The syringe, full of his drug of choice, seemed to call his name in a pleading voice as he stared at it and contemplated discarding it. The whine in his head quieted only when he pushed the needle into the crook of his arm and felt a rush course through his veins. He felt his brain and his nerve endings react to the stimulant, taking him for a ride inside his own body.
The first time he had taken the drug had been to focus on a project for a class at Uni. The second time, after he took it at a party, euphoria overtook him and he had been the centre of attention, chatting to everyone, explaining something fascinating which he then failed to remember the following day. Being accepted for once had felt exhilarating.
Both those times he had snorted the easily available powdered version of the drug. He had learnt later that by injecting it directly into his bloodstream he would get the effects faster and they would last longer.
Now, he longed for the feeling of happiness and focus to slam into him, but instead his brain slipped back to his days at school, as if he travelled in time, the amorphous sensations transitioned into a memory.
He was fifteen again and heard his name yelled along with derogatory words. As he ran away from the voices, he told himself that their opinion didn’t matter, they were all stupid, unimportant. But if that was the case why did his heart hurt so badly? Why did he feel like darkness was flowing in his veins? Like he was alone for a reason? He was different from his classmates, so he was a freak. He was sweating from the run; his breathing was ragged and his legs felt weak.
He was sweating now, yet not from exertion. The drug wasn’t working the way he wanted it to. Maybe if he took some more, his mind would bring back the euphoric feelings and make him forget the hard days of his youth, the days he had spent compartmentalising and rearranging his behaviour in order to move forward. But if his mind refused to use the drug that way, it could a least let him slip into oblivion.
Through a haze, he heard his name being yelled continuously, annoyingly. He couldn’t move to get away, he couldn’t move to shoo the unwelcome guest either. The name was yelled in a tone that suggested he had done something wrong again. The same tone he had heard so many times before and in so many different voices. This time it was his brother's condescending tone.
The nightmares woke John at night. When he was at war, the only thing he had wanted to do was come back home. Once he had, however, he was unable to find himself in the familiar yet so foreign world. Whenever he closed his eyes, he heard his last name being yelled in agony and was automatically transported to desert.
Amongst the loud noise of gunfire, he followed the sounds of pain and ran as fast as he could. He would try to patch the unpatchable, heal the unhealable, close the eyes of the ones who couldn’t cry out his name anymore. He reached the man who had been yelling his name and realised that he knew him. His friend was on the sand behind the detached wheel of a Humvee, his hands holding his midsection. John bandaged the open abdominal wound, pushing inside what was never supposed to be outside of the body, knowing that his patient, his brother in arms, wouldn’t survive to tell the tale. Yet he tried to ease his pain and talked nonsensical platitudes just so the dying man would know he wasn't alone in the moments before the darkness would swallow him forever. His name was Michael and John was still holding his hand when it slackened and fell loose from his grip. At that moment, he registered that someone else yelled his name and he flinched to attention again.
_ _ _
“It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but that you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it.”
Holmes to Watson ― Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
January 29th was an especially warm day in London. The singing birds, and the green grass which made the winter feel like early spring, had no effect on John’s mood. He still felt absolutely forlorn. The gravel crunched under his boots as he walked with determination through the park in Russell Square.
Last night he had read online that it would help to create an outlet for his emotions to deal with what happened to him during his time in Afghanistan. He thought about starting a journal or going back to playing guitar, but nothing worth writing about happened to him and he doubted he would be able to play well any more due to the tremor in his dominant left hand. All in all, he doubted that sitting alone in a cheap flat in buttfuck nowhere writing or playing would make him feel any better. London was alive and even if he felt alone in the crowd, no one noticed him and he could pretend he was just one of many regular people walking the park. He wouldn’t be able to bear the familiarity that small towns brought; everyone knew one another and their secrets. You couldn’t go buy milk without the shopkeeper knowing your food preferences, shoe size and how often you bought condoms. John used to buy a lot of condoms, now however, he felt hollow inside and out and had no interest in dating or casual encounters.
“John! John Watson!” John heard a vaguely familiar voice calling his name and for a split second he considered ignoring it and walking forward. “Stamford, Mike Stamford. We were at Barts together.”
John finally stopped, schooled his expression into a semblance of a neutral smile and turned around.
“Yes, sorry, yes. Mike, hello.” John extended his hand to shake Mike’s. He had changed a lot since they had attended medical school together, but then again, so had John; his changes, however, were hidden inside his head.
“I heard you were abroad somewhere getting shot at. What happened?” Mike asked casually, a soft smile adorning his familiar, albeit rounder, face.
“I got shot.” John realised he was being an arsehole only after the words had left his mouth. He was still not used to being back and he was not the same man that had left for war. He tried to make amends and offered to buy Mike a coffee at Criterion so that they could catch up and talk about the good old days.
When they sat at a bench overlooking the greenery of the park, the cardboard cup warmed John’s right hand and he used the excuse of the cold air to hide the trembling left palm in his jacket pocket.
“Are you still at Barts then?” John asked casually and took a sip of his coffee.
“Teaching now. Yeah, bright young things like we used to be. God, I hate them.” Mike chuckled good-heartedly. He was a good guy, always had been. “There’s an opening for a teaching position and with your medical...”
“Nah. I appreciate it, but uh...” John waved his coffee and took another sip, refusing to come up with a lie and Mike didn’t press. John’s dreams to be a surgeon had been crushed by the war and he did not have the patience to look into the eyes of young people who were on the cusp of the best years of their lives. John had the horrible feeling that the best years of his life were over. He had nothing to look forward to anymore, no future...
“Are you getting yourself sorted in town?” Mike interrupted John’s dark train of thought.
“I can’t afford London on an Army pension.”
“And you couldn’t bear to be anywhere else. That’s not the John Watson I know.”
John released a mirthless chuckle at that. “Yeah, I’m not the John Watson...” his voice trailed off. His hand hurt so he clenched and unclenched the fist hidden in his pocket but it didn’t help.
“Get a flatshare or something.”
John laughed humourlessly. “Who would want me as a flatmate?” Mike’s genuine laughter took John aback. “What?”
“You’re the second person to say that to me today.”
“Who was the first?”
Sherlock glanced at his phone. Greg had texted to say he would be running late. He had to drop off some paperwork at the law firm he worked for before coming to the rehearsal. Waiting for him seemed like a waste of time, so Sherlock decided to start on his own.
The rehearsal space for their band was situated in the basement of an old Royal Academy of Music building due for renovation. Since the school had no use for the building and no funds for renovation, some of the rooms were up for rent.
The university often rented the ground floor space to its students for a decent price and, as luck would have it, their bass player was a student of music. Sherlock was not above using that titbit to leverage a better deal.
The room had been used for band rehearsals by the college in the 90’s and still had soundproofed walls, which proved to be extremely convenient since it meant that there was no echo in the space. They just had to add several rugs to cover the floor and they were good to move in with their equipment. It was spacious enough for all four – or as of late - three members of the band to play and not bump into each other in the designated space.
One side of the room was a makeshift stage area with twice the number of old rugs that the rest of the room had. The other side was mainly empty, with one table and two couches for them to rest on or a space to sit for whoever wanted to visit.
The upside of the soundproofing was that they were able to record on their own and that’s exactly what Sherlock had been doing before the door opened and Mike walked in with a new person. There was a new person in the room. Sherlock felt annoyance creep up his spine before he took a second look at the man with a sure gait and a military haircut. Sherlock scanned all of the 1.7m of the man quickly before looking back to his guitar. He wore a black bomber jacket over a black polo shirt tucked into dark blue jeans. His boots were planted firmly on the ground in a stance that suggested he was used to exercising his fight or flight response quite often.
“Mike, can I borrow your watch?” Sherlock had forgotten his metronome at home and even though he knew his sense of rhythm was impeccable, it never hurt to double check the recording. He had also noticed the lack of Mike’s watch on his wrist which gave Sherlock the opportunity to test the new person and his inclination to be helpful.
“I left it in my coat.” Mike responded.
“Here, you can have mine,” the new person said already unstrapping his analogue watch from his wrist. “I’m John,” he said when Sherlock accepted the watch. Their fingers brushed for the briefest of moments but it was enough for Sherlock to feel the heat of John’s hand, see the tan ending above his wrist, and hear his breath hitch a little. Sherlock was sure John hadn’t even been aware how telling his reactions were.
Sherlock watched the seconds hand tick by on the watch as if it was a metronome and put a pair of large black headphones on to listen to his recording. Perfect. Obviously. But it was worth checking anyway.
“Afghanistan or Iraq?” Sherlock asked John, letting the headphones rest on his neck.
“You told him about me?” John turned to Mike whose smile was as cheeky as Sherlock had ever seen it.
“Not a word.”
“How do you feel about the violin? I compose late at night, sometimes in headphones but mostly I have the need to hear the instrument echo through the room so I play the violin or guitar aloud. Sometimes I don’t talk for days on end. Would that bother you? Potential flatmates should know the worst about each other.” He recited the list to John, knowing well that it hadn’t even grazed the tip of the iceberg of the faults he possessed.
“Sorry, what?” John looked between Sherlock and Mike again.
“I mentioned to Mike I was looking for a flatmate and here he is, just after lunch, with an old friend clearly just home from Military service in Afghanistan with a tremor in his hand. You were wounded so you came back and have just your military pension to support yourself, ergo if you want to stay in London, you’d need a flatmate.” Sherlock fired off his observations in rapid succession and paused to assess John’s reaction.
“How did you know?” John didn’t seem to be annoyed which was very refreshing.
“I’ve got my eye on a nice little place in Central London. Together we ought to be able to afford it.” Sherlock announced before he picked up his other guitar and threw it John’s direction. The man caught it expertly muttering a curse under his breath before he turned on him.
“You don’t just throw a Les Paul!” John looked at the guitar with what must have been a horrified expression on his face and set it down gently on the couch.
“Nice reflexes, you’ll do.”
“I may have another offer for you. I can tell you’re an axeman, any good?” It was evident from the reflexive movements of John’s fingers when he merely glanced at the instrument still hanging on Sherlock’s shoulder.
“Very.” It was a sure statement.
“You clearly miss excitement in your life.” Sherlock referenced the military service as well as whatever past John might have had apart from that. He took a step towards John and with a nod, indicated the guitar John had rested on the couch and kept glancing at since then. “Are you ready for more?”
John’s eyes gleamed with interest, his mouth opened slightly and he licked his bottom lip in a very enticing manner before he asked: “More?”
“Excitement!” Sherlock exclaimed taking a step closer to John, leaning slightly and then lowering his voice to a purr. “Will you play with me, John?”
“Oh God yes.” John responded immediately, his eyes focused on Sherlock’s lips. The sound John made saying those words was positively indecent and Sherlock felt the corner of his mouth twitch in satisfaction. He handed John his watch back but not before he registered every single detail about it. Sherlock watched as John’s warm hand reached for it. They stood there a second longer than necessary, John looking up at Sherlock’s face, and Sherlock meeting his gaze. Their height difference was startling because John’s presence was much larger in the room than his physical appearance suggested. John broke their staring contest to strap the watch back on his wrist.
The sound of a throat being cleared made them both look at Mike holding the handle of the door. “Umm...I have a class, I need to run,” Mike said as he opened the door, sending them a wave. “I’ll catch you guys on Saturday.” The small smile on Mike’s face indicated he was quite proud of himself and Sherlock frowned at that, not understanding the reasoning behind that expression.
John waved back but saw that Sherlock was already adjusting the strap over his shoulder and turning up the volume on his green and black Ibanez. The clear sound of the guitar filled the room and John had to take a step back to admire the smooth glide of the man’s fingers over the neck and the simple yet catchy tune he played. Sherlock moved his head with the rhythm, making a few strands of dark hair fall loose from his hairdo. The hair on the sides of Sherlock’s head was shaved to no longer than one millimetre, the middle was longer and slicked back. He wore a black button-down shirt that seemed too tight even for his lean frame, and black jeans. Simple black Dr. Martens completed the ensemble.
John was so mesmerised, he only realised the guitar he had picked up moments before was there for a reason when Sherlock gave him an expectant look, the energetic movements of his hands never ceasing.
John felt something stir in him, a feeling that had left him a long time ago and was now coming back to life. His fingers twitched, asking to touch strings again. He wondered if it was the music or the man himself that evoked the need to open up and reveal a piece of himself in the form of music. Sherlock, a man he had just met, seemed to understand John’s long-lost need for music.
John looked down at the guitar, specifically at its strings, and put the strap over his head to make it rest over his left shoulder. Not only had it been a long time since he had done this, but also the strings were in a different order than he had been used to. John looked at the other man, who lifted one eyebrow at him in a silent question, and John immediately knew he could do this. He had to. There was a cable draped over the other amplifier in the room and John slid the jack into the piece of art in his hands, trusting it was tuned before he upped the volume.
John waited for a bridge and, as if struck by sudden inspiration, he played. His left hand slid low on the neck and he plucked with the fingers of his right hand delivering what seemed to be a decent addition to what Sherlock was playing.
“Back pocket,” said Sherlock when they finished. He was already starting another song, a slower one this time. John hesitated for a moment before he circled the taller man to stand behind him. “Left pocket,” he added and John realised the right pocket held a comb and he reached into the left pocket of the impossibly tight jeans to retrieve two picks, one thinner and one thicker. He palmed the thicker one and put the remaining one back, feeling the warmth of the man’s skin through the denim as he pulled his hand out.
Soon enough he was back at his spot, facing Sherlock as the frontman coaxed melodies out of his instrument, and matching them, drawing a solo out of the gorgeous black and white Epiphone in his own hands.
The feeling that coursed through John’s body was not dissimilar to what a man who had spent years in a windowless prison and was finally let out would feel. He would run on the open field, inhale the fresh air and marvel at the rays of the sun. John ran his fingertips over the strings, letting the inspiration swim through him and into his hands.
“Ambidextrous,” After another song, Sherlock graced him with a small smile that clearly conveyed that he was impressed.
John shrugged, desperately trying to keep cool and not jump and release an excited whoop. He felt his chin lifting a little higher, the newly-gained confidence in the old craft filling his bones.
“What made you start a band?” John strived to change the subject.
“I looked for the something that would piss off my brother and father the most.”
“Great motivation.” John said sarcastically.
“Indeed.” Sherlock responded in all seriousness then put his pick in his mouth and taking a tiny comb out of his back pocket, used his other hand to help flatten the loosened strands of hair into a neat do again. John found the gesture strangely endearing and he caught himself looking at Sherlock’s forearms revealed by the rolled-up sleeves of the shirt. Just a hint of a tattoo in shades of grey was visible on the left forearm, luring John in to look closer.
A moment later, without another word, Sherlock resumed playing. A string of energetic sounds filled the space they occupied and John stepped into his element once more. He couldn’t help feeling like this was exactly what he needed to break out of the mundane life he had lived since coming back from the war.
They stood face to face while John was delivering an impromptu solo that he wasn’t aware he had in him. The emotions caged up inside him travelled through his fingers and into the instrument, creating a harmonious unity with the music coming from Sherlock’s guitar. As he played, he could feel a bond forming between him and the madman.
When Greg opened the door to the rehearsal space, he was hit by a blast of loud guitar accompanied by an excellent solo. It was almost a physical blow, the sound mixed with the sheer energy coming from just two instruments.
Greg didn’t recognize the song, and he also didn’t recognize the man standing in front of Sherlock. Both musicians stopped when they saw him enter but the sound of their hushed guitars still lingered in the air.
“Sorry, I’m late.” He looked to Sherlock and indicated the other man with his head. “Uh... Who’s this?”
“John Watson, hi.” The man said cheerily and reached out to shake his hand. He looked like a perfectly nice guy, and that made Greg wonder what the hell was he doing with Sherlock.
“Hi. I’m Greg. Drums,” Greg smiled, taking John’s hand. “Is the song yours?” He asked, but got a confused look in return. “Sherlock?”
“They just came to me,” Sherlock waved a flippant hand in the air in response.
“You made up the songs on the fly as we played?” John asked, with incredulity clear in his tone.
“And you added a solo to each one of them, playing with your less dominant hand while your more dominant one stopped shaking just for the duration of your playing.” Sherlock fired back in rapid succession. John opened his mouth, clearly wanting to refute the statement but then closed it. “You were shot, possibly in the arm since you roll your shoulder when you seem nervous, but the tremor is psychosomatic.” Sherlock finished, staring straight into John’s face as if daring the man to deny his observations.
Greg looked between the two men, not really knowing what was going on. The charged atmosphere suggested they might start fighting or do something else entirely. He couldn’t decide which one would be worse.
Since the matter was out of his hands, Greg unzipped his grey hoodie and tossed it on the sofa before he rounded the men, still stuck in a staring contest, and headed towards his stool. Three sets of drumsticks lay on the ground, right next to the brand-new baby he purchased last week; a double bass drum pedal. He took his over-ankle boots off and unzipped his backpack to retrieve a pair of All Stars, since playing in those was much more comfortable. He took a set of sticks, stretched his arms above his head and twirled the sticks between his fingers.
A bang on the door made everyone turn in that direction. Then the handle moved and finally, the door opened all the way, pushed so hard it bounced back and started closing again.
“Sorry! Sorry I’m late!” Molly charged into the room, the stack of books she carried scattering to the floor. She took the guitar-shaped soft case off her back and placed it gently on the floor before she knelt to pick up her notebooks and books.
She wore blue fishnet stockings over black tights that ended in a pair of mid-calf Dr. Martens with flowers on them. Her shorts were only slightly visible under a large, colourful, striped jumper. She had changed her hair colour again, Greg noticed, and her formerly pink hair was now bright orange and pinned up in an elaborate mess.
Greg sprang from his seat as if it was on fire before John had a chance to take his guitar off to help her. Greg was on his knees and stacking Molly’s books in a neat pile on the couch with a sense of accomplishment.
“I’m such a klutz”, she muttered.
“Not at all,” Greg started saying before he was rudely interrupted.
“Could you two stop flirting and start playing? I have important business to attend to in two hours.”
Greg gave Sherlock what he hoped was a murderous glare before he helped Molly stand up and headed to his seat behind the drums. Molly had already unzipped her case, plugged in, and was tuning her fire-coloured Fender bass.
“John?” Said Sherlock. “Care to join us and show them the three new numbers?”
“Of course.” John shrugged and slid his fingers over the neck of the gorgeous lady in his hands.
Greg had his hands in the air, all ready to start the countdown with his sticks but he heard his name and let his hands fall with a sigh.
“Greg, less hi-hat this time. I know you love it but don’t make me hide it too.” Sherlock said without turning to face him. Exasperation with their frontman was a daily occurrence in Greg’s life but ultimately what he did was in the band’s best interest.
“You still haven’t given me my cowbell back.” Greg snapped back, looking around in case the piece of equipment was laying somewhere in the room.
Sherlock scoffed. “If you think you are ever getting that monstrosity back, you are grossly mistaken.”
Greg gave up with a huff and shrugged when John gave him a questioning look.
The new songs Sherlock and John played for them might have been the best ones they had so far, Greg thought with astonishment. The second time around, both him and Molly joined in and Greg had a prophetic feeling this moment was the beginning of a new chapter for the band.
The two hours passed quickly. They played the three new songs and then a set of older songs for John to familiarise himself with the rest of the band’s material, since he was apparently joining them. They hadn’t explicitly talked about it but it would be a shame if he didn’t.
“So John, will we see you on Friday?” Greg asked when they all finished and started packing their instruments.
“What’s on Friday?”
“We have an extra practice before Saturday and we’ll have the microphones back so you can hear the songs with vocals then,” Molly pointed at Sherlock with her chin as she was winding up a cable around her arm.
“Ooookay,” John looked at Sherlock who was already packing his gear. “What’s on Saturday?”
“A gig at The Dublin Castle.” Greg clarified and he could clearly see the astonishment on John’s face. Apparently, Sherlock hadn’t told him much which made Greg wonder how, exactly, John had come to join them.
“Hurry up, John.” Sherlock’s impatience was evident in the tone of his voice as well as in the speed with which he was packing.
“What’s so pressing? We could use one more hour of practice.” Greg asked looking between the frontman and their new soloist.
“We’re um... we’re actually supposed to look at a flat.” John offered Greg a small smile as he rubbed his neck and turned to Sherlock before he continued. “Although I have no clue where it even is.”
“The address is 221B Baker Street, John. Now, are you coming?” Sherlock fired at him, his hand already on the doorknob.
John took his jacket off the couch and followed Sherlock, waving a goodbye to the rest of the band.
John and Sherlock move in together.
Brisk morning air pinched John’s cheeks as he jogged along the half-awake streets of London. His running shoes hit the pavement in a steady rhythm as he felt the muscles of his thighs burn. Some habits were hard to break and morning run was one of those he was glad had stayed with him.
After his return to the flat, it took John a little over an hour to pack all his belongings and that was only because he took a shower in that time.
His body was still damp when he emerged from the bathroom and reached for his pants that lay prepared on the bed with the rest of his clothes. John liked his jeans turned up, making the classic, black Dr. Martens 1460 he wore, more visible as they glistened after he polished them to perfection. As he was standing in front of the mirror, his eyes automatically focused on the bullet scar on his left shoulder. He forced down his right hand which was reaching to touch the smooth, thick patch of skin of its own volition. He pulled a black polo shirt over his torso and tucked it in his dark blue jeans. The studded leather belt he pulled through the loops was over a decade old and worn but not a single bullet-shaped stud was missing. He could clearly recall the day he had bought it. He had gone to look for vinyl records in the Camden Market stalls with his older sister when she dragged him to a store with leather accessories. He had returned home that day with a studded leather belt and a ‘London Calling’ The Clash t-shirt. Harry got herself a bag and the same t-shirt he had, but smaller.
Fond memories of easy times were what made John miss his sister. It was Harriet, in her room full of posters of Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain, who passed the love of music to him. He became interested in slightly different tunes and she had quickly asked around for tapes of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Sham 69. The pain in his sternum wasn’t unexpected, but his sister was dead and he had to move on with his life.
The flat he and Sherlock looked at was situated in an old Victorian building; it was quite neat and in a marvelous location.
The elderly landlady was enthusiastic and offered a far better deal on the rent than John would have ever expected. She seemed to know Sherlock and acted very motherly towards him which probably explained the decent rent.
The first floor had a sitting room, a kitchen and one of two bedrooms. John took the room upstairs since Sherlock had already moved all his belongings to the one on the lower level and to most of the sitting room as well. John had never been used to clutter, but he was hoping the mess Sherlock created in the general area was just a moving-in phase.
To John’s delight, his new bedroom had a king-size bed which was a luxury he hadn’t expected to indulge. After several years of nights spent in sleeping bags and cots, then lately renting a room with a single mattress, he had a feeling that moving in with a stranger was not such a preposterous idea if it meant he could have a large and comfortable bed. The only downside was that he needed to purchase new sheets and now that he thought of it, probably a set of clothes as well. John looked at the duffel bag on the bed containing all his clothes and two boxes on the floor with the rest of his belongings. He had gotten used to living in sparse conditions for so long that the very idea of going shopping filled him with dread. Tonight, he decided he could sleep under the single blanket he owned and worry about the shopping tomorrow. The other pressing thing on his mind was looking for work, preferably something that he could start right away.
From one of the boxes, John retrieved his laptop, plugged it in and placed it on the small desk by the window. He situated himself on the simple wooden chair and analysed his position. If he turned slightly to the right, he would be able to see the door and anyone who would enter, which meant he would probably spend the entire time sitting half-turned. With an unpleasantly loud screech of the desk’s legs on the wooden floor, John moved the desk at a 45-degree angle to the window. Now when he sat behind it, he was able to see anyone entering the bedroom as well as any visitors banging on the outside door of the apartment.
A relaxing melody coaxed from a violin reached him from downstairs and John smiled to himself thinking this flatsharing business might not be as bad as he had thought. Satisfied with his positioning, John fired up the laptop and opened his browser to the last job search. After scrolling through endless job offers, he was neither interested nor good for, he ended up picking up his old notebook and scribbling his emotions on paper.
John was woken up by the sound of violin and a merciless sunbeam trying to burn through his eyelids to his retinas. His back hurt, his arse hurt and he realised that he had fallen asleep on the chair, with his head and arms on the desk. He stood up to stretch and his shoulder screamed in protest, his war wound making itself known.
He was lulled downstairs by the prospect of morning coffee so he picked a half-full tin of dark roast from one of his boxes and headed down the stairs.
As the music got louder with his descent, it became even more beautiful, turning from slow melody into a series of sharp, energetic sounds wrought from the delicate instrument, making John want to stand just inside the room as quietly as possible not to interrupt. Unfortunately, the music stopped abruptly the moment he entered the sitting room.
“Don’t stop on my account.”
“You don’t mind?” Sherlock turned to face him and the sunlight from the window draped his form in an ethereal glow.
“Not at all.” John replied still admiring his flatmate’s features. He was barefoot, dressed in a button-down and jeans
“I’ve been playing since six but I needed to feel the resonance of this part.” Sherlock indicated the electric violin in an open case that rested on the amplifier by the bookshelf. It had headphones connected to it which explained why John hadn’t heard the music before. Sherlock placed the classic wooden violin gently in its case and snapped the latches closed. He did the same to the electric one already settled in its case.
“Do you have any violin pieces for the band?” John asked genuinely curious.
“I compose on violin or guitar but I haven’t incorporated the former into the songs yet, no. I have several recordings...” his voice trailed off in thought.
“I think it might be a nice touch. Add some originality.”
Sherlock made a grunt at the back of his throat which John read as ‘I’ll consider it.’
The guitar on the sofa caught John’s eye. It looked very similar to the Les Paul John played the day before but it was a mirror-image of it. Next to it, lay six square envelopes easily recognizable even from the distance. Next to them was a spray and a cloth.
“Are you changing the strings on it?” John asked indicating the left-handed Epiphone with bafflement.
“You are.” Was Sherlock’s matter-of-fact reply.
“Do keep up, John.”
John looked between Sherlock and the guitar and back. Sherlock made a show of rolling his eyes theatrically before he spoke.
“You clearly liked the guitar, you enjoyed playing on it and, as it so happens, I have just one like it but more suited to your preferences. You can play well with your right hand, but you were bothered by not using your full talent yesterday since you favour your left hand. This beauty was in storage for quite some time so a change of strings should bring it up to par with your needs.”
“Sherlock, you can’t just give me a guitar.”
“I’m not. I’m lending it to you. I have lots of guitars.” Sherlock replied offhandedly. He turned to face John and used a tone of voice John would associate with a teacher chastising a student who hadn’t listened and now was complaining that he received an unsatisfactory grade. “We need a solo guitar, you’re good and clearly not very busy. We have practice this evening and on every Wednesday and Saturday evening after that.”
“You’re an arsehole, you know that?” John shook his head in disbelief at the sheer nerve of his new flatmate.
“I have been informed of that possibility on several occasions, yes.”
John felt his fists clench involuntarily and he forced himself to calm down. He sighed in resignation. The statement Sherlock had made was blunt but also not far from the truth.
“Are you serious about this?” John indicated the guitar with his head.
“Why wouldn't I be? Are you not interested? Did I read the signs wrong?”
“The signs? Yes, I’m bloody interested. Just... This is not...” John made a sound indicating his deference. “Never mind. I’m just borrowing it, okay?” John looked at Sherlock who was already deep inside his head in what looked like composing mode as his hand reached for his Ibanez on the floor stand.
He sat on the grey leather chair, or rather perched on its arm and played the same melody he had previously played on the violin. Only a quiet sound came from the unplugged instrument but it was enough for Sherlock to decide it was what he wanted as he started scribbling notes in a notebook nearby.
The music Sherlock’s band played was crude, aggressive and right up John’s alley so it was bizarre watching Sherlock focus on it as if it was a piece of classical music. Even if Sherlock claimed he started a band to spite his brother, John could tell a true audiophile when he saw one.
John proceeded to the kitchen to make coffee and found that there were several cups already in the cupboard above the sink.
“Two sugars.” John heard Sherlock inform him from the sitting room. He was a little irked with the assumption that he would make Sherlock coffee, but he had planned on doing it anyway. He found a handful of single sugar servings in paper sachets and added two to the cup next to his own but refused to go as far as to serve it. John added sugar and tea to the list he had in his pocket and then added several things more after inspecting the fridge which had only two jars with questionable contents in it. Sherlock had found the place and negotiated quite a good deal for the location, so the least John could do was buy some groceries for a start. They would figure out a system later.
John was glad he had the military pension while he waited for the flat, he had put on sale to bring some cash he desperately needed. This month’s pension should be in already so it was the perfect day to go shopping for necessities, John decided as he looked at the calendar hanging on the wall in the kitchen. He released a chuckle admiring the cute puppies on the calendar.
“Mrs. Hudson put the calendar there.” Sherlock explained as if knowing exactly what John was thinking about.
“Of course she did.” John replied, disguising his smile with a sip of coffee. The rumble in his stomach made him drink his coffee faster so he could head to the shops.
John came back with bags containing new bedsheets and non-perishables. He dumped them on the landing next to the kitchen before he went to get the groceries proper. Once that was sorted, he came upstairs to find Sherlock sitting by the kitchen table, which was riddled with items that did not belong in the kitchen or at least not in the state they were in. John frowned as he took in an aluminium box with a mounted transformer on it, a soldering iron, tin lead solder wire, several microfarad caps, a small circuit board and a completely gutted amplifier. On the very corner of the table lay a neat schematic drawn in pencil and even though John couldn’t determine exactly what was on it, he could wager a guess based on the contents of the table.
“Are you fixing an amplifier?”
“Making one.” Sherlock said without lifting his gaze.
“Mmmhmm”. Sherlock answered absentmindedly.
“Amazing.” John didn’t attempt to hide how impressed he was. It was one thing to play an instrument and completely something else to make one. Or an amplifier as was the case. He was annoyed at the mess taking up the whole table but he also found himself staring in amazement for several moments until the rumbling of his stomach broke the silence. He reached for the bags he brought to start the preparation for dinner but once he started unpacking, he frowned. There were boxes of Chinese food in a large paper bag on the kitchen counter and John felt his annoyance at the mess ease.
“It’s still warm, John. I didn’t know what you liked to I ordered three sets. Choose what you wish.” Sherlock said offhandedly.
“Thank you.” John said, quite stunned at the thoughtfulness of his new flatmate.
Sherlock waved a hand in dismissal without turning away from his work.
“The practice is today at 7.”
“Right.” To John’s astonishment, they expected him to play a gig within days of him joining the band. There must have been someone else in his place before if they already had a date settled. There was a story there and John was determined to find out what it was when the time was right.
John picked the box with chow mein, made a tiny space on the table by moving several caps to the side and sat in front of Sherlock to eat it. Seeing this, his flatmate unplugged and put down the soldering iron, then reached for his own box. They both ate in companionable silence until the sound of the scraping of sticks on the empty containers suggested they were done.
After trashing his box, John decided to change the strings in the guitar Sherlock was willing to lend him for the time being. The gripped black and white beauty still laying on the sofa and he felt giddy just thinking of playing a guitar again.
John placed the instrument on his lap and started slowly unscrewing the tuner of the high E loose, holding his other hand on the strings so the one that he was working on wouldn’t spring in his face. They weren’t worn out too much bar the A, which was rusty. Since Sherlock had offered a new set, John decided to replace all of them. John loosened the strings one by one. Once the tension from the strings has been removed, the tailpiece of the Gibson became free so he could pull them all out. He took the bridge out as well and noticed the dust that usually gathered under the strings. John reached for the cleaning spray and a cloth prepared by Sherlock in advance and cleaned the body of the guitar with care. The whole process calmed him. It was not dissimilar to a meditation session he had had in the military once where they told him to lie down along with a bunch of his colleagues and listen to the sounds of the calming music. He was frustrated at first but by the end, he really did feel more grounded and centred.
John folded the cleaning cloth and admired the rare look of a stringless guitar. Looking at a gorgeous guitar like that seemed to be a privilege not dissimilar to seeing a beautiful girl without clothes after being used to seeing her clothed.
John replaced the tailpiece and the bridge before he laced all the strings through it. He liked starting with the high E so he pulled the string through the tuner leaving some slack to get a couple of rotations of the string around the tuner.
“Sherlock?” John yelled to the man in the kitchen.
“Pliers are here on the table.”
Sherlock had the uncanny ability to read John’s mind, or so it seemed. He handed John the pliers when approached and John went back to the sofa to cut the excess of the string. He repeated the whole process with remaining 5 strings and then tugged on them one by one to stretch before tuning.
Once the high E sounded decent to his ear, he played a short melody on it to make sure it before he started tuning the B string in relation to the E.
When he was done with all the strings, John tuned the guitar marveling at the clear sound the instrument made even without an amplifier.
Sherlock strode into the room carrying a small Marshall amplifier, about the size of a microwave oven. It was very similar to the one that stood next to Sherlock’s guitar in the corner of the sitting room.
“Care to hear how she sounds?” Sherlock offered John a small smile placing the amplifier on the floor next to John’s feet.
“Oh yes.” John felt joy emanate from him as he reached for the cable his flatmate supplied, plugged the instrument in and checked the settings and the volume before touching the strings. He perched on the very end of the sofa to better position the guitar on his left thigh.
Sherlock sat in a mirrored pose on a chair in front of him, after he brought his own amplifier closer. They made sure the volume was just enough for them to hear the essence but not louder than someone would play music over speakers in a flat.
“Ready when you are.” John said looking up at his flatmate whose face was the picture of intensity. He looked at John as if he wanted to lay him on the kitchen table, pull him apart and put him back together like one of his projects, and then play him like he did his guitar. John swallowed hard, his eyes unable to move away from his new friend, focused on the sharp angles of his face, set jaw and long pale neck. John felt a blush creep to his cheeks from the sheer intensity of the moment, because he wasn’t... he couldn’t be... No, John Watson had never been attracted to a man.
