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The Detective and the Pin-Up

Chapter Text

The best thing that could be said about what happened that afternoon was that Sherlock Holmes was not there. It happened at a crime scene – an older man had been murdered and Lestrade had called in Sherlock. John, because he'd the day off from the clinic, and because that's what John did, tagged along.

It had taken Sherlock only ten minutes at the scene to announce that the man was gay and that Lestrade should look for the younger man he'd picked up at a bar the night before. The killing had been accidental, a blow to the head by an unfortunately placed coffee table whilst engaging in rough foreplay. As sometimes happened, after laying the scene bare (no pun intended), Sherlock swooped away in a haze of bored ennui and that great, bloody coat. John was left to do the boring bit -- talk to Lestrade and fill out the paperwork.

John was licking one of Lestrade's damn incompetent pencils to get it to do more than crease the form, when he heard Donovan gasp from across the room.

He didn't bother to look up. Donovan didn't register on the 'worth my time' scale, gasp or no gasp. Instead he applied wet pencil to paper again, convinced that Lestrade was doing this… this pencil thing to him on purpose. He felt like he was wrestling with the bloody self-check machine at Tesco's.

He suddenly became aware that the silence in the room was… thick. Lestrade was no longer standing near him and everyone had gone perfectly still.

He raised his eyes to glance across the room where the lot of them stood, all staring at something in Donovan's hands. All of them -- four technicians John didn't really know and 3 people he, unfortunately, did. Lestrade's mouth was hanging open, Anderson's had a look of stunned horror, and Donovan's expression wavered somewhere between utter disbelief, budding hilarity and sexual interest.

And they were all glancing between him and the object in Donovan's hand.

Oh, fuck. It couldn't be.

The way Donovan was holding the calendar, spread out between her top and bottom hands, it's flat side was to him. But he knew. Even before she turned it slightly and he could make out the familiar red velvet backdrop, bare bicep and armpit, and the letters M E, he knew it would be that cover. It was the Men of the British Armed Forces calendar, 2002.

"John!" Lestrade choked out, his mouth only closing long enough to gasp the word, then hanging open again.

"Impressive!" Donovan chortled, derisive yet somehow still meaning it.

"Gah!" said Anderson, which might have been an attempt at taking someone's name in vain or a gag that proceeded vomiting.

John felt his face flame bright red.

"Right, " John said. He managed to move his numb legs to the door and exit without tripping over himself. As he left the flat the people behind him erupted in howls of laughter.

 

Oh god, oh god, John thought as he sat in the cab. This isn't happening.

He had never thought the calendar would catch up with him here, now. It was so long ago. And it had been a relatively small print run. It was his misfortune that the calendar that year had been one of the most 'well received' (i.e. wanked over) on record, and that copies of it were sill coveted items on ebay (for over $500, last time he'd checked).

John's brain was trying frantically to find some way to do damage control. Denial?

It wasn't me, just a look alike. (flat)

Hey, that guy does kind of look like me, doesn't he? Ha! (amused)

That's NOT me, and if you say it is one more time be warned that I HAVE a gun and I know how to use it. (threatening).

No. It was no good. His face in the photo was too clear. Hell, everything was too clear. It was definitely John Watson, albeit a ten year younger, buffer version of himself. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but 'Plausible deniability' were not two of them.

Plan B. He seized his mobile from his pocket.

To Greg:

Get that thing away from Donovan and destroy it. JW

No response.

Please. JW

No response.

I'll owe you. Anything. I mean it. JW

No response.

Then his phone dinged.

Nothing you could possible do for me would be as good as this. Sorry.

Oh, hell, John thought. He was so fucked.

Chapter Text

John Watson was 27 when he posed for the calendar. To say he'd gotten drunk would be to evade responsibility. He had been drunk, of course, when he'd first agreed to it. But then, that's what they did. They drank. They drank to escape, for a short time, from the reality of where they were, especially on Friday nights.

He'd only been in the Army a year and it was his first time in a war zone. Afghanistan. Everything for those first few years had been surreal, like stepping sideways in life and finding yourself in a parallel universe, a universe where 'normal' was blood and human guts littering the sand, where a friendly-looking civ might pull a gun and blow your brains out, where any foreign car or trunk might be packed with explosives. It was impossible to fathom that anything he did there could relate in any way to life back home in England.

It was a mate who had brought it up, one Friday night while the usual group of them were drinking. He'd seen a flyer being passed around, looking for military men to pose for a calendar. They were paying 400 quid. As men their age did, they started teasing each other about who was good-looking enough.

No way, Jenkins, one look at that crooked nose of yours and you'd get the hook.

What about your fat ass? Maybe they could hide it, stick it in a box or somethin'.

Who are you guys fooling? Look at these abs! One look at me, and the rest of you wouldn't stand a chance.

Yeah, if only you had a real dick to wag, maybe.

And so it went on. It had been hilarious, actually. Jolly good fun. Four beers later, they had all made a pact to go in and audition, all of them - Jenkins, Greely, Tobias, Smith, Wilson and Watson. And because it was something they'd all agreed to, it was a pact, John couldn't back down.

The audition was humiliating. Taking off his clothes, parading around in a small pair of pants in an empty airplane hanger in front of the photographer and his assistant. There was no way he would have gone through with it if his mates hadn't been there that day, waiting outside, egging each other on, making a big show of bravado about it.

Somehow Watson was the only one of their names to appear on the final casting list.

He almost blew it off then, but something inside him was… flattered? Intrigued? The photographer had seemed legit, talented, if a bit harried. He'd been shown last year's calendar which was, OK, highly suggestive, but artfully done and pretty hot, he had to admit. Part of the proceeds went to a servicemen's widow's fund. And they wanted him? Really? He was 27. If he was ever going to, well, pose like this, it was now or never.

He had thought about the fact that this photo would be 'out there'. But he hadn't thought about it enough. He knew he'd been on tour for several more years at least, and a calendar was good for one year, right? And the photographer had assured him it was print only, no digital distribution.

It was 400 quid. And his mates were… envious, joked about his being "Three Cee" Watson, such a stud, joked about how he'd have women lining up after this.

And so he'd laid himself bare, literally and philosophically. And the photo session had not been that bad. Strange at first, but the photographer was good and funny and had gotten him to loosen up.

That should have been the end of it, but no, it would never end. It was out there, like, like radioactive residue with a half-life of, oh, forever. And if he'd believed it was far enough back in the past to never trouble him again, well, apparently he'd been wrong.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 3: PLAN "C"

The next morning, John was sitting on the sofa with a newspaper. Sherlock was working at his desk on the computer.

"What do you think of the Cotswolds, then?" John asked.

Sherlock glanced up at him but didn't say anything.

"Lovely this time of year."

"Boring any time of year," Sherlock replied drolly.

"I was thinking of taking a week off the clinic. We could go there. My treat. There are some bloody interesting mysteries. In the Cotswolds."

Sherlock gave him a 'what are you on about' look. "Leave London? No."

"I read about a case there, last night," John said, his tone just a bit forced. "Sounds like quite the puzzle."

"Name?" Sherlock said, fingers pausing over the keys.

John tapped nervously on the arm of the sofa. "Bourton-on-the-water. Tourist found dead in the canal."

Sherlock typed it in and scanned the news article quickly. "Drunk," he said dismissively.

"That's what the police say, sure," John said, leadingly. "But they didn't account for the cat."

Sherlock's eyes flickered up to his flatmate's then back to google. He scanned a few more articles. "There's nothing about a cat, John."

"Naturally, they're not going to talk about the cat. In the media. That would tip off the killer."

There was something unnatural in John's voice. Sherlock narrowed his eyes at him, trying to figure out what it was. Then his mobile dinged. He glanced down.

"Lestrade," he said.

"Oh?" John squeaked out.

"Double homicide. Havering. Maybe you should stay here. You're apparently ill."

Sherlock put on his coat and scarf and had opened the door before he realized that John was, well, not exactly going, but not exactly staying either.

John stood near the door, moving from one foot to the other with look of constipation on his face.

"What is the matter with you, John!"

"Um…" John said.

"Well? Are you coming or not?"

"Uh… right," John said, his face reddening. "Yeah, I'll go."

-B-

In the taxi to Havering, John stared out the window, fighting the urge to fling himself from the moving vehicle.

Why did there have to be a case so soon? He'd hadn't had time to plead or threaten, kidnap or blackmail. No time for it to die down and for his oh, so amused chums at Scotland Yard to lose interest. He could have let Sherlock go alone, god he really did not want to face Lestrade and the others. But if Sherlock had gone alone, John knew for a fact that within 30 seconds of Sherlock arriving at the crime scene, someone would walk up to him holding out that photo on a mobile and grinning. At least if John were there, there was some chance he might be able to deflect it. He could glower with the best of them. He wasn't above tackling. He bloody well had a gun.

Please god, don't let Sherlock see it.

The thought of anyone else seeing the photo – Anderson, Donovan, Lestrade, Molly, Mike, Sarah, even Mrs. Hudson. Well, that was embarrassing, a toe-curling level of embarrassing. But the thought of Sherlock seeing it, that was… that was… well, unacceptable. The way someone hurting Sherlock was unacceptable. The way Sherlock hurting himself, with drugs, was unacceptable. The way hitting a woman was unacceptable. John couldn't have said why, exactly. It was a gut thing. He didn't analyze it. He was a man of action. He just knew that he had to prevent that from happening as long as there was any breath left in his body, as long as there was any possibility remaining that it might be keep from Sherlock.

