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Sherlock’s gone and abandoned his violin on his chair again. It drives John round the bend. Sherlock’s Stradivarius is the most magnificent instrument John has ever laid hands on, and they're not always careful in 221b. It’s all too easy to imagine it getting knocked to the floor or something dropped on it. Thrown. Blown up. Used as a club.

To be fair, Sherlock usually takes more care with it than this. It’s only when a case or an experiment grabs him by the collar and drags him off that the poor thing gets left behind—and then the violin’s in the same boat as everyone else in Sherlock’s life.

John isn’t a live-in maid service. He refuses to spend his life following Sherlock around the flat picking up after him, but for the Strad, he makes an exception. The embarrassing truth is that handling that masterpiece is a privilege he’ll take any excuse for. He picks it up, intending to stow it safely back in its case, but with no one to look askance, he takes a moment to luxuriate in the feel of it. The Strad is so flawlessly constructed that it hums in his grasp, resonating with his pulse. He can only imagine what playing it must be like; the thought strikes him as almost sinfully decadent.

The last time John picked up a fiddle was at a family reunion in Scotland while he was still in college, when he played with his cousins and his mother danced the reels till she made herself sick.

But who’s here to know or care if he makes a fool of himself? Sherlock is long gone for the day, off to the labs at Bart's, and that curvaceous satin wood rests light as a woman's hair in John's palms. The reasons to resist temptation are sparse. He rosins the elegant bow, gently tests and tunes the strings, and raises the instrument to his shoulder.

He plays.

John will never have Sherlock’s gift, he knows, and he’s years out of practice. But he has music in his head, a hodgepodge of the folk music he grew up on, classical bits and pieces, snatches of things come to him over the years that he might’ve turned into compositions if he had any talent. He messes with some scales and triads to warm up, recalling his fingering and making friends with the instrument. And god, even stiff and out of practice, this violin stirs to life under his touch. No wonder Sherlock plays it the way he does. A man could believe it’s got its own will and it only wants a pair of hands to do its bidding.

The first thing he plays is a lyrical Scottish lament that was his grandfather’s favorite. He played it for the old man so many times it’s engraved in his bones. There’s a reel he can’t quite get up to tempo, but that’s alright because he likes the middle part best anyway. It reminds him of storms on the ocean, and the memory of it helped him sleep during many a hard night in Afghanistan. He plays “Let it Be” and “Eleanor Rigby” for the fun of it, and tries some Lady Gaga that he wouldn’t admit to knowing about under interrogation, because it’s catchy and the thought that the neighbors will inevitably assume it’s Sherlock makes him snort with laughter.

He can hear the flaws in his playing—stumbling on the rhythm, notes that land off-pitch—but the Strad’s vibrant tone conceals a multitude of sins. The bow glides like silk on his skin, and the violin’s pulse feathers against his jaw. It’s an instrument built—like its owner—for extravagance. John is not built for extravagance, but just for this he can make an exception. With a self-indulgent twinge, he reaches for the most emotional, heart-twisting music he can think of to feed the strings. ‘Music’ may be a stretch for what Sherlock produces during his late-night bowing sessions, but the wild, lonely emotion of it lodges in John’s throat like ground glass. He can’t count how many times he’s lain awake, aching to shout it down, to pour out his own heart in response. That no matter how happy, sad, angry, lost, bitter, hungry, or poisonous they are, John wants to swallow every note down and inform Sherlock that he is not alone, and that no matter who he is underneath all the pretensions and perceptions and expectations, to John it’s fine, he’s fine, it’s all fine.

Profoundly grateful that no one will ever bear witness to this, John lets himself give vent to it, answering back at Sherlock in a sort of antiphon across time in the same uncontrolled, erratically unmusical vein as Sherlock himself.

Adrift somewhere between the Strad and his interior self, John doesn't hear the front door, or the footsteps that halt halfway up the ground floor stairs. After some indeterminate time, the change in the flat’s acoustics registers. He opens his eyes to investigate.

