Ella had recommended his new therapist, and John had taken that recommendation to Mycroft. "You know what I'm likely to need to talk about," he'd said, and Mycroft had murmured, "Yes, of course."
Two weeks later, John had received a text saying, "RE cleared. Usual limits apply." He'd deleted the message, and scheduled an appointment.
Rhys Evans was a slight, bearded man in his late thirties. He wore nail polish and eyeliner, and sat with his legs tucked under himself. "Why don't you tell me why you're here?" Rhys said, and John ran a hand through his hair. He'd thought of a hundred ways to explain, and none of them seemed right.
Talking about things had never been easy. Even after years of therapy, he found it hard.
I'm straight, but I'm in love with my best friend, and I live with him, and we've been raising my daughter together since my wife died.
It wasn't the sort of thing he knew how to say.
He tried anyway.
"My -- I've always. Hm." He shook his head and stared out the window, then darted a look back at Rhys.
Rhys showed no signs of impatience, only quiet interest.
John cleared his throat. "I've. Always had relationships with women. Hm. But I just -- I just broke up with. Her name was Kate." He drummed his fingers on his knee.
"Why did you break up?"
"Hm. She. She thought I was -- too close. To my best friend." He let his left hand clench, felt his nails digging into his palm. "She wasn't wrong. But I -- I don't -- I think -- I'm. I'm in love with him. And I. I don't know how to -- I don't know how."
"All right," Rhys said. "Your best friend, does he feel the same way about you as you do about him?"
"Yes," said John, because if there was one thing he was sure of, it's that; Sherlock's been in love with him for years. Before he got married? Perhaps. The look on Sherlock's face, on the dance floor at his wedding--
"All right," said Rhys.
John unclenched his fist, rested his hands on the arms of his chair. "So. I don't know -- I don't know how to talk to him about this."
"Can you tell him just the way you told me?"
"No," said John.
Over Tea & Biscuits I (2024)
Sherlock knocked at Mrs. Hudson's door at two in the afternoon, and she smiled when she saw him. "Hello, dear. I've just put the kettle on."
He followed her inside, sat in her narrow, sunny kitchen, cradled a cup of tea in his hands. "John and I got married, Mrs. Hudson," he said, and blew steam off the cup to avoid looking at her.
"Oh! Just snuck off and didn't tell anyone?" She looked a little hurt, out of the corner of his eye.
"We took Watson and Mycroft." He'd wanted Mycroft there, and John hadn't objected. Watson had giggled the whole time, and kissed him and John, afterwards, and said, "Ugh, I guess you actually are my uncle, now," to Mycroft.
"Miss Watson," Mycroft had replied, peering down his nose at her. "I would never presume upon our relationship."
"Liar," John had said, but it had sounded almost affectionate, and then he'd kissed Sherlock while Watson snapped a photo with Sherlock's phone.
He held out the phone to Mrs. Hudson, now, and she smiled down at the picture. "Oh, Sherlock," she said, tearing up. "I wouldn't've breathed a word, you know."
"It's not a secret," he said. "I -- it was this morning. I wanted to tell you at once but John said I had to have a honeymoon of at least two hours."
She sat back and narrowed her eyes. "Weren't you the one who called honeymoons sex holidays?"
He blushed. "Yes."
"Two hours is hardly long enough for one good shag, Sherlock Holmes."
"We didn't --" he started, but broke off when he saw she was laughing. "Well," he said, instead. "I may have been slightly mistaken about the purpose of a honeymoon."
“I don’t want to use his name. It’s — distinctive. You could Google him.”
“I don’t Google my clients, or their family members,” Rhys said.
“Even so.” John paused. “I’m going to call him William.”
The Other Side of an Invisible Wall (The Feelings Remix), 2025
Sherlock looked up from his violin as John came in, three hours early, and hung up his jacket without speaking. He set the violin down and waited to see what John would do. After a moment, standing still by the door, John came over and slid his arms around Sherlock's waist, hooked his fingers into the back of Sherlock's waistband, leaned his head on Sherlock's chest.
He wrapped his arms around John's shoulders, held on tightly. He was allowed this, now. "John."
“Lucy — wanted to be my girlfriend." John's voice was muffled against Sherlock's chest. "I realized partway through dinner. She — I ended it, but she’s very upset, and I — all I could think was of getting home to you. Of having someone hold me when it meant something to me.”
Sherlock tucked John in more closely to him and synced their breathing. After a minute -- endless and sweet -- John took a step back. "Tea?"
They went to bed early, and John curled his body around Sherlock's, pressed his mouth to the nape of Sherlock's neck. His heartbeat was too fast, and his left arm twitched every so often. Sherlock turned in his arms. "Why was she upset? I’ve seen your messages to her. You never lied, not even by omission.” She'd known John was married, that he was in an open relationship, that he was interested only in casual sex, that--
“She thought I was lying,” John said. “She thought — she was reading meanings into everything, into everything I thought was upfront and clear. It happens, when people really want something, sometimes.”
Sherlock leaned forward and kissed him, and felt John smile against his mouth. “Are we deluding ourselves, that we can do this?” he said, pulling back, but John reeled him back in. They breathed together, John's exhalations puffing softly against Sherlock's neck.
