From an outside perspective, things appeared to go downhill very quickly. From Sherlock's point of view, it had been a steady, methodical progression. There had been unexpected twists, beginning with that painfully gullible reporter, and ending with the variety of assassins whose presence in the neighbourhood of 221b Baker Street had only come to light after their arrivals. Still, considering the near vacuum in which he and Mycroft were working, things had gone relatively smoothly.
Not that anyone else would have seen it that way. Not that anyone else had seen it that way.
The whole operation had been a balance of working the primary problem while at the same time working the many peripheral problems that created. Mycroft called the latter damage control. The term wasn't a new one to Sherlock. Bothering with it was.
Distancing himself from Mycroft had been the simple first stage. Those who knew the fraternal connection between them also knew--or rather believed--that the two spoke infrequently and saw one another less. It was an easy matter to maintain that appearance publicly, even though the facts had altered considerably of late.
The suspicions against Sherlock had mounted rapidly and ridiculously until Lestrade's judgment in hiring him had come into question. Greg had been forced to take a leave of absence pending a full investigation. That was when Sherlock had deliberately distanced himself from the man who'd stood by him since long before Lestrade had ascended to the rank of Detective Inspector. Tabloids saw it as a mercenary move on Sherlock's part. They'd pointed to this as a sign of his obvious guilt, declaring that he'd left his cohort to take the fall alone.
Sherlock knew better, of course. He knew he couldn't fix things yet, but he could keep from dragging Lestrade in deeper. Damage control.
Long before he met Moriarty on that rooftop, Sherlock had known how it would end. For John's sake and for Mrs Hudson's, neither he nor Moriarty could come out of the meeting alive. He'd planned his part and prepared for it. With Mycroft's accord, if not enthusiasm, he had enlisted help from someone who, Mycroft pointed out quite rightly, had no good reason to go along with it.
She did, and the conspiracy became three.
Sherlock couldn't stop Moriarty's hired killers any other way. Not yet. He had done it all to save lives. He had appeared to place the ultimate distance between himself and the people who, inexplicably, cared about him and whom he, unexpectedly, loved.
Stop the bleeding. Bind the wound. Stabilise the broken limb. Administer the medication.
Over the months since his fall, he'd thought of countless ways to present the facts to John. Medical terms and analogies to appeal to his practical, triage-oriented self. All things that lead to healing injury or illness. He would explain his reasons using those terms and John would understand. John would be angry at first, but then he would nod. "Right," John would say. "I see." And that would be the end of it.
Sherlock should have known better.
Sherlock did know better, but in a rare bout of self-deception, he had allowed himself to believe the lie.
Put in that context, the moment when John's fist connected to his right eye came as no surprise. The epithets that followed, accompanied by a bag of frozen peas thrown at him with considerable force, were equally predictable.
Sherlock held the pack to his eye and listened without comment or argument to John's ranting. He didn't bother to record the words themselves; the specifics were irrelevant. The emotions, however, he made careful note of. Sherlock seldom concerned himself with feelings, whether his own or anyone else's. Feelings were subjective. Feelings were not quantifiable. Feelings were not facts.
Faced now with John's furyconfusiondisbeliefreliefjoyhurt, he reconsidered that position. He observed John: Fists clenched, ready to strike again. Heart racing, pulse visible in his jugular vein. Cheeks wet; he doesn't know his crying. New lines around his shouting mouth. Shadows under his eyes; drinking too much? No; depression and exhaustion.
"I'm sorry." Insufficient. Banal. Stupid.
John froze and Sherlock braced for another blow. John advanced, his eyes flashing angerhurtpainjoyjoyjoy.
He struck with a kiss. His mouth impacted Sherlock's so powerfully that Sherlock almost stumbled. He held his ground against the onslaught by a combination of will power and shock. John had kissed him before, frequently, passionately, sometimes angrily, hungrily. But never like this.
When John stopped for breath, as he had in his tirade, Sherlock tried again to speak.
"You need to know--"
"Shut up, Sherlock." Words spoken millimetres from his own lips. "You'll give me every explanation I want, but you'll do it when I say so. You'll answer every question. You'll give me every detail. You won't lie or equivocate, and you won't keep secrets. I don't care if the Queen doesn't have high enough security clearance to know what you've been up to, where you've been, and what you've done. You are going to tell me, and you're going do it on my terms. Understood?"
A tiny, thoughtful frown pulled Sherlock's eyebrows together. This was…different. Of all the faces John had shown since they'd met, this wasn't one. This was something new. Sherlock needed more data before he was willing to define and categorize it.
John gave a sharp nod of his head. "Right. That's settled. Now you're getting naked on that sofa and we're going to make up for a fraction of the time you stole from us. Got it?"
Sherlock matched John's nod. "Got it. Sex first. Talk later."
"You always said you were a genius."
Clothes hit the floor in rapid succession. Coat. Shirt. Jumper. Jeans. Shoes. Slacks. Pants. Socks. And under it all somewhere, a forgotten and defrosting bag of peas.
Sherlock let John do all the leading. He followed spoken directions when they were offered, and allowed himself to be stripped and stared at and finally pressed with hands and lips until he lay full out on the long sofa.
