"John, will you stop that mindless pecking? It's annoying." There was a hard thump against his thighs. "Not to mention pointless. Nobody cares about your blog."
John looked down at Sherlock, who was currently taking up three-quarters of the sofa and gracing John's lap with his head. Sherlock looked back with an expression of disgruntlement.
"You don't care about my blog," John corrected. "Sorry to break it to you, Sherlock, but you aren't the only person in my life. Plenty of other people are interested."
"Yes, but they don't matter as much." Sherlock huffed out a breath. "Besides, if you're typing—well, attempting to type, you're terrible at it—then you're not paying attention to me."
"I wasn't aware I should be paying attention to you." John stifled his grin with difficulty. "Did you want something?"
"Obviously. Put your laptop away. I want a kiss, and then I want you to play with my hair while you watch telly. It's very arousing."
John drew in a short, quick breath. Jesus, it still surprised him every time. He should be used to it by now—Sherlock was shockingly blunt in so many other ways—but hearing him say things like that still made John react like this was still new. He did his best to control himself; Sherlock had enough ego for both of them.
"Oh, all right. If it'll shut you up," he said, with a put-upon sigh. He closed his laptop (balanced awkwardly on the arm of the sofa; he hadn't been getting much done anyway) and leaned over Sherlock to deposit it on the coffee table.
Sherlock grabbed John's collar as he began to straighten, and held him in place for the kiss he'd demanded. It was long, and thorough, and John was past breathless and heading straight for dizzy by the time Sherlock pushed him away.
"I don't know why you bother pretending," Sherlock said, reaching down for a cushion and stuffing it behind his head. "You love how demanding I am."
"It's called teasing, Sherlock." John fished the remote out from between the sofa cushions, flicked past the usual rubbish evening programming and found a M*A*S*H marathon on Sky. "It's a lighthearted way of provoking one's partner into providing more prolonged or impassioned attentions than originally intended."
"I know what it is, John. I said I don't know why you bother with it. I always tell you exactly what I want and you always give it to me, so the teasing serves no purpose." Sherlock took one of John's hands and kissed his knuckles before sliding it into his dark curls. "I literally couldn't want you more than I already do. It's impossible."
Oh. Oh, that was. Unexpected. More unexpected than usual. John let his head fall back against the sofa and let out a weird choking, half-laugh sort of noise. He felt Sherlock's head come up off his lap to look at him and waved his free hand aimlessly.
"No, it's fine, don't mind me," he sighed. "I'm just losing what's left of my higher brain functions, that's all. Do you realise what it does to me when you say things like that?"
"Ye-es," Sherlock drawled, settling back down. "I could hardly miss it. It's only the truth, John. I don't see why it's still a shock to you."
"Because people don't tell the truth like you do," John said. He sifted his fingers through Sherlock's hair automatically, the action so familiar as to barely register except for Sherlock's pleased noises. "The other purpose of teasing is to deflect the intensity of one's emotional responses to avoid embarrassment or for self-protection. Neither of which you seem to care about. It does my head in, a bit."
"I don't get embarrassed. Not unless I make a mistake in my work. You know I don't care what other people think of me personally." Sherlock pushed his head into John's palm, indicating he should scratch. "And I don't need to protect myself from you."
"Because you're pretty well self-sufficient," John said, nodding, ignoring the clench in his chest as he said it.
"Patently untrue," Sherlock said. "It's because I know you won't hurt me."
He'd closed his eyes while John was stroking his hair; now he opened them and met John's gaze. Clear grey-green met concerned blue, hiding nothing, and John lost his breath entirely.
"You trust me that much?"
Sherlock gave him a slow, open, brilliant smile. "Now you're getting it."
"Right," John said, staring. "Right. Okay. How long are we going to watch telly?"
"Why do you want to know?"
"Because I'd really love to take you to bed now."
"Oh, excellent." Sherlock rolled to his feet and held out one hand. "See how much more efficient this is?"
"Efficient. Yes. Fine. Bedroom, Sherlock." John stood up and used Sherlock's hand to pull him close for a thorough kiss of his own. "I'm going to wind your hair around my fingers while you suck me. Yes?"
Sherlock's eyes went wide and then very, very dark. "Yes," he agreed. "Good. Fantastic, actually."
"After you," John said with a sweeping gesture.
He didn't bother to hide his grin as he followed. Perhaps this blunt honesty thing was a good idea. It seemed like it could be … mutually beneficial.
John hid a yawn and discreetly arched his back, wincing at the various aches and twinges. He was operating on about an hour's sleep, thanks in part to the new case they'd taken on late the previous evening. They'd only been vertical again for about ten minutes when Lestrade showed up at their door.
"Relatives squabbling over an inheritance, Lestrade? How quaint. Deal with it yourself."
"I can't. I'm a minor beneficiary of the will, wherever it is, and it's not a criminal case—that I know of—so it'd look a bit dodgy if I got involved. Look, just talk to Shannon, will you? She's my cousin, and she's in a bind that you might be able to help her out of. She needs to find that will."
