John closed his eyes, pressed his forehead to the plush pillow of Sherlock's bum. "Yes love, it's me. I'm burning. No, I was burning. Oh god that was amazing."
One man spun round, the other lost his balance and tipped into the dust. Both began swearing.
"What the hell Sher—"
"No, something's damn well burning John and that something is us."
It was right about then the good doctor looked down to see a pert little bonfire feeding on his t-shirt, Sherlock's shorts, three socks, and a fair bit of 100-year-old straw dust.
A barefoot John rolled out of the way exactly as Sherlock started stomping with his size-ten spike-heeled boots, both swearing, both waving arms and leaky dicks in the smoky wind.
While Sherlock stomped, John yanked up his jeans and started beating the flames and for long moments it was hard to tell if they were feeding or foiling the fire and then the answer was clear when all that remained was the swearing and the leaking and a few delicate curls of smoke wafting in the air.
John clambered to his feet. "What the absolute fuck was that?"
The good doctor glared as if the remnants of the fire could answer him, and then John glared at Sherlock as if somehow he spoke for random conflagration.
Sherlock blinked at the thwarted blaze, looked left, then right, up and then down. With the sole of his left boot he distractedly put out an ember trying to catch on his right shoelace and as John geared up for his second sweary sentence the deductive genius solved the frustrating Case of the Camden Town Fires.
"Seriously, I think someone just damn near set us on fire, Sherlock."
Sherlock opened his mouth to enlighten his little love, but his little love—now so pumped full of feel-good sex hormones he was back to his own, ragey self—was having god damn none of it.
"It's Timmy. I will bet you a hundred fucking quid it's that slinky little pretty boy. He's all up in wanting to get up in you, he's all glad-handing and would probably love to—to—I don't know get us all fired up and dashing around and he'd probably swoop in and save your plush, naked arse and—"
"—and be a knight in shining, groping armor oh and by the way, when you say he 'groped' what do you mean exactly?"
"I never said he groped me John, you said—"
"Was it a little arse pinching? Some cupping? Because cupping isn't groping you know, it's a lot more serious than groping, especially if it's cock." John sucked in a scandalized breath and hiss-whispered. "He did not touch your cock. Did he touch your cock?"
Sherlock slow-blinked at his indignant little warrior. Waited a moment to see if there would be an actual pause, then began to speak.
"John, I need you to focus. Initially—"
"If he touched you there—" John dramatically gestured south with both hands. "—I swear I will take him off at the knees. I will cut him down to size Sherlock Holmes, if he put one single, solitary hand on your penis."
Sherlock drew in a deep breath. Someone had to, and since John was possibly still working on the same one from three minutes ago, that someone was going to be Sherlock.
"A quick grab wouldn't be enough. I know that from experience. Because look at you. Just look at you." Again with the double-handed gesticulating.
It so didn't matter that John was right, that Timmy had pinched and cupped. Hell the gorgeous little creature had tried to slide a hand down Sherlock's trousers for heaven's sake and the only thing that stopped him was the fact that those trousers were so tight they could barely accommodate the small swell of Sherlock's breathing, much less five wriggling fingers.
"There's acres of you to get at—"
But that was beside the point. The point was that Sherlock would let the whole damned Manchester United football team cup him if it meant closing a case, and John knows that, he's always know that, and he also knows that in the grand scheme of things a little handling of Sherlock's lush bits or dangly parts matters not one whit. What matters are the clues, the facts, the case.
"—and Timmy saw you half naked and he knew we were coming here."
And John's always been all right with that, the same way Sherlock's been all right when the hand is on the other bum, so to speak.
"He knew we were going to be right here doing what we were doing and so he…he…he tried to—"
Sherlock took a deep all right already breath and said, "Get over here."
John's brows went down and his hackles up. Sherlock rarely talked like that to him. Actually Sherlock never talked like that to him.
"John Watson, take one stride forward now."
You know what? Two can play the tiny tyrant game, even if one of them is not so tiny. After one cranky heartbeat John stepped forward.
Sherlock spread his arms like wings—a poor imitation of the grand ones on John's back—and enfolded his disgruntled little love.
"I love you John Watson, and I'm yours, every inch. And no amount of groping, fondling, touching, fumbling, pawing or petting by anyone is going to cause me to give them so much as the time of day. You are the only one who gets to finger, fuck, lick, or suck any part of my body. Do you understand?"