Eventually, John shifted away, just a touch, moving his head into the crook of Sherlock's elbow. "I love you," he said, and pressed a kiss to Sherlock's upper arm. His breathing and heartbeat slowed as he drifted into sleep, but Sherlock stayed awake a long time.
"I want," he said, to the top of John's head, in the small hours of the morning. "John. I want not to be deluding ourselves." John nuzzled closer, never waking.
In the morning, Sherlock walked Watson to school, as usual. "You're thinking very hard," Watson said, holding his hand. She was nearly at the age where she wouldn't want to do that anymore, but for now she was small and content, observant, the child he never thought he'd have.
"Yes," he said. "I have a lot to think about."
She looked up at him, shrewd, keen. "That's the look adults get before they have important talks with other adults," she said. He briefly wished he hadn't taught her so well, but she squeezed his hand. "Dad was humming the waltz you wrote this morning, when he made my toast. He's in a good mood. He's thinking of you and Mum."
"Both of us?"
"He thinks of you together a lot," she said, and swung their joined hands gently. "I mean. He married both of you."
At the edge of the schoolyard, she hugged him and ran off, her blond hair flying behind her, and he turned for home. John had been thinking of him this morning, him and Mary. He'd just ended a sex friendship the night before, and he'd been angry at first, then warm, soft and loving in their shared bed.
"I want," Sherlock said, to a lamppost.
John was his husband, and John had said -- repeatedly -- that Sherlock meant more to him than sex. He'd left more than one woman, over the years, over Sherlock. Surely -- surely he could ask?
When he got home, John was seated at the kitchen table, cleaning his gun.
Sherlock leaned his hands on the back of a chair. “You said once. That if I — if I minded you having sex with other people, that you wouldn’t anymore.”
"Yes," John said. He set down the bit of gun he was working on, his hands still, his face calm.
“I mind,” Sherlock said, breaking eye contact, staring down at his own hands. I mind. I want.
“OK,” John said, and went back to his task. “We tried it, it didn't work for us."
"You might miss sex," Sherlock said, sitting down across from him. He wanted to reach out; he wanted John to hold his hand and tell him this was all right. "But I no longer wish to share you. Any part of you. You can have sex with me, if you want."
"I feel like you were expecting me to argue with you. I'm not arguing, I'm agreeing. You're so contrary, it's only to be expected that you don't know the difference--"
Sherlock laughed, relieved -- John sounded amused, affectionate -- and John smiled down at the table. "I want you to have everything you want," Sherlock said, after a moment.
"I have you." John wiped his hands on a cloth, came around the table, and pulled Sherlock close.
"Why don't you tell me about your wife?"
"She's a complicated topic."
"I don't have anything else to do."
"Right," John said. "Right." He shrugged his shoulders and thought about all the things he couldn't say about Mary, and then the things he could. "Mary was -- unusual. She -- she was the only person I dated to understand how important William was, and that was amazing, just -- feeling like I didn't have to be at the center of a conflict between my girlfriend and my best friend. But then, she met me when he was -- away -- and maybe that had something to do with it. She and I were really solid, practically engaged, before he came home."
He took a deep breath, and suddenly wanted to rub his wedding ring. He'd stopped wearing it when he started dating again, tucked it into a box with Mary's rings and let the mark of it fade from his hand.
“There’s a lot I can’t tell you about her.”
John ground his teeth. He didn’t want to talk about this. He could almost see Ella, her eyebrows raised, shaking her head at him. She’d pushed him to talk, over and over, and she’d been right, mostly, so he made himself start. “Because I don't -- there's a lot I don't know." She had a past she didn’t talk about. She had a past that killed her. "She -- hid a lot of things. From me. From -- anyone who could have helped her, until it was too late.” He felt anger swell up in him, anger he thought he was past, and started to stumble on his words. “She — she hurt William, once. I — physically, I mean. He — it was bad. If she hadn’t been pregnant I would have left her over it, and I — I loved her, but I never quite forgave her.”
“Did William forgive her?”
“Yes.” John rubbed the empty space on his left hand. Sherlock’s peculiar combination of ruthlessness and emotional vulnerability had meant forgiving Mary, had meant killing a man in cold blood, as an act of love. “William loved her, too — yes, romantically — yes, she knew, and I knew. We talked about it, once, not long before she died.”
“How did you feel about that?”
“Like I ought to have been bothered by it. I — there’s always a part of me that thinks I have to conform, have to be just like everyone else, have to become invisible. It should have bothered me, but it didn’t. It wasn’t like anyone was having an affair.”
“You didn’t think it was a betrayal of your friendship, your best friend falling in love with your wife?”
“No. God, no.”
The Polonaise, Abbreviated (2025)
"Teach me to dance." John looked down at him, smiling.
"I already taught you to dance."
"Teach me something else. Or just dance with me, Sherlock." John bent over, kissed him, tugged him up and close. "You asked me to, when I asked you to marry me. I like it."
Sherlock grinned, turned so that John was standing at his side, and offered his hand. “Now, the polonaise—“
“Dick,” John said, but took his hand, let Sherlock walk him through a few steps.
“I actually don’t remember how this goes,” Sherlock said. “It’s boring and I deleted it.”
John giggled, and used Sherlock’s arm to twirl himself in until they were facing each other again. “No, come on, I know you love this.”
