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John resented running Sherlock's errands somewhat less than usual.

He'd admittedly contributed in a material way to the mess this time, for one thing.   Also, Sherlock had been so upset, John was inclined to indulge him even more than usual.   John had been a bit hesitant to leave him alone, to be honest, though he'd seemed back to his usual self— annoying as ever— when he'd been handing John his suits to look after.

He'd always more or less assumed that Sherlock had eliminated the assassins; that had been the whole point.  But he'd supposed that it had been a matter of setting traps, probably turning them in to the police or else some complex scheme that got them killed by other criminals.  

Well, according to Sherlock he'd managed some of that — he'd gone on talking about it like a slow leak all the time they'd sat together on the couch, nominally watching the worst daytime telly had to offer.  All through it, Sherlock had leaned on John or kept a grip on a handful of John's jumper.  Sherlock hadn't seemed to realise he was clinging, just as he clearly hadn't realised there were tears on his face at the start of his confession.

It had been hard to take, Sherlock like that.  John felt a bit ashamed of how endearing he'd found that vulnerability.  That probably didn't say much for his decency.  Just as well for him Sherlock didn't care about decency.

John should have realised that Sherlock would have to have ended up doing some direct fighting, and that would mean he'd have ended up killing to avoid being killed.  Had he just been ignoring the idea, because it was yet another thing Sherlock had done for him he hadn't wanted to deal with?

It shouldn't have happened.  Sherlock should never have been alone.  

And now Sherlock was obsessed with this Brazillian, this new Moriarty, and all John could do was try to argue some sense into that amazing brain.  Failing that, if Sherlock did decide he had to run off to Brazil in the middle of the night, then John would just have to go with him, to protect him from what anyone tried to do to him, and protect him from having to do anything terrible himself too.

John had stopped at the shops as well while he was out, getting a new loaf of bread. He'd stood there for several seconds looking at the condoms and lube, but decided against it.  What they were already doing was plenty to be going on with.  It was good, actually.  Bordering, sometimes, on amazing.  Sherlock hadn't mentioned penetration again, and John still wasn't feeling particularly keen on the idea himself.   Frankly, nice-looking as Sherlock's arse admittedly was, John would much rather have his mouth, now he knew what it was like.

When he got back, Sherlock was out.

John shook his head.  "Right.  Fuck you, then," he told the empty flat.  Apparently, there were interesting errands that did merit Sherlock himself getting off his arse and going out, but of course he couldn't be bothered to take care of anything else along the way, not when he had John to order about.

If this turned out to be some meeting with a contact about the mysterious Brazilian Sherlock had such a crime crush on at the moment, John would punch him for going alone.

He put away the shopping and then sat down and grimly read his way through the last fifteen pages of the novel he'd been working on. Perhaps he ought to give up on thrillers; a little Sherlock-shaped part of his brain kept pointing out all the stupid things people in the book did, and noting that most of the action in the book was rather less exciting than John's own life, as long as Sherlock was around.

When the book was finally done, John took out the rubbish.  Perhaps Sherlock was off safely disposing of the mice.  God knew what he'd been doing to them.  Probably they ought to go into an incinerator or something, just to make sure.

He just hoped Sherlock was actually all right about it now.

Once Sherlock had come out with the truth, John hadn't been a bit surprised he was tearing himself up over it; for all Sherlock's intellectual sophistication, his morality seemed a bit simple, childish even.  It had stalled somewhere, like his interpersonal skills.  

Unnervingly, just as with certain social situations, Sherlock seemed to accept John's moral judgments  uncritically.  That was even harder to take than the affectionate clinginess on the couch.

Sherlock got back about an hour after John and for a moment John thought Sherlock had actually gone for food himself. But the carrier bags he was carrying didn't go to the kitchen.  From one of them he produced  a small flat box, which he handed carelessly to John.  On the way towards his room he pulled two new bottles of his absurdly expensive hair potions from another.

John knew better than to ask what the box was — Sherlock would at best ignore the question and most likely make a snappish comment about how John could find out for himself. So John did.

"Socks," John said. "Sherlock, did you mean to give me socks?"

"Yes," Sherlock said, coming back without the bags.

"Right, okay, yes. This explains a lot, actually."

Oh, that got him. Sherlock turned to stare at him, brows squeezed hard together. "What does it explain?"

"All the errands, never getting the tea yourself, making me come downstairs to give you things that were two inches out of reach — I should've known you reckoned I was a house elf."

Sherlock just stared some more.

"Never mind. It was in Harry Potter," John explained.

Sherlock gave him a sceptical look.

"They showed the films on base when they came out," John protested. "They were silly, kid's stuff, yeah, but everyone went.  This one I remember — it had an big fuck-off snake in it, and a little gnomy slave thing called a house elf that got given a sock."

Sherlock gave him a why are people other than me allowed to speak sort of look.

"All right, why did you give me socks?"  There were three pairs, all black.

"Yours are worn through."

This was actually not all that unusual. It was one of the things that had proved to him early on that Sherlock wasn't as uncaring as he liked people to think; he just had funny ways of acting on it. Sherlock sometimes bought things for people. He wouldn't get the shopping when it was his turn, or even concede that he had a turn, but he'd bought Mrs. Hudson a new brolly once — your clothes get soaked with that tatty one — and  Lestrade a little keychain USB drive — sixteen gig, so you can carry files about properly.  For John at various times he'd bought stereo headphones that hooked over the ears, to replace the ear-bud sort that always seemed to fall out — so you can listen to that banal music you like without polluting the air —  a pen — not that it will help your handwriting but at least this one won't leave you covered in ink —  a fully charged-up oyster card — don't walk when it's raining you idiot —  and a pair of shoes — to replace the ones Driscoll bled all over.  At the last, John had balked, because the shoes were an order of magnitude more expensive than anything else John owned, but Sherlock, as ever, had got his own way in the end.  

Sherlock liked to do that, buy people a better version than what they'd had before.  They weren't intended as gifts exactly; Sherlock just wanted the people he liked to have what they needed, so he'd buy it, mostly to remove the annoyance he visibly suffered at their muddling stupidly along doing without.

John looked at the socks.  Felt them.  "Sherlock, are these socks fucking silk?"

