A cheer goes up from the other side of the pub and Sally clenches her hand around her pint glass, fighting down the urge to glare at the freak. Beside her, Lestrade gives her a remonstrating look. The entire reason he’d invited Holmes and Watson to pub quiz night was because the special theme is medical properties and both Holmes and Watson are supposed to be good at that. The last question of the previous round had to do with a Madonna song, however, and the freak’s special talents hadn’t extended to that. Or any of the other pop-themed questions in the round, for that matter. He’d probably say it was irrelevant or something annoying like that. If he even knows who Madonna is. She still hasn’t forgotten the time when he’d been knocked out at a crime scene and upon being revived, the medics had asked him who the current prime minister was. Watson had had to interfere and say that he never knew things like that, just so that they wouldn’t perform brain surgery on the freak or something.
Speaking of which, the freak’s pet is sitting even closer to him than usual. Sally still finds that weird. Watson seems like a normal sort, apart from his inexplicable admiration for and tolerance of the psychopath to his left. She’d thought he was well out of it when Holmes had faked his death. He’d got married, moved out of that odd flat and into the suburbs. But now it seems he’s back to square one. His wife wandered off – moved to Finland, Lestrade said. Probably got tired of coming in second to Watson’s schoolboy obsession with Holmes. She didn’t really blame the woman. And now here they are again, all but in each other’s laps as Holmes half-ignores his beer, Watson is doubly talkative to make up for the freak’s social shortcomings.
Although he hasn’t been that bad so far. He’s said fewer insulting things to everyone on the team than he might usually, and everyone else seems to find it hilarious even though it’s obviously not meant to be. His barbs always carry a certain sting of truth, though he’d likely freeze up and withdraw if anyone had the nerve to say anything of a similar nature to him.
“Nice one, there,” Sally says to him now. “Remind me why you’re here, again?”
“Donovan,” Lestrade says, a note of warning in his voice .
Holmes looks at her as though he’s all but forgotten she was there. “Pardon me?”
Watson leans across him, toward her. “Don’t mind him. He doesn’t even know who or what Madonna is. Trust me on that one. Wait until the science-y stuff comes up.”
Sally rolls her eyes and sits back, arms crossed.
“Get me another beer,” Holmes says to Watson. Imperious as ever.
Instead of standing up for himself and telling him what he can go and do with himself, Watson just lifts his brows. “You’re not finished the one you have. Drink it and I’ll get you another one.”
“I don’t like this one,” Holmes complains.
“Fine.” Watson picks up the unwanted beer and chugs the half pint remaining, slams it down, and excuses himself from the booth. He doesn’t ask what the freak wants; evidently Holmes is going to get whatever Watson selects for him. He seems perfectly content to accept this.
Hallsey, the new guy, turns to Holmes. “Not a Guinness fan?”
Holmes gives him a blank look. “Sorry?”
“He means the beer,” Lestrade explains. “You don’t like Guinness?”
“Not particularly,” Holmes says absently, gaze drifting in the direction in which Watson has disappeared.
“It’s a little bitter. You should try something lighter,” Lestrade recommends.
Holmes shrugs. “When does the next round start? I don’t want John to miss it.”
“Right, there’s a medical round coming up, isn’t there?” Hallsey says. Holmes either doesn’t hear or ignores this, still looking off into the crowd.
Sally looks at Lestrade and gives him her best I-don’t-know-how-you-can-tolerate-him look, and Lestrade shrugs, smiling. They’ve agreed to disagree on this one ages ago.
Watson returns then, shouldering his way through the crowd and sets down something light, almost clear, in front of his flatmate. “Here,” he says. “Try that and see what you think.”
Holmes looks at it curiously, then holds it up to the light. Sally can’t help herself. “What is it?” she asks. “Ginger ale?”
Watson glares at her, and waits for Holmes to sample it, which he does. He makes a pleased-surprised sound and Watson looks pleased, himself. “You like it?”
“I do,” the freak says, sipping again. “What is it?”
“Cider,” Watson says. “A very sweet one. Thought you might like it.”
Holmes smiles at him, a secretive, private sort of smile obviously not meant for anyone else, and Sally thinks that she’s never seen that particular look on his face before, not ever. Perhaps there’s more to that friendship than she’s realised, she thinks, because Watson is struggling to keep from beaming back at him. Perhaps it’s more than friendship, she thinks suddenly. That would explain the wife bit, and frankly she wouldn’t be at all that surprised. She never would have pegged Watson as that sort (Holmes, on the other hand… ), but anyone who’s seen them together for five minutes would have to see the possibility, certainly.
“All right, everyone, pay attention,” Lestrade says, picking up the paper that’s just been handed around. “This is the medical round. Ooh, there’s some forensic stuff on here. Pity Molly couldn’t make it. Looks like we’ll be depending on you two for that, then,” he says to Holmes and Watson, who have stopped gazing at each other but are still practically in each other’s laps.
“Yeah, we’re good,” Watson says. Holmes picks up his glass and half drains it, causing Watson to laugh, his giggle higher-pitched than Sally would have guessed. She rolls her eyes again, though only to herself.
Lestrade takes a long drink of beer, wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, and reads out the first question. “What is happening to your bones if you have osteomalacia?”
Hallsey looks as blank as Sally feels.
“They’re softening,” Watson says; Holmes is drinking his cider.
“Sure?” Lestrade is already writing it down.
“I am a doctor,” Watson reminds him.
“Right, yeah, I know that.” Lestrade takes another drink of beer. “Okay, number two: the name of this disease comes from a Greek word which means ‘scaly’, which is also known – ”
“Leprosy,” the freak interrupts.
“It’s also known as Hansen’s disease,” Lestrade finishes without missing a beat.
“Leprosy,” Holmes insists.
Watson is snickering. The cider glass is empty. Holmes picks up Watson’s beer glass and drinks the remaining two inches and makes a face. Watson swats him under the table, from the sounds of it and a peculiar look comes over the freak’s face, almost a studied neutrality, Sally thinks. “Read the next one,” she says, ignoring them.
“The medical terminology for this disease is parotitis. What is its – “
“Mumps!” Watson says, before Holmes can. The latter looks as though he wants to object but is strangely quiet.
“ – its common name?” Lestrade finishes doggedly.
“Mumps,” Watson says again. “It’s an infection of the parotid glands.”
“Okay, two more,” Lestrade says. As he starts to read out the next, a pretty server comes by and collects the empty glasses. Watson says something, indicating himself and the freak with his right hand; his left is under the table, seemingly. “Upon what part of your body would you have a hemiglossectomy?”
“Your blood,” Hallsey states.
“Tongue,” Holmes corrects, sounding vaguely detached. He shifts slightly in his seat. A new cider and a new beer are delivered. Watson’s other hand resurfaces as he pays, then goes back to his lap.
“Sure?” Hallsey is asking. “I thought it was the blood. To do with the white blood cells, maybe.”
“You’re thinking of haemoglobin,” Watson says. “‘Leuko’ is the prefix for white blood cells.”
The freak picks up his cider and drinks quite a lot of it at once, with his left hand. His right hand is nowhere to be seen and suddenly Sally wonders if they’re holding hands under the table. Dear God, how childish! This had better be worth it. She still can’t quite believe that Lestrade invited them along to the office pub quiz night, but so many of the others hadn’t been able to make it and they are coming in useful for this round, after all. She remembers Madonna and scowls to herself again. She doesn’t hear the last question (something to do with autopsies and petechial hemorrhage), which Watson corrects Holmes on, noting that it’s odd that the freak didn’t put up more than a token argument in return. He still seems distracted. The round ends and Sally goes to hand in their paper, since she didn’t contribute much else this time. She gets herself another gin and tonic on the way back, and looks back at the table from across the pub. Hallsey and Lestrade are talking to each other. The freak and his pet are both leaning back in the circular booth, both still only with one hand visible on the table. Suddenly suspicious, Sally gets a little closer, then crouches as though she’s dropped something, and has a good look.
Her jaw drops. Under the table, they’re not holding hands at all – it’s much worse! They’ve got their hands in each other’s crotches, rubbing at each other. At least it’s only through their clothes, but who knows what they’re planning! No wonder Holmes sounded so distant, there – he was probably good and distracted. Jesus Christ. Watson should know better, at least! With the freak, any boundaries of normal social propriety can’t be counted on, but John Watson – thing for Holmes aside – has always seemed to have more sense. They must get off on this, she figures, walking slowly back to the table. Doing it right in public. It’s disgusting. She couldn’t care less what people do behind closed doors, but right in the middle of a pub! Granted, they’re both disguising it rather well. Holmes looks almost bored; Watson simply looks neutral. They must do this a lot, then. Get up to nasty business in completely inappropriate settings. That sounds actually completely typical for the freak, at least. She’d have thought that John would have known better, though! Lips pursed, Sally slides back into the booth and contemplates exactly how to word her confrontation. She could be mean and out them completely, or she could just let them know she knows what’s up. She winces mentally at her choice of words. What’s going on, rather. What’s up is obvious enough.
“You two holding hands?” Sally asks, staring pointedly at them. The subtext should be good and clear: stop that right now or be outed to the entire Yard. Not just Lestrade and Hallsey, but everyone else, too.
Hallsey and Lestrade stop talking and look at her, then at the freak and his pet.
“No,” Watson says, and she supposes that’s the truth.
There’s a moment’s pause and then Holmes puts his right hand on the table. Watson follows suit, his left coming up to cup around the base of his pint glass. “Problem?” Holmes asks coolly.
Sally narrows her eyes and thinks Nice try, but you know I know exactly what you were doing at him. Holmes looks away.
“When’s the next round start?” Watson asks.
Lestrade gives him a curious glance. “We haven’t got the results from last round yet.”
“What’s the next topic?” Hallsey asks.
“Uh, cars,” Lestrade says, checking. “Brands and that.”
Watson and the freak lapse into silence, looking neither at each other nor anyone else. Sally leans across to Hallsey and asks how his fiancée is doing. Eventually the announcer gets up and reads out the answers. They win, which somehow annoys Sally almost as much as how badly they’d done on the pop music round. Neither the freak nor Watson put up more than a token of passing interest; Holmes is absorbed in drinking and Watson is gazing vaguely into the crowd.
The next round of questions is delivered and Watson makes a show of checking the time. He makes an apologetic face, then says, “Sorry, folks, but I think we’re off.” He nods meaningfully at the freak and subtly points at the now-empty pint glass in front of him. Sally’s never seen Holmes drunk before and has no desire to start now, though she glares at Watson anyway. Ditching mid-game is extremely poor form, which Watson at least should know. (The freak wouldn’t care if he did.) They wander off and Lestrade ropes a couple of bystanders into joining their team to make up the numbers.
About ninety minutes later, Sally goes outside, her head a little lighter than it should be. She came in the cruiser with Lestrade, straight from a shift, and promised to drive after. She digs in her purse for her keys and can’t seem to find them, can’t hear their telltale jingle in her bag, either. That’s odd. Lestrade is grumbling about the trick question in the final round and nearly walks into Sally when she stops in her tracks. “Hey, what’s – ” He stops, too, rubbing his forehead. “Oh, hell,” he mutters.
The back windows of the cruiser are steamy with condensation and suddenly Sally has no desire to approach it whatsoever. She also has a sneaking suspicion as to what’s become of her keys.
“Not in the cruiser,” Lestrade is moaning. “Jesus Christ!”
She turns to face him, crossing her arms, completely unimpressed. “This one’s all yours, boss.”
“For God’s sake!” Disgusted, Lestrade strides over to the cruiser and gingerly peers in one of the windows. “It’s empty,” he says, the relief evident in his tone. Suddenly he chuckles. “Come see this.”
Dubiously, Sally walks over. Lestrade points: in the condensation, someone has written the word “SORRY” with a fingertip. Her keys are on the front seat, all the doors locked. “You should fine them for this,” she says, unamused. “Seriously. That’s… defacing government property.”
Lestrade gets out his own keys and unlocks the doors to have a look. Apart from the steam, there’s no sign, but they’re both quite clear on what’s transpired. “Remind me to never, ever go over there again without calling first,” he says.
“Remind yourself,” Sally retorts, and gets into the front seat. Lestrade slides into the passenger seat and slams his door shut.
“I think it’s kind of nice,” he offers.
She gives him a look too vile to express in words – not to a superior, at any rate – and starts the car.
John turns the unlocked doorknob of 221B and stoops to pick up the post. There are a few circulars, a postcard from Mike Stamford from Manhattan where he was lecturing at a conference, and – aha. The envelope he’s been waiting for. He feels a smile coming over his face and bounds up the stairs. “Sherlock?” He wants to show him. He bursts through the door.
