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Cooperative Principle

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It’s called the Foot-in-the-door Technique, and at St. Bart’s, the foot in question belongs to one Sherlock Holmes. John was warned on his first day, but having already seen poor Molly Hooper flustered and running about for the man, the warning was unnecessary.

 

Rule One: Whatever Sherlock Holmes asks for, do not give it to him.

 

That’s really the only rule. A small favour leads to a big favour leads to giving the man a severed head. It happens anyway, all over the place. Well, not all over the place, and John has begun to think the severed head incident is more rumour than fact.

 

What is true is that there’s a pattern. There’s very little overlap in the people he targets. Molly in the morgue, Susan in the lab, Mike in the classrooms. Everyone else is used for something small, then dropped. Some mind it more than others and some don’t mind it at all.

 

“I try not to,” John had overheard from Molly one day in the canteen. “I know it’s only the morgue access he wants, but… I’m not usually like this. I swear, I’m not. But.” She’d giggled. “He notices things, all right? It’s nice to be noticed.”

 

John remembers having rolled his eyes at that, his back turned to her. That had been his first week, long before laying eyes on the man.

 

John has since laid eyes on the man.

 

Which is a problem, as now he can’t stop thinking about him. He has the lab reports to grade and lessons to plan, and all he can think about is that long neck and longer coat. PTSD is never known for its great timing, but releasing its stranglehold over his prick the exact moment Sherlock Holmes decided to sweet talk a resident is nothing short of cruel.

 

John grits his teeth, keeps looking over the lab reports, and hears a knock at his office door.

 

For one mad moment, he thinks it might be a student dropping in for office hours, but of course it isn’t. Not with the labs already submitted, and certainly not this late. Or not ever, in the case of most.

 

“Yes? Come in.”

 

Sherlock Holmes opens the door.

 

John’s mouth goes dry. He reaches automatically for his coffee, long gone cold.

 

“Hello-” grey eyes flick to the small sign on the desk “-Dr. Watson. You wouldn’t happen to know where Mike is?”

 

“He’s, um.” John stretches out his arm, the motion freeing his watch from his sleeve. “He’s gone home by now.”

 

“Oh,” Holmes says, and then does not leave.

 

It’s starting.

 

Holmes pulls out a mobile from an inner coat pocket only to pull a face. “Sorry, could I borrow your phone? I can’t get any signal on mine.”

 

John points his pen at the phone on his desk. He focuses on the paper in front of him.

 

Holmes doesn’t move. “I prefer to text.”

 

John hums.

 

“Could I borrow your mobile? Just for a moment. It’s important.”

 

John makes the mistake of looking up.

 

His cock makes the mistake of being a cock, which is less a mistake in itself and more a mistake waiting to happen. Preferably, a mistake waiting to happen to or with the man in front of him.

 

His mobile is in his hand before he even decides to reach for it. He holds it out and Holmes takes it, long fingers dragging against John’s. Deliberate. Has to be.

 

Holmes smiles. It touches his eyes, flushing cool colour with warmth. “Sherlock,” he says.

 

“Sorry?”

 

Pink lips twitch. “My name.”

 

“John,” John says. He points to the plaque with his name on it, the one Sherlock already read.

 

Grey eyes stay on John’s face. Not so much as a glance away. John tries very hard not to shift in his chair.

 

Sherlock’s smile relocates to the corner of his mouth as he finally begins his text. As promised, it’s quick. He hands the mobile back to John, reaching over the desk. Their fingers do not brush. John beats down his disappointment.

 

“Thank you,” Sherlock murmurs. His voice matches his eyes, as deep and tempting as the folds of his coat.

 

John smiles tightly in reply. “Sorry.” He taps the end his pen on the page. “I need to get through these.”

 

“Of course.”

 

John keeps his eyes on the paper.

 

Sherlock doesn’t leave.

 

John looks up.

 

“You missed two spelling errors in the first paragraph,” Sherlock informs him. When John doesn’t look, Sherlock points. John’s eyes track his hand. “Here and here.”

 

“Oh.” John nods. “Thank you. I must be getting tired.” Or distracted.

 

“I’m heading home myself. Care to split a cab?”

 

John shakes his head. “Tired doesn’t mean leaving.”

 

Sherlock flicks a polite smile across his face. It looks more like a flinch.

 

“Good evening.” John returns to the lab report, circles the two spelling errors, and continues until Sherlock leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

Briefcase put away, cane still in his hand, John sits heavily on his bed. He kicks off his shoes, lies down, and swears at pain that doesn’t have cause to exist. He needs a distraction. Something. Anything.

 

His first thought is of Sherlock.

