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The next morning, John was stiff and close-lipped but polite to Mrs Hudson when she came up with a loaf of nutbread.  He ate a slice with her and was about as obviously uncomfortable as it was possible for a man with a mouthful of nutbread to be while she congratulated him and kissed his cheek.

After that, Sherlock decided silence was the better part of keeping John from exploding, and they had a quiet morning.  He played a few classical pieces that made John smile when he recognised them -- for John, familiarity trumped style and quality every time.  At least he could pick ones that had mildly interesting fingering.  Sherlock's fingertips had never entirely lost their toughness and were hardening up nicely again, letting him play longer and longer.

"I'm off for lunch," John told him, later, after he'd read a bit and looked at the news and done a few crossword clues.  "Need anything?"

"Enjoy the tourists and MP's," Sherlock said.  

John gave him an annoyed and unsurprised look.  "You've been snooping on my calendar."

Naturally Sherlock had looked at the calendar in John's mobile as a matter of course. It had needed less than two minutes work to get from Shree Birthday Lion to find a Dr. Shree Prakash, who had worked at the clinic where John had done locum work a year ago and whose birthday was today. He only had to glance at her facebook profile picture to know she'd have picked the Red Lion. 

"You don't even like those people," he pointed out.  John hadn't so much as spoken to any of them in the past month.

"I'll be back later," John said, and went off to have a sandwich and a pint with a load of boring doctors.

About an hour after John had gone, Sherlock had got the case to the point where he was mostly stuck waiting for responses to emails and texts.

In the past, this would have left him irritable, pacing, trying to find another case or experiment to run, or churning his brain to ruin with too little information. But now he had another area of interest. Perhaps this was why Mummy had tried for so many years to get him a hobby. Collections and small woodcraft activities had been useless, and the violin was art and passion and had to come at its own time. If only someone had thought to offer him a John Watson when he was at a formative age...

John would have made a really excellent fifteenth birthday gift.  Or perhaps not.  That had been about the time that Sherlock's cock had been at its most distracting, when he'd still been learning to overcome his body's incessant demands for food and sleep and sex.  With John about the place, he'd probably never have learned to ignore his idiot physiology.  

He spent some time working on oral technique and his gag reflex, using first his own fingers, and then a smallish graduated cylinder removed from its stabilising plastic base.  He'd not got around to buying himself any dildoes as yet; sooner or later he'd have to get some errands done. 

Then he wandered from one sexual tangent to another on the internet for a while, collecting an array of choices for activities John would likely find less intimidating.  Oral could wait (and a bit more practice was called for, to get rid of the unattractive retching problem he was currently having).  John could clearly do with somewhat less stress at the moment, and happily Sherlock now had one area in which he had, theoretically, a great deal of control over John's experiences.

John brought back some shopping, as well as a Clive Cussler that John would probably enjoy rather more than his current Kellerman. Unfortunately John had been convinced by some early teacher that stopping in the middle of a book meant failure, so he would insist on clawing his way to the end of the current book first. It was the sort of minor annoyance that under normal circumstances would make John pleasingly combative, but at the moment it was just one more stressor.

"If I do chicken for dinner, will you eat?" John asked.

"Yes, fine," Sherlock said, pleased with himself for being so accommodating.

John could successfully cook a small number of meals. John's chicken involved wrapping chicken breasts and peppers in aluminium foil and baking them. This required removing all the items that for one reason or another had ended up in the oven. Sherlock didn't intervene, because activities that required minimal physical action and were mildly annoying tended to raise John's spirits slightly. He complained cheerfully about the hearts, which despite his claim didn't smell at all; that experiment had gone very well. Then he held up two file boxes. "What are these, cold cases?"

Sherlock gave that the exactly zero response it deserved, since it was obvious he'd simply been putting them someplace Lestrade could pretend not to know he had them but could retrieve them if needed.

As ever, Sherlock ignored John's claim that the chicken was done, because as ever he ended up putting it back in to cook further. This appeared to be one of those situations in which John was constitutionally incapable of learning from experience. He had been failing to adjust for the relatively low temperature setting of their oven for close to five years now.

But when it was done, it wasn't bad. John was apparently unaware of any condiment other than cheap curry spice in a jar, but the strips of fresh pepper helped tremendously. Sherlock ate all but the tough bits at the ends, and shredded those and put them aside with the remainder of the pepper to see whether the mice would eat them.

While John was tidying away the dishes, Sherlock fed the mice and made sure, as promised, they were un-findable by John, and also saw to it that both his and John's mobiles were charging.  Then he stopped John coming out of the kitchen and kissed him.

John hesitated only a moment, and then that complex little mouth was open under his, and John's arms slipped round his waist.

Someone tapped the knocker on the downstairs door four times, just audible.  Someone was a bit nervous about coming to see them.

They pulled back from each other, and  Sherlock saw the nervous way John glanced at the door to the landing.  He didn't want to be seen kissing Sherlock.  Well, Sherlock had known that much.

It only lasted a second, and then John grinned.  "Client?"

"Case," Sherlock affirmed, and kissed John again, quick and hard, because technically they were still alone in the flat, so he was allowed to.



The day had been weirdly normal. Old normal. Pre-sex normal. Sherlock didn't wake him for sex (nor try to have sex with him without waking him). Mrs. Hudson had been embarrassing, but no more, really, than before when she'd just thought they were sleeping together.  Sherlock was childishly resentful of John going to a friend's birthday, but he'd always been like that.

The party itself was fine for the first hour, nice to see people he'd worked with, hear how they were, how their lives were going.

Only toward the end did Howard Bell start asking him questions about Sherlock. John had never been keen on Howard anyway. Dull bloke, bit of a bully with the nurses. "I'm sure there's more to the story," he said, after asking John about Sherlock's miraculous return.

"In hiding while bringing down an international crime syndicate not enough of a story for you?" John had asked, trying to deflect.

And Howard had gone on making these stupid little comments like there was some obvious scandal going on.

John had sat there, jaw rigid around a polite smile, sure he was about to be outed for about ten minutes until Howard said, "Some of those old news stories about him were faked, but John, he never even denied he'd been an addict," and John had finally realised Howard's idea of a saucy story was that Sherlock had spent two years pretending to be dead while he was in rehab.