Sherlock is leaning in the hall doorway, watching him with eyes that glow with intensity.

John freezes, feeling like a man caught out with someone else's lover. Oh god. How long has he been there? How much has he heard? What did he hear? John stares back awkwardly, mouth halfway open and empty of words to explain or apologize.

Sherlock, however, displays a notable lack of actual anger. In fact, the expression he’s wearing right now is the one that makes John worry whether Sherlock’s about to cut the top of his head off for a closer look when John has just said something unexpectedly clever. It’s the expression John has never been able to resist. Slowly, eyes locked on Sherlock's in hopes of some signal this is right, he lowers the bow back to the strings and resumes playing.

Whatever he was doing right before, though, it’s not happening now. He doesn't actually know what he was doing earlier, is the problem; he lost track when he let himself get carried away in his own thoughts, and his playing’s gone stiff from self-consciousness besides.

Sure enough, Sherlock's eyes narrow, dissatisfied, and he starts forward. John holds out the violin to him, hovering somewhere between humiliation and relief and making immediate plans to bolt up to his room and die of shame.

He nearly jumps out of his skin when Sherlock slips around behind him instead, sliding his hands down John's arms to push the instrument back into position.

"Play." That rich baritone thrumming right in his ear sends a shiver down the length of John's spine.

He plays.

As a loss as to what’s going on, John takes refuge in the well-worn lament he’d played first. Sherlock curls his fingers feather-light around John’s, participating in the music through a ghost of contact. It’s a tremendous relief when, after a moment, that phantom touch becomes a subtle pressure, nudging John into better position. It's education, then. A completely mental way of going about it, but that’s Sherlock all around. John lets the other man delicately puppeteer him, impressed by how the quality of his playing improves with each correction. He tries to absorb the adjustments into his muscles for future reference.

Sherlock makes a satisfied noise at the improved tone and subsides back into passivity, following along as John starts in on “King of the Fairies.”

When he stirs again to shift John’s hand on the fingerboard, the move is so smooth that John scrapes the strings in surprise at the sound of a completely different note than he’d anticipated. Sherlock's fingers go hard on his for a split second; John yields to them, and just like that, it's not John playing the violin anymore even though he’s still holding the instrument.

Sherlock takes them into Vivaldi, and John obeys, though it’s been something like 20 years since he last touched that. He marvels. The chuckling arpeggios under his—Sherlock's—ministrations transcend anything John could ever produce alone. It might as well be magic. He feels a flutter low in his belly, that the two of them can do this, work so flawlessly together, read one another so intimately. He melts into Sherlock's arms, their bodies flowing in sync until they're almost one entity. Sherlock envelops him in return, behind and around, his head bowed down against John's to press jaw against cheekbone.

They play, engulfed in one another.

John's nerves tingle, alight with sensation at every point of contact between them. Which is everywhere, moulded together the way they are. Sherlock's breath deepens against his back. When his lips brush not even slightly accidentally against the exposed arch of John's throat—god, they’re so soft, it's criminal—John closes his eyes and forces down the shudder that would wreck their unity.

There’s a flicker of shock; he’d taken Sherlock at his word about not being interested. But he hardly needs to wonder what’s gotten into the other man, because it’s gotten into him too. He presses back, and isn't entirely surprised to feel Sherlock hard and hot against the hollow of his sacrum.

It’s a game, he realizes belatedly. He has no idea whether they’ve been playing it for minutes, days or weeks, but isn’t it just typical that he ends up in the handicap position. He wants to tip his head back against Sherlock's shoulder, but his chin is occupied with holding the Stradivarius in place. Sherlock, still covering him like a second skin, breaks them free of Vivaldi with a sensuous alto glissando and into something more freeform, something that, oh god, is the purring aural representation of what John would like his hands to be doing right now.

He hears a low, eager hum he’s a bit jolted to realize comes from his own throat. Sherlock’s answering rumble vibrates through John’s back straight into his groin. But John’s got no clue what the rules are to this game, whether he’s allowed to drop out, turn around and yank that curly head down to his own or whether Sherlock will storm off in a huff if he tries.

