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"Of all the ghosts, the ghosts of our old loves are the worst."
“The Adventure of the Gloria Scott"
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
At three in the morning, Victor knocks at the door of Baker Street.
“Can I curl up at the end of your bed?” he says with a crooked smile, eyes avoiding Sherlock’s.
He’s carrying a sack on his right shoulder.
John got married a few hours ago. Sherlock can’t think of a single reason to say no.
 
*
 
A quiet rustling noise. Clothes against bed sheets.
“Can I curl up at the end of your bed?” he says with a crooked smile, eyes sparkling with playfulness.
Sherlock carefully considers the question. At this point, he and Victor can be considered friends acquaintances. He doesn’t know the correct protocol concerning where to sleep, and with whom, when one’s sufficiently intimate used to another person.
“Yes” he says, because he can’t think of a single reason to say no. He points in the direction of the thick book in his lap.
“But I’ll keep on reading.”
“Mmmh” is the only answer.
Victor stretches himself on the covers at the end of his bed, the way a large hound would do. He falls asleep with a hand curled around one of his ankles.
Sherlock stares at him for precisely three minutes and seventeen seconds; then, faithful to his word, he keeps on reading.
 
*
 
Victor examines his surroundings with vague curiosity.
“You’re not living alone.”
His voice bears a little trace of uncertainty, something that sounds like maybe this wasn’t a very good idea after all. He’s looking at the armchairs, his and John’s, silently facing each other.
“Actually, yes” Sherlock says, crossing the room to sit on the sofa. “I am living alone.”
Victor slowly nods. He doesn’t look all that convinced, but who cares.
“Didn’t you find yourself a flat mate?” He lets the sack fall on the floor with a heavy thud. “Wallis, Wiggins…”
“Watson” immediately corrects Sherlock. His voice is harsher than he’d like. A priest, punishing a blasphemy.
Victor doesn’t seem impressed.
“Yes, whatever.”
Sherlock looks at him. Uglier than he was back at university. Ruined, but more fascinating. More interesting. Peppered with voluntary and involuntary clues that renders him a banquet for his famished brain.
Married – no, currently separated, one cat and one dog, mother died three years ago, took up gardening – no, only one bonsai – sense of guilt due to having cheated on his husband with someone underage, probably a student-
“You told me once that you’d never lower yourself to the point of teaching” Sherlock says, raising an eloquent eyebrow. “You considered… humiliating, trying to shove Shakespeare down some spotty teenager’s throat.”
For one moment, Victor looks astonished. Then he laughs, shakes his head and throws a tired look in his direction.
“I ended up shoving something else down my students’ throat, actually. Definitely not educational.”
“Did he throw you out for that?” Sherlock clicks his tongue, disappointed. “Dull.”
“Sorry if my husband didn’t put enough creativity in leaving me” Victor says as he rummages through the pockets of his leather jackets. “Fuck you, by the way.”
Sherlock shrugs. Then, suddenly, depressingly interested, he asks: “What’s that?”
Victor throws a little bag full of white powder on the table in front of him.
“Coke.”
 
*
 
“Why do you keep camping at the end of my bed?”
“Because I want to sleep with you.”
Sherlock can’t think of a better reply than an obtuse: “Ah.”
Victor smiles with a mixture of candour and malice.
“Actually, I’d be much more comfortable if I didn’t have to camp at all.”
A loud rustling noise. Clothes against bed sheets. Clothes sliding under bed sheets. Skin under clothes under bed sheets. Skin against skin-
“This all right?” Victor whispers in his ear.
He curls a hand around one of his shoulders, the way he does during the day when he speaks to him about the band front-lining Glastonbury that year, and Yeats, and wild sea coasts hemmed with foamy waves and some other nonsense of the kind.
“Yes” Sherlock whispers, because he’s not very sure about it. The signals are mixed. Falling asleep embracing another person brings to the mind images of post-coital relaxation, quiet surrender to endorphins, cheesy words murmured first fervently and then drowsily. But Victor’s hand, Victor’s hold on him – is it… friendly?
Is a friend safer than a lover? Is it better a friend or-
Need more data.
“Yes” he repeats. This time his voice is firmer.
Victor leaves the warm mark of a smile on his scapula and falls asleep.
 
*
 
Victor leaves to him the honour of the first line.
Even if the last time was fifteen years before, it’s like riding a bike: Sherlock bends his head down and snorts with a precision that feels completely natural.
The impact with the sudden stimulation is both harsh and marvelous. He feels capable of climbing a mountain bare-handed, of writing a nuclear physics dissertation, of composing what Tartini couldn’t manage to achieve, all at the same time, all at maximum speed. Infallible, efficient, weightless, über-mensch. John’s empty armchair has disappeared: the only things that matter are the tiny white synthetic spirals painted on his closed eyelids. He opens his arms, falls, flies, smiles, laughs.
Victor lies back against the sofa and a bit against him.
“A mermaid found a swimming lad, picked him for her own” he starts to declaim, with a dreamy expression on his face that never failed to get on Sherlock’s nerves. “Pressed her body to his body, laughed; and plunging down…”
 
*
 
“…Forgot in cruel happiness that even lovers drown.”
Sherlock grits his teeth and produces a particularly unpleasant shrill note with his violin. Victor, currently seating on the window sill with one leg dangling in the void, throws his head back and laughs.
“I do like bothering you” he says with a voice full of delight.
“I noticed.”
“Play me something nice.”
“Then read me something useful.”
“What a beautiful day” sighs Victor, as if didn’t hear him at all.
The wind is messing with his light blonde hair. Below them, the grass of Cambridge is emerald green.
 
*
 
“So” drawls Victor with his open mouth pressed on his nightgown, “where’s Watson?”
“He’s gone” says Sherlock. Which, as sentences go, is true, concise and straight to the point.
“True, concise and straight to the point” he sing-songs.
“The fuck are you talking about” says Victor.
Sherlock laughs. He laughs so hard he kicks against the table, clumsily, uncoordinated.
But that’s the good thing about drugs: no pain.
No pain at all.
Invincible.
 
*
 
“I’ll play something.”
“It’s four in the morning.”
Sherlock ignores him. Victor falls asleep fifteen minutes later, in his bed, a hand childishly curled in a fist next to his mouth.
Sherlock finds that he doesn’t want to wake him up and goes out to smoke until morning comes.
 
*
 
“I’ll play something.”
“It’s four in the morning.”
Sherlock ignores him. Victor falls asleep fifteen minutes later on their his sofa, a hand childishly curled in a fist next to his mouth.
Sherlock goes out to smoke until morning comes.
 
*
 
Sherlock had never been in love with him - although at one point he had seriously risked it.
Victor had represented all the traps that sentiments could invent, all the sweet things he could never let himself be charmed by. It would have meant the loss of his independence, his objectivity, his self-preservation; and if the paradise of love came at such a high price, he didn’t want any of it.
He’d been strong enough to resist his beauty, his vapid and sincere words of devotion, their affinities, the desire to run away with him from a life-long loneliness. When their relationship had ended, he’d thought himself forever at bay from the risks of love.
Then John Watson had come along.
 
