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And Not Or

Chapter Text

Christchurch is relentlessly beautiful, all trees and sky and water, green and blue everywhere.

Sarah is speaking truths. They are sitting on the dock. She has her toes in the water and he stares at them as she says these things to him.

“I don’t know what I want with you,” she sums up. “And you don’t know what you want with me.”

“Yeah,” he mumbles. He wants to throw stones across the water but there aren’t any.

“He’s always at the edges,” she continues.

“Or in the bloody middle,” John says, letting out a mirthless huff.

“But it’s not a competition. Or, it doesn’t have to be.”

“I’m fairly certain Sherlock thinks it is.”

“I’m fairly certain it’s possible for Sherlock to be wrong.”

And then he does laugh. She makes him laugh, and this is awful. If he jumps in the water and slips under, will that make it better? Easier to hear? His toes seem huge next to hers. She has dainty toes.

“If he could ever understand that, or allow us both to be equally important to you . . .” She looks over to him. She won’t say more until he meets her eyes, so he does. He needs to know how that sentence ends.

“I’m very good at sharing,” she says.

He can’t quite parse that, but he knows instinctively what it could mean, what his response is.

His gaze is steady, his voice rough. “I love you.”

Her smile is sad. “And I love you.”

“And yet,” John says.

She looks away, down. “And yet.”

Chapter Text

They share a cab on the way home from the airport. Her place is closer, and when they stop on her street, the potentially awkward moment never happens. She invites him up, suitcases and all, and he knows what she means.

They drop everything in a heap in the living room and wind their arms around each other, kiss languidly in their traveling clothes. She pulls him towards the bedroom and they make love slowly, reverently, because it feels like the last time.

When he leaves, it’s strangely fine--sad, but fine--and she follows him to the door, wrapped in a blanket, to kiss him goodbye.

“It’s all right,” she reassures him. “I’ll see you Monday, barring any case-related emergency.”

He marvels at her acceptance.

“Try not to look too dashing,” she says, and her voice is suddenly fragile.

“I don’t deserve you,” he says.

“No, you don’t,” she answers plainly.

One more kiss and she shuts the door gently.

 

When he gets back to the flat, Sherlock is stretched out on the sofa, looking for all the world as though he were reading, had been for hours, and yet, John has the feeling that it’s all a charade.

“Expected you sooner,” Sherlock says, but then he lowers the book and takes a proper look at John. When Sherlock goes right back to reading, John is grateful, and hauls his luggage towards the stairs to his room.

“Mrs. Hudson brought up some of her almond biscuits,” Sherlock offers, and John pauses for a fraction of a second on the first stair.

“Ta,” he says. “I’ll be right down.”

Chapter Text

Several months pass, months full of cases and excitement but not yet one successful conversation with Sherlock about dating and boundaries. And yet maybe John’s the one who needs to work on boundaries because although he is sat across the table from Paulina, who is talking to him, he is thinking about Sherlock, who is literally miles away and also directly in his head at the same time.

Paulina deserves better. She’s intelligent and charming and beautiful and she really does have rather a large nose, John thinks uncharitably.

He drinks more wine and smiles at her and prays she never learns that Sherlock has dubbed her “The One With the Nose” because then she will most likely stop having sex with him--though she may dump him soon enough simply because he cannot stop looking at it and he’s sure she’ll catch him at it any second now.

She doesn’t. She actually wants to go home with him, and though taking her within striking distance of Sherlock seems like a really, really stupid idea, he’s halfway to drunk and all the way to horny, so they end up in his room, fucking efficiently, and he’s finding it all a bit perfunctory.

Afterwards, she seems inclined to stay and snuggles into the crook of his arm. He counts down backwards from a thousand until she seems quite asleep and then disentangles himself, cleans himself up, pulls on boxers and a t-shirt. Sex is one thing. Sleeping with her feels like a lie.

Chapter Text

Things with Paulina come to their inevitable end. John climbs the seventeen steps and instinctively knows Sherlock will be in the main room, waiting to deduce it all from his footsteps, the way he enters the room.

“Well. There’s that done, then,” Sherlock says from the window, where he stands in his dressing gown and bare feet.

John frowns at him. “What d’you mean?”

“It was only a matter of time. You’ve been averaging about six weeks per girlfriend.”

John narrows his eyes at his flatmate. “I wonder why that might be.”

Sherlock turns around at John’s tone and cocks his head at him, like he ought to know better. “John. They don’t leave you because of me.”

John shakes his head and bites his tongue, hanging his coat on its hook and moving towards the kitchen but then, no. John turns back and points at him.

“Actually, Sherlock, that’s exactly why they leave.”

Sherlock ignores this argument. “I don’t see why you want a girlfriend anyway,” he says instead.

John’s eyes widen, and he can’t form a sentence to explain.

“They get in the way,” Sherlock says, waving a dismissive hand.

“In the way of what?” John asks quietly, but his hands curl and uncurl.

“The work. Us.”

John looks down a moment. “Well. Maybe that’s not enough for me.”

He looks up then, and for an instant he sees the shock on Sherlock’s face, something akin to hurt, before Sherlock regains control over his features. He steps forward, walking around to the fireplace so that John can’t see his face.

“Well, then, at least could you find one that isn’t dull, or stupid, or ridiculous, or cold--”

“Cold?”

“--I mean, find one like Sarah; she wasn’t a complete idiot, at least.”

And John feels the words welling up in him, the kind of words that cut, that hurt, and he tamps them down, swallows them, and they are sand in his throat.

“I’m not going to talk to you about Sarah,” John says instead. Sherlock turns slightly to look at him. “You just have to understand--no. You just have to accept that I need that kind of relationship in my life--”

Sherlock opens his mouth but John shakes his head.

“No, no, not sex. I mean, yes, sex, but it’s not just sex--”

“Well, what is it then?” Sherlock demands in consternation, hands flying up as he turns to face John.

John steps closer to him, stopping behind his armchair. “It’s physical contact, yes. But from someone you have an emotional connection with, someone who cares about you, someone you care about in return,” John attempts, and he is not surprised that Sherlock needs the explanation. “Look, I know you claim to function best on a purely cerebral plane, but that’s just--”

John pauses and rubs a hand along his forehead. “Different people need different things.” It feels simplistic and inadequate, but he can’t sum it up any better.

Sherlock is quiet long enough for John to lower his hand and look up at him.  His face is a mask, and John feels guilty.

“Despite your appalling tendency to state the obvious, I actually do value your company, John.”

“I know you do, Sherlock.”

“And if consorting with uninteresting women who claim to ‘care’ about you is what makes you happy, then by all means, continue.”

John frowns. “I don’t actually require your permission.”

“No. You don’t.” Sherlock takes another step forward, taking John’s space for his own. His voice deepens. “But maybe you do require a reminder that being with me, working with me, has improved your life more than any other ‘relationship’ you’ve had. Any woman who aspires to truly care for you must understand and accept that as well.”

The corner of John’s mouth twitches up and he meets Sherlock’s gaze with his own.

“Well, then,” he says. “I’m fucked.”

It’s not what Sherlock expected, apparently, because his rare, genuine smile is tugging at his lips, and he seems unsure of himself.

“Or not, as the case may be,” Sherlock ventures quietly.

And John giggles. “Right,” he says, trying to stop, but they burst out of him again, and Sherlock truly smiles.

“Dinner?” Sherlock asks once John works through his fit.

John puffs out a breath. “Starving.”

Chapter Text

Sarah doesn’t see John very often, despite them working at the same place. She’s mostly on weekdays during the day and ends up trapped in her office, buried with more administrative duties than she’d like, and he nearly always ends up covering shifts at the last minute, usually in the evening or on weekends. She hasn’t seen him for three weeks when she knocks on his office door and enters when he says, “Come in.”

“Hello, stranger,” she greets with a smile, and she is surprised by how disproportionately glad he seems to see her.

“Oh, dear. Rough shift, was it?” she asks. It’s obviously more than that, but she gives him a way out if he isn’t in the mood to share.

“Oh. Er. Rough life,” he grumbles. He tries to shake himself out of it. “What’s up?” he asks.

“Paperwork,” she answers apologetically. “You forgot to sign a couple things.”

“Ah. Too many late nights,” he says.

He looks exhausted, but more than that, he looks sad. She smiles a little. “More ‘book events’?” she teases gently.

“Ha,” he says, though he smiles. She walks around to his side of the desk and he scoots his chair over so that she can lay the folders open on his desk.

“Where the red arrows are,” she says, pointing. There are rather a lot of them.

“Christ. Sorry.”

“It’s all right,” she says, and without thinking, sinks her fingers against his scalp and ruffles his hair.

He freezes, pen hovering over paper.

“Oh, sorry!” she is saying, embarrassed and retracting her hand. She takes a step back, but then he is standing.

“It’s fine,” he says, and his eyes are strangely intense. “Please don’t apologize."

He seems on the edge of something, and she has to ask. “Are you . . . is everything all right?”

“Yes,” he answers, but she’s not convinced. “Yes.”

She raises her eyebrows.

“Okay, not exactly. Pretty sure I’ll never have sex again. But other than that,” John says, running his hands over his brow in mortification.

So he’s seeing someone.  Was seeing someone.

“Sherlock marking his territory again?” she asks, trying very hard to keep the bitterness from entering her voice.

He looks up at her. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said.”

“No,” she shakes her head. This is going all wrong. “No, I shouldn’t have pushed--”

“God, that’s not--no,” John rushes to say. “You can ask me anything, always. Always.”

She stops trying to move away, and wonders if this is true. She knows John means it, but there are hard questions bubbling in her throat.

“So. Nothing’s changed. With him,” she asks tentatively.

“No.”

“And nothing’s changed with you.”

“What do you mean?” John asks, a hint of defensiveness entering his voice.

“You give him whatever he wants. Every time,” she explains, her voice quiet. His face has gone a bit hard at that, and she can see him misunderstanding her.

She puts a hand on his arm, and his eyes flick down to it.

“It’s all right for you to ask for what you want.” Her other hand comes up to his cheek, and he inhales sharply. “You deserve to have what you want,” she whispers.

And she seems to have set him off with her words, with her hands, because he huffs out a breath and his blue eyes are dark and shining at her like she has unlocked something inside him.

He leans into her arms, and she’s half sure he will kiss her, and completely sure that she’ll let him, but instead his face comes to rest against her neck. He makes an anguished sound and goes to pull away, but she slips her arms around to hold him, and then they’re so nearly kissing, faces sliding and nuzzling, breaths coming fast, lips parted but not meeting.  He presses his cheek against her chin, and she bares her neck to him. Her body remembers him, remembers how good they are at this.