"Yes, Sherlock. No need to look so surprised. I do have a family tree, you know."
"That's a shock. I always assumed you'd just taken physical form in the bowels of the Yard one day, wearing that awful suit."
"… did you just make an actual joke? Wonders will never cease."
The minute Lestrade left the flat, Sherlock had grinned expansively and stretched his arms over his head. "Tea, John?"
"You're going to take the case, then? I thought …"
"Well, it's a bit pedestrian for you, isn't it? Not much of a challenge." Regardless of how important it might be to Lestrade's cousin.
"Of course it is. Be over in a day or two, after I've seen the cousin. You're missing the point, John!" Sherlock's eyes gleamed. "Lestrade is going to owe us a personal favour for this. I'm not going to pass up an opportunity like that."
He'd kept John awake most of the night with preliminary research on estate administration and probate, and then ambushed him at about three a.m. for a second round of sex that left John limp and gasping on the mattress; not unusual by any means, but there was always an edge to it when Sherlock was embarking on a new case. John wasn't complaining (Christ no, sex with Sherlock was pretty much the last thing he'd ever complain about), but it was now nearly half-eight, and he'd already drunk four espressos from the café downstairs in an effort to appear alert. Sherlock, the great prat, had dozed for about half an hour during the night and somehow looked fresh as a daisy.
John looked down at his notes. Sherlock had all but dragged him out of bed at six a.m. for this meeting with Lestrade's cousin, to get the details of the case. The will they were looking for was that of Shannon Grant's recently-deceased mother. Emily Grant had died of complications due to Alzheimer's disease; Shannon was her sole caregiver, and held a power of attorney that had been in force since her mother's diagnosis. Shannon was the major beneficiary named in what had, until recently, been the only legal version of Emily's will believed to exist. Shannon was due to inherit a sizeable estate once probate was granted, including the family home in Battersea and a stock portfolio with a six-figure valuation. There were a few minor bequests (Lestrade was set to receive several thousand pounds in cash), but the bulk of the estate was to go to Shannon. Sherlock became genuinely interested when Shannon revealed that her sister, Suzanne, had come forward to contest Shannon's right to the inheritance.
"She says she has another version of the will," Shannon explained. Blonde and careworn, yet somehow quietly beautiful in jeans and a plain black blouse, she perched on the edge of John's chair, twisting a handkerchief around her fingers. "She hasn't been to see Mum in years, not since before the Alzheimer's set in, but she's saying they had a reconciliation visit while Mum was still lucid and that Mum agreed to change her will. She's got a high-priced lawyer who claims this new will is valid, but I can't find a copy of it anywhere. They keep promising to send it to me but something always happens to stall it—couriers getting lost, the post not being delivered, claims of emails bouncing back from my account. I've gone to their offices, but Suzanne's solicitor is never available to see me.
"If I go to court and claim they're deliberately keeping the will from me, I'll be laughed out of the room." Her voice shook with anxiety. "If she wins, she'll get everything; the whole estate. I'll have nothing. I don't have a job, Mr Holmes. I don't have any money for a solicitor. I dropped everything in my last year of university to look after my mother. That's all I've done for the past seven years. I live on the income I'm allotted in the terms of the power of attorney, and that's gone now. I don't care about the money so much, but the house, Mum's things … it's my home."
"What makes you so sure she'll get away with it?" John asked. "How can she prove that she actually visited? Surely someone else was looking after your mother while you were out who can attest that Suzanne was never there."
"We have—had a respite care nurse who came in twice a week to look after Mum while I went out and did errands," Shannon explained. "But sometimes it wasn't our usual nurse, and if it was a different person, then they wouldn't know not to let Suzanne in."
"Why not?" Sherlock's gaze sharpened and he sat up a little straighter in his chair. "Surely she's easy enough to recognise."
"I'm afraid not, Mr Holmes. Not to a stranger." Shannon's face twisted in a bitter smile. "We're identical twins."
"Really," Sherlock murmured. His eyes lit up, and John groaned to himself. He knew that look; it meant trouble with a capital S. "That is interesting." He sat forward in his chair and clapped his hands sharply.
"To recap: Suzanne and Emily are estranged for years due to Suzanne's false accusations of physical abuse by her now-deceased father, among other things. Suzanne hears about her mother's condition somehow, probably from a relative or family friend. She knows Emily excluded her from the will, but she still wants a share of the estate after her mother's death. She approaches Heyworth & Heyworth for a solution. The second will is 'discovered' in their safe custody room, apparently put there in 2005, before Emily is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Suzanne claims that Emily's original will, dated 2001, is now invalid."
"Suzanne poses as Shannon to get their mother's signature on the second will," John continued. "She gains access to the house by fooling the respite care nurse. Emily's mental deterioration would prevent her from recognising any difference, so the signature on the will is authentic even though the document isn't valid."
