Thank you very much, CrackshotKate - you made this story a lot better.
Sherlock paced back and forth in front of the sofa as John carefully typed an email on his phone, ignoring him.
The flat was suffocating Sherlock; he imagined swinging a sledgehammer repeatedly into the wall above John’s head, raining plaster and dust onto his hair and the sofa cushions and the mobile a half second before John leapt out of his seat, shouting and yanking the hammer away from him-
Sherlock groaned, fisting his hair with both hands. “I need one, John.”
The other man snorted down at the screen of his mobile. “You really don't. You're up to your elbows in nicotine patches.”
John might as well have compared Lambrini to Cristal, and why wouldn’t he look at Sherlock, anyway? Sherlock flung the Union Jack pillow directly at John's face, but he deflected it without comment. Unusual.
“What’s wrong with you?” Sherlock asked, eyes narrowing as his pace slowed.
Sherlock turned and quickly appraised his posture. “You’re in a bad mood this morning – not like you for a Saturday.”
“Do not start on this, Sherlock,” John grumbled under his breath.
Sherlock stopped in front of him and openly stared. “Definitely less than five hours of sleep. I’d put you at three."
“Anderson could’ve beaten you to that one," he said, frowning down at his phone once more.
“You were fretting over a girlfriend.”
“It would have to be someone new, because you haven’t been sending inordinate texts lately and I haven’t seen any dreadful poetry in your emails.” Sherlock resumed pacing. “You haven’t had your 'date shoes' on for months, nor have you been fussing over your hair; not a girlfriend, then.” He briefly glanced at John’s face for confirmation before turning back at the wall. He’d already forgotten about the cigarettes and the sledgehammer.
“You haven’t asked her out yet, nor are you even contemplating doing so. Why? Obvious, someone you shouldn’t be attracted to. Too young? No, no.” Sherlock waved his hand distractedly. “But there is guilt.” He looked directly at John, still ramrod straight on the sofa, a perfectly blank expression on his face. Brilliant. “I know her.”
John’s eyes shifted for the briefest moment to his laptop on the coffee table.
Sherlock snatched the computer off the table before John could lunge for it. “Let’s see who she is, hm?”
“Sherlock, Sherlock no.” He could hear actual panic in John’s voice. This was going to be funny. Molly’s Facebook page probably. He hoped not Donovan’s.
John nearly knocked him over reaching for the laptop. “Oh, stop.” Sherlock said, holding it over his head while the screen loaded. “I’d find out sooner or later you kno-”
A photograph of himself from The Science of Deduction stared back at him. Sherlock’s comment died in his throat.
For a few moments, nothing, not even a car horn, disturbed the silence of the room.
By the time Sherlock looked away from the screen, John had already grabbed his keys and wallet off the table and was pulling on his jacket.
“Go fuck yourself, Sherlock,” he muttered before slamming the door.
Sherlock stared at the closed door for a second before he caught sight of the photo again.
He swallowed and shut the laptop, heading to the fridge for the bag of right toes.
Beta'd and brit-picked by CrackshotKate, editor extraordinaire.
Note: the story earns some of its rating in this chapter
Sherlock yawned and looked over at the clock on the oven: 4:37 am. No John. Disquieted, he stood up and stretched his arms over his head before he wandered into his room, shedding all of his clothes and falling into bed. He rearranged himself for twenty minutes, at last curling into a foetal position halfway down the length of the mattress.
He’s not coming back. Sherlock opened his eyes and stared at the wall, heart rate tripling.
Exposure of suppressed non-heteronormative tendencies. Shame, fear of isolation. Apology would acknowledge and affirm findings, implicitly verify belief that tendencies are negative. Non-acknowledgment allows maintenance of plausible deniability of what evidence suggests-
Sherlock’s stomach unexpectedly dropped at that thought. Only logical object due to proximity and perhaps sentiment. No further significance.
His pulse had slowed; consciousness slipped away from him.
Read his blog tomorrow, let him see.
Around noon the next day Sherlock adjusted his sheet as he shoved a teaspoon into the little sugar jar on the worktop, frowning when it clanged against the sides. He leaned over to look inside – nothing, not even a dusting left. He glanced again at his full mug of tea.
"John?" Sherlock called. John didn't answer. Not back. Fear edged around his thoughts but he viciously pushed it down.
Sherlock typed out a quick text ordering John to buy sugar and dumped his phone back on the work surface. After a moment he picked it up again, scrolling through his texts to John. He'd already asked him to get the sugar twice last night; he’d forgotten. No text back.
"Mrs. Hudson!" He shouted. No answer. Back on with the baker, then. Tedious.
His tea really was atrocious without the sugar. Angrily he pulled on trousers and a shirt and hastily tied his scarf before walking out the door, slamming it shut behind him.
"John!" He called out again. John didn't answer. Not back. He opened the fridge and retrieved the same bag of toes, smashing it shut so hard that it popped back open again without Sherlock's notice.
The next afternoon Sherlock woke up and nearly gagged. Botrytis cinerea, Erwinia carotovora, Rhizopus, Alcaligenes. He stumbled into the kitchen without his sheet and cursed loudly at the open fridge door.
He attempted to boil the kettle, wretching almost continuously until he gave up up and retreated, seething, to dress. Before he left for St. Barts, he opened the not-cold fridge again and scanned its contents, settling on a bag of tongues to dump over John's mug in the sink.
Sherlock was holding a fresh John Doe's heart when his mobile rang later that day; it clanged in the weight pan as he snapped off his gloves and dug around in his pocket. He felt an unprecedented pang of disappointment looking at the name on the screen.
He listened to the details of a relatively promising case and hung up with a muttered 'yes' without mentioning how busy he was.
He caught sight of John's name on his phone's call log from two days ago as he gathered his things to leave. Something heavy crept over him as he shrugged on his coat.
"Where's Doctor Watson?" Donovan smirked at Sherlock as he walked past her.
He whipped around, ready to tell her about the bit of cat fur clinging to Anderson's leg as well as the revolting artificial passionate fruit scent emanating from his head. Donovan didn't have a cat, nor did she use passionate fruit shampoo. Neither did Anderson's wife. He'd add that a lover's quarrel was impossible between the two of them because that would suggest the love was requited-
Donovan looked nervous.
Sherlock frowned – had he already said something out loud?
Lestrade caught his eye and motioned with his head to the body on the floor. Sherlock turned away from Donovan and snapped on his gloves, inexplicably unsettled.
A disappointing twenty-four hours later, Sherlock sat in the window booth at Angelo's observing the pedestrian traffic outside. His phone, normally in his pocket and forgotten after a case, was under his palm next to his plate.
Publisher. Barrister. On the way to see his mistress. On his way to the off-license for alcohol.
He leaned back in his chair and exhaled, moving his hand to the side for a moment to glance at the screen. No new calls. No emails. No texts.
On his way home Sherlock typed 'where are you?' to John, then deleted it.
When he arrived back at the flat he froze, sniffing the air once before taking the stairs two at a time to John's room. Not here, but just left. He paused in the doorway, scanning the bed, the table, the chair before hurrying over to his chest of drawers and opening all of them, cataloguing their contents. T-shirts, jeans, and jumpers were missing.
The back of Sherlock’s neck tingled.
Nothing askew. No ruffles in the fabric. No drawers left half-open. Inference: John acted deliberately.
He closed the drawer carefully and made his way into the bathroom. Toothbrush, razor, deodorant – all gone.
Something prickled inside of his throat. He wanted to rip it out.
Twenty minutes later Sherlock spoke in a shaking voice to one of the idiot nurses at John’s surgery.
John stopped dead when he walked into Sherlock’s examination room.
"Afternoon, Doctor." Sherlock was still in his coat, legs swinging on the exam table.
"What is it?" Angry. Nervous.
"I need your medical opinion." Sherlock was reasonably certain John could solve the scenario he'd imagined with moderate effort.
"Figure it out yourself." John turned around to leave.
Sherlock felt the thing in his throat again. "You haven't been at the flat."
John turned around and crossed his arms over his chest. "How would you know, you don't even notice when I'm gone for days at a time."
John didn't smile.
Alternative plan, then. "I sanitised your mug," Sherlock muttered.
John made a noise of disgust. "Sherlock that was vile, I'd rather you toss it or use it for an-"
"Thought you might say that," Sherlock interrupted him, digging in his coat pocket. He tossed him a white mug that John barely caught.
He looked down at it, surprised, then scowled. "It says 'Crazy Cat Lady' on it."
It did? He hadn't noticed. Not good.
But John didn't look angry any more. He was rubbing his eyes and he held his bad shoulder closer to his head. Tired. He hadn't looked tired when Sherlock observed him in the waiting room.
He remembered the half-empty drawers without meaning to recall them.
John sighed and ran a hand through his hair, unable to meet Sherlock's eyes. Sherlock recalled why for a moment before he viciously suffocated the thought.
"Can you pick up the right kind of sugar on your way home?" Sherlock asked.
"The right kind?"
"I bought the wrong kind. It's repulsive." It really was.
John stared at him. "I'm leaving for Harry's today, going to be gone for a week-"
Relief washed over him so strongly that he didn’t hear the rest of John's explanation.
"-got out of rehab. Going to, uh-" He waved his arm and looked away for a moment. Sherlock fought the urge to tell him she likely had stores of vodka hidden where he would never find them and that visiting would only make her more likely to reach for them. Waste of time, idiotic waste of time-
"I hope your sister is well." He could barely say it without clenching his teeth.
"Thanks," John said in an odd tone.
Sherlock pressed his lips together, hopping off the table. The exchange had left him vaguely dissatisfied.
"I'll see you when I get back," John said behind him.
Sherlock shut his eyes tight with his hand on the doorknob.
2 days later
Sherlock stared at his phone for a moment.
How's it going? -S
My god, small talk? I'm scared to see what you've done to the walls.
Obviously not. -S
John didn't text him back. Sherlock stared at the phone for even longer before putting it down to turn on the telly, switching it off moments later without so much as a word to the contestants. Bored.
He looked over at his beakers bubbling on the hob. They wouldn't be ready for another three hours.
He felt the vestigial pull to text the people whose numbers he'd long ago deleted. Of course he knew where to go now, but you hardly had to be Sherlock Holmes to know that. He squashed the thought – not good.
Like Harry – Sherlock suspected she was a bit 'not good'. He wondered if John would decide to stay with her longer than a week. Especially because-
He'd avoided processing the incident. He could almost delete it, but not quite.
Sherlock's fingers are in John's hair. He's wearing the ear hat but somehow there's still a lot of scalp that Sherlock can touch.
"I like it," Sherlock tells him.
John is staring at him, unaffected. Sherlock's stomach curls, drops.
He runs his fingers over the backs of John's ears.
"You do, huh?" John said, a half-smile softening his face for a moment. Sherlock could see the different pigments in his skin from this close.
He tries to tell John yes, he does, but his insides coil tighter and he cannot speak.
Sherlock opened his eyes to a nearly dark flat. He lifted his head off the kitchen table, wiping drool off of his mouth, alarmed to feel tightness in his pyjama bottoms. This hadn’t happened in a long time.
Sherlock shifted in his seat a little, rubbing his knees together. Too advanced.
Sherlock dipped his hand into his pyjama bottoms and closed it around his erection, mouth dropping open. He gripped the edge of the table and fisted himself almost violently, biting his lip and clenching his teeth together-
The photo. He gasped, stuttering, then bowed over the surface of the table until his chest was only a few inches above it. It was you, he was thinking about you, he’s gagging for it- He came into his hand and against the bottom of the kitchen table, groaning.
An involuntary and chemically induced lightness relaxed the muscles on his face and in his shoulders but he remained hunched over, disgusted at himself and the tiniest bit ashamed. Swallowing, he reached for a dish cloth and cleaned himself and the bottom of the table before throwing it on the ground and pouring himself another mug of coffee.
The next afternoon, Sherlock stepped on the dish cloth.
He picked it up and threw it in the bin, pushing it down further and further until he was literally up to his elbow before letting it go. He stood up and stared at the rubbish bin for a moment longer before sitting down at the table. He wanted to scream.
This chapter also beta'd and brit-picked by the charming CrackshotKate. Thanks again :)
Do we need anything else besides sugar?
Sherlock read the text with a small smile. Coming back today. His smile faltered as his gaze flitted around the kitchen.
Paper plates of fingers and fingernails littered the worktops and the table.
Sherlock glanced towards John's empty chair and began stacking the paper plates until they were one teetering pile that he moved to the far corner of the worktop. On impulse, he put the kettle on and opened the window wide.