"Not intended for sexual purposes," Sherlock explained.

"Oh, well, good.  Because I haven't actually got a foot fetish, thanks."

"Silk is breathable and hard-wearing."

"Thank you for the socks, Sherlock, but I can buy my own, all right?"

"You dropped off my dry cleaning, I bought your socks," Sherlock said, sulkily.

John considered attempting to explain how this was not a perfectly reasonable interpretation of the way things worked, but decided it wasn't worth it.  If Sherlock wanted to express his affection by buying socks, fine.

John made himself a sandwich for lunch, but Sherlock refused to eat and just sat on the couch with his tablet computer, poking at the screen in a way that could not possibly be getting anything done.

John came around beside him to check that he wasn't just sitting there playing Angry Birds or something.  But no, it was some kind of document.  It was in a language John didn't speak, but he could recognise a police report by now.  Great.  More on the Brazillian.

John was deciding whether to start the new book, or if he really was fed up with thrillers and ought to do something else, when Mike phoned to let him him know that his patient from the previous night had gone into arrest and died.  He thanked Mike and sat down next to Sherlock.

"You're not upset," Sherlock said.  "Why aren't you upset?"

John didn't even question that Sherlock had been able to tell enough from hearing John's side of the conversation, even though it had been mostly grunts, to know what had happened.

"I'm not happy about it," John said.  "But I did my job, I kept him alive, got him out.  And it's not like I could've taken over surgery at the hospital."

"It isn't your job anymore," Sherlock said.

"Yeah it is.  Always going to be.  Anyway, I did what I could, the best I could, which was pretty fucking good, actually."

"Yes it was," Sherlock said, quietly.  "Of course it was."

Then Sherlock just looked at him, frowning slightly.  Sherlock didn't seem to know what else to say, but for once that wasn't Sherlock being badly socialised.  Nobody would've known what to say.  There wasn't anything to say.  

He'd cried over losing patients, when they'd been men he'd known, his own guys.  And he'd got drunk over it, when he'd tried and tried and fucking tried and still the damage had been more than he could fix.  And sometimes it had just been like this, just something that happened.  Stupid and bad and tragic, but not his tragedy.

"Lestrade will call," Sherlock said, after a while.  And of course he did, just about the time John had put down his new book — the first chapter was a lot more promising — and was thinking about dinner.

"Sorry to hear," John said.

"You did everything you could," Greg told him.  "The ambulance guys were really fucking impressed, John.  You gave his partner a chance to say goodbye, you know?  Thanks."

"Oh.  Good," John said.  

He supposed it was like when you bought a new mobile, and  suddenly noticed the street seemed to be full of other people with the same one.  Or the first time he'd had a patient take his wig off during an exam, and started noticing hairpieces everywhere for weeks after.  He'd started sleeping with Sherlock and for a while he was going to keep being struck by coincidences of homosexuality.

"I also rang to say you can tell Himself he was completely right."

"Doesn't need telling," John said.

"I know," Greg said, and John could hear the grin in his voice.  "But I reckoned you'd want the confirmation — round it out, like.  We're getting this on the blog, right?"

"Still working on a title."

"Well, one of Cummings' errand boys told us about buying the gun, and the blanks, and the proper bullets for his boss.  And then Cummings and Grace Gibson both tried to claim it was their own idea, trying to clear each other."

"True love," John deadpanned.  

"Another case where running off together would have been a hell of a lot cleaner.  It's not like divorces require a fucking pint of blood," Greg said darkly.  "Oh, and there were traces  of cardizem round the edges of the floor in Marie Gibson's kitchen.  We'd never prove in a court she did it herself, but it's enough we'll only be charging Grace Gibson with her husband's murder."

"Good to know."

"We'll be waiting on that blog post.  Oh, probably should mention, Dimmock reckons Sherlock's been half-inching his case data and talking to forensics without him, and he's bloody furious."  Greg sounded decidedly amused about it.

"Can't think where he gets these ideas," John said.

"Nah, me neither.  See you the next time something nasty turns up."

"Ta, Greg."

John sat down at the desk and opened Sherlock's laptop.  After a moment Sherlock was standing behind him, peering in great interest.  "That's my laptop."

"Yep."  John looked up, just hoping he'd actually be hypocritical enough to complain about it.  Instead the insufferable git looked slightly pleased.  God knew why.  "I'm going to check your email.  Gibson case's officially done, I want to see if any of your adoring public have sent something."

"John we have a case."

"Your Brazilian?  That's not a case, Sherlock.  You know who did it, you know how he did it, you know what and when and why.  There's no place to insert a detective in the whole thing.  Turn everything over to the Brazilian police and let's find a mystery that actually has some mystery in it."

"There won't be anything," Sherlock grumbled.  "Everything's dull."

He backed off and picked up his violin.  To John's surprise, he actually could hear that Sherlock was better.  The notes were somehow both crisper and smoother.  And the arrogance was back in Sherlock's swaying stance in front of the window.  Maybe they'd start having people standing out on the pavement and clapping again (sometimes booing, when Sherlock got sophisticated).

As snatches of actual music alternated with atonal yowling, John went through emails.  Of the first thirty-one, twenty were people who thought their spouses were cheating or their housemates were stealing or their children were marrying criminals.  Seven were people who claimed they'd been wrongfully accused and seemed to think Sherlock was a barrister.  The rest were abuse: Sherlock was a fraud, Sherlock was a liar, Sherlock was insane and should be locked up for what he'd put that poor John Watson through.  

"You have no idea," John muttered, and Sherlock, violin still under his chin, glared.

The thirty-second email was better.

When Sherlock put the violin down, John told him, "One here from a woman who breeds poodles —  the kind that get shaved into weird shapes and go to dog shows."

"Topiary that drools, wonderful," Sherlock drawled.

"So, one of her prize bitches is at the vet's, and there's a fire," John went on.  Sherlock had a possibly worrying weakness for things being on fire.  "Vet dead, fifteen-thousand quid dog disappeared."  He'd read that bit four times, and he still didn't quite believe it.  "Police reckon accidental death — "

"Well they would," Sherlock said, which sounded very promising.  Sherlock was already seeing something about this one that would let him show off.

