"It Feels So Right Now"
by Street Howitzer
"No, not really my area," Sherlock said, because that was usually enough to shake the average idiot. Statistics held such weight in his deductions; assumptions branched from confirmed data he'd collected, knowns fruiting into unknowns. And the numbers he'd run through his mind suggested that John, a socially adept and polite man, would take the clue dropped into his lap and get back to eating.
The doctor, for the second time that evening, played merry-hell with Sherlock's projections. "All right. Do you have a boyfriend?"
He gave John a look, one that was supposed to convey You might want to shut up now, and John was not fucking getting it. Taking his possible-flatmate's irritation as an admission of-
Sherlock made that line of questioning as uncomfortable for John as he could improvise. No, it wasn't fair to John, and it likely turned him off the idea of sharing 221b. Those questions, the blunt acceptance evident in everything John said-it couldn't stand. He knew what happened when he didn't draw a boundary straightaway.
People got stupid ideas.
Victor was the first, and though he often studied his memories of Trevor, Sherlock hadn't felt a thing. He'd believed Victor when he'd described their meetings as "just hanging out". He'd scanned Victor once-handsome, he supposed, except for his eyes, so dark they appeared vacant of all intelligence-and deemed him sincere. He'd said yes, he'd had nothing better to do; and to his shock, Victor wasn't bad company. He watched Victor alternate between a joint and a cigarette as they spoke; he started taking puffs from Victor's cigarettes during their second meeting, after Victor called himself a social smoker.
Sitting in his own flat, or in Victor's, smoking and talking. His schoolmate didn't understand half of what Sherlock said, but he nodded a lot, smiled more, and tried to listen.
Then came their fifth meeting-to be accurate, what Victor'd called "hanging out" when he'd meant "dating". Victor said things to Sherlock he'd never dreamed anyone would say. He'd stared glass-eyed at his fellow uni-student until Victor took silence for acceptance and stole his first kiss. Sherlock had shut his eyes. His distant studies on the topic of romance said that this was polite, and that one's first kiss was a life-changing event. His lips parted against Victor's generous mouth. He waited for his life to change.
An hour later, he sat nervously fellating a cigarette as Victor snoozed on the bed behind him. His legs were folded so that his knees pressured his collarbones. He sat, smoking and swaying to and fro, feeling spent and sore and tacky with sweat, and a sort of queasiness ticking like a sickly organic clock stitched into his stomach. He hadn't been assaulted. He'd consented to everything. Sex wasn't why he'd desired Victor's company, but it seemed necessary to keep his not-really-a-friend close.
Why hadn't he enjoyed it?
Victor was a year older, he dominated the football-field, he was wildly popular at parties (which, Sherlock knew, was because of Victor's willingness to take any pill plunked in front of him and endure the effects to the amusement of all). He was darkly attractive, olive skin and lovely black hair, a wide, charming grin... and Sherlock had felt nothing. Not when Victor'd kissed him, nor when they'd retired to his bedroom. Well, not entirely true-he felt like he ran and hid in some faraway corner of his brain. Like his body went on autopilot after ten minutes of Victor's head between his legs, falling autonomically into a joyless, rubbery orgasm, something that happened because it must.
Sociopath, he thought. Time for him to act the part.
He ground his cigarette to death, dressed silently in the dark, slipped out the front door, and never spoke to Victor again.
Sherlock Holmes acquired two reputations in his time at university, one of which had to be the kindest rumor ever circulated. Most people, he presumed, wouldn't like being called "that waxy-faced freak who thinks he's Captain of the Sex Police", but "waxy-faced freak" had a pleasing poetic rhythm, and he'd heard worse at primary-school. The only relevant part was the recognition of his deductive abilities.
These he'd honed since he was a boy, and if feeling proud of the culmination of twenty years of constant effort made him a vain prick, a vain prick he was. His base intelligence was a gift from his parental figures. The rest was Sherlock's doing. When Sherlock was five, Mycroft read him stories of changeling-children, and he'd fantasized that he was a removed, confused, fey creature forced to live among humans-loud, brutal, confusing beasts, all of them taken with nonsense he didn't understand, all furious or disappointed in him for not knowing their bizarre rules. At the age of nine, he'd written thirteen pages of observations on himself and paged through several psychiatric textbooks. "Sociopath", the texts agreed; that had been enough for him. The texts also said no one was formally diagnosed with sociopathy before the age of majority. He ignored that. There was a first time for everything, and surely there were born sociopaths.
He'd burned all his notes, along with any desire to directly examine his personality. He didn't have one.
