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There was blood on Sherlock's mouth.

John took in the whole awful scene in a sweeping glance from the top of the cellar stair: the kicked-in door, the overturned chair, and Sherlock. Sherlock on his back on the filthy cellar floor, half-sprawled on his bound hands, muttering a low-pitched, unintelligible babble; crosses of black tape over his eyes, his lips pulled back into a snarl. But the worst of it was the sluggish trickle of blood out of Sherlock's left nostril and over his upper lip, and Sherlock unable to wipe it away.

John's face must have shown how horrified he was, because Dimmock spread his hands defensively. "We tried. Don't you think we tried? We haven't been able to get close enough. His feet are free, and he's got an amazing range, and he's very strong and thinks we're evil aliens or something. Falconer got bitten."

Why did they let Lestrade take vacations? It wasn't fair.

At John's footstep on the stair, Sherlock snarled, making the clot over his lip move horribly. He rolled to his belly and pushed up on his knees, blinded face tracking John's movements. John backed up a step. "What d'you reckon they've dosed him with?"

"Stimulant, hallucinogen -- could be any of a dozen cocktails, really. If we knew who, that'd be a step toward knowing what."

"What are we going to do, then?"

"Two choices," Dimmock said, "both of them bad." Sherlock was clearly aware of the open stairway, but he seemed to have some aversion to that part of the room. Instead he picked an adjacent piece of wall and began slamming his shoulder into it, growling, over and over. John couldn't bear to look at him. "I've called for reinforcements. Five or six of us could subdue him, put him out so we could get him to hospital. Wouldn't have to do any permanent damage, probably."


"Half, three-quarters of an hour, he passes out. We wait."

Sherlock subsided against the wall, panting. The exertion had started his nose bleeding again. He wiped his face irritably against his shoulder.

"Right," said John, shrugging his coat onto the stair. "Let's try option three."

Sherlock fell into a defensive crouch when he heard John approaching. Drugged as he was, he retained enough of his training to present his shoulder as the best defense for a man with tied hands.

"Sherlock, it's me," John said, though by now it was pretty clear that nothing was getting through.

The crosses of black electrical tape were nauseating, especially in combination with Sherlock's gory mouth and the swelling on his forehead. He angled his face this way and that, trying to keep John in front of him, amazingly alert under the circumstances.

One more "Sherlock," one more chance to do this peacefully, and then John moved fast. As soon as he was in reach, he pushed Sherlock's chin up sharply with one hand, just enough, he hoped, to leave him a bit confused and off balance. In almost the same motion, he pivoted in under Sherlock's center of gravity, bringing the back of his shoulder under the front of Sherlock's, and backed one leg between Sherlock's longer ones. A kick-and-twist with that heel, an unbalancing jab of his hip into Sherlock's pelvis, and Sherlock's weight was briefly on John's back and then off, John following him down just a split-second too late to stop his head from hitting the floor.

John tangled their legs, leaned his weight hard on Sherlock's heaving torso, and considered his options. Sherlock had managed to deal him a bruise on the side of the head and a scrape on the shin that felt as though it was bleeding. John looked down at where Sherlock was snarling, panting, still trying to get his feet under him for another round, and suddenly he couldn't bear that trickle of blood for one more second; knowing a sentimental impulse like this one would probably get him another knock in the head, he pulled his the sleeve of his jumper over his hand and began wiping the clotted mess away.

Sherlock froze. Tension vibrated through his body where John's weight was on him.

After a second, he said in a ruined voice, "John?"

"Yeah, Sherlock. It's me." He kept on wiping.

Sherlock's nostrils flared, and then his whole frame relaxed. "John. The Ogilvies --"

"We know. The Yard's on it. Shh." John picked at a corner of one piece of tape near the bridge of Sherlock's nose. Sherlock flinched but didn't struggle as John peeled up the edge and yanked, revealing his eye, bloodshot, dilated, blackened on one side, but fairly rational.

"I should have known you'd come," Sherlock said.

"Almost wasn't in time."