He sat down at the table again as he heard John climbing the stairs, looking into his microscope at the results of a reaction he’d recorded hours ago. The floorboards squeaked as John rolled his suitcase across the uneven wood.
"Did you..." John stopped in the living room. "The kitchen looks clean."
Sherlock bristled, instantly regretting stacking the plates.
"Did you make tea for me?" John asked incredulously, walking towards the kettle. Before Sherlock could answer, "Jesus, you did."
Sherlock felt an overwhelming urge ask about John's sister, when he knew the answer would be neither a good one nor pleasant for John to talk about. The impulse faded when John sat down across from him, stirring two spoonfuls of the right sugar into the second mug while sipping from his own. He slid the doctored tea to the middle of the table, the familiarity of the action bringing a crushing sense of relief to Sherlock as he leant over to grab it.
As his fingers closed around the handle of the mug, Sherlock's free hand brushed against something dry and crumbly on the underside of the table. He froze.
Sherlock looked sharply at John, but the other man was already engrossed in his paper, and besides, his observational capacities were minimal at best. Sherlock sat carefully down and took a sip.
"Right sugar?" John asked, still staring at the paper.
"Yes," Sherlock said. "Thank you," he added after a moment.
John smiled very faintly at the sports page and handed a section over to Sherlock, thumb marking a story about a triple homicide.
Sherlock stared at it and felt a childish urge to beg for John's forgiveness.
Clearing his throat, he put down his mug and took the paper, tightness lingering in his chest.
He solved the triple homicide in three days, which bothered him, as it should have taken only one. Sherlock and John stood in schoolteacher Joshua Taylor’s garage, surrounded by a collection of bodies in various stages of decomposition, Mr. Taylor himself being the most recent addition.
Lestrade made his way towards Sherlock brandishing a pen and paper, but he waved the DI off with a gruging agreement to brief him in the morning. Sherlock put his collar up against the wind as he and John stepped out into the street.
"You think so? " He asked, before realising what he'd said. Sherlock had thought such things since his first demonstration for John in the cab, but never verbalised it.
John stared at him with furrowed brows. Sherlock turned away to wave down a cab before John could open his mouth.
At Angelo's, John smiled at their idiotic waitress with every menial task she managed to accomplish. Sherlock saw her write something on their bill at the end of their meal, glancing once at John. He handed her his card before she could put it on the table.
The next case was the recovery of a young boy abducted while in the care of his mother and babysitter. It hadn’t taken long to find the hotel room where the boy's father had hidden him and the babysitter arrived shortly after the police, crying and hugging an uncomfortable Sherlock and a happy John.
A week later she showed up at 221B with a bottle of wine and plastic tupperware full of something heavy and still warm. Sherlock accepted it wordlessly in his bed sheet. John came to the door and gave him a look, and Sherlock retreated to the sofa. Out of the corner of his eye he watched her hand slide up and down John's arm, feeling a touch of numbness. He pulled out his laptop.
"I'll see you later," John said over his shoulder as he shut the door.
Sherlock didn't acknowledge him. When the door closed he stopped typing, staring blankly at the wall before making his way to the fridge to retrieve a few vials from the vegetable drawer. He settled himself in front of his microscope, leaving the tupperware out on the coffee table.
John arrived back at the flat at 11am the next morning in the same clothes he'd worn the day before.
"Case?" John asked, fishing the teabag out of his mug and walking behind Sherlock.
Home-made detergent, merlot, L'air du Temps, sweat, polyisoprene latex-
Sherlock pushed back from the table and tied his scarf, leaving the flat without saying a word.
He got a text from John on his way to Bart's.
Sherlock gripped the phone tightly, typing 'need something from Bart's,' before shoving it back into his pocket.
2 months later
John walked in as Sherlock was finishing a text to Lestrade.
"Morning," John said, hanging up his jacket. "Anything good?" He motioned with his chin to the phone in Sherlock's hand.
Sherlock looked up. No redness on the right side of John’s right cheek or around his mouth. She hadn’t worn makeup this time. She never goes out without makeup, wears it even when she’s jogging-
Sherlock cleared his throat and looked down at his phone, grinning when he absorbed the details.
He leapt from his seat to get his coat, feeling bizarrely smug when he heard John quickly put his own back on.
7 hours later
"I don't have it." John's voice, calm.
"Yes you do."
Sherlock tightened his grip on the piece of piping in his hands and flattened himself against the brick wall. Wait, wait-
A metal snicking sound. Sherlock ran blindly around the corner and slammed the iron pipe into the gunman's skull.
The assailant collapsed like a rag doll and Sherlock leapt over the body, ready with his pipe aimed at precisely the part of the head that would-
A hand gently closed around his wrist and Sherlock looked up.
John's face was covered in blood.
Iron clanged on the concrete as Sherlock put his hands on John's temples, pulling him close and turning his head left, right, centre, up-
John cleared his throat. "Not mine."
Sherlock pulled John's chin directly forward again, staring. The pattern was unmistakable. "Obvious." He could very faintly hear police sirens.
John smiled at him. "Thanks."
Sherlock's lips turned up. The sirens were louder now.
"Shall we get a cab?" John asked, wiping the blood out of his eyes against a spray of blue lights as the cars pulled into the alley.
"I can speak from experience that they won't stop for you."
John laughed and Sherlock, as was his habit, joined in.
One month later
Sherlock paused outside of 221B, listening carefully the muffled sounds coming from behind the door. He took one long inhale through gritted teeth, then let it out and opened it.
John was sprawled across the sofa with Mary. She was sitting on one of his dressing gowns.
"Hey, Sherlock." John smiled drowsily.
Mary scrambled to sit upright and position herself more demurely while grinning at him. "Sorry we invaded the flat, mine's being painted."
Sherlock went into the kitchen, staring at the handbag draped over his notepad .
He loudly dragged the chair back from the table and sat down, grinding his teeth against the giggling drifting in from the living room.
1 month later
"Sherlock, before we start, the victim didn't do it. It's not an option."
Sherlock sighed loudly but nodded, staring at the board and tapping his feet on the ground. Get on with it.
John's phone started ringing, and he glanced at Sherlock who shrugged.
"Hey," John murmured, the stairs creaking as he walked up into his room. Sherlock watched him go before looking back down at the board. “Me too,” he mouthed to himself.
"I know, me too." John had left his door open and his voice carried downstairs.
Their conversations were so dull and repetitive Sherlock was certain that soon he could predict one word for word with no errors. He’d come close a few times.
Sherlock started tapping his hands on his legs. “So you’re coming back Friday?”he murmured.
"So you'll be back Friday?"
“No, no, I’ll meet you there,” Sherlock whispered, watching a small spider wander crawl across the mantle.
“Don’t bother, I’ll come to you,”
Sherlock began opening and closing his fist on top of his knee. “Can’t wait to see you.” That would be next, the last thing, before they got on with this ridiculous-
"Love you too."
Sherlock froze, fist clenched.
Love you too.
He squeezed his eyes shut, sucking in air as something tightened vice-like around his ribs. Love you, too. He pressed the heels of his hands under his eyes, grinding them against his zygomatic, lacrimal, ethmoid, maxilla, all of the bones at this moment protecting his brain tissue from his hands-
Soft squeaking right in the right corner of the ceiling, John connecting his mobile to the charger.
Sherlock left the flat just as John began descending the stairs to the living room.
It took him only forty-three minutes to find a corner shop he hadn’t paid off – quitting apparently had never been much of a priority. He didn't wait until he was outside before tearing the cellophane off the box of Marlboro's, pounding the bottom against the heel of his hand as he stepped out onto the street.
His entire body lit up with his first drag; it’d been years. Months. Months, years, didn’t matter-
Love you too.
He continued walking in the opposite direction of the flat, ignoring the vibrating mobile in his pocket.
Warning: graphic sex ahead. If that's not your thing, abandon ship. :)
Beta credit again to CrackshotKate.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
1 month later
Sherlock carefully held his hands up, eyes darting up the three dark floors visible from his spot in the atrium of the library. Nothing he could use. Nothing.
A thrill of terror went through him as he looked back at the man in front of him. The man stepped closer, pressing the barrel of his gun against Sherlock's forehead.
Sherlock kicked the gun out of the gunman's reach and scooped it up, pointing it down at him. Someone pounded down the spiral stairs across the room.
"You're a sodding idiot," John seethed when he arrived at Sherlock's side, keeping his eyes and gun trained on the whimpering man at their feet.
"You're a crack shot," Sherlock murmured without looking away from the man.
"Yeah, I bloody need to be, or you'd be riddled with bullet holes by now."
Sherlock's face twisted, ready to list specific instances within the past three months where their positions had been reversed-
"Say that you were wrong to go by yourself." Edgy.
Sherlock adjusted his grip on the gun. "Oh please-"
Sherlock exhaled loudly. "I was wrong." Tedious. "Thank you for the well-timed fire support," he added, hoping to close the subject.
"You're an arrogant sod. Figure that out sooner next time." The ferocity in John's voice startled Sherlock.
Slippery hands closed around Sherlock's ankle and he jumped backwards, nearly falling. John kicked the man in the ribs and gave Sherlock another vicious look before pointing his SIG down at the man's head.
They rode in silence back to the flat. John left for Mary's almost immediately and without a word to Sherlock, slamming the door on his way out.
Sherlock smoked a pack of cigarettes one by one on the sofa, his hand hanging off with nothing underneath to catch the ash.
He wondered if Mary ever infuriated John.
3 months later
As per Mycroft's most recent visit, Sherlock typed "enquiry MOD leak" in the search bar, Google suggesting a number of previously searched phrases.
"engagement rings london" was one of them.
The room slowly turned over on its side.
John's bedroom door creaked open and Sherlock closed the laptop quickly, pretending to look down at his phone as John crossed the living room in a towel, grabbing a pressed shirt and a pair of dry-cleaned trousers that were hanging on a chair before walking back upstairs.
When the floorboards of John’s bedroom creaked over his head, Sherlock couldn’t help but stare the closed laptop again, feeling ill. He walked into the kitchen and poured himself three fingers of scotch, swallowing it all before immediately refilling the tumbler to take back to the sofa with him.
"'Date night at the curry house,'" Sherlock said to his glass as John yelped in surprise.
"Jesus, Sherlock," he muttered, grabbing his keys off the kitchen table. "Are you working on photosensitive mould or something?" He paused, scrutinizing Sherlock more carefully. “And are you drinking my scotch?” He sounded more bewildered than angry.
Sherlock ignored him. "How is Mary?" He asked, popping the "m" in her name.
John didn't answer for a moment. "She's fine," he said, keeping his voice even. A half-second of silence passed before he dipped his head and made his way towards the door.
Sherlock got up off the sofa.
"Why do you insist on pursuing entanglements that are statistically likely to end in emotional and financial destabilisation?" He stood directly behind John at the door.
John's shoulders tightened. "Love. Affection. Knowing someone is totally gone on you." There was acid in his voice. "Dull reasons."
The corner of Sherlock's mouth turned up. "All-consuming love is indeed one of the few unstable chemical reactions that succeeds in being dull." He stared at the back of John's head without moving. "I imagine she's told you she was married once before."
John froze for a fraction of a second, just enough, before he opened the door.
Sherlock’s hand shot out and closed it. "She hasn't, has she?"
John said nothing.
Sherlock smirked at the back of his head. "Who knows,” he said airily, “perhaps the second time's a charm-"
John whirled around and shoved him up against the door in a single motion.
"You're such a prick." John's knuckles were white where they fisted Sherlock's t-shirt and dressing gown. "You're awful to the very few people who bother to try to be your friend." He spoke through clenched teeth, hitting Sherlock against the door on the last word. "Why do you keep punishing the people who like you? Why-"
John continued talking, but Sherlock heard none of it. He could see the skin stretched over John's cheekbones almost as clearly as he had in his ear hat dream. Sherlock gripped John's upper arms and pulled him closer, until their noses nearly touched. John went silent, immobilised against him.
The muscles of the shorter man's throat rippled under his skin as he swallowed and Sherlock's mouth parted, suddenly overwhelmed. He smashed his lips against John's thin, chapped ones, readjusting until they felt soft. Warm.
"Sherlock," John murmured against his mouth. Sherlock broke the kiss and leaned his forehead hard against John's, pressing his fingers underneath the other man's chin, feeling his pulse throb.
Sherlock yanked John across the living room, along the hall and into his dim bedroom. Closer, no stairs, less opportunity to think.
He slammed the door shut behind them and untucked John's shirt, running his hands over the skin of the man's stomach, his hips. Appendix out. Several lacerations from barbed wire.
