John eyed the large, tattooed florist warily as a police officer forcefully cuffed the man against the side of a police car. Their assailant had been as skilled with his right hook as he was with arranging gardenias and chrysanthemums. John was going to have a nasty bruise tomorrow. And Sherlock...
"No hospitals," Sherlock groaned, clutching his side.
“Assuming you haven’t broken anything, sure.” John tried to prise Sherlock’s fingers away from his ribs, but Sherlock f.txthed away at the contact. "I can’t assess the damage if you won’t let me touch you, Sherlock."
Sherlock raised one eyebrow. “Very perceptive of you, John. I can see all those years of medical training pai-” The remaining words of Sherlock’s diatribe were cut off by a sharp intake of breath as John prodded at the injured area.
“I’d guess multiple broken ribs. I can’t tell if the difficulty breathing is from exertion or a punctured lung.” He glanced around the crime scene, eyes immediately drawn to the flash of blue and red. “I’ll grab an EMT.”
“No!” Sherlock glared fiercely at John. "You're a doctor. You fix it."
“Me?” John asked, brow furrowing. “With what equipment, exactly? There’s an ambulance right there!”
“There are first aid supplies at Baker Street.” Even with his injuries, Sherlock still managed to let out a huff of indignation. “I’ll call a taxi.”
“Sherlock!” John tightened his grip in irritation, and Sherlock gasped in pain. "Look, you need better equipment than I have at home. At least to get an x-ray. You could have punctured a lung! By the time we get home, it could have turned into a pneumothorax-"
"I'm sure you're perfectly qualified to identify the symptoms of a pneumothorax."
"And treat it with what? Some paracetamol and a bandage? Sherlock, this isn't a game-"
"No!" Sherlock snapped. "It's not." He .txted as he took in a sharp inhale.
John dragged his fingers through his hair. "Fine. But I can't do this at the flat. We'll go to the surgery." At least there, he’d have some basic equipment.
Sherlock was silent as they tried to flag down a cab. John looked over at his battered and exhausted flatmate. One day he'd have to ask Sherlock about his aversion to hospitals.
When they finally settled in the backseat and John gave the driver the address, Sherlock leaned back and closed his eyes.
Back in John’s office, Sherlock eased onto the desk, holding one arm protectively in front of his chest.
John turned away as he started rifling through his medical bag for his stethoscope.
“All right. Shirt, off.”
John looked up from his search after a moment of silence. Sherlock was still on the table, making no move to remove his clothing.
“I need to check your breathing,” John said, once he realised that Sherlock wasn’t going to say anything. “Do you need help unbuttoning, or what?”
Sherlock scowled. “Is this really necessary, John?”
“Don’t tell me you’re shy.” John raised an eyebrow. “I’m a doctor, remember? Not like I haven’t seen it before.”
Sherlock unbuttoned the top button before dropping his hands back down to his lap.
John folded his arms across his chest and planted his feet firmly on the floor, smirking at Sherlock with one eyebrow raised.
Sherlock frowned. “That should be sufficient for your stethoscope.”
“No, Sherlock,” John said, trying to keep his lips from quirking upward in amusement, “it is not sufficient.”
Sherlock swallowed and looked away, but made no move to remove his shirt.
John just rolled his eyes. “Would it make you feel better if I just listened to your back? You’ll be better able to keep your chest still that way, anyway.”
Sherlock huffed in annoyance. “Turn around.”
“Turn around? Oh. Right. Fine.” John suppressed the urge to sigh melodramatically as Sherlock removed his shirt.
“You can look now.”
Sherlock was cradling his chest in his arms, and John could already see blossoms of blue and purple spreading across the left side of his chest.
John walked around to Sherlock’s back and pressed the stethoscope to just above the waistband of Sherlock’s trousers. Sherlock f.txthed back, away from the cold press of metal, before hissing in pain from the jolt to his ribcage.
John surveyed the x-ray results with a critical eye.
"Well, the good news is, you don't have a punctured lung."
Sherlock just grunted.
"You do have four cracked ribs, however."
"That explains the pain."
“Other than pain meds, I can tape your ribs to stabilise them.”
Sherlock turned to John, his scowl a mix of irritation and curiosity.
“You’ll need to take off your shirt again,” John reminded him.
“I don’t need tape. I’ll be fine.” Sherlock rose from the table in as fluid a motion as he could manage with broken ribs and made as if to leave.
“Sherlock! Stop.” John took a deep breath. “Just... sit. You do need it - there’s a risk that you’ll worsen the break or even puncture a lung without it.”
Sherlock scowled, but he stopped moving towards the exit. “I’ll be careful, then.”
“I doubt you know the meaning of the word, Sherlock. I’m the doctor here, and whatever you may think, I do actually know what I’m talking about.”
Sherlock’s mouth .txthed, and he slowly walked back towards John’s desk, avoiding eye contact.
