Three things that, by any rational standard, do not belong in the same sentence:
- Red underpants
John is sad. Devastated, one might say in order to convey a greater degree of suffering, as sad, while technically accurate, is overused to the point of meaninglessness.
Devastate: from the Latin for to lay waste, desolate.
The word brings to mind a blasted battlefield where newly-made orphans wander with wide eyes and dirty faces looking for parents who were reduced to ash in an instant. John is both battlefield and orphan; a phone call five days ago was the bomb.
“She said she was sober,” John says for the seventeenth time since that call. “She gave me her word.”
The doctor is hardly naïve, but when it comes to those he loves, the thought of deceit is barred from entering his mind. He has trust issues with the world at large but when at last he hands over any piece of his own careworn heart, he does so with his eyes closed. 96% of the time (based on a limited sample, true, but still applicable) it ends up on the ground.
The logical thing would be to train himself not to become so devoted to people…but then he would no longer be John, and that would be both tragic and unacceptable.
Four months ago he and Harry had started talking again - first in pithy sentences and (what John claimed were) amusing pictures of animals on Facebook (there is no reason to assume that cats, given the power of language, would be bad spellers), then over coffee. John had given Harry relationship advice that led to her and Clara speaking again as well, and after that, things had progressed steadily. The two Watsons were on their way toward adult friendship…a place that now they will never reach.
Fingertips pressed together, elbows on the arms of the uncomfortable and revoltingly paisley hotel chair, Sherlock watches John pace. He’s barely stopped pacing since the phone call, as if losing forward momentum would let his armor start to slide off. This time instead of his usual jeans and disturbing jumper he’s in a suit, and thankfully it’s not the one he moved into 221B with, but one his flatmate bullied him into months back when they both had to appear in court on a murder case.
John had, in fact, called yesterday and asked him to bring the suit, and though the thought of attending a funeral surrounded by normal people sniffling and whispering is about as appealing to Sherlock as a frontal lobotomy, the bewildered desperation in John’s voice, roiling with emotion that he would almost certainly be holding back so he could be of help to others, had Sherlock on his feet and packing before he even realized what was happening. Even six months ago it would have been impossible, but the moment John opened the hotel room door and had tears in his eyes - tears! Christ! - it had taken a rather alarming act of will not to reach out to him.
If nothing else, a hug from Sherlock Holmes would have jolted John out of his grief long enough to have the detective committed for an obvious psychotic break.
Most people are so predictable, mundane. John Watson is both of those, and yet neither - since he first held out his phone to a man he’d never met, John has been an endless source of fascination. He provided an excellent opportunity to study an average, unremarkable man’s habits up close. John had proven himself extremely useful on cases, but beyond feedback and the occasional bullet in a serial killer, surely his utility would be limited - he was, after all, ordinary.
It turns out an ordinary man can be remarkable, and a proper genius can be an idiot.
John is a well-built man, if a small one, compact and muscular; but an ill-fitting suit made him look rather like an accountant for the Lollipop Guild. This one, a sophisticated and sober charcoal grey that renders his eyes almost exactly the color of natural ultramarine, is perfectly tailored and fits just snugly enough in precisely the right places.
An odd thought arises as he watches John walk to and fro: It is Monday.
His eyes narrow. Of course it’s Monday. Monday tends to follow hot on the heels of Sunday and ambles along in front of Tuesday at the same pace every week. Why would it suddenly…
“Are you even listening to me?” John demands, suddenly halting in his clock-pendulum-like march (amplitude approximately 3.05 meters) to glare at his friend with his hands on his hips. “Let me guess, you’re not even in the room - you’re back at the Rathbone crime scene counting footprints in the mud, far away from the boring lives of mere humans like me.”
Three things that do not belong in the same sentence, though Sherlock would hardly admit it:
- Mere human
- John Watson.
Sherlock blinks, then says, “You thought she was sober. You believe you missed some sign she was drinking again, which of course you did, but you can hardly be blamed for her decision to get behind the wheel after swallowing half the beer in Scotland. What sign? Her phone call to you last Friday night came from a bar; you had the phone on speaker because you were cooking, and the background noise included the drone of a football announcer. When you asked her about the noise Harry said she was at your cousin Regina’s watching the match but your cousin Regina recently married an Orthodox Jew and would most likely not be watching television on Shabbat. Not ironclad evidence, certainly, but a sign.”
“Why the fuck didn’t you tell me you thought she was drinking?” John explodes, putting his hands in his hair for lack of anything to grab onto or, perhaps, swing at his flatmate.
John’s temper is pure nitrocellulose; it ignites, blinding, but fades quickly and leaves little ash behind. Usually he yells an accusation or two, turns away, takes a deep breath (or ten, depending on how much of a prat he insists Sherlock has been), clenches and releases his left hand four to six times, and returns to the conversation with words no less angry but far less loud. That quick temper is probably a symptom of the PTSD he swears he doesn’t have, assuming angry outbursts are incompatible with the work of an army doctor.
This time, there are at least five identifiable emotions bound up in his words, some of which contradict each other. Sherlock has no hope of understanding any of them - the fact that he would even think to try is another worrisome development of their friendship - but he doesn’t have to ask “Not good?” to know from John’s expression that no, deducing Harry Watson on the day of her funeral wasn’t good, and the wiser course would have been to do the one thing he is incapable of doing: Keeping his damn mouth shut.
They stare at each other for a long minute, one seething, the other holding tight to his outward equanimity even though again, out of the clear blue bloody nowhere, the desire to stand up and go to John has swept over him and he tightens his fingers on the arms of the chair and shoves the urge away as hard as possible.
“Would you really have wanted to know?” Sherlock asks finally. His voice in the silent room is like faraway thunder; John’s anger is a lightning strike close enough to feel it crack the air. “As I said, it wasn’t ironclad, and there was no way to investigate further without upsetting you.”
“Bollocks,” John snaps. “Don’t pretend you give a damn about my feelings. Upsetting me makes absolutely no difference to you.”
Oh, if only that were still true.
The text alert on Sherlock’s phone sounds quietly but it might as well be played by a brass band; it’s most likely Molly Hooper with lab results that will either serve as a solid period at the end of the Rathbone case or will turn the whole thing back into a question mark. Instinct has Sherlock’s fingers itching to reach into his jacket for the phone, but he waits, not sure how to proceed. He and John bicker all the time, but Harry’s sudden death has given their every interaction a baffling new sense of import. In grief everything about John Watson is concentrated, his normally refreshingly clear behavior becoming muddy and thick.
To think John is in this state when he and Harry had been estranged so long - what would it be like, Sherlock wonders, to see John mourn someone truly close, like a lover?
The thought makes him feel hollow and almost afraid for no reason he can define.
It’s intolerable. The urge to seek out some sort of embrace transforms into the urge to grab John by the shoulders and demand, “What have you done to me?”
