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this cold heart never bleeds

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Sherlock had been acting dodgy for days. John had been aware of him talking to himself with more frequency and agitation than was normal, though Sherlock's version of normal was anything but. He’d also been noticing Sherlock staring at him for longer periods than usual. At one point, John had even gotten so fed up that he had returned the stare with what he imagined was matching childishness and intensity, but then he was startled by the tell-tale signs of what looked like the previous night’s eyeliner smudged around Sherlock’s waterline and decided to look away before Sherlock deduced that John found that observation very... interesting.

Currently, John was sitting in his favorite chair. His tea was forgotten and cold next to him, and he was shaking his head and cursing under his breath angrily at the daily Times. Sherlock was sitting across from John, fidgeting and glaring at the paper as though it had personally offended him. Since Sherlock so often insisted that he had no time for politics and left John to his mutterings, John deduced that the object of his frustration was likely himself and not the contents of the paper. He did his best to give no indication that he noticed Sherlock's distress while he finished the article that he was reading about Margaret Thatcher’s new public policies. John’s time serving in the Falklands had given him good reason to be tetchy with the prime minister, and he often muttered at the paper, but his typical stoicism only gave way to his real opinions after a few pints at the pub. Anyone who drank with him could predict that after his fourth lager he’d be sure to brandish his favorite Borges quote about the war being like two bald men fighting over a comb. Though he was pretty sure that whatever Sherlock had to say would probably be preferable to the tripe he was reading right now, he was intent on refusing to give in to Sherlock’s churlishness. He let his mind wander from the paper and started thinking about his flatmate. John knew that Sherlock's alleged indifference to politics was a ruse, and that Sherlock agreed completely with John on the PM. Sherlock cared deeply for the network of homeless people whom he’d amassed to help him solve his crimes, and John knew that it bothered him immensely that Thatcher’s policies were killing them. Sherlock paid his network lavishly to act as spies. John had also found Sherlock helping many people in accessing medical care (now easier with John’s help), or even entering university. As such, he had a large and loyal following on the streets of London. But their numbers were growing, and despite Mycroft’s lofty insistence otherwise, everyone knew that it was Margaret Thatcher’s fault. Mycroft had tried to enlist their help in tracking down the organizers of last year’s assassination attempt. Sherlock had looked him and Mags in the eye and stated calmly that he would do it only to help the assassins complete the job next time, and to thereafter never be found. Mycroft had since stopped bothering Sherlock with government requests.

Still, John was having a difficult time ignoring Sherlock’s silent demands for his attention. He was practically vibrating with the effort of waiting as patiently as he could (though his patience was on par with a toddler on cocaine) for John to notice that he had something important to say. John finally sighed and put down his paper, giving in to his curiosity- though he was tempted to let Sherlock suffer a bit longer in retribution for last night’s chemistry fiasco that had ruined the lovely takeaway he’d been dreaming of during most of that day’s clinic duty.

“What is it, already?”

Sherlock cleared his throat and announced, “John, we are going out tonight. You will wear the Levi’s on your bed, your military boots, and a white crew neck. Please also wear your dog tags. I’ve taken the liberty of procuring you an appropriate jacket. Your disguise will require little else. I will assist you with your hair before we leave. Be ready at eleven pm."

John eyed him warily, having really only listened to about half of what Sherlock just said, still stewing over the ruined curry. “Oh? A case then? Or are you finally taking me out?”

“Both.”

“Oh- um- Sherlock, I didn’t mean...” [Shit, John. Shut up.]

“Don’t fret, John. I neglected to mention that part of our ruse involves us being- involved.” Sherlock was wearing his most unaffected face. “I have a list of reasons prepared why this is more important than your rather erroneously adamant declarations of your heterosexuality.”

John sighed resignedly. “Not necessary. What’s the case?”

"Oh?" Sherlock raised his eyebrows, almost imperceptibly. “Excellent. A rash of multiple murders has occurred in Soho over the last two months. Each was elaborately staged to resemble the work of vampires. Many of the victims were a part of the gothic subculture. Others were drawn randomly from the public at large, it seems, which led the police to believe that these events were unrelated. Until recently the police were happy to ignore the incidents which involved goths, or dismissed them as cultish mass suicides, because they assume the subculture is essentially comprised of rebel youth with death wishes and anathema to society."