She thinks as loudly as she can, If you need me, if you ask me, I’ll say yes.

But then, that’s the problem--the asking.

His hands slide around to hold hers, and he’s stopping, and when she looks up at him again, he looks guilty.

“This,” he says, clearing his throat. “It’s . . . not fair to you,” is all he can say.

She squeezes his hands. “It’s not fair to anybody.”

Chapter Text

Irene Adler’s alive, and John sort of wishes she weren’t, but not really, because she is somehow helping him see things more clearly.

Sherlock has the violin in his hands and faces the window.

“So. She’s alive.” John stands near the fireplace with a glass of scotch in his hands. Rocks on his heels.  “How are we feeling about that?” he asks.

The chimes signalling midnight begin to sound.  “Happy New Year, John,” Sherlock says, obviously deflecting.

But John asks immediately, “Do you think you’ll be seeing her again?”

Sherlock turns to face him, but then flips the bow gently in his hands. He lifts the violin against his chin and simply begins playing “Auld Lang Syne,” turning back to the window.

John is nothing if not patient with Sherlock, so he sits down in his armchair and takes a sip of his drink and waits for his friend to finish playing.

Sherlock sets the violin down gently, then comes to sit in his own chair by the fire.

“Why do you want to know?” He hasn’t met John’s eyes, staring into the fire instead. “Are you hoping I’ll get a girlfriend of my own? Stop running yours off?”

John chuckles a little. “No. I’ve no doubt that if you wanted a girlfriend, you’d have one.” He takes another sip of his drink and continues. “And she’s certainly interested.”

Sherlock raises an eyebrow. “But?” he prods.

“But. Girlfriends, boyfriends. Not your area,” John answers.

Sherlock’s eyes flick to him momentarily. “No.”

“But you find her . . . not boring.”

“She’s very clever,” Sherlock evades.

“Cleverer than me,” John says without thinking.

Sherlock looks at him then. “Are you jealous?”

“Yes,” John blurts.

They blink at each other in surprise, and John takes refuge in his glass, pulling a long sip and swallowing hard. He sets it down. Sherlock simply stares at John, trying to deduce him and for once having a hard time of it.

“Not. Ah. Not sexually jealous,” John attempts to clarify, and Sherlock relaxes a fraction.  John sighs. “I don’t know how to explain it.”

Sherlock’s face admits the smallest amount of vulnerability possible. “Try,” he says softly.

John sees it, knows what it cost him to let John see it, so he nods. Clears his throat.

“You’re my best friend, Sherlock. No question. And that’s not obligation, it’s not gratitude. Yes, you’ve done a lot for me. You brought me back to life, really. But I share my life with you now by choice. I’m here with you, solving cases, putting up with whatever that thing is in the fridge, all of it, because I choose to be.”

His voice is rough, and he wants to blame the drink, but he can’t. He dares to look up then, and Sherlock’s expression is so carefully open that he must continue.

“I want to be with you--here, by your side--for the rest of my life.”

His fingers rub at his forehead and he huffs out a breath, no longer caring what he sounds like. The words come out of him, quiet and fast. “And I hoped you wanted that too.”

He can’t make himself look up after that. The silence stretches long enough that John is certain he has made a grave mistake, ruined something between them. He hears Sherlock shifting out of the chair and then slim fingers are wrapping gently around his own.

“I do,” Sherlock says softly, crouching next to John’s chair.

John stares at their hands. He can’t trust his voice to work, but he tries. “Good,” he whispers. He looks at Sherlock then, locking eyes with his friend, his flatmate, his madman.  

“The rest of our lives could be quite a long time, John,” Sherlock says conversationally, and his hand remains where it is.

“God willing,” John answers automatically, his voice still quiet.

“What about girlfriends? A wife? Children?”

John stays very still. “It’s like you said. Anyone who wants to build a life with me will have to accept that you’re . . .”

No adequate description occurs to him.

“. . . part of the deal,” he decides on.

Sherlock bites at his lip and says, “That would be a special woman, indeed.”

John doesn’t say what he’s thinking, doesn’t say that Irene seems to qualify, in some ways, as special. And he doesn’t have to. Sherlock unwinds his fingers from John’s hand and waves them at him in annoyance.

“Oh, don’t be silly, John. Yes, I’m glad the woman is not dead. The world is more interesting with her in it. But that’s the extent of my regard for her.”

John raises a dubious eyebrow.

“She’s a worthy opponent,” Sherlock says, standing up. “A diversion.”

He moves towards the kitchen, but stops, resting his hand along John’s shoulder. John finds himself holding his breath.

“She’s not you,” Sherlock says softly. He grips John’s shoulder, and John is more than a bit surprised at the reassuring gesture. John reaches up to Sherlock’s hand and squeezes, surprised again when Sherlock lets him.

After a moment, Sherlock pulls away gently, and John lets him go.

“Goodnight, John,” he says, crossing through the kitchen towards his room.

“Happy New Year, Sherlock,” John replies.

Chapter Text

The storm knocked out the power to the inn nearly two hours ago and the temperature in the room has dropped dramatically. John tries to sleep, but his toes are numb. He finally puffs out a breath of frustration and heaves himself out of bed. He digs through his bag with frozen fingers and pulls on a jumper over his t-shirt and an extra pair of socks.

He hears a squeaking noise out in the hall, and there’s a rap at the door. He pads over to answer it.

“Brought some supplies,” the innkeeper says, indicating a wheeled cart near him that is full of firewood. He comes in, and John goes to open the flue.

The innkeeper hands newspaper and fat wood to him.

“Power’s out through the whole county. Land line’s still working if you need it,” he explains. He is elderly and a bit frail, and John is certain he shouldn’t be kneeling on the stone hearth. Even his own knees are complaining with the cold.

Sherlock stays in his bed, burrowed into his covers.

“Thank you, that’s very kind,” John fills in as the flames catch. “Need help with anything?” He rises, automatically putting out a hand to help the old man up.

The innkeeper takes the offered hand and pulls up to standing. “Ta, but no, it’s but the five rooms, and everyone’s got a fire now.”

He smiles and ambles towards the door, which John opens for him, letting him out with a small smile. He closes and locks the door behind him.

“For God’s sake, come over here,” John says to Sherlock. “I can see you shivering from here.”

John begins pulling the mattress off his own twin bed, and Sherlock unearths himself from his blankets and moves over to help him lay it near the fire. As Sherlock tucks himself onto the mattress, sitting with his toes stretched towards the flames, John grabs the comforter that has fallen to the floor.  

Without hesitation, John settles in right next to Sherlock, tucking the comforter around them both until only their faces and Sherlock’s toes peek out.

“My nose is cold,” Sherlock complains.

John reaches up and places a gentle hand at the back of Sherlock’s head, tipping him forward until Sherlock’s nose is safely tucked in the crook of his neck.

“There,” John says. “Better?”

“Yes,” Sherlock says against his skin.

 

In the morning, the fire is out, the heat is back on, and Sherlock is snuggled up alongside him. Beneath the comforter, their limbs tangle together. Sherlock’s long legs intertwine with John’s, and his nose is still nestled in John’s neck.

John finds he doesn’t mind.

Eventually Sherlock stirs and blinks up at him, lifting his head away in surprise.

“Morning,” John greets with a sleepy smile.

“Morning,” Sherlock answers, his tone cautious.

“Good thing you don’t wiggle too much in your sleep, or I’d have ended up in the fire,” John says.

“Good thing,” Sherlock says, still not sounding like himself.

John closes his eyes again. “For being so skinny, you make a good pillow,” he mumbles. He is warm and comfortable and would like to drift off to sleep again, but he knows the odds are not good.

Sure enough, Sherlock tenses suddenly and struggles to sit up.

“John!”

“Mmph.”

“It’s stopped raining!”

“Fantastic deduction.”

He can feel Sherlock frown at him. “No time to lay about; we’ve got to get to the grange immediately and examine the barn for evidence.” Sherlock is up and bounding across the room to get dressed.

John sighs. “Fine. Yes, all right.” He pushes himself up and runs a hand over his face. The bed seems cold now anyway.

Chapter Text

That afternoon, on the drive home, Sherlock steals looks at John from the passenger seat. John notices, but he’s choosing not to say anything yet.  Observing John has not led Sherlock to any conclusions other than that John is no more or less talkative than usual, no more or less tired than usual, nothing but usual.

And yet.

“You’re not gay,” Sherlock blurts.

John coughs. “Um, ahem. No,” he answers, keeping his eyes on the road.

Sherlock frowns. He wants to continue, but all he has is questions. John helps him out.

“Are you . . . concerned about the . . .”

Yes. What to call it?

“Co-sleeping?” John attempts.

It’s a ridiculous word, but the thought of saying “snuggling” or “cuddling” instead makes Sherlock shudder.

“Yes,” he says simply.

John is quiet for a moment. “Did it . . . make you feel uncomfortable?”

“No,” Sherlock answers. “Did it . . .”  

This is an intolerable conversation.

Sherlock tries again. “Were you? Uncomfortable, I mean.”

“No.”

Sherlock rolls his eyes. Good Lord, they are never going to get anywhere like this. He huffs and then the questions tumble out of him.

“Were you aroused?”

“No,” John answers firmly.

“But you were comfortable?”

“Yes.” Answered equally firmly.

“And why were you comfortable?”

“I dunno. Because I was warm, and you were warm, and it seemed . . . nice.”

“‘Nice’ in what way?”

“‘Nice’, like in the way that it was not objectionable; ‘nice’ like . . . affectionate.”

“And,” Sherlock pauses only briefly. “Is that. Is that what you feel, affection?”

John clears his throat. “I feel many things towards you,” he answers, and Sherlock senses a joking sort of irritation behind his tone. “Affection being one of them.”

Sherlock sits very still at that. It seems rather improbable that after all this time together, they are only beginning to discuss these things, but there is nothing for it. Last night he had been given an opportunity to experience what a physically affectionate life with John Watson might be like. He has observed John not behaving any differently afterwards, simply treating it like something normal and natural, nothing to be concerned about, and that has allowed a tiny bud of hope to grow within him.

Sherlock looks over to John once more. Fairly calm. Loose grip on the steering wheel. Only a slight look of befuddlement on his features.

He turns to stare out the windscreen at the vaguely bucolic scenery. “I’m not gay either.”

“Okay,” John says.

Sherlock keeps his eyes forward and reminds himself that giving in to fear has never gotten him anywhere.

