I keep wanting to give you what is already yours
it is the morning of the mornings together
breath of summer oh my found one
the sleep in the same current and each waking to you
when I open my eyes you are what I wanted to see
--W.S. Merwin, "A Birthday"
"Intriguing," Sherlock Holmes said as John kissed him lightly on the top of his head on his way to the kitchen. "I hadn't observed it before, but it's obvious now."
"Hm?" John was still feeling a complicated mix of smug and confused about the fact that he and Sherlock had started sharing the same bed now and then--half his mind seemed to keep gasping what the hell? while the other half kept muttering about time, you idiot--and it was slowing his response time down a bit.
"That you're interested in bondage."
John stopped dead in the kitchen doorway. "Sherlock--"
"--I'm sorry," Sherlock said, sounding--as usual--not sorry at all, "But once I had the extra information of seeing your sexual reactions it became blindingly clear." He looked up at John. "Should I have pretended not to have seen it? Is this one of those things again?"
John glared at him. "Well, no one particularly likes to have their secret fantasy lives dragged out and analyzed in the cold light of day, no."
"Ah," said Sherlock, "So you confirm my observations."
John resolutely turned his back on Sherlock and went into the kitchen. "Would it be any use at all to deny it?"
"Not really, no."
"Then yes, you are right as usual," John said, reaching around an extremely dubious-looking piece of plastic ware to grab the milk. "Congratulations."
"Shall we start with some handcuffs next time? I know where to find a good flogger as well."
John took a long, steadying breath. "Sherlock--"
"--I've learned some very interesting Japanese rope techniques, and--"
"Sherlock--" John raised his voice to carry over Sherlock's, who was moving on to discuss different kinds of rope and the feasibility of constructing a St. Andrew's cross, "--Sherlock, no."
Sherlock stopped talking abruptly, confusion crinkling his brow. "No? But...it turns you on. You're turned on now."
John sighed but didn't deny it. "Sherlock, it's not...practical."
"I think it sounds eminently practical. And fun." The wicked tilt to Sherlock's smile made it necessary for John to sit down and catch his breath. "So what's the problem?"
"Sherlock, think for a second." Poor choice of words: Sherlock glowered at him. "What I mean is, when you get focused on a case, you tend to forget I'm even in the room. I don't mind most of the time," John said hastily before Sherlock could say anything, "But you better believe I'll mind if you go flitting off in a moment of inspiration and leave me trussed up like a Christmas goose."
Sherlock's eyebrows went up. "You don't trust me," he said.
John winced, but squared his jaw. "If you must put it that way...no. I love you dearly--" He paused for a moment to recover from the way Sherlock's face lit up from within for an instant, "--But I wouldn't trust you with the care and feeding of a guppy, much less my health and wellbeing while tied up."
The light in Sherlock's eyes muted as he steepled his fingers and tapped his mouth with them. "I see," he said.
"It's nothing personal--"
"--Don't, John. It's obviously personal. But I take your point. I need to think about this."
"Look, some things are just better off left in the realm of fantasy, don't you think?"
Sherlock didn't respond; indeed, he seemed to have forgotten John's existence entirely, staring straight ahead into space. After a moment, John clapped him lightly on the shoulder and went back into the kitchen, leaving him to his thoughts.
And for three weeks after that, Sherlock did not bring up the issue. Sex was glorious and fun and exasperating (rather like Sherlock himself), and if John Watson sometimes found himself remembering the lilt in Sherlock's voice as he discussed nylon versus jute rope, he kept the memory--and his reaction to it--resolutely to himself.
: : :
John sat down with his morning coffee to find Sherlock staring at him across the table. "...Yes?" he said after a moment.
"I need you to trust me," Sherlock said.
"I do trust you," John said without thinking, not sure what the discussion was about.
Annoyed exasperation wrinkled Sherlock's forehead. "You said you didn't."
"When did I--oh," John said. "But that's not the same thing, Sherlock. I trust you with my life, just--"
"--Just not with your wellbeing and happiness," Sherlock finished. "And no sane person would blame you," he added at John's wince. "John. I hate to sound melodramatic, but I want to deserve your trust. It..." He looked embarrassed and annoyed at the same time, as he usually did when forced to say anything that could be remotely construed as being about his feelings, "It...bothers me."
John buttered a bit of toast, largely as an excuse to look away from Sherlock's imploring eyes. "It's not that I don't want to--"
"So let me prove myself, John."
John took a bite of bread and chewed it, considering. "What did you have in mind?"
Sherlock leaned across the table. "I thought perhaps we could start quite slowly, with very light restraints that you can get out of easily if--well, if things go poorly. If you are satisfied with the results, we can move on to more challenging situations. If I fail you at any point, then we stop there, no further negotiation."
After a moment, John nodded. "I can work with that."
Sherlock leapt to his feet and grabbed a notebook, handing it to him.
