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Say Something

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Say something; I'm giving up on you.
I'd be the one if you want me to.
Anywhere, I would have followed you.
Say something... I'm giving up on you.

10 January 1997

Dear Sherlock,

     I'm writing this because you refuse to answer the phone, and, to be honest, I'm almost afraid of what I might find if I come around to your flat. I've been terrified for months that one day I would walk in the door and find your lifeless body on the floor. I told you time after time that Liam was destroying you... I just never told you how literal that fear was. Even though I may not be as observant as you are, I've seen the marks he left on you, and I've seen how much it hurts you some days just to walk. You may think you're so impenetrable, but always know that I see you.

     I'm trying not to dwell on the fact that you ended us because I said I love you. Sherlock, how did you think this was going to end? If I had one wish, only one thing that I could will into being, it wouldn't be that you would agree to be mine and mine alone, it would be that you would see how utterly worthy of love you truly are. I just don't understand why you let Liam convince you of otherwise, or that it's a form of weakness to want to be wanted. You are stunningly brilliant, breathtakingly beautiful, enigmatically funny and unerringly kind. Don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise.

     You were never just a shag (or a 'fuck' as you would say) to me. You never owed me anything, and I never expected anything in return for spending time with you. You told me once you used to believe in 'making love', but don't anymore. If you take only one thing from the short time we had together, please know that every move we made came from the deepest part of my heart, and that to me, there was always a difference between fucking and making love.


     When I really, truly think about how hard it was for me each time you left, never knowing what you might be walking into when you returned home, I realise that my dread and fear and utter sadness must pale in comparison to your own. Please know that it is with a heavy heart that I respect your decision to end things with me, and I hope you will someday think of our time together as a bright spot in the darkness. More than this, I hope you will some day find the light -- if not with me, then with a man who deserves you and all you have to offer.


Yours, always yours,


Victor

Chapter Text

PART II

MAY 1996

Victor was well and truly fucked.

He’d known about his end of term chemistry paper for well over a month. He’d known that it made up nearly half of his final grade. He’d known all that, and yet, had put it off and off and off until he had less than 36 hours to write one of the most important papers of his life.

Victor was an artist, a musician. He was no scientist, and never intended or pretended to be. He had taken a chemistry course this term for the sole purpose of fulfilling his science requirement, and had thought that it would be easy enough material since he did have some vague knowledge of the periodic table of elements, water being two hydrogen and one oxygen, and so on and so forth. How very wrong he was.

So here he was, a day and a half from his paper’s due date, and not a single sentence written. Desperately, he took to the library, hoping to find inspiration in its tall shelves of dusty books, and failing miserably. He let his head fall down to the table he was sharing with his mate, Lucy, and let out his most pathetic groan.

Lucy, sat across from him, leaning her chair back on two legs, staring at the ceiling, ‘I know,’ she said suddenly, ‘Why don’t you get your father to give the dean a call, and tell him to excuse you from writing the paper? Tell him to name a new chemistry lab after you or something in exchange for passing marks?’

Victor snorted, ‘You know my father would never agree to that, Luce. He’s all about earning what we have, and work ethic and other such rubbish. I’ll save myself the lecture, thanks, and just write the damn paper myself.’

‘Well, you best get off your lazy arse and go find some books, then,’ Lucy said with a laugh, letting her chair fall back down to the floor with a thud, ‘Cos I’d hate to have to cancel your art showing next month due to you no longer being a student and getting booted from the university.’

‘Very well,’ Victor groaned, ‘Just make sure you save me a seat at dinner later; I’m going to need my strength to get this whole paper finished in,’ he looked at his watch ‘Thirty-five hours and twenty-two minutes. Wish me luck, I suppose,’ he said, getting up from the table.

‘Luck!’ Lucy called after him, her laughter ringing in his ears as he made his way to the science section of the library.

The topic of his paper was to chose one of the deadly toxins found in nature, and explain its effects, on the human body. It was dry, unpleasant research, and the photos that accompanied the text were often gruesome and unsettling. Victor had no such stomach for looking at corpses and the bloated, disfigured faces of those unlucky souls who had fallen victim to all sorts of poisonings.

He scanned the titles printed on the cracked spines of the books on the shelf before him, and reached for the one that said ‘A History of Poison’, thinking that that seemed like a good place to start, when he was startled to find his hand brush against long, pale fingers that retreated quickly as the contact was made, as if he had been physically injured by the touch.

‘Oh, pardon m-’ he started automatically, but broke off when he turned to face the owner of said hand.

It belonged to a tall, thin boy about his age, with a mess of brown curls, and startling blue-grey eyes. Victor had seen him around campus, but had never spoken to him. He examined the boy, taking in the clench of his jaw, and the way his right hand curled into a fist, as if trying to physically recoil as much as possible from the accidental touch, as he brought his left up to wrap around it. He noticed the callouses on the middle three fingers of the boy’s left hand, the kind one usually only got from playing some sort of stringed instrument, and what appeared to be a fading bruise on his inner wrist.

‘Oh,’ he said again, ‘Hi.’ He felt very stupid at that moment, desperately wishing for something more interesting to say, but words seemed to fail him. The boy said nothing. Victor noticed the hitch in his breathing, but he did not turn and walk away, which was both awkward, and encouraging, so he decided to plow on.

‘So you’re looking for books on poisons, then, too, eh? For Professor Moore’s chemistry class? I’m left scrambling now, trying to find a good one to write about for the term paper. Dreadful stuff, though, isn’t it? I can’t decide which one to write about; they all seem pretty nasty,’ Victor said, knowing that he was rambling, but unable to stop himself.

The boy seemed startled by the direction the conversation had taken, and hesitated a moment before wetting his lips, and clearing his throat, ‘Erm... No,’ he said hesitantly, ‘I actually — well, I mean, I’ve already — I mean... No. I took chemistry my first term here. I actually needed the book for research for an experiment I’m working on at the moment.’ The boy ducked his head, his shoulders tensed, as if waiting for Victor to verbally attack him, though Victor didn’t understand why.

‘Wow, that’s pretty impressive,’ Victor said honestly, ‘I’m quite envious that you seem to have an aptitude for this stuff. It’s certainly not my area of expertise. I’m more inclined for artistic endeavours, you know, like painting or playing piano. By the way,’ he said suddenly, ‘Do you play the guitar or violin?’

If the boy was showing signs of being uncomfortable before, now he looked downright startled. He cocked his head to the side, and stared at Victor, as though studying him, or really seeing him for the first time. Victor shifted in place, feeling as though he were under the lens of a microscope. He began to wonder if he had crossed some sort of line when the boy let slip the faintest ghost of a smile.

‘Violin,’ he said, raising his eyes to meet Victor’s, ‘I’ve played since I was a small child.’

‘Of course!’ Victor exclaimed, ‘I love the violin. I’ve played piano since primary school, but I always wanted to learn a string instrument. I was thinking possible the viola, since there never seem to be too many viola players. I’m Victor, by the way.’

‘Sherlock,’ the boy replied, ‘Can I— Can I ask how you knew? About the violin, I mean.’

‘Sherlock,’ Victor repeated, ‘Well, nice to meet you, Sherlock. I just guessed about the violin, honestly. I just noticed the callouses on your fingers,’ Taking a chance, Victor gently reached for Sherlock’s hand, and held it, palm up, and ran his fingers over the aforementioned callouses, as he continued, ‘People usually only get them if they are used to playing some sort of stringed instrument, and most people play the guitar, or violin. Not too many viola players, as I said, same goes for the stringed bass. I supposed I could have said cello as well, but just didn’t think of it.’

‘That’s quite an impressive deduction,’ Sherlock commented quietly, his hand tense in Victor’s, but he did not pull it away, ‘Very logical. I can appreciate the hypothesis.’

‘Spoken like a true scientist,’ Victor teased gently, ‘No wonder you took chemistry your first year, and run experiments. I don’t suppose you have any suggestions for the best toxin to write 20,000 words on by tomorrow?’