“I do,” Sherlock said, and this time he drew John in and arranged their arms for a waltz. John followed him willingly, his sock feet soft on the floor, his hand warm in Sherlock's.
“I bought a bed.”
“All right,” Rhys said.
John fidgeted. “When I broke up with Kate, I was very angry with her, but she’s not wrong that it’s odd, sharing a bedroom like we do.”
“Just because something is odd doesn’t mean it’s wrong, John.”
“No, I know. And I don’t want to change anything in a way that takes me — further away. So. A bed.” He gestured, as if giving a gift.
Rhys frowned. “I don’t follow.”
“We have two small beds in that room, and I bought the largest bed I could find. I’m having it delivered the next time he visits his family.”
“That’s a big step, sharing a bed. Do you think surprising him with it is the right decision?”
John flexed his left hand, looked down at the scars on his knuckles where, once, he’d split them open on Sherlock’s body. “He always wants me closer,” he said. “I want to be closer.”
“Yet you still feel you can’t talk to him about your feelings.”
John laughed, sharp and cynical, before he could stop himself. He knew how they both felt, but— the odds of Sherlock getting defensive and vicious— “He's objected to what he calls 'romantic entanglement' in the past. And I -- I told him, you miss your chance before you know it, but now --“ He shook his head. “He likes to avoid these discussions, anyway.”
"Have you considered that you’re wrong about his feelings?” asked Rhys.
“No,” said John, because that was something he was absolutely sure of.
"John, some people don't feel romantic love. Or they feel it only rarely, in very specific circumstances."
John could feel the blood pounding in his veins, rushing through his body. He could hear his heartbeat, loud in his own ears. "No," he said, "no, that's -- that'd be me."
After a minute, Rhys handed him some facial tissue.
Over Tea & Biscuits II (2025)
Sherlock twisted his wedding ring around his finger, and Mrs. Hudson poured the tea. "There, dear," she said, "now, tell me what's troubling you. You've been indecently happy ever since you got married, and now you look like, well." She waved her hand up and down.
"I -- I asked John to." He looked up at her. "We had an open relationship, and I asked him to stop. Did I do the wrong thing?"
Mrs. Hudson stared at him, and put a biscuit on his saucer. "What makes you think it might've been the wrong thing," she said, after a moment.
"I mean. Should I have married John? When I can't be everything he needs?"
"Do you mean, because he likes women as well?"
"He only likes women," Sherlock said. "And I'm -- I'm not gay, either."
She patted his hand. "Why don't you tell me what you are, dear, because you two were always -- well. I was very surprised by Mary, let me tell you. But I'm all ears."
He laughed and laced his fingers through hers. "I don't know what John is, exactly. How he identifies. But he doesn't have sex with men, and I--" he took a deep breath "--I'm asexual." It was the first time he'd said it out loud. John knows -- John figured it out, John gave him the terminology -- but he'd never said it, before, not to anyone.
"So you -- don't want to?" She made an odd little hand gesture, and he rolled his eyes.
She hummed softly. "Well, there's all sorts in this funny old world. I've seen much stranger things than a man who doesn't want to get his prick wet, Sherlock, and I don't see that what you and John do in bed -- or don't do -- really matters to anyone but you and John. You're going to have to talk to him about it. He's hardly going to think badly of you for it, is he?"
"I have rather too much experience with John thinking the worst of me," he said, darkly, and she laughed.
"Buck up, dear. And drink your tea before it goes cold."
Complicated Sexualities (2021)
“John,” Rhys said, “I think we should talk about what happened in our last session.”
“I’d honestly rather not.” John slumped back into his chair, knowing it was a pointless protest.
“You reacted very strongly to the concept of aromantic people.”
“Is that the word?”
John closed his eyes. “They -- William and Mary -- they once, they told me -- no, he told me, but she agreed, that I was attracted to a specific sort of person. I was angry. I wanted them to be wrong.” He took a deep breath. “And William — calls me a romantic, sometimes, and he means that I want — that I — and I do want romance. It’s just, I don’t feel it. I try. I have tried. I used to try all the time, with everyone I dated, wanting to feel—and I didn’t.”
“How do you mean?” Rhys, when John snuck a look at him, looked attentive, not as if he were judging John for — whatever.
“I—after I met him, I’d abandon my girlfriends for William all the time, even though I knew it bothered them. One of them said, when she broke up with me, that I was — his boyfriend, that I was a good boyfriend to him, not to her.”
“You didn’t love the women you dated. Did you want to?”
“Desperately, but I never — and then there was Mary. I’ve told you — about that.”
“Yes,” said Rhys. “That she was the first person you fell in love with.”
“The first person I was sexually attracted to that I fell in love with,” John said. “I. There were. I’ve been thinking, since last time, about that, and there were two people before her. They were both men. One of them was William.” He shuddered, wrapped his arms around himself, and smiled ruefully at Rhys. “I didn’t know, because I didn’t want to have sex with them — I didn’t understand the feeling. The romance I wanted so much was right there, I finally had it, and I didn’t even notice because my cock wasn’t interested. What does that say about me?”
“John, it’s not unheard of to have a disconnect between one’s romantic orientation and one’s sexual orientation. It’s unusual, but I wouldn’t call it rare.” He smiled, just a little. "Among heterosexual men who find themselves deeply in love with a man, though, the percentage is a bit higher."
