It started in the aftermath of the Moriarty incident.
That’s what John was calling it in his head—it sounded better than “the incident with the bomb,” or even “the swimming pool incident,” which conjured up memories of the overpowering smell of chlorine, the blue glow of the lights underwater, the look of horror on Sherlock’s face; and produced a resulting sick feeling in his stomach.
If he was honest with himself, of course, he had to admit that it had started long before that, but it was Moriarty who had brought it to his attention. Moriarty, slithering around him in the locker room, fingers on John’s neck, whispering in his ear, “I know how you feel about him. He’ll never reciprocate you know. He doesn’t have the same… needs.” His hands ghosting down John’s sides as he tugged him into the vest, a mockery of intimacy, fingers skimming John’s hips, making him jerk. “Easy there, solider boy. I’m not going to hurt you. I’m just trying to strap a bomb to your chest. Jesus. Trust issues is right.”
He was chewing gum. Spearmint. He was chewing loudly, like a parody of a teenage girl, his jaw splayed open to reveal the backs of his molars while he looked at John. His eyes were all pupil. “He’s like me. We don’t want what you little people want. We aren’t at the mercy of those coarse bodily urges.”
Moriarty flipped the gum to the end of his tongue, then moved his tongue against his cheek in an unmistakably lewd gesture. “So bestial. It doesn’t hold our interest. Mind over matter.”
John turned his head. The scent of the gum was choking him.
“What’s the matter, Johnny boy? Remind you of something?”
Moriarty grinned as his hand closed on the zipper of the vest and began dragging it slowly shut. “Sherlock should count himself lucky I don’t go in for anything more sordid than bombs… I could do all sorts of things to you, here in the shadows. It could be our little secret. Sherlock would be none the wiser.” He put his mouth to John’s ear again. John could smell expensive cologne underneath the overpowering scent of the gum. “I’m sure you’ve done all sorts of nasty things in boys’ locker rooms, haven’t you, Dr. Watson?”
He finished zipping and stepped back. “After all, there must be some reason why he keeps you around. What is it about you he finds so appealing?” His fingers moved to touch John’s cheek. The touch was strange. It was how John imagined someone would touch a corpse, inquisitive, disturbed. “I suppose there is something potentially delicious about you. All that soft, stupid flesh…. makes me wonder how ordinary people taste.” He scraped his thumbnail over John’s bottom lip. “Maybe I should cut you open and find out. I’d share with Sherlock, of course. You’d like that wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you, Johnny boy?”
John didn’t sleep well in the weeks after. He was ashamed by how much it had affected him. He was a solider after all; the threat of death was nothing new. But there was something about Moriarty—he had gotten under John’s skin and he’d left a cold horror that John couldn’t seem to shake. He would wake from nightmares with the feeling of those creeping reptile hands still on his skin.
Worse than that though, worse than the memory of his lifeless hands, the blank inhuman quality in his gaze was the fact that Moriarty was right. He was right about John. He wanted Sherlock. He wanted Sherlock with an intensity that far surpassed any of his attractions in the past. How he had remained ignorant of that fact up until now was impossible for him to understand. How had it taken the observations of a psychopath for John to notice what he himself had missed?
Looking back, it was impossible to say when the shift happened, impossible to pinpoint the exact moment when his affection for Sherlock transformed into something more significant, something… decidedly sexual.
It didn’t help to compare his relationship with Sherlock to previous relationships because everything about the way John interacted with Sherlock was absolutely unlike any relationship he’d ever had. It felt like it had happened gradually but if John really thought about it, it was obvious that that wasn’t the case.
It was as if Sherlock gave off a magnetic pull that tugged John closer ever so slightly, day by day, until John found himself instinctively doing things he never would have considered doing in his life pre-Sherlock—waking up in the middle of the night to chase murder suspects over London rooftops, digging through rubbish bins beside Sherlock to find discarded evidence, calmly picking burned fingers out of the toaster oven.
Of course, Sherlock had adapted to him too, in little ways, his own habits shifting to better incorporate John, things John never saw him do for other human beings—naturally slowing his pace when they walked together to accommodate John’s shorter gait, pausing to hold the door for him, getting out two mugs of tea whenever he wanted some.
