NOTE: Slightly edited form of a story published on AO3 11/17/2011. Companion piece to Tonight, but can stand alone.

M/M ; Masturbation ; UST

Gutted by Kijakazibibi

John is in a mood.

John has been in a mood for days now. John thinks of himself as even-tempered and amiable, and compared to Sherlock he is. But that doesn't preclude him from working himself into a right snit sometimes and he is having one now, Sherlock thinks. Something is bothering John.

Clearly.

Sherlock has been studying this mood. He's not sure where it came from, what's driving it. He's even gone as far as to do a bit of research on the happenings in Afghanistan, past and present, just to see if this might be an anniversary reaction. It happens. It's quite common. Sherlock's father died on Easter. Since then, Sherlock always has moods on Easter, even when it falls later than the March date his father died. Even though he rarely even thinks about his father anymore. The cold fish bastard.

But, Afghanistan's been quiet in November through most of the current war. And Iraq before that, at least the times that correspond to John's deployments, so whatever is getting to John it probably isn't that.

A cab hoots from the street. Sherlock hears John coming down the stairs from his room, his tread light. Sherlock starts typing into the empty document on his desktop. In Spanish. The first paragraph of 100 Years of Solitude because that's just what pops into mind suddenly.

Sherlock hates it when his subconscious gets ironic.

John pokes his head in from the landing, just long enough to grab his coat from where he'd tossed it over the back of the chair when he got home. "I'm off." He turns without really looking at Sherlock and heads down to the ground floor without a pause.

Sherlock glances briefly over the screen of his laptop and purses his lips. Usually, John lets Sherlock know where he'll be because as he's told Sherlock pointedly more than once, it's polite, particularly among those who are most likely to end up dead in a ditch somewhere.

Sherlock has told John more than once that he considers himself less likely to end up dead in a ditch than most people, but John doesn't buy it. It's really appalling, getting that kind of attitude from John of all people. The man has already managed to end up on the nasty end of a Chinese torture device and wrapped in a truly hideous Semtex parka and he worries about Sherlock ending up dead in a ditch.

Really.

Sherlock sighs through his nose and shifts his bottom jaw so that the teeth edge along the top ones. It's a frustration habit the dentist warned him about, so he quit going to the dentist and has, for the most part, stopped doing it.

He deletes Garcia Marquez with an unnecessarily ferocious jab to the keyboard and sets the computer aside. He stands up and goes to look out the window. If John was going to Sarah's he'd have walked. It's a nice night and she doesn't live far. John claims he walks everywhere to keep in some kind of shape. Sherlock knows he does it to save money.

So. A cab.

John had changed into jeans and one of his least-awful plaids since he'd gotten home from clinic, but he hadn't showered. He'd eaten dinner, brushed his teeth, neatened his hair, but that's it. So, it couldn't be a date. Sherlock studiously avoids keeping track of John's relationship with Sarah, but he's quite sure it's still going on and there's just no way John could run two women at once without making a total bollix of it. He's far too honest…. So, there's no woman at all tonight, at least not any John is interested in.

His sister, Harriet? Probably not. She's a drunk and it's Friday night. She'd claim she was busy. Unless she was in crisis. But, John's step down the stairs wouldn't have been so light. Sherlock has seen him head out to meet Harriet before and the man looked like he was going to witness an execution. And John certainly wouldn't spend money on a cab to go meet Harriet no matter what her state. He'd take the train or a bus or most likely walk, whichever was guaranteed to take him longer to get there and make him leave for home sooner.

The tips of Sherlock's fingers tap against each other as he stares out the window, not really seeing what's there. So. Friends or alone?

John has friends he meets with sometimes. The people he went to university with are responsible people, with jobs and families so late weekend nights are not their thing. They meet him after work for a single drink and then run off to get on with their busy lives. He only keeps up with a few friends from his childhood. One lives in Edinburgh now, another in the U.S. The one in Scotland is a priest, married, five kids, another responsible man not likely to be out late of a Friday night. Sherlock is not sure what the story is with the one living in the U.S., but he thinks John probably would have mentioned it if he was in town.