The sound of a paper being thrust at his chest broke John from his musings. Sherlock held out a printout of a set for him. John accepted it, looking down. When he glanced at his flatmate’s face again there was a schooled and calm expression on it, nothing like the heated gaze he had been under just moments before.
“We’ll play these tonight. You’re not familiar with the titles yet but you are not starting any of them and you already showed us that you don’t need prompting to do your thing.”
“Thanks,” John took the setlist and placed in on the couch so he could glance at it. “Can we practice in order now?” John focused on the guitar, refusing to look up at Sherlock again for fear of getting distracted again.
“That would be advisable, yes.” With those words Sherlock started playing and John listened to the first part, easily recognizable as the first stanza as then the pattern repeated. Sherlock hummed a melody to the song but didn’t sing. John knew it was so John could focus on the music only but he longed to hear that baritone through speakers.
They played through the whole set and when Sherlock wanted to start again from the beginning, John asked for a small break. The callouses on his fingertips were still forming and they hurt like hell. He shook his hands in the air to relax the muscles in his fingers and looked around at his new reality; the flat, the intriguing man in front of him and the cables lying in heaps on the floor.
“We should set some ground rules.” John said and was met by a questioning eyebrow from his flatmate. “I don’t know what to expect other than what you've already told me. Do you have a girlfriend? Should I expect-”
“No.” Sherlock replied quickly and firmly, not letting John finish.
“Okay...” John looked at the man in front of him, the long lines of his body, his beautiful face, sharp cheekbones, eyes that seemed to swirl with an array of colour. Even though John was straight, he could appreciate a good-looking man when he saw one and Sherlock was beyond what one might consider handsome. He didn’t have a girlfriend. “Boyfriend then?” John continued his line of questioning. Sherlock held his gaze, unblinking and John found himself licking his parched lips, waiting for the response.
John startled when a doorbell rang.
“A client!” Sherlock perked up, breaking their staring contest.
“A client?” John gave his flatmate a questioning look but the man just waved a hand in dismissal.
Their landlady must have opened the door downstairs as moments later there was a knock at their door.
Sherlock swung the door open to reveal a man in his twenties wearing blue jeans and a green jacket that was too big for his lean frame. He had a hard guitar case in his hand.
“Are you Sherlock Holmes?”
“Indeed, I am.”
“Hi, I’m Sam. I’ve been told you can help me with this.” He handed the case to Sherlock who accepted it and stepped further inside indicating for the man to come in.
Sherlock knelt on the floor, gently placing the case on the old oriental rug. He whistled appreciatively the he opened the lid to reveal the vintage Gibson guitar inside.
“My friend put new strings in it and tried to tune it but apparently there's something wrong with it. He said it sounds all weird.”
Sherlock ghosted his fingers over the instrument as if afraid to touch it, then looked closely before lifting it up from the case and turning it to face the light from the window.
He inspected the tuners, fretboard, pickups, the controls, and paid the most attention to the tailpiece. His expression was focused, analysing. Sherlock turned the instrument in his hands and furrowed his brows.
“It's a classic!” Sherlock burst out excitedly making the newcomer jump where he stood. “It was limited edition in the 80s.”
“Can you fix it?”
“Of course. But it needs a complete makeover and it would cost you more than a new guitar.” He looked the young man up and down and raised one eyebrow. “If you need a new one that is.”
“No, I just thought I could fix it to sell it, it’s been gathering dust for years now. It used to be my mother’s.” The young man smiled fondly, fidgeting with the sleeve of his jacket.
“I can take it off your hands if you don’t want it. I doubt you can sell it otherwise. And you clearly need the money.” Sherlock deadpanned making Sam look at his hands in embarrassment. John sent a glare towards Sherlock for that last comment but his flatmate was completely oblivious to it.
“Yeah, sure...” Sam’s fidgeting intensified before he cleared his throat. “I have no clue how much it’s even worth.”
“How does two thousand sound?” Sherlock asked still inspecting the instrument, his back to the client whose jaw slackened visibly.
“Ooof. Perfect. Thanks, man.” Sam said, and looked with bewilderment when Sherlock put the instrument away and stood up to walk to the kitchen. From the coffee cupboard, he took out a metal can and from it some wadded cash. He came back with a hefty stack of fifty-pound bills.
“Here.” Sherlock handed the cash to the young man and the latter left with a wide smile on his face. Before he was out the door he turned again.
“I’ll send anyone who ever needs anything electronic fixed your way.” He clutched the money to his chest before hiding it in the inner pocket of his jacket.
“That guitar is not worth half what you paid for it, Sherlock.” John scolded the moment the door closed behind the client.
“I know. But he doesn’t. It was worthless to him. And I was right, he wouldn’t have sold it to anyone else for even that money since it’s in need of a complete makeover.”
“Right. It was his mother’s though...” John looked at the old beauty now resting in its case again and imagined it being played so many years ago.
John shrugged at Sherlock’s comment but suspected that it was the exact reason why he had offered so much money for the instrument. John glanced in the direction of the kitchen.
“You keep large amounts of cash in a can in the kitchen... Who does that anymore?”
“I do,” came the answer as Sherlock picked up his new purchase. The movement caused the hard case to tip over and a piece of paper fell out. John picked it up. It was an old photograph, probably taken in the 80's judging by the hair. It was of a woman playing the guitar that Sherlock was holding.
“This must be his mother.” John said and immediately stood up. He ran out following the young man that had just left their flat. He was down the stairs and out the door in a matter of seconds.
“Hey! Stop!” John yelled after Sam who just crossed the street and John followed him, still running. He was faintly aware of a car horn blaring and felt himself being pulled back until he landed on his arse on the pavement. “What the hell?!” he started yelling until he realised what had happened. The cab whose horn he had just heard would have hit him but he had been pulled away from its path at the last second. John felt his head swim and he rested his forehead on his bent knees to calm down. His heart was still racing when he looked up to the figure kneeling in front of him.
“Sherlock...” The word left John’s lips in a breath.
“Are you all right?” Sherlock asked placing both hands on John’s shoulders. It was worth being almost hit by a cab, no it would be worth being hit by three cabs to see what John had seen in Sherlock’s expression in that moment. His wide open eyes showcased fear that turned into relief and then something more that John couldn’t pinpoint exactly. But the last emotion made John’s heart pick up its pace instead of slowing down now that the danger was gone. The noise of the cars and pedestrians around them dissipated and John could only hear his ragged breathing and the loud beating of his heart as his eyes bore deep into Sherlock’s. All too soon Sherlock's expression was back to neutral which made John think it was just a mask that could slip in extreme circumstances. The sounds of London came back crashing into John’s ears once more. Sherlock’s brows furrowed and John realised he hadn't answered the question.
“Yeah...yes, I’m fine. Thank to you.” He scanned Sherlock's face for more of those emotions. They were like a drug that he had only tasted once but was already addicted to. Sherlock looked back at him, and for a split second John was sure he could make the mask slip once more.
“That was some crazy shit!” The exclamation that broke John from his staring frenzy came from Sam running up to join them. “You were yelling,” he pointed to John, “so I turned around and saw the cab coming at you. And then whoa!” Sam waved his hands in the air showing his amazement before he pointed at Sherlock. “Then he just swooped like some caped crusader and pulled you back. You would be...” he looked at John’s face then and there must have been enough on it to make him stop his train of thought. “Why did you follow me in the first place?”
In lieu of a reply Sherlock stood up and, plucking the photograph that was somehow still in John’s hand, added another one he pulled out of his jeans’ back pocket and handed it to Sam.
“Oh wow, thanks!” Sam looked at the pictures and blinked rapidly.
“They fell out of the case. John here thought you might want to keep them.” Sherlock explained.
“Yeah. Oh man, I didn’t know they were there. I haven’t seen those before. Thanks again.” Sam looked at Sherlock and then John as he said it.
“Take care.” John nodded at Sam. The young man patted the pictures he put in his coat pocket and waved at them as he walked away.
John watched Sam disappear into the crowd mulling on the pavement then looked up at Sherlock who held out his hand to him. John took it and let himself be pulled to his feet. Without another word, he followed Sherlock back to their flat.
John half-expected Sherlock to call him impulsive or stupid or say something about the incident but his flatmate behaved like nothing had happened. As if John hadn’t nearly died moments before, as if Sherlock hadn’t just saved him, and as if they hadn’t had a sizzling moment of post-danger bonding on the pavement.
They mounted the stairs and John continued climbing until he reached his bedroom. He had slept like shit last night, sitting on the chair by his desk and now he desperately needed a nap. He collapsed on his bed, ready to be swept away by the Sandman but he ended up tossing and turning instead. His head swam with the events outside of 221B, which were quickly replaced by memories of him in fatigues and being shot at. He stopped thrashing under the blanket when he heard a soft melody coming from downstairs and imagined Sherlock’s long graceful fingers coaxing the notes from his guitar...
John woke up with a start and moved instinctively. He had one hand on the assailant's neck as he sat on his chest before he realised who he was. Sherlock’s eyes looked at him with surprise that turned into amusement and … arousal? He was on the floor and unmoving under John, not fighting the grip or trying to get away. John frowned, the expression on his flatmate’s face mesmerising him to the point he forgot what he had done until he saw his hand was still on Sherlock’s throat. He took it away and stood so abruptly that he stumbled back until he sat on his bed.
“Oh God, I’m sorry...” John was horrified as he looked at his own hands.
“I should have expected that reaction when I came in unannounced and startled you when you slept.” Sherlock said calmly, straightening his shirt as he stood up. “It won’t happen again.”
“Good. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have... I can’t help it...”
“I’ll be prepared next time.”
“Next time?” John lifted his gaze to look at his flatmate in confusion.
“You slept through the alarm on your phone. I had to come in or we’d miss the practice.” Sherlock looked around the room, his eyes analysing the positioning of the desk which he approached. The man seemed to have no sense of personal space and privacy as he flicked his index finger through the items on John’s desk.
“Hey!” John said, appalled, but his outrage fell on deaf ears.
Sherlock picked up a piece of paper from John’s desk. It had scribbles, several crossed out words and John knew immediately what was on it.
“What's this?” Sherlock asked after reading several lines.
“Gimme that!” John reached for the sheet but Sherlock held it up in an outstretched arm knowing John wouldn’t reach it unless he jumped like a kid. John glared at him and Sherlock continued reading from the paper now high above his head.
“Song lyrics. Unless you aimed for a poem.” He announced.
“Give it back, Sherlock. It’s private.” John protested.
“No, it’s actually not bad. Sentimental, yes but people like that sort of thing and we could use some diversity...” his voice trailed off as he froze, his face looking similar to when he had been composing earlier. John broke out in cold sweat, certain that Sherlock had figured out who the song was about by now. He slowly turned to him, gave John a slow smile and ran downstairs, still clutching the crumpled piece of paper.
John ran after him. Their feet made loud noises on the wooden stairs as two grown men galloped downstairs as if the house was on fire.
When John barged into the sitting room after Sherlock, his flatmate already had his guitar in his hands and was plugging it into the tiny amplifier.
“Shut up, John.” He said even though John hadn’t uttered a word.
Sherlock put the paper in his field of vision as he perched on the arm of his chair and let his long, slender fingers move over the strings of his guitar with a feather-like touch.
A slow stylish arpeggio filled the sitting room and John took a seat on the sofa. He was motionless, speeches and absolutely hypnotised as he watched Sherlock play and hum what must have been his idea of how John’s lyrics would go with what he played. John felt the song fill him, fill his brain and muscles, make him relaxed and sad at the same time, knowing the words on the paper Sherlock was looking at. When his flatmate finished, John felt a knot in his stomach from the emotion the melody evoked in him. What Sherlock had just done was pure magic and looking at Sherlock’s profile, his lips in a straight line, his eyes unfocused, still lost in the world in his head where the song came from, he thought he had never had the need to call a man ‘beautiful’ but that was exactly what Sherlock was at that moment.
John Watson realised that his flatmate was absolutely gorgeous.
John got chills standing in the band’s rehearsal space. The opening number was particularly fast-paced and energetic and would certainly get the crowd moving once they were all on stage. That, however, was not what took all of John’s attention.
Greg had arrived with three microphone stands and handed one each to Sherlock, Molly and John respectively. John had looked at it, stunned, but had decided to go with the idea. Sherlock had handed out microphones and soon they had all been ready to practice. They had started playing the first song from the playlist, which John was fairly familiar with by then, and just when John had thought that he was ready to play he had heard Sherlock sing for the first time.
He had been aware of the high possibility that the baritone would sound good over the speakers but somehow what he heard exceeded his expectations by miles. The low velvet of Sherlock’s voice delivered fast-paced lines of crude poetry with such precision and feeling, John stood mesmerised. He felt the sound vibrate in his bones, penetrate his muscles, his mind. He could get lost in Sherlock’s voice.
Sherlock Holmes, the man who found order in the chaotic punk rock melodies, the man who focused on the sheets of music as if they were mathematical equations, was overshadowed by the man who came out when he performed. It seemed as if Sherlock put his body and soul into the songs, the lyrics coming from the depths of his being and straight into John.
He caught himself staring, just in time to join in at the beginning of the second stanza with a set of simple sounds they had practiced at home, before it was time for his solo.
A knot formed in his abdomen when Sherlock noticed the expression on their new soloist’s face. John was staring as if heaven itself had opened before him and Sherlock bathed in the nonverbal praise.
He had yet to find out if John was interested in him in a physical way, but it was clear that he was fascinated on some level. Sherlock had received looks of wonder before. There had been colleagues at uni who had found him attractive and had told him as much. There had been professors who had found his brain a constant source of fascination. But there had also been the kids at school who had despised him for being smarter than them, other students who had picked on him for being too immersed in schoolwork.
It had always been a paradox how he was too smart for his colleagues but not smart enough for his father to appreciate him. At uni, he had drifted towards the people who had expressed interest in him but he had quickly found that all of them wanted something from him, either his body or his mind. Most of those instances hadn’t ended with positive experiences for him and shaped how he was guarding himself against potential pain.
He had a knack for disappointing people, including his family and friends, so he was not holding out too much hope for John Watson. At least he tried not to. It would be a shame to lose him as a flatmate or for the band to lose another soloist because of Sherlock. Most of all, however, he was certain he would feel the loss personally if after just a week, John disappeared from his life. Their acquaintance was slowly turning into a solid friendship and that in itself was a lot more precious to Sherlock than physical contact. So far, he had yet to disappoint John and he would try to prolong this phase of their new friendship as long as possible.
Singing came effortlessly to him but looking at John now, Sherlock could feel notes in his voice that hadn’t been there before. He had always been good with conveying anger, which filled most of his songs, but with John Watson looking at him the way he had, Sherlock felt hope creeping into his voice. The lyrics that talked about loneliness but were wrapped in a veil of anger, sounded somewhat hopeful when he delivered them with John Watson in his mind.
They practiced for four hours, managing to play the whole set three times with small breaks. Each time, John was perfecting his solos as he was familiarising himself with the lyrics and the melodies. The passion for music that was so clear in the way Sherlock moved, played, and sang was like a stream of electricity that energised John to up his game even more.
He found himself enjoying boosting the chorus lines with his own singing and was met with approving looks from the rest of the band. He started becoming more and more comfortable with his playing in the confines of the practice space and among the three people who had accepted him very quickly. Whenever he thought about the upcoming concert, however, he dreaded he would freeze from stage fright. He had played at home and with friends from uni before, jamming on a party but never anything as serious as a concert before an unknown public. Even though he was perfectly aware that it was a small venue and there probably wouldn’t be a lot of people, it still felt like one of those dreams when you realise, you're standing naked before a group of people and they are about to start laughing at any moment. John pushed that thought aside, hoping it wouldn’t be as bad as he feared. He went back to the present and focused on playing. If he mastered the songs and played flawlessly, he shouldn’t have anything to worry about, or so he hoped.
Molly was not only an absolute goddess when it came to her instrument of choice, but she also wielded a powerful singing voice. Surprisingly, contrary to her quiet demeanour, she took her craft to another level adding fire with her stage performance.
Greg’s double bass drum pedal give an unexpected dose of extra energy. Once John had been told about it in great detail, he was able to appreciate it a lot more than during the previous rehearsal. Greg, who could not shut up about his new acquisition, had informed John that that type of pedal was typically used by metal bands. He had proceeded to describe which band were those but John had not been particularly familiar with any of them except Metallica. He had to admit, the pedal did add an extra kick and with their fast-paced punk songs, the double tap made him want to be on the other side of the stage and in the mosh pit once it came to the concert.
Once they were too tired to play anymore, John used the opportunity to chat to Greg a bit more but this time about his friendship with the man who had become John’s flatmate.
“We met at an Adicts concert,” Greg started. “I saw this tall thin guy preparing to punch some big guy when I noticed there were three more joining the big guy. They were all drunk but there was no way Sherlock could take all of them down so I dragged him away. I don’t know what that guy had said to deserve Sherlock’s reaction and I never asked.” Greg shrugged but there was a note of worry in his voice when he talked about the incident. “He took an interest in the conversation with me only after he figured out that I was a lawyer. He just looked at me and recited a string of facts about me, my work, my hobbies and once he got to my family, I had to stop him.” He shook his head, remembering and looked at John. “Can you imagine that kind of skill in the courtroom?”
John chuckled, his imagination providing him with a scenario of Sherlock driving everyone insane in a courtroom.
“I admit, it was a tad weird when he asked me about a case the firm I work for was on. We represented a family of a girl who was the victim of a particularly gruesome murder.”
“Was that his base for ‘Lost in the Woods’?” John remembered the horror and pain he had felt the first time he had heard the lyrics of that song, how it had described in flowing poetry the macabre events that had met the teenage girl. John had read about the murder in the paper but he had never assumed the lyrics had been based on real events. When Sherlock had sung it, John had felt the singer’s anger at the injustice and the hatred for those capable of such monstrous acts. He had felt like a teenager again, remembering when he had heard songs that spoke to him for the first time; songs that had helped him to become the man he was today.
“Yeah it was.” Greg replied, somewhat sullen, clearly remembering the lyrics as well.
“Amazing.” John breathed with reverence. Greg looked at him with raised eyebrows but his eyes softened before he continued.
“We exchanged emails and I sent him whatever I could without getting into trouble. I couldn’t always provide information, since I don’t have access all the cases, but I was interested anyway so I asked around. Then I realised that he was looking for ideas for lyrics. When I confronted him about it, he said the papers don’t give enough information and writing lyrics about half-truths was pointless.”
The conversation gave John a lot to think about. The topics Greg mentioned occupied just a part of Sherlock’s lyrics. Some of them focused on the disappointment in the current government, intolerance but most of them spoke of everyday life struggle. The latter were the ones who reached to John at the point where he felt as if he could have written them about his own life.
Sherlock had the uncanny ability to perceive people around him and know their inner workings after just looking at them. He could capture that essence in songs that would resonate with millions if they only had the opportunity to hear them.
John felt as if an important mission had been placed upon his shoulders and that was to make sure the music and lyrics of the band would reach people like him, kids like he used to be and maybe, just maybe make them feel like they were not alone in what they were going through.
For the remaining days before the concert, John practiced the songs at home until his fingertips hurt, coming up with better solos than before, the determination to do the songs justice on stage making him even more devoted to the task.
_ _ _
Sherlock pushed open the door to the pub as if he was entering a saloon in the Wild West when they arrived at The Dublin Castle pub on Saturday. The rest of the band followed him inside.
They had packed Greg’s drums and their guitars in advance into Greg’s seven-seater which he had bought just for occasions like these and kept in his parents’ driveway. Molly had ridden with Greg in the car while John and Sherlock had taken the tube to the pub. John had offered to go back with Greg to pack the amplifiers for the second trip with the car but Sherlock had assured them that he had arranged with the owner of the pub and they would be provided with the amplifiers for the concert.
The pub was spacious enough for a concert and the crowd was already gathering. The long crimson-coloured bar was situated on the left from the entrance and the stools underneath matched it with their colour. John looked at the walls which were adorned with various framed posters with autographs of punk bands that had played in this pace over the years: The Buzzcocks, The Clash, The Damned, even the Sex Pistols. The names of the bands were familiar to him as similar posters had adorned his bedroom when he had been a teen.
The stage to the right was just three steps above the floor of the pub and, as promised, had amplifiers already on it.
“We’re playing for free.” Sherlock turned to John as they ventured inside. “Or rather for the price of whatever you can drink from the bar. Just don’t get too wasted before the gig starts.”
John gave Sherlock an incredulous look. “Right.” He was too nervous to order anything at all, afraid he would fuck up the concert if he drank just a drop of alcohol. There would be time to drink after.
“Sherlock! How nice to see your hair grown out!” A middle-aged man gave Sherlock a fatherly one-armed hug.
“John, this is Angelo, the owner of this pub.” Sherlock said, making a move to wiggle out of the hug. “John is our new axeman.”
“Hello John!” He took both John’s hands in his and shook them. “Where’s Jim?” He asked Sherlock while still shaking John’s hands.
“Gone.” Quipped Sherlock, not bothering to hide his annoyance. John could tell there was a story behind this exchange and he filed that under “find out later”.
“Ah well.” Angelo turned to John again. “Don’t let our Sherlock fall back and cut his hair again.” He gave John a stern look and John looked between the man and Sherlock in confusion. Panic flashed for a second on Sherlock's face before he disengaged the hands that held John and took John’s arm to steer him towards the backstage.
“Okay, that’s enough. Let’s go, John.”
John was distinctly aware of Sherlock’s tight grip on his biceps as he followed him and he would have been lying if he said the touch was unwelcome.
“What was that about?”
“Nothing!” Sherlock snapped through clenched teeth. That was a bare-faced lie if John had ever heard one.
“Why did you cut your hair before?”
“I said, it was nothing,” Sherlock turned to face him, his nose inches away from John’s as he huffed, his shoulders lifting up and falling in rapid succession to match his ragged breathing.
“Sherlock! I’ve heard you were clean!” came a shout from behind John and the transformation of Sherlock’s features was astounding. The man’s shoulders slumped in resignation, and he closed his eyes, his lips creating a straight line.
When he opened his eyes, the multicoloured depths bore into John’s soul, a sliver of vulnerability and regret passed over Sherlock’s face before all of it disappeared under a schooled mask of stoicism. A myriad of thoughts passed through John’s head during the few seconds they gazes stayed locked. John looked at the impeccably dressed guitar genius and couldn’t believe what his mind was telling him must be the truth. He wasn’t able to hide the disbelief on his face as he felt his brows rising on his forehead. He wanted to reassure Sherlock that it didn’t change how John saw him.
It was too late, as Sherlock had already let go of him and turned around to greet the man in a denim jacket who had revealed the secret so harshly.
John felt the absence of Sherlock’s hand on his arm and noticed himself standing motionless in the middle of the pub. He looked towards the backstage where Sherlock had been heading and saw Greg waving a stick, beckoning him. John went, shaking his head to clear it. They had a gig to perform and Sherlock’s private life was none of his concern and definitely none of his business, no matter how much he felt it was just the opposite.
Playing with three friends in the closed room of their practice space was something completely different to playing in front of even a small crowd of people. John was painfully aware of that the moment when he took four steps to stand on the small wooden stage in the pub. The lights mounted on the ceiling shone in his face and did nothing to help diminish the number of flips per second that his stomach was making.
There were no more than thirty people in front of the stage and several more at the bar. Some of them had their backs to the stage, not caring that John was standing on the wooden planks with his legs shaking and his hands feeling like two loaves of bread.
“You’ll crush it, John.”
John startled at the low voice that spoke right into his ear and he swayed slightly, leaning back towards it. He had the overwhelming need to be comforted, to be encouraged and the long-fingered hand that clapped his arm made him release a breath of tension he had been holding. He looked over his shoulder and up to see Sherlock’s face incredibly close to his own. One corner of his friend’s lips lifted up and Sherlock winked before he slid his hand along John’s arm and let it go only a moment before it would have touched John’s palm. Electricity crackled in John as if his battery had been charged and he started to believe he was really capable of owning the stage. John watched as Sherlock took his place in the middle of the stage. With fluid motions, he plugged his guitar to the foot switch and the other cable to the amplifier before he adjusted his microphone
Just in time, John remembered he had to do the same and mirrored the pattern of movements. The setlist was in the back pocket of his jeans; John took it out and unfolded it on the ground, right next to his foot switch.
John realised his left hand was clenched in a fist; he shook it to unclench it and release the tension in the muscles. He lowered his microphone and tapped it once to make sure it was on. Even though he was going to join in on the chorus, he didn’t feel like he had the right to greet the public or anything of the sort.
He looked at Sherlock and waited for him to do just that but without even glancing at the public, sparse as it was, he gave a nod to him, Molly, then to Greg before he slid a pair of sunglasses over his eyes. The drummer clacked the sticks together and they all knew that was the signal to start the first song from the setlist.
With the first sound, John’s hand stopped trembling. He slid the pick over the two upper strings along the length of the neck before the fingers of his right hand settled on the first chord.
John Watson didn’t play, no, he made love to the guitar, coaxing tunes one would think were impossible from such a simple instrument. Sherlock had sensed the tension in John when he had taken his first steps on stage but it was nowhere to be seen now. The energy that emanated from him was what Sherlock recognized as typical for John in certain situations. He could observe quietly and keep to the shadows but when he wanted to partake in something, he became bigger than life. His demeanour changed, the tremor in his hand disappeared and he was John Watson - the greatest soloist Sherlock had ever had the good fortune of sharing a stage with.
Sherlock hadn’t held much hope for the half-drunk public to appreciate their performance but he had never done anything in a half-arsed way and he wasn’t about to start now. He immersed himself in the music, in his own lyrics and let his mind calm while his body moved on stage.
Sherlock was the epitome of confidence, bordering on arrogance as he commanded the audience. The ones under the stage created a surprisingly efficient mosh pit, considering the limited space. From the far corners of the bar, the people who were just drinking beer and nodding initially were now standing close, their bodies affected by the music in a perceptible way. Drawn by the music, a number of passers-by joined the crowd as well.
The band ended the last song with the flourish of Greg’s solo and John felt tension coming back to his body once he knew it was over. During the concert itself, he lived in the moment and now it was time to face the people who they had played for. Overall, John thought they had done well and judging by the chorus of people chanting “one more, one more” it was clear they had enjoyed the show.
They hadn’t prepared any extra songs in case that happened and John looked at Sherlock for guidance. He gave a small, conspiratorial smile to John and turned to the microphone.
“I have something new.” Sherlock announced and when John shifted to look at Molly and Greg, they were both as stunned as he was. Clearly, Sherlock had failed to inform any of them of the additions to the repertoire. “Inspired by lyrics written by the one and only John Watson.” Sherlock indicated John with a wave.
John felt his stomach drop and his mouth go dry as he realised what Sherlock was about to play and worst of all, sing. He heard the words he had scribbled on a piece of paper in the middle of the night delivered in the low, seductive voice that made goosebumps break on his arms.
The whole pub went quiet. The chatter lowered to mere whispers. John could barely tear his eyes from Sherlock’s profile but when he did, he saw mouths open, beers stopped on their way halfway to lips and people standing motionless, completely taken by the man on stage plucking a lovely melody and singing with so much feeling, John could almost believe he meant what he was singing. But how could he? He conveyed the feeling of loneliness in the first stanza that John could remember feeling just a week before. Then he was saved, he found a meaning to his life again, as it was thrown into his hand by a seemingly careless man tossing a guitar at him. The lyrics didn’t detail enough for the crowd to know who the song was about but John knew and that was enough. He felt his wound reopen and heal, all in a matter of a song no longer than three minutes.
Sherlock was a born performer, that much was clear. When he was singing all their energetic songs, his voice made them more powerful, more aggressive but when he sang like this, John had an idea of what heaven must sound like. He faintly remembered that Lucifer was a beautiful angel once. He could imagine Sherlock being one, then seducing people with his voice and with his angelic body and face, but deep inside he was wicked....oh so wicked...
The whole concert had been a haze, as if it had been a dream, except John could still feel the music pumping inside him as he packed his guitar. He could see Molly greeting her girlfriends on one side of the stage and Greg still carefully packing smaller parts of his set into various soft cases.
When on stage, John had noticed a man standing out from all the others as he was wearing a three-piece suit in a room full of punk rockers. He approached John now and John narrowed his eyes scanning his features.
“Doctor Watson, how nice to finally meet you,” the regal voice greeted him.
“Sorry, who... who are you?” John asked eyeing the hand the man extended to him suspiciously before shaking it.
“Sherlock hasn’t told you about me then? Figures. Since you are flatmates and play in a band together, it looks like you are very close.”
“Sherlock?” John glanced back and saw his flatmate striding towards them.
“Don’t let this venomous snake bite you, John.”
“Okay, but who is he?” He pointed with his thumb as Sherlock was giving him the most exasperated look he’d seen on his face to date. And that said a lot.
“An enemy.” Sherlock said in an ominous voice that lacked the humour that John would expect with a statement like that.
“Don’t be a child, Sherlock and introduce me. Mummy raised us better than that.”
“Mummy?” John’s was faintly aware that his head must have looked as if he was watching a ping pong match. The nose, the scolding expression, the height, the regal stance... “He’s your brother! Of course.”
“Mycroft.” The older brother said with a nod.
“There are people interested in your music, Sherlock. But since you rarely bother to answer your phone, they reached the office and my assistant relayed the message to me.”
“I don’t need your help, Mycroft.”
“I would be helping myself if it would mean keeping you out of trouble.”
“Ladies, that’s enough.” John said and had to fight the grin of his face at the appalled look on Mycroft’s face. “We need to pack our gear before someone steals it.”
John gave sherlock’s shoulder a slight push but rolled his eyes seeing he was still glaring daggers at his brother over the shoulder.
“Sherlock? You haven’t said a word to the public.”
“They came to hear the music.”
“Well yeah, but it’s nice to make some contact, interact with them.”
Sherlock made a rude noise in the back of his throat.
“You do it then,” he suggested.
“It’s your idea.”
They packed their equipment into the car parked safely in the back, before they joined the crowd at the bar.
They ordered beers and talked with the people who came over to let them know that they had enjoyed the show. Sherlock was talking to the guy in a denim jacket riddled with patches of various punk bands. John muted the conversation and looked at Sherlock’s profile, mesmerised. He had had limited time to stare at him on stage, but now that the high from the performance died down, John could clearly remember Sherlock’s playing and singing. His eyes travelled from Sherlock's chiselled jaw to his long neck which had strained when Sherlock had sung just minutes before.
John had an overwhelming need to lick the drop of sweat that trickled down the side of Sherlock’s neck. Feel the pale skin under his tongue. He could smell Sherlock's cologne from where he stood but if he got closer, he should be able to smell Sherlock, his musk.
“John?” Greg asked, breaking John away from his thoughts. “Are you okay?” He gave John a puzzled look.
“Ye-” he croaked and cleared his throat. “Yeah. I just need some air.” He tried not to run towards the exit but walk, nodding politely and accepting pats on the back from complete strangers.
Once outside, he leaned on the brick of the building and sagged. What the hell had he been thinking? He was standing in a crowd of people staring at his flatmate, thinking thoughts he had never had before had about a man.
“You were great,” said a female voice to his right. John turned and his eyes registered the smoke lifting up in the light of the streetlamp before he saw the woman holding a cigarette. She was leaning on the same wall, one leg bent and a purple boot propped on it. She wore black leggings and an oversized The Special t-shirt with cut off sleeves. The purple belt matched her boots and emphasized her feminine curves.
“Thanks.” John said, aware that he was still staring.
She put the cigarette in the near empty beer bottle she was holding and smiled at him.
“Let me buy you another one?” John asked opening the door to the pub and indicating for her to go first.
Sherlock finished the conversation as fast as he could, so he could follow his flatmate outside to make sure he was okay. The way John looked at him, with such hunger in his eyes, made the fantasy that Sherlock had woven in his head feel closer to reality than he suspected. He slithered through the crowd of drunk people towards the exit all the while calming himself to prevent acting on the urge to slam John against the wall outside. He would taste those lips which had parted as if in invitation when John had been looking at Sherlock before. He would slide into John’s mouth, and John would reciprocate with enthusiasm.
Sherlock stopped in his tracks when John came back, the smile on his face directed at a young woman entering alongside him. They sauntered to the bar and started chatting, sipping the beers that appeared in front of them in a matter of seconds. Sherlock felt his face form an expression he didn’t want to wear at that moment. He lifted his chin up and, schooling his face, approached the other end of the L-shaped bar to order a pint of lager.
From the corner of his eye, he observed John flirting with the woman and waited for her to do something silly so John would leave her alone. She glanced at John with an appreciative gaze but flirted back just as hard, expertly hiding how smitten she actually was.
“You can buy me a Guinness, if you like.”
Sherlock turned left to the girl with short, bright pink hair and a genuine smile on her pretty face. He opened his mouth to come up with an excuse why that was not a good idea but after one more glance at John and his hand on the brunette’s knee, he nodded in acknowledgement.
“Sure.” He waved to the barman. “I’ll have one more Stella and a Guiness for...”
“Anya.” She supplied. “And you are...?”
“Sherlock Holmes.” He replied clinking his newly-arrived glass to hers.
“How long have you been playing? You sound way too good for a beginner's band.”
“We’ve all had some previous experience before this band but we haven’t been playing long together. John joined us just last week.”
“Really? His solos are awesome.” She said the last word with honest enthusiasm.
“I agree wholeheartedly.” He responded, and his eyes travelled to John who was laughing at something his brunette said. John on stage was amazing, the energy, the skill, the tight jeans...
