Sherlock's mind is dancing. A light allegro in major key. Data is perched upon the notes, facts cradled in his outstretched hands, deductions appearing underneath his feet to set him off into the next position.
It's effortless. It's exhilarating.
The rosin dust wedged between the fibres of the victim's Persian rug. The blood-stained violin case. The scent of varnished wood. It all stands out to him like black letters on a white sheet.
He closes his eyes. The foyer in his parents' house, the umbrella-stand on the left; he put the violin varnish brands behind it, where he can easily reach them, smell them. A bit sentimental, true. But no one will ever know.
The smell by the red umbrella handle – the smell by the first painting on the wall – the smell by the second – ah! Epifanes varnish. Sherlock makes a pirouette, his Belstaff twirling around his legs, a heavy, woollen tutu. It nearly knocks Donovan out of the way – irrelevant.
On to the library where he keeps the violin cases. He scans them fast, feels his mouth moving, feels his chest vibrating with his voice. Spreads his arms – allongé – lays out his reasoning like a song. Lestrade stands in a corner of the crime scene, eyebrows pinched, mouth stupidly open. Ignore him.
The violin. Worn-off varnish on the left side of the neck. Missing E-string. Loose sound post. Chipped scroll. He assigns notes to the data, putting them into order with a staccato.
The bow. That's important. Why is it important? The suspended chord tells him it is, so he lets it lead him. Up into the stairwell. Ah, he enjoys this part. The redecoration is still fairly recent, but the metal banister rail is already familiar under his hands. And there, against his palms, is that voice again; a tenor, slightly congested, the first fricative perpetually exasperated:
“Sherlock, hold up.”
Sherlock is a train barrelling through his mind palace. The third door to the right is where he keeps the dust; neat little heaps in between photo frames. Redbeard by the lake – his parents' wedding – his first violin performance – the smell of rosin is unmistakable. Gum, tall oil, wood. Diterpene monocarboxylic acid, alcohols, esters, aldehydes, hydrocarbons –
“Sherlock, talk to me! We can't understand you.”
Gas chromatography in rosin analysis achieves good separation, sensitivity and selectivity, though a derivatisation step is required from the non-volatile resin acids which –
“Oh for Christ's sake.”
The mind palace dissolves around him in one stunned blink. He is standing on the victim's Persian rug, rosin dust clinging to his polished shoes, and John Watson stands inside his personal space, lips pressed against his.
Everything is still. Everything is silent. John is here and John is here and John is right here – Sherlock forgets to breathe and blink and talk and think.
“What are you doing?” Sherlock asks when John withdraws. His pulse is a drum punctuating his words.
“Shutting you up”, John says as if this is the most obvious turn of events. Then his mouth is back on Sherlock's, and everything is still so quiet.
Sherlock is back in the third room on the right, throws himself out of it and into the opposite door. Bedroom. In the armchair; John's breathing. Steady and calm, a quiet sort of poetry in the way his lungs absorb oxygen and discard carbon dioxide. Sherlock listens and breathes with him. It makes his own lungs rejoice.
And the smell. He keeps it inside the bedside table drawer; Earl Grey and outside air and tanned skin. He pushes his nose into it, into the patch of skin just to the right of John's nose.
John's lips are warm. And little bit damp, which makes them cool. And if Sherlock could just, if he could-
It's too quiet. It's gone on for too long. Surely Anderson and Donovan should react at this point, surely Lestrade should have some unreasonable scruples about kissing at crime scenes.
Surely John should have broken off in embarrassment by now.
“Boys, think you can do this outside?” Lestrade.
“No, do you have any idea how long I've been waiting to do this?” His hand moves into Sherlock's hair – bliss. “Your bloody case can bloody wait.” And he turns back and kisses Sherlock again. “I love you”, he says, and he smiles so brilliantly, and no, no, no, this is stupid, stupid.
Sherlock's head falls down onto the armrest of the sofa with a thud. He is mortified to realise that he's been craning his neck, begging for kisses that only exist in his mind.
What a stupid waste of time. It wouldn't even happen that way. John would never get carried away like that on a crime scene. If Sherlock is going to interrupt his work with this fantasy nonsense, it should at least be realistic.
The door to the living room opens.
“Hey”, John says cheerfully.
“Making any progress on that case? The violin and the…?”
No, because you clutter my head, Sherlock wants to accuse him. But really, he only has himself to blame for creating all that space for John in the first place. So instead he just snarls.
John smiles, and Sherlock stares at his mouth. He wishes he had more data to create the perfect event in his mind. Then he could file it away, visit it when he pleased and remain undisturbed in the rest of the palace. No risk of John jumping out to interrupt him with infuriatingly rudimentary kisses in the middle of work.
“You'll figure it out”, John says with so much fondness in his voice, Sherlock immediately moves back into the mind palace bedroom, carefully perching the sound on the pillow of his old childhood bed.
He can use that next time.