“In here,” Sherlock says from the kitchen.
John rounds the corner to see Sherlock bent over, stowing something carefully on the lowest shelf of the fridge. He savours the view for a moment, feeling a touch of something quite a lot like territorial pride. That arse belongs to him. As does the rest of the body, brilliant mind, and soul of the man storing something most likely biohazardous, revolting, and potentially volatile next to the produce. And the reverse is equally true. Never in his life has John felt such a strong sensation of belonging to another person, of having said person belong to him every bit as much. It’s a sad commentary on the rest of his life that he’s nearly always felt like the person who cared more in his relationships, who loved more, invested more. It made him wary after awhile; he came to simply expect it. Sherlock is the person who changed that. He’s let John see him at his most vulnerable, all of his feelings and uncertainties exposed and raw, and trusted John with them. That trust is invaluable to him, incalculably precious, and it’s allowed him to start trusting back. Really trusting this time. It was different right at the start, when they were having sex and not talking about it and John had no idea what to think, what to make of it. A month has gone by since the night they finally talked, and it’s been the best month he’s ever lived, hands down. Along with everything else – all of the sex, all of the risky scenarios they’ve tried and nearly always got away with – he’s been witness to Sherlock’s clumsy battle to unlearn his own walls, let John inside. It’s difficult for him but he tries so hard, sometimes succeeding so well that John himself feels exposed by the very rawness and defencelessness of Sherlock’s innermost feelings and thoughts. It’s beautiful. Sherlock has absolutely given himself over to John and John’s doing the same – only now it’s official that he actually can.
“Look what came in the mail,” he says. He could ask what Sherlock is putting in the fridge but leaves it. He’ll probably find out much sooner than he’d like, anyway, and this is more important.
Sherlock straightens up and closes the fridge, turning. He smiles – his smiles are much more frequent than they used to be, coming more easily to his face. “Hello,” he says. “What came in the mail?”
John holds up the envelope. “Do you want to see?”
Sherlock’s eyes gleam. “Yes! Open it!”
John tears it open and takes out the three sheets of paper inside. Mary’s signed with her pseudonym, which he supposes is appropriate, given that she did marry him under that name. He scans the top sheet and glances at the other two. “It’s official,” he says. “I’m divorced.” He gives the papers to Sherlock, who takes them, reading avidly, and in much more detail than John did.
He looks up when he gets to the end of the third page. “It really is official,” he says, a small amount of wonder seeping into his voice. “You’re free.”
“I’m free,” John agrees, smiling. “Wait – no, I’m not! Take that back!”
Sherlock looks puzzled for a moment, then understanding dawns, bringing one of the looks he can sometimes get that make John’s heart clench. It’s full of soft emotion, the like of which he’d never known Sherlock could even feel, much less express, before the past month. “No, I suppose you’re not,” he concedes, albeit carefully.
The caution makes John want to either punch him or hug him – just the fact that he’s still not a hundred percent certain of John like this. “You know I’m yours,” he says, trying to smile, but his throat is a bit tight.
Sherlock steps very close to him and lays the papers on a chair, his eyes intent on John’s. “You are, aren’t you,” he says, and that bit of wonder is still there. “John Watson.” It’s all he says, but everything about the way he says John’s name is practically a declaration of love – though he’s never said that, not as such. (But he says it in other ways all the time, John thinks.) He lowers his head and kisses John, which was precisely what John wanted. He puts his arms around Sherlock and kisses him back for several long and lovely minutes. Sherlock’s hair smells like smoke, he thinks dimly as they kiss. He hopes he washed his hands after touching whatever is on that tray in the fridge. (It doesn’t matter.) After, Sherlock pulls away a bit and says, “I think this calls for a celebration. We should go out tonight. Do something fun.”
Something fun usually means playing one of their little games, ticking off another box on their list of scandalous places to have sex. John grins. “Oh?” he says archly. “Some people would think that dinner would be more appropriate, but…”
“Please,” Sherlock says dismissively. “We eat dinner all the time. I was thinking of something special.”
John’s interest is decidedly caught. “Where?” he asks. It’s not as though they’ve written their list down, after all.
Sherlock leans down to kiss him again, stops just short of his mouth and says, “You’ll see. Shall we order in? You can choose.”
“That’s a change,” John remarks, but Sherlock cuts him off with his mouth again. When they part again several minutes later, he is breathless and half-hard in his trousers. Which was likely at least part of Sherlock’s goal: he knows that the anticipation alone will keep John on edge. He pulls out his phone to scroll through his collection of delivery numbers. “When are we going?”
“As soon as we’ve eaten,” Sherlock says. “What day is it today?”
“Friday,” John tells him, pressing the button for the pizza place two blocks away. “Why?”
Sherlock’s eyes glint. “Friday night in May: tourist season. Perfect.”
After the pizza, they put their coats on and head downstairs. Sherlock hails a taxi, opens the door for John, and says to the driver, “The London Eye, please.”
John feels his eyes widen comically. “No! We’re not really going to – ”
Sherlock glances pointedly at the driver. “It’s on the list,” he says. “Besides, you’ve never seen it and you’ve always wanted to go.”
John shakes his head, looking at him and still marvelling at him. “How did you know that?”
Sherlock shrugs, looking modest. “Just worked it out. It’s true, then?”
“It is,” John admits. “The tickets are a bit pricey, so I just never… I don’t know why.”
Sherlock pauses just long enough that John is able to catch him doing it. “I thought it would be… nice. For today, I mean.”
He does this, John thinks, feeling almost dizzy with a wash of emotion. Goes out of his way to be romantic, as though trying to prove over and over again that he’s capable of it, that he’s well worth the squirrel corpses (as they’d turned out to be) in the fridge (produced a bit of a yell when he’d gone to put the leftover pizza away, having temporarily forgotten to be wary of the lowest shelf). The late nights, the sleepless nights, the sawing of the violin when a stubborn problem refused to solve itself. And it works, John thinks, feeling everything that he feels all over again. It absolutely works. This is romantic, being taken on the London Eye to celebrate his newly-divorced status. He reaches for Sherlock’s hand and takes it. He’s much less a hand-holder than Sherlock would be if he could, John thinks, so he does try to do it more often. Sherlock’s fingers tighten in his. It’s a proper date night.
Except, of course, that they plan to have sex on said tourist attraction. On a Friday night. In May. It’s bound to be full. The sky is still light and by the time they board, the sun will be setting. A popular time to go. Which makes it all the more perfect. John has no idea precisely how Sherlock will want to do this, but this could be one of their most public outings yet, right up there with Oxford Circus at rush hour. He feels a stirring of sexual excitement and presses his thighs together.
“Me too,” Sherlock murmurs, not looking at him, and of course he’s noticed, John thinks. Nonetheless, his eyes skim over Sherlock’s torso and into his lap. The thickness of his coat is blocking his view, but John believes it.
The queue is rather long but moves at a decent rate. Sherlock stays very close beside him, the back of his hand just brushing against John’s. John looks over at one point and Sherlock gives him one of his secretive, private smiles, one that has more than a hint of something dark and slightly suggestive. It sends a shiver down John’s spine, which he knows Sherlock will have noticed. What is it about this, John wonders – not for the first time – about getting out somewhere in public that makes him want to just jump Sherlock then and there, no matter how many people are watching? It’s not that they don’t do this at home, too – they certainly do. Having an unwitting audience somehow makes it all the more thrilling.
Although three days ago had been particularly good, too. John’s been thinking about it nonstop ever since. He’d come home to find Sherlock washing dishes – actually washing them, the sink filled with water and suds. He does the washing up from time to time, certainly, but it’s usually a quick job with the water running. They had got a bit behind and the dishes were starting to pile up, and so there he was, the elbows of his navy shirt rolled up to the elbow, and something about it gave John such a satisfied, pleased surprise that he went straight over and put his arms around Sherlock’s waist. “You brilliant thing,” he’d said, affectionate. “Look at you, doing the washing up!”
Sherlock shrugged, attempting a modest smile, but couldn’t help looking pleased. “There were rather a lot of them. I’m nearly finished.”
“Mmm,” John said into his neck. “You want me to help?”
Sherlock turned his face down and back toward John’s. “You can keep doing that, if you like,” he said, voice dropping a little.
John mouthed over the bit of skin he could get at under Sherlock’s collar, then unbuttoned his shirt to run his hands over Sherlock’s lithely-muscled torso, which he loves touching and can’t get enough of. “Like this?” he murmured.
“That’ll do,” Sherlock had said with difficulty, his pulse already faster, beating through his skin into John’s fingertips.
Before long, John was unbuttoning Sherlock’s trousers, too, sliding them down over that luscious arse. He dropped to his knees and squeezed both cheeks, breathing over the pale skin before bending forward to lick at Sherlock’s arse. He’s surprised himself by how much he loves doing this. The day Sherlock did it to him for the first time, during that ridiculous prostate exam, John had nearly come the instant Sherlock’s tongue had touched him, the pleasure beyond anything he could have imagined could be produced by a tongue up the arse. It had only been a day or two into their relationship before he’d insisted on trying it in return. It was worth it just for the sounds Sherlock makes when he does it, completely uncontrolled and wanton. The sounds alone nearly push John over the edge sometimes, and three days ago in the kitchen was no exception. By the time Sherlock was breathless and trembling, his cock rock-hard in John’s hand, his fingers gripping the edge of the counter, John had been nearly wild, himself. He’d pulled Sherlock down then, their mouths biting at each other’s even as he’d got Sherlock onto his back, yanked his trousers and underwear all the way off and pushed into him on the spot, Sherlock’s long legs hooked over his shoulders. They’d both come about two minutes into it, making enough noise to bring Scotland Yard down on the house, and wouldn’t that have made for a sight!
After, they’d lain there on the floor in a sweaty heap until Sherlock had recovered enough to start chuckling. “What?” John had panted.
“Forgot to mention, Mrs Hudson is hosting a tea downstairs. Don’t know if it’s over or if everyone’s still there.”
John had been simultaneously mortified and amused, groaning and laughing at the same time. “Oh, my God!”
“I genuinely forgot,” Sherlock said, though he didn’t look particularly contrite. He smiled up at John, eyes glinting. “I should do the dishes more often.”
“Too right,” John had said feelingly, meaning it in more than one way.
He thinks of it again now, thinks of Sherlock’s arse jutting backward into his face beyond his own volition, every part of him straining toward John’s tongue and hands. Seeing Sherlock out of control like that never fails to arouse him completely. It’s so bad he has to be careful to not even think about it in public too much. Well, unless Sherlock is there. Which he is at the moment. Sherlock is chatting, telling him about the pods and the other structures like the Eye around the world, and John starts paying attention properly, asking the right sorts of questions. Sherlock has researched this, he realises, having planned all along that they would come here sometime. He feels warm and puts an arm around Sherlock’s waist. He’s not often this demonstrative in public and Sherlock looks surprised but pleased, and puts his own arm around John’s shoulders, at least until they reach the ticket booth. He’s made reservations online, it seems, because there are tickets waiting for them.
They end up in a capsule with eighteen other people. Sherlock tells him that the capacity is twenty-eight, so it could be fuller. More people would also mean more cover, John realises, but this also makes it riskier. The ride is about thirty minutes. Sherlock leads him to a spot on the side overlooking the Thames and the Houses of Parliament and stands very close behind him, arms draped over his shoulders. The wheel moves slowly, smoothly, and for the first few minutes Sherlock just lets him enjoy the view as they rise into the air. They only have thirty minutes, though. John deliberately cants his hips backward a little, subtly rubbing his arse against Sherlock’s crotch in reminder. Sherlock presses forward, a low hum resonating in John’s ear, both amused and aroused. He unbuttons his coat and pulls John back against himself, the wings of the coat forming small, very moveable walls around them. He can feel Sherlock shifting, then realises that Sherlock has drawn his right arm inside the coat, keeping it out of sight. John is holding his own jacket in front of him as a shield, which is good because Sherlock’s fingers are cupping around the beginnings of his erection and rubbing, his long left arm still pinned across John’s chest. To an outside viewer, hopefully they just look like a very-engrossed couple, not like people who are stealthily (he devoutly hopes it’s stealthy, at least) preparing to have sex in a confined space while surrounded by eighteen other people. John pushes himself a bit against Sherlock’s fingers and wonders if the general plan is just for Sherlock to rub himself against him as the Eye makes its circuit, maybe slipping his fingers into John’s jeans to bring him off. Except that Sherlock’s elbow and forearm are still partially exposed where his arm emerges from his coat, before disappearing behind the cover of John’s.