 

Analysis. Analysis of Sherlock, he means.

 

The phone first—no, wait. Mike’s location first. Then the phone. Specifically, John’s mobile. Then the cab. Easy enough to draw a line there. No changing his schedule for the con artist of St. Bart’s.

 

He tries to imagine what Sherlock could want from him when he already has Mike. Their positions are exceedingly close.

 

Checking his mobile, the last sent text makes little sense. Rather, it makes perfect sense, but exactly the wrong way.

 

This is my number. SH

 

John stares at it. At the message, at the number it was sent to.

 

He doesn’t delete it, but he doesn’t add it to his contacts either.

 

 

 

 

 

A quick knock, and the door opens without permission. When it comes to literal doors, Sherlock doesn’t simply stick in his foot; he uses his entire body.

 

John raises his eyebrows.

 

 “Afghanistan or Iraq?”

 

John blinks.

 

“Which was it?” Sherlock asks, stepping fully into his shoebox of an office. “Afghanistan or Iraq. I asked Mike, but he has no idea.”

 

“You and Mike were talking about me?”

 

“No, I was talking to Mike about you,” Sherlock corrects, settling into the single chair opposite. “He thinks you were shot in the leg. I wouldn’t call him a reliable resource. Which was it?”

 

“Afghanistan.” John glances at his cane, hooked on the side of his desk. “Sorry, how did you know I wasn’t shot in the leg?”

 

“You forget your limp when you teach. Obviously psychosomatic.  As for the actual wound, it’s the left shoulder. With the cane in your right hand, the obvious choice of action would be to lift anything heavy with your left hand, not the right. You consistently avoid this.”

 

“‘Consistently’?” John repeats. “You’ve been watching me.”

 

“Obviously.”

 

“Er. Why?”

 

Sherlock shrugs.

 

“No,” John says. “Really. Tell me or leave. And I do mean leave. Really leave.”

 

“You leave the lecture hall door open,” Sherlock reminds him. “The limp is consistent when you’re writing on the board, but it disappears when you take questions, particularly questions pertaining to trauma or field surgery. You lean back against your desk but you distribute your weight evenly.”

 

“Okay, no. Get out.”

 

“Why? I haven’t--”

 

“You haven’t said why, no.”

 

A pause. Sherlock shuts his mouth, which is a shame. He runs a rough hand through his hair, which is well-worth watching, a lunatic and a creep or not. “I was getting to that.”

 

John pointedly checks his watch.

 

“Three weeks ago, I was walking by your door when a student dropped her textbook,” Sherlock says.

 

Oh, Christ.

 

“Three hundred pages, possibly four, hardcover,” Sherlock continues. “The last edition was three hundred eighty-four, definitely on the heavy side. It hit the floor flat, creating a percussive bang. Your reaction was unexpected.”

 

He ignores the rising flush in his face. “And you’ve been watching ever since? Waiting to see the ex-solider crack, is that it?”

 

Sherlock scoffs. “Obviously not. That was a highly trained reflex, not a flashback. I’ve never seen a man with a limp move so quickly. Fluidly. That was a controlled duck for cover, not a blind dive behind your desk. You intrigued me.”

 

Him and the rest of the bloody place.

 

“So few people are truly interesting, John,” Sherlock laments. He leans forward, elbows on his knees. “I thought it was psychosomatic then, but I couldn’t be sure without dropping by again. Only once, if that’s what you’re worried about. I say ‘if’. It obviously is. I’m not stalking you.”

 

“Do people often think you’re stalking them?” John can’t help asking.

 

Sherlock grins a little. “Sometimes. I’m a consulting detective. It’s a danger of the job. I take details and form complete pictures. Everyone does, of course, but I’m accurate.”

 

“You had to check for the country,” John reminds him.

 

The grin widens. “I narrowed it down to two. I know you invalided out in October. I know you attended Bart’s and were pulled in to teach by Mike after an unexpected maternity leave. You were well-liked at uni as well as talented – you and Mike could hardly have been in the same year, but the intervening time would have been enough to erase his deference to you if he hadn’t admired you in the first place.”

 

John digs his heels in, refusing to be impressed, but he can feel himself slipping.

 

“Coffee?” Sherlock asks.

 

“What?” He glances at the empty mug on his desk.

 

“Would you care for some?”

 

John can’t quite follow. Not the conversation, and certainly not to the canteen. There are stairs and long halls. The nearest lift is in the wrong direction.

 

“No,” John says. If Sherlock wants to study his limp, he’ll have to do it some other time. Or, better yet, not at all. “Why, were you about to tell me how I take it?”

