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The Experiment

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Whatever he's doing is more interesting than whatever you're doing.

Enter into a scene of domestic bliss. Or, what passes for domestic bliss at 221b: 2:12 a.m., two men in the sitting room of their flat, not speaking or looking at each other. The taller one – that'd be Sherlock – has been crouched, crow-like, on the edge of a chair before a table, on which his brand-new MacBook Air has been sending out a steady, silent glow onto his pale intense face for countless hours. Since he'd brought it home, too late at night to have bought it in a shop, Sherlock hasn't moved but to type, or slick his fingers across the laptop's trackpad. By all considerations his knees should be screaming in distress. He gives no sign of it. The smaller, older man, John, in well-worn flannel pajamas and spotless tube socks, slumps on the sofa in front of a small TV set that looks like it's from 1986 and was fished out of a rubbish tip, and was. Although it had somehow survived the implosion of the flat's windows some weeks back, Sherlock had thrown it out in a fit of pique two days ago when Dr. House had gotten the clotting details of a cranial thrombosis "Wrong wrong wrong!"

Sherlock is awful when he's not on a case. He really should keep away from telly.

John can't, though. He hasn't been able to get to sleep, as has often the case since the Moriarty business, and telly is almost like sleeping, especially the soothing nonfiction programming that's on between midnight and dawn. He hasn't even focused his eyes since Antiques Roadshow started, and occasionally lets his heavy, prickly eyelids droop closed in a vain attempt to moisturize his corneas. If he tries to give up and go to bed, he'll only lie there, staring at the ceiling, tension rising up through his body, starting at the lower left leg where spasms still trouble him, traveling to the deep scars in his shoulder, circling back through his spine, clenching his skull, ending with sharp pains in his feet. Trying to keep up with Sherlock seems to have permanently wrecked his circadian rhythm; all those late nights, turned to days and back to nights again, rare sleep, no regular meals, all the running and the jolts of mortal fear, and then back to this strange "stability" where nothing happens for days.

John's not bored; he's exhausted, grateful for the downtime. His guts are happy for three hot square meals and regular milky tea, and nothing really hurts as long as he doesn't try to sleep. But when he does, insomnia strikes, and he daren't take a melatonin, or even a magnesium tablet; Sherlock might need him, and need him sharp. Or Sherlock might set the flat on fire, or throw the TV out the window. Or throw John out the window, explanations later. Or not.

It's a bit like Afghanistan, except that he was able to sleep more regularly over there.

A disembodied grunt disturbs him, and John's eyelids creep open. A woman is holding a copper horse on the telly, its surface gone aquamarine with tarnish. Weathervane from Virginia, circa 1810. Its owner gone pie-eyed with shock at its value. In the shadows, Sherlock, all in black, silent, eyes bleached and steady on the laptop screen. He could be a waxwork for all the life in him. John sighs, closes his eyes again. Maybe a glass of warm milk and a biscuit, and back to bed, cuddling a pillow. Tonight shows promise of quiet, and eight hours' kip would be like a holiday in Barbados.

At first when John hears the sounds of stirring, he keeps his eyes closed. When the rustling continues, he glances over at his flatmate in sleepy annoyance. Sherlock stares back at him, his expression unreadable, but decidedly odd. John immediately comes to full wakefulness, though he is too comfortable to move.

Turning his head side to side, stretching his neck with ostentatious cracks, Sherlock rises. His knees give him no apparent trouble, no stretching needed. He approaches, and noisily crowds next to John on the sofa. John's used to this. Sherlock has no sense of appropriate personal space, whether talking at John from two rooms away or seemingly trying to occupy the same sofa cushion. John sighs, and tries to edge away, give Sherlock room. Can't. Arm of the sofa is in the way, a full meter of unoccupied couch on Sherlock's right. John sighs again, rolling his eyes, frowning.

"It's a fake," Sherlock says.

When John doesn't bother to ask for clarification, Sherlock lifts his chin knowledgeably and adds, "That's paint. Naturally oxidized copper chloride is never quite that blue. I'd call that early twentieth century, mass-produced. Certainly not a five-figure artifact." He snaps off the end of the word, flicking off the T from the end of his tongue. A frequent tic, if being an insufferable prat can be considered a tic.

"Huh," says John. He wishes he had gotten that milk and biscuit earlier; if he goes to fetch it now, Sherlock will probably demand the same be brought to him. Or he'll steal John's warm spot. Or worse. Letting Sherlock get into Antiques Roadshow inevitably leads to Sherlock screaming, and sometimes throwing things, at the telly; the channel knob broke off last time. These days John changes channels with the help of a surgical clamp.

However, Sherlock's attention is on John, not the faked antiques. Again, hard to read anything into those water-clear verdigris eyes. "Lie back," Sherlock commands.

Before John can ask why, or protest that he can't, Sherlock reaches toward him, quickly though not suddenly – but suddenly, yes – reaching towards John's stomach. Or legs, or . . . waistband, and fingers slip smoothly underneath it.

"'Ere!" John yelps, flinching. "What you doing?"

"Quiet. I have no intention of hurting you." Sherlock isn't even looking at John, eyes instead unfocused, or focused inward, on nothing. Looking through him, as if John is a window, and Sherlock is trying to glimpse something on the other side. John tries again to pull away, suddenly violently concerned that Sherlock's had that psychotic break that he's been warned about; unperturbed, Sherlock plants the free hand on John's shoulder, holding him gently but firmly in place.

"What are you – what –" John's attempt to rise has done nothing but brought his genitals into direct contact with Sherlock's hand. When he sinks back to the surface of the couch, the hand follows him, fingers swiftly and deftly seeking out, taking hold, shunting John's testicles out of the way with a pinky. "Christ!"

"Do shut up, I said." Sherlock's facial expression remains the same: determined, but almost peaceful. John frowns sharply, raises his eyebrows, and gives out a faint moan of self-concern. He's gone mad, he thinks. He's finally bloody well gone potty wackadoodle bug-fucking mad. He's got my (not cock, not dick, not prick, not between friends, not in this) little chap in his hand; he could kill me now, if he wanted; just rip it clean off and stand over me laughing as I bleed out . . .

Rather, the fingers clench a bit, squeeze, stroke back and forth on the skin, palpating the yielding flesh underneath. Suddenly dizzy, John gulps, trying to clear his head, but to no avail; all the blood in his body is rushing to Sherlock's touch, giddily, stupidly, like lemmings plunging into the sea. Why doesn't he jump up, punch Sherlock, get away? Why doesn't he even try to get away? John quivers with embarrassment, with indecision. It is in Sherlock's hand, and John can't even decide what to name it even in his own mind.

A whisper of a smile flickers across Sherlock's face, but is just as quickly replaced with a stern look of concentration. No desire; nothing nervous; methodical. His touch as well, almost as if giving an exam, just not quite impersonal enough. John, paralyzed with confusion, barely reacts when Sherlock lifts his hand from John's shoulder, prods the waistband of John's pajama bottoms down a few inches, and guides John's penis over the top. John blinks at the sight of himself, both shockingly and mundanely nude, exposed, more than half hard already, quite pink, Sherlock's fingers leaving pale, quickly fading impressions on reddening skin.

John emits a nervous, tiny squeak; looking away. He can't confront himself in this state; his little chap. His tassel, his wee willie winkie, his sex organ, his cock, getting hard against Sherlock's fingers; he can't confront that it feels nice. He will not let himself feel it; he is British; he is adept at dividing himself in two. Sherlock slides his hips away a bit, resting his weight on the left elbow, bending down, lips parted. John closes his eyes, and his eyeballs roll up under the lids, muttering softly, "No, no, no, no…"

No wet touch of mouth results, and cautiously, John opens his eyes. Sherlock is looking up at him, really at him now, holding John's now fully-erect member mere inches away from his lips, full but alarmingly pale next to the flaring red of John's glans. Sherlock's voice is low, quiet, intense, and more impatient than intimate. "That is not what you mean. Now, silence your inane commentary, or I will stop."

John replies with a weak, uncertain smile. Says nothing. The division inside himself collapses like a house of cards. Sherlock's touch is expert. There stands an excellent chance of . . . well, of excellence. His rational mind takes a back seat to something like this. Sherlock's a mate. He's all right; John doesn't mind him. Attraction? Well, for a hummer, it's not like that's so important. Even though Sherlock is nice to look at. Fascinating. He is what beautiful is; that resulting unease. Not that it matters. Not that John makes a practice of noticing such a thing, even if true. And the mad bastard might still castrate him. Best to play along.

"Good." With a smirk of satisfaction, Sherlock resumes. Or begins. Or . . .

John breathes slowly out, lets it happen.

Of course Sherlock wouldn't be tentative. He never is. He slides his mouth down, briefly trapping the head of John's cock in his cheek, then moving back vertically, and giving a short, solid suck. Then another one, at once moving his mouth back, releasing the flesh with a quick cluck of his tongue. Down again, the same suck, and back up with the sound, louder this time, more definitive. As if mocking John: Insufferable prat this; my tongue is a genius, too. His rhythm is timed exactly to John's breath, and thus it gets faster, incrementally, inexorably, the sucking and smacking of his lips, his tongue tapping against his palate. John struggles to maintain his silence. He stares hopelessly at the ceiling to avoid looking down, seeing that, watching himself be devastated so skillfully. For a moment, Sherlock takes his mouth away, and strokes firmly along the shaft, pressing his thumb against the thickened lower ridge. John sighs desperately, arching his back. It's been so long since anyone gave him head, and it's never really been like this before. Sherlock isn't trying to please him; that much is clear. Sherlock is trying to get him off.

"Oh, God," John gasps involuntarily, his stocking toes clenching on the carpet. His eyes briefly focus down, and he glimpses Sherlock raising an eyebrow, like a curious Vulcan, just before he mounts his mouth on John's cock again.

Orgasm sets off white fireworks behind John's eyes; it's taken maybe sixty seconds from first contact to completion, faster than John's come since he was a teenager. It almost hurts, the release, the swiftness of it, a sensation burning from his aching thigh as if feeding from the injury, which was never more than a strained muscle anyway; Burn it away, he thinks, delirious; consume yourself, psychogenic distress; pour out of me like magma. Get out; I'm done. Oh, yes, the fire. The fire!

Sherlock is swallowing. Sitting back, distaste mildly warping his features, narrowing his eyes under his vague fluffy auburn eyebrows. John gapes at him, horrified, too shocked to speak. He wants to scream Why?! but he can only blink, struck dumb in every way.

Sherlock stands, shooting John another one of his inscrutable expressions. Wordlessly he goes to the kitchen, fills a cup from the tap, drinks it in four deep gulps; just as wordlessly, and without a backwards glance, slides into his shoes and coat and leaves the flat.