He got a reprieve. When they arrived at the crime scene, it was not Lestrade in charge, but Dimmock. And the onsite team was no one he knew. As usual, he got a few blank glances and that was all. He was the mild-mannered sidekick once more. He had never felt so damned chuffed to be invisible.

"Dimmock?" John said, almost giddily, as they ducked under the crime scene tape.

"Lestrade had a meeting, so Dimmock's filling in temporarily. Didn't I say?" Sherlock replied, with little interest.

"Nope," John said, smiling. Sherlock gave him a worried glance, as if wondering if he had a contracting some brain-eating bacteria.

The reprieve was not to last. Sherlock figured out enough from the scene to decide that the killer was a habitual criminal, one with severe halitosis and a missing hand. He wanted to review criminal records at the Yard because, naturally, he had to bloody well go in and show how brilliant he was, pinpoint the man himself.

John tried to talk him out of it – told him to leave the tedious task to Lestrade, suggested Indian food, or coffee, maybe a nice nap. But Sherlock was suspicious now. John could see it in the narrowing of his eyes whenever he looked at him. Sherlock didn't even deign to respond to John's suggestions, merely hailed a taxi.

John looked at his watch and figured, well, it was after 7pm. If he were lucky - very, very lucky - most of the chits at Scotland Yard would have gone home or be out for dinner. If Sherlock were going to insist on going to Scotland Yard, it might as well be now rather than morning. And because he was still in 'anticipate, deflect, defend' mode, naturally John had to go along.

Chapter Text

-A-

John was wrong. As he pushed his way past Sherlock to enter the Yard first, taking point as he might in combat, he could see that the office, at 7pm, was a hopping place. There were lots of people around – even Donovan and Anderson. But that wasn't the worst of it. No, it got much, much worse. It took a second for him to realize what he was seeing, but the golden tones and, well, flesh, made it unmistakable.

All the computer monitors in the office had that picture up as a screen saver. All of them. And like in some zombie horror movie, John and Sherlock had only just strode into the room when every head, every eye, turned to look - at John.

John thought that he had to be having a lucid nightmare. This was worse than any worst case scenario he could possibly have imagined. This could not be his life.

John had always been able to trust his body to detach from fear and react quickly in a crisis situation. And now it served him well. He was a few steps ahead of Sherlock. The moment the screensavers registered, he leapt into action. He sensed the exact position of Sherlock's great lanky frame behind him, did a half-spin and stomped, hard, on Sherlock's foot.

"Ow!" Sherlock howled in pain, bending over to grab his shoe. "What are you doing?"

"Oh, Christ, Sorry!" John grabbed Sherlock's arm and, positioning himself in front of Sherlock's face to block the view, pulled – well, half-dragged, really - the hopping, bent-over detective towards Lestrade's office.

"John, what! My foot! Stop it! I need to-"

"You need to sit down, Sherlock. I'm a doctor. I know these things."

"But I—"

John pulled him past Donovan and Anderson, both grinning at him like smugly evil Cheshire cats. Of course, they'd sent out the screensaver. One day, oh, one day….

John yanked his friend through the office, as quickly as he was able. There was no mistaking the soft cat calls that wafted up around him. "Mmmm." and "August is hot, isnt' it?" and "Lord, I do love a man in uniform – especially when he's shucked it." One younger guy, John had no clue who he was, held up a hand-written sign that had a hastily drawn sun on it and a beach umbrella and empty towel. The word AUGUST was written over the top. He winked.

John refused to acknowledge any of them.

They made it to Lestrade's office and John practically threw Sherlock inside and slammed the door. He looked around quickly, braced for signs of it, but no. Lestrade's monitor might or might not be displaying John's extra special goodness, but it was turned away from them. There was only Lestrade himself, eyes amused, mouth quirked in a knowing smile, just… watching. He leaned back further in his chair and put both hands behind his head with a deeply satisfied grunt, as if settling in for a show.

"Lestrade! I-" Sherlock began. John noticed that one monitor was still visible out the window in Lestrade's door, and Sherlock could see it if he was standing. Sherlock's words turned to a muffled "oomph!" as John pushed him roughly into a chair.

"Sherlock's hurt his foot," John explained calmly to Lestrade.

John took a couple of rapid breaths, glanced around some more, and, satisfied that nothing was visible that shouldn't be, finally looked down at Sherlock.

"Stay off that," John said with what he hoped was a worried look. "For at least an hour. Make that two."

Sherlock was glaring up at him with a murderous scowl, both hands clenched on the arms of the chair and his hurt foot straight out to the side.

"Is that your vaulted bedside manner, doctor, or are you trying to get your bulldozer license?" Sherlock spat out at him.

His voice was scathing, but John couldn't have been more relieved. Sherlock hadn't seen it. Mission fucking accomplished. Now John just had to figure out how to get him out of the Yard again. There had to be a power fuse box around here somewhere. He could shut down all the computers in the precinct. There was also Lestrade's window. There had to be some excuse he could come up with for exiting that way.

Donovan slipped through the door. "Thought I'd take notes for you, Sir," she said with a cream-eating smile.

"Oh, by all means," Lestrade said, waving her to a chair.

John folded his arms and glowered at Lestrade. I'm warning you. Not one word. Hair trigger here. I fucking mean it.

"Oh, for god's sake!" Sherlock said, sitting up and pulling his lapels down to collect himself. "What is wrong with you people today? Did it rain hallucinogens last night and I missed my dose? Really, Lestrade! We have a killer to catch. Now I need you to pull records for me. We're looking for an ex-con, most likely a house burglar, but you should pull pickpockets as well. He's definitely light-fingered – on the right at least. He has a missing left hand which lets him get away with it. People don't suspect. And gum disease, advanced. Prison records might show that…"

As Sherlock went on – and on, John slumped with relief. His flatmate's mind was focused on the case. Thank god.

Still, John remained on defensive maneuver at the back of the room, watching for any more funny business. A nude streaker with "JOHN" painted on them going past Lestrade's window, perhaps. An announcement over the P.A. A fucking light show over the Thames.

But nothing was forthcoming – except Donovan. She had slanted in her chair so her back was resting against the arm of it. She held the tip of a pen between her teeth and was nibbling at it as her eyes gazing steadily into John's.

Christ. She had an amused glint in her eye that said she meant it mockingly, was just trying to work him up. And yet… not. Uh… really not. And oh god, for about twenty seconds, he considered it. She wasn't a bad looking woman, after all. And it had been awhile. Then he came to his senses. Donovan. The woman who insulted his best friend at every turn. Jesus, he was such an unrepentant horn dog.

John realized that Sherlock has stopped speaking about the case. John sucked in his lips guiltily, as if caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and looked at his flatmate. Sherlock's eyes were fixed on Donovan.

"Donovan, why precisely are you doing rude things to that pen while looking at John?" Sherlock asked in a cutting tone.

Donovan didn't shift her gaze. In fact, she ran her eyes up and down John's body lasciviously, egging Sherlock on. "Never would have guessed what was under those jumpers and baggy jeans. You have better taste than I thought, Freak."

"We're not—" John started, and then thought to himself, fuck it, because really, having Donovan imply they were a couple was not the worst thing that could happen right now.

John fixed his eyes up at the ceiling and felt a sense of impending doom. She was going to give it away. Any second now, the floor might just as well open and swallow him up.

Fortunately, this was Donovan. And Sherlock would rather be plummeted with a truckload of green tomatoes than admit to her that he didn't know anything that she knew, much less mutter the words "What?" or "I don't get it?" in front of her.

So Sherlock just snarled in a wilting tone, "Oh goodie, you approve. I'll take out an advert in Times, shall I?," and went back to discussing the case with Lestrade.

Unfortunately, Lestrade was not much better. He was pretending to listen to Sherlock, even doing a fairly good job of putting questions out there once in a while, albeit dumb ones. But his gaze kept sliding to John and he'd occasionally let the mask slip and an expression of amusement or... seriously?... baffled arousal would flicker on his face.

Oh for Christ sake, people, John wanted to shout. Are you all sexually deprived or what? It's just a bloody photograph!

Lestrade's gaze lingered on John a bit too long and Sherlock reached his limit. He suddenly leapt from his chair and slammed his fist down on Lestrade's desk. "Pay attention!" he shouted, with as livid and belligerent a voice as John had ever heard emerge from his lips. "Lestrade, send that request down to records NOW and Donovan, get us two coffees and clear off that table. DO IT!"

Donovan and Lestrade hopped to, and within minutes John and Sherlock where going through ex-con record files on the table in Lestrade's office. Neither Donovan nor Lestrade dared to look at John again.

By the time they'd found the killer's records, and left the building, it was past midnight and the office was empty, machines turned off for the day.

Crisis averted. For now.

-NOTE

I promise you guys, the reveal of the actual photo (with a detailed description) is coming. Anticipa...tion.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: Of course, we all know Sherlock will be all over this sooner or later. Apparently sooner. Thanks for the lovely reviews and encouragement. Enjoy.


-A-

In the taxi on the way home, John leaned his head against the window tiredly. After all the adrenaline he'd spent on mindless panic at the Yard, he was exhausted. He could feel Sherlock's eyes on him, contemplating him from the other side of the taxi. He was studying John with a relentless focus normally reserved for mould spores or chemicals that were highly flammable.

"What?" John finally asked, glancing at his flatmate with a great show of groggy innocence.