He hastily unbuttoned John's shirt as his own was pulled roughly over his head. The instant their trousers hit the floor, John dug his fingers into the waistband of Sherlock's boxers, running his palms over the skin covering Sherlock’s hipbones. Sherlock stilled against him.
John slipped an arm around his back as his fist encircled Sherlock's cock, thumb running hesitantly on the underside.
Sherlock’s mouth parted silently against John's. He felt raw.
John's grip firmed up around him and his hand began to move, twisting his wrist a little at the end of each stroke. Sherlock’s stiffness receded enough to respond, pushing a little against John’s hand. He lightly ran his hand over the bulge in John's underwear, stomach dropping when John gasped against his lips. Sherlock’s fingers closed around him and John pushed through the ring he’d made with his fist.
Sherlock pushed him back suddenly and left the room. When he returned, John was slumped against the wall with his head tilted backwards, breathing shallowly. Sherlock shoved a small tube of Vaseline in his palm and closed John's fingers around it.
After a moment John's grip tightened, and he glanced apprehensively at Sherlock's face in the dark. Sherlock stared back at him for a moment before tugging on the other man’s wrist.
John grunted and pulled Sherlock's underwear down to his knees before scrabbling to rid himself of his own, pushing Sherlock backwards until his calves bumped against the mattress.
Sherlock sat down, awkwardly manoeuvring himself on his back until he was in the centre of bed before he flipped over onto his stomach. He could hear his heartbeat in his ears.
The foot of the bed dipped as John crawled behind him, hands gripping at his hips and pulling them firmly upwards. Something hard poked around his entrance. Sherlock buried his face deeper into the pillow.
John's moist, shaky hand ran up and down Sherlock's lower back as the pressure against Sherlock increased, until he could feel John's fingers push inside of him. Everything in his body tensed. flight reflex.
John reached underneath Sherlock and weakly rubbed his cock for a few moments before Sherlock felt a third finger pushing in, stretching him further. He bit down on the inside of his arm to keep his teeth from chattering as John’s began moving in and out. Preparing him. Sherlock’s whole body jerked at this thought.
"You want to stop?" John whispered, panicked and already pulling back. Sherlock shook his head and shifted backwards until he felt John's cock poking the back of his thigh.
John exhaled loudly and the mattress shifted under Sherlock's knees once again. One of John's greasy hands gripped Sherlock's hip brutally as the blunt head of his cock nudged against his entrance.
For a moment the absurdity of their situation pierced through Sherlock's consciousness like an arrow. John was about to put his penis inside of him. Fuck him. Like some mindless animal-
John pushed forward and Sherlock's thoughts melted into blind panic as the head of John’s cock abruptly popped inside of him. Sherlock whimpered and arched against the pain, humiliated and furious.
John ran a soothing hand up and down Sherlock's twitching back. "Jesus, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," he whispered, rendered completely still. Sherlock buried his head in his arms again until the pain and his irrational anger subsided.
When he was ready he rocked his hips backwards a little and John pushed forward, inching into him until his cock was buried to the hilt, public hair pressed against Sherlock’s skin. Sherlock shuddered.
John leaned over him, his clean-shaven face over Sherlock’s shoulder and his slippery hand covering Sherlock's on the pillow. Sherlock interlaced their fingers sentiment and John let out a shaky breath.
"Sherlock," he whispered. Sherlock. The sound of his own name on John's mouth shocked him. Sherlock's hips twitched against John's groin and he whimpered, every movement reminding him that John was having him, fucking him-
I wanted this so much. A mortifying truth that he’d buried.
John’s hand ran up and down Sherlock's chest and stomach roughly as Sherlock arched into him, a moan slipping out.
John gripped Sherlock's hips hard and hoisted himself upright before slowly pulling out and pushing forward again. Sherlock bit his lip as John repeated the action again, and again, until he was pumping into him gently, rhythmically, unbearably close to him.
Sherlock squeezed his eyes shut and turned his face into the pillow again, wanting to hide.
John insistently tugged on Sherlock’s wrist until he allowed John to uncurl his fist from the sheets and put it over his cock. Sherlock exhaled sharply, pushing upright onto his left hand for a better angle as he jerked himself. He needed, he needed-
“Harder,” Sherlock said, barely audible.
John gasped and thrust so hard that Sherlock barely caught himself from falling face-first onto the mattress. He gripped the headboard for balance as John continued his frantic pounding, pulling himself halfway upright with his left hand as his right fisted his erection. An obscene smacking sound had filled the room.
John’s hands were now wrapped around Sherlock’s waist, gripping him hard enough to hurt him.
"Are you close?" John whispered harshly into his back. "I can't, I'm going to-" His strokes were becoming erratic.
"Yes," Sherlock choked out. John laid his forehead against Sherlock's shoulder and pushed once, twice, then moaned loudly in Sherlock's ear as he came, firmly impaling Sherlock over his cock.
Sherlock squirmed in his lap and made a noise somewhere between a sob and a hiccup, nearly jumping when he felt John's fingers close around his. With a loud, surprised noise he came all over their joined hands.
They remained frozen in the same position even after Sherlock had completely stopped shuddering, John’s breath in his ear, his ribs expanding against his back.
Eventually John shifted on top of him and slipped out, flopping onto his back beside him. Something warm oozed out of Sherlock and trailed down the inside of his thigh.
You've done something incredibly foolish. Unbelievably so.
Sherlock climbed out of bed in a daze, surreally detached, without another glance at John as he cleaned himself off in the bathroom.
When he returned John's eyes were closed and his hand was over his head. Sherlock laid down next to him and shut his eyes, chest so heavy he could barely breathe.
When Sherlock opened his eyes again, the mattress was slanting on the right side. He turned his head quietly. John was sitting on the edge of the bed, elbows on his knees and face in his hands.
This was revised a few times after Crackshot Kate beta'd - any errors are mine.
Beta'd by CrackshotKate, slayer of Americanisms.
John exhaled slowly and let his hands fall to his knees, his silhouette rising from the bed. Something dropped in Sherlock's chest as the mattress righted itself beneath him.
The floorboards squeaked as John tiptoed around the room to pick up his clothes, Sherlock keeping his eyes closed until the bedroom door clicked shut. He waited for the sound of the front door locking before leaving his bedroom.
Squinting against the light in the kitchen, he grabbed two media bottles out of the fridge, settling himself in front of his microscope with a notepad. The smell of the bed John had followed him to the table.
He scraped a tiny bit of tissue culture onto a slide, readying the small dropper of iodine over it.
walking, park (probably Regent's). composing confession and subsequent apology-
Something slid over Sherlock's thumb. He looked down at the yellowish brown trail the iodine left behind, pursing his lips as he placed the ruined slide onto the table. He positioned the pipette over a new slide, but a tremble in his left arm made holding it still impossible. He dropped it onto the table and shook his arm viciously, trying to work out the tightness-
from holding yourself up while John fucked you-
In one motion Sherlock swept the slides and cultures onto the floor and banged his elbows down on the table, fists burying in his hair.
Sherlock was stretched out on the sofa when he heard footsteps on the stairs to 221B later that afternoon. His mouth dried up at the sound of John's keys against the door and he averted his eyes when the door swung open.
John lumbered awkwardly through the flat for a few moments before wandering back into the living room. Sherlock's eyes went to his shoes out of habit. Regent's Park.
"Listen, Sherlock-" John started quietly, but Sherlock lazily held up a hand to silence him.
"This requires no further discussion, wouldn't you agree?" He turned his face up to John's, a sharp and unpleasant jolt running through him at the sight of the other man's face.
John kept his eyes on Sherlock, blinking. "Fine."
Something squeezed Sherlock’s chest again.
"There's one thing we do have to talk about, through."
He realised what John was going to ask a half-second too late.
"Have you been tested recently?"
Sherlock kept his face neutral, but his pulse tripled. "No."
"When's the last time you were?" John eyed him tensely.
Sherlock turned his gaze to the leather covering the arm of the sofa. Ten plus years old, maybe twelve. "Never."
"Never?" John repeated.
Someone used to sit there.
He heard John rubbing the back of his neck. "When's the last time you had...” he faltered, tripping over his next word, “intercourse?”
The ringing in Sherlock's ears nearly drowned out his own voice as well as John’s. "You're assuming there was a last time." Big family maybe, not enough seats-
"Excuse me, I was making my own deduction," John snapped.
For a moment the world narrowed to only the nosie in his head. "Yes, and as usual," Sherlock heard himself say, "it's wrong."
Out of the corner of his eye, he watched John's face go blank.
Sweat beaded at the top of Sherlock's back as his eyes darted over the cushion next to the arm. A cat, he thought, noticing a few tiny holes in the cushions.
"You're lying." John's voice was weak.
Sherlock kept his eyes fixed on the holes. Not a cat, he realised, livid at himself. Stupid. Not a cat.
"You're thirty-four years old; it's impossible." There was a note of panic in John’s voice.
Sherlock pursed his lips and looked away from the leather for a moment. "I can think of quite a few of our associates who would find it quite easy to believe." There was a touch of sarcasm in his voice.
"But..." John swallowed audibly. "That's...none of that..." Sherlock looked up at him as he exhaled loudly, dragging his hand up to cover his eyes. "Jesus."
Sherlock could not acknowledge even in his head, to himself, why he’d divulged such a thing.
When John looked directly at Sherlock again, his mouth was a thin white line. Sherlock experienced the sickening and, for him, infrequent drop of being caught off-guard. Furious.
"Did you want to prove you were right about that photo on my computer? Well congratulations-"
"No," Sherlock interrupted, heartbeat racing as it had very few times in his life. Thalamus, sending data to amygdalan, initiating fight or flight response-
"Then why would you give me the rope to hang the only relationship I've had that hasn't ended in utter catastrophe?” A note of pleading crept into John's voice. "You went thirty-four years without," he swallowed, a slight wave of his hand, "sex. So why now?"
Sherlock stared back up at the water stain in the right corner of the ceiling, breathing shallowly. Norepinephrine.
John strode over to the sofa and knelt in front of Sherlock, who was still sprawled lengthwise. The shorter man grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him upright until their faces were inches from one another’s. "Tell me why," he said, his voice rough and uneven.
Phenylethylamine dopamine serotonin oxytocin testosterone vasopressin dull reasons love you too [Mary]
Sherlock's lips parted the tiniest bit. "I was finally bored enough.”
John's grip on Sherlock's shoulders went slack as he stared at him, dumbfounded. Sherlock held his gaze and forced himself to shrug.
John let go as if Sherlock had scalded him, making a noise of disgust as he clambered to his feet. When he slammed the door to the flat, a picture frame clattered to the floor, as well.
The mug John had sipped from yesterday was still sitting on the coffee table; drops of tea from the saturated string had dripped onto the newspaper underneath. Leaves the bags in when he writes. Sherlock stared at the stains, feeling ill.
One week later
Sherlock leant against a grimy wall and fixed his gaze down at his phone, eyes flicking periodically towards the entrance of the apartment building a hundred yards away. At 8am sharp, John emerged dressed for the surgery.
He walked swiftly towards Sherlock's spot on the pavement, but Sherlock crossed the street long before John would notice him.
Two weeks later
Sherlock's phone vibrated in his hand. Lestrade.
He pressed the ignore button, looking again towards the door of Mary's building.
Three weeks later
Sherlock slumped on the sofa, chin resting on his hands as he stared at the Gmail login screen.
His hands hovered over the keys as he stared at the wall, murmuring to himself before typing. The inbox appeared – Harry's birthday, odd choice.
He ignored the most recent emails typed and Mary's name into the search bar, revealing a list of hundreds.
‘Do you have time for...’, ‘I’m so BORED...’ ‘Do you want to go shopping today or tomorrow?’, ‘Went to the lingerie section at Selfridges...’, ‘Miss you so much’ 'I love you.'
He blinked at the screen a few times before carefully shutting his computer and leant his chin on his folded hands again, staring at the wall.
I love you.
His phone rang and he nearly snapped his neck trying look at the screen. Lestrade. Good. He took one deep breath, then another before lifting the phone to his ear. Lestrade had already hung up.
Sherlock stared at the screen of his phone for a moment before he viciously kicked over the coffee table, the subsequent crack of wood on wood as loud as a gunshot. He vaulted out of his seat and kicked it again, and again, until the end of it struck the fireplace and refused to budge.
"Fuck him," Sherlock shouted at the mantle.
"Sherlock, for God's sake-"
Sherlock's mouth snapped shut and he stared wide-eyed at the skull on the mantle as Mrs. Hudson continued screaming at him through the celing.
Five weeks later
Sherlock's scanned the neighbouring flats, looking for open curtains, windows. On the intercom pad he pressed the number of the flat with the brand new name tag, frantically informing her of his lost keys.