After that he'd just tried to keep his giggles under control until it was time to go.

The sandwich he'd had at lunch was unsatisfying, and he knew Sherlock wouldn't have bothered to eat, so he stopped off and got some chicken breasts, which he hadn't thought to get the day before, and picked up a novel for when he was done with the current one, if he ever did get to the end of it.

Sherlock was suspiciously compliant about eating. Sooner or later John reckoned he would find, probably by stepping in it, whatever Sherlock had done to make him feel he had to behave himself. Or maybe Sherlock was still trying to make up for sticking a fucking gun to his head, although with Sherlock even that kind of thing didn't always seem to merit more than a brief play at human decency before things were back to arsehole as usual.

Then, just when things had started to veer into what really should be, by now, the new normal— Sherlock kissing him in the kitchen— a client had shown up on the doorstep.

Sherlock really rather enjoyed it, John thought, when the client tried to hide things from him.  He'd bitch about it, and lose interest if it dragged on too long, but mostly he saw it, like everything, as an opportunity to show off.  This was one of those times when John wasn't a hundred percent convinced by what Sherlock claimed had clued him in.  John could see that Paul Nichol, yes, had a really smooth shave, and well manicured hands, and his shoes were nice, and he supposed maybe Sherlock really could tell when skin had been waxed, but John reckoned the jump from all that to wears women's clothing at home was more Sherlock's uncanny instinct for guessing people's secrets than strict logic.

"So, the item stolen was a pair of shoes.  High heels." Sherlock prompted.  "That's why you didn't feel comfortable reporting the theft to the police."

Paul Nichol looked down at the shoes he was wearing now.  Perfectly nice oxfords, reasonably shined up, dark brown, roughly the size of shovels.  "I've got one other pair," he mumbled.  "Special ordered, off the internet.  I was sensible about it, you know, basic black, goes with anything.  And then I saw these.  My sizeIn a shop.  I couldn't believe it.  Bright red patent leather, with these amazing heels...  They were so expensive, nearly five hundred pounds.  But... I just, I had to, you know?  It was like they were there just for me."

Five hundred pounds.  For shoes.  Shoes he'd never even wear out of the house.  John controlled himself and didn't look at Sherlock and roll his eyes; he'd get no understanding there.  Sherlock probably just thought it a bit middle class that Nichol had noticed the price.

"And they were stolen today."

"While I was at work.  I hadn't even showed them off to my girlfriend yet," Nichol said miserably.  "I told her about them, and I texted her a picture, just a tease, and then before we could get together -- "

"Let me see," Sherlock demanded.

Shyly, miserably, the man passed Sherlock his mobile.  It was, in John's opinion, possibly the ugliest shoe he had ever seen.  The picture was shot straight down so the amazing heel wasn't visible, but below an edge of tugged-up trouser cuff, Nichol's smooth ankle was crossed by one of a line of rhinestone studded straps of red patent leather, which continued, one over another, all the way down to the toe.  Possibly it was supposed to suggest bondage in a cheeky titillating sort of way, but it looked to John more like an overenthusiastic child's attempt at wrapping an inconveniently shaped Christmas parcel.  Possibly, he thought, it looked better in person.

As it turned out, it really didn't.  Ten hours later, in the flat of a shoe shop clerk, John was holding the third strap out from the enormous shoe so that Sherlock could peer at the rhinestones through his magnifier.

"This one," Sherlock whispered, and raised a grinning face to John, just as the door flew open.

John managed to knock the man at the door— later Sherlock would explain that this was the shoe shop girl's boyfriend— over, clearing their way out of the shabby flat.

They ran for the stairwell.  Sherlock was ahead as ever, and the man John had knocked down was only a bit behind, and very angry.  

They'd made it nearly all the way down the stairwell,  when John was tackled and knocked down the last few steps.  He saw the hard floor, realised there was no way to recover, and even as he was twisting himself to roll into the fall, found himself losing track of his worry, his exhilaration.  It didn't feel real at all. 

He'd managed to make sure his attacker hit the ground as hard as he did, and he was the first one up.  His gun was at his waist, but his hands were full with the shoes.  John changed his grip to those stupid straps, the longer ones that were meant to go round the ankle.  He swung them like the world's campest nunchuks and gave the man both heels in the face, twice.

"Are you all right?" Sherlock demanded.

"Yeah, yeah," John said.

"Then run."

So they did.

The next time either of them had enough breath to speak, they were in front of an all-hours cafe, John  holding the shoes in a carrier bag.  His legs burned with running and the bruises from the other day ached, especially his hip, which had taken the worst  bang when he'd gone down the steps, but it didn't worry him.

Sherlock's hands, usually so pale and pristine, were a bit red and banged up from punching people, he saw.  John's hands were fine though he'd probably scuffed the hell out of the most expensive shoes he'd ever touched.

The two of them looked at each other, and then Sherlock looked down at the bag John was carrying, and broke into a laugh.  It had been like that, since the first night, the recognition of how mad it was, the things they did, and how amazing it was that the two of them were in it together.  John, after only a second, joined in with the laugh briefly.  It was strange.  Usually at this point he was giddy, exhilarated, practically glowing.  Instead he felt like he was floating just outside it.  He'd drifted away from himself a bit without meaning to, and not enjoyed the chase the way he usually did.

"Are you all right?" Sherlock said, the grin dropping off his face.  He'd noticed John's moment of disconnection, then, before the laugh kicked in. 

"Bit sore," John said.

Sherlock seemed to accept that.

The next four hours were the tedious bit, getting the police in to pick up the jewel smugglers and seeing to it that there would be no later violent payback against Paul Nichol.  John wasn't floating away any more.  At eight o'clock in the morning, they went to Nichol's flat and dropped off the shoes. 

Nichol was in a silky purple robe with roses all over it, having breakfast with his girlfriend.  She was pretty in a mousy sort of way and neither particularly girly nor butch, which left John wondering which he'd been expecting.  But the both of them were ridiculously happy over the shoes, even though now they were a bit scuffed, and missing two of their jewels.  John reckoned they were a nice enough couple. 