"We need that second will," Sherlock said. "Since it inconveniently never arrived from Suzanne's solicitors, well. We'll have to go in and get it ourselves, won't we?" He grinned and twisted in his chair, slinging his legs over one arm.
John and Shannon exchanged glances: hers puzzled, his resigned.
"You want to infiltrate their offices and steal the will," John said. It wasn't a question. "From the safe custody room of one of the poshest law firms in the city."
Sherlock flicked a negligent hand. "Child's play."
The initial plan was for Sherlock to get inside Heyworth & Heyworth's offices by posing as a solicitor. In a moment of genius, however, John suggested an alternative.
"They've got what, a couple hundred staff?" he said. They were lying on the sofa, Sherlock's back against John's chest. John was playing with Sherlock's fingers. "No-one's going to notice one more office temp coming and going."
"Oh, that's clever. I like it when you're clever, John." Sherlock lifted his head off John's shoulder long enough to kiss him, then cuddled in close again. "Admin staff often have access to areas where others would look out of place. Excellent."
Half an hour of rummaging through his and John's wardrobes ended rather profitably. Sherlock unearthed a badly-fitting blue suit that bore a horrible iron-scorch mark.
"I used to wear it to irritate Mycroft," he said with an impish smirk. "Oh! Wait a second." He dashed back into his bedroom and returned a moment later with a pair of steel-rimmed glasses. "Glasses are the single best disguise on the planet. Nobody pays attention to the bespectacled."
John sacrificed one of his rarely-worn white dress shirts to the cause, mostly because the idea of Sherlock wearing his clothing was a gigantic (if secret) thrill. It was a happy coincidence that John was both shorter in the arm and the torso than Sherlock, so that the sleeves ended several inches above Sherlock's wrists and the shirt kept coming untucked without any help at all. Sherlock gathered everything up and disappeared into the bathroom. When he emerged ten minutes later, his hair was parted awkwardly on one side and slicked flat, and he'd adopted a hunched-over posture and pinched expression. He was an exact replica of the thousands of disgruntled cube-dwellers slouching through the peak-hour crush.
"Perfect," John said. "You look like the kind of dodgy temp who steals stationery and eats all the biscuits."
(He forbore to mention the effect the glasses had on him, but he made a note to put them aside for later use.)
Sherlock swept by him with a wink and a quick kiss … and then another kiss, and a third, and then John had to fend him off and shove him toward the door.
"Must dash, or I'll be late. See you after work, darling," Sherlock called from the stairs.
"God help them," John said under his breath.
So: liberate the fake 'new' will from Heyworth & Heyworth's safe custody room. Replace it with a copy of the original will without anyone being the wiser. Take the matter to the National Fraud Authority and give them the boring task of interviewing every respite care nurse to have attended the Grant residence in the past seven years. Prove the second will invalid, collect the client's fulsome gratitude and generous fee, and round everything off with tom yum gai and Sherlock on his back wearing those glasses and nothing else.
02/09/2011 | 9:32am
Arrived Heyworth & Heyworth Solicitors. New staff 'induction' completed. Situation intolerable. Why have you done this to me?
02/09/2011 | 9:33am
From: John Watson
Don't blame me. It was your choice. It's our best chance to lay hands on the will, remember?
02/09/2011 | 9:33am
Could probably break in tonight and steal it then.
02/09/2011 | 9:34am
From: John Watson
Oh, come on. It's only one day. Think positive. Personal favour from Lestrade, etc.
02/09/2011 | 9:34am
Not sure this is worth it. Am instructed to 'do the filing'. Am filing emails. Printed emails. Do you realise how redundant that is?
02/09/2011 | 9:34am
From: John Watson
Welcome to the lives of admin assistants everywhere. This is how the other 99.9% lives.
02/09/2011 | 10:06am
Have made four coffees. For OTHER PEOPLE. Now told to courier folder of printed email correspondence to Bristol. BEYOND REDUNDANT. Do none of them understand how email works?
02/09/2011 | 10:08am
From: John Watson
It's a law firm. They waste time, money, and paper. This is a universally accepted truth.
02/09/2011 | 10:08am
Not by me. Have half a mind to set a match to the whole place. The screams would be quite enjoyable.
John didn't even try to stop the fond grin that spread over his face. Sherlock in a nine-to-five day job on a permanent basis just didn't compute, but the entertainment value of this particular case was pure gold.
02/09/2011 | 10:12am
Have just been reprimanded for texting too much on company time. May resort to violence. How do people put up with this treatment every day?
02/09/2011 | 10:12am
From: John Watson
Behave yourself. Think of it as an exercise in self-control.
02/09/2011 | 10:12am
Sherlock's scowl practically jumped off the screen. John laughed aloud and resolved to do something especially pleasing for Sherlock once the case was over. There was that bee farm in Hassocks he'd found online; maybe there was a decent B&B nearby. A weekend on the Sussex Downs sounded rather nice.
