Sherlock mainly knew of the Orchard by reputation, or at least, he had done up until the past few evenings. A large early Victorian building in a now-rundown area of Hackney, it had once been a venerable private residence, added to in the 1960’s when it had been developed into a hotel. Then, in the 1980’s, the recession had led to its closure and it had stood empty for nearly fifteen years, until an enterprising group of young men had bought and refurbished it.
None of this history was of particular interest to Sherlock, naturally. What was interesting was that the Orchard had now become the internationally praised and cited example of how to run a brothel.
What a fine, proud city London was!
Sherlock would have been perfectly content to go his whole life without knowing a damn thing about the place, but a request from Lestrade a few days ago had piqued his interest sufficiently to get involved with a little subterfuge involving a couple of the employees of the ‘hotel’.
Drug related murder. Questionable alibi. Coerced witnesses. Lestrade knew all the things to say to get Sherlock’s attention, and Sherlock, facing down a veritable drought of cases, had gladly taken the offered bait. It was almost disappointing now, to know it was nearly over. All he had to do was go to the Orchard and meet his contact, cornered in a pub a few nights ago and brought around to Sherlock’s way of thinking with a handful of well formed lies.
The taxi ride to the Orchard had been long and dull, the (painkiller addicted, ex-secondary school teacher) taxi driver having become very quiet once Sherlock had given him the name of his destination. Once they arrived, the driver peered with something approaching fascinated dread at the windows of the building, as if expecting to see illicit sex acts being committed right up against the glass.
Sherlock glanced around as the taxi pulled away, noting the gradual drift of people making their way towards the main door, the few nervous first timers hanging around in the street, trying to look like they weren’t thinking about going in. He didn’t need to worry about them though; like all good Victorian buildings, the house that had become the Orchard had a tradesman’s entrance, and that was where his contact, Ollie, was going to meet him.
Ollie was a simple minded creature, one of the brothel’s ‘entertainers’, keeping the patrons company or showing them to their rooms, occasionally bedding them and generally keeping the party mood going, while working towards having his own room there. He’d been flattered by Sherlock’s attention when they’d met and had easily bought his story about being a private investigator employed by Simon Greeley’s suspicious wife. Ollie’s job put him in a good position to observe the comings and goings of customers and staff alike, and also to raise questions with other staff without drawing undue suspicion, and so had been perfect for Sherlock’s purposes. Now all Sherlock had to do was get to the tradesman’s entrance, meet Ollie at the door and get the list of Greeley’s shift times and movements from him.
He climbed the steps to the small awning-covered door at the side of the building and knocked as he’d been instructed. The door swung open and Sherlock was greeted by a smiling face.
It wasn’t Ollie.
“Hi,” said the tall young man who had opened the door. “Are you lost? You know most people prefer the front doors, right?”
The man (keen angler, recently failed his driving test) was wearing the dark grey suit and pale blue shirt that passed for a uniform among the security guards at the Orchard, the same suit that Greeley would wear on duty. If Sherlock were to ask for Ollie it would be immediately suspicious, and he couldn’t risk word getting back to Greeley, not when he was already twitchy from the constant questioning of the police.
“I, er, sorry. First time here,” Sherlock replied, faking nerves and self-consciousness. The security man grinned at him and nodded.
“No worries,” he replied. “Lots of eyes at the front, eh? I’ll show you into the bar.”
Sherlock acted relieved and let the young man lead him down the passageway, between a kitchen and a storeroom that had once been a scullery, into the main part of the building. What had once been the house’s formal parlour and dining room had been knocked through into one massive space, an ornate bar installed across a far corner. Low music played and, under the dim lights, guests and entertainers lounged on sofas or chatted in shadowy booths.
“Have a seat,” Sherlock’s escort told him, gesturing to a two-seater sofa near a window overlooking the dim alley at the side of the building. “I’ll have somebody come and see to you.”
“Thank you. That sounds...lovely,” Sherlock forced out, and sat as the man wandered off.
And as if things weren’t going badly enough, Simon Greeley was perched on a stool at one end of the bar, keeping an eye on the room at large with almost paranoid attentiveness. Sherlock wasn’t known to him, didn’t need to worry about being recognised. But somewhere in this building was a list of Greeley’s movements over the week during which a murder was committed, and if it had been discovered, if Sherlock was found in any way to be suspect, it could only spell trouble.
Greeley had long been on the Met’s list of ‘persons of interest’ in the case of a large drugs ring based in East London. In November, a police officer who had infiltrated the ring had been found stabbed to death, his body washed up on the shore of the Thames, not far from a night club known to be used by the gang to launder money. Greeley had been the main suspect, but had gathered enough witnesses with nauseatingly precise, practiced accounts of his movements on the night in question, that he had too strong an alibi for a conviction. Hence Sherlock’s involvement, hence his request to Ollie for help in tracking the times Greeley had actually been at work (as he’d claimed) on the night of the murder. Sherlock wasn’t sure if Greeley was actually married or not, but Ollie had accepted the excuse of a suspicious wife easily enough and had agreed to coax information from other staff without mentioning the reason why. The excited tone to his voice in the message he’d left on Sherlock’s phone suggested that he’d found a hole in Greeley’s alibi.
A part of Sherlock was impressed by Ollie’s guts, willingly going up against the security guard, albeit in secret; Greeley was a large imposing man, the type one wouldn’t wish to meet in a darkened alley, unless one was particularly interested in acquiring a broken nose or a knife wound. He sat on the dainty bar stool like a circus bear balancing on a tricycle, keen eyes missing nothing as he watched the crowd, despite the Neanderthal stupidity suggested by the general appearance of his face.
As Sherlock mused on his options, a patron was escorted past him on the arm of an Orchard employee, an orange-tanned young man in questionably convincing drag, already chatting excitedly to his customer about what they could get up to. Sherlock watched them leave the bar and stop off at the reception desk to get their room key.