News flash: It doesn't matter that you've just got off. It doesn't matter that because you just got off you're probably not going to get off again. It's just that some things said in some ways are all you need to get a teeny tiny fire going in the dangly bits.
Speaking of fire…
Quite a bit less grumpy now, John pulled away. "Why would Timmy try to set you on fire? That just doesn't make any sense at all."
For a long half minute John ruminated on that and Sherlock let him. While one man had thinky thoughts and the other kept his mouth shut, both drip-drip-dripped discreetly into the dust.
"It's not Timmy, is it?"
Sherlock looked at John with a look that could only be called blasé.
"Who is it then? Who's been setting these fires all over the market?"
They stood quiet and still and looked at each other. A half dozen blinks elapsed. Five deep breaths. One final drip. Then Sherlock said, "Get dressed and I'll show you."
"Keep walking Sherlock."
Okay, here's the problem with 'getting dressed.'
The little nook fire? The one a sexually-satisfied John H. Watson gigglingly mistook for the over-heated pleasure centres of his own brain? That one?
Yes, well it had taken nearly half their clothing with it.
Which is to say John now walked down the crowd-thick aisles of the Camden Town market in soot-blackened jeans, one booted foot sans sock. On his straight-backed torso he worse precisely nothing but dark-henna wings, his black t-shirt having gone up a treat in the small blaze, along with Sherlock's tiny, button-free purple shorts and knickers.
Which was why Sherlock Holmes walked-swayed-strutted in front of John Watson dressed in nothing but henna, velvet boots, a tiny crop-top, and John's sheer, black-lace panties.
As you may have noticed long ago, there is something of the exhibitionist in Sherlock, what with his swirly crime scene pacing, his great coat fluttering, his button-strained shirts, and that flagrant mess of curls. Yes, they may or may not hint a little that there's something in Sherlock that relishes being looked at.
"Stop walking like that. Everyone's looking at you."
Sherlock wasn't even doing anything really, he was just taking his time. He knew his slow stroll was driving John nuts and that was fine, because that's what Sherlock does and does and does to their mutual distraction, it's almost like a compulsive tic at this point, he does it even when he doesn't have to do it, he tries to draw John's eye after he's already got it. But that's beside the point. The point—
The good Dr. Watson was no longer behind Sherlock's wide berth, he was right next to it, palm pressed flat against flesh after that one mighty pinch. "I can see the crack of your arse through these things you know."
Sherlock briefly recalled the fine things they'd just done with the crack of his arse. "Yes, well if you'd just look, no one's even looking."
That was such a bald-faced fib John didn't grace it with a reply, instead he more carefully covered what small amount of Sherlock's broad backyard his hand could conceal. "You're striding round like cock-of-the-walk in mostly-see-through panties, you better believe—"
John growled at two sixteen-year-old boys drifting toward Sherlock like jailbait moths to a completely indifferent flame. "—people are looking."
Sherlock despairs, he very really does. How could John still be so blind sometimes? Yes, fine, sure some people were looking but fully half those leering gazes were taking in the good doctor's small, half-bare form, including those boys who are, incidentally, going to fall upon one another an hour from now in grand gay revelation.
"Being as you've quite nearly collared and leashed me with that proprietary expression and the hand on my arse—John you do realize you're trying to push the fingers of that hand into—" Unaware that he'd even been doing it, John stopped trying to wriggle digits into his husband's body. "—and besides, what do you care if they look?"
John pondered this extremely valid question and about the time John's fingers again began unconsciously seeking entry into Sherlock's rear entrance and he came to a conclusion, they were within sight of their own stall. And though it felt as if they'd been gone ten days it had really been a bit less than sixty minutes, sexual escapades and tiny inferno included.
And it was good, it was all good because the American? The one they'd left in charge? She was in deep and meaningful conversation with some pretty, sleek, Greek-god type, and didn't so much as pause in her scandalous conversation when at last she took note of their return.
Also fine, good, great, because they weren't staying, they needed to—
"Timmy." John's tone was scalpel-sharp, cold and thin and quick.
A dozen feet distant they noticed the market's manager at the same time he noticed them.
Seconds later, Timothy Spencer Marks was again taking in an eyeful of Baker Street boy. This time the tiny one.
"Hello Dr. Watson."
"Timmy," said Sherlock, "I—"
"Or may I call you John?"