A couple of hours passed without any further communication from Sherlock. John called Shannon and visited her house to check through every document in the office, including the safe, just in case there was more data Shannon had missed. There was nothing of use. Hopefully Sherlock was having better luck.
02/09/2011 | 12:24pm
From: John Watson
02/09/2011 | 12:23pm
One of the senior partners is conducting extramarital affairs with three female staff members. He's gay. People are strange.
02/09/2011 | 12:23pm
From: John Watson
A lot of people say the same about you.
02/09/2011 | 12:23pm
That just proves my point.
02/09/2011 | 12:24pm
From: John Watson
Any progress re: the will?
02/09/2011 | 12:24pm
En route to safe custody room. Office security is appalling. A child could gain access with the right forged signature. Disappointing.
John rolled his eyes and began to tidy up the office. Sherlock would most likely be able to switch the wills in the next few minutes, so there was no point in spending any more time here. Besides, it was getting on for lunch.
An idea occurred, one that might improve Sherlock's no doubt irritated mood. John checked his watch; if he got a cab in the next few minutes, he'd get into the city just in time.
"Can I help you?" the frighteningly-well-groomed receptionist asked. She looked a lot like Anthea somehow, despite being a foot taller and a different colour.
"Uh, yeah. I'm here to meet Sherlock Holmes. He's new—just started today." John returned her painted-on professional smile and tried not to shuffle like a schoolboy. "He knows I'm here," in theory, anyway, "so I was hoping I could wait for him? It's a bit nippy outside."
"Of course," the receptionist replied blandly, dismissing him in favour of something on her computer screen. "Have a seat."
While he waited, John texted Sherlock again. He'd tried to call several times on the way over, without success—Sherlock really needed to learn to answer his phone. His texts weren't getting a reply, though, and Sherlock usually responded to those. Even if it was just to tell him to shut up.
02/09/2011 | 1:13pm
From: John Watson
Decided to come and meet you. I'm waiting at the reception desk. What's going on? Did your battery go dead?
He fidgeted quietly while he waited, wedged into what had to be the most uncomfortable chair ever made. It seemed designed to keep him on the verge of sliding off the slick upholstery, the arms were the wrong height, and it was just a touch too narrow for him to sit in properly. He gave up after a while and went over to the floor-to-ceiling window, looking out over the Strand.
"John! You're here. Marvellous."
He turned around. Sherlock was entering the reception area through a door behind the large glossy desk, his eyes on his phone.
"Hello, darling," John said, coming forward to meet him. "My inspection ended sooner than I expected, so I thought I'd come and take you to lunch."
He stepped into Sherlock's personal space and put a hand on his hip. Sherlock went still, looking up to meet John's gaze with wide eyes behind the steel-rimmed glasses. John stared innocently—and hopefully, adoringly—back at him and leaned up to press a lingering kiss to his parted lips.
"What are you doing?" Sherlock murmured into his mouth, barely audible. John smiled and kissed the tip of his nose before pulling away.
"Come on," he said in a deliberately husky voice. "I've been missing you all morning. I want you to myself for a bit."
Sherlock was clearly mystified, but he played along without question, taking John's offered hand and allowing himself to be led toward the lifts. John could see the receptionist's perfectly plucked eyebrows rising up toward her hairline as they went, and her fingers were flying madly over her keyboard. He had no doubt she was composing a gossipy email that would be circulated to all the admin staff in the next half hour.
"John, it's not that I don't appreciate the attention," Sherlock began as the lift doors closed behind them, "but what—"
John cut him off with another kiss, pushing him against the wall of the lift and putting a bit of effort into it. Sherlock resisted for about half a second until he caught John's glance toward the security cameras, then he relaxed into it and twined his arms around John's back, gripping tight. John kept a mental countdown in his head and ended the kiss five seconds before the lift doors opened, so that they had time to pull apart and appear perfectly sedate when they stepped into the lobby.
"John, really," Sherlock persisted, "what's gotten into you?" He reached out to grab John's arm; John neatly intercepted the move and slid his arm around Sherlock's waist instead, tucking his fingers teasingly under the waistband of his cheap polyester trousers.
"I thought you liked it when I show affection in public?" John said mildly.
"Of course I do. It makes my spine melt, but why are you doing it now?"
"Because I want to." John slid him a sideways glance and a grin. "And because the only thing the office and building staff will remember about you is that you're obviously about to indulge in a quickie with your clingy boyfriend, which is why they won't be surprised when you don't come back after lunch."
"Oh. Oh!" Sherlock stopped walking and stared at him. "That's brilliant, John. Kiss me again, please."
Still grinning, John palmed the back of Sherlock's neck and brought him down the necessary few inches. Sherlock took him by surprise, sucking John's tongue into his mouth and stirring him up in very short order. When he drew back, Sherlock's face was flushed and his eyes were bright, fixed on John with almost physical intensity.
"Are we about to indulge in a quickie, then?" Sherlock asked breathlessly.
