The dreams are relentless.
The first one had come about three weeks before Rosie was born, when he and Sherlock were truly hitting their stride again. Sure, the events at Appledore and Sherlock's subsequent relapse were still fresh in John's mind, but Sherlock was really, truly doing well. And somehow, against all odds, even Mary had found a place in their dynamic that made it feel neither forced nor strained. John had begun to believe, hope against hope, that a sort of peace may yet be possible for the lot of them.
The night after watching Sherlock solve two cases on Skype simultaneously, John had headed home with a pep in his step. He'd cooked dinner for Mary, they'd watched an episode of that baking show she loved so dearly, and gone to bed content.
It was all for nothing, though; simply the false calm before his treacherous mind ushered in the inevitable storm.
John dreamed of that first time with the handcuffs, years ago, before the Fall. Sherlock had knicked them off of Lestrade during a case and, on the cab ride home, revealed them to John and informed him that upon arriving home, John was to cuff him to the headboard and make him beg.
John's brain had gone offline for a moment. That's how it always was when Sherlock got into one of his particularly filthy moods. He seemed to have a knack for catching John completely off-guard, and flooring him with obscene demands that sent John's imagination reeling. And when those demands were uttered in Sherlock's baritone voice...God, John had been shocked he hadn't gotten them arrested during the foreplay in the back of the cab alone.
But they'd made it back to the flat, overpaid the cabbie, staggered up the stairs without waking Mrs. Hudson (with only the briefest of pauses to grope each other on the landing), and he'd divested Sherlock of his clothes in record time.
It was as good as he'd anticipated. The contrast of metal against the porcelain skin at Sherlock's wrists, the way his violinist's fingers whitened as he gripped the chain helplessly, how the sinew of his arms strained and his back arched gloriously as John pummeled into him. How vulnerable he looked as he stared up at John through glassy eyes, splayed out before him like a feast for the taking. How he begged as John twisted his nipples mercilessly, and came untouched on John's command. It was beyond any fantasy John's delirious mind had ever dared to spin. He'd come so hard himself that his vision blurred and he'd worried his shout would wake Mrs. Hudson.
As he'd come down from the endorphin high, he'd reached for the key to the handcuffs, carelessly strewn on the bedside table.
John turned to look at Sherlock. His eyes were still closed, he was glistening with sweat, and his hair was a tangled mess.
Sherlock turned his head slowly towards John, but still didn't open his eyes. He nuzzled his cheek lazily into the pillow, looking criminally blissed-out.
"'m not done yet."
"...I'm pretty sure we both finished. And yes, I am a doctor, so I'm pretty confident about that."
"I want to go again."
"Sherlock, I haven't eaten in over 12 hours, you haven't eaten since God-knows-when, we're both filthy as sin, and I just need to let the adrenaline and...whatever it was we were drinking at that bar burn off."
"So go rinse off, have a snack, watch some telly, down a few glasses of water. I'll be here when you're ready."
"I...um...alright?" John had been admittedly flummoxed, but Sherlock seemed so relaxed and confident in his demand that it seemed unnecessarily contrarian to pick a fight with him.
"Just let me check the circulation in your hands before I leave you here. Wasn't exactly my first priority when getting these things on." He'd reached up and tested both of Sherlock's hands; they were warm and responsive to the touch, no signs of restricted bloodflow, and Sherlock sighed happily beneath him.
"Alright, I'll be right next door if you need me."
"Why would I need you?"
So John had rinsed off in the loo, made himself a sandwich and filled up a pint glass with water, and settled onto the sofa to watch a rerun of Dr. Who.
Of course, all of this was done with feigned casualness. How was he supposed to focus on food or crap telly when Sherlock was just one room over, debauched and restrained, just waiting for him to return? But this seemed to be part of whatever game Sherlock was playing, so he'd forced himself to get a refill on the water and finish once more glass. By that point, his member had given up all feigned nonchalance and had already risen to the occasion. Unable to wait any longer, he sauntered back into Sherlock's room.
"Jesus..." The room still reeked of sex, and Sherlock looked like sin personified. His legs were splayed obscenely and he was fully erect--so hard it looked almost painful, red and aching. The come from their previous go-around was still smeared across him. His arms strained against the cuffs brilliantly.
Sherlock had turned to him, eyes now bright and hungry, his smile just this side of wicked. "Ready for more?"
"Oh God, yes."
John's dream had replayed all of this in devastating detail. Usually in dreams there were details that changed, making the experience strange and unnerving and surreal--but not in this dream. He simply relived that entire night (all three rounds of it) blow-by-blow. He woke up hard and aching, Mary peacefully asleep beside him.
He'd done what any respectable husband would do: he'd gone to the bathroom and taken care of it, and gone back to bed.
