John didn't redeem all nineteen cigarettes at once.
Sherlock had rather expected that he would but he didn't. John got quiet and watchful and the casual distance between them got a little less than it already was, but there were no more kisses that day.
The next day there were two.
That night there were three and a half more.
"What d'you mean, half??"
Well. Using the first kiss as a template, it was obvious to Sherlock that a full kiss, a proper kiss, had some tongue in it. If John hadn't wanted Sherlock to learn that, John should have thought about that before deploying his tongue.
"Bollocks. There are no fractions in kissing."
But there were, of course, fractions in everything, even if John couldn't see them.
This was going too slowly. It might become necessary to do something to stimulate this particular economy.
Thirteen and a half remaining. (John insisted there really were no fractions. John continued to be wrong.) But in the end the cigarettes were forgotten about entirely.
Sherlock wanted more. Not more kisses. Well, yes more kisses. But more than kisses.
Lions don't kiss.
What did the lioness do? The lioness paraded around in front of the lion when she was ready. Sexual display.
Sherlock nodded to himself.
He had, as it happened, seen a professional-grade example of exactly this behaviour demonstrated by the Woman. Irene Adler had definitely paraded. And displayed. Not to the effect she'd wanted, but he certainly had seen everything she was offering. It hadn't been uninformed disinterest.
The mating ritual in lions involves physical rubbing and presenting leading up to the copulation event,
Female lionesses engage in headrubbing towards male lions and then begin their sexual displays. Lionesses will lift their hindleg with their front paw or roll onto their back and bite at their hindlegs. Similarly, they will “present” by lowering their forebody and arching their back and hindlegs.
Female lionesses? As opposed to male ones. Oh, maybe that was relevant.
Was headrubbing a direct analogy to kissing? Or should he try...
This was difficult. How did people know how to do these things at all? Or was this some instinct humans all had which he lacked? Why was this so stupidly difficult?
The lion usually initiates copulation with a mating snarl which is intended to excite the female. If the lioness does not respond, the lion may lick her neck, back, or shoulders until she complies.
Some of this was pleasant to contemplate. Copy to: Private Wing of Mind Palace. John's mating snarl ought to be enticing enough all on its own, but Sherlock wouldn't mind some of the pre-compliance business either.
The enticed female will then crouch down, and the male lion will quickly mount her. The male lion during copulation will usually bite the neck of the female and let out a loud roar during and immediately after ejaculation. The male will then move away from the female as the female rolls on her back and stretches her legs.
How quickly was quickly?
Lion mating activity generally lasts for about four days. Copulation lasts about 30-70 seconds and is repeated once every 25 minutes during the four day period.
That... did not sound at all reasonable. Even for animals. That was just nature wasting time. Besides, John would never agree to it.
Sherlock did know, yes he had learned, that humans and lions aren't exactly the same. But there had been a lot of deletions since then. Lots of deletions of things to do with sex. The reason for doing so, likewise deleted. Obviously he hadn't wanted to be bothered by it anymore.
And now he wanted to be bothered by it very much indeed, but didn't know how to ask.
He took a lot of trouble, and time, getting John to kiss him, and he had rather assumed that once there was kissing, the rest would just follow. But it didn't.
Why didn't it.
John had said Sherlock was being stupid. Was he being stupid right now?
The bonobos had seemed so much more relevant to their situation! But John hated the bonobos. John had turned off the television on the bonobos, the only time he'd done so during the entire course of the animal series of experiments.
John had only liked the lions.
Sherlock went to the zoo and looked at the lions. None of them were mating or seemed inclined to it. They were as lazy as John.
And when he asked the keepers too many questions about it, they asked Sherlock to leave.
Sherlock went home and looked at lion sex on YouTube.
The documentary had shown only a short clip. Possibly... slowed down. There really was not much to it. This particular lion couple in Kenya could not even seem to manage thirty seconds at a go. The lion's face was all bloodied from a fight he'd had beforehand, and he looked tired. The lioness was getting increasingly angry.
