Written as an entry for for the Red Pants Contest at fuck yeah johnlock fanfic though it was submitted incorrectly and didn't get through. Still, good fun.


Hunger

There are three clear, plastic packets hidden around the flat, each half-filled with exactly one gram of cocaine. One is in a rectangular hollow inside the sliding door of his wardrobe. Another is sown into the left lapel of a coat Mycroft gave Sherlock for his 23rd birthday. The third is slotted under the second, right floorboard beneath John's bed. He could consume the contents of a packet in just two, long lines, but it has been more than a decade since he tried through insufflation. He could more easily dissolve the whole gram into .3ccs of water and shoot it all at once, an act that defies overdosing after a long stint of abstinence. He would pinch one of the corners of the packet with his teeth and pull, ripping it open with his fingers along the incision. Methodically, his middle finger would slide along the plastic, and then over the ridges of his gums.

The dust would taste of medicine.

When Sherlock sleeps, his dreams are sometimes filled with the high-pitched ringing that often comes with the rush, the high. His mouth is dry and pasty when he wakes up, his fingers still forming the familiar curl around the .5cc syringe, and the insatiable hunger that characterised his weeklong binges lies at the bottom of his stomach; a hollow, desperate ache.

The want is not always there but when it appears it is.

Consuming.

...**...

These days it seems to be forever quiet in 221B Baker Street. The volume of the TV is always low, as if muted by the oppressive quality of the air surrounding it. The rumble of cars from outside is muffled by the ever-closed windows warding off the frigid cold of London's winter. The conversation is so sparse it is now more common to hear the sound of Sherlock's violin than of his human tenor. They are living in a state of suspenseful claustrophobia, the topography of their lives now filled with a battle formation of volcanoes. The eruption will leave little behind, Sherlock thinks. Knows. All he has now is the awful sickness of the wait, and it is enough to make him want to break John, instead of simply anticipating the fall.

He wonders if John too can diagnose the symptoms of their disease. Things have not been well since Sherlock's return. It is not a lack of forgiveness. Not the lack of trust. Not the lack of friendship. It is very simply the consequence to an action: the debris of grief, the inescapable scars and aches and pain after a body suffers trauma.

On one side there is Sherlock, left with the comedown of a chase with such a high that nothing will ever match it, and the mooring knowledge of that fact. It has bred little else but want. The word drags its teeth against his skin with every moment of inaction. It is an insane hunger he knows not the remedy of.

And then there is John. What he has been left with is the ocean-deep disquiet of Sherlock's ghost, of the millions of memories he has of his death: the damp and cold tombstone, the empty stillness of his apartment, the shellshock of Sherlock's absence. Sherlock's resurrection defied nature, and now John's grief has nothing to do but haunt him like something that has died but cannot escape.

Things are not well, and neither of them knows how to make it better.

...**...

It is on their third case together since Sherlock's return when John gets shot. It slices through the meat at the side of the hip, narrowly missing the bone. Though the pain causes but a moment of neatly contained hysteria in John at the thought of what shattered hipbone could do to his life, the wound is all flesh, and is quickly patched up at the hospital. The doctor tells him it's a miracle that so little damage was done. As miracles go, getting shot is one of John's least favourite, but he stays silent at the words. Nevertheless, neither him, the medic, nor even Sherlock, can anticipate the damage the wound is just waiting to cause.

It is three days after the attack, and the beginning of a new case. Sherlock's insistence on John's involvement suggests the belief that all of John's wounds can be reduced to a psychosomatic state, something that can be defeated by the bare brilliance of Sherlock's presence. John's surrender could be born out of a belief in Sherlock himself, but they both know it is more down to John's reckless need for action, danger, something which is ever present under the skin of his ordinary form. The case lasts only one day, but the consequences could be called catastrophic.

There is no moon or stars in London's overcast sky, but Sherlock knows it must be a little past midnight without consulting a clock as he enters their flat for the first time in sixteen hours. He turns on a solitary lamp as John limps in behind him. In the dim lighting, the tight features on John's face seem to be coloured in nothing but black and white. It reminds Sherlock of old photographs from the soldiers of the First World War; their flat, determined smiles, the never-quite-at-ease line of their shoulders. Their exhaustion.

"John," Sherlock calls out, quiet, as John's back turns to him, retreating towards the toilet.

"I'm fine," is the only response, and the door to the loo slides closed, but does not shut completely. The line of light left to spill from the crack is unbearably straight.

