They got to the top of the stairs and John thought Sherlock might back out after all. The detective was even paler than usual, and had to grab the doorframe for a long minute before stepping into John's bedroom. John gave him as much time as he needed. He purposely turned his back on Sherlock to rummage through the closet, looking for -

"I knew I might want these again someday." John pulled out a soft set of novelty cuffs with velcro closures and two lengths of rope. "Haven't used them in ages - it's not like I ever bring dates back here - but I think they'll be perfect for tonight." Still pointedly ignoring Sherlock, he crossed back over to the bed and looped the rope under the bed frame at the top and the bottom so the four ends were coiled neatly in the four corners of the bed. Nothing else left to do, so John planted himself primly on the edge of the bed and waited.

Sherlock was watching him as he prepared, but didn't actually let go of the doorframe until John had gone still and patient. "Sorry," Sherlock muttered.

"No rush," John said pleasantly. "Taking this at your pace, remember? And you can change your mind at any time. I can undo the velcro myself, so if you feel the need to leave suddenly it's fine. It's all fine, Sherlock."

Sherlock nodded roughly. Then finally made eye contact. "What do you want me to do?"

John toed off his shoes, kicking them over toward the wall. "I'd suggest you put the cuffs on my wrists and ankles, then tie them with the ropes. We can do this with clothes on or off, whatever you prefer. And really - we've got all the time in the world. I don't have to be at the surgery until noon tomorrow, and it's really not that late yet."

Sherlock shuffled forward until he was standing in front of John's knees. John held up one of the restraints and offered his wrist. Sherlock's fingers were trembling slightly, but he wrapped the soft cuff tightly around John's wrist and velcroed it closed. They repeated the process for John's other wrist, then John wriggled backward on the bed so Sherlock could put cuffs on his ankles without having to kneel. It felt like a solemn ritual, but Sherlock's expression showed he was concentrating hard. John felt oddly touched to be the recipient of such intense focus. When Sherlock had finished all four cuffs, John twisted so he was sprawled spread-eagled on his back on the bed.

"Good?" he asked.

Sherlock's eyes traced down his body. "Good," he answered softly. "Very - yeah. Good." He looped each rope through the rings on the cuffs and tied them off in silence. Even with all the tension in the air, John felt the first stirrings of arousal as Sherlock finished the knots. He left plenty of slack - enough for John to roll onto his side if he wanted - but even just the suggestion of being restrained was enough, it seemed, to kick John's brain into a different gear. One which was wholly preoccupied with Sherlock and sex and not terribly picky about how those two things might coincide.

"Talk to me," John prompted. "I'm not going to be able to do much except react from here on out, but I do want to know what you're thinking." Deduce me. He smiled a bit. "I can't read you as well as you can read me, you know."

"Of course you can't." Sherlock stood at the side of the bed, his face unreadable, just looking. John fought the urge to squirm. Sherlock could read half your darkest secrets even when he was mostly not paying attention - being splayed out like this under his direct attention was oddly erotic. John felt like he was naked already, even though he was still almost entirely clothed.

"I want to see your scar," Sherlock announced suddenly.

John wriggled his shoulders a bit. Just as well he wasn't wearing a jumper tonight, just a simple button-down shirt and dress pants, which happened to have been the only things in his closet appropriate for staking out gay bars. "Whatever you want - I'm not going to bite."

Sherlock scowled suddenly and reached for the buttons at John's collar. "I don't know why I'm reacting like this," he grumbled. "It's not like I've never - well, I've never actually seen you shirtless, but you've seen me in just trousers loads of times. I'm not a prude, I'm not shy about the human body, I'm not embarrassed by nudity - but look." He held his hand up in front of John's face, close enough for John to see the faint tremor. "Why am I shaking?"

"Post-traumatic stress disorder manifests differently in different people. Think of it as proof you're not really the robot some people accuse you of being." John let his eyes fall to where Sherlock was deftly unbuttoning his shirt, tremor or no. "I'm guessing everything just feels different because now you're seeing it in a sexual context."

Sherlock snorted and moved on to the next button.

"Would it help to take that part out?" John willed his body to hold still as the backs of Sherlock's fingers grazed his abdomen. "Think of this as an experiment in sensation and manipulation - focus on how you can make my body react to you. Just practice gathering data. No expectation of any particular result - on either side."

Sherlock's eyes flicked up to John's face, then he very deliberately slid a fingertip underneath the edge of John's shirt and caressed John's stomach. John's hips twitched involuntarily. "Hmmm," Sherlock said, and added a second finger alongside the first.