Sherlock studied John's clothes, a frown between his brows. Then he scooted close, very close – causing John's stomach to do invisible belly flops - and smelled him. He sniffed him overtly, from calf to crown, even lifting one of John's becoated arms and going for the pit.

John turned red. "Stop that!" He yanked his arm away.

"There's nothing different about you," Sherlock said, scooting back with a trace of annoyance.

"I'm sorry, I'll try harder," John huffed, looking at the window.

"John, why was everyone at Scotland Yard acting like they wanted to…"

John looked at him. "To?" he asked, incomprehension written on his face.

"To… to…" Sherlock groped. John had never seen Sherlock at a loss for words. It was almost worth it.

"Talk to me?" John suggested earnestly.

"Eat you," Sherlock growled.

John scratched his head, looking baffled. "Whatd'ya mean?"

"What do you mean? Is that the question?" Sherlock enunciated, one eyebrow arched. "Did I fail to observe your dental appointment this morning? Is your mouth perhaps numb, that it's suddenly incapable of proper speech?"

"I dunno," John shrugged, "Tired. Wassit matter with you, anyway?"

Sherlock leaned back against the window, his eyes glittering, clenching his jaw in preparation for a really meaty rebuttal.

John let him spew. He managed to keep up the annoying language all the way home, distracting Sherlock away from the crucial topic at hand – vis a vis John and his edibility.

God bless the bendy English language.

-B-

The next morning, John heard the soft 'ding ding' of Sherlock receiving mail while he was in the kitchen making tea. He stuck his head into the living room. Sherlock had been at his laptop a moment ago, but now he was not. Bathroom?

John snuck over to the laptop. Sherlock's inbox was open and at the top was an email from AndersonJ .uk with an attachment. Below that was an email from Donovan, also with an attachment. Below that was one from someone John didn't know at Scotland Yard. Attachment.

John glimpsed the name of one of the jpgs before deleting the emails – hotaugustnight. jpg. He didn't bother opening it. Delete, delete, delete. And then, because he knew Sherlock well, he purged the Deleted folder in his email. He was purging Sherlock's recycle bin when the man strode back into the room.

"John, what ARE you doing to my laptop?"

"Hmm?" John feigned, straightening up. "Oh, I was just going to check the weather."

Sherlock gaze darkened. There was a cold flicker of enough in there.

"Want some tea and toast?" John asked. He smiled at Sherlock fondly and crossed the room.

Sherlock went to his laptop. His fingers tapped at the keys. "You deleted my recycle bin."

"Just tidying up. No need to thank me."

John went back into the kitchen. His heart was in his throat, and his hands were unsteady as he pulled down two cups. The evasion couldn't last. Not with Sherlock fucking Holmes. John had seen the flicker in his eyes. The wind was up in his sails. How far up, John wasn't sure.

All the way up, apparently. Sherlock followed him into the kitchen. In his peripheral vision, John could see Sherlock leaning thoughtfully against the counter, three feet away. The seeming ease in his body language was a ploy, John knew. He could feel the intention Sherlock was turning his way, like the giant eye of some extra-terrestrial Cyclops turning, terrifyingly, its gaze upon his immortal soul.

"John," Sherlock said slowly. His tone held a kind of warm firmness that John had never heard before. It was chilling.

"Yes?" John asked, not looking up from making the tea. He could feel a flush crawl up his neck.

"I texted Lestrade this morning, asking if he could explain why his staff had all developed aggressive predilections for a certain five-foot-seven Army doctor."

"You don't know that," John said, his voice remarkably steady.

"Don't know what?"

"That's it's a certain five-foot-seven Army doctor. It could be any five-foot-seven Army doctor. Or any Army doctor. Or a, um, not spectacularly tall man with blondish-brown hair. Or jumpers."

"John," Sherlock said, warningly.

"I know how precise you like to be. Just pointing out that the data set is limited."

"You don't have all my data," Sherlock said, with a smile that was all pointy edges. "For example, Lestrade called me yesterday morning about a note I'd made in a case file, and I mentioned that we had just finished breakfast. He said 'We? You mean you and John?"

Sherlock mimicked Lestrade saying 'John' in a breathy voice and then paused for dramatic affect. Sherlock was enjoying this, the bastard.

"And then… he giggled."

John tossed the spoon with which he'd been stirring Sherlock's tea into the sink and then he shoved the cup down the counter in Sherlock's general direction. He took his own cup into the living room and sank onto the sofa before his knees gave out.

Oh, he was so not going to be able to hide this from Sherlock. It had always been doomed. He saw that now. He was like a man hanging over a cliff grasping at teensy, tiny little branches for purchase while the rapids below him raged, patiently.

"Did he send you something, then? Lestrade? When you texted him?" John twisted the word 'texted' precisely, now mimicking Sherlock. Another tiny little branch grasped – annoy him; distract him. John's heart was pounding. It didn't work.

"Nooo," Sherlock said, equally precisely, following John to loom over the couch like a malevolent crane. "Shall I read his reply?"

"No," John said.

"Ah, here it is," Sherlock looked at the phone in his hand. "He said: AskMrAugust." He verbally punched each word as if it were a stuck key on a damaged laptop.

John gulped down a very hot throatful of tea.

"Any idea whom this 'Mr. August' might be, John? Hmmm?"

John wanted to laugh. He wanted to scream. He wanted to put his hands over his face and pretend he was far, far away. He felt remarkably like a mouse being battered here and there in a great cat's claws. Had Sherlock already seen the photo? Was he just toying with John? And even if he hadn't seen it, surely he'd guessed. This was a man that could spot a creased cuff at 50 paces. There was no way in hell he hadn't yet deduced it all, even if he hadn't seen the photo itself.

"You know what?" John said, his voice tight, "I'm sure you have it all figured out, so I don't need to tell you anything." He sat down his cup and stood up.

He started to go around the end of the couch, prepared to storm out, but Sherlock, the light-footed git, instantly moved from looming over him at one end of the sofa to blocking him at the other. For a moment they just glared at one another, Sherlock's arms folded stubbornly across his chest and John's clenched into fists at his side.

"It would be better if you told me yourself," Sherlock said, coldly. "Don't you agree?"

"No. In fact, maybe you can deduce why I haven't told you already?" John said, pointing his chin up defiantly. He was starting to feel bloody well angry. At all of it. Because Sherlock was going to see it and… and it was positively unbearable.

Sherlock studied him as if he were fascinating, his head tilted to one side. "John, how you manage to surprise me ... You're embarrassed."

"Yes," John said tightly. "Very good. I am embarrassed, Sherlock. I don't suppose, if I asked you, as a friend, to leave it, and not pursue it, to respect my privacy, that you would do that for me?"

Sherlock considered it for about five seconds. "Nooo," he said, in that oddly precise drawl.

"Didn't think so," John said, roughly. "Guess it would be too much to ask, despite my having saved your life and all, despite your claiming to be my friend, for you to leave me with a shred of dignity."

John pushed past him. He'd built himself up to furious and now he was definitely headed for his coat.

"John, apparently all of Scotland Yard knows," Sherlock said behind him in a laugh of pure exasperation. "Do you really expect me to leave it alone?"

"No, that would be… human of you." John said. He grabbed his coat and headed for the landing.

He paused but didn't turn around. "Men of the British Armed Forces calendar, 2002," John said in a dead voice. "I'm still asking you, Sherlock. Don't." He pounded down the stairs.

END NOTE:

Next chapter - the photo. You know you want it! Bwaa ha ha. Don't worry, John's angst will be rewarded in the end...

Chapter Text

Sherlock sat in front of his computer, staring at the image on his screen, unable to believe it, unable to look away. He worried at a fingernail, unaware that he was doing it. He needed a cigarette, badly.

On his monitor, maximized to full screen, was an image the likes of which he never thought he'd see in this lifetime. It was… shocking. Breath-stealing. Erotic. Terrifying. It called to someplace deep inside him as if it were the embodiment of a desperate need he'd never even known he had.

John Watson, 27-years-old.

The photographer was an artist, there was no doubt about that. Sherlock had found the entire calendar online, paid a stupid amount to get an illegal digital download. All the images were good. All of them had a certain quality Sherlock might have called 'magic,' if he'd been a less logical man. Since it was Sherlock, he called it 'taste'.

He understood at once why the photographer had chosen John. Although all of the images were nearly nude and sexually suggestive, they were far beyond what you'd expect to find in your average gay titillation magazine. The photographer didn't just select for beauty. In all of the models there was a softness, an innocence, a goodness, a genuinely open seductiveness that shone through, despite the acres of skin and suggestive poses. And August shone the brightest.

John.

He was posed in the sand – gold and white skin on an all gold background. The shot was taken from above, as if the photographer had been standing. There were no props, nothing cheesy to mar the art. Only his blue eyes broke the monochromatic theme, that and the bronze dog tags that lay against John's chest. He was laying on his back, one arm up and under his head while the other lay relaxed on his stomach. One knee was raised and the other was folded a little, opening himself up for the camera. He had been more muscular then, and still so young that his skin was like silk, unmarred by scars. The soft, rounded firmness of his biceps and chest, visible ridges in his stomach and thighs were… perfect. Not unnaturally large, but solid, dense, tight, reliable. He must have gone without a shirt at times while there, because his chest and stomach, while not as dark as his arms, were golden. The line at his waist where the white skin began, the line that marked where his belt would normally be, was somehow incredibly suggestive and it made something inside Sherlock clench tight.