*
 
He wakes up way past noon.
When he enters the sitting room, Victor is sitting on the sofa with his feet on the tea table, glaring at the television screen. With the exception of his loose pants – loss of weight typical of a troubled emotional state – he is naked.
“Oh” he says. “You’re up.”
Sherlock nods.
“I’m bored” continues Victor with a grimace. “I used to think that unhappiness didn’t leave you any time to be bored. But here I am.” He rubs at his chest with nervous fingers. “My life broke into pieces merely yesterday and this thing is already boring me, instead of hurting me.”
Sherlock looks at John’s empty armchair. He doesn’t feel the same: John’s absence seems akin to the loss of one of his own arms, or legs. And that is a kind of pain that not even habit can render dull.
“Suffering is very boring” he says, trying to find a compromise between their two situations.
Victor smiles. His eyes light up with something that is half affection, half interest.
“Come here” he murmurs.
Sherlock doesn’t hesitate one second. He knows what is it that Victor wants, and even if it isn’t exactly what he wants, he’s conscious of one fact: it’s an activity that will demonstrate itself useful to spend his first day without John in a not too much self-harmful way.
When he moves to straddle him with a fluid movement, Victor’s eyes shine brighter, this time with amazed satisfaction. He didn’t expect this much compliance and surprise is turning him on.
“Wow” he whispers on his lips. “I didn’t think-”
Sherlock interrupts him with a kiss that is not exactly gentle. He can’t be bothered with any of his nonsense right now.
 
*
 
Victor fills him wonderfully. He’s hard, hot and pulsing, and his enthusiasm is loud and sincere. His face looks vaguely obscene when he’s hit by a particularly strong wave of pleasure and Sherlock is feeling a bit upset. The last time he’s had sex was twelve years ago – still Victor, back at uni – and all that facial expressiveness seems a bit over the top.
But then Victor finds his prostate, and for a moment they are two disbelieving boys again, trembling with shock and arousal in a shady students’ room in Cambridge. And squalor withdraws, even if not much. Victor’s face looks positively angelic right now and Sherlock, for the first time in six months, doesn’t feel like waste. The general impression of an external observer, if he were to enter in the room and catch them tangled together on the sofa, Sherlock with his nightgown still on and Victor with his open mouth firmly pressed on his neck, could almost be one of beauty.
Sherlock comes when the hypothetical external observer in his mind shifts into John.
 
*
 
“Do you want to make him pay for it?”
Sherlock slowly turns his head to look at him. Victor is smoking a cigarette, hair soaked with sweat, cock laying limp on his stomach.
Although he had always had a penchant for the male physique, there’s something close to ridicule in a man’s spent body after the sexual act. Something awkward and pathetically self-righteous. Having successfully achieved orgasm isn’t comparable to having completed an artistic chef d’oeuvre: it is simply the fulfillment of a biological need.
And still men seem one step away from beating their chests like gorillas, or expecting to be served and cherished for hours.
The revealing clue of true intimacy must be the non-awareness of this comical side of sex, Sherlock thinks.
“Who?” he asks. Now he wants a cigarette too.
“Watson.”
Sherlock freezes, the flame of the lighter nearly touching the tip of his Marlboro.
“And why on earth would I want such a thing?” he says, trying to keep his voice under control.
“Because he left you.”
“We were colleagues. Nothing more.”
“Fine, but right now we fucked to take revenge on someone, me and you. I couldn’t care less about the way things truly were between you and Watson.” His blue eyes are shining with cruelty. “Do you want to make him pay for it?”
Sherlock tears his gaze away from him.
“Even if he knew that we’re fucking, even if the thing were to hurt him – even if - John is, morally speaking, impeccable. He would soon realize that he has no ground for recriminations and he’d accept the status quo.”
Victor laughs derisively.
“What’s fucking wrong with him? Is he a machine?”
“No” says Sherlock, blowing a thin cloud of smoke in the air. “He’s married.”
 
*
 
In the afternoon they snort again. Distractions are imperative, Sherlock tells himself, shoving down his conscience – always speaking to him with Mycroft’s unbearably unctuous voice - in the depths of his mind.
High as a kite, Victor redoubles his poetical efforts. Sherlock wants to throttle him.
“You are talentless, you always were” he says, basking in the feeling of omniscience that cocaine always gives to him. “You aren’t capable of nothing, except quoting others.”
Victor punches him on the shoulder. Not jokingly.
“And you are heartless, you always were. You aren’t even capable of feigning love. You don’t have a fucking clue about love.” He does two or three little jumps on the spot, like a boxeur ready to fight. “If you did, maybe you could have made Watson stay.”
Sherlock desperately wants to fence right now. He doesn’t know why. A Pavlovian response to Victor and cocaine, maybe. Back at uni they used to spend entire afternoons practicing together.
“I was never capable of loving you” he says in a high, sing-song voice. “That doesn’t mean I could never love someone else.”
“You son of a bitch” Victor says, shaking with rage. Then he pushes him against the wall.
Sherlock comes kneeling in front of him, moaning around his cock and nearly choking on it, with a hand in his pants and Victor’s fingers clawed in his scalp. Victor showers him with insults the whole time but he doesn’t care. Only one person can really hurt him, and he’s not there anymore.
 
*
 
“Invite John here. I want to meet him.”
It’s evening. Baker Street is dipped in half-light and smells vaguely of mould. Neither he nor Victor have left Baker Street in the last two days.
“No” Sherlock says, playing with the dagger that keeps the mail in place.
“Why? I’m curious.”
“You don’t have to be. I don’t give a damn about your husband.”
“Because, as I told you countless times, you’re an arsehole.”
“High-functioning sociopath” corrects Sherlock.
Victor stretches on the sofa and stares at the ceiling. His pants are covered in dried come and he stenches of sweat.
“Maybe he’d like to punch me” he says, sounding dreamy.
Why would he?  thinks Sherlock, feeling his stomach plunge into a cold abyss. His chest feels unbearably tight. It’s not as if John loves me.
 
*
 
The next day they snort a line right after breakfast.
They barely have the time to throw at one another few ritual abusing words. Pretty soon Sherlock is bending Victor over the sitting room table and keeping him firmly in place by his hair.
Victor struggles a bit to break free, merely to alleviate the sting of his wounded pride. It’s not long before a moan slips from his mouth and he’s spreading his legs wide open.
Sherlock has already two fingers in him and his own trousers lowered at the knees when he hears the stairs creaking.
John, he thinks, recognizing his unmistakable walk. He could write an essay in seven volumes on John’s manner of walking, on the sheer joy of having him walking by his side.
“Don’t you dare stop” Victor pants, his face red and his eyes shut. “Don’t even think about stopping right now.”
Sherlock himself doesn’t want to. His cock is hard to the point of pain and he doesn’t feel even remotely ready to confront John as a married man. He wants to shut the door in John’s face to keep him from coming in, but by now it’s too late: he already has a hand on the handle.
Victor makes a truly pornographic moan and pushes himself against him.
“Please” he mewls, winking at him. “Please fuck me. I can’t wait anymore.”
Maybe, if Sherlock hadn’t been high, he could have stopped. Or maybe not.
It’s not the drugs – it’s the sense of abandon, the unspoken desperation, the tyranny of a too high number of negative and unknown emotions. He’s got nothing left to lose, hasn’t he? He’s already lost John.
No. Cocaine is merely a catalyst.
The door is not even closed properly, he notices as he sinks inside of Victor with just one, strong push and a grunt of animalistic satisfaction. If John really wants to look, he can.
The thought feels wrong. Illicit. Arousing.
Victor, perfectly aware of the thrilling sense of danger he’s feeling, begins to squirm like he’s possessed, shouting, cursing, spurring him on with breathless obscenities.
Damn, his performance is Oscar worthy. Sherlock can’t decide if he loves or hates him more for the show he’s putting on.
The fact that John’s presence is painfully turning him on is repelling, but the disgust isn’t strong enough to smother the force of his impending orgasm. The pressure has become intolerable. He begins to fuck Victor for real, pounding into him hard enough to make the table creak under his thrusts, blood roaring in his ears. Victor goes rigid and comes with a shout that sounds vaguely like his name.
Sherlock throws his head back, his mind feeling much too full and much too empty at the same time. Pleasure is imminent but John’s presence fills him with pathetic insecurities. His body is thin and fragile, disgustingly pale and with all his ribs in display, and what if his face is doing horrible grimaces? What if John finds him ridiculous while he’s having sex? He’s never wanted to be liked by someone as desperately as he wants it now.
All of a sudden he feels nails scratching his thigh.
“Come on” sobs Victor, eyes glossy and mouth slack, looking feral. “Come on, you’re gorgeous, you’re so fucking gorgeous like this-”
Yes, confirms the John in his mind, with the same voice he uses to say fantastic, brilliant, incredible. Yes. Gorgeous.
To overlap the two men is easier than he thought and incredibly freeing. He comes so hard he blacks out for a moment; when he opens his eyes again he’s sprawled on Victor’s back, panting and shivering, exhausted.
He can hear John running down the stairs as if his life depended on it.
Victor starts to laugh.
 