John looks incredible in Sherlock's parents' kitchen. His hair looks softer, his jumper looks cosier, his face looks more at peace than Sherlock has ever seen it.
It was John who persuaded him to come here, of course. Said it's mandatory to attend your mother's sixtieth birthday. Sherlock would have tried to get out of it if John had not promised to come with him.
John is sitting in the kitchen of Sherlock's childhood home, and somehow he looks so easy to reach. For as long as they are here, he is entirely Sherlock's. There are no distractions and no potential girlfriends, only Sherlock and his history and his parents. John is here to witness it all. Sherlock is at once shy at letting him see, and eager to show him every last millimetre of this place.
The only guests who have yet arrived are Sherlock and John; the celebration is tomorrow. They have been assigned the tedious task of peeling a large bowl of potatoes for the potato salad. Sherlock huffs and glowers, and John smiles.
John is the type of person who enjoys helping out when he's a guest in someone's home. Sherlock cannot for the life of him understand it, having nurtured a lifelong habit of avoiding boring chores to the greatest extent possible (which turns out to be a great extent indeed), but it is oddly captivating to watch John do it. He smiles pleasantly at Sherlock's parents, chatting and joking and bonding, and he practically begs them to give him work around the house. He sits with his hands in the lukewarm water and peels potatoes unhurriedly, meticulously, and looks as though nothing in the world could make him happier than doing just this.
The sleeves of his jumper are rolled up, revealing underarms with shifting muscles under tanned skin. His hands look traitorously unassuming, holding a potato-peeler and an innocuous vegetable, but they are confident and capable and, Sherlock knows, deadly.
For once, John notices Sherlock watching.
“What?” he asks, looking up.
“Your hands are quite small”, Sherlock observes, just to have something to say.
John huffs and goes back to peeling the potato. “They're not that small.”
“Perhaps that's why you always type with two fingers on your laptop”, Sherlock goes on. “You can't reach across the keyboard.”
John tries not to smile. “Just because your hands are ridiculously big.”
Sherlock looks at him, affronted. “What do you mean by ridiculous? If anyone's hands are ridiculous, it's yours.”
“No, look.” John drops the peeled potato into the finished-bowl, dries his hands on a towel and grabs Sherlock's hand. He places his palm flat against Sherlock's and wriggles his hand a bit until their fingers are splayed alongside each other.
There are so many stimuli flooding Sherlock's senses from just the simple act of pressing their palms together. If someone had asked Sherlock his own name in that moment, he would have hesitated and stammered.
He studies their hands intently. The size difference is oddly captivating. John's fingers are quite short in proportion to his palm, his ring finger is longer than his index finger, and his little finger is crooked. His long finger ends almost at Sherlock's first knuckle; Sherlock could bend his finger in a sort of embrace of John's.
“See? Your hands are minuscule.”
“Nope, only compared to your never-ending violin fingers.”
Something in that expression makes honey pour through Sherlock's limbs and his stomach warm like hot chocolate.
Under both of their considering gazes, John lets his fingers curl in between Sherlock's, as if wanting to test how they fit together. Wonderfully perfectly, turns out to be the answer to this enquiry. Sherlock looks at their joined hands and tries to breathe normally, John looks at him, and then Father enters the kitchen and John lets go.
But it seems as though in this house, the normal rules no longer apply. When they are at the dinner table, and Sherlock hasn't touched his food for thirty minutes, and Mummy has embarrassed him by forbidding him to leave the table until he has eaten at least half of his meal, John is left alone with him and smiling in a way that makes it difficult to keep sulking. John shifts his legs under the table. One of his knees ends up pressed against Sherlock's, warm and solid.
John keeps scraping his plate as if nothing happened. Sherlock experimentally shifts his legs in the small space under the table, and John makes an annoyed sound in the back of his throat. He pushes back against Sherlock's leg and swallows before speaking.
“Stop it, Sherlock, you're crowding me.”
His leg is insistent against Sherlock's thigh, pressing it aside.
“You stop it”, Sherlock says. “You're inside my space.”
“No, you stop it!” John kicks Sherlock's foot lightly, shoving his shin in between Sherlock's. Sherlock feels his face heating while he tries to wrestle John's leg away.
“I had my leg here first”, Sherlock says.
“Well, your legs are everywhere, you're so bloody tall.” John tries to sound exasperated, but his eyes are glittering when their feet tangle.
After a minute of quiet fighting, both of them trying not to giggle (and both of them failing), they reach an impasse. Their legs and feet are a complicated knot under the table; the warmth radiates from John's jeans and seeps through Sherlock's expensive suit trousers.
“There”, John says, his cheeks adorably pink. “Now eat up.”
Sherlock, dumbfounded, finally tries to. But his hands are clumsy and he can't quite coordinate his swallows; it's a miracle he doesn't choke. His stomach decidedly does not want food, it's too preoccupied with a swarm of delighted butterflies. He inches lower in his seat, slotting his legs more thoroughly against Johns, just to see what John will do.
