Two weeks ago when I posted Chapter 65 on AO3 and FF.net, I said the ever-fateful words, “66 is practically done so I’ll be posting that real quick.”
Can’t believe there isn’t some giant “BULLSHIT” sign over my head.
Chapter 66 took ages. Two weeks to piece together when it ought to have just been an easy write. Things weren’t working in the beginning of the chapter, and I had to get that finished so I could write the end of the chapter. I was tired or busy on my days off work and sometimes only put in an hour or two before I was so frustrated I just had to do something else. Even this afternoon, I was getting so sick of rereading it, I was about to just post it in whatever rough state I could manage.
In the end, I pushed through it and got it written out. I took an hour away and watched part of the Hobbit, then came back and rearranged some stuff. I took a dinner break and watched a few episodes of Psych and came back to do final edits. By the final readthrough, I was actually happy with it. Possibly because I realized just how long the chapter is, just around 4900 words, which is a gigantic chapter for this story. That is a lot of words to get right all at once, and an awful lot of words to reread over and over.
It also didn’t help that I was jonesing for a vacation, and even yesterday I had miserable vacation brain where I just couldn’t remember shit. So today, first day of vacation, I made tacos and beat my chapter into submission.
Now I must go attend to my other writing goals. I want to finish at least two of the four or so Sherlock things I’ve got in the works right now. Regency Sherlock will not be one of them, I’m sure, but hopefully Huntsman (which has been on hiatus for two months, god, I’m sorry) and Gambling John which has yet to be posted since I want to finish more (all) of it before I inflict it upon the world.
Anyway, Chapters 65 and 66, since they’re as long as about three chapters or more together anyway:
(warning for m/m smut on 66, though from what I gather, that’s more of an attraction than a deterrent, heh)
John paced slowly near the driver, who had not yet provided himself with a word in his own defense even as Sherlock and one of the constables asked him question after question. Sherlock wasn’t as familiar to the constables this side of the Thames, although his reputation certainly did precede him. John was certain this was the only reason they’d been taken at their word. To a complete neophyte, it certainly would seem more likely that the two gentlemen had been interrupted in the process of abducting an innocent hackney driver. John was armed, after all, a fact he couldn’t hide given the shot that had attracted the attention of the watch and the ball in the brain of the dog inside the warehouse.
Sherlock explained in a flat voice that the trussed-up man was the same man who had attacked him several nights previous. He left out that he had known precisely who the driver of their carriage was, but made much about the man’s attack on and subsequent subdual by John. Around the point of the tale in which he’d been accosted by the guard dog, Sherlock stalked off and John took over to calmly explain the laboratory within the warehouse, the unknown chemicals, the morbid scent in the air.
A few minutes later, John caught a glimpse of Sherlock crouched down as if peering at the cobblestones, the tails of his jacket becoming dirtied with muck from the street. John wasn’t sure if he ought to walk over there or allow Sherlock some well-deserved peace. In the end, he let him be and kept an eye on him in case his husband showed signs of the panic he’d experienced inside the warehouse.
John continued to pace, keeping an eye on Sherlock’s still form as two more constables sauntered onto the scene. The marks on his temple and chin were finally beginning to ache, the exhilaration of the fight wearing away. Tomorrow morning, perhaps even tonight, he’d ache sharply. It was completely worth it. For the first time in a long time, he would deserve his aches and pains. He’d earned them, rather than had them thrust upon him. Perhaps he wouldn’t feel so utterly glad about it in the morning, but for now he relished the twinges when he blotted the cut on his temple or bent the knee on his bad leg just a little too far.
A bold constable had fetched a lantern and went inside with his handkerchief folded over his nose and mouth, while others circled the building and opened boarded-up entrances at John’s suggestion that the building be may need to be cleared of dangerous gases. The first constable, a young man with more brash than brawn, returned to the doorway requesting assistance and a crowbar or hook to pry open some suspicious crates.
Sherlock’s head popped up as someone jogged past with a flat metal bar that might do the job. He abruptly stood and followed after those compelled to investigate.
When he walked past, John said, “Sherlock, perhaps we ought to leave this to the constabulary.” What John really wanted to say was, Sherlock, you don’t have to go back in there to prove anything to me, but he didn’t.
“John, if you think I’m going to leave this investigation in the hands of untrained, uneducated louts, you are an unconscionable idiot.” Sherlock ducked back into the warehouse.
John could see Sherlock pausing by the body of the dog through the door, but he could not see his face as he walked in a full circle around it, examining it in detail.
“You’ve got this, yes?” John said to the constable who had given up on trying to get the prisoner to speak and was now simply guarding him until such time as he could be transported away from the scene. John didn’t wait for an answer but limped straight back into the warehouse himself.
In the light streaming from several doors, including one large enough to drive a wagon through, the dog on the floor was hardly the monstrous thing Sherlock had started to describe. It was a beefy thing, brindled, and low to the ground with a wide mouth and plenty of sharp teeth, bred to harry bulls at market. It had probably been a rather stalwart guard, but John could only wonder exactly what Sherlock had seen and heard as the beast loudly and aggressively advanced.
The temperature inside the building had dropped enough that John judged the air fit for human consumption. Besides, there was no way to know if Sherlock had ingested something from one of the vials on the worktop instead. As long as everyone, including Sherlock, kept a sane thought in their heads, John would deem it safe.