"What's this for?"
"I want you to write it down."
"Each step. What you would be comfortable with first, and then what would come after, for as long as you can imagine." Sherlock nodded. "It's best to be as clear as possible, don't you think?"
John fiddled with the pen, clicking it on and off a few times while looking at Sherlock's face. Then he wrote something down on the paper.
Sherlock leaned over to look at it and John involuntarily shielded it from him with his hand. Sherlock shot him a look. "Sharing this information is rather the point, John."
After a moment, John showed him the pad.
Sherlock's eyebrows shot up. "One of my scarfs? Not the best material for a restraint, I would have gone with nylon--"
"--It's an emotional issue, Sherlock, not a practical one."
"Though I suppose it has its practical side," Sherlock said consideringly. "It would be easier to tie loosely and thus get out of, so--"
"--exactly," said John. "Eminently practical, that's me."
"I'll need more detail than just the bondage material," Sherlock prompted him. "What acts do you want done to you? How much pain and how much pleasure? For some people being tied up is enough, while others--"
"--Right. Uh." John looked at the paper, his mind racing in unseemly ways.
"If there's going to be flogging or other pain play involved, I suggest we save that until you trust me more, as loose restraints might defeat the purpose. So maybe just a hand job or a blow job?"
The more Sherlock waxed eloquent, the more John was finding it hard to focus. Sherlock's hands were tracing elegant lines in the air, and John couldn't seem to stop staring at them, imagining them-- Great, just talking with Sherlock about this was turning his mind to mush. Snap out of it, John.
"Before you start a list, we'll definitely need a safeword," Sherlock said. "Something resolutely unsexy. Something that we would never, ever cry out in passion under any circumstance."
There was a short pause.
"Anderson," they both said together, and burst out laughing.
That decided, John started making his list, trying to keep his writing steady as Sherlock leaned over his shoulder and murmured things like "Oh, I hadn't thought of that, and you know that's saying something," and "I do hope we get to that one, it sounds fantastic." John kept writing until Sherlock gave a pleased gurgle of laughter and whispered "Oh yes, I was hoping you'd mention that" directly in his ear, at which point he put the pen down and lunged at Sherlock.
"But the list--" Sherlock protested as they tumbled onto the sofa.
"Damn the list," John growled. "We'll finish it later."
: : :
"Um. All right." John sat down on his bed, feeling more awkward than aroused. This was all very thrilling in theory, but in reality he found himself rather worried that Sherlock would get bored and disappear. He fiddled with the top button of his shirt. "Do I get undressed or--"
"--Let's start with you dressed," Sherlock said. "Less vulnerable at the start. Plus it's so much fun to undress you." He produced a maroon scarf with a flourish and handed it to John. "As per our agreement."
"Ah. Yes." John took the scarf, the touch of the silky wool igniting ghost-memories of past fantasies across his skin.
"Now, before we start--" Sherlock crossed his arms and his fingers drummed something complex and abstruse against his upper arms. "There's something I need to do. I swear I'll be right back," he said quickly at John's expression. "I'm not leaving the flat. Just--just give me fifteen minutes. If I'm not back in fifteen you can call the whole thing off."
Reluctantly, John nodded, and Sherlock grinned and disappeared downstairs, leaving John with the scarf. Or, as he was more inclined to call it, The Scarf. He ran its length gently through his hands, remembering the many times he had envied Sherlock's scarves--the way he touched them, the many opportunities they got to caress his skin. Think you're hot stuff, huh, Scarf? Look at me now.
"Twelve minutes and twenty seconds." John looked up to see Sherlock leaning in the doorway, his arms crossed, smiling a bit smugly.
"I wasn't keeping track," John said.
"You should," Sherlock said, his smile vanishing. "I intend to keep my promises, and I expect you to hold me to them. Now lie down and put your wrists together over your head. And please spare us both the reflexive arguing," he added as John opened his mouth. "I know your masculine pride insists on it, but I think we've established that you actually want me to do this."
"I wasn't going to argue with you," John groused as he lay down.
"Yes you were."
"No I wasn't."
"Yes you--" Sherlock broke off and rolled his eyes. "All right, you've been contrary. Is your masculine pride satisfied now?" He didn't wait for an answer, but took the scarf from John's hands, somewhat to John's regret. "Hands up," he said.
Grimacing slightly and biting back a variety of retorts, John put his hands up over his head, against the slats of his headboard.
With quick and efficient motions, Sherlock looped the scarf around his wrists and secured them.
"You could get out of that, right?" Sherlock said. "The fabric has a lot of give, so..."
"I'm pretty sure I could," John said, tugging.
"Prove it." Sherlock raised his eyebrows at John's glare. "I need to know you can get out if--if you need to."