 

Sherlock presses his palms together and peers steadily across the desk. “Black,” he says. “Initially, you used an excess of creamer and sugar when you returned to England, but old habits have since resurfaced. The dislike of the taste outweighed the sense of luxury. Which makes you feel uncomfortable in large doses as it is. Also, you don’t mind it cold because you’re often focused on long tasks through a single cup.”

 

John stares at him.

 

Sherlock doesn’t blink.

 

“How, um?”

 

Sherlock twitches his smile. “When I stopped by two days ago, you had an unopened creamer and sugar packet next to your mug. None today.”

 

“And about taking it cold?”

 

“That was the most obvious piece: it was cold two days ago. You drank it when I came in. You didn’t mind.”

 

“You remember the coffee on my desk two days ago.”

 

“Obviously.”

 

John nearly gapes at him, but he remembers Molly in time. The flustered protest: Sherlock notices details. It is nice to be noticed.

 

“Okay,” he says instead. “I suppose that’s a bit impressive.”

 

“‘A bit’?”

 

John laughs. He doesn’t mean to, but it’s the only response to indignation like that. “A bit,” he agrees, grinning.

 

“But still no to the coffee.”

 

“Still no.”

 

Sherlock rolls his eyes. “If you insist.” He stands and leaves, but he smiles at John before closing the door behind him.

 

 

 

 

 

The next day, Sherlock walks in, puts a coffee down on John’s desk, and walks out again without a word. It’s a Friday, unfortunately. John has to wait until his office hours on Tuesday to see if Sherlock will do it again.

 

 

 

 

 

He does.

 

 

 

 

 

On Thursday as well.

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday, there’s no sign of him. John tells himself the sense of expectation is from conditioning, which means the disappointment is as well.

 

After he leaves Bart’s and limps toward the Barbican tube stop, his mobile chimes. Stuck in skip with recording equipment. Armed man outside. Desperately bored. SH

 

John stares. Shouldn’t you be texting the police?

 

Already did. Waiting. Bored. SH

 

He keeps on climbing and only checks his mobile before he’s about to descend the many steps down to the Underground.

 

Be interesting. SH

 

Can’t, John replies. Not enough caffeine.

 

It’s a very long, very nervous ride toward his flat. Once aboveground, he still has no new texts.

 

You okay?

 

No reply.

 

He saves the number to his contacts. It doesn’t help exactly, but it’s something.

 

 

 

 

He Googles Sherlock Holmes that night, dreading news reports, and finds the man’s website instead. It looks like a mound of pretentious shite, but having seen the man do it in person, John’s oddly uncertain.

 

Another post goes up before Sherlock texts him back. No matter: that’s all John was looking for anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

On Tuesday morning, he catches himself mulling over his wardrobe. All day, he catches himself fussing with his appearance, which is terrible, because this is Sherlock, and of course Sherlock is going to know.

 

 

 

 

 

Sherlock does know, that much is obvious. He beams as he sets the cardboard cup on John’s desk.

 

“Thanks,” John acknowledges.

 

“You’re welcome.” His eyes fall to John’s chest and linger on his shirt. It’s not a particularly nice shirt and John isn’t wearing a tie, but it does go well with the cardigan, a faded blue to the strong brown. The cardigan makes John look a bit older and possibly a bit dull. “Wrong.”

 

John blinks. “Sorry?”

 

“You were thinking your clothing serves to make you appear uninteresting. Wrong.”

 

“And... why would I be thinking that?”

 

“To ascertain the degree to which you have my interest,” Sherlock supplies.

 

John smiles as politely as he can. “What degree would that be?”

 

“Did you realise the effect is very similar to that of your eyes?” Sherlock asks. “Brown from far away, blue up close? It’s the opposite of dull.”

 

As consciously as he possibly can, John digs his heels in. He reminds himself of Molly, in both senses of the phrase. He does that a lot, lately. “Sorry, what was it you said you wanted?”

 

“I didn’t.” As if on cue, his mobile chimes. He checks it, sighs, and stands. “I have to cut this short today. Suspect on the move.” He offers John his hand.

 

Using the arms of his chair to do so, then the surface of his desk, John stands. It’s that, or crane his neck up at the man and strain for the reach. He supports himself with his left arm, weight on his left leg. He shakes Sherlock’s hand. Sherlock’s palm is warm and slightly damp. To be fair, so is John’s.

 

Sherlock smiles and John waits for it, for something. A tug or a caress or something. John needs a motion to resist, a gesture to reject. Instead, Sherlock casually releases his hand and walks out of his office.

