Rating: NC-17 for this bit, just to be on the safe side
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, and am making no profit from their use, more's the pity.
Warnings: Slash, Sherlock/John.
Summary: HDM AU. In the aftermath of their confrontation with Moriarty, Sherlock and Raniel finally make their move...
(Title page by birddi )
Part One: The Architecture of Our Lives
Part Two: Stepping Stones
Part Three: Foundations
Part Four: Shadowed Archways
Part Five: Buried Labyrinths
Part Six: Crossing The River
Part Seven: Glimmers in Darkness
Part Eight: Perdition's Bridges
Part Nine: Building The Republic
It was close to five o'clock in the morning, and John and Amarisa were dozing in front of the television; the doctor was lying back in his chair, his dæmon at his feet.
Sherlock had thought they'd at least attempt to go to bed, but he supposed the events of the night hadn't exactly been conducive to rest.
Amarisa's hind legs were stretched out so that they were touching the side of Sherlock's own chair, and other under circumstances he might have felt the familiar want to see what that thick fur felt like against his fingers, but it was...dimmer, somehow. He couldn't help but remember Amarisa's fearful yelps and John's sickened, violated expression when Moriarty touched the wolfdog, and Sherlock never, never, wanted to see that look on John's face ever again.
Raniel looked down at Amarisa, then up at his human, then across at the dozing and oblivious John. Then he abruptly leapt from the arm of Sherlock's chair to the floor.
Sherlock didn't like the resolute, determined look in Raniel's eye. “What are you doing?”
“If we don't do it now, we never will,” Raniel said, in the tone of someone explaining the obvious. “And I'm not prepared to spend the rest of our life pining away for them.”
And then, before Sherlock could stop him, he seized onto the leg of John's trousers and used it to scramble up onto the doctor's lap.
John stirred, blinking awake as one hand came up automatically to cradle whatever had landed on his thighs...
He froze with his hand barely an inch above Raniel's fur.
John's mouth was open as he stared between Sherlock and the dæmon on his lap, clearly expecting an explanation. But what could Sherlock say? 'Oh, I believe I've been in love with you since about a month ago and even if it's not 'in love', per se, you're still the person I trust most in the whole miserable world and would you please touch my dæmon if it's not too much trouble?'
Two lupine eyes the colour of fine whiskey gleamed up from the floor – Amarisa was awake. Probably just as confused as her human, but Sherlock didn't look too closely at the wolfdog. All his attention was on his own dæmon and the man whose hand hovered just above Raniel's white fur.
Everyone was silent – the tense, anticipatory silence that came just before the high dive.
Then Raniel whispered, so softly it was barely more than a breath. “Please?”
John looked up from the polecat to his human and then, staring straight into Sherlock's eyes the whole time, his hand lowered.
Sherlock had read plenty of studies on the phenomenon of dæmon-touching, but nothing could have prepared him for what he felt when John's fingers carded through Raniel's fur.
At its most basic, it was pleasure – not necessarily sexual, but the kind of pleasure that came from feeling satisfied and sated and completely, utterly at peace with yourself. It was warmth, so all-consuming it was practically a fever, in an intensity that made your chest feel too tight. It was knowing and feeling that you were safe and cherished and loved.
But that was only the bare bones of it, really. At heart, John touching Raniel was...utterly indescribable.
John was caressing Sherlock's dæmon in long, firm strokes that began between Raniel's ears and followed the line of his spine all the way to the base of his tail. Raniel, for his part, was shivering in pleasure and letting out small, involuntary mewls of ecstasy.
Through the haze of something that felt very much like bliss, Sherlock was aware of a sudden pressure against the side of his leg. He glanced down to find Amarisa was standing in front of his chair with her head resting very deliberately beside his knee.
It took him an embarrassingly long time – at least twelve seconds – to realise what she wanted. Sherlock looked up at John for permission, for confirmation that yes, he did want what his dæmon was proposing.
