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The New Year

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1. 26 December 2004

Holiday.

Greg remembers—will remember, later; he'll remember that in front of the table he had said, It's not like I—that he had—he tightens his hand in Holmes's hair with his voice scraping on the backs of his molars. His mouth is dry. His breath burns inside his nose— "Hnh—you—" and he twists his fingers and Holmes, Holmes. Groaning. All around him. Mouth wet and leaking, overfull. (It's not like I planned this, Greg hears in chorused echoes.) His right wrist hurts; Holmes doesn't know how to use cuffs, not properly, and he's done them up too tight. Greg digs the fingers of his left hand into Holmes's hair and squeezes noises from him. Holmes's lashes glow with the fluorescent. Greg would put his other fingers on Holmes's mouth, if he could. Instead he pulls back Holmes's mop of (adolescent, unruly; fucking—) curls and presses his thumb to Holmes's hairline. Holmes's hips jerk under his jeans, and Greg—blinded. Holmes has strong hands. Bruises through bone and keeps going. Working; awkward, angular, all the way up from the neatly-notched dip of his throat.

"Desperate," Greg manages (barely), "aren't you?"

Holmes whines without meaning, tongue trapped and clumsy; Greg drags him down harder. Holmes's face is red and hot and when his hands tighten Greg gasps, his weight rolling up onto his toes (toes—), as he shoves himself down Holmes's throat. Taut-stretched from his wrist, the shower cubicle creaks; and coming, Greg slams Holmes back into the folded-open door. Holmes chokes and sputters and drenches his own chin. The tops of Greg's thighs. Greg pulls Holmes up to unsteady-shaking feet and eats himself off his throat. Holmes groans out loud and baritone, and Greg shoves his knee to glass through denim, palm to hip to Holmes's tight-stretched flies.

"Fuck," Holmes moans, low and heartfelt, and bends his damp and burning face to the shoulder of Greg's crumpled and sweat-drenched shirt.

Holmes looks eighteen and sounds thirty-five; lurks, perpetually, around the laboratories of universities at which he is neither a matriculated student nor gainfully employed; got beaten half to death in St. James's Park in September by Bernard Marshall's lot and came tumbling into NSY bleeding and concussed and flushed with euphoria, as though he considered it in the nature of a personal prize. Nearly every officer Greg knows has given Holmes more than one ASBO; and he's been legitimately arrested—to Greg's knowledge—eleven times, but never formally charged. That older man: the man in grey, always. By November Holmes had taken to hovering about Greg's desk biweekly with packets of crisps and perfect flat whites and no one could seem to remember letting him in; but in the car in August Holmes had folded himself in half in silence and Greg, impotent and red-hot red, had made it all the way into Bloomsbury before he'd gritted out, If you'd please remove your feet from the dash, with his hands clenched so tight he'd lost all sensation in his fingertips. Holmes smells like sweat. Breathing hard.

Greg wipes his hand on the hem of Holmes's t-shirt. His mouth is just against Holmes's hair.

He breathes in.

"Key," Holmes mumbles. His hands slacken, and Greg's shirt settles back against his skin. His jacket slips on his arm.

Greg's mind stutters, loses frames. "What?"

"You're handcuffed to my shower," Holmes sighs.

Greg, startled, laughs.

 

2. 27 December 2004

Clocks.

"Sherlock." Greg's hand fits to the curve of Sherlock's spine: Sherlock, Sherlock. Sherlock doesn't wake. Greg remembers being able to sleep like that, barely. He repeats himself, until Sherlock's face wrinkles in on itself, and—slowly—he squints open one eye.

Greg slides his mobile back into his pocket. It leaves both hands free. Elbow, collarbone, throat. Mouth. It parts; Sherlock breathes, warm. "I have to go," Greg whispers, and Sherlock jerks his head to the right, left: no. Greg curls his fingertip under Sherlock's lip and Sherlock closes his eyes. His hand is on Greg's shoulder, warm through his jacket. The seam up his back. Greg's shirt drags out of his trousers: Sherlock touches his spine. Sherlock's hands are huge. Greg shivers. He bows his head down to Sherlock's chest, which is bare.

"I'm working." Greg settles down; his suit's ruined already. "In—four hours, and a bit." He sighs, and slides his arms under Sherlock's arms. "Can't go in like this."

Beneath him, Sherlock stretches. Every muscle in Greg's body loosens, all at once. Strange; he hadn't felt tense.

"You've had a suit at the cleaners for a week," Sherlock says, around a yawn, and Greg pushes himself up onto his palms. "Pick it up." Sherlock's hand is stroking the backs of Greg's ribs, under his clothes. Aimless. Uncertain. Greg leans up onto his elbow and wrestles off his jacket, saying, "I'm not going to ask how you know that," and Sherlock mumbles, "Went through your wallet," sleepy-soft. Twenty-two. Twenty, maybe. He's not, really, Greg doesn't think. Sherlock says, "You can borrow a shirt, if you want," and pulls Greg's shirt, still buttoned, up over his head.

"A shirt." Sherlock's naked. His jeans are on the floor by the toilet, still, probably; his faded t-shirt made it all the way with them to the foot of the bed. He wasn't wearing pants. Greg hasn't ever seen Sherlock wearing anything that wouldn't look entirely at home on the more delinquent student populations, but he hadn't known Sherlock's bedsheets would be white, either: crisp cotton in hospital corners, pristine. The rest of the flat is cluttered with papers topped with unwashed cups and heaps of books, dust on every surface possible and streaked fingermarks all over the mirror, but the bed. Sherlock's Holmes's bed, Christ. "You own dress shirts?" Greg asks. The sheets are ruined now, of course. Greg pushes his trousers back off.

"I own a dress shirt," Sherlock corrects. "It's too big." His eyes are still closed. He's smiling.

It's not like I, Greg had said; It's not like I could've planned this, standing before Sherlock's desk chair with their knees bumping and Sherlock laughing, fucking—fucking howling over it, nearly; which came—which came after the car, sharp with words, scraping furrows into Greg's already-raw skin; after Christmas and after another fucking holding cell, Holmes's cut lip, scraped chin; after the months of flat whites and the blue t-shirt with the molecule printed on it, blood-soaked and probably ruined but it hadn't been, had it? because it's on the foot of the bed; and all that was after Holmes's long, elegant bare feet on Greg's dash but before Holmes had bowed his sweaty dark head, My name, saying, is Sherlock. Before and after. At best mere instants before Sherlock beneath him, stretching his body up into Greg's body; ages, years, months after Sherlock had said, Marital problems, Sergeant? and Greg had met his eyes dead-on and said, Mr. Holmes, you don't even know if I'm married.

Greg will give him this much: Holmes didn't drop his eyes, not a millimeter; never, not once, gave the tiny little twitch it would take him to look at Greg's left hand. Sherlock. Sherlock, Sherlock. Sherlock doesn't let much of anything slip.