Two constables had made quick work of determining the contents of half a dozen boxes. The crates, the ones John could see lining the walls in stacks three or four high, were filled with bodies. Or, more accurately, body parts. The men grimly continued their work, undaunted, for they had many times seen corpses in their line of work and gossip brought increasingly lurid stories of the last days and weeks with their morbid discoveries. Sherlock glanced in each crate, no doubt filing away each revelation to later puzzle into a complete body.
A flurry of swearing deeper in the building sent Sherlock and several constables after the sound. John moved as quickly as he could after the other men, past a wall slapped up between roof supports, only to see a corpse smoking from a dozen contact points with bare wires, flailing, eyes rolling, tongue lolling and finally sitting up before disengaging several of the wires and thudding back onto its marble slab. It continued to twitch, but much less violently.
The vast machine spouting wires was familiar to John, though this one was much larger and housed half a dozen crackling, spinning wheels. It was like von Marum’s electrostatic generator at the Professor’s, though this improved machine may be capable of creating vastly more electricity than its predecessor. Everyone, even Sherlock, had stopped in gut-wrenching awe, jaws dropped open at the sparking, whirring machine.
“He must have recently been here!” Sherlock declared, recovering first. “This experiment could not have been abandoned long else the corpse would be nothing but char. John and I blocked off one exit with our arrival, but there must have been another which was not boarded over.”
Sherlock dashed towards the back of the building.
“John, hurry, I have need of you!”
John trotted along after with one last glance at the hideous construction of wires and brass, spurred by the urgency in Sherlock’s voice.
“John, look around, tell me what you see.”
They emerged on a slightly busier street than Baskerville Road, but it was still mainly wagon traffic as opposed to foot. Few that passed would give a second look to the warehouse, much less investigate with any curiosity.
“I’m not sure what you want me to say, Sherlock,” John hedged. He didn’t see anything that Sherlock could not see. “No one is running away. There is another warehouse across the street, but the entrance on this street is closed…”
“No, John, you see but you do not observe,” Sherlock huffed.
“Well, what should I be looking for?”
“Details, John. Our scientist likely escaped from this door within minutes of our arrival. Where would he go? Down the street? Into another building? Did he have a horse waiting? A carriage? I cannot trust my eyes right now.” Sherlock sounded a bit frantic, prompting John to try his hardest.
“If I hit this door at a run and did not have a carriage waiting for me, I would want to get out of the line of sight as soon as possible. I’d go that way,” John pointed down the street, “and down around that building to disappear from sight.”
“Good, John. Useless, but good.” Sherlock tapped his fingertips together and hummed.
“If you know better, Sherlock, then why did you ask?”
“I need your eyes, John, to confirm what I’m seeing.” Sherlock tugged John a dozen feet. “Now, do tell me if you see this rut here, or this pile of droppings? Do you see it steaming?”
“Yes, Sherlock, so what?” The streets of London were covered with the stuff.
“Well, our scientist is clearly an educated man, and education takes wealth. A wealthy man, were he to enter this section of London at all, would certainly ensconce himself in a small carriage, perhaps one deliberately dilapidated to help conceal his identity. A phaeton would attract too much notice, but a simple chaise or curricle would suit his purposes. These ruts are freshly cut into the muck, and the manure is still steaming in the cold air from a recently present horse. Given the relative placement of these two clues, it was likely a single horse, not a pair, so a chaise. Clearly our quarry drove in that direction. It is useless to try and follow as he would easily blend in with the traffic heading towards London Bridge.”
John saw all these things as Sherlock pointed them out, verified them even, but he’d never have drawn the conclusions that Sherlock wove around the facts.
“Astounding,” he breathed. John imagined he saw Sherlock’s lips nearly flutter into a smile, but he whipped around too soon.
“I don’t believe the scientist meant for us to find him here, or he wouldn’t have escaped. Quite intriguing. Has the driver said anything?”
“Not a word.”
“Fascinating. I wonder if he can speak, or if such functions of the brain have been lost.” Sherlock led John back inside the building to where the constables were still gaping at the massive contraption and the slightly twitching body attached to it. Sherlock darted around it for a minute and suddenly shut it down, much to the relief of the simple parish constables unused to such spectacle. Sherlock began to peer closely at the body and plucked away all the wires so as to absolutely confirm the failure of this experiment. He brought John in close to confirm that the heart did not beat within the chest. John checked the body with professionalism, though the condition of the body made it clear that he’d find no signs of life.
It surprisingly took less than an hour for the building to be flooded with constables and several runners from Bow Street, Lestrade included. Donovan, and a contingent of river police, stopped by to gawk, as well. Despite his fellows’ toughened natures, Donovan was the only one to walk into the building and still have the gall left in his belly to open his bloody mouth.
“Mr. Holmes, did you get tired of your toys, or did you just wish for someone else to clean up after you?”
“Tiresome, Donovan, all my doing, not a real criminal, et cetera, how utterly blasé. Have you been unable to realize the truth by now? I’m amazed they make a hat for a skull so thick.”
“Ah, I see, Holmes, you’re showing off for that pretty husband of yours. Fresh and milk-fed, isn’t he? Don’t worry. Me and my men will be glad to make sure he’s not lonely after you’ve been hauled to the top of the scaffold.”
Though he knew that Donovan’s remarks were just to provoke him and would never come to pass, Sherlock jerked towards him, his hands curled into fists. But John stepped up from behind him, unimposing with his gun in a constable’s custody and his cane taking some of the weight of his steps.