"Close enough," he said, and closed his eye again.


"Out like the proverbial light." The doctor was a big red-faced fellow with a Northern accent; John had met him, but couldn't remember his name at this hour of the morning. "Might be a good time for you to have a lie-down, as well. Next door's got an empty bed."

But as soon as John stood up, Sherlock began to frown, then to mutter, and then to struggle, even under heavy sedation. His jerky movements threatened to pull the IV out.

John sat back down, and Sherlock calmed.

John's eyeballs felt as though they'd been sanded, and reality was jangling in stop-motion. He felt he'd give anything to be horizontal and unconscious. Almost anything.

He stood up again. Sherlock's slack features drew into a frown again, his head turning one way and another on the thin hospital pillow.

John pulled the bloodied jumper over his head and stuffed it between Sherlock's head and the side rails.

It was probably rank, between John's sweat and Sherlock's blood, but Sherlock calmed immediately, and his face relaxed.

"Dunno about your taste in security blankets," John said.

The spare bed was right next door. John could hear anything that happened. He tumbled onto the bed, eyes already falling shut.


"I knew you by scent, naturally." Sherlock's voice was still painfully hoarse; the swelling on his forehead had bruised, and removing the tape had made his blackened eye bleed just at the crest of his right cheekbone, not to mention pulling out most of the center of that eyebrow, but he'd been worse off. It wasn't even strange, seeing him wandering about the flat all bruised and bandaged, which probably should have worried John.

"Got that, yeah, thanks. Otherwise I might have needed disinfecting, like Falconer." He dodged Sherlock, who was leaning on the counter in just the right spot to be in the way of anything John tried to do in the kitchen, and set the kettle down. "Wouldn't have thought you'd know my smell; not as though we spend a lot of time in smelling distance of one another." He had to dodge Sherlock again to get mugs, idly noting the whiff of disinfectant that meant Sherlock for once wasn't ignoring medical advice about the cut under his eye --

Disinfectant, hair gel, dry-cleaning fluid, something musky-perfumy that was probably deodorant, and a clean body smell that he would have recognized as Sherlock's even, yes, with tape over his eyes.

"Huh," he said to Sherlock's smirk, and went off to drink his tea.


It wasn't the worst kind of nightmare, partly because somehow he knew it was a nightmare without quite being able to free himself from it, but it was disturbing: unfamiliar shadows, moving lights, a conviction of danger; hands too shaky to punch in a phone number, terrible threat if he made noise calling for help. If he could move, he could wake himself up. He tensed every muscle, straining everything, to no avail --

A sudden certainty of safety sent a pulse through his dream, relaxing him and waking him all at once. "Sherlock," he said, and opened his eyes.

Sherlock was sitting on the bed beside him, still in his dressing gown. He had placed one hand on the far side of John's head, putting his forearm and elbow near John's nose and mouth. Good way to pull someone out of a nightmare, actually. Far better than touching or talking, which John knew all too well could have very bad consequences. "Er. Thanks," he said.

"You were making noises," Sherlock said, defensively, moving to withdraw his arm. John could smell him consciously now, and it was funny how the underlying hint of mortuary chemicals didn't make it any less comforting. He grasped Sherlock's hand to stop him pulling away.

Sherlock took a breath, no doubt to demand that he account for himself. Driven by something he couldn't have explained, John sat up and kissed him on the mouth.

It was tentative, at first. A brush and cling of lips -- a declaration of intent, perhaps, or a request for permission. And then Sherlock inhaled and pressed back, softening into it.

Kissing Sherlock. Christ.

In a single motion, Sherlock cupped a hand over John's nape and pulled back just enough for John to see his face in the dim light. "How did you know I wouldn't hurt you?"

"You did hurt me." He tugged the sheet off his leg to show the row of plasters that covered the scrape on his shin.