“I’m asexual.”

There is a pause, and then John says, “Okay,” in the same tone as before.

Sherlock rubs the nail of his middle finger along the length of his thumb, over and over.  John clears his throat again.

“All right, so, as you know, my sister’s gay, but what you may not know is how much she talked my ear off about sexuality when we were teenagers. I mean, it was the only topic that was of any interest to her for the longest time. I am, also, a doctor, you may have noticed. So I’m not, you know, completely dim on the subject,” John offers.

Sherlock raises one eyebrow.

“So I know that there’s a . . . spectrum. Each person defines it for themselves, and that definition can be--” John paused. “Amended.”

And then John does glance over to him, his features open but also knowing. “And I’m going to assume that you want to talk about your definition of it, or you wouldn’t have brought this up at all.”

Sherlock looks away, half-wishing John had been a little less perceptive.  Fine.

“I abhor labels.”

“So don’t use them.”

Sherlock frowns, but continues. “I have no interest in participating in the physical act of sex. None whatsoever.”

“Which is fine,” John interjects.

“I know it’s--” And then they’re both smiling a bit at that, and Sherlock feels the tension slowly begin to ebb.

“I’ve never had much of a sex drive. I have no desire in that sense,” Sherlock says. “And before you ask, yes, I masturbate, though rarely, and no, there’s nothing medically wrong with me.”

“All right,” John says, still maddeningly neutral. “So, what were you thinking this morning, then, when we woke up. Like that.”

“Why do you ask questions you already know the answers to?”

John sighs. “Forgive me if I think this is something I shouldn’t guess about.”

Sherlock remains stubbornly silent.

“Fine. I think you like nonsexual physical closeness, but that you might jump out of this car if I call it ‘cuddling.’”

“Yes,” Sherlock answers quickly, mostly to cut off the dreaded word. “But not exactly.”

“This is --” John glances upward as though for guidance, “--an impossible conversation.”

Sherlock nods because he can not agree more.

“An important conversation, and you deliberately bring this up when I’m driving and can’t look at you for more than two seconds.”

Sherlock scowls. John really is becoming entirely too insightful.

“Look, I think we’ve established by now that I’m rubbish at deducing, so you’re going to have to tell me what you want.”

Sherlock thinks he might rather jump out of the car.

“I’m going to say this once and never repeat it,” he pronounces.

John stays still and doesn't look at him. “I’m listening.”

“What happened last night was . . . good. But it’s not something I would enjoy in general. It’s specific to you.”

Sherlock listens to John breathe and feels that he might be, in truth, dying, waiting for John to respond.

“What else do you like?” John asks. “Or think you might like. With me.” His words, his tone, are so very soft and careful.

Sherlock shudders and grabs at the door handle. “Stop the car.”

“What? Here?”

But Sherlock really is opening the door, and John pulls over quickly to the side of the road. Sherlock bounds out of the car, and begins pacing, as John gets out on his side and walks around to him. There’s a fence, so Sherlock can’t properly escape, and he feels like climbing one of the trees and hiding.

“Hey, it’s okay,” John says, putting out a hand in a supplicating gesture. “We don’t have to talk about this right now.”

Sherlock shakes his head. “No, no, it’s too late for that. It’s like a runaway train.” He waves his hands near his head.

“Oh, well, that bodes well.” John sighs, but then Sherlock slides his hands into his hair and tugs.

“Hey, I’m kidding, it’s going to be fine,” John says more gently. Sherlock sees his hands hesitating, clearly not sure if reaching out to him is a good idea or not. Sherlock groans and slides down to the ground, his back against the rear tire of the car.

“Okay,” John says, moving to sit next to him. He puts a hand on Sherlock’s back, very gently, and the vacillation behind it sickens him, makes him regret asking the first question that started all this.

“So. This is new,” John says calmly. His hand moves in small circles on Sherlock’s back. “But it’s--”

“If you say ‘fine’ one more time--”

“It’s good, okay? Just give me a minute.”

His touch becomes firmer, more natural, and Sherlock relaxes a fraction.

“I’m open to figuring it out as we go, okay? Nothing has to be decided right now.”

Sherlock huffs out a breath and sinks his head against John’s chest. “Can we please stop talking about this now?”

“Yes.”

John smiles and squeezes Sherlock’s shoulder.

After a moment, Sherlock lifts his head, and soon they are both getting up and getting back in.

John nods tightly once and starts the car.

Chapter Text

Sarah is ready to stick a fork into the back of her hand.

“So when your Great Uncle Beaumont was just a wee lad, we all moved out into the country, and well, that really was the beginning of it all, let me tell you--”

Despite all her deft avoidance maneuvers, Sarah is trapped next to her Great Aunt Giselle, who is pushing ninety and notorious for telling the same interminable stories of her youth over and over again. Sarah has heard this particular tale many times in her thirty-seven years, and she knows that she is about to lose twenty to thirty minutes of her life listening to it yet again.

Thirty-seven.

Her eyes glance over the hall, her family gathering for her cousin’s wedding reception. So many gingery heads ranged at tables around her. So many wives and mothers.

Knowing that she is only required to nod and hum at the prescribed pauses, Sarah’s mind wanders as the story continues.

So many children.

She has never yearned for children the way some of her friends have, as though life simply could not be complete until they had experienced motherhood.  Any romantic notions about marriage or parenthood she may have had have been wiped away by reality, by half a lifetime of seeing the best and worst of love within her own family.

And yet, lately, she is finding life a bit . . .

Lonely.

Quiet.

Dull.

And, here, surrounded by the chatter of nearly two hundred people, she feels alone. Overlooked. Loved, yes, but in the abstract. The specifics are not of interest. Sarah is gripped by the sudden urge to dye her hair purple, to wear too much eyeliner and punky black outfits, to declare publicly:

I have sex.

I have stared down abusive husbands until the police arrive.

I have fought off Chinese gangsters.

I have fallen desperately in love with a man who is probably in love with someone else and I will not get back together with him because I respect myself.

Because it certainly seems that John Watson and Sherlock Holmes are more involved with each other than ever.  

Three days ago, she had gone to the cafeteria at St. Bart’s to meet a friend. Arriving early, Sarah got coffee and sat facing the main door and the wall of glass with a view to the hallway outside so as to catch sight of her friend.

What she saw instead was John and Sherlock, coming off the lift. Before she could register any one emotion of her own, she noticed Sherlock’s excitement, John’s grim face. Sherlock bounced ahead down the hallway a ways before noticing that John had stopped, hands clenched, gaze to the floor. Sherlock returned, stopping quite close, leaning against the wall, saying something.

John shook his head.

And then Sherlock inclined his head until their foreheads touched. His hand nearest the wall came forward and clasped John’s fist, sliding around it until John unclenched and then for a moment, their fingers intertwined. John said something, and the detective smiled.

An instant later, Sherlock was off again down the hallway, John grinning to himself and following a pace behind.

Sarah had found herself overwhelmed, jumbled, conflicting emotions clamoring inside her. She abandoned her coffee, texted a note to cancel the plans with her friend, and ended up crying in an empty stairwell with nothing but scratchy cafeteria napkins to blow her nose, to press against her eyelids to stop the hot, stinging tears.

And now, sitting across from her great aunt, she nods and hmms and wonders what it means. Because she thinks it means it’s over.  

Whatever might have happened with her and John--

Whatever balance she was hoping John could strike between Sherlock’s desires and his own--

Her hope is gone. Her tears are gone.

She is going to die of boredom in this very chair and no one will ever know how interesting and strong she actually was.

“Sarah! There you are!” says a bright voice to her left, and Sarah startles as though she had been asleep. She looks up to see her absolute favorite cousin beaming down at her. Ginny is six years younger than her, already has found and married the love of her life and had no less than three children, and yet she never makes Sarah feel defective or behind or boring.

“Sorry to interrupt, but I simply have to steal Sarah from you, Great Aunt Giselle,” Ginny says, and Sarah could kiss her right then. Ginny puts her hand around Sarah’s arm and urges her to stand. “The little ones are doing my nut in--you know how it is,” Ginny continues, smiling apologetically. “So I’ve come to enlist Sarah as co-wrangler.”

“Yes, dear, of course,” the elderly woman says, willing to do anything to help a fellow wife and mother and probably hoping Ginny’s example will rub off on Sarah.  She waves them off and Ginny leads Sarah directly to the bar.

“Here,” she says, handing Sarah a glass of something amber-colored that smells enticingly flammable.

“Bless you,” Sarah says, taking a sip. Whatever it is, it is perfect. “And the kids?”

Ginny waves a hand and shakes her head. “Oh, no, they’re with their father. His turn to be on-duty,” she answers. “I say we go find a corner to hide in until cake time.”

Sarah smiles and lifts her drink. “Cheers.”

“Cheers,” her cousin responds, raising her own glass. “Now come and tell me absolutely everything.”

Sarah smiles and thinks maybe she will do just that.

Chapter Text

The day is rainy and boring, but Sherlock is finding domesticity slightly less dull than he used to. John sits in his armchair, holding a book but not really reading it, as Sherlock dismantles a printer on the floor by the desk.

“How do you feel about kissing?”

Something small pops out from the printer’s innards and Sherlock frowns. “I don’t enjoy it.”

“Okay.”

A thought occurs to Sherlock and he turns to look at John. “Do you enjoy it?”

“I very much enjoy kissing women.”

“Have you kissed men?”

John shifts in his seat. “Yes.”

So. Didn’t like it, then. Not sexually interested in men, but open enough to try it at one point, perhaps influenced by Harry’s experiences.

“What are you going to do about sex?” Sherlock asks, scrunching his eyebrows.

John’s face scrunches up in return. “What d’you mean?”

“You haven’t had sex with anyone in at least two months, and you haven’t had a girlfriend for nearly twice that.”

“That’s hardly a record for time gone without sex,” John counters.

Sherlock dips his chin and stares hard at John.

“Yes, okay, I don’t exactly have an answer to that right now.”

Sherlock turns back to the printer.

Half an hour later he says, “You know that I don’t expect you to give it up for . . . me.”

John looks up from his book and is clearly trying to grasp the thread of the conversation.

“Sex. You don’t have to give up sex.”

“I . . .” John closes his mouth. “Thank you.”

“The logistics of it are quite simple. You could certainly arrange for--”

John sits up straight. “No, no, there won’t be any of that. No.”

So, no prostitution. Not surprising, though it would a direct solution.

John shakes his head and tries again. “I . . .”

Sherlock looks him over. Lips pursed, fingers of left hand curling and uncurling. Anxious.