This wasn't productive. Sherlock was getting frustrated. The only person he could conceivably ask about this was the one he'd be asking about.
"Hoo hoo. Sherlock? Just wanted to come in and see about the - Goodness."
"Are those... Are those lions?"
"Hmm?" Oh, the computer. "Yes of course. And they're boring."
"Well maybe you could turn them off? They look like they could do with a rest."
Sherlock petulantly shut the laptop and leaned back in his chair, tragic.
"Is it for a case, then?"
"...Yes." The case of John's Pride and the Way Into It.
"Okay," bless her. "I won't be a minute," and she went off to do something with the bathroom cabinet or the shower curtain or whatever it was. He was too bored to figure it out for himself. Mrs Hudson's voice could wash over him like white noise, nonthreatening and empty of content.
"Where's John?" she asked when she came back out, and Sherlock only paid attention because of the mention of John.
"Ooh, poor dear," she winced, and went on about her own dental woes as Sherlock turned back to the laptop, opened it and searched YouTube for 'lion dentistry'. There were a surprising number of hits.
He glanced up at her. She had drifted close enough to see what he was watching now and had a funny look on her face. An 'about to be tactful' sort of funny look, hesitant, trying not to frown or, perhaps, laugh.
"I don't know what all this lion business is about... but... if it's something to do with John, then maybe you should just have a good long talk with John about it."
"And Sherlock dear, look up things about human beings, he's a human being."
Oh, that was actually a good point.
When John came home a little later, Sherlock said, as clearly and distinctly as anyone could possibly wish, "I want to be kissed," but John only said, "For Godshake Sherlock I'm jusht back from the shodding dentisht and I can't feel half my fashe."
His violin howled and shrieked and groaned in protest, crying out to the world about kisses unkissed, and lazy lazy lions.
His next series of kitchen experiments smelled so dreadful that Mrs Hudson decided to go away on holiday.
He was so savage with Lestrade that he was cordially invited to fuck the fuck off until he was asked for, and to be sure to reserve Never the Fucking Twelfth for that on his schedule.
And he ignored John utterly.
He refused to wear anything but pyjamas; though, being himself, Sherlock still bathed and changed into different pyjamas at random intervals.
He could sulk just as well in the bathtub as on the sofa, and often did. This was where he was on the evening when he heard John's phone receive a text, a pause while John read it, a longer pause, then footsteps and a knock.
Sherlock ignored it.
John barged in.
"I am in the bath."
"I know it. You can't just walk off while you're in here. Are you speaking to me again now, then?"
"Yes you are. You just did. So tell me, why has Mrs Hudson just texted me telling me to ask you about the 'lion dentist'?"
"That woman is both nosy and manipulative."
"Are you angry with me? Sherlock...? Because - because I wouldn't - ? I'd just come back from the - I couldn't feel my lips! Are you kidding me!"
"You haven't shown any interest in kissing me since then."
"You've been six kinds of arse since then! Why would I when you're not even talking to me? How does that work?"
Sherlock, who had been sitting with his knees drawn up, straightened them out, his elbows hooked over the edge of the tub, leaned back, and looked up at John. He was completely visible in the water. It couldn't fairly be called parading when he was sitting still, but he was definitely... on display.
John still looked expectant. A submissive gesture was called for, then. Sherlock was already on his back, so he said,
"I am sorry."
Yes, he did construct his expression, just for a moment. Sherlock knew what contrition was supposed to look like. He also knew not to overdo it.
It might not have mattered. John's eye was wandering from his face.
This cheered Sherlock enormously.
"Are you coming out of there?" asked John.
"You could always get in," said Sherlock.
John had plainly not been expecting that. He stared incredulously, seemed to actually consider it, then laughed, shaking his head. "You've been in here for ages, the water must be getting cold. Come out."