Once he was inside the building he took the lift to Mary's floor and stood outside her flat, glancing around him again for neighbours before sliding his credit card into the lock. The door latch flicked open and he walked inside, scanning and cataloguing the voluminous new data before him.
John’s jacket (new) on the coat rack, book (from the flat) on the table, tea mug (gift). He walked out of the living room and looked at Mary's bookshelves. Conservative upbringing. He surveyed the photos. From East Anglia, probably Suffolk. Apple of her parents’ eye. Sister the black sheep.
He walked into the adjoining kitchen and ran his hand along the worktop. Small dried spot of milk, salt, crumbs from toast. He opened the fridge. Vegetarian, modest means.
He looked at a note stuck to the fridge as he passed it. Bubbly, almost girlish handwriting.
He walked into the dark hallway. The first door on his left was a bathroom. It was still a little humid from John's shower; the scent of his shampoo and toothpaste lingered. Two toothbrushes sat in the holder by the sink. He looked at them, picking up the one on with a deep indent on the back right side of the brush and the toothpaste stains on the top of the handle. John.
Sherlock looked outside of the bathroom down the hall; one more room on the left. Bedroom. The floorboards creaked as he walked towards the door. He stopped directly in front of it, throat constricting slightly at the white towel hanging on the doorknob.
Gently he pushed the door open. John's laptop over a shirt on a desk. Jacket hanging over the corner of the chair. Lotion. Scuffed black high heels. Pink and white trainers. Blue cotton underwear with an edge of lace. An unmade bed. John's deodorant. Sweat. Semen.
The hair of John’s arms brushing against Sherlock's stomach as he squeezed him tight around his middle. His name on John’s mouth.
Sherlock closed his eyes. Leave; now.
When he opened them again, he saw the pattern of particular indents in the pillows, a discarded condom wrapper peeking out from under the bed.
Mary on her back and John crawling between her legs, pushing her knees apart-
Sherlock watched from a distance as a seventeen-year-old student emerged from the front door of a white building, glancing quickly both ways before walking down the pavement towards him. Four people had gone in and out of the same building over the course of the past hour, none staying longer than fifteen minutes, all glancing about nervously as they exited.
When the student was within five hundred meters of him he threw a coin behind his back into the road. The student startled and jumped at the noise, his hand covering the left inside pocket of his jacket. Shouldn't put it there, always the first place the police check when you're caught.
Sherlock pushed off the wall and walked towards him at a brisk pace. He threw another coin into the street whenever ten meters separated him and the student. The student's head whipped towards the road and Sherlock collided with him hard enough to knock the student onto his back.
"Oh, pardon me," Sherlock said, grasping the student's left arm with both hands and roughly and pulling him upright. "On my mobile."
The student's stricken face nodded once at him before he ducked and walked quickly on.
Sherlock kept walking in the opposite direction and pocketed the small plastic bag he'd nicked from the student's pocket.
Beta credit to CrackshotKate - thanks, as always :)
The small bag of white powder sat on the coffee table, Sherlock staring at it from the sofa.
He undid the twist tie, putting the opened bag under his nose before licking a finger and trailing around the inside, catching the faint dusting of powder around the sides. He rubbed the same finger over his gums and they went instantly numb. High quality. His pulse throbbed as he pulled out his house keys, dipping one into the bag and carefully extracting a little hill of white powder.
As he put the bag back on the table, the room brightened suddenly. For a moment Sherlock stopped to observe the twin beams of sunlight now occupying the centre of the living room, dust particles floating through them.
He frowned when his gaze drifted over the table. No dust on the surface nearest the armchair. None on the back of the chair, either. Sherlock never sat there; it tended to accumulate.
Writing on his blog. Today, maybe late yesterday.
His little finger brushed against metal. He looked down; the small white pile remained undisturbed at the end of his house key. When he looked up again and John had materialised before his mind’s eye, watching him from his seat at the table.
In the beginning, Sherlock’s every move had surprised John. Even when John disapproved of what Sherlock was doing. Sherlock liked that reaction enough to deliberately provoke it from time to time.
Sherlock watched John-at-the-table shrug at him, mouth flat. Sherlock understood that face; he made it often enough himself.
Sherlock’s disappointing behaviour, at some point, had stopped surprising John. John would shrug or roll his eyes because it was boring to him. Because Sherlock was boring to him.
Sherlock took a deep breath and fixed his gaze on the exact point over the back of the chair where John's face would be. He let the key hover next to his top lip and looked directly into his mental-John’s eyes.
With a quick deep breath Sherlock blew the cocaine towards the table. The particles expanded into a little cloud, visible in the sunlight for a second before falling gently to the floor. He looked up again at not-John. Wide, blank eyes. A ridiculously obvious attempt to cover his mouth to hide a smile. The look John wore when Sherlock impressed him against his will. Sherlock’s favourite look.
Before he left for Barts the next day, he put the bag under the skull.
Sherlock thumbed through the pages of his old chemistry book in the kitchen as Mrs. Hudson piddled around, occasionally speaking to him though he never responded. She didn’t expect him to.
When he heard her footsteps on the stairs to John’s room he stopped and looked up. She came back down with a pile of bedclothes in her arms that nearly covered her face.
Sherlock slammed the book shut. "Mrs. Hudson."
"Where are you doing?"
"The washing, Sherlock." She said, pulling her keys out of her apron pocket. "I realised it'd been ages since John left his sheets for me-"
"Don't what, dear?"
"John doesn't want those washed." Sherlock said, gripping the edge of the table.
Mrs. Hudson looked over at him through the white pile in her arms. "What for?" she asked patiently.
Sherlock waved his hand and made a frustrated noise. "I'm not his secretary."
She sighed. "Sherlock, I wished you'd told me before I went up those bloody stairs, now I'll have to go again. It hurts my hip you know-"
"I'll take them," Sherlock snapped, opening his book again. "Just drop them."
He heard fabric rustle. "Alright, well do you have any-"
Mrs. Hudson was quiet for a moment. "You know I don't think I've seen John, why it's been weeks. Oh and he has that lovely girlfriend, I like her so much better than his last one-"
Her voice faded and Sherlock never heard the door shut.
Later, when he was walking into the living room to get his notes he caught sight of the little white heap out of the corner of his eye. He approached it slowly, until his toes brushed up against the fabric. He leaned over and picked it up, squeezing his eyes shut for a moment before ascending the stairs to John's room. Surgery. Tea. Mary’s flat. Her soap.
The room smelled unused. Sherlock carefully deposited the linens on the mattress before opening the chest of drawers to the right. All but two of John’s favoured sweaters were gone. He closed the drawer and stepped cautiously into the bathroom, squinting a little against the harsh light overhead when he flipped the switch. Dust accumulated on the shower curtain, mirror. Toothpaste stain on the tiles left at least a week ago. No contact solution.
A brief flare of panic seized him not coming back before he forced himself to turn off the light and leave. He paused in front of the mattress on his way out, looking down at the rumpled bedclothes.
Sherlock crawled onto the bed, springs creaking as he curled himself around the pile, pressing his cheek into the top. He stayed there until the room was completely dark.
"Good evening, little brother."
"Was until I answered the door," Sherlock said flatly, leaving Mycroft standing in the threshold while he retrieved his violin from the chair.
Mycroft walked in cautiously, surveying the living room. Sherlock had already seated himself and was playing Beethoven.
"Why must you turn every abode into a hovel?" Mycroft asked, nose wrinkling.
"Why must you turn every good day into a bad one?"
Mycroft ignored him and sat down in John’s chair, back ramrod straight. He shifted and Sherlock realised with amusement that Mycroft was nervous.
Said amusement faded when Mycroft dug into his pocket and produced a cigarette case as well as a small box of matches, quickly lighting one.
"This behaviour is unsustainable," Mycroft said after his first exhale.
Sherlock opened his mouth to protest, but Mycroft lightly raised a hand. They stared at each other and Sherlock imagined how Mycroft's head would snap backwards if he hit him right under his left canine. He’d done it before. Mycroft raised an eyebrow at him as if he knew what Sherlock was thinking (likely), and Sherlock looked away and resumed playing, murderous.
Something poked his hand after a moment. It was Mycroft, holding out a cigarette for him.
Sherlock stared at it before putting his violin down and plucking it out of Mycroft’s fingers. A flame appeared at the end of his nose before he put his hand in his coat pocket for his lighter.
Sherlock took a drag and exhaled, at the last minute blowing the smoke away from Mycroft.
Mycroft took another short drag and looked down, frowning before he looked out the window. "Dull specimen, isn't she?"
"Won't last, of course," Mycroft continued, not taking the bait.
Sherlock sighed and crossed his leg over his knee. "I forget - you’re used to speaking without anyone listening to you."
Mycroft turned his bland, hard gaze directly onto Sherlock. "Cowardice doesn’t suit you. Either forget about Dr. Watson or indulge your sentiment."
The words dropped like a lead weight in the room. Sherlock's fingers clawed the arm of the chair; he hated Mycroft, he hated him- "Get out, Mycroft."
Mycroft tapped out his cigarette in the ashtray that he no doubt recognised - only the best hand-blown glass for our Queen - and stood up, gripping his umbrella tightly.
"A certain bluntness is advised in your dealings with him," Mycroft said, as though he were describing an unpleasant medical procedure. He turned his umbrella handle in his palm. "Though excessive delicacy was never a problem of yours." Mycroft paused and looked down again before walking towards the door.
Sherlock stood up and picked up his violin, gripping it tightly as he played, staring at the bullet holes in the smiley face on his wall. He heard Mycroft pause in front of the mantle on his way out.
"Idiocy, however." Sherlock knew he was looking at the skull. Through it. "You always excelled at that." Mycroft's voice was harsh and rough.
Sherlock wakes up in white room, shaking and soaked with sweat. He thinks he's dying. Freezing cold touches his hand and he whips his head around to see Mycroft wrapping his shaking fingers around a plastic cup of ice water. Sherlock spills a little on his hospital gown but drinks most of it, shouting at the subsequent splitting headache. sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. Mycroft's eyes are red.
Sherlock stared out the window; he'd stopped playing again. "Take it."
The skull clicked against the mantle. Sherlock fought a sudden and overwhelming urge to apologise to him.
Thanks to CrackshotKate, beta superhero
Sherlock paced back and forth in the living room fisting his hair. Lestrade hadn't phoned him in weeks. Nothing new on the website. Nothing new because John stopped writing on his silly little blog consumed by all of the idiots who unfairly, unfairly run across the most interesting cases- He groaned loudly, and in an act of desperation opened the tabloid newspaper Mrs. Hudson had left sitting on the living room table.
'Yellow-Bellied Bobbies Leaving Streets in Dire Straits!' Sherlock skimmed the article hoping for details of heinous and as yet unsolved crimes, but his eyes stopped over "Metropolitan personnel shakeups." He looked to the side for a moment, folding his lips over his teeth. Don’t imagine he’ll be spared. The thought sat uneasily with him.
He sighed and threw the newspaper across the room, flopping on the sofa and looking up the ceiling. He could hear Mrs. Hudson downstairs.
An untouched sandwich on one of Mrs. Hudson’s paper plates was still sitting on his coffee table from yesterday. He flicked it with his thumb and middle finger. Starch molecules already completely crystallised. Tesco wheat took at least forty-eight hours. The long-forgotten crust of it sat at the corner of the worktop. John had put it there two days before Sherlock had grabbed his laptop and seen-
He grit his teeth and pressed the heels of his hands into his eye sockets, wondering if it would ever be possible to delete him, all of him.
He exhaled loudly, wishing for a fleeting moment that the bag was still under the skull. The thought disquieted him enough to pull out his mobile and phone Lestrade for the first time in his memory.
The man sounded exhausted. "Sherlock, I'm busy," no doubt, "nothing weird recently so you wouldn’t be interested, anyway-"
Odd, Sherlock thought as Lestrade rattled on, needs the help; probably desperate. Could have put cocaine in the flat and threatened to arrest me if I refused to help. Could have bartered better cases. Could have just asked. But Lestrade hadn’t done any of these things. Wasn’t the type.
He imagined John raising an eyebrow at him, crossing his arms over his chest. Sherlock exhaled slowly.
"You have no concept of what interests me," Sherlock said flatly. Actually, Lestrade did, and was likely correct in his assessment.
"Well you can come have a look, if you like, but again-” Sherlock hung up on him and pulled on his scarf and coat before he changed his mind.
"Really, you'll look at all of them?"
Sherlock sighed under his breath at Lestrade’s dumbfounded expression. “I understand this would be quite an undertaking for anyone else on your inept police force."