"Anyway, they're not interested in looking for a lost dog.  So she wants to hire you."

Sherlock blew out an irritated breath through his nose.  "We have a case."

"Come on, you're interested, I can tell."

Sherlock glared, which meant John was right.  He reached for his violin again and wrung out several high-pitched shrieks.

"Yeah, rather you put on somebody else playing for a bit now, thanks," John said

Sherlock got one of his surprised, hurt looks.  It emphasised his long jaw and his young eyes.

"I mean, I wish you'd put on a playlist," John said, pointedly.

The corner of Sherlock's mouth slowly curled up.  "Sometimes you make suggestions that are positively clever, John."


When Sherlock had taken John's suit to be properly tailored, he'd been able to reel off the necessary measurements easily.  In deference to John's need to control the flow of information, he'd refrained from boasting to Mr. Maalouf that Sherlock had private sexual access to the delightful body he'd just detailed, but, as usual, the term flatmate had been taken to mean much the same thing.  

The socks he'd picked up today, so he at least had something to give to John straight away.  He'd take John in for a final fitting in a week.  If that went well, Sherlock would order him a new suit as well.  Gifts to John had to be offered carefully.  If John began to feel overwhelmed, he'd childishly refuse to accept anything, pridefully asserting his independence.  It often took wheedling and long sad-eyed gazes until he'd give in.

In addition to this and his other errands, Sherlock had also intended to purchase six or seven dildoes or plugs in graduated sizes.  He'd bought such toys at various times before as part of cases, and disposed of them when they were no longer relevant.  Now that the relevance was much more personal, however, he had found that the packaging on most of them repelled him.  Those designed to be bought by a male audience used a vocabulary of invasion, stretch, punishment, and, most off-putting, burst.  Those marketed to women were instead juvenilised to the point of infantilisation; there were fluffy large-eyed cartoon animals on some of the boxes!

He'd found the idea of John looking at any of these and thinking that they reflected Sherlock's desires thoroughly horrid.  In the end he'd bought a single smallish dildo with the requisite flaring at the base, and thrown away the packaging before bringing it home.  He'd try it out alone.  Perhaps not even show it to John, just use it as practice.  Sooner or later, John would miss penetrative sex, surely, and when the time came, Sherlock would be ready to accommodate him.

John was, as expected, prickly about the socks, but he didn't refuse them, and Sherlock thought he was pleased, at least a bit.

Then John had received the news that his patient had died.  

During Sherlock's panic this morning, John had been perfect, even as Sherlock's thoughts had become so confused and his behavior so bizarre that Sherlock still couldn't explain it to himself.  This news had seemed to be a wonderful opportunity to firm their relationship by showing he was equally capable of the supportive role.  He'd been ready to play condoling and sympathetic — posher voice and deeper, play up his height, vocabulary somewhere between vicar and headmaster.  But then he'd known instinctively that John would recognise and hate the slight condescension in that persona.  Then he'd nearly gone for compassionate and emotive — voice higher and breathier yet mirroring John's intonation, wider eyed, softer mouthed, vocabulary solidly middle-class, mostly middle-aged housewife with a bit of earnest labourer's sweariness to emphasise particularly emotional statements.  And yet that didn't seem right either.  That was a persona for talking to distraught survivors.  He needed something better for John.  John should have something better.  

So he'd sat there, at a loss, hoping John's emotional response would give him a cue.

But John, surprising as ever, seemed to genuinely take it in stride.

Perhaps this was part of the same personal trait that made John capable of viewing Sherlock's murders with equanimity — John was at peace with all aspects of death.  Presumably that was a skill appropriate to his role as a doctor and as a soldier.

Sherlock didn't mourn dead strangers, and the death of the body had certainly never fazed or disgusted him. This was abnormal and he knew it. But killing was over the edge. Killing, he'd been taught, was a sign of madness, of the unacceptable, of something so far from good that he'd lose his freedom and be kept some place with dingy white walls and the endless devastating dullness of medication and group therapy.

Except that John killed. John had called himself a killer, and John was not a shameful thing to be locked away. With John, Sherlock felt at some moments as if there were a small twilight world here of just the two of them, where he could simply be himself, and everything was right.

In some ways it was a terrible feeling, because when he finally did find the wrong line and step over it and lose this incredible place, it would be all the worse.  So he would just have to trust to John to let him know where that line was.

When Sherlock didn't know what to do, John so often did.

After John suggested sex, Sherlock went briefly to his own room and put his clothes away, and then took his computer up to John's room and put on the playlist, starting with the Tanz again, and kissed John and touched John and committed the scent inside John's elbow and the colour of the veins inside John's wrist and the texture of John's nipple on his tongue to memory, and eventually laid John down on the bed and drew off his briefs.

"I'd suggest intercrurual next." It was, in some sense, surprising they hadn't tried it yet, given its historical popularity.  And if they did it face to face, it would surely feel comfortable to John, very close to the heterosexual acts he was used to.

"This is next from your alphabetical list, is it?" John said.

"There isn't a list, John."

John gave him a sceptical look. "Yeah there is."

"It's more of a graph, or — "

John grinned and waved a hand to cut him off.  "Right, intercrural then."

Sherlock pulled the small tube of Aquagel from the pocket of his robe.  "Lubrication may be helpful."

There was just a moment when John's expression flickered a bit, jaw tightening — was he annoyed by the improper use of medical supplies? — then he took the little bottle from Sherlock, broke the seal, and squeezed a bit into his hand. He rubbed his fingers together testing the viscosity, and Sherlock stared, charmed by John's practical sensuality.

Then John put his hand on his own thigh and rubbed the lubrication slowly down the inside.

Sherlock knew his eyes had gone wide. "You — "

"This is my way of saying you can try the intercrural, I just want you to suck me again."

Sherlock frowned, unsure. Surely this would put John in an uncomfortably... receptive position.

John froze immediately.  "Oh.  God.  No, I mean, you don't have to, Sherlock.  I swear, I will never — "

"Oral sex is fine, John.  You just surprised me.  You don't mind?"  

"Nope," John said, "I'm not like you, Sherlock."

True in many senses, but Sherlock didn't really see what John meant in this case.

