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The Care and Feeding of Your Consulting Detective

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Lestrade tells him frequently that he should write a book. That it would be a service to men with frustrating boyfriends everywhere. Women, too, he adds with a wink. They have this conversation more often than John would like, but getting Lestrade to drop the subject has been an experiment in futility. He thinks Greg's been spending too much time with Sherlock.

He tells him so in colorful expletives.

Lestrade, to his credit, merely quaffs him on the shoulder and says brightly, "Wrong brother, mate." John shakes his head and laughs, not because it's funny, but because it's true. And then John really smiles because he realizes this is Greg's way of saying, "You've got to help me out, because if you don't, I'll kill him in his sleep."

John muses that if Sherlock is no picnic, Mycroft must be a special brand of hell.

It's that thought that has him scribbling in a notebook late at night, long after Sherlock has been forced to bed, wondering how indeed he manages to handle the complex organism that is Sherlock Holmes.

00000

FEEDING.

If it were left up to Sherlock entirely, the man would subsist on sips of tea and nibbles alone. But John has forced nutrition on Sherlock, much as he's forced everything else, quietly and unobtrusively. A bag of almonds or crisps left in his coat, proper tea and breakfast in the mornings. Indian takeaways and date nights at Angelo's (because Angelo always provides leftovers with the bill), fish and chips with Mycroft and Lestrade at the pub, and working meals with Molly at the Barts canteen. Since John arrived, he's made it a point to eat where Sherlock can see him, inviting him to partake with a plate pushed his way. He's made tremendous strides, and the result no longer has Sherlock slipping into hypoglycemic faints and hunger-induced rages. And if John enjoys the delighted crinkle around Sherlock's eyes when he hears the tell-tale rustle of a Yorkie bar wrapper, no one has to know. Food is essential in keeping the transport moving, and yet Sherlock has reluctantly learned its inherent pleasures as well. The kitchen table is remarkably sturdy, and John makes an excellent platter. To this day, they can't pass a fruit and cheese tray on a buffet table without Sherlock getting hard as a rock. A wheel of Brie has never been so debauched.

SLEEP.

Prior to John's arrival, it was apparent that Sherlock slept wherever he fell, and even then he cat-napped, barely getting two or three hours of sleep in a twenty-four period. It took far more effort to get Sherlock into a regular sleeping pattern than getting him to eat ever did. John chalked it up to Sherlock's need to be aware and observant at all times. There were spectacular rows, several occasions where they threw things at one another, and a singular moment where John drugged him into sleep out of spite. Eventually, John was able to impart the importance of Circadian rhythms and the necessity of NREM sleep to keep the brain vital and active. The fact that Sherlock eyes his tea now with suspicion doesn't concern John in the least.

They keep separate bedrooms. It's taken John three good passes through Sherlock's room to make it a place conducive to restorative sleep. He's removed extraneous stimuli, several ongoing experiments tucked away in the closet, and installed blackout curtains. Anything to keep Sherlock's brain from being distracted by all the clutter. There are even several aromatherapy sachets hidden about, and the room now has a decidedly calming scent of lavender and rosemary at all times.

Most nights they retire separately. Sherlock fidgets in his sleep. John still suffers from nightmares and prefers to be alone. It can be safer that way. Most nights it's a mutual compromise and they go their separate ways.

Some nights, though, John is awakened from the fog of sleep with a body pressed against his back. Some nights, Sherlock's breath snuffles warm in his ear, and his lips graze the back of John's neck with reverence. Some nights, John is surrounded by impossibly long limbs, arms and legs, hands and feet, cocooned so tightly it forces everything but the feel of Sherlock out of his mind. Some nights, Sherlock doesn't fidget. Some nights, there are no nightmares.

SOCIALIZATION.

Mycroft and Lestrade come for Sunday dinner. Every Sunday. And even though Sherlock protests with a fair amount of vehemence every week, he shuts his mouth and lets it happen. John knows the protest is all bluster, for the one simple fact that Sherlock and Mycroft engage in a never-ending battle of one-upmanship over parlor games. Cluedo was out from the start. Jenga was a dismal fail. Monopoly had Sherlock bellowing things like, "This is Monopoly! This is not a contract race! You're not the bloody FSA!", and Mycroft smirking across the table. Poker was interesting, until Mycroft lost everything in one hand and threatened everyone at the table with tortures in clear violation of the Geneva Convention. Now, it's chess. Which, apparently, as Greg and John have discovered, in Holmes vernacular, means war. Until it's time for pudding.

HOUSETRAINING.

If Mrs. Hudson isn't their housekeeper, neither is John. Agreements are reached on the distribution of chores, and as of late, the whole flat runs much smoother. Certain concessions were not on the table, as John refuses to share a fridge that doubles as cold storage for human remains, no matter his previous experiences in medical school. Sherlock huffs, whines, and protests, as is his wont to do, but it takes a harsh glare from John and a few nights bereft of his company before Sherlock relents. The second refrigerator is larger than John would have liked, but he also knows it is smaller than the one Sherlock would have wanted. And the fact that he purchased it on his own, purely to make John happy, makes it a win-win situation for all parties involved. Sherlock cleans it on a regular basis (ongoing experimentation notwithstanding) without having to be asked.

PLAY.