John tugged until one of his wrists slid almost free of the scarf's coils--it took some work, but he could do it. "There," he muttered, feeling somewhat let down as Sherlock re-tightened the knot. He understood in theory what Sherlock was doing, but his fantasies had never really involved restraints that were more symbolic than anything, and he wasn't sure that--
Sherlock reached down and unbuttoned the top button of his shirt with long, deft fingers, and John closed his eyes for a second and took a long breath.
"Oh," murmured Sherlock, "That was fast." John blinked at him. "I expected you to bicker and be snarky a lot longer."
"I can...I can still be plenty snarky," John said.
Sherlock undid the second button, and John groped for something sarcastic to say, but sarcasm seemed to have fled his mind entirely. He finally had to settle for "Yeah, really," which he had to admit wasn't the snappiest of retorts, and from the smirk on Sherlock's face it hadn't made much of an impression. Another button, and another, and Sherlock pushed aside the cloth so the shirt fell open more, fingers brushing along skin in esoteric patterns.
"You're quite beautiful," Sherlock said, then looked surprised and faintly hurt when John started snickering helplessly.
"I've been called a lot of things, Sherlock, but 'beautiful' has never particularly been on the list."
Another button--the last--and Sherlock brushed aside his shirt. "It's not my fault you've surrounded yourself with morons until now," Sherlock said huffily. "Certainly you're not conventionally handsome or attractive--"
John rolled his eyes. "You could have just left it at 'you're beautiful' and that would have been okay, Sherlock. But no, you've just got to go and--"
Sherlock grabbed the waistband of his jeans and yanked on it peremptorily. "You're beautiful," he said, his eyes blazing.
"Told you I could still manage snarky," John said, hoping Sherlock wouldn't notice the breathless undertone to his voice.
Some of the incandescence went out of Sherlock's eyes and he chuckled low in his throat. "Did I say that I was disappointed?" he said. With the tip of his finger, he traced a long, lazy line from the hollow of John's collarbone down to his navel. "I rather liked the way your eyes glazed over and your mouth went lax and gentle," he said. "The way you pulled involuntarily against the restraints, as if you were savoring the way they held you in place," and damn it, there it was again, that wave of languid sensation that swamped him and left him feeling dazed, pinned in place by far more than a simple scarf.
"Um," said John, moving his hips so that teasing finger might slide lower.
Sherlock's touch dodged his movement, flickering upward again. "What, no snappy comeback?"
"Not really, no," John managed.
Long fingers trailed downward once more, and John's world narrowed dizzily down to that line of irresistible sensation. "I think we're about ready to move on, don't you?" Sherlock said, and John felt the breath stutter in his throat as he undid the button on his jeans.
Then Sherlock paused, and John could feel his attention shift and re-focus. "Button," he said. "Copper-zinc alloy." A sharp intake of breath. "Of course. Of course. Stupid of me not to have seen."
Sherlock stood up and headed for the door.
Without turning around, Sherlock held up his hand for John to be quiet and left the room.
God damn it! John was about to call his name again, knowing it was useless, when he heard a thump from the top of the stairs, just out of sight.
A moment later, Sherlock was in the doorway again. "I'm back!" he announced breathlessly. "I didn't abandon you!" He crossed the room in two long steps and was at John's bedside again. "Now, where were we?"
John glared at him. "Untie me."
"You left the room."
"Only for a second, it doesn't count."
"I don't care." John yanked his wrists against the scarf. "Get me out of this. We're done."
Sherlock stood and looked down at him as if he were waiting for something.
"We're done," John repeated.
After another long moment, Sherlock started to smile. "I don't think so," he murmured, and reached down to start to unzip John's fly.
"Don't you dare," snarled John. Sherlock's motions were slow and deliberate; he felt like he could hear and feel--oh God, feel--each tiny tooth of the zipper being undone. "Stop it now."
"You know," Sherlock said conversationally as grasped the waistband of John's jeans and slid them down to his ankles with one quick motion, "This is exactly why we have a safeword, John." John crossed his ankles and glared, but Sherlock maneuvered the jeans off entirely despite him. "So you can argue with me every step of the way--"
"Stop ignoring me, damn you," John grated as Sherlock slid one sock off, and then the other.
"--and you can say anything you want--"
"You arrogant, domineering egomaniac--"
"--and rest secure in the knowledge that I'm not going to give up," Sherlock finished triumphantly. His fingers rested on John's ankles, stroking, circling that little knob of bone, and when exactly had anklebones become an erogenous zone, John wasn't sure.
"Stop it," he stammered.
Sherlock's hands slid upward, insinuating themselves between John's calves and the sheets, tightening just enough on the muscle to make John gasp, like a promise of future delights John was reluctant to examine too closely.
"Besides," Sherlock said, "A bit of a struggle makes the moment where you finally give in and beg me for it all the more satisfying, doesn't it?"