‘Botulinum,’ Sherlock replied immediately, ‘I think you will find a plethora of useful information on the topic. My first ever experiment was on the effects of botulinum on the human nervous system.’ He suddenly glanced at the wall clock behind him, and then slowly disentangled his hand from Victor’s. ‘I’m afraid I must be going now. I have an... Erm... Appointment I must keep. It was nice to meet you.’

Sherlock turned to leave, leaving a slightly confused Victor in his wake. He took a moment to come to his senses, then quickly grabbed the book that had started the whole interaction from the shelf.

‘Wait!’ Victor said, taking a few steps toward Sherlock, ‘Don’t you need this for your experiment?’

‘Apparently not as much as you do,’ Sherlock replied, again allowing himself a small smile, ‘Page 264 to 323 is all about botulinum. Also, try ‘the Manual of Botulinum Toxin Therapy’ and ‘Botulinum Neurotoxin and Tetanus Toxin’ from two shelves down. I believe you will find them exceedingly useful.’ And with that, he walked away slowly, without another backwards glance.

‘Thanks, Sherlock,’ Victor called after him, watching the retreating form exit the library. He turned back to the shelf, and found the other two books Sherlock had recommended, and added them to his pile.

Tonight, he would meet Lucy for dinner, then sit down and write his paper. Tomorrow, he would move onto a far more interesting topic.

He couldn’t wait to learn more about the curious case of Sherlock Holmes.

Chapter Text

PART III

MAY 1996

FROM THE DIARY OF SHERLOCK HOLMES:

23 May 1996

Botulinum.

Funny isn’t it that it would be botulinum, of all things, that inspired my latest obsession? I feel as though things have come full circle — five years ago, I was madly researching botulinum when that boy drowned, and here I am again, pondering botulinum because of another boy I can’t get out of my head.

It’s so irrational that he keeps wandering into my thoughts.

Victor. That Victor keeps wandering into my thoughts.

V-I-C-T-O-R.

I need sleep.

SH

~*~

28 May 1996

I make myself sick.

What utter foolishness is it that keeps driving me back to the library? There is absolutely no logical explanation why I’ve been acting like such an arse. There is no reason that Victor should return to the library either, now that his paper is complete. No reason at all.

And yet...

I keep hoping that one of these days...

Utter foolishness.

I still need sleep. Liam had better not have guests over tonight who require my attention. Truthfully, I’m still quite sore from the last few nights, and it’s getting harder to conceal the bruises now that the weather is turning warmer.

Maybe I will return to the library just one more time. Tomorrow will mark one week from first we met. That’s a reasonable amount of time for a control group. If nothing else, this can be called a social experiment, and then I’ll move on... Unless... Maybe he’ll be there tomorrow.

Utter, utter foolishness.

SH

~*~
Sherlock laid sprawled across the sofa, his hands resting palms down on his abdomen, his eyes closed. Every inch of his body ached. He tried focussing on his breathing so he could work up enough energy to get up. Last night had been particularly rough, and it had taken him hours just to will himself out of bed, and onto the sofa.

He knew he should eat something, as it had been over 48 hours since his last meal, but the idea of having to prepare anything edible seemed like a Herculean task he was just not yet willing to undertake. He could probably go another day or so before he became too lightheaded to function, so hopefully he regained some strength before then.

Liam had come home past midnight with three friends (though they certainly didn’t look like the Oxford sort, so who knows where he picked them up), and they were all drunk, high, horny, or some combination of the three. Liam had called Sherlock to the parlour where they sat with their drinks in hand, and the moment he had stepped into the room, he knew what was expected of him.

He hesitated in the doorway, but this seemed to be the wrong thing to do, because Liam glared at him, and beckoned him to come over. Reluctantly, Sherlock obliged, and within ten short minutes, found himself on all fours, being fucked senseless right on the living room rug. The men laughed as they forced his face into the rough carpet, or when they moved him to the coffee table, stretching his limbs to the point of pain as they held him down, so he couldn’t have gotten away from them even if he’d wanted to.

Upon reflection, Sherlock could honestly not say why he never told Liam no even though every fibre of his being rebelled against engaging in such acts with men he didn’t even know. Perhaps it was because he knew that to refuse to do so would cause massive embarrassment to Liam, and that Liam’s reputation mattered to him above almost all else.

He had refused once, the first time that it was ever suggested to him. Vehemently. And Liam had left, and stayed with some other mates for a week before deigning to answer Sherlock’s increasingly frantic calls. Sherlock had apologised profusely, and Liam had explained how much he would enjoy seeing Sherlock with other men. Sharing that interest with Sherlock had made him feel extremely vulnerable, and how hurt he had been that Sherlock didn’t seem to care about Liam’s sexual preferences and interests.

Later that night, Liam came home with a stranger, and watched as Sherlock struggled to orally satisfy him, eventually joining them on the bed, and taking Sherlock from behind. It had been uncomfortable and unpleasant, and it was only the beginning. Liam had promised that it would get easier the more times he did it, but he had been wrong; if anything, it became more painful with each appointment.

Sherlock lifted his hands from his stomach, and examined them in front of his face. Long, finger shaped bruises encircled his wrists again, and he groaned. The weather was becoming warmer and warmer, and it was getting harder and harder to hide these types of marks. He made a mental note to stop by the shop for some long sleeved button-up shirts, thinking that the button cuffs would prevent the sleeves from riding up his arm and revealing his shame.

He took a deep breath, and gritting his teeth, hoisted himself into a sitting position. His overly stretched limbs screamed in protest, but he forced himself to pull his t shirt over his head. He looked down at his chest, and saw more bruises and bite marks, mentally cataloguing each one, and hypothesising how long each would take to heal. He estimated within 5-7 days, they should be faded enough to no longer look intentional.

Now clad in only his pyjama pants, Sherlock finally decided to make his way to the kitchen and throw together some sort of meal. He walked slowly, stiffly, into the decent sized eat in kitchen, and pulled a loaf of bread from the breadbox. Toast seemed like the perfect solution, being quick and easy, and requiring little to no effort to make.

He shoved the bread into the toaster, and leaned heavily against the counter, pondering what to do for the rest of the day. At that moment, he wanted nothing more than to eat his toast, and return to bed for the next twelve hours, but then he remembered his idea to return to the library and see if he might casually run into Victor. It really was a foolish notion, but he decided it was one with indulging, if only so he could put his idiotic interest to rest.

His toast popped just then, as he decided once and for all to forsake his bed, and venture out into the world. He ate it dry, not wanting to waste another moment, knowing that his resolve was not the strongest, so the slightest disruption or obstacle was apt to derail his plan altogether.

Dressing nearly proved to be that obstacle. Sherlock hissed in discomfort as he dropped his pyjama bottoms, and worked boxers and then trousers over his hips. Recalling his earlier observation about the bruises around his wrists, he rummage in the wardrobe for a suitable button-up shirt. The one he was able to find was a slightly heavier fabric than what would be considered seasonally appropriate, but it was a shade of dark purple that would be distracting enough to artfully conceal any marks that might raise unpleasant or uncomfortable questions.

It was still quite painful to move, but Sherlock found he was now highly motivated. His legs and back screamed in protest, but step by step he forced himself to make his way to the university library.

It was because of this struggle that it seemed only natural that at the end of his journey, he should find his reward — Victor — so when he found the library nearly empty, it was as though someone had suddenly turned the volume up and the picture down. Feelings of embarrassment and foolishness flooded him as he stood awkwardly amidst the tables and shelves. He took several deep breaths, focussing instead on the smell of the old books, instead of the hot waves of unfamiliar emotion that swelled up within him.

Finally feeling slightly more under control, he turned to leave after letting his gaze sweep (hopefully? Idiotically.) across the room one last time. Satisfied (or rather, dissatisfied) that Victor was not hiding behind a stray cart of books, or shelf, he turned decidedly on his heel, ready to lay his case to rest.

Of course, at that precise moment, he was no more than two steps into his determined stride that he collided directly into Victor, sending the boy stumbling backwards.

