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Alternate and Missing Scenes from "A Cure for Boredom"

Chapter Text

Sherlock shouted in frustration. Generally, he was able to refrain from acting on the impulse, but something about John Watson pierced through the thin veneer of social niceties he more or less maintained outside the flat. With a single look, John could shatter the illusion that Sherlock was perhaps somewhat sane. The floodgates would open, and God help them all.

"Oh, for God's sake." John crossed to the door, shaking his head.

"I said, I'm still BORED. And you're putting on your coat. Why are you putting on your coat?"

John was practically glowering. For a best friend, he could be terribly unsympathetic. "If I don't leave this instant I may punch you, so I'm going for a walk. I'll pick up the shopping on the way back."

Sherlock flopped back onto the sofa. "And what am I supposed to do while you're gone?"

"Oh, for-- Watch telly. Read a book. Play some music. Troll that science fiction forum on the internet."

"Television is pathetic in general, but especially at this time of day; we have no books I haven't already memorized; I broke a string on my violin yesterday; and I was permanently banned from that forum a week ago." He shot John a withering look. Honestly, did he think he was being helpful?

John clenched his jaw in that way that typically meant he was on the verge of becoming very angry. Now that was interesting. Sherlock propped himself up on one elbow to watch.

"I don't know what else to tell you."

"I'm painfully aware of your complete lack of imagination, but you could at least try."

John's eyes fluttered closed in anger and Sherlock almost smiled. This was his favorite part of John-baiting.

"You want imaginative? Fine. Why don't you shut the fuck up and go have a wank like a normal person?" John turned and stormed out the door, almost slamming it closed behind him.

Sherlock frowned and flopped onto the sofa once more. John was getting better at holding his tongue when he was angry. Sherlock wasn't sure if he liked that or not. He'd made getting an emotional response from John an art form of sorts, but John was giving up far too easily of late, often storming out the door before he had a chance to work up to military levels of swearing. It was disappointing. Sherlock had always enjoyed the swearing.

And what had he meant by wank like a normal person? Was he implying that Sherlock didn't wank normally? And did that mean he'd been paying enough attention to Sherlock's masturbation habits, infrequent as they were, to form an opinion about his technique or lack thereof? Or that he perhaps thought Sherlock didn't wank at all? Or just wouldn't be inclined to wank under these circumstances? Would a normal person masturbate out of sheer boredom? Was that why John did it so very often?

At any rate, that suggestion had been entirely unhelpful. Masturbation would do nothing to change the situation. It was preposterous to think otherwise.

Forty-two minutes and twenty-five seconds later, he was bored enough to reconsider. He couldn't very well refute John's position without evidence, after all. John had heavily implied that masturbation was a remedy for boredom, a statement that would easily be refuted with a counter-example. When John returned, they could return to the subject and Sherlock would be in a far better position to argue if he'd actually done it in the interim.

So, yes.

He paused and tried to decide where to begin. He couldn't remember the last time he'd done this when he didn't already have an erection. Every few weeks he would relent to his body's incessant demands and sleep twelve hours straight, and those were the nights when his subconscious tended to wreak sexual havoc. He despised dreaming as a rule: medical literature be damned; it was a waste of computing time to allow his brain to conjure ridiculous images and scenarios that blended one into another with little rhyme or reason. But on those nights, there would always be dreams that left him hard and aching, waking on the verge of orgasm -- but always denied. The sticky sheets of his youth were long gone; his thirties had more of a do-it-yourself flavor.

And on those nights he did, wrapping his fingers around his erection in the dark, half-asleep, fleeting images still drifting through his mind. It was quick and easy since he was close to begin with, and he could clean off his hand and go back to sleep right after. It was purely a physical release, something his body periodically demanded of him. Possibly for prostate health -- he'd have to Google that later.

Back to the task at hand. So to speak.

When he was a teenager, he'd get hard at the mere thought of touching himself, but it wasn't quite so straightforward now. Still, the mechanics were familiar enough: he let his fingers trail down his chest slowly before untying the dressing gown and letting the fabric fall open. He didn't have pants on beneath his pyjama bottoms; the first brush of his fingers against the shaft of his penis through thin cotton felt more pleasant than he'd expected. He focused on the ceiling as his fingers traced the length of his penis with light feathery strokes. A few more times, dipping down once to cup his testicles, and there, a rush of heat and his penis was hardening already.

He slid one hand beneath the waistband and wrapped his fingers around the shaft. After a few tugs he realized he needed more space in which to work. He pushed the pyjama bottoms down over his hips, then raised his knees and resumed stroking, slowly.

It was pleasant, certainly. Most of his wee-hours wanks were quick and done in a state of semi-consciousness, so it was unusual for him to take his time like this. He experimented with pressure and speed, automatically cataloguing the information. The contrasting sensations were rather interesting, actually: long slow strokes that pulled the foreskin up over the glans produced a slightly different sensation than did short thrusts into the tight ring of his thumb and fingers, foreskin retracted. Differing degrees of pressure, a variety of holds on the shaft, the addition of a small amount of natural lubrication -- perhaps John had a valid point. This was something he hadn't considered studying before.

He wondered idly what John would say if he returned now to see his flatmate spread out on the sofa, taking his advice. He'd probably roll his eyes and walk right back out again. John seemed to regard privacy and personal space as important in their friendship. Unless John was feeling sexually frustrated, in which case -- with the addition of liberal amounts of lager -- he would tell Sherlock in far too vivid detail about the sex he was regrettably not having. Said details would often make their way into Sherlock's discomfiting dreams.

Focus. This was taking longer than he'd expected. He'd already run through every variation of masturbatory stroke he could think of and committed the results to memory. He glanced at his watch: two entire minutes of non-boredom, which was no small feat, considering. But he could feel dissatisfaction pressing in at the edges of his mind again, already pushing for something new to twist apart and analyze, to obsess over.

Best to get this over with before he lost his erection altogether. The technique that had produced the most enthusiastic response was short quick strokes over the glans along with a slight massaging motion of his fingers against the foreskin. It didn't take long after that -- the sensation of pressure building in his groin was familiar, as was the push toward release. His orgasm was pleasant, actually more pleasant than he'd expected. He kept stroking until the last waves diminished, one hand curved over the glans to catch the ejaculate.

He closed his eyes at the sensation of floating, endorphins flooding his system. He tried to clear his mind, to relax and enjoy it for what it was: a brief moment of physical pleasure.

It was enjoyable; he'd give John that -- but those few seconds of sensation had required several minutes of physical and mental effort, and honestly -- it was a ludicrous waste of time. Did John really do this four times a week out of sheer boredom?

On the other hand, John almost always wanked in the shower; Sherlock supposed there was something to be said for multitasking. Though those particular showers averaged three minutes and ten seconds longer than the non-masturbatory showers, so it wasn't as if he was saving himself any time in his morning routine. Easier clean-up, perhaps?

He sat up and plucked a tissue from a box on a nearby table. He wiped his hand clean and then his penis for good measure, and crumpled it and dropped it to the floor. The sight of it would irritate John and would also serve as evidence that he'd actually masturbated, if needed. He tugged his pyjama bottoms back up and tied his dressing gown tightly around him.

Yes, that had been a complete waste of time, time he could have spent finding something important to think about, or better, designing an experiment that would not only occupy his mind for a while, but also provide useful information for a future case. He grimaced and pressed his palms against his forehead. The brief respite of relaxation was over, replaced once again by all-consuming boredom. He didn't feel better at all; in fact, he now felt worse.

He scowled and plucked his phone from the pocket of his dressing gown. Surely John was done with the shopping by now. If not, he'd come home anyway the moment Sherlock texted him. John was pleasantly obedient like that.

Sherlock smiled and began typing.


Chapter Text

"I'm meeting Stamford for a drink tonight," John said as he pulled on his coat. "So don't expect me for dinner." There was sarcasm in his tone. Sherlock ignored it and continued tapping away at the keyboard of his laptop.

John closed the door behind him. Sherlock listened to the footsteps on the stairs grow fainter, then set his laptop aside and dashed to the window to see John setting off down the pavement. He watched for a moment through narrowed eyes before turning and heading up the stairs.

John's room was always extraordinarily neat: bed made with nearly-cliché military precision, clothes folded perfectly in the wardrobe, shoes categorized by function and arranged against the wall by the door. Otherwise the room was oddly bare, looking not so different as it had done when John first moved in. Sherlock crossed to the bedside table where several tattered paperback books were piled next to a small lamp. He wrinkled his nose at the titles -- why John bothered to read crime novels when their real lives were far more interesting was the only real mystery in those -- before opening the bottom drawer.

It was hardly the first time he'd poked about in John's room. He'd never bothered to hide his investigating (John called it snooping) and had been surprised when John reacted so negatively the first time Sherlock had asked him why he kept pornographic magazines in the bottom drawer of his bedside table. It was a legitimate question, after all. John had never asked him about the contents of his own drawers, even though John had rifled through them on several occasions in a futile search for recreational drugs. As if Sherlock would hide drugs in such an obvious place. Honestly.

But John had never answered Sherlock's question about the pornography, not even when asked a second, third, and fourth time. He'd only scowled and muttered something about boundaries and privacy, the details of which Sherlock didn't bother committing to memory.

He pulled out the stack of magazines and rifled through them. They had tongue-in-cheek titles like Screw and Dirty Girls. Text cleverly placed around the cover photo promised even more debauchery within the pages: Naughty schoolgirls caught on film (p. 24)! and See Dani take three cocks at once (p. 37)! Other than the ridiculous titles and the variations in hair color of the cover models, the magazines were nearly indistinguishable from each other in style. He paused at one that seemed more dog-eared than the others. A scantily-clad brunette with ridiculously large breast implants peered coyly out of the frame, her painted lips parted in a way Sherlock assumed was intended to be alluring.

He flipped it open and turned the pages, ignoring the text altogether to focus on the images. Most showed similarly-endowed women in various states of undress, knickers pulled aside to reveal wet labia and an utter lack of pubic hair that Sherlock found moderately disturbing. The woman teased their own nipples with fingers tipped with talon-like painted nails, and all wore dazed expressions that said more about their recreational drug use than any sort of actual sexual arousal being experienced. There was a centerfold shot of two women engaged in mutual cunnilingus. The edges of the fold-out page were marred with smudges, apparently from being handled with hands that were… wet.

Sherlock wrinkled his nose. This was what John found erotic? Airbrushed artificially enhanced coked-up models pretending to be lesbians for the camera? It was incredibly disappointing. Even though Sherlock knew for a fact that John was completely heterosexual -- he'd spent enough time protesting any implication otherwise in the last year to leave no doubt there -- he'd harbored a hope that John might at least have interests that went beyond the typical boring Stepford stripper stereotype.

He turned the page again to see an extreme close-up shot of female genitalia and frowned at it for a moment. This did nothing for him, nothing at all. It was interesting on a purely anatomical level, of course -- he'd only been that close to a vulva once in his adult life; it was long enough ago that the details were a bit fuzzy. But there was something oddly unsettling about knowing that John spent at least some portion of his time alone masturbating over images like this.

Why? John said earlier that pornography enhanced masturbation. What did he think about when he looked at images like this? Did he imagine these women were doing these things for him, right in front of him? Performing for him? Or was he imagining himself with them?

Sherlock turned the page again and again, and finally settled on an image of a woman masturbating with an enormous pink dildo. Her eyes were closed, her mouth open, her head thrown back as if in ecstasy. Her thighs were spread wide and the head of the dildo was just pressing into her vagina, her body on the verge of taking it in. He stroked a hand over his groin experimentally, trailing his fingertips up the length of his flaccid penis. John had suggested he use fantasy while masturbating, but staring at this image didn't seem to increase his pleasure at all.

He dropped the magazine and lay back on John's bed, sliding a hand into his pyjama bottoms. He closed his eyes and inhaled slowly, then exhaled, trying to relax. He let the images he'd just seen flit through his mind, one after another, in all their graphic detail. He stroked his penis and threw one arm over his eyes.

Odd details of the images were distracting him, though, and he found himself focusing on them to the exclusion of anything sexual. The model in one photo was posed in a way that looked far too uncomfortable for her to be experiencing the degree of pleasure shown on her face; one woman had a fascinating clitoral piercing, the function of which he'd have to search on later; and he was fairly certain fingernails of that length would not feel good inserted into any bodily orifice, despite the expression of anticipation on the second woman's face. Et cetera.

He groaned and flung his arm out across the bed. His hand found a pillow and his tugged it toward him, burying his face in it. It smelled like John.

Perhaps John would be willing to explain further, even to demonstrate and think aloud during the process. Sherlock's mind helpfully spun an image of John spread out on this very bed, naked from the waist down, stroking his cock slowly. The John in his mind told him about the photos and what he thought about when he looked at them, his eyes closed, his fingers moving in slow, teasing strokes.

And just like that, Sherlock had an erection.

He withdrew his hand and sat up. Perhaps he should approach this more systematically. He could examine his own reactions to various sexual stimuli, catalogue them, and look for patterns. There were other kinds of pornography, after all. John frequently watched pornographic videos on his laptop, for example. He seemed to think he was discreet about it, but on the occasions when Sherlock happened upon him in the parlor watching one, his discomfiture was blatantly obvious. Sherlock was exceedingly familiar with the signs of John's sexual arousal after a year of living with him. Perhaps John was embarrassed about watching pornography, ashamed he had to resort to such things for sexual gratification. Or was this John's insistence on boundaries and privacy arising again?

He gathered the magazines and replaced them in the drawer. Perhaps still images weren't as appealing to him as video might be. It was worth investigating. John had all but said you're doing it wrong, and little set Sherlock onto stubbornly perfecting a skill like being told he couldn't do it correctly, or worse, being dismissed entirely as a failure at the start. It was clear what John -- or rather, what most people, including his own brother -- thought about Sherlock's sexuality. But of course, before he could attempt to prove them all wrong, he had to do a bit of research.

There was a small tube of lubricant in the drawer and he picked it up, turning it in his fingers. He'd never used anything like that while masturbating, but unless John was harboring some very interesting secrets, he assumed that was what he used it for. He tucked it into the pocket of his dressing gown.

John had changed his computer's password again, but it took less than a minute for Sherlock to work out the new one. Though John was getting smarter about them, he was still following predictable password generation strategies. Sherlock would have pointed that out to him, but he frequently required access to John's laptop.

He opened a browser window and clicked History, and his eyebrows rose in surprise: more than half of the last 40 URLs John had visited were clearly pornographic sites. Interesting. He settled on the sofa with the laptop and clicked on one of the URLs at random. The image that popped up on the screen nearly made him recoil: it was an incredibly graphic photo of a woman penetrating her vagina with her own fingers while staring out at the viewer with an expression Sherlock assumed was meant to be an invitation. He scanned the available videos scrolling across the top of the page -- the ones that didn't require a major credit card, anyway -- and clicked on one to view it.

There was no preamble, no awkward dialogue or attempt to explain the context; there were two naked women on the screen performing oral sex on each other, full stop. They were each crying out and moaning while licking the other. Those sounds, as ridiculous and over the top as they were, had to be looped -- otherwise some of them were impossible to produce with the women's mouths so clearly occupied. The camera zoomed in for an extreme close-up and Sherlock was again puzzled by the complete lack of pubic hair. Why was it important for their genitals to be completely bare? Was it to make viewing easier or was there something especially erotic about bare skin? Was it an attempt to make them look pre-pubescent? If so, that was at odds with the obvious augmentation of their breasts. The resulting message was utterly mixed. He should ask John about that; it was clearly a site he'd visited, after all.

He wondered if John liked this video and what effect it had on him. Would he let Sherlock observe him watching this video? John seemed to think masturbation was a private matter, so Sherlock doubted he'd entertain the possibility.

"Ooooh, baby, suck my clit, just like that. Oh, God, that's soooo fucking good."

He turned his attention back to the screen. Clearly this particular video wasn't arousing him at all. There were too many distractions and not enough--

"I see you started without me," a male voice said, and the camera angle widened to show a man with a chiseled torso, wearing a pair of extremely tight jeans, enter the frame. He fondled a very obvious erection through the stretched denim.

"We just couldn't help ourselves."

"She was just so hot I couldn't wait to get my mouth on her pussy."

The man onscreen unzipped his fly and a truly stunning erection bobbed forward. "Don't let me interrupt, then. I'll just--"

Both women gasped as if in ecstasy and leapt forward to kiss and suck on his cock. The man threaded his fingers into their hair and groaned. The women began taking turns sucking, almost competing to see which of them could take his penis deeper down her throat.

Sherlock realized with a start that a full minute had gone by without anything distracting him. Interesting. His penis was even beginning to show interest in the proceedings. This video might prove useful after all. He settled back on the sofa and slid a hand inside his pyjamas and stroked.

After several minutes of the women taking turns with their mouths, the man pushed them both away and said, "Which of you wants to get fucked first?"

Both women begged, and he chose one seemingly at random. A condom was produced from somewhere and everyone positioned themselves for a good camera angle. He penetrated one woman while the other crawled over her and flicked her tongue over whatever part of her vulva she could reach with all the thrashing about.

Sherlock kept his hand moving slowly. The extreme close-ups were less interesting to him than were the master shots of the threesome, it seemed. The woman at the center of the ministrations of the other two cried out more and more loudly, and finally seemed to climax. The women changed places and the action continued as before. The man was certainly managing to last a long time. Shouldn't he have come by now? Sherlock hadn't had many sexual experiences, but none of them had lasted quite that long for him or for his partners.

That thought was almost enough to distract him, but then the man's voice took on a more urgent tone than before. "Oh, baby, your pussy feels so good, I'm gonna come all over you, I'm gonna shoot my load, baby." The women responded with whimpers and moans as he pulled his penis out of the second woman's vagina. He pulled off the condom -- Sherlock felt a little surge of arousal at the sight of his cock bare and glistening -- and stroked himself hard and fast. The woman who had been so enthusiastically licking her friend stopped and opened her mouth wide. A moment later he ejaculated -- he'd apparently aimed for her mouth, but much of the semen landed on her chin and on the belly of the woman beneath her. She licked up the semen with apparent delight, as if it were the most delicious treat she'd ever tasted. Sherlock rolled his eyes at that, nearly distracted again, because honestly.

"Clean her off good, then it's my turn to taste that sweet pussy."

Sherlock winced: who wrote this dialogue? It was almost enough to put him off completely, and he'd been so close. He paused the video and closed his eyes, concentrating on what he'd seen. He replayed some of the visuals in his mind and stroked, short and quick at the head of his penis, his other hand falling between his thighs to trace light circles against his scrotum. The orgasm was more intense than the one he'd experienced that morning, to his surprise, and it left him feeling oddly tingly. He was panting, his heart rate was elevated, and the sensation of release was unusually pleasant.

Perhaps John was correct about masturbation after all.

Of course, he still wasn't able to isolate what exactly had aroused him to this point. The video had been complex and teasing apart the variables might take some careful thought.

He opened his eyes. A systematic approach was definitely called for. He'd have to choose video segments more carefully and document his response to each variation. His own laptop was an arm's length away; he picked it up and opened it, and thought for a moment more before opening a new Excel file.

It was an unorthodox use of his time to be sure, but at least for the moment, he was decidedly not bored.

He'd barely noticed the sun setting or the darkness that engulfed the flat until the door opened and John entered the room. John crossed to the sofa and stood before him for a moment.

"Stamford sends his regards."

Sherlock kept his eyes on the screen and John stood stock still in front of him, apparently beginning to realize what Sherlock was doing. Sherlock felt an odd twinge of something in his belly -- excitement, perhaps? He'd been thinking all day about how to engage John in this experiment, and this just might be the opportunity he was looking for. He paused the video he'd been watching, clicked on another tab, and pressed the "play" icon. Based on his earlier observations, this was something John would like.

A few more moments passed and then John sat on the sofa next to him. His entire countenance changed when he saw what was on the screen. "Why are you watching porn on my laptop?"

"I didn't want to risk infecting mine with a virus."

"But you're happy to risk mine?" He was so distracted by the two women engaged on the screen that the question seemed almost rhetorical.

Sherlock smirked, though the expression was lost on John entirely. "Considering that I've mostly visited sites that were in your browser history, I doubt any new damage has been done."

He risked a glance at John: he was staring at the screen with unabashed interest, his lips parted, his eyes rather starkly dilated considering he was staring directly at the room's only light source. The expression on his face was all too familiar: he liked this and found it arousing. Sherlock felt a flutter in his stomach at the thought.

"Right," John managed at last. "How long have you been watching porn, exactly?"

"What time is it?"

"Nearly midnight."

"Eight hours. More or less."

After several long seconds John finally dragged his gaze away from the screen to look at Sherlock. "Eight hours, solid? You should use lubricant. You're going to get chafed."

Sherlock held up the small tube he'd brought downstairs with him.

John snatched it from his hand with a frown. "Where did you get this?"

"Your room, bedside table." The women on screen were nearly screeching now, flailing around so much Sherlock doubted they were even making contact which each other. "Is this doing anything for you? I'm finding it a bit boring, to be honest."

"I've asked you to stay out of my bedroom, Sherlock." There was a hint of resignation in his tone.

It was probably not a good time to ask questions about the porn magazines again. Sherlock reached for his own computer and opened it, balancing it on his other knee.

"What is that?" John asked, leaning closer to him. He smelled like beer and sweat and a hint of cigarette smoke, and the combination was almost heady. "Oh, God, don't tell me this is an experiment."

"Of course it is." John leaned away again and Sherlock adjusted the numbers in one of the oral sex columns. "I'm keeping track of twenty different variables that stimulate a sexual response." He paused and looked over at John, who'd gone back to watching the video on the screen. The light from the laptop danced across his face; even in the dim light Sherlock could tell he was extremely interested. What was it about this particular video that John found interesting when Sherlock could barely stand to watch it? Perhaps John would explain -- he'd clearly had at least four pints of beer, and though the degree of inebriation was nowhere near "drunk" it was definitely enough to loosen John's inhibitions. Hell, maybe he'd even be willing to demonstrate. Sherlock felt a distinct pulse of arousal at the thought.

There was something to add to the spreadsheet: proximity to an aroused John.

"Twenty-one, actually. So far this--" He indicated the screen of John's laptop with nod of his head. "--is ranked right at the bottom."

"After eight hours you'd be fairly desensitized, you know. Are you taking that into account?"

Sherlock frowned; he hadn't actually considered that. "Interesting. I'll factor it in." He saved the file, closed his computer, and tucked it away again. Time to see what else John liked.

He paused the video and clicked on another tab in the browser, and a video he'd found quite intriguing earlier began to play.

John's eyes narrowed for a moment as he processed what he was seeing, but his expression quickly melted into one of raw interest. "That… looks uncomfortable." He shifted in his seat when the man working the dildo into the woman's anus replaced it with his cock.

So John wasn't put off by the idea of anal intercourse. Interesting again.

He might not get another chance to observe John watching porn like this, so he decided to make the most of it. He played one-minute segments of a variety of videos, carefully noting John's response to each. But after several minutes of this, even Sherlock was having trouble concentrating: there was an erection pressed against the front of John's trousers and he was clearly struggling to maintain his composure.

And despite the fact that he wasn't watching the videos at all, Sherlock was also hard.

He clicked one window after another, aware now that his own heart rate was accelerated, that he was flushed and warm, and that if John took his eyes off the screen for even a moment, Sherlock's state of arousal would be completely, embarrassingly obvious.

He forced his eyes back to the screen and clicked on a video that had worked very well for him about an hour ago. John exhaled slowly, as if trying to calm himself and then slid down against the sofa cushions. He unfastened the fly of his jeans, and Sherlock only barely stopped himself from making a sound in response.

This was exactly what he'd hoped for -- he couldn't have planned it any better.

"Do you mind?" John asked. Even his voice sounded aroused, God.

"Of course not." Sherlock kept his eyes glued to the screen. He wasn't going to look, he wasn't going to look. God help him, he barely needed to fuel himself any further.

Peripherally he saw John lift his hips and push his jeans and pants down. He fisted his erection and began to stroke it under his shirt.

Oh, God.

He'd spent the entire day thinking about masturbation, watching pornography, and cataloguing his responses to various sexual stimuli, but the very idea that John was sitting next to him on the sofa, tossing off to gay porn, blew everything else away. The comparison was stark, and Sherlock had to close his eyes for a moment to compose himself.

"So you like this?" he managed after a moment.

"Stunning deduction, that."

Sherlock rolled his eyes. Point. "And you--"

"Shut up. Analyze later."

Sherlock exhaled. He needed to concentrate -- he might not get a chance like this again. Hell, he could fill out an entire spreadsheet on John alone, if he could just get himself to focus.

John's fingers brushed his thigh and Sherlock's brain shut down completely. He turned to see that John had picked up the tube of lubricant and was squeezing some onto his palm. His shirt had fallen back and his erection jutted up from his body. He wrapped slick fingers around it and began stroking again, his eyes glued to the screen.

Sherlock's hand was inside his pyjama bottoms before he'd quite realized what he was doing. His cock was aching now, hard in that way that only happened in the middle of the night when he awoke desperate for release. He watched John's movements and stroked himself, astonished by his own loss of control. He knew he ought to slow down and think about this, observe, but he couldn't. His brain had simply shut off processing; all he could think about was how bloody hot this was. He lost track of time and let himself wallow in the sensation, in the very idea that they were doing this, that John was right there, an arm's length away, and--

John put a hand over his mouth and groaned into it, his eyes squeezed tight as he ejaculated over his fist. God, that was… Sherlock clamped his mouth closed and moaned, biting his lips together. He came over his own hand, apparently sent over the edge by the sight of John's orgasm.

After a moment he opened his eyes and inhaled. He had no idea how to code that in his spreadsheet. He plucked a tissue from the box to clean his hand off, then held the box out to John.

"Thanks." John cleaned himself off and Sherlock found himself unable to tear his gaze away from the sight of John's softening prick. John crumpled his tissue and dropped it on the floor. "Was it good for you?"

He realized John was looking at him now and he forced his gaze away, flushing. Was that intended to be innuendo? A sign of interest? An open invitation to do this again sometime? Sherlock had no idea. But John would have to be a complete idiot to have missed the fact that Sherlock had come merely from watching John masturbate.

He had no idea what to say. John, of course, had no such difficulty.

"I don't know about you, but I think I'll sleep well tonight."

How could he think about sleep at a time like this? Sherlock opened his laptop again in a nearly-futile attempt to distract himself. It was overwhelming; he needed time to think about what had just happened, to process it, to mentally restructure his friendship with John to include... this. Whatever this was.

"I'm going to bed," John said at last. He stood and stretched, and seemed to be waiting for Sherlock to speak.

"Good night." His voice sounded strained, but John probably wouldn't notice.

"Right. Good night." John took a few steps backward, almost reluctantly, and then turned and left the room.

Sherlock waited until he heard the door to his bedroom closing before leaning back against the sofa cushions and exhaling. He'd known for a long time that he was attracted to John; he'd been attracted to him the first moment they met. There had been many moments in those first few weeks after John moved in, in which Sherlock found himself staring helplessly at him, hoping desperately that he wouldn't fuck it all up too soon. He needed someone like John in his life, even if it was a sort of distant friendship. It would have been enough -- at least at first. And he'd been incredibly relieved when it settled into something more, something closer than he'd ever expected to have with another person. He knew why people thought they were a couple. It was obvious to everyone but John, apparently.

He'd long ago written off romantic relationships as futile and torturous exercises, and since John was so obviously heterosexual -- a fact he seemed to find necessary to remind everyone of annoyingly frequently -- he'd long ago put it out of his mind. It had been easy enough, despite the dreams in which John was occasionally very not heterosexual. He hadn't thought about it in months, in fact.

But now -- now he'd be unlikely to think of anything else. That ought to distress him, but it didn't. Studying John would be far more interesting than studying himself. And tonight had shown that John might be open to a bit of an adventure. Perhaps more porn watching, to start. Now that Sherlock knew what to expect, he would be able to control his own response and stay focused.

Probably, anyway.

He pulled the laptop closer and stared at the screen. This experiment had just become very interesting indeed. He scrolled right to the next available column and clicked the top cell. He titled it simply: John.


Chapter Text


"As much as I do enjoy your company, dear brother, I assume this was not a social call?" Mycroft smiled tightly at Sherlock from behind his expansive desk. He leaned back in his chair and raised the tea cup to his lips.

"When have you ever known me to visit when I didn't want something from you?"

"I have a meeting in five minutes, so you'd best get on with it."

Sherlock's gaze fell to the teacup he'd set on the edge of the desk a moment ago. "You hold a membership at an exclusive institution that caters to, shall we say, particular interests."

Mycroft's eyes narrowed slightly. "I am a member of several institutions that would fit that description. You'll need to be a bit more specific, I'm afraid."

Sherlock's eyes flicked up to his. "There is a certain sex club in Soho to which you maintain a membership."

"So I do." Mycroft's face had gone nearly unreadable.

Sherlock smiled at that. He'd found the card in Mycroft's wallet years ago, sleek and dark grey with a wordless black logo embossed on it. Mycroft's name and an eight-digit number were printed on the bottom right, and nothing more. It had taken Sherlock a few hours to work out what it was for, and then several weeks to stop obsessing about why his brother was a member of such an institution. Until then he'd always thought Mycroft was like him in that way, more interested in intellectual pleasures than purely physical ones; the fact that it wasn't true had been unsettling and difficult to accommodate. He'd kept the information about the club tucked away in a corner of his mind, suspecting it might come in useful at some point. And now it had, though not in a way he'd ever expected.

Mycroft's expression settled into something almost like suspicion. "What concern is it of yours?"

"I want to borrow your membership for a few weeks."

"Borrow it? Whatever for?"

"For the same reason Anthea borrows it, I imagine." He raised an eyebrow, but Mycroft's expression didn't change. "I'd like to pay a visit."


Sherlock gave him a long look. "Do you actually labor under the impression that I have no interest in sex at all or do you merely enjoy telling people that in a futile attempt to humiliate me?"

Mycroft clenched his jaw, but kept his eyes locked on Sherlock. "Is this for a case you're working on?"

"No." Watching him squirm was even more enjoyable than Sherlock had expected.

"After what you pulled at Baskerville, why would you think I'd let you run about London impersonating me in such places?"

"What I pulled? I solved a twenty-year-old murder, prevented a man from descending into insanity, and cast considerable doubt an entire set of conspiracy theories about your government."

"You're forgetting about the mystery of the missing glowing bunny rabbit, aren't you?"

"And you're forgetting that I did you a very big favor in Baskerville. The murder mystery distracted the public entirely from the real purpose of that facility."

Mycroft pursed his lips for a moment, the only indication he'd conceded the point. "This club, Sherlock, is not only exclusive, but is also the epitome of discretion. The clientele are rich, powerful, and connected. Some are even famous, but almost all are in positions where they cannot afford to have their private lives exposed. I'm sure you understand that I can't have you poking about, if you'll pardon the expression, without assurance that your interest is… well, prurient."

Sherlock smirked. "As much as it may shock you, Mycroft, my interest is entirely prurient."

"Forgive me if I don't believe you."

Sherlock smiled tightly. "If you must know, I intend to take John there."

Surprise flickered across Mycroft's face for a moment before he schooled his features into something more like a smirk. "Oh?"

"It's not what you're imagining."

"You want to take your closest friend, whom the public and most people we both know assume you're in a relationship with, to a sex club for reasons you have just described as entirely prurient. What am I supposed to imagine?"

"I honestly don't care." Mycroft raised his eyebrows and Sherlock sighed. "Fine. It's an experiment."

"What sort of experiment?"

"I want to study sex. John likes to have sex. At a sex club, he can have lots of sex with lots of people, and I can observe and collect data. Call it a win-win situation."

Mycroft's eyebrows were still very high on his forehead. "John agreed to this?"

Sherlock had to force himself to hold his brother's gaze. "I haven't mentioned it to him yet. I wasn't certain you would lend me the membership. No reason to get his hopes up unnecessarily."

"That's not what I meant."

"He knows I like to watch." Sherlock thought he did, anyway. After last night, it should have been obvious. He'd even left his laptop unlocked with the spreadsheet open so John could examine the data he'd collected so far, if he wanted.

Mycroft stared at him for a moment, his face carefully blank. "Are you certain this is a good idea?"

"It's a brilliant idea."

And it was, truth be told. He'd realized very quickly that observing John's reactions to pornography was a limited approach at best, even if john agreed to some sort of think-aloud protocol. Far better would be to observe him engaging in actual sexual activity with other people -- and that, based on John's prior record with relationships, would clearly require Sherlock's assistance. He'd briefly considered hiring prostitutes, but John would most likely have objected. Bars were another option, though less of a sure thing and potentially messy emotionally. Then he'd remembered the sex club, and his mind had blazed for six hours straight working out all the possibilities. It was perfect.

"Hmmm." Mycroft stroked his chin with his fingers and looked away. After a moment he looked back at Sherlock and smiled in that magnanimous way that so often made Sherlock want to hit him. "You'll need my card; I'll have Anthea leave it at the club door for you. Don't impersonate me this time. I have a reputation to uphold, you know."

Sherlock tried very hard not to think about how Mycroft might have developed any sort of reputation in the context of a sex club. "Anything else I should know?"

"Discretion is absolute. The club and its members value privacy highly; if anything that happens there becomes public knowledge, my membership would be revoked permanently."

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Honestly, Mycroft, do you think I want to encourage any more gossip about what John and I get up to behind closed doors? If it's sufficiently discreet for you, then John and I will have nothing to worry about, will we?"

Mycroft's eyes narrowed again and Sherlock kept his expression open. For once, he had nothing to hide. Mycroft nodded after a moment, apparently satisfied.

"There is a bar on the main floor, a public play area one level below, and private rooms one level below that. My membership entitles me to reserve rooms in advance on the club's website." He paused and picked up a pen, and scribbled on a piece of paper before folding it and handing it to Sherlock. "The login information is there. There is a message board members use to arrange encounters, and it's a good place to begin if you're looking for something specific. I'll have to insist you create an account for yourself rather than use my own." He paused and tilted his head, as if appraising Sherlock.

"Of course." Sherlock smiled tightly and waited. He could practically see the wheels turning in Mycroft's head, though what he was considering was difficult to deduce. His brother was so much better at concealing himself than were most people. It was infuriating.

"If I might make a suggestion," Mycroft began and then paused, steepling his fingers, "you will have far more success at this experiment of yours if you and John pose as a couple."

Sherlock frowned. "Why?"

"The clientele of that club are fairly open-minded and tolerant, but they won't likely appreciate being studied."

"It's not them I'm intending to study." Sherlock clenched his jaw at the slight smirk that appeared on Mycroft's face. He'd said too much, but there was nothing for it now. It was the truth and Mycroft would have worked it out fairly soon anyway. "Are you actually encouraging me to use deception to procure sexual partners for John?"

"If you had any experience in this area at all, you'd know just how ironic that question is." Mycroft pressed the tips of his fingers against the underside of his chin. "But yes, that's precisely what I am suggesting. Partner sharing is quite a popular practice there. Posing as a couple in search of a bit of excitement would alleviate most suspicions of your intentions."

Sherlock pursed his lips. "What exactly would that entail?"

"Lying to people, mostly, nothing you would find distasteful. Showing affection toward John, enough to give the correct impression without either of you being made uncomfortable."

Sherlock felt an odd twinge in his gut. "What sort of affection?"

"Certainly you can work that one out for yourself?" Mycroft leaned forward and plucked a file folder from the edge of his desk. "I've a meeting in one minute. If that will be all?"

Sherlock stood. "I'll show myself out."

He felt an unusual anxiety at the idea of pretending he and John were a couple. It was odd; he usually delighted in such acting challenges, enjoyed the thrill of convincing someone he was someone else and using their distraction to his advantage. That was precisely what Mycroft was suggesting, and John would go along with it, he was certain.

Then why did he find the idea so very unsettling?

"You're welcome," Mycroft said as he opened the door.

Sherlock didn't acknowledge him. He was already lost in thought.



Chapter Text

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Chapter Text

"Wait here."

Sherlock turned the ornate handle of the door before him and walked through it, leaving John standing on the pavement just outside. The foyer was quiet and dimly lit, though he could hear a bass beat and muffled sounds of laughter coming through the wall. A rather burly and stern-looking security guard stood by a door at the other end of the foyer. He gave Sherlock an appraising look. Sherlock smiled tightly and crossed to him.

"I believe you have something for me."



The man nodded and put a hand to the side of his face and spoke quietly into a bluetooth headset. Within the minute a young woman in a sleek black dress entered. She smiled warmly at Sherlock and handed him a small envelope before opening the door and disappearing through it again. Sherlock turned it over in his fingers, raising his eyebrows at the red wax seal imprinted with the club's logo. These people clearly took this endeavor quite seriously.

He tore the envelope open: it contained the sleek black card he'd seen years before. He handed it to the security guard, who examined it and then nodded his head.

He opened the front door again and tugged John through it, steering him past the security guard and into the main bar area of the club. It looked exactly like he'd expected: long bar along the wall to his right, glass shelves behind backlit to highlight a large selection of expensive liquor; dance floor to his left, though very few people were dancing at the moment. They were standing in groups, talking, laughing, and definitely all looking. He crossed to the bar and leaned over it to order drinks for John -- he seemed to prefer a state of mild inebriation in novel sexual situations, from what Sherlock had gathered -- and then turned back to survey the crowd.

"It would really be helpful if you'd tell me what we're doing here," John said.

"We're having a drink." Sherlock wondered for a moment if John truly didn't know they were in a sex club. Perhaps it wasn't yet obvious; it would be soon enough. And if he didn't work it out for a bit that might prove just as interesting.

"No, what we're really doing."

"Sir?" The bartender placed a martini glass next to his shoulder and Sherlock turned to pick it up. He held it out to John.


John took the glass, but sniffed at it suspiciously. "What is this?"

"No idea. I told him to make it strong."

"Aren't you having one?"

"Not tonight." His eyes darted from person to person, scanning the dance floor. He knew what he'd like to find, but he hadn't had any luck on the club's discussion forum in the short amount of time he'd had to search.

John had already downed a third of his drink. "So you're getting me drunk. Mind telling me why?"

Sherlock fought the urge to smirk. This was going to be quite interesting indeed. "All in good time, John. Drink up; I've already ordered another."

John rolled his eyes, but he seemed reluctant to complain further. He sipped his drink and watched the crowd as well. Sherlock estimated that John needed to have at least two drinks in him before he'd be amenable to what Sherlock had planned. Possibly three. The moment John set the empty glass on the bar behind him, Sherlock signaled the bartender to bring another.

Once John had a second drink in hand Sherlock turned his attention to the crowd, his eyes picking out individuals of interest. There, a woman who'd had as much cosmetic surgery as a film star -- at least 45, but clearly trying to look 30. Yoga was her exercise of choice -- the lines of her arms muscles made that clear -- and she'd taken cocaine earlier that evening. Not John's type. Moving on. His eyes landed next on a couple, both early 30s, possibly married -- yes, definitely married, though not to each other. Sherlock's eyes slid away; John's first encounter here should be completely heterosexual. If it went well tonight, Sherlock might be able to ease him into something a bit more exciting.

More exciting for Sherlock, at any rate.

The club had grown busier in the fifteen minutes they'd been standing there. John hadn't said a word, to Sherlock's surprise. Perhaps he'd worked it out. Perhaps he was overwhelmed. Or perhaps he was simply that pliant and trusting. Sherlock felt a strange twist in his stomach at the thought. He watched John watch people for a moment, noticing where his eyes settled, where they lingered, and when they quickly moved on.

When John neared the end of the second drink, Sherlock ordered a third. John didn't object -- or even blink -- when Sherlock held it in front of him. Sherlock raised an eyebrow when John raised it to his lips immediately, but John didn't notice. Interesting.

He turned his attention back to the crowd, to a young woman he'd been watching off and on since they arrived. She was petite, blonde, and curvy in the way John didn't typically appreciate -- he generally preferred women who were taller than him and on the more angular side of femininity -- but there was something about her that Sherlock found rather appealing. To the extent that he found women attractive, she was nearly ideal. She watched the people around her with sharp eyes, smiling and flirting when she wanted their attention, carefully observing when they looked away. She was bisexual, clearly, but there with her girlfriend, a woman with long reddish hair whose eyes were fixed on her almost constantly. She laughed at something, throwing her head back, blonde curls cascading over her shoulders, and for a moment she reminded him of a 1950s starlet. She turned her head and caught his gaze then, and they stared at each other for a moment.

Yes. Perfect.

He leaned closer to John, who was nearly finished with round three. "I'll be right back. Don't move from this spot."

He crossed the room, settling his features into character, and sidled up next to the blonde woman. She raised a glass to her lips and took a sip of white wine.

"What took you so long?"

"Sorry?" he replied, turning to look at her.

Her eyes were fixed on two women who'd started snogging a few feet away; one was her girlfriend. "You've been staring at me for a good ten minutes now."

"Fifteen, actually."

She gave him a sideling glance, but still didn't turn her head. "Forgive the assumption, darling, but I don't think I'm your type."

"No, but I'm hoping you're my boyfriend's type."

She smiled and turned to look at him. "Keep talking."

He grinned. "He has a particular fantasy that I'm hoping you might be able to make come true."

"Where is he?" She turned to look at the bar. "Oooh, that one? He's adorable. Lucky you."

Sherlock turned to see that John was staring right at them. The expression on his face turned to one of suspicion when she wiggled her fingers and grinned at him.

"Oh God, don't!" Sherlock said, grabbing her hand. "It's a surprise! Well, it's supposed to be a surprise, anyway. Stop looking, God."

She giggled and held out her hand. "I'm Clara."

"Sherlock. And that's John -- don't look, he's already suspicious enough." He grinned at her and took her hand.

"So what did you have in mind?"

Sherlock smiled. "He has a fantasy about two girls giving him head. At the same time."

"He's not gay?"

Sherlock shrugged. "Are you?"

She regarded him through narrowed eyes for a moment, though she was still smiling. "What makes you think I'd be interested?"

He paused, uncertain if she really wanted an answer to that question. He could tell her a dozen things he'd noticed about her in the first minute he'd watched her that told him why she was here and what she was looking for, that she and her girlfriend came here for exactly this reason, that they preferred bisexual men and to play together. But her tone and expression seemed to indicate the question was rhetorical, even flirtatious, that she was actually asking for more information about John and their relationship. It was eternally frustrating that people tended not to simply ask for what they wanted.

"I'm only hoping, honestly. This is our first time here, you know. We've never done anything like this before."

A spark lit behind her eyes, just as he'd expected. "Oh?"

"And if I must see my boyfriend's cock in someone else's mouth, it might as well be someone as gorgeous as you." He winked at her.

She sipped her drink. "Just him, then, or both of you? If it's going to be that sort of party--"

"Just him," Sherlock replied, and then feigned embarrassment at his hasty reply. "I mean, no offense, of course. But I'm not -- I mean, this is for him. I'm just going to watch."

"No, that's fine." She patted his arm reassuringly. "Do you have a room?"

"Yes. Number eight, available any time from now until midnight."

"I'll talk to my girlfriend. If she agrees, we'll meet you there in ten minutes."

Sherlock grinned. "Fantastic."

He let the expression fall from his face as he turned away and crossed to the bar once again. John stared at him expectantly, a bit glassy-eyed.

Mycroft's words flitted through his mind again: pretend you're a couple. What would he do now if John were his boyfriend?

"Who was that--"

Sherlock slid an arm around his waist and pulled their bodies together, and John's words froze on his lips. Sherlock's hand settled on John's hip and he tucked his fingers into the waistband of John's jeans, something he'd seen couples do when they stood with their arms around each other. His eyes found Clara's across the room and she smiled.

"What are you doing?" John's voice was lowered and there was a hint of concern there. His body was tense against Sherlock's side.

Sherlock turned to smile at him in a way he imagined he would smile at someone he was in love with. John stared back at him, his face carefully blank. He still wasn't sure what was happening, it seemed. Sherlock was surprised, but also intrigued. He'd never again get a chance to surprise John like this, so the data he'd collect tonight would be invaluable. He leaned closer and let his nose brush John's ear. "Trust me."

John seemed to relax marginally. "All right. What do you want me to do?"

He was so very trusting. Sherlock found that rather appealing.

"Finish your drink. It's almost time to head downstairs."

"What's downstairs?"

"You'll see."

John didn't respond verbally, though he was clearly frustrated by the situation. He really had no idea, despite nearly a half-hour of watching people negotiate sexual encounters all around them. Sherlock bit back a sigh. John was an intelligent man, but sometimes it was rather astonishing how much he didn't understand.

He watched Clara talking with her girlfriend across the room as John finished his third drink. When John turned to set the empty glass on the bar Sherlock pulled him close again.

"Let's go." He steered John through the crowd and around the bar to a door at the back of the club that led downstairs to the other areas. The doorman nodded as they approached and took down the velvet rope so they could pass. John followed him down two flights of stairs in silence, only finally speaking when they entered the corridor leading to the private rooms.

"What the hell is this place? What are we looking for?"

"The door marked eight." Sherlock walked down the corridor, glancing at each door until he found the one adorned with an ornate brass '8'.

"Any time you want to let me know what's going on--" John muttered and then stopped in his tracks. Sherlock turned to see him halfway back down the corridor, staring suspiciously at a closed door. "Sherlock?"

There were muffled sounds coming from the other side -- apparently whatever sexual activity those particular patrons were engaged in was enhanced by a great deal of vocalization.

Did John usually make a lot of noise during sex? He'd been fairly quiet while masturbating on the sofa the previous evening, though after a year of overhearing him tossing off in the shower, Sherlock knew that wasn't the norm. He'd likely been trying to be quiet. Would he try to keep himself quiet tonight?

He watched John for a moment more, wondering if he would finally work it out, but he didn't seem to do. He stared at the door with narrowed eyes as if trying to look through it. His stance indicated mild stress and a touch of indecision. Apparently he suspected that the activity occurring on the other side was not entirely consensual. He might be correct, but that was beside the point.

"That's none of our concern," Sherlock said, injecting quiet authority into his tone to draw John's gaze back to him. "Here we are."

He opened the door and nodded his head to indicate John should follow. John did so without hesitating and then stood in the middle of the small room for a moment, taking in the décor, the furnishings, the arrangement of the space. Sherlock closed the door and leaned back against it to watch him. At the sound of the latch clicking shut, John turned back to him with narrowed eyes.

He still didn't understand. Sherlock stifled a smile. He'd find out soon enough, and that moment was going to be rather interesting.

"What's going on?"

"Do you trust me?" Sherlock asked in reply. He knew the answer, of course, but the point was to remind John who was in charge here.

"The fact that you're even asking that question is making me nervous." John frowned and grew distinctly tenser.

Sherlock clenched his jaw. Had he read this all wrong? He'd expected John to work out where they were and why by now, but he hadn't. There wasn't time to explain now -- and Sherlock didn't want to do if it meant missing the chance to see John's reaction when the girls started on him. But what if he didn't react positively? God only knew what Mycroft would say if John caused some sort of scene. He had to give him something -- an out, at the very least.

"I don't think you'll have any problem going along with this, but if you change your mind and want out, we should have some sort of signal."

John's expression was priceless. "What, like a code word?"

"Exactly. You should choose. It will help you remember."

"It would help me tremendously if you'd just tell me--"

There was a knock at the door and Sherlock reached for the handle. "Pick a word, John."

John's expression settled into clear resignation. "Okay, fine... cinnamon."

Sherlock nodded and opened the door to see Clara smiling up at him, her arm looped through her girlfriend's.

He leaned against the door frame and grinned at her. "Clara, was it?"

She nodded her head toward the woman standing next to her. "This is Abby. She wanted to play too."

"Fantastic." Now that he saw Abby up close, he was delighted to see that she was exactly the type of woman John preferred. She was tall and slim with long hair and striking eyes, quite the contrast to Clara. He smiled at her. "Lovely to meet you, Abby."

Abby's eyes fixed on John immediately. Clara whispered something and gave her a little push, and Abby crossed the room to where John was standing. He stared back at her, clearly wary, but didn't move from the spot.

"You must be John," she said.

Sherlock pulled Clara through the door and closed it, then leaned in to whisper, "He looks terrified, doesn't he?"

"He does, poor thing. Has he done this before?"

"Nothing like this, with an audience. He's worried that I'll be jealous."

He looked up to see John staring over Abby's shoulder at him. The expression on his face clearly said What the fuck, Sherlock?

"You should be jealous. She sucks like a Hoover."

Sherlock had to clamp a hand over his mouth at that, laughter bubbling up without much effort. The mental image alone, hell. "I can't say I can compete with that. He'll have to reassure me later."

John's eyes narrowed, but then Abby cupped his face in her hand and whispered something before leaning in to kiss him. John seemed frozen for a moment, eyebrows arched in surprise, his eyes remaining open for several seconds, and Sherlock was briefly uncertain what would happen. And then John's eyes closed and his entire posture changed. His hands still hung at his sides, but he wasn't resisting.

"All right?" Clara whispered.

Sherlock smiled, not taking his eyes off of John. "Absolutely."

