Sherlock fidgets with his cuffs. Shoots them down over the backs of his hands. Rolls the buttons between his fingers.
Regret hot in his veins.
What was fifty pounds after all?
Fifty pounds for one kiss. It was ludicrous.
Was it worth it to have to wake up early on a Saturday morning and get himself to Soho all for a silly experiment?
“It’s not silly, Sherlock, it’s going to be beautiful. And it’s for science!” Molly’s smile. So pure. It had tugged at Sherlock’s heart in a way that he didn’t like.
Sentiment, he scoffs, disgusted with himself.
Scuffs the toe of his shoe against the concrete floor.
The air in the basement breathes down the collar of his shirt, making his hair prickle and stand on end.
Christ, how much longer would he have to wait.
He looks at his watch.
Shoots the cameraman a look laden with disdain while he’s at it.
The cameraman simply shrugs, unperturbed.
Sipping his coffee, feet up on the table. There are crumbs in his beard, Sherlock notes.
For the thousandth time that morning he reminds himself of the new electron microscope he is going to be able to buy with the fifty pounds. He's been saving for ages.
And of the fact that it will be a short ride on the tube from here to Barts morgue where Molly has promised him the fresh corpse of a sixty-seven year old man.
Soon enough he’d be testing his theory of the type of bruising that could form posthumously. A man’s alibi depended on it, after all.
If his partner in this farce ever bothered to show his face, that is.
“How long do we wait? Is there a backup?” Sherlock inquires.
The cameraman looks at him over the rims of his square black glasses.
“I’m not in charge of the schedule. Let’s say we give him fifteen minutes?”
This isn’t science.
How did this sham even find funding, he wonders.
He’s seen the original video. The attractive actors kissing beatifically in black and white.
Molly had said that her friend Mira wanted hers to be more realistic. Something she was trying to prove in her PhD thesis about…actually, Sherlock had stopped paying attention at that point so he’s really not sure.
Irritation, pins and needles prickling inside his chest.
He huffs a put-upon sigh and folds his hands behind his back.
Tilting his head back, he starts to count the cracks in the ceiling. Black serpentine lines meandering across the white. The whole room is painted white. It’s sterile. Cold. Industrial.
An interesting backdrop for what they’re about to do.
Sherlock would have expected something…warmer. Something to connote passion and—
Just then the door bangs open and there’s a string of colourful curse words muttered under a man’s breath.
Sherlock’s gaze sweeps across the room to zero in on the man standing in front of the door tugging at something caught in the jamb.
The man is not old enough to need a cane.
Interest piqued, Sherlock looks closer as the man finally frees his cane and turns to face them. Jaw clenched. His thin lips pressed together. Eyes pinched at their corners.
“Hello, sorry I’m late.” His smile is not really a smile, it’s a grimace. The tip of the cane cracks against the floor as he makes his way towards the table. It echoes off the walls and high ceiling.
The man’s cheeks burn, bricked in red.
Military haircut. Tanned face. Tan lines that end abruptly at his wrists. Stiff left shoulder. Injured, then. Let’s say veteran. Afghanistan or Iraq? Sherlock needs to know. The limp is psychosomatic - that much is clear. Look how he lays the cane aside. Carries his weight just fine as he shakes the cameraman’s hand. RAMC patch on his shoulder bag which he drops next to the table as he chats politely. Doctor. No, surgeon. A soldier and a surgeon. Sherlock’s heart races, races. He watches as the man bends at the waist to fill out the consent form. Left handed.
Everything is contradictory.
The man is small but he holds himself with the presence of a much larger man. His smile is easy and friendly, but the tension around his eyes belies something lurking beneath the shuttered exterior. He wears a horrendous oatmeal jumper and a pair of dark jeans. Perfectly ordinary in every respect. But he is the furthest thing from ordinary. Sherlock knows it with every ounce of his being.
The man straightens and turns to face Sherlock.
Sparks snap along Sherlock’s spine as their eyes meet. Tingling out to his extremities. Startled, he tucks his electrified fingertips in against his palms.
What colour is his hair? It would be easy to say brown, but it would be completely, egregiously wrong. There are strands of gold and flax and ash and ochre. A veritable wheat field of shifting colour. Silver glinting like tinsel among the chaff. From this far away Sherlock cannot categorize the colour of his eyes. They’re dark, intent on Sherlock. They take him in, a slow, appreciative drag up and down.
The man licks his lips.
Sherlock’s breath grows shallow.
The man walks toward him, listing to the right, leaning heavily on his cane.
