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Trying to Find The In-Between (Chapters)

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“The curator was the only one with access, so the paintings never left the BM! Yes!” Sherlock exclaims with a swirl of midnight tweed, tightening his gloved fist exultantly.

“That’s it?” Lestrade says. Sherlock doesn’t deign to reply to this, just strides through the frosted space separating Donovan and Anderson. You didn’t need to be a proper genius to read the signs of an affair on the rocks, but Sherlock wasted no time at British Museum outlining every tiny detail in the breakup. Young officer in the traffic unit, two unneutered cats going by the smell, mother with Parkinsons. The speech set Anderson seething and Donovan gloating, but when Sherlock turned to her and said, “And you took him back,” hitting the consonants with with a disbelieving, mocking tick, Donovan’s eyes went hard and cold. Like she’d like to get Sherlock alone in a dark, stinking alley for five minutes.

Between Donovan and Anderson, Donovan worried John more. Anderson lacks a spine but does possess a wife, which was something to go back to, something else to live on. Donovan has nothing except an unfaithful lover, and John’s sympathies. They are, after all, both having affairs with an emotionally unavailable man whose commitments lie elsewhere.

“Oi! You don’t want to come with us when we pick her up?” Lestrade calls.

“Boring!” Sherlock shouts as he sweeps through the squad room, startling a shivering woman nearly out of her skin. “Come on, John!”



John knows what came next. He might not be genius material, but he recognizes patterns, even before this relationship to a turn for the improbable. First, there is a case. Then there is the sex after the case.



The door to 221B barely closes before Sherlock jerks John’s jacket down to his elbows, pinning his arms to his sides.

“Jesus,” John gasps. His head drops back against the door as he ineffectually grapples with his sleeve hems.

Sherlock opens John’s belt and zip, then shoves his pants and jeans down. The movement drops John to his knees. He has enough time to contemplate the beauty of Sherlock’s long, deft fingers working at his own trousers before the detective sinks his cock deep into John’s mouth. There are no preliminaries; it’s fast and rough. John’s cock hardens so quickly the drop in blood pressure in his brain makes him dizzy. His shaft pulses and lifts into the dark, quiet air in the flat. Sherlock slides his fingers through John’s hair almost gently, his thumbs stroking John’s cheekbones with what from anyone else would be tenderness.

There’s nothing gentle about the way he’s driving into John’s mouth. Frenzied, John wrestles with his jacket, trying to get it off so he can get a hand on his cock, but Sherlock simply braces his forearms on the door and leans into his next stroke. John stills to focus on breathing. His reward is Sherlock fucking his mouth with a brazen insolence that forces a moan from deep in John’s chest.

Sherlock pops free, leaving John open-mouthed and gasping. “Down.”

Grit on the floor smears against John’s cheek when he obeys, but not until he’s resisted just enough to make Sherlock make him do it. One of the inner pockets of the voluminous coat contains a tube of lubricant. Sherlock must have been quite confident the trip to the docks would solve the case.

He’s equally confident John won’t refuse him.

One lube-slick finger slides into John’s arse, stroking fire over nerves jangling for sensation. After a few shallow strokes a second joins the first. John hisses his breath out through his teeth. He can’t get his hands on the floor, let alone his cock. With his jeans trapping his legs together, submission heightens sensation almost unbearably.

“Fuck. Oh fuck,” he groans when Sherlock’s searching fingers find his prostate.

Sherlock slicks his cock, then presses in until John groans and tenses at the stretch, then pulls back until his glans stretches John’s anus and waits until John eases back into tremors. His next stroke goes deep. John is forced forward by the power in the stroke. Growling with impatience Sherlock grips his hip hard enough to bruise, and pounds into him again.

Sherlock,” John demands. “Fuck, I need….”

Sherlock rings his thumb and forefinger around John’s cock, finessing foreskin over glans until John cries out. With a musician’s feel for tempo, Sherlock times his rhythmic strokes of John's cock to coincide with a thrust aimed for John’s prostate, working every pleasure receptor in John’s body. Again, again, again, stealing breath until John’s reduced to inhaling when Sherlock pulls almost all the way out, air forced from him with each thrust. It’s raw, animalistic, and when John comes he blacks out for a moment. The thunder of blood in his ears transforms into Sherlock’s guttural groan as he buries himself balls deep in John. The intimate pulses of his orgasm send sensation skittering along John’s nerves again.