"What," John breathes to the empty air, more relieved than anything else, "the fuck. Was that?" No answer comes; it's left to him to sort out.

After a few minutes of unsuccessfully trying to make sense of the next thing on BBC2, John shuts off the TV, and settles back onto the couch, watching the door. Sleep is completely out of the question now, at least until he gets to the bottom of this. He doesn't want to have to move out. He likes it here, despite all of the danger and the impossibility of ever having anything nice to eat in the refrigerator, and the fact that Sherlock never clears up unless and until it suits him, and the fact that neither of their lives are safe, not any more. Sherlock will be back soon; he knows it. So he watches the door, and waits.

The Fajr call to morning prayer at the Central Mosque peals out, beautiful and haunting, before Sherlock returns. His cheeks bear half-moons of vivid pink; his eyes are strikingly calm, but bright; his hair wind-shagged. He's been running after something, and caught it, and it made him happy, whatever it was. John’s getting better at deductions himself.

Sherlock spots John on the couch, just where he left him. "John," he acknowledges, voice cheerful, almost smug.

"What'd you do that for?" John asks.

"What?" Sherlock seems to genuinely not know what he's talking about.

John sighs and frowns. He'll have the worst wrinkles when this is all said and done, and Sherlock will still look like an alabaster statue of Michael, the most vicious of angels. Or an alien; right now he looks like an alien. That face. How could John ever have found that face beautiful? "You sucked me off," John clarifies. He is grateful at how calm and rational he sounds. "Why?"

"Oh; yes." Sherlock sheds his coat, draping it neatly onto a hook near the door. "Over the course of my research on the Menken case, I came across a fascinating article in last month’s British Journal of Psychiatry that postulates that the ingestion of semen, with its high concentration of oxytocin and vasopressin, can increase and even cause interpersonal bonding. The scientific method of the paper left much to be desired, but I considered it an experiment worthy of further study."

"An experiment," John echoes numbly. He clenches his fist, hidden, out of sight, between his left leg and the couch. Fuck fuck fuck, no no. Stop it. You fucking idiot. Stop it right there. What, you think he fancied you? Cut it out. Don’t be stupid. It’d be the worst thing in the world. Just stop feeling that. He couldn’t, he wouldn’t, and he won’t, and you’re the better for it.

Sherlock shrugs. "So far, the results are unclear. Hm!" Without another word, Sherlock disappears into his own room and slams the door grandly (not angrily; John can tell the difference now), and immediately begins noisily clanking away on some other kind of experiment. He's got a couple dozen running now, in his room, and several more in the kitchen; John has managed to keep the toilet off limits, at least for now. The sun is rising; daytime is here. Sherlock is back on the job.

John picks himself up and goes to bed. No point in wrecking himself any further; they’re not on a case. He shuts the curtains tightly against the dawn, and stretches out underneath the blanket. Against his thighs, his cock is hard again. How? John hasn't felt this way for a long time; parts of his body are in mutiny, but it's not unpleasant, like with his leg drawing all the dysfunction out of his shoulder and keeping it trapped there in his vastus lateralis and making him walk like an old man when he's only thirty-eight, for God's sake. He gingerly touches the sore part, and finds that it is no longer sore; as if the blood filling his penis has drawn the pain into itself now. And he can easily release that rigid soreness. Better than Sherlock, perhaps. John knows the touch of his own hands and the architecture of his own fantasies.

The fantasies won't come. Or won't stay. They keep leaking out of his exhausted mind. Girls; teeth clenching a leather strap; twitching feminine buttocks exposed by stockings. He can't hold the imagery; it’s doing nothing for him right now. This isn’t what his cock wants; or his limbic system, or whatever. The part of his mind that exists purely to create arousal and release has come unraveled. It needs something new now.

Across the hall, Sherlock drops something heavy. Maybe deliberately. Stone; granite; no, a breeze block. John's fingers skip across himself, across his own veins and ridges and hot, moist slit; still moist from Sherlock's mouth, from where Sherlock sucked him hard, and then finished him, swift and uncompromising, selfish, greedy, and grimacingly gulped down his issue at the end, like his sperm was a mouthful of medicine. Sherlock's hand. Sherlock's mouth. Sherlock's eyes. His semen in Sherlock's mouth, swallowed all, didn't like it, but swallowed it anyway . . .

John arches and thrashes on his bed, muffling his orgasmic groans with the side of his arm; spunk slashes out against his arm, soaking the underside of the blanket. He lies still for a long time, enrapt in a tangle of joyous release and annoyance. Bloody Sherlock. Sherlock has done this to him. Sherlock has stripped him to pure reflex, stimulus and response; John needs to sleep and he'll sleep in a puddle of spunk because he hasn’t any choice because if he gets up again to get clean sheets, he’ll just go into Sherlock’s room instead. And then . . . he’s not sure; punch him, or touch his stomach, or shove him onto his knees on the floor and demand that Sherlock lick his balls like the little bitch he is.

John rolls over onto his stomach, away from the wet part, and clutches a pillow to his middle, curling around it. Across the hall it's gone quiet, and John wonders, sighing, after-shocks of orgasm flicking through his nerves, if Sherlock had been listening.


If heroes exist, he won't be one of them. Nor will you.

John doesn't know how he could have slept, but he does – for eight solid hours. He wakes in early afternoon, groggy, yawning, and leaden, fumbling for his robe and slippers. It's not until he's halfway down the stairs that he remembers that it's good that he doesn't feel sad just because he woke up alone.

The flat's quiet and smells of vinegar. One of the specimen jars in the kitchen is now empty, drying on the edge of the sink; John can't remember exactly what was in it, but there's no sign of it now. Sherlock is out. John can sense him when he's there, as if Sherlock gives off a hum, a vibration on a wavelength too subtle to hear, but only to sense in one's bones.

John sighs. It's good, but it's painful, to be away from him, breathing only his own air, and not having to share the shimmering ozone that Sherlock breathes. Nice to just make tea for himself (one teabag left, one small splash of milk, just enough) and sit quietly and drink it.

Sherlock is out.

John fetches his laptop and opens his blog. He hasn't posted anything since the last case closed; he'd noted it all dutifully, giving detail to Sherlock's unorthodox methods, and he got twice as many comments as Sherlock got on his own website. Sherlock's website is more like cryptic modern poetry, not much fun to read, unless read in tandem with John's. Even on the internet they are symbiotes.

Not here, though. John sets the entry to "private", for his own eyes only, sips his tea, and types rapidly, without thinking about it, the way his therapist used to tell him to do.

Lightning's inadequate to describe those eyes. I been struck, burnt to the bone. Not charred, though; lit up, turned white hot, become the core of a star.

How he'd laugh if he heard my thoughts. I am so banal, sentimental, so ordinary, and he's . . . no idea what he is. Demon's too simple, never angel in a million years, god would please him too much, and no, I'm already jigging for his pleasure entirely too much. He is only he. Only himself.


Fucking bastard.

With those white-white hands you'd figure his touch would be pincers of ice. No, no. Stiff, smooth-rough, prehensile, hot, dry . . . whatever. Skin. Flesh. Those clever fingertips. And warm; hot really. And always dry, even touching me, though I wasn't, like he was drinking from me. Drank me dry. Then just looked at me, neither enamoured nor disgusted, merely clinical, eyes narrow, as if scanning the headlines of a newspaper from far away. And I just sat there burning.

Can't tell if I'm going insane or only seeing clearly, straight down, infinite stories, and probably a nice hard pavement at the bottom for me to dash my brains out onto. And I know I'm going to do it, too. God help me, I've already fallen.

John posts the entry, logs out of his blogging site, and shuts the laptop. His tea's gone cold, but he drinks it anyway, thirsty, hungry, unresolved. He feels no sense of release for having written about his feelings; he never does. The only kind of writing that works to soothe him is writing up the cases after they've been solved. It's really the only time when any part of Sherlock is under his control.

John gets himself together and heads to the surgery to cover an afternoon shift. No one comes in covered in blood; no one suffers from anything more intriguing than an ulcerated cornea from sleeping in hard contact lenses. John wonders if he shouldn't rather have applied for a job at Accident & Emergency, where at least he'd see some dislocated shoulders, car crash victims, or vibrating mobile phones stuck in rectums.

Sarah is out, too. His only hope was to see her and get a whiff of her scent — disinfectant and alcohol can't quite cover over her innate earthy, syrupy musk — and turn his tide back towards the heterosexual. At breakfast after the Tong smuggler business, Sherlock casually mentioned to John that Sarah smells so wonderfully sexual because she masturbates in the morning, and carries the scent of it around with her all day. It hasn't exactly made John fancy her any less, and it’s a nice way of keeping Sherlock off his mind for a minute.

During a moment of down time, his mind wanders. He imagines Sherlock masturbating Sarah, his cold eyes disinterested and Sarah gasping and yelping against one of Sherlock's long, dextrous hands as her fanny melts like butter, sending liquid trails slicking down her thighs. He'd be skilled, of course; probably stimulate parts of her that had never been accessed before. John knows there's no way she could resist if Sherlock ever wanted to experiment on her; but he's not sure Sarah could handle the cruelty, the distance, the disdain of such a relationship. He's not sure how he himself can.

He reminds himself that he is not in a relationship with Sherlock.

The appointments stream in steadily, and somehow, John wrenches his thoughts back onto the practice of medicine. He successfully manages to lose track of time until his stomach grumbles, reminding him that he hasn't had more than a cup of cold tea and a biscuit all day. As he finishes with the last patient of the day, his iPhone buzzes discreetly in his chest pocket.

At Kensington Metro morgue. Need a third opinion on a liver. Do come. SH

John's got his jacket half on before he realizes. Before he can leave the room, the phone buzzes again.

Might want to bring sunglasses. Anderson and his face are here. SH

"You berk," John whispers joyfully to himself. He calls out to the receptionist that he's off for the day, and doesn't wait for her response, already scrambling out into the street, searching for a taxi. He's almost sick with himself, with the level of joy that rises in his heart whenever Sherlock demands him. Someone's dead and Sherlock wants to get one over on his nemesis Anderson, and John will break his legs to get there and watch Sherlock be selfish and rude and awful. To help mop up a bit. To throw himself off that infinitely tall building, if only to fall at Sherlock's side.

Coming John texts back.

John's proof of the presence of methanol in the liver – well, formic acid, a metabolyte – clicks a tumbler in Sherlock's mind. The discovery somehow leads to a breathless chase through Kensington High Street, from a hip gastropub through the streets and into the shopping mall, which leads to Sherlock being tossed down an escalator and John getting his lip split when he grabs the suspect's ankles and receives a swift kick to the mouth. John successfully stops the bloke, though, delivering a gratifying knockout punch to his jaw, and Sherlock, none the worse for his fall, bounds up the down escalator, coat flapping behind him, as though he were dancing up a waterfall. "Yes! You saw it too!" Sherlock crows ecstatically. "The weak knee! Good, John! Good!" And John grins back with bloody teeth.