And… his cock. It was difficult, embarrassing, for Sherlock to look at it, much less think about it. But it was just as difficult not to look, and how could he not think? John wasn't completely bare. He was wearing a stretchy nylon mini brief in a creamy gold color. But what it did for him… it was even more erotic than being naked. The nylon clung to every vein, ridge and curve of his erection. And what an erection it was. It wasn't huge, but it was undoubtedly large and… beautiful. It was strange to use a descriptive word like that about a cock, but honestly, there was no other word for it. It was thick at the base, very thick, rising to a thick middle that went on for at least… seven inches (as long as Sherlock's hand was wide?). Crowning it was fat, pouty head, perfectly shaped in a mushroom cap.

Sherlock's mouth went dry and he realized with shame he was hard, very hard. He shut his eyes, tightly. It didn't help. No wonder all of Scotland Yard suddenly wanted to get into John Watson's pants. How was he ever to take John to a crime scene again without inducing copious drooling? It was more than annoying. In fact, it was rather horrifying – no, infuriating - that anyone had seen John like this. Donovan? Lestrade? Anderson, for god's sake? That had to violate several critical universal laws.

No one  should see this part of John. No one.

Except maybe me.

He catalogued various ways one might set about to remove someone's eyes and how he might get away with doing them to Anderson.

It took several minutes of deep breathing before Sherlock could calm down enough to open his eyes and look at the image again. And he had to look because there was one thing he had saved for last.

As inescapable and fascinating as the lower half of John was in this picture, it wasn't even the best part. The most mesmerizing part, thanks to the photographer's excellent eye, was John's face. His hair was very short on the sides, of course, but he had longer bangs bleached from the sun, far lighter than his hair was now, that pushed over his tan forehead. His blue eyes were warm and dancing. And his face was so young. Really, Sherlock had always thought John was an attractive man, but the younger, not-yet-broken John in this picture had a fuller, sweeter face that was, well, lovely. Perhaps it was his expression. His eyes teased the camera with a come hither look that was playful and entirely genuine, his red lips quirked into a soft, delighted smile, as if he were looking up at a lover in some private moment of joy, a lover and no one else. How the photographer had induced that expression, Sherlock had no idea, but he hated him.

And then Sherlock looked into those eyes, really looked, and felt the axis of his world tilt, maybe never to be righted again. He had the fleeting impression that John was looking at him, at Sherlock Holmes, across all those years and all those miles. And that face that he knew so well, his friend's visage, was looking just at him and saying things that it would never say in real life, things like I'm yours. I love you. Have all of me. Anything you want. Take me. Touch me now.

Sherlock slammed down the lid of his laptop and then ground the heels of his hands into his eyes for good measure. He felt the slick rush of a chemical cocktail suffuse him, hot and violent, making him light-headed. In the mix was self-loathing, embarrassment, intense arousal and… fear. He hated feeling anything, the weakness of it, and he was terrified by the magnitude of what he was feeling right now, things he had not allowed himself to feel for years. They were flooding his body and his intellect was powerless to stop them. Want, want, want, can't have, don't care, don't care, don't care!

Contrary to the beliefs of some, Sherlock Holmes was not a virgin. But the half-dozen experimental episodes he'd had in his younger years had convinced him of two things: 1) when he had sexual interest at all, it was for men and 2) mostly it wasn't worth the bother because the people attached to the bodies were, at best, annoying and, at worst, unbearably cruel. It was far safer not to let anyone that close.

And then there was John. If Sherlock had felt any sexual stirrings for John, his John, before this moment, and if he were honest, he had, he definitely had, he had pushed them aside impatiently and mercilessly as impractical and pointless. John was his friend. What they had together was good, better than good, just as it was. Besides, John had made it clear enough that he was straight. No, as attached as Sherlock was to John, he had never allowed himself to seriously consider that they could be lovers. He'd never let the idea get a toehold on his psyche. He'd been in tight control of his body and mind – just as he pushed down things like hunger and sleep, he had pushed down that. He was good at it.

But dear god, now.

I shouldn't have looked. How can I ever pretend I haven't seen that? How can I ever delete that image out of my mind? And how can I look at John again and not see that expression on his face, his body stretched out, warm and golden, ready to be touched? How can I not want that? Bear not to  have that ?

And then.

This is possibly the very worst thing I have ever done to myself. Bar none.

Another voice in his head, one that sounded suspiciously like Mycroft's, laughed.

He did try to warn you. Curiosity, Sherlock. Cats.

Author's Note:

So this is sort of my head canon about Sherlock and sexuality. I realize there are many others out there, but hope you can flow with this one for the length of the story. ... Any artists out there want to take a stab at Mr. August? -)

Chapter Text

Sherlock didn't acknowledge John for three days. He was afraid to look at his flatmate, afraid to speak to him, so he didn't. He worked on his experiments, he left the flat for hours at a time, he stayed in his room.

He didn't trust himself not to stare. He didn't trust himself not to touch, even without conscious volition. And he refused to be like the slack-mouthed idiots at Scotland Yard, voyeuristic trolls (and he was not one of them, damn it!) who only wanted what they saw in that picture, someone that even Sherlock understood was not real and no longer existed. But his John was very real, familiar as his own skin and far too tempting.

So Sherlock didn't acknowledge John, and he tried very, very hard to stuff closed Pandora's Box. It didn't work. The photograph would not fade. Contrarily, it was slapped over every surface of his mind like a poster in an over-zealous marketing campaign. The want did not go away, but he did manage to… to put a harness on it. To get a bit in the mouth of the beast that might allow him to function, more or less.

But in the end, it was not any of that which made Sherlock give up on his sulk. It was the smell of tea and toast, pain in his stomach and a sullen awareness that John was not taking care of him. That he hadn't eaten in several days, and John had not asked him to.

There were some things that were just Sherlock's right, after all, and having John Watson fuss over him was one of them.

On the morning of the fourth day, Sherlock lay in his bedroom with the door open, listening. He heard John come downstairs and put the kettle on, smelled the faint crusty smell of bread in the toaster. Within a few seconds, he was in the kitchen in his robe and pajama trousers.

"Are you making tea?" Sherlock asked, coolly. John did not answer. Or look at him.

"Two sugars," Sherlock said pointedly. Of course, John knew very well how he took his tea – it was just a hint.

John took down one cup from the cupboard, still not looking at him, put a tea bag in it and waited for the kettle to boil.

Sherlock stared in disbelief. In the absolute core of the man he knew as John Watson there was an innate compulsion to make tea, and to make it for others, particularly for Sherlock Holmes. It was practically DNA. But maybe John himself didn't want tea. Maybe the cup was for Sherlock.

The kettle boiled. John poured hot water into his cup and took it back up to his room. He never looked at Sherlock once.

Sherlock suddenly felt cold. He'd been so busy trying to avoid noticing John, that he hadn't realized that John was not noticing him. More than not noticing, angry. And for the first time, Sherlock realized that harnessing his own rampaging feelings might not be the only problem he had in the new world that was post Mr. August.

Four more days went by. Four days of John not looking at Sherlock, not talking to him, not going on cases, not answering his texts.

John, you're being an idiot. – SH

It was a photograph, not mass genocide. – SH

It doesn't change anything. – SH

Why are you angry? – SH

Pick up milk. – SH

You didn't get milk. – SH

Laughter is the inverse function of anger, according to AskDexter. Should I tell you a joke? - SH

Knock Knock. Who's there? Doris. Doris who? – SH

Doris locked, that's why I'm knocking. – SH

I know it was bad, but did you laugh? Smile? - SH

Being embarrassed is a psychological and physiological red herring. It has no useful purpose or meaning. – SH

John! I've seriously injured myself. – SH

John? - SH

Finally, Lestrade called Sherlock out on a case. It didn't sound like anything worthy of his attention, but by then Sherlock would have been willing to solve a stage play of Arsenic and Old Lace rather than be cooped up inside his own head for five more seconds.

It was a short distraction. Sherlock stared down at the body, the alley and the man's shoes. He spoke in a rush - "He was in the alley to buy a fix and the dealer knifed him, probably because he was overdue on payments. This is the killer's regular meeting spot. He's stupid. He'll be back. Two days is my guess. Stake out the alley and you'll get him."

"Uh… OK." Lestrade said. "On it."

And now that the case was solved, that image was back. For a second Sherlock could swear he saw its golden hues plastered on every brick and cement inch of the alleyway walls and even rolled up and clutched in the dead man's hand. It was like an Escher hell customized for Sherlock Holmes. If he didn't know any better, he'd swear John Watson was doing this to him on purpose to punish him.

Sherlock growled with frustration and crushed his hands over his eyes trying to erase the sight. "You have to help me, Lestrade! I'm losing my mind. Find me a real case! Preferably something involving life-threatening danger and a long trip to Siberia!"

Lestrade frowned. "Sorry! Let me put out an invite to any budding serial killers to get on with it, shall I?"

Sherlock looked hopeful. "The London Evening Standard?"

"That was a joke, Sherlock. What's going on, hey? Haven't seen you look this, well, for shit honestly, in ages."

Sherlock was about to say something cutting, but changed his mind. He didn't have the heart, which was really a frightening thing. Besides, he was at a total loss and who else was there to talk to?

"John isn't speaking to me," Sherlock said in a dead voice.

"No?" Lestrade asked with surprise. "I wondered why he isn't here. Is this, about the, um, calendar thing?"

Sherlock gave an nearly imperceptible nod.

"So you saw it, then?"

Sherlock shot him a withering look. "Of course."

A slow grin started across Lestrade's face. "Was it hot or what?"

"Don't be a moron."