Sherlock stood up.
He didn't have to say one word about lions. He didn't have to say one word. He saw John's pupils and the pulse in his throat and the flush on his face. He saw John swallow, ulp!, saw John's gaze sliding helplessly down Sherlock's body like the droplets of water were all doing. He saw John's fingers twitch slightly, thumbs rubbing against middle fingers.
John made a strangled noise, which would serve perfectly well as a mating snarl as far as Sherlock was concerned.
The fact that John offered enticements anyway was a very nice touch really.
After almost a full minute's staring he brought over a towel, and it might have been disappointing to be covered up but John actually helped dry him off. His hands lingered through the thick cloth more than they might have on bare skin. Well, that was speculation. More data was needed.
John even helped dry his feet as Sherlock climbed out of the tub. It may have seemed a subservient gesture if someone had somehow been watching, but the truth was he had Sherlock's balance and dignity completely in his hands.
"Are we going to your bedroom? Is that what you want?"
"Wait - Your hair."
His hair wasn't that wet really but he submitted to the towel, thinking about the rough tongues of lions. Emerging from this, he caught an expression on John's face that he was not sure he liked.
"I'm not sure about this," said John. "Sometimes you seem so - "
"John I am tired of courting you. Time for sex. Let's go."
He scowled down at John. John was trying not to laugh, but he was blushing too.
"Okay," he said.
John said he wanted something from upstairs first, and Sherlock squinted suspiciously at him - was he trying to escape? but John only said "Trust me." So Sherlock went into his bedroom and cast off his towel and waited impatiently, listening to John's footsteps going up the stairs, crossing his room, pausing, coming back, then down the stairs, and - Back.
He'd been a little afraid John wouldn't actually come back.
John stopped short in the doorway at the sight of Sherlock fidgeting nakedly by the window.
Then he came in, and set things down on the bedside table. A bottle of lubricant, and what appeared to be several condoms.
John saw the direction of his gaze and said, "Well. Not that we have to," and made an incomprehensible gesture towards the condoms, "just, you know. Being prepared."
Sherlock had no idea what sort of response this required. "Lions don't use condoms." Not on YouTube, anyway.
"Right, about that. When you said that, I thought you were using a metaphor for - I thought you were using a metaphor. We're not lions, Sherlock. We're apes."
"But you didn't like the apes. You said you seriously didn't like them."
"I... Yeah I did. I did say that. I don't like them. But I do like you. And Sherlock, you aren't a lioness or a lion. Me either. So forget about the lions, all right?"
"Well." Sherlock frowned. "But - I mean..." There was that one thing he liked.
"I am still very happy to bite you in the back of the neck."
"Lions deleted," said Sherlock.
"Thank you," said John.
There was a pause.
Sherlock sighed and crossed the room to John, taking hold of the bottom hem of his jumper and yanking upwards.
"Oi," said John, muffled by wool, arms up like the limbs of a tree.
"Well, help me then. Be naked."
There was a minor struggle, relieving John of his clothes. It wasn't that John was trying to prevent it, but their various efforts interfered with one another.
Sherlock sat down on the edge of his bed and looked naked John up and down. John blushed. John dithered. John looked very nice, with his blond hair, and his scars, and his bare toes, and his hard cock.
Yes, that was very nice.
Sherlock lay back across the bed and offered John a bruisingly direct stare. A deducing stare.
He climbed onto the bed, and would have lain down beside Sherlock but that Sherlock pulled John over on top of him instead. John made a noise of protest, but they were already kissing and so John was once again muffled. And, tangled up as he now was in Sherlock's limbs, there was little chance of his getting away.
They were like animals that had been born without mating instincts. Sherlock was, anyway. But John was at least as awkward.
"I thought you had lots of experience."
"With women. I have some experience. I don't know how much lots is."