The silent surrender was more unnerving to John than any argument. He’d seen many things as a doctor. Abnormalities, rare diseases, patients who didn't want to be touched; there were plenty of reasons to hate being seen, being touched.
John’s arms dropped to the sides and his brow furrowed. He hesitated for a long moment. "Is it something else?”
Sherlock crossed his arms over his chest.
“Is it that you dislike hospitals? Or do you just dislike most doctors?"
"Aren't they the same thing?" Sherlock smirked, but he didn't meet John's eye.
“Is there something you don’t want me to see?”
Sherlock’s smirk faded. “I have scars.” He was still refusing to look at John.
“Look, Sherlock, I understand...” John started to gesture towards his shoulder before thinking better of it. “I don’t expect you to be perfect. I don’t care, all right? What you are now, that’s... what matters.”
Sherlock's head snapped towards John, eyes wide. His expression was quickly wiped away and replaced with a blank mask. “You expect me to believe that?”
“Yes.” John didn’t let his gaze drop until Sherlock looked away.
"If I'm going to be your doctor, Sherlock..." John licked his lips, suddenly nervous. "I need to be able to dress your wounds, at the very least. You can't hide things from me." Sherlock turned to look at him, gaze inscrutable.
"My doctor? Then you agree not to subject me to the iniquities of hospitalization."
"I can't guarantee that we'll never need to go to hospital, Sherlock. There are things I can't treat."
Sherlock just stared back in silence.
"But, yeah. I'll try. If it means that much to you."
Sherlock was still for a moment, and John fidgeted uncomfortably. “So,” John said. “Anything I need to know? Medical history?”
"You already know the important parts. Brief cocaine addiction six years ago. Family history of heart disease." Sherlock hesitated. "You've seen the hormone treatments. When I asked you to fetch my nicotine patches. Whether you realized their significance is another matter."
"Um. Right. Sorry, what?"
Sherlock rolled his eyes. "As ever, John, you fail to observe. The testosterone patches in my bathroom cabinet."
“Testosterone?” John hesitated, understanding dawning. “Do you have a testosterone deficiency? That’s nothing to be ashamed of. Plenty of men supplement their testosterone levels with... what?” John glared back at Sherlock, who was looking entirely too amused.
“John. Surely even you are not that naive.”
“What, then? Were you using it for an experiment?”
"If you think hard, I'm sure you can work out what I use testosterone for." Sherlock was smirking, but there was a hard edge to his smile.
John glared back at Sherlock. “I’m not a two-year-old, Sherlock. Just tell me.”
Sherlock frowned at John, using the same expression as when a case was painfully obvious and John still didn’t see the crucial piece of evidence. “I’m transgender.”
“Oh.” John felt his cheeks grow hot. "So, not for an experiment, then?”
“Well,” Sherlock said, waving his hand airily, “I may have used some of them for experimental purposes.”
John smiled, then paused, trying to figure out how to phrase his next question. "So, ah... you were born... um. Right. Do you... have you been..."
"To all of your inevitably irritating queries - yes, I’ve had top surgery. Yes, I take hormones. Yes, I have an annual exam, at Mycroft's insistence.” His eyes narrowed. “I would prefer not to discuss the matter further."
John licked his lips. “Well, if you ever want to discuss it - like I said before. It’s all fine.”
A faint smile flickered at the corners of Sherlock’s mouth. “Good.”
“You’re still a prat, though.”
Sherlock smirked as he resumed unbuttoning. He pushed his shirt open and let the soft cotton slip past his shoulders.
John’s eyes flickered over the twin scars on Sherlock’s chest before smoothing a strip of adhesive tape above the first broken rib.
John was lingering a bit too long in the jam aisle of the Tesco’s.
It had been three days .txte Sherlock’s injury. John had spent a few hours each day looking online for everything he could find on transgender men. He’d been nervous to do it with Sherlock around, but he felt uncomfortably ignorant about the subject. Medical school hadn’t exactly gone into detail. Sherlock had pointedly ignored John as he’d done his research, for which John had been silently grateful.
Early that morning, John had coerced Sherlock into letting him check his injuries and re-apply the adhesive tape to his broken ribs.
John waited for Sherlock to unbutton and remove his shirt. "How does it feel?" John asked, gently trailing fingers down Sherlock's rib cage to see if the hairline fractures had become more severe.
Sherlock grimaced. "Delightful, John. I adore having broken ribs."
John rolled his eyes and bit back the grin threatening to eclipse his face. "I’m going to reapply some of the tape, all right? Just keep breathing as deeply as you can."
Sherlock just grunted and John carefully peeled back the top-most piece of tape. Sherlock was barely able to keep still, fidgeting whenever John’s fingers made contact with his skin. John crumpled the tape and tossed it into the rubbish bin before starting to apply fresh tape to the spot where it had been. Sherlock .txted at the first application of pressure.
"Is that all right?" John asked.
"Define all right, John. If all right means that I have four broken ribs and you are pressing on them in a manner that makes it quite difficult to breathe, then yes. I am perfectly all right."