As Victor grabbed the side of a table to right himself, Sherlock felt a flare of warmth deep in the pit of his stomach, which well overtook the pain in his ribs from the impact.

‘Sherlock!’ Victor exclaimed, ‘Sorry about that! I was just in a bit of a rush to return these before I get assessed a late fee.’ He held out the books in his hands and Sherlock saw the book they had both originally been searching for, as well as the two that Sherlock had recommended. He felt a bit of a thrill at the validation from knowing that Victor had taken his advice for his paper.

‘How did your paper end up working out?’ Sherlock asked, ‘You were cutting it pretty close there, if I recall.’

Victor laughed, ‘Brilliantly, actually. Thank you so much for the recommendation; it was just perfect. Though I’m still fairly certain there isn’t a science medal in my future, at least I passed the course. Now onto bigger and better things, I suppose.’

‘And what might those things be?’ Sherlock queried, a small smile playing at his lips. It was so easy, so surprisingly easy to feel open and free around Victor, and that alone made him feel uneasy, because there was no logical reason for it.

‘Well,’ Victor replied, almost shyly, ‘I have an art show coming up next month at a cafe near here. They’re actually doing a whole showcase on my paintings, and quite a few will be for sale. I’m actually pretty nervous about it, so I guess that’s two things — painting frantically, and worrying excessively.’

‘I’m sure your show will end up being very successful and impressive,’ Sherlock assured him honestly, though not completely sure why, seeing as he had no idea what Victor’s artistic inclination was. However, he found that he wasn’t too bothered by the scientifically unsupported statement when Victor broke into a broad smile.

‘Thanks!’ He said, his appreciation appearing genuine, ‘Actually, Sherlock... This might seem... Well, I mean, you don’t have to, but... Would you like to be my guest that evening? It’s two weeks from Friday, at the Cornerstone Cafe, around six. If you can’t make it, that’s alright too.’ Victor drummed his fingers against the cover of the book, and Sherlock noticed that the pattern of his finger movement directly mimicked the playing of piano keys. The observation almost flew from his mouth, but he held it in, partially because he didn’t want to alienate Victor just yet with his deductions, and partially because — for the first time ever — he wanted to keep that simple little fact to himself, like a secret he and Victor unknowingly shared. Sherlock bit his lip, momentarily enchanted.

‘I... Are you sure?’ Sherlock asked, suddenly feeling embarrassingly insecure, ‘I don’t really know much about art, and I’m sure you’ll be far too busy to have to be bothered with entertaining me.’

‘Sherlock,’ Victor said seriously, ‘I would love it if you would come with me. And yes, I will have to spend some time trying to convince the other guests that my paintings are worth spending money on, but that won’t be the entire evening. I just... I would really like to get to know you better.’

‘Okay then,’ Sherlock heard himself agree, before his brain had a chance to catch up. ‘I think I would like that as well.’

~*~

29 May 1996

He came back. We talked again. I have to admit that I was secretly worried that the Victor in my mind would far surpass the Victor in reality, but how wrong I was.

I do think that he has to be one of the most intriguing individuals I’ve ever met.

SH

Chapter Text

PART IV

JUNE 1996

The first week and a half of June passed in a blur. Sherlock continued his barely passable facade of wandering into the library in hopes of seeing Victor, pleased that on five out of six visits, he did end up running into him there — though thankfully no longer literally. He had begun to wonder how someone with so much obvious talent and quiet confidence was so very physically uncoordinated. Victor, though proving to actually (thankfully) be brilliant, and had a charmingly earnest and kind personality, couldn’t seem to walk more than a few feet without clipping the corner of a shelf, or stumbling over thin air. Sherlock wondered if he was always like this, or if it was something about their interactions that threw Victor so off guard. He wasn’t sure which was the answer he was hoping for

It had also been a blessed respite from appointments with Liam’s various associates. Sherlock enjoyed the quiet evenings in their flat. When it was just him and Liam, they sat together on the sofa, reading in silence, or ordered takeaway, and watched telly. It was all very domestic. And the sex was wonderfully intimate; it had been some time since Sherlock had been fucked by just Liam, without having to concern himself with putting on a show for anyone else. He revelled in the ease and simplicity of it.

On the other nights, when it was just him alone in the flat, he spent his time curled up in bed, reading the books he borrowed from the library when he met Victor there. He and Victor had spent many days wandering the shelves. He recommended several texts to Victor about different scientific studies he was interested in at that time, and it surprised him to no end when Victor would return a few days later, and ask Sherlock about various elements of the experiments, and how it directly related to Sherlock’s interest. For someone who was a self-proclaimed scientific novice, Victor was very rapidly becoming well-versed in chemistry and biology, and Sherlock suspected he was doing it just for him. The thought caused a warm glow deep in his belly, though he didn’t quite understand why.

As a return favour, Sherlock accepted any recommendation of books that Victor had to offer, though he admitted to preferring fiction and fantasy, which to Sherlock all seemed bizarre and fanciful. Growing up, he had adored the classics, such as Treasure Island, or Robinson Caruso, or King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, but that all seemed like it could be fit into a historical context — they were stories of believable people in believable circumstances, having imaginative, but believable adventures. When Victor recommended the Lord of the Rings to Sherlock, he had picked up the thick volume with trepidation, and flipped through, confusion knitting his brows together.

(‘I don’t understand,’ he said, ‘Why would this grand council entrust the world’s most powerful piece of jewellery to a creature that is three feet high? Wouldn’t they worry a full size human would just pick the halfling up with one hand, and carry it to wherever they wanted to put it in the end?’)

However, Victor was forcing himself to stumble over chemical compounds, and rate of decay, and homeostasis, and thermodynamics, so Sherlock supposed he could suffer through wizardry, volcanos, and an undead, ghostly army.

Finally, it was the night before Victor’s art show, and when he left the library with Sherlock, he reminded Sherlock of the event with what could only be called sheepishness, again giving Sherlock the opportunity to decline the invitation. Sherlock actually laughed at the idea that he could have forgotten, and assured Victor he would meet him at the library at half five, and they could venture to the cafe together. Victor broke into a broad smile at the sound of Sherlock’s laughter, and quickly agreed to the plan, and then they parted ways, Sherlock stealing glances over his shoulder to keep an eye on Victor’s retreating form.

So pleased was Sherlock with the way he left things with Victor, that it took him a moment for his brain to catch up to his eyes when he entered his flat. He almost walked past Liam and the other man lounging in their sitting room until Liam spoke.

‘Sherlock!’ He called sharply, ‘Don’t be rude.’

Sherlock started, and turned, regarding Liam and his associate with dismay. He went to sit next two Liam on the sofa, and eyed the stranger in the armchair cautiously. He was considerably older than both Sherlock and Liam, probably closer to his mid-forties. He was dressed in sharp, but casual clothes, and held himself like someone who was accustomed to being accommodated. He did not seem too impressed with Sherlock’s lack of social graces.

‘Sorry, Liam,’ Sherlock apologised, biting his lip, ‘It wasn’t intentional; I wasn’t paying attention.’

‘Dreaming up some mad new experiment, I bet,’ Liam replied condescendingly, stroking Sherlock’s hair like a parent soothing an unruly child. He turned to the other man, and explained, ‘Sherlock seems to think he’s going to be the next Albert Einstein with all these little experiments and lab notes. He spends hours in the chemistry lab doing Lord knows what, hiding away from the rest of humanity. I keep telling him he needs to spend more time with actual human beings, and less time mixing chemicals, and dissecting frogs. Honestly, I don’t know what kind of person would be happy spending all their time in a dirty lab.’

‘You used to spend quite a bit of time there with me when we first started dating,’ Sherlock replied before he could help himself. Liam’s fingers tightened on his hair, and he winced slightly. He didn’t dare turn to look at Liam, and just stayed silent and still until Liam released him, and resumed his patronising petting of Sherlock’s head.