"The wound opened." Sherlock moves towards the fireplace, running a finger over the skull decorating it. The flat is as it always had been, as if their absence from it has been completely ignored. The experiments cultivating in the kitchen, the stacks of paper and assortment of odd objects cluttering the veins and airways of the room, the clean couches, ready for human company. Now most of it is in shadow and it is so unbearably quiet that Sherlock aches to make any sort of petulant sound.

"I'm fine," John says again.

Fine, Sherlock thinks. What an inexcusably irritating word. Dull. Dull. He can picture all of John's actions from the muted noises he makes. The first aid kit sliding from behind the toilet, a pause for two pained breaths at the bend necessary to retrieve it. Stubborn, tired, an emotion that is close to anger, but targetless. Ah. Frustration. The plastic box is set on the sink and then the rustle of clothes. First, the jacket, a heavy sound against the side of the bathtub. Then the button-by-button progress of the shirt. The nails of Sherlock's fingers scratch a whisper out of the round bone of the skull's cranium as a belt is unbuckled, and the trousers dropped, an almost silent thump against tiled floor. A tan hand curled against the white sink as John steps out of them. A moment of silence. He has caught sight of himself in the mirror and looks worse than he thought. The pain is more obvious when you think no one is watching, but Sherlock is always watching.

There will be no escape. There will be no respite.

Then comes the click of the kit's openings and Sherlock is moving towards the straight line of light even before the next scene unfolds: the twin seals are tough with disuse and John overbalances as he forces them free. A clatter of sterile objects against the floor and faucets, one falling into the toilet with an ominous plop, and a grunt through clenched teeth as John's hip hits the side of the sink.

"Fuck, fuck," John is whispering almost monotonously as Sherlock opens the door. The sight that meets him is not the lift of cocaine; it is not a rush, it does not take him to a higher plain. Instead, it takes him down. It is a breaking point. It is the moment, as a handful of others in his life, when it becomes apparent to Sherlock that he has lost control over a situation. Addicts everywhere will know this feeling intimately, and everybody else will struggle to understand. It is when want has completed its disguise into need, it is a rush of neurotransmitters in his brain and it conquers him- completely. Sherlock's hands shake not because he is weak, but because even he knows need. Ever since he can remember, impulse control has been a difficult beast to subdue.

This is the moment. The pill? Or the gun?

John has one hand clenching the side of the sink, the other suspended in the air in a tight fist. The compact form of his nude chest is turned slightly towards Sherlock as his presence is announced by the opening of the door, and John's nipples are dark shadows amongst curling chest hair. He is leaning on his right leg, away from the wound lying beneath John's only remaining piece of clothing: simple, white Y-fronts. Sherlock's eyes cannot leave that space. There, on the cotton, spreads a blotch of red. It blooms like a poppy, able to survive even in the most desolate of places, after even the ugliest of wars. The opium of its presence stills Sherlock completely. Think. Think. He commands himself, but that is not how hunger works.

"Sherlock, for God's sake-"

"Let me look." Sherlock kneels beside him and John releases a sigh. Anticipating John's reaction he lifts the side of the briefs up instead of down. There is no dressing, to let he wound breathe, and some of the stitches have split. It is a small amount of blood, so Sherlock must be imagining its smell. A drop swells and drips down John's thigh. Sherlock places a finger in its path and it pools for a second before a slight trickle falls down the digit's side. It is warm and unbearably red.

"What are you doing?" John is frowning when Sherlock looks up at him. He stays silent. There isn't much he can say that would ease John. There is never much he can say that can ease John. "I'm the doctor, you know," and he must notice, though not understand, Sherlock's strange mood because his voice is softer than before.

"You're also the patient," Sherlock replies and his voice, though low and quiet, still seems too loud in the stillness that has taken over their flat. The side of John's mouth tilts up, making his lips seem like the most broken thing on his body.

"Still more qualified than you, yeah? Now come on, get out," he says without harshness, "Heat up some leftovers 'cause I'm starving, and you're eating before going to bed, whether you like it or not." This is an old routine and there is a moment of relief. It manages to contain Sherlock, to drag him back from where the red of the Papaver rhoeas had taken him.

Without another word he turns around and leaves, and the dimness of the living room is reduced to darkness as his eyes adjust. He stops, looks down at his hand where his thumb and pointer finger are smearing John's blood. He closes his eyes and there are the red pants, all a stain, and he knows, knows, that the addiction has taken hold, has reached the uncontrollable point.

He will hold back as long as he can, lie in wait for the miles and miles of volcanoes around them to erupt.

...**...

Sherlock can tell that John knows something is wrong- no, worse- but they are so used to not talking now that the silence is easily filled with one more thing unsaid.

In the quiet, insanity is consuming Sherlock.