It was deeply strange to realise that of the three men in the room, the only one who could reasonably claim to be straight was the one John was fairly sure was wearing a padded bra under his robe. 

Sherlock waived his fee, and the girlfriend kissed his cheek and called him sweet.

Sherlock didn't mention the reward he'd just collected for the return of two fairly enormous stolen diamonds, and John let him get away with it this time, because he'd had too much fun to begrudge Sherlock any.

By the time they got home to Baker Street, though, John was utterly knackered.  He trudged upstairs and fell into bed, and only just about managed to work his own shoes off before he was asleep.

At some point, Sherlock woke him by crawling on top of him.  John told him to fuck off and went back to sleep.  At some later point, he woke again when Sherlock got up.  He tried to tell Sherlock to fuck off again, but he was so tired it came out as a sort of garbled groan.  But John didn't worry about it, just tucked his head under the pillow to hide from the light and get back to sleep; Sherlock was clever; he'd figure it out.



It had been a pleasant little souffle of a case, and the best thing about it was the gleam of enjoyment in John's eyes for most of night.  He'd wanted to get John a gift, but really, what could he possibly have chosen better than a night of running about and sporadic violence?  John had clearly needed it.  And even still, there had been moments when he'd seen that John wasn't enjoying himself quite as he usually did.  The stress Sherlock had put him under had apparently done even more damage than he'd realised.

So Sherlock was determine to let John continue his deep sleep, all day if necessary, to complete his recovery. 

He checked for new information on the Brazilian, ignored an email from his brother, upped the dosage he'd been giving the mice, which were, admittedly, reaching the end of what interesting information he could extract from them, and practised performing fellatio on the graduated cylinder some more.  It was too hard and too smooth for verisimilitude, but he really couldn't be bothered to go out to the shops today, so he focused on summoning up his sense memory of the feel of John's cock in his hand, the taste of John's mouth on his, and trying to extrapolate from there.

Sherlock was excellent at visualisation, a virtuoso of the gedanken experiment.  Irritatingly, he was, in fact, so good at  imagining himself sucking John's cock that after a quarter of an hour of it he was erect and stupidly aroused. 

He considered masturbating— he had no shame about the practice, though he tended to find it tedious, but then his mobile buzzed with some information from a Sao Paulo contact, and the erection waned as he refocused on the case.

John wandered down in the late afternoon, wearing his shirt and trousers from the day before, and ate ravenously.  Sherlock finished off what he was working on and met John coming out of the kitchen, taking John's sleep-warm body in his arms, tasting the flavours of John's meal— sharp mustard and the savour of meat— when it was still fresh in John's mouth.

John breathed against Sherlock's lips, something between a sigh and a chuckle, and gripped Sherlock's arms gently.  "If you're after food, eat your own," he said.

"Food's boring," Sherlock told him.  "Are you too tired for sex?"

There, that should give John the chance to turn him down if he suspected he'd be unable to get an erection.

John shrugged, "Nothing too athletic..."

Sherlock leaned to the side and took John's earlobe into his mouth, applying light pressure, just a pinch with his teeth, before running his tongue lightly around the rim. John responded very well to that, a slow inhale and his chest leaning into Sherlock's, but ducked his head away with an annoyed giggle when Sherlock put his tongue farther into the ear.

Sherlock kissed John's lips again and John bit Sherlock's lower lip softly, which Sherlock found tremendously erotic and wished John would do more often, particularly when Sherlock was nearing orgasm.

"I was wondering if you'd like to take a shower with me, John," he murmured.

Oddly, John's mouth quirked as if there were another giggle coming on. "Uh, yeah. Yeah, I could do that."

Sherlock unbuttoned John's shirt. John's chest, with its faint definition and pale nipples, ought to have been bland. But that was the consistent conundrum of John. All the things about him that ought to have been most dull were instead fascinating. His jumpers had proved to have the perfect heft when Sherlock's hands needed something to grip, and told a subtle story of a small man's desire for intimidating mass and yet satisfaction in looking— while not being— innocuous and unthreatening.  In just a shirt and jeans and his feet bare on the kitchen floor he was smaller and yet more obviously fit.

Sherlock stroked with both hands, palms flat under the open shirt, then moved his hands to the outside, took a pinch of cotton in each and scrubbed the fabric against John's nipples. John's eyes widened in interest. Sherlock lowered his mouth to John's neck and chased the shirt from John's shoulders by kissing along, and kept going until he hit bicep. He nipped the bicep.

John impatiently shook the shirt off his wrists, caught it in one hand before it could hit the floor, and stepped back. "Hot shower sounds good, actually." He walked back through the kitchen, working at the trousers.

Sherlock had intended a great deal more stroking, and some further sensation play using elements of their clothing, but if John was impatient, that surely meant he was aroused enough, not suffering another episode of impotence, so Sherlock followed.



John felt just about ready to cope with sex with Sherlock again.  It had been a good little case, with not so much as a whisper of international criminal masterminds, and Sherlock hadn't done anything blatantly horrible for over a day— or at least nothing John had noticed; he was prepared to admit he was probably numb to a lot of Sherlock's bad behaviour by now. 

John was just surprised when Sherlock didn't go straight for oral again, since he'd been so insistent on it before. Maybe even Sherlock was capable of getting nerves about something like that.

When Sherlock suggested they take a shower together, it reminded John of his thoughts back on the first night, when it had all been just an idea, and he'd more than half thought Sherlock would raise an incredulous eyebrow at his kiss and tell him sex was boring and unhygienic.

He hadn't expected at all a Sherlock who'd caress John in their kitchen, or make soft little noises he didn't even seem aware of while they were kissing.

Sherlock came up behind him and started massaging John's back while John was leaning into the shower to get the water going without getting caught in the first frigid minute before the hot kicked in properly. Sherlock's spidery fingers seemed to span most of John's back and his narrow fingertips pressed hard. It felt rather good. John's best physical therapist, Matt Green, had huge pawlike hands that had ground pain out of John's muscles and left a soothing hollowness behind. For a moment, this felt like that, just perfectly sane relief. But then one of Sherlock's spiky fingertips dug into the wrong place, one of his bruises, and John winced and shrugged him off.