“Could be worse. They used to use full chest bindings. Made it much harder to breathe.”
Sherlock grit his teeth as John smoothed the tape out onto his back. “Ah, the joys of medicine.”
John smiled and started to peel back the second piece of tape. "Oh, come on. It can't be any worse than the bindings you used to wear."
Sherlock stiffened under John's fingers, and when John met his eyes they were cold and hard as steel.
John's hands stilled on the tape he had been removing from Sherlock's torso. "I'm sorry."
Sherlock stayed silent, unmoving, so John finished pulling off the tape and started rolling out a fresh length.
"Strange," Sherlock said, lips pressed in a firm line. “Usually you’re the one scolding me."
John was silent as he rolled the tape under Sherlock's arm to the middle of his back.
"I don’t really know what I’m doing, here," John finally said. He smoothed down the tape to make sure it was secure. "It’s not like I can always avoid offending you."
Something flickered in Sherlock’s eyes, but it was gone before John had the chance to decipher it. "Are you even going to try?"
"I am trying, Sherlock! I'm not treating you any differently, am I?"
Sherlock just smiled, a strained, unpleasant thing that didn't reach his eyes. "Are we done here?"
John sighed, letting his hands fall from Sherlock's side. "Yeah. Yeah, we're done."
"Good." Sherlock pushed himself away from the table with a .txte, stalked off to his bedroom and slammed the door shut.
So John had gone out. They needed milk. It wasn't an excuse to avoid Sherlock.
Well. It wasn't just an excuse.
When John felt the vibration in his pocket, he nearly dropped the jar of lemon curd he was holding.
Pick up Earl Grey and latex gloves while you’re out. SH
John felt the side of his mouth twitch up in a smile as he read Sherlock’s message. He put the lemon curd back on the shelf.
Will do. JW
And I’m sorry I said what I did. JW
It was a shit thing to bring up. JW
I think I get it now. I wasn't trying to bring up bad memories. JW
And you know I don't care, right? JW
He shook his head, telling himself he shouldn’t expect a response, and strode off towards the tea aisle. He was interrupted by another buzz.
John swallowed, and started to type out a reply, when he received a second text.
You do care. SH
John bit his lip as he stared at the text.
Let me know if I say something stupid in the future, yeah? JW
Because, yes, I do. JW
We also need eggs. SH
“Oi, something on your mind?” Greg beamed down at John as he settled onto the stool across the table from him. “You look distracted.”
John snapped out of his thoughts and turned to look at his friend. “What?”
Greg laughed, a rumbling chuckle that made something curl pleasantly in John’s belly. “I’ll take that as a yes.”
John ran a hand through his hair as he smiled back at Greg. “Did you want to order drinks?”
“Sure.” Greg was all smiles, his silver hair ruffled and his cheeks ruddy from the cold weather outside.
When he got back to the table with two steaming mugs of tea and a blueberry scone, John was still wound up, but this time, it wasn’t just because of Sherlock.
“You look nice,” John said, eyeing Greg’s fitted jeans and chequered shirt as he pulled off his outer jacket.
“Surprising, I know. Outside of work I can be civilised.” His eyes flicked over John’s own outfit. “You’re not looking bad, yourself.”
John grinned. “Thanks.”
They both silently sipped at their mugs, and when they both reached for the scone at the same time, they both f.txthed back. John could feel the flush working its way up to his cheeks. “Sorry. You... ah. Go ahead.”
Greg laughed. “I haven’t been this nervous on a date in years.”
John grinned. “Me neither.”
Greg just coughed and buried his smile in his mug of tea. When he finished swallowing, his expression was serene. “So, how’s our favourite detective?”
“Consultant or Inspector?”
Greg blushed. “The one who’s stuck at home on the sofa, instead of running about the city chasing criminals.”
“About how you’d expect. He’s stir-crazy. I haven’t strangled him... yet.”
“Well, you could strangle someone else. Give him something to look into.”
“Funny, that’s what he said yesterday.”
Greg just laughed.
“I just don’t know what to do with him. I feel like I put everything in my life on hold for him, and he-” John was silent for a moment, staring into his drink. “We can talk about something else, you know.”
“I mean, we’ve been on, what, three dates now? And I think I’ve talked more about Sherlock than you’ve talked about... well, anything.”
Greg grinned at John. “Really, I don’t mind.”
John felt something strange flip in his chest at the sight of Greg’s smile, wide and genuine. So different from Sherlock, from the latest string of girlfriends. Not for the first time, John fought the urge to kiss him.
Greg’s lips had twisted into a bemused smile by this point. “Lost in thought again?”
“Dare I ask what you’re thinking about?”
Then again, why did he have to fight it?
John smiled. “This,” he said, leaning forward across the table, one hand reaching for Greg and curling in the coarse hair at the nape of his neck, thumb stroking the stubbled line of his jaw. The kiss was chaste, just a soft press of lips, but John’s heart was pounding in his chest when he finally dropped his hand and leaned back in his seat.
