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The Illustrious Client

Chapter Text

‘Life goes on grinding
glass, wearing out clothes,
turning to smithereens,
and what lasts through time is like
an island or a ship at sea,




Science lost a great innovator, and the stage a great actor, the day Sherlock Holmes decided to devote himself to the study of crime.


Hm. Bit pompous.


The river floodgates were, if you trust the newspapers at least as far as reporting the weather, nearly maxed out by the end of the week, as were the clinic queues of wet-summer flu. Even inside Baker Street, the rush of wind and rain seemed to dampen the evening. Imagine our surprise, then, when a man arrived, mack soaked through like he’d been onboard a ship in a storm rather than crossing the city on foot, in our front room at ten past 8 with a beaming smile.


Bit… atmospheric? He liked it, sort of, but not enough to withstand the inevitable piss getting taken out of him when a certain drama queen decided to wax critical about increasing the stupidity of one’s readers by style alone…


At school, I was never that good at those word problems in maths. You know: ‘if Peter goes from London to Edinburgh at 70 mph, and stops ten times for eight minutes a stop, when will he meet Alice at the train station?’ Of course, the kind of question they don’t ever ask is the *useful* kind — in this case, ‘If a wannabe-millionaire/maniac sends his fake twin to Manchester in the middle of a rainy July, how long will it be before you want to strangle your flatmate?’


There it was — well, at least as much of it as he was willing to tell his blog-reading (and, maybe, soon-to-be wider) audience. He grinned.


(The answer, for those of you playing at home, is four days.)


A while later a rustle of sheets and limbs from the bedroom signalled just in time: he turned to turn and catch the sight of a bleary-eyed, tousle-haired consulting detective awakening to the world after a full fifteen hours dead to man and beast.


‘Afternoon,’ offered John cheerily, shifting back to complete his paragraph.


Sherlock made a beeline for the coffeepot. ‘Congratulations, John, on having graduated to correct deductions about the time of day.’


Such snark would have been very annoying if not for three simple facts: first, Sherlock was usually like this; second, his voice was still sleep-crusted and thick, which John always enjoyed; and third, the tug of the bedsheet around Sherlock as he jostled about, scooping a nearly criminal amount of dark roast grounds per volume of water, meant that the faint sliver of a birthmark directly below the nape of his neck was exposed. More visible once John put his laptop aside and went to put the kettle on for himself.


(The nasty egg on Sherlock’s right parietal, on the other hand, was buried beneath his tangled mop of curls. John had checked it before getting up for his shower this morning, grateful at least that Sherlock slept soundly enough not to protest John’s probing fingers along his scalp. He doubted he’d be able to get away with it now, even under the guise of seduction.)


‘There’s plenty of lamb madras and naan left,’ John informed him, standing only inches away with his arms folded. Sherlock nodded thickly and shuffled over to the refrigerator. John’s fingers itched to drag him down for a syrup-slow good morning — well, a good afternoon — a hello snog.


Instead, settling down with fresh tea a minute later, John picked up the Guardian from beneath the pile of other papers and post they had in today. Truthfully, Sherlock had fallen asleep last night before the food had even arrived, after John had shoved him towards the bedroom to get changed out of his suit. (It had gone to the cleaners today — the good ones, who owed Sherlock a favour — but even so John apologised thoroughly for the musty, machine oil-drenched smell. Too bad there was no client left to foot the bill.)


Looking up abruptly, he added, ‘Curry’s hot, though,’ leaving off be careful as it would only — yep —


Sherlock dug his spoon straight into the stone-cold container then shoved it into his mouth with an eyeroll. After a second, he managed thickly, ‘Mrs. Paupel’s sister must be pregnant again,’ lips curling as he swallowed his heaping mouthful of food.


He was disgusting and adorable and brilliant and John refused to notice any of it with more than an absent, ‘Is she?’ turning to the back pages of national news. Some rapper with a ‘Z’ at the end of his name had assaulted a woman at a club; people were sitting for record long times in A&E waiting rooms (he knew that too well, as well as what the article failed to mention about under-staffed surgeries and junior doctors’ salaries); politics was getting in the way of humanitarian aid workers reaching refugees; and more on bloody Brexit… All depressingly repetitive.