"I didn't realise it was still sore," Sherlock said. His voice was very low, and he sounded worried about it.

"It's fine," John said, not looking at him, reaching in to find that the water was properly warm now.

Sherlock turned him by the shoulders and then bent to kiss his bruised side lightly. "I wouldn't — you know I've no interest in deliberately causing you pain," he said. Often, when he was having trouble saying something because he didn't understand his own emotions any better than he understood anyone else's, Sherlock's voice got ridiculously posh and deep.

John kissed his upper lip. "I get that. So you'll be okay with not having sex in the shower, so that neither of us ends up with their head split open and a funny story for the nurses."

"What if we both kneel?"

John blinked. All right, they weren't likely to fall arse over tit if they were kneeling. He'd been conditioned from an early point in his career to think of sex in the shower as something that inevitably led to being laughed at by nurses. Trust Sherlock to once again talk him into a bad idea.

"Fine. Though-- there's no way I'd kneel on that floor if it hadn't been scrubbed, you know.  And I'm the only one who ever scrubs it."

"Your share in the household duties is appreciated," Sherlock said in his most thoroughly bored voice.

"Sherlock," he explained patiently, grabbing — not roughly — a handful of black curls for emphasis because he could get away with that now, "things are only shared if both people have some."

"I do the internet research."

"That's a household duty, is it?"

"In our household, yes."

John supposed that was accurate enough. "Anything you'd like to share?"

"Approximately three dozen sex practises we haven't tried yet, about a quarter of which I think you'd enjoy— I can email you an alphabetised list later— and several contacts who I believe can tell us more about our Brazilian friend."

That was how he'd spent his day. After everything else, the bastard was still chasing his new Moriarty. How were you supposed to protect someone who kept sticking his bloody head in the lion's mouth for no reason? And why had John ever thought he could keep hold of this man, when Sherlock never failed to make clear what was and who wasn't really important?

John turned away, checked the water.  "Warm," he said, and stepped into the shower.

Sherlock followed him in. In the enclosed space, Sherlock seemed bigger, the way he did in his impressive coat, when he was deliberately looming over somebody who was actually barely an inch shorter than he was. He reached out over John's shoulder and picked the soap off the little ledge shelf that held John's shampoo and Sherlock's collection of expensive potions.

Sherlock rubbed the soap to a lather between his hands before putting it back on the ledge and rubbing slippery hands over John's shoulders and chest. He stroked down over John's belly and then out to his sides.

John widened his stance, bending his knees slightly for stability, and grabbed Sherlock's wrists. "Do not fucking tickle me in the shower, Sherlock."

Sherlock drew his hands back quickly. "Ticklish," he pronounced, in a musing this is new and interesting evidence sort of way.

John tilted his head and looked up at Sherlock. Naked, half aroused, shower drumming on the back of his head, John couldn't look very intimidating. But Sherlock made a sort of brushing-away gesture to indicate he was dropping the subject, then stepped in closer, "I want to wash your legs. Any ticklish zones to avoid there?"

John let himself be turned around so the shower was on Sherlock's back instead of his own. Sherlock grabbed the soap again and went to his knees.

Oh, John realised, Sherlock was going to suck him after all. Sherlock had just decided that telling John gave John too much say in the proceedings.

Water washed Sherlock's stubborn curls down to soft waves, then to an inky hood around his head when he straightened and the water hit directly. Without the fullness of hair around it, his face was long and bony and quite young. He'd gone from so big to so delicate in a matter of minutes.

John was most of the way hard now, and wasn't sure if he should be ashamed of himself or not.

Hell, he could cope with whatever happened. Hadn't he proved that yesterday? He'd got through giving head to a bloke. Had being given head ever really been a hardship for anybody? Let Sherlock do what he wanted; he would anyway. And it was easy to step back from it, if things got too... weird.

Sherlock took John's thigh between soapy hands, right palm on the biceps femoris, left, still holding the bar of soap with his long fingers along the Gracilis. And then he just... washed John's leg. Not quite firm enough to be massage, but not light enough to tickle or even really tease. More soap than was remotely necessary.  He could have been genuinely interested in hygiene.

Well, hygiene and anatomy. Sherlock was clearly focusing on the muscles and bones of John's legs, working his way up and down, squeezing and stroking and petting. He soaped and massaged all up and down John's thighs, then worked on his calves, all the way down to the ankles. And then Sherlock bent all the way down andput his mouth to John's ankle, kissing and biting. There he was, Sherlock fucking Holmes, with shower water pouring over that long pale back, on his knees and kissing John's feet.

John reached up and grabbed the curtain rod for stability and Sherlock made his way back up John's leg. Some kissing. Mostly biting, softly, like he was checking the resilience of John's skin.

He looked up at John, when he moved across from biting one knee to the other, and Sherlock looked, what? Absorbed. Interested. Like John's legs were something he thought could do with more research.  Like he wasn't satisfied with the scientific community's results on the subject thus far, so he was doing his own study.

When he straightened more, John could see Sherlock was also, one way or another, enjoying this. His cock stood out stiff from his body.

Sherlock began soaping John's testicles next, watching in apparent fascination as the soap foamed in John's fair, furry hair. John groaned, let his head fall back. It was good, so fucking sensual, and Sherlock seemed to be enjoying it so much. If they could just stick to something simple like this.

Sherlock looked up at him, put his hands on John's hips.  "Kneel down, John," he said.

John did, lowering himself in front of Sherlock, so they were knee to knee. Apparently Sherlock hadn't been working up to a blow job after all. John felt even more off-balance, and admittedly a bit disappointed.

Sherlock, warm and wet, put his arms round John and kissed him. On his knees, he still seemed big.

"You don't want me to, whatever, scrub your back then?" John asked.

"Another time," Sherlock breathed, and reached down with both hands. He put a hand around each of their cocks, and brought them tip to tip.

John stared, waiting to see where he was going with this.