When he sleeps he will now dream of fields filled with copper poppies. In the waking moments, when there is a breath between one thought and another, between observing that Mrs. Hudson's hip is acting up and that she had blackcurrant jam on her toast in the morning, there is the image of John's red briefs, the cotton now completely consumed by his blood. He tries to delete the image methodically: going into John's sprawling room in his mind palace, finding the crimson stain, cleaning it away. The inability to do so is despairing, and he knows the typical symptoms of repression, the treacherous mind that thinks of the black cat when commanded not to do so. And the more he commands, the more the image is there. When he looks at John, now, his form is pixalated, superimposed by nude skin, red cotton, the clenched first ready to strike. He will run his hands along his wardrobe door, aching for some sort of release. It would be so easy to simply slide the packet out- John would never know. Mycroft might, will, that fat, animal farm pig and his ruining dictatorship, but Sherlock doesn't care. At this point in the addiction consequences adopt a transparent quality. He knows there will be regret, it is not logic that is disappointing him. He knows, it just...doesn't matter. The only thing that really stops him is the knowledge that the drug high is not really what he's looking for. It is the knowledge of the dissatisfaction, the following hunger, which deters him, even in his starved state.

It has been four days since the incident, and it is the dead of night. Sherlock lies on his bed, pale skin against pale sheets. He is in an almost fevered state. He does not know why the image of the red briefs has caused such a sickness, he has always had difficulty with these matters. Hunger. Lust. Has it been Moriarty's chase that has left him like this? Not the killing, not even the constant nightmarish thoughts of John, dead because of him. What changed him the most was, like always, proof. He was not emotionless. He had cried looking at John's distant face on top of that building- why? He wasn't going to die. Neither was John. But their imminent separation has caused some sort of chemical reaction, and even Sherlock has a hard time arguing against chemistry. In fact, he relies on it. And this awakening piece of data has been devastating.

Sherlock presses the heel of one hand against one eye, the other between his legs. The feel of the bed is like sandpaper, the image of the red briefs so vivid it pains him. His hand curls and strokes slowly, once, from the base nestled in black curls, up, tight, over the glans, dragging one fingertip across the slit. He is already hard beyond belief, beyond sanity. Then there is no hesitancy, his movement quick, tight, efficient, but he cannot keep his body emotionless. The red is there, it arches his back, and he tries to picture the 24 unfused vertebrae shifting in the painful act. He breathes through his nose, an animal sound of panic, but in the end his mouth opens in a sign of surrender.

The air is now colder than ever. Inside, there is empty, and red, and the hunger.

Sherlock closes his eyes. He tries not to see him, but it is all that is left.

...**...

The sky is so overcast that dusk is almost invisible, just a gradual dimming until darkness consumes. Sherlock is lying on the couch, blue robe melted around him, palms pressed together in a farce of prayer. From the corner of his eye he watches John, sat so inconspicuously on his armchair, all his focus directed at his laptop. How would it be to be able to concentrate all his cognitive abilities on just such a simple task? To be so easily entertained, blinded. It must be exquisite. But ignorance has never been Sherlock's calling.

John is alternating between writing up their latest case and reading some medical journal on ScienceDirect. He is, for now, content. There is no nagging need, no red at the edge of his sight to keep him on edge, lest it take over. He is simply there, always there, his dear Dr. John Watson. From his fingers and the lingering smell, Sherlock can tell he cleaned his pistol around three hours ago, and isn't that interesting? Longing for the pain in his side to subside, to be out on the field again. With Sherlock. He has his own addictions, the elements of life that make it worth living instead of simply surviving. John; a man who, because of his ordinary appearance, is all the more extraordinary. It is what makes him...delicious.

Maybe this will pass. Maybe the end is not so near.

"God, I have no idea why I'm so knackered, I've barely done anything today," John says, and Sherlock can deduce the saving of the document, the bookmarking of the journal, and the harsh lighting on John's face disappears as the lid of the computer closes. Now he looks softer.

Edible.

John stretches slightly, dragging a hand under his shirt and jumper to scratch at the skin above his wound and there, there, Sherlock is not imagining this. A sliver of red just above the waistband of his trousers. And suddenly, the trembling waves of the ocean parting to lead the way, there is the need, the hunger. If he regrets, that is something left for the future. He cannot be contained anymore; it will be cocaine, or a chase, but it will have to come back to this. To John.

