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Saturday, September 25th, 2010 02:19 am
Story: Getting the Message
Author: The OMG-I-can-has-new-fandom-love [personal profile] loveslashangst
Beta: the contemplating-Anthea-in-the-bath [personal profile] ophymirage
Characters: Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock Holmes, Dr. John Watson, Anthea, Mrs. Hudson, Sarah, Lestrade (mentioned in passing)
Rated: R for mature content, sexually suggestive thoughts and behaviour, language, and the foreplay for serious smut. Those who do not enjoy boysex need not apply and should avoid the third chapter. Yes, there will be a third chapter, because once the smut starts my camera does NOT pan up.
Disclaimer: Thank the Gods above and below that the new incarnation of the antisocial Consulting Detective is safely in the hands of Stephen Moffat and the BBC. If I owned him (which I don’t) there’s no telling what I’d do to, with, and for him.
Spoilers: I pretty much assume that you’ve seen all three episodes of the new “Sherlock”. If you haven’t, for goodness sake get your hands on them, for they are Made of Win. This is before “The Great Game”, because I want to see what Moffat does with the corner into which he’s painted himself.
Summary: Well-meaning but misguided attempts at matchmaking, via text-messaging.

Okay, so here’s the dealio...

THANK YOU!!! New fans and old, I’m glad y’all think this crew is as hot, funny, appealing, and interesting as I do. This is seriously, awesomely fun to write. And, as per usual, there’s no way I can keep it at only two chapters. So the smut will be in chapter 3, but all the juicy falling-in-love-as-dysfunctionally-as-possible stuff is here. I also wrote a lot more than I planned with Sarah, who turned out to be witty, snarky, and wise. Who knew?

On with the show...

mrs. hudson: Bit of a domestic, dear?
sherlock: Go away.
mrs. hudson: He’ll be back soon enough, lovey. They only slam like that when they really love you.
sherlock: Please go away.
mrs. hudson: Will bring you tea in half an hour, and those little sugar biccies you’re so fond of. And some jammy dodgers for the Doctor, when he returns.
sherlock: I don’t want him to return.
mrs. hudson: Yes you do, dear. I’ll leave you for a bit, then be up later.

The cool of evening hits John like a slap in the face. He must have lost his mind; there’s no other explanation for letting Sherlock push every single one of his buttons. And after everything he’s been through with that lunatic, John should surely know better than to expect empathy or kindness or any human emotion from his clearly-a-space-alien flatmate. The last few mean-spirited barbs only served to remind John what a fool he’s been to stay this long.

His mobile chirps.

mycroft: You’d be a fool not to take the offer.

The rage boils out of him. “Yes, goddammit, I KNOW!” John hurls the mobile into the nearest bin. “Insufferable ponce.”

He makes it a full five strides before he thinks better of it. Unlike certain antisocial so-called geniuses, John doesn’t have an all-powerful control-freak brother to bankroll him when he destroys his belongings. Harry would kill him if he broke her phone, even if it was a gift from her ex. Beaten, flushed with cold, and frustrated, John goes back to receive the pieces of the mobile. Its reassembly is just another humiliation on the day.

His foul mood is only made worse when John notices that the nearest CCTV camera has trained in on him. He snaps the back panel of the mobile in place, fury propelling him to his feet.

“GOD DAMN YOU!” he shouts at the CCTV camera. “Would you LEAVE ME THE HELL ALONE so I can THINK for a minute?!”

He’s startled when a doddering old pensioner pats him on the arm. “I know just how you feel,” says the gent. “Nosy things’re bloody everywhere. Can’t stand ‘em m’self.”

John shuts his mouth and closes his eyes, wondering when exactly he went round the twist.

Right, probably about the same time he let his “friend” talk him into rooming with Sherlock Holmes.

John jams both mobile and hands into his pockets and heads off again. He’s never been so desperate to get to the safety and sanity of Sarah’s flat, where there are no mad geniuses or arch-nemeses or heads in the bloody fridge.

And though he’s determined to return to something resembling reality, John does flip off every CCTV camera as he passes it. Each swivels to track his movements, and John swears he can sense Mycroft’s amused disapproval through the lenses.