John watches him over the rim of his water glass, gaze lingering longer than is customary between friends. His eyes steal all the colour in the room, absorbing every hue of the spectrum and transforming them into the bluest of blue.
That evening, the sun lingers in the treetops. The air is fresh and kind after the rain earlier that day, and the scent of bird cherry is heavily sweet. Sherlock takes John into the backyard to show him the great lawn he used to pretend was a sea, and the trees he used to climb like masts on a ship.
His old swing is still up. Sherlock sits down on it in a burst of childhood nostalgia, not caring about getting his trousers wet. He feels John's fond eyes on his face, so certain and unwavering that Sherlock feels safe to look away and trust them to still be there. He tilts his head back to gaze up into the quiet canopy above him. The fresh green is still wet from the rain.
He plants his feet in the earth and starts swinging, remembering the exhilarating swoop in his stomach when he gains speed, remembering the calculations he made back when he learned how high he could swing before it became dangerous.
“Sherlock, stop it!” John gasps from the ground when he flies up into the air, the long swing ropes stretched out almost horizontally behind him. Sherlock ignores him, but John shouts again, and finally Sherlock lets the swing slow. He rolls his eyes when he knows John can see it properly.
As soon as he has slowed down enough, John lunges into his path, catching the swing ropes in his hands. Sherlock barrels into his sturdy little body and John backs a few steps, absorbing Sherlock's momentum, before he gently brings him back to the middle.
“You're a bloody lunatic”, he says.
Sherlock tries to kick up the speed again, but John holds the swing steadily. “Let go!”
“No, I need you in one piece.”
At the sound of that fond voice of John's, Sherlock looks up. This is when he truly understands how close they are. John is standing before him, only slightly taller than Sherlock is when sitting on the swing, looking down into his face with clear eyes. His hands are on the ropes on either side of Sherlock's head, shielding him from the summer night.
Sherlock feels warmer than he ever has in his whole life. His heart is thrumming when he stares up into John's face and sees John look back at him in a way that he knows, he knows can only mean one thing. He knows that if he doesn't break their eye contact within half a second, John will take it as permission to kiss him.
In the end, could it be so easy?
Sherlock is still holding on tightly to the ropes, and John's hands slide down until they cover his. John smiles, a smile as fresh as the rainy air and as sweet as the bird cherry, and he leans down. The kiss tastes like his smile.
Sherlock's breath quiets in his chest, flowing carefully through his nose in reverent silence. He wants to get closer, but it seems so daring to ask for more than this; the one thing that he has never had and always wondered about. Just when one of John's hands moves to touch his hair, there is a call from the house.
Sherlock jumps, and the summer disappears around him as if it had never been there. He blinks towards the cracked ceiling above the sofa, and as soon as the Baker Street living room floods his senses, he knows that he has been unforgivably fanciful. Childish. Laughable.
Because that is not how John Watson woos people. That is a juvenile sort of flirting that only children engage in, and he can't fool himself that that's how thirty-five-year-old John would behave if put in the same setting as thirteen-year-old Victor. Sherlock loathes himself for not deleting this episode from his life in the first place. It serves no purpose; as it never resolved in a kiss, it's not even worth keeping as a point of data for this pathetic exercise.
“Still working?” John has popped his head into the living room.
Sherlock grunts and flops onto his side, facing the back of the sofa, before John can see the mortification on his face.
Sherlock keeps coming back to this day. When he doesn't pay attention, his mind wanders there, and he cannot shake the feeling that he should have done something differently all those months ago. That this day is when he had the chance to choose the right path, and because he chose the wrong one, he cannot now steer himself back in the direction he was supposed to go.
If he had not thoughtlessly left John behind on the first crime scene they attended together. If he had not panicked and told John he had no interest in romantic entanglements. If he had just gone to the police with the pink suitcase at once, so they wouldn't have fabricated a drugs bust at 221B, interrupting that glorious, breathless moment in the stairwell.
Sherlock keeps changing those details, and yet he never gets it right.
Perhaps he needs to go back even farther; perhaps his only chance was the very 29th of January.
He's not too unhappy with the way it starts off. A little soldier limps into his lab with a tired face and a well-contained quiet rage, and Sherlock quickly looks away. To his credit, he knows it immediately; this is important, so he needs to be careful. He needs to be fascinating and interesting; he needs to be mysterious and aloof. He asks Stamford for the phone he knows Mike isn't carrying, waiting with a hammering heart the few seconds it takes the little soldier to reach into his pocket and say:
“Here, use mine.”
Then it is only a matter of buttoning his suit jacket when he stands up, striding over gracefully, taking John's phone from his hands as if it doesn't make his fingers tingle with electricity, and casually asking:
“Afghanistan or Iraq?”
He knows from the way John's weight evens out between his feet that he got it right; John is desperately bored. He is completely starved of mystery and surprises. So Sherlock makes sure to keep surprising him, never giving him a chance to keep up with their conversation, baffling him over and over again. John's cane sits loosely in his hand, and Sherlock brushes past him, adding the absurd line about a riding crop in the mortuary just to solidify the impression.