"I, erm," Lestrade shook his head. "What's the occasion, anyway?"
"Consider yourself fortunate that I find this the least annoying preoccupation at the moment." The flat is killing me.
"So where's, ah-"
Sherlock's fist clenched into a tight ball, John, but Lestrade never finished his question.
"Yes?" Sherlock asked through clenched teeth.
"Oh, just thinking about your landlady, Mrs. Hudson. How she is, rather." Lestrade didn't look away but Sherlock could see him shifting in his seat under the desk.
"Still at Baker Street."
Lestrade cleared his throat and nodded, then pushed a tower of files on his desk towards Sherlock. A pair of novelty handcuffs on the corner of Lestrade's desk caught his eye.
"How did you know all that?" The DI-in-training is watching Sherlock closely in the rearview mirror. Idiot. The handcuffs clink in Sherlock’s lap. "I didn't know, I noticed," he mutters through the wire mesh separating them. Hours later, when a guard opens his cell door, Sherlock begins rattling off the evidence tampering statute word by word as a precursor to why he cannot possibly be charged with it, but the scowling guard interrupts him to tell him that he's made police bail. Sherlock's mouth snaps shut. Mycroft.
Sherlock is so angry when he walks out of the police station that he doesn’t see the DI-in-training, Lestrade, that’s his name, before he grabs Sherlock’s arm. "So, ah," Lestrade glances quickly around, "what did you notice about the man in the cell across from you?"
Sherlock slid the heavy stack off of Lestrade's desk and easily into his arms. "Thank you," he said before he could catch himself.
Lestrade's stared at him with an odd expression. "No. Thank you."
Sherlock solved them all within the month. When he asked for more, Lestrade hugged him, much to Sherlock’s horror.
It kept him away from the flat, at least.
Sherlock was frowning at a particularly baffling crime report when he heard a familiar gait clomping up the stairs. His breath turned shallow and he put his mug of tea on the table. Two weeks, three days. He glanced at his phone. Thirteen hours.
The door opened and John walked through, stopping dead in the threshold. Not expecting me.
Sherlock waved a hand vaguely in John's direction and John inclined his head towards Sherlock, setting his mouth before walking upstairs. More jumpers.The red one. Maybe the striped one, no, no that's wrong, the oatmeal one.
When John came back down he didn't come through the living room. He didn't even look at Sherlock. Always said something, never nothing never-
John paused, then turned around. "If you're asking me whether I've been offing my patients, the answer is no," he said, keeping his expression neutral. His gaze flitted to the papers spread out on the coffee table. "Anything good recently?"
Sherlock wanted to lie. "No."
John glanced around the flat. "You're working, though."
"And it's...not good?" John's brows furrowed.
Sherlock wished he'd lied. "Not really."
"Then what are you doing?"
Sherlock stretched his arm over his head, staring at a crack in the ceiling and considered telling him. Might be surprised, but ultimately won’t care. "Bored."
"You usually stay around here draped in a bed sheet when you're bored and make me-" John's mouth snapped shut.
The reminder tugged on something in Sherlock’s ribcage.
John said nothing else, but he lingered at the door.
Sherlock could see it in his eyes, in his shoulder, in his right knee, in the way his hips angled towards his room: bored; deathly bored. And John hated being bored almost as much as Sherlock.
Dull specimen, isn't she?
She was achingly dull – he already knew every secret, every insipid fear and hope she'd ever had. John was withering away at her cheap flat watching idiotic telly and wishing he could open his book, but she hated him reading while they were watching programmes together, he didn’t particularly like her food, she wasn’t beautiful, she wasn’t brilliant, she doesn’t know you at all, your limp is coming back, why are you therewhen you could be here, what are you doing, you belong here, you're mine, you're mine, you're mine, you're mine-
"Remember to eat," John said, and left.
When he heard the bottom door shut, Sherlock threw his mug across the room, watching it shatter against the wall.
Sherlock gazed out the window, violin under his chin and playing 'O Holy Night' in an attempt to drown out the pheromone soaked drivel flying back and forth between Molly and Lestrade.
"Oh, that's my favourite, Sherlock," Mrs. Hudson said behind him. "It reminds me of my husband, you know, before the drugs-" Sherlock stopped as he noticed two people walking down the street towards 221B.
"Don't stop!" Mrs. Hudson cried. Sherlock resumed playing, the notes more clipped now.
The doorbell rang.
"Oh, and there's John, wonderful." Tipsy already.
John walked through the door, hugging Mrs. Hudson and putting a cheap bottle of wine into her arms, which she acted thrilled about. Mary hugged Mrs. Hudson, annoying, as John shook Lestrade's hand. Invited them over for tea downstairs, three maybe four times.
John looked towards Sherlock and Sherlock turned around again, staring out the window and resuming playing. He could feel John's eyes on his back.
Mrs. Hudson bustled up behind him and poked him repeatedly in the back of his head with something hard and plastic. Irked, he turned around to find her on tiptoes with the antlers.
"Oh please, Sherlock," Mrs. Hudson was saying. "Just for one song."
He opened his mouth to say no, but stopped when he spotted John out of the corner of his eye. Glanced upwards, short exhale, looked away. Contemptuous. Bored.
Sherlock bent forward, scowling at Mrs. Hudson delighted squeal. His dignity withered as she attempted to adjust the headband, the teeth pulling at his hair. After another moment he swatted her hand away and straightened it on top of his head himself.
Without smiling, he began playing 'Good King Wenceslas', apparently another of Mrs. Hudson's favourites. She sang along and encouraged Molly to join (also tipsy). John watched him with an odd look on his face, one Sherlock couldn’t quite place. He turned around and continued playing. Nothing. It’s nothing.
In the reflection of the window he saw Mary leaning into John on the sofa, linking her arm with his and nuzzling her face into his shoulder. John looked down at the top of her head and smiled faintly. John smiling at him around a mouthful prawn fried rice after shooting that lunatic cabbie- Sherlock stopped playing abruptly and put his violin on the table.
At Mrs. Hudson's protests, he held up an arm. "Be back," he said, shrugging on his coat.
He walked into the sharp cold outside, closing his eyes and taking deep breaths. The door opened and closed again upstairs and Sherlock considered walking round the corner until he heard the first couple of footsteps.
After six footsteps Sherlock recognises the gait and is surprised. As the steps get louder Sherlock begins hopping up and down in place. Millennial Killer. Has to be. Lestrade knocks three separate times before Sherlock dunks his cigarette into his paper coffee cup and answers the door. Before Lestrade opens his mouth, Sherlock says, “Shame you lot can’t manage to nab a person who fails to realise the twenty-first century doesn’t begin until next year.”
The outside door of 221B opened, Lestrade banging a box of cigarettes against the heel of his hand as he stepped out into the street.
"Giving up proceeding apace," Sherlock said, staring at a dented street sign across the road. Cab probably, thirty miles an hour.
"I think about my wife at Christmas," Lestrade continued, "which now makes me think of that damn P.E. teacher's naked arse on my sofa." He shook his head, striking his lighter. Sherlock rolled his eyes.
Lestrade blew a stream of half breath and half smoke into the cold air, frowning as he passed Sherlock the lighter. "I never thanked you properly, did I?"
"For what?" Sherlock said, annoyed at Lestrade's apparent eagerness to talk.
"Your help. Pretty sure you saved me from the musical chairs in the division." He paused. "I like my job. It's the only thing in my life that hasn't gone completely to shit, so," he hesitated a moment, "Thanks. Again."
Sherlock shifted uncomfortably.
Lestrade rocked back on his heels once, then again and Sherlock could tell that he meant to continue talking. Hell.
"Go proposition Molly," Sherlock snapped.
"What? Why?" There was a note of terror in Lestrade's voice. "She doesn't even fancy me, she fancies you-"
"Her infatuation is shallow, it'll fade once you've established yourself. Then you'll be the lucky recipient of her constant, indelicate attention."
Lestrade said nothing in response, simply staring at him. Sherlock did not meet his gaze.
"And you ah, you noticed. Noticed that, about her?" Lestrade's voice was almost timid.
Sherlock shot him a contemptuous look.
Lestrade cleared his throat. "Good,” he said after a moment.
Sherlock was still staring across the street, exhaling smoke against the street light.
“Look, if you ever, I don't know," Lestrade paused, voice low, "want to talk about, um, anything at all-"
"Thanks," Sherlock cut in, nearly seething.
Lestrade took a breath. "Right." A beat of silence. "Reckon you came out here to be alone for a minute," he murmured.
Out of the corner of his eye, Sherlock saw him carefully pull another cigarette out of the pack and hold it out for him. Their eyes met as Sherlock accepted it.
Horrifyingly, Lestrade's gaze was full of pity. Sherlock turned away, fighting the urge to inform the man of the other furniture pieces his wife and the P.E. teacher had likely desecrated.
After the door closed again, Sherlock continued staring across the street, his mouth contorting itself as he stared at the dented sign. He didn’t want to go back upstairs.
Thanks to CrackshotKate, who beta'd/brit-picked this for me (somehow) during a power outage. Any errors remaining are mine.
Sherlock ended up walking upstairs shortly after Lestrade. Mrs. Hudson was nodding off; Molly and Lestrade sat closer on the sofa, though there was something more restrained in their demeanour. Molly looked at Lestrade out the corner of her eye when she thought he couldn’t see and Lestrade cleared his throat twice every time he noticed.
Sherlock would have been less repulsed to catch them mid-shag. He nearly offered them his bedroom out of spite, but retreated there himself instead.
Stretched out on his mattress, he lit Lestrade’s second cigarette, listening to the voices in the other room growing quieter, the lulls in conversation longer. No one came for him. Dispersing. Finally.
His relief was crushed by familiar footsteps creaking down the hall. Sherlock closed his eyes and took one deep, long drag, holding the smoke in his lungs until it hurt.
He exhaled when the door cracked open, keeping his eyes fixed on the far wall. John’s scent filled the room and, with perfect clarity, Sherlock recalled all of the things he’d ruthlessly and unceasingly tried to delete over the past few months.
“Sherlock, you really are smoking too much. I thought you were trying to quit-”
As John rattled off the dire consequences awaiting him, Sherlock gently stubbed out the cigarette on a plate resting on the bedside table. It had the intended effect; John stopped abruptly mid-lecture. Sherlock almost smiled. What next? My eating habits, perhaps-
“I think you lied to me.”
Sherlock’s heart stopped. He knows. He knows why you brought him into this room the last time, of course he does-
“I think you worked those cases to help Lestrade.”
Oh. Sherlock’s heart rate dropped precipitously as he re-crossed his ankles at the end of the bed. “You know me better than to confuse boredom with altruism,” he muttered.
“Oh, don’t worry. I think you’re an annoying dick most of the time, the small children and grandmothers you save notwithstanding.”
Sherlock half-smiled at the arch in his foot. He’d always enjoyed John’s barbs as much as his compliments; didn’t know why.
“But I do think in this case you really did mean to help. On purpose.”
Sherlock’s smile faded and he pressed his lips together. He fought the urge to ask John what, exactly, was his point in coming into his room.
John continued, “I don’t know if you're just...refusing to acknowledge it – maybe you genuinely don’t think you are, " John paused for a moment, shifting his weight from his right side to his left. “But you’re a good person, you know. When you’re not being an annoying dick.”
Sherlock shrugged at the wall, inexplicably unsettled. "I suppose compared to murderous cabbies and smugglers I’m not bad." He turned his head to look at John for the first time since he’d entered the room. “Surely your circle of acquaintances hasn't become so exciting that you consider me good?”
John held his gaze for a moment before staring down at some point next to his left foot.
Not quite "good" then, maybe after I recover a few more missing children, or a dog -
“You’re the best man I’ve ever known, Sherlock.”
Sherlock went rigid with surprise. When John looked up again, his lips were parted, but he didn't look away.
Sherlock's fist clenched tightly; he wanted to grab John's shoulders and shake him, scream at him -
Soft footsteps in the hall followed by a gentle knock, after which Mary’s soft face peaked inside the door. She jumped a bit when she realised Sherlock was looking at her.
“Oh! I’m so sorry,” she turned towards John. “I didn’t see where you’d got off to.” She looked a little embarrassed, turning to address Sherlock again, “Sorry.” She shut the door a little clumsily and there were quick footsteps back to the living room.
Sherlock looked back at John, but John couldn't meet his eyes.
Guilty. Ashamed. Didn’t tell her it was you.
John walked out of the room without a look back. Sherlock stared at the wall as John’s voice mingled with Lestrade’s and Molly’s, then Mrs. Hudson’s. The door to 221B opened and five sets of feet walked out.