“Starting to understand why Sherlock hates you so damned much,” he mutters under his breath as he makes another rude gesture.

mycroft: Has my brother eaten?
mrs. hudson: He lobbed the tray at my head, but that’s hardly surprising, considering.
mycroft: Keep me apprised, please, should his mood change.
mrs. hudson: Not his housekeeper, sir.
mycroft: He needs a friend, not a housekeeper.
mrs. hudson: Will look in on him later, sir.

When she opens front door to her flat, Sarah’s heart beats faster, and not in a good way -- her normally-easygoing doctor is dishevelled and quietly furious.

Then she realizes the most likely cause of John’s distress. She might’ve known that selfish bastard would turn on him again. She opens the door wide. “Sherlock?”

John nods, smiling grimly. “I could really use some normal company right now.”

“You’re out of luck there,” she teases. “Will I do?”

“Yes, please.” He kisses her hello, far more brotherly than she’d prefer. Hugs her. She lets him because he’s good and solid and warm and male and just… nice. She always wants this to be the time when it’s not just a peck and a hug, and it’s always not.

Unfortunately, this sequence has become a routine: Sherlock will do something callous and cruel to drive John away, John will come to her for a reality check to ground and centre him. Then she and he don’t shag, John sleeps on the sofa like a gentleman, and within minutes of the next text, he’s off and running after the disaster-magnet called “Sherlock”.

And just watching the looks between the two of them during that first nightmare date-that-wouldn’t-end told her everything she needed to know. Maybe the boys don’t know themselves. Maybe they’ll never actually do anything about it, but whatever the details, Dr. John Watson is a taken man, and Sherlock Holmes hardly seems like the type to share-and-share-alike.

She was angry for a while -- felt like she was being used -- but John’s always been too sweet, charming, and in need of sane company for her to turn him away for long. Plus, he appreciates her. He’s nice to her. He makes her feel good about herself. If they could just solve the whole not-having-sex thing, he’d be the perfect boyfriend. But while John will often say how much he’s looking forward to making love to her, Sarah’s not about to hold her breath for him to follow through.

So tonight, instead of the simple shag she knows John thinks he’s finally ready for, Sarah sits him down and offers yet another sympathetic ear while John vents about Sherlock. This is about Sherlock because it’s ALWAYS about Sherlock. No matter how the venting starts, it always comes ‘round to that… whatever he is. And because Sarah actually cares about what happens to John, she tells him to spend the time it’ll take her to have a leisurely shower to really think about what Mycroft’s offer might actually mean.

The whole “have a think while I have shower” technique is a tactic she’s been using more and more lately, in part because it seems to work, and in part because after a really fucking long day on her feet, she needs about fifteen minutes of steady hot water to convince her she’s human again so she can sleep -- or cope with the absent Sherlock’s iniquities.

When she returns to the living room, now swathed in towel and robe, John has the contrite look of a man who’s made a tough decision between two bad choices.

“Sherlock’s right,” he says, grimacing at the pain of the admission. “If I take Mycroft’s offer, that man will own me.”

He’s so damned winsome. How can anyone resist him when he’s being so fucking cute? (It’s a good thing he doesn’t know how effective those puppy-dog eyes are.) She moves gently closer and parts his knees so she can stand between them, facing him. “Pretty much, yeah.”

He looks up at her beseechingly. “So the right answer is ‘no’?”

Sarah shakes her head, wishing she could get him to see the reality of his situation. “No orders here, John. You have to make up your own mind.”

He gives her a tentatively bedroom-eyed look. “Can I stay here tonight?”

She’s startled into a laugh at the proposal. He looks away, hurt. Ruefully, she kneels, tucking the robe under her shins. She turns John’s head and makes him look her in the eyes. “John. Love. If you were really interested, you could’ve had a go at me WEEKS ago. Instead, you’ve bent my ear, crashed on my sofa, and then raced off as soon as He texted you.”

“Bollocks,” John says with crumbling dignity.

She straightens. "John. I really like you. And yes, when we first met I would’ve given you a nice, comfortable shag whenever you asked for it. For a while, I even thought I wanted more than that.”

“I do want more than that,” says John hopelessly. But it’s a reflex.

“But that was before Tongs and kidnappings and things no one should have to survive,” Sarah continues, now determined to push this to its conclusion. “And all on a first date.”

“I am sorry,” he says. Again, she wishes he weren’t so fucking earnest.