"You should learn how to fight," Greg tells him.

Sherlock says, "I know how to fight."

Greg touches the cut corner of Sherlock's mouth, and Sherlock flinches. Greg repeats, "You should learn how to fight."

"Go to hell," Sherlock says, then settles his arm into the space made for it, around Greg's bare back.

 

Dreams.

Greg shows up to work in the suit from the cleaners and no pants and Sherlock's badly-fitting shirt, and no one notices.

The whole morning feels unreal. Greg keeps taking his mobile out of his pocket and then putting it back and then putting his hands on his keyboard and then taking them back, too. He's supposed to be writing reports. Fucking Taversham. Taversham hates Fiory. He hates Greg even more.

Diagonally across from Greg, Fiory is drinking tea by the bucketload; she's got three kids, two boys and a girl, all home with her mum. The youngest, the girl, just turned three. Greg went to her birthday party. Suppose it's best we didn't join the police force for the hours, isn't it, Fiory had said, yesterday morning, and Greg had laughed; it feels unreal.

Greg's phone rings, four times in all: Holmes. Holmes. He reprograms it. Sherlock Holmes

Greg slips into the toilets, to take the fourth.

He gets off at half six and sits in his car staring out the windscreen with his hands on the wheel. It feels unreal. They look like they are someone else's. It's not like I could've, Greg had said; It's not like I planned this. Sherlock had been in his desk chair, laughing at him. Then Greg had gone to piss, and while he had been hunched over the sink trying to rinse his hands, the curtain over the doorway—I needed the door, Sherlock had said, from the desk chair, and nodded at what Greg had thought was a coffee table, propped up on two plastic crates and covered in half-cannibalized electronics—had snapped open, and Greg's back had slammed into the hard plastic edge of the shower cubicle. Sherlock hadn't got both wrists: not fast enough.

Greg's mobile buzzes in his pocket. He takes it out: Sherlock Holmes, this time.

He turns the key in the ignition.

 

Foresight.

Sherlock has tidied up.

It makes Greg's throat hurt. His chest. His belly where it presses to Sherlock's belly, when they kiss. Greg puts his arm around Sherlock's shoulders, rests his fingertips just above Sherlock's stretched-out collar. He can feel Sherlock's pulse, rabbit-fast. It's not like I planned this. Sherlock has washed most of his cups and stacked the books on the floor and cleared enough space off the door-table near his bed that if they wanted to sit on the edge with Greg's Thai takeaway they would have a place to put it; however nice the building is, the flat is just the single, cramped room, with an afterthought of a bachelor kitchen in the corner, and Sherlock wouldn't eat at his desk, would he. Sherlock not only gets Greg out of his suit, but hangs it up while Greg is peeling off his socks; when Sherlock comes back, Greg takes off Sherlock's t-shirt (black) and unfastens his belt (loose) and pushes down his jeans (familiar) and then lies down with him on the sheets, which are clean. The takeaway will be cold. Greg doesn't care.

What do you do all day, anyway, Greg wants to ask him, when you're not about to bother me? It seems dangerous, so he fucks Sherlock instead.

 

3. 28 December 2004

Tangles.

Greg had said, It's not like I would've planned this, but—wide-eyed, wide-eyed. Greg puts his hands on Sherlock's face. He wants to say, Stop looking at me like that, but—not quite; wide-eyed. Greg kisses him. Sherlock's mouth: slick and salty. They breathe like it is work.

At some point, Greg thinks, he is going to have to stop this; but Sherlock put his hands all over him like they were hungry and Greg, Greg was hungry; Greg was starving and thirsty and—don't lie—he was lonely. Lonely? Crushingly alone, and Holmes has always been the sort of person who goes around digging fishhooks into people: his perfect flat whites and invasive personal commentary; his blood on Greg's desk on Greg's trousers on Greg's hands—his own favorite blue t-shirt, ruined not ruined; his bare feet on Greg's dash. Greg had wanted—wants—wanted, perhaps, he can't—he wants to suck them. Instead he twists his body against Sherlock's body twisting and Sherlock groans into his neck.

Thirty-two; thirty-three, perhaps. Greg can dream. Inescapably: Greg is forty-one.

Greg rolls Sherlock onto his back and—wide eyes, Christ! Greg kisses him again and again and again, presses them tight together sweat-slicked and pulsing, everywhere; not sure who is who. Greg wants him, all over; his awkward bird-neck and schoolboy curls and narrow, angular ribs. His huge hands. Four hours ago Greg was shoved all the way inside him and only wanted to be deeper so he twisted until they were kissing and sobbed when he came. Cock, two fingers: wasn't enough. He grabs at Sherlock's largely nonexistent arse and Sherlock shudders against him and gasps, "Yes," and Greg pushes Sherlock's left knee up and presses half his hand inside. Sherlock is still wet (come and lube, lube and come, Christ—) and open. Greg could do anything to him. They've gone through half the bottle already; must save. The noises Sherlock makes.

"All right?" Greg whispers, and Sherlock nods; his eyebrows are drawn together and lined down the middle, eyes closed. Greg slides his arm beneath Sherlock's shoulders—deeper, Christ—and Sherlock folds his legs up high around Greg's ribs. "Look at me," Greg whispers. He touches Sherlock's face. Wide eyes.

(Key, Sherlock had mumbled. Greg had been breathing him in, and Sherlock had mumbled, I need to get the key; and Greg had whispered, Why?)

 

Investigations.

—but it always has been a bit off, hasn't it? Unprofessional, inappropriate; Holmes hadn't been wearing shoes and he had put his bare feet on the dash of Greg's car. Greg's ancient hatchback, his personal car, nothing official; because the man in grey had slid out of Taversham's office like a shadow as Greg went in, and Taversham had oozed, Nothing official, you understand; and then Fiory had said, Oh, bloody hell—Holmes is a complete nutter, Lestrade, watch yourself. He hadn't seemed like a nutter. He'd seemed like a tit. He had been wearing clothes that smelled as though they hadn't been washed in weeks. He had dripped posh vowels and looked like a grubby little boy: wide-eyed and stunned; and he'd been in holding long enough to come down from—whatever (Methamphetamine, Fiory had said, but Kingston had insisted, Cocaine, it's always fucking—), had been left wide-eyed, drowsy-looking, with black dirt ground into the soles of his bare feet. If you'd remove your feet from the dash, Mr. Holmes.

Greg is late to work. Nine minutes. Taversham is angry; Choudhury—DCI, now; every now and again the commissioner gets it right—steps in, easy-going and deadly; and Taversham backs down. Double murder in Knightsbridge: happy New Year.