"I don't get bored," John said, "Give me something I like and I'm happy to stick with it. But I know that drives you mad. So you get something new, and I get that fantastic mouth — and you get to show off some more.  Everybody's happy, yeah?"

Apparently when he'd judged his efforts at oral sex a success he'd entirely underestimated things.  His stated goal, to achieve a level of sexual prowess that met John's expectations, had apparently been achieved without his realising.

From his reading, periodic additions of new sexual material would still be called for, to keep things from getting stale (he wasn't entirely sure what that meant, in context, but the internet seemed surprisingly unanimous that this was a danger in long-term sexual relationships) so there was no need to abandon his research into sexual topics.  But perhaps he should slow the introduction of new acts after this.  No need to hurry with that dildo.

Instead, he could focus on improving his technique.  

He took things a bit more slowly this time, indulging himself further with the tastes of John's chest and belly on the way down, and then teasing John with just his tongue  and hand at first, until John called him a wanker.

Then Sherlock sucked him.  Oral sex from this end was entirely tedious in theory and slightly uncomfortable in fact.  But for reasons he could only put down to the astounding sensuality of John's body, he was rather enjoying it.  

Worrying at the ridge round the head of John's cock, Sherlock felt John's hand pet his hair, gently, careful never to pull at him.  John's soft, rhythmic moans broke on a long low cry, and then he gasped, "God, Sherlock, you fucking amazing -- ohh suck, please?"

So he did.  He sucked and bobbed and worked John with his tongue until John's moaning had gone to breathless grunts and his hips were rocking very slightly upward.

"I can finish you now," Sherlock offered, pulling back a bit.

John groaned. "If you need to get off now, just -- " he broke off to pant hard -- "yeah, go ahead.  Just finish me after, okay?"

An unusual request.  "Trying to impress me with your patience?"

"Trying to get more of your fucking mouth, Sherlock. I'm in no rush.   Believe me, you can suck me like that until I'm about eighty, and I'll be happy."

Sherlock's body went hot and his head abruptly felt strange: larger, as if the deliberately ordered architecture of his mind had suddenly gained higher ceilings full of echoes.

Until John was eighty.

John at eighty would be tiny and gnarled. His taste in clothes would finally suit him. His gold would have faded to grey, and the little lines on his face would collapse into ravines. He would look out from under white eyebrows just as fierce, but twice as wry.

And he had just given that, that wonderful, terrible, doubtless hugely annoying old man, to Sherlock, to keep.

Sherlock cupped his hand behind John's erection and kissed it the way he'd seen religious people kiss sacred things. There was indeed something visceral about the gesture, something he'd never understood before. John's cock was a delightful object; it had finally allowed Sherlock to manipulate John into viewing their partnership as a long term project.

Feeling magnanimous in victory, Sherlock went back to sucking John's testicles, furry and odd as they were on his tongue. John moaned happily. When he was quite old, they would likely grow more pendulous, the skin having stretched slightly. And Sherlock would get to experience their slow changes over time.

He gave one a dozen soft sucks in rhythm with the music, then took the other beside it and let them both sit on his tongue.

Then he went back to John's cock, licking his way up from the base with a firm tongue, flicking hard at the fraenulum, licking a bead of salty moisture as it leaked from the head. John's ability to get and maintain an erection would almost certainly wane with age. Eventually Sherlock might quite literally be able to suck him for an hour without any danger of him coming. He should begin timing the process and record the data now, so he could chart it.

"I'm serious, Sherlock," John said, sounding muffled. He had an arm thrown over his face, Sherlock saw. "I will let you do that for-fucking-ever. God! So when you're ready just — ohhh!"

Sherlock was definitely getting better at letting John deep. It was primarily a matter of relaxing. It might never be comfortable, but he had plenty of time to entirely vanquish his gag reflex and learn to actually swallow with John in his throat, which his sources promised would be even better received than what he'd done so far.

Finally he sat back from John and looked at John's thighs. Strong, slim, well shaped. He bent again and kissed the little pad of fat atop John's rectus femoris muscle, first on the left thigh, then the right.  

With the promise of eighty in his mind, he couldn't wait.

"Legs together, crossed at the ankle," he directed.

John had dropped the arm from over his face, and nodded seriously at him crossing the right ankle over the left.

Sherlock put a knee on either side of John's calves.  John, still a bit breathless, squeezed out some more lubricant, reached forward, and stroked Sherlock's cock slow and slick until Sherlock couldn't wait anymore and lowered himself on one elbow, the other hand holding his now stiff and slippery cock to position himself.

John turned his thighs slightly outward. His skin felt hot as Sherlock pushed between his thighs, and John let him press close, and then squeezed his thighs together again.

Sherlock shut his eyes and bent his head back, savouring the sensation. Different from the articulation of a hand on him, and without the wet and suction of a mouth. The feeling of sartorius and adductor magnus squeezing him, a flattening press, was new and interesting.

He settled on his elbows, weight on John. John didn't complain, just smiled a little up at him when Sherlock sloppily kissed his ear. Then Sherlock pulled back slightly and pushed forward again. Good, yes, it was so nice, so good.

Then John's hands rested on his back, a loose embrace, and it was wonderful. His body was fucking John's thighs and his hands and mouth were free at the same time.

Experimentally he thrust a bit more boldly.

And promptly his cock slipped entirely free of John's grip.

With an irritated groan, he took hold of himself again and John opened himself a bit again until Sherlock was firmly back between his thighs.  

He heard John's slight huff of amusement.  "Might've overdone the lube."

The angle was more of a problem; it proved just tricky enough to maintain a position that let him thrust but didn't slide him free that he was nowhere near coming, while enjoying the sensation immensely.

Remembering the first night, John on top of him, he slid his hands under John's shoulders to press their bodies closer. The shift of their bodies had moved him higher, now feeling the squeeze of John's adductor longus and gracilis.

John stroked his shoulders, and started slowly squeezing his legs tighter, then letting off the pressure, then squeezing tighter again.

Sherlock grunted and thrust faster, and then cursed furiously at himself as his cock slipped free again.

"Here," John murmured, pulling him up slightly. "Push in again, here."

He was between the tops of John's thighs now, just under John's testicles. It put his cock close to perpendicular between John's thighs. He hadn't quite dared put himself here, so close, not wanting to suggest things that would make John uncomfortable and ruin it all just when John had started talking about old age.