“Is that it?” John asks, finally taking control of the situation.
Sherlock turns, allowing himself to move closer to the little soldier. John's shoulders are squared, and his dark eyes have more depth than before.
“Is that what?”
“We've only just met and we're gonna go and look at a flat?”
John smiles incredulously. “We don't know a thing about each other. I don't know where we're meeting; I don't even know your name.”
Sherlock lowers his chin and pins John with his eyes. John meets his gaze steadily, not stepping back when Sherlock takes another step forward.
“I know you're an army doctor and you've been invalided home from Afghanistan. I know you had a string of casual lovers there, all male, and that you've had one long-term girlfriend before you enlisted. I know you are not out as bisexual; possibly because you see no reason to as you don't have a boyfriend; more likely because your sister is a lesbian and you feel obligated towards your parents to be the 'good' son. And I know that you have been wanting to put your fingers in my hair and kiss me since the moment you walked in.” Sherlock takes another step forward, breaching John's personal space. “That's enough to be going on with, don't you think?”
John blinks. He still has not looked away, not once, even at loaded words such as lovers, bisexual, kiss. Sherlock has to fight to contain his smile, forcing it back down into the pit of his stomach where it keeps glowing and stirring.
When he moves even closer, John has to tip his head back to hold his gaze. His face is stubbornly set, as if daring Sherlock to judge any of the things he just deduced about him. His pupils are wide and alluring, and a pink kitten-tongue darts out to wet his thin lips.
Sherlock's eyes fix on John's glistening mouth, and he lets his voice drop as low as it can go.
“The name is Sherlock Holmes, and the address is 221B Baker Street”, he breathes hotly across John's parted lips.
The cane clatters to the floor when John closes his fists in Sherlock's hair, and they meet in the middle.
Sherlock had honestly intended a soft kiss, something sweet to start off their lives together. But he had forgotten that this John is starving.
John's lips immediately part to nip at Sherlock's lower lip, and very soon there is a hint of teeth as well. All of a sudden John is in complete control of the situation, and Sherlock is an awkward mess, simply gaping and hoping John will guide him right. And oh, he does. His little soldier holds him steady with hands locked in his curls, and his mouth is – is –
Again, it's too quiet around them. Sherlock curses under his breath when he realises what he's forgotten.
Where did Mike Stamford go?
Sherlock opens his eyes to the empty Baker Street living room. This could never happen if Mike were still there. John would not kiss him, and Sherlock wouldn't deliver those deductions in the first place; the experience of being involuntarily outed is not something he wishes upon someone else.
Also, he is not certain that John would have wanted him on that first day. Not the bleak John Watson who was sent home from the war to a suffocating bedsit and a clumsy cane.
Sherlock jumps out of the living room sofa. This is pointless. He cannot find a way to navigate their current circumstances, and he cannot change the past. He needs to come up with something else entirely; something novel and fresh.
“Hey, Sherlock, do you want some pasta?”
John is sitting at the kitchen table. Across from him there's an untouched plate of pasta. Sherlock grabs the fork beside it and hurls it across the room.
“Sherlock!” John exclaims, making the stagnant air in the kitchen stir and sparkle.
The Afghanistan sand is mirrored on the soldier's skin, and the horrors of the war are painted on his worn, bloody uniform. The blood is not his own, although the wear is. He moves around the tent, tending to gruesome injuries with efficient competence. He moves as though he's got all the time in the world, as if he owns time itself and knows it will have no choice but to work for him.
He is one with the world around him. And when Sherlock sees his face, he sees that also the beautiful Afghanistan sky lives in the soldier's eyes, and the sun lives in his smile. After watching him for a few minutes, Sherlock has practically forgotten why he is there.
When the soldier spots him he jogs over to greet him. “Doctor John Watson”, he says as he closes his fist around Sherlock's. He gives one firm shake, watching Sherlock expectantly. Sherlock makes an embarrassing pause before getting out:
“Sherlock Holmes. Consulting Detective.”
“Nice to meet you, Holmes.” Watson nods gravely before turning around with precise military movements.
Mycroft has tried to send Sherlock to war zones before, and Sherlock has refused, of course. There are rarely any fascinating murders on offer in a war, but this one promises some elements of interest. Not least John Watson, on-duty medical officer and baby-sitter of the civilian Consulting Detective hired for the case. Sherlock would have been annoyed, but then Watson calls him brilliant for deducing that the murdered diplomat was allergic to nickel, and proceeds to ask Sherlock questions that might be slightly stupid, but nonetheless stimulate Sherlock to make further deductions. Not to mention how useful Watson turns out to be when there is an explosion a mere couple of metres from where Sherlock is crouching, examining the soil with his magnifying glass; Sherlock would have been inconveniently hurt had Watson not thrown himself at him and shielded him from the fire.