Sherlock moved his hand down to where his foreskin was pulled back, and smoothed it forward, forward, until it covered the head of his cock, then his grip on John's cock pulled John's foreskin forward too, shifting the loose skin down John's shaft and half over the head. It felt good. John sometimes liked to pull it like that when he was having a wank. But it did feel a bit odd to have someone else manipulating it. Only a few girls John had dated had ever played with his foreskin. 

Sherlock pulled his own foreskin forward again until it pouted forward over his tip and just touched John's cock, then slid his own back and pulled at John's which didn't go nearly so far. Then his own again, back and forth.  Sherlock's foreskin was looser than John's and after a few more long strokes, Sherlock managed to pull it out far enough that for a moment John could feel Sherlock's skin around the very tip of him.

"John," Sherlock breathed, shakily.

"Jesus Christ," John said, staring down and watching it happen again, Sherlock taking just a little more of John inside.   Sherlock kept it up, this, a slow, odd rhythm of masturbation, and John was just settling into it when he felt Sherlock's cock press hard against the tip of his, and a tight smooth damp stretch around him, and John's whole glans was inside Sherlock's foreskin.

Sherlock's head fell forward on John's shoulder and he was groaning while John froze in disbelief.

He'd slipped out again after only a moment. He hadn't even seen it. Now he hurriedly pushed Sherlock back a little so he could look and check. Christ, if Sherlock had managed to damage himself and use John's cock to do it, John would punch the idiot.

"Jesus, Sherlock, are you all right?"

Sherlock took a shuddery breath. "Yes. Oh, John."

"Are you sure?"

"It's intense, but very satisfying. Here — "

He brought John's cock to his again and carefully tugged his foreskin out to rub against John's cock again, which felt nice enough.  Then he pushed them hard together, and pulled, and an inch of John's cock was  inside and John stared, watching it happen, a bit grossed out, a bit turned on, mostly just amazed that this actually worked. 

Sherlock was panting wildly.   He apparently needed both hands to keep them in this position, so he nuzzled John's face with his jaw.  "Please, John, my testicles, please — "

Something simple, John had thought, like playing with each other's balls. 

Well, nobody took forever to come, did they?  In fact, Sherlock tended to go off pretty quickly, so however weird this got, it was just a matter of getting through it, right.  He looked down.  With a little distance, it was just a rather odd sort of lumpy sausage shape in Sherlock's hands.

He reached down and cupped Sherlock's balls.  His hair was wirier than John's.  The weights moving in their sack reminded him a lot of the sensation of foreskin moving over penis.  Like a sort of theme.  He rolled and softly squeezed, and Sherlock moaned.

"You're fucking my cock John," Sherlock murmured in his ear, voice low and breathy.

He had no response at all to that.  It was just too far outside what he knew how to deal with.  For a moment more he kept massaging Sherlock while Sherlock stroked their bundled cocks, then Sherlock, with a shuddery breath, pulled them carefully apart.

He waited to see whether Sherlock had designs on doing the same with John's foreskin.  If so, he'd have to put a stop to the whole business, because John's wasn't as loose, and there was no way Sherlock's cock was going to fit inside.  If he tried, they wouldn't be a nurse's funny story, they'd be one of those stories the old ward sisters pulled out to try to make the new nurses sick.

But Sherlock reached outside the shower for a moment, and pulled in that light silk scarf he'd used the other day.  John relaxed a bit. Back to something they'd done before, at least.  He supposed Sherlock had been carrying the scarf around  in his dressing gown pocket.  At least it looked like he'd given it a wash.  Well, he'd mentioned he'd been doing more sex research on the computer as well as trying to track down his new supervillain, so apparently some preparation had gone into this.

Sherlock wet the silk thoroughly then shook it flat.  "Hold out your cock for me," he instructed, holding his own.

John steadied his cock in his hand and watched Sherlock bring them tip to tip again, and then begin to wrap the silk around the both of them.  He wrapped it around and around and around, his long dexterous fingers managing to keep it mostly stretched flat, with only a few wrinkles, until he'd wrapped the whole length.

John wondered if the unwinding trick would work like this — the wet silk didn't move as smoothly as it had when it was dry.

But apparently that wasn't what Sherlock was after.  Instead, he wrapped his hands round the silky bundle and stroked back and forth between them. 

John shut his eyes.  It was good, mostly the slide of Sherlock's hand, but a slight shift of the silk moving as well.  It was sort of like one long foreskin, John supposed, and wondered where Sherlock had picked this one up. Was there an all-foreskin-play fetish page out there?  No, what was he thinking?  Internet.  There were probably dozens.

Sherlock had mentioned something about an alphabetised list of sex.  Did this mean they were on the Fs?  Fellatio followed by foreskins followed by, well, sort of obvious what else started with F.

Sherlock kept stroking.  He could feel the little ridges of the wrinkles in the silk.  Then Sherlock brought the soap back in, working it into the silk with one palm.

Soon there were suds, and the silk began to slide more, slippery, moving.  This much soap on such sensitive skin was probably a bad idea, but the immediate sensations were precisely what was needed  to make John suddenly  ejaculate. 

It was odd, to feel so calm while he was coming.  It made it easier, all of this easier, to be just slightly outside.  He could see that the two men kneeling on the shower floor with their cocks one long silk wrapped rod between them, made a picture that was ridiculous and yet still undeniably erotic.  He could pay attention to the change on Sherlock's face when Sherlock realised John had come.  Vulnerable and glad and then suddenly twisting into a grimace of pleasure as he came too.

John carefully unwrapped them, and they both shuddered as the silk came away.

When he was towelling himself off, John spent a moment to wonder again if Sherlock even noticed that he was giving himself a bit of distance.  If not, then this seemed to have solved John's problems with the sex side of things.  Whenever it all got a bit too much, he could just step back a bit, and it wouldn't even affect Sherlock.

"Some of my contacts in Brazil should get back to me overnight," Sherlock said, towelling at his hair.  "So I won't sleep."  Then he bent over John and kissed him, quick but deep, and didn't show the least sign that he'd noticed John's reaction.

John brushed his teeth, when his own hair was dry, and then went up to bed.  It took a bit; there was a faint odd smell — maybe Sherlock was doing something chemical and exciting downstairs.

