Not for the first time, John contemplates the life choices that have brought him to this point.
He pulls his foot from the sucking mud it’s just slipped into and wipes his shoe uselessly on a squashy patch of moss. Ahead of him, Sherlock hops lightly onto a dramatically shaped rock like some sort of forest-sprite, looking completely at home despite the ubiquitous (ridiculous) long flowing coat.
“Keep up, John! We’re very nearly there.”
He leaps neatly from the rock, landing on possibly the only dry patch of ground in the entire wood. John plods muddily after him.
Sherlock stops at a fork in the path, pulling a crumpled map provided by their client (a middle-aged lady named Moira Longstone) from his pocket and spinning it, looking around.
They pick their way down yet another muddy path, John looking at his feet to avoid the biggest puddles. Sherlock gives a shout from somewhere ahead of him and he hurries round the corner, coming into a large clearing that looks like something from a fairy tale. The ground is carpeted thickly with verdant moss, clusters of forget-me-nots bobbing heavy with water from the recent rain, and ahead of him, nestled in the face of a rounded hill, is a small cave entrance hung dripping with wet greenery. Sherlock is already ducking inside, motioning for John to follow him.
Inside, the cave is bizarrely warm where John would have expected cold. It smells like earth, the scent almost cloying, and there’s just enough natural light for him to see the dark shapes of rocks, and of Sherlock picking between them.
“So this is where he was?”
“Yes. She said he was in here for around half an hour, and that he took ill shortly afterwards.” John can see him prowling at the back of the cave; what his friend is looking for he has no idea. He wanders a little aimlessly, squinting in the dark for anything that might lend a clue to the strange case of Mr Longstone, who, according to his nervous looking sister, had been acting in an exceedingly odd way since a visit to this very place.
“He’s like a different person,” she’d said, wringing her hands over a cup of tea. They’d met in a local café; she hadn’t wanted to alarm her bedridden brother. “All he does is ask for water. More and more water. He won’t see a Doctor; he gets so angry when I even mention bringing one to the house. He’s never shouted at me before, not even when I was little.” She had begun to sob at this point; Sherlock had sighed loudly as John awkwardly patted her on the shoulder. When John had asked her to describe his symptoms, that he was a doctor, she’d only paled and said again that he just wouldn’t stop asking for water.
He thinks on it as he sits gingerly on a rock near the entrance of the cave, waiting for a sign from Sherlock that he needs some help. Without seeing Mr Longstone, or knowing more about his symptoms than the fact he is acting ‘very oddly’, there’s nothing he can really do.
It’s peculiar, to be honest, that Sherlock would take on a case with so little information available; John would have expected him to demand to see the woman’s brother immediately. Sherlock likes to have all available facts; he has little time for secrets or obfuscation (when they’re directed at him, at least – Sherlock’s sense of melodrama hasn’t waned in the slightest, and if keeping John in the dark means a more dramatic reveal at the end of the case so much the better). Upon hearing exactly where it was Mrs Longstone had wanted him to go, he’d agreed immediately. He must have some sort of ingrained fondness for boggy woods in Cumbria.
“Oh!” Sherlock exclaims suddenly. “John! Come and look at this.”
John jumps up from his rock and hurries carefully in the direction of Sherlock’s voice. He’s a shadowy shape hunched over a spot on the ground, and he has a small penlight directed at something. John leans over.
“Isn’t it incredible?”
It’s beautiful. Its pale fronds reach up towards the light, waving slightly as if in a breeze. There’s no wind of any kind in the cave.
“I’ve never seen a plant do that,” says John. “Is that normal?”
“I don’t think so,” says Sherlock. He moves the penlight around, and the plant (plant?) follows it, reaching out. Sherlock moves a finger hesitantly towards it, and it seems to sense there’s something there, because it begins to reach out towards them, away from the light.
“Amazing. It must somehow be able to sense heat and light.” He moves his finger a little closer, and suddenly the little white fronds extend and one of them wraps gently around Sherlock’s middle finger. Sherlock gasps softly.
“They’re pulling on me,” he says, and lets his finger be tugged downwards a little. The tiny plant isn’t strong enough to force him, but it’s clearly trying, and Sherlock allows it to tug his finger until it’s touching the ground.
