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John has long accepted that, for a gay man, he has woefully inadequate gaydar. He blames it on ten years spent in the army: plenty of the gay men were playing straight, and the vast majority of the straight ones were quite willing to at least lend a fellow soldier a helping hand when things were hard. John’s ability to infer other people’s sexual orientation from subtleties of dress, demeanor, or even deportment during the act of sex has been permanently scrambled. He will go so far as to say that a bloke who takes it in the arse like a trooper may be straight but isn’t a stickler about it; beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess.

There are exceptions, of course. Harry, for example, has exuded such a miasma of virility and vigor since puberty that even John found her long, miserable trajectory into Hemingway-like epics of drinking, womanizing, and wearing well-tailored linen unsurprising, if heart-breaking.

And there is Sherlock. Granted, John did ask if there was a girlfriend, but his grasp of reason – indeed, of reality – was somewhat curtailed at the precise moment the question crossed his lips. He had, in the course of a single evening, been rocketed out of what he can now admit to himself was a potentially life-threatening depression by the shock of meeting the most bizarre, brilliant, beautiful man that probability can possibly permit to exist. From the first fervent yes as Sherlock loomed over him, enticing him with violent death and sudden danger, until the moment he dropped breathlessly into the window seat of Angelo’s restaurant, John’s world had been picked up and shaken around like a snow globe; things were still swirling wildly, and he could be excused for not seeing what was, in retrospect, spectacularly obvious.

“A girlfriend? No … not really my area … ”

Oh. Oh. John would have blushed for his own stupidity if every milliliter of his blood weren’t stampeding for his crotch. Everything about Sherlock – his artfully arranged curls, his carefully smoothed brows, his perfectly polished complexion, his ludicrously lush mouth – simultaneously inflamed John’s desire and affirmed that Sherlock was an appropriate object for that desire. Even if Sherlock never indulged in sex at all, it gave John a visceral stab of pleasure to know that the kind of sex Sherlock didn’t indulge in was the kind that John was signally failing to have, too … the kind where two cocks slid against each other, stiff and strong, and two flat chests smeared over each other slick with sweat, and two low harsh voices counterpointed each others’ groans and grunts.

All of which, perhaps, goes some way to explaining why John was so blissfully unsuspecting when Sherlock whirled into the sitting room at ten thirty on a Saturday night, a razor-thin line of jet black suit relieved by a slash of plum-red shirt and a flash of pale throat and collarbones.

“Going out,” Sherlock announced, twisting round until he spotted his coat thrown over the crates stacked behind the door and swept it up and around himself.

“You want me to come with?” John asked, pursing his lips a bit because he was comfortable and he had fresh tea, but conversely Sherlock was crackling like an incipient storm and John would willingly follow him into hell.

“Not tonight,” Sherlock said, with a smile that burned from his eyes to his lips. “Don’t wait up.”

And he whirled out again, coat flaring as he strode out of the sitting room and swept down the stairs and slammed the street door behind him.

 

John wakes with the echo of a thud in his ears. He rolls over and fumbles his alarm clock around until he can see the time: two forty-five. He shoves the clock aside again, flops back onto his pillow, and closes his eyes.

There’s another thud, louder this time. And a … vocalization, too muffled by distance and closed doors for John to discern more than the bass resonance that tells him it’s Sherlock. John opens his eyes again, ears straining into the silence. There’s a faint break of sound … the flat door opening. John listens for the familiar snick of the latch closing again, but it doesn’t come. He sits up, frowning in the darkness.

There’s another … vocalization, a soft punch that’s unmistakably Sherlock’s voice, but impossible to parse as meaning. John’s got both feet on the floor before he realizes he’s even moving. He pads to the door and listens. Silence … silence in which Sherlock might be lying in the open doorway of the sitting room, bleeding out and breathing unanswered pleas for help. John wastes a second in regret for the Browning that’s locked in the desk drawer in the sitting room instead of usefully to hand in his room, then he turns the door handle quietly and steps out onto the landing.

He left a lamp on in the sitting room for Sherlock; there’s a spill of low light out into the hallway at the foot of the stairs leading down from his room. He listens intently. There’s a sudden, soft susurration that pierces John with utter certainty – the sound of Sherlock’s coat being shed, falling from his shoulders to heap on the floor. And then there’s something even softer, the faintest wisp of sound, yet somehow insistent, almost rhythmic.

“Oh bloody fuck,” Sherlock says suddenly, from somewhere near the open door of the flat.