It is somewhat difficult to enjoy the case properly when Watson is standing with his feet planted broadly on the ground, arms folded across his chest, watching Sherlock work. When at any time a breeze could ruffle Watson's sun-bleached hair, making him look tousled and touched. When his blue eyes look into Sherlock's without once flinching away. Part of Sherlock's mind is constantly pondering what will happen when the case is over and Watson has no reason to hover by his side any longer.
The answer is that since the case is wrapped up late at night, and Sherlock cannot be flown out of there until morning, he is assigned the lower bed in one of the bunks at the army base. And from the bed above him, he can hear Watson breathing.
The other soldiers are asleep around them, but Sherlock hasn't even bothered to change out of his borrowed fatigues. They smell of dirt and a little bit of sweat, and they rub roughly against his skin, knowing his body intimately by now. Sherlock puts his hands behind his neck and stares at the underside of the mattress above him.
The adrenalin from the day slowly drains out of him. The dissolving tension allows the blood to throb into his extremities, making his muscles warm and liquid. During cases, his intense focus on his mind makes the rest of his body practically disappear beneath him. But afterwards, it floods his consciousness again, letting him know that it craves food, or sleep, or…
Sherlock takes a ragged breath, locking his hands more firmly behind his head. It will go away. Eventually, his need for sleep will take over, and he will simply drift off. But a traitorous part of his mind stays focused on the bunk above him, and on the shallow breathing of the soldier lying on it.
The bed creaks, and Watson's boot appears on the ladder. He hasn't undressed either; only removed the jacket, leaving a sand-coloured tank top. Watson lowers himself to the floor, remarkably quiet in his sturdy boots, and steals out to the restroom. Sherlock's heart starts pounding inexplicably when he thinks about how when Watson comes back, their eyes might meet through the semi-darkness.
He senses more than hears it when Watson approaches the bunk bed again. Sherlock fights with himself for a moment, knowing that a small taste of Watson's blue eyes will only delay the moment when his body gives up and goes to sleep, but in the end he cannot resist it. His eyes flicker to the side, and a surge of electricity goes through his body.
John Watson is watching him. His eyes are almost black in the night, glittering like stars. The look on his face is open and considering, and while Sherlock watches him, Watson's gaze roams once over his body. Sherlock's face heats; he's not sure how much the night really conceals.
Instead of stepping back onto the ladder, Watson sits down on the side of Sherlock's narrow mattress.
“Can't sleep?” he breathes. Someone snores behind him.
Sherlock shakes his head.
“Is it the explosion?”
Watson's eyes are kind. Sherlock scoffs to shake it off.
“Not my first”, he mutters.
“Right.” Sherlock sees rather than hears Watson's perfect little mouth form the word.
They lock eyes, and the moment drags on. The soldier bites his lower lip in consideration, hesitation, or perhaps outright deliberate teasing, and his eyes flicker down Sherlock's outstretched body again.
“D'you need a hand, then?”
An unexpected shudder shoots through Sherlock's body, too sudden to hide. Watson sees it and the corner of his mouth lifts, at once making him look predatory.
“Yes, Doctor”, Sherlock breathes, and shocked at his own daring, he drops his hands to his fly and unzips it.
Watson's hand snakes in underneath it without preamble, straight into Sherlock's underwear. Sherlock is already so hard it's nearly embarrassing, but he forgets to apologise for it when Watson's fist closes around him.
The soldier's skin is rough from sand and sun and guns. He watches Sherlock's face while he starts to move – slow, squeezing pulls – with a nearly impassive expression. This is only a favour between mates – not even that; colleagues. And it is one John Watson has performed before, Sherlock can tell from the way he effectively angles his wrist to work inside Sherlock's pants. He watches when Sherlock's eyelids flutter, he watches when Sherlock's lips part, he watches when Sherlock stirs, digging his fingertips into the covers and shifting his hips.
Sherlock tries to stay at least somewhat impassive, too. But he has never known another hand than his own. It feels better than he thought it would, good enough to twist his face beyond his control, and to make him hastily pull his lips in between his teeth and bite them to keep from moaning.
“Shhh”, Watson breathes.
Sherlock releases a loud breath through his nose. He starts rolling his head on the pillow, trying to contain the building pleasure in his groin, and his lips part again, panting out short bursts of air.
When he looks up next, Watson's face has changed. His lips have parted, too, and they are glistening just like his dark, wide eyes. Sherlock's gaze trickles down over his torso, where the tank top stretches gorgeously over his pectorals, and down to his trousers.
“Let me help you too”, Sherlock whispers and reaches out. Watson makes a bitten-off sound in the back of his throat when Sherlock's palm spreads over his groin. He is fully hard as well, and the realisation sends another wave of pleasure straight into Sherlock's cock. Sherlock rubs the heel of his hand over the front of Watson's fatigue trousers, and the soldier tips his head back in bliss.
Watson's grip has subconsciously tightened around Sherlock, moving faster. He swipes his thumb across the head of Sherlock's cock, smearing a fresh bead of pre-ejaculate over him. Sherlock's eyes slam shut and his mouth drops open. “John”, he whimpers, and where did that come from?