“I’ve grappled with a dead man already once today, Mr. Donovan,” John offered in a steely tone. “Care to make it two?”
Donovan raised an eyebrow and sneered at John, who was a head and a half shorter and considerably narrower.
“Don’t worry, little man, I like my men to limp afterwards…”
Donovan wasn’t expecting the blurry fist that connected with his nose, though he ought to have done considering how many times it had been broken before. The force was enough to send him to the ground. Before he could blink away the tears that blurred his vision, (he let the blood flow freely down his chin and onto his shirt,) Lestrade wedged himself between them.
“Sergeant Donovan, if you and your men are not going to be helpful, I believe you have patrols to return to. I’ve got enough to do without holding a rag to your face as if you were a snot-nosed brat. Get your arse back down to the docks and if you don’t want blood in it, keep your mouth shut.”
Donovan grumbled as he picked himself up, but did as he was told with little more than a glare in Sherlock and John’s direction. John ignored it, wrapping his much-abused handkerchief around his bruised knuckles with enough of a smirk on his lips to make Donovan growl.
Morning turned to afternoon before the investigation turned methodical. Lestrade took control and sent one of his compatriots to track down the current owner of the building and two others to find and question any possible witnesses about any notable comings and goings on Baskerville Street. He ordered the local constables to take inventories, mark each crate with chalk indicating the contents, but to remove nothing. Here was as good a place as any to store the remains for now. Plus, despite calling upon half the constables of London (regular criminals were going to have a field day) he would like to keep this quiet as long as possible. Lestrade strode through the building with Sherlock and John, finally witnessing the failed experiment and the giant electrostatic generator.
He peered up at it with a certain mystification.
“What does it do?”
“It creates an electrical charge.”
Sherlock was at odds to answer this. “Why? Because the human body, our very personal universe, demands investigation just like any other mystery. The amount of knowledge we lack in this field is mind-boggling. What we learn could extend our lives, cure infirmity and disease! Imagine if we could instill life in a fresh corpse by harnessing the mysteries of electricity. You could simply ask the murdered about their murderer.” Sherlock sounded far too excited about this possibility for someone who would have far fewer puzzles to solve if this became the case.
“I believe some mysteries ought to stay just that, Holmes.” Lestrade was looking at the body on the slab, the one that had ceased to twitch when Sherlock shut down the machine. “You were inside the building for a period of several minutes and didn’t see anyone?”
“No.” There was little else to say, and Sherlock’s demeanor dampened with the change in subject. He’d informed John as the constables were arriving that he did not wish for them to know about the hallucinations, and John had kept to his word, being deliberately vague on the subject.
Lestrade grunted, peering at the corpse with narrowed eyes and a close lantern. Sherlock ignored him and stalked about taking in every bit of information he could. John tried to be helpful, looking for any sort of records the scientist might have kept, but found nothing of use.
“The experiments have been going on for some time,” Sherlock began. “The man responsible is quite advanced in his work. He has improved upon the generator here, and here, compared to the Professor’s model, do you remember, John? I wonder if the thickness or metallurgical content of the wires makes a difference; it must. I believe these augmentations may allow for a more intense burst of electricity…”
Lestrade interrupted him. “This is all very fascinating, but we need to know about the culprit. I haven’t even gotten the final number of bodies yet, but this is likely the same man who has been leaving you gifts all over London and I’ll like to put a stop to this!” His voice had risen quickly until he shouted the final three words.
Sherlock was unfazed and simply responded, “Yes.” Then he began pointing out the marks in the sand-strewn floor that had not been trodden over by constables, blown into miniscule dunes by the crosswinds that cooled the enclosed air, nor made by Sherlock himself as he circled close to the machine.
“Two men, one with a slightly slurred step, which could be our driver – we really need to find a name to call him now that he’s in custody – Lazarus might be appropriate, don’t you think – and another with a smaller stride but very sure. The second is likely to be our murderer. Educated, wealthy or a quite industrious thief to procure all this equipment, particularly the marble. Perhaps we could trace the purchase of such an expensive item to further our investigation.
“The work surfaces are meticulously kept, but the sand on the floor is a bit of a surprise.” Sherlock crouched and picked up a pinch, rubbing it between his fingers, let it drift to the floor. He touched his fingertip to his tongue, then spit. “Sand, but mixed with a generous amount of sodium bicarbonate. That indicates our scientist was working with acids and had either deployed the sodium bicarbonate over a spill or had prepared for such an eventuality well in advance.
“Lestrade, if your stomach is bothering you, you could do worse than to dissolve a pinch of the stuff into a glass of water and drink it.”
Lestrade glared at the cause of his heartburn and stopped rubbing his fist into his chest.
“I think we would be better served by interrogating the man who brought you here, especially if you believe he’s been walking around inside this building.”
“Excellent! I also wish to administer a thorough exam…”
“Not you. You and Doctor Watson need to go home and leave this to me. You’ve already put yourselves in enough danger.”
“Home? Now, when we’re finally getting somewhere?”
“Yes, home. Your brother would have my head if I let something happen to you, and that’s not just a figure of speech. I’d be served up on a platter like John the Baptist at the next Holmes family event.”
Sherlock straightened up and looked at the slightly manic Lestrade calmly. “It would hardly be dangerous for me to attend Bow Street. It would also be invaluable for me to hear whatever information the man has firsthand. Thirdly, I would like to take some samples of the man’s blood and tissues for analysis. He is the only successful resurrection completed by our mad scientist as far as we know and we need to take advantage of that fact to increase our knowledge.”
