Just a Kiss by Emma Grant
Summary: Five times John and Sherlock kissed because of a case and one time they kissed for real. (John/Sherlock)
Categories: Sherlock (BBC) Characters: John Watson, Sherlock Holmes
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 7 Completed: Yes Word count: 20002 Read: 114292 Published: 07/10/2012 Updated: 07/10/2012

1. One by Emma Grant

2. Two by Emma Grant

3. Three by Emma Grant

4. Four by Emma Grant

5. Five by Emma Grant

6. And One... by Emma Grant

7. Epilogue of Utterly Gratuitous Porn by Emma Grant

One by Emma Grant
Sherlock's phone buzzed and he lifted it to glance at the screen.

Ready. Set. Go.

He tucked the phone into the pocket of his track bottoms and started down the dirt path through the park, running at an easy pace. Three minutes later he rounded the corner into an open area and headed toward a stand of benches, slowing his pace slightly.

Five men clustered near a statue of St. Gregory, their dark suits making them a bit conspicuous in the park at this hour. One held a briefcase tightly at his side and raised a cigarette to his lips with his free hand. He blew a long stream of smoke into the air above him and nodded at something one of the other men said.

On one of the benches a man sat reading a newspaper, legs crossed, his face obscured by the page he held before him. Two teenage boys stood by the fountain; one held a football under one arm and gestured at his friend with other, apparently in the middle of a rather amusing tale.

All of this was observed during the two seconds it took Sherlock to run within a few yards of the men. He paid them no attention as he ran past; they eyed him warily for a second before dismissing him entirely.

Just as he neared the edge of the clearing, Sherlock grimaced and stumbled, falling to the ground with a strained cry, one hand clenching his chest.

"Oh my God!" one of the teenagers shouted, and the men in suits turned to gape as Sherlock thrashed on the dirt path for several more seconds before going still.

The man sitting on the bench dropped his paper and leapt to his feet. He dashed across the clearing and dropped to his knees at Sherlock's side.

"Are you all right? Sir? I'm a doctor, let me--" He broke off then, his eyes widening at the sight of Sherlock's eyes rolling back into his head. He pressed two fingertips to the pulse point in his neck and nodded once, then leaned across Sherlock and put an ear over his mouth, his eyes watching his chest. "Pulse is weak and he's not breathing."

"Is he going to die?" one of the teenagers asked as he drew closer, the football clutched against his chest. He fumbled with the strap of the rucksack on his shoulder and looked back over his shoulder at his friend, who seemed happy to keep his distance.

"Have you got a mobile?" the man asked him. "Call 999."

"I haven't got one. My mum took it away." The teenager looked stricken.

"One of you lot, then," the man said, turning his gaze to the men standing by the statue. "Don't just stand about. This man's life may be at stake!"

The men looked at each other, clearly panicked. The one with the briefcase fumbled in his pocket for his mobile.

"I'm dialing it now," he said.

"What are you doing?" one of the others hissed and batted his phone away. "Are you mad?"

"That's 500 quid, right there," the man retorted, scrambling for his mobile in the dirt. "Have some respect."

"Oh, for fuck's sake!" the doctor groaned, pulling his own mobile from his pocket and punching the number. He handed the phone to the teenager. "Tell them we need a paramedic. I'm starting rescue breathing."

He leaned down over Sherlock, his back to the men, and whispered, "Here goes nothing." He pinched Sherlock's nose shut, tilted his jaw upwards as he opened his mouth, and fit his own lips over Sherlock's in a not-quite seal. He took a deep breath through his nose and then blew part of it into Sherlock's mouth; Sherlock inhaled at the same moment, letting his chest rise sharply. John turned his head to look at Sherlock's chest as he exhaled. His lips formed numbers as he counted silently. Two fingers pressed against his neck again, checking his pulse. After several seconds, he pinched Sherlock's nose closed, retilted his chin to open the airway, and fake-breathed again.

They ought to have practiced this beforehand, but John had seemed oddly reluctant. It was a strange sensation: John's open mouth pressed against his own, lips touching in something almost like a kiss as they shared a breath. It was startlingly intimate. Perhaps that was why John had refused to practice?

"Oi, I think I heard a siren," the football-wielding teenager said. "They're coming. It sounds like the police as well."

"Go meet them," John said as Sherlock exhaled. "Tell them where we are."

The boy nodded and took off at a jog. John's lips pressed against Sherlock's again, and as Sherlock inhaled he couldn't help shifting a bit, just enough that their lips moved softly across each other. John turned his head and Sherlock's lips brushed his ear as he exhaled, and Sherlock could swear he felt him shiver slightly.

There was a quiet argument behind them and a scuffle of shoes.

"We've got to get out of here before the Met turn up."

"The briefcase! It’s gone!"

"What? Where the hell could it have gone?"

"It was here!" Panic seemed to be setting in now. "I set it down when you knocked my phone away and--"

"One of those kids, must've been."

"Who just ran to meet the cops?" A note of incredulity in that one.

"They just pinched your case, you dolt. They aren't going to the cops."

"Shit, that kid took my phone!" John said, looking around frantically. "Just fucking perfect. Try to do a good deed and look what it gets you." He shook his head in disgust and pressed his mouth against Sherlock's again, not fully pinching his nose closed this time. Sherlock inhaled through his nose, and somehow this last "breath" had seemed more like a kiss than any that had gone before.

"Let's split up," one of the men said. "They can't have gone far." The scuffle of feet grew quieter, and then the clearing was silent.

John looked over his shoulder. "I think they're gone."

"Don't get up yet," Sherlock whispered. "Wait until we hear from Kyle."

"I wasn't going to." John leaned over him again to give the impression he was still performing rescue breathing. This time his lips hovered a centimeter above Sherlock's. It was oddly disappointing.

A minute and three faux breaths later, Sherlock's phone buzzed. John dug it out of his pocket to glance at the screen, and immediately rolled his eyes. "Clear," he said, sitting back on his heels.

Sherlock plucked the phone from his hand.

Made our getaway, so you can stop snogging now. Meet you at the spot at the time.

"I told you it would work." Sherlock pushed to his feet and dusted himself off.

"My definition of this working would include us actually getting our hands on the contents of that briefcase before the day is out. Are you sure you can trust Kyle?"

"I trust that he wants to collect his payment, and he won't get a penny until he delivers the files in that briefcase to me."

John sighed and thrust a rucksack at him; Kyle's football-wielding accomplice, Alton, had dropped it when he came over to signal that Kyle had taken the briefcase. "I'd better get my phone back."

"As soon as he places some extraordinarily expensive calls, I imagine you will." He opened the rucksack and pulled out its contents: a neatly-folded change of clothes to aid his exit from the park. "See you at home, then?"

"Yeah." John glanced around the clearing once more before standing.

Sherlock watched him disappear around the bend in the path before turning to walk in the opposite direction.

*****
Two by Emma Grant
"What am I missing?" Sherlock's pacing had grown strident, his expression of frustration now threatening to spread from his face to his entire body. "There are no injection wounds, no evidence the poison was drunk or eaten or inhaled."

"I suppose it's pointless to remind you that toxicology turned up no poisons?" Lestrade leaned against his desk, arms crossed over his chest.

Sherlock scowled at him. "Oh for-- Do we really have to go through this again?"

"Why not, while we're waiting for toxicology to re-run the same set of tests we ran two days ago?"

"If you'd called me to come to the crime scene this entire case would be solved already."

"You're lucky I let you look at the evidence at all, considering what you pulled last time."

Sherlock rounded on him, clearly spoiling for a fight. "After what I pulled? Are you--"

"Oh, for fuck's sake." John took Sherlock's elbow and tugged him over to the desk. The photos from the crime scene were spread across the surface, showing multiple views of the victims. Two ghostly faces peered up at them: a teenaged girl and boy lying on the girl's flowered duvet, arms twined around each other in apparent death -- the girl was actually dead; the boy still alive, but in a coma (long-term prognosis uncertain). No marks on the bodies, no evidence of foul play at the scene. The families indicated there was no trouble at home, and both sets of parents approved of the relationship between their children. There had been no previous indication of trouble, nothing to suggest either teen was suicidal. Apparent attempted double suicide, but why?

John loosened his grip on Sherlock's elbow and pointed at the photos. "This is why we're here, Sherlock, to work out what killed these kids. Shouting at Greg isn't going to make the toxicology report get here any faster."

Sherlock shot him a dark glare but kept his mouth shut. He focused instead on the photos, undoubtedly cataloging everything he'd already noticed, reorganizing it in his brain. John glanced over Sherlock's shoulder at Greg, who raised his eyebrows.

After an interminable minute of thick silence, the office door opened and a lab tech poked her head in. "D. I. Lestrade? Toxicology confirmed the previous results. No sign of any poison."

Sherlock stalked to the door and held out his hand. "Let me see the report."

The tech looked at Greg, who made a whatever gesture with one hand and nodded. She handed over the report with a strained expression and closed the door as she left.

"There must be something here, something they've missed." Sherlock frowned as he rifled through the report. "There's no other explanation." He glared at the report as if it had personally wronged him.

Greg leaned into John and nudged him with an elbow. "Nice to see even the great Sherlock Holmes can be stumped occasionally."

Sherlock made a sound of disgust and turned away, threading his fingers into his hair. "It can't be anything common, or you imbeciles would have known to look for it. Therefore it was something highly unusual, something--" He turned back to face them, his eyes wild. "The parents. What do their parents do for a living?"

"Ahmmm…" Greg crossed to the desk to flip through the case file. "Here it is. The girl's mother is an investment banker, her father is a chemist. The boy's--"

"What sort of chemist?"

Greg frowned at the file. "The sort that dispenses prescription medications. In a pharmacy." He shrugged. "We can find the name of the pharmacy if you like."

"There won't be one," Sherlock replied. John recognized the look on his face all too well, that look that meant he'd just worked it all out. "And you should send someone out to arrest him for treason. No, scratch that; call Mycroft."

"What?" John and Greg asked simultaneously.

Greg's mobile rang and Sherlock whipped his own mobile from his pocket, texting furiously as he continued. "That's him now, actually. He's going to tell you that this case is now out of your hands, that his people will handle it."

Greg glanced at his mobile and shot an incredulous look at John. "Lestrade. Yes, Mr. Holmes, I--" His jaw tightened as he listened, and John could only shake his head in astonishment. "Right," he said after a long silence. "I understand. I'll let him know." He dropped the mobile on the desk in apparent frustration.

"Well?" Sherlock's tone was so expectant it was almost indecent.

"How the hell did you know that would happen?" Greg shook his head. "Yes, the case has been classified and we're to hand over all evidence. To you, apparently."

"Ha!" Sherlock said, pocketing his phone with far more enthusiasm than was appropriate for the circumstances. It rang again almost instantly and he grinned at the screen as he retrieved it. "Mycroft, hello," he said and leaned back against Greg's desk. He listened for two full minutes -- likely a record considering Mycroft was doing the talking -- and then said, "Right," and ended the call. He grinned at Greg.

"Oh don't give me that look," Greg said, rolling his eyes. "I've been ordered to falsify our records and not talk to the media. How the hell we're supposed to cover up a dead girl and her incapacitated boyfriend is beyond me."

"Call it a drug overdose," Sherlock said. "Easy enough. It's still unclear how the substance got into the bodies, though, and why it only killed one of them."

"Would anyone care to tell me what the hell is going on?" John threw his hands up. He should probably take Mycroft up on that security clearance he kept offering just to keep up.