 

 

 

 

 

After mulling this over for hours, John realises what was wrong with that exchange. The first day, the very first time Sherlock had walked in, he’d claimed not to have reception. Obviously, he does. Where there’s one lie, there are bound to be others, and John responds thusly:

 

He talks to Mike. Mike doesn’t seem very concerned, but Mike thinks the best of everyone.

 

He talks to Molly. Molly sighs and talks about her version of Sherlock, who appears to be very different from John’s version of Sherlock.

 

He talks to anyone known to have been persuaded into something idiotic by Sherlock Holmes. Use of equipment, mostly. No stolen medication, no stolen anything. Though he effectively has run of the building whenever he cares to have it, he’s never taken anything that wasn’t given to him. He has been persistent in asking, however, and that’s why everyone reminds John of Rule One. They accompany the reminder with a gentle sort of pity, as if to say, yes, you’ll do exactly what he wants, but it’s hardly your fault. You’re not the first and you certainly won’t be the last.

 

By Thursday, he makes up his mind about the whole business. He emails his students, locks his office, and holds office hours in the lecture hall instead. He does not post a sign on his office door and he does not respond to texts on his mobile.

 

On Friday, Sherlock finds him. He does not bring John coffee. Instead, he sits in the lecture hall, all the way at the top, and watches John deal with the undergrads. John times the afternoon well and packs up to leave with the last two of his students. Convenient if annoyingly sympathetic, they keep pace with him up the stairs and into the hall. John doesn’t so much as glance at the man and the moment he’s outside, he hails a taxi.

 

The weekend is torturous. He expects texts which never come. He needs some sign of pursuit to justify running but finds nothing. Saturday night is full of twitching dreams, golden between the rust. He wakes for the last time mid-wank and finishes without satisfaction. He blots out tingling hope with simple fact: Sherlock is exactly the kind of man John never bothers chatting up in a bar for a very good reason. John never stood a chance before he became a limping cripple with a bad shoulder and grey in his hair. That leaves only one option, and John won’t be used.

 

Sunday, Sherlock updates his website with a short piece explaining the behaviours pertinent to being a consulting detective. There is an entire section on chase tactics and how pursuit must culminate in a form of confrontation.

 

Until the matter is resolved or a theory disproven, it must be pursued. To do otherwise is too great a risk.

 

Does Sherlock know John’s reading this? Is he hoping?

 

Monday isn’t entirely spent wondering what “matter” or “theory” Sherlock has regarding John, but it’s a close thing.

 

Tuesday morning, John decides confrontation is the only option. All that’s left is to wait.

 

 

 

 

 

A lot of waiting, it seems. His office hours drag on. He tutors and advises, keeping an eye on the open lecture hall door. His students leave, but he lingers, longer and longer still. Finally giving up when his stomach cries out for dinner, he packs up his things and limps around to the other side of the desk where his coat had fallen off earlier. Right hand on the desk, he turns his cane over and picks up his coat with the cane’s handle. This accomplished, he hooks the cane on the side of the desk and puts on his coat, promptly knocking his cane to the floor. It hits the floor at an angle and bounces away from the desk.

 

Fuck.”

 

Supporting himself with the desk, John edges toward his cane. He reaches the corner of the desk, but he does not reach his cane. He tries reaching out with his right leg, but his leg isn’t having it. He’ll have to kneel down and reach.

 

God, he hates this part.

 

Before he can move, the lecture hall door closes.

 

Arms braced, shoulders hunched, John swears under his breath to the sound of Sherlock Holmes’s footsteps down the stairs. He doesn’t need to look over his shoulder to see who it is. He keeps his back turned and his face hidden. The footsteps stop behind him, close enough to touch.

 

“I’m told most people find mixed signals off-putting,” Sherlock remarks. “I don’t.”

 

“Mixed?” Out of the corner of his eye, John fixes his gaze on his cane. Sherlock could pick it up and walk away with it. John would be trapped down here, too many stairs between him and the exit. The thought humiliates more than it frightens.

 

“You’ve been avoiding me. A strange tactic for a man as direct as yourself. If you wanted me gone, you would have told me. You have my number. You could have texted—it would have been enough. In your short time here, you’ve been a very strict enforcer of the sexual harassment policy. If my advances were unwanted, you would have explicitly said so.

 

“Instead, you avoid me. Not much, not well. It could have simply been a change of schedule, but you refused to look at me on Friday. Avoiding, it is.” He steps closer. His open coat brushes against the back of John’s legs and settles there, closer to an itch than a tickle. “Who decides to avoid a detective? Don’t tell me you’re that stupid—I won’t believe you.” His voice rumbles down into John’s ear. His breath is hot. “You wanted to see if I would follow. Here I am. A week ago, you wore this same cardigan in the attempt to appear boring. It would take a great deal more to do that.”