“Holmes, absolutely not. Am I speaking the King’s English? Are you listening? You will neither interrogate nor examine our prisoner. Furthermore, I will not allow you to torture or dissect a man in my custody whether you believe him to be some sort of resurrected monster or not.”
“I don’t need to dissect him completely, Lestrade. I simply need a few tissue samples. You would impede furthering scientific knowledge?”
“I’m impeding your rampant disregard for the prisoner’s rights! Holmes, he’s not dead! I’ve indulged your deductions thus far, but no longer!”
“Yes, he is! You see the instrument of his resurrection before you! The multitude of failed attempts to replicate him! If that isn’t enough to convince you, look to the cut on his neck! There is no surviving that. And the wound shows no sign of healing. If you remove his shirt, I’m certain you’d see where a bullet struck him between the ribs the night he was strangling me. I’ll wager that there’s little more than a rough stitch or two to keep the wound from seeping vital fluids, not to mention the fact that he seems to be supremely unaffected by such a mortal wound…” Now they were both shouting at each other, attracting the curious and disapproving stares of half a dozen men.
“Holmes, he’s walking around. He may even talk yet. He’s not dead. You can have him when he’s still and cold on a slab, but for now, I have to treat him like any other prisoner. I can’t allow you to pick a man apart at the seams on a whim!”
“It’s not a whim!” Sherlock had begun to seethe at the word “indulged,” and his temper had passed white hot in forge terms. “I’m beginning to think that you don’t want this solved at all, Lestrade!”
“Holmes, do try to understand. I believe you, I really do. But not all of my superiors feel that way and I don’t want to be fired, transported, or hanged because I let you experiment on a man in my custody.”
“Who is deceased! And your belief in the truth is irrelevant. The truth is the truth, whether simple minds can grasp it, or no!”
“Why can I never reason logically with you? No matter how right I am, no matter what argument I make, I just can’t win! You don’t even listen! I’m done with it, Sherlock Holmes. You can get the hell out of here while I sort out this mess without your interference for once!”
Sherlock opened his mouth to tell Lestrade exactly where he’d be without Sherlock’s ‘interference,’ but John’s voice halted his own.
“Sherlock.” John wrapped a hand around Sherlock’s elbow, around the front though, the wrong way, and his other hand stroked circles over his shoulder blade. “It’s no use arguing. Mr. Lestrade cannot concede on this matter. We need to give him time to organize this mess. We’ll go home to regroup and form a new plan of action given what we’ve found today. The resurrected man is going nowhere. I’m sure Lestrade will keep the man in custody for questioning, at the very least.”
John’s presence at his side did not calm Sherlock’s ire, but it did incite him to tamp it down a little. His husband was right in that no amount of shouting at Lestrade would entice him to change his mind; he was as stubborn and obstinately contrary as Sherlock at times, even when he was wrong.
Sherlock alternately raved and sulked the entire way home, filling the enclosed carriage with his unfettered indignation. Nothing John said helped matters. He offered his coat since Sherlock had long been without his and could be cold, but Sherlock shrugged him off. John’s suggestions of other avenues of investigation or stopping for a meal were rebuffed with chill rage. He even jokingly offered to be the padded dummy so Sherlock could teach him the rudiments of fencing. Sherlock’s rebuff was so scathing, John’s face heated and he ceased trying. Silence reigned somewhere in the vicinity of St. Paul’s. Each kept to his thoughts for the long remainder of their journey home.
Sherlock burst in the door upon arrival and shot directly up to the first floor, leaving his tight-sleeved jacket at the foot of the stairs to be picked up by Matthews after collecting John’s greatcoat. It took John a minute to work off his tight gloves; his left hand had swollen. Donovan must have a face made of stone, and he’d fought the driver as well. The leather gloves had protected his hands somewhat, but the force of the blows had bruised his knuckles.
By the time John had hobbled to the bottom step, tall boots exchanged for comfortable leather shoes, strains of mutilated violin began to shatter down to the ground floor. After a few minutes of random notes, Sherlock began to systematically abuse the strings in a shrieking, Hellish version of scales. John paused a moment, equally annoyed and worried; Sherlock had never played anything but beautifully in his presence. Was this how he expressed upset? That ought to prove vexatious.
“Oh, dear, was it a bad day?” Mrs. Hudson came bustling forth from the kitchen, spied John hesitating at the foot of the stairs. “Oh heavens, look at you. Blood on your face and your collar, and where is your cravat? Come back to the kitchen and I’ll set you to rights in a jiffy. No, don’t you dare give me that ‘I’m a doctor’ look, young man. It’s best to leave Mr. Holmes to his sulk awhile anyway.”
Mrs. Hudson fed John and tended to his minor wounds with warm water and magnesium salts. His mood was buoyed by the older woman’s good cheer and apparent motherly adoration of Sherlock, as well as a healthy helping of jam tarts. Still, his leg stiffened after the lazy hour being pampered in the warm kitchen; and he thought if it got much worse, he might not make it up the stairs at all. John hoisted himself up from the straight-backed wooden chair with a bit of a groan.
“Well, I’m going to beard the dragon in his den, Mrs. Hudson. Send tea up with Matthews, please, and a few of the tarts, and I’ll see what I can do about Sherlock.”