Greg looked at Sherlock, who turned to look at John. "Oh, come on, it's obvious. A teenager is dead and her boyfriend in a coma, neither with any motive to commit suicide nor any previous record of trouble or drugs abuse. All evidence points to some sort of poison, but nothing that shows up in any lab tests. The two were seen alive and well a half hour before they were found, so the poison was not only undetectable but extremely powerful. Weapons grade, in fact. Where would an average middle-class teenager get hold of something like that?"

"On the street?" John asked, but then shook his head. "No, you asked about the father. You think he's not just a chemist."

"An ordinary chemist wouldn't have access to top secret chemical weapons. But a chemist working in one of the top secret government labs would."

John winced. "Oh God -- there are scientists developing chemical weapons in secret government labs?"

Sherlock gave him an odd look. "Of course there are. You were in the army. How is that a surprise to you?"

John pinched the bridge of his nose. "Not important. Go on."

"His wife is an investment banker, not an easy business to be in right now. Perhaps they needed the extra money or perhaps he was disgruntled with his work. Whatever the reason, he brought home a vial of that substance with the intention of selling it on the black market."

John shuddered. "What does it do?"

"Mild hallucinogen, according to Mycroft. Airborne distribution, intended to be misted over an area to subdue a population. The girl must have overheard him telling someone what it was, thought it would be an interesting way to get high, so she nicked it and shared it with her boyfriend."

"So what, they drank it?" Lestrade asked. "It makes sense that it killed her, but what about the boy? He isn't dead."

"Yes, exactly." Sherlock pressed his fingertips together under his chin. "He must not have received a large dose. The father was the one who found them and called the paramedics. He must have found the empty vial and disposed of it before they arrived."

"His daughter and her boyfriend lay there dying and he didn't tell the paramedics what they'd taken?" Greg's tone was incredulous.

"He thought they were dead. He knew the toxin was undetectable. No purpose would have been served by revealing what he knew at that point."

Greg shot John an incredulous look and John could only shrug in response. Sherlock.

"So the girl got a large dose and the boy a very small one. According to Mycroft, the amount missing from the lab is less than two milliliters, so small it almost went undetected, but large enough to incapacitate a city block if distributed properly." Sherlock frowned.

"Two mils?" John shook his head. "They would've had to use an eyedropper to take it."

"One of them could have done," Sherlock said. "But not the other; there wasn't enough. So clearly the girl ingested most of it, which she could have done by merely dropping it on her tongue, and the boy… it must have gone airborne or something." He stroked his chin with his fingers and looked thoughtful.

John and Greg exchanged a glance.

"Don't tell me you haven't worked that part out." John folded his arms over his chest and allowed himself a smug smile.

Sherlock's eyes narrowed. "What are you talking about?"

"Think about it. They were found on her bed. In her bedroom."

Sherlock's expression didn't change. "Yes. So?"

"So they were snogging, you idiot. That's how he got a non-fatal dose."

Sherlock stared at him as if he'd grown a second head. "That's ridiculous."

John looked over at Greg, who rolled his eyes. "It's completely obvious, Sherlock."

"Unless she applied it like lipstick I don't see how something she ingested could wind up in his digestive system."

Greg coughed to cover his outburst of laughter, which only annoyed Sherlock further.

John shook his head in amazement. "You can't be serious, Sherlock."

Sherlock glanced back and forth between them; a small worry line had appeared between his eyebrows. "I am, but please, don't let that stop your mockery."

"Maybe you should show him," Greg said, snickering.

John responded with an eye roll, but Sherlock nodded. "Yes, John. Show me."

John gaped at him. "What?"

"Or admit that you're wrong." Sherlock raised an eyebrow.

Greg's grin faded into something more like incredulity. "Well, now. This I want to watch."

John glared at him. "You're taking the piss, aren't you? Both of you."

Sherlock's mobile pinged and he plucked it from his pocket to glance at the screen. "Show me or don't, I don't care. But get on with it; I've work to do."

John laughed, more from disbelief than any sort of humor about the situation. Oh, hell -- why not? It was getting late, and if this got him home and into his bed at a more decent hour than he would otherwise, it was a hardship he was willing to suffer.

"If I do this, you're buying me dinner. Tonight. And you'll actually eat and be pleasant about it."

"If I think you're correct, then yes. Deal." Sherlock looked smug, as if he had no idea what was about to happen. He probably didn't.

Oh, God.

"Fine," John said. "I just need… aha." He crossed to a bookshelf across the office and selected a piece of candy from a dish there. He unwrapped it and licked it once out of Sherlock's view, then crossed to him. "Tell me what you taste."

Sherlock looked bewildered. "What do you mean, what I taste?"

John stepped forward and took Sherlock's face in his hands before he could lose his nerve. He pulled Sherlock toward him and pressed their lips together. Sherlock stiffened against him almost immediately -- the whole thing was incredibly awkward. It was about to get weirder, though. In for a penny, as they say. John opened his mouth and pressed his tongue between Sherlock's lips.

Sherlock made an odd noise and clenched John's jacket with his hands. John loosened his grip on Sherlock's face as he felt his jaw slacken, allowing this intrusion. He curled his tongue around Sherlock's to maximize contact and was rewarded with a soft moan. It was nice, actually, this slow slide of tongues, wet and hot, and he lost himself in it for a few moments.

He heard a small noise behind him and pulled away before the situation got completely ridiculous. Sherlock stared at him with a dazed expression for nearly a second before he looked away and said, "Lemon."

"Correct." John held out his hand. "Phone, Greg."

"What?" Greg asked, sounding far too innocent. "Why do you need my phone?"

John turned to glare at him. Greg sighed and handed it over. John flipped through it quickly and deleted the photos Greg had just taken. Greg had the decency to look sheepish when John handed it back.

"So," John said, turning back to Sherlock. "Thai?"

"Yes, fine," Sherlock replied. He raised his fingertips to his lips.

Greg coughed. "Well, if that's all settled, I'll just gather up the evidence and let you two take it from here."

"Right." John ran a hand through his hair and felt his face grow warm. God, had he really just snogged Sherlock in front of Greg to prove a point? There would be no end to the talk now.

This was definitely not one for the blog.

*****
Three by Emma Grant
Sherlock took a long drag on the cigarette and glanced toward the street again. Groups of people passed the entrance to the alley every few seconds, occasionally sparing a glance down towards the neon sign above a nearby doorway. Someone paused, pointed, and then was pulled onwards by his friends. Sherlock blew a steady stream of smoke into the air above his head and tried to ignore the shuffling of John's feet beside him.

"They've been in there an awfully long time."

Sherlock nodded. They had indeed been inside longer than he'd anticipated. He flicked the cigarette with his fingers to dislodge the ash and watched it fall to the ground by his feet. Type number thirty-seven, shade grown blended with--

The door of the club opened: music and chatter rolled out into the alley along with two young men. They glanced curiously at John and Sherlock as they passed.

"Give me that." John plucked the cigarette from Sherlock's fingers and raised it to his lips. Sherlock watched him inhale, grimace, and exhale smoke before handing the cigarette back. "Oh, God -- just as disgusting as I remember."

Sherlock took it with a small smile. "I didn't know you ever smoked."

"I was a teenager once." He struggled not to cough for a moment and finally gave in. "Ugh, now my throat is going to feel like this all night. How do you stand it?"

"I'm an addict, remember?" Sherlock took another drag.

A group of people turned into the alley and headed toward them. Sherlock turned his back to them, turning toward John so that they appeared to be in the midst of conversation. The group didn't seem to notice them standing there, though; they opened the door of the club and went inside. John's eyes met Sherlock's and he shook his head.

The cigarette was almost finished now. It was the third he'd smoked in the last twenty minutes, and the thought of another made him feel slightly queasy. It was a fair cover, but they'd have to find another soon.

John shoved his hands in the pockets of his jacket. "Maybe we should go inside. We'd look far less dodgy than we do just standing in the alley waiting."

"Too risky. One of them might recognize me. Besides, they won't be much longer."

John sighed and leaned back against the alley wall. "How can you possibly know that?"

"They weren't dressed for clubbing. Their clothes have been worn all day, from the look of them. Most people would change before coming to a place like this, and into something far more stylish." Sherlock dropped the cigarette end to the asphalt and ground it out with his toe.

"Well, that explains why we aren't going in, at least." John turned to look at Sherlock. "Hang on, that's also how you know he'll be wearing the same shoes, isn't it?"

Sherlock frowned at him. "You're only just now working this out?"

John's fingers began to form what was undoubtedly a rude gesture, but a scraping sound on the other side of the door caught their attention. They both turned to look as it started to open.

Time for Plan B. Sherlock moved to stand directly in front of John, very close to him. By the time the door of the club was fully open, Sherlock had put his hands on the wall on either side of John's head and leaned into him, tucking his face against John's neck.

"What are you doing?" John whispered. He sounded alarmed, but he didn't move.

"What does it look like I'm doing?" Sherlock whispered in reply. "Is it them?" He pressed the tip of his nose just under John's ear and John squirmed.

"Ah, no. I don't think so. Is this really necessary?"

"I can't smoke anymore; I'll be sick. We need a reason to be standing out here, something that won't attract attention."

"You think two blokes getting off in an alley aren't going to attract attention?"

"We're standing outside a gay bar, John."

"Well, yes, but--" John shifted and Sherlock's lips brushed against his neck. The contact was accidental, but Sherlock went with it and kissed the skin beneath his lips. John inhaled sharply and pulled away a centimeter, enough to dislodge him.

"This would be significantly more convincing if you acted like you were enjoying it."

"Who said I wasn't enjoying it?" John put a hand on Sherlock's chest and pushed him backwards a bit as he glanced down the alley to where the group was just disappearing around a corner. "It wasn't them, anyway."

"Right."

John exhaled and ran a hand through his hair. "Sorry I wasn't… I mean, I didn't expect that, I suppose."

"If you have a better idea, feel free to suggest it."

"No, it's… It's fine." John looked the opposite direction, down the alley. Sherlock considered lighting another cigarette just to hold. He didn't actually have to smoke it, he supposed. Though the alternative was -- he glanced at John, silhouetted in the streetlight -- rather more pleasant, now that he thought of it. And less likely to kill him. Probably.

They stood in awkward silence for nearly a minute, until at last there was the distinct metallic sound of the door's locking mechanism being disengaged.

Sherlock moved closer to John. "Fair warning. Nod your head if it's them."

"Right." John swallowed, apparently steeling himself for whatever Sherlock might do.

Sherlock didn't bother pretending this time -- John was a terrible actor. He brushed his lips against John's neck and John stiffened instantly, nearly pulling away from him again.

"Will you please relax?"

John's eyes were closed, his jaw nearly clenched. "Easy for you to say."

"Just lean back and… think of England, will you?"

"Very funny."

The door opened and Sherlock heard several sets of footsteps behind him, heading past them into the alley. John's eyes were open now, following them, and he nodded his head slowly. Finally: now they simply had to wait. Sherlock listened as he planted kisses just under John's ear. The skin there was soft and warm, and it was rather a nice sensation. It had been ages since he'd done this -- well, strictly speaking he hadn't kissed anyone under these specific conditions, but still: nice.

The footsteps stilled a few yards away from them and the men began to talk in low voices, the words not quite audible. They weren't leaving.

"Shit," John whispered. "What now?"

Sherlock had no idea why Mycroft kept going on about how John should do undercover work; he was terrible at anything involving subterfuge. "Are they looking at us?"

"No."

"Then be patient," he whispered against John's ear, and John's eyes closed.

There was nothing for it, really: there were stuck here in a rather compromising position until the men standing behind them -- one of whom was a murder suspect in a very high-profile case -- decided to move on. John was fidgeting uncomfortably against the wall now. Sherlock clenched his jaw -- John was giving them away.