Sherlock shut his mouth and opened his eyes wide. Meanwhile the good doctor was about to do three things and only one of them was snarl, "Hell no you may mother fucking not."
After getting that out of the way John intended on using his small broad body to block the flagrant expanse of his husband from this tiny creature's view—it didn't matter that Timmy wasn't even looking—and then maybe John was going to get all up in Timmy's personal space and discuss the appropriateness of groping vis-à-vis cupping.
But then the tiny creature, who was slimmer than good doctor Watson, more muscled, many shades darker, and almost one quarter inch taller did something rather amazing. He straightened his spine and he lifted his chin and suddenly he looked exactly like John Watson.
"Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers? Decorated veteran?" Timmy smiled and it made his pretty eyes tilt up at the edges. "Well-know writer, too, yes? Saw your guest editorial in the Financial Times, about the cost of crime vis-à-vis the National Health System."
Later that night John's going to insist he did not smile all stupid-like or blush clear down to his collarbones. Sherlock's going to reply with a very tart, unSherlock word.
But that's not until later. Right now Sherlock's going to scowl and try to do the whole body block thing too, but being as there's a shoe vendor's table in front of John, the lanky git is going to have to crawl on top of it in order to impede Timmy's view and the good detective was still working on how to do that without anyone noticing.
"You can learn a lot about a writer from his words," murmured one small man to the other, "don't you think? Yours are straight-forward. Bold. Strong."
Sherlock was actually hiking up a knee to get on that table, but even a show-off's given pause at the sound of thin silk panties partially giving way. The good detective lowered his lean limb with an eye-drawing stamp of the foot and said, "Timmy, John and I would like to talk to you about the fires."
As if he were only just aware that Sherlock was there—and he kind of was, if you can believe it—Timmy turned to good detective, let his gaze slide down his front and back up again and said, "Oh. Right. Do you have news then?"
Pleased that the market manager was no longer undressing John with his eyes, Sherlock narrowed his and said softly, "No, I have the arsonists."
Two small men, one black, one white, both said loudly and in surprise: "Arsonists? There's more than one?"
Everyone stopped talking and looked at everyone else for long seconds and all three of them got confusingly sexy feelings, and then the two that were deeply and meaningfully pair-bonded sort of stepped closer to one another and the one that was flying solo bit his lip and thought god damn it, and then everyone went into denial about their feelings and Sherlock said:
"Arsonists as in more than one."
Timmy opened his mouth to say something at exactly the same time John did and Sherlock, for the splitest of seconds was extremely distracted by that and then he just plowed on because the best way to manage things that confuse you, if you're Sherlock Holmes, is to completely pretend they don't exist.
"And more than two—" John and Timmy both opened their lovely mouths wider but Sherlock forged on. "—or three."
Oh that was just too much. "What the absolute fuck?"
That was John. Thank god that was John. Because if that had been Timmy sounding just like a tiny tyrant Sherlock's afraid something untoward might have begun happening in his little sheer panties and that would have confused him even more (Sherlock: Still not clear on the concept that sometimes, just sometimes, he actually finds other men attractive, especially if they remind him of John).
Speaking of John…
The good doctor crossed his arms. "Dial down the theatrics Sherlock and get to the point. How many arsonists are there?"
Yes. Good. A straight-forward question. Sherlock inclined his head toward John (he was now going to act as if Timmy didn't exist by simply pretending he was partially blind) and said, "Follow me."
What you need to remember about the Camden Market is that much of it is housed in an old labyrinthine stable and horse hospital. Everywhere there are dry wood beams, planked floors, narrow corridors leading to tiny alcoves and dusty corners. Add to this acres of fresh flammables like books, magazines, furniture, and clothes and you begin to understand that the entire market is simply one big supply of fuel for…
They'd gone not even a dozen paces and were now standing in one of those old passages. Sherlock looked down and a pair of dark blue eyes and a pair of brown followed his gaze. Both saw, but only one observed.
Timmy frowned at the ground. There was nothing there. He was about to say just that but Sherlock was on the move again, going along another aisle, into a broad wood-expansed arcade. Again he gestured. John nodded. Timmy just kind of went "Wha?" only without words.
After the third such stroll and point the market manager finally said it: "I don't get it."
John smiled. Of course he doesn't get it. He may be gorgeous but he's not so smart. John nodded with certainty. Sherlock would so not be into you.