"Surely it can't be that different. Can't you just pretend - "
"Sherlock. I don't want to pretend you're somebody else. And you are not even slightly like a woman. I promise you. Besides - "
But Sherlock was already pleased by the first thing he'd said, that John didn't want to pretend he was somebody else. So he was barely listening until John said,
"- just so innocent I feel like, I don't know, I'm almost - doing you wrong."
This was not promising.
"Maybe I'm not innocent," Sherlock said.
"What do you mean?"
"Maybe I've done all sorts of things and then deleted them. You don't know. I don't know. What difference does it make?"
It was so much the wrong thing to say. John frowned with his entire body.
"Will you delete this, if it doesn't go the way you want?" he asked slowly.
Sherlock blinked at him. Really? Could he really ask that?
He did not say, John. I have built a palace within my Mind Palace for you and everything about you. He did not say, John. I know the number of your eyelashes and the span of your hands, left and right, and the taste of your mouth with and without whisky. I know by the shape of your eyes how well you have been sleeping, I read the antics of your sister by the set of your mouth, gauge the progress of your attention by the motion of your pupils.
He did say, "John. I don't delete anything that has to do with you, ever."
There was a pause while John absorbed this.
"But what about the lions?"
Sherlock could not resist. "What lions?"
John made that strangled noise again. It definitely wasn't a mating snarl this time. Sherlock hurried to add,
"No, in fact I didn't really delete the lions. I just wasn't going to mention them again."
"You were humouring me."
"Yes. Also it takes longer than that to delete something. It's a process. It isn't like pushing a button."
"Okay," said John. He wasn't frowning anymore. But he wasn't doing any enticing.
"Can we please have sex now."
"We - ! That's what we were - You started talking. For God's sake. In fact you were criticising. - Tell you what. You can talk as much as you like as long as you're telling me what you want. Understand?"
"I might not always be able to talk."
John's eyebrows went up.
"Like when we are kissing."
"Or when your cock is in my mouth."
"Nnghh," said John, and that was definitely it that time, that was the mating snarl.
There was, in fact, a point past which instinct did kick in after all. They just hadn't reached it yet when Sherlock started complaining the first time.
The hot heavy velvet in his hand and in his mouth. Not so very long but fascinatingly thick. John's gasps, bitten back at first and then less and less controlled.
The discovery that this act, which affected no physical erogenous areas for Sherlock at all, was nonetheless powerfully arousing in and of itself. There shouldn't have been an instinct for it, not logically, but there was. He knew it and felt it for himself, worshipfully lavishing his undivided attention, not to mention a great deal of saliva, on John's penis. The sounds of John's pleasure were a reward. Sympathetic vibrations tingled in his own flesh.
He did in fact do some research on human beings and sex, after Mrs Hudson told him to. She may not have envisioned exactly where the internet would lead him, but surely she'd had some idea. Had John not been inconvenienced (and been rendered inconvenient) by dentistry that day, Sherlock would have proposed a menu of things he was ready and willing to do. That would have been sensible. But it didn't work out that way.
In the end, it worked out more... a la carte. More improvised. You could freely mix metaphors for food and music when it came to sex.
John's hands in his hair were also rewarding. Why should it feel good to have one's hair pulled? It made no sense.
But it made him moan. And his moaning made John writhe suddenly, gasping, "Sherlock!" in a tone that sounded a bit like protest, a bit like regret - yet also needy and eager. He pulsed in Sherlock's mouth, voice ragged as he cried out.
Sherlock made a whining noise, quite muffled. He had wanted to watch John ejaculate, but it was too late now. He swallowed it instead. It probably ought to have been disgusting. Wasn't.
"Oh my God," John said shakily. "Sherlock."
He almost sounded shocked. As John's fingers slid out of his hair Sherlock lifted up his head and looked down over John, surveying his work with great satisfaction. John opened his eyes and blinked up at him. The look on his face was a lot like he'd worn that first day, when Sherlock had surprised and impressed him with a few simple deductions.