Sherlock is a creature of certainty, and right now everything from the strange hotel room to the painfully tedious notion of a funeral to the man staring daggers at him to this feeling, the one that’s been sneaking up to ring his heart and then running to hide in the shadows somewhere in his stomach for months now, is uncertain, shaky, and driving him mad.
The only person who could help him make sense of it without taking vicious pleasure from his discomfort is John; but in matters of both sentiment and socially appropriate behavior John is his compass, and a compass cannot point toward itself.
“Oh, go ahead,” John mutters, gesturing at Sherlock, or rather, the phone in his pocket. “I know you’re dying to read it. Just do it.”
John drops onto the bed, elbows on knees, hands clasped. He stares at the floor.
Holding back a sigh Sherlock takes out the phone and reads the short column of numbers Molly has sent. Suxamethonium chloride, just as he’d told Lestrade, who had looked at him with that ever-so-tolerant expression and said, “Gesundheit.” Sherlock doesn’t bother sending the results themselves, as Lestrade wouldn’t understand them and the Yard will have copies of everything by the end of the day, but instead quickly texts the DI,
If veterinarian sister
treats horses, arrest sister.
Silence again as he puts the phone away. John is still staring at the floor, and when he speaks, the anger has left his voice and the sadness is back.
“I’m a doctor,” he says. “I save people. I know I can’t save everyone, but…when it counts, when it’s someone I care about, I fail.”
“You saved me.”
Wait…was that out loud? Shit.
John looks up at him, eyes a little wide with surprise at the tone, and well they should be - it was meant to be a simple statement of fact, but came out almost a whisper, clothed in unintentional meaning.
“Our first case,” Sherlock clarifies, suddenly far too warm - dear God, if he’s blushing he may have to jump off a building. “You’d known me all of 24 hours and you killed a man to save me.”
That night and every day after, comes the thought.
Is that true? He analyzes the statement for a few seconds, considering his life before John, and the very real probability that without someone to look after him - to listen to his ranting, to anchor him, to make sure he ate, and above all to care - he would be dead by now, emaciated and filthy with track marks up both arms.
He’d come close before.
John knows Sherlock has a history of addiction, but doesn’t know how forcefully he’d hit bottom in his twenties - that particular era is such a humiliating memory Sherlock dodges all of John’s questions about it. A decade ago, by a stroke of perverse luck, he’d run out of money and stolen from Mycroft, who immediately realized how out of character the act was (pocket money, IDs, not strange at all - in fact it was what passed for affection between the Holmes brothers - but thousands of pounds was a fairly obvious cry for help) and had him dragged off to rehab. He’d been so young, then, and with no purpose and nothing to occupy his constantly racing mind, the noise inside his head, data coming from all directions without relief, had driven out everything that had mattered to him, and he had nearly died to find silence in a syringe.
A violently intrusive memory: Lying on the floor in a ball, shaking so hard he can’t see, the drip-drip-drip of a leaking faucet banging like a kettledrum against the raw surface of his mind. He remembers every inch of the powder blue bathroom tile, cold and damp through his threadbare, unwashed pyjamas.
He still has nightmares, sometimes, about Lestrade finding his body, with Anderson and Donovan towering over and laughing, wielding the word freak like a knife…like a needle. Childish nonsense, of course; the opinions of people like Anderson and Donovan weigh less than sunlight. Nothing so insubstantial can hurt him.
At least, not when he’s awake.
This time, something different takes control of the memory, and he hears footsteps that aren’t Mycroft’s…a shadow moves, someone kneeling, gentle but strong hands taking hold of his shoulders and helping ease him out of the fetal position…no judgment, no derision, just kindness, competence, and soft blue eyes…how different things would be now, how different he would be, if...
Real voice, real world. He starts and looks up; John is standing over him, his previous anger turned to honest concern. “What?”
“I said we need to leave or we’ll be late,” John says, frowning. “Are you okay? You had a bit of a thousand-yard stare for a second there.”
Even in the midst of loss, even with a heart full of emotional shrapnel, John wants to take care of him, because that’s who he is: Love personified, walking the world in a ridiculous jumper.
Sherlock’s brain completely short-circuits for a moment, and, unable to process any of it, he blurts, “Are you wearing red pants?”
John blinks. He blinks again. “Um…what?”
He’s heard people say they wished the ground would open up and swallow them, but it’s a metaphor he always dismissed as melodramatic; people exaggerate to a stupid degree, making everything Brobdingnagian in their need to feel important and thus rendering everything unimportant. At this moment, however, there really are no other words that fit. He knows he’s turned scarlet, which makes it even more embarrassing.
“It’s Monday,” he says in a rush, trying to salvage the situation with some form of logic. “You have one pair and only wear them on Mondays. The rest of your pants are black or dark grey. Given the fact that you don’t own a single other garment that glaringly colored, the fact that your great-aunt Imelda has a tendency to forget your age and gave you socks and underwear this past Christmas, and the fact that the elastic has the right amount of wear to date them to that time of year, they were clearly a gift rather than an intentional purchase. Still, not one to waste a perfectly good pair of pants just because they could be used to signal passing aircraft, you put them into rotation on a day you nearly always have off and can wear them under jeans…except for today.”
John looks like he can’t decide whether to laugh or lock himself in the closet and call the police. “You…deduced my underwear.”
Desperately trying to make things normal again, he deadpans, “All your other clothes are so boring.”
It’s the right thing to say; John is finally distracted from his sister long enough to throw back his head and laugh. It’s a good laugh, one that is all John. The tension of the moment dissolves, or at least the outward tension does, and that’s enough to be going on with.
“Please tell me you haven’t been rooting around in my hamper,” John says, grabbing his coat and gloves.
Sherlock rises as well, pulling his mangled dignity back around him along with the Belstaff. “Don’t be absurd. Simple observation, pattern tracking. Important to keep one’s skills sharp.”
Again, that look, but this time there’s something speculative about it that sends the heat rushing back into Sherlock’s face. Intolerable.
“You must observe me a lot,” John notes in an obviously calculated casual tone, but before he’ll let Sherlock pass through the open door he ventures, “So since we’re outside the usual pattern…do you need to have a look at them, just for confirmation? We can’t pay the rent if those skills of yours lose their keen edge.”
Sherlock stares at him, openmouthed, wishing so much that he could do what other children could back in primary school: Tell when people are joking, when they’re being cruel, when it’s literal and when it’s not, when they really want you to meet them for French tutoring or really just want to…
He’s missed something. John hasn’t missed anything. The reversal leaves him deeply unsettled…but there is something in John’s eyes that wasn’t there a few minutes ago, a spark of what can only be mischief coupled with a sort of exasperated affection that indicates the good doctor is, to use John’s own phrase, fucking with him. That trace of normalcy is a relief like the first deep gasping breath after strangulation. It’s difficult to get enough air, though, with so much confusion trying to tighten the noose.
