The night before, when John had gently tugged the violin and bow from Sherlock's fingertips and proceeded to spend the rest of the evening patiently and persistently short-circuiting his resident consulting detective's brain, Sherlock really hadn't had the chance to stop and think about what all this was about and how he was meant to react. How he had reacted was all a bit of a blur now, as he lay contemplating the ceiling in the dim pre-dawn greyness of his bedroom, but he vaguely remembered making a lot of noise and a lot of mess and perhaps engaging in a bit of near-incoherent begging. How humiliating.
Pressing his hands together under his chin, Sherlock risked a glance at John out of the corner of his eye. At the conclusion of the festivities, Sherlock had promptly fallen asleep (god, how mundane could he possibly be), so he wasn't sure when John had rolled away to the other side of the bed. None of that cuddling business, then. On telly and in films, people seemed to engage in a lot of spooning, but apparently that didn't apply to the current situation. Not that it would; cuddling was a result of sentiment, and Sherlock had no use for sentiment, and whatever had motivated John last night had evidently not been enough to motivate him to want to cuddle with Sherlock after. It was fine. To be perfectly honest, Sherlock had been more than a little surprised to wake up and find that John had not retreated to his own room.
The next half hour was devoted to determining whether or not it would be best to vacate the bed before John woke. On the one hand, Sherlock had things to do that could not be accomplished from the bed. And if John were to wake up and realise how ridiculous this whole thing was, he would probably feel much better if he could slip out of Sherlock's bedroom and never ever mention the incident ever again for as long as he lived. Sherlock sat up and swung his bare legs over the edge of the bed. On the other hand, Sherlock knew that when John spent the night with other people, he always preferred to stay to wake up with them and have breakfast. Something about thinking it was rude to rush off after shagging someone. After a moment's thought, Sherlock lay back down.
Twice more, Sherlock decided it would be best to get up, then immediately decided it would be best to wait. He felt intolerably nervous about the whole thing, though he couldn't for the life of him determine why it felt like such a monumental decision. It was just that if Sherlock made the correct choice and managed to not behave too offensively for one morning of his life, then maybe at some point in the future, when Sherlock was once again between cases and John was once again sufficiently sexually frustrated, John would be willing to do this disgustingly plebeian but ultimately not-at-all-unpleasant thing again.
Oh, god. He wanted it to happen again. Was there no end to his mortification?
Sherlock's internal conflict was interrupted at that moment by John stretching, rolling over, and casually throwing an arm across Sherlock's waist.
“'Morning,” John mumbled, his lips warm and soft against the skin of Sherlock's bare shoulder. “Hope you don't mind that I stayed.”
“Of course not,” Sherlock replied, confused as to why John would even ask such a ridiculous question. “I can hardly be expected to complain about you lying thirty-nine... no, forty-one centimetres away while you sleep, when I spent the better part of last evening in rather intimate physical contact with you.”
“Good.” John's lips trailed a line of kisses across Sherlock's clavicle until he was forced do drop his hands from where they still rested under his chin. “Makes it much easier to do this if I'm still in the same bed with you, you see.”
“Do what?” Sherlock asked, telling himself not to be alarmed at the increase in his heart rate as John's lips turned south and began a slow descent over Sherlock's sternum.
John chuckled and slid his hand down Sherlock's side to his hip, squeezing gently. “The morning sex. That is, if you're amenable.”
This had not been among the anticipated possibilities for how the morning would go. Not that this was objectionable, Sherlock thought as he looked down to where his fingers had somehow ended up tangled in John's hair and John's teeth were nipping at a spot just to the right of Sherlock's navel. Having allowed John to hear the full range of his embarrassing vocalisations the night before, Sherlock saw no point to stifling the resulting groan now, which John correctly deduced to be a sound of acquiescence.
Lesson learned, Sherlock concluded as John's mouth moved lower; when John Watson goes to bed with you, the correct answer is to stay until he wakes up.