‘Well, love,’ he said with a smile that didn’t quite meet his eyes, ‘That was when I was trying to win you over. Now I have you, so I don’t need to sit through endless lectures on tobacco ash, or deer anatomy, or whatever other bullshit strikes your fancy at any given time.’ His tone was teasing, but Sherlock could hear the underlying hardness of his words, and lowered his gaze to the ground.

‘Right,’ he said quietly, and swallowed hard, hurt piercing his chest.

The stranger spoke up then, with a laughter that might have been genuine, but the for cutting words that followed. He snorted and said, ‘Well, now that you have him, what do you intend to do with him, Harrington?’

Sherlock darted a glance his way, and tried to block out the way the other man was leering at him. He leaned into Liam’s side slightly, as if to hide, but Liam shrugged roughly, dropped his hand from Sherlock’s head, and stood up with a laugh.

‘Funny you should ask,’ he said, and turned to rummage in something on the floor beside the sofa out of Sherlock’s sight, ‘Because, Sherlock, I arranged a bit of a surprise for you tonight. I know we talked some time ago about exploring some other, ah, interests, and Phillip here was kind enough to make some arrangements for a whole new experience for you.’

Sherlock’s heart sank, but he tried his best not to show it.

‘What kind of experience?’ He asked reluctantly. Liam turned swiftly, and glared at him when he heard his less than enthusiastic tone, and shoved what appeared to be a large duffle into Sherlock’s lap.

‘You’re being rude again,’ Liam warned, and left the room quickly. Sherlock heard him heading towards the kitchen, but before he could ponder that too thoroughly, the man Liam had called Phillip spoke again.

‘You should look inside the bag, boy,’ he said, and Sherlock bristled at being addressed as such, but his morbid curiosity got the better of him, and he pulled back the zip.

The first thing he pulled out looked like a short black belt, but with a thick silver ring in the middle. The next was a a bundle of rope, followed by four black leather cuffs. At the bottom of the bag was a black and red leather flogger, and what appeared to be a silver pole about three feet long, with a circle on each end. Sherlock wasn’t sure how all these items were going to be used, but he felt a sick sort of knot in his stomach because he knew it wasn’t going to be something he was likely to enjoy.

Liam returned then, carrying a wooden kitchen chair with him. He regarded Sherlock impassively, nodding towards the rope still in his hands.

‘So have you deduced it yet?’ Liam asked, and Sherlock heard the definite taunt as Liam used one of his own words back at him. Sherlock looked down at the rope in his hands, and shrugged helplessly.

‘You want to... To tie me up?’ He guessed, trying and failing to keep his voice from wavering. Liam and Phillip laughed again, though this time it definitely sounded cruel and mocking.

‘Harrington, he looks like he might wet himself,’ Phillip said standing up, ‘You best tell the boy what you intend to do to him before he passes out. Though,’ he said thoughtfully, ‘That might be fun in its own right.’

Liam snorted and turned back to Sherlock, ‘Yes, Sherlock, I would like to tie you up,’ he said, making his voice sound low and slow in an imitation of Sherlock, ‘Have you ever heard of strappado bondage?’

‘You mean like how they tortured Machiavelli?’ Sherlock asked faintly, his pulse racing. He stood a glance at the rope again. It didn’t seem strong enough to actually hoist him off the floor.

‘Look at how pale he just got!’ Phillip crowed, and Liam snorted again, rolling his eyes, and snatched the rope from Sherlock’s hands.

‘No, Sherlock, I’m not going to dangle you from the ceiling and drop you,’ he said as though Sherlock was being exceptionally dim, ‘Though Phillip was kind enough to install a pulley on the ceiling to secure you, you won’t be leaving the ground.’

Sherlock didn’t know if he should be relieved or horrified, so instead he stayed silent, and watched as Liam stood on the wooden chair, and ran the rope through a metal pulley that had been screwed into one of the wooden beams on the ceiling. Sherlock wondered briefly if this would cause problems with the landlord, but dismissed the thought, knowing that either Liam’s charm or Mycroft’s money would be sure to smooth any ruffled feathers.

‘There!’ Liam said, pleased, as he hopped down from the chair, and pulled on both sides of the rope to test the strength of the pulley. He turned to Sherlock, who was still sat frozen on the sofa.

‘Sherlock,’ he said, a note of warning in his voice, ‘You didn’t thank Phillip for taking the time to set this up for you.’

Sherlock wanted to protest that it wasn’t something he had asked for in the first place, but knew that would cause more problems than it was worth, so instead he turned to Phillip, and mumbled, ‘Thank you, Phillip,’ hoping that would be enough to satisfy Liam.

It wasn’t.

‘There’s a better way for you to say thank you, Sherlock,’ Liam said pointedly. Sherlock nodded, and lowered his gaze to the floor again. Liam gave him a slap on the behind, and leaned to press a kiss into Sherlock’s temple, and whispered, ‘I can’t wait to see you tied up, hot and helpless... Please, love,’ as he pushed him gently towards Phillip.

Sherlock crossed the room until he was directly in front of Phillip, and lowered himself between the older man’s thighs. He swallowed hard, trying desperately to squelch the growing feeling of nausea and unhappiness, and gingerly began undoing Phillip’s belt.

Phillip shifted in his seat, spreading his legs farther apart to give Sherlock better access as he pulled Phillip’s cock from the confines of his trousers. Sherlock grasped it in one hand, and lowered his mouth to the head, doing his best to block out the unpleasantness of what he was about to do.

He worked his mouth up and down Phillip’s cock, only flinching slightly when Phillip buried his hands into Sherlock’s hair, and began fucking his face in earnest. Sherlock wished he could close his ears to the other man’s groans of pleasure, and compliments to Liam over how good Sherlock was at his task. He hated when Liam’s visitors felt the need to praise Liam for Sherlock’s performance; it made him feel as though he was just the means to an end, like his autonomy had been stripped from him.

While Sherlock was otherwise engaged with servicing Phillip, Liam had slipped behind him without Sherlock noticing until he felt Liam’s arms encircle him, his hands smoothing over Sherlock’s shoulders and chest. Sherlock moaned slightly at the gentle touch, which in turn made Phillip voice his pleasure at the vibration. Liam began working the buttons on Sherlock’s shirt, removing it swiftly, and throwing it across the room. Sherlock had only a moment to adjust to the cool air against his skin before he felt Liam grab his wrists and pull them behind his back. Unable to turn, due to Phillip’s grip on his hair, he made a sound of protest in his throat, but this only resulted in more noises from Phillip.

Unable to move from his position between Phillip and Liam, Sherlock closed his eyes, and tried to simply disengage from his current predicament, but this again proved to be impossible, because moments later, he felt something soft but sturdy encircle first his left wrist, then another on his right. It seemed as though Liam had secured one set of cuffs around his wrists, and clasped them together, because moments later when Liam released Sherlock from his grip, and stood to admire his handiwork, Sherlock tested the cuffs, and found them quite unmovable.

‘Take a break, Phil,’ Liam said then, and waited for Phillip to release Sherlock’s head. Sherlock desperately wanted to wipe the drool and precome from his chin, but was not able. Phillip smirked at him, and wiped his hand over Sherlock’s face, smearing it further, and pushing Sherlock back, so he fell on his backside on the floor.

‘Ready to dress the boy up then, Harrington?’ Phillip asked, his voice low with desire, ‘Do you think you know how?’

‘I’m sure I can figure it out,’ Liam replied, somewhat haughtily, and picked up the leather device with the silver ring. ‘Sherlock, open your mouth.’

‘Liam, what...?’ Sherlock asked, straining slightly against the cuffs, and struggling to rearrange himself on the floor so that he might be able to stand. ‘I don’t-’

‘Sherlock!,’ Liam snapped sharply, ‘Rude again. Is it truly your goal to embarrass me at every turn?’

‘No, of course not,’ Sherlock replied, stung, ‘I just- I mean- What does that thing do?’

‘It doesn’t do anything,’ Liam said, annoyed, ‘It goes in your mouth, and keeps it open so you can still give a blow job. Honestly, I don’t know what’s gotten into you; you’re acting like you’ve never had sex before. You’re the one who said you were amenable to trying new things.’