John casts a quick glance down the hallway; doors are opening at the far end, but in the few seconds of semi-privacy they still have he reaches over and grabs Sherlock’s wrist with one hand while (oh dear God) tugging down the waist of his trousers with the other, just a couple of inches to reveal bold red fabric edged with white.
Eyes full of amusement still on the corridor, John places Sherlock’s hand on that patch of cotton, offering tangible evidence that while this is not a Monday like any other, there is at least one thing happening as it should. Beneath the thin fabric is skin, John’s warm skin and muscle and it would take at least two seconds to work his hand under the elastic and touch it directly but why on Earth would he do that, and besides, before he can even complete the thought other members of John’s family - including cousin Regina and her husband - are in the hallway headed for the lobby, and the conversation is effectively ended. Sherlock snatches his hand back, John straightens his suit, and that’s that.
Taking a deep breath and preparing an expression of false sympathy, Sherlock thrusts his hands into his gloves, turns up his coat collar, and follows Clan Watson out into the slate-grey, cold morning.
Three things which one should apparently not discuss at the funeral of one’s only friend’s only sister who died in a drunk driving accident:
- The childish notion of life after death
- Family trivia such as cousin Joseph’s apparently secret (well, how was he to know that?) transvestite persona
- The minister’s misuse of “irony” in his eulogy.
- The calculated force with which a 2010 Ford Focus traveling at 88 km/h would collide with a 120 year old Quercus robur given a rain shower less than 20 minutes prior
- The peak temperature of the burning cabin of said Focus versus that of a crematorium and their comparative effects on human flesh
- The presence of red underpants on one John Hamish Watson.
Actually the last one, it turns out, isn’t such a bad idea.
The service drones on 2.8 times longer than necessary to relate that Harry Watson is dead and likely to stay that way as physical resurrection is not only impossible but would result in an unpleasant afterlife for her and those around her. Sherlock sits toward the back, letting John endure the event alongside his family, who all sit up front bent forward beneath their shared pain.
John is still sensitive about being whispered over, and since the first time any of them met Sherlock the general consensus is that they are sleeping together, regardless of John’s protestations or the parade of unsuitable women he brings round. Sherlock could not possibly give less of a damn what they think, but for some reason involving far more than his questionable sexuality it bothers John, and he’s under enough stress as it is; thus Sherlock keeps his distance, and watches, and counts the minutes.
John’s mother is the grand matriarch of the family and holds herself ramrod straight, face perfectly composed as she passes tissues down the pew to those who need them. John’s father by contrast is red-eyed and dazed and his shoulders shake through the entire ceremony. Watson the elder is a military man as well, and just like his son, was invalided back from war…though by John’s account the old man has never shown any sign of weakness and has the stiffest upper lip in Britain, no mean feat. But he cries silently through the service, hand over his face.
With nothing better to do Sherlock lets his eyes roam over the crowd and gather any data of interest; the minister is himself an alcoholic, which thankfully the Watson family has missed again. One of the nieces is pregnant but the baby isn’t her husband’s. Dull. Cousin Joseph is a welcome distraction but a brief one, and far too soon his gaze slides along the immediate family’s pew and settles on the dusty-blonde man in the charcoal grey suit staring resolutely at the pulpit, not listening any more than Sherlock is.
The atmosphere in the chapel is too close and too warm; they are all dressed for the onslaught of an early winter and with the proximity of so many bodies in such a small space everyone’s misery is amplified. Staring at John, or rather the back of John’s neck that is just the right diameter for a long-fingered hand to curve around, it is becoming increasingly difficult to breathe, and when the minister asks all to rise and sing some god-awful hymn, Sherlock takes advantage of the distraction and slips out the back.
Clear of the oppressive little room he inhales deeply, letting the frigid air wake up his senses. He takes a slow walk around the gardens - the mortuary company owns what was once a small estate, and beyond the garden itself spreads the cemetery, tended by a cadre of groundskeepers all under the funeral home’s employ. The chapels are on one side of the property; the offices, embalming rooms, and crematorium are on the other along with the casket and urn showroom. It’s a one-stop shop for all one’s corpse-related needs. Quite clever, really, and it means there is plenty of outdoor space to wander around if one cannot bear another minute inside the chapel (one of three rooms set aside for services, and not even the smallest).
More than anything he wants to be back in London, on a case, able to focus on things like bullet trajectory, spatter patterns, ion chromatography, and looking for the connections no lesser mind could uncover. He wants to kneel beside a body and snap at Lestrade for blocking the light. He wants to point at an unusually cloudy dilated pupil and ask John about the likelihood of a 20-year-old developing cataracts.
This place, among these people living what should be private grief, is not where he belongs. In the city, the inherent wrongness of his existence can serve a purpose, but here, he is a scarecrow crucified in the wheat field. Adroit hands with nothing to dissect, piercing analytical eyes with nothing but the endless drama of regular people to stare at…and without the familiarity of home and a case to absorb his energy, he’s thinking…thinking in the wrong direction, thinking…no, it’s much worse than that.
A chemical defect. An imbalance of dopamine and oxytocin, easily neutralized by…
The only comfort is that the funeral will end soon and in three hours there’s a train back to London. John will most likely stay through the week, but even if he wanted Sherlock’s company, they are both aware that after a day or two Sherlock would drive him - what’s the phrase John uses? Batshit insane.
Distantly he hears the chapel’s rear door open and close, though not long enough for more than one person to leave; perhaps he wasn’t the only one in need of clear, cold air and open space. He stays out of sight, listening to the footsteps, and frowns. Short gait, resolute pace placing slightly less weight on the right leg. A huffed breath that no doubt produced a dragon-smoke cloud on the frigid air.
It could only be John, but no one else has left the chapel so the service isn’t over. John wouldn’t walk out unless he was in considerable distress, a reality supported by his limp, which only shows up in just such circumstances.
He waits a moment before following.
John doesn’t seem to know where he’s going; he has simply charged out onto the grounds desperate to get away. He keeps walking until he reaches a copse of trees that mark the border between the gardens themselves and the cemetery; just down a gentle slope stand the first few gravestones, the oldest on the property. Some have eroded so badly that the names are no longer legible. Not far away is a small section of flat markers and small worn-down cherubs reserved for the graves of infants.
John stops in the trees, leaning back against an oak broad enough that he would be invisible to anyone back at the chapel.
Sherlock has barely reached the tree when John says quietly, “Had to get out of there…couldn’t breathe. Because of Dad.”
He peers around the trunk, one gloved hand resting on the bark, and tries not to react when he sees how John is leaning back, staring up into the branches, tears he makes no attempt to stop streaming down his face and his lower lip trembling. “John…”
The doctor shakes his head, though what he’s denying is unclear. “Growing up Mum was the one you went to for comfort. Dad’s a good man, with a good heart he tries to hide - he was there when it counted, but day to day he was detached, like…but seeing him cry, just fall apart, it’s…parents aren’t supposed to outlive their kids. Imagine having a kid and raising her and being there for first steps and first dates, and then getting a phone call in the middle of the night that just destroys everything…we’ve never been an ideal family but...”