Once the police have come with their cordons and handcuffs, Sherlock narrates his deductions to the PC, and, smug with the pleasure of a case well solved, bounds back out onto the street. John follows clumsily, his head still ringing from the blow, legs unsteady now that they had stopped running. A taxi comes, unbidden, as if summoned by Sherlock's thoughts alone. John just watches him, licking the blood from his lip, a bit dazzled. Sherlock holds the taxi door and quirks his eyebrow at John. "Coming? Or do you fancy a walk home? Do your gammy leg some good," Sherlock mutters dryly.

"Sorry, sorry." Again, John hurries to join him, climbing in. "I got kicked in the face." Sherlock just sits beside him, slams the door, and gives him a look somewhere between sympathy and apathy.

For a while, the ride home is largely silent, though Sherlock's self-satisfied smile and vague gaze seems to hint at something. John almost asks him what he's thinking, but Sherlock says, before John can speak, "Walker's."


Sherlock rolls his eyes and gives a long-suffering sigh. "E162." When John still doesn't follow, Sherlock groans, "Food additive. Crisps?"

"Crisps?" John wonders. He'd only seen a naked corpse, and hadn't been briefed on stomach contents, and he had been applying pressure to his mouth while Sherlock talked to the police.

"Under the nails. The colour. Walkers Bee-Bee-Queue." He pronounces every letter distastefully. "Only crisps sold across the bar at Jake's Mainsail, where we just were, John, where weak-kneed Jacob Winscott dilutes his tequila with wood alcohol, God, John, the round peg goes into the round hole!" he nearly shouts. "Weren't you paying attention at all?"

John purses his lips thoughtfully, and shrugs. Sherlock being Sherlock; might as well be offended by the rain. "I'd never know," John muses. "I thought it was blood."

"You thought it was blood because Anderson told you it was. Never listen to that man; he's an illiterate, incurious ass. Always examine the fingernails; they hold scent—and color—long after it's been washed from skin. Obviously." Sherlock folds his arms and glares out the window; in response, John just chuckles. "Am I a source of amusement?" Sherlock snaps.

"Bit, yeah," says John. Sherlock smiles, good-naturedly crinkling the corners of his eyes, and John grins back, gushing like a schoolboy. "You looked amazing coming up that escalator."

"Matter of timing," Sherlock replies airily. "A clubfooted child could do it. Even you could."

"Oh, thanks."

"Only giving credence to the cramping and perceived lack of strength in your vastus lateralis, which we both know is merely a product of your own pointless insecurities. The bullets penetrated the scapula, one a through-and-through. I don't know how you turned a shoulder wound into a leg muscle failure, but conversion disorder hardly makes sense to begin with."

"My vastus . . ." John frowns, wondering if Sherlock is still joking. "You've read my medical records," he realizes.

"Of course. Not that I'd need to; your limp tells me everything I need to know. But yes, I read your records before you moved in." Sherlock glances at him, smiling innocently. "Your dental records, as well. In case I need to identify you."

John waits for Sherlock to explain, possibly blame it on Mycroft, but Sherlock just stares out the window, humming to himself, and John is too furious and disturbed to speak. His leg hurts, as if reminding John of the reality of its pain, and now his shoulder aches, too, and a headache knits itself tightly in his forehead. He wonders idly if Sherlock's got any narcotics stashed in the flat that he could give John for the pain, then hopes Sherlock doesn't. It wouldn't do to go back there again.

Back at 221b, John sheds his jacket and hangs it in the closet. Without taking off his coat, Sherlock immediately returns to his laptop on the table, his skin lit blue-white by the screen's glow and his attention drawn in. John's tension is replaced with a hint of sadness, and annoyance at himself for having hurt feelings, annoyance at Sherlock for . . . well, being Sherlock; cold and methodical, unemotional, more engaged with ideas than fellow human beings. It's not Sherlock's fault. He's got a disability as real as John's – an emotional disability. There's no point in being angry with him. Sherlock is just different, that's all. And he doesn't know everything; he can't possibly. If he did, there'd be no need for investigation, deduction . . . or experimentation.

It's not too late for John to go down to the Chinese place on the corner and grab a plate of noodles, but his appetite is gone. With a sigh, he mutters, "Well, that was a full day, wasn't it? I don't know about you, but I'm wiped out." When Sherlock doesn't reply, John adds, "I'm off to bed, then. G'night?"

At the computer, Sherlock frowns a bit, reading something, his mind already somewhere else. John sighs again, and heads upstairs.

He brushes his teeth and rinses his bruised face, glancing at himself in the mirror. His eyes are weary, the collar of his checked shirt stained with blood. He looks a bit of a hard man, or he would, if he didn't look so sad. And pouty. He take the shirt off and rinses the collar in the sink, refusing to look at himself again.

Back in his room, John puts the shirt on a hanger to dry, hanging it in front of the window where the draft blows in every night, and pulls his shoes off with the toes of the opposite foot, trying to stretch out the knot in his neck and shoulder. He hadn't closed his bedroom door and Sherlock's footfalls are practically silent. Ordinarily, John doesn't startle easily, but he jumps half out of his skin when he turns to switch on his bedside lamp and finds Sherlock standing, coat still on, right behind him. "Oh! Bugger," John gasps. "Warn me next time, all right?"

Sherlock still says nothing. No protest, rejoinder, or explanation, only a searching look that travels from John's lip to his white undershirt, up to his hair, down to his stocking feet. His expression is merely curious, though his lower lip tightens slightly against his teeth, as if on the verge of a request.

John's at the end of his patience. "Do you need something?" he demands coldly.

Sherlock remains silent, but takes another step closer, and another, until they are nearly touching.

Oh. Right. This. Frowning, John lifts his chin, meeting Sherlock's unwavering gaze. Really? John thinks. Really, Sherlock; honestly? I must be misinterpreting this. He's just wondering if I have any tea bags hidden on my person. But he'd have just yelled that from the other room; Sherlock doesn't move without purpose . . . Sherlock smiles tentatively, and John blinks with astonishment, wondering when he'd ever seen Sherlock's eyes so soft. Really? You gold-plated bastard. I'm going to fall for it, aren't I? Again.

"So. Experiment, round two?" John asks, trying to sound lighthearted, but it comes out breathy, and the utter humiliation makes him blush. John's no fool; he knows Sherlock has already won. It doesn't mean, however, that John's lost. If he plays his cards right, he might win, too.

Sherlock gives a single slow nod. "With a minor change in the parameters," he replies.

"It'd be a lot simpler if you just came in and said, 'Ere, fancy a shag?'"

"It might, but that would be both inaccurate and inadequate."

John rocks back onto his heels a bit before he gets lost in the distant sky-gray-blue of Sherlock's eyes. "Inaccurate?" he repeats, stalling for time, his thoughts spinning. "Why are you here, then?"

"As you surmised. To continue the experiment."

"What makes you think I want to continue?"

"Your erection, for one thing."

"Could be involuntary," John shoots back.

"Could," Sherlock concedes, "but isn't." He looks over John again. "Your voice is giving quite a different signal. Your cheeks and forehead are flushed. And your nipples are erect."

John takes a deep breath, trying not to become flustered. Somehow he feels naked even wearing a T-shirt and jeans. And socks. "Well. Um. Whatever you want to call it. If we're going to – if this is going to –continue, or change parameters, or whatever, I'm going to need to set some conditions."

"Fine," says Sherlock. His airy calm is infuriating. If there's a tell, it's that. Sherlock is rarely this calm; relaxed, even. He's practically mellow. John has seen this in Sherlock before – with a test tube, or a microscope, or a tissue sample. With an experiment. Something to concentrate upon, a process, a known methodology. And meanwhile, John sputters in frustration.

"No more of this – just taking what you want. I'm not an object. I need . . . autonomy," John says.

Again, Sherlock nods once.

"Reciprocity," John suggests. "So I don't feel so much like I'm being . . . used."

"Agreed," says Sherlock.

"Right, then."

"If you would prefer me to leave, you ought to say so," Sherlock points out.

"I didn't say that," John murmurs. When he is able to look at Sherlock again, the tall man is engaged in draping his cloak-like greatcoat over a chair. Sherlock straightens up, lifts an eyebrow, and loosens his shirt from the stricture of his trousers' waistband.

"Good," says Sherlock.

John feels a bit silly, a bit proud of himself for making demands, a bit deflated by Sherlock's assent. For some reason he'd expected a quarrel, for Sherlock to justify why John was indeed an object. Not for the great detective and untouchable genius to be open to John's suggestions.

John's anxious again. A twinge shivers in his leg, and John rubs absently at the side of his knee, wondering why he should feel this way. There's nothing, really, to be afraid of. There's no mortal danger. And maybe that's what's missing. It's all too normal, too workaday. They are both being so rational. It seems wrong; they should be panting with exertion, jangling with adrenaline, grateful for a miraculous escape. The way I'd always imagined this before. The way we felt after Moriarty, side by side in a police cruiser, plaster flecks and chlorine pool-water in our hair, so close, bruised and scraped and grateful, touching each other's cocks, and our own, to make sure they're still there, taking each other's pulses with our fingers and our foreheads and our lips, shuddering with relief and re-examined fear, knowing that he's still out there somewhere. It had been right. It had been natural. When it had been anything but. Maybe, this could be, too. That hadn't been sex at all, except that it was; this was sex, and yet it wasn't.

They'd not spoken of it again. And that isn't going to work anymore.

"All right, then," John says. "Take off your clothes."

Without hesitation, Sherlock strips his shirt off over his head, not bothering with the buttons; inside out, the shirt folds itself neatly over on top of the draped coat. Shoes off, belt undone, trousers unzipped; and within the space of a second or two, Sherlock stands before him naked. Even his socks end up perfectly inside his shoes, untouched by his fingers. John stares with wide eyes, slowly becoming less nervous, trying to get used to the fact of the nudity of his flatmate, who is simultaneously this extraordinary creature. Sherlock. Naked. So instantly, as if he couldn't wait to show himself to John.

He's beautiful underneath his clothes, too, of course, even if his thinness and paleness is at first alarming. Sunless, almost-alabaster skin, with freckles (how delightfully human!) on the shoulders and chest; muscles thicker and better-developed than John would have suspected from a man who barely eats; a thin sheen of auburn-gingery chest hair, dark-auburn-gingery close-trimmed pubic hair, and dark hair, the same color as the hair on top of his head and under his arms, on his shapely, sinewy legs. After taking all this in at a glance, John looks away, focusing on the lamp shining on the table next to the bed, more than thirty years of social reflex telling him not to stare.