Sherlock smiled. Of course you don't get it. You're an idiot, like everyone else. Except John. Sherlock nodded with certainty. He would so not be into you.
Here's the thing: We all of us see, but so often we don't observe because what we see is always there. So we stop seeing it. Sherlock may think he's the only one who deletes, but we all do, every day. We delete background noise so that we can concentrate, we stop seeing our spouse's mess on the coffee table, again and again we cease registering things over which we have no control.
We see, but we do not observe.
Sherlock and John said it at the same time. Timmy's gaze bounced between them, then realization dawned—
"The fires were caused by cigarettes?"
—and just as quickly flickered out.
"But wouldn't the fire investigators have noticed something as obvious as…" Timmy gestured to the brown and white filters of spent cigarettes scattered at their feet.
"Of course," said John, and Sherlock got actual goosebumps, knowing his husband knew, knowing John had correctly deduced the cause of the fires. There began a slow and mighty stirring in sheer black panties.
"But think about it: nothing's left over from hand-rolled cigarettes. No evidence at all."
It's quite possibly very possible John smelled the shift in Sherlock's hormone balance. The pulse in the good doctor's throat spiked and he may or may not have spread his henna wings, so to speak, by taking a deep breath.
"Some smokers throw their lit cigarettes on the ground—" John glanced at Sherlock and dropped his gaze briefly down. "—or over high stable walls."
By now even Timmy was realizing something was being broadly semaphored between Sherlock and John and it may or may not have left him frustratedly clenching parts of himself that could not readily be seen.
"It would account for the utter randomness of the fires and why there was so little evidence that even the great Sherlock Holmes was briefly stymied."
Once in a great while John verbally blogs. As in he starts talking just the way he writes on the blog. Usually Sherlock just rolls his eyes and shakes his head, but this time? Not so much. Instead the good detective stood tall, every inch of him saying to the little dark man in front of them: See? Me. He picked me.
Except that wasn't strictly true, of course, and Sherlock knew it.
The fact is, they'd picked each other. It happened the first time they stood in the same room and one of them presumed they'd look at a flat together and the other grumped about it. And then did it.
John placed his hand at the small of Sherlock's back, smiled kind of smart-alecky at the market manager. "Any questions?"
Timmy looked at the two half-bare detectives and abruptly stopped seeing all that rosy, pretty skin. Instead he saw—and deduced—the most obvious thing in the world. He had not one flying fuck of a chance at either of them.
"Just one," the little man said.
No joke, both John and Sherlock knew what the question would be before it was even asked. And they were right.
"Where do I send the check?"
"That was the sexiest thing I've ever seen."
There are a lot of secret nooks, if you know where to look. The one the boys of Baker Street currently occupied was in the summer-cool basement of 221B, having adjourned to this temperate, dimly lit locale almost as soon as they got home.
John slid his arms around his husband's waist, kissed his chin. "I learned from the best." The good doctor sighed as Sherlock's fingers traced gentle over his feathered back.
Busy standing on tiptoe, biting gently at Sherlock's neck, John huffed a small, questioning sound.
"I was wondering—"
John's hands slid down, fingers again pushing against the silk of black panties.
Sherlock spread his legs in encouragement.
John dipped his fingers into the low waistband of sheer black knickers then down. They cupped.
"—revisit a portion of this case?"
Both of John's hands kneaded—and needed—the magnificent thing beneath them. "I think…" After a few humming seconds a short questing finger slid low, then deeply home. "…we're doing that."
Sherlock more or less lost the ability to form sentences that contained vowels or consonants, though he was fairly plain-spoken with groans.
Didn't matter. John knew what he was going to say. As the good doctor went to his knees awhile later, gently tugging damp panties down to Sherlock's ankles, he murmured, "Yes you can paint me with henna. Later. Much later."
Not all fires smoke or burn. That doesn't stop them from being very, very hot.
Well, that's what happens every damn time you think you're going to write a short, silly little story. It turns into six chapters, one of them apparently requiring a bold warning about anal play (did not exactly see my life going in that direction) and then things get blushy and breathy and people burst into flames. So. What'd you think?
MORE! I'm no longer publishing on FFnet as they don't want NC-17 content, so please visit atlinmerrick dot livejournal dot com if you'd like to read more, or Tumblr or Twitter, and eventually everything will be on AO3—please follow!