Perhaps Sherlock realises this, because he withdraws his arm after a minute or do (or perhaps he’s merely satisfied that John is fully hard within his jeans now), but John discovers that Sherlock has managed to not only unbutton but unzip him while he was fondling him. They’re rather loose and John hopes they won’t fall down. The thought should not be sending a shivering thrill of danger down his spine. Christ, he thinks. If he hadn’t had a kink for this sort of thing before all this started, Sherlock has certainly nurtured whatever amount he’d had into a full-blown problem.
It turns out that it’s a good thing his jeans are wide open, as Sherlock is now subtly easing them down in the back. Oh, God. John’s eyes open a little further than they had as he realises that Sherlock actually plans to fuck him, right here on the London Eye, in full view of all these people. Well, partial view, at any rate. John glances nervously around the capsule. There are several groups of people, including some tourists speaking in German to one another. Five kids.
He feels Sherlock’s mouth close to his ear and shivers. “Relax,” Sherlock murmurs, the laughter there in his tone. A ghosting of his lips and then he points out the capsule with his left hand, the same arm still pinned across his chest. “Look at the sun setting on the Thames. It’s lovely.”
At the same time, his right hand, hidden by the drape of his coat, is pushing into the back right pocket of John’s jeans and moving between them somehow. John understands when Sherlock’s fingers slip beneath his waistband, slippery with lube (he must have planted it in John’s back pocket, the sly bugger) and between his cheeks, the tip of his middle finger resting against John’s hole. John coughs and holds his jacket tighter to himself. He can’t actually believe that he is standing on the London Eye while Sherlock chats inconsequentially about the sunset with his fingers in John’s arse. He can feel his cheeks reddening a little. He shifts his stance a little wider, giving Sherlock space to work his fingers into him, the silvery frisson rippling through him as Sherlock touches his prostate. He clamps his lips shut to prevent accidentally making any untoward noises.
“That’s it,” Sherlock murmurs approvingly, the hand on John’s chest rubbing a little. Then louder, “You can almost see our street.”
“Wh – where?” John manages to ask, a bit proud of how small the hitch in his voice is, given that he’s being thoroughly fingered, his cock attempting to escape his opened jeans even as he holds the coat a little lower, just to make sure.
Sherlock points with his chin this time, his fingertips pressing into John’s right nipple. “Just there, past Big Ben.”
His lips are brushing John’s ear again and he can’t help it; he shivers. It gets worse. Sherlock’s fingers disappear to do something between their bodies that involves his knuckles digging into the small of John’s back. He adjusts the drape of the coat and then John feels the hardness of his erection nudging at his entrance. Sherlock makes a very soft questioning sound and John nods, rather uneasy, yet completely turned on. He cannot believe that they’re actually doing this here, having full-on sex in a transparent glass capsule hundreds of metres above the ground, surrounded by people. It’s as though they’re on display for the entire city, even despite the flimsy cover of both their coats.
Sherlock eases into him, exhaling a bit into his ear, but it’s very smooth. He must be sagging a bit at the knees to accommodate their thirteen-centimetre height difference, John thinks, even as he’s being cored on Sherlock’s cock. Sherlock’s left arm is trembling slightly where it lying on John’s chest, as hard as his erection. He’s all the way in now, his hips and shoulders bracketing John’s. Before Sherlock, he’d never been with anyone so much bigger than himself, and Sherlock is pressing into him, surrounding him. If they were in private, John knows that Sherlock’s hands would be alternately stroking over his chest (he knows very well how sensitive John’s nipples are) and lavishing attention on his cock as he thrusts. Here and now, Sherlock is barely moving, just shifting a little so that his cock is getting the tiniest bit of friction. Just an inch or so, in and out, but his front is consistently touching John’s back. It’s incredibly intimate – as intimate as it is public. Neither of them is speaking. John is dying to reach down and touch himself. He can come from Sherlock’s cock alone, but possibly not at this speed. He wonders if Sherlock will even be able to come. Perhaps this is enough, just the thrill of knowing that they’re actually doing this, here, and they’ll go somewhere else to finish off properly afterwards, he thinks.
Their capsule is nearly at the apex of the Eye. The kids from the German family run over, pulling their father with them, pointing and exclaiming at something. Sherlock probably knows exactly what they’re talking about, but John’s second language education covered a year of Latin, a year of French, and nothing more apart from the Latin and Greek he’d learned at medical school. Sherlock’s hips still; the kids are only a few feet away. His breath is warm on John’s neck, bending to kiss just behind his jaw. As though they’re just standing there, a pair of blokes on a date, the taller one standing behind the shorter one just for the efficiency of their respective vantage points. (Sherlock’s coat is still in place, isn’t it?) John clutches at his coat, aware that he can feel the cool touch of air on his cock.
Now the kids retreat to the other side of the pod, leaving their father where he is. Unbelievably, Sherlock subtly starts to thrust again, cleverly angling so that he’s gently nudging at John’s prostate every time. John feels his breath catch, feels that he’s shaking a little with the arousal he’s trying desperately not to show, not to let out of his mouth. Sherlock’s breath comes a little harder on his ear, going a little faster. Maybe he is going to get enough out of this, these furtive little thrusts that are slowly driving John crazy. He’s dying, bloody dying to be touched. Perhaps he could just – reach behind the jacket and give himself a tug. No – there’s something so much worse about wanking in public than having sex with someone else, he thinks, though at the moment he’s at a loss to pinpoint his own logic in this. Sherlock is holding John’s hip for balance with his (hidden) right hand as he thrusts, but now he moves his left arm down to take John’s coat out of his hands, unfolding it so that it’s hanging like a curtain in front of John. It looks a little odd, but maybe that doesn’t matter. No one’s really looking at them, right?
“Hold,” Sherlock breathes in his ear, and John understands and holds his jacket to himself by its collar Sherlock reaches into his open jeans and closes his hand around John’s aching cock. It’s all John can do to keep from groaning out loud; the relief of it – and instant, gloriously gratifying pleasure – is intense. They’re close to the rail and what he’d really like is to grasp it with both hands and bend forward, allowing Sherlock’s cock in deeper still, but he can’t do that and anyway, the feeling is rather intense as it is.
“Sh – ” It’s all he can manage, a warning that he’s suddenly much closer than he thought, but Sherlock makes a warning sound in his ear. John closes his eyes and attempts to gain control over his erratic breathing. Sherlock’s fist is jerking over his length and between that and the evil (wonderful) things his cock is doing within his body, John isn’t going to last much longer at all at this rate.
Sherlock is in even worse shape than he is. From the sound of his breath, his jaw is clenched, air escaping mostly through his nose, gusting against John’s ear, the thrusts deeper than they were. It has to be visible if he’s moving that much, John thinks, but he can’t really think clearly, his body on fire in Sherlock’s grip, surrounded by Sherlock’s scent and breath and the cock moving within him. And then the thrusts become a spasm and Sherlock’s breath is stuck in his throat, the smallest of agonised sounds escaping in a choked sound through his noise as he comes, the hot gush flooding into John’s body as his hips jam up against John’s arse, then twist and thrust again, coming some more.
John’s mouth drops open despite himself, a single gulp of oxygen that he needed desperately, then Sherlock’s hand is moving again, his cock still stiff enough to be rubbing at John’s prostate, and that’s nice, that’s really – John can’t exhale and stars are appearing in his vision as his entire body winds up to it – he comes, his entire frame going rigid in the tight cage of Sherlock’s arms, the wave of sensation pummelling over him. A split second later his eyes fly open with horror at the wet sound he’s just heard. There is a large blob of come sliding down the interior wall of the descending capsule, and as his balls clench again, another shot follows, then a third which doesn’t make it quite as far, landing on the floor. His jacket must have shifted, exposing him. John looks to his right in agonised horror and sees the German father staring with equal horror – no, make that considerably more – at the glob of semen dripping down the glass wall of the pod. He swallows, still dizzy and breathless from his orgasm and awash with abject shame and humiliation.
Sherlock has noticed, too, judging by his sharp inhalation. He takes his hand from John’s cock and covers his hand where it’s gripping his jacket, moving it lower. “Ah,” he pants, his voice low in John’s ear. “That’s – unfortunate.”
The father turns his head, staring at them. John cannot make eye contact but he can feel the other man’s acutely. Sherlock deftly reaches below John’s jacket, his right arm there for the father to see, and very gently tucks John’s still-firm, still-leaking cock back into his pants and zips and buttons his jeans again. He pulls himself out of John’s body and tucks himself away, relying on the cover of his coat for that, at least, then wraps his arms around John’s left shoulder and right side and buries his (hot) face in John’s neck, as though they were only embracing all along.
The father moves away, saying something terse in a low voice to his wife on the other side of the capsule. John’s face is still burning. To their left, another couple or group (John can’t tell; he refuses to look) drift closer, pointing out the Houses of Parliament to one another. Clearly they haven’t noticed. Perhaps it’s just the one man then. John prays they won’t notice his contribution to the walls of the capsule. He risks a look at them and a woman in her mid-twenties glances at him and smiles indulgently. John relaxes slightly and puts his hands on Sherlock’s forearms and squeezes reassuringly.
The capsule is nearing the bottom. Everyone else has moved toward the entrance. John glances at the German father and wonders if he’s going to go straight to security. Sherlock is evidently having the same idea. “The instant we step out…” he says softly.
“Left or right?” John asks, not moving his lips.
“Exits are to the left.” Sherlock moves away at last. “Take my hand,” he says, not looking at John, eyes taking in the scene ahead. “Don’t run. Just walk very quickly.”
“Right, because what we just did was in no way suspicious or inappropriate,” John says out the corner of his mouth.
Sherlock leads them to the back of the group now stepping out of the capsule. “Didn’t hear you complaining,” he mutters back.
“I’m not.” John squeezes his hand and thinks briefly that the last thing he generally prefers to do after an orgasm is go for a jog, especially considering the uncomfortably slippery state of his arse, but it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. What he wants to do is get somewhere slightly less crowded and then snog Sherlock for a goodly bit. Maybe standing by the Thames in the sunset. But first, the thrill of the chase. He turns to Sherlock and suddenly they’re both grinning.
“Ready?” Sherlock asks, sotto voce.
“When you are.”
They step out of the pod and take off, easing their way rapidly through the crowd, the urgency beating at the inside of John’s rib cage. A spike of adrenaline pulses through him and when they’re free of the complex they run and run through Jubilee Park and beyond the far side until John has a stitch in his side and has to double over, laughing and wheezing and clutching at his ribs. Sherlock’s low laugh resonates through both of them as he presses up against John and crowds in to kiss him, smirking with the triumph of the daring thing they’ve just pulled off and their triumphant escape, and John thinks, This is it, this is the life.
“Next time,” Sherlock pants, “we’ll reserve a private capsule and you can bend me over the bench, stark naked for all the other capsules to see.”
John groans and laughs still more. Sherlock is going to be the death of him, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. Besides which, the mental image has considerable appeal. “Add it to the list,” he says.
“Come on.” He turns to lead the way toward the Thames to watch the rest of the sunset, but Sherlock stops.
“Wait,” he objects. “You must be uncomfortable. Let me… hang on.” He looks around, then nods toward a low hedge. “Over there.”
“What?” John doesn’t quite understand, but follows Sherlock anyway, checking for people. There are a number in the general vicinity, but none directly nearby.
“Kneel down,” Sherlock instructs. “No, facing away from me. Yes, like that. Bend over.” He kneels behind John, unfastens his jeans for the second time that evening, tugs them down along with his pants, and wipes away the come dribbling from John’s arse with a tissue.
He’s so attentive when he wants to be, John thinks, smiling to himself as Sherlock cleans him up. “Sherlock, it’s okay, you don’t have to – ah!” Somehow the shock of Sherlock’s tongue never fails to be a shock, electrifying every nerve in his body. His tongue is precise, cleaning John thoroughly, then licking harder, going deeper. John gasps. He hadn’t gone completely soft yet but is still surprised to find himself getting hard again already. He’s never managed multiple orgasms before Sherlock, and even so it’s rare. Rimming will manage it nearly every time, though, no matter how uninterested he thought he was at the beginning. Now, though, with his body still just recovering from his furtive orgasm on the London Eye, his nerves are still wide awake and responding fully to Sherlock’s lithe tongue. He moans despite himself – he’s rubbish at staying quiet, though he’s slowly getting better – and Sherlock reaches around to take his erection in hand. John bucks into his hand, unabashedly grinding his arse into Sherlock’s face at the same time. Sherlock is on his hands and knees behind him and John thinks that they must look like a pair of animals copulating. It’s a filthy thought and only makes his prick strain harder against Sherlock’s palm. That tongue of his stabs directly into his hole and John stops being able to breathe as he comes again. His body produces less actual come this time, but the sensation is no less intense, his vision blacking out for a moment or two as his blood sings in his ears. When it’s over, Sherlock licks at him a little more, then withdraws his face and sits back on his heels.