John’s eyes flare wide and then narrow, his nostrils flexing as he inhales sharply. He tips his weight forwards –

“Oh fuck don’t,” Sherlock says, his voice simultaneously angry and plaintive. “I’m - ”

John clenches his fists, grits his teeth. He’s unarmed, but he’s damned if he’s going back into his room to search for something to use as a weapon. At the very least, he needs to known the rough parameters of the clusterfuck Sherlock’s gotten himself into this time. John eases one bare foot down onto the top step, tilts his weight forwards and down as swiftly as he dares. Then the next step, and the next …

Sherlock makes a guttural sound of distress, and another, his breathing so harsh that John can hear each sharp inhalation and shuddering exhalation. John’s halfway down the stairs, moving with the coiled care that he learned on countless patrols and house searches. He’s ready for anything, for any damn thing this situation throws at –

- he is not ready for the sight of Sherlock – coat and jacket gone, shirt half pulled out of his pants and unbuttoned to his navel – attempting to wrestle a tall, thin young woman in a rather indecent, dark red satin dress up the vertical surface of the wall just inside the door of the flat, which is standing wide open. Sherlock’s plan of attack seems to be to push her higher using only his hips, while he scoops one hand up under the hem of her dress, and insinuates the other one under the insubstantial drape of her bodice to splay his obscenely large palm over her rather tiny breast. There’s a moment of semi cooperative struggle – John’s still not entirely convinced that someone isn’t being attacked, he just doesn’t know who - when the young woman cants one infinitely long bare leg up over Sherlock’s narrow hip, and then they both jolt sharply, her head coming up and back to thump solidly against the wall.

She’s beautiful, in an exacting, fine-featured kind of way that leaves John stone cold. She’s got widely set brown eyes, heavily shadowed and kohl’ed, and a precise pout of a mouth painted deep red. Her hair is dark, rather more auburn that Sherlock’s; it hangs on her forehead in a floppy wave and clings around her ears and nape in skillfully shaped angles. Her hands, where they clutch at Sherlock’s shoulders and bunch the thin plum-colored cloth of his shirt, are long and slender with short nails painted reddish black. Her bare foot, the heel of which is digging into the lush curve of Sherlock’s right buttock through the black cloth of his suit pants, is long and narrow with toenails painted just a shade more brightly than her fingernails.

Sherlock drops his forehead forwards to rest against hers - with her hitched onto the toes of the one foot she still has on the floor they’re much of a height - and his body uncoils for an instant and then shoves sharply upwards. She wails thinly and Sherlock grunts, a basso profundo thud of sound that almost knocks the air out of John’s lungs.

“Shut up,” Sherlock rumbles, pulling his hand out of the front of her dress and clapping it across the lower half of her face. “My flatmate’s sleeping.”

She glares at him over the edge of his hand, her dark cat’s eyes narrowed and her precisely arched brows folded together under a wing of glossy copper-brown hair. Sherlock shoves again, and her eyes roll up and her painted eyelids flutter down. Sherlock’s hand slips down from her face to spread wide across the faintly gleaming skin of her chest. She wails again, softer this time, and Sherlock doesn’t correct her at all, but instead adds his own breathless punch of sound to it.

John’s brain reels around inside his skull. It’s not that there’s a woman - all right, it’s not just that there’s a woman. It’s that Sherlock - cool, cerebral, controlled Sherlock - is contorting the long line of his body into ugly, urgent angles as he shoves his hips against her. It’s that Sherlock’s delicate, discriminating hands are grasping at whatever fistful of satin or skin happens to present itself, fingertips biting until they turn pale from the pressure. It’s the brutal, messy non-rhythm of Sherlock’s jerking, and the way he grunts from deep down in his chest with each thrust.

“Fuck - oh - oh - fuck,” Sherlock rumbles.

John’s heart is pounding with the same off-kilter jerk and jab as Sherlock’s hips.

The young woman winds both arms around Sherlock’s neck, one hand splaying between his shoulder blades while the other twists into his hair, fists tight enough to turn her knuckles white.

“Ah - God,” she snarls, her voice thin and sharp above his.

She presses her elbows into the crests of his narrow shoulders, and he scoops a hand under her behind and lifts. She swings her other leg up around his hips, hooks her foot around the opposing ankle to lock herself in position. Sherlock’s next shove thuds her spine against the wall hard enough to break her breath out of her mouth in a sharp cry.

“Ah fuck!”

“Good - fuck - better,” Sherlock groans, smearing his open mouth past hers. “God - your cunt is - ”

Whatever adjective Sherlock is about to break John’s brain with is lost in her cry as Sherlock stabs his hips under her. Sherlock fumbles a hand down between their bodies, pulling crumpled red satin aside and then wriggling his hand lower. The young woman cries out again, her feet flexing against Sherlock’s behind.

“Oh fuck yes,” she snaps.

“There? Like - ” Sherlock gasps over the increasingly rapid and random jerks of his hips.

“Yes yes, just - oh,” she urges.

“Oh fuck you’re fucking soaking,” Sherlock growls.

John’s heartbeat feels like a stop-motion explosion in his chest.

“Oh God oh God oh God,” she keens, her body arching away from Sherlock’s even as he’s shoving her into the wall.

“Oh bloody fucking - oh yes,” Sherlock rumbles, and she jolts in his grasp and screams so loudly that the sound shatters the air in John’s lungs.

