John likes mysteries. He spends all day at work solving them, diagnosing illnesses, adding two and two and getting cystitis (not personally), saving the world in his own small way. He goes home and reads twisting thrilling books, turns on the TV and watches crime solving programmes, switches over to a detective movie and saves the world all over again. And every morning he dips into the local independent coffee bar with his newspaper and ponders another mystery.
He has been making John’s coffee for him for almost six months now, ever since John accidentally discovered the warm, sweet-smelling haven crammed full of the softness of overly plump sofas and the hardness of chunky wooden barstools. Division. So the hand-painted sign across the door told him.
In an odd way, almost mysterious, the world had conspired to introduce him to the world of Division. He had been running late that Monday; a mid-night power cut had reset his alarm, not allowing him time for breakfast, let alone his coffee. The spring breeze had been keen, buffeting the commuters, tugging at the slack of John’s trousers as he walked, tantalising his nostrils with the aroma of freshly ground coffee beans as he passed a shop he had never before had reason to notice. He dipped inside on a whim, ordered a double macchiato to take out. The guy on the till was friendly and warm, giving him a smile with his change. John moved along to the other end of the bar to wait for his drink.
Sherlock had made it. He has made it almost every day since then. Not a young guy, probably not much younger than John, standing out amongst the students that make up the majority of the staff. Divided, like everything else in that place. Nothing matches at all, nothing fits together, but everything fits around each other. The bitterness of coffee and the sweetness of the freshly baked pastry, the white-lit front bar and the dim seating to the rear, the scruffy old man eating chocolate cake in the corner and the bright young suited thing sitting on a stool in the window.
Sherlock is tall, dark and silent. He has never spoken to John. Not once. Not one word. Mind you, John doesn’t take it personally, he doesn’t speak to any of the other customers. And hardly to his colleagues either. He just stands at his machine and crafts his own liquid art while the buyers look on.
It’s not that he ignores John. Far from it, in fact.
That first day he hadn’t even looked away from his machine. His capable hands had steamed the milk. Had ground and tamped and pulled and poured the coffee, frothed the rested milk, banging and swirling it out. Had marked John’s coffee with a somehow efficient flourish, setting the dark curls on his head bobbing with the movement, before clipping the plastic lid over the top and sliding it across the counter. All without him once looking up.
The second day Greg on the till had announced the order (‘macchiato, double, foam dash, take out’) and Sherlock had glanced over, as if noting John’s repeated presence, but the creative process was the same.
John had returned on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, but it wasn’t until the next Monday that anything changed. John left his flat twenty minutes earlier. Greg called over the order (‘macchiato, double, foam dash, in’) and Sherlock had hesitated for a split second, the hand that had stretched automatically towards the cardboard cups above his head pausing in mid-air as he registered the end of the order, and the modification. John’s coffee was served in a small white cup with a saucer and spoon, and instead of sliding it absently across the counter, Sherlock had turned, leaning over the wooden worktop to place it carefully on the edge near John.
His eyes were pale blue, long lashed and incredibly un-shy as they flicked up curiously from the dotted foam on the surface of the coffee. John had flashed a grateful smile and taken his drink, trying not to feel unnerved by the silent observation that burned his back as he strolled to an empty table, scooping up an abandoned newspaper on the way.
Six months later the routine is the same. John leaves his flat at the same time every day and pushes his way through the surprisingly stiff door to the coffee bar five minutes later. Greg doesn’t even bother to ask anymore. The two of them have gotten to know each other a little in the time John has been drinking there. Just the odd chat in the quiet moments. Greg owns the place, and he likes to know his regulars. John wants to ask him about Sherlock. But what would he ask?
There is one thing of which John is certain. Sherlock’s mouth may not do much, but his eyes do. John has never seen eyes so hungry. In the two seconds it takes him to lean over the counter and hand John his coffee, Sherlock’s gaze sweeps over him, drinking in every tiny detail, focussing on the spot he missed when shaving, or the scab healing on his finger, the tiny ink blot on his jacket sleeve. Sherlock passes his seat sometimes, carrying trays of glasses and mugs into the backroom, or bottles of milk, his forearms vein-lined under the weight. And always, if John looks up, Sherlock is watching. Occasionally John offers him a smile, a tightening of lips, a creasing of eyelids, a nod or tip of the chin. But receives nothing in return.
It’s Monday. Autumn is chilling the air, the resultant twinge in John’s shoulder makes him grumpy. The damp cold air brings with it stiffness, pain, old war wounds returning to taunt him. The mist in the air turns unexpectedly to rain two minutes after he leaves, which helps his mood very little.
Division is quiet, only a handful of other regulars that John knows well enough now to nod at in the street. He walked past once, later in the day and was surprised at how busy the place got. One of the benefits of having to be at work so early is that he gets a quiet coffee, in the same comfy armchair every day.
Greg greets him easily, leaning over the counter and sketching out a rota. John makes a concerted effort to straighten and even his gait, stretching through a tightness in his hip. They participate in the general inane pleasantries while he pays. He knows his coffee will be ready before he even gets over to the other end of the bar; Sherlock started on it as soon as John came in the door.
When he gets there, however, the counter is empty, his miniature mug still cradled in the long fingers curled around it. Sherlock is stood still, his hungry eyes devouring. John says nothing. For five seconds Sherlock looks, gaze darting over John, finally resting on his face. He places the cup down. There is no saucer. There hasn’t been for months now, he realises. Good, he hates saucers.
“Afghanistan or Iraq?”
Big thanks to DazieChane for reading this through for me and (hopefully) not being pissed off when I ignored almost everything she said ;o)
“Afghanistan or Iraq?”
Sherlock’s voice is, strangely enough, exactly what John is expecting; as dark as his hair, as smooth as his skin, as sinful as the lines of his throat. John is glad he hasn’t yet picked up his drink, or he might have just dropped it. It takes a second for him to work through the shock and register what was actually said.
His eyes are still on John’s, smoky and serious, “Which was it? Afghanistan or Iraq?”
How does he know? John wants to look away. He wants to look down at himself, see what Sherlock sees. Needs to see something clear, some clue on himself that gives away his secrets. “Afghanistan. Sorry, how did you–“
Sherlock looks down, breaking the probing look and somehow choking the question to a halt in John’s mouth. He reaches forward, nudging the coffee an inch closer. “Coffee.”
A split second later he has twisted on the spot, leaving John staring at the black-shirted points of his shoulder-blades, wandering what the hell just happened.
The name ‘Afghanistan’, almost a year unspoken from his lips, calls back something firmly stamped down within John, and when he turns the muscles in his right thigh seize suddenly, unlevelling the floor, twisting his centre of balance. With an unmistakeably pained curse, he is forced to steady himself on the wall with a shaking hand.
He’d like to say it’s been a long time since his leg has been this bad, but it hasn’t. Just last winter it had returned, as if prompted by the damp-aggravated stiffness of his shoulder, and if he’s honest he’s been stubbornly fighting it off for a good week now. He’d like to blame it on Sherlock, but the only person he can blame is himself. So he downs his coffee in less than five minutes and departs, leaving behind the heavy curiosity from the bar.
Rude, disrespectful, downright offensive. John rages about the impertinence of the forthright question for the rest of the day. Though really, his rage is mainly aimed inwards, at himself, at his own weaknesses and sensitivities. He grumbles and frowns and clenches his fists until his shoulder has tensed into a knotted ball of pain and his limp becomes so pronounced that Sarah advises a prescription of anti-inflammatories with a sympathetic voice. John just snaps at her and the swiftly shielded hurt on her face only brings about more for him to be annoyed with himself for.
He almost considers not going for a coffee, lying in bed and staring at the ceiling the next morning. He could roll over and snooze his alarm, have another fifteen minutes in the warm cocoon of his duvet. But his sheets are quite sweaty and twisted, actually, a bit uncomfortable. He’s not even that sleepy anymore.
Who’s he kidding? He’s just not sure he could stand starting the day without it. Or him. Damn him.
It’s an irritating struggle to get his legs into his uncooperative black trousers, the stiffness of his shoulder and the deep-rooted pain in his hip throwing him off balance. In the end he has to give up and sit on the edge of his bed. The face in the mirror on the inside of his open wardrobe door is grimacing at him. Autumn is most definitely setting in. Peeking out from behind his winter coat hanging at the far right is a narrow cylindrical stripe of dark wood. John doesn’t want to retrieve it, but even he can’t put up with the strain his aching muscles are putting on his hip joint.
The walking stick feels uncomfortably familiar in his hand, and it only takes a handful of paces down the street to get the rhythm back. It’s an automatic correction for him to enter the coffee shop with his good shoulder on the door instead of the hand now curled around the handle of his cane. And he hates it.
“John,” Greg smiles. It’s half greeting, half command for his barista to get started.
If Greg notices the stick, he says nothing. He takes John’s fiver, gives him change and a casual smile before leaning back down over his paperwork on the counter. John waits until the last possible moment before he moves on. He listens, without looking, for the hiss of the steam arm, the banging out of the milk. He hears the coffee arm clanging out on the solid metal bin and the new beans being ground. And only when he hears the slosh of the froth onto the top of his drink, does he shift off from his spot, stop staring at the condensation clouding the corner of the cold drinks fridge, and head to retrieve it.
A moment of déjà vu; instead of placing the mug down on the bar, Sherlock is still holding it, his fingers wrapped around like they need the warmth. He is avoiding the rim of the cup, John realises, desperate to realise something and avoid looking at Sherlock, so that anywhere John might place his lips on the glossed surface is virgin territory, untouched by coffee dusted fingertips.
John braces himself, but today Sherlock is back to silence, saying nothing. He doesn’t hand the drink over, instead sweeping his greedy eyes over John’s form. He steers himself carefully around the corner of the bar, hip first, long limbs gliding him out into the shop. John’s brow creases in confusion, until the barista reaches his usual seat and puts the mug down on the low table. John is stuck between gratitude for the thoughtfulness, offence at implication of being a cripple, and annoyance at the presumption. But when he follows, picking up the paper, Sherlock stands still waiting for him.
“I apologise for any discomfort I may have caused yesterday,” Sherlock says quietly. It could have been called a mumble, except his words are clear cut. He doesn’t sound very sorry, more like he is sorry to have to be apologising.
“No, no it’s –“ John is going to say fine, automatically ever so British, but he stops himself in time. It is not fine. It is downright... unfine. Only as the brow in front of him dips and creases does he realise he has said that out loud.
“No you’re not.”
“No, I’m not.” Sherlock gives a twitch of a lip, as if he wants to smile, but isn’t quite sure how.
John does smile, at the outright cheek of the man, and sits down to drink his coffee. He looks instinctively across as he hears another drink being made, watching Sherlock’s arms automatically reaching for a cup from the top of the machine and whipping together the ingredients. Greg catches his eye, still behind his till, a pen tucked behind his ear, but staring at John with unabashed curiosity. He glances to his barista and then back to John.
And so it begins.
And so it begins.
The movements and sounds are familiar and soothing. A hand reaches blindly for a cup, fingers curling around first time and clinking it down onto the counter. The steam arm hisses, a cotton cloth sliding up down, up down before the tip sinks home into the cold milk. The crash of the coffee arm on the solid metal bin, gravel and grind of beans, the hum of the machine.
Sherlock looks up at him curiously as he puts the full cup down delicately, “It’s psychosomatic, you do know?”
“Yes, thanks.” John doesn’t even bother being offended, he knows it won’t make the slightest whit of difference. He just takes his coffee and heads for his chair.
The scent of the bean dust in the air breeds anticipation, a low aching in the base of John’s skull as the back of his throat longs for the hot wash of his coffee. Just the scent of the caffeine heightens his senses, the grain of the bar-top is smooth and satin under his palm.
