I hope you know what you’re doing with your demon eyes, Sherlock. John knelt straight-backed on the wooden floor and watched the blue in those eyes wane. John’s wrists crossed in front of him, his fingers grabbing the hem of his jumper, pulling it and the vest beneath it over his head in one, efficient motion. He dropped them on the floor. I hope you understand what you’re doing to me.
John pressed his lips together, snatched one of Sherlock’s hands from beneath the cushions and pressed it against his bare chest. “Feel what you’re doing, Sherlock,” John said and his whisper was like a hiss, his hand like a steel band around Sherlock’s wrist. “Don’t just listen this time.” John’s voice dropped to almost nothing. “Feel it.”
Sherlock did not reply. He regarded John from half-closed eyes, his nostrils flaring slightly as he breathed, his lips sealed in their perfect shape.
John felt the flush blooming on his skin. He sat back on his heels, breathed in deeply, let the breath out slowly, tried to convince his muscles not to coil any more tightly.
Sherlock’s fingertips stirred against John’s skin. The long fingers stretched, brushed over the small nub of pink skin within their reach.
The pounding of blood filled John’s ears. Sherlock would feel the beat against his palm. “You promised not to experiment on me again, Sherlock,” John said and there was hardly any sound to the air his lips formed.
Sherlock’s fingers fanned out over John’s chest. John let go of Sherlock’s wrist, let his own hand drop to his side. “Or did you only promise not to be wrong again?” Sherlock’s hand slid down John’s chest, two fingers hooking behind John’s belt buckle, tugging at it as the hand fell against the front of John’s trousers.
John saw the two crescent-shaped creases form at the corner of Sherlock’s lips before the edges of his vision went dark and his muscles uncoiled.
John inhaled deeply, rubbed his face against the silk, drifted off again.
He felt a draught. It pricked goosebumps over his buttocks, across the backs of his thighs. His hand flailed in the direction of his legs, didn’t snare any covers to block the chill. The fragrance was everywhere. John didn’t want to move, but the chill was insistent, rude, insinuating itself into tender places. He opened an eye. The lamp threw hulking shadows across the dim room. The hump-backed one on the floor by the couch was his own, John realised. It explained why the draught was able to reach such intimate spaces. He tried lifting his head, it remained pressed against the silken surface. His muscles didn’t seem to be connected to anything. John concentrated on moving his hand, managed to clutch a handful of the cloth on which he lay, bunched it against his face. It was the robe Sherlock had been wearing.
John sat up, his head protesting the change in altitude. His trousers fell from his knees to the floor, the belt buckle banging against the wood. John looked around the room. It was empty. Silent. There were images in the shadows, sensations lingering on his skin. John rested his head against the back of the sofa. Biting and scratching seemed to have been involved. John pulled his lower lip between his teeth, tasted the blood, probed at the split with his tongue. His recollection was not clear. He wondered if the drug really was out of his system. Wondered where Sherlock had gone. John kicked off his trousers. His muscles ached; they wanted him to lie back down.
A pipe thrummed, clunked, thrummed again. Sherlock was in the shower.
It was foolish to hesitate, but John did, outside the bathroom door in the dark hall. His eyes hadn’t been ready for bright light. He shook his head, tried to clear it of the images, dispel the sensations, Sherlock’s hair clenched between his fingers, the long arch of Sherlock’s throat, the pulse at its base beating against his mouth. The grogginess refused to dissipate. John rested his hand on the doorknob, turned it slowly. The door was not locked. A spasm tightened his stomach. He pushed the door half open, slipped inside, squinted into the glare. He needed to see what he had done.
Sherlock’s head and one shoulder appeared around the glass partition, dripping water onto the floor. “Good, you’ve brought my dressing gown. Come in before the water’s gone.”
Hesitating then no longer, John shrugged off the robe, draped it over the towel rack and stood at the edge of the bath.
Sherlock peered out from the steam. “Hurry. You know it won’t last long.”
Not as hot as Sherlock liked his showers, no, it wouldn’t last long. John tilted his head. Sherlock’s voice sounded so normal, as if they showered together every day. Maybe Sherlock adjusted to change faster than other people. Maybe he hadn’t slept so deeply or at all. Maybe the images in John’s mind were only fragments of a dream.
A wet hand closed around John’s arm and tugged. John followed.
The hot water stung his face and chest but didn’t run over his shoulders, leaving his back cold. Sherlock reached up and adjusted the showerhead. John smiled as the water streamed over him. Sherlock hadn’t looked around, of course.
“Here,” Sherlock said, holding a cake of soap over his shoulder. “Wash my back.”
John opened his mouth. Water came in. He spit it out.
Sherlock waggled the soap at John. “Post-coital ritual,” he said.
John grabbed the soap with one hand and Sherlock’s hip with the other to keep from falling down.
“Mutual grooming. Bonding,” Sherlock continued.