“Ow!” He jerks his finger back with a suddenness that makes John jump, and points the torch at it. There’s a smear of red, dark against his skin. He points the light back at the plant; it’s waving gently, searching. A small spatter of blood shows up starkly on its pale little tendrils. Sherlock wipes the finger on his trousers, frowning.
“What did it do?” says John. “Sherlock, you need to have that checked out. It could be poisonous!”
“I don’t--” says Sherlock, “I don’t think…” he trails off, then narrows his eyes and stalks back to the entrance of the cave, clearly listening hard.
“Damned interfering bastard,” he mutters to himself. “We have to leave.” This directed at John.
“What? But, the plant. We should--”
“No time,” Sherlock interrupts, “we’re about to have company.” He indicates for John to listen, and in the distance John can hear the very distinctive sound of helicopter blades.
“Mycroft,” says Sherlock, looking sour. “Come on.”
“Hang on,” says John, tugging on Sherlock’s coat sleeve, “why is Mycroft coming here? What’s going on?”
“John,” says Sherlock impatiently, “there’s no time for this. I’ll explain on the way back.” He rubs his bleeding finger on the fabric of his trousers before striding back towards the muddy path. John sighs and follows. The noise of the helicopter gets louder and louder.
John’s phone starts ringing, and he’s about to pull it from his pocket when Sherlock turns back and grabs his hand.
“It’s him; ignore it.”
Almost as soon as the ringing ends, it starts up again. Sherlock looks back over his shoulder.
“Don’t answer it.”
It rings seven more times, and they’re almost back in the village before his phone pings with the sound that tells him he’s got a text.
Loyal to a fault, Dr Watson. Unusual occurrences should be immediately reported to me and nobody else, or there will be consequences. M.
Only Mycroft Holmes could manage to sound quite so menacing via text message. John suspects that the difficulty of such endeavours is why Mycroft prefers to call.
Wait, ‘unusual occurrences’? He hurries to catch up with Sherlock once they reach the tarmac of the road.
“Sherlock, what the hell is going on? Mycroft is sending me ominous texts again. He said something about unusual occurrences. What unusual occurrences are there likely to be?”
“Ignore him. He’s a meddlesome wanker.”
And apparently that's explanation enough. John sighs.
It starts to rain, and Sherlock tips his face up and opens his mouth.
Later that day, they have a meeting with Mrs Longstone at her house. She looks different somehow, calmer, and she sips from a glass of water and explains to them that her brother is much better. John is expecting Sherlock to scoff and demand to see him, perhaps to tell her about the odd encounter with the little plant in the cave, but he just nods distractedly, scratching at the back of his neck and leaving John to make stilted conversation until they leave.
“Are you alright?” says John. “Is this about Mycroft?”
“What? No,” says Sherlock, contorting himself weirdly to itch his shoulderblade. “Though you’re right, we should get back.”
Lost, John resigns himself to ignorance, as usual.
During dinner, Sherlock is distant, fidgety. He gets like this when he’s thinking hard sometimes, so John reads his book at the table and drinks most of the bottle of wine. He’s still sober enough to recognise that if he doesn’t prod Sherlock back to his room he’ll be here all night, so he tipsily hooks his arm over Sherlock’s elbow and pulls him up, getting him through the door to his room before heading to his own bed. If he starts thinking about how nice Sherlock smells, well. He blames that on the wine.
He wakes up at 3am with a distinct sense of something being wrong.
Fumbling in the dark, he manages to find his bedside light and switches it on, blinking blurrily to clear the sleep from his eyes. He strains his senses to whatever had woken him up, and hears, very faintly, a gasp from the room next door. He’s up out of his bed and pulling on a pair of pyjama bottoms before he’s had a chance to think, and he knocks gently on the door that separates their rooms.
There’s no response, and gingerly he edges the door open. He doesn’t particularly want to catch Sherlock in some sort of compromising situation, but the gasp had had a definite tinge of discomfort rather than pleasure, so he pokes his head into Sherlock’s room and squints into the dark. Sherlock is curled in the centre of the bed; the covers have been thrown on the floor and he’s making little whimpering sounds.