“So,” Greg said, clearing his throat. “That was... good.”
“Want to talk about Sherlock some more?” Greg asked, grinning. “Because if I get kisses for it, I don’t mind so much.”
He’s in love with you. -g
Don’t be ridiculous. SH
I thought you were supposed to be observant. -g
He found out. Last week. It’s temporary. His interest will fade. SH
He hasn’t been in love with you for just a week. -g
He’s never been in love with me. SH
Why, because you didn’t tell him one thing? As far as I know, love isn’t terribly concerned about someone’s bits. -g
I see that the Yard’s sensitivity training sessions have worked well for you. SH
Oh, shut up. You know what I mean. -g
Four days later, after a particularly exhausting double shift at the surgery, John had gone up to bed early, but he’d found it impossible to fall asleep. He scrambled for his phone when he heard it buzz on the nightstand.
Fancy a pint Fri at 8? -g
Sherlock getting to you? :) -g
John sighed as he slid his mobile back onto his nightstand. The past few days, not only was Sherlock being an even bigger prick than normal, but John couldn’t stop thinking about him.
He’d never had many transgender friends. He knew one girl in med school who had been.txtredibly open about being trans - he recalled that she’d thrown a vagina party a year after her surgery. He’d dropped by for a half hour, and received a kiss for his trouble. She was passionate about medicine, and he’d always found that attractive. But when he’d asked her out for a coffee, she had giggled, politely declined, and mentioned her new girlfriend. He’d gone out for drinks with them a week later.
But he certainly was never as close to her as he was to Sherlock. Ever .txte he’d met the man, he’d felt his whole world start to spin around him.
Greg. Think of Greg, he told himself. Silver hair, stubbled chin, brown eyes, sun-darkened shoulders.
So why did he keep thinking of black curls and smooth, pale flesh? Of a sharp tongue that stripped away your masks and laid your secrets bare?
Surely, he must know by now how John saw him.
John wondered, not for the first time, what Sherlock would look like naked. But now, instead of picturing a dark, shiny cock, slightly curved, rising from a nest of dark curls... there was, what? Did he use a prosthetic? Had he gotten surgery? If not, how much had he changed from the hormones? John’s breath caught in his chest at the thought.
In the best of times, it was inappropriate to picture your flatmate naked - not that John could help himself, some days - but especially not when you were dating someone else.
Think of Greg.
Instead, he saw quick, clever hands and piercing eyes. Creamy skin, lightly freckled, with a dusting of pale chest hair and two neat horizontal scars...
It was several hours before John drifted off into a restless sleep.
On Friday evening, John was sitting quietly at the bar with Greg, only half-watching the rugby match.
“I imagine the broken ribs aren’t making him terribly cheerful,” Greg said, downing another gulp of Guinness.
John shook his head. "He's bored out of his skull. If we don’t get a case soon I really may end up strangling him.”
"I've been looking for some cold cases, but so far, nothing His Royal Majesty would deign investigating."
"Thanks for trying, at least. I've been considering handcuffing him to the bed just to make him keep still."
Greg was staring at John with a peculiar expression when John realised what he'd just said. "Oh my God! Not like that!"
Greg just chuckled and patted John on the back as the other man buried his face in his hands. "Didn't know you were interested in that sort of thing," he teased. "You can borrow my handcuffs, if you'd like."
John kept his eyes trained on the bar, focusing on keeping his breathing even. An image flashed in his mind, unbidden: Greg handcuffed to John’s headboard, eyes bright, shirt unbuttoned...
John straightened and turned to look at Greg carefully. His cheeks were ruddy and his hair mussed. He looked at John from the corner of his eye as he swallowed another mouthful of lager.
John cleared his throat. "I might like to borrow them, actually."
Greg's eyes sparkled and his mouth twitched up in a smile as he looked at John sidelong. “Oh, you would, would you?”
"Legally, though," John added, carefully keeping his tone neutral, "they'd have to remain in police custody."
Greg threw back the rest of his glass.
John licked his lips.
"All right," Greg said.
Greg tried not to smile too broadly as he followed John up the seventeen steps at 221 Baker Street. He’d been here plenty of times before, but never with this particular purpose.
“So,” John said, as he unlocked the door to the flat. “We’re... here.”
Greg lingered in the door frame.
“Right.” John sighed. “You’ve been here before. Sit down, I’ll grab you a Guinness.”
Greg settled on the sofa, trying to compose himself, as John came back to the living room, two bottles in hand. Greg shifted nervously. “Are you sure Sherlock won’t...”
“He’s out right now.” John sat on the sofa and handed one bottle to Greg, opening his own and taking a swig.
“For how long?” Greg asked, setting his bottle on the table.
John shrugged. “I honestly don’t know when he’s getting back.”
“So,” Greg said, reaching out to place a thumb on John’s lip, “he could be back at any time?”