Aftershocks roll through him, the creak and crackle of strained tendons and contorted hips and spine audible in the silence. They are literally just inside the door. Not even on the carpet. If the whole thing took ten minutes, John will eat the tongues decomposing in the fridge. Uncooked.

Still buried deep inside him, Sherlock tugs John’s coat off, releasing his arms, then pulls out. “Shower,” he commands.

John gets to his feet and follows Sherlock into the darkness.



He wears Sherlock’s finger-bruises for a day or so before they fade. The contact with the floor abraded his cheek. He tells the concerned clinic staff his leg gave way on pavement. It was an accident.

Maybe it was. It’s hard to tell with Sherlock.



Case. Sex. Afterwards there is food, then two days of sleeping. The pattern completes with the crash. The violin, the pacing, the long sulks, days of experiments rendering food inedible, the fridge unhygenic, and occasionally the flat unlivable.

Like Sherlock, John also crashes.

Unlike Sherlock, he has to eat so he pushes a buggy through the Tesco, duels with the checkout machine. He returns to his own work at the clinic, updates his blog, keeps his appointments with his therapist, chats with Mrs. Hudson. He has coffee with people he likes, negotiates around people he doesn’t like. No archenemies. Just the Moriarty name rising like steam from the Thames.

He has PTSD. Sherlock is a sociopath who risks his life to prove he’s clever. The flat positively reeks of mental instability. Neither one of them lives well in the between times.

He comes home after an eight-hour shift in clinic once again unable to cope with the automated teller. Sherlock lies on the sofa, fingers tented under his lips, utterly unaware of John’s presence. The thought rises through the black, oily smoke in John’s mind that he misses affection. He pinballs between the mundane and the singular, with none of the daily contact that strings the two together. Conversation while he cooks. A text along the lines of thinking of you rather than Pick up small intestine at Bart’s. A kiss goodbye or hello.


He’ll have to initiate it. John has survived firefights. He can do this.


When his flatmate’s mood swings to the eerie calm accompanying a successful chemistry experiment, John takes the risk. As Sherlock equates small talk with stupidity, there’s no point in prefacing action with explanation. So on his way past Sherlock to the electric kettle he bends (not very far) to kiss Sherlock on the cheek.

Sherlock leans away. “What are you doing?”

Heat thuds in John’s cheeks, the dull, stinging red of embarrassment. “Giving you a kiss.”


“Because it’s nice. Because it’s what people do when they’re — ” He gestures between himself and Sherlock.

Sherlock stares. John watches his expression sliding through surprise to something John won’t like. So he heads him off.

“Look, the cases are like being hit by a lorry. The sex is like being hit by the meteor that ended the dinosaurs. There’s nothing in between. Sometimes I just want a kiss.”

It’s not enough to stop the disdain from taking over Sherlock’s odd, compelling features. “The man who invaded Afghanistan wants a kiss.”

The smirking tone grates almost as much as the screaming kettle. John’s not sure if Sherlock’s mocking John’s masculinity, the futility of invading Afghanistan, or the entirety of sentiment, but he’s confident he’s being mocked. He switches off the kettle.

“Delete it,” he says as he pours boiling water over chai. In hindsight, the plan was doomed to fail. Affection is, by definition, the kind of pointless thing Sherlock ignores, unless it’s useful to him. Much like John.

Sherlock says nothing, confirmation that the entire conversation never happened.


Once was hard enough. Twice feels like begging, and John isn’t about to beg. He is home, wounded, not right in the head, living with a sociopath he’d killed for.

During their charming little chat Mycroft said John missed the war, but that came from a man who’d never marched a mile let alone treated wounded boys screaming for their mothers, a man who plays childish games with CCTV cameras. Any battered spouse could tell you it was possible to miss something that hurt you, but John refuses to recreate the Afghanistan with greater London as the field of battle. No. He’s seen too many men destroy themselves when facing not bombs or bullets but birthday parties and Saturday nights in front of the telly. He needs a flat-share. Sherlock’s incredible brain fascinates him. Without the sex, this is a workable living arrangement, close to his clinic and the tube.