"I'd think most of those would be bi, not straight," John said. "I thought -- well, I thought I might be, except it's just him, and except that my cock still isn't interested." He rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands, steadied his breathing. "Honestly, I wish I was bi. It'd be simpler."
"Even people for whom every aspect of themselves aligns rarely have uncomplicated sexualities. People can be cis and heterosexual and heteroromantic and never have an instant of questioning any of that, and they still question whether it's normal to like the exact kind of person they like, or if it's weird to prefer oral sex to vaginal, or if their porn preferences aren't secretly strange."
John snorted. "William once said that if he wanted to look at naked women, he stole my laptop."
"Yes, but I think the naked women are incidental to that." He looked down at his hands and laughed. "He sometimes looks at the -- the more intimate ones of my wife. He leaves them open for me to find." There are a few Sherlock favors: Mary, topless and wearing John's boxers, laughing; Mary naked in the shower; Mary dancing barefoot in knickers and bra; Mary after sex, her legs curled up and skin flushed pink. Sherlock seems to like the dancing one best.
"Why do you think he does that?"
He knew exactly why. He could almost hear Sherlock saying it: Because she was beautiful. She was alive, and here, and I miss her. You miss her. It is what it is.
John shrugged. "I told you he loved her too."
Touch Me Anywhere (2025)
They curled together in the dark. John’s left hand rested heavy on Sherlock’s hip, his wedding ring warm where it touched Sherlock's skin above his pyjama bottoms. They’d shared a bottle of wine and long, drugging kisses all evening. John was half-hard against Sherlock’s thigh, relaxed in Sherlock’s arms. Sherlock shifted. “Do you want to —” he gestured, looking down.
“Hm,” said John, “do you want me to? Otherwise I’ll take care of things in the shower tomorrow morning.”
“I’ve never seen you during,” Sherlock said, carefully, thinking it through. “Before. After. But not — I don’t want to get you off, exactly, but I want to see you get off.”
John tucked himself in, closer, his body warm against Sherlock’s, solid and lean and infinitely vulnerable. “Do you know why I changed therapists?” he asked. He meant years ago, when Rosie was six, a few months before John bought a large bed and moved himself and Sherlock into it.
“No.” He’d been annoyed, but John had refused to discuss the issue.
“I wanted to talk to someone who specialized in sexual minorities and mixed-orientation relationships,” John said. He kissed Sherlock’s collarbone, and Sherlock could feel that he was smiling. “One thing we talked about was — if you wanted to have sex with me, what were my boundaries about that? Since I’ve never had sex with men. He thought I should know my limits.”
Sherlock swallowed. “And?”
“And. You can touch me anywhere. You can put your mouth anywhere. Don’t put anything up my arse without discussing it beforehand. I don’t have any kinks that I know about, but if you’re interested in any we can talk about them.”
Sherlock rolled them, trapping John’s body beneath his own, pressed him down into their bed. “You did this when we weren’t even — we weren’t together. Yet.”
“We sort of were,” said John. “I mean, we hadn’t said anything, but I knew I loved you and you loved me.” He reached up, ran his fingers over Sherlock’s jaw. “I already knew that I wasn’t ever leaving you again, not if I could help it, so —”
“Oh,” said Sherlock, and kissed him.
“All that,” John said, when Sherlock drew back, “was to say that if you want to watch me get off, that’s fine. And you can touch me during, if you want.” He blushed, and smiled up at Sherlock. Sherlock snapped the waistband of John's pants, tugged them an inch down John's hips, and then John laughed and took them off.
“Show me,” Sherlock said, sliding his hand over John’s stomach. “I want to see.”
"Are you two sharing a bed now?"
"How'd that go?"
John closed his eyes, thought of Sherlock's quickly-hidden shock, the way they'd almost quarreled, before ending up side-by-side on the bed. "He -- he, I don't want to say reacted badly, because he didn't. He -- I think he was frightened, at first. He's always -- he thinks he's going to scare me away."
John pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes. "Not unless he turns to cannibalism." He sighed. "No, the thing is -- when I try to say things to him, I say the wrong things. So I'm trying more -- doing things. One day I'll do the thing that convinces him, and then -- maybe he'll stop being so afraid. Maybe then he'll understand I'm not going anywhere."
"John. You seem able to be straightforward with me about how you feel. Why not with him?"
John shook his head.
"Think about that, will you?"
He lay, drowsing, in John’s arms, his head on John’s stomach, John’s shins tangled in-between his thighs. He loved sleeping like this, naked or nearly-naked, curled into each other, breathing each other’s air. He let his mind drift, cataloguing John’s scent, the texture of his skin, the crisp curl of his chest hair, the gurgles his intestines made. He thought about the way John could make him shudder and squirm and beg to be kissed, and asked, “What’s the difference, anyway, between sexual pleasure and intense physical pleasure?”
“Hm,” said John. “Do you wank? I’ve never asked.”
“Yes,” said Sherlock. Not often, but he’d learned to identify a certain restlessness in his body that was relieved by masturbation.
“How does that feel, to you?”
Sherlock considered. “Like the release of pressure. A relief.”
“Is it pleasurable?”
John shifted underneath him. “Like scratching an itch pleasurable, or like me giving you a massage pleasurable?”