The soap fit perfectly in John’s palm, rounded and smooth. In his other hand, Sherlock’s hip fit perfectly, too. John considered whether he might be back on the sofa dreaming and began smoothing the soap across Sherlock’s back. He let go of Sherlock’s hip to rub the sheen of soap into lather. He leaned closer and sniffed. It was a good part of the fragrance on Sherlock’s robe. He didn’t recall noticing it before, although it must have been sitting on the side of the bath all this time. John’s hands moved down Sherlock’s back. John’s eyes scanned lower. He couldn’t see any marks. His hands kept soaping and lathering, lower and lower. John narrowed his eyes as he watched his own hands. It would be very useful to recall exactly how matters had sorted themselves out on the couch. Very useful.
Sherlock turned around. John started. Sherlock’s hand was around his arm before John could slip. “You wanted to inspect the front of me, too, I believe,” Sherlock stated.
John didn’t look up. He wasn’t quite ready to brave Sherlock’s eyes, so he kept his eyes level and ran the creamy soap over the pale skin of Sherlock’s chest with one hand and frothed it into lather with the other. As the water rinsed the soap away, John found looking straight ahead problematic as well.
“The water’s cooling. I’ll let you finish before it’s cold,” Sherlock said and was out of the bath in two steps.
Cool by Sherlock’s standards perhaps, not by John’s. John shampooed, listening to Sherlock cleaning his teeth. The fog seemed to be clearing from his head, but the memories hadn’t returned yet. John raised his face to the warm spray, let the bubbles slide over his closed eyes. His mind had grown accustomed to playing hide-and-seek with his memories. He wondered when that was going to stop.
With a start, John realised he hadn’t completed his inspection. Rapidly, he finished scrubbing and stepped out of the shower as Sherlock bent over the basin to rinse his mouth. John’s legs malfunctioned. He sat down with a bump on the edge of the bath and stared. Sherlock half turned his head, tossed John the towel he’d had over his shoulder. Under the pretext of drying his hair, John hid his face in the terry cloth. The darkness was tinged with lavender and pink. John’s hands stopped moving. Sherlock’s skin was very fair.
“If you’re not going to use it, I will,” Sherlock said and plucked the towel off John’s head. Sherlock lifted a foot to the rim of the bathtub and rubbed the towel along his thigh, between his legs. John felt his blood pressure dropping. Perhaps if he rested his head against that lean thigh, the overhead light would stop pulsing. Sherlock put his foot down, lifted the other. John’s eyes widened.
John had never been one for leaving love bites, although he’d been given some colourful ones in his time. He’d always considered them a sign he had acquitted himself well in the encounter, but he’d never been inspired to bestow any. Until now apparently. He wanted to touch it. Sherlock shifted his stance. Them.
Sherlock dropped the damp towel on John’s shoulder. “Proprietary behaviour. Quite instinctive.”
John saw his hand coming into view, the fingers outstretched. He pulled it back, clenched his fist, noticed the bruise coming out on his middle knuckle.
John’s head snapped back. He met Sherlock’s enquiring gaze. There was too much chrome in their bathroom. It lent a silver gleam to Sherlock’s eyes. John’s blood was doing something else now. A sheen of sweat joined the water John hadn’t dried off, but he succeeded in jerking his eyes away to check Sherlock’s chin, his cheeks, his jaw. All perfectly pale. John dropped his head into his hand.
“You punched the wall,” Sherlock explained.
One part of John wanted to ask why, but another part thought he might not be ready to know. He heard the rustle of cloth. Don’t leave. Can’t follow right now. Fabric brushed against his knee. John removed his hand from his eyes. Sherlock was holding out his robe; its blue and white stripes mockingly unchanged from when he had last worn it several geological ages ago.
“You need to eat,” Sherlock said. “It’s why you feel light-headed.”
John thought Sherlock might be mistaken about that or perhaps he was avoiding stating the obvious. He took the offered dressing gown, laid it discreetly across his lap. It felt just the same, too.
“And I’d like tea…and toast,” Sherlock continued, slipping into his robe. John hadn’t moved. Sherlock took John’s dressing gown back and held it open for him. “Come. You’ll feel stronger once you’ve eaten.”
John huffed out a noisy breath, stood, stretched out an arm and stopped. The steam in the bathroom was clearing. John could see himself in the long mirror on the back of the door. He turned until he faced it fully. His fingertips tapped the base of his throat, dropped to his hips, splayed. John snorted. He couldn’t reach all four marks at once. Sherlock moved behind John, holding the robe open. John threaded his arms through the sleeves, looked up and caught Sherlock’s eyes in the mirror.
“There are others,” Sherlock said, keeping his eyes fixed on John’s image in the mirror. He reached around John and tied the belt of the dressing gown. “Would you like to examine them now? Or later, after tea.” Sherlock’s voice was warm against John’s ear. His posture brought images swarming into John's mind. The harsh silver light of the bathroom faded into shadows. The pleasure had been so intense John had thought he might scream as it clawed its way out of him. He had punched the wall instead. Sherlock straightened, drew his hands back from the knot, pausing at John’s hips for a moment, fingers spread wide before he lifted them away.
The mirror came back into focus. John nodded at Sherlock’s reflection in it, stepped forward to open the door and marched out. The mirror caught the corners of Sherlock’s lips lifting as the door swung open. Sherlock followed.