"We bloody well are now," John said, exhaling. He all but dragged Sherlock toward the street. "I take it you didn't have any trouble getting the will?" Sherlock tapped the inside pocket of his jacket, and John nodded. "What were you doing in there that you ignored my calls, then?"
"Oh, that. I was having a look through their accounting system." Sherlock reached into his pocket and briefly displayed a memory stick. "The senior partner I told you about has been using client trust money for his own purposes. He's put rather a large dent in the account of one of the firm's major clients. I expect the Law Society would like to know about that, and possibly also the police. I expect the resulting scandal and criminal charges will keep the firm nicely distracted until this business of the Grant will is safely dealt with."
It was John's turn to stop and stare. Sherlock quirked an eyebrow at him.
"What? I was looking through the safe custody records and found the information by accident. It's on the same file system, and whoever covered it up did a terrible job. I was hardly going to leave it alone."
"You are the most …" John started, then shook his head. "No, wait. We need to get out of here and go somewhere with a lockable door so I can get you naked."
"I do like the way you think," Sherlock said over his shoulder. "If we get a cab we can be back in Baker Street in fifteen minutes. Come along."
The next four hours were spent rather profitably, in John's considered opinion. They had the fake will, Suzanne Grant had no clue, the dodgy high-brow law firm had no clue, and Sherlock was thrashing underneath him in a wildly exciting way. John had the feeling he was going to crash pretty hard later on, but right now he needed to thrust just a little … bit … harder.
"There! There, oh, right there, do that again. God, John, you're a genius … oh!"
Shannon Grant was duly appreciative when they surrendered the will into her keeping that evening at the flat. Sherlock was able to establish at a glance that the will was less than a year old despite it bearing a date in 2005; something about pH levels and ink formulations that John didn't understand at all. The end result was, Sherlock concluded, Emily Grant could not have been of sound enough mind to make a legal will in 2010, due to the late stage of her disease.
"Have it analysed," Sherlock said, handing the document to Shannon. "I'm certain I'm correct and you'll win your case, but expert testimony is always best."
John smiled and shook Shannon's hand when he saw her out, and started up the stairs with the express intention of sleeping the clock around. Unfortunately, he never got the chance.
"Dinner, John!" Sherlock came flying down two steps at a time with their coats and scarves over his arm. "I want sushi."
"I want to sleep," John muttered, but he followed Sherlock anyway. He'd only lie awake waiting for the idiot to come back otherwise, and besides, sushi sounded good. Another hour wouldn't make any difference.
"Oh, great," John muttered under his breath as they ducked into an alleyway with footsteps pounding behind them. "Another late-night chase through the streets so we can play hide-and-seek with hired thugs. Lovely." At least they'd already eaten dinner this time. The salmon nigiri at that place was amazing.
"Stop complaining," Sherlock called back to him. "In a couple of minutes we'll be able to lose them, and then we can go home and you can have your eight hours of useless unconsciousness."
"Don't patronise an army veteran with combat experience, Sherlock. Especially when he's right behind you."
Sherlock's shout of laughter made John's heart rate pick up, and he lengthened his stride a little more. He wasn't entirely sure who they were currently running from, but he assumed that someone at Heyworth & Heyworth was displeased with Sherlock's particular work ethic and this was an extreme form of dispute resolution. Sherlock probably knew for certain, but then Sherlock probably knew their pursuers' life stories just by listening to their footsteps. The thought tickled John, and he chuckled to himself as they ran.
It was less funny a short while later when they took a sharp left turn into a laneway in Covent Garden and came up hard against a twelve-foot-high wire mesh fence halfway in that Sherlock clearly wasn't expecting to be there.
Sherlock turned in a quick circle, eyes darting everywhere for an alternate route, but they were hemmed in on all sides by blank-faced brick walls. John wished briefly for his gun, but he'd hardly expected to need it to go out for a quick dinner.
"Plan?" John's voice felt tight. He was aware of every twitch and sound from Sherlock, straining to hear oncoming footsteps through the sound of late traffic.
"We can't get over this fence before they catch up, and we don't want them following us home." Sherlock came to stand at his shoulder. "We have to take them down."
"How many, d'you reckon?"
"I counted four. Three with various blunt objects, one with a knife. One of them is missing a few fingers. One has a knee injury. All quasi-military, Territorial Army at best. I'd say Charles Heyworth is possibly a bit put out by my investigations this morning."
"Not exactly the crème de la crème," John said. "You'd think Heyworth could afford better with all the cash he's been skimming."
"He probably isn't expecting you," Sherlock replied, with such a look of undisguised glee in his eyes that John had to laugh.
"Right. That's me, the new Spanish Inquisition," he said, and shrugged when Sherlock tilted his head in query. "Pop culture reference. Never mind, I'll tell you later. Here they come."
Their pursuers came running around the corner of the lane and pulled up short at the sight of himself and Sherlock waiting for them. Clearly, they weren't expecting a confrontation, but after a quick exchange of glances they moved in, blocking the width of the lane.