Sherlock stroked his fingertips up alongside it, where the skin was reddened but not broken. "Hah, yes. Good to know I didn't forget my training." His fingers kept moving upward, over John's knee and up his thigh, against the grain of the hair, slow and exploratory. John's breath caught audibly. He could feel Sherlock's gaze like another hand as Sherlock's eyes tracked his own fingers up John's leg and continued on: up where John's shorts were distorted by the line of his cock, further to his rising and falling chest, his hot face. "Oh," Sherlock said, a little breathless. "Oh, you want me."

John wet his lips. "Yeah."

Sherlock took John's hip in a nice firm grip, and John only arched into it a little bit. "Is that why?"

"Why what?"

"Why you could come into that cellar to me when Dimmock and his trained monkeys didn't dare."

"Dimmock's a bit afraid of you even when you're in your right mind." John touched his fingertips lightly to the inside of Sherlock's elbow. Truth was, when he'd seen Sherlock on the cement floor, he'd acted without thinking -- with the sensation that the situation didn't require any thinking. "Look. You were hurt. You were bleeding. It was long odds you'd throw anything at me that I couldn't stand, but if you'd tried, I knew I could stop you." Following the line of Sherlock's biceps led him up to shoulder, collarbone, neck. He gave a gentle downward pull -- enough talking. When Sherlock didn't take the hint, John clarified: "It is something doctors know how to do, you know."

"Immobilize the violent?"

"Stop people getting too damaged. Including ourselves."

Sherlock's eyelids flickered, and slowly, slowly, he followed the direction of John's pulling hand, down to lie beside him. His eyes didn't fall shut until the moment their mouths touched.

It wasn't tentative, this time, but hungry. Sherlock's hand came up to press at the hinge of John's jaw, and it made John want to open his mouth wider, taste more of the almost-familiar flavor of Sherlock's mouth. Could they get rid of some clothes, now? Was it allowed? He pushed the dressing gown off Sherlock's shoulder, and Sherlock shrugged it off impatiently, kissing deeper, harsher, but when John got his hand under Sherlock's T-shirt onto the warm skin of his side, Sherlock broke off, eyes shut, hovering in the air above him, with a flush on his cheekbones and his beautiful mouth hanging open. Emboldened, John went in the other direction to grab his arse through his pajamas, and he exhaled hard and pushed down to lie at full length on John's body.

Yes; god yes. John pulled him closer still, the whole warm length of him pressing John down to the bed, his cock hard against John's hip -- pulled him even closer, canting his left leg sharply to keep the injured shin out of harm's way as the kissing began to get sloppy, just the way he liked it.

"Oh." Sherlock followed John's bent leg with his hand, pulling it to wrap around his side, rolling his hips sharply into the new angle of their bodies. It wasn't difficult to follow his line of thought. "John. Would you?"

He didn't, much, but -- "Yeah."

Sherlock's fingers crept inward, and if they'd taken five seconds to get naked before they got all tangled up like this -- "But you don't like it," Sherlock said, which was a stupid conclusion to draw when John's hips were twisting restlessly trying to get his fingers to move.

"I -- sometimes it's a little -- but with you, yeah, yes, definitely."

Sherlock made a face that was almost a grimace. "Oh, god, I don't even know how and I want that." John raised his hips, and Sherlock's thumb made contact through his shorts, and John gasped. "I'll -- you shouldn't let me," Sherlock said, even as one hand tilted John's hips into position and the other continued taking him apart with touches that were just that close to being enough. "You shouldn't -- I don't know how not to hurt you --"

"Shh. Here. I'll show you. And get these damned clothes off."

He shoved his own shorts off while Sherlock shed clothes in a violent hurry. By the time Sherlock lay down again, John had finished his fumbling and was ready to grab Sherlock's hand and fill it with a noisy squirt of lube.

"Yeah," he sighed at the first touch of Sherlock's finger. "Yeah, just like -- wait, not yet, just -- stroke, yes, you'll feel when I'm ready -- all right, stop." Sherlock reared back, shocked, and John put a gentling hand on his arm. "Condom."

Sherlock complied without even complaining and rolled into position on top of him, face gone red, mouth open. He hefted John's injured leg all the way onto his shoulder, turning his face to nuzzle crazily against the row of plasters.