Sherlock woke him in the morning. For a moment, John was expecting sex, then he realised Sherlock was dressed and the intensity in his eyes said case and not I'm here to experiment with your cock.

"Lestrade thinks he's found our drug dealer."

"Please don't be excited about finding a drug dealer in front of Donovan," John told him sleepily. "Okay?"

"Get up John."

Maybe this would focus Sherlock back on the previous case and let him stop thinking about his fucking Brazilian playmate. John could hope.



"His name's Jack Cummings," Greg told them. "Slippery bastard. Took some finding."

Typically, since Greg was offering it freely, Sherlock was showing no sign of interest in the file. John picked it up and was sniggering a moment later. "You've got to be kidding."

"What?" Sherlock demanded.

John handed him the file, pointing at a picture clearly pulled from CCTV. "Look familiar?"

"What?' Greg asked, tone flat.

"No," John clarified hastily. Now he was the one giving Lestrade the idea Sherlock was still hanging out with dealers. "We met this guy, a couple days ago, playing poker at, what was it? The Western."

"Our bland friend Hartwell wasn't warning Wood that we were talking to Neil Gibson's friends," Sherlock crowed. "He was warning Cummings that we were investigating his girlfriend."

"So you met this guy, and you didn't just magically know he was important to the case?" Greg asked mildly. "Well, that's good."

"How is it good?" Sherlock asked suspiciously.

"Evidence in your favour, next time they're after  burning you as a witch," Greg said.

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Yes, very funny. You've made that joke before. Twice."

"So after that he hid out?" John asked.

"Looks like," said Greg. "But we've got a line on him. Walworth, would you believe?"

He took Sherlock through finding the guy in the first place and then tracing him to a rather pretty white semi-detached with a row of narrow windows all across both storeys, and their plans for going in and taking out both Cummings and the lab in his kitchen. John reckoned this was Greg's way of asking for Sherlock to yeah, check his work a bit, but more, hoping Sherlock would come up with some way to get the job done without a load of blokes in body armour going in yelling right in the middle of a neighbourhood.

But that seemed to be what they were stuck with, so eventually it came down to one of those arguments where all the laws and rules and sanity were on Greg's side, and on Sherlock's side was, well, Sherlock.

Consultants did not go on drugs raids, Greg said.

Sherlock could not be there, Greg said.

There was no reason for Sherlock to be there, Greg said.

He could talk with Cummings after, Greg said.

He could look over the crime scene after, Greg said.

There was no way Sherlock was coming, Greg said.

In the end, they rode in one of the un-marked vans. Donovan, just back from her training course, gave them all Greg's arguments again, punctuated with regular mutterings of freak but clearly didn't expect it to have any result. She went with Greg and Kev House, from Drugs Enforcement, who were cooperating on the operation.

The only one in the van with them John knew was Thompson. The rest were either from the drugs squad or firearms specialists he didn't know.

Thompson made one attempt to talk to Sherlock about drugs crime in Bromley. John got the feeling that the kid had actually done his research, and might even have had something vaguely relevant to say, but he couldn't seem to filter it down into something sensible, and Sherlock just looked at him once and then stared at the ceiling of the van in silence until Thompson gave up.

There was a little traffic circle at the end of Cumming's street, just a raised circle of pale grey cement with a call box sitting on it, off-centre. There were trees all along the streets there, and people kept their fronts tidy.  But the circle was so ugly and depressing it made the rest feel somehow cheapened. John, waiting behind the parked van, stared at it in the dull streetlight while the guys who were actually in on the raid finished suiting up and got into position.

The concrete looked like it was waiting to be filled up, waiting for benches and maybe a planter. Rubbish and some graffiti would even be an improvement. Bare, and grey. And with a phone box for calling out to the rest of the world.

Eventually, Sherlock tugged his arm. John looked up. Sherlock tilted his head towards the street. John sighed through his nose, then nodded, and followed Sherlock round the back of a house, through a fenced yard, and then they were slipping in behind Greg and Sally Donovan.

What was supposed to happen was a sudden attack on the front door. John could feel the tension. He knew he could count down to the moment by instinct just now.

Then he just had time to register that he'd seen something change about the front of the house, and then it all went wrong.

Smash of glass and gunshots, and John didn't see exactly what position they came from or where the shots went, because he'd been knocked to the ground with Sherlock on top of him.

Sherlock, who'd been cool and amused through the tension build-up was panting like he couldn't breathe and one hand was clutching a handful of John's jacket in a death grip.

"Sherlock?" he asked.

Sherlock was looking around desperately.

Nobody else was paying attention, too busy worrying about the shots, except Sally Donovan, who suddenly crouched next to them. "Fuck! John! Is he — "

"I'm fine!" John protested. "Sherlock, can you — Sherlock, they're not even shooting at us back here. Get off."

Donovan's expression was mistrustful, like she reckoned Sherlock had to be up to something. But John didn't think there was anything there to see but Sherlock's bizarre panic.

They'd been shot at before. Sherlock had always been exhilarated about it, like John.  He wasn't hurt, he just looked frantic, scared, and tried to hold John down.

Then from the road somebody yelled, and John had heaved Sherlock off himself and was diving forward before his brain caught up.

Out of cover. The road. Sniper vantage. Man down.

It was one of the Drugs Enforcement guys.  The idiot hadn't buckled his armour down properly, and there was too much gap at the neck.  Still, it had to be a lucky shot; it would have taken a trained marksman to hit that gap on purpose.  John got enough of the armour loose that he could get his fingers up against the mess of the man's throat.

He had no gear with him. "Get the medical kit from the van!" he yelled, in a voice that was used to being obeyed. He was keeping pressure, checking damage.

It was bad. Even if he had the medical kit from the van right now, there wasn't much hope.

This man was going to die on the pavement, heart pushing his blood out right past John's fingers. John couldn't do anything.

He felt so stupidly helpless and useless. He might as well have been down the road at the call box, phoning this in.

