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Sherlock did a quick walkthrough of the home office where Cummings had been caught, enough to get what he needed, but after that he left the rest for Lestrade's incompetent colleagues to stomp through. He no longer had a vested interest in such matters, but he found he still felt no particular urge to help with a narcotics investigation, which would be most of the upshot of the evening's work.

Lestrade would definitely be able to get from Cummings the facts about the buying of the Nagant revolver, and how he had passed on the information about the paid game of Russian roulette game to his girlfriend, for her to use to entice her husband. And that would be the end of the Gibson case, probably without Sherlock even having to go through the tedious business of appearing as a witness, once all his deductions had been borne out by later evidence.

Sherlock had more important things to think about.  There was a good chance the gunfire had been no more than a moment's panic by some of Cummings stupider employees.  The man himself had looked only cool and furious when he'd been led away.  But Cummings himself was an employee.  The Brazilian.  The Brazilian was the important thing now  Perhaps the gunfire had been a mistake, and perhaps not.  John had been in the line of fire.  

Sherlock had involved himself in the Brazilian's business dealings.  Now he had removed the Brazilian's agent.  It might have become personal now.  The intellectual interest he'd formerly had in the case was now beside the point; the man might be a threat to John.  He would have to be dealt with.

But he'd extracted all he needed from this scene for the moment, so Sherlock left in a cab. John had sent him a text saying the ambulance had gone to Barts, and that John's patient would survive. Sherlock only actually cared about one of those facts, but he supposed it was just as well the man hadn't died after John had risked his life to save him; John would probably have been upset if it came out otherwise.

Sherlock hoped, at least, that the excitement of a moment's simulated field medicine would have distracted John from commenting on Sherlock's behaviour.

It had been entirely unavoidable. There had been John, and there had been gunfire coming from a high window, and Sherlock had been utterly incapable of not bearing John to the ground and covering him with Sherlock's own body.

And then John, the bloody idiot, had run right out into the line of fire after some stranger, and before Sherlock could follow, two police morons had grabbed him and held him back.

John had been magnificent, though. As painful and maddening as those moments before he'd managed to free himself and get to John had been, he'd still seen the economy of John's motion, how John had run, reached and shielded the downed man, how John had barked out orders and been obeyed. His competence and command were exquisite, and shockingly erotic.

After he'd gone, Sherlock had felt a momentary urge to turn to Lestrade and demand whether he'd seen, whether he knew how amazing John Watson was. But of course he didn't, no one did. Except Sherlock.

Sherlock went looking for John first near Barts' A&E, but no one there had even noticed a short blond doctor who had come in with an ambulance. Sherlock wanted to shake the girl at the desk for being so unobservant as to miss a diminuitive marvel whose kissable legs were only outshone by his kissable mouth.

He tried Molly's lab next.

"No, he's not been in today," Molly said. "Were you supposed to meet here? I don't think we've had anything in."

"No.  He came to Barts . . . but not here."  He'd not been thinking. John came down to the labs with Sherlock, but not for his own interest. John got on with Molly, but wouldn't particularly seek her out. Mike was his friend; he'd have gone to Mike.

Molly gave him an odd little smile.  "No, can't see John coming here.  I mean, he, um, well, he's still angry?  I think?"

Sherlock tilted his head.  This wasn't something he'd particularly observed.  And John's anger wasn't usually hard to detect.  "Angry? Why angry?"

"He knows I knew.  About you.  And I didn't say anything.  I mean, maybe you could tell him?  That I hated doing it?  I felt so terrible.  I nearly did say — "

"Telling him would have got him killed," Sherlock snapped, annoyed.  Molly knew this.   The whole point of the exercise had been to keep John at a distance, just the right distance, let him see only what was safe for him to see, only know what was safe for him to know.  Right from the moment Sherlock had told him where to stand, so that his view of Sherlock's jump would be the right one.

Molly had been brilliant, at the time, arranging things for him.  This faintheartedness after the fact was stupid.  He hoped it wasn't more of the faux-girlishness she so often unthinkingly resorted to in attempts to appeal to him; he'd begun to think they were getting past that.  She was far more pleasant to be around -- ah yes, like this:

Her chin set mulishly.  "I know.  That's why I didn't tell him.  But I -- it looked like..."  Her voice dropped.  "I thought he might do something silly."

"Silly?"  Sherlock repeated.  As a euphemism for suicide it had always seemed particularly stupid, and the idea of John -- "No.  John wouldn't... "  He trailed off.  It was an absurd idea, John being in danger of harming himself over Sherlock.  Stupid.  John wasn't like that, wasn't that sentimental, that foolish.  But the gun.  John's gun.  It's for shooting myself in the head with.  

He stood there, blinking.

"But I mean, he seems fine now," Molly said, hurriedly.  "I mean I'm sure. Because you and John...." She seemed to run out of steam.

"Yes, I know, I'm more socially acceptable since John has domesticated me," Sherlock sneered.  It was an opinion he'd heard from all quarters at one time or another.

"Well, sometimes. Sometimes you're worse."  She smiled nervously and then dropped it.  "Mostly you're just more.... more you, with him. I mean, you always did have little moments when you'd do lovely things for people."

Oh well.  "I'd thought you were done deluding yourself about me, Molly."

"Like, with Dr. Patel that time," she insisted.  "And Lucy's auntie's car."

"Those were just observations, reasoning. I was showing off."

"Yeah, but you could just as well have shown off by reasoning out something horrible and saying it. But you don't, not— not always. You do help people, Sherlock. You solve crimes."

"Yes. To show off. And for pay, if we're lucky."

"Well, yes, but you, you could have gone, um, I mean, you could have... You know, been like him."  Her voice and gaze always dropped a bit when she mentioned Moriarty.  "I mean, that would show you off and get you a lot more money, wouldn't it?"

"But with far more risk. Don't assume I never considered it."

John would assume that too, wouldn't he, because Sherlock was still, as a matter of necessity, managing what John saw, what John knew.  There was a line between Sherlock and Moriarty;  they were not the same, whatever the man's dying words.  But the line was so hair-thin, so fine, that he couldn't trust that John would see it, if he knew about the people Sherlock had had to kill, the things Sherlock had done, and worst, the things Sherlock sometimes thought.

"All I was trying to say was, John hasn't changed you, not really. Just, sort of— like when you're looking at something through a telescope, and then you twist and it comes into focus?"

Sherlock blinked. Yes.  As if slowly, over a course of weeks after he'd met John, someone had been adjusting the focus until he could see his life more clearly, recognise which details were essential and which had only been obscuring. "Occasionally, Molly, your observations are remarkable."

Molly smiled her pained pathetic smile. "You'd be standing here and he'd come in, and you'd just... Nobody could compete with that. And when he was there, mostly you just saw him, and everybody else was just background. And I knew what that meant, because that's how I felt too."

Sherlock frowned; Molly's descriptions were overly romanticised, silly things. "Not anymore?" He asked, hoping.

Molly's brave face was even more pathetic. "I'm getting over it. Takes time."