The pattern needs shifting, but the only behaviour he can change is his own. He wouldn’t treat a woman this way.

The thought gives him pause. Would he let a woman treat him like this? Use him and then discard him until she needed him again?

It would depend on how he felt. He’s not above a mutually agreeable itch-scratching. But if he cared for her, if the feelings weren’t returned, out of simple self-preservation, he’d break it off. How does he feel about Sherlock?

He cares for Sherlock. Admires him, respects him. He’s not sure if he likes him, but he recognizes devotion. After his military service, it’s a familiar emotion, along with another lesson absorbed into skin and bone while invading Afghanistan.

He recognizes futility in all forms — and characters — now.

There’s only one solution.

He’ll just stop having sex with Sherlock.



The next case, a simple little murder, takes up fewer hours of their Saturday than the paperwork afterwards.

The door to 221B closes. “We’ll require food later, Mrs. Hudson,” Sherlock calls down the corridor in that baritone, deepened by victory and desire.

John’s learned his lesson, taking the stairs two at a time to beat Sherlock into the flat. John stands by the fire, removing his gloves in short, precise jerks, while Sherlock closes the door. He won’t look at Sherlock. He won’t. Except the man stands between John and his bed, the one he intends to sleep in. Alone.

Dusk has fallen. One distinct shade of London’s many greys washes the room of color. Sherlock sheds his coat and scarf in front of the sitting room window, then turns to face John. His skin has the hue and translucence of skim milk. Pewter light gilds his hair, and casts his pale eyes in shadow. He says nothing, but desire softens that improbable mouth — the full lower lip, the bracketed upper one — as two fingers glide along the edge of the table between the windows.

John’s body remembers the sensation of those fingers trailing down the tendons in his neck, taking his pulse (elevated, whispered in a hushed baritone), then continuing along his sternum to circle his cock, then dip below his balls to rub the sensitive patch between balls and arsehole. It’s a tease, a good one, coaxing his body to open long before the slightest pressure. Blood courses down, an inexorable reversal of pulse and circulation before his brain remembers his resolve.

He will not do this again.

He cannot. A crash looms. The choice lies in whether it comes after the sex or before. After promised an orgasm (two, more likely) and the indubitable pleasure of rough sex. Before meant he wouldn’t have to pick himself up from the floor (literally and metaphorically) when Sherlock’s attention flicked off again.

He clears his throat, uses his Captain Watson voice. “I’m going to have a shower, then go to bed.”

The fingers halt. When he’s not sprinting across London’s rooftops and intersections, motion in Sherlock is measured in cellular vibrations. For a brief instant, molecules cease to oscillate.

Grey eyes narrow ever so slightly. A nod. Nothing else.

John turns for the bath.

He shampoos and soaps. He ignores his cock, thickening between his legs as soapy water courses over his pelvis, down his thighs. Slippery skin reminds him of slippery slopes, how a series of small compromises will consume what honor he has left. Sex with Sherlock cannot, under any circumstances, be added to a list of Small Compromises. Drinking skim milk in his Earl Grey because Sherlock’s left the cream to curdle on the counter is a Small Compromise. Severed heads in the fridge is a Fairly Large Compromise. Sex with Sherlock is a Compromise on the scale of the Treaty of Versailles, requiring similar Carthaginian concessions, both economic and territorial, leaving him equally ruined.

He pulls on a t-shirt and pajama pants to sleep in. It’s cold in his bedroom, damp air held in chilly sheets, circumstances made even colder when he thinks about how, in normal circumstances, he’d be sweating in Sherlock’s bed.

The chill in the bed makes his shoulder throb, but he’s in bed, with his dignity, and an erection refusing to take a hint from the raw air.


The violin begins shortly after the bed warms up enough for him to relax. Perhaps Sherlock simply skipped the sex step and went right to his own crash. John harbors a moment of regret. They are bound together, him and Sherlock, but he can’t back down. He also can’t identify the tune, but the minor chords set his teeth on edge. He’s survived residency, slept through mortar attacks. He can make himself fall asleep, or he could, before PTSD taught him to fear his subconscious. Moments of awareness play hide-and-seek with slumber as the silver light from the moon picks out the minute cracks in the plaster beside his bed.