Sherlock wanted to say that when he had shyly mentioned this to Liam two months ago, he had meant that it was something he had naively hoped they would explore together, and at their own pace. Instead, he closed his eyes in defeat and opened his mouth wide for Liam. Moments later, the silver O-shaped ring was forced behind his teeth, and the strap impatiently tightened behind his head. He could no longer speak or close his mouth, and drool ran humiliatingly from his mouth through the ring. His eyes widened in panic as his gag reflex threatened to overwhelm him when his tongue convulsed at the new intruder.

‘Relax, Sherlock,’ Liam instructed, more gently this time, ‘Just swallow. You’ll get used to it. Besides,’ he said more quietly, ‘You have no idea how absolutely wretched you look right now. Feel,’ and he came up behind Sherlock, and rubbed Sherlock’s bound hands against the front of his trousers. He was incredibly hard, and Sherlock moaned pathetically at the touch.

Liam pulled Sherlock to his feet, and guided him over to the rope dangling from the pulley on the ceiling. Sherlock saw him grab one end of the rope, and then he slipped behind Sherlock again, and began fiddling about with the cuffs on Sherlock’s wrists. He pulled away after a few moments, and gave the other end of the rope and experimental tug. Sherlock felt his arms being pulled upwards from behind his back, causing him to bend forward. It was not a comfortable position in the slightest, and he gave a cry of protest.

‘You’ll be fine, boy,’ Phillip said, from somewhere behind him. Sherlock heard him hand something to Liam, and the next thing Sherlock knew, there were hands — not Liam’s — working his trousers and boxers down past his hips. From his uncomfortable vantage point, Sherlock watched them fall to the floor, and Phillip’s hands scoop them up, tugging them gently so Sherlock lifted each foot in turn to step out of them.

Now completely nude, and trussed up like a stuck pig, Sherlock felt incredibly exposed. Liam pulled again on the free end of the rope, and he was forced to bend over further. Upside down, he watched Liam pass the rope to Phillip, and come to kneel beside Sherlock’s feet. In his hands were the other two cuffs, and the metal bar. Before Sherlock could even make a sound, Liam had both cuffs fastened around his ankles, and made quick work of securing the bar between them. He was now completely immobile, his arse spread wide open facing Phillip, a small puddle of drool collecting on the floor beneath him from his open mouth. He had never felt so humiliated in his entire life, and if he hadn’t been afraid of asphyxiating, he would have wept.

Phillip gave the rope another tug, and Sherlock was forced to bend even further, even going so far as to try to balance on the balls of his feet to try to alleviate some of the strain from his shoulders.
Phillip and Liam stayed silent for a moment, watching his struggle, and then Phillip said huskily,

‘You were absolutely correct, Harrington; he looks wrecked. And we haven’t even started. Good God, what on Earth did you do to deserve such a beautiful and eager slut like this?’

‘I spent three months wasting four days a week in a goddamn chemistry lab,’ Liam replied with a laugh, ‘Believe it or not, he was a virgin when we met.’

‘Damn,’ Phillip said enviously, ‘Lucky bastard. I bet he was amazingly tight that first time.’

‘Still is,’ Liam said lazily, ‘Just wait. You’ll see.’ He came around the front to face Sherlock, and knelt down to give him a kiss on the cheek, ‘Still good, love?’

Sherlock just stared at Liam, unable to speak, and probably for the better. Liam continued,

‘So one of the points of this position is to use this,’ he said, and showed Sherlock the last item from the bag, the red and black flogger, ‘Please, Sherlock. Phillip is very handy with a flogger. When you’re bent over and helpless like this, I just want to watch him completely take you apart before I fuck you,’ Sherlock lowered his gaze, which Liam took as some sort of acquiescence, because he stoked Sherlock’s hair and said ‘I love you... Thank you so much for doing this for me.’

Sherlock closed his eyes, wanting to hang onto those words for just a moment longer, and he nodded. Liam kissed him and murmured again, ‘Thank you,’ again before resuming his place behind Sherlock.

The flogger must have changed hands then, though neither man gave a warning before the first blow, and it was only the whistling of air past the flogger that gave Sherlock a hint brace himself. Even so, nothing prepared him for the feeling of fire crawling up his arse from the impact. He had barely enough time to recover from the first blow when a second landed, and then a third. Several more followed. By the eighth and ninth blow, he was crying out without shame, spit flying from his open mouth. By the thirteenth, tears had formed in his eyes, threatening to slide down his face. By the twenty-first, he was sobbing.

‘P’eese, p’eese ’Iam,’ he cried through his gag, but there was no respite. The flogger bit cruelly into his ass and thighs and back, and either Phillip or Liam kept a strong hold on the rope so that he was forced to stand on the very tips of his toes, his shoulders absolutely screaming at the strain. He squeezed his eyes shut, tears still streaming from his eyes.

After thirty- or forty-some blows (he’d lost count), he felt someone roughly grab him by the chin, and the head of a penis force its way past the O ring and into his mouth. He immediately choked on the intrusion, but it made no difference. He looked up and saw Liam, his head thrown back in pleasure. Liam wound his hands tightly into Sherlock’s hair, and began fucking his mouth slowly, as if he was savouring each and every inch of his cock sinking into Sherlock’s exposed throat.

He heard the flogger drop to the floor with a clatter, and was momentarily grateful. Given that Liam was in front of Sherlock, he supposed it should have come as no surprise when he felt Phillip grip his hip with one hand, and heard him spit into the other. The head of his cock press against Sherlock’s entrance, and Sherlock cried pathetically around Liam and his gag, knowing that being breached with no preparation, or adequate lubrication was extremely painful. Though it certainly wasn’t the first time he had been fucked like this, it was bound to be no less unpleasant.

He was right. Though Phillip seemed to try to ease in, it still felt like an invasion, and his ravaged skin burned where Phillip’s fingers dug into his hips. Phillip gave him no time to adjust, only drove his cock home again and again.

Between Phillip’s assault on his arse, Liam’s assault on his mouth, and the strain in his shoulders, Sherlock was genuinely worried he might pass out from the pain or lack of oxygen, a fear that proved to be valid when he felt the blood pounding in his ears. He tried to protest, tried to get someone’s attention, but both men were paying him no mind as they fucked him harder and harder. He felt himself bouncing roughly between them, and he had the strangest feeling of being a shuttlecock during an especially vigorous game of badminton. He remembered playing with Mycroft when they were children, though Mycroft didn’t really enjoy it because he was too fat to chase after the shuttlecock like Sherlock was. Sherlock pondered this memory dizzily, until he felt his consciousness slipping from his grip.

The blood in his ears roared. Mycroft sulked as Sherlock scored on him yet again, throwing his racket away in disgust.

Everything else went black.

Chapter Text

PART V

JUNE 1996

Victor woke the morning of the fourteenth with a fluttery feeling in his stomach, the kind of nervous anticipation one gets right before a sudden drop, or giving a speech in public. Tonight would be his first art show in which pieces of his work would actually be for sale. The idea that something he created could feasibly be purchased for actual currency, and go to live in the house or office of a complete stranger was staggering, to say the least. It made him feel... Legitimate. As though he had somehow crossed a line from being the little boy who doodled in the margins of his text books, to something more substantial.

And there was another reason for Victor’s anxiousness — one far less adult-sounding — that made his cheeks feel hot if he thought about it for too long. Tonight would be his first time seeing Sherlock outside of the confines of the library. Victor was almost embarrassed to admit how much time he had spent hanging around the dusty shelves in hopes he might run into Sherlock again. He had not been disappointed; almost half a dozen afternoons and early evenings had been passed in Sherlock’s company.