As the boundaries between them had come down, the edges of their lives locking together as neatly as two pieces of a puzzle, the physical space between them had begun to evaporate. Their unspoken communication was almost seamless. John could anticipate when Sherlock would ask him for things, reading the question in Sherlock’s eyes when he was uncertain, reaching out to offer Sherlock his phone before Sherlock had even opened his mouth; every day drifting closer and closer to Sherlock, like a planet caught in his orbit.
It was only now that he realized how he felt, that he began to notice how close he had drifted. This realization would have been jarring enough on its own but because the knowledge had come to him from Moriarty, something about John’s desire felt perverse. Somehow, his arousal was all tangled up in the whole nightmarish experience.
Sherlock had been oddly quiet in the days afterward. Undoubtedly, the encounter had unnerved them both, but in his own way he seemed almost as affected as John. Something had shifted imperceptibly between them. They had new information about each other, about the way they related to each other, which was somehow even bigger than the near-death experience.
They had both shown their hand in terms of the way they felt about each other. It had been clear almost from the day they met that they were willing to risk their lives for one another, but when John grabbed Moriarty and told Sherlock to run, there was no mistaking the sacrifice he was prepared to make.
As much as John had wanted to believe that Sherlock was committed to him, in his day-to-day interactions with Sherlock, he’d had his doubts. However, the look on Sherlock’s face when he saw John by the pool, the sheer horror when he realized what had happened—there was no mistaking that look. John knew in that moment, Sherlock would do anything to save his life.
Add to that John’s sudden blazing awareness of his attraction to Sherlock, and he found himself suddenly ill equipped to know how to deal with any of it. John honestly didn’t know how he had remained so oblivious before. He’d never realized just how little physical space existed between them. Now, he experienced little jolts of desire like shocks of electricity, every time he and Sherlock made physical contact; which as it turned out, was all the time.
In the days immediately following the Moriarty incident, John began to notice just how often it happened. It was as if John’s sensory awareness had been turned up to maximum capacity. No detail escaped him: Sherlock’s hand brushing his as they walked, his hips angled close to John when he stood behind him, Sherlock’s long torso bending over him on the couch as he reached for his laptop. They had the sort of physical intimacy John had only ever experienced in his longest relationships, which was surprising not only due to the fact that he and Sherlock were not sleeping together and had only known each for just under a year, but also that this was Sherlock, whose aversion to other human beings was deep and unmovable. Apparently John was the exception.
He thought at first it was maybe something he could ignore. John had experienced unrequited desire in the past and he’d always come out on the other side relatively unscathed. However, with Sherlock it was different. For one thing, he’d never been living with the object of his affections. And for another, Sherlock was Sherlock, who never followed any of the conventional rules about anything. John was rapidly realizing that Sherlock had absolutely no concept of personal space, as was evidenced by almost every interaction they shared. It was impossible to ignore the flare of heat in his stomach whenever Sherlock got close to him.
It became clear to him almost immediately after their encounter with Moriarty just how serious John’s problem was.
He had woken from a nightmare that vanished as soon as he opened his eyes—the colors receding into the darkness as he fought to get his pounding heart back under control. It had been something to do with Moriarty; he couldn’t remember the details, except that he had been taunting John about Sherlock. The things he’d been saying to John—they had made his cheeks flame with embarrassment, but they had also made warmth pool in his belly, and to his horror, upon waking, John discovered he was half-hard under the covers.
He rolled over onto his side, determined to ignore the beginnings of his erection. He would not fantasize about Sherlock; that would only make things worse. He would stop this thing in its tracks before it got out of hand. He fell back asleep with his fists clenched at his sides.
He dreamed of the pool again, but this time, Moriarty was nowhere in sight. Sherlock ripped the vest from his shoulders, but after tossing it aside, he pulled John into his arms and buried his face in John’s neck.
“Oh God, I’m so sorry.”
Horribly out of character, John realized later upon reflection. Sherlock had never apologized for anything in his life as far as John knew. But in the dream, the emotion in his voice was genuine. It tore at something in the center of John’s chest.
“I’m so, so sorry.”
His arms around John’s waist were tight—he was practically crushing John against his chest. John had to put his hands between them and pull back slightly from Sherlock’s grip so he could breathe.