Sherlock doesn’t need to say he can’t imagine it at all; a breath later John makes a strangled half-laugh and says, “God, look who I’m talking to. Stupid of me. Might as well try to get sympathy from a brick wall."
A sharp pain in the center of his chest makes Sherlock take a step back. “I’ll go.”
“No, wait--“ John looks at him, taken aback by the effect his statement had. He wipes at his eyes with the cuff of his coat and shakes his head ruefully. “I’m sorry, that was…I know you’ve got a beating heart in there somewhere, maybe under the floor boards in the Mind Palace basement, or something. This is all just…I don’t know if you’ve ever mourned anybody, but…”
Sherlock thinks back. He barely remembers his father, who disappeared into a vodka bottle and never came out again; by the time his mother died Sherlock and Mycroft both had followed her fine example and learned that caring was not an advantage. He never felt particularly warmly toward either parent, and those were the only two people he knew personally who had died. He, who has seen hundreds of dead bodies, has never felt the loss of any of them.
In fact he runs rapidly down the list of people he knows, testing the thought of their deaths versus his response, and while several do arouse something he can only call protectiveness - Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson, even Molly - there’s only one whose theoretical loss makes something inside him howl with clawing agony.
He is perversely satisfied that this backs up all the data he’d already gathered on the subject…if satisfied also has an additional definition.
Satisfied (adj) - 1. Solved or dispelled, as with a doubt. 2. Given reassurance. 3. A state in which the desires, expectations, needs, or demands of (a person, the mind, etc) are fulfilled. 4. A state in which Sherlock Holmes’s head explodes. See also: Fucked.
Back beyond the gardens the sound of the door comes again, several times; the service has let out. John closes his eyes tight, and it occurs to Sherlock that he doesn’t want to be here either. He left this town behind years ago, and if he’s thinking longingly of home, it’s 221B, not this place.
“Do you have to stay?” Sherlock asks. “You should come home. With me. Tonight.”
“Can’t. They need me here for a couple of days. You can feed and dress yourself that long, can’t you?”
It’s intended as a jest, but the words have an edge that makes Sherlock look away. “That’s not why…”
“Jesus,” John mutters. “This is a rare day - I’ve actually hurt your feelings twice in ten minutes. Well done, Doctor Watson.”
“I believe societal norms allow a certain behavioral latitude for people who are grieving, John.”
A pause as John stares out into the cemetery. “Promise that you won’t let them bury me when I die. Have me burnt - keep me on your mantel next to the skull if you like, run experiments on my ashes, just don’t leave me pickled in chemicals in a box in the ground.”
Sherlock exhales sharply in what might be a laugh under other circumstances. “So either you believe that we will grow old together, or you believe I will be the death of you.”
Their eyes meet. John’s face is so open, trusting - he would never let other people, especially not family, see him cry like this. There is no way in hell Sherlock Holmes is worthy of such trust. At what point did John Watson go mad enough to decide a man incapable of empathy deserved such an honor?
Incapable. It’s what everyone says, what they’ve always said. The key to learning is repetition; the same statement made over and over is eventually accepted as truth whether it’s factual or not.
“I’ll take either,” John says quietly. “Just keep me close by if you can.”
The reply slips out of its own accord: “Always.”
They stare at each other for another long moment, barely breathing, until John lowers his eyes and nods slightly as if making a decision; then he very slowly, very deliberately, moves forward to lay his head on Sherlock’s shoulder. His left hand curls in the wool of the Belstaff’s lapel until he’s hanging on for dear life. The other hand hangs limply at his side. Safely hidden from the rest of the world, with something strong and solid to lean on, John turns his face into Sherlock’s neck and weeps softly.
Sherlock argues with himself briefly over what to do with his hands. In the end he winds both arms around the doctor’s waist, then lets one hand slide up John’s back and come to rest on his neck, just as he’d imagined doing in the chapel. That feeling he’s been running from for months returns full force - an ache, he realizes, but not a physical one, which he would have been able to analyze; it comes from the wild country surrounding his mind, from the vines that have been climbing the walls so slowly he barely noticed until the stone began to crack. He wants to name it, to turn it in his hand and take its measure, but calling this what it is would change everything.
Ordinary people cannot solve a triple homicide in ten minutes, but they can navigate the perilous terrain of emotion and somehow survive. Good God, how? Is this what feeling does - renders one completely inadequate, helpless, unable to be what the other needs but unable to turn away? Is that what love is - agony and impotence? If so, the entire human race isn’t just stupid, it’s insane.
John grows quiet. A tremor runs through him, but he doesn’t move away. This close, he smells like chamomile: hotel shampoo. Faintly charred scent of French roast from the café he’d been sitting in when he called that morning to admit he’d left Baker Street without his suit. Sweat from being too close to the other mourners in the chapel.
Birds call to each other from one side of the cemetery to the other; the grey sky gives way to a few brave rays of sunlight, and though it’s still cold, the freezing morning has hollowed out the day and left room for both warmth and an unexpected moment of peace here beneath the trees.
Finally John says softly, “We should head back.”
Neither moves. Then John lifts his head, staring up at him calmly, storms rolling through his blue eyes as they flick down to Sherlock’s mouth then back up again. “I’m sorry,” John tells him, just above a whisper. “I have to do this. I have to know for sure if…”
Whatever the end of the sentence was, John abandons it; the hand on Sherlock’s coat reaches up to wrap around his neck, drawing him downward, meeting no resistance whatsoever.
John’s grip is hard enough that the kiss should be equally hard, but no, he pulls the punch just in time and lightly, almost formally, touches his lips to Sherlock’s.
It’s the barest hint of contact but enough to send a shockwave through both of them. Seeming satisfied that Sherlock isn’t going to shove him away or burst into flame, John repeats the motion, this time applying a little more pressure, the slightest bit of suction on Sherlock’s lower lip.
Sherlock has never been all that impressed with kissing - sex was an urge that could be met when necessary with a minimum of personal interaction, but kissing…no, kissing was intimate, requiring engagement. And kissing like this…with such care, almost delicately at first, warm breath and softness and God, that ache again…mere engagement is not enough. He falls into it gratefully, lips parting to admit John’s tongue.
John grunts with surprise when Sherlock turns him and pushes him back against the tree. He pauses long enough to give John a small but hopeful smile, then covers John’s mouth with his. For a moment it’s deep and deliriously perfect, but then:
“John! Are you over there? The car’s waiting!”
They break apart, both groaning with frustration, and John is flustered as he wipes his visibly kiss-stung mouth, steps out from behind the tree, and waves. “Be right there!”
Half the family is on hand to watch them emerge from the trees together, and he sees at least one aunt checking them over for popped buttons or hastily re-tucked shirttails. Well, if they weren’t gossiped about before, they certainly will be now. He has to resist the urge to reach over and grab John’s hand just to see if anyone faints.