"Go on," Sherlock says. "You can look. I'd like you to." He cups his genitals in one hand, and for some reason, John mostly notices Sherlock's chemical-stained and -scarred hand, his long deft fingers, the pinky that had touched John's balls.

"Ginger minge," John giggles before he can stop himself.

If Sherlock's insulted, he shows no sign. "Oh, come on, John. You're a physician," he says. "How many penises have you seen? Mine is in no way extraordinary." It's not, and it is. Somewhat long though completely unerect, slight curve to the left, the skin of the shaft the color of very milky tea, the intact foreskin drooping well past the flesh of the glans. Well played-with, then. Enough space in the foreskin to slip the end joint of a thumb all the way in.

"It's a different . . . a different context, is all." John swallows, his throat suddenly dry. "Lie down," he says hoarsely. "I'll be right. Right back."

"No need," Sherlock replies. "In my coat."

"How could you possibly . . ." John picks up Sherlock's coat from the chair, surprised at its weight; in one of the pockets, he finds a cold bottle of water, cap still sealed. John can't help but laugh. "When will I learn?" he muses to himself.

"I do so wonder," Sherlock drawls, weighty with sarcasm.

John opens the water and takes a long drink, grateful for the delay, jealous of Sherlock's unflappability. "I'm going to leave my clothes on," he says.

"For now," says Sherlock. "Later, you'll want to disrobe." He settles himself onto John's bed. He has very handsome legs, sharp-cut muscular thighs parting slightly, his penis curving down to touch the duvet, testicles in a puddle of loose skin. He's perfect.

"God," John breathes soundlessly, shaking his head. He sits on the bed and stares at the space between Sherlock's legs, willing himself to continue what's been started. He doesn't want to rush this moment. Now that he's been encouraged to look, he finds it difficult to stop. Usually when he's looking this closely at a man's genitals, it's because he's searching for a bullet wound or laceration. The wholeness of Sherlock, the lack of blood or injury, is almost surreal. Oddly, though, right now the sight is not specifically arousing; it's just another part of Sherlock's body, as fascinating and surprising as the rest of him. The sight alone doesn't immediately turn him on, as does the sight of a naked woman, or better yet, a woman wearing nothing underneath, or best yet, just a teasing glimpse, a possibility. Sherlock is right there, legs open, cock hanging down, skin and buzzed hair bathed in lamplight. John sighs. He's not gay, or he'd be aroused right now; so, how is this going to work?

"Now, then," Sherlock murmurs, "reciprocity, is it? You might as well at least touch me. I won't startle; I'm expecting it."

John reaches for him, talking through it, trying to keep his voice light and humorous. "You know, I'm worried that I'm not . . ." His fingers land on Sherlock's belly, just below the navel, touching a pale, jagged scar. "Was this a stab wound?"

"When I was eighteen. You'll notice there are few similar scars."

"Wonder you survived that." John traces the contours. "Nasty bit of work, that."

"I stitched it myself," Sherlock says, as pleased as a child who's received top marks.

"Your guts must have been hanging out!"

Sherlock half-smiles again. "All the more reason to stitch it up quickly," he says. Reaching up, he takes John's hand, and slides it down, into his stubble-field of nether hair. "Stop being so shy; it's annoying me. This isn't the first cock you've touched." Studying John's response, his quick intake of breath through the nostrils, the raised eyebrows, the pulse fluttering at his temple, Sherlock adds, "And this isn't the first cock you've touched out of curiosity. Or desire."

"True," John confesses in a whisper, wondering why he even bothers to speak aloud, when Sherlock already knows everything he could say. John's fingers encircle the base of the shaft. Cool, and soft, but John can still feel the latent purpose in it. This organ, erect, will be a stabbing, vicious weapon, though by the way it feels, it won't grow much. It doesn't need to. This is one part of Sherlock that has no hidden agendas; it can fold and curl and hide itself along the groin, but it doesn't get much smaller than this, nor bigger either; just . . . more or less determined, maybe.

He's shaking.

Sherlock reaches out, too, and runs his fingers across John's overgrown hair at the temple. The touch is the most delicious thing John's ever experienced, gentle and firm; Sherlock seemingly comforting him. And yet it immediately makes everything sexual – the air, the bed, the light, the feel of the smooth skin on Sherlock's cock. The detective's voice drops to a soothing purr. "I see. You like cocks, don't you? You thought you were over all that, didn't you? Fancying other boys. You didn't want to do that; you had a choice, because you liked girls too, and they liked you. Even if it's not really a choice, you could choose what, and who you did. In uni, you turned blokes down. In medical school; in defense training. Safer that way. You didn't want them to think you were like that. And you're right. You're not 'like that.' You're only like you. No matter how much you might fancy yourself as something that can be described by a label—or might want to be, God knows why. I suppose it's true that life is easier when you don't have to think."

Breathing slow and deep, John leans into Sherlock's touch, rubs his cheek along Sherlock's wrist, rubs his thumb up and down a plump vein. "When you've made up your mind," he whispers, hypnotized.

"You were lying to yourself. You told yourself that it wasn't the same; that you weren't serious, you were just playing. But you aren't. You don't occupy that safe, untrue place anymore. You are different. I wouldn't be doing this if you were like everyone else," Sherlock continues. "And you wouldn't do this, if I were. You know this . . ." His voice vanishes momentarily as John moves his hand up the shaft, his grip firm but undemanding. "You're not what you assumed you were."

"Shut up," John mutters. "You're so dull sometimes."

"You mean, pedantic."

"We're having sex now. Stop analyzing me."

"You know I can't, John," Sherlock says patiently.

"Do it silently, then," says John, looking up at him.

That makes Sherlock's eyes crinkle. "Fair enough," he says. "But do take your clothes off. Unless it excites you to imagine getting them sticky, which I am fairly confident that it doesn't, by the state of your laundry hamper . . . "

"Sherlock. Stay out of my dirty Y-fronts, please."

A wicked sparkle gleams in Sherlock's eye. "It's all on your sheets instead."

"Oi, shut it!" John blurts, laughing aloud, and pushes his mouth onto Sherlock's, hoping to silence him for the next little while.

Sherlock draws back immediately, as in shock or distaste; his expression betrays nothing but surprise. John sighs; only Sherlock would be surprised by a kiss at this point. "Is it all right for me to kiss you?" John asks carefully.

"I don't like kissing in general," Sherlock murmurs. "But yes, you may."

"You don't like kissing? Why not?"

"It's a very unhygienic practice."

There's no disputing that fact. "I brushed my teeth," John offers hopefully.

"Yes," says Sherlock, "and that is why I allow it now. And I thought we were done talking?" As if on command, Sherlock's cock heats and stiffens in John's hand. John relaxes onto his side, watching, still just holding on mid-shaft, his hand enveloping most of its length. The tan color of the skin flushes dark, the healthy pink-red response of inrushing blood.

"Put it in your mouth, and let go," Sherlock says. "Yes, foreskin and all. Yes. Like that." Flesh joins to flesh, the dry-moist tissue of John's lips to the dry silk veil of tightening skin. Too dry to taste until Sherlock fractionally raises his hips, sinking inside John's mouth, and the foreskin drags gently along the surface of John's tongue until the bare glans touches his lips. And then he pulls back, and it's gone, all gone, and John's heart breaks.

"Raise your arms," Sherlock says, and pulls John's T-shirt up over his head. He reaches down again, takes hold of his own member, and demonstrates how the foreskin retracts, exposing the most beautiful, damp, pink bulb of flesh John's ever seen. He doesn't know how he could have ever imagined Sherlock as sexless, not with that well-handled drape, or with the deep, wide teardrop of the urethra, again shaped so much like Sherlock's thumb. Still fascinating, but now that he's tasted it, impossibly exciting. "Yes, you see," Sherlock continues, hoarse himself now, his voice a semitone lower. "Slide the tip of your tongue inside. With skill and practice, it can go quite far. Yes, like that." He lets his breath out, long and slow, limbs trembling. "Like that."

John moans, and reclaims his own mouth, giving Sherlock's cock a gentle squeeze. "You're fucking immaculate," is the best he can do.

Sherlock ignores the compliment. "Hold tight, just as you're doing. Tighter. I'm not delicate. Harder—yes. Back in your mouth. Tongue under the prepuce, along the—yes, along the frenulum edges. Ah. Yes, quite. Yes." Sherlock returns to stroking John's hair, his breath humming with pleasure. John shudders. "Very good. Now, suck and grip at once. Harder." When John tries to slide his hand up and down, Sherlock stays John's arm in place. "No, no, that's unnecessary. Just keep your grip steady. And suck. Suck. Yes . . ." Now Sherlock moans jaggedly. "Yes, you like that, don't you? The taste. I can feel it. Draw deeply from me. Lap it up . . . and I'll make more."

He does like it, John does. The sweet-salt-mineral taste of pre-come, the incredibly slick texture coating his tongue and his palate, slicking up Sherlock's foreskin until it's pulled back so tightly John can't get his tongue underneath it anymore (and yes, Sherlock does grow longer after all; it'd figure he'd be hung like a giraffe, all lengthy and lean). He does like cocks, their seamless combination of absurdity and brilliant engineering, even if this is the first time he's ever had one in his mouth. He feels no envy, only joy, moaning with astonishment and pleasure. So this is why people do this. Sherlock grips pinches of John's hair—there's not enough to grab—and slowly, slowly moves his hips back and forth. His cock is steady in John's grip, but the porcelain-smooth glans slides to and fro across John's tongue. John rubs his erection against Sherlock's bare calf, as he can't reach anything else, and the scent of arousal rises in his head. So strange and utterly wonderful and overwhelming.

"Take a breath," says Sherlock.

Responding instantly, without thinking, John withdraws, gulping clear air. He gazes up at Sherlock, wild-eyed, licking the dark seam across his lower lip. "My God," he sighs. "It's addictive."

Sherlock grasps John's chin, his thumb stroking close to the injured lip, but never quite touching it, examining it with narrow eyes. "Does it hurt?" he asks softly.

John blinks thoughtfully and sucks the split lip into his mouth, wetting it. "Hasn't for the last few minutes," he replies, deadpan, hoping to make Sherlock smile.

Instead, Sherlock shakes his head. "This really isn't very hygienic," he says, but doesn't sound completely committed to that stance. His eyes are heavy-lidded and vague.

Something tells John that Sherlock doesn’t genuinely care too much; the guy does love to crawl around in rubbish tips, after all. "I don't want to stop," John asserts. "I'll be all right. It's healed. It's closed up. I've got mouthwash. I'll rinse after." He strokes Sherlock's testicles, letting them roll smoothly between his gripping fingers, making Sherlock gasp. John whispers into Sherlock's furred navel, "Please don't make me stop . . ."