"Do you make resolutions?" Fiory asks, lifting her heels up, and down, and up again, while they wait for the new SOCO—Anders, or Anderson, or something, face like a fart; Greg wants Barnes back—to finish mauling their scene. It's bitter cold. They slouch into their jackets. The wind whips at Greg's hair; he needs a trim. Fiory is wearing a fuzzy burnt-orange hat, pulled down to her ears, flattening her corona of curls down to a dark cloud at its base. That color quite suits her, actually; so he tells her.

She dimples at him. "You'd make some lucky girl a wonderful gay friend," she says; "Pity."

"Fuck off," he says. It's a joke, they're joking; but his heart goes double-time. It's not like I would've, It's not like I planned this.

Back at his desk Greg eats two-thirds of a salt beef sandwich and drinks three cups of tea. Would kill for a coffee, he texts Sherlock, on a whim. He can't exactly say anything else. Half an hour later they get the call.

Fiory keeps glancing at him, the whole way there. "All right?" she asks.

"Fine," he says. "Eyes on the road."

"Never can tell why you like him," she says, and he says, "Just drive." He says, "I don't like him." He says, "We're not friends."

UCL, this time; the campus is closed for the term break or they probably wouldn't have rung the police at all. "Yes, Dr. Conners," Greg says, over and over and over again: "And another thing," Conners roars, blinking behind smoke-smudged glasses. Sitting on the back gate of the ambulance, wrapped in orange: Sherlock is irritated and singed and missing a eyebrow. Won't be sneaking into UCL again any time soon: the security guard, Khatun, is threatening to put up poster-sized prints of his face at every entrance. Some combination of these details makes Sherlock look surprised.

Greg tucks his hands in his pockets: safer. Fiory is not ten meters away, taking Khatun's statement. Heat is radiating from Sherlock's body. His pupils are wide. "Bloody lucky," Greg says.

"Incredibly inconvenient," Sherlock says, flinching away from the medic shining lights in his eyes. He adds, "I'm not at your beck and call for coffee runs," a little too loud.

Greg forces himself not to tense. "No one in their right mind would ever think you were at their beck and call for anything, Holmes," he says.

Sherlock, startled, meets his eyes. Wide eyes; wide, wide eyes. Pale, deceptive: water, mirroring clouded sky. Twenty, eighteen. Greg wants to eat him alive.

In the office Greg makes approximately ten thousand agonizingly tedious calls and finishes his sandwich and stares out at London's midwinter black and then can't, he can't, he can't stand it anymore. He rubs both hands over his face and then puts them on his keyboard. He dreads it, knowing: it can't possibly be better, can it? Nothing can make it better. Knowing can only make it worse. He pulls it up anyway.

Holmes, Sherlock Vernet. Date of birth: 6 January 1977.

 

Impermanence.

Greg goes home.

It takes forty-five minutes. In the bedroom, he waits, wasting time. He can hear the neighbors' telly. He hears the front door slam. It's not like I would've planned this, he had said. At some point, Sherlock had laughed; was that then? Sherlock's face had looked split open: wide eyes. Greg wants to cherish and protect him; Christ. He's losing his mind.

He could stay. Ought to. Doesn't. He does take a change of clothes, though. He's tired of going around without pants.

On Montague Street. He parks, carefully; sliding his battered 1994 three-door Astra hatchback between the Audis and the Jaguars. His stomach is churning. He always seems to do this, reach for what he can't grab: Katherine, at school, with her short skirts and high socks, her cherry-flavored mouth, her diamond earrings and tennis lessons; Diana, at university, perfect and pristine. Greg can remember the first time he saw her, sliding out of her dad's Aston Martin, her long black hair skimming the peaks of her breasts through her blouse; her £150 skirt slit so high up the back Greg knew she wore stockings, not tights. Greg had spent the whole first year they went out blissfully on his knees. Sherlock, Greg muses, probably also does not pay his own rent.

Upstairs, Sherlock is hunched over his laptop, typing furiously; "Not the wife," he says, "I don't think."

"Did I ask?" Greg hangs up his coat. It wasn't the wife, he doesn't think. "You're all right, then."

"Shut up," Sherlock says. "Thinking."

Greg can't help smiling at him. Sherlock isn't looking.

It's raining, finally. More miserable, but less cold. The windows are streaked and rippling. Key, Sherlock would mumble. Greg would be thinking about kissing him and Sherlock would mumble, I need to get the key. In reply, Greg would whisper, Why, and it would feel nonsensical when Sherlock replied, You're handcuffed to my flat. The sheets are clean again, neatly folded back. There's a new bottle of lube on the pillow. Greg rolls up his sleeves and then picks it up.

"I want to fuck you," Sherlock says. He still doesn't look away from the screen. His shoulders are hunched and tense.

Greg licks his lips. "What, now?"

"Never have," Sherlock says.

"Yeah, I know," Greg says. "I would remember." He laughs; Sherlock doesn't.

"I want to fuck you," Sherlock repeats, flat, declarative; and Greg thinks: Oh.

After a minute he sits on the bed and unbuttons his shirt. "So," he says.

"Don't be so full of yourself," Sherlock says. "I'm not. I wasn't."

"Just curious," Greg says.

"Just busy," Sherlock says, and then shuts his laptop, turns in his chair to meet Greg's eyes. The missing eyebrow's just silly, really. He's odd enough looking to start with.

"Are you going to come over here, or," Greg says, and Sherlock says, "Standing up, mostly, so—not that," and Greg is quiet.

"Usually," Sherlock says, with his wide, serious eyes; "usually, not that."

Greg licks his lips. "You changed the sheets again," he says.

"I have two sets," Sherlock says, shrugging one shoulder up. There's a sheet folded over the radiator. Greg wonders: How long have I been in love with him? It feels like dying.

He peels off his shirt. Sherlock watches from his desk chair. Greg stands and unbuttons his trousers. He's already taken two showers: one at home, not half an hour ago; and one in the morning, in Sherlock's little cubicle shower, where he had nudged his toes against the door to make it rattle and thought about Sherlock on his knees, looking like someone's tawdry underage fantasy and sucking Greg's cock like he thought Greg might tip. Sherlock had said, How do you like it, then, and Greg had said—Greg had dragged him around by his hair and crammed himself into Sherlock's throat and Sherlock had moaned for it whenever he could, half-sobbing; a hair's breadth from begging, if he'd been able to. His breath had come fast, tickling Greg's pubic hair; so Greg had shoved his head down harder until it stopped. Greg was, he remembers, handcuffed by the right wrist to the shower, still has the marks, and—and just now Sherlock said, I want to fuck you, so Greg is taking off his clothes where Sherlock can watch. He's hard; Greg can see his cock bulging under his jeans. Sherlock had said, How do you like it, then, and Greg had shoved him back against the wall, pinned his body, gritting out—and then Sherlock, eyes dark, had slithered down to his knees.

"Well, then," Greg says, sitting back, bare; Sherlock, wide-eyed, leans forward in his chair, and puts his elbows on his thighs.