“Kiss me,” John breathes desperately.

Needy requests: apparently in the rules. With John’s mouth out of reach the way they’re standing, Sherlock settles for kissing the curve of his neck again. His lips grip gently at the taut skin, then seal and begin sucking. John sways in his arms, wonders whether this is going to backfire on him, decides he doesn’t care.

But dammit, he can’t touch Sherlock like this. Sherlock is surrounding him, swamping his senses, while John is held hostage by the violin. Sherlock is licking at his pulse, hips teasing at the sensitive base of John’s spine, and moving John’s body to suit himself while sounds like liquid sex roll out from the Strad under their entwined hands.

Christ, Sherlock is playing him.

The thought is like being dunked in a tank of pheromones. To hell with this. He doesn’t know whether he’s allowed to let go the violin, but abject begging is always in the rules. “Sherlock,” he gasps. “Touch me.

Sherlock chokes down a groan, and his hands fall gently away from John’s—with a parting nudge to encourage John to keep playing, Jesus, is he ever not a bastard?—to creep down over his chest to the waistband of his jeans, where he unfastens John’s button and zip. Then it’s John’s turn to breathe a broken sigh when those long dexterous fingers slip inside his clothes.

John expects—wants--them to wrap tight around him, but they stay light and taunting. For some reason, aside from making John want to snarl, it also brings to mind a piece of gypsy music he heard once as a boy. He tries to reconstruct the tune while Sherlock teases him.

“Don’t be a prick,” he growls, pushing back vindictively against Sherlock’s erection.

“An ambiguous statement under the circumstances, John,” Sherlock laughs into his ear. His hands withdraw and he sways back, breaking the circuit between the two of them entirely for a moment while, from the sounds of it, he roots around in his pockets.

Then he’s pushing John’s trousers down past his hips, and fingers that’re too clever by half are toying, unexpectedly slick, at the cleft of his arse. John gasps at the realization of what’s happening as they press in, nudge at his entrance, and then slowly but insistently part him.

“Keep playing,” Sherlock whispers. John tries to keep the shudder from traveling down through his arms while he experiences the awkward discomfort of penetration. His body clenches down to refuse the intrusion. Sherlock ignores it, working slowly deeper until his base knuckles brush John’s skin.

He stops there to let John adjust. John can feel his muscles slowly loosen, feels when they go from expelling to gripping. He exhales a small “ah” at the change, caught by the sensuality of his body seeking to pull Sherlock in deeper.

Then Sherlock adds a second finger, and the process begins all over again. This time, once rejection shifts to clinging, Sherlock spreads his fingers inside him. John and the Strad both yelp in surprise. He’s too distracted to care about the bow scraping against the bridge, twisting against what Sherlock’s doing to him, but Sherlock doesn’t stop, his free arm clamping around John’s waist to keep him still. When the pain and tightness turn into hot liquid in John’s veins, Sherlock begins moving in and out.

He refuses to establish a rhythm at first, frustrating John in more than one sense and breaking down both his playing and his composure till Sherlock begins to establish his own tempo. Slow and demanding, it grabs hold of John’s body and the music both. The gypsy tune he’d been trying to play before he got sidetracked falls right into place. He feels like a living metronome, trembling in time to Sherlock’s strokes.

Sherlock is literally playing him. It comes into his mind that if the violin were alive, this is how it would feel.

Sherlock still controls the music; he controls John. He speeds up his fingering so that John has to either pick up tempo or fall apart into cacophony. Sherlock hums notes into his ear; John shifts the melody to follow them. He’s snared, struggling and panting as Sherlock simultaneously demands John’s self-restraint and steals it.

When Sherlock encounters his prostate, John is humiliated by the need in his low moan. Sherlock chuckles and, two beats later, does it again, and then again, enjoying his reaction.