John's massages were spine-melting and delightful, and nothing at all like any wank he'd ever had. “The former.”
“Ah.” John was silent a moment, stroking his fingers over Sherlock’s ribs. “For me,” he said, slowly, “orgasm is...a combination, I suppose, of both things, the scratching and the massage. And sexual pleasure is that, plus the buildup beforehand, the creation of the itch, if you will. Except that the itch itself feels good, and I want it, and I want it not to stop, until suddenly it’s too much and I’m frantic to scratch it.”
Sherlock sighed. “And for me it’s just an itch.” Disappointing. He wanted to give John everything, but apparently he couldn’t give him the experience of being desired.
John tightened his arm, almost as if he’d heard Sherlock’s thoughts. “You crave intimacy the way some people crave sex,” he said.
The East Wind I (2022)
"John, do you realize you call William her parent?"
He'd told a story about Sherlock taking Rosie to a party; he'd called her "our daughter." Of course Rhys had noticed. "He's raised her since she was a baby."
"Does he know that you consider him her parent?"
"Five years ago. We -- I asked for a parental responsibility agreement. A few months ago, he called her his daughter, to his brother, in front of me." John shrugged. "If he doesn't know, I'd be surprised."
"All right." Rhys studied him for a moment, then essayed, "You've never mentioned his family before. Is there just his brother?"
"No." He shifted, crossed one leg over the other. "No, he has sister, and his parents are still alive."
"Do you get along with them?"
"I suppose." Aside from the sheer impossibility of getting along with Eurus, at any rate.
"That doesn't sound very positive, John."
John frowned and scratched at his eyebrow. "I don't -- they like me fine. I don't...." He paused. The last time they'd visited Sherlock's parents, for Easter a year ago, his mother fussed over Rosie, and Sherlock went outside and smoked like a chimney for an hour solid.
At home, after Rosie was safely asleep, Sherlock poured them both whisky with a shaking hand. "I don't like the memories," he said, handing a glass to John, standing too close, searching John's face for something. John brushed his fingers over Sherlock's arm, and Sherlock took a deep breath and said, "They only had me because they were trying for a girl. They wanted a girl. They never -- I was never what they wanted."
John wished, abruptly, that he could have met Uncle Rudi. The gently mocking tone of Mycroft and Sherlock's voices when they speak of their uncle, the obvious pleasure they take in recounting his quirks, speaks volumes about who actually cared for them both in the aftermath of Musgrave Hall.
He said, carefully, "He's not close to his sister. And if I didn't know him so well, I'd think his parents were lovely people. But I know too much about what kind of parents they are."
"Do you worry about what kind of parent he is?"
"No," said John. "No, he's nothing like them."
Mrs. Hudson Babysits (2026)
"I'm eleven," Watson said, aggrieved. "I don't need Gran to babysit me!"
"You're eleven, which is why she's going back downstairs after you're asleep," John said.
“Why can’t I just come with you? It’s not a school night.”
John pinched the bridge of his nose, and Sherlock stepped in. “Watson, your father and I are going on a date.”
“What do you need to go on a date for? You’re married! And you never dated before you were married, anyway.” She had her hands on her hips, her lips pressed together, her head forward. Sherlock had seen that attitude on John a hundred times, sometimes right before a flurry of violence. It was substantially more adorable on their daughter, he had to admit.
He changed tack. “Watson. What do you imagine is going to happen on this date?”
“You’re going to get nicer food than I’ll have at home,” she said, “and stay up late, and probably see a movie I want to see without me.”
“Possibly,” said Sherlock. “But I must warn you, there is a better than even chance that your father is going to stick his tongue down my throat, and his hand up under my shirt.”
John put his hands on his hips and stared at the ground, shaking his head and — Sherlock spotted the signs — trying not to laugh.
“Ew,” said Watson. “For real?” She stared at her father, and then turned back to Sherlock. “Gross. Nevermind. Can I get a Chinese for me and Gran?”
Romantic History (2022)
“Let’s discuss your romantic history some more, John.”
“I don’t have a romantic history, that’s just the thing, I have a sexual history.”
“You said you’d been in love three times.”
“Do you feel as if aromantic is the right label for you?”
“The — yes. I think so. I feel — it’s so specific, what someone needs to be. All three of them were — alike.”
John covered his face and laughed. “If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me. I can’t believe myself.”
Dangerous, John wanted to say. Killers. Instead he said, "You really wouldn't believe me."
In his head, he heard Sherlock's deep voice, strained by the gunshot Mary'd given him, saying You’re abnormally attracted to dangerous situations and people. Everyone he'd loved: a soldier, an assassin, a -- whatever Sherlock does, these days. He knows Mycroft tried to arrange it so that Sherlock rarely has to kill, but he also knows just how capable, how cold, Sherlock can be. How vicious and cruel, when he feels it necessary.
He always wants to step closer, when they're both buzzing with the high of the chase. The visceral thrill of having someone so dangerous close enough to touch, and the way he can't help but want everything Sherlock will give him.
"John?" said Rhys, after a long time.
John shook his head. "Can we just pretend it's serial killers? I only love serial killers. It's more believable than reality."