His hands kept up pressure, he kept checking for something he could do.  Nothing. He was so fucking useless. Blood on the pavement, and nothing he could do to save a life. Like he was on the empty grey circle, on the phone, safely away and not really here at all.

And that was wrong. Gunfire in the air, and a patient in his hands. This was as real as it got. Even if John wasn't real, the dying man was. He deserved the doctor whose hands were in his mangled neck to be here, really here, to save him if he could, and to witness if he died.

He deserved better than a coward who could only watch his own life from behind a screen.

It had been about a minute before the first aid kit hit the tarmac beside him. John recognised a paramedic's motion without even looking, and kept his attention on his hands, on the jump of blood under his fingers. John reported the patient's state in the fast hard tone that could be heard over battlefield noise without straining his voice in a yell.

They understood the situation, didn't try to get him out of the way, just fell in to working, extensions of him, lighting things properly so he could see the mess he was dealing with. As they dug into the kit, John was aware of the last gunshot. As they got armour out of the way he was aware of Sherlock suddenly behind him. The world was vivid. A sharp edge of shattered collarbone announced itself to his hand so that he could shift his palm to keep pressure in place so it wouldn't turn and break through skin. John's hands were hot and rock solid, keeping their work stable as they got a stretcher under the man. He rose in perfect unison with the paramedics, as if unfolding, unaware of muscles in his legs or any effort. They were a single creature as they got into the ambulance, the man they were moving not jarred at all. John saw Sherlock standing there, staring, as they went by.  John saw everything.

Things went bad twice on the way, but the first time they stopped the bleeding, and the second time he kept the damage from getting worse while the paramedic got the heart going again. It took longer than it should have because the two nearer hospitals were full up in A&E, and the driver ended up cursing for the last two minutes it took to get to Barts.

And then the hospital doors, one of them with a smear of vomit on the lower half of the glass, and John was left behind bloody handed. Barts. Again.

He went into the toilets and scrubbed his hands clean. His jacket sleeves were stained. He and Sherlock and Mrs. Hudson between them, however, were all champions at getting out blood, so that was no problem.

He walked back out and sat down in a fiercely yellow hard plastic chair with three long cracks down the back. An old woman hobbled in. She'd cracked something in her wrist, but John wasn't employed here, so he resisted his urge to go and help her and get in the way of the running of the hospital. Her face was deeply wrinkled like a map of rivers or crumpled mountains. She wore a tweed skirt suit and heavy white trainers with reflective stripes down the side. The girl at the desk who took her information had elaborate stylised curls in her hair; they looked lacquered and ugly, and her eyes were small and slightly off-level, but she had a lush mouth which was probably very nice to kiss and high, pretty breasts.

Down the corridor, a child wailed for his gran.

It was ridiculous that being in Barts had made him want to take a step back from the world. He knew it so well. He wasn't studying or working here these days and still he couldn't seem to stay away from the place.

Harry had always said she could never be a doctor because she hated all this, all these people, and the endless ugly details of their bodies and their sickness and their pain. John loved it, and he supposed that was part of why he got Sherlock so well, because Sherlock lived for the same kind of detail, but could put it together in more ways than just a physical diagnosis.

John had always  lived for that reality, and his patients deserved — needed — him to be in it. Even when it was ugly and painful and too much. Even when he failed and was useless and wasn't enough.

If a stranger bleeding in the street deserved it, what about Sherlock, who was so fantastic, who meant so much, and who himself seemed to live at the sharp end of that vivid realness every moment of his mad glorious life?

Sherlock deserved someone who wouldn't retreat to that safe place behind a screen, phoning it in from a traffic circle down the street.

It was like the cane, John supposed. That ability to retreat made things easier, safer, less painful, held him up. Sherlock had made him drop the cane, and then gone on to become the thing that kept knocking John off his feet.

John pulled out his phone and sent Sherlock a text saying where he was, in case at some point he surfaced from the glee of playing around in a crime scene with so many new people to offend. Then he stood up, and went down to Mike Stamford's office.

Mike was in, and grinned to see John. "I was just after a coffee. Want one?"

There was a grubby drip coffee machine in the little staff area, but Mike always bought from the canteen if not leaving the hospital altogether, chatting with the girl on the register and apparently enjoying being around the public. They sat at a little table and Mike sipped his coffee with a blissful expression.

"We that short staffed?" he asked, gesturing to John's darkened sleeve.

"We were with the Met. Somebody got shot, so I helped out until we got him here."

"Police shootout. The things the two of you get up to," Mike said, grinning.

About four months after Sherlock's death, John remembered, Mike had insisted on taking him for coffee at a cafe one afternoon.

"If there's anything I can do," Mike had said. Which was what everyone said, and it was stupid, but kind, in a way that even someone as clever as Mike could be stupid, because he was so kind.

John had managed his usual garble of assurance that he was fine.

"I introduced you two, remember," Mike had said.

If Mike apologised for bringing Sherlock into his life, John had known he would lose it, there, in public, punch him in the face until his nose broke. "You reckon he was a fraud too?" he had said, acid in his voice.

"Well," Mike had said, mild, "you don't, and you lived with the man, so I expect you'd know. And —  did I ever tell you about the day I met him?"

John had relaxed a bit. "Got you to let him in for a look at a severed hand, wasn't it?"

"Yeah. Well that was just after my mum died, and I'd been looking through the stuff at her place and... I found some stuff of my dad's in an old box. Stuff that made me question— well, everything about Dad. Whether he loved Mum, whether he'd wanted to be with us at all. It was unprofessional, having that stuff at work, but I couldn't stand to have it at home around Dee and Carrie, so there I was with it open on my desk, staring at it instead of concentrating on work, and that's when Sherlock Holmes comes in, looking like an elf from Mars and demanding hands. And then he tells me— out of nowhere— that exactly what I've been thinking about Dad was true, but that Dad decided to stay with us anyway because he loved us. And Sherlock points to all these things in the pictures I had on my desk, and talks about things I'd forgotten, that I'd never grasped when I was a kid, but . . . he had it all right. That's what I remember, when people call him a fraud. The first day I met him, the stuff he said to me, it was true, and, mostly, it was kind."