 

A light touch, two, three light touches. Fingertips on his sides, faintly felt through his coat. Soft heat finds the edge of John’s ear, the smallest touch of lips. John’s hands splay out on his desk.

 

“Your self-perception is skewed by your injury. This alters your assumptions and therefore your reactions. They’re wrong. Your assumptions are. Your reactions are fascinating.” He presses his mouth to John’s ear as he speaks, and John’s head slowly tilts beneath the soft, warm pressure of lips and breath. His neck offers itself up, lonely and wanting.

 

“Like this,” Sherlock murmurs against his skin, above his skin, the very edge of contact. “You’re responsive, you’re aroused, and yet you refuse to reciprocate. You want more, but you won’t say yes. Do you want to see how far I’ll take this?” Nearly a true touch, only nearly, all breath and no kiss. A deep, fond chuckle instead, the rumble so close to John’s back. The slightest tilt would lay him against it, against a narrow chest and a long coat.

 

“It’s unlike you to be so passive, John. You’ve told yourself you’re deciding, but that’s not true, is it? If you meant to refuse, you would have done so immediately. You... ah. You think I’m teasing. You have no idea why—your skewed self-image at work—and you think I’ll stop the moment you give in.” A warm pause, an indulgent silence. “Wrong. John, that’s when I’ll begin.” His mouth, firm, pressing below the ear. His open mouth, his tongue.

 

John’s neck surrenders. His head lolls onto his own shoulder, rolls against Sherlock’s. Arms close around his middle, securing him against Sherlock’s chest as his legs attempt to buckle. Sherlock blazes against the small of his back and John’s hips squirm for better contact even as they long to press against the desk. He’s hard, he is so hard.

 

Sherlock’s cheek presses against his in a rough and desperate nuzzle. “Say yes, John. Agree or I stop. John, please.”

 

“Wh-what,” John gasps. So much heat, so little air. “What am I agreeing to?”

 

“Tonight. Just to tonight. That’s all.”

 

“What else?”

 

“Just tonight. I promise.”

 

He makes a grab at Sherlock’s arm and has to try twice. “After this. Tomorrow. What...?”

 

Sherlock drags John tighter against him, achieving delectable impossibility. “I’ll ask for tomorrow night.”

 

“After that?”

 

“More nights.” Teeth now, nipping.

 

John reaches back, buries his hand in thick curls. Don’t stop. “Fuck.

 

“Yes, doing that.”

 

John bucks against the desk. Sherlock’s hips follow. They both groan.

 

He has to swallow, has to strain for air, and the sounds he makes are unintelligible.

 

“After that,” Sherlock answers anyway, “I would like to be exclusive.”

 

“You want to date me?” His fingers tighten in Sherlock’s hair. A bite, a hard one, and John’s trousers have never been so uncomfortable. He swears. He swears and he keens a bit and he grinds his arse into Sherlock’s cock until Sherlock is swearing too, clutching at John, hips snapping.

 

“John, fuck, too much- too much, I can’t-!”

 

John turns in his arms, struggling in the tight grip. Noses hit, teeth clack against teeth, and John grabs at Sherlock’s belt, undeterred. Sherlock’s no help, hands on John’s face, fingers curled around his ears. His mouth is hard and insistent beneath soft lips. His cock is the same beneath tight denim, under tented cotton. John slips his hand beneath the band.

 

The sounds Sherlock makes.

 

“Quiet,” John urges, and Sherlock drops his face to John’s shoulder. A scrape of motion, Sherlock biting his coat.

 

John strokes him harder, faster, slicking precome down the shaft with each motion, twisting his palm around the head to gather it. He sucks on the ear so close to his face and tastes hair. Doesn’t matter. Does not fucking matter, not when he has Sherlock Holmes falling apart in his arms.

 

Sherlock groans his name through a mouthful of fabric, thrusting deep into John’s hand, and John uses both to bring him off the rest of the way. In an old instinct born of supply closet shags, he catches the come on his hands, not their clothes. No tissues in sight, a problem. God, he needs to unzip his own fly.

 

Still panting against John’s shoulder, Sherlock presses John backward, forces John’s arse against the desk. Solid hands secure John’s twitching hips.

 

Then he drops. The man simply drops. He sets his forehead just above the button of John’s trousers and audibly inhales. Quick fingers make short work of John’s fly.

 

John swears.

 

John swears a lot. A blowjob blatantly offered, and he doesn’t have a condom.