“I know,” she says. “You’re a sweet man, John, but you can’t tell me that if I stand here in front of you--” she drops her robe off her shoulders to prove her point. Stands to let it fall to the floor, half-hoping that she’s wrong about what he’ll do when he sees her naked “--that you're not still thinking about him."

He stares, gobsmacked at the sudden show. Sarah freely owns she’s far from perfect, but if John desires her as much as he's just said, surely he'll at least try to touch her? Yet John’s hands lie forgotten on his knees, and a sidelong glance at his lap tells her that she hasn’t managed to stir anything there either. She takes this as a challenge. If their charade is just that -- a polite game of flirtation that’s never going to come to anything -- maybe it’s time they both admitted the truth to each other.

Sarah straddles John’s lap, kneeling on the couch. She looks down at him. Startled and a little flustered, he looks up at her.

She kisses him. His hands go to her lower back, uncertain (when she wants him to be passionate), and almost confused about where to touch. He closes his eyes as if he’s hoping to find his concentration by not having to look at her. Frustrated, she attacks his mouth with hers, a deep, searching kiss. Maybe there’s something there, if she tries hard enough.

For a brief moment, his mouth moves against hers, awkward and… the bad kind of instinctive. She knows he’s kissed plenty of women before; his body’s just reacting out of habit. And that’s what she is to him -- a habit.

Sarah breaks the kiss.

The words seem to boil out of him. “It's just that he's such a WANKER!"

She sighs sadly. Presses her forehead to John’s. Gets off him. Belts her robe back into place. She should have known she was kidding herself. Guys like John are always too good to be true. There’s always a catch.

John drops his head into his hands. “I’m sorry. God, I'm so sorry."

She blinks and swallows hard against the prickle of bitter tears. "None of us can choose where we love."

“I’m not in love with him!” But he says it so vehemently she’s pretty sure he’s already caught on that he’s doomed.

“John,” she says, as gently as she can. “He infuriates you, fascinates you, and dominates your life. I’d love to try for something, but frankly there’s no room in your life for me.”

“That’s not true,” he insists.

“Isn’t it?” she says. “Check the last 20 messages on your mobile. Tell me they’re not all either from him or about him.”

Brows beetling, John obeys. As he scrolls, his face falls farther and farther.

“You’re his,” Sarah says, hands in the pockets of her robe. “And that’s that.”

"Fuck." The hand with the mobile droops. John has the abjectly miserable look of a man who’s realized at last how he really feels.

“How long have you known?” he says at last.

“You let him join us on our first real date, knowing full well that it would stop being about you and me the minute he showed up.”

“I should have made him leave,” John says. “I’m a bastard for that.”

She puts an understanding hand on his shoulder. "You got caught up in things. That passion is what drives you -- or any good doctor -- but the problem is your passion isn’t just for curing people, and Sherlock taps into that need to do something more.” (And he’s such an impossibly larger-than-life figure that she can hardly blame John for loving him.)

“He’ll be the death of me,” says John bitterly.

She nods, not seeing the point of sugar-coating. “Eventually. He’ll keep you as safe as he can -- at least, if he loves you like I think he does -- but he doesn’t strike me as a particularly safe man.” She folds her arms, ignoring the steady ache in her chest. “But even if he isn’t, you should still stay here in London. Don’t accept the brother’s--“

“Mycroft,” says John into his hands.

“Mycroft’s offer. At least if you stay with me and the hospital you have some anchor back to reality, however tenuous.”

John sighs. “Can I still come to you? When things…?”

“I have a comfortable sofa,” she says.

John’s laugh is a painful exhale. "Don't suppose I can persuade you to forget everything you’ve just said and to take that robe off again?"

She shakes her head no. “Not a chance.”

The best thing about John is he has a finely tuned sense of empathy, and thus knows when there’s no point to discuss things further. He stands.

She hands him his coat.

“Thank you,” he says.

She manages a bittersweet smile. “Glad I could help.”

He gives her a heartfelt hug and a platonic peck on the cheek. As she shuts the door behind him, she predicts that such a peck will undoubtedly be the first of many.

“Damn you, Sherlock Holmes,” she mutters.

john: i hate you.
mycroft: Most people do, sooner or later.
john: why are you doing this?
mycroft: I like to nurture potential, where I see it. Do you need more time to consider the offer?
john: you’ll have your answer within the hour.
mycroft: Be gentle with him; he doesn’t take rejection well.