If John were going to meet with old buddies from the army he'd have on a rugby shirt, or something equally as casual and he'd dig through his dirty laundry for his rankest pair of jeans. He wouldn't have fixed his hair. There would be ever the slightest hitch in his gait, favoring his right leg. His left shoulder would sag just a bit lower from square. Sherlock has seen it happen before when John's gone to meet other soldiers. John isn't putting them on, playing up his wounds. It's subconscious. It happens other times too, when the war heats up and it's in the news again. If John was going to be with other soldiers, Sherlock knows that at dinner the line in the skin across the bridge of John's nose would have been deeper and the color in his eyes darker and steadier.

So. Alone then. No plans to meet anyone.

Or anyone he knows.

Sherlock rubs his fingers across his mouth. He goes and lies down on the gray couch with a deep sigh. He stares blankly at the ceiling for a long minute, trying to clear his mind. He knows he is being utterly ridiculous and it disturbs him deeply. Sherlock loathes ridiculousness.

He puts a hand at his throat and slides it slowly down the length of his chest to his belly. He lets it lay there, palm centered on his navel. He presses down for a moment, feels the give and resistance of muscle and then relaxes his hand again. He closes his eyes, lets his breathing raise and lower his hand, lets his hand warm his midsection. He slides the hand back and forth a little, feeling more of the muscle and the give and the warmth.

Sherlock has a certain fascination with bellies. They are, he thinks, the most vulnerable place on a person, and therefore the most erotic. Sure, cocks and cunnnies may be more sensitive and they are certainly erotic too, but they are surrounded by scaffoldings of tendons and bones, hidden away, smaller, more easily protected, more easily covered up. They're not an expanse of soft, open flesh holding in the organs that early philosophers considered the seats of the soul: the liver, the stomach.

To bear your belly to someone was to show complete trust. To be allowed to move across someone else's belly with your hands, with your mouth, was to be given an ultimate power: you could tear them open in a second, burst their guts and leave them writhing in the most horrible pain, dying knowing they had allowed themselves to be that vulnerable to you. It was the most primal expression of power and submission and trust in any animal pantheon.

Sherlock swallows and slips his hand up under his t-shirt, traces his fingertips along the slim lines and lengths of his abdominal muscles, the crests of his hips, the curls of the line of hair that run down to his groin until he shivers. Then he flattens his hand out again and soothes himself, rubbing slow and warm again.

He thinks about the phrase "gut feelings". He thinks about the phrase "gut instinct". He thinks about how one is supposed to trust those things beyond the head and the heart. He knows that he has relied on both those things, many times, despite logic and intelligence.

Sherlock starts to think about John with his gut.

It aches. Not a bellyache, not indigestion for god's sake. It's a different ache. It is, he thinks, what it must be like to be gutted. He remembers fishing as a boy with his grandfather, and his grandfather cleaning the fish while they were still alive, their glassy eyes staring blinding, mouths still gasping, even as they were gutted, even afterward. Empty. Aching. Gaping.

Sherlock shivers, arches his back against the gray couch in an attempt to find a more comfortable position, presses his hand harder onto his belly. He instructs himself sternly to not get so overdramatic.

Gutted. Really, Sherlock, don't be so bloody ridiculous.

Sherlock's palm moves lower down, slips out from inside his t-shirt and over the waistband of his pajama pants. He rubs the heel of his palm over the wing of his hipbone, down the front of his thigh and turns it so that his fingertips slide up the side of his leg, along the slight trench between the vastus lateralis and the rectus femoris.

He runs his hand up over his hip, catching the hem of his t-shirt with his palm and shoving it up a bit. His fingers rub over the corrugations of pajama drawers and he lifts his palm so that just the pads of his fingertips ghost along the flesh of his belly. Sherlock's lips part slightly and he lets out a soft breath of air, eyelids fluttering without really ever opening.

He isn't gutted and he won't die from this. He didn't before and he won't again and he should just stop being such a fretful infant about everything and man up.

Sherlock is no prude about sex. On the contrary, he quite likes it and hasn't ever had much trouble asking for it, and getting it, when he wants it. He's had plenty with both women and men. It generally doesn't matter much to him. It's just a case of whoever catches his eye when he's on the prowl. If he'd had to pick one sex and stick with it, he'd probably choose men over women though. He understands them better, has a better connection with them.