With the sex came a host of casual touches when in the seclusion of their flat. John was not at all shy about kissing Sherlock good-morning, or brushing a hand along his shoulders when passing behind him in the kitchen, or giving him a playful slap on the rump and ordering him to stop sulking and share the sofa. From this, Sherlock drew two conclusions: First, that John was clearly in some sort of dry spell with women, and therefore had not been getting the amount of physical affection that he required; and second, having spent a couple of days getting up close and personal with every possible part of his flatmate's anatomy, John saw no reason to continue observing arbitrary personal space boundaries within the privacy of their own home. Sherlock really couldn't say he minded, particularly since the casual touches sometimes led to decidedly less-casual touches, which sometimes led to more waking up in bed together, which almost always resulted in indulging John's fondness for morning sex.
Not for one moment did Sherlock consider jeopardizing a comfortable arrangement by assuming that the touching was acceptable in public. As a matter of fact, it seemed prudent to err on the side of caution and not give John any reason whatsoever to have to proclaim his heterosexuality to anyone. When they were out and about in London, Sherlock kept to what he determined to be a socially acceptable distance between two men with a strictly platonic relationship. No accidentally brushing his hand against John's as they walked, no allowing his knee to rest against John's thigh under the restaurant table.
“Why are you walking so far away?” John asked as they made their way back from lunch one afternoon, after having skipped breakfast in favour of a lie-in. “It's really annoying trying to carry on a conversation with you while people keep shoving in between us. And for heaven's sake, where are your gloves? It's bloody freezing out here.”
Sherlock was, in fact, rubbing his hands together and holding them to his lips to blow on them, as they had begun to go numb in the cold, even in his pockets. Not wanting to draw attention to their situation by answering the first question, he opted instead to skip to the second. “Left them lying on a lab table at Bart's last week and spilled a beaker of corrosive acid on them,” he explained. “Been meaning to get a new pair. Haven't gotten around to it.”
Tugging off his own gloves and shoving them into one of his pockets, John stepped into Sherlock's space and crowded him to the side of the pavement, under the awning of a shop, before reaching out to take both of Sherlock's hands in his and beginning to rub them vigorously. “Bit better?”
The heat from John's hands was blissful, actually, but being in such close proximity made Sherlock want to move in closer, and wrap his arms around John and rest his chin on top of John's hair. Purely for more body heat in this bitterly cold weather, of course, and having nothing to do with how it had felt to sleep that way the night before. “A bit. John, it's fine, you don't have to-”
“Put that one in your pocket,” John ordered, dropping Sherlock's left hand, while simultaneously pulling the other hand, fingers laced through his own, into his own coat pocket.
“That will only keep one of them warm,” Sherlock groused, staring in consternation at the spot where his coat sleeve disappeared into John's pocket.
Keeping close against Sherlock's side, John steered them away from the side of the building where they had been huddled, and continued down the street. “Well, then, genius, when this one's nice and warm, we'll switch sides and warm up the other one.”
Sherlock carefully revised the rules in his head. When no one they knew was around, John didn't mind a bit of not-strictly-platonic touching, even in public, particularly if the situation played to his nurturing instincts.
Also, Sherlock decided he had no intention of replacing his gloves.
Collapsing face-down onto the mattress, heedless of the wet spot beneath his pelvis and abdomen, Sherlock heaved a relaxed sigh into the pillow that was obstructing half of his face, and endeavoured to bring his breathing back under control. A pair of sturdy hands slid from his hips up to his ribs, and then John slumped across him, an uncomfortable but not unwelcome weight draped along Sherlock's back, panting hot breath against sweat-damp skin.
Three weeks into the arrangement, Sherlock had to admit that it wasn't proceeding as he expected. He had predicted a couple of shags to take the edge off of John's sexual frustration while he was in between girlfriends, not weeks on end of rather exuberant sex all over the flat. Not to mention all of the other behaviours that John typically reserved for the women he was dating. Like the touching, and the sharing a blanket on the sofa while watching telly. Well, while John was watching telly and Sherlock was researching the venom of the deadly Chironex fleckeri jellyfish.
Just earlier that day, John had run into an old acquaintance of his who was a botanist, and had procured a container of poisonous plant parts for Sherlock to play with, stating that he thought Sherlock would appreciate them more than the traditional bouquet of roses (astute conclusion on John's part, as appreciation for said gift had ultimately led to present circumstances in the bedroom). It seemed John had gone too long without someone to lavish his romantic attention on. The problem was that Sherlock was growing attached to the situation, and was beginning to experience a lingering feeling of dread when he considered that it probably wouldn't be too much longer before John found a new girlfriend.