Which led to his second reputation. It built during the last year he'd wasted in formal studies, and told an entirely different story of Sherlock Holmes than the first. No one dared to so much as bring it up obliquely when he was about, but he read it in the defensive tensing of shoulders and the speculative, grinning looks he got when people though he couldn't see them in his peripheral. In addition to his football-star status and his pillhead antics, Victor was one of twenty-nine men on campus who fell into the statistical group "cis gay men, subgroup: out".
Victor was telling stories. And, by that time, he couldn't be the only storyteller. Sherlock had fallen into his fated role with gusto; throw away an idiot bit of rough like Victor, and find a queue of people gasping for a bag-off with Holmes. Three women after Victor, primarily to test his own reactions. He functioned in the same robotic, thoughtless way. Then five men, he was choosy, selecting whoever had that perfect combination of typical gorgeousness and emotional neediness. He felt nothing. Every damned time. He told all of them, male and female, that he'd not enjoyed a moment of it. Attacked their sexual prowess, brought up painfully-accurate deductions about their childhoods-whatever it took for them to leave.
When it was over, he just wanted to be alone.
His newfound rep, he presumed, was "he's a freak in the sack, a ruddy sadist-keep clear of him".
Post-graduation, Sherlock slipped a ring on the delicate hand of his Work. Setting up his consulting detective business, manipulating the Yarders until they saw sense and asked his advice, experiments and research, all time-consuming. He'd learned long ago that saying "Not interested" wasn't enough on its own-people got silly ideas about melting ice-queens-and the Work was a reason everybody bought.
He didn't know why he had to have a goddamned reason. Or why "I don't want to fuck you" was a grievous insult, something he avoided saying because he didn't want to deal with the inevitable, explosive reaction.
Mycroft sometimes asked whether his little brother was lonely. Sherlock's practiced response was an observation that cuddling umbrellas was a great deal more lonely than the field-work Mycroft was too lazy to handle. It worked to shut him up, or derail the conversation.
Of course he wasn't lonely. He'd his Work, the slowly-growing respect of a network of clients. If the rare occasion arrived where his hormones stampeded his thoughts, and a solo act didn't work, he picked someone up for the night. (It helped that he'd finally learned to use the Victor Method to escape-far less stressful and embarrassing than the You're A Nightmare In Bed Method.) And a time came when he fell out of that habit, the Work subsumed his whole life, and celibacy wasn't just an easier option, it was natural. His boundaries wrapped thick and opaque round him-the horrors he witnessed stopped giving him nightmares and fits of rocking, every move he made became a perfect mimicry of normal human mannerisms. The more isolated he was, the more effectively he worked.
And John ruined everything.
He'd ensnared his flatmate due to a recently-developed conclusion. The various Yarders who played assistant were worse than useless, and after working with Sherlock, they weren't his biggest fans. He couldn't rely on them. He needed someone who'd fulfill a part that was frustratingly, obviously necessary: someone who'd fall in love with his Work with a fervor like his own, and respect his blunt list of I don't talk for days on end, I play the violin when I'm thinking, No girlfriends and no boyfriends. Someone who'd get lost in a case alongside him, and at the end of the day, leave him to muddle through the dark days of Work-withdrawal.
A Yarder didn't suit. And how much simpler would it be to share a home with an assistant? He wouldn't have to take whoever Lestrade threw at him, and an assistant who shared his flat was an assistant with twenty-four-hour availability.
John worked for him. Better than Sherlock fantasized.
The doctor proved to be an intensely fascinating mix of contradictions-and this came from a man resigned to not understanding other humans outside of statistical probability. John had PTSD, but coped with the disorder by seeking out danger; he got a charge each time he escaped in one piece. That was easy. As weeks wore into months, another aspect of John Watson became clear to him. He was an utterly sexual man with a list of ex-lovers that, according to calculations, was thrice as long as Sherlock's; he was attracted to Sherlock from the moment they met and realized it at Angelo's.
And he never tried to crack Sherlock's exterior. Never dreamed of being the one, the invisible pink unicorn of humankind. Sherlock told John not to cross that line, and he didn't. And weirder yet, John didn't come off as a long-suffering Nice Guy pining for what he couldn't have. He didn't push Sherlock into the agonizing corner where he had to decide between another meaningless encounter or losing a reliable assistant. Hell, he wasn't waiting for Sherlock-he'd dated Sarah.
He was the first person who didn't want Sherlock changed, medicated, or institutionalized. He liked the way things were at Baker Street. John liked Sherlock as he was.
Then why did he want to change?
"You all right?"