But John just settled him there, and then gave a sort of wriggle under him, rubbing his thighs together, and Sherlock slid his arms in under John again and started pumping his hips, panting with how good it felt.

"Come on," John breathed in his ear, hands pressing encouragingly at his back. "Yeah, yeah — " which was meaningless, which should have been annoying and was instead simply the lovely addition of John's voice to the sensation of John's thighs pressing him and the rub of John's cock against his stomach and the sight of John's tensed jaw and moving mouth, all his eyes could focus on.

"John, can — " he slowed, pressed his face into John's unwounded shoulder.

John's hand rubbed gently at his back. "What? Tell me what you want."

He'd said anything once, but Sherlock knew better than to interpret that too broadly. Sherlock wouldn't ask for anything he knew would be ruinous. But perhaps this would be all right.

"Bite you," Sherlock breathed.

John's body quivered in a soundless laugh.

"Should've known that was on the cards," John said. "Not the neck. How about — " he put his hand to Sherlock's cheek, getting his attention on what John was pointing at, "right here?"

His fingertips were tapping his scar.

Sherlock stopped, staring, mouth open. He likely looked idiotic. "John — "

John just smiled up at him, looking maybe even a bit smug. "Yeah?"

Sherlock nodded, so grateful he couldn't find any words.

So he thrust his body down on John's, and John held him and stroked him, and the music played, and John walked out the door when he was angry, and John would never stop wanting breasts and cunts and the unwavering confidence of heterosexuality, but John was letting him do this anyway, and John would still want Sherlock to suck him when he was eighty.

And John had said, eleven people a day.

John ground his thighs together. "Bite me you fantastic twat," he whispered.

Sherlock whimpered and started to buck helplessly against him, and though it meant crooking his back quite a bit to bring his height down, he bit John's shoulder, lower teeth scraping hard at the dip of the bullet wound and just for a moment catching there.

It was like fever, shivers of hot and cold, sweat all over him, and he just lay on top of John, breathing hard, until he remembered John thought he was too heavy for this, and he shifted to the side. It made his cock pull free again, but he only moved far enough to put his weight on the mattress, so he could keep his face against John's scar.

John stroked his hair until Sherlock finally had the energy to raise his head.

"I really am... inordinately fond... of your legs," He admitted, still getting his breath back.

"You would be.  You reckon you worked a miracle and fixed them that first day," John said, rolling up slightly on his side and cupping his hand at Sherlock's jaw, stroking a little behind his ear.

Sherlock turned his mouth to kiss the side of John's hand, amazed.  Apparently John was also aware of the Ikea Effect.  And in one of those rare bursts of brilliance, John had applied his knowledge where Sherlock had not.  Yes, Sherlock did have a vested interest in John's legs, having cured his limp.

John's expression was particularly soft, almost emotional. "Tosser."

He was also charmed once again by the novelty of a pet name, even one of John's rather idiosyncratic variety. He had no wish to call John anything else though. "John," he murmured.

"If you fall asleep and leave me like this," John said, warmly, "I will grass to Lestrade next time you pinch his ID."

He would too. But Sherlock had never had any intention of leaving John unfinished. He slid down the bed, gripped John's hip to encourage him to roll up entirely on his side, and sank his mouth down the length of John's cock. It was rigid and salty — the rub of their bodies together clearly enough to nearly bring him off already.

Sherlock wrapped his arm over John and put his hand over one of John's shallow but muscular buttocks to encourage him to push into Sherlock's mouth. He'd let John choose his rhythm. If he wanted to draw it out he could, but Sherlock thought he was close enough that he'd want to come soon.

John let Sherlock pull at him, but then stilled again. It took a fair bit of pushing at and caressing his arse, and moving Sherlock's head, before John hesitantly thrust an inch forward. He kept it to no more than that, shallowly rocking, though he let himself pick up speed when Sherlock put his hand on John's hip instead of his arse, so he had control to still John if he wanted.

Sherlock gave John soft suction to thrust into, then a fluttering tongue, then a low hum. The last made John cry out and stay where he was, pushing into Sherlock's mouth.

Sherlock raised the pitch by half steps through half an octave as he tightened his lips around John.

"About to come," John warned breath hitching. "God, Sherlock, just — just do that."

So Sherlock slid down as far as he could and hummed hard. His body felt so warmly relaxed with his own orgasm he thought he'd be able to take anything, but when John's hips gave a little hitch, he did choke, and ended up having to pull off, coughing at the first spurt of semen.

"Fuck," John groaned. "Sorry," so to make sure the experience wouldn't make a bad impression, Sherlock used his hand to stroke John through the rest as he slid up John's body, trying to suppress his cough. John rested his face against Sherlock's shoulder until they were both breathing normally.

"Please, god, tell me I did not just put you off giving head," John muttered.

"Really, John, think," Sherlock told him. "Your best approach would surely be to convince me that I'm in need of a great deal of practice."

"Nah, you'd never fall for that. I was going to tell you how amazing you are and ask you to show me how to do it properly. Me being such an idiot, you'd have to show me again and again."

Sherlock kissed the grin.

"Ugh," John said. "Now we both really need to brush our teeth." But he didn't say this until after they'd kissed for nearly a minute.

"Apparently the taste of semen can be affected--" Sherlock began.

"Yeah, and I will let you run that experiment only if you eat everything I eat. And I mean equal amounts."

Would anyone else in the world have permitted the experiment? Certainly no one else would have cared to use it to influence Sherlock's eating habits.  Maybe he'd succeeded at persuading John to stay for the long term after all.



John woke up wrapped around Sherlock, very probably smothering the breath out of the poor bloke.

Going in, he'd been pretty unsure about the whole thigh-fucking thing. Only the promise of that bloody mouth had been enough to make him volunteer. And when Sherlock had started thrusting on top of him, he'd had to take a moment to stop himself drifting out to a comfortable distance, but then he'd settled again, and realised it was no worse than Sherlock rubbing himself off on John's hip. It felt pretty fucking fantastic, actually, his already throbbing cock rubbed against Sherlock's belly, and Sherlock pressing and holding and staring at him like John was the best thing he'd ever felt.