First: lips on his temple.


Next: the brush of a full mouth on his ear. The angle of moonlight has flattened, he thinks blurrily. I'm asleep.


“Don’t wake up.”

The baritone rumble is half-command, half-hypnotism, all liquid sex. It works. John’s aware, but not awake. Or awake, but not aware of anything other than the mouth against his ear. All the tiny hairs tremble with each soft exhalation. Gooseflesh races down his spine. Lying on his back, he holds himself still, one hand loose at his side, the other resting on his abdomen. The moment stretches while he resumes breathing, then that mouth, that sinful mouth, moves to the lobe.


Teeth. Delicious, demanding pressure, bordering on pain, then releasing as the lips move to his jaw, then over the stubble he didn’t bother to shave. A body shifts over his, all planes and angles, and yet his hyper-vigilant brain doesn’t register a threat. Lips align with his as hands plant on either side of his head, knees beside his hips. He senses heat but not touch, no touch anywhere but his mouth.


Some aware part of him knows he should push Sherlock away. He said he didn’t want this. Except…he didn’t. He said he was having a shower then going to bed. Then he used up all his willpower not having a wank in the shower. Or bed.

Anyway, he’s not awake. Is he?

The pressure on his mouth isn’t a kiss. Yet. It’s breath and heat that sparks into tingling awareness long before intent registers. He doesn’t need to open his eyes to see dark curls tumbling over a pale, high forehead above him. His sense of hearing is heightened by lust and lack of vision, so he can tell that Sherlock’s no longer wearing trousers and a dress shirt. The faint whisper of silk against cotton means he’s changed into the blue silk robe, t-shirt, and pajama bottoms the detective sleeps in, when he sleeps. The robe drifts around them like a ghost of the coat Sherlock wears with the collar turned up. It makes him look cool. John knows Sherlock knows that. The man isn’t unaware of looks, his own or the longing or curious or assessing ones he receives when he walks down a street. He just deletes them, unless he can somehow use the person’s desire to get something he needs.

Like now.

The brush of lips becomes a kiss when Sherlock slants his mouth across John’s, that full lower lip so plush against his own mouth. A hint of tongue traces his upper lip, then a quick dip inside. John doesn’t move. His skin heats under the tantalizingly light pressure, and with each heartbeat that heated blood ebbs through his arteries, awakening nerves, muscles, his cock. The second dip inside flickers against the roof of John’s mouth before Sherlock withdraws again. A pause, then teeth on John’s lower lip, then tongue, then a slide between lower lip and teeth. John’s awareness contracts to his mouth.

A teasing touch to the tongue again, and he shudders. Of course Sherlock’s brilliant at this, too.

It’s the kiss John wanted, magnified and stretched and heated, taken apart for study, like everything else in this flat, and it’s a fucking tease. His cock’s rigid in his pajama pants. Sherlock’s not touching him except with mouth and breath. He involuntarily exhales a little string of sounds against Sherlock’s lips. In response, he gives John flickering licks and teasing nips and slow swipes of that miracle of a mouth against John’s. It’s part kiss, part snog, all fucking tease. Somehow Sherlock’s rewired John’s cock so all the sensation focused on his mouth builds the pressure between his legs. He shifts, hips lifting in search of the pressure his cock demands.

“Don’t wake up, John.”

Forcing his hips to relax makes his fingers tingle with restraint. The pressure-kiss deepens, the sweep of tongue into his mouth becomes more explicitly hotter until a groan forces its way out of John’s throat. The hand on his abdomen fists in his t-shirt, involuntarily brushing his knuckles against Sherlock’s stomach. At the same time the hand by his side clenches around the sheets, tangling the blue silk robe with the cotton of his sheets and quilt. His cock is so hard. The slightest shift of his hips brushes his erection against Sherlock’s. He registers rigid heat, the softness of the sac underneath. Jesus. Fuck. He’s a slag. A cheap one. One kiss and he’s gagging for it.

But it’s a very good kiss.