John, meanwhile, is pink all over, and clears his throat a number of times as he doles out quick hugs to some of the relatives who are leaving town today. Their scrutiny makes him shrink back into himself; John Watson is an intensely private man, and never very close to his family…except, almost, for Harry.
They don’t speak the whole ride back to the hotel, or on the short walk from the front doors through the lobby, up the lift with Regina and her husband, and down the hall to John’s room.
Three uncanny abilities possessed by John Watson:
- Laser-accurate aim with handgun
- Intimidating men twice his height and weight without even speaking
- Stimulating genius (and, it turns out, geniuses).
Door locked, coats and gloves shucked, John returns to his spot on the bed, taking a second to yank the shirt out of his trousers and unknot his tie. He doesn’t meet Sherlock’s eyes - it’s possible, no, probable, that that moment out under the trees was simply the product of overwhelm, and now he’s regretting it but unsure how to say so.
Occam’s Razor. Which possibility involves fewer assumptions:
- John has been harboring a physical and/or emotional attraction to his flatmate for months, which he has cleverly concealed from one of the most observant men in the world until he could no longer bear it and chose to reveal at his sister’s funeral; or
- John was simply upset, and looking for comfort, no matter how ill-advised.
Based solely on observing family members who come to identify bodies, Sherlock has concluded that grief acts on the brain much like any intoxicant, making them do rash and reckless things, scream and punch walls and grab onto anything they can to save themselves from tumbling off the world.
The last train to London will leave town in 90 minutes. If Sherlock wants to get out of this place today he must hurry. If in fact John is looking for a way to backpedal, all the more reason to leave as quickly as possible to spare John the embarrassment.
I’m sorry…I have to do this. I have to know for sure if…
88 minutes. 10 minutes to get a cab, 20 minutes to arrive at the station, anywhere from 5-15 waiting in line for a ticket depending on…
As though he’d heard the thought, John looks up and says, “Don’t go.”
The bottom drops out of Sherlock’s lungs. When he doesn’t immediately answer John adds, “I have to have dinner with my parents tonight, but…you brought clothes, I saw them. Just…stay. Mad as it may sound, this is all easier with you here.”
The ache has become so intense it has banished rational thought, which should terrify him, yet…looking at John, whose face is full of both sorrow and hope and, at that moment, is the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen, he realizes that in the presence of so much that should be impossible, yet is happening all the same, possible and impossible cancel each other out, and the remainder must be what is true.
His usual approach is useless here. There’s no precedent to go by. He asks himself what John would do in his place, and the answer is clear.
Taking a deep breath, he crosses the narrow expanse between door and bed and kneels in front of John, placing a hand on each of John’s thighs. He locks eyes with the doctor and asks softly, “What do you need?”
John takes an astonished breath, then another, and asks a little shakily, “Have you ever asked anyone that question before?”
Quick memory reference: Nothing on record. “No.”
“Because other people are irrelevant.”
“But you’re asking me. Why?”
For all that this isn’t his area of expertise, Sherlock still gives him a quizzical look; this kind of thing is supposed to be obvious to the average mind, incomprehensible only to, say, a self-professed high functioning sociopath - but the sociopath gets it and the compassionate average does not. Baffling. “You’re John,” he replies. “My John. You matter.”
John looks torn among possible reactions; hysterical laughter, broken sobs, and mute staring all seem equally likely, but he chooses a fourth option. He lifts one hand and touches Sherlock’s lips as lightly as he had when they kissed. “I matter to Sherlock Holmes,” John murmurs, the back of his hand glancing over a cheekbone. “I don’t know whether to be flattered or frightened.”
They share a wry smile that acknowledges the absurdity of the entire situation…as well as its gravity. Sherlock suggests, “Either would be appropriate.”
“Have you ever…done anything like this before?”
“Specificity, please, John.”
The hands that he had imagined in that half-flashback of the blue-tiled bathroom floor move to cover his.
“Had a lover.” The words are stammered, as if he can’t believe his own temerity at even saying the word. John pushes more words out like he’s trying to fling them over a cliff. “I remember you saying you’d, um, conducted a thorough study of human sexuality and pronounced the whole thing…how did you put it?”
“Sticky, loud, and dull.”
“Right. So does ‘boyfriends aren’t really my area’ mean ‘never will be?’”
“Boyfriends,” Sherlock muses. He tries not to smile at the way John cringes at his own choice of words. “Not looking for a one night stand, I take it.”
“I…shit, I meant…” Shaking his head with impatience, John clamps his eyes shut for a minute, but when they open again they are surprisingly focused, intense. The army captain has reasserted himself and has apparently decided that this moment is too important to waste on fear. “No, I’m not after a one night stand,” John says with absolute, if quiet, sincerity. He raises a hand and once again touches Sherlock’s face, this time along his jaw, down along his throat, back up to trace the inside edge of one ear. “I must be the world’s biggest masochist, but…I swore to myself a long time ago…if I ever have you, you’re mine…for good.”
He can’t help it; a shiver runs through him, one he’s sure John feels through his hands. A miracle: He feels that shiver turn to heat and coalesce deep in his belly, seeping downward where it transforms yet again, this time into arousal. With those early experiments, a significant complication was a lack of desire - women, men, of various shapes and sizes, in single spies and battalions, it didn’t matter, it always took considerable effort to overcome his habitual detachment long enough to get him hard. His appetites have always been of the mind, not the body - he barely remembers to eat half the time.
John smiles a little at his distracted state, takes hold of his chin, and gently forces their gazes to meet. This time there’s no hint of a tremor in the question. “Do I have you, Sherlock?”
Pulse: Elevated…no, racing. Respiration: Tachypnea most likely due to anxiety. Ability to form sentences: Severely compromised. Erection: In progress. Heart: Going supernova. Entire body from head to foot: Burning.
There is, therefore, only one reasonable answer. “Oh, God, yes.”
He pushes himself up onto his knees and reclaims John’s mouth, eliciting a faint squeak of surprise before the kiss is enthusiastically returned. Hands seek out places to hold onto, fingers digging into upper arms and thighs. John’s tongue dips into Sherlock’s mouth shallowly at first, and then deeper and deeper until Sherlock catches it and sucks hard.
They’re both panting, but afraid to stop - the odds of this happening are weighted heavily toward “not in a million years,” and if there’s a pause either one of them might come to his senses. Still, oxygen is becoming a bit of an issue. In between kisses Sherlock manages, “We really should take a breath--“
A grin. “Breathing’s boring.”
In that second Sherlock deduces, with a certainty that leaves him almost pathetically euphoric, that he is completely and utterly done for.
John hauls him closer with one hand, the other winding in Sherlock’s hair and tightening. Then John pulls him back, breaking the kiss to bite Sherlock’s lower lip hard enough to bruise.
The pain is unexpected, as is his body’s reaction to it - not to recoil, but to press against John harder and try and communicate without the benefit of articulate speech: More.