Sherlock is no stranger to spontaneity and randomness, given the way his brain is constantly at work. John has encouraged brevity and silliness, and he has been pleased at how remarkably Sherlock has taken it to task. Especially since Mycroft gifted him with two plastic cutlasses and a box set of swashbuckling DVDs last Christmas. Sherlock's fondness for pirates has blossomed into an all-out 'thing', and when things get stressful, he finds it as a passable way to ease the tension. John has learned three things regarding Sherlock's hidden need for childish frivolity: One, despite the leg and shoulder, John has an affinity for fencing. Two, Sherlock has an uncanny way of taking the most innocent of role-playing scenarios and turning them into earth-shattering sex. And three, Sherlock rocks an eye patch like nobody's business, even when swinging around a plastic cutlass, naked, shouting off-color remarks such as, "Hand over the booty, scalawag!" at the top of his lungs, while leaping over furniture. John has lost count of how many times he's 'walked the plank', drowning in what has to be some of the best orgasms of his life.

OBEDIENCE.

John's hands barely tremble as he holds the leather collar out for Sherlock, who leans forward on his knees like a supplicant at prayer. These moments are the ones that steal John's breath from his lungs. Sherlock submitting. Achingly. Hauntingly. He's come so far in so many ways, but he still hangs on to the sharp invectives and cutting tongue that is considered inappropriate by polite social standards. He tries, bless his cotton socks, he tries, and John can see the effort he puts forth. But Sherlock is still Sherlock, calculating and sly, and sometimes he wants what he wants without having to give it voice. In public, it takes only a raised eyebrow or a curt hand gesture for John to get his point across to the brilliant consulting detective. Sherlock invariably demurs, and John invariably corrects the unwanted behavior.

Sherlock takes correction beautifully. His pale skin is a canvas made for the broad strokes of John's hand. He prostrates himself without prompt, offering his body in repentance, yet not without a want of his own. His skin turns the most gorgeous shade of pink with each hard slap, it welts perfectly underneath the hiss of the riding crop. The collar is wide enough for John to grip easily, and Sherlock's head snaps back with the most debauched groan when he pulls for a view of Sherlock's delectable neck. John's favorite is the leather flogger. The tails spread wide across the expanse of Sherlock's chest and arse, fanning out in ways that look like the spread of John's blunt fingers. They leave marks that echo in John's fingertips, echo down to the tip of his cock. And when John flips the flogger around and fucks Sherlock with the handle over the edge of the kitchen table, there's a moment where he's unsure if he's really in control. Because seeing Sherlock like that, wrecked and fucked and hopelessly unmade, is enough to break a man. John knows that he'd go to war all over again just for the promise of hearing Sherlock's breathless "Captain!" as he comes all over the floor.

Yes, he's fairly sure that he's being played. But John discovers that as long he's the one who calls the tune, he doesn't mind so much.

BONDING.

They're as interconnected as two people in this world can possibly be. John knows this for a fact. As sure as he knows the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. As sure as he knows the ever-changing color of Sherlock's eyes. As sure as he knows the depth of their love for each other. That kind of connection is permanence in itself and requires no outside interference to make it so. The bond they share is an indelible stain on the heart, etched forever into the soul of memory. Sherlock has died once, and as far as John is concerned, he'll never die again. Not really. John's heart won't allow it. And he suspects, neither will Sherlock's.

It's not like they haven't discussed a more permanent arrangement; on the contrary, the subject has been broached numerous times. Symbolic, more than anything. Sherlock says he dislikes symbols. He prefers a more direct expression. John rolls his eyes, and they let it lie once again. And John is perfectly happy with that. The way things are suit him just fine.

It's just like every other Sunday evening, only Greg and John have tried their hand at a passable curry for dinner. Almost as good as the takeaway, Sherlock says, and with a few more tries they'll give Rajah's Palace a run for their rupees. There is mild laughter and a few sighs of contentment as they sip their after dinner sherry. The mirth grows quiet as Mycroft and Lestrade place their entwined hands on the table and Mycroft smiles and tells them that they should clear their calendars for April. The happiness is palpable, and John doesn't think he's ever seen Sherlock look at Mycroft with such fondness. Hearty congratulations and toasts all around are the order of the evening, but the joy is replaced with incredulous surprise as Sherlock slides a velvet box over to John and tells Mycroft and his now fiancé that he and John will clear their calendars for April if they will clear theirs for Christmas.

Sherlock knows how John feels about Christmas. It is his absolute favorite holiday, and he never fails to keep it as merry as possible. And now Sherlock is wanting to take this important day and make it the most important day ever. As he opens the box and stares at the ring, John's first thought is that if there is anyone on the planet who thinks that the cold and heartless Sherlock Holmes doesn't do sentiment…well, they can all go fucking hang.

Of course it isn't necessary, per se. Sherlock will whisper later into the shell of John's ear, under the cover of darkness, that it's merely a tangible expression of an intangible constant. An anchor. A true north. A beginning with no ending. Because some things are eternal.

00000

John sets his pen to the side as he hears rustling coming from the stairs. Sherlock stands at the second to last step, John's duvet wrapped around him like a shroud. He huffs impatiently with the hint of a smile tugging at the corner of his lips. John looks from the duvet to Sherlock's face, and then cuts his eyes up the stairs with a hard glance. The message is clear. Sherlock turns, drops the duvet in a heap, and obeys. The buckle from the collar at the back of Sherlock's neck gleams in the light as he walks, bare-arsed and beautiful, back upstairs. John closes his notebook and scoots back the chair. He drapes the duvet over the crook of one arm and holds out his hands to check the state of them. Steady. He smiles. It's going to be a long night.