Clara squeezed his arm as she stepped forward. She crossed behind John and slid her hands over his shoulders before pulling him backwards toward the sofa. Abby pushed and Clara pulled, and a moment later John fell backwards onto the sofa with a soft gasp of surprise.

Abby dropped to her knees and pushed his thighs apart to settle between them while Clara settled next to him on the sofa. John's expression was guarded as he stared down at Abby, watching her face as she unfastened his jeans. He was trying to decide if he wanted this, Sherlock realized. He hadn't expected it until the moment Abby kissed him, and perhaps only now did he realize what would happen next. Clara pulled his face toward hers and kissed him and began to unbutton his shirt, and Sherlock couldn't read him at all for a moment.

If John objected now, Sherlock wasn't quite sure what he would do. The entire experiment hinged on this, on John's agreeing to participate. Perhaps he'd made a mistake by not making the expectations explicit. He pressed his lips together as a knot of anxiety formed in his stomach.

John opened his eyes and twisted out of the kiss, and for a moment Sherlock thought it was over. Abby was watching him as well, her hands gently stroking his thighs as Clara kissed his neck. John stared at Sherlock, clearly trying to understand. Sherlock stared back with as neutral an expression as he could manage. He'd been sure John would just relax and enjoy it. Had he misread him so very badly?

And then it happened -- something changed in John's expression as Sherlock watched; he could see the moment John understood. He nodded his head almost imperceptibly and then looked down at Abby with sudden heat in his eyes.

Sherlock exhaled.

Abby made quick work of his jeans; John even lifted his hips to help her pull them down past his knees. Clara had worked his shirt open and Sherlock was treated to the sight of more bare John Watson than he'd ever seen before. Abby tugged John's pants down and Sherlock caught a brief glance of his erection before Abby leaned forward and took it in her mouth. John's face went slack for a moment, surprise and pleasure mixed together briefly before he groaned and closed his eyes.

Sherlock had expected it to be like watching pornography, but it was nothing like that at all. It was much better: more intense, more intimate, and so blindingly real. He'd watched half a dozen videos portraying this exact scenario, and he'd found them distracting at worst and boring at best.

This was most definitely not boring. John's hands clenched into fists at his sides and his face was nearly contorted with concentration. His breathing was ragged now, but he otherwise wasn't making any noise. Not that Sherlock had expected porn dialogue from John; the idea of phrases like suck me harder baby, just like that coming from John's mouth was nearly laughable. He was very focused, though, and Sherlock found himself utterly captivated. He slid into observation mode almost without thinking about it, trying to take it all in.

Clara shifted position, slowly working her way down John's body, and John opened his eyes. They were unfocused for a moment, his gaze drifting across the room. His eyes finally locked on Sherlock and slid up to his face, and when their eyes met, it was if the contact was physical. Sherlock stared back at John, aware now that this was affecting him in a way he couldn't explain and hadn't fully expected. He'd anticipated some arousal, of course, but this was something else altogether.

He was half-erect now; clearly he lost all ability to remain objective when John was looking at him like that, inviting Sherlock to see everything he was feeling, offering it up so honestly. He wasn't sure he'd ever be able to watch porn again. Nothing would compare to this, he was certain.

He was on the verge of becoming too distracted by his own arousal. He had to focus. He bit his lip hard and dug his fingernails into the palm of his hand, trying to ground himself.

John looked away then, his head falling back against the sofa as he gasped, and Sherlock had a moment of relief. He forced himself to focus on the details: John's thighs pressed apart, Abby's hands between them as well, doing things that John clearly enjoyed, based on his response, and Clara sitting back to watch for a moment, her fingers tugging at one of John's nipples.

Just as Sherlock had found equilibrium, John opened his eyes and looked right at him once again.

God. Why was John so intent on making certain Sherlock's attention was on him?

Clara slid to the floor then and both women's heads bobbed in John's lap. John's hands moved automatically to their heads, fingers tangling in their hair, and Sherlock frowned. John's eyes flicked up to his again and Sherlock thought, no, no touching. He was uncertain why it seemed so important, but suddenly it did. John's expression shifted and his hands fell back to his sides. Better.

John closed his eyes again and leaned back into the sofa cushions, clearly close to orgasm. The careful control and concentration from before were gone; his breathing was uneven and punctuated by soft moans that were escalating rapidly. He had relinquished control of his body in the last minute, and Sherlock realized he'd missed the exact moment it had happened.

His entire body tensed then and he groaned, and Clara leapt back onto the couch to kiss him through it while Abby seemed to bury her face in his groin, riding the involuntary thrusts of his hips. He moaned, the sound muffled by Clara's mouth, and then he finally relaxed, almost melting into the sofa.

Clara's expression was fierce as she pulled out of the kiss and lunged for Abby. John opened his eyes just as they began to kiss messily in his lap. He smiled and then looked up at Sherlock again, raising his eyebrows as the smile became a rather naughty grin. It seemed he'd enjoyed it. Overall, it had gone quite well, Sherlock realized. He'd learned far more than he'd expected, and even though his own reactions had been distracting at times, he had quite a bit of data to record and process once they got home.

He pushed off the wall and crossed to sit next to John on the sofa. It felt oddly natural to sling an arm around his shoulders and nuzzle his cheek. John, to his credit, didn't even flinch. The feeling of stubble against his lips was oddly intriguing and he pressed a kiss there. He pitched his voice just loud enough for the girls to hear. "Happy, darling? Is that what you wanted?"

John shivered. "Yes. God, yes."

Abby and Clara finally pulled away from each other and turned to grin at them. Sherlock grinned back and laughed at Clara's smugly raised eyebrows and slight head nod toward Abby. Sherlock had no idea if John considered that a superior blow job or an average one -- he'd ask in the morning after there had been time to process it all -- but it was clear that Clara thought it had gone well.

"That was fun," Clara said as she rose to her feet and pulled Abby up with her. They twined their arms around each other.

"He has a gorgeous cock," Abby said. "Thanks for sharing it."

Sherlock's gaze flicked down to John's groin automatically. His penis was still half-hard, the tip of the glans exposed and wet. He realized a full second had passed and he forced himself to look back up again. "You're welcome."

"Any time," John added, his tone unusually cheeky.

Sherlock grinned and slapped John lightly on the cheek.

The girls laughed and they all exchanged brief goodbyes. The door closed behind them with a click, and Sherlock was suddenly, sharply aware of the heat of John's body pressed against his side.

He moved back, putting several inches of space between them, and turned to look at John again. John stared at the closed door a moment more. He was thinking, turning the details over in his mind, that much was clear.

John glanced at Sherlock after a moment and blushed, apparently realizing he was still naked from the waist down. He tugged his pants and jeans up quickly. "I assume we're done here?"

Sherlock hummed in reply, already lost in thought. There was so much information to be organized, and he needed to bin things in temporary spots in his mind before he lost track of them. There was John's initial resistance and subsequent submission to the experience; the transition between those two states, which definitely warranted further examination; the need for periodic eye contact with Sherlock and the effect that had on each of them; the quick response to Sherlock's disapproval; the reason behind that disapproval -- which he wasn't quite certain he wanted to explore just yet.

John had finished straightening his clothes and was leaning back against the sofa cushions again, eyes closed. Sherlock watched him for a long moment. When John's features went slack and his breathing settled into a shallow rhythm, Sherlock couldn't help but smile. Classic male post-coital response. For a moment he considered letting him sleep.

He stood and crossed to the door. "We should get a cab," he said, inflecting his voice just enough to wake John.

John sat up and blinked, slightly dazed. "Right, of course."

John was silent as they left the club and walked down the pavement, though he was clearly tense. Sherlock hailed a taxi and John turned to him after they climbed inside, his expression expectant. Sherlock could only blink at him. Was he supposed to say something, to remark on what had just happened? Was there some sort of sexual voyeur etiquette he was unaware of?

"I hope you found what you were looking for back there."

Ah. Of course. He bit back a smile. "I've a bit more research to do, but that was very enlightening, yes."

After a long moment John sighed, apparently unsatisfied with this response. "So, the case?"

"What case?"

John frowned. "This case, the one you're working on. When are you going to tell me about it? What are we looking for?"

"I've no idea what you're talking about, John."

"But… Then what was this all about?"

Sherlock clenched his jaw. John still didn't understand? How was it possible that he'd missed all of it, that even after that sexual encounter he still didn't understand why there were there and what they had done.

John's eyes widened and his expression hardened, and there: he'd finally worked it out. "Oh my God. This was part of your experiment? Are you fucking serious?"

Oh, God. The tone indicated John thought Sherlock had wronged him somehow. It was hardly his fault that John was slow on the uptake. "You looked at my data this afternoon. I assumed you'd worked it out."

"Of course I hadn't; I'm an idiot, remember?" He pressed his hands against his face. "I can't believe you would put me in that situation, I just--" He lowered his voice to a whisper. "They didn't use a condom!"

"Yes, I was surprised you didn't make a fuss about that, especially considering there was an entire drawerful of supplies in that table."

"How was I supposed to know that?"

"It was a sex club, John. What else would they keep in the drawers in the private rooms?"

Oh. John hadn't realized it was a sex club until this very moment. Sherlock shook his head and looked away. Really, what did he have to do, post it on the blog? Write it out in longhand and hand it to him? What had John spent the last hour thinking about, if not trying to work out where they were and why? He hadn't even asked for fuck's sake.

John clenched his fists and groaned in frustration. He was clearly angry, but also embarrassed. Surely he wasn't going to try to blame Sherlock entirely for this, because honestly.

"How could I be so stupid?" John groaned. Sherlock could hardly leave that one alone, but before he could get out a word, John held up a hand. "That was rhetorical."

Well, yes. It was obvious to both of them now, wasn't it?

They rode the rest of the way to the flat in silence. John bolted from the cab, leaving Sherlock to pay the driver. Sherlock walked up the stairs slowly, a feeling of dread pooling in his stomach. John was angry, and it was clear that part of his anger was directed at Sherlock. It was incredibly frustrating. He'd done nothing wrong; in fact, he thought he'd done quite a few things right. John liked going out drinking, and he always complained that he couldn't chat up women, and that he never got laid, and Sherlock had taken care of all three of those things for him in a single hour. He'd expected John to be grateful, or at the very least, pleased.

He opened the door to the flat and pulled off his coat.

"You took me to a sex club without disclosing it to me, got me drunk, and then led me right into a sexual scenario without my consent." He was standing in the kitchen in shadow, anger radiating off him in waves that were nearly visible.

Shit. So they were going to have it out now, were they? Sherlock swallowed his annoyance. "You consented. We discussed it."

"Sherlock, you got me drunk, so by definition my consent was iffy at best."

He'd bought John drinks; he hadn't forced him to consume them. But whatever. "But there was a safeword, and you didn't use it."

"Oh, is that what we did there right at the last minute? Fucking hell, Sherlock."

John took a long swig from a container in his hand and then binned it with more force than was strictly necessary before stalking towards Sherlock. He looked incredibly angry, more so than Sherlock had seen him look in a long time. He found himself stepping backwards, putting more space between them, and just as he braced himself for the punch he knew was coming, John stopped, suddenly deflated. He took a step backwards and pressed his hands to his face.

"Sit. We need to talk about this."

Sherlock nodded and exhaled. He still wasn't sure why John was so pissed off, but it was clear that he was about to find out. He sank into an armchair and did his best to look contrite. That always seemed to help when John was angry.

John sat across from him, his expression solemn. "What you did tonight was at the very least unethical. Do you understand that?"

He didn't, but it seemed best not to press for further explanation. "But you enjoyed it."

"That's beside the point. Look, I'm not opposed to participating in this insane experiment of yours, but you cannot keep me in the dark like this. You have to be honest with me, all right?"

Sherlock stared at his hands for a moment. So that was it, then. He should have explained it all to John on the way instead of expecting him to work it out on his own. Confounded by his own high expectations of others, as usual. He looked up. "All right."

"Do you understand what I'm saying?"

Sherlock groaned. He hated it when John talked to him as if he were a child. It was painfully clear that the evening had been a disaster from John's perspective. At least he'd got a bit of usable data. "Of course I understand. It won't happen again."

John's lips twisted slightly. "You don't understand at all, do you?"

Sherlock didn't stop himself from scowling. "Then enlighten me, please."

"I'd like it to happen again. In fact, I'd be disappointed if it didn't."

Sherlock blinked at him, now completely baffled. Had he been distracted and missed half of this conversation?

John smirked, annoyingly. "I get that this is an experiment. I'm fine with that. You want to understand how sex works, how people respond to sexual stimuli."

"Not people, John. You."

He held his breath. He hadn't meant to say it like that, with so much innuendo. He'd been hoping to keep that part private a bit longer, until he'd worked out what it was about John that made Sherlock want to watch him so closely, to craft sexual scenarios around him and watch them play out, to see how John responded to a thousand different kinds of touch, to pain, to pleasure, to denial, to deprivation. His mind was full of images and ideas, so many it threatened to overwhelm him for a moment.

John flushed but he didn't look away. Sherlock wondered for a moment if John could see what he was thinking.

"Just me. Okay then. And against my better judgment, I'm somehow still fine with that. I'll even be an enthusiastic participant. But only if you're honest with me."

Oh. Sherlock exhaled smoothly, relief coursing through him. So that was it, then. John was angry that Sherlock hadn't explained it all beforehand, but now that he knew, it was fine. It was all fine.

His mind began to spin with possibility and he felt a jolt of sensation, something remarkably close to arousal. This was going to be much more than an experiment, far more intriguing than mere data collection and analysis. The thought was thrilling and terrifying at the same time.

He turned his gaze back to John. John was watching him, his expression open, expectant, compliant. How much did John trust him, he wondered? Enough to follow him into anything? Enough to let Sherlock push him, stretch his boundaries, tease him, torment him? He hadn't realized he'd wanted this, but now that it was before him, now that John was offering himself so willingly, he couldn't believe he hadn't known it before. He shivered. Jesus, he had an erection just thinking about it.

"Agreed," he said at last. "Shall we continue tomorrow night?"

John nodded. "Tomorrow night."

They stared at each other a moment more before John stood and headed upstairs without so much as a goodnight. Sherlock waited until he heard the bedroom door close before unfastening his trousers and wrapping a hand around his prick. A dozen firm strokes and it was over, leaving him gasping, his hand sticky and his body still shivering.

He opened his eyes and stared up at the ceiling, feeling a flicker of panic for the first time. What exactly was he getting himself into?


Chapter Text

"When was your first kiss?" John asked.

Sherlock pressed his lips together for a moment. "This isn't about me. It's about you."

"I'm not asking to collect data. I'm asking because I'm interested."

"Why are you interested?"

John's sigh was almost a groan. "No idea. In fact, I'm becoming less interested by the second. Never mind."

He said nothing more. After a few minutes of silence, it seemed he'd decided to drop the subject, to Sherlock's relief. It wasn't a memory he particularly enjoyed thinking about.

It did, however, give him an idea. He plucked his laptop from its spot between the cushions and opened the lid, tapping his fingers against the sides of the keyboard impatiently as it slowly came back to life. After 3.5 excruciatingly long seconds the machine was awake, the browser window still open. He clicked on the eighth browser tab and the club's message board filled the screen. He navigated to the Tonight page and scrolled through the posts, eyes sliding over the words until he found a post that looked promising.

Posted by HoneyBadger311 at 16:47:
School uniforms TONIGHT! Let's meet on -1, the usual spot.

There were a handful of enthusiastic replies. Sherlock smiled.

"Want to order take-away?" John asked, standing. "I've a craving for Thai."

"Not hungry."

"Of course you aren't. But I'll get that curry you like, just in case you change your mind."

It was twenty minutes before Sherlock realized he'd gone, when he finally looked up from the message board to tell John what time they'd be leaving. He stared at the chair where John had been sitting and frowned.

Not that advance notice mattered, it seemed. John had said last night he was willing to participate in the experiment. Except for insisting on honesty (and Sherlock still wasn't convinced that withholding information that was never specifically asked for was equivalent to lying, but whatever), he hadn't qualified his participation at all. Sherlock assumed this meant that he was up for anything.

And if not, that was why they'd established a safeword.


He had a plan for what he wanted to happen tonight; it was simply a matter of locating the right woman and negotiating terms.

He glanced sideways at John as they rode in the taxi. He looked nervous: hands clenched together, shifting in the seat every few seconds, his eyes focused out the taxi window but never landing on anything in particular, his jaw clenching and unclenching. He was clearly excited as well, though -- he hadn't hesitated to dress exactly as Sherlock had instructed, practically leaping to his feet when told it was time.

Sherlock looked out the window again and smiled.

John was silent as they walked to the club, apparently lost in thought. He should ask John later what he was thinking about prior to this encounter. Was it anticipation, fear, or something else altogether? That could be interesting data as well.

Just as they reached the door of the club John caught Sherlock's sleeve. "We need to talk."

Was he having second thoughts now? If so, why on earth would he wait until the last possible moment to voice them? It was infuriating. "I thought we discussed this last night."

"Honesty, remember? I need to know what…" John paused, clenched his jaw, and looked up at last. "What you expect of me."

Sherlock's eyes narrowed. "I don't understand."

"Right. So." John ran one hand through his hair and inhaled smoothly. He was clearly nervous, but there was something else too, something Sherlock couldn't quite put his finger on. "This is your experiment, so you're calling the shots. I'm fine with that, but if you have any… rules you want me to follow, now would be a good time to tell me."

Sherlock was momentarily stunned. Even though John was clearly unsettled about what might happen to him tonight, he was still concerned enough about the outcome of the experiment to ask for clarification on his role in it. It was nearly touching, but moreover, it was an extremely good point. They should indeed make the parameters clear before proceeding.

Sherlock nodded. "I'll need you to follow my precise instructions at all times, without question. If you're uncomfortable with what you're being asked to do or with anything that's happening, use the safeword. Otherwise I'll assume you consent. Our cover is that we're a couple; you should behave accordingly, but don't overdo it. You don't get to pick your partners; that's my job. You also don't get to choose what they do to you and when. It's important for the purposes of data collection that you aren't aware what's coming next, so I won't explain anything, even if you ask."

"Okay." John looked a bit overwhelmed.

"And no touching. They can touch you, but you will not touch them."

"Why not?"

Good question. He wasn't certain why that particular rule was so important to him, but he didn't want to dwell on it at the moment. He opened the door.

"I feel loads better now," John muttered as he walked through it. He didn't press the issue, to Sherlock's relief.

Once inside, John didn't wait for Sherlock to direct him; he crossed to the bar, ordered a pint, and started drinking it immediately.

Sherlock frowned and leaned in close enough to whisper, "I thought alcohol interfered with consent."

"Are you kidding? I need a drink after all of that." John looked away, visibly frustrated.

Sherlock studied him for a moment, confused. Hadn't they just clarified things completely? John knew what to expect, so why the annoyance at the situation? Perhaps it was nervousness and nothing more. At any rate, it seemed best not to press the issue. They could discuss it later.

Time to get to work. "Finish your drink and head downstairs, room five. I'll meet you there shortly."

He walked around the perimeter of the room, scanning the crowd, but saw no one dressed in an approximation of school uniforms. When he reached the bar again, John had already gone downstairs.

Ah, of course. The -1 must have meant the next level down.

Mycroft had mentioned that there was a public play area, but Sherlock hadn't fully considered the implications of that description until he was standing in the middle of it, surrounded by small groups of people engaged in various forms of sexual activity. It was an overwhelming amount of information to take in and he let it all flow over him for a moment. He'd catalogue it later, when there was time. For now, he had a particular goal in mind, and on the far side of the room tucked into an alcove, he thought he'd seen just what he was looking for.

He crossed to the bar first and ordered a drink -- a prop, mostly --and then made his way slowly through the room, finally stopping before a small group of men and women who were laughing uproariously over something one had just said.

He took a sip of brandy from his glass before smiling at the woman nearest him and leaning in close. "I couldn't find anything appropriate to wear. None of my old school things fit. Mind if I join you anyway?"

"Of course," she said, grinning up at him. "Here, sit." She gestured at the arm of the sofa she was sitting on.

He sat, noticing that a few other people were giving him appreciative looks as he did. He smiled.

"My turn!" one of the women said, drawing everyone's attention. "I choose… Alex. Truth or dare?"

Alex, a young man wearing a dark green blazer that was clearly far too small for him, buried his face in his hands. "Oh, God. Truth."

"Last time you sucked off a bloke. With details."

"What was it, ten minutes ago?" someone quipped, and Alex flashed two fingers at him.

"I knew you were going to ask something like that."

"Then you should've asked for a dare."

"No, because then you'd have dared me to do it rather than just talk about it." He rolled his eyes, his cheeks flushed. "All right, fine. It was… four months ago."

A chorus of oooohs emerged from the group.

"It's not something I do often, I know, but if I've had enough to drink and if the bloke is fit, well." He grinned and everyone laughed. "I'd gone to visit some friends in Ipswich and they took me out and introduced me to friends. One of their friends was this amazingly gorgeous bloke who flirted with me nonstop the entire night. He kept buying me drinks, even though I made it clear I wasn't into men." There were snickers at that, and he rolled his eyes. "Shut up, you know what I mean. Anyway, at the end of the evening he followed me back to the hotel -- or hell, maybe I invited him -- and he said I could fuck him if I sucked him off first. So I did. And then we… did. I was utterly pissed, so I don't remember much more about it."

Everyone burst into laughter at that, and Alex shrugged. "Sara, truth or dare."

Sara, a plump redhead with an infectious laugh, was dared to find three men who'd come to the group and show everyone their penises. She returned within a matter of minutes, to Sherlock's surprise, with four men, all of whom delighted in dropping their trousers to the raucous cheers of the group. Sara thanked them all with kisses, and enthusiastically dropped to her knees when the third man pretended to push her head down. His grin melted into an expression of bliss a moment later.

"Sara, it's still your turn!" a young woman with blonde braids said, and everyone laughed.

Sara waved a hand behind her in response, and the man whose dick she was enthusiastically sucking said, "Give her a minute. This won't take long, I promise. Ahhh… that's…"

Sherlock laughed along with the others, though his mind was spinning. He wondered how John would react to this, if he'd find it intriguing or arousing, or simply bizarre. The idea of such a public display of sexuality was something he hadn't entertained until now.

"Oh let's just skip her for now," the woman said with a sigh of mock exasperation. "Who hasn't had a turn?" She was very pretty and had clearly put the most effort into her costume that night. She also seemed to be the leader of the group.

Of course. Honeybadger311. Perfect.

"I'll go next," the woman sitting next to him said. He turned to see that she was staring right at him. "I think I'll pick you, gorgeous stranger."

He feigned embarrassment and laughed. "Sherlock, please."

"Truth or dare, Sherlock?"

That was an easy decision. "Truth."

"Hottest sex of your life."

"With details!" a few others chorused.

Sherlock laughed. "Oh, God, I knew it would be something like that. Wait, let me think." It couldn't be terribly outrageous or they'd never believe it. Something reasonable, but also fairly titillating and--- Ah. Of course.

"All right. I had a tremendous crush on a friend, but he was not only straight, but dating someone fairly seriously, so I didn't let myself think on it much."

"Oh my God," said the man who'd earlier dared Alex. "If this is going to be a story about you getting off with a straight bloke I'm going to come in my pants, I swear!" Everyone laughed.

Sherlock grinned at him in response. That was as good a direction as any for the story to go. "Well, he was dating this girl who was fairly adventurous, apparently, and one day he rang me up and said she wanted to have a threesome -- the two of them and me."

Another chorus of oooohs rang around the room.

"Wait, I want to hear this," Sara said, popping off the erection of the man she'd been fellating. He gaped at her for a moment before wrapping a hand around his penis and stroking, apparently having decided to finish the job himself. Oddly, no one paid him any attention. All eyes were focused on Sherlock.

He cleared his throat and forced himself to look away from the man tossing off. "So a couple of nights later I went to her flat. It was a bit weird at first, but after several glasses of wine, she took us both to her bedroom and we all undressed. She kissed him and then me, and it went on like that for a bit. My friend wouldn't even look at me at first, and I finally decided to get it over with. I sat down next to him on the bed and I kissed him, and he… well, he was a lot more enthusiastic after that." He grinned as everyone laughed.

"I think the request was for details," HoneyBadger311 said, winking at him. "That's not nearly enough."

He cringed as if embarrassed. "More details, right. So I kissed him and the next thing I knew his hand was on my prick and after that I assumed he was fine with anything. And he was." He raised his eyebrows suggestively to giggles from the group. "His girlfriend ended up just watching for a lot of it. I forgot she was there until she decided she wanted it to finish with him fucking her and me fucking him. And to my great surprise, he agreed."

"Oh my God, I can't stand it," the same young man said, falling dramatically into the lap of the woman next to him.

"This is totally Matt's favorite fantasy," Sara said. "He's not always such a spazz."

"Don't distract him!" the woman next to him said. "Go on, Sherlock."

Sherlock took a deep breath and nodded. "So that's what we did. It was awkward, but also incredibly hot, because… well." He laughed.

"And what happened after that?" someone asked.

"I sort of dated the two of them for a while, and when she finally moved on, it was just me and him." He grinned and looked up, his eyes sliding over their expectant faces. "And it still is, actually. We're still together."

"Oh my GOD," Matt said, flailing his arms now. "Seriously, fuck you, Sherlock. I fucking hate you for that life-ruining story." He grinned, which was Sherlock's only cue for how to interpret his words.

"And where's your boyfriend tonight?" HoneyBadger311 was definitely giving him a look of interest.

"Downstairs," he replied. "Waiting."

"For what?"

He smiled at her. "My turn, isn't it? Truth or dare."

She gave him a sly smile. "Dare."

Perfect. He pressed the palms of his hands together and considered for a moment. "I dare you to come downstairs with me and make him come just from kissing him."

The Greek chorus provided yet another oooooooh.

"Just kissing? Isn't that a little tame?"

"You don't think you can do it?" He raised an eyebrow.

Giggles erupted all around them.

"Oh, now you've done it!" Alex said. "Jenna never backs down from a challenge."

Jenna rolled her eyes, but she was smiling. "All right, fine. What room?"

"Five. Come down when you're ready."


John leapt to his feet when Sherlock opened the door to room five. Sherlock closed it behind him and leaned back against it, suppressing the urge to grin at him. This was going to be fantastic.

"Well?" John asked after a long moment.

There was a knock on the door before Sherlock's grin managed to burst through. He pushed off the door and turned to open it. Jenna stood in the doorway, looking every bit the debauched fantasy schoolgirl. She winked at Sherlock before turning her attention to John, who was very nearly gaping at her. Her smile turned into a smirk.

She held out her purse and Sherlock took it, uncertain what he was supposed to do with it. He closed the door behind her and turned to see her drape her arms around John's shoulders.

"I was playing Truth or Dare just now, and do you know what your boyfriend dared me to do?"

John tried to respond, but only managed a few meaningless syllables. He shook his head and tried again. "Ah, no. No idea."

She pushed him down to the sofa before straddling his knees and climbing into his lap. John made a soft sound as she grasped his tie and pulled him forward with a sharp tug.

"He dared me to make you come from kissing alone. Do you think I can do it?"

The look on John's face was priceless: he was completely stunned. "I think you probably can, yeah."

She leaned forward then, her head blocking Sherlock's view of John's face. He didn't need to see his face to work out the effect she was having on him, though. His hands were clenched at his sides and he wriggled underneath her, as if trying to make contact.

Jenna was pressed rather tightly against him, Sherlock realized, and she wasn't sitting still. She was moving very slightly, grinding against John's (very likely) erection. Sherlock scowled. She was cheating already? Where was the fun in that?

Jenna pulled out of the kiss with a giggle and said something Sherlock couldn't quite make out, to which John replied, "No," rather breathlessly. She kissed him again, more intensely this time, moving against him in a way that John clearly appreciated.

Which was beside the point, of course. All that effort to set up a very specific experiment about erotic kissing, and here she had sidelined the entire thing with frottage. Had she even tried before grinding herself against him in the most obvious way?

Of course, it wasn't as if he'd had enough time to impress upon her the importance of following his precise instructions. It was, after all, a sex club, and most people were here with the goal of having orgasms. Why would they expect it to be otherwise? He'd have to set up these encounters much more carefully in the future. Rather than counting on being able to find someone once they arrived, he should make advance arrangements via the message board and be very clear about his expectations.

Jenna whimpered against John now and the two of them made no pretense of only kissing as they moved together. It went on for an excruciatingly long time. Sherlock felt annoyance rising in him steadily.

The movement became erratic suddenly and he realized he'd missed something. He watched more closely, noticing that Jenna had stilled. They weren't kissing anymore and John was thrusting up against her now, his breath ragged.

"Oh fuck oh god, that's… right there… fucking hell."

Sherlock felt a familiar twinge in his belly at the sound of John's voice on the edge of orgasm. He wished he could see John's face, but it was obscured by the back of Jenna's head. He gritted his teeth in annoyance.

They stopped moving at last, both panting. Jenna collapsed against John, who grinned at Sherlock over her shoulder.

Sherlock couldn't wipe the expression of annoyance off of his face before John caught it. His face fell and he sighed, which made Sherlock feel marginally better. At least he understood that much.

Jenna finally stood and straightened her clothes. She collected her purse from Sherlock and flashed him a smug grin on her way out the door. He grinned at her in return, but the expression fell completely away as soon as the door closed behind her.

"That wasn't what was supposed to happen," he said as turned back to John. He crossed to the sofa and dropped onto it beside him. "I told her she could only kiss you. That entire experiment was a waste of time."

John ran a hand over his face and seemed to be struggling not to grin. "Oh, I wouldn't say that."

"Yes, well. You clearly enjoyed it."

"Jesus, Sherlock, I'm not even sure what you wanted to happen is possible, but seriously? I just had an orgasm fully clothed. I'm fairly certain she had two. That's damn amazing and definitely good enough for your spreadsheet."

Sherlock gritted his teeth. "That's not the point."

"Of course not. Enlighten me here: what exactly is the point, if not to observe me having sex with various women and analyze… whatever it is you're analyzing?"

Oh, for -- of course, it wasn't as if he'd told John exactly what he was looking for. John had proved time and time again that he needed the important details spelled out for him explicitly. "It may just be sex for you, but it's science for me. This kind of data collection requires careful controls or the information is essentially worthless."

John smirked. "Ah, of course. I see the real problem now."

"Then enlighten me, won't you?"

"You can control me, but you can't control anyone else who walks through that door. It's just not possible. So you're going to have to find a way to deal with a certain amount of unpredictability in this experiment. And damn if I'm not going to enjoy watching that."

Well, yes. That was exactly the problem, wasn't it? Perhaps he should give John more credit. "That's completely perverse."

"Pot, kettle." John raised an eyebrow at him and laughed when Sherlock responded with a single finger.

At least John was happy, which meant he'd likely be willing to return to the club tomorrow night. Working out the protocols in an experiment like this was going to take a bit of time. He should have anticipated that from the start.

"Ready to go?"

John stretched and Sherlock's eyes were drawn to the stretch of white fabric over his belly. "Yeah. I think I need to find the loo first. I'm all… sticky now."

Sherlock smirked, but declined to comment further. There was plenty of time for that.


October, 1991


Sherlock looked up from behind the stacks of books that formed a protective wall around the table he'd commandeered in his favorite corner of the library. Cassie Briggs stood on the other side of the table and sneered at him, arms folded over her chest and under her breasts. Her pleated uniform skirt was two inches higher than regulation (she hadn't grown out of it; he could see the uneven stitch where she'd hemmed it short by hand) and her school tie was loosened to allow the top few buttons of her shirt to be undone. (Likely trying to get Mark Chantley's attention again. Pointless; he was gay.) Mousy brown ringlets (spiral perm, two months' growth) cascaded down over her shoulders, punctuated by a hand-wrapped multi-colored braid down the right side (family trip to the Caribbean prior to start of term). Her brown eyes narrowed at him.

"No," he said and looked back down at the notepad he was scribbling on.

"You don't even know what I was going to ask."

"Doesn't matter. The answer is no."

She made a sound of frustration and circled behind the table to stand next to him. He glanced at her sideways, wary. She plucked one of the books from a stack and flipped it open. "Introduction to Organic Chemistry. What the bloody hell? Don't you find this pointless and boring?"

"This conversation is pointless and boring, yes."

She flipped a few pages before closing the book, and dropped it in front of him with a thunk. "Aren't you the least bit curious about why I tracked you down on a Friday afternoon?"

He rolled his eyes and picked up the book, setting it carefully back in its original spot. "As I said, the answer is no. Now kindly bugger off. I'm busy."

She perched on the corner of the table and leaned back a bit, swinging her legs. White socks covered her calves up to the knee, and above that there was a shockingly long stretch of bare skin up to the hem of her skirt. He turned his attention back to the paper before him, but it was too late: she'd seen him looking.

"Not until I get what I came over here for." He could hear the smirk in her voice.

"Unless you came over here to discuss the classification of aliphatic compounds, you're wasting your breath."

Honestly, she hated him. She never missed a chance to insult him or pull a face at him, or any other number of mean things. She and her group of friends weren't the most unpleasant thing about this school, but they definitely ranked near the top of the list. He heard a giggling from across the library and saw her look pointedly over at its source. So that was it. She was here to torment him for her audience. As usual.

He clenched his jaw. "Just get it over with. I've a lot to get done before the library closes."

"If you insist." She hopped off the table and stepped even closer to him. He looked up, startled at her proximity, and then found himself frozen to the spot when she pushed his chair back and swung a leg over him, straddling him in the chair. Her bare thighs settled on his lap and she clasped his head in her hands, holding it firmly.

What the hell are you doing? he'd intended to say, but his words were cut off by her open mouth smashed against his. Her tongue wormed its way between his lips and flopped around inside his mouth, wriggling weirdly against his own. It was several seconds before he was able to process it as a kiss.

Oh, God.

She pulled away long enough to say, "Close your eyes, you're putting me off," before diving back in again tongue-first. It was wet and strange and sloppy and a bit disgusting, and to his utter horror he found he sort of liked it.

He closed his eyes and clenched the sides of the wooden chair, terrified to move his hands. She wriggled in his lap and he was suddenly aware of how close she was to his penis, which had, utterly against his wishes, decided to take an interest in the situation. He had no idea why, since he didn't like this girl in the slightest. There was nothing about her he found attractive. She repulsed him, actually.

Perhaps at this particular stage of his life, sexual attraction wasn't so much about whom he fancied as it was about proximity to compatible genitalia. It was something to consider. As was sexual attraction at all. He hadn't considered it, not even during quick wanks in the toilet stall in his dormitory, desperately hoping to get it done before he could think very hard about it, before someone might hear him and take the piss more than they usually did.

And then she pulled away again, pushing to her feet and glancing at her watch. "That was the longest fucking thirty seconds of my life."

He gaped at her, uncertain what to say to that. It wasn't as if girls just hopped into his lap for a snog on a regular basis, after all. She raised her eyebrows at him and he fought the urge to cover his groin. He didn't actually have an erection, thankfully, but it had been close.

She looked uncharacteristically thoughtful for a moment before a smug expression settled on her face. "That was your first kiss, wasn't it?"

He tried valiantly to shake his head, but he felt his cheeks warm before he could manage it. He looked away, back to the stacks of book in front of him.

"Well, then, you're welcome. I'd suggest you get a bit more practice at it, but we both know that's not going to happen anytime soon. Ta." With that she turned and walked away, crossing the library to where a group of her friends were whispering furiously amongst themselves. She looked back at him once when she reached them, laughing, and then they all left the library.

He exhaled and pressed his fingers over his eyes. If he hadn't hated her before, he certainly did now. He buried himself in his books, forcing all thoughts of girls and lips and tongues out of his mind. It wasn't important. He wouldn't let it bother him. He was above it. All of it.


Chapter Text


The sound of his mobile vibrating on the desk was unbelievably annoying. It was the fifth call in as many minutes, which was the reason Sherlock finally pushed himself to sitting and stood, crossing from the sofa to retrieve it. He knew who was on the other end without having to glance at the display.

"What do you want? I'm busy."

"You picked up on the fourth ring of the fifth call attempt; you can't be terribly busy."

Sherlock's eyes rolled up to the ceiling. "I'm hanging up in one minute."

"I was simply calling to ask how the two of you are getting on at the club."

"As if you don't know?"

"Considering that it's my membership you're using, I've a vested interest."

"We're getting on fine, Mycroft. Your generosity is most definitely appreciated."

"Jenna is a lovely girl, isn't she?" Mycroft's tone remained light despite Sherlock's heavy sarcasm. "She's hardly John's type, though."

Apparently Mycroft had simply wanted to remind him that he knew everything that went on in the club. As if Sherlock wasn't completely aware of that fact already.

"John's type is female and willing."

"Don't pretend to be thick, Sherlock. It's quite unsettling."

"If there's a point, you've twenty seconds to make it."

"Do you think John is enjoying this little experiment of yours?"

"You have his number. Ask him yourself."

"Considering that you appear to be the one in charge, in a manner of speaking, I believe the proper etiquette is to ask you."

"Ten seconds, Mycroft."

There was an exasperated sigh on the other end of the call, and it almost made Sherlock smile.

"I'm concerned that you're getting him into something neither of you fully understands."

"Yes, well, thank you for your concern. Will that be all?"

"Sherlock, you have to--"

He ended the call and tossed the phone aside with a snarl. Mycroft's meddling truly knew no bounds.

He spent much of the afternoon lurking on the club's online message board, studying the various ways people communicated what they were looking for. A stunning array of acronyms were used for sex acts, some of which he'd finally had to google. It was odd how randomly some were named. He couldn't for the life of him work out what pegging meant until he read the Wiki, which led him to spending three hours on Dan Savage's website, two of those spent simultaneously listening to episodes of his podcast, and then adding a considerable number of films to his Pornflix queue.

By mid-afternoon he'd created a profile and posted on two of the active partner-sharing threads, and within two hours he'd received several promising responses. He finally narrowed it down to two: a woman who described herself as a femmedomme who preferred playing with couples and a married heterosexual couple looking for a threesome with a bisexual man. He was leaning slightly toward the first; as much as he wanted to see John interact with a man, it might be a bit soon for that. On the other hand, the couple had indicated in their message that they could only arrange a sitter for tonight, so it might be a limited opportunity.

He was still considering both when John finally returned to the flat at dusk. Sherlock didn't have to look up to work out that he'd spent much of the afternoon in that café three streets over, the one John adored despite its tremendously gauche décor and overpriced menu. He smelled of their cheap coffee even from across the room.

"Are we going out?" John asked.

"Yes," Sherlock replied, not taking his eyes off the screen. Both of the encounters he was considering had stated their availability as around eleven. "At ten."

"Should I… I mean, is there anything you want me to… wear or…?"

Sherlock let his eyes flick to John briefly before looking at the screen of his laptop once again. "Whatever you like is fine tonight. You'll be taking it all off as soon as we arrive, so it won't matter."

John was silent for a full second, but at last he nodded. "All right then."

Sherlock bit his lower lip. John had barely flinched at that, had accepted it completely with only a moment's hesitation. It was more than a bit thrilling.

John stood there a moment more before heading to the kitchen to rummage around in the cupboards. He returned several minutes later with a drink in hand, clearly something he'd thrown together out of desperation. Beer was his usual beverage of choice, so the fact that he'd concocted something significantly more alcoholic was telling. He'd been nervous the night before, though he'd clearly enjoyed himself. Perhaps the element of surprise was difficult for him to tolerate. Or perhaps he'd discovered that mild inebriation had a positive effect on these sexual encounters and beer wasn't quite strong enough to produce the desired effect. Sherlock briefly considered asking him about it. Probably not a good idea -- not yet. It had only been a few days, after all; he should wait and see if the pattern continued.

John settled in front of the television and turned it on, flipping through channels until he found one of his ridiculous reality shows to watch. Sherlock watched him watch people bicker onscreen and considered the evening's two possibilities once again. If John could choose, Sherlock had little doubt he'd pick the woman -- which was partly why Sherlock was inclined to choose the couple. The theme of this experiment was to see how John reacted when his sexual boundaries were pushed; a threesome involving a man would definitely accomplish that. On the other hand, it was early yet and Sherlock didn't want to run the risk of pushing John too far too quickly. And considering that this particular woman advertised herself as something of a dominatrix, boundaries would likely be pushed no matter what.

He sent another message to the couple, asking for more details of what they were looking for. John carried his drink to the kitchen and returned a minute later with a bottle of beer, apparently having found his concoction unpalatable. (Little surprise there; it had smelled fairly revolting.)

Two minutes later he received a reply from the couple. They wanted a third for double penetration of the woman, it seemed. They both identified as bisexual and preferred to find someone who'd be comfortable with both of them, though there was no indication that they would want John to do anything other than provide a second penis to the arrangement.

Sherlock leaned back against the sofa and looked at John again. In this instance, it didn't seem that John would have to have any sexual contact with the man if he didn't want it. John liked to tell everyone who would listen that he wasn't gay, but he'd never exactly said he was straight either. Sherlock had observed evidence to the contrary on many occasions, though he'd never seen John do more than flirt with men. In fact, it wasn't completely clear John would consider his behavior in those instances to be flirtatious, though it appeared that way to Sherlock and to at least two of the men John had sort-of-flirted with, one of whom had actually been quite interested, to John's naïve bewilderment. Furthermore, he knew for a fact that John found him attractive. It had been clear from the first night they'd spent on a case together, and from a hundred other instances in which Sherlock observed the way John looked at him. Still, none of that clearly indicated John would act on an opportunity to engage in a sex act with another man, even if he found him attractive. This could be an interesting test case of his comfort level with men, if nothing else.

His eyes flicked back to the computer screen. Perhaps he didn't have to choose. Why not agree to meet both? John was certainly capable of two orgasms in one night; it had occurred on at least three occasions that Sherlock could recall. If they met with the woman first and John later declined to meet with the couple, he'd still have usable data; if John was willing to meet with both, he'd have twice as much. Considering that the club would be closed the next few nights anyway, that would be quite helpful indeed. He typed out responses to each party and then settled in to wait.


"So this club we've been going to -- it's a private club, isn't it?" John's nervousness was almost endearing.

"It is."

"Pricey, I imagine?"


There was a pause. "You didn't actually buy a membership to this club, did you?"

"Of course not. I borrowed one."

"Who did you--" His expression turned to one of mild horror. He'd worked it out even faster than Sherlock had expected. "Oh, don't tell me."

"My brother's interests are rather diverse." He allowed himself a small smile; the shock factor had worn off long ago, but he still understood the impact of the idea of Mycroft as a sexual being.

"God, I wish I hadn't asked." John said with a groan. After a moment he turned back to Sherlock with an expression akin to horror on his face. "When you say borrow, you mean you nicked it, right? Just like that all-access pass?"

Sherlock grimaced. "No. He hasn't forgiven me for that just yet. This time it was honestly borrowed."

"And you told him… what, exactly?"

Sherlock's phone buzzed and he pulled it from the pocket of his coat to glance at the screen. 11:30 is fine. We've got room 4. He stifled a smile and typed Perfect. See you then. "The truth, naturally."

"Which is?"

Sherlock sighed. Didn't John know by now that lying to Mycroft was completely futile? "That I am conducting a series of experiments about human sexuality, with your assistance."

"Fantastic." The expression on John's face was utterly incongruent with the word.

"I'd expected him to refuse but he seemed rather pleased about it, actually. No idea why."

John's expression contorted into something very similar to pain. "Do you think he's spying on us?"

"Of course he is." Their brief conversation from that morning flittered across his thoughts. "Does that bother you?"

John snorted. "Oh no, not a bit. The idea of your brother knowing exactly how much sex I'm having and with whom is a bit of a turn-on, actually. Should we cut out the middle-man and invite him to join us?"

Sarcasm: John's favorite course of defense when exasperated. Sherlock rolled his eyes, but then paused. Sometimes with John, sarcasm provided a window to something close to truth. Was this one of those times? Was he suggesting that he might be open to the idea of being watched by someone other than Sherlock? If so, it opened up a whole new set of possible sexual scenarios. "There is a more public space on a different level of the club. We could--"

"No," John spat.

Sherlock frowned. Perhaps he'd crossed some undefined line at last.

John sighed and looked away. "Not yet, anyway."

Not completely off the table, then. Interesting. John turned to look out the window of the taxi, and Sherlock smiled.


He sent John down to room seven immediately and was pleased with the quick way he complied with a single nod of his head. Once again, John hadn't asked any questions about what would happen tonight. Was he enjoying the element of surprise? Sherlock certainly enjoyed watching his response to being surprised.

Their first meeting would be with the femmedomme called Lana. Her last message had simply said, Stand under the arch by the bar at exactly 10:30. I'll find you. He'd been relieved that John hadn't wanted to order a drink at the bar tonight; he only had a few minutes to spare as it was.

He found the arch and stood under it, pretending to send a text. No doubt she'd spotted him by now and was watching him, assessing. He was rather looking forward to meeting her. Irene Adler had been his only previous contact with this sort of thing, and that had been… well. Best not to dwell on the past.

At 10:32 Lana finally joined him under the arch. She smiled slyly at him as his eyes raked over her -- her appearance was so striking he hardly had to feign surprise or interest. Her body was squeezed into a band of red latex that might loosely be described as a dress, and the shiny black thigh-high boots she wore had dangerous-looking heels. Her eyes were large and green and gave her a cat-like appearance. She was overtly sexual in almost every way, and now she was observing him in a manner that was almost predatory. It was unnerving, but also exciting.

He smiled. "Lana, I presume?"

"And you're Sherlock. Where's your boyfriend?"

"Downstairs, waiting." He pocketed his phone and leaned back against the arch. "You're fucking gorgeous, even more than I expected. He's going to love you."

She raised an elegant, perfect eyebrow, triggering a flurry of calculations in his mind: the placement, arch, and length of her eyebrows were all in perfect alignment with the standards of western beauty defined by the Golden Ratio. Was that intentional? Did women like her approach beauty mathematically? Did--

"I have to say I'm pleasantly surprised as well. Will you be joining us?"

He forced everything else in his mind aside and grinned somewhat sheepishly. "Ah, no… No offense, of course. Women are not my… area."

She stepped forward and stroked his cheek with one hand. "Are you certain about that?"

"Yes. I'm gay." He'd made that clear in his messages to her. Had she misunderstood?

"Labels can be so limiting." She made a sound not unlike a purr and leaned even closer. Her lips were blood red, the same shade as her dress. "I could suck your prick while he buggers you. If you close your eyes, you'll never know the difference."

He didn't have to fake the blush that rose to his cheeks. "I… I don't--"

She brushed a thumb across his lower lip and he felt an odd compulsion to suck it into his mouth. "Oh, I see. You don't bottom. No one fucks you, not even him, but when you come here you let him fuck other people. Is that it?"

He's spent some time working out a reasonable-sounding cover story for them, but at the moment it would probably be simplest to go with her idea. At the very least, she would be pleased that she'd worked it out so quickly, and that could only work to his advantage. He nodded and let himself melt back against the wall behind him to let her think she was having an effect on him.

She moved even closer, nearly pressing him back against the wall of the arch now. "Do you like to watch, Sherlock?"

"Yes." He sounded a bit more breathless than he'd intended. "John, that is. I like to watch John."

She dropped her hand to his chest. "You should introduce us before I decide I'd rather have you, right here against this wall." She leaned forward and brushed her lips against his ear as the hand on his chest shifted, her fingernails pressing into his skin. It was an odd combination of sensations. "Or maybe I'll take you downstairs and make you fuck him over one of those sofas while I watch. I'll bet he's gorgeous with your cock up his arse. Does he love a good pounding, or does he prefer it nice and slow?"

He closed his eyes, startled at the effect her words were having on him. It wasn't as if the image hadn't appeared in his mind before; it had definitely made frequent appearances in his dreams. But he hadn't thought about it consciously like this -- at least, he hadn't thought about him and John… like that. He'd certainly imagined John engaged in a great variety of sex acts with other people while he watched, but that one… that particular image was now shockingly, firmly planted in his mind.

"Downstairs," he managed to say after a moment. "Right. Yes. We should… go."

She took a step backward and he made a show of straightening his clothes as he pushed off the wall, not letting himself meet her eyes. If she wanted him unsettled, it was best to let her think she'd done it. The fact that she actually had done it a fair bit was inconsequential.

She looped her arm through his as they headed towards the door that led to the lower levels. "Any rules I should know about?"

"He's not allowed to touch."

"So I have to do all the work then? Pity." She grinned at him. "If he tries to touch me, what happens?"

Sherlock blinked at her. John knew the rules. Why shouldn't he follow them? "He won't."

She laughed. "Oh, come now. I could punish him for you. Or is that off-limits as well?"

It hadn't occurred to him that John might intentionally not comply in order to provoke a response. The idea wasn't unappealing. How would he respond to John if he did? A few tantalizing images spun in his mind and pushed them away -- that would require a great deal more thought and planning than he had time for at the moment.

"I don't think he will. He hasn't before."

She smirked in response, clearly taking it as a challenge. He smiled and looked away, and hoped John wouldn't choose tonight to push back.

"I haven't been down in the private rooms in weeks," she said as he opened the door at the bottom of the stairs.