At the end, Sherlock had actually gone frantic and wild, fucking at John, and instead of feeling like some kind of... well, whatever it was he'd been afraid of feeling like, John had felt like a wall of strength for Sherlock to struggle against, like some kind of fucking demigod who could take what Sherlock was throwing at him. Sherlock was the one who was desperate and needing, and John the one who'd made him whimper and shake and come.

He'd gone a bit overboard afterwards — oral sex could be so tricky from both sides, and he never wanted to hurt Sherlock. But Sherlock really hadn't seemed to mind, had actually seemed more embarrassed than annoyed about choking.  Having tried giving head himself now, that was something John could actually sort of understand.  He didn't particularly look forward to the next time Sherlock would want oral sex from him, but if they took it slow... John reckoned he could handle it.

Sherlock was awake, of course. Why Sherlock sometimes stayed the night through, when he barely slept John couldn't understand.

Unless... well, Sherlock might actually just like to be held.

The idea was unsettling and rather sweet.

Unsettling.  Rather sweet.  Yeah, that about covered the whole thing, didn't it?

Sherlock turned over and pressed close.

John kissed his cheek. "Um, before you — can we give the morning sex a miss?"

Sherlock stilled. John kissed his lower lip. "I'm just not usually all that much in the mood in the morning."

"You initiated yesterday morning."

John shrugged. "But not usually.  Sorry."

"It's fine," said Sherlock, and sat up.

John hooked an arm round him, and kissed him thoroughly, morning breath be damned. "Afternoons... ask me later about afternoons," he said.

"Seems a waste," Sherlock said, and gave John's morning erection a quick, friendly grope before rolling out of the bed and gathering up his robe, all hauteur and pert arse.

"Wanker," John called after him.

Sherlock paused. "Well reasoned," he said, grinned, and posed with his own erection in obvious profile for just a second before wrapping himself in the robe.

While John lay snickering into the pillow, the shower started downstairs.

So John reckoned Sherlock wasn't feeling too rejected, and he thought things were fine, right up until Sherlock announced they were going to Battersea to see what Cummings was keeping in his storage room.

John groaned. "Sherlock, just give the key to Lestrade. He can use it for — "

"He doesn't need it for the Gibson case, he told you himself that was settled," Sherlock argued. "John, we already know Cavalcanti's got his fingers in gambling, drugs, and internet fraud, not to mention the orchestrated games of Russian roulette. Who knows what we may find — "

"Wait, who?"

"His name is Rico Cavalcanti. Fifty-three, has a house in Rio, another in Sao Paulo. Widower. One son, died of overdose in 1987."

"So, you already know every bloody thing about the guy. Give him to the cops, Sherlock."

Sherlock shrugged into his coat and went to the door. There he stopped. "Not coming?"

Of course he was coming.  John would probably fuck it up, end up yelling like a child, say something terrible, but better that than let Sherlock go off alone.

And probably at some point he'd start to drift a bit.  It was probably always going to be too easy to let himself slip aside, feeling like he needed some distance, feeling the need for some air.  But he'd work at it, he'd do his best to stay right where he belonged, right beside — okay, probably three steps behind — this brilliant amazing total git.

He picked up his jacket and followed.

Sherlock was good value as ever. To the attendant at the storage unit he was charming, cheerful and  vague, so posh he couldn't help coming across a bit camp. He'd set up the unit ages ago, you see. He'd just realised that his friend Jack Cummings— they'd been flatmates — had been using it without him knowing. Oh yes he knew the agreement said he couldn't allow others to use the space. His friend had taken the key. He'd only just realised since they had... parted ways. His new friend — this was John — was going to help him remove anything his former friend had been keeping there against the rules. Only it had been so long since he'd actually used it. How long since his friend had last been there? Just in the past week, well!

It was the first time one of Sherlock's put-on personas had implied they were boyfriends since they'd actually started sleeping together.  John realized it seemed just about as annoying and embarrassing as it always had, but was probably a bit funnier now.

Sherlock was beaming as he and John took the lift and went up to the room.  He liked his little theatrical productions, proving he could pretend to be a normal person.  Admittedly, John liked to watch him do it.  But he'd have been happier if it had been in aid of a better case.  

"It's got a PIN as well as a lock," John pointed out.

"Not a problem."

"Yeah, if Cummings left you a little love note in the code," John said. Once Sherlock had told him, he'd had a good laugh over the idea that Irene Adler's password had been anything but a joke at Sherlock's expense, mocking him. Grown women didn't do the modern equivalent of doodling their crush's name on their notebooks, not when they had their livelihood to protect, not in John's experience. Sherlock had insisted, but his experience consisted of exactly one woman, who had lied about everything else as a matter of course.

Sherlock gave him a nasty look, and John regretted the comment slightly. She was dead, after all. This was the problem: he was a cunt when he was pissed off.  He wanted to be out of here and away from everything to do with Rico whoever -- who his brain now insisted on picturing as Jim Moriarty with grey hair and  a sombrero.

"So what then?" John asked. "Grace Gibson's birthday?"

"He opened the account before they started dating."

"Okay, what is it then?"

Sherlock shrugged, a showy what care I? shrug, and pulled out of his pocket a collection of bits of electronic junk connected by wires.  He used the key, and then pried at the plate of the keypad until he could slide a thin card sort of thing in under it.

"Right, I dare you to say with a straight face that having that thing is legal."

"Of course it isn't.  It brute-forces the pin.  There are more elegant versions, but I had this one lying around."

"Brute force meaning it just tries all the possibilities for you until it gets it right?"


"And you'd rather be doing this than figuring out where the hell the fifteen-thousand quid dog is?"

"You're growing obsessed with that animal.  If it were a frequently-used lock, I could narrow it down by looking at the wear patterns, but according to the records our friend at the front desk showed me, Cummings only came by occasionally.  There's a bit of wear on the three, but other than that — this is less tedious.  There."

The door had clicked.  Sherlock hauled it open, and John looked in around him.

A table, boxes, packages.



John tackled Sherlock bodily to the ground, and knew he was getting slow. A chunk of something, wood from the wall maybe, hit him in the side of the head and for a moment the world blanked into a huge gonging nothing.

