"Sherlock?"

"Mm." His chest vibrates with the sound his voice. My head is there, cheek pressed to his warm skin, my fingers toying in the patch of hair beneath his bellybutton. I take a deep breath, pulling in the smell of him: sweat, sex, and- faintly, beneath the rest- the chemical hiss of antibacterial soap.

Closing my eyes, I whisper (my mouth just above his heart): "I shouldn't be here."

Anyone else would have stroked my hair, whispered condolences and sweet nothings and made me feel okay. But Sherlock is not anyone else; Sherlock is Sherlock. He slips out from under me and pads across the dark room, the line of his back straight and unhindered by self-consciousness. I lean up on my elbow and watch as he clicks on his desk lamp and rifles through the various odds-and-ends, tipping a sheath of paper to the floor and throwing an old and apparently useless pen over his shoulder with a growl. At last he finds what he's after: a small notebook, a functional pen. He scratches notes with an air of urgency, and I wonder (with a small, crooked smile) about the legibility of his hasty scrawl. As abruptly as he'd left, Sherlock slams the notebook closed, tosses the pen down, and throws himself across the empty space of his bed, his long limbs falling over mine carelessly.

Sometimes I swear it's enough just to watch him, to let my gaze slide from the harsh line of his cheekbones, down the length of his taut white neck, and from there trail to the dip of clavicles, the firm strength of his shoulders, the blue veins of his forearms showing through the milkiness of his skin, the almost delicate bones of his fingers. Thoughtlessly I bend my head and kiss those long pale fingers, let my kisses trail to his palm, his wrist, his heartbeat thumping against my lips. I look up at him and find he's scrutinizing me with undisguised interest, his sharp eyes missing nothing and everything. I'm in love with him; of course I am. I think I've probably loved him since my first night at Baker Street. Can you read love in a man's eyes, or does it merely look like lust? I find myself wondering this as I sit up and set my lips slowly, cautiously, against Sherlock's. Sometimes I guess his mood the wrong way and he keeps his mouth a firm and frowning line beneath mine, but not tonight. Tonight he indulges my sentimental side, parting his lips and letting his warm breath mingle with mine.

He softens against me and I struggle, like always, not to overwhelm him. I keep my hand light and easy on his chest, sure he's noting the small tremor that runs through it and equally sure that he doesn't understand that tremor, doesn't understand the desperation behind it. I want to consume him, to scratch my nails along his skin and bite his full lips, his long neck. I want him to arch underneath me and moan. But…I'm gentle. I'm careful. He already let me take him once tonight, and roughly; I don't dare press my luck and try for another go. His tongue is patient in my mouth, parrying my trembling thrusts with tranquil ease.

Pulling away (before I lose my self-control and dignity and find myself begging for what my poor wife, if I'd only let her, would freely give), I drop my head into the crook of his neck and sigh. "I should go," I say, not moving.

Sherlock taps his fingers across the mattress, beating out an uneasy rhythm. Already he's growing bored, ready to move on to the next thing, the next case, the next rush. I suppose my intense and pitiful lust is a pleasant enough distraction for him at times, but distractions are only that. They don't last. Adrenaline, endorphins, sweat. It all dries up, sooner or later.

My throat is a little tight as I slip out of bed and yank on my clothes. Normally I shower- always worried that Mary might find out, might smell it on me or see some phantom trace of Sherlock's body on mine- but tonight I skip it. I should go home, but I'm not. I'm going to the pub.

"Pass me my phone," Sherlock says imperiously, and I do. If he notices me leave, he says nothing, his eyes trained on the glowing screen and his fingers flying.

xXx

It's weeks before I see him again. I've been busy at the practice, and with Mary (who has decided that couples' therapy and date nights might fix something irreparable). But today I'm free, no shift at work and with Mary out with her sister for the day. I text Sherlock and smile at his response: On a case. Could use you. I'll have Lestrade send the address and details. My phone beeps a moment later, and ten minutes after that I'm outside and hailing a cab.

Our day is wild and frenetic and perfect. In typical Sherlock fashion, he leads us into a trap and we wind up running, fighting, my fists bloody and knuckles battered at the end of it all. Thirteen hours of pure adrenaline later (five missed calls, countless texts, why does Mary put up with it?) we're collapsed on the sofa at Baker Street, laughing at nothing, breathless. Sherlock doesn't even need me to needle him; he's all eagerness as he slips his hand into my lap and strokes me through my jeans, his eyes bright and mouth curled in a deviant smile. There's a shallow gash across his cheek and I slide my thumb just under the length of it before taking his chin in my hand and kissing him firmly, hungrily, savoring the undeniable enthusiasm with which he kisses me back. I feel impossibly alive. His hands are fire on my skin.