“But you,” Anya continued, touching the skin on Sherlock’s forearm with soft fingers. “...you are a magician on stage. The whole thing was amazing but that slow one about the ray of light in the darkness, that was just...” she whispered conspiratorially leaning in “I could see several people crying. How...”
“That song was all John Watson. His lyrics. I just added to it.”
Sherlock looked at her hand touching him, then at her face, registering what was happening.
“Oh! No, I’m sorry. I’m a tad tipsy, I shouldn’t have.” She blushed a little and glanced towards the direction Sherlock had been looking. With a tight-lipped smile, she took her hand away and put it in the pocket of her hoodie. Sherlock analysed her face, her features, the way her cheeks reddened and … nope. He took a sip of his beer, remembering how this had happened to him before and he had tried, he really had, but women were not his cup of tea.
“Do you play?” He asked to break the awkward silence, even though he already knew the answer the moment he saw her fingers.
“Yes, I do actually. Double bass. I met Molly at the Academy.” Sherlock nodded and she continued. “It’s funny how...”
She kept talking and Sherlock was willing his eyes to stop wandering in the direction of his flatmate. His attempts were futile especially after a ruckus commenced on the other side of the pub. A man was holding his bloody nose and screaming obscenities at John. Sherlock faintly recognized him but couldn't pinpoint who he was exactly. John checked his knuckles and then shook his fist loose in order to bring feeling back to his hand. It had to be hurting after the blow he had just delivered. He offered the other hand to the brunette who had been chatting with him and they both left the pub.
That evening Sherlock regretted claiming the room downstairs as the sounds from the bedroom above his head made it impossible for him to fall asleep. One thing was certain, however: John was definitely into women.
She had the audacity to make herself coffee in the morning, sauntering in the kitchen, her perfect brown hair swaying with her movements.
“John left a note that he went for his morning jog. I don’t know how he still has energy to run after-” She caught herself before revealing information Sherlock was unwilling to listen to and took the last sip of her coffee, hiding her smile.
“I’ll be seeing you here more often, then?” Sherlock let the question leave his mouth knowing what he was really asking.
“Nah. I mean, it was quite a night. I’m definitely unable to jog today,” She released a laugh. “But no.” She stood up and reached for the sponge in the sink to wash her cup. “I’m not in that place in life.” Her voice was solemn when she said it and Sherlock felt a wave of relief at the thought that she wouldn’t become a permanent resident in the flat. She placed the cup on the drying rack and dried her hands on the towel. When she turned back to Sherlock, she had a smile on her face again. “You guys were great last night,” She said reaching for her bag and heading towards the door. “And John is very good with his fingers.” The innuendo made Sherlock’s imagination reel, as he was certain she wasn’t talking about the concert anymore. She gave Sherlock a sly smile which he felt like the slap in the face it wasn’t meant to be. Without another word, she left and hopefully, would never come back.
Weeks passed; concerts happened. The various women that frequented John’s bed came and went.
John was sitting in an armchair, rereading 1984 for the hundredth time or so when he realised, he wasn’t reading at all. His chair was facing the kitchen where his flatmate was working on the guitar he had bought from the guy who had come over a couple of weeks before. Sherlock was completely immersed in his work now, quite possibly not noticing that John was staring at him. John marvelled at the dedication Sherlock had for his work, the meticulous way he tinkered with the guitar, now disassembled into parts on the kitchen table. He had already spent days working on it and it looked like he wasn’t even halfway done.
Each time John caught himself staring at his flatmate or imagining himself in situations he had never before thought he would be in with a man, he tried to remember two things. One of them was that his attraction to Sherlock was based on how brilliant he was and how unearthly beautiful he was. But he was a man and John had never before entertained the idea of being with a man. His reaction must be just a crush, a man-crush very similar to the one he had had on his rugby coach at school or that boy with the name he had never learned, but who had sat two rows down on the auditorium at Barts for three years. John was waiting for his blinding crush on Sherlock to dissipate but the longer they lived together, the stronger it became. It had never been as strong as that before...
It made him think that what his friends from the army had told him once might be true. They had brought up what John had wondered before, that it was possible that he was attracted to both sexes. John had argued that he had never acted on his attraction to men, so if it wasn’t strong enough, it wasn’t real. However, when he had made tea in the tiny kitchen of his and Sherlock’s flat just this morning, his flatmate had brushed his arm in passing and John had felt the soft touch like a thrill of excitement all the way in his abdomen. At this point, John wasn’t sure what to think anymore.
The second, more important thing, was the fact that Sherlock didn’t bring anyone home, man or woman. He didn’t seem to be interested in physical contact with anyone, John included. John could ask, but they didn’t talk about those kinds of things so it would only make it awkward, the way it had been when John had asked Sherlock a similar question before. He had asked then if Sherlock had a girlfriend but they had been interrupted and had never gone back to the conversation. Sherlock had been single and stayed that way from what John could tell. John hadn’t had anyone then and frankly, he didn’t now. The meaningless sex he had was just that, meaningless.
John still clearly remembered how Sherlock had looked talking to that pretty young woman at the pub after their first concert. When he had glanced at John then from the other side of the room, John had seen a sliver of longing in his eyes before it disappeared. He had never asked why Sherlock hadn’t brought that girl home when John had brought one that night and every other night they had played a concert. The women had offered – John had accepted. He had had a dry spell in the army so he wasn’t inclined to deny himself the fun. None of the women wanted a relationship and neither did John which worked out perfectly for everyone.
John startled and almost dropped the book he had been failing to read, when Sherlock's phone rang with a classic ringing tone that reminded John of The Matrix movies.
“I told you to text me.” Were Sherlock’s angry words directed at the phone when he picked it up. “Then e-mail me, I don’t care....” He sighed in exasperation. “Fine. Do whatever you need to avoid damaging the sail.” Sherlock looked at John then, at his face, at the book on John’s lap and closed his eyes for a brief second. “Wait. I’ll call you back.” He disconnected, stood up and headed for the door. He took his leather jacket from the peg on the door after leaving his work in disarray on the kitchen table.
John sat dumbfounded for a moment after the door closed behind his flatmate, before he went towards the sofa. He picked up the guitar he had borrowed but had since referred to as his, and plugged it into the small amplifier that stood next to it. He proceeded to plug in the headphones and after putting them on, he was ready to play. Except that he wasn’t. He usually played to relax, to practice and to create but his head was swimming with the many mysteries that surrounded his flatmate. Just moments before, Sherlock had seemed to be talking about something he hadn’t wanted John to know about. John knew that it was silly to expect a high level of trust from his flatmate but he was still piqued that Sherlock was unwilling to share some aspects of his life with him. John was yet to discover where Sherlock went when he left most evenings, going out with a duffel bag and coming back an hour and a half later. It was possible that he was meeting someone but just wanted to keep it to himself. With Sherlock Holmes there were a lot of possibilities, many of which would probably not cross John’s mind.
John glided his calloused fingertips over the strings and closed his eyes. His mind was still thinking of the enigma that was Sherlock Holmes and how much he wanted to crack the code to make the man reveal more about himself.
John’s fingers played, slowly at first, then faster. Soon enough, the melody he played made his foot tap energetically. The alluring shape of Sherlock Holmes was front and centre in his mind. He visualised the layers and layers of the man that John was sure existed, even though he had only managed to glimpse a few.
He faintly heard what his fingers played and he reached for the notebook that lay on the amplifier to jot down the tabs. He kept playing, humming a melody, and matching words started to appear in his head. He jotted down those as well. The music and the lyrics flowed through John like a tide that came and gave everything it held; threw out treasures on the shore. John gathered those treasures and aligned them into a song. He continued playing until he had three stanzas and a chorus. Then he looked at the page with his scribbles and played the whole thing again, tinkering with the song to make it better.
The echo from the last chord still resonated in John’s headphones when he felt how clear his mind was. He left what he had to say, what was nagging him, on the page, both in the lyrics and in the music. He was frustrated with his inability to decide what he wanted to do with his feelings for his flatmate. He wanted to know what was in Sherlock’s mind, what he thought about John. But simply asking was out of the question. John was besotted with his friend and that made him feel vulnerable, a feeling he didn’t welcome. The creative process of writing a song let him leave his feelings on the page in form of tabs and lyrics, at least until they would resurface. Exhaling a long breath, he turned off the amplifier and put away the guitar and headphones.
John’s laptop was on the table and he settled himself by it to go over his usual routine. He started with checking his email, Facebook and then his bank account. He had been waiting for the money from the flat he had sold to come through and it finally had. Selling the flat he had grown up in had been hard. The place brought back a lot of great memories but also a lot of the tragic ones from recent past. He wanted to look into his future not dwell in the past and he was glad to admit to himself that he was doing a decent job of it as of late. He had one black-clad, brilliant individual to thank for unknowingly helping him with that. The flat had finally sold for less than he had expected but it was still a decent amount of money for him, since property in London was pricey. The majority of the money he now possessed would go to his fixed savings account but he decided to use some of it immediately. He was ready to buy himself a brand-new guitar and give the one he had borrowed back. Even though he had gotten used to it and had grown very fond of the instrument, it was time he had his own guitar. He should buy something for Sherlock as a thank-you as well, but he had no idea what yet.
John was still browsing guitars online when he heard the doors opening downstairs. At first, he thought that Sherlock was back but the pace was much too slow. Sherlock usually jumped two steps at a time so it was easy to tell when it was him coming. A moment later, the door to the main room opened and Mycroft, Sherlock’s brother, entered.
“Sherlock is out.” John said in lieu of greeting. “And knocking is customary in England, last time I checked.”
“I have something for him, but I might as well give it to you.” The impeccably-dressed man announced. His navy suit made him look like he was about to attend a gala rather than drop in on his brother. Then again, he did look like the posh lawyer he was. Mycroft produced an envelope from a briefcase he opened on the desk next to John’s laptop. “Before you open it, I’ll ask one thing.” He gave John a stern look that John didn’t particularly care for. “For the sake of this band, try not to punch any record label executives this time.”
“He had it coming.” John said matter-of-factly, remembering how he had punched the arsehole in the pub after their first concert.
“Just because he insulted Sherlock, doesn’t mean you should throw the band’s future away because you can’t keep yourself in check.”
A loud nose of a chair scraping the floor made Mycroft take a step back. John stood up and glared at the taller man in a way that made the height difference dissipate and the power tip in John’s favour.
“Just because you don’t stand up for your brother-” John snarled but was interrupted by the sound of the outside door opening. A moment later, Sherlock stepped inside and gave both men a questioning look.
“I was just leaving.” Mycroft informed him and handed Sherlock the envelope with just a nod goodbye.
Sherlock looked at John lifting one eyebrow but John just waved his hand in dismissal and went back to his computer.
Sherlock was about to open the door to their flat when he heard voices inside, so he waited a moment longer to be able to hear the end of the conversation taking place behind the door.
It’s been weeks after their first concert and Sherlock had never even considered the possibility that John had punched that man in the bar because of Sherlock. He had been wrong in his deduction that the man must have said something to the girl John had been with or had insulted John directly. The newly acquired knowledge that John had physically assaulted someone for him made Sherlock’s respect for his flatmate skyrocket even higher than it already was. Indeed, Sherlock had more than respect for John Watson but he refused to act on what he felt for his flatmate. He had to be sure he wouldn’t be faced with a rejection that would hurt him too much before he did something stupid.
Sherlock had straightened the issue that had arisen when he had received the phone call that had resulted in him leaving the flat. It had been very sloppy on his part to even answer the phone in John’s presence. He wanted to trust John completely. He trusted him with his life but he couldn’t trust him with his secrets. Not because John wasn’t a man of his word, quite the opposite, but he might inadvertently say something to Mycroft and in consequence land Sherlock in trouble with his family. As the current situation confirmed, Mycroft tended to drop in unannounced and chat with John, therefore laying the grounds for a possible slip on John’s part.
His brother wouldn’t waste his time if he didn’t have any ulterior motive, and knowing about Sherlock’s whereabouts was his favourite pastime. Sherlock hoped there would be a day he wouldn’t have to keep his secrets from John, but today was not the day.
Sherlock stepped into the flat and accepted the envelope from his brother. He ripped it open and immediately felt less perturbed at his brother’s visit.
“Yes!” He exclaimed, clutching the sheet of paper in his hand. “It’s an invitation to play a gig.”
“In a letter? I know your brother is fancy but-” John’s eyes were gleaming with interest.
“It’s a printout of an email. I don’t open emails from my brother so he took it upon himself to bring the printout in person.”
“He cares a lot about the band.” Noticed John nodding at the letter.
“He wants to keep me busy so I wouldn’t get ideas. ” Sherlock emphasized the last word and John received the message loud and clear. His eyebrows shot up at first and then his eyes lowered in an uncomfortable look. Sherlock expected John to be disgusted by his past drug habit but whether he was or not, at least he had the decency not to mention it.
“Right. What’s the gig? Tell me!” John went back to being interested in the new information.
“An American band is on tour and they’re playing in London. We have a spot to play as a support. Us and two other bands.” Sherlock announced and watched the excitement overtake John’s face.
“What band is it?” John asked and Sherlock had trouble keeping the smug look off his face knowing that John would like the answer.
“Never Mind the Burgers. Idiotic name if you ask me-”
“What?! That’s amazing!” John exclaimed excitedly, propelling from the chair he was sitting at. He tore the paper from Sherlock’s hand to read it himself. “I have all their albums, they’re a punk legend. They were my favourite American band when I was a teen. They still are when I think of it.”
“Yes, you might have mentioned that before.” That was the reason Sherlock had sent the event planner and the band manager the live demo of their music weeks before. It had been worth pulling several strings to get the spot if John was so excited about it. He had had to call in some favours and pose as his brother, that was why Mycroft was the one to whom the email had been sent.
John reread the letter and waved it in the air looking at Sherlock with absolute elation on his face. “You know what this means! We will finally get a chance to really be noticed.”
“Yes, I’m aware,” Sherlock smiled, trying to contain the warm feeling inside him that was brought on by John’s happy reaction. “We need to prepare accordingly. The YouTube videos posted from some of our previous concerts are doing pretty well in terms of popularity but we need more.”
“I can start a website. We need a website for the band!”
“Tedious.” He sighed, but in all honesty, he thought it was actually quite an ingenious idea. Why hadn’t he thought of it before? “I refuse to update our whereabouts-”
“I’ll do it.” John offered immediately. “No offense, but no one reads your website. And no one will if you continue writing lengthy articles about the differences in microfarad caps that were produced in the early 70’s in different countries...”
“You read my website!” Sherlock exclaimed, quite pleased with his flatmate despite his rude remarks.
“Of course, I had. I googled you the day we met and don’t even pretend you didn’t do the same.” John smiled, clearly satisfied with his excellent deduction.
Guilty as charged, Sherlock thought. “Did you bring it up just to insult me or is there a purpose ...?”
“Your content is shite but the layout is great. If you could create a page like that for the band, I could maintain it.”
“What would you put there?” Sherlock was genuinely curious.
“I don’t know. I’ll figure something out. Stuff from concerts, I guess. I could call it ‘John’s Road Journal’ or something.”
Sherlock didn’t stop the roll his eyes made, but he sighed and nodded in agreement nonetheless.
“That’s all fine but we need a solid set for that concert as well. It might pave us a way to play at the Slam Dunk Festival North.” Sherlock poked a tongue in his cheek, thinking. Being a part of a punk festival can open a lot of doors for them as a band and it was also a great opportunity to make important connections. “We’ll need a new song or two.” He approached his own notebook that lay on the kitchen table, browsed through it and closed it. He hadn't written any new songs for the last two weeks since he’d been busy tinkering with the guitar. He slid his fingers through the slicked-back hair in the middle of his head and glanced at John. He was never disappointed when looking at John and this time was no different. Sherlock smiled seeing the pleased look on John’s face. “Show me.” Was all he said when John was already reaching for his guitar.
John sat on the sofa and Sherlock on the chair, the way they had the first time they had played together in their flat. John closed his eyes, took a deep breath and started playing. The song was different from the ones in their current set. It was upbeat SKA melody and Sherlock found himself waiting, holding his breath, for the lyrics. It was about some person and mysteries; it had a World War II twist about it, but it was good, catchy. John’s voice was perfect for it, and the chorus would sound even better when he and Molly would join in.
Mid-song Sherlock caught himself wondering how many more surprises John was still hiding up his sleeves. He was so casual, in his polo shirts and military hair that had grown out now but still remained neat, yet when he played, he was a force to be reckoned with. Sherlock had never found anyone who could match his passion for the music that had a bad reputation for being overly simple and designed for teenagers going through a ‘phase’. Sherlock treated it seriously and so did John. They had a lot more in common than what could be seen on the surface.
“I can still change it, modify it. It’s just in the first stages of-” John started saying once the song was over.
“Perfect.” Sherlock whispered, interrupting. He looked at John, at the open expression on his face as he looked back at him, at the topaz-blue eyes, so impossibly beautiful that Sherlock would never get bored looking into them for hours. He remembered that he was supposed to be talking about the song and cleared his throat. “The song is perfect, except maybe...” John looked down quickly at the fretboard of the guitar he was holding when Sherlock’s eyes went to it. “Maybe instead of this chord,” Sherlock reached to move John’s fingers on the fretboard, “try this.”
He knew he had made a mistake the moment his fingers had connected with John’s. The heat that spread in his body at the mere touch was sizzling. But John wouldn't notice, would he? The time seemed to slow down when Sherlock was absorbing the heat from John’s fingers. It seemed an hour had passed when he was focused on the tingle spreading from his fingers touching John’s, all along his forearm, arm and to his chest. Then the heat flooded to his abdomen and he had to force himself to break the contact.
Sherlock stood up more abruptly than he intended to and combed his left hand through his hair.
“Like this?” John started playing, looking down at the guitar.
Sherlock nodded, even though John couldn’t see the gesture. His right hand, the one with which he touched John travelled to his lips. He could barely hear John playing the slightly modified melody when he traced the fingertips over his bottom lip. He wanted to lick his own fingers . Would he be able to taste John on them?
“Is it better?” John’s voice broke Sherlock from his trance. What was he thinking?
“Yes,” Sherlock cleared his throat, not liking the way his voice sounded. Too low. “Yes, that will do. Now let’s go.”
“Emergency practice session.” He replied already texting Molly and Greg.
_ _ _
John wasn’t sure if he had been imagining it or if he and Sherlock had a moment. Sherlock had sprung from the chair as if touched with a cattle prod after several seconds of touching his hand. John had felt it too and had to look down at his instrument to hide the expression on his face. Maybe it was just wishful thinking on his part, and if that was the case, he didn’t want to scare Sherlock away. He posed as emotionally detached, but John could tell how he cared about the people who surrounded him, even about John himself. He was also clearly capable of sexual activities, judging from the sounds John had heard coming from the bathroom just yesterday evening. Sherlock didn’t seem to be overly fond of physical attention, be that a pat on the back or a handshake. However, he had reached out to touch John and that was something to keep in mind.
As John was thinking about that, he was sitting in the tube next to the subject of his pondering and tried to cool down the heat creeping to his cheeks. He had to focus on the band and its success, not how to mess with the lead singer and get kicked out in the process. He had come back from war with no family left and no idea what to do with his life. Then when he had found friends, he had also found a purpose. He would pour himself into this band, in part to reach a moderate level of success, but most of all he wanted people to see Sherlock. To hear his music and the truth in his lyrics. To see the giant heart that he hid under beautifully crude poetry of his lyrics and his black clothes. He wanted people to see the genius of the person he felt lucky to call his friend. Because by now, Sherlock had become more than a flatmate or a band member. He was the man who had given John’s life purpose when he had thought he had nothing more left in this world.
“Are you okay?” John heard Sherlock's voice in his ear over the rattle of the tube.
“Yeah, fine.” He replied, glancing at the passenger information display indicating the next stop. Sherlock went back to texting or writing or whatever it was he did on his phone, and stayed that way until it was time to get off.
The April rain that caught them out on the way from the station to the university building which held their rehearsal space, was expectedly chilly. John huddled in his Harrington jacket and Sherlock put the collar of his leather jacket up. It was fortunate that their guitars were safe from the weather in the hard cases they carried them in.
Half-soaked, they arrived first at their rehearsal room. Molly and Greg arrived soon after.
“What's this all about?” asked Molly, shrugging off her wet, bright orange raincoat. “You don’t always have to be so cryptic in your messages, you know.” She gave Sherlock an exasperated look. John was sympathetic to that sentiment.
“John has a new song. About codes or... something” Sherlock waved his hand in the air as if that was a perfect description of the lyrics. “It’s something new, we’ve never played SKA but I think we should give it a shot. It would be good to diversify the album.”
“Album?” Greg turned to Sherlock with a look of surprise. He was the only one who left all his equipment on the site so he wasn’t burdened with any.
“The what?” John heard himself say. Sherlock’s expression was a mix of regal swank and a satisfied smirk.
“Wiggins owes me a favour.” Sherlock started but seeing the clear look of confusion on John’s face, he elaborated. “He owns a recording studio. It’s in a small cellar but really well equipped. The sound comes out clean, I’ve heard his recordings before.” John nodded at that, seeing where this was going and Sherlock continued without a pause. “We have three days, eight hours each, to record what we want. I will be mastering it in the meantime. Or assisting Wiggins in it, so that it sounds the way we want it to. We practiced enough. With as little mistakes as we had made on the last concert we’d played, we should be able to make it in two days and master the whole third to make the album sound perfect. However, with new songs, possibly two new ones, we should arrange at least three meetings here this week. We start recording on the fifteenth, so that’s...” Sherlock glanced at the phone in his hand, “... in ten days.”
“Why didn’t you tell us?” Molly asked, her cheeks pink with excitement.
“I just did.” Sherlock smirked.
“Well then, there's no time to lose” Greg folded his khaki shorts above his knees and took a seat on the stool behind the drums.
“Right.” John agreed and tossed his wet jacket on the couch to dry before he unpacked his guitar.
_ _ _
“Can you hear how they’re styled on the UK bands from the 70’s? It’s amazing how they made it their own being all the way in the USA at the time. The 80’s, I mean.” John stopped talking when he noticed Sherlock wasn’t listening but looking somewhere into the distance with a faraway expression on his face. He looked like he was posing for a picture; his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket, his chin up, his body lean and tall. Then he took the small comb from his jeans’ back pocket and combed his hair, slicking the wide stripe in the middle neatly back. John couldn’t take his eyes off the man.
They stood in the club, a quite large venue for punk rock standards where in a few hours, one of John’s favourite bands would play. The club kept playing Never Mind the Burgers music over the speakers and John was giddy talking about the upcoming concert. Sherlock, apparently, had something else in mind. He stood there, looking aloof, possibly thinking intently. John had no idea what he was thinking of but it seemed fruitless to ask.
One of John’s previous sexual conquests had asked him if Sherlock was always so gloomy-looking and perpetually angry. John had never considered him that, but his flatmate was definitely not cheerful to anyone that ever came over to their flat. John didn’t see him that way. Sherlock smiled and laughed and did impossibly ridiculous things when they were together. He had an uncanny ability to be annoying, though. Last week, John had come home to see a set of strings in some foul-smelling liquid. It would be all fine if Sherlock hadn't put them in the kettle. After a ridiculous argument where Sherlock had explained how his experiment made perfect sense, John had given up and had gone to buy a new kettle.
So indeed, Sherlock could be seen as moody, especially to people who saw him for just a short amount of time. The woman had then commented on Sherlock being dressed all in black which prompted John to analyse that fact when she had finally left.
When he thought of the way Sherlock dressed, his mind travelled to the forearms which were exposed when Sherlock’s shirt sleeves were rolled up, to the nautical tattoos peeking out on his left forearm. John thought how he would want to study the tattoos more closely, ask what they meant, find out how far on his flatmate’s body they went...
Sherlock’s wardrobe must look like a black hole, John thought as Sherlock rarely wore anything that wasn’t black. Customarily it was black jeans and black leather jacket over a black shirt. The jacket that seemed to live with Sherlock. It looked like something he’d stolen right off the cover of a Ramones album and it fit Sherlock perfectly. All his clothes fit him perfectly and John approved of every single piece of fabric that hugged the elegant curves of his flatmate’s body.
The only exception from the ‘man in black’ routine, were the dark purple Dr Martens he wore at times. He had several pairs, short ones, ankle-length, calf-length and probably more that John hadn't seen yet.
John, however liked to cheer up his wardrobe with blue jeans but not much more, unless he counted the tartan inside of his favourite Harrington jacket.
“There are three spots before Never Mind the Burgers take the stage.” Sherlock broke John from his reverie. “If we play first, there will be 30 people tops and none of them would be drunk enough for more than head-nodding. If we go second, it will be late enough for more people to arrive but not by much. If we play third, however, the crowd should be sufficient and after listening to the two previous bands, hyped up enough to initiate some nice moshpit action.”
“Why do we care?” John cared for his own reasons. It was exhilarating to play for more people, as he had learned during the previous concerts when the numbers had grown from a handful to a hundred. He wanted to know Sherlock's reasoning behind the plan though.
“There will be at least three record labels’ representatives tonight. I don’t know which ones yet, but I’ll try to find out.”
“How do you-”
“If the crowd is entertained and our music is to their liking, we might get a chance to approach them or be approached to talk albums and labels.”
“Bloody hell! You really think so?”
“Fantastic! But how are you planning to arrange that?”
“I have an idea. People talk and sometimes that can be useful. Now, onto dealing with the immediate issue first.”
Sherlock opened one more button at the top of his shirt, making a total of three set loose, showing a hint of his leanly muscled chest and swirl of black ink forming letters. John hadn’t seen what the tattoo said yet, but he was intrigued more and more to see what the ink covering Sherlock’s skin portrayed. Sherlock put his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket and walked away.
John watched from afar as Sherlock talked to the manager of the club who pointed a finger at a 40-ish blonde guy in a pair of very tight blue jeans and a leather waistcoat over a grey GBH t-shirt. Sherlock ran fingers through his hair as he approached the guy who was slightly smaller than Sherlock’s towering height. The movement made Sherlock’s body arch and John could hear his own loud swallow at the sight. Sherlock leaned on the low metal crowd safety barrier with one hip and continued talking. The blonde guy raked his eyes appreciatively over Sherlock’s body, surely not hearing half of what the guitarist was saying. He nodded and took a step towards Sherlock, placing a familiar hand on his shoulder. John felt his fists clench at his sides and forced himself to stay put. Sherlock had a plan and he wouldn’t want to be interrupted. The guitarist smiled a gorgeous smile at the blonde, placed his palm over the man’s hand and slowly took it off.
John’s lips were dry when Sherlock turned to him and walked like a model on a catwalk with a satisfied smirk on his face.
John had heard some rumours about his flatmate. Some said that he was gay, some said that he had been with women before and a lot were about some freaky behaviours Sherlock had in the bedroom. Most were allegedly based on tales from his classmates from Uni. John refused to believe any of that until he heard a confirmation from his friend’s lips. It was all none of his business anyway.
“Who was that?” John fired at his guitarist when the man approached him.
“The promoter for tonight’s gig. We’re playing third.” Sherlock’s grin widened and he winked. John felt his face flush involuntarily and tried to blame his body’s reaction on excitement at the first small success of the evening.
“G-great...heh.” He patted Sherlock’s arm in the same place the blonde man’s had been, then promptly put his hand in his jeans’ pocket.
“Now all we have to do is blow the roof off of this joint with our music.” Sherlock announced as if it was the easiest thing to do in the world.
_ _ _
They all gave their best during the concert and people appreciated it. John interacted with the public, as he had started doing during the last few gigs, but this evening the excited crowd responded with even more glee than usual. The public sang the lyrics of the chorus by the end of several songs and at the end chanted for more. This time, two songs had been set aside form the main setlist for that purpose. They played those and repeated the crowd's favourite. Sherlock had a chance to show off, which he enjoyed immensely, but John was right there with him, jumping on stage, delivering amazing solos and pointing the mic towards the crowd for them to join in on the singing.
Even though Sherlock was mostly focused on John, he had to admit that Molly and Greg delivered an outstanding performance. With the clear influx of female audience for the last few weeks, Sherlock realised that he had underestimated the power Molly brought them. He hadn’t said that of course but he had suggested that Molly should expand her input into the songs. Unsurprisingly, she declared that she had already come up with a new beginning to a song that could start with a bass solo and a nice bass bridge in the middle of a different song. Tonight, she wore blue fishnet stockings over black tights and a red top with Joan Jett on it. Not only women followed her, but it was plain as day that the male gaze followed her as she moved on stage. He would have to remember to make sure she was safe after the gigs. People had the tendency to be arseholes, especially when drunk and he had witnessed all that too many times to count.
After the concert, they joined the other support bands behind the stage, in a small lounge area. Sherlock tried to ignore the fact that John was the only one absent from what apparently was supposed to be a social ‘bonding’ event. Greg had convinced Sherlock to play cards with them but, as Sherlock had warned him, everyone regretted that soon. Playing poker with people who couldn’t keep a straight face was child’s play.
It would be a lot more pleasant if John was present. Sherlock had always liked being on stage, performing for the public, since he was a boy and his mother had taught him the basics on violin and later hired a private tutor to continue his musical education. Standing on stage since John joined the band was a hundredfold more exhilarating than it ever had been before. Doing anything with John seemed to increase the value of the activity. Sherlock needed his guitar, he needed to play, to compose, because he was itching for a smoke and he hadn’t had a cigarette for three months now. He stood up, not caring about the game he was about to win again.
“Sherlock! Where are you going?” Greg asked indicating the table with cards on it. Sherlock handed his cards to the nearest person he walked past.
“For a walk.” He replied simply, the annoyance coursing through him was clear in his tone. Sherlock’s head was flooded with words at first, then phrases and by the time he reached the room that held their instruments, he had one full stanza of lyrics ready to be jotted down. With guitar in his hands, he could jot it all down in the notebook he kept in his case.
The door to the storage room creaked slightly when he opened it. It was supposed to be locked, and he was prepared to pick the lock in order to open it so as not to waste time looking for people responsible for guarding the gear. As it occurred, they did a poor job of it anyway.
Sherlock was scoffing to himself when he froze in his tracks in the doorway. He blinked several times to make sure his eyes registered correctly and the action before him was real.
John was energetically fucking a woman against a closed piano. Yes, fucking was the correct word to describe what was unfolding before Sherlock’s eyes. It was fast, raw and...hot. Her back was to Sherlock so she couldn't see him but John definitely could. Sherlock felt John’s gaze reaching him through the poorly lit room, it was like a shadow of a touch that whispered over his skin.
“What was that?” The woman asked between pants but John shushed her and kissed her lips quickly to placate her.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said looking directly at Sherlock, not changing or slowing down his pace.
Sherlock could clearly see John’s arm straining as he gripped the piano. His other hand was down, probably holding onto the woman but Sherlock was unable to see behind the large instrument. Her head was back, her long blonde hair was spilling over the top of the piano as she moaned louder and faster with every thrust of John’s hips.
Sherlock couldn’t move.
He would refuse to move even if he could. John’s face was clear in the overhead light, his lips were parted as he panted, his hair tousled and his blue eyes filled with lust. Those beautiful twinkling eyes were looking directly at Sherlock.
The room seemed to be on fire. The heat was licking up Sherlock’s skin, burning him from the inside out. Yet, he still didn’t want to leave. He would stay rooted to the spot if the deep fires of hell were to consume him. Because the look on John’s face was worth dying over.
Soon enough the woman was coming, her high-pitched wails reached Sherlock’s ears. John was still looking Sherlock directly in the eyes, then his gaze darted downward to Sherlock’s tented trousers and back to his face. Sherlock felt the need to put his palms over his erection to hide it but he wanted John to know how much he was affected by him.
John mouthed “oh fuck...Sherlock” a second before he came, convulsing against the woman, grunting his satisfaction in low voice. Sherlock was sure that he had not mistaken the words John had mouthed, he had always been good at reading lips. Sherlock watched the expression of ecstasy play on John’s face and his mind conjured up scenarios that would allow him to see this face in throes of passion up close. It was Sherlock's cue to go and he slipped through the door as quietly as he entered, forgetting whatever he meant to retrieve from the room.
When John came back to join the gathered members of the support bands, no one paid too much attention to him. They were playing poker and yelling over one another. Everyone except Sherlock, who looked at him with a schooled expression before he went on looking at the table.
“Finally, a flush.” muttered Sherlock as Mark, one of the members of Money and Dice, the band who played first, took a card.
“Piss off, Sherlock!” the man yelled.
“Oh, for God’s sake! It’s obvious from the cards he has.” Sherlock waved vaguely in the direction of another member of the same band, clearly not familiar with their names yet. “Four Queens, so it was just clear that-”
“Shut up!” Several people yelled at once.
“You’re not allowed to play for a reason, Sherlock.” Another man said.
Sherlock rolled his eyes and reclined on the sofa, but not before John noticed the hurt expression on his face flash very quickly before it disappeared. “Good. This game is moronic anyway.” Sherlock took out his phone and started typing something on it.
“John! Do you want to join us?” Greg asked seeing him approach. He clearly wasn’t comfortable with Sherlock being side-lined but not enough to prevent it. It must have been hard to argue as they did have a point.
“Nah, I’ll just...” He indicated the empty spot next to Sherlock with a nod.
“Yesss!” A high-pitched excited yell came from the table. It looked like Molly had won this time, judging by her ecstatic reaction and the groans of the men sitting by the small table.
“Sher-” He started saying, not knowing if he wanted to talk about what had just happened or avoid it forever. But he definitely wanted to talk to his friend.