 

4. 29 December 2004

Fights.

They were fighting, of course; they were fighting because they're always fighting, because even when Sherlock drags Greg up onto his knees folded tight around-inside him, fingers in his mouth—because they're always fighting. (Sherlock had nuzzled the nape of his neck. Sherlock had spoken, softly.) They had been fighting in the car which had been—it hadn't been big enough for the way they were sawing into each other. Greg had shouted, You can't, you can't keep doing this, you can't—, and slammed his palm on the wheel; it had hurt. Holmes had said, And you, you have some right, do you, to—and that had hurt too, so on Montague Street Greg had hauled him into his posh building and down his posh hall and into his little cramped flat and bound his hands behind him in his desk chair, with plastic ties.

Startling. Greg can't believe he did that. Almost, he almost can't believe he did that; but, of course, he did. He presses his forehead to the icy window. His pulse is rolling about, bouncing everywhere. He is too small for that, too.

Sherlock is asleep, still; with his arm stretched out, reaching across white sheets. His knees had bumped Greg's own as Holmes had struggled, spitting; and Greg had retorted, It's not as though I'd plan this, and Holmes had laughed. Of course not, he had said, voice thick; You don't plan anything. Greg hurts all over, so he steals Sherlock's keys. Cigarettes. He goes down into the rain and smokes one, then another.

A million years ago, he and Diana had a fight in which she ripped him all out of his skin: the hazards of shagging a solicitor, they always know where to hit so it hurts. She had said, —to even think of having children, between the two of us, and Your massive lack of forethought, and Absolutely chronic unreliability, and For fuck's sake, Greg, you're thirty-five and you keep talking about buying a motorbike—which, for the record: it's been six years, and he still hasn't.

She had said, But of course you just want to be normal, don't you.

The scorn with which she had said this had seemed unfair, at the time; but it was true, wasn't it, in places? Diana never wanted to be normal. The battle cry of all the too-bright too-posh unclipped-winged creatures that Greg apparently can't resist: death before mediocrity. Diana had already made great inroads into carving her name on the courts before she was thirty; now everyone has an opinion on her, most of them misogynist; and laughing, she gathers them up like bright pennies, shining as sharp as her eyes. Greg smokes another cigarette and then goes back upstairs and slides back into bed. He kisses Sherlock's throat, earlobes; his sleep-sour mouth.

Sherlock wakes in stages, sleepy and pliable for those scant few moments before he is all the way back inside of himself, bristling with the potential of edges like knives. He is teeth all over; Greg can't stand it. He sucks Sherlock off: hot and hard and choking-thick, wretchedly desirable; because he is forty-one years old and has spent three and a half days fucking and won't be able to get it up again, probably. He turns out to be wrong. Sherlock eels up against him, when he does: warm and touchable, holdable, his. Sherlock's mirror-water eyes shine in the moonlight, and Greg can't look away.

There wasn't any moon, Greg will realize later. It was raining.

 

Calendar.

"—so my mum said she'd help out, for a week," Greg replies, then shrugs: one shoulder, then the other. Fiory puts her hand on his back: two count, no longer.

"I forget," she says, voice light. "Your parents are still in... Barking, is it? You said you grew up there, didn't you?"

"Born and raised," Greg agrees, so Fiory turns the conversation to sport. Greg is grateful.

Every year Greg seems, unreasonably, surprised by what the job is like between Christmas and the New Year: an awful, grinding sort of brutality bubbling up underneath family gatherings and term holidays, leaving him exhausted, wrung out. Last year he and Diana fought daily; this is better, he thinks, and then hates himself for it. He wonders if it's actually that the crimes are more awful, or just that their awfulness stands out more sharply when framed by tinsel and miserable weather.

He goes home at lunch. Doesn't stay. There are two unopened bottles of rather nice wine on the kitchen counter, getting dusty. He's strangely tempted to ring Diana up, see if he might be able to talk her out of her fancy office and her Aeron chair and her sleek pantsuits and heels; if he could convince her to like him again, to give him that little curl of lip that used to sneak out when she was thinking how reprehensible he was, and that she enjoyed him anyway. He couldn't, of course, and he's only got twenty minutes, besides; he goes back to NSY instead. His bag he tucks under his desk.

His heart is pounding. Sooner or later, someone must notice, mustn't they? He's got beard burn all up and down his thighs, and he can't sit still for five minutes without shifting. He feels split open and cracked and raw. Lies and secrets don't sit still, not inside these walls; surely at some point someone will look at him and think: Greg Lestrade, shagged rotten and startled by his heart and desperate for another go, all around; not thrilled about any of it, mostly. He wonders how long it will take.

It's Wednesday. Has it really only been four days?

 

Fantasy.

"Up," Greg whispers, and Sherlock whispers, "I can't," and Greg whispers, "You can, you can," and helps Sherlock up onto quivering knees. Sherlock's arsehole is flushed red, stretched out around Greg's four fingers, slick-shiny trails running down Sherlock's too-skinny thighs. When Greg had turned up with Chinese at half seven Sherlock had tossed the lube at him and said, So, and Greg had said, So? Hours ago. Hours and hours ago. Two hours ago. Greg bends back down, licks: dark, illicit. Sherlock shivers and moans.

Greg used to have this daydream that his tongue could stretch and plump and grow, and that he would keep it secret. A surprise. That he would be on his knees between Diana's stockinged thighs, her £150 skirt rolled up to her hips and her knickers just pushed to one side and he would lick her and lick into her and then lick into her and she would make this little, shocked noise. He told her about his little daydream on the night she graduated: in phrase-long pieces, in between fucking her with four fingers and sucking on her clit. Remarkable. (In October he and Sherlock had somehow got onto the topic of female ejaculation [Unprofessional, inappropriate—it always has been a bit off between them, hasn't it?], which Greg could confirm with utter certainty was not a myth. Sherlock had looked torn: deeply curious, intensely uncomfortable. Sherlock would never have to say a word for Greg to know that he has no nonscientific interest in women.) Greg wants to pet Sherlock in every secret and untouched place; wants to fit himself inside him, and never leave. He's completely fucked, isn't he? Doesn't care.

Greg strokes Sherlock, hot hot hot. Sherlock shudders, knees slip. "I've got you," Greg whispers, against the wiry barely-there curve of Sherlock's buttock. "Shh." Sherlock shakes and shakes, and Greg holds him up.

On Sunday Greg had shouted, You can't, you can't keep doing this, you can't keep doing this to me, and slammed his palm on the wheel; it had hurt. Holmes had said, And you, you have some right, do you, to have an opinion—and that had hurt too, because it was true. So on Montague Street Greg had hauled Holmes (Sherlock, Sherlock) up into his posh building and down his posh hall and into his little cramped flat and bound his hands behind him in his desk chair, with plastic ties. Listen to me, Greg had said—shouted, Listen to me—and Sherlock had, sort of.