John had been sitting too long and his bad leg was practically numb, but he ground his teeth and stretched the weary muscles. When he felt up to it, he headed to the stairs; but of course, the minute he stepped out of the kitchen, and certainly as he ascended the steps, Sherlock’s so-called playing increased in volume. John mused that the catgut must be remembering its former life, yowling a stray song atop a fence.
“Sherlock!” John shouted to be heard over the cacophony that vigorously assaulted him upon reaching their upper sitting room.
“I’m thinking, John,” Sherlock shouted back, not pausing his vigorous bowing. John only caught a quarter of Sherlock’s ensuing bitter condemnation of Lestrade, Bow Street, London magistrates, punctuated as it was with variously pitched shrieks from the violin.
“You’re brooding very loudly, Sherlock. Do sit and have tea, or read, or, heaven forbid, even experiment if you must. You’ll drive the servants and neighbors to madness.”
Sherlock drew the bow down the length of the strings, the instrument issuing forth an annoyed groan.
“Then what are you doing here?”
“I’m already mad, you see,” John replied.
Sherlock ignored him, moving to the window and energetically playing a discordant piece that at least vaguely resembled a melody. John decided that was a tolerable compromise. He went to his room and collected the wooden case that contained his cleaning set. He laid out the items he would need and when Matthews arrived with the tea tray, John sent him back down to fetch his pistol from his greatcoat.
“Do sit and share these tarts with me, Sherlock. I believe Mrs. Hudson has a nefarious plan to fatten me up that we must thwart.” John smiled at Sherlock’s back, but received no response. “Tea? Everything is improved with tea?” Sherlock might have sighed but it was hard to hear over the inharmonious notes.
Matthews returned and handed John the gun with care, though with no lack of familiarity.
“I could do that, sir, if you wish.”
“No, thank you. I prefer to do it myself. That will be all.”
John was glad the constable had returned his weapon before he and Sherlock had left. The methodical cleaning process was comforting and the smell of the gun oil reminded him of his father, who had always taught him to take care of his weapons for one day his life could depend on them. John’s life had depended on his pistol several times, and Sherlock’s twice now as well. John went through the well-practiced motions of cleaning and oiling the pistol, and after a thought, loaded it again.
When John was done, and the items properly put away, he returned to their shared sitting room. The frenzied playing was almost pleasant now, though not exactly relaxing. Still, the noise and clatter of another life in the house was more than companionable. Even if Sherlock wouldn’t talk to him, he felt a lot less lonely than he had in a long time.
John paused at the bookshelves during a turn about the room, considering what he might find interesting enough to hold his thoughts through Sherlock’s playing (brooding). He pulled out what looked to be a medical text on rare diseases only to flip it open and find the title page written over with a bold, “Wrong!” John smirked; this would certainly prove to be entertaining. He perused the pages, case histories of unexplained deaths, bizarre symptoms, but Sherlock had crossed out many of the conclusions and scribbled in, “Poison – arsenic,” “Poison – hemlock, obvious” or “aspiration pneumonia due to botched asphyxiation by cheating husband; honestly, did no one check his shoes?”
John sat in his chair by the fireplace, bad leg propped up on a little footstool and angled towards the fire, and paged through the book. He played a game with himself, trying to read each study as a puzzle and see if he could predict Sherlock’s written-in diagnosis. Between each section, he stood and circled the room slowly twice. It was entertaining for an hour or so, until Matthews appeared to light the lamps and stoke the fire.
Matthews vanished downstairs immediately after, probably wondering just how John could stand to remain in the room when Sherlock’s playing was so deliberately atrocious. John considered many ways to get Sherlock out of his foul mood, including shouting him down in his Captain voice, breaking the violin and throwing it into the street hopefully to be put out of its misery by a passing horse and carriage, and physically throwing Sherlock down on the rug and shagging the annoyance from the man.
John let a little smile play on his lips; the third option did have merit. Sherlock had been playing without pause for a good two hours. Despite his state of semi-undress, (wearing neither a proper jacket nor his quilted banyan,) he was glowing and the hair curling over his neck cloth was damp. And without his coattails to obscure it, his plush arse was on display. John watched him play in his petulance, moving with emphatic gestures and sweeps of the bow. Had the music been of a more tolerable tone, John would have been completely entranced by the sway of his body, the set of his shoulders, the arch of his back.
“What is it, John?” Sherlock replied with no little exasperation, flinging his bow out to one side and whirling to face his husband.
“Does that sound like proper music to you?” John enquired quite seriously. “I only ask because I’d like to ascertain whether or not you were still being adversely affected by the chemicals in the warehouse.”
“I am unaltered. The distortions in my vision and hearing returned to the normal range before we left the warehouse,” Sherlock answered with flat certainty.
“I’m glad to hear it.”
Sherlock turned away and, after a few limbering movements, put bow to strings yet again. He resumed playing but his agonized exuberance was muted. The notes he wrung from the violin were long and pure as if he intended to draw out a two minute piece into ten. John even thought that he recognized the piece.
John abandoned the book on his lap, though he idly turned pages without looking at them. He shifted in his chair to more comfortably watch his husband. He could admit that he felt more than just attraction to this man – there was quite a bit of affection. But Sherlock eschewed his touch more often than not, leaving John uncertain as to how to approach him. He pictured himself pressing against that long, straight back as Sherlock played, feeling the ropey muscles move against his chest. He could press his nose just under the curls at Sherlock’s nape – surely he was tall enough to reach – and John could memorize what Sherlock smelled like, tasted like.