That was how The Orchard worked; technically it really was just a hotel. A customer could walk in, sit in the bar, possibly meet somebody. If they knew what room they wanted, they could just ask at the reception desk or even book ahead by phone, or they could join a person they met downstairs in their room. Just typical, perfectly legal hotel goings-on. Of course, each room came with its own ‘companion’, who would sometimes venture down to the bar to woo new customers if nobody had booked them. The simple yet elegant workings of it all were almost fit to impress Sherlock, who always admired a well abused legal loophole.
Sherlock schooled his face to suit his nervous, ill-at-ease character as the security guard who’d let him in reappeared in the entrance to the bar, catching Greeley’s gaze before gesturing to the bartender. While the three of them spoke among themselves, Sherlock’s eye was drawn away by a swift movement at the door, and he turned back to see Ollie waving at him.
Ollie (24 though he told people he was 19, originally from Walsall and doing a fair job of faking a London accent) slipped surreptitiously into the room and settled himself on the sofa next to Sherlock, snugging his skinny body up against his side in a way that made Sherlock want to recoil. It was how all the other groups in the room were positioned though, more or less, so he put up with it. Ollie’s fair hair was dyed blue tonight; it had been purple the last time Sherlock had seen him.
“Do you have the list?” Sherlock asked hurriedly. If he could at least get the information he needed, he might be able to talk his way out of the place. Suddenly changing his mind about wanting to be there would look very odd indeed, but abrupt illness, or even excessive drunkenness-
“No,” Ollie admitted quietly, making his eyes large and giving Sherlock a dramatically apologetic look from under his eyelashes. “I couldn’t bear to bring it down here while he was there. He’s a bit scary,” he nodded at Greeley as he spoke, and Sherlock suppressed an annoyed sigh.
“I need it as soon as possible, Ollie. Are you going to be able to get it to me tonight?”
“Well...he’s right there,” Ollie murmured plaintively.
“There’s no reason for him to suspect either of us is up to anything though,” Sherlock replied, trying to sound reasonable. “Look, there are fliers with the hotel contact details at the desk, yes? Get the list, fold it up in one of those, and bring it to me. Alright?”
“That...yeah, that’s a good idea. You’re clever!” Ollie replied brightly, and got up to leave. Sherlock shook his head, hoping fervently that the daft creature’s data collection abilities were sharper than his subterfuge skills.
As Ollie headed for the door though, the frame was filled by a rotund middle aged man in an impeccable suit, who surveyed the room with the confidence of a ruler overlooking his domain. Sherlock knew who he was from reputation, and a few details he gleaned from the state of the man’s nails and moustache (cigar smoker, low carb diet courtesy of his doctor); this was the owner and manager of the Orchard, Robert Sommel.
“Evening Ollie,” Sommel said in a cheery voice as the young man approached him. “You’re not leaving one of our guests all on his own, are you?” His voice took on a faintly menacing tone as he detected a possible source of dissatisfaction.
Sherlock’s heart leapt; this could be perfect! All Ollie had to do was grab a flier, tell Sommel that Sherlock had decided to come back another night and wanted the phone number, and he was away! Even if Ollie didn’t have the list to hand to pass to him, he could contact him another time and collect it. The perfect way out, and all it required was for Ollie to be only marginally less stupid than he looked.
“No Mr Sommel, Mr Holmes...just doesn’t think I’m his type. I was going to find somebody else,” Ollie said, glancing back over his shoulder at Sherlock. Judging from the smile he gave him, Ollie seemed to be quite pleased with the excuse he’d come up with. Sherlock would have quite liked to have strangled him.
He fixed the timid smile back on his face as Sommel turned to him obsequiously, approaching him with outstretched hands.
“My dear Mr Holmes! Your first visit to our fine establishment, I believe?” He gestured Sherlock out of his seat and ushered him towards the bar at a slow stroll. “I’m Robert Sommel, I have the honour of being the owner of the Orchard.”
“Yes, pleased to meet you,” Sherlock began trying to hang onto the shy, awkward character he’d been hiding behind in the face of Sommel’s gushing bonhomie.
“I wholeheartedly understand that you want your money’s worth out of your experience here, so I shall let you in on a little secret. One of the jewels in the crown of the Orchard, yes?”
Sherlock had once had a car salesman train him on gaining people’s attention and trust, and he wondered briefly if Sommel had gone to the same man for lessons.
“I’d certainly be delighted to, but-”
“Here she is,” Sommel announced, summoning the bartender with an imperious flick of one be-ringed hand. The woman on the other side of the bar was the same one that the two security guards had been talking to. The younger guard had left, but Greeley still sat at the other end of the bar, glancing over at Sherlock and Sommel every few seconds.
Ollie was going to get the sharp edge of Sherlock’s tongue over this, he really was.
The bartender (two children, lived with either her mother or sister and had been working at The Orchard for at least 18 months) smiled warmly at Sherlock as she allowed Sommel to reach out and cup her hand in what he probably thought was a chivalric gesture.
“Justine here is a marvel,” Sommel told Sherlock by way of an introduction. “She can just take one good look at a man and tell him which of our rooms would be perfect for him. Justine, would you mind working your magic on Mr Holmes here?”
Sherlock had to suppress a shudder at the very thought, but Justine laughed pleasantly and turned her attention on him, studying his face with what Sherlock took to be more theatrics than actual observation. After a moment, she smiled, and said in a syrupy sweet voice;
“Actually Mr Sommel, Johnny is in tonight, I think he’d be just perfect for this gentleman.”
Oh fucking Christ, was she seriously going to send him off with somebody called ‘Johnny’?
“Johnny?” Sommel repeated vaguely, visibly searching his memory for the name.
“He’s one of the occasionals, sir. You know, on the top floor?”
“Ah, yes! I remember the fellow now, you’re right. Perfect! There we are then Mr Holmes, I’m sure that you’ll be well taken care of.”
And with that one of the receptionists appeared out of nowhere to escort him to his room for the night, and whoever awaited him inside.
If he hadn’t known better, he’d have felt sure the whole damned situation was a trap.