John's eyes were heavy-lidded and he was practically glowing with lazy pleasure – clearly dæmon-touching wasn't all one-sided – but he nodded, just once.
Permission officially granted, Sherlock wasn't about to be timid. He reached down and buried his fingers in Amarisa's ruff, just as he'd so often seen John do.
Rough-spun silk had indeed been a good way to describe it. It was thick and dense and in spite of the soft scratch of guard hairs against his skin, there was a certain softness to it. But Sherlock had to admit that the texture of Amarisa's fur wasn't foremost in his mind.
Because John touching Raniel was one thing, but John touching Raniel while Sherlock touched Amarisa was something else entirely.
It doubled, trebled the exquisite sensation of it all. Like the switch that completed a circuit, like the hypothetical perpetual motion machine, each stroke and caress only drove it higher.
Raniel had climbed John's shirt and was nuzzling into the man's neck, squirming in John's hands as though trying to push himself impossibly closer. Sherlock took his cue from his dæmon and dropped to the floor to let Amarisa press herself against him. The wolfdog laid her forehead against his, her eyes fluttering shut as Sherlock's hands came up to cradle her head and rub his fingers into her fur.
Sherlock had trained himself to be very aware of the passage of time, but he honestly didn't know how long they stayed like – John stroking Raniel as Sherlock caressed Amarisa – until it simply became too much and they were forced to break away from each other's dæmon.
In all the studies and first-hand accounts Sherlock had ever read, it was claimed that dæmon-touching usually preceded sex but that it didn't compel it. Frankly, Sherlock would never, ever believe such an assertion again because how could it not? One moment he was wrapping himself around Amarisa, literally submerging his senses with the essence of John, and the next moment he was alone? Going from 'too much' to 'nothing' so rapidly left him scrambling for a foothold, and if he couldn't touch Amarisa then he had to touch John.
He reached out for John, who pulled him down so that Sherlock was straddling his lap. Sherlock had the fleeting thought that it was good the chair was wide enough to accommodate his knees on either side of John's hips. Then he was bending down and John was leaning up and somehow their lips met in the middle.
The kiss was messy and awkward but the endorphin rush it created in Sherlock's body was unprecedented. John's right arm was hooked around Sherlock's waist, and his left hand was busy following the curve of Sherlock's spine, as if John couldn't get enough of touching him. Not that Sherlock was much better; one of his hands was clenched tightly over John's shoulder and the other was wrapped around the nape of his neck, fingers curled through the short hair.
Some part of Sherlock's mind noted that stroking the scrubby hairs at the back of John's head was very much like stroking the fur beneath Amarisa's chin – short, slightly rough, but oddly soft at the same time.
Their position wasn't easy on tender bruises and rattled bones, but Sherlock couldn't bring himself to care – he needed to be closer.
In spite of his scorn for the uselessness of social convention, Sherlock was aware that people didn't usually have sex immediately after they'd kissed for the first time. Not outside of a one-night stand, anyway. But he'd never wanted to do things the 'normal' (boring) way, and in any case he couldn't seem to stop. Under any other circumstances, he'd probably be concerned about his sudden lack of control over his own body and his own desires, but right now he just needed more of John.
After all, they'd just surrendered their souls to each other. Compared to that, their bodies were only a technicality.
Still, their respective positions weren't exactly comfortable. Sherlock and his dæmon had roused John and Amarisa often enough that they were aware the doctor had the larger bed, so relocation seemed obvious.
“Your bedroom,” Sherlock announced, mustering enough self-control to peel himself off John.
John blinked as though coming out of a daze, and for a horrible moment Sherlock thought he'd refuse. But then he smiled and grabbed onto Sherlock's hips to pull himself from the chair. Amarisa barked once, as though in celebration, before scooping up Raniel in her jaws and bounding up the stairs, the polecat chittering enthusiastically.