“Army doctor or soldier who just happens to be a doctor?” Sherlock asks sliding the artfully created macchiato across the bar.
Sherlock nods, and turns to make the next drink. John flashes a quick smile at a confounded Greg and limps away.
There is muted jazz playing from the tiny stereo today. A tickling jumble of piano underscoring the hiss and whoosh of the coffee machine. Sherlock unconsciously bangs the milk jug on the wooden countertop in rhythm.
“A brother or a sister?”
“You don’t talk.”
“Not really, no.” John stiffens in preparation for the natural progression of the conversation; why? But it doesn’t come. Sherlock just places the coffee down and turns to fill the next order.
The air is cold now, no longer only laced with a chill. John’s winter coat has come out, though his gloves remain in his pocket. There is something comforting in the cosiness of his scarf, a soft embrace around his neck. John always looks forward to the crispness of late autumn, but it takes longer to arrive this year, seemingly forgotten amidst the rain. The surgery has been full of colds and coughs and nothing he can actually treat. Frustrating, but safe.
“I play the violin.” Sherlock doesn’t look at him when he speaks.
“Oh.” John doesn’t know how to take that. It’s the first time information has been volunteered, rather than taken. Last week he had a question fired at him every day as he picked up his drink, but never just a statement.
It’s Monday and today, instead of putting the small mug down, Sherlock hands it over carefully, uncurling his long fingers as John receives the weight of it. There is a warm graze on the inside of John’s thumb as their digits unlace from each other.
Only seconds after he sits at the table a shape passes him and a body plomps down in the high-back wing chair opposite. Greg.
“Sherlock has worked here for two years,” he says conversationally.
John raises an eyebrow, unsure where this is going. He folds his paper.
“Two years next month.”
“Oh, right.” Still unsure. He places the newspaper carefully down beside his drink.
“I don’t think he has ever willingly spoken to a customer in that whole time. In fact, I know he hasn’t. Occasionally, if asked a question, he grumbles some kind of answer, but has never initiated any kind of conversation.”
Ah, he can see it now. But instead of what he is thinking, he says, “Not the best employee then.”
“No, no, he’s a terrible employee. Ignores people, issues with authority, rude to his colleagues, possibly the worst employee I’ve ever had.”
“Makes the best damn coffee in London though. Selects the blends himself, tests them, tastes them, he’d roast the bloody stuff himself if he could. Turns up to work at five to seven every morning and leaves at five past every evening, six days a week. Doesn’t take sick days, barely uses holidays.”
John glances over at the man in question. He is leaning against the counter on the back wall, an espresso shot to his lips, quite openly watching them talk about him. He is too far away to hear anything, but it doesn’t stop the burn in John’s cheeks.
“So, twelve hours a day, six days a week, for two years. And you are the first person he has ever really spoken to. The first person he has chosen to speak to.”
“You can see why I’m curious?”
“So what?” John shrugs, wishing he understood himself. “I’ve no idea why he talks to me. Our conversations are less than scintillating. Just a random question here and there.”
“I know. But why?” It’s not a question he expects an answer to. He just puts it out there and leans back thoughtfully in his chair.
“I like puzzles.” Sherlock says the day after, handing over John’s coffee. The mug, once again, doesn’t touch the counter, moving carefully from one person to the other.
There is no accidental touch of fingers this time.
“Do you like solving them, or do you enjoy being puzzled?” Sherlock’s cool blue eyes are fixed on his, as if he expects to see the answer there.
“I’ll get back to you on that one,” he says and smiles, leaving the other man standing there, looking after him.
It’s an odd game they are playing. John has absolutely no idea how it works, what the rules are, if there are any rules, if there’s even a game. But he loves it all the same.
What would Sherlock do, he wonders, if John asked a question. Then he wonders why he hasn’t thought of it before. What the heck would he even ask him? It couldn’t be something boring; Sherlock’s questions are never boring. They are always something no one else would dare to ask, or even think to ask. John doesn’t really know what he wants to know. Or, rather, he has so much he wants to know he wouldn’t know where to start.
Do you like working here? Did you go to university? How long does it take to get your hair looking quite like that? Do you fancy a drink sometime, that’s not coffee? Or dinner?
It’s raining again. John shakes out his umbrella one-handed, leaving it in the bucket in the porched doorway. He stands for a moment, watching the sheets of water undulating in the buffeting wind, before wiping his feet on the bristled doormat and shoving his way through the heavy door with his good shoulder.
Division is empty. Completely void of other customers. The rain hitting the windows is audible over the muted music piping out from the stereo behind the bar. It is still dark outside, and the streets are quiet, though it is almost half past seven. The rain drives everyone inside, workers waiting until the last moment to make their mad dash, trying to keep dry for as long as possible, counting on the slimmest of slim chances that the rain might fall a little lighter in another minute.
It’s not the quiet steady presence of Greg behind the counter today, it’s Sally, his assistant manager. The peace is broken by her sharp movements and quick smile – there in a second and gone the next. She has only served him a couple of times and doesn’t know what he drinks. She doesn’t want to chat about the weather, or the football, or crazy old George who sits in the corner and eats chocolate cake every morning for breakfast. John misses Greg when he’s not here.
Sherlock is there though, and has heard John come in. Even though he hasn’t turned around, he obviously knows who it is and starts steaming the milk in preparation. John sees Sally throw a look over her shoulder, as if surprised her barista knows something she doesn’t. John orders politely, the words feeling alien on his lips, it’s been so long since he had to say them.
“Er, saucer and spoon, Sherlock,” Sally points out patronisingly in a tone completely unnecessary for a friendly suggestion.
John isn’t sure why the need to defend Sherlock rears up in him, but smiles deprecatingly at the young woman. “No thanks, don’t like saucers,” he says, at exactly the same time as Sherlock raises an eyebrow and snarks out, “John doesn’t like saucers.”
Sherlock smiles properly at him then, for the first time, though his face hardly changes. Just a twist of the lips and a crease of his eyes. But John sees it, and feels it, and makes sure his fingers brush the younger man’s as he accepts his drink.
It’s the first contact John has purposefully initiated. And in that one half a second he could swear he feels the whole world shift and change direction. The icy eyes widen as Sherlock cocks his head slightly to one side. John wonders if he wears aftershave, or if he just lets the scent of the coffee permeate his pores and flavour his skin.
“Sometimes I don’t talk to anyone for days on end.”
“You talk to me.” John points out.
“I do.” He turns back to his machine and picks up the cloth to wipe down the already clean surface of the bar.
“So, who is she?” Sarah is leaning across the pine-coloured table in the surgery staff room, elbows resting on the surface, a cup of tea concealing the smug smile John knows will be there.
“Do I know her? This woman?”
“Which woman?” John asks, but he has a sinking sense that he knows exactly what Sarah is talking about. There had been a moment, a few moments, a while ago where John had thought something might be brewing between the pair of them, Sarah and him. But now it feels long ago and far away. No friendship ever equals one that could have been, once upon a time, something more. And they are lucky to have realised it.
“The one who makes you smile like that when you’re staring at nothing.”
Doctors have to have a fairly high level of perception and Sarah is good at her job. For the first time, John wishes she wasn’t. He wants to tell her he has no idea what she is talking about, but he’s never been a brilliant liar.
“There isn’t a woman.”
Sarah smiles indulgently, opening her mouth to chide him for fibbing, but then he sees the spark of realisation in her face. The creases at the corner of her eyes flatten out as they widen. There isn’t a woman.
“John,” she breathes, “I had no idea.”
“To be fair, I didn’t have much of one either,” he chuckles. He’s telling the truth. Sexuality has never been a big problem for him; if he likes someone then he likes them. Only the “someone” has never been so devastatingly male before.
“So... who is he?”
“You don’t know him.”
“Not what I asked.” She raises an eyebrow and sips her cooling drink.
“He makes my coffee in the morning. That’s all. A guy I see once a day for ten minutes.”
“John!” Sarah laughs, “Have you got a crush on some young barista?”
“Something like that.” It sounds pathetic. It is pathetic. What the heck is he thinking? As if Sherlock, of all people, would ever have eyes for him. “It’s not, he, he’s... I’m not...”
Sarah detects the change in John’s tone and reaches a reassuring hand across the table. Her fingers are cool and gentle on his. “Then he’s a very lucky barista.”
John laughs and shakes his head. What a lot of nonsense. He’s suddenly glad he hasn’t ended up in some hetero/homosexual crisis over this, because it would be a complete waste of his time and sanity.
It’s still raining when John gets home from work. He’ll wait until Monday. The game seems to change on Mondays. The first week Sherlock took, this week he is giving. Next week John will ask... Something.
Thinking of him now, as John stands at the stove with a book in one hand and a wooden spoon in the other, the taste of coffee seems to glide over his tongue. The rich tang of the tomato sauce he is cooking is swallowed by the sharp bitterness of his imagination, the damp steam of his pasta coils upwards with a seemingly caffeine-rich aroma. He wants to smell Sherlock, he wants to lean across the counter at the back bar of Division and bury his nose in the lightly curling hair at the nape of his long neck, where his own secret scent is hiding, untouched by coffee grains and milk steam cloying the air.
His bed is cold that night, the cotton of his sheets cool against his skin. John feels the need to pull his duvet up over his head and breathe out hot air to warm his make-shift cave. He stays in there until his head swims from a lack of oxygen. His feet are still cold.
A.N. Sorry this has taken soooo long. Real-life issues and whatnot, nothing to go into here! I'll try and keep my updates more regular from now on.
Once again, thanks to Daziechane, who betas and points me in the right direction when I'm lost, and my darling friend Cookie for fundamental support and coffee-related information.
Alf, the courier, another morning regular of Division who drinks lavishly creamy mocha blends with chocolate sprinkles and various flavoured syrups that change every day, delivers a late package to the clinic the next day, a heavy looking box most likely full of files of some sort, just as John is leaving. John raises a farewell hand to Shona, the painfully efficient practice manager, grins at Alf’s greeting and slips his tired body through the closing door a good fifteen minutes earlier than usual. The temperature outside is a relief rather than a shock, cool and damp after the dry heat of the artificially heated clinic, and he welcomes the sting in his cheeks, the breeze ruffling his hair.
He could get the bus home, or even the tube, but it’s only a couple of stops either way and it’s not raining, or even that cold, and if he doesn’t keep himself at least a little active he’ll stiffen up and maybe even surrender that last lingering firmness of muscle to podge.
The roads and pavements are busy, people heading home from work, or out for Friday night on the town. He could be going out too; Mike had texted him earlier, asking if he wanted to meet at the pub. It had been a tempting offer, but he had turned it down in favour of a quiet evening in with a film and a takeaway. He smiles at the thought that maybe, finally, he is getting a bit old.
He has reached the familiar parade of shops around the corner from his flat. Clearly earlier than usual; there are still lights on in most of them, people cleaning up for the day, preparing for the Saturday shift. Normally this part of town is dark and quiet, only the odd pedestrian, the sounds of traffic and far off revellers, a couple of smokers stood outside the pub on the corner. John pauses as the door to Division opens, almost colliding with a woman walking in the opposite direction when his body stops him to look.
Sherlock is putting the bins out, carrying heavy black plastic sacks and piling them at the outside corner of the porch. His shirt sleeves are rolled up to the elbow, as usual, but there is no apron around his slim hips. A tail of black shirt is coming untucked from the waistband of his dark trousers and his normally perfectly styled curled mop of hair flops scruffily over his forehead. John wishes, for a moment, that he could be one of the evening clientele rather than the morning, if they get to see him looking like that every day.
Sherlock meets his eyes immediately as he looks up, as if he knew he was there all along, “Coffee?”