“Never Mind the Burgers will be in room four, here backstage, and they’re expecting you to stop by.” Sherlock interrupted him and stunned John at the same time.
“What are you talking about?”
“I’d think you’d want to meet them.” Sherlock lifted his gaze from his phone to look at John and his raised eyebrows formed a question.
“Of course, I would.” John said slowly, frowning as if to help him discern whether Sherlock was not pulling his leg.
“Room four then.” Sherlock made a shoo-ing motion which would have been rude but taking into account the circumstances, John was grateful for the push.
“Whatever you did, thanks, Sherlock!” John stood up, placed a hand on Sherlock’s arm and squeezed. He didn’t want to leave his friend but he also didn’t want to miss the opportunity that had been arranged for him. Sherlock looked at John’s hand then up at John and nodded once. It was only when John noticed Sherlock’s face growing strained that he gathered he was holding his hand on his friend’s shoulder longer than necessary. He took it away and put it in his jeans pocket, smiling at the enigmatic man.
Room four was on the other side of a long corridor. John knocked and assumed a military stance, out of habit.
“Come in!” Yelled someone from the other side.
The door was unlocked so John stepped into the room.
“Yeah, you’re that dude with magic fingers!” A middle-aged bald guy exclaimed and John immediately recognized him as Rob, the solo guitar of Never Mind the Burgers. John wasn’t sure how to respond to that but it was definitely a compliment.
“Thanks.” He finally said, glancing around the room. The singer/songwriter, Dan, was asleep on the sofa with his arms folded over a belly that rose up and down with his steady breathing.
John felt giddy at meeting his musical heroes for the first time face to face, as opposed to standing under the stage, yelling all the lyrics he had had memorised since he was seventeen. On the other hand, he was also aware that he was meeting these people on a more equal footing than he would have been all those years ago. True, his band wasn’t popular but he was considered a musician now at least.
“Come sit, we were told you’d be joining us.” said Gary, the drummer, as he entered the room through a door on the other side, munching on Chinese from a box. “We saw you play, uhhh...” he waved his sticks at him in question.
“John. John Watson.” he replied taking a seat on an empty armchair.
“We saw you play, John and I wanted to talk to you.”
_ _ _
“Thanks for arranging that, Sherlock.” John said when he rejoined the other band members. Sherlock grunted in affirmation. “I really mean it.”
“It was nothing.” He said simply, not wanting to show how much it meant to him that John had had a good time.
John flopped next to Sherlock excitedly, causing Sherlock’s entire body to lift off the sofa a few inches then drop back down. He looked at John as if he was a complete moron, then smiled as his body felt lighter seeing his friend so happy. A small chuckle escaped John’s chest which quickly turned into full blown laugh. Sherlock was unable to contain his own chuckle at that, not that he really tried to. Seeing John’s laughter made his heart soar, the sound permeating the room and sparking Sherlock’s endorphins. They ended up giggling like lunatics, not caring that their new acquaintances were still playing poker in the same room. Sherlock took in John’s appearance, the laughing concealing the appreciative look he had for his flatmate.
John was dressed seemingly casually, but to Sherlock it was clear that John’s turn-ups were a statement and so was his polo shirt and jacket with customary red tartan on the underside. For concerts John wore a polo with a white stripe on the collar and end of the short sleeves. It was classy punk and not in-your-face. The style fit John very well.
“I gather, you had a pleasant time.” Sherlock observed.
“Yeah. My teenage-self wanted to jump with excitement.” John replied once his laughter died down somewhat.
“But you didn’t.” John was easy-going but he wouldn’t go that far.
“No. That would have been embarrassing.”
“Indeed.” Sherlock smiled, watching the soft look of dreamy excitement overtaking John’s face. His eyes seemed to gleam as he recalled the conversation.
“We talked a lot and it was so nice to find out that my childhood heroes are just ordinary people.”
“Of course, they are.” Sherlock deadpanned with mock exasperation.
“You know what I mean.” John smacked Sherlock’s arm playfully.
“I might, yes.”
It was time for John to fall silent. A small smile was dancing on his lips and it gave Sherlock’s chest a warm, light feeling. He wanted John to stay like that; for John to always be happy. He would have to make sure that John would get what he needed to be happy, he owed John that much. His friend, his only true friend, the man who had been there for Sherlock when he had had no idea where his life had been heading. John had been next to him since the day they’d met. On top of all that, he inspired Sherlock to push the band further, so that they both could enjoy the stage side by side. A sense of purpose filled Sherlock. At that moment, he was certain that he would do anything to make John happy.
Sherlock knew John was sleeping with women, but knowing it and seeing it with his own eyes were two completely different things. Accidently barging in on John’s intimate moment with a woman had been the most erotic thing he’d ever seen. It was not due to the act itself, but because it was John. It was his friend and his flatmate and the man who stirred his urges that looked him in the eye and whispered his name as he came into someone else. The last part was what hurt Sherlock to the core. He would have to be careful never to walk in on John because seeing his hands on someone else again would destroy him. However, if John would continue to choose his encounters the same way he had been, Sherlock would respect that. Wasn’t that what friends did?
“That was a great evening. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us next.” John broke the silence. He looked at Sherlock’s face then and Sherlock could feel himself growing serious, the ideas about said ‘us’ at the forefront of his mind. “For the band that is.” John clarified and Sherlock nodded because of course that was what John had meant.
“We have several more concerts lined up and I was able to arrange an appointment with one of Dead Skunk Label’s executives next month.” Sherlock announced with a satisfied smirk.
“Really?” John scooted closer, wonder clear in his voice.
“Yup.” Sherlock decided that the wide-eyed look on John’s face was worth the trouble of talking to all those boring people to make sure someone from the label was interested in what they had in mind as opposed to just making them puppets for songs they wanted for their label.
John took Sherlock’s face in his palms and looked at him with gaze sparkling with joy and a smile reaching those beautiful eyes. “You’re amazing.” John whispered and Sherlock could swear his heart skipped a beat. He blinked rapidly, the warmth of John’s hands seeping into him through his skin, spreading throughout his body.
“It would still be beneficial to have the album we’re set to record next week be ready for the meeting. We could land a deal a lot faster if we already have the whole of the material perfectly recorded and mastered.” Sherlock fired in rapid succession in a voice as business-like as he could muster, so as not to let John know how much his touch affected him. How much he wanted to close the distance between them and steal a taste of those beautiful lips that were slightly parted in invitation.
“That’s right.” John responded, lowering his eyes along with his hands. “It’s good that you arranged all that.”
“Yes. Very fortunate.”
John would have to keep his emotional high on a tighter lead. He could have kissed Sherlock just moments before, in fact, he almost had. Their lips had been inches apart and he had been cupping Sherlock’s beautiful face. He could have just leaned in to find out if Sherlock’s lips tasted as good as they looked. But then Sherlock had broken the spell he had had on him and all had gone back to normal. What if he hadn’t done that? John chanced a look back at Sherlock who was now back to typing on his phone. The moment had passed but the tingle John had felt at the thought of kissing his flatmate hadn’t. John wondered if Sherlock was aware of the magnetic pull between them, but he was certain now that it was there.
John looked around the room to get out of his own head and his eyes landed on Greg. On his back was his customary denim waistcoat with patches from his favourite bands over a black t-shirt. He was talking to Kyle, the Money and Dice drummer, and desperately trying to ignore Mycroft looming over him. Sherlock’s brother stood behind Greg’s chair, so distinctly different in his three piece pinstripe suit amongst punk rockers.
“I want the new Zildjian hi-hat.” Greg was facing Kyle as he spoke.
“I want the whole set. Have you seen the price though?” Kyle replied but he clearly felt uncomfortable under Mycroft’s scrutiny.
“Ooof.” Greg sucked in a breath and raised his eyebrows at the mere thought.
“The price would be of no concern to you if you only accepted my offer.” Mycroft's voice, regal as always, made everyone turn towards its source.
“I will not work for you, Mycroft. Or rather, your father, isn’t it?” Greg’s voice was even as he looked up.
“Father is away.”
“Just because Father is in Sweden on prolonged business, doesn’t make you the owner of his company.” Sherlock lifted his gaze to glare at his brother.
“No, but I am a partner and I have full... I don’t have to explain myself to you, brother.” Mycroft fixed the cuffs of his shirt. “I’m not withdrawing the offer, Greg.”
Greg stood up and turned to face Mycroft. The air was thick with tension as Greg was staring Mycroft down even when the impeccably-dressed man was three inches taller than him.
“Outside.” Greg uttered through his teeth.
“I still have a business with you, little brother.” Mycroft announced before he lifted his nose up and walked with such grace John could see the resemblance to Sherlock.
Without another word, Greg threw his cards on the table and left, following Mycroft.
“What was that about?” John asked turning to Sherlock.
“As you know, Greg works for a small solicitors, a bunch of do-gooders if you ask me. Mycroft insists on trying to recruit him. From what I gather, Greg has immense potential which my brother desperately tries to harness for our father’s company. I’ve heard Greg referring to my father as ‘bloodthirsty shark’.” John felt his eyebrows lift up as he listened to Sherlock. “I applaud the accuracy of that statement so I don’t blame him for refusing to join, even if it would bring him six times the money he is earning now. A punk rock band’s success is not measured in money, so if he ever choses to join the shark family, I won’t blame him either.”
“You don’t mind the idea that you might never earn much playing?” John wondered out loud realising that Sherlock must have been brought up not wanting for anything.
“That’s not why I started the band, so no. I could have gone to Oxford like my father and brother if money was what I wanted in life.” Sherlock didn’t seem to be bothered by the subject in the slightest.
“What about you?”
“Success would be nice and I wouldn’t complain if it came with some money either.” John answered honestly. It would be nice not to struggle for a change but he wouldn’t sacrifice his new dream of a band in favour of money elsewhere.
Sherlock fell silent, clearly contemplating something as a serious expression overtook his face. His lips were in a straight line and brows slightly furrowed as he slid his hand through his hair absentmindedly.
“Do you think business talk is all there is between your brother and Greg?” John grappled to change the subject and tear himself from analysing every crease and frown on his friend’s face.
“Of course. What else?” Sherlock blinked twice as he came back from his head.
John shrugged and was genuinely stunned that the most observant man he had ever known was oblivious, or rather refused to acknowledge the sparks that flew between his brother and his friend. John looked at Sherlock’s profile, the shaved side of his head, the pale skin, alluring cheekbones and chiselled jaw... John wasn’t blind but he also was not ready to admit to himself what looking at his friend really did to him. Was it like that for Sherlock as well? An image of aroused Sherlock standing in the doorway and watching John come into a woman appeared in the forefront of his mind. He closed his eyes and shook his head, but the image didn’t dissipate easily. He wondered, how would Sherlock look if John’s hands were on him, gripping his hips, pulling their bodies close...
“John?” Sherlock’s voice broke his reverie.
“Yes?” John tried to keep his expression neutral but was afraid he was failing miserably.
“Let’s go home.” Sherlock’s eyes seemed to be all-knowing. As if he could see the image John had in his mind just moments before. John’s knee grazed Sherlock’s when he shifted and they both looked at the spot they touched before looking back at one another.
“Home sounds perfect.” John replied, relishing the feel of Sherlock’s body linked to his in such an insignificant way, but linked nonetheless.
_ _ _
They had never talked about what had happened in that storage room, but there hadn’t been a day that John hadn’t thought about it. Sherlock’s hooded gaze had been far from the one he’d used that time to flirt with the concert promoter. When he had stood in the doorway and looked at John, his face had morphed into a natural, honest expression of lust. And that tent, the indication that Sherlock liked what he had been looking at, had imprinted itself in John’s memory.
John was trying not to look at Sherlock’s tight jeans as they waited for the door to the recording studio to open. The four of them met in front of a Victorian building as per Sherlock’s instructions. They carried their equipment on the Tube and were now waiting for the door to the building to open. Sherlock used the large brass knocker again and a tall, lanky man opened the door.
“Hey, you’re early!” He said, squinting at the sunlight.
“No, we’re not.” Sherlock turned to the three remaining band members. “This is Bill Wiggins and he will be recording us today.”
Bill waved at them as a chorus of greetings came from John, Molly and Greg. They followed him inside and through a door immediately to the right. A steep staircase greeted them and Bill offered to carry Molly’s guitar as they descended.
The windowless main room of the cellar had walls covered with posters, two large sofas in the middle and a table with a computer and a console in a corner. The door to the adjacent room was open and it was clear it was the room they would record in. The walls and ceiling were covered with what looked like memory-foam and was probably something similar in order to muffle the sound and reduce any echo in the room as it was intended for recording everyone at once with amplifiers. The walls were sprayed with names of bands creating a visual representation of the many people who had recorded there.
They wasted no time and after a short chit-chat got to business. It would be easier to manipulate and fix the recording if every instrument was recorded separately, so that was their plan. With a metronome in his headphones and his guitar in hand, Sherlock went in first.
Unlike a professional studio, the recording room had no large glass through which they were able to see each other. When closed, the inside of the room was not dissimilar to a padded cell. Bill had a two-way communication system installed so they could talk to each other if something went wrong. Even though Sherlock was being recorded directly into the computer, with no possibility of outside noise getting through to the recording, he wanted to do it in the room. They could all hear Sherlock playing in the lounge area, which doubled as mixing room. John with Molly were practicing their parts on unplugged guitars. Greg was next to Bill and seemed fascinated by the whole process. The drums were locked in the padded room so he wasn't able to practice.
Sherlock came out after each song to listen back to his recording. He was a perfectionist and even though he didn’t make a single slip, he recorded several parts again because he insisted something was not up to his standards.
John went next. He had the metronome and Sherlock’s recording in his headphones. There was something incredibly intimate about sitting in a closed room with only the clear sound of Sherlock’s guitar in his ears. He could hear the slide of Sherlock’s fingers on the fretboard as he had changed the chords and John could clearly imagine the long fingers coaxing sounds from the instrument.
He put his own fingers on the guitar and recalled with crisp clarity how Sherlock placed his hand to move John’s over the fretboard that time in their flat. He remembered the heat that spread through him at the connection. John closed his eyes, took a deep breath and when he opened them, he was ready.
There was not a single mistake in his recording and when he left the room, he could see a proud smirk on Sherlock’s face.
Molly went next, with the metronome and Sherlock's recording. She did magnificently. It was a feast to listen to the bass alone over the speakers in the lounge as they all were relaxing on the sofas. Then finally Greg went in, he was able to hear all the other instruments in his headphones when he played. After the first minute, Sherlock burst into the recording room and came out with a cowbell and annoyed expression on his face. Molly burst out laughing and John joined her, figuring Greg smuggled the cursed instrument just to spite Sherlock.
The rest of the day went smoothly and their recordings lined up perfectly. At the end of the day, the first 8 songs from the album were done. Sherlock stayed behind when the rest of them went to their respective homes for some downtime before recording the remaining 4 songs the following day. John knew Sherlock would want to work on editing and double and triple checking if everything was perfect. John offered to stay with him but Sherlock insisted that he should go home. John’s light sleep let him hear Sherlock come back home at dawn, way too late to be able to record at 9am again.
John made breakfast that morning so Sherlock could at least eat something after his sleepless night. To John’s utter shock, Sherlock entered the kitchen looking neat and ready to rock and roll. His determination to make the best of the time they had in the studio was apparently making his body more awake than John’s after 6 hours of sleep. He would have slept more but he had been tossing and turning knowing that Sherlock was not in the house. It had been a bizarre sensation but it took him hours to fall asleep while imagining Sherlock coming back home alone on the tube. He felt like an idiot just thinking that way; Sherlock was a grown man with lean muscles slightly visible under the tight clothes he wore so he could clearly take care of himself.
“Is that for me?” Sherlock asked sitting at the table where John had placed a fry-up a moment before.
“Yes.” John nodded. “Yes, it’s for you.”
“Mmmm...” The sound Sherlock made when he reached for the knife and fork was low and made John turn quickly away to put his own food on the plate, so as not to reveal the smile on his face.
They repeated the pattern of recording that had worked well the day before and within hours it was time for Greg to record the remaining four songs.
Molly sat curled in a corner of one of the sofas and was reading a book while sipping tea from a travel cup. They were all tired and it could be clearly felt in the quiet atmosphere of the lounge area.
John was looking over Bill’s shoulder at the computer programme that had their recordings in it. The sharp up and down lines looked like an EEG reading of someone’s brain but in different colours. Bill had the lines of their recording on top of each other in the programme and could click on one to listen to it or combine them into one. John listened to his ministrations through the headphones he had been handed until Greg was situated in the recording room and Bill focused on the current recording exclusively.
When John decided to get some rest on the sofa, he realised that Sherlock wasn’t next to him, hovering over the whole recording process like he had been until now. When he turned around, he saw his flatmate sprawled on the sofa opposite the one Molly sat on before she went outside for a breath of fresh air. He was fast asleep and looked very peaceful; his face looked so young, John could hardly believe the man was 27. The tough expression of regal arrogance he usually wore was gone, replaced by a soft one John had never seen before. When they were at home, Sherlock was much more relaxed than when they were in public and, seeing the man vulnerable in his sleep, John felt the need to put a blanket over him and make sure he was comfortable.
He looked around to see if anyone was looking at him. Bill was wearing his headphones and had his back to them, completely immersed in listening to the recording. Molly was still outside. John took his phone out and opened the camera. He hesitated for a moment before he took a picture and quickly put the phone back in his jeans pocket.
Sherlock woke up from an unexpected nap on the sofa while Greg was recording. He sprang to his feet, worried that he had missed something but in truth, no one seemed to have noticed. Greg was almost done when he approached Wiggins at the console. Bill handed him a set of headphones and played the parts he had missed due to his nap. Fortunate was too small of a word to describe the fact that Sherlock was surrounded by exceptional musicians who took their craft seriously. Very few slips and mistakes were made during the two days of recording and Sherlock was extremely proud to call the people in the band his friends.
When Greg finished his recording, he came out sweaty and looking as worn out as the rest of them, even before Sherlock’s nap. Molly was on the other sofa; by the look of her tea cup and wind-blown hair, she had just came back in from outside. Sherlock frowned, looking for John, but that was the moment he came in. He was looking at his phone as he descended the stairs to the cellar. When he looked up and saw Sherlock, his eyes went wide and he put the phone quickly in his pocket.
“Lady and gentlemen,” Sherlock addressed the gathered friends. “This is what I call a job well done.” He pointed to the computer console. They all smiled, tired but satisfied smiles. “Don’t celebrate yet. Drink some water and eat an apple because we are about to sing.”
They decided to record the vocals together in the padded room at the same time and Greg was very enthusiastic to join in on the chorus with the rest of them. After hearing him sing, Sherlock made a note to arrange for Greg to sing during live concerts as well, if he agreed to it. More vocals gave a song a better kick and the chorus had a feel of camaraderie about it. Apart from all that, however, the look of focus, pride and accomplishment on everyone’s faces, was a unique mix that Sherlock would never admit aloud, meant a lot to him.
On the third day of the recording, Sherlock went alone to oversee the mastering of the material with Wiggins. He also wanted to incorporate several sounds and background noises in a couple of songs. The whole process took most of the day with breaks for food and Sherlock felt an insurmountable wave of relief that it was done and that it came out even better than he had expected.
“Do you know the guys from Money and Dice?” Sherlock asked as he was putting his jacket on.
“I heard them play before you on your latest gig, why?”
“They need an album too.”
“Say no more, Sherlock.”
“Here’s Mark’s number.” Sherlock scribbled the digits on the pad by the keyboard.
“Don't tell them it has anything to do with me. Tell them they won it or something equally stupid.”
“Whatever you say. There’s always place for you here if you need it, you know that, right?” Sherlock nodded. Bill looked up at Sherlock from the chair he sat on and his expression was serious enough for Sherlock to know what the question that was coming would be.
“Are you clean?” Wiggins asked.
“Eleven months, three days.” Sherlock recited. “I can tell you are as well.”
“That withdrawal you helped me through was supposed to be my last one, remember?” He lifted his eyebrows looking for confirmation and Sherlock nodded, knowing saying and doing were two different things. “I’m sticking to that resolution cause I don’t want to relive that hell again.” Bill’s whole face twisted in pain at the memory.
“I hear you.” Sherlock sighed remembering the awful days and nights he had spent by Bill’s side after he had left the rehab centre himself just a week before. He had no intention of going down that path himself again in his life. On that note, Sherlock said his goodbyes and left with a flash drive containing the finished album and the raw material as well.
John lay in bed that evening, looking at the picture he had taken of his flatmate on his phone. It had been such a silly impulse and he knew he shouldn’t have done it. Having the image of Sherlock sleeping so peacefully felt like invasion of privacy. He saw Sherlock every day, he had spent more time with the man than with anyone else in his life, bar maybe his sister. They bickered, but never really argued. They functioned under one roof, had similar interests and played in a band together. John smiled to himself. They were simply put, best friends.
Sherlock Holmes was his best friend.
John looked at the picture again, his eyes watery from exhaustion. John’s finger hovered over the delete button for quite a while but he couldn't bring himself to do it. He was drifting off to sleep when he heard the door open and knew his flatmate was back home.
Pining. Gay and Bi panic XD FIRST KISS.
The planning of how to make the album covers at home was going swimmingly in John’s opinion. Sherlock could argue, but he was busy burning CDs with their recording while Molly, Greg and John were organizing the room to make space for the day's worth of work.
John had taken a picture of the gutted guitar on the kitchen table and they decided that it was perfect for their album cover. After Molly commented on the gloominess of their flat and how it could use some flowers of all things, she came up with an ingenious idea. It was based on a project she had had to do for school to create a template for environmentally-friendly paper covers. She tasked Greg with picking up the thick paper she had ordered on which they would print the covers.
Sherlock created a back and front design using John’s picture and Molly’s template. John was cutting the covers out with surgical precision, the moment they came out of their home printer.
They had taken into consideration ordering the covers to be made for them but Sherlock refused to risk them being botched by a bunch of idiots.
Their flat at 221B looked like a small factory with four busy bees and a ton of mess around. By the end of the day, they were all gluing the square-shaped envelopes while listening to punk classics from the surround system.
Their hand-made albums turned out quite decent, all thirty of them. Most would be used to send to concert promoters and record labels, some given to family and friends and the rest could stay in their private collection.
The upcoming meeting at Dead Skunk label hovered in the air as they looked at the finished products of their labour. Sherlock looked at John and remembered clearly that John wished to be in a successful band. The meeting at the label would have to go well in order for them to succeed.
_ _ _
A fat, middle-aged bloke, with a purple, close-cropped mohican on his head welcomed them in his office.
“You must be Dissonance.” He motioned for them to sit. “I’m David.”
“Indeed we are.” Said Sherlock after he shook the guy’s hand and took one of the four chairs situated across a large heavy desk. “I’m Sherlock.”
They all shook his hand one by one, before taking a seat. The office walls were full of framed albums of the bands that were being represented by the label. Neatly preserved posters of punk concerts from various decades completed the look of the professional, yet unmistakably punk rock office.
“I won’t beat around the bush.” The man said and Sherlock appreciated that more than he could say out loud. “I listened to your album and we want to release it under the Dead Skunk label. The violin additions in several songs are a nice touch.”
Sherlock glanced at John whose idea was to incorporate violin into the songs when they had first met. When Sherlock had spent the last day editing with Wiggins, he had taken John’s advice and recorded melodies on his violin to fit a couple of songs. John’s small smile told him how glad he was that Sherlock decided to do it.
“Perfect.” Sherlock reached for the envelope he had in his inner jacket pocket. “I have a list of restrictions, pertaining mostly to our schedules. Molly is a student and Greg works full time-”
“Fine,” the man replied after he took only a passing glance at the list now in his hand. “These conditions are logical. Just so you’re aware,” he leaned back in his chair as he spoke, taking them all in with an inquisitive stare. “You will not become rich or famous overnight, maybe not ever. I don’t want you to expect that. We’ve had some bands with high expectations before and I won’t deal with that level of drama gain.”
“Fair.” Sherlock responded and saw the rest of the band nodding in agreement.
“After we draft the contract, it will be sent to your emails to approve and sign. You don’t have to decide now.” He tapped on his phone and a moment later, a woman entered the room.
“This is Miss Adler, she will be representing you if you decide to stay with us. Organise the concerts and everything else. If you have any further questions, she is your lady.”
Sherlock found her playing with her tongue piercing extremely annoying but he could tell John was fascinated with it.
She wore a tight blouse that went up to her neck where a cameo brooch was pinned. There was a hole in the blouse however, and apparently it was there to showcase her décolletage. It did its job because the buffoon behind the desk looked like he was about to drool as he was looking exactly at that part of her body. Her pencil skirt was just as elegant and just as black. No holes in that, thankfully, Sherlock thought. When she approached them, it was clear the only colour besides her red lips and red nails, were the red soles of her stilettos.
“We want a spot during Slam Dunk Festival North.” Sherlock demanded in lieu of hello.
“That’s on May 25, that’s in five weeks,” the woman scoffed while she shook hands with the rest of the band.
“Can you do it?” Sherlock challenged, lifting one eyebrow in a question. He needed to know if signing with these people would be worth it, before they did it. She narrowed her eyes at him, assessing. Then a small smirk tugged her blood-red lips.
“Of course.” She looked at David who levelled her with a questioning look. “Brett owes me a favour.” David lifted his hands up as if in surrender and it was quite clear that she pulled aces from her sleeve quite often.
“Bad Religion will play this year.” John told Molly who raised her eyebrows in awe, clearly realising who Ms. Adler was talking about.
They all knew that a festival of this calibre would put them on the punk rock map and help them find new fans. Throughout the conversation, Greg was looking around the office with such passion as if he was looking for clues to solve a murder but failing miserably.
“I’ll need time,” Irene finally continued, turning back to Sherlock. “I’ll call you when it’s arranged.” She looked at them one by one. “After you sign with us.”
_ _ _
Sherlock entered the sitting room and threw his duffel on the ground before he shrugged his jacket off. He looked around the room, already noticing that something was different. John’s guitar case was next to the sofa, as if full, but the guitar itself was on the stand. Sherlock zeroed in on John who came out of the kitchen. He had a smug expression on his face but underneath all that, Sherlock could see a sliver of anticipation and hesitation.
“John?” Sherlock narrowed his eyes at his friend, analysing his stance, then the room again. “Is it in the kitchen?”
“Yes.” John answered crisply.
Sherlock approached the table where a forty by thirty-centimetre box lay. It was wrapped in simple brown paper, efficient, and no bow. Sherlock picked it up, shook it and glanced back at John.
“You noticed that several of my tools were broken so you bought me a new set.” Quite a fancy one too, judging by the weight of it. Sherlock looked at his friend, feeling the warmth in his heart mixed with confusion. “Why would you do that?”
“It’s a thank you for lending her to me.” John reached for the guitar Sherlock had given him when they moved in together.
“No. I gave her to you, John.” He could hear the note of hurt in his own voice as he spoke. He wanted to see John playing the guitar on stage before the next one would be ready to be caressed by John’s fingers. “Besides, now you’ve repaid me.” He waved towards the unopened box back on the kitchen table. John seemed to mull that over.
“It’s not-” John started protesting.
“The value is the same in my opinion and the price doesn’t matter.” He challenged John to argue, seeing the battle-ready posture that John always assumed during an argument. The proper John Watson wouldn’t want an unpaid debt but by the slacking of his shoulders a little, Sherlock could tell that his friend realised Sherlock really wanted him to have the guitar. “Thank you for the gift, John.”
He let the sincerity of that statement flow into the words, wishing he could find the courage to say how much John’s gift meant to him. Not the toolbox itself, but the gesture. John gave so much of himself, expecting nothing in return and he knew Sherlock well enough by now to know he wouldn’t accept money as payment for the guitar. Sherlock had the alien need to embrace John, to hug his friend as a thank you for being there, for understanding him and for walking alongside him on the path they had chosen for the band. He wanted to feel the hard muscles, that John’s polo shirts failed to hide, against his chest. He wanted the short hair on John’s head to scrape his cheek and he would hope to experience the natural scent of John Watson up close, as opposed to smelling the cologne he used every morning.
John took a step towards him, as if sensing Sherlock’s thoughts, and a slight panic hit him before it made space for determination. Sherlock realised that this should be the moment when he would let John know, very gently, how he felt about him. Sherlock braced himself and focused on John’s tongue peeking out to lick his bottom lip.
A click of the kettle brought their heads towards the kitchen.
“Tea?” John asked, shattering the moment and making his way towards the traitor of a machine.
“Sure.” Sherlock sighed and slid into the kitchen chair, reaching to unpack his gift.
_ _ _
John heard the muffled yells from behind the door. He reached for the towel and wrapped it around his waist as he stepped out of the shower. There had been several instances before when Sherlock had burst into the bathroom while John was inside, so he acted quickly. Once, Sherlock had caught him brushing teeth and another time, reading the paper, which had thrown him off completely and had left John in a fit of giggles. John should install a lock but somehow, he couldn’t be bothered. As predicted, Sherlock sniffed him out and the door to the bathroom swung open.
“John! We have a spot at Slam Dunk!” Sherlock announced beaming. His eyes were bright and wide with excitement and John grinned at the sight as well as the news.
“That’s amazing!” he exclaimed, holding onto his towel. That was the moment Sherlock noticed that John was half-naked. The expression on Sherlock’s face changed dramatically before he schooled it. His eyes raked over John’s body and settled on the scar on John’s left arm. John felt Sherlock’s gaze on his body and had the urge to cover his scar with his palm, put on a dressing gown... Instead, he stood motionless, letting Sherlock see him. There was nothing more visible than would be if he had been on a beach. But somehow, he felt exposed to the piercing gaze of his flatmate in the quiet intimacy of the small bathroom.
“Yes, indeed.” Sherlock replied in a whisper. His Adam’s apple bobbed when he nodded but his eyes didn’t waver.
The loud thudding sound in John’s ears was his heartbeat, and it drowned out all other sounds until he heard Sherlock clear his throat.
“I’ll go. We have a gig in four hours.”
“Yeah...” John cleared his throat as well. “Yes, Yes we do.”
Sherlock turned around and left, closing the door softly. John sat on the toilet lid and breathed. He had been fooling himself. He had so much more than a crush on his flatmate. And Sherlock was definitely interested. Of course he was, John thought, as he remembered the clear bulge of an erection in Sherlock’s trousers when he had found John deep in a woman. But then he might have been just aroused by the situation itself, as one was when watching porn but now...
“Bloody hell...” A long breath came out of John as if he was a deflating balloon. He put his head in his hands to collect his thoughts. They were going to play in the festival, just like they had wanted. But that was not the reason for his heart trying to pound its way out of his chest. There was no other way to interpret Sherlock’s gaze on him. He hadn’t even been disgusted by the scar. Quite the opposite, he had seemed mesmerised. Sherlock Holmes was fascinated by his body.
John’s membership in the band could be at stake if things went wrong. His sharing the living space with Sherlock could be at stake as well, but he was ready to risk it all for a shadow of a possibility that Sherlock was interested in something more than just being friends.
John wished it could be easier. He wished that they were the types to sit and talk about their feelings but it seemed so hard when neither of them was good at simple heart-to heart. It was worth a try though.
By the time John put his boxers and a t-shirt on, he was determined to broach the subject with Sherlock soon; he couldn’t wait any longer. He made peace with the possibility of it being awkward, but he wanted Sherlock Holmes as much more than a friend. Did that make him gay? Bisexual? Honestly, he didn’t care but he was sick of hiding. He was a grown man and he had nothing to prove to his father anymore. He could forego the labels for a while and go with the feelings that he harboured for his friend.
He hadn’t had a woman since the night Sherlock had seen him in the storage room with Susan. He had had opportunities, but unlike before when he’d jumped at each and every one of them, he couldn’t bring himself to have meaningless sex. It had probably had a lot to do with the fact that every time he thought of touching someone, he saw Sherlock’s face as it had been when he’d walked in on him. He had looked so enthralled and so incredibly sexy, the image of him appeared before John’s eyes every time he touched himself since that night.
_ _ _
On their way to the concert on the other side of London, John and Sherlock met with Greg and Molly to take the tube together. They chatted about the last-minute changes in the set as if the incident in the bathroom had never happened. That made John realise they must have been doing this dance for quite some time and he was ready to face the music. If John had the courage to step on stage and pour his heart out in front of hundreds of strangers, he should find the guts to face his friend and do the same.
They were about to share the stage with the two other bands that had supported Never Mind the Burgers weeks before. It was nice to have become friends with the members of the other bands. It made the get-togethers after the concerts comfortable. They didn’t compete with each other as they were in the same boat, on the same stage; rather, they supported each other. If one band succeeded, John was sure they would try to help the other ones.
_ _ _
“Great performances, all of you!” John yelled over the loud music as he lifted his beer glass in a toast.
All the support bands stepped off stage and, drunk on post-concert excitement, gathered backstage to celebrate. The star of the evening was still playing so the notes from the amplifiers on stage travelled all the way to them.
The bands sat in mixed groups on the sofas. Molly looked surprisingly comfortable squished between three sweaty, bulky drummers who were probably talking about equipment, as was their habit. The rest were energetically chatting as well, the dull noise of the music creating an air of privacy in the packed room.
It was amazing how all of them had given every ounce of their energy on stage but the public had given so much back that they would be charged for another several hours after the concert even when their bodies were exhausted. In the spotlight, on stage, they became balls of energy and it transferred all the way to the people and then back to them. Like an endless cycle that lasted the whole gig, if the concert went well. This evening it had, and they all deserved the celebratory beer, or three, they were having. John took a sip of his drink and, with a spring in his walk, stepped on a chair and from it on the table in the middle of the room surrounded by sofas.
“To punk rock!” He yelled and the room cheered, everyone taking a sip of their own poison of choice.