John let his head drop back onto the pillow and closed his eyes. "You have no idea what you do to me by just being here," he admitted.

"I make your heart rate increase by approximately twenty beats per minute, I make your cheeks flush, and your pupils dilated almost thirty percent in the time it took me to finish the knots in the ropes," Sherlock answered instantly.

"Okay, so you do know." John did squirm a bit, loving the feel of Sherlock's fingers on his skin. "Keep going."

Sherlock hummed noncommittally and finished unbuttoning the rest of the shirt, but John's admission had its intended effect - Sherlock was now watching him closely, studying and analyzing and thinking. Which were sexy enough when Sherlock was on a case, but were downright dizzying when directed at John's person from less than two feet away. Sherlock's face was still placid as ever, but his eyes were bright with speculation and it was really damn hot. John felt the urge to squirm a bit more and allowed it, determined not to hide any of his reactions. As if he could really hide anything from Sherlock anyway.

Sherlock flicked the edges of John's shirt away from his chest and tugged one side upward, baring John's scarred shoulder. John knew it wasn't a pretty sight - a patch of marred skin the size of his palm where the scapula met the humeral head - but Sherlock was predictably fascinated. He traced one long fingertip around the perimeter of the scar, then pressed down firmly in the center where the bullet had torn through.

"Does it still hurt?"

"Not usually."


John frowned. "Not really, just - altered. The nerves took a beating when I stitched up the hole, and it took a while for the other medical guys to get to me, so they weren't able to do as neat a job as they would have liked. Parts of it have no sensation at all and parts are oversensitive."

Sherlock stilled. "You sewed it yourself."

"I - I'd rather not talk about it. But yes."

"Damn." Sherlock blew out a long breath and closed his eyes for a moment. "How is it you manage to still surprise me, even though we've been living together for months?"

John snorted. "Most people would say 'months' wasn't long enough to learn much of anything."

"Most people are idiots." Sherlock leaned forward and placed a close-mouthed kiss to the scar before tugging the edge of the shirt back over it. "Can I see more of you?" he asked.

The immediate redirection of blood to John's groin told him exactly what "more" his body wanted Sherlock to look at. John nodded. "Do you want me to take the shirt off the rest of the way?" he asked. Please say yes . . .

Sherlock pressed his lips together, but then he slid upward and undid the velcro on the cuffs around John's wrists. John sat up and quickly shucked his shirt, then looked back at his flatmate. "Trousers on, or off?"

"Ah, on. For now."

"Okay." John lay back down and let Sherlock re-bind him. Now their relative positions felt very definitely sexual - it didn't help that Sherlock was still in his leather jacket and tight trousers and both emphasized every line of his lean body whenever he moved. John started to avert his gaze, but quickly caught himself. This entire exercise was about Sherlock, and Sherlock deserve to know the truth about how much his mere presence turned John on. If he was going to be uncomfortable about it, now was as good a time as any to get that out in the open.

So John didn't hide his gaze as he let his eyes travel up and down Sherlock's body, lingering on all the things he had been trying so hard to ignore the rest of the evening. The way Sherlock's trousers molded over his hips, the hint of pale throat peeking through the unbuttoned collar of the tight maroon shirt, those long, thin fingers . . . John didn't suppress his little jump when Sherlock trailed those fingers over John's chest and brushed his right nipple. Sherlock made no sign of noticing, though, just set about to tracing his fingertips over every exposed inch of John's skin.

"You're the first live body I've really had a chance to examine like this up close," Sherlock murmured. "It's more different from a cadaver than I expected."

"I should hope so."

"Not that. It's -" Sherlock palmed the side of John's neck, and John drew in a shaky breath at the touch. "It's more than the obvious physiological differences in skin temperature and whatnot. It's different knowing you're observing me while I observe you. The sensation is more intimate than I thought it would be."

John was dying to ask how much of this Sherlock's previous partner (partners?) had allowed, whether Sherlock had even been treated as a bloody human rather than just a fuck toy, but he had promised not to pry and it wasn't exactly the topic Sherlock probably wanted to talk about right now, anyway. And he had a sinking feeling that the answer was no, not really.

Sherlock could probably read his mind, of course - well, deduce him - but the detective was unusually silent. His face was a study in concentration as he took his time exploring John's skin, tracing and caressing and massaging his arms and shoulders and scalp and neck and chest until John was thoroughly squirming beneath him. If John was being honest with himself, this was a new experience for him too, this observation without the assumed headlong rush to a foregone conclusion. If John had been in this position with any of his previous partners, they would have been fucking each other into the mattress ten minutes ago. Sherlock was different - more clinical, certainly, but also a certain wonder that John wished he could see more often.