"You're right, about... about John. It never was a competition."  He considered telling her they were sleeping together; that ought to put paid to her incomprehensible desires for good and all.  But John wouldn't like it; he'd been embarrassed enough to have Mrs. Hudson and Mycroft aware of their new situation.

She nodded.  "You, um, you know he's the same, right?  He, um, feels the same?"

Obviously, in certain areas Sherlock had no competition because Sherlock was simply the best.  Unfortunately those were not necessarily areas of John's need.

He'd thrown himself into the line of fire for John, but that had clearly not mattered when John could, for some few minutes, live back in his army doctor life again. Sherlock would only ever be a second-best replacement for John's real addiction to medicine under fire. And that was fair enough; because John could never have replaced the Work either.

And anyway, how often could John expect to have real gunfire and a patient again in his life? Probably Sherlock could go on being the best John could do, from that perspective.

If only he could establish a similar position, be the best John could do for everything else as well.  He'd simply have to get better at sex, since it seemed he'd never get any better at this relationship business.  He tended to do strange things, surely socially unacceptable, and often incomprehensible even to himself.

"File,"  he said, sticking out his hand.

"File?  Oh, oh yes, that."  Molly dug it out fairly quickly, just a plain stiff folder with a few sheets in it.

"I expect he's gone to see Stamford," Sherlock said, tucking it under his arm.

He left Molly there in her lab, hearing her soft, "Okay.  Bye," as he walked out the door.

Mike Stamford was reasonably intelligent, which Sherlock knew John admired, so probably that was why they were friends. Stamford's life was almost entirely dull (with the exception of some of his family history), but he could manage a reasonably interesting conversation from time to time, so Sherlock didn't mind him. Sherlock liked his solidity; he reminded Sherlock a bit of what Mycroft had been like, before he'd focused on his Ministry career and a program of austerity apparently for its own sake and whittled himself down to a thing of powerplays and sneering.

"'Lo, Sherlock," Mike said from his desk. "He's gone off home. Patient's stable, so congratulate him, eh? He'll like that."

Sherlock nodded. Mike was smart enough, at least, not to bother with pointless pleasantries and empty exchanges when it was obvious why Sherlock was there and what he wanted to know. Sherlock did wonder if Mike thought Sherlock was rather stupid, because he often provided commentary like this, as if he wanted to guide Sherlock through dealing with other people. The irritating thing was, Sherlock might not have thought of offering congratulations on saving his patient as a way to please John, if Stamford hadn't suggested it. "Hmm," he said.

"He'll be waiting," Mike said, and grinned.

Sherlock peered at the smiling round face, took in the tone. "Did you guess?"

"Everybody guessed," Mike said cheerfully. "But he said, today. Good on you both."

John had told a friend. Admittedly, a friend who also knew Sherlock well.  But also someone  John had known for a long time.  Why do that unless he intended something that would continue for the forseeable future?

"You've been married fourteen years," Sherlock said. Mike hadn't told him this, but it was fairly obvious.

Mike smiled. Mike understood the significance. If nothing else, Mike Stamford's intelligence made conversation very restful -- so much less tedious explaining. "If he's important, Sherlock, treat him that way. If he's not, end it."

Sherlock raised his eyebrows.

"You want something more specific, ask a question," Stamford advised cheerfully. "It's a heuristic."

So Sherlock went home. Mike wasn't stupid, so his heuristic might not be as stupid as it seemed. It did seem stupid; of course Sherlock treated John as important, since John was important. It seemed of a piece with Mrs. Hudson's odd talk of what had really offended John the other day. Probably it was a matter of vocabulary, some subtle— doubtless rather silly— element of formalized relationship expectations that everyone else had picked up and he'd sensibly left lying.

In which case it could hardly be helpful anyway, since that sort of thing was for normal people, whose problems consisted of disagreements about budgets or families or what sort of television to watch. They'd likely be of very little utility in helping mitigate his sociopathy, his recent history of homicide, or his desire to perform core biopsies on several sites on John's body so he could analyse John's architecture at the tissue level.

In the cab on the way home he looked through the folder.  He would have simply destroyed it all using a document shredder in the hospital, but given Molly's claim about John's mental state at the time, he wanted another look.

The John in every picture was military straight, chin defiantly high.  In most, he was wearing dull browns or greens that made him drab and colourless.  In two of them, his lips were slightly pursed, which usually meant he was either considering something he found unpleasant, or hiding another expression.  In only one was he looking anywhere but straight ahead.  The background of the picture showed Baker Street.  Based on his position and eyeline, he was looking back at the door to 221.  The pictures told Sherlock nothing he didn't know.  John had been under stress, felt himself watched and judged.  He couldn't read suicide in John's face or stance or clothes, nor in the shapes of the carrier bags he held in three of the pictures.

If it was true, then Sherlock might have come back to find the flat empty, dead, desolate.   John not there. John might have selfishly, idiotically thrown away all Sherlock's work, and there would never have been any more crossword clues or sarcastic comments about the state of the kitchen.  He'd never have seen John's wonderful poker face.  He'd never have come to orgasm in John's arms.  

It hadn't happened.  Probably it was just Molly's over-romantic imagination.  He'd put these in the pile of paper to be shredded at home, and be done with it.  He didn't need pictures; he could look at the real thing every day.  John was there.

John was indeed waiting at home. He'd brought souvlaki, which he liked and Sherlock only tolerated, but he'd also bought a serving of the overpriced baklava which he'd always pronounced too sticky to eat, and so must have been bought purely because Sherlock liked it. That, at least, seemed to indicate he wasn't annoyed about having been tackled to the ground when the gunfire started.

"I understand your patient survived. Someone was sloppy on the Met's part; they couldn't have expected they'd have a competent veteran there to clean up after them."

"Chance shot, ugly, but we got him to Barts alive anyway," John said with a shrug, not looking quite as pleased at the praise as Sherlock had expected. Possibly the word fantastic should have been in there somewhere.

Sherlock ate the lamb out of his souvlaki and then ate all of the baklava. It was very sticky. His fingers were covered in honey and tiny flecks of phyllo pastry when he was done. He caught John watching him lick off the worst of the mess with slightly dilated pupils, but then John hurriedly dropped his gaze back to his souvlaki, which he devoured down to the last shred of onion.

"Anything interesting after I went?" John asked, when Sherlock had washed the last of the honey off his hands, and John had taken his place at the kitchen basin, washing the day's dishes.

Sherlock grinned and pulled from his pocket the key he'd taken from Cummings' office when Sally hadn't been looking.

"What's that?" John asked, smiling a bit.

"Key to a self-storage unit. Lestrade won't need it for the Gibson case, and the drugs squad really has more than enough evidence."

Instead of looking impressed, John's eyes narrowed briefly. Oh for heaven's sake.

"There may be drugs stored there, I suppose, but I have no interest in them," Sherlock protested.

"No, okay. So what is there?"

"I don't know, but it's the storage area that Cummings keeps as part of his dealings with the Brazillian. It was first rented by the previous contact, and when Cummings became the main contact in London, he took it over, those records were clear."