John remembered their abbreviated kiss earlier that morning and sighed. Not more than a tease, a touch, a warm feeling that lingered. How long would it be before Sherlock would kiss him like that again? What would it take to distract Sherlock from his pique, from his mysteries, and entice him to display some proof that he did indeed desire John in return?
Would it work if John was pressed against his back, if John stroked his hands over Sherlock’s hips? He saw his thumbs finding the little hollows above Sherlock’s buttocks and his fingertips curling around to brush his pelvic bone. Then if he slid his hands forward just a bit, he’d find the gap in the fall of his trousers; he could tease his fingers along the edge of the fabric, slip them inside.
Maybe this would distract Sherlock from his violin. Maybe he’d have to stop playing, need to lean back into John’s embrace. Maybe John would press the erection he was developing into that arse, discern whether it was soft and lush or tightly muscled. Maybe Sherlock would open that gorgeous mouth of his and utter a moan in that honey-rich baritone of his.
John heard that moan. His eyes leapt back into focus as he realized the sound had been a long, low note drawn from the violin, but also that Sherlock had turned and was considering him carefully.
“We could do worse things with this insipid afternoon than consummate our marriage, John.”
“I beg your pardon?” John sputtered, when he should have just stood and said, ‘God, yes.’ What was wrong with him?
“You heard me. I do loathe repeating myself, John.”
John had heard, but he wasn’t entirely sure he wasn’t hallucinating. Could Sherlock read his mind? The way those eyes penetrated him, John had little doubt that he could. “Right now?”
“You’ve been watching me, John, for at least a quarter of an hour. And your thoughts have been of an increasingly lascivious nature.”
John wasn’t surprised to be caught out in his lingering admiration for Sherlock’s backside. Had it really been that long, though, that John had been lost in his fantasy about his husband?
“How…?” he stuttered, with just a hint of blush.
“The windowpanes reflect nearly as well as mirrors as the darkness falls outside and the lamps are lit within. It was quite elementary to observe your attention. And the way you’re shifting the book in your lap is a rather schoolboy method for hiding evidence of an erection.”
“Ah, well, I suppose I’ll have to learn to be more discreet.” John’s face deepened in color.
John wasn’t certain what Sherlock meant by that, whether he needn’t bother because he could not hide from Sherlock’s heightened awareness or if Sherlock simply didn’t mind.
Sherlock reached for a cloth from his violin case and began to wipe down his violin. He laid the instrument in its case with care then proceeded to wipe down and loosen his bow as well. John took this to mean he was not playing any more tonight. The heavy quiet beat in his ears. Or maybe that was his thundering pulse.
“So by your lack of refusal, am I to understand you would be willing?”
John shivered at Sherlock’s sly tone of voice. It would have been seductive, if he wasn’t so inclined to bluntness. Of course he was willing, but…
“Have I not properly expressed my resolve to not neglect you carnally, no matter what my intentions previous to our introduction might have been?”
John’s blush spread to his ears and down his neck. Even the small of his back felt suddenly hot. A pulse of blood ignited those “neglected” areas to fresh awareness.
When had Sherlock gotten so close? And since when did firelight reflect in his dark hair like that, giving him red and umber highlights? Those eyes, though, they were the same, piercing John with their uncanny precision.
Close, so close.
Good God, Sherlock was going to his knees. In front of John. Moving the book to the floor. Sliding his hands up John’s thighs. If John hadn’t been hard before, the intensity in Sherlock’s eyes, focused on him and intending… intending to…
Sherlock’s fingers found the buttons to John’s trousers, deftly working to open the placket and bring John out right here, right now.
John’s hands covered Sherlock’s forcefully stilling them.
“I thought you wanted this. This morning you said…”
“God, Sherlock, I do, but are you sure you’re ready?” Was John imagining that Sherlock sounded slightly dejected underneath all that frustration?
“We are neither of us simpering misses, John. We don’t need to wait for some poetic moment. You are quite obviously aroused and it will distract my mind from the events of earlier quite effectively.”
“Well, some brilliant man did say I was exceedingly distracting.” John’s voice, as well as his attempt at humor, was weak.
“Yes,” Sherlock agreed with just a hint of a smile. His hands resumed their efforts. John almost lost his conviction at the warmth of Sherlock’s hand cupping over his cock as the other disengaged two buttons. And then he squeezed just a little.
“Sherlock, not like this, on your knees,” John gasped. “Please, I want more.”
Sherlock blinked up at John, studying him, the question ‘More? I’m offering everything,’ obvious in the tilt of his eyebrows. John let go of Sherlock’s hands, moving one of his own to curl around the back of Sherlock’s neck, stroking behind Sherlock’s ear with his thumb. John shifted in his chair, leaned forward, and pulled Sherlock’s mouth to his. The kiss itself was simple, a press of lips slightly parted, breath mingling.
“Let me take you to bed, Sherlock. Let me pleasure you, kiss you, touch you.” John would have given anything to know what thoughts flew through Sherlock’s mind in the minute before he rose gracefully to his feet.
“Very well, John.” Sherlock took up a taper and went ahead to light the two lamps in John’s bedroom. Their bedroom.
By the time John struggled to his feet and followed, made awkward by an unflagging erection and half-unfastened trousers, the room was glowing. The soft light would look quite well on Sherlock’s bare skin. The thought almost made John stumble.