"Take off your trousers. Let it heal a bit more."

John tangles on the bed until he's worked his jeans down to his ankles, and sits up to push them off. Before he can resume his position, Sherlock has sat up and wrapped his arms around John's middle, twisting with him, almost taking them both off the bed, but not quite. Now John is face down against the bed, and Sherlock is on top of him, sliding his moist cock between John's buttocks. John tenses up, but Sherlock only nuzzles the back of his neck, and presses John's cheeks together to enfold his cock between them. "Oh," Sherlock sighs. "Fits perfectly."

"Does that feel good?" John asks softly, breath shuddering.

"Pointless question. If it didn't, I would stop." It seems that John has annoyed Sherlock enough for Sherlock to move, climb off, and slide to a different position on the bed. "Turn over."

"Is fucking too unhygienic?" John quips, disappointed that that position had to end so soon. It felt very good to him, for sure, unearthing breathlessly hot memories of non-penetrative frottage from his adolescent years. Guess I'm queer after all, he muses, reaching towards his new lover, but at least Sherlock kind of gets it. Maybe. He gets this, anyway. I am a Sherlock-sexual. And how he found out, or guessed, about what I did when I was thirteen and fourteen . . . maybe I shouldn't wonder.

Sherlock arches his eyebrow. "Like I said, I'm not here for a shag. That is not what I’m after tonight."

Liberated, emboldened, John narrows his eyes. "Asked you a question."

"Answered it."

"Didn't – oh."

Sherlock's hand darts out, swift as a snake, and grasps John's cock. Immediately, he's crouched over John, and John's cock is in his mouth, and he is gripping and stroking and sucking and cupping John's balls in his cool palm. Effectively silenced, John spreads his legs and gets lost in the rapidly-accelerating pace of his arousal, tension building up in his groin like a watch being wound too tightly.

"Ah, God," John gasps, first grasping his thin duvet, then Sherlock's shockingly-soft mop of hair, not so much directing the movements of Sherlock's mouth as keeping him from ever stopping what he's doing. "Ah, ohhh . . . Oh, fuck, that's so good, how are you so good? How are you so – so perfect?" He arches off the bedspread, his spine tightening like a bowstring. "Oh my God, I'm going to fuck you, I'm going to fuck you so hard as soon as I get a chance, you fucking amazing – Ah!"

He is spared the trouble of finding the appropriate noun to describe Sherlock, because his mind snaps and paints the universe angels'-bliss white. He's crying out something, but it's not words; not English, anyway. John feels Sherlock's palate above the head of his prick, and the hot, draining bliss of coming, and incredible glorious pressure of Sherlock's mouth tightening as he swallows.

And then he opens his eyes and watches Sherlock licking his lips and running the flavor around his mouth. "Yes, much better," he says. "Much better when you've got some sleep and exercise. Now, are you ready?" When John just shakes his head in confusion, Sherlock adds with a hint of the naughty schoolboy in his voice, "Reciprocity, remember."

"Oh, God." John is too bliss-fatigued to move.

"Oh go on. It's really not so bad. Just swallow quickly and wash it down. But it needs to be inside you. All of it." Sherlock loops his fingers around the back of John's neck, and draws him close again, close and down, where Sherlock's cock, now at full tumescence, stands straight upright and proud as a soldier in a dark-red jacket. "Back in your mouth, and I'll do the rest."

"Like hell," John retorts, lust sizzling energetically down his spine. He takes Sherlock in hand, and in mouth. Fluid now drips freely from the tip of the long, narrow cock, coating John's lips. He pumps vigorously at the root of Sherlock's dick, rubbing his tongue rapidly back and forth against the sensitive folds of tissue just below the glans. He wants Sherlock to moan; quickly he gets his wish, Sherlock's fingers locking tightly in John's hair. John moans back, knowing the sound vibrates through his mouth. Sherlock clutches John's shoulders and the back of his head with that same dry-fingered, hot touch that astonished him the first time. Sherlock doesn't buck his hips, or force himself in, or say anything; just the same low pattern of breathy moans, so precise that he must be following some ancient tantric discipline or other. John doesn't care; he just wants Sherlock to come, sweat, scream, call his name. He wants Sherlock's façade of cold genius to break; he wants speaking in tongues, fingernail scratches, possibly even tears.

Though he gets none of those this night, John does receive some surprise revelations.

One: Sherlock points and clenches his toes when he comes.

Two: Sherlock has long, gorgeous, suckable toes to match his long, gorgeous, suckable fingers and his long, gorgeous, very suckable cock.

Three: the head of Sherlock's cock fits almost perfectly at the entrance of his throat, but no further.

Four: he can keep himself from choking, or gagging, and even manages to push Sherlock's cock a few inches out with only his tongue, catching the startlingly powerful jets of ejaculate in his mouth instead of his throat.

Five: he really, really doesn't like the taste of spunk.

He's spit most of it out before Sherlock gets his wits about him. "No, no, don't, you're meant to swallow it – oh, damn you, John." Sherlock goes so far as to mop up some of the spillage with his thumb and stick it into John's mouth, but John forces his hand away. "Come now, it's only a few milliliters of fluid. Why are you squeamish all of a sudden?"

"It's not exactly ice cream, is it?" John grumbles, gulping down water from the bottle. He can state with authority that Sherlock's semen tastes much, much worse than his own, perhaps because of the lack of food or sleep, and those horrible nicotine patches steadily leaking poison into his bloodstream.

"No, it bloody well isn't. It's far more important. If you're to participate in this experiment, you really must develop a stronger stomach." Sherlock can only be Sherlock, even naked and post-orgasmic.

"Don't want to." John pouts. It's more the shock of having someone come in his mouth than anything else. No matter how he steeled himself in anticipation, no matter how much he wanted it, his reflexes transmitted Warning! Foreign substance! Eject! It really does taste awful, but he knew that already. And it isn't as though he shied away from sucking Sherlock off, or hadn't enjoyed it, and doesn't . . . somehow, want to do it again, immediately. But something makes him sulky and defiant. Sherlock has been telling him what to do all night; and John's instinctively done it. Not much autonomy there, really. John sucks his lip, trying to think of what to say to make Sherlock keep touching him, and for John to maintain his self-respect at the same time.

"For someone who I leave, and I quote, 'burning', I am surprised at your reluctance," Sherlock drawls, drawing circles in the spilled semen and sweat on his flat, tiled stomach. His temples are damp; he does sweat, after all. John can't remember when he saw anything so beautiful.

"You what?" John replies, laughing, wondering if Sherlock is, at last, joking with him. Sherlock only raises his eyebrows, and squiggles a spermy infinity symbol. "Where'd you—you—Did you read that on my blog? A private, password-protected, my-eyes-only entry on my—"

"Your passwords are rubbish," Sherlock claims airily. "Capital J, lowercase h, capital W, one-one-one-eight-seven-two, bang. It's your other password; I notice that you really only have two. Except for your two four-digit PIN passwords—"

"You absolute shit!" John bursts out. "Private! Does that mean anything to you? Set to private!"

"Oh, do calm down. These considerations are child's play to me, you realize."

"And you're being as thick as a child! God, Sherlock!" John shouts. He plucks up his discarded T-shirt from the floor, and holds it to his sweaty groin, shielding his nakedness from Sherlock's amused gaze. It's the amusement that finally makes John snap, and he goes battlefront-cold. "Get the fuck out of my room. I don't want to see you again until you've sorted out your boundary issues. For someone who hates Mycroft's methods the way you do, you certainly use them when it suits you, don't you? Go on. Fuck off. Fuck off out of my room."

Sherlock blinks, a split second of shock and panic crossing his face. He recovers his wits quickly, though, climbing over John to get out of the bed, his softening cock dangling, retrieving his clothes without bothering to put them back on. He pauses just inside the door, hesitating, and John gives him five full seconds to apologize. When it doesn't happen, John wads up the T-shirt and throws it at his flatmate. "Out!" he bellows.

Sherlock says, in a tiny voice, "My complete medical records are in your inbox." He retreats, and closes the door behind him.

John slaps the light off and flings himself hard back down onto his bed, angrily wrapping the duvet around his sweaty, cooling body. He still feels the throb in his groin from that spectacular orgasm, but all the pleasure he felt is distant; he's shoved it into a corner of his mind, prioritizing his anger.

The worst part is, he can't just leave. If he walked out the door of 221b right now, Sherlock would still know everything about him, and be able to find out—or deduce—anything he might do in the future. The world isn't the way he always imagined it was. In so many ways, this revelation has been a wonderful discovery, but the current level of vulnerability, of utter disrespect just isn't working for him. Sure, he and Sherlock had fun once or twice, but no matter what the depths of his feelings for Sherlock, it isn't right, the liberties he's taken. And then to brag about them? John isn't safe with him.

And yet he can't leave. He couldn't.

From downstairs comes the sound of a freshly rosined bow lightly striking the strings of a violin. John groans and wraps himself even more tightly, wondering how he's going to get to sleep with that vicious scraping that Sherlock plays when he's frustrated and angry.

After a brief pause, the bow is pulled, and a thin, high, rusty note rises up the stairs, joined by a second, clearer, in odd imperfect harmony. Another pause, and John, without realizing it, has risen stiffly a few inches off the surface of the bed, head cocked, anticipating more.

The same notes sound; smoother, fuller, joined with others, the next ones in sequence, multiply bowed strings making it sound like a second violin has joined him, then a third, swaying together.

John remembers that he's supposed to be upset.

He lies on his back, already mummified in his blanket, and listens to Sherlock playing the most mournful music he's ever heard. He is incredulous (fuck, he could be professional with this – what else can he do?), indignant (oh playing the blues, then, right, you're sad and you're making fucking sure I know it, no bloody respect for a man's need to sleep), transported (oh, he's playing it again from the beginning; yes, never stop, it sounds like a drifting on a river, or the sun vanishing behind the clouds, I can't bear the beauty of it).

He drifts to sleep, the violin calling plaintively Watson? Watson?, and dreams of a kiss salty with blood.


John's phone alarm, which he'd had the forethought to set the afternoon before, wakes him at 7:30 the next morning. His reflexes hardened through military discipline, he gets right up, makes his bed, and is in the shower before his conscious mind comes on line.

Where's the song? The song was here, and then it was gone and I woke up.

He's got a full day shift at the surgery, starting at 8:30. No time to dwell on what might or might not have happened last night; only time to dress, consume breakfast, and get to work. He'd had plenty of sleep, really, and his mind is remarkably clear – almost too clear. Almost hollow.