On impulse, Sherlock pressed his mouth against John's. John inhaled sharply through his nose, but he didn't push Sherlock away. His hands, which had been dangling awkwardly by his sides, snaked their way inside Sherlock's coat and clenched his shirt. He wasn't exactly relaxing, but it was better.

Sherlock pressed him against the wall, one hand tracing the line of John's jaw while the other settled on his shoulder. He wasn't terribly good at this sort of thing -- not enough practice in the last decade -- but the more his lips moved against John's, the more he felt John relax against him, and the more confident he became. He opened his mouth and swiped his tongue against John's lips and John responded almost instantly, his tongue sliding against Sherlock's, his hands smoothing across Sherlock's back under the coat, pulling their chests together.

They hadn't discussed the kiss in Lestrade's office; it was as if it hadn't happened. Sherlock had spent more time than he cared to admit thinking about it, wondering if John would do it again if he concocted a worthy excuse. And now, here they were, snogging against this filthy wall in an alley, waiting for the suspect to leave behind the one piece of evidence that would connect him to a murder of three people.

He really should have thought of this two cigarettes ago.

John did something with his tongue then that sent a distinct jolt of interest to his groin, and Sherlock broke the kiss for fear of embarrassing himself. "Still talking?" he whispered, and couldn't resist pulling John's earlobe into his mouth.

"Yeah," John replied, his voice unusually rough. "Oh God, stop that. Too distracting."

"Sorry," Sherlock replied and moved back to his mouth. Their lips slid together again: mouths closed, gentle pressure on soft skin, light suction, his lower lip drawn between John's, the tip of a tongue brushing across oh God--

"They're leaving," John said against Sherlock's lips. Sherlock pulled out of the kiss with a fair bit of reluctance and stepped back to put some space between them. He looked down the alley: the men had nearly disappeared around the corner out of sight.

John sighed and rubbed his jaw with one hand, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. Uncomfortable -- no: unsettled, uncertain, nervous.

Focus.

He turned away and scanned the ground, pacing along the edge of the area they'd scattered with soil half an hour ago. It was dark now and the streetlight was not enough. He fumbled in his pocket for the torch he'd brought and shined it on the ground.

"Here," he said at last and crouched down next to a fairly distinct footprint.

"It's a good job they stopped to chat, wasn't it?" John had squatted next to him and was examining the footprint as well. "It wouldn't be nearly as good a print otherwise."

"Hold this." Sherlock handed him the torch and pulled his phone from his pocket. John kept the footprint lit while Sherlock took a dozen photos from every conceivable angle.

"And it's definitely the same?"

"It is indeed, down to the personalized stitching on the sole. We have him." He stood and began emailing the photos to Lestrade.

"I don't understand," John said as he stood. "Why would he keep wearing the shoes that would connect him to the crime scene?"

"Overconfidence, probably. But more likely it's that they're New & Lingwood --a thousand quid a pair. Those are shoes that make a statement."

"What, that he's a pretentious arsehole as well as a murderer?"

Sherlock grinned. "Something like that." His phone pinged. "That'll be Lestrade, sending his love. Hungry?"

"Famished." John's answering smile was brilliant and Sherlock found himself staring at him, oddly captivated. John's expression shifted and he looked away again. One hand came up to rub at the back of his neck, usually a sign that he was uncomfortable.

Should they discuss this? Sherlock wasn't sure what the etiquette ought to be in this situation. John rarely hesitated to tell him when he'd fucked up, but this avoidance behavior was highly unusual.

John exhaled and stuffed his hands in his pockets, looking down the alley toward the street -- anywhere but at Sherlock. "Well, I'm probably not going to blog about this one in great detail."

"I suppose that's for the best." So were they going to talk about it? He waited, but John said nothing more. Sherlock looked down at the screen of his phone, desperate for a distraction. You were right, as always. I owe you one. He switched it off and pocketed it, and let the silence stretch out between them for another five seconds. "How about Indian tonight? There's an amazing spot just a few streets down, actually."

"Have they got Cobra?"

"Of course."

"Great."

"Good."

Their eyes met again. John smiled tightly and looked away. Sherlock wound his scarf around his neck while John examined his own shoes. He could still feel the warmth of John's lips against his.

He returned a smile that John, if he were looking, would immediately doubt the sincerity of. "Then let's go."

*****
Four by Emma Grant
It was with a definite spring in his step that John climbed the seventeen stairs up to 221B on a Thursday afternoon. He side-stepped the squeaky one out of habit -- which was pointless, since Sherlock most certainly had heard him by now -- and opened the door of the flat to see Sherlock stretched out on the sofa, staring up at the ceiling. It was, incidentally, the exact same position Sherlock had been in when John left that morning. He had indeed gone out, though, if the seven texts John had received in the interim were to be believed.

"Have any luck at the morgue?"

Sherlock hummed in response, which was a good sign. If he was in a foul mood he wouldn't have responded at all.

John pulled off his coat and headed into the kitchen to put the kettle on. Several minutes later he settled into his usual chair with his fingers wrapped around a warm cup. Sherlock continued to stare at the ceiling, though the toes on his bare feet were wiggling in a way they only did when he was anxious. There was only one -- well, three really, but it was most likely the one -- thing that Sherlock could possibly be anxious about.

After two full minutes of silence, John finally gave in. "Aren't you going to ask?"

A smile curled at the corners of Sherlock's mouth. "Unnecessary. You'll tell me anyway."

"I thought you'd be curious, at least." Sherlock was insanely curious, John knew: the toes were nearly twitching now.

"I'm not meant to know the details, am I?"

"He said I could tell you what I liked, for now."

"Is there something you'd like to tell me?" He sounded completely disinterested, but John knew better.

"Well, if you're going to be that enthusiastic, I won't tell you anything."

Sherlock turned to look at him, frown firmly in place, and John couldn't stop himself from grinning. Sherlock rolled his eyes. "You're about to burst, and you've no one else to tell. All I have to do is wait."

John laughed. "I think I might enjoy making you wait."

Thirty seconds later Sherlock pushed himself to sitting. "All right, fine. Tell me."

The temptation to tease him a bit more was strong, but he was right: John was about to burst. He set his tea aside and smiled. "I'll start next week. Just training for now, some special ops stuff. Still, it's exciting. I haven't quite wrapped my head around it all."

Sherlock's eyes narrowed. "He's got you in mind for something in particular. I don't like it."

John's smile faded. "I know, but--"

"I thought you were happy with the blogging and working on cases." His gaze drifted to his knees and his expression was carefully neutral.

John paused. If it had been anyone else, he would have read a touch of hurt in that comment, maybe even jealousy and a hint of an attempt at emotional manipulation. But this was Sherlock, and Sherlock didn't do passive-aggressive -- at least, not with John. He exhaled slowly, his gaze fixed on Sherlock's face. "I am happy, of course, but Mycroft pays very well. We could use the money."

"We can pay our expenses without you taking on another job."

That takes you away from here, where I need you, was implied, of course, but John heard it all the same.

"You'll hardly notice I'm gone. You rarely do anyway." Sherlock looked up again, his expression sharp, and John sighed. "It's just training for now, and I'm going to be paid quite well for it. I can always say no later, can't I?"

Sherlock didn't respond to that; he just looked at the floor between them. John pressed his lips together in a tight line. It sounded ridiculous even to him: people didn't say no to Mycroft. People other than Sherlock, anyway.

"And it's not as if I'm going to stop working with you. You know how much I enjoy it. I just need… something that's mine. Do you understand?"

"No."

John looked away, shifting in his chair. "Any luck on that case of the murdered police officer?"

Sherlock didn't seem perturbed by the sudden change of subject. "Actually, yes. I could use your help with something." He pushed to his feet and stretched.

"Of course," John replied, his eyes following the lines of Sherlock's body. "How can I help?"

"Stand." Sherlock crossed to the wall where he'd pinned up photos of the victim's bruised torso. "And take off your shoes."

"Okay." John tugged them off one by one and set them aside.

"And your shirt."

"My shirt? Why?" John looked over to where Sherlock was pulling a few photos off of the wall. Predictably, there was no response. John's fingers were halfway done with the buttons anyway -- following orders from Sherlock was habit by now.

Sherlock handed him the photos and then began pushing furniture around to clear a space in the middle of the room. John raised his eyebrows, but he didn't ask -- he'd find out soon enough. He focused instead on the photos. He hadn't known Maria Hamilton but Greg had worked with her before, years ago.

"Sexually assaulted, beaten, stabbed and left bleeding in an alley, in uniform." He handed the photos back to Sherlock. "This sort of case doesn't usually interest you. Are you that bored, or is there something more going on here?"

"Personal favor for Lestrade." Sherlock wrinkled his nose, as if he found the very idea distasteful.

"God knows you owe him a roster full by now."

"I was going to refuse -- seemed a simple enough case of random violence -- but the coroner's report stated that the bruises on the victim's body could have been formed as much as five hours before she was stabbed. I also got a look at her uniform, though it took some negotiating, and it was in pristine condition. Well, except for the stab wound."

John frowned. "What does that mean?"

"Her attacker beat and raped her in the middle of the afternoon -- on a bed with very cheap sheets, by the way, still traces of threads on the body -- then redressed her in a clean and pressed uniform, somehow kept her subdued without using drugs or any obvious restraints, and then waited until dark to take her to that alley and stab her to death."

"That doesn't sound terribly likely."

"Which is why I decided to take a closer look. Lie down."

John blinked at him. "On the floor?"

Sherlock's expression was the one he generally reserved for people he regarded as complete imbeciles.

John sighed and sank to the floor; it was cold and hard and far dustier than it ought to be. "I assume I'm the victim here?"

"Yes. She had some very light abrasions on her upper back, so we can assume her attacker had her in a position something like this." Sherlock straddled John's legs and sat on his thighs.

John swallowed. "How much of this are you planning to recreate?"

Sherlock ignored the question, instead leaning forward to place his hands in several different spots on John's arms. "And there were bruises here and here and--" His hands slid lightly up John's arms, over his bare chest, and down his sides to his hips. "--here."

"So he was holding her down and… what, hitting her?" If Sherlock thought John was going to allow himself to be pummeled for the purposes of an experiment, he was about to find out just how wrong he was.

Sherlock leaned over him, bracing his hands on John's shoulders. "Fight me off."

"Gladly," John muttered. He twisted, but Sherlock's not inconsiderable weight was pressing him into the floor and he had to struggle to get any leverage.

"Come on, try. Don't be afraid to hurt me."

"That's not what I'm afraid of." John bucked up against him and pushed at his torso with his hands. It was far more difficult than he would have anticipated, which was oddly more embarrassing than frustrating. He gripped Sherlock's arms hard and finally managed to dislodge him, then got a leg wrapped around his lower body and flipped him over onto the hard floor with a satisfying thud.

Sherlock winced as John released him. "Would she have known how to do that?"

"Or something similar, yeah. She would've had the standard self-defense training."

"Let's try it again."

John stretched out on his back again and Sherlock resumed the position, this time sitting on John's hips, his knees on either side. And John had been self-conscious before, Jesus. Sherlock nodded and John struggled to push him off again. It was more difficult with the shift in weight, but still not impossible.

"Wait, stop for a moment." Sherlock sat back and stared down at him. "Put your arms over your head."

John did so while Sherlock plucked a photo from the floor and studied it for a moment before dropping it again. He leaned over John and repositioned his arms so that his elbows were bent at right angles, then grasped his forearms. He then pushed John's thighs apart with one knee and settled between them, lowering himself onto John's body.

"Now try again."

John swallowed. The position was incredibly suggestive: their hips were pressed together and John's thighs were spread --he could wrap his legs around Sherlock's waist if he wanted -- oh God.

"John?"

He realized he was staring up at Sherlock stupidly, and had been for several seconds now. "Right, fight you off. Sorry."