"You left off in the middle of a sentence."
"It wasn't important."
"Okay. But you've been sitting there for three hours."
Spindly fingers massaged his temples. "I was thinking."
"I guess you were. Thought I'd check in." John thunked a steaming mug of tea on the end-table. Sherlock watched those small, clever hands as they released the mug, then disappeared into John's trouser-pockets. He'd gotten fonder of John's hands in the last month, his gaze drawn to them over and over, regardless of what Work surrounded him. "Sherlock, are you sure you're okay?"
"Good." He cleared his throat. "Uh. My eyes are up here."
Oh, stupid-staring at the bulging shapes of John's hands in his pockets was a social impossibility to most people, it looked like he was gawking at a different bulge. He turned from his flatmate, watched the steam rise from the lip of his mug. "There's a quarter-inch tear to the left of your jeans-zipper."
"I know," John said, a curious tenseness in his voice; he didn't like Sherlock pointing out the shabbiness of his wardrobe. "We've got nothing on. I wasn't planning on leaving the flat."
"Fine," Sherlock said-he wasn't listening anymore. The cringing, burning illness he experienced when he knew he'd done John wrong ate his attention, drew him back to the same sullen monologue of self-analysis he'd disappeared into for hours. He hated saying the wrong thing. Hated this distraction. Hated the loss of focus.
But for all that, he didn't hate John.
He curled up on the sofa as the mug of tea went from piping-hot to stone-cold, as patches of sunlight crawled over the walls and faded into gray indifference. His hands steepled over his chest until a dull throb in his fingertips told him they'd fallen asleep. His flatmate checked on him four times, his landlady twice. Mrs. Hudson asked him about the case he must be grinding away at, got no answer, shook her head and left. John never said anything, just stood in the foyer, looked Sherlock over, padded back upstairs.
Choosing not to respond to stimuli was a far cry from not seeing or hearing it. Sherlock did not react to the half-dozen interruptions, but he saw that Mrs. Hudson drank too heavily on her lunch-break because her herbal soothers didn't hold any power over her arthritic hip. He saw that she and the doctor believed that Sherlock didn't know they were there. Mrs. Hudson worried that this fugue was a relapse into drugs, or the lead-in to one. He saw that John had lied earlier; heard John in his bedroom ringing someone to cancel plans for a bar-crawl, on account of his sick flatmate. He saw John wondering when Sherlock last ate, and, during his last visit, why Sherlock checked him out.
Head cocked at a speculative angle, dark blue eyes narrow, brow furrowed, frowning like a teacher checking the work of an inept student. He thinks I'm after him. He used to think I was asexual. Now he thinks I'm a liar.
But he wasn't, and that was the problem that paralyzed Sherlock. He flipped through the film-reel of his relationship with the doctor, and he'd only been honest. He'd wanted friendship and assistance from John. That was all. He recognized that John was handsome in a conservative way, the way he recognized the loveliness of the stars: appreciation, no attachment, no driving need to know anything more.
That changed. Change wasn't lying.
Once he sorted out how, he'd enlighten John as to the difference.
Sherlock woke when a creeping arm of sunlight laid bright, warm hands on his face. He shrugged aching shoulders, pops rippled up his spine, he gritted his teeth. His brain caught up with his body in twelve seconds, calculated that he'd slept an acceptable four hours. His phone was chirping.
John joined him an hour later, unshowered and dressed in a dark-blue sweatshirt and jeans (frustration devolving into depression). Sherlock took all this in with one glance, said "There's coffee on the stovetop," and returned to the text he was composing to a network of London reporters.
It wasn't an incredible gesture. He hadn't wanted to wait for John to wake up and brew it for him. Making an entire pot of coffee was more practical than on a cup-by-cup basis, with how they swilled it. Naturally there'd be something left over for the doctor. John smiled anyhow, dark eyes narrowing (surprised, pleased, confused). "Thanks. I could do with a cup or six."
"Don't bother with breakfast," Sherlock said. By all appearances, his attention was on his fingertips as they tapped out Dull, Lestrade. Daughter did it. Check the walls of her bedroom. SH. "We might be leaving shortly. I'll get you something along the way."
Sherlock's review of their friendship informed him that he frequently starved John in the midst of a case. This was the easiest of his various blunders to fix-and once he made up his mind, he'd practiced how to offer John food while not taking too much time from a potential case. Maybe that was too far. The little doctor stared at him, looking strangely... aggravated, went back to adding milk to his coffee-mug. "Okay. What's eating you, Sherlock? It's not terminal, is it?"