But six nights later, it was another dream, again a playback of one of his more memorable encounters with Sherlock. Sherlock had thrown a great snit in John's favourite restaurant, the owner had threatened to ban them for life, and on the way back to Baker Street John had finally had enough. He'd grabbed Sherlock by the scarf, pulled him close, and muttered "BEHAVE yourself while we're in public, or so help me, I will tie you up with this thing and make you pay." He'd expected Sherlock to fight back, perhaps even physically, but what he hadn't expected is for Sherlock's lip to quirk in that way it always did when he had one of his great ideas, a fire in his eyes that John and only recently begun to recognize.
So he'd marched Sherlock back to their flat, ordered him to disrobe, tied his hands behind his back with his scarf, forced him to his knees, and shoved himself down Sherlock's throat with the kind of confidence he'd only gained after Sherlock started demanding it of him.
And oh God, it had been glorious. Sherlock on his knees, on the siting room floor, bare and gorgeous save for that preposterous scarf of his, lips stretched obscenely as he took everything John gave him, moaning for more.
John had come on his face, then knelt beside him and jerked him off, fast and hard, as Sherlock panted lavish open-mouthed kisses against John's neck, shaking with the blazing intensity of it all.
Again, John awoke panting and feverish, and retired to the bathroom.
The next morning, Mary had asked him if the nightmares were back.
And God, wouldn't that have been easier? Somehow gunfire and blood and death seemed so much more manageable than admitting that he was re-living all of the most torrid sexual encounters that he and Sherlock had shared during their brief time together all those years ago.
Mary deserved so much better. She'd been so understanding about his past with Sherlock, so respectful of that secret, and so encouraging of the burgeoning friendship between Sherlock and John that was only beginning to blossom from the pile of ash it had been only a few short months ago.
He tried to psychoanalyze his way out of it. The whole situation only made sense, after all; he was a living, breathing man, and he had needs, just like every other man. Needs that he wasn't completely comfortable asking his 8-months-pregnant wife to satisfy, on top of everything else.
But if he was completely honest with himself, had his sex life with Mary truly been that satisfying before? He supposed they'd barely had time to really figure it out. They'd certainly excelled at the passionate-lovemaking period that seemed to come standard at the beginning of most serious relationships, but the decision to marry had been made swiftly--he knew what he and Mary shared was worth keeping, and he didn't want to wait. Then things got a bit side-railed with the return of Sherlock, and then the wedding (and pregnancy), and the revelation of the nature of John's past with Sherlock, then of course the whole AGRA business had come along and John and Mary had separated and by the time they'd reconciled...well, it wasn't like that seemed like an ideal time to propose exploring new kinks.
But regardless of all that, John assured himself that his subconscious was just projecting. Projecting his repressed sexual desires onto Sherlock, who was now back in John's life full-force, vibrant and consuming as always. The dreams would surely subside once the baby arrived and John's attention was re-directed.
Except they didn't. Instead, his traitorous subconscious seemed to double down, plaguing him with the erotic dreams nearly every night, even when he was barely able to sleep for more than an hour at a time without being awoken by Rosie's cries. In one particularly mortifying instance, he'd dreamed about that time he'd fucked Sherlock over the arm of the sofa still wearing his Belstaff, only to awaken from his nap to find himself in 221B, on the very sofa featured in his dream, Sherlock right in front of him entertaining Rosie with her favourite stuffed rattle. John felt like a right pervert, having a dream like that next to his napping wife, while the subject of his dream entertained his beloved daughter not half a room away. What the hell was wrong with him?
And then he met the woman on the bus. God help him. He didn't even like her that much. But she giggled girlishly as they texted about fuzzy handcuffs, she sent him a devilish wink emoji as he threatened her with a spanking, and was overall game for any of the lightly kinky suggestions he made. He never pushed it much beyond that, not into the realm of what he and Sherlock had done, but just texting about the bare minimum had made the dreams stop.
He felt guilty, of course. He felt like shit, lower than shit, texting like this behind his wife's back while she cared for their infant daughter. But...surely it was better than the alternative? Better than if he'd done what his subconscious seemed to want him to do, to take back up with Sherlock, push him into the bedroom after they'd solved one of their cases and take him apart over and over just like he had back before the Fall and everything that came after. Because that, after everything Mary had done for him, was surely the ultimate betrayal. There could be no clawing his way back from that, no redemption for a treason that deep. The woman from the bus was a simple betrayal. Sherlock would be...Sherlock would be the end of it all.
So the bad dreams stop and life goes on and John goes back to dreaming of gunfire and blood and death like a respectable man should, because God damn it, he will not let Sherlock ruin this for him. Not this. Please, God. Not this.