After the door clicked shut, Sherlock wandered to the living room in a daze.
Dull reasons. Not here – leaves – because of dull reasons (love). But not just love: rituals, rules, sex, habits, customs, all equally pointless. Leaves because he’s dull and ordinary and weak - Sherlock hadn't been aware he’d been gesturing until the back of his hand connected with the skull. He scrambled to catch it before realising the skull had merely tipped over onto its side, not fallen onto the floor. Using the dust patterns on the mantle as a guide, he gently turned it right side up and repositioned it.
Sherlock is laying on the living room floor, staring up at the bright white patches of plaster on the ceiling covering the water stains. He hasn’t had a good case in weeks. “Awful, isn’t it?” He turns his head to the skull perched on the edge of his coffee table. When he looks back up to the ceiling his eyes pass over the drill, the hammer, and the three extra notebooks against the wall that he'd bought immediately after he acquired the skull - an intact one was a priceless research opportunity, after all. Getting back to his flat from the morgue had taken over an hour and he’d used the time to explain to the skull, in detail, which experiments would be done and in what order. Talking to the skull had the unintended benefit of keeping other people far away from him on the tube. When he’d arrived back at his flat, there was a new case from Lestrade on his coffee table. He’d flipped through the file eagerly and transitioned seamlessly into discussing the case with the skull instead of the experiments.
That had been over a month ago.
The left side of the skull was bleached a little whiter than the right side. Your windows always faced west. Sherlock trailed his fingers lightly down the back of the back of the skull.
Sherlock froze with his face in his microscope at the loud clomping sounds on the stairs. He looked over at the clock. 3:44 am. Very unusual.
John dropped his keys on the floor twice before the door swung open too quickly and knocked against the wall. Sherlock smelled the whiskey from the kitchen.
He turned in his seat as John staggered in through the living room. There was a light yellow stain on his shirt. Sherlock inhaled. Bar Soho.
John was hunched over, making him look strangely fragile. “I need to um,” he rubbed a hand over his face, squinting as he was directly under the light. “Can I stay here tonight?”
It had been two and a half weeks since he’d last seen John. Sherlock allowed himself to stare, as the other man wouldn’t remember it. “You live here.”
John blinked bleary eyes and nodded, swallowing. “Right.” He turned around and Sherlock heard his uneven gait on the stairs, without the accompanying click of the door shutting behind him.
An itching, anxious lightness spread throughout Sherlock. Worse than a fight, maybe- He viciously quashed the thought before it fully formed. Speculation was more abhorrent than guessing.
Time passed, he didn’t know how long, before he heard a soft whimper upstairs. He looked up - the room had turned a dusky grey. The whimper turned into a moan, accompanied by the sound of khakis rusting against a bare mattress. Ghastly hangover.
Sherlock poured a glass of water and headed upstairs.
John was in the foetal position on the mattress with his arms curled around a single pillow - the pile of bedclothes Sherlock had put there months ago had been shoved onto the floor.
Sherlock hesitated only a moment before uncurling John’s hand from the pillow and wrapping it around the cold glass in his hand. John turned over, wincing at the light filtering in from the hallway, but his grip tightened as he laboriously sat up.
John coughed a few times before he was able to swallow it all down. When the glass was empty, he curled up on his side again and Sherlock noticed that he was shivering.
He extracted a blanket out of the pile of bedclothes and stretched it over the other man with quiet efficiency. When he tucked the blanket around John’s shoulder, the man's fingers brushed over the inside of his wrist. Sherlock's stomach dropped. Accident.
Sherlock walked out of the bedroom without closing the door behind him. The skin on the underside of his wrist tingled where John had touched him.
Hours later, Sherlock heard John gingerly make his way down the stairs and seat himself carefully across the table.
Without looking up from his microscope, Sherlock pushed his toast toward John. When he felt the plate pulled away from his hand, Sherlock slid his untouched tea across, as well.
“Thank you.” John’s voice was hoarse.
Under the table, Sherlock flexed his bare feet.
John’s mobile began buzzing, but he ignored the sound, sipping his tea. Hope pushed through Sherlock’s thoughts like a weed.
Sherlock stared at the white plastic bag on the table before glancing at John. The man was sitting in front of the telly, head resting on his hand with his index finger pressed against his temple. Sherlock had expected that John would back at Mary's by now; it had been over two days.
John's mobile buzzed in his lap, and Sherlock saw his eyes flicker to the screen before he rearranged himself on the armchair and pressed 'Ignore'.
John was thinking about her, of course. But when Sherlock passed him a tub of green curry, John ate.
After a week, Sherlock noticed that he was working more quickly through experiments, that solutions to puzzles came easier. He knew why.
Sherlock had realised early on that his synapses connected faster when John was around, but it had taken him longer to notice that he enjoyed the work more with John there.
Happier, his mind supplied. The thought made Sherlock cringe.
He'd never asked John what had happened – he guessed something to do with the ex-husband, inadvertently discovered text messages, perhaps - but he couldn't be sure because John never offered any explanation.
Though they hardly spoke, Sherlock watched John almost constantly. When John went to sleep, Sherlock moved into the kitchen to listen to John’s breathing, how he moved at night, precisely when he woke up in the morning. Sherlock also found himself pinning down facts about John he’d not bothered to know exact answers to before, things related to his upbringing, his education, his relationships. It all suddenly seemed important.
Mary knocked on the door to 221B again three weeks later. John turned sharply to look at the door, but Sherlock kept his eyes on the telly. After the second round of knocking John sighed loudly and answered it, closing it behind him with a muted click. That’s it then, Sherlock thought, staring at the telly without seeing it.
He was more than a little surprised when the door opened again and John walked back through, making a beeline for the kitchen. Sherlock heard a metal top scraping against glass and realised John was opening the same bottle of scotch Sherlock had gone for-
John’s mouth, smell, John’s tongue on against his teeth, fingertips on his hips. Sherlock closed his eyes tightly, but that only made it worse.
A week after Mary's visit, Lestrade’s name lit up Sherlock's caller ID. John was sitting in his chair reading, his hand over his mouth.
“What is it?" As Lestrade explained the details, Sherlock kept his eyes fixed on John. Sounded dull. “We’re coming.” Sherlock hung up and threw John’s jacket at his back. At John’s angry look, Sherlock said, “homicide, Enfield.”
John looked at him for a moment in confusion.
“Hurry up,” Sherlock snapped, already halfway out the door. When he got onto the street he paused, a flare of nervousness momentarily immobilising him. His lips turned up when he heard the faint sounds of John’s footsteps and waved for a cab.
A week and a half later, they breathlessly stumbled back into the flat. “I’m getting old,” John gasped, leaning against the wall.
“Mmm, yes you are.” Sherlock was huffing.
“So are you.”
Sherlock waved a hand. “All transport.”
“Transport can be important,” John tilted his head backwards.
Sherlock looked at the other man’s neck. “Particularly if you’re crossing a busy junction.”
“Why not?” Sherlock said along one exhale, “He was trying to kill you. Saved me the trouble.”
John gave him a look then, a little more sober around the edges.
Sherlock’s breathing slowed and he was silent for a moment. “What’ll you call this one?” He’d never once asked John this question.
“I don’t know,” John smiled a little, looking towards the ceiling. “I was thinking about it on the cab ride back.”
The thought that John was thinking about his blog made Sherlock pathetically happy.
A week after the case, Sherlock watched John staring down at his mobile. He’d been looking at it for over five minutes without typing. Girl at the coffee shop. Slipped her his number when he'd paid, Sherlock thought, irrational fury overtaking him.
He stared long enough that John eventually looked warily up to meet Sherlock’s eyes.
“Have you really not figured it out yet?” he asked, seething.
Thank you CrackshotKate for continuing to fix all of my metres and centres, and for the important things, like making sure what I'm writing makes sense.
“Figured out what?” His voice was steady, but his terror was obvious to Sherlock. Always around the mouth.
Sherlock let the insinuation linger between them for longer than he should have. “You’re an abysmal relationship prospect.”
He saw the muscles in John’s face relax. “Something we have in common, then.”
“True,” Sherlock acknowledged, eyes sharp, “though I haven’t intentionally inflicted this aspect of myself on innocent souls across three separate continents-”
“Shut up, Sherlock," John snarled.
“You’ve called me a machine,” Sherlock continued, speaking to the wall, “but I’ve never gotten some idiot’s hopes up for raising a litter in East Anglia. A gentleman might offer to pick up half of her therapy bills; she’ll be dealing with far worse than a psychosomatic limp.”
Be careful, a faint voice of reason warned Sherlock. He hadn't meant to mention John's limp.
John’s lips were white. He straightened his back until his spine was completely rigid, hands resting lightly on top of his knees. “You act like you’re so much better than everyone," John said softly, "but you’re more lonely and more desperate for attention than anyone I’ve ever seen. It’s pathetic.”
The word ‘pathetic’ hit Sherlock like a blow. Fury condensed into a small, dark spot in his chest.
He clasped his hands together in front of him and leaned forward, staring silently at John until his bad leg jerked.
“You’re a repressed homosexual.” Sherlock's voice was ice. “And your life is spent overcompensating for this cowardice.”
Hideous silence followed. Sherlock knew the instant the words left his mouth that there wasn’t much he wouldn’t have given to take them back.
John froze in his armchair, blinking at Sherlock as if he hadn’t quite understood him.
Sherlock watched, paralysed, as John’s mouth twisted, his hands curling on top of his knee. He leaned towards Sherlock slowly, his clenched fist coming to rest beside his leg.
He’s going to break my nose, Sherlock thought, bizarrely relieved.
Sherlock looked towards the mantle and waited for the blow, the excruciating silence allowing him to hear the minutest of John’s movements, trousers rustling against the fabric of the chair, shoes brushing the wood under his feet as he rearranged his legs. The silence was killing him, he should have done it by now-
“I wasn’t lying to you at Angelo’s.”
Sherlock almost jumped at the sound of John’s voice. He hadn’t expected him to say anything, simply hit him and leave.
"It’s just...I call you a machine, but you’re not at all, really.” John had shrunk back into his chair a bit, making him look smaller. His eyes were focused on some point on the floor next to his right foot. “You love puzzles and weird murders and awful experiments. Music, even.” John paused. "I'm not like that. I never liked anything half as much as you like dust. I didn't hate anything, either, it’s just," he shrugged slightly, "I never felt all that much. But I didn’t realise that until I went to Afghanistan. Afghanistan mostly wasn’t good, but it was...something.” John frowned, gaze shifting towards the window.
Sherlock stared openly at him, stunned. He’d known this about John. But he did not know that John knew this.
“When I came back I felt even more disconnected from everything and everyone else. I was, ah,” he swallowed, focusing on something across the street, “ alone. That’s actually, I think, when I noticed my limp. Or maybe when it developed, I don’t know.”
Sherlock remembered John’s cane resting against the wall at Angelo’s. The look on John's face after he realised he’d forgotten it.
“But when I moved in with you," John continued, "and we became friends, things were different. I was angry a lot, mostly at you, which was odd for me. I’ve never been an…angry person. I was known as being very even tempered, actually. Apparently I’ve turned into a ghastly boyfriend, if everyone I’ve dated over the past two years is to be believed. I was never a Casanova, but I know I’d never forgotten any pets. At work I slipped professionally, which I absolutely never did, to follow you, and when I did follow you, I feared for my life more often than I had in Afghanistan.” He paused for a moment. "That all sounds bad when I say it out loud, but," he glanced towards Sherlock. “To be honest, you're the most brilliant thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Sherlock hurt deep in his chest.
“I bring that up only because, uh," John stuttered, turning bright red, "I figured the thoughts I had, about you, were part of that, that I was confusing satisfaction in my life with...something…for you. I thought maybe that was a common thing. I’d felt it some with my mates Afghanistan...” John looked down and snorted a bit, tapping a white knuckled fist against his lips. “It sounds really, painfully obvious, but to me it wasn’t, not at all. I just figured once I found someone else it would stop." John paused for a moment and unconsciously wet his lips, turning slowly to face Sherlock again.
"I'm just...” John looked lost. “I’m sorry."
Sorry. A sliver of rage cut through Sherlock at the word and he didn’t know exactly why. "Are you?" he asked with an edge in his voice. “For what, exactly?” I crudely exploited your secret, I called you a coward, what on earth do you have to be sorry about?
John paused, his posture stiffening again at Sherlock’s combative tone. “For all of it,” he said carefully.
John’s forehead pressed against his shoulder blades, his mouth on Sherlock's, breath in his ear-
“Fuck off,” Sherlock hissed before he realised he was saying it.
