We have a surprise for you and she’s going to burst at the seams if we don’t give it to you now."

“Oh,” Greg smiles, looking a bit relieved. “That’s all right then. Shall we?” John lets him lead the way into the sitting room, where Sherlock is seated on the sofa with a cushion on the floor in front of her, and sits thigh-to-thigh next to her as Greg kneels down on the cushion. 

“I feel disinclined to deliver a speech,” Sherlock declares curtly, looking as if the very idea offends her. “But suffice it to say, we are quite enamored of you and desire the arrangement to become permanent.” 

“Uh,” John cuts in as Sherlock flips open the lid to the box without fanfare and displays it to Greg in her lap. “I think what she means to say is, she wants you to wear her collar. And I want that too. If you’re interested. Which you don’t have to be.” John’s eyes flick from Greg to Sherlock, and he remembers then that he’s just as bad at meaningful pronouncements as she is. “Sorry. That wasn’t very romantic.” He scrubs his hand over his face, but when he looks again, Greg is just staring at the both of them. 

“You… really? You’re serious?” 

“As a heart attack,” Sherlock pronounces crisply. “You’re familiar with Total Power Exchange? I desire to own you unquestionably, and John has not thus far told me no.” John can’t help but snicker, as that’s something of an accurate summary of their relationship. But Greg breaks in before he can crack a joke.

“You already do, Miss. Entirely.” He lowers his head, waiting, and Sherlock reaches eagerly for the leather collar.

“Uh… don’t you want to know the rules? What this is going to mean, exactly, or which collar’s for what, anything like that?” John interjects, suddenly nervous on Greg’s behalf. But Greg just smiles, head still down, reaching to squeeze John’s calf.  

“No. She’ll tell me.” And with that statement of unqualified trust, John watches her reverently press the blue padded lining to Greg’s throat, buckling the collar snugly in the back and securing the buckle with a small padlock. Her hand rests there, for a moment, against Greg’s skin, covering the lock, and John slips an arm around her waist, snuggling into her, feeling emotion rise in his own throat. Without knowing why, really, he lifts the knuckles of his other hand to Greg’s lips, and the boy mouths and nuzzles gently at them, murmuring a soft “thank you” into the roughened skin.

“Our pleasure,” John replies.

“It’s only you,” Sherlock adds. “This means it will only be you, for me, while my collar is yours. Do you understand?” 

“No other boys,” Greg affirms, mumbling though John can see the little smile against his own skin. It makes sense, why she’d offer that, given Greg's history, but he also finds himself feeling somewhat touched. 

“No other submissives,” Sherlock promises. “I don’t want that to be unspoken this time.” 

“Thank you Miss,” Greg sighs happily, snuggling up against their legs, and John relaxes back into the sofa, his fingers toying with the hem of Sherlock’s shirt. He has a profound sense that for a moment, at least, everything is right with the world.


“What is it with the two of you and bacon sandwiches?” Sherlock asks, the morning after both the collaring and quite a lot of impromptu sex and play in celebration. John laughs as he takes the plate from Greg, who takes a seat on the cushion at John’s feet as usual.

“Tradition, I suppose. Also, they’re delicious.” 

Sherlock snorts, then looks a bit closer. “Boy.” 

“Miss?” Greg turns to look at her over his shoulder, cheerfully naked but for the leather collar and cuffs. 

“Look at John. Open your mouth. You’ve forgot napkins.” Her grin is terribly cheeky, and John raises his eyebrows. Of course, Greg does exactly as he’s told, facing John again and letting his jaw drop open. 

“He usually licks my fingers when I feed him,” John points out. 

“I know. Right now, I want him to serve a purpose. He can make another sandwich for himself, for the time being he’s to be your napkin and nothing more.” 

John glances down, and sure enough, Greg’s eyes are already wide with lust, his breathing heavier through his nose and his tongue extending. All right, he concedes, taking a bite of the sandwich and then casually swiping his fingers over Greg’s tongue. He can play along.

“Don’t stick it out like that,” Sherlock rebukes. “You’re hardly very useful if it dries out completely. Let the saliva gather in your mouth.” Predictably, Greg’s cock twitches to attention at the slightly humiliating statement in Sherlock’s dry tone, and his tongue retreats to rest behind his teeth, mouth still open wide. John smiles and shakes his head. 

“You’re such a perv for someone who’s not interested in sex,” he teases, eating some more of the sandwich. This time, he doesn’t look at Greg when he reaches down to use his mouth, and he shifts to tuck his feet up in the chair, sitting sideways to face Sherlock.

“I fail to see what’s perverted about asking my boy to serve a useful function. It’s not even a sexual function, at that.” 

“I think that’s probably a matter of opinion,” John suggests, though his own dick is tired out enough from last night that he doubts this will lead to actual sex. Curious at the reaction, he tries aiming the next buttery swipe carelessly right across Greg’s face. He gives the boy’s erection a pointed look, then shifts a foot down to press at it. Greg makes a quiet, tortured sound. 

“Slut,” Sherlock remarks. “I suppose everything’s a sexual function with you.” Greg can’t see her, but his eyes look rather desperate when John glances down, and he fits the arch of his foot over Greg’s cock with a wicked grin. 

“Want me to bring him off?” he asks, setting his empty plate aside and just lazily sliding two fingers along Greg’s tongue and down his throat now.

“No. But tease all you like.” 

“Great,” John smirks down at his rather ecstatic-looking boyfriend. “I intend to.” 


“Hey,” John greets Greg as he steps into the kitchen, home from a shift at the clinic. Sherlock’s not around, but Greg’s seated at the kitchen table, rubbing at his collar with conditioner. John notices that he’s wearing the other one, the steel collar he wears to work, and his leather cuffs are already set aside and gleaming. The whole room smells sharply of leather polish, but it’s not unpleasant. “Off early today?” He gives Greg a quick kiss, then turns to the kettle to start a pot of tea.  

“Yeah, after all the hours my team put on the case last week, we’re just tying up loose ends now. I made myself actually leave when Sally did,” he grins, and John returns it.

“Good on you. I’d ask Sherlock to give you a reward, but we won’t fool ourselves that I’m in charge.” 

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Greg snickers, carefully applying polish to the collar and then starting to buff at it with a brush. “How was work?” 

“Mainly runny noses. A new bloke came in for an adjustment to his ART regimen, though, and I’m pretty sure he was hitting on me.” 

“I won’t tell Sherlock,” Greg snickers. “Cute?” 

John laughs and makes a wobbly “so-so” hand, rinsing out the teapot and pouring water over a couple of tea bags from the electric kettle. “I mean, I wasn’t looking. Strictly speaking.”  

“Yeah, I’m sure,” Greg teases. “Want me to clear all this away? Sorry, I didn’t know you’d be back yet.” 

“Nah, it’s fine. They look good,” John smiles. It’s been a month since they gave Greg the collars, and John’s grown accustomed to seeing one of the two around Greg’s neck at all times. “Is the maintenance part of your deal with her, or just your thing?” 

Greg shrugs. “We didn’t talk details. But she told me I’d be responsible for taking care of them, along with keeping the keys. I’d include this under taking care,” he explains.

“Fair. I just wondered… sometimes I suspect there’s a secret rulebook I’ve just never seen.” 

“If only,” Greg snickers. “That’d make it a hell of a lot easier, with some tops. But no, there’s not really widespread agreement on protocol, other than basic ideas like earning your leather or not touching someone else’s submissive’s collar without asking. Even when you kneel and when you talk or make eye contact gets decided from one top to the next, or from family to family.”  

“Oh. Wait, does that means I should be avoiding your collar?” John frowns. He’s certainly touched it incidentally enough in the last month.

“No, not you.” Greg laughs. “I meant more, in a club, it would be rude for someone I didn’t know to just come up to me and touch my collar. Because it’s personal, and a sign of a claim. I’m not really ‘someone else’s submissive’ to you, am I?"

“Well… when you put it that way, no,” John agrees, pleased, as he pours the tea and puts Greg’s where he can easily reach it.  