“He could be back at any time.” John sucked Greg’s thumb into his mouth.
Greg hissed as he watched John’s tongue flicker over the pad of his thumb.
John smiled and wrapped his hand around the nape of Greg’s neck. Greg’s hand shifted to cup John’s chin and their lips met, John’s slippery with saliva and Greg’s chapped. Greg was just starting to enjoy exploring John’s mouth with his tongue when John pulled back.
“Would you like for him to see us doing this?”
Greg shivered and tried to suppress the image of Sherlock touching himself as Greg and John fucked each other on the sofa.
As long as he’d known Sherlock, though... no. Sherlock would not appreciate seeing them like this.
Greg tried not to sound too disappointed. “We’ll have to be quick then.”
John smiled at Greg wickedly, one eyebrow raised. “You have a problem with taking your time?”
“Oh, you did not just question my stamina.” Greg growled and slid his hands up John’s torso, reaching down with teeth bared to John’s clavicle. “I can take,” he said, nipping at John’s collarbone. “As long,” swiping up John’s throat with his tongue. “As it takes,” clamping teeth down on an earlobe and applying just the barest hint of pressure. “Doctor.”
John responded by sinking his teeth into Greg’s neck, sucking and lathing his tongue in circles.
“So who gets to be in charge tonight?” Greg panted. “I say we flip for it.”
“Flip?” John grinned. “Like this?” He grabbed Greg’s knees and flipped him down onto the sofa, crawling on top to straddle him.
Greg laughed breathlessly. “I should have seen that one coming.”
“Yes,” John said, leaning down to capture Greg’s lips with his own, “you should have.”
John was just getting into the rhythm of Greg’s hips bucking beneath him when Greg turned his face away, panting. “I want a rematch.”
John raised an eyebrow. “You think you can flip me?”
Greg’s eyes flickered over to the two half-empty beer bottles sitting on the coffee table. “We could play spin-the-bottle.”
John snorted, and Greg took advantage of his distraction.
Sherlock, when he thrust open the door to his flat, felt he did a good job of hiding his surprise. He didn’t say a word, though he did stop dead in the doorframe.
He’d opened the door to find Greg and John with their hands down each other’s trousers, sloppily kissing and writhing on the sofa. Sherlock’s sofa.
John, still pinned to the sofa underneath Greg, was the first to pull away. “Uhm. Hi.”
Greg merely stopped the movement of his hand and glanced guiltily up at Sherlock. “Evening.”
John rolled his eyes and tugged at Greg’s arm, but apparently the man had an irrational urge to hold on even tighter. The resulting pressure made John gasp.
“I should leave,” Sherlock said, but contrary to his words, he just stood there, heart racing. His transport was betraying him.
“You... don’t have to,” John said.
Greg straightened up and slid off the sofa to kneel on the floor next to John, eyes fixed on Sherlock.
"Stay," Greg breathed.
“I presume you’re looking for a different set of equipment than I can provide,” Sherlock said, his expression carefully neutral. “Something that fits the standard binary.”
John sucked in a breath, as Greg asked, “You sure about that?”
Sherlock narrowed his eyes at Greg. “I’m not a sexual experiment. Go find a prostitute to play with.”
“Jesus, Sherlock! What the hell is wrong with you?” Greg waved his hands in the air, making some obscene gesture. “Do you think we’re offering because you’re...? No!” He shook his head violently. “It doesn't matter, Sherlock.”
“I don’t need your pity.”
“It’s not pity,” John interrupted, looking almost desperate. He rose from the sofa and walked over to Sherlock, close enough that Sherlock could feel the warmth of John's residual body heat seeping through his silk shirt. Sherlock looked down at John, into his blue eyes that were so dilated as to look almost pure black, only a sliver of iris visible.
“Did you ever consider that you’re bloody gorgeous?" His voice dropped lower and he reached out a hand to cradle Sherlock’s cheek. “I want to touch you.”
Sherlock suddenly found it very hard to breathe.
“Please,” John added.
It took an eternity for Sherlock to remember how to speak again. “You’re drunk.”
John bit his lip, his hand falling to his side.
Sherlock slipped into his bedroom and shut the door gently behind him, staggering to the bed and closing his eyes as he let the darkness wash over him.
Greg walked up behind John and laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. “It’s not your fault.”
“Of course it’s my fault!” John whirled to face Greg. “I pushed him...”
Greg sighed and looked away. “I’m leaving. Call me if...” He smiled thinly, tightly, a bitter smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “Call me sometime, yeah?”
John stepped forward as Greg turned to the door, grabbing his coat from the rack. “Greg, you don’t... please don’t leave.”
“Look, I don’t care that you’re in love with him. It’s fine. I was, too, once. But...” Greg swallowed, tugged his jacket on, fumbled the bottom stop into the slider of his zip. “I can’t do this.”
John said nothing, just turned his head and clenched his fists. The sound of the front door closing was quieter than Sherlock’s bedroom door had been, but John didn’t know which was worse. He trudged up the flight of stairs to his room and shut his own door.