Sherlock had observed that people tended to fall into two main categories when removing their clothes in front of someone for the first time. There were those that tried for a sort of coy striptease (pointless in Sherlock's opinion, but he supposed some people might enjoy it), and those that threw off their clothes as if they thought they were on some sort of deadline.
John did neither, but undressed as though he was preparing to step into the shower – calmly, naturally, and completely without haste. He wasn't what people would call conventionally beautiful, which was one reason why Sherlock never paid attention to what was conventional.
John was glorious.
There was substantial muscle definition along his shoulders and chest, off-setting a waist and belly that had thickened away from the rigorous exercise of army life. He had a thick dusting of hair across his chest, and a small line from his navel to his crotch, and while his penis was far from fully erect it was certainly thickening and flushing.
There was a small splotch of a bruise on the curve of his left hip, and shadowy imprints of fingers across his biceps and wrists. Frowning, Sherlock stepped close and ran a careful finger over one of them.
“Didn't even realise I had those,” John said with surprise, glancing down at his arms.
“Must have come from when we were being hustled into that van,” Amarisa put in, sounding slightly breathless.
“Van?” Sherlock echoed, still staring at the pale purple bruises.
“We were shoved into a van and driven to that pool,” John explained.
Sherlock didn't want to think about the pool right now.
John appeared completely unconcerned about his nudity and Sherlock's scrutiny. Sherlock knew it was considered polite to disrobe when your partner did, and he had every intention of reciprocating, but he couldn't tear his attention away from John's body.
There were small scars scattered across his skin – the random wear and tear that chronicled an active, daring life – but it was the three largest that caught Sherlock's attention. The first was a faded white and obviously years old; a neat surgical scar on his abdomen where he must have had his appendix removed. A much more recent scar streaked across his right hip, a line that was essentially clean but looked somehow inflamed – where the first death-spell had grazed him.
With that noted, Sherlock raised his eyes to where the second death-spell had struck true.
It was...interesting. A bullet would have been neater – a small pucker, perhaps an incision scar where they removed the actual bullet later, but this had been a barbed arrow. And apparently it hadn't been removed cleanly. Thick ridges radiated outwards from the star-like centre where the arrow had pierced John's body, looking like some kind of exotic lily. Sherlock let his fingers skim across the skin, trying to memorise the too-smooth feel of the scar tissue.
He wondered what it had felt like – did it hurt to be struck with a death-spell? Had John known what had happened immediately, or was he informed later?
The idea that John could have died before Sherlock had even met him prompted a flicker of...something. Relief? Anger? He wasn't sure.
A deep, rich chuckle broke his concentration.
“You about done?” John asked.
He looked so nakedly affectionate that Sherlock's breath quickened audibly.
John reached out and pulled Sherlock towards him, his fingers fumbling with the buttons of Sherlock's shirt.
“If you wanted me to remove my clothes, you only needed to ask,” Sherlock couldn't resist pointing out as he undid the final buttons.
John smiled as if Sherlock had just told a joke. “Yeah, but I didn't need to ask, did I?”
Sherlock didn't reply, largely because he was absorbed in watching how John's pupils expanded as he watched Sherlock discard his clothes.
John was staring in rapt fascination. He was now fully erect. The knowledge that Sherlock's own nakedness had caused this reaction was intoxicating.
John reached for him, and with a small dart of excitement Sherlock thought that this was it, that they'd fall on top of each other on the bed now...but no, John just wanted another kiss.
That was fine with Sherlock. John was a good kisser – there was something so relaxed and delightfully decadent about his kisses, as though he'd be perfectly content to just devour each other's mouths for the rest of the morning even though they were both naked and in close proximity to a bed.
And really, being naked only made the kissing that much better. Now Sherlock could feel John's hands on his skin without the numbing layer of cloth between them, could scratch his own fingers through the curly hair on John's sternum, curve them around the prominent scar on his hip.