Sherlock pounds up the stairs to Sarah’s flat. Finds the irritated buzz of the doorbell a sharply satisfying punctuation to his mood.

Sarah opens the door as wide as the safety chain will allow.

“Where is John?” says Sherlock.

She gives him an irritating smirk. “Sorry, but you’ll have to wait.”

Really annoyed, he gives her one long head-to-toe look, absorbing all the data.

“You are naked under that robe,” he says. “So I’m meant to assume the worst, but you don’t smell at all like sex, and only a little bit like John. The bags under your eyes and the way you favour your dominant foot indicate exhaustion -- you just got off a long shift at the hospital. Hair up, damp tips to the fringe, the trace of shaving cream at your right ankle and the strong scent of rose bath gels -- Crabtree & Evelyn, unless my nose fails me -- all indicate a shower, and reddened lips mean you did kiss him, and not that long ago.” Relief cuts through the razor-sharp focus. “But it was only a kiss… and nothing else happened." He feels like he can breathe again.

Sarah smiles faintly. “What he sees in you.”

“I need to come in.” He’s in no mood for further nonsense.

She straightens, still smiling that weird smile. “And if I say no?”

“I’ll break the chain and search the flat anyway,” he says, impatience rising. “I’d prefer not to be unpleasant about it.”

“‘Unpleasant’,” she repeats. “Well. Small mercies, I suppose.”

As soon as the infernal chain is removed, he presses the door open. Begins to search the room. Faint traces of John’s aftershave. Old, like they’ve been faint for hours. He stood here. Walked here. Sat here.

And all the while, the woman keeps re-wrapping her robe ever more tightly as if to remind them both she doesn’t want to be unclothed around him. Sarah’s body language is equally closed. Guarded.

“How long ago did he leave?” he says.

“I can’t see how that’s any of your business,” she says tersely.

She’s annoyed with him, which is hardly a new phenomenon, but this is a different kind of annoyance. It’s not the outright hostility that Donovan exhibits when he guesses some personal detail correctly, nor the raised-eyebrow pause that Mrs. Hudson uses to let him know he’s said something wrong. Irritating. He searches back further through his mental catalogues to try to find a match to this new emotion.

He heads for the bedroom. She blocks him bodily. “Oh no you don’t,” she says. “There are some places you don’t get to go unless I’m one of your corpses.”

She’s acting like he’s some marauding intruder. He’s just searching her apartment; nothing to be overly concerned about. And it’s just a bedroom, a room like any other. He’s not going to hurt or threaten her, he just wants to see for himself that John is not, in point of fact, here. And if the two of them are shagging, the bedroom would be the most logical place for John to be.

“Hiding, is he?” The thought turns him oddly cold, though he’s not sure what to make of that. Somehow the thought of John needing to hide from him is… uncomfortable. John shouldn’t want or need to escape him, though Sherlock knows damn well he does. Unfortunately, years of tormenting Mycroft have made him an expert at annoying others.

“And if he is,” she says, “could you blame him?”

“It was only a kiss,” he says, musing. “If it’s only a kiss, where is he now? Wouldn’t be naked, unless… no. I’m not wrong.” No lingering traces of John or his clothes in the hall.

Which only raises a thornier question: What was John looking for, if not sex? Surely he came here to prove to himself how little he felt for Sherlock. So if he didn’t shag the girl, what is he trying to prove? Even assuming that all lovers are unpredictable and untrustworthy, which is something Sherlock’s known since university, there must be more to it. Mycroft warned him that John would cling to that normal life. But if John is clinging to it, why does the evidence point to something else?

While Sherlock pauses in the middle of the living room floor to ruminate for a moment, Sarah makes tea. It’s so boringly domestic he could just vomit. Unfortunately, it’s also precisely what he’s in the mood for, though his pride won’t let him admit it without a fight.

When Sarah offers him a cup, he eyeballs it, wary.

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” she says. “If I wanted to drug you, I wouldn’t be that obvious. You may be mad as a fucking march hare, but I don’t think either of us is stupid.”

He cedes the point and takes the cup.

“Now sit down, damn you, and let’s attempt to have a chat like reasonable people.”