 

Sherlock does. He rolls it onto John in an instant, his mouth following an instant after, and the wait between the touch and the heat is an eternity. That heat, that mouth. Sherlock on his knees, his coat a puddle about his feet. Dark curls fall across his pale face and John wants to touch, needs to see, and his hands are still covered in come. No touching. No touching anything. Not the desk behind him, not the man before him.

 

“I want to see,” John demands. If he can’t touch, he must have that. “I want, oh.”

 

Sinking lower, angling his face up, Sherlock brushes the curls off his forehead. Glazed eyes gaze up at John above flushed cheeks and pink lips. Sherlock has yet to tuck away his own cock.

 

For the second time, John’s neck gives up. His chin drops to his chest. His eyelids fight to fall. John comes until he’s shaking, and he pants until he’s limp.

 

Gently, almost tender, Sherlock cleans him up. He has tissues in his coat and he cleans John’s hands as well as his cock. He can’t seem to stop kissing John, or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, John follows Sherlock quite willingly to the rubbish bin on the other side of the desk. He pulls back only once the height difference grows too painful for his neck.

 

“What do you think?” Sherlock asks.

 

“Do you always go around with flavoured condoms?”

 

Sherlock grins and they snog a bit more. Sherlock keeps moving and John keeps following, not entirely sure where this is literally going until Sherlock murmurs, “Step.” John does, and the stairs even out the height difference nicely. Sherlock slips his hands under John’s coat, between his cardigan and his shirt, and it only seems fair to respond in kind. The petting is heavy, if lethargic.

 

“John.”

 

“Mm?”

 

“You still haven’t said,” Sherlock prompts.

 

“Said what?”

 

“Tonight. You haven’t said anything.”

 

John blinks a bit. He looks at mussed hair and bruised lips and tries to suss out exactly when reality went from being a pile of shit to being incredibly kind. “What exactly does ‘tonight’ mean?”

 

“It means,” Sherlock answers, brushing his lips across John’s and migrating toward his ear, “that we are going to leave Bart’s together. We will take a cab to a restaurant—Italian, Chinese, or Indian—and then we will take a second cab to your flat. I’ll pay.” Beginning at John’s shoulders, his fingers smooth down John’s arms until they reach John’s hands. They thread through and squeeze tight. “Once there, you’ll decide whether to invite me in for coffee. And I do mean sex. After, you’ll decide whether you’d prefer to wake up with company. Is that acceptable?”

 

“Yes.” John nods. “Yes, that is, um.” He clears his throat. “Yeah.”

 

They kiss a bit more. The artificial taste of flavoured latex has long since faded. They keep trying to stop, but they might as well have magnets in their foreheads, keeping them forever in range.

 

“What are you considering?” Sherlock asks. “It’s my outline, but it’s your plan, John.”

 

“Oh, Christ.” John tries to think. “Can you come from anal?”

 

A burst of colour sweeps up Sherlock’s face.

 

“It’s okay if you can’t,” John assures him. “Blood flow and all that.”

 

“Considering for dinner,” Sherlock corrects.

 

John giggles. “Right. Man cannot live on rimming alone.”

 

Sherlock gapes at him.

 

John kisses his nose. “Italian. Italian is good.”

 

Sherlock recovers enough to grin back and practically chases John up the stairs. John lets himself be caught at the door, turning around to make a token attempt at smoothing down Sherlock’s hair. It quickly deteriorates into mussing Sherlock’s hair, and this is ridiculous. This is insane. He can’t stop giggling into Sherlock’s mouth, but Sherlock looks so delighted. As if seducing John ‘Hasn’t Had a Shag in Years’ Watson is an actual accomplishment.

 

Finally, they put themselves into something resembling order, but Sherlock catches John’s arm when he reaches for the door. “Forgetting something?” Sherlock prompts.

 

Frowning, John looks down to the desk with his briefcase still on it. His cane, still on the floor.

 

His leg gives out.

 

He doesn’t shout as he falls. He doesn’t grab at Sherlock or the wall. He tucks the way he’s been trained, refusing to hit the stairs with head or elbow or hands. He means to relax, but he hits hard enough and tense enough to bruise. He only skids down a few steps before he catches himself, planting his left leg. Aching, he sits up and stares at the long, long way down to his cane.

 

Belatedly, Sherlock secures him by the shoulders. John shrugs him off.

 

“I’m fine,” he says. “No harm done.”

 

“I thought it would hold,” Sherlock replies, agitated and distant, as if he’s just been slighted by someone far away. “That was well over twenty five minutes.”

 

“You- you noticed? You were keeping track?”

 

“Obviously.” A light touch to the side of John’s face and Sherlock easily descends to gather up John’s things.