“God, that was good,” John groans, pushing himself up onto his own heels. Sherlock makes a satisfied sound and puts his arms around John’s shoulders as John zips himself away, kissing his neck and right ear. “Come on,” he says. “Let’s go watch the last of the sunset. Unless you – ” He stops, realising that perhaps Sherlock is ready for another go himself, and twists around to see his face.
Sherlock hums in negation. “Not yet,” he says. His eyes gleam. “You can get me back at home. Or on the way home.” He stands and pulls John to his feet and consents to be dragged over to the river walk to watch the sun finish setting. By the time they leave, it is fully dark and John finds that he is deliriously happy, down to his bones.
The radio in the cruiser buzzes and crackles as a new report comes in. His mobile follows suit. Donovan picks it up from the slot between the seats as he’s driving, and answers it. “Donovan.” A pause and she’s glancing at him. “Yes, sir. We’re on it.”
“What is it?” Lestrade asks. It’s coming on six and it’s been a long day already, starting with an arson case in the pre-dawn hours.
“You’ll love this: public indecency, Regent’s Park.” Donovan sounds disgusted.
You’d think she’d be used to this sort of thing by now, Lestrade figures, but it’s been nine years and so far she hasn’t lost the righteous indignation. “For God’s sake,” he says tiredly. “Why us?”
“We’re closest, apparently.” She sounds unconcerned about this part, and that’s one of the really good things about her; she never minds the long hours, rarely seems to feel it. Maybe he’s just getting old.
“Where in the park?” he asks, turning south onto the A41.
“The boating lake,” Donovan says, sounding dubious.
“Think someone’s gone swimming starkers or something?” Lestrade muses.
“Wouldn’t be the first time, boss. Remember those tourists in the Serpentine two years back?”
“Thought that was three years ago.”
“Whatever.” She studies the road. “You should have turned off at Avenue Road.”
“Donovan.” He uses his warning voice, the one that says he’s had enough of being bossed around by his sergeant, and she drops it. She’s a horrible backseat driver. They’ve fought over this before, many times.
She lets it go and sits back in her seat. “Just hope it’s not too disgusting,” she mutters a few minutes later as Lestrade turns into the park proper.
He doesn’t answer, aiming for the boathouse end of the lake. They might need to have a good look around if it’s someone in a boat; hard to pinpoint an exact location with those, at least without satellite. “The report give any other details?”
“No, sir.” She’s circumspect now.
“Fine,” he says, parking in the lot. “You go round to the north-eastern end of the lake – that way, there – and I’ll have a look down the other way. Radio if you find anything, or just… I don’t know, deal with it.”
“Got it.” She disappears at a brisk walk and Lestrade locks the cruiser and sets out toward the main body of the lake.
There are a number of boats out; it’s a June evening and the weather is nice. Probably as many tourists as locals, if not more, in a mix of pedalos and rowboats. He gets to the edge of the shore and surveys the lake, a toothpick clamped in his teeth. He’s been trying to quit smoking again, with mixed success. The toothpick helps. Or so he keeps telling Donovan, who thinks it’s ridiculous. Nothing in particular here, although… Lestrade’s eyes settle on one boat that isn’t being actively rowed, drifting slowly south. He follows the eastern shoreline, trying to get a better view. When he does, he knows with certainty that he’s found their culprits and sighs.
There are two bodies in the boat, one supine on his back, one foot braced on the side of the boat closest to Lestrade, and the other body is face down, dark curly head in his companion's lap. Lestrade can’t see said lap itself, just the head, and the two small hands placed on it. The man on the bottom’s eyes are closed, breathing through his mouth. He’s not making any sound and his face is only just visible above the edges of the rowboat, but still: it’s obvious enough what’s going on. Worse, there are several other boats not far from them, including two pedalos with kids in them. A man and a boy in number twenty-nine, two young teens in number twelve. Another couple sitting up, the bloke rowing as the girl reads something aloud to him. Love poetry, from the sounds of it. Shakespeare, maybe. But the kids being there is the worst bit.
Lestrade raises his voice. “Oi! You two, in the boat!” Not very specific, but he’s hardly going to call them by the title of what they’re getting up to, is he?
The dark head doesn’t move, but the fair one does. The eyes open, alarmed, and suddenly the small hands are pushing at the curly head in his crotch. “Sher – ” he hisses. “Stop!”
Lestrade’s heart sinks. “Oh, for the love of Christ,” he mutters. Good thing Donovan isn’t here to see this. She’s ranted about the incident in the cruiser for weeks already, and that was back in early May. This is ridiculous. “Sherlock Holmes, don’t pretend you can’t hear me!”
That gets a reaction. Sherlock scrambles upright, blinking, and there is a flurry of hands attempting to keep covered that which devoutly needs covering. John’s sitting up, too, red in the face, hands in his lap even as Sherlock attempts to shield him from view. “What are you doing here?” he calls back crossly.
Lestrade’s eyebrows hit his nonexistent hairline. “Public indecency complaint! Didn’t think it would be you two, though!” He looks around. The nearest dock is on the far side of the lake. “Dock your boat over there and – for the love of God, make sure you’re decent by the time I get there!”
He can hear Sherlock grumbling something to John, but John says something and Sherlock picks up the oars and starts rowing.
Lestrade jogs to the nearest bridge and makes his way across. If they run, he’ll slap them both in handcuffs so hard John will likely never speak to him again over his injured dignity. As he gets closer, he realises he can hear them, though: Sherlock’s low voice murmuring, John’s tenor breathy and laughing.
“… make it up to you,” Sherlock is saying, voice gentler than Lestrade’s ever heard it in his life. He hears them kissing and he can just see them, having secreted themselves in a clump of trees. He approaches slowly; they’re obviously still quite absorbed in one another and he doesn’t really need to witness any more of this. He can only see them well enough to see Sherlock’s dark head bent over John’s, one arm around his back. Both of John’s are around Sherlock’s back and shoulders, though he’s standing at an angle to Sherlock. Ah: the job in the boat got interrupted, so Sherlock is finishing him off. Perhaps they hadn’t realised there was a bridge as close as there was and thought that he was going all the way around the southern tip of the boating lake. He stops walking to wait, hands clasped behind his back, not wanting to hear it, but also wanting to make sure they stick around when they’ve pulled themselves together.
It’s nice, to be honest. Really nice. He meant it when he’d said as much to Donovan after the cruiser incident. It’s mostly harmless, underage witnesses aside. (For that, he really will arrest them.) He’s never seen Sherlock like this, clearly head over heels for the first time in his life. Well – not the first time; it was John all along, wasn’t it? From the first day that Sherlock had shown up with the man Lestrade had uncharitably thought of as Sherlock’s shadow that day in Brixton, it’s always been John. He’d got to know the man later and had been astonished to find him a totally down-to-earth, respectable bloke – doctor and soldier no less, though obviously there’s a part of him that loves it when Sherlock breaks every social convention in sight. It’s a coin toss whether John will slap him down or just laugh helplessly at Sherlock’s behaviour. And his effect on Sherlock was shockingly powerful from the first: he’d cleaned up his act, the danger nights had nearly stopped entirely, and he’d started actually being polite to people at least half the time. He was calmer, less manic, more grounded. But after he’d come back and found John engaged, Lestrade had taken to wondering about the flip side of that coin. John was clearly the only person Sherlock’s ever given a real toss about, and losing his best friend to some woman had hit hard. He was doing all right covering it, but his restlessness, the look he’d get in his eyes sometimes – the way he’d look at John when John wasn’t looking. Even if Mycroft hadn’t called with a warning, Lestrade would have been on high alert, watching for any signs of danger. And not just the sort the older Holmes brother feared (the addictions), but emotional danger. Lestrade’s gone through terrible break-ups, infidelity, custody battles – he knows what a man can become when he feels like his personal world is falling to pieces around him. And Sherlock’s clearly was, whether or not he’d say it. He’d watched him throughout the ceremony (wooden-faced, eyes on John and no one else the entire time), kept watching him throughout the reception. The speech – God help them all, that speech – but he’d held it together, more or less, despite the awkwardly out-of-place declaration of love, there.
No one’s told him exactly what’s become of Mary, but she’s certainly out of the picture now. He’s heard that they’re properly divorced and everything, and he has no idea when this finally started happening, but it’s clearly happening. And Lestrade, for one, can’t feel it in his heart to be anything other than very happy for them. For both of them, but especially Sherlock. He does wonder how and why it never happened sooner. He knows what John was like, still mourning Sherlock like a widower, two years after his supposed death. Listless and lying through his teeth about how fine he was. Drinking in the middle of the day, the second toothbrush in the loo notwithstanding. Obviously he’d felt something, then. Why had it taken them so long? Of course, he’d never thought John was into blokes, but then it’d always been clear that Sherlock was the sun he revolved around, hadn’t it? Whatever rules John Watson had had before Sherlock, Sherlock had broken them all. Or John had broken them, himself. It doesn’t matter. They’re together now and Sherlock is a different man. Not on the surface, maybe, but there’s a softness to his eyes that never existed before. A calm in the fingers that never used to stop drumming on everything, excess energy exuding from him in spikes, provoking everyone within a hundred yards.
He can hear John moaning a little, Sherlock’s voice saying something quiet, his timbre lower-pitched and steady, then John’s breath is coming in gasps and Sherlock’s grasp on him tightens. They’re both panting a little, though John especially, and Lestrade clears his throat loudly and starts walking again, taking care to step on as many twigs as possible, letting his shoes kick small rocks as he closes the twenty-metre distance between them. They’re decent when he gets there, despite the flush still staining John’s cheeks. He manages to keep any indulgence he’s currently feeling toward them both off his face. He has a job to do. They’re facing him, waiting. Not running. (Good.)
Lestrade sighs. “Come on, you two, really? In a boat? On Sunday? In June? What were you thinking?”
They exchange a look. “That going for a row would be fun?” John tries, though it’s lame.
“Apologies,” Sherlock says swiftly. “Won’t happen again.”
“Damn right it won’t.” Lestrade isn’t amused. “There were kids within sight of you, you know!”
John looks at Sherlock again and clears his throat. “Er, we didn’t realise that,” he says, sounding a bit chastened. “Sorry, Greg. Really.”
“You know I have to arrest you,” Lestrade says.
They both nod. “It’s fine,” Sherlock says, as though permitting it.
“I know it’s fine!” He’s only got one set of cuffs on him. He’ll have to cuff them together, which they’ll probably both like a little too much. “So what is this, then? A public thing? You two get off on this sort of thing?”
John looks at the ground but a snort of laughter escapes through his nose. Sherlock starts to laugh, too. “Maybe a bit,” John offers apologetically, pulling himself together a moment later.
Lestrade narrows his eyes at them. “So you do do this often,” he says, confirming.
“Can’t people have hobbies?” John asks, going for innocence.
“This hobby of yours happen to have included my office at any point?” Lestrade asks, mouth pursed around the toothpick.
The look that flickers over Sherlock’s face lasts only a nanosecond but Lestrade catches it nonetheless. He has the grace to look sheepish at least, and John is steadfastly not looking at either of them.
“Guess that answers that,” Lestrade says. “I’m sending you the bill for the carpet cleaning.”
“Fine,” Sherlock says quickly.
“It will never happen in my office again.”
“Nor anywhere else at NSY.”
“Definitely not,” John says, still flushed. The corner of his lip is twitching, though.
Lestrade looks back and forth at both of them. “Wrists,” he says, and they hold them out. Together, like they already knew he’d cuff them together. It’s almost charming but it doesn’t offset his temper all that much. “I’m telling Donovan.”
Sherlock sighs exaggeratedly and John gives him a look which manages to combine a glare with wounded betrayal.
“She’s still pissed about the time in the back of the cruiser, you realise,” Lestrade elaborates. “Come on. You’re spending at least the night in the nick, or until your brother bails you out.”
He lets them pass him, following close behind, and even that doesn’t prevent them both from dissolving into laughter as they walk. He has to bite his lip to keep from joining in, shaking his head.
Donovan would never forgive him.
Lestrade’s footsteps retreat down the corridor. He looked disgusted with them both but Sherlock is quite sure that it’s at least partially feigned.