"Don't make me regret this," Sherlock said, eyes on his mobile. He'd deliberately set this up, drawn this very reaction out of John, but he didn't know what to do outside the bounds of what he'd rehearsed. "I'm-I'm trying. You've lost four pounds in the last month. We've been working a lot of late."
He watched as John spun some mental decoder-ring, translating Sherlock's paradoxical, frankly-vague words into something he understood. A smile tugged at the corner of the detective's mouth. His flatmate missed so much, but his struggle to outdo his natural limitations was admirable. He watched John arrive at the correct inference: I'm worried about you. Let me take care of you.
He watched the lurking, angry sadness behind John's every motion and word melt into an expression defying all categorization.
Sherlock's mobile rattled it dropped to the arm-rest. Nine minutes later, it chirped, the screen briefly lit up with Lestrade's reply.
Sherlock wasn't around to hear it.
John asked him upstairs, and-to give the doctor his due-Sherlock saw him flexing his left hand as he strode ahead (nervous, not thinking clearly). An invitation to someone's bedroom was usually an unsubtle request for sex. Sherlock didn't see that intent in his flatmate, nervous and strangely excited though he was. He wanted to talk where Mrs. Hudson wouldn't hear. Thoughtful. Kind.
John held the door open for him, shut it after he stepped in. He stood with his back to Sherlock, staring at the old paneling on his door, and took a swig of his coffee. He said: "Right. I'm not an idiot, Sherlock, but I'm not following you. What're you trying?"
The words he'd concocted in the stairwell vanished; his mind. The very end of the monologue was the lone survivor-nonsense about need and change, all skeletal and stupid, nothing he was willing to say. It was a shame, how respectfully distant John was. Any other morning, distance would be what Sherlock needed.
"Nothing," he said, "I'm innocent." He took a step. Thin hands rested on the doctor's slumped shoulders; he jolted, relaxed into a gorgeous shivering as Sherlock's hands slid down his back. Part of the detective's mind named each muscle as his palms passed over them; then he got to external oblique and John made a sound, this breathless noise, and Sherlock lost all his Latin. Was that a moan? Did he want John to moan that way? Was the fluttering sickness in his stomach revulsion? He stared at the back of John's head, doing everything he could not to scream, or burst out crying, or lash out and unthinkingly land a punch; too many things could go wrong, and where-
A mellow voice (concerned, embarrassed) said "Earth to Sherlock-Christ, am I gonna have to do everything?"
"What?" Sherlock said, because John was supposed to be grateful beyond words, getting the physical contact from his flatmate he'd wanted all this time. He sounded as though Sherlock had done something wrong-he stepped away, his pale face carefully assuming the blank expression Sherlock preferred to cringing.
John turned to face him. He was smiling. He stood on his toes, and he tasted like the one-milk-no-sugar coffee he'd just drunk, warm and bitter and good, the word for that feeling making Sherlock's stomach clench and little trembles of energy burst up his spine.
His brain typically recorded every second of his life in astonishing detail-he could always delete the extraneous later-but John was different, one kiss and Sherlock retreated somewhere deep into this feeling, this novel strangeness, and when he reconnected to his body, he laid on the coverlet of John's bed. Perpendicular to the pillows, stretched out on his left side, still fully dressed. The mug sat on the end-table, the bottom hanging off the edge by half an inch. And John lay beside him, arm draped over Sherlock's hip, John's tongue entreating his lips.
How did they get here? Did it matter?
He shut his eyes, and another sector of his hard-drive crashed along with his eyelids. He should be able to narrow down how many people John'd kissed based on confidence and technique, judge John's arousal from the temperature of his mouth, and finally resolve one of the few things he'd not pinpointed-the level of dominance John fancied-by where John first touched him and how. He should be, but he wasn't. Processing each physical sensation and his own hormonal reaction was all he could manage, he couldn't shrink John down into a comprehensive, blunt deduction. He tried (one full degree warmer than Sherlock; smells: coffee, faded cologne, likewise-faded sweat, mixed herbs from the dim sum they'd shared last night; pulse increased by as much as one-quarter), but John disrupted his focus with a thrust of his tongue.
But why was John different?
His flatmate soothed rough hands across Sherlock's back, and Sherlock didn't feel disgust, just an instinct to unbutton his shirt and shed it as soon as possible, let John worship pale, bare skin. John bit and licked his way down the detective's throat, John's teeth latched onto one of his nipples, grinding pale firmness; and Sherlock's fingers wove through short blond hair, his head fell back on the coverlet as he breathed something that could have been "John" and could have been "more". His mental processes weren't up to speed. He'd need more information, more of John, to build a working hypothesis. More than usual.