Sherlock mouths down John’s chin to his neck. Soft curls snag in his stubble before Sherlock shifts lower, using one hand to push John’s t-shirt up before tugging at the drawstring of his pajama bottoms. John wavers between lifting his hips to help and continuing the facade of sleeping. He forces his body to remain slack and heavy. His reward is Sherlock’s hand at either hip, then the curve of his arse, working the pants down, then all the way off.

Suddenly, the cool damp air is a living thing against his cock. He savors the brief respite as the bed dips and shifts with Sherlock’s movements. The robe is swept back, silk slithering in the silence.

Then wet heat engulfs his glans, and he cannot stop the noise that chokes from his throat. Movement stops.

“I’m not awake. I’m not…fuck. Fuck. Sherlock.”

No response but a hint of suction, then that clever, knowing tongue working below the head, swirling lazily down the shaft. It’s a kiss. Of sorts. Tendrils of pleasure unfurl and coil to his mouth, his nipples, his anus. A few minutes of electric sweet torture, then the mouth drifts lower, over his balls, to tongue the sensitive patch behind them.

John spreads his thighs. Fuck tomorrow. Fuck the crash.

The click of a lid, then the gurgle of lube, then one finger presses into his arse to take up a slow rhythm. First knuckle only, in and out, another tease. John’s feeling everything tonight. Everything. Hot breath on his cock, so close, but he knows better than to push up.

It’s torture.

Two fingers now, still not pressing deep. Pleasure seeps out in ripples that ebb against his skin. He feels the tight ring of muscle slowly opening, and experiences something new, the longing to open. It’s a slow burn that flares hotter when Sherlock pushes deep and sucks John’s glans into his mouth at the same time. A lazy twist of his wrist, a brush of fingertips over John’s prostate, a firm suck, and John can’t help the way his hips buck.

“Oh, Christ. Jesus fuck, Jesus fuck.” His hand lands on Sherlock’s head and for a moment everything stops.

“Are you awake?”

“No,” he gasps. He’s lying. Sherlock knows it, but Sherlock’s also not giving him what he asked for. Fuck, he wants to feel Sherlock’s head bob. He doesn’t lift his hand.

It begins again. His hips jitter between thrusting up into Sherlock’s mouth or grinding down on his wickedly twisting fingers, and in the end do neither. He’s not going to come like this and he knows it. Sherlock’s preparing John, getting him ready for Sherlock’s cock. So John rides the waves of pleasure pulsing from his arse through his cock, up through his torso, where they force a deep, trembling groan from his throat.

As if it’s a prearranged signal, Sherlock releases John’s cock and slides his fingers from his arse. The brief rustle of clothing means Sherlock’s shoved his pajama bottoms down, nothing more. John spreads his legs wide, beyond caring how he’ll feel in the morning. All he wants the fuck that’s looming, because if it’s even a tenth of the intensity this is promising, it will obliterate him.

The slippery kiss of a cock getting slicked, then Sherlock arranges himself between John’s legs. Silk settles over them both, and John groans again. The robe, the coat, he’ll take either or both right now. Moving very deliberately, Sherlock grips his hips and drags John up on his thighs. He aligns his cock at John’s stretched, dilating hole and pushes inside. John risks opening his eyes slightly, and sees marauding moonlight in his bed, white t-shirt, blue robe, head tipped back so the column of his throat gleams.

It’s too much, and anyway, he’s not awake.

The first thrust tests him. The second finds his prostate. Sherlock tips forward, rocking John’s hips up, opening him wider, deeper. Braced on his forearms, both hands intertwine with John’s, pinning his hands beside his head while his mouth hovers over John’s. Breath and heat and slick…connection arcs between their mouths like electricity seeking to complete a circuit. He’s all but whimpering before Sherlock plunders John’s mouth. Then it’s amazing, fucking brilliant, God oh fuck ohfuckohfuck. It’s the heated scratch of Sherlock’s incipient stubble, nothing tentative or gentle about the pressure. Skin splits inside his mouth. The coppery taste makes his cock throb, exacerbating the fact that there’s nothing on his cock except the tantalizing brush of Sherlock’s abdomen with each stroke.