Their cell is a direct copy of the one they found themselves in the night of John’s stag do – the memory of which is painful even now, not because it was a bad evening but because there was so much missing that should have been there. Never mind. He has John now and isn’t about to give him up for anything. Everyone who doesn’t like it can go sod themselves. He wants all of London – all the world – to know that John has finally chosen him. John ‘Three Continents’ Watson, at that – John, whom everyone likes (at first, at least), who can flirt with anyone, charm his way into or out of anything, John who knows how to dress appropriately and make all the right social noises, who is unfailingly smooth where Sherlock is awkward, whether in public or extremely private, who could be with absolutely anyone in the world – has chosen him to the exclusion of all others. The very thought of it can send a bloom of warmth across his face at the most inconvenient of times.
Life before this wasn’t life. It was survival, nothing more. This, this is happiness. He’s quite sure that he’s never been actively happy before. John has changed everything. He makes the most mundane things enjoyable, brings colour into everything, music where there was only silence, warmth where Sherlock hadn’t even realised he was cold. He knows how silly his own thoughts sound and doesn’t care. Logic be damned. He wouldn’t give this up for anything.
The gaol cell is mere inconvenience. It’s fine. Mycroft will bail them out once Lestrade calls him. And he will call. Of course he was required to arrest them, or at least detain them, but he’ll still call Mycroft.
John is looking around as though the cell is any different the last time they were in one just like it. Of course, they were both significantly inebriated at the time. Sherlock smiles to himself. John catches it. “What are you smiling about?” he wants to know, going to sit down on the padded bench.
“Nothing,” Sherlock says, the smile turning into a smirk. “I’ll tell you later.”
“Then it’s not nothing,” John says, but he leaves it. “Come here.”
Sherlock goes quite willingly. He has a vague memory that John insisted on sitting on the floor last time, and given the size of the bench, that makes sense. However, there’s no reason this time. No reason why they have to keep their distance and pretend to themselves and each other that they’re only friends. He sits down, back against the side wall, and John takes his legs and arranges them (Sherlock loves when John decides to just “manage” his limbs this way) and fits himself into the vee, his back against Sherlock’s chest. Sherlock hums in approval and kisses John’s neck. John finds his fingers and intertwines his own with them, his head tipping back to rest on Sherlock’s shoulder. Sherlock wonders for a moment (again) if he should feel sickened by all of this saccharine sentiment but discards the thought immediately. It would only be saccharine if it wasn’t real, and this is wonderfully, gloriously real. John loves him. He’s never said it, not as such, but he still remembers the day his divorce came through and the way he’d protested when Sherlock had said he was now free. You take that back. Sherlock’s held those words in a room of their own in his mind palace and revisited them frequently. John is his. He said so, didn’t he?
“You’re the perfect height for this,” John says, closing his eyes. He always gets heavy and limp and sleepy after a good orgasm, and curtailed as the blow job in the rowboat was, Sherlock had made sure that the hand job in the trees made up for it, sucking against that place on John’s neck that always heightens his sensations at the crucial moment. He loves knowing these private, secret things about John’s body, the way it reacts, the fascinating overlap between the mental realm and the physical. He’s learned dozens of things about his own body in the past two and a half months, too, things he never would have thought he’d one day need to know or have any use for.
“That’s just because you’re so short,” Sherlock says in John’s ear.
“Twat,” John says amiably, but his fingers belie his words, tightening in Sherlock’s.
“I can feel that,” John says, smiling, his eyes still closed.
“How could you feel that?”
“The shape of your face changed.” John is relaxed against him, open and trusting and utterly, utterly loveable. How is the entire world not in love with him? (They’d better not be. Sherlock has already discovered an unwelcome well of how intensely possessive he feels about John, though for the most part he’s managed to keep it to himself thus far.)
“Mm. I suppose it would,” he muses. “So: we’ve checked off a rowboat. What do you want to do next?”
John is quiet for a moment, thinking. Suddenly he begins to chuckle.
“What?” Sherlock asks.
“Well, it seems a bit obvious,” John starts, and Sherlock gets it.
He begins to laugh, too. “Surely you weren’t thinking gaol cell?”
“If I wasn’t before, I am now.” John shifts against him, apparently settling in. “Not just yet, though. We have all night.”
“Unless Mycroft comes early.”
“He won’t.” John is definite. “You know he’ll make us stay here all night, to ‘teach us a lesson’ or some such rubbish.”
“Hmm. True.” Sherlock considers this. “Are you falling asleep? It’s not even half-past seven.”
“Not sleeping. Just resting.” John’s face furrows a bit. “We haven’t eaten dinner.”
“We’ll make Lestrade get us something,” Sherlock says.
John makes a pleased sound at this. “Do you think he’d actually get us something?”
“Maybe. Probably.” Sherlock looks toward the door. “Perhaps we can make him feel guilty for having arrested us.”
“We haven’t been arrested yet,” John points out, correcting him. “I hope he comes back soon.”
“He will. Or someone will.” Sherlock settles back against the white-painted cinderblock and absorbs himself in the feel of John’s weight, heavy and pliant against him. It’s better than a blanket. Blankets don’t breathe, don’t tangibly make him feel important, unique, worthy of being loved. John makes him feel all of those things, even when he’s shouting about squirrel corpses in the fridge. He’s perfect and Sherlock still has moments where he cannot believe that this is really happening. Added to which, he is utterly spectacular in bed. Not that Sherlock has anyone to compare him to, but in his opinion John’s army nickname is a well-deserved attestation to his experience and talents (and makes him tremendously jealous.) The fellatio he performed even as Sherlock was rowing earlier, before Lestrade came and interrupted Sherlock returning the favour (not that it’s a favour; he’s discovered that he loves performing oral sex on John) – was absolutely phenomenal. Careful to keep his bobbing head out of sight, flat on his belly in the boat, he’d brought Sherlock to the very edge of orgasm, gasping and nearly sobbing in frustration by the third time before finally letting him come the fourth, not minding the strong hand on the back of his head, his elastic throat swallowing him down, his nose buried in Sherlock’s fine, dark-auburn pubic hair. A good thing the oars were wedged in the rowlocks; he’d forgotten all about using them long ago. When he’d recovered sufficiently to be able to breathe again, John had leaned over him to kiss him, briefly, leaving a bit of Sherlock’s own semen in his mouth (sly) before helping him sit up so that they could exchange places. They’d let the little boat drift gently southward then, all the other people on the lake seeming to simply fade away.
The door of the cell opens and Lestrade appears, looking wary at first (clearly he’d worried about catching them in a compromising position), then relaxing as he sees that nothing in particular is going on. “I’m off for the night, finally,” he says. “You two need anything?”
“We’re hungry,” Sherlock complains. “We haven’t had supper.”
Lestrade attempts to glare at him. “What do you think I am, room service?”
Sherlock nudges John into sitting up and extricates his legs, walking over to the door. “Come on. I know you called Mycroft. Let us order something, at least. John’s hungry.”
“Thought ‘we’ were hungry,” Lestrade says, catching it immediately. Perhaps he’s not as dimwitted as Sherlock’s always believed. (Scratch that. He is. Likeable, but dimwitted.) Lestrade sighs. “Fine,” he says. “I’ll order you something. Any particular requests?” This is sarcastic, but he does actually mean it.
Sherlock looks back at John and raises his eyebrows. “Chicken tikka masala,” John says. “With naan.”
Lestrade gives him a long-suffering look. “Be glad you’re not stuck with Donovan. I think she’d have walked out today if I hadn’t brought you two in.”
“Irrelevant,” Sherlock says dismissively. “You have my wallet. You can pay with the credit card. I’ll sign.”
“Anything else?” Lestrade asks, glaring.
Sherlock smirks. “Bottle of merlot wouldn’t hurt.”
Lestrade actually cracks a smile, just one side of his mouth. “Very funny,” he says. “I’ll call it in and get the desk sergeant to bring it once it arrives.” He turns to go.
“Grant,” Sherlock calls after him.
“Greg,” John supplies from behind him.
“Greg!” Lestrade stops walking but doesn’t look back. “You did call my brother, right?”
Lestrade smirks. “Guess you’ll find out in the morning, won’t you? Good night.” He resumes walking, whistling, hands in his pockets, and Sherlock is satisfied. He did call. Good.
Later, after they’ve eaten, they sit facing each other and talk about nothing much. Sherlock’s phone battery begins to give out. Someone comes back and tosses in a singular orange blanket. It makes Sherlock think of a shock blanket and when he says so, John laughs. He rearranges himself so that he’s lying back against Sherlock again, the blanket drawn over both of them. John will definitely sleep now, Sherlock thinks. Post-coital and post-feeding, with nothing else to do, he will definitely sleep.
Before he can, though, a guard comes by and the door is opened. A surly-looking youth of approximately twenty is escorted roughly into the cell. The guard stabs a finger at John. “You. Watson.”
John doesn’t move. “What?” he asks, clearly unperturbed.
“You’re a doctor, right?” the guard says.
“Last I checked, yes.”
The guard jerks his chin in the direction of the boy. “This one’s had too much. A lot too much. If he needs to go to the hospital for alcohol poisoning, let someone know, all right?”
John frowns. “Has he been ill?”
“You could say that,” the guard says grimly.
“I’ll keep an eye on him,” John says. Sherlock says nothing throughout this. The door closes again and John’s weight relaxes against him once more. “Well, that’s a pain,” he mutters.
Sherlock makes a noise of assent. The kid is reeling, goes to a wall and slides down it. “You should try to stay awake,” he advises.
“Huh?” The kid peers blearily at him.
“Stay awake,” Sherlock repeats. “Sleeping will enhance the dizziness.”
“Sod off, mate.” This is hostile.
Sherlock dismisses it without a second thought. “Have it your way.”
Cool dark eyes track over their positions. “Pair of poofters, is it? Great. They put me in a cell with a couple of bloody shirt-lifters.”
A lifetime of being called a freak and worse has thickened Sherlock’s skin, but he prickles on John’s behalf. Even as John tenses in his arms, Sherlock dons his most bored tone. “You’re in no danger, I assure you.”
John relaxes slightly, though he’s still tense. “Yeah, you’re not exactly our type.”
Somehow this makes the boy angry. “Oh yeah?” He is belligerent. “What type’s that, then?”
“I wouldn’t provoke him,” Sherlock says mildly. “He was a soldier, you know. He could practically sprain your wrist from over here. I suggest you resist the urge to speak any further if at all possible.”
John snorts a laugh through his nose at this and Sherlock, eyes on the kid, kisses the top of his head. The kid looks revolted and turns away, knees pulled up to his chest. (Good.) The tension ebbs out of John’s muscles and he shifts a bit, settling himself more firmly against Sherlock.
Silence falls in the cell. There are voices off in the distance but it’s quiet enough that Sherlock can detect the pitch at which the fluorescent lights are humming (E-flat 4). The kid falls asleep, or passes out. Approximately half an hour passes. The time must be close to ten in the evening. This is confirmed when the lights are shut off. John is still awake; he can feel it. “John.” He keeps his voice low. He’s been wanting to bring this up for some time now and since there’s nothing else to do but sleep (dull), it might as well be now.
“When did you know you felt this way?”
John makes a thinking sound. “Difficult to say, actually. There was never just one moment of realisation, really. I knew it in pieces. Every now and then I’d look at you, or we’d catch each other’s eye and laugh about something and I felt a shadow of it and tried not to see it. Or someone would confront me about our status and I’d feel strangely angry about it and not really know why. There were times when I definitely knew. I… know I was close to letting something happen – sod that, I was close to being the one to make it happen, the night of the stag do. I knew in the morning that I’d probably gone further than I meant to and was angry at myself. So yes – I knew it, somewhere in the back of my head by the time I got married. I knew it definitely before the marriage was finished breaking up. Definitely by the time in the alley, when we… but honestly, I think I always knew. From the very start.”
“But you always dated,” Sherlock says. They’ve never talked about this before but he was curious.
“Yeah. Suppose I was trying to channel it into the ‘right’ sort of direction, I suppose,” John says. His hands are resting over Sherlock’s on the blanket and now he pushes his fingers between Sherlock’s, weaving them together as he had earlier. “I didn’t know what else to do with it. You never seemed interested and I never thought there was any chance you’d change your mind, so… I don’t know.”
Sherlock turns this over in his mind. “What would have happened if I’d said something much sooner? Before the day at Bart’s?”
John’s fingers tighten. “I don’t know,” he says. “But if we’d been together when you jumped – you know I barely survived that as it was, don’t you? Part of me died when you did, or when I thought you did.”
A pang of guilt makes itself known. Sherlock doesn’t respond immediately, but lets his legs and arms tighten around John. “Would you still have proposed to Mary?”