What Is Real? (2026)
Sherlock had learned that if he sprawled in just the right way on the sofa, John would bring him a glass of wine and arrange himself over Sherlock, settling in with his head on Sherlock's chest and his hips in the vee of Sherlock's legs. If Sherlock stroked his back, John would make soft, contented noises and plant gentle kisses along Sherlock's sternum. If Sherlock turned on a movie, John would stay there the entire time, warm and relaxed, almost as if he enjoyed the contact as much as Sherlock did.
"Hm?" John blinked up at him, smiling.
"Do you miss sex?"
John laughed. "Sherlock, we're having sex."
"No, we're not."
"If there was a murder victim, and we found out he'd been spending his nights in bed with another man, and that sometimes that other man held him and kissed him while he wanked, would you, or would you not, say those two men were having sex?"
Sherlock waved his hand, irritated. "Fine," he said. "But you know that's not what I mean."
"I really, really don't," said John. "We're having sex. I don't miss sex because I'm having sex. With you."
Sherlock shifted uncomfortably. John didn't move away. "It's not real sex, John."
John made a thoughtful noise. "It depends on what you mean by that," he said. "The thing is, you -- you're not just asexual, you know? You've also made a choice not to do certain things. Until you started having sex with me, you were, what, celibate your entire life?"
"I did -- some things -- with Janine. But essentially, yes."
John stroked his chest, fingers warm through Sherlock's shirt. "We've talked about my boundaries," he said.
"We haven't talked about yours."
Sherlock pressed into his hand, arching his body under John's, inviting more contact. "Whatever you want to do is fine," he said.
"No," said John. "That's -- no. You avoid this every time I bring it up, by saying anything is fine, and I'm pretty sure that's not true." He sighed, his chest moving against Sherlock's stomach. "You're a person, not a sex doll."
"I really don't mind."
"You really don't know, you mean. You haven't thought about your own limits." He tightened his arms. "Sherlock, I wouldn't treat a stranger I pulled in a bar that way, I'm sure as hell not doing it to you."
"Then I don't know how to answer the question."
"Okay." John bit his lower lip in thought. "I'm just -- I'm trying to remember how my therapist walked me through this. How about -- what's the thing you least want me to do to you, ever?"
"Not happening. And I'm not going to punch you, either, before you say that. What sex thing do you least want me to do to you, that you think I'm actually likely to try?"
Sherlock closed his eyes, breathed John in, the warm human-and-wool-and spice smell of him. "Don't touch my genitals." The thought made him feel faintly queasy; he could tolerate it if John wanted it, but he'd rather not, if he was completely honest.
"All right," John said. "Anything else?"
"I don't mind touching yours but I don't want to be the one to -- you have to get yourself off."
"We've been doing that," John said. "That works well for me. You seem to like it."
Sherlock thought of John's back pressed against his front, head on his shoulder, body arched, the hot splash of semen on his arm, the heat of the skin on John's stomach under his palm, the tremble of John's thighs against his. The way John smelled, the way he shuddered and went boneless, afterwards. "I like it."
"Good. Anything else?"
Sherlock frowned, eyes still closed. "Not that I can think of."
John kissed his chest. “It seems to me that there are lots of ways we can be intimate without making you have some kind of sex you don’t want, then.”
Sherlock looked at the ceiling and curled his fingers into John’s hair, uncertain if what he could give was enough.
Looking Down At You Looking Up (2022)
“There’s a term I’d like you to consider,” Rhys said. “We’ve been talking about the aromantic spectrum, and you reacted to that very strongly, identified with it very quickly. As if it gave you a way to understand something about yourself that had been bothering you.”
“There’s a term for people who feel romantic attraction under very specific, sometimes quite narrow, circumstances. That would fit with your history, but if you don’t like this term, you’re free to discard it.”
“Get on with it,” John said, irritated.
“Grey-romantic,” Rhys said. John pulled a face, and Rhys laughed. "All right, you don't like it."
“In any case, what’s the point?” John said. “It’s not like I’m ever going to love anyone else.”
“You don’t know that.”
John thought about sitting between Sherlock and Rosie on the sofa, watching The Princess Bride. Westley brushed Buttercup’s hair from her face and said, Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while. Later, Sherlock pretended to be The Dread Pirate Roberts, chasing Rosie around while she shrieked with laughter, until he tripped and bruised his knee, and John helped him up, Sherlock's hand warm in his palm, Sherlock's pale eyes crinkled at the corners. “There’s no one else for me,” he said.
Take You To Bed (2026)
John came up behind him in their bedroom and kissed his shoulder. "Leave your pyjamas off?" he said.
Sherlock looked down at the fabric in his hands. "All right." They slept in only their pants, sometimes, after John had come in his arms, but they never went to bed that way. John kissed him again, and pulled back the covers on Sherlock's side of the bed, folding them aside. He sat cross-legged on the bed, reading on his phone, as Sherlock cleaned his teeth.
Sherlock came over to the bed, and John set his phone down and took his hand. "I want to take you to bed," he said, softly, and Sherlock nodded. This had been coming for a while, and he still wasn't certain how he felt about it.
"What should I--" he gestured, helplessly, at the bed.
"On your front, first," John said, smoothing his hand down Sherlock's side. "Okay?"
John straddled his hips, laid his hands on Sherlock's shoulders, bent down and kissed him behind his ear. “Relax,” he said. “I won’t do anything I don’t think you’ll enjoy.”