Sherlock kicked his shoes off before crawling onto John’s bed. Their bed. He sat against the headboard, plumping a pillow behind his back. His eyes never stopped watching John, who divested himself of his coat and waistcoat. Sherlock’s fingers hovered above his own buttons, fussing with them rather than unfastening them. That was fine. John made himself as comfortable next to Sherlock as he could, straightening out his bad leg and curling the other around for balance. John noticed that Sherlock had chosen the far side of the bed, which would allow John to lie on his uninjured side facing Sherlock.
John wrapped a hand around one of Sherlock’s, pulling it to his lips and lightly kissing each knuckle. When he was done, he guided that hand around his waist, leaning in closer. He stroked the fine brocade of Sherlock’s waistcoat from shoulder to just below his ribcage, feeling Sherlock’s heartbeat below his fingertips. John couldn’t believe he was allowed to touch this man, that somehow, unbelievably, this man wanted him in return.
It took both his hands to unknot Sherlock’s cravat, but before he finished, Sherlock’s lips were upon his and John forgot momentarily how to untie a knot, unfasten a button, and breathe. Sherlock’s lips pressed against John’s with a violent desperation very unlike the languid passion of the morning. John held his own, though he needed to clutch Sherlock’s shoulder to steady himself.
The kiss eased in pressure and John took the opportunity to nip and suck at Sherlock’s plush lower lip. Sherlock’s tongue joined the game and John felt a thrill at the gentle tasting that shot all the way down his spine. He surged up against Sherlock, one hand tangling itself in the damp curls at Sherlock’s nape.
Sherlock dragged his lips away, leaving John to pant as he pressed his nose and mouth into John’s open collar – John had not replaced his lost neck cloth, feeling no need of it in the privacy of their own home. The exuberant attack on his neck, the licks on his collarbone, the nips on the skin under his jaw introduced a few soft gasps into the quiet.
Sherlock rent John’s shirt open instead of sparing the moment it would take to sweep the fabric over his head. John sighed, though even he wasn’t sure whether this was caused by the loss of a perfectly good shirt or the glorious way Sherlock was sucking a mark onto his neck just there. It didn’t occur to him until Sherlock paused that his husband had suddenly become aware that it wasn’t only John’s leg that was scarred.
“John, how did you survive?” Sherlock murmured into the thick scar tissue that crawled up from his hip and up to his bottom rib. His tongue followed one of the pink ribbons, making John shiver. “Can I see all of it?”
John didn’t particularly think Sherlock found the scarring attractive, intriguing maybe, but neither did he seem disturbed by it. He may as well be allowed to see all of it. John pushed his braces off his shoulders and tugged his destroyed shirt off. Sherlock’s hands were at the buttons of his falls again; then he urged John to lift his hips so he could tug the trousers and smallclothes down.
Soon John was naked, doubly so under Sherlock’s blatant appraisal. He ought to have been chilled, naked in a cold bed, but he felt nothing but rushing heat when calloused fingertips traced each mark of his healed wound.
John opened his mouth to make a comment about how ugly the scars were, but Sherlock grumbled, “Be quiet, John,” before he could speak. John was quiet, then, watching Sherlock’s face as the man memorized every whorl and twist where the stitching had been rough and hasty. Sherlock pushed John onto his back to accomplish this, leaning over him still fully clothed.
“It’s incredible, John,” he breathed. “There are spots where the line is so delicate one might have carved your clay with a knife.” Sherlock ran his tongue along one of these places, just beneath John’s ribcage. It tickled and John twitched, making Sherlock hum. He ran his mouth down over John’s waist, where he could barely feel anything, and over to just below John’s navel, where he most definitely felt everything.
When he pulled back, John groaned.
“You said you didn’t want my mouth on you, John.”
And if Sherlock’s tone wasn’t so matter-of-fact, John might have thought he was being deliberately teased.
“Perhaps I’ve changed my mind.” John’s voice was low and a bit gruff, but it caused Sherlock to smile.
“I had no idea you were so changeable, John.” Sherlock finished unfastening his cravat with adroit fingers, tossing it to the floor before slipping out of his braces and untucking his shirt. John watched Sherlock tug it over his head with avid interest, the long, narrow torso stretching overhead. Sherlock exaggerated the movement as if he noticed John looking, but of course John would look. Sherlock was simply stunning.
“You ought to be a statue in a museum.”
“If I were, I suspect you’d be arrested for indecently groping priceless works of art in public.”
John laughed, surprised at Sherlock’s joke.
“I like your laugh.” Sherlock rushed now, rolling away to divest himself of all clothing below the waist. When he returned, he pressed up against John’s side and kissed his still-smiling mouth with fervor. John let his hands explore since Sherlock wasn’t patient enough to let John investigate with his eyes. He found a smooth chest with sparse soft hairs in a diamond shape in the center. He found flat nipples that pebbled up as soon as his palm brushed over them; a bit of gentle attention there made Sherlock’s dexterous kisses stutter.
Further explorations revealed a flat stomach with a thin line of hair leading down after circling his navel. John curled his hand around the narrow waist, searching for and finding that lush arse. Taut and muscular as if he rode horses all day, every day, it gave his backside an alluring curve. John pulled Sherlock more atop him, so he could squeeze with both hands. Sherlock gasped, his muscles clenching under John’s grasp, and pressed his hips tighter against John’s. This made them both groan.