John turns his head slightly. “I doubt that very much,” he says, and Sherlock bends forward to kiss him, and the angle is odd but John’s lips and tongue are on his and it’s all that matters. It goes on for awhile, John’s fingers in his the entire while. After, he pulls back a little, turned a little so that he can look Sherlock in the eye. “Anyway,” he says, “it doesn’t matter now. We’re finally together. Maybe we took the long way to get there, but everything is the way it should be now and that’s all that matters to me.” He touches Sherlock’s face, his small thumb stroking over Sherlock’s cheekbone. “I love you, you know.”
Sherlock did know, of course, but it does nothing to negate the wave of warmth that spreads through him at hearing it for the first time. Who knew, he thinks blindly, overcome with unspeakable quantities of emotion. The power of three tiny words. Subject, verb, direct object predicate. Only just barely a complete sentence, but its effect is undeniable. Sherlock opens his mouth to speak, to say it back, but his throat closes around the words and he has to clear it. “I – ”
John’s eyes rove over his face, understanding immediately. “I know,” he says when Sherlock stops. “You know I know.”
Sherlock’s mouth is still open, and suddenly he decides to say something else. He wasn’t planning on doing this, at least not beyond his vague thoughts related to John’s divorce becoming finalised, but he knows with absolute certainty that he means it, wants it entirely. “Will you marry me?”
John’s eyes widen, but not in amusement or disbelief, his eyes locked on Sherlock’s. Then he nods. “Yes,” he says. “God, yes!”
He twists around in Sherlock’s arms and straddles his lap, the blanket sliding away, his mouth attacking Sherlock’s, his body fitting perfectly into the cradle of Sherlock’s too-long arms and legs. They kiss and kiss and Sherlock can feel John harden against him, stimulating his own response, and it doesn’t matter that they’re in a gaol cell, that there’s a drunk kid sleeping in the corner, that anyone could come by. This time it isn’t a game and it simply does not matter if there are witnesses to this. John appears not to care either, rubbing against him through their clothing, mouth unwavering on his. Sherlock moves his hands to John’s arse, feeling it clench and release as he moves, and suddenly he needs to be touching John’s skin. This isn’t enough, not when John has just consented – easily, eagerly – to marry him. Not a word of discussion or negotiation or persuasion. No need to argue the benefits of having certain legal status and the convenience therein (never mind an argument based strictly on sentiment; Sherlock would have been slightly afraid to press his luck there). But there is no need for any of that. John doesn’t require persuading at all. No arguments: just a yes. Sherlock is thrilling from head to toe at this. John is his, and will be officially for all the world to know.
John’s hand is fighting to get between them so Sherlock helps him, jointly getting their trousers open and their erections freed. Sherlock wraps his long fingers around both of them with his right hand and puts his left back on John’s arse down the back of his jeans, inside his underwear. John clutches Sherlock’s shoulder with his left, his right on top of Sherlock’s as he strokes them both. They keep kissing and it doesn’t matter that the cinderblock is hard and cold at Sherlock’s back, not with John’s warm body moving, writhing against his. Someone else might call this inappropriate; to Sherlock it’s the only possible appropriate response to John consenting to his sudden, unplanned proposal.
In the corner, the youth is stirring. Sherlock makes a sound of warning into John’s mouth. John’s only response is to reach back for the blanket, dragging it over his back and much of Sherlock, but he doesn’t stop rutting against Sherlock, thrusting into their joint hands, kissing him. Sherlock decides to ignore the kid; he’s likely only stirring in his sleep, anyway. He was quite drunk. He won’t wake up for this. (Probably.) John makes a bit of a sound then, breaking off the kiss to pant against Sherlock’s jaw, his pulse heavy and fast. He’s leaking freely and so is Sherlock, the wetness making everything slick between them. It feels phenomenal, the combination of feeling John’s penis sliding against his with John’s overall proximity – he feels half-drunk just on John’s presence, his closeness, what he’s just decided. John moans again and Sherlock would warn him, but all he gets when he tries to speak is a gusting of breath between his clenched teeth and then John is spasming in his arms, his entire body shaking as he begins to come. The knowledge of it, simply being aware that John’s orgasm is overtaking him never fails to trigger Sherlock’s own. It’s intoxicating, watching and feeling John convulse against him, his ejaculate spurting into Sherlock’s hand, his testicles jumping and twitching against Sherlock’s own – he inhales sharply and comes himself, John still rutting against him. The gush of heat shudders through his body and out in pulses, his arse lifting from the barely-padded bench, John’s teeth on his neck as he spends himself against him.
It’s the shouting that brings him back to himself. The drunk kid has somehow made it onto his feet and is yelling and pounding on the bars. Panting, Sherlock and John both turn their heads to look, then John looks down at him and they dissolve into breathless laughter even as their (hopefully not exposed) penises twitch against each other’s, both still discharging the last traces of their orgasms. Sherlock uncurls his cramping fingers and wipes his hand on the orange blanket before pulling it further down over them.
“Hey! Guards!” the kid is shouting. “You’ve got to let me out of here! Is anyone fucking listening?”
John is still laughing helplessly and the kid turns and hurls some choice vocabulary at him. “Should have stayed asleep,” John advises him, wiping away tears of mirth.
Sherlock doesn’t care. “Let him shout,” he murmurs to John. “What are they going to do, arrest us?”
That provokes a fresh wave of laughter, at least until heavy footsteps sound at the end of the corridor. John looks him and without a word, they silently scramble to get themselves decent, everything tucked away and zipped up. John attempts to clean his own hands on the blanket and they’re facing forward, side by side, with the blanket over their laps by the time the guard appears.
Mycroft arrives, glaring, twenty minutes later. Sherlock still doesn’t care. This is very close to being the best day of his life.
This is growing ridiculous.
It’s a late afternoon in early July. Mycroft’s sleeves are rolled up to the elbows. A breeze is coming in through the open windows but it does little to offset the warmth of the day compounded by the heat of the oven, wherein the roast is beginning to smell divine. Mummy insisted on doing a proper Sunday dinner, even if it’s at supper time. It should have been at the correct time, only Sherlock had been caught up in a case and the meal had to be pushed back. Sherlock and John, that is to say. And given the subject of the planned discussion, the entire reason why they’re all here, Mycroft is grudgingly forced to admit that the meal had to be adjusted accordingly.
Mummy is beside herself with delight. This has manifested itself in the current burbling of Les Misérables on the CD player and instead of only one parent humming out loud, today it’s both of them. God help him.
His father is sitting across the kitchen table from him, contently slicing strawberries as directed. His mother is whipping cream by hand and forgetting the words to One day more, though this doesn’t impede her enthusiastic gestures. No wonder Sherlock and John have disappeared.
Mycroft’s frown deepens. He has an entire file in his briefcase with which he intends to confront them at some point in the near future. He’d meant to do it two weeks ago when he’d bailed them out of prison (surely setting a record for having been released early purely out of annoyance on the part of the guards), only they were both far, far too happy and absorbed in one another at the time. So much so that he’d noticed it was something more than their recent, nauseating usual, and said something cryptic about it. Asked a terse, sarcastic question as to the precise nature of their joint mood. Not that they’d done anything in particular, other than sit far too close together on the seat across from him. They weren’t even holding hands or overtly touching one another (thank God), but they were both positively radiating, which was out of character for both of them as well as deeply unsettling.
They’d looked at each other, exchanging some sort of silent question-and-response, then John had said, “Well, Mycroft, I’d say something rude, but as you’re about to become my brother-in-law, I’ll spare you this time.”
Mycroft had felt as though he’d just missed a step going downstairs. “What?” He’d gaped at them, disbelieving. He transferred his shocked stare to Sherlock, unable to contain it, and his brother had merely smiled serenely back at him, his knee pressed to John’s.
“It’s true,” he’d said, and Mycroft had had to blink and readjust his thoughts in short order. He’d never in his life considered that a) John would actually fall for Sherlock, though recent evidence had certainly called that into reconsideration, or b) that Sherlock would ever allow himself to become so hopelessly entangled in sentiment – much less give so far in to it that he would actually consent to marry another person. Sherlock had further shattered that perception then by adding, “I asked. He said yes. End of story.”
Mycroft blinked and processed rapidly, mentally reshuffling. He looked appraisingly at John. John Watson, whom he’d nearly, if reluctantly, considered family until the point at which he’d started dating again after Sherlock’s death. Then he’d written John off as a bad investment, finally answering the first and most important question he’d ever asked himself regarding the man. But this – John has consented to marry Sherlock. And they are both sickeningly happy about it. So: acceptance, then. He’s considered threatening John with some sort of “break his heart and prepare yourself for disembowelment” speech, but actually believes it unnecessary. John assuredly, unquestionably loves his brother. And Sherlock is actively, glowingly, ridiculously happy, the idiot. Mycroft has simply decided to bite his tongue and accept that this is happening. Sherlock knows very well what sort of compromise to his ability to reason clearly this is. He knows what a personal liability caring for another person is. Yet he’s still chosen this, and unlike the first year and a half after his return from the seeming dead, it’s actually working for him. It was almost more than Mycroft could stand, watching Sherlock suffer in blatant and painfully unrequited love. He’d wanted to shake every tooth out of John Watson’s face, tell him over and over again that he’d never deserved the love of his genius brother, that he should be kissing the ground upon which Sherlock walked rather than rejecting his love in favour of the woman most of them knew as Mary Morstan, but Sherlock never would have spoken to him again had he broached the matter. So he’d stayed out of it as best he could, and watched Sherlock fall heedlessly into it, resulting in a metaphorically perfect bullet in the heart and eventual exile to Serbia and death.
At least he’d managed to save Sherlock from that. But he’d been hard-pressed to forgive John for putting Sherlock through all the rest. When the marriage had dissolved and he’d moved back into Baker Street, Mycroft had sighed to himself and accepted that Sherlock was simply determined to punish himself. Having the doctor that close in proximity would only make it all the worse once he found some other unsuitable woman to marry – as though flaunting it in Sherlock’s face. Sexual orientation aside, it had always been clear to Mycroft that John had been at least somewhat attracted to Sherlock, fascinated perhaps by his otherworldly looks, his brilliant mind, his strangely charismatic persona. To turn his back on that in favour of these bland women was an insult. Or so he’d felt until John had settled for a woman considerably more like Sherlock in skill set, though failing entirely to compare in physical attributes. Mycroft allows that he may be slightly biased, having spent all of Sherlock’s lifetime wondering how he’d managed to inherit all the best genes, but he does feel that Sherlock’s looks rate well above average. For John to have chosen someone well below Sherlock’s standard is ridiculous and insulting. At least that’s finished with now. Presumably he’s seen the error of his ways.
Mummy is warbling to Little People now, Mycroft’s personal least favourite track on the entire, wretched soundtrack. He’d have shot Gavroche just for that bloody song. He picks up the file and decides to go in search of his brother and soon-to-be brother-in-law to tell them to get their arses back downstairs posthaste. He does so with some well-justified trepidation, however; as his file would suggest, it would be wise to proceed with caution.
At the tops of the stairs he hears their voices and sighs. His caution was well warranted; they’re in Sherlock’s old bedroom. Mycroft stops, not wanting to listen, but he can hear them anyway. They’re clearly in the throes of one of their – many – trysts. The springs of Sherlock’s bed are squeaking and the door isn’t closed. Surely they aren’t playing their stupid game. Not here, where Mummy or Father could just come upstairs and hear or see them. Propriety aside, if they were hoping to be caught here, that’s worthy of a psychiatrist. His annoyance rises, thinking of their parents, and suddenly he decides to interrupt them. He walks down the short corridor and pushes the bedroom door all the way open, relishing the briefly-sighted look of surprise followed rapidly by horror on both their faces before he averts his own in disgust, turning perpendicular to them in the doorway.
His brother is on his hands and knees on top of the blankets with what appears to be one of his old Harrow ties knotted around his penis at the thin end. John is behind him and was, until a second ago, thrusting enthusiastically into him, one hand on Sherlock’s side while the other was trailing the thicker end of the tie over Sherlock’s chest. They freeze, still attached at the genitals like a pair of copulating animals. “Mycroft!” Sherlock gasps out, short of breath and horrified. “What the fuck are you doing?”
It’s a mark of his being unnerved that he’s resorted to profanity; he rarely uses it except in Mycroft’s presence and only then when Mycroft has done something to re-establish the relationship they had as children. “I could ask the same thing,” Mycroft replies acidly. “Have you forgotten that we’re here to dine with our parents? Not, I should think, to… christen your old bedroom this way.”
“Mycroft, shut the fucking door, with yourself on the other side of it,” John says with immense annoyance, despite the fact that he’s panting. “Now.”