Or really a better dis-connection with them. Men don't let emotions get tangled up in sex as readily as women do.

Most men.

Sherlock himself had only let himself get tangled up once. It was with a woman. And what an unmitigated disaster that turned out to be. He had been knocked senseless by her.

No, not senseless. Completely wrong word. There was nothing insensate about that relationship.

He'd been knocked stupid. And it had terrified him.

And when it was over, after she was gone, after he'd driven her away, then it was senseless. He'd been senseless, for a very long time.

Sherlock lifts all his fingers except the middle one and keeps just the very end of that one tracing an invisible filigree along the band of flesh below his navel but above the waist of his bottoms.

She was good, like John. She was a good person: mentally grounded, dog-loyal, emotionally brave, morally driven. She was all the things that Sherlock had trouble with, things that he didn't understand. They were all things that attracted him in the same way that the high-wire edges of life did.

He himself was completely and utterly inept at those things. He was genius smart, brilliant. He was physically fearless, often dancing the knife edge between life and death without a second thought, only loving the lift and sway of it, but to have somebody love him, especially somebody so good at it, and to be expected to love back with the same skill….Sherlock was not used to such failure in himself.

And so he had driven her away. It was his fault. He didn't kid himself. He'd done it on purpose, before she'd come to realize how hopeless he was, how completely incompetent, and he'd suffered anyway.

And so he did not want to drive John away.

Just so.

Sherlock sighs again, blinks his eyes open into the light of the room as a way of washing away his thoughts of her. Over and done with. Deleted from the harddrive.

Although he knows nothing is ever really completely deleted.

He lets his hand rest on his belly again for a moment then he turns it, fingers pointing down, and slides it carefully down to his groin and gently squeezes his slowly swelling flesh. His lips part to let out another sigh, almost but not quite a groan and he arches his neck briefly and tries to settle his shoulders and head more comfortably against the sofa's arm. He drags his palm and fingers up the length of himself, his hand sliding smoothly on the brushed cotton cloth and then down again until his fingers can grope and squeeze his testicles. He pulls down a bit and hisses softly at the dull ache it produces. Almost like an involuntary movement his knees bend up and his legs part, one pressing against the sofa's back cushions and the other splaying out, froglike, to the side.

Sherlock keeps his eyes closed tight, passes his tongue lightly over his lips once. He imagines kissing John. It could happen here on this couch or on one of their beds, or the floor or the fucking kitchen table for all he cares. He doesn't waste time explaining to himself how it would come about. He doesn't need a narrative. All he knows is that John's eyes would be very dark, the twilight velvet blue they get when he is very serious, and that John would look at him for a long moment before they kissed. Sherlock doesn't doubt that John could have a light-hearted and meaningless fuck whenever the mood struck him, but he's fairly certain that with Sherlock he would be serious. John would know what kind of fire he was playing with.

Sherlock keeps his lips parted just a bit, touches the tip of his tongue softly against the edges of his own teeth, the top of his own mouth. He imagines it is John's tongue touching him. He imagines that the teeth and lips his own tongue touches are John's.

Sherlock's right hand continues to stroke slowly up and down the front of his pajamas with a rasping hiss while his left moves up and under his shirt again, pressing down on his abdomen. He pictures John's hand pressing on him there, John nuzzling him there. He bunches and catches the skin of his belly between the lengths of his fingers, pinching lightly, pretending it to be John's lips and teeth that nip at him. His fingers move down over the waistband now, thumb hooking under it and running sideways along it to his hip. He brings his right hand up in a mirror movement and then quickly strips the pants down his thighs. He lifts his right leg and foot and jerks them free of the thin cloth entirely and kicks the other side down to his left ankle. He moves his foot up again, as far as he comfortably can and digs it in sideways between the bottom of the cushion and the sofa frame until he is spread wide open.

Still keeping his eyes closed, Sherlock revels in the sensation of cool air touching the hot damp skin on the inside of his thighs. He revels in the obscenity of displaying himself so openly. In his mind's eye he isn't alone, he's being watched, and the turn-on is intensified. His back arches again and his shoulders slide lower onto the couch. He runs his hands up the insides of his thighs to his scrotum and uses both, one after the other to stroke his cock completely hard. He lets himself groan out loud.