‘But at least they’ve had the oven timer replaced,’ Sherlock went on, upending the lamb over the rice he’d oh-so-elegantly globbed onto a plate. His mouth was on fire (John could tell from the way his nostrils were flared), but the stubborn git was also probably half-starved and definitely more-than-half mental. ‘I was wondering when they would realise it wasn’t just the kitchen staff all miraculously going deaf.’ With two fingers, he swiped around the inside corners to slide the remaining red sauce onto his plate, before licking them clean.


‘Charming,’ John noted dryly, staring as Sherlock’s now-orange dyed fingers emerged wetly from his mouth.


Sherlock smirked like a furry black cat that had jumped onto a white sofa. John wanted to stretch him bare across the table. He picked up the weekend insert instead.


After really disgustingly few minutes of not-quite-silent chomping or page-turning and sipping of tea respectively, Sherlock ripped a piece of garlic naan and wiped up the last morsels.


‘You intend to accept this publisher’s offer over the other one.’


It wasn’t a question, but John couldn’t help lowering the paper and staring at him openly. The feline grin was back.


‘Go on then,’ John sighed, but he knew his face gave him away entirely, and Sherlock licked his lips like a Christmas locked-room murder had come early.


‘You were typing — well, as close an approximation as you do; hammering, really — when I came in. You were laughing to yourself as you wrote but you were worried momentarily when you looked at the top of my head: writing up the case, then. — The bump, incidentally, is fine, just as it was fine yesterday, and yes you can verify that for yourself later as you will insist upon doing.


‘You went out this morning for groceries, not including the propolis I told you would improve your lingering blisters because you are too stubbornly invested in so-called “modern medicine” to admit that apiological chemistry is better. In any event, you also got an impressive array of magazines and newspapers, including several that you usually deem not only morally suspect but also wildly overpriced. Your salary nor your hours have increased at the clinic, and we did not make any substantial commission from the nonexistent million-pound reward from Mr Evans. Feeling generous, then, which is to say feeling extravagant beyond just general good spirits. Though you are a gambler by nature, you evidently felt it justified based on the expectation of soon-to-be attained earnings. There are also the various old files, the recent case documents and your notes, and the thesaurus to suggest you’re not only writing for your usual blog punters but also for a less witless audience. — Your misled belief the average book buyer has higher standards of the English language, I will not bother to dignify with an argument. — Conclusion: you received another email this morning from a publisher, this time offering acceptable terms, and you intend to take it.’


John felt a swoop and soar of desire in his gut, mind rocketing through several satisfying ways he could shove the smug smirk on that gorgeous alien face into a gasp of pleasure.


John’s expressed the same thought in every possible variant available to the English language, a three years-younger Sherlock crowed, before Irene had gone on to say the one thing John hadn’t — very much the thing he was thinking at the moment, the thing Sherlock’s eyes were now thinking too, so John chanced it, almost certain Sherlock would follow his mental track.


‘Mrs. Hudson would probably be miffed if we got another scratch on her nice table.’


Sherlock didn’t bother to look down at the table, to move or to take his eyes away from John’s, adding to the electric charge in the room that made John want to throw Sherlock against a wall. As it was, the heat of Sherlock’s body, not in contact anywhere in particular but somehow palpable everywhere, where his hands and mouth and skin should be (fingertips along John’s belly, the sensitive flesh under his arms, tongue behind John’s ear) was slowly driving his pulse through the roof. He barely heard for staring at Sherlock’s lips when he said, ‘I doubt she wants it back after what it’s already been through, John.’


‘And that’s just the things she knows about,’ John agreed. Apparently reading his mind (he so often could) Sherlock’s smirk quirked dangerously even higher at that, and John broke.


In a flash and whip of papers they were both on their feet, a collision of mouth and hands, teeth biting into lips and tongues and fresh-revealed skin like faint pinpricks of barbed wire, sharp enough to hurt. The burn of hot chilies across his taste buds almost made him laugh.


John yanked aside the sheet and sighed with overjoyed relief to find Sherlock completely naked underneath — flushed across his abdomen, a little bit hard and breathing unevenly — gorgeous — it had been ages


‘It’s been a week, John,’ Sherlock muttered, amused, but his hands were swiftly removing John’s shirt and belt and trousers, Christ


Christ,’ he swallowed, very glad that they had the sheet because he wasn’t going to last long enough to use the table properly and he didn’t want to think about the state of the floor.


