Lestrade texts John at half past one in the morning. John is in bed but he's not sleeping, half dozing over a volume of Bertrand Russell deliberately picked for its insomnia-inducing capabilities. He's nearly asleep over A History of Western Philosophy when his phone bleeps.
Come down and get him.
John blinks. It's unsigned.
Bring his clothes.
"You are fucking kidding me," John tells the empty room, and starts hunting for his own.
"Have fun getting him home," Greg says, with a lip curling into a smile that speaks all the volumes of Sherlock's annals of crime. John has got to Scotland Yard as fast as he possibly can without tripping over anything and now he's standing in the middle of a room where everyone knows something he doesn't. People are working – the law never sleeps – but they look up and look away from him, the small movements of their heads evident under the fluorescents.
"Thought he was under arrest," John says, eyes darting around as though he expects Sherlock to step out from behind a pillar from somewhere.
"Not exactly. Picked him up just before he was about to get into trouble." Lestrade's grinning, he's actually grinning, and John briefly considers hitting him in the nose. "Thank God for him he has you, eh?"
"Greg," John begins and then they take him to Sherlock. They have him in a disused interview room, darkened, and as the light spills in from the hall, Sherlock turns.
It's not the first time. John is very clear on that. The first time was some murder four months ago when it was necessary for Sherlock to pass as… well. Someone else. Someone rougher than Sherlock, someone grittier, someone without the clean nails and tranquil consciousness of effortless superiority. John had seen the transformation effected in make-up and spirit gum and still not seen it, the loss of swagger and cat's prowl, the becoming of a man who was tall with dark hair and was… someone else. Then there was the affair of the stock-broker's clerk, where John had been surprised, initially, that Sherlock needed to disguise himself as the sort of person who worked in the City all day until five. (There was a briefcase, and umbrella. "Oh… I see. Yes.") And after that, the frightening time with the limp hair and the hollow cheeks, that John had mostly seen before on the take from A&E, and although it had been done with weight loss and anxiety, had a gleaming accuracy that gave John a headache.
Sherlock stands up and says, "Did you bring my clothes?"
It's his voice, but softer, sweeter, tinged with nicotine and tar. He's six feet tall and doesn’t wear heels well, but the dress has slipped on soft as silk.
"I'll have trouble," John says, all calm and control, "getting him home like this." And after a pause, "Has he been drugged?"
"Of course not, John." Sherlock, clipped and sharp, like a ghost in the machine. John steps back. "Nothing stronger than tobacco, I assure you."
But when John turns to him again the soft look is back, and there's a languor in his movements. Perhaps this is what he looks like when he's enjoying himself, John thinks. A flavour of enjoyment Sherlock rarely indulges in, perhaps, but only an idiot would think he only understands cerebral pleasures. John has seen Sherlock drunk, and he's seen him play the violin after dark in the summer, the music drifting out into the stickiness of the night.
"Leave you to it, shall I," Lestrade says, and does.
He can't, though. His mouth is open, his lips are slightly parted, and he's aware of his own breathing, the beating of his heart. Elevated, observes the part of his mind that went to medical school. Sherlock makes to put his hands on his hips and then doesn't, one hand coming to his mouth, fingers brushing his lips. His fingernails are painted silver. John has seen the nail varnish bottle in the flat, sitting on the table with the seal broken. You see, but you do not observe.
John has brought whatever clothes he could find in a hurry in the middle of the night, trousers and a shirt and socks and boots. He suspects some of them may be his own. They roll out of the duffel bag at his feet and Sherlock reaches down for them, delicate curves appearing in the lines of his body as he leans down. John is staring. Sherlock quirks his head. "Zip."
"What?" John breathes out. "Er… yeah."
He finds it, knowing his hands are cold from the night outside and being sorry for it, but Sherlock doesn't flinch. Still aware of every breath, John unzips him and lets the layers of the dress peel back. It's a deep red, made of some raw silky stuff. Sherlock moves beneath the touch, then turns around as it slips off. John just stands there, watching Sherlock move, all pale angles against the dark. His eyes are feverish-bright, his movements slow and controlled as he gets dressed. John's fingers curl into fists.
Sherlock's own coat is hanging off the back of the door. He takes it down and shrugs it on, pulls back the collar and smiles. Come up, says that smile, and let me show you my annals of crime.
"John," Sherlock says, quietly, still with the husk of smoke in his voice.
And then Sherlock is pressed back against the wall and John's holding him, the warmth of his body evident through the layers of fabric. John kisses him slowly, not carefully but with deliberation. This isn't the first time, either. But this is the first time he hasn't taken care with the strange angles of Sherlock's body, the first time he hasn't taken small steps across skin as though staking out a claim on new land. Sherlock's hands slip underneath his jacket and then underneath the cotton of his T-shirt, warm and eager, and John's grateful for his own strength to balance against Sherlock's, so they rock back towards the wall with controlled momentum. For a moment John pictures it all clearly: the unfolding of bodies, a vivid image of Sherlock laid out beneath his hands, pale and wide-eyed, undone. Sherlock approaches sex as he approaches everything else: with method, with passion, with grace.
John tugs at Sherlock's coat and notes in passing that it is his own T-shirt underneath; this close, he can make out the softnesses in the cotton shaped by the patterns of another body. "No," he says, very quietly. "Not here."
Sherlock seems to understand that indictment for public indecency outside New Scotland Yard would be inadvisable, but the flicker of disappointment in his expression will stay in John's mind's eye for a long, long time.
"Sherlock?" John's paused.
"Waste not, want not," Sherlock murmurs. "John."
"What?" John's hand is on the door.
Sherlock smiles. "Because I can," he says, in his ordinary voice. In the white light spilling out from the windows of Angelo's, his lips are red as blood.