She walked through and then turned back to him, sliding an arm around him when he drew near her. He wound an arm around her waist as well, marveling at the texture of the latex dress. It was fascinating; he couldn't resist stroking it a bit as they walked towards room seven.

"In fact, the last time I was down here I was with a straight couple who wanted me to dominate both of them. It was an odd sort of scene, I must admit, but we had a lot of fun. I had brought along a collection of butt plugs and I told the man to pick one. He chose the largest one I had." She grinned up at him conspiratorially. "I'm not sure he knew what it was, honestly, and I think he expected me to tell him to use it on his partner. So he was rather surprised when I told him to lube it up and stick up his own arse." She burst into laughter at the memory. "Oh, God, the look on his face!"

Sherlock laughed with her as they stopped before the door marked with a large brass 7. "Did he do it?"

"He just stared at me and turned white as a sheet, and then he said, 'You want me to put it where?' and I--" She stopped speaking abruptly as the door swung open. "Well, now. Hello."

Her razor-sharp focus was on John now and it was breathtaking to see the way John responded. His eyes went dark with astonishing speed and Sherlock could tick off the list of signs of his arousal one by one. He seemed to hold his breath as she crossed the room to stand before him.

Lana reached out and stroked one finger down John's cheek, then grasped his chin with her hand. "He's explained everything. Too bad about the no touching rule. I'd have loved to know what your tongue can do." She pressed her thumb between his lips and he didn't hesitate to suck it into his mouth, his eyes fluttering closed.

"Let's get started, shall we?" She took a few steps backward. "Unzip me, will you, Sherlock?"

He hesitated a moment -- was she going to draw him into this after all? If she did, what would he do? What would John do? His hands shook slightly as he fumbled with the zipper at the nape of her neck, drawing it down slowly to give himself space to think. John had a safeword, but he didn't. He could use John's, and John would likely understand. He swallowed hard as the zipper reached the bottom of its track. What was John's safeword, again?

Lana peeled the dress off slowly, her eyes apparently still fixed on John. John was gaping at her like he'd never seen a woman like this in his life. He had, of course, just not one that was attainable. The dress hit the floor with an oddly wet sound, and Sherlock half-expected Lana to turn back to him and grab a handful of his shirt, but she didn't. Instead she crossed back to John and pressed one finger to his sternum, pushing him backward into one of the chairs. She then sprawled into the other, hooking her knees over the chair's arms and spreading her thighs wide.

"Are you allowed to speak?" she asked.

John turned to look at Sherlock automatically, asking for permission. Sherlock had already had a taste of what this woman's words could do; the possibility of what she might say to John was quite interesting indeed. It was probably best if he wasn't allowed to respond. He shook his head and John seemed to accept it without hesitation.

Lana laughed. "He keeps a tight leash on you, doesn't he? I can't say I blame him."

They were sitting facing each other; he could see both of them perfectly in profile. Lana's fingers moved between her thighs and John's gaze focused on them, his hands clenching the sides of his chair.

"You show me yours and I'll show you mine," she said. John gaped at her for a moment, almost as if he hadn't understood, and she smirked at him. "Strip, John. Right now."

The tone of her voice was sharp and John obeyed instantly. He sat forward in the chair and stripped off his jumper and button-down with surprising efficiency, and stood to shed his trousers. There was an awkward moment when he realized he should have removed his shoes first, but once he'd dispatched with those he stood before her clad in nothing but a pair of tented boxers.

"Those too," she said.

John hesitated, and it was clear he was fighting the urge to look over at Sherlock. He looked uncomfortable. Sherlock frowned at that; it wasn't as if he hadn't seen John naked before.

"From what I can see you've nothing to be embarrassed about. I'll even give you a sneak peek, if you like." Her hands moved between her thighs again, and whatever she was doing had the desired effect; John dropped his pants immediately.

Oh. Sherlock had to press his lips together to keep himself from making a sound. He'd never before seen John like this, he realized: completely bare and aroused, skin flushed, cock jutting straight out from his body with the foreskin tugging back over the glans. He was beautiful in a way Sherlock hadn't anticipated.

He was going to have to reopen that spreadsheet detailing his own reactions.

"Good boy," Lana said. "Sit now. And no touching yourself either." John sat while she wriggled out of her knickers, his eyes firmly fixed on her. She hooked her knees over the arms of her chair and began to touch herself again. "Oh, if only you were allowed to speak. You could tell me exactly what you want to see me do."

John glanced over at Sherlock with a pleading expression on his face and Sherlock rolled his eyes in response. He had an idea of what was coming and he wanted to be able to isolate John's responses as much as possible. If John were allowed to participate more than minimally the results would be far more muddled. There would be plenty of time for that later.

If there was a later -- and Sherlock assumed there would be, though many things hinged on the events of tonight.

"No matter," Lana said, and there was humor in her tone. "I think we'll have fun anyway."

She stood and crossed to the small supply table. She pulled a condom from the drawer and knelt between John's thighs as she tore it open. She gave his erection a few strokes and John closed his eyes. He looked as if he could melt into the chair.

Lana turned to grin at Sherlock. "Mmm, so eager. Is he always this sensitive, Sherlock?"

He shrugged and she smiled at him before turning back to John. She rolled the condom onto him and rose to straddle his thighs. She'd conveniently placed him in the armless chair.

"Have you ever fucked a woman before, John?" He nodded far too enthusiastically and she laughed. "Of course. I see. He's gay and you're bi, so he brings you here to let you fuck women, but only the women he chooses for you. And then he dictates exactly what they can do to you, and you're not allowed to touch them back. In that way, it's really like he's the one fucking you, isn't it?"

Sherlock swallowed hard. That wasn't true, but the way she'd said it was… Did John think that was what Sherlock wanted? He didn't want to have sex with John. Well, mostly not. Perhaps a bit, but only because she'd suggested it and now he was curious. But no, actually, he didn't want to have sex with anyone -- not anymore, anyway. It was too much trouble and there were too many complicated emotions, and he was getting by just fine with masturbation, thank you very much.

And besides, John was straight (as he loved to tell anyone who suggested otherwise) and he probably (no, definitely) wouldn't want to have sex with Sherlock even if he wasn't. Sherlock clenched his jaw and forced himself to focus. He couldn't let his thoughts go down this path. Nothing but the ruin of the best friendship he'd ever had -- the only friendship he'd ever had -- lay at the end.

Halfway across the room Lana had lowered herself onto John's cock and started moving against him. John's hands flew to her hips, guiding her movements, and Sherlock sat forward in his chair.


John dropped his hands and Lana leaned closer, dipping her mouth to his ear on the side opposite Sherlock. He could tell by the way the muscles in her throat moved that she was whispering, but he could hear nothing. John turned his head slightly and looked at Sherlock, his eyes narrowed. He was wondering if Sherlock had heard what she'd said, obviously. Sherlock considered pretending he had and scowling or something similar, but that could backfire on him rather quickly. A moment later John turned away, grinning as Lana whispered something more to him. He grasped her hips again and pulled her hard against him.

Ah, so that was it. She was making good on her threat to encourage him to misbehave.

"John," he said again, injecting as much authority into his tone as he could manage. John's response was immediate: he dropped his hands and clenched the sides of the chair instead, and even though he was smiling it didn't seem as if he would do it again.

Lana smirked at Sherlock. "I don't know if he'll be able to resist. You might have to tie his hands to the chair."

John gasped and she turned back to him with a laugh. "Oh, you'd like that, wouldn't you?"

Sherlock nearly groaned. He'd thought about that quite a bit in the last few days, and had even tossed off once to the idea of John naked and bound while a faceless man striped his body with welts and--

He had no idea if John would agree to something like that, and even if he did, it was probably a long way away. At the moment, it was only distracting him from the actual sex occurring in front of him. Lana was fucking John in earnest now, her hips rising and falling and twisting in a way that was quite fascinating to watch. But even more interesting was John's face -- his eyes were closed and his mouth was slightly open, and there was a strange expression there, something between pleasure and shock, as if he wasn't quite sure he wanted what was happening to him.

Sherlock felt a twinge of apprehension at that thought, but then he saw Lana's face as she drew back and looked down at John, studying him for a moment. She leaned forward again and Sherlock realized that she was still whispering to him.

Ah. Of course. And from the expression on John's face, he could guess what sorts of things she was saying, probably a variation on what she'd said to him upstairs. John looked as if he wasn't entirely sure he wanted to hear it. He was responding, though, whether to her words or to the sexual stimulation or some combination of both. Sherlock searched his face, trying to work out what he was hearing from the hints of expression he saw there. Lana had been clever enough to hide behind John so Sherlock couldn't read her lips, and he had no chance of hearing her over the obscene way John was moaning now.

She said something then that must have been particularly shocking: John's eyes flew open and the combination of horror and arousal on his face was far more intriguing than it should have been.

"Come on, John, fuck me. Come for me." Lana thrust her hips against him wildly, gripping the back of the chair, and a few moments later it was clear she was having an orgasm. John's hands clenched her hips again, apparently trying to keep them going long enough for him to climax as well.

"Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck," he said through gritted teeth, his face contorting as he came. It was the first time he'd spoken in half an hour and the sound sent a twinge of arousal through Sherlock, enough that he squirmed in his chair.

A moment later they were both still at last, panting against each other. Sherlock exhaled and tried to ignore the tightness of his own trousers. That had been intense to watch. He hadn't expected to respond, but then, he was bound to do eventually, wasn't he? He couldn't completely divorce his own responses from these experiments. He'd learned that the first night on the sofa.

Lana kissed John once more, apparently signaling the end of this encounter. Sherlock could see John's prick pull out her body as she stood.

"Thanks for the party, boys. It was lovely."

John smiled up at her, looking almost dazed.

They both watched as she dressed quickly, a fascinating contrast to the languid way she'd taken her clothes off not fifteen minutes before. When she was finished she crossed to stand before Sherlock once again. She glanced down at his groin and raised an eyebrow before turning her back to him. He stared at the curve of her arse for a moment before realizing she wanted him to rezip the latex dress. It wasn't an easy task and he could have used another pair of hands, but John appeared to be in no condition to help. He finally managed to work the zipper up without catching any of her skin in the process.

She kissed him on the cheek before leaving, and flashed a secretive grin at John before closing the door behind her.

He turned back to see John sinking into the chair, still grinning. "I need a few minutes. God, I can't feel my arms."

"Really?" Was that normal?

John smirked and looked away. "Do you have a column on that spreadsheet for dirty talk?"


"Add one." He closed his eyes.

She'd said things that both unsettled and aroused him, obviously. He wouldn't have reacted so strongly to mere suggestions of his sexual prowess. She'd believed they were a couple and had expressed a desire to watch the two of them having sex, and so it was likely that she'd told John exactly that. Perhaps she'd described what she wanted to see in great detail, and John had been forced to listen because Sherlock had refused to let him speak. He could have used the safeword if he were truly disturbed -- but no, it wasn't as if he was disgusted by what he'd heard. In fact, it had seemed quite the opposite, that he'd never considered the idea before and had been intrigued, even aroused by it.

Sherlock clenched his jaw. No, that couldn't be it. He was letting his imagination run wild when he should be limiting himself to observable data from which he could deduce conclusions. He needed to catalog and organize all of it while the details were fresh in his mind. He didn't know what she'd said, so he could only hypothesize whether or not John would find the idea of sex with him repulsive or intriguing. Well, obviously not repulsive -- bad choice of word. Intriguing yes, but what did that mean?

Nothing. It meant nothing. He was not going to think about that, absolutely not. This -- this was perfectly fine, and the fact that he'd tossed off quite a lot lately while fantasizing about John having sex with other people did not mean that he wanted to have sex with John himself. It just meant he liked to watch. And since John didn't mind -- John even seemed to enjoy being watched -- it was rather a good arrangement.

He could simply ask John what she'd said. John would either tell him, or tell him to bugger off, or lie. In any of those three cases, the truth would be apparent. He took a deep breath. "What did she say?"

"Ah… well." John paused, biting his lip. "Just… things."

"What things?"

"Dirty things."

"You'll need to be a bit more specific."

John groaned. "Oh, for fuck's sake, can't something in all of this be private?"

So he was going for the bugger off option then. Interesting. Sherlock sighed heavily, injecting some frustration into it. Sometimes John would give in to placate him or to ward off what he saw as an impending tantrum.

John gave in surprisingly quickly. "It was just, you know, fuck me just like that and your cock feels so good. That kind of thing. I barely remember the exact words."

And now he'd moved on to the lying option, despite the fact that he was one of the worst liars Sherlock had ever met. So it had likely been exactly what he'd suspected. If she'd said anything else, even fairly explicit suggestions about John with men in general, John would have said. He would have been embarrassed, but at that point he would have injected even a small amount of truth into his lies, perhaps twisting her words so that he wasn't directly involved in the sex acts she was describing. But no, the fact that he'd said something so obviously, ridiculously false meant that she'd said things about John and Sherlock. And from John's expression, it was clear he was trying very hard not to think about any of it.

Which was probably for the best.

"I'll make a note of it."

"Great. Thanks." John seemed relieved that he'd dropped it.

"Are you ready yet?"

John opened his eyes and glanced over at him. His gaze was intense, almost searching, and Sherlock looked away. They had another appointment soon and he should focus on that. He had to sort through all of the information from the encounter with Lana quickly and clear these distractions from his mind.

"Ready," John said, and Sherlock looked up to see he'd finished dressing. He nodded and opened the door, and John followed two steps behind as they ascended the stairs.


Chapter Text


At the top of the stairs Sherlock turned toward the bar. He signaled to the bartender, who nodded and immediately began pulling a pint of Stella Artois. Apparently they were regulars now, given that the bartender knew their order on sight. He turned to John with an amused smile, but John wasn't next to him. He stood several yards away, eyes narrowed in confusion.

Ah, of course. John had expected to go home now, hadn't he? Sherlock had forgotten to mention that the night wasn't over quite yet.

The bartender returned with a pint of Stella and a discreet, "I'll put it on your tab, shall I?"

He expected to receive an obnoxious text from Mycroft about the bar tab in the morning, though honestly they could be drinking quite a lot more than they were. Sherlock nodded at the bartender and
beckoned John with a wave of his hand.

"What's this?" The expression on John's face was one Sherlock was rather fond of, and one he saw far too infrequently: pure skepticism.

"A pint of Stella. I recall it's one of your favorites." He held out the glass and John took it, his expression settling into something closer to wariness.

"Oh. Thanks. We do have beer at home, you know."

"We're not going home just yet. Ah, I forgot to ask: would you say your refractory period is about half an hour?"

The surprise on John's face was a reward in itself; Sherlock had begun to doubt he could shock him so forcefully anymore. "My what?"

"That's what I've assumed from observation of your masturbation habits, but I thought I should probably ask."

John could only stare at him for a several seconds, apparently having been rendered speechless. At last he blinked and shook his head, the I can't fucking believe this clear on his face. "We're not done tonight?"

"No. I realized the pace of data collection could be increased significantly and I've made arrangements for another encounter in--" He paused to dig his phone from his trouser pocket and thumbed it on. "--twenty-five minutes. Will that be enough time?"

"Oh my God." John leaned back against the bar and drank a good fourth of the beer. He didn't look entirely pleased by the prospect.

"If not, I can ask them to wait a bit. At least, I think I can." Rescheduling this one might be out of the question, and he'd been looking forward to seeing John in a threesome. Well, another threesome. One involving a man, if he was completely honest with himself.

John hesitated a moment more before an expression of tired resignation settled on his face. "Okay."

"Good." Sherlock frowned slightly even as the word left his lips. John was clearly reluctant and Sherlock felt uneasy about that.

But he hadn't said no, had he? John had been the one who'd insisted on honesty, and if he didn't want to proceed, Sherlock was fairly certain he'd simply refuse. John usually didn't mince words with Sherlock. His brutal honesty and fearlessness about telling Sherlock exactly what he was thinking were two of his most endearing qualities. Well, perhaps not most endearing. The list of qualities John possessed that endeared him to Sherlock was quite long indeed. He hadn't ranked them in a while -- perhaps that was a list to be revisited in light of new data. For example, John's surprising willingness to play the role of Sherlock's boyfriend in public for the purposes of this experiment, despite his typically negative reaction to anyone thinking they were a couple, was something to add to the list.

John sighed, and Sherlock realized they were standing much too far apart for a couple. They seemed to be keeping up appearances quite well, but it was best to be on the safe side. He leaned closer and slid an arm around John's waist and John's body briefly stiffened against him before relaxing again. The arm not holding the pint glass snaked around Sherlock's waist in return, a warm hand settling against Sherlock's hip as John focused his gaze on the crowd and raised his pint glass to his lips again.

Sherlock watched him for a moment, smiling fondly in case anyone was looking. He didn't usually enjoy this sort of physical proximity with other people, but somehow he didn't mind it at the moment. John felt comfortable against him, warm and solid. And John understood him, as much as any human being could do. John understood this, at any rate, and that pleased Sherlock more than he'd previously realized. The arrangement was working out rather nicely indeed.

They watched the crowd in silence for twenty minutes. John didn't look at Sherlock, not even when Sherlock spent an entire minute studying his profile. He kept his gaze focused on the crowd, occasionally lifting his glass to sip his beer, and seemed lost in thought. He wasn't worried, nor was he particularly nervous -- both of those emotions were fairly easy to read. Rather, he seemed calm, with a touch of quiet anticipation. He hadn't asked what was coming, hadn't even hinted that he wanted to know. Did he enjoy this game that much, or was it that he trusted Sherlock completely? No amount of staring at him helped answer the question.

"Ready?" Sherlock asked when the time came for their next meeting.

John nodded and turned to put his empty pint glass on the bar. Sherlock steered him towards the door with a slight touch to his lower back. John stopped at the door and waited for Sherlock to walk through it before following him down the stairs.

John was silent the entire walk down; in fact, he hadn't said a word in nearly half an hour. Sherlock paused before the door of room four and turned to him. His expression was almost solemn, as if he was steeling himself for whatever he might find on the other side. Sherlock hesitated a moment more. He liked John silent and at the mercy of his partners, but in this particular case that might not be the best approach.

"The rules about talking and touching will be suspended for this session, by the way."

John turned to look at him, surprised. "Okay. Should I bother to ask why?"


"I don't suppose you've ever seen 'Behind the Green Door', have you?"

He shifted quickly through the list of film titles in his mind, but nothing registered. "No. Why?"

"No reason. Forget I mentioned it. Ready when you are."

As if he'd be able to forget that title now, as obviously connected to John's experience as it was. He'd find a way to watch it as soon as possible. He didn't bother knocking; he opened the door and gestured John inside. John started forward and then Sherlock walked right into him -- he'd stopped in the doorway.

"So sorry," John said to the couple wrapped around each other on the sofa. "We must have the wrong--"

Sherlock smirked and gave John a small shove from behind. He stumbled forward as the couple on the sofa looked up at them and grinned.

"You're in the right place, darling," the woman said.

Sherlock closed the door and leaned back against it, watching. The woman and her husband were staring at John, apparently pleased with what they saw. John seemed frozen to the spot. Sherlock crossed to stand beside him.

"Should we do introductions?" the man asked.

John turned to look at Sherlock, his expression carefully guarded. Sherlock stared back at him for a split second before realizing that John was waiting for him to answer the question. Even though he'd given John permission to speak, he was still deferring to Sherlock. That was fascinating, but there was no time to think on it now; he filed it away for later reflection and turned to smile at the naked couple on the sofa.

"I'm Ryan," the man said as he settled back on the sofa. He was very good-looking and he was completely unconcerned about his own nudity. He spread his thighs in what was nearly an invitation, and Sherlock's eyes flicked down to what was between them of their own accord. He looked up to see Ryan looking back at him with a heated expression. Sherlock's lips twisted into a smile and he turned to look at John. John looked as if he wanted to disappear into the floor.

The woman sitting next to Ryan giggled and he tilted his head toward her. "This is my wife, Annie."

Annie's eyes were focused on John, nearly leering at him, but Ryan's gaze was on Sherlock. His eyebrows rose slightly and Sherlock felt an odd twinge in his gut. He allowed himself another moment of staring back, not guarding against the heat he felt before he looked away again. He recognized it as attraction, of course, but it was unusual for him to feel it like this. He generally only noticed that people were attractive in a general, theoretical sort of way. He'd spent so many years keeping himself at a distance from almost everyone around him that he hadn't opened himself to the possibility of attraction to a stranger.

It was especially odd to find himself attracted to someone who may well be about to have sex with his boyfriend. Well, no, not his boyfriend, his flatmate, whom he was pretending was his boyfriend for this experiment. Or rather, they were both pretending to be a couple for the experiment. Or whatever. Anyway.

He forced a smile. "I'm Sherlock and this is John."

"Hi." John sounded as uncertain as Sherlock had ever heard him. "Nice to meet you."

Ryan and Annie grinned at him, apparently finding his hesitance charming. "Thanks for meeting us on such short notice," Ryan said. "We've been trying to set this up for a while."

"Of course." Sherlock stepped in behind John and slid one arm around his waist, a gesture he hoped appeared comforting. Any actual comforting it might provide would also be beneficial at the moment. "This is going to be right up John's street, I think."

John leaned back against him and Sherlock could feel how tense he was. For all Sherlock knew, this was normal -- perhaps John was typically this tense before a scene. After all, he never quite knew what was going to happen. And of course, this time there was a man involved and that might change the entire equation. Sherlock clenched his jaw in frustration, realizing he'd missed an opportunity to find out if John's physical response at this point was different when there were only women involved. It may be an important point, depending on how things went tonight. It might have been his only chance to collect data on that particular variable, dammit.

There was nothing for it now, though. He swallowed down his frustration and forced himself to focus on John once again. John was pressing his shoulders into Sherlock's chest as if drawing strength from him. Did he find physical contact with Sherlock comforting? That was an interesting idea in itself. He decided to test it a bit.

"Relax," he whispered. One hand was already pressed against John's belly and it was easy enough to slide it upwards, stroking his chest. The response was immediate: he felt John relax against him and even shiver slightly. What else would someone do to comfort a partner in such a situation? He looked down to see a tantalizing stretch of skin along John's neck, and it was easy enough to dip his head down and plant a soft kiss there.

There was a sharp intake of breath, and it was a moment before he realized it had come from John. John's head fell back against his shoulder and his eyes closed, and Sherlock realized with a start that he wasn't acting. That response was real: Sherlock had kissed him and John had liked it, perhaps even involuntarily. It was a strangely powerful feeling, one he wasn't sure he'd felt before in his life. Had anyone ever whimpered in pleasure when he'd kissed them like that? If he did it again, what would John do?

He looked up to see that Annie and Ryan were watching, waiting. He unwound his arm from John and gave him a firm push towards them before he could be tempted to kiss John again. John walked several steps toward the sofa and Annie rose to meet him.

"You're completely adorable," she said just before she kissed him. He stood still for two seconds before his arms went around her and he pulled her against him. John's back was to Sherlock, but it was clear that Annie was melting in his arms.

Sherlock glanced at Ryan, who was watching the kiss with a sort of detached interest. He didn't appear jealous or even concerned; he was simply watching his wife kiss another man as if it was a completely normal event in his life. Ryan's eyes darted to Sherlock's then as if he'd realized he was being watched. He gave Sherlock a wry smile.

"You're a bloody good kisser," Annie said, pulling away from John, and Ryan's gaze turned back to the two of them. "Time to get undressed."

John pulled off his clothes with more enthusiasm than usual. Annie took them piece by piece and folded them carefully, setting them aside.

Two children, ages between six and ten, at least one a boy. She opened the drawer of the room's small supply table and pulled out a few small packets before turning back to John.

"Thanks," John said, and she dropped to her knees. Sherlock couldn't see what she was doing, but from the way John's shoulders tightened and then relaxed again, he could guess.

"Let me help with this," she said, and then John's trousers and pants were tugged down to his ankles.

Ryan stood then and crossed to John with a hint of a smirk on his face, and John visibly tensed. Sherlock bit the inside of his lip, uncertain exactly what would happen next. He'd told Annie and Ryan the same cover story he'd told the others, that they were a couple, Sherlock was gay, John was bisexual, and that Sherlock enjoyed sharing him. John knew the cover story, and so he presumably knew this particular scenario was a possibility. He hadn't told Sherlock that involving a man was off-limits. In fact, he hadn't declared anything off-limits as of yet.

Ryan moved to stand beside John and reached out to brush his fingers against John's cheek. John turned toward him, his expression guarded but clearly showing interest as well.

"You are adorable, you know," Ryan said, and he leaned in to kiss John.

Sherlock held his breath for a moment, stunned by the sight of John's lips pressed against another man's. John didn't pull away and he didn't look troubled or hesitant. In fact, after a few seconds had passed, just as he'd done with Annie, he grasped Ryan's arms and pulled him tightly against him.

Sherlock assumed Ryan had positioned himself beside John intentionally, to force him to turn and provide Sherlock with a better view. It was quite a lovely view: John had a firm grip on Ryan's biceps and Ryan's hands were on John's hips, and they seemed to be clinging to each other for support. Ryan had a slight height advantage, but John was clearly the one in control of the kiss.

It was an odd thing to watch. Kissing as presented in films and on television was always rather neat and tidy, but passionate kissing in real life was messy, with open mouths pressed together and brief glimpses of tongue and teeth as one person or another shifted. It looked a bit as if they were trying to devour each other simultaneously, and yet it still somehow appeared erotic, for a reason Sherlock couldn't quite surmise.

Both of them had erections now, which apparently drew Annie like a moth to flame. She tapped Ryan on the shoulder and he pulled out of the kiss with a whimper.

"Fucking hell, you're an amazing kisser," Ryan said before working his mouth down John's neck. He paused to lick at the same spot Sherlock had kissed earlier, and John groaned. Sherlock frowned: perhaps he didn't have any sort of magical effect on John after all. He'd just been lucky enough to hit an especially sensitive spot on the first try.

Annie dropped to her knees with a condom packet in her hand. Sherlock saw her pop the condom in her mouth before she grasped the base of John's prick and took it deeply into her mouth in one smooth movement. John whimpered under this onslaught from the two of them, apparently caught completely by surprise. When Annie pulled off, Sherlock saw that the condom had been neatly rolled onto him.

"You have to show me how to do that," John said.

Annie provided a demonstration on Ryan while John watched -- no observed, the difference was clear -- and Sherlock could only gape at him, because once again, it was obvious that he wasn't acting. With the exception of situations in which he was required to play a military or medical part, John was a terrible actor. He was too honest for his own good much of the time. But now he was practically asking Annie for blow job tips, just after snogging her husband speechless. Sherlock was going to have to revise his understanding of John's sexual orientation considerably.

Ryan pulled John into another kiss then and Annie took both of their cocks in hand and stroked them together a few times before backing away to spread a blanket on the floor. John was nearly wrapped around Ryan now, looking like he'd forgotten there was a woman in the room at all.

Fuck, that was... Sherlock blinked hard. Focus.

John looked fairly debauched by the time Annie pried them apart to position them on the floor. Sherlock settled into a chair by the door to watch. She'd helpfully positioned John in such a way that Sherlock would be able to see him rather well the entire time. She slicked her hand with lube, gave him a few quick strokes, and then straddled him and sank onto his cock. John's eyes fluttered closed briefly before he grinned up at her. Ryan pressed two lubed fingers into Annie's arse and began working them in and out slowly.

She whispered something to John and he rose up enough to kiss her. Ryan watched them for a moment before turning to wink at Sherlock.

"Ready?" Ryan asked, as much to Sherlock as to everyone else.

"Ready," Annie replied. Ryan shifted onto his knees and steadied her hips with one hand while guiding his penis with the other. He pressed forward slowly and Sherlock's gaze shifted to her face. She was calm and relaxed, and it was nothing like his own admittedly limited experience with being in that position. He still resented being told, "You just have to relax, it's not supposed to hurt, you git," and despite what he'd seen in porn, he hadn't quite believed the experience could be entirely pleasant until this moment.

John seemed to have held the same opinion; he now stared up at Annie with an expression almost like awe on his face. Ryan took his time pressing in and then waited, his hands stroking Annie's back. The two of them knew each other's bodies well; even when there was a third person involved they worked as a team. It was fascinating. Sherlock wondered if they'd let him study them as well.

"All right," Annie said after thirty seconds of silence. Did that amount waiting help? It must do.

She began to move, shifting herself forward slowly. John and Ryan both reacted instantly to the movement, their faces showing almost the same expression of pleasure. Ryan scrambled into an awkward sort of crouch and John remained completely still, and both of them were completely focused on Annie.

They finally seemed to find a way to move together that felt good to everyone and dislodged no one, and that was when the situation became truly fascinating to watch. They were all at different places on their own trajectories to orgasm, but it was clear that John and Ryan intended Annie to get there first. Ryan was intensely focused on his wife's movements, John was watching her face carefully while moving his fingers between her thighs, and Annie was clearly losing herself in the moment.

Several minutes passed and the intensity of their movements grew steadily. At last Annie arched up, nearly knocking Ryan over backwards, and her eyes squeezed shut as she began to cry out. John looked up at her in wonder and then caught her as she collapsed against his chest, moaning incoherently.

Ryan seemed to struggle for a moment, and Sherlock realized that he had nearly lost control during her orgasm. When it was clear she was finished, he leaned over her, pressing her into John, and moved with quick shallow strokes.

"Oh shit, oh fuck, that's good, that's--" and then his words melted into groans. He shivered and pressed his forehead into Annie's back and stilled. The three of them remained in a pile for a moment, their breathing still ragged.

It was a moment before Sherlock realized John hadn't come. He didn't seem unhappy about it, though; he had his arms around Annie and was grinning up at the ceiling. At last Ryan pulled out of Annie and snapped the condom off before retrieving a dressing gown and wrapping it around her as he helped her to her feet. He pulled her into an embrace and they kissed.

Sherlock's eyes moved back to John, who was currently pressing his hands over his face. His erection still jutted up from his body, but he didn't seem concerned about it. He dropped his hands and looked over at where Ryan was positioning Annie on the sofa, and smiled.

Sherlock watched him, fascinated by this turn of events. Sexual gratification had always struck him as an inherently selfish act, whether completed alone or with a partner. In the end it was about getting off, and while it was true that helping the other person get off might increase one's chances of orgasm, in Sherlock's own (again, limited) experience, it seemed that achieving orgasm was ultimately the goal of the entire enterprise. Except that John seemed completely unconcerned that he hadn't.

John sat up and looked over at him, and Sherlock could only stare back. He had a dozen questions he wanted to ask, but all of them would have to wait.

Ryan crossed back to John and helped him to his feet. "I'm so sorry we neglected you."

"It's fine, actually. This wasn't about me." And there it was again, that selflessness that Sherlock would not have believed would be important in sex, and yet it apparently was -- at least, it was to John.

"We're not going to leave you wanting," Ryan replied, and he tugged John toward the sofa with a wicked grin on his face.

John nearly fell back against it, settling in the center between Ryan and Annie, and then Ryan curled up at his side. He wrapped one hand around John's erection and gave it a long slow stroke up. John's head fell back against the sofa; the expression on his face was a blend of surprise and pleasure. Annie grinned and settled back into her corner of the sofa to watch as Ryan leaned in to whisper something into John's ear.

John responded, but Sherlock somehow didn't hear the words. He could only watch in a strange sort of fog as Ryan kissed his way up John's neck and stroked his cock. John's hands clenched into fists at his sides and his mouth fell open when Ryan's hand twisted a bit, and then John turned his head and their lips crushed together. Ryan's hand began to move faster and oh God, John was actually having sex with Ryan.

It was far too close to things Sherlock had fantasized about for him to be able to remain impassive. In fact, it was better than most of his fantasies had been because it was real and it was right here in front of him. Now he knew precisely how John would look getting a hand job from a rather fit bloke, knew exactly how he would spread his thighs and push his hips up into that grip, how he would whimper into his lover's mouth when he started to get close. None of this was ever going to be erased from his mind.

And oh, oh. If John would do this, he would probably accept oral sex from a man as well, wouldn't he? The image sent a shiver through Sherlock's body, and God, he was getting hard just thinking about it. He'd hoped John would be open to sex with men, but he hadn't really believed it would happen until now.

"Close," John gasped and Ryan's strokes on his cock shifted to short, quick jerks. It was only a few moments more before John began to cry out and thrust up into his fist. Ryan's expression was fierce as he watched John's face, and though Sherlock had certainly seen John have an orgasm before, this one sounded different, felt different, was completely different in a way he'd have to carefully analyze later. Or perhaps it was all in his head; he was hardly able to be objective at the moment.

Ryan kissed him afterwards and John kissed him back, and neither of them seemed to want to stop. And there it was again -- something completely unexpected. The sex was over, but they were still clinging to each other, kissing like they'd only just begun. It was one of the hottest things Sherlock had ever seen, and he couldn't look away. He was beyond observation, beyond collecting any data. There would likely be something salvageable from this night, but at the moment, he found he didn't care. He just wanted to sit here and watch, and maybe toss off quietly while no one was looking.

Annie finally broke the near-silence. "So fucking gorgeous. If I weren't utterly spent I could sit here and wank just watching you two."

John laughed at that, pulling out of the kiss to look over at Sherlock. The moment their eyes met, John's expression changed to one of surprise -- he could probably see every bit of what Sherlock had been thinking on his face.

Oh God, if John found this too weird, what would happen? He'd probably put a stop to the experiment and they'd move on with their lives, and pretend this last week hadn't happened at all. Sherlock looked away, suddenly flustered. He didn't want this to be over yet, didn't want it to stop. And it wasn't just the experiment, that much was clear. He enjoyed this game they were playing, this strange game in which he played with John like a puppet, made him have sex with people Sherlock chose. And every time John did exactly what was asked of him, without question or even much hesitation. For fuck's sake, who did that? Sherlock closed his eyes and exhaled.

This was why he didn't do this. He didn't have these kinds of relationships with people because this was how completely twisted he was. He could be completely happy continuing like this indefinitely, putting John into stranger and more intense sexual scenes, but it was inevitable that at some point John would draw the line, would say, No, I'm done with this, and by the way, you're a complete freak, so fuck you.

Because this wasn't what people did, and Sherlock knew that well. It certainly wasn't what John did. John went on dates with women and thought distantly that he might like to get married one day, maybe even have children. Sherlock wasn't part of that equation, and he never would be.

"Shit, it's nearly midnight," Annie said.

"I totally lost track of time," Ryan said, and the two of them began scrambling to get dressed. Sherlock didn't watch them and couldn't bring himself to look at John either.

The probability that this would end badly was quite high. He was risking his friendship with John, perhaps even damaging it irreparably already, and for what? For an experiment that had consumed him for the last week -- not even a week, five days -- which had certainly given him a wealth of data to collect and analyze, which had changed his perception of the value of masturbation completely. But none of that was worth losing John.

"Thank you!" Annie said, dashing through the door.

"Of course," John replied. He stood and began to gather his clothes, and Sherlock could feel the moment John paused to look at him, concern radiating from him. Sherlock didn't look back.

Ryan crossed to John and Sherlock glanced up just in time to see him kiss John once again. "Thank you. It was amazing." He smiled and then headed out the door, and John watched him go with a surprisingly fond expression on his face.

Sherlock stared at him, trying to understand what had happened here. His entire understanding of John had been turned on its head tonight. He'd had no indication until now that John was sexually interested in men, at least not beyond the occasional flirtatious glances and hints of attraction. There was a lot of space between finding a person attractive and actually having sex with him, and John had crossed that distance surprisingly willingly and without a hint of regret.

Did that mean he might be open to some of the other things Sherlock wanted to do? Oh God, why was he letting himself think about this?

"Are you all right?" John was watching him with an expression of concern. He was shirtless and barefooted, but he'd put his trousers back on at some point.

Sherlock stared at him for a long moment. He had no idea how to answer that question. In some ways no, he was so fucking not all right, and he never would be again, not now that he knew even more clearly what he wanted and how unlikely it was that he would ever get it. But in other ways, this was the best thing that had happened to him in quite a long time. The feeling he got from watching John these last few nights, from watching him accept the situations Sherlock put him in and then respond so beautifully, so perfectly -- it rivaled the way he felt when he'd solved a case. It was different, but just as intense. And honestly, very few cases had ever left him with an erection and an intense need to bury said erection in his fist.

John's expression had grown even more concerned, and Sherlock realized he hadn't answered him. He blinked and nodded. "Yes, of course."

"Because you seem a bit--"

"I'm fine," he said, a bit more forcefully than he'd intended. He wasn't fine, not by a long shot, and though he usually had no trouble lying to John, he found he couldn't quite look him in the eye when he said it. "We're done for the night, so whenever you're dressed, we'll go."

"All right." John pulled his shirt on and buttoned it, then pulled his jumper over his head, and kept his eyes fixed on Sherlock. It was completely unnerving, and Sherlock finally couldn't stand it. He stood and paced before the door.

At last John was completely dressed. "I'm ready."

Sherlock turned to look at him. John was still concerned, but he was also slightly wary. Perhaps he wasn't sure he wanted to know what had Sherlock so wound up. Or perhaps he'd worked it out and his concern was more for himself than for Sherlock. Sherlock could hardly blame him for that.

John smiled and smoothed out his expression in that way that generally meant, Stop trying to read me, you twat. Sherlock felt an irrational wave of fondness for him.

He opened the door. "Let's go home."

John followed him through the door and up the stairs, then out of the club into the street. They were silent during the taxi ride to Baker Street, and remained silent as they climbed the stairs to the flat.

"I'm doubly beat tonight," John said, stifling a yawn. "Good night."

"Good night," Sherlock repeated and headed to his own bedroom before he could be tempted to watch John walk up the stairs. His head was spinning, his thoughts a storm in his mind, and he fell face-first onto his bed. He listened to John's footsteps overhead, waited for him to cross to the wardrobe, dig out pyjamas, change. His mental image of the scene was perfectly accurate; he heard John's footsteps descending the stairs right on cue. He listened as he walked to the bathroom, pissed, flushed, turned on the tap for 45 seconds exactly, and then headed back up the stairs. There was silence, then a creak of the mattress, and then silence again.

Sherlock rolled onto his back and stared up into the darkness, up to the spot where John was directly above him. Three seconds passed before the storm began to crackle in his brain again.

He unfastened his trousers and shoved a hand inside his pants, and let the images from tonight float to the forefront. He'd intended to do it quickly, but once he replayed the scenes in his head he found he wanted to take his time, to savor them all, to pay attention to the details he'd missed.

When he finally allowed himself to think about John kissing Ryan, the way they clung to each other, the sight of Ryan's hand slowly stroking John's cock -- his own hand stroked faster, changing the pressure in the way he'd learned he liked best. He lost control over the film playing in his head after that. It became a blend of images of John and Ryan, then John in other positions, with faceless men touching him sucking him, fucking him, and then, just as Lana had suggested, he thought about pushing John down against one of those black leather sofas and sinking balls-deep into him. He came within seconds, staring up at the ceiling with his mouth open and trying desperately not to make a sound.

He closed his eyes and relaxed into the endorphin rush, listening to his own breathing begin to even out again. His thoughts weren't swirling anymore -- it turned out that a good orgasm was a sort of a reset button for his brain -- and they began to settle themselves into the appropriate bins, awaiting further analysis.

He stared up at the ceiling. Even if John ultimately left him, he would at least have learned this. And he knew John would leave him eventually. It was inevitable.

He sat up and reached for a tissue to clean off his hand, and stood to shed his trousers. Time to get to work.


Chapter Text

"Sorry to have disappointed you."

"Oh no, it's quite all right. My expectations weren't terribly high."

John sighed. "Yes, after the last few days I suppose they weren't." He stood and walked to the kitchen with his empty mug, leaving Sherlock to parse that last comment. Did he think Sherlock had somehow been disappointed by John's performance at the sex club?

"What have the last few days got to do with it?"

"Nothing." John emerged from the kitchen. "I'm going out for the afternoon. When should I be back?"

Apparently the conversation about John's sexual history was over. Sherlock stared up at the ceiling. "Whenever you like."

John crossed to the coat rack and took his weathered jacket in hand. Sherlock desperately wanted to burn it and force him to buy another one. But then, every discussion they'd ever had about John's utter lack of taste in clothing had ended with something being hurled at Sherlock's head (usually something soft, but the hurling was the point here), followed by a solid day of John scowling at him. It wasn't worth the effort anymore.

John pushed one arm through a too-long sleeve. "I meant, what time are we leaving?"

"For what?"

"The club." John's eyeroll was evident from the tone of his voice.

"We aren't going tonight." He couldn't resist a quick glance over at John, who was standing still and frowning, the jacket hanging off of one arm. He looked genuinely disappointed.

"But… why not?"

"It's Monday."

"And… there's no sex on Mondays?"

Sherlock nearly smiled at that. "The club is only open Thursday through Sunday."

"Ah. All right then."

Sherlock turned to watch him thrust his other arm through a sleeve and zip his jacket. John's shoulders had relaxed in the last few seconds and his expression had returned to neutral. He was clearly relieved that they would be visiting the club again. It seemed that he wanted to continue as much as Sherlock did. Sherlock felt a surge of pleasure at the thought.

"Have a good walk then." Sherlock's gaze lingered on John a moment more before he turned back to the ceiling.

"When did I say I was going for a walk?" There was a hint of humor in John's voice.

Rhetorical, perhaps even teasing. No reply required. John could probably by now delineate all the things Sherlock would have observed that pointed to his intention to get some exercise. Sherlock smiled at the ceiling.

John's footsteps receded on the stairs and the door below opened, the sound of street traffic increasing slightly before the door closed once more. Sherlock stood and stepped on and over the sofa table on his way to the window to watch John walk away. John's hands were shoved in his pockets and his stride was long, taking him away from the flat as quickly as possible. Or was that away from Sherlock?

Sherlock watched until he disappeared from view. John seemed unperturbed by the events of last night. He'd slept in, taken a long shower, lingered over the paper and coffee, and generally acted as he did any other morning when he hadn't the evening prior been involved in a threesome and then tossed off by a man he'd only just met. Sherlock, on the other hand, had spent the night running through a dozen scenarios of how horribly this enterprise could end.

One question came to the forefront each time a spot of hope bubbled to the surface: was John's experience with Ryan a fluke, a singular experimental occurrence, or was John in fact open to sex with men? He'd intended to ask this morning, but John had shut down the conversation and left before he'd had a chance. Everything had happened so easily the night before; once John had worked out what was going to happen, he'd lost his anxiety and enjoyed it. He hadn't hesitated; he hadn't objected. Whatever Sherlock asked of him, he simply did, no questions asked. It was… he closed his eyes.

Dangerous. It was dangerous, and it would only end badly. He'd push John too far just once, and it would be over. It was inevitable, like lighting a match and watching it burn to a nub in your fingers.

On the other hand, John had been disappointed they weren't returning to the club tonight, hadn't he? He'd nearly panicked when Sherlock said they weren't going, almost as if he'd thought they would never go again. He was enjoying this, more than Sherlock had anticipated. Sherlock could say the same for himself -- except that with each visit he felt himself sink a bit deeper, the way out of this just a bit further away. It wouldn't be long before there would be no turning back, no way to repair their friendship. It was a terrifying thought.

He cleared his mind and turned to pick up his violin. He needed not to think about this for a while.


Bisexuality, it turned out, was an elusive concept to research. He spent a good part of the afternoon reading everything he could find, from academic papers in the Journal of Human Sexuality to porn sites with "testimonials" from people (mostly women, though a good half of these had clearly been written by men) who claimed to have been 100 percent heterosexual prior to a singular sexual encounter that changed their lives. Those were primarily salacious, obviously written to arouse the reader. Many were accompanied by amateur pornographic photos.

Then there were the sites claiming bisexuality didn't exist, some pointing to experiments measuring the arousal of people with various self-reported sexual orientations, with the finding that human beings were either homosexual or heterosexual, despite any self-identification. There were personal accounts decrying those studies and pointing out the flaws in the research design, particularly in the way data were collected and analyzed. There were angry blog posts claiming bisexuals were actually gay, in denial, and harming homosexuals with their "lies." Other articles written by religious conservatives cited Bible verses and condemned all relationships outside of traditional heterosexual marriage.

By the time Sherlock heard John's footsteps on the stairs, none of it had coalesced into a sensible picture of what bisexuality might look like and whether or not it might apply to John. He frowned at the computer screen.

John opened the door and stripped off his coat before crossing to the sofa and sitting on the opposite end. He said nothing for three minutes, which was uncharacteristically thoughtful of him. He usually had no qualms about interrupting Sherlock's concentration to ask him an asinine question.

"How's the data analysis going?" he asked at last.

Rhetorical; a pathetic attempt at starting conversation. Sherlock kept his focus on the computer screen and sidestepped John's awkward effort for a better one. "Did you bring it?"

"Bring what?"

"I asked you to look for a copy of QX while you were out."

"You do realize that when I'm not here, I can't actually hear you?"

Sherlock clenched his jaw. He'd watched John leave this time, for God's sake. "I texted you."

John pulled his phone from his pocket and thumbed at the screen. "Sorry, I never heard it ding. What's QX, anyway?"

"Just something for research. It can wait until morning." It was all online anyway; he'd simply thought the print adverts would provide some interesting information. Perhaps the same adverts would appear in the online version as well? He opened a new browser window and began typing.

John sighed and settled back into the sofa. A minute or so passed in silence, and then John sighed again, rather melodramatically. "I had a fairly miserable night out, in case you were wondering."

"I wasn't." Sherlock turned to look at him. What was this about? John's evening activities were obvious enough: multiple pints of beer, perhaps at more than one pub, likely alone. John had expressed a desire to be alone and hadn't invited Sherlock along. Not that Sherlock would have gone, but he'd assumed John would ring Stamford or Lestrade or someone to go with him if he'd wanted company. His facial expression was a bit dour, but that could be the result of any number of things that had-- oh. Of course. "Oh, is this where I'm supposed to ask you to tell me about it?"

"Yes, that's the expected response to a friend saying they've had a miserable evening." John gave him one of those hurt puppy looks that he seemed to think had an effect on Sherlock. Had the man learned nothing in the last year?

Sherlock turned back to his laptop. "Fine. What happened?"

"Well, if you must know, I spent the better part of three hours in two different pubs chatting up half a dozen women, and every single one of them rejected me."

Sherlock stopped typing and turned to look at him again. An unexpected spike of jealousy curled through his belly. "You went out with the intention of meeting someone?"

"Yes, and I failed spectacularly."

Of course he did. John was pants at chatting up women; they both knew it. He tried too hard and unerringly chose the wrong women. Sherlock had on more occasions than he cared to count watched John chat up a woman who had zero interest in him while another woman John barely noticed watched him longingly. He'd never pointed that out, of course. John was markedly less useful when dating someone he had no future with; if he actually dated someone compatible, Sherlock might lose him altogether. "Why?"

"That's exactly the question, yes. I had four straight nights of spectacular sex arranged by you, but on my own I can't get a woman to let me buy her a drink."

"Three nights, not four. And I meant, why did you want to meet someone?"

"Because I'm horny, Sherlock. I got off four nights in a row and now I've apparently been conditioned to need it on a daily basis."

"We only went to the club three nights." He was on the verge of reminding John of each encounter when it occurred to him that John might be including the night they'd wanked on the sofa. "Are you counting the night we…" He broke off, unable to bring himself to complete the sentence. Oh God, what if he was?

John's eyes widened slightly; even in the dim light of the room his blush was obvious. He had been and hadn't realized it. "Three nights, of course. Last night seemed like two nights, I suppose. My point is, none of it has helped me a bit. I'm still just as hopeless with women as before, only now I know exactly what I'm missing."

Sherlock rolled his eyes and turned back to the spreadsheet. "It's only three more days until the club is open again. You couldn't wait that long?"

John groaned and closed his eyes. "I only wanted to find someone who'd suck my dick. After the sex club, I didn't think it'd be that difficult."

Sherlock almost smiled at that. The idea of John going out to find a partner without him was a bit disconcerting, more so than he would have expected. But the fact that John had failed so miserably and seemed reluctant to try again was rather intriguing. If he came to depend on Sherlock to procure sexual partners for him, this entire experiment might go on longer than Sherlock had dared to hope.

He hadn't expected John's sexual appetite to be quite so voracious, but if the idea of waiting three days was too much to bear, Sherlock could work with that. He could always collect more data, after all. It might be interesting to see if the same strategies would work outside the sex club, now that he considered it. It would be an interesting challenge, if nothing else. He could probably scan the clientele of a given bar and pick out women who'd be willing to suck John off by the way they dressed.

In fact, he was certain he could. "Want me to do it for you?"

John went completely still. "What?"

"If you're that desperate, I will. Three more days of you moping around the flat will completely destroy my concentration." There was a benefit for him as well, but John didn't need to know that. They might have more success at a gay bar, though. He wondered if John would be willing to consider men tonight. Or was it too soon for that? He googled central London gay clubs.

John was eerily silent for a long moment. When he finally spoke, his voice sounded strained. "I don't… I… Are you sure?"