It was significantly harder than he would have expected. His hands were effectively bound: Sherlock's weight pressing down against them was proving hard to dislodge, and if he wasn't careful he'd end up as bruised as the victim.

That might not be a bad thing, his brain not-so-helpfully supplied. Sherlock shifted against him, reminding him of what people in this particular position were usually up to, and oh God he was going to get hard at this rate. He tried harder to dislodge the body above him, but Sherlock continued to hold him down, fingers digging into his flesh.

"Yes," Sherlock said, panting now, and the sound of it was almost pornographic. "I think this is exactly what happened. One more thing."

And then he pressed his mouth against John's. John's brain shut down for a long moment before he realized that there was a method to this madness, that the distribution of Sherlock's weight had changed. He couldn't kiss John and simultaneously hold his arms down quite so firmly, and with a bit of effort John was able to push him up and off.

"Yes, exactly," Sherlock said, grinning now. "Put your arms like this and let's try it again." John allowed himself to be positioned like a puppet, this time with his arms crossed at the wrists and stretched over his head. Sherlock pressed him into the floor and kissed him again. It was a fairly chaste kiss, clearly not intended to do anything more than simulate the scenario -- and Jesus fuck, was that really necessary? -- but the combination of lips and a warm body above him, holding him down, and Sherlock sliding ever so slightly between his legs was finally more than he could take.

He felt an unmistakable stirring in his groin and twisted his head away from the kiss. "Stop, stop. Sherlock… Stop!"

Sherlock sat up, back, and John twisted under him to roll onto his belly before his erection was any more evident.

"Are you all right? Are you hurt?" Sherlock's voice had a strange tone to it, something John hadn't heard before. He sounded… concerned? If he'd sounded completely unaffected John might have punched him.

"I'm fine, just… give me a minute, would you?" Oh God. He was mortified and still incredibly turned on. By Sherlock, of all people, holding him down and pretending to… Jesus, he couldn't even think the words.

Sherlock said nothing, fortunately, just sat on the floor next to him, apparently lost in thought.

"So," John said when he was finally able to sit up without humiliating himself, "what exactly did we learn from that exercise?" Other than the obvious, that John had some sort of looming heterosexual crisis. He had to force himself to look at Sherlock, who had a faint flush on his cheeks. John clenched his jaw, realizing that Sherlock couldn't have missed what had happened.

"She wasn't raped," Sherlock said after a moment, his eyes fixed on John's.

"The forensic report suggested otherwise."

"It's almost impossible to distinguish between forced sexual intercourse and intercourse that's merely enthusiastic, simply by looking at tears in vaginal tissue. They're identical 90% of the time."

"So you're suggesting that it was just…?"

"Rough sex. Think about it. Her bruises were very specific, probably similar to the ones you'll have tomorrow." John flushed and looked away at that, but Sherlock continued, "They were placed very carefully and meant to be covered by her clothes. If she'd been assaulted there would likely have been a different pattern altogether, something far more random. These bruises--" He pointed to the photos "--don't show any indication of a real struggle. There were no drugs in her system either, nothing to suggest she was chemically coerced. "

John frowned at him. "None of that proves whether or not she consented to sex. You can't know for certain that it wasn't rape. Just because she didn't particularly struggle doesn't mean anything."

Sherlock nodded and met his gaze. "Yes, I know, but I'm suggesting that it's probable that the sex and the assault that killed her were two different acts, most likely involving two different people. If the police only focus on going after her lover, which they seem to be doing, the killer may escape."

"Her lover? Wasn't she married?"

"Yes, she was married." Sherlock gathered up the photos again and flipped through them as he continued. "Lestrade let me look through the case file: interviews with friends and family, employee records, photos, her personal effects. She started requesting odd shifts about four months ago and was written up nearly a dozen times since for taking longer-than-regulation lunch breaks. Her family reported they hadn't seen or heard from her much lately, that she said she was very busy with extra work, despite the fact that her employee records show no such thing. Her husband thought she was working 15 hours per week longer than what she was actually reporting. She kept condoms and lube in a desk drawer; that particular kind of lube was found in her vagina and traces of it were on her fingers."

John nodded. "Okay, that makes sense. But how do you know her lover didn't kill her, even accidentally?"

"The time difference between the bruises and the stab wound, for one thing. There was evidence of previous bruising on her body in similar patterns, with various degrees of fading, up to a week prior. So it clearly wasn't the first time they'd had rough sex."

John shook his head in disbelief. "You didn't even know people used their tongues to kiss until recently, but you know about rough sex?"

Sherlock looked indignant. "I know people use their tongues to kiss."

"You do now." John raised his eyebrows.

Sherlock looked away. "I knew it before, I just… deleted it. I didn't think it was important."

"Wait, are you saying you were wrong?" John smirked before he could stop himself, and Sherlock scowled.

"I wasn't wrong. I simply didn't have sufficient evidence that it was significant. That's been rectified, thank you."

Rectified, indeed. "You're welcome."

"The point is that people don't typically murder each other over an illicit kiss. I can't think of a single instance prior to that one in which it's come up. It takes something rather more interesting to stir up that level of passion."

John bit his lip. "I think you'd be surprised."

Sherlock's eyes narrowed. "I'm not ignorant about sex, John, despite what you and my brother seem to think. It's a primary motivation for so much of human behavior; of course it's an important thing to understand. People in secret sexual relationships have strong emotions and a great deal to lose. Crimes of passion are aptly named, aren't they?"

What John really wanted to say next was So have you had sex then? But that would open an entire Pandora's box of thoughts he'd been carefully avoiding around Sherlock. The handful of kisses they'd now shared in the name of "work" had hardly helped matters, nor had the near-frottage they'd just engaged in on the floor. How did he keep landing himself in these situations? If he didn't know better, he'd suspect Sherlock was doing it on purpose, that this was his twisted way of flirting.

So instead, he said, "You've been watching soap operas again, haven't you?"

The expression on Sherlock's face was the closest thing to fuck you John had ever seen. Time to change the subject.

"So who killed her?"

"Either her husband or it was truly random. I'll have to interview the husband to be sure. See him, honestly: I suspect I could work it out in a few seconds. And of course, the Met has already put out the story that she was raped and murdered. The odds are good that her lover is on the force as well: they'd have had the opportunity to work the same shifts and he knew exactly what her uniform would cover. He would know better than to come forward now and make himself the prime suspect. As long as he's afraid to tell what he knows, her killer will be protected."

"Okay, so…" John paused, pursing his lips. "If you'd worked all of this out, why did you need me to… demonstrate?"

Sherlock's cheeks tinted very slightly. "It's not my area of expertise. I needed to know for certain if that particular bruising pattern could be established in a consensual situation."

"Which it can, clearly." John looked away. "So, what are you going to tell Greg?"

"What I just told you, of course." He paused. "I'll probably neglect to mention the…" He waved his hand between them.

"Yes, thanks."

"And I assume--"

"Not going on the blog."

"Right."

They sat in silence for several seconds.

"So, hungry?"

Sherlock looked as if he was about to say no for a moment. "I suppose I could go with you, at least."

"Chinese," John said as he pushed to his feet. He held out a hand and Sherlock took it, allowing himself to be pulled up. "I'll buy tonight."

"Since my brother is paying you so handsomely?" He clearly disliked the idea, but he seemed to be making an effort to bite his tongue, for now.

"Exactly," John said, smiling at him. They stared at each other for a long moment before Sherlock looked down at their clasped hands, snapping John's attention back to the present. Christ, they were standing there holding hands. Should he get down on one knee now or wait until after dinner?

"Well." John took a step back and plucked his shirt from the floor, and pulled it back on. "I think I'm going to need this."

"I'll want to check the bruising later tonight and again in the morning." Sherlock's eyes were fixed on John's arms.

"You should take pictures for comparison," John said with a snort, and then cringed when Sherlock responded with an enthusiastic smile.

Definitely not one for the blog.

*****
Five by Emma Grant
Sherlock looked up and down the alley once more before picking the lock on the battered metal door. It took slightly longer than he expected, but more importantly, the door wasn't alarmed. That both complicated and simplified things.

He slipped inside, letting the door close lightly behind him. The corridor was empty, but he heard voices somewhere nearby, to his left. He walked in the opposite direction, down and around a corner, and stepped into an alcove when he heard footsteps approaching. Two men passed by, discussing the specifics of a recent football match, and they didn't see him huddled in the shadows. He waited until they'd disappeared around the corner before moving on.

It was surprisingly easy to find what he was looking for: a locked door (easy to pick, three-pin cylinder) led to a makeshift office. Two folding tables served as desks in the cramped space; stacks of papers littered one while another was relatively clear except for an open laptop computer. Sherlock leaned over it and powered it on. A paper cup of coffee (Costa) sat next to the laptop, gone cold.

He reckoned he had at most ten minutes before they found him. The password took a bit longer to work out than he'd expected, but then he'd had to attack it with very few clues, so that shouldn't have been a surprise. What was a surprise, however, was the loud trilling sound the machine made when Windows powered up, not silenced when he frantically pressed the mute button and swore under his breath. It would have been heard up and down the corridor, most likely.

He amended his earlier time estimate to two minutes and began rifling through files, opening and closing folders, looking for the right information. There was a chance, if he got what he needed now, that they wouldn't have to go through this charade, that he could just--

"Hey, Mack, what are you--" The man who had just poked his head through the doorway froze as Sherlock looked up at him.

"Evening," Sherlock said as he took two steps back from the desk. His eyes flicked around the room, searching out defensive positions, potential weapons, weaknesses in his opponent.

"I know who you are," the man said, leaning casually in the doorway -- a front: the tension in his shoulders and the way he held his arms showed he was actually quite worried -- "and I know why you're here. You'd best come along with me, quietly." He pulled a handgun from behind his back and pointed it in Sherlock's general direction, not so much a threat as a statement of who had the upper hand here.

Sherlock held his hands out to his sides and gave him a tight smile. According to the plan, then. Right.

He was walked down the corridor again, past the outer door he'd broken in through and onwards, towards the voices he'd heard earlier.

"In there," the man said, gesturing with the gun towards a closed door. "Open it."

Sherlock turned the handle and pushed it open. Five men were seated around a table, playing cards; another two huddled in a far corner, talking. Smoke hung in the air over their heads, thick and grey, swirling up toward the ceiling. They all turned to look at Sherlock, who held his hands up in a gesture of submission.

"Look who I found skulking about," the man behind him said as he closed the door. "Sherlock fucking Holmes, the famous detective."

A few of the men snickered, but one simply stared at Sherlock impassively, an expensive cigar (Cohiba? Possibly, the aroma was distinct, though he'd have to get a closer look at the label to be certain) clenched between his teeth. The others turned to look at this man after a moment of silence. Apparently the leader of this operation, then. Or at least the most senior man present. No, definitely the leader: the style of his jacket, his position in the room (facing the door, back to the corner), the absurdly high pile of chips in front of him (the others let him win out of fear), the way his eyes were instantly calculating and observing (always paranoid, rightfully so) from the moment Sherlock entered the room.

The man spoke around the cigar. "Who sent you?" Polish accent, slurred to sound Russian to English ears. Ha.

"No one," Sherlock replied. "I'm here entirely on my own."

"Bullshit," was the reply. More snickering followed as the men around the table recovered from their surprise. "Who are you working for? The police? The government?"

Sherlock smiled. "Perhaps I'm just curious about your operation. Doing a bit of background research, in case you boys decide to commit some sort of crime in the near future. You know, smuggling, drug running… selling old nuclear weapons on the black market. That sort of thing." He shrugged as casually as he could manage with a roomful of thugs glaring at him.