His palm is slightly damp against Sherlock’s when they shake hands.
A real smile this time.
Oh, his eyes are blue.
But not sky. Nothing so pedestrian as robin’s egg or cornflower.
They are the storm churned waters of a river rushing. An ocean in tumult. Dangerous as a riptide.
Sherlock feels their liquid tug in his navel.
Who is this man?
“Ready for this?”
An attempt to break the ice.
When Sherlock doesn’t answer the smile flickers. Gutters. Faltering.
“For all we know, we might be dead by tomorrow,” Sherlock says, his voice husky. Even deeper than usual. “What’s a kiss compared to that?”
The man’s eyebrows climb his forehead, wrinkling the skin in long deep lines.
He glances at the cameraman over his shoulder as if looking for some sort of confirmation that he alone hadn’t heard the strange response.
“I mean,” Sherlock says. “My name is Sherlock Holmes and I am perfectly ready to begin. Are you?”
God, he sounds stiff. Like a complete and utter toff.
Wait, why does he care about how he sounds?
He just met this man, why should he worry about impressing him?
“It’s nice to meet you.” The smile is back. A seam ripping and parting to reveal a row of even white teeth. “John Watson.”
“And how did you get talked into this, John Watson?”
Christ, what next?
“My friend Mike Stamford owed someone a favour. And I’m in no position to turn down an easy fifty quid. Pensioner that I am.”
Self-deprecating. Something bursts inside Sherlock’s chest, hot and sharp. That this man, someone who risked his life for Queen and country, should feel ashamed, it makes Sherlock irrationally angry.
Sherlock shifts, uncomfortable with his unruly body. He’s usually much better at acting unaffected. He needs to get out of here. 50 pounds. Microscope. Barts Morgue.
“Should we do it then? Just get it over with?” he blurts out, blood throbbing in his cheeks. “Help this girl get her bloody PhD or whatever it is she’s doing this ridiculous experiment for.”
John Watson chuckles. Looking down at his feet.
And then up.
Through the golden fringe of his lashes.
The light catches in them, a sun-flare sparkling across Sherlock’s eyes.
Sherlock’s heart battering against his skin.
He is overly aware of the space between them. A scant five inches that will soon be closed.
“Give me a moment, hmm? I’ve never done this before.”
Sherlock looks over at the cameraman who is now standing behind his equipment with the lens trained on them.
“Are we ready to go whenever?”
The man holds up a thumb.
The red recording light blinks.
Sherlock turns back to John, who is studying his shoes with great concentration.
“Afghanistan or Iraq?” Sherlock asks, unable to help himself.
Blue eyes flick up to meet his and Sherlock finds himself slipping into their unfathomable depths without resistance.
“Which was it? Afghanistan or Iraq?”
John glances at the cameraman once more.
“Afghanistan. Sorry. How did you—?”
“Ah, no it’s just that we’ve never met and I—“
He really does have the most extraordinarily expressive face.
“It’s quite simple really. Your hair cut screams military. Your face is tan, but it doesn’t extend past your wrists, which suggests that you’ve been abroad, but not sunbathing. You’re not even forty yet and you use a cane. Your therapist’s right I’m afraid, it is psychosomatic, so PTSD is probable, but the shoulder pains you. That’s real. The original circumstances of the injury were traumatic. Wounded in action, then. Wounded in action, suntan – Afghanistan or Iraq. It’s enough to be going on don’t you think?”
“What are you, a copper or something?”
Three notches carved between his eyes.
John’s expression clears for a moment. “Ah, a private dick, well that explains it I suppose. What, did you do a bit of digging beforehand? Get ahold of my name somehow? Find out a bit about the stranger you were meant to be snogging? I don’t blame you. I probably should have asked Mike about—”
“Not a private dick, no,” Sherlock bites out. “Consulting detective. The only one in the world. I invented the job. So, when the police are out of their depth, which is always, they consult me.”
“The police don’t consult amateurs.” Incredulous.
Sherlock raises his eyebrows.
“No, they don’t.”
John stares at him.
His mouth is open. The very tip of his tongue trapped between his lips.
“So you didn’t…”
“Didn’t research me beforehand…”
“Ah, no. No, I most certainly did not.”
“Then you got all that…” his voice is thick. He swallows. Sherlock watches the bump ride in his throat. He wonders, briefly, what it would feel like, moving against his mouth. “You got all that from just looking at me?”
Sherlock looks away, bracing himself for the worst.
Sherlock does a double take.
“You think so?”
“Of course it was. It was extraordinary. It was quite extraordinary.”