Greg hadn't said, I worry. He hadn't said, You can't know how I worry about you. He hadn't said, I don't want you to die. Instead he had said, Next time it'll be proper cuffs, next time it'll be me—next it'll be my name on your arrest, Holmes! And then—stimulus, response; stimulus, response. Holmes's mirror-water eyes had shifted, contracting. An admission. An accident. It had left a hollow in Greg's belly: grief and loss. Greg had thought, It's over, now—but it hadn't been, had it. Greg curls his thumb into his palm, ever-so-slow, and slips the rest of his cupped hand inside.

"All right?" Greg whispers; Sherlock whispers, "Yes." Greg asks, "Do you want me to," and Sherlock shakes his head: schoolboy curls. Sherlock is twenty-seven. Very nearly twenty-eight. Greg kisses whatever he can reach: skin, body hair. The little sweaty dip of Sherlock's spine. So, Sherlock had said, cheeks flushed pink, eyes glittering, chin set; and Greg had said, Yeah? Then he had done it. No other answer he can give, it seems, sometimes.

"All right," Sherlock whispers, at last, "Now;" so Greg closes his hand. Sherlock's sounds shake the bed to its bolts.

A week. Seven days. Thirtieth, thirty-first, first: only three days, now. Greg isn't going home tonight.

 

5. 30 December 2004

Harder.

Sherlock keeps almost no food in his flat but eats the takeaway Greg brings after work; drinks endless cups of tea and puts too much sugar in his coffees when Greg buys them for him, out; hardly sleeps—doesn't sleep, he says; he says, I can't, and Greg says, Yeah, and Sherlock, eyes closed, mumbles, I don't. Greg watches him prove himself wrong three nights in a row and then on the fourth Sherlock watches him back.

"Are you all right?" Greg asks, because he has to.

Sherlock's eyes tighten at the corners—the smile will come later—as he says, "Yes." His face is awkward and angular. He smiles.

"It doesn't hurt," Greg says. His right hand is on Sherlock's side: bones through skin. He has muscles, here and there, but not many. Sherlock had said, How do you like it, then, and Greg had slammed him back against the wall, pinned his body, gritting out, You really think you can take me, Holmes? and then he—and then Sherlock had slithered down to his knees. Later: You should learn how to fight. Sherlock doesn't say anything. "Sorry," Greg says, "stupid question."

"If I asked," Sherlock says, and Greg thinks: Yes. It must show on his face. "It bothers you," Sherlock murmurs, thoughtful; he touches Greg's mouth.

Greg remembers thinking, It's not like me. He had thought that, all along, It's not like me to—

"Most of being here bothers me," Greg admits.

Sherlock has a line between his eyebrows—his eyebrow, now, and the place where the other one ought to be. Greg shoves himself back so far he can barely think it, let alone say it. (Darling. Damn it.) "You're still here, though," Sherlock says. Greg's left arm is tucked under Sherlock's head, hand wrapping around to his shoulder; they are very, very close. Sherlock puts his huge hand on Greg's wrist, slides down over his fingers.

"Yeah," Greg agrees. Sherlock strokes his fingertips over Greg's hand, up and down, up and down. It's soothing, almost. Sherlock had said, Marital problems? and Greg had met his eyes dead-on and said, You don't even know that I'm married.

"And if I asked you to," Sherlock says—he had asked him to; "if I said, 'again,' if I said, 'harder,' if I—"

Greg kisses him, aching and desperate, so that Sherlock will be quiet. Sherlock is quiet. Greg has had Sherlock all over him, around him and inside him; keeps finding new places to put parts of himself in trade for parts of Sherlock. He has swallowed Sherlock's come and felt it leaking down his thighs and he would, he will, he's going to do it again, but he can't understand how. On Sunday, Greg had thought it, over and over. He had thought it, It's not like me, through every lopsided instant, It's not like me, as they snarled at each other and circled, in turn, fixed points; had thought it throughout Sherlock tied to his chair and his own wrist cuffed to the shower, through his hand on Sherlock's bare back in Sherlock's improbable no-longer-pristine white sheets; he had thought it even then, even then, even after; to the black back of Sherlock's bowed head, his mouth pressed against Greg's bare biceps: My name, as he said, for the very first time, is Sherlock.

"Go to sleep," Greg whispers. Sherlock closes his eyes.

 

Faster.

—not on Thursday, no; Greg is hardly ever scheduled for Thursday, and barring disaster he would be wound tight around—with his fingers in Sherlock's mouth—inside—but of course, disaster can't be barred. Won't.

"—but I didn't ask—" Sherlock's voice is too loud, the neighbors will complain; all the drawers in the kitchen are hanging open, their guts showing: Greg had just been looking for a clean spoon. "I never asked, I never asked you to—"

"And Christ fucking save me from what you do ask, Sherlock!" Greg hears himself shouting, and—it flies, thoughtless. Tea everywhere. Shattered pottery. The sugar was still in syrup at the bottom.

"If you got that on my laptop!" Sherlock grabs the top sheet off the wreckage of the bed and drops it on top of the puddled tea; he looks like he's about to cry.

"I don't doubt for a second you'd have another inside a week—" towel, there; from the shower— "with your fucking family—"

"You don't," Sherlock says, voice shaking with rage, "know the first thing about my family."

"I've heard that one before, Sherlock," Greg snarls. Verse, refrain, verse: money talks, but it doesn't say the same things to the people who have it. "But that bloke with the grey suits, always in and out of Taversham's office—weird nose, no chin—what, uncle? Brother? Not old enough to be your dad, so—" Before it smelled of tea the towel smelled of damp, overused; it was Sherlock's shower, after Greg's—the cubicle being too small, Greg has noticed, his chest aching so hard he feels like it's going to collapse, for them to share. Diana, he remembers, would lean her wet head on his shoulder. A million years ago.

"Nobody asked me," Sherlock is yelling, ragged, red-flushed. He sounds like a child. "He's constantly—I don't want—"

"What do you want, then?" Greg laughs. "A steady job?"

"I don't even know why you followed me home," Sherlock says, with every word shredded at the edges. "I did think, for a while—" Sherlock says, and then stops.

Greg can't look at him. His hands are shaking.

It's not like me. He had thought that, all along, It's not like me. But he'd done it anyway, hadn't he. So, Sherlock had said, tossing him the lube; Yes, Greg had said, and fingered himself open to Sherlock's direction, had let Sherlock roll him onto his burning face, had let Sherlock put three of his huge fingers up him, his toe, his tongue. Then Sherlock had put his prick up Greg's arse and Greg had said, Harder, and Greg had said, Faster; until Greg, voice sanded to nothing, had reached behind himself to hold him in place so Sherlock couldn't pull out to come. Later, as apology, Greg had got on his knees and sucked Sherlock off so that Sherlock could come on his face and his throat, rub it into the corners of his mouth, scrape it back up and feed it to him: Like that, Sherlock had murmured, soft and gentle, like his fingertips on Greg's tongue, with his mirror-water eyes shadowed and dark; Just like that. Greg had thought, It's not like me. He had thought that, all along.