“It’s not just sex for me, Sherlock, though, sure, there was a time when that was all I was looking for. But I need more than that, now.” John looks down and adds softly, “A lot more.”

Ah. John is looking for the impossible woman. The woman who loves John and accepts Sherlock. He sees the lines around John’s eyes and finds himself compelled.

“While I consider myself without equal, I’m hardly the only extraordinary person we’ve come across. It’d be stupid to stop searching simply because you have high standards,” Sherlock declares, turning back to the printer carcass.

He can hear John’s surprise and smirks down at the carpet. Yes, I have the capacity to be reassuring; put that on your bloody blog.

When he sneaks a look later, the tightness around John’s eyes is gone.

 

Chapter Text

John curls his fingers around the back of Sherlock's head and chuckles to himself.

"Don't say it," Sherlock warns, having already forbidden any analogies between himself and a cat.

A couple of months into this new aspect of their relationship, they are finding the edges.

No touching while Thinking. None around the Yarders, except Lestrade, who seems unsurprised by anything they do these days.

An occasional squeeze of the hand in public is fine. Leaning against each other in cabs is fine wonderful perfect.

But this is one of their favorites--on the sofa, John reclined and watching telly or reading a book, Sherlock sprawled half on top of him, head nestled against John's belly, John's fingers running over his scalp, through his hair.

John just chuckles again, and removes his hand to turn the page of his novel. Sherlock nudges with his face at the edge of John's grey t-shirt until he can nuzzle against the warm, soft skin and silky hair of John's belly directly. He settles, and John's fingertips return to furrow his scalp.

Sherlock closes his eyes and does not purr.

x-x-x

In the morning, Sherlock wakes up and frowns at finding himself alone in bed. He hears John in the kitchen, swearing mightily at the toaster.

It's cold, but Sherlock gets up, pulls on his warmest dressing gown. John is showered and fully dressed and glaring at the appliance in question.

"Problem?"

John's voice comes fast and thick with irritation. "Bloody toaster. Only has one setting, apparently--burnt."

John tosses the charred toast into the bin under the sink and slams the cabinet shut. He goes back to his coffee, scowling as he drinks.

"This isn't about the toaster," Sherlock declares. He moves past John, reaching around him to get his own mug for coffee, as John has neglected to offer and seems unlikely to do so.

"Oh, really? What's it about, then?"

"This is about what happened earlier."

Now John is scowling at Sherlock. He sets down his mug. "It's fine."

Sherlock raises an eyebrow at him. Considers calling him out. "John, it's perfectly natural; there's no reason to--"

"Christ, I know it's natural, thank you, I just--" John stops himself from babbling. "That is going to happen sometimes when we . . . co-sleep--"

"Obviously."

John frowns. "--for various reasons, all right, but none of those reasons mean that I have sexual feelings towards you--"

"Also obvious."

"Nor do I expect you to . . . do anything about it."

Sherlock huffs. "I know you don't, and yet you're distressed by what was clearly an unwanted, unintentional erection. What I'm telling you is that you needn't be. I'm not repulsed or uncomfortable or bothered by it in any way."

John presses his lips together. "It's fine."

Sherlock sighs. "John. Your sexual frustration could power our flat; don't tell me 'it's all fine'."

"Right. Okay." John turns and dumps the last of his coffee into the sink and mumbles, "I'll figure something out."

"I've already told you the solution."

"Oh, right. The mythical perfect woman who will put up with both of us," John says mockingly. He turns and meets Sherlock's gaze, shaking his head as he speaks. "There is no such person, Sherlock."

Sherlock narrows his eyes. His voice is rough with accusation. "You're not even looking for her."

Sherlock sees the muscles along John's jaw contract as he clenches his teeth, sees him purse out his lips and nod.

"Right," John says, glaring out the kitchen window. "I'm late."

John turns abruptly and begins to walk towards the sitting room.

"For what?" Sherlock calls after him.

But John ignores him, grabbing his coat and fleeing down the stairs without a backward glance.

For a moment, Sherlock considers following him, but then the answer strikes him.

Of course.

Anxious. Irritated. Wearing his best "I'm a normal person" jumper.

John has an appointment with Ella.

Chapter Text

At first it was just a feeling creeping up the back of her neck, an extrasensory tickle that someone was watching her.  But now Sarah’s fairly certain that Sherlock Holmes is following her, has been all afternoon. She can see him two tables away, dressed in black trousers and turtleneck with a grey sport coat, his hair slicked back in ebony waves. It’s a subtle disguise, but enough that he wouldn’t be recognized immediately as the great detective.

Sarah thinks he’s not trying very hard to hide himself.

Her date, Gabriel, is talking and talking about something. He has dark brown eyes and tan, expressive hands, and he has monopolized the conversation from the moment he met her at the restaurant. Sarah has given up trying to have an actual conversation with him and is already regretting having agreed to meet him for dinner as their first date rather than coffee.

Well. Sherlock may as well make himself useful.

She smiles and nods at Gabriel and moves one hand to the outside of her thigh. Her index finger gives nine taps on a loop---three fast, three slow, three fast.

Gabriel is talking and talking, and doesn’t notice when Sherlock comes over to stand beside him.

“Hello, darling,” Sherlock begins, a truly convincing smile on his face. He steps over to Sarah and leans in to give her a kiss on the cheek.

This should be fun.

She tilts her head to receive his kiss. “Oh! I didn’t expect to see you,” she improvises.

Sherlock is stealing an empty chair from a nearby table and settling in near Sarah. “I know, but I couldn’t bear to wait,” he says, smiling apologetically.

Gabriel is displeased. “I’m sorry; who are you?”

“Jared,” Sherlock answers, putting out his hand. Gabriel shakes it automatically, his brows drawn.

“Oh, yes, I’m sorry, Gabriel, this is Jared--” and Sarah can’t resist the opportunity to both end things with Gabriel and make Sherlock uncomfortable, “--my husband.”

Gabriel is silent, but his brows climb upward.

“Yes; I’m sorry if it’s a bit of a shock,” Sherlock says, picking up the thread without hesitation. His approachable, open body language feels surreal, and she swallows down a nervous giggle. “Sarah and I were so hoping you could be our third, and I’m overeager, I’m afraid.”

Sarah simply smiles over at Gabriel and decides to delete her profile on that particular dating site just as soon as she can.

Gabriel blinks. Stands.

“Thank you, both, for an . . . interesting evening.”

He doesn’t offer to shake hands, and nearly leaves a cloud of dust in his hurried retreat.

Sarah watches Sherlock’s features drop back into their usual arrangement, complete with a dramatic rolling of his eyes. He shifts his chair to sit across from her.

“Really, Dr. Sawyer. Your date couldn’t have been laced any straighter had he been a corset,” Sherlock says, pouring wine into the glass that Gabriel clearly had not used. “Won’t even drink wine with dinner.”

Sarah watches him take a sip. “Muss your hair or something. You still look weird.”

He frowns at her, but runs a hand through his locks, liberating a curl or two to fall across his brow.

She takes a sip of her own.

She knows Sherlock is only here because of something to do with John--he has no other reason to seek her company or advice--and yet it can’t be an emergency, or he wouldn’t have bothered with any sort of disguise at all. No, it must be something less urgent, but still serious, something--

Jesus.

“Trouble in paradise?” she quips, not bothering to hide the bitterness she still feels, the image of him holding hands with John in the hospital hallway stinging her anew.

Sherlock looks up at her sharply, but says nothing.

Sarah pushes her wineglass away. Glances down at her lap. “Not sure I’m the best one to be giving relationship advice.”

She looks up into his eyes straight on. Sherlock looks as though he’s about to argue, claim he’s not in a relationship, but then he drops his gaze. He turns the wineglass in his fingers and stares at the wine sliding around and around.

“He’s unhappy.”

She really can’t stop herself. “And that bothers you?”

“Of course it bothers me.”

She had wanted to say more, to say how much of John’s unhappiness Sherlock is responsible for, but he answered her so quickly, so heatedly, and the realization is a slap, cold water on her face. “You love him.”

Sherlock swirls and swirls. “Yes.”

She looks away for a moment. Her words are soft but distinct. “So do I.”

“That’s why I’m here,” Sherlock replies, and the added obviously is no less clear for being silent.

She raises an eyebrow at him. More, Sherlock. Give me more.

He puts the glass down. “He won’t . . . ask for what he wants.”

“No. He won’t,” she replies immediately, and Sherlock actually looks surprised. It’s flattering and aggravating at the same time. “Why do you think we broke up, Sherlock? Didn’t you deduce that, as well?”

Sherlock’s gaze has turned remote again, but he is listening.

“He was already half in love with you then.”

“He’s not . . . ‘in love’ with me,” Sherlock protests.

“What would you call it, then?”

He looks down. “We are . . . devoted to each other. But neither of us want to . . . it’s not sexual.”

She wants to argue that it’s still love, sex or not, but she also knows how hard it must be for Sherlock to approach her, to talk about this with her. She lets the silence fill the gap for a moment until she thinks of what to say.

“He didn’t know, then. He didn’t know why things weren’t working for us.”

Sherlock’s eyes narrow at her. “But you did.”

Sarah sighs, purses her lips as she wonders how to explain it. “I knew that you were the most important person in his life. That you probably always will be.”

She sees him bristle at the “probably,” but continues. “And John’s an honorable man, in the end. He knew he couldn’t commit himself to me the way he thought he was supposed to. So it ended.”

“Supposed to?”

“He thought he had to choose between us. He didn’t think he could have both.”

For a moment, pain crosses Sherlock’s face, and though he hides it almost instantly, she sees the heartbreaking doubt there. “Can he, though?”

Sarah looks at him until he meets her gaze. “Yes.”

Sherlock blinks at her.

If that’s what he wants--”

“I know it’s what he wants,” Sherlock says quickly, voice pitched low.

Sarah sits back in her chair and squints at him. “How, exactly, do you know?”

“After John left this morning, I took the opportunity to gather data--”

Sarah frowns.

“--and John has been corresponding with his hopeless therapist--”

“Corresponding privately,” Sarah interjects.

“--about you and me, along with several heartfelt but unsent emails addressed to you which--”

“Sherlock.” Her tone stops his words, but she can see him vibrating with the need to continue. “Whatever John is hoping for, I need to hear it from him, not from you.”

Sherlock flicks a frustrated hand at her. “We just agreed that he won’t tell you!”

She gives her head a frustrated shake. “Because he thinks he knows the answer! But he doesn’t, and neither do I, and neither do you, even.”