"It's not as if it would be a hardship. I'm at an impasse with my analysis anyway and could use a bit more data." He turned to look at John and was caught off-guard by the expression of complete shock on his face.

"This is insane, Sherlock."

Well, insane was a bit extreme. Unusual, perhaps. Was it too soon? Was the difference between a sex club and a bar that terribly great?

"It's no different than what we’ve done the last few nights. Certainly the women in a bar are less of a sure thing, but the gay boyfriend routine seems to work well enough. Give me two minutes to finish this up and I'll change clothes. Where should we go?"

John stared at him a moment more and then something changed on his face. He exhaled and looked up at the ceiling. "You know, I'm knackered. I think I'll take a shower and go to bed. Thanks, though."

Sherlock shrugged and tried to hide his disappointment. "I'll be up for a while if you change your mind."

John turned away from Sherlock as he stood, and walked to the bathroom a bit awkwardly. It wasn't until he closed the door behind him that Sherlock realized he might have had an erection. If the thought of going out to a bar to find a sexual partner had been that arousing, why had he changed his mind so quickly?

He replayed the conversation in his mind, but nothing stood out as unusual. What would have worked John up like that? He closed his eyes and watched it all again, the words unfolding slowly in his mind, all the details sharper this time. John had been shocked when he'd suggested they--

Oh. He nearly dropped the laptop in his haste to set it aside. He covered his face with his hands as his cheeks heated. John had misunderstood, had thought Sherlock was propositioning him. His mind filled with an image of himself sinking to the floor between John's knees, unzipping his jeans, and--

Was that what John wanted? He'd been surprised when he thought Sherlock was offering, but he hadn't said no. He hadn't fled until he realized Sherlock hadn't actually propositioned him. He had seriously considered it, and had essentially said, yes, I'd like that. He'd got hard thinking about it, in fact. Thinking about Sherlock. Shit.

The shower started and Sherlock's gaze shifted to the bathroom door. He could imagine John standing naked under the spray, one hand wrapped around his erection, stroking himself while thinking about Sherlock on his knees, sucking John's cock.

Sherlock stood and crossed to the door, and paused with his hand hovering above the knob. He should explain, should tell John it was a misunderstanding, that he hadn't meant that. But of course, it was obvious now that he hadn't; that was why John had fled. What good would possibly come of talking about it now?

It was better if John thought Sherlock didn't know. If he thought Sherlock was oblivious to the attraction between them, it would be easier to continue the experiment. The idea of sex with John was intriguing -- more than intriguing, he sensed it could easily consume him -- but he also wanted to see John with other people, to continue this game of choosing partners and orchestrating scenes. It was fascinating, arousing, and the closest he'd come to enjoying sex in more than a decade. It wasn't normal, but then, nothing about his life was.

If John knew Sherlock was aware of the tension between them, if he knew Sherlock was interested, that would become the focus for John. None of the rest would matter, and they'd probably have sex, and it would be fine for a week or two. Then John would assume they were in a relationship, but Sherlock would become bored and want more, would want to push John to do things and John would say no and Sherlock would resent him and eventually John would leave and it would be over before either of them knew what happened.

It was better this way. This way he could keep John longer, could keep him happy, and could have some of the things he wanted as well. Some, but not all. Never all.

He dropped his hand and took a step backward, exhaled. There was a soft sound from inside the bathroom, the unmistakable groan John made when he was tossing off and getting close.

And just like that, Sherlock was hard. He turned and leaned against the bathroom door, closing his eyes and listening. He didn't hesitate to unfasten his own trousers and slide a hand inside, to stroke his prick fast, letting that image of John fill his mind. John leaning back into the sofa, his thighs splayed wide, his pupils dark and dilated, his cock standing up straight from his body. How would he like it? Would he want it quick with long sucking strokes, or would he prefer a slower burn, perhaps with teasing licks and kisses before Sherlock ever even took his prick in his mouth? Would it be over quickly or would he last a long time, until Sherlock's jaw ached from the effort? Would he tangle his fingers in Sherlock's hair and fuck his mouth, or would he let Sherlock control it, let him tease John and go at his own pace?

There was unmistakable groan from the bathroom and Sherlock clamped a hand over his mouth to keep himself from moaning aloud. John might be thinking about the very same things as was Sherlock -- and whatever he'd been thinking about had just made him come. He'd seen John have quite a few orgasms now, but the idea that he might have just had one while thinking of Sherlock was stunning.

He was close now, so close, just a bit more pressure there and that was it, just like that like that right there ohhh-- He whimpered into his palm and squeezed his eyes closed as his orgasm washed over him. It was intense and quick, and he stared down at his hand afterwards, at the semen splattered there.

He pushed off the door and retreated to the sanctuary of his bedroom before John emerged again. He couldn't look him in the eye right now, not after that. Not knowing what he knew.

Bloody hell -- John wanted him. He had no idea what to think of that. He'd been aware that people wanted him here and there, but it had been a long time since he'd actually considered having sex with anyone in more than a purely theoretical way. And yes, he was inclined to actually consider this, even though he knew it was a terrible idea.

Sex complicated everything, even when it was casual and quick. Sex required maintaining relationships with people, something he'd never been good at. But more importantly, his few sexual encounters had exposed his heart in ways that terrified him, ways that he looked back on even now with a sense of having escaped a dreadful fate. He fancied himself above the fray of sentiment and emotion, but something about sex undid all of the barriers he'd so carefully constructed around that reptilian part of his brain. He'd learned that even casual sexual encounters had this effect on him, and so he'd chosen celibacy, had chosen to focus on his work.

If John had the ability to pull back Sherlock's skin and expose his raw nerves with a single look, what could he do with his prick, or his mouth, or his hands? And though John cared about him, though John was enjoying this experiment, Sherlock knew that sex between them would be anything but casual. It couldn't be, not after everything that had happened between them already.

And nothing good would come of that. Nothing good at all.


Chapter Text

Missed call: Mycroft Holmes (08:32)

Missed call: Mycroft Holmes (09:02)

Missed call: D. I. Lestrade (09:16)

Missed call: Mycroft Holmes (09:32)

Voicemail: Mycroft Holmes (09:33)

Text message
From: D. I. Lestrade (10:04)
Call me. Possible serial murderer.

Missed call: Mycroft Holmes (10:02)

Voicemail: Mycroft Holmes (10:03)

Missed call: D. I. Lestrade (11:41)

Text message
From: D. I. Lestrade (11:42)
Answer your fucking phone, Sherlock.

Sherlock rolled his eyes and set the phone aside. He'd switched off the ringer when it was clear the two of them weren't going to stop pestering him. He ought to throw it across the room rather than keep it next to him on the sofa, but somehow he couldn't bring himself to do it.

It vibrated again.

Incoming call: D. I. Lestrade

Sherlock sighed and answered it. "What?"

"Finally. I was beginning to worry, you know."

"I'm busy, Lestrade. What do you want?"

The probability that Lestrade was rolling his eyes during the full second of silence that followed was very high. "I texted you. I assume you ignored it?"

"How observant of you." He reordered an entire column on the spreadsheet, and narrowed his eyes at the results. No, that couldn't be right. He'd have to re-think that column a bit.

"If you can spare an hour or so in your terribly busy social calendar," Lestrade continued, now clearly annoyed, to Sherlock's delight, "I have a murder case I'd like to get your opinion on."

Sherlock sighed, doing his best to sound put-upon. "I'm very busy at the moment. John and I are working on something rather important this week."

"Do you want to hear the details or not?"

"Not particularly. But tell me anyway. And do try to stick to the most relevant facts."

"We've got two dead teenagers, one last week and another this morning. Both apparently strangled, both found in side alleys in residential areas."

"Street kids, probably drugs related. Boring. Are you seriously that incompetent?"

"I haven't yet told you all of it, have I?" Lestrade had moved from annoyed to pissed off. Good; he'd be more concise that way. "They each had a strange mark on the hip, a burned-in design."

Sherlock frowned. That was indeed much more interesting. It might be quick to solve, and the distraction might be good for him. He could clear his mind a bit, take a break from obsessing over John and sex. It would be two days before they went back to the club anyway.

The sound of the door opening from the street below distracted him: John, back from his walk. His footsteps on the stairs sounded heavier than usual. Shopping then. Every other step was slightly heavier: sacks held in one hand while he held the keys in the other.

He only had two days to work out where this thing they were doing was going, to determine how far he wanted to push John, how far he could push John. There would always be cases that the Met couldn't handle on their own, but this: this was something far more important, far more delicate and complicated. They were at a critical juncture now: John's sexuality, something Sherlock had been so certain he understood just a few days ago, was far more complex than he'd imagined. He was only beginning to unravel it, to understand it, to expose the layers to the light. If he didn't give it his full attention, if he wasn't careful and methodical, he could miscalculate, make a serious error in judgment. It could all be over by the weekend -- and his friendship with John along with it. He couldn't risk that.

"Boring. Goodbye." He ended the call just as Lestrade began to protest, tossed the phone aside, and managed to look like he was completely focused on his laptop just as John came in the door.

John said nothing for four entire minutes. He put away the groceries and put the kettle on to boil, and Sherlock stared blankly at his laptop. What had he been doing before Lestrade called and interrupted so rudely? Ah yes: cross-referencing everything he'd collected on John and oral sex, including response to pornographic videos and Monday night's incident.

A small thrill of electricity ran through him at the thought. He'd already added a lot of information to his own spreadsheet, a carefully coded set of tabs detailing his own responses to John. Each time he'd masturbated while thinking of John, details of what he'd fantasized about, how long it had taken to reach orgasm, and a rather subjective intensity rating -- though the length of time variable was one he was beginning to reconsider. In the past, masturbation had always been a matter of efficiency: the quicker it was done, the sooner he could get his mind back onto important things.

But in the last week, he'd found himself lingering over bits of fantasy, slowing down his strokes when he felt the first stirrings of orgasm, trying to make it last longer. The resulting orgasm was more intense, the sort that made him cry out involuntarily, toes curled, eyes squeezed shut, hips arching up into his hands.

A teacup appeared in front of his face, startling him out of his thoughts. He took it without looking up, without saying thank you. John's proximity was suddenly, shockingly palpable. He was watching Sherlock -- maybe he'd noticed that Sherlock was distracted by arousal. Or perhaps he was looking at the laptop, hoping for a glimpse of something that might give him a clue about what would happen at the club on Thursday night. It was all there, all laid out in glorious detail, but John wouldn't work it out. Sherlock swallowed a sip of tea and glanced up just as John backed away.

John settled in his usual chair with his own cup, and said nothing. Sherlock risked a sidelong glance to see him staring into his cup looking thoughtful. Sherlock looked away again. He took a sip of tea. His phone buzzed: Mycroft; he ignored it.

Focus: back to the spreadsheet. He created another tab in the file, copied data from three other tabs into the new one, and applied several sorting functions. John seemed to prefer a slow start to oral stimulation, from what Sherlock had observed. Of course, his data on this topic were rather limited. He could simply ask -- but then, of course, John would know what was coming next. It wasn't nearly as much fun that way.

And there remained the question of whether what had happened with Ryan was something John would be open to trying again. Asking him about that directly could have unpredictable results; a more indirect approach would be best. Or perhaps Sherlock should simply arrange for John to have sex with a man on Thursday night and see how he responded. No, that could fail in half a dozen ways. He should ask.

He took another drink of tea and set the cup down. "Was Sunday night your first sexual experience with a man?"

The silence was heavy, and Sherlock's stomach clenched before he looked up. John was gone. Sherlock listened: footfalls above in John's room, followed by the creak of the mattress and then quiet.

Sherlock sighed. His phone buzzed yet again. He snatched it up and glared at it before answering the call.

"For fuck's sake, Mycroft, what?"

"You never used to swear so much. John's had quite the influence on you, hasn't he?"

"I'm in the middle of something rather important. Two minutes and I'm ending this call."

"I was merely calling to ask how your little experiment is coming along."

"As if you don't know?"

"It's not as if I'm watching, Sherlock."

"That could be arranged, you know." He grimaced at the thought.

Mycroft ignored the jibe. "Will you be returning to the club this weekend?"

"I don't see how that is any of your concern."

"It's my membership, Sherlock. Of course it's my concern."

"If you're asking me to return the card, I won't. We're not finished just yet." He wasn't asking, was he? Sherlock's mind raced, working out alternatives.

"No, I suppose you won't be finished until you do something that frightens him off, like you did with--"

"Don't," Sherlock said. His stomach did an uncomfortable lurch and he pressed a hand to his forehead. "Don't you dare bring him into this. That was a long time ago."

"And it's clear you've learned nothing in the interim. Once again, you're toying with things you don't understand."

"It's sex, Mycroft. Insert tab A into slot B. What is there to understand?"

There was an exasperated sigh. "What about John? Is he actually enjoying any of this or is he simply following you like he usually does?"

"Of course he's enjoying it. He's having more sex than he'd had in years."

"Have you asked him what he wants from this?"

"I don't have to ask, Mycroft. It's obvious. Will that be all?"

There was a long silence. "John is… he's good for you. I would hate to see that lost for a ridiculous experiment."

"Goodbye, Mycroft." Sherlock ended the call and scrubbed a hand over his face.


It was the next morning before Sherlock had a chance to ask John again. "Was Sunday night your first sexual experience with a man?"

John's eyes widened slightly. "Was there supposed to be a segue there?"

"There was. Do keep up, John."

John sighed and took a sip of coffee. "No."

"No?" That had been a possibility he'd considered, but until this moment Sherlock would not have believed it terribly likely.

The corner of John's mouth turned up in a smirk. "Didn't see that one coming, did you?"

Sherlock was already mentally restructuring four tabs on his spreadsheet. "I must admit I didn't."

John looked exceedingly smug as he settled back into the chair and raised his coffee cup to his lips. He seemed to be waiting for Sherlock to process this new bit of data.

"Well?" Sherlock asked after nearly a minute.

"Oh, right. You'll want details." John crossed one leg over the over and began his story: the army, a fellow doctor, a life and death scenario, desperate need for human contact fueled by alcohol. Not exactly what Sherlock had expected based on the smug expression John had affected earlier, but still interesting. John was easily caught in the moment that way; he acted on impulse and worked out the details later. John paused and his expression became serious.

"Did anything else happen?" Sherlock asked. Gently, he hoped.

"We ended up wanking each other. And it was completely bloody awkward after. Neither of us knew what to say. He was on duty so he stayed and I went back to my bunk, and that was it. The next day two of the injured guys were evac'd out to a proper hospital and I went with them. It was a few weeks before I made it back and by then Matt had been rotated out. I never saw him again. I never even emailed him or anything after that night, and… I still regret it."

Sherlock watched him for a moment. That was it, then: just the once, but it had clearly affected John deeply. It had shaken his perception of himself and he hadn't had much of a chance in the last year (or two?) to work out what it meant. "Did you ever try to find him later, after you got home?"

"Hell, no." John shook his head and pressed his lips together.

"Why not?"

John took a deep breath and stared into his cup of coffee. "He could be dead. If he is, I don't want to know. No reason to add to an already long list of regrets."

Sherlock frowned. Had John cared for Matt, beyond the camaraderie of the moment? Was that the effect even casual sexual encounters had on him, to stir up such complicated emotions?

"Hungry?" John asked, clearly determined to change the subject. "Thought I might make a scramble, assuming we've got eggs." He stood up and crossed to the kitchen.

Sherlock reached for his laptop, still frowning. Perhaps Mycroft had a point and John wasn't enjoying this experiment as much as Sherlock had previously thought. Perhaps John attached some sort of meaning to sex that went beyond the simple physical act, the chemical reactions and physical stimulation. Emotion wasn't necessary for an orgasm, though. He wasn't even sure how it might figure in.

Well, no, that wasn't true. He did know.

He glanced over at John, who was now cracking eggs into a pan on the hob. John was attracted to him, he knew. John had most certainly fantasized about sex with him by this point, definitely in the shower two nights ago and perhaps again this morning, given the way he'd blushed and looked away when Sherlock had simply inquired if he'd slept well.

He'd had significantly more sexual experience with men than John had -- an odd thought, that.

He logged into the club's discussion board and checked his messages. The plan for tonight was already changing in his mind. He had one encounter arranged, but in light of the fact that John seemed open to the idea of sex with men, perhaps he should make an adjustment. And perhaps he could do something to satisfy John's obvious need for connection to him, to be a bit more involved than he had done until now.

"There's eggs if you want them," John said from the kitchen, followed by the thunk of a plate against the table and the scrape of a chair on the floor.

Sherlock's fingers flew across his keyboard. John was going to like this. He hoped.


Chapter Text

John was excited, almost excessively so. He was tense and nervous, but also clearly full of anticipation. His eyes darted around the taxi, out the window, looking everywhere but at Sherlock. He couldn't keep his hands still, though he was clearly trying to do, clenching and releasing them against his thighs. Sherlock watched him during the entire ride to the club, and John barely noticed.

The moment the taxi stopped, John bolted out of it. Interesting. Sherlock handed the driver a twenty and climbed out after him.

John was standing impatiently by the door of the club when Sherlock finally caught up to him. He was literally bouncing, nearly vibrating with raw energy, and he barely waited for Sherlock to catch up before taking the stairs two at a time and disappearing through the entrance. Once inside, John didn't wait for instructions; he headed straight for the door to the lower levels. Concern prickled at the back of Sherlock's neck: something wasn't quite right here, but he wasn't certain what it was.

He caught up to John just as he reached the door, and grabbed his arm, his fingers clenching harder than was strictly necessary. John turned back to grin at him and Sherlock felt a wave of irritation. It had been a few days, certainly, but didn't John understand how it all worked by now?

John's face fell. "What?"

Sherlock tugged him closer. Small beads of sweat were forming on John's forehead; he was on the edge, far too close to being out of control. "Calm down. I'll get you a drink."

John pulled away slightly and looked up at him, clearly confused. "I don't need a drink. I'm ready to go."

He didn't realize how not ready he was. How could he not know? Sherlock tightened his grip on John's arm – maybe a bit of pain would get his attention. "I'll be the judge of when you're ready."


"No more talking."

He hadn't meant to grind out the words quite like that – something about the situation was gnawing on the rough edges of his senses – but John went completely still, as if Sherlock had somehow flipped a switch. He was still tense, but he was listening, responding to Sherlock's attempt to take control of the situation. Something fluttered inside Sherlock's belly, but he pushed it aside. He'd think about it later; this was more important for the moment.

He kept his voice low. "I need you relaxed and open to the experience, not wound up like a spring. I go to great lengths to arrange these encounters and I won't have you fucking it all up."

John's eyes focused on the floor now, his expression unusually blank. He looked lost, uncertain, and – Sherlock had to take a single smooth breath – utterly ready to comply. Sherlock pulled him closer, close enough that he could nearly touch his lips to John's ear as he spoke.

"Do as you're told and I'll make certain you enjoy it. Step out of line and we're done here." He wasn't sure where the words had come from, but there was no doubt they were the right ones. John shivered and leaned into him slightly, and Sherlock couldn't resist closing that distance between them to let his lips make brief contact with the soft skin on the shell of John's ear. "Do you understand?"

John nodded his head but otherwise didn't move, didn't even look up. Sherlock half-expected him to pull away, to glare at him, to say fuck you, this is too much, and walk away – but he didn't. He stood there and waited to be told what to do next, his cheeks flushed and his lips parted, and oh God he was still here, still in it, and handing control of the situation to Sherlock, no questions asked.

"Good. Now, a drink." Sherlock steered him toward the bar and parked him against a column before heading to talk to the bartender. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, trying to calm the heady rush he was experiencing. Perhaps he needed a drink as well.

John took the beer he offered without a word, though his eyes lingered for a full second on the glass of brandy Sherlock held in his other hand. He looked away again and spent the next ten minutes drinking his beer in a dazed sort of silence.

Sherlock raised his glass to his lips and watched. Had he gone too far? Done something wrong? John wasn't angry, nor was he disappointed or frightened. He was simply there, waiting patiently for whatever was going to happen next, though he had no idea what that would be. It was easy to forget that John was so completely in the dark about the entire experiment – apparently by his own choice.

It was a choice, wasn't it? He was choosing to let Sherlock be in control of this, of what happened to him, who he had sex with, and how. He could have clearly and firmly declined in that way he always did when he felt cornered, when Sherlock had missed the signals of not good that he was so used to ignoring in most cases but oddly cared about where John was concerned, but he hadn't – not yet, at any rate. He was letting Sherlock have this, was offering it to him.

He couldn't possibly know how badly Sherlock wanted it – could he?

He watched John sip his beer slowly, watched the way his gaze stayed fixed on a point several feet in front of him, not unfocused, but simply not looking at anything in particular. Under other circumstances, Sherlock might have thought John was angry, that he was shutting down, but it was clear that he wasn't doing so now. It was something else, something completely different. Sherlock wasn't entirely certain what it meant.

John finally finished the last of his beer. He held the empty glass loosely in one hand, his gaze still fixed somewhere ahead of him, and Sherlock realized his own drink was nearly untouched. He downed it in one go, his eyelids fluttering shut against the burn at the back of his throat. He so infrequently appreciated the role of physical sensation in sharpening his focus, but at a moment like this, it was more helpful than he might have anticipated.

John's eyes snapped to him with the movement, and Sherlock nodded in the direction of the door before setting his empty glass on the bar and walking towards it. He didn't have to look back to know that John was following.

John was completely silent as they climbed down the stairs to the lower level. Sherlock would normally have appreciated this demonstration of restraint, but the further they descended, the more worrisome his silence became. When they finally reached the door of room two, John stopped before it and waited with a blank expression on his face. Sherlock reached around him to turn the knob, but John didn't move until Sherlock put a hand on his arm and pushed him forward.

John stopped in the center of the room and looked around, watching with a sort of detached interest as Sherlock pulled off his own coat and scarf. He didn't look worried or afraid or even curious about what was about to happen.

Sherlock stepped closer and held out his hand, and John took his coat off and handed it over. There was nothing hesitant or sluggish about his movements, but there was still something off, something Sherlock couldn't quite identify. He hung John's coat on top of his own and then crossed to stand next to John, watching him. He was calm, relaxed, and clearly very present, but still not… Sherlock stepped in front of John to peer at his face.

"Are you all right?" He put his hands on John's shoulders and frowned. "Your eyes are dilated."

John only smiled in response. Sherlock swallowed down a stab of anxiety.

"You can answer me."

"I'm fine, fantastic. Don't worry."


"Cinnamon. I remember."

There was clarity in his eyes, and Sherlock found he couldn't look away. John was staring back at him with an expression Sherlock had never seen on his face, something akin to quiet reverence. He reached out to touch John's cheek, pressed his palm along the line of his jaw, and John's lips parted slightly.

He was completely pliable now, Sherlock realized. He'd do anything Sherlock asked of him, anything at all. He was Sherlock's for the taking. The idea of it was heady, nearly overwhelming.

The knock at the door startled him back to the moment, back to their reason for being there: the experiment, tonight's plan, their first guest. Sherlock turned toward the door and took a deep breath to steady himself against the flash of panic that flooded him. He wasn't ready, wasn't in the mental place he needed to be to do this. Whatever was happening in John's head, he clearly trusted Sherlock, and trusted him completely. Sherlock hadn't been aware of that responsibility quite so clearly before; he'd been concerned about putting John off, about pushing him too far and making him angry. But this, whatever it was, it added a whole new layer to the enterprise. It was something he needed time to process.

But of course, he didn't have that time. He hesitated two long seconds with his hand on the doorknob and cleared his mind. The original plan for tonight shifted back to the front of his thoughts: response to fellatio by a male and a female, comparison of; determination of most effective techniques for prolonging arousal and delaying orgasm; determination of general willingness to accept sexual stimulation from males. He frowned at the last one. Was John's extreme pliability a confounding factor? Again, no time. Later.

He opened the door. A young woman smiled up at him. Her long dark hair was pulled back (practical) and her eyes were large and brown behind narrow frames (trendy/hip). Sherlock smiled and let himself study her a bit even as he sank into character. Graduate student, just broke things off with her boyfriend (he's not as ambitious or intelligent as she is, which she finds deeply annoying), looking for a distraction tonight, important exam in the next… week, no alcohol tonight. He inhaled, exhaled again. Yes, that had helped.

Her gaze swept past him and landed on John, and the corners of her mouth turned up very slightly. "I'm Becca."

"I'm Sherlock and this is John. Thanks for meeting us."

She stared at John with an expression bordering on hunger and Sherlock wondered if he reminded her of the boyfriend she'd so clearly just left. He wasn't sure if that would be a good thing or a bad thing. Sentiment vs. resentment: relationships were convoluted and frustrating. He turned to look at John, who looked back at her serenely, and leaned closer. "What do you think?"

She tilted her head slightly and lowered her gaze – attracted to John, definitely, more so than she had expected to be. "I like him. What did you have in mind?"

He had to resist the urge to make a sarcastic remark. He'd exchanged several emails with her earlier that afternoon and had been very specific about what he was looking for, what he (and John, ostensibly) wanted. Instead, he smiled.

"Blow job. I'll help."

John looked at him at that, and his eyes narrowed very slightly for moment before relaxing again.

"I'm quite good at it, you know." The frown in Becca's voice was clear.

"I'm sure you are, but he'll like it better this way."

John's cheeks tinted pink, but he didn't look away from Sherlock's intense gaze. There was a flutter of anticipation in Sherlock's belly. He was going to enjoy this. With luck, all three of them would enjoy it rather a lot.

"I see. That could be hot." Becca took four steps forward and stroked a hand down John's chest. "I think you should sit, darling."

"Trousers off first." No need to waste time with awkward removals of clothing later on. They were on a schedule, after all.

"Mmm, quite right. Shall I help with that?" Becca's hands went straight to John's fly and John smiled. His hands dangled at his sides as she tugged down the zip, making no move to help or to interfere. He was completely pliant, and it was surprisingly… hot.

Sherlock turned away to hide the grin that sprang to his face. He opened the drawer in the supply table and pulled out several condoms and packets of lubricant, all of which were in plain black packaging in keeping with the theme of the club. He pocketed all but one of them and turned back to see John already sprawled half-naked on the sofa with Becca on her knees before him. She took John's erection in hand and stroked up, and John sank back into the sofa cushions with an expression of bliss on his face. On the third stroke he inhaled sharply, and Sherlock moved closer to watch.

John's penis was average in almost every respect, proportional in size to his frame and build, but there was still something fascinating about the shape of it, the way the foreskin slid against the shaft and over the head on the upstroke. The glans was beautiful and shiny with a drop of fluid forming at the slit, and Sherlock saw Becca contemplating it with slightly parted lips.

He held a condom packet in front of her before she could be tempted any further.

She sighed. "It's never as much fun this way."

"Perhaps, but I'm the only one who gets to have him without one." He saw John smirk slightly at that. Becca nodded and took the package. "He's not allowed to touch, by the way."

Becca looked up at John, whose expression was one of detached amusement, and sighed yet again. "Yes, your email made that quite clear."

"Go ahead," Sherlock told her. He stepped around to the side to get a better view. "Start slow."

Becca rolled the condom on and then traced the tip of her tongue along the base of John's cock before licking up the underside. She concentrated her efforts at the head next, swirling her tongue lightly. Sherlock watched John's face, watched the way pleasure flushed across his skin along with a touch of anticipation. John was anxious for more already, but the plan was to determine how John would respond to different levels of stimulation.

John made a hissing sound and Sherlock felt the edges of his thoughts blur slightly, as if that sound was causing interference. There was a protocol here, yes, one he'd carefully planned, but now that they had started and Becca's tongue was working John's cock so beautifully, Sherlock realized that he wanted more. He wanted to see how John would respond to pleasure, to pain, to denial of sensation, to overstimulation. He wanted to see John brought to the edge of orgasm and dragged back again, to see him frustrated and aroused and begging for it. He wanted it all, and he had no idea where to begin.

Sherlock swallowed. He could change the protocol in the moment. Experiments involving human subjects were unpredictable that way, and required a certain amount of flexibility. Yes.

John groaned and clenched his hands in his hair, clearly growing frustrated with the pace already. Sherlock considered letting it go on – could John climax like this, given enough time? It was an interesting question, but perhaps not one for today.

He leaned against the arm of the sofa. "Now take it in your mouth."

Becca didn't hesitate; she closed her lips around the head of John's penis and sank all the way down, taking it in to the base. John groaned and closed his eyes, and Sherlock bit his lip at the sight.

"Oh, you are talented." He'd never managed to do that himself, and he found he wanted to study her technique. "Do that again."

Becca pulled up again, her cheeks hollowed from the effort to suck. She paused at the top before swallowing John's cock again, and John's jaw clenched. Sherlock watched him, took in the way his breathing hitched and his mouth slackened, and he realized that John was already very close to climaxing. Sherlock frowned – had he missed something? He'd known John was excited for the evening to begin, but Sherlock wasn't ready for it to be over so quickly.

"Back off, he's too close." Becca complied instantly, shifting back enough to take John's erection in hand again. She leaned forward to use her tongue, keeping the contact light, and John's body relaxed.

Sherlock nodded, impressed. She actually was quite good at this. "Good, a bit more."

She moved closer, doing something different with her tongue now, and John sighed appreciatively. His fingers clenched and unclenched in his own hair, and there was a slight shift of his hips. He wanted more, and he seemed better able to handle it than he had been a minute ago. But still, best to take it slowly.

"Suck him again, just the head."

He saw John inhale from hearing the words alone, before Becca's lips even closed around the glans. She spent a good two minutes there, using her lips and tongue to draw a fascinating series of whimpers from John before taking more of the shaft into her mouth at last. John's hands dropped to his sides; he seemed to have just stopped himself from touching her head as she sank all the way down again, taking him deep into her throat. He wasn't incoherent just yet – or at least not so much that he wasn't still paying attention to Sherlock. And Sherlock already knew how powerful certain words could be.

Sherlock's lips twisted slightly. Exactly how hard was John listening? Time to find out.

"He's going to come. Let him."

John gasped and his eyes flew open, and he seemed genuinely surprised at the words. Becca sucked him down twice more and that was all it took: his hips bucked up against her and she pushed his pelvis down into the sofa, her nails digging into his skin hard enough to leave marks. His eyes were closed and his mouth was open, and Sherlock was completely enthralled.

Becca sat back when it was over. Sherlock's mind began spinning, already cataloguing everything. That had been fairly quick, but the next time would take longer, and he already knew what he wanted to try. The direct comparison protocol was flying out the metaphorical window, but he found he didn't care at the moment.

John rubbed at his forehead with one hand and exhaled.

Becca looked up at Sherlock then, and he almost didn't slip back into character in time. He grinned and praised her as they stood, and fought the sudden urge to tell her to leave. The time he'd spent on the message boards in the last few days made it clear that rudeness of any kind wasn't tolerated well by the club's members, even in circumstances when one could reasonably consider it simple expedience.

"That was more fun than I expected," Becca said. "God, he's so responsive." She grinned conspiratorially and Sherlock nodded, as though this was something he knew well. Was John more responsive or sensitive than was typical? Porn was clearly an inadequate comparison. It was something else to add to the list of items to explore. Becca went on about how much she liked sucking cock, or something, and Sherlock nodded and laughed, but he wasn't really listening. His brain had moved on.

At last she left, and Sherlock turned back to where John was sprawled on the sofa. He looked utterly debauched: naked from the waist down, thighs splayed, and still wearing a condom on his softening penis. Sherlock swallowed. He'd done that. Indirectly, of course, but still, it had been Sherlock's words and Sherlock's instructions, and there was something powerful about that, something that excited him in a way he wouldn't have predicted.

John opened his eyes and Sherlock's expression cleared instantly.

"You have thirty-five minutes until the next one. Will that be enough?"

John nodded and sat forward to pull the condom off, but otherwise made no move to cover himself. Whatever reluctance he'd felt about being naked in front of Sherlock the previous weekend was completely gone.

Sherlock looked away for a moment, towards the door. He needed to center himself, to process what had just happened – and think about what was going to happen next.

"Good. I'm going upstairs for a few minutes."

John gave him a searching look, but Sherlock kept his expression completely neutral.

A moment later he was standing on the other side of that door and leaning back against it, his eyes tightly closed. This experiment was becoming more intense with every encounter, and it was clear now that he couldn't keep his own desires and needs out of the complex equation. Half of what he'd done in that room just now had been born of a rather primal desire to see John respond, rather than from a clinical, scientific protocol. The assumption that he could remain impartial to the proceedings had been deeply flawed. He should have anticipated this difficulty, but now it was too late.

He slid down the door and crouched on the floor for ten minutes, letting his mind run through a series of concentration exercises, trying to regain his balance. John trusted him. John needed him to remain in control of himself, neutral to what was happening. If he lost control even for a moment, he might ruin everything.

He was suddenly aware that he had rather a lot to lose.


Chapter Text

Sherlock took a deep breath and opened the door to room two. John was stretched out on the sofa, apparently having fallen asleep in the twenty minutes Sherlock was gone. Sherlock closed the door and leaned back against it for a moment, watching his chest rise and fall with slow, measured breaths.

Sherlock was only barely keeping it together, but John seemed calm, even to be enjoying himself. He didn't appear to be struggling with errant emotions and desires the way Sherlock was. He'd done exactly what Sherlock had asked of him, which was to follow directions and keep an open mind, and he'd done both of those things far better than Sherlock had expected.

John was holding up his end of the bargain, but Sherlock was struggling to do something as simple as stick to an established protocol. As delicate as the situation was, he had to be careful, had to follow his own carefully outlined procedures. And of course, everything depended on John's reaction to their next guest. Sherlock had to make certain that it went well, that John enjoyed it. If he didn't, it would severely limit the parameters of the experiment from here on out. That was not something Sherlock was ready to consider.

He'd gone upstairs with the intention of buying them another round of drinks, but after staring intently at the colorful bottles on the shelves behind the bar for a full five minutes (whilst running through a comprehensive list of all possible combinations of mixed drinks and cross-referencing these with their potential effects on inhibition, libido, and ability to maintain an erection), he'd finally decided against it. He couldn't predict with more than 60% accuracy how alcohol would interfere with John's strange mental state, and he certainly didn't want there to be any reasons for John to feel he'd been coerced afterward. It was crucial that John consented to whatever might happen next. Sherlock suspected John was bisexual, but it was time to find out for certain. Sherlock knew enough about human sexuality to know not to take it lightly.

He crossed to the sofa and cleared his throat, and John blinked sleepily at him. Sherlock held out the bottle of water he'd brought from the bar.

John sat up. "Thanks."

Sherlock sat on the opposite end of the sofa and watched him. He seemed to be functioning normally again, not as dazed as he'd been earlier – though he was drinking the water like he'd just run a race. Was that normal? Perhaps even minimal participation in sexual activity required enough exertion to result in mild dehydration. He made a note to look into it when they got home. "Are you all right?"

John gave him an odd look. "I'm fine. Better than fine. Are you all right?"

"Yes." He wasn't, of course, but John, like most people, had difficulty determining when Sherlock was lying. "We have ten minutes until our next guest arrives."

John nodded and drank more water, and seemed to lose himself in thought for nearly a minute. Sherlock typically appreciated this amount of silence from John, but at the moment, he needed more information than John seemed willing to give him. In particular, he needed to make certain that John's experience with their next guest was a good one. And that was, oddly enough, mostly up to Sherlock.

"Well?" he asked at last.

"Well what?"

"Did I get it right?"

John laughed in that way that typically meant Sherlock had done something so outrageous he could barely believe it. "I should have known that was what was bothering you."

"It isn't only that. I actually am genuinely interested in whether you're enjoying this."

"Only to the extent that it affects your data."

Sherlock frowned. He was concerned about the data he was collecting, of course, but it wasn't as if he had no concern for John at all. Had he not made that clear?

John's hand settled on Sherlock's thigh, and it startled him into silence. "Yes, it was good. You did very well. I'm surprised that wasn't obvious."

"It was obvious, but… could it have been better?"

The smile started at the corners of John's lips and slowly made its way to his eyes. "Oh, I see. Let me think about that."

His eyes unfocused for a moment, but the hand on Sherlock's thigh shifted slightly, fingers stroking the fabric of his trousers in long lines that left tingling skin in their wake. Sherlock bit the inside of his cheek to keep himself from wriggling under that touch. It was nearly maddening. He finally had to still John's hand.

"Oh, sorry." John pulled his hand away; apparently he hadn't been aware he was doing it. "I can't think of anything specific to make it better. But I'm open to new ideas." He grinned.

Sherlock nodded, though he knew full well that John's definition of new would be tested the moment their next guest walked through the door. Still, it would be good to prepare a list of options, things they hadn't tried before. Sherlock's mouth watered slightly at the prospect. For example--

There was a knock at the door. They turned to look at each other.

Sherlock pulled his phone from his pocket and thumbed it on. "Five minutes early."

"Not a problem," John replied as Sherlock stood and crossed to the door. It was indeed a problem, though; Sherlock wasn't ready for this. He needed a few more minutes to think, to feel like he had the situation under control. He was out of his depth here, unprepared and uncomfortable with the idea of improvising under these circumstances, but there was nothing much he could do about it at the moment.

He opened the door and immediately had to suppress the urge to scowl at the young man standing on the other side. He looked a good five years younger than the 22 he claimed to be on his profile. He looked completely out of place in an institution like this one, where the clientele tended toward couples in their thirties and forties. Sherlock's eyes raked over him, taking in details: expensive haircut with a truly ridiculous amount of product (also expensive), trendy clothing from one of the Saville Row shops that caters to celebrities, and reasonably attractive, though in a non-conventional way, which was clearly exaggerated for effect given the hair, clothes, and very dark eyeliner. Everything about his demeanor indicated upper-middle class, public school-educated, and bored.

Sherlock frowned.

"Hi," their guest said, and he stretched one arm up against the doorframe. An attempt to look confident, casual.

Two possibilities: one, his parents had paid for the membership, fearing he'd get into some sort of drugs trouble otherwise; two, his parents paid little attention to him and gave him enough money to keep him out of their way, and he'd paid for the membership himself. In either case, he was clearly desperate for attention, and not nearly as confident as he tried to appear. Typical.

Sherlock turned to look at John, who was now staring at the boy with more than a small amount of trepidation; it was difficult to tell whether it was because of his age or his appearance, or the fact that he was male. Sherlock pressed his lips together. There were too many confounding variables here; he should have chosen someone older for a first exclusively male encounter. He'd been trying to keep the parameters as similar as possible between the two encounters and all of the other potential male candidates had been in their late thirties. This had seemed the best option at the time, but now he wasn't so sure.

The boy stepped forward. "I'm Cam." His gaze moved from John back to Sherlock.

"I'm Sherlock and this is John."

"Does he talk?"

"Not tonight." Definitely not tonight.

Cam walked past Sherlock and sat on the sofa next to John, and looked him over as if he were considering renting him by the hour. "He's cute. What did you have in mind?"

Did none of these people actually read their emails? Sherlock stifled a sigh. "Blow job. I'll help." He saw John's eyebrows rise slightly at that. So he was paying attention after all.

"Can I kiss him first?"

Sherlock hesitated. Becca hadn't asked to kiss John, and it hadn't occurred to Sherlock to have her do it. He glanced at John's face, which was now cautiously blank. John had been amenable to kissing a man before, and it might be a good idea to start slow. "Yes."

Cam didn't waste time; he slid closer to John and leaned in to kiss him. John didn't flinch or recoil; his eyes fluttered closed and within a few seconds it was clear that he was an active participant in the kiss. Sherlock could see his jaw moving, could see glimpses of tongue in the occasional gap between their open mouths.

Cam groaned and shifted on the sofa so he was facing John and the kiss grew even more heated. A minute later Cam pulled out of the kiss and looked up at John. "Fuck, you're a good kisser. I'm hard already." He pulled one of John's hands between his thighs and John's fingers traced the line of a clear erection through the tight black trousers Cam wore. He wasn't hesitant about it at all.

Sherlock frowned: John was supposed to be passive here; it was up to Sherlock to decide what would be done to whom and by whom. Cam was grinning at John now, encouraging him, and the situation was on the verge of spinning out of Sherlock's control.

He moved close enough that he could push them apart if necessary, and glared at Cam. "Moving right along."

Cam's grin faded slightly. "Oh, right. He's not allowed to touch. Pity. I'm going to have dreams about that tongue."

There had been enough remarks on John's kissing ability now that Sherlock was genuinely curious. It was kissing: how good could it possibly be? His own experience with kissing had always been messy and strange and far too wet to be pleasant. What was it about John's method of kissing that seemed to affect his partners so very much? He should interview their previous guests; he could contact them via the web forum, after all.


Cam already had John's trousers off and had positioned himself on the floor between John's thighs. He leaned forward and brushed the tip of his nose along John's erection, and Sherlock shoved a hand in his pocket to fish out a condom. He considered hurling it at Cam's head, but settled for dropping it onto John's navel instead.


Cam grimaced. "Ugh, do we have to? I hate giving head through latex."

"Non-negotiable." John had been fairly horrified about the lack of a barrier on the first night, and in retrospect, Sherlock felt rather guilty about it. He understood his role in this much better now than he had done that first night, and the fact that he'd put John's health at risk simply because he hadn't wanted to spoil the outcome of the experiment was utterly inexcusable. And it wouldn't happen again.

John didn't take his eyes off Cam, but he looked pleased. Sherlock felt a small flutter of pride at that.

"Fine," Cam replied with a very teenaged eyeroll.

He stroked John's penis a few more seconds until it was fully erect, and rolled on the condom. John bit his lower lip and closed his eyes, and just as Sherlock was about to give instructions, Cam leaned forward and swallowed John's cock to the base. His head bobbed and he moved quickly, and John's eyes flew open in a manner that was almost comical.

So no, that wasn't working for him. Not that Sherlock was surprised. He felt an odd wave of emotion then, something between anger and frustration, and he wanted nothing more than to stop this, to get this boy off of John and — and what?

"Oh, for fuck's sake." He clenched a handful of Cam's hair and yanked; Cam howled and sat back, rubbing at his scalp. Sherlock glared at him. "How old are you, really?"

Cam stared up at him in shock. "That's what guys usually like."

"In the back alley, just after they give you a fiver?"

"Oh, fuck you. I didn't come here to be abused."


Sherlock turned to look at John, who as fixing him with the same sort of stern expression he used when Sherlock had said something socially unacceptable. He ran back through the previous few seconds, unsure what he'd done wrong.

"Not. Helping." John's eyes focused on his, and it was clear that he thought Sherlock had crossed a line. The fact that he'd broken the no-speaking rule, which he'd never done before, must mean it had been serious. Sherlock looked at Cam again. The boy was practically pouting, still rubbing at his scalp where Sherlock had yanked him off John.

Sherlock frowned. He didn't doubt that stopping it was the right thing to do. John didn't look angry, and didn't seem to want the encounter to end. Perhaps Sherlock had been a bit too rough? He supposed he could have asked Cam to stop, rather than yanking him off by the hair.

Of course. That must be it. Sherlock exhaled and forced himself to smile at Cam. "Apologies."

"Accepted," Cam said, though the pout didn't subside completely. He shifted forward again, sliding his hands up John's thighs. "What would you like me to do, then?"

Sherlock swallowed down his annoyance that Cam was apparently addressing John instead of him. John said nothing, though. He just smiled back at Cam and waited. Perfect.

"Start slow," Sherlock said. "Use your tongue and take your time. His Mum's not going to barge in on you, so there's no rush."

He leaned forward to watch as Cam's tongue flicked against the shaft. John moaned and relaxed again, and Sherlock nodded. Yes, there, that was right. John liked that.

"Good." Sherlock said, and patted Cam's head, threaded his fingers into his hair. "Do you see how he's relaxed? He likes that."

He gave Cam's head a small push and Cam intensified his movement, swirling his tongue around the head. Sherlock tightened the hand in Cam's hair and he seemed to understand immediately, easing back to just kiss the tip of John's penis before moving his tongue down the shaft and back up again.

There was tension in John's shoulders now; he wanted more, was desperate to bury his prick in Cam's mouth. Sherlock stroked Cam's scalp again, gently. He could control this completely, use Cam like a puppet to make sure John got exactly what he wanted. He wouldn't have to say a word.

Ah, but John liked to hear Sherlock give instructions. It was part of what he found erotic about the experience, the fact that Sherlock was telling his partners exactly what to do and when to do it.

Sherlock released his grip on Cam's head and moved around to the side of the sofa for a better view. "There, he wants your mouth now."

"Can I suck him, then?"

"Not yet. Draw it out a bit longer."

John groaned and brought his hands up to cover his face, and Sherlock smirked. He was getting better at reading John now, but he still wanted to know how far he could push him, how long he could string this out until John would protest, would take control back from Sherlock. He watched Cam work John's cock with his tongue, going torturously slowly, not quite enough pressure to satisfy, but enough to increase John's arousal. John's hips were shifting now, as if he was trying very hard to stop himself from thrusting up into Cam's mouth. He was on the edge of what he could take, Sherlock realized. He could force it to go on, to see what John would do, or he could give John what he wanted.

Tonight wasn't about endless teasing or orgasm denial, though. That was much further down the list, several weeks away. Tonight was about observing John's response to fellatio from a female and a male partner.

"Impatient, John. Go on then, but slowly."

Cam took the head into his mouth and John moaned, his hips thrusting up. Cam was following instructions well, though, and he shifted back to keep control. John's frustration was clear on his face and a moment later he pressed a hand against Cam's head, pushing him further down.

"John." Sherlock's tone was one of warning, and John's hand fell away immediately.

Cam pulled off, his breathing heavier now. "I don't mind."

"But I do. Move down to his balls now."

John exhaled, but said nothing as Cam pushed his thighs further apart and buried his face between them. John's eyes fell closed and his jaw went slack. Sherlock had to contort himself to get a good view. Cam was sucking gently on one of John's balls, and from the way John's hands were gripping the sofa, he seemed to be enjoying it. In fact, it seemed it wasn't quite enough, that he wanted more.

"Use your tongue as well."

John's immediate whimper implied Cam had done just that. John slid down the sofa to give Cam better access, and Sherlock felt a rush of arousal at the sight. John's thighs were draped across Cam's shoulders and Cam's nose was pressed against the base of his cock, his mouth working in slow, steady movements, and it was so wanton, so… Sherlock exhaled steadily. Control. He needed to keep control of himself, of his reactions.

"And the other," he said, certain his voice was giving him away. He was well on his way to an erection and there wasn't much he could do about it now. He unfastened his trousers enough to slide a hand inside and adjust the position of his penis, and the touch of his own hand was enough to make him completely hard. He hesitated: he was crouched next to the sofa and John and Cam were preoccupied; he could touch himself and neither of them would be the wiser. He gave his cock a single stroke and had to stifle a groan.

"Oh, fuck," John said. He was gloriously close to losing control.

And that was why they were here. This was about John, and if Sherlock was distracted, the entire evening was pointless. He refastened his trousers.

"Up again," Sherlock said and Cam moved, licking his way up over John's balls and up the shaft. Sherlock bit his lip. Where exactly had Cam's mouth been before Sherlock stopped him? He'd seen lots of porn featuring anilingus, and though it was on the list, it wasn't something he'd planned to try on John for at least another week. Had it just happened without his even realizing it?

Whatever Cam's mouth had been doing, John had clearly enjoyed it. He hadn't objected, certainly. They hadn't discussed anal play at all; he had no idea what John would be willing to do along those lines.

Sherlock frowned. His intention had been to keep the two blow jobs as similar as possible. But then, he'd already changed the protocol, hadn't he? Sexual activity was fairly unpredictable, it seemed. It was perhaps best to take advantage of opportunities as they arose, rather than to try to plan for them. Right, then: time to see if John was amenable or not.

"I want you to finger him now." Sherlock watched John's face as he said it, watched his eyes open and an expression of surprise flicker across his features before it settled into something more like acceptance. He hadn't done this before, Sherlock realized, but he wasn't objecting. Good.

"Oh hell, yes," Cam said as he sat back on his heels. He took the lube packet Sherlock held out and ripped it open before leaning forward and sucking on the head of John's cock again. Sherlock had to contort himself to watch as Cam pressed one slick finger into John's body.

Oh, that was… Sherlock's erection was even harder now, and he wasn't sure how he was going to hide it once this was done.

Cam's finger pressed in to the knuckle, and he just held it there for a moment while he worked John's cock with his mouth. Sherlock wondered yet again if Cam had even half the experience he'd claimed. Fortunately, this was a topic Sherlock had rather thoroughly researched.

He knelt beside Cam and leaned in to whisper in his ear. "I want you to take it slow, don't try for his prostate just yet. Push in while you take his cock in your mouth, and then slowly out while you pull up, so the two movements are coordinated. And take your time; I don't want him to come just yet."

Cam hummed an acknowledgment and set to work, and the effect on John was immediate. His mouth fell open and he huffed out a breath, and it was clear that he wanted that, more of that, yes, please.

Sherlock smiled. "That's perfect. Keep doing that." He'd considered letting John hear his instructions, but had decided at the last moment not to do. He wanted to see a raw response, to see what would happen if John didn't know what was coming.