"And you recognised it was for the right storage place by, what, the cut of the key?" John asked. Anyone else would have been sarcastic and doubtful, John was just asking for clarification on what to be impressed over.

"The key numbering," Sherlock said, showing him the way it was stamped on the metal.

"Wow," John said. His smile was still a bit off, not as pleased or impressed as Sherlock wanted him to be, but then he changed the subject. "The Gibson thing, Sherlock, it really was amazing. I was working on it, before you got here — writing it up, I mean. People are going to love it."

"I suppose you're going to call it, what, The Problem of the Bridge Party?"

"Haven't decided. Seems like I ought to be able to work a pun about Thor in there somewhere, since that was one of the clues..."

Sherlock glared.  "The Thor Loser, I suppose," he sneered, and John grinned.

"Anyway, I was thinking — I guess I do understand why it wasn't... cases like that, I can see they'd be boring, after what you've been doing the past few years. Moriarty's international criminal empire, whatever, I mean, that must have been the biggest case of your life. So..."

Sherlock stared. Was that what John thought? He got up and walked over to the couch "It wasn't a case at all," he explained. "Just an endless stultifying progression of problems." He leaned back, stared up at the ceiling. "Determine a target's schedule," he made a vague gesture withe one arm. "Evade a security system." He gestured with the other arm, wanting John to understand how stupid and pointless it had been, that, whatever John thought, it had been no kind of adventure or vacation. "Eradicate the data." He flapped his hands in the air.

Dispose of a body, he did not say.

Instead he scowled at the window. "At times I started to think Moriarty had planned it to go exactly this way. He was torturing me with boredom, wanted my brain to seize and putrefy."

He got up, suddenly restless, and walked back toward John. "You have no idea what a relief it is to be home, John, to have the Work again."  He was trying to decide whether he ought to say what a relief it was to have John again, whether that was the sort of sentimental gesture Mike and Mrs. Hudson were trying to tell him to make, or whether that would just make John's skin crawl, when John grabbed him by the hips, and pulled him close.

 


 

John had watched Sherlock's theatrics on the couch with mild amusement, but when Sherlock stood up, he found himself leaning against the sink just staring for a moment. Sherlock was happy because he had the Work again.

It wasn't hard to throw yourself into the line of fire to save somebody else. John had done it and it was easy. But that wasn't what Sherlock had done that day on the roof. No fast sacrifice with an assured ending.

Sherlock had given up the Work.

He'd given it up every day he was away, lived without the one thing he'd cared about his whole life. For John.

John abruptly moved to sit on one of the kitchen chairs, tugging Sherlock closer. He pulled the tail of Sherlock's shirt free of his trousers and pushed away the fabric to bare Sherlock's side over his hip. He put his face there, first an attempt at a kiss that turned into a smear of his lips and then he was just pressing hard into the flesh, inhaling the smell of Sherlock's skin, feeling the nearly imperceptible tiny muscle movements, hearing pulse and god, you might take a bullet or throw yourself on a grenade for a mate, but what Sherlock had done for him --

For John Watson who was such a coward he retreated from reality as soon as things got difficult.

John, breath starting to come hard, rubbed his face into Sherlock's belly, feeling the light, fine hairs against his cheek and the place where they coarsened at his lower lip. He rubbed against the waist of Sherlock's trousers. Here the valley of a seam, and here the slight lapped rise of the fly.

"John?" Sherlock murmured, his hand curving almost hesitantly around the back of John's head.

"Do you know? Do you even know?" John whispered. He drew back enough to look up at Sherlock's face. "You are phenomenal."

Sherlock's mouth tilted up only on one side. "That's the point, John, it wasn't— "

John stood, crowding Sherlock against the side of the table. "Shut up. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about you. You're a fucking phenomenon. You -- " he shook his head, grasping for words. "You're like, I dunno, vaccine. Cubism. You're silicon fucking chips. Never mind. You do know. Lack of self esteem isn't one of your problems."

"Cubism?" Sherlock said, sounding affronted.

"Sorry," John said, suddenly helplessly grinning. "My mistake. Baroque."

"That isn't better."

"I stand by Baroque. Lots of flourishes." John moved his hands up into Sherlock's curls. It took a certain amount of product to maintain that calculated extravagance. He'd never liked feeling stuff in girlfriends' hair. It was unpleasant on his fingers, and he just stood there feeling it, and feeling the softness and the texture and the heat coming off Sherlock's scalp.

Sherlock looked surprised but pleased. He put his arms round John. "If you don't intend to have a great deal of sex with me this evening, now would be the ideal time to make that clear."

John shrugged. "Didn't have anything else on tonight. You'll do." He got interrupted by Sherlock's decadent mouth. When the kissing slowed down a bit, he put in, "But if a great deal means more than once, you'll have to find yourself somebody under forty." Then he pushed his face into the open neck of Sherlock's shirt. Sherlock's long throat seemed to buzz with life at the base where John was kissing it.

"Don't be disgusting," Sherlock said.

"Hmm?"

"I don't want to have sex with anyone else."

"What, not ever?"

Sherlock's hands gripped his shoulders a bit hard.  John looked up.  

"No," Sherlock said sharply.  "Not ever, John."  That was his how do you manage to dress and feed yourself when you're so clearly stupid? voice.

Well, Sherlock thought that now...   But it was nice to know that he wasn't currently planning a series of experiments spanning the range of human genitalia.  "Good," John said weakly.  "That's good.  I never did share well."

"I don't share at all," Sherlock said, and pulled John in, holding tight and kissing him hard.

They took a while getting their shirts off, mostly distracted by kissing. John pinched Sherlock's nipple and didn't flinch from noticing the flatness there. He didn't need to pretend it was a flatchested girl. Sherlock's pale, lightly freckled chest was pretty, it its own way, and warm and strong and nothing he actually needed to feel ashamed of touching right now. And in response Sherlock hummed as if John were being delightful and brilliant.

Once their shirts were off — John's hung over the back of a kitchen chair, Sherlock's thrown half across the sitting room, Sherlock wrapped both arms tight round John and started backing through the kitchen.

"Your room?" John asked, rubbing his evening stubble against Sherlock's collarbone.

"Closer," Sherlock purred into the ear he'd been nuzzling. "Less distance after, to brush your teeth."

"Point," John admitted.  Oh.  "D'you want me to brush my teeth now, actually?  I mean, onions..."

"I do not care about onions," Sherlock snapped at him, and ground his erection against John's stomach.

John let Sherlock drag him into the room.  In the doorway Sherlock ground against John for one more moment, but then he pulled back and started tugging frantically at his own trousers. Apparently getting them off in a hurry was more important right now than trying anything mutual.

John had taken his shoes off before Sherlock got home, and was bare first. He watched Sherlock pulling his clothes off. Normal people looked awkward taking clothes off. Some girls knew how to make a striptease of it, but surely any bloke just looked like an idiot when he was taking off his socks.

Sherlock looked like something a classful of art students would spend an afternoon on, all muscle and bone neatly shadowed, all beautiful skin. Well, he was halfway to erect, so maybe a classful of art students, but, still.