"That was amazing," said John.
"Of course it was. Right, my turn," said Sherlock.
John turned red while he watched. Bit his lip. Thought about dithering. You could see it cross his face.
"Hff, fine," said John, struggling to push himself up on his elbows. "You'll have to let me up then. Can't exactly reach it from here."
"You could stay like that and I could bring it to you." He leaned forward a bit, hopeful of crawling up.
"Wow. Someone has been on the internet. Um. That's a bit - sort of - Advanced. For me. Let's change places." And then, "Oh my God don't sulk."
"I am not sulking." He flung himself down onto his back next to John.
John just laughed at him. He was awfully relaxed all of a sudden.
Sherlock forgot to sulk when John started touching him. Tentative at first, fingers hesitant. Ready to snatch his hand back at any negative response. Sherlock did not make a negative response. He tried at first not to make any sounds, not wanting to sound foolish, but then John's grip tightened and Sherlock sighed a sigh that got louder and louder somehow.
When John leaned down and Sherlock felt the heat of his breath, he whimpered. He jumped a little at the touch of John's tongue. A high pitched noise seemed to jump out of his chest, bypassing his throat entirely.
John laughed a little again, but this time it was a muffled sound and it felt good. Very good.
John's hair was too short to pull. Frustrated in this desire, Sherlock cradled his skull between his hands. He wanted to watch every moment of what John was doing but his eyes kept closing, his head rocking back or from side to side as sensations overwhelmed him.
"That's..." His voice sounded impaired to his own ears, lazy-deep as though sedated. "That's really... Oh God John." It wasn't just what John's mouth was doing. It was his hands. Warm hands, loving touch on his belly and hips and restless thighs, gentling him but drinking him in, too. Skin is self aware, feels itself being felt. John was both touching him and feeling him.
Also sucking his cock. That was one hundred percent amazing.
When he looked down he saw John watching him.
Being the object of John's attention had always been good. Sherlock craved it. This kind of attention was unprecedented in Sherlock's experience. Either it hadn't happened to him before or he'd deleted it, and he wouldn't have deleted something like this.
And he'd never delete this. This was John. This was ecstasy. John was actually doing this. Sherlock let go of John and grabbed at the bed as though gravity were failing. "John," eyes wide, pleading. He was throbbing, gathered up and trembling with tension, with potential for explosion.
John's hand replaced his mouth on him and John said, voice hoarse, "You're going to come."
"Yes," he snarled, almost delirious with impatience.
"I'm going to watch you."
Sherlock was already gasping at that when John's hand tightened on him and moved hard and fast with the most delicious of friction. And he watched Sherlock. And Sherlock had no idea what he could possibly look like to John, what John might possibly have been seeing. Sherlock had no more awareness left of himself than the lions had, rutting and roaring on the veldt while people made documentaries. He made sounds, but he couldn't really hear them. It was just John and tightness and rocking and rhythm and - then - immolation. He came, rocking back and clawing at the bed.
John said something he couldn't hear, but his tone was warm and it was probably some form of approval. That's what it usually was when he sounded like that.
Sherlock drifted. He wondered if his brain was going to come back.
John went out of the room, came back, rubbed at Sherlock's belly with a flannel.
"Lion tongue," said Sherlock.
John laughed. "I'm not sure we've actually done any lion things."
"You're a lion thing. You're the king of lion things. You're the lion thing king."
"When exactly did you sleep last?"
"Hmm." How annoying! The very question made him yawn.
"That's what I thought. Mind if I join you?"
"I'll mind if you leave."
John just laughed again at the peevish tone and climbed in beside him. He pushed at Sherlock till Sherlock turned onto his side, and curled up behind his back with an arm around him. John's arm draped comfortably over Sherlock's chest: his warmth and heartbeat and the soft huff of his breathing were all foreign sensations that nonetheless were instantly familiar. Rang true. Like an instinct.
"Good night, lion thing."