John's breath caught when Sherlock's palm finally trailed down and rested flat on his stomach. Yeah, very definite interest from his cock there, too - John's pants were suddenly way too tight . . .

"I love the way your hands feel on me," he whispered aloud.

Sherlock's eyes darted from John's abdomen to his face. Undoubtedly taking in the color of his flush, the pace of his breathing, the speed of his pulse, the dilation of his irises - all those little markers John usually tried to hide when Sherlock had this effect on him. It was liberating to put his arousal on display for once.

"You're very aroused. Noticeably erect."

John snorted. "No shit."

"But I haven't touched your genitalia yet."

John opened his mouth, then closed it again while he figured out how to respond to that. "That's not strictly necessary," he finally said in a carefully neutral voice. "I mean, you can if you want to - God, I'd love it if you did - but it's not like there aren't other erogenous zones on the human body. You could probably get me absolutely panting for you without ever touching my cock."

Something lit in Sherlock's eyes - that calculating, determined look the detective usually got when he was close to cracking a case. Seeing it in this context made John shiver. And suddenly realize what he had just said.

"Not that I'm - fuck, Sherlock. You're going to take that as a challenge, aren't you."

Sherlock nodded slowly. "The idea of you absolutely panting for me is . . . definitely appealing."

John squeezed his eyes shut and groaned. "Shit."

He heard Sherlock's low chuckle. "Not all of you hates the idea." Sherlock's hand drifted lower on his stomach, fingertips dipping below John's waistband. "Part of you is extremely interested, in fact. May I?"


Sherlock withdrew his hand, then John felt a gentle jerking movement at his zipper. He opened his eyes and lifted his head a bit to watch Sherlock unbutton his trousers, tugging them just open enough to drag them a few inches down John's hips. He ran his fingers along John's skin, dragging the band of John's pants down with them, and then John was springing free and completely, gloriously erect. John's hips nudged upward of their own volition, seeking friction, but all John's aching cock met was Sherlock's assessing gaze.

"I -" Sherlock swallowed hard. "You're circumcised."

". . . Yeah." John shrugged, but couldn't drag his eyes from Sherlock's face.

"Slightly longer than average, approximately average girth."

John licked his lips. "It's what I've got, okay? Are you going to stay there all day and stare?"

Sherlock's eyebrows drew together. "You did say I was welcome to take my time - am I doing it wrong?"

John closed his eyes and thumped his head back onto the pillow. "No, not wrong. Just - I liked it better when you were touching me, is all."

"Oh." Sherlock shifted his weight on the bed, then his hands came down, warm and gentle, at John's waist. "I think I liked that better, too." He skimmed his palms upward, over the sides of John's ribs, then inward over John's pectoral muscles and maddeningly close to his nipples without actually touching them. John arched his back a bit, but kept his eyes closed. This would get embarrassing fast if he was actually able to watch Sherlock's enraptured expression as he worked.

Not that it wasn't rapidly becoming difficult to stay calm anyway. Sherlock had obviously been paying attention on his last pass-through. This time, his clever fingers went unerringly to John's most sensitive places - the sides of his neck, the little dip between his hipbones and the softer-than-he'd-like portion of his belly, his nipples. Even carding through his hair, fingernails trailing across John's scalp in a way that made him shiver and arch like an overgrown cat.

"Should I take off my shirt, too?" Sherlock asked after several long minutes.

John dragged his eyes open. "If you want," he answered.

"I'm asking what you want, John. Would seeing me shirtless arouse you more?"

Christ, did it ever . . . John licked his lips - aware how much of his internal thought process that little action probably gave away - and swallowed hard. "You really want to know what I'd find the hottest?"

Sherlock just looked at him, waiting.

"Right - you look fucking amazing right like that, but I think . . . I'd love it if you unbuttoned your shirt but left it on. Your jacket too. I want to see just teases of your gorgeous skin, little glimpses when you move - God, those pants fit you like you were poured into them." He took a deep breath, aware that he was probably revealing more than he intended, but right now he didn't care. "I've never seen you in those before, but I'm going to be seeing you every time I wank now."

Sherlock's eyes sharpened. "You wank over me?"

Shit, shouldn't have said that. "I, ah, try not to, but -"

And then Sherlock was doing exactly as John had requested, unbuttoning his silk shirt so there was a tempting gleam of pale flesh right down the middle but everything else was hidden behind fabric and shadows. John's throat went instantly dry. Which Sherlock, the bastard, of course immediately noticed.