Please.” The begging isn’t premeditated this time, but John’s got no recourse left. Sherlock’s long fingers—three now, Christ, they’re so flexible—are taking him too slowly, hitting his prostate only on the downbeats, unraveling him without letting him anywhere near orgasm. His shirt is soaked through with sweat and he’s shaking like a leaf, little broken groans tumbling in his throat, and Sherlock is consuming him, drinking in his downfall as he inflicts it on him.

“Oh god, please, Sherlock.” When he starts to toss his head, Sherlock bites his neck forbiddingly. It rips a dry sob from John, prevented from even physically expressing himself.

He can’t make real music anymore. His coordination is degenerated to short lyrical figures, erratic little clusters of notes that do a better job of expressing his feelings on this state of affairs than the words he can’t marshal right now. They’re jagged and heaving and sensuous with the rhythm of the sex they’re almost having, and damn Sherlock anyway, because yes, he’s getting off on John’s incoherent acoustic ramblings, his chest labouring harder against John’s shoulder blades. When his hips jerk into the small of John’s back, finally Sherlock pulls his fingers out and stops the game, hands on John’s forearms stilling him.

“Put it down,” he mutters, a bit too ragged to be an order. “And get on your knees.”

John complies, mustering the focus to set the Strad carefully in the chair and then all but falling to his knees, unable to hold himself up without support. Sherlock follows him down. It’s gratifying to know that at least he’s got some effect on the man’s joints. John looks over his shoulder to see him all but rip his flies open, and then he grabs John’s hips and tilts him forward.

“I want you,” Sherlock rasps.

“God yes.”

Sherlock’s cock is hot and broad and throbbing against John’s arse. It’ll hurt, he knows, but he’s beyond caring, arching back against it. Sherlock shifts forward, and John feels himself breached. He takes a deep breath, relaxes his body, and Sherlock presses deeper, mindful of John’s every movement.

It stretches him to the point of burning, opens him relentlessly, and John welcomes every bit of it after the long torturous tease, his frustration washing away in the discomfort. They come together; Sherlock seats himself fully with one more shallow thrust, and then they pause there for two slow breaths—in and out, in and out—before Sherlock draws out and pushes in again, faster this time.

The pace picks up, and up, until they’re writhing together. John would love to jerk himself off, but he needs both hands to keep from planting face-down in the carpet and getting rug burn on his nose.

“Sherlock. Come on. God, Sherlock, touch me!”

It takes a moment for the words to pierce the aroused haze—John knows, because it takes him about the same amount of time to realize he said anything—but after a slight delay, Sherlock slides one hand around from his bruising grip on John’s hips to wrap it around his cock.

It feels…better, more complete, thrusting back onto Sherlock and forward into his hand. Sherlock re-establishes their rhythm, snapping his pelvis hard into John on the back stroke and squeezing almost cruelly on the forward. It takes only a moment after that before lightning strikes every nerve ending of John’s body and carries him over into a deafening climax.

It’s a visceral, physical pleasure in the midst of coming when Sherlock gets even rougher, driving right down into the core of him for a few deliciously brutal strokes before he’s going over too.

They shake and hyperventilate together for a few heartbeats before they both collapse to the floor, mutually wrung out. John doesn’t actually want to move—he’s happy with Sherlock’s weight right where it is, pressing him into the rug—but he still has his jumper and jeans…well, half on, anyway, which makes for an uncomfortably hot situation, trapped between a sweaty, exhausted detective and a somewhat prickly carpet.

Sherlock obligingly tips off to the side when John twitches his shoulders—apparently the secret to Sherlock’s tractability is to shag him into it—but he doesn’t go far, rolling right back against him on his side.

“Do you see?” Sherlock asks quietly, running a finger along John’s jaw.

John nods. He couldn’t explain it, not any better than Sherlock, but he knows how it feels, now, to be on the inside of Sherlock’s music, caught in its rip tides, chasing after something just beyond reach.

He’ll still happily join him there, any time Sherlock lets him.

They curl up against each other, dripping and disheveled and exhausted, and fall asleep.