*
 
Sherlock doesn’t know what’s been set in motion between them, but whatever it is, the forward movement is fast and constant. Somewhere a gun has fired and he, without even noticing, has found himself running alongside Victor.
In what direction, he doesn’t know yet. But for now he doesn’t care.
 
*
 
“You liked it” Victor says, fishing a rumpled shirt from his sack. “You liked doing it in front of him.”
Sherlock looks at him with an impassible stare.
“Not nearly as much as you did.”
Victor shrugs, but he’s smiling.
 
*
 
Theirs had been a sudden encounter, completely casual, apparently futile and without consequences.
Before Victor’s bulldog bit his ankle, thus provoking their first meeting, they had attended the same university for weeks without even setting eyes on each other.
Improbable, but not impossible.
Sherlock had always loved things that were improbable but not impossible.
 
*
 
Right now he finds it hard to recall a time in which something, even a stupid, little, irrelevant detail, had ended by revealing itself futile and without consequences.
Everything seems to have an intolerable weight. Breathing. Remembering. Living.
Everything.
 
*
 
Both Victor and John have an innocuous appearance. Blonde, blue-eyed, the perfect boys next door.
Sherlock knows that it’s nothing but a brilliant disguise.
Unmasking Victor had been one of his first deductive triumphs. He still remembers the euphoric feeling of discovery: Victor sinking his nails into his hips while thrusting savagely inside of him with the right amount of brutal force, making him mix pleasure with pain in a delicious cocktail of sensation. It had happened after the first, cautious months of their relationship, when he’d managed to convince him to loosen up a bit. Victor had finally stopped being so stupidly preoccupied with his well-being and had revealed his true nature.
Sherlock had relished the whole process of unraveling; for one moment, he’d even thought he had fallen in love.
Victor’s masquerade as the good-natured boy, prone to duty, excellent student and prodigal son had always made him sick. No one knows what Victor really loves, what he likes to treat himself to, how, and with whom. No one.
No one but Sherlock.
 
*
 
He will never know these things about John. No matter how big his efforts will be, no matter how desperately he’ll try to conjure up in his mind scenarios as realistic as possible, the army doctor will always remain a seductive, familiar stranger. The absolute knowledge of John will forever be forbidden to him.
About this Sherlock is absolutely positive.
 
*
 
He wonders if John liked stealing a little piece of his true nature, the way he did while spying on him and Victor.
Another fragment of his mask fallen on the ground. Sometimes, when he’s in bed trying to sleep, he can almost hear in his head what John must have thought of him. Cold, distant, untouchable Sherlock Holmes in the end was nothing but a pose.
Yes: in that moment, he was naked in all manner of ways. The only great mystery left is John.
He no longer is one.
 
*
 
They fall in bed in the evening, and their rhythm is strangely languid and attentive. One of Victor’s usual attempts at forgiveness when he feels he’s overstepped the line.
To fool himself would be easy. To plunge back into the past, a past that right now feels warm, sensual, intense, and to put aside the present, cold as a gravestone, would be easy.
But Sherlock detests easiness.
Victor is whispering something imploring and awfully out of place when Sherlock turns his head on the pillow and busies himself with staring at the wall, insensible to his caresses, to his attempts to blow some life back into him.
He can hear Victor gritting his teeth. He’s losing his patience. All of a sudden he pulls at his hair and bites his lips with a feral growl. Sherlock has hit him on his Achilles’ heel: his illusions and his vanity.
Victor enters him with no preparation whatsoever. Hot. Heavy. Too much. And Sherlock, finally, blissfully, manages to stop thinking.
He likes being hurt by someone who could never really do him any harm.
 
*
 
When John pays a visit to Baker Street, Victor is mercifully out doing courses.
Sherlock is playing his violin when he hears the doctor approaching. He’s suddenly, shamefully aware of his arousal. That particular memory is still too fresh, too linked to the sound of John’s steps on the stairs to leave him cold. He feels disgusted with himself but it’s not enough: right know the anxiety stemming from their imminent confrontation and the hot swelling between his legs is all he can focus on.
John hesitates in front of the door, then softly knocks. This time he’s cautious. Sherlock can’t really blame him.
“Come in” he says.
John steps in, closes the door, and finally meets his eyes.
“Hello” he says, and oh he’s dying to look natural, to feel natural, but he can’t. On the contrary: he blushes so much he has to glue his stare on the ground.
“Look, I.” He clears his throat. “I… Last time, I didn’t think…” He sighs. “I’m sorry.”
Sherlock blinks, feigning confusion.
“Sorry about what?”
“About…”
John finally raises his head and licks his lips. He looks tortured.
Sorry about spying?  Sherlock completes in his head. Sorry about interrupting? Sorry about staying until the very end, for a reason you can’t explain to yourself?
“What can you possibly be sorry about?” says Sherlock in a light tone.
John sighs again.
“You know what.”
“No, I don’t.”
“You know everything. All the bloody time. It’s impossible that you didn’t notice me. Even during that… circumstances.”
Sherlock makes an effort to look politely surprised.
“Oh. Did you come here with an… unfortunate timing?”
“Sherlock.” John’s eyes look threatening.
The detective smiles bitterly and stands up to retrieve his violin.
“John, I’m afraid you’re underestimating my tendency to get distracted. I am an extremely perceptive man, indeed, but human biology is as unforgiving with me as it is with you.” He starts playing a cheerful little song. “And you know it better than anyone. Or, at least, you were constantly reminding me of the fact in order to make me sleep and eat more regularly.”
“So you don’t know what I’m talking about” says John, with the quietly angry voice of a man who is losing his patience.
“Now that you have presented me with a wider picture of the situation, I think I have deduced it.” He throws him a piercing look from over his shoulder. “Problem?”
“No” John replies, too fast. “No, why could I possibly- No. I just wanted to say-”
“How’s Mary?” interrupts Sherlock with a bright smile.
“F-fine.” John looks at him in confusion. “Fine, we… We had to postpone our honeymoon because one of her aunts got sick.”
“I know.”
John snorts.
“How- Nevermind. We’re fine.”
“You’ve already said that.”
They glare at each other, perfectly still. The memory of what happened on the very same table that’s dividing them seem to fluctuate in the room.
All of a sudden, the sound of light steps on the stairs breaks the charged silence that has engulfed them in a bubble of unsaid. Of course Victor had to choose this precise moment to interrupt them. He enters the room with his arms full of groceries, looking stunned for a minute, then smiles charmingly.
“Oh. The party’s here, then.”
 