John woke up with less of a hangover than he’d expected, but more of one than he’d have liked. Normally he drank plenty of water to stave off the morning-after unpleasantness of alcohol poisoning, but the fight with Sherlock - and Greg - had caused him to flee upstairs, all other thoughts abandoned.
He stumbled over to the tap and poured himself a glass, which he gulped down, replenished, and then drank in slow sips. He blinked at the clock; 8:17 blinked back.
John needed to apologize. To Greg, obviously, but that could wait.
He listened for sounds of movement downstairs; he heard nothing, but that didn’t mean much. Sherlock could be in one of his silent moods.
John changed into a sweater and jeans and started down the stairs. Sherlock was, not surprisingly, spread out on the sofa, flipping through the morning newspaper.
“Any murders?” John asked.
John took a deep breath. Sherlock still wasn’t looking at him, so he’d have to just spit it out.
“I’m sorry about last night.”
Sherlock glanced at John briefly before returning to his perusal of the paper. “Sorry?”
This time Sherlock laid the paper on the floor beside him and sat up, elbows propped on his knees and fingers pressed together, tapping at his bottom lip. “What is there to forgive?”
John swallowed. “I know... look, you said before, you don’t want a relationship. And I’ve tried... that is, I should’ve tried harder to respect that. So. I’m sorry I pushed.”
Sherlock gazed at John for a long moment. He finally stood in a flurry of limbs. “Tea?”
John blinked. “Are you making it, or am I?”
Sherlock smirked. “You are, obviously.”
John simply nodded, once, before turning and walking towards the kitchen, Sherlock following him at a safe distance. He filled the kettle and set it to boil, then pulled down two mugs from the top shelf and plopped Earl Grey tea bags in each one. They stood in tense silence, neither doing so much as clear their throats. John waited until the kettle boiled to speak.
“Are we going to talk about this?”
Sherlock grimaced and reached for his mug from John’s outstretched hand. “If we must.”
They walked to the living room, John trying to fight the feeling that he was participating in some sort of death march. Sherlock settled onto the sofa while John collapsed into his arm chair.
Sherlock sipped carefully at his tea, legs crossed as he leaned back against the sofa cushions. “You may.”
John looked up from his own mug. His brows furrowed in confusion as he stared at Sherlock. “I may what?”
“You said you wanted to touch me.”
John’s skin felt tight and too hot, somehow. He set his mug of tea on the coffee table with a shaky hand before straightening in his chair.
“What about Greg?”
Sherlock frowned. “What about him?”
“He... well, we’ve been... we started dating.”
“And he wants you.”
Sherlock raised an eyebrow. “I know.”
John blinked. “Of course you do.” He .txthed the bridge of his nose, trying to reign in his frustration. “Sherlock, you... God. Does he know? About...”
Sherlock simply took another sip of tea.
John licked his lips. “Of course he does.”
“Very observant of you, John.”
John glared. “And what do you want, Sherlock?”
“I don’t know,” Sherlock said, honestly.
John smiled, a bit ruefully. “I don’t either.”
Sherlock sipped at his tea. John picked up the remote from the table. He smiled, a bit easier this time, and turned on the telly.
Sherlock lay in bed pondering John’s question from earlier that morning.
What did he want?
He wanted understanding. He wanted pleasure. He wanted to touch, and be touched, by someone who didn’t repel him. Not an idiot. He wanted to be looked upon with rapture instead of confusion or disdain.
Was what he wanted even possible?
John had asked him, had looked over at Sherlock, teeth worrying at his lower lip, tea growing cold on the table before him.
John had pressed bandages to his chest with tenderness and concern and guarded curiosity.
John had killed a man to save his life.
John had wanted him, .txte that night in Angelo’s, .txte the first time they met in the lab at Bart’s. But he had refrained from acting on that desire. He had held himself back, because that’s what Sherlock had said he wanted.
Sherlock had been celibate for over eighteen years. His first fumbling experiences had been with a different set of genitalia. .txte starting the testosterone at the age of seventeen (there were advantages to having Mycroft as a brother), his libido had.txtreased but so had his disdain. Relationships were messy, and few enough people were accepting of his personality. It was easier to keep a safe distance; he never needed to talk about his body, never needed to mention his childhood.
But a year ago, he had told Lestrade. Lestrade hadn't said anything. He simply held Sherlock until he stopped shaking, then went down the street to get a Chinese takeaway. They sat eating together in silence, watching crap telly. Lestrade had fallen asleep on the sofa after, and Sherlock had looked down at him with wonder.
Three months later, he had told Mrs. Hudson. She had patted his hand, smiled fondly, and plied him with more tea and biscuits.
And now John. John had been the worst. He hadn't wanted to tell John; not yet, at any rate. But now John knew and something vital between them had snapped. John would stare at Sherlock as if he were a fragile thing, likely to shatter. As if he were somehow precious.