He managed just at the last moment to get himself under Sherlock, pulling him down over him in a rush and only hitting his own unconcussed head on the tile, mouthing at whatever part of Sherlock he could reach, and then suddenly everything was essentially a blur because Sherlock’s hands and mouth were ruthless but his eyes were searching and adoring and John couldn’t help but feel like this was the icing on the cake of a dream-like day: blowjobs at 3 pm on the kitchen floor.


Side by side sleepily afterwards, Sherlock closed his eyes. ‘Oud and bergamot. Exactly right, as I knew it would be.’


John allowed himself to roll his eyes at the ceiling. He’d waited more than three weeks since he’d found the dark bottle on his dressed one morning, stopping him in his brisk routine. It wasn’t that the cologne didn’t smell good. It smelt fantastic, of course —firewood, like the smoke from a crisp, cold forest camping fire, combined with the familiar whiff of Earl Grey — posh as hell and, damn the man, in keeping with what John (if forced) would have picked for himself. And forced was very much the extent of it, considering, as he had verified later, how much it cost: well more than he’d ever bothered on hygiene products, for any girlfriend or family member, never mind for himself. Which was, he reckoned, the none-too-subtle point: I can’t be seen dating a man who still considers army-regulation unscented soap and bargain-bin shampoo sufficient for his scent regime. From now on, please wear the following selection from my three-ways indexed fragrance profile. Except, naturally, John knew Sherlock would never really have said ‘please’.


‘Thought I’d try it out,’ he admitted. It wasn’t as though he had imagined Sherlock wouldn’t notice: that ship was not only sailed, but probably had crashed into an iceberg, broken in two, and sunk to the depths of the metaphorical ocean.






‘Nonsense. And it’s ideal for daily use.’


He tried not to tense. ‘We’ll see.’


Sherlock sniffed sceptically at John’s sternum. ‘Oranges.’


John peered to where Sherlock’s head was resting, nose along his shoulder. ‘What, oranges? I didn’t get any — they weren’t on the list.’


‘Scents take on different aspects when in contact with natural human odours, chemical signatures with different notes as they combine and decay. In this case, your skin plus this cologne gives off —’ he grazed his index finger along John’s stomach — John shivered radiating out across his bare skin ‘— oranges.’


‘Mm,’ he allowed, staring down at the outbreak of gooseflesh. His mind was whirring back online with possibilities. He couldn’t smell oranges, or tea leaves, or firewood, but his nose and mouth were still full of Sherlock and the world of flavours that meant, so maybe he could be persuaded to indulge — from time to time — in the posh stuff to use to his advantage.


Sherlock, hand holding lightly but firmly above John’s side as though he meant to grip there and propel himself up towards John’s mouth (not a bad idea), had his thumb grazing slightly to curve over John’s hipbone where the hollow of his skin was humid and hyper-sensitive, and looked up: his eyes were fountain water around jet black discs of pupils. John tugged lightly at Sherlock’s mussed hair, trailing in loops up and in and out and down and up. With each stroke he confirmed inwardly that his ability to hold everything he felt for Sherlock inside himself was rapidly deteriorating. Sometimes it threatened to explode his skin from within, sending bits of himself across 221b like a bomb blast. (As his dreams proved, such a thing was easy to picture.) Yet somehow even now his own body felt enormous, his toes miles and miles away, across the confused, bumbling mountain range of both their skin, and beyond them Sherlock’s paler knobblier feet, and between here and there Sherlock was looking at him hungrily under long eyelashes and John imagined the tectonic shift that would erupt if he gave in and rolled himself up to cover Sherlock’s body with his and kiss him until they could go again.


‘We have to get up.’


John stopped moving his fingers. ‘So much for enjoying the moment.’


‘We’ve been enjoying the moment for several moments. Now it’s time to get up.’


‘I’m not working today. You just solved a case. I’ve got a book deal. And, it’s Friday. We both deserve a day off.’ And a bit of a reward.


Lazily shifting away from John, Sherlock insisted, ‘Your idea of a “day off” is to clean and then force us to go interact with the parade of idiots at the pub. Which isn’t what you really want. So we’re going to a concert.’


John allowed the silence to drag on a bit in the hopes that Sherlock would hear himself. When this was unsuccessful, he bit back a tart reply (it wasn’t the people, including quite a few decent people, at the pub so much as gesture of drinking in company rather than at home, alone) and went for: ‘I’m sorry?’


Sherlock’s hand waved about vaguely. ‘The thing — Mr. What’s-his-name, the banker — gave us tickets.’