The man chuckled in response. "Is that a threat? How charming. Wallins, Mack -- take Mr. Holmes downstairs and get him comfortable. I'll deal with him later."

Wallins stubbed out his cigarette and stood, looking far more menacing than he had done sitting down. Mack was one of the men who'd been lurking in a far corner, away from the smoke and the game. Sherlock cast a quick glance at him, taking in the familiar form before looking away again. His stomach lurched, not unpleasantly: he'd been looking forward to this part.

Mack crossed to him and stared up at him, arms loosely at his sides and his blue eyes narrow. "Sherlock Holmes, is it? I've heard quite a lot about you. Bind his hands."

His hands were pulled behind his back by someone unseen and bound together with a plastic strap. It was a bit tight for comfort, but hopefully it wouldn't be for long. He stared down at the man before him, keeping his expression as neutral as possible.

It had been weeks since he'd seen John -- four weeks and two days, in fact; four stunningly fucking long weeks with only a few text messages here and there when John checked in. It was all he could do not to stare, to drink in the sight of him. His hair was different, more closely trimmed than it had been a few weeks ago, and there was a day's growth on his face. His expression was hard, unsmiling -- he blended in with this lot rather well.

"Turn," John said, and then tugged on the plastic binding. "Fuck, Wallins, he might need these hands later."

"What for, to toss you off?"

There was some snickering at that, and Sherlock felt John's fingers brush against his wrists. It was an unnecessary touch, purely done for reassurance, and Sherlock swallowed. Perhaps he shouldn't have agreed to this: he was only going to be a distraction. Or worse, be distracted -- they hadn't worked this way before. It was new territory.

"That's exactly what I had in mind," John replied drily. "Let's go." He gave Sherlock a firm shove towards the door. Wallins had produced a gun from somewhere, though he was holding it discreetly, just a suggestion of a threat. Not that Sherlock was going to try anything just yet -- that wasn't the plan, after all. He walked through the door after Wallins and followed him down the corridor, keeping his eyes focused on the man's broad shoulders. John was behind him, his footfalls a familiar pattern on the concrete floor.

They descended to a lower level, then into a dark, wet-smelling corridor. Bare light bulbs -- the old-fashioned incandescent kind -- hung from the ceiling, giving the space an eerily dungeon-like feel.

Wallins stopped before a metal door, painted green and covered with graffiti. He slid the long metal deadbolt aside and pushed the door open. Sherlock felt John's hand press against his lower back for a full second of warning, his thumb drawing a small circle around one vertebra, before he gave Sherlock a firm shove. Sherlock took the hint and stumbled forward into the room, nearly allowing himself to topple over.

"Search him," Wallins said as he switched on the light by the door -- another bare bulb, this one flickering ominously.

"With pleasure." John stepped forward and gave Sherlock a cursory pat-down, clearly ignoring the phone in his pocket. He was unarmed, as per the plan. "He's clean."

"You're not as clever as everyone says, are you?" Wallins' tone was derisive, intended to provoke a reaction. "Walking right in here, unarmed, as if you could take what you want and walk out again."

"That was indeed my plan," Sherlock replied, his voice flat. "You've unraveled it. Good on you."

"Well, your plans are about to change, aren't they?" Wallins cracked his knuckles menacingly. "This here is my favorite part."

"Allow me," John said, stepping forward again. His expression was neutral, but his eyes sparkled, and Sherlock knew what was coming next.

"Right," he said, glancing back and forth between the two men, feigning nervousness. "This isn't necessary, you know. I'm hardly a danger to--"

John gave him a warning, a slight clench of his fist, and then hit him across the jaw. His full power wasn't behind it; he'd made it look far worse than it actually was. Sherlock spun away from him, wincing. John stepped forward again, his eyes flicking down to Sherlock's stomach, and Sherlock braced for the next punch. He grunted and let himself fold in around John's fist, then staggered backwards as John gave him another shove, further from Wallins with every step. Another punch to the gut had him falling to his knees, and then at John's slight nod he collapsed to the floor, writhing as if in agony. John gave him a solid staged kick in the stomach and Sherlock groaned and rolled over, his back to Wallins.

"Comfortable yet?" John asked.

"Fuck you," Sherlock spat.

"All right, Mack, enough." Wallins' voice had an edge to it, and for a moment Sherlock worried that their act hadn't been convincing. John swore softly and backed away, and Sherlock realized that John had been about to hit him again. "The boss said comfortable, not incapacitated. Let's go."

Their footsteps receded and the door closed, and within a minute it was completely silent. Sherlock pushed himself to sitting and winced: John had gone easy on him, but he was still going to have bruises to show for it. He tugged at the binding on his hands; he wasn't going to be able to free himself without injury. He assumed John would be back at the earliest opportunity anyway. He merely needed to be patient.

He managed to get to his feet and examine the room he was in. It was small and dark, windowless, walls tagged and peeling, cement floor stained with God only knew what. Oh, wait -- that was piss, definitely, but at least six months old. There were empty shelves along one wall, an ancient wooden chair and a flimsy-looking camp bed against the opposite wall, but otherwise the room was bare. Nothing useful here -- not that him escaping alone was in the plan. He'd have to wait for John to come back.

The term boredom was redefined for him in the following hours. Only the occasional sound of the plumbing disturbed the silence, and without access to a window or his phone, he quickly lost track of time.

When the door finally opened, the creak of the rusty hinges was nearly deafening. He jumped to his feet and squashed the impulse to grin as John closed the door behind him and smiled. Sherlock glanced up toward the ceiling and John shook his head.

"No surveillance down here. They haven't had to use this room to hold anyone recently. It's mostly used for storage." He tilted his head toward the camp bed. "Well, that and the occasional visit by a prostitute. Always entertaining, to say the least. How are you? Any injuries?"

"I'm fine, though this bind is a bit tight."

John crossed to him and pulled him into an awkward embrace, and Sherlock closed his eyes. He'd forgotten what John smelled like, somehow. There was a strange twist in his belly at the thought. He couldn't do much but lean into John in response, and John laughed.

"Sorry, I just… It's good to see you. Here, let me get that bind off you." Sherlock turned and John pulled a knife from his pocket and sliced through it.

"Ah, thanks." Sherlock rubbed at his wrists.

"Sorry it took me a while to get back down here, but I've got something for you." John pulled a USB drive from his pocket and held it out. "I hadn't been able to get into the office long enough to pull all the data, but your appearance proved to be such a distraction that I had a good half hour to rifle through all of it. They've been trying to work out who might be after them that they didn't already suspect. This should be everything we'll need to pin them down on terrorism charges."

"You've done half of my job for me, then. I owe you one." Sherlock grinned and pocketed the USB drive. "So does that mean you're handing in your resignation tonight?"

"Abso-fucking-lutely. Ready to get out of here?"

"I assume you've got an escape plan worked out?"

"I do, I--"

Sherlock cut John off with a wave of his hand -- there were footsteps coming down the corridor.

"Shit," John whispered, looking over his shoulder. "Quick, your hands."

Sherlock put them behind his back so they would appear to be bound, at least at first sight. John stared hard at him for a moment, listening. The footsteps paused outside the door. Sherlock's mind whirled: four scenarios presented themselves instantly, only two of which were probably feasible, and maybe only one that would allow them to escape uninjured.

John had an almost frantic, faraway expression on his face. His eyes focused again rather suddenly, and he lunged forward and clasped Sherlock's face in his hands. The door hinges creaked and John crushed his mouth against Sherlock's.

Sherlock almost smiled; this was becoming a habit with the two of them. He struggled enough to make it look convincing (with John's tongue in his mouth it was a bit difficult to look like he wasn't enjoying it) and glanced toward the door to where Wallins was standing there squinting at them.

"Jesus, Mack. I was taking the piss before."

John pulled away long enough to say, "Fuck off!" before roughly kissing Sherlock again. Stubble, God -- who knew it would feel so intriguing pressed into his skin?

"When you're finished in there the boss wants to have a chat with the prisoner."

John turned his head out of the kiss and pushed Sherlock roughly to his knees. "I'll bring him up when I'm done."

Wallins snorted. "I'm guessing this won't take long."

"Not if that pretty mouth feels as good as it looks." John unfastened his jeans and tugged them down an inch, shifting so that his back was towards Wallins. He grabbed a handful of Sherlock's hair and jerked his head back roughly. "You'd better make this good. Watch the teeth or you'll be sorry." His voice was gruff but his expression was conflicted, apologetic. Sherlock raised his eyebrows in response -- honestly, did he think Sherlock was going to take this personally? John rolled his eyes and then settled back in to character. He tightened his grip on Sherlock's hair and shoved Sherlock's face against the thin cotton of his pants.

Wallins chuckled from across the room; apparently he was planning to watch. Sherlock's nose was pressed against John's groin now and his heart was pounding. He had to make this look real. It had been a long, long time since he'd given a blow job, but the basic mechanics of it were simple enough. He moved his head a bit -- difficult since John's firm grip on his hair kept his face smashed against him -- and did his best to look like he was struggling to breathe around a mouthful of cock. John's grip was firm enough that he actually was struggling to get air, and when he shifted his head to allow himself to breathe, his nose bumped into what was undoubtedly John's prick. The very idea of that sent a shiver through him. He closed his eyes; the muffled moan he produced wasn't entirely faked. He heard John gasp above him and he looked up to see John's cheeks were flushed bright red. John looked down at him with a strange expression on his face, something between embarrassment and curiosity. His hands loosened in Sherlock's hair.

John had an erection, Sherlock realized with a start, even as his nose stroked down the length of it through the pants. It had happened before, that time on the floor, months ago, but Sherlock had only felt it through several layers of clothes. He hadn't seen it then, but now he could see it quite well as it strained against John's pants, a wet spot forming where the glans pushed up against the fabric just below the waistband. Sherlock swallowed: he might actually have to do this. The thought wasn't unwelcome. In fact--

"It's not a fucking porno, Wallins," John said, the hoarseness in his voice completely genuine. He pumped his hips just enough to give the impression that he was fucking Sherlock's mouth. "Get out."

"You're fucking twisted, Mack, you know that? Five minutes." A moment later they heard the door close. The sound of Wallins' footsteps receded.

John shoved Sherlock away and zipped his jeans, his face still flaming. "I'm so sorry. Oh God, that was a horrible idea. I don't know why I did that, I--"

"Don't worry about it." Sherlock pushed to his feet and ran a hand through his hair, hoping to hell John didn't notice that Sherlock was half-hard as well. "It worked. Right now we need to worry about getting out of here."

"Right, right." John looked away and adjusted his prick in his jeans with a pained expression. "There's a back stairway. We'll have to be careful at the top, but it's not usually watched." He pulled a gun from where it had been tucked into a pocket and checked the cartridge, flicked off the safety. "Ready?"

Sherlock nodded in response.

John took three steps toward the door and winced before shoving a hand down the front of his jeans again. "Goddammit."

Sherlock couldn't help smirking. "Need a minute?"

John rolled his eyes. "Let's just get the fuck out of here, all right? You can pay me back later." Sherlock gaped at him and John grimaced. "Oh, God, I meant take the piss or-- I didn't mean… Shit." He shook his head and gestured with the gun for Sherlock to go ahead of him through the door. "Keep your hands behind your back and go in front of me. Head to the right."

Sherlock felt for the USB drive in his pocket and nodded. This next part was familiar, at least. A quick escape -- most likely with a spot of trouble involved, nothing they hadn't done before, maybe even a gun fight -- but they'd get away and would be home within the hour, exhilarated and breathless: John-and-Sherlock on the case again after nearly a month of being apart, separated by one of Mycroft's schemes.

It was over now. John was coming home. Sherlock smiled.

"What?" John asked, cocking the gun.