John leaned away from him completely, surprised for a moment at Sherlock’s venomous tone before his face hardened again. “Gladly,” he said softly.
He heard John pull himself to his feet, leaving, and was gripped by blind panic, unable to help looking at John out of the corner of his eye.
John pulled on his jacket roughly before snatching his keys and wallet off of the kitchen table. “By the way,” John snapped as he opened the door, “if you ever find yourself ‘bored’ again, I would suggest a professional,” John’s voice dripped with contempt. “More efficient, if a bit less convenient.” The door closed behind him before he could see Sherlock's ugly flush.
Sherlock remained mute and immobilised as John's footsteps squeaked down the stairs, through the main door. Silence followed.
Sherlock heard his own breath turn quicker, more shallow. His skin crawled.
He paced through the living room, seeing nothing in front of him, hearing nothing outside. Their conversation relentlessly looped through his thoughts. Lonely. Desperate. You are pathetic, aren't you –
Stupid. Shut up, Shut. Up. He was only vaguely aware he was speaking out loud, and loudly.
You’ve driven away the only person you can stand, the only person who can stand you, the only person who knows you-
"Sherlock, for God's sake.” Mrs’s Hudson’s voice from downstairs, “stop shouting-"
"Shut up, Mrs. Hudson," Sherlock roared. It went instantly quiet downstairs and Sherlock squeezed his eyes shut, pushing his hands into the sockets. Something felt unbearably unaligned, like a joint out of place.
Without thinking, he grabbed his scarf and coat and left.
His eyes scanned the pavement outside as he ruthlessly rifled through data. Good weather, change left on the table, jacket was too light for this weather, upset.
But Sherlock was not as adept at predicting emotional responses as he was recognising them once they'd already occurred. And there had never been a situation quite like this.
Sherlock walked briskly towards Regent’s Park, cutting through pedestrians, walking in front of cars. He was murmuring loudly to himself.
What are you doing? What are you planning to say when you encounter him?
He planned to grovel and beg for forgiveness. Sherlock arrived at the park and began scanning the footpaths John frequented.
You imagine that’s enough to re-establish equilibrium? You took something from him he didn’t want to give. You have to concede the same to get you back on equal footing. Tell him something you otherwise wouldn’t want him to know.
The breadth of possibilities available disturbed him.
Tell him you looked at his things, Mary’s flat, that you followed him, that you read his emails.
No, not enough.
Then tell him why.
Terror seized him at that thought. No. I can’t.
Sherlock gave up on Regent’s after he’d investigated John’s normal routes. There were literally thousands of other footpaths and unmarked trails he could have taken, but Sherlock doubted that John would stray to new territory; likely to unconsciously stick to the familiar places.
Maybe it's not necessary, he thought as he walked towards the pubs that John went to with Stamford. John had an astoundingly large reserve of forgiveness for Sherlock, if he apologised enough, maybe things could return to a type of normal, save for the girlfriends. The thought of that almost cheered Sherlock, until the alternative occurred to him.
John might bring round a man, instead.
John gasping as a faceless man whispered to him in the dark, hands running over all of John’s bones and scars–
Sherlock grit his teeth together so hard that it hurt. John was capable of great sentiment. Love, even. It hadn’t happened yet with a woman but perhaps with a man–
White-hot rage churned in him at the thought.
Same problem, though. Adrenaline addiction. Wanting to follow you. Still an abysmal relationship prospect.
Not if he finds someone with the same addiction. And leaves you.
His mental activity came to a screeching halt at the thought of John leaving him permanently to follow someone else.
Don't find him. Don't apologise. Ignore him and he’ll leave permanently. If you continue this way it will ruin the work; it will ruin you.
Sherlock abruptly hailed a cab to Barts.
He stepped out of the cab, hesitating in front of the entrance before taking the sidewalk around the perimeter instead. Molly would be leaving in fifteen minutes and he'd rather not encounter her. She had an unnerving and extremely irritating ability to detect when he least wanted to be bothered and proceed to pester him inexhaustibly asking if he was all right-
The sun was beginning to set and the wind had picked up a bit; he put the collar of his coat up around his neck. As he made his way around the side if the building he wondered if he should just go in and deal with Molly; he wanted a kidney anyway and Stamford was much less likely to bend restrictions to get him one. On the other hand-
Sherlock stopped abruptly in the middle of the sidewalk, eyes fixed on a bench not thirty metres away, staring at the shoulders visible over the back.
The pull towards John was rapidly overwhelming the reasoning that had brought him to Barts in the first place.
Don't. There is no good outcome possible. John won’t accept an apology now. Even if he does-
He began walking towards John even as the reasons why he absolutely shouldn’t multiplied in his mind.
The original problem wouldn't be solved. This would happen again, because you-
A wave of unfocused terror prevented him from finishing that thought. He continued slowly forward, dodging leaves to keep from making noise as he approached.
When only a few feet separated them, John leant back into the bench and Sherlock stopped, staring at the grey hairs on the crown of his head catching the light.
You can still turn around.
Sherlock remained still. John absently rubbed his bad leg.
No. He couldn’t.
As quietly as possible, Sherlock seated himself on the bench, almost able to feel John going rigid beside him. Seconds stretched out between them.
Apologise. Grovel. Say something-
"You're not the coward; I am." Sherlock spoke harshly, staring straight ahead.
John went silent.
Confession, Sherlock thought, panicked. Almost a confession. His neck felt hot under his scarf though his ears tingled from the cold.
Tell him the rest, tell him all of it.
His hands felt weak in his lap. No.
Tell him what a liar you are.
He shut his eyes briefly. I can’t, I can’t-
Give him back the pound of flesh you took.
Sherlock's voice cracked slightly when he spoke again. “It wasn’t because I was bored."
Unexpected relief lightened Sherlock even as acute humiliation made his teeth gnash together.
Stop, stop, shut up -
Out of the corner of his eye he saw John turn to face him.
He's probably correct that he’s conflating the stimulation a life with you affords him with sentiment. He'll realise it once you tell him. Then he'll leave.
The depths to which Sherlock was unprepared for that possibility staggered him.
So don't say anything. A different voice, urgent. This is nonsensical.
"Why, then?" John voice was low and rough.
There it was.
Don't tell him.
Sherlock rested his damp palms on his thighs. They were shaking.
You'll lose him again.
Sherlock stared at a tree trunk twenty metres away. His heart was pounding so hard it was making him nauseous.
The seconds after the words left his mouth, he felt as though he'd accidentally cut off a limb and was staring dumbly at it, the panic not quite able to break through the shock that had blanketed him. Idiot, you're an idiot, you're an idiot-
A hand sharply gripped Sherlock's forearm and his head instinctively whipped around. John's face was only inches from his, the intensity in his countenance freezing Sherlock in his place.
"Really?" John’s voice cracked.
Sherlock's heart was in his throat. He forced himself to nod.
John blinked at him a few times, fingers digging harder in his arm before his face crumpled. Warm, wet, soft pressed hard against Sherlock's mouth.
Sherlock made an agonised sound and gripped John’s face between his hands, his phone clattering loudly onto the bench. The other man jumped at the noise but Sherlock held tight, yanking on the lapels of his jacket to pull him closer as he slanted his lips against John’s. The other man’s breath stuttered and Sherlock’s mouth parted, pushing his tongue through John’s teeth. He was desperate, starving -
I missed you so much.
Horrifying thoughts, kept half-formed and in the periphery of his mind, now surfacing.
Don't ever leave me again.
Sherlock wrapped his arms around John's back again, clawing at him through his jacket.
Please come home.
“Flat?” Sherlock blurted. He couldn’t stand not to know.
There was something odd on John’s face and Sherlock to his infinite frustration couldn’t read it.
“Do you want that?" John's voice was uneven.
He doesn’t know, Sherlock realised. How can you not see it, how can you make me say it again-
"Yes," Sherlock said, almost snapping it. He'll take everything from you-
John kissed him again, hard, and those thoughts, for the moment, evaporated.
John unlocked the door at 221 and they ascended the stairs silently, Sherlock behind John. Each step up left Sherlock hotter, more breathless. John glanced once behind him as he unlocked their door; his pupils were wide. A wave of dizziness nearly immobilised Sherlock.
This isn't real.
After the door closed there was John’s mouth on his mouth, his hands on his face, his warm body pressing Sherlock’s against the wooden door. Sherlock felt as though a ladder had been kicked out from underneath him and he hadn’t yet dropped.
Then John was gone, walking down the hall into Sherlock's bedroom.
Sherlock's stomach clenched and he caught up with him, wrapping him up again and blindly kicking the door shut behind them. Don’t leave. In the dim light John tripped over a book next to bedside table; Sherlock viciously kicked it under his bed before covering John's mouth with his again. Don’t leave, don’t leave, don’t leave.
He felt small tugs on his shirt and realised that John was trying and failing to unbutton it. Sherlock worked them quickly, his own then John’s. When he untucked John’s shirt he ran his hands over the rough scars he'd memorised before.
This can't be real.
John whispered "wait a second" against Sherlock's lips and left the room. Sherlock was seized with irrational panic before he heard the stairs to John’s room squeaking. Not leaving, not unless he’s changing, he’s not changing, the floorboards next to his wardrobe aren't making noise-
The steps creaked and John appeared in the room once again, shutting out the light from the hallway.
A cold plastic bottle and a sharp square were pressed into Sherlock’s hand. “We should use this, this time,” John said, and Sherlock heard the cringe in his voice. “I want you to be safe-"
Sherlock kissed him, cutting him off, before tearing the wrapper and grabbing John's prick. Now now now-
“No.” John said, subdued. He pushed Sherlock's hand back.
Sherlock froze completely.
“I want to, um” John swallowed audibly and didn't finish his sentence.
Sherlock heard John as if from afar. You misread him; changed his mind-
John turned around and climbed on the bed, crawling carefully onto the middle on his stomach.
Pounding, violent relief was almost immediately replaced by terror at what John had signalled to him. John turned his head to look at Sherlock; only the faintest natural light remained in the room. Sherlock felt paralysed.
I don’t know how to do this.
John tentatively stretched out a hand in Sherlock’s direction.
John did this. Copy John.
Sherlock laid down carefully beside John on the bed and the other man slowly rolled over onto his side, facing away from Sherlock.
The muscles of John's back moved underneath his skin and Sherlock heard the cracking sound of a bottle cap being opened. The cold plastic touched his leg and he weakly grabbed for it, squeezing a liberal amount into his right hand. Breathe evenly.
He hesitantly pressed his slicked fingers through the cleft of John’s arse, his other hand gripping John's shoulder.
Mirror John’s movements.
Sherlock put his mouth behind John’s ear, John gasped sharply as one finger slipped inside. Pain. Sherlock froze. “I'll stop."
“It's fine,” John said in a tight voice.
Sherlock remained completely still until he felt John push back against him. Sherlock bit his lip, his second and third finger joining his other one, slowly working in until John turned his head and groaned softly into the pillow. Good, that’s good.
He found the neglected condom and rolled it over himself and, as it had the first time, surreal detachment settled over him. He put a shaky hand on John's hip in an attempt to ground himself and John reached blindly behind him, bumping into Sherlock’s thigh before grabbing hold of it and squeezing. Ok. Ok. Sherlock’s heart pounded against his ribs as he aimed himself and carefully pushed.
John’s ribs expanded more quickly against Sherlock's chest when Sherlock felt give. He buried his face in John’s neck and kept pushing forward gently until the head of his cock popped inside. John tensed bow-tight against him and Sherlock’s eyes snapped open.
“I’m hurting you.”
“It’s fine,” John replied thickly. “Just give me a minute.”
Sherlock fought to remain motionless as John adjusted, impaling himself gradually over Sherlock. When his entire cock was sheathed inside, John let out a choked breath and Sherlock wrapped his arm roughly around John’s middle, pulling them even closer, his mind frantically isolating and memorialising each point of contact. Bones in his feet, tendons in the backs of his knees.
He pushed into him gently, inside John, and a low moan slipped out as he repeated the action, then again, until he could feel John moving with him, grunting, one hand supporting himself on the headboard and the other hand reaching back to touch Sherlock’s hair.
Something was pulling Sherlock. No, not pulling - pushing, pressing gently on his insides. It was an agonizing feeling, it was unbearable- He squeezed his eyes closed and pressed his face into John’s shoulder, inhaling John's scent, his lips touching the edge of John’s scar.
“I love you." The words spilled out of Sherlock with no warning, shocking him.
The mattress cracked as John’s hands and feet dug in, pushing himself closer."You're the only person-” John's voice was nearly a whisper. “The only one-”
The only one.