This time John pulls sideways, twisting his lips free so he can kiss his way down Sherlock’s neck. When he’s almost to the shoulder he halts, clamps his mouth on the exposed skin, and sucks, punctuating the act with another firm bite. Pain blossoms under the pressure - it’s not enough to draw blood, but the bruise will be spectacular.
Leaning back, John sees the look on his face and smiles again. “I’m a military man,” he points out. “We mark our territory.” He runs his fingers over the bite, eliciting a shiver, and adds, “Don’t worry, it’s winter.”
It takes far too long for that to make sense. “Scarves,” Sherlock finally says.
“Not to mention you’ll have a reason to turn up that goddamn coat collar besides making my knees weak.” John is still smiling. “Bastard.”
In reply, Sherlock silently tilts his head back, exposing his throat.
John all but pounces on him, for which he is regrettably unprepared. Knocked off balance, he topples over onto the floor, John landing squarely on top of him.
They both burst out laughing.
The sorrow has, for the moment, cleared from John’s eyes, and he actually seems…happy. It won’t last, of course, but right now the world outside this room doesn’t have to exist. There are myriad ways to keep a man distracted from his own pain - most of the ones Sherlock knows involve heroin, homicide, or the violin, but he isn’t completely without resources.
“Let me see them.”
John chuckles. “What is it with you and the red pants?”
“They’re an anomaly. I make my living seeking out anomalies. The color is irrelevant - they could be neon plaid for all I care. The pants themselves are not the objective.”
“What is the objective, then?”
“Getting your clothes off,” he answers with an eyeroll. “Obviously.”
John seems to think that’s reasonable, and sits up enough to take hold of Sherlock’s jacket and help him strip it off. Then the doctor tsks, fingers nimbly unbuttoning the black dress shirt beneath it. “This poor top button,” he says. “Always under such enormous strain.”
The beleaguered button, along with the rest of the shirt it’s attached to, joins the jacket in a careless heap on the floor. Sherlock sets to doing the same with John’s, but there’s an extra step as he’s wearing a t-shirt underneath. If he weren’t so intent upon his goal Sherlock might leave the tee where it is for a moment - it is delightfully snug around John’s torso, emphasizing the strength of his upper arms. John works out as physical therapy for his shoulder, keeping the muscles in good condition so he won’t lose function in the arm, but given his usual wardrobe his strength goes unnoticed. A pity given how often people underestimate him.
As he peels the shirt off, he leans down and nuzzles the skin beneath it, kissing upward and exploring the unfamiliar-yet-familiar terrain with lips and teeth. He can feel John watching him, and when he glances up, he sees something like wonder.
John’s voice is darkened and a bit rough. “I keep thinking I’m going to wake up like always. That there’s no way this is really happening.”
“Is this a dream you have often?”
A low chuckle. The hunger in John’s eyes sends Sherlock’s already-flying pulse into orbit. “You have no. Fucking. Idea.”
“Fascinating,” Sherlock murmurs, shifting his attention to the rest of John’s clothes. Under no circumstances is John allowed to keep his socks on for this. Next go the button and zip on the grey trousers, allowing him a preview of the prize beneath: the wonderfully improbable red underpants, stuff of legend, looking an awful lot like a gift waiting to be unwrapped.
“Go ahead and laugh,” John tells him, laughing himself. “They’re really comfortable.”
That they may be, but they’re also rather adorable…and at the moment they’re working every bit as diligently as Sherlock’s top shirt button had been, in this case to contain an already-straining erection.
Ignoring it for the moment, he slips a finger under the elastic and lifts the cotton up enough to expose tiny sections of skin at a time. He leans down and nuzzles the spot, then traces his tongue along the crease of John’s thigh where the elastic had just been.
John falls back on the floor, groaning, “Jesus.”
Apart from any emotional consequences here, Sherlock finds himself absorbed by the effect his touch has on John - what would happen, he wonders, if he were to continue licking but, at the same time, place a hand between John’s legs and, with light pressure, rub?
Answer: John would twitch like he’d been tasered.
He very carefully rolls the pants down little by little, enjoying the heat and scent of John’s skin - chamomile, coffee, and sweat, yes, but with that indefinable masculine undertone laden with pheromones which, it turns out, work better on consulting detectives than they seem to on John’s dates.
Finally, Sherlock frees John’s cock from its increasingly painful confinement; after that there’s no need to be careful, so he pulls the pants off the rest of the way with some impatience and tosses them more or less toward the growing pile of clothes nearby, where they lay atop the mound like a flag on a very small Mount Everest.
He surveys the man before him, calculating the best position and angles to achieve maximum noise from the subject, and decides that sprawled out on a hard hotel floor without so much as a pillow is not going to do at all. “Get back up on the bed,” he commands. “Now.”
John doesn’t hesitate, but he does waver a little, trying to get up on weak legs and unable to really process information without his brain in control of the blood supply. He all but crawls up onto the bed, then gives Sherlock a questioning glance.
The pillows are all still piled up at the headboard where the housekeeper had replaced them that morning; he orders John to lean back against them and if necessary grab the headboard itself. John gives him an eyebrow - Sherlock is still half-dressed, and has made no move to remove his own trousers.
As is their custom, Sherlock ignores him.
He waits until John is situated to sit down himself and then spends a moment up at John’s mouth, kissing him again and again. Every time one tries to pull away, the other won’t let go, and clamps mouth back to mouth as if they are both shamelessly addicted to the taste of each other’s lips.
That may in fact be true, though the scope of the addiction may be broader: lips, tongues, ears, throats. John in particular has a fixation with the suprasternal notch…a bit disconcerting given that every time his tongue presses into it, it triggers a low and helpless groan from Sherlock that surprises them both. John’s hands wind back into Sherlock’s hair, and again they tighten, but don’t pull this time, just provide a delicious tension and the distinct feeling that though John might let him do as he pleases, the doctor is the one in charge.
That thought should not be arousing. Giving up control is something Sherlock Holmes simply does not do.
He’s not going to think about that now. Instead he ends the kiss and this time moves his entire body back to discourage further distraction; John is flushed and breathing hard, and looks a little disappointed at losing contact.
Well, he won’t be disappointed for long.
Sherlock kisses his way back down the length of John’s torso, paying close attention to the response and filing away data to use later. (Minute tremors throughout, body temperature continuing to rise, pupils hugely dilated, uneven respiration - the latter becomes more pronounced the farther south Sherlock reaches.) His hands run down over John’s chest, over a downy trail of light-colored hair that runs from about mid-sternum to navel, and one hand curves around John’s waist as he leans in toward a nipple and, well, nips.
The sound John makes could be pain, but Sherlock knows it isn’t, both because John arches toward him rather than away, and because John’s hips do the same thing. Smiling to himself, Sherlock draws a wandering line from there down to John’s stomach, only pausing when he hears John say a bit breathlessly, “You’re analyzing this, aren’t you.”
Without looking up: “Obviously.”
“Any…brilliant deductions…so far?”