"Nothing," Sherlock replied, still smiling stupidly. That wouldn't do for the part he was playing at the moment, though, so he let it all go, the excitement and the odd buzzing in the back of his head, and the memory of John's hard prick against his cheek. No, he should definitely not think about that right now. He clasped his hands behind his back and slumped his shoulders, a prisoner once again.

"Let's roll," John said.

Sherlock stepped through the doorway, ready to face anything.

*****
And One... by Emma Grant
There was a sleek black car waiting for them when they stepped out of the taxi at Baker Street.

"Ignore it," Sherlock said.

John sighed. All he wanted to do was go home, take a shower, and sleep in his own damn bed. He glanced at the doorway to their flat; the streetlamp illuminated the brass numbers on the door as if taunting him.

He turned back to the car. "I can't."

A door opened for him as he approached. He slid inside, expecting to see Anthea or one of Mycroft's other assistants inside, but instead it was Mycroft seated across from him, studying the screen of his phone. John settled back against the leather seat and waited. He had either done very well or very poorly to merit Mycroft's personal attention.

Mycroft didn't look up. "That was quite a stunt you pulled back there, John."

John looked away, uncertain which particular stunt he was referring to. "You said it would take a week. It took four."

"Ah, yes. These things can be so difficult to predict." Mycroft gave him a tight smile and raised his phone to his ear. "Yes, of course. Now, if convenient." There was a pause as he listened for a moment before rolling his eyes and ending the call. He turned to look out the window toward the street, the fingers of one gloved hand stroking his chin. He looked far more like his brother in profile than he did otherwise.

A moment later the car door opened again and Sherlock sat heavily next to John, scowling. The door closed with a resounding thud and the car pulled away.

"Well, it's lovely to see the two of you together again." Mycroft said after a long silence. "What a touching reunion it must have been."

Sherlock shifted next to him, but said nothing. John couldn't keep the discomfort off of his face. After a full second he forced himself to look up and give Mycroft a tight-lipped smile. Mycroft raised his eyebrows and John looked away again, trying not to think about what Mycroft was reading into the sight before him.

God, it couldn't be any worse than the reality.

Sherlock had said nothing in the cab, and John hadn't known what to say. Sorry for the sexual assault didn't seem quite right, but neither did Thanks for rubbing against my hard-on back there; it was nice. Which it was, of course, with Sherlock on his knees, looking up at him with wide dark eyes and--

John clenched his jaw. There was no point in thinking about that right now. "Are you handling the debriefing personally, then?"

Mycroft's attention returned to his phone. "No. The usual people will be doing that. I'm far more interested in getting Sherlock started on the analysis of the data you appropriated."

John's stomach twisted into a tight knot. "You were monitoring me."

"Not in the way you think. But considering your rather hasty departure and the short amount of time Sherlock was held, one must assume you have the data with you."

Sherlock fumbled in his pocket and held up the USB stick.

"I'll let you hold on to that," Mycroft replied as he tucked his phone away. "You may begin analyzing it upon arrival."

"I could have done that at home." Sherlock looked out the window.

"Of course." Mycroft's tone was typically condescending. "But this will be ever so much easier for everyone, don't you think?"

The car pulled into a rather ordinary-looking underground parking garage, then continued down several levels through a secured entrance to yet another underground facility. John had been here before, but he wasn't sure if Sherlock had. He wasn't sure what Sherlock had been doing in the last few weeks, what sort of training he'd done in preparation for his part of the operation.

No amount of training could have prepared John for the last month of his life. It had only been through some sense of duty that he'd stayed at all, every day thinking he would finally hear that the end of the operation was near. It wasn't that the work was difficult so much as it had been isolating and dull, and an utter waste of his skills. He had repeatedly insisted he could do more than simply position himself to provide access to the necessary files; he could retrieve them and send them on to the analyst himself. He hadn't seen the need to put one of MI5's many analysts in harm's way.

Until he'd learned who the analyst would be, of course. Why Sherlock had volunteered for that particular job after years of resisting his brother's attempts to recruit him was something John hadn't yet worked out.

He glanced over at Sherlock: his face was carefully blank, caught in split-second frames as the car passed streetlights. It was his usual expression around his brother, but it was also the face he put on when he didn't want to talk to John.

John sighed and looked away.

*****

"And you had no difficulty escaping?" The agent rapidly tapped out notes on the virtual keyboard of his tablet computer.

"None. I slipped downstairs when everyone was occupied and we walked out the back door, easy peasy. No one saw us go." He could have done it weeks earlier, not that anyone seemed to care. He'd forgotten how frustrating working for the government could be.

The agent nodded and John forced a smile. He assumed Sherlock would tell the same story -- and would also leave out the more personal details. They'd been separated after the brief security check at the entrance and would be debriefed individually, as per protocol. So far no one had asked for details beyond the operation of the organization, and John didn't expect them to do.

The agent frowned for a moment before looking up to lock eyes with John. "I'm still uncertain why you downloaded the data yourself, when the analyst was there."

Here we go. "I'd spent weeks sorting through it all and I knew what was important. It was far less risky for me to download it myself than to go with the original plan of sneaking the analyst into the office in the middle of the night."

He'd made a point early on of getting caught watching porn in the office in the evenings; he'd even let a few of the men walk in on him with a hand around his dick. After a while the others just assumed that was what he was doing and left him to it. As long as he had a porno playing in a background window, ready to pull up if someone walked in, he had a good fifteen minutes at a time to peruse the computer. Working out the password had taken a few days (there was a skill he'd picked up working with Sherlock), but after that, he'd had access to everything.

If only he'd had the bollocks to download it all three weeks earlier.

"Quite a lot of thought went into the planning of that aspect of the mission." The agent's tone was casual, but his expression was sharp.

"I spent four weeks with that operation. I knew what they had, and what was possible and what was not."

"And your decision to take action on your own had nothing to do with your relationship with Mr. Holmes?"

John pressed his lips together. He rather wanted to ask, What relationship are you referring to?, but he wasn't sure he wanted to hear what the agency thought was going on between him and Sherlock. Hell, he wasn't sure himself. "Are you suggesting I chose my course of action in order to protect him, without regard for the success of the mission?"

The agent paused for a full second, his eyes narrowed. "Yes."

"Then you don't know either of us very well, I'm afraid."

"We're concerned that you may have missed some important data, something an analyst would not have done, and that will jeopardize the success of this operation. It's not as if we'll have another chance after this, not with--"

"Sherlock has everything he needs. He may be the genius, but I'm not stupid, nor am I incompetent."

"You are, however, far too emotionally attached to Mr. Holmes to work with him in the field."

John snorted. "And here I though you lot read the papers."

"This is MI5, Dr. Watson. Not your little detective games."

"I was under the impression that it was our success at playing those little games that interested MI5 in the first place." He raised his eyebrows and the agent didn't respond. "I had nothing to do with Sherlock being assigned to this mission; in fact, I strongly objected to it. It wasn't my call, but once he was there, I used my very comprehensive knowledge of his skills and my understanding of the situation to make decisions in the context of the mission, with great success. I was under the impression that I had the authority to do so."

"Success does not justify your methods in this case. You'll be reprimanded in your file, and a note will be added to insure you and Mr. Holmes do not work together again."

John shrugged. "You can put whatever the hell you want in that file; I don't give a fuck." The agent's eyes widened as John stood and tossed his security badge on the desk. "I quit. I don't care what Mycroft throws at me. I'm done with this fucking place."

He felt the agent's glare on his back as he left the room. He'd be intercepted by security in less than a minute, and they'd escort him to Mycroft's office, most likely. Not that it mattered. He didn't care about any of it anymore. All he wanted was to go home, take a shower, make some tea, and work out how to salvage his friendship with Sherlock.

*****

It took two minutes, and he was indeed escorted to Mycroft's office. Mycroft was sitting behind his desk studying a computer monitor. Sherlock was sitting in a chair across from him, fingers flying on the keyboard of his laptop. He shot John a tight smile as John sank into a chair next to him.

"You're full of surprises, aren't you?" Mycroft didn't look up.

John had to bite his cheek to prevent himself from responding with what he reckoned Mycroft was full of. He looked instead over to Sherlock, who was smirking at the screen.

"I meant it," John said. "I'm done here. You've got what you wanted, or you will when Sherlock's done with the data."

"Don't be hasty, John." Mycroft swiveled in his chair to face him. "Your emotions are high now, which is completely understandable. There are protocols for helping agents readjust after long undercover operations, and--"

John groaned. "Fuck the protocols. I quit. I didn't sign on for what you just put me through. You weren't honest with me about it; none of you were."

Sherlock looked up from his computer at that, his expression suddenly one of interest.

"The parameters and risks of the mission were thoroughly explained to you when you signed on."

"I signed on for a mission that would take a week. At the time I thought it sounded like more than I really wanted for a first time out, but hey, it's just a week, they said. All you have to do is work your way in and wait for the signal that the analyst is going to show up. Do you have any idea what I had to do to stay in their good graces for a month, Mycroft? How many fucking laws I've broken?" Some of it made his worst days in Afghanistan pale in comparison. He shuddered.

"You're protected by law from being charged for--"

John nearly laughed. "Oh, for fuck's sake. That is so not the point."

"Then enlighten me." Mycroft's tone was tight.

"The point is that I never agreed to a mission that would take me away from home for an entire month. And on top of that, it was utterly unnecessary to the success of the operation. I could have had that data for you at the end of the first week, but no, I had to wait until someone decided the fucking stars were properly aligned."

"That amount of time was necessary, John. You were embedded and you didn't have the larger picture. This is what the work is."

"So everyone keeps telling me. Ergo, I fucking quit." John started to stand.

"Tell him the truth, Mycroft," Sherlock said, his voice calm. "Or would you like me to do it?"

Mycroft turned his glare to his brother. "And what truth would that be?"

"Tell him why it took a month."

"By all means, be my guest. We both know whose fault that is, don't we?" Mycroft raised his eyebrows as if in challenge and Sherlock clenched his jaw.

John stared from one to the other, a sinking feeling in his gut. "Oh, no. Don't tell me."

Sherlock looked at him, his expression unreadable. "It wasn't about you, John, and it wasn't about the mission. As I suspected from the moment he first suggested the job to you, it was all an elaborate plot to get me to work for MI5."

John had to gape at him for a moment. He shook his head and fought an irrational urge to laugh. "Oh, right, of course, of course it's all…" The words began to sink in, and John felt the blood drain from his face. "Bloody hell, it's always about you, isn't it? The entire fucking earth has to revolve around you, and I can't even--" He broke off and scrubbed his hands over his face. "Oh my God, an entire month of my life, and it's nothing to you, is it? To either of you." He clenched his jaw and stood, feeling anger rise in his chest, sharp and hot.

"John," Sherlock began, and John turned to glare at him. Sherlock's expression was strained, but not apologetic. No, of course not.

"No, no, you don't get to say a goddamned word to me. Fuck the both of you. I'm done with this." He turned and stalked out the door, down the corridor, towards where he knew there was an exit to the street. He glared down the two people who seemed to have been sent to intercept him, and then no one else tried.

The sky was just beginning to grow light as he stepped onto the street, the faint pink stripe of dawn strangely cold against the skyline. He flagged down a taxi and went home, and didn't look back.

*****

It was two days before Sherlock came home. John came back from a night out with Greg, during which he'd drunk far too much beer and had utterly failed at pulling three different women, to find Sherlock lounging on the sofa with a newspaper. He looked up when John came in, but said nothing.

John glared at him for a moment before stripping off his coat and heading into the kitchen. He ought to go straight upstairs to bed and say nothing, give Sherlock the silent treatment for another day. He was halfway through filling the kettle when he realized he was doing it out of sheer force of habit. Yes, the proper way to have it out with his flatmate was to start by making him fucking tea. He turned off the tap and leaned back against the counter, trying to compose himself.

