Actions

Work Header

At the Bottom of the Pool

Work Text:

When Angelo mistakes John for Sherlock’s date, John passes it off as a fluke. It’s a bit odd, of course; John’s been on dates with girlfriends who’ve been mistaken for her friends, sisters, and even—on one memorable occasion—her mother, but this is the first time an entirely platonic relationship with a female has been mistaken for a romantic one.

So, a fluke.

But then there’s Donovan and Anderson and the clerk at Tesco and seemingly all of the staff at Speedy’s.

Finally, even Mrs Hudson seems to join the ranks of people believing John and Sherlock are a couple. She corners John one afternoon in the stairwell and tells her, in a voice that’s not quite a whisper, “I just wanted to let you know, dear, that the two of you needn’t pretend any longer.”

“I’m sorry?” John asks.

“I wouldn’t mind if you wanted to turn the upstairs bedroom into a study, maybe somewhere Sherlock could store some of her experiments. Wouldn’t that be nice, to get them out of the kitchen, especially after what she did to the table last week…?”

It takes a moment for the shoe to drop, and when it does, John wishes her hands weren’t full with the shopping because she’d rather like to bury her face in them. “Sherlock and I aren’t together, Mrs Hudson.”

“Oh, no one would mind, dear. We get all sorts round here. Mrs Turner next door’s got married ones. Men, that is. Not, um….”

When John gets back to the flat, she finds Sherlock in the kitchen, absorbed in yet another experiment involving oddly coloured liquids in beakers that might make yet another mess of the table sooner or later. She doesn’t so much as glance up at John’s entrance, even as John shuffles into the kitchen and begins to put the shopping away.

“Mrs Hudson thinks we’re dating, apparently,” she tells Sherlock. “Is it something about the way we act around each other, do you think?”

“Just tea for me, please,” says Sherlock. She lifts a beaker to eye level and gently swirls the thick muddy-looking liquid inside, hardly blinking as she watches it. Her hair has been pulled out of her face into a messy ponytail, although the rest of her looks polished as always, aside from the sleeves of her pressed white shirt which are rolled up to her elbows.

John watches her for a moment, then sighs and goes to put the kettle on.

*

Sherlock’s interest in John’s life comes in sporadic bursts. Some days John will try to tell Sherlock about her recent shift at the surgery, and Sherlock will shush her or ignore her or even occasionally walk right out of the flat and not return for hours.

Other days, though, she’ll seek John out, situate herself between John and whatever happens to be occupying John’s attention, and spit out seemingly random questions or observations about John’s life, refusing to leave off until John’s answered her fully.

“Your legal name isn’t John Watson,” Sherlock says one morning. She’s commandeered John’s computer, interrupting John’s attempt at a new blog post, so that John has no choice but to turn in the armchair and give Sherlock all of her attention.

“No,” John says, drawing out the o to show her confusion. Three and a half months they’ve been living together, and now Sherlock has decided to ask about her name? “It’s Joan. I went through a, well, a phase when I was a kid. Started dressing in boys’ clothes, demanding to be called ‘John’ instead of ‘Joan,’ that sort of thing. It lasted maybe a month before I was back in girls’ clothes, but I suppose the name just sort of stuck.”

“Mm” is Sherlock’s answer, and she must be satisfied, since she stands and deposits John’s computer back on her lap without another word.

In the subsequent weeks, Sherlock barges in on John in the toilet, steals John’s tea right out of her hands, throws herself at the foot of John’s bed in the middle of the night, and asks about the flavour of John’s toothpaste, the relationship between John and her parents, the reasons behind minor deviations in John’s morning routine. Perhaps the oddest, though, is when she shuts off the telly in the middle of Eastenders so she can ask John, “What is your current method of birth control?”

“Er,” says John, blinking up at Sherlock, who has stepped closer so she can stand over her like a headmaster might stand over an unruly student. “That’s a bit personal.”

“Is it?” Sherlock cocks her head, squinting. “I can’t imagine why. Isn’t that something flatmates should know about each other? Mine is celibacy, by the way.”

“Sherlock, there is no reason, as my flatmate, you need to know what I do for birth control. That sort of thing is my business, not yours.”

“It becomes my business if any of the men you insist on dating impregnate you. The financial burden of a pregnancy or abortion might make you unable to keep up with the rent and bills, among other things, and it is certainly my business if one or both of us have to seek alternative living arrangements, don’t you agree?”

“Fine,” John snaps. It’s hardly worth arguing about, and besides, in all likelihood she’d have happily offered up the information by now if Sherlock had asked in any other situation. “Condoms,” she admits. When Sherlock only stares at her, one eyebrow raised, she gives in and admits, “I also have an IUD.”

“Ah.” Sherlock flicks an errant curl from her forehead, looking oddly pleased with the answer. “I thought so. That explains the lack of menstruation.”

It’s true that John hasn’t so much as spotted in months, a welcome side effect of the IUD, but that Sherlock knows this and has made deductions based on it is a little unsettling. “The lack of— How— Have you seriously been trying to monitor my menstrual cycle?”

Sherlock gifts her with a faintly chastising look, as though asking Really, John, do you even need to ask? Then she gathers her dressing gown around her with a wide, swooping arm movement and returns to her bedroom, kicking the door shut behind her.

“Wonderful,” John tells the empty sitting room. She wonders, not for the first time, what else Sherlock has deduced about her—before deciding the answer is probably everything.

Although, she soon discovers, that’s not quite true.

*

It takes John an embarrassingly long time to suss out that Sarah fancies her. In her defence, though, it’s been years since she’s dated another woman, so she’s out of practice. She’s forgotten all the tells, forgotten even to look for them in attractive women she meets.

So it takes Sarah asking John in an awkward, hedging sort of way if Sherlock is her partner or her partner for John to realise she has been mistaking romantic interest for mere friendliness for over a month now. Then she’s quick to rectify the month-long lapse.

She returns to the flat that evening feeling light and floaty, and Sherlock, on her back on the sofa, the left sleeve of her dressing gown rolled up and a single nicotine patch on her forearm, takes one look at her and promptly curls onto her side with a derisive snort.

“Shush, you,” John tells her, grinning. “I’ve got a date tomorrow night, and you’re not going to spoil it.”

“Obvious,” Sherlock grumbles. “Who is it this time, then?”

“Sarah, from the clinic.”

John has hung up her coat and shucked her shoes before she realises that Sherlock has sat up on the sofa, her hair a dishevelled mess, and is staring at John with a puzzled, and perhaps even a bit alarmed, expression.

“Sarah?” says Sherlock.

“Yes,” John answers warily. “What—”

“But you don’t date women.” Sherlock launches herself off the sofa so quickly that her open dressing gown flaps in the rush of air, and comes to stand in front of John, her brows knit in confusion. “You’re straight. You’ve said so yourself.”

To say that John is surprised by the reaction is like saying the sun is only slightly warm. Sherlock has never once shown any sign of being homophobic, has in fact never seemed to care one whit about anyone’s sexual orientation, even her own. Bracing herself, John says, “I’ve never said I was straight.”

“No. But you’ve said numerous times that you’re not gay.”

“And I’m not gay, Sherlock. I’m bisexual. There’s a difference.”

The subject is a sore one for John. It takes her back to her early twenties and Harry’s dogged insistence that John was gay but in denial, her refusal to believe that John’s experience didn’t mirror her own.

Sherlock seems to pick up on this, since her expression changes to something wide-eyed and faintly contrite. “Apologies. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. I simply meant… I hadn’t realised. And it is… not often I am mistaken.”

That’s not true, of course; Sherlock makes mistakes just like everyone, even in her most brilliant deductions, but she does react rather poorly to those mistakes. John allows herself a small smile, relieved that she misunderstood as well. “There’s always something,” she teases.

The corner of Sherlock’s lip quirks up. “Yes, apparently there is.”

*

The date is, in short, a disaster.

It starts off well enough. John feels confident and attractive—with minimal fuss, she manages to convince her hair to curl softly beneath her chin rather than hang limply as it usually does, and her tits look fantastic in her best (and only) dress, which is black and low-cut—and Sarah is lovely as always, beaming at John from across the table like being in John’s company is where she has always wanted to be.

They order their drinks, then their food, and John’s mobile beeps from the pocket of John’s coat, which is draped over the back of her chair, just as they are handing their menus to the waiter.

“Sorry,” John says quickly, fumbling instantly for her phone. She means to switch it to silent, not to actually take it all the way out and check it, but once she grabs it, her hand moves on autopilot and that’s exactly what she does.

A text: Come at once. Urgent. SH

Text messages from Sherlock are never truly urgent, John has learned over the last few months. Urgent for Sherlock are items she wants which are presently located across the room, or that she has arbitrarily decided she requires John’s presence while she does something impressive. When anything truly urgent happens, Sherlock’s first response is never to reach for her phone and request assistance, much to John’s annoyance.

“Is something wrong?” Sarah asks.

“Just Sherlock,” answers John. “I think she might’ve forgotten where I am.”

It is certainly within the realm of possibility. After all, despite the occasional need to learn John’s method of birth control or least favourite dessert, Sherlock seems content to delete or just ignore all sorts of things about John, like where she will be at a certain time or what behaviours she does and does not find acceptable. Still, if Sherlock is texting John now, then she likely hasn’t forgotten that John is meant to be on a date with Sarah tonight.

As if on cue, John’s mobile chimes again, and the screen lights up with a new text: She’s hopelessly dull, John. This isn’t. SH

Annoyance sparks—Sherlock has never even met Sarah—and John turns off her phone without another thought.

“Nothing important,” she insists with a smile, shoving it back into her coat pocket. “Sorry about that. Now, where were we?”

By the time they finish their food, they’ve shifted so that their feet are touching, one of Sarah’s kitten heels scraping teasingly along John’s bare ankle. John is happy, faintly aroused, and that’s when she glances over Sarah’s shoulder and sees Sherlock storming past the restaurant’s waiting area, her hair windswept and her long black coat billowing out as she marches straight to their table.

“Why is your phone off?” she demands when she arrives, looming over John with narrowed eyes. “I’ve texted you countless times. Lestrade called: there’s a case, and I need you.”

People at the tables near them have gone quiet, all staring at the woman who seems intent on making a scene in the middle of the restaurant. Sarah glances around them, biting her lip, clearly embarrassed.

Now, John,” Sherlock snaps. “Didn’t you hear me? We have a case. Initially believed to be a simple case of an accidental overdose, but—”

“Sherlock,” John says, calmly. “I’m on a date.”

Sherlock’s gaze flickers to Sarah, and then her expression morphs: from normal Sherlock to something that might seem to someone else like genuine regret, but John can see it for the sham that it is.

“I know,” Sherlock says, sympathy thick in her voice, “and I’m terribly sorry for interrupting—”

“No,” says Sarah, shaking her head even as she still looks flustered and confused. Her feet slip away from John’s. “It’s fine. We were finished anyway, and I have an early morning tomorrow. I’ll, um, just see about the bill, shall I?”

*

John is silent as Sherlock hails a cab, ushers her into it, and climbs in beside her.