*
 
“John, Victor” says Sherlock, with his pounding heart threatening to split his chest in two. “Victor, John.”
The two shake hands, one with a predatory grin, the other with a barely polite smile.
“The unfamous John Watson” Victor solemnly says, his eyes shining with delight. “It was about time we met.”
Then, more slowly, throwing an oblique glance full of malice at the detective: “Sherlock does nothing but talk about you.”
John frowns, confused.
“I’m afraid he’s never told me anything about you, though.”
Victor laughs, showing two perfect rows of white teeth.
“Oh, that’s typical” he says, moving to arrange the groceries. “Our Sherlock, always playing his most important cards close to his chest, always so… cautious. Furtive as the thieves he so loves to hunt down.”
“Victor and I went to uni together” interjects Sherlock, with a flat voice that barely masks his blinding rage.
John nods, looking if possible more confused than before.
“Oh. Right.”
“Are you staying for tea?” Victor cheerfully shouts from the kitchen.
Sherlock could swear he saw a shudder of pure irritation shaking John to the core. He looks at him and slowly signals no with his head. The last thing he wants is a prolonging of this psychological duel.
But John, always brave to the point of stupidity, holds his gaze with his chin held high and smiles defiantly.
“With pleasure.”
 
*
 
Victor is beaming with delight, like a child who just got his Christmas present weeks in advance. He is breathtakingly beautiful like this. His blond curls and his eyes shining with malice make him look like a mischievous cherub.
Sherlock observes John studying him with a mix of irritation, distrust and envy. He has seen him naked, after all: he knows that the smile is definitely not the only attractive item Victor possesses.
But what kind of jealousy is John feeling right now? Does he feel replaced as a friend and a flat mate, or does he feel outclassed as a man? Would he like Victor to be covered in pimples, with rotten teeth and narrow shoulders, or would he simply want him out of Baker Street and back in his own goddamned house?
Sherlock just dies from wanting to measure John’s hatred for Victor with millimetrical precision, in order to convert it into the exact corresponding quantity of love for him.
“And how long are you planning to stay here?” John asks abruptly, interrupting with little politeness the exchange of pleasantries that took place up to the present moment.
Victor shots a playful glance at the detective.
“Well, as long as Sherlock wants me to” he says with a delightful smile.
John imperceptibly stiffens. Sherlock loses his patience and gets up with a brusque movement.
“Must go” he says, barely conscious of putting on his coat. “Lestrade. Says it’s urgent.”
John stands up too.
“But I didn’t hear-”
Sherlock closes the door behind him without looking back and turns off his phone.
 
*
 
Two hours later, when he finally comes back to himself and decides to return to Baker Street, he finds Victor bent on the kitchen sink. He’s pressing the dish towel to his bleeding upper lip.
“Isn’t your little soldier just charming” he says with a sneer. “So unexpectedly litigious for someone that short.”
Sherlock looks at him, barely to estimate the entity of the damage, then turns on his heels and goes hanging his coat.
“Whatever nonsense you said to John, you certainly deserved it.”
Victor laughs but immediately moans from the pain of his injury.
“Oh, it was merely a question of time. He was dying to punch me, but he lost it only when he saw the coke.”
Sherlock feels himself going cold.
“What did he see?”
At least Victor has the decency to look mortified.
“I didn’t hide it properly. It was between the sofa cushions.” He sighs. “I really am a disaster.”
Struck by a horrible premonition, Sherlock fishes his phone out of his coat and turns it back on. There are twenty-four missed calls and one text.
 
What the hell are you doing?
JW
 
*
 
They decide to finish what’s left of the coke in order to make it vanish once for all. It’s definitely far too much for two people but neither of them formulates the thought aloud.
When, at three at the morning, the effects of the drug finally subside and Sherlock regains consciousness, he finds himself naked and sprawled on Victor on the bathroom floor. His nose is dripping blood on the tiles.
With a migraine that threatens to split his head in half, he stands up and looks at himself in the mirror.
He’s shaking and he’s pale as a corpse. His stomach hurts from the cramps and his mouth feels painfully dry.
He’s not feeling well. It’s the first time since John left that he’s able to admit it to himself.
 
*
 
He drags Victor in his bed. He doesn’t regain consciousness.
Of one thing he’s grateful: Victor never asked him to share the bed, and he never even went to sleep in John’s room. After all the nights he’s passed on the sofa he deserves a proper rest.
Sherlock slowly descends the stairs and goes to the sitting room, enveloping himself in the blue nightgown he finds on the floor. He removes his coat from the rack and curls up on the sofa under its familiar warmth.
Before falling asleep, he texts John.
 