"I mean, woof! I never would have guessed he had it in him. Or on him. Or – whatever. Shit, I wouldn't kick that out of bed, and I'm not even gay," Lestrade whispered this last with a giggle.

Sherlock folded his arms and gave the D.I. such a flat, murderous glare that Lestrade rubbed his throat protectively. "Sorry," he muttered. "So… John's mad because… why again? Not that there needs to be a specific reason when you're involved."

"Obvious. He didn't want me to see it."

"Yeah, I got that. He was like Rambo of the Guarded Secret that night at the Yard."

Sherlock said nothing for a moment. Then, "I cannot deduce why he's so angry about it." His voice was neutral. "But then emotions are not my forte. Any ideas?" He tried to sound as if he really didn't care.

"Bugger all if I know," Lestrade shrugged. "Embarrassed I guess. I mean, let's face it, it's not exactly the kind of thing you frame and put on your desk." His eyes got a far away look. "Though I have considered it."

"If it's embarrassment, it's Idiotically excessive," Sherlock huffed. "Anyway, it's irrelevant. Even in the event that John forgave me, it's highly likely that I will soon do something that will permanently damage our… our friendship beyond repair."

Sherlock tried to sound as if he didn't care, but was horrified to hear his voice crack at the end and something like desperation in his tone. Ridiculous sentiment! He hadn't been this out of control of himself since Baskerville. He hated it.

"Hey!" Lestrade said, growing serious. "What are you on about, Sherlock? What's wrong?"

"I'm wrong!" Sherlock spat out. "You know me, Lestrade. I'm no good at being selfless, or disciplined, or even saving myself from self-harm when I really desperately crave something. And I – I – well, how long do you expect I could hold out if there was a nice, large bag of cocaine just hovering there at the edge of my fingertips, in my flat, day and night?"

Lestrade's face was a picture of befuddlement for a few seconds. But he was not as dumb as Sherlock liked to pretend he was, and enlightenment soon spread over his face. To his credit, there was not a trace of amusement in it.

"Oh, I get it, you saw the photograph. Nice to know you're human, I guess."

"I can't imagine why you think insulting me will help!" Sherlock said, with a mix of self-loathing and despair.

Lestrade rolled his eyes. "So… you two have never…"

"NO!"

"Alright, alright. I was only asking."

They stood there for a few minutes, Sherlock breathing hard, trying to regain his cool, and Lestrade looking extremely uncomfortable.

"So what we have here, then," Lestrade said, clearing his throat, "Is best friends, one of whom has certain, er, well, physical feelings for the other and is afraid the other might not reciprocate. Is that about it?"

"If you must word it in such a banal fashion," Sherlock sneered, "though I really don't see how over simplifying this tortured mess that may well kill me is going to help!"

Lestrade bit back a smile. "Well, I know it feels momentous to you, Sherlock, but believe me, plenty of people have been in this situation before now."

"Oh, really? Then tell me, what is the preferred solution?"

"Well—"

"Specifically the one with the highest chance of a, er, sexually satisfying outcome for the one who has the physical feelings."

"I do get that that would be your goal, yes," Lestrade said, patiently. He sighed. "There is no magic bullet, Sherlock. Best thing to do is just, you know, admit that you think there might be something, er…" Lestrade suddenly stopped, looking stunned. He flushed bright red.

"What?"

"Christ, I had a moment there where I realized I was advising Sherlock Holmes on how to bed John Watson."

"Oh, do shut up, Lestrade!" Sherlock snapped. "But go on."

"Er – right. Anyway, just tell your… friend... I mean John… that you have developed an attraction to him."

Sherlock stared at him in disbelief. "And then what?"

Lestrade shrugged. "And then he either says 'thank god you finally said something' or he punches you in the nose."

"THAT'S your ADVICE?" Sherlock said, horrified.

"Oi, I said it wasn't a magic bullet! I mean it can go either way, that's not my fault. But it's better to get it out, deal with it like an adult."

Sherlock rolled his eyes as if Lestrade had never said anything stupider. "But he might leave! He might get disgusted and pack up and move out!"

"Sherlock," Lestrade said calmly, putting a steadying hand on Sherlock's upper arm. "Listen to me. I've never seen two friends more devoted to each other than you and John. From day one."

Sherlock stared at him but said nothing.

"I mean, it's not like you're going to tackle him and force yourself on him!" Lestrade huffed a laugh. "Just tell him, hear what he has to say, and that's it. John is not going to move out over that, even if he says 'no thank you'. Right? He cares about you. You gotta trust that, Sherlock."

Sherlock said nothing, but he looked thoughtful. Lestrade dropped his hand. "Or email him if you haven't the bullocks to say it to his face. That works, too."

"Thank you, Lestrade," Sherlock said in a calm voice.

For a moment Lestrade looked surprised, then he grinned. "Hey, best of luck with that, right?" His face went suddenly blank again and he walked away muttering something about Sherlock Holmes and John Watson and hell freezing over.

Chapter Text

John was up in his room, sitting on the edge of his neatly-made bed, staring out the window. His phone dinged.

Nine days, John. If you don't come down here this minute, I WILL do something highly destructive. – SH

John sighed. He had no doubt Sherlock would. John had avoided it long enough. It was time to face it.

As Sherlock was so thoughtfully tracking for them both, down to the minute no doubt, it had been nine days since… well, since he'd left the flat knowing Sherlock was going to see that photograph. For the first two days, John had simply swum in a bitter sea of rage and humiliation. He had asked Sherlock. He had made it clear how much it meant to him. But Sherlock had looked anyway. Of course he had. He was such a child. And the only way John could deal with how that made him feel, the humiliation, the rage, the 'unfair, unfair!' in his head was to wall himself off from Sherlock completely.

At first, Sherlock hadn't even noticed. He'd been in a huff of his own. Which, of course, made John feel loads better. Was Sherlock humiliated for John's sake? Was he disappointed in John? Did it change the way he saw him? Was that why he had said nothing?

A dry, 'Well, THAT was interesting,' spoken in that 'not that I really care because it's so utterly boring' tone that Sherlock had fucking invented, that might have done a little to diffuse the ticking time bomb in John's chest. But Sherlock hadn't said it, and John just felt worse and worse.

By day three, the anger had dissipated, because as much of a hot head as John was capable of being, anger was not something he could sustain for very long, not at Sherlock. But when it was gone, it left something more disturbing behind, a residue of churning emotion that left him unable to eat or sleep. The chest-aching hurt of it would not diminish.

It took John several days to sift through it, the reasons why he had absolutely not wanted Sherlock to see that photograph, and why he was so… shattered that he had. He'd even had a session with his therapist to talk it out (and that had been the cherry to top the sundae of humiliation, but by then he was past caring). And once John had sorted it, he really didn't know how to deal with it, how to face it, what it said about him, his long-held beliefs about himself, what it said about his capacity to deal with this living situation moving forward. It was a lot to come to grips with.

And now he somehow had to put back the pieces of his life at 221B Baker Street with a bloody 6'3", asexual, mad genius who had the emotional mentally of a twelve-year-old while dealing with his own stupid heart at the same time. Oh, this was going to be fun. He picked up his phone.

30 minutes. Meet you in the living room. JW

-B-

When John padded into the living room thirty minutes later, he was extremely nervous. He had prepped conscientiously. He had showered and wore a fresh pair of jeans, t-shirt and his most self-comforting jumper. He needed to feel in control of something right now, and his appearance was one of the few things he was in control of. He did not wear socks and shoes because he had told himself he would not be goaded into an angry flight from the flat – not again. He would be calm and he would get through this. Besides, escaping to his room was still an option.

Sherlock, on the other hand, was a picture of wanton neglect. He was sprawled on the sofa wearing his blue robe, a days-old T-shirt and his pajama trousers. His hair was artfully tousled (but not, John noted, actually uncombed or actually unwashed). His head lolled on the back of the sofa exposing that endless pale neck. On John's approach Sherlock timed it carefully to roll his head to look at him just at the right moment, his expression like something between a lost, starving puppy and accusation.

"Hello," John said calmly, biting his lips to keep from laughing. God, the prat could work it, couldn't he? Drama queen Mycroft had nothing on Sherlock when he was being manipulative.

John ignored the tableau that had been arranged so artfully on his behalf and went into the kitchen. He took down two mugs and put the kettle on.

A tall, lean mass of blue flung itself into a kitchen chair behind him. "You're making tea?" Sherlock said weakly.

"Yes."

"Might I have some? Please?"

John, his back still turned to Sherlock, bit his lips hard to keep back the giggles. Some of his trepidation over this whole thing faded. Well, however fucked they were, he could always count on Sherlock to be entertaining at least.

"You can see there are two cups on the counter, Sherlock," John pointed out.

"Thank you," Sherlock managed faintly. Then "I think the last time I ate was a Monday."

John sighed and began making toast. "Eggs?"

"If it's not too much trouble," Sherlock sighed.

John had been to Tescos recently, and the dozen eggs he'd picked up had, thankfully, not be commandeered for some experiment or other. He began whipping up a batch of scrambled eggs.

Sherlock watched, but he was incapable of holding his tongue for long.

"John," he began, as John poured the stirred eggs into a hot pan. "I'm sorry I looked at the photo."

John tensed. He grabbed a spatula, his knuckles white.

"No, you're not," John said, flatly.

Sherlock was silent for moment. "John," he started again. "I'm sorry that… that I wasn't able to restrain my curiosity when you asked me to?"