After directing the cabbie to Jasper Road in Beckton, Sherlock settles back into the seat and loosens the scarf around her neck. She catches John’s gaze, which is no doubt very stormy indeed, and rolls her eyes. “Yes, yes, you’re displeased with me for interrupting your date, but I need your assistance. And besides, this is much more interesting.”

“No you don’t,” John says. “And not to me it isn’t.”

“I’ve told you, John, you’re an exquisite conductor of light, even if you’re not especially luminous; I think better with you. And don’t pretend you don’t enjoy the thrill of the chase.”

“I’m not. But I enjoy other things just as much as chasing down a serial killer, and sometimes I enjoy other things more.”

Sherlock scoffs. “Like what?”

“Like getting off!”

John doesn’t mean to blurt it out quite like that, but there’s no taking it back now. She stares unflinchingly at Sherlock, whose eyes have gone hard and unreadable in the dim glow of the cab’s interior.

“Ah, I see. Expecting to be invited over to hers, were you?”

Of course not. John loves sex, and it’s true that she had been hoping Sarah might be so inclined after their date, but John’s not so shallow or presumptuous that she was expecting. Still, she’s furious with Sherlock, and it feels much more satisfying to snap, “For a start.”

Sherlock turns to the cabbie. “Actually, here will do.”

The cab stops, and Sherlock practically drags John out onto the pavement, then fishes her wallet from her coat pocket to pay the fare.

“Sherlock, what the hell are we doing?” she asks when Sherlock finishes and the cab is pulling away. Sherlock doesn’t answer, but instead leads John into a nearby alley and shoves her, back-first, into the brick wall of a building beside a bunch of empty bins. “Sherlock!” John squawks in surprise.

“Shh,” says Sherlock, leaning close. Her long curls brush John’s cheeks, and her right leg presses insistently between John’s thighs, stealing any further words from John’s mouth. “Is this what you want, then? To get off? Because I am perfectly capable of providing it.”

Sherlock kisses her, forcefully enough that John swears she can feel their teeth clack even though their mouths are still closed, and slides the hems of her dress and coat up her thighs. A sudden chill brings a rush of goose flesh to John’s skin, and it’s enough to kick John’s wayward brain back into gear.

She turns her head to the side, and Sherlock bends to nuzzle at her jaw instead, thigh pressing against her more firmly. “Sherlock,” she sighs, “we shouldn’t do this. This is a terrible idea.”

“Is it?” Sherlock’s tone is dismissive, but she stops anyway, leaning away from John. Her eyes are dark and intense. “Why?”

John breathes, gathering her thoughts. They’re flatmates and friends. Sherlock is by her own admission married to her work and uninterested in sex. Someone could walk by and see them, and John isn’t keen on giving anyone a show. Plus, not five minutes ago John was furious at Sherlock for ruining her date with a sweet, lovely woman by being a needy and manipulative tit.

“Someone could walk by and see,” John says, knowing even as she says it that she is purposely choosing the weakest excuse, just waiting for Sherlock to tear it down.

Sherlock, of course, realises too and smirks. Her hand continues its quick glide up John’s thigh and into her knickers (black lace—her fuck-me pair). She wets her fingertips in John’s slit, then circles them lightly around John’s clit.

“Then we’ll have to be quick,” she tells John. “Can you do that? Show me the quickest way to get you off.”

It requires manoeuvring: John facing the wall and Sherlock’s arm wrapped around her, hand still shoved in her knickers. John covers the hand with her own smaller one and guides it downward. She nudges the tips of two of Sherlock’s long fingers into her and presses the heel of Sherlock’s palm into her pubic bone, coaxing until she finds a fluid rhythm between that sweet stretch of her cunt and that lovely, lovely rough friction of her labia against her clit that makes her want to sob.

Sherlock picks up the movement and pressure easily, and then takes over so John can get a better grip on the wall instead, use it to help her grind forward and down onto Sherlock’s hand, fucking and rubbing herself almost as much as Sherlock is fucking and rubbing her. She wishes for a moment her breasts were bare, the top of her dress and her bra bunched beneath them, her coat gone, so she could feel her nipples tightening in the cool air.

It’s that image that does it for her. With a whispered “oh,” which Sherlock echoes even more softly, John feels herself begin to throb around Sherlock’s fingertips as her orgasm hits.

She means to still her hips and lift Sherlock’s hand out of her knickers, but now she’s come, her clit is so sensitive, her cunt even wetter, that she can’t quite convince herself to stop. It feels so good. Sherlock follows her lead, rubbing her through a second and then a third orgasm until John is gasping into the brick, her thighs shaking.

She remembers her manners when the haze passes, and reaches behind her to paw at Sherlock’s trousers, but Sherlock steps away, her hand slipping from John’s knickers.

“Later,” she says, and John turns to find her smoothing out her coat and straightening her scarf, as though her entire hand isn’t glistening with John’s wetness, as though she isn’t smearing it all over her clothes. “Now, let’s go. Lestrade will wonder where we are.”

*

Greg does indeed seem to be perplexed about what took them so long, but then he gets a better look at them, his gaze lingering on John’s bare legs and nice shoes and the sliver of her black dress visible below her coat, and seems to come to a new set of conclusions.

“Ah,” he says, wide-eyed. “Sorry, I didn’t realise you were… busy tonight.”

“Just a date,” Sherlock answers breezily, already ducking under the crime-scene tape and making her way into the dark mid-terraced house while John and Greg trail behind her.

My date,” John clarifies, lest Greg get the wrong idea. Or, well, she wonders, is it really the wrong idea now? John’s come is on Sherlock’s hand and clothes, and she feels like that should mean something, somehow, although she doesn’t know what.

And then, of course, there’s Sarah, who… well, John doesn’t know about that either. What does it mean when you go on a date with a woman you really like, are interrupted by your flatmate, wind up having sex in an alley with said flatmate, and then find your interest in the woman you’d been on the date with has mysteriously cooled?

It means that John’s life is one headache after another.

Sherlock flits excitedly around the crime scene, which is the first-floor bedroom of the house, mumbling to herself occasionally, while John stands silently to the side beside Greg, both of them watching her work.

“So, a date?” asks Greg quietly. “Ended poorly, did it?”

“Yes. It was going swimmingly until she”—John nods towards Sherlock—“came charging into the restaurant and scared away my date.”

Greg makes a sympathetic noise. “Well, you look nice anyway. I’ve never seen you in a dress before.”

“I almost never wear one,” John admits, “only when—”

“Lestrade,” Sherlock interrupts loudly, standing with a flourish from where she has been kneeling to examine one of the floorboards, “kindly cease attempting to chat up my flatmate. It’s distracting. And John, I didn’t bring you here to flirt with him. Come look at this.”

Sherlock,” both Greg and John sigh, John sounding only exasperated while Greg’s tone is tinged with an embarrassment that makes John glance sharply at him. He couldn’t have been, could he…? she wonders, then stops the thought before it can fully coalesce.

She comes forward to stand beside Sherlock, and lets herself be submerged in the case.

*

John is woken early the next morning by Sherlock crawling into John’s bed and disturbing the warm cocoon of bedding around John’s body so she can mould herself to John’s front.

It’s a miracle that John’s PTSD doesn’t kick in, that she doesn’t mistake Sherlock for a threat and try to throttle her in a heavy sleep-haze. Instead, she comes around slowly, mumbling Sherlock’s name and trying to scoot backwards so she can get a good look at Sherlock’s face.

“Shh,” says Sherlock. “It’s all right. Hold still.”

John does, so that Sherlock can curl an arm around her back, snake a hand past her bum and between her thighs, which John parts obligingly.

Oh,” Sherlock groans, as she slips two fingers into her easily. “You’re still wet from earlier.”

Of course she is. They headed to the morgue to examine the body after Sherlock was done with the crime scene, and by the time they returned to the flat, it was gone two in the morning and John was knackered. She stripped off her clothes and went to sleep, not wanting to bother with having a shower, and now here she is, in bed with nothing to keep Sherlock’s hands from roaming where they wish.

John moans softly at the sensation of being opened, the slow circles of Sherlock’s long fingers along her walls, and drops her forehead to Sherlock’s shoulder, biting at the fabric of Sherlock’s shirt. With her free hand on John’s low back, Sherlock encourages her even closer until her pubic bone presses into Sherlock’s hip bone, which is—surprisingly, since John can feel Sherlock’s trousers along her leg—bare.

John glances down, then uses her hands to see what her eyes can’t. Sherlock’s trousers are unbuttoned, unzipped, and shoved down just enough to bare her hip. She must have done so before she’d even climbed into John’s bed, which means she must have envisioned this exact scenario: John rutting against her hip bone while she fingers John from behind.

That’s… inspiring. That Sherlock planned this, that Sherlock has thought about this.

“Come on, John,” murmurs Sherlock, her hand on John’s back coaxing John to move, and with a quiet groan, John obeys.

It doesn’t take long. John rocks back onto Sherlock’s fingers and rubs her clit roughly against Sherlock’s hip bone maybe a dozen times before she is coming, crying “ah, ah, ah” into Sherlock’s shirt with every flutter of her cunt around Sherlock’s still-circling fingers.

She nuzzles Sherlock’s shoulder drowsily, then kisses the soft skin of Sherlock’s throat, rousing herself from her post-orgasmic lull to return the favour.

But suddenly Sherlock is pushing John away and rolling off the bed, straightening her clothes and refastening her trousers as she goes.

“Er. Sherlock?” asks John warily, sitting up.

“I have to think,” Sherlock says. There’s a distance in her voice; she’s retreated into her head, that brilliant mind beginning to whirl. “I’m missing something. The marks on his arm….”

Then she is gone. John hears her heavy footsteps on the stairs, then pacing in the sitting room below. John blinks at her open bedroom door, then lies back down.

Did Sherlock Holmes really, she thinks, bewildered, just crawl into my bed, get me off, and leave?

But of course she did, and the evidence is still fresh between John’s legs. At the thought, she cups her hand along her vulva, feels the wetness seeping from her slit and the lingering oversensitivity of her clit. For a moment, John contemplates rubbing herself to a second orgasm, but then decides against it.

Instead, she rolls onto her stomach, bundling the bedding around her again, and lets herself drift off to sleep.

*

Sherlock has solved the case by the time that John wakes up, and then she spends the rest of the morning whinging about how dull the case had turned out, how bored she is, how disappointing the criminal classes of London. John scarcely listens as she puts the kettle on and cooks them both breakfast. She’s heard it all before, after all, and she’ll hear it all again soon enough.

When she retrieves her phone from the pocket of her coat, which she draped haphazardly across the kitchen table when they got home last night, she finds a text from Sarah, sent an hour earlier: John, I’ve thought about it and decided it might be best if we kept our relationship professional. I hope you understand. Sarah

The twinge of disappointment John feels is surprisingly small. She wonders how big of a role Sherlock’s interruption played in Sarah’s decision, but it hardly matters. She texts back, I understand. Thank you for letting me know. John

When it’s sent, she glances up and finds Sherlock standing in the doorway, watching her with narrowed eyes.

“Sarah dumped you.”

John wonders what gave it away. Maybe the disappointment, however small, had shown for a moment on her face. “Well, we weren’t really together in the first place, were we,” she says. “If we had been, I wouldn’t have… well. So I’m not sure dumped is the right word, but yes, we won’t be having any more dates.”