"Evening, gents," John offered. "Nice night for a stroll."
"Not for much longer," said one of the men, buffing a brass knuckleduster against his shirt. "When we're finished here, you won't be strolling anywhere for a very long time."
"Oh, for God's sake," Sherlock said. "Can we just get on with it, please? If that's the best you can do in terms of witty repartee, I'd rather have my head bashed in."
The spokesman growled, "Fucking ponce," and threw a punch, which Sherlock dodged, and then John found he had a punch or two of his own to deal with.
Their four attackers split into pairs, the bigger fellows targeting Sherlock and attempting to overwhelm him with brute force. John, on the other hand, watched as one of the remaining two men dropped back, while the one now facing him produced a narrow six-inch knife of dubious cleanliness and began waving it in John's face.
"Come on then, little man," the knife-wielder taunted. "You want to get out of here, you got to get by me." He lashed out in a low swipe with the knife, testing, and John used the motion to gauge the man's reach.
"Look, I'm really tired," he said, standing quite still, tracking the movement of the knife and keeping the fourth man in his line of sight. "Could we hurry this along? I'd like to get an early night—"
The knife blade flashed again, aiming for his neck this time. John stepped inside the swing and caught the man's fingers in his left hand, squeezing brutally tight. In the same motion he twisted the arm he held sharply inward into an unforgiving straight-arm wristlock. His attacker howled, suddenly bent in half and struggling, and John put a little more pressure on the hold as a warning. The knife clattered to the ground at John's feet.
"Settle down," he started to say, but just then the man stumbled sideways, grabbed the knife with his free hand, and tried to stab John in the knee. John ground his teeth and twisted his grip again, harder, and the resulting dull pop was far more satisfying than it should have been.
He let the injured man fall to the ground, where he curled around his dislocated shoulder, moaning quietly. John picked up the knife and hefted it, testing the weight, and watched the fourth man to see what he would do. He could see Sherlock in the corner of his eye, darting between his two opponents, landing quicksilver punches and dancing back out of reach before they could react.
"Whenever you're ready to wrap this up, Sherlock," he called.
Sherlock spared him a split-second glance. In the next instant he'd laid one of his opponents out cold with a vicious uppercut, and pulled the other in by his collar so his jaw could meet Sherlock's upraised knee. Sherlock finished him off with a quick blow to the back of his neck and let him slither to the ground, unconscious.
"Where's—" Sherlock began, and John tore his eyes away from his friend to see the fourth man turn and start running.
He didn't think about it. He didn't have to. The knife flipped in his hand, spine-up; his arm drew up, back, forward, and released; the target fell to the ground with the blade buried in the back of his thigh. The whole procedure took maybe three seconds.
Sherlock looked at John with the greediest expression he'd ever seen.
"Magnificent," Sherlock rasped. "When we get home I am going to fuck you until you cry."
"Fantastic. Looking forward to it," John said. "Do you have any zip ties on you?"
Going to the Yard to debrief and sign off their statements was John's least favourite part of closing a case. Without the stream of data and the puzzle of what-who-how to occupy him, Sherlock's interaction with Donovan and, less frequently, Anderson, was far more combative. John often found himself wanting to smack the lot of them—particularly Sherlock. John knew Sherlock didn't actually care about their opinions; he only indulged himself out of sheer bloody-mindedness, although in all fairness he rarely fired the first verbal shot. Still, John wished that just once they could get through one of those meetings without the words "freak" or "imbecile" being thrown around the room. Not to mention he knew far more about Donovan's private life than he'd ever wanted to learn.
Fortunately, because it was a fraud case (two fraud cases, in the end), most of their contact would be with the City of London Police, not Scotland Yard. They still had to provide their statements as to the goings-on with Heyworth's hired muscle, however, and it was several hours before Lestrade was satisfied they'd told him everything. John supposed he should be grateful Lestrade's team happened to be on duty tonight; explaining the whole case from scratch to another DI would have taken even longer.
"Right. Are we finished here?" John asked. He stretched, wincing at the tightness in his shoulder. "This is my second day without sleep and I've got a shift starting in an hour."
Sherlock and Donovan were shooting dark looks at each other across the conference room table; they'd been trading veiled barbs almost from the moment they sat down and the atmosphere was growing steadily more vicious. John wanted to avoid the incident he could sense was coming before it even got started.
"No, you don't," Sherlock said. "It's Saturday. Your next shift isn't until Tuesday."
"Oh, good." John rubbed his eyes. They were burning with fatigue. "In that case, I want to go home and sleep."
"Yeah, all right. Off you go." Lestrade shuffled their statements into a neatly-aligned pile. "I'll let you know the court dates." He shook his head. "Only you, Sherlock, would start out with a simple fraud case and end up uncovering one of the biggest embezzlement scandals in years." He stood up and headed for the door with Donovan a few steps behind.