How unacceptably dull. How infinitely embarrassing.
Without making any attempt to dislodge John from where he seemed to be dozing on Sherlock's back, he craned his neck to look over his shoulder at the top of John's dishevelled head. “I guess your little dry spell has been continuing a bit longer than you originally anticipated.”
“What dry spell?” John mumbled, lazy and confused.
“With the dating, obviously,” Sherlock bit out. God, it was bad enough that he was even worrying about it to begin with. Having to spell it out for John was intolerable.
John shifted and huffed a laugh against Sherlock's skin. “What are you on about? I know this isn't really your area of expertise, but what we've been doing, and as often as we've been doing it, is the exact opposite of a dry spell.”
Dropping his face into the pillow to conceal his eye-roll muffled Sherlock's voice as he clarified. “With women, John.”
“Oh. Well, in that case, no, it hasn't gone on nearly as long as I expect it to.” John was smiling as he pressed two quick kisses between Sherlock's shoulder blades; Sherlock could feel it. John pulled back, giving him a gentle slap on the bum. “By the way, an old army mate of mine is in town tomorrow to see his sister. Asked us out to lunch with them. It would be nice if you came.”
The soiled area of the sheets was becoming unpleasant, so once John pulled away, Sherlock rolled to the other side and flopped onto his back, staring up at the ceiling. Lunch with John's friend sounded tedious, and Sherlock had no idea why he should be invited or expected to show up. He failed to put up as much of an argument as he normally would, however, because he was preoccupied with the alarming amount of relief he felt at John's apparent conviction that there were no eligible women on the horizon.
When they arrived at the restaurant for lunch the next day, however, Sherlock saw that John had spoken too soon. Matthew and his sister, Genevieve, were already there, and Sherlock couldn't help but notice that Genevieve was attractive in just the way John liked. She was also single and within John's preferred age range. And she was flirting with John. If Sherlock hadn't been forced to promise repeatedly that he would not deduce people out loud during the meal, he would have immediately gone off about the fact that she was clearly just looking for a temporary relationship as a means of provoking jealousy in her on-again, off-again ex.
Heaving a frustrated sigh, Sherlock slumped back in his seat. A moment later, John stretched his arm casually across the back of Sherlock's chair and gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze. Matthew flicked his eyes back and forth between them twice and tried unsuccessfully to stifle a smile. Genevieve flushed lightly and dropped the flirting, retreating to more casual conversation.
Sherlock ate an entire plate of food in order to keep his mouth too occupied to say anything that would make John realise his mistake.
It was nearing midnight. The case had been going since eight in the morning, and the last of the body parts was still unaccounted for. Still, the scavenger hunt was a bit of entertainment. Probably for the killer as well, considering the level of boredom that would induce someone to dismember a body, attach clues to each of the parts, and then dump each part in a different skip. Lestrade's team had been delivered a hand, but had been too idiotic (of course) to make out the clue leading them to the next part, which is why they had called in Sherlock.
Torch held in his mouth, Sherlock dug through the rubbish while Lestrade and John stood several metres away, no doubt discussing some dreary pedestrian topic like football or beer, while John held onto Sherlock's coat and scarf to keep them from getting ruined by the evening's work.
Lestrade answered a call and spent a few moments talking to someone. Sherlock thought he heard Lestrade say “Sally,” but he wasn't certain. A minute later, Lestrade and John were approaching, looking very much as though they were bringing bad news.
“What is it?” Sherlock snapped, dropping one bag of rubbish and reaching for another.
“Look, try not to be too upset,” Lestrade began, clearing his throat, “but it looks like the crazy bastard just turned himself in and is ready to explain everything. Donovan's dealing with it now.”