Putting aside the absurdity of Sherlock always deleting the names of clients he found too boring to retain after the case was concluded, John cast his mind back. ‘Hang on, Lord Carstairs? Were those even good tickets? What if he shunted off his seats for some artsy nonsense in a bunker near Heathrow.’


Sherlock opened his eyes, panther-like orbs as he regained his usual self-control. ‘Doubtful. It’s Paganini, John. In any event, all the relevant details will be printed on the tickets, including the date and time: in this case, today, half past four. Must get dressed — the curtain will not wait! You are going to love this one,’ he grinned gleefully, then shot up and dashed away, a ridiculous blur of naked energy.


Pitching himself to his feet with a grunt and the creak of his bones, John began sorting his clothes. ‘Well,’ he added aloud to no one, ‘same time next week?’



* * *




Ignoring the smack of nighttime chill, Sherlock damn near threw himself out of the cab towards their front door, which under any other circumstances would have been completely infuriating but instead was a bit infuriating and very, very promising so John paid the driver, distractedly assuming that he probably looked like exactly what he was: a bloke off to get lucky after a posh night out (more specifically, a man to shag the living daylights out of the man he jumped after).


It had been a lovely but long several hours — more than four hours, if you counted the interval and travel, which he absolutely did. He also resented slightly that he had liked the concert (haughty audience aside) and, though he refused to admit it to Sherlock, it probably was better to spend £40 on taxis and a whisky at the orchestra rather than on successively sloshed pints and darts wagers with the football crowd of a Friday evening. At least once in a while.


Now, though, based on the simmering tension in Sherlock’s shoulders after what John’d whispered to him just before the second half (fuelled by whisky and the lingering obscene scent of Sherlock on his fingers), they were both impossibly keyed up. He could not be arsed if the entire street — if the entire planet — knew what they were getting up to. The front door swung open before John could crowd Sherlock against it, but he more than kept up with Sherlock’s great leopardine springs up the stairs (another usually-annoying act that was currently fuelling John’s tunnel vision).


Leaping onto the landing and striding through pompously, Sherlock declared in his well-practised tone of triumph, ‘As I anticipated, you liked this concert—‘


Before Sherlock had time to congratulate himself further, John shoved him none too carefully back against the open sitting room doorframe. ‘Shut up.’


He saw an insulted flicker bounce across Sherlock’s face before John had him pulled down, body pressed firmly between his own and the moulding, by planting one hand against the wall but keeping his mouth just slightly out of reach. He could string this out for ages, feeling the hum of winding frustration mounting in Sherlock, almost sweeter than the admittedly excellent symphony still reeling in his ears. Teasing, tipping his head to one side and inhaling only to pull back as the hint of his lips ghosted across Sherlock’s, then changing his feet and tilting his nose the other way, maddening and intoxicating and highly effective — Sherlock, he knew fervently, was an impatient sod, particularly when the air between them was charged and John was essentially holding him on the brink without having to do more than caress his wrist back and forth with a single finger.


The sound of their accelerating blood became the only important thing left in the room. Sherlock’s pupils swelled slowly to push his irises (tonight the colour of seaweed) outward. Warm and nocturnal, bright-sharp with possibility: perfect.


Eventually Sherlock, almost crossly, growled, ‘Come on, kiss me, you want to and you’ve been wanting to for hours.


‘Bossy,’ John chided, but he gave in anyway.


And oh Sherlock’s mouth was lush, closed in a pout as though they hadn’t seen each other in weeks, like they had to start from scratch, which thank God they never had to do again. John kissed the bottom lip fervently, then the top, long and wet and deep enough to drown. For a brief second he felt Sherlock’s quiet sigh, but as Sherlock continued to meet his kisses ardently, John decided to interpret the sigh as contentment rather than irritation.


His kisses slowly became frantic, edged with teeth that brought a full rosy flush to Sherlock’s lips, if only to remind Sherlock which one of them had the upper hand here. Come to think of which…


‘John,’ Sherlock muttered sternly, finding the shell of John’s ear as John manhandled him fiercely out of his ridiculous posh dinner jacket and bloody silk tie, ‘mind the cufflinks.’


John sought and sucked on his tongue, nudging his cheek with his nose, until Sherlock was slumped slightly further down the door and panting. Christ, but his mouth — his jaw, it was divine —


You mind the cufflinks in the next ten seconds, or I’m sorting them whatever way I bloody well like,’ he retorted hoarsely, shoving his knee higher between Sherlock’s legs, to make his point. Sherlock’s almost imperceptible whine was perfect.