The whole thing was blatantly untrue, the end of it even raised like a question. John rolled his eyes and turned to Sherlock, the spatula in his hand like a weapon.

"I'm going to make these eggs," John said in a tightly controlled voice, shaking the spatula angrily, "and you're going to eat them. Then we're going to talk. And I don't want any bloody platitudes out of you, Sherlock Holmes. Not one. Do you hear me?"

For a half second, Sherlock was taken aback, his 'poor me' act wiped away. And then something dark and… hot flushed across his face. It was only a moment, Sherlock masked it quickly. But it had John turning back to the eggs as if he'd been slapped, a tide of endorphins rushing through him.

No, no, no, John thought furiously. That was not how this was going to go. He was in control.

"Clear the table," he snapped, without turning around. He heard Sherlock jump up and the sound of items being tossed and crashing into the floor behind him. He sighed.

John scraped the eggs and toast onto two plates and turned to find a bare table, bare except for two sets of silverware and napkins he had never known existed. He blinked. Sherlock sat, waiting, gazing into space, his face blank.

John put the plate down in front of Sherlock and sat down with his own. He put some scrambled eggs in his mouth.

Sherlock looked down at his plate, raised a cool eyebrow. "Now I'm not –"

"Eat. That." John said, quietly.

Sherlock looked up at John's eyes and apparently didn't like what he saw there, because he picked up a fork and began eating.

They didn't say another word until the food was gone, every damn bite of it, and the dishes were rinsed and in the sink. Then, there was nothing else for it. John's stomach was back in knots again, his palms sweaty. And he could tell that Sherlock was only barely restraining himself from launching into a verbal barrage. God only knew what would come out of his mouth, but it was unlikely to make matters any better. Time to head that off at the pass.

John turned away from the sink and rubbed his head with a heavy hand. "Come into the living room, Sherlock. We need to talk." John headed in that direction.

John chose to sit in one end of the sofa, turned in, because, well, it was more a sign of 'open discussion' than the chair. Sherlock didn't take the other end, though. Instead he plopped down a few inches away from John. John swallowed. OK.

"Sherlock—" John began calmly.

"John," Sherlock said, in a low voice. His body was turned towards John, his knee slightly raised on the edge of the seat cushion so it was only inches from John's thigh. Sherlock's hands were clasped in his lap painfully tight. His dark eyes relentlessly staring into John's.

John stopped. "What?" he asked. "What are you—"

"Nothing," Sherlock said, biting his lip.

"Just shut up and listen, alright?" John said, testily.

Sherlock nodded, biting his lip harder.

"And stop that! You'll make your lip bleed!" John shifted himself so that his back was fully against the cushion, so he didn't have to look at Sherlock anymore. He stared out the window instead. His heart was pounding. He seemed unable to find the calm, rational, resigned space in which he'd practiced this conversation. Instead, he felt panicky. He really would have liked, perhaps, the feeling of his gun in his hand right now. Not to shoot anything, but just because he was calmer with the cold, real barrel of it in his palm. But somehow, he didn't think it would send the right message if he pursued this conversation whilst holding a firearm.

"I was very angry at you, Sherlock," John began, taking a deep breath to calm himself. "Because you should be able to ask something of me, something reasonable, and trust that I would do it for you in a heartbeat. And I should be able to ask the same of you after all we've bloody well been through."

"You can ask anything of me, John. Only, I didn't realize it was truly that important."

"Don't lie to me. You did realize it."

"But… I…" Sherlock sought for words. John thought he was searching for words he thought John wanted to hear, so he was pleased that what came out of Sherlock's mouth was the truth. "I just had to see it. You know me, John. I have to know things."

John sighed. "Yes, I know that."

"But if you were to ask something… fair of me, like, 'Sherlock, please find my mother's killer' or 'Sherlock, don't pour acid on the table,' or 'Sherlock, please kill that man for me.' I would do it."

"I know," John said softly.

And what he didn't say was there, too, Sherlock, please take a bullet for me, because John would never ask, but Sherlock would, and John would, too. And that was why he was sitting here trying very hard to have this conversation, no matter how much he didn't want to.

"So right, it wasn't in you not to look. And I—I forgive you," John said.

"Good!" Sherlock said with a sigh of relief. He started to get up. John grabbed his wrist.

"Not done," John said.

"Oh," Sherlock said, in a soft expulsion. He sank back down.

John stared down at his fingers gripping Sherlock's wrist. The feeling was electric, and for a moment, John could literally not pull them away. But he did. He pulled them away and put both hands over his face, unable to look Sherlock in the eyes - or even see him in his peripheral vision.

Jesus, this was hard. John felt like his life - and a bloody good life it had been - was a jigsaw puzzle that had been broken apart and, for some reason, no longer fit back together. He could stop this, right now, let that be the end of it. But he wouldn't. There was too much debris left in the wound. His therapist had said as much, and John knew it was true. If he didn't say it now, it would fester and probably poison them both in the long run.

"But anyway, that's – that's not the reason why I've been so upset about it."

"No?" Sherlock asked. John could feel him shift away down the couch by several inches. Space. That was good. "If it's because you're embarrassed," Sherlock continued, "I assure you, you have nothing—"

"No," John said firmly. "No. It's not that either."

"Oh. Then… what?" For the first time since John had come downstairs, Sherlock sounded a little… afraid, unsure. The Man Who Saw All was finally realizing that this was not a minor thing, and that he really didn't have a handle on it. He had no idea, John thought.

He took a deep breath and stared up at the ceiling.

"John?"

"Yes, getting there," John snapped. He took another breath.

"I didn't want you to see that photograph because… because you didn't have the right to see me like that. Not unless you'd earned it." John swallowed but his voice was steady. "And because I can't compete with my 27-year-old self and I didn't want you—if we ever – which I know is stupid, because we won't– but – if we did and I disappointed you…"

"John!"

"Shut up. I'm not done." John held up a hand, still unable to look Sherlock in the face. His mouth twisted with the pain of his words. "Believe or not, there's bloody well more." He sighed. "And because… because I wanted to give that to you… if it ever came to that. Give it because I wanted to and because you wanted me to. And you… you just took it and I had no say. Fucking hell, I wasn't even in the room. And I… I really, really hate that."

John was breathing hard. There. It was out, and it was… cleansing. He felt a stinging in his eyes and he swallowed because there was no way that was going to happen. But anyway, it was done.

Beside him, Sherlock had gone completely stiff and still. Minutes ticked by. John snuck a glance at his flatmate's face, worriedly. It was turning purple.

"Breathe, Sherlock," he said.

Sherlock gasped, his face blankly shocked.

"You… didn't understand any of that, did you?" John said. "What I just said?"

"No, not really," Sherlock admitted, still trying to catch his breath.

"Thought you wouldn't." John sighed. "Well, it doesn't matter. Anyway, I said it."

He stood up to go. What happened next, he wasn't exactly sure, but there was a colliding WHOMP and suddenly John landed hard, on the floor, face first into the abrasive rug.

"OW!" he shouted.

There was a bloody heavy weight on his back, and then Sherlock's hands were flipping him over like a pancake and 180 pounds of detective dropped flush against him from a decent height, pushing all the air from his lungs.

"Sherlock!" John gasped, desperately seeking oxygen.

Sherlock's face loomed over him, eyes alight. "John, you said, IF!"

"Can't breathe," John managed, pushing at Sherlock's chest with his hands.

Sherlock give a barely there acknowledgment of John's need for air by shifting his chest up slightly. "You said you wanted to give yourself to me, if it ever came to that. And a conditional if means you consider it a possibility."

"Yes, good, Sherlock," John said through gritted teeth, still pushing at Sherlock's chest, "You picked up that bit in the conversation, did you? Remarkable."

But Sherlock looked delighted. He crashed his lips down on John's in a kamikaze like attack. It was hard and closed-mouthed and, frankly, not remotely how John had imagined it going. What he felt was… annoyed.

John pushed Sherlock up. "Oi!" he shouted. He hooked a leg around one of Sherlock's and flipped him, hard. He took advantage of Sherlock's moment of surprise to untangle himself and hop up. He stood over Sherlock, hands fisted at his sides, glowering.

"I told you, you'd have to earn it, you great bloody git!" he shouted. "I am not a sex toy!"

The words left his mouth before he'd thought them through. And the reality of him, John Watson, standing over a flushed Sherlock Holmes, insisting that he wasn't a sex toy, was, frankly, too, too ridiculous. John giggled a bit hysterically.

Sherlock had looked momentarily put out, but now a slow smile spread across his face. John laughed harder. Sherlock looked gleefully predatory.

"John," he said, low and dark.

"Oh, god, Sherlock, no," John said, in a fit of barely-checked chortling. He backed away. Sherlock leapt gracefully to his feet.

"Straight, are you?" Sherlock said in a dry voice, those blue-grey eyes mercilessly intent, his lips curled up deviously and, oh shit.

"Sod you! If I'm not, it's your fault!" John said, backing away. He was half-crouched now in a defensive posture, and still randomly giggling. "Sherlock, I swear to god—"

"There's that if again. And may I point out that you're in the room now, John," Sherlock said.

Oh, god, his voice was pure sex. And, yes, of course, Sherlock may not have understood the emotion behind John's confession, but he had filed away every syllable of it anyway, and would use it, mercilessly, against him.

"You don't really want this," John said, licking his lips nervously and still backing towards the door. Sherlock stalked him. The look on his face – well, it was hard to imagine that a moment ago, there had been anything funny in the situation, because that hungry predatory look sucked all the oxygen from the room.