“To Dissonance and their album deal!” John turned to see who said it, but his balance was a little off so he faced forward again and cheered. They had shared their happy news with the other bands when they had come off stage. They had learned that one of the other support bands was in talks with the same label and it felt good to know punk was still needed and still loved.
“The public loves you, John!” Someone stated in a loud slur.
“Nah, it’s all about the music,” he waved a hand in general direction of the rest of their band. “I’m just the one talking to them.” John had enticed the public to sing the chorus, to cheer and to have as much fun as possible. However, most fans’ eyes were for Sherlock and it was clear, but Sherlock's aloof persona created an air of mystery around him. People approached him with caution, with awe and with absolute adoration. Whereas John was the everyman he felt himself to be and he tried to give everyone his attention when asked for it. When women approached him, there was always a chance they wanted to ask him to relay a message for Sherlock. Men were shyer about it, but as with women, John had accepted phone numbers, envelopes and small packages with god-knows-what inside to pass them to their singer. He had never asked what Sherlock did with them and it was none of his business but he tended to wonder if he had ever called back to any of the fans. Unlike John, he had never brought anyone to their flat but he could never be certain what his friend did in his spare time.
“They just want to kisssss youuuuu.” laughed Mark from Money and Dice, proving how quickly he had gotten drunk.
“How could they know if he is even a good kisser?” someone else asked.
John frowned at the direction the conversation was taking. Molly coughed at the comment and gave Greg a knowing look. Both of them must have noticed John’s flirting and disappearing with women after concerts. John lifted his chin and, encouraged by the liquid courage coursing through him, yelled over the music.
“There are women on three continents that can confirm my kissing skills,” John slurred slightly sloshing the beer from his glass on the floor as he swayed on the table. He might be a tad drunk, he decided. Time to set the beer aside.
“A dare then!” someone yelled. “To prove it!”
“Bring it!” John responded, the leftover excitement working its charm as he spread his arms balancing on the small table.
As if a cattle prod touched his brain, John blinked and refocused, processing the dare. He didn’t know who had said it; he couldn’t decipher it as his brain hummed. John turned around and his eyes landed on Sherlock who sat perched in the corner of a sofa with his knees under his chin and nose in his phone. The man lifted his gaze then and a millisecond of panic flickered in his eyes before it dissipated into the mask of composure and indifference. It was perfectly clear that he had heard the dare.
John jumped off the table and slowly took the four steps to close the distance that separated him from Sherlock.
“Can I?” he asked while the whole room started chanting John’s name in encouragement.
Sherlock started to shake his head, then his eyes landed on John’s lips and John couldn’t help himself from licking them, wetting them in preparation. That seemed to change the singer’s mind as he put his phone away and gave John a single nod.
“I don’t mind.” Sherlock said in a clear and steady voice as if it was no big deal. They both knew that was not the case. It took a dare for them to find the courage and to try to push their friendship forward, and John hoped he wouldn’t live to regret taking up the challenge. Instead of sitting and talking about their mutual attraction, they were about to jump off a cliff and see where they would land.
The chanting from the people around turned into one steady hum in John’s head and the beating of his heart was loud in his ears.
Sherlock lowered his legs to the floor to make it easier for John to straddle him for better access. With his knees on both sides of Sherlock's thighs, John’s face was above Sherlock’s and he relished the look on his friend’s face as he had to look up for their gazes to meet. It was usually the other way around and this time instead of the hooded gaze his friend usually scrutinised him with, John looked into wide open eyes, as if Sherlock was seeing him for the first time.
John took Sherlock’s face in his palms as if shielding him from the outside world and whispered words only his friend could hear.
“Are you sure?” his lips were inches from Sherlock’s when he spoke.
In response, Sherlock sneaked his hand to John’s nape, splaying his fingers, and pulled him closer.
Sherlock tilted his head to one side and John to the other a nanosecond before their lips clashed. The closed-mouthed press was awkward and hard. John opened his mouth and inhaled, pulling back slightly. It was too fast and too stiff. John was intoxicated with the feel of Sherlock so close and he needed another chance to start the kiss properly. Thankfully, his friend was not pulling away yet.
John let their foreheads meet, their noses touch, and their breaths mingle for the duration of an exhale that seemed to last hours. He flicked his tongue over Sherlock’s upper lip, prompting his friend to open to what was coming his way. He could feel the singer’s smile under his palms before he dove to taste it.
This time, Sherlock’s mouth was opening pliantly and he became more than a willing participant.
Their tongues met, gliding together as if to acquaint themselves before they waltzed together in a hungry dance. Sherlock’s tongue moved like the man himself, gracefully, with finesse but also with undeniable certainty. John felt heat spreading inside him and he had to give his whole body up the kiss.
John let his arse rest on Sherlock’s lap and the man pulled him closer with his other hand on John’s lower back, bringing their bodies together. John groaned into the kiss feeling Sherlock’s erection under his buttcheeks. Sherlock was enjoying it just as much as John was...
Sherlock tried to calm his mind, tried not to panic as an array of unfamiliar sensations flooded his system. He couldn’t remember wanting to kiss someone for so long and the cumulation of anticipation with the low hum of post-concert excitement swirled in his body.
He’d wanted to kiss John Watson since the moment he had laid his eyes on the man. But this was wrong; they were in public and everyone was staring at them. It lacked the intimacy he had imagined he should have for his first kiss with John. However, beggars couldn’t be choosers so he took what he had been offered on a golden plate and decided to lick said plate clean.
The taste of beer had never been as good as it was when served from John’s tongue. Sherlock relished the taste, cataloguing it along all the other tastes, sounds and feelings in order to analyse them later. John’s kiss became more demanding yet still gentle and Sherlock met him stroke for stroke.
When John’s hips lowered and his firm arse ground on Sherlock’s erection, he had to hold John by squeezing his buttock to stop him from moving. John’s body so close to him felt too good for him not to unleash the need he had for the man. However, he had to keep himself in check and hold their bodies still. It was inadvisable to come in one’s pants in front of a group of people watching you. John’s hand moved from Sherlock’s face to his nape and into his hair, bringing their mouths even closer. Sherlock purred into the kiss as his sensitive follicles were stimulated by John’s fingers. John responded in kind, making a low, pleased noise in his chest.
Sherlock could feel the calloused fingertips of John’s his right hand as they slid over Sherlock’s shirt on his back. He could feel the touch and the rasp of them on the thin fabric as John’s warm hand spread on his back.
Their bodies seemed to hum the same melody as they became one entity breathing the same air.
“Oi! The dare was for snogging not for an orgy!” Everyone in the room roared in laughter and they broke the kiss, not knowing which of them was more mortified, alcohol or not. John looked down at him; his lips red and swollen and Sherlock had to blink twice to make sure he was really there, that this was not a twisted dream.
“Was he any good, Sherlock?” Someone asked but Sherlock couldn’t be bothered to look who it was. He was still looking at up at his friend.
“He’ll do.” He replied with a smirk at John as his cheeks heated to match John’s.
The room roared again.
John climbed off Sherlock and with a slight stumble, he flopped next to Sherlock on the couch. The soloist’s eyes were a lot more sober than when he had approached Sherlock just moments before and what was in them was beyond Sherlock’s ability to deduce. Sherlock wanted to leave immediately but instead he pulled his legs up and waited a moment before his body calmed down enough for him to stand up and walk without showing the effects of John’s proximity on his body. The kiss had created a mix of feelings in Sherlock. He had wanted it to happen in private, just for them, not as a part of a show. But he suspected why it had to happen like this. John dated women. John fucked women. But he could kiss Sherlock if it was just for fun, just a game. Sherlock had played those games before and each one had ended up worse than the other. Once everyone else was back to their card came, Sherlock stood up and briskly headed for the door.
John felt his heart pounding as he sat next to Sherlock and crossed his legs, assuming a neutral expression. He was afraid to turn his head and glance at his friend for fear he would straddle Sherlock again and continue what they had been doing before they were so rudely interrupted. No one seemed to be looking at them any more; they had received their entertainment and had gone back to whatever they had been doing before; chatting, playing cards, drinking... John couldn’t go back, he wouldn’t.
From the corner of his eye, he saw Sherlock getting up. His body reacted immediately and he followed his friend down the corridor, picking up the pace as Sherlock’s long legs ate the distance quickly.
“Sherlock! Wait!” John yelled but his friend didn’t slow down.
When John finally caught up to him, he gripped Sherlock’s wrist to stop him.
“Sherlock, stop!” The look of confusion on his friend’s face when he turned around, stunned John.
“John?” Sherlock took one earphone out of his ear and frowned, then looked at John’s hand wrapped around his wrist and back at John’s face. John dropped Sherlock’s hand and put both of his in his jeans pockets. Sherlock hadn’t been running away from him at all.
“I’m sorry if...if that was too much. I didn’t mean to-” John looked at Sherlock’s dishevelled hair and felt heat at the thought his hands had done the damage when their lips were merged together.
“You asked and I agreed, there’s nothing to be sorry for.” Sherlock responded with a neutral expression on his face. John wasn’t buying it, not anymore. That kiss could not have been faked. But there was regret in the air and John was grasping for answers.
“I wasn’t thinking...I...” This was not how he wanted to approach Sherlock about their mutual attraction....
“You just reacted. Yes, that’s what you usually do after concerts.” Sherlock smoothed his hair with the comb he fished from his pocket.
“Well okay, I deserved that but it’s not like that. Sherlock...” His voice was pleading but he lacked the words to explain what has just happened.
“Oh get over yourself, John. It was just a kiss.” Sherlock said the last word as if it created a foul taste in his mouth and put his earphone back. “I wouldn’t think a kiss would matter to the likes of you.” he said, already on his way towards his room.
“What’s that supposed to mean?!” John yelled at his friend’s back but didn’t hold much hope for a response. The likes of him...as in... oh shit. Did Sherlock think the kiss didn’t matter to him? Oh fuck.
Maybe he had overreacted a little bit. He’d had tended to do that since early age and it got on everyone’s nerves. He should give John a second chance to explain. His outburst at John might have been a tad unwarranted but he had found it hard to contain at the time.
Sherlock had had his share of meaningless encounters before and now he refused to give his body to be toyed with and discarded, even by John. He knew people liked how he looked. He was neither blind nor stupid, but he pushed them away for a reason. He didn't need the complication of random people in and out of his life. He valued his privacy, valued his time and valued his body. The last one was in line with the vow he had made to himself almost a year ago now.
He lay on his bed, still naked, freshly out of the shower after the concert and looked at the crook of his left arm. The skin there was covered with lines of ink, but he could still see the scars and he could feel them under his fingertips as well, ugly and raised, unlike the smooth swirls of tattoo lines.
Moments like this made him remember the bliss that came with the needle but that solution was only temporary and he wanted his life on a steady course. A steady course towards John Watson...
His friend, his soloist, who apparently wanted him too. All the facts were there, but Sherlock found it hard to believe that the handsome womanizer living under the same roof would want him for more than a roll in the sheets.
When he had come home after the second day in the studio, he’d wanted to talk to John but had found him already asleep in his own bed. John had fallen asleep looking at a picture he had taken of Sherlock sleeping on a sofa in the recording studio’s lounge. He must have dozed off the moment Sherlock entered the house because his phone was still glowing and the picture was clear for one more moment before the screen went dark. What had John been thinking when he looked at the picture while falling asleep? But most of all, why had he taken it at all? John took pictures when they had a gig, but those served as souvenirs, captured memories to sit later and reminisce about. Was Sherlock’s sleeping form something John wanted to see moments before he fell asleep himself?
The kiss they had shared just hours ago could be an answer to many of the unanswered questions that were piling up in Sherlock’s mind. He hoped to find out soon. He didn’t like not knowing.
The kiss. He was aware that John must have kissed a lot of people in recent months but no one could kiss like that if they didn’t feel something. The way John had kissed him conveyed how wild yet gentle he could be. Since that moment, Sherlock had been imagining other scenarios where John could be thus. They were way beyond casual friendship now, but both of them were too stiff-upper-lip to talk about it.
Sherlock recalled with astounding clarity the way John had felt straddling him in the back of the club. The way his tongue had explored, the way his hand had slid to Sherlock’s back. Sherlock felt heat bloom in his body, thinking of John’s kiss-swollen lips.
He slid his palms on top of his thighs, where John’s buttocks had rested for the duration of the kiss. The same position but fewer clothes would make it possible for John to glide on Sherlock’s cock.
“Ahhh John...” Sherlock arched on the bed, sliding his hands to the softer skin on the inside of his thighs where he massaged it. John’s weight on his lap had felt like it belonged there. It had been so right and so wrong at the same time. They should have had the kiss all to themselves not as some form of public spectacle. However, it was too late now, and he forced himself to cease the negative thoughts and focus on the sensation of John above him in that moment. It didn’t work. Sherlock sighed, closed his eyes, and tried to get back to that moment again.
When he had run out of the room backstage, John had followed him. The heat of his touch when he had grabbed Sherlock’s wrist would forever be embedded in his mind. Sherlock slid his fingertips over the same spot John had touched, and remembered how the calluses of John’s right hand had scratched the skin on his wrist as he’d let go.
He imagined that hand sliding up his forearm, then his arm and to his neck. Sherlock touched his neck with one hand just as John would, gently, dancing his fingertips over the flesh, now even more sensitive from arousal.
Then John would explore more. He would pinch his nipple... He hoped John would like what he would find there...
Sherlock sucked in a breath through his teeth as he pinched his bud, then did the same to the other, twisting a little. He arched and his other hand finally slid to his cock. He spread the precome on his glans and slid his foreskin all the way down, taking his cock in a strong grip. John had a strong grip. John could catch a guitar by the neck and hold it tight in his fist.
Sherlock let go and licked his palm before taking his cock again and starting a slow rhythm. He recalled John’s scent and John’s voice. All the sensations that he connected with John were neatly catalogued in his mind. Sherlock picked up the pace of the up and down movement on his cock, squeezing the glans at the end of each upward stroke. He reached for the lube in the upper drawer of his nightstand and squeezed some on his hand before resuming his ministrations. He pinched his left nipple harder, taking in the pain-pleasure, imagining John’s lips, John’s teeth biting it as he stroked Sherlock's cock, faster and faster.
“John...” He tried to be quiet but he moaned the name again, biting his lower lip.
John would sit astride him and look down at him with those gorgeous blue eyes, his lips parted, ready to kiss all coherent thought out of Sherlock. Then he would do it, while still pumping Sherlock’s cock.
He moved his left hand from his nipple down to his sac and fondled his balls before squeezing them as he felt his orgasm building. His fist was moving fast on his cock and he couldn’t, no, he wouldn’t stop himself from whispering John’s name over and over as he came. He closed his eyes, the image of John at the forefront of his mind as he felt his body tense and hot spurts landed on his chest and abdomen.
Life was as it had always been in 221B; Sherlock was in the kitchen, leaning over a gutted bass that a client had brought to fix. John was happy to see him using the tool set he had bought for him but the silence that had always been comfortable was now replaced with tension, at least on John’s side.
He was sitting on the sofa, playing his guitar plugged into the small amplifier that was a permanent piece of furniture in the sitting room. His fingers glided leisurely, plucking the strings. John kept calm on the outside but inside, he was exploding with emotion, with questions, with frustration. He had told himself he would approach Sherlock and talk about the chemistry between them but each time he had tried, he’d chickened out. The fear of rejection seemed to be stronger than the will to succeed and that was very unlike him.
He had to talk to Sherlock, to explain his reasoning behind the kiss. Sure, he had been a little tipsy then but that had nothing to do with wanting to kiss the sexiest vocalist he had ever seen and at the same time the most annoying man he had ever lived with.
He put the guitar away and stood up.
“Why did you stop?” Sherlock asked from the kitchen. “I concentrate better when you play.”
“I need to go for a walk.” John tried not to sound snappish.
“But you already had your morning run hours ago.” Sherlock insisted.
“Yes. And now I’m going for a walk.”
Sherlock scoffed which annoyed John even more and made him leave even quicker than he’d intended to. The tension started to weigh on him and he hoped he would find the courage to finally talk to Sherlock before he snapped and said too much at once and fucked it all up. He couldn’t say all the little things he wanted to say but he also couldn’t reveal the things that were as big as the sexuality crisis he seemed to be going through.
Unable to sit alone in the silence of the flat, Sherlock decided to leave the house as well, following his usual evening routine. He could tell John had been agitated and tried not to think it was because he’d regretted the kiss. It pained him to see John distancing himself, and hoped it was just temporary.
Two hours had passed when Sherlock was on his way back home as his phone sounded with a text message ping. He pushed the duffel bag further on his arm and fished the phone out of his jacket pocket. His questionable mood improved instantly.
/I’m at the Angry Lion pub on the corner. Join me? John/
His fingers flew over the screen as he typed.
/Be there in 3 min. SH/
He turned the collar of his leather jacket up as he continued towards home, but turned right two streets sooner.
John was alone by the bar in the half-full pub. It was Wednesday evening, but the day of the week didn’t matter to the regulars. Sherlock walked along the long bar to the furthest corner to join his flatmate. He ordered a lager before he took a seat on a tall stool. John looked lost in his own head, his elbow propped on the bar, his hand absently holding a glass of beer.
“Are you okay?” Sherlock asked. John had stormed off quite abruptly before and Sherlock hoped to find out what he had done this time to warrant such a reaction. Maybe it had been the kiss or maybe something else entirely.
“Fine.” John took a sip of his beer, then another and placed the empty glass on the bar for the barman to refill. “Well not really, no.”
Sherlock felt his brows go up and cold sweat broke out on his back. A million thoughts went through his mind in one second. Was John sick? Would John leave? Leave the band? Or worse, leave the flat? No, no, he wouldn’t, he couldn’t...
“Nothing bad... I hope.” John explained, which did nothing at all to placate Sherlock's racing mind.
“John, tell me what’s on your mind right now.” He said in a stern, quite frightened, voice. He had to know. Sherlock inhaled and braced himself for what was to come.
“You.” John answered quickly then clamped his mouth shut and reached for the fresh beer that just slid into his palm on the bar top.
“You’d have to be more specific, John. Contrary to popular belief, I can’t read minds.” Sherlock could hear his voice quiver slightly even as he tried to deliver the line with all the nonchalance he could muster.
John burst out laughing then. Sherlock didn’t understand what was so funny about what he’d said but John’s genuine laughter was so infectious, he started chuckling himself. John laughed until his eyes glistened with tears.
“I’m so stupid” He said when his half-hysterical laughter died down. “Blind and stupid.” John took another sip of his beer then placed a tentative hand on Sherlock’s knee.
Sherlock felt the touch like a piece of hot coal landing on his leg. He looked at John’s hand then at his face, certain that he would take it away once he realised where it landed. However, that was not a mistake of a tipsy man.
“Do you think I’m pretty?” John’s eyes were shaded in the dim light of the pub but the glint in them was not.
“Uhhh I don’t understand the question.” He had to make sure John was not joking. He waited a second more but the laughter didn’t come.
“Of course you do, you’re a genius. You just choose to ignore the obvious like I have been doing for weeks, no, months...” John leaned closer, never moving his hand.
Sherlock’s breathing picked up the pace and so did his heart. It was too late to deny it. John was onto him. There was nothing left to lose.
“Yes, I think you are. I don’t understand why that matters to you since you clearly like women.” He looked at John pointedly. “A lot.”
“I do.” John confirmed in a voice higher than normal then took his hand from Sherlock’s knee and put it on his own leg.
“But you kissed me.” Sherlock’s voice grew lower when he stated that, as if John wasn’t aware that it had actually happened. As if the memory of Sherlock’s lips touching his, Sherlock’s warm tongue teasing, their breaths mingling, wasn’t in the front of his mind for every minute of every hour since that moment.
“And I liked it.” John admitted, feeling the weight of that statement lift from his chest, leaving him lighter.
“Good.” Sherlock said simply taking the first sip of his beer, seeming to mull over the conversation. He was sitting straight on the stool, his legs apart and feet on the footrests. His eyes bored into John, making him fight the urge to squirm under the scrutiny.
“Colour me surprised.” John tried to cover his nerves with a soft chuckle.
“But kissing you was like kissing a woman,” John said stupidly, immediately regretting it. Sherlock made a disgruntled sound in the back of his throat and graced John with an incredulous look. John was aware that he should stop talking but his mouth kept moving. “No, no... what I meant is that the anatomy was the same.” Nothing else had been though, not the feeling in his abdomen, not the tingling in the back of his thighs touching Sherlock’s...
“Women are too soft.” Sherlock said, making a squeezing motion with his hands that made John want to laugh. “They seem to be so fragile and being careful all the time is boring.” He emphasized the last word as if it was the worst thing in the world. To him, it might be.
“I don’t think they're that fragile. Some can be soft, sure, but...” John looked at Sherlock who had his eyebrows up and a pointed look on his face. “...never mind.” John felt a hot flush cover his face as he recalled the rumours he had heard from members of other bands. The rumours apparently went back all the way to Sherlock’s uni days but he was not about to bring them up.
“Besides, the anatomy, as you put it, is just wrong.” Sherlock made a face as if he had a sour taste on his tongue which made John release a small chuckle.
“I can see that you’re certain you’re gay.” John bit his bottom lip at the blunt statement that flew out of his mouth.
An unidentifiable expression crossed Sherlock’s face before he said, “Believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve tested it and experimented... Yes, I’m certain.”
“I guess it was different for me. I still haven't tried...” He looked at Sherlock then, his heart starting a staccato rhythm in his chest at what he was about to say to the gorgeous man sitting in front of him. “I could try. I want to try... with you. That is, if you want...”
“Here?” Sherlock asked looking around the pub, an exaggerated, shocked, expression painted on his face.
“No, not here.” John laughed at the joke, which eased the tension in him. The small smile on the singer’s face warmed John even more than the beer had. The idea of snogging Sherlock senseless in front of all the people in the bar made John’s heart jump, but he’d rather try doing it properly, in private. “In our bedroom.” Sherlock lifted his eyebrows again. “I mean, in our flat. Bugger...” John slid a palm over his face feeling like an idiot.
“I accept your offer.” Sherlock’s voice was low, his answer conveying the certainty of the agreement and the eagerness all at once.
“I don’t want to rush-”
“Yes, no need for that.”
They sipped their beer for a moment before John turned towards the people in the pub. He had to break the silence or he would never stop thinking about the lips that were now touching the rim of the glass, the lips that he had tasted once but wanted to taste again. The same lips that just sealed an agreement to kiss him once more. He forced himself to tear his gaze away from his flatmate and onto a random person in the pub.
“There was a game I used to play with my sister...” John started saying, realising as he did that he hadn’t mentioned Harry before. Sherlock didn’t prod for information, though, so he continued. “We sat on the bridge near Camden Market and pointed at people, making up stories of who they were and where they worked.” John took a sip from his glass and tilted his head to indicate a man by one of the tables. “I think that guy is a teacher.”
“Which one?” Sherlock asked.
“The one in a blue cardigan.”
“He works as a teller at a local bank.”
“How can you tell?” John looked at the man in question then back at Sherlock. His friend took a deep breath and John knew a fast-paced explanation was coming.
“Clear marks on his wrists from sitting at the desk, typing. He was stressed at the time, that’s why the marks are so deep, probably chasing a deadline. His shoes are sensible but not too expensive, so he needs to look nice but he can’t afford designer loafers – he's a teller. The name badge is still in his jacket pocket but I can see the shape of a horse on a green background which clearly points to a bank. He owns a small dog – fur clearly visible only on the bottom of his trousers. He comes here fairly often as he feels comfortable and knows the staff – he chatted to one of the waitresses before. Based on the interaction with her versus with the friends he is with – he is gay.”
“Brilliant!” John exclaimed. Halfway through Sherlock’s projectile deduction at a sprint-worthy pace, John felt his jaw drop in amazement. He knew Sherlock had an eye for detail and could read people, but that was beyond his expectations.
“You think so?” Sherlock asked, disbelief clear in his voice.
“Yes. Quite extraordinary. I’ll remember not to play this particular game with you ever again.” John laughed. He fell silent for a moment, pondering the meaning of what had just happened and the light it shed on his life with this amazing man. He looked at his flatmate, his chiselled jaw and the eyes that noticed so much. “God Sherlock, why haven't you told me before?”
“Told you what?” Sherlock turned to face him.
“That you want me, I mean, that you’re attracted to me. You must have known I... That me too... Then I would have...” John sighed as his heart travelled to his throat and his stomach did a backflip. “Why?”
“You would have fucked me months ago and discarded me like all the others. No, thank you. I’d rather be your friend that one of your conquests.” Sherlock’s voice was devoid of the mirth it had possessed moments before.
John felt the admission like a blow to his gut, but he knew he deserved it.
“You are my friend... my best friend. And you know that I’m attracted do you. This changes nothing.”
“Really?” Sherlock scoffed. “So it didn’t mean anything to-”
“No.” John interrupted sternly. “Stop trying to destroy something good. Because this...,” he mentioned between them. “Is the best thing that could have happened to me. I just didn’t realise the depth of it until now.” He swallowed; the truth came out of his mouth a lot easier than he had anticipated. “What I meant was... let’s see where this goes, but don’t discard it before we try, ok?”
“Fair.” Sherlock nodded.
It was silly. It was downright stupid.
How in the world he had gone through his teens and most of his twenties without the urge to hold someone’s hand and now he had to force his left hand to stay in his jacket pocket? He wanted to feel the warmth of John’s palm in his own, feel his fingers close around his hand creating a deep feeling of belonging. He used to scoff at the notion, but he was starting to see the appeal of the gesture.
They were taking it slowly, however, and holding hands in public sounded like a clear declaration of a relationship. They weren’t in a relationship; maybe they never would be. For now, though, they were trying it out.
“What’s with the duffel bag every evening?” John’s question brought Sherlock back out of his head. He hadn’t wanted to tell John about it before, because revealing one thing led to questions about another and those always ended up badly for Sherlock. Somehow, he knew that John was different, he was trustworthy.
“I swim at the local pool. An hour every evening unless I’m busy. Helps me relax and use up the excess energy.”
“Why did you keep it from me?”
“I did no such thing.” Sherlock feigned offense.
“You never said where you were going.”
“You never asked.”
“Yes, I have.”
“Well then, you know now. Keep it to yourself though.”
“I will keep your secrets.” John said trying to sound serious but chuckling a little. Sherlock glared at him. “I mean it.” He stopped walking and looked up at Sherlock with a sincere expression. John did mean it and Sherlock received the message.
At home, Sherlock lay on his bed listening to the shower running. Not for the first time, he wondered if John thought of him while standing in the tub, lathering his body, letting the water from the shower cascade over his skin. This time, however, his thoughts had a sliver of probability in them, and that made the idea all the more exciting.
Sherlock had thought of John before when he, himself, had been under the shower and now as his mind imagined John there, his body responded immediately. He groaned, righting the erection in his jeans. The shower turned off and Sherlock decided, he could use some more of John’s company over evening tea. By the time he was presentable again and entered the kitchen, John was opening a beer from the fridge and handed him a bottle as well. Sherlock had never been a drinker and he couldn’t hold his alcohol well but one more beer wouldn’t do him harm.
“I’m starving.” John said, still pushing around stuff in the mostly-empty fridge.
“Your usual?” Sherlock asked already opening the app.
John left Sherlock to place the order as he knew he would just pay for the groceries tomorrow and make them even. He approached the sound system Sherlock had installed around the sitting room the day after they’d moved in. He slid open one of the drawers in the tall shelf holding CDs. By now he knew how to search. The music was categorised by genre, and then alphabetically. “Most people have switched to digital by now,” he mused.
“I’m not most people,” Sherlock replied while ordering the food.
“That you’re not.” John put the CD he chose in place and a moment later the notes of ‘London Calling’ filled the room. Sherlock approached, just as John was putting back the case in its correct location. “Why do you have two of these?” John pointed to the two cases with the same The Clash album.
“The one that’s playing now is the 1999 remastered version. Can’t you tell?” Sherlock teased.
“Well, it certainly sounds different than the tape I used to have. But that one was a copy of a copy of a copy so it was bound to sound shitty anyway.” He chuckled seeing his friend’s horrified expression.
“Come here.” Sherlock stood in the middle of the sitting room and waited for John to come closer. “Can you hear the bass in the right speaker here?”
“Mmhm.” John nodded, stepping in front of his flatmate, his back to him so they could face the same direction. The heat of Sherlock’s body behind him was tangible, as if the man was about to wrap his arms around John’s waist at any moment and John knew he would let him. He would let Sherlock envelop him in an embrace in the privacy of their sitting room. John closed his eyes, listening to the familiar tunes of his teenage years and let Sherlock decide how slow they would take whatever was between them.
John stood directly in front of Sherlock and the smell of his shampoo drifted to his nostrils. He looked at John’s hair that was longer than when they’d met, to the point that John had to sweep the fringe to the side. A need to touch the dark blonde strands made Sherlock lift his hands and let them hover millimetres away from John’s nape. It felt like he’d been standing there his whole life, waiting for this moment. It would be so easy to touch John, and he had permission to do it... “The sound of the drums is coming from the speakers in the back.” he said instead, keeping up appearances. He wasn’t ready yet.
John turned then and Sherlock immediately dropped his hands but not fast enough for John not to notice. They stood inches apart, and that single second when their gazes met seemed to stretch to infinity.
“Mendelssohn Violin Concerto E Minor would sound amazing standing here.” Sherlock took a step back. The disappointment on John’s face made him regret his cowardice.
“I’d rather listen to you play the violin.” John walked back to the amplifier and turned off the music. “Would you play for me?”
“If you want.” John replied with his back now to Sherlock again, so his face was impossible to see.
Without a word more, Sherlock took the violin case from its place on the shelf and took the classic instrument out. John situated himself on the sofa and was looking at him with those big blue eyes that seemed to see a lot more than John let on.
Sherlock chose Bach’s Air as it was a popular piece and he saw the recognition on John’s face as a small smile played on his lips. John’s body visibly relaxed, his shoulders became less rigid and he crossed his legs at the ankles. The tune was relaxing and uplifting, ideal for them to come down from the tense moment they had just had.
Sherlock felt John’s gaze as if it was a physical touch. He felt a lot more exposed now than when he was standing on the stage in front of dozens of people. Sending his emotions to the instrument and from it to John, was always a wonderful experience. And he didn’t mind exposing that part of himself to John, not anymore. On the contrary, he felt free after he did so and the look John gave him fuelled his body to play more. Sherlock could play forever just to see that look of awe directed at him. He was an idiot for not taking what John was offering. He would have to make sure today had been the last time he recanted an almost-touch. It was unlike him to behave in such a way and he had to stop being skittish, which he never had been before. But this was John...
A doorbell interrupted the private concert and John stood up to accept the delivery.
An hour later, when they were full of food and had freshly brewed tea on the coffee table, they both sat on the sofa and John turned the telly on.
“Where did you learn to play the violin so well?” John asked conversationally.
“I had a private tutor since I was old enough to hold the instrument.”
“Ah, that explains it.” John scooted closer.
“She couldn’t stand me at first but was just as stubborn as I was and as the years went by, we managed to practice all the great pieces. She teaches at uni till this day. That’s where I met Molly.”
“How so?” John seemed genuinely curious.
“A few years ago, she invited me to play for the students there and I was bored so I went.”
“Only because you were bored.” The mirth in John’s words was clear.
“Obviously.” Sherlock smiled a little.
“Does Mycroft play?”
“Really? Is he any good?”
“I’ve never heard better. No one plays Chopin like him. But don’t tell him I said that, his head is big enough as it is.” He could recall vividly the beautiful sounds of the piano echoing at home as his older brother had played when they both were still children. Mycroft had loved playing and Mother had adored his talent, just as she had Sherlock’s.
“Cross my heart.” John said with mock seriousness as he reached to pour them tea. “Are your parents musicians as well? I know what your dad does for a living, but does he play too?”
“No, only my mother. Name any instrument, and she could play it. She was such a free spirit. She and Father were like day and night. I have no idea how they got together...” Sherlock looked to the ceiling remembering his mother as a hollow feeling deep inside threatened to overcome him. “I’m rambling...”
“No, keep talking. I hope I can meet her someday. She sounds wonderful.”
“You won’t. She’s dead.” He snapped. He knew John didn’t deserve it but it was stronger than his will to be proper.
“I’m sorry.” John’s hand softly touched the top of Sherlock’s palm as it lay on the sofa between them. Sherlock couldn’t take the sympathy, not now. He took his hand away and increased volume on the telly.
“Not your fault.” He clipped and looked at a completely idiotic show that was on.
John was empathetic enough to know Sherlock was done talking about the subject. He now had the need to share a piece of his past with his friend as well.
“My parents are gone too... And my sister.” He turned to Sherlock then, his eyes looking just as sad as John felt. “I’m not saying I know how you feel, but I lost people in my life too.”
“I didn’t know you had a sister. Not before you mentioned her today.” Sherlock’s voice was soft and sympathetic; he understood the meaning of loss.
“I did. She was great. I wish she could have seen the band on stage. She would have loved it. Harry was the one who introduced me to punk...”
It was John’s turn to recline on the sofa and stare absently into the telly. The company made the painful memories bearable but soon he was lost in some silly show, not watching it but enjoying the closeness and support of his friend next to him.
The pain in John’s neck made him hiss the moment he woke up. His head had been lying crookedly on the sofa’s backrest, yet somehow, he had fallen asleep. Sherlock had been smarter. John found his hands resting on Sherlock’s shins as his legs were over John’s lap and his head lay neatly on the pillow on the other side of the sofa.