Sherlock scrunches up his face. “You are the answer.”

“Why? Shall I just go offer him my magical vagina and that’ll solve it? ‘Oh, Sarah will provide the sex, so there’s that sorted, then’,--is that what you thought?”

“No,” Sherlock says too quickly.

“Liar.”

In his cashmere and wool, Sherlock Holmes pouts.

Sarah shakes her head a little and glances down at her watch. “Look. His shift ends in about ninety minutes. I’ll go meet him at the surgery, and then bring him to Baker Street.”

Sherlock says nothing.

“Where the three of us will sit down and discuss this.”

His eyes widen with something akin to horror.

“This won’t work if we don’t . . . communicate.”

A shudder works its way over his features, and he exhales heavily. “Fine.”

She expects him to bolt, but instead he continues to twirl the wineglass in his fingers, his gaze riveted to the red waves within. She’s never seen him flummoxed, and she imagines it’s rare for him to feel so.

“You’re welcome to stay and eat, if you like,” she offers as casually as she can muster.  “Gabriel ordered the duck.”

“Of course he did,” he answers.

It’s not a yes. But it’s not a no, either, and Sarah knows. Omissions are important. The unsaid has weight and volume.

And Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are fucking icebergs.

Chapter Text

Sarah is sat outside John’s door, waiting for him to finish up with his last patient, and she can’t stop the fluttery feeling that swoops through her, barely tethered butterflies in her belly, her heart, her throat. For a panicked moment, she wonders if she’ll hold together, or if she’ll simply split, a thousand pieces of herself winging away in a thousand directions.

Because even though she remained admirably calm whilst Sherlock Holmes told her, in his own way, I’ll share him because he loves you, now she is losing the war against hope and desire, and they spread and flap their wings inside of her.

The door opens and her heart stops.

John is saying goodbye to someone. John has his sleeves rolled up. John is looking at her.

“Hi,” he says.

“Hi.” Her voice is weak and squeaky. She can’t feel her legs but somehow she’s standing, walking.

She goes straight into his office, and he must see something on her face because he closes the door behind them both.

She is only a step in front of him. She can feel his eyes on her. She can feel his confusion.

She should explain.

She means to explain.

But when she turns, he’s so close, and his eyes are so open, just beginning to show concern alongside the curiosity, and she shudders with a want that has been waiting for far too long.

A whimper escapes her, a poor version of the battle cry she feels sounding inside of her, and she launches herself forward one step.

Her arms slide up around his neck, his own arms come around instantly to wrap around her waist, and though it happens so quickly, he’s ready.

When she presses her lips to his, the only thoughts in her head are pleas--let this be true, let this be real, please please please.

His deep, resounding echo comes back to answer her, his lips as warm, as eager, as solid as her own. She sighs out her fear and tangles her fingers into his hair. He pulls her closer, angles his head to build long, slow kisses between them, and her body shivers in response.

“All right?” John asks, leaning his forehead against hers.

“Mmm.” She tries to nod, but her head tilts forward, and she nuzzles his cheek instead.

“I should explain,” she breathes against his skin.

“Maybe,” he says, and his hands come to rest at the small of her back.

She tugs down on the butterflies’ leashes and looks up at him. “Sherlock came to see me.”

Chapter Text

John clutches Sarah’s hand and they don’t talk.

The cab ride home is too long. Isn’t long enough.

John wonders if it’s possible to be felled by too many emotions. Could a heart actually stop, just give up, because it doesn’t know what to do with the shocking number and variety of feelings that grip it, stream through it?

He wants more than anything to believe what Sarah has told him. That Sherlock came to her, told her the truth, invited her into their lives. He can’t bring himself to get angry about the way it came about. It’s not like he’s had any expectation of privacy with Sherlock anyway. Not in a long, long time.

The cab stops, and John’s not ready. His hand squeezes hers and she brings her other hand to rest on top of his.

They pay and make it to the front door, and John halts, dropping his head as nervous giggles bubble up in his throat. How is this my life, how is this real . . .

He manages the door, and as they step inside he hears the violin going in screechy stops and starts, sounds that mean Sherlock is improvising, and it isn’t going well.

“See,” Sarah says from beside him. “You’re not the only one who’s nervous.”

And John looks back at her and thinks this might just work out.

 

He makes it up the stairs by forcing himself not to think.  It works and it doesn’t -- the thoughts still flit through him, but he propels himself to the door of the flat.  Sarah is a pace behind him. John waits until she is even with him to open the door.

Sherlock has his back to them, facing the long window left of their desks. The tortured, half-composed melody stutters but continues.

John watches for a moment, Sherlock’s fingers dancing along the neck, his arm dipping and rising as he bows. It occurs to him that Sherlock may not be able to stop; for all his efforts to bring things to a head, Sherlock appears as unsure as John has ever seen him, the violin filling in as some sort of compass in these uncharted waters, and not very well, at that.

They need to talk.

So John begins by not talking at all. He steps over to his friend, close enough that Sherlock can surely feel him there, only inches away. John waits, and in a moment Sherlock  is leaning just that much closer. John smiles, and slides his right arm around Sherlock from behind, his hand coming to rest at Sherlock’s belly. Sherlock continues playing, the notes disorganized and too soft, and John feels Sherlock’s sharp intake of breath, the muscles undulating under his hand.

So nervous.

John shakes his head. How could he doubt? How could he think John would be anything but grateful?

He presses his face into the valley between Sherlock’s shoulder blades, his five o’clock shadow catching on the silky fabric of Sherlock’s dressing gown as he nuzzles there, as he tightens his arm around Sherlock’s waist.

Sherlock lowers the violin. He collects the bow in the same hand as the instrument, his right hand now free to curl around John’s, to line up their forearms and press them together.

John smiles against Sherlock’s back, and when he reaches out with his left hand, Sarah’s fingers find him instantly, slipping to intertwine with his.

Though he still feels surreal, like he’s navigating an alien sea, he also feels better. He clears his throat and lifts his head from between Sherlock’s shoulders.

His voice sounds soft in his own ears. “All right. Good,” he says with a sharp nod.

 

They end up sitting around the mostly cleared off desk in the sitting room. Sherlock’s fingers drum along the smooth wood of the desk. Sarah crosses and uncrosses her arms. John feels like he should say something, as if he’s somehow the leader here and though thoughts bubble up, he can’t seem to speak them; they burst at the surface, won’t hold their shape.

Surprisingly, Sherlock speaks first. What he says is less surprising.

“What exactly is the point of this conversation we’re not having?”

“Sherlock.”

“I’ve been utterly clear on my . . . feelings--,” a shudder runs over his face as he says the word, “--and unless we’re to discuss the logistics of our arrangement, I fail to see the point of this . . .” He waves a hand at the air between them.

John frowns, but Sarah says, “All right. Let’s discuss logistics, then.” He could kiss her (again) for speaking up, is grateful to both of them for starting without him, as he is still trying to parse the knowledge that they both care enough about him to try to make this work.

“Fine. Are you planning on living here?” Sherlock asks, his cool blue eyes narrowing in on Sarah.

“I think we’re a ways off from that,” Sarah answers.

“Are you going to sleep here?” Sherlock continues.

Sarah glances at John. “That’s entirely possible.”

Probable, John thinks. Very likely. He finds himself nodding a little at them both.

Sherlock looks ready to continue his interrogation, and John has a hand half-raised to stop him when Sarah jumps in.

“How often do you . . . co-sleep?”

John feels a irrepressible urge to clear his throat, and coughs inelegantly, but neither Sarah nor Sherlock seem to notice. Sherlock answers without pausing.

“On average, three nights a week, but it’s entirely dependent on circumstances; there is no schedule or predictable pattern as of yet.”

“And where?”

“Either bedroom. As I said, there is no pattern.”

“Ah. Well. What happens if I’m here, then?”

Sherlock narrows his eyes. “What do you mean?”

“What if John and I go upstairs and have sex in that lovely big bed of his, fall asleep together, and yet circumstances exist such that you want to co-sleep with him that evening?”

Sherlock draws his brows together, but John knows he’s more irritated with himself than with Sarah’s bluntness. He’s kicking himself for not having thought everything through before bringing Sarah into it.

John clears his throat intentionally this time. “Look,” he begins. “I think that, erm. I think that we’re all going to have to play . . . this . . . by ear.” He gives Sarah a reassuring smile, but the shape of her lips shows she is not satisfied with his answer. He looks over to Sherlock; crystal blue eyes dart to his. Dart away.

Right.

John swallows his own insecurities and reminds himself that of the three of them, he’s the one receiving all the promises, all the words and actions of love. He fills his voice with calm.

“We’ve only got one sticking point here, really. And it’s nothing to do with me. Somehow, in all of this, I’ve got the both of you . . . declaring your feelings for me. And I--ah. I feel like the luckiest man in England right about now. But this little triad or whatever we’re calling it won’t work unless you two figure out how to be around each other.” And John feels his belly tightening, because that’s it, isn’t it? That’s the crux of the whole thing, the missing line to connect the three endpoints.  

Sherlock looks very much like he would like to walk over to the nearest window and jump out of it.

Sarah’s a little less dismayed, but only just.

John focuses on Sherlock, nearly pulling him back into the conversation with his gaze, trying to put his reassurance, his gratitude into his eyes. John reaches out, sliding his hand over Sherlock’s, easily slipping his fingers around Sherlock’s. He feels an answering squeeze, feels the tightening of slender fingers around his own.

Sherlock takes a fortifying breath and turns to Sarah.

“Fine. I think you’re somewhat intelligent, often resourceful, braver than you let on, and John loves you so I’m willing to . . . accept your presence in our lives.”

It’s more than John expected, and he looks over to Sarah, whose one raised eyebrow reflects her own surprise. John reaches out to her instinctively, hope threading through him as he threads his fingers between hers.

Her fingers hold his, skin warm against skin, and he marvels at it for a moment, feeling each of them in his hands.

Sarah nods once. “All right.” She waits until Sherlock is looking at her, and continues. “Well.  I think you’re amazing, and difficult, and I think you wanted to say ‘tolerate’ instead of ‘accept’, but you amended it because you love John and you want this to work.”

John feels a flutter in Sherlock’s fingers, sees him tilt his head just the slightest bit to the left, a gesture John knows means more than just the concession it suggests; it means respect. John tightens his hold on Sherlock’s hand, telegraphing gratitude through his fingertips.

“And that makes me optimistic,” she finishes, her fingers tightening around John’s.

Her smile is small, but genuine, and aimed at Sherlock; John feels the tension spill out of him, displaced by the resonating wave of hope that flows between them.