“Sherlock, are you okay?” He’s starting to feel something akin to panic in his chest. Oh God, what if the plant was something terribly poisonous? He’d almost forgotten that it had pricked Sherlock’s finger. What if Sherlock is dying? He’s the world’s worst doctor. Remembering Mycroft’s message, he makes to hurry back into his room to get his phone, but Sherlock makes a sudden movement on the bed.
“Sherlock, are you alright?”
“I don’t know. I’m so warm.”
John moves closer to sit on the edge of the bed and presses his hand to Sherlock’s forehead. His temperature is normal, neither cooler nor warmer than it should be. Sherlock presses up into the touch.
“Do you want some water?” says John. He’s feeling a little warm himself; heat is pooling at the base of his spine and his hand feels hot where he’s pressing it against Sherlock’s face. Sherlock uncurls and stretches flat on the sheet and John looks away, feeling warmth creeping over his face. His breathing is coming fast.
“Water. Yes,” Sherlock rasps, licking his lips slowly, eyes flicking over John’s half-clothed form before slipping shut.
In the bathroom, John leans his forehead against the mirror, breathing hard. He doesn’t know what’s wrong with him, but suddenly the sight of Sherlock long and pale and stretched out on the sheets has his mouth dry. He composes himself a little and brings the water back, taking a steadying mouthful himself. Sherlock swallows it in three long gulps and holds the glass out.
Sherlock drinks four more glasses, gasping a little as he finishes each. He drinks them quickly, spilling some onto his bare chest. John entertains thoughts of licking it off, and finds himself leaning closer and closer. Sherlock smells incredible. He wants to, to—he doesn’t know. The scent is delicious, like wet fragrant earth, and it’s thick and irresistible in his throat. He inhales a greedy breath, and Sherlock lets out a little noise. At the sound, John suddenly comes to his senses to find himself straddling Sherlock, pinning Sherlock’s hands above his head and pressing his nose into Sherlock’s collarbone. The glass rolls to the floor with a clatter.
“Fuck, I’m sorry!” He practically falls off the bed in his haste to get away and Sherlock groans, rolling onto his stomach and pressing his face into the pillows.
“God, Sherlock, I’m so sorry, I don’t know what…what…” he trails off, suddenly noticing something. Slow arousal burns hot and shameful in his belly but it’s shunted backwards for the moment in lieu of doctorly concern as he spots a short cut on Sherlock’s back. He moves closer, ruthlessly clamping down on the tide of want that surges through him at that earthy smell, and very gently presses at the edge of the cut. Sherlock squirms a little at the touch. Now that he’s close, he can see that it’s not just one cut. It’s six.
They’re evenly spaced, three on either side of Sherlock’s spine, and…they really don’t look like cuts. He rubs his fingers gently along the edge of one; it’s slightly slick and not, he’s sure, with blood. His head swims with worry, confusion and almost unbearable lust as Sherlock moans and squirms against his hand. He can’t think. If Sherlock would just stop arching and writhing and smelling so good…
“Sherlock, what--?” he manages, panting. The urge to bend down and lick along the edge of one of the cuts is becoming almost overwhelming, and fuck what is wrong with him?
“John,” moans Sherlock, “unnnh, the,” he pants, swallowing loudly, “the plant.”
John’s brain struggles for a second, as he tries to resist pinning Sherlock back to the bed and, and…what then? He blinks, processing the words.
“Yes,” Sherlock hisses, arching up, “It…something in me…aphrodisiac perhaps, ah, yes, touch me. God, touch me.”
Aphrodisiac. Ah, yes, that’ll be where the insatiable lust is coming from. That thought seems unimportant, somehow, compared to the soft little sounds Sherlock is making as he rolls his hips into the bed. He realises his fingers are still trailing the edge of one of Sherlock’s odd cuts, and he draws them back with a start. Sherlock whines in frustration.
“Sherlock, what are those?”
“I don’t know. Touch them.” He parts his legs, squirming a little.
“Please. Oh, please.”
