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Title: This Man's Heart - Chapter 14
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: None.
Pairing: Sherlock/John.
Word count: 3750
Summary: In the latter part of the 19th century, a peculiar solitary man and an ex-army doctor disfigured at war live in a small village, surrounded by breathtaking landscapes. When they first meet, they have no idea their lives are about to change forever and, over the months, they will form an unusual friendship, discover more about each other and themselves, and maybe fall a little in love along the way.
Disclaimer: See first chapter.

Back to the first chapter
Previous chapter

For those who are interested in this kind of things, Sherlock is playing Vivaldi's "Winter" on his violin. Click the links to listen to it.

First movement: Concerto No. 4 in F Minor, 'Winter' - I: Allegro non molto
Second movement: Concerto No. 4 in F Minor, 'Winter' - II: Largo
Third movement: Concerto No. 4 in F Minor, 'Winter' - III: Allegro


Chapter 14
In December, Martha went to Rimouski to visit her late husband’s sister with whom she had always stayed in touch through letters. When she learned her dear friend was ill with tuberculosis and would probably die soon, she decided to visit her one last time, leaving Sherlock alone with the skull – which he had taken out of his bedroom – for about a week. He made good use of that time, and he played the violin almost constantly. He couldn’t decide what he would play for John, and the skull offered no pertinent input. He decided to practice everything he knew and liked, hoping that inspiration would come at the right moment.

On the first big storm of December, he saw John’s red scarf floating in a sea of snowflakes. He ran back home to grab his violin case, but took his time walking to the rendezvous point; there was a possibility this would be their last meeting, and he wanted to make it last. When he arrived in West Birches Bay, John was waiting for him under a tree. The storm had dampened his mask, and because of the cold, it wasn’t fitting as well as it usually did, but Sherlock hardly noticed it anymore.

At first, Sherlock thought he was being led to Lover’s Island, but John continued towards the manor instead. It had been dark the last time Sherlock had been around the forbidden residence, so he took the time closely to look at his surroundings as he followed John. Gregory had told him Harry Watson had left for Québec City the day before, so Sherlock could relax knowing no one was hiding behind a tree, and waiting to shoot him.

Once inside the manor, Sherlock looked around nervously while John whispered something to the servant who had greeted them at the door. When the man was gone, John turned to face Sherlock, and without a word, he smoothed both his hands down Sherlock’s lapels before undoing the three buttons of the long grey coat.

“My sister is away, we will be left alone,” John whispered. “The servants are faithful to me; they won’t tell her you were here.”

John untied Sherlock’s scarf, brushing two fingers under his chin as he did so, before removing his own winter clothes, and hanging them on the coat rack. Once Sherlock had done the same, John led them through a corridor, then another, and another. At one point, Sherlock caught a glimpse of the room where he had spent the night, but they turned left, and the familiar sight was gone. They crossed two servants who bowed their heads and smiled at them, they didn’t seem surprised to see Sherlock; in fact, they seemed quite happy.

When they reached their destination, John pushed a heavy door and led Sherlock into the biggest room he had ever seen in a home. One of the walls was covered in an array of weapons of all kinds. Mostly guns, but also knives, swords, bows, and spears. One didn’t have to be a deducing genius to figure out it was Harry Watson’s collection. Two other walls were decorated with trophies; there were stuffed heads of stags, bighorn sheep, and antelopes, and skins from lynxes and bears. In the center of the room was the formidable head of the wild boar Harry had famously killed when she had been a girl, and on a small table was the red fox she had stuffed herself.

John noticed Sherlock’s uneasiness, and he grabbed his hand.

“Come,” he said before leading him Sherlock a door at the end of the hunting room.

John opened it, revealing an alcove. The walls were almost entirely covered in bookshelves, and the floor was strewn with soft cushions. A single window, narrow and very high, was letting some natural light in. Sherlock was dumbfounded; after the cold room where Harry kept her weapons and trophies, this small and secret library seemed like some kind of heaven made of leather, gold, and paper. John sat on one of the cushions, and he tapped the one beside it, signalling for Sherlock to join him.

“You see,” John said, “I am never alone here; the walls are filled with magic, rage, and passion. For the men and women living in these pages, there is nothing monstrous about me.”

They weren’t touching, but Sherlock had never felt closer to John. There was something intimate about the atmosphere, something about being inside, surrounded by walls built by man instead of nature. Without the outside elements to distract Sherlock’s senses, the dominating scent was the mask’s, its smell different from the one of the books. It was a beast’s scent. And a man’s scent too.