The offer is a surprise. Surely he should just want to clean up and close up. Is he only offering to be polite? Would Sherlock ever offer anything just to be polite?
“It’s a bit late,” he manages to say, though it is far from what he is actually thinking.
“I could make you a decaf.” The wrinkle in Sherlock’s nose shows exactly what he thinks of that.
“Where’s the point in that?”
“My thoughts precisely.”
The only light comes from behind the bar, casting long shadows across the seating area, the darkness blending cosiness, broken only where the light catches the corners of the wooden chairs and stools. From behind the bar he hears the muted music from the stereo, something classical and sad, a sweeping mournful song that John would find it impossible to work along to. He would stop and stand and listen, remembering and recalling and letting himself drift somewhere else entirely.
A careful low voice interrupts his standing and drifting, “Try this,” and Sherlock passes a miniscule espresso cup over, carefully feeding it into John’s hands and using his own fingers to wrap John’s around it, as if it is a precious gift and not at all to be dropped.
John breathes in the coffee steam, letting it open his sinuses, burning until his eyes begin to sting. He puts the cups to his lips, the glazed pot cool after the hot vapour rising into his face. There is something decadent about drinking coffee in the semi-dark, more intense. He’ll have to try it more often to see if he can pin down exactly why, though he suspects the setting and company does a good job of amplifying the effect.
There is a heavy gaze on him, John can feel it in the light ache at the base of his skull, in the prickling of his neck. He looks up to meet it, the cold eyes suddenly heated and curious. The tip of his mug is automatic, the flow of the drink over his tongue as much a comfort as an excitement.
He frowns; something is off. He looks accusingly at the espresso in his hand. Nothing major, nothing he can put his finger on. Another sip, swirled around his mouth like a wine connoisseur taking a first taste. He looks to Sherlock again, catching the tiny tip of a smile.
“Ethiopian,” he nods.
John presses his tongue to the roof of his mouth, trying to analyse it. He isn’t an expert; he has no idea what is different, just that it is.
“It’s a little darker,” Sherlock explains, leaning closer to take the cup back from John’s hand and swallowing a long slow mouthful. John watches the lift and drop of his throat, the flicker of his tongue tasting the trace in the corner of his mouth. Sherlock smiles his notice. “Just a shade. Peppery hints. Slightly clearer acidic aftertaste, but still smooth.”
John swallows too, unsure if his saliva increase is from the coffee or something else entirely. He has a sudden urge to move forwards, abandon the notion of cups and taste it directly from Sherlock’s mouth. He would lean in, press into the cushioning of those full lips, use his own to part them, to open his mouth, to breathe in his air and scent the tang of coffee on his breath. He grabs on to the edge of the bar, as if it will steady him, lock him in place.
Sherlock notices that too. But he doesn’t smile, he just looks, before turning and flicking a couple of switches on the machine. While it hums away he stretches his long arm and reaches behind the display of packaged beans for sale and draws out a half-empty bottle of Jameson’s.
“Are you going to make me an Irish coffee?” John smiles. Right now that sounds like heaven.
A quick glance at him from the corner of an eye, a tiny nod, and Sherlock reaches for two mugs and warms them under the hot water. The metallic sound of the lid twisting off the glass bottle is a beautiful, comfortable sound. Sherlock’s measures of whiskey are generous, his tipping hand steady and confident as he uses the other to orchestrate the familiar movements of brewing the coffee. He adds sugar to the mugs, stirring it in and then the coffee in a smooth movement. Then the cream, over the back of a spoon in a practised movement that implies he has done this before, a lot. The cream settles itself nice and levelly on surface and John’s mouth is watering again.
The mugs in Division aren’t as disgustingly large as many of the mainstream coffee shops, but they aren’t normal human size. Sherlock’s hands are large enough, however, that they don’t look odd as he scoops them up. He nods to the seating area.
There are papers spread across John’s usual table, charts and lists scattered across the surface. He is surprised that Sherlock sits at his table, but he likes it. It an odd way. From the direction of the arrangement of the documents he obviously sits in the chair opposite John’s. The sensible part of his brain notes its position gives the seated a clear view of the door and the counter, while the less sensible part wonders if the reasons he sits there have anything to do with him.
Sherlock moves forwards. He could wait for John to move out of the way, but he doesn’t. John could move out of the way and allow him space to move out onto the shop floor, but he doesn’t. So instead they make contact, Sherlock’s back to John’s front, shirt back to shirt front. Being this close, he realises quite how profound their height difference is, as the tip of his nose grazes a shoulder.
It is the perfect opportunity to breathe him in, discover finally what he smells like, but instead John is careful not to. Because then, of course, he’d have to stop wondering.
John shucks off his coat and slings it over the back of his chair before settling into the familiar plump cushions. He shifts from side to side automatically, rearranging the filling to his satisfaction, erasing the traces and contours of the countless other people that have sat there today. The chair shapes itself around him immediately, almost fondly, giving out a welcoming creak.
Sherlock puts John’s drink down, turning the handle to the left, before shuffling and ruffling the papers into some sort of pile and taking his place comfortably in the armchair opposite.
Conversation, John remembers a full minute later, he should attempt to start some kind of conversation. They can’t just sit here and look at each other in silence all evening. Can they?
In the end it’s not him that speaks first. It’s Sherlock. Quietly, with his fingers to his lips and his eyes fixed on John’s. “I, erm, I find myself quite... fascinated.”
“By what?” John frowns. Has he missed something here? Should he know what the other man is talking about?
Hugs, squeezes and big sloppy kisses to Daziechane for pointing out vital flaws, and to all you people who review and comment and leave kudos and keep me writing.
Well, that isn’t what John is expecting. Fascinated. By him. That’s a first. He has absolutely no idea how to respond to that, so ends up going for a shy smile and a lowering of his eyes. Coy teenager he is most certainly not, but for some reason he is starting to feel like one.
“What are you working on?” There, that’s a safe subject, isn’t it?
Sherlock looks down at the sheaf of papers in front of them and shrugs, “It’s just a hobby, a cure for boredom.”
Sherlock just smiles his little smile and reaches forward to pass him the top sheet of paper. It’s scrawled with almost illegible notes, the edges filled with doodles that may or may not have some scientific meaning. John hasn’t seen work like this since he was at school, writing out experiments in science class, trying to remember whether he was supposed to evaluate or conclude.
“Plants containing naturally occurring caffeine and the variants of their poisonous subspecies,” John reads out loud. And then he laughs, because really, he has to. “Right, OK.”
“Wishing you hadn’t asked?”
“No, I’m actually quite...” He wants to say ‘fascinated’, but that word holds extra meaning for him right now. “Interested.”
By the look on his face, John can tell Sherlock isn’t fooled. He saw that hesitation. He knows what John was thinking. “Have I made you uncomfortable?”
“No, no, not at all... Maybe a little, OK, yes.”
“That was not my intention.”
“Wasn’t it?” John quirks a half-grin. Most definitely not a coy teenager. That was full-on flirtation there. Add a wink and he’d be all-out Casanova.
It’s completely out of character for him. He flirts occasionally, of course, but never with such a sense of power. There is something about this situation, the semi-darkness, the buzz of tension in the air, the lowered eyelids shielding a heated gaze from across the table.
John has always got the impression that Sherlock isn’t much of a talker, but apparently, if you get him started on the right subject it’s quite difficult to shut him up. Not that John wants to, of course. It’s not solely the topic that holds the interest for him, instead it mainly seems to be the narration; the waving and gesturing of hands, the animated widening of sparkling eyes, the varying tones of lazy bass interspersed with perhaps even a few upwards squeaks when sharing a particularly exciting link or moment of discovery.
Asking a sensible and relevant question, John has never felt quite so ignorant and yet almost revered at the same time. The response to his inquiry is surprise, Sherlock’s brow raises automatically to roll his eyes at such an basic (in his opinion) question, but remains raised as he realises John is actually asking a question. He is curious, he wants to know.
It is a thorough study being performed, John notes, extensive research and experiments. There are detailed anatomical sketches of dissected leaves and berries, intricacies that can only have been revealed and studied by careful inspection and multiple magnification.
John realises that, with all the unexpected conversation and reading, his drink is left standing, forgotten and untasted. He takes a mouthful, sipping the sharp warmth of the coffee through the thick luxurious layer of cream. The liquor warms his chest the same way the coffee warms his mouth, though the pleasant burn licks its way into his belly and lingers long after his tongue cools. He releases a small sound of pleasure.
The smile only visits Sherlock’s face for a moment, an instant of pride and shared enjoyment as he mirrors John’s movements.
Comfortable silence descends.
Later, when John is walking home reflecting on how silly he is to have drunk quite so large a coffee quite so late, he is also thinking about how he has spent the evening with a man he has so many questions for and somehow managed to ask none of them. How did you end up at Division, he could have said, when you could quite clearly be doing so much more? Do you have close family? Do you hang around here after work every day? Why do you find me fascinating? Or would you come out with me for a drink, or dinner, or more?
Yet instead he sat quite contentedly talking about the chemical make-up of certain plants, the process of brewing good coffee, how George who eats chocolate cake every morning for breakfast has done so since before Sherlock even worked in Division. Things John didn’t even have much of an interest in before they were discussed, and things he can’t seem to stop thinking about now.
No matter what had been said or remained unsaid, it had been an hour perfectly spent.
It is only when he is stood on his doorstep, drawing his hands from his pockets to find his keys that he realises; both of his hands are in pockets, nestled in cool silk lining and sheltered from the cold. Both. A puff of laughter, choked with disbelief, perhaps a faint note of confusion, forces from his lungs. His feet are evenly spaced, level and steady on the doormat. And half a mile away, he supposes, leaning against the bar in Division is his walking stick.
“Forget something?” A cool enquiry from behind him.
John feels a smile burning his face, curving his cheeks and stretching his lips. He’d know that voice anywhere; he’s been listening to it for the last hour. He turns slowly, caught by surprise when his eyes are level with eyes, instead of chin. Of course, the doorstep.
“I forget a lot of things.” It sounds silly, but he needs to say something. And admitting to forgetting a psychosomatic limp is rather more silly.
John is not stupid enough to think himself cured; it will take more than distraction for that. As if to agree with him, there is a low twinge in his hip, a chilled lance down the front of his thigh. He shifts his weight before the leg can buckle. Just because it’s created by his brain doesn’t mean it’s not real, in its own way.
Their farewell outside Division had been an easy unawkward affair, with an unlit cigarette dangling clumsily from Sherlock’s mouth as he efficiently jabbed buttons on the alarm, John shivering from the sudden temperature drop crossing the doorway, a lazy wave and ‘see you Monday’ as he rounded the porch, a returned casual mockery of a salute from the barista. This is looking to be much more awkward though, standing as close as they are, with less of an exit route and more of an obligation to say something or do something or, God forbid, invite him in.
“Thank you,” he takes the outstretched cane from Sherlock’s ungloved hand, taking utmost care to connect their fingers in at least once place. They are both as cold as each other.
Sherlock merely tips his head to the side in acknowledgement.
“Do you want...” Is he really saying this? John can’t believe he’s actually going to ask him up. He panics for a moment, trying to remember if his flat is presentable. Does he have any food? He was going to make himself some cheese on toast and eat it while he watched crap TV. It’s not really something he wants to offer a guest.
“To come up for a coffee?” Sherlock suggests, breathing a laugh at the idea.
“Well, or tea or something...” John laughs too, it’s such a ridiculous situation.
Sherlock smile is slow, his eyes flicking down before looking back up, steady and hot. “The something sounds promising.”
Beta-ed by Daziechane., who is ever so gentle at pointing out my giant flaws and plotholes.
Quiet reminder - rating has discreetly shifted up, guys, don't get caught out!