John began mouthing harsh kisses down Sherlock’s neck as he peeled Sherlock’s crisp ice-blue shirt open. (Sherlock’s hands were working behind John’s head, forearms resting on his shoulders, until a moment later his arms sprang apart, cuffs undone, pulling apart his now-unbuttoned shirt to reveal his stupidly gloriously bare chest.)


‘God, you’re a bad man,’ he groaned, sucking a lovebite over Sherlock’s clavicle, unfastening and untucking and petting until his fingertips crept along the warm skin of Sherlock’s hips beneath the loose invitation of his undone belt. ‘Sitting there, all night, in your damned chair, like it wasn’t screaming for anyone to jump you and snog you senseless…’


‘Don’t exaggerate: not “anyone”,’ Sherlock breathed, nails scraping restlessly along John’s nape.


‘They’d have to drag me out by my ears if I’d’ve had to watch you, gone all hazy-eyed, for one more sodding encore,’ he went on, one hand working Sherlock’s shirt off now that the cufflinks were gone (not that either of them cared to find out where), the other thumbing up along the dip where Sherlock’s neck met his shoulder, the spot that now as ever made Sherlock jerk forward shudderingly as his nose dipped behind John’s left ear. John smirked and tipped him back with long draughts of kisses, losing himself in it.


He wasn’t entirely sure if it had been the sheer thrill of suggesting they do something radically different in bed, or the shock on Sherlock’s face, just as the theatre flashed the lights to call them back to their seats, that John had been the one to suggest this particular act, or that he’d dared say such a thing to Sherlock Holmes in broad daylight (or, as it were, bright, public lobby light) but all of it fed into John’s hungry curiosity… The idea that Sherlock wanted it to happen, that he wanted John not just for spontaneous quickies but for deeply premeditated, er, manoeuvers, the kind that didn’t deflate at negotiations of ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ and hygiene and history. John pressed more fully across Sherlock’s whole body, hard and tight, and didn’t care whether it was now (though fucking hell he was ready now) or never, but that look on Sherlock’s face had made John groan to suppress the simple declaration that he wanted to paint in permanent shiny letters over the doorway to 221 —


Sherlock slurred across the surface of his consciousness, voice dripping derisively, ‘If you can manage to emerge from the depths for a moment… I believe this would be an excellent opportunity to yield to your proposition. Lest you get impatient waiting any longer.’


Surprised and oddly stung by this, John, a little breathless, drew back with a slight frown. ‘As if you’re not down there with me.’


Bold as brass, smirking as though he had not been minutes away from coming in his fussy special concert suit, Sherlock raised an imperious eyebrow. ‘I simply mean, it was a longer week for some of us than for others.’


The gall — he took a full step back, enough to remove himself from the places they were touching — he felt genuinely as though he’d been doused with freezing water. The intense, bitter taste of unfairness of that remark stole any words — touched a nerve he thought he’d stopped protecting. Because it had been Sherlock who had clearly flirted with him earlier, just as hungry for it as John was himself, like the razor-sharp energy during the final movement of the concert when the orchestra was moving towards a climax and Sherlock had brushed his thumb along the inside of John’s knee, making him stifle a groan. They (they, both of them) had been kissing only moments ago with relief; had flown at each other earlier in the kitchen with the desperate need to be close in a way that had long ago transcended pleasure and become necessary, vital. Hadn’t they? —


‘You’ve been thinking about it,’ Sherlock plowed on, timbre deep. ‘You’ve been imagining it for weeks. You crave a gamble, you’re always a man to take a risk. You want to take it. And — John? Where are you going?’


Every part of him was tensed, staggered, emanating from a soreness in his chest that ached like burn of a pneumonic cough. He turned his back to Sherlock for a moment in the hopes of mastering himself.


Behind him he heard the glide of fabric, which meant Sherlock had probably buttoned his shirt back up a bit. Good. At least he’d read that correctly. Half-in, half-out of his clothes, and — yes, John found, turning to look at him darkly — Sherlock was glaring irritatedly at John: waiting as though he deserved an apology!


‘Don’t pretend this is just me, Sherlock,’ he growled shortly, but guilt was now corroding his feelings about the past few days (few weeks). Yet he knew, he knew with dead certainty, that he wasn’t wrong here: it wasn’t a request that Sherlock was deigning to debase himself to. ‘I’m not some sex-crazed bastard. I haven’t ever forced anything on anyone, least of all you. Now, I’m going to bed. Goodnight. And if and when I want something, for the record? I will actually ask you.