She jerks from head to heels, and again, and once more, while Sherlock shoves and thrusts and shouts in triumph.

“Oh fuck I’m coming,” he bellows, his voice rolling like distant thunder.

John’s brain goes off like a Hellfire missile hitting a munitions dump. His optic nerves fry in his skull with the image of Sherlock’s body coiling forwards, his hips stuttering, and then arching back as he shudders all down the long, long line of his body.

“Oh fuck,” Sherlock groans.

John’s mouth falls open and the air just explodes into his aching lungs. His heart slams itself around inside his chest, and his vision spangles dangerously. He blinks rapidly.

The young woman lets her legs slip down from Sherlock’s hips, her arms sliding from his shoulders. Sherlock rolls one hip aside as her feet reach down to the floor again.

“Do you think he slept through that?” she asks, her voice blurred and rough.

“Who?” Sherlock asks, his hands curving into the contours of her waist.

“Your flatmate,” she says, leaning back onto her shoulders and pushing her stomach forwards against Sherlock. “Do you think he’s still asleep?”

“God, I bloody hope so,” Sherlock growls, his restless right hand slipping up under the edge of her dress again, exposing a slice of long pale thigh.

His hand slips forwards between her legs.

“Again?” she says, eyelids drooping as she tilts her chin upwards to bring her mouth close to Sherlock’s.

“Definitely,” Sherlock says. “I want to taste that … but come into my room. I’m not getting down on my knees in these trousers, not even for a cunt as perfect as yours.”

He rolls back from her, one hand pulling the front of his pants together a bit, the other wrapping around her thin wrist and tugging her forwards off the wall.

John turns and bolts back up the stairs, throws himself through the open door of his room and shuts it behind him with no attempt at silence.

 

John comes downstairs the next morning - Sunday, the street outside lazily silent - to find the sitting room in half-gloom with the curtains still drawn. He stoops to pick Sherlock’s coat up from where it’s lying on the floor, shakes it out, and drapes it over the back of his armchair. He’s got his head twisted aside as he walks into the kitchen, still considering the heavy folds of wool tweed and satin lining, so he’s doubly startled to look round and see the young woman in the dark red satin dress sitting at the kitchen table with a mug in front of her.

“Chri - I mean, hello, then,” John says, his smile sudden and bright and somewhat manic.

She turns her head to look at him. Her hair is tousled, the paint around her eyes has blurred a little, and her mouth is only faintly stained and somewhat swollen. Her beauty is even more brazenly apparent than when she was perfectly polished. She’s sitting there - arms and breastbone and ribs exposed - with such utter self-possession that there doesn’t seem anything inappropriate at all about wearing a satin cocktail dress at nine o’clock in the morning. Her dark eyes run up and down John, from his rumpled hair to his pillow-embossed cheek and stubbled jaw, down the strip of discolored tee-shirt displayed between the open fronts of his striped toweling bathrobe, past the sagging waist of his weary pajama pants to the brown fleece slippers on his feet.

“Hallo,” she says, a world of confused compassion in her tone.

“Found it, it must have got caught in my - ” Sherlock says as he walks in from the hallway, stopping when he sees John. His smile flashes briefly, and then twists into a slight smirk.

Sherlock is wearing nothing but his suit pants, beltless and unbuttoned so that they hang precariously below his hipbones. His skin, from collarbones to navel, is a mess of pink scratches and petal-like mouth marks. He drops a glinting piece of gold into the young woman’s offered palm.

“This is my flatmate, John,” he says. “John, this is - ”

He stops, hisses his breath in through his teeth.

“ - sorry,” he says, with very little evidence of contrition.

“Keira,” Keira says, apparently without a particle of resentment or even surprise that Sherlock doesn’t know her name, as she slips her earring back into her earlobe.

“Keira,” Sherlock confirms.

She stands up, a long languid unwinding of limbs, and looks down at John from her greater height. John cranks his facial features into a horrid facsimile of a smile.

“Goodbye, Keira,” Sherlock says firmly.

She turns to look at him, her shoulder blades flexing like trapped wings beneath her skin, naked from the nape of her neck to the dimples at the back of her hips, and the satin of her dress only condescending to vaguely disguise the curves of her behind and the backs of her thighs.

“Careful,” she says, laying her fingertips to Sherlock’s skin, just below his ribs. “You’re just good enough of a fuck to get away with being this much of a shit.”

Sherlock’s smirk turns to something darker, his upper lip curling unevenly.

“Goodbye, Ass,” Keira says.

She walks out of the kitchen, and Sherlock leans against the open door to watch her go down the stairs. The street door opens, and closes again, the sound crisp in the silence of the kitchen.

God,” Sherlock growls loudly, pushing away from the door and walking back out into the hallway towards his bedroom. “What a hag.”

And John is left standing in the middle of the kitchen, feeling crumpled, and colorless, and very, very confused.