In all honesty, he wasn’t quite sure what it was exactly about Sherlock that he found so intriguing. By all rights, the last person on earth he should have found interesting would be an anti-social scientist, but Sherlock was so much more than that. He was a walking conundrum — a chemist who played the violin, a genius who was baffled by simple social interactions, a loner who spent his free time trying to steal cadavers from the hospital, just so he had someone to talk to. Victor loved to see Sherlock’s mind at work — he had a razor sharp wit, a lovely, dry sense of humour, and an extensive, and sometimes antiquated vocabulary that was oddly refreshing, and seemed out of place coming from a twenty-year-old uni student. Sometimes Victor could almost picture Sherlock in a velvet smoking jacket and mahogany pipe, sitting by a roaring fire, writing his memoirs.

Yes, there was something about the mad scientist who had just about single-handedly saved Victor’s chemistry final, and Victor was cautiously intrigued. He had dated casually the last few years, both males and females, and though all interactions had ended amicably, they had never felt worth investing serious time and energy into. His first priority was his art; his second was his music. Somewhere after that came his studies, and his friends and family, and so on. It wasn’t that he didn’t value the people around him, because he did, very much. It was more of his art gave him a sense or purpose that he had previously been lacking, and while his work wasn’t all that mattered, it certainly ranked high on the list. Girlfriends and boyfriends tended to not understand this sentiment, which is why he had never pursued them too actively.

Somehow, Victor sensed that Sherlock would understand the importance of having your life’s work as your foundation without taking it personally. He hoped very much that he was correct.

~*~

The day passed in a bit of a blur. Victor had already delivered his pieces to the cafe the night before, so all he had to work on was himself. He wouldn’t like to admit how many times he changed his clothes, and contemplated getting a fresh haircut for the evening. Sherlock was always impeccably dressed, usually in fitted jeans, and a sharp button-up shirt. At first Victor had thought a dress shirt seemed out of place being worn at the library, but the more he got to know Sherlock, the more natural it seemed; Sherlock himself always seemed just slightly out of place, but still unapologetically present.

In the end, Victor opted for a simple heather grey and white striped button-up shirt, a black tie, and charcoal waistcoat, over dark jeans. It seemed both professional and artistic enough for the venue, and that he wouldn’t feel under dressed next to Sherlock. He decided against the haircut, but did give himself a quick shave. In all honesty, he was just trying to waste time until it was finally just after five, and he could leave to meet Sherlock at the library.

He walked swiftly through the courtyard, until he could see the library in the distance. As he neared, he was finally able to see Sherlock, perched on the steps, reading a book. He slowed slightly wanting to take in the sight. Sherlock was wearing his purple dress shirt again, and his brow was furrowed in concentration as he read his book, turning pages every few seconds. Once Victor was close enough, he read the title on the spine of the thick volume, and laughed.

Sherlock was still working his way through the Lord of the Rings, which Victor had only barely managed to convince him to try. It seemed that the fantasy world of Middle Earth was too ludicrous for Sherlock to comprehend, and several times over the past week Sherlock had hounded Victor with questions such as ‘Why on earth would the walking, talking trees think they could go to war? Wouldn’t these creatures just light them on fire and be done with it?’ or ‘How does this elf-woman think she is going to become mortal to be with her human counterpart? Surely it’s not like a switch she can just flip on a whim?’ Victor had done his best to patiently explain the nature of Elves and Men, and Ents and Goblins, and whatever else Sherlock grilled him on, hiding his smile throughout it all. He had never met someone so baffled by a bit of imagination as Sherlock.

‘Sherlock!’ Victor called once he was within range. Sherlock looked up in alarm, but then relaxed when he saw who had shouted his name. Victor noticed he was always on guard when approached, as though he wanted to be as inconspicuous in public as possible — a tall order indeed.

‘Good evening, Victor,’ Sherlock greeted him somewhat stiffly. He glanced at the page number in his book, and closed it with a thud. He placed the book in a small satchel at his side, and looked up at Victor with a small smile. ‘Shall we?’

‘Yes!’ Victor replied enthusiastically, and extended a hand to Sherlock to help him up. Sherlock hesitate only a moment before accepting it. His hand was strong and warm in Victor’s.

Victor privately wished he didn’t have to let go.

~*~

The art show was a surprising, booming success.

Victor had had reasonably low expectations from the start. He was largely unknown, save for his friends and family, and perhaps a few peers from the university, and he had never tried to sell his work before. Considering his highest hopes were to inspire some conversations, and maybe sell one or two pieces, he truly couldn’t have imagined things would go as well as they did.

Out of the fifteen paintings he had displayed, only six remained, and he had already been approached by three or four individuals who hadn’t found exactly what they were looking for, but had been impressed enough to ask him if did commissions. He happily jotted down their contact information in his diary, and thanked them for their interest. Lucy, who had been running the till, was flushed and smiling with surprise as well.

‘I can’t believe it!’ She whispered happily, ‘Congratulations, Victor, this is better than we could have ever imagined. And your friend seems to be enjoying himself as well.’

She was right; Sherlock did seem to be having a good time. When they had first arrived, he had hesitated at every turn, staying mostly silent, and hovering slightly behind Victor’s right elbow. Victor, sensing his unease, made a point to introduce Sherlock to every person who came up to say hello and wish him well. Sherlock had seemed shocked and delighted to be included.

At the current moment, he was leaning casually against a wall, chatting animatedly with Victor’s cousin Timothy. Timothy was a few years younger, and intent on studying to be an environmental engineer when he got to university. As Victor neared, he heard Sherlock detailing a study on the rate of decay of organic material based on current soil oxidation levels or some other such biological function that Victor didn’t quite understand. Victor leaned in next to Sherlock, and tried to listen attentively, but some of the words spilling from Sherlock’s mouth sounded so impressive, Victor wasn’t entirely sure he wasn’t making them up on the spot.

‘Oh, hello again, Victor,’ Sherlock said, taking a breath, ‘Your cousin was just telling me of his future career plans. It sounds like it will be a fulfilling and vital occupation.’

‘Thanks, Sherlock!’ Timothy responded, glowing with pride, ‘I’m taking Biology and Chemistry for my A levels now. It’s not easy, but it’s terribly interesting stuff, isn’t?’

‘Well, I think so, Timothy, but I’m not sure your cousin would agree,’ Sherlock teased gently.

Victor snorted, ‘Well, luckily, the world has the likes of you to keep it in experiments,’ he said fondly. ‘Sherlock would you like to grab something to drink now that things have slowed down? I feel as though we’ve barely spoken all evening.’

‘Of course,’ Sherlock agreed dutifully, ‘Best of luck to you in all you do, Timothy. This world needs more scientists.’

Victor lead Sherlock over towards the queue to order, and said quietly, ‘I’m sorry I haven’t been able to spend that much time with you tonight, Sherlock, it was far busier than I anticipated. I hope you weren’t too bored?’ He stole a glance at Sherlock, and relaxed slightly when he saw Sherlock’s shy grin.

‘Not at all,’ he replied honestly, ‘Your friends were all very welcoming, and I have to say, for someone as young as he is, your cousin was endlessly entertaining. You are very fortunate to have such a strong support system.’

‘I am,’ Victor agreed. ‘Thank you again for agreeing to come tonight. It was great to see you set against something other than a bookcase.’

‘That was part of my motivation for coming as well,’ Sherlock admitted, and glanced at his watch. Victor watched him pale slightly, and swallow hard, the carefree air slipping away, and being replaced with something much heavier. Sherlock sighed, and shook his sleeve back over his watch quickly, and said regretfully, ‘Apologies, Victor. It seems that the evening went quicker than I was anticipating. I have a... I should be going,’ Sherlock stopped by one of the tables, and picked up his satchel, and turned to face Victor. He smiled, ‘Thank you again for inviting me; it was truly enjoyable.’

‘Oh. Okay then,’ Victor replied, surprised by the sudden turn of events, ‘Give me just a moment, and I’ll go say goodbye to Lucy and see if she needs me for anything else.’

‘Victor, you don’t need to leave with me,’ Sherlock said quickly, looking embarrassed, ‘This is your night; I don’t want to interrupt. I didn’t mean- I don’t expect you to-’

‘Sherlock,’ Victor said gently, ‘I’ll walk you back to the library, and then come back and help them clean up. Almost everyone has left anyway; they can do without me for half an hour.’