Sherlock slides into my lap, his legs straddling me on each side, and gets his fingers into my short hair, tugging my head back. His hips are rocking incessantly as he nips at my neck, those lithe fingers working their way up my jumper. I make an indecipherable noise as he leans back, putting just the right amount of pressure on my cock, and slips my jumper over my head. He leans forward again, flicks his tongue over my nipple, and I've devolved into groans, gasps, words too far away and difficult for my foggy mind to untangle. It's amazing the way Sherlock takes control of me, the way he toys with the button on my jeans for a second too long before working them open and sliding his hot hand down inside. But then, it makes a strange sort of sense; Sherlock has never let anyone dominate him, not if he can help it. If the world is a stage, Sherlock fancies himself something of a director. I don't mind: I like the way he's running the show.

As though he can hear my thoughts and finds some form of satisfaction in torturing me, he tugs his hand free of my trousers and hops up from my lap, his eyes blazing.

"What-" I begin, my breath ragged and shaky, but he holds up a hand and I sit with my arms folded as the silence stretches around us. One minute, two. Sherlock is pacing in circles, his hand twitching from its customary place, thumb against the lip, pinky extended. He stops and fixes me with a hard look, then resumes his pacing, and I lay my head back against the sofa and let out my breath slowly.

"Shall I go home, then?" I ask, not looking up. I can hear his pacing stop, feel his eyes on me. There's a creak on one of the lower steps and then a flurry of activity: Sherlock leaping over the sofa and throwing me my jumper, me tugging it on with my heartbeat in my throat, my hips raised and my fingers quickly doing up my trousers, Sherlock hopping back over the couch and falling into the seat beside me. When Mrs. Hudson opens the door (with a quick tap-tap of her knuckles and barely a breath of a pause) I'm clicking through channels on the telly and Sherlock is brooding, his arms around his knees and his eyes narrowed. We are the very picture of composure.

I look up and smile warmly at Mrs. Hudson, but the appearance of my wife- her pretty blonde hair piled messily into a sloppy, last-minute sort of knot- wipes the smile from my face. She is clearly furious, and I know we're going to have a mighty row. But for now, I can see some of the worry lift from her ashen face as she draws one deep breath, her hand flying to her throat. The words tumble out of her mouth in a reverent whisper: "Oh, thank God." The fury comes back, drawing her eyebrows together almost comically. I swallow hard and glance at Sherlock, who is smirking (smirking!) from the safety of his end of the couch.

I expect Mary to shout, or to cry, or to hurl divorce papers into my lap and disappear down the stairs with her head high, but instead she steps forward calmly and says, with only a trace of edge in her voice, "It's three in the morning. I think it's time for you to come home." I clear my throat and follow her down the stairs, my head bowed like a naughty child's, and I swear I can hear the chime of Sherlock's laugh all the way out into the street.

xXx

The row is unbelievable and painful, because I do love Mary in some way. It's not her fault that no one, not even someone as beautiful and sweet as my gentle wife, can compare to Sherlock Holmes. It's not her fault, but it's not any less true. She can't compare. We're at an impasse. Mary is my best friend, and I don't want to lose her, but if she tries to make me choose…well. I don't want to say I can't live without Sherlock (his feigned death proved that I can), but I know that I don't want to. Life without him was significantly less. Even if I wanted to choose Mary (and, although it feels shameful to admit it, I know I don't) I couldn't. The emptiness would come back and I'd find my feet shuffling their way to Baker Street unbidden. As long as I know he's there, alive and whole and full of fire, I'll always wind up at his side. I know this. It doesn't make the row hurt any less.

Mary's gone to her mum's. She stays there for a week, two weeks, and I think: this is it. I don't go to Sherlock's much while she's gone- seems indecent. The one time I do let my feet drag me there, up the steps, to his bed, I feel impossibly filthy afterwards. I used to think I was a good person. I'm having a hard time still thinking so. But she comes back. Maybe I'm her Sherlock: impossibly aloof but still willing, still there, still real. Or maybe I'm just convenient. No, I'm really not, and besides- Mary isn't like that. If anything I'm her pet project, and she wants to fix me. Well, that'll keep her busy.