Sherlock’s eyes hurt. He went still, laying his palm flat against John’s chest. He felt too full to move.
After a few moments, John began squirming, his hand moving over himself. Sherlock watched with rapt attention, remaining immobile. “I’m close,” John gasped at the wall.
The sound of John's voice pulled at the bottom of Sherlock's stomach and he began thrusting again, his strokes harder now.
John made a loud noise and Sherlock felt his cock being squeezed even as the rest of John went rigid. Orgasm. Sherlock wrapped his hand around John’s hand as the other man groaned, arching back against Sherlock, his cock pulsing in their combined grip. When John was dead weight against him, Sherlock lifted up his hand, staring at the semen on his fingers.
Something in his brain snapped and he pushed on John’s shoulder until he was almost face down before climbing on top of him and thrusting back in hard, pushing John into the matress. “Sherlock,” John moaned into the pillow. Sherlock grit his teeth and pounded him, one hand gripping the headboard for leverage. It was knocking loudly against the wall. John. John. God, John.
He was unprepared for the intensity of his orgasm when it hit. He made a broken noise, both hands pressing John down into the sheets as he buried himself, his cries trailing off into whimpers until the spasms ceased and his entire weight was resting on John’s back.
His mind was white, blank.
John’s hand closed over Sherlock’s and gripped it weakly, and Sherlock exhaled, unable to corral his erratic breathing.
John. My John.
After they cleaned up, Sherlock laid down on his back next to John, who was on his stomach again. Neither of them said a word.
Incoherent, half-formed thoughts tore his mind apart as he stared up at the ceiling. Unworkable heteronormative expectations, transitory emotional responses, intensity correlative to the novelty of the sexual intimacy, possible-
Something warm touched his hand. Sherlock stopped, all thoughts re-focused towards it. The pads of John's fingertips slid slowly over his palm, coming to rest on the inside of his wrist as the rest of his hand covered Sherlock's.
The gesture crushed Sherlock.
He gripped John’s hand hard. No.
You’re not cut out for this. You're not-
The mattress shifted and warm heaviness settled on top of him, the bed creaking once underneath their combined weight.
Sherlock couldn't speak, couldn't breathe. John. He rested his hands lightly on John's back, afraid to move. John exhaled slowly next to his ear and he felt the tips of John’s fingertips pushing through his hair, gently cradling the back of his head.
Don't leave me, John. Please.
Because it bears repeating:
Gorgeous, PERFECT bench kiss artwork for this chapter by doctormysweetie aka purrlockholmes here
Chapter 11: Epilogue
Thank you, bless you CrackshotKate! You're a delightful person and a beta extraordinaire.
Incidentally, CrackshotKate is writing a delicious anthropomorphic dragon!lock fic. Appalled at the concept of dragon!lock? So was I. She sucked me in with a near perfect Sherlock voice (and some scorchingly hot sex.) Read it; you'll thank me. :D http://archiveofourown.org/works/905193/chapters/1751119
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
18 months later
Sherlock was reclined on the sofa, staring at the wall when he heard a familiar gait on the steps to B; his breath caught as the door opened.
John didn’t walk into the living room, which wasn’t surprising. He’d mostly avoided Sherlock over the past three days, save for questions about his leg.
Sherlock listened to John making tea, just one mug, barely restraining himself from kicking his legs against the sofa, upending the coffee table, shouting loudly enough to send John barrelling into the room.
It was just a phone. And John’s phone wasn’t the only casualty – his...miscalculation had cost him a burner, four beakers, and his notepad that was absolutely chockfull of data. Sherlock’s eyes flitted down to the voluminous padding on left thigh, scowling and cringing the tiniest bit.
Apparently valuable lost equipment and multiple second-degree burns weren’t their own punishment.
After the explosion, Sherlock had heard the sound of John’s feet hitting the floor from the bed, the door of Sherlock’s bedroom banging open. Sherlock had fallen into a chair, groping behind him for a teatowel to press against the oozing wound on his thigh before John reached the kitchen. Stupid. Should have used the other base.
It was less than a minute before Sherlock felt his trousers being tugged gently, the fabric ripping open; garlic John had cut earlier with the same knife mixed with the smell of blood. Revolting. John was murmuring questions and Sherlock struggled to keep his voice steady as he answered. Stupid.
After his wound was dressed Sherlock had remained sitting in the chair, breath still stuttering. The burns were shockingly painful; they made his eyes water. Regardless, Sherlock couldn’t help but turn his head and watch John survey the scorched roof, the hole the table, his ruined phone. When he’d turned around to look at Sherlock again his face was white, his lips pressed together until they were nothing.
Sherlock didn’t protest when John helped him hobble to bed. He stared at the ceiling, pointlessly furious at himself; John turned on his side without speaking to him.
The next day Sherlock had ordered John a replacement phone to the shop down the street. John had nodded when Sherlock told him to pick it up, not even a thank you. It was unlike him.
The fridge door opened and he smelled the tuna salad John had made yesterday when it closed again. Hasn’t offered you any; hasn’t fussed at you to eat. The severity of John’s cold shoulder routine was… unexpected.
So much so that Sherlock’s annoyance was beginning to edge the smallest bit into panic.
It’s not just the phone. Or the table. Or the ceiling.
Unpleasant incidents – small ones, a couple not so small – over the past few months had recurred to him at regular intervals since John had ceased speaking to him.
I’m not your bloody maid. John’s dissatisfaction with Sherlock’s contribution to the upkeep of the flat occurred frequently; Sherlock reckoned it was a monthly row.
Molly’s wedding was today. She wanted you there. Sherlock had been on his way to Prague – rather marvellous case. When he’d texted John the details at the airport, that had been his only response. An unpleasant lurch had gone through Sherlock - he'd completely forgotten.
After he’d returned from Prague he’d gone to see Molly and Lestrade with a nice bottle of wine, making sure John watched him leave. Over the course of a surprisingly enjoyable visit it had become apparent to him that his presence at their wedding didn’t matter to them at all.
He’d realised in a cab back to Baker Street that perhaps it had mattered to John.
You’re selfish prick and you don’t give a damn what I want, ever.
John had been visiting his mother when Mycroft called him about an intriguing MI6 security breach in Paris. He’d left immediately, and only after three days did he realise he hadn’t told John where he was going, or why (“Just tell me where you’re fucking going next time.”) Grudgingly and with prickling resentment towards John he’d found internet café and sent a quick email. “In Paris. Phone dead. Brilliant case.”
On his way back to London he’d elbowed a child to get access to a computer before he boarded the train; he’d been itching to share the details.
He’d looked for John’s name in his inbox, planning on responding to his reply, but it wasn’t there. With an edge of panic Sherlock checked his sent messages to ensure the message had been delivered. It had.
Panic turned into a cold spot in his stomach. It had sent - John simply hadn’t responded.
The thought loomed, growing larger and more frightening the closer he got to London. When he finally returned to 221B, he hesitated a moment before unlocking the door.
The look on John’s face as he walked into the living had imprinted itself permanently on his mind. No shouting like after he’d returned from Prague. No shove like when he’d followed that strangler without John. A flat-mouthed stare, his finger pressed against his temple. Just that and then John had looked back down at his book, re-crossing his legs in his chair without looking up again.
He’d wandered into the kitchen, the thought like a knife twisting slowly in his chest. Eventually he’d leaned against the stove and the one particular fact that he'd spent considerable mental energy avoiding seized him: this is approaching its expiration date.
A cabinet door slammed in the kitchen, follow by a muttered curse. What was John still doing in there? Sherlock smelled no Clorox, couldn’t hear any tools.
Separation is inevitable. You could predict. You knew.
But he didn’t. He thought he’d taken precautions, avoided big things. He hadn't realised the trivial things build. No, they don’t build – they compound. They were like a slow acting poison, killing someone so gradually they don’t realise until it was already done.
It’s already dead and you didn’t realise it until now.
His heartrate tripled. Not yet. Please.
Logically, he knew he’d earned a separation. He was not suited to companionship of this variety. You’re bad at it.
The floorboards in the living room squeaked and his heart stopped. Coming over here.
We have to talk. He would use those words or some other eye-gougingly idiotic language, whatever he used with his girlfriend in sixth form. He wouldn’t even be angry, he’d just be sorry-
But John sidestepped the sofa to stare at the wallpaper instead. After a moment he snorted and pressed a piece of paper against the wall, pencil scratching as he wrote on it.
Sherlock couldn’t stand it any longer. “What are you doing?” He failed completely to keep sharpness out of his voice.
“Someone has to renew our lease,” John snapped without looking up from the paper.
Sherlock’s mind stopped.
“And as you keep throwing away Mrs. Hudson’s notices, it’s become my job, even though you agreed to do it each week since November-”
Sherlock had heard nothing after “our lease.”
John ran his fingers over new bullet holes. “Jesus Christ, Sherlock. You know hypothetically if we ever felt the slightest inclination to move, you’ve rendered it financially impossible; we’d have to pay a small fortune to Mrs. Hudson-”
Sherlock was off the sofa, wrapping his arms tightly around John’s ribs from behind before John finished his sentence. John went silent.
Our lease. Sherlock’s arms tightened around John’s chest, his face buried in John's neck. Our lease.
“Sherlock,” John said quietly.
The tone of John’s voice, the concern, caused something to collapse inside of Sherlock. His breath hitched, horrifying, and he pressed his forehead hard into John’s shoulder, biting down hard on his lip. Wants to stay with you, not leaving, staying-
But for how long? Why? There was no discernable pattern in John’s reaction to Sherlock. He didn’t understand John; he’d looked for systems, cues, anything to give him the data necessary to keep John here but there weren’t any which meant inevitably- “You’ll leave eventually,” Sherlock blurted, his voice muffled by John's jumper.
John went completely rigid a half second before shouting, “You’re the one who’s going to leave!”
Sherlock was so surprised at John’s outburst that his grip on him went slack. John spun around and grabbed Sherlock’s upper arms hard, mouth contorting with fury.
“You’ve somehow got an even bigger death wish than when I first met you. You’re going off alone, without even your phone to foreign countries on mad chases that Mycroft sends you on, or you’re doing some fucking stupid experiment in our kitchen, you’re smoking like a goddamn chimney-”
“You don’t think about me! You don’t think about what it would do to me, if you were gone and I was left here.” John stopped, pressing his lips together, and looked towards the corner of the room.
“I don’t,” he scrubbed his eyes with his hands. “I don’t do well without you, Sherlock. Don’t pop off early and leave me alone.” John’s voice had grown thick.
Cares so much.
John was pushing on Sherlock and Sherlock realised he was trying to get away from him; he instinctively tightened his grip.
“Let go,” John muttered. But he wasn’t pushing hard and the same withered instinct told Sherlock to hold on.
After a moment John stopped struggling and wrapped his arms tightly around Sherlock’s neck, pulling him close. The gesture surprised Sherlock. Their physical contact was spare, not casual. John very seldom initiated it; Sherlock had assumed he preferred it that way.
But he realised from way John clung to him now that he wanted it. That he’d needed it. And Sherlock had never noticed, never once thought about it.
He’s right about you.
He rested his hand lightly on John’s neck, the possible breadth of his failure in this regard beginning to frighten him.
“Just don’t-” John’s voice was soft. “Stop being a goddamn idiot all the time.”
Sherlock stared at the burned table in the kitchen over John's shoulder. You should hate me. But you don't.
John's mouth was suddenly over Sherlock’s, pulling down on his neck, kissing him deeply.
He exhaled into John’s mouth, trying to remember what John liked best, what made him react loudest. Abruptly he pushed John onto the sofa and with expedience unbuttoned and unzipped him before pushing down his own pyjamas and underwear, settling himself on top, lining up their cocks and wrapping a hand around them. John wheezed, squirming on the sofa. He loved this; it was obvious. They hardly ever did it this way, Sherlock hated subjecting himself to such close scrutiny. John never pushed for it.
Because he thinks about you, constantly.
He grabbed John’s face, fighting the instinct to look away, to hide. “You.”
He forgives you, constantly.
“You deserve,” Sherlock swallowed; it was so true he could hardly stand to say it out loud, “better. Than me-”
“Shut up,” John rasped against his mouth, thrusting against Sherlock and causing Sherlock to groan. He’d missed this, he’d missed John.
I’ll do better.
He kissed John again, and kept kissing him. Because John liked it.
I'm so grateful to everyone who left a comment or kudos - every one of them made me flail with happiness. Thank you so much!
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One more again: Gorgeous, PERFECT bench kiss artwork for Chapter 10 by doctormysweetie aka purrlockholmes here (somehow she is taking requests and drawing this shit for free, so hit her up).