It was when they'd ended up on the bed and he had no clear idea of how they'd got there that Sherlock realised something was wrong. Except not wrong, exactly, because nothing about John could ever be wrong, but...different. Unique.
In all his previous experience with sex, Sherlock had never, not once, become lost in another person to the point that he wasn't aware of his surroundings. There was always some part of his mind that was observing and recording and noting whatever points of interest occurred to him at the time, even as his body yielded to physical pleasure.
But not now. Sherlock half-glanced towards his dæmon, wondering if Raniel could offer an explanation.
Oh. Perhaps that was why this encounter was so much more...intense than any other Sherlock had experienced.
Raniel tended to have a rather pained, dismissive attitude towards sex. His general bearing ensured that the other person's dæmon didn't try to interact with him, and he often retreated to some high point in the room – a bookshelf or the top of a wardrobe or something similar – to either turn his back or look down on the proceedings with undisguised disdain.
But Raniel certainly wasn't disdainful now. He was sprawled on Amarisa's chest, his paws grasping and kneading at fur and flesh even as the wolfdog hooked one foreleg over his body to anchor him to her. John's dæmon was lying on her back, belly and throat bare, writhing slowly on the carpet. She was nipping and licking at Raniel's head and neck even as the polecat rubbed his nose against hers and bit at her chin.
Sherlock was used to feeling nothing from Raniel during sex, but now he was feeling pleasure and relief and love so thick and potent it could choke.
John diverted Sherlock's thoughts by deciding to gently close his teeth around Sherlock's nipple. It was only for a moment, but it was an electrifying jolt of sensation that took Sherlock's mind from the spiritual track and placed it firmly back on the physical.
They were lying side by side on the bed, and Sherlock attempted to nudge John so that he was on his back, wanting to slide on top of him and explore his body at leisure, but was but was halted by a firm hand on his hip. In fact, John seemed intent on pushing Sherlock onto his own back.
Predictable, really, that John would be just as kind and generous in this as he was in everything else. Anticipation curled in Sherlock's gut.
Sherlock propped himself up into something approximating a sitting position, wanting to see John. The heavy, insistent ache of arousal was somehow a secondary consideration next to the need to watch the other man, to observe and catalogue every nuance and flicker of expression that crossed his face.
First there was gleeful anticipation and just a touch of apprehension (about what?), then there was determination, resolve, that small line that formed endearingly between his brows when he focused on something, and then...
Apparently, kissing wasn't the only thing John was good at.
Except there was a problem. Or not exactly a problem, because Sherlock couldn't think of anything as a 'problem' when John's lips were stretched around his erection, but there was something not right.
“Condom!” he managed to choke out, half a question and half an exclamation of triumph that he'd managed to realise what was missing.
John pulled off with a writhing flick of his tongue that had Sherlock's hips bucking upwards on instinct, and the expression on his face was very serene.
“I'm clean,” was all he said. “You?”
Sherlock's brain wasn't working at optimal capacity at the moment, but he had some idea of the trust John was placing in him. As a doctor, he was likely aware of how many people were either unaware of their own status or lied about it.
Though he'd let Sherlock touch Amarisa (mere hours after Moriarty had violated her) and next to that, trusting him to be honest about his health probably wasn't much to speak of.
“Last time I tested, yes.” John's head began to dip back towards it's previous task, and Sherlock hastened to add, “But I habitually work in morgues or at crime scenes where blood has been exposed, so...”
He trailed off, and hoped John understood what he was trying to say. The probability was low, yes, but there was a chance he'd picked up something from a dead body and if there was some kind of pathogen incubating in his body, he didn't want John exposed to it.
John only smiled fondly, and the expression sent a warm glow through Sherlock's chest. “Sherlock, you do remember who's usually with you at those crime scenes, right? If you've picked up something, odds are I've got it too.”
Then he went to work with his lips again, and Sherlock had to concentrate on not thrusting up to meet that mouth. John quickly settled into a steady rhythm of heat and pressure, the kind that built pleasure and arousal at a slow, lazy pace. But it was the expression on John's face that truly arrested Sherlock's attention.