Slowly, John took a hold of Sherlock’s ankles, lifted his legs and stood up himself. He placed Sherlock’s legs back on the sofa without waking his friend up. Thankful for the blanket that was draped over the backrest, he reached for it and gently covered Sherlock’s long legs and abdomen.
When asleep, Sherlock looked impossibly young, just like in the picture John had taken in the studio. The sharp features of his face were relaxed, making him look calm and relaxed, which was a rare occurrence.
Sherlock’s Cupid’s-bow lips were perfectly-shaped, kissable and absolutely beautiful just like the man they belonged to. Sherlock probably wouldn’t like to be called beautiful but he was insanely attractive and John felt himself wanting him more every day. His attraction went beyond the carnal need inside him. He’d felt some sort of physical attraction to all the women he had slept with but what he felt towards his flatmate was something else entirely. It was more than just a craving to trace those cheekbones with his fingertips, more than the need to know how his lips would feel against the porcelain neck, more than wanting to know how the heat of Sherlock’s naked body would feel against his own. He yearned to put his head on Sherlock’s chest and listen to his heartbeat, to see how far the tattoo on his forearm went, to see those eyes open and look at him first thing in the morning.
What was more, however, John was fascinated with Sherlock’s mind; how it managed the whole creative process before Sherlock wrote the ideas down and played for others to hear. There was so much talent in the man, it was hard to grasp, yet Sherlock let the world see only the tip of the iceberg of his abilities. People called him rude and obnoxious but they didn’t know the Sherlock Holmes that lived in 221B with John. They didn’t know the man who ordered John’s favourite food, who gifted him a guitar and made him a part of something great when John had no idea what to do with his life; the same man who played his violin when John was in a bad mood. The man who was considerate and had a heart so big he must be afraid to show it.
John wanted to touch Sherlock’s flesh just as much as he wanted to touch his heart.
Not yet, though. He wanted to savour the stage of a relationship that he hadn’t had the chance and will to enjoy for a long time, not since before the army. John glanced at the blanket; the tartan wool would keep Sherlock warm enough to sleep through the night.
John knelt next to the sofa and leaned to very slowly put his head on Sherlock’s chest. He made sure to be as gentle as possible, so as not to wake up his friend. He felt the softness of Sherlock’s shirt against his cheek and the hardness of the buttons. John closed his eyes and exhaled slowly listening to Sherlock’s heartbeat. The rhythmic thudding made him drowsy, but he wanted to stay a few moments longer. He stood up, pulled the blanket higher over Sherlock’s chest and after one last look, went to shower. After a quick wash he went straight to bed. He imagined the thud of Sherlock's heart in his ear as he was falling asleep. He had no nightmares that night.
Sherlock woke up on the sitting room sofa and his mind immediately analysed what must have happened. He remembered watching a TV show with John and surmised that he must have fallen asleep during it. John, the ever considerate John, must have put a blanket over him. Sherlock sat up and folded the soft material then draped it on the backrest where it belonged. A warm feeling came over him at the idea of John’s simple gesture. He got up and put the kettle on for tea before he went to shower.
A quarter hour later he came to the kitchen, dressed, to see John humming and preparing a fry-up for them both.
Sherlock wasn’t sure if he should thank John for covering him or just leave it, so he proceeded to make tea. John offered him a smile as he handed him a breakfast plate and Sherlock reciprocated. The feeling of awkwardness dissipated and they had breakfast as usual. Sherlock felt his bare foot bump against John’s socked one under the table. His initial reaction was to shuffle his too-long limbs under the chair he sat on. Instead, he wiggled his toes and saw John’s smile widen as he reciprocated.
Their feet touching, they sat together as flatmates, band members, friends, and something a little more than that.
At 221B, everything was the same and yet so immeasurably different at the same time. They ate breakfast together, as usual, but the subtle addition of their feet touching under the table transformed the everyday experience into something completely new. They exchanged smiles as they touched in such an insignificant way, yet both were aware of the larger meaning of the gesture.
With the newspaper read and morning coffee drunk, they proceeded on to their separate tasks. Sherlock started working on a bass guitar that a client had brought in the day before. He was using the tools John had bought him recently, which brought a smile to John’s face. Sherlock was completely immersed in the process, tinkering with the instrument as if he were solving a murder mystery. It was a treat to watch him work. His brows were slightly furrowed, his face a picture of stoicism and the movements of his hands were so precise, a surgeon could appreciate them.
John forced himself to stop staring, sat by the table in the sitting room and opened his laptop. Over the last several days, Sherlock had prepared the layout of their band’s website along with purchasing a domain and John had prepared material that he wanted to upload to it before it went live.
As John was browsing his camera roll for pics from gigs, he noticed that there were a lot more pictures of Sherlock than he had been aware of. There was a shot of Sherlock from the side as he was looking towards the crowd when on the stage before a gig. Blinded by the lights directed at his face, he was mid-motion of putting sunglasses on. They were only dark enough to protect him from the lights, but mirrored on the outside so it was impossible to see Sherlock’s eyes when he wore them. The next several pictures were of the other members of the band, the public from the stage and the setlist.
He decided to post the picture of Sherlock, one of Molly and Greg preparing their gear before the show and one of the whole band together backstage that John had asked someone to take because he wanted to have a picture of all of them.
As per John’s request, Sherlock added a section on the website for John’s Road Journal. On top of the page, John clicked on the button with the journal’s name and a blank space in the middle of the page appeared. He typed the first thing that came to his mind.
“The band took the name Dissonance after I joined, so I can say this was the beginning of the band that you know from the gigs. Hi. This is John Watson and I will be updating this website and with it “John’s Road Journal” here. Feel free to email pics you took of us on stage to dissonance221B@gmail.com and I will upload them here with credit. Thanks for being there for us; some of you from the beginning and some of you joining just now. We (and I can safely speak for the whole band) appreciate all of you.
They ordered take-out and continued tinkering until evening. John on the website, Sherlock, upon finishing working on the bass, continued working on the vintage Gibson guitar he had bought months ago. John had assumed Sherlock had finished with it but now he was preparing it to be painted. There was a piece of old carpet beneath the guitar on the table, to help protect the guitar and hold it in place at the same time. Sherlock was bent over the instrument and with sure but slow strokes in one direction, he was carefully sanding off the old coat of paint.
After several hours, John was finally done with everything he’d wanted to do for the website. He stretched on the desk chair, extending his arms over his head until his shoulder howled in protest. After glancing at the watch, he went to the kitchen to make some tea. There were just their two plates and two mugs in the sink so he proceeded to wash them, having nothing planned to do for the evening. Sherlock had already finished sanding but he left the mess he’d made in the kitchen. Having been too excited about his progress on the website, John didn’t have it in him to argue about the dust covering every surface. In a swirl of black-clad form, Sherlock sauntered into the sitting room to grab his phone from the charging station.
“Are you going for a swim?” John asked putting a plate on the drying rack and reaching for a cup. Sherlock hesitated as he swung the duffel bag over his shoulder.
“Yes.” He moved towards the door, then took a step back, looked into the kitchen at John, at the dirty mug in his hand and smiled. “Care to join me?”
The mug didn’t smash but the clatter was a clear indication that John was ready to go. He smiled back at his flatmate and went to pack his own duffel.
It took him four minutes to get ready and then another ten for them to walk to the swimming pool.
“It’s closed, Sherlock.” John observed but the singer pulled a small leather case from his bag and crouched by the lock. “What the hell are you doing?” John stage-whispered since it was plain as day what the man had been up to.
“Hush, John. I’m opening the door.”
“By picking the lock?” John felt excitement and dread mix in him as he looked around to see if anyone was looking.
“I have a key. Well, I used to but I misplaced it.” After a click, the metal door swung open. Sherlock stepped inside and John followed him into the darkness.
“You had a key but you lost it.”
“How on earth did you get a key anyway?” John followed Sherlock through a short corridor.
“The owner owed me a favour so I took a key to this place in return. I can only come in the evenings which is fortunate because I like having the place to myself.” Sherlock turned the overhead lights on and the large area of the pool revealed itself to them.
“You brought me.” John felt privileged. He was more surprised at that sentiment than at the fact that Sherlock had a key, or used to have a key, to a private-owned swimming pool.
“Indeed. Let’s change.”
John followed Sherlock towards a series of elegant stalls. They entered adjacent ones so they could continue talking as they changed.
“You’re usually gone about an hour and a half. Do you swim the whole hour you’re here?” John asked.
“Excellent deduction, John. Yes, indeed I do.”
It was then that a thought struck John. Several in fact. It started with the idea that Sherlock must be quite fit from all the swimming he did on a near-daily basis and that John would really like to see the effect of this workout. Then he grasped that he was about to not only see just that, but also, he would finally see Sherlock’s tattoos.
“You’re not putting on a diving costume, right?” John asked stupidly, having a hard time to believe Sherlock would emerge half-naked from the stall.
“Why would I do that?”
“I don’t know.”
“Why are you nervous, John?”
“I’m not.” John pulled his swim trunks on and was ready. The palm trees on them felt quite inadequate for a swimming pool but that was what he wore for the beach.
John heard Sherlock’s stall open and he listened to the gait that seemed way too stealthy for a man Sherlock’s size, followed by a splash. With excitement in his veins, John left the stall. His feet made a clapping sound on the tiled floor as he approached the pool.
“What are you wearing?” Sherlock nodded at John’s swimwear.
“Fine. Boardies then.”
“You could hide a tyre iron in those.”
“Well I’m not hiding one now.” He looked at Sherlock's amused expression and burst out laughing. John sat on the edge of the pool, trying to discern Sherlock’s tattoos under water. Sherlock was immersed in water up to his pectorals, his leanly muscled arms gliding in the water, keeping him over the surface.
From Sherlock’s front John could just see the whole left arm covered in tattoos in shades of grey and a string of letters over his collarbones. The quote seemed very fitting for a genius. John’s eyes lingered at what gleamed under water. He swallowed hard when his previous suspicions had been confirmed. John had suspected it but he never let his eyes linger too long. Now the truth was before his eyes. All the times when he’d found himself ogling his flatmate, he had blamed it on a trick of light or he was just imagining things when Sherlock’s nipples seemed permanently hard under his tight shirts. Alas, no, Sherlock’s nipples were pierced. The little silver balls on both sides of each nipple reflected the subtle movement of the water over them as John became aware that Sherlock must know where he was looking.
“Those must have hurt.” He blurted out, sitting on the tiles and lowering his feet into the water.
“I don’t mind physical pain that much but, yes. It was worth it.”
“Hmm” John over-analysed the statement. The piercings must heighten the pleasure when Sherlock’s nipples were stimulated. What he could also have implied was that Sherlock would rather be hurt physically than otherwise. John hoped he would never have to witness Sherlock being emotionally hurt. He would hate to see to that.
John imagined how the tight shirts Sherlock wore must tease his nipples when he moved. He imagined himself brushing against Sherlock in a way that made sure he would graze a pierced bud through the man’s shirt. He wondered what Sherlock’s reaction would be.
“Come on, John.” Sherlock taunted, splashing water in his direction. “How about a race?”
“I haven’t swum in a while.”
“Give me a moment.” He wiggled his feet in the water, trying to calm his thoughts. “You can start without me. I know you like showing off.”
“Me?” Sherlock pulled a theatrically shocked expression that made John laugh out loud.
“Yes. And it’s one of the things I lo-” John chuckled nervously. “...like watching you do.”
In that moment, Sherlock stopped moving his arms and let his body sink underneath the surface. He emerged with wet, smiling face and slid his palm to move his hair back. The gleam of the water on his skin made John lick his lips when what he really wanted to do was to lick Sherlock. He would slide his tongue over his friend’s neck from the crook of his shoulder to the soft spot behind his ear. John was glad for his loose trunks because the sight of Sherlock was like a wet dream.
Without another word, Sherlock started swimming front crawl to the other side of the rectangle-shaped pool.
The man’s lithe body expertly moved in the water, creating waves as he swam with excellent speed. He looked so natural and at ease, it was as if he became a different man in the water. Somehow, he was in his element almost as much as he was on stage. John smiled feeling quite privileged to be allowed to watch what had been a private hobby until now.
Near the end of the pool, Sherlock did a flip in the water and pushed himself off the side to swim back towards John.
“Show off.” John chuckled when Sherlock stopped in front of him.
Sherlock grunted in reply as he grasped the side of the pool on both sides of John’s knees. John had the opportunity to look at Sherlock from above for once, and the expression on his friend’s face as he looked up took John’s breath away. Sherlock’s wet lashes looked thicker, making his eyes and his whole face look even more unearthly than the usual angry-elf look.
“Join me?” He extended his hand and John took it, following his friend into the water. When Sherlock looked at him like that John was afraid he would follow him into hell and back, let alone into the cool water that did nothing to calm his libido.
When his head went under, the only things John heard were the soft whoosh of water and the beating of his heart. He opened his eyes. The ozonated water didn’t sting and allowed him to look at the wonderful man still holding his hand.
Sherlock's hair was floating up, creating a wavy Mohican hairdo that put a smile on John’s face. Sherlock’s long powerful legs were moving languidly to maintain his position. He was wearing black fitted swim trunks that left little to the imagination.
John gulped water as his body reacted to the view, and quickly emerged to the surface. He took a lungful of air and stifled the cough that tried to force its way out.
Sherlock followed him up and his lips lifted on one side in a look that John adored. Only now did he realise that he had loved that look for quite some time. It was astounding how blind he had been in regards to his affection until he’d accepted it. As if all the emotions that had been trapped in him, released upon his realisation of what they really were. That tiny smirk made his own lips quirk and his muscles relax with a prelude to laughter.
“Ready?” Sherlock swam backward to give them enough space so that they wouldn’t bump into one another.
With a nod, John prepared for a butterfly stroke and swam the same route Sherlock had taken before. John’s muscles worked the distance, his arms pushing the water, his body synchronised in a fluid move. He could see Sherlock from the corner of his eye and when John reached the end of the pool, his friend was waiting for him with a grin on his face.
“You didn’t tell me that you’re a good swimmer.” Sherlock slid a hand over his hair to sleek it back.
“You didn’t ask.” John sassed, the smile on his face making his cheeks hurt.
They swam for half an hour before stopping for a break. John could feel every muscle in his body after the workout. It was so different from his usual daily fun running. He felt energized, tired and amazing at the same time.
Sherlock climbed the ladder out of the pool to fetch their bottles of water as John swam to the shallower part where he could reach the bottom to stand and rest. Their duffels were on a bench close by, but the short distance was enough for John to admire more tattoos visible to his eyes now.
John was sure he would forever remember the moment he saw the artwork on Sherlock’s back for the first time. The whole expanse of the leanly-muscled back was covered with ink, all the way to his tight swim trunks.
A ship with patched sails took up almost half of the tattoo. Its mast ended on Sherlock’s nape with a Jolly Roger between Sherlock’s shoulder blades. The flag looked as if it was moving on the wind when Sherlock straightened his back from the crouch after he’d retrieved the bottles. Water cascading over his skin created an eerie illusion of the waves beneath the ship being real. The tattoo was expertly done and very realistic. The grayscale lines were smooth, blending the image with fantastic shading so that it looked like a masterpiece of a photograph. John had never seen a pirate ship drawing, painting nor picture, looking so majestic as it did on Sherlock’s back.
“Magnificent.” John whispered in awe when Sherlock turned around and handed him a bottle of water. He was looking at Sherlock's chest now and met Sherlock’s gaze only after the man sat at the edge of the pool. “Your back tattoo is magnificent.”
“It’s a shame I can’t see it.” Sherlock said matter-of-factly before he took a healthy sip of his water.
“Mmmhmm” John was overcome by the need to look at it closely, touch it, slide his fingers along the lines of the ship; however, he didn’t have the courage to ask now. Sherlock sat the same way John had before; with his feet in the water. John drifted towards him like a magnet and situated his torso in between Sherlock’s open legs. He looked up then and was met with a hooded look directed at him. John felt himself growing hot and the longer he looked at his friend, the more he expected the water around him to boil from the heat of his body.
Without turning his gaze, John placed his left hand on Sherlock’s knee and watched as the man’s mouth opened slightly. John pleaded for permission with his eyes, unable to utter a word. By some miracle, Sherlock understood and nodded almost imperceptibly. John spread his fingers over the wet skin before he slowly glided it up his flatmate’s leg. His thumb moved in circles massaging the inside of Sherlock thigh. Their breathing became faster in tandem with John’s hand moving further towards Sherlock’s hip. John placed his right hand on Sherlock’s other hip and pulled him closer until his friend slid into the water to join him.
Sherlock followed the unsaid prompt and wrapped his legs around John’s waist and his hands around John’s neck, linking their wet bodies. He looked his friend directly in the eyes. John’s eyes were wide, reflecting his eagerness. His cheeks were pink and he licked his lips. Whether they were dry or whether he was preparing himself, it wasn’t clear but it didn’t matter. John Watson’s beautiful lips were clearly begging to be kissed.
Sherlock’s heartbeat reached a crescendo when he leaned to flick his tongue over John’s upper lip before he claimed his mouth. Slowly, sensually, John responded. It was nothing like their first kiss. In fact, Sherlock wanted to delete that kiss and make this one their first, because it was the first kiss they deserved. A kiss only for them. A kiss prompted by pure want and not by a dare. John’s mouth was hot, soft, and perfect. John’s tongue caressed Sherlock's and vice versa in a series of languid strokes, as if leisurely swimming, not to reach a destination but to enjoy the swim itself.
Sherlock held onto John with his legs and let his arms glide from John’s nape to his upper back. He felt the muscles there shift as John’s hands started wandering as well.
Sherlock felt John’s palms on his shoulder blades and moving lower, igniting the nerves beneath Sherlock’s skin with the soft touch. John’s hands stopped on Sherlock’s hips and the grip there was tight, possessive. He moaned at the sensation and at the implication of it; John wanted him and even if they had to take it slowly, it would be worth it. Because John was worth it.
John had never been with a man, so Sherlock would have to be careful once they reached that point. However, John, with his roaming hands, his sensuous kisses and lewd noises was not going to make that an easy task to accomplish.
Sherlock yelped in surprise when John’s hands dove underwater and gripped his buttocks in a strong grip.
“John...” Sherlock broke the kiss to breathe his friend’s name.
“Bloody hell, Sherlock. I don’t know what you’re doing to me but I just want to...” John kissed Sherlock’s jaw, then peppered kisses along it. He moved to kiss Sherlock’s throat, in the form of slow, open-mouthed declarations of lust going lower and lower.
“I won’t stop you...” Sherlock moaned in response to the unfinished sentence as he tilted his head, exposing his neck, welcoming John’s kisses there.
John marched forward a few steps and helped Sherlock sit on the tiled edge. John’s eyes were on Sherlock’s nipples, the piercings gleaming invitingly, clearly drawing John’s attention.
“May I?” John flicked his eyes to Sherlock’s then back to his nipples. He was so beautiful when aroused, Sherlock wouldn't be able to deny him much, not that he would ever want to. One nod from him was enough for John to brace himself on the edge and lift his body on his arms so that his mouth was on level with Sherlock’s nipples.
John’s expression was a mix of fascination and lust when he blew on one wet bud. Sherlock arched from the sensation, his nipple hardening, his body craving more. John did the same to the other nipple and this time Sherlock took a risk and slid his hand into John’s hair.
A pair of blue eyes, framed by lashes gleaming with drops of water, looked back at him. Then the gaze darkened, John’s lids lowered and he sucked one nipple into his mouth.
“Yes, John...” Sherlock groaned, arching his back. John swirled his tongue over the bud before sucking it again, harder this time. The tug of the piercing created an extra layer of pleasure. He released the bud with a wet pop and smiled a wicked smile that melted Sherlock’s insides into a pool of want.
John’s expression looked like Sherlock felt. How they had managed to survive so long without as much as a kiss was beyond him. John lowered himself back into the water, immersing himself completely. He came out with a jump that propelled him as he braced on the edge and twisted to sit next to Sherlock.
In John’s hungry eyes, Sherlock could see what he wanted to do. In a languid motion that John’s gaze followed closely, Sherlock lifted his legs from the pool and lay on his back on the tiled floor. He parted his bent legs to see John better, to greet him. He put an arm behind his head, waiting, his heart pumping blood fast but little of it went to his brain.
John crawled on all fours the short distance but stopped just by Sherlock’s feet. He traced fingertips on the outside of both ankles and slowly up, tickling the wet hairs on Sherlock’s legs, while at the same time building up the heated anticipation. He continued to caress his way up Sherlock’s thighs as he looked up. Sherlock didn’t hide the needy and pleased expression on his face. He didn’t want to hide from John anymore. There were still unanswered questions between them but they were going in the right direction to answer them all.
The roaming hands of John Watson then moved over Sherlock’s flanks. John watched as his fingertips traced Sherlock’s skin over the abs and up to his pectorals where they spread, making Sherlock wonder what was John thinking while touching him so reverently.
John seemed to be accustoming himself to caressing a body that was different from a woman’s. Sherlock bathed in the curiosity in his friend’s gaze, in the fascination crossing his face, in the need to touch. He traced the letters tattooed over Sherlock’s collarbones, exploring, as he became more confident with his caresses.
“ Cogito ergo sum ,” John read out loud and laughed softly. “This fits you so well.” Then he leaned down and placed a peck of a kiss on each and every letter.
Sherlock’s whole body hummed in a need for more touch, more kisses, more John. However, he took pleasure in the softness of the ordeal more than he had ever had in his life. He reached out to crook a finger under John’s chin to make him look up. Blue eyes met his gaze as John climbed over to straddle Sherlock’s waist. He never broke their eye contact as he propped himself on his elbows on both sides of Sherlock’s head. John linked his forehead to Sherlock’s and released a long breath, causing his body to visibly relax.
“How can it feel so right?” Sherlock knew a rhetorical question when he heard one so he stayed quiet, his own thoughts aligned with what John had just said. “You feel so perfect...” John breathed as he glided his hips just enough to let Sherlock know that he was aware of what his touch did to Sherlock’s body. Sherlock released a moan, deep from within him but kept himself from moving. He didn’t want to spoil the moment with his hand sliding into John’s pants.
“I can’t get enough.” John whispered, echoing Sherlock's thoughts. Then he captured Sherlock’s mouth again. Sherlock was ready and he greeted John with soft nips on his friend’s bottom lip.
Their wet bodies were slippery and when John’s right elbow started sliding towards the edge of the pool, Sherlock followed voluntarily and propelled them over the edge and into the water.
Sherlock took a deep breath and resumed the kiss before they splashed into the surface. They went down, their limbs wrapping around one another, their kiss continuing under water.
Sherlock shared his breath with his friend so they could dance in the moonlike gravity a moment longer before they had to emerge for air.
They untangled and surfaced, gasping for breath. Both holding onto the edge of the pool, they looked at each other and laughed. The sound echoed in the empty swimming pool, their voices carried over the water and bounced over the expanse of the tiled surface.
Sherlock felt his heart sing when his eyes registered the genuine expression on John’s face. Laughter crinkled the corners of his shining eyes and his wet cheeks were red from the exertion. Sherlock felt how John looked.
John and Sherlock are revisited by ghosts of the past before they get ready for a big event that is coming for Dissonance.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“Come down at once, John!” came a yell from downstairs as John was getting dressed in his bedroom. He buttoned up his polo shirt and went to see what the racket was all about.
“What happened?” With Sherlock, John was never sure if he could expect something good or if Sherlock had spilled battery acid on the kitchen counter again.
“Come with me. Quickly!” Sherlock fired at him excitedly. He looked as if he had had too much caffeine and a whole packet of shortbread biscuits. The ones sprinkled with sugar. John grabbed his jacket and followed his flatmate out on the pavement.
At first he had to jog a few steps before he caught up, but Sherlock slowed down his long-legged stride so they could walk side by side. John started to notice those little things that Sherlock did for him, like slowing down his pace when they walked, making tea in the afternoon, or remembering his favourite food. Thinking of those instances, of the ways Sherlock showed his considerate side while still wearing his mask of indifference, brought a smile to John’s face.
They turned right and walked two blocks more before Sherlock stopped.
“I need you to close your eyes, John.”
“Sherlock, we’re in the middle of the pavement, what are you-”
“Do you trust me?” Sherlock interrupted.
“Of course.” The answer came out of John’s mouth before he had the time to think. Sherlock seemed a little startled, as if he hadn’t expected that answer and was ready to argue, but nodded instead.
“Good. Close your eyes and walk forward.”
“What if there’s a lamppost?”
“Oh for God’s sake.” When Sherlock said it, John’s eyes were already closed and he felt his sleeves being pulled to make him walk forward. Sherlock had to be walking backwards to steer him towards the mysterious destination. John’s right sleeve slipped from his friend’s fingers and, on reflex, John caught them. The shock of feeling the warmth of Sherlock’s hand in his own made John inhale sharply but they both kept walking. A few steps later, Sherlock’s other hand slipped into John’s but this time on purpose.
Sherlock led and John followed, a dynamic that seemed to be working for them on and off stage. John was torn between keeping his eyes closed and relishing the excitement of their joined hands, or opening his eyes to see the expression on Sherlock's face. He decided to keep his eyes shut and walk forward, trusting his friend. When they finally stopped, Sherlock let go of John’s hands and John immediately wished to feel them in his own again.
“Open your eyes,” came the excited voice of his flatmate.
He was standing in front of a store which was very familiar to him. He had visited it many times since he was a teenager. It held all sorts of punk rock paraphernalia, from clothes, patches and shoes, to magazines and albums. His eyes scanned the window display, not really sure what he was looking for.
“What?!” John couldn’t believe his eyes. He blinked, looked at Sherlock whose face was absolutely beaming, then looked back at the display. “This is amazing!” John didn’t try to hold his excitement as Sherlock was vibrating with the same emotion right next to him. “Is this?!”
“Oh my God, Sherlock!”
There was an arrangement of CDs with new punk rock releases on the window display. On it, front and centre, stood the first, self-titled album of Dissonance.
“Let’s go inside.” Sherlock suggested, already opening the door and motioning John to go in.
The interior was cramped and full of items hanging from the ceiling and attached to walls. John looked around noticing the changes that had been made inside since he’d visited the place before he had been deployed. They passed the counter, the section with clothes and patches to take three steps down to a room dedicated to music. The vinyl albums were in large boxes to the left, so John went immediately to the right to the CDs stand. There it was, second under D. The cover was black and white and had the name of the band on a ripped-out-looking stripe in the middle of the cover.
John picked up the plastic case and turned it over. Twelve songs were listed on the back cover, all of which were very familiar to John.
“It boggles my mind how they released it so fast.” John was still looking at the album in his hands with amazement when he realised Sherlock had fallen silent. He looked at his friend then and saw a satisfied smirk on his face. “What did you do?”
“Not that much really.”
“Liar.” John narrowed his eyes playfully.
There was little in this world that Sherlock wouldn’t do to make John look at him the way he was looking at him right now, as if Sherlock hung the moon and stars, then wrapped them up and stuck a bow on top. Sherlock had seen the excitement in John when they had been preparing the covers at home and he himself had felt the elation that came with holding your own album in your hands.
“I’m buying it.” John said, still smiling so radiantly, Sherlock mirrored it.
“I thought you were against stocking CDs-” He started saying.
“Oh shut up, Sherlock. You know damn well that it will look great in the punk rockdrawer.”
“Indeed. If you’d just wait, you could have several of those, shipped straight from the label.”
“I don’t want to wait. This,” he waved the CD in the air indicating the shop, “buying it like this, is better.”
Sherlock nodded, understanding the sentiment. He proceeded to go through the other albums, picking them up and looking them over. He chose two more CDs by new bands he’d heard of in the grapevine.
“This is a good one, I’m telling you.” The shopkeeper, a large man in a Booze and Glory t-shirt, told them while pointing at their album among the others John had placed on the counter.
Sherlock smiled and so did John as they looked at one another.
“I’m sure I’ll enjoy it then.” John said as he slid his card in the reader. He was still holding the albums in his hand when he looked at Sherlock, whose face was a picture of smug happiness and he knew it. John grinned back at him, that radiant smile that Sherlock wished to see at least once a day for the rest of his life. Their stride synched as they walked home glancing at each other.
_ _ _
The phone call came at 8 the next morning. Over the sound of the fry-up crackling in the pan, John could hear Sherlock’s steady replies.
“Yes, we’re ready....Mmmhmm...Excellent....I’ll send you the details of what we’ll need over email. Yes, I understand.... We’ll all talk and I’ll get back to you.”
John’s lifted eyebrow conveyed the unasked question as he placed the plates with breakfast on the kitchen table.
Sherlock’s serious expression slowly grew into a tiny smirk, then his eyes crinkled more and more until he was smiling.
“It was Irene. We have a spot on Slam Dunk!” The excitement spilled over from his words and straight into John.
“That’s amazing!” He grinned back and had to force to stay in place not to run and embrace Sherlock. They had kissed and groped before but spontaneous outbursts of affection were different. There was a risk that if they got used to that at home, they would do the same in public. Taking it slowly entailed not filling in their friends on the details of their new relationship before they were sure it would work. John knew how he felt towards Sherlock, but there was a voice in his head that filled him with uncertainty as to how Sherlock felt. That same voice kept asking why would a gorgeous genius choose him as a partner. The insecurity blanket lifted momentarily when John saw the smile on Sherlock’s face falter a moment before it was back in place. He must have noticed John’s aborted embrace. John took a step forward wanting to offer a celebratory hug but the moment had passed. Instead, he pulled his chair out and sat to eat.
“What did Irene say exactly?”
“She’ll send emails to all of us with the details. The gist is that a minor band had to cancel and a spot opened at noon the day of the festival. She had already contacted the concert promoters before about our interest in joining so they called her.”
“Molly and Greg will be ecstatic.” John commented after swallowing a bite of his breakfast.
“We need to fit in more practice this week. We’ve never played on such a big event.”
“Never mind the big stage.”
“That too. Can you imagine the feedback sound? It will blast us in the face. We won’t be able to communicate as easily as we usually do when we’ll be further away from each other on stage. Everyone will have to play their part perfectly with eyes closed.”
“Do you still want me to come over to your mic during the chorus though?”
“Yeah, that definitely stays.” Sherlock took a forkful of beans but that didn’t hide the look he gave John letting him know how much he enjoyed that part of the show.
“Good.” It was John’s favourite part of each concert. During the chorus, he approached Sherlock’s mic so they could sing together. They were so close, so in synch, the energy translated to the song with ease. The upcoming concert would be attended by a lot more people than they were used to, making it a huge step for the band. For John, the knowledge that he would take that step along Sherlock was the most exciting part.
_ _ _
“Sherlock! What the hell are you doing?” A few days later, John came home to a kitchen looking as if cling film exploded in it. The table, the floor and the countertops around, were all covered in transparent film. He put the grocery bags on the floor and looked around. From the ceiling, a string was holding the neckless guitar that Sherlock had been fixing for months now.
“Painting.” His flatmate responded, still looking at John. His gloved hand was still in the air mid-motion, holding a can of lacquer spray. The expression on his face was one that indicated that John had asked a rhetorical question but Sherlock had been obliging enough to answer it anyway.
There were cans of primer on the countertop, and several cans of colour paint, some of which were in the sink half-full of water. Sherlock wore a white lab coat and protective goggles, the ensemble was completed by a facemask that hung from his neck. His hair had come out of his back swoop and was hanging loose over his face and the goggles. John found that especially adorable, as the freed hair made Sherlock seem exposed, dishevelled, just as he had when John’s hands had been in that hair...
“What?” Sherlock asked, clearly confused now that John was still staring even after he’d answered the question.
“I thought you were done with the guitar last week.” John went for a logical explanation to his dreamy state.
“I was but I decided I didn’t like the colour.”
“So you stripped it bare to paint it?”
“How long will this take?” John waved a hand to indicate the kitchen.
“Less than two weeks...” Sherlock’s voice indicated that he knew John wouldn’t be ecstatic about the prospect.
“But once it dries and I’ll be doing the wet sanding, the foil can come off. I’ll start with the 1000 grit sandpaper, move on to 1500 grit paper and once I get to 2000 grit paper...”
John listened, fascinated, forgetting that he was supposed to be angry at his flatmate for turning their kitchen into a lab.
“...then I’ll paint blue flames on it.”
“Hmm, so it won’t stay all black then. Why blue flames?” John was genuinely curious, knowing that there was always a reason behind Sherlock’s actions.
“I’ll let you know when it’s done.” Sherlock left no space for further questioning.
“It’s a secret then?” John teased.
“Maybe.” The smirk on Sherlock’s face did unspeakable things to John’s body but the sound of his baritone as he continued explaining the process, melted the rest of John.
At the butt-crack of dawn on the day of the concert, John received a message from Molly that said she and Greg were in the van and heading their way. John and Sherlock had been packed and ready since the day before. Despite Sherlock’s suave demeanour, John noticed that he hadn’t gotten much sleep, and neither had John. Their puffy eyes said a lot about the way the excitement mixed with stress kept them up at night. John prepared two mugs of the strongest coffee he could make without making it taste like bitter mud and they headed out. Even with tired eyes, Sherlock looked better than any man should that early in the morning. The collar of his leather jacket was up, he had a guitar case in one hand and a duffel bag in the other. He looked like he was ready to step on stage.
Irene had arranged for them and their equipment to be transported to the concert venue by a small van. The 4-hour drive to Leeds had to be taken early in the morning since they were due on stage at noon. They didn’t argue the logistics of having to travel so early and getting a hotel after the concert instead of before. They were glad to take part in the event and were not about to complain. Irene mentioned in the email the difficulties with finding accommodation so close to the event. Even Sherlock couldn't do much about that.