 

John’s stomach twists. Molly, he reminds himself. Flirting for bits of things from the morgue, flirting for experiment components. Sherlock’s interest sparking at John’s reaction to a dropped book.

 

He forces himself to stand as Sherlock returns, leaning heavily on the last chair of the row. He takes his cane first, his briefcase second, and he forces a smile as he slings the strap over his good shoulder. The case settles against the small of his back, blocking Sherlock’s hand when he reaches. It saves John the effort.

 

“Sorry,” he says, shying away from an incoming kiss. “This looks like a sitting down kind of night.”

 

Sherlock adjusts his course, nosing toward John’s ear. “That won’t be a problem.”

 

John places his palm gently, firmly on Sherlock’s sternum and presses. Sherlock sways back with the touch, as fluid as any cat in claiming forced relocation as intentional.

 

“We could get takeaway,” Sherlock suggests.

 

“I, no. Thank you.”

 

“Another time, then.”

 

John smiles politely, unable to say no so soon after coming inside the other man’s mouth. Standing at the same level, the height difference makes a lack of eye contact nearly natural.

 

Sherlock opens the door, John exits, and he limps away in the opposite direction as soon as he can.

 

 

 

 

 

“Molly?”

 

She turns around, eyes flicking down to his cane. “Yes, hello?” She glances over her shoulder, biting her lip and clearly in the middle of something. “Sorry, was there something you wanted?”

 

“Right, you’re busy, sorry. I just need to ask about Sherlock Holmes.”

 

Molly’s expression closes off immediately. “What’s he done now?”

 

Nothing John can say without being fired. “I think he wants something from me, but I’m not sure what.”

 

“He’s done the observing bit? Where it comes out and it sort of sounds like a compliment, maybe, and then you realise he’s just saying facts?”

 

John nods before thinking. Because that’s not it, not really. That bit about the cardigan and his eyes, that was observation. Calling him interesting was... well, no, that was observation for Sherlock as well, if he meant it.

 

Before John can fully sort through the past few weeks, Molly begins to nod understandingly. “Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do,” she tells him. “He comes in, you forget how to tell left from right, and he leaves.” She shrugs a bit awkwardly.

 

“Right,” John says. “But he doesn’t actually, well. He’s only verbal?”

 

Molly nods. “As long as I’ve known him.”

 

“Right,” John repeats, because that makes no sense at all. “Thanks.”

 

“Not a problem.”

 

 

 

 

 

On Thursday, having forgotten to notify his students otherwise, he’s still in the lecture hall. It’s surprisingly convenient, as more than one student shows up for a change. They’re dwarfed in the room, every small sound amplified, and yet Sherlock’s entrance somehow goes unnoticed. One minute, the back row is empty. The next, Sherlock Holmes has arrived.

 

John successfully ignores him for the following half an hour, right up until he runs out of students. He stands at the bottom of the lecture hall, looking up at a man positioned directly next to the exit. The exit which is now closed.

 

“I’m making you nervous,” Sherlock states.

 

“No.”

 

Sherlock comes to him, more fluid and graceful than John could have ever hoped to be, even before Afghanistan. He settles in front of John. Despite his posture, he seems to lounge in midair. “I am.”

 

John tightens his hand on his cane. He shifts on his feet. “I’m fine.”

 

“I’m aware. Are you still in the mood for Italian?” he asks. “Or anal. I don’t particularly enjoy the fuss of penetration, but--”

 

“Sherlock,” John says. There’s meant to be an argument after that, but it’s terribly slow in coming.

 

“John.” A half-step, nothing more, but it puts him inside John’s space. The position pulls John’s chin up rather than simply his eyes. Sherlock’s hand hovers beside John’s neck. Sherlock leans down, his nose brushing against John’s. His breath kisses John’s lips. “We’ll do take-away.”

 

John shivers, nearly sways, and the small motion is enough. Sherlock tastes of sweetened coffee and smells like the morgue. John shakes his head, lowering his brow, and Sherlock seems content to rest his lips against John’s forehead.

 

“Done for the day, then?” John asks.

 

“John?” He pulls back. Grey eyes search John’s features.

 

“Had enough flirting with Molly for one day?”

 

Sherlock frowns. “I don’t flirt with Molly.”

 

“Sherlock, the entire hospital knows you do.”

 

“The entire hospital also knows you were shot in the leg,” Sherlock counters.

 

John lifts his chin. “They also weren’t there to see me shot. Everyone sees you with Molly.”

 

“You haven’t.”

 

No, and John doesn’t want to either. He’s very comfortable with having never punched Sherlock and it would be a shame to change this.