“D/s people tend to like protocol and ritual, but it’s highly variable. I was taught certain things a certain way, and so they have a particular meaning to me, and that was basically the law… but the meaning doesn’t always transfer. Like with service, I do some things because of their meaning to me, even if Sherlock doesn’t necessarily take it the same way. And it’s obvious that my collars have a strong symbolic meaning for both of us, even if it’s not entirely identical. I mean, it’s a lock around my throat. It’s somewhat unambiguous.” 

John smiles as he sips his tea, and Greg puts aside the polished leather, going to the sink to wash his hands. When he’s finished, he sits back down across the table from John and blows on his own mug before taking a sip. “I’ve noticed the way she looks at you when she switches them out,” John says, reaching across the table to grasp his hand. “It means everything to her that you want to wear it.”  

“Yeah.” Greg’s smile is a bit goofy. “I’m still over the moon about it. Now that this case is done, I’d really like to go out soon. Show it off. I’m actually thinking I may come out at work, if the two of you are keen. Not about the kinky stuff, I mean, but about dating the two of you.” 

“Really?” John’s eyebrows go up. “I mean… I’d be fine, I can’t imagine Sherlock giving a toss either way, but do you think you’re ready for that?” 

Greg shrugs. “It’s obviously serious. And they know I’m gay, they knew about Paul as my partner, if not my dom. There might be words about conflict of interest, but honestly after what happened when Sherlock… yeah, everyone on the team is all right with the two of you these days. I think the benefit would outweigh the risk.” 

“Huh. Well… I’m with you, whatever you decide.” 

Greg squeezes his hand and leans across the table for a kiss. “Yeah. I’ve noticed.” 

Chapter Text

“Sherlock? May I serve you, please?” 

Sherlock blinks up at Greg, standing over him with a plate of food in one hand and a folded TV tray under the other arm. John snorts to himself, already eating his own meal, as Sherlock emerges from whatever he was doing on John’s laptop and notices the boy standing over him. 

“Yes, all right,” he waves his hand, and Greg sets up the tray, putting the plate down and then coming back with silverware and a mug of tea. 

“Try to actually eat it, will you?” Sherlock rolls his eyes, but he does reach for his fork, and Greg looks satisfied as he lowers himself to the floor.  

“Come over here,” John suggests, patting his thigh. Sherlock’s predictably gone back to gluing his eyes to the laptop screen, eating one-handed. Greg crawls over obediently, pushing his own plate with him and then going back for his tea. Once he’s settled in next to John’s chair, John reaches down and scratches his nails through Greg’s hair. They eat in affectionate silence that way, and John almost startles when Sherlock’s voice suddenly breaks it midway through the meal. 

“Your service is… quite adequate,” he declares, sounding a bit awkward. John swears he actually detects a blush on Sherlock’s cheeks as the other man returns to his food, so unlike the way she praises Greg when she’s in a toppy place. Greg just smiles fondly and nods. 

“Thank you, Sherlock.” He winks up at John, nuzzling his knee, and it’s all John can do not to start laughing at their weird little arrangement. Then again, he wouldn’t give it up for anything.



When Greg moves in, it’s strangely anticlimactic. His lease comes up for renewal, Sherlock tells him not to renew it, and so he doesn’t. John does check in, privately, to make sure he’s not just following orders because he thinks he should, but Greg just gives him a good natured shrug.

“I practically live here, anyway,” he points out, and John can’t disagree. Personally, he’s excited to have someone to fall asleep with more consistently, and Greg just naturally fits into the flow of their flat. John realizes that he’s become accustomed to the convenience of writing items on a shopping list, rather than purchasing them himself, and having his laundry ready for him at the beginning of each week—but also to the little ways he takes care of Greg, whether after their scenes or in the form of lazy kisses exchanged  on the sofa after a hard day of work. The most dramatic moment associated with the move comes when Mrs. Hudson finds out, and John decides not to think too much about the gossip she’s undoubtedly sharing with her friends about the three of them. Sherlock, of course, does not care. 

Probably the most striking moment for John is when Greg, quite casually, drops a “hey, I love you,” just as the two of them are leaving a crime scene, and doesn’t bother to explain to the team—not in front of them, anyway. Though Greg had mentioned the possibility of coming out at work, John feels a pleased pride in his lover in response to that openness, and the next time they're around the Yarders and Greg touches the small of Sherlock’s back in a more-than-friendly way, no one even blinks. John can’t imagine it’s a non-event—surely at least someone questioned Greg about his two simultaneous boyfriends back at NSY—but in the grand scheme of things related to Sherlock, it may not be the most shocking most of them have seen.

Maybe it’s that growing pride in a boy who isn’t his, exactly, but belongs to him in so many other ways, that makes John particularly tetchy when he catches a leatherman flirting with Greg one Friday night at the kink club. They've only been separated for a few minutes, John going for a piss while Sherlock scouts for a play space unencumbered by the toy bag Greg’s standing guard over, when it happens. John returns to find a tall bearded man in a leather vest littered with various pins and badges circling Greg slowly, saying something to him that John can’t hear as he approaches. Greg’s still, likely being polite but not encouraging as he generally is with strangers, but something about the man’s demeanor stokes a fire in John’s belly. 

“All right, then?” he asks, approaching the two men and resting a gently possessive hand at the small of Greg’s back. 

“Ah, is he your boy? Might not want to leave him alone for long,” the stranger suggests in a teasing tone that grates on John’s nerves, extending his hand. “Master Rob.” 

“John. And he’s not my boy,” John corrects. “But he is mine, in a sense.” His handshake is firm, and Rob laughs. 

“No? Well he’s certainly not a girl.” Rob glances down, as if he's assessing Greg’s package, and grins at John. John’s not sure if he’s more sensitive to the casual transphobia inherent in the remark because of Sherlock, but he thinks he would’ve found the bloke annoying even aside from that. He’s certainly not going to give him the title ‘Master’ in his head, seeing as he’s done jackshit to earn it. “Is the collar real, then?” he continues as John fixes him with his coolest expression, hoping it’ll encourage the man to stop talking. “Please tell me he didn’t buy it for himself. It’s kind of tacky, mate, if you ask me.”

“Funny, I don’t think anyone did,” Sherlock interjects in a cutting tone, slipping in behind them and standing at Greg’s other side before John actually has to say anything discouraging. “Boy. Knees.” Greg slips down gracefully, hands tucked behind his back, and when he’s stable sitting on his heels Sherlock presses the stiletto heel of one modest pump into his thigh, shifting her weight with one hand on his head. To his credit, Greg doesn’t even grimace. 

“Lead,” she snaps, her eyes calmly fixed on ‘Master’ Rob’s even as she addresses orders to Greg. He opens the duffle bag on the floor, removes a short chain from it with a leather loop on one end, and offers it to her. She clips the end on his collar and holds the loop loosely in one hand. 

“Apologies, John. Did I interrupt?” Her polite tone is syrupy sweet, and to John it sounds like daggers. He smiles and shakes his head. 

“Not really. I was just… clarifying some things on your behalf. As you can see,” he addresses Rob, “you were a bit mistaken. He’s quite spoken for.” 

Rob frowns, looking between Greg on the floor and Sherlock in her classy slim-line pantsuit as if he has no idea what to think. “Uh… right. I reckon you’re new here?” 

“Not new enough to care what you think,” Sherlock comments crisply, tugging on Greg’s lead. “Bag, boy. I’ve found a spot, John, if you’d like to join us?”

“Uh… yeah,” John grins, swallowing his instinctive apology for his partner’s behavior at the man’s obviously offended look. For once, he thinks it’s more-or-less justified.


“All the good equipment is taken,” Sherlock explains when she parks them out of the way in one of the social corners, in two armchairs facing one another with Greg on the floor. “I’m feeling creative by necessity, though.”  

John smirks a bit at her as she tucks the toy bag off to the side and pushes Greg forward from the upper back, letting him land on his hands and knees between them. “Yeah? What kind of creative?” 

“I believe I would like to see a show tonight,” she purrs, eyes dancing as she licks her lips. “Fortuitous that you’re wearing your boots.”

“Oh yeah?” John laughs at her presumption. “Well, seeing that we’re sitting down, I doubt you need me to do anything with them that I’d object to.” 