Sherlock still looked embarrassed, but nodded silently, and stared uncomfortably at the floor while Victor made his way over to Lucy and let her know he was going to walk Sherlock out. She winked cheekily at him, and he rolled his eyes.

~*~

The June night air was surprisingly cool, and Victor shoved his hands into his jeans pockets, just trying to keep pace with Sherlock’s long legs without having to jog. He was hoping Sherlock would slow down just a tad, because he knew it was only a matter of time before he tripped over nothing again if they kept their current pace up. He had never been an especially graceful individual, but something about being in Sherlock’s presence made him so on edge that he kept doing things like running into shelves, or dropping books several times in a row in the neat and quite library. Victor shuddered to think what Sherlock thought about his newfound clumsiness.

Sherlock had been quiet and pensive since leaving the cafe. Something was weighing heavily on his mind, and Victor couldn’t think what might have caused the sudden shift in his demeanour.

‘Sherlock, is everything alright?’ He asked finally, wishing he had even a fraction of Sherlock’s skill with languages so he could better articulate what he was feeling inside.

Sherlock took a few more steps without speaking, then forced a smile, ‘I’m fine, Victor. I just wish I could have stayed at the cafe longer. You really don’t have to walk me the rest of the way if you want to head back and see if you can score one more sale.’

Victor shook his head, ‘I’d rather spend more time with you. Plus, honestly, this evening went better than I could have dreamed. I never would have thought more than a few odd people would be interested in purchasing my work. It really is surreal.’

‘You should be incredibly proud,’ Sherlock commented quietly, ‘I have to admit, I’m quite envious of the support you have from your loved ones in pursuing your passion.’

‘Thank you,’ Victor replied honestly, ‘That means a lot.’ They walked a bit farther in silence, though this time it was a bit lighter, until Victor shyly asked ‘May I see you again? Maybe dinner next time? I was hoping to spend more time with just you tonight, but obviously that didn’t work out.’

Sherlock was silent for a long pause, and Victor saw a debate raging in his eyes before he said ‘Yes, I think I would like that very much.’ He looked anxious, but pleased nonetheless.

‘Good,’ Victor grinned, ‘I... I find you incredibly interesting, Sherlock. I’m glad we met.’

‘I am too,’ Sherlock told him with a smile, ‘Thanks to botulinum.’

‘To botulinum,’ Victor repeated with a laugh, glad that the tension seemed to have eased.

They continued on in a peaceful silence until the library loomed in the distance. Sherlock regarded it reluctantly, and slowed his pace just a touch. The closer they came to their destination, the slower Sherlock walked, until they were almost upon the library, but covering hardly any distance at all.

Sherlock finally gave up the charade of walking, and stopped at one of the benches lining the walkway, and took a seat. Victor followed suit, unsure of what was happening, but also not wanting the evening to end. Sherlock stared down at his hands for a moment, then cleared his throat.

‘Victor, I want to thank you again for an interesting evening, It was fun,’ he began, still not looking at Victor, ‘But on second though, I think I will have to decline your offer for dinner. I just... I mean... It’s just not a good time for me.’

‘Sherlock,’ Victor said, stunned, ‘I thought we were having a good time getting to know each other. I really... I like you a lot.’

‘I like you too, Victor,’ Sherlock admitted in a voice that was barely a whisper. The look on his face was so regretful that it made Victor’s heart clench painfully. Victor’s eyebrows knit together in confusion.

‘Then why...?’ He asked, but Sherlock cut him off.

‘It’s just not a good idea, Victor,’ he said in frustration, ‘I shouldn’t have... We shouldn’t... I’m just honestly not someone you should waste time on right now. I wasn’t thinking before, I’m sorry.’

‘Getting to know you has never been a waste of time, Sherlock,’ Victor argued, ‘I’m sorry if you feel that way, but I sure as hell don’t. I think you’re one of the most brilliant, interesting people I’ve ever met, and I could talk to you for hours without getting bored. I love listening to you explain microbiology, and advanced physics, and how you knew the librarian was having an affair with the caretaker. None of that, not one single moment, would I consider a waste.’

Sherlock didn’t respond, but his eyes suddenly looked very bright. Victor took a chance, and took Sherlock’s hand in his. He brought it softly to his lips. Sherlock’s eyes widened, and — encouraged by this — Victor leaned in to take Sherlock in his arms, intending to lay a gentle kiss on his mouth, but he never got that far.

Sherlock jumped backwards so quickly, he actually fell from the bench to the hard ground. For a mad moment, Victor felt as though the entire world had tipped off its axis, and they had reversed roles, because falling was usually his job. Sherlock’s arms windmilled wildly, and upon impact, his face screwed up in pain — a gross overreaction compared to the slight bump. None of this was what caused Victor to gape in shock and horror, however. The reason for that was far worse.

As Sherlock sent himself reeling back, he had shouted — actually yelled — at Victor, fear and pleading in his voice, that Victor had never heard before. He’d sounded positively feral — broken. It stopped Victor in his tracks to hear his normally subdued, articulate friend react in such a primal manner.

Please, he had cried. Don’t.

It didn’t sound like a simple request against Victor expressing interest. It sounded like Sherlock was begging Victor not to hurt him.

Victor stared, mouth still half open, not really sure how to react or what to say, but it really didn’t matter in the end.

Sherlock, cheeks flushed bright red with humiliation, regarded Victor for one long moment, looking as though he wished he could physically pull his words from the air between them to recall them. Seconds later, he sprang to his feet, and took off at a dead sprint, leaving Victor staring, heartsick, after him.

Chapter Text

PART VI

And I am feeling so small
It was over my head
I know nothing at all...

JUNE 1996

Sherlock woke alone with a start, his chest tight with anxiety, like pins and needles behind his clavicle. It took him a moment to remember why, but when memories of the night before flooded back in, he groaned loudly, and rolled over, burying his face in pillow.

He. Was. Absolutely. Mortified.

Why on earth he had thought it would be a good idea to pursue any type of friendship with Victor was beyond him. He had learned long ago that confusing social entanglements were not something that he was especially good at, and truly, it was so bizarrely uncharacteristic of him to become so infatuated with anyone at all, much less someone he’d met by chance in the library of all places. He had not literal idea why he had allowed himself to go down that path, and now he was severely regretting that decision.

Additionally confusing was the progression his interactions with Victor had taken — from shy conversation, to casual flirting, and then escalating to Victor leaning in to kiss him. It left a raw feeling deep in his stomach, where all he heard was Liam’s voice murmuring in his ear the only reason a man would ever want you would be to fuck you. It hadn’t seemed like that was Victor’s motivation at all. Sherlock had watched him carefully — so carefully — and all he had seen in Victor’s eyes had been genuine interest, or so it seemed. However, it was hard to ignore the niggling voice inside that whispered that it could all be part of a clever ploy to gain his trust. He groaned again, this time in frustration, because none of it made sense.

And yet...

Somewhere deep inside, in a quiet little crevice of his mind where his other thoughts couldn’t quite reach, Sherlock replayed the part where Victor had called him brilliant and interesting and said that he actually liked spending time with Sherlock, and that he didn’t mind Sherlock telling him about his interests, or whatever bullshit struck his fancy as Liam would say. It was completely foreign to him to hear that his presence was actually something enjoyable, and not just something to be tolerated in the hopes of getting something in return.

Sherlock rolled back onto his back, and groaned a third time, but this time it was due to physical discomfort rather than mental. His back, arse, and thighs were still a multi-coloured rainbow of blacks, blues, purples, and reds. It was hard to say where one wound ended and another began. Unlike when Liam or his associates left marks on him — usually only a few left in the heat of the moment — the beating he had received from Phillip had been intentional, each mark deliberate.

Liam had woken Sherlock yesterday morning with gentle kisses, and a steaming cup of coffee, sweet and black. He had thanked Sherlock again for the night before, but made no mention of his loss of consciousness other than commenting that ‘next time we’ll have to make sure you enjoy yourself enough to stay awake’ as if Sherlock had merely fallen asleep out of boredom. Sherlock had actually apologised for passing out, which Liam accepted with another kiss before climbing into bed, and taking Sherlock in his arms. It was those quiet, sweet moments that made everything else feel as though it was worth it.