"Oh, you do like this. Why haven't you ever said anything?"

Hell if I know. But of course that was a lie; John knew very well why he had never actually made a move on his flatmate. Bad-ass army doctor and danger addict John Watson had been afraid. Afraid of Sherlock rejecting him, deducing him in that maddeningly detached way of his and then discarding him when he was no longer useful. It was safer to try to ignore it, ignore everything -

"You didn't want to risk it," Sherlock said in answer to his own question after studying John's face for a long moment.

John looked away. "You were very clear about being married to your work," he mumbled.

"But I didn't know you then. I do now." Sherlock resumed stroking John's chest, gently digging his fingertips into the little dimples between the muscles and massaging John's skin in odd places and it felt fucking fantastic. "I trust you not to make fun of me for - well, for if I have a panic attack." He leaned down, close enough to ghost a long breath over John's ribs, making John tremble all over. "I feel I'm doing rather well right now, don't you?"

His lips touched skin and John moaned. He could feel the smug satisfaction absolutely radiating off Sherlock as the detective kissed him again, little tentative brushes and licks which weren't anywhere near enough sensation, not in the right places, but he was so damn tense already and John wasn't lying, he would be wanking about this for months even if Sherlock stopped right this minute and left him lying alone and embarrassed on his bed. He wanted to do it right now, in fact, wanted to reach down and give his poor neglected cock some attention, but Sherlock never backed down when he was determined to do something and right now he had ahold of this idea of cranking John up without touching him properly and there was damn near nothing John could do about it. Which in itself was bloody arousing. The whole thing was a vicious cycle.

"Please, Sherlock - do something." Patience was all well and good, but it was a lot harder to be patient when he was so damned turned on -

Sherlock hummed, the deep vibrations reverberating through John's chest where Sherlock's mouth was pressed to his collarbone. "Do what, like this?" And he shifted downward to take John's nipple between his lips.

John was pretty sure he was swearing with real words, but he hadn't the faintest idea which ones. Sherlock shimmied a little bit, clearly excited to have elicited such a strong reaction, and then the damned detective settled in to play. John writhed within the limited space of movement the ropes allowed, but he couldn't get away from Sherlock's fingers and lips and teeth and tongue as Sherlock fucking tortured his nipples. Little nips and pinches and sudden suction and hot, wet licks followed by cold air when Sherlock blew on them. John's hips were rocking entirely of their own accord now, thrusting up into empty air, and John was sure his cock was leaking a steady stream of precome all over itself, but Sherlock paid John's lower half no attention whatsoever. There was no bloody way John was going to be able to articulate what he wanted to Sherlock, though, so he had to settle for squirming and moaning and swearing and praying that his flatmate would fucking deduce the message already.

"My God," Sherlock breathed against John's skin, "you weren't kidding. This is fantastic. Would you say you're absolutely panting for me yet, do you think?"

John pressed his head back into the pillow and groaned. "If I say yes, will you finally fucking touch me already?"

Sherlock delivered another flat lick to John's already-overstimulated nipple. "I am touching you."

"Touch my cock, Sherlock. Bloody - uuungh." He squeezed his eyes shut as Sherlock nibbled the pebbled bud with his front teeth. "I'm aching so hard right now . . ."

Sherlock finally - finally! - abandoned John's tender nipples and sat up to inspect the rest of him. John knew exactly what he would see - flushed skin all over, involuntary squirming, his cock rock-hard and dripping and Christ, so ready - but right now John couldn't be arsed to care. The hell with being quiet and patient and understanding - he needed Sherlock's hand or mouth or his gorgeous ass around his cock this very minute or he was very likely going to die. And John told him so, in one long stream of mostly-profanity which was no less precise for its coarseness. One more skill he had to thank his time in the army for, John supposed.

For all Sherlock's detached observation and inspection, though, John could tell the detective was not totally unmoved. Those tight leather pants didn't hide much, no matter how impassive Sherlock kept his expression. Which, right now, wasn't as much "impassive" as "confused and a bit unsure and really fucking turned on." Served him right for taking so bloody long to get around to the point -

Sherlock's eyes dipped to John's neck. He slowly, deliberately lowered his head and nuzzled John's chin to the side with his cheek. And then latched on to John's trapezius at the same time his hand stole down and wrapped itself around John's cock. It took less than ten seconds for John to come.

When John finally returned to Earth and opened his eyes somewhat dazedly, Sherlock was still fondling him lazily and nuzzling at the hollow behind his ear.

"Better?" Sherlock murmured.