“No,” she agrees. “Go on, boy. I’d like to see how much you appreciate those sturdy, military boots of John's. Give me a good show.” 

Obligingly, Greg pivots to one side, giving Sherlock a clear view of his face, and lowers his mouth to the toe of one boot. As he bends, John notices how the chain lead goes taut, and Sherlock pulls it up even shorter after the first kiss to the leather, forcing Greg to extend his tongue if he wants to taste it. John resists the urge to slide his foot forward and instead lets himself enjoy the display, Greg’s weight on his forearms and his arse in the air as he paints the worn leather with his saliva. John bends forward to give his head a fond rub, but then sits back again, meeting Sherlock’s eyes.  

“Enjoying yourself?”

“Mm, I’d say so. Are you comfortable?”

“Yeah,” John agrees, then has a bolt of inspiration and grins conspiratorially. “Could be more comfortable, though.” He lifts his other leg and lets the heel of his other boot rest on Greg’s back, amused by the moan it produces. 

“There’s the spirit. Might as well get full use out of the boy, since he’s here.” 

“I don’t know if I’d call it full use,” John points out, raising his eyebrows. “But he does make a nice picture.” 

“He hasn’t earned that kind of reward yet,” Sherlock returns. “Though if you’d like to get yourself off, be my guest.” 

“Oh, how generous of you,” John snickers, shifting the foot on Greg’s back instead as Sherlock gives him a bit more slack on the lead to work his tongue up John’s calf. She gives him a kind of undefinable look as she leans forward in her chair, closer to John, chin in her hand. 

“I don’t know, John. I think I’m very generous,” she purrs. With one leg crossed over the other, she’s just in range to press a heel into Greg’s shoulder, which she does. “Would you disagree?” 

John narrows his eyes, trying to figure out what game she’s playing. “What are you getting at?” 

“Oh… nothing in particular.” Sherlock tucks the loop at the end of the lead under her thigh and reaches out with the freed hand, cupping John’s jaw and stroking his face. “Would you like to get off for me, John?” she offers, pinning him with a rather intent gaze. He swallows and considers for a moment, but ultimately the wording seals it.

“Yes,” he agrees, his voice strong. Greg’s tongue feels good against his calf through the leather, and Sherlock’s hand finds just the right spots on his neck as he reaches to unzip his fly. 

“Let the slut move to your other foot,” Sherlock suggests. “For symmetry’s sake.” 

John laughs and puts his other boot down, watching for a moment as Greg shifts eagerly to it. He’s fully absorbed in his task, lost to it with eyes closed and tongue worshipping any bit of leather he can reach. It’s entrancing, but then Sherlock squeezes his jaw and John looks back up, catching her eye as he takes himself in hand. 

“Look at me, John,” she murmurs, at the same time digging her heel into Greg’s back again. “Keep your eyes on me.”  

“What happened to the show?” John asks, though he does keep looking at her as he begins to slowly stroke himself.  

“I don’t need to watch him for there to be a show,” Sherlock counters. “I can feel how he shifts under my feet. I know how it turns him on to lick your leather. Besides, he likes to be ignored.” 

“Yeah,” John agrees, smiling as Sherlock shifts in his peripheral vision to dig her heels in harder and Greg moans in response. “You know, don’t take this the wrong way, but the way you talk sometimes, I really have no idea what asexual actually means. Cause that surely sounds like sex.” 

“Matter of perspective,” Sherlock smiles, her eyes sparkling as she idly rubs along the line of John’s sideburn stubble with her thumb. John returns the smile, relieved she’s not offended. “I never claimed not to enjoy intimate acts, or others’ arousal, even, in limited scenarios. I enjoy your arousal,” she states, eyes flicking down to his lap and back. John groans softly, hand tightening for a moment around his cock. “But I don’t desire sexual contact. I find kissing uncomfortable, and having my genitals touched particularly unpleasant. So you could hardly say that I enjoy sex in a typical sense.”

“No,” John agrees, shifting his boot a little to dig more into Greg’s back and enjoying the resulting moan even though he doesn’t look down, nuzzling against Sherlock’s hand instead. “That’s true. Does it bother you that sometimes our interactions feel sexual to me? Just… the level of intensity, it’s…”

“I know,” Sherlock cuts him off, her gaze sharp and omniscient. “I like that. I do experience desire, John. You’ve seen my desire,” she says, the tone low and alluring. She shifts her position, digging harder into Greg’s body with her heel, but also cups John’s face in both hands, brushing her fingers along his cheeks and jawline, even stroking his lips. “I’ve never desired anyone like I desire you,” she continues, and John inhales sharply through his nose. “Perhaps I need… an extreme degree of control over an interaction, the more sexual it is. But you give me that. I like exploring your reactions. I like making you crave me.” 

“Fuck,” John mutters, his hand moving faster as he fights the instinct to look away and instead sits in the burn of her unflinching gaze. “Yeah, all right. I think I get it.” And he does — like Greg, he experiences her intimacy as something more than sex, sometimes, and probably it doesn’t matter how he defines it. After all, he gets the unique privilege to share a brilliant boy with her, to feed off their energy, and in this moment, to look directly into her eyes and see her unflinching desire just as he comes. On balance, he has no complaints.


“Wow. You are… really no good at timing,” John remarks when Mycroft walks into their flat early one evening, just after they’ve eaten, and immediately raises a hand to shield his eyes from the scene in progress. All told, it’s fairly mild—at least no one’s naked—and Greg doesn’t look particularly embarrassed as Sherlock lifts the knife from his tongue and snaps it closed with distinct annoyance. He settles back against Sherlock’s legs, and she glares up at her brother while fisting a hand in Greg’s hair hard enough to whimper.

“Perhaps you should consider confining such activities to the bedroom, so that my timing would matter less,” Mycroft suggests primly, lowering his hand to his side with visible reluctance. 

“Or perhaps you should consider not obtaining a copy of the key to our flat every time I have the locks changed,” Sherlock shoots back. “Prude.” 

“I’m hardly a prude, sister, I simply find your preferred activities…distressingly unconventional.”

“Oh, make up your mind! You used to complain that I wasn’t having sex, now you’re bothered that I’m not engaged in the right kind? Seems you’re just terribly jealous of my having someone who actually wants to belong to me as I am, on my own terms, which quite undermines your argument about how much less normal I am than you, and how this is an impediment to successful societal functioning. In fact—oh, this is just rich Mycroft, really, classic stuff—you’re particularly annoyed that I managed to find a romantic relationship as you kept insisting, but did so outside the bounds of the normalcy you assumed such a relationship would impose… likely because you’ve never managed such a thing, yourself, and despite your condescending tone towards my love life you’re not even certain you’re capable of it. So, shall we continue the psychoanalysis or are you here for a reason?” Sherlock half-growls, fully in her element. John feels his cock stir a bit, watching the rapid-fire deductions, and hearing the little under-the-breath whimper Greg couldn’t hold back as her hand involuntarily tightened again mid-monologue. 

“I’m hardly jealous,” Mycroft scoffs, though he’s turning a bit pink. “Honestly Sherlock, you could stand to express some gratitude for how accepting I am of your… peculiarities. And always have been, for that matter.”

“Yes, yes, thank you ever so kindly for not being a transphobic stain on humanity, now why are you here?” 

“Some unusual patterns among London's homeless population, correlated with some cryptic messages coming from MI5,” Mycroft admits reluctantly. “The latter is classified, however; you’ll have to come in.” 

“Are MI5 messages ever not cryptic?” John asks, taking the file Mycroft holds out to him, as Sherlock simultaneously responds without even glancing at it. 

“I’m not coming in. You’ll have to give me more than that.” 

“I can’t give you more than that,” Mycroft sighs. “Detective Inspector Lestrade isn’t cleared.”

Then clear him,” Sherlock responds sharply, much in the same way he’d insisted upon’s John’s clearance in a similar situation years back. Mycroft utters a long suffering sigh, but John doesn’t doubt that he’ll do it. This is unlikely to be the first time it will come up. Still, he offers token resistance.