“Oh, yes,” Sherlock replies, shifting yet farther down the bed. “I know, for example, that given the opportunity you enjoy mild S&M - nothing with outfits or special equipment except perhaps ankle and wrist restraints, but you like to be in charge. You’ve had three male lovers, and none for more than one night at a time. Lastly, you are about to make a sound somewhere between a moan and a lion’s roar.”
“How do you know--“
Sherlock flashes him a grin he’s sure most people would label “wicked,” or, more likely, “diabolical,” and then shifts back on his hands, bows his head, and runs his tongue along the entire length of John’s cock.
Perhaps not quite a lion’s roar, then - there’s a little too much scream in the foreground, so perhaps a jungle cat of some sort. Research is required.
He might not be as well versed in undomesticated felines as he could be, but he is pretty sure they don’t yell deity names.
He doesn’t give John time to recover, but immediately closes his lips around the shaft and slides downward…very slowly…letting John feel the warm wet surround him an inch at a time.
John knows a lot of curse words.
It’s a bit more than Sherlock can manage on a first attempt, and as he is loath to interrupt the moment with unattractive gagging, he stops about 2/3 of the way down and wraps a hand around the lower 1/3, shortening what he has to work with but also letting him stroke and otherwise play with what he can’t take - yet - so nothing will be detracted from the experience. This part he’s done before, though it was a decade and a half ago - still, having a dick in one’s mouth isn’t something to forget, and standard operating procedure on the male penis is simple enough even if one doesn’t have his own to go by. He braces himself on his elbow and sucks at that same slow pace, learning the texture of the skin as well as its taste.
John regains control of his limbs enough to get his hands back in Sherlock’s hair, but surprisingly doesn’t try to pull him down harder or faster; he just wants to hold on, and again, the feeling races down through Sherlock’s body to his own dick, nearly causing him to gasp (and possibly choke, which he would hate to have to explain to a paramedic).
He feels John’s eyes on him for a while, and when he lifts his eyes he notes the flush that’s spread all over John’s chest, neck, and of course his face. Their eyes lock, and Sherlock chuckles, causing John’s head to fall back with a strangled noise - the vibration, Sherlock realizes, amused. John begins to press his hips up slightly each time Sherlock’s mouth slips down over him, and gradually the movement becomes more desperate, John’s hands in his hair gripping harder and harder.
In response, he changes technique: rather than a traditional up-and-down stroke, he twists slightly left and right, the effect like a corkscrew. Meanwhile, the hand that isn’t wrapped around the base of John’s cock nudges his thighs apart and strokes whatever skin it encounters working back toward John’s arse, where he pauses and presses the pad of his finger in…just barely…just enough.
There’s hardly any warning - but then, seismic activity is difficult to predict. John moans loudly and a violent tremor runs down through his body, his hips jerking almost hard enough to earn him a very unpleasant bite. Sherlock considers, in that half-second, pulling off, but John has enjoyed this so much it seems wrong somehow to take away that last moment of heat and pressure, so he holds still to let John buck upward and come, crying out, into Sherlock’s mouth.
His throat works reflexively as John shudders against his tongue, and he evaluates: not as distasteful as he’d feared, though probably not his favorite thing in the world. Certainly not unpleasant enough to preclude future occasions.
Sherlock finally lets go as John softens, and looks up again, finding himself smiling…not out of wicked humor or self-satisfaction, but just…he’s not sure what to call it, really, how it feels watching John breathe hard and let out tiny whimpers. Sweat has broken out over John’s face and shoulders, though his color is already returning to normal. At some point his hands had fallen out of Sherlock’s hair and reached up to clench around the headboard; they fall down heavily now.
Suddenly he gets that urge again, the one he’s fought all morning, the urge to put his arms around John - but now he doesn’t have to deny it.
He climbs up the bed and flops down at John’s side, winding himself around John and tucking his face in the bend of John’s neck and shoulder. He feels an arm around his waist, and the other hand covering and twining with his.
After a minute John finds his voice. “Where…in God’s name…did you learn how to do that?”
Sherlock lifts up his head and looks down at him. “John, have you ever known me to be bad at anything?”
“Manners. Lab safety. Cluedo.”
He sighs. “Fine. Have you ever known me to be bad at anything I gave a damn about doing?”
Rather than answer, John says a little hesitantly, “We probably shouldn’t have done that without a bit of discussion - you know, medical history, condoms, grown-up stuff like that.”
“I already know your medical history, and you know you can trust me when I say I’m clean.” Sherlock meets his eyes. “You do, don’t you?”
“Trust you?” John laughs. “Of course I do. I’m an idiot, remember?” John lays a hand on his face, wonder in his eyes. “When was the last time you did this sort of thing, anyway?”
“How old am I?”
“Fourteen years, then.”
John’s eyes go wide. “You’re serious.”
“I told you it’s not my area.”
“But I’m your area.”
Instead of saying something condescending he smiles a little wryly and replies, “Every inch of it.”
Shaking his head in amazement, John smiles back, then in less than a heartbeat has flipped Sherlock onto his back and is stretched out on top of him, holding him by the wrists.
Sherlock has no idea how he moved so fast, and the sudden shift makes his mind tumble around for a second, attempting reorientation…and not just with their positions on the bed, but with John’s position in his life…and in (maudlin, ridiculous, but somehow still true) his heart.
He had hoped that acting on his impulses, offering whatever he could to John in his grief, would help him find clarity, but if anything it’s made things worse; he keeps imagining the coming week, back at 221B, with this new reality - John kissing him as he brushes by in the morning on the way to get coffee; the two sitting together, both on their laptops, at opposite ends of the sofa but with feet entwined in the middle; waking up in the middle of the night with a flash of brilliance he must act on at once only to find he cannot extricate himself from the arms around him…and doesn’t want to. It’s nothing dramatic, from the outside, but for him it’s practically a Disney fairy tale, which is absolutely horrifying.
I don’t want that. I don’t.
That is not who I am.
I don’t need (deserve) it.
“Don’t worry,” John says softly, bringing him back to the present moment. “You don’t have to be a different person, Sherlock. I don’t want you to be. Nothing has to change. Be as much of an impossible dick as you’ve always been, and let me love you like I always have, and we’ll be fine.”
Sherlock smiles in spite of himself. Intolerable. “I suppose that will do.”
John’s eyes flicker - he was expecting a reaction to the word love, even though he knows who he’s dealing with and surely isn’t expecting Sherlock to respond in kind.
Nothing has to change. But John is wrong; things have already changed. The very bedrock of their relationship has shifted and every layer of stone above it will have to realign. The ground is no longer solid beneath his feet. It hasn’t been for quite some time, but now they can both admit there is shaking going on.
“Now, no more talking,” John murmurs, kissing him on the lips, then devoting himself to tasting every square inch of Sherlock’s neck. “We can deal with real life when we get back to London. I’ve had months to make a mental list of everything I’d like to do to you.”