"Wrong," Sherlock growled.

John's back hit the door to the landing. When had it gotten closed? Sherlock was only a few feet away and closing the distance. "Um…" John said. "I- I think we should think through this. Maybe seek counseling first, just to be-."

Sherlock stopped a few inches away. Very slowly he reached out to take one of John's wrists. He pulled it up, at glacial speed, until it was loosely braced above John's head, pinned lightly to the door in Sherlock's hand. John never fought it. He had not the slightest hint of willpower to do so.

"Oh," John said.

Sherlock took the other wrist, so very slowly, and pulled that one up next to the other, pinning it lightly. His body was still several inches away, and he leaned in only fractionally closer as his weight shifted onto their joined hands. He intertwined their fingers. He was only six inches away, but it was not nearly close enough.

"Oh, shit," John whispered. The look in Sherlock's eyes – desire, want. Every drop of blood in John's body went rushing to his groin. His stomach was clenched. Even his thighs were shaking.

"Give yourself to me," Sherlock said, his words so low and rough they were barely audible.

"N-no," John said, stubborn despite every cell in his body screaming yes, please! "You don't even like sex!"

"And you're not gay, but look at us both." Sherlock smirked.

John swallowed. "But - what if this ruins… what if we can't…"

"John," Sherlock said carefully, "you are the only person I want in my flat, in my life, by my side, hopefully for as long as I live. And you always have been. The only one." Sherlock looked at him intently. "Do you really think that deepening our relationship will change that?"

"No." The word was more of a sigh. And really, John didn't. Because that was probably more romantic than anything he had ever expected to hear Sherlock Holmes say, ever. And that meant pink elephants could dance and Sherlock wanted him and maybe, maybe, life could be unbearably fucking beautiful.

Sherlock stared into John's eyes, then his gaze flickered down at John's lips, almost dreamily. "Have I earned it?" he whispered.

"Yeah," John said. "I think you've, uh, quite sewn it up."

Sherlock smiled, a real smile, obviously pleased to death with himself. "And… will you? Give yourself to me?"

In answer, John tugged one of his hands from Sherlock's grasp, placed it behind his neck, pulled him down and kissed him.

AUTHOR'S NOTE

Why? Because, let's face it, if that photo of John was Sherlock deepest most ingrained fantasy that he never even knew he had, then a sexual, predatory Sherlock's is John's. And after all that angst he deserved it.

For those of you who dislike explicit sex, the tour ends here, please exit to your left and thank you for reading. For those who LOVE it, next stop is some serious crack....

Chapter Text

John's mouth on his.

Sherlock released John's other wrist and wrapped his arms around John's back, pulling him off the door, up slightly onto his toes, and into himself, pressed as tightly against him as possible.

John's mouth was open a little, his tongue and lips forming a light suction that was so warm and sweet against Sherlock's lips. It made Sherlock's chest ache with longing, wanting it to never end.

It had been so long since anyone had kissed him, since anyone had touched him at all. It was almost as if he had never been touched, like he was taking his first gasp of oxygen after nearly drowning, or a blind man opening his eyes to the light. And it was John, after all, and so it was the first time, the real and true first time for everything.

Sherlock growled, low in his throat, and opened his lips to better taste John. Their tongues met in a hot, slick glide that made Sherlock shudder with desire. John's answer was immediate. He grabbed the front of Sherlock's T-shirt in his fists, turned him and reversed their positions, pushing Sherlock against the door. John pulled his mouth away, his blue eyes intent on Sherlock's gray-green ones, and his expression was… determined in a way Sherlock had never quite witnessed before..

"That was the giving," John said, a bit breathlessly. "Now it's time for some taking."

His lips took Sherlock's again, and this time, it was pure sin, teeth nipping, tongue lathing and licking. It was the kind of kiss that bypassed Sherlock's brain and spoke directly to the erectile tissue of his body – spoke to it of suction and moisture, sweat and thrusting, promised teasing agony and ultimate rapture. It was unbearably sexual. Sherlock's knees turned to jelly even as he thought God, I have to learn how to do that. He would have sunk to the floor if John were not pressing him so relentlessly against the door.

And then, never pausing the attention of that insanely dirty tongue, John's hands moved down to Sherlock's hips, grasping him firmly, locking him into place, and very deliberately, John brought his pelvis flush against Sherlock's, grinding a bit, so that Sherlock could feel could feel every inch of John, hard and thick, heavy and pushed tight against his jeans. Dear Lord, it felt even better than it had looked in that photograph.

An embarrassing whimper cut through all the panting, and Sherlock prayed it hadn't come from him.

"Is this what you want?" John grit out. "Because it's yours. It has your fucking name on it, Sherlock. And it's been dying to meet you for some time."

"John, are you really talking about your penis in third person?" Sherlock gasped, even while the words went straight to his cock. He tried to sink to his knees because, yes, the feel of John against him flooded every cell in his brain with a single signal in flashing neon – want, want, want - and he really needed that introduction right now.

"Well, it does have a will of its own," John smirked. He could feel where Sherlock wanted to go, but he wasn't about to let him. He chuckled. "Oh, it is so not going to be that easy."

If it were possible to die of lust and want, Sherlock would have been a dead man at that moment. He had built a dam to hold off his sexual desires, a wall high and thick. It was the freaking Hoover Dam of self-denial. But somewhere along the path between meeting John, very likely falling in love with him, seeing that photograph, and feeling John pressed up against him, the primitive, deeply-seated biological imperative of his body had imploded that dam and now twenty years of wanting was flooding him all at once.

"John," Sherlock groaned insistently, trying harder to sink to his knees. Maybe John just wasn't getting it. But John held onto Sherlock's hips firmly, keeping him maddeningly upright. For a moment, there was some serious grappling, and then wrestling. Finally, John slammed Sherlock even harder against the door, his fingers so tight on Sherlock's prominent hip bones that they hurt.

"No," John said. Sherlock glared at him, breathing hard, practically snarling. John smiled back. Then he laughed. "Impatient, are we? I'm afraid turn-about is fair play. You've already seen me. Now it's your turn."

"What?" Sherlock blinked at him, not comprehending.

"You're going to strip for me, Sherlock. You're going to strip for me before this goes any further."

"But, John, I…"

John suddenly released him and took two steps back, folding his arms over his chest and gazing at Sherlock steadily. His pupils were blown and his breathing was rapid, but he seemed in control of himself. Which was not at all fair when Sherlock was a gasping, weak-limbed mess. He didn't even think he could peel himself off the door.

"If you want my clothes off," Sherlock panted, "you're going to have to do it yourself." He meant to sound defiant, but it was difficult when his tongue and lips were swollen with snogging and most of his blood supply had absconded southwards.

John just smiled and arched an eyebrow. Oh? He slid one of his hands down his own stomach, slowly, then stroked the straining bulge in his jeans with a thumb. His eyes went half-lidded at the touch as if it felt so good. His hips pushed forward slightly.

Sherlock began ripping off his robe. "Ridiculous," he said, unable to tear his eyes from the sight of John stroking his erection. "if you think I-I-I'm simply going to take my clothes off." He hopped, dropping one sock, and then the other. "Just b-because you ask me t-to…" His T-shirt was stripped away.  He fumbled at his pajama bottom tie.  His fingers couldn't seem to function properly at the knot and Sherlock shivered with frustration.

"Slow down," John said, soft. "I want savor this next bit. Take your time, Sherlock. Slowly."

The words were… helpful, because Sherlock's brain seemed to have short circuited temporarily. He tore his gaze away from that mesmerizing display of bulge-denim-thumb and made himself look up into John's eyes. He made himself breathe. He finally managed to unravel the knot and pull the tie open.

"Good," John said, his gaze still half-lidded as he gazed at Sherlock's bare chest. John's tongue made an appearance, licking his bottom lip absently. Sherlock very much missed it. "Now take them off."

Sherlock removed his pajama trousers with a degree of grace, dropping them to the floor. He felt vulnerable standing there in only his pants, but he felt incapable of breaking the thick haze of the moment by doing anything about it.

"John."

"Beautiful," John said with a shaky sigh. "Now put your arms over your head, flat on the door. I want to see you stretched out."

The idea of displaying himself like that was absurd. Sherlock couldn't. He shook his head – no.

John pulled off his jumper and tossed it aside. He placed his fingers of both hands on the top button of his shirt and waited, eyebrow raised.

It was a challenge and Sherlock grasped it gratefully. Fine. Two can play at this game. He put his arms over his head, stretching out against the door languorously, stepping forward so that he was really leaning back into the door. He pushed his hips out, his own erection painfully hard and visible in his snuggly fitting, gray silk/cotton boxers. He slowly traced his lips with his tongue, then tilted his head back, exposing his throat. He'd seen John looking at his throat more than once.

"Christ, magnificent," John said, with a soft sigh. "So gorgeous. So fucking hot." Sherlock watched from under his lashes as John slowly unbuttoned his shirt and removed it. Then he flicked the button on his jeans, the zipper. He pulled them down and off, leaving only his pants.

John. Sherlock stared. For a moment, he saw a flicker of doubt in John's eyes. See I told you, not quite as advertised, not anymore. Which was ludicrous. John was still fit, thanks to long hours of running after Sherlock. If anything he was slighter now. But the deep scaring at his shoulder, and smaller scars and bruises on his body had changed him. His was no longer the sweet, muscle-plump body of a sheltered youth, but a ragged, raw thing of beauty, like that of a boxer, like a man who lived hard and never once flinched, a man who had endured pain for others, for him. And Sherlock had never wanted anything more, had never imagined ever, ever wanting anyone the way he wanted John Watson at this moment.