The receptionist, a tall slim woman in a uniform reminiscent to that of an airline stewardess (fellow nicotine patch user, recently started attending ballet classes but wasn’t enjoying them) chattered happily to him as she escorted him to the lift, then got in with him and pressed the button, as if she thought him incapable of navigating his way to the top floor by himself. Another security man greeted them when they stepped out of the lift doors at the top. As they made their way through the crowd on the open landing, a few party-goers having migrated to the conversation area of sofas up there from the bar with drinks in hand, Sherlock couldn’t find any way to get away from her without causing undue fuss. It was looking more and more like ending up in ‘Johnny’s’ clutches was going to be unavoidable.
The receptionist led him to a small alcove with a podium in it, a large ledger resting on the podium’s top, the word ‘Occasionals’ written in gilt on its cover.
“What exactly is an ‘occasional’?” he managed to ask her, as she consulted the book carefully.
“Oh, they’re free-lancers,” she replied distractedly, running her index finger down a column of text. “It was one of Mr Sommel’s ideas. Anyone can book one of the rooms up here to conduct their own business from, and pay a percentage of their fee to the Orchard. Johnny’s quite a regular, we see him at least a couple of times a month.”
Sherlock replied with a grunt. Not only had the esteemed Justine matched him up with a rent boy, she’d matched him up with a bloody amateur.
“He’s in room 6-12 tonight,” the receptionist finally announced, and opened the cabinet that filled out the base of the podium to remove a key card. The party on the sofas were watching him with mild curiosity, or at least some of them were. Most were considerably drunk and one was paying little attention to anything but the blow job he was receiving.
Sherlock spared a last, desperate hope that the receptionist would give him the card and leave him to find the rest of the way himself, possibly giving him chance to find a fire escape away from prying eyes, but sadly it wasn’t to be. She took him up to the door, even slid the card through the lock for him, and pushed the door open.
“Have fun,” she told him, with a well practiced cheeky smile, and left.
Sherlock stepped into the room with a feeling of dread, glancing around, taking in as much as possible as was his way. It looked like an ordinary hotel room; attractively if rather blandly decorated, with a large bed and a door that led to what Sherlock supposed was a bathroom. There was a small seating area comprised of a coffee table and two armchairs, one of which was occupied by a man.
Sherlock took pride in the fact that he never made assumptions or pre-judgements, never let his expectations colour his deductive reasoning.
Still, ‘Johnny’ wasn’t anything like he’d expected. Not at all.
For a start, he was a little older than Sherlock, in his late thirties. Dark blue-grey eyes, greying sandy hair clipped short and arranged neatly, the style having been bullied into place over months and years rather than relying on products. He wore a neat navy blue suit, department store fare, most likely Marks and Spencer’s, with a white shirt that had only the collar button unfastened. His face was prematurely lined and sun-weathered, but fairly good looking.
He rose to his feet and Sherlock took note of his build; a little below average height, not particularly heavy, but sturdy with well used muscle, a little softness overlaying it that spoke of a recent period of inactivity. He winced, very slightly, as his right leg took his weight but seemed to stand perfectly comfortably. His posture was straight and steady, his head raised, a precise military stance.
Military made perfect sense, actually. Apart from the posture, the studied tidiness of his hair and the small, neatly stitched repairs he’d made to the cuff of his suit jacket spoke of fastidiousness, but the smudge on his shirt collar from shaving cream or other toiletries showed this as a learned trait, not a natural one, something that had been trained into him. He had confidence in his physical abilities, but not in his physical beauty, as the mostly-fastened shirt and neutral clothing communicated. Along with the work-toughened physique, this all made sense for a soldier, and the injury that caused the pain in the right leg would explain both the slight excess of weight and the fact that the man was now earning money in a brothel.
Still, he was hardly the first soldier who’d ended up paying his rent this way, Sherlock supposed, and Johnny’s conscientious repairs to an already mediocre suit spoke of the problems he was facing with his back balance.
Naturally Sherlock had drawn these conclusions, verified them and judged how to go about the whole impending encounter before Johnny had taken even a single step towards him.
Johnny approached him with a hand outstretched in greeting, a polite-edging-on-warm smile playing about his wide mouth. “Good evening,” he said in an even, mid-toned voice. “You would be...?”
Sherlock mentally pulled a name out of a hat. “Michael,” he offered, shaking Johnny’s hand. “And you are Johnny, yes?”
“Ah, John, please.” The other man replied. “Here, let me take your coat.”
Sherlock allowed John to slip the coat from his shoulders and, while he was hanging it up on a hat-stand by the door, took the opportunity to cross the room and look out the window. His heart soared for a moment as he saw the steps of a narrow metal fire escape outside, but the moment crashed as he realised that climbing down to ground level would take him straight past one of the large windows of the bar. No way to manage that without drawing attention.
John approached him quietly and placed a hand on his shoulder, politely drawing him away from the window.
John was polite, wasn’t he. A nice man, respectful and considerate, or at least from what Sherlock had seen so far. A gay man with a military background, he would surely understand if the customer brought to him tonight, new to the Orchard, new to the scene, felt insecure or upset and decided he simply wanted to talk with him. And if said customer, having won John’s sympathy and possibly just a touch of pity, asked John to pop to the bar and get him a drink, well of course he would!
And if that customer happened to be long gone by the time John returned...well, what would Sherlock care? He’d be long gone!
It was perfect.
Sherlock allowed John to turn him around so they stood face to face. The top of John’s head was about level with Sherlock’s eyes, though he was clearly used to being around taller men, leaving enough space between them that he didn’t have to crane his head back to look Sherlock in the eye. He left his hand on Sherlock’s shoulder and raised the other one to gently touch his hand.
“Do you like to kiss?” he asked.
Sherlock lowered his eyes to the floor in what he hoped looked like shyness, and shook his head.
“Ah well,” John said pleasantly, a smile in his voice despite a faint edge of disappointment. Sherlock added to his mental dossier on John : Good kisser ?