“I know.” It was only that John’s understanding of physical enjoyment was so different from his own that made him nervous, Sherlock told himself.
John kissed underneath his ear again, then the nape of his neck, and then down his spine, what felt like a hundred soft imprints of his mouth on Sherlock's skin. He paused at the small of Sherlock's back, and then kissed back up, rested his forehead between Sherlock's shoulder blades. "I want to take care of you," he said. "I want to make you feel loved."
"You do," Sherlock said. "Every day, John, you must know that."
"Tell me if you don't like something," John said, and pressed his chest to Sherlock's back, embraced him with arms and legs. Sherlock shivered, pleasantly, at the rub of John's body hair on his skin, at John's lungs expanding against his back. "I like that," he said. "You around me, like this."
"Mm," John said. "I like doing it."
Too soon, though, John moved away, shifting his weight off of Sherlock. He kissed the small of Sherlock's back again, turned him over, and kissed his chest.
"Can I take your pants off?" he asked, one finger tracing the waistband.
John laughed against his skin. "Can I take my pants off?"
Sherlock pulled him up, kissed his mouth, tried to hide his nervousness. It wasn't like he hadn't been naked with John before. "Yes."
Boyfriend Things (2022)
"I'm seeing someone."
Rhys tilted his head to the side. "Oh?"
"Just. A woman." He plucked a thread from the seam of his trousers; caught himself tapping the fingers of his left hand on the arm of the chair.
"How do you feel about that?"
John thought about Sherlock, leaning in close, inhaling John's post-sex scent. Telling him not to shower. The way he'd wanted to back Sherlock against a wall, hold him there, let them breathe each other endlessly. "Fine."
"You started seeing me because you're in love with William. You tell me he's in love with you. I'd expect you to have feelings about seeing someone else. I'd expect him to have feelings about it."
"It's fine." John turned towards the window, watching Rhys from the corner of his eye. Rhys waited, arms crossed, face neutral. "It's just sex. He doesn't -- it doesn't bother him, if it's just sex."
"Have you two talked about that?"
"No. But he's not subtle. It only bothers him if I do -- you know, boyfriend things."
"What are 'boyfriend things'?"
John exhaled, letting his shoulders sag. "Holding hands. Spending all day together. Running errands together. Gifts." He paused, looked at the ceiling for a minute. "Cuddling. Meeting our daughter."
"All right. So, he doesn't like you to do boyfriend things. Do you want to do those things?"
"Not with the women I see."
"Do you think that perhaps William hesitates to offer a different relationship, a committed romantic relationship, because he thinks he can't give you the sex you need?"
"I don't -- I wouldn't make him!"
"I'm not suggesting that you would, John. I'm wondering if that's a discussion you two need to have."
John took a deep breath, leaned backwards, closed his eyes. "I'm not sure we can have sex. I -- I mean -- I've only ever been attracted to women, and he's -- if there's such a thing as aromantic, is there such a thing as asexual?"
"He's that. I mean, he didn't use that word, but we talked about that, after I got back from -- her place, the first time." Sherlock had curled close to him, wanting to be held, not wanting to ask, and John had pulled him in. "We -- talk a lot in bed, actually. It's lovely."
"Can you tell me about that?"
"Just -- you know. About everything."
"Do you touch each other when you do this?"
"Yes. Usually we -- we hold hands. Sometimes -- " He broke off, and thought about Sherlock's forehead pressed to his collarbone, Sherlock's arm slung around his middle, the herbal scent of Sherlock's hair. Rhys made a thoughtful noise in his throat, and John said, "What?"
John blinked at him.
Rhys leaned forward, the faintest hint of exasperation on his face. "John. 'Boyfriend things'?"
"Are you certain you're not already in a mutual romantic relationship with him?"
John kissed him, and stroked his body from ribcage to hip, and back. Sherlock leaned into the touch. “No genital stimulation, hm?” said John, and Sherlock nipped at his mouth until John pulled away and looked down at him. He’d shaved his face smooth, and Sherlock touched it, feeling the faint tug of moisturized skin against his dry fingertips. “Incidental contact all right?”
John kissed him again and shifted down the bed. “You still doing fine?”
“Yes,” said Sherlock, again, and John slid his hands down Sherlock’s legs, parted Sherlock’s knees, knelt between them. Sherlock closed his eyes, breathed out. He’d — he hadn’t explicitly said John couldn’t do what he was clearly intending to do, and he probably wouldn’t mind it, but it seemed a bit — much, for a first try. He tried not to tense too noticeably; John would be careful not to hurt him.
John said, “Here, put your legs around my waist,” and Sherlock hitched in another breath, obeyed.
John stroked down his chest, palm open, fingers trailing. “Tell me if you want me to stop.” Sherlock felt a touch on his stomach, and then John’s hands firmly on his hips, and then a kiss to his navel, and then John’s tongue, running up his left side, hipbone to the hollow where his ribcage ended. His eyes flew open; that was — not what he’d expected the next touch to be. John did it again, and Sherlock gasped, arching into the feeling. John laughed, and pressed his stomach back down. “Lovely,” he said, and bent back towards Sherlock’s body.