He’s breathing a string of obscenities and pleas into Sherlock’s mouth, desperate for a hand to his cock, when a sharp twinge shoots through his damaged shoulder. At his pained grunt Sherlock immediately lifts his right hand from John’s left. Driven by primitive need John reaches for his cock, but Sherlock blocks him. “No.”

Eyes still closed, John says, “Fuck, fuck, why not?”

“We’re kissing,” he says.

The words drift into John’s mouth at the same pace as Sherlock’s cock glides into his arse, relentless, implacable, purposeful. The next few strokes drive John’s hand from hovering at Sherlock’s waist to his shoulder to gripping Sherlock’s nape. His hand clenches around hair and skin, muscle and bone, holding his mouth to John’s. In Sherlock’s mind kissing must equate with fucking, because that’s what’s happening. John’s being fucked. Slowly. Deliberately. Every movement coalesces, building, battering at him.

Sherlock slides his forearm under John’s left thigh and lifts it up and back, opening John more intensely. The next stroke has some punch to it, thudding Sherlock’s pelvis and balls against John’s ass. The kiss is nearly as brutal. There’s teeth to go with the tongue, a favor John returns with interest, and again coppery taste of blood mixes with his saliva. He’s never done this before, coming without slick, hot pressure on his cock, but tonight holyfuckingGod Sherlock might manage that particular feat. Manage him.

The kissing is spectacular, supernovas and the lame walking again. He’s coming apart at the seams.

His exhalations disintegrate into a long stuttering groan, and the inhalations sound desperate, pleading. He’s shamelessly spread, the fingers of his right hand pressed into the pillow by his head and gripping Sherlock’s left hard enough to grind tendon against bone. The fingers of his left clench and releases in the hair at Sherlock’s nape. Sherlock’s braced on his left forearm while the other supports John’s left thigh. It’s a hard fuck, and it takes an eternity, stretching John between mouth and arse. Each slap of hips to his arse reminds him of who owns him, whether he likes it or not.

He likes it very, very much, and hates himself for it. Right now his body is positively gorging on sensation, beating his brain into submission. Regrets will come later.

He lifts his hips, writhing for contact, but Sherlock ruthlessly pins him to the bed and spreads him wider at the same time. Release inches up his shaft, his balls tightening with each slow, hard thrust. He’s curling up off the bed, shoulder straining against Sherlock’s hold, and the sounds he’s making. God, the sounds. In some dim backbrain place recording what’s happening to him, he knows he sounds like a man getting the fuck of a lifetime. Sherlock swallows them, returns them back to John in a threatening rumble, the purr of a giant predatory cat.

The dark, tasty mixture simmers in his veins as he tightens, tightens, heart racing, cock throbbing as orgasm pulses from him in sharp bursts. With the first pulse he reflexively jerks his legs in and up, and Sherlock’s next thrust, no less of a hip-punch for John’s orgasm, goes deep. Come spurts to his collarbone, then his abdomen, but his sharpest cry comes when Sherlock’s semen pulses into his arse.

Gasping for air, John tightens his fingers in Sherlock’s hair and pulls. Sherlock sat back, disengaging their bodies. He leaves, then returns with a damp cloth for John. John cleans himself up while Sherlock tightens the tapes of his pajama bottoms.

John tosses the used flannel in the general direction of the bathroom to cover the fact that he’s breathing in the same deep hard gasps he uses to lurch out of the nightmares. Tears sting the corners of his eyes.

He doesn’t want Sherlock to see any of this. “Go.”

Perverse to the end, Sherlock climbs into bed with him, wraps his arm around John’s shoulders and pulls him down. Slowly, slowly, the shudders end. He’s not ready to talk about it, but he has to say something. Sherlock speaks first.

“Go back to sleep.”

“I never woke up,” John says.



He sleeps. If he dreams, he doesn’t remember.



In the morning he is alone in his bed.



Despite the hasty cleanup he’s rank with sweat and dried semen, so he cleans his teeth while the water warms. He can’t look in the mirror, but the sidelong glimpses he catches tell him his mouth is still swollen from Sherlock’s. The toothpaste stings the raw spots on his inner lip where his teeth, or Sherlock’s, cut into flesh. He showers and shaves and dresses in jeans and his warmest jumper.