Though Sherlock usually doesn’t feel the need to do any reasonable thing unless it bloody well suits him, he does feel something that might be chagrin as he perches on the settee.

“What are we meant to talk about?” he says after a lengthy -- and quite fragrant -- sip of what proves to be a startlingly good Oolong.

“Why you came to my flat and threatened to break down the door if I didn’t let you search for John,” she says calmly. She blows on her cup until it’s cool enough to manage a dainty sip.

“I did not threaten to break down the door,” Sherlock says, offended at the imprecision. “You asked what I would do and I told the truth. The chain isn’t much more than a formality anyway, as far as security’s concerned. A determined five-year-old could break it.”

“That’s hardly the point,” Sarah says with a mild glare.

Sherlock does not squirm. He does not apologize. He does not regret. He does not rue or any such nonsense. He usually doesn’t have time for it -- when he bothers to leave his flat, the clock is usually ticking mercilessly away while a suspect plots his escape.

But as Sarah calmly eyes him, he feels an uncharacteristic need to… He’s not even sure what. Explain, maybe? He certainly shouldn’t have to justify -- he’s done nothing wrong. He didn’t even break her stupid chain.

“John was angry,” says Sherlock at last. “When he left.”

“Yes,” says Sarah. “What did you do to him?”

“That’s a rather extreme conclusion,” he says.

“Doesn’t make it any less right.” She sips again.

He’s having rather unsettling flashbacks to the earlier conversation with Mycroft. “I merely suggested that he should feel fortunate to have a job offer as good as the one my brother gave him.”

She chokes on her tea, a half-dribble that’s more pathetic than amusing. “What on earth were you thinking?”

“It’s a good offer.” Though he avoids her eyes for reasons he can’t identify.

“You’re an idiot,” she says.

“How do you figure?” But somehow she’s manoeuvring him without manoeuvring him. It’s bloody irritating, because at least when Mycroft does it Sherlock can console himself that he’s fallen victim to a superior intellect. This is like being outsmarted by the family pet.

“No,” she says, standing. She goes to make another cup of tea. “I’m not wasting my breath on you.”

“You’re the one who insisted on this,” he reminds her.

She slams the electric kettle back onto its base. “You’re not going to listen to me, you’re just going to mock me and leave when it suits you and hurt John again, so what’s the point of talking to you at all?”

“If you didn’t want to talk,” he says coldly, “you shouldn’t have invited me in.”

“I didn’t invite you in,” she says, equally frozen.

“Did. He. Take. The. Job?”

“You bloody well better be in love with him,” she says, “considering the shit you put him through.”

“I can’t see how that’s any of your business,” he quotes back at her, even more coldly.

“You could at least shag the poor bastard,” she continues, “so he has something to look forward to besides half-a-night’s sleep on a comfortable sofa.”

“It’s overstuffed and hardly comfortable,” he says, mostly just to be contrary.

“And while you’re at it, if you’d PLEASE stop sending mixed signals, maybe John would have some idea where he stands with you.”

Sherlock sets the cup aside and stands, fury like ice at his temples. Then he realizes what she’s just said. “Sleep on the sofa?”

“Yeah,” she says. “He’s been sleeping on the sofa. As in not shagging me. As in not shagging anyone, because he’s too busy trying not to be in love with you because you’re such a completely rotten fucker sometimes.”

The revelation cuts through everything, and his brain -- which has surfaced unaffected from the emotional swamp -- collects every detail. The slight depression here. Lingering scent there. He would’ve rested… Yes. Sherlock’s brain sifts and sorts and confirms and my god, John hasn’t been… Not even once…? No. Not at all. Not even a solitary datum to dispute… But that means…

“God, what I wouldn’t give for my mobile,” Sarah says with a broad and irritating smile. “The look on your face.”

“John…?” The words stick, too strange to be pronounceable.

“Yes, you antisocial, heartless monster,” she says. “With you, God help him. Which means I get to be sob sister and none of us get laid till at least ONE of you pulls his head out of his arse.”

Sherlock opens his mouth, then shuts it again as the final corroborating details settle into place. The complete and perfectly logical conclusion is there before him, sound in structure from start to finish.

John came here for companionship, not sex. John has never come here for sex -- even without viewing the bedroom, Sherlock can see it in every other room. John has never come here for sex because… John’s in love with him.