"Always a pleasure, Lestrade," Sherlock said airily. "Come on, John. If you fall asleep in the cab I'm not carrying you up the stairs."
He pulled John out of his chair a bit too quickly for John's tired reflexes. John overbalanced and fell against Sherlock's shoulder, his feet tangling with the chair legs. Sherlock's arm snaked around his waist, and for a moment John nestled comfortably with his face in Sherlock's neck.
"Whoops. Sorry," he said, pausing to yawn. "Past couple of days just hit me all at once, I think."
"I know. You always collapse like this after a case." Sherlock moved his hand up to John's shoulder. "Usually I make Lestrade work around it until you've rested."
"You … what?" John frowned. "Is that legal? Surely it's obstructing a criminal investigation, or something."
"Don't be dramatic. Heyworth and his thugs are already in custody. A short delay in the paperwork isn't going to make a difference. Besides, Lestrade wouldn't do it if it was illegal." Sherlock sniffed. "He's absurdly inflexible like that."
"But, hang on," John said, trying to parse Sherlock's words. His brain felt like molasses. "We can't hold up the legal system just so I can get my beauty sleep, Sherlock. Our testimony is what puts these people in prison."
"Yes, and if he wants it, Lestrade has accepted that sometimes he has to wait for it." Sherlock herded him toward the door. "There's no point in arguing. It's one of my standard conditions of contract and I'm not going to change it. Now come on, you need sleep."
"I'm not the only one," John told him. "Do your conditions of contract include you getting your rest as well?" He ran his finger lightly over the shadows under Sherlock's eyes. "Your bags have bags."
"Yes, Doctor Watson," Sherlock singsonged like a kindergartner. He pulled John's hand away from his face and kissed his palm. "Shut up now. You're starting to talk drivel."
John subsided, musing over the fact that Sherlock apparently thought nothing of bringing the entire criminal justice system to a halt until John got his habitual eight hours of shuteye. He was conscious of a familiar warmth in his chest, one that was appearing more often of late: the realisation that Sherlock took better notice and care of him than John had assumed. It was a far cry from his abandonment at that first crime scene in Brixton. As far as emotional declarations went, for Sherlock, this was pretty bloody good.
Donovan had stopped to talk to Anderson, who was hovering outside the conference room. She curled her lip at Sherlock as they passed. Sherlock raised an eyebrow but otherwise ignored the pair, until Donovan's voice rang out behind them.
"So, Doctor Watson scrubs your floors now, does he? How'd you con him into that?"
Oh, bloody hell.
Sherlock stopped dead and spun on his heel. John stayed where he was, two paces away, in case things got interesting. He felt adrenalin start to flood through his veins again, and watched as Lestrade quietly rejoined the scene. Anderson's face had gone blotchy with embarrassment; he sidled away, trying to escape, but when he saw John's gaze on him he went still.
"Sorry, Sally? I didn't quite catch that," Sherlock said pleasantly.
"Yes, you did," Donovan scoffed. "Shoe's on the other foot now, isn't it? Now you know what it's like to have someone else air your dirty laundry in public." She raised her voice enough to carry through the whole room. "The freak's finally gone and brainwashed someone into shagging him. It's sad, really. I thought your colleague was a nice, normal bloke, but if you're what turns him on, well. You deserve each other."
Thirty or so of the Yard's staff went momentarily silent as Donovan smirked, awaiting Sherlock's response.
"What—oh, I see." Sherlock surveyed the room in a glance and returned his attention to her. "This is your revenge on me for outing you and Anderson. You've found out my nasty little secret and I'm supposed to be … what? Embarrassed? Ashamed? Perhaps I should think twice before I respond to your insults next time?"
He slanted a quick sideways glance at John. (What do you think?) John was just irritated enough, and just tired enough, to not care about discretion. He let his mouth curve a tiny bit—(no bloodshed, please)—and slumped against a desk to wait.
"You obviously have an opinion about my relationship with John," Sherlock all but purred. "Don't be bashful, Sally. Feel free to air your thoughts."
"Donovan, don't start," Lestrade said in a clear warning tone. "Go home, Sherlock. This isn't the time or the place."
"Right," Donovan replied, her bitterness plain. "He's allowed to say whatever he likes about me, but I can't retaliate?"
"No, no, no." Sherlock spread his arms wide, conveniently blocking Lestrade's view. John hid a smile behind another yawn. "Retaliate, by all means. Or better still, let me do it for you. It'll be faster." He swept her with a single speaking glance. "You were hoping to cause me considerable embarrassment by calling attention to an intimate moment between John and me. You did it in a way that was calculated to humiliate me, belittle John, and make me protective of his reputation."
"My hero," John murmured.
"Sherlock …" Lestrade began.
"Shut up." Sherlock didn't even blink, but his voice was like steel. "Donovan, you're an idiot, but that's hardly news. John and I have been—" He paused.
"A couple. Partners. Together. Shagging like rabbits," John supplied.