He'd thanked Mike, and meant it, really meant it, because every time he heard somebody else remembering what Sherlock had really, really been like, it helped, chipping away at the horrible weight of the lies in the papers.

"I'll tell you something else," Mike had said, "Twenty-ninth January this year, Sherlock shows up in my office with a load of tickets for the Lion King, enough that Carrie could take all her school friends for her birthday. I asked what it was about, and he just said he certainly didn't need them, and only later I remembered what day it was."

John had stared. "You think he was thanking you for finding him a flatmate."

And Mike had said, "I think he was thanking me for you, John." And that had hurt in a sweet place in his chest, and again he'd gone home and thought how they might have, how he could have tried, and how then Sherlock would have known.

Sipping at his mediocre canteen coffee, sitting there with blood on his sleeves, John licked his lips and decided he was bored with being a coward. "Actually, we've been getting up to more than usual, lately."

"Lots of cases."

"We had a case, yeah. Also, um, we're sort of — we're together."

Mike beamed. "That's brilliant mate. The two of you deserve a go at it. Can't imagine it's easy. He's a lot of work just to have round the place sometimes."

"Yep," John agreed. "It's like, I dunno, doing a degree, growing orchids, having a pet, and trying to live in a foreign language all the time, while under fire."

Mike snorted. "That'd be marriage you're describing there, John."

John rolled his eyes. "You and Dee fit together perfectly. You were fucking made for each other, mate."

"Yeah? Well from out here, that's how you and Sherlock look. Though I'll admit Sherlock presents a whole new class of challenges."

"You have no idea. He's researched his way into a sex life. He's gone from barely knowing how to kiss to being the Stephen Fry of gay sex."

Mike smiled wryly. "Actually, Stephen Fry would be the Stephen Fry of gay sex, I'd have thought."

"You know what I mean. He's like Google with an erection. Oh, christ, sorry, that was more than you needed to hear."

"Never truer words," Mike agreed, and downed the rest of his coffee. 

As he was leaving the hospital, a black car came up to the kerb to meet him. John hadn't been expecting it, and yet he realised he wasn't at all surprised.

"Good evening, John," said Mycroft.

"Evening," John said, sitting down. "And how was your day? You obviously know everything that happened to me, so we can skip that bit right? So, any luck with world hunger? How's Rwanda going?"

"Much as I appreciate your interest in my work, I'm afraid that this is in the way of a personal discussion, John."

John choked out a little laugh. "Christ, you're going to try playing the heavy big brother, is that it? You do know nobody really makes those hurt him and you're dead speeches, right?  You understand that's just something that happens on telly?"

"And what do real people say then?"

"Not a lot. Ring up maybe once a year and see if either of us have any clever ideas for birthday presents, make sure we get gift cards from different stores, that's about it."

Mycroft smiled the way he did when John was annoying him and he was trying not to seem bothered. "I'm afraid I have to insist on rather more than that.  I need to know about you and my brother."

John stared. "No. No bloody way." Apparently being able to use CCTV to watch all of London's windows had totally warped Mycroft's idea of what he did and didn't get to know about other people's sex lives.

Mycroft rolled his eyes. "No, no, no, John. I don't want details of that sort. Sherlock is my brother. I choose to believe that behind closed doors you engage in the occasional chaste kiss and possibly holding hands. Please never disabuse me of this notion — it is essential to my sanity."

"Okay, good.  But then I don't get what you want to know."

"I need to know the things that matter John."

"Well, he's my best friend, right? And I'm not losing him again. So, how's that?"

Mycroft's eyes narrowed and he turned his head so that he mostly looked at John from one squinting eye.  He looked a bit like a ridiculous bird, and a bit like the most powerful man in the country.  "Hmm."

"You think I'm going to leave him, is that it?  Well I'm not.  I'm not going to just abandon Sherlock as soon as it gets hard, all right?"  John said.

Well, that should convince him, as long as Mycroft couldn't recognise the anger of someone accused of doing something he'd just decided to stop doing.

John sighed."If it helps, I just came out to Mike Stamford."

"Stamford is as incapable of making a harsh judgement as he is of turning down an eclair," Mycroft said, with a lot more venom than John had been expecting.  "Coming out to him is no sign of commitment." 

So apparently there actually was someone who didn't get on with Mike Stamford.  According to Sherlock's admittedly biased account, Mycroft was utterly obsessive about his diet.  Maybe this was just a compulsive dieter's helpless rage against a fat bloke.

John wasn't about to mention that it had taken him two goes before he'd managed to come out to Stamford either.

"I was considerably more impressed by the earlier statement," Mycroft said quietly, after a moment.


"Best friend, not losing him," Mycroft quoted.  "Very promising."

"So glad you're pleased for us."

"When you appeared on the scene, John, I hoped you would be a steadying influence on my brother.  Instead, as a direct result of his relationship with you, he faked his own death and spent two years on the run."

"We weren't in a relationship before — " John broke off at the disgusted look in Mycroft's eyes.  He supposed he deserved that look.

"Look, I know it hurts your sense of the dramatic, but how about just telling me straight out what you want, Mycroft?"

Mycroft raised his chin slightly.  "What happens if something better comes along, John?"

John sighed.  "I'd... I wouldn't get in his way, okay?  If he meets somebody, you know, somebody like him... yeah.  I wouldn't — " he shrugged.  He'd thought of that before, of someone coming along who was clever and gorgeous and really perfect for Sherlock, and he'd reckoned that would be the happy ending for all involved.  And now that he was saying it, he knew what he'd want to do was fight tooth and nail for every day he could get, and fuck being noble.

Mycroft looked at him narrowly after that, and John supposed he guessed John wasn't being totally honest.

And then they were at Baker Street.

"If you ask him nicely, he'd give you half," John said, in the way of a parting shot, as he got out of the car.

"Hmm?" Mycroft said, line between his brows, and John could have crowed, because for once Mycroft wasn't three steps ahead.

"Mike Stamford's eclair," John said, and shut the door.

It wasn't until after he'd gone upstairs and got to work on getting the blood stains out of his sleeves that it finally struck him that Mycroft might not actually have been talking about something better coming along for Sherlock.