 

Sherlock chuckles and leans in. John’s body fails to obey basic commands such as move away and don’t kiss him back. Sherlock’s hand fits nicely against his cheek.

 

“You smile when angry,” Sherlock murmurs.

 

“I’m not angry.”

 

“No, you’re jealous.”

 

John tries and fails to lie to Sherlock’s face.

 

“You needn’t be.” One hand behind his neck, the other at his hip, Sherlock seems determined to drape himself over John. John really ought to refuse. “You’re the only one to lay a hand on me in quite some time. I promise.”

 

John is also the only one at St. Bart’s that Sherlock is trying to experiment on, not simply extract favours from. Saying this is difficult, as it would require having his mouth free. At last, Sherlock turns his mouth on John’s neck rather than his lips. John keeps his balance, holding tight to his cane. He means to speak. He ought to speak.

 

“You’re not reassured.” Sherlock’s lips buzz against his skin.

 

“I don’t, fuck, don’t know you.” He fists his left hand in the back of Sherlock’s coat.

 

An incredulous chuckle. “No?”

 

“We’ve spent more time snogging than talking.”

 

Sherlock hums. His hands slide under John’s coat, around his sides. They curl at the small of his back, bidding him inexorably to arch, to bare his neck and underbelly. Sherlock’s eyes stroke down his exposed, if clothed, body. “True.” He curls around John, returning, as always, to his ear. “Come with me and change that.”

 

“Not tonight.”

 

“No?”

 

“No.”

 

“Fine,” Sherlock allows. His fingertips creep lower, dipping between John’s tucked shirt and his trousers. His leg is very close to John’s crotch and would be so easy to press against. “And what about here?”

 

“Here, you’re trying to get into my pants.”

 

“Trying?” One hand dips lower, touches skin. “Succeeding.”

 

John gives up. The situation is racing towards another blowjob and far be it from him to stop it. He shifts forward as best he can, pressing against Sherlock’s thigh and feeling reciprocating heat against his stomach.

 

Sherlock groans his name, and John kisses him quiet. The hand on his bum slides lower, splays beneath his pants, and John rides those fingers as he rides Sherlock’s thigh.

 

“Oh, fuck. Oh, fuck. Sherlock, Sherlock, I, oh-!” A press, a deliberate press right over his hole. He groans into Sherlock’s neck.

 

“Imagine this on a bed, John. In your bed, John. Do you want that? Lie down and let me feel you between my legs. I want that. Do you want that, John?”

 

“Yes,” John gasps.

 

“We can fuck until we fall asleep. I haven’t done that in years. Or wanted to. Do you want to? Will you fuck me until you can’t move?”

 

John bites at his lips, too dizzy for speech. He drops his cane and grabs at Sherlock reflexively, and Sherlock tugs him eye-crossingly close. They rut against each other, clumsy and hard, desperate to the point of stupidity.

 

“Make me come, John. Please make me come.”

 

Blatantly pornographic, blatantly manipulative, and John nearly comes in his pants all the same.

 

“John, yes.” Sherlock turns him, sets him against the desk, and John clings to it, one foot planted on the floor, the other uncertain. Sherlock leans over him, against him, hurriedly unfastening their belts, their trousers. They pull at each other.

 

John’s head falls back, and the rest of him falls apart. He has to stop, has to hold onto the desk.

 

Sherlock takes a few moments longer, stepping back, staring at John, at all of him, face to his shoes. His eyes linger on John’s panting chest, on his softening cock, and Sherlock wanks himself faster and faster, biting his lip white.

 

John licks his hand, reaches forward, and says, “Fuck my fist.”

 

Sherlock does. God, Sherlock does. His hands slap onto the desk, framing John’s hips.

 

It is quite possibly the best thing John has ever seen.

 

Some point after they’ve regained their breath and Sherlock’s tissue packet has made a reappearance, Sherlock picks up John’s cane and sets it on top of the desk. He crowds John, his hands on top of John’s, and kisses him with obvious determination.

 

John blinks at him slowly.

 

“You were planning to be back in your office tomorrow, correct?”

 

John nods.

 

Sherlock smiles. He kisses John once more, indulgent and oddly sweet. Sweat damp, his curls stick to his forehead. John brushes them off, more than a little sweaty himself.

 

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Sherlock promises.

 

“You’ll be trapped in another skip,” John replies.

 

The smile widens into a grin. “Not this week.” Yet another kiss. Their lips brush, but their breath lingers. Long fingers stroke John’s side, drawing tingling shivers. “Or,” Sherlock adds, “if you’re worried, you could come tonight.”

 

John kisses him no.

 

Sherlock kisses him yes.

 

Much too soon, they kiss goodbye.