“Sherlock”, John breathes back, and then he leans down to kiss him.
John's mouth closes reverently around Sherlock's lower lip, a contrast to his rough pulls on Sherlock's cock. Sherlock's breath rushes out of his chest as if in relief. He brings his free hand to John's neck to keep him in place, and John's fingers are in his hair.
Except that Sherlock knows John didn't pet the hair of his army lovers.
Sherlock growls in fury when he opens his eyes to the Baker Street living room, painted grey by the London drizzle outside; a mocking contrast to the blazing Afghanistan sun. John Watson has never broken the favour between mates rules by kissing them and whispering their name. Even if the two of them had met in the army, and John had wanted him, Sherlock would just have been one unremarkable encounter in a string of many.
He is furious to discover that he doesn't want that.
There are steps on the stairs; John coming down from his bedroom. Sherlock shoots up from the sofa, his erection painfully hard, and shuts himself in his bedroom.
This one happens without much warning.
They are hiding in a cupboard. The suspect turned up at the house before Sherlock had found what he was looking for; he wanted to keep looking and hoping the suspect simply wouldn't enter the study on this particular night, but John was having none of it. He dragged Sherlock back into the bedroom, where they had seen an old cupboard in dark wood on their way in, and he pushed them both into it. Sherlock begrudgingly has to admit it was a good thing he did, because the suspect is now plodding around in the study.
The piece of furniture is large for a cupboard, but small to contain two grown men. It is impossible to stand there without being keenly aware of everything John Watson does. The way he audibly tries to control his breathing. The way he clenches and unclenches his fists. Sherlock can practically feel the adrenalin in John's veins, making John buzz with hot blood.
It's probably because of the silly army fantasy. But of all the inconvenient times for Sherlock's transport to make itself known, it now reacts to John's excitement as if it were of a completely different nature. John's face is illuminated by a sliver of moonlight from a crack in the door, and he is staring back at Sherlock, eyes huge and black.
Probably just a trick of the light.
Their mingled breaths are hot and humid between them. Sherlock tries to stifle his quickening breathing, mindful of the suspect next door. John holds his gaze as if looking for something, as if waiting for Sherlock to… do what?
John's tongue darting out to wet his lips is the only warning Sherlock gets, really. The answer comes to him in sudden intuition (which for the record is an imprecise element to rely on and not dependable in the science of deduction): He is waiting for Sherlock to either look away, or to keep staring back.
In a different reality, Sherlock rips his gaze away so fast that he never has time to even think about it.
But in this one, he doesn't blink.
John's jaw drops to release a tense breath, and without further ado he reaches out to open Sherlock's belt.
Sherlock barely has time to reach out, his hands grasping blindly at whatever part of John they encounter (jacket and shoulder) before John sinks to his knees. Sherlock nearly falls backwards with the surge of lust rolling through him. He catches himself with his hands in John's hair; then he must immediately let go with his right hand, stuffing the fist into his mouth to prevent a groan when John's tongue presses flat against his frenulum.
It is quick and it is dirty. John's mouth is silky and hot, sloppy in a way that feels marvellous. The sight of his blonde head bobbing at Sherlock's groin, and the effort to stay absolutely silent, bring Sherlock right to the edge almost before John has gotten properly started. His eyes roll back into his head and his head tips back against the wood behind him, his curls becoming tangled. His pelvis shoots forward in a desperate request for more.
John's movements on his cock are frantic, and Sherlock can't breathe, and then his orgasm slams into him. In the outskirts of his mind, he feels John rising unsteadily, covering Sherlock's gaping mouth with his own. Sherlock keens quietly into the kiss, because he no longer cares about the suspect next door. John presses his body against him, holding him up with fists in his hair. He kisses Sherlock through his climax, not caring that he is too beyond himself to reciprocate.
When Sherlock comes back to himself with a gasping breath, John lets him go. Sherlock slides down onto the floor, and opens his eyes to the pitch-black Baker Street bathroom.
He is resting against the door, the back of his head surely a mess of tangled curls, and his legs are splayed out uselessly in front of him. His hand is sticky around his softening penis and his breathing is absurdly loud.
A knock on the door makes him wince.
“Sherlock, you okay in there?”
“Fine”, he snarls.
He is not okay. This is all getting out of hand. The fantasy was absurd, and the fact that his libido made itself known in the precarious situation they were in earlier that night is frankly worrying. He needs to be able to handle John's proximity professionally if they are to keep working together – which they are, because without John, Sherlock would have been caught by that damned suspect in the study tonight.
“I'm making you a cuppa, yeah? We could both use something to wind down.” John waits another moment on the other side of the door, then moves into the kitchen and fills the kettle.
Sherlock rises from the floor on stiff legs and removes his hand from his pants with a disgusted grimace.
Sherlock is in a mood before they even get there.