Sherlock’s gaze doesn’t waver. Trying to suss out John’s feelings on the issue, John suspects, which she decides is the perfect opportunity to broach the subject on her mind.

“So, last night,” she begins.

Sherlock’s lips tighten. “It needn’t affect us. Our… relationship, as it were, can continue unchanged.”

Ah, John thinks, so we won’t be doing it again. Disappointment, stronger than what she felt after Sarah’s text, trickles through her, which she tries to tell herself is ridiculous. What had she been expecting? Sherlock is hardly going to fancy dating John—and really, John isn’t especially keen on the idea of dating Sherlock either, which has the potential to get quite messy—and her consenting to a friends-with-benefits situation seems out of character.

Although, to be fair, John thinks, before yesterday she’d have thought that Sherlock offering up a shag in the first place would be wildly out of character. It also doesn’t explain what happened in John’s bed earlier.

“Right,” she says, “so, just to be clear, that means… no more sex?”

For a moment, Sherlock seems taken aback. Her eyes widen and her shoulders twitch, but then her eyes are narrowing, her lips pressing into a thin line. If her hands were steepled beneath her chin, it would almost look like her most intense deduction face.

“No,” she says, her voice low, “sex is… fine. More than, in fact. If you are amenable, of course.”

If John is amenable. She thinks she is. Probably. After all, last night was fantastic, this morning was fantastic, and if Sherlock thinks so as well—since more than fine, in Sherlock-speak, is high praise indeed—then what’s the problem? She wouldn’t even be the first flatmate that John has shagged, although it has been quite a while since the last one.

“Sure,” she decides. “That… yeah, all right.”

*

John has a shower after breakfast. When she leaves the bathroom, a towel covering her from breasts to upper thighs, her hair still dripping, she finds Sherlock standing outside, back against the wall and arms in her pockets. Despite the casual pose, her eyes are wide and almost manic-looking.

“Do you want sex?” she says.

It takes a moment for John to process that, unexpected as it is. “Sorry, what?”

“In the kitchen.” Sherlock is suddenly speaking more quickly, a wrinkle appearing between her eyebrows as though she’s annoyed by John’s incomprehension—which, to be honest, she probably is. “You brought up sex. Were you angling for an invitation?”

“No,” John tries to assure her, but then Sherlock is stepping closer, crowding John against the doorframe.

“Because if so, I have no objections. In fact, I find the idea… stimulating.”

Stimulating, John thinks, dumbfounded. Jesus Christ. So much for Sherlock’s body being only transport.

“Sherlock,” she says. Her voice comes out faintly breathless, like she imagines the ravished heroine of a Mills & Boon novel might sound, and judging by Sherlock’s smirk, she thinks similarly.

“Excellent,” says Sherlock, smirk growing even more smug by the second. “My bedroom, then? It’s got the better bed, after all.”

Sherlock’s bed is a marvel. The sheets are ridiculously posh: sateen, with a thread count of at least 1000, and they probably cost more money than John has ever seen. After the duvet has been yanked back, the sheets revealed, John drops her towel on the floor and climbs on top of them, revelling in the silky feel of them on her skin.

“You hardly ever sleep,” she sighs. “And even when you do, it’s usually on the sofa. Yet you have sheets like these on your bed.”

Sherlock says nothing, just stands beside the mattress, staring down at John with an expression like John is some otherworldly, unfathomable creature. John thinks it might be the strangeness of the situation finally occurring to her or the appearance of second thoughts, but Sherlock doesn’t seem alarmed, just… deeply thoughtful.

“Come here?” John coaxes, and Sherlock steps forward immediately, rests a bent knee on the mattress beside John’s shoulder. John continues, “Last night, you said ‘Later’ when I tried to touch you. Can I touch you now?”

The corner of Sherlock’s mouth turns down. “I… am in the follicular phase of the oestrous cycle. The second day, to be precise.”

“The— You’re on your period,” John translates.

Sherlock inclines her head, looking even more uncomfortable.

“Ah. Right.” John understands. It’s not uncommon for a woman to feel dirty or ill or just not particularly interested in being touched on her period, but just in case, she feels compelled to add, “Look, just so you know, it’s fine with me. If it bothers you, I won’t push, of course, but I have no problem touching you like this. Or if you want to keep your knickers on or—”

“I’m told,” Sherlock says, still frowning, “that it’s not especially pleasant to engage in sexual activity when one’s partner is menstruating.”

Not a word about her own preferences. John often wonders if Sherlock, who takes great enjoyment from analysing other people’s speech patterns, realises how telling her own phrasing and word choice can be. “Right,” John decides, sitting up. “Take off your clothes.”

Sherlock does, moving very slowly, and John can feel her watching intently as John retrieves the towel from the floor and spreads it lengthwise in the centre of the bed. Usually John isn’t bothered by a bit of a mess, but she thinks it would be a shame indeed to ruin sheets like these. When Sherlock is standing in only her knickers, looking almost awkward as she kicks her trousers off her feet, John draws her onto the mattress with a hand on her hip and divests her of her last piece of clothing so she can stretch out comfortably nude on the towel.

John has seen Sherlock unclothed before, of course, just as Sherlock has seen her, but somehow it seems different now. Sherlock’s thin and bony frame, her very prominent hip bones, her small and lovely breasts, her dark and untamed pouf of pubic hair—it makes for a more erotic picture than John can ever remember it having done before.

She nuzzles Sherlock’s jaw, runs her hand along Sherlock’s side, kisses Sherlock’s left hip, and then—just to prove she really doesn’t mind—she opens Sherlock’s thighs and lowers her mouth between them.

Instantly, Sherlock is gasping, arching her back, and grabbing at John’s hair with both hands like a woman clinging to a lifeline. “John,” she moans. “Oh—”

John tries to go slow, to lick at the crease of her thigh and tease at her labia, but Sherlock’s grip is insistent and greedy. She forcibly brings John’s mouth to her clit and holds her there, fingers knotting in John’s damp hair, so John gives in and tongues at it with everything she has.

It goes on for ages, long enough that John’s tongue and jaw get tired and then sore, so she just holds herself in place while Sherlock ruts against the flat of her tongue, arching so far off the bed that when John opens her eyes she can only see Sherlock’s stomach, the curve beneath the lowest of her ribs. It’s brilliant. More than brilliant, really, with the way that Sherlock’s impressive vocabulary slowly shrinks until the only word she seems to know is fuck, which she repeats in a long breathless string as her hips thrust up once, twice, and then her arced body falls flat on the mattress, shaking.

“Fuck,” she says again, when John resumes her licking, much more gently now, light circles around Sherlock’s clit. “Fuck.” Then she shoves John away and squeezes her thighs together, curls up on her side, gasping and shivering with her eyes closed.

They’ve shifted quite a bit from the towel, John notices, although she isn’t certain how they managed that. Perhaps they gravitated with all of Sherlock’s arching. There are red streaks on the sheets, a sharp contrast to the stark white. Ah well, John thinks, a stain won’t change the thread count, and if it bothers Sherlock, she can buy another set.

She starts to climb up behind Sherlock, wrap herself around her, but Sherlock stops her with a resolute shake of her head.

“No. Just—” Sherlock’s voice is hoarse; she pauses, clears her throat, and continues, “A moment. Um. Please.”

“All right,” John answers easily. “Take your time.” Her own desire burns low, a pleasant ache that she could enjoy for hours, especially with the smell and taste of Sherlock still as strong as it is. She can feel the wetness drying on her skin, from the bridge of her nose all the way down to her neck.

“That,” says Sherlock, her voice a low rumble, as though she’s stirring from a deep sleep. “That was—unexpected.”

“Unexpected how?”

Sherlock shakes her head. She lifts herself to a seated position, opens her eyes, and goes rigid when she looks at John, like she’s just been struck in the solar plexus.

“What?” John asks, alarmed, glancing down at herself but seeing nothing noteworthy. Then Sherlock’s hand is on her cheek, her thumb stroking along the corner of John’s lip, and John understands. “Oh. Yeah, the mess. Um. It happens. It’s still all fine. I can just—”

Sherlock kisses her, launching herself at John with such force that John worries they’ll tumble from the bed, but she only falls back onto her elbows, Sherlock on top of her. Sherlock practically clings to her, pressing their breasts together, alternating between biting John’s lips and licking John’s teeth in a way that really should not be erotic but, in fact, is.

Then Sherlock abandons her mouth so she can kiss along John’s sternum and nose at her breasts. “You’re covered in me,” she says, voice nearly a growl. “It’s so… red and obvious that even the most useless member of Scotland Yard could see what you’ve been doing.”

Now John is the one who is breathless, as Sherlock’s lips find her left nipple, kissing it softly, then closing around it. So warm and wet. John arches into the sensation, gasping. “And that—oh—that does it for you, does it?”

Sherlock leans back and grabs at John’s waist, tugging her forward, trying to manhandle her. John stamps down on the instinct to struggle and lets herself be positioned: on her knees between Sherlock and the headboard, facing Sherlock.

“How many?” Sherlock asks. When John only stares at her, she heaves a sigh like John is being purposefully dense. “Orgasms, John. I’ve already seen you are capable of having multiple ones in a single encounter, so how many are you capable of having?”

Capable is a tricky word. John is usually satisfied after two or three, but she is technically capable of more. Once, she’d had sixteen orgasms in an hour, but she had been at university then and masturbating with the help of multiple toys.

Evidently, she takes too long to answer, because suddenly Sherlock is sighing again and flipping her around so that she faces the wall. “Never mind,” she growls, and plasters herself along John’s back. She reaches around John’s hip to nestle her hand between John’s legs. “I’ll find out for myself.”

The tips of two fingers slide into John’s cunt, and the heel of Sherlock’s palm rests on John’s pubic bone—the very same position John showed her in the alley, and of course she gets it perfect even without John directing her—and then she rubs until John is crying out, her head falling back onto Sherlock’s shoulder as she comes.

“One,” Sherlock says. John feels Sherlock’s nose in her hair. “Easy enough. Let’s try for two.”

By seven, John is slumped against the headboard, sweat dripping from her skin onto the pillows beneath her, cheek pressed against the wall as Sherlock rubs tirelessly against John’s clit. Embarrassingly enough, John has always been something of a gusher, but it’s never been quite like this. She’s wet all down her thighs, and every movement of Sherlock’s hand brings with it an obscene wet squelch.

“Good,” Sherlock murmurs. “Now eight.”

“I can’t,” John tells her, panting. Not that it doesn’t feel good, because it does—her clit feels swollen, sensitive, and her cunt is aching wonderfully—but orgasm is a long, long way away, and her legs are shaking so badly she’s not sure they’ll hold her much longer.

As if catching the thought, Sherlock presses closer, propping John up more firmly between her and the wall. “Yes you can. In fact, I’m fairly certain you can manage—hmm—two more? Yes, two more.”

“Sherlock,” John moans weakly, but suddenly Sherlock’s hand is quicker, the pressure more intense, and John is whimpering, grinding herself helplessly onto Sherlock’s fingers.