Sight came back as a narrow field ringed with white, which slowly widened. With sight, unfortunately, came stupidly awful pain.

But Sherlock was talking at him, which meant Sherlock was all right.  So, everything was going to be fine.


"John?  John?  Please, John," Sherlock babbled stupidly.  John's fault.  Entirely John's fault.  Sherlock needed a medical expert, and a flawless marksman, and a magnificent sex partner.  He did not need an undersized have-a-go hero.  What on earth could John have been thinking, putting himself in the line of that blast?  How had he even known?  Sherlock's one glance into the room had taken in the block of plastic explosive, but he'd only recognised it after the fact (with some extremely suggestive context clues).  

John, meantime,  must have reacted to the sight of the explosive as instinctively as a baby bird responding to the silhouette of a hawk above, to act so fast.

"Stay awake, John!" Sherlock snapped, "Stay with me."

John smiled vaguely, eyes closed.  "Yep.  Yeah.  That's the plan.  Trying me best."


"Fuck," John said, putting a hand to his head.  "Oh fuck that hurt."

"Ambulance is on its way.  Stay still," Sherlock ordered.

John opened one eye and peered up at him.  "Ambulance?"

"Yes, John.  I called them.  You were unconscious."

John frowned.  "I was out?  How long?"

"Less than a minute," Sherlock admitted.

John looked at Sherlock's hands, saw he wasn't holding his mobile.  "You hung up on emergency services."

"I didn't call emergency services," Sherlock snapped.  He'd called Mycroft, of course, much more efficient. Was this a sign that John's brain had been damaged, all this pointless questioning?  "Stay down," he ordered, when John started trying to sit up.  "You -- "

John reached up a hand and squeezed Sherlock's shoulder.  "Look it's not as bad as you think," he said.  "Rotten headache, that's all."  He started moving again, so Sherlock lifted him so John was leaning against his chest.

"You should stay still," he said.

"I'll be fine.  You won't hide this from Lestrade now, you realise."

John might be fine.   If he hadn't been, it would have been for something so pointless, so dull.  This was Cavalcanti's notion of basic security, too many tries at the pin setting off explosives — if someone got close to his secrets, reduce them to nothing.  No games, no subtlety, just a slam of destruction.

There was a scrape and a little smear of blood  at John's hairline.

If there had been a three-tumbler lock on a fifteen-second timer to defuse the bomb, Sherlock would have managed it.  And it would have been thrilling and he'd have grinned at John who would have gazed at him, eyes hot with admiration.  So would that have been worth it, worth the minuscule chance of this, of John's blank face and body gone limp and unresponsive for eighteen unbearable, unlivable seconds?

Sherlock was a terrible person, and couldn't answer that question.  There were risks and rewards.  And for both of them, the risk often was the reward.  How could he possibly —

Oh, yes.  He'd answered this question already; he just hadn't put the answer into application across the board.  Somehow he hadn't recognised that it applied here.  John knew what they should do, when Sherlock didn't.  John was in charge of determining when the thrill wasn't worth the danger.  

John thought going after Cavalcanti alone wasn't worth it.

"Lestrade can deal with the Brazilian police," said Sherlock.

John tipped his head back a bit to look up at him, then smiled a little.  "Okay."   He tried to sit up again.


"Sherlock, I've had a worse TBI playing rugby.  It's fine."

Mycroft's pet paramedics got there, accompanied by the man from the desk, who kept demanding explanations and being ignored.

"Any pain?"  One of them asked John.

"Yeah, my head feels like fucking UXO at the moment. Hand me over to the AT's before I go off and get bits of brain all over the wallpaper."

Sherlock wondered if the lapse into army vocabulary indicated serious effects of the blow to John's head.  Was he confused about whether he was still in Afghanistan?

But John sat patiently through having his eyes and responses checked, and gave a wry wave when Lestrade showed up.  His behavior seemed unchanged.

Sherlock gave Lestrade the shortest possible summary of events -- which made the man from the desk start shouting -- and  handed the key over to Lestrade.

There had been a server in the room, certainly on a cellular modem, since while the room provided power it would hardly have wired ethernet.  It had likely relayed some of the Russian roulette videos and would probably have still stored some evidence of that.  But the machine was slag,  and as of now Sherlock wasn't really interested.

John had been quite right.  This wasn't a case, and it wasn't a matter of protecting John either.  This hadn't been personal, not at all.  Cavalcanti wouldn't rig a complex network of assassins to threaten John.  His style was this blunt clumsy punch.  If he'd killed John here today, it would only have been by accident — the target of the explosion had been the evidence, harming the intruders only a convenient side-effect.  The only one endangering John was Sherlock, by putting him in the line of Cavalcanti's mindless destructive jabs.

So, even if Cavalcanti had been as interesting an adversary as Moriarty, it wasn't worth it.  Sherlock didn't even need John to tell him that.  He'd made that mistake once; never again.

So when he'd been assured by the paramedics, and by his own expert (whose opinion was, admittedly at the moment, compromised) that John just needed to rest, he took John by the arm to take him home.

"You'll sit with him, though," Lestrade said pointedly.  "I mean, aren't you supposed to keep him from sleeping for a day or something?"

Lestrade thought he'd get distracted and leave John alone.  "I'll stay," Sherlock said, stiffly, glaring.

"And all you have to do is wake me every couple of hours overnight to check I'm not impaired," John put in.  

"Lost cause, m'old son," Lestrade teased, "Look who you're trusting your brain to."  

John grinned. "Right, yeah.  Any more impaired."

Sherlock took John home, settled him on the couch, and called out for the best hot and sour soup in London.  John ate, and told him that he was an idiot for having insisted on going to the storage facility.  So for the most part he seemed like himself, but Sherlock would definitely be watching for changes.

"You’re actually worried," John said, suddenly, lips compressing in a sort of smile.    

Apparently Sherlock was being too obvious. "Given how slow you are ordinarily, brain damage might well render you entirely unable to function."

"Ta for that.  Look, if I do a crossword, will you believe my brain hasn't been scrambled?"

Sherlock shrugged.  "It would be a positive sign."

So John sat with a paper for the better part of an hour.  His determination to show his brain was working as well as it ever had meant he wasn't giving any of the clues to Sherlock.  Finally he abandoned it and went down to have tea with Mrs. Hudson.