There is no internet reception on the train, the landscape outside the window is dull, and John is dull. Sherlock's supposed friend has been reading a dull crime fiction novel for the last hour, paying Sherlock no attention at all. There is nothing to occupy his stagnating mind; he doesn't even have a nice first kiss fantasy to revert to, since he cannot come up with one realistic enough.
When they get to the village, it turns out that even the case is dull. Sherlock lashes out left and right; he is blunt to clients, disrespectful to police officers, terrifying to suspects and rude to John. John cleans up his mess as usual, grumbling and brilliant, and they are finished by nightfall.
Sherlock watches John from the corner of his eye and suddenly regrets his behaviour. Not towards the suspects, nor the police, nor even the clients, because they were all morons and deserved it; John didn't. Now his face has an ashen hue (exhausted) and he holds his left shoulder stiffly (strained). He is in no shape to take the train back to London tonight and doze fitfully against an uncomfortable headrest.
“This way”, Sherlock says, breaking the easy silence.
He leads John in the direction of the village inn. John is too tired to question where they are going, missing the fact that Sherlock is currently being considerate.
The inn seems comfortable enough. They get their keys, tread the stairs, find the door. Sherlock opens it, and then he stops dead.
John gently pushes at his shoulder from behind. “Come on, let me in.”
“There is only one bed, John.” Sherlock sounds strangled.
John squeezes past him and barely spares the bed a glance. “Too bad.”
“Let's ask for a new room.”
“No, Sherlock, I'm too tired. It's big enough for both of us.”
“It is not! I cannot sleep with you there!”
John turns then, giving him a slightly amused look. “Yes, you can. We've shared a bed before.”
“I didn't sleep at all.”
“You were drooling on your pillow when I woke up. I assume you don't do that on purpose.”
Sherlock glares, but John is all too used to his glare and simply starts searching his bag for a toothbrush. It's true; they have shared a bed. But that was before Sherlock made the grave mistake of imagining them kissing over and over again in exceedingly ridiculous settings. He is not entirely certain how that changes matters, but he is certain that it does.
He is well on the way to working himself into a panic when John pauses in front of him on his way to the bathroom.
“Go to bed, idiot”, he says as he casually reaches in under Sherlock's open coat and unbuttons his suit jacket. For some reason this shuts Sherlock's brain down, and all he manages are a few blinks before he obediently undresses, puts his pyjamas on and lies down under the covers.
He lies flat on his back, refusing to look at John when he comes back into the room and lifts the covers on the other side of the bed. John settles down with a contented sigh that Sherlock immediately records and stuffs into his mind palace. On the pillow in his bedroom, right next to the fond voice.
John is asleep within a minute. Sherlock stares with dry eyes at the ceiling, certain he will not sleep. But at some point he must doze off anyway because he has the most exquisite dream. He is lying with John underneath a soft duvet, their arms wrapped loosely around one another while they sleep. Their chests are not touching, but John's left hand is resting behind Sherlock's neck and his right arm is cradling Sherlock's head, his mouth breathing softly into Sherlock's fringe. Their legs are folded on top of each other, their feet hooked together. Under Sherlock's arm, John's chest is rising and falling slowly in the most beautiful breaths Sherlock has ever known.
Simply lying there feels so good that Sherlock doesn't even want to push for more. He just flexes his foot, snuffling out a satisfied sound, and John's arm tightens around him.
It takes Sherlock far too long to realise that there is dawn-light against his eyelids. That he has the distinct taste of morning breath in his closed mouth. And that John's breathing pattern has changed.
This is not a dream. And what's more: John is awake.
Sherlock's brain kicks into gear, frightening his heart into a pounding rhythm. How did they end up like this? How long has John been awake? Is it okay for friends to sleep like this? Where does the line go? Should he move away? Or could he get away with moving closer? Where does the line go?
Worst of all is that John must have noticed that Sherlock has woken up; his heartbeats are all but shaking the mattress beneath them. Meaning that if Sherlock doesn't move away very, very soon, he risks revealing everything. Even John should be able to read his affections in his needy grasp around the back of John's t-shirt and the way he's trapping John's leg between his own.
But on the other hand, John isn't moving away either. That should mean it's fine. Either this is a platonic cuddle that John doesn't mind, or it's a romantic cuddle that John desires – either way, all fine. Still, Sherlock feels utterly exposed within the safe cocoon of John's arms. He wants so badly to pull back. But the seconds tick by, and all the while John isn't pulling back either.
The liquid sleepiness is long gone from Sherlock's body; he is stiff and cannot take a proper breath, completely wasting the limited time he has with John in his arms. And then John's left hand moves into Sherlock's hair, and Sherlock tenses up even more severely. He tilts his head back.
John is looking down at him. His face is puffy with sleep, and his eyes are shockingly blue. His short fringe is standing straight up. It looks ridiculous.