“There are complications. He’s not John; there will be times I need to disclose details to you that I don’t want the Met knowing about.” 

“He’s not the Met, he’s my romantic partner. Who, incidentally, knows how to keep his mouth shut.”  

Mycroft sighs. “Detective Inspector, I would be curious whether…” 

“No,” Sherlock disagrees, cutting him off. John notices that Greg doesn’t even look up, happy to stay in headspace and let the two of them work this out. “You will not speak to him directly right now. If such a conversation is necessary, it can take place when he isn’t in an altered state. Speak of which, you are being quite rude by remaining in the room while I am attempting to engage in intimate activities with my submissive.”  

Mycroft rolls his eyes. “You were both quite dressed when I came in. I would have left otherwise.” 

“Look up the definition of ‘intimate’ in the dictionary,” Sherlock snarls. “Your understanding appears to be lacking.” But her angry expression shifts, then, into a haughty smile. “Besides, if I thought that would actually work, I’d consider spending the rest of my life perpetually naked.”  

John snorts a laugh. “We’ll contact you,” he promises, rising to his feet and leaving Mycroft to awkwardly exit the flat in response to his herding. John locks the door behind him and returns with a small snicker.

“You’re incorrigible.” 

“You like it,” Sherlock returns, squeezing Greg gently around the throat and reaching for the knife again. John doesn’t bother to deny it.


Mycroft’s issue with MI5 takes Sherlock a week and a half to solve, after which comes a long sleep and a massive takeaway order that John’s relieved to watch Sherlock eat. Next to him on the sofa, Greg snuggles up cheerfully and Sherlock grudgingly allows him, despite his reversion to masculine mode. They’ve fallen into a sort of rhythm over time, where Sherlock in his male headspace pretends at annoyance over Greg’s level of affection, but never actually denies him, and Greg in turn offers said affection unflinchingly. Sherlock twirls noodles onto his chopsticks repetitively without looking, cardboard carton cradled to his chest, and his eyes disdainfully track the news quiz, to which he has an objection every third question or so. Not about the news, of course—he considers it all more or less rubbish, but he still makes corrections grammatical and contextual, along with observing various details of the contestants’ personal lives. John mostly giggles through the whole thing, nursing a pint, and idly pets Greg while the two of them cuddle. He eventually unzips Greg’s flies, but he’s not feeling particularly directed, instead just reaching inside to paw a bit at Greg's soft cock nestled inside its cotton barrier. He gets a pleased sigh in response, Greg’s face pressed to Sherlock’s neck, but before it can go on too long Sherlock puts an empty carton down and budges Greg over towards John. 

“I have work,” he declares, meaning an experiment most likely, and proceeds to the kitchen leaving Greg to pick up and bin the detritus of their meal. John washes his hands and turns off the telly, but pours himself another pint, and one for Greg as well, before returning to the sofa. Unbothered, Greg switches to cuddling John instead, and seems grateful for the pint. 

“Was your day all right?” John asks, stroking his hair. 

“Yeah,” Greg agrees. “Well, boring. Mostly meetings.” 

“Ah.” That explains the clinginess—Greg’s often extra affectionate when he hasn’t had anything interesting to do at work. “We pretty much slept all day.”

“I figured.” Greg laughs before taking a sip of his pint. “I assumed Sherlock was trying to solve that one extra quickly, given he had Mycroft to outsmart.” 

“Bingo,” John agrees, softly enough that Sherlock can’t hear in the kitchen. “Though I don’t think Mycroft even tried,” he admits. “You know how he is. He likes to outsource.” 

“They say the best managers know how to delegate,” Greg points out. “Though I’m not sure that applies when it’s your siblings involved.” 

“Probably not. At least he bumped your clearance up.”

Greg shrugs. “I ‘spose. Rather not know, honestly, in most cases. I’m not interested in politics any more than I have to be. Already high up the ladder now as I want to get.” 

“That’s fair. I’m not sure I always want to know, given how blasé Sherlock can be about terrorism. But the cases do get solved. That’s what matters, ultimately.” 

“Right. It used to bother me more, too, before I knew him emotionally.” 

“Before we were dating, do you mean?” 

“No,” Greg laughs. “Long before that. I just mean… the first few cases we worked together, it was weird that she didn’t seem to have much of a sense of scale when she was working. I thought she might be a bit emotionally stunted,” he near-whispers, “but it only took a few months to see that wasn’t the case. I had to tune myself to her frequency, like.” 

John smiles, because he knows that feeling exactly, only it happened much quicker for him. “I know you weren’t in any kind of a relationship back then, but do you think it helped the work? That you’re used to the same sort of dynamics? I mean, as far as the ’tuning’ went.”  

“Maybe? But only a little. And not… specifically. I mean, I didn’t feel submissive to her until I did. I separate things out between work and home… but I think being in the scene has some more general spillover into life. I’m more open-minded, if nothing else.” 

“Right, I think that’s what I meant,” John agrees, absently stroking his thigh. “Kind of… that you were hard to shock. Or that you’d have to have seen a wide range of how people relate to one another, in the kink scene. If nothing else because it’s a good place for outcasts—the military was like that, too.”  

Greg laughs. “Like I’ve said, quite a lot of overlap between the scene and the military. But yeah, that’s a reasonable theory. When I was actively dating, I noticed that it was surprisingly hard compared to the vanilla world to find the right click with someone—probably because of that range. You get the intense connection but it’s not necessarily as likely to happen with a given person within the dating pool.”

“Is that why you hadn’t gone down in so long when you and Sherlock started?” John puts his half-full pint aside and snuggles closer, wrapping his arms around Greg’s body. 

“Mostly, yeah. It was a hell of a spark with her—but also, when you told me she was interested, I didn’t doubt for a second that she’d ask for everything from me. It’s because of our existing friendship that I said yes.” 

“Were you not friends with the guys you were playing with until then?” 

“Some of them,” Greg says, twining the fingers of one hand with John’s. “But like I told you, I’d lost a lot of my community. If I wasn’t willing to actually go down and submit, I could ask a stranger to hurt me instead and feel relatively safe about it.”

“Fair… though why would you? I mean… I know you’re a masochist, but is the actual pain even the point? I can’t quite imagine you taking it without the submission.”  

“No, it’s not really the point,” Greg laughs. “Not when I have what I do with her. But it’s part of the point. It’s like asking… why did you ever date women and hook up with them, if you weren’t planning to fall in love?”  

“Touché.” John smiles and kisses his neck. “For the record, I do prefer falling in love. But you’re right. I’d have been miserable if that was a prerequisite to fucking.” 

“Exactly. I like the endorphin rush. It’s like having a drink or getting high… it was nice to feel that, as regularly as I could. Nice to fuck, too. I like rough sex whether or not I’m in subspace. So those hookups weren’t bad, they just weren’t the same. I reserved a lot of myself in them.”     

“Yeah. Understood.” John gives Greg’s earlobe a little tug with his teeth, then reaches for his beer again. “I’m glad you weren’t entirely alone, in between Paul and Sherlock. But I’m glad you’re with us, too. I’m glad you have the full deal now.” 

“Believe me, John,” Greg laughs. “So am I.” 

Chapter Text

John probably should’ve known that a few months peace and relative quiet was not going to last indefinitely, but he can’t be blamed for his denial. The first sign something’s wrong comes when Greg steps out of Sherlock’s bedroom, naked and bleeding, and shuts Sherlock inside behind the door. John snaps to his feet, alarmed, and curses when his phone drops out of his lap, painfully tugging his earbuds out of his ears with it. When Sherlock had shared with John her plans for a heavy bloodplay scene, he’d decided for the first time that he ought to just sit the whole thing out, and had put the earbuds in to quash the temptation to eavesdrop. But she’d also been very detailed in what she planned to do for the sake of assuaging John’s medical concerns, and no part of it involved Greg getting up in the middle of the scene to take care of his own wounds in the bathroom. Frowning, John follows him in. 

“Love? Is everything all right?” 