 

Chapter Text

Sherlock stands abruptly as though afraid someone might expect him to hold hands with Sarah as well. He mutters something about “air” and  “biscuits” and bolts out of the room, the dressing gown a sail of blue behind him as he bounds down the steps. Soon, the sounds of Mrs. Hudson fussing and cooing and Sherlock pretending to hate it float up the stairs.

“There will never be a shred of privacy here, you know that,” John says.

Their hands still linked, Sarah rises and pulls John up. “Couldn’t care less.”

Sliding her arm around his waist, Sarah walks beside John up to his room. With the door closed behind them, they fold into each other, without words, without hesitation, all eager kisses and encouraging moans.

Clothes dot the floor in a crooked path to the bed, and they stand together, naked, hands sliding to rest along curves.

Sarah looks at him. “What do you want?”

He raises an eyebrow and glances down at himself. He meets her eyes. “Oh, I dunno. I thought we could chat about the weather or something.”

A smile tugs at his lips and she giggles at him.

“No,” she says, landing a soft slap on his arse, and his grin widens. “I mean, tell me what you want.”

He sobers, and his eyes run over her face. “You.”

Her skin tingles at the greedy look he gives her, but she won’t be derailed. “Yes, of course,” she answers, aligning her lower body to his, feeling the heated press of him against her. “But--”

She looks up at him through fluttering lashes, her eyes dark.

“--how do you want me?”

Flummoxed, he squints at her. She slides a hand up between them, places it at the back of John’s neck. She brings him down for a kiss, then puts her lips to his ear.

“For instance, a slow and languorous seduction?” she asks, her other hand trailing in a teasing line down his back. Her palm stops on his arse. “Or--” Her fingers grip firmly and propel him forward to meet her own thrust. “--a proper fuck, hard and fast?” she growls into his ear.

John whimpers and his fingers dig into the skin of her hips. “Jesus. Everything. All of it,” he pants against her shoulder.

Stepping away, she separates their bodies, giving him distance to see her. He’s breathing hard, the dizziness of arousal already blooming over his face, through his body.  She watches his eyes move over her, feels them like a caress over her belly, her breasts, her throat. When he meets her gaze, blue on blue, she tells him.

“Ask for what you want. Say it. I want to give it to you.”

She waits.

Emotions flicker over his features--uncertainty, desire, and a shyness that surprises her and makes his cheeks rosy.

She watches him unravel and remembers the words she told him in his office--you deserve to have what you want--and she sees him remembering, too.

“I didn’t . . .” He turns away a moment to look at his feet. When he looks up again, his hands are clenched. “I didn’t think I could have you . . . ”

She waits.

“. . . I didn’t think I could have both of you.” His words are so quiet.

She steps in to wrap around him and he catches her.

“You can. You can,” she says, her own voice roughened as well. “You do.”

She sniffs and pulls back in the circle of his arms to look up at him, his eyes shining in the darkness. “You were so sure it had to be either/or,” she says, shaking her head. “But it’s both--you have us both.”

He huffs out a laugh, but it’s not mirth, it’s relief, unbelieving relief, and she reaches up with her lips to kiss the trail of wetness on his cheek. “This is what happens sometimes when you ask for what you want, what you deserve,” she says.

Sarah waits until John’s eyes are on hers.

“You get it.”

x-x-x

After, after breaths are caught and lazy kisses given, Sarah sits up, reaches for John’s checked shirt where it lies on the floor.

John groans in protest as she slides her arms into the sleeves and fastens the buttons along the front. She pushes his boxers into his hand.

“You’ll thank me later,” is Sarah’s only explanation. He’s bemused, but pulls them on, and she wriggles back into her own underpants.

Padding over to the door, she opens it a crack and then returns to bed, rolling John onto his back and snuggling her body up along his left side under the blanket.  She sees him glance at the doorway and  look back at her sharply.

“You don’t think--”

“I most certainly do.”

John looks to the doorway and back to her again, a question in his eyes.

“It’s fine,” she says, and she gives him a quick kiss before settling, her head tucked in the crook of his neck.

When Sherlock comes, he doesn’t bother trying to be quiet. Sarah hears his footsteps coming up from Mrs. Hudson’s, hears him hesitate a half-second before continuing up to John’s room. He pushes the door open gently enough, but then walks over quickly, as though afraid he might change his mind. He flops on the bed and wiggles under the blanket until he’s lying prone, face mashed into the pillow near John’s head, one arm resting across John’s belly. He closes his eyes, looking as if ready to drift off into sleep in his rightful place at John’s side.

Sarah presses her lips together hard to suppress her smile, but John grins at them both by turns.

“Stop smiling,” Sherlock mumbles into the pillow. “It’s annoying.”

 

Chapter Text

Sherlock is fairly sure that Sarah will be angry--with him, certainly, with John, probably. Looking back, he is rather angry with himself. He should have known Winter would be the type to shoot first. Though the bullet had only grazed John, it wasn’t for lack of intent, and Sherlock clocked Winter across the back of the skull--would have done more had John not stopped him.

“He’s down, Sherlock; it’s over.”

“He shot you!”

“I’m all right. Damn it, Sherlock, look at me! I’m all right.”

The steps up to the flat seem interminable, and John leans on him a little for support, each of them with an arm around the other.

“You sure you don’t want to go to--”

“Sherlock.”

It may be the fourth time they’ve had this conversation since the injury occurred.

They make it to the top and go in through the kitchen door, where Sarah is already waiting.

“Let’s see,” she says, gloves already on.

“It’s nothing.” John leans against the table and disentangles himself from Sherlock. Sherlock, for his part, can’t seem to let go of John’s hand.

Sarah ignores John’s protest. “Trousers off, please.”

The professional tone of her voice sounds cold, and Sherlock’s eyes leave John for a moment to look her over. Her eyes are focused on John’s leg, on the four-inch-long gash along his thigh, fully revealed as John drops his trousers on the kitchen floor. John’s fingers recapture his as Sarah pulls a chair over and begins to gently examine the wound. Sherlock finds he barely recognizes her, this woman who loves John, who accepts Sherlock, who solves their problem. Here, now, she is Doctor Sawyer, and the difference is tangible.

John, though, continues trying to reassure her. “See? No big deal.”

“Yes, we all know how manly you are, Mr. Hour-long-soak with lavender candles,” Sarah answers, but without a smile, and Sherlock wonders what will happen when the doctoring is over. He feels a flutter of tension in the fingers intertwined with his and knows John is worried about the same.

John stops arguing after that, and Sarah works thoroughly, efficiently. She adds the final dressing, taping it down loosely, and then stands.

Sherlock watches her, notes the tension in her shoulders, the snap of latex as she pulls off the gloves, but John is the expert on women--Sherlock has no idea what to expect. A look to John reveals that he is just as helpless; John’s face is all apologies, his mouth half open to voice them. But Sarah speaks first.

“When you texted me,” she begins, looking at her feet. “I called Lestrade, I needed to know--”

She swallows and Sherlock nearly startles when she looks up suddenly, directly into his eyes. “He told me what happened,” she says.

Sherlock can’t speak.

Sarah’s professional facade, so steady until this moment, collapses; her eyes shine and she bites her lower lip before stepping closer to Sherlock. She rests her hand on his free one.

“Thank God you were there.” She leans in on tip-toe and kisses his cheek in a flash before stepping back, retracting her hand, swiping away a tear from her face.

Sherlock blinks. Feels John’s fingers tightening around his as Sarah sinks against John, her cheek pressed against his jumper, her ear nearly over his heart. John’s hand comes up to stroke Sarah’s hair, settle around her shoulders, and Sherlock wonders if he should look away, does look away when John drops a kiss on the top of her head.

Her sniff draws his attention and she is looking at him again, eyes clear and concerned.

“You okay?”

“Me?” Why would she care about him?

“Were you hurt?” she persists.

He feels slow, blinking at her before he can answer. “No. No, I’m fine.”

“Good,” Sarah says. She reaches out a hand to him, and without thinking he takes it, her fingers small and cool in his grip.

John is looking at their hands, Sherlock can feel him looking--it feels like steam, like sunlight--and he wills John not to say anything soppy, to just let it be.

John says nothing, but inclines his head towards Sherlock’s, a motion Sherlock automatically sinks into now, dipping his chin into the crook of John’s neck. He feels John press a kiss against his temple, squeeze his hand, and Sherlock wants to both run away and stay forever.


Two weeks later, their lives continue to intertwine. Sarah stays over a few nights a week, picks her way among the web of connections John and Sherlock have woven between them, spins new threads of her own. John is all open arms. He makes space for her, figuratively, literally, while Sherlock presents test after test to be sure of her.

Small floral bag in hand, Sarah goes to stand next to Sherlock where he works at the desk, laptop open. John looks up over the newspaper from the other side of the desk, but she’s not come for him.

“Sherlock.”

Without sparing her a glance, Sherlock answers. “What?”

“We had an agreement.”

Sherlock says nothing, and Sarah suspects the genius knows exactly what he’s done.

She drops the cosmetics bag on the keyboard of the laptop. Sherlock’s fingers freeze over the keys and then he turns his head to her, glowering beneath lowered brows.

“We agreed, no going through my things, and yet my eyelash curler is missing.”

“If you can’t keep track of your things, it’s hardly my fault--”

John shifts in his chair, is about to speak in her defense, but without breaking eye contact with Sherlock she holds up her palm up to John, stilling him.

“The implement in question is currently in the rubbish bin under the sink, clamping together what appear to be toenails.”

Sherlock presses his lips together. He switches tactics, giving her a false smile. “You don’t need it; you never curl your eyelashes--”

Sarah is firm. “Not the point.”

“It was an important experiment, and they were just the right size--”

“Also not the point.”

“Look, if you, as a doctor, cannot understand the importance of conducting--”

Sarah is Gibraltar. “Sherlock Holmes.”

Sherlock Holmes closes his mouth.

“You will get yourself to Boots and buy a replacement by this time tomorrow.”

Narrowing his eyes, Sherlock attempts to put her off one more time. “Or what?”

Sarah crosses her arms. “Or I’ll invite Mycroft to come round for tea.”

Eyes wide, mouth gaping, Sherlock is aghast. Sarah simply stares at him with one eyebrow raised until he closes his mouth, turns away.

“Fine,” he grinds out, and she plucks the bag from the keyboard and walks away, towards the bathroom.

She can’t resist looking back as she reaches the kitchen, and she catches Sherlock staring over the desk at John, who, very bravely, lifts the newspaper and hides from both of them.