No, he'd best get this over with. He didn't need to wait another day to find out whether or not Sherlock was going to continue being a prick about the whole thing. He had expected a text or an email, or some sign that Sherlock was concerned about the way they'd parted, but there had been nothing. Not that he'd reached out, either, but he'd hoped Sherlock would make the first move.

John sighed and pressed a hand over his eyes. God, he hated this. He hated being angry with friends and feeling the weight of a grudge pressing against his chest, cold and hard and rough around the edges. And with Sherlock, there was so much history, too much between them to write it off without a word. And too much… God, he didn't know what it was, what to call it.

Right. So.

He took a deep breath and crossed back to the sofa. Sherlock looked up at him, a slight hint of anxiety on his face. It was gone again almost instantly, but it was enough. John let some of his anger go and sat on the sofa. Sherlock set the paper aside and shifted next to him, a rare sign of discomfort. Good.

"Finish the analysis?" John forced himself to look at Sherlock.

"Yes. It was utterly pedestrian. Typical money laundering scheme. They kept ridiculously transparent records of their illegal transactions, et cetera." His tone was typically acerbic, but his expression was taut.

"I could have given them that much." A bit of resentment edged its way into his tone, despite his efforts to keep it light.

"Yes, I know." Sherlock sighed and silence stretched between them for a few seconds. "You were gone three days before Mycroft called. I told him no, and he called every other day after that. When two weeks had passed, I realized he meant to stall you until I said yes."

John watched his face, but saw no sign that he was lying. "So he bribed you with… me?" The idea that after all these years he was the one thing Sherlock could be coerced with was more than a touch disturbing.

"After a manner, I suppose he did. He said they didn't have any analysts qualified for that sort of field work -- ridiculously untrue, by the way -- and that you'd likely be stuck there for weeks unless I agreed." Sherlock paused, his eyes fixed on the floor in front of him.

John pursed his lips. "You could have told me what was going on. I'd have finished it weeks earlier." Sherlock frowned and John looked away. "I see. You didn't think I could do it alone either."

"I wasn't certain. I didn't have enough information to come to any particular conclusion, though once I was there it was obvious I was unnecessary." He shrugged and pressed his lips together for a moment. "But by then… I was going a bit mad without you."

John allowed himself to smile just a bit. "Were you?"

"It was horribly boring. No one to pester me to eat, no one to complain about my experiments in the refrigerator. No one to use all the hot water in the morning." He cast a sly glance at John.

"No one to steal the covers?" John nudged him with an elbow. "You make us sound like an old married couple."

"Well, we bicker constantly and don't have sex, so perhaps it's apt." Sherlock nearly smiled, and John swallowed. A bit close to home, that one.

"I'm sorry," he said after a moment. "For what happened at the warehouse, after Wallins found us. I shouldn't have put you in that position." He grimaced at the unintentional double entendre.

"I assumed it was retribution for me pinning you to the floor and having a go at you for that murdered police officer case." His tone was light, but there was something else under it, something John couldn't quite read.

"It wasn't. I don't know why it popped into my head. It made sense at the moment, I suppose."

Sherlock shrugged. "I really didn't mind, you know. We do have a certain level of physical comfort with each other. I wasn't offended."

John nodded and kept his gaze focused on the floor. Did Sherlock think it was normal for mates to have a snog in an alleyway or rub up against each other to prove a point? John had been carefully ignoring the question, trying to convince himself that it was all different and bizarre and somehow fine because it was Sherlock, who was not a normal mate of John's by any stretch of the imagination. But it wasn't anything near fine for John -- it was bordering on something else altogether.

He took a deep breath and exhaled smoothly before turning to look at Sherlock. "I know you weren't offended. But that's not why I'm apologizing."

Sherlock met his gaze. "I would have done it, you know."

John stared back at him; it was a moment before the words sank in. "You… what?"

"There was a moment when I thought I'd have to do it, to help us escape. And I would have. Sucked you off." He held John's gaze, his lips slightly parted.

John felt his cheeks grow warm, but he couldn't look away from Sherlock's earnest expression. "You…" he began, but found he couldn't think of anything say to that. Nothing that didn't amount to Want to try it now?, at any rate. He cleared his throat and looked away. "Ah," was the best he could manage.

Sherlock gave a small huff that sounded slightly indignant. "Well, it's been a long time since I've given anyone head, but I think I could have managed."

"I've no doubt." John's mouth had gone horribly dry. "Happily it didn't come to that, did it?" Perhaps not entirely happily. Fuck.

"My point is that you don't owe me an apology, not for any of it. I went there to help, and I suspect that I did help, at least a bit. I went as soon as Mycroft let me, after some very cursory training." There was a pause. "I'm sorry I didn't agree to the entire damn thing sooner. I honestly didn't think he would be so stubborn about it."

John snorted. "Your brother is a massive wanker."

"And you haven't known him for 35 years."

John pressed his hands against his face. "Was this entire thing simply an attempt to get you to work for MI5, then?" He'd almost let go of his anger over that, over the feeling of being used. He'd thought he was tired of always being in Sherlock's shadow, of being the eternal sidekick. He'd just wanted something he could call his own, and even that had turned out to be about Sherlock.

This was his life, wasn't it? And oddly enough, he didn't really mind.

"That was part of it, certainly. I suspect he was also trying to prove a point to me." Sherlock looked away and fidgeted for a moment. "At any rate, it's failed. I quit as well, though not quite so dramatically as you did." He turned his face toward John and smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling slightly as he did.

"I missed you." John hadn't meant to blurt it out quite like that, but there was nothing for it now. "I missed this flat, and I missed working on cases, and your shitty moods and the experiments in the kitchen -- all of it. I was kicking myself two days in for thinking I'd enjoy undercover work. I was bloody miserable."

"I'm rather glad to hear that." Sherlock's knee bumped against John's. "And I'm glad you're home."

John looked up at him and they stared at each other for several seconds, knees still touching. John had forgotten how stunning Sherlock's eyes could be, how they could pierce right through him. And the way he was looking at John right now, so open and honest, so much that John could almost believe that Sherlock wanted something more.

Oh God. That line of thought was leading in a very dangerous direction.

"Me too." John smiled and then looked away. He forced himself to stand. "I think I'll turn in. I suppose we can start looking for cases tomorrow, yeah?"

"Of course."

John risked another glance at him, but he'd already returned to the newspaper, seemingly unaffected. Heterosexual crisis averted once again.

John climbed the stairs slowly, feeling far more sober than he ought at this point. He stripped off his clothes and pulled on a clean pair of boxers, and sat on the edge of his bed. His anger at Sherlock had dissipated like so much smoke, slipping through his fingers even as he'd sat there on the sofa, trying desperately to cling to it. For all Sherlock could be an irritating wanker, he was also… well. John needed not to think about that just now.

At least Sherlock was home and they were both done with MI5 and they could get on with the business of being John-and-Sherlock again. He wasn't sure how he'd expected that first conversation to go, but as usual, Sherlock had surprised him. He supposed he would have done the same in Sherlock's position. Of course, it all could have been so much easier, if only Sherlock had told John his suspicions of Mycroft's motives from the start.

John grimaced: would he have listened? Probably not. John Watson had to learn most lessons the hard way, it seemed. And he'd needed to face the ugly reality of his James Bond fantasies, hadn't he? How ironic that he'd imagined it being rather sexy and glamorous and exciting, and it was the exact opposite of that in almost every way. And moreover, the main thing he'd learned was that he was far too emotionally attached to his brilliant, odd, borderline sociopathic, very male flatmate to be away from him for more than a handful of days.

Maybe he should start going back to therapy after all. Clearly his priorities were fucked up beyond all recognition.

He pulled back the duvet and switched on the reading lamp by his bed, intending to settle in with a book, something to distract his mind for a while. The house was quiet for a moment, and then he heard the distinct sound of footsteps on the stairs.

Sherlock's footsteps. Coming up the stairs to his room. He sat still, his heart pounding. Sherlock never came up to his room; John couldn't recall a single time he'd done so. All the possible reasons Sherlock might be coming up the stairs to his bedroom at this hour were crowded out in favor of one in particular, one that sent a shiver of anticipation down John's spine.

Oh God. It couldn't be that, could it?

He stood and crossed to the closed door, listening to the footsteps grow closer and closer and then stop on the other side. When he couldn't bear the suspense a moment longer, he opened the door. Sherlock stood there with one hand raised, as if he were about to knock. John had clearly caught him off-guard: his eyes widened slightly and swept down over John's nearly naked form before returning to his face again. His expression returned to something casual, even cool, but what John had seen there was quite unmistakable.

He didn't even think; he simply reached out and grasped a handful of Sherlock's shirt, pulled him forward, and kissed him. Sherlock made a sound of surprise against his lips, but a moment later his hands came up to cradle John's face. Their lips slid together and John swiped the tip of his tongue against Sherlock's lower lip, probing, testing. Though it wasn't the first time they'd kissed each other, it was the first time it had been like this: real, honest, and uncertain. Sherlock's lips parted under his and John pressed forward, and there was a soft moan that could have come from either of them, maybe came from both of them.

Sherlock kicked the door closed and turned John around, pushing him back against it before crushing their mouths together. John felt a bit like someone who'd inadvertently opened a floodgate: Sherlock kissed him with a level of pent-up arousal that John previously would have suspected he wasn't capable of possessing. It was glorious to be on the receiving end of that, though -- for most of his adult life he'd been in the position of pursuing reluctant sexual partners, doing everything he could to convince them to share their bodies, and always feeling like he was asking a favor, like they were doing him a favor when they conceded and allowed him to touch and kiss and fuck, always passive beneath his hands, never grasping at him as if they needed more contact, needed him. He couldn't remember the last time he'd felt wanted like this, desired, and he let himself be pressed back against the door and tried to hang on.

Sherlock pulled out of the kiss and worked his way down John's neck, unerringly finding that spot beneath his ear that he'd discovered by accident standing in that alleyway months ago. John whimpered, not trusting himself to say anything.

Sherlock sucked lightly on his earlobe for a moment before whispering, "I came up here to bring you your phone, actually."

John laughed and let his hands slide down Sherlock's back, down over his arse. "Oh God, seriously?" He pulled Sherlock's hips against him; Sherlock was just as hard as he was.

"Mycroft rang you and then me, demanding to know why you weren't answering." His lips moved against John's neck as he spoke.

"Mmmm, keep doing that. What did you tell him?"

"That neither of us could talk at the moment since our mouths are otherwise occupied." He pressed his lips against John's again.

"You didn't say that," John managed after a moment. He hissed as Sherlock ground against him.

"Of course not. I told him to bugger off and leave us alone for at least a week. Ah…"

John's tongue had just traced along the sensitive skin inside his lower lip. "I think a week will do it, yeah." He pulled back a bit and looked up at Sherlock. "Hang on, you came up here to relay a message from Mycroft?"

Sherlock's lips twisted a bit. "Well, no. I came up to kiss some sense into you. That was going to be my excuse if you didn't let me."

John kissed him again. "So you're okay with this? Whatever this is. What is this, anyway?"

Sherlock's hands slid down over his back, fingers tracing along his spine as his lips traced paths on John's neck. "I believe the term is 'friends with benefits'."

"Yes, that works." He was filled with a sudden sense of relief. He wasn't sure he could handle thinking about it as much more than that -- for the present moment, anyway. "Speaking of benefits… that thing you said you wouldn't have minded doing… I don't suppose…?"