Mycroft can only see either of them peripherally as he’s steadily avoiding looking at either one of them. Stubborn, he simply states, “You have precisely two minutes to pull yourselves together and get presentable. Then we are going to have a brief discussion, and then we are all going to go downstairs and stop being rude. We are here to plan your wedding, as you may recall. I realise that our parents are singing. They’re merely happy. The bloody musical is nearly over, and I suggest that – ”
“It has nothing to do with the musical,” Sherlock snaps. “I was giving John a tour and we just… got distracted. Now get out and give us our two minutes.”
“And shut the bloody door,” John adds.
Mycroft sighs heavily, closes the door most of the way, just to be irritating, and goes to stand at the top of the stairs to guard against either of his parents coming up. He can still hear them, which is obnoxious. First it’s just the sounds of their resumed rutting, the faint sound of flesh slapping against flesh. He can hear Sherlock’s heavy exhalations, nearly silent but for the volume of air expelling itself through his mouth. John, on the other hand, is making small sounds in the back of his throat. He supposes he should be grateful they haven’t decided on loud, fake moaning just to annoy him, though he also has the wit to realise that this is likely more because he only gave them two minutes and they’re too desperate to finish to care about annoying him. The tempo increases. Mycroft checks his watch, drums his fingers against the file.
“ – please, John, the tie – take it off – ” Sherlock’s voice is agonised, pleading.
“You want to come?” John’s is a rough whisper, clearly audible.
Sherlock’s assent is pained. There is a whisper of expensive silk and then a burst of breath from Sherlock’s throat, the splatter of something wet, another nearly-stifled grunt followed by a lot of heavy exhalation. John’s movements increase dramatically. The sound of a palm slapping against soft flesh adds itself to the sounds of his body slamming into Sherlock’s and then he’s cursing under his breath, movements stilling and Sherlock curses with him as the orgasm shudders audibly through his fiancé’s form.
Distasteful. Oh, indeed. Yet Mycroft is slightly ashamed to find his pulse minutely elevated. Hardly perceptible. It’s just that it’s been many years since he last partook and overhearing this stirs memories better left to lie. He hears the sounds of clothes rustling and says, “It’s been four minutes. Are you clothed?”
“Just a second,” Sherlock says, clearly still short of breath.
Mycroft ignores this and goes back to the doorway, opening the door partway. Sherlock is clothed and bent over the bed, scrubbing at the comforter with a couple of tissues. Mycroft meets John’s eyes over Sherlock’s back and John has the grace to flush a little and look away. Though that may just be remnant colour, Mycroft thinks. “That will stain, you realise,” he says to Sherlock, keeping his voice pleasant enough.
Sherlock balls the tissues and disposes of them in the wastepaper basket under his old desk, colour high in his cheeks, too. John is sitting at the head of the twin bed, short legs stretched out in front of him. Sherlock goes to sit beside him and John unabashedly takes his hand, glaring defiantly at Mycroft now. “What did you want to talk about that couldn’t wait?” Sherlock wants to know, though the usual edge is missing from his voice.
Mycroft makes a nasty mental note to thank John for that at some point. Possibly engaging in regular sexual intercourse will finally succeed in mellowing Sherlock’s sharper points. Though that does bring him to the reason why he’s here. He purses his lips and opens the file folder and begins reciting a list of places. “Oxford Circus station, 5:27pm.” He turns a page. “The London Eye. You realise there are security cameras in the capsules, of course. The Victoria and Albert Museum. The British Museum, cocktail hour preceding the opening of the new Babylonian exhibit. All of the following streets: Cold Blow Lane – charming image, really – Back Passage, Bird-in-Hand Passage, and Cock Lane. The men’s undergarments section of Harrod’s. The alley behind the Diogenes Club – thanks ever so much for that one. A public toilet in Kensington Market. London Taxi number 2552, whose driver sent in the footage from the security camera.” Finally he closes the folder. “And last but not least, a public indecency complaint, in the presence of minors, in Regent’s Park’s boating lake, compounded by your behaviour in a prison cell. Do you have anything to say for yourselves?”
John and Sherlock exchange a look. The corner of Sherlock’s lip twitches. “Yeah, you missed a bunch,” John says, and Sherlock dissolves into childish laughter.
Mycroft is unamused. “Look,” he says with a drawn-out sigh. “I don’t know imagine for a moment that either of you actually considers this appropriate or legal behaviour. I imagine you’re finding some thrill in being caught – ”
“We never intend to get caught,” Sherlock interrupts, recovering himself. “It’s just – happened a bit, lately.”
Mycroft re-evaluates. “Ah. Then the subconscious point, I imagine, lies in the staking of a public claim. Is that it?”
Sherlock shrugs and looks a small bit self-conscious. “Not really. It’s just about – the public thing, I suppose. Just knowing that it is inappropriate but, hopefully, more or less secret. The point isn’t to get caught.”
“And yet you’ve been getting caught quite regularly, on camera and in person,” Mycroft says dryly. “I therefore beg to differ. I hope, in that case, that getting married will settle any further need to stake such… public claims on one another. I very much hope so, because the next time the two of you are arrested for public indecency, I won’t bail you out, nor will anyone else. Do I make myself clear?”
Sherlock glares at his knees. “Yes.” He utters the word as though it’s profane.
“You will desist this ridiculous behaviour at once, and you will get this comforter cleaned before Mummy sees what you’ve done with it. I don’t even want to ask about the state of your Harrow tie,” Mycroft says with immense disdain. He moves out of the doorway. “Downstairs. Now.”
He doesn’t look at them as they mutter darkly to one another, but they’re both moving, at least. “Can we not invite him to the wedding?” John asks, clearly intending to be heard.
Sherlock snorts. “I’d say yes, but you know he’ll just watch it through a camera lens, anyway.”
Sherlock emerges and goes past him without a second look. John, however, stops in the doorway and faces him, obviously unruffled by all of this. He meets Mycroft’s eye squarely. (Ah, the bravery of the soldier. Of course.) “Mycroft,” he says. “Don’t. Just – don’t. You don’t get to dictate terms. It was good of you to bail us out. If you’d rather not next time, if there is a next time, don’t. But spare us the lecture. And stop bossing Sherlock around. Do I make myself understood?”
Mycroft holds the shorter man’s stern glare for a moment, then acquiesces. “I’d just rather not see you both arrested,” he says, slightly peevish, but it comes out more meekly than he’d intended.
“That’s not up to you to decide. Sherlock is a grown man, and so am I. I know he’ll always be your ‘little’ brother, but just lay off, all right?” John lowers his voice, though Sherlock has gone downstairs. “Look, it’s the first time in his life he’s ever been in love. Let him enjoy it a little, would you? You don’t have to understand it. Just let him be.”
Mycroft is a bit startled. He’s never thought of it this way before. He nods quickly, trying to process this. Perhaps John has a point. John hasn’t finished, however.
“Furthermore,” he says, “I love your brother. I love him more than I could ever make you understand. I know you and I have never seen eye-to-eye on much, but we both know that the one thing we can agree on is Sherlock’s well-being. This is good for him. I’m good for him. We’re good for each other. And we’re very happy right now. I know you mean well – ” John sounds as though he’s being extremely generous despite considerable doubts on this score – “but I want you to stop the bullying, no matter how well-intended. All right?”
Mycroft holds his gaze, then nods again, mentally re-evaluating John. “All right,” he says quietly.
John nods, apparently satisfied, and goes downstairs. After a thoughtful moment, Mycroft follows him. Of course it’s him Mummy fusses at for being late; everyone else is already seated around the table. Mycroft suppresses a long-suffering sigh and merely goes to wash his hands at the kitchen sink before joining his family. Which now, apparently, includes John again. Just a quick mental re-categorisation and it’s done. John’s status has been officially upgraded from “Sherlock’s fiancé” to “brother-in-law (future, nuptial contract pending)”. Somehow this makes him feel lighter and he actually smiles at John when the latter passes him the rolls. Granted, John returns it with a slightly suspicious look, but that’s fine.
Mummy can hardly wait to start talking about it. They’ve already warned her that it’s going to be quite small – no stuffy friends-of-parents and random hangers-on, as Sherlock had described them. “Not like John’s wedding,” he’d said earlier. John had given him a look and Sherlock had amended, “Not like John’s first wedding. There were way too many people there that he barely knew. Why would we invite anyone we don’t even know?”
“Well, if we stick to only people that you like, we’ll have what, five guests?” John had said, but he’d forestalled Sherlock’s frown with an indulgent smile.
Mummy brings it up again now, passing Sherlock the potatoes. “So, have you settled on how many people you’ll have?”
“Yes,” John says. “It’s going to be quite small. Thirty-six in total, including their guests.”
Mummy nods placidly. “That’s just about right, then. We’ll get a marquee in case the weather doesn’t cooperate. Did you still just want to do champagne and desserts?”
“Yes,” Sherlock says. “The whole event is just meant to be an evening. Nothing too long and dragged out. Everyone hates long receptions.”
Father clears his throat and pipes up then. “You’re still doing the whole do all together, then? Here in the garden?”
“Yes,” John says, serving himself roast beef and passing the platter to Mycroft. “We thought it would be easier. It’s a bit of a drive out of the city already, so it’s simpler to keep it all in one place. It’s just meant to be a little party to celebrate. Nothing over the top.”
“And what are you going to wear?” Mummy directs this at John. She seems to just adore the man, Mycroft muses, the fact that she last saw him at Christmas when he was here with his criminal wife notwithstanding.
In fact, both parents took the news of Sherlock’s relationship with and engagement to John – all of which they learned at the same time – incredibly calmly. Father had blinked two or three times, then smiled and said, “How nice,” and clearly meant it. Mummy had asked a question or two, largely pertaining to her misconception that John was, in fact, married – and to a female at that, but Mycroft quietly set the record straight. As it were.
John has to chew and swallow before he can answer, reaching for his glass of wine. “Your dress uniform?” Mummy adds hopefully. “That would be so smart.”
Sherlock chokes on his mashed potatoes and begins to cough.
For some reason this makes John turn quite red and he thumps Sherlock on the back and holds a glass of water to his lips. As Sherlock takes it and drinks, John ascertains that he’s not on the brink of death and turns back to Mummy. “No,” he says, but doesn’t explain. “We’re actually going to wear the same suits we wore for, er, my last wedding.” He winces a little, perhaps hearing how odd this sounds.
Mycroft leans forward in his seat, quite keen to hear this particular explanation. Surely it can’t be that. He’s crowing internally.
Mummy asks for him, looking properly confused. “Oh?” she says. “But… why? Sure you want to wear something different, this time…” She trails off, looking at John in gentle perplexity.
John looks a touch embarrassed. “It was Sherlock’s idea,” he says, looking at his plate. “He… well.” He looks around the table, smiling faintly at Father at Mummy and steadily avoiding Mycroft’s gaze. He puts a hand on Sherlock’s knee under the table, visible only from Mycroft’s angle. He keeps his tone gentle, obviously not wanting to embarrass Sherlock and searching for the most tactful way of putting this. “The first time I got married… I didn’t make the best of choices. It should have been obvious to me all along, perhaps, but… in a way, we both felt that that should have been our wedding. We both quite liked each other in those particular suits and Sherlock sort of insisted.”
Mummy understands at once, her eyes going soft and doe-like, while Mycroft fights to keep the glee off his face and reminds himself that he’s decided to be nice about this. “Oh, Sherlock,” Mummy says, her voice full of compassion, her expression flickering over John with something like a combination of reproach and gratitude. Interesting, Mycroft observes.
“Please desist,” Sherlock says stiffly.
Mycroft can’t resist. “How nice,” he says blandly, with a matching bland smile.
John shoots him a look filled with daggers. “Anyway,” he goes on, “the caterers are booked and we’ve picked out a wine. All we really have to talk about is times and such. We’ve got a notary and all that.”
“And the date?” Father asks, pulling a little notebook out of his pocket.
John’s eyes fall on the notebook and he looks suddenly extremely fond, his eyes softening a bit, looking at Sherlock. Sherlock gives him a small, very private smile, and says, “We were thinking of the eighth of August.”
“Goodness, that’s soon,” Mummy remarks. “But it’s a small enough affair. I can’t see why that shouldn’t work. That’s what, five weeks from now?”
“Yes,” Mycroft says. “Five weeks. I shall be arranging security. We don’t want any paparazzi hanging about.”
Father gives him a small smile at this; for years Mycroft has refused to acknowledge Sherlock’s fame in any way. Not in front of them, at least; he’s been arranging for Sherlock’s security for close to a decade already. John smiles at him, too, and Sherlock turns to him. “You can be an usher, if you like,” he says in a tone of magnanimity.