"As if I'm going to give you the satisfaction," John muttered. He could hear his breath coming fast as if it belonged to a stranger, and Sherlock's hands were on his inner thighs now, and it was getting very difficult to think of anything at all.
"Not satisfying for me," Sherlock said, hooking his fingers into the waistband of John's briefs. "I meant for you."
"Oh, you bastard," John groaned as Sherlock finally, finally pulled his briefs down. "God damn it." He pulled against the scarf, feeling his fingers splay in desperation as Sherlock bent over him.
Sherlock's tongue traced a long, cool, delicate line against his length, and all John's fury transmuted in that one stroke into a need just as transcendently demanding. "Hnn," he heard himself moan, his back arching. "Oh God. Please."
"Patience," whispered Sherlock, the very touch of his breath a torment.
"I need it," John stammered.
"I know." There was a pause, and then Sherlock said, sounding slightly amused: "That's interesting."
A vague fear pierced the haze fogging John's mind. "What?" he said, bracing himself for some chilling observation or derailing tangent.
"I'm enjoying this much more than I thought possible," Sherlock said. And then he was kneeling beside the bed and bending over John and that clever, wicked mouth was--
John jolted hard against the scarf, bolting upright just enough to see the corner of Sherlock's smile, and that glimpse was enough to send him over the edge into a truly shocking amount of bliss.
"Let me get you out of that," Sherlock murmured some time later, and John pried his eyes open to see Sherlock reaching up to his hands. He licked his lips unconsciously as he undid the knot, and John closed his eyes and shuddered.
Sherlock rubbed his wrists and arms gently as they came loose. "Did I pass?" he said.
John looked sharply at him, searching for some sign of mockery, but Sherlock's face was serious and--was that a flicker of worry? "Other than that one moment you left the room, I have no complaints," he said, absurdly aware of what an understatement that was.
"Won't happen again," Sherlock said. He grabbed the garish afghan Mrs. Hudson had made from the floor at the foot of the bed and pulled it over John, then crawled under it himself, still fully clothed. "Hardly bored at all."
"Hardly," from Sherlock, was high praise indeed. "Do you need to--I mean, can I--"
A long leg hooked around John's hips and pulled him closer. "--I want to hold you," Sherlock murmured, and yawned against John's temple.
John looked up at the ceiling, feeling emptied out and utterly at peace. After a while he drifted to sleep, lulled by the soft sound of Sherlock's breathing.
: : :
He came awake in the middle of the night and extricated himself from Sherlock's arms--Sherlock rolled over onto his back, his brow furrowed earnestly even in sleep. John resisted the temptation to kiss that wrinkle and threw on a robe before heading downstairs.
Or he started to head downstairs, but in the dim light he banged into something at the head of the stairs. "What the hell?" he muttered, bending down.
It was a chair placed at the top of the stairs, blocking the way down. A yellow sticky note caught the light, and John could see scrawled on it in Sherlock's distinctive handwriting: "Turn around and go back." The "go back" was underlined twice.
John squinted at it. "Sod off, Sherlock," he mumbled, moving the chair out of the way. "Not funny."
At the bottom of the stairs, he reached to turn on the light, but his fingers found paper instead: another sticky note that fluttered to the floor. Flicking on the light, he blinked down at another note: "Go back."
"What the--" John turned toward the kitchen and stopped dead as he realized that there were little yellow notes adorning much of their belongings. He peeled one off the skull's forehead. "John," it said, underlined angrily. "You've forgotten John."
On the laptop: "Go back upstairs." On the violin, blocking the strings: "You've abandoned John." On the seat of Sherlock's chair: "Go back." On the refrigerator door: "Go back to John." Inside, on the jam jar: "John."
From its recharger on the table, Sherlock's phone chirped quietly, and John heard a familiar dry voice say, "Sherlock? This is you. If you're hearing this, you have some brilliant idea you simply must follow up on, I understand completely. But you probably only have a couple of minutes left to get back upstairs. I suggest you do so." A pause, and then the voice added, more sharply: "Immediately. Stop being an idiot."
John stood in the middle of 221B, blinking. He peered at the phone, which was set to play back every fifteen minutes. Then he stood for a little while longer, looking around at the notes scattered like flower petals around the room.
After a while he gently put the notes back where they had been and went upstairs to slip back into bed, careful not to wake Sherlock.
When he woke again in the morning Sherlock was already gone. So was the chair at the top of the stairs. Sherlock was squatting barefoot on his armchair, holding a button up to the sunlight. The sticky notes were gone, vanished like a dream.
"Good morning," he said as John entered the room. "I do hope last night was worth the six hours I lost that I could have been working on this very promising lead." He flashed a quick smile. "On the plus side, your jeans button reminded me of something important, so I guess it wasn't a total waste of time."
John shook his head, doing his best to look exasperated, as was expected of him. "Glad to be of service."