Sherlock’s sitting in the kitchen, also showered and shaved, wearing clean pajama pants, t-shirt, and the robe. A microscope, slides, files sit on the table before him. John makes tea, using his peripheral vision to gather data about Sherlock.

Those gorgeous, improbable lips are equally swollen. A bruise darkens the skin just above the collar of his t-shirt, likely from the moment of spectacular climax. John vaguely remembers sinking his teeth into the slope where pale neck meets shoulder as he shouted out his orgasm.

He sets a cup down in front of Sherlock.

Small talk is still pointless. “I didn’t want that.”

“And I don’t like being manipulated.”

“God forbid someone else pull the strings,” John says wearily. “It was an act of self-defence, not manipulation.”

Sherlock’s pewter gaze flicks his direction. He understands self-defence, John realises. He understands the desire to protect yourself from something, or someone.

Eyes narrowing, Sherlock parses this new bit of information. “You said yes when I told you it would be dangerous. Affection is incompatible with your obvious need for high risk situations.”

“Not all the time, Sherlock,” he says. “It’s not dangerous all the time. It’s not fight or fuck all the time.”

The silence weighs more than a fully loaded field pack. Pale gold tinges the air this morning, a rare sunny day in London’s rainy spring. The tint of color makes Sherlock less ethereal and more human. Younger. Uncertain in a way John’s never seen him before.

“You have trust issues.”

“Yes. So my therapist says, yes.”

“And yet you trust me to care for your emotions?”

Something in the flicker of Sherlock’s eyelashes arrests John’s attention. A rare question from Sherlock. Why ask when you can deduce?

The detective continues. “A very bad risk, I’m afraid. I have it on very good authority that I am incapable of caring for others.”

With that pronouncement-slash-sweeping judgement that is absolute bollocks based on the events of last night, clarity resolves in John’s brain. Perhaps Sherlock’s aloof reserve and icy superiority are nothing more than highly developed defences developed in the wake of painful failures. But in that question John’s figured out why he asked for the kiss at all.

That’s the risk he wants to take. It’s a high-wire act worthy of a man who misses war as much as he wants to find a way to exist in the world. “I’ll take that risk.”

“The decision,” Sherlock says precisely, “isn’t yours to make alone.”

The light slowly dawns. “You don’t like feeling anything. For anyone.”

“The work,” Sherlock says, emphasizing the final k with great precision, “comes first.” He hits the t with the ticking enunciation he uses to remind people they are idiots, but John sees underneath the disdain to the fear. Sherlock knows he’s different. He knows other people care about feelings, breakfast, sentiment, each other, and he knows he doesn’t. Or does he? Is he just exceptionally good at managing feelings?

“And yet here we are,” John says. “You feel something for me.”

Grey eyes slant his direction, an indirect gaze, intent without seeming so, the only concession he’s going to get.

“That scares you. So you cram it into the cases. Into sex.”

Sherlock returns his gaze to the microscope sitting on the kitchen table. Despite the chaos on the table, John can’t see any visible evidence of an experiment, no severed ears or fingers or organs, and that scares him more than the decomposing rats he found in the fridge last week. What terrifying microbe or virus is Sherlock studying?

There’s no slide clipped to the stage. Sherlock’s not studying anything except the workings of his own heart.

“I want to do those things. I don’t want to want to do those things.”

“Welcome to my world,” John says.

Silence, but he’s not going to make this easier. Fuck a mile. Give Sherlock an inch and he’ll burn down the whole sodding ecosystem.

“Will you leave if I don’t? Don’t say you won’t,” he continues before John can answer. “It was implied in your behaviour last night.”

John doesn’t deny it. “You don’t want me to leave.”


“But you don’t want to want to kiss me.”

“Again, no.”

“But you do, in fact, want to kiss me.”


“Because you feel something for me.” John huffs air through his nostrils. Not a laugh, not a snort, frustrating Sherlock-middle-ground as they circle round something neither of them can explain. “Confusing, yeah?”

The pale gaze slides his way, a flicker of moonlight in the day’s gleam.


John waits. Sherlock has to negotiate this. The process matters more than the results.

“No one stays for affection. They stay for amazing.”

“Plenty of people stay for affection.”

“Not you.”