Greg shakes his head sharply, pressing a gauze pad to an open wound on his chest as he sits on the toilet lid. “Not right now. Gonna need space.” It’s taking effort for him to speak clearly, John can tell as he gloves up and grabs another gauze pad, helping Greg by pressing it to the other freely bleeding wound on his thigh as he kneels in the tight space between Greg and the wall. “She… won’t.”

“Okay…” John agrees, medical and military training forcing him not to immediately start panicking. “Okay. Let me get you bandaged up though, all right?"

Greg nods. “Gonna sleep upstairs.” 

John frowns, but doesn’t object, keeping steady pressure on the gauze and meeting Greg’s eyes. “That’s all right. Let me know if you plan to leave the flat, though. And… I’d like to check on you a couple of times, for my own peace of mind.” 

“Yeah.” Greg allows a ghost of a smile at that. 

“Anything else I can do, for aftercare?” John asks after another minute of silence, removing the gauze now that the bleeding’s stopped and cleaning the wounds with hydrogen peroxide.

“No.” Greg hisses at the sting. “Not… right now. Later. I’m a bit… freaked out. I need space when I safeword,” he explains, and John’s both a bit horrified by the admission that Sherlock somehow pushed Greg to safeword and a bit reassured that this has happened before, and Greg knows how to handle it. “Go to her.” 

“I will,” John promises, bandaging up the cuts with gauze and medical tape. “Juice and blankets, yeah? And yell if you start feeling too shocky.” 

“Yes, doctor,” Greg smiles, and John leans up to give him a lingering, hopefully reassuring kiss. Leaving the bathroom, he braces himself for what he might find before gently pushing the bedroom door open and slipping inside.

“Oh,” Sherlock says blankly, lying on the bed with her knees tucked up to her chest. “It’s you.” She looks unusually young in footless tights and a cotton dress, hugging herself in a ball. John’s eyes take in the bloody knife lying on a few tissues on the nightstand, next to a bottle of Betadine, and he considers cleaning up first but ultimately abandons that plan in favor of climbing into bed behind her, wrapping an arm around her huddled form and tucking his legs up inside the bend of hers to hold her close. 

“Do you want to tell me what happened?” John offers. “You don’t have to.” 

Sherlock makes a kind of huffing sound. “I reminded Lestrade that I am, in fact, a sociopath.” 

John closes his eyes against the pain in that flippant statement and squeezes her a bit tighter, his lips at her ear. “Wrong. Tell me the facts.”  

She’s silent for a moment, but then her muscles relax minutely and she responds. “He gave his safeword. I brought it upon myself.” 

“How? Safewording was his choice, right? It doesn’t mean you did anything wrong.” 

“No, but I did. I… could see that it was too much. I was pushing too hard.” Her voice is small, and she picks compulsively at the blanket. "This always happens, eventually.” 

“What, going too hard in a scene? You can apologize, love.” 

“No.” She sighs softly. “I... show too much when I dominate one partner long-term. The extent of my desires. I can’t imagine he’ll want to stay after the way I disregarded his fear tonight. I delighted in watching him bleed.” 

“In a consensual bloodplay scene,” John points out. “Even if you did scare him a bit, Greg’s not going anywhere. He just needs space for right now, and you’re a bloody drama queen. The most important thing he had to tell me was to take care of you, you know.” John strokes her forearm, firm as she prefers, up to the back of her hand and then back down to the elbow. “That’s not something someone says when they’re planning to fuck off. So you found somewhere your kinks don’t quite align. He’s still wearing your collar.”  

“For a while,” Sherlock mutters. “But so it begins.”

“So what begins? What do you think’s going to happen?” 

“Like I said... I showed too much of my sadism, my desire to possess him, too… many details of my character. I didn’t hold back, but…” Sherlock trails off and there’s a long enough pause that John thinks maybe she’s not going to continue. But she does, eventually, her tone quiet again and significantly more hurt. “I held on too tight, once. It was inevitable this would happen again, eventually, with how attached I’ve become to him. It’s all fine in the abstract, sure, but when I let someone get too close to the concrete reality of how I’m wired...” She speaks with one hand gesturing close to the body, demonstrative but not as wildly expressive as she normally is.

“Okay,” John offers, “so you lost someone before? In a relationship like this? C’mon,” he coaxes, gently tugging until Sherlock rolls onto her other side, facing him. He reaches up and brushes away a few stray tears with his thumb. “What reaction are you afraid of, sweetheart? Tell me about it.” He lets his hand trail down, slips his fingers among hers to hold her hand. She closes her eyes and he lets her take her time.

“I’ve mentioned my first boyfriend to you.” 

“Victor, yeah,” John remembers, his tone gentle. From what he’s heard, Victor wasn’t an utter bastard or anything, though he hasn’t pressed for all the details. One of those less mature romantic relationships Sherlock’s hinted at, from her younger days. She nods, eyes still closed.

“He was also my first… boy, in a sense. He wasn’t experienced the way Greg is, and we didn’t define everything about our relationship, but… he liked rough sex. This was before I had the confidence to insist upon my own celibacy, and he enjoyed playing almost as much as the other bits. He didn’t make me feel broken when I preferred to touch him rather than the other way around, and he delighted in pain in ways that stoked my imagination. He was comfortable with my gender fluidity, and… topping him felt safe.” Sherlock huffs out a breath, opens her eyes but looks down at their hands, not at John. She sounds annoyed at herself, but John stops himself from breaking in with reassurances. He pushes down the small surge of envy he feels at the story of another man being intimate with Sherlock in that way, as he can picture Sherlock young and vulnerable and unsure about his own lack of sexual desire, and the thought makes John feel more protective than anything. “I’ve told you that I find dominance…revealing. It makes me more vulnerable than I am in any other state. It becomes difficult to hide.” John nods, squeezing her hand. 

“I know.” 

“Well… as we played more and more, it became more intense. During one scene, while we were both in headspace, I got him to promise not to leave me. I’m sure I was quite insipid… it was hardly the most dominant thing to demand.” 

“Bullshit.” John raises his eyebrows when Sherlock looks up. “Dominants have needs just like anyone, and you know damn well I know it.”

“Yes,” Sherlock smiles a little. “Well… I found it quite embarrassing in retrospect, nonetheless. I was quite needy at that age. When I allowed myself to fantasize, it was always about owning someone outright, having someone who wanted to be fully mine… I didn’t want to give up on the idea that perhaps I had found it, in spite of the evidence. After the scene, Victor pointed out quite rightly that it wasn’t fair to ask such a thing while he was in a compromised state. He didn’t want that kind of a relationship, that… co-dependence. He thought what I was offering him was a chance at more… distance, between scenes and real life. As it had become more about pain and less about sexual intimacy, I suppose he saw me as a willing sadist without the emotional complications, and his assumptions weren’t unfounded. Despite my desires, I largely ignored him outside of our play, and I was a different gender, practically a different person…”

“Not, really, though,” John has to put in. “Not a different person.” 

Sherlock glances down again. “No. For all I wanted to be at the time.” 

John frowns. “Did you… break up, then?” 

“Not right away. I… was not particularly elegant in my response. I promised more distance, but then tried to draw him into heavier scenes when we did play. We always clicked so seamlessly in scene, more than I had with any other partner… I thought it would show him how good we were together, how logical a more longterm commitment was.” Sherlock laughs, a short bitter thing. “He told me that I was a freak, and obsessive, and he ended the relationship, well within his rights. I… did not respond well.” 

John thinks of the timeline and realizes exactly how she responded, with drugs to numb the experience, but he doesn’t say anything about that. Instead he releases her hand and wraps both arms around her, hugging her close and stroking down her spine. “You are beautiful. You are completely unmatched in this world, and you are nothing like anything that arsehole said. You were also young and figuring things out and God knows you’re not the only one who made a mistake in a first relationship.” 

Sherlock laughs, but she’s clinging just as tightly, stroking at John’s hair as she does sometimes when she’s needing comfort. “You’re biased,” she mumbles. “I am obsessive in relationships, now as much as I was then. I think I proved that tonight.” 

“Dedicated,” John argues. “Intensely interested. You’re not unhealthily obsessed. And if you were pushing Greg just to prove that you’re too much for him, you’ve got another thing coming,” John adds, pulling back just enough to look her in the eye. “He’s not going to leave you.” 