"I have a professional interest," Greg says, as steadily as he can, "in not having you turn up dead in a back alley, Sherlock."

Sherlock is scooping teacup shards into the sheet, but he stills. "'Professional interest'," he sneers, so Greg reaches over, and grabs him by the hair.

"Christ," Sherlock gasps, blood flooding his face and his throat. It makes him red and blotchy, hideous, repellant; Greg wants to screw him over every fixed surface in the room.

Greg drags Sherlock over, fumbling with his own flies, muttering, "I ought to, I ought to cuff you, I ought to make—Jesus Christ," as Sherlock grabs his own wrists behind his back and puts his mouth on Greg's trousers, sucking hard: his aim is dreadful, through wool and cotton, so Greg gets himself open, and shoves himself inside; his mobile rings in his pocket. Fuck—he pushes—Jesus fuck! There's only two people who might ring him at half ten in the morning, and he's not ever in on Thursdays. Fuck. Greg pulls back, and Sherlock makes a muffled, frustrated noise around him, flops from side to side. Ridiculous, really; his wrists aren't even tied. Greg pulls him up by the hair and Sherlock cries out, mouth hollow and dripping.

"You know who that is," Greg says, rough, and Sherlock, impossibly, gets even redder. "Yes," Sherlock gasps, and Greg says, "I can hardly," as his mobile buzzes against his thigh; and Sherlock pants out, "Let—let me, let me, let me—I'll be quiet." Greg, startled, lets go of Sherlock's hair, as his mobile rings again, and Sherlock makes a long, hollow noise and shoves his face back down Greg's cock, his saliva dripping all over Greg's open flies. His tomato face is wet-streaked, sweat or tears; Greg can't tell. Sherlock clasps his hands together behind his back, and Greg's mobile buzzes, again, again. Greg's hands shake as he pulls it out: Taversham, bloody hell, even worse.

"Yeah," he says, rough. Sherlock is shivering, practically choking himself. Greg should stop him. Instead he grabs the back of Sherlock's head and pushes him down, and Sherlock's whole body jerks and shudders.

"We've caught a nasty one," Taversham is saying, "double homicide, kidnapping, possible hostage situation—get here now."

"Twenty minutes," Greg manages, thrusting up. He thinks: That is what it looks like when Sherlock Holmes comes in his pants, and tosses the phone across the floor.

 

Better.

Stutter, blink. Greg is losing frames. "And the younger Johnsons," he says, to neighbor after neighbor; "did you see—" The lights flash, red and white.

It's not like me, he'd thought. He had thought that, all along. He'd made it to NSY in nineteen minutes, with all the drawers in the tiny bachelor kitchen of Sherlock's flat still hanging open, enticing, bared to the air.

"The children," Kingston is saying; "the kids," from Fiory, her voice even with that careful flatness that Greg recognizes down to his bones: a parent, looking for someone else's children, with disaster swinging over every second, honed to a razor-sharp blade. Don't. Don't think about it. Greg stutters, loses frames.

Chaos at NSY; Anderson showing off to Barnes in Barnes's new forensics lab, but Barnes doesn't care. "Something," Greg tells him, "anything." Barnes nods, and Greg goes to the toilets and pulls out his phone. It's past eight. Not Barking. He rings Sherlock, instead.

"Listen," he says. "Listen to me." Sherlock says, "Yes."

Green paint. Not the basement, not the park. Greg follows every tiny sign and signal and then hits redial. He wants Sherlock, he wants him here, because—because Sherlock is a drug addict and an adrenaline junkie and a rich, stupid kid, but sometimes—but every now and again—

"If you could," Greg whispers into his mobile, behind the toilets at the park, "if you could promise me, if you could make me believe that you'd stop—"

"Go to hell," Sherlock snarls down the line.

"Christ, Sherlock," Greg gasps, shaking, and hangs up on him. Ten minutes later, Sherlock texts him: gravel, water; look for birds. A PC finds them first. She is very young, and her mouth is tight and grim; Kitty is seven, hard-chinned and determined; Davey is four and he cries. "Shh," Fiory says, holding him tight. "Shh, you're fine." It's a lie, but a smaller one than they had feared; the medics take the children to A&E and the police dig in to find their mother's brother.

There is a house. There is a car. They have sight lines, approach plans; they prepare. Greg thinks about the dusty wine at home and then he thinks about his bag open on Sherlock's floor and then he thinks about Barking, where it is too late for him to call. He stutters, loses frames; somewhere in there he has put on a bulletproof vest. Christopher Harwood comes home, staggering with exhaustion, at twenty past eleven. They are waiting. They light up the night.

After. Forever. Freezing, for ages. All terror and waiting, this job; Greg had said that to Diana once, a million years ago. She had laughed.

Kingston is looking at his mobile screen. He tucks it back into his pocket and says, "Four minutes to New Year's Eve."

"Doesn't count," Greg says. "Four minutes to eleven months and twenty-six days to Christmas, too—Christ, Kingston."

"I think it counts," Kingston says. He's looking at Fiory, who is beautiful, whose husband left, who has three kids. Marcus, Kingston's partner, shoots him a look of disgust, but Kingston doesn't see. "Plans?" Kingston asks. "Resolutions?"

"Sleep," Fiory says, into her takeaway tea; Greg laughs.

"Excellent." Kingston beams.

"My girlfriend's got an office party," Marcus says. Greg looks away. "She's dragging me along."

"Resolutions?" Kingston asks.

"New partner," Marcus says, and Kingston reaches over. Marcus bats him away.

Fiory nudges Greg's shoulder. "What about you?" she asks. She has dimples, smooth dark skin, bright clever eyes; Greg had toyed with the idea of fancying her, a million years ago. But. Diana.

Greg smiles as best he can. "To be a better man, I suppose," he says.

She laughs.

 

6. 31 December 2004

Resolution.

Paperwork. Paperwork paperwork paperwork.

"I want today off," Greg is saying; "you promised me—"

"Finish the paperwork," Taversham tells him, then frowns past Greg's side. Greg turns—

"Oh, bloody hell." He bolts, to Taversham's "Lestrade—"

"Stop," Greg says, pushing Kingston off; Greg grabs Sherlock's wrist. Inspects it: twisted back, rubbed red, not broken. His wrists are constructed badly, all bones, fine fragile skin. His hands are huge. Greg's heart starts beating again.