Cam continued his movements, long slow slides up and down John's cock, his finger moving in the same rhythm, and twisting as it moved out, which John seemed to like. Sherlock filed that detail away for future reference. Cam changed the angle of his wrist then, did something different that made John whimper, made his hands fly to Cam's head.

"Hands off," Sherlock told him, and the speed with which John dropped them again sent a jolt to Sherlock's balls. Oh, that was gorgeous. "You found his prostate. Do that again."

Cam repeated the movement, but John winced, his body recoiling immediately.

"Too much," Sherlock said, a hand on Cam's shoulder now. "Just stroke, very lightly."

Cam's hand stilled and his tongue flicked at the underside of the glans, and John seemed to melt into the sofa. He closed his eyes tightly and his mouth fell open, and he cried out in a way Sherlock hadn't heard him do before. The expression on his face was mesmerizing, erotic, incredible. Sherlock had seen John have a half dozen orgasms by now, but he hadn't seen anything quite like this.

John's breathing was shallow and irregular, as if his body was so overwhelmed he couldn't be bothered to breathe. Sherlock stared at him, taking in every detail, each flex of muscle, every stutter of breath and slight whimper of pleasure, each clench of his fingers. He wondered how long he could make it last, how long he could keep John here, right on the edge of orgasm.

Cam did something then that made John cry out again, and his hands went to Cam's head once more. Was he that far gone, or was he being deliberately disobedient?

"John!" he said, and John's eyes flew open. He stared back at Sherlock, but he didn't move. There was no hint of willfulness there, nothing that implied John was doing it deliberately; on the contrary, he seemed frozen in place, unable to control his actions. Was that even possible?

The reason was irrelevant, though; if John couldn't control his limbs, Sherlock would do it for him.

He moved to stand behind the sofa and reached over it to grasp John's wrists. He pulled them up over John's head and pinned them against the top of the sofa cushion. He felt John struggle against him and he tightened his grip, and John made a strained sound and – Sherlock stared down at him with wide eyes. Oh God, what had he done? He'd deliberately maintained his distance until now, had given instructions and direction, but he'd been so careful not to touch John in the midst of one of these sexual encounters. And here he'd done it without thinking. He was undeniably a participant in this now, literally binding John's hands and forcing him to comply.

John's wrists were hot and he struggled against Sherlock's grip, and it was too much, far too much to process. Yes, they had a safeword, but Sherlock didn't trust it now, didn't trust himself to hear it.

He loosened his grip with the intention of stepping away, point made, but then John's hands twisted beneath him, slid against his wrists and gripped his hands. John wanted him there. John needed him and was holding onto him almost desperately, as if Sherlock's touch was the only thing keeping him from losing himself.

He looked down at John's body, at the sight before him: John stretched out on the sofa, naked from the waist down, Cam's lips stretched around his cock, John's thighs splayed across Cam's shoulders, and Cam's hand moving just out of sight, pressing his fingers into John's arse.

John panted and squeezed Sherlock's hands, just enough to feel like a yes, please, and thank you, and Sherlock squeezed back. He was leaning over John now, close enough that he could turn his head just slightly and kiss his temple, if he wanted. John's breathing grew erratic and the muscles in his thighs tensed and his toes curled, and Sherlock held his breath.

He could see the moment John's orgasm began, could hear it in his voice and feel it in the clench of his fingers. Sherlock held on tightly and only barely resisted the urge to press his hips against the back of the sofa. He'd become aroused watching John before, but he hadn't wanted to act on it since the first night on the sofa, more than a week ago. He forced himself to focus on John, on the sounds he made and the way his hips arched up into Cam's mouth.

It seemed to be quite a long time before John quieted and his body relaxed, shivering as if cold. His fingers slackened around Sherlock's and Sherlock released his hands. He pushed one hand against his own groin and threaded the other into John's hair, and pressed his forehead against the back of the sofa, struggling to calm his breathing.

It would be so easy now to unfasten his trousers and stroke himself off. It wouldn't take long.

He heard a moan from the floor in front of John and raised his head. Cam's forehead pressed into John's thigh and his hand worked his own cock quickly. Sherlock watched him, trying to shift his focus away from John and from his own arousal. A moment later Cam groaned and finished, and Sherlock blinked.

Nothing. That had done nothing for him. He knew he was attracted primarily to males – watching porn had made that painfully clear – and he knew he was attracted to John, but he'd expected to find the sight of any male orgasming just a few feet away from him to be erotic. He'd certainly been intrigued by Ryan the week before, and John – well, John was in a category all his own.

And that was the issue, wasn't it? This was all about John, and about the way Sherlock reacted to John's sexual stimulation. He felt a level of possessiveness that he wasn't certain how to justify or explain, along with an intense need to make certain John was sexually satisfied.

He allowed himself to kiss John's temple before he stood. He was grateful to be behind the sofa at the moment.

Cam sat back and wiped the back of his hand over his mouth. "That was insanely hot. Every guy I fuck, ever, is going to implicitly thank you two."

John laughed, but his eyes were still closed. Sherlock narrowed his eyes at Cam. God, he didn't want to talk or something as asinine as that, did he? Cam stood and stretched, and refastened his fashionably tight trousers. He made no move to leave.

Sherlock frowned. His erection wasn't going away anytime soon. He'd rather a stranger see it than John, though, so there was nothing for it but to escort Cam out and deal with it later. He crossed to the door and opened it.

Cam smirked, arms folded across his chest. "If you're going to fuck him now, can I watch?"


Cam stepped forward, far too close for comfort. "If you're not going to fuck him, can I help you with that?" On the last word, his fingers pressed against Sherlock's erection.

It was an odd sensation, both pleasurable and uncomfortable at once. It had been years since he'd been touched that way by another person, so long he'd forgotten the jolt of sensation and the rush of heat. Cam's fingers shifted slightly, tracing upwards, and no, it was too much.

And of course, now that Cam had called attention to the state Sherlock was in, there was no way John could miss it.

Sherlock batted his hand away and nodded in the direction of the open doorway. "I can assure you that is in good hands. Thank you." He gave Cam a tight smile, the sort John always called his fuck-you smile.

Cam looked slightly annoyed, but he shrugged. "Suit yourself. Later, boys. It was fun." He left with no further argument.

Sherlock closed the door and leaned back against it. His penis was so hard it ached, and it didn't seem as if it would go away anytime soon. There was no way John had misunderstood that exchange, and he would certainly understand the implication. Sherlock wasn't sure how to explain, nor was he certain how John would react. He looked over to the sofa, where John had his hands pressed over his eyes.

John sighed. "Oh my God, that was un-fucking-believable. I don't want to move ever again." His hands fell to his sides and he grinned at Sherlock. It was nearly a second before his gaze traveled lower, where it remained for two and half more seconds before he spoke again. "Has that ever happened before?"

Sherlock stared back at him. Had John already forgotten how this experiment had started? "Of course it has."

John shook his head. "I mean, here. While you were watching… me."

Sherlock was suddenly very aware that John was naked from the waist down, still wearing a condom on his softening prick, and utterly un-self-conscious about it. Images from the last ten minutes flashed through Sherlock's mind and his face warmed. God, this was awkward. He looked away. "Certainly not to this extent."

John was silent for a moment, and Sherlock was grateful for the space. He tried to clear his mind, to push it away, but his erection was far too much of a distraction. He risked a glance at John again, just in time to see him pull the condom off. His penis was still half-hard, and Sherlock found it difficult to drag his gaze away.

When he did, John was looking back at him, a thoughtful expression on his face. He patted the sofa next to him. "Sit."

Sherlock swallowed. "I can't."

"I won't bite."

"No, it's… a bit difficult at the moment." He felt heat rise to his face again.

John smiled. "It's nothing to be embarrassed about. If anyone should be embarrassed, it should be me, right?"

"I'm not--" Sherlock began and bit off the rest of the words. He was embarrassed, but he didn't understand why. After everything that had happened already, after the sex acts he'd watched John participate in – for God's sake, he'd just seen him come with two fingers shoved up his arse – why should Sherlock be the one who felt embarrassed?

John didn't press the issue, happily. He stood and dressed, and carefully avoided looking in Sherlock's direction. Sherlock, on the other hand, watched John's every move, watched him wrap himself in his incredibly ordinary clothing again, making himself look completely unremarkable. Sherlock knew better, now.

"Ready when you are." John stared back at him steadily, and there was something unnerving about it.

Sherlock had so far relied on John's lack of observation skills. But of course, John wasn't unintelligent; in fact, he was rather sharper than average. Had he finally noticed that Sherlock was only barely maintaining control?

John's gaze flicked down to the bulge at Sherlock's groin and back up again, and Sherlock had to look away. Was that interest? God, what if it was? He felt a flush of excitement mingled with fear, followed immediately by dread, for there was no possibility of that ending well.

Or was it instead simply concern that Sherlock was facing a very uncomfortable taxi ride before he could get home and take care of his erection?

He glanced at John's face again; his brows were knitted and he looked uncertain. He didn't look like he was about to offer to relieve Sherlock's condition himself. An image flashed through Sherlock's mind of John doing just that, striding towards him and pushing him against the doorway. He shook it away, refocused. John was still watching him, lips pursed slightly now, the expression on his face very similar to the one he wore when he thought Sherlock ought to eat something.

Concern, then. Sherlock swallowed, exhaled. Right.

He didn't have to wait until he was home, of course. They were in a private room, after all. It would only take a couple of minutes. John could have a drink, perhaps, and by the time he'd finished it, Sherlock would be sorted.

"Right," he said. "Could you just give me a minute? I'll meet you upstairs. Have a drink if you like. Charge it to Mycroft."

John's concern didn't abate, but he nodded. "All right. I'll be upstairs."

The moment the door closed, Sherlock pressed his forehead up against it. He curled his fingers around his erection through the front of his trousers and stood there for a moment, listening until John's footsteps had receded.

When he was certain John was gone, he unfastened his trousers and slid his hand into his pants, and oh God. His fingers were dry and cool against hot skin, and no, this wasn't going to take long. He turned around to lean against the door and pushed his trousers and pants down enough to free his cock. He didn't take his time; he didn't try to make it last longer. He kept his gaze focused on the sofa, where not ten minutes ago John had been stretched out, his cock down a man's throat, fingers up his arse, and his hands clenching Sherlock's, hanging onto him as if Sherlock were an anchor in a storm of sensation. And when John came, Sherlock had been close enough to hear every moan and whimper, to feel every tremor.

He'd done that. He'd made John come that hard, and even though it hadn't been his mouth or his fingers, Sherlock was still responsible. It was heady, having that sort of power over someone else's body. It was addictive.

His hand moved quickly, short, firm strokes that tugged the foreskin over the glans, and that was it, right there, just another… yes.

He gritted his teeth and slid down the door, and panted. There were stars in his field of vision when he opened his eyes again. He felt mildly tingly, even.

He couldn't recall sex with a person ever feeling quite as intense as this. There had always been a messy layer of uncertainty and expectation, and it had never been quite what he wanted. But this, this, whatever it was with John, this was so close to perfect that it was nearly overwhelming.

He cleaned himself up and fastened his trousers, and headed upstairs. John was near the bar, a half-drunk pint in hand, surveying the crowd. Sherlock followed his line of sight. Who was he looking at? What sort of partner might he be interested in next time? Sherlock hadn't made plans for the following evening yet and this might be a good opportunity to collect some valuable information.


John turned to look at him. "That was fast."

There was something odd in his tone, and Sherlock flinched. Did John still think he was doing it wrong? Masturbation frequently took a long time in porn, but he'd assumed that was unrealistic. Perhaps it wasn't?

"Did you seriously just kick me out of that room so you could wank?"

Sherlock's eyes focused again: John's expression had changed completely; he was undeniably annoyed. Had it not been obvious what he was going to do?

Sherlock hesitated a fraction of a second before responding, "Yes."

John's annoyance blossomed into anger and he looked away, muttering, "Un-fucking-believable." He set his unfinished pint on a table and stalked away, heading in the direction of the entrance.

Sherlock was frozen to the spot for a moment before he sprinted to catch up. He was completely uncertain what had just happened. He caught up to John at the front door, but one look at his face dissuaded Sherlock from saying a single word. He'd learned from experience that when John was this angry, anything Sherlock said, no matter how reasonable and logical, only made it worse. Though Sherlock generally didn't bother avoiding an argument (winding John up was a source of amusement, after all), this felt different.

And this was a place, a situation in which Sherlock did not want John to be angry. If John was angry, he might not want to continue. And if he didn't want to continue, if he wouldn't let Sherlock experiment on him anymore – Sherlock felt an odd knot of anxiety well up in his throat. He couldn't bear the thought of not continuing.

John hailed a taxi and climbed inside, and Sherlock followed. John looked out the window opposite, hands clenched into fists, and said nothing. Sherlock gave the driver the address and then sat back, as far from John as possible.

Why would the fact that he'd masturbated anger John so much? Wasn't he allowed to enjoy this as well? Hell, John had even told him he needed to wank more; that was how all of this began in the first place.

He watched John's profile a minute more before turning and staring out of his own window. Whatever it was John was angry about, Sherlock had the feeling he would soon find out. And he would fix it. John had to let him fix it, because for all the things that John did every day to take care of Sherlock, from helping him with cases to making him tea to steering him through social encounters Sherlock couldn't be arsed to understand, Sherlock had finally found a way to take care of John in return. He could do this for John; he wanted to do this for John, and fuck, John had to let him. They couldn't stop now, not when it was becoming so very fascinating.


Chapter Text

It was quite possibly the longest cab ride of Sherlock's life. John was silent – seething, really – and Sherlock was uncertain what he ought to say or do. He usually didn't bother: if people were angry at him for some perceived slight, what did it matter? He left them to their anger; they would get over it quickly enough. But in this case, it was clear that leaving it alone was the wrong approach entirely.

They finally stopped before 221B. John left Sherlock to pay the fare – yet another sign of his anger – and by the time Sherlock got out of the cab, John had the front door unlocked. He held it open for Sherlock, but kept his eyes focused on a point on the pavement as Sherlock passed him into the entryway.

Anxiety rose in his chest as he climbed the stairs and crossed to the sitting room's window. A streetlight flickered, and on the street below the cab pulled away from the kerb. He heard the door close, heard John's footsteps pause halfway across the room before he seemed to shift his weight from one foot to the other. John's anger had subsided perhaps, and now he was hesitant, uncertain. Sherlock turned to look at him. John's face was drawn and determined, and the harsh streetlight seeping through the windows only sharpened his features.

Sherlock braced himself. "I assume we need to talk about this."

John's face relaxed a bit, as if he'd been expecting Sherlock to say something very different. He sat on the sofa and pursed his lips. Sherlock waited, but John said nothing.

After a moment, Sherlock sighed. This was nearly as far from his area of expertise as it was possible to get; he would not be the one to start. "Go on then."

John sank into the sofa, a resigned expression on his face now. "Fine. I don't understand why, after everything that's happened, you wouldn't feel comfortable wanking in front of me."

That was it? Sherlock frowned. "I have wanked in front of you."

"Yes, but--" John looked mildly annoyed now. Perhaps he hadn't intended for Sherlock to interpret his words literally. Was it a metaphor? John looked back up at him. "What are we doing, Sherlock?"

Sherlock frowned. "You know exactly what we're doing."

"I thought I did, but now I'm not so certain. I thought this was about you studying my responses to sexual stimuli."

Sherlock stared at him, incredulous. They'd discussed this. They'd established ground rules. John had even followed them, perfectly. "That's precisely what it's about."

"But it's also about you, isn't it? You're trying to figure out what turns you on as well."

"I'm not trying. It just happens." Sherlock clenched his jaw. He'd hoped John hadn't noticed that part, that he remained unaware of the ways in which this experiment had spun so madly out of Sherlock's control.

John said nothing for a moment, just stared back at him with an expression of surprise on his face. Sherlock fought a sudden impulse to turn away, to close himself off. There was something he was missing here, something he hadn't known he'd done wrong. Why was John so surprised?

He clearly hadn't expected that admission from Sherlock, but there was something more in his expression and it took Sherlock several long moments to place it: disappointment. John had noticed Sherlock was affected by what he saw at the club and he was disappointed that Sherlock had kept his reaction private. Sherlock frowned. Sharing his own desires and responses had never been part of the protocol of the experiment. He'd rather pretend they didn't exist at all; they were disruptive at best and pathological at worst.

Ah. Perhaps John thought Sherlock was being dishonest. John had, on multiple occasions, stressed the importance of honesty in this experiment.

Had he been dishonest? It depended on one's definition of honesty: he hadn't told John everything he was considering and thinking. John knew that much; he knew Sherlock was keeping information from him. But it seemed that it was important to John to know what Sherlock was experiencing as well. Perhaps it made him feel not quite so alone in the experience. Perhaps he needed reassurance that Sherlock was truly concerned for his well-being.

So, honesty. Right.

"I thought I could be objective. And I was, to a point."

"I see." John's face softened, a sign that Sherlock had interpreted the situation correctly. Good.

"This is all rather more complicated than I'd anticipated." Sherlock crossed to sit on the opposite end of the sofa. This was new territory for Sherlock, but it was something John seemed to understand quite well. Could John see things in Sherlock that he himself couldn't see? He crossed his arms over his chest and stared at the wall opposite.

John was silent for nineteen seconds, a torturous eternity. "Was that the first time you've wanked after?"

Sherlock didn't want to answer this question. He was uncomfortable enough thinking about these things, but to lay them bare to another was nearly excruciating. Honesty, he reminded himself. Or John would stop, and that was unacceptable.

"No. It happened Sunday as well."

"After you saw me with Ryan."

"I waited until we got to the flat, at least."

"I did wonder why you went straight to bed." So he'd noticed after all. Sherlock felt a rush of pleasure that John had been more observant than he'd realized. "Tonight was different, though, wasn't it?"

It had been different. He regretted the choice of Cam on multiple levels, not the least of which was that the boy's appearance and general demeanor had annoyed him on first sight. But it wasn't just that, was it? The sight of John with Ryan on the sofa last Sunday night, the expression on John's face as he climaxed, the way Ryan's hand moved on his cock, the sheer want in the way they'd kissed afterwards – he'd wanted to know if it was just Ryan who could produce that response in John, or if John would react that way to another male partner.

And then the reality had been a bit different than Sherlock had anticipated. John's response was intense, but it hadn't been completely directed towards Cam, and that in turn had affected Sherlock's response to the situation. Perhaps John had been slightly uncomfortable with Cam's youth and relative inexperience, and had clung to Sherlock to reconcile that discomfort. In the future, he should be more careful to choose partners who were more John's type. Whatever that was.

Of course, there was an alternative explanation, one he wasn't sure he ought to entertain. He looked back at John, whose expression was expectant.

Sherlock inhaled, exhaled again. "Clearly I lose all ability to be objective when I see you with another man."

John hesitated, pursing his lips before speaking again. "Can I ask you a personal question?"

"You've earned the right, haven't you?"

"Are you gay?"

Sherlock looked at his hands. He'd tried to decide what label applied once, over a decade ago. But having a sexual orientation implied one wanted to have sex with a general class of people, and that didn't describe him at all. He wasn't exactly asexual, but he wasn't… not. It was infuriating that society seemed compelled to apply labels when he was so clearly an outlier.

But then, there was no reason labels had to be permanent. The evidence of the two previous weeks seemed to suggest that he did lean in a particular direction, at least for now. He'd been uninterested in sex for more than a decade, but recent events had reawakened his libido. Perhaps a label might apply now, where one didn't before.

"It's not a question I've thought about for years, but in light of recent events, I believe the answer is yes."

Another pause. "Have you ever been in a relationship with… anyone?"

Sherlock hesitated, uncertain. How did John define a relationship? Based on Sherlock's observations of his dating habits, John's definition of a relationship included a certain type and frequency of social interactions, attending events and taking meals together, displaying affection, and engaging in sexual activity. He frowned. By that definition, he and John were very nearly in a relationship themselves, so that must not be quite correct. There were a few weeks during his mid-twenties that might qualify, though there had been very little beyond the sex.


"Have you had sex?

"Yes." He glanced at John, who was nearly gaping. "Does that surprise you?"

"Absolutely. With a man or a woman?"


John quickly pulled off his shoes and turned to sit sideways on the sofa. "Tell me."


John's eyebrows rose slightly. The honesty thing again, perhaps. Or the need to feel that they had some shared experience in this area. Or perhaps it was because John felt vulnerable after having been the subject of so much intimate scrutiny and wanted Sherlock to feel the same.

Sherlock gritted his teeth at that thought. He really, truly, did not want to talk about this. "You're going to be horribly disappointed, I assure you."

"Trust me, I won't."

John's eagerness was palpable, and Sherlock felt an odd compulsion to please him in this. He leaned back into the sofa cushions and let the images play across his mind, sorting themselves into the proper order. He hadn't thought about it for a long time, and the details were a bit fuzzy. He'd considered deleting it altogether in the years that followed, but he'd suspected the information might come in useful.

"My last year at university, I worked in a lab run by a brilliant scientist. Her research was something I was mildly interested in, so we spent quite a lot of time working together." She'd taught him new techniques of analysis, allowed him to mark her first-year students' work, and then, when he proved to be both meticulous and ruthless in the task, secretly had him mark the work of his classmates. He smiled at the memory and relaxed into the sofa before continuing. "At the end of term we were in the lab late one night and she asked me if I'd like to come back to her flat for a drink. I honestly didn't know she was propositioning me until we got there."

Her hair was auburn, usually pulled back into a knot at the back of her head, and she had large brown eyes. She never wore makeup, which wasn't unusual for academic women, in his experience, but on that day, her eyes were outlined with subtle color and her lips were painted a dusty pink. Her hair hung loose around her face and he'd been so taken aback that he'd stared at her when he thought she wasn't looking, trying to deduce what event had required her to change her appearance so drastically. He later realized she'd planned the seduction rather thoroughly – and he'd fallen for it, like a typical, ordinary male. The disappointment he'd felt in himself still stung.

"You lost your virginity to your professor? That sounds like the plot of a porno." John clearly found this story entertaining; his grin was nearly lascivious.

He'd been fairly impressed with her flat, he remembered. The walls were lined with bookshelves, the kitchen table was covered with lab equipment, and the sitting room was dominated by a large wooden desk on which sat three computers. Her living and work space were one and the same, and he'd been glad to know grown-up people with careers lived that way, just as he did.

"I'll get drinks," she said, and headed to the kitchen.

He was tempted to follow her to the kitchen to take a closer look at the ongoing experiments covering the table, but there was hardly room for two in the remaining space. Instead, he crossed to the nearest bookshelf and ran his fingers over the spines: yellow Springer mathematics texts, bound volumes of scientific journals, weathered chemistry and physics textbooks that appeared to be from her own graduate years.

"You found the right bookshelf, I see." She held out a glass of red wine and he took it.

"Bordeaux," he announced after a swirl and a sniff. "Oh, good year. Old, but very well structured. Eighty-one?"

Her smile was radiant. "Very good, Mr. Holmes. Someone taught you well."

"My brother," he said, unable to keep a note of misery from his voice. "He fancies such things."

"Does he now?" She leaned back against the edge of the desk. "And what sorts of things do you fancy?"

He took a sip from the glass and couldn't help letting the pleasure show on his face. "I don't normally indulge in such things. I've far too much work to do."

"Surely you indulge in something on occasion."

He blinked at her. "No."

"No?" She set her wine glass frighteningly close to one of the computers and stepped closer. He took a step backwards and found himself pressed against the bookshelf. "You are brilliant, Mr. Holmes, but you should also allow yourself a bit of pleasure every now and then."

"I do, though I loath to admit it." He swallowed. She was terribly close now, and he'd started to work out her intentions.

She placed her hands on his shoulders, stroked them down over his chest, and leaned in even closer, close enough that he could feel the warmth of her breath on his cheek. "Then tell me, what pleases you?"

Oh God, innuendo. How was he supposed to respond? It had been directed at him before, but never quite like this.

"I read horrid fiction," he said, willing his voice to remain steady, which it did with approximately 70% success. "Really, it's rather embarrassing."

Her smile changed slightly, became more focused, and her fingers brushed across one of his nipples through the thin fabric of his shirt. He was shocked by the sensation it produced in him.

"Anything else?"

He reached up and took one of her hands in his, traced his finger across her wrist. He could feel the quickening of her pulse under the soft skin there, could see the way her eyes had dilated at his touch.

She wanted him, and she intended to have him. She respected him, he knew, and for the right reasons. She didn't view him as a curiosity or as a challenge, or worse, as a dare. She recognized him for what he was, and she was offering this to him. Perhaps he should take advantage of it, learn what he could from her. Sex was important to people, it seemed, and he had no experience with it. She had taught him well in her area of academic expertise, and so it was likely she'd teach him well in this.

He brought her hand up to his mouth and kissed the warm skin of her wrist just above the pulse point. She smiled and tilted her face up to kiss his mouth.

It was only the second time he'd been kissed, though he wasn't going to tell her that. The sensation of her tongue sliding against his was strange, but not unpleasant, and the warmth of her body pressed against him felt oddly comforting. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been touched by another person.

"I've never done this before," he said as she unfastened the buttons of his shirt. He usually hated admitting his own ignorance, but for this, it seemed important for her to understand. "I've no idea what I'm doing."

"Don't worry about that." She pushed the shirt off his shoulders and kissed him again. "I'll take care of everything."

Sherlock glanced at John, who was still gaping at him, and his lips twisted slightly. "I wasn't interested in her – she was attractive enough, but…"

"You're gay."

"Well, there is that." He hadn't given it any consideration at the time, but looking back, it might explain some things. "But I was curious. Everyone else went on about sex constantly, and I decided that since I had the opportunity I should find out what the fuss was over."

"And what happened?"

"It was fine, nothing spectacular. She kept me up half the night, which was kind of annoying."

John didn't bother to contain his delight at this remark. "How many times did you do it?"

She'd unfastened his trousers and tossed him off standing there against the bookshelves, and he'd finished embarrassingly quickly. After that, they'd moved to the sofa and he'd had the chance to satisfy his curiosity about female anatomy rather thoroughly. When his erection returned, they'd had intercourse on the sofa – he'd been surprised by his own response to the sensation of his penis buried in another's body, by the instinct to thrust – and then they'd moved to the bedroom and he'd been thoroughly educated in techniques to pleasure a woman with his mouth. She'd returned the favor an hour later – that stood out in his memory as the best experience of the night – and an hour later, she'd sat astride him and it had taken forever, not that she'd seemed to mind. Early the next morning, he'd awoken to the sensation of her mouth on him, which had been disconcerting, to say the least, and that had ended with her on her hands and knees and him thrusting into her from behind. He'd enjoyed that position more than he'd expected.

"If you simply count orgasms, five." John's expression was incredulous, and Sherlock shrugged. "I was twenty."

"What, did she have you in every position she could think of?"

"Something like that." It had been that way, now that he thought of it.

John laughed, clearly unable to contain his glee at this revelation. The humor in the story wasn't obvious to Sherlock, but John had apparently enjoyed hearing it. Discussing unusual sexual encounters seemed to be something men did, though, and John's typically blokey response to his story was in itself rather humorous. Sherlock laughed with him, unable to help himself. John had a way of making these sorts of things feel easy, as no one else ever had.

John stretched out his legs and pressed his feet against Sherlock's thigh, and an odd chill ran through Sherlock at the contact.

"What happened after that?"

Sherlock looked down at John's socked feet. "It was horribly awkward. It turned out she had a boyfriend and they'd recently had a row. I seemed to represent some sort of revenge on him. The next time I saw her she barely spoke to me."

She hadn't even been able to make eye contact with him in the lab the following week. He'd worried that it might affect his course grade, but in the end he'd received perfect marks. Which he'd deserved, but still.

"I'm sorry."

"Oh, no, it was a relief. I was terrified she'd think we were dating after that. I liked her, but not personally so much as professionally."

"So did that turn you off to sex completely?"

John's toes curled against Sherlock's thigh, and it was far too much of a distraction. He reached for them with the intent of pushing them away, but stopped himself. John had initiated this contact; he must find it comforting in some way. Perhaps a bit more physical contact with John would ease the tension that had risen between them. He trailed his fingers across the tops of John's feet and watched his reaction. John settled into the sofa a bit more, clearly finding the touch pleasurable.

"For a bit. It was pleasant enough, but it was messy. It was difficult enough to interact with people on a daily basis. As hard as it may be to believe, I had even more problems with social interactions then than I do now."

"What about casual sex? Strangers in bars, that sort of thing?"

He'd considered it, afterwards. There was a sort of fleeting pleasure in orgasms, after all. But so few people were accepting of him as he was, and though he'd spent a couple of weeks experimenting with chatting up women in pubs, in the end he'd bought them drinks and hadn't pushed for anything more.

And then one night when he was twenty-one, he'd found something better: an offer of complete bliss in a needle, something he'd always scoffed at, certain his intellect would not succumb to something so simple. He'd been very wrong.

"Heroin was so much easier."

John closed his eyes; apparently that hadn't been the answer he'd expected. "You said there was a man as well."

Oh, God. This he wasn't ready to think about. He hadn't deleted it – the lesson learned had been far too valuable – but he'd locked it away in a far corner of his mind, in a place where it could only be retrieved if he really, truly wanted it. The basic details were readily accessible, though.

"Yes. He was the son of a man Mycroft knew. He introduced us, at least. The timing was good; I needed a distraction."

"From what?" Sherlock raised his eyebrows and John winced. "Right. How old were you?"

"Twenty-four. He was a bit younger." Sherlock paused.

John valued honesty, but how much of this was Sherlock required to share? Surely not all of it. He hadn't pressed John for details on all of his former lovers, after all. He was allowed a certain amount of privacy, and this had happened more than a decade ago. It wasn't relevant – though yes, it was, now that he thought about it. Small details floated to the surface: hands bound tightly against the headboard, flashes of pain, the realization that no, that hadn't gone well at all. He exhaled. No, John didn't need to know all of that.

"I thought he was a complete idiot, though that's hardly unusual for me. But there was something about him that I found fascinating, and it took me a long time to understand that it was sexual attraction."

"Was that when you first thought you might be gay?"

"Yes, but that didn't matter. I needed a distraction desperately and he made it clear he was interested. One night we had dinner and I invited him to my room and he proceeded to shag me most of the night."

John's toes curled against his thigh; he was nearly anxious now. "And then what happened?"

And then it began. And it didn't stop, even though they both knew it should, both knew it was a horrible idea, not until—

John didn't need to know that part. Honesty wasn't required about things like this, was it? No, it couldn't be.

"He wanted to see me again and I said no."

John frowned. "Why?"

This was none of John's concern, but Sherlock had the impression that saying so now would upset the delicate balance they'd achieved. John was simply curious, and the truth didn't matter, not entirely.

Sherlock shrugged, affected a casual expression. "I got bored, essentially. In one night we'd tried everything once. I realized it really was just about the sex, and sex alone wasn't enough to justify putting up with him outside the bedroom. He really was an idiot; you've no idea."

"So you ended it."

"I assumed I knew all there was to know about sex with a man. So I moved on." Not entirely true, but not completely untrue either. He pushed it all away again, closed that door. He knew he needed to examine it more closely, but not now. Not yet.

"And you survived on occasional masturbation for the next decade." John seemed to find this conclusion difficult to accept.

"It seemed extremely unlikely I'd encounter anyone I'd actually enjoy being around for any length of time, whom I'd be attracted to and who would also be attracted to me. The rational thing to do was not to waste time on it, to focus myself on other things."

John appeared to consider this for a moment. "You said the experiment had become more complicated than you expected. What did you mean?"

He had no answer for that. Well, he had four possible answers, to be honest, but none he was ready to share. He wanted to think about it more, to examine it from every angle, to dissect it thoroughly.

John's expression shifted to the one he used when he thought Sherlock had entirely missed the point of a significant social encounter. "We have to be honest with each other about this. Whatever this is, there's sex involved, even if it's not between us, and that's going to make things messy. If there's even a chance of losing your friendship over this, I won't go back to the club again. I'll end it right now."

And there it was, the one thing Sherlock was most afraid of. Whatever he did or said next would be of the utmost importance. He couldn't fuck this up or it would come to an end. He knew John well enough to know the threat was not idle; he'd follow through, if he deemed it necessary.

"Do you need some time to do a bit of exploring yourself? We could switch for a few days. I could find partners for you."

"No." He didn't even have to consider the words; on this point he was certain. John seemed taken aback and Sherlock sighed. "I'm not interested in sex with strangers. I already know that's not what I want."

"Then what do you want?"

Sometimes people asked this question out of frustration, he'd learned. They weren't actually asking for this information; what they were actually saying was I'm sick of your shit. But nothing on John's face suggested he was being anything other than earnest.

Sherlock tangled his fingers in his own hair and let go the careful control he'd held on his thoughts. Images spun in his mind, some enticing, some disturbing, all confusing. He waited until the storm subsided before trying to sense a pattern, but even then, the only one that emerged was completely unacceptable.

He pressed his hands over his face and exhaled smoothly. "I need to examine my own reactions more closely. If you're willing to continue, I would appreciate it." He opened his eyes and looked at John, hoping he would give Sherlock space to think about this.

John took a deep breath and released it again. "All right." He hesitated for a moment. "For what it's worth, Sherlock, I trust you."

"I know." That was the reason Sherlock was taking this enterprise so very seriously. He needed some space now, to think. He stood.

"Do you trust me?" John asked.

"I do."

He'd said it without hesitation, and it was true. He felt more comfortable with John than he'd ever felt with any person before. John was being honest with him about this experience, had let him see so much of what he felt. It was an incredible sign of trust, he realized, to allow Sherlock to do these things, to allow Sherlock to watch something so very private.

And then Sherlock had refused John the same level of confidence. He'd pushed him out the door and taken care of his own needs in private. It was little wonder John had to ask if he had Sherlock's trust. Nothing of what Sherlock had done tonight implied it.

John smiled. "Good. I need to borrow your laptop."

Sherlock frowned. Did John want to look at his data? He doubted anyone could make much sense of it, and he wasn't in the mood to explain his methodology. "Why?"

"Well, mine is still at the shop, being repaired after someone spent eight solid hours viewing porn on it and contracted three separate viruses, requiring the hard drive to be wiped completely."

Sherlock nearly smirked at John's attempt to induce guilt. He'd already offered to pay for the repairs, after all. But now that he thought about it, allowing John access to his data could prove beneficial in several ways. And if John googled anything particularly interesting, that information could be rather useful.

Sherlock explained the password and left him to it. He headed to his bedroom and stripped off his clothes, then stretched out across the bed to think.


Chapter Text

March, 2000


Sherlock leaned his elbows against the railing of the terrace and took a long drag from his cigarette. He exhaled and the smoke drifted up to meet the hazy orange-purple sky, dissipating against a backdrop of soot-blackened rooftops and spindly aerials. No stars were visible here in the city, but he didn't care. Stars reminded him too much of school, and school, well – he'd ultimately deleted most of that anyway.

"Jesus, that was dull."

Sherlock didn't turn around. He raised the cigarette to his lips again.

"I thought my father was bad, but your brother is worse." The young man leaned against the railing next to Sherlock. "Can I bum a fag?"

Sherlock glanced sideways at him. He was three centimeters shorter than Sherlock, with broader shoulders, and his sandy hair appeared even more inclined to curl. He stared out at the sky for several seconds before turning to look at Sherlock with startlingly clear eyes. Sherlock looked away again, but reached into his pocket for the pack of cigarettes. He tapped one out and offered it, and the man took it with a sly sort of smile, like he'd won a sort of victory in getting Sherlock to acknowledge his presence. Sherlock offered his lighter, and the man leaned in and cupped his hand around the flame, then stepped back again and exhaled smoothly, blowing out a stream of smoke along with a satisfied sigh.

"Thanks. It's Michael, by the way." At Sherlock's narrowed eyes, he smiled. "I prefer my middle name to the one my father calls me – it makes me sound like a tosser."

Sherlock dropped the lighter back into his pocket and leaned over the railing again. "Sherlock."

"Yes, I know." Michael took a long drag from the cigarette. "Nice to meet you properly, Sherlock."

Sherlock turned to look at him for a moment before smirking and looking away again. "Did you quit or did you fail?"



Michael shifted uncomfortably beside him. "None of your business, is it?"

"Failed, then. History?"

"English literature, actually. And I didn't fail. My marks were lower than I'd hoped, certainly."

Sherlock snorted. "Spending more time in clubs than studying tends to produce that result."

"Have you been talking to my father, then?"

"Didn't have to." Sherlock took one last drag on his cigarette and stubbed it out on the railing. "It's obvious."

"Obvious, really?" Michael's laugh was rich, deeper than his speaking voice. "Well, let me have a go, then. Your brother is dragging you along to business meetings you've obviously no interest in, which implies that he thinks he's doing you a favor. You obviously resent it and have no intention of doing anything he wants you to do, but you go just to shut him up. So, Sherlock, what about you? Did you quit or did you fail?"

Sherlock was stunned into silence for a moment. They had indeed been formally introduced at dinner, but he'd deleted the name immediately: yet another young loser paraded before Mycroft in the vain hope that being blessed by the rising star of the British banking industry would prove fortuitous. Sherlock had seen half a dozen young men like him, and none of them had done or said anything to pique his brother's interest – nor Sherlock's, not that it mattered. But perhaps he'd been hasty in his previous appraisal of this one: Michael.

He kept his gaze focused on the horizon. "Neither. I don't quit, and I've never failed at anything in my entire life."

"So why are you here?"

Sherlock shrugged. "I've nothing better to do."

"Oh, come off it. You pushed your food around on the plate for an hour and had only a single sip of wine. You did your best to look bored while simultaneously listening to every word, and still you heard nothing you deemed important enough to merit attention." Michael paused to smoke, and then exhaled a steady stream above their heads. "You weren't here tonight because you had nothing better to do. You were here because you had far worse things to do and your brother is a control freak who thinks he can save you."

Sherlock laughed before he could stop himself. "No one can save me."

"Then we've that much in common." Michael leaned forward and looked down at the street below. "Obviously you're clever enough to do whatever you want. So why don't you?"

Sherlock pulled the pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and lit another. He took a long drag and exhaled slowly. "I'd rather spend too much time in clubs."

Michael stared back at him for a moment before shaking his head and smiling. "I think we're going to get on just fine, Sherlock."

Michael leaned into him slightly, just for a moment, and a strange, almost-familiar feeling rose in Sherlock's gut. It was unidentifiable, though, and unsettling. He looked out across the railing again and focused on the streetlights below.

He'd never really got on with anyone before. He hardly expected to start doing so now.


"How can you not have read Joyce?" Michael set his coffee cup on the table and fished another cigarette out of the pack they were sharing. "You went to public school."

"It was assigned, yes, but it was hardly necessary to read it to do the exam." Sherlock held out the lighter and Michael leaned in to light his cigarette. "The analyses they want you to learn in school are banal and predictable. I could tell from the cover of the book what the main themes were going to be. It's always either a Christ allegory or another version of Ulysses, anyway."

"Oh, I see. You once read Campbell and now you're cynical about the entirety of western literature." Michael rolled his eyes.

"I'm not cynical; I simply don't care. Science is what interests me, logic. Constructing experiments to test hypotheses, forming deductions from the gathered evidence – those are far more intellectually compelling than arguing about the meaning of the color of the drapery in the heroine's boudoir." He gestured wildly with his own cigarette. "Can't it just be red, and have it not mean anything?"

"Do you really think science is so different?" Michael leaned forward to flick ash into the tray between them on the table, his expression insufferably smug. "It's not all cold deductions and logic, you know. It's done by human beings, whose perceptions are colored by the societies in which they live and the political systems that fund their research."

"Oh, I see," Sherlock replied, unable to keep a sneer from his tone. "You once read Kuhn and now you're cynical about science."

"My point is that the purpose of literary analysis isn't to find the answer. There is no single interpretation of any work. Art exists independent of the artist."

"So you got to post-structuralism before you dropped that course. Good on you." Sherlock stubbed out his cigarette. "The scientist, I assure you, is not dead."

Michael sat back in his chair and took a long drag on his cigarette. He regarded Sherlock silently for a moment, and Sherlock once again felt the very odd sensation that Michael was looking through him, seeing something in his eyes that Sherlock himself wasn't aware of. It was unnerving, being on the receiving end of this sort of attention. He'd leveled it at others often enough that he knew Michael was now looking for a weak point, something to turn the conversation to his advantage.

"Well?" Sherlock asked at last, growing impatient.

"What's your deal, Sherlock?"

Sherlock could only blink at him for a moment. "Deal? What are you talking about?"

"Boys, girls, both… neither?" Michael's eyebrows rose very slightly in challenge. "Whom do you prefer to fuck?"

Well, he'd found a weak point – at least in the sense that it was a topic Sherlock had little to no experience with or interest in. He swallowed his annoyance and looked away.

He hadn't been oblivious to Michael's subtle flirting over the last few weeks, but he hadn't returned it. And until now, Michael hadn't pushed the issue. There had been a strange sort of competitive camaraderie between them and Sherlock had enjoyed it far more than he would have expected. It was rare that he encountered a person whose company he enjoyed, anticipated, even. Most people were blathering idiots whose under-developed intellects were literally wasting space in their skulls, who found Sherlock little more than a freakish curiosity to poke and prod for entertainment.

Tell me what I did last night, Holmes, go on.

He's a proper freak. He can tell when you last had a shag with one look. Can't you, Holmes?

I'd fuck him ten ways to Sunday if I could tape his mouth shut first.

Michael was different, though: Sherlock found him simultaneously intriguing and annoying, a combination he hadn't experienced often. He'd enjoyed these meetings over coffee, cigarettes, and the occasional joint, these long conversations liberally peppered with verbal sparring and witty rejoinder. But now, here it was – the moment when Michael would make his intentions clear and Sherlock would express disinterest, and that would be it. Without the possibility of sex on the table, Michael wouldn't stay. No one ever did.

The surge of disappointment he felt at the idea that this might be the end of their – friendship? companionship? acquaintance? – was surprising. He stared back at Michael for a moment, eyes darting over the shape of his face, the color rising in his cheeks, the hint of sandy chest hair visible in the V of his polo shirt, before looking back up at his eyes again. Michael held his gaze steadily and then wet his lower lip with his tongue. It was a quick movement, only lasting a fraction of a second, but the twinge Sherlock felt in his groin was unexpected.


"Well what?" Sherlock shifted in his seat, fumbled for the pack of cigarettes. Empty. Of course Michael would take the last fag before springing his trap. Bastard.

"You heard the question." Michael's eyes were full of something Sherlock couldn't identify, couldn't read at all, and it was discomfiting. It was maddening.

Sherlock reached across the table and plucked the lit cigarette from Michael's fingers, brought it to his own lips and took a long, satisfying drag. He had no idea how to answer that question. He wasn't sure what the answer was, and he didn't particularly care. Did he?

He held out the cigarette, and was horrified to see his hand shaking, just a bit. "What do you think?"

Michael's smile turned lazy and his fingers brushed Sherlock's as he took the cigarette back. Sherlock felt a jolt of sensation at the touch. Michael leaned forward, his eyes darker now, dilated (nicotine—caffeine—sexual arousal), and Sherlock found he couldn't look away.

"I think you've only ever shagged girls, but you're more interested in boys. You just haven't had the opportunity yet." He paused and took a drag, and then leveled a narrow gaze at Sherlock. "Or the bollocks."

Sherlock laughed, inexplicably, and shook his head. "You've known me for more than two weeks now. Surely it's obvious that I'm hardly concerned with convention, or with what others think I ought to do."

"Not what I meant." Michael held out the cigarette again, but when Sherlock reached for it, Michael caught his fingers. "You're afraid of yourself, of finding out if that's what you really want."

"I'm not afraid of—"

"You are, though." Michael leaned closer and twined their fingers together. With his other hand he raised the cigarette to Sherlock's lips and let him take a drag before taking one more himself. He stubbed it out in the ashtray and looked up at Sherlock. "I like boys. And I like you."

Sherlock swallowed and looked down at their entwined fingers. Michael was right that Sherlock had – once – been curious about sex with men. His single experience with a woman had been underwhelming, and he had wondered if perhaps he'd enjoy it more with a man. But there were easier ways to feel, to have, to want, to explore the sensation-addicted recesses of his own mind – ways that didn't involve other people and the inevitable irritation and abandonment that came with them. Serotonin-norepinephrine-dopamine-uptake inhibition, deacetylation, resultant euphoria. Repeat as necessary.

But this was something different, wasn't it? He wasn't exactly certain what Michael was offering, and that was unsettling. Others had flirted with him, often clumsily, occasionally in ways that were clever enough that he entertained the idea for a few seconds. In the end, none of them had actually tempted him in the slightest. But Michael, Michael was more than merely tolerable; he was, for lack of a more precise phrase, fun to be with. He was attractive in all the conventional ways, even reasonably intelligent. And he'd spent eleven evenings out of the last nineteen with Sherlock, and hadn't yet left in annoyance and disgust.

So, right. In summary: Michael was different, and Sherlock was intrigued enough to consider sex with him. Sex wasn't something he found particularly interesting, but it was hardly an unpleasant ordeal, either. If Michael found it moderately enjoyable, he would have yet another reason to continue their friendship, and that alone was enough incentive to give it a sincere effort. Sherlock felt a small spark of excitement at the thought that it might not be over after all.

Michael shifted and looked down at the table, and Sherlock realized he'd been staring blankly at the man for five full seconds. Michael thought Sherlock was going to say no. He thought Sherlock wasn't interested, and he wouldn't likely offer again. If they were going to do this, Sherlock had to say so now.

Sherlock pulled his hand from Michael's grip and leaned back in his chair, tried to affect as casual a posture as possible with his stomach suddenly twisting up into his chest. "All right."

"All right?" Michael's eyes narrowed slightly.

Sherlock felt his cheeks heat. Had he read it all wrong? "You are propositioning me, are you not?"

Michael's lips twisted slightly. "Well, yes. I was."

"And I am accepting your offer. I assume you meant now, but if you'd prefer another coffee first, I can wait."

Michael looked startled for a brief moment before he smiled again – radiantly, Sherlock couldn't help but notice. "No, now is good. Now is… fantastic, actually."

"Then it's settled."

Michael exhaled and nodded. "Right." He bit his lip and seemed to be trying not to grin too broadly.

Sherlock sat awkwardly for a moment more before deciding action was best. He stood and pulled on his coat. "Should we go to yours or mine?"

Michael scrambled to his feet, suddenly looking a bit sheepish. "I still live with my parents, actually, and they don't know that I'm…" He made a vague gesture with one hand.

"Out past your bedtime?"

"Fuck you, you know what I mean."

Sherlock wrapped his scarf more tightly around his neck and smirked. "Mine it is. I'll hail a taxi."


"Bloody hell." Michael stood in the middle of the entryway and gaped. "You never said that the reason you didn't have a job was because you were independently wealthy."

"It was my parents' house, now my brother's." Sherlock began unfastening his coat as he headed for the stairs. "If you'd rather stand here and gawk at the antiques for a while, my room is on the second floor, third door on the left."

Michael's footsteps began to follow him up the stairs. "So you live with – is that a real Picasso?"

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Yes, but not one of the good ones."


Sherlock paused at the top of the stairs and turned to see Michael examining yet another painting. He fidgeted for a moment, uncertain how to proceed. This had been Michael's idea, after all. Sherlock couldn't fault him for finding the surroundings more fascinating than the possibility of sex, but he'd had the impression Michael was far more interested in the latter. He cleared his throat. "If you'd rather not, it's fine."

Michael turned to look at him, and frowned for a moment before taking the last handful of steps two at a time. Sherlock stepped backward, intending to turn and continue down the corridor, but Michael grabbed his wrist and tugged him back around. A moment later Michael's mouth covered his, tongue pressing roughly between Sherlock's lips.

Kissing was such an odd act, and incredibly intimate; the fact that such an exchange of bodily fluids was generally considered a precursor to any sort of sexual contact was something Sherlock had never completely understood. The instinct to recoil from it faded quickly, though: as kisses went, he supposed this was a fair one. Not that he had much to compare it to.

He slid his tongue against Michael's, which produced a promising sort of moan, followed by an even deeper exploration of Sherlock's mouth. Perhaps a more thorough investigation of kissing was in order, with a comparison of different techniques, depths of penetration, pressure of lips, speed of—

There was a sound on the floor above, and Sherlock felt himself tense involuntarily: Mycroft was home. Best to change their location. He walked backwards, pulling Michael along with him, and then found himself pressed against his own bedroom door. He fumbled behind his back for a moment until he found the knob and turned it, and they both nearly tumbled inside.

Sherlock stepped away long enough to pull off his coat and fold it across the desk chair. He closed the bedroom door – engaged the lock, just to be sure – and turned to look at Michael, uncertain what should happen next. More kissing, perhaps? Michael's gaze was focused on the bed now; apparently he was ready to move things along. Very well.

Sherlock toed off his shoes and had started on the buttons of his shirt before Michael closed the distance between them and stilled his hands.

"Oh, no, no." Michael's eyes glinted almost maniacally in the dim light. "Have you any idea how long I've wanted to rip your clothes off you?"