On her first night back, we have bland, passionless sex. It's colorless, cold limbs and distant eyes. I wonder if it feels that way for her, if she lies there moaning under my rote thrusts and recognizes the futility of our situation…or if the moans are genuine, if she mistakes my hands on her hips as being full of longing, if she kisses my mouth and thinks my patient lips are careful out of love and muted passion. Fleetingly I imagine this is how Sherlock feels sometimes, his mind racing and barely noting the poor bastard stretched on top of him, loving him, feeling so much at once that it's impossible to believe he doesn't feel it, too. For the first time in my life, I pretend to come and roll away from Mary with a feigned sigh of content, my dick already going soft of its own accord. If she notices the ruse, she plays it off and wraps my hand in hers. She's asleep in ten minutes, her breathing soft and steady. It takes me much, much longer to sink into a shallow, dreamless sleep, her hand so small and damp in mine.

xXx

I come home from Sherlock's one afternoon- jaunty, my cheeks flushed and my body buzzing- and hear her. She's in the bathroom, the shower running, but the sound can't be disguised; she's clearly sobbing. I tiptoe to the door and press my ear against it. The sounds rack through her body in waves. For a moment I consider that I might not be the source of her grief, but then she lets out a wail that can't be attributed to anything but a broken heart and I know it's my fault, I know I'm the reason she's hurting. I wonder if I've ruined her. I hate myself. But I don't open the door, I don't apologize, I don't make promises I can't keep. Instead, my stomach heavy and my hands trembling, I turn and leave the flat as quietly as I can. I go to the pub.

xXx

It's so late it's early. (Five in the morning? Six?) Sherlock is sprawled across his bed, his legs wrapped around my waist, his tongue frantic against mine. My hand is wrapped around his cock and working as I slam into him, each thrust drawing a ragged groan from me and a harsh exhale from him. I'm shorter than him and it's a strain to reach his mouth, so I'm thankful as he flips me on to my back and slides down on to me, his hands splayed over my chest and his head thrown back. Besides, I love watching him. I love seeing the muscles and veins strain in his neck, the flush that travels from his cheeks, down his neck and to his chest. I love the abandon in his eyes, the obvious pleasure, the way he holds his bottom lip between his teeth and winces just a little. I love the sweat that pools at his temples and sticks his hair to his forehead, the sheen that makes his body glisten in the subtle lamplight.

His mouth falls open- his movement grows jerky, his fingers twitchy- and I know he's going to come. It's stupid, but knowing that, knowing I did that, gives me such a rush that I come, too, in a brilliant burst of energy and chemicals and breath. I open my eyes. Sherlock's are still closed, his hands in his hair and his breathing shallow, quick. I regard his aftershocks with a stupid sort of pride, my mouth pulling into a lopsided grin. His hazy eyes flutter open and I pull him down to the bed and kiss every inch of his wretchedly gorgeous face, laughing. He allows this with a small smile. I don't even realize I'm saying anything until he responds, his voice raspy.

"I know," he says, and I sink my face into his neck to still the words tumbling from my lips: I love you, I love you.

xXx

Maybe Mary's met someone else, or maybe she's just wisened up, but I come home one day to find her things gone and the flat silent, the quiet too thick and eerie to be anything like comforting. I stand in the loo (the monogrammed towels are still there, but her toothbrush and face wash are conspicuously gone) and look in the mirror. I am so old, so much older than I expect to be. I suspect this happens to everyone; you imagine, subconsciously of course, that you stop aging physically at thirty, thirty-five, and it still shocks you to look in the mirror and see a man mere months from fifty staring back at you. Time passes, but you think it will pass you over, forget you, leave you behind. I touch the wrinkles on my forehead, meet my own eyes, look away. I'm not the man I wanted to be. I don't know if this is for better or worse.

Something hollow forms in my stomach and I find myself retching over the toilet, beads of sweat breaking out across my face. I'm not alone, I know that. But sometimes being with Sherlock feels like being alone. Sometimes it feels worse.

I lie down on the floor of the loo- Mary always kept a very tidy house- and press my cheek to the cool tile. In this situation, most people would call a friend, talk it over, get piss drunk and forget about it (for the night, at least). But I don't have friends, not anymore; I only have one.

My jaw tight, I sit up and wipe the sweat from my face with my sleeve. I stand slowly, on shaking legs.

I go to the pub.