And the sound of Sherlock’s imperious voice thick with lust and begging would bring John to his knees were he not already sitting. John knows it’s not really him, and somewhere under it all a part of him is looking upon this all with horror, but the part of him that’s present only wants to sink into Sherlock in every way possible, breathe him in, swallow him, come in him. That thought makes his breath catch, and his mind is suddenly full of images of Sherlock spread out sweating and desperate beneath him, his cock slowly pushing in, hot, slick, and before today he’s never even so much as entertained the idea of kissing Sherlock. Why? He’s so beautiful, and he smells so good.
He traces the edge of one of the cuts again, and slowly, so slowly, dips a finger in. Sherlock’s helpless moan only spurs him on and he pushes a little deeper, head spinning. Dimly, he’s aware that this should probably be horrifying. It’s not.
“Oh,” Sherlock is moaning, “more.”
John rubs with his finger, only starting a little when something touches the tip, smoothing over his nail like a tiny tongue. Unable to resist any longer, he withdraws with a slick, wet sound and leans over, trembling, to press his tongue to the opening.
As soon as he makes contact Sherlock draws in a huge gasping breath. It sounds delicious. John gives a tentative little lick, just testing. The earthy smell is even stronger here, heady and gorgeous and John can almost taste it as he draws his tongue delicately over the smooth edges of the opening. Soon, the something that had touched his finger brushes soft against his tongue. It’s so blindingly erotic that he has to remember to breathe as he licks gently at it, nerves sparking with every quivering touch. It’s the oddest and hottest kiss he’s ever had, augmented by the delectable sounds Sherlock is making beneath him.
“Oh,” says Sherlock, “oh!”
He pulls away and leans back, blinking, to catch his breath. What he sees isn’t particularly stranger than the fact he’s just been kissing Sherlock’s back (and, more importantly, been kissed by Sherlock’s back), but that doesn’t make the sight of six gently waving…things…any less odd.
Tentacles is the only word for them, really. Six of them, emerging smooth and gleaming from the tiny cuts – openings – alongside Sherlock’s spine. Yet again, John has the dim sense that he should feel disgusted, or shocked, or terrified, but they’re just as beautiful as the ones on the plant earlier – slim and ghostly pale, each one around the width of his thumb – and he reaches his hand towards one slowly. Both he and Sherlock gasp when he makes contact, and the tentacle licks at him. It’s soft, hot and slick.
“John,” murmurs Sherlock, voice gravelly and dark.
“Yeah,” says John, not entirely sure what he’s agreeing to, and then Sherlock is moving suddenly, twisting around and stretching himself long and hot and pulling John on top of him. The tentacles come squirming out from underneath him and gently come around John’s back in a strange mockery of a hug.
“Are you—um—oh, controlling them?” John slurs, rolling his hips distractedly.
“No,” says Sherlock, and pulls John’s head down and they kiss for the first time, Sherlock opening his mouth eagerly, sighing as John sucks on his lower lip. The tentacles mimic the movements of Sherlock’s tongue on John’s back, sliding and flickering against his skin, each touch alighting along his nerves with an intensity that pools hot in his belly. John squirms against Sherlock, rutting desperately against the solid line of his cock and panting into his open mouth. Both of them seem to have the same thought at the same time and they’re wriggling awkwardly out of pyjamas, Sherlock letting out a soft ‘ah’ when they come together again.
The tentacles smooth down over his back and onto his bare arse with slightly terrifying single-mindedness, but the distant spark of panic is dampened by a slow, overwhelming blanket of arousal that surges through him at the taste of Sherlock on his tongue, the smell of him thick in the air. He feels two of them slide onto his thighs and they part his legs with a surprising strength, holding him open as the other four smoothly stroke over his arse. It feels strange, unfamiliar and so good. He drops his head and pants against Sherlock’s chest, and Sherlock tightens his grip on John’s arms, arching upwards.
When one tentacle slowly snakes down the line of John’s spine, he can’t help draw in a slightly shaky breath, mirrored by Sherlock. He pulls back and they gaze at each other, both moaning a little helplessly as it snakes down, down…
“Oh,” says Sherlock, “It’s-”
John feels Sherlock’s cock swell a little where it’s pressed against him. Then, fuck, it feels like the very tip of a slippery-wet tongue as it slips quickly over his exposed arsehole, leaving a trail of sensitised cold. He arches against Sherlock, who grabs his hips with trembling hands as his head falls back onto the pillows.