He looked so...earnest. He was obviously concentrating on his task, his eyes occasionally darting up to meet Sherlock's as though gauging reactions to different stimuli, so clearly dedicated to bringing Sherlock pleasure even as he disregarded the heavy swelling between his own legs.
The image stole Sherlock's breath in a way he couldn't describe.
Sherlock was just beginning to feel a flicker of concern for the state of John's jaw and neck muscles when the other man suddenly sucked and hummed and...
Sherlock wasn't sure if he made a sound, but if he did he was certain it was embarrassing.
When he came back to himself, John was lying beside him once more, grinning and looking very satisfied with himself.
Sherlock wasn't exactly sure what to do. Nothing in his previous encounters told him the correct action to take when you'd just been given a frankly fantastic blowjob by a man who now wasn't leaving the room or trying to urge you to reciprocate, but was instead smiling softly as if whatever you did now would be the most wonderful thing in the world.
He tried to gather his thoughts. “You swallowed.”
John nodded placidly. “Easy clean-up.”
“Marvellous,” Sherlock murmured, then promptly shoved John onto his back.
John laughed out something that sounded like 'pushy', but choked as Sherlock turned sideways on the bed and gave his erection an exploratory lick.
John's penis was like the rest of his body; deceptively average-looking, yet somehow full of details that Sherlock just had to know. Respectable length and width – thicker than Sherlock's own – and it was hot and hard in his mouth, vascular tissues fully expanded.
He could feel John’s pulse against his tongue.
The intimacy of it was thrilling. John trusted Sherlock with everything he was, and that thought made Sherlock's ribs feel tight, as though the organs in his chest were stretching.
Sherlock began to suck gently, delighting in the way John’s breath caught. When he brought his hand up to cup John’s testicles, the other man let out a moan that sent a small shiver of arousal through Sherlock’s abdomen. Sherlock wasn’t about to get another erection so soon, but his libido was certainly interested.
He felt John’s hand on the back of his head, and for a moment wondered if the doctor would display that irritating habit of trying to guide him. But no, his fingers didn’t grip or tug, they just stroked very softly through Sherlock’s hair. Foolish of him, to think that John would ever be anything other than considerate and generous and so lovely it made Sherlock ache.
John’s hands wandered gently about Sherlock’s face and hair as though the other man just couldn’t stop touching him, a ridiculously romantic thought that nonetheless prompted a surge of pleasure and contentment.
Sherlock knew John was close to orgasm when his pants and gasps began to take on a frantic edge and his hips began to stutter upwards, as though he were trying desperately not to thrust up into Sherlock’s mouth but couldn’t quite stop himself. Still, in spite of the obvious signs, John seemed to think some warning was needed.
“Sherlock, I…I’m going…Sherlock!”
Sherlock sucked harder, rolling John’s testicles in his hand and pressing his index finger hard against the man’s perineum.
John let out an incoherent string of syllables that might have been Sherlock’s name and tensed, his hands tightening painfully on Sherlock's shoulders before he went completely limp.
“Come here,” John muttered, tugging on Sherlock's arms to drag him into a kiss.
They were too blissed out to properly coordinate themselves and Sherlock's lip bumped against John's teeth. So, really, Sherlock couldn't explain why it made him feel so...well, happy.
Now that John was sprawled limply across the sheets, a sated and ever-so-slightly dopey smile on his face, Sherlock found himself feeling a kind of contentment he'd never experienced before. And, strangely, he was almost sleepy.
The mattress pitched as Amarisa leapt up onto the bed with them. John shuffled over, nudging Sherlock towards the side of the bed in an effort to make room for his dæmon. The wolfdog pressed her head against John's for a moment, letting the doctor scratch gently at her ears, before she leaned over her human and licked at Sherlock's cheek.