Once downstairs, John and Sherlock packed their guitars in the back of the van. Greg was already fast asleep sprawled on two seats and Molly was reading a book, her smiling demeanour unruffled by the early hour. Her hair was bright green this time and her eyeliner winged and perfect as always.
Unlike in the tube, John could sit as close to Sherlock as possible, aligning their thighs together, resting his head on Sherlock’s shoulder, and no one was the wiser. John inhaled the scent of his friend’s cologne that somehow smelled million times better on Sherlock than it had from the bottle. Sherlock didn’t stir but for resting his head on John’s. The comfort of the seemingly small gesture made John sigh with contentment. Where he used to flinch at any touch, Sherlock now welcomed the closeness. It made John feel like he had done something right to deserve to be the recipient of such sentiment. Soon enough, everyone else in the bus fell asleep and, feeling Sherlock’s warmth next to him, so did John.
John cracked his neck when they arrived at the destination. He’d slept the whole way through and apparently so had everyone else by the way they stretched in their seats before getting out.
In a black corset-like getup, black skirt and hair pinned like a Victorian Harriet Martineau, Irene greeted them at their destination. The hotel was a modern-looking but cheaply made building with a purple sign above the entrance. The emails Irene had sent them previously indicated that the money from the concert would cover their transport and accommodation in a nearby hotel and not much more. That was not, however, why they wanted to play at the festival. The very feel of the big stage underneath their feet, the experience itself was what was important. The possibility of reaching a wider audience, giving people a chance to hear their songs was the most exciting of all.
Irene held two room cards in her manicured hand and looked at the gathered party of four.
“We only have two rooms for you so you'll have to decide who shares a room with who.”
“Whom.” Sherlock corrected her rudely.
“Right.” Without missing a beat, Irene sighed and placed the keys in Molly’s hand. She apparently looked the most responsible of them all in her ripped fishnet tights.
“Well, John and Sherlock are used to sleeping together-” Molly started saying and a slightly horrified look passed over her face before she continued. “Under one roof that is. So you guys take one room.” She handed the key card to John meeting his eyes with a sheepish look. “I’ll go with Greg. Yes?” She turned to Greg then who shrugged in agreement.
“Yeah, sure. If you’re fine with it, then I’m fine too.” Greg reached for his duffel and followed Irene inside the building.
“Oh Molly, I forgot to ask.” John stopped mid-stride. “Are tulips your favourite flowers?”
“Yes, how did you know?” Molly graced him with a confused look.
“Sherlock told me.” They both looked at Sherlock then.
“When you came over to make album covers, you commented that our place looks gloomy and it could use tulips in a vase on the table to brighten it up. Obvious, really.”
“What that has to do with anything? John?” Molly inquired further.
“Do you know a tall bulky guy, blonde hair, Sherlocks height?” John waved his hands describing the man.
“No, why?” Molly narrowed his eyes with suspicion.
“He approached me after our last concert in London to ask what your favourite flowers are. I asked Sherlock who stood next to me and then told the guy. He thanked me and walked away.” John shrugged. “Are you sure you don’t know him?”
“He must be a fan of yours.” John grinned lifting his eyebrows.
“Oh pffft!” Molly waved her hand in the air and turned around towards the building but not before John saw the blush that spread on her cheeks.
_ _ _
It was a chaotic time of pre-concert preparation and John was in the process of discussing logistics with the crew responsible for their band’s instrument placement on stage. He’d just managed to update John’s Road Journal on his phone before the crazy day had started. It was a big festival, an event the likes of which John hadn’t seen as a band member on stage, only as a spectator in the crowd below. On the other side, he would probably be having fun with friends or getting some sun on one of the myriad blankets strewn around on the grass. However, Dissonance would be playing at noon, so they had to be ready as soon as possible. The organization seemed to be very strict about times as they didn’t want to have the star bands that played late in the evening being pushed too late, resulting in people going home before they got to see the biggest stars. John was talking to Julie, who promised that she would take good care of his guitar and have it waiting for John when they go up on stage. They stood on the grass that surrounded the elevated stage as John sipped the coffee from his cardboard cup. He was excited but also absolutely terrified to take the stage during such a huge event. Sherlock would be right next to him though, and that very thought made his shoulders relax just a fraction.
He thanked Julie and was about to join Sherlock, who was talking to another staff member, when he heard a chorus of laughter that made him turn in that direction. A young man was stumbling, trying to hold on to whatever was in his way until he finally collapsed face-first on the grass. He seemed to be mumbling under his breath. The small crowd around him laughed, clearly assuming he was drunk. John looked at the watch on his wrist. It was 10 am on a one-day festival. That was the first indication that something was wrong. John ran forwards, jumping over the hip-height railing surrounding the stage and through the crowd. He crouched by the boy, put two fingers to his throat and measured his pulse. The boy was not smiling in a drunken stupor, on the contrary, his focused, widely open eyes were full of terror. He was talking clearly, but didn’t make much sense. Definitely not a stroke then.
“Move away!” John yelled, waving his hand towards the crowd that gathered around the boy.
He moved the boy to a safe position on his side in case he got sick. Then he checked the boy’s wrists for any rubber bands indicating his condition, but found just a watch and a friendship bracelet with the name “Jessica” on it. John proceeded to check his pockets.
“What are you doing?! He’s trying to steal his wallet!” Someone yelled from behind John.
“I’m a doctor. Shut up and move back, let him breathe.” John barked with what he recognized as his doctor’s voice. The people who stood too close moved back immediately.
“What’s your name?” He asked in a soothing but stern voice. John lifted the sleeves of the boy’s t-shirt, then the hem of it, inspecting his abdomen closely until he found a lump confirming his suspicions.
“Tim.” The answer was weak but clear.
“Ok, Tim. I’m John and I’m a doctor. Are you diabetic? Tim?” John slapped him gently on the cheek. “Tim, stay with me.”
“Yeah. Type 1. She has my pouch with the...” Tim lifted his hand off the grass to wave his wrist indicating nothing in particular.
“Your insulin pen case?” Tim nodded. “Do you mean Jessica?” Tim nodded again. “When was the last time you ate?”
“I don’t remember.”
John sighed, recognizing the state of neglect that Tim let himself fall into. He should be checking his blood sugar often, eating, and taking insulin as needed if he wanted to live a normal life.
Molly and Greg who must have seen the whole incident as they had been standing close to John, now came running.
“Molly, make an announcement” he ordered, having no time for sensitivities. “A boy, dark hair, approximately 17, wearing GBH t-shirt is looking for Jessica with a case. It’s urgent. She should know what that means.” Molly nodded and dashed off, not wasting a single breath.
“Does anyone have juice?” John looked around the gathered crowd and the beers in plastic cups in their hands. It was 10am for fuck’s sake. Juice would have been easy to swallow and fast to spread sugar but apparently there was none at hand.
“Greg? Do you have any sweets on you? I know you always have some.”
“Yeah,” Greg answered, a tad confused.
“Give them to me.” John extended his hand, not bothering with pleasantries; he knew Greg would understand.
Greg pulled out a single-wrapped caramel from the side pocket of his black khaki shorts and threw it. John caught it mid-air and unwrapped it.
“Tim?” John turned to the boy. “Open your mouth. It’s very important. Please focus, listen to my voice. That’s it. Very good.” John bit off a small piece of the chewy sweet and flattened it to place it in Tim’s mouth, careful to avoid him choking on it. “Now chew, Tim. Good job. One more piece, that's it.”
A wave of relief washed over John as Tim moved to position himself more comfortably on the grass.
“Oh my God, Tim!” A young woman came running holding a pencil case-sized bag in hand.
“Are you Jessica?” John asked reaching for the pouch she handed him without question before she knelt by Tim.
John opened it and saw an insulin pen and a syringe for glucose inside. This neglectful loss of blood sugar must happen often to Tim if he carried glucose.
“Will you give him insulin?” The girl asked with wide eyes, clearly distressed.
“Not unless you want him dead.” Sherlock’s voice made John turn his head and sigh.
“What?!” The girl’s panicked yelp hurt John’s ear.
“He’s not going to die, Jessica. Don’t worry.” John placated. “Tim will be fine.” He glared at Sherlock then before turning back to her. “What my friend here means is that insulin helps balance out blood sugar levels, it definitely wouldn’t help him now, quite contrary in fact. Tim needs to monitor his blood sugar better, take his insulin and eat according to strict rules.”
John opened the pouch still in his hand and pulled the blood glucose meter. He inserted a test strip he found in the same box into it. He used the lancing device to pinch a tiny hole on the side of Tim’s index fingertip. He touched and held the test strip to the drop of blood, waiting for the result. Tim’s blood glucose level was still too low, just as just had suspected.
“I’m fine.” Tim groaned taking his hand away from John. “Did you buy that juice I asked for?”
“Yes.” The girl opened the small bag she had slung over shoulder and pulled out a plastic bottle of juice. “Is that why you told me to get it quickly? You knew?”
“Yeah. But I’ll be fine now.” He sat up and sipped the juice slowly.
“You need to take better care of yourself, Tim.” John hated to see people neglect their bodies, especially those who had access to the medical care they needed. He had seen too many kids and teenagers living in poor conditions, lacking the basic medical supplies and proper food to condone the kind of conduct he saw in Tim. Destroying one’s body with drugs was even worse, thought John as he glanced at Sherlock standing above him. Thankfully, that part of Sherlock’s life seemed to be behind him.
“You sound like my dad.” Tim groaned and rolled his eyes.
“We better take him to the medical centre tent where he can lie down and the medics can keep an eye on him for a while.” John turned to the girl, not feeling the need to argue with the boy any further.
Sherlock helped him to haul the boy up but he could walk by himself after the juice reached his system. They dropped him and the girl off at the white tent where John could be sure Tim would be taken care of if need be.
He breathed a sigh of relief and looked at his watch to see that the whole ordeal lasted no more than a few minutes, yet it seemed to him as if he travelled in time to his horrible and bloody days as a field medic and was just now slowly coming back to being John Watson the guitarist.
Sherlock had witnessed Doctor John Watson in action and he could swear his admiration of John had spiked even higher, just when he’d thought that was not possible. There had been not a shake in John’s hand in sight, his voice had been level, his commands clipped and to the point.
Now, John stood facing the stage that had “Punk in Drublic Stage” written on it in giant letters. His hands were folded over his chest as he stood with his back straight but at the same time ready to spring into action. In that stance, Sherlock could see the soldier John used to be. John’s hair was longer than a soldier’s would be, to the point he parted it on the left and finger-combed it to the side. John’s customary black polo was accompanied by black and white checked braces hanging loosely from the waist of black jeans that made John’s firm arse look spectacular. He wanted his hands on that part of John’s anatomy, squeezing as John straddled him... He had to shake his head to clear it, now was not the time for daydreaming.
Sherlock looked back at the stage and could hardly believe that they, as Dissonance, would be standing on it in less than two hours. He took a step forward to stand next to John and saw that his friend’s face was lost in thought.
“John, are you okay?” He asked, suspecting the medical incident had taken John’s mind somewhere he didn’t want to be at the moment.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” John took a deep breath and released it slowly. “I just need to clear my head. Walk with me?”
They walked along one of the many bar stands that were placed strategically to supply the concert goers at every one of the eight stages of the festival. Sherlock took in the atmosphere and breathed in the grass, the beer, the people, but most importantly John who stood right next to him. From the Marshall stage far to their right, he could hear faint sounds of the first band tuning their instruments. It hit him that they were really going to play at this festival, on the punk stage no less. The same stage that, later in the day, would host bands that have been known all over the world for decades like Bad Religion and NOFX. They were well prepared and ready for the biggest event Dissonance had to face in their short career to date. He glanced at John whose face was calmer now, a small smile playing at his lips as he looked around the people gathering in front of the stage. Sherlock’s smile mirrored John’s as he thought that he would have the privilege to stand on the stage next to this talented and caring man who for some unknown reason saw in him something that no one else ever had. What it was, he had no idea, but he was not about to question John’s judgement.
_ _ _
John was mentally preparing himself to play and sing in front of the people who were currently casually passing them with beer in plastic cups. He was strung as tightly as a new string in a guitar but he knew he could do it. With Sherlock, Molly and Greg on stage, he felt a part of something greater than himself. He just hoped he wouldn’t disappoint them, that he wouldn’t fuck something up... John glanced at Sherlock, at the man who somehow managed to look regal and elegant in tight black jeans and a black shirt. His hair was freshly shaved on the sides, the middle swooped back and his chin was high, defiant, his profile the most gorgeous John had ever laid his eyes on.
The change in Sherlock’s expression was so rapid, it struck John. Sherlock flinched in disgust, John was sure of it. Just for a second, almost imperceptibly but John knew his friend well enough to see it. Something was wrong.
“Fancy seeing you here, Sherlock.” The tall strawberry-blond haired man said in a perfect posh accent. Sherlock didn’t turn. “You won’t even say hi to an old friend?” The man’s sneer was supposed to be a smile but failed to hide his feeling of narcissism and superiority.
“Hello, Sebastian.” Sherlock said in a tone completely devoid of emotion, and kept facing the stage. His eyes were no longer sparkling with the excitement that had filled them just moments before.
“Jim told me you’d be here.” The man continued, not giving up, despite Sherlock’s clear uninterest in the conversation.
“Jim.” Sherlock scoffed, disdain clear in his tone. “You finally caved.”
“I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.” The confused expression on Sebastian's face told John that he was telling the truth.
“Hah.” Sherlock scoffed again, it seemed to be his default mode around the tall blonde.
“My girlfriend asked me to come. I thought it would be a mistake, with all the plebeian people around but-” He raked an appreciative glance over Sherlock making blood boil in John’s veins and his hands turn into fists. Sebastian was looking at Sherlock as if he was undressing him, as if he knew exactly what lay underneath the tight clothes. A phone rang in the man’s pocket and he picked it up. “Irene? Yes, I’m here.” He listened to the voice that sounded very familiar on the other end of the line and glanced at Sherlock one more time before he turned to leave.
“Sherlock?” John saw the mask of calm expression on Sherlock’s face that did nothing to hide the hatred beneath it. Sherlock’s eyes betrayed that there had been really bad blood between him and Sebastian.
“We have to get ready to step on stage.” Sherlock said and immediately started walking forward. John was torn between wanting to know what the fuck just happened, who Sebastian was, and the fear of riling Sherlock up even more. John’s sensible mode seemed to have switched off the moment he’d seen Sherlock flinch seeing Sebastian.
“Who’s Jim?” The question flew out of John’s mouth completely unfiltered.
“A wannabe guitarist who’s not worth the privilege of doing a manicure for your talented fingers, John.”
John reached to place a comforting hand on Sherlock’s shoulder but Sherlock shrugged it off. John knew the gesture was not directed at him but it still hurt to be rejected.
“Right.” John said with resignation. Sherlock’s words explained absolutely nothing, John still had no idea who this Sebastian prick was either. Sherlock was clearly not in the mood to talk about it though, so instead, John opted to take Sherlock’s mind off whatever had just happened and back to being Sherlock Holmes, the guitarist, singer-songwriter of Dissonance.
As they walked towards the stage, Sherlock went over the setlist and who started which song, even though they all had setlists printed out and had been practicing the songs until they were physically unable to play.
“Sherlock.” John said to stop the string of the singer’s rapid sentences. “Look at me.”
Sherlock turned to him as they entered the equipment storage room situated under the stage. He finally stopped talking but his body was still rigid from the interaction with Sebastian. John was not about to make the same mistake again of touching Sherlock first so he just stood and let his eyes tell the most perceptive man he’d ever met, what they both really needed now.
Sherlock’s long legs ate the distance between them in two steps and John was ready to be pushed against the wall, to be devoured. He was not disappointed.
John felt Sherlock’s large palms cup his face before their lips met in a kiss that was an outlet for the anger and the stress of the short morning. John met his friend’s pace, placing his hands on Sherlock’s hips, pulling their bodies closer until they stumbled on a set of sturdy amplifiers they leaned on. John felt the heat rise in his body extinguishing all the negative emotions and the bad memories that had resurfaced today. Sherlock’s thumbs caressed his cheeks as the kiss slowed into a set of lazy licks and nips that showed the impossible tenderness Sherlock was capable of. John could feel Sherlock’s shoulders relax, his body becoming that unique mix of fluidity and sexual desire. They broke apart with a groan of regret but Sherlock’s eyes were sparkling again, and the smirk on his lips was back in place.
“Ready?” Sherlock asked looking at John as if he was ready to take him then and there.
“Yeah.” For a split second John wasn’t sure if he was agreeing to take his clothes off or step on the stage. Sherlock seemed to read his thoughts as his smile grew wider before he turned around and with a sure stride headed to share their music with the audience. The stage fright that suddenly flooded John didn’t prevent him from following Sherlock’s tall frame onto the stage.
Slam Dunk Festival North 2019 was a real event that took part on 25 May 2019. I took a lot of liberties in describing the event and the places around it as well as the organisation. That was to create a background that suits my fic and the events in it. If you have any suggestions as to how to improve this section (because you have been at the festival) then feel free to message me on Twitter or Tumblr. (links in my bio)
Sherlock released a sigh as he ascended the stairs that led to the stage. John knew. He always seemed to read Sherlock a lot better than anyone ever had. He never pushed and took only what Sherlock offered. Sherlock could see in John’s eyes the unmitigated need and was amazed at John’s self-control as he waited for Sherlock to make the first move.
As John gave his lips and his comfort, at the same time he took away Sherlock’s tension, stress and self-doubt. Just when Sherlock’s past had come back and he thought that he was too broken inside, too different for John to accept him, John proved him wrong. John was a blanket of warmth and safety that Sherlock had learned to rely on. Needing someone that way scared the living hell out of him but he was willing to take a risk with John and open himself more and more.
Sherlock didn’t believe in fate or coincidence because the universe was rarely so lazy. However, somehow a man whose broken pieces matched Sherlock’s broken parts appeared at just the right time in his life.
John caught up to him as they headed to climb onto the stage where Greg and Molly waited for them, and it was clear that a different kind of stress took the soloist over. John’s stage fright was unnecessary as he would rule the stage once the first sounds entered his ears. Sherlock had seen that many times they’d played before and John had never disappointed him. Knowing that, he gave John, the amazing and talented John, the encouragement he seemed to need.
When John had thought about playing a big concert before, he’d imagined stepping on stage after the sun had gone down, in front of a yelling crowd that would reach as far as the eye could see. What was in front of him now however, was completely different.
He stood behind Greg and Molly while Sherlock was at his back. All of them were still out of the view of the public but able to see the stage. Playing at noon meant not only were there people still lazing about on blankets in front of the stage, also there wouldn’t be the intimacy of darkness to add to the mood. Sherlock had been supervising from afar how their equipment had been placed on the stage in the morning and John could see now that it was just as it should be.
Their concert was to be the first on the Punk in Drublic Stage during the festival so before they stepped on the stage, the promoters were greeting everyone and saying a few words about the festival. One of them explained the last-minute change just last week and introduced Dissonance as a rising star of the London punk rock scene. The small crowd responded enthusiastically making Molly, Greg, Sherlock and him look at each other with delight.
John felt the buzz of excitement spike along with his stage fright as the speech was nearing the end.
“Give a shout and welcome: Dissonance!”
John straightened his back and forced his fists to loosen, getting ready to step into the proverbial spotlight as the sun was at its peak.
“You’ll crush it, John.” The whispered words in the baritone John knew so well sent a shiver down his spine. John heard the certainty in those words and he believed them. Sherlock’s closeness along with the words, seemed to allow his confidence to flood into John. It was something Sherlock did before every concert, since the first one they played on stage. It was a moment John adored and always waited for.
He could feel Sherlock’s breath on his neck as his friend lingered a moment longer. It would be so easy to turn his head and capture Sherlock’s lips, say thank you in the form of a chaste peck. It would be so easy ... He felt Sherlock’s hand brush his side and maybe it was just wishful thinking or maybe it happened, but John felt a ghost-like brush of Sherlock’s lips behind his ear, before he took the first step on the big stage. He shuddered at the mere thought of it and forgot such a thing as stage fright ever existed.
A battaglia, a military sounding drum melody started as Greg opened the concert. Tt tum ttttt tum of the drums beat the beginning until the sound of Molly’s bass joined in, following the same melody, adding the deep sounds of thick strings being expertly pulled. They continued the warmup that was the beginning of the first song at the same time.
John could feel the rumble that Molly coaxed out of her bass reverberate under his feet, just as he felt and heard the drum of the percussion behind him. The boards of the stage shook as if it was the savannah and a herd of antelopes was running nearby.
The beat hummed in John’s body a lot more intensely than it would have in a smaller venue and he knew he was ready. Seeing Sherlock put on his sunglasses as he sauntered to his place in the middle of the stage made him notice the blinding sun. He closed his eyes for a second, reaching into his pocket for his glasses as the sun shone in his face, and opened them once his own glasses were in place. Seeing the gleam of Sherlock’s green and black Ibanez, John reached for the Epiphone he had grown so used to by now and played a simple solo to tune it. Right after he was done, Sherlock did the same.
Consumed by the thrill of standing on the stage, blood pumping through their veins, they looked at each other and played their hearts out.
It had been Sherlock’s idea to start the concert with “War” and John was fine with it. With his chin held high and sun hitting his face, Sherlock sang the words that John had written as an outlet for his anger when he had been in Afghanistan. He had scribbled in his tiny notebook, small enough to fit in the side pocket of his fatigues. The day he’d written the lines of despair was the day a teenage boy had died in his arms.
The boy stood in front of his house, and thought he was protecting his family when he pointed a rifle at the British soldiers coming closer. They all yelled, in as many words as they’d learned before, that they were not there to hurt anyone but the boy refused to listen. He opened fire on them. Most of the men hid behind their Humvee but one of John’s brothers-in-arms responded to fire with fire. John immediately ran to the boy in hopes he could still save him, but it was too late. The boy mentioned something about his mother and that was the only thing John could understand. He nodded in agreement to the words, hoping it would bring some solace to the dying boy.
The grip on the rifle the boy was holding slackened only after he released his last breath. When it fell out of his hand and onto the sand it made a clattering sound. One of the trigger-happy members of his team fired and the bullet went through John’s shoulder.
He had known before that incident that helping people as a surgeon would lead to witnessing many nightmares a day, but seeing the wounded and being on the field while the young life was needlessly extinguished was a completely different level of horror. Nevertheless, he had been broken when he’d learned that he had been deemed unable for military service. Out there, he’d felt that could make a difference...
John had given the lyrics to Sherlock when they’d decided on a new song for the album. Since then he’d relived the horrors of that day with every concert but at least he knew that he had done his best then. Sherlock’s voice and the purity of the emotion with which he sang the anger John had felt that day were astonishingly accurate. John kept playing the chords, moving with the rhythm as his body was perfectly tuned to the music. His head was nodding while he was still remembering what inspired the lyrics before he had to stop as it was time for his solo. He preferred focusing his mind fully as he danced his fingertips on the neck of his instrument.
“Are you warming up?!” John asked the audience and was met with a chorus of “yeahs” and claps. “Great! That was ‘War’, the next song is called ‘Injustice’.”
Sherlock opened the song with the first few lines of lyrics before the instruments joined in on the song about the injustice of the judiciary system. Sherlock had written the lyrics under Greg’s strict supervision as it had been the drummer’s idea. Greg announced he was shit at poetry but he knew what pissed him off and would like them to have a song about it. The song had become quite the success at the concerts in London. John was sure that it had tickled Sherlock to write a song that could so easily refer to his brother and father’s business of shark soliciting. Greg was in his element, hands flying with his drumsticks hitting each drum perfectly and with an amazing speed. By now he’d shed his customary denim vest and even t-shirt, which explained the excited female yelp in front of the stage a moment before the song had started.
Molly’s song was the third on the setlist. She wrote the lyrics herself but refused to sing it even at Sherlock’s insistence. As usual, she did join in on the chorus, her voice synchronizing with John’s, Sherlock’s and Greg’s, adding a strong albeit higher touch to it. The song was about impoverished children in the world and how what was being done about it was not enough. She had travelled as a volunteer to third world countries after her first year at university so she was very familiar with the subject. The song was a cry for awareness. Knowing that one song won’t change the world, Molly wanted to at least make the few people who cared to listen think about the subject, maybe go home and research it. All of the band members used the lyrics as an outlet for their thoughts and emotions but also hoped to leave a mark on the subconsciousness of the listener, give a little push to ponder the ways of this world.
John’s heart clenched the moment they started playing “Enigma”, the song to which he had written lyrics soon after meeting Sherlock. The madman had stolen the paper with it from John’s desk and John had melted into compliance, agreeing to let him use it once he had heard Sherlock’s beautiful voice sing the lyrics written about the man himself.
I wasn’t looking when you found me and I dove against s ocial decree
The mystery of you permeated my being, the fall incredibly freeing
We ran together into the cesspool with every vibrating molecule
You are my enigma, I’m determined to crack you, to crush the stigma
He remembered clearly how he wanted to crack the code that was Sherlock Holmes and even now he knew that he had only scratched the surface below which the complicated man was hiding. John was still just as fascinated with Sherlock as he had been the day they’d met but now a lot of other emotions were added to the mix.
Sherlock’s neck strained with every line of text he delivered with astounding speed and precision, his body moving as much as he was able while glued to the microphone. His long legs were at a wide stance, right leg back, making space for the guitar, left leg forward with the foot tapping the rhythm. He behaved like he owned the place and was born to stand in the middle of the stage. He looked dark, angry and incredibly sexy.
The crowd below started to respond more and more enthusiastically; a group of people even knew most of the lyrics. In an attempt to see the audience, John had to squint against the sun but despite seeing little, he was able to spot several girls dressed in the same style Molly usually dressed in, tartan skirts and colourful hair pinned up.
The next three songs were written fully by Sherlock and John knew the lyrics by heart.
What would it be if not another nightmare
Another night devoid of rest
The obvious path taken in despair
When my beating organ already deliquesced”
Looking at Sherlock’s profile, the pain on his face as he shouted the words in anger, made John see them in a different light all of a sudden. His and Sherlock’s progression into “more than friends” territory changed the meaning of the words he was hearing now into something different from his first interpretation. Initially, John had hoped that Sherlock hadn’t been hearing when John would wake up from his nightmares but in time, he’d realised it couldn’t be a coincidence that every time he would wake up from one, Sherlock would be playing either classical music on his violin or a soft melody on guitar. The sounds of either instrument had always soothed John back to sleep or let him rest and calm down after the horrible dream. John felt narcissistic thinking the lyrics were about him but he continued playing and feeling the lyrics take on meaning in his head. Was the obvious path what Sherlock thought of John’s string of lovers? And was the beating organ his heart... oh Sherlock...
It was time to join in on the chorus and, with a spring in his step, John approached Sherlock's mic so they could sing together. Their faces were inches apart, their voices becoming one, their breaths mingling. John felt the tingling, the excitement of standing on a big stage with 3 talented people, one of whom was amazingly brilliant and standing as close to him as their guitars allowed him to. They seemed to share the energy the concert gave them, as if playing together accumulated it and made it more intense.
It was hard to smile and sing at the same time but John managed it just fine.
“Are you having fun?” John directed the question towards the enthusiastic audience who answered with a chorus of positive shouts and whistles. To Sherlock’s delight, the crowd grew thicker and louder the longer they played. John’s connection with people never ceased to amaze Sherlock. He looked so at ease on the big stage talking to a large crowd as he was cracking a joke. John had seemed so stressed before they had started playing, but as always, he’d quickly come into his element and his genuine likability won over each and every person looking in the direction of the stage.
With the increase of the amount of people on the grass below them, there was an equal spike of energy reflected in all the band members. It was an indescribable feeling; how all of them had to be in synch on stage, how they worked like a single living organism responding to one another with a tiny note, a feel, a glance as the music flowed through them, powering their movements. There had not been a single mistake made during the concert despite the added stress and different layout that the bigger stage came with.
The large long monitor speakers facing them blasted the sound of their music back at them and they had to depend on them to hear who was playing what. They had those on smaller stages as well but they could also hear the speakers their instruments were directly attached to. Right now, they were unable to see each other clearly, because of the large space between one another and the blinding sun. That atmosphere created a different style of dependency. Sherlock couldn’t just glance at Molly’s hand to see where her fingers were to make sure all of them were synched and about to play the bridge. Despite all that, they were at the top of their game.
Each of the songs they played had a different feel about it but Sherlock sensed all of the music and all of the lyrics inside of him. When he composed, he could see each sound as a colour, depending on the mood, the style and the lyrics. Molly’s song was bathed in warm colours with angry, fiery undertones whereas Greg’s was in shades of grey and white. John’s music and lyrics appeared in various blue tones ranging from very dark to the bright sky blue of John’s eyes.
Black and red colours entered his mind’s eye when he glanced at the setlist even though he remembered that “Solution” came next. He reached deep into himself to pull out the emotions that came with the lyrics as John opened the song with a simple solo. The side of Sherlock's right hand resting on the strings muffled the sound of the chord he played on a downward stroke. With another change of chord, his memories resurfaced. He remembered his last year at Eton, his first years at uni and meeting Sebastian just a few hours before.
“It was too easy for him to circumvent the consent
Putting you on the road to accessible seven percent
Down the rabbit hole of self-loathing
Uninterested in fortunate betrothing
Did you care if you lost your last brain cell?
Not knowing that was the descent into hell”
When the song was over, he was thankful for John’s casual chatting to the audience as it gave Sherlock a few seconds to unwind from the depths of the nightmares that he had experienced and which the song reminded him of. He glanced at John, at his friend, his flatmate, his rock; and immediately felt more grounded; as if the world that had been dark and gloomy the moment before in his head, was now full of light.
John announced the next song and it was a stark contrast to most of what they had on the setlist. It was John and Greg’s collaboration on a happier note about friendship and parties that included all of them singing together in a jovial tone, creating an air of camaraderie. After the first chorus and second stanza, John encouraged the crowd to join on the simple chorus again and, to Sherlock’s astonishment, more than half of the impressive crowd sang along.
At the end of the song, from the corner of his eye, Sherlock saw something fly towards Molly from the crowd. His first instinct was to run to her and see what it was, whether she was safe, as he was the closest to her. A moment later, she picked up a single red tulip and smiled as she sniffed it. She placed it on the floor to the side, careful not to step on it.
“Thank you.” She said simply to the microphone, waving to the crowd, the movement making her Joan Jett t-shirt ride up a little to the enjoyment of a part of the audience.
Sherlock turned to his right to see John share the same look of satisfaction, smirking. Molly had received a lot of attention since the very beginning of their career and it was nice to see the appreciation for each member of the band. Sherlock didn’t care much for the attention he was getting. Frankly, it was rather annoying. Now, even John seemed to steer away from the groping type of concert goers which made their new, fragile status as a still-secret couple work.
With a nod at Greg, Sherlock indicated they were ready for their final song on the setlist.
_ _ _ _
They came off the stage positively vibrating with excitement, running the few steps down to meet each other.
“That was amazing!” John exclaimed, not hiding how proud he was of the job they did on stage.
“Did you see the crowd by the end?” Molly’s grin was so contagious, John would mimic it if he wasn’t already smiling so widely his cheeks hurt.
“I haven’t!” Greg mumbled playfully. “But I sure heard them singing the chorus. I got chills. I’m moving the drums to the front to see it all next time.” He chuckled.
“Good luck with that.” Sherlock quipped, but his satisfied smile said all about how he thought the concert had gone.
The upside of being in a little-known band at a big festival was that they could all disperse among the crowd without being swarmed by people who wanted to talk to them. Back in London, they had started to feel the local fame and had spent the time after each gig with their fans and friends; some of those fans had become friends by now. Here, after a congratulatory clap of hands among them all and an obligatory group hug Molly had insisted on, they each had gone their separate ways. Even though they were close friends, other people travelled to see them play and spend time with them. They’d agreed to meet with the other bands at the after party in the evening. That left John and Sherlock, looking at one another, with few plans for the rest of the day.
Molly went toward the Dead Skunk Label stand to participate in selling their album. She was surrounded by her girlfriends, their clothes and hair making them quite the colourful bunch. They turned heads and received approving looks. Greg disappeared, as he always did, but John was sure he would pop back later to chat with the other drummers at the party.
“Hungry?” Sherlock turned to John.
“Starving! There’s a food stand by the funfair.”
“I hate those things.”
“You pay them so they can cheat you for something you could buy for far less at a regular shop.”
“Well yeah, but you’re paying for the fun.” John teased, driving an elbow into Sherlock’s ribs. Sherlock groaned and rolled his eyes but a small tug of the corner of his lips was clear as day.
“No John! Not hook-a-duck!” Sherlock skidded to a halt with a horrified expression on his face. “Let’s just go.” The black cloud of clothes that was Sherlock moved past the stand and towards the line for food. John had to jog a few steps to catch up to him.
“Oh loosen up, Sherlock. You don’t have to be moody and serious all the time. No one’s watching.” He placed a hand on Sherlock’s biceps so the man would turn towards him. Sherlock’s eyes went from John’s face to John’s hand which he promptly dropped, fighting against his inner need to touch the gorgeous stubborn mule.
“I’m not- Ugh, fine.” They walked alongside the funfair stands and John’s right hand itched to reach for Sherlock’s. When they were at home they could touch whenever they wanted, without the need to explain to anyone that they were just trying things out to see if their friendship could be more. They wanted to avoid telling everyone and then facing their friends’ pitying stares if it didn’t work out. When they carried their guitars, they were too preoccupied to even think of the logistics of holding hands. Now, however, they walked freely in a crowded place and it would be so good to feel Sherlock’s touch, feel Sherlock’s hand in his, to contrast with all the strangers brushing against them. Maybe someday... John forced himself to break the thought process as they approached a stand perfectly designed for him.