Sherlock frowned. "That's completely unnecessary. And this is my favorite shirt."

"It's an expression, you idiot." Michael made quick work of the buttons and tugged the shirt off, dumping it into an undignified pile on the floor.

Sherlock's gaze followed it down, his fingers itching to pick it up and hang it properly – the wrinkles would be horrible – but before he could do anything else, Michael pressed one hand against the front of Sherlock's trousers, and that – oh, that – he'd forgotten about that part, the way it felt when a hand that wasn't his own touched him so intimately. He'd deleted it, perhaps. No matter: it was coming back to him now.

Michael's fingers made quick work of the button and zip, and just as it occurred to Sherlock that he ought to reciprocate, Michael pushed him backwards onto the bed. Sherlock's trousers were around his ankles now and Michael was staring down at his pants as if he were imagining pulling them off with his teeth. Sherlock sat up enough to kick his trousers off entirely – wrinkles be damned, at this point – and found himself at eye level with Michael's groin. His trousers were stretched over an impressive erection – the first Sherlock had seen other than his own. He reached out to trace the outline of it with his fingertips.

"Oh, fuck." Michael's voice was rough, and Sherlock looked up. Michael's eyes were dark (pupils dilated from arousal) and his face was flushed (rising heart rate, vasocongestion of the skin, increased rate of respiration). He knew the basic physiology of it all, but still, it was fascinating and he wanted to see more, more of this response to his own touch. He slid his hand up the length of Michael's erection, varying the pressure slightly, automatically cataloguing Michael's reactions. There were so many variables that it was nearly overwhelming; he'd need a spreadsheet to keep track of it all. He felt a jolt of excitement: why hadn't he thought to experiment with sex before?

He watched Michael's face as he unfastened the button, drew down the zip, and pushed Michael's trousers down over his hips. Michael looked back at him with an expectant expression for a long moment, and ah, of course – he anticipated oral sex. Complications began to fire off in Sherlock's brain so quickly that it paralyzed him for a moment.

"You haven't done this, have you?" Michael's expression was kinder than Sherlock would have anticipated.

His gaze fell to the wet spot on Michael's pants. "I haven't done any of it with a man." He'd only done it with a woman the one time, but Michael didn't need to know that.

"It's fine, it's… kind of hot, actually." Michael's fingers threaded into Sherlock's hair, working through too-long curls before tightening at the back and tilting Sherlock's head up. Sherlock quirked an eyebrow at him. "God, I've been wanting to do that as well. What?"

"I don't understand why you find my inexperience erotic."

"Really? Well." He released Sherlock's hair and pressed one thumb against his lower lip. "It's the idea that my cock will be the first one ever in your mouth, I suppose."

"Sex as a metaphor for conquering virgin territory? That's hardly original."

Michael stared back at him. "You're… Are you a virgin?"

Sherlock laughed before he could help himself. "It's an expression. Idiot."

"Touché." Michael tugged his briefs down over his hips and his erection bounced forward.

"Though it's true that I haven't done this." Sherlock tilted his head and gave it an appraising look: he'd only seen his own penis erect before – in person, at least – and the one before him now was surprisingly different from his own. It was shorter, thicker, with a tighter foreskin, and the pubic hair was more sparse than Sherlock's own.

"Waiting for an engraved invitation?"

Sherlock very nearly rolled his eyes. But if this went well, he supposed he'd have further opportunities for up-close observation. In for a penny – he leaned forward and pressed his lips against the tip of the glans, and then opened his mouth enough to take it in.

"Oh, fuck." Michael's hand was back in his hair now, and he pressed his hips forward while holding Sherlock's head in place, far enough to make him gag.

Sherlock found he didn't like that at all. He tugged Michael's hand out of his hair and pulled away. "Not like that. On the bed."

Michael grinned and stretched out on his back. "If you insist."

"And keep your hands well away."

"I'll try, but no promises. Maybe you should tie them to the headboard, just to be sure." The tone had been teasing, but the words went straight to Sherlock's groin in a jolt of heat and tightening prickling skin. He'd barely been hard before, but now, now an image of Michael filled his mind, bound at the wrists, naked, and helpless, and – fuck. He stared back at Michael for a full second, and Michael's eyes widened. "Oh, you… You'd like that, would you?"

"I…" Sherlock began, and then hesitated. It wasn't just the idea of tying Michael up, was it? It was far more than that, but he doubted that the fantasies his mind was currently spinning would be acceptable. He cleared his thoughts, pushed them all to the back of his mind for the time being, and injected as much heat into his smile as he could manage. "Yes. I think I would."

Michael bit his lip. "Maybe next time, yeah? Right now I just want your mouth on me." He ground up against Sherlock's thigh and closed his eyes. Sherlock let the smile drop from his face as he stared down at him, still trying to process what had just happened. Michael's eyes opened again, but the moment he caught sight of Sherlock's face, his expression changed completely, from one of smug satisfaction to something unreadable. Sherlock felt a flash of panic – had he done something wrong already? After a moment Michael's smile returned, and he looked up at Sherlock from underneath long sandy eyelashes and whispered, "Please?"

"Yes." Sherlock all but growled the word out, much to his own surprise. He pressed Michael into the mattress and kissed him, and Michael whimpered beneath him and God, that – that was erotic, shockingly so. "Keep your hands on the rails," Sherlock said, and the speed with which Michael complied sent a fresh surge of desire through him. God, he needed – he didn't know quite what. "Say it again."

"I… what?"

"What you want. Ask me nicely." Sherlock slid a hand up over Michael's chest, marveling at the heat rolling off of his skin.

"Oh, God." Michael's eyes fell closed. "I want… I want you to suck me. Please."

"Yes, all in good time. But only if you stay very still for me." He plucked at one brown nipple with his fingertips, watching with fascination as it hardened to a peak. "Can you do that?"


Michael's reply was almost a whimper, and then Sherlock lost himself in the small sounds he made as Sherlock worked his way slowly down the tanned length of his torso, pausing to kiss and touch and lick, torturously slowly. He could read Michael's responses with astonishing ease, could see the difference between a touch that was ticklish and one that was neutral and one that was clearly erogenous. Every shiver of Michael's limbs, every gasped breath – all of it was gloriously fascinating. So much data, so much to consume, and Sherlock's mind was whirling with possibilities.

By the time Sherlock finally took his cock in his mouth again, it was clear that Michael was hanging on by a thread. He slid his lips down slowly, let the taste of pre-ejaculate fluid roll across his tongue, a hint of sweet, then salty, then bitter. He pulled back again, letting the flat of his tongue cover his bottom teeth, and Michael hissed at the sensation. More of that, then. He repeated the movement, wriggling his tongue, adjusting the pressure and watching, listening, feeling the way Michael responded to each minute change in his technique.

The feel of Michael's cock in his mouth was far more pleasant than he might have anticipated, soft skin sliding against impossibly hard flesh. He wrapped his fingers around the shaft and pulled the foreskin all the way back before sucking on the glans, lightly at first, then harder, then using his tongue to increase the pressure as Michael's moans became louder, his hips tipping up involuntarily as he came.

The spurt of semen against his soft palate caught Sherlock by surprise. He'd known, of course, that it was coming, but he'd been so caught up in watching Michael that he hadn't prepared himself for it. He managed to suppress the urge to gag for the most part, and held his mouthful for two full seconds before deciding that swallowing would be the easiest route.

"Oh, my God," Michael said, panting. Sherlock glanced up at his flushed face, and saw that his hands still clenched the rails at the head of the bed, just as Sherlock had requested.

Fuck. Sherlock sat up on his knees and wiped one hand across his mouth even as the other was stroking his own cock.

"Wait, let me," Michael said, and Sherlock didn't hesitate: he crawled forward and planted his knees on either side of Michael's chest, and pressed forward into Michael's open mouth.

It was gorgeous, better than he remembered, and Michael was enthusiastic and thorough. One of Michael's hands wrapped around the base of the shaft and the other found Sherlock's hip and pushed, encouraging him to move. Sherlock shifted his hips, very slightly at first, but after a minute he was outright fucking Michael's mouth, and Michael sucked and stroked at the same time, and God he was close, right on the edge.

Michael's fingernails dug into his hip and he flattened his tongue against the head of Sherlock's cock, creating an even tighter suction, but it was the sounds he made that pushed Sherlock over the edge – small, desperate, needy whimpers around the ragged breaths he drew between strokes, and oh, oh, he was just taking it and something about that made the heat swell low in Sherlock's belly and rise again and there, there, like that, just like that.

Michael began coughing the moment he pulled out, and Sherlock tumbled to the side, nearly off the bed. Panic surged in him – he'd lost control, had lost himself to the moment, and that wasn't like him, not like this, not when he was sober and had been for weeks, because Mycroft had said—

"No, it's fine, I'm fine. I just need to learn to swallow before I catch my breath." Michael coughed again and then grinned up at him. "Jesus, Sherlock, I had no idea."

Sherlock exhaled, willed himself to calm down again. He still felt a bit lightheaded from the orgasm. "What do you mean?"

"That you like to be in charge, and to have it a bit rough. You do, don't you?" Michael smiled at Sherlock's bewildered expression. "No, it's cool. Something I've always wanted to try, actually."

Sherlock's brain was running at half-speed, somehow. None of this made sense. He knew that what had just happened wasn't completely normal – outside of cheap porn, anyway – and he was fairly certain that he shouldn't have enjoyed it as much as he had. He swallowed, forced himself to focus. "You have?"

Michael reached up to slide one hand around the back of Sherlock's neck and pulled him down into a kiss. "I'm willing to experiment a bit if you are."

Sherlock closed his eyes and kissed Michael roughly, and then pulled away enough to look at him. "Are you certain about that?" His mind was spinning already, dozens of possible scenarios presenting themselves at once. He categorized them, filed them away, tried not to let them spiral too far out of control.

"Yes," Michael said, and kissed him again.

"All right, then, that's… yes." Sherlock sank down beside him and stared up at the ceiling, letting the simultaneous sensations of excitement and trepidation wash over him. He wasn't exactly certain what he wanted, or whether Michael's notion of experimentation quite matched his own. But it was clear that Michael was willing to be experimented upon, at least for now, and that was something Sherlock was going to enjoy very much.



He'd done a bit of research, of course. An internet search had been helpful to an extent, but asking questions in certain sorts of shops had yielded the most useful results. He'd flipped through the book the sales girl recommended, but it hadn't held any information that seemed terribly critical. It mostly concerned tying people up in uncomfortable-looking positions using intricate webs of rope with complex knots. The accompanying photographs were interesting, but this sort of bondage wasn't quite what he was looking for.

No, he had something different in mind altogether.

"All right, then," Michael said, and he pulled his shirt over his head.

Sherlock held the coil of rope in one hand and ran his fingertips along a length of it. It was soft and strong, and a shade of indigo he'd found inexplicably appealing under the bright fluorescent lights of the shop. He'd practiced a bit that afternoon, experimenting with different types of knots and tension.

"Keep your trousers on for now," Sherlock said, his gaze still focused on the rope in his hands.

Michael chuckled. "Fine. As long as you take them off eventually."

Sherlock's lips turned up at the corners. "We'll see. On the bed, then, up against the rails."

Michael grinned and clambered up into place. "Like this?"

"No, lower. I want you on your back." Sherlock knelt beside him as he shifted into position on the bed and uncoiled the rope. He began threading it between the rails. "Give me your hand."

The sales girl had warned against making the rope too tight, and Sherlock had rolled his eyes – of course he knew better than to cut off circulation – but it had been a bit more difficult to get that detail correct in practice than he'd expected. He slipped two fingers between the rope and Michael's wrist, just to be sure.

"Give it a good tug."

Michael did, and then grinned. "I'm not going anywhere."

Sherlock gave him a dark look and crossed to tie the other one. "No, you're not."

"You really get off on this, don't you?"

"That is the point of this exercise, yes." Sherlock tugged on the knots and sat back to see the full effect. "Comfortable enough?"

"Enough for what?" Michael retorted. There was a hint of anxiety in his voice, just enough that it gave Sherlock pause. The shop girl had made another recommendation, and it came to the front of his mind now. It hadn't seemed quite so important in theory, oddly enough.

"We need a safeword."

"A what?"

"A word you can say that will signal you want to stop whatever we're doing."

"Can't I just say stop?"

Sherlock pursed his lips, uncertain how to phrase what he meant in a way that wouldn't put Michael off entirely. "It should be something you wouldn't ordinarily say in bed, so it would get my attention."

Michael frowned. "I don't ordinarily say stop in bed. And what do you mean, get your attention?"

Sherlock ran a hand through his hair. "I mean, if we're… No, all right, I suppose 'stop' will be fine."

"No, maybe you're right. How about…" He paused and looked thoughtful. "Chicken."

"Don't be ridiculous."

"Fine, be that way. Hamster?"

"Absolutely not."

"It's my word, isn't it? Isn't the point that I get to decide?"

Sherlock groaned. "Do you really intend to shout out 'hamster' when you want me to untie you?"

Michael smirked. "I'm sensing it would get your attention."

"Fine, hamster."

"God, no; I was taking the piss. I prefer 'orange,' actually."

"Orange will do." Sherlock climbed off the bed and unbuttoned his shirt. Michael's eyes were fixed on him, and he slowed down a bit, taking his time with it. By the time he'd carefully folded it and placed it on his desk, Michael was squirming.

"I take it you're planning to torture me?"

Sherlock smirked and unfastened his trousers. "I suppose it depends on your definition of torture. Why, would you like me to?"

"The other night – that was as hard as I've ever come in my life." Michael paused and stretched luxuriously, and something tightened in Sherlock's belly. "I can tell you're used to fucking girls. Most blokes just want to get off quick, not take their time with all that foreplay."

"Are you saying you'd prefer it to be quick?" Sherlock hung his trousers over the chair and crossed back to the bed.

"No, no, I just – are you sure that was the first time you've sucked a cock?"

Sherlock smirked. "Yes, I'm quite certain. Any other questions?"

"No." Michael smiled up at him and wriggled his hips. "But if you're taking requests—"

"Enough talking. I want you to be quiet now."

Sherlock sat next to him on the bed and smoothed a hand over his chest. Michael nodded and his head fell back against the mattress, though he didn't seem relaxed at all. Sherlock leaned over him and kissed him, softly at first, pulling away when Michael tried to deepen it.

"You're going to have to learn to be more patient." He sat back and smirked, and there was a flash of something dark in Michael's eyes. It was gone again just as quickly, but it lit a fire in Sherlock's groin. "Yes, go on. You can be angry at me, if you like. I'd be surprised if you felt otherwise by the time we're done." He leaned down and brushed his lips against Michael's, then traced the swell of his lower lip with the tip of his tongue. "But you're going to enjoy this, I think." He slid one hand down Michael's belly and over the swell at the front of his trousers, and Michael whimpered into his mouth. "On second thought, I suppose complete silence is a bit extreme, isn't it? Perhaps I should see how many different ways I can induce you to make sounds like that."

Michael chuckled in response, and Sherlock cut the sound off with a rather thorough kiss.

It was fascinating, he thought half an hour later as Michael squirmed beneath him with wide dark eyes and a sizeable tent in his still-fastened trousers, how far he could push this. He'd covered much of Michael's chest and neck with licks and teasing bites, had drawn swirling pink lines in his skin with his fingernails, and had found every ticklish spot in his upper body.

Michael's nipples were especially sensitive and Sherlock had touched them only sparingly – until now, anyway. He sprawled out on his side and circled his tongue slowly around one dark areola, and Michael groaned.

"I suspect," Sherlock began, and then paused to flick his tongue against the tight little bud that rose under his mouth, "that you might be able to climax from this alone."

Michael made a sound of disbelief, and Sherlock smiled. A challenge, then. Good.

He alternated between quick flicks of his tongue and hard sucks, drawing the sensitive tissue much further into his mouth than he'd have thought possible. Soft, hard, gentle, rough, delicate, engulfing – by the time he moved to the other side, Michael was quivering beneath him. He applied the same treatment to the other nipple and used his fingers on the one he'd just left, rolling the tender skin between his fingers and tugging just to the point of pain – all while lapping delicately at the nipple under his mouth.

Michael's face was a storm, reflecting the confusion his body seemed to be feeling as it hovered between pain and pleasure. He strained against the ropes binding his wrists, but he said nothing, made no overt protests. Sherlock took the nipple between his teeth and tugged gently, while flicking the other one with the tip of his finger. Michael shifted his hips, straining desperately for some sort of friction.

"Oh, you are beautiful like this," Sherlock whispered, and gave the nipple a hard suck. His own cock was aching now, just from the thought of how long Michael had lain there, still, tied, quiet, and perfectly pliant. Sherlock could do anything to him now, probably. Several rather disturbing ideas flooded his mind and he pushed them away. Not now – not yet.

He began flicking his tongue lightly against the nipple under his mouth, barely touching the skin at first, and then increasing the pressure, harder and harder. He mirrored the action on the other side with his fingertips, and Michael made a choked sound of surprise.

"Oh, God, I'm—Fuck!" His hips bucked against nothing and he strained against the ropes at his wrists, and the words morphed into strangled cries as he came.

Sherlock sat up on his knees to watch him, and finally couldn't bear it any longer. He pushed his pants below his hips and took his cock in hand. He was close, so fucking close, and after only a handful of strokes, he felt his own orgasm begin. Michael cried out again as Sherlock striped his chest with semen, once, twice, and oh God. He sat next to Michael, panting, his head buzzing from the endorphin rush.

"That was… Jesus." Michael was staring up at the ceiling, his chest heaving. "I've never… you didn't even touch my cock. I don't know how you did that."

Sherlock looked down at him and quirked an eyebrow, then stood and stretched. He reached for the pack of cigarettes on the bedside table. "It makes one wonder what else is possible."

Michael laughed. "Oh, God, you're going to ruin me for anyone else, aren't you?"

Sherlock lit the cigarette and inhaled deeply, then put the cigarette between Michael's lips. "If you like."

Michael took a long drag, his eyes briefly fluttering closed, and then grinned when Sherlock removed the cigarette again. "If that's the result, then I'm game for just about anything."

Sherlock sat on the edge of the bed and brought the cigarette to his lips. "I think we're going to get along just fine, Michael."

Michael sighed and closed his eyes, and Sherlock couldn't help but notice he wasn't struggling against the restraints at all. Sherlock blew a stream of smoke into the air above his head, and wondered how long Michael might be willing to be tied up. Perhaps tonight wasn't the night to leave him there until cramps set in, but another ten minutes would provide sufficient data. For now.


"I told my father about us."

Sherlock looked up from the drinks he was mixing. "You didn't."

Michael grinned. "Well, I didn't tell him that you like to tie me up and make me come in innovative ways. I told him we were friends."

"Ah." Sherlock's cheeks tinted slightly at the word, and he ducked his head. Were they friends, then? He hadn't been certain how to refer to Michael in his head. Friend. Interesting. He'd never had a friend before. He held out a glass. "I take it he approves?"

Michael's expression was pure disdain. "Oh, of course. Said it was about time I began to hang about the right sort." He took a sip of his drink and winced slightly. "I think he's far more interested in getting into your brother's inner circle than he is in my social life."

"Reverse nepotism. How original." Sherlock held his own drink up and examined it. "Mycroft suspects he's got a hand in some illegal dealings with the Saudis."

"He probably does. Fuck if I know. The only words I get from him are about how much of a disappointment I am." He took another, larger drink.

"Because you're gay?"

"Oh, he doesn't know about that. He just thinks I'm a lazy stupid fuck."

Sherlock lifted his glass to his lips. "You're not stupid. And you're actually a fantastic fuck."

Michael chuckled. "I suppose I am rather lazy." He looked up at Sherlock again, and his eyebrows rose. "Especially since you do all the work."

Sherlock set his drink down and reached behind the bar for a few items he'd stashed there earlier in the afternoon. He shoved them in a pocket and turned back to Michael. "I've got something different planned for tonight."

"Oh?" There was an odd mix of heat and disquiet in Michael's eyes.

Sherlock stepped closer to him and put one hand on his cheek. Michael leaned in to kiss him, but Sherlock turned his head away at the last moment and nipped at Michael's earlobe. "Strip."

Michael looked incredulous. "What, here?"

"Yes." Sherlock took the glass from his hand and set it on the bar behind them.

"But your brother—"

"Is away on business. He's not due home for several days."


"Have the evening off."

Michael grinned. "We have the entire house to ourselves and you want to do it here?"

"The bar is where Mycroft prefers to entertain his most powerful and influential clients. I call it his Throne Room."

Michael had expressed admiration for the richly decorated room when they'd first entered, with its Italian leather armchairs, plush Persian rugs, and sleek, well-stocked mahogany bar. Now he seemed to regard it anew. "Your mind is the most gorgeous, wicked thing."

Sherlock smirked and took a step backward. "I know. Now strip."

Michael tugged his shirt up over his head and tossed it aside, then started on his trousers. Sherlock picked up his drink again and watched, anticipation building in his gut. Michael didn't know what was coming, had no idea what Sherlock might have planned, but here he was, removing his clothes without hesitation. He was so perfectly trusting, so willing to let Sherlock play with him.

Five nights ago Sherlock had sucked and licked his cock for exactly thirty minutes, pulling back every time Michael was too close to coming. After Sherlock finally let him climax, Michael had shivered for a solid five minutes, which had worried Sherlock so much he'd run down the corridor to the guest bedroom to fetch another blanket. Michael had just laughed when Sherlock wrapped it around him, and never said a word about the fact that Sherlock had lost his own erection in the process.

Two nights ago he'd tied Michael to the bed face down before explaining that he wasn't going to touch him tonight, that if he wanted to come he should just rub off on the sheets beneath him. Michael was livid, but he'd watched with clear desire when Sherlock sat by his head and stroked himself slowly, whispering every dirty thing he could think of. Ten minutes in, Michael gave in and pumped his hips against the mattress, and Sherlock put on an outright show of masturbation until Michael finally came.

Michael had glared angrily at him when Sherlock untied him, and Sherlock had laughed and kissed him, and finally Michael had given in and kissed him back, whispering, "It was so fucking hot to watch you like that."

Deep down, Michael liked it, liked being pushed and challenged. He liked it when Sherlock denied him sensation, and then gave him more than he could bear. He enjoyed being used as a test subject in Sherlock's experiments about sexual stimulation, and no matter how far Sherlock pushed him, he always came with Sherlock's name on his lips, trembling.

Tonight should be very interesting, if Michael complied as well as he usually did.

"What about you?" Michael stepped out of his pants and tossed them over to the pile of rapidly wrinkling clothing.

"In good time." Sherlock crossed to stand in front of him. "I want you quiet and still now." He let his gaze trail down Michael's body, down to where his cock was beginning to thicken between his thighs. "I'm not typically concerned with physical appearances, but you are undeniably beautiful."

The corners of Michael's mouth turned up slightly. Sherlock crossed behind him and let one hand trail down Michael's spine, stopping just above his buttocks. Yes, this was going to do nicely. He plunged one hand into his pocket and, without saying another word, crossed Michael's hands behind his back and tied them together with a length of rope. Michael kept perfectly still while Sherlock knotted the rope. He'd probably expected that, but Sherlock knew he wouldn't expect what was coming next. He pulled a long silk scarf from his pocket and folded it lengthwise several times. It had been his mother's and was a stunning shade of green. He could only imagine her reaction to the use he was about to make of it.

In a quick movement, he placed it over Michael's eyes and tied it at the back of his head. There was a sharp intake of breath, but Michael didn't respond otherwise. Sherlock stepped back and admired the sight before him. Michael was so beautifully pliant, so willing to let Sherlock play with him like this.

"Sensory deprivation," Sherlock said, and cupped one hand against Michael's arse. "I'm given to understand it heightens arousal." He circled to Michael's front again. His respiration had definitely increased, and there was a light flush on his cheeks. "I'm not going to speak either, further depriving your brain of sensory data." He knelt in front of Michael and blew a tickling breath across his penis.

Michael made a whimpering sound and his cock swelled right then and there.

Sherlock trailed the tip of his tongue down the underside and back up again, then flicked it across the slit for several torturous seconds before swirling it around the glans. Michael groaned appreciatively, and Sherlock licked a bit more before taking the glans in his mouth and sucking lightly for a full minute. He didn't use his tongue or apply much pressure; it was just enough to tease. Michael exhaled shakily and shifted his hips forward, straining into Sherlock's mouth.

Sherlock sat back on his heels and Michael made a sound of frustration. Sherlock smiled at that, and had to bite his lip to keep himself silent. He could do anything now, anything at all, and Michael wouldn't see it coming until it was right upon him. It would be the purest sort of response to stimulation, with no influence by preconceived notions. His own cock was rock hard now, and he had to shift and adjust it in his trousers. Or better yet…

He stood and pushed down on Michael's shoulders. Michael seemed confused for a moment, but then knelt down on the floor. Sherlock unzipped his trousers, and there was a hint of a smile on Michael's lips as he recognized the sound. Sherlock pushed his trousers and pants down over his hips and had to pause a moment to collect himself. The raw urgency he felt was nearly overwhelming, and he didn't want to come so quickly. He just wanted to take the edge off, just a bit.

He pushed the head of his cock against Michael's lips, and Michael opened his mouth, took it in almost greedily. It was too much, too soon, and Sherlock braced a hand on the top of his head and pulled out. He waited a moment before brushing the glans against Michael's lower lip again. Michael's tongue darted out and lapped at the underside, and oh, yes, that was what he wanted.

He went up on his toes a bit to get Michael to lick down the shaft, and then finally pushed the head between his lips once more. He held Michael's head still and pumped his hips, fu cking his mouth slowly just with the glans, not pushing in too far. It was lovely, just enough suction, and that tongue–

He was getting too close already, so he pulled out and dropped to his knees, and kissed Michael hard. Michael's mouth was warm and tasted just slightly of pre-ejaculate, and Sherlock lingered there longer than he'd intended.

He finally sat back and stood, pulled his trousers back up, and circled behind Michael. There were several other things he'd wanted to do tonight, but now new ideas sprang to his mind, ones he hadn't planned to try so soon. He fastened his trousers and leaned forward to plant a kiss next to Michael's ear.

"Don't move. I'll be right back."

He left the room and headed upstairs to retrieve some supplies. When he returned, Michael was still kneeling in the center of the rug – Mycroft's favorite rug, Sherlock thought with glee – looking rather discomfited. His erection had flagged in the interim, but Sherlock doubted it would be a problem for long. He settled behind Michael and put a hand on his back, and pressed him forward. Michael resisted for a split second, but then leaned over until the crown of his head touched the rug. Sherlock tugged at his hips to encourage him to stick his arse in the air.

It was an even more fascinating sight than Sherlock had expected. Michael's hands were clenched into fists behind his back and his weight was balanced between his knees and his head. His arse was spread open and his cock and balls hung heavy between his thighs. He looked uncomfortable. It was gorgeous.

Sherlock pulled on a latex glove and uncapped the lube he'd brought downstairs, and applied a generous amount to Michael's arsehole. It dripped down over his balls and onto the rug, and Sherlock stifled a laugh. Mycroft would have him murdered in his sleep if he ever found out. He circled one gloved finger against Michael's anus and watched for his reaction. Michael's hands relaxed and he moaned softly, and Sherlock pressed the tip of his finger inside.

He'd tried this on himself out of curiosity, and it had felt a bit odd. He supposed it was fairly pleasurable, though he couldn't get past the feeling that he was soiling himself. Michael seemed to be enjoying it, though, even pushing back against him. Sherlock pushed that finger all the way in to the knuckle and pulled it out again as slowly as he could manage, and Michael made another soft sound of pleasure. Sherlock added a second finger and watched with fascination as both pressed into Michael's body, eased by the slickness of the lubricant. He pushed them in and out a few more times, experimenting with the effects of speed and depth. He twisted his fingers as he pulled them out (another moan), and then pressed his thumb against the perineum while the fingers inside hooked downwards.

Michael made a strangled sound – ah, yes, that was his prostate. Sherlock massaged it gently with his fingertips until Michael's thighs began to shake. Too much, then. Sherlock pulled his fingers out, and Michael heaved a sigh of relief.

Sherlock squirted more lube onto his anus, and then picked up another object he'd gone upstairs to retrieve. It wasn't a large anal plug, not much bigger in diameter than a finger, but since it was covered with small ridges, he anticipated it would feel quite different. He circled Michael's anus with the smooth tip of it, and Michael went completely still.

Sherlock pushed it in just a bit, and Michael's hands clenched. He didn't know yet what it was, but he hadn't objected. Sherlock pressed the plug in a centimeter more and let Michael's body push it out again, then repeated the action. They hadn't discussed the safeword in over a week, but he assumed Michael remembered. If he wanted to stop, he knew what to do.

Sherlock pressed the plug in further, far enough this time that Michael would be able to feel the texture of it when Sherlock pulled it out again. Michael made a sound of surprise, but the insertion was easy, which Sherlock took to mean that he was relaxed. He pressed it in again, this time not stopping until the flanged end rested against Michael's anus.

He sat back and stripped off the glove, then pushed Michael back up to a kneeling position. Michael's shoulders sagged in obvious relief, and Sherlock couldn't help smiling. He settled in front of Michael and ducked his head down to give his cock one long, hard suck. The sound Michael made at that was almost a word, but he swallowed it down again.

Michael was fully hard now, and leaking, and Sherlock reached into his pocket for the final item he'd purchased earlier that afternoon: a black latex ring. Michael whimpered when Sherlock placed it over the glans and rolled it down to the base, and for a moment Sherlock thought he might protest. He took the glans in his mouth again and sucked gently, massaging the frenulum with his tongue, and Michael seemed to calm down again.

Sherlock sat up and kissed him softly. "You've been perfect," he whispered against Michael's lips. "So fucking gorgeous." Michael caught his lips in a searing kiss, and Sherlock pulled away again. "I want you to be patient just a bit longer. I'll be back in a little while. Don't move."

Michael's jaw clenched, but he nodded, and Sherlock stood. He wanted to stay and watch, to hide in a corner and see what happened, but it would be best if he actually left the room.

He went to the kitchen and rifled through the pantry for Mycroft's favorite biscuits. He made himself a cup of tea, flipped through the newspaper, and finally couldn't bear it any longer. He walked back to where he'd left Michael, stepping as quietly as he could manage on the wooden floors.

The moment Michael became aware of his presence was clear. His body stiffened and his jaw clenched tightly, and his hands curled into fists. His cock still jutted angrily from his groin. Sherlock smirked and crossed towards him.

"Miss me?"

"Where the fuck have you been?" Michael spat.

"Not far away, I promise." Sherlock stroked the top of Michael's head with his fingers, and Michael jerked away. "Oh, angry at me now?"

"That's a fucking understatement."

Sherlock frowned. Had he gone too far? "You have a safeword."

"It's a bit pointless when you're in the other room, isn't it?"

Sherlock winced. "I suppose it is. If you want to stop now—"

"I don't, I just…" Michael paused and exhaled heavily. "It was hot, you know. I was really enjoying it. I liked not knowing what you were going to do next."

"Until I left you alone for fifteen minutes."

"Then I started plotting ways to kill you in your sleep."

Sherlock smiled. "I'm planning to make it worth your while."

"You'd better be." Michael's anger had subsided, but there was still an edge to his voice. His cheeks were flushed, and his lips were pressed into a thin line, and Sherlock was suddenly, inexplicably hard.

"Just one more thing," Sherlock said, stepping forward and unzipping his trousers.

Michael groaned in frustration. "You'd better come fast. My knees are killing me."

It was hot, and perfect, and rough, since Michael didn't bother being careful with his teeth, but it was the best blow job of Sherlock's entire life. He pushed farther into Michael's mouth than he'd dared before, and Michael sucked hard, and Sherlock came so intensely that his vision whited out for a moment.

Michael spat on the rug afterward. "Explain that to your brother."

Sherlock laughed. "I think we can do better than that. Lie on your back."

"Finally," Michael huffed, and then hesitated. "Are you going to untie me first?"

"Ah, right." Sherlock pulled his trousers back up and moved behind him to unfasten the knots on his wrists. Michael immediately reached for the blindfold. "Oh, no you don't," Sherlock said, capturing his hands again. "That remains on. Get on your back."

Michael shifted and winced. "Easier said than done with this thing up my arse." He maneuvered onto his back after a bit of a struggle, and Sherlock pushed his knees up into his chest.

"Hands on your knees now. I want you to keep yourself in this position. And no talking."

Michael made a grumbling sound, but he complied. Sherlock sat back and smiled at the sight of Michael spread out before him.

"Now, where shall I begin? This looks as if it needs some attention." He traced one finger up the length of Michael's swollen cock and spread the fluid there around on the glans. "Or maybe I should start here instead." He tugged at the edge of the plug in Michael's arse, and then twisted it 360 degrees inside him. Michael shivered, and Sherlock paused to lower himself onto his belly. He leaned forward and wriggled his tongue against Michael's scrotum. "Oh, but I've neglected these, haven't I?"

Michael whimpered as Sherlock sucked one testicle into his mouth and sucked gently. He released it after nearly a minute and applied the same treatment to the other one. Michael began squirming beneath him, clearly desperate for more stimulation.

Sherlock shifted up onto his knees again and scrambled for the lube. He squirted some into one hand and wrapped it around Michael's erection, slicking it down the shaft. He worked the cock ring off and tossed it aside, and began stroking Michael's cock in earnest. With his other hand, he grasped the base of the anal plug and pulled it out until just the tip was still inside, then plunged it back in again.

The movements were an interesting challenge to coordinate: quick, firm strokes that focused on the head of Michael's cock, tugging the foreskin up over the glans on every stroke, and rough fucking with the plug. Michael kept his knees pulled back, spreading himself open, but he didn't even try to remain quiet.

He came with a string of swear words on his lips, several of them taking direct aim at Sherlock's parentage. Sherlock couldn't resist tilting his penis to the side enough to aim a stream of semen right at Mycroft's favorite chair.

"Oh, fucking bloody hell," Michael said, finally releasing his knees. His hands moved to cover his face, and he groaned. "I've never been so glad to come in my life. You are an utter bastard, do you know that?"

Sherlock pulled the plug out of his arsehole, and winced slightly in sympathy at the reddened skin. "You did say you were up for anything, as long as I make you come. And that sounded like a rather spectacular orgasm."

"Yes." It sounded like a fairly reluctant admission.

"So it was worth it, in the end."

"No." Michael dropped his hands and looked up at the ceiling. "Well, maybe. I'm very confused right now."

Sherlock smirked. "Good."

Michael closed his eyes and winced. "My arse hurts. Jesus fuck, what was that thing?"

Sherlock held up the plug and Michael's eyes narrowed at it. "It felt a lot bigger when it was shoved up me for an hour."

"It was half an hour at most. And you opened right up for me, so I know you liked it."

"No, I don't think I did." Michael's head fell back against the rug. "I'll use it on you one day, and you'll see."

Sherlock chuckled. "Not bloody likely."

Michael was quiet for a long moment. "Why do I let you do this shit, anyway?"

Sherlock crawled over to him and leaned down to kiss him lightly on the lips. "Because you like the end result, I imagine." He pressed his mouth against Michael's, and after a strained moment, Michael yielded, kissing him back with an intensity that caught Sherlock off-guard.

Sherlock pulled out of the kiss and looked down at him. Michael's eyes were still closed, and he looked exhausted.

"I suppose I do. That's incredibly fucked up."

"Isn't it, though?" Sherlock pushed to his feet and crossed to the bar to pick up a package of cigarettes. He tapped two out and lit them both, then pressed one to Michael's lips. "At least we can be fucked up together."

Michael inhaled deeply and then opened his eyes. He stared up at the ceiling. "Yeah."



"Stay here," Michael half-shouted against the din around them. "I'll get us another round." He disappeared into the crowd and emerged again half a minute later in front of the long stainless steel bar. He wormed his way between the people huddled there and signaled to the bartender, whose flash of a smile was visible even from this distance.

Sherlock turned his attention back to the dance floor, watching the swarm of writhing bodies there. Lights flashed rhythmically on naked chests, drawing his eye to some of the more lewd dancing going on. There were seven couples miming various sexual acts, and another four who appeared not to be miming at all. The mating rituals of homosexual men were rather more fascinating than he'd anticipated.

Perhaps he should have considered visiting gay clubs before. The atmosphere was surprisingly hypnotic: the volume, the dim lighting, the smoke-filled air, the flashes of colored light, and nearly eighty people high on some variation of alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamines, and adrenalin – all of it combined to induce near sensory overload. The bass beat felt like it was in his chest now, making his heart beat faster than necessary for someone standing still. Dance music was specifically mixed that way, he'd read, to mimic the heartrate of arousal and excitement, to create a feeling of excitement in the listener. Though in his case, it was just as likely the cocaine.

"Here." Michael pressed against his side once again and held out a glass of suspiciously blue liquid.

Sherlock took it and had a polite sip. Michael was overly fond of edgy cocktails; Sherlock would have preferred a good brandy. "What's this one called?"

"A rim job, I think." Michael grinned.

"More sexual innuendo – exactly what the place was missing."

"Sling that back and dance with me."

Michael was already tugging his hand, and Sherlock abandoned the glass on a nearby table, let himself be led towards the dance floor. Once there, Michael wrapped himself around Sherlock and kissed him a bit too enthusiastically. Was that amount of tongue really necessary? Sherlock turned his head out of the kiss and pressed his lips against Michael's neck instead.

Michael hummed with pleasure. "There's a back room here, you know. Just as you requested."

Sherlock slid his arms around Michael's waist and Michael smiled; such displays of affection seemed to please him. "Good."

"So when are you going to tell me what you've planned?"

"Very soon." Sherlock turned him around and pressed against his back, moving with Michael as he looked around the dance floor. "First, I want you to choose someone." He trailed his lips up Michael's neck. "The hottest man in the room."

"I think he's grinding his cock into my arse right now." Michael tilted his head back to nip at Sherlock's ear.

Sherlock leaned out of biting range. "Do try to focus. If you could have anyone here, who would it be?"

Michael was quiet for a moment. "Okay, that one, the blond in the blue shirt."

"Swedish tourist," Sherlock said. "Here tonight on his own. Perfect."

Michael laughed. "Yeah, that arse is rather perfect, isn't it?"

Sherlock brushed his lips against Michael's ear. "I want you to suck his cock."

Michael froze against him, stopped moving entirely. "What?"

"You heard me. I want you to take him to the back room, get on your knees, and suck his cock while I watch."

Michael turned to look at him, his eyes narrow. "Why?"

"Because I would find it unbearably erotic." Michael looked suspicious, even uncertain, and Sherlock forced a smile, kissed him in the way that always seemed to make Michael's knees go weak. "I don't want him to touch you or even kiss you – you're all mine. But I want to see you walk over there and tell him you're going to give him the best blow job he's ever had, and I want you to make him come in under three minutes."

"Shit," Michael said, turning to look at the man again. His tongue darted out to brush his lower lip. "And you just want to watch?"


"Did you bring—"

"In my pocket."

Michael's eyes remained fixed on his target. "Are you sure about this? Because I have to admit I'd like to do it. But not if it's going to freak you out."

Sherlock chuckled against his neck. "Surely you understand me better than that by now."

"I don't understand you at all most of the time." Michael swallowed, and Sherlock felt the movement of his throat under his lips. "And what about you? Do you want to—"

"No, I just want to watch you." It was more than that, of course; he wanted to push Michael, to make him do increasingly interesting things, to see just how much control he could exert over another person. The idea was heady, erotic: the thought of Michael on his knees, doing this because Sherlock told him to – it was already affecting him. He ground his half-hard penis against Michael's arse and tried to find words that would convey what he was feeling, words that would make Michael understand – or at least want to comply. He brushed the shell of Michael's ear with his lips. "You've no idea how much I want to watch this, how hot it would be for me to see you with him."

Michael exhaled, shivered just slightly. "Oh, God, you… All right. I'll do it."

He turned and pressed a hard kiss to Sherlock's mouth and then slid a hand into Sherlock's pocket. He pulled out a condom and lifted it to his forehead in a mock salute, then grinned and walked across the dance floor towards the man, a cocky spring in his step already. Sherlock stayed rooted to the spot, unmoving in the midst of the dancing crowd, watching as Michael wrapped a hand around the man's bicep and leaned up to whisper in his ear. The expression on the man's face shifted to one of surprise and then interest, and when Michael turned to look at Sherlock, the man's eyes followed.

Sherlock shifted his stance without thinking, melted into the role of boyfriend/voyeur, and stared back at the two of them. He smiled, just enough to convey his interest, but not enough to leave any doubt as to who was in control here. The man nodded very slightly at Sherlock and then turned back to Michael. A moment later, they were heading off of the dance floor toward a doorway in the back corner of the club.

Sherlock followed, winding through the crowd, ignoring the curious glances of people he pushed past. Michael and his target disappeared around a corner, and it was a moment before Sherlock's eyes adjusted to the darkness. Dim recessed bulbs along the ceiling provided the only light, and the dark paint on the walls seemed to absorb much of it before it reached the room's occupants – and that was likely how they preferred it. Across the room, Michael's target leaned against the wall and pulled Michael toward him with one hand. Sherlock made his way past couples in various arrangements of sexual congress and leaned against the wall next to them. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes.

Michael fell to his knees and began unfastening the man's trousers. The concrete floor was sticky with all manner of substances, and Sherlock's nose wrinkled. Michael's trousers would likely need to be burned by the end of the night. It was a small sacrifice, though; definitely worth it.

"This is Sherlock," Michael said, indicating him with a tilt of his head.

"Pleasure," Sherlock replied as he lit his cigarette. He exhaled a stream of smoke above his head and fixed the man with a steady gaze.

"Fredrik. You two do this often?"

Sherlock smiled at the hint of an accent and said, "Yes," at the exact same moment that Michael said, "No." Sherlock laughed and Michael rolled his eyes, and Fredrik's eyes narrowed.

"Sorry, love." Sherlock raised the cigarette to his lips again. "I forgot that you like them to feel special." He exhaled and shrugged as casually as he could manage. "I like to watch him suck cocks. He's rather good at it."

Fredrik's smile was cool. "You only watch?"

"Yes. It won't be a threesome, if that's what you mean."

Fredrik threaded a hand in Michael's hair, and Michael continued to unfasten his trousers. "Pity."

"Isn't it just?" Michael said, staring at Fredrik's cock with an expression of sheer hunger.

It was an interesting cock, Sherlock had to concede, and rather larger than average. Sherlock tilted his head to get a better look as Michael ripped open the condom packet and rolled it on. It appeared to be a fairly tight fit.

Fredrik chuckled and tugged Michael's head towards his groin. Michael seemed to calculate for a moment, then opened his mouth wide and sucked Fredrik's cock in as far as he could manage – which was farther than Sherlock had expected, fuck. Fredrik groaned appreciatively and Michael went to work, his head bobbing and his lips stretched obscenely around the thick cock in front of him. He wrapped the fingers of one hand around the base of the shaft and tugged at Fredrik's balls with the other.

"Fuck, yes," Fredrik said through clenched teeth. "You are good at this." The hand resting on top of Michael's head slid to the back of his skull and pushed slightly. "Can you take more? Oh, just like that."

Sherlock took a long drag off the cigarette. His brain was blazing now, fueled by the cocktail of cocaine and alcohol, nicotine and endorphins, and the sight before him was maddeningly perfect. Michael was so beautifully willing to try things, to let Sherlock bend him and twist him. Fredrik pushed a bit too hard and Michael made a soft sound and winced, and the jolt of arousal that Sherlock felt was enough to make him close his eyes for a moment.

God, that was… Sherlock glanced at his watch: one minute so far. Michael had two more minutes to finish him off.

Time ticked by excruciatingly slowly, punctuated by the gasps of people around them, sounds of other orgasms happening in the darkness, the very male scents of sweat and semen mixed with lube and latex. Michael's mouth moved rhythmically, the line of his throat interrupted by swallows and shadow. His eyes were open, occasionally darting up to Fredrik's face, to his chest heaving beneath the tight blue t-shirt.

At last Fredrik clenched his jaw, tightened his hand in Michael's hair, and grunted as his head fell back against the wall. Sherlock glanced at his watch and smirked, then stubbed out the cigarette on the wall. Michael sat back on his heels and grinned.

"Four minutes, fifteen seconds," Sherlock said, fixing him with a mock stern look.

Michael laughed and looked up at him. "You actually timed it?"

"That was fast, for me." They both turned to look at Fredrik, who was tugging off the condom. "It usually takes much longer."

"Perhaps so, but not fast enough for the game we're playing." Sherlock pushed off the wall. "Come, Michael. I'll give you another chance." He turned away and headed back to the dance floor, and pointedly ignored the indignant sputtering behind him.

He was nearly back to the bar before Michael caught his wrist and spun him around.

"What the fuck are you playing at?"

Sherlock glanced down at the fingers digging into his wrist and frowned. Michael released him, but the bewildered expression on his face didn't diminish.

"Your task was to make him come in under three minutes, and you did not complete it. So pick another one and we'll try again."

Michael gaped at him for a full second, and then laughed. "You're full of shit, do you know that? For a moment there, I believed you." Sherlock stared back at him, and Michael's smile faded. "You're serious? You can't be serious."

"Three minutes, and not a second more." Sherlock paused to straighten the cuffs of his shirt, and then raised his eyebrow at Michael. Michael's face was a storm of emotion, and for a moment Sherlock suspected he'd finally pushed too far. Michael looked away, out across the dance floor, and then turned a defiant face back to Sherlock.

"What do I get, then?"

"What do you mean?"

"If I decide to play your game, what do I get when I win?"

Sherlock couldn't help but smile. "Isn't pleasing me reward enough in itself?"

"Fuck you, no. I want something in return. Something well worth sucking half a dozen cocks for your amusement." He raised his eyebrows, as if in challenge.

So now they were negotiating for control. Interesting. Sherlock stared back at him for a moment, running through several scenarios at once. What would Michael want in return? What was Sherlock willing to offer? He waited to see if Michael would suggest something, but he remained silent, waiting – letting Sherlock take the lead in this as he did in nearly everything else.

And yes, there was something Michael wanted but wouldn't ask for: to be given the opportunity to take the lead, to have some control over Sherlock, for once. Sherlock pursed his lips and considered. He found the idea moderately distasteful, but he could bear it for a short while, of course. It would be a small sacrifice, and the precedent it set could be a rather useful one, should he want to continue with these sorts of games in the future.

Sherlock reached out for Michael, grasped one shoulder and pulled him close, and pressed his lips to Michael's ear. "I'll let you fuck me."

Michael leaned back and stared up at his face, clearly astonished. They'd never discussed anal sex at all, and the only arse play they'd engaged in had been completely one-sided. Michael's eyes sparked with interest now, though, and his earlier anger faded away completely. The corners of his lips turned up very slowly into an expression far more like a smirk than a smile. Sherlock felt a small thrill of satisfaction: he'd guessed correctly.

"You're on. But first—" He grabbed Sherlock by the wrist and tugged him away from the dance floor, over to one of the dark booths lining the walls of the club. He pushed Sherlock toward the booth and moved around him to slide across one of the wooden benches. He pulled a small bag from his pocket, carefully poured its contents on the table, and then dug into his pocket.

Sherlock settled on the bench opposite and smirked. "Need a bit of courage?"

"Fuck you, I'm coming down." He used a credit card to break up small clumps of cocaine and then divided the pile into four neat lines. He then rolled a ten pound note into a tight roll and used it to snort two of the lines, one with each nostril. "Yeah, fuck. That's going to hit fucking hard." He held out the rolled bill.

Sherlock took it and finished the other two lines. It was a glorious high, far better than the calming clarity of nicotine or the euphoric numbing of heroin, or anything else he'd tried. He could already feel his neurons firing faster, could pinpoint the moment his brain began to work more efficiently. It was glorious.

He opened his eyes to see Michael standing, hopping lightly on the balls of his feet. He eyes were focused on the crowd, all business now. "There's got to be a few minute men in here. How about that one?" He started off across the floor without waiting for a reply, and Sherlock could barely stifle his grin.

He watched as Michael walked over to a dark-haired man who'd been eyeing the dance floor wistfully – 25 years old, closeted at work and to his family, mediocre stockbroker, never had a serious boyfriend – no, there was likely one, years ago, but it ended badly – here tonight looking for a quick shag, wanked before he came (better not to warn Michael about that – God that was fucking good cocaine) –and nearly laughed aloud at the expression on the man's face when Michael whispered into his ear. Michael nodded his head to indicate the door to the back room, and turned away, not even glancing back to see if the man would follow. The man stared after Michael for a moment, blinking as if he couldn't quite believe what had just happened, and then downed the rest of his drink and followed.

By the time Sherlock wormed his way through the crowd and into the darkness of the back room, Michael already had Stockbroker pushed up against the wall. He looked over his shoulder as if sensing Sherlock's arrival, and grinned wickedly before dropping to his knees and working on Stockbroker's flies. "Give me a condom."

Sherlock fished one out of his pocket and tossed it; Michael caught it easily. "Ta. You gonna time me?"