His expression changes minutely when he looks Sherlock in the eye; almost as if he's smiling, but his mouth doesn't really move. While keeping eye contact, he burrows his fingers deeper into Sherlock's curls. Sherlock feels his eyes growing wide. This is intimate. He's so shocked at having the very thing he has dreamed of for months – John's small hands in his hair – that he entirely forgets to enjoy it.
John's eyes flicker to his mouth ever so briefly, and then back to his eyes. Sherlock stares back at him, not managing so much as a blink. And then John moves forward.
“Oh!” Sherlock exclaims, taken aback by the unexpected deduction that John is about to kiss him. Actually kiss him, right now, in the inn of a godforsaken village outside of London, before they have even said good morning. How did he miss the signs? There must have been signs leading up to this. He must have spent so much time in his head trying to calculate this moment that he completely overlooked any evidence that John was planning to actually try it.
John halts, and Sherlock wants to die. He ruined it. He was about to get his very first kiss, and he disrupted the moment with his awkward inexperience.
“Sorry-” John begins, but Sherlock interrupts him:
“I didn't mean to-”
“You were about to-”
“Yeah. Is that-”
“No! I mean, yes! If you-”
“Yes, 'course I want that, but-”
“Yeah? Are you sure you-”
“You want me to kiss you?”
Sherlock releases a breath through his nose. “Yes. That. I- yes. Mm.”
They fall silent, looking at each other. A slow, soft smile spreads across John's face. It makes Sherlock want to cry, it's so beautiful.
“Okay then”, he says, fingertips moving a bit against Sherlock's scalp. “Are you ready?”
“Yes”, Sherlock breathes, lips shaking around the word.
John's blue eyes watch him and see everything. It's disconcerting and addictive at the same time.
“Maybe you could kiss me, then?” John says. “When you feel like it?”
John closes his eyes, giving him space to prepare himself. His hand is still moving in Sherlock's hair, but only a little. Sherlock watches John's mouth, slightly tilted up in one corner, waiting for him to kiss it.
It's unexpectedly difficult to make himself move forward. There are only ten inches between their faces, no distance at all, and still it seems insurmountable. It feels as though he is about to leap off a cliff. His heart is almost choking him and his hands are trembling. After a minute, he gives up.
“No, you have to do it”, he says.
John opens his eyes. “Sure?”
John closes his eyes again and moves forward an inch. Sherlock closes his eyes too, trying to calm his racing heart. The tip of John's nose nudges against Sherlock's, stroking it lightly for a moment. Sherlock is grateful for the preparation.
Then John's lips carefully meet his, slotting together in a clumsy, slightly awkward fit. His lips are dry and a bit chapped. They are a lot thinner than Sherlock's lips, so they can't quite cover them.
John lets go soon, allowing both of them a quick breath before he comes back again. His lips position themselves around Sherlock's upper one and linger for a few seconds.
It feels strange. The entire capacity of Sherlock's mind is occupied trying to catalogue the sensations and his heart keeps hammering nervously. A pair of lips touching his, and it feels like… well, exactly like a pair of lips against his lips. It's new and somewhat confusing; he had, perhaps irrationally, expected something else. When John withdraws, Sherlock leans in again to see if it feels different this time, but no. Still clumsy, and with a whiff of morning breath.
“Hm”, he says when he pulls back.
“Mm?” John asks, drawing patterns on Sherlock's scalp with his fingertips. Sherlock was right (of course he was); John has longed to touch his hair. Sherlock has longed for it too; and yet now that he has it, he isn't sure whether to relax and get used to the sensation, or to avoid giving in to it and letting it distract him from his train of thought.
“That was not at all what I was expecting”, he says.
“No. Research in popular culture indicates that the first kiss with the object of one's affections is accompanied by a number of remarkable sensations.”
“You didn't like it?”
“No – yes! I mean, it's not that it was unpleasant. It was just so…”
“No angel choirs singing?” John asks, a quiet chuckle in his voice.
“Unspecific, but yes.”
“Well.” John tilts his head back a bit, watching his own hand arrange Sherlock's fringe. “It was only the first. Sometimes you're nervous and your head gets in the way. You need to get used to the other person. Process it so you can relax and enjoy it next time.”
Sherlock's breath catches when he considers this. “Next time?”
John's eyes meet his. “Thought I heard something about the object of someone's affections.”
Sherlock, to John's visible delight, blushes. “Yes, well.”
And John, glorious John, uses the fond voice that Sherlock has so carefully saved on his mind palace pillow. “I quite like you too, you know.”
“Oh”, Sherlock says, breathless.
“And I'd love to try that again when we get home. If you're amenable.”
Sherlock considers his curious impulse to answer this with a resounding yes before John has finished speaking. It's strange, he thinks. He's spent so much time trying to create a perfect kiss, and in the end it's this imperfect one that turns out to be his favourite.
“I'm amenable”, he tells John.
“Good. Then hurry up.” John moves out of Sherlock's arms, sitting up on the edge of the bed and letting in cold air under the duvet.
“Why?” Sherlock scowls.
John turns, smiling at him.
“Because I think you'll like the second kiss.”