Two months later, they’ve found a rhythm. Sarah stays over weekends and sometimes a bit during the week as well. John tidies the kitchen more than he used to because he likes to cook with Sarah and she has strong feelings about food safety.  Sherlock’s testing abates as he studies Sarah, finds the edges of her.

When John brings up the idea of asking Sarah to move in with them, Sherlock surprises him by agreeing.

But the fact is, Sherlock feels something, something both fluttery and solid, at the thought of the three of them sharing 221b. He thinks it might be happiness.

Sherlock hears Sarah and John come home, all energetic steps and panting breaths after having spent the morning running in the park. They burst into the kitchen from the landing with waved greetings, and Sherlock barely looks up from the scope. They are ridiculous and rosy-cheeked and she slaps John’s arse playfully as he hustles to claim the shower.

John disappears into the bathroom and pipes rumble and Sherlock estimates he has six and half minutes.

He waits until Sarah gets herself a glass of water. She downs half of it in one go, and then Sherlock looks up at her.

“So.”

Sarah narrows her eyes at him. “So?” she repeats, but he only waits as comprehension blooms across her features. “Oh. Yes. He asked.”

Gaze lasering in on hers, Sherlock dips his chin. “And you said no.”

Sarah blinks. “I didn’t say no.”

“You didn’t say yes.”

Sarah looks away. Drinks more water. Sets the cup on the table.

“It’s not that simple. Living here--it might create more problems than it solves,” she says.

“Very reasonable concern.”

She nods.

“But not actually what you’re worried about.”

Her eyes snap back to his and her chin lifts. “Oh?”

“John’s easy to live with. You’re easy to live with. I’ve never seen two people be more agreeable, more natural with each other than you two.”

He stands, body turned away from her because he can’t look at her for the next bit.

“I’m the problem.”

Unsettled already, and only partly through his script, Sherlock strides abruptly away, into the sitting room, halting to stand at the far window. He hears her small gasp, hears her follow behind him.

“You’re not a ‘problem’, Sherlock,” she says, her voice soft as she stops a few feet from him.

Sherlock says nothing.

“And John and I are hardly perfect, as you well know.”

He turns his head halfway towards her. “So why not say yes?”

She moves closer and leans against the desk in such a spot that it will be impossible for him not to see her.

“I don’t know, exactly. It feels like a huge step, and yes, it’s partly because of you. This is your home, yours and John’s. It’s hard not to feel like I’m invading, somehow.”

“You’re not. You’ve been invited.”

“I know, and it means so much to me that the two of you want me here,” she says, eyes and voice earnest. Her hand comes up to tuck a stray lock behind her ear. “But, perhaps selfishly, I want it to be for the right reasons.”

Sherlock slides his hands into his trousers pockets. “And what are the ‘right’ reasons?”

“Love. Not fear. I wouldn’t want either of you to be asking me because you’re afraid it won’t work otherwise; I am committed, to both of you, whether I live here or not.”

She waits, and he can hardly think of what to say, the thoughts jumbling up in his mind: don’t make it so complicated, he loves you, you love him, I love him, just do it, make him happy, it’s simple. But he knows what she’s waiting for. He doesn’t know how to give it to her.

The moments pass, and he finally gives it words. “It’s not fear.”

It’s the best he can do, and he prays that she will understand him, that she’ll extrapolate if not A, then B.

She waits a long moment as well before answering. “Good.”

Terrified, he looks down at the windowsill. “The . . . tests . . . were never meant to make you leave.”

“I know,” she says, and he’s alarmed to hear her close to tears. “I never thought they were.”

He can sense her wanting to reach out to him and can’t decide if he’s disappointed when she doesn’t.

“You’re just protecting him,” she says. “You love him.”

“Yes,” he answers immediately.

“And you enjoy pushing people, finding their limits. I’m an experiment in a lot of ways,” she says, and he can hear her smiling beneath the words.

He finally looks over to her properly, a small smile playing along his own lips. Her face is open, accepting, and he feels the urge to reassure her.

“A very interesting experiment.”

Her smile widens, and Sherlock feels oddly like reciprocating when he realizes how quiet it is in the flat. A shape in his peripheral vision catches his attention.

“Big compliment, that,” John says from the glass door near the kitchen.

Sarah turns to look, surprised. “Weren’t you in the shower?”

“Forgot my towel,” he answers, gesturing with it in his hand.

“How much did you hear?” Sherlock knows his voice sounds calm, but he can’t quite look at John directly yet.

John forces the issue, walking forward and into Sherlock’s line of sight, stopping next to Sarah. “Since the bit about the right reasons.”

They both gaze at him, and the look of love on John’s face, the way Sarah smiles up at him, it’s suddenly too much. Sherlock slides his hands out of his pockets and clasps them together in a final sort of way.

“Yes, well.” He begins stalking over to the coat rack, pulling on the Belstaff. “Would love to stay and have you both moon over me like puppies, but--” He fixes the scarf around his neck. “--Molly’s got a particularly interesting case of post-mortem amputation for me.”

“Might need this then,” John says, holding up the magnifier Sherlock has left on the desk.

“Yes, thank you.” He strides back over, taking it from John’s outstretched hand. Their fingers brush together in the exchange, and the fluttery, heavy feeling comes back, a great bird trapped in his chest. On a wild impulse, Sherlock gives in to the sentiment assailing him. He grabs John by the neck and kisses his forehead with a loud smack, then leans over to Sarah and bestows the same on her.

“Don’t wait up,” he says, relishing the look of surprise on both their faces as he sails out the door and down the steps.

Chapter Text

John spits into the sink and drops his toothbrush back in the holder, wiping his mouth on the towel hung over the rack beside him.  Sherlock fills the doorway.

“What’s the point of this conference anyway? You already know how to be a doctor.”

Huffing out a sigh, John leans back against the sink. “You could come with me, you know. Ewan won’t mind--”

“Oh, but I would; what would I do on the Scottish moors with your mad cousin while you’re gone all day?”

John raises an eyebrow and then looks down. “I shudder to think, actually.”

Lifting his chin, Sherlock pouts as haughtily as he can.

“Listen, I know you’ll . . . miss me.” John looks up to gauge Sherlock’s reaction, is glad to see Sherlock’s tight lips soften. “So I thought . . .”

He feels the tips of his ears go red despite having practiced what he wanted to say earlier.

“Out with it, John; you’ve only ten hours until you have to go.”

John grunts in annoyance, but then tries again, clearing his throat. “I want to do something for you.”

For me?”

“With you,” John amends. “I was, erm, thinking that we could . . .”

The silence stretches between them.

“Crochet? Play hide and seek?”

“Shut up. No.” John hums and looks up with determination. “I’ve noticed that there are certain kinds of contact that you . . . that you seem to enjoy more than others.”

Sherlock uncrosses his arms. “Oh?” He asks in his gentle voice, the one only John gets to hear.

“Skin to skin seems to be your favorite. So, I was thinking, we could try that more, ah, deliberately.”

“Oh.”

“You know. If you want to,” John adds, giving Sherlock a small smile that he hopes is reassuring yet suspects merely reflects his own nervousness. Though he and Sherlock have co-slept and cuddled countless times now, this is something new.

Sherlock comes in close, his eyes riveted on John’s, and John thinks he sees a hint of surprise there, and more than a hint of interest. Sherlock dips his chin and presses forehead to forehead.

“I want to,” he says, voice soft.

“Okay. Um. Good.”

John follows Sherlock down the hall to the bedroom. He watches as Sherlock strips without ceremony. He doesn’t know what he expected exactly.

Sherlock looks over to him with impatience. “Well, go on.”

John blinks. “Right.” He takes off his t-shirt and pajama bottoms easily enough, but hesitates at the waistband of his pants. Sherlock, naked, walks over to him.

“Don’t worry about that.”

“What?”

“What you always worry about.”

John glances down. “If he . . . shows up uninvited, just ignore him.”

“Does Sarah know you discuss your penis in the third person?”

“Shut up.”

Sherlock rolls his eyes. “As I’ve told you before, it doesn’t bother me. If it happens, and it bothers you, we can stop.”

The consideration stuns John for a moment, and he gapes, knows he’s gaping. “You’re amazing.”

“Mmm. Hurry up and decide; I’m cold.” Sherlock turns and goes to the bed, lifting the duvet to crawl beneath it.

Shaking his head at Sherlock’s shift from thoughtful to demanding, John decides. He chucks his pants on the floor and climbs into bed.

For the first time, they are naked together, facing each other, and John’s nerves threaten to get the best of him, but he sees Sherlock looking at him. John anchors himself in those eyes that look on him with nothing save open love and, yes, impatience, and he realizes. He wants this. For Sherlock. For himself.

“Here,” John says, reaching up to Sherlock’s shoulder and pulling down gently. “On your belly.”

Compliant for once, Sherlock rolls over, prone against the sheets, and turns his head on the pillow to look up at John.

“What are you going to do?”

John smiles at him. “Experiment.”

Sherlock’s eyes narrow.

“Don’t worry. You’ll get your turn.”

“So I can gather data on you?” Sherlock asks, and John can hear the interest in his voice.

“Of course. Only fair.”

Placated, Sherlock closes his eyes. “Fine.”

John begins simply, his hands sliding gently over the muscles of Sherlock’s shoulders, kneading them a bit until Sherlock relaxes under his fingers. He glides down the hills and valleys of Sherlock’s back, brings his palms up along Sherlock’s sides firmly. He presses with his fingertips around the teres major, and Sherlock lets out a surprised gasp.

“Like that?”

“Obviously,” Sherlock mumbles into the pillow. “Less obvious is why.”

“Each person is different. That’s why you have to try different things.”

“Is that your official medical opinion, Dr. Watson?”

John smirks, though Sherlock isn’t looking at him. “Yes.” John leans over and mirrors his movements on Sherlock, hands working along the same spot on both sides, and Sherlock hums in response.

Taking his time, John continues his exploration, guiding his hands over the terrain of Sherlock’s body, identifying the dips and curves that seem to please him. Sometimes Sherlock tells him, “Yes, that,” but often John senses it in the way Sherlock’s skin and muscles react beneath his fingers, even before the low rumble of contentment comes. Confident now, John rolls Sherlock over onto his back, runs his hands over the front of him as well, stem to stern.  John studies him, learns to play him, pulls easy sighs from him as his fingers strike some of the strongest notes--the soft underside of the upper arm, the throat, the back of the thighs, the scalp behind the ears.

“Good?” John asks softly.