Sherlock looked at the colourful booth in which one had to shoot one duck for a keychain, two ducks for a small fluffy toy and five ducks to get one of the big toys hanging high. The theme of the prizes matched the event so they weren’t as horrible as Sherlock would have thought.
As if he was a gunslinger on the Wild West, John took a hold of the plastic gun and shot five ducks in a row. Sherlock’s eyebrows shot up from their own accord. He knew John had been a soldier but he’d never mentioned he was a crack shot. Sherlock took in John’s stance, feet apart, shoulders squared and eyes going from focused to crinkling at the sides and he lowered his arm. It happened so fast, Sherlock had mere moments to appreciate the sure movements as John’s whole body fell into soldier mode, then relaxed again. John turned to him then, a smug smirk on his face that made Sherlock want to kiss it; kiss the smirk, kiss John’s face, John’s whole body if he was allowed to.
“Whoa mate! Gimme that!” The young man on the other side of the stand, took the fake weapon from John and inspected it. Then he looked back at the ducks and glared at John.
“Pick your prize, Sherlock.” said John, his eyes never leaving Sherlock’s face, completely ignoring the befuddled man in front of them.
“What? Okay.” Sherlock’s eyes landed on a decorative skull and he pointed to it.
“We’ll take the skull, please.” John turned to the man who was tweaking the mechanism of the gun before he put the ducks back up.
“You can pick any of the bigger ones,” the man waved his hand above his head indicating giant stuffed bears and puppies. “You deserve it, mate.”
“Nah, we’re good with the skull.”
“Whatever. Here you go.” He handed the prize to John who took it and immediately handed it to Sherlock. With the skull half the size of its human counterpart in his palm, Sherlock shook his head at John but couldn’t help the chuckle that bubbled up from his chest. It wasn’t the worst memento as far as the cheesy pastime of the funfair went.
“And they say I’m the crazy one.”
“They’re all idiots.” John quipped with a smile as they turned to get a helping of unhealthy food.
They spent the rest of the afternoon watching concerts that took place on the same stage where they had played. Before 3pm they enjoyed The Interrupters with a mind-blowing female lead who made John hum “Take Back the Power” even after the concert was over. Then Lagwagon, Millencolin and Less Than Jake took the stage in that order, leaving the public more than ready for the two main stars of this stage. At 7.25 sharp, Brett and the gang graced the stage as Bad Religion. They played several classics from Recipe for Hate and Stranger than Fiction mixed with a few from their newest album Age of Unreason. John couldn’t imagine how comfortable they must feel on stage after decades of standing on it, recording albums and rocking the worlds of so many people all over the globe. Secretly, John hoped for a modicum of success; to have a taste of it at least but then somehow go back to the quiet normalcy they enjoyed now, just standing hand-in-hand with Sherlock amid the crowd. The energy coursing through John caused by hearing the familiar tunes prompted him to push further into the crowd where it got thicker.
The air was filled with loud music. “Sherlock!” he yelled back into the crowd before he lost his friend from sight completely. “Come on!” But Sherlock was already rolling the cuffs of his shirt up as he moved to follow him. They meandered through the thick crowd as if walking against the current of a river until there was no more space to move towards the stage.
They were still far from it when John turned to Sherlock and pointed his index finger up, grinning, feeling as if he was 16 again on a punk gig with his sister. Sherlock understood him immediately. Intertwining his own fingers at waist level, Sherlock formed a cradle into which John placed his muddy boot and pushed himself upward. The crowd did the rest and feeling hands on his arms and thighs, John was soon surfing the crowd on his back. He could see the stage a lot better and whooped a happy sound as he saw Sherlock surfing right next to him mere moments later. The setting sun, the loud music, and the crowd beneath him made John feel alive. Coming back to his roots, letting the crowd take him made him realise how free he finally was in his life. The one thing he really, truly needed was someone to share that freedom with. He turned to Sherlock again to see him being taken away further from him and he pushed to direct himself after his friend, closer still to the stage.
At the end of “Infected” John slid to the muddy ground and manoeuvred through the crowd until he could grab Sherlock’s shirt sleeve. The tall man was not hard to find even in a crowd such as this. The further from the stage they moved, the easier it was to stomp through the mud. The band said their goodbyes soon after and announced that NOFX was to play next, as the last band on the stage that night. The atmosphere quieted when Bad Religion got off the stage and John found himself grinning at looking at Sherlock doing exactly the same as they finally stopped walking all the way by the bar.
“I thought you’d be taller.” John turned to see a brown-haired man smiling at him.
“Hi, do I know you?” John’s grin faded to a polite smile as the expression on the man’s face suggested he was not a fan of his in the slightest.
“Mmmhmm you’re just his type.”
“Scuse me?” John felt the man’s gaze as it raked over his body in such a way, he instantly felt dirtier than his already sweaty and muddy self.
“I’ve heard all about 3 Continents Watson.” The man announced with a flirty smile that made John’s brows shoot up.
“What are you doing here?!” Sherlock’s voice boomed as his whole body transformed, taking on a predatory stance. John would burn from how hot Sherlock looked angry like that if not for the weird atmosphere surrounding the conversation.
“Do you know him, Sherlock?” John asked.
“Let’s go, John.” Ignoring the question, Sherlock turned to leave but the man was not giving up so easily.
“You always did go for the unreachable ones, the ones with an eye for the ladies. How very your type, but this one is smaller.”
“Piss off, Jim!” Sherlock spat and motioned for John to follow him. John, however was not moving until he knew what the fuck was going on.
“Jim?” John crossed his arms, eyeing Jim as the name rang a bell.
“Yes, Sherlock didn’t mention me? How rude.” Jim glanced at Sherlock with a theatrically shocked expression on his face, then turned back to John. “Don’t you know, you took my place in the band.”
“That’s not true and you know it. Dissonance wasn’t born until John joined us.” Sherlock’s venomous tone of voice made John want to step between the two men and whisk Sherlock away, far away from whatever drama came back to haunt him for the second time today.
“Of course. I’ll leave you two to live your fairy tale.” Jim waved his hand in dismissal and sauntered off. The light from overhead lamps made the studs on his belt gleam like teeth of a wolf that he appeared to be.
This chapter has explicit scenes. You can skip the ending where the scenes happen, if that is not your thing. However, this and all future explicit chapters are an integral part of the plot as well.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Come on, Sherlock. Molly and Greg are waiting for us at the after party.” John tried to keep his voice light, to calm the tension he could clearly see in Sherlock’s muscles and angry strut.
Sherlock didn’t answer, his jaw locked shut, but walked alongside anyway. John knew now was not the time to rile him up by asking about what the deal was between Sherlock and Jim. Instead, he decided they should have some fun with friends and postpone the myriad questions coursing through his head until later.
The official afterparty, available to the public started at 10 and was at Leeds University. However, they had been invited to the one organized for the bands, which was at a club a short walk from the festival grounds.
The sun had set when they reached the pub and checked with security to confirm that they were on the list. Sherlock seemed to be back to his normal, slightly moody, self when they entered. Greg and Molly were already waiting for them with a bunch of other people. Some of them John recognized as members of the bands who had played in the afternoon on any of the eight stages of the festival, and some were close friends who attended their concerts often.
“Here they are!” Greg waved a drumstick-holding hand at them. His other hand was wrapped around a beer bottle as he turned his attention briefly to the table full of people. He was sitting in a crescent-shaped booth, next to Molly who motioned the company to scoot over and make space in the middle for John and Sherlock.
“John Watson.” He introduced himself with a wave at everyone around the table then looked at Sherlock to coax a greeting from his friend.
“Sherlock.” If a wave could be sarcastic, this would be the word to describe what Sherlock did with his hand before he sat next to John in the tight space. Apparently, his mood was still far from the joyous man John had the pleasure of getting a glimpse of when they surfed the crowd not so long ago. Sherlock usually stayed aloof during the afterparties but John hoped he would warm up to the friendly crowd. However, he was afraid that the incident before was still weighing on Sherlock. There was something about the two unexpected meet-ups that made John’s hackles rise.
“So, Sherlock,” the guy next to John leaned over to place his face in Sherlock’s field of vision. “I’m Paul, by the way, Greg’s friend.” Sherlock nodded at that and continued listening. “Your song ’Solution’ is not about a solution to a problem, is it?”
“It is what you want it to be.” Sherlock answered politically, his voice level.
“Right, of course but the way you sing it, feels deeply personal... If I may be so bold to point out.”
“Yes, indeed, very bold of you.” Sherlock quipped.
“If you notice, Sherlock puts a lot of himself into singing and playing, it’s what’s so mesmerising when you watch him in the first place. I’ve heard quite a few people comment that they feel every word when he sings it and I completely agree.” John interceded.
“Yeah, that is true.” The guy seemed to think back to the concert before he continued. “There is something about his performance that is very unique.” Paul observed. From the corner of his eye, John saw Sherlock’s chin thrust just a tad higher at the praise but he said nothing. One could always hear the emotion pouring out of Sherlock when he sang and that phenomenon was undeniably amazing. “How did you guys start the band?” Paul continued directing the question to the both of them.
“I was the last to join actually.” John answered first.
“Right! Greg mentioned it. But seeing how you two are synched, it seems like you’ve been playing together forever.”
“Me and Sherlock?” John took a sip of one of the beers that Greg had just brought for everyone at the table. “There was something there and we immediately clicked. A spark that we can’t take credit for, it was just there.” John had to take another sip as he heard what he had just said and felt himself getting a bit hotter. Indeed, he and Sherlock had had something from the very beginning, not only musically speaking.
“Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself; but talent instantly recognizes genius.” * Sherlock said matter-of-factly, stunning everyone listening into silence.
“Is he always like that?” Paul raised an eyebrow at John.
“Yeah.” And I adore him for it, God help me, I do.
Listening to John admit to feeling the exact same thing Sherlock had the first time they had met, made him even more hopeful that he and John could work together as a unit on and off stage.
“You must be Sherlock Holmes.” A female voice broke into Sherlock’s thoughts. A petite brown-haired woman of about 20 placed a tray of beers on their table as she looked at him. Sherlock nodded in affirmation. “I’m a big fan.” She said putting a beer in front of John and a few others at the table before she leaned over to put one in front of him. Sherlock extended his hand to shake hers lingering in wait. Sherlock let go of her hand but she was still holding his, looking at his face. The motion resulted in their linked hands toppling John’s beer over. “Oh I’m sorry! Let me clean that!” She let go of Sherlock’s hand and took the set of napkins that lay on her tray. Blushing profusely, she started dabbing John’s trousers where a stain was quickly forming on John’s crotch.
Sherlock observed the incident. John was trying to bat her hands away politely, but she insisted on helping. He looked at Sherlock then with a helpless expression on his face.
“Thank you, I’m fine.” John took her hands in his and she looked up at him with wide, worried eyes. “It’s ok. I’ll go and change, don’t worry.” John’s soothing voice calmed her down and she nodded, finally backing away. Seeing that, Sherlock could understand how women fell over one another to get to John. Unlike Sherlock, John wasn’t afraid to show his gentle side and that clearly appealed to a lot of women. It was a good thing that Sherlock was not interested in women.
John leaned over to Sherlock’s ear, so he could be heard over the general noise of the club “I stink anyway,” he murmured as he was getting up. “I’ll be back in after I shower and change.” His hand was braced on Sherlock's thigh and the man felt a jolt of excitement at the touch when they were in such a public place. John must have felt it too, as his secret smile at Sherlock suggested. Quickly enough, he made his expression neutral as he straightened up to wave at the others by the table. Sherlock watched as the only person he was in the mood to talk to in this whole club left the premises.
“Excuse me,” Sherlock said as he stood up to leave the cheerful company of slightly tipsy friends. On his way to the loo, he rested his back against the wall and released a sigh. His mind could still see the shark-like smile of Sebastian Moran from that morning. The man had looked better than ever, elegant as always but more mature. Sherlock could almost taste the hatred for the man on his tongue. Even the crowd of the club, the people passing by him, didn’t distract him from linking the threads of the web that went between Jim, Sebastian and Irene.
The sound of his name being mentioned in a conversation nearby made Sherlock focus on the current events. Two women, just outside of his field of vision, were discussing Dissonance’s concert, clearly not caring if he heard them or not.
“Sherlock looked so different on stage, so open and emotional. Now, he looks like he is permanently lost in thought. He doesn’t look easy to talk to.” The fascination was clear in her voice and Sherlock knew she was one of the fans whose bedroom was just a taxi ride away. He listened, as he played with the small skull still in his hand.
“I’ve heard that he is different when John is around though. He seems less scary then.” The other one said clearly enough to be heard over the ruckus and music of the club.
“Yeah, Mandy, scary. I feel like he could look straight through me and see all my secrets.”
“And that’s bad?” smirked Mandy, clearly intrigued by the direction the conversation was heading.
“Depends. If he would want to fulfil what I have in mind when I look at him, then no.” The other woman giggled and Mandy promptly joined her.
“I’ve heard that he knows how to party, if you know what I mean.”
“Mmmhmm. A friend of mine went to uni with him. He told me all kinds of rumours.”
“I believe that. He looks so intense.”
“I wonder if he’s that intense in bed?”
“Or as angry and emotional as he is on stage?”
“Maybe we can find out?”
Sherlock didn’t move from his spot and a moment after felt a hand on his triceps. He schooled his expression before he turned around.
“Hello, I’m Mandy.”
John hurried through his shower as he wanted to spend some time with his friends in the club. Even so, it was an hour before he was back. There had been some things that needed his immediate attention. To his utter astonishment, Sherlock was in the same spot he had left him, in the booth at a round table. Molly and Greg were gone, instead two attractive women were sitting way too close to Sherlock for John’s liking. However, it was not the women that made John break into cold sweat. There were lines of powder on the table which kept disappearing into noses of the four guys that John had met when they had first arrived. Even from metres away, John could see the temptation in Sherlock’s eyes, the tic in his jaw as he looked at the table. One of the women waved a rolled banknote in front of Sherlock’s face. As if in slow motion, John could see Sherlock’s graceful hand reach for the banknote.
“Sherlock!” John didn’t remember moving, but he was by the table in a matter of seconds, taking the banknote to hurl it into the crowd behind him. Only then did Sherlock look up from the table and at him.
“John?” Sherlock’s face brightened when his eyes registered John’s presence. As much as it warmed John’s heart, he was not about to forget what had almost happened. He extended his hand and Sherlock took it, standing up from the table.
“Buzz-kill.” said one of the women who had previously been draped over Sherlock, giving John a stink eye look. “Where are you going Sherlock?”
“I need some air.” Sherlock replied without turning back.
Sherlock strode for the rear exit, pushed the door open and took a few more long steps before he stopped. John was on his heels, cool wind hitting his face as worry washed over him. He wanted to scold Sherlock, to yell at him for being stupid but he knew the man well enough to know that it would have the opposite of the desired effect. Instead, careful not to touch Sherlock, he moved closer and around his friend, to face him.
“Are you all right?” He asked in as neutral a tone as he could muster. Sherlock nodded once, his jaw set so hard it looked painful. “It must be hard for you-”
“I knew what I was getting into when we accepted the invitation for the afterparty. That’s normal.” Sherlock waved his hand in the direction of the club they’d just left. “I don’t have to take those anymore. I’ve been clean for over a year.” He looked at John then, and the anguish in his eyes broke something inside John. “But bloody hell, John, I really fucking wanted to.” His voice cracked at the end with unspoken pain and regret.
“Can I do something?” John felt helpless. “Whatever you need, just tell me, Sherlock.” John looked up at his friend, wanting to kill everyone who had ever hurt him and to erase all the pain so clearly visible on that gorgeous face.
“Kiss me, John.” the words were uttered so quietly John could barely hear them but they didn’t need repetition. His body found its way to mould against Sherlock’s just as his lips found the full lips of his friend.
Sherlock shuddered in his arms and John had a feeling it was not from the chill of the evening. He slid his hands under Sherlock’s leather jacket and up his back, holding him close as the kiss became deeper and hungrier. Sherlock kissed as if he was angry, as if he had excess emotion to rid himself of. John was the willing recipient of it, his lips taking the bruising kiss with eagerness. He held his friend tightly and let himself fall into the dark and alluring reality that surrounded Sherlock Holmes.
The need for John was overwhelming. The insane infatuation with the man, proved to Sherlock that he was still susceptible to drugs. John Watson was his drug. His touch was addictive, his taste sweet, his moans erotic, penetrating his senses as they kissed. He couldn’t get enough even after John pulled away.
“Sherlock?” John’s voice was coming through a haze of need. “Sherlock!” The sharp way with which his name was said for the second time, made Sherlock snap out of the dream state.
“John... don’t stop.” He pleaded wistfully into the night.
“Sherlock, I want you to focus, to look at me.” John’s demeanour became serious while Sherlock was still high on the kiss.
“I am.” He managed to nod.
“Are you all right?” John was clearly worried but Sherlock’s concern was focused on what John thought of his addiction, of his pull towards bad habits. He didn’t want to lose John, but he also didn’t want to hide from his best friend.
“I will be.” Sherlock reached for John again and his friend’s face turned from concerned to understanding, until a heated lust took over completely. A firm possessive hand landed on Sherlock’s hip and the other on the side of his neck. John kissed him hard and fast then whispered against his lips.
“Let’s just go.”
One nod from Sherlock was enough for them to leave. Grounded and feeling a lot more like himself, Sherlock took a lungful of the crisp night air.
They walked alongside each other in the dark. The music from the concerts still in progress, a hum in the air that created an invisible bubble.
It made them talk about their music and how the crowd seemed to be getting thicker with every gig they played. More people had known the lyrics and had sung them from in front of the stage. To know people listened to their music often enough to remember all the lyrics was a wonder but John could understand that. Sherlock’s lyrics were worth remembering, worth quoting, worth repeating.
No one could hear their conversation and no one could recognize them in the dark. John’s hand swung close to Sherlock’s as they walked and he had the urge to take it in his own, to feel Sherlock’s long fingers in his, to state the obvious in public. He deliberately brushed the back of his hand on the back of Sherlock’s to see his friend's reaction. As he dared not to look at Sherlock’s expression, he could only tell that his friend wasn’t shocked or overly opposed to the suggestion. Feeling hot from the anticipation, John steeled himself and reached for Sherlock’s hand...
A millisecond before touching Sherlock’s fingers, John panicked and grabbed the crook of his arm instead, feigning catching balance due to the darkness or whatever other lame excuse he could hide behind. He knew Sherlock would not buy that but it was beyond him to react differently. John didn’t let go of the arm as they walked, casually continuing the conversation while his heart thudded in his chest.
Sherlock desperately wanted to take John’s hand, following the not-so-subtle hint. Then the ex-army doctor, who probably had taken part in stakeouts at night, took his arm pretending he had almost tripped. Sherlock smiled at the confirmation John was just as excited as he was so he welcomed the touch and continued walking. He wanted to put his hands in his jacket pockets but refrained, fearing John would read it as him not wanting John’s hand where it was.
They talked about that morning’s concert and how well it had gone. However, Sherlock could tell that they were both more focused on John’s hand’s slow descent along Sherlock's arm than their conversation.
When Sherlock felt John’s fingers at his forearm, his adrenaline spiked to insane levels. His heartbeat a thudding rhythm in his chest, he looked around. They were in public, but amongst drunk concert-goers, and no one paid attention to them.
After what seemed like a torturously long time, John’s hand slid all the way down. Refusing to waste the opportunity, Sherlock closed his fingers around John’s palm. He had to close his eyes for a brief second to take in the warmth of the talented fingers resting in his grip. The fact that they were alone, in a city far from their hometown, made it somehow easier to take the big step. Sherlock loosened his grip and as if in a practiced move, their fingers intertwined. Warmth travelled from the place they were linked, along Sherlock’s arm and all the way to his chest. Did that mean John was officially his more-than-a-friend? Boyfriend?
He hoped John wouldn’t turn to look up at him because he would not be able to lose the smug, beaming grin that took over his face as he casually held John’s hand.
“We’re here.” John stated.
All of the bands had double rooms in the nearby hotels. This one wasn’t fancy but when they had gone to put their bags in the rooms in the morning, they had noticed that the rooms were clean and had everything one might need for a one-night stay. Their room, just like Molly’s and Greg’s had two single beds that stood two feet apart. John let go of Sherlock's hand with a pang of regret to get the plastic key-card out. He used it to open the lift in the hotel’s lobby and groaned as he looked in the mirror inside. “Bugger! I left my jacket in the club.”
“Go get it.” Sherlock replied stepping into the lift, a smile playing on his lips. “But be quick about it.”
John wanted to stay, to hold Sherlock’s hand during the short lift ride, maybe even steal a snog.
“Yeah. I’ll be right back.” At John’s words, Sherlock gave him a curt nod. John stood in place until the double doors of the lift closed and Sherlock disappeared from his line of sight.
When John entered the club, a set of questions the likes of “Where is Sherlock?” were thrown at him but he waved them away. He found his jacket in the booth where they had been initially sitting, grabbed it and hurried back.
He briefly wondered if Sherlock would be asleep and opened the door as quietly as he could.
“Fucking hell, Sherlock! Lock the door when you’re wanking! Jeeezus...” John averted his gaze but found himself looking again. Sherlock’s hair was wet, droplets of water were still visible on his body. He was freshly showered and lying on one of the two single beds, naked with his legs bent and parted, his cock hard. He looked as if he was posing for an 19th century erotica photograph; kinky yet beautifully tasteful. John could feel his whole body responding to the view. His breathing quickened, his face heated and his skin tingled with the sudden hit of arousal.
“There’s no latch on the door. Besides, I’m sure you didn’t bother thinking of locking up when you came to shower and wank.” Sherlock deadpanned.
His eyes roamed over John’s body and a low growl vibrated in his chest. Despite John’s interruption, Sherlock didn’t stop his ministrations. His hand was slowly sliding up and down his cock, teasing. The thumb of his right hand was flicking over his slit and spreading the precome. Sherlock’s face was flushed and his eyes were locked on him. John swallowed hard, his lips suddenly went dry and he had to lick them. He had to lick... His brain frantically looked for something to say.
“You’re not even watching porn,” he waved his hand indicating the small telly mounted on the wall. Why he hadn’t just turned around and left the moment he saw Sherlock on the bed, he didn’t know but he couldn’t look away now.
“Don’t be ridiculous John,” Sherlock’s low voice chided him and John found himself taking a step forward. “Why would I watch porn when I have you?” Sherlock’s smirk defied the blush spreading on his cheeks.
John couldn’t breathe.
“Have you seen yourself on stage, John?” Sherlock continued, his hand never ceasing its motion. “The way you emanate confidence, the way your face reddens when you sing, the way your arse looks when your right leg is forward and your jeans become so tight they could rip... You are magnificent. And I get to see that every evening from the best seat in the house. So let me ask you again, why the hell would I watch porn?”
John sputtered. Blood travelled from his brain, heading lower, leaving him speechless, and mindless. There was only one thing catching his gaze; Sherlock’s hand in its slow glide on his own cock. John released all the air from his lungs and something akin to a moan echoed through the room. He faintly realised it was him who had made the sound. His mouth watered and he took a step forward as if hypnotised.
“John?” the one-word question carried surprise.
“Sherlock...” John whispered the name like a prayer for water on a desert.
“J...John? What are you-”
“I need to taste you,” he looked up at Sherlock’s face before he continued. “Will you let me?”
There was a pause, as if the world stood still, the particles in the air stopped moving and the tension built so much, it was palpable.
“Yes.” Sherlock released a shuddering breath, squeezing his cock below the glans, his eyes never leaving John’s face.
John responded as if he was caught in a lasso and had no other choice than to move towards Sherlock. He approached slowly, tentatively placing his palm on Sherlock’s shin and following the leg up with his fingertips. God, he hadn’t realised how much he wanted to touch Sherlock until he had finally had the privilege. Now he was about to cross a new boundary. The muscles on Sherlock’s legs tensed and he arched slightly, resuming the glide of his hand on his cock. When John reached to place his hand over Sherlock’s, his gaze never wavered from his friend’s face; looking for any sign of protest. The singer’s hooded eyelids and quickened breath told him everything he needed to know.
John climbed onto the bed and situated himself between his friend’s slightly parted legs. He took a moment to take in the surreal dream in front of him. Sherlock’s chest was rising and falling, making his tattoos move, the piercings in his nipples shine invitingly. The muscles of his right forearm and arm were tense from the grip he had on his cock. Sherlock was observing him from under long lashes and hooded eyelids, waiting for John to make the first move.
Holding Sherlock’s gaze, John lay on his front bracing himself on his elbows. With flattened tongue he licked over the top of Sherlock’s glans, tasting the precome and growling at the new taste.
He could hardly believe that Sherlock was letting him do this. It made him feel special, like he must have done something right for Sherlock to be so accepting. John had never been intimate with a man before, yet his body and mind yearned for the experience with the only man, the only person, who had ever evoked such strong emotions and physical needs in him. At first, John just sucked on the tip and worked Sherlock’s cock with his hand over Sherlock’s but he wanted more, he needed more. His gaze followed the expanse of porcelain skin of Sherlock’s abdomen and chest until it locked on his friend’s sultry smile.
John took Sherlock’s hand off the cock they were both stroking and placed it on his head. Sherlock took the hint, gripping the short hair on John’s nape. The gentle tug sent shivers down John’s spine. Sherlock placed the other hand under his own head, still watching John intently with a look that made John’s body melt but his cock stiffen even more.
He sucked Sherlock’s length slowly into his mouth, one hand holding it steady. John swirled his tongue on the singer’s frenulum eliciting a moan and a tightening of the hand on his nape. He let is hand slide to caress his friend’s heavy sac. Sherlock was responding to John’s touch with vigour that John’s own cock wanted in on the action. He had to force himself not to rut against the bed in search of friction.
He took more of Sherlock’s cock with each slide up and down, trying to recall what had been done to him before in order to replicate the things he’d liked. Hollowing his cheeks, he started sucking mercilessly. The sounds Sherlock made were getting louder and more erotic than anything John had ever heard in his life. The baritone of Sherlock’s voice made his groans sound sultry to the point John wanted to prolong this play just so he could hear more.
He revelled in the new sensations of the soft skin over the steely erection in his mouth, of the fact that it was Sherlock that was under him, surrendering the intimate parts of his body to John. It was an exhilarating feeling, being in power while giving pleasure to the man whose looks were just as stunning as his brilliant brain. John explored more, flicking his tongue over Sherlock’s frenulum as he sucked. Sherlock’s moans at the sensation made John’s body respond and creep closer to its own pleasure.
John was so lost in the feel of Sherlock in his mouth that he felt drugged with desire, not focusing on what he was actually doing. The more suction he applied, the more John’s cheeks ached. He was very careful to avoid scraping the singer’s cock with his teeth, but he was hurting the inside of his lips in the process. Sherlock was definitely enjoying the experience which sent thrills through John, but he had never realised how much there was to coordinate from the giving end of things. The moans coming from Sherlock made it all worth it.
Thinking back on his own experience and medical knowledge, he decided to rely on it a bit more. Tentatively, observing Sherlock’s flushed face for any signs of protest, John slid two fingers under Sherlock’s sac and massaged the sensitive spot there. John’s name came out of Sherlock in a cry of pleasure. At the same time, Sherlock arched at the sensation, pushing his cock into John’s mouth until it hit the back of his throat. John hadn’t anticipated the reaction and his eyes watered as he tried not to gag. Just a little over half of Sherlock’s cock was in his mouth and he had to pull away slightly and focus on breathing through his nose not to break the rhythm too much. Sherlock’s hand tightened on John’s hair initially, but then let go completely to grab the sheet next to his hip. He gave John a way out without asking him to stop. That thoughtfulness alone made John even more resolute to give the best blow job an inexperienced man can give another man.
When he was recovered from the thrust into his throat, he inched his fingers towards Sherlock’s perineum again, bracing himself for Sherlock’s hips to move again. To his surprise, Sherlock’s grip on the sheet tightened but he held his hips in place. Emboldened, John slid his fingers in the tight crease between Sherlock’s cheeks. It was the wrong position to do it comfortably, but John was excited enough not to let that deter him from his mission. He continued his suction, pressing his fingers, massaging behind Sherlock’s balls.
“Jooohn...” The strangled moan that left Sherlock’s lips sounded like a plea and a warning at the same time. John knew what was coming but he wasn’t sure if he was ready for it. Thankfully, the decision was made for him, when he felt Sherlock’s hand in his hair again, pulling his head up. John released Sherlock’s cock with a loud pop just before it twitched with release. His hand moved gently over Sherlock’s cock, coaxing the orgasm out until the end.
John watched as the white spurts adorned Sherlock’s abdomen and his hand. It was by far, the most erotic thing he had ever seen in his life. Sherlock’s beautiful face was bathed in ecstasy but his eyes were open and focused on John, his parted lips repeating John’s name like a prayer.
Acting on impulse, John licked the sensitive tip first, making Sherlock hiss at the touch. Then he looked at his friend. The man’s satisfied gaze and flushed cheeks made John proud that he was the reason Sherlock looked so thoroughly fucked just from his mouth and hands. Holding his friend’s gaze John licked the come off his hand on in languid movements, unsure what prompted the idea other than him following his instinct. He was hit with a new, unfamiliar taste and moaned, eliciting a similar sound from the man beneath him.
Sherlock's gaze flicked to John’s groin where his cock was pressing to be released from the denim cage.
“I want to see you come, John.” Sherlock finally regained his ability to speak rather than just moaning John’s name. The words were spiked with seductive command, the voice silky, yet firm.
“You won’t mind?” John croaked, overwhelmed by the need for his own release.
“Not at all,” his friend replied but John was already sliding the black and white checked braces off his shoulders. With efficient movements, he pulled the zipper down and slid his underwear along with the jeans to his mid-thighs.
The primal need in him made all barriers of propriety crumble to dust. John freed his cock and with a groan and gripped it in his hand. Sherlock’s chest heaved just as his own had when he started stroking. He widened his legs, still kneeling in between Sherlock’s open ones, to gain better balance.
John looked at his friend, at his perfect lips, slightly parted now and imagined sliding the tip of his cock along the bottom lip before asking for entrance inside. Not today though, today he wanted to see Sherlock’s reaction. He was intrigued and aroused but was he apprehensive as well? Sherlock’s low sexy voice purring John’s name stopped his internal monologue. John felt his orgasm building fast as he tightened the grip he had on his cock and stroked in earnest, focusing on Sherlock’s perfect full lips and his eyes looking right through him, seeing him for who he was. John had been close to coming in his pants while he watched Sherlock orgasm, now he knew it was just a matter of a few strokes.
“Come for me, John.” John felt the baritone reach his bones. A zing of electricity touched his spine and John arched into his own hand, stroking harder.
His right hand reached to graze his own nipple through his shirt, before he gripped it hard and twisted. He groaned Sherlock’s name in the process as more heat pooled in his abdomen. Looking at Sherlock’s come on his belly and chest, he wanted to add his own. He wanted to mark Sherlock as his, at least temporarily. Just for this night, just for this moment.
“Now.” Sherlock growled. The sound of the command made something click inside John and he barked a series of incoherent noises. He was looking at his friend’s flushed face as he came, his body tingling, his mind reeling. The sound of Sherlock’s name on his lips echoed in the room as John’s hand was pumping hard to send the white ribbons of his spunk all over the singer’s chest, painting him. The orgasm felt as if all the tension and sexual frustration was being drained from him, all negative emotions being thrown out of his body. Only warmth and Sherlock remained. He was completely spent from his amazing orgasm. He wasn’t sure, after that, if he could survive an orgasm if it were coaxed by Sherlock’s long-fingered, perfect hands rather than his own, let alone his hot, smart mouth.
The sight of John’s come mixed with Sherlock’s made him smile and he let go of his cock to trace a finger through it, mixing it more.
“Fuck Sherlock, I adore the sight of my come on you.” The honesty of the crude words struck John himself. “Does that bother you?”
“No.” Sherlock replied in a dreamy voice, clearly still incapable of uttering long sentences.
John followed a new need again, not analysing his movements, just acting. He leaned in and, starting from a tiny lick of Sherlock’s over-sensitized half-flaccid cock, he licked the trail of the white fluid. Sherlock inhaled sharply, the initial shock quickly morphing into approval. John was licking the muscles of Sherlock’s abdomen clean, tasting the come, not knowing where Sherlock’s taste ended and his own began. He traced his tongue over the tattoo on Sherlock’s collarbones then moved to flick it over the piercing in Sherlock’s right nipple. Several profanities escaped Sherlock’s lips when John’s tongue reached the other piercing, then lower again, finishing his clean-up.
Sherlock’s hand was in his hair again, gripping at the nape and John was pulled up towards Sherlock’s awaiting lips.
“Give me your mouth, John.” came a harsh rasp.
He did. Dear God, he did. John would have given him a lot more in that moment had Sherlock only asked. John was gone; there was a pool of want in his place as he finally reached his friend’s lips with his own. Much like their music, the kiss was aggressive, but soon the song changed and the melody of their tongues became a slower one, sensual and comfortable. Familiar.
Sherlock’s other hand gripped his buttock and pulled him down, making his cock slide over the leftover stickiness on Sherlock. John didn’t mind, and he plastered himself to his friend, relishing in the feel of their bodies so close together on the tiny bed.
He broke the kiss to lick Sherlock’s jaw then his neck and place his head on Sherlock’s arm. Not a minute passed when Sherlock moved them so that John was on his back and Sherlock was the one snugging into him. John reached to pull a sheet over the both of them. He wrapped his arms around his friend and closed his eyes. His breathing was even and matched the whispering breaths on his neck.
*Quote from "The Valley of Fear" by Arthur Conan Doyle