Sherlock blinks, stunned. How can that be right? Surely it would make more sense for John to run to something sane and normal after that last conversation, in which Sherlock was as purposefully callous as he could manage? He looks again. No. It’s all here. But how can it be…?

“If you fuck this up,” Sarah says, body language hostile again. “So help me, I will throttle you with your own manky scarf.”

The warmth starts at his temples, blood flowing as circulation increases. His heart speeds, gradually at first, then builds to a steady pounding. It’s like a chase without moving, a victory without effort. Every breath seems like a drug, like a high which keeps on building. All other concerns fall away, unimportant details to be ignored.

John loves him.

“There it is, at last.” When Sherlock looks, Sarah’s expression has softened. With the clarity of this new emotion, he knows the faint sparkle at the corners of her eyes is the slight threat of tears.

“John went back to your flat,” she continues. “Not ten minutes before you arrived. He should be there by now.”

Then disaster threatens as Sherlock remembers. “Did he take the job?”

“I hope not,” she says, and she sounds as surprised to say it as he is to hear it.

He hates emotions, because they’re so hard to qualify and quantify. When does “happy” become “bittersweet” become “painful”? They all jumble and ebb and flow like a chemistry experiment eating through its lab table.

When he hugs Sarah hard for reasons he can’t put into words, he’s relieved that she hugs him back.

“I hate you,” she says.

“I know,” he says. “And I will try. For all our sakes.”

“You better,” she says.

But thoughts of being foiled again by Mycroft, now that he’s so close to having… Sherlock doesn’t even dare think of what he might have. He’s never had this. Once, he tried to go through the motions, but it wasn’t this, much as he wanted it to be. This is new, different, exhilarating, terrifying.

And like all things that match that description, he has no choice but to grab his coat, turn up his collar, and chase it.

sarah: Sherlock’s on his way to you. Running.
john: sounds like him
sarah: Did you take the job?
john: haven’t answered yet.
sarah: Do me a favour and make him think you have.
john: why?
sarah: Because it’s fun.
john: you’re evil. thank you for everything.
sarah: Thank me after it ends happily.

John is bent over his mobile, intent on composing his reply to Mycroft, when Sherlock rounds the corner hell-for-leather, as if willing himself to be able to outrun a text message. The intense determination on his face turns to something like anger when he sees John, halfway up the front stairs.

Sherlock’s hand is painfully insistent when he spins John around. “Don't accept. Please.”

Internally acknowledging that he’s being a dick and enjoying the meanness just a little, John holds up the mobile. Hits the “send” button.

Sherlock’s expression crumples into despair. He staggers, hand losing its strength, though John can tell already the spot on his arm will be bruised. Sherlock turns away as if he’s lost the will to fight.

Sarah was right, and so was he. John feels oddly warm to know he didn’t just throw away comfort and security for nothing. “Sherlock.”

“I don’t think you’re an idiot.” Dear god, is that the rough edge of tears in his voice? No. Sherlock Holmes might, at the bare edge of possibility, cry in frustration at a case. He doesn’t bawl randomly on public pavements. “You didn’t have to…”

“Sherlock,” he says again.

“And now he’s got you,” Sherlock spits. “The fucking bastard got you too. He ruins everything. Has to control everything and leaves nothing for me.”

“SHERLOCK!” John pitches his voice to cut through what promises to be a rollercoaster plunge of negativity if he doesn’t head it off.

“What?” Sherlock snarls.

“It wasn’t worth it,” John says quietly.

Sherlock’s whole body goes rigid. “What?” But he’s still not turning and looking.

John sighs, unwilling to torture the man any longer. “Mycroft’s offer. It wasn’t worth it. I don’t want to belong to him.”

As long as he lives, John will never forget the look of wounded hope in Sherlock’s eyes when he turns. Still guarded. Still with the sharp-edged wit at the ready. “You…?”

John shakes his head no. Lets the absurdity of the situation overwhelm him for a moment in a laugh of relief and irony. “I mean really… Derbyshire?”

Sherlock takes a brief, ragged breath. “I’m told it’s… lovely country.”

“Would’ve thought you’d have grown up there,” John says, deliberately relaxing his own body language.

Sherlock turns a little more. “Sometimes,” he says. “As little as possible.”