As soon as he'd dropped the last of his clothes, Sherlock took John by the shoulders and guided him round, gave him a little push to sit him on the side of the bed. Then Sherlock sank gracefully to his knees on the floor. He placed one hand on each of John's thighs and gently pressed them apart.

"You don't need to do that," John said, tugging at his arm. "Honestly, Sherlock, you— "

"John, relax," Sherlock ordered. He stroked his knuckles lightly along John's inner thigh. "Tension in this case is counter-productive. If it helps, judge me for my perversion: I'll happily suck you flaccid."

Oh god, Sherlock thought he had performance anxiety. He hadn't, up to this point.

No. Sherlock was right. He wasn't going to get tense. He wasn't going to panic. He was going to stay right here and deal with this.

God. Yeah, rough life for that John Watson, innit? He's got to deal with being sucked off by someone gorgeous and brilliant and willing to sacrifice everything to protect him. Poor lad.

"Reckoned that was one of your virtues, being perverse. Anyway, only a problem if you actually prefer me limp."

Sherlock bent lower, closer, and looked up at John from that angle. It made his face stranger, angelic and vaguely feline. "I'd like very much to take you in completely soft and experience the full process of your cock hardening inside my mouth."

John felt a wave of heat and groaned. "Saying things like that pretty much guarantees me not being soft, Sherlock."

Sherlock smiled. It was predatory. "Another time."

Then Sherlock kissed John's cock, kissed it as if he were kissing a mouth -- mostly the moving press of near-dry lips with a small core of wet heat. Lips mobile and passionate, single swipe of tongue.

John gasped shudderingly and had to let it out in a few broken breathy groans.

Sherlock leaned slowly back a bare inch, sensation fading away, and then exhaled hotly. John gritted his teeth. This was not fair. Sherlock's fucking internet research. He'd studied blow jobs. John should have smashed Sherlock's computer.

But he could keep it under control. He'd not always been a gentleman about this, but one early girlfriend had been kind enough to teach him instead of throwing him out on his arse, so he'd learned not to thrust or grab hair or give into any of his other stupid urges except by specific request.

Sherlock leaned forward slowly again. Another kiss that deepened, deepened, slowly deepened, and inches of his cock were inside Sherlock's mouth. John whimpered. Sherlock's tongue moved, slow, firm, caressing. John clenched his fists and gasped for breath.

Slowly, Sherlock pulled back again.

"John," he murmured. His voice was low, seemed subtly roughened. "You're holding back. You think you're being polite, but let me reframe this. I am showing off. When I am showing off, has it been your experience that I want you to restrain yourself?"

John blinked. It was so... so... Sherlock. He laughed feebly and bent over to kiss the laugh into Sherlock, because Sherlock liked that. Sherlock— deliberately, he was sure— kissed John's mouth just the same way he'd kissed John's cock.

For a moment after, he smiled up at John, knowing and self-satisfied and avid. Then he bent and there was that kiss again, on his cock.

Maybe it was the fact that he was working so hard at staying focused and not letting himself retreat, but the kiss came as a weird little revelation.

John liked oral sex. No, John loved oral sex. He loved the sensations, and he'd always loved the idea of being in a woman's mouth. And yet... when his cock was in it, the mouth became purely sexual, somehow unconnected with words, smiling, conversation, even kissing. Maybe that was sexist. Whatever they called it— objectification.

Sherlock's mouth, though, was just Sherlock's mouth. No disconnect, no distance. The palate and the tongue that surrounded his cock as Sherlock took him in again, those were the palate and tongue that formed Sherlock's brilliant words.

Kissing press of lips together, firm round the girth of John's cock, that was the B sound, the bilabial plosive, if he was remembering terms right. And the tip of Sherlock's tongue lapping, as it lapped at John now, the L -- no, couldn't remember the name of that one. And a quick tap of the tongue and the slightest touch, utterly unthreatening, of upper teeth, that was, what was it, hard to concentrate, some other of plosive: T. BriLLianT.

And here, the soft palate where his head nudged, yet another plosive?  Deeper, more intimate.  The click of the K when he'd first said the name's Sherlock Holmes.

John's cock was there, there. Baritone and sweet coffee and that wonderful deranged grin -- Sherlock's mouth. John moaned and fell back on his elbows.

Sherlock pressed slightly lower, pulled back with the lightest, most sensual suck, slid down again, a hair further, licked to test his tongue against the texture of John's foreskin, and then sucked his way up again. He was inching more of John's cock inside himself. He was gently, self-indulgently fucking his mouth on John's cock.

"Sherlock! Oh god, oh god, oh please -- " This should never stop. This should go on and on and on forever. Too good, too perfect. John cried out helplessly. And again on the next slide. And again at the next suck.

Sherlock eventually got far enough he didn't need his hand to steady John's cock anymore. He moved his hands to grip John's hips, kneaded gently. As long as he'd been aware of Sherlock being taller, Sherlock's larger frame, Sherlock's big hands, this had never occurred to him; Sherlock was simply built a lot larger than anyone who'd ever tried to suck John before. He could take nearly John's full length without too much trouble.

The next slow suck upward, from nearly the base all the way up to the ridge round his head, was firmer, a deep aching pull. John twisted and gasped and Sherlock's hands just managed to keep his hips still.

John panted and tried to get hold of himself. Sherlock wanted to hear John, and feel John's response, yes. But however ready Sherlock thought he was, John was not going to make him gag or choke. John was not going to hurt him. Not for anything.

The sensation, the lush tender sweetness of it, it was so much that he wanted to back off. But instead he shut his eyes and let himself fall flat on his back and whimpered, and when one of Sherlock's hands stole down to caress his balls, John made an animal whining sound in his throat and spread his thighs wider.

It seemed to go on forever, and yet when Sherlock pulled off it was too soon, much too soon, and John groaned in protest. He managed to get up on his elbows again. He looked down his body; Sherlock's mouth was red and wet and still very near John's cock, which was also wet, also red. John shivered at the sight.

"I'm going to make you come now," Sherlock said, hands now softly massaging John's thighs. "I want you inside me when you do, I want to feel it with my tongue, John. So please don't try to pull away at the last moment out of some misplaced chivalry."

"Sherlock— " John sat up enough to stroke Sherlock's cheek.

"I'm not assuming I'll like it. I may not. But I will be very annoyed if you deny me the opportunity to experience it and find out."

"Then you'd have to try again," John managed, smiling.

Sherlock grinned back. That mouth. Sherlock's mouth.

John surged clumsily forward and ended up slipping off the bed entirely, straddling Sherlock where he knelt on the floor and kissing him, kissing that mouth, feeling with his tongue all those same places. Yes, the same heat, the same wet, the same texture. More detail with his tongue but less of that stunning pleasure.

"John— " Sherlock got out, but John wasn't having any of it, so he held Sherlock's head in place firmly with both hands until he was finished kissing the man. Finally he let go with a satisfied sigh. "John," Sherlock said again, once he had the use of his mouth again. He sounded unsure whether to be annoyed or not.