Sherlock hummed against his skin before sliding smoothly to his knees, his fingers already dipping under the waistband of John's boxers. "I was hoping you'd ask."

John grinned down at him, and gasped when his pants were tugged down enough for Sherlock to press a soft kiss to the head of his prick. "Apology accepted, I think."

Sherlock looked up at him, his eyes dark in the dim light, his lower lip glistening with a drop of the fluid that was leaking from John's cock. He smiled, and then didn't speak for quite a while.

*****
Epilogue of Utterly Gratuitous Porn by Emma Grant
Author's Notes:
Seriously, this is basically a PWP set in the same universe. No redeeming value whatsoever. Enjoy! :-D
John exhaled, the familiar weight of the SIG against his palm reassuring. He listened, counted to three and then whipped around the corner, gun held out before him. There was no one there. He nodded his head to indicate it was clear.

Sherlock moved past him, one hand brushing against his lower back, and motioned for John to follow as he started down the corridor. The building seemed to be deserted; they'd neither seen nor heard anything to indicate anyone else was there.

They cautiously approached the battered metal door at the end of the corridor. Sherlock touched the lever and looked back at him. John nodded his agreement and Sherlock pressed it downwards. The door creaked ominously on its hinges and they both cringed, but nothing happened. John went through first, gun once again at the ready, Sherlock close behind him. They were standing in a large storage facility, shelves stacked to the ceilings with boxes, most labeled with Chinese characters. The light filtered in through narrow windows near the high ceiling, casting nearly-opaque beams through the dust in the air. It was silent, oppressively so.

"Mother fucker," John whispered, awed by the sheer size of the place. "I think we've found it."

"This way." Sherlock tugged his elbow once before starting down the center aisle.

"What are you doing?" John hissed, jogging after him.

"Looking for something." Sherlock scanned the shelves as he walked, seemingly unconcerned that the gang of smugglers they'd been tracking for weeks could be lurking behind any corner, ready to shoot them, or worse. "Aha!" He started down one of the narrow aisles.

John shook his head in frustration and followed, senses on high alert. The brick wall at the end of the aisle had a series of metal rungs bolted into it; they ascended a good thirty feet. Sherlock looked around once more before starting to climb. John swore softly before tucking the SIG into the waist of his jeans and following. There was an empty spot on one of the very top shelves, and Sherlock climbed onto it. He gestured for John to follow. The shelf was too low for them to sit upright on and not quite wide enough for two people to lie side by side. John rolled his eyes when he realized Sherlock had stretched out on his back in such a way that John could only lie on top of him.

"What are you doing?"

Sherlock opened his mouth to respond, but there was a clanging sound across the warehouse, followed by voices.

John slid on top of Sherlock, his heart pounding. "Shit." He reached behind him to pull the gun from his jeans and hold it in a defensive position. He looked out into the dim warehouse but couldn't yet see anything.

"Shhhh." Sherlock shifted beneath him, as if he couldn't quite get comfortable.

"Will you please--" John began, and then felt an erection pressing against his thigh. It was another moment before he realized Sherlock was grinding against him ever so slightly. He turned his head to look at his face. "Are you mad?"

Sherlock grinned in response, then leaned up to kiss him. John allowed it for a moment before pulling away and pressing his face against Sherlock's shoulder. The sound of voices grew closer and John realized with a start that he recognized them.

"Is that… Greg?"

"Yes." Sherlock's lips were against his neck now, just below his ear. "I'm sure he wouldn't appreciate us sneaking into his crime scene like this, disturbing the evidence."

John raised his head and stared down at Sherlock. "What about the case? The smugglers?"

"Lestrade texted me last night. They received an unexpected tip and arrested the ringleaders, then seized this warehouse."

"Then why are we…?" John blinked at him. "You dragged me all the way down here for a shag, didn't you?"

Sherlock grinned. "They're to begin cataloguing the contraband at the other end, so as long as we're quiet we've got a good half hour."

"You… oh my God." John pressed his face against Sherlock's chest to stifle his urge to scream. "Please tell me you didn't tell Greg about this."

"Where would be the fun in that?" One of Sherlock's hands wriggled between them and unfastened the snap of John's jeans. "I've always wondered if it's possible for you to come quietly with your cock in my mouth."

"Not bloody likely." John groaned as Sherlock's fingers found his prick and teased it to hardness. He ought to refuse to cooperate on principle, rather than reward this sort of behavior. But hell, they were here. Why not? "I hope to hell Anderson isn't here, because I will never fucking hear the end of it." He set the SIG on top of a nearby box and lifted his head to kiss Sherlock. He drew his tongue out enough to suck on it lightly and felt Sherlock melt beneath him. "So what would you like to do?"

"I thought I made it clear that I want your cock in my mouth," Sherlock said against his lips.

John grinned. "As heavenly as that sounds, I'm not sure we have enough space up here."

Sherlock made a vague gesture with his free hand. "No, but we could--"

"Ah, of course. Just let me--" John pushed himself up enough to make the awkward turn possible, and settled on his side facing the other direction. He struggled with the fastening of Sherlock's trousers in the dim light and simultaneously lifted his hips to allow Sherlock to push his jeans down a bit. He'd barely got Sherlock's pants out of the way before he felt a warm mouth close around his cock. Oh God.

It had only been a few months, and for a man who hadn't had sex for more than a decade, Sherlock had proved quite enthusiastic about making up for lost time. He was remarkably unembarrassed about telling John what he wanted, not self-conscious about his body or the various ways pleasure could be wrung from it. As for himself, John was frankly surprised at how quickly he'd got past the initial weirdness of having sex with a man. He certainly hadn't expected to enjoy giving head quite so much as he enjoyed getting it, if not more.

Sherlock's mouth worked his cock with long sucking strokes, not a lot of tongue just yet -- he going for a slow burn, apparently. John had worked out early on that Sherlock preferred a less direct approach than he himself did, so he licked and teased a bit, sliding his tongue under the foreskin and probing the slit before finally taking the glans into his mouth. Sherlock hummed around his cock when he slid slowly to the base, his nose almost brushing Sherlock's balls before his gag reflex kicked in and he had to back off. He couldn't quite reach the spots Sherlock liked him to work with his tongue, so he settled for mirroring Sherlock's movements instead, bobbing his head with long strokes and sucking gently at the head, pulling the foreskin up with his lips at the top.

It was gorgeous and slow, and he felt like he could go for hours like this, stretched out along on a thick ribbon of pleasure, not really close to orgasm but not yet needing it either. After a good five minutes his jaw was aching and he pulled off, still working Sherlock's dick with his hand. Sherlock released him and twisted away to wriggle his trousers down further. He reached for John's hand and tugged before carefully turning onto his other side, his back to John.

John blinked at him for a moment before realizing what he had in mind. He turned himself back around as quietly as he could and spooned against him from behind. The voices of the police were scattered, though it was hard to pick out the individuals with the sound echoed around them. No one was right below them, at any rate.

"Do you have--"

"Here." A small tube and a condom packet were pressed into his hand.

"Do you need--?"

"No. Just--"

"Right." John grinned. He rolled the condom on himself and slicked it with lube, then squeezed out a bit more and generously covered the head of his cock. Sherlock pressed back against him, already greedy for it, and John had to force himself to go slow. This was something he'd also been surprised by; he'd always assumed anal sex was a sort of inferior third cousin to vaginal intercourse, but no -- it was glorious and hot in its own way, completely different.

"Ohhhh," Sherlock said as John pressed into him, "stop right there."

John exhaled into Sherlock's hair, the head of his prick just inside Sherlock's body, stretching him open. He worked his hips back and forth a bit, massaging the sensitive stretch of skin just inside, something that always made Sherlock whimper.

"God, that's fucking fantastic."

John licked the shell of his ear. "That's fantastic fucking."

"Ever so humble, you. But--".

John pressed in further, unable to resist any longer. They hadn't had sex in this position before, so he expected it would take a bit of work to find the right angle.

"Oh God… right there, like that, just…" Sherlock stuffed a fist into his mouth.

Apparently it was their lucky day.

Everything about the position and the location was awkward and moderately uncomfortable, but John had to admit that it was quite possibly the hottest sex they'd ever had. He hadn't even known Sherlock had a public sex kink. He added it to the mental list of Things That Turn Sherlock On, which was already quite long.

Sherlock's arm moved, pulling at his own prick, and John had to struggle not to be selfish and just fuck him, take what he needed from the slide of his cock into Sherlock's body. He could already feel the tension in his balls, already quite close to the point that he couldn't hang on much longer.

"Are you close?" he whispered, his teeth clenched. "Because I'm so fucking close, I just--"

Sherlock's hand worked faster and his breathing sped up. "Tell me."

"You feel so good," John whispered against his ear. "God, your arse is perfect, so hot and tight and I just want to pound my cock into you."

"Do it."

He couldn't move much faster; there wasn't space and he was slightly worried that they were making too much noise as it was. He settled for quick, shallow thrusts, trying to find the right angle again. "Tonight I'm going to bend you over the sofa and lick your arsehole until you come from it. God, you'll still be loose from this and I'll be able to fuck you with my tongue, get it so deep inside you."

"Jesus, John…" Sherlock's sensitivity to dirty talk had been another pleasant surprise, one John found he enjoyed as well.

"And then I'll come in your mouth, and you--"

He felt Sherlock's body clench around him in waves, saw his hand stop as he squeezed his prick and whimpered against his fist. John exhaled and let his movements become erratic as he found the angle that worked best for him, felt the tightening in his balls as his orgasm began and pushed through him, up, out, white hot. He clamped his mouth shut and managed to stay silent through it, then pressed his sweaty forehead into the back of Sherlock's neck.

"Oh God, that was amazing." Sherlock was still panting. "I knew this was a brilliant idea."

John shivered and tightened his arms around Sherlock's body. "I assume you also have a brilliant plan for getting out of here without getting caught by the Met?"

"Of course I do. Get dressed."

John pulled out with a wince and had a moment's pause about the disposal of the condom. He wadded it up and tucked it into a nearby open box, hoping to hell someone he particularly disliked was the one to find it.

They wriggled their clothes back on and listened to the sounds of the police working below, growing closer to their hiding spot. John felt a twinge of excitement at the thought of what they'd done, at the possibility of getting caught. He wasn't averse to trying it again sometime, though he wasn't sure he should admit that to Sherlock just yet. The man's creativity knew few bounds.

He turned to see that Sherlock had pulled his phone from his pocket and was propped up on one elbow, texting rapidly. He stared at the screen for a moment and then John heard the soft buzz of the phone vibrating with a new text alert. Sherlock's eyes darted over the screen and one corner of his mouth turned up slightly. He switched the phone off and slipped it back into his pocket.

"All right, we can go."

John gaped at him. "Oh God. You didn't arrange this with Greg, did you?"

"Yes. Well, I didn't tell him we were having a shag up here. I said we were doing some sensitive data collection and needed not to be disturbed."

John winced. "Surely he didn't buy that."

"He pretended to, which is good enough." Sherlock grinned and gestured towards the ladder. "After you."

"You're a complete git, you know that?"

"Good thing I'm such a fantastic shag, then."

John rolled his eyes, but couldn't stop himself from smiling just a bit. "That generally does make up for it."

They made their way down the ladder and snuck out of the warehouse while the police apparently pretended not to notice their presence. John wasn't sure he'd be able to look Greg in the eye any time soon.

They walked down the street for a good five minutes before they hit the main road and managed to hail a taxi. Sherlock settled against him in the back seat, pressing their thighs together. John smiled at him and there it was again, that flutter of something in his chest that would have completely freaked him out a month ago. But now it seemed oddly okay.

'Friends with benefits', they'd agreed. It might be time to talk about revising that a bit. He looked out the window and smiled.

FIN
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