I’m going on.
SH
 
*
 
Sherlock spends two dreadful hours half-asleep. He wakes up feeling more exhausted than before.
When he ascends to his room to check on Victor, he finds him curled against a pillow with a book in his lap. He’s writing something on the last white page of it with a look of furious determination on his face.
Sherlock’s throat suddenly becomes tight and sore. He recognizes that book: Fred Vargas’ Have Mercy On Us All. A deeply unrealistic, ridiculous and boring detective story about an imaginary new epidemy of plague in contemporary France. Sherlock would gladly leave it in Victor’s vandalistic hold if it weren’t the only thing that John has abandoned in Baker Street as a sign of his passage.
Victor lifts his deadly pale face from the book and looks at him with a perplexed stare.
“What’s going on? You look terrified.”
“Give me that book” Sherlock nervously orders. “Right now.”
“No. I need it.”
Sherlock steps closer and tears it from his hand.
“How rude” Victor squeaks, outraged. He tries to take it back but he’s too weak. Paling horribly under the effort, he falls back again against the pillows with his eyes bulging from his eye-sockets.
“If you need to write one of your pathetic poems, I will supply a block notes” Sherlock says with an icy look. His heart beats furiously against the book he’s holding to his chest, as if it were a treasure.
Victor keeps looking at him with spite.
“For God’s sake, Sherlock, you’re a fucking mess” he says, shaking his head.
“Says the man I had to drag unconscious in this very bed.”
Victor smiles bitterly. His lip is still swollen from John’s punch.
“Oh, Sherlock, Sherlock” he sighs. “I’m aware of the fact that I’m a fucking mess. Emotionally, if not psycho-”
“You are a fucking mess under all possible aspects.”
Victor rolls his eyes.
“Shut the fuck up for just one second, would you? And fucking listen to me without fucking interrupting all the time. To put under such strain a drug addict who has just risked ODing is not polite.”
Sherlock deeply inhales and stares at him. He looks like the arrogant and lonely boy he was when they had first met. His perfect, blonde double.
Despite all the years that had passed, this speculate correspondence between him and Victor had stayed. And wasn’t it sad? Wasn’t it tragic never to perceive any improvement, any evolution? Wasn’t it perhaps the thing Sherlock hated the most – repetition?
Feeling observed from eyes Sherlock fears have become glassy, Victor softens his sneer and moves aside the blankets.
“Come here.”
Sherlock snorts.
“You cock” replies Victor, unperturbed. “Come here.”
Sherlock feels so very tired and decides that obeying is probably the best course of action. Moreover, his toes feel cold.
He carefully puts the book on the bedside table and crawls into bed next to him, determined to keep a certain distance between them; but Victor immediately slips an arm around his shoulders and sinks his nose in his curls.
“Now I will gift you with one of my rare moments of lucidity” he murmurs, grave and serious. “Close your eyes.”
Sherlock does as he’s told, exhausted. Victor has always had a delicious smell that not even interminable bouts of rowing practice could send away.
“I” Victor begins, with that bright voice of his that remains light even when he’s close to tears, “I have problems with people who return my feelings. If my husband had made the wise choice of marrying me for my money, our marriage would have been a success. When you fall in love with someone who falls in love with you at the same time, things become obsessive, sick, claustrophobic. It’s unnatural, like monogamy. It’s a shared dementia that sends all your life to the dogs.
I thought that Sean would have enough brains to push me away after our honeymoon period. It had to be him, because I would’ve never done it, because he was the adult, not me. The reason I shagged my students was precisely this – I wanted to be the adult for once, or at least deceive myself into thinking I was.”
A giggle. Then, a long silence.
“Do you know what that meant for me, Sherlock? Getting married for love? Do you remember the two of us, at Cambridge? We boasted about not being in love with each other. We thought ourselves the cleverest in the room, because we hadn’t fallen for it, because we had taken only the best from it – sex, companionship, laughter – and not the worst. I don’t think I’ve ever waited with trepidation for a call from you, or wanted you to be more tender or less distant with me. I would have never allowed myself.” Another pause. “The funny thing is that I was head over heels for you, and I think that you, too, got a bit carried away. But we would have never told one another that- Oh, it doesn’t matter anymore. Thank God we never did.
Moreover, I was convinced that too much intimacy would have ruined a relationship. Nobody ever truly accepts your faults, your dark sides, your traumas. One day or another, every single one of your “true loves” flees, or worst, fights begin, oh how you have disappointed me, oh no I fucking didn’t, I have always been like this, been myself, blah blah blah… The end of all of it becomes boring and predictable and bad taste rules sovereign.
But once again, I thought I was the cleverest in the room. I really believed that I could hide certain things from Sean – that I could vent the nastiest parts of myself on other people, so I wouldn’t damage our relationship. I even thought I was being selfless, with all my sparing him all those ugly sides that he – never mind his foolish declarations of love and comprehension and all of that bullshit – would never have accepted. I thought I was doing him good, you see? I’m not a nice person. I’m weak and fickle and selfish, among my many faults. But I am capable of love. I can, and I want, protect the one I love. The only thing I need is… decompression. Sometimes. And another thing I need is someone that loves me less than I love him. Otherwise he starts obsessing over always wanting to make me happy, and trying to make me forget my troubles, and insisting on making me a better person. And problems begin – and they never end.” A sigh. “No need to say that Sean wasn’t able to grasp the concept.”
“I know who you are” Sherlock says, his head buzzing from the effort of cataloguing all these unwanted – yet strangely fascinating – information. “I know you better that you know yourself. And still, one week ago, I let you into my flat.”
Victor kisses his hair. His mouth trembles.
“It’s because I never disappointed you.”
“Yes.”
Another dry laugh.
“Oh, how would I have wanted to disappoint you. To make you miserable because of me. Only for once. But I wasn’t able to do it back then, and I’m still not able to do it now. Breaking your heart is a high privilege reserved to John Watson alone.”
Sherlock wakes up from his torpor and twists away from him. He’s trembling with blind, white-hot rage, feeling capable of murder. Victor is glancing at him with a look of barely disguised nastiness - hidden, as usual, under one of his sparkling smiles.
“You are nothing but a little, pathetic parasite” snarls Sherlock. “Your stupid moments of decompression are merely exploitation of someone else’s feelings. You don’t have the balls to face anything that happens in your life, good or bad. Your poetry is awful because even your imagination is crushed by fear. You’re not clever, you never have been – you are just a coward. A twisted coward. The thing you enjoy the most is spying on other people’s lives.”
“Says the consulting detective” drawls Victor, lighting a cigarette.
He’s never stopped smiling. The stillness of his expression is unnerving.
“I won’t be your fucking moment of decompression anymore” says Sherlock, shaking with anger. “And neither will John. We’re not pawns in your sick game.”
 Victor lets the ash fall on the sheets with a lazy gesture of his index.
“You know what would be nice, Sherlock?” he says with sugary voice dripping with petulance. “You thanking me. Because if it weren’t for this voyeuristic pervert, your darling John wouldn’t even know that you like to fuck.”
That word, said in that voice, coming from that mouth, sounds incredibly vulgar. Sherlock feels hit by it as it were a slap in the face.
Victor laughs.
“Yes, Sherlock. F-u-c-k. Feel free to play the part of the snow queen with people who don’t know you as well as I do. Boast about eating very little, sleeping even less and being in general slightly more than an autistic. You look fucking ridiculous to me. There’s nothing heroic in what you do. You never gain nothing out of your little puzzles, never, only the certainty of being right about abstract problems that don’t fucking matter to you on a personal level. You don’t even have the balls to admit that you’d like to have, to live certain things.”
He blows a long tendril of smoke in the air, pretending to think about something.
“Let’s talk about our sweet John Watson, for example. How would you react, Sherlock, if I told you that I’ve made him ridiculously happy? If he’s really been so stupid to fall in love with the only consulting detective in the world, just think about all the time he’s spent hoping to fuck you. But no, no, no” he says, imitating John’s lower register, “Sherlock doesn’t like such low activities, he’s superior, he’s so special, unique, loving him means accepting him as he is…”
He angrily throws his lit cigarette in the ashtray on the bedside table.
“You’re so full of shit, Sherlock. He must have felt a horrible man wanking while thinking of you. Poor bastard. The truth is that there were times when I had to beg you to stop, because you would have carried on for hours. Nothing shocked you. You would have experimented with any fetish in the world. When you lower yourself to face your libido and mix with us mere mortals, you’re little more than an animal. And John instead! Hiding all this time insecure and frightened in a corner, asking himself if a kiss would have been too traumatic! Think how pathetic he is! You’ve made him so desperate that seeing you - the holy, pure, unreachable love of his life - shagging the brains out of another man seemed like a dream to him. Sherlock Holmes likes to fuck! He couldn’t believe it. He would have shouted this astounding discovery from the rooftops. As if he had found the ultimate cure for cancer.”
Sherlock swallows with some difficulty, trying very hard not to react with violence.
“All this while you’re here suffering in silence” continues Victor, apparently very satisfied with his little speech. “Trapped in this hole licking your wounds because he’s not with you anymore. But who cares – the lonely knight will bear every single unbearable weight, admiring his scars with pride. You utter idiot, don’t you understand that John left you because you let him leave? You made a mistake, and atoning for it doesn’t make you a saint. You are everything but a saint. And that’s part of your charm, I suppose.”
After some seconds of silence, spent pushing the most humiliating truths in the most narrow and unattainable room of his Mind Palace, Sherlock says, in a perfectly neutral voice: “If now I punch you, I might kill you. Which, seeing your actual state, could be considered an improvement.”
Victor makes a grimace and opens his arms.
“Please.”
Sherlock laughs bitterly.
“Oh, don’t play the hero. It doesn’t suit you at all.”
“Pfff. Do you remember that poem I used to like so much, the one I was always reciting over and over?”
Sherlock looks at him with impatience.
“Which one? You were maniacally obsessed with about thousands of them.”
“Razors pain you” says Victor. “Rivers are damp. Acids stain you. And drugs cause cramps.”
“Guns aren’t lawful” continues Sherlock, almost without thinking.
Victor nods and smiles. “Nooses give. Gas smells awful.”
“You might as well live.”
They look at each other. Victor yawns and Sherlock, in that moment, can’t keep himself from adoring him.
“Goodnight, you dickhead” says Victor, leaning back against the pillow.
Sherlock looks at the thin line of sunlight emerging from the top of the windows.
“It’s morning.”
Victor lifts a hand in an annoyed gesture.
“Jesus Christ, I don’t care. Go away.”
“If you feel like throwing up, go to the loo” Sherlock reminds him.
“Get lost.”
Sherlock picks up John’s book and disappears down the stairs.
 