"Slow," John warned. From the look on Sherlock's face, he might not even be hearing John any more. John remembered liking it hard and fast, once upon a time, but realistically, after this much time gone by ... he braced his hands and thighs to be ready to control the speed of Sherlock's hips by force, if necessary.

But Sherlock was following his lead for a change, leaning with just the right amount of steady pressure, squeezing his eyes shut. "Tell me when -- tell me tell me tell me," he said in a voice that was almost all breath.

John could feel himself opening all at once -- god, so strange; he'd almost forgotten what that felt like. Sherlock drew in a noisy gasp. "Oh! does it hurt?"

"Yeah," John sighed, but, oh, god, it was amazing. "But not too much. Slow, Sherlock, seriously, it's been years --"

For a long moment they just breathed into it, and then Sherlock shifted. He was watching John narrowly -- looking for confirmation, ready to read a yes or a no on John's face, and christ, that was hot. "Yeah," John said. "Yeah, a little more. It's good."

"Do you want me to touch you?"

"Maybe in a bit. Do you like it?"

Sherlock looked at him, wide-eyed, open-mouthed, stunned. "What? Yes!" But now his confidence was coming back, and he began to move, easy, experimental. "Like that? That?"

"God." A shift in angle robbed John of his breath for a second. "Oh, jesus, I want it so much."

Sherlock grinned breathlessly, watching, watching, lip caught in his teeth. He got hold of John's hip with one hand and lifted, rolling John's weight back onto his shoulders, and breathed, "What do you need?"

"Like that, hold me right there," John bit out. When he took his cock in his hand, Sherlock's hips stuttered, hard. "Yes."

"John --"

Something hurt, just a quick pang out in the unimportant extremities of his body, but he was close, he was close, he was right there, and fuck, Sherlock, Sherlock was watching him come.

When he could speak again, the first thing out of his mouth was, "Oh, god, you're good." He was probably going to be sorry for feeding that giant ego, but he couldn't seem to stop grinning. He reached up and flicked Sherlock's hand where it was gripping his shin and squeezing down on the scrape -- that must have been what that small pain was, before -- and Sherlock moved his hand and then pulled in a hard breath through his teeth.

"You, now," John directed, and, oh, Sherlock liked that tone of voice. That had potential. "Yeah, it's still good. Do it, Sherlock, come now."

Sherlock turned his head to one side, bit down on a wail and turned it into an "Nnnn," and John whispered, "Yeah," because he could feel him coming and it was amazing.

Sherlock held himself up for a moment, head hanging, breathing hard, and then he maneuvered himself down along John's side -- uncoordinated and graceless as he hadn't been even drugged out of his mind with his hands tied behind his back. John wrapped him up with both arms and one leg, feeling a swell of affection for the great gawky creature, and Sherlock raised himself up again and cast a sharp look on John's scraped leg. Probably bleeding again. Stinging, anyway.

Sherlock's body tensed minutely. "I've made a mess of this."

"Yeah? Get the plasters, then, would you?"

And Sherlock actually did, coming back from the bath with the box and the antiseptic ointment. He sat down naked in the dim light from the hallway and bent his dark head, removing the ruined plasters in sticky lumps and tossing them on the floor. The sight made something in John's belly go soft and melted.

"This endeavor," Sherlock said softly, without raising his head, "is doomed to fail, you realize."

"You think so?" They were back in the positions that had started all this -- John lying back, still a bit breathless, Sherlock bending over him in the half-darkness.

"John." Sherlock sounded irritated. "You know me."

"Yeah. I do," John said.

Sherlock raised his head from the plasters and gave John a long, unreadable look, but he didn't say anything.

"Worth a try, though," John said, giving his knee a shake to refocus Sherlock on getting everything covered up before John bled on the sheets. "Don't you think?"

Sherlock's eyes shifted focus; should have known he wouldn't mouth a conventional untruth, would have to give even a question like that some serious thought. At last he looked back at John, and his mouth quirked. "Yes. Yes, I think so."