Luckily John’s flat doesn’t look too bad. A bit shabby, pockets of chaos here and there, but overall fairly presentable. Which is a relief, because apparently Sherlock is very interested in the contents.
It is an old Victorian conversion. A house cut into two flats. John’s hallway is cosied under the stairs of the upstairs flat, dim and warm with warm beige walls and polished floorboards. Sherlock’s coat looks odd hung beside John’s on the hooks, dark and luxurious against the lighter jackets. He likes it.
He is very conscious of being followed through the living room and into the long narrow kitchen. Sherlock pauses to examine the pictures on the wall, running a careful finger over the textured paint of an oil landscape of John’s sister’s, done years ago at school. His books receive a cursory scan, as does his collection of CDs and records on the lower shelves. John tries to ignore the scrutiny, filling the kettle instead of watching uneasily and wondering what conclusions are being drawn.
“Do you want a drink?” He asks.
Sherlock is peering into the cupboard beside the fridge. He flicks the door shut lazily and slides a step closer to John, leaning a hip on the edge of the worktop. “What are you offering?”
It feels like a loaded question. There is a bloom of heat in the pit of John’s abdomen, deep down inside, near the base of his spine. What is he offering? Anything? Everything?
“Something...” The syllables slip from him easily and he has hardly finished them before Sherlock is stepping right into his space, forcing him to look up.
It has been one hell of a build up, he can’t help thinking, for this moment. He had imagined (fantasised about) a heated spur of the moment crash of kisses, but in fact what he gets is a slow calculated dip of Sherlock’s head, a delicate gentle brush of lips on his before a hand rises to his neck, long fingers sliding up into his hair behind his ear. Sherlock’s thumb strokes down his jawbone, coming to rest under John’s chin, tipping his head back, opening him up. Sherlock drags his lips across John’s, placing a tiny kiss in the corner of his mouth. John parts his lips, sucking in a lungful of air, tasting Sherlock on the intake, darkness, pepper and spice, and coffee. Something inside him drops in response, hurtling downwards from his chest to his pelvis.
John turns a fraction of an inch to catch those teasing lips with his own, the breath on his cheek stutters, and damn, if this isn’t the hottest kiss he’s ever had. It’s slow and languorous, a cautious experimentation. Sherlock’s mouth moves with his smoothly, latching and releasing, cool and damp gradually giving way to hot and wet, and then a tiny slip of tongue, tasting the plumpest part of John’s bottom lip. A small grunt of a moan pushes from John’s throat and the hand in his hair slides back, cradling the back of John’s skull.
The black cotton of Sherlock’s shirt is a perfect handhold. John can’t help but imagine the darkness of the fabric against what must be a white flash of skin beneath, contrast, division. The crispness of ironed cloth long having given way to the heat of flesh and damp of steam. It had been re-tucked earlier, but John is having none of that. He tugs it loose, not yet daring to slip his hand underneath, but quite happy to prepare for that eventuality. At the movement Sherlock pulls back, his eyes scorching searchingly into John’s, the damp of his breath hot on John’s face.
John has a fair idea what he’s looking for, and is pretty sure he is going to find it. He’s not backing down from anything Sherlock can throw at him. And it must be there, because Sherlock lunges forwards, his free hand sliding a path up John’s back, fingers splaying and pressing between John’s shoulder blades. John lets himself be pulled in. The strength of Sherlock’s kisses tip his head back, and he takes it, happily. More than happily.
Both of Sherlock’s hands disappear momentarily from John’s frame, only to make their reappearance sneakily, slyly slipping up under the light wool of his sweater, deftly twisting under the edge of his shirt.
Yes, John thinks, So much yes!
To signal his permission, agreement, whole-hearted endorsement, he pulls Sherlock closer still, bracing his own back against the kitchen counter, until their hips are crushing together. He wants to say something, to ask if he can take Sherlock to bed, but just how the heck do you phrase that? And what exactly are words again? So instead he moves his pelvis to the right slightly, rearranging himself so he is pushing his groin against the hard surface of the top of a thigh.
The action brings a small amount of satisfaction, a very tiny easing of the ache building up in him. And, apparently, actions do speak louder than words, because Sherlock gets the hint.
“Yes,” he breathes, his questing fingers scrabbling to find purchase against John’s heated skin. They dig into the flesh around his midriff as Sherlock grinds himself into John’s lower abdomen. “More.”
The demand supports and reinforces the bulge against John’s belly, the distinct unmistakable shape of male arousal. Caused, John realises, by him, for him. It spurs him into action and he shoves forward, using his hands, one tucked in the waistband of Sherlock’s exceptionally well-cut, well-fitting trousers, and one still tangled in the tail of his shirt, to steer him backwards through the kitchen and the living room to his bedroom door. They are still kissing, only breaking apart once for Sherlock to yank John’s jumper over his head, and once when John collides with the side of the bookshelf just outside his bedroom door. A beat of a laugh from him, not even half a beat of a smile from Sherlock and they reconnect hastily, biting and sucking and at licking each other as if there is not enough and will never be enough.
“You’ve not done this before?” Sherlock asks against John’s mouth. It sounds like an enquiry, with an uplifting question-marked tone at the end, but it’s not.
“Not with you,” John chuckles, though he knows what he really means. Not with a man. He utilises Sherlock’s disgruntled pause to take a gulp of air, straightening his spine and tipping his chin in a carelessly constructed echo of confidence. “No. Does it matter?”
“Does it to you?” Sherlock can clearly see through John’s hastily created bravado, but the serious tone of his voice is somewhat spoiled by his heightened breathing and the way he is still unbuttoning John’s shirt.
“No.” It doesn’t. Not in the slightest. Only in the way that he worries he might not be any good at it. He’s confident enough when he knows what he’s doing, pretty damn good even, if he may say so himself. And surely it can’t be too much different; it’s all about feeling, what feels good, what doesn’t, and that doesn’t change just because people’s parts are a different shape.
‘Have you?’ He wants to ask, ‘Done this before?’ But he’s pretty damn sure the answer will be yes, and that’s not something he wants to hear right now, not when he’s feeling a little out of his depth and out of his league. Because, let’s be honest, anyone Sherlock has been with is likely to be a darn sight younger, fitter and more attractive than him. Just glancing across that thought cripples him with self-doubt and he freezes, causing Sherlock to grind to a halt as he is about to pull the front of John’s shirt open.
“I... Just... No, nothing, I’m sorry,” he swallows it all back down and leans forward again, aiming his face towards Sherlock’s.
But Sherlock tips back, reversing himself out of reach. He raises an imperiously questioning eyebrow, that quite clearly conveys, ‘Don’t give me that.’
“I’m just feeling a bit–“
“Don’t,” he interrupts. He pushes the shirt down John’s arms and lets his eyes track over his torso, every inch scrutinised and apparently appreciated, judging from the widening of his Sherlock’s eyes. His large hand slides a twisted cuff from John’s wrist, capturing the joint and using it to direct the John’s hand to the front of Sherlock’s trousers. “Feel that?”
John swallows heavily. Yes, he feels that, and it is hot and hard and pulsing through the fabric under his palm. He nods.
“Exactly,” Sherlock smiles predatorily, and pulls him back in.
John is not exactly sure what he had been expecting; certainly he’s dreamed of a seamless mating of mouths and bodies, heat and passion and a culmination of answers for every open-ended sentence and suggestion left hanging from the first moment they met. Instead it is a slow exploration, full of awkward moments and skin-muffled chuckles, bumping eager hands, sloppy kisses and tangled trousers.
Sherlock strips him, his hands pulling away clothing, his worshipful gaze peeling away inhibitions and fruitless concerns, until the two of them can slot together easily, falling onto the neatly made bed. The duvet has only a second or two of perfection before it is rumpled and crumpled, rucking up and tumbling down onto the carpet.
John finds himself in a position he has never been in before, on top, with a thick hard erection in his hand. Someone else’s erection. He can’t help smiling to himself at what should feel like an absurdity, but instead feels perfectly fine. The actions come naturally to him, a slow squeeze from base to tip, a slick slide of his thumb around the top. He teases, drawing Sherlock’s chest upwards as his back arches and a guttural groan rumbles from within. Sherlock reaches a hand up to catch at him, but John snaps his own out before any contact is made and pins his wrist back down to the mattress.
“I should have known,” Sherlock mumbles. He tips his hips, using John’s precarious balance to lean him forward, forcing him to cease his activities suddenly as he shoots his arm out to catch his weight before he tumbles completely.
John can only laugh, good-naturedly relinquishing any control of the situation he may have thought himself to have, as Sherlock slips his free hand between them and takes them both in a capable large grasp. The friction is a bit dry at first, but within moments Sherlock’s long fingers are slick and sliding with pre-come, and he has licence to play around with pressures and angles.
“Come on, John,” he urges, snapping his pelvis up again to encourage John to move against him.
John has a moment of clarity, where he wonders if Sherlock has put him in this position deliberately, where he knows what he’s doing, before he willingly abandons it for the blurring disarray of sensation and feelings. He rocks his lower body, bracing his shoulders and straightening his arms. The weight of Sherlock’s own reaction, the strain of his arched neck, the receiving give of his gentle undulations under John’s thrusting, is almost enough to distract him, but only almost.
It’s enough, it’s plenty, he could quite easily fuck himself to completion with Sherlock’s hand around him, and the burning pressure of his cock pressed alongside. But that would not be enough, or rather, it would be too much too quickly, and that’s not what he wants, not after all these months of waiting. So he slows, sitting up. The view from up here is stunning; the long leans lines of Sherlock, wiry muscles, firm pale skin smattered with silky hair and peppered with scars. It’s far from the toned perfection he had been expecting before they started this, and far more perfect than he ever could have imagined.
John follows the trail of auburn hair down a heaving chest, a tense and panting abdomen, until it thickens and widens and silkiness blends into wiriness. Sherlock’s curled hand is obscuring what he wants to examine, so John stops moving completely and pulls the hand away.
“I’m clean.” Sherlock takes his scrutiny the wrong way.
“To be honest, it hadn’t even crossed my mind.” He admits, though it should have. He’s a doctor, for God’s sake, he is forever secretly judging people for this exact same mistake. And forgiving them, obviously, it’s understandable. And certainly never more than now.
“I am too.” He says, pointlessly, because Sherlock would obviously not be doing this with him if he thought otherwise.
A raised eyebrow, “I know.”
“Well,” John grins, “Now we’ve rather belatedly sorted that out, I would quite like to...” He stops, because suck you off is not a particularly romantic phrase. His bravado shrivels slightly.
“Your nonsense is distracting, John. Stop talking.”
Thanks, as ever, to my Daziechane for reading this through and pronouncing it satisfactory, any dodgy bits left are entirely down to me and my own distraction.
As you may have noticed, rating has gone up AGAIN, so watch yourself, wouldn't want you to have a surprise (of your life!) Yeah, this is basically a little break in the storyline for sexytimes. I'd say sorry, but I'm not...
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Your nonsense is distracting, John. Stop talking.
John doesn’t do much more talking. Instead he slips down the planes of warm flesh, sucking and biting at patches of sensitivity, not consciously trying to discover ticklish spots, but finding them all the same. A graze of teeth over a clavicle, a nibbling suckle of peaked nipples, a flirtatious tonguing of a belly button, a red mark sucked under the ridge of a hipbone. Sherlock is writhing by the time John reaches his intended destination, and he arches up off the bed at John’s hot lathe of tongue up the inside of his thigh. Sherlock furrows his fingers through John’s close-cropped hair, which is surprisingly pleasurable, especially when he tugs and twists it in an eager needing sort of way.
“John,” he begs breathlessly, “Please.”