*
 
John’s face is pale and tired.
“I thought” he begins, then clears his throat and starts toying with his cup of tea. “I thought you wouldn’t do that anymore.”
Sherlock takes his time to answer.
He accepted meeting John after two days of lost calls and unanswered texts. Victor had said something stupid about some three days’ rule but Sherlock hadn’t paid too much attention to him.
When John arrives, Victor is nowhere to be seen. Sherlock ordered him to stay away for at least three hours. Maybe that wasn’t very polite of him – technically Victor is his flatmate now, not John. But John had sternly insisted for Baker Street as their meeting point. Probably to defend a place he still perceives as his territory. Home, he had said. I want to talk with you at home.
And Sherlock’s heart had skipped a heartbeat.
“Experiment” he says eventually, sipping his coffee. “Nothing to worry about.”
John laughs. Hurt. Disappointed.
Sherlock observes with trepidation every sign of pain that shows up on his face – caused by him, him, him alone – and stores them carefully in John’s private room in his Mind Palace.
“Don’t lie to me” says John, shaking his head. “I’m stupid but not that stupid.”
“How’s Mary?” asks the detective.
He nearly chokes on his coffee when John slams a fist on the table and stands up, breathless with rage.
“Goddammit, Sherlock!” he hisses, his voice shrill and nearly pleading. “How can you do this to yourself? How? How can you do this to me?”
Sherlock goes rigid and looks back at him with an air of cold disdain.
“I am legally an adult. I’ll do whatever the hell I want with my life, I’m afraid.”
John laughs and gestures madly with both hands, probably fighting the impulse of throttling him.
“Right, right. Who cares about what other people feel. Your favorite strategy.”
“You didn’t tell me how’s Mary” insists Sherlock with cruelty.
“I don’t want to talk about her” snaps John. “Is that clear? Stop bringing her into this.”
“Why are you here, John?”  asks the detective irritably. “To tell me what I must not do out of a God’s complex? Or worst, a Mycroft’s complex?”
John hesitates, licks his lips, clears his voice again.
“There’s no particular reason” he says. “I’m here because I was here before the wedding and… I told you that Mary wouldn’t have changed anything.”
“Yes, you did tell me that” answers Sherlock. “One of your brightest sparks of idiocy.”
You have changed things between us” says John, voice trembling with fury. “You have lost your head since that dickhead Victor came living here! You have started doing obscenities in the sitting room with the door left open, you have resumed snorting coke, Jesus fuck, when you had sworn me that you didn’t feel the need anymore… Since when you’re not on a case?”
Sherlock, incredulous, starts laughing.
“Obscenities? Really?”
John looks away, neck reddening under the collar of his shirt.
“You’re not like that” he murmurs. “I know you. You’re not like that.”
“You utter imbecile” snaps Sherlock. “And exactly what do you think I am like? Mh? What did you expect? That I would cover my sexual partner with electrodes to monitor his breathing and heartbeat? That I would run away in the middle of a shag to check on something on the microscope? Me and Victor are living together, and fucking, and when we are fucking we pay attention to little else. As the majority of mankind does.”
Now John is red everywhere, from his forehead to his ears to his cheeks.
“He isn’t good for you” he says, moving closer. His voice is urgent, nearly frightened. “I’m saying this as a friend, as your best friend. He isn’t good for you… he isn’t, period.”
“And I suppose that you, by contrast, are good for me” hisses Sherlock, looming over him.
“Yes” John immediately says. He maintains his gaze without hesitation.
“And knowing it makes you feel very special, I imagine.”
“Yes.” A predatory smile. “Very.”
Sherlock feels his knees wobbling. A wave of heat hits him from head to toe, lingering in his chest, filling his heart to the brim.
He thinks that maybe – maybe – it’s not too late. Victor is right: atoning in solitude an error of valuation won’t make him a better person, it’s better to act, to interrupt this excruciating impasse, yes, it is better to-
John’s mobile rings. John swallows and doesn’t look away from his eyes, eyelids moving fast.
“Take the call” whispers Sherlock.
For a moment it seems that John will collapse. He opens his mouth, breathing with effort, then he freezes, lips parted, trying to say something and failing.
Sherlock realizes that he’s just made another error of valuation. Everything is too complicated. The variables are tremendously difficult. The right moment, the right words, the synchronicity, are by now impossible to obtain. Too many people are playing the same game.
“Take the call and go away, please” he says softly. Then he turns and goes back to his microscope.
John doesn’t take Mary’s call but he goes away. Before leaving Baker Street he stares at him for a long time, like he’s trying to understand exactly what he gave up in the past and what he’s giving up right now.
 
*
 
That night Sherlock leaves the sofa and crawls into his bed, next to Victor.
He sniffs his neck, looking for that delicious smell he’s always had there. He snakes his arms around his waist and holds him tight. Victor wakes up, makes a sinuous movement with his back, sighs and thrusts back against him. He’s warm and soft. Beautiful.
It doesn’t mean that John isn’t right, though. Victor is not good for him. Which is exactly the thing Sherlock needs right now.
Sherlock lazily remembers that Victor likes it very slow and very quiet in the beginning, then very hard and very loud approaching the end. He prepares him for at least half an hour, with the utmost care, ignoring his frustrated moans. When he enters him at last they’re both gritting their teeth. The lust they’re feeling is so violent it feels like nausea.
Back at uni they used to skip morning lessons to make love until two in the afternoon.
They started barely awake and carried on without interruption until lunchtime, with short breaks for some water and a little food. Neither him nor Victor would ever have admitted finding their entwined bodies wonderfully reassuring and sweet. And it wasn’t just the sex – which was stunningly good: it was the connection.
They’d rather shag than hug, they’d rather shag than talk about their families, they’d rather shag than trying to figure out a future outside of Cambridge.
That was the main reason of them still being here using this rough, elusive and wonderful means of communication to comfort each other, rather than simply talk of Sean, of John, of all the things that had gone lost. Because they didn’t know any another way. And because it was undoubtedly the thing they both were better at.
“You were right” says Sherlock, white knuckles pressed against his hips. Victor lets out a trembling moan and sinks his nose into the pillow. Forty-five minutes have gone by and Sherlock has never found his prostate, has never touched his cock, and is barely thrusting inside him. “You’ll have to beg me to stop, because I don’t have the slightest intention to do so.”
The control Sherlock is capable to maintain over his body and mind is nearly insane. When finally, finally he allows him to come, nearly one hour later, Victor cries like a baby.
Sherlock slips out of him, rolls onto his back and thrusts savagely into his own hand until he comes all over his stomach. He thinks of John, red all over with shame, not managing to look him in the eye – John accusing him of doing obscenities, John insulting Victor.
“He hates you” he says in a speculative voice, fighting against his sore throat. The ceiling of his room is dimly lit by the headlights of cars running along Baker Street. “He’d want you to never have existed.”
Victor sighs and turns on his side to look at him. His lips are chapped and his sweaty skin makes him shiver a little. He looks both terrible and delicious.
“Mmmh” he says, eyelids slowly drooping over his unearthly blue eyes, giving them that particular exotic quality that had rendered him famous back at uni.
“Does he want me to be alone, then?” asks Sherlock, feeling slightly lost.
Victor doesn’t answer for a long time. He keeps on observing him with his exquisite eyes, astounding in their beauty and, at the same time, utterly incapable of stirring anything inside of him.
“If he can’t have you, he’d rather want you to take your vows, close yourself in a monastery and become impotent” he says eventually.
Sherlock laughs and fears that, if John has understood Victor so well, then the contrary is very likely.
 