Sherlock checked.  John had given up at zeitgeist, which ought to have been easy from unusual size-- get it? but he had figured out that Matriarchs hold places in our hearts gave atria, which boded well.

When John came back up, they watched one of John's pointless movies full of helicopters and naked women until John nodded off on the couch during the third extended tedious chase scene.

Sherlock edged close enough that their legs touched, since John hadn't minded that the day before.  He sat there through the rest of the ridiculous film, using his laptop to gather information on Pyland kennels and the typically idiotically named Pyland's Miss Poodle-Potter.  The most interesting item was a short article on the local paper's web page titled The Dog Who Lived? which reported several sightings of the valuable dog immediately after the blaze, recognised by her markings.  With that in mind, the schedule list on became very suggestive.

As the credits rolled, Sherlock put the computer aside.  "John, wake up."

John sat up.  "Yeah, yeah, awake."

"Two men, both wearing uniforms from the same cleaning service, are accused of robbing a dry cleaners, removing all money from the till and killing the proprietor with a blow to the head.  One wears two rings, four year old trainers, and has a missing tooth.  The other got a haircut within the past week and has a rash on his neck.  Which is the guilty man?"

"This is your idea of testing if my brain's damaged?"

"Yes," Sherlock said.  It seemed fairly obvious.

"Because you can't actually check if I know who the prime minister is, because you don't know."

"I could google it," Sherlock pointed out.

"It'll be the one with the rash," said John.  "Because of something about dry cleaning chemicals."

"You just guessed."

"Yes, yes I did."  He got to his feet, stretched.  It made his shirt ride up, baring an inch of pale belly.  "I need an early night."

"I'll need to check on you.  Sleep in my bed."

John glanced at him.  "You're still worried."  

"Yes," Sherlock admitted.

John went through his usual evening ritual, stripped down to his pants and curled up tight in Sherlock's bed.  It was still early, but Sherlock stripped to his own boxers before turning out the light.

"I'll wake you at the end of your next sleep cycle," Sherlock said, wrapping his own body around John from behind and inhaling the scent at the back of his neck.

He stayed there, mentally preparing the reports he would send to various anti-crime organizations in different countries and considering the problem of the dog.

When next he woke John up, John tried to tuck his head under the pillow.  "Go away," he grumbled.

"Who is the prime minister?" Sherlock asked dutifully.

John told him, and added an obscene suggestion.

"I told you, I'm not interested in sex with anyone but you."

"Go away, and take any and all erections with you.  I have a headache," John said, and kicked him lightly.

"I didn't mean now, obviously.  Go back to sleep.  Unless you'd like to take some—"

"Fuck. Off." John grunted and pulled the pillow fully over his head.

Under there, he snored in a snuffling sort of way.  Skin to skin like this, John's body was warm and compact and lovely.  

John was here.  John was safe.  John's body was magnificent and John's cock ruled John's head in certain essential ways, and Sherlock in certain respects ruled John's cock.  And John had said eighty.  And John knew about the murders and had still let Sherlock lie with his head in John's lap on the couch.  

Sherlock had said stay with me, and John had said yeah. That's the plan.

Sherlock eventually untucked himself from around John, and spent the rest of the night sitting there with his laptop, sending the reports and learning new things about dogs.  Periodically he woke John, who called him any number of extremely rude pet names.  

Late in the morning, John woke on his own and trudged off to the bathroom looking rumpled and clearly spoiling for a fight.  After John had gone up to his room, Sherlock considered what he could do to John's laptop that would spark a cheerful little wrangle.  But he filed that away for later when John bellowed his name from upstairs.

Sherlock could hear the difference between distress and fury, and went up the stairs in no great hurry.

"What the fuck is that smell, Sherlock?"  John demanded.  "That is not a me smell.  That is a Sherlock Holmes fiddling about with chemicals smell."

It wasn't strong yet, but stepping into the room from the hallway it definitely made an impression.  Sherlock carefully blanked his face and didn't glance at the bit of the baseboard behind which he'd hidden the dish containing the restarted experiment John had previously binned.  

"The mixture should be quite finished maturing by the time the dog case is finished.  Until then, you should probably sleep with me."

"Sherlock," John growled, "clean your bloody experiment out of my room or I swear to christ I will mention Shercock Holmes on the blog."

Sherlock was fairly sure John was bluffing— he'd not deliberately draw his readers attention to the pornographic adventures of Dr. Hotson and friend, even for revenge.  But the cheerful nastiness convinced him that John was more or less recovered and back to himself.

"I need it finished in time to use with the tongues," he argued.

John was unmoved by scientific expediency.  "So go put it wherever you put the mice."

"Then the smell will pervade the entire flat."

John rolled his eyes.  "Put it in C, then.  Nobody will smell it over the mildew.  But get it out of my room!"

"Yes, fine," Sherlock acceded.

When he'd moved the dish to the empty flat downstairs, he came back up to find John eating breakfast.  He'd brought out Sherlock's laptop.

"So, you're reading up on the dog case?" John prompted.

"You were quite right, John.  The dog case is going to be interesting."

"Interesting," John echoed.  A slow, lovely, beaming smile broadened and rounded the whole lower half of his face, put deep beautifully-shaped brackets at either side of his mouth, narrowed his eyes and emphasized the unusually straight line of their slightly drooping upper lids.  "Yeah, it will be.  You utter prat.  You fantastic bloody fucker."  He stood up, wiped his mouth. "You don't need tricks to get me into bed, you know.  Asking would do."

If John had been paying attention, he'd have realized the dish had been placed in his room well before they'd begun sleeping together, to reach that stage of reaction.  But if John had continued that earlier string of nights when he'd turned away from Sherlock, sleeping on his own, Sherlock might well have tried a similar tack, just to guarantee their continuing intimacy.  Did it really matter if John misunderstood specific events, when he understood Sherlock so well?

"Is it afternoon yet?"  Sherlock said, asking, placing his hands on John's waist.

John smirked, reached up, grabbed Sherlock by the back of the neck, kissed him firmly and deep and for a long time.  "Close enough," John said, when Sherlock was panting and trying to press them tighter together.  "Close enough."