"Bloody fucking freak," Kingston is snarling, leaning close; "you—"

"Stop!" Greg snaps, and Kingston steps back, wide eyed, startled. Greg's hand is out, half-curled: what did he do? Greg takes a deep breath and pulls and Sherlock follows his wrist towards Greg's side. "Did he do anything illegal?" Greg asks Kingston.

"He—" Kingston says, and Greg shouts: "Did you, personally, see him doing anything illegal?"

Kingston snorts. "Just let me search his pockets."

"If you touch him again," Greg says, without thinking, and Sherlock laughs. Greg snarls, "Shut up!"

"He was snooping through your desk, Lestrade." Kingston's eyes are sharp, darting: Sherlock is standing very, very still—carefully still; his pupils are huge. The crime scene photos are all up on Greg's computer screen: he has four prints laid out beside his keyboard, lurid and glossy and bright. The shape of the thing in parts. Sherlock hadn't touched anything; if he had he'd be down in holding, hands pinned hard behind his back, on his knees—Greg shifts.

"So, no, then," he says, and Kingston takes a half-step back, laughing.

"Think for a second," Greg says, low. "You really want to dump him back into holding? I feel a 'flu coming on—you can drive him home." This is a lie: Kingston will drive Sherlock home over Greg's dead body. "Tomorrow morning. Not today."

"Happy New Year," Sherlock murmurs, and Greg shakes him, says: "Shut up."

Kingston grimaces, looks torn, but he says, "Fine," eventually. At last. "Just—get him out of here, bloody fucking—"

There's a girl, the sharp-eyed PC from the river. "DS Kingston," she says, and holds out a file.

"—ghoul—yeah," Kingston says. He takes it without turning. "Thank you, Donovan." She nods, and leaves; Kingston gives Greg a look of overflowing contempt, then stalks back over to his desk.

Greg looks at Sherlock. "Who let you in?" he asks, and Sherlock smiles at him: warm, bright. Greg shifts his hand from Sherlock's wrist to forearm. His skin is burning hot.

"I brought you a coffee," Sherlock tells him. "Instant. Sorry. And crisps."

Greg shakes him; Sherlock flops. "It's half three in the morning," Greg says, voice low, "and you decide to walk into New Scotland Yard so high you could hang the Christmas lights with no help at all—"

Sherlock laughs.

"Bloody—fucking—" Greg's hand grinds Sherlock's bones together, and he grabs his cuffs. Metal on metal, snap: Sherlock's breath catches. His eyes are nearly black: deep water and dangerous, the spots where you might drown. Greg grabs his jacket, his coat, his keys; "Lestrade," Taversham is calling, and Greg pockets the handcuff key and calls back, "Just saving us all some time, sir," and, to stifled laughter rippling around the room, drags Sherlock by the stretched-out collar of his favorite blue t-shirt.

"I'll finish the paperwork," Fiory says, smiling. She looks pleased. Marcus looks very pleased. Sherlock Holmes in handcuffs: everyone in Major Crimes' favorite sight! Greg shoves Sherlock into the lift and bangs on the button until the doors slide shut.

Silence. The lift ticks down. "You left your coffee," Sherlock says.

"It's half three in the fucking morning, Sherlock!" Greg shouts, pressing him back to the wall; Sherlock gasps, hot and sudden. Greg can feel Sherlock's cock through his jeans, stirring against Greg's thigh. "You," Greg says, (stuttering, losing frames,) "you—"

Sherlock arches against him. Greg presses him to the wall; lets go, stumbles back. CCTV, CCTV, CCTV. He looks up and the camera is pointed at the ceiling. The lift dings. One of the carpark lights is flickering; the car looks green. Sherlock can't leave well enough alone; Greg grabs his cuffs, grits out, "You," and Sherlock moans; "Shut up," Greg gasps, "shut up." He pins Sherlock flat beside the car door. Sherlock's fingers tense into claws. Greg wrestles the door open and pushes Sherlock into the car. He could—he should, he ought to; ought to leave Sherlock in back, ought to drive, drive, drive—Sherlock makes noise, arches up, and Greg is—Greg is not deciding. Sherlock is hot and desperate, panting, wet; Greg has yanked his jeans down: "Shut up," Greg gasped—gasps, "shut up." He fits inside like he was made to—It's not like we planned this—and Sherlock moans, moans. Greg pins his hips to the seat and crams himself in, right foot braced behind the driver's seat, left hanging off the edge, and—just—slams into him, fucks Sherlock until their voices run out; comes half inside him, half out, dripping onto his own upholstery. In the carpark under New Scotland Yard; Jesus fucking Christ. Sherlock pants: ragged, shivering. His hands are still cuffed behind his back. Greg can't let go of him. Draws patterns. Pets the crack of Sherlock's arse, his hips; slides his hand down. Greg is still hard enough. Pushes back in through his come and drags Sherlock—crying out—back onto him and pulls him off, hard and fast. Sherlock sobs, arching back against him; Greg flattens their bodies to the seat and tries to hold him still. His foot is still hanging out the open door.

"I ought to," Greg whispers; "I ought to take you home, and." Sherlock shivers, head to toe. "I ought to take you home," Greg whispers, to the top of Sherlock's sweat-soaked spine. To his stretched-loose collar; into his dark, mad curls: "I ought to." Sherlock folds his fingers behind his back, between them; catches at Greg's unzipped flies. "I ought to," Greg says, between off-center kisses; "I ought to take you home."

Sherlock twists, tries to hook his legs around Greg's thighs; Greg helps. Sherlock breathes out, great gasps, like bellows. Greg pulls him close, with his hands still pinned under his back. Sherlock is trembling. Greg kisses him, over and over and over.

 

Admission.

"Drink," Greg says. Sherlock's hands quiver on Greg's hands on the glass. Greg pets Sherlock's hair off his face. "Can you sleep?" Greg asks. Sherlock makes a noise, drains the last of the water, shakes his head. His eyelids are trembling, face bruised. He looks exhausted. Greg is exhausted. The cuffs left red marks all over Sherlock's wrists. Greg had taken him home and pinned him against the door, kissed him until neither of them could breathe; then pulled Sherlock's jeans down and fingered him for an hour and a half because neither of them could quite manage anything more. Sherlock had panted and pressed back against him, until Greg, on his knees, could do nothing but bend in and kiss him open, tongue him dripping wet; pet him red and fever-hot and lick around their mingled melting skin, until Sherlock's legs gave out. At that point Greg had dragged Sherlock into his lap; then he had reached into his jacket pocket, and fished out the key.

"Try to sleep," Greg whispers, easing him back against the sheets; and Sherlock's low rough voice cracks: "Don't go."

"I'm not going to go," Greg says.

"Don't go," Sherlock repeats, insistent; but his eyes are slipping shut.

Greg presses his mouth to the raw hot skin over Sherlock's transparent wrists. He whispers, "I won't."