“Come on,” John said, voice calm and firm, already prepared to gentle him along. “Come and sit with me, over here,” and he drew Sherlock over to the bed, sat next to him at its foot. Put an arm around his back and a hand on his thigh, both of which Sherlock had to stop himself from flinching away from.
“You seem very nervous,” John said quietly. “Tell me, what would you like to do? Almost anything is okay, you don’t have to worry.”
Sherlock kept his shy, upset expression on and sighed miserably, rubbing at his face with one hand. John tutted gently and pulled at him with the arm round his back, drawing him over to lean against him. This was good, Sherlock thought. These were the actions of a man about to comfort, not seduce. He managed to put his head down on John’s shoulder and readied himself to make his plan work.
It started off well; “John...I-”
That was as far as he got before it went to hell.
Like a striking cobra, John curled forward and placed his mouth on the side of Sherlock’s stretched throat, and Sherlock had no idea what the man did there but it killed the words in his mouth and replaced them with a little wheezing cry.
At the same time the hand on Sherlock’s thigh slid and turned and cupped his genitals warmly though the fabric of his trousers, squeezing, massaging in such a way that Sherlock seemed to lose control of his lower body, his legs weakening and spreading apart without any prompting from his brain.
John’s warm mouth slid on the skin of his neck, the arm around Sherlock’s back tightening, and though Sherlock raised both hands to John’s chest, he found that somehow (had he managed to completely mis-estimate how strong the man was?) he was unable to push him away.
The hand between his legs withdrew and Sherlock reined in his vocabulary and put it to use. “I think you should really back off before GNNNF!” he managed, as it became apparent that the hand had only withdrawn far enough to be able to unfasten his flies. Warm fingers slipped throught he slit in his underwear to grope at him and he could actually feel the blood flow in his body rearranging itself as his penis became stiff.
This wasn’t supposed to go this way at all. He was in complete control of his body, he had no need for sex and no reason to react like this, but there was no denying that, on a purely physical level, he was quite horrendously aroused. John’s hand was smooth and confident on him, the gun-grip callouses on his palm and fingers feeling like sparks of static against the sensitive skin, and Sherlock was disgusted to hear himself whimpering.
John peeled his mouth away from Sherlock’s neck and raised his head to look him in the eye, still stroking him. Sitting side by side, the length of Sherlock’s legs effectively taken out of the equation, they were almost of a height with one another, and John’s blue eyes studied his face keenly, unfairly, as Sherlock’s mind struggled to overcome his body’s demands.
“It’s been a long time for you, hasn’t it,” John stated calmly. “Don’t worry, I’ll take good care of you.”
Sherlock was on the cusp of telling him exactly what he could do and where he could go and, indeed, where he could put his damned care when the arm around Sherlock’s back was abruptly removed and, thoroughly appalled with himself, Sherlock fell backwards onto the mattress.
Gasping, he placed his hands on the bedding to push himself back up, when John leaned over his lap. A spasm of fear passed down Sherlock’s spine and he braced himself in anticipation of a bite. The expected pain didn’t come however, and he involuntarily clenched his fists into the sheets as an onslaught of pleasure ripped through him, incited by John’s searing lips and impossibly flexible tongue slipping and stroking over the thin skin of his penis.
Groaning, he managed to raise his head enough to get a look at John’s face, his flushed cheeks and – oh God – his widely stretched mouth, and the sight somehow set off a reation in Sherlock that made his thighs quiver and his guts roil. In the moment before his neck muscles gave up and forced him to drop his head back to the bed, he could have sworn he saw John’s eyes glint at him, and then...
Something like a bright flash of light all along his nerves, and-
Sherlock was vaguely aware of John sitting up and moving on the bed, of a slight soreness in his fingers from having clenched them too hard, but aside from these things the world was nothing but a dimly-lit blur, a pleasant if distant swirl of colours underscored by the bass thrum of his own pulse.
Letting his eyes fall closed, Sherlock felt impressions of the job he had still to complete lingering on the edges of his mind, never quite blooming fully into thoughts. His body seemed oddly calm and yet filled with an energy that lingered just below the surface, nothing like the thrill of a good puzzle or a bracing chase, but somehow equally satisfying, equally promising. He felt disconnected and adrift, as if his body were being rocked by waves or...
Actually, he was moving, wasn’t he? There was a sensation of pulling underneath him, which resolved into a piece of fabric being drawn out from beneath his body, and he began to consider opening his eyes.
Two muffled thumps stirred him enough to bring him back to awareness, and he didn’t much like what he was aware of.
For a start, it took him far longer than usual to take in his surroundings as he raised his head, staring around the room, at least fifteen or even twenty seconds.
Secondly, his surroundings included his own body, entirely nude, having been pulled up on the bed so that he was lying fully upon it, still on top of the covers. They also included John who was undressing (thumps = shoes being thrown off the bed, Sherlock’s brain supplied) having already bared his feet and removed his jacket. Seeing Sherlock’s eyes on him, the man smiled and licked his lips un-selfconsciously, then undid the cuffs and second button of his shirt before pulling it off over his head. No attempt at coyness or guile, just a quick, efficient strip. His torso showed evidence of tough, sinewy muscle, overlayered with a little soft bulk around his belly. He was scarred here and there, the most noteable example being an exit wound (sniper rifle, mid range) spread out across the skin below his left clavicle. He looked Sherlock over briefly and smiled again, before turning away to putter with something on the bedside table.
Time to put a stop to this, Sherlock decided. Before he got any further out of his depth.
He focused his eyes on John, who reclined next to him and skimmed a palm over Sherlock’s bare stomach, making him shudder.
“Sensitive, aren’t you,” John murmured.
“Now look here,” Sherlock began, but it seemed he was doomed to spend his evening getting interrupted. John leaned over and placed his mouth on Sherlock’s nipple. Sherlock had no idea how to describe or quantify the noise that erupted from his mouth at that, but it became clear that John took it as encouragement, the stupid ass. John’s mouth (the same mouth that had recently been on Sherlock’s penis and into which he had, possibly, ejaculated which couldn’t be remotely sanitary) was warm and mobile on his chest. Sherlock brought up his hands to push him away, but once his fingers encountered the softness of hair, they seemed to evade the instructions of his mind to any further degree.