"Whatever you want, Sherlock," John said. "Christ, don't you know? You can have anything you want. "

Sherlock's face went suddenly serious. "You don't— "

John shut him up with a kiss again, because Sherlock had been right, shutting him up was extremely satisfying. Then he got back up onto the bed, which was not easy from his careless slump between Sherlock and the bed. It involved a bit of grunting, and absolutely no grace, but at least he didn't give Sherlock a prick in the eye in the process. He settled more or less where he had been, on his elbows. "Whenever you're ready," he prompted.

Sherlock looked up at him. "Are we agreed you won't pull back— "

"Stop talking bollocks," John said, gesturing to his own, and sniggered like a sixth-former.

Sherlock dropped his forehead against John's thigh and shook his head in a show of frustrated annoyance.

John leaned back on his elbows, and groaned happily as Sherlock took him in again.

Sherlock sucked him slow and sweet and it seemed to take no time at all before all John could do was fight not to buck. Then Sherlock cupped his balls and sucked hard at John's glans, lips' tight just behind the ridge, and slowly sank down.

"Sherlock! Jesus, Sherlock, please! Oh fuck!" John shouted, and it was all clenching shuddering waves of hot pleasure rolling through him, making all his skin feel new and raw and quivering. It was so much, so fucking much; Sherlock kept moving through it, drawing it out until John's was gasping raggedly and his eyes had actually teared. When Sherlock's mouth finally slipped away, John whimpered and shivered hard.

Sherlock's head dropped against John's knee. He was panting.

It took John a moment to realise Sherlock was also masturbating, frantically.

Uncoordinated but desperate, John hauled Sherlock up onto the bed, put his hand on Sherlock's rigid cock, and took over.

"Yes, John," Sherlock gasped, bucking, "yes, John, John, John."

John watched his hand move, watched Sherlock's cock twitch and jerk and pump out semen. It still felt scary, and a bit shameful, but it was Sherlock, and there was a little triumph in it too, in the fact that John's cock in his mouth had been enough to drive Sherlock spare with lust.

And sex was meant to be a bit messy, for fuck's sake.

Although, admittedly, that was easier to decide now they were in Sherlock's bed. On the grounds that it was a tiny revenge for the perpetual state of the kitchen, he wiped the worst of it off on the sheet before wrapping his arms round Sherlock and pulling him close.

"There are tissues on the other side of the bed," Sherlock said, in a slow, sleepy voice.

"Do you want me to get them?"

Sherlock's face pressed into John's neck. John wasn't sure if he was shaking his head no or just trying to burrow closer.

He let himself drift a bit, just feeling Sherlock nuzzle there.

Sherlock was nuzzling. Sherlock was strange and touch starved and needy and if you peeled the rest away and stopped trying to filter it all through John's stupid expectations, Sherlock was affectionate.

John kissed the top of his head. Fuck it all, it was nice.

After a while, when it felt a bit less nice — but that was the nature of cooling sweat and cooling semen, no matter who you slept with — he pulled gently away.  At this point, he wanted something better than tissues, and Sherlock was right, it was nicer having the bathroom nearby. So John went and got a warm wet cloth and cleaned himself off, then Sherlock, then went back and brushed his teeth.

When he was nearly done, Sherlock walked in beside him, yawning hugely, and started brushing his own teeth. John found himself, weirdly, blushing about that.

"Mind if I sleep down here?" he asked.

Sherlock yawned around his toothbrush and made an imperious gesture toward the bed, which John interpreted as I insist on it.

So he settled into Sherlock's sheets, and when he ran into a stiffening patch on the absurdly smooth cotton, he accepted that it it served him right.

Sherlock switched off the bathroom light and trudged back to the bed, and climbed heavily on top of John, as usual.

John sighed, and stroked Sherlock's hair, sleepy but now not quite comfortable enough to drift off.

Something kept niggling at him.  He was sick of worrying about what they were doing in bed together.  It was good, wasn't it? And yet...  The Work.  Sherlock had given up the Work.  He'd known that, yeah, and yet hearing it again today, it kept bothering him.

John had started all this, decided to sleep with Sherlock because it felt like saving Sherlock's life. He'd done it the way he'd have taken a bullet for Sherlock.  It had felt, well, noble, somehow, self-sacrificing, stupid as that sounded.

But why, exactly?  What had pushed him over that edge?  He'd let it happen without ever really examining things beyond the feeling of urgency and remembered guilt.

Sherlock had given up the Work.

Self-absorbed, uncaring Sherlock, Sherlock the sociopath, Sherlock the bloody machine,  had jumped off a building for John. He had sacrificed more, been more noble, than John could ever hope to be. The one arena, the only one where John had felt himself at a natural advantage, and it turned out that Sherlock outclassed him even there.

Was that really it? Could he possibly have been that petty? He didn't think so, but then, he didn't want to think so.  

John murmured against the hair, "Sherlock?"

"Hmm?" For Sherlock, responding to his name and the simpler sort of questions was no sign of actual wakefulness.

"Can you wake up a bit?"

Sherlock shifted, moving his body against John's in what would be called a snuggle in anyone with less natural hauteur. "Yes?" He didn't seem to mind being woken up; in the Sherlock manual of etiquette, waking people up whenever you wanted to talk to them was quite acceptable.

"Right, there's something I haven't said, that I should have said, ages ago. I feel a right cunt for not saying it, actually."

"Is it interesting information, or just some dull social expectation?"

"You'll have to tell me. Listening?"

"Mm."

"Thank you, Sherlock. Thanks for jumping off a sodding building and faking your death and spending all that time saving my life." He tightened his arms round Sherlock's chest and kissed his hair. "Christ, Sherlock, I'll never live up to it, but thank you."

For what seemed like whole minutes, Sherlock lay very very still. Finally he murmured. "Expressions of gratitude. Dull."

"Okay," John said. Should have expected that, but at least he'd said it.

"Don't credit me with any noble aims," Sherlock went on, quietly. "My reasons were largely selfish.  I didn't want you to die."

"Ta,"  John said.  "Right with you there.  Not sure that counts as selfish, actually."

"It was," Sherlock pronounced, but didn't elaborate.

"Cos you'd be lost without someone to follow you around telling you how bloody brilliant you are," John teased.

"Lost," Sherlock echoed, mumbling into John's collarbone.  And then, so softly John barely heard, "Desolate."

A bit stunned, John lay there, Sherlock's curls against his jaw, Sherlock heavy and bony and radiating heat on top of him. When, some time later, he could speak again, he said, "Um, Sherlock? You're actually... sorry... you're a bit heavy, like this."

"Oh," Sherlock shifted off to the side, squirmed a bit, turned his back on John, and then immediately reached back to tug John toward him. John settled behind Sherlock's back, let Sherlock pull John's arm round his waist. Sherlock curled a bit tighter, and rolled slightly into the pillow, so his shoulders presented less of a solid wall in front of John's face. "Better?"

He was still a furnace, but now there was cool air on John's back. "That's lovely," John murmured. He shifted his legs a bit, and Sherlock, big as he was, seemed to suddenly fit perfectly into the bend of John's body. "God, that is. That's lovely."

It wasn't anything John had ever wanted.