It's not like we planned this, Greg had said. His knees had bumped Sherlock's and Sherlock had laughed.

It hardly seems relevant, now.

All the drawers in the kitchen are hanging open, their guts showing. Greg had been looking for something but not what he'd found. Coke? Ecstasy? Methamphetamine? Greg doesn't know what he'd expected. He puts on the kettle and his hands shake. The sheet and the towel, spatter-stained with tea, are tangled up with broken pottery at the top of the bin.

He could gather it all up. He could flush it, or take it in.

The kettle clicks. Greg makes a cup of tea. He drinks it without sugar, because Sherlock hasn't got any bloody spoons.

It's morning, now. (Greg stutters, loses frames.) Sherlock is sleeping. With his face still and slack he looks eighteen, twenty; it's all illusion, Greg knows: Sherlock is a grown man, whatever interference the man in grey might have at his command. Sherlock is a repeat offender and a bloody-minded little shit, plays cops and robbers for fun and commits basic scientific arson on a routine basis; and he is twenty-seven years old. He doesn't need a minder. He hasn't any proper life direction at all and he still saved two little kids last night, over the phone.

Greg has a second cup of tea. A third.

Then he washes all the dishes.

Then he shuts all the drawers.

On the sixth day it is afternoon. Sherlock is sleeping, naked under his duvet, without a top sheet. His jeans and his t-shirt and the handcuffs are on the floor. He wasn't wearing a jacket. At half three in the morning, on the thirty-first of December.

Greg sits in Sherlock's desk chair, and takes out his phone.

 

Guilt.

Greg showers. He shaves. He digs through his open bag to find his last clean pair of pants, and thinks: I have to go home. He hears, It's not like we planned this, in chorused echoes; it means nothing. It's not like we planned this, but no one cares.

Around ten Greg digs up a tin of beans and a half a loaf of stale bread and warms the last of the Thai and the Chinese. He puts the kettle on and then wakes Sherlock up. There's a lot of mingled horror and self-disgust just lurking behind Greg's browbone, but with Sherlock wrapped in his duvet, round-eyed with sleep and sitting up on his floor to eat beans on toast and leftover pork buns, it becomes harder and harder to pay it much mind.

"Want the last spring roll?" Greg asks, holding out the box.

"No," Sherlock says. "You like them."

Greg does like them. He eats the last spring roll, then shifts so that his knees touch Sherlock's knees. Greg feels buoyant, improbably and unjustifiably hopeful. He feels about fifteen years old.

Greg does the washing up. Sherlock puts on grey flannel bottoms and a t-shirt and then takes out the rubbish. Then they get back into bed and don't sleep, don't screw. Instead they share two cups of tea, and Greg rests his face on Sherlock's shoulder.

"You stayed," Sherlock murmurs, at ten minutes to midnight. His breath moves in Greg's hair.

"I have to go home soon," Greg replies, and Sherlock says, very quietly, "I know."

Lying down. They don't watch the clock count down. They kiss, and kiss. Greg wraps his arms around Sherlock as tight as they go and then tighter. Sherlock strokes his fingertips over Greg's wrist, and hand, and ring.

 

7. 1 January 2005

The New Year.

It's half three before Greg gets home. Diana is waiting for him in the kitchen. She looks tired.

He slides off his jacket. He sets his keys down, then sits across from her at the table. The light over the sink is on, nothing more. Her hair is still perfect: slick, glossy, rippling over her black dress, down to the peaks of her breasts. She is wearing stockings and no shoes. She has opened one of the bottles of wine.

She'd told him, Don't bother to. She'd said, If you can't even. She'd hung up on him, twice.

"How was the party?" he asks.

"Fine," she says, and then takes a breath, and meets his eyes.

He doesn't say anything else. He'd hung up on her, three times.

"Quite a week," she says, "this week of ours, alone."

He nods, says nothing. Talking to Diana is dangerous. She can do things with the things he says that he never sees coming. She slides the wine bottle over to him and he lifts it up; takes three long sour sips, grimacing.

"Dreadful, isn't it?" She laughs.

"How much did we pay for that?" he asks, disbelieving.

"Oh—" She waves a hand, then lets it fall. She sighs.

After a moment, he says, "We've been angry with each other for—for forever, seems like."

"Well," she says. She laughs. "We're in perfect agreement on that, at least."

He rubs at his forehead.

"You know," she says, very quietly, "I always swore to myself—I swore that I wouldn't."

He drags his knuckles down his cheeks. "You wouldn't," he says. He can't seem to find the energy to make it a question.

She says, "I wouldn't stay with someone for the kids."

It's dreadful, as bald as that. He cringes away, turns his head; but he can't really say anything, can he? The map of the gaps between them is labyrinthine, dates back years; her house, his car. Their kids. Twice. Greg loves them. He can't afford to leave enough space in himself to admit regret. In November, Sherlock had said, Marital problems, Sergeant? and Greg had met his eyes dead-on and said, Mr. Holmes, you don't even know if I'm married. Sherlock had held eye contact; he hadn't looked down at Greg's ring.

"Yeah," Greg says. He clears his throat. Careful. Diana always knows better than him what to do with the truth.

She turns towards the window, resting her chin on her hand. It's raining again.

He clears his throat again. "I rang up my mum this afternoon," he says. "Or—yesterday." He sighs. "Kevin says he wants a lizard, and he's been—"

Diana asks, "Have you been having an affair?"

"No," Greg says.

A very strange thing, about Diana: she is lush and sensual and soft, blisteringly passionate. When she's sad, she doubles over weeping, hand clenched on her belly; when she's tired, she shakes all over, tremors running down through her mouth and her fingertips and her fine, fair-haired ears. She throws things, sometimes, when she's angry, though not ever directly at him; not ever, ever at the boys. But that is only angry, or tired, or sad; when she is very angry, or extremely tired, or suffocating with grief, she is statue-still, untouchable; and her face becomes perfectly smooth, elegantly serene.

"Because I think you're having an affair," she says, quiet.

Greg had said. He had said, It's not like I. He had stood in front of Sherlock's desk. Sherlock had been seated, with his wrists in plastic ties; their knees had touched. Sherlock had been arrested on Christmas, high and in possession and doing something stupid in Camden. It had been predictable, beginning to end, so Kingston had shoved him into holding overnight and then the man in grey had come and then Taversham had called on Greg, of course, because Taversham hates Greg, to drive Holmes back to his flat. An hour later Greg had had Sherlock zip-tied to his desk chair, and he had said, It's not like I planned this. No one in the room had had any good reasons not to believe him.

"Do you think that it's much like me," Greg asks, "to have an affair?"

Diana's eyes are dark; and she is looking at him directly. Blistering, that focus. Greg doesn't look away.

In time Diana's mouth stretches, curves: a Madonna's smile, beautiful and pacific.

She says, "I want a divorce."