“It’s fine. I’m fine. Everything’s alright.”
He felt Sherlock’s breath against his neck as he exhaled in relief, but he didn’t move back.
It felt strange, seeing Sherlock so vulnerable, but it made John instinctively want to protect him. He brought his arms up around Sherlock’s shoulders and squeezed.
“Everything’s all right now.”
He could feel Sherlock trembling and something softened imperceptibly within him at the realization that Sherlock had been terrified that John would be hurt. He moved his hands up into Sherlock’s hair and began stroking very lightly, the same way his mother used to do for him when he was little and he couldn’t calm down.
Sherlock was hunched over in his arms, and John could feel the unsteady ricochet of his panicked breathing against his neck. He bent his mouth to Sherlock’s head and made soothing noises, while continuing to stroke his hair.
“Shh, it’s alright.”
Gradually, he felt Sherlock’s breathing slow, although he was still shaking.
Sherlock pulled back and then pressed his forehead to John’s. “Thank god you’re alright. For a moment there…” Sherlock’s blue eyes burned into his with the intensity of his concern.
At the look in Sherlock’s eyes, John felt something in him give way.
Taking Sherlock’s chin gently in his hand, he pulled Sherlock’s mouth to his own.
He kept his eyes open as their lips met, registering the look of shock on Sherlock’s face that quickly transformed into desire. He shut his eyes when he saw Sherlock’s close, and heard a low sound in his throat that only could have been a moan.
He threaded his fingers into Sherlock’s hair as the kiss deepened, Sherlock opening his mouth beneath John’s. John accepted the unspoken invitation, running his tongue over Sherlock’s bottom lip, eliciting another louder moan from deep within Sherlock’s throat.
After several moments, John broke away gasping, attempting to regain a semblance of control. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me, I—”
Sherlock didn’t let him finish. He kissed John hungrily, open-mouthed, his teeth scraping John’s bottom lip, his hands fisting in the material of John’s shirt to pull John closer against him.
“Oh God…” John felt his knees go weak and he knew then that he couldn’t remain standing.
Keeping his mouth on Sherlock’s, he guided them both to their knees on the hard tile. Sherlock arched against him and it was John’s turn to moan as he felt the press of Sherlock’s erection against his hip.
He pulled his hands from Sherlock’s hair to push Sherlock’s blazer from his shoulders. There was altogether too much clothing between them for John’s liking. He ran his hands over the planes of Sherlock’s chest, and was rewarded with a gasp as his fingers brushed Sherlock’s nipples. Sherlock fell back on his heels, pulling John with him.
“I’m sorry. I can’t keep upright if you’re going to do things like that.” He was breathless. John watched the rapid rise and fall of his chest through the gap in his shirt.
John grinned at him and settled himself between Sherlock’s knees. “Oh no, this is much, much better.”
His mouth found Sherlock’s again as he lowered himself down over Sherlock’s torso. He could feel the heat coming off him and for a moment he was overwhelmed by how many things he wanted to do to him; how many places he wanted to touch, and lick and suck.
Sherlock had his weight back on his elbows, and when John’s tongue began to stroke Sherlock’s, Sherlock instinctively rolled his hips against John’s. John felt a shudder course through him at the contact.
“Shit.” He broke away from Sherlock’s mouth, gasping. “Could you do that again?”
Equally breathless, Sherlock nodded and complied, this time thrusting up against John with more force so that his erection rubbed against John’s, which was straining against the fabric of his trousers.
“Sweet Jesus.” John arched his back at the sensation and Sherlock did it again, this time rising up to lick John’s neck as he did so.
John let out a strangled cry and ground down against Sherlock’s hips. “Fuck, Sherlock…”
They began moving against each other in something of a steady rhythm, both of them clearly too close to the edge for either of them to exert much control. John’s arms were trembling on either side of Sherlock as he struggled to support his own weight. Sherlock’s head was thrown back, lips parted, temples slick with sweat, his eyes dark as he gazed up at John.
“Wait…” It took all of John’s self control to still his hips. “I want…” John panted. “I want to touch you, before we come and I can’t…”
Sherlock nodded and dropped his hips, settling further back on his elbows. Just the sight of him like that, offering himself to John, was almost more than he could take.