It wasn't anything like taking a bullet.

The city light through the window shades made cool highlights down Sherlock's side, made stark shadows like ink in his curls. John's own arm was limned in that same cool light.

John didn't have a word for this, what they were, what they were doing. It would go on being weird and awkward and difficult. Sherlock would behave badly, and be a miracle. John would try to look after him, and sometimes fuck it up, and sometimes find himself pulling away when things got hard.  Neither of them would be exactly noble or cruel or heroic or selfish, or a proper boyfriend or friend or anything that made sense.

It was all too achingly shockingly real to be defined.

Just as his eyes were shutting, he thought he saw a flicker of movement on the windowsill. He raised his head a bit to look over Sherlock, managed to focus, and then he was giggling tiredly into Sherlock's warm back.

"What now?" Sherlock protested. He sounded like he was actually going to sleep, and John really could not be arsed to get up either. He shook his head so Sherlock could feel it against his spine, and left Sherlock's mouse to do whatever the hell it was doing.

 


 

When Sherlock woke it was, according to the red Jasper Morrison clock on his window sill, just past four in the morning. The clock was sitting slightly askew. Ah yes, one of the mice had been up there last night. At the time, John had just giggled and held Sherlock, so Sherlock hadn't got up to do anything about it. Sherlock didn't suppose John, without being thoroughly drugged by his own endorphins, would be so blase about the matter this morning, but at the moment John was still sleeping,  just a bit of his weight leaning on Sherlock's back, one of his legs on top of one of Sherlock's.  When Sherlock moved a bit, John's arm round him had tightened slightly, as if to keep him where he was.

So for the moment, Sherlock stayed.

John felt very nice like this, as Sherlock had noticed before. If John liked this position better, Sherlock was happy to adopt it.

He'd after all, had the experience of actually covering John's body with his own when bullets were flying, and as needless and embarrassing as it had been, it had also left him with a certain satisfaction. He wondered if John felt at all the same about having (however unnecessarily) tackled Sherlock and stopped what he'd thought was a suicide attempt.

John at least no longer seemed to be so angry about that. Last night he'd been more enthusiastic than in any of their recent encounters. Sherlock was prepared to declare oral sex a probable success.

It had made his jaw and neck ache eventually, and the back of his mouth felt not quite sore but tender. Swallowing hadn't been terrible in terms of taste, but the texture hadn't been very nice.

But John had cried out his name, and shuddered and looked so perfectly abandoned when he came, as if he were opened up for Sherlock to see everything just for a moment, as good as having him flayed and laid out on a slab with a body block to put him at the best angle.  

Afterward, John had, rather oddly, brought up Sherlock's time away again. Perhaps it had just still been on his mind from earlier. Sherlock hoped John wasn't going to start picking at all that; he'd more or less seemed to let it go, while they had the case.

The last thing he wanted was all that coming up again, when it seemed things were back on track with the two of them. Perhaps they could settle just like this, permanently. He'd suck John every night, and then lie there with John holding on to him as if Sherlock was the one in danger of going somewhere and John the one who wanted to keep him. Just like this, for the rest of his days.  It was something to work for.

But that would definitely require that he take care of John's safety.  Which meant he'd have to take care of the Brazilian.

Sherlock relaxed his body fully into John's embrace and walked the hallways in his mind, re-organising what he'd learned so far.

Mostly he could trust such organisation to happen more or less automatically as he observed details, only needing occasional cleanup of the kind he could do while talking to John. But this case might mean John's life, so it deserved something special.

He started off by moving his mental representations of the relevant elements out of their temporary home in Marie Gibson's house, transplanting them into the rooms of a flat in Birmingham where he'd once been asked to look at a supposed suicide.

It had been one of his early cases and the details were so settled in his memory of the room that they provided excellent locations for storage of the information on the new case. He decorated the hanging corpse with series of trinkets encoding the relevant IP addresses, and splashed the pictures on the walls with colours for the contacts he was waiting for responses from, and used the window ledge and the curtains and the wheeled desk chair — the essential clue in the old case — to store interesting details of business dealings and Brazilian tax law.

There was a great deal of related data already and he spent a long time arranging things to please and amuse himself, letting his mind make new connections.

One association that might be relevant required a visit to his mental model of the Negros Navigation Ferry Terminal in Manila. Behind the building, on the other side from the water, cars were crammed three and four deep. On their windshields he had stored the business contacts of a man named Tupas who he had dragged between two rusting white sedans and murdered there with an injection into the taut golden skin of his plump belly.  He'd returned the next day to take advantage of his observations of the sloppy running of the ferry on Wednesdays and see the corpse dumped in deep water.

He found what he was looking for on a dark blue estate car — yes, Tupas had done much of his business in South America and had a base for himself in Sao Paulo.

A few other associations required visits to other sites from his years away, to those lonesome hotel rooms and abandoned streets.   All empty.   All dead .  All that ugliness, all his murders, and John not there.  But he'd remember every miserable bit of it, if just one fact could be the thing that protected John again now.

When he was done reviewing it all, he lay there physically warm and comfortable, with John breathing on his spine, and decided to visit another mental room, a version of the bath only a room away in the physical world. In the version in his head, John stood naked in the shower and Sherlock, in a sort of daze, spent more than two minutes riding the remembered contours of his strong legs.

He was just starting to physically shift on the bed at his response to the memory of John's body, when John's arm tightened far more deliberately around him than it had before. Sherlock opened his eyes.  Now the clock said just before seven.

"Y'not going anywhere," John murmured blurrily against his back, and stroked Sherlock's belly, then up to his chest. John shifted closer in, snugging his erection firm up against Sherlock's arse as his hand stroked low.

Oh, he was going to do this again. "Yes," Sherlock whispered, his already half-hard cock jumping at the touch of John's hand.

John stroked him up and down, and kissed his back. "You bloody amazing git," he murmured. "Tell me what you want."

"Faster," Sherlock told him. "Focus on the head."

John gave a sort of breathless laugh against his back, and Sherlock supposed he was supposed to be less demanding, or some such rot, but John did exactly as he was asked, his warm hand moving quick up and down just over the last two inches of Sherlock's erection, with only an occasional slide lower.

"And I suppose you want this too," John said, a grin in his voice, and slid up enough that he could bite Sherlock's shoulder.

Sherlock's hips bucked into John's grip, and he was so close so suddenly. "John, he groaned. "Same as before."

"All right, I know, we've done this before, you're bored. Got something from that alphabetical list of yours you want to try instead?"

"Shut up," Sherlock groaned. "Do it the way... " he gasped as John twisted his hand round Sherlock's cock.  He pushed his hips back to remind John.

"Oh." John gave him another bite, and started rubbing firmly against Sherlock, his cock pressing between Sherlock's buttocks, sliding up and down between them.

Sherlock shut his eyes and just moved his body, pressing into John's hand, pressing back against John's cock. John could do exactly what he liked, really, as long as he kept up the pressure, as long as he was firm and there.

It wasn't exactly as before.  This time John wasn't trying to keep them both on their sides.  Some of his weight was leaning on Sherlock as he rocked them together, and that was warm and lovely.