This isn’t something John has a lot of experience with. Oh, he’s received before, but has never been face-to-face, mouth-to... cock before. But it is as fascinating as it is foreign and John has no instant of hesitation, no cold-feet moments or doubts. He just lifts his head, skimming the side of his nose up the heated skin and breathes it in, filling his lungs with pheromones and sweat and sex. He can taste it on his tongue before he even opens his lips, but the sensation of sliding his mouth down over an erect cock is something he could never have anticipated. A warm weight against his tongue, a paper thin layer of softness over solid tissue pressing against the roof of his mouth. His own erection twitches in response. He begins a slow suction, moving his head up, wriggling his tongue at the underside, swiping it around the head and popping his lips off the end with a delightful smacking sound. On his return journey back down he brings up a hand, to cover the lower half that he has no intention of even trying to take into his mouth on this first try.
The noise that comes from the man beneath him is somewhere between a moan and a whine, a keening sound that resembles no word John has ever heard before; it has vowels and consonants and even several syllables, but no rhythm or reason whatsoever. It is most definitely the best sound John has ever heard. He fully intends on hearing it again, several times if possible. The tempo he develops is the most natural thing in the world, a simple undulation of his neck, building up intensity, driving them both higher and deeper with each varied repetition.
Sherlock bends his legs, squeezing tight around John’s shoulders, “I... I’m... Not...” He is panting, fighting to get words out, desperate to make a sentence. John smiles to himself, tightening his lips around Sherlock’s cock, bringing his teeth into gentle contact. Sherlock bucks into his mouth, “Fuck!”
John moans at that, the deep vibrations rumbling up through his chest and throat, tingling his tongue against Sherlock. He moves the strength of his suction up a notch, tightening the grip of his fingers and working them faster. There is saliva trailing down from his mouth, mixing with the sweat from the palm of his hand and it is so disgustingly delicious John can’t quite believe he has waited so long to do this.
“John, I can’t,” Sherlock groans, twisting his fingers tighter in John’s hair.
He means, John assumes, that he can’t last, he can’t hold on much longer. His hypothesis is supported by the swelling of the cock pushing again against the back of his tongue. Sherlock is going to come. John is going to make him come. There is a tell-tale twitching in Sherlock’s muscles, a hitch in his breathing. A tiny fresh salty tang blooms on John’s tongue and he realises he is going to have to decide exactly what he is going to do next. But he gets no choice in the matter, because Sherlock pulls him up by his hair, yanking roughly and almost bending his head back in his momentary loss of control. John lets his hand take over, jerking Sherlock off capably and hard. He is actually grateful for having the decision made for him, because this way he can look down and watch Sherlock reach his absolute peak, witness that moment he is overwhelmed and overcome and Oh, God he is coming. He is coming so hard his feet and shoulders dig into the bed and his back rises clear of the sheets completely and it is the most beautiful thing John has ever seen. John’s other hand instinctively finds his own cock, pumping it fast and firm, giving just the right amount of pressure as Sherlock actually grinds out John’s name and possibly removes a few hairs with his grip and he comes all over his own heaving chest.
“Come here,” Sherlock mumbles finally, gesturing John closer, but it is too late; John hasn’t enough of anything left to move anywhere. The furthest he can get is to straighten up onto his knees and drag himself a few inches forward. Heat is relentlessly building up in his loins, and he is surfing, cruising along the edge, desperately grasping for something just... there... Then Sherlock comes back to himself and realises, and it’s actually the light of comprehension and surprised pleasure on his face that pushes John over, sending him reeling into the burning heat of his orgasm, the convulsions of his muscles wringing him out almost completely.
He lets out an ‘oomph’ as he slumps down beside Sherlock, sweating, exhausted and generally blissed out. He manages to gather enough energy to turn his head and free his mouth from the plump edge of the pillow, “Are you staying?”
“Go to sleep, John.”
It’s not an answer, but it will have to do. And it does when he hears Sherlock using something to swipe the evidence of their activities from his torso and rummage around, presumably in his pockets for his phone or something sensible. Then the duvet is pulled up from the floor and over them and John lets himself drift off into his own little oblivion, a lithe warm body stretched out beside him.
It’s still dark. The air of the bedroom is cool on John’s face and wakes him slowly, but rudely. Except it’s not really that rudely, he notes, because there is a lovely wet warmth on his back, sucking damp kisses down his shoulder-blade and following the path of his spine. He lays still for a minute, dozily enjoying the slow meander of caresses, biting his lip to stifle his gentle moan as chilled fingers slide over his hip to give leverage to the form shifting down the bed behind him. The hand moves, drifting slowly down his thigh to splay outwards to slip inside and coax his legs open. He obliges, though the movement lays him back and he loses the contact of those lips for a moment. Only a moment, though, and then they are back in the hollow of his hip, the crease at the top of his thigh, the base of his semi-erect cock.
He is still a little sleepy, and getting a bit lost in the fact that this is Sherlock doing this, Sherlock crawling between his legs and kissing reverently at his balls, wetting one with the flat of his tongue and huffing out a tiny laugh as he is nearly smacked in the face by John’s prick springing to full hardness in an instant. John’s fingers curl into the fabric of the sheet beneath him.
“Is this okay?” Sherlock asks quietly, trying not to jar John into wakefulness.
“Mmm,” is all he can manage, but he bends a knee and runs the sole of his foot up the back of a hair-roughened thigh to support his answer.
“Good, because I’ve wanted to do this for a very long time.”
“Oh.” John feels he should say something else, because that’s one heck of a statement there. But he fairly quickly becomes incapable of words and even thoughts become rather tangled and difficult, unless they are based on and revolving around the man currently sucking John’s cock deep into his mouth. “Oh.”
It doesn’t take very long for John to become a writhing, groaning mess beneath Sherlock ministrations and with one hand cupping his balls and an open throat caressing the head of his cock John can feel that heavenly familiar uncoiling of pleasure in his lower abdomen.
“Sherlock,” he tries to warn him, pushing his fingers into his hair to shove him off, but it comes out as more of a gasp, breathless and longing.
“Mmm-mmm,” Sherlock gives a perceptible shake of his head and a long hard suck and drinks down every drop that John bucks into his mouth. His grip on John’s hips is firm and hard, pushing him back down into the mattress as he drains him.
“Oh my God,” John still sounds sleepy, his voice still heavy and dry, even after the sounds he just made, “That was... Oh God...”
Sherlock is back up beside him and John wonders if maybe he should return the favour somehow, if he can get his limbs to cooperate through their sleepy, post-orgasm haze.
“Go back to sleep now.”
“I can’t,” he mumbles, turning to Sherlock and fighting to keep his eyes open. It would feel selfish and wrong to just roll over and go to sleep now.
“Of course you can, it’s fine,” Sherlock is shifting in to his space, kissing ever so softly at John’s closed eyelids, “Go back to sleep.”
John can’t help it, with that gentle crooning voice and fingers stroking at his side. “I can’t just let you suck me off and then conk out,” he manages to protest as he feels himself already sinking into a dream where the world seems to twist and his conversation carries on without him.
“Sleep now. I needed that. I’ve needed that since I met you, since the first time you came into the shop and I pretended not to notice you...” The words make John smile to himself, and he nuzzles closer, until the softness of Sherlock’s hair is tickling his nose. The rumbled words continue, the stroking fingertips dragging softly at his ribs, “The first time I heard your voice I wanted to hear it moaning my name... The first time I touched your hand I wanted to feel every inch of your skin... I wanted to memorise every scar and taste very freckle.”
John is sure he is dreaming, because Sherlock barely talks at the best of times, there is no way he makes glorious confessions like that in the dead of night with London half-asleep outside the window and John snoring gently in his ear.
John skirts the edge of consciousness warily, rolling automatically over to find somebody, even though he hasn’t woken beside anybody for a while. That is not about to change. It takes him a moment to figure out exactly why his bed feels so empty.
It’s almost seven, according to his alarm clock, and he sits up just in time to hear his flat door click closed. He grins stupidly to the darkness, ridiculously happy at the crack of light coming from the bedroom door that Sherlock has pulled almost closed behind him. He had stayed the night. The pillow poofs out a cloud of air as he collapses back into it, darkness of coffee dust and musk of sex and the mingled scents of John and Sherlock.
The shower is set just a little too hot and John watches the bathroom mirror cloud as he brushes his teeth and spits the staleness from his mouth. As he intended, the spray stings his skin, tingling pleasantly under the bruises around his hips. He slides a hand down to trace over the darkening marks, but his fingers don’t fit. It brings a sly smile to his lips and he tips his head back to wash the shampoo lather from his hair.
He waits until he is dried and dressed and in the kitchen before he lets himself think about what he has done, what he is going to do. Was it a one-off? Has Sherlock had his fill of John now? One night, some frantic frottage, some brilliant oral sex, a lot of kissing, several hours sharing a rumpled bed and twisted duvet. Is that going to be enough for Sherlock? Because it certainly is not for John.
The kettle clicks off, ready and John reaches for the coffee jar. And he laughs. A gaudy yellow post-it filched from the pad by the phone, has been scrawled with a pencil and stuck haphazardly on the lid of the jar.
‘What is this shit?’
There is a used mug in the sink nonetheless.
It is Saturday. He has his morning coffee at home, watching the news. Always. But it doesn’t stop him wanting to bundle himself up in coat and scarf and shoes and go to Division for a decent one. He won’t though, because that would make him look like a right idiot.
Mike meets him after lunch, but the pub is packed. Full of Christmas shoppers and their Christmas shopping. It’s not exactly a relaxing pint.
“How’s it going at work?” Mikes asks, actually meaning, ‘How’s it going with Sarah?’
John ignores the subtext, he and Sarah are quite happy as friends; he has bigger fish to fry, so to speak. “Same old. Boring. Too many patients, not enough doctors. You?”
Mike nods. “Same.”
They talk about the things they usually do, work, football, Mike’s wife and kids, colleagues, whether John watched the last episode of Doctor Who, whether Mike remembers that guys in their class at med school who is now apparently a DJ on the radio. John keeps finding himself wanting to talk about Sherlock. Mike is easygoing and laid-back and, as far as John can see, shows no signs of being the type of person to have any problems with the idea. But for some reason, he keeps it to himself.
Sorry this has taken so long, Christmas holidays and all that jazz. But I'm here now! And so is chapter eight, and chapter nine is on the way...
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
A day has never dragged so long. John has spent countless minutes, hours, wondering if maybe he should head into Division. What if Sherlock is waiting for him? Is he the type to stand looking longingly at the door waiting for John to walk through? But John just can’t seem to find the courage to make that five minute walk, not knowing what to expect at the other end.
Eventually, finally, early evening rolls around. John stands checking himself in the hallway mirror and pulling a face at his own stupidity. Why is he even chewing it over? He wants a coffee, he wants to go out, he is a grown man. There is no reasonable reason for him to be second-guessing himself. The memories, he feels, should have faded, should have reduced into a blurred remembrance. Instead, John can precisely recall almost every second, and can clearly feel the effects of recalling the expressions of want and the contorted whispers of need. He should laugh at himself, but can’t actually bring himself to.
There is a faint hum of adrenaline buzzing through him throughout the journey, a bubbling in his stomach and a tingling in his limbs. This evening has the potential to go so very wrong, or to be so very plain and boring and anti-climatic. The leaves are mulch beneath his feet now, the pavement damp with fog and winter, and his stick slips a little as he leans his weight on it. The Christmas lights strung across the street are still switched off, leaving miserable black lines of cables rather than joyous blinking illuminations. He wonders if he should write a Christmas card to the guys at Division, he sees them everyday, after all. Or would that be a bit sad?
He takes a long breath as he opens the door, shoving through the stickiness caused by the damp. His lungs fill with the reassuringly familiar heaviness of coffee and pastries, and expel the air with a sigh.