“You don’t know that,” Sherlock argues. “You cannot prove that.” 

“Time will prove that.” 

“Assuming you don’t both leave, together. Assuming there’s no final straw in my behavior.” 

“So what, you behave badly to find the line and accelerate it? You can’t manipulate us like that. We know you too well.” John remembers what Mycroft had predicted, though, when they first got together, and he wonders whether it was a mistake to admit Mycroft's concerns to her at the time, planting the seed, or if they simply share the same expectation of abandonment as a familial trait. 

“Do you?” Sherlock asks. “Do you truly know how deeply in love with you both I am? Because it terrifies me, John,” she insists, gripping his upper arm. "Moriarty was so obsessed that he literally died for me, and I found the experience dangerously addictive, when I should have been horrified. What if I’m just a slightly more moral version of him? There seems no difference in my intensity of feeling.”

“You’re not Moriarty, though. That man was heartless. You… have a ridiculously big heart, or you wouldn’t be saying all of this. I’ve seen you be perfectly selfless when it matters.” 

“And yet I still desire to manipulate others,” Sherlock argues, relaxing her grip to play aimlessly with the front of John’s shirt instead. “I’m still dangerous. I don’t… think you could understand the kind of pleasure I feel in hurting Greg, how… wrong my desires can actually be. I watched him bleed tonight, and I watched him hesitate, and I… just kept going.” 

“Yeah. You did. But you’re not going to be able to make me afraid of you. And you’re not going to push me or Greg away, love. You’re just not. We’ve made promises to you, we’ve made vows to you. To you, not some idealized version.” 

“I know,” Sherlock whispers. “I… can hardly believe it, most days.” 

“Well, believe it,” John smiles. “Or at least try.” 

Hesitantly, Sherlock meets his smile. “You know… it’s part of why I was attracted to you, at first. Your penchant for danger. It almost makes my own feel okay.” 

“Yeah?” John laughs. “Well, I’m not quite sure what to say to that.” 

Sherlock shrugs. “You’re very moral, though. You don’t kill for bad reasons. You calculate the lesser evil. I hurt people because I desire to, because it feeds something in me. I don’t always want to stop.”

“But you do. Greg said his word tonight, and what did you do?” 

Sherlock frowns. “I stopped.” 

“Exactly. You stopped.” 

“I didn’t want to.”

“But you did. Look at me. You’re not a monster, Sherlock.” He reaches up, brushes his hand over a bit of Sherlock’s hair, touching her tenderly. “People have left you. More than just Victor, I imagine. But it wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t because you’re too much or too intense or too sadistic, it’s because of their own hangups or because they didn’t know well enough to communicate and understand what you were actually offering. They probably didn’t know the real core of you, and not because it’s bad, but just because they weren’t the right people to know it. It happens.” 

“You’re very idealistic,” she murmurs, though at the same time she’s pushing into the touches and John thinks his words may be getting through.

“Might be. But I’m enough of a romantic to think people deserve happiness. And I know that you don’t deserve to be abandoned, that you can have a healthy relationship… you just need to stop trying to push us away because you’re scared. I can’t promise that Greg will never leave us, but I can promise my own loyalty. I can promise that if he ever does need to leave, I’m staying right here with you.” Sherlock doesn’t respond verbally, but her hands do squeeze hard at John’s waist, and he smiles. It’s not the easiest thing for him to talk about emotions openly like this—bringing a cup of tea or bandaging a cut comes much easier, but it’s worth it to feel her gradually relaxing, so he soldiers on.

“You’re not the first person to push someone they love too far because they’re trying to prove their own fears right, or trying to be the one controlling how they get hurt. People in relationships make bad calls. But he’s wearing your collar for a reason. And you’re not a sociopath, because you knew you were going too far. You just indulged yourself because you were afraid.” 

“Maybe,” Sherlock admits, and then presses her forehead to John’s, closing her eyes and breathing with him until John loses count of the inhales and the exhales. Eventually, she speaks again, her voice brushing air over John’s lips. “It’s hard to do the right thing all the time. You keep asking me to trust you, to be honest with you… but I could still get left in the end. Or you could die. Greg could die. Nothing is certain.” 

“No,” John agrees, cupping the back of her head. “But that’s not a reason to play as hard as you can and go out in flames when you’re just as likely to have years and decades with us, happy. I’ll do the probabilities with you, if you like.” 

“No,” Sherlock disagrees. “You’re rubbish at maths.” 

John laughs, and she scoots down a bit under the blankets, resting her head against his chest. He’s content to just hold her, though after ten or fifteen minutes of quiet, she’s restless, fidgeting. “All right?” he asks, resting a hand gently on the back of her neck.

“Yes. No. Do you think Greg’s all right?”

“I think so. I’m going to go up and check on him in a minute.” It hits him, then, the reason for the fidgeting. She’s talked out her guilt, maybe, but he remembers that description she once gave of aftercare, of the certainty at the end of a scene where she can take care of someone who deserves it. He’s never seen her after a scene without the aftercare portion, and he realizes that she’s probably a bit shaken by it, that the aftercare isn’t only for the bottom. He’s not quite sure what he can do, beyond the cuddles, to give her that feeling, but a small thought strikes.

“Have I ever told you all the ways you take care of me?” he asks, and she shakes her head against his chest, probably rolling her eyes but he can’t see and so he ploughs on. “I mean… you saved me, obviously. Saved my life, more than once. But it’s more than just that. You give me purpose. You give me so much, just by loving me…”

“You’re getting soppy,” Sherlock interrupts. John laughs and decides his point is taken, but she keeps talking after a moment. “You’re the only person I’ve ever really let myself rely on,” she admits. “I was terrified by it. I suppose… part of what happened, when I… left…” John’s hands tense on her, but she keeps going, “…is that I was afraid to rely on you too fully. I’m still afraid, but.. I want to try. You make me feel like… maybe I could be good, even.” 

“You are good,” John insists, tugging gently at her hair. “This whole conversation tells me that you’re good. You just… can’t always trust in happiness. It’s not an uncommon problem. But we can try to help you, if you tell us when you’re feeling that way. I mean… think about how you reacted when I first told you my fears about being too vanilla. You thought I was completely off base, didn’t you?” 

“Because you were,” Sherlock agrees, looking up at him with a completely straight face. He snickers and strokes her hair. 

“Yeah, well I was terrified. Because I love you too much to face what it would be like to live without you. And I think it’s the same for you. The thought’s completely impossible to contemplate, and the way we put each other on a pedestal, neither of us has an easy time trusting that we could really be enough. Does that sound right, more or less?” 

“Yes. But what does this have to do with Greg?”

“It’s the same way, right? At least a little. I’m afraid I’m not kinky enough for him sometimes, he’s afraid he’s not into women enough to be right for you…we all have these insecurities. But maybe we could just…try to remember how much we all need each other? And ask for a reminder when we can’t trust in that?” 

“Perhaps,” Sherlock concedes.

“Good.” John smiles. “I think… it’s like one of those sculptures you see in museum gift shops sometimes. You know, with the weights on sticks and the different counterbalances? We don’t exactly make sense, the three of us, but we do somehow have the right combination of counterbalances so that the structure itself never actually falls when it shifts.”  

“Very poetic, John.” She smiles a bit, and shifts onto her side. “Could you… go check on Greg now, please? And tell him that I’m sorry?”

“Yeah,” John agrees, scooting out from under her. “And you’ll tell him yourself, in the morning. But I’ll check on him now. Be back in a mo.” Sherlock nods and John leaves her snuggled under the blankets, grabbing the knife after a thought and taking it to the bathroom to clean before he heads upstairs. He finds Greg in his pyjamas, wearing his reading glasses with a book in hand. He puts it down on the nightstand when John walks in, though, and takes the glasses off.

“Hey. How is she?” 

John shrugs and makes an honest wobbling motion with his hand. “We’ve been talking a lot. Lot of emotions stirred up.” 

“Yeah.” Greg looks slightly sheepish as John sits down next to him on the bed, offering the glass of water he’d brought up with him. “I’m sure I freaked her out, leaving like that.” 