The ninth is tiny, barely a shiver through her clitoris, so weak she’s sure Sherlock won’t be able to tell it’s happened. But Sherlock stops as soon as it’s through and holds her as she tries to catch her breath.

“See,” Sherlock says, and John can practically hear her preening at her own brilliance. “I told you that you were capable of two more.”

Afterwards, John curls up in Sherlock’s bed for a long doze, and Sherlock lies next to her, her arm along John’s back.

*

John has spent much of the last eight months believing Sherlock to be asexual. And considering Sherlock’s widely expressed distaste for sentiment and interpersonal relationships, Sherlock’s speech that night at Angelo’s about being married to her work, and Sherlock’s continued insistence that the body is merely transport, John doesn’t think it was an unreasonable assumption to make.

Although, clearly, John was very, very mistaken. Now she’s been more or less given permission, Sherlock initiates sex regularly, at all hours of the day or night, and sometimes—to John’s shock—even when there’s a case on. Sherlock rubs her to orgasm in the backseats of cabs and under the tables at restaurants; eats her out from cunt to arsehole and then fucks her with three fingers in her cunt, one in her arse, on the floor in front of their fireplace; holds her hair out of her face while John kneels in front of the armchair, head nestled between Sherlock’s pale, soft thighs.

John’s never had so much sex. If someone had told her before that Sherlock would want to shag all the bloody time, she’d have thought they were having her on.

One night after a long, busy shift at the surgery, John wakes abruptly when the mattress jolts beneath her and Sherlock sidles in behind her, smelling like sulphur, disinfectant, and tea. John tries to flip over and face her, but Sherlock lays a heavy hand on her hip, halting her. Then, when John stills with a sigh, Sherlock’s hand slips under her pyjama top, fingertips ghosting up her stomach until they reach her left breast, which Sherlock cups gently, her thumb circling the nipple.

John’s cunt throbs, and she squirms, pressing her bum back into Sherlock and squeezing her thighs together with a quiet moan.

“Your very first orgasm,” Sherlock says into her neck, “how old were you?”

John has to think about it, and Sherlock, the teasing twat, stops circling her thumb until John answers. “Dunno,” John admits. “Young, maybe six or seven. Our family went on holiday, and I discovered the jets in the swimming pool. I thought I’d found the secret of the universe.”

“And when you went home, you doubtlessly tried to recreate the sensation.”

“Yeah. Tried holding myself under the tap in the bathtub, which didn’t work so well. Then I just… rubbed all over anything I could get between my legs. I was a six- or seven-year-old nymphomaniac, really.”

“Determined and resourceful,” says Sherlock. She sounds… fond, almost, certainly amused; John can hear her smile. “I was older, if you were curious.”

John means to ask how much older, but Sherlock’s thumb strokes more forcefully back and forth across her nipple, stealing the words from her throat. The sound she makes instead is soft but whorish, somewhere between a whine and a sigh.

“What about your first partnered experience?” Sherlock continues calmly.

John groans. She doesn’t want to talk; she wants to bask in the feeling of her nipple hardening under Sherlock’s thumb and her knickers growing damper by the minute. So instead she says, “What can you deduce?”

Sherlock hums as though pleased by the question—and she probably is, the arrogant prat, never turning down the opportunity to impress—and bites John’s neck softly before she answers.

“You have a high sex drive—which was high even apparently when you had little if any comprehension of sex itself, as you’ve just said—and you attach no meaning or sentiment to the idea of one’s virginity, since you have, on multiple occasions, referred to virginity as ‘a largely cultural construct’ and its importance in contemporary culture as ‘a load of bollocks.’ Ideas that could have spawned when you were an adult looking back on negative experiences, but the irritation in your body language and voice lacks the heat it would have if you had a particularly personal investment.

“So,” Sherlock says, not even seeming to notice how John is writhing against her and shoving her breast insistently into Sherlock’s hand, “a high sex drive and no desire to hold on to your virginity, you lost it when the opportunity presented itself. Which, if I recall correctly, was age fifteen? sixteen? Your first boyfriend, at any rate. Dylan or Derrick or something similar.”

“Dominic,” John says. Her voice is low and breathy. She certainly sounds like a woman who is aching to be fucked. “I can’t believe you remembered that.”

“Mm.” Another soft bite, lower this time, at the juncture between her neck and shoulder. “You didn’t try to schedule your first partnered sexual experience around some important event, as some do, nor were you desperate to have it over with. At some point, you wanted it, he wanted it, and you had the necessary space and supplies.”

She’s right, of course; she nearly always bloody is. Age sixteen in Dominic’s bed while his mum was at work.

Sherlock’s hand abandons her breast, leaving John arching into nothing and moaning her disappointment loudly, but then it comes to rest on her hip, fingers stroking the skin above John’s pyjama bottoms languorously. “I’m lacking the data necessary to deduce the rest of it, I’m afraid,” Sherlock prompts. “I can’t build bricks without clay.”

John is happy to supply it, if it means Sherlock will touch her some more. “Utterly forgettable. Practically cliché in how it played out too. He lasted maybe a minute after he got his prick in me, and it didn’t feel like much of anything on my end. He did insist on licking me a bit afterward, but… well….”

Sherlock scoffs. “Idiot. Clearly he failed to comprehend that you need a lot of friction and firm, constant pressure. He was doomed to fail.”

“He was teenager with no previous experience,” John feels compelled to point out. “And I hadn’t learned yet how to translate what I liked on my own into what I wanted with another person.”

“He was still an idiot. Moments after I touched you the first time, felt how you responded, I had a fairly accurate idea of what you would and wouldn’t like. Cunnilingus is a tease for you; you can’t orgasm from it.”

Yes, John means to answer, but you’re a genius, aren’t you? We can’t all be like you. Except that as Sherlock is still speaking, her hand is slipping into John’s pyjama bottoms, into her knickers. As though proving she knows precisely how to touch John, she slots a fingertip on either side of John’s clitoris and rubs in slow, firm circles.

“Jesus,” John moans, and she is grabbing at her pillow, dragging the corner of it to her mouth so she can bite down and muffle her cries. Her thighs soon begin to tremble, and she wants desperately to squeeze her legs together, trap Sherlock’s hand between them, and just fuck it until she comes. “Faster,” she says. An order, it’s meant to be, but it comes out as a plea. “Fuck, Sherlock, come on.”

“You don’t really want me to go faster,” Sherlock says, and her pace doesn’t alter even the slightest. “You want to come, of course, but your orgasm will be weaker if you come now. You love it when it’s slow. Your legs go wobbly for hours.”

It’s true. John will sweat and curse and writhe, but when her orgasm comes, it will be like a bomb, whiting everything out except the way her cunt pulses and her clit throbs.

“Fine,” she pants, “but I want a quick one after.” Because she won’t want it to end and her clit will be oversensitive and so very, very willing to let her have another.

“Of course,” Sherlock says. “I’ll give you a quick three if you’d like.”

John very much does like, and afterwards, when she’s still trembling and Sherlock is helping to put her knickers and pyjamas back to rights, John wonders if she is becoming too attached to Sherlock.

She dismisses the idea almost as quickly as it occurs. After all, she’s always been very attached to Sherlock, since at the least the moment she shot a man for Sherlock without a single thought of the possible consequences—and surely if anything went beyond the normal boundaries of friendship, it was that rather than how John offers herself up like a bloody tart every time Sherlock, with her cheekbones and her voice and her hands, so much as glances at her.

Still, she shoves the idea to the back of her mind—where it can be retrieved if she needs it—and crawls under the covers so she can suck a bit on Sherlock’s clit before she goes to sleep.

*

Days later, John has a shit day at the surgery. One of her patients has to be transported to the A&E after a reaction to a tetanus vaccination, and another calls her a useless clot when she refuses to provide a prescription for a simple case of flu. During her lunch break, she notices she has a text from Harry, asking her to call, and when she does, the phone call quickly dissolves into a shouting match.

After they’ve finished—and it is not, John thinks, nearly as satisfying to end a call on a mobile as it is to slam down a telephone receiver—Sarah approaches her and asks, looking very uncomfortable, if she and Sherlock are having problems. John can’t work out if she’s implying John and Sherlock have a romantic relationship—it’s something about the delicate, almost shifty way she asks it—or if John is becoming oversensitive to the issue, but it frustrates her either way.

So she returns to the flat in a piss-poor mood. She wants to masturbate furiously with her strongest vibrator until all of the tension has left her, and then sleep until the morning.

When John opens the front door, she finds Sherlock in the armchair, plucking absently at her violin as though deep in thought, although her eyes track John’s progress into the sitting room like a cat would watch an ant crawling just out of its reach.

“Use my bed,” Sherlock says.

John waits until she has peeled off her coat, hung it on the coatrack, and stepped out of her shoes before she addresses the non sequitur.

“Sorry? And hello, by the way. My day’s been shit, thanks for asking. How was yours?”

Sherlock casts her gaze to the ceiling and lays the violin across her lap. “Obviously your day has gone poorly. You’re hunched like you have four-stone weights hanging from your shoulders, and it took you seven seconds longer than usual to reach the top of the stairs. Conclusion: your day was stressful. And what do you do to unwind after a stressful day? Masturbate in your bedroom for the entirety of the evening.”

John blinks. On some level, she realises she should have expected that Sherlock has paid enough attention to her behaviour to have worked out her masturbatory habits, but the reality is still a bit unsettling.

Sherlock rolls her eyes again. “The walls are thin, and your vibrators—both of them—are loud. Not to mention there is little else to do in your room besides masturbate, certainly not enough to keep you occupied for so long. It’s not a difficult deduction to make. So, again: use my bed.”

“Sherlock, I’m not masturbating in your bed,” John tells her. She is pleased to hear her tone is sufficiently affronted at the suggestion and she sounds not even the slightest bit intrigued or, god help her, aroused.

“Why not? I don’t mind. I understand the stress-reducing benefits of self-pleasure, and you’ve engaged in similarly intimate behaviours in my bed in the past 33 days. Besides—” Sherlock lifts the violin again, as though the issue is decided. “—your bed is currently serving as storage for one of my more sensitive experiments. It’s probably best if you avoid it.”

Sherlock,” John says, closing her eyes and pinching the bridge of her nose. She’ll be going to bed early with a headache at this rate. “Remember that conversation we had about private spaces in the flat?”

Sherlock stares blankly at her, plucking the strings of her violin. Her fingers look… especially long like that, John notices—and then she’s furious at herself for noticing.

“Look, I’m just— I could go for some Chinese, I think. You?”

Sherlock’s gaze doesn’t waver. “Fine. You can use my bed after we’ve eaten.”

It’s ludicrous, of course, the idea of John masturbating in Sherlock’s bed while Sherlock—what? Watches? Sits calmly in the sitting room with her violin, as though this is normal flatmate behaviour, even accounting for their recent sexual relationship?

“You’re calling in the order,” John tells her tersely, and the corner of Sherlock’s lip twitches as though she wants to smirk.

Later, John confirms that there is indeed an experiment in the centre of her bed: a large, sealed, plain cardboard box angled crookedly as though it was simply tossed there and then abandoned. The faint stench of death, along with a sharp chemical-like odour John can’t identify, radiates from it. It’s ghastly. Sherlock has used John’s room for a number of experiments over the months, but none of them have ever involved a dead… something. John isn’t certain she ever wants to sleep in her bed again, and she is immediately furious with Sherlock for it.