Normal, he tells himself firmly, act normal. Completely casual. Slow walk to the counter. Small smile to Greg. Rummage in pocket for change. Little glance to Sherlock, small, tiny, no more... Except now John is staring, and maybe grinning. Oh God, that is the biggest fail ever.
“John,” Greg doesn’t appear to have noticed, “How’s tricks?”
“Yeah, yeah, fine. All fine. You?” John swallows awkwardly, finally wrestling himself under control. But damn, Sherlock looks delicious. And he is, John thinks to himself, he knows he is. Greg is saying something about how busy they’ve been all day and all the money Christmas shoppers bring in each year, even if they are annoying, leaving things behind and taking up three seats each with their shopping. But John thoughts seem to be firmly lodged in the Sherlock section of his brain, and he has lost the train of the conversation.
“Hmm, I know,” he says, hoping his response makes sense. He pays, and it’s time to move down the bar. He takes another deep breath, fighting the goofy smile on his face and says quietly, “Good afternoon.”
“John,” Sherlock nods. He has John’s coffee ready, steaming and saucer-less in his hands. Only as he passes it carefully over does he lift his head, trailing his eyes slowly up from the cup, greedily absorbing every detail and crease of John’s clothing. His gaze flickers over his neck and chin, hovering around his mouth before finally travelling up to meet John’s.
John is pretty sure he is blushing, which would feel exceptionally ridiculous if he cared. He’s distracted though, by the decadent caress of fingers against his. The slightly calloused tips slide enticingly into the gaps between his own digits, curling slightly as they pull away, leaving the little mug behind. It is an erogenous zone John has never encountered before on his body, but there is a distinct rush of blood within him in response.
“Good day?” An innocent enquiry, if it hadn’t been accompanied by sparkling eyes and a cheeky twitch of a smile.
“It started well,” John manages to reply. It takes a gargantuan effort to turn around and find his seat, but this is how it works. A short exchange, a couple of sentences, and he has no intention of messing around with it. For some reason he fears that if he changes that everything will come tumbling down around him.
That doesn’t mean he can’t stare though. The Saturday paper is in front of him, but he sees not a word. His head is turned slightly to the side so he can watch. Sherlock is quite clearly wearing the same clothes as yesterday, the ironed creases flattened in his trousers, messy folds around his elbows where his sleeves have been rolled up for two days. Well, it’s clear to John, but he doubts anyone else would have noticed. There is a distinct shadow of beard-growth on his jaw and his hair is less groomed than usual, styled with water and fingers, rather than... well, whatever it is he normally uses.
Sherlock must have been waiting for John to look away, because as soon as he finally gathers the willpower to turn his attention to the paper, he feels the weight of that gaze land on him. From the corner of his eye he can see Sherlock wiping down his part of the counter, rearranging bottles of syrups and tubs of ingredients, all the while with his head discreetly turned in John’s direction. John flicks his gaze to the side as he turns the page, and yes, Sherlock is most definitely watching him. He straightens his spine, as one might under observation, and crosses one leg casually over the other. He is staring, Sherlock is staring at him. And really, that is a lovely feeling.
He’s only been an afternoon visitor in Division a couple of times, it is a whole different atmosphere. There are none of the usual faces this side of the bar, all strangers and groups of friends. Instead of just Sherlock and Greg working, as the quieter morning shift, there is also Sally busy behind the counter, and a young lad called Raz clearing the tables. John feels a little out of place, but he is still in his normal chair, with his regular coffee and a newspaper, so it’s not too bad.
“All set for the big day then?” Greg pauses at the side of John’s chair, piling a tray with used cups from the table beside him.
“Christmas? No,” John laughs, “I’ve got a couple of weeks yet, haven’t I?”
“My thoughts exactly.”
“Suppose I should have spent the day buying presents, now I think about it,” John thinks out loud. Except he’d spent the day recovering from the night before and trying not to think about it all too hard.
“Do it online, much easier and usually a bit cheaper.”
“And much less chance of leaving things behind in a coffee shop.”
“Good point,” Greg laughs, heading off to the back room.
In fact, John doesn’t even know what he’s doing for Christmas. He has been invited to his sister’s, but that never ends well. Though spending it alone feels a bit depressing. He could go for dinner and skip the evening, he supposes, thereby avoiding the majority of the drama, fulfil his brotherly duties and then head home for a movie and a beer by himself. Happy Christmas to him.
“John.” A familiar voice interrupts his self-pitying moment. A sharp deep summons shot across the shop floor.
He looks up in surprise. Sherlock is looking at him, flicking his head in an unmistakeable beckon. But, that’s not how it works, is it?
He goes, of course. As if he wouldn’t! Sherlock pushes a small cup across the counter to him. It’s not a macchiato, or even an Irish coffee; it’s some kind of latte, milky and frothy and puzzling.
“What is it?” But he’s already reaching for it, ignoring the handle turned to his left and curving his fingers around the bowl of the cup. He brings it to his mouth, breathing in the scented steam rising from the surface. Spice and warmth and... something he can’t quite put his finger on, but it’s Christmassy.
“Are you experimenting on me now?” John smiles, but takes a cautious sip anyway. The taste flows into his mouth slowly with the liquid, as if hesitating a moment, but then explodes on his tongue in a blooming of heat and flavour. His eyes widen in reaction, his nostrils flaring as if to absorb more. He swallows eventually, trickling the warmth down his throat, leaving the dark trace of coffee behind in his mouth as a pleasant aftertaste.
“What is it?” Sherlock asks him, as if testing. There is ill-concealed excitement in his eyes, eagerness for John’s reaction speeding his words and leaning his head forwards.
“Christmas in a cup.”
Sherlock smiles as John drinks more, watches him swirl it around his mouth, lick his lips. “Good?”
“Perfection,” John reassures him. “Mulled wine coffee?”
“It’s supposed to be.” He turns quickly, leaving John wondering if he is trying to hide a grin. But he’s back in a second, pencilling a note in a leatherbound notebook.
“And you’re testing it on me?”
“Lestrade doesn’t like mulled wine, and you’re the least likely of the customers to react negatively if it is not to your taste.” A sly look from the corner of his eye.
Right. But John doesn’t quite believe that’s the only reason. “Are you busy this evening?” Well, where the hell did that come from?
“I have to close up the shop.”
“Yes,” John takes a slow thoughtful mouthful of his drink, not letting himself be distracted by the heavenly flavour. That was not quite a clear enough answer for him, though he’s pretty sure it wasn’t a brush off. He had the guts to ask that, surely he can find some to ask, “After? We could go for a drink, or pick up some dinner? Or I could invite myself to a Division lock-in and you could make me an Irish coffee?”
Sherlock smiles at the memory of yesterday. It widens as he leans forward, “Are you asking me out on a date, John?”
“In a roundabout sort of way.”
Sherlock looks away then, his usually steady gaze flicking from counter to floor to window to John’s cup held in front of his chin. “Does the invitation extend to your flat?”
Is he seriously questioning that? Is his unease caused by his doubt that he would be welcome, so very welcome, to come home with John? No, John must be mistaken, because he’s pretty sure Sherlock doesn’t doubt anything or the sort, he sees far too much for that. Still, he wants to tip up and forward, trail the back of his fingers across the stubbled roughness of that cheek, dip the tips into uncharacteristically unruly curls and lift his head until he looks John in the eye. But he doesn’t. He just drains the dregs of the experimental coffee and nods silently, knowing Sherlock will sense the movement.
Sherlock nods too, “Wait for me.”
Sorry for the long gap. I could make excuses (there are even a few good ones), but I won't. I'll just apologise and hope you forgive me.
Thanks, as ever, to Daziechane for looking this over.
If John’s not careful there won’t be any room left for dinner. First he had looked up from his crossword to find a croissant on the table in front of him and no trace of a deliverer in sight. He ate it, obviously, as if he would leave free pastries on the table. He is distracted from his puzzle another time by a swish of a body beside his chair, and a bottle of orange juice has replaced the empty plate. He looks up to see Sherlock’s back heading towards the back room. The sinuous sway of his hips is quite mesmerising as he weaves in between tables and chairs.
Greg gives John a curious look as he shrugs on his coat and pats his pockets until he hears the reassuring jangle of his keys.
“He’s waiting for me,” Sherlock explains, slipping behind him with a broom. “And eating the leftovers.”
“Oh,” Greg nods good-naturedly; he obviously had no intention of kicking John out anyway. He turns a teasing grin on his barista, “Lads’ night out on a Saturday. Sounds good. One day you’ll invite me too.”
Sherlock mumbles something and looks at the floor significantly as he sweeps up the pile of coffee grains he has piled carefully. John just grins.
Sherlock’s flat is exactly not what John is expecting. The other man requested a quick stop-in so he can have a much-desired shower and change his clothes. There is no way John is going to pass up that opportunity, to see the nest of this man, to be able to examine it at ease while he is locked away in the bathroom.
And a nest it is, exactly. A floor of rooms, furnished comfortably in old leather and dark wood, textured vintage paper on the walls. The skulls littered around the place, both painted and disturbingly real, surprisingly detract nothing from the cosiness. A lot of his stuff still appears to be packed in boxes and John would think he’d not long moved in, except that they are now battered and old and blending in to the point of being utilised as furniture. There are books, worn to the point of falling and staying open of their own accord, scattered papers and an abandoned mug covering one cardboard box, which is placed at a convenient angle beside a squat leather armchair. Another is in front of the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in the corner, dented on the top where it has been used as a stool to extend Sherlock’s long arms high enough to the top shelf.
“Excuse the chaos,” Sherlock waves a lazy arm around at the... chaos.
“It’s fine, it’s nice.” It is. It’s strangely comforting. It’s lived in and John feels instantly at ease, no worries about whether to take his shoes off or to search out a coaster if he has a drink. It’s actually pretty brilliant to see such a heart-warmingly human side of this man.
Sherlock raises a sceptical eyebrow. He scoops up a pile of newspapers from the sofa and drops them abruptly on the floor, shoving them under the edge of the couch with his foot. “Have a seat, I’ll be seven minutes.”
“Don’t rush,” John calls after him as he disappears through the kitchen, presumably to the bathroom. He’s quite content to soak this in, have a nose through the books lying around.
He wanders into the kitchen, which is obviously hardly ever used to prepare food. The table is cluttered with glass beakers and test tubes and an intricate tubing system that makes a complicated twisted map between metal stands and over Bunsen burners. From the strong smell, it is no stretch of John’s imagination to figure out what is brewed and tested in here. The rich bitterness of coffee is practically being absorbed into his skin, there are grains ground almost black into the stained wooden table and, as he looks up, the longest plain wall in front of him is covered, every single inch, with charts and graphs and diagrams and notes. Lists of organic compounds with swiftly sketched lines linking them with corresponding flavours, characteristics that blend well together, all pinned and blu-tacked and taped onto the wall. Figures and numbers and ideas John is pretty sure he couldn’t comprehend if he tried.
He can’t help but smile. This goes beyond passion, this is obsession. And he loves it.
They were going to go out. They were. John has even started flipping through possible restaurants in his head, evaluating what he is wearing dress-code-wise and where they will end up afterwards. Except then Sherlock emerges from the bathroom and all his ideas go absolutely to shit.
John is standing level with the hallway that runs from kitchen to bedroom with the bathroom door off of it, trying to decipher a scrap of paper pinned to the Wall of Coffee (as he is now affectionately calling it) that has something that looks disconcertingly like his name scrawled on it. He hears the door opening to his right and turns just at the right time to see Sherlock exit the bathroom, a towel wrapped conservatively around his hips and damp thumbs tapping away at his phone. John almost gets away with it, the shameless ogle, except Sherlock looks up from his phone as he is about to turn into his room.