*
 
Morning seeps through the windows in the form of a grey and opaque sun, barely managing to light up the room.
Sherlock is woken up by a voice. Male, around thirty, Oxbridge, German grandparents. Nervous.
He rolls on his back and opens his eyes. The voice is coming from a mobile. Hello? says the voice. Hello, who’s there? Hello? If this is a joke, it’s not making me laugh. Hello?
Seated against the bed frame with his nightgown on, knees drawn to his chest and eyes red, Victor is holding Sherlock’s Blackberry in front of his nose and is staring numbly at it, looking shocked.
Hello? Hello?! Oh, sod it.
When the voice dies, Victor whispers, meek as a kitten’s mewling: “Hello, Sean.”
 
*
 
It happens on a freezing December Wednesday. Maybe as a natural reaction to the cold.
Victor’s hands on his cheeks feel like ice cubes but his lips are scorching hot. The contrast is making his head spin.
He doesn’t know for how long they kiss, pressed against the dorm room. Maybe a minute - maybe a hundred years. His mouth must have lost sensitivity, it feels all pins and needles.
Their mingled breaths turn wet the minute they come in contact with the air and seem to wrap them in a strange, warm bubble.
Sherlock feels ready to climb a mountain and, at the same time, about to faint on the spot.
When Victor smiles against his lips and brushes their noses together, Sherlock definitely favours the latter. His legs feel like melt putty. He’s never, never felt anything even remotely comparable to this.
“So… What do you think?” Victor asks him. His voice sounds so sweet and so proud.
God knows the stupid face he must be making right now, Sherlock thinks with a bit of rancour. All because of him.
“Interesting.” He shoves his hands in his pockets, feigning coolness. “Most of it.”
Victor laughs. His cheeks are pink from the cold and his blue eyes shine like the snow surrounding them. The red scarf he’s wearing looks divine on him. It makes his light blond hair, which are curly near the nape of his neck and straight at the bottom, stand out in all their angelic glory.
I’ve never thought anything so bloody stupid, Sherlock furiously reproaches himself. What the hell is happening to me.
“Oh, Holmes” says Victor, looking fondly at him and shaking his head. His smile is so broad it takes up all of his face. “You’ll make me melt.”
 
*
 
Sherlock slips the Blackberry off his trembling hands.
He could break Victor with a light tap on his shoulder, he thinks as he looks at him staring at nothing with his mouth half-closed, completely lost. Without the cocaine preventing him to think, he’s incapable to live.
Suddenly this thought is unbearable to him. The moment of clarity, after almost a week of degrading cohabitation, slams into him unexpected and viciously hard. Like being punched in the stomach, like a road accident.
He doesn’t want Victor to feel pain – not so much pain – he’s never wanted it. Not when they were twenty, not now. It is very likely that, considering Victor’s nature, he doesn’t deserve neither being happy nor being loved, but Sherlock, irrationally, wishes exactly that.
He wants Sean to forgive him. He wants him to spirit away Victor from Baker Street. He wants him to make love to Victor. He wants Victor to feel pleasure, with no complications, no lies, no power plays: only simple, animal, human pleasure.
Sherlock nearly suffocates under the weight of all these emotions. Horrible, hateful empathy: a wet sheet on his lungs, on his heart, blocking out his brain.
Oh, how he hates it. How he regrets the time before meeting John, and the time before kissing Victor, those limbos in which nothing counted and nothing could touch him.
Victor had taught him that other people existed outside of him; John had shown him that all that mattered for the world to have sense was just one, a single one of them. They had condemned him to humanity. And it had been a bottomless fall.
 
*
 
He holds both his hands, a bit awkwardly. Victor had always had little, quick and lovely hands that disappeared in his own, huge in comparison.
“For what it’s worth” he says, looking at Victor who isn’t looking at him, but is staring at the wall, “you’ve had all of me. I’m sorry that it wasn’t much. I’m sorry that you had to snatch it from me. I’m sorry I haven’t offered it to you.”
Victor laughs, then cries, then finally, finally, he meets his eyes.
“Oh, Holmes” he says. “You’ll make me melt.”
 
*
 
Victor tells him after a month of neverending kisses and nothing more. Two ridiculous words without sense, and yet endowed with a grotesque, disproportionate weight.
Until that moment Sherlock hasn’t ever even had a friend. It’s all too much. He wants to run away from Cambridge, away from Victor; he wants to lead a hermit’s existence that doesn’t provide direct contact with other human beings.
“Victor” he simply answers, looking him in his stupid blue eyes full of fear and hope. And lets him draw his own conclusions.
The day after, when he catches him hunched over his desk, a line of white powder at mere inches from his nose, Sherlock thinks that taking a polite interest in what he’s doing is the least he can do.
“What’s that?” he asks.
Victor lifts his head and smiles at him with the false serenity of a friend who will always want more – and who will never have it.
“Coke.”
 