"—for some time, and you're sadly mistaken if you think I'm embarrassed about it. John is the best man I've ever met. I count myself very lucky to have him with me in any capacity, let alone gracing my bed. And he's quite capable of defending his reputation should he feel the need, which I doubt is the case." Another lightning-fast glance in John's direction.
"Not especially." John smiled, letting the warmth in his chest spill into his expression. "I do scrub the floors, as it happens. Among other things."
Sherlock speared him with a look of open want that made John's pulse start to race. He caught Lestrade looking disconcerted and raised an eyebrow; Lestrade flushed and glanced away.
"Oh, well, that's all right then. Sherlock Holmes finds someone screwed up enough to crawl between his sheets and suddenly everything's rosy. Funny how it's different when it's you doing it." Donovan went tight-lipped. "I just thought you should get a taste of the treatment you dish out all the time."
"Sally, you may be ashamed of the bed you wake up in, but what you fail to realise is that I don't care," Sherlock said with exaggerated emphasis. "I'm sorry if that shatters your illusions. I'm perfectly happy for our charming exchanges to be strictly business in future, if you like. It'd certainly save us all some time." He looked around at the startled faces following the confrontation, everyone within earshot staring at either him or John. "Oh, for God's sake. Don't any of you have better things to do than gossip about my personal life? No wonder you always need help."
"All right, that's enough." John stood up straight and gave Sherlock a gentle push toward the exit. "Don't go starting fights with the entire office or we'll be here all day."
He caught the grin that Sherlock stifled as he turned away, and had to suppress his own in response. It wasn't funny, not really; they had to work with these people and this constant antagonism wasn't doing anyone any good. On the other hand, Donovan had been pushing it pretty hard, and it was flattering to hear Sherlock announce their relationship like that. He was still coming to grips with the idea that Sherlock trusted him so absolutely; it was humbling, wonderful, and, if he were honest, a massive turn-on.
Lestrade stopped him just as they got to the door. Sherlock was already several steps down the corridor and didn't turn around.
"Look, I just …" Lestrade started, then sighed. "I'm sorry if that was uncomfortable for you. I should've stopped it, but it's been coming for a long time. Those two are oil and water, basically."
"Don't worry about it. It's fine." John smiled. "Nobody threw any punches, so I'm calling it a win."
"You're good for him," Lestrade said awkwardly, out of nowhere. "I mean—he's never going to be …"
"Yeah." Lestrade rolled his eyes. "But he's better than he used to be. A lot better. I think that's down to you."
"Not really. I just don't think he's ever had anyone try to understand him before."
"Oh, I tried. I tried for almost a year."
John's surprise must have shown on his face, because Lestrade followed his statement with a wry smile.
"It's ancient history now. I don't think he even noticed. Terrible idea anyway; we'd have killed each other inside of a week." He clapped John on the shoulder. "He's never done anything like that before, you know. I honestly don't know how you put up with him, but I'm bloody glad you do."
"That makes two of us."
Sherlock's hand settled on John's shoulder, high up near his neck. His fingers and palm gripped the knotted muscle above John's old wound with warm, steady pressure. His thumb flirted with the skin under John's shirt collar, tiny movements raising sparks like steel on flint. John kept his breathing even with difficulty and looked up into Sherlock's eyes.
"Sorry," John managed. "Got distracted."
"So I heard. Forget it. Ancient history, like he said." Sherlock nodded to Lestrade and pulled John away. "He's quite right; it would've been terrible. And you're much better for me. Perfect, in fact. I sometimes wonder if we were made for each other."
"God." John closed his eyes briefly. "Okay, you need to shut up now."
"Because if you don't stop talking like that I'm going to shove you against the nearest wall and fuck the living daylights out of you. And there are limits to what I'm comfortable with the general public knowing about our relationship. 'Gracing your bed', for Christ's sake. I almost came in my pants."
Sherlock's stride faltered; he missed a step and nearly tripped, his gaze fixed on John. A flush coloured his cheeks, and his lips parted in surprise.
"Oh," Sherlock said after a moment. He cleared his throat. "Right. Some … discretion is in order in public, then?"
"Yeah." John kept his eyes front and willed his erection to settle the hell down. "That'd be good."
They walked on, nodding occasionally to people as they made their way through the building to the street. After a few steps, Sherlock reached over and took John's hand, lacing their fingers together. John looked across and saw a small, private smile curve his friend's mouth.
"It's not exactly a crime scene, but I thought it might suffice," Sherlock murmured. He squeezed John's hand lightly.
The warmth in John's chest exploded. He raised their joined hands and kissed Sherlock's fingers, nipping one of his knuckles.
"Tonight, after I've had my hard-earned, well-deserved sleep," he said quietly, "I am going to enact the aforementioned wall scenario and make you come so hard you scream."
"Thanks for the warning," Sherlock breathed. "I'll cancel my appointments."
"It's not a warning, Sherlock. It's a promise."
That brilliant smile bloomed again, making John's heart constrict.