He was only aware that his eyes had slipped shut when the sensation of a cool, moist hand pushing his thighs apart surprised him sufficiently to open them again. It was sheer curiosity that stayed Sherlock’s tongue while he tried to work out what exactly John was doing down there...and once it became abundantly apparent that his eventual goal was to push two of his fingers inside Sherlock and stroke the walls of his rectum in such a way to make him yell, well by that point the option of speech had once more been removed from the table.
“Good heavens, it has been a while, hasn’t it Michael,” John said, grinning at him, and he turned his attentions to Sherlock’s other nipple.
Sherlock was absolutely furious; not at this John creature, no, he was only an ordinary man, witlessly misinterpreting the cues he was being shown. No, Sherlock was angry with his own damned body! It had never previously made him aware of any particular requirement for sex, but now it had had a little bit of stimulation, his blasted transport had apparently decided to abandon him in favour of sprawling itself out and producing odd sounds. It was maddening!
Mind working furiously to overcome the block his suddenly over-keen libido had constructed between vocabulary and mouth, Sherlock became peripherally aware of his thighs trembling, his breathing becoming hoarse, sweat appearing on his skin, and was so struck by feelings of bodily betrayal that the complete withdrawal of John from his person came as quite a shock.
Sherlock took stock rapidly; muscles shaky, temperature raised, continuing inability to produce coherent speech, impaired reasoning...good god, was this what was wrong with Anderson? Had too much sex caused some kind of cognitive failure?
While his brain was slogging at a dispairingly slow pace through these considerations, John reappeared and rolled Sherlock onto his side like he was a sack of mail. Sherlock tensed as his upper leg was pushed forwards.
“Wait...wait!” he managed to force out, but John was gently reintroducing his fingers into the equation and, somehow, in such a position the sensation was far more remarkable, the slick and tingling sensation inside him becoming a deep throbbing which further shortened his breath. Words from John’s mouth reached his ears but he couldn’t quite fathom what was being said, only that he was being asked something...
“Yes! Damn it, just get on with it!” he cried, and John was thrice an idiot for failing to follow a simple instruction because he pulled his damned fingers out!
And then there was the shock of warm bare skin pressed against the length of Sherlock’s back, strong thighs propped behind his own and firm flesh pressing smoothly inside him.
Sherlock moaned, loudly.
All his life he’d thought everyone around him was mad, what with the time they spent thinking about sex, the energy with which they persued it, when it wasn’t even that interesting.
This luscious, luxurious, undulating pleasure rocking through his body was beyond thrilling, so much so that he couldn’t bring himself to care about his case or Greeley or even the fact of the stranger so casually invading his person. His hands were once more clenched tightly, his throat struggling for breath around an ululating wail, his penis hard and his testicles throbbing as he threw caution to the wind and just let the pleasure of it take him away.
John’s hands were all over him, plucking at his nipples, stroking his belly, squeezing and caressing his genitals, and all the time he kept that same insistent, rythmic pace, pumping smoothly into Sherlock’s body as if he belonged there. He grunted and panted against the back of Sherlock’s neck, his soft voice stuttering out reassurances and encouragement, driving Sherlock closer and closer to the crest of this insane sensation...
And then, like summiting a mountain and finding an unexpected vista laid out before him, Sherlock reached the peak and was lost.
It took him even longer to come back to himself this time, to his great dismay. He could not have said how much time had passed, in fact, before a touch on his wrist caught his attention and he forced his heavy eyelids open. John had, at some point during Sherlock’s oblivion, tucked some of the bedclothes around him and rolled him into what Sherlock recognised as the recovery position, and now John’s tanned fingers were touching his inner wrist, taking the pulse there with precise confidence.
Sherlock hauled out his mental dossier again and added: Medical training.
He pushed the hand away and rolled onto his back, gritting his teeth against the brief sensation of pain as he did so. Then, steeling himself, he looked up at the face of the man who had just fucked away his virginity.
“Enjoyed that, did we?” John said with a cheery smile.
Sherlock glared, which wiped the idiot look off the other man’s face to some degree. John was lounging back on the bed and appeared to have been watching Sherlock, which was...disturbing. It seemed that he’d found time to put his trousers and socks back on and, presumably, clean himself up.
“How long was I asleep?” he asked, noting with dismay that his speech was slightly slurred.
“About fifteen minutes,” John replied lightly. “You went out like a light after you came. Are you feeling alright? I thought it might be a blood pressure prob-”
“Of course I’m alright!” Sherlock snapped. He sat up and this time couldn’t hide the wince as a sharp pain shot through his backside. John slid off the bed and solicitously helped him up. Once standing, Sherlock batted his hands away again.
Looking around the room once more, he noted the mess the bedclothes were in, the towel that John must have used to wipe him clean draped over a chair, and a condom dropped neatly onto a small plastic tray on the bedside table, its tip filled with semen. He supposed that that was something to be glad of at least.
He located and picked up his underwear and pulled them on, then turned back to John, who was proffering his shirt.
“Now look, John,” Sherlock began, doing up his buttons. “This is very much not what I came here with the intention of doing.”
“Oh?” John replied, puzzled. This was not, Sherlock admitted to himself, an unreasonable response. He had come to a brothel, he had recieved sex. To John’s average mind it must have made perfect, logical sense.
He picked up his trousers and put them on before he spoke again, still having to take far too much time to compose his thoughts as his attention kept incessantly returning to John’s bare chest. Carefully keeping his eyes on his own bare feet, Sherlock picked up John’s shirt and thrust it at him, then began putting on his socks and shoes. When he looked up again, John had his shirt on, though untucked, and was giving him a hard edged glare.
It occured to Sherlock that he probably thought his customer was about to do a runner without paying. Well, perhaps John was quite astute; that was precisely what Sherlock was planning, and he was damned well getting out of this miserable place if he had to go through John to do it!