“What the bloody hell is all this?” she shouts as she stomps down the stairs.

Sherlock doesn’t even glance at her, still seated as she is in the armchair, although after dinner she switched out her violin for a thick leather-bound book. “What, the fox?”

“If that’s what’s on my bed, then yes. What is it even doing there, Sherlock?”

Sherlock lowers the book, her forehead wrinkled as though she’s puzzled by the reaction. “An experiment, I told you—didn’t you hear me? I’m testing the decomposition rate of bodies that have been treated with eth—”

“Never mind,” John snaps. “Just get it out of my room. No, get it out of the building. Mrs Hudson will have a fit if she knows it’s there, and my bedroom is not part of your sodding experiments. I am not sleeping in a bloody homemade morgue!”

Sherlock does not appear the slightest bit concerned by John’s ire, although at least she’s no longer feigning confusion. “Fine. Then I presume you’ll be using my bed tonight regardless, hm? Unless you’d rather darken your sister’s doorstep….”

John wouldn’t rather, in fact, and of course Sherlock knows that. It’s infuriating enough that when she eventually retires for the night to Sherlock’s bedroom, she takes her wand-style vibrator—which is her strongest and, most importantly, her most conspicuous toy—with her, holding it so that as she crosses the sitting room, Sherlock, if she’s paying any attention at all, will see immediately and think that John is going to do perverse and messy things in her ridiculously posh bed.

She doesn’t actually intend to use it. She doesn’t intend to do anything but crawl under the sheets and fall instantly asleep.

Instead, her senses are assaulted with the satiny texture of Sherlock’s expensive sheets, the calming dark of the room, the scent of Sherlock’s shampoo and soap on the pillow, and not ten minutes later she’s turned on the lights again so she can locate the nearest electrical outlet and plug in her vibrator.

With the head of the toy against her pubic bone, the vibrations making her squirm and gasp and bite her lip to muffle her moans, John finds herself thinking of Sherlock. Hard not to, really, given the situation and the setting.

If what Sherlock said was true, then she can hear what John is doing right now. The thought should make her self-conscious, but it does quite the opposite.

She wonders if Sherlock is actually listening to her, imagining what John is doing, or if the sound is mere white noise in Sherlock’s brain. Maybe Sherlock is aroused. Maybe she is touching herself through her trousers, thinking of John in her bed staining the duvet with her wetness. Maybe the next time Sherlock sleeps in here, she’ll be able to smell John on the sheets….

Nearly an hour later, when John is sweating, shaking, and exhausted, the vibrator deposited on the floor, she rolls onto her side and thinks fuzzily that this has just been compelling evidence that she is too attached to Sherlock. Sherlock knows her like no one else ever has, the mere smell of her is enough to make John’s bits moist and tingly, and John can’t imagine ever wanting to have sex with anyone else again. That is bad. That is very, very bad for flatmates and friends meant to be having a bit of fun, especially when one of them is Sherlock Holmes.

Unfortunately, John feels her eyelids becoming heavy before she has decided what to do about it, so she gives in and lets herself drift off.

*

John wakes because she is warm—hot, even. She can feel sweat on her back and chest, the sheets clinging uncomfortably to her skin. After a moment she realises the reason for this, or at least the primary one: at some point in the night, Sherlock decided to climb into bed with her, and is currently asleep in foetal position immediately beside her. Sherlock’s legs are maybe an inch from John’s, and if she tilted her head to one side, she would feel Sherlock’s fringe against her temple.

It’s nothing they haven’t done before. They slept in the same bed once or twice even before they shagged, and afterwards they have on occasion engaged in something that could perhaps be called sleepy post-shag snuggling. But none of that ever made her feel the way this does. She turns onto her side and watches Sherlock’s breasts rise and fall beneath her shirt with every breath, the way her nose scrunches up as she inhales, and John is abruptly so very fond of her that it’s a physical sensation: a pleasant warmth in her chest, a fluttering in her gut. She wants to cuddle up close and rest her chin in the prominent dip of Sherlock’s collarbone, press kisses along Sherlock’s throat.

Oh bugger, she thinks, as realisation dawns and she finally recognises the cloud of trouble that is hanging over her—and probably has been for weeks. Oh shit fuck bloody buggering fuck.

She rolls to her other side, facing the wall, and squeezes her eyes closed as the epiphany fully sets in.

It’s not as though she didn’t know there was a risk of falling for a friend when you started sleeping with that friend. She’s had mates who have done the same thing, but… well. Sherlock? Sherlock who, despite her apparent eagerness to hop into bed with John at a moment’s notice, proudly declares herself married to her work, who turns up her nose at the romantic entanglements of everyone around her.

And Sherlock will know, if she doesn’t already. She’ll look at John and see it written all over John’s face, as obvious as her psychosomatic limp and her masturbatory habits.

Suddenly, the bedding rustles, and there is a soft touch on the back of John’s neck—Sherlock’s curls brushing against her skin as Sherlock drags herself sleepily closer, pressing herself against John’s back.

Sherlock’s voice is low and drowsy when she says, “You started dating women at uni.”

John jumps at the abrupt break in the silence, as well as the choice of topic. This is what is on Sherlock’s mind first thing in the morning? “Deduced that, did you?”

“Mm. You tend to be more attracted to men. That much is obvious by your body language and your choice of dates; you respond more frequently to attractive men, and you’ve dated far more men than women. A stronger attraction to men, along with the typical confusion and self-consciousness that comes with adolescence—though you might have had lesbian fantasies when you were young, you didn’t act on them. But you are clearly comfortable having a relationship with a woman. You behaved no differently prior to your date with Sarah than any of your dates with men, and if she had been your first woman, no matter how comfortable with the idea you may have been, you’d have displayed some hint of nervousness at the reality. And they do say, after all, that everyone is a little gay at university, don’t they? It would have presented the perfect opportunity for you to explore your bisexuality.”

John waits for more—Sherlock’s deductions are usually more impressive and far-reaching than that—but nothing comes. “I dated a woman in medical school,” John admits. “Nearly a full year before we broke it off. And had a handful of one-offs and casual relationships with women after that.”

Sherlock makes a soft, sleepy sound and falls silent again. She draws herself even closer, one arm reaching around John’s waist. John’s thoughts circle so quickly she feels dizzy. Sex is one thing, but this, she thinks, this is affection. This is Sherlock reaching out to her for affection when she barely tolerates most of the rest of humanity. Surely that means something.

John realises it’s the perfect opportunity to broach the topic. Sherlock has as good as opened the door for her.

“What about you?” John asks, and she is quite satisfied with how casual she sounds. “Did you date many women when you were younger? Or men?”

She can practically feel Sherlock shaking off the rest of her sleepiness, becoming alert at the question. Still, there’s a silence before Sherlock answers, as though she’s choosing her words carefully. “I had a… friend at uni who thought we were in a relationship, or at least working our way up to it. And looking back, I suppose I inadvertently misled him. Suffice to say he was… dismayed to discover I had no romantic interest in him. Dating, steady monogamous relationships, were… never really my area. Our… relationship, as it were, cooled rather quickly, and we had a falling-out shortly after.”

The silence that follows the uncharacteristic confession is heavy. If they were facing each other, John thinks that Sherlock would be staring at her intently, pointedly.

Right, John thinks, message received. “Our relationship can continue as it has been,” Sherlock said weeks ago, and now “steady romantic relationships have never been my area.” Yes, message received very clearly indeed.

“Molly agreed to let me store the fox at Bart’s for a time,” says Sherlock, “although she was resistant to the idea initially.”

Molly, John thinks, and it’s like a stuck window has been thrown open in her head. Christ, Molly. Molly whose torch for Sherlock is bright enough to light the entire fucking earth for at least a fortnight, and which Sherlock only acknowledges when it is beneficial for her to do so—then Sherlock eagerly and shamelessly uses it to her advantage like the manipulative and borderline-abusive twat that she is.

And now John is lying here, trying to read intent into Sherlock’s actions even though there is Molly to serve as living proof of what happens when you fancy Sherlock Holmes and read too much into what she does.

No, John decides. No she will not bloody do this to herself.

“—sterile and stable environment,” Sherlock is saying. “But regardless, I thought after it was gone—”

“I don’t think we should do this anymore,” John blurts.

For a long moment, the room is frighteningly still and silent. She can practically see the gears whirring in Sherlock’s mind, the deductions scrolling through Sherlock’s mind like film credits.

“Do what?” Sherlock eventually asks. Her voice is cool and even.

“This.” John gestures at the arm around her waist, Sherlock’s body against her own. “And, you know, the—” She makes a swooping gesture towards the rest of the room, meant to indicate the sex.

Sherlock, thankfully, seems to understand. “Ah.” The arm falls away from John’s waist, and the mattress shifts as Sherlock scoots backwards.

“It’s just… it feels odd, doesn’t it?” John continues awkwardly. “I’m your flatmate and your colleague—”

“Yes, all right. You needn’t make a speech about it. It’s hardly the sort of situation that warrants it.”

She’s rolling her eyes—John can hear it in her voice—and then she climbs out of bed. John turns onto her back so she can see Sherlock’s expression, and Sherlock looks entirely unaffected. Which is good, it’s—good.

Sherlock picks up her dressing gown, which is draped haphazardly over her desk, and throws it on. “Go ahead and have a lie-in. The website’s been hatefully quiet, so we’ve unfortunately nothing on today,” she says. “The experiment will be gone from your bedroom by lunchtime, and I’ll pick up new bedding on my way back from Bart’s, as you’ll likely whinge about the state of yours now no matter how many times it’s been cleaned.”

Then Sherlock is gone, closing the door behind her. John gives herself a moment to process, to listen to the sounds of Sherlock banging about the kitchen, the teacups clinking in the cabinet, as though Sherlock intends to make tea, which always ends in disaster, before she gets up and follows.

*

Everything reverts immediately back to normal—or as normal as it ever was for them. In fact, John might have dreamt the entire thing for how little indication Sherlock gives that they spent the last month fucking like a couple in their honeymoon phase. It’s as though a switch has been flicked, and Sherlock is back to her usual distant, asexual self.

It does John’s head in that she can’t flick a similar switch in herself.

If anything, John is worse now. Some days she thinks she would quite literally do anything if only she were allowed to rut against Sherlock’s leg like a dog or bury her face in Sherlock’s neck for a cuddle.

If Sherlock is aware at all of John’s internal dilemma, she gives no sign of it. John wonders occasionally if Sherlock’s merely trying to give her the illusion of dignity, and she’s not sure if she’s relieved or if she’d rather Sherlock comment on it as frequently and tactlessly as she comments on Donovan and Anderson’s affair.

“It was a lapse,” Sherlock says one night, after nearly an hour of silence while John reads news articles online and Sherlock lies on the sofa, deep in thought. Lestrade brought over a stack of cold cases earlier, and one of them—a kidnapping from three years ago—has oddly enough caught Sherlock’s interest, even though she usually at least likes to pretend she is turning up her nose at cold cases.