Sherlock came first, long delicious judders of orgasm running up his body, first a cluster of them all together, then two slower, spaced out, before he was entirely loose and limp, warm and satisfied.

John was grinding against his back, breathing hard. Sherlock rolled himself a bit forward, while still pushing back into John, so he was nearly belly-down, letting more of John's weight rest on him.

"Oh my god," John moaned.  "Sherlock.  You perfect fucking — oh fuck, Sherlock," John's arms gripped him hard and his movements went frantic for a moment, rapid tight little thrusts along Sherlock's arse, and then he made a warm mess all over the small of Sherlock's back with a long low, "Ohh..."  For several panting breaths John just stayed there, limp and heavy and delicious, and then he slid up, smearing both of them, and nipped Sherlock's neck. "Just as well the shower's just there," he murmured, still a little breathless, into Sherlock's ear. "We need a fucking wash."

He sounded cheerful, thoroughly confident, and, yes, nicely possessive. Sherlock grinned and let himself be taken to the shower and soaped all over. It didn't lead to more sex, which he didn't suppose either of them could have managed at that point anyway, but when John left him in the shower to finish conditioning his hair — something John clearly still considered less than masculine behaviour — Sherlock still felt a kind of warm unfocused excitement buzzing through him, as if he'd had a sudden hit of stimulant.

When he came out, he picked up his mobile and found that there had been four replies overnight, one of which provided a little information, which he enjoyed integrating in the structure he was building. Then, at a rather leisurely pace, he dressed.

John had apparently gone up to his own room and got dressed, because Sherlock didn't hear him start the kettle until he was nearly ready himself. Then there was a bang. And John saying, "Fuck. You have got to be  fucking kidding me."

Well, John's good mood couldn't be expected to last. He was naturally combative and wry, and that suited Sherlock perfectly. Sherlock wondered what he'd done this time.

When he came out into the kitchen, John pushed into his hands a large plastic container, in which was most of a loaf of bread. Curled up in the hollow it had chewed through the first few slices was one of Sherlock's experimental mice.

Sherlock took it. "That's surprising." He'd expected them to remain borderline narcoleptic, certainly not to make it as far as the kitchen. Perhaps being fed on scraps had far more impact than he'd thought likely.

John sighed. "I'm sorry, Sherlock, but they've really got to go."

"John -- "

As he often did, John interrupted his agreement to argue with him. "Sherlock, if they get out again and breed, getting rid of them will be hell. Mrs. Hudson would be well in her rights to kick us out. If you still need them, I'm sure Mike or Molly would let us sneak them into a lab with proper containment."

"No, I agree, I'm done with them."

John nodded and grumbled about the lack of bread, and eventually dug out the ends of a takeaway to heat up. Sherlock drank tea but didn't eat. John had been feeding him so consistently lately, it was hardly surprising he didn't feel like eating today.

He put the breaded mouse on the desk while he replied to three of the emails, complaining about not being given the information he so obviously needed, and the mouse slept solidly through.

He'd also had another email from Mycroft, with evidence of another coverup — not of a body this time, but of Sherlock breaking in to a US government contractor's lab in Portland Oregon. Nobody's career was being destroyed in this, although a large amount of money was being put into replacing security equipment that had actually worked perfectly well.

Expecting thanks? -SH, he texted from John's mobile.

Not delusional -MH came the reply before long.  As expected, the mobile rang a moment later.  

"Then what do you want?" Sherlock answered the call.

"A day when I don't have to clean up one of your messes would be pleasant. Not to say refreshing."

"It wasn't a mess.  Three blurry frames of a man in a cap, that's all they had."

"Your features are striking and recognisable, Sherlock," Mycroft lectured.  "If you don't believe me, do ask your lover, I'm sure he'd agree."

"Shut up."

He hung up on his irritating brother and went off and collected the other mice from where he'd hidden them — as agreed — from John. The odd piecewise construction of 221 had left many small areas between rooms that went largely unobserved. If Sherlock had wanted to resume a drugs habit, Lestrade and his team of enthusiastic volunteers would likely have searched without any result unless they brought an actual sniffer dog.

He put the other mice into the container with the bread, and put it on the kitchen table so he could keep an eye on them while he got the sodium pentobarbital ready. It would be extremely embarrassing if they escaped again now. They nibbled a bit on the bread, and then went back to sleep.

He'd done this before, often enough. He had his own preparation, mixing the barbituric acid with lidocaine. He had the knack of holding a mouse still and doing an intraperitoneal injection that didn't puncture intestines.

He picked up the first mouse, pushed the needle neatly into place, just a dent in the taut, plump little belly. He pressed the plunger, poison pushing out, stopping life. He'd done this so often  He was good at it.  Then he laid the mouse back into the container.

When he went to pick up the next of them, his hands were shaking. He took a deep breath. This was stupid. He had no moral issue with painless euthanasia of experimental animals or of nuisance species, and this was both.  It was just muscle memory, just memory, Just those same memories he'd been reviewing only hours ago— a carpark in Manila, the hotel room in Seregno and another in Dubai, and Paris, Paris where he'd botched things so badly, broken the needle, and had to resort to brute force and then dig the needle out of the body and camouflage the injection site with a stab wound.

John's hands gripped his wrists. He hadn't even noticed John coming up to him. "Jesus. Sherlock," John whispered.

"It's fine. I don't— "

"What the hell is going on? Please tell me these weren't actually pets. Because I'm feeling like fucking Herod here, Sherlock."

"They're not. Just an experiment. I— " He couldn't explain himself.

"Christ, you've gone cold. Come here." John guided him gently to the couch and sat him down. Then he went and picked up one of the rather ratty lap blankets John sometimes pulled over himself when he thought the flat was too cold. John wrapped the blanket round Sherlock's shoulders and sat close beside him.

"I'm fine," Sherlock protested, shrugging off the blanket, but didn't  push away John's arm when it wrapped round his back.

"You're shaking," John murmured. "Can you tell me what just happened? You were injecting the mouse, and then -- "

The needle, the belly.

"I... killed...  I killed them— that way."  No.  He should be lying.  John wasn't supposed to know.  He was meant to keep John standing in exactly the right spot, at a perfectly safe distance, so that his lines of sight were controlled and he saw the Sherlock he was supposed to see, the one who was fantastic and clever and a bit mad, but not this.  John was too close now and he'd see how the trick was done, see psychologically damaged, see mentally unstable, see not good.  Everything had been wonderful and now it was all going to be ruined and Sherlock couldn't stop it because it was only the truth.  He deserved it. "Three— three people. Nearly four.  Had to— to strangle him... in the end."  The sanest part of him seemed to be trying to stop him doing this, breaking up his words with painful shaking breaths, but it was too late, done now.

"You killed... Sherlock, what are you talking about?"

He meant to say, While I was dead, sneering at John's insistence on not saying he'd been away or missing. What came out was, "While I was death."

John didn't move away. He actually almost seemed to press a bit closer. "Those two years, you killed four people."

"No, John, I killed--I killed eleven people. Only three by injection."