But then, John had always looked at him that way, hadn't he?
Did Sherlock still need to keep himself at a distance? More importantly, did he still want to?
Nothing more was said on the matter for seventeen days.
Sherlock was kneeling over the body of a young woman who had died in a locked room from multiple lacerations, but there was no sign of the murder weapon. Though he was still clutching his chest protectively, John didn’t think he’d seen Sherlock this giddy in weeks.
“John! Come over here! I need you to identify the abrasion pattern on the left clavicle.”
John smiled apologetically at Greg before walking over and kneeling next to Sherlock.
“The bruising pattern looks like it was made by some kind of tool - the lines were all made in parallel.” He pointed to the rightmost mark. “There was more pressure on this side, which is why it cut through the skin here, but not anywhere else, and the bruising is less obvious on the left side.”
Sherlock leaned back on his haunches, a serious expression on his face. “More pressure on one side, parallel lines...” He rose to his feet, eyes alight. “We need to interview the brother!” He glanced down at John, a smile tugging at his lips, and murmured, “Brilliant,” before turning and pacing over to Greg.
John got up and dusted off his jeans from where he’d been kneeling on the ground. He wandered up to catch Sherlock mid-explanation. “-gardener, obviously, from the spacing of the markings and the way in which he held the weapon. And who do we know who has motive who also happens to be the owner of a greenhouse?” Sherlock paused, apparently waiting for an answer, before he snorted impatiently, and interrupted, “The younger brother, obviously.”
Greg just shook his head. “I don’t know how you figured that one out, but I’ll bring him in.”
Sherlock’s eyes glittered. “Make sure to mention the rake. He’ll likely confess.” He turned to John. “Come along, then.”
John turned to Greg. “Dinner tomorrow night?” He raised an eyebrow questioningly.
“Sounds great. I’ll meet you at seven - Thai place, the one near your flat?” Greg asked, grinning.
John grinned back. “See you then.”
“John!” Sherlock called after him, already halfway to the door. “Stop dawdling!”
The Elephant Hut was only three doors down from Angelo’s, and John felt a twinge of guilt as he passed the window without stopping. His mood brightened considerably, however, when he saw Greg, leaning against a tree on the sidewalk outside the restaurant.
“Hey,” John said, coming up next to Greg and poking him in the side with his elbow.
“Hey,” Greg replied, smiling down at John. “Hungry?”
They both ordered curry and chatted about small things - Greg’s never ending stack of paperwork, John’s fight to keep the fridge stocked with more food than experiments, the latest Yard gossip (apparently Donovan had, once again, dumped Anderson “for the last time” - not that it ever stuck), Sherlock’s improvement in mood once his ribs had healed up enough for him to start visiting crime scenes again.
“Speaking of Sherlock,” Greg said, mouth half-full of rice, “have you talked to him about... well... things?”
“Things?” John asked, frowning over his gaeng garee. He fished a prawn out of the bowl with his chopsticks and it promptly fell back in.
Greg sighed. “You know. About you. The two of you.”
John frowned into his curry. “No, I haven’t.”
“Do you want to?”
“Not particularly, no.”
Greg spent a few moments scooping chicken and sauce into his mouth. John eyed him resentfully. Damn the man and his superior chopsticks skills.
“You love him, don’t you?” Greg asked casually, as if he were still talking about yesterday’s rugby match or the muffins Sergeant Hopkins had brought in to the office last week.
John groaned. “We have a good thing here, Greg. I don’t need-”
“You’re allowed to love more than one person, you know.”
John stabbed at the prawn viciously. “It’s easier if you don’t.”
Greg shifted on his seat. “Look, it’s not... it’s not just you, okay?”
John glanced up to see Greg staring at him, his eyes serious, his mouth pulled in a tight line.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“I mean, John, that I’m in the same boat you are.”
John blinked. “You- you’re in love with Sherlock?”
Greg rolled his eyes. “I see why he calls you an idiot, sometimes.”
“Oi!” John flicked his chopsticks at Greg, spraying bits of yellow curry on his cheek. “I’m not an idiot!”
Greg laughed as he wiped his face off with his napkin. “No, you’re right, you’re just a four-year-old! I swear, you’re worse than Sherlock!”
John raised an eyebrow and pursed his lips in mock disapproval. “That was a low blow.”
And then Greg leaned over the curry and his lips met John’s. John could taste turmeric and garlic and onions on Greg’s tongue.
Greg pulled away, smiling, and, John was pleased to note, looking a bit dazed. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”
This time, when John pulled open the door to the flat, Sherlock was waiting for them.
Sherlock looked up from his spot on the sofa as he heard the lock unlatch.
John paused for just a moment, eyes drinking in the sight of Sherlock in his dressing gown, before tugging at the hand entwined with Greg’s and starting for the stairs up to his bedroom.
John stopped in his tracks, staring back at Sherlock.
“Surely you wouldn’t be so impolite as to rush off to your room without so much as a hello?”