Mustering all his willpower, Sherlock forced himself to roll from the bed, despite his body rebelling furiously against the movement. Mornings were always the hardest time to convince his aching body to move. He made his way to the bathroom, and washed his face and brushed his teeth, careful not to look too closely at his reflection in the mirror. Phillips words came back to him, about him looking ‘wrecked’, and in the harsh light of the bathroom mirror, he was half inclined to agree.

Sherlock had barely made his way down the hall to the kitchen, when he heard a knock at the front door. He frowned. It was highly unusual for someone to be visiting the flat at this time of day — Mycroft or Mummy came obscenely early in the morning; Liam’s associates typically came obnoxiously late at night, and only when he was home as well. He tried deducing who it might be, settling most likely on the landlord, or a lost letter carrier. Whoever it was knocked again, so he wrenched open the door with great annoyance.

Of course, it could never be someone as innocuous as the post master, that Sherlock could merely slam the door on again. Of course the person standing there was Victor, holding two paper cups of tea, looking immensely uncomfortable, but determined. Of course Victor would be the one to take Sherlock by surprise, because when didn’t he.

The hot feeling of embarrassment welled up in Sherlock’s chest again, and he crossed his arms in front of him, and leaned against the door frame.

‘Victor,’ he greeted him evenly, but made no move to invite him inside, ‘I never gave you my address.’

‘Yeah, sorry,’ Victor said sheepishly, ‘You mentioned once that you lived in this block of flats, so I knew I was at least in the right place. Then I ran into your neighbour, Mrs Martin, and she said you live here. With... With your boyfriend.’ He looked up at Sherlock, his gaze full of unasked questions, but not accusing in the slightest.

Sherlock was quiet a moment. He was surprised again that Victor had been able to actually pinpoint his address from just mere snippets of conversation, and stored that fact away in that reptile part of his brain that held onto the idea that Victor actually cared, actually listened to him. He took a deep breath, before replying.

‘Yes. I live here with my boyfriend, Liam. We have been together about a year and a half,’ he said, and stared hard at the ground, waiting for Victor’s anger and indignation at being mislead.

It never came. Victor sighed, and Sherlock glanced up, and saw the hurt in his eyes, but he did not take it out on Sherlock. Instead, he shifted slightly, held up the cups of tea, and asked, ‘Can I come in? Can we talk? Please?’

Sherlock considered this briefly, but ultimately decided there was no way in hell he was letting Victor enter the flat. There were too many things out in the open that would undoubtedly lead to questions Sherlock had no interest in answering, the least of which was not the damn pulley Liam had agreed to let Phillip drill into the ceiling. Additionally, he did not know when Liam was due to return, and the last thing he wanted was to have him come home to find Victor in the flat.

‘No,’ he said finally, but continued quickly when he saw Victor’s face fall in disappointment, ‘I’ll come out. Just let me get dressed. You wait here.’

He closed the door without looking for a reaction from Victor, and quickly made his way back to the bedroom. As quickly as he could, he changed from his pyjamas bottoms and t-shirt to his usual jeans and button-up shirt. He realised too late that he had answered the door still in the short sleeve shirt he had slept in; it was highly likely Victor had seen the abrasions around his wrists from the cuffs two nights ago. He groaned to himself as he tied the laces on his shoes, and made his way out of the flat.

Victor was still standing where Sherlock had left him, and looked up with a small smile when he heard the door open and saw Sherlock come outside.

‘Thank you,’ he said sincerely, and passed Sherlock one of the cups of tea, ‘It’s not very hot anymore, I’m afraid. Playing detective took me a little longer than I anticipated.’

‘It’s fine, Victor, thank you,’ Sherlock said, accepting the tea, but not drinking any, ‘There is a park nearby that we can walk to.’

Victor nodded, and they made their way down the street towards the park. Sherlock didn’t know what to say, and it seemed like Victor, despite his request to talk, seemed to be at a loss for words as well.

They had passed through the entry gate of the park, and began walking down the long, winding paths gravel scraping from beneath their shoes, before Victor finally spoke.

‘So,’ he said uneasily, ‘You have a boyfriend.’

‘Yes,’ Sherlock said guiltily, ‘Victor, I never meant to... I didn’t... I am sincerely sorry for being misleading in any way. I simply... I enjoyed our conversations. And your were kind. I understand that things between us can’t continue, and that I am entirely to blame. You... You are truly very talented, Victor, and I wish you all the best.’ He fiddled with the plastic lid to his tea, and distracted himself by taking a few sips. It wasn’t hot, as Victor had said, but it was still quite good.

‘Don’t I get a say in that decision?’ Victor asked, anger creeping into his voice for the first time, ‘I didn’t come find you just to find our your relationship status, though that was quite a shock, I will admit. I came here, because, Sherlock... What happened last night? And I don’t mean you backing out of dinner, which you have every right to do. And I’m sorry if I was being too forward when I tried to — you know, kiss you — I shouldn’t have done that. But you just looked so... So sad. And like you’d never heard anyone say they liked spending time with you before, which is completely mad to me, because it’s quickly become one of my favourite things in the world. But aside from that, what the actual hell caused your to launch yourself off the bench like that? I just don’t understand.’

‘Victor, can we please not talk about that?’ Sherlock asked, a note of pleading in his voice, ‘I shouldn’t have reacted like that, and I’m quite embarrassed about it.’

‘Sherlock, please, talk to me,’ Victor begged, his eyes bright and full of concern, ‘Please, just help me understand.’

‘Victor...’ Sherlock replied, his voice trailing off, ‘I told you. I have a boyfriend.’ He stopped walking, and stared hard at the ground, bracing himself.

Uncomprehending, Victor just shook his head, and said ‘I heard you when you said that. And I understand. And if you can’t go on to date me, I also understand. But what about last night? I’ve never heard you yell like that. You sounded like you were in pain when you fell; far more pain than you should have been in from just a small tumble like that. Sherlock, you sounded terrified. You sounded like you expected... Expected me to... And you have those marks on your wrists... I know you usually wear long sleeves, which I always thought was unusual, but then I figured it was just you, and it just seemed to fit, but I saw... When you answered the door, it looked like...’

‘Victor,’ Sherlock repeated gently, ‘I have a boyfriend.’

It was the closest Sherlock had ever come to admitting out loud that what was happening between him and Liam was less than normal. Having never been in a relationship before, he had nothing to compare it to, but sometimes he had to wonder if the dynamic between him and Liam was typical of what a romance should be like, and then furthermore, if it was perhaps what a romance between two males was like, thinking that between members of the opposite sex, there were bound to be some differences in how they treated each other. It was something he quietly pondered every so often, but tried not to focus on, because he’d learned from an early age that comparison was merely the breeding ground for contempt.

‘Oh. Oh, Sherlock,’ Victor breathed, the look on his face full of horror, ‘Do you mean... I mean, does he... Are you... Does he hurt you?’

‘I don’t want to talk about that, Victor,’ Sherlock replied quickly, ‘What I share with Liam is private, and I will not reveal details of our private life together. I owe him that much.’

‘Owe him,’ Victor repeated in disbelief, ‘Sherlock, you know that you don’t have to- I mean, that there are ways out, resources? If he is hurting you, or making you feel unsafe. There are charities-’

‘I don’t need charity,’ Sherlock spat angrily, ‘I am fine. I am merely conveying to you that I am in a committed relationship, that sometimes... That is sometimes unpleasant. But he loves me. And I love him. And that is all that matters. He has been very good to me. Please respect that.’

‘But Sherlock,’ Victor said quietly, looking as though he very might wanted to reach out and touch Sherlock, but that he didn’t dare, ‘Love shouldn’t hurt.’

Sherlock had no response to that, so he merely downed the final dregs of his tea, and continued on silently down the stony path.