Downstairs, in the sitting room, Sherlock sprawls over the sofa, as naked as the day he was born, limbs askew, mouth open, snoring softly. Hairy navel; ribs; long limp brown penis flung carelessly across his groin. In one hand he still holds his violin bow, though the instrument itself has been carefully placed back into its velvet-lined case.

John spares a moment to study the remarkable tableau of Sherlock actually asleep. John knows Sherlock does sleep, of course – after Moriarty, Sherlock had slept for almost 24 straight hours, but that was in his own room, with the door closed. For all John knew, he could have been reading or something. But here is Sherlock quite unconscious, his face appearing alarmingly young, vulnerable, pure, his quiet snores half wheeze, half grunt.

Taking the bow from Sherlock's unmoving hand, John tucks the Union Jack pillow under Sherlock's wild hair, and spreads an afghan over him from collarbone to toes. The detective is too deeply asleep to respond more than slightly flared nostrils.

Tempting to just sit beside Sherlock, and wait for him to wake up, but John envisions a corgi in a stripy jumper, waiting for Master to revive and take him out for walkies; he shakes his head and turns away. He is Dr. John Watson, adult male human, and he has a job to go to.

There's no point in breakfasting here. He'd finished everything off yesterday, and hadn't gone to the shops, being rather too busy dissecting a human liver and getting kicked in the face. John shoulders his jacket and heads out, down to the end of Baker Street, where the café provides him with strong tea and a bun promptly enough so that he's able to catch the 7:50 tube, arriving at the medical clinic a few minutes early.

He cheerfully greets the receptionist, who is always there first thing. "Morning, Gillian."

"Planning on staying awake today, are we, John? I'm just having you on, love. Coffee's made." Gillian has exact opposite moods from the usual; she's always friendly first thing, and a hell bitch on wheels by the end of the day.

"Thanks." John heads to the break room, pours a cup, drinks it black and plain. Looks up to see Sarah smiling at him from the doorway, her hair swept back into a sleek French braid. John goggles at it for a moment, wanting nothing more than to plunge his fingers into it, loosen it up. He pictures her in the shower, spray trained upwards, rubbing her clit with the opposite thumb.

"You all right?" she asks, forehead slightly furrowed with concern.

"Yeah, yeah," John assures her, rinsing his coffee mug. "If I look strange, it's because I got two full nights' sleep in a row."

Her smile is gently pitying. It so often is. "I was talking about your lip."

"What?" John reflexively licks the split. It's mostly healed. Sherlock kissed it better. With his penis. "Oh," he grumbles. "That. S'nothing really."

"He doesn't beat you, does he?" Sarah quips, arching her eyebrow.

"Oh, ha, ha."

She passes very close by him on her way to the coffee pot and says, "I don't know why you're sniffing me; I'm not wearing perfume, John."

"It's, uh, your shampoo," John mumbles, his face going hot. "Smells nice."

"It's unscented."

He can't win. "Well, I'd better get to it. Lunch at noon?"

Sarah takes a lot of milk in her coffee, no sugar. Her lips leave a glistening sheen of moisture on the rim of the cup; no lip color, just a gloss, or vaseline, or – "I'm at one; sorry. But if you're going to Pret, get me a croissant sandwich, would you?"

"Be delighted to," John says, and it's true. "Have a good day."

At five minutes to noon, the first text comes in. John ignores it, busy thumping the white-haired back of his current patient, but he can hear his phone even through the rattling of mucus in the old geezer's lungs. John takes his time getting to reading the text; it can only be Sherlock, and John's not in a hurry to read anything from him. The phone buzzes again – four times – before he reads.

Stop being offended. I don't like it. SH

Remember that I am a sociopath and an investigator by nature. It’s nothing personal. SH

You're being emotional. I know it's your lunchtime; you can't claim that you're busy working. Get back to me. SH

I’d never do this with anyone but you, so that should mean something. Doesn't it? RSVP. SH

Bring home milk, please. Mrs. Hudson won't give me any more. SH

John laughs, but sets his phone to silent until he's done eating. He brings the sandwich for Sarah, but can't find her, and has to shove the sandwich into the break room refrigerator and rush to his exam room to meet his next patient. Around four o'clock, John checks his phone again.

I am not averse to sharing sexual activities with you. SH

I don't understand. Where are you? SH

Did I force myself on you? Tell me candidly; I have no feelings to hurt. SH

John feels obligated to reply this time. To use your own language, I am not - and was not - averse to sharing sexual activities with you. Obviously. Grow up and sort it out. I'm at work.

The response comes almost instantly. Good; don’t forget milk. Dim Sum takeaway would also be good, particularly crab puffs. SH

John almost replies, Fuck you, but deletes it at the last minute and goes back to work.

He's done at six, and catches Sarah just as she's leaving. "Busy tonight?" he asks hopefully.

Sarah cocks her head a bit, examining him, and sighs. "I'm afraid so," she says. "I have a date."

John smiles and shrugs, trying to be harmless. "Good, good," he replies, too quickly, too smoothly. "Nice bloke?"

"Don't really know yet," she confesses. "Look, John, um—"

"You don't have to say anything," he cuts in hastily.

"John, I fancy you, all right?" Sarah states emphatically, if gently, softening it with a sheepish grin. "But right now, I am single, and enjoying that fact. And you . . ." She looks him up and down a bit more. "It's not as though you live a boring life, what with your flatmate. You're good together."

"We're not—"

She holds up her hand, silencing him. "I just want you to be absolutely sure what you want," she says, "and who with. In the meantime, don't get hung up. Remember to let things happen; don’t force them. I do want to see you again. Next weekend, maybe? Try the cinema again?"

John hardly knows what to think, what to feel. He likes her even more now, even as his doglike lust has cooled somewhat; in these last sixty seconds, she's become even more of a person to him, someone who, perhaps, he can believe cares about him. Perhaps, in this bizarre world he now lives in, it's even more valuable to have a good friend than to get a leg over. What he really needs right now is a friend. Sherlock is . . . well, he is definitely more, though he's not sure exactly what. More than a friend. And less, as well. Sherlock is (his) Sherlock, as vital and dangerous as the sun.

"Love to," John finally replies. "If you need anything, give me a call."

"Of course," she replies. She reaches over and gives his hand a little squeeze.

As he walks towards the tube station, he calls in the takeaway order to the Chinese place down Oxford Street, the dim sum that's not on the menu. The clerk asks if it's for Mr. Holmes, and John grits his teeth and admits that it is. "Crab rangoon," the clerk says knowledgeably. "Order of six. Your man like. Ready by quarter of eight. You pick up!"

After getting off the tube, John goes straight to the pub on Oxford Street rather than waiting in the restaurant, having an entire family of Cantonese tease him about his "man". John just can't face it. He drinks a pint and a whiskey, and when the pint outstrips the whiskey, he orders another shot. He's stalling. He's not much of a drinker, but tonight the whiskey seems necessary as a buffer. The phone in his pocket has been silent for hours, but it doesn't give him a sense of peace. Sherlock could be dead, or he could just be watching Friends with Mrs. Hudson.

John licks his lips, thinking of the shape of Sherlock's lips; tastes the hoppy foam at the corners of his mouth, and thinks of the flavor of Sherlock's foreskin and the delicate, damp bonbon of flesh inside it. Sighs and remembers the sound of Sherlock's sighs. He wills himself to be brave enough to be honest with himself.

With the whiskey burning the back of his throat, John whispers soundlessly to himself, I forgive you.

He picks up the greasy, steamy bags of takeaway, then, as he gets to the door of 221, groans and turns back to the corner shop to get milk.

At last, home. The stairwell's dark, Mrs. Hudson's flat silent. John flicks light switches and goes upstairs. 221b is dark, too, and quiet. He puts the food on the kitchen counter and the milk in the fridge next to the stripped skeleton of a rat vacuum-sealed in an evidence bag and the seemingly-ordinary can of beer that Sherlock had warned him that he must not, under any circumstances, touch.

"Sherlock?" John calls out. "You in?" He hears a faint splash, and a quiet tattoo of water dripping onto water. John moves toward the faint light glowing from the slightly open door to the bathroom; not bright enough to be the overhead bulbs. Candlelight, or . . .

A brass antique lantern, oil crackling faintly, rests on the closed lid of the toilet bowl. Sherlock lies, slumped and unmoving, in the bathtub, hair a chaos of dark wet curls, his eyes closed. John rushes in closer, holding his breath, heart pounding, and stares down into the bathwater; he completely expects it to be dark with blood from slashed wrists. Instead, it's whitish, faintly cloudy, steaming milky transparence against Sherlock's parchment-pale skin. And Sherlock is breathing, if shallowly.

"God," John exhales, frowning. "You gave me a turn."

Sherlock opens his eyes, pupils huge and black in the dim light. "Oh, there you are," he replies quietly. "You were ages."

"I brought the milk," John says. "And the takeaway."

"Yes, I can smell it," Sherlock murmurs. His voice is uncharacteristically slow and low. It is excruciatingly sexy. "Also, the pub." His nostrils quiver. "Bourbon whiskey," he adds. "And Hornbuckle's special bitter. Beer and a shot; something you picked up from your American colleagues in Kandahar." He closes his eyes again. Both knees and the floating tip of his cock break the water like islands, his body hair moist and smooth, nipples soft and relaxed in the warmth. John clenches his fists, resisting the urge to climb in. When Sherlock's voice comes again, it's distant and weary. "Don't worry; I'd never kill myself that way."

Of course Sherlock wouldn't say thank you. John's a fool for wanting it. "Food'll get cold," he says, turning away.

"I'll be round momentarily," Sherlock murmurs. "Won't hurt dim sum to be at room temperature. Would you put the kettle on, there's a dear . . . I'm feeling like the chrysanthemum tonight . . ."

"Wait a minute . . ." John turns back, making his own deductions. "Are you high?"

Sherlock smiles. "No more than you are drunk," he says, chuckling. "True, I took a morphine tablet. Only fifteen milligrams; hardly enough to get me high." At John's expression, he gives an impatient, weary sigh. "I was in pain," he explains softly. "They're prescribed. Originally for something else, but . . ." Grimacing, he shifts his body in the tub and vaguely waves a wet, wrinkly hand. "I'll be round; go on."

John returns to the kitchen, puts the kettle on, and sets out the dim sum onto a tray. Sherlock, barefoot, angular form wrapped in his indigo silk robe, shuffles in, and zeroes in on the food. "God, yes," he murmurs avidly, snatching up a crab puff and stuffing it into his mouth. It's the first time John's seen Sherlock eat anything in days. "Brilliant. Crab rangoon is one of mankind's greatest achievements. Simultaneously exotic, hopelessly bastardized, and dreadful for you; it is – mmmm – modernity in a won ton."