Mycroft lifts his eyebrows. “I thought I wasn’t invited.”
Sherlock rolls his eyes. “That was a joke. Of course you’re invited. You’re my brother.”
Mycroft allows himself a tiny, smug smile. “Will you be having attendants?”
“Just a couple,” Sherlock says slowly, suspiciously. “Why?”
“Who are they?” Mycroft is very pleasant.
“Lestrade and Mike Stamford,” John says. “Mike introduced us, after all.”
Mycroft makes his smile oily. “I would love to be one of your attendants as well, little brother.” Sherlock opens his mouth to object, but Mycroft adds, “It would be kind of you to ask me. And it would, say… keep a certain file out of sight, shall we say indefinitely? As a wedding gift.”
His parents look flummoxed by this comment, but both Sherlock and John swallow. It’s worth it for the look on their faces alone. “In that case,” Sherlock says, sounding a bit as though he’s choking on the words, “we would love to have a third attendant.”
Mycroft beams at everyone, entirely pleased with how this has turned out. John refills his own and Sherlock’s wineglasses, and pointedly changes the subject.
Martha Hudson allows John to refill her glass before he sits down in the chair next to hers. “Thank you, dear,” she says, reaching over to pat him on the wrist. “That was beautiful dancing. Really lovely. He really taught you well, didn’t he?”
John smiles at her, a warm, affectionate smile, clearly pleased. “He did,” he says. “He wouldn’t let me do the dip, though.”
Mrs Hudson laughs delightedly. “That would have been something, you dipping that beanpole in front of everyone! Really, though, you look wonderful together. I’m so happy for you, I can’t even say!”
John leans over and kisses her on the cheek, exuding warmth, both physically and emotionally. “Not one shred of how happy we are for ourselves,” he tells her, his entire face smiling.
She clasps his hand. “It was about time,” she says, trying to sound stern and failing. “You kept him waiting long enough, didn’t you?”
John’s lips press a little and he ducks his head. “I really did, didn’t I? I’m sorry. I should have realised much earlier.”
She swats at his arm. “Oh, don’t apologise to me! I’m just happy, is all.”
John gives her a grateful smile. He’s been on the receiving end of several of her banged-down cups of tea and sessions of pointed questions and overly-direct advice now and knows she could deal out much worse if she felt inclined. “You’re the best, Mrs H,” he says.
“Nonsense. Now where’s Sherlock got to?” Mrs Hudson peers over through the small crowd and spots him speaking to Harry and her girlfriend.
John follows her gaze, the smile creeping back over his face. It’s so nice, Mrs Hudson thinks. They’re so in love and it was high time, too. Sherlock is a different person in his happiness – still blisteringly sarcastic and brilliant and blunt, but there’s a sense of play to it that he used to lose at the times when his private demons and despair crept in, hardening his edges and sharpening his tongue and making him a misery to be around. It was always the worst when things weren’t right with John, too, his manic behaviour getting more and more eccentric and difficult. Love has had a phenomenal effect on him. Just look at him, she thinks to herself, terribly pleased. Chatting with people he doesn’t know all that well and doing just fine, being polite, passing round the champagne and making introductions and smiling with his eyes, his face open like she’s rarely seen it before. She’s known him a long, long time now – half his lifetime or more, she thinks, and she’s never seen him this way. And John is gazing at him with the eyes of a man who still can’t believe his incredibly good fortune, which it is. Mrs Hudson can’t even decide which of them she’s happier for.
She leans over and prods him. “Go to him,” she says.
“I think I will.” John gets to his feet. “Have you tried the lemon cheesecake? It’s delicious.”
“Thank you, dear, I’ve had plenty,” she says, shooing him. She watches him cross the marquee to Sherlock, slipping his arm through his, watches Sherlock’s smile grow even brighter with John next to him again.
It was such a lovely ceremony, she thinks. Fifteen minutes, just as Sherlock had wanted. Nothing extra, just the main elements. It had concluded with a kiss that managed to be moderately chaste, yet long and so tender that tears had come to her eyes. Sherlock is like a son to her and it means more than she can say to see him happy at last. It’s been interesting getting to know his parents, too. They’ve visited on occasion over the years, but never for long. She still marvels that two such normal people turned out those two genius boys.
She decides to go and have a chat with Molly, who has been casting eyes at Greg Lestrade all evening. When the music starts again, Mrs Hudson nudges her into going to ask the detective inspector to dance and is pleased by the enthusiasm with which he accepts. The music is all modern stuff now; there was a proper waltz that Sherlock and John danced to for their first dance (throughout which both Mr Holmes and Molly cried, though Mrs Hudson would be forced to admit if pressed that her eyes weren’t entirely dry, either), and then the pop music started up.
Sherlock comes and sits down beside her, filling her glass just as John had.
She smiles, thinking of this, and thanks him. “That was lovely dancing,” she says, repeating the compliment. “Just like you used to do in the sitting room.”
Sherlock’s smile in response is a bit tight and for a moment she worries that she’s said the wrong thing; after all, the dancing was for John’s first wedding, teaching him how to dance with Mary. “Thank you,” he says, relaxing a little. “I always thought we danced well together.”
“You do,” she assures him. “You taught him well. And you look wonderful together.”
Now Sherlock smiles for real. “Do we?”
“Of course you do. And I see why you wanted him to wear that suit again. He looks so handsome in it.” Mrs Hudson smiles conspiratorially at him. She had understood instantly why Sherlock had stubbornly wanted John to wear it again without needing an explanation. They both look wonderful, a sight for sore eyes, and such a handsome couple. It had been such a painful moment at John’s wedding to Mary, when Sherlock had said all that. He’d said too much, really, somehow finally learning how to open up and put his feelings into words at just the worst moment possible. She’d ached for him, so unaware of his own blunder.
Sherlock follows her gaze through the crowd, where John is cheerfully chatting with Mr Holmes and another elderly man she takes to be an uncle of his. “But this time I’ll be the one to take him out of it at the end of the night,” Sherlock says with so much vindictive relish it’s practically indecent.
Mrs Hudson snorts delicately. “Please,” she says. “At my age! You two make enough noise as it is, I don’t need mental images to add to it!”
Sherlock’s only response is an unrepentant grin. “Excuse me,” he says, standing and straightening the morning coat. “I have to go and dance with my husband.”
She shakes her head, unable to keep from smiling at him. “Go on, then.”
He stalks over to John and pulls him out of his conversation with a passing word to his father and newly-inherited uncle. John laughs and allows himself to be dragged into the melee. The song’s beat is quick with a heavy bass line, not something one can waltz to. It doesn’t seem to matter; he pulls John into his arms and holds him tightly, moving a little to the beat of the music. The uncle comes over to Mrs Hudson’s table then and introduces himself. He’s a very nice man, as it turns out, and they spend several minutes chatting amiably. He tells her that he likes her hat and Mrs Hudson is charmed. He’s also quite insistent that she try the cream puffs and goes in search of a plate of them after a bit. As she waits, Mrs Hudson scans the dancers again. The lively music has drawn most of the guests onto the dance floor of the marquee; there are several other groups around John and Sherlock but she can still see them. They’re moving together, dancing very intimately and she thinks it’s lovely. It’s their wedding, after all. Who can blame them for wanting to be close to one another?
Her eyes fall on Mycroft Holmes just then and she’s a bit miffed to see that he’s also staring at his brother, only with an expression of severe disapproval stamped plainly across his face like a thundercloud. There’s really no need, she thinks, sniffing to herself. Of all times for Mycroft Holmes to be a stinker, just when his little brother’s finally married off and happy as anything! Her eyes travel further and make a note that Greg Lestrade, apparently finished dancing with Molly, has a similar expression on his face – less disapproving, but shrewd as he squints at Sherlock and John. She notices that Sherlock’s hands are a little lower than they should be, perhaps, and their dancing looks a bit less like dancing and more like embracing, John’s thigh pushed right between Sherlock’s, but it is their wedding. The uncle returns then, and he’s right – the cream puffs are divine. Her champagne flute is filled again by a passing server and she settles back in her seat, letting the bubbles go to her head.
By the end of the song, she’s lost track of the grooms. Where have they got to, then? She’s feeling a little light-headed and thinks she might just accept the uncle’s offer of a lift to the nearby inn before catching the train back to London in the morning. First, though, she has a gift to give. They specified no gifts on the invitation, but she has a gift nonetheless, one that can’t be refused. She excuses herself and gets up to go have a look. Perhaps they’ve gone into the house?
On her way out of the marquee she bumps into Mrs Holmes, who thanks her warmly for coming and insists that she come stay for a weekend sometime, any time she wants a little quiet. The angle of her eyebrow says more than enough and Mrs Hudson privately thinks that if Sherlock’s mother knew the half of it, the angle would be even more severe. She smiles and thanks the woman and gets herself out into the fresh air. The evening is warm but the air outside is a little cooler and clears her head. She hears a faint noise from behind the marquee on the side opposite of the house and decides to investigate. When she gets there, she spots them, kissing deeply, leaning against each other. She notes that John’s got a hand down the back of Sherlock’s trousers and purses her lips. Really. They could wait until they’ve gone to their hotel! It’s more a little inappropriate, even if it is their wedding. She clears her throat and sees Sherlock’s back jerk in slight surprise. He lifts his head and there is a small negotiation between and then he turns around, cheeks deeply flushed but otherwise decent, she’s relieved to see. He’s breathing deeply, but then he’s bound to be emotional today of all days.
He clears his throat and shifts so that he’s blocking John, which is probably just a coincidence. He’s not always entirely thoughtful about that sort of thing, though it’s John and he should really know better by now. “Mrs Hudson,” he says. “Are you heading out?”
“Yes,” she says, “but first I wanted to see you. Both of you,” she adds pointedly.
John seems to be fidgeting with his clothing, but comes to stand beside Sherlock then and they come over to her. John smiles at her, his cheeks red as well. They must be embarrassed that she caught them kissing, she realises fondly. “What is it?” John asks, despite the heat in his face.
“It’s a wedding present,” she says firmly. “I know you said no gifts, but I have to insist.” She draws the envelope out of her purse. “Here,” she says, passing it to Sherlock. “This is for you. For both of you.”
Sherlock glances at her even as his fingers prise the flap open, almost wary. Then his eyes drop to the small document within and his lips fall open. “John,” he says, sounding stunned, pulling it out.
John reacts the same way, with a small gasp. Then he says, “Mrs Hudson, you can’t. We can’t possibly accept this.”
Sherlock agrees instantly. “It’s far too much,” he says. “This is your home. You cannot just give us the deed to Baker Street!”
“Nonsense. I can and I will. I have. I won’t hear a word of argument,” Mrs Hudson says, unmoved. She was fully expecting this reaction. She pats Sherlock’s arm. “I was always planning to leave it to you, you know. This way it’s just a little sooner. The expense of the upkeep is getting a little beyond me, anyway, and since there are two of you now, you’ll be able to manage it properly. It’s your home as much as it’s mine – and I mean that for both of you,” she says, looking at John. “It’s where you first started living together and I’d like it very much if you went on living there – in your own property. And I rather thought you wouldn’t evict me just yet.” She smiles at them, feeling terribly affectionate about them both.
John looks at Sherlock, who looks back at him. Then Sherlock says, very gently, “Of course not. This is enormous, Mrs Hudson. We can’t possibly thank you enough.”
“Don’t thank me, you silly idiot,” she says, getting teary-eyed. “I’m just so glad you two finally got yourselves sorted – oh dear, I don’t mean to be all – ” Mrs Hudson gropes in her purse for a tissue and blows her nose. “It’s just so lovely,” she says, managing to keep her voice from being too tremulous. “I just never thought I’d see the day, when it was so obvious, right from the start! I – oh – ”
“It’s all right,” Sherlock says, with a hint of alarm in his voice. “Everything is all right now, Mrs Hudson.”
She fixes him with a stern look, then transfers it to John. “You two. Love is the most important thing in the world. You know that, don’t you?”
They both assure her that they do, and then John’s uncle appears around the corner to take her to the inn. She lets herself be led away, glancing back at them just the once. The deed is in its envelope and Sherlock is clutching it to John’s back as they kiss again, and she thinks with satisfaction, yes. They do know it. She leaves the wedding feeling very satisfied about the entire affair. It was a beautiful evening and she couldn’t be happier about everything.
She hopes they’ll also take to heart the note she left inside the envelope with the deed containing several specific suggestions for some light renovations to the 221B flat, including sound-proofing some of the walls, and thicker curtains for the windows. At her time of life, it would only be decent.