"Of course." The cocaine was really starting to kick in now and his brain was racing, clear, on fire. He briefly considered timing them mentally – he knew without a doubt that he could, accurate to 0.5 seconds – but Michael would likely prefer hard evidence. He pressed a few buttons on his watch. "Ready when you are."

"Wait, what's this?" Stockbroker was glancing back and forth between them, clearly uneasy.

Michael laughed and ripped open the condom packet. "Easy, love. My boyfriend likes to watch. You don't mind?"

Stockbroker stared over at Sherlock with narrowed eyes. "Just watch?"

"Yes, of course. I'm timing him as well. Or, I suppose, timing you. You don't mind, do you?"

Stockbroker blinked and looked down at Michael again. "What the fuck for?"

"We have a bet," Michael told him, now easing his pants down to reveal a half-hard cock dangling between his pale thighs. "He doesn't think I can get you off in less than three minutes." He let his gaze fall to Stockbroker's cock and tilted his head appraisingly, then wet his lips. "But I believe it's worth a shot, don't you?"

"What do you win?"

"I finally get to fuck him." Michael's eyes sparkled and he looked over at Sherlock. "And I really really want to do that."

Sherlock smirked in response. This plan was working out so much better than he'd anticipated.

Stockbroker stared down at Michael for a long moment, and then shook his head and laughed. "That is ridiculously fucked up. What happens if you lose?"

Michael gave Stockbroker's cock a few long strokes and then rolled the condom on. "I never lose," he said, and then swallowed Stockbroker's cock in one smooth movement.

Stockbroker turned out to be a lip biter, much to Sherlock's amusement. He also didn't seem sure what to do with his hands, and settled for placing them rather awkwardly on his hips. Michael put in a serious effort, even breaking out in a sweat near the end. Stockbroker's hands were finally in Michael's hair by the time he came, pulling Michael against his belly hard enough that Michael pushed off with no small amount of annoyance. He gasped and slid down the wall afterwards, and Michael grinned up at Sherlock.


"Three minutes, forty seconds."

Michael's cocky grin faded. "What? No, that's impossible."

Sherlock unfastened his wrist watch and handed it over so that he could see the timer stopped on 3:40. Michael pulled a face and tossed it back to him.

"Fuck. Okay, one more, then."

The next man was a tall ginger named Brad who turned out to be a visiting American university student. Sherlock told Michael when the three-minute mark was passed, and Michael pulled off with a groan and finished Brad with his hand.

They had a round of drinks after that, during which Michael lamented that they'd already snorted all the cocaine.

Number four was a plump ruddy-faced student whom Sherlock suspected was actually underage.

"You've got three minutes to come," Michael told him as he rolled the condom on. "When three minutes are done, I'm going to walk away. Got it?"

"It'd be a hell of a lot easier if I didn't have an audience." He stared at Sherlock with narrow eyes.

"Ignore him," Michael said. "No, don't even look at him. He's trying to freak you out. Eyes on me."

Sherlock smirked: it was like telling someone not to think of an elephant. Number Four's eyes darted between Michael and Sherlock the entire time, and when Sherlock signaled that three minutes were up, Michael didn't say a word. He pulled off, stood, and stalked off, leaving Number Four gaping in surprise.

"What the fuck am I supposed to do about this?" he asked, gesturing down at his condom-covered erection.

Sherlock gave him an arch look and walked away. Michael was already wrapped around another man on the dance floor by the time he got there, and Sherlock leaned against the wall to watch. This game had been far more interesting than he'd expected. Michael's mounting desperation was thrilling, exhilarating. Perhaps the task he'd set was an impossible one, considering the amount of alcohol and drugs most of the club's patrons were consuming. How far could he push Michael tonight? How many times would he do this until he admitted defeat? And what else would he be willing to do for the privilege of fucking Sherlock?

Michael didn't even look at Sherlock when he tugged Number Five through the doorway. Sherlock followed and leaned against the wall next to where Michael had positioned the man. He pulled a condom packet out of his pocket and tossed it to Michael.

"This is the last condom, by the way."

"Then I suppose I'd best pull out all the stops for this one."

"Giving up so soon?" Sherlock pulled a cigarette from the pocket and raised it to his lips. "There's a machine in the toilets, you know. Three for a quid."

"Are you going to suck me off or not?"

They both turned to look at the man Michael had pulled in from the dance floor. He was tall and rather burly, with a tight black t-shirt. Sherlock frowned: steroid abuse, covering up massive insecurities, possible difficulty maintaining an erection. He chuckled.

"What?" Michael asked.

Sherlock shrugged. "I wouldn't choose this one if I were you."

"What the fuck?" The man pushed off the wall and loomed menacingly close. "Back off. He invited me back for a quick one, and he didn't say nothin' about no audience."

Sherlock rolled his eyes and glanced down at Michael. "Honestly, this is the best you can do?"

Michael sat back on his heels and frowned. "No, it's not, actually. Never mind, mate." He stood and started to walk away.

The man reached out to grab Michael's wrist, but Sherlock stepped in before he quite got there and pressed him back against the wall with a hand around his throat.

"I don't think you want to fuck with us tonight, mate." He glared and tightened his hand around the man's throat, and smirked when his expression shifted to something akin to panic. He'd guessed correctly then.

"Easy, shit. You can have 'im if you really want him."

Sherlock stepped back and straightened the cuffs on his shirt. He gave the man one more dismissive glance before turning and walking away.

Michael lunged for him when he emerged onto the dance floor, and Sherlock found himself at the receiving end of an extremely invasive kiss.

"God, that was so fucking hot," Michael said, his mouth making its way across Sherlock's jaw now. "That bloke had two stone on you, nearly three, and you just—" His words faded into a moan against Sherlock's neck.

Sherlock couldn't help smirking. "Are you forfeiting, then?"

Michael pulled back and looked away, across the club. His eyes swept the crowd and then settled back on Sherlock's again. "Hell, no. I never quit and I never lose." He leaned in and bit down on Sherlock's earlobe, hard enough that Sherlock winced. "And you're not going to be able to sit down for a week when I'm done with you."

Sherlock clenched his jaw. "You've got to earn it first."

"Don't worry. I will." Michael took two steps backward, and the expression on his face was startlingly dark. He turned and walked away again, and Sherlock exhaled slowly. Had he pushed too far? It wasn't clear; his brain was becoming frustratingly thick as the cocaine high wore off. He swallowed and pressed the now slightly mauled cigarette between his lips again, and fumbled in his pocket for a lighter.

By the time he'd lit the cigarette and taken a satisfying pull from it, Michael was already steering his next target into the back room. Sherlock leaned back against the wall and exhaled, then pushed off to follow.

He rounded the corner once again to see Michael rolling a condom on the erection of a young man with more tattoos and piercings than Sherlock had ever seen displayed on a single human being. Even his penis was tattooed, which sent Sherlock down a spiral of tangential thoughts for nearly a full minute.

"Ready?" Michael said, snapping him back to the present. He clamped the cigarette between his teeth and set the timer on his watch, then looked back up at Michael again. "Don't start timing until I touch him."

"Of course." Sherlock frowned: what did he mean by that?

A small crowd gathered around – apparently it had become obvious that there was a competition of some sort going on – and money began to exchange hands. Michael seemed oblivious to it all, though; his focus narrowed to the task before him. He stared at the cock hanging in front of his face for a long moment, and then looked up. The expression on his face was one Sherlock had never seen before. It was pure sex, heat, lust, and it had the desired effect: Tattooed Man's smile broadened and his eyes almost glazed over.

"You want to fuck my mouth?" Michael asked, leaning close enough to breathe against the thin latex, but still not quite touching.


"You want to ram it down my throat and choke me with it? God, I hope you do. I hope I can't even fucking breathe."

"That's right, you little cock-slut." He stroked Michael's hair with one inked hand. "And if you pass out, I'll keep fucking your mouth until I come down your throat."

"Yes, fuck my mouth, do it." Michael's eyes fluttered closed as if the very idea had sent him into near-ecstasy.

"Take, it, take it all," the man said, and he sank his hands into Michael's hair and pressed his cock between Michael's lips, the expression on his face indicating he was half-gone already.

Sherlock swore softly around the cigarette. No one noticed, though; everyone's eyes were glued on the action. That had been… brilliant, as loath as he was to admit it. Michael had read the man, had worked out exactly what he wanted, and even though Sherlock knew for a fact that Michael wasn't the slightest bit turned on by the idea of choking on a cock until he passed out, he'd been completely convincing. It was astonishingly hot.

Michael made small moaning sounds around the man's cock, sounds that could have been from pain or pleasure, or a mix of both, and the effect it had on the target was undeniable. The man's hips were rocking back and forth, pressing his cock deep into Michael's throat and pulling out again, over and over at a pace Sherlock wasn't certain he could have accommodated himself. Yet Michael appeared to be enjoying it, relishing it, even. He pressed one hand against his trousers and squeezed, as if rubbing his own cock through the fabric.

Sherlock's eyes narrowed: he knew what Michael looked like with an erection, and he clearly didn't have one now, but Sherlock doubted anyone watching would be aware that it was an act. Michael was very good at this, better than Sherlock had previously realized. Did that mean he'd been acting with Sherlock, all this time, that he had only pretended to enjoy their sexual encounters? He felt a strange twist in his chest at the thought.

If it were true, did it matter? Sherlock was satisfied with the arrangement between them. Michael had so far agreed to play these increasingly interesting games, and he rarely complained or resisted. He allowed Sherlock full access to his body, to his nervous system, and even, to an extent, to his brain. And in return, he'd received… sexual pleasure, at the very least. Companionship, certainly. Was that enough? It occurred to Sherlock that he'd never asked what Michael wanted. He'd assumed. He frowned.

"Yes, take it, you little whore, swallow it down, choke on it, ahhhh."

The porn-worthy dialogue pulled Sherlock out of his thoughts, back to the scene before him. Michael was genuinely red in the face now, and though he was trying to keep up the charade, it was clear he wasn't enjoying the encounter quite as much as he wanted the target to believe.

Sherlock glanced down at his watch, only to realize that he'd forgotten to start the timer. Shit. He looked up again, and it was clear that the man was close, almost finished, just a few strokes more and that would be all. Sherlock's stomach clenched. If it wasn't over soon, he'd call time, and then they'd go home, perhaps call it a draw. It was pointless to continue, anyway: he'd got what he wanted out of this. Michael had demonstrated his willingness to expand the game, and the possibilities were nearly limitless.

The man finally came with a grunt and Michael pulled off, sputtering for breath. He sank back on his heels and panted, and seemed to steel himself before looking up at Sherlock.

Sherlock bit his lip for moment and then let his expression fold into a cool smile. "Two minutes, 55 seconds. We have a winner."

Michael grinned triumphantly and pushed to his feet, and Sherlock turned and walked away before any of the gathered crowd could contradict him.

Michael caught him halfway across the dance floor with a hand on his shoulder, and Sherlock turned to look at him. Michael stared at him for a moment before leaning in and kissing him roughly. He tasted like latex and smelled of the mingled sweat of the last few men he'd sucked, and the combination was simultaneously disgusting and intriguing.

"Where do you think you're going?" Michael's grip on his arm tightened to the point of pain. "I want my prize."

Sherlock clenched his jaw. Michael intended to do it here, in front of all of those people in the back room. He supposed it was fair, considering, but the thought of it was… uncomfortable. No, not here, not with these people watching. He didn't expect to enjoy the act, but he at least wanted it to occur in private.

"You'll get it soon enough. I'll hail a cab." He pried Michael's hand off of his bicep and turned again, walking swiftly for the entrance of the club. He didn't look back to see if Michael was following.

The cool, damp air of the night hit his face and he exhaled, desperate for a cigarette, for a hit, for a drink, for something, anything to take the edge off of this sudden anxiety coursing through his veins. He raised his hand as an empty cab approached, and then Michael's shoulder pressed against his.

"A solid week, Sherlock. I promise you that."

Sherlock turned to look at him, at the darkly smug expression on his face, and looked away again. The taxi stopped at the kerb and the driver rolled the window down, and Sherlock gave him the address.

He felt Michael's hand slide under his coat, across his arse, and then press up between his buttocks, shoving the fabric uncomfortably between.

"I can't wait to get these off of you." Michael's breath was hot against his ear, almost wet. "I may shove my whole fist up there, just to see if you can take it."

Sherlock pushed his hand away and shot him a mild glare. "Get in the cab."

Michael smirked and opened the door, and then Sherlock realized exactly what he needed to regain his equilibrium. He leaned close to the window again and caught the driver's eye. "I'll give you a hundred quid if you don't look back and don't say a word."

The cabbie's eyes narrowed, but he nodded. Sherlock slid onto the seat next to Michael and closed the door, and the cab pulled away. He turned to look at Michael, who was still grinning triumphantly, and the spike of anger and anxiety he felt nearly derailed him. He unbuttoned his coat and unfastened his trousers, and before Michael even had a chance to ask him what he was doing, he grabbed the back of Michael's head and pushed his face down into his lap.

"Just one more to go, and I'm all yours. Make me come before we get there, or you'll have to settle for watching me wank."

Michael twisted out of his grip and glared at him. "I won! You can't change the fucking rules."

"You didn't win, the last time. I was merely getting bored of it."

Michael's eyes narrowed. "The fuck I didn't. You're lying."

Sherlock snorted. "Honestly, did that feel like three minutes to you?"

Michael hesitated for a moment and then looked away. "No. It felt like ten."

"Then you've got one more." He pushed his trousers and pants down enough to free his half-hard cock, and Michael stared down at it. "I estimate you have ten minutes before we arrive, so you'd best get started."

Michael remained still for a moment more, and then leaned over Sherlock's lap. Sherlock felt his cock engulfed in wet heat, felt that tongue swirl against sensitive skin, and he closed his eyes and let his head fall back against the seat. He tangled his fingers in Michael's hair and yes, this was it, this was what he needed. He was in control of this, and nothing would happen that he didn't explicitly want. And Michael knew it, had just conceded it, and it was glorious.

He opened his eyes again and watched Michael's head bob in his lap. His eyes flicked up to the rear view mirror, but the cabbie seemed to be honoring the agreement.

"You were gorgeous tonight, do you know that?" Sherlock couldn't keep the hitch from his breath when Michael took him down to the root, swallowing obscenely. "You were perfect, so very good for me."

Michael made a small whimpering sound and Sherlock petted his head. He let the images of the evening play across his mind, of Michael on his knees, letting his mouth be used and fucked, all because Sherlock had asked him to do it. All for Sherlock.

Streetlights flashed across Michael's hair as he moved, and Sherlock was reminded of the lights on the dance floor of the club, colors striping the tight white shirt he'd worn, now covered by his jacket. The way Michael had moved against him and pulled him close, before Sherlock had explained why they were there – he'd been happy to be out, to play the part of Sherlock's boyfriend.

But it wasn't a part – or was it? Was that what they were?

Michael's hand worked between his thighs and tugged gently on his testicles, and Sherlock stroked his hair in appreciation. The other hand was wrapped around the base, stroking the shaft while Michael's mouth worked the glans, his tongue wriggling furiously against the frenulum, with just enough suction to—

The beginnings of his orgasm caught him by surprise, knocked him back against the seat with a hand over his mouth to stifle the impulse to cry out. He'd intended to last until the cab turned onto the street, to keep Michael working for it until the very last moment, but his control was faltering, his emotions suddenly raging. The intensity was startling and he tightened his hands in Michael's hair, belatedly realizing that the noise Michael made was probably more one of pain than pleasure. Michael kept sucking him through it, pulling every last tremor of orgasm from his body before sitting back and wiping a hand across his mouth.

Sherlock scrubbed at his face with his hands and fastened his trousers, and looked over at him. Michael stared out the window and tapped lightly on the glass with one finger. His face was turned away enough that Sherlock couldn't see his expression, though the tension in his body was clear.

Sherlock tossed a handful of bills at the smirking cabbie before following Michael up the front steps of the brownstone. He unlocked the door and gestured Michael through. The house was dark and quiet as Michael led the way up the stairs to Sherlock's room. He waited by the door for Sherlock to open it and then closed it behind him. Sherlock didn't turn to look at him; he undressed quickly and dropped his clothes to the floor, and then stood in the center of the room. Artificial light filtered in through the sheer curtains, casting odd shadows on the floor. Michael's face was wrapped in darkness still; his arms were folded across his chest and his feet were planted wide, and Sherlock felt oddly vulnerable. He hadn't let himself think much about what would happen. It was only his body, after all, and he could handle a certain amount of pain, but now he found the idea of giving Michael control in such a direct way to be… unpleasant.

No matter, though: Michael had fulfilled his end of the deal and now it was Sherlock's turn. He forced a smile and crossed to the bedside table, then tossed a condom packet and bottle of lube onto the bed before looking across the room.

"How do you want me?"

Michael stepped forward then, took a handful of steps until they were standing face to face. He reached out with one hand to touch Sherlock's cheek, and for a moment Sherlock thought Michael would kiss him. He didn't, though; he dropped his hand again and didn't smile. "On your stomach."

"Right." Sherlock stretched out on the bed and pillowed his face on his forearms, and waited. He heard the sound of a zip being drawn down and the rustle of fabric as Michael removed his trousers and pants. The mattress dipped and one of Michael's knees nudged Sherlock's thighs apart before settling between them.

"Lift," Michael said, and positioned a pillow under Sherlock's hips.

Sherlock exhaled slowly. His arse was in the air now and with his thighs spread, he felt completely exposed. Michael's hands smoothed down his back and over his buttocks, and then pressed them apart.

"You've no idea how often I've fantasized about this," Michael said. His voice was soft, almost a whisper. Sherlock felt a fingertip trace a circle around his anus and his body twitched involuntarily. Michael chuckled. "No one's ever touched you here, have they? I'll be the first."

There was a pause and then something cold and slick dripped onto his anus, and Sherlock sucked in a breath. It was followed by Michael's finger again, pressing inside him in a quick, rough movement. The sensation was odd, and it felt different than when he'd done it to himself. Michael pressed the finger in to the knuckle and pulled it out again, and oh, that was bizarre. Even more lube, and then the finger returned, sliding in and out, twisting a bit. The tissue of the rectum was remarkably sensitive, more so than he'd realized.

There was more pressure then, and Sherlock realized there were two fingers inside him now. The stretch was more intense, but nothing he'd call painful. He felt himself start to relax – perhaps it wouldn't be so difficult after all.

"God, this is so hot, seeing you like this. I could do this for hours."

Sherlock stifled a groan of annoyance. "I thought you wanted to fuck me."

Michael's fingers stilled. "I want you to ask me."

"Ask you what?"

"Ask me to fuck you."

Sherlock felt a wave of irritation. The idea of begging for something that he'd already offered seemed ridiculous now that it was turned around. "Fine. Fuck me."

Michael's fingers slid out and there was a sharp slap on Sherlock's arse. "No, Sherlock. Ask. Nicely."

Sherlock sighed as dramatically as he could manage with his face pressed against the duvet. "Please, won't you fuck me, Michael?"

"I suppose it was too much to hope for no sarcasm."

The muttered "Definitely" earned him another stinging slap. Michael didn't seem to want to press the issue though; the mattress moved a bit as Michael sat back on his heels. Sherlock heard the sound of a condom package being ripped open, and then there was a soft slick sound as Michael rolled it on.

One of Michael's hands moved back to his hips, and Sherlock felt the head of Michael's cock press against his anus. It felt an order of magnitude larger than a fingertip, and though he knew in theory that this was physically possible, discomfort was beginning to seem like a distinct possibility.

"God, I'm going to enjoy this," Michael said, and then he pushed forward.

The severity of the pain caught Sherlock completely by surprise. He jerked forward, but Michael held his hips tight and grunted, and didn't stop pushing in. Sherlock's eyes watered and his hands clenched the duvet beneath him, and he couldn't stop himself from making a strangled sound.

"Jesus, you idiot, you've got to relax. It's not supposed to hurt." Michael's voice sounded strained, as if he was in pain as well.

"Easy for you to say," Sherlock managed through gritted teeth. To his immense frustration, his body absolutely refused to listen to his brain, instead continuing its campaign to push the intruder out. It was infuriating, and fuck, it hurt, with no sign of abating. Worse, he had no idea how long he'd have to bear it; he'd spent the last few weeks trying to delay Michael's orgasms as long as possible.

"Here, just let me—" Michael's cock began to retreat slightly, and for a moment Sherlock thought he was going to pull out, but he stopped and pushed in again, and this time Sherlock couldn't stop himself from groaning in pain. "Fucking relax, you git."

"Just fuck me already and get it over with!"

Michael stilled behind him for a moment before muttering, "Fine." He began to move at a rapid pace then, pumping his cock into Sherlock's arse.

Sherlock worked to even out his breathing, desperately trying to regain control of his body's response. Slowly, the pain began to ease as his sphincter relaxed, and he groaned in relief. Now it just felt… bizarre. The friction was annoying and the sense of fullness made him uncomfortable, and he began to wonder when it would be over.

"There, that's it. Better now, right?" Michael's grip on his hip loosened, and a hand smoothed over Sherlock's lower back. He paused with his cock pressed all the way in, and leaned over to place a kiss between Sherlock's shoulder blades. "Now, get up on your knees a bit more. You're going to like this, I promise."

Sherlock rolled his eyes into the pillow as he complied. He felt ridiculous with his arse in the air like this. There was a sound of footsteps from the floor above, and Sherlock went completely still.

"Big brother home early?" Michael chuckled softly and began moving again, and the angle was different now. "What would he think if he saw his baby brother with a cock up his arse?"

Sherlock felt a momentary stab of panic at the thought before pushing it aside. Logically, Mycroft probably already knew they were here, and he'd likely be able to work out what was going on no matter how discreet they were. "Very little I do shocks him."

"If you can still form sentences, I must not have found it yet." Michael shifted forward and changed the angle yet again.

Sherlock's lips were forming the words found what? when he felt Michael's cock press against his prostate, and oh, right – he'd forgotten that was one of the main goals of this activity. He angled his hips a bit more and yes, there – it felt good, more so than he'd expected.

"Like that, do you? I thought you would." Michael's hands smoothed over his buttocks and pressed them apart, apparently enjoying the sight of his penis disappearing into Sherlock's body. "I knew that if I could just get you like this, you'd be a slut for it. God, you look hot like this. Maybe next time I'll tie your hands to the bedrails, see how you like it when you just have to take it."

The arousal that had begun building in Sherlock dissipated almost instantly. No, that wasn't what he wanted, and neither was this. Michael had fulfilled his part of the bargain and so Sherlock would as well, but he had no intention of ever letting Michael get him in this position again.

Michael continued his feeble attempts at erotic talk, but Sherlock didn't listen. He barely paid attention to what was happening to his body; he let this mind drift to other things, to the thought of what he'd do to Michael next time, to when he might be able to acquire some more cocaine, and to whether or not Mycroft had worked out what they were up to. He became aware that Michael's pace was becoming more erratic, which somehow accentuated the irritation he was beginning to feel in his arse, and gritted his teeth.

"Oh, fuck, yeah, that's… I'm…" Michael pressed deep into him and groaned, and finally went still.

Sherlock couldn't help groaning in relief. He had to grit his teeth while Michael pulled out, and then he rolled over onto his back and sat up. Carefully.

Michael pulled off the condom and made a face. "You might want to go clean up."

Sherlock shot him a mild glare and headed for the en suite. Michael was standing at the window when Sherlock returned, staring out.

"Was it worth it?" Sherlock asked after a moment.

"Worth what?"

"Performing oral sex on strangers. Was it worth that just to get to fuck me?"

Michael didn't turn around. "You didn't enjoy that at all, did you?"


"Was it worth it to you to see me debase myself over and over again?"

"Yes." Sherlock crossed to the bedside table and fumbled for his cigarettes.

Michael was quiet for a while, and Sherlock smoked his cigarette and let him alone. The tension between them was obvious, and he wasn't sure what to say or do next. His instincts usually were wrong in this sort of situation.

"What the fuck are we doing, anyway?"

"Having a bit of fun, last I checked." Sherlock took one last drag and stubbed out the cigarette against the varnished surface of the table.

"Fun," Michael repeated. "We get high, and I let you do freaky shit to me."

"You like it."

"No, I don't." Michael finally turned to look at him. "I like you, Sherlock, and you apparently like massively warped sex."

Sherlock pressed his lips together. This wasn't right – they'd discussed it early on, and Michael had known what Sherlock wanted. Hadn't he? A strange sensation filled his chest, something akin to panic. "You said you wanted to experiment."

"No, you said that. I thought it would be every now and then, you know, just occasionally tying each other up or something." He stopped and shook his head. "But it seems to be a one way street. You have no intention of letting me do those things to you, do you?"

Sherlock shook his head and looked away.

Michael sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face. "This is just… this is the most fucked up relationship I've ever been in. I don't even… I don't know. Fuck it, I'm going to go now."

The panic shifted into something else now, something hollow, and Sherlock didn't know what to say.

Michael didn't look at him as he dressed. Sherlock sat naked on the bed and watched him, his mind spinning. He'd been certain Michael had enjoyed it these last few weeks. How had he read it all so wrong?

Michael crossed to the door and paused with his hand on the knob. He didn't look back, and his shoulders sagged. "I'll ring you in a few days, yeah?"

"If you like."

Michael hesitated, as if he wanted to say something more, but he didn't. He opened the door and showed himself out.

Sherlock curled up on his bed in the darkness, and tried very hard not to think.



His phone didn't ring for four days. When it finally rang, he dug it out of his pocket and stared at it for so long that people around him in the library began shooting him glares. He took a deep breath and flipped it open.


"Sherlock. Look, I'm only going to say this once, so shut up and listen, all right?"

Sherlock sighed into the phone.

"The only way I can do this thing with you is if I can convince myself it's something that can approximate normal and sane. So I want us to start by going out somewhere, like to dinner, on a real date. And if that goes well, I want us to have completely normal, vanilla sex, where no one is tied up and we both just enjoy it. And if that goes well, we'll see."

Sherlock closed his eyes. He wasn't normal. He wasn't anything close to normal in any area of his life, and especially not in this one. And he didn't particularly want to be. If this was a dealbreaker for Michael, then it was probably best to end it now. Make a clean break, and then delete the whole thing.

He should say that, should say, "No, this isn't going to work out. Goodbye." But he found he couldn't say anything.

There was a soft sigh from the other end of the line. "Sherlock… It's not that I didn't enjoy it. I just need to know that's not all it's ever going to be."

And that was the problem, wasn't it? Sherlock was satisfied with the way things had been, had enjoyed it far more than he'd ever expected. But it wasn't enough for Michael. He wasn't enough, and he never would be.

"So you're giving me an ultimatum."

"No, I – okay, I see how it probably sounds like that, but… Fuck. I really like you, all right?"

Sherlock couldn't deny that he enjoyed Michael's company, even before they'd started having sex. These last few weeks had been some of the best of his life. He ought to have known there would be a price to pay for it. But if he could keep it, any of it, maybe he could bear the pretense of being normal, ordinary – boring – just a bit. It would be an interesting challenge, at the very least.

"All right."

"Okay, good." Relief was apparent in Michael's voice. "How about Friday night? Proper dinner date and all that?"

Sherlock closed his eyes, grimaced. "Yes, of course. I'll make a reservation."

He cut the call before he could change his mind.



Sherlock paused with his hand on the railing, and turned to look down at Mycroft standing on the main floor below. Mycroft's face was schooled into a mask of neutrality, and Sherlock groaned.

"Oh, God, we're not actually going to start doing this now, are we? Brotherly concern has hardly been your area."

"And romance has hardly been yours."

"It isn't romance, Mycroft; it's simply fucking."

"Judging by the expression on young Mr. Trevor's face when he left a few nights ago, and by the way you've done little more than mope despondently about the house ever since, I suspect you're wrong about that." Mycroft's concern was genuine, but he couldn't seem to help the tiniest hint of a superior smirk that formed on the corners of his lips.

Sherlock fixed his brother with a cold glare. "It's none of your concern, is it?"

Mycroft's expression hardened. "It is while you live in my house."

"Our house."

"Don't change the subject, Sherlock."

"Oh, I see. You're shocked and dismayed to learn that your baby brother takes it up the arse. Is that it?"

Mycroft didn't reply, and Sherlock turned away, continued up the stairs. He was nearly at the door of his bedroom when he heard his brother's voice again, accompanied by his footsteps on the stairs.

"Just be careful, will you?"

Sherlock didn't turn to look. "I'm always careful."

Mycroft paused at the top of the stairs. "If only that were true."

"I'm not taking risks with my health or his."

Mycroft made a small sound of frustration. "That's not what I meant."

Sherlock clenched his jaw and turned to look at him. "Then be plain about it, would you?"

"He cares for you more than you realize. And we both know you're incapable of returning the feeling."

"Shouldn't you be badgering him not to break my heart instead of the other way 'round?"

"If I was certain you had one, I would." Mycroft turned and walked away, leaving Sherlock staring after him.


Ten minutes in, it was clear that this had been a terrible idea. Once the server had taken the menus away and they'd been forced to look at one another, Michael had done little but chatter about ridiculous nonsense. Sherlock hated pointless small talk, and he'd thought Michael felt the same. Honestly, if this was really what relationships were like, he wanted no part of it.

"And then I said I wouldn't have it, you know? Can you believe they thought…?" Sherlock's eyes focused back on Michael's face, and Michael paused and sighed, and looked away. "Oh, God, I'm blathering like an idiot, aren't I? I'm incredibly fucking nervous tonight."


Michael's expression became incredulous. "Aren't you?"

"It will either be apparent that we can continue our relationship, or it won't. Frankly, I'm feeling rather pessimistic about it at the moment. Perhaps the sex will be better."

Michael blinked at him for a moment, and then laughed. It had been a while since Sherlock had heard him laugh so genuinely, and he couldn't help but smile in response.

"And there's the Sherlock I've missed these last few weeks."

The server brought their drinks, providing a momentary distraction, and Sherlock realized Michael had thought he'd been joking.

Michael was still smiling when the server left. "Clearly I'm off my game tonight."

Sherlock took a large drink to avoid replying. This was beyond excruciating.

Michael tried again. "Let's try something that isn't to do with either of us then. Did you read about that murder-suicide on the South Bank?"

"Double homicide, actually."

"No, the one that happened last week. The banker who killed his wife and then—"

"Yes, I've read the details of the case. The Met have, as usual, got it completely wrong. It was meant to look like a murder-suicide – wife supposedly having an affair, the husband finds her and kills her in outrage, turns the gun on himself. I suspect the DI in charge has read far too many sensational novels to see the facts clearly."

Michael's eyes narrowed. "What, you've got a theory of your own, then?"

Sherlock took another drink. "The banker was Stanley Offram, who'd spent considerable time traveling outside the country in the last few years, particularly to Russia, where I suspect he was involved in some very lucrative and illegal business dealings. He'd accumulated quite a collection of rare and expensive cars, apparently, which is impressive considering how the market has suffered of late."

"How do you know that?"

"There was an article in the Daily Mail about how his surviving siblings are already fighting over his estate. His wife's family is demanding their share, of course, and claim the allegations that she was having an affair are completely false."

"Well, they would say that, wouldn't they?"

"According to an article published a few weeks before the murders, Mrs. Offram's sister has a child who has been very ill for the last few months, and she had spent nearly every afternoon at the children's hospital in support. She became active in fundraising for the hospital, which was the main thrust of the article. That hardly sounds like a woman who has time for a lover, does it?"

"So what do you think happened?"

"Mr. Offram was murdered as a result of his shady business dealings, while out for an evening on the town with his wife. There was an opening of a new exhibit at the Tate Modern the night of the murders, and they were spotted there by witnesses. The police's theory was that they went for drinks after, got in a row about her supposed lover, perhaps having spotted him at the opening, and as a result he shot and killed her before turning the gun on himself. But none of the other evidence suggests he was a violent person, nor that he had any reason to suspect her of infidelity. And though he did own several registered firearms, they were all rifles of the sort used exclusively for hunting. Both victims were shot with an unregistered illegal handgun."

"Jesus, you really did your research on this one." Michael's forehead furrowed. "So are you going to tell the police?"

Sherlock snorted. "Why? It's not as if they'd catch the real killer anyway."

"They might." He picked up his glass and took another drink. "I'm fucking serious. You should ring them up and tell them this."

"And become the chief suspect on a case they've already closed?"

"You're right, and they're wrong. Isn't that important to you?"

"Nearly every minute of every day, someone is wrong about something. Pointing this out generally proves to be an exercise in futility."

Michael smiled ruefully. "In this case, you might be surprised."

"I remain skeptical."

"As always."

Though the remainder of their dinner conversation was not unpleasant, it lacked the easy enthusiasm of the banter of their pre-sex friendship. Sherlock frowned as he picked at his main course: had the sex ruined the part of their friendship he'd valued most? He'd thought of it as a side benefit of their friendship, but it was clear that something had changed between them after that first sexual encounter.

"You're finished, aren't you?" He looked up to see Michael staring at him, eyes glazed from the amount of alcohol he'd consumed.

"Yes. I'm not terribly hungry."

Michael's smile turned nearly wicked. "Then why don't we pay the bill and get out of here?"

Sherlock felt a small stab of excitement at the clear desire on Michael's face. Apparently Michael had thought dinner a success, that it had approximated normal enough for his needs. It hadn't been entirely excruciating for Sherlock, either – perhaps it would all be fine after all.

The cab ride seemed extraordinarily long, and Michael pressed against him in the seat in a way that made Sherlock feel claustrophobic. He nearly bolted from the car when they finally arrived, though Michael mistook his apprehension for excitement and followed with great enthusiasm. Sherlock could barely manage to unlock the door for Michael's wandering hands, and by the time they finally made it to the bedroom, his discomfort had nearly derailed him. Michael pulled him down onto the bed and kissed him with a ridiculous amount of tongue before rolling them over and pressing Sherlock into the mattress.

"I'm going to suck your cock until you're on the edge of coming," he whispered, already grinding his erection into Sherlock's thigh, "and then I'm going to fuck you, slowly, until you come all over me."

Sherlock closed his eyes. He could do this. If he did, Michael would agree to stay, and then they could have the sort of sex Sherlock wanted next time. Relationships were about compromise, weren't they? He'd read that several times, at least.

Michael sat back and peeled off his clothes, and Sherlock mirrored him, shucking them as fast as he could manage. He settled back on the bed and waited while Michael tugged off his socks, and forced a smile when Michael looked up at him.

Michael's gaze was fixed on Sherlock's very un-erect penis. "Too much to drink, then? Here, I'll fix that for you." He settled between Sherlock's thighs and kissed the tip of his penis before wriggling the tip of his tongue into the foreskin.

Michael had sucked him before, but usually while he was tied down and Sherlock had control – never like this. As sexual stimulation went, though, it was pleasant, and his body was responding. Slowly. Michael seemed to think more effort would do the trick, and his gentle licks soon became vigorous sucks. Sherlock closed his eyes and tried to focus, to think erotic thoughts. Michael on his knees at the club, willing to do anything for him – yes, that had been brilliant, perfect. Maybe they could do that again, and maybe this time he would have other men suck Michael off, but just to the point of climax, never letting him come. How many times could he do that without losing control? How many times would he do it if Sherlock would promise to let him do whatever he wanted again?

Michael sat up and wiped a hand over his mouth. "If you're not into this, you could just say so."

Sherlock propped himself up on his elbows. "I'm absolutely into it. Please don't stop."

"You're not even hard."

Sherlock looked down, and flushed. He hadn't even noticed his erection had flagged. "I don't… I thought I was. I was trying to, anyway."

Michael's eyebrows rose. "Trying to? What the fuck does that mean?"

Sherlock sat all the way up. He'd already fucked this up, and he wasn't quite sure how. "I have to concentrate to keep an erection. It doesn't just happen with stimulation alone."

"Yes, it does. I've seen it. Every other time we've had sex, you've…" Michael trailed off.

Sherlock pressed his lips together, and waited for him to work it out.

"You can only get hard when you're dominating me. Is that what you're saying?"

"I believe so. Yes."

Michael pressed a hand over his eyes and made a strangled sound. "Oh my God."

So that was bad, apparently. Sherlock looked away.

"So this is how it's going to be then, isn't it? We'll only ever have freaky sex, and you'll only get off when you know I'm uncomfortable or doing something I really don't want to do, and it will never be just… sex."

Sherlock felt a strange twisting sensation in his chest. "I thought you liked it as well."

Michael stood and crossed to the window. "Sometimes I did. Most of the time I just wanted to come and go have a fag, have it done with."

"Right." Sherlock turned towards the window. "Well, we could do that. You could tell me what you don't want, and I could… not do those things."

"What I want is to see you come because of me, not because of the twisted fantasies in your head."

"But I do, that's—" Sherlock closed his eyes, tried to straighten out his thoughts so that he could express them in a way Michael would understand. "It's because of you, because of the things you're willing to let me do. Because you trust me enough to let me push you and challenge you. Seeing you like that is the most erotic thing I can imagine. I can nearly climax from the thought of it alone."

Michael turned to look at him, his expression showing a mix of emotions: desire, fear, confusion, and something else Sherlock couldn't identify. "Was that what you were thinking about just then?"


"You were fantasizing about us, while we were actually having sex."


"Do you realize how completely fucked up that is?"

"I do."

Michael shook his head and turned to look out the window again. It was silent for several interminable seconds. Sherlock watched him and ached in a way he couldn't quite understand. It was over, wasn't it? Michael would put on his clothes and leave, and that would be the end of it. Sherlock doubted Michael would want to continue their friendship if they were no longer sexually involved.

"All right," Michael said, so softly Sherlock almost didn't hear it.


"All right." Michael crossed back to the bed and stretched out beside Sherlock. He raised his hands above his head, crossed them at the wrists. "But I want your dirtiest fantasy. I want to know what I'm getting myself into."

Sherlock stared at him. "You want…"

"Anything you want. Bring it on."

"Are you…" He had to stop and swallow. "Are you certain about that?"

"Yes." Michael's eyes were fixed on the ceiling. It was ridiculously obvious that he was lying, but Sherlock didn't care. He just wanted Michael so badly that he was happy to pretend it was the truth.

He didn't say another word; he slid to the edge of the bed and opened the drawer of his bedside table. He pulled out two lengths of rope and a scarf, and turned back to Michael.

Michael nodded. "How do you want me?"

"On your hands and knees."

It took a few minutes to get Michael ready, but when he was, it was a sight to behold. His hands were tied together at the wrists and he leaned forward and pressed his forehead against them. The scarf had been tied around his eyes, and his knees were spread apart, feet crossed and tied at the ankles, exposing his arse, testicles, and penis. Just the sight of him like that, waiting and pliant – Sherlock inhaled slowly and exhaled again, and then pressed his erection into the cleft between Michael's spread buttocks.

"And now you're into it." Michael's voice was rough, whether from arousal or discomfort was unclear.

"No more talking." Sherlock slid the head of his penis downwards, pausing briefly to press it against Michael's bare arsehole, and then kept going until it was pressed up against Michael's balls. He reached under Michael to stroke their cocks together, and Michael moaned in appreciation.

He sat back again and reached into the open drawer for lube. He didn't bother with a glove this time; he wanted to feel Michael from the inside, wanted to press his fingers against the soft skin of his rectum, wanted to feel the sphincter pushing back, trying to evade intrusion. He squeezed lube onto two fingers and pressed them in with no warning.

Michael tensed beneath him, but he couldn't move away in this position, so he just had to take it. Sherlock could feel the instant his body accommodated the intrusion, could see the muscles in his back relax. Good. He added another finger. Michael made a small sound at that and his hips jerked, and Sherlock slid a soothing hand down his back.

"Very good, almost there now." He pulled his fingers out again and circled one fingertip around Michael's wet, reddened arsehole. "I would love to see you in the back room of a club like this. I wonder if you could take two cocks at once." He paused to add more lube to his hand, and then pressed four fingers into Michael's arse. It was a tight fit and he could only manage to get his fingers in to the second knuckle, but it was worth it for the response.

"If you're going to fuck me, get on with it." Michael's voice was muffled against the mattress.

"I said no talking." He pulled out his fingers and pulled a new toy from the drawer, something Michael had never seen: a thick vibrating anal plug. He slicked lube over the surface and pushed the tip of it against Michael's arsehole. "It's tapered at the end so it feels small now," he said, twisting it slowly as he pressed it the tiniest bit forward, "but when I start to push it into you, you're going to be surprised."

He took his time inserting the plug, moving slowly, twisting, then pressing in until Michael squirmed, then pulling it back out again. Two centimeters forward, and one back, alternated with the occasional stroke of Michael's cock, which had remained completely hard during the entire process. Michael breathed a sigh of relief when the flanged end of it pressed against his skin, and Sherlock rewarded him with two full minutes of slow strokes of his cock with a lubed hand.

Michael groaned in frustration when Sherlock's hand disappeared. Sherlock smirked and touched a button on the base of the plug, and Michael's hips bucked up in surprise.

"That will be your reward," Sherlock said as he released it. Michael's shoulders sagged against the bed. "Reward for what, I'm sure you're wondering." He reached into the drawer again and pulled out a soft leather strap.

He slid it through his fingers and took a deep breath. He'd bought it more than a week ago, and wasn't sure when he'd get a chance to use it. He certainly hadn't expected tonight to be the night, but Michael had said anything. This wasn't Sherlock's dirtiest fantasy, not by a long shot, but it was one he was at least prepared to try out tonight.

He let the strap slide across Michael's back, gave him a chance to guess what it was. Michael went very still beneath him, and Sherlock did it again, let the leather slide down his shoulders and tickle his sides. He raised it up then and, without warning, slapped it down against Michael's back. The sound of leather against skin was astonishingly satisfying, but even more so was the way Michael whimpered in response. Sherlock did it again, harder this time, and then traced the pink mark the strap left behind with his fingertips.

"Beautiful," he said, and then thumbed on the vibrator. He reached between Michael's legs to stroke his cock back to hardness again, and pulled away when Michael began to rut against his hand. He switched off the vibrator. He picked up the strap again.

He lost track of how many times he striped Michael's skin. He was lost in the imagery of it: the sounds of the leather against bare skin and Michael's whimpers and moans. He eventually left the vibrator on while he struck Michael's arse, raising beautiful red lines on the pale skin there, and his own cock was so hard he thought it might burst. It was incredible, better than he'd expected, and Michael was just taking it, rocking with the movements of the strap, and now calling out Sherlock's name.

Michael twisted out from beneath him and Sherlock paused, realized he'd missed something. Michael was speaking, and had been for a while, but it hadn't registered.

"Will you fucking listen to me? Orange! Orange, orange!"

The safeword. He'd forgotten. And he had no idea when Michael had first said it. Oh, God.

His euphoria evaporated in a cold rush that left him breathless, reeling. Michael – he had to untie him, had to get him out of this, this… He froze, momentarily stunned by the sight before him. Michael's back was striped with welts, some of which were bleeding, and he was still tied hand and foot, and struggling. Sherlock threw the strap aside, switched off the plug and tugged it out, and winced at the sight of Michael's stretched, reddened arsehole. He untied Michael's feet and hands, but before he could get to the blindfold, Michael's fist caught his chin and knocked him backward off the bed.

The pain of it made him dizzy for a moment, enough that his brain was momentarily derailed. Michael stood over him when the world righted itself, screaming words that Sherlock couldn't process. His eyes were reddened and his cheeks were wet, and he was utterly livid.

Time began to return to its normal speed again, and Michael's words began to filter into his brain.

"You are a fucking freak and if you ever lay a finger on me again, I will kill you! You fucking psychopath, this is not normal! This is not what normal people DO!"

He kicked Sherlock hard in the side and Sherlock winced and doubled over.

Michael's words kept rolling over him, flooding his ears and his skin and his gut, the rage nearly overwhelming in its intensity. Sherlock curled into himself, his eyes clamped shut, his brain reeling. He'd caused that – he'd done that; it was his fault, oh God. He wrapped his arms around his own torso and whined, and the sound was shrill and strained even to his own ears.

"You're a fucking freak!" Michael shouted, and he was right. He was right.

Oh, God.

Images flashed across his brain now, so quickly he almost couldn't parse them: Michael's face, his words, the expression of relief he'd had after nearly every sexual encounter, the apprehension in his limbs and his voice when Sherlock tied him up, the occasional anger and frustration and even fear – all of it was so obvious now, so clear. Michael had just been enduring it all along, hadn't enjoyed it as Sherlock had thought he'd done, and now it had been too much. Sherlock had pushed too hard and he could see now Michael had wanted it to stop, but he'd been afraid to say anything – afraid of Sherlock.

He opened his eyes to see Michael fully dressed now, tugging on his shoes. He was leaving, no, fleeing, and that would be it. Something dark and desperate flared in Sherlock's gut. "Michael—"

"No." Michael whirled to glare at him. "I knew this would happen. I knew that one day you'd do something like this, and now look at me! I'm fucking bleeding!"

Michael twisted and looked down at his side, where blood was seeping through his dress shirt. Sherlock's eyes widened in horror: he'd done that. That. He pushed to his knees and started forward, but Michael stepped back with a fierce expression on his face.

"You stay right there, I'm warning you."

Sherlock held up his hands, and saw that they were shaking. "No, please, if you'll just let me–"

"All I've done is let you do shit, and this is where it's got me!"

"I'm sorry, I… I'm so sorry." Sherlock sank back to the floor, nearly frantic now. There must be something he could say or do to fix this situation, but he couldn't focus, couldn't fucking think. His brain was failing him.

Michael exhaled a shaky breath and sounded as if he were trying to collect himself. "How the fuck did I get myself into this?"

Sherlock forced himself to look up at Michael's face. The anger was gone, but something else had taken its place, something like clarity and determination, and any hope that Sherlock had left began to seep away. He swallowed down the cold despair rising in his throat and tried one more time: "Michael, I'm so sorry."

"Yeah, so am I. Look, I can't do this anymore, all right? I thought I could stick it out because I… I thought I liked you, maybe even loved you, but now I look at you and I just see a person who is so fucking twisted that… You're not capable of doing this, are you? You can't just have a normal relationship; it has to be all about feeling superior in every possible fucking way, always being in control and bending others to your sick vision of the world." He paused and swallowed audibly. "I don't… I can't. Not anymore. Goodbye, Sherlock."

He wiped at his eyes once again and crossed to the door. He moved slowly, gingerly, clearly in pain, and Sherlock closed his eyes against it. It was too much, too much to know what he'd done, to hear the words, and to know, deep down, that they were true.

How had he missed this, all this time? Michael didn't like it, hadn't liked the sex they'd been having, and Sherlock had missed it. He'd only seen what he wanted to see, and hadn't noticed that his lover didn't like having sex with him, that he was actually disgusted and horrified by him.

He'd thought he could control it if he approached it logically, as an experiment, like he did everything else, but he couldn't. He couldn't. His body had betrayed him and his brain had failed him, but worse, he'd let his emotions rule his head: sentiment and desire and longing and sheer fucking want. It was nearly too much to bear, and he pressed his hands against the sides of his head, trying to force his whirling thoughts to slow down.

The door closed, and then he couldn't hear anything, couldn't see, couldn't think. He pulled his knees to his chest and pressed his forehead against them, and felt himself sinking, falling. He crawled to the bedside table and fumbled in the drawer for the case he knew was there under the false bottom. He spread the contents on the floor with shaking hands, his ears filled with the sound of his own rasping breaths. This would clear his mind, would help him sort this all out and think.

No, that was a lie: it would cloud everything, make him forget, push it all away. It would give him space, stop the avalanche in his mind, and let him breathe. The familiarity of the motions was already calming him, settling him. He just had to steady his hands, had to keep it together long enough to get this sorted, and then it would be fine. He would be fine, and he could think again.

There was a bright light then, and footsteps that rattled the floor, and he didn't look up, couldn't bear it.

"Sherlock." Mycroft crouched beside him and pushed everything out of reach, skittering it across the floor and into the shadows. He threaded a hand into Sherlock's hair and said nothing more.

Sherlock collapsed to the floor with a cry and curled into himself, his bare skin stinging against the cold wood slats, and let himself be dragged into the abyss.


Chapter Text

He was walking, climbing a familiar set of gently curving stairs, hand tracing the worn wooden railing. Up, up, past floor after floor; up until the stairway ended before a thick green door. Sherlock stared at it for a full second before opening it. The room was sparsely decorated: there was a fraying Chesterfield sofa against one wall and an antique writing desk against another. He let his fingers trail across letters carved into the wooden surface, scratched out by a child's hand. The room was dim but for light slatting in through the wooden shutters, piercing through the dust that hung in the air. He looked across the room to where a large wardrobe stood.

He stopped before its mirrored doors and stared at his reflection, at the new lines etched around his eyes since he'd last been here. So much had happened, had changed.

He should turn around now – he didn't want to do this, but he felt compelled to open the wardrobe's doors, to reach up to the top shelf and retrieve the small wooden box he knew was there. The top was engraved with a skull and crossbones – once the place he'd locked away treasures as a child, now a repository for very different sorts of things. A large rusty padlock held the lid firmly closed, and it was far heavier than it looked.