"Eat, don't talk," John says, pouring clear tea into the last two clean cups in the house. At the table, Sherlock sinks down onto a chair, eating all six rangoon one after the other, washing them down with a gulp of the scalding tea.

John sits down too, and plucks at the food with chopsticks. Sherlock soldiers on through three-quarters of the order, devouring buns and dumplings with excellent appetite, occasionally pausing to thoroughly savor some taste or texture, rolling it sensuously round his mouth and moaning quietly with pleasure. The whiskey has blunted John's appetite, and a red-bean-paste bun and a few shrimp dumplings with plenty of tea is enough to satisfy his belly.

But as the silence stretches out between them, soundtracked only with Sherlock's childish humming, John grows tense again. He can't sit still. They have to talk about this – but which "this"? There's so much. The sex, the drugs, the selfishness. Too much. He considers getting his jacket back on, leaving the flat, running back down to the pub for a few more drinks and a chance to pull someone uncomplicated.

Instead, he rises, circles around Sherlock, standing behind him, smoothing his crazy hair. Curly, but drying shaggy; and John just hadn't noticed before that the near-black of it has undertones of the darkest, most sinister red.

He hadn't hurt himself. He hadn't hurt John. It's all okay. John is home and Sherlock is all right and they're together; it's all okay. And this is the happiest John has ever been in his life.

John bends down and kisses Sherlock's hair, behind the ear. Sherlock just keeps chewing and humming, and when he takes a gulp of tea, John feels the muscles in Sherlock's neck jump and respond. John kisses the ear itself, the perfect pale patch of skin under it. Sherlock slowly, dreamlike, turns and finds John's lips with his own. They kiss, lightly, four times, five times; John loses count. They are some of the most intimate kisses he's ever had, though their mouths never open; every molecule of breath, every vibrating cell of skin that joins them, the fact that Sherlock is still humming, groaning softly; it's almost unbearably sweet.

"I like to kiss you," John whispers. "I won't do without that."

Sherlock's eyes are closed, a slight smile on his ruddy lips. "You shouldn't have to," he replies, shaking his head. His hands slide all over John's arms, stroking them up and down, as if they are the only part of John's body he's allowed to touch. John takes one of the hands and rests it against his belly, slides it up to his chest, and his breath shudders as Sherlock's palm brushes against his nipple. Sherlock's eyes open in mild surprise; John can practically hear the gears spinning in his brain. Chuckling softly, John unbuttons his shirt and pulls it off, and replaces Sherlock's hand on his chest, rubbing the palm back and forth. With a sardonic twist to his lip and an arched eyebrow, Sherlock grasps the nipple between his fingertips and gives it a squeeze. As his grip tightens, he muses, "You said you'd fuck me . . . will you?"

"Yes," John whispers, first lovingly and comfortably, then, yelping faintly from the unexpected pressure on his tit, he half-shouts, "Yes, yes." The grip releases, and John gasps for breath. "Okay, yes. God." He tips his lips against Sherlock's again, but Sherlock draws back, still smiling. "When? Now?" Want more kisses.

"Yes," Sherlock says. "Now."

Even if he should have been expecting it, John's still caught off guard. Does this count as letting something happen to him? "All right; just let me, um, pop out and pick up a couple of things we'll need."

"We don't need anything," Sherlock says.

"Oh, we do, though."

"We've got everything we need here," Sherlock clarifies. "I keep a supply of personal lubricant on hand at all times; it's a very useful substance. What?"

John grins. "I'm sure it is."

"Don't look at me like that; you're a doctor; you know. Towels. Water. Interest. What else would you need?" Sherlock's eyebrow quirks again.

"Condoms," John mentions quietly.

To his surprise, Sherlock just shakes his head patiently. "No," he says. "Unless you're squeamish. And even if you are, I've got some. They have many uses as well. I don't tend to have much cause to use them for their traditional purpose."

That vocal tic again, this time a hiss at the end of the word. John kisses Sherlock on the chin. "I'm not squeamish," he says. "I'm . . . careful."

"Did you read my dossier?"

John's confused for a moment, then shakes his head, remembering. "Oh. I didn't." He'd forgotten all about it, in fact.

"If you had, you'd have seen confirmation of my STI-free status."

"If I'd wanted to know, I'd have asked. Like you should've."

There it was; the whole Talk. In a nutshell. Sherlock just shrugs and rolls his eyes. "It's irrelevant now," he replies.

"Do you understand why I'm upset?"

"You made that quite –" Qui-TAH. "– clear." Sherlock rolls John's nipple between his fingertips.

"You're distracting me," John says, stroking Sherlock's eyebrow.

"Good," Sherlock says. The other hand cups John's crotch. "Pay no further attention to the matter; this is a far more interesting learning opportunity. Now. Bed? Where you can kiss me more? I'm all lovely and clean and I don't mind that you're not."

"Yeah," John sighs, resigned and delighted. "All right."

In the dark, this time, into John's bedroom. Once again, Sherlock is nude almost effortlessly; all he does is shrug off his robe and leave it in the middle of the floor, too engaged in simultaneously dragging and groping John and pulling him down onto the bed. "Lie down," Sherlock tells him. He slowly, carefully pulls off John's shoes and socks and unzips his trousers. "Underpants are so pointless," he says snobbishly, pulling John's half-hard dick out the front hole and bending over it for a lick. "I mean, it's just another step, isn't it."

"It's . . . for protection," John protests breathlessly.

"You care about protection a lot, don't you?" Sherlock muses. "Of course you do. You're a soldier; you're obsessed with it." He pulls the underwear down, and John obligingly wriggles out of it, hungry for the touch of Sherlock's legs along his bare hips. It's as if Sherlock knows how fascinated John is with his swinging cock and low-hanging balls, and how delicious it is to feel them brushing against his thighs. "You try to protect yourself from me. That's . . . wise, I guess."

"There's a funny thing called common sense," John agrees.

"Never bother with it." Sherlock arches his back, dropping his balls in a cool puddle against John's inner thigh. "Touch them. Touch them with your hands. And your mouth. Or is it that you want me to keep you from it?"

"No . . . I'm just . . . letting things happen. Not forcing them. Do you understand that?" John asks.

It makes Sherlock withdraw, if not physically, back into himself; eyes vague, chin drawn in. He looks chastened, a touch ashamed of himself. It's unbearable; Sherlock should always be gleaming with arrogant pride. "It's all right," John says soothingly, kissing Sherlock's forehead and his clavicle, rubbing his lips against the prominent veins in his forearms, so similar to the ones twining around his cock. "Distract me."

Once Sherlock is lying down, John drops kisses across his neck and belly, lies half on top, crosswise, chin balanced on Sherlock's chest and his left hand full of cock and balls. He squeezes. Sherlock likes that; he arches comfortably, like a cat. John asks conversationally, "Are your nipples sensitive?"

Sherlock gives the matter some thought. "Not . . . especially," he replies, stroking John's hair.

"Really?" John wonders, and set his teeth at the edge of one nipple. Rather than biting, he draws his lower teeth across, giving the whole system a light but thorough scrape, over and over. At first Sherlock just lies still, then he heaves a great heavy breath, as if settling in for something dull but pleasant. "Be patient," John takes a moment to say, "just feel it. Concentrate on the sensation."

No sucking, no biting; just the hypnotic scraping of the teeth, and the saliva that John makes no attempt to slow or hold in, rapidly wetting the flesh of Sherlock's chest. Eventually, soon, Sherlock quivers all over underneath him, his skin gone rough with gooseflesh. "Hhhmmm," he groans.

So John does the other one. By the time he thinks Sherlock might have had enough, the detective's belly is rigid, his thighs wide open, involuntary grunts working their way out of his throat, and John's handful of genitalia is so wet he wonders if Sherlock popped off and didn't realize it. Sherlock sweaty. How divine.

"It seems that . . . they can be," Sherlock breathes. "That's a first. Well done, you."

"Thank you." John beams. "I'm going to relax you up a bit," he says, giving a kiss over the intense thudding of Sherlock's pulse. "For that, I will use a glove. If you don't mind."

"No, I only want your come," Sherlock says, his voice so impatiently breathy that John's cock jumps like it's been shocked.

"I assume that there's lube in the pocket of your robe."

"Correct," Sherlock replies. “You’re learning.”

As much as he doesn’t want to, John has to leave the warmth of Sherlock's body to fetch a surgical glove from his medical kit, and a few towels from the cupboard. On the bed, Sherlock masturbates, breath deep and unsteady, his right hand curled around his cock, gently stretching the wet skin to and fro. Dropping towels, glove, and packets onto the bed, John kneels on the floor beside it and takes the glistening, salty-sweet glans in his mouth. Has to. Like a moth to a lightbulb. "Exquisite torture," Sherlock groans, trailing his damp, musky fingers across John's cheek. "Oh, I craved this all day; it was horrible. And no tea. No John and no tea."

John chuckles at him, mounting his narrow bed again, moving Sherlock over to the edge against the wall. "Lie on your side," John commands. "Have you ever done this before?"

"Of course I have," Sherlock replies, turning but reaching behind him to keep one hand on John.

"How long has it been?" John pulls the tight glove on, and opens one of the single-use packets of silicone lubricant he'd fished out of Sherlock's robe.

"Four years or thereabouts," Sherlock shrugs. "It's not something I find important to remember."

Sherlock's ass is narrow, tight, and deliciously rounded, fleshier than John had imagined, marked with intriguing scars that look like marks left by a metal whip, perhaps a car antenna, or perhaps a sharp cane. The marks go all the way down Sherlock's thighs, too many and too regular to have come from any other source but from having been struck. John doesn't resist the urge to kiss his way down one ladder and back up the next. "Did you enjoy it? Being fucked."

Sherlock shivers all over, and his hand strokes his penis harder and faster. John reaches over and stops him. "I didn't mind it," Sherlock says, "but I enjoyed what led up to it more."

"This? This beating?"

"No . . . that's from something else. I quite liked that too, though."

"God, Sherlock." John parts the buttocks, and leaves another kiss at the top of the join.

"I don't mind a good caning when it's deserved."

"You deserve it all the time," John remarks, and kisses the hypersensitive crease between gluteus and hamstring.

Sherlock chuckles lazily. "I know I do," he replies. "But I love meting it out even more. Bit of an art form. Pity you don't deserve it."

"Posh toff," John says. "With the usual vice. Probably got it in school, didn't you?" He slides the dry glove along until he locates the entry point, lubricates his first two fingers, and slides inside. "Bend over and take six of the best, right?"

"I've got the cane in question in the front room, you know. Mycroft used to thrash me with it," Sherlock breathes. He doesn't flinch at the touch of the cold gel, nor at the gentle violation, but shifts his hips to accommodate. "It's a family heirloom. Grandfather was a h-h-headmaster."