*
 
The blindfold slips over his eyes with a barely audible whisper of fabric. Sherlock feels a light pressure on the nape of his neck, where Victor has tied the knot. He exhales loudly.
“We used to do this a lot. During good old days. Do you remember? You, telling me that everything could become an experiment, a useful experiment. And saying that you hadn’t investigated on sensory deprivation yet. And asking me if I didn’t mind trying…”
He hears the bedsprings creak, then the soft noise of footfalls on the floor. A clicking sound – and all of a sudden, music.
“Shostakovich” Sherlock says. He carefully moves his arms to test the strength of the scarves around his wrists. Tight, but not tight to the point of causing discomfort.
Victor lies back on the bed next to him. Sherlock feels the not-at-all unpleasant friction of his clothes against his bare skin.
“You’re not undressing” he says. “Why?”
“I’d rather not.”
Music fills the room and their silence like something physical, viscous and entrancing – like an unknown liquid substance, warm and real and relaxing. Like Victor’s caresses, oddly chaste and not invasive.
Sherlock feels exposed and at the same time protected. Dipped as he is in the darkness offered by the blindfold, he can’t see anything. It is all extremely, blissfully freeing. He had forgotten how much he liked to abandon himself to the luxury of someone else’s control.
Victor is silent and unmoving. Sherlock feels that unmistakable sensation telling you that someone is staring and you don’t know why.
“Like what you see?” he says with an arrogant little smile.
Victor laughs.
“More than you can imagine.”
Sherlock hears him moving to get off the bed, and sighing.
“I’ll just pop down for a minute. I need to do something.”
The bed springs creak again as Victor bends over him to kiss his forehead.
“I hope it’s something of capital importance” growls Sherlock. This kind of behaviour isn’t new to him. Victor has always been capricious and childish to the extreme.
Victor laughs again and walks away. The music gets louder – not to the point of being deafening, but enough to prevent him from hearing anything else.
He waits for what feels like ages, but that in reality must be around ten minutes. His half erection, in the absence of stimuli, has deflated, and he is starting to lose his patience. Suddenly he’s dying to play his violin, to do something. His passivity, rather than arousing, is starting to become ridiculous.
When a shy hand touches him he can’t restrain a scream. He didn’t hear Victor coming back, he didn’t notice anything at all: he has took him completely by surprise. His heart is beating at furious speed. Even the darkness of the blindfold seems to have started pulsing. He feels irritated, helpless and painfully turned on.
“Hurry up” he hisses with impatience. Sounding imperious is difficult when blindfolded and tied naked to a bed, but it was worth a try. “Do something, for God’s sake.”
He hears a trembling, almost shocked inhale. For a couple of seconds he feels completely lost: the only thing he’s able to perceive is the change in the musical repertoire – from Shostakovich to Schubert.
Finally Victor is is lying on top of him, still fully clothed and oddly hesitating. Sherlock arches up against the scarves, trying to reach his face with his lips, but the only thing he meets is air.
He’s staring at him again. Balancing himself with his hands on the bed frame in order not to crush him with his weight, it seems.
“For the love of God, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before” Sherlock says, exasperated. “What’s wrong with you? You’re behaving like an idiot.”
An aborted sound. An almost laugh, uncertain, half guilty and half amused.
Then, thank God, a warm hand comes resting on his chest and starts a slow descent. It feels like a reverent benediction. Sherlock feels his stomach contracting. The expectations are so high by now. He rolls his head back on the pillow and moans.
“Yes” is all he manages to say, his mind deliciously bright and empty.
Victor covers the whole of his body with light caresses that soon become hungrier and firmer. He follows imaginary lines that join moles to birthmarks and seems to homage every single scar he meets on his way.
Sherlock feels on fire. Every little portion of his skin has become electric, oversensitive. When he finally feels a hot palm closing around his erection he nearly sobs with pleasure.
Victor hasn’t said a word yet. He keeps stroking him in slow, disbelieving way. Almost like he was doing it for the first time.
At that thought, a flicker of doubt in Sherlock’s mind tries to break through the warm cloud of bliss he’s feeling – an itching sense of danger, menacing and dark, struggling to emerge on the surface.
There’s something strange in Victor’s hands – his little, smooth, delicate hands – there has been since his first, frightened touch on his chest. Such a wonderfully rough touch, infinitely better than the usual.
And the shyness? Victor hasn’t been shy one day in his life.
Sherlock starts to pant when the hand speeds up, bringing him close to the edge. He can’t think in these conditions, not with the music so loud in his ears, not without the sense of sight, not when one of the most powerful orgasms he’s ever experienced is seconds away from crushing down on him. For one moment fear and pleasure become one and Sherlock is almost close to asking him – whoever him is – to stop.
But then he hears, sounding miles and miles away from him, a feeble moan. It sounds like a cry of defeat, like someone collapsing under an unbearable weight; suddenly the hand on his cock is gone and is immediately replaced by hot, wet skin.
Sherlock could cry from the beauty of it. He’s aching to come - he’s nearly mad from wanting it. In his rush to feel their bare skins touching, Victor has awkwardly shoved down his trousers and pants, and the fast friction of his sweater rubbing on his chest gives him just the little pain he needs to-
And when a mouth kisses his lips with violence, with adoration, in the exact moment when the pressure becomes unsustainable and his whole body tenses up and then shakes all over with a pleasure that is about to rip him in two, Sherlock remembers that Victor hasn’t brought with him any sweaters, just leather jackets.
 
*
 
The blindfold is all damp. The corners of his eyes are wet.
“John” says Sherlock in a strangled voice. “John.”
John groans, a long, raucous sound of satisfaction that sends a shiver along Sherlock’s back. Sherlock feels him coming all over his stomach and can’t hold back another moan of pleasure.
Then John is collapsing on top of him.
All of a sudden Sherlock has trouble breathing. His chest has become heavy, full of something thick and nauseous that immediately takes hold of his throat and tummy. He isn’t able to formulate a lucid and effective line of thought. His brain feels useless, slave to a foggy sense of panic.
“Kiss me” he whispers with great effort. “Please, kiss me again.”
John sighs on his lips, where he hesitates for a few seconds that to Sherlock seem horrible centuries; then he obeys.
Sherlock recognizes his smell, his taste, the weight of his body, the consistency of the hair on his forehead, all those things he had always wanted and never believed being able to have, and for a moment he feels irrationally happy, like someone had transformed joy into a prodigious liquid and had filled John’s mouth with it.
But then John pulls away and Sherlock snaps forward with a convulse movement.
“No! No, where are you going? Where-”
The bed springs creak once ore. A moment later, the music stops.
Silence falls upon the room, mute and cold as snow. Sherlock is finally able to hear his own breaths. They’re heavy, frantic, making him sound in the middle of a panic attack.
John is staring at him from across the bed. Sherlock clearly feels the weight of his gaze on his body covered in him - in them, mixed together – on his reddened skin, on his sweaty curls.
“Take the blindfold off” he says, trying to keep his voice under control.
“No” answers John. He sounds flat and monotone. He must be still in shock.
“Take the blindfold off” repeats Sherlock, more firmly, more aggressively.
“I… I can’t believe what I’ve done.” A light thud of shoulders against a wall. “I’m out of my mind. Your friend is out of his fucking mind.”
Sherlock shakes his head, frustrated and confused.
“What’s Victor got to do with-”
And then everything falls into place with nearly traumatic speed.
The phone call to Sean, in order to divert his attention from his mobile phone. The music, kept intentionally loud so to not make him tell his footsteps apart from John’s. The fact that Victor had kept his clothes on.
Sherlock shivers. John makes a brief moan of contrition and covers him with the sheet.
“Victor” says the detective, after having struggled with the knot of revulsion and gratitude occluding his throat, “has always loved doing this kind of things. This… games, they amuse him.”
“Jesus Christ” says John.
“He sent you a text from my mobile phone, didn’t he?”
“Yes. ‘Come at Baker Street at 11. If inconvenient, come anyway’. It had your initials and your bad manners.” A weak laugh. “I fell for it without hesitation.”
“And then you met him in the sitting room, and he told you that I was upstairs.”
“Yes. He’s waiting for you, he said. He had his leather jacket on and his sack on his shoulder. He left immediately after.”
Sherlock swallows. He’d want to feel manipulated, and eaten alive by shame, and full of rage, but the memory of John’s frantic thrusts against his bare skin is still too fresh – too marvelous to be taken over by negative emotions.
“Take the blindfold off” he says again.
“No.”
“Why?”
“Because if I take it off, everything will become real.”
Sherlock remains silent.
“And you’re married” he says eventually.
“Among other things” replies John.
“And having done what we’ve done is enough for you? Will it be enough even in the future?”
It’s John’s turn to not speak.
“If your answer is yes” continues Sherlock, feigning a coldness he doesn’t feel, “I agree to consider all of it an… itch, that we have finally scratched. Everything will return as it was before.”
John sits on the bed next to him.
“But if” he says, and then he can’t go on, his voice gets stuck in his throat, he has never done it before, he doesn’t know how to.
Immediately a bright, almost painful light hits his eyes.
John has taken the blindfold off.
 
*
 
Three months later Sherlock receives a package from Victor.
He’s already read several articles about it, so his first book of poetry, applauded both by the critic and the public, doesn’t come as a surprise.
He leafs though it with relative lack of interest. He finds them awful, exactly as he had done fifteen years before. Later on he will read the best of them to John and will ask for his opinion – naturally without telling him the name of the author.
The book is dedicated To my husband. Sherlock can’t deduce if they had got back together or if the separation had become a divorce. Sometimes sentiment – or the death of it – was difficult to reconstruct. Even for him.
His attention is caught by the first page. He smiles.
Under the date, which goes back to three days before, in his elaborate, Peter Pan-ish handwriting, is written:
 
 
To Sherlock,
you might as well live.