“What?” John asks, lowering the screen of her laptop. She sees that Sherlock is up to two nicotine patches now—though John hasn’t seen or heard her move since she put on the first one—and sighs at the sight of them on Sherlock’s bare arm.

“Lestrade,” answers Sherlock. “In the wake of a particularly nasty argument with his wife, he made the impulsive decision to try and have it off with you, an attractive woman who doesn’t work under him and with whom he feels comfortable. Ill-advised, certainly, and fortunately, he realised that soon after. You needn’t worry; he won’t be trying to chat you up again.”

Puzzled, John shakes her head. “I’m not worried. Why do you think I’m worried?”

Sherlock shoots her a quick, sideways glance before returning her gaze to the ceiling. “You’re uncomfortable in his presence. Not obviously, but I know the signs—the careful angling of your body away from his, how still you hold yourself. Not because you’re afraid he’s keen on you but because you’re worried he’ll think you’ve led him on. You haven’t, and he isn’t. Pretend it never happened, and he’ll be relieved and do the same.”

Has John been uncomfortable when Greg’s come round? If she has, the discomfort has been hiding somewhere just beneath her consciousness, but, maddening though it is, Sherlock is often right about things like this.

“You’ve been accused of leading someone on before,” Sherlock continues. She’s ostensibly still staring at the ceiling, but John can feel Sherlock’s attention on her like a beam of hot sunlight.

“When you’re female and a lot of your mates are male, it sort of comes with the territory,” John admits.

Sherlock makes a soft, thoughtful sound and closes her eyes. It’s a sign that she’s about to sink back into the case she was focused on before, but before she does, she says, with more than a touch of distaste, “Sentiment. Clouds the analytic mind and allows even the most simple, obvious data to be skewed. If more people would learn to separate sentiment from the faculties of reason, they might finally be able to observe.”

It occurs to John that this might very well be Sherlock’s way of comforting her, of making her feel better about what has been an occasional but unpleasant part of her life, and again she is struck with such an intense, all-consuming fondness for Sherlock she isn’t sure what to do with herself.

Objectively, she knows that the best way to try and get over someone is to give yourself time, cut contact, and maybe even find someone else. But it goes strictly against John’s principles to date someone for the sole purpose of trying to forget someone else, and it’s hardly possible to cut contact with someone you live with—not that John can ever imagine distancing herself from Sherlock, anyway.

That leaves her with time, then. She’ll have to wait and hope that the situation resolves itself.

*

John is woken one morning by a screeching which, after a second or two of frantically scanning her bedroom for intruders, she identifies as Sherlock’s violin. Which Sherlock has, under some duress, agreed to play only between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., unless she has provided John with at least 24 hours’ notice otherwise.

Today, however, it’s half seven, which means Sherlock is playing just outside their agreed-upon schedule.

After grumbling, throwing on her dressing gown, and venturing downstairs, John sees the reason for the departure: Mycroft, dressed impeccably in a brown suit and holding his ever-present umbrella, is seated in the armchair. Across from him is Sherlock, who is also impeccably dressed, although in a black suit, and is dragging the bow across her violin in such a way that the strings screech horribly between notes.

“Good morning, John,” Mycroft says brightly, as John is stopped at the bottom of the stairs, processing the scene.

“Er, morning,” John answers. “Don’t… take this the wrong way, but what are you doing here?”

Do take it the wrong way,” Sherlock mutters, although loudly enough to be heard by all. “That’s how she means it, after all.”

Mycroft pays her no attention, continuing to smile at John and twirling the tip of his brolly on the floor. “It so happens that I have an appointment this morning with an associate nearby. I thought I would stop by for a chat while I’m in the area.”

The look Sherlock shoots him makes John suspect he’s not being entirely truthful, but she isn’t inclined to press the issue.

“Right. Um. Would you like some tea?”

“My goodness, manners!” Mycroft says, in a tone one might use to tell a child their indistinguishable blob of green paint on white paper is the perfect likeness of a tree. “If only, John, some of that were to rub off on my sister.”

John tenses. She tries to tell herself Mycroft’s pointed emphasis on rub off hadn’t been sexual innuendo, merely John’s somewhat sex-obsessed mind trying to make it so. But at the same time, it doesn’t escape her notice that Sherlock’s glare has become nearly lethal in its intensity, while Mycroft looks pleased with himself, smiling at his own hand on his umbrella handle as though soaking up both John’s and Sherlock’s reactions.

After a moment, he continues. “But to answer your question, John, no thank you. I’m afraid I must be going now, in fact, or I may be late for my appointment.”

Mycroft stands, straightens his suit jacket, and meets Sherlock’s glare, returning it with a hard look.

“Do consider my suggestion, won’t you?” he tells her. “I think you’ll find it much more effective than your… strategy.”

He turns and offers John a regal nod of farewell, and then he sees himself out.

John waits until she’s heard the downstairs door close before she asks, “What was all that about?”

Sherlock shrugs, gaze lowering to the violin in her hands, which she continues to play, though without any screeching this time. It sounds like an original piece, or at least one John’s not heard her play before. “How should I know? I taught myself to tune him out years ago.”

John doubts that, but again is not inclined to press. What she really wants is to ask about Mycroft’s comment, which Sherlock certainly hadn’t tuned out. It’s been nearly two weeks since John called off their sexual relationship, long enough there should be no physical signs of it left. So it must have been something about their behaviour, which—given the brevity of their interaction and that John is certain she is treating Sherlock the same as she always has—is alarming. She wonders if Angelo and Mrs Hudson and the staff at Speedy’s and now Mycroft have simply been observing something in John that’s been there all along.

What John says is: “Tea?”

“Please,” says Sherlock.

*

When John is doing the week’s shopping at Tesco, she gets a text from Sherlock. It includes an address, followed by: Murder. Come at once. SH

She does, and finds that the crime scene is a roomy fourth-floor flat overlooking the Royal Docks. When she arrives, she is ushered through a crowd of murmuring, worried-looking neighbours and into the flat’s entryway, where Anderson is standing in gloves and a coverall.

He gives her a faint sneer. “Pity. When she showed up alone, we thought you’d finally come to your senses. Ah well. Your partner”—and his tone makes it very clear the sort of partner he’s referring to has nothing to do with work, which, after the encounter with Mycroft and all the thinking John has done since, nearly makes her flinch—“is in the master bedroom.”

The bedroom is a mess of blood and gore; it’s spread across the floor and the walls, even dotting the ceiling, and in the centre of it is a man who, it appears, has been rather expertly dissected post-mortem. Even for John, who as both a surgeon and a soldier has seen her share of gore, it’s a little overwhelming.

Sherlock is standing beside the body, peeling off a pair of red-smeared latex gloves, and John knows from her pinched expression that the case has not been as interesting as she had hoped.

“Ah, John,” she says. “Apologies. Had Lestrade been more accurate”—this said with a scathing glance to where Greg is standing to the left of the doorway—“in his explanation of the situation, I’d not have wasted your time or mine by taking a case that is barely a four.”

“A four?” Lestrade echoes.

“She’s come up with an arbitrary rating system for crimes,” John explains, although she barely understands it herself. Half the time, it seems Sherlock assigns a case a number based on whichever one happens to come out of her mouth first. “One through ten, with four being on the lower and less interesting end of the scale.”

Greg scowls at Sherlock. “Less interesting? Look at him. He’s been carved up like a frog in a primary-school dissection. What more do you want?”

“A proper murder, for one,” Sherlock snaps. “Not a poor cover-up for a burglary gone wrong.”

“Burglary?” answers Greg, raising his eyebrows. “There’s no sign of a forced entry, and nothing’s been taken.”

“Clearly your team failed to notice the disturbance in dust on the TV stand that indicates the television has been moved in the last 24 hours, and that the DVD player was removed entirely and then hastily replaced. And then there’s the murder itself.”

Sherlock spins, gesturing at the scene around her as her coat billows out around her knees.

“‘Like something out of a horror film.’ Those were the precise words you used when describing the scene to me, and you were entirely correct—although, as usual, you never stopped to consider what that means. The amount of blood, the configuration of the spatters, it wouldn’t be out of place in a sensationalist horror film. It’s not unlikely that a human body, in certain circumstances, might spray blood similar to this, but this body and these spatters? Highly unlikely, as someone on your occasionally competent forensics team should have been able to tell.”

She stalks to a blood-spattered wall, and John allows herself a moment of smugness when she sees what Sherlock sees even before Sherlock has pointed it out.

“Take this, for example. The spray of blood from a severed artery? Blood displaced from when the murder weapon when it was thrust out of the victim’s body before being plunged back in? No, it rather looks as though someone coated their hands with the stuff”—she cups her hands as though holding liquid to illustrate—“and then flung it across the wall, doesn’t it?” She mimes a flinging motion, then spins back to Greg, who looks like he feels a headache coming on.

“And that means…?” he prompts.

“Obvious. That the murderer wanted to make the scene as showy as possible. The almost-theatrical display of blood, the artful way the victim has been arranged so that his mutilated body is the first thing a person sees when walking through the door—it’s meant to create a distraction. Distraction from what? From all of the evidence left during the failed robbery that took place just before our victim met his end.”

Sherlock steps backwards, gesturing toward a small table beside the bed.

“Add in the strong, distinct smell of harsh cleaning product emanating from this table. Strong enough to have used recently, doubtlessly after this man was dead. Why put forth the effort to clean a simple table given the mess of the rest of the room? The miniscule spot of vomit that the killer missed on the carpet answers that. Who vomits after committing a murder, particularly a murder as gruesome as this? A killer with an especially weak stomach or someone who hadn’t come here prepared to kill. Conclusion: the murderer came here for another purpose, which he was not able to complete—likely because he was taken by surprise by the sudden appearance of the victim—murdered the victim in a state of panic, then set up this gruesome scene in hopes that it would distract police from what actually happened here. There, solved. Happy?”

“Fantastic,” John murmurs, and as usual, she doesn’t mean to; it just sort of slips out.

Sherlock’s head swivels in her direction, and then they are staring at each other, Sherlock looking pleased and preening a little. The stare lasts for a long moment, and it’s a very odd sort of moment that makes John suck in a deep breath because what she feels for this woman—the fondness and the admiration and the desire—threatens to submerge her. She doesn’t know what Sherlock feels, if Sherlock feels much of anything, and she doesn’t get the chance to linger any longer on the thought.

“Hang on,” Greg says, stepping forward. “That’s not solved. You haven’t said anything about what sort of suspect we should be looking for.”

Sherlock sighs heavily. “You’re looking for a lover, friend, or family member, someone close to the victim. As you said, there’s no sign of forced entry, and trying to delicately pick the lock on the front door would have been too conspicuous in a place like this, so he had to have been given a key. He probably drove a van or a lorry, pretended to be moving so no one would question why he was leaving the building with expensive electronic equipment. And, most importantly, he’s a medical professional of some kind, judging by this.” She waves a hand at the body. “John can confirm that.”

“Yeah,” John agrees. “That’s a proper dissection of a human cadaver, that is. Done with a shoddy knife, it looks like, but the technique definitely suggests someone with a background in medicine.”