Icy blue eyes sweep a long look up and down John’s fully-clothed body, which also shamelessly, responds quite happily. Sherlock dips his head, disturbing a lock of wet slicked-back hair to swing down over his forehead, and looks up at John through his eyelashes. And then he is stalking towards him, phone dropped carelessly on the kitchen table as he backs John into the front room. His footsteps are defined on the floorboards like the bass rhythm of a dramatic orchestral build-up and John can almost hear the brass section taking a breath to join in.
His hands shake as they rise up to slide up the naked chest of the man who has stopped only inches from him. Chilled skin over corded muscles, barely any give of flesh beneath John’s palms. Being almost entirely nude and barefoot has no impact on Sherlock’s power. He is devastating. His hands are on John’s hips, yanking him right up close against him and his mouth descends with a serious sort of finality. John no longer has any inclination to leave this flat, ever, and senses any move to do so would be most unwelcome.
This is that crash of kisses he had dreamed of, a clash of lips and puffing breaths and murmuring pants. They are a little more coordinated now, there are less hesitant moments and misjudged movements. John lifts a hand to anchor in deceptively long wet hair and slips a leg in between Sherlock’s taut thighs. White-hot desire plummets downwards from his throat, burning through his chest, his belly, landing deep in his abdomen and glowing there, almost uncomfortably. Sherlock is shifting him even further into the room, until the high arm of the sofa hits the back of John’s legs, so he can use the solidity as leverage to roll their hips together.
“Oh God,” John groans into the open mouth against his.
John’s clothes are being shed like wrapping paper at Christmas; Sherlock peels off his jacket, his jumper, his t-shirt in quick succession. Then their chests are pressed together, John’s warm and Sherlock’s damp and chilled. Sherlock noses down, down John’s chin, his throat, and he tips his head back to allow access, hanging onto that glorious hair for dear life. Blunt teeth sink into the meat of John’s good shoulder at the same time as a towelled groin grinds against his jeans. John lets out a splintered whining noise, which echoes out into the room. He doesn’t care.
The towel has to go, he decides and it makes a dull scooting against John’s jeans as it slips down, rumpling on the floor around their feet. His fingers gravitate naturally to freshly bared buttocks, digging in and pulling them back together, encouraging Sherlock to writhe against him. There is a muffled whimper against his neck before Sherlock fastens their mouths together again, sucking and nipping at John’s swollen bottom lip.
It amazing, it’s shockingly fantastic, John doesn’t think he has ever been kissed like this before, with so much want and passion and desperation. Sherlock is fumbling at his belt, and John wobbles for a moment as he leans back a bit far and nearly tips over the end of the couch. But then again, he’d quite like to be falling back, lying on it, pinned beneath this man. Hell, he’d be quite happy to let Sherlock bend him over the back of the damned sofa and have at him. Whatever he wanted, he’d only have to ask right now and John would give it to him.
“John. You.” Sherlock is biting into his mouth, licking at the trails his teeth leave on lips, “Are. Delicious.”
Well, isn’t that just bloody lovely? John is practically glowing, grinning into the kiss. Sherlock has freed strap from buckle and is wrestling open button, easing down zip and then the confining pressure is gone and John feels his trousers droop down around his pelvis.
“Yesss,” a triumphant hiss and Sherlock is sliding a hand down the back of John’s boxers to cup at his arse, squeezing at the flesh.
He shoves John’s underwear down, taking his trousers with them and then they are in contact, hot skin against hot skin. There is no rhythm to their movements now, it’s all beautiful chaos.
“Bed.” Sherlock’s suggestion is actually a command.
The bedroom is dim, curtains closed and lit only by the light shining through from the hallway. They stagger there, still woven together, and tumble down onto the unmade sheets. John’s legs are still tangled in his jeans and boxers, with his shoes and socks tying the last knot, but he doesn’t care, and Sherlock certainly doesn’t; he is far too busy aligning erections and squeezing them together.
“Oh fuck,” John bucks up into his hand. He pulls Sherlock down so he can kiss him again, using his other hand to encourage him to keep his hips up, to allow space between them so that hand can keep doing what it’s doing, squeezing and rubbing their cocks together, spreading the slickness of pre-come between and around them.
John doesn’t quite know what’s happening to his stamina, but this is all a bit too much right now. He can feel the coalescing burn in his muscles, spreading up through his belly, down through his thighs and he is whining and panting and Sherlock is biting encouragement against his mouth. “Yes, John, let me see it, let me see you.”
“Sherlock...” John hasn’t felt a build up like this in years, his body is singing, aching, reaching out and straining and it is just there beyond that panting breath, and that one and then that one, and he can’t take much more of this and then it absolutely explodes, hitting him like a twisting punch in the gut, a blow of absolute ecstasy wringing out every single inch of flesh in his body. He is vaguely aware that he is making a noise, crying out into the curve of Sherlock’s neck, but the world is far away from this moment, somewhere behind the whiteness and hot pleasure that is wracking over him.
He can’t open his eyes, partly from where he has squeezed them shut so tightly, and partly because he is a little embarrassed at the fact that he just had possibly the best orgasm of his entire life from a heavy snog and a two minute hand job. He can’t see, but he can feel that Sherlock has released him, slipped to his side slightly and there is a swift movement of his hand as he jacks himself at the kind of speed that can only mean he enjoyed that show very very much. John cracks open a cautious eye.
Sherlock is looking down, at the streaks of semen pooling on John’s chest. He has his lips caught between his teeth so hard it looks painful. His leg tightens around John’s, squeezing tight as he presses their bodies together. He is panting, little breaths that slowly merge into little words as he lets go of his lips, leaving the red imprint of his teeth clear in the flesh, “John, I, I can’t, I can’t... John.”
John strokes a soothing hand down his thigh, wrapped around John’s as it is. “Can’t what?” He wants to reassure. He has a vague memory of this being part of his chant last night too, and he can’t bear to casually write it off this time, “You can, you can do whatever you want. Just say it, just say.”
Sherlock shudders out a sob at that and leans downs to kiss him. He is arching and writhing and the hand beneath his body, trapped where they lie together, grabs at John, digging his fingers into whatever flesh it can find as Sherlock grinds them together.
“I can’t... can’t,” he hides his face under John’s ear, licking and sucking desperately at the cords of his neck, “I can’t get close enough to you.”
John tips back to give him a puzzled look but he can’t make eye contact. They are rather close right now, in John’s opinion. Very close.
“I need more of you, I need to feel all of you. I want to be inside you, I want you in me, everything of you, filling me with you. I can’t get enough of you. I need to taste you, the flavours of your skin, the salt of your sweat, the taste of your day ingrained and tainted on your flesh.” Now he’s started he can’t seem to stop. The words are flowing and stuttering from him, groaned into the skin of John’s neck. And John’s vision has faded a little from the impact of what he’s saying. He’s not quite sure there is an answer, except to squeeze back against him and moan aloud, “Yes.”
Sherlock’s hand speeds up even more, just for a second before John gets in the way. He wraps his fingers gently around the seemingly fragile wrist and pulls it slowly aside. Sherlock is fairly desperate by now, his abdomen heaving as he pants, restrained hand grasping at nothing, so John decides now is not the time to take it slow. He steers his legs out of the way so he can make that one long shuffle down the bed to bring his mouth level with what must be an absolutely burning erection, but Sherlock gives a shaking sort of roar as he accidentally brushes against it with the flat of his chest.
John would know that trembling desperation anywhere and he recognises it for exactly what it is, the knife-edge, the searing glow that must be scorching its way into the fleshy walls of Sherlock’s loins as he skirts along that ridge... So he leans in further, pushing down slyly as he starts to move again. Instead of being a tease, it seems to actually be the end, the last shove to push him over, and Sherlock grunts as he thrusts once, twice against the firm tissue of John’s pectoral muscle, sliding in a mingled mixture of sweat and John’s ejaculate, before he curls into him, arches away and warm ribbons of his own come fling out and join in the slippery mess. The noise he makes when he calls out isn’t a word, but that just makes it better – a broken shout that winds down into a whimper.
They lie still for a few minutes, the only movements are heaving chests and John’s hand stroking reassuringly up and down a lean ticking thigh.
“Takeaway,” Sherlock says, as if they are already halfway through this discussion.
Sunday dawns slowly and lazily, waiting until a respectable hour in the morning to send shimmery ribbons of light glowing across John’s face. He groans anyway, and turns away, rolling into the warmth of the body beside him, pressing an instinctive kiss to the smooth back of a neck before he even realises. A smile crawls across his lips and, keeping his eyes closed, he breathes in the fresh, dark scent of his sleeping-partner, tickling his nose into the curling hairs at the base of a skull.
A delightful evening spent half-dressed, gorged on Chinese takeaway food, lounging on the sofa. Sherlock’s bare feet crossed and resting companionably beside his own on the coffee table. They had gone to bed again after a while. They had slept a while after that.
John’s phone sounds rudely chipper as it rings an hour later, buzzing across the bedside table and threatening to drop on the floor. He wants to ignore it, but for some reason turns over and reaches out automatically to answer it anyway.
“John, it’s Mike.”
“Oh, hey. What’s up?” His mind searches for a reason for the call. Was he supposed to be somewhere? Had they had some prearranged meeting that he has forgotten about?
“Are you in? I know, it’s still early,” he says apologetically. John glances at the clock; it’s almost ten, not really early, but then he is in bed and probably sounds at least half asleep. Mike continues, in his good-natured rambley sort of way, “But I’m coming past yours in about ten minutes. Got some Christmas shopping to be doing and wondered if you fancied helping me procrastinate. But don’t worry if you’re not up. Unless you’re about to get up now I’ve woken you anyway...”
“Ah.” John hesitates. He’s not home, and that should be an easy answer, but it would lead to all sorts of other questions.
Hearing his hesitation, and probably having heard every other word of the conversation, Sherlock shifts up behind him, slipping a cheeky hand onto his hip bone and sliding silent dry kisses down the back of his shoulder. John takes pleasure in the fact that this must be Sherlock telling him not to go, asking him to stay, but discreetly.
“I’m not actually at home, mate,” he says carefully, knowing it is pretty obvious he is still in bed from his rough voice and the rustle of the duvet.
“Oh...” A pause and then, “Oh!”
John bites back a grin, as if it matters what his face is doing – no one can see it. Sherlock noses at the curve at the base of his neck, breathing him in and dragging a heavy lower lip over the bumps of his spine. John shivers pleasantly.
“I’ll, erm, leave you to it then. Sorry to have bothered you.”
“No worries, no bother. I’ll check in with you later.” His voice wavers slightly as teeth make gentle contact with the early bruising of a mark they made a few hours earlier.
“If you get a chance, maybe see you this afternoon. Have a good morning,” Mike chuckles down the phone and adds cheekily, “Say hi to her from me.”
“Him.” John corrects before even thinking about it.
Not even a beat of hesitation, not from Mike, “Sorry, to him.” No inkling of distaste, no sprinkling of puzzlement, just basic acceptance of the fact and the same teasing tone.
“Mike says hi,” he directs over his shoulder, which is being sucked at wetly now. He laughs to himself about nothing in particular and hangs up, chucking his phone back down on the table.
“Oh. Hi Mike, whoever the fuck you are.” Sherlock mumbles carelessly, and raises himself up on an elbow to look down and lean in close as John rolls onto his back.
“I like Sundays,” John states, shifting forwards to meet that stunning mouth with his own.
Guys... This is it. Wow. Thanks to you all for the reading and reviewing and commenting and whatnot. It's made my day, my LIFE.
I promised no angst, no real plot, just love and coffee. I hope that all worked out.