Sherlock pulled himself away from the door and closed the distance between them. He took John's face in his hands and stared down at him, letting him see the desire and admiration in his eyes. Then he kissed him.

At that, there was nothing, nothing that could keep them off each other. Their lips and tongues could not be induced to part, even as Sherlock's hands had to touch everywhere on John at once, and John's on Sherlock, so that forearms were banged and rearranged on a regular basis trying to stay out of each other's way. John was backing them towards the door to Sherlock's bedroom whilst all this was going on. And really, something had to be said for the primitive brain, that they made it to the bed without serious injury when neither one of them ever looked to find the path or was even conscious of how they got there.

John more or less threw Sherlock onto the bed and then landed on top of him, and that was alright, that was better than fine, John's flesh on him, everywhere, feeling heavier than it should, heavy and smooth, the skin-on-skin friction painfully arousing and Sherlock wanted more. He arched up needfully.

"What do you want?" John breathed, tearing himself away from Sherlock's lips. His palm ran down Sherlock's stomach and rubbed against his erection firmly, not teasing now. It felt so good it hurt. Sherlock thrust up into his hand.

"I want you in my mouth, please," Sherlock groaned. "Please, John, please let me."

John smiled. He released Sherlock's erection to take his hand instead. He brought it to himself, pressing Sherlock's palm against his hardness. "I'm yours, whatever you want."

Sherlock had done this before, but only once, and long ago, but that didn't matter now. His senses were filled with John, so hot and thick against his hand, and Sherlock's single desire was to feel him as intimately and completely as possible, that was, to feel with his mouth, because Sherlock was an oral man. And he wanted to taste John, to sample and label every nuance of his flavor. And he wanted, strangely, to worship and adore him, and if that was really going too far, he could give a flying fuck at the moment.

A noise rumbled in Sherlock's throat as he pulled John's pants away and off and slipped down the bed to nuzzle against the silky skin-over-steel of him. He pulled John into his mouth, Sherlock's eyes rolling up into his head at the sheer pleasure and relief of it.

John moaned, loudly. He grabbed a few pillows to put under his head so he could watch Sherlock and still place both hands gently on Sherlock's head. His thumbs traced Sherlock's forehead, his cheekbones, his scalp as Sherlock lapped and sucked and devoured between his legs, one hand at the base of him stroking everywhere his hot mouth was not . A string of words flowed from John, oh god, so beautiful, so perfect, like that, don't stop, look at you, oh Christ, so good, your mouth, so hot…

When John grew close, he tried to stop Sherlock, I'm going to—stop, I want to—but Sherlock was having none of it, shot him a warning glare and made a primitive sound in his throat. It reminded John of National Geographic footage he'd seen once of a lion guarding an antelope carcass. And for some reason that was unbearably, freaking hot.  He gave up with a moan, his thighs trembling as Sherlock ran his tongue in a hungry swath up the underside of his rock hard erection, swirled the tip and then deep throated him.  Sherlock thrust his left hand down to his own aching prick and stroked. And then they were both crying out and they fell together into bliss, Sherlock and John, John and Sherlock, each crying the other's name.

AUTHOR'S NOTE:

Sorry this took a bit - had to be in the right mood to write this scene. I hope you enjoy it. Chapter 10 is a brief Epilogue. After all, we need to know how John and Sherlock will face running into Scotland Yard's finest now that John is such a hot commodity...

Chapter Text

There's a saying that all the world loves lovers. That may or may not be true, but apparently London's criminal elements had a soft spot for romance, because three blissfully sweaty and shagalicious days went by without Lestrade running into a case that required the assistance of Sherlock Holmes.

In those three days John discovered that:

1. Sherlock was a far more sensual creature than anyone could ever possibly have imagined;

2. Sherlock loved having the small of his back licked with long, flat strokes of John's tongue almost as much as he liked that same tongue-work when done on the same latitude but 180 degrees 'round his torso;

3. the way Sherlock said John just before orgasm would be the one sound John would have chosen to take with him into a world of deafness;

4. it was indeed possible to be so happy that it hurt.

Sherlock, in those same three days, discovered that:

1. he had far, far underestimated the value and pleasure of sex, to a degree which made him question his own intellectual conclusions about everything for a time (fortunately, a simple answer to that error in judgment was just John, which, really, was all there was to say about it);

2. French kissing was unbelievably brilliant;

3. there was not a more heart-stoppingly, achingly gorgeous expression he could invoke on anyone, anywhere, than the one that flushed John Watson's cheeks and deepened the blue of his eyes in the second when he went from you nutter, not again! to oh god, don't you fucking stop.

But, eventually, there was a case, and Sherlock was in a vibrantly good mood as he threw on his clothes after receiving Lestrade's text. And John, after three days of a sex-and-sleep marathon, was so relaxed he practically poured down the stairs after his one true love, grinning relentlessly. Neither of them thought about the calendar, or about Mr. August, at all until they arrived at the crime scene.

Where they both promptly received a pail of ice cold water straight in the face.

That the world at large had no clue that some major planetary axis had shifted became abundantly clear as Sherlock and John ducked under the crime scene tape.

Sally Donovan hovered just inside as usual. She ignored Sherlock as he went past, her eyes locked on John.

"Hi, Sunshine," she said, introducing his new moniker with a snicker. She reached out and pinched his arse, hard.

Sherlock spun around – the word Sunshine and the strange little yip from John grabbing his attention. John's face was frozen as if he'd just remembered a very unpleasant thought, and Donovan's hands were, to her endless good fortune, already back in her personal space by the time Sherlock looked at her. She was smirking.

"What did you say?" Sherlock said, in a shocked voice. "What did you—"

"Ignore. Move." John said, pushing him forward.

The 5'7" doctor shoved him quite effectively, but Sherlock managed a few glares in Donovan's direction over his shoulder regardless. He would have made more of it, but it was Donovan and a dead body was waiting.

Inside the large, swanky home the body of the victim lay in an upstairs bedroom, still bound to the bed – at least according to Lestrade's text. The sweep of two grand curved staircases in the large, audacious foyer made it clear where 'upstairs' would be. But the detective's eager dash towards the corpse was hindered by a good half-dozen blue-clad crime scene personnel. They stopped whatever they were doing, blocking the steps and lingering near the door, as the presence of the detective and his blogger registered. All of them stared.

"Oh, get a life!" Sherlock snapped, loudly, as the dopey smiles, waggled eyebrows, licked lips and overall bodily pertness (aimed at John) became apparent. "Maybe you'd all like to take a bloody picture!"

"Already have one," one man purred. There were general snickers of agreement all around.

Sherlock's face went rather apoplectic. John felt a thrill of fear in his stomach.

"It's alright," John muttered. His hands pushed at Sherlock's back to keep him moving up the stairs. "Just go. Body. Murder. Much to be observed."

Sherlock face was thunderous as he stomped up the stairs. He looked rather like a black storm cloud being reluctantly parted around a mountain.

"John," he muttered, shakily, "these people have it, they've seen it and they're looking at you like the prize goose in a shop window and I don't think I can—"

"Doesn't matter," John said. "Nothing we can do about it. It'll blow over."

The dual staircase ended in a top floor landing and a hallway with several bedroom doors. It was clear which room contained the body by the open door and the flashes from a camera flickering inside.

But Sherlock paused at the landing, taking strategic advantage of the high ground to glare down in warning at the people below. Said people did not notice the glare because they were too busy staring up at John, some of them clearly checking out his arse from this new vantage point. A woman sighed.

Sherlock made a queer growling sound in the back of his throat.

"Sherlock, is that you?" Lestrade stepped out of the bedroom. "Come on and look then, the coroner wants—oh. Hello, John."

Lestrade ducked his head down on this last, smiling with a maidenly blush.

Anderson stuck his head out. "Freak and porn star. Wonderful." His eyes went to John's crotch with a look that married disgust and envy.

Sherlock snapped. Or was about to. John felt as much as saw Sherlock's body tense beside him in a way that he instinctively felt was very, very bit not good. Indeed, verbal evisceration on a wide scale was imminent. Possibly people would not survive.

John sighed. In one motion, he yanked on Sherlock's arm, pulling the stiff and enraged detective around and against him, raised himself on his toes, put a hand on the back of Sherlock's neck and pulled him into a kiss. It was not a long kiss, but it was openly sexual and clearly involved a liberal, expert and familiar use of tongue.

For a moment Sherlock was too shocked to respond, and then the energy in his body shifted from outrage to possession. He grabbed John around the waist and pulled him closer, returning the kiss with obvious tongue of his own. From downstairs came the faint sound of a moan.

When they broke apart there was a silence in the room that felt like a communal breath-holding ceremony. It was so quiet that the words John spoke carried well, even though they were said with a quiet determination. "There," John said. "Taken. Exceedingly taken. Clear?"

John turned on his heel and shoved his way past Lestrade and Anderson into the bedroom.

Sherlock Holmes followed slowly. Well, strolled, really. There was a smug smile on his face and a gleam in his eye that said, "Oh, I am brilliant."

And if all the jpgs on Scotland Yard's entire network were wiped out by a virus the following day, well, they never did pin it on Sherlock Holmes.

Author's Note:

That's the conclusion, ladies and gents. Thank you for sticking with me. Hope you enjoyed it! Are these two characters the best ever, or what?