“What changed? Oh, don’t start, my deductive reasoning is solid here. I’m assuming something out of the ordinary happened, and that’s why they’ve finally contacted you.”

“Indeed, one day yet you might even become one of the great minds of history.” John glared and pantomimed that he was about to leave.

“Oh, sit down. We both know that you’re not going anywhere. But you are correct. Lestrade finally allowed someone who wasn't Anderson to examine the bodies and they pointed out the undeniable forensic similarity of the wounds found on several of the victims that they had previously declared unrelated. He has, as such, suddenly found himself unable to disregard my ‘suggestions’ that perhaps we had a serial killer, or killers more likely, on the loose in London.”

“I do know how you love a serial killer, Sherlock. But I’m not quite understanding how we get from there to ‘involved’.”

Sherlock stood up a bit taller and held his chin a tad higher, as if he was about to recite a prepared speech. “We must infiltrate the club known as Cities in Dust. I am familiar with the owner and several of the patrons. The victims were all patrons of the goth clubs in the Soho district, and while both men and women appear as victims, many of the men were homosexuals. Most resembled me in stature and appearance. In order to draw out the killers, John, I will be bait and you will be my ‘secret’ lover. It's too late and too difficult to establish a backstory that we're an 'out' couple, but we'll have an easier time explaining why we are there together if we have some sort of relationship. Clubs such as these are a place where people are able to express themselves without fear of public retribution. My public persona as a police consultant, and your frequent outbursts that you are ‘not gay’ will add believability to our ‘closeted’ relationship."

John still wasn’t sure why this was the best plan, but he’d pretty much known that he was going to agree before Sherlock even began explaining. It sounded a bit far-fetched but since it was uncharacteristic of Sherlock not to have sound reasoning behind his plans, he assumed there were some steps that Sherlock had omitted to tell him that made this cover story more soundly logical. Also, though, while he was definitely amenable, he would have to take care to downplay his eagerness to have an opportunity to pretend to be intimate with Sherlock. Sherlock was constantly critical of his poor acting ability, and seeming too authentic would definitely attract Sherlock’s notice. He realized suddenly that Sherlock was looking at him expectantly, waiting for his response. “Okay... sounds dangerous though, using yourself as bait like that.”

“That’s why I need my soldier to protect me.” Sherlock smiled, a rare vulnerable smile that John knew was only ever for him,. Though John knew that Sherlock used it from time to time as a method of manipulation, it always worked.

John rubbed his hands on his thighs and sighed. “Okay, okay. I’d better go get the shopping done then, if we’re to be on a case for the next however long. And the washing up.”

“Be ready at eleven.”

“You said, Sherlock. And I’d remind you that your own views on punctuality are rather opportunistic. Wait- did you say- what are you going to do to my hair?”

 

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It was nearly time to go, but John was pushing the boundaries of said punctuality. He seemed to be unable to stop gaping at himself in the mirror. He turned around again, and again, slowly. He’d barely registered Sherlock’s comment earlier about buying him jeans and a jacket, but now the reality of it was wrapped around him in denim and leather and buckles and chains. Left to his own devices, he always shopped for comfort first, style second. Now though he was reconsidering his style choices. He'd spent the last ten minutes checking out his backside in the mirror as well as he could, pondering how something as simple as a different pair of jeans could perform such a transformation The tapered leather jacket hit right above his waist, definitely accentuating his- finer qualities. [Well, fuck, maybe I should let Sherlock buy all my clothes. Of course he knew my exact measurements. At the very least I’d be sure to have more luck with women if I went out like this more often. Well, at least until they met Sherlock.] He glanced at his watch, which he'd dutifully left on the nightstand since Sherlock hadn't mentioned it as part of his outfit. He nodded his head once, determined, and decided that it was now or never. He’d been listening to Sherlock crashing around downstairs for the last hour, likely undoing all the tidying he’d done today. Bracing himself for anything, he went downstairs to survey the damage, sparing one last glance at his arse in the mirror.