"God, you've got skinny," muttered John. "Worse than usual." He pressed a kiss into Sherlock's collar bone where it stuck out in sharp relief. Evidence to the truth of his words.
"I didn't have you force-feeding me."
"Obviously." The next kiss was more than half bite and brought out a gasp and a swift bruise over Sherlock's heart. "Iron deficient, too." He tsked and nipped.
Sherlock shuddered under John's touches, wanting so much to wrap his fingers in John's short-cropped hair--It's greyer than it used to be.--but uncertain. Sherlock knew that by John's reckoning, he would have much to answer for, much to atone for. That was a given, and given that, this wasn't how he'd expected this first meeting to proceed. So many logical, predictable ways it should have gone.
John had surprised him.
It was astonishingly sexy.
John grabbed hold of Sherlock's wrists and pinned them against the cushions by his ears. He kissed, bit, and licked his way down Sherlock's pale, thin torso. His tongue gently traced a pink fading scar between Sherlock's ninth and tenth ribs. Sherlock shivered at the sensation and the memory.
"That's a question you'll be answering in the near future."
John ducked his head low enough to plant a kiss on Sherlock's jutting hip bone.
Instinct overcame him and Sherlock lifted his pelvis, pressing his aching cock into John's chest.
John looked up the length of Sherlock's torso and gave another sharp nod. "Good." He released Sherlock's wrists, shifting his hold to Sherlock's shoulders. "Up." Suiting action to words, he half-lifted Sherlock until the taller man sat on the sofa's arm with his back against the narrow wall.
Sherlock remembered this position and so did his cock, which gave a leap of excitement entirely beyond his control.
"Very good." John spread Sherlock's bent knees as wide as the sofa back would allow and lowered his head for the first taste.
His tongue was clever, his lips soft, and his mouth welcoming. He licked the pre-come from the tip of Sherlock's prick, then circled the top before sliding his lips over the end and wrapping his mouth around the hard heat of Sherlock's erection.
Sherlock's eyes fell shut and he let his head fall back against the wall. This time, when the urge to grip John's hair struck him, he didn't force it back. Long fingers twined in short locks.
John's hand joined his mouth, grip firm, slick, and wet. Sherlock neither knew nor cared where one left off and the other began. He'd missed this. How he had missed this! And on the rare occasions when he'd allowed himself to think about it, how sad he had been that he would never feel this again. He'd consoled himself then with his hands and the knowledge that everything he'd done had been necessary. But even the great Sherlock Holmes wasn't entirely immune to doubt.
John's speed increased. Sherlock felt himself nearing the edge. His fingers tightened in John's hair and his hips pumped in rhythm as he fucked John's mouth and hand with increasing urgency. Sherlock let out a strangled cry as he tumbled over the edge. He had the strangest thought in those blinding moments as he came:
How lovely it was to be proved wrong.
Sherlock barely had time to come back to his senses before John's hands were on him again. One wet. One dry. Both warm.
John gripped Sherlock's hips, guiding him, urging him onto his back once more. Sherlock had no objections. For once in his life he was content to do precisely as he was told. It wouldn't last, but for now he would allow John, and himself, to enjoy it.
This time when John assaulted his mouth, Sherlock was ready. He opened up, met the flushed lips and probing tongue, tasted himself in John's mouth. John pressed his hard cock into the crease between Sherlock's hip and groin.
In a brief respite for air, he murmured, "Don't cut yourself."
"The worst you'll do is bruise me," retorted John, who bit suddenly into Sherlock's shoulder, drawing another small, vivid contusion. "And I suppose that fair is fair."
Much to his own surprise, Sherlock chuckled. He pressed hard against John's erection and rolled his hips enough to draw a gasp from John.
There'd been little pretence of patience, and any lingering hint of it was dispelled as John began to rock against Sherlock's pelvic bone. Sherlock caught the rhythm in a heartbeat, falling easily back into familiar patterns he'd feared lost.
He thrust such thoughts aside and let himself ride the wave of John's arousal. Increased heart beat and temperature. Shortened breath. Soft moans. Voice catching in his throat. Almost there
John came in silence, as he nearly always did. He stiffened as his climax struck, shuddered as it peaked, collapsed as it faded.
Sherlock wrapped long arms around John, his body as familiar as Sherlock's own. He knew the moment John began to cry. As silent as John's release and just as powerful.
There were words. Sherlock knew there were words he should say, but he didn't know what they were. His genius didn't extend to that arena. So he held on and said nothing.
Damage control. In his mind, he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was worth it. Everything he'd done. Everything he hadn't said. Given time, he believed that John would agree.
John's words came back to him: " the time you stole from us."
John felt he'd stolen time, so Sherlock would pay it back to him. Give him as much time as he demanded. Time to heal. Time to understand. He would do whatever John needed him to do.
Sherlock hoped it wouldn't take too long. He'd never been good at doing what he was told. Although He looked at the man who was sprawled naked, sated, and now snoring softly across his body, and smiled thoughtfully. If it was going to be like this, he wouldn't consider it a hardship.