“Mmm,” is all Sherlock can manage. John lets his fingers sift through Sherlock's mop of curls, and then leans down to place a kiss on the soft hairs that grow away from his forehead. Sherlock smiles and looks up with lazy silver eyes. "Your turn," he drawls.

"You don't have to," John says, but Sherlock is already wiggling into a sitting position.

"You're not getting out of it now," Sherlock answers, and John smiles as Sherlock pushes him down onto his back.

"I can't believe I'm saying this, but, fine." John settles back into the sheets. "Have your way with me."

But Sherlock has stopped listening to what John is saying, his attention focused elsewhere. Sherlock lifts his hand to hover over John's torso like a conductor about to signal the orchestra to begin. John watches the slim, tapered fingers long enough to wonder where Sherlock will start and why, what will draw his touch first. He feels his skin tighten in anticipation.

"Anywhere?" Sherlock clarifies, his gaze wandering over John.

Though he wonders what he's getting himself into, there is only one answer to the question. "Anywhere."

Sherlock begins with the scars.

The light touches dance over the raised star of tissue on his shoulder. Slender fingers search along his scalp, the back of his ear for the tiny marks left by shrapnel from what feels like eons ago. The last stop is the newest--the short line across his thigh, still pink.

Eyes still on the scar, Sherlock's other hand seeks out John's and John feels the long fingers slide around his and squeeze.

"I'm okay," John says softly.

Sherlock's voice is equally quiet. "I know."

Sherlock hesitates long enough that John wonders if he has changed his mind, but just before he means to ask, Sherlock's hand reaches up to John's neck, just below his ear. "I wonder if we like some of the same things," Sherlock says, stroking his thumb along John's throat.

"Maybe," John says, feeling the muscles of his throat move against Sherlock's fingers as he speaks. Sherlock's hands work their way down, over John's chest, sliding through the sparse hairs there. His index finger draws a lazy circle around one nipple, and John sucks in a breath when Sherlock finally brushes over the tip.

"Is this sexual for you?" Sherlock asks, and only because he knows Sherlock so well can John see the question for what it is: curiosity.

"It could be," is the best answer he can come up with.

"But I'm a man?" Sherlock presses.

No. John can't let Sherlock think that's why, because that's not why. "But I don't want my body to do anything that will make you uncomfortable," he says, voice firm and eyes seeking Sherlock's.

Sherlock's gaze meets his even as his finger migrates over to John's other nipple. "I already told you it doesn't. It couldn't. As long as you don't expect reciprocation."

"I don't," John rushes.

"Then stop worrying."

To make his point, Sherlock moves his hand deliberately down, letting his fingers glide slowly but without hesitation between John's legs. John's body wants to shudder in surprise, but he controls the urge and stays still.

He figured that Sherlock wouldn't be shy, but he is now suspecting there's much more to it than that.  Sherlock's touches along John's skin are confident, his movements saying he has the same goal as John, to learn John's body, to accept him as he is. John focuses on Sherlock's eyes as his fingers explore him, watches Sherlock's gaze soften at what must look like comprehension blooming in John's eyes.

"This part of you is no more or less interesting to me than any other part," Sherlock argues. "You don't have to ignore it or pretend it doesn't exist," he says, and his hands move away, sliding up John's sides, curling around his shoulders and tracing the muscles along his arms.

"Okay," John says, voice shaky. Sherlock looks away, giving John space, perhaps sensing, correctly, that John is beset by feelings he did not expect.

John closes his eyes, gratitude and a crushing wave of love suddenly in his throat. "Okay."

Chapter Text

Sarah takes John to the train.

“No Sherlock?”

John wrinkles his nose. “Nah. He’s pants at goodbyes anyway.”

She smiles and takes his hand as they wait on the platform. Sarah wonders for a moment how they look together--like newlyweds? Like a couple that’s been together for years and years? For her part, John’s hand in hers feels like coming home, and she squeezes his fingers.

John squeezes back and continues. “I asked Lestrade to give him some cold cases to chew on.”

“You’re worried about him. Four days without you.”

“No, I’m not, I’m just…”

She looks over at him with a facetiously receptive expression. Yes, John, tell me all about how not worried you are.

He relents. Admits. “Concerned,” he says.

She turns her head to look across the empty track. “I’ll keep an eye on him.” She doesn’t have to see his face to note his surprise.

“Think he’ll let you?”

And in that moment she finds that she does. She and Sherlock have been filling in the puzzle together over the months, and they’re nearly done. Just a piece of sea and sky left to go.


She goes round Baker Street in the afternoon and has tea with Mrs. Hudson, and they chat easily as they sit, half-waiting for the madman to appear. He does, in the middle of their second cups, the door banging shut, swift steps sounding as he ascends.

“Think you ought to go up?” Mrs. Hudson asks, and Sarah shakes her head.

“We haven’t finished our tea,” Sarah says. “Plus, I think he needs a few minutes to untwirl himself, don’t you?”

Mrs. Hudson laughs like a dying owl, and Sarah can’t help reflecting giggles back to her.

Once she settles, her eyes are bright and she looks over to Sarah with acres of fondness in her gaze. “It’s so wonderful that he has both of you now.”

Sarah smiles at how much Mrs. Hudson adores Sherlock, at what a family of oddballs they’ve all become.

“We all have each other, Mrs. Hudson,” Sarah replies. “You, too.”

And now Mrs. Hudson is near tears and Sarah feels a pang of guilt, but, of course, Mrs. Hudson makes it all right.

“We’re family, Sarah. That’s what it is. The family we’ve chosen.”

She pats Sarah on the hand and stands, fussing with clearing away the tea things, and Sarah feels her touch, her words, resounding in her chest like the bells of St. Paul’s.


Sarah steps into 221b without knocking and finds Sherlock sitting in front of the fireplace, hands steepled, staring at John’s armchair. He doesn’t look at her, doesn’t move, so she comes around to him. She balances herself along the arm of John’s chair rather than sitting in it, and finally Sherlock’s eyes dart up to hers.

“Checking up on me?”

“A bit.”

“Giving him detailed reports?”

“Only if you start shooting things.”

Sherlock smiles a little at that, though he attempts to hide it. “You can tell him Lestrade tried, but I’ve already solved the three cold cases he had for me.”

She smiles. She will never stop being impressed by him. She runs a hand over the back edge of John’s chair. “Seems wrong to sit in it, somehow. I mean, I know he wouldn’t care, but still.”

“Sentiment,” Sherlock dismisses, but she notes he also doesn’t tell her to go ahead and sit in it.

“Yes, well. Mrs. Hudson was out of biscuits and I’m starved. You?”

“I don’t have any biscuits.”

“Are you hungry, Sherlock?”

“Not particularly.”

“Well, I’m going to make some soup from what’s edible in the fridge, and then I might stick around and watch some mindless telly.”

“You miss him,” Sherlock says.

“Not yet,” she answers, sliding off the chair’s arm to stand. “Probably around Saturday night I really will,” she says as she walks over into the kitchen. “But for now, mostly it’s just Thursday and I’m hungry.”

She rummages through the fridge, and she can hear him get up, the sounds of his fingers flying over the laptop keyboard drifting in from time to time.


Sherlock puts down his bowl of stew, only having eaten the beef and the carrots. He settles back against the couch, drawing his dressing down around him. “This is ridiculous.”

Sarah, already reclined, says, “And wonderful.”

“A band of superheroes arguing like children, and we’re supposed to believe they end up saving the world?” Sherlock grumbles.

“Shall I choose something else then?”

“Whatever else is on is more than likely even worse.”

“All right, then.” She sets her own bowl down and leans back against the sofa, lifting her sock feet up onto the low table. After ten minutes of wriggles and flops, Sherlock ends up lying on his side, his legs tucked around Sarah. She has one hand on his ankle, her other arm coming to rest along the curve of his hip, and Sherlock is gripped by the urge to keep her. His eyes travel away from the screen to the armchairs that frame the fireplace and he wonders how he could have been so slow.


Sarah’s favorite color--green? SH

Yes, but you probably already knew that. Why? JW

No reason. How’s the conference? SH

Small talk? Now I know you’re up to something. JW

And now I know you’re bored. See you Sunday morning. SH

My train's not until 3. JW

Right. SH


On Friday, Sarah comes back to 221b from the clinic ready to sink into a heap and order take away, and she toes her shoes off at the base of the coat rack straight off. Finding herself alone in the flat, she pads over towards the kitchen to rummage through the menus. Halfway there, she freezes.

A green chair sits between the red and the grey.

Wordless, Sarah nearly tiptoes over to stand in front of it. Its velvety upholstery is a deep forest green, the nap of the fabric waving over the tufted back, the gently winged sides. On the deep seat rests a square silk pillow, patterned with twining vines and bright leaves.

Her fingers reach out, pet the rolled arm, slide to the pillow and grasp an edge. She brings it up into her arms and then she is folding herself into the green chair, tucking her feet up beneath her.

She thinks of Sherlock shopping for chairs and cannot picture it firmly in her head, and yet the proof surrounds her, holds her in its embrace.

She hugs the pillow to her belly and lets the flood wash over her, tears falling unchecked as her fingers caress silk and velvet.

When Sherlock finally comes home, she makes tea and he makes a fire. He asks her question after question about rare infectious diseases as they sit, he in his chair and she in hers.


On Saturday, Sarah brings over bags and boxes and Sherlock doesn’t help as she goes up and down and up and down the stairs.


Sunday morning, early yet, the light still weak and grey in Baker Street. John stands very still, eyes on the dimly illuminated bed in his room.

Their room, now.

The empty boxes, the third chair, this tableau before him--even he could deduce it.

Sarah has chosen to move in, has chosen them. And Sherlock helped her choose.

John watches as Sherlock breathes against the bare skin of Sarah’s belly, the hem of her shirt bunched up under his face where he has nuzzled it out of the way. He sees where her fingers rest at the nape of his neck, half-buried in inky curls.

John toes off his shoes, climbing into bed along Sarah’s left side. She turns her face towards him, eyes blinking open slowly.

He can tell from the look in her eyes that she sees it; the stupid, overwhelming happiness inside him doubtless readable on his face, despite the low light.

“Hey,” she says softly.

“Hey,” he says, and his voice cracks around the word. He dips his chin and nuzzles against the warm skin of her neck. He wiggles his right arm down between their bodies. His left hand goes to meet hers, their fingers twining together through Sherlock’s hair.

Sarah kisses the top of his head. “Welcome home.”

John feels Sherlock’s breath, a warm flutter against his forearm.

He feels Sarah’s arm cradle his shoulders, drawing him in.

Home.