John groaned and let his head loll to the other side to give Sherlock better access.

"You look gorgeous when you come, you know," Sherlock whispered. "All tense and every muscle locked up and then you shuddered and had the most amazing expression on your face. I like knowing I did that to you."

Typical Sherlock. John gave an amused snort, even though he felt too languid at the moment to actually comment. It may not have been the best orgasm of his life, in retrospect, but it was certainly one of the most memorable and it probably at least made the top ten. And it was with Sherlock, fucking Sherlock, which was mind-blowing all on its own.

John's brain started tentatively firing again and he slowly realized that Sherlock was still hard. He couldn't see Sherlock's face - still pressed against his neck - and even though John would have bet half his salary that Sherlock had a smug look right now, the lines of his back and his shoulders told John everything he needed to know about the state of Sherlock's cock.

"Let me touch you."

Sherlock pulled back to look into his face and John suddenly wished he had kept his mouth shut. Well, kind of wished - he had promised to be hands-off tonight. But a rather larger part of him wanted to see Sherlock just as undone as he was feeling right now, and Sherlock looked just as conflicted as John felt.

John hurried to clarify. "Only if you want me to, of course, but if it's okay - I want to unzip your trousers and slide my hand down to touch you and get you off too. You and me together."

Sherlock still didn't answer, and John suddenly realized he must have overstepped. He had promised to be hands-off, to keep sex off the table for tonight . . . "Sorry, I didn't mean - I promised -"

"Yes," Sherlock interrupted.

John searched Sherlock's face for signs of whatever-it-was that had set him off earlier in the evening, but all he saw was interest and lust. John managed to catch the end of the velcro strap with one hand and work the cuff off, and then he had a hand free and he was reaching for Sherlock. And Sherlock didn't seem to mind one bit - curious, more than anything.

"How do we -"

"Scoot up a bit more. Kneel over me, God yes, like that - you can go back to that spot on my neck if you want to -"

Sherlock did, lowering his torso so they were chest-to-chest and he could easily nuzzle at John again. John had Sherlock's trousers and pants opened in five seconds flat - one-handed and without being able to see what he was doing - and then Sherlock's warm cock was in his hand and they both shivered. Sherlock made an inarticulate sound from somewhere in the vicinity of John's ear. John pumped him once, twice, three times, and then Sherlock was groaning and and a welcome warmth was joining the sticky pool already on John's stomach. Sherlock managed to shift himself over enough to only collapse halfway on top of John, then went boneless.

John quickly made work of his other wrist restraint. He worked his arms around Sherlock's chest, cradling Sherlock's head on his good shoulder, and let himself enjoy just being this close to his flatmate. Best friend. Lover? Boyfriend?

Screw labels. Labels are hard. All that mattered now was the smell of Sherlock's expensive shampoo in his nostrils and the tickle of his hair against John's chin and the warm weight of his body as he snuggled so close it felt like he was trying to merge their bodies through some sort of tricky post-coital osmosis. They lay curled together for a long while.

Eventually Sherlock stirred. John tightened his hold, just for a moment, then forced himself to let go in case Sherlock wanted to get up. But the detective seemed content to stay where he was, so John threaded his fingers through Sherlock's hair instead.

"Thank you," Sherlock mumbled.

"You too."

"No really. I know it wasn't easy to go that slow. I can do better next time, I promise, I -"

John pulled himself up enough to shut Sherlock up with a kiss. "No," he said after Sherlock stopped trying to talk. "You're not going to apologize for what we just did, because it was bloody perfect just like it was."

Sherlock's eyes clouded. "But we didn't actually - I mean, I didn't go down on you. We didn't even get our trousers off, for goodness sake. I thought you'd want -"

John pressed two fingers to Sherlock's lips. "Stop. What I want is you. Not your mouth or your fingers or your ass or your cock, but you, Sherlock, the brain and the body all together. I don't care about which body parts are going where - I care about that look you had on your face just before you came, and the look just after, and knowing I put both of those there. And as long as you're comfortable with whatever we're doing, I'm happy. Understood?"

Sherlock's eyes widened and he nodded mutely.

"Good. Because I'm going to untie my legs now, and you're going to stay right here. And I'm going to go get a warm washcloth and clean us both up, and then I'm going to get us both undressed down to our underpants, and then we're going to curl up under the covers together and get some sleep. Even you, the insomniac wonder. Because it will require every bit of your extra stamina to keep up with me tomorrow. We still have a lot of experimenting to do." He shot Sherlock a lascivious grin. "I did mention I don't have to be at the surgery until noon, didn't I?"