He waited, in the same pensive way he'd observed Victor's seduction, for this to turn out the same as ever.
Fourteen minutes later, Sherlock developed a hypothesis: John had planned this out. Not for this morning, specifically, but getting the detective into bed, that was something John'd considered in grave, exacting detail. If Sherlock could recall why he'd wanted a hypothesis in the first place, he'd be golden. Difficult to remember when John's plan involved kneeling on the floor between Sherlock's parted, bare legs, his lips tight round the base of Sherlock's sex, sucking gently, tongue flexing and coiling along the shaft.
And John was no Victor, or Lynda, or any of the others-Sherlock wanted to be this hard, he wanted John to draw delighted shudders down his back, he wanted to arch into that welcoming mouth, he wanted more. His flatmate hummed, the vibration sang over his cock, and it felt like a devilish subroutine activated somewhere in his cortex, a new mental process to replace those John'd shut down, one geared entirely round John Watson.
He let his assistant suck and lick as he liked, he let John press a slick finger into him (when had he gotten lubrication?), a poor substitute for what Sherlock wanted. He imagined rubbing his aching sex over every thought John'd had, grinding John's memories, sinking his teeth into the doctor's emotions, fucking his mind, climaxing in John's pure, untouched self, marking the only person he'd ever let this close as Sherlock's property. His hips jerked, John made a startled, choked noise, pulled back for a breath. His hand rocked in time with Sherlock's uneven half-thrusts, stretching, then curving, and-
He wasn't a virgin, nor was he uneducated; he knew all about the prostate, how it worked, and how it felt when stimulated, by fingers, by other means. None of that helped him. An unrestrained, feverish energy unfurled from the small of his back, filled his head with a roiling blue fog, his hands cramped and twitched and dug flaming-red rills across his own stomach, it was so much, it was too much. His vaunted powers of self-control crumbled, his dark curls fell in his face as his head snapped to and fro, goddamn it John's mouth was too hot and John's finger felt like a fist, he was lost in a wave of embarrassment. He knew how a normal sex partner responded to physical pleasure, knew that Sherlock looked nothing like that, that he looked like he was in the throes of a seizure and John would stop and he'd never...
"God! Sherlock! Are you hurt?"
Oh. John had stopped. That must be related to the burning in Sherlock's eyes, the cooling trails of wet trickling over his temples, the heartbroken hitch in his breath. He was crying. For his next sexual experiment, he could examine the hitherto-impossible idea that one could die of shame.
He curled up on the fake-suede coverlet, naked, damp and aching, arms round his folded legs, face hidden against his knees. Crying was the worst he could do, not that thinking that made the tears dry up. People didn't know how to respond to a weeping man, apart from losing all respect for him, or thinking the worst of themselves. John would think he'd hurt Sherlock so badly that nothing could repair it, and tell Sherlock to go cry it out alone; or he'd find himself disgusted with the sniveling detective, and send him downstairs with a false promise not to tell anyone about this little episode.
Sherlock would be alone.
He didn't know what he'd do if he was alone right now.
The mattress creaked and depressed as John sat beside him, near enough so that the doctor's left leg (still in his jeans, bare foot tapping with restrained impatience on the floorboards) was in his peripheral. "Do I need to take you to a hospital?"
He shook his head.
"Right. Um." John sighed; Sherlock heard the scrape of nails on skin, envisioned John scratching the back of his neck. "Did I do something wrong? Is there something I shouldn't have done?"
Deep breath, ignore how it caught, focus through the tears streaming from his eyes. Subtext. John wanted to know if he'd made Sherlock feel violated. He shook his head.
"Okay. Good. Do you need to be alone?"
That sounded oddly... calm. Like Sherlock's failure to perform like John wanted didn't bother him, just the though that Sherlock might have been hurt. He shook his head again.
"Can I touch you?"
He nodded, and John surprised him-he crawled back on the bed 'til he sat behind Sherlock, short legs wrapping round longer, folded limbs, arms crossing over his shuddering chest, chin coming to rest on the crook between Sherlock's shoulder and neck. Sort of like being spooned and bear-hugged all at once. Sherlock felt less naked, somehow, dressed in John, in spite of his flatmate's arousal pressed against him; he relaxed, muttered "Tighter."
And he didn't know why-he might never know-but John held him closer, went on holding him after any hope of sex must have faded, and John's only complaint came forty-three minutes later:
"I'm gonna faint if I don't get some breakfast. D'you want anything?"