Biggest ever thanks to DazieChane for spotting all my nonsenses and K2Dangergirl for priceless proofreading and coping with my cucumber concerns. There were a few, if you're wondering.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The early morning regulars are a good bunch, in John’s opinion, if a little odd. There are only a handful of them that frequent Division daily, but they never cease to be a source of amusement to him. A coffee shop is a good place to dwell if one likes to indulge in a little people-watching.
There is Alf the TNT delivery man, who gives John a knowing nod if they meet when he delivers to the surgery, and a cheeky wink as if they are having an affair rather than sharing the occasional five minutes to drink coffee. He always makes John smile.
George is possibly the oddest. John likes to talk to George about absolutely anything; he always has some kind of hidden insightful opinion to surprise him with. Eccentricity often leads to isolation and John can see a familiar dullness in George’s eyes, left by that loneliness, and he can’t bear it.
Molly, a quiet and apparently hardworking student, cleans Division before it opens. She gets her sugar tipped and stirred in for her by Sherlock – a privilege afforded to nobody else. John saw him looking over her medical textbooks with her once too, though he said very little, just pointed to a passage and snatched her pen to correct her notes. She now sits at the table beside John every day, tucks her soft auburn hair shyly behind her ear when he sits down and smiles her hello. Sometimes they talk, but never about medicine.
John wonders what the others think of him. He comes in alone at the same time every day and leaves precisely at the right time to get him to work at eight o’clock. He talks with Greg for a couple of minutes while Sherlock makes him the same old drink. Exchanges a hushed question, a thoughtful answer, a long look. Sits in his same old comfortable red armchair, reads the paper. Puts it down happily for a conversation with any other customer that approaches him, but never does any approaching of his own. Do they think him lonely? Does he come across as shy? Does Alf purposefully work a smile from him?
This Monday John strolls into Division feeling cool as a... cucumber, though wishing that sounded cooler. There is only a hint of trepidation, a little unease under his glow; how is he supposed to interact with Sherlock? Are they some kind of secret? After the muddled mid-coitus confessions on Saturday night, not even John could pass this off as casual. And he’d really rather not try. It’s never been particularly casual on his part and it would appear those sentiments are echoed by his partner.
Sherlock is at his workstation, leaving John with only a view of his long back, but he must have memorised John’s footsteps and the thud of his stick on the ground, because as he approaches the counter the barista turns with a knowing look. He looks no different from normal, hair artfully tousled, clean-shaven, pale-skinned and black-shirted. But John knows what lies under the collar of that shirt, in the taut corded space where shoulder meets neck. Right on the curve, beside a faintly raised beauty spot, is a practically perfect imprint of his teeth. It had been a red bite of ridged semi-circles yesterday, now it must be darker, flatter, a bruised tattoo of passion, blurred around the edges. Sherlock sees where John’s eyes are resting, but doesn’t smile. Instead he stretches his head to one side, as if drawing out an aching kink, pulling down a shoulder. John can imagine the tender bloom the movement creates, as Sherlock’s eyelids droop in appreciation of the sensation.
“John... John?” A rude interruption. Greg, not actually trying to be rude. “You alright?”
“Fine, fine, thanks, perfect.” He is blushing. Idiot. He rummages in his pockets for some change.
His drink is waiting, as he’s come to expect, and handed over expertly. Sherlock’s ever less discreet caress extends across John’s hand today, fingers stroking all the way to the cuff of his jacket before dragging back down.
“Will you come in after work?” Sherlock sounds gruff, but John warms from the fact that he wants to see him again, so soon, and dared to say it.
“Just after half past six,” he confirms and pulls away achingly slowly for his seat and newspaper.
Sarah knows. John has no idea how or what, there is nothing on him to tell her anything, but she hands him a brown patient folder as if it’s a glass of champagne. He has to try not to raise a toast with it.
John just smiles. He’s so much more than that. Always was really.
John thinks of him. All day, if he’s honest. As soon as there is a space of more than ten seconds unutilised by patients or colleagues or paperwork, John is lost to reality. Because he’s not sure Sherlock actually falls into the realms of reality. He certainly conforms to none of the conventional rules, and seems to have perfected his own ways to break or ignore them.
That weekend he had begun to tutor John in some of those ways, taught him how to discard his original perceptions of what could happen between two people. He had taken him apart with his mouth and his fingers, and then put him all back together again afterwards with the warm wrap of his arms and the soft caress of his lips over the length of his neck. And in the quiet shelter of the depths of night he had let John do the same to him.
John is far from experienced in this sort of relationship. Not simply in the physical aspects, though they appear to bear little issue for him. There was nothing familiar or feminine in the way Sherlock had taken John inside himself and ridden him into the sofa. It was pure masculinity right there in front of his face, he could reach out and taste it. In fact, he had, flattening his tongue into the sharp notch at the base of Sherlock’s throat. But the depth and breadth of this go further than John has ever even contemplated comprehending.
John’s secret concerns over his inadequacies had been silently taken, opened, examined and discarded. He is Sherlock’s first lover, he was assured without words, they are both learning this. Not the first person to give and take and exchange pleasure with him, obviously, but the first to do it like this. The first person to see inside of him, and the first who Sherlock wanted to see inside of. And he sees, he sees everything. And John lets him.
“Back again?” Greg looks up as John strides in from the dark street outside, “Flick that latch down behind you. Can I get you a coffee? Or did you leave something behind?”
“I did.” John says cryptically.
Sherlock turns from where he is sorting jugs of milk. “I’ll be half an hour.”
Greg looks from John, to the Sherlock, to the milk and back again. A slow smile blooms, creeping across his face. The situation could be awkward, but Greg seems to carelessly wave that possibility away with a low chuckle through his nose.
“Alright if I wait here?” John checks. It’s only courtesy, after all. He’s not staff and the door is technically locked to customers.
It’s a full blown grin now. Greg is beaming, melting the years from his face and dimpling his mischief for all to see. “Of course.”
John looks down, feeling suddenly shy, but mirrors the expression.
They do go for dinner this time. A little Italian place not far from Sherlock’s flat. John tries not to read too much into that, but then wonders why he is trying at all. Anything there would be to read is already laid out plain on the table. Though plain is probably not the right word, it’s far too complicated to be plain, entwined and connected in ways no one has even yet discovered.
Sherlock has their ankles woven together under the table and they stiffen slightly as he asks, “Is this too much?”
John raises his eyebrows at the question. He knows it can have little to do with the food they have yet to order.
“You can say no to me.”
“No,” John gives a teasing twist to his mouth, and pauses for the indulgent smile he knows he will receive before continuing, “It’s not too much. And yes, I know I can.”
“Good. Because I’m not going to say that again.”
“And that’s good, because I’d really rather you didn’t.”
“I can be quite...” Sherlock obviously stops himself from saying something and searches for another word instead. He takes a mouthful of wine in the pause and lets it hover in his mouth, the same way he does his coffee.
Quite demanding, John thinks, or commanding. Yes he can. It doesn’t seem to bother John in the slightest.
“Monopolising.” Sherlock finishes instead. But that works too.
“It’s all fine.”
Ok, I lied. It's not actually the end. There's a Christmas themed half-chapter epilogue on the way. Just because I can!
Please drop me a line - comments are the ambrosia of the fanfic writer, or find me on tumblr.
Chapter 11: Epilogue
Just a snippet... As promised!
“What are you doing?!” It is a squawk, a horrified unmanly sound of genuine distress.
“Well, I was about to make coffee...”
Sherlock snatches the kettle from John’s hand, somehow managing not to slop the contents over the pair of them, but only just. “This is boiling,” he hisses savagely, “Are you a complete idiot?”
“Apparently so.” John hides his smile and presses an affectionate kiss to a bare bony shoulder while Sherlock one-handedly adjusts things to his liking, shifting mugs and fussing over the grinds, thumping the cafetiere on the kitchen side a couple of times to even it out and coax the coarser grains to the top. He is mumbling to himself throughout, glancing at the kettle still in his hand, and tapping his fingers on the marble effect counter-top. John’s tone is perhaps a little less patient than it could be, "What are you working out?"
The look Sherlock shoots him isn't quite murderous, but not too far off. "Well, taking into account the ambient room temperature, the density of the steel composition and the dimensions of your kettle, plus how long the water had been at boiling point before you foolishly waved it at the press, like some kind of ill-educated ape... It should now be ready." He doesn't look away from John as he proceeds to tip the kettle and pour it precisely into the cafetiere. Pause. A little more. Pause. Steady flow. Twisty flourish. Still staring at John.
There are words hovering in John's mouth - 'You take this far too seriously', 'It's just coffee', 'Don't look at me like I'm stupid'. They itch at his tongue for a second and he presses his lips firmly together to wrestle them back. He knows better, now he thinks about it, than to use boiling water to make coffee – scorches the beans or something. But then, he is a drinker, not a brewer. Sherlock breaks his gaze and bends at the waist to watch the coffee settle through the glass and John's mouth open of its own accord. "You're amazing."
“Yes.” Sherlock stirs gently, intently examining the slowly swirling concoction. He takes a lungful of the steam before fitting the press onto the top and leaves it resting there. “What is this?”
John grins, “You figure it out.”
A small twitch of a smile, “It’s not your usual, which is a joy in itself, considering your usual generally extends to...” He pops the top off the ceramic coffee jar and dips a licked finger inside, bringing it back to his mouth, eyeing it with unsubtle distaste the whole time, “Kenco Rich instant, accidentally blended with the Kenco Smooth instant that was going stale at the bottom of the jar.”
A high-pitched giggle escapes John. “Sorry.”
“As you should be.” Sherlock licks a different finger and dabs up some heavy brown grains John has spilled on the counter.
He stares at them intently for a second, before touching them slowly to the tip of his tongue. He closes his mouth and John can see him rolling his tongue around inside his mouth, spreading the coffee, rubbing it against his palate, scraping it on his teeth. It’s disturbingly arousing. He reapplies the finger, further back and to one side, strokes it forwards, sucks in a breath. His left eyelid twitches down slightly before the other eyebrow rises.
“Earthy, green, thick... Indonesian. No, no. No. Bold, sweet over bitter, fairly balanced acidity, malted sugar, cinnamon, dark... Sumatran. ” Sherlock is muttering and pauses to hum gently for a second, “Mmm, this will resonate in the cup. God, John. Where did you get it?” He turns, looking for a bag, a box, something.
“I found a dealer,” he teases. Sherlock’s cross face returns. John breaks and admits, “I asked Sally.”
“Sally hates me.”
“It would seem not.” He gives him a smart kiss on his surprised mouth and turns to make the breakfast.
Sherlock watches him, casually, one hip against the fridge. Eventually he deems the brew ready and pours two cups, clouding John’s with cool milk, how he likes it, but leaving his own pure.
“After you, it’s your Christmas present.” John points out, gesturing away the offered beverage and putting down his buttery knife to watch.
Sherlock maintains eye-contact while he takes his first sip. A moan rumbles up from his chest, vibrating out through his throat. The noise is not innocent, far from it. The mood changes, as if the air has thickened with the wet aroma of the brewed coffee, darkening and sweetening. John steps closer, backing him against cupboard doors.
Sherlock smiles, slow and sly, letting himself be caged in. “Do you want to try, John?”
Sherlock puts his drink down and dips his head, hovering in the hot air over John’s mouth. He dodges the first kiss, redirecting it to his jaw. “From me?”
“Mm-hmm.” That’s what he has in mind, yes.
“Are you going to taste it on my lips, John? On my breath?”
“Uh-huh.” There are mere millimetres between them now, he can almost taste it already.
“Will you lick it from my mouth?”
The man is not decent. John stands on his toes to push his pelvis against Sherlock’s. He can tell exactly where this is going, and he really doesn’t mind. “I’d lick it from anywhere I could.”
“Well, I suppose it is Christmas.”