This was it. John would look at him and see the psychosis, the disgusting dark hole in him.

And then John would leave. If he'd ever really cared about Sherlock, he'd probably try to have him sectioned first.

The pictures.  He hadn't yet shredded the pictures in the file.  He'd have those, at least.  Mycroft would see he was allowed to keep them.

Sherlock realised he was shivering harder. He wanted to clutch at John, and to shove him away.  

"You killed the assassins. The ones who were going to kill me, and Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson."

"Obviously,"  Sherlock snarled.

John swallowed audibly. He was going to go. It would all have been for nothing. Sherlock shut his eyes, which felt hot and too big, as if he were allergic to something. He needed to put the previous night, all of it, into a room in his head so he could keep something, something to last him the rest of his life.  

John's other arm slipped gently around him, so he was held.  That made sense; John would restrain him, because he was a danger to himself and to others.  John's face was against his neck. "You didn't think this was something you should probably talk to me about?"

"Why?" Sherlock tried to snap out, pretending he didn't know, pretending it wasn't obvious John would be sickened he'd had a murderer in his bed.  His throat was too thick, it came out as an absurd damp noise.

"Well," John said, calmly, softly, "I'm the only person you know who's killed more than that. I mean, except for people you've put in prison, probably."

"You are incoh—hom—prehensible."  His words were now breaking up entirely on his weirdly uneven breathing, now it was too late.

"Feeling's mutual," said John, brushing his cheek against Sherlock's jaw gently, then backing off a bit, just leaving his hand on Sherlock's back. "Look, had you ever had to kill people before?"

Sherlock bent forward so he could stare at the floor.  He gave himself a long moment before he could breathe smoothly and speak again.  John was asking reasonable questions, and Sherlock owed him useful answers.  "Self-defense, twice. In-indirectly any number of-of times."  Putting the blame on a criminal so that his boss executed him. Telling someone of an infidelity, which later led to the death of the spouse. "This— these were direct. Not self defence."  Most of them had no idea who he was; the ones who did had strict instructions not to harm him; that would have defeated the whole purpose of Moriarty's little plan.

"So, just in my defence, then," John said, mildly. "So that's all right then."

Sherlock's head whipped around and he stared at John.  John's face was very close.

"It was like the cabbie," John said, "No, with the cabbie, he wasn't even threatening you directly. And that was day one, Sherlock."  He stroked his fingers up Sherlock's cheek.  They skated smoothly over his skin.  "Do you think I wouldn't kill eleven people to protect you? You fucking idiot. Do you think I wouldn't kill eleven people a day?"

"I think that's probably... not very good," Sherlock ventured. The fact that hearing it made him feel hot and bright and glorious was probably worse.

"Too right. I'm not very good. I'm a killer. You know this, Sherlock. I think you forget sometimes. You want me to be the nice one. But I'm a killer. I should've been there, with you. I should have been there to do the killing.  You should not have been fucking alone."

"It wouldn't bother you." It wasn't quite a question, because yes, Sherlock did know. And yet he also hadn't known.

John looked at him calmly. "No, Sherlock, it wouldn't bother me a bit. They were out to kill me and people I care about."

"I -- "

"You had to kill those people, but you're not a killer." John kissed his forehead, then one cheek, then the other. It felt like a soldier's gesture.

Sherlock squeezed his eyes shut and said something he'd never ever meant to say to John, felt like it leaked out of him without his permission. "When I was fifteen they sectioned me. A therapist said I was a murderer in the making. Mycroft eventually persuaded them to let me out, but... "

"Well, your brother's not been a complete twat his entire life then. Good to know. So this bothers you, obviously. But I know you respect expertise, Sherlock. So, this therapist, how many people had she— "

"He," Sherlock corrected.

"How many people had he killed? Rough guess"

Sherlock smiled slightly despite himself. "None."

"Well, I've killed twenty-two people directly, for certain. Start counting the uncertain ones, long range weapons, explosives, could easily be fifty, more."

"In war," Sherlock pointed out.

"Yeah, people like to pretend that makes a difference," John said quietly.  "Look, I'm telling you, you're no kind of murderer.  And I should know."

Sherlock's breathing was evening out. John wouldn't leave over this. John wasn't even angry. John thought the therapist with the green tie (Sherlock had deliberately deleted his name and face) had been wrong.

"Can I kiss you?" John asked, cupping Sherlock's cheek.

Sherlock let himself melt down against John's body, let John kiss him.  It was gentle, but wet, saltier than usual.  After a moment, John pulled gently back, arms still round him, and let Sherlock rest his head against John's shoulder.  It was still morning, but he felt drained of all energy.

After a while, observations settled into his mind, now he was no longer panicked. "When did — oh, back from the hospital."

"Your complete twat of a brother?" John said,  "Yeah."  His voice was soft, he spoke into Sherlock's hair.

"What did he want?"

John shrugged. "My guess? An eclair and an ice cream."

"Yes, you'd just talked to Stamford, hadn't you?"

John's chest rose in a deep breath, fell again. "I did, actually. I, um, told him. About us. I should probably have mentioned that."

"It doesn't matter to me," Sherlock said. Well, it had made him nebulously glad, actually. But it shouldn't matter, which was the important thing.

"Doesn't mean I'm ready to snog in front of the Met."

"I'd want to save that for when Sally was being particularly annoying anyway."

John was quiet a moment, probably picturing the effect, and then he giggled.

Sherlock chuckled and then hurriedly raised his head to kiss John again.

John laughed harder at that, and so Sherlock did too, and they were more or less rubbing their laughing mouths together and puffing breath into each other's mouths for a good ninety seconds, until Sherlock broke off and sat back.   

John, who usually glared and shifted away when Sherlock sat too close, let Sherlock stay right there, bodies touching all along their sides, but after a while turned on the telly.  It was ghastly daytime stuff. "Christ, this is all crap," John pronounced, after he'd gone round all the channels twice.

"Mmm," Sherlock agreed, but snatched the remote control away before John could switch off.  He lazily browsed channels, mocking the stupidity and feeling the little movements of John's body.

Later a man whose Dr implied a medical degree but whose collar proclaimed he had a PhD in art history and no medical expertise at all, made a comment to the studio audience that really gave Sherlock no choice but to jump up and shout about how obviously wrong he was. When he sat back down, he found that John, sitting at the end of the couch, was at the perfect position for Sherlock to curl entirely on the couch with his head in John's lap, so he did, and when the telly became no less idiotic but far more boring, turned over to push his face into John's warm belly.  And still, John just let him, didn't even complain.

Some hours later, Sherlock went to his room to assemble a load for the dry cleaners. When he came back out, he discovered all three remaining mice were dead, laid out side by side, and the bread gone, presumably binned. John was reading that Kellerman novel he wasn't enjoying, finally nearing the end of it. "I'll get rid of them, if you like, but I didn't know if you needed to do any more tests post-mortem," he said, not looking up from the book.

It was one of the kindest things anyone had ever done for Sherlock. It was unfortunate that as tokens went, dead mice were difficult to preserve. Pressing them between the pages of a book would be messy.