Sherlock spares a moment to smile at her before continuing. “He’ll have fallen on hard times recently, probably has an addiction of some kind, and has likely lost his job or his medical license because of it. When you find him, you won’t have to press very hard before he confesses. He already feels quite guilty. And I think that’s probably enough to go on, don’t you think?”

Without further ado, Sherlock flounces out of the room, then out of the flat. It finally hits John that she has travelled a fair distance across London just to be of absolutely no use to Sherlock and then left behind at a crime scene, but she doesn’t particularly mind.

“Do you know what the strangest part of that was?” asks Greg, blinking owlishly at the door Sherlock has just left through. “I’m pretty sure she figured all of that out in two minutes, and then wasted another thirty faffing about just so she could say it all in front of you.”

John doesn’t know what to say to that, doesn’t even know if she believes it, so she simply says, “Huh,” with a noncommittal shrug, then continues, “Well, I suppose I’m off, then. Unless you need me for something else?”

Greg doesn’t, so John follows Sherlock’s path out of the posh, spacious flat. Before she can make it to the doorway, she hears someone behind her saying, “Hey, aren’t you John Watson?” She turns. It’s an officer she hasn’t seen before, a man with thick and gorgeous dark, wavy hair down to his ears, approaching her with something like shyness on his face, as though he feels silly for having called out to her.

She likes where this is going, she decides, even if other members of Scotland Yard, including Anderson, are giving them baffled looks. She smiles back. “Yep, that’s me. And you are?”

“Vikram,” he answers. “Vikram Rao. I read your blog.”

“Oh?”

“Oh yes, I’m a big fan. I like how plainspoken your writing is. Even though the events you write about—”

John!”

Startled, John spins around to find Sherlock standing in the doorway, lips pursed and eyebrows raised, practically vibrating with impatience. So she hasn’t left John behind after all.

“What are you doing?” Sherlock hisses. “I’ve got a cab downstairs; it won’t wait forever. Hurry up.”

Then she stalks off, probably just out of sight so she can come back and hurry John some more if she needs to. John turns back to Vikram, feeling somewhat less enthusiastic than before.

“Sorry,” she says. “Um. I should probably—”

“Course, sorry, didn’t mean to keep you,” he says, ducking his head a little. “Would you—er, maybe you’d like to have coffee sometime?”

Is it really a good idea to become involved with someone from Scotland Yard? John wonders. Even if he is fit, has gorgeous hair, and doesn’t seem put off by her association with Sherlock Holmes….

John!” Sherlock shouts, sounding as though she is somewhere near the lift, and John makes her decision.

“Sure. Let me give you my number.”

*

John opts for her usual first-date outfit: her low-cut black dress and her fuck-me lace lingerie beneath it. It’s arguably a bit dressy for a coffee date, but not so much so that it’ll seem out of place. It’ll just look like she wants to impress Vikram, and that’s—good, she thinks, a good impression to make on a first date.

The entire time she’s getting ready, she has to deal with Sherlock stomping about the flat, rifling through all their belongings—more out of a desire to destroy any semblance of order, it seems, than any need to locate something—and shouting “BORED!” at regular intervals. She’s been in a strop for most of the day, having not had what she calls a proper case in weeks. Even the remaining cold cases Greg left her can’t hold her attention; some of the folders Sherlock even kicks across the floor, scattering the papers inside.

As John gathers up her mobile, wallet, and coat, Sherlock is curled into a ball on the sofa, face mashed in the back cushion, having a sulk.

“Maybe Molly will have more toes for you,” John suggests. “Or there are raw chicken breasts in the fridge. You could probably… I dunno, do something with those, yeah?”

Sherlock snorts to indicate what she thinks of that, and curls herself even tighter. John sighs, watching her.

“Do you want me to stay?” she offers, knowing exactly what it says about her that she is even offering. “I can call it off.”

“And do what?” Sherlock snaps, lifting her head. “Sit there and watch telly? Try to ply me with platitudes and meaningless words, try to get me to behave like an ordinary person? No, thank you, I’d much prefer to be left in peace unless you can be useful for once and get me a case!”

She buries her face in the cushion again, even deeper than before, and John knows she’s not going to do anything too drastic. If Sherlock can lie still for a sulk this long, she’ll probably sulk all night. John suspects she’ll return later to find Sherlock in this very same position, although possibly asleep.

“Well,” she says breezily, “I’ll just see if I can’t commit a good murder for you before the night is up, shall I?”

“Not likely,” Sherlock answers. Her voice is considerably muffled by the cushion. “You’re hardly clever enough to present any sort of challenge.”

Well, that’s lovely, isn’t it? John thinks, and she has to talk down the part of her that wants to leap to the defensive.

“All right,” she says. “I’ll just leave you to it, then.”

She makes sure to call her apologies for the racket to Mrs Hudson when she slams the door on her way out.

*

John has nearly made it to the coffee shop where she is supposed to meet Vikram when her phone chimes from inside her coat pocket. She fishes it out with a sigh, expecting to see Sherlock’s name on the display.

Instead, she sees Mycroft’s, which surprises her enough that she stops mid-step on the pavement.

The text reads: Return to Baker Street at once. MH

It’s ominous and more than a little worrying. John is tapping out a request for more information when a second message pops up.

Danger night. MH

And that, well. That’s quite clear, isn’t it. Sherlock is alone in the flat, in a black mood, and although John had thought it was one of the ones that wouldn’t escalate into a true danger night, as Mycroft calls them, she was clearly mistaken.

On my way, she responds. Then she is dialling Vikram’s number with one hand and trying to hail a taxi back to Baker Street with the other.

*

John takes the stairs up to 221B two at a time, then forces herself to stop just outside the door and take a deep breath, so she doesn’t just barrel in like someone out of a comedy skit.

When she does open the door, she finds Sherlock standing frozen by the fireplace, her coat half-on and the ends of her scarf hanging untied from her shoulders. She was going somewhere in a hurry, John thinks, before she heard John coming up the stairs and then tried to swiftly make it appear as though she wasn’t going anywhere, obviously without success. She looks surprised to see John.

“Going somewhere?” John asks. Her tone doesn’t sound as casual as she would prefer it, but thankfully neither does she sound as concerned as she feels.

“I considered it,” says Sherlock with a cagey look. “What are you doing back so soon? You could scarcely have had time to make it to the café, much less time to have given up the date as a loss.”

John considers lying or hedging, but, well, Sherlock would see through her in a second. “I got a text from your brother,” she admits. She shrugs out of her coat, which she hangs on the coatrack. “He thought it best if I cancelled my date and came back, and I decided he had a point.”

The sound that comes from Sherlock’s mouth is somewhere between a snarl and a growl, and she removes her own coat with such angry force it’s a wonder she doesn’t rip it in the process. “Of course. The meddlesome, manipulative arse.”

“Yes, your brother was concerned about your wellbeing, what a tosser. He’s far from my favourite person, Sherlock, but he was hardly out of line.”

“I wasn’t going to relapse or off myself or whatever other lie he fed you to send you running back here.” She tears off her scarf as well and tosses it along with her coat on the desk.

“Where were you going?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” sneers Sherlock.

It isn’t, of course, and John lets her blank stare answer that question for her. Sherlock’s eyes close and her face becomes pinched; it’s the expression she wears when she is confronted with what she considers to be startling idiocy.

“No, of course it isn’t obvious to you,” she says, her voice low. “Do you see now what I mean about sentiment? It’s so simple even a child could see it, and still you remain ignorant. I was going to take a taxi to the café, and I was going to singlehandedly ruin your date.”

John stares, more than a little unsure about the emotions beginning to trickle through her at the admission. “Sorry, what? Why?”

Sherlock makes something that might be a vicious I give up motion in the air with her arms. “Why not? He’s a serial monogamist with unrealistic expectations of his relationships. He harbours the sorts of subtle sexist beliefs which are pervasive in this culture and which you find abhorrent. He occasionally forgets to wash his hands after he uses the toilet, and he is friends with Anderson. Not to mention, the very idea of him laying a finger on you, particularly now that I know precisely what he will be touching, is… appalling. The sensation is… is like corrosive acid in my chest, John, and I think I would rather vivisect him than feel it again.”

John is stunned, not just by the speech and the emotion in it, but also the way Sherlock is staring at her from across the room: intense and wild and distinctly possessive. It’s a struggle to push past the surprise and respond, but she manages.

“Yeah, that’s—that’s called jealousy. Everyone’s felt it at some point, and most of us manage to survive it without murdering anyone. And… Christ, Sherlock, what do you want? Because what you just said sounds like—” A confession of love, John almost says, but then rethinks it; love is a loaded word for most people, and she can’t even imagine what it is for Sherlock. “—some sort of admission of romantic interest,” she says instead. “But if I’m wrong, then please, correct me.”

Sherlock says nothing, looks down and makes as though she is fixing the button on her suit jacket, which is of course an answer itself. An answer that makes John feel like she’s been punched quite solidly in the throat.

“Are you— You’re joking,” she says. “What happened to ‘not my area’ and ‘our relationship can continue unchanged’?”

Sherlock closes her eyes for a moment, looking deeply pained, and then suddenly she is retrieving her coat from the desk and throwing it on, as though she hadn’t just torn it off not two minutes ago. “I never said it wasn’t my area—” she hisses.

“You damn well did!”

“—and I don’t want our relationship to change.”

John feels like she needs to have a long sit-down, maybe just lie still with her eyes closed until she stops feeling like the world has gone wobbly beneath her feet and Sherlock stops spitting out contradictory statements. She’s rather impressed that her voice comes out calm when she says, “It doesn’t work like that, Sherlock. Friendship and dating aren’t the same thing.”

Sherlock lifts her chin as she buttons up her coat. There is a sneer on her face, and when she speaks, there is condescension dripping from her words. “Yes, obviously. I’ve seen you on enough dates”—she gestures at John, making a sweeping head-to-feet motion with one hand—“in our time as flatmates, I could write a monograph on the subject. You leave here looking nothing like yourself, all to sit in a restaurant or a café or a theatre and play nice, making small talk and being on your best behaviour so your date learns nothing of your personality or what makes you interesting. Hateful cultural ritual, and utterly nonsensical.”

There’s a lot to unpack in that, a lot of threads weaved in Sherlock’s words that John could choose to pull, but the words seen you on enough dates bang through John’s mind and knock a new thought loose.

But before John can voice it, Sherlock is striding towards the door, still looping her scarf around her neck, her expression stormy.

“Don’t follow me, please,” Sherlock says, her tone the sort of hollowly polite that she sometimes pretends is a convincing mask for what she is really feeling. “I rather think I’ve exhausted my tolerance for human companionship for the day.”

“Sherlock,” John says, and tries to grab her arm as she passes.

Sherlock evades her easily and bolts out of the flat and down the stairs. She slams the downstairs door behind her when she leaves, and John flinches at the loud bang that echoes throughout the building. After a moment, she hears Mrs Hudson poking her head out of her own flat, then calling up the stairs, “Everything all right, dear?”

“Yes, Mrs Hudson,” John calls back, “everything’s fine.”