John's shoulders straighten and body tenses as Sherlock moves in a second to kneel before him, and there is no time to think, just long fingers against the button of John's trousers. John's hands shoot to grab around his thin, lantern-paper wrists, squeezing so hard there is the pain of skin against vein against bone. But Sherlock yanks down and John lifts his hips- out of habit, or a Freudian slip? Sherlock has no time to analyse the nuances of this encounter. There, the imaginings of a demented beast, are the red briefs. They are all cotton, now, no blood, but it is all the same to him. He must consume, become part of John's obliterating form. John is making such sweet sorrow sounds-words, perhaps- and his hands are still tight around Sherlock's wrists, but Sherlock can sift through the unimportant stimuli and lean forward, placing an open, wet mouth against the red-cotton covered cock. John jerks away so badly that the armchair screeches backwards two inches, but Sherlock follows. He lets the flat of his tongue press forward and feels the twitch, the movement, drowns in the opiate musk of John. Yes, yes, he will gladly feast on all who dare contain him.

For a moment he thinks that perhaps the hand at the back of his head will push forward- it so clearly wants to- but instead John clenches his fingers in Sherlock's hair and pulls back in one aggressively contained motion, so painful Sherlock has to grunt. His hands, having previously clutched at John's hips, drag down the side of his thighs, lifting skin but drawing no blood. He opens his eyes to slivers and looks up at John's gaping mouth amidst a flushed face.

"What the fuck, what the fuck, fuck, Sherlock are you. Are you insane?"

"Yes," he says, dragging the word out into a sneer because John should have seen insanity in Sherlock's every pore in the same instance Sherlock saw wartime written all over John's frame. But John is shaking his head, eyes never leaving Sherlock's face.

"No, no. Sherlock, what? What is this? Are you...high, are you high?" And the very notion makes Sherlock dig his nails deeper into John's skin, making him wince but not move away.

"No, John, I'm not high, are you blind?" And he cannot take it anymore. He needs this, needs to have more than his own too-familiar hand on his cock whilst thinking of John, John, John, feeling the sort of desperation that's like insanity, a neurodegenerative disease that will consume him until he knows but one name, face, smell, voice, desire.

He drags his hands south and then up, sliding his fingers beneath John, clutching at his cheeks, parting them, digging into them beneath the red, red cotton. Pushes his face forward once again, testing how hard John is willing to pull to avoid this. The answer is: not hard enough. Sherlock runs his nose along the crease of his thigh, darting out a tongue to run along the skin beneath the red, then up against the salt of a testicle, and the noises John is making are finally breaking the quiet, the stillness of a non-death.

"No, stop, stop," and John is pulling him away again, gentler, his rough hands cupping his face. "Please, Sherlock, please don't do this. I don't know why, I- you can't do this to me. You can't just...take this. Oh God," and it is despair on John's face. Sherlock is mesmerized. It is not anger, or surprise, or pity, or even rejection. This is sadness. And why grief, if not because...

"John. John." He presses his face against John's stomach this time, feeling the sparse hairs of a treasure trail, simply resting against the hot skin. "I need. It's not...I need this too. It's not just you. You are not...alone."

And there, above the red of his briefs, lies the truth. The fear that had infected them both since Sherlock's death. The devastating knowledge that without each other they would be just that. Alone. For John to know he depends so much on a person like Sherlock, and for Sherlock to find out he needs a person at all. To be so exposed in such a battlefield had banished each to their trenches, and no man's land had stretched in the silence between them. And now?

"Sherlock." The word has the quality of silk, of material that slips against the senses like nothing at all is there. Sherlock looks up, and John's eyes are just blue. He cannot read anything else in them. He is lost. "Sherlock," John says again, gaining tangibility, and pulls Sherlock up to meet him. There is a sharp inhalation of breath and then their lips are meeting, already open, first hot breath and then tongue. John makes a noise at the back of his throat, a sort of animalistic sound of sorrow and desperation.

"If this is some sort of experiment, I will kill you. I´ll leave." Curious that those two things would seem so interchangeable. Sherlock has no time to respond, busy invading the moon-surface landscape that is John, so familiar, so foreign. His breath is coming in loud gasps until even this is not enough, and he yanks John's head back to expose the throat. John moans and in less than a second Sherlock can take this in, John's destroyed form on the armchair; the long line of the neck, tendons stretched, a danger. His open, wet mouth, lips red and slick from Sherlock's own teeth and spit. The chest that rises in a sharp staccato which cannot contain itself. The parted knees and bare thighs that hold Sherlock between them, pressing. And in the middle of it all, the red briefs, barely containing the erection, the point of obsession.