“I don’t think so. I mean… she didn’t seem bothered that you needed space, just…” John sighs and curls up against him, mindful of the bandaged spots. “She knows she fucked up. Did it on purpose, a bit. Trying to prove her own ridiculous beliefs about what a terrible person she is, but I set her straight. She wanted me to tell you that she’s sorry.” 

“Ah.” Greg frowns. “That’s… not surprising, actually. Reminds me of… well… the time before you.” 

“The drugs?”

“Yeah, among other things.” Greg shrugs. “Really not my story to tell.” 

“Fair. How are the cuts, then? Not bleeding through the bandages?”

“No. I stopped her before it got that far. Won’t need to stitch me up, doc,” Greg teases, scratching lightly at John’s spine underneath his t-shirt. He shivers and tilts his head up, claiming a few desperate kisses that he needs more than he’d realized after that conversation. Fortunately, Greg seems happy enough to indulge. They snog lazily for a few minutes, until John reluctantly decides to get back to Sherlock, with a promise from Greg not to stay up too late and to yell if he needs anything.  

Back downstairs, it’s late enough that John strips down to his pants in the bedroom and gets them both under the covers, turning off the lamp. Sherlock’s probably not tired enough to sleep, and John finds himself toying with an idea long enough that he just has out with it eventually.

“Would you… tell me more about what you like? The darker stuff, I mean?” Even in the dark, he’s certain of her frown, but he just snuggles closer, waiting.

“The kinky stuff?”

“Yeah. You know I’m not bothered. What kinds of things do you think about, when you’re afraid you’ve gone too far?” Spooned up behind her again he slides a hand to her hip, gently grips the protruding bone, and nuzzles into the back of her neck. The cotton of her dress is pleasantly soft against his bare chest.

“Are you certain you want to know this?” Sherlock asks. She sounds scared, and he smiles fondly.

“I’m asking you to fantasize with me, love. I know I don’t want to do any of it, or even see all of it, but I’m happy to listen. You’re safe telling me.” Sherlock huffs a kind of exasperated sound at his tone, but after a minute she does oblige him, hands toying with his fingers under the covers as she speaks, stroking and squeezing them erratically where his hand rests on her belly. 

“It’s often about blood,” she admits quietly. “I’ve long had a fascination for blood.” 

“What about blood, specifically? Is it the way it looks? The taste?”

“Secondary. It’s… more to hold onto. More… it’s intimate,” Sherlock murmurs. “It’s a way to get deep inside someone, literally but also… I don’t suppose you’ve ever looked anyone directly in the eye as you sliced into their skin.” 

“Can’t say I have,” John admits, carefully nonjudgmental. “Tell me about it?” 

“I like the fear,” she murmurs, and pauses for a moment after that, but then continues on when he doesn’t object, apparently emboldened. “I like the shock of fear, watching the conscious mind struggle to overcome its subconscious instinct to fight while I control my own desire to wound more deeply and touch every atom that comprises the person underneath me… it’s one of the sweetest highs I’ve known, the feedback loop that happens… there’s nothing like that degree of trust, and… surrender.” She sighs, softly, and her body goes almost limp, completely relaxed in John’s arms. “You know my methods. I feel every tremor, see every micro-expression… I like the way the breathing accelerates, the feeling of the skin even though gloves, the dilation of the pupils… I suppose it’s not unlike how most people experience sex. I feel an adrenaline rush at the power, certainly, but also I want to claim a particular role, a function—I like being the person my partner trusts with my life in their hands, to know that I would kill anyone who tried to harm them in that moment.” 

John inhales sharply, feeling the brief sting of jealousy, but then she clamps down on his hand, tight enough to cause pain, and he has the clarity of realizing that she would do exactly the same for him, even without the intimacy of such a scene. Perhaps that’s what their love is, even—the incontrovertible fact that she would do anything to protect him, and doesn’t even need the altered state of play to trigger that instinct. He thinks of her time abroad, the details that she still doesn’t share in full, and he’s gripped by a need to hug her even tighter, to solidify the fact of her existence here in their bed. They lie there in silence for a long while after that, clinging to one another in the dark.

Chapter Text

Though he probably shouldn’t be, John’s surprised the morning after the scene gone awry to find Greg serving Sherlock breakfast on the sofa, then kneeling at her feet, forehead resting on her knee. It’s a more formal submissive posture than he normally sees outside of their active play, and it’s also unusual to see Sherlock doing any kind of extended aftercare—which it definitely is, John confirms, watching Sherlock eat with her hand on the back of Greg’s neck, covering his collar, and then coming back from fetching a cup of tea for himself to find Sherlock feeding Greg from her plate by hand. John feels a little jubilant at the sight, and happily settles into his armchair to watch.

“Everyone feeling better, then?”

Sherlock looks up and rolls her eyes, which is as much an answer as anything could be. “I’ve checked his wounds, and there’s nothing to concern yourself with. Also, I’ve apologized, before you ask—“

“—wasn’t going to—“

“—and the boy’s still wearing his collar, so it appears that I have not bollocksed the whole thing up irrevocably.” 

“I wouldn’t,” Greg says, before John can reply, head popping up. He gives Sherlock a hard look. “That does not happen, Miss. I will never take my collar off angry, not for any reason beyond a medical emergency.”

Sherlock looks a little taken aback at his fierce response. “Well… all right, then. That’s good. I… erm… I’m pleased that you’re wearing it.” 

Greg seems satisfied and smiles, dropping his head again to nuzzle her hand.   

“Uh… this is just a thought, but… maybe we ought to talk about what this all means?”

“We did that, John. Last night.” 

John rolls his eyes. “We did that last night without Greg in the room, which isn’t the same. And I meant, more… I think you should clarify exactly what it means, for the two of you, when someone uses a safeword. What you expect to happen next. In more detail, at least, than you have already.” 

“That’s a good idea,” Greg agrees, smiling over at John. “I’d like to stay on the floor, please. Unless you really think I need to be in a neutral place for this discussion.”

“I don’t think so,” John decides. “As long as you’ll tell us if you have different ideas later. Also… I don’t think you can be 100% neutral around her, anyway,” he points out, raising his eyebrows, and Greg laughs in agreement.

“Guilty as charged. Well, I don’t mind starting. Other than the obvious—that it means stop, immediately, which you did last night—I tend to only use it when I really need to get out of the scene. And that usually means physical space, between myself and the scene. If it’s more of a pause and check in thing, I’ll call yellow.” 

“I see.” Sherlock is quiet for a while, hand running idly through Greg’s hair. “I find such space… difficult,” she finally admits, looking like each word is painful to say, and John’s heart breaks a little.

“Did having me there help, though?” John asks. “Maybe it’s not a terrible solution, if it happens again?”

“It won’t happen again,” Sherlock insists sharply. “My apology was sincere. I won’t let that happen again.” 

“Yeah, but you can’t promise that,” Greg counters before John can say anything else. “I might need to safeword some other time, and it might even have nothing to do with what you’re doing. You might—“ he continues, cutting off Sherlock’s attempt to object, “—not be able to see it happening, like you could last night. I know your deductive abilities, Miss, and I know what they can’t do. I don’t want to feel like I can’t safeword because you’ll blame yourself. That’s not healthy or safe… but a safeword isn’t meant to be a comment on your performance, even if I do need space. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed.” 

Sherlock frowns. “I may… find that difficult to accept.”

“I know. And we can always talk about it, after I’ve had some time alone. I can promise you that. I just can’t necessarily be in a reassuring place immediately after something like that happens.” 

“What if…” Sherlock frowns, biting her lip, and John thinks he knows why she stops.

“Go on, love,” John encourages as gently as possible. “Tell him.” 

“I’ll sound like a child.”

“No. You won’t,” John insists, a fair helping of the Army in his tone. 

“Fine,” Sherlock pouts, then gives Greg a challenging look that’s clearly hiding her fear. “What if you’ve already gone, before we can talk about it?”

“Oh,” Greg responds softly, crawling closer so that he’s pressed right up against her lower legs. “No. No, Miss, not at all. That’s never going to happen.” 