He carried it to the desk and set it down with a resonant thud, and particles of dust rose into the air. He opened the top left desk drawer and pulled out the false bottom; inside it laid a small key. He picked it up, turned it over in his fingers, held it up to the light. He felt as if he were underwater now: everything moved slowly and took a great amount of effort, but he pushed through it, keyed open the lock, twisted it free of the latch. He paused with both hands resting against the lid, eyes closed.

He wasn't completely certain what was in the box, but he felt compelled to open it, to find out. He inhaled, exhaled again smoothly, and opened his eyes before lifting the lid.

The series of images that flooded him was immediately overwhelming, too much to make sense of: isolated body parts, cries, movement, pain. He gritted his teeth and tried to close the lid again, but it wouldn't budge. The room was swirling now, images dancing around him, starting to form coherent shapes. He closed his eyes, put his hands over his ears, but it didn't matter; he could see them and hear them all the same.

"No," he whispered, squeezing his eyes more tightly closed, falling to his knees. "No, no, no."

Sherlock sat straight up in bed, heart pounding. He pressed his hands over his face and exhaled, trying to calm himself. Images continued to flit across his consciousness, things he hadn't thought about in years, things he'd carefully locked away. He hadn't deleted them, but neither had he intended to look at them ever again. He took a deep breath and pushed it all aside, tried to clear his mind. He didn't want to think about this now, but the memories continued to bob to the surface, defiantly.

Michael. His name had been Michael, and things had happened – very not-good things, things Sherlock hadn't wanted to think about too closely. And Michael had left and Sherlock had locked everything away until he became a shell of a person, desperate to numb the pain he felt, the pain he'd caused. Mycroft had finally intervened – the single instance of his meddling for which Sherlock was secretly grateful.

The connection with the present was embarrassingly obvious, but this thing with John was under his control, workable. He'd set boundaries in place, lines he wouldn't cross. Of course, he'd crossed one last night, but it hadn't ended in disaster. It was fine. He was in control.

He closed his eyes and imagined pushing all the images back into the box again, but they kept slipping from his grasp. The more he tried, the more they slipped away, taunting him, forcing him to look more closely. No, not now. He retreated, closed the door behind him, tugged the knob again to make sure, and opened his eyes. He took a deep breath and exhaled again, slow, cleansing. Yes, that was better.

He plucked his phone from the bedside table and thumbed it on: five in the morning. At least he'd managed a few hours of sleep. He stood and switched on the light, pulled on a dressing gown.

The only coffee he could find in the kitchen was a scant spoonful of the horrid instant kind. It was enough to make a single cup, though, and he savored it. Caffeine, that glorious legal stimulant, weak as such things went, but still massively addictive. God, he adored it.

He settled in his chair and reached for his laptop. Time to see what John had got up to last night. He opened the lid and raised the cup to his lips, and froze as the screen flared to life. No need to sift through the browser history; John had left a good dozen tabs open for him.

He clicked through them all to get a general overview, and then went through each one thoroughly. They ranged from web forum discussions of relationships between dominants and submissives to elaborate BDSM "tutorials" to pornographic videos. Partner-sharing, consent, safewords, aftercare, bondage, sensory deprivation, orgasm denial, power play – the list of topics went on and on, and Sherlock's mind whirled. Some of the images were difficult to look at, and not because he found them unappealing. In fact, the opposite was true: John had left such images on his computer for him to see, and John was saying, yes, I'd like to try this. Sherlock was half-hard just thinking about it, but he was also terrified.

Did John understand what he was asking of Sherlock? John wanted to try this on, to see if he liked it. He was exploring, experimenting, but for Sherlock, this meant so much more. This was only the beginning of what he wanted, what he didn't let himself think about. Because if John would do these things, would agree to be tied up and played with by strangers, to let Sherlock have control over his body, perhaps they could do more. Perhaps—

No – this was an experiment and he'd do best to remember that. This wasn't a relationship. It wasn't about the two of them working out what kind of sex they wanted to have together. It was about John having sex with other people and Sherlock watching, observing, analyzing. True, he got off on it as well, and John had accepted that bit of news better than Sherlock would have anticipated. But in the end, John would decide he'd had enough and he'd move on, find a woman to date, and they'd both pretend none of it had ever happened. Either that or Sherlock would push him too far just once, and John would leave.

You're a fucking freak.

He closed his eyes against the voice in his head. This, now, was not like… that. Memories began to surface once again, fleeting images and sounds, too quick to be parsed, but still, disturbing. He pushed them back down again and tried to clear his mind.

It was inevitable that this would come to an end. As long as Sherlock kept it all at arm's length, as long as he watched and orchestrated but didn't touch, it would remain in the realm of an experiment. They could agree at some point that the experiment was over and go back to being friends, and John wouldn't have to leave him, wouldn't marry the first woman he met just to prove to himself that he wasn't like Sherlock, that he could have normal relationships and vanilla sex, and be happy. Or maybe, at least, he'd still want Sherlock to stand next to him when he did.

The sun had risen while he'd been lost in thought, and his shoulder was growing warm under the rays streaming through the window. He closed the laptop and stood, took his abandoned cup of coffee to the sink to empty and rinse it. He paused and listened: still no sounds from upstairs. John had clearly been up very late, and would probably sleep several hours yet. It was just as well – Sherlock needed time to think.


It was early afternoon when he finally set the violin back on its stand and frowned up at the ceiling. Could John still be asleep? Sherlock was hardly in a position to judge anyone's sleeping habits, but John seemed to prefer to stick to a schedule. He climbed the stairs and stood outside the door to John's bedroom for a long moment before finally knocking.

When there was no response, he knocked again, and then pushed the door open. The room was empty and the bed made. He crossed to stand next to it, and leaned over to smooth one hand over the surface. It was cold; John hadn't been in it for hours.

Sherlock sat on the bed, and after a moment stretched out on his side and pressed his face into the pillow. It smelled like John, and he closed his eyes, lingered there, warm. Comfortable.

John with his hands crossed behind his back, tied together, on his knees, shirtless, head thrown back, mouth open – Sherlock standing over him, stroking his cock slowly before stepping forward to press it between John's lips – John groaning and sucking, taking it in all the way down his throat – Sherlock burying himself in John's mouth, yes you're a good little slut aren't you oh fuck yes

Sherlock jolted awake. He slid one hand between his thighs to press against his erection, and he groaned. He reached into his pocket for his phone and thumbed it on to see that he'd been asleep for nearly an hour. He sat up and listened, but the flat was thankfully quiet. He hesitated a moment more before stretching out on his back and sliding a hand inside his pyjama bottoms.

It didn't take long, especially not with images from the dream still lingering in his head. He could make John do that, could see it now, could imagine John on his knees, letting his mouth be used by a stranger while Sherlock watched. Short quick strokes now, so close, eyes squeezed shut. The John in his mind sputtered a bit, struggling to breathe around a mouthful of hard cock, and Sherlock's hips arched off the bed as he cried out.

He sank into the bed, panting, and stared up at the ceiling. It wouldn't be tonight, nor the next night, but eventually that would be something John would do for him.

He wiped his sticky hand on his pyjamas and smoothed the bedclothes before heading downstairs. He should shower, maybe have something to eat, and then check the club's message boards, make a plan for tonight. Based on some of the images John had left for him (and that rather vivid fantasy), he already had some ideas in mind.


DrZhivago replied to your post:
>I'm available tonight. PM me to discuss details.

To: DrZhivago
From: sh3562
>Looking for someone to play with my male sub. I will give explicit instructions to be followed, but I will only watch. He is not allowed to touch. Private room; time is flexible.

To: sh3562
From: DrZhivago
>I'm interested. What sort of play?

To: DrZhivago
From: sh3562
>Light bondage, oral, anal play.

To: sh3562
From: DrZhivago
>I prefer maximum discretion. Could your sub be blindfolded?

To: DrZhivago
From: sh3562
>Not a problem. 10:00?

To: sh3562
From: DrZhivago
>10:30 preferred.

From: sh3562
>10:30, room 5.


Sherlock felt a twinge in his belly at the sound of John's footsteps on the stairs. (Unmistakably John's footsteps; he always took the first ten steps rapidly, then slowed before speeding up again at the end.) It had been a long, quiet day, and Sherlock had spent far too much of it obsessing about the conversation they would have when John returned.

The websites John had left open in tabs stressed the importance of communication. Sherlock generally hated all forms of communication that were explicitly labeled as such; they tended to follow social norms chosen seemingly at random. But this was clearly important to John, so Sherlock was determined to make an effort.

He kept his gaze focused on the ceiling as John came into the room, and tried to ignore the distracting warmth that spread through his chest. John crossed the room after a moment and very pointedly dropped a magazine on him.
"I found one."

Sherlock frowned down at it: QX, the publication he'd requested from John a few days before. He didn't need it now, of course – circumstances had changed entirely. John was, as usual, a dozen steps behind. Still, he'd clearly gone to the trouble of finding one. A reasonable display of gratitude was typically expected.

"Ah, thanks." Sherlock sat up and made a show of flipping through it before tossing it aside.

"Glad I didn't go to much trouble." John was clearly annoyed, despite Sherlock's explicit thanks and perusal of the magazine, but before Sherlock could point either of these things out, John continued, "Why did you need a guide to the London gay scene? Isn't all of that online?"

"It is. So while I appreciate the gesture, it was essentially pointless." He tried for a smile, but from the expression on John's face, he'd clearly missed the mark.

John pulled off his jacket, frowning, and crossed the room to hang it up before returning to collapse into his chair with a dramatic sigh.

Ah, right – this was the point at which he was meant to ask about John's day so that John could complain for ten minutes. Sherlock was getting better at recognizing these moments.

He leaned back against the sofa cushions in a carefully relaxed pose (put John at ease, assume the appearance of a willing listener), and asked, "What happened?"

John's gaze slid down to Sherlock's groin for a full second before he looked away again. Did he suspect that Sherlock had masturbated while he was away? Unlikely, but the possibility was intriguing.

"Nothing happened. Why?"

Nothing? Sherlock frowned. "I thought you were trying to hint I should ask. You can just tell me when you want me to do the listening thing, you know. It's infuriating to have to work out when you want me to ask and when you want to be left alone." Though it was a relief that he wouldn't have to spend the next ten minutes pretending to listen.

John laughed, and Sherlock clenched his jaw. He hadn't meant it as a joke.

"Sorry, it's just that coming from you, that's actually rather sweet. You're trying to be a good friend. I appreciate it."

"I've done better than try, I hope."

John's smile was genuine, and Sherlock felt a flutter in his stomach. "Yes, of course. You are a good friend. My best friend, actually."

Sherlock's mouth opened in surprise, and he closed it again. Best friend? He'd always regarded the term as a platitude tossed about by school children trying to curry favor with one another. Did adults actually have best friends? He hadn't been aware.

Did this mean John was trying to flatter him in hopes of getting something he wanted? No, John thought such emotional manipulation was beneath him. That was much more Sherlock's area.

So he must have meant it sincerely. Face value, then: John considered Sherlock his best friend. He had no idea how to respond to such a statement. Should he reciprocate? He wasn't sure what the etiquette might be here. He finally settled for a smile, and John returned it, looking pleased.

"You were thinking very hard when I left. Make any progress?"

Communication time. "Yes. The websites you left open last night were rather helpful."

"I'd hoped you'd find them useful. Nothing too extreme, mind. I'm open to trying things, but within reason."

"Safe, sane, and consensual, right?" Sherlock stretched and settled into the sofa cushions. What exactly did he mean by within reason? Was he attempting to set a limit? Perhaps he should dig a little deeper, find out what John really wanted. The dominant and submissive arrangement, for example: John seemed to enjoy it, but neither of them had yet made it explicit. "You really get off on it, me telling you what to do."

"When it comes to sex, yes. But most of the time it makes me want to punch you, so don't get the wrong idea."

"Hence my surprise." Of course, John frequently complied with Sherlock's instructions without question, particularly when they were both swept up in the adrenaline of a case. But John also seemed to have a strong sense of when not to question him and when to refuse. Why was sex one of the areas in which he seemed to trust Sherlock's judgment, particularly when Sherlock was clearly not the expert? "Why do you like it?"

John hesitated for a moment, apparently choosing his words carefully. "I like not having to think about it. Sex had become this elusive thing I couldn't manage to get. It was stressful going to bars and trying to meet someone and wondering if she was going to like me and whether it would go anywhere."

"I thought you were fine with masturbation."

"It's good in a pinch, but nothing compares to the real thing. Touching another person, being touched."

The touch of John's hands against his own the night before had nearly overwhelmed him. If something as small as that could threaten his self-control, he certainly couldn't afford to risk it again.

"With you in charge, I can just relax and enjoy it, I suppose."

"But it's more than that, isn't it?"

John stared back at him, his expression guarded. Sherlock waited and watched, wondered how much thought John had given to being the submissive one in this arrangement. He had to have done, had to have come to terms with something in his sexuality that craved it. He finally shrugged, but said nothing.

There was one more question Sherlock had to ask, though he wasn't certain he wanted to hear the answer just yet. "How far do you want to go with this?"

"I'm not sure. I'll tell you when it crosses the line, though."

Sherlock felt the corners of his lips turn up before he could stop them. That was the John Watson he knew: make a decision and then charge ahead before you overthink it, and deal with the consequences later. Thank God they were on the same page there, at least.

It was an experiment, after all, and John understood that. They were both adults here, and they both – generally speaking, anyway – knew where they stood with each other. Sherlock had been having difficulty keeping his own emotions out of the mix, but John seemed to be in control of himself.

John's eyes had glazed over now – was he thinking about what Sherlock might have arranged for this evening, anticipating it already? John closed his eyes and opened them again, and seemed to shake himself. He looked up at Sherlock.

"Should I assume you've planned a surprise for me this evening?"

"Yes." He did indeed have a surprise, one gleaned from the very images John had so thoughtfully left for him.

John smiled a bit wickedly, and Sherlock felt his heart rate increase. "Good."


Chapter Text

Sherlock caught the eye of the bartender, who nodded back in acknowledgment. It was refreshing to be in a place where people knew exactly what one wanted without the tedium of conversation. Maximum efficiency, minimal bullshit, adequate results. There was little Sherlock appreciated more.

Ah, but there was, wasn't there?

He turned his attention back to John, who was gazing out at the dance floor with a strangely serene expression. John had been agitated and anxious before they'd left the flat, so much so that Sherlock had begun to reconsider the evening's plans. But the moment they'd entered the club, John's behavior had shifted completely. He had, without question, completely accepted his role in the experiment; he even appeared to enjoy it on a level Sherlock wouldn't have anticipated. He was relaxed, open… pliable. Sherlock barely stifled a smug smile.

He moved to stand behind John, but stopped just short of physical contact. He wanted to touch, wanted to pull John against him and feel the heat of his body, but that, regrettably, was not a good idea. Sherlock allowed himself to lean forward and inhale instead – God, the scent of him.

"I've arranged something special for you tonight."

John made a soft sound of surprise and leaned back against him, and Sherlock felt a jolt at the contact. He closed his eyes and willed himself to remain still, not to reciprocate.

John had never been particularly tactile with Sherlock before the experiment; in fact, he'd always gone out of his way to avoid any unnecessary contact. Perhaps the brief instances in which Sherlock touched him served to reaffirm the nature of this relationship, allowed John to better assume the submissive role. Yes, that would work: John required occasional reassurance that Sherlock was in control of the situation.

"I want you silent and obedient," he whispered, and felt John shiver against him. "It may be difficult, but I'll make it worth your while."

John nodded his head slightly, so very pliant, and oh God, it was delicious. Sherlock's gaze shifted from his profile down to a long stretch of freshly shaven skin on his neck. He'd found a sensitive spot there quite by accident last week. He could touch John, just a bit. For reassurance.

"Very good," he said, and pressed his lips against warm skin, just for a moment. John smelled like the reasonably-priced aftershave that he'd always used, the sort Sherlock had once despised but now associated with him, to the extent that catching the occasional whiff of it in an unexpected time or place made his heart pound faster.

John swallowed and went extremely still, and Sherlock was tempted to do it again, to see what sort of reaction a lick would produce, or even a bite – but no, that was crossing the line. He forced himself to step back, to put space between them. Their drinks were ready, and a welcome distraction. He handed John a pint glass and picked up his own drink before turning to watch the crowd.

Focus. He glanced around the room, gaze drifting over the people gathered in small groups on the edges of the dance floor. There, that one was here for the first time, clearly unnerved by the idea, judging by his frequent glances at his friend-girlfriend-wife, no, sister, well now. Sherlock raised an eyebrow and moved on.

On the opposite side of the dance floor: genderqueer person talking with a man dressed head to toe in leather; both at ease; regulars, had likely played together before. Man in leather: a health professional of some sort. Dentist? No, unclear. Sherlock clenched his jaw in frustration. Moving on.

Over there, plastered against a man twice his age: Cam, apparently still trying to resolve his daddy issues with oral sex. Sherlock rolled his eyes.

They'd arrived with half an hour to spare, and though they had the room all night and could have made their way down to wait in private, it was much more interesting to see how long John could be patient. Sherlock glanced over to see him standing completely still, feet planted solidly on the floor, empty pint glass in his hand. He didn't look agitated or anxious at all; he simply waited.

Sherlock scanned the room again. Some faces were familiar; a few even caught him staring and raised eyebrows in question or invitation. He made note of their interest, but moved on. One group of four made their way to the downstairs door with linked arms, likely headed for the public play area one level down. He should take John there one evening; they might both enjoy the change of scenery. It would be interesting to see his response to the possibility of being watched by others.

Sherlock looked at him again – still patiently waiting. Would he be so inclined to wait under other conditions? Sherlock felt a stab of excitement at the thought of the ways he might test that. Yes, that could be very interesting indeed.

He downed his drink in one go and set the glass on a bar table, then turned and walked toward the door at the far end of the room. John would follow, like a good pet – ah yes, Sherlock heard his footsteps behind him even now. He walked through the door with a nod to the doorman, and then down two flights of stairs. John stayed right behind him the entire way, and then walked through the door to room 5 when Sherlock opened it.

Sherlock slid out of his coat and hung it on a hook by the door before finally turning to look at John. Their guest had requested John be blindfolded before he arrived, but perhaps Sherlock could show a bit more hospitality than that.

"Our guest will arrive shortly. You should get undressed."

To Sherlock's utter delight, John didn't hesitate; he immediately shed his coat and took off his shoes. He set both aside and then looked directly at Sherlock as he began unbuttoning his shirt. He didn't seem uncomfortable or anxious about it, but neither did he seem to be putting on a show. He simply watched Sherlock watch him, his expression completely neutral.

Would proximity provoke a response? Sherlock took three steps forward and stopped right in front of him, less than a meter away, and let himself look, let his eyes trail over each inch of newly exposed skin. He'd only rarely invaded John's personal space in the club, and never when they were completely alone like this. Would it unsettle John? Would he respond negatively, step back, become agitated? Or would he simply accept it, as he'd accepted everything else?

John dropped his shirt to the floor, a stark contrast to the careful way he'd treated his coat and shoes. Sherlock's gaze moved back up to his face. John stared back at him with a hint of curiosity in his expression, but nothing to suggest he was uneasy.

Time to push a bit harder, then. Sherlock circled behind him, his gaze soaking up the details of John's skin: paler than his arms, a scattering of freckles on his upper back, a scar where a bullet had exited his shoulder. His eyes trailed down John's spine, down to the curve of his buttocks.


John's fingers went to his waist immediately, and Sherlock allowed himself a moment to enjoy the view. The muscles in John's shoulders flexed deliciously, and he was tempted to touch, to see how John would react. It was a moment before Sherlock realized he seemed to be struggling. He circled back around to John's front to see him fumbling uselessly with the button on his trousers. He seemed flustered – interesting.

Sherlock stepped even closer and pushed John's fingers away. "Need help?"

John's expression was nearly one of shock as Sherlock unfastened the trousers for him, not breaking eye contact. John had no idea what Sherlock was going to do, what his intentions were, and the mounting tension on his face was breathtaking.

How much further could Sherlock push this? He dropped smoothly to his knees, and nearly smirked at the catch in John's breath as he tugged at the fabric of John's trousers until they slid down his legs, down to the floor. Despite the lack of stimulation, John's penis was completely erect now and straining against the fabric of his pants. Sherlock felt a jolt of arousal at the sight of it, so clearly outlined through the thin fabric. It was just flesh engorged with blood, not so different from his own penis. Why was it so intriguing?

He slid his fingers into the elastic waistband of John's pants and pulled them down. His erection bobbed forward, irresistibly close, and Sherlock sat back on his heels and stared at it. The glans strained forward through the taut foreskin and, as he watched, a bead of fluid formed at the slit. It would be so easy to lean forward just a few inches and lick it away. What would John do if Sherlock did that, if he pressed an open-mouthed kiss against the head of his cock, swirled his tongue around that tight flesh, tasted him?

John's breathing was slow and controlled, but his hands clenched at his sides. Sherlock looked up at him. He was completely, undeniably aroused, and all because of the possibility that Sherlock might… what? Sherlock took a careful breath and considered. He could have John right now, any way he wanted. He could do all sorts of filthy things to him. It could all start here, simply by closing the distance between them.

And then the experiment would be over, and nothing but ruin would be left. When (and not if) this ended, Sherlock wanted there to be no reason for John to feel uncomfortable around him. As long as there was no direct sexual contact between the two of them, it didn't have to be personal. It could just be this, and this could be enough.

He stood and touched John's face, trying to draw his focus back up, away from his erection and the possibility that Sherlock might do something with it. He circled behind John again and reached into his pocket for the thin leather strap he'd brought along tonight.

John relaxed visibly and kicked off his trousers and pants, but startled again when Sherlock smoothed his palms across John's shoulders. The touch was self-indulgent, yes, but he could justify it. He paused over the puckered scar for a moment (an experiment to be done there, but not now) before he slid his hands down John's arms and crossed his wrists behind his back. He could pinpoint the moment when John realized his hands were being tied and tensed, flinched ever so slightly, and oh, it was delicious.

"Okay?" Sherlock asked as he stepped back to admire the view.

John hesitated for a long moment, tested the strength of the knot, and finally nodded.

"There's one more thing he wanted," Sherlock said, and reached into his other pocket for a strip of cloth he'd torn from one of his own (unfortunately stained in an experiment) shirts. He slipped it over John's eyes and knotted it at the back of his head.

John went very, very still, and Sherlock paused, a flicker of apprehension settling into his brain. Was it too much? John would let him know if it was; he'd said so that afternoon. Best to be certain, though.

Sherlock leaned close and lowered his voice to a whisper. "Tell me if you don't want to do this."

John inhaled, exhaled steadily, and didn't reply. Sherlock pressed his lips together and considered. John knew the safeword. If needed, he'd use it. The only logical conclusion was that he consented.

Sherlock took a step back and took in the sight of John, naked, blindfolded, hands bound, still half-erect, and just waiting silently, Christ. The scene had barely begun, and it was already better than Sherlock had dared expect.

There were still several minutes left until the man who called himself Dr Zhivago was due to arrive, and there was one more thing Sherlock wanted to see. He turned to the sofa behind him and picked up the fleece blanket that had been draped across the back, and placed it on the ground in front of John.

"Kneel," he said, and John swayed, clearly surprised. Sherlock grasped his arm and steadied him as he lowered himself to the concrete floor.

Sherlock walked backwards until he stood by the door, far enough away that John could relax and not be distracted by his proximity. Several minutes passed and silence hung heavy around them, but John didn't move. He remained perfectly still, his breathing quiet and smooth. Even his erection hadn't flagged completely, to Sherlock's surprise. Was he enjoying this, then? Being utterly vulnerable and at the mercy of another person, with no concrete knowledge of what would happen next? There was a flutter in Sherlock's belly at the thought.

A sharp knock on the door startled him out of his thoughts. He took a moment to center himself before opening it. The man on the other side was handsome, ridiculously so, in a way that suggested he spent a lot of time and energy maintaining his appearance. His chestnut hair was perfectly styled, and when he smiled, Sherlock couldn't help but notice that his teeth were artificially white. He smiled almost magnanimously and there was something off about his expression, as if he were trying too hard to form it – Botox, most likely.

Before Sherlock could say a word, the man posed in the doorway and gave a slight shrug, as if to say Yes, here I am. Ah, of course: he was some sort of celebrity. Sherlock barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes.

"Dr Zhivago, I presume?"

"That's right," the man replied, with a conspiratorial sort of wink, as if he assumed Sherlock knew who he was.

Sherlock resisted the urge to make a sarcastic comment, but only just. He gestured him through the door and crossed to where John was kneeling, waiting. "This is John."

"Beautiful," Zhivago said, smiling down at him.

"Yes, especially like this." Sherlock couldn't keep a touch of wistfulness from his tone, but it fit in well with the role he was playing.

Zhivago walked a slow loop around John and touched his shoulder almost delicately. "Thanks for sharing him. If he were mine, I don't think I could."

Sherlock smirked at that. Even if he and John were lovers, he'd still want to share him, just for moments like this. "He makes it worth my while."

"I imagine he does. Where should I begin?"

Oh, where to begin? Zhivago's gaze raked over John's naked body in clear appreciation. Two pets to play with tonight – how lovely was that? "Just touch him for now."

"Mmm, happily." Zhivago crouched behind John and stroked his hands down John's back and around his sides, and then he stood and tugged John's arm. "Here, stand."

John stood, a bit stiffly, and Sherlock felt a pulse of affection for him for having remained in discomfort for so long without complaining.

Zhivago was taller than John, but only slightly, and Sherlock had to admit they looked good together. Zhivago's hands moved across John's chest and then tugged at his nipples, and John drew in a sharp breath.

Oh, they hadn't explored nipple play yet. Sherlock felt a pulse in his groin at the thought.

"Does touching include kissing?" Zhivago asked, still rolling one of John's nipples between his fingers.

"If you like." John's cock was completely hard again, jutting out from his body, and Sherlock walked around to the side for a better view.

"Good," Zhivago replied, and leaned forward to flick his tongue across one nipple. John's reaction was gorgeous: pure, desperate want. He strained forward slightly, as if trying to get closer to that mouth, but Zhivago kept his touch light, teasing.

He glanced over at Sherlock briefly before going to his knees and kissing his way down John's abdomen. He paused at John's navel and then trailed his lips over to a hipbone, and John was nearly panting now, his hands clenched against his lower back.

"Do you want me to suck him?" Zhivago asked, his lips a scant inch from the head of John's cock.

"No," Sherlock replied, and John made a quiet sound of frustration. Sherlock couldn't help but smile. All in good time. "I want you to pay more attention to his arse first."

"Right," Zhivago said with a rather cheeky smile.

He turned John around and pressed his face against John's arse, and Sherlock could see the exact moment when John realized what was about to happen. He went completely still and his throat moved in a visible swallow. Had he ever done this before? Sherlock hadn't asked beforehand, but he would assume not for the purposes of data collection. He could ask later.

Zhivago leaned back and reached for the blanket, and then positioned it between John and the sofa before pushing John a step forward. "Down on your knees," he said, and John complied with admirable speed. "And lean forward. The sofa is right in front of you."

John leaned forward awkwardly until his forehead pressed into the sofa cushions, and oh – Sherlock put a hand over his mouth at the sight. John couldn't be terribly comfortable without the support of his arms, but he was doing it anyway, following instructions to the letter. Zhivago settled behind him and squeezed John's buttocks with his hands. He leaned forward and kissed and licked away red marks left by his fingers, and then pried John's buttocks apart. Sherlock caught a brief glimpse of John's anus before Zhivago's face was pressed between the cheeks, his jaw moving in a suggestively rhythmic way.

John's hands clenched behind his back and he whimpered into the sofa. It was his first vocalization in nearly an hour, and Sherlock got hard just at the sound of it. Christ, John was on his knees, his arse being eaten by a complete stranger, and he was straining back against Zhivago's face for more, wanton, needy, pushy, and oh God, it was perfect. From the angle of Zhivago's head and John's keening response, Sherlock could only assume Zhivago was fucking him with his tongue now. He moved closer, but he couldn't really see it, could only imagine that tongue slowly, relentlessly working its way into John's body, and then withdrawing to lap at the sensitive skin around his anus before pushing into him again. John's whimpers turned into moans when Zhivago reached around to stroke his cock, and Sherlock realized John was on the edge of orgasm.

Sherlock put a hand on Zhivago's shoulder. "Stop, don't let him come yet."

Zhivago sat back enough to wipe a hand over his mouth, but he kept the other hand on John's cock.

John groaned and Sherlock reached over to pet his head without thinking about it. John seemed to settle down at the touch, though, so perhaps it was for the best. He waited a few seconds more until John's breathing evened out, and then said, "Go on."

Zhivago released his cock and pulled his arse open again, and resumed with light flicks of his tongue. Sherlock sat on the sofa next to John's head and watched John's body begin to respond once more. John pressed his hips back against Zhivago's face, clearly straining for more. Sherlock threaded fingers into his hair and tightened his grip, holding his head against the sofa. John struggled a bit more, but finally turned his head to the side and seemed to relax, to give over control completely. Sherlock could no longer see his face, but it didn't matter. Sherlock petted his hair again, trailed fingertips along his scalp.

Good, John. Very good.

Zhivago's face pressed obscenely into John's arse and John's breath came in staggered gulps, accompanied by grunts and moans. Zhivago's hand started moving beneath John again, and Sherlock pressed a hand against his own erection. This was even better than he'd anticipated, and they'd only just started.

"Finger him," Sherlock said, and it was a strain to keep his own voice level. He patted John's head once more and stood, wanting a better view.

Zhivago pulled a packet of lube from his pocket and tore it open, and then sank a finger into John's body. It only took slightly more than a minute to find John's prostate and to work out how John liked it to be touched. He seemed to have worked out that Sherlock wanted John's orgasm delayed as long as possible, and Sherlock watched with admiration as he played John's body like an instrument, keeping him close to the edge.

Within a minute, John's shoulders tensed and his mouth fell open, and Sherlock said, "Stop."

John groaned into the sofa, clearly frustrated. Zhivago's forehead fell to the small of John's back; apparently he was having difficulty holding back as well. Perhaps Sherlock should push things along a bit. John was clearly enjoying it. In fact, he'd been far more receptive to anal play than Sherlock had expected. Sherlock took a deep breath and released it again. "Go ahead."

Zhivago was clearly ready to move it along as well: he added more lube and a second finger, and John moaned softly as Zhivago twisted them in his rectum.

Sherlock moved to stand behind Zhivago and unfastened his trousers as quietly as he could manage. He slid a hand inside his pants and stroked his aching cock, just enough to provide some relief.

"Can I fuck him now?" Zhivago asked.

Sherlock's breath caught. There had been no discussion about anal intercourse with either John or Zhivago, and it wasn't something Sherlock had been considering for tonight. John seemed amenable, though, and as gorgeous as it was to watch those fingers disappear into his arse over and over, the idea of seeing a hard cock pumping into him was just—Sherlock had to close his eyes for a moment and squeeze the base of his cock.

"Yes." Oh God, yes.

Zhivago sat back on his heels and unfastened his trousers, pushed them down over his hips. His cock was actually quite impressive, bigger than Sherlock would have guessed based on his size and build. Zhivago pulled a condom packet from his pocket, had it rolled on and lubed astonishingly quickly, and then turned back to John.

John made a small sound and shifted on his knees, and Zhivago put a hand between his shoulder blades and pushed, saying, "Down, love. That's perfect."

Sherlock could only stand there and watch, his fingers still wrapped around his cock but not moving, just waiting. He was fairly certain John had never done this before, and for him to be in this position now, so open and ready for it, to let Sherlock have such total control over his body – it was nearly overwhelming.

Zhivago gave his own cock a tug and shifted forward, and John made a sound again, something so soft that Sherlock almost didn't hear it.


Everything slowed down, all at once. Sherlock was paralyzed for a full second, unable to process what he'd just heard. He shook his head, pulled his thoughts back to the surface again, and John repeated the word, louder.


Zhivago froze and looked up at Sherlock with an expression of shock just as John crumpled to the floor. "Did he just—"

"Get out," Sherlock said, and panic began to rise in his chest. John had safeworded, oh God. This wasn't supposed to happen, and now—

"He safeworded for that? Are you fucking kidding me?"

Sherlock grabbed a handful of Zhivago's designer t-shirt and hauled him to standing. "Yes. And that means you get the fuck out. Now."

Zhivago held his hands up, clearly startled. "All right, all right." He tugged off the condom and pulled his trousers up again, and looked over at John before turning a strangely anxious expression to Sherlock. "This is all just between us, right? I don't want people to know some random bloke safeworded on me in a scene."

Sherlock glared daggers at him and pointed at the door, and Zhivago nearly tripped in his haste to get out.

Sherlock refastened his own trousers and turned back to see John curled up on the floor, arms still bound uncomfortably behind his back. He looked shockingly small and vulnerable, and Sherlock took two steps forward before another image flashed into his mind – another person, bound and naked and sobbing and hurt.

You're a fucking freak!

Sherlock closed his eyes, pressed his hands against the side of his head. No, no – this wasn't like that. It wasn't. Oh, God, it couldn't be. Not if he pulled himself together right now.

He fell to his knees and stroked a hand down John's back before unfastening the leather strap. As soon as John's hands were free, he tugged the blindfold from his eyes and stared up at Sherlock, and another face swam into Sherlock's vision, one much younger and angrier, one that had lashed out with his fists right after looking up at Sherlock like this, just like this. Sherlock braced himself, but nothing happened. John exhaled and closed his eyes.

Sherlock swallowed down the panic that threatened to overwhelm him and forced himself to think. This was John, not… This was John, and it was different with John. And Sherlock was different: he knew more, had a better understanding of what they were doing, what needed to happen next. Aftercare, right – he closed his eyes and pictured the web pages John had found, let them slide across his mind, but he couldn't focus enough to read the text. He hadn't taken that part seriously enough.

He opened his eyes again and pressed a hand over his mouth. John had trusted him with this, and he hadn't done enough. He hadn't prepared for this. He was supposed to comfort now, but he wasn't good at comforting people, never had been. What did one do in this sort of situation? What did John need him to do? He had no idea.

But no, he did, didn't he? When John had been anxious and unsettled in these last two weeks, he'd responded well to being touched. Sherlock's touch might not be welcome at the moment, but it was the only thing he could think to do.

"John," he whispered, and reached out to touch John's face and then his hair. John exhaled and leaned slightly into Sherlock's hand, and Sherlock nearly whimpered with relief. He was struck by an impulse to pull John into his arms, but no, that might be too much. Instead, he pulled the blanket from the floor and shook it out, then draped it over John's naked body.

John opened his eyes and sat up, and pulled the blanket around him more tightly. He leaned back against the sofa and stared up at the ceiling. He was unreadable, completely opaque, and Sherlock had no idea what would happen next.

John pressed a hand against his forehead and sighed, and Sherlock reached out for him. He caught himself just in time – no, he had to wait, to give John space. Didn't he? John seemed as if he needed a moment, needed… something.

Sherlock pulled his hand away and grasped the edge of the fleece blanket instead. He sat next to John on the floor and clenched the thick fabric with his fingers, and stared at John's pale face. His heart pounded in his chest, but all he could do now was wait.


Chapter Text

Cinnamon. It had sounded so broken and desperate in that moment, and Sherlock's stomach roiled at the memory. But John hadn't fled, and that could only mean this, this arrangement, wasn't broken beyond repair. It could be fixed. Sherlock could fix it — if John would let him. Would John let him?

John took a deep breath and exhaled smoothly, and continued to stare up at the ceiling. Sherlock's gaze raked over his face, searching for clues. Was he angry? There was no unconscious tension in the usual places. His cheeks were pinker than usual, but that could be an aftereffect of sexual arousal rather than an indication of anger. His shoulders were slumped, but not from frustration or exasperation. He wasn't looking at Sherlock, but he wasn't obviously avoiding him. He seemed to be thinking, trying to decide what to do next.

He had every right to be livid, to say no, we're done, that was too much. But that would have happened by now, wouldn't it? Perhaps the fact that John was taking his time was a positive sign. Or perhaps it meant he was trying to find a way to break bad news gently. (That was something John would think needed doing.)

Fuck. Sherlock's stomach twisted at the thought. It was all he could do not to fidget, to demand John's attention. He could only wait until John was ready, and it was wretched. He focused on his own breathing, then on the lights strung on the far wall (LED, recently replaced, a bit bright for the space, hard to look at, even) and oh God why was this taking so long?

At last, John opened his mouth and hesitated a terrifying moment more before saying, "I'm sorry." He looked down at the fleece blanket with a strangely flustered expression.

Sherlock blinked. That wasn't what he'd expected at all, and it took a full second for him to wade through his own adrenaline and respond. "No, don't be sorry. That's exactly what the safeword was for."

John was apologizing. Why was John apologizing? It had all been Sherlock's doing, his own fault for choosing a random idiot from the message boards — Christ, what was he thinking? He should have screened these potential partners much more thoroughly. John deserved better.

John pressed his forehead into his knees, and Sherlock clenched the blanket hard to stop himself from reaching out for him. John had responded well to a small touch before, but his body was still closed off, turned in on itself, all the signs that usually meant stay away. Would a hand on his arm be acceptable? Sherlock's fingers twitched against the blanket. Why was this so difficult to navigate? He knew John. He was supposed to know what John liked, what John needed. That's how it was meant to work; that was his job here.

After a moment, John sighed and looked up again, eyes slightly unfocused. Just as Sherlock was about to break the silence out of sheer frustration, John turned to look at him. His eyes were clear and earnest, and Sherlock could barely breathe.

"I should explain."

"If you like. You don't have to." Oh God, please explain. Please.

John's expression became one of surprise. "No, I want to. But first, can we get off the floor?"

Despite the pretense of asking permission, John didn't wait for an answer; he stood and resettled on the sofa, tucking the blanket around him again. Sherlock sat cross-legged on the opposite end of the sofa and turned to face him. John frowned and looked as if he wasn't sure what to say, and Sherlock finally couldn't bear it any longer.

"It was too much, wasn't it?"

"No, it was amazing. I just…" John paused and seemed to be considering his words carefully. "I didn't want him to fuck me."

"Oh." Sherlock waited for him to elaborate, but he didn't. Could he ask about that? John was usually good about telling him to sod off when he crossed the line, but Sherlock had just directed a stranger to lick, finger, and fuck him. Etiquette was ordinarily difficult for Sherlock to navigate, but in this situation, it was impossible to know where the boundaries might lie.

And what did it mean that John said he didn't want to be fucked? They'd never discussed anal intercourse, but Sherlock had always assumed it was on the table. It hadn't been on the agenda for tonight, and perhaps wouldn't have been for a while, but Sherlock had got caught up in the moment. And that was his big mistake, wasn't it? He'd lost sight of what they were doing, had focused more on what he had wanted than on what John had wanted. There be dragons.

He swallowed. "All right."

"But the rest of it was good. Great, honestly. That thing he did with his tongue was just…" John laughed and the sound was strange, not at all like his usual laugh. Sherlock stared at him, uncertain if John was being honest about this. John was usually a terrible liar, but the signals were crossing now, unreliable.  

Best to ask directly. "Are you all right?"

"Yes, I'm fine. I promise. I didn't want him to leave. I just didn't want that."

"Duly noted." Sherlock was still uncertain if he could believe John, but the simplest thing to do at the moment was to accept his words. And then what? Sherlock felt a twist of anxiety. "What do you want to do now?"

John relaxed into the sofa and looked thoughtful for several long seconds. Sherlock had no idea what to make of his hesitation. What was the protocol after one person had used the safeword? He didn't have to sift through his mental files to know he hadn't read anything about that.

John looked up again. "I want to come."

His expression was clear and his voice confident, and it was a full second before Sherlock's brain processed the words. He felt a wave of elation, so strong that he had to bite back an impulse to laugh, to grin manically. John hadn't been put off. He wasn't ready to leave. The experiment wasn't over, and Sherlock hadn't actually fucked it up beyond repair. He allowed himself to smile.

"Good. Go to it then."

"I have to do it myself?"

"Our guest fled when he realized you had safeworded. I could go upstairs and find someone else—" (Sherlock couldn't imagine bringing another person into this right now) "—but the most efficient course of action would be for you to take matters into your own hands. So to speak."

John looked mildly annoyed, but he began touching himself all the same, and just like that, Sherlock felt a spark along his spine. John settled back into his role so easily, so perfectly.

"Will you… talk to me?" John asked, so quietly that Sherlock almost missed it.

The words sank in, and then Sherlock couldn't breathe. John, beautiful John, needing this as much as Sherlock did. It was clear that he enjoyed submitting to Sherlock's direction, but this was the first time he'd asked for it so directly. He felt a rush of affection and gratitude, the combination of which made him nearly giddy. He reined it in, swallowed it down. Yes, he could do this for John. Yes.

"Of course," he said, and pulled the blanket away from John's lap. John's cock was thick again but not yet completely erect. John's fingers wrapped around the base of the shaft, completely still, and he seemed to be waiting for Sherlock to speak. Sherlock exhaled, slowly, trying to bring his heart rate back down. "Slowly, long strokes."

John's face relaxed as he pulled up on the shaft, and he seemed to melt into the sofa. The pad of his thumb lingered on the glans for a moment before he stroked down again, pulling the foreskin down with it. Oh this, this – Sherlock hardly knew where to begin, what to ask for first. He wanted John to take his time, to tease himself, not let himself come until Sherlock let him, until Sherlock ordered him to come. Could he do that?

They were going to be here for a while, so perhaps some lubricant would ease things along. Sherlock scanned the floor and yes, there was a packet there, one that had fallen out of Zhivago's pocket earlier.

"Here, use this."

"Yes," John said, and nearly fell into Sherlock's lap in his haste to snatch it up. Sherlock watched him tear the packet open and then stroke his slick hand upwards again, tighter now. His eyes fell closed and his face went slack, and oh, he was completely bare now, exposed in so many ways. It was delicious and Sherlock wanted even more, wanted to curl up inside John's mind and feel what he was feeling, to understand what this was like. Had this experience affected John's perspective on sex as much as it had Sherlock's own?

Sherlock focused on the movement of John's hand. "What do you think about when you masturbate?"

"Right now I'm thinking about that guy's tongue in my arsehole. Have you ever done that?" Sherlock felt a stab of arousal as the words stirred the memory, and he shook his head. "Neither had I until tonight. God, it was bloody amazing. Add that to your spreadsheet."

Noted. How interesting that John found anal stimulation and penetration with fingers and tongue so very erotic, but had drawn the line at being penetrated with a penis. It was a question he'd ask, but not tonight. He dragged his gaze up to see that John was staring at him.

John's lips curled up just a bit. "What do you think about while you watch?"

Sherlock stared back at him, surprised. John hadn't asked about Sherlock's motivations before. Did he know how much it affected him to watch John like this, to see him give over his body to others so easily, just because Sherlock asked him to do so? Sherlock assumed that he knew – or at least suspected, on some level. But he didn't know what Sherlock fantasized about, the things he thought about when he retreated to his bed after these nights and lay in the dark. Some things were better left as amorphous thoughts, as hints of fantasies, things not to pursue in the light of day. But others…

He looked down again, watched the slow, steady strokes of John's hand, the way the glans disappeared into his fist, over and over. "You're so expressive. You are all the time, but when you're just feeling like that, when you seem to lose yourself in sensation — it's breathtaking."

"Is it?" John stared back at him, heat building in his gaze. "You get off on it, don't you?"


"It gets you hard. You're getting hard now."

Christ. "Yes."

"Care to join me?" John asked, and tossed the packet of lube towards him.

Sherlock inhaled sharply. Yes, he cared, and that was the difficulty, in a nutshell. He cared, and he needed not to have his own tangled, freakish feelings exposed to the light. The more of them John saw, the less willing he would be to continue. It wasn't something Sherlock could take back, once it was out there. It would change everything.

He picked up the packet of lube and pretended to examine the label. On the other hand, John had made it clear that he was uncomfortable with Sherlock keeping his own sexual interests completely separate. He'd been angry when he found out Sherlock had masturbated in private. He was, right now, asking Sherlock to be honest about his own physical response.

It wasn't all that different from the sofa, the first night. It had been fine then. More than fine. Sherlock looked back up at John, and was surprised by the raw desire on his face, in his eyes. He wanted this desperately, was aroused by the idea of watching Sherlock do this. John obviously enjoyed porn, so it was reasonable that he'd find the idea of watching a live sex act erotic.

Sherlock could absolutely give him more of that, on another level of the club. His brain began to spin possibilities, and it took effort to still his thoughts again. Later – tomorrow, perhaps. For now, this would suffice.

But oh God, the idea of doing this in front of another person – in front of John, who was the center of Sherlock's sexual universe – it was momentarily paralyzing. His fingers fumbled at the zip of his trousers, not making any progress for several awkward seconds.

It was John, and John had seen this before. More or less. It was still strange, to expose himself literally and figuratively, to let someone else see this thing that was so very private. He'd only had orgasms with another person a handful of times, and generally under circumstances that were… well. Not like this.

He finally managed to draw down the zip and push his trousers down over his hips, and John went completely still. He watched Sherlock pull his cock from his pants and stroke himself to hardness, mouth open and eyes wide, and he stared at Sherlock's hands, followed the movement with his eyes. His gaze was nearly a physical force, and it was strange to be on the receiving end of it. It was simultaneously erotic and distracting, and it was nearly a minute before Sherlock realized that John was touching himself in exactly the same way Sherlock was.

Sherlock couldn't help but smile at that: John was so desperate for direction, such a beautifully willing sub. Sherlock sped up his strokes and John followed, grinning. Sherlock twisted his hand, and John mirrored the movement. Sherlock slowed down again and so did John, though clearly with a bit of reluctance.

"So what do you think about when you masturbate?" John asked a minute later. "I assume your answer has changed since the last time I asked."

"It's obvious, isn't it?"

"I still want to hear you say it."

There was a touch of a command in his tone, and Sherlock humoured it. He stroked faster and John faltered slightly, staring hungrily at him for several moments before matching his pace. "I think about how you respond when people—"

"Men," John interjected.

"—touch you. Your face when you come. The way they watch you." It was better with men; that was true. Sherlock wasn't bothered by the idea of John having sex with women, but it was so much easier to push his boundaries with a man, to set him off-balance and to watch him recover. And he always did, beautifully.

He'd done it tonight as well, hadn't he? Sherlock reached between his thighs to tug his testicles, and oh God, John John John.

"God, Sherlock," John whispered, and it almost sounded like a revelation. John was nearly breathless just from watching this, from hearing Sherlock say those words, and he wasn't turning away. He wasn't disgusted or frightened by any of it. He found it erotic — he wanted it, wanted more. He could handle whatever Sherlock gave him, and he wasn't afraid to say no when Sherlock crossed the line. He could take it, all of it.

Sherlock's fear and apprehension drained away, so quickly that it left him breathless, filled only with an intense longing he couldn't quite pin down. It was going to be fine, all of it. John had set a limit, and Sherlock had listened, hadn't failed completely. And John still wanted to continue, to experiment, to submit, to be played and bound and pushed and fucked in so many ways.

Sherlock was vaguely aware that he was close to orgasm, far more quickly than he'd expected, but he didn't want to stop. He could hear John's breathing speed up, the wet sounds of John's hand and his own, the sharp smell of lube, and it was too good, too much, too close. The sounds were off-balance then, as if John had become lost in his own pleasure, no longer trying to keep up with Sherlock but just wanting to come. Sherlock forced his eyes to focus and watched him, watched his hand fly over dark, wet skin and his expression become strained and then, there. John was still moving, but Sherlock's orgasm sparked low in his groin and built steadily up before it shot through him, bright and hot, and he closed his eyes.

He could hear John's groan of completion through the fog in his brain, could feel the sofa cushions shift as John's body shuddered in waves and finally relaxed again.

"That was…" John began, and then exhaled, letting the words melt into a moan.

Sherlock opened his eyes to see him sprawled back against the sofa cushions and panting. The blanket in John's lap was striped with semen, and Sherlock felt an impulse to drag his fingers through it.

"Yeah." Breathe.

"I imagine it's had worse on it," John said, so much more composed than Sherlock felt. Sherlock wiped his own sticky hand on the blanket and John laughed. "Oh, God, I shudder to imagine what the laundry folks must think."

Sherlock laughed at that and looked up. John stared back at him and Sherlock suddenly felt far too exposed. He pulled the blanket over his lap and his knees toward his chest, but then John's cold toes wriggled their way under his arse. Sherlock leapt to his feet with an undignified squawk and then nearly toppled over, hobbled by his own trousers. He finally managed to pull them up, but not before John was howling with laughter.

"Glad to be a source of entertainment," Sherlock said, and plucked John's trousers from the floor. He couldn't stop himself from grinning, though he didn't let John see. "Get dressed."

John stood, still chuckling, and put his clothes back on excruciatingly slowly, in a sort of reverse strip-tease.

Sherlock watched him, watched each inch of skin disappear beneath a veneer of plain, ordinary clothes. There was nothing ordinary about John Watson, whether his clothes were on or off, whether he was in bed with a man or a woman. He was beautiful, strong, clever… perfect.

Sherlock looked away and closed his eyes. Oh, God.