“Sit,” Sherlock said.
John lifted one of the hands with which he was supporting himself from the kitchen counter, swivelled and gripped the back of the chair with it. He’d felt fine walking from the bathroom, felt the shower had cleared his head well enough. Reaching overhead for the tea had proved otherwise. He sat down heavily in the chair, rested his head on the table. The room stabilised.
Sherlock took one of the mugs John had already set out and filled it with tap water. “Drink,” he said, setting it next to John. John looked up at Sherlock, hesitating. “I didn’t put anything in it,” Sherlock clarified. “And I won’t slip anything into the tea. Drink.” He nudged the mug closer to John’s hand. John worked his fingers through the handle, lifted his head, drained the cup. Sherlock took it back, refilled it. “Dehydration and low blood sugar. Not a good combination. Drink.”
“I believe I’m the physician here,” John murmured, setting the emptied mug down. He felt a bit steadier already.
“But you’re physically incapacitated at the moment. Dulls the mind. And I do know how to make tea,” Sherlock retorted, turning away to take down the teapot and adding the tea.
“Don’t have much evidence of that,” John said, one side of his mouth turning up as he leaned his head against his hand and watched the muscles of Sherlock’s back move beneath his robe. Sherlock took out the milk, the sugar, the spoons, put bread in the toaster. Mundane movements that shifted the silk under the bright kitchen light. John’s index finger outlined one of the water rings on the table. He had touched those muscles, and much more. How can I not remember? John closed his eyes, let his other fingers skim across the tabletop. Other textures slid beneath them. John's hand had taken an instant to slip between Sherlock’s side and his arm, under his shoulder, over the warm skin above his collar and into the warm curls at his neck. John’s fingers had clenched, holding Sherlock’s head in place. Sherlock’s breath had been drawn in in surprise. Alternating swaths of skin and silk had pressed against John’s chest as his weight settled on Sherlock, pinning him against the sofa. Sensation had flooded in from a thousand points, all of them registering Sherlock.
“Different metabolisms,” Sherlock said.
John opened his eyes, his mouth dry again. He was breathing through it.
Sherlock regarded him thoughtfully. “I don’t think the drug is out of your system, although it appears to be out of mine.”
John could hear the water beginning to boil, could smell the toast browning. Sherlock’s skin seemed incandescent under the fluorescent lights. Sherlock stepped closer. There was a thin line of shadow cast by the lapel of the dressing gown, it shifted as he moved. The tang of citrus overwhelmed the scent of bread. John glanced down. Sherlock ripped the last bit of peel off the tangerine he held, pulled the fruit in half, and the half in half again. A mist of juice sprayed into the air, a drop landing on John’s chin. Sherlock wiped it away with a cool fingertip, tapped a couple sections of fruit against John’s lips. John opened his mouth further, took both segments in. Sherlock set the rest of the tangerine on the table next to John’s hand and turned away.
John’s teeth broke the skin of the fruit and the flavour exploded. He closed his eyes again. Is it like this for Sherlock all the time? Is this what the beginning of observing instead of merely sensing is like? There was often a bowl of apples or bananas or tangerines sitting about the flat. Sherlock ate more if something edible was readily to hand and John was fond of fruit, but he had spent too much of his life in the military to savour food. There it was served as necessary fuel and dwelling on the taste of it was usually unwise. How much else of my life do I not fully observe because I don’t want to acknowledge how unsatisfactory the details are? He refused to think about the automated patter with which he responded to almost any attractive woman. Was that what he had been doing at Angelo's that first night with Sherlock? Sherlock had replied with equally practiced words of refusal, polite though, not the brusque style John had already witnessed at Bart’s. The cautionary words had been preceded by an interested and wary look. John needed to understand that their tempo would be Sherlock’s. John had only comprehended the refusal of a proposition he hadn’t consciously intended to make, had responded to the cold shift in their dynamic with placating words. He hadn’t understood the other part, but he was happier when the moment passed. And he was ready to run when Sherlock did.
John heard the lid of the teapot rattle as it was being set on the table, the clatter of the spoons. Sherlock tapped another section of fruit against John’s lips.
The first spot his lips had sought had been behind Sherlock’s ear, the skin there taut over muscle and bone. His arms had had such a tight hold on Sherlock they had begun to cramp before he left that hidden, fragrant spot. Sherlock hadn’t moved as John suckled, merely lain warm and still beneath him. When John had raised his head, it was because he had wanted Sherlock’s lips, full and firm like the fruit Sherlock was sliding over John’s lower lip now. John lifted his hand and took the tangerine from Sherlock, touched the tips of Sherlock’s long fingers as he did.
“Eat, John,” Sherlock said.
John heard the chair legs scrape across the floor as Sherlock sat, heard a butter knife scraping across the toast. He pushed the fruit into his mouth and opened his eyes. Sherlock had twisted around, leaned back in his chair to reach the milk on the counter. John saw the mark he’d left peeping out between the curls at Sherlock's neck. He hadn’t seen it in the shower because Sherlock’s hair had been wet. Sherlock turned back and stopped.
“You don’t remember everything, do you?” he asked, watching John for a moment before he poured the milk.
John didn’t answer. He ran the side of his index finger over his lower lip, his eyes fixed on Sherlock’s mouth. Barriers were being shattered. As he sat looking, the knowledge that he had had that mouth, even if he couldn’t remember the particulars, was freeing things inside of him. He wasn’t sure what they all were, but the cage doors were opening. John’s eyes opened wider.
“Do you remember anything?” Sherlock asked, glancing up. His brows were drawn together, one eyebrow slightly raised.
The purpose of the experiment had been to test the effect of the drug on John. Sherlock had said he wanted to see if John would see the same images he had when presented with the evocative stimuli of growls and shadows. He had considered the lab a safe, controlled environment in which to conduct the experiment. Sherlock had not counted on the power of the imagery: what the bent-open cage door might signify to John, what John trying to hide from what had been released by locking himself in the cage had meant, how the experiment had demonstrated that the only rescue from what John feared was Sherlock.
“Experiments don’t always test what they were meant to,” John observed.
“Some of the greatest discoveries have been experimental by-products, accidents,” Sherlock agreed, his gaze remaining on John, his mind engaged.
John reached across the corner of the table, curving his hand around Sherlock’s cheek, resting his fingertips against the half-hidden bruise, pulling Sherlock closer. Very lightly, he brushed his lips back and forth along Sherlock’s, finally pressing a kiss against the corner of his mouth. Sherlock drew back slightly, turned his head to centre his lips against John’s and leaned forward.