With trembling fingers, John undid the buttons on Sherlock’s trousers and pushed the material down his hips. He groaned when he saw Sherlock’s straining cock; it was flushed deep red, the tip of it already shining with pre-come.
Reaching between them, John took it in his hand and began to stroke. He heard the sharp hiss of his breath as his fingers made contact and watched Sherlock’s eyes flutter shut as his hand started to move.
“Oh God, Sherlock…”
His hips began to move in time with the rhythm of his fist on Sherlock’s cock, grinding down against Sherlock’s thigh. He hoped Sherlock didn’t mind because at this point, he could not stop.
It was only a matter of seconds before Sherlock seized up against him, hips straining forward into John’s hand as he came with a shout, John stroking until he’d worked every ounce of liquid from Sherlock’s cock.
John followed not long after, coming in a hot burst in his own trousers against Sherlock’s leg. He supposed he should have been mildly ashamed at that but all he felt was sleepy contentment as he lowered his wet mouth to Sherlock’s and kissed him searchingly, his body sinking down to settle against Sherlock.
Sherlock kissed him back, his hands drifting down to John’s arse, tugging John tighter against him; the kisses were long and slow and deep. Despite the fact that they were lying on the cold hard tiled floor beside a swimming pool, John felt that he could have lain there kissing Sherlock for the rest of eternity.
He woke in the midst of that thought and felt the contented feeling drain out of him as he became aware of his own dark bedroom and the raging erection between his legs. He was shocked by the intensity of the sorrow he felt, realizing that he was alone, in his own room; that Sherlock had not just nearly wept out of relief for his wellbeing and then come in his hand. The feeling was more than disappointment—it filled John like an ache.
He shifted uncomfortably, all too aware that this was the kind of erection it was impossible to ignore. He let his hand drift down his belly and slip beneath the waistband of his shorts. It was fine, he reasoned, as long as he kept his thoughts on anything but his dark-haired flat mate.
He began to stroke himself, slowly at first, fighting to keep his mind carefully blank.
Don’t think about Sherlock. Don’t think about Sherlock.
He shut his eyes and tried to think of the things that he usually did when he got off, and for a little while, it worked, but then, unbidden, into his mind came the memory of Sherlock’s mouth on his neck, the hot plume of his breath as he exhaled, and John moaned aloud at the thought.
No. He forced his eyes open and pushed the thought aside. Don’t think about it. It wasn’t real. His breath began to come faster as he established a rhythm, and he pushed the sheets off his legs so he could see the movement of his own fist as he stroked.
But as soon as he began to lose himself in the sensation, he imagined the feel of Sherlock’s cock in his hand, imagined that it was Sherlock’s cock he was stroking instead of his own, and the corresponding heat in his loins was enough to make him growl in response. It was too good—for a moment he let himself get lost in the fantasy. He imagined all the parts of Sherlock he hadn’t been able to taste in the dream—he pictured himself licking the curve of Sherlock’s ear, pulling his head back by the grip in his hair—those soft, dark curls—and burying his mouth in the curve of Sherlock’s neck, sucking marks into the sensitive flesh, marks that would be visible the next day, dark purple on the pale skin of Sherlock’s throat.
John rolled over onto his stomach, and moaned into the crook of his arm. He hadn’t been so turned on by a fantasy since he could remember. He began thrusting into his own fist, imagining it was Sherlock’s body beneath his own that he was pushing into, and he sped up his movements, imaging the sounds Sherlock would make beneath him, the way his body would arch back to meet John’s.
He moaned again, louder, and pushed his face into his elbow to muffle the sound. He began to fuck his own first in earnest, clenching his other hand in the tangle of bed sheets, his movements urgent, desperate, as he imagined Sherlock encouraging him to move faster, to fuck him harder, that he needed to feel John deeper inside him. It was that thought that pushed him over the edge, and he came in hot spurts into his own fist, biting the inside of his arm to keep from crying out.
It was several moments before he collapsed on his side, his stomach sticky with his own semen, his heart hammering in his ears. He rubbed his hands over his face, a feeling of horror descending to replace the hot intensity of what he had been imagining only moments before.
Whatever this was, it was clear that it was more than just a fantasy, and John didn’t know what he was going to do about it.