“Sherlock, what the hell have you been-” John stopped mid-stair. “O- oh”

“John, I am unable to lace this corset alone. I require your assistance.”

John found himself suddenly unable to remember how any his limbs worked. He stood motionless, soaking in the vision of ethereal creature that had taken the place of his earlier bedraggled and obnoxious flatmate. Sherlock had teased his normally unruly curls into a halo of precision ratting and hairspray. He was wearing a white poet’s shirt with long flared sleeves. The front was unlaced half-way down his long neck and pale chest, and John wanted desperately to slip his hand into the opening and see if his skin felt as lovely as it looked. Sherlock had tucked said shirt into the tightest and best-fitting pair of leather trousers that John had ever seen (and he’d seen a few, thank you very much). Each leg also had corset lacing along their front from his iliac crests all the way down his impossibly long legs to his boot tops, with which he’d added a couple of inches to his already willowy height. John congratulated himself that he was able to conjure the coherent thought that the boots weren’t so impractical that he couldn’t chase criminals. Sherlock had gone light on his makeup, compared to what John knew about goth culture, but John's brain, apparently working again, reasoned that Sherlock probably did it on purpose since needed to be recognizable for their charade to be effective. He had applied heavy eyeliner, though, and darkly lined burgundy stain to his lush, lush lips. He’d also done something to accentuate those ridiculous cheekbones. His long violinist’s fingers, now sporting black lacquered nails, was clutching at the strings of a deep purple waist cincher.

“JOHN, I REQUIRE-” Abruptly, Sherlock ceased his petulant tantrum and stared at John. “Oh. You find me attractive in this outfit. Good, it will help you to be more convincing in your role as my secret lover. Now please hurry up and work through your crisis of identity and help me with this lacing.”

John figured that Sherlock would likely see through any cover he tried to dream up at this point. His brain still wasn’t functioning at full capacity, and his mouth appeared to be hanging wide open, leaving his ability for response rather limited. And anyway, he was exhausted from hiding how he felt all the the time from the master of deduction. Fuck it, Sherlock finally knew that John found him attractive. It had only been a matter of time. John decided to take a risk. Worst case scenario, Sherlock would ignore the implications and they would move on with their lives. Best case scenario- well, they’d cross that unlikely bridge if it came to it. “Did that when I was seventeen. Just give me a minute to admire the view and I’ll come help you, like I always do.”

Confusion flickered across Sherlock’s face for a moment. John couldn’t help but gloat a little at the fact that he could surprise Mister Know-It-All. Sherlock’s focus narrowed sharply, piercing through John, searching for any signs of deception. Slowly, a mischievous smile crept from his full, dark lips to his lined eyes. He turned around seductively, offering John a spectacular view of his leather-clad arse as he offered up the offending laces. As part of the aftershock of his brazen declaration, John's lungs had decided to join his limbs in their stupor. He reminded himself that he should know, as a doctor, that one should remember to breathe. He looked away from Sherlock from a moment, regaining his composure. Once he had oxygen flowing properly to all of his limbs again, he made the rest of his way downstairs. His normally steady surgeon’s hands trembled a little as he took the laces from Sherlock's pale hand. He pulled them tighter through each eyelet with a little more force than was probably necessary.

“Oh yes, John. Harder.” Sherlock dropped his voice to a pitch that John had never heard him use before, but would definitely be thinking about the next time he had some time alone.

John couldn't tell if Sherlock was sincerely flirting or if they were supposed to be getting into character, but either way, he was feeling brave. He'd opened the door and he wasn't going to waste this opportunity to use his considerable seduction skills on Sherlock. “Oh, I’ll show you harder, Sherlock.” John cringed as soon as the words left his mouth. It seemed that his bravery might just be bravado. He quickly finished tying up the lacing.

Sherlock didn't seem to notice John's awkwardness. He turned to face John, smiling a predatory smile as he retorted, "Save it for the club, dear.” Sherlock then winked and strode off to get his coat. John realized two things.: one, that Sherlock had (thankfully? unfortunately?) forgotten his threats about doing John's hair; and two, that whether or not Sherlock was sincere, he was in deep.