"Heh . . . I can see that. Did you ever get Mycroft a few licks back?"


"No wonder," says John.

"Deeper, please." Sherlock is so very hot inside; he's almost forgotten this locus of intense heat, the tight but yielding space. He's had his fingers up the bum of dozens, hundreds of people, patients, since the last time he did this for the express purpose of bringing pleasure, but he remembers how, the particular corkscrewing motion of the digits to relax the rings of muscle inside. Sherlock's breath quickens; his hand on John's thigh tightens, holding on. John's fingertip circles the firm tissue of the prostate, evincing a low groan from Sherlock's throat and a slight twisting of his hips.

"Yes . . . keep milking it, ingest what results . . . I want to know it's inside you. I'll need to fuck you, too, to ejaculate inside you. But not tonight. Tonight, you need this. And I want it." At once, Sherlock shudders and bends half forward, hips jerking back, driving John's fingers in. "Ah, go on, give me all of it, as much as you dare."

One hand balanced on Sherlock's hip, doing nothing to keep the man still, John thrusts his fingers in, twists them, withdraws them to add more lube, and another finger joins the two. When Sherlock tries to reach for his own cock, John reaches over and slaps his wrist, hard. Sherlock groans, does not lie still, bucking hard against John's hand, fumbling for himself. John sets his teeth; so they're going to fight, are they? He's up for it. He grabs Sherlock's cock away from him and stabs his fingers inside, bumping against some interior fold of flesh. Sherlock cries out, a strangled noise combining lust and pain.

"Stop it," John mutters. "Or I'll hurt you."

"Don't care. Enough stalling," Sherlock hisses, grabbing John's wrist, forcing him in even harder, forcing John to slide his pinky in too so that it won't get broken against Sherlock's pubic bone. In retaliation, John yanks his hand away completely, leaving Sherlock empty, his cock trapped and squeezed in John's hand. "Stop denying yourself. Stop denying me. Come on."

The old bedsprings squeak. The glove is pulled off and flung away, the lube packet squashed between them, leaking and plastic and jagged. Sherlock scrapes it away with his sharp fingernails. John's on top of Sherlock, both men sweating now, breath coming in hard grunts and moans, arms sloppily grappling at each other. Sherlock gets hold of John's nipple and pinches, just roughly enough.

"Ow! Fuck."

"Come on, John," Sherlock grumbles, legs splayed, hips angled up, grabbing John's cock and banging it hard against his thigh. John's cock slides across the groin, against Sherlock's juice-slick balls, up, and inside, too fast, too hard, desperate and painful. "Ah, God. Fuck. I need it."

"Stop it," John says again, pulling out, trying to force Sherlock's shoulders down. But Sherlock is much stronger than he, even with a head full of junk; he arches up and claims John's open mouth with his own, shoving his tongue inside, almost gagging John with it. And again, John's cock follows its own counsel and slides in again, this time the angle better, nice and smooth and deep.

They groan in harmonic unison.

"Good," Sherlock whispers. "Now you're inside me. Now never stop. Never leave me."

"I can't. I won't. I won't."

They attempt a rhythm, John leaning his hips forward, and Sherlock arching up to join him; it's tight in the narrow space of Sherlock's hips, and jagged with pelvic bones, and it hurts, and is delicious. John's not done this with a man, and with a woman only once; this is nothing like that. Nothing like nice wet twat and nice open hips, or having his cock sucked, or rubbing or – Sherlock grabs a fistful of John's hair and pulls it. "More," he demands darkly. "Harder."

John's heart hammers so hard and fast that he can hardly breathe. "I can't – look, turn over."

Sherlock replies with a hissing litany. "No; no, not tonight, no. No. Need to face you, now I know about your tits. I need to see your face and your tits and your belly. Why don't you lie down, on your back. I will show you."

John almost laughs at the notion of Sherlock showing him how to fuck, as though he's never done it before; but it's true that he's never done it with Sherlock and his slim hips and immense strength. Obligingly, John gets on his back, and Sherlock straddles him, knees bent high and brushing against his own nipples, balancing himself on the balls of his feet. John watches with blurry admiration as Sherlock holds John's erection steady, and lowers himself down onto it, first slowly and tentatively, then with a mighty lunge that joins them utterly.

"Yes," Sherlock sighs to the ceiling, twirling John's nipples with both his hands, "that's better." He lifts and drops himself, first carefully, then faster and faster, the tip of John's cock impacting inside with a deliciously electric shock.

"My God – my God – oh!"

"Yes, it's perfect, isn't it? Of course it is. Of course your cock is perfect for fitting inside me. Of course. I knew our fuck would be genius. Utterly perfect. You're perfect."

John can't speak, reaching up to pinch one of Sherlock's nipples, now erect and still moist from before, rewarded with a plaintive moan and a renewed vigor from his hips. It's exactly tight enough, and ridiculously, worrisomely wonderful to feel all of Sherlock's insides directly on his bare cock, clenching and releasing at exactly the right moments to keep John's cock in tight at all points in the motion. John wants to thrust up, just to release some of the tension in his groin, but he risks driving in too hard, or at the wrong angle; he can only lie still and be instructed. Be driven, be ridden, have both hands close onto Sherlock's hands, and their fingers lock together.

And get off, intensely, helplessly, just letting it happen, letting Sherlock fuck the essence right out of him.

Sherlock doesn't stop until John holds up his hands against Sherlock's stomach and begs him to be still. Even then, Sherlock doesn't move away. He puts John's hands on his long, dark, overheated cock, and clasps his own hands over them. "Now, just hold like I taught you," Sherlock says, "just squeeze tight here and here. Yes. Now – oh, John – " And with a flutter and release inside him, Sherlock reaches orgasm with a low groan, his toes clenching the blanket at John's sides. John's cock slides wetly free at last, and Sherlock's emits three strong spurts onto John's chest and neck. Humming happily, Sherlock wipes up the spill, and slides his fingers into John's mouth. "That's all of it. Yes, lick it clean; there you go. All better."

"You do need a caning," John murmurs, licking his lips with a grimace. The taste is different, it's true; much improved, but still poisonously bitter.

Sherlock lies down beside John, taking him into his arms and holding him very close, legs wrapping round, toes curling into toes. "There," Sherlock sighs comfortably. "All better. You're here."

"It's all right, Sherlock," John murmurs. He seems to be saying that a lot these days.

"It's quite good," Sherlock says.

After a bit, blankets are pulled into service, draping over their bodies. Sherlock seems to be done with the front of John, instead holding tight in a spooned cuddle, warmer and closer than John's ever felt. Contained. Content. He belongs here. Sherlock kisses the back of his neck and his ear and his hair, and John holds Sherlock's arms even tighter around him. "Nice," John whispers.

"My dear John. My dear. We live a very dangerous life," Sherlock murmurs. "We are marked men. We throw ourselves into danger. We can only protect each other so far. But I just aim to enjoy you as much as possible while I can. I need you. I need you with me."

"So don't be a bastard," John advises.

"Easier said than done."

"The first step is to maybe even just say that you'll try."

Sherlock sighs thoughtfully. “You know, John, I will have to run some more tests, but I am reasonably certain that the experiment bore out its original hypothesis.”

"What are you on about now?"

"The experiment," Sherlock reiterates. "I do feel much more bonded to you, and if I'm not mistaken, you are more bonded to me."

"Amazing what science can prove," John says dryly, wondering if Sherlock can somehow hear him rolling his eyes. "You shag, and it brings you closer. No one's ever thought of that before. Hey, does that mean I don't have to taste your skeet anymore?"

"I'm not sure I like that word."

"Kandahar," John chuckles. "Learned a lot of bad habits."

"Undoubtedly," Sherlock replies, "as I did at school. Odd tastes are generated and reinforced under circumstances of stress and alienation. I also have a riding crop, as you know, and also a bullwhip, and a flogger. They have many varied uses as well."

"You're having me on," John murmurs. Sherlock hugs him.

"John, I feel peace with you," he says, his voice very serious. "It's so rare. It's never, in fact. That was the other part of the experiment; if I could prove that having sex with you consistently produced a calming effect in my mind, then . . . well, then I'd know that, at least. Now I just need to keep you here."

"I'm not planning on going anywhere," John tells him, covering up for how much his heart aches right now by kissing a wrist. It's scarred, too, but jaggedly; handcuffs, probably, or perhaps thin hemp rope. He'll have to see it in the light. "You have too many interesting scars to tell me about. I'm looking forward to knowing you better. I know there's a lot to know. Hm! Speaking of which," he adds. "That piece you were playing last night. On the violin. What is that?"

"It's Biber," says Sherlock.

"It's what?" John almost bursts himself with his cackle of surprise.

"Biber. Heinrich Biber von Bibern? Eighteenth-century composer? Precursor to Bach. Surely you've heard of him?" Sherlock sounds offended.

"Uh, no. I guess you've never heard of Justin Bieber."

"No, I have not," Sherlock says crisply.

"Sorry. It's funny."

"It's not funny. It is one of the Five Sorrowful Mysteries; the Agony in the Garden, for scordatura. It's really fucking difficult and I play it when I –" Sherlock sputtered himself into silence.

"When you feel bad and you want to punish yourself," John replies mildly. "It's all right. I understand. And I forgive myself for having strong feelings about you, one way or the other, and I will forgive you for violating my medical confidentiality when you apologize and say you'll ask me next time. Because – because, Sherlock, I have to trust you, and you have to trust that I'll tell you anything you want to know. I don't care if it makes me look bad, or could get me into trouble, or even make you not like me anymore. I have to trust that you trust me. Do you understand? Because I put my life in your hands. Willingly. Eagerly. You're cleverer than me, and stronger, and taller, and all that. I'm not jealous; I like myself just fine the way I am. But we work together, and we can't do that unless we trust each other."

John wishes he could see Sherlock's expression, but he remains on his side, facing away, holding Sherlock's hands up to his mouth for quick, dry, rapid, repeating kisses.

"I'm sorry," Sherlock whispers faintly. "I'll ask next time."

"Good," says John, rolling his eyes to the ceiling again, shaking his head. He had pulled teeth that were easier than this. But worth it. Probably. He's willing to stick around and find out. "Now behave yourself."

His voice changes; sounds more like his old self. "No fear. I don't behave. There's no fun in that. Besides, I get to fuck you next time," Sherlock whispers to John's hair. "I'm quite excited."

John gives a long-suffering sigh. "Do I have to cane you first?"

Sherlock giggles. It's a strange, charming noise. "I left you a bun for your breakfast. I wanted to eat it, but I didn't."

"It's a start," says John, and he turns over, and they kiss. For a good long time.