When John turned to gauge Greg’s reaction, he found the other man avoiding eye contact.
“Greg,” John growled, tightening his grip on Greg’s hand.
Sherlock cleared his throat. “He let me know you were coming back here, that’s all.”
John dropped Greg’s hand and crossed his arms over his chest. “Right.”
Greg sighed. “John, I thought maybe the three of us should-”
“Should what? Talk out our differences? If he doesn’t want me, he doesn’t want me.” John refused to meet either man’s eye. “I’ll put the kettle on. Have fun talking it out.”
Sherlock sighed as John stomped off to the kitchen and Greg came to sit down on the sofa beside him.
“He wants this. I know he does.” Greg paused, eyeing Sherlock appraisingly. “Do you?”
Sherlock nodded. Greg still looked apprehensive, so he murmured “Yes.” He sounded more confident than he felt, but Greg looked appeased.
“You can still back out, you know.”
Sherlock pursed his lips. “I do know.”
They lapsed into a comfortable silence, and when John got back to the living room, three mugs in hand, Sherlock and Greg both turned to look at him. Greg moved over on the sofa so there was a space on the middle cushion for John to sit.
John set two mugs of tea on the table and then took a seat. He sipped slowly, jaw clenching as he swallowed.
Sherlock broke the silence first. “I know what I want now.”
The muscles in John’s shoulders relaxed fractionally. “Oh?”
“I...” Sherlock glanced over at Greg, who smiled back at him. “I want to try.”
“You want to try,” John repeated. “Right. And what does that mean, exactly?”
Sherlock pursed his lips. “This.” He waved his hand between the three of them. “Us.” He swallowed. “More than friends.”
John blinked. “Yeah?”
Greg reached over to grab his mug of tea off the table. “I figured you two were going to keep mooning at each other forever if I didn’t say anything.”
John flushed. He opened his mouth, paused, and closed it again.
“It’s not a selfless act, here,” Greg added. “Just in case you were worried.”
Sherlock barked out a sharp laugh. “God forbid you fight your natural ins.txtts for self-sacrifice, Lestrade.”
John swallowed. “So. How is this going to work, then?”
Greg grinned. “Figured we could start slow and see what happens.”
Sherlock frowned, still hesitant. Greg raised an eyebrow at John flirtatiously, who grinned in response.
John leaned over and let his lips slide against Greg’s. They spent a few minutes licking and sucking, tongues sparring. Sherlock felt warmth pool in his belly as he watched them kissing. He was already breathing heavily before John pulled back, breathless. “My turn?”
John looked over at Sherlock meaningfully, and Sherlock could feel his heart rate accelerate. He had to remind himself to breathe as John slowly scooted closer to Sherlock and placed a hand on his cheek, thumb tracing his cheekbone.
When Sherlock didn’t pull away, John leaned forward and placed soft lips against the corner of Sherlock’s mouth. Carefully, he moved to kiss Sherlock full on, a chaste, close-mouthed kiss that only lasted a brief moment.
“All right?” John asked.
Sherlock’s eyes fluttered open, and he wondered how he had closed them without noticing. John was looking at him with a mix of tenderness, adoration, and fear, his eyes nervously darting between Sherlock’s eyes and lips.
“Yes,” Sherlock sighed, and leaned forward to meet John once more.
Sherlock was lost in a haze of sensation as warm lips moved against his own. His eyes flickered open to the sight of Greg watching them from only a metre away, his face flushed and his breathing uneven.
“Well, Sherlock. What happens next?”
John reluctantly broke away from the kiss. He pulled away, but his hand stayed resting on Sherlock’s cheek. John gazed up at Sherlock, waiting for him to speak.
Sherlock took a slow breath, warmth spreading through his chest, tension coiling low in his gut. “I must admit, I don’t have much experience in this area.”
John settled back against the sofa cushions, hand falling to Sherlock's shoulder and thumb tracing circles over his collarbone. “We don’t have to do anything, then.”
Sherlock fidgeted. “Boring.”
Greg grinned. “We could watch telly.”
John’s eyes lit up. “I’ve been threatening you with that Bond film for weeks, now. Want to go?”
“Out? To the theatre?” Sherlock’s nose wrinkled in distaste.
John sighed, his lower lip forming a small pout. “We’ll stay in, then. I’ve got Casino Royale.”
Sherlock raised one eyebrow. “Is this some sort of torture for not agreeing to have sex with you?”
John frowned and said, “No!” just as Greg laughed and replied, “Yep.”
John turned to glare as Greg got to his feet, grinning. “I’m going to put the kettle on,” Greg said, “while you two fight over the choice of film.”
As Greg made his way to the kitchen, John stretched an arm up and over to settle against Sherlock’s shoulders. Sherlock turned to look at him. “The last person to try that with me was fourteen years old. Surely you've learned something .txte then?”
John just grinned and planted a kiss on Sherlock’s cheek as he reached for the remote.