“Which?” says John. “The growing up or the being there?”

A rare, fleeting smile, then Sherlock goes serious and cautious. “John?”

With a sigh and a half-smile, John beckons Sherlock over. As soon as he’s in range, Sherlock snatches the mobile from John’s hand. Turns away to scrutinize it.

And the man’s ear is tipped toward John as if half-listening were a habit. It’s an irresistible crescent of white amidst so much black hair. John stretches one hand out slowly. Traces it with two fingertips.

Sherlock makes a slight, startled noise. Leans into the touch. Leans back against John’s chest. John’s arms go around him by instinct. “You’re a complete bastard,” John whispers in that lovely ear. “And a sociopath.”

Sherlock shivers in his arms. “I DID tell you.”

“You’re cutting and cruel and you push away everyone who might even try to care about you.”

Sherlock chokes on whatever he was going to say. Wraps John’s arm more tightly around him. It catches John a bit off guard in its simple humanity -- a man looking for reassurance.

John nuzzles Sherlock’s ear. Inhales. Is surprised at what he smells. “Sarah’s rose bath.”

“Yes.” Sherlock’s voice is hoarse. “She was… kind.”

“You went looking for me,” John says, warmed. He scents along the collar of Sherlock’s coat. “It’s around here too. She hugged you, unless rose has suddenly become part of your normal toilette.” He scents again. “No. Those are Sarah’s roses. Bay rum, tea, salt, a trace of musk and usually an overlay of ‘eau de noxious chemicals’ -- that’s you, but never roses.”

Sherlock, utterly still, waits for him.

He brushes his fingers against the grain of Sherlock’s cheek. “You need a shave.” He tweaks Sherlock’s earlobe. “And one of your ears is set slightly lower than the other.”

“Matches your nostril.” Sherlock turns in his arms. “Now kiss me.”

He cups Sherlock’s face in his hands, ignoring the thrill that the command sends through him. “Humans are naturally asymmetrical. Imperfect. Flawed.”

“I know,” says Sherlock. “Stop talking and kiss me.”

“But it’s the flaws that make someone truly beautiful.” John’s determined to memorize every moment of this.

“Please, John.” Sherlock’s eyes are every colour of a storm at once, and yet still grey.

It is the “please” that gets him, hitting low and visceral, because it’s the one word Sherlock would never ever say, and yet he’s said it, and beautifully too.

Sherlock looks at him, pale eyes wary but wanting. John leans in. Slowly. Slowly.

Sherlock meets him halfway, lips parted. Being on the first step puts John on a level with Sherlock, making them more or less the same height. There’s a lovely, awkward moment when neither of them seems to know what to do with his arms. John realizes after another second that it’s because both he and Sherlock are used to being the dominant partner.

Eventually, he catches a hand at the back of Sherlock’s head, tangling his fingers in the soft curls His other hand is low at Sherlock’s waist. Sherlock’s hands are high and insistent under John’s shoulderblades. Sherlock’s mouth is warm, almost hot. Strong lips. Determined. Thorough. Uncompromising. It’s terrifying really, because this is really happening. John wants this to happen. How could he have missed how badly he wanted this to happen? The kiss is almost painfully slow and deliberate, as if now that they’ve passed this marker, Sherlock’s determined to taste and touch and experience him completely. Slow tongue. Claiming him, even as he claims Sherlock.

It’s hands-down the best snog John’s ever had. For a few moments, there is no one in the world but the two of them. Every uncertainty is answered. He can relax into this embrace he didn’t even know he wanted. The heat between them is a heady drug which promises to be more addictive than anything John’s ever known.

When they come up for air, he and Sherlock notice that every CCTV camera on the block has trained in on them. he looks to Sherlock. That faint and devilish smile. Sherlock kisses him fiercely, defiantly pulling him closer in an unmistakeable “this one is mine, you can’t have him” embrace. Loving every moment of Sherlock’s possessiveness, John smiles around the kiss.

Both of them make a rude gesture at the closest CCTV camera.

Every camera politely swivels away.

“That means you win,” he murmurs in Sherlock’s ear. “But I’ll want to get inside the flat before I shag you.”

A slight catch of breath, though Sherlock sounds calm. “Agreed.”

John can’t help laughing as Sherlock catches him firmly by the upper arm and pulls him into the front hall.

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