“John,” groans Sherlock, and he would sound pained were it not for the look of open-mouthed bliss on his face. One of the tentacles is sliding up and down, stroking over his hole each time and apparently Sherlock can feel everything because at every little slip and slide he shudders minutely, gasping.
It stops, suddenly, the very tip pressing lightly against him. John can’t tell if the leap in his belly is fear or arousal, but he parts his thighs further almost automatically. He wants them to fuck him. He’s never had the urge to go further than a tentative finger or two, and now he wants them fucking him, filling him, more than he’s ever wanted anything. Just the thought of it has him drawing in a sobbing breath and clutching onto Sherlock’s shoulders, and then it’s pushing in and he can’t breathe, can’t think.
Oh, fuck. It’s inside him.
He can feel it, gently pressing into him like a long, prehensile tongue. It’s slick, smooth and it withdraws just a little and pushes back in, and he’s being fucked. Oh, fuck. Sherlock makes a jerking movement, his cock suddenly pulsing strongly between them and John realises he’s come, wet and messy. He looks up.
Sherlock looks wrecked, wide eyed and sweaty and as the tentacle inches further into him Sherlock’s head falls back and he moans again, cock hardening even as it’s still slicked with ejaculate.
There’s another tentative touch at his hole where it’s already stretched a little around the first tentacle, and that’s the only warning before the second one slides smoothly in. John moans helplessly, rutting against Sherlock through the mess of come between them. The tentacles repeat this: stroking, caressing him lightly before pushing inexorably in, until there are four of them twined hot and thick inside him, the other two still holding his thighs open. He thinks Sherlock might have come again, from the way he’s almost sobbing into John’s neck.
“Christ,” he’s murmuring, “oh, fuck,”
“Fuck me,” breathes John into his mouth, circling his hips with almost mindless desperation, “please, please,”
“I can’t,” says Sherlock, “I don’t, ohh God-”
And finally, finally they start fucking him in earnest and he struggles to spread himself wider, to push back hard as they push slowly into him. Too slow, too slow, oh, but he’s coming anyway, stiffening and moaning into Sherlock’s neck. They drag the orgasm from him with slow, precise strokes, the tips wiggling inside him and he bites down on Sherlock’s collarbone to stop himself from screaming. They keep going, pulling out completely before sliding easily back in, deeper, deeper than he thinks possible and it feels so fucking good. He’s so full.
His bones feel like they’re hot, melting; his vision is blurring. Sherlock’s shaking beneath him, blood on his lips from where he’s bitten them and John licks it off, tasting iron. He thinks he might be coming again. The tentacles inside him writhe sinuously against one another and he’s definitely coming, there’s a thick shivering pressure flooding him in waves and spilling wetly from his cock all over Sherlock. Sherlock is choking out moans underneath him like he can’t stop them, like everything in his head apart from John has been chased away.
Even as he comes, he doesn’t feel the usual spike of orgasm followed by gentle comedown. It just keeps going until he can’t breathe, it’s too much, too good, and that earthy smell is filling his senses, thick in his nostrils and throat and so strong that he can practically see it hazy in the air around them. He’s still impaled on the thick tentacles that squirm and writhe inside him and he falls back into gorgeous pleasure, slipping away from awareness with each pull and press. Fuck, Sherlock.
Fuck, he’s so thirsty. And so hot. Sherlock’s phone is buzzing across the floor quietly. He looks over to where Sherlock’s lying curled up on the bed, the duvet still on the floor. Sherlock looks pale; there’s a red smear of blood on his lip. Where did that come from?
God, fuck, he’s thirsty.
He drags himself stickily out of bed, scratching absently at his neck. Every muscle in his body feels like it’s been rearranged in the night, and he shuffles to the bathroom, slumps over the sink and drinks long and deep from the tap.
He stumbles back to bed, eventually, after drinking and drinking, so thirsty he thought it would never stop. His brain feels like a blanket of fuzz is wrapped around it.
Sherlock’s phone begins to vibrate again, showing that he’s had over a hundred missed calls from Mycroft in the last hour. Somehow this seems fairly unimportant, and John throws the phone unceremoniously out of the window before crawling back into bed and curling up next to Sherlock.
His back itches.