Though a good look at the set of John’ shoulders suggested that that may be easier said than done...
“Now you listen damn well, Michael,” John began, but whatever threat he was going to make was rudely and conclusively interrupted by a panicked shriek from outside, which rapidly developed into a voice frenziedly screaming:
“Oh god no! No! No don’t!”
The voice was abruptly cut off, but not before Sherlock could identify it as belonging to Ollie.
He shoved past John and rushed to the door of the room, flinging it open to see his informant, breathless with fear, being held around the throat by none other than Greeley himself. The huge bouncer held a slip of paper in his free hand, waving it in front of Ollie’s face and screaming at him, near incoherent with rage.
“Oh Christ,” John breathed, peering at the scene over Sherlock’s shoulder, and Sherlock was damning everything he could name as he saw the key to his case clutched in the hand of the man it was intended to incriminate.
“I need that paper,” he murmured, mostly to himself.
“That lad needs help!” John returned and made to push past Sherlock. But at that moment another security guard came jogging up the stairs, calling Greeley’s name over and over in an effort to soothe him, and John allowed Sherlock to grab his arm and hold him back.
Greeley was like a cornered bear, John wouldn’t stand a chance.
The other security guard was about as large as Greeley himself, and obviously in very good control of himself. His body language was calm and passive as he reached the top of the stairs and slowly crossed the landing towards where Greeley stood, his forearm still firm across Ollie’s neck.
As John and Sherlock looked on, the guard made his way past the cowering crowd of merrymakers on the landing, over to Greeley’s side, hands placatingly outstretched, voice quiet and serious:
“Alright now Simon, I know you don’t want to harm that kid there. I don’t know what you think he’s done, but it can’t be worth all this fuss, can it?”
Oh please, Sherlock thought, please let him talk the bastard down and then I can get that bloody list and just delete this whole damned evening...
And for a precious moment it looked so much like that was going to happen. The other guard drew close, Ollie’s frightened eyes fixed on him, Greeley went still, nervously cramming the list into his jacket pocket-
And then like a flash, Greeley’s arm swung up and out, gripping a blade he’d taken from that same pocket, slicing it across the other guard’s upper chest and sending an arc of bright blood across the pale wall next to him.
Sherlock was running towards them without a second’s thought, and John cried out in surprise before following on his heels. Sherlock charged towards Greeley, but the larger man, still holding Ollie helpless against him, darted with surprising speed into the lift and was borne away before Sherlock could get within arm’s reach of him.
He turned hurriedly to see John bent over the other guard, yelling at him to stay still as he pressed a throw pillow against the bleeding wound on his chest. Sherlock looked back to the light display above the lift; the old carriage was moving fairly slowly, he still had a chance to catch them up.
He flung himself down the stairs so fast it was mainly by luck that he kept his feet underneath him. The lift was old but well maintained, and Sherlock had at least an even chance of reaching the ground floor before it did. That was if Greeley wasn’t clever enough to get off at a higher floor and nip out of the fire escape, but surely he wasn’t-
As Sherlock descended past the second floor landing, a series of voices raised in screams alerted him to the fact that he may have underestimated Greeley’s intelligence.
He rushed back up, astonished to see a familiar figure thundering down the stairs towards him.
“Where is he?” John demanded as he reached Sherlock. There was a jacket dangling from his fingers, drying blood on his right hand, and Sherlock assumed he’d handed over throw pillow duties to somebody else. Unable to spare the time to put John off, Sherlock simply pushed past him and headed in the direction of the screams, finding a corridor lined with upset prostitutes and terminating in an open window. Sherlock was out the window and down the fire escape like greased lightning, peripherally aware of John following along behind him, shouting apologies and reassurances to the others as he went.
As he made his way noisily down the old metal stairs, Sherlock saw Greeley, Ollie’s skinny form practically tucked under his arm, head towards the rear of The Orchard’s paved yard, aiming for the sprawling network of tiny backstreets and alleys he knew lay beyond. Damning himself for having let his mental map of this particular part of London remain insufficiently detailed, Sherlock leapt from the top of the ladder that formed the last leg of the fire escape, and raced after them, determined not to lose that paper. Or Ollie, naturally.
He wasn’t surprised to hear another person follow him, pausing to swear with annoyance for a few brief moments before following Sherlock’s daredevil leap, but he didn’t turn round to see if John was okay. He could hear Greeley’s footsteps and Ollie’s sounds of distress in the distance, but was having difficulty working out what direction the noise was coming from.
Ten minutes of flat out sprinting through the poorly lit backstreets, barely keeping track of Greeley’s racket, brought him to a narrow street that forked into two, skirting around an old boarded-up pub and the dog-legged row of buildings beyond it. Sherlock looked from one side to the other, listened keenly...then John came panting up to him, ruining his concentration.
“Whu...huh...where did they go?” he asked breathlessly, and Sherlock glared at him.
“You go that way,” he hissed, “I’ll go this way. The streets meet up and we may be able to corner him at the other end.” John nodded, still breathing hard, but gamely jogged off down the way Sherlock had indicated as Sherlock took the other fork.
It was pitch dark and nearly silent down between the worn old buildings. Sherlock moved as quietly as he could, gratified to notice that he couldn’t hear a sound from John, military training obviously paying off. Greeley, on the other hand, could be heard shifting around, muttering threats at Ollie, swearing to himself as he struggled to get his bearings. Concentrating hard, Sherlock called up his map and orientated himself as best he could; the best option, if they could pull it off, would be to drive Greeley towards the Western end of the street he now stood on, where he would be trapped at a dead end. Cornered, he would be dangerous, but at least they could keep him in one place, possibly negotiate somewhat.
As Sherlock neared the end of his side of the alley, he heard a yell from Greeley, and then the sound of two sets of running feet, another scream from Ollie, a coherent scream for help this time. John had gotten to them first, and thankfully was chasing them in the right direction. Sherlock picked up his pace and followed, coming onto the cross street to see John charging fearlessly after Greeley, who was only a few metres away from backing himself neatly into a nice, confined corner, a little service area behind a building that had once been a corner shop.