John cuts him a glance. It’s true. John wouldn’t stay for affection. If affection were enough, he’d ask out Sarah from the clinic. She’s safe, sane, sensible. Kind. Affection thrums under every word she speaks. “I’m not a simple man, Sherlock. The war’s over, but I can’t replace one drug with another drug. I need both.”

“I will fail. You will leave. Take the sex, John. It’s brilliant sex.”

This time John’s sigh is vividly eloquent. “It is, you utter twat. You’re the genius. You can do this, if you can be arsed to figure it out. Don’t make me choose between affection and amazing. Please.”

John watches Sherlock’s face with the same intensity he once reserved for triage. Immediate surgery or wait? Lives depend on the right decision. His life depends on this one.

Sherlock’s nod is infinitesimal, but it’s there. John gives a decisive nod in return. He gets up to make toast, opens the fridge for the marmalade, and finds…only marmalade.

“No heads? No tongues?”


He shrugs, and drops bread in the toaster. “I’m sure you’ll make it up to me.”



Despite his flair for the dramatic, Sherlock doesn’t change dramatically. Or immediately. One day he drops a kiss to the top of John’s head as they muddle in the kitchen. John smiles but otherwise doesn’t make a big deal about it.

Presented with positive results to what was clearly a hypothesis to be tested, Sherlock continues. The next damp Sunday John sits on the floor in front of Sherlock’s chair and reads by the fire, the book on balanced on his knees. For long minutes Sherlock lies impossibly contorted in his chair, fingers tented under his nose. Then his fingers rest on John’s head. John smiles, but continues to read. The fingers begin to idle through John’s hair. It’s shockingly intimate, Sherlock’s long, elegant fingers trailing through his hair, awakening nerve endings in his scalp. John quickly loses the ability to turn letters into words, or words into sentences. His hand drops to John’s shoulder, from where his thumb strokes the skin above John’s collar, then comes to rest in the notch of collarbone, shirt collar, and jumper.

The touch is as permanent as if Sherlock inked his thumbprint and left it on John’s skin. At random moments throughout John’s day — pondering lab results, waiting for the tube, watching tea steep — he found himself dabbing the tip of his middle finger to the hollow of his throat.

There are negative results. He and John both learn approaching him silently from behind results in hot tea splashing over John’s hand, his trousers, and the kitchen floor. Days go by before John sees Sherlock consciously remember the experiment.

Affection isn’t automatic. It’s work, but when Sherlock slides into John’s bed in the middle of the night, for John the sex is layered with nuances of touch and memory. John doesn’t mention this to Sherlock. He’s not going to push his luck.

One morning John’s due at clinic when Lestrade calls with a double suicide that looks like maybe it wasn’t, in a locked room to boot. Sherlock flings himself into his coat and out of the flat. No sooner has the echo of his shoes on the stairs faded and the front door slammed than the door bounces off the entryway wall. Sherlock takes the stairs two at a time. John turns in search of what the detective’s forgotten, his scarf, his magnifying lens. Instead the flat door bangs open, then Sherlock leans in just far enough to drop a kiss on John’s mouth.

“That is what people do, is it not? Kiss each other goodbye?” he husks against John’s mouth.


A second kiss, a third, this time with tongue and hands in his hair, and John backed into the wall, the coat sheltering them. Then Sherlock rears back with a delighted smile. “Oh. Oh, yes. John, you are amazing,” he murmurs. “You are…fantastic.”

“Yes, I am,” John says breathlessly. He is. He’s sure of it. He can keep soldiers alive, make sick people well, and besides. The madman made of moonlight just told him so. “Why am I amazing?”

“Desire is like hunger, or sleeplessness. Sharpens the mind.” He looks around the room, then back at John. “Oh, this is very good.”

John gives him his very best shit-eating grin.

Sherlock kisses it right off his mouth when he tips John’s chin up for a single, open-mouthed kiss. The flicker of tongue against tongue sends blood pulsing to John’s cock, and his hand involuntarily grips Sherlock’s hip. “It will be even better later.”

John watches him go, then puts on his coat. Sherlock is still Sherlock. It’s still about the cases. And the sex.

But now there’s kissing.

It’s a start.