Although it’s not, of course. It’s all become a large and complicated disaster. John feels like there are two parts of her: the part that is drenched in fondness and admiration and desire for Sherlock, and the part that fills with rightful indignation and concern at concepts like jealous tantrums and sabotaging another person’s dates. And both of them currently have their hands up in classic don’t look at me fashion, leaving John stuck somewhere between the two.

She must not sound very fine either, since immediately after comes the sound of Mrs Hudson’s footsteps on the stairs. John opens the door and ushers her in when she reaches the top.

“Did you two have a little domestic?” Mrs Hudson asks kindly.

“Something like that.”

Mrs Hudson pats her arm sympathetically, then leads her to the kitchen and begins to make them both tea. John sits at the table with a sigh, budging Sherlock’s microscope and various beakers out of the way.

“I wouldn’t worry too much, dear. You know how she is. A catastrophe and she hardly blinks, but then one tiny harmless comment and—” Mrs Hudson waves a hand, as though any of Sherlock’s strops are ever quite as simple as that.

“Yeah,” John says, at a loss, and thankfully, Mrs Hudson lets her stew in her own thoughts for a long while.

*

John waits up until half two in the morning, but when Sherlock hasn’t returned by then, she gives up hoping that they’ll be able to talk it over face-to-face tonight.

She decides to send a text instead. She means it to be a simple, Off to bed now, stop being a berk and come home sort of text, but what she ends up typing turns out quite different.

I didn’t know, that’s all, it reads. I was ignorant, just like you said, and I didn’t… well. Anyway, if you wanted to try, and try properly this time instead of the casual shagging I thought we were doing, then it’s fine with me. More than fine, in fact.

She hits the send button before she can talk herself out of it.

When Sherlock hasn’t responded twenty minutes later, John feels a bit like a leaf that’s been crushed under someone’s foot.

She drags herself upstairs to her bed, but finds herself staring up at the ceiling for over an hour until she is finally tired enough to sleep.

*

John wakes sometime later to a commotion on the stairs, which she realises after a moment is the sound of someone barrelling up them. Then Sherlock throws open her bedroom door and practically falls into the room. In the dim glow of the lights from downstairs and the moonlight filtering in through the window, John can see that Sherlock is wearing the same clothes she was wearing when she stormed out earlier—loose black trousers and a tight deep-purple shirt—and her hair is an unkempt mess, curls everywhere.

“Sherlock,” John says. Her voice is hoarse with sleep, and thinking feels a little like slogging through water. “What are you doing?”

“I got your text.”

“My—” Then John remembers—the aborted date, Sherlock’s confession, sympathy tea with Mrs Hudson, John’s text—and feels abruptly alert. She sits up fully, wrapping the covers around herself as though they can offer her some sort of support. “What, just now? I sent it hours ago.”

Sherlock doesn’t answer. Instead, she stalks forward until she is standing beside the bed, looming over John.

“Sherlock….”

“Did you mean it?”

John hesitates, even though there’s no mistaking Sherlock’s tone. It’s unabashedly hopeful; she doesn’t care if she shows her hand, or maybe considers it already shown, but still John hesitates to show her own.

“Yes,” she eventually decides. Immediately, it’s as though she has finally lifted her head above the water after being held down below it for several minutes, like a pressure in her chest has dispersed and she can breathe again. “I did. But I think we should talk about this before we go and—”

“We will,” Sherlock says. Her words come quickly, almost spilling out of her mouth as she clambers into John’s bed, propping herself up with one hand and one knee on either side of John’s legs. “In the morning. Right now, you’re tired, and it’s been weeks since I’ve touched you, John.” She crawls forward so she can nose persuasively at the sensitive spot by John’s ear. “Weeks. The talking will wait.”

“What is it with you and waking me up for sex?” John wonders, but she lets Sherlock tug at her pyjama bottoms and even obligingly works her own knickers down as well to give Sherlock full access to her. “Do you do it on purpose?”

“Not important,” Sherlock says, which John knows is as good as a yes. But she’s prevented from questioning any further by Sherlock shoving two fingers rather unceremoniously into John’s cunt.

Because John is still mostly dry, the sudden stretch is uncomfortable, even burns a bit, but it’s pleasant in an odd sort of way. Particularly when Sherlock draws her close, rests John’s forehead against her shoulder, and makes soothing noises into John’s hair. “Good. That’s good, just—a moment—”

Then Sherlock’s fingers curl and press insistently into her G-spot, and John sighs, mouths at Sherlock’s shirt, and is wet in under a minute.

“Don’t come,” Sherlock tells her, which is ridiculous; John never comes from only penetration, G-spot play or not.

But it goes on and on, past the point when John usually gets bored or her partner’s hand begins to cramp, and Sherlock is barely moving at all, just circling her fingers leisurely while John fucks herself on them, her fingers scrabbling at the back of Sherlock’s shirt while she positively wails into Sherlock’s shoulder. Then John begins to think that maybe she could come from this, if Sherlock pressed a little more firmly and let John settle on top of her and ride her fingers.

So of course that’s when Sherlock slides out and leaves John thrusting against nothing, whining in frustration.

“It’s all right,” Sherlock tells her. “You’ll like this. I’m going to put my tongue inside you, and you’re going to rub yourself to orgasm. I want to know what you taste like when you come.”

And that’s precisely what she does. She moves down the mattress, hikes John’s legs up and open until her knees are nearly to her chest, and shoves her tongue into John’s cunt. It doesn’t feel as spectacular as Sherlock’s fingers—John always, always prefers manual sex to oral sex, that’s just how she is—but the words looping in her mind now—“I want to know what you taste like when you come,” yes, please, I want to come on your tongue—make up for it. It’s also a little awkward to rub her clit with Sherlock’s face right there, but she manages. She even brings her other hand to her breasts, flicking her nipple through her shirt.

John wonders what she looks like, if Sherlock is watching her. Her only half-dressed as she toys with her clit and paws at her breast and writhes on Sherlock’s tongue, so desperate to come the only word she can whimper is “please.”

When John does come, her legs fall, her heels digging into Sherlock’s back and her toes curling in Sherlock’s shirt. The best of her aftershocks haven’t even passed when Sherlock is lifting her head, just enough to tell her, “Again. Another.”

“No,” John says, shaking her head. “That was good.”

Sherlock grumbles in dissatisfaction, and buries her face in John’s inner thigh, likely just so John can feel her pout against her skin.

“No, Sherlock,” John says. “I’m—tired, actually.” And she really is. The haze of orgasm is fading fast, being replaced by an even heavier haze of sleepiness. “Do you want anything?”

“Yes. I just told you. Another.”

“Sherlock,” John sighs.

Sherlock huffs, but allows herself to be coaxed from between John’s thighs and tugged up to lay her head on the pillow instead. “I’ll stay here,” she insists, “within reach, when you change your mind.”

And John does change her mind. An indiscriminate amount of time later, John wakes from a light doze, feeling the lingering wetness between her thighs, and wants again. The thought has just barely coalesced when Sherlock is sidling up behind her, offering John her hand with a pleased, breathy sound. John holds it between her legs and rubs herself furiously against Sherlock’s palm, panting and crying Sherlock’s name into the pillow, while Sherlock simply kisses the bit of her pyjama top that covers the scar on her shoulder and lets her.

*

John wakes alone, which is both disappointing and surprising, but she tries not to dwell too heavily on it. She puts on her knickers, which have been kicked to the far end of the bed, and then her pyjama bottoms, which are on the floor, and goes downstairs, where she finds Sherlock sprawled on her back on the sofa, fingers steepled beneath her chin. She is still dressed in her purple shirt (now wrinkled) and black trousers (now stained with flaky whitish smears that John suspects came from her), and is staring up at the ceiling with the kind of intensity that means she isn’t really seeing it at all.

“Are you ready to talk now?” John asks, coming to stand near the fireplace.

Sherlock’s lip curls in distaste, and she sighs, lowering her arms to her sides. “If we must.”

“Right, so, let’s start with my date with Sarah,” John says, “the case Lestrade called you in on. Your barging into the restaurant had nothing to do with the case, did it?”

Sherlock sits up and swings her legs around so she is sitting properly on the sofa. “Of course it did. That it provided me an opportunity to intervene was… a happy coincidence.” She sounds almost smug, but the way her gaze flickers towards John and then away speaks volumes.

John rubs her face tiredly. The worst part of this, she thinks, is that she knows precisely what she is getting into—jealous tantrums and subtle manipulation and Sherlock just being the arrogant and inconsiderate twat that she is—but she hardly cares at all.

Well. Perhaps she cares a bit.

“You can’t just bully your way into getting what you want,” she says. “That’s manipulative and—not good, Sherlock, a whole world of not good.”

“Then what would you suggest I do instead?” Sherlock’s tone is unreadable, but her brows are knit almost as though she’s puzzled by the idea.

“You could just, you know, try asking.”

Sherlock flings herself off the sofa, steps up onto the coffee table, and then steps back off it with a familiar but still worrying lack of grace and sheer recklessness that John is certain will one day end in a broken neck, before she comes to stand directly in front of John. She’s close enough that John could lean forward and lay her head on Sherlock’s breast, and Sherlock stares down at her with the intense, all-seeing look in her eyes that John always simultaneously wants to bask in and flinch away from.

“I want you,” Sherlock says. “The friendship and—and the other part. The touching, the sex, all that. Earlier this morning was… good. Very good. I want more of that.”

“Yes, it was good, wasn’t it,” John agrees.

Sherlock gives her a small smile. “And the dating… I want that to stop.”

“Dating other people, you mean. Right. We could maybe, I dunno, try something that could be our version of dating, yeah?”

Sherlock wrinkles her nose. “Perhaps,” she says slowly. “I also want you to sleep in my room, in my bed. It’s much warmer, much more comfortable, and a much shorter distance for me to walk when I want you in the middle of the night.”

There really must be something about the middle of the night that makes Sherlock crave sex, John thinks with some amusement. Or something about having John when she’s sleepy that particularly does it for her. She’s not sure which option is preferable.

“Fine,” John concedes. With Sherlock’s sheets, after all, it won’t exactly be a hardship. “Anything else?”

“Yes. I want to watch you use your vibrator on yourself—the one you used in my bed—and I want you to pay me no attention while you do. I want to know what you look like when you’re alone.”

John has to close her eyes for a moment, to savour the image that conjures. “Fine with me. What else?”

Sherlock studies her quietly and then raises a hand to stroke the top of John’s hair, where it’s still sleep-matted. John doesn’t bother to stop herself from leaning into the touch, and Sherlock practically lights up with pleasure.

“Cases,” Sherlock says. “Us solving them, you blogging about them. Possibilities for danger. Vikram Rao and the rest of Scotland Yard to know you’re mine. For you to come with me to the country when I eventually retire.”

John wonders if Sherlock realises that what she’s just said might as well be a marriage proposal, and she can’t decide if this is Sherlock behaving oddly or Sherlock behaving perfectly normally. She’s never seen Sherlock in a romantic relationship; she doesn’t have all the relevant data, as Sherlock would say.

“Still want to try?” Sherlock asks, cocking her head. Her expression is as warm and fond as John has ever seen it; there’s not even a trace of uncertainty—probably because, John suspects, her own expression is equally telling.

“Yes,” John answers. “Of course.”