Sherlock stopped short in the middle of ripping open the plastic bag, which did in fact feel like it might contain the victim's left foot, and perhaps also the clothing. “Turned himself in. Turned himself in?” A whole day spent on a scavenger hunt for body parts and now the idiot wasn't even going to let him solve the crime? “Lestrade, I hope for your sake that whatever lunatic Donovan is processing in right now is not actually the killer, because if you dragged me away from a brilliant shag this morning for a case I'm not even going to get to solve, I'll-”
That wasn't what he was supposed to say. He clenched his jaw and glared, first at the bagged foot in his hands, then at Lestrade, and then he attempted to glare at John but very much doubted that he managed it effectively.
“Yep, you were right,” Lestrade addressed John with a jovial clap on the shoulder, “He really is going to have a meltdown. Thank god he's your boyfriend and not mine.”
Oh, god, no, was there nothing at all in the world that Lestrade couldn't make worse? Sherlock dropped the bag and climbed stiffly out of the pile, primly straightening his soiled suit. “I'm not having a meltdown,” he protested. “And you'll forgive me if I don't want to stand around and hear John have one while he insists upon his heterosexuality for the hundredth time.”
Lestrade frowned and shot a questioning look at John, who shrugged and held out the coat in his hands for Sherlock to slide his arms into. When Sherlock only stared at it suspiciously, John rolled his eyes and stepped forward to manhandle him into it.
“Since you're certain you're not having a meltdown, you might at least dress yourself,” John chided, stepping in front of Sherlock and reaching up to wrap the scarf around his neck, and shooting a grin at Lestrade. “Are you sure you're not envious of this, mate?”
“Pretty sure,” Lestrade laughed, already heading in the direction of his car to wait for his officers and Anderson to arrive to properly deal with the bagged foot and clothing. “My office in the morning, then, to wrap this up?”
John nodded. “Yeah, we'll be there.”
“You didn't argue with him,” Sherlock observed, watching Lestrade's retreating back. “Now he'll tell everyone.”
“What are you on about now? I'm pretty sure everyone knows. Are you sure you're not having a meltdown?” John looped an arm through Sherlock's, tugging him toward the street to hail a cab.
Sherlock scrunched up his face and shook his head. “John, are we even talking about the same thing? He called me your-”
“Boyfriend, yeah. I don't think it's exactly big news to most people.” John stopped short and frowned. “Did you not want me to tell anyone?”
“What?” Sherlock turned and stared down at John dumbly, striving to ignore the unwarranted pounding in his chest and the vaguely unstable swooping feeling in his stomach. He closed his eyes, recalling John's behaviour over the last month. “I thought-” Sherlock stammered, staring down at his toes, “I thought you needed to shag someone until you got a new girlfriend.”
John dropped Sherlock's arm and stepped back, gaping. “How could you possibly think that, after... Wait. Were you just completely not paying attention while I was talking to you that first night?”
“What? When?” Sherlock looked up, narrowing his eyes and searching his memory. He had been playing his violin when John got home from his walk, and John was going on about something that he seemed to think was serious, so Sherlock had obligingly stopped playing and proceeded to make generic comments at appropriate moments, all the while continuing to contemplate the varying venomous properties of different species of jellyfish. And then the sex happened, and Sherlock had genuinely paid attention for that part.
“Oh, god, you weren't. You really weren't listening to a word I said,” John rubbed a hand over his forehead and huffed out a disbelieving laugh. “For god's sake, Sherlock, you carried on a conversation! I told you I was head over heels in love with you like a total nutter, and you said that was good, and you seemed pretty bloody enthusiastic about what came after!”
Sherlock stared, wide-eyed as this new piece of information fell into place. He was aware that he was probably expected to say something, but his brain and his mouth seemed not to be cooperating with each other for the moment.
“Wait a minute,” John continued after a long pause. “If you thought I was just using you for sex, what on Earth were you doing?”
“I was trying not to do anything that would make you want to stop shagging me!” Sherlock blurted. He shuffled his weight from foot to foot. “You're not going to, are you? Stop, I mean. I would prefer if things kept on as they have been.”
John stared at him, incredulous, for what seemed like ages before abruptly dissolving into a fit of undignified giggles. “God, you're an idiot.” He hooked his arm through Sherlock's again and elbowed him to draw his attention to an approaching cab.
Sherlock shrugged and obediently raised his other arm to flag down the taxi. “A lot of people's boyfriends are idiots.”