Sherlock hung back slightly, watching as John followed Greeley at a slower pace, his attention on Ollie, his soft voice calling out reassuring nonsense to the young man as Greeley waved the knife perilously close to his neck. As Greeley began to realise that he was trapped, John placed himself steadily, feet apart and posture confident, in the opening of the service area, his hand straying to the small of his back as if going for a gun. A clever bluff, Sherlock noted, Greeley’s attention was entirely on John, who was speaking to him, calm and reasonable.
The man didn’t seem to have even noticed Sherlock, some twenty yards away down the dark street. Staying out of the dim light of a streetlamp near the entrance to the service area, Sherlock crossed to the old shop. The boards over the windows showed the distinctive signs of having been repeatedly lifted away and replaced, and he managed to silently pry one up enough to get through the gap. John’s voice remained even and serious as he kept Greeley focused on him.
With great care, Sherlock picked his way through the squatters’ leavings in the shop, finding his way to an open doorway into a storeroom, and then to the door that led out to the service area. The door was warped away from the frame and he could clearly see that the latch was broken, only a thin strip of metal keeping the lock intact and the door in place. Perfect.
Placing his eye to one of the larger gaps between door and frame, he found he could see Greeley clearly. The large man was standing side on to Sherlock, his face forward, focused intently on John. Ollie was shivering and faintly sobbing in the security guard’s grip, the knife still held at his throat in Greeley’s right hand. That hand was closest to Sherlock’s position, the first point of strike once he made his move, and he could already see in his head how it would go.
This would be tricky.
He took a moment to gather himself, breathing deeply, settling his mind, then charged the old door with sufficient force to snap the weak lock, and hurtled towards the unsuspecting Greeley, arm already drawn back for the first blow.
Greeley had been fast on his feet, but his reactions were woefully sluggish. He had barely turned his head towards the sound of the door crashing open by the time Sherlock had reached him, and Sherlock’s knuckles smashed into the junction of his arm and shoulder with perfect accuracy, the blow jolting the nerves and making his hand spasm. The knife clattered to the floor and Ollie screamed and crumpled, dragging himself out of Greeley’s grip and also putting Greeley off balance. Sherlock reared back to swing again, the buzz of adrenaline killing the pain in his right hand, but Greeley swept out a powerful arm and knocked him backwards, knocked him breathless, into the wall of the shop.
Sherlock felt a rare flicker of panic as the huge man turned on him, fury and murderous intent writ large upon his glowering face. Then running footsteps announced John’s arrival in the immediate vicinity, a steel dustbin lid clutched in his hands like the sword of an avenging angel.
John had to jump into the air to get high enough to hit Greeley in the head, but he managed it, pulled it off beautifully. The sound of the impact was extraordinary, a solid reverberating clang that echoed around the tiny area. Greeley staggered under the force of it, but somehow got his feet back under him, balancing himself, his expression stunned and confused as if he’d stalled.
Sherlock and John looked at him as he stood there, wobbling uncertainly.
They looked at each other, eyebrows raised.
Then Sherlock reached out one hand, stretched out one finger, and poked Greeley in the sternum.
He hit the ground like a ton of ugly bricks.
“Clearly the problem with your leg is mostly psychosomatic,” Sherlock said, to fill the awkward silence.
“Huh? Oh...oh!” John responded, staring down at his own right leg like it had just performed a clever trick. “God, you’re right, it’s... How did you know?”
Sherlock gave him his best mysterious shrug and looked over at the ambulance. Ollie had been carted off to hospital in the first one that had arrived, shortly after the police cars had turned up. John had taken charge of him immediately after Greeley had dropped, confirming Sherlock’s suspicions about medical training, and had reported to both Sherlock and the paramedics that Ollie would be fine, probably wouldn’t even have a scar.
They let Ollie give the unconcious Greeley a kick before the police turned up, which had helped to cheer him up considerably.
The second ambulance now stood, doors open, halfway down the street. Lestrade had turned up promptly after Sherlock had called him (on John’s phone which had been in his jacket pocket, a good job as Sherlock had left all of his things in the hotel) and was now overseeing some of his men take care of restraining Greeley to a gurney in preparation for the journey to hospital. Another squad of police and paramedics had been sent to the Orchard to tend to the injured security guard and to take the opportunity to put the wind up a few people.
Sherlock had the damned list, finally, and it had taken but a moment of studying it to see that Greeley’s alibi for the murder could be rendered as fragile as a cobweb with only an hour or so of work. Of course, Greeley would be imprisoned shortly anyway, what with the kidnapping and attempted murder and what not, but it was good to make sure the loose ends were all tied up. Sherlock loathed loose ends.
Speaking of which...
John had stuck beside him, apparently too intrigued by what was going on to be bothered by the swarming police officers, an attitude which Sherlock could appreciate even if he didn’t feel it to be very sensible. John was a prostitute, after all. Lestrade was easy enough to lie to though, in Sherlock’s experience. He would have no trouble coming up with a story that could explain both his own presence on the top floor of the hotel and John’s presence at the crime scene. Though whether John would have the sense to play along was another question.
In good time, Lestrade (bad day, argument over the phone with his wife, he was starting to realise she was cheating on him) came stomping over to where Sherlock and John stood, leaning their hips against the top of a half collapsed garden wall, and looked from one of them to the other and back with open curiosity.
Lestrade wasn’t a subtle man. “Who exactly are you, if you don’t mind?” he demanded of John. Sherlock resisted the temptation to tell him to piss off. John just gave him a polite, if guarded, smile.
“John Watson,” he announced, digging in the pockets of his practical black jacket for an ID in a leather holder, not dissimilar to the one Sherlock had appropriated from Lestrade a couple of weeks previously. “Doctor John Watson,” he added as he handed the ID over, which was mildly surprising to Sherlock, but not so much as the fact that the man had idiotically been using his real name at the Orchard.
“Military?” Lestrade asked in surprise, looking at the ID. “So, would that not be Captain Watson?”