He felt a sudden jolt of electrical awareness and a strange tingle of warmth. Then Amarisa pulled away and stretched out beside John, snuggling down with a heavy sigh.
“You can lie over our legs if you like,” Sherlock offered.
Amarisa and John laughed together, as if Sherlock had said something very amusing.
“What?” Raniel asked, indignant – the polecat had scrambled up the discarded duvet to curl around Sherlock's head.
“Do you remember what it felt like for me to touch Raniel?” John asked, still grinning. “Do you really think I could get to sleep during that?”
Sherlock supposed not.
Raniel pawed Sherlock's hair for a moment before flowing across the mattress, over the top of John's head. Like Amarisa, he licked once at John's temple – the sensation making Sherlock shiver – before he curled up with the wolfdog.
Amarisa was lying on her side, and Raniel insinuated himself between her forelegs, pressing his nose against the underside of her chin and sinking his paws into the fur on her neck and chest. John's dæmon sighed again, soft and contented, and rested one paw on his side.
“Good night,” Amarisa muttered.
“Technically, it's early morning,” Sherlock couldn't help pointing out.
Though really, he was feeling the same drowsiness that the dæmons seemed to be experiencing. Yet another event unique in his experience – Sherlock had never felt sleepy after sex before now.
“Don't care,” John said, pulling blankets over the lot of them. “Going to sleep now. And come over here, I want to cuddle.”
Sherlock snorted, and couldn't resist the obvious dig. “Not a very manly request, is it?”
But he did as he was bid, winding an arm around John's shoulders and allowing the other man to throw his arm over Sherlock's waist and entangle their legs.
“Everyone wants cuddles,” John muttered, his eyes already closing. “Scientific fact – look it up.”
Sherlock was tempted to do just that, but that would necessitate leaving the bed. It could wait for a little while. A few hours or so, at least.
He'd always thought the term 'afterglow' was overly poetic, but right now it certainly seemed appropriate.
John suddenly giggled, and Sherlock glanced down at him. “What's so amusing?”
“We had it all out of order,” John explained. “You're meant to have sex, then move in together, then touch each other's dæmons.”
“That's what normal people do, is it?” Sherlock asked, not bothering to downplay his disgust for that particular concept.
“And god forbid you ever be normal.”
What some people had said sharply, with the intent to offend, John said with affection.
“It'll be dangerous,” Sherlock said, feeling the need to ensure John was fully informed about what this entailed. “Moriarty promised to burn my heart out, after all – I think we can guess what or rather, who, that refers to.”
“He won't catch us off-guard next time,” John promised. “And anyway, do you really think me and Amarisa are going to be put off just because it might be dangerous?”
“No,” Sherlock admitted. “But it had to be said.”
“That's sweet,” John yawned, ignoring Sherlock's snort at his choice of adjective. “Also, a romantic pillow-talker, you are most definitely not.”
“You would have preferred that, would you?”
“No. Probably would have scared me, to be honest.”
“Most of those explosives were fake,” Sherlock mused aloud, the mention of Moriarty dredging up unwelcome memories.
“I know – I'll chat about it with you in the morning,” John muttered.
“Technically, it is morning, so-”
“Shut up, Sherlock.”
Sherlock smirked at the weary patience in John's voice – and affection, always so much affection – and didn't bother to resist the urge to press his face into the other man's short hair.
He closed his eyes, listening to the soft wheezes of Amarisa's snoring from the other side of the bed, feeling John's chest shift against his with each breath. The whole bed smelled of sex and sweat and John, along with a soft, animal-like smell that must have been Amarisa.
Sherlock wondered if he could pinpoint the exact moment at which John drifted off just by listening to his breathing, but before he could put the idea into practice, he was asleep.
AN: Thanks sooo much to my beta, ginbitch , who was very reassuring and helpful with my first sex scene ever!
Part Ten: Lit From Within
Part Eleven: Structrual Integrity
Part Twelve: The Reader