Sherlock dips and runs his tongue against the salty neck, kisses the skin below his right ear before going down to bite where the shoulder rises to meet, and John squirms and gasps and breaks Sherlock's name into small, strained pieces. Sherlock wants to burn John's jumper from his body but settles for yanking it and the undershirt off. It catches on John's tilted head and there is a moment of struggle before it is dropped behind the chair. Sherlock can now run his hands across that chest, rifling through thin chest hair to search for meaning or devils in the detail of him. A tongue circles a pert nipple, hands counting ribs, before he bites down again, devouring John in pieces.

"God, Sherlock, God. What are you doing to me?" To answer, Sherlock can only keep going. He looks up at John, at his dark, wanton face, and slowly drags the red pants down. John's cock springs free, but Sherlock's eyes don't disconnect from John's. The briefs keep sliding, down scratched thighs, down to meet where the trousers were long ago pulled down so Sherlock's greed could insert itself between John's knees. Sherlock bends down to remove the remainder of the clothing; socks, trousers, briefs. He rests his forehead against John's inner thigh, kissing a knee.

He never expected things not to break apart completely when it came to this.

Sherlock kisses and bites his way up and John cannot do anything to stop him. Finally, finally, he stretches up to takes the cock into his mouth in one long swallow. John calls out a moan, drawing out Sherlock's name, curling the Rs in disbelief. Sherlock presses his tongue against the underside, painting the veins in hieroglyphics of old: an oscillating wave of water (n), the twin reeds (ee), the hand (d). He lets slip just a hint of teeth. I know you, John. I know your need for danger.

"Sherlock," John gasps and pulls Sherlock up, away, making him feel the instant loss of connection, but it is quickly replaced by a mouth that searches for that same heat and salt. The world shifts as John pushes at Sherlock, narrowly avoiding the coffee table as Sherlock's back hits the floor, John over him with a hiss of pain from his wound, but it seems he is far beyond caring. He rips at Sherlock's clothing as if in search for the first meal of his life. In the dim lighting, amidst the nest of their panting breaths, the paleness of Sherlock's skin spills. Sherlock's cells are ghosts that haunted John in the darkness, in the deep hours of night without night, without sleep, without rest. Sherlock cannot quite believe that he missed such an obvious fact; that John was damaged in a way so similar to him.

John opens and pulls Sherlock's trousers and pants down to tangle between the delicate and bare ankles, sighing in relief. Sherlock watches as he licks long lines against his own palm, the want such a rush that it conquers him completely. When John takes both their cocks in his hand Sherlock arches his back, his neck, lifting up to meet more of the delicious pressure, the infinite heat. There is no teasing, just the annihilating pace of a desperate man, and Sherlock clenches his teeth around a moan of appreciation.

"God you look, you look..." John's words opens Sherlock's eyes and as he takes it in, what is really happening, release hits him like lightning, lighting and destroying him in one demolishing blow.

"John, John," and where he calls, John follows, releasing them from where they have so long been contained. He trembles above Sherlock for a few moments before his elbow gives in and he slumps forward and to his uninjured side, but he cannot leave Sherlock completely. They lay there, the cooling remains of a wildfire.

Slowly, thoughts start trickling back into Sherlock's mind, though they lack much sense. He can feel the moment John tenses, tries to withdraw without moving, and Sherlock moves his head to the side, kissing a sweaty eyebrow.

"Stop," he says simply. John shifts slightly so he can look into Sherlock's face. Slowly his hand comes up to trace Sherlock's lips, a feather along the twin mountains, the cruel valley.

"I thought you didn't..." The words trail off, lost. Sherlock maps out John's features with his eyes.

"Do you think me so inhuman as to be incapable of change?" John's eyebrows rise up.

"No. No, of course not, you are the most human..." And he closes his eyes as if pained. His forehead presses against Sherlock so that his breath fogs over skin. "No."

"What...do you want to do now?" Sherlock asks, has to ask. Even though it is more in his character to simply take, this is not something he can steal. If this is the end, then he has come prepared, though he feels his armour now outdated and insufficient against the onslaught it just suffered.

"I...don't want this to stop." The words are warm against Sherlock's ribs and he moves to capture John's chin with one hand, tilting him up to meet a slow and subdued kiss.

"Then we won't." John pulls away slightly, a hand coming up to trace the knife edge of a cheekbone.

"This could very well be a terrible idea," he says casually, and for the first time in what seems like forever a real smile pulls at Sherlock's lips.

"Dangerous, even," he replies, and John huffs a laugh before settling down again. Though the floor is hard, the air cold, the release on their stomachs and chests quickly becoming uncomfortable, they are for now content to simply, finally rest.

The hunger will resurface, Sherlock knows. It is an insatiable beast. But now he can find some sort of peace in the knowledge that John will be there, will always be there, to feed its inevitable need.