“That’s not what people normally say.”
“What do people normally say?”
John smiles. A laugh caught in his chest. It rumbles, up and out, and Sherlock finds himself huffing a bit himself.
Can Sherlock keep him?
He wants to keep him.
Across the room the cameraman clears his throat.
John glances over at him and nods his head.
“Right.” He looks up at Sherlock. The smile still etched into his cheeks. Still glowing warm in his eyes. “I guess it’s time.”
“I suppose it is.”
John takes a shuffling step forward. Still leaning a bit on the cane.
His tempest eyes moving over Sherlock’s face: soft.
Something is swelling in Sherlock’s chest, rising tight and high. It changes the pattern of his breathing, the pattern of his heartbeat.
John sees it, sees something in Sherlock’s gaze, and his face melts into a reassuringly sweet smile.
“Hey,” he says, reaching for Sherlock’s hand. “Hey, let’s just look at each other for a minute, all right?”
Sherlock, grateful, nods.
John’s thumb is tucked into his palm.
He strokes the heart of it.
Over and over.
“We don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.”
His eyes are steady on Sherlock’s.
“You say the word and we stop right here.”
Sherlock jerks his head. No.
“All right,” John says. “All right.”
His right foot slides forward, in between Sherlock’s.
Bending, Sherlock rests his forehead against John’s.
For a moment they share the same breath.
“Can I?” Sherlock’s hands hover in the air beside John’s face, unsure where to land.
“Yes,” breathed out onto Sherlock’s lips.
A small sound escapes him.
John smiles as Sherlock’s hands slide down below John’s ears to cup his head.
Gently, Sherlock tips it back.
Their noses slip against each other.
John smells of soap and sun warmed skin.
Their eyes lock, so close they blur. The torrid blue waters suck at Sherlock and he just lets go.
Lets himself be pulled out to sea.
Sherlock’s heart in his mouth, he presses his lips to John’s.
The touch billows through him.
Sunlight ruffling black water, tearing it open.
The sound of their mouths meeting: a soft percussion.
John tips his head a bit to the left and opens his mouth and slides his tongue, slick, into Sherlock’s mouth and the shock wave moves outward, obliterating everything before it.
More, he thinks.
Rubbing his tongue against John’s, desire sluicing through him, a bright molten river.
More, and more, and more again.
It will never be enough, he doesn’t think.
He does not hear the cane clang as it falls to the ground.
All he knows is that John’s fingers are now tangled in his curls. Pressing Sherlock closer to him.
Sherlock drops his hands and wraps his arms around John’s waist. Gathering him in until they are pressed all along their lengths. John, on tiptoe, allows himself to be gathered.
Images strike Sherlock behind his closed eyes.
Them running, sprinting through the warren of London’s neon lit streets. Adrenaline a copper penny burning on the back of their tongues.
Come chase criminals with me and sleep in my bed afterwards .
Let me keep you.
Sherlock has never prayed in his life.
He prays for this mercy thrice.
The kiss ends.
They are both breathless. Their eyes glazed and pupil-shocked. They stare at each other.
“I—“ Sherlock says.
“Perfect! I’ve gotta say gentlemen, that that was, um, surprisingly…intimate. It’s just what Mira was looking for, if you ask me,” the gruff voice of the cameraman breaks in, shattering the moment.
John looks away, down to where his cane lies, discarded on the floor.
Rubbing a hand over the back of his neck.
“Yeah.” He glances up at Sherlock and then away. Sherlock bends and picks up the cane and hands it to him. “Cheers.”
Sherlock watches him as he makes his way to the table, leaning heavier than usual on his cane. As if it is the only thing holding him up. Sherlock feels a similar weakness.
He forces himself to walk.
Silently they pull on their coats.
Sherlock follows him to the door.
John stops before it and turns to face him.
Thorns in Sherlock’s throat, the words he needs catch and prick.
“It was nice to meet you, Sherlock Holmes. Ta, for the…the…” He gestures towards where they had been standing only minutes before.
This is it. Last chance.
“Dinner?” Sherlock rasps.
“Dinner. Would you like to have dinner? With me?”
A smile curves John’s mouth. He opens it. Closes it. Looks down at his shoes again.
Sherlock dies a thousand mortified deaths.
“Is it a date?”
“You know, where two people who like each other go out and have fun?”
“That’s what I was suggesting, yes.”
John just looks up at him. Grinning. Deep blue eyes that Sherlock wants to drown in.
Sherlock takes a deep breath and opens the door. Dives in.