His right thumb slippery with pre-cum, he rubs gently back and forth over the tip of his penis. Back and forth and back and forth his thumb – John's thumb – slides until he is shivering from the sensation of it. Then he wraps his hand lightly around his cock and slides his fingers down to the root and back up again. He throws his left arm back and grasps the armrest of the sofa behind his head. It gives himself some leverage to rock his hips into his pumping hand.

There isn't enough sweat or pre-cum on him to make a comfortable slide. He'd prefer to use skin lotion or gel or even soap, but he'll be arsed if he's going to get up and cast about looking for some now so he spits into his palm instead and coats his penis with his own saliva. He wraps his hand around himself and twists upwards once. He spits into the cup of his hand again and wraps and twists again.

Better….Better.

Sherlock catches the edges of his teeth into one side of his bottom lip as he strokes up and down with quick, light movements for a minute and then closes his hand up tighter and pushes down long and slow a few times. He imagines its John's hand around him, John's mouth, John's body.

Sherlock's hips rock and push in concert with his hand. He lets go of the armrest and pets his left hand down the center of his chest and across his stomach. The tendons in his groin stand out as he tries to spread his thighs even wider, despite the constraints of the sofa and his own muscles. Sherlock quivers and gasps, his tongue flicking quickly along his palette and the backs of his teeth as he imagines John above him.

Don't move, he thinks in his head, hears it as he commands it out loud in his mind. Don't move John.

And the John that seems so real to him just now is still and Sherlock digs his own hips down hard into the sofa cushions and forces himself still also. He imagines that stillness spooling out around them, the only movement the endless waves created by their heartbeats: a tide Sherlock can feel around him, that John can feel inside himself.

Sherlock grits his teeth and slides his hand just once.

No, don't move. I'll pull out if you move.

He hears John groan. John's pupils are completely blown and he is as open there as below. Sherlock imagines squinting up into those pupils, plunging into them with his own eyes, staring and staring and staring. Harder and harder. Pushing his own eyes deep into John's brain.

Sherlock's hand squeezes and strokes again. It is John's body clenching down tight around him and he can't help moving, can't keep demanding John stay still when he can't himself. And so he let's go the stillness, imagines John riding him, at first arched up and back from Sherlock so that they meet only at the groin. Sherlock sees on the back of his eyelids John's thighs spread wide over his hips, his own cock disappearing into John's body as John shoves himself up and down. The cock Sherlock's hand is wrapped around becomes John's.

So close…John…So close ….

Sherlock's John suddenly collapses forward over him, his face stopping just inches from Sherlock's. They are staring into each other's eyes, mouths open fractions of an inch from each other, breathing for each other as they strain and clench and heave together.

Sherlock keens softly as he comes, his back curling up, his chin to his chest as his body jerks once, twice, three times, cum spattering thickly into his palm.

Sherlock shivers out of the orgasm and huffs as he straightens his cramping legs down the length of the couch. Keeping his messy hand cupped over his softening cock he rolls sideways and curls his knees up again, legs together this time. He protects his belly. He clutches at the edge of the sofa cushion with his left hand and licks his lips again, trembles out one last small spasm of pleasure and then lies very still for a long moment.

Not willing to let the fantasy go just yet, Sherlock rubs his cheek against the sofa cushion under his head, imagining it to be John's belly. He turns his head a bit and nuzzles the side of his nose and then brushes his lips lightly against the leather. John's belly would give to the press of Sherlock's face, but then resist back when John breathed. John's belly would be warm and the skin silky smooth over the undulation of muscles and it would taste like fresh, salty bread. When John laughed Sherlock would hear it hollow inside John's lungs and abdominal cavity. He would feel John laugh.

A moment more and then Sherlock's eyelids finally blink rapidly several times before his eyes bloom wide. He stares, not really focusing, just taking in the light and shadows of the room. He listens to the hiss of cars on the pavement of Baker Street. He hears the muffled voices of Mrs. Hudson's television below. He can hear the pulse in his temple thrumming against the leather seat cushion.

It's very quiet in the room.