The kisses begin to grow harder, turning into bites. At the same time John’s clever hands occupy themselves removing the rest of Sherlock’s clothing, and once that’s done, John stretches out full-length against him, face to face this time, skin touching skin everywhere it possibly can. The sensation makes him gasp, as do those hands gliding down his back. There’s something so comforting about it, and about the up close sound of John’s heartbeat - for the first time he allows himself to imagine falling asleep that way, and actually sleeping instead of catching a couple of hours in fits and snatches before being driven out of bed once again by the breakneck sprint of his mind. The loss of that productivity might be detrimental, but the thought of resting...really resting…burrowing into John’s shoulder and breathing in his scent all night…
“Let’s keep things simple for now,” John says in his ear. He shifts so that one arm can wrap around Sherlock’s shoulders. “There’s no hurry…I’ve got a long list, but there’s time, and I know where you live.”
Yes, you do.
It was easier to be the one doing rather than the one done to; while he had John in his mouth he could concentrate on what it was doing to John, and not have to risk being overcome himself. Now, John moves his hand down Sherlock’s side, the feathery touch making him shiver, and then down between them, fingers just barely coming into contact as they travel down Sherlock’s cock.
Said member had lost interest in their conversation, but is certainly paying attention now - his arousal hits so swiftly it actually makes Sherlock lightheaded. His toes curl.
There is sparkling enjoyment in John’s eyes, and for that moment, it’s all worth it - the ache, the horrible vulnerability, the encroachment of what he has always disdained on an otherwise cerebral life, the uncertainty of what will happen when they leave this room. After a week of grief and crippling undeserved guilt, John, his John, is happy again.
John lifts his hand and holds the palm in front of Sherlock’s face. “Lick.”
He doesn’t have to ask why - that much is obvious. He merely obeys, swiping his tongue over John’s lifeline.
John’s breath catches, and as he lowers the hand back down between them he says, “Your mouth should be classified a deadly weapon…for so many, many reasons.”
Sherlock doesn’t have a chance to frame a suitable retort before John’s wet hand closes around his cock and immediately begins stroking, slowly but firmly. His body doesn’t seem to know what to do with that kind of pleasure - his legs are trembling, in fact most of him is, every inch of skin suddenly hypersensitive, ripples spreading outward from where John’s hand is gliding. When John pauses and lets his nails just barely trace over the skin - not even using enough pressure to be called a scratch - the sensation is overwhelming.
He turns his face into John’s neck and shuts his eyes, but that makes it worse - without any visual information all his faculties snap to focus on his dick, on John’s hand, and he can’t breathe.
No one has ever touched him like this…with both intense desire and infinite care, as if he is the most precious creature on earth. This is not an experiment, and he is not gathering data. He can’t. He was ready for John to want to reciprocate his earlier actions, but it wasn’t supposed to be like this…it wasn’t supposed to feel this good. He wasn’t supposed to want it - to whimper brokenly when John stops again to wet his hand and be prepared to beg John to touch him again, to make this need go away and also never stop oh God don’t…stop…
Three things in the hotel room that are surprisingly noisy:
- The ticking clock hanging on the wall
- The conversation next door
- Sherlock Holmes having an orgasm.
John tilts him more onto his back, wrapping his leg around Sherlock’s, his foot curving up and down Sherlock’s calf. They writhe against each other and John’s mouth covers his, hard and demanding, momentarily muffling the little animal cries that are building in his throat.
“That’s it,” John whispers against his lips, and Sherlock can feel him smiling. “You got to see the red pants…now let me see you come, Sherlock. Let me feel it.”
“John…oh, God, John…”
Cliché be damned, it’s John’s name on his lips when the dam breaks. His back arches as wave after wave pulses through him until it seems like the tension floods out of his entire body at once and he collapses, in every way possible, breath coming hard and ragged.
“Christ, that was beautiful,” John murmurs. His hand gently lets go of Sherlock and moves over to his own cock, which is rock-hard again from the heat and friction between their bodies. He doesn’t need to make his hand slick - Sherlock has managed that for him - and he’s already close. Still shaking, Sherlock places his own hand around John, and it only takes eight good strokes to send him over the edge.
He doesn’t make as much noise, but gasps and moans, only managing to get out “Sh--“ before losing the power of speech entirely.
Silence falls over the room while they lay tangled up in each other’s limbs, sticky and spent, trying to regain control of their breathing. It’s a deeply peaceful moment that neither wants to break.
Finally John lifts his head and gives him a once-over. A faint smile, a little smug and a lot amused, plays over his lips.
“Sticky, loud, and dull?” he asks.
Sherlock closes his eyes, but he’s smiling tiredly. “Two of three.”
“Mmm, you’re right about that. I think you might have damaged the building’s foundation with that voice of yours.” John kisses him lightly and then sets to work rearranging their limbs into a more comfortable layout. “Either that or the other guests are now convinced there's a dragon living in the hotel. Next time will be a lot worse, so we should make sure we’re upstairs or we’ll give Mrs. Hudson a heart attack.”
“Next time will be worse?”
John flicks his tongue over one of the bite marks he’s left over Sherlock’s clavicle. “Oh yes. You see, I have to stay here and have dinner with Mum and Dad and visit Regina tomorrow, and in the morning you have to go back to London so you don’t sit around here going stir crazy, but when I get back to Baker Street…” He pauses for a second to tug at Sherlock’s earlobe with his teeth. “I’m going to drag you up to my room, tie you to my bed, and fuck you until you see God.”
“I don’t believe in God,” Sherlock points out with a smile, though John’s words make him shudder with both anticipation and what he realizes must be lust.
“Well, then, first I’ll fuck you until you believe in God.”
They hold each other’s eyes. “You know,” Sherlock says seriously, “I think you might.”
They kiss again, and settle to rest just for a while - there’s definitely a shower on the horizon, and probably more of what got them sweaty and sticky later on tonight, but right now everything is quiet, even Sherlock’s mind, and he breathes it in and out with a sigh.
John dozes off quickly after the draining week he’s had, and before sleep and Sherlock do battle, he spends a moment listening to John breathe and running a hand absently up and down John’s arm. The feeling he’s experiencing doesn't seem quite so portentous now; it's merely a deduction based on months and months of data, culminating in the proof of this afternoon.
John Watson…army doctor, assistant, genius wrangler, the best friend Sherlock has ever had…and the love of his life.
And one day he might even be able to say it out loud.
Three purchases John Watson makes the following week:
- An economy-sized tube of lubricant
- The boxed set of London Metropolitan Opera CDs that Mrs. Hudson has been wanting, with the advice that the arias sound best when played at full volume
- Red underpants to replace the pair that were, unfortunately, destroyed later that evening (This time, a three pack…just in case).
Three things Sherlock sees that week:
- A double homicide in which a satsuma is the murder weapon
- Mrs. Hudson turning pink as she informs them sternly that as far as she knows Aida never yells “Harder, John, harder!”
* - Data compelling but inconclusive; further investigation required.