The next stroke of John’s tongue was farther right, an overlapping stripe of sensation: firm muscle, slickness, John tasting him —
Six long, slick slides of his tongue later, John nudged Sherlock’s navel with his nose, dipped his tongue inside it, hummed happily as he licked up to Sherlock’s xiphoid process. “You smell amazing,” he said, resting his forehead there. “Absolutely out of this world.”
Sherlock brushed his fingers through John’s hair, and John pressed into his hand. “That’s amazing, too, do that,” he said, and Sherlock ran his fingers firmly over John’s scalp, watched the strands winding over his knuckles. On the left side, his skin against John’s was damp and faintly tacky; on the other side, silky-soft. John turned his head, kissed Sherlock’s fingers, and drew back far enough to bite, gently, at Sherlock’s right hip bone. “Where was I,” he said, and looked at Sherlock through his eyelashes. He started over at Sherlock’s right hip, one — two — three — Sherlock whimpered softly, in the back of his throat, overwhelmed by warmth — four — five —
One last long stroke of his tongue, and — oh, the scar left by Mary’s bullet — but John did not flinch. He slid his tongue over it, followed the path of his mouth with his hand, held his palm over it for the briefest second. Sherlock gasped, laughed, said “Mary,” and John shivered and kissed the scar again before sitting back on his heels. He took Sherlock’s right leg and pushed it in front of him, to the side, down onto the bed.
“Like this,” he said, and laid Sherlock out before moving over him, settling himself firmly astride Sherlock’s thighs. He bent down and kissed Sherlock, unhurried and affectionate, left hand on Sherlock’s jaw and right hand by his ear, on the pillow, holding him up. “How do you feel,” John murmured, and Sherlock slid his hands up over John’s thighs, to his hips, his ribs, brushed his fingers over John’s nipples. “That’s not an answer,” John said, and kissed his cheekbone, his eyebrow, ran his tongue over Sherlock’s orbital bone.
“Cared for,” Sherlock said. “Warm.” He hesitated, but John had been clear about needing honesty from him, if they were going to — John called it “be intimate” rather than “have sex”, but— “Apprehensive.”
John nuzzled his ear. “Good apprehensive, or bad apprehensive?” Sherlock hesitated — it could not have been more than the merest fraction of a second — but it was enough for John to draw back and look down into his face. “What’s worrying you, love?”
Sherlock licked his lips. “Before. You were — I’m not opposed to you penetrating me, John, but I — if you’re going to do that, I need — you need to talk me through it— “
“Not on the menu, Sherlock. Not tonight, maybe not ever.”
Sherlock pushed up on his elbow. “Why not? I’m not ever going to want it, John, if that’s what you’re waiting for.”
John laughed and kissed him again, and Sherlock relaxed into that, into the familiarity and pleasure of John’s mouth, John’s weight on him. “No, I’m not waiting for a man who doesn’t feel sexual desire to want it. I’m not a complete idiot.” He squeezed his knees into Sherlock’s sides. “But I’m not going to do things to you just because you’ll tolerate almost anything I do, either.” He bent his head, licked from Sherlock’s left nipple all the way to his collarbone.
“John,” Sherlock said, and John licked him again, long and firm, up the length of his sternum to the hollow of his throat.
“If it’s something you’re curious about,” John said — right nipple to collarbone — “or you want to share your body with me because you want a particular kind of intimacy” — sixth intercostal space to right armpit — “that’s what I’m waiting for, Sherlock.” — back to the left nipple, graze of teeth —
“John,” he said, and surged upright, wrapping his arms around John, pressing his face into John’s chest. He felt warmth, relief, love; a sudden, intense closeness he wasn’t sure what to do with, but was desperate to keep.
“Right here,” John said, arms strong around Sherlock’s shoulders, cheek against Sherlock’s hair. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m right here.”
The East Wind II (2022)
"William's sister is dying."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
John thought of Sherlock's careful distance as they stood outside Musgrave Hall, the steadiness of his voice, and then, months later, Sherlock locking his arms around John, burying his face in John's stomach, shaking. "They're not close."
"How's he handling it?"
"Not well. I don't think he meant to tell me."
"We were out with Rosie. He just -- said it, like he couldn't not say it, but he didn't seem like he wanted to." He twisted his fingers together. "I hugged him. Two years ago, I wouldn't've -- I wouldn't've hugged him, not in public." He stared out the window. "Maybe not even at home. I didn't even think about it, I just did it."
"So what's changed?"
John took a deep breath and shook his head. Last month, he woke one morning and Sherlock was stroking his forearm upwards, watching his arm hairs crinkle against his palm. John had reached out with his other hand, run his fingers through Sherlock's hair, watched Sherlock's face go blank even as he leaned into John's hand.
"I suppose, now I know."
Future Negotiations Will Take Place From A Position of Strength (2026)
“What you did to me, I want to do to you,” Sherlock said. He stretched his toes until they curled over the arm of the sofa. “The tongue thing. I want to do that to you.”
John set his tablet down. “All right. I’ll probably get hard, you know.”
“I like it when you get hard,” Sherlock said, pressing his fingers into his chin, staring up at the ceiling. He considered, then offered, “You could get off, and I could lick you clean afterwards.”
“Christ,” John said, and Sherlock darted a look at him — flushed, pupils dilated — and smiled.
“Oh,” he said, “someone likes that idea.”
“Quite,” John said.