John could feel his husband’s cock hard against his own and he shifted his hips to introduce a bit of friction. Sherlock took up the movement, the gentle rub and pressure desperately wonderful. John pushed his hips up while pulling Sherlock closer, lost in kisses and the sultry heat of Sherlock’s body.
“Wait, John, wait,” Sherlock gasped, rolling away. John blinked, bereft and lust-blown, but Sherlock was only reaching for a nearby drawer to pull out a small jar. It was the same small jar John had left with Sherlock during his unfortunate dosing with an aphrodisiac. The contents were somewhat depleted, but there was enough for this.
Sherlock opened the jar but now John stopped him instead.
“Not yet. It doesn’t taste as good as it smells.” The glint in John’s eye stopped Sherlock cold.
John pushed Sherlock down onto his back and kissed him again because kissing Sherlock was simply irresistible. But having Sherlock splayed on his back beneath him was even more inviting, and he wanted to know every inch of him. John’s lips moved downward. The dip between his collarbones was sensitive to a flick of tongue. He was a bit ticklish around the sixth and seventh ribs, but only on his left. A fingertip tracing a straight path south from the navel was a surefire way to get his cock to twitch, as was a deliberate lick along the underside.
Sherlock may have been passive, allowing John to do as he wished, but that did not mean he was unresponsive. He murmured his appreciation for John’s dedication to detail, and offered little suggestions of preferences when he liked something out of the norm such as being bitten along the curve of his pectoralis major. Those whispers and soft moans, that voice alone, served to make John’s cock twitch. So when John worked Sherlock’s foreskin back with his tongue and lips, and Sherlock twitched upwards with a rugged groan, John couldn’t help but grasp his own cock and give it a few firm tugs.
Sherlock was salty and musky and John wanted to dive into that scent, taste him everywhere. Sherlock obligingly lifted his knee, fully exposing his bollocks and darker places and John’s tongue adventured lower.
“If you don’t take me into your mouth extremely soon, John, my prick shall permanently turn to stone as if a Gorgon spied me.”
“I love the strain in your voice when you are desperate,” John chuckled, but shifted to do the task requested. Sherlock’s cock was flushed pink, long but of a comfortable girth for John’s mouth, with a flared head that just begged for a tongue to swirl around the smoothness of it. John did so, lapping up the pre-ejaculate as if it were the last drop of jam on the spoon. Using his hand to control depth and speed, John moved his mouth down the shaft.
Effusive gasps and moans rewarded each downward movement as John took him progressively deeper. It wasn’t long before a ragged breath and a hand tugging his short hair warned him to pull back. He did, but only to look at Sherlock sprawled before him, eyes dark and heavy-lidded, lips parted, chest heaving, and bollocks pulled up tight to the base of a florid prick, glossy with saliva. He had been right; the lamplight did favor Sherlock’s bare skin.
Only when Sherlock had calmed a bit did John slick up his hand with the contents of the jar and straddle Sherlock’s thighs. He rubbed the cream along his own shaft, a darker shade than Sherlock’s, and enjoyed the look in Sherlock’s eyes as he watched hungrily. When John scooped up a little more of the cream, Sherlock held out his hand and John slicked up his fingers, giving each digit the same attention he shortly gave Sherlock’s cock. They fumbled to get their grips just right, but soon they were both snug in a cage of fingers and slick heat. John used his upper position to rock his hips, thrusting into their grip; the pair of them found a rhythm that would be quick to bring about release. For all John’s desire to prolong the experience, every nerve in his body was singing for the apex of it all; Sherlock wordlessly agreed. Sherlock’s free hand wrapped around and clutched John’s arse, fingertips slipping into the crease between, finding just the right spots to rub as he encouraged their pace.
Sherlock tensed first, grip tightening and his movements becoming frenetic. The arch of his long white neck at the height of his pleasure was simply breathtaking. John was compelled to bite it.
“Yes, Sherlock, yes, let yourself go,” John hummed into the crook of that gorgeous neck, as if he wasn’t going to be pulled over the edge himself the second Sherlock spilled over their fingers.
A wordless cry, several sharp movements, and Sherlock’s prick emptied itself onto Sherlock’s belly and John’s fingers. The hot fluid, Sherlock’s flushed and sweaty skin, the throbbing shaft still pressed tight to his made John push forward twice more before spilling and mixing his seed with Sherlock’s.
They didn’t move for a few moments, couldn’t move. Sherlock’s hand fell lifelessly to his stomach, apparently carefree about in what it landed. John caught his breath leaning over Sherlock, braced on both hands pressed to the mattress on either side of Sherlock’s shoulders. Sherlock’s eyes were closed and John managed to surprise him with a lingering kiss.
“Let me get a flannel to clean you up with, love. Don’t move.” John shifted off Sherlock, perching on the side of the bed. The flannels and water were across the room, but John had forgotten about his cane for the moment. He still limped, but he made it to the washbasin, washed himself, and came back without needing his cane for balance. “Sorry, it’s cold.” He cleaned Sherlock’s hand and stomach before flinging the cloth back towards the washbasin where it landed with a bit of a splash. He crawled back into the bed and made himself comfortable on his back. One arm curled up over his head; the one nearest Sherlock took the other man’s hand in his.
“Did that clear your mind enough to nap a few minutes?”
Sherlock blinked back at him owlishly as John raised his hand and kissed the back of his wrist.