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The Hand That Feeds

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“You gather up the rice like this,” John instructed, teasing the rice into a bite-sized ball and then pressing it into a flattened pad, “and then use it to scoop up the meat and drippings.” He snagged a bit of lamb and its juices with the rice ball and held it up for display, then popped the whole thing tidily into his mouth.

Sherlock took in every detail: the way John’s fingers pushed up the edges of the rice pad to turn it into a tiny bowl once he’d caught the drippings, the fine turns of his wrist that kept gravity working in his favour as he bore it to his mouth, the minute hesitations that came of demanding such fine motor skills from his off hand. But of course in the Muslim world one ate with the right hand whether one liked it or not. John was used to making do.

“And everyone at this dinner will eat off the same platter.”

“Historically silverware was at a premium.” John grinned. “Bit awkward to serve out the roast goat when there aren’t enough forks to go ‘round. Does it bother you?”

“No,” Sherlock answered honestly. “I’m just considering how you’d go about administering a poison in that arrangement.” John laughed. Sherlock pointed at the tray. “Do it again.”

He watched those fingers, almost feminine in the fineness of their precision, collect another serving of food. John’s hands were even steadier than Sherlock’s—and Sherlock could aim a laser pointer at a one inch square from across a room.

While John munched his mouthful, Sherlock gave it a try. Delicate movements of the thumb and first two fingers; no manhandling the rice. Roll it into a ball, cradle it with three fingers, flatten a divot with the thumb. Gentle movements to collect the meat, thumb tucked back to keep it out of the mess, press up the sides with index and ring fingers to trap the juice. Careful rotation of the wrist to keep the rice parallel to the floor on the way to the mouth. Eat.

John grinned. “Flawless. An Afghani couldn’t do it better.” But it wasn’t Sherlock’s facility with serving himself that had his eyes darkening.

Sherlock smiled and reached for another morsel. This time, he performed the pattern with slow, fluid grace, reflecting the beauty of John’s movements back to him.

He liked observing John, peeling his secrets, knowing things too private to ever be spoken. Mimicking him turned out to be another pleasure entirely. It felt like taking a tiny piece of John into himself, like he was claiming this particular set of John’s motions for his own. Especially when John knew, saw it happening.

“Perfect,” John praised. “God, I can never get enough of watching you do that.” The mimicry, he meant; the act of being watched. Being dissected in every detail.

Sherlock scooped up another handful of food and held it out, smiling at the way John’s eyes ran from the clump of rice up over Sherlock’s fingers, knuckles, tendons, the angular bones of his wrist. The tip of John’s tongue flickered out over his lips.

It wasn’t news to Sherlock that his hands attracted more than a little attention. Why shouldn’t they? Strong, steady, and artistic, they stood up equally well to the tasks of making music, pursuing delicate experiments, lock-picking, and boxing. His fingers were long, straight, and blunt-tipped, the phalanges elegant, the tendons pleasingly smooth and clean. His nails and cuticles were a bit of a mess—it came of scrabbling across rooftops—he had calluses from the violin and his skin was perpetually abraded from exposure to chemicals, but he considered those flaws a bit of well-earned rough.

John’s nails were a mess just like Sherlock’s, and for the same reasons. It pleased him that they matched in that way.

John leaned forward, mouth opening, to reach for the food resting on Sherlock’s fingertips…and then paused. Calculating the best way to do this. Sherlock wanted to twitch his fingers the fraction of an inch it would take to touch, wanted to push them into John’s mouth, to brush them over that pink little tongue that poised so teasingly close.

John’s lips pulled back. Small neat rows of teeth scraped the food from Sherlock’s fingers into his mouth, and then his lips and tongue wrapped his fingertips, cleaning them of grease.

They stared at each other, both a bit mesmerized. “I can taste you,” John said after a moment, around his mouthful.

Sherlock waited till John had swallowed, then took another handful and offered it. He watched, again, as John leaned forward. Less awkward this time, he opened his mouth to encompass Sherlock’s fingers, scraping and sucking the food off them just as he would have his own.

Only he didn’t pull back immediately. Sherlock felt gentle suction, felt that soft tongue lap at the pads of his fingers. Tracing his nail beds to clean them of traces of juice. Around the sides. Pushing between them. He drew in a deep breath at the sweet obscenity of that sensation.

John released his fingers and drew back to chew and swallow. Sherlock smiled at him and offered another helping.

John glanced at it, then up at Sherlock. “I’m not eating any more until you have some.”

“Hm.” Sherlock looked pointedly down at John’s beautiful hands.

“Fine.” John rolled his eyes, but couldn’t hide the edges of his smile as he deftly gathered up a bite of their meal and held it up to Sherlock.

Sherlock sucked John’s fingers straight into his mouth, gathered off the rice with his tongue to tuck it into his cheek and focused on fellating John’s fingers. John closed his eyes and smiled, halfway between pleasure and resigned amusement.

He tugged after a moment. Sherlock sucked harder, not wanting to let them go, but had to relinquish them after a harder tug.

“You know, we could be put to death if someone caught us at this.” It wasn’t a warning, just an observation, because John knew Sherlock would find it interesting.

He suspected ‘interesting’ was the least of what John found it.

“The Pashtuns practise homosexuality,” Sherlock replied, proffering another handful of food.

John ate this one in small bites, licking fastidiously at Sherlock’s fingers to keep from making a mess. “Some Pashtuns practice homosexual sex, preferably with boys,” he said between mouthfuls. “Love between men is still forbidden.” Another bite, followed by a long swipe of tongue from fingertips to the palmar base of Sherlock’s proximal phalanges. “If they asked, would you deny you were in love with me?”

Sherlock thought about that while he enjoyed the sight of John’s tongue shaping itself to the contours of his hand. “It would be the sensible thing to do.”

“Yes,” John agreed, sitting back. “But that’s not what I asked.”

Point. Almost without meaning to, Sherlock queried his interior self, and pulled away as if burned from the answering sense that denying John would feel like betrayal. It would be the rational choice, after all. It would save both their lives. He cocked his head. “Would you?”

John covered his mouth and laughed. “Do you think I could lie convincingly about that?”

“No.” John wasn’t built to deny something so intrinsic to him. He might as well try to breathe water as hide the light that Sherlock saw in his eyes every time they looked at each other. “You would get us both killed.”

John smiled. “That’s why I let you do the talking.” He wrapped his lips around Sherlock’s thumb and slid slowly down, the smile never leaving his eyes.