Sherlock had almost decided that John had gone to Sarah's after all when he hears the cab idle outside 221 Baker Street. He resists the urge to go look out the window and instead stays planted on the sofa, feet propped on the coffee table, computer on his lap. He's been idly coasting through Google Philippines looking for news articles regarding a trio of murders he's pretty sure were perpetrated by a serial killer. It doesn't look like the Philippine police have caught on to that yet, but it may be that they are holding that information back. It's hard to tell given the translation software's deplorable ability to cope with Tagalog. He's considering contacting the lead investigator.

Sherlock pauses to listen to John's step on the stair. It is slow and uneven. Maybe his limp is back. Maybe he was with some soldiers after all.

"Thought you were with Sarah for the duration." Sherlock greets him with studied disinterest in his voice, his eyes flicking from the screen to John and back like a blink.

"No. Never said that," John replies as he unzips his coat.

"Mmm…."

John's trying to score points by noting that Sherlock is wrong. Sherlock knows he's wrong. The answer wasn't really the reason for the question.

Sherlock notes John's hesitation before taking off his coat. John's head turns ever so slightly towards Sherlock, as if he's thinking about him. As if he's wondering if Sherlock is watching.

It's pretty clear that John is very drunk and Sherlock is annoyed. He'd decided earlier that he was going to seduce John tonight. He determined that he was just going to jump in and see what happened and quit being such a bloody, blithering coward.

If John wasn't interested in men, Sherlock was sure he would be a gentleman about it. He would be kind. He would work hard at still being friends and roommates and to act like it didn't matter. And this nonsense would be over. Sherlock would work just as hard. It would still be good. It wouldn't kill him.

Being told "no" wasn't what Sherlock was afraid of. It was being told "yes" that terrified him.

But now all that was on hold, because John was very drunk in a way Sherlock had never seen him before. Sherlock could not proposition John now. It would be taking advantage. It would give John an out after the fact and Sherlock didn't want that.

Without looking down at the computer, Sherlock frantically clicks keys. John moves again, pulls off his coat and hangs it clumsily on the rack, starts fiddling with the front of his shirt.

John heads unsteadily for the bathroom without looking at Sherlock, pretending clumsily to unbutton a shirt that is already falling off him. Sherlock sees this in the second between John turning and Sherlock looking down at the mess of nonsense on his computer screen.

John's foot hits a pile of books stacked on the floor and he stumbles. Sherlock glances up and lifts an eyebrow as John swears and flails to keep himself upright. It gives Sherlock an excuse to really look up at him.

John is a mess. His shirt hangs open, missing buttons. His hair is a tumble of cowlicks and his hands looked scraped and raw. His step hitches as if his knees hurt. His mouth looks swollen and crooked and bruised.

"You look a bit scuffed," Sherlock notes casually, although he doesn't feel casual at all.

"Just a little tiff at the bar," John shrugs, and tries setting course for the bathroom again. "Nothing, really…. Over in a minute…. Had a bit too much afterwards." John doesn't look at Sherlock. He does that soldier thing, looking straight ahead, face rigid. John is lying.

"Not like you."

"How would you know?" John's eyes, so dark they look black, snap sideways to him and glare.

Sherlock squints at him. John is not adding up.

For his part, John's eyes jerk forward again and he sets off for the bathroom as if he were marching into battle.

"Sure you're alright, then?" Sherlock stares blankly at his computer screen. It hits him abruptly, out of the blue, he has no logical reason for it, not much evidence to prove it. It's gut instinct, but he is positively sure that John has been with a man. John has been fucking another man.

"Nothing a hangover won't cure." John mumbles from the bathroom doorway.

Unconsciously, Sherlock's hand goes to his face, his fingers run along the side of his nose, thumb catching his chin. His other hand goes up to meet the first in front of his nose. He rubs the temple of his fingers in a line up into his hair and then down, until the tip of his noses rests between the bridge of his index fingers and the ends of his thumbs, the knuckles pressed into the curve of his chin.

Just the fact that John is willing to fuck another man, or be fucked by one, should be a relief, shouldn't it? One piece of the problem set aside and into place. But, it doesn't feel like that. There is no satisfaction knowing this. None at all.

When he hears the bathroom door shut and the water begin to run, Sherlock closes his eyes, huffs out a sigh. His hands drop from their prayerful attitude to his belly and press against it.

It hurts. It aches. He feels like he's been gutted.

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