John opened his mouth to reply, but Sherlock got there first.
“Obviously not. Look at him, Lestrade, really! He’s clearly been invalided out of the army after a traumatic injury in either Afghanistan or Iraq. Civilian titles thus override military ones, therefore he is Doctor Watson. Understand?”
Lestrade frowned irritably at him but John turned and gawped. “That...how did you know that?”
Sherlock sniffed. “I deduced it, of course. From-”
“Sherlock, not now, please. It’s been a long bloody day,” Lestrade sighed.
John accepted his ID back from him with a nod. “It was Afghanistan. Shot in the shoulder and thigh.”
Sherlock just nodded.
“Did he...is your name really Sherlock?”
Sherlock glared, and John wiped the smile off his face, turned back to Lestrade.
Lestrade went through the usual boring stuff with him; address and telephone number, a brief statement, confirmation that had been the one to give first aid to Ollie and so on. All the time he kept glancing between the two of them suspiciously, clearly desperate to ask the obvious questions but too determined to cling to his professionalism to actually voice them.
Sherlock was disappointed, somewhat, having come up with a very good story about John being his assistant.
Finally Lestrade seemed pleased with all the stuff he’d jotted down in his silly little note book (and why he couldn’t just remember things, Sherlock couldn’t fathom), gave John a pleasant smile, glanced between him and Sherlock again, and receeded into his crowd of mediocre little blue-bottles.
John took the opportunity to look at Sherlock too, eyeing him surreptitiously as if waiting to be asked an awkward question. And as Sherlock knew full well what that awkward question was, and had indeed been quite desirous of asking it, he did exactly that.
“John, why are you working at the Orchard?”
“Ah, well. Yes.”
Sherlock frowned at him, but John just gave him a tense smile in return.
“I have this therapist who thinks I have PTSD. You know what-”
“Yes yes, I know what PTSD is. I also know that the treatment doesn’t tend to include prostitution.”
John chuckled and shook his head. “No, you’re right there. Well, my therapist, she told me that the reason, or one of the reasons, that I was having trouble was that it was hard to adjust back to normal life when I was used to the army. You know, stress, danger, excitement, all that. So she suggested that I take up an exciting hobby.”
Sherlock waited for him to continue, elaborate on his decision, but he didn’t. Sherlock scoffed. “You know, most men having a mid life crisis-”
“I’m thirty seven!”
“Most men would take up motor cycling, or do a bungee jump or some such. How did you arrive at the decision to have sex with strangers for money?”
“It’s economically preferable to having sex with strangers for free? Look, it’s helped me to cope, okay? And...I like sex. You may have noticed, but I’m quite good at it.”
There was heat creeping up Sherlock’s neck and over his cheeks and he wished fervently that he had a coat collar to turn up. John grinned at him.
“Well, anyway,” Sherlock continued loudly, shaking off his discomfort, “The case is wrapped up, Greeley is on his way to prison and you can get back to doing whatever it is you like. Once this pack of idiots is finished with the scene-”
“Oi!” came a yell from nearby, and Sherlock turned to find Anderson glaring at him from the open back door of the shop. He rolled his eyes.
“You know you’ve smashed this lock?” Anderson shouted.
“Yes, I do recall it. Why?”
Anderson scowled, unable to come up with an intelligent reason to be angry with Sherlock for breaking a rusted lock. Luckily for him though, his acerbic bit on the side was close at hand.
“Bugger off, freak,” Donovan snapped angrily. John turned his head to look at her, eyebrows rising as if he anticipated something entertaining.
“Hello Donovan,” Sherlock replied. “Lovely evening to just...laze around, isn’t it. You look like you’re taking advantage of it.”
She sneered. “Heard you went to that Orchard place, Sherlock. Have a good time? I suppose that’s the only way you can get any, isn’t it.”
Sherlock felt an unaccustomed, uncomfortable prickle in his cheeks at that, the cut just a bit too close to the bone, and opened his mouth only to find his retort a little slow off the mark.
Too late. Donovan had scented blood in the water and got in first, this time addressing John. “Freaks like him don’t tend to spend much time around normal people. Makes sense, doesn’t it? If you’re smart you’ll stay away from him too. Can’t imagine why anybody would want to go near him.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” John replied pleasantly, and with that he turned to Sherlock, reached a hand around the back of his neck, drew him down and kissed him.
Right in front of everyone. Right in front.
His lips were warm and slightly chapped, his tongue staggeringly wet, and the little noise of encouragement he made when Sherlock dared to part his lips may have been the most pornographic noise the detective had ever heard.
Sherlock got his mental dossier on John out once more, found where he’d noted ‘Good kisser?’ and removed the question mark.
By the time John let go of him, Sherlock was already aware that most of the police and several paramedics were staring at them, but he didn’t really care. It had certainly given Donovan something to think on, if nothing else.
“Do you need us any more?” he called to Lestrade. The Inspector shook his head dumbly and Sherlock nodded, sticking his nose in the air and sweeping John past the other officers to the tape barrier of the crime scene. John, a gentleman it seemed, lifted the tape for him before ducking under it himself and they strolled off down the street together, side by side.
John was grinning to himself and Sherlock couldn’t help but join him, and before he knew it they were both sniggering like schoolboys, drawing odd looks from the few pedestrians about as they made their way onto the main road.
“You want to share?” John asked abruptly.
“I...what?” Sherlock replied, momentarily caught off guard. A conversation from earlier in the week with that pleasant Mrs Hudson flashed into his mind, ‘such a nice flat, if only you could find somebody to share with-’
“Do. You want. To share. A taxi?” John said very deliberately and Sherlock bristled.
“How do you know where I’m going?” he demanded pettishly, and John gave him a look.
“Well, you left your coat and stuff at the Orchard, didn’t you? And I need to go back there to settle a few things...though I doubt Mr Sommel is going let me work there again.”
“Hmm. You’ll have to find a new hobby,” Sherlock noted as they stopped at the taxi rank.
“Tell me John...how do you feel about the violin?”