‘I don’t need to be told —’


‘Yes, you do.’


Sherlock was scowling, studying him, but John didn’t want to be read for clues. He couldn’t even begin to have this row that forced him to doubt himself, to doubt what he knew to be fact in Sherlock. This was a frightening emotional reality, probably, for the maestro of high, mighty, calculating reason. But John didn’t feel up to convincing Sherlock how much they… they cared about each other, wanted each other; how different this was to all the other times with every other person he’d ever been with — especially not when his insides were already churning at how fucking quickly things had gone from heated to — cool, in the worst possible way.


‘All right,’ Sherlock murmured, and John’s gaze snapped up from boring holes into the carpet.


‘“All right” what?’ he said, gracelessly. His shirt felt starch-stiff across his back, sticking to his skin, ill-fitting.


‘Tell me what you want.’


Sherlock was clearly holding his tongue, looking into John’s eyes keenly; he was keeping himself, what he actually thought, behind a wall. It was there, John knew it: they loved each other. It wasn’t bloody rocket science. They were in this for good, forever. But here again was Sherlock, essentially denying it to his face, forcing him (yet again) to blink first, to come out and say it, without any sign that he knew how it tore John up to feel this way. No indication that Sherlock really heard him even when he did say it. That Sherlock did believe him. That it was enough, that it would ever be enough, to keep him from leaving again.


Neither of them said anything for… for too long. Finally Sherlock took a step forward. John manfully stood his ground.


(Probably one of his therapists had spun it out at some point: that trust was a leap of faith, that love was essentially giving someone else the most vulnerable part of yourself, and trusting that they wouldn’t shatter it into a thousand pieces. Just now, it felt as though Sherlock didn’t even recognise the simple, ugly truth — that he was holding all the cards.)


Though he refused to take another step back, his eventual sigh felt like a retreat. ‘I have work in the morning.’


After a long moment, Sherlock shifted his own weight fractionally, away from John. It seemed like a dismissal, so he took it.





With a sharp jolt, he awoke, disorientated and overwarm and grunting as Sherlock slipped between his thighs, his cock thrusting as John’s pressed up against his own belly, already hard and leaking.


Jesus,’ he moaned, shifting back instinctively, his sleep-lax left hand clumsily shoving Sherlock’s hip against him and grinding him closer, harder, tighter — ‘Jesus, fuck…’


Sherlock’s hot breath gulped and gasped, his nose dug into John’s shoulder. John could imagine the riots of sweat-drenched curls, matted to Sherlock’s forehead where it was sticking to the nape of John’s sweat-clammy neck, tickling his skin with each cant of Sherlock’s hips —


‘John, I — John—’


Without thinking, brain swamped with not good very bad and so so sososo good don’t stop he locked his ankles, and Sherlock hissed and slid down on his side, and the angle was rougher and suddenly Sherlock’s slick fist was in front of him, dragging downwards. John’s hand flew up to grab, white-knuckled, at the strained cords of Sherlock’s neck; his body couldn’t decide to rock back or forwards, and for a single electric instant he felt like he and Sherlock both were everywhere at once, and he gripped, riding out their near-simultaneous orgasms with a moan, fingers biting so hard he was sure they drew blood.


Through the white noise of his breathing, the distant noise of someone drunkenly laughing in the midnight hour down on Baker Street: it would not have woken him, had he been asleep.


Sherlock had rolled away (onto what would be his side of the bed, except they never slept here anymore; John’s room was more often than not a changing room, an overlarge closet versus where they actually slept together — and slept at all —, in Sherlock’s room). His deep, steadying huff was nearly as loud as John’s, though he seemed to have tried to mute it by exhaling through his nose. John didn’t look round.


With as much energy and dignity as he could gather, he wiped his stomach and sticky thighs with the top margin of the sheet, then curled himself onto his side, facing the door. He wanted Sherlock to admit it, here and now, while they were both exposed and debauched and prideless. (Not apologise — that was surely asking too much.) Wished he would listen when John said, in every way possible, that he wasn’t going to leave: that he didn’t think he would survive it, not a second time.


Instead John lay awake, frowning into his pillow for what felt like hours, listening to Sherlock’s equally sleepless breaths.