“You can’t promise that,” Sherlock argues. “You don’t know that.” 

“I can,” Greg counters. “At the very least, I can promise never to leave because of something that happens in a scene. I can certainly promise never to leave you because of something that happens in a scene. Is that what you’re afraid of?” he asks, looking up at her with shrewd eyes. Her glance off to the side, and the heat of her cheeks, is answer enough. “Not going to happen,” Greg insists in the firm tone he sometimes uses when mentoring younger detectives. He kneels up then, gently taking the breakfast plate away and putting it on the floor, and presses his hands to either side of Sherlock’s face. “You can’t fuck up a scene that badly. If I need to safeword, I’ll go upstairs, just like last night, and I’ll stay there as long as I need, but I promise you that I will always come back down, and we’ll talk about it, and we’ll figure out where to go next. Okay?” 

Sherlock looks reluctant, unsure, but she finally nods agreement. John’s reminded that the two of them have much more history, and not all of it pleasant, but Greg’s been around through the long haul. The thought's quite comforting, as he watches Greg settle back down on the floor and rest his cheek again on her knee. “Okay.” 


One year later

“Well… this is Paul, and Kieran. My dominant, Sherlock, and our partner, John.”

John still can’t quite believe they’re doing this—any of it—but he gamely steps forward and offers a friendly enough smile to the two men, extending his hand and giving each a firm shake. Sherlock’s expression is more openly displeased, but she’s promised to be good, at least insofar as is necessary to get what she wants out of them.

“Pleasure to meet you both. My boy’s holding the corner for us, as you asked. He’s just setting up the lighting now,” Kieran explains.

“Oh, good.” John smiles. “I’m kind of ready to get it over with, at this point. Excited… but still a bit nervous,” he adds, giving Sherlock’s hand a squeeze.

“I’d be shocked if you weren’t nervous,” Kieran teases. “Especially not actually being a masochist. You’re not the first folks I’ve worked with who wanted this mainly for romantic reasons, but you are the first vanilla bloke.” 

“Should we question your sanity, then?” Paul puts in, but he’s smiling. John squeezes Sherlock’s hand again, a warning this time, and returns the smile.

“You wouldn’t be the first.” 

“Ah, well, you have a good taste in partners, so I’ll let it slide,” Paul offers, then turns his gaze to Sherlock’s other side. “It’s good to see you, Greg. How long has it been?” 

“A few years. I’ve lost count, honestly.” 

“Yeah.” Paul’s smile is pleasant enough. “I’m surprised you didn’t reach out sooner, once all the nastiness of the divorce was past. I’ve seen you around here a few times.” 

Greg shrugs. “Didn’t see any reason to. That part of my life is pretty clearly closed, innit? But I appreciate the referral.” His tone isn’t unfriendly, but it is cool, bringing them back to business. Sherlock’s grip relaxes a bit in John’s hand. Even the idea of Greg reaching out to Paul via email to put them in touch with a contact had made her a little twitchy, but it had been the most expedient way to get them to tonight, and she’s been excited enough about that to keep her insecurities in check.

“Shall we, then?” she suggests, and Kieran gestures with his hand for them to go on ahead, bringing up the rear as Paul disappears into the crowd. The corner his boy is holding is set up with a sturdy chair, a small metal cart, and most importantly a bright task lamp that’s angled at the chair. The arrangement looks almost medical, and John swallows down his nerves, reminding himself why he’s doing this. It was his idea, after all—Sherlock would never ask for such a thing, and John wouldn’t have imagined himself offering in a million years, but under the circumstances of their odd relationship it feels right. As a younger man, he always thought relationship tattoos and the like were stupid, a childish attempt to make permanent something that by nature couldn’t be promised, but at this point in his life he can’t imagine a future without a permanent bond between them, whatever form that bond might take over time. And when he’d suggested it to Sherlock, the surprise and unfiltered joy in her eyes had sealed the decision. 

“All right, shirt off and you just relax in the chair for a minute while I go over the technical bits with Sherlock,” Kieran advises. “Don’t forget to breathe.” His grin is jovial, and John does indeed have to remind himself to breathe more or less as normal as he strips out of his shirt and takes a seat. Once he’s actually seated, though, watching Kieran explain the function of the branding device to Sherlock, a familiar calm settles over him and he notices the steadiness of his own hands. 

“So do you think I’m crazy?” John asks Greg, grinning as the boy hands him an open water bottle. 

“Yeah,” Greg agrees, grinning in return. “Not because of this, though. I do think you’re brave as fuck. Branding’s a hard limit of mine for a reason.” 

John takes a few swallows of water and shrugs. “It’s not really about the technique, though. I want her to have a permanent mark on my body. This is less likely to get infected than trying to scar a cut.” 

“And I suppose for once your medical expertise is comforting…” 

“Sort of.” John smiles. “Get down here and give us a kiss.” Unsurprisingly, Greg obliges, kneeling between John’s legs, and by the time Kieran has finished his explanation and safety lecture, they’re both thoroughly snogged. 

“Tarts,” Sherlock declares fondly. “Are you ready?”

“As I’ll ever be,” John smiles. Greg shifts to the side, kneeling next to John’s chair, and Sherlock takes up his spot, crouching down in front of John.

“I love you,” Sherlock declares, soft and intent with his eyes focused directly on John’s. It’s not the first time John’s struggled to hold the intensity of her gaze, but he does so obstinately, pressing their foreheads briefly together.  

“Love you.” 

“It’s not too late to change your mind,” she adds, her voice low. “You don’t have to do this to prove anything to me.” 

“No. But I want to do this. I want you to have this. I want to have this,” John corrects himself, in a softer tone. For all of Sherlock’s abandonment issues, and his need to stop that mental spiral she can’t help going into on a bad day, the hardest thing is to admit that his own desire is just as strong. They need each other to an extent that most would call unhealthy, and he just doesn’t care. Full of feeling he doesn’t know how to properly express, he leans in and hugs her tightly, letting their hearts beat together for a long moment. “I’m ready,” he repeats, sitting back against the chair, and Sherlock looks almost relieved to have a physical task to do, rather than focus on her emotions. Still, she’s gentle, almost reverent as she sterilizes the shaved skin of his chest and presses the stenciled design on. It’s a simple stylized cursive S, not ostentatious but large enough to accommodate potential spreading when the scar heals. The placement, opposite John’s bullet wound, had been Sherlock’s choice. It’s not as clichéd as a mark over his heart, but given her role in his post-military life, it has more meaning.

“Hold Greg’s hand,” Sherlock directs when she’s done with the stencil, and wearing the mask necessary to avoid inhaling too many fumes from the process. John follows the instruction, bracing his boots against the floor. He’s cauterized skin before, but he’s never felt the sensation himself, and letting someone press a red-hot line of metal against his body is certainly a psychological trip. “Inhale,” she directs, pressing one gloved hand against his chest, and then on the exhale she drags the thin metal tip over his skin for the first time. He hisses in a breath, squeezing Greg’s hand, watching her eyes intent on her work. It hurts like a bitch, but not as bad as one might expect. Kieran crouches on the other side, watching her create the brand, gently encouraging. 

“That’s a good pressure. Lift for a second there?” 

She completes the design in six short strokes, the burn blackening thin curved lines over the drawn-on design, and from John’s perspective it’s over almost before it began. She returns the device to its safety unit, removes the mask, and then stares in awe at what she’s done.  

John,” she murmurs, eyes wide. He laughs and wants to kiss her, but ruffles her hair instead with the hand opposite the brand. The surrounding skin is pink and it feels mostly like a sunburn, the third-degree burn killing any nerves that might broadcast a sharper pain.

“That smell is awful,” John complains, then remarks almost to himself. “…only you and I would have a key romantic moment that involves safety goggles and charred flesh.” She meets his eye at the offhand comment, though, and after a beat they both simultaneously burst into giggles, joined by Greg a moment later. Kieran, pulling supplies out of his bag for aftercare, just looks bemused, and as the two people he loves most snuggle on the floor, leaning against his legs, John looks down and takes in the black mark that he’s crazily let this person burn into his body. Incongruously, he can’t stop smiling.