In this cave of words and paper that seemed like the most wondrous of treasures, Sherlock felt more than ever the desire to caress his friend’s face. He was gazing at the mask, thinking about how easy it would be to stretch his neck a little bit and peek into the tiny gap where leather met skin to discover what John was hiding, but as usual, he didn’t.

John suddenly got up and took Sherlock’s hands in his, helping him up to his feet. Then, he spun him around until he was facing the book-covered wall they had been leaning on a moment before. Sherlock was a few inches taller, the perfect height for John to lay his forehead on the taller man’s shoulder without having to bend down or stand on tip toes. Sherlock shuddered when he felt John’s arm circling his waist and his hand laying low on his abdomen. When John grabbed his left hand and guided it to the bookshelves until it was resting flat against the book spines, Sherlock held his breath. Something was happening, and although he had no idea what, he couldn’t wait for it to unfold.

“Close your eyes,” John whispered.

The sensations were getting more overwhelming every second, and Sherlock could feel everything. John’s breath on his skin, his hair tickling his neck, his slightly rough hand covering his own, the warmth where they were pressed together, and the fire John had lit by putting a hand on his abdomen that had spread everywhere. Even if he had tried, there was no way he could have pretended those were their usual comforting touches; craving was seeping through their moves, and every single cell in Sherlock’s body was screaming for him to turn his head and press his lips to John’s. Yet, he didn’t budge, and the surge of sensations was intoxicating; he was basking in it, and craving more.

“Pick a book,” John murmured as his thumb drew small circles on Sherlock’s belly, “the tenth treasure is a look through the window of the imaginary world I was telling you about. Pick a book and we’ll read it together. After you’ve played for me.”

With his eyes still closed, Sherlock could almost feel the books vibrating under his hand, as if his hand were touching a sea of possible worlds trying to get out. He felt dizzy.

“You know them, and I don’t. Pick one John, please.”

He couldn’t recognize the pleading sounds his vocal cords were emitting. This wasn’t his voice. John used the hand covering Sherlock’s to slowly stroke the book spines, and for a long time, he pondered before deciding on one and tapping it gently with his index finger.

“This one,” he said, and Sherlock took if off the shelf. He felt John’s hand sliding on his waist as he turned around to hand him the book.

“Now, I would very much like to hear the sounds you can draw from your violin,” John said as he took a step back, breaking all contact between the two of them.

Sherlock missed the warmth of John’s hand, but he found it was suddenly rather easier to breathe and think now they weren’t touching. He opened his violin case, delicately picked up the instrument, and rested it against his chin while he tried to decide what to play. His eyes caught the light coming from the small window, and he looked out, hoping the inspiration would shine through. The storm was still raging outside, snowflakes were being thrown around mercilessly by the wind, and suddenly Sherlock knew exactly what he wanted to play. For John. Who had taken a seat on a cushion, his legs stretched out in front of him as he watched Sherlock intently, his full attention focused on him.

After one last glance at the storm outside, the bow finally hit the strings as Sherlock started playing small saccadic notes. At first very quietly, but getting stronger as the tension built. Then, suddenly, the notes seemed to be flying everywhere, and to John, it felt as though Sherlock had brought the wind inside the room, a cold and icy winter wind, the kind that enters your body and clutches at your bones. He played three dishevelling gusts of wind, then the saccades were back, but with much more tension, and for a moment it seemed as though nature was holding its breath, and so was John. When Sherlock attacked the next section, the wind was thick with snowflakes, and John let out a breath, relief running through him, and somehow he knew what it felt like for nature to be so heavy, to feel so much pressure and finally to let it go all at once, spraying the air with sudden snow so thick it resembled tufts of hare fur.

In John’s head, snow was filling the small library, obscuring everything except Sherlock. Then, as it was often the case in nature, the snow subsided, and now John could only see little white flakes dancing in a wind that wasn’t blowing as violently as before. After the wave of relief he had felt moments before, he was now filled with a sense of calm apprehension. He had seen many snow storms in Québec; he knew not to let himself be lulled into a false sense of calm, that the storm was bound to pick up strength again. It did, and at first it was barely noticeable, a slight change in the biting cold notes, but soon pressure was building again, and after the drop of a few teasing flakes, the sky overflowed again, painting everything white until nature – and John – finally let out a sigh, and it was over.

Sherlock was panting slightly when he started the second movement. The storm was clearly over, but John could still see twinkling, undisturbed snow on the floor, just like on a morning after a storm when it’s too early for anyone to have left traces. It felt like a beautiful winter day, one without clouds, and with a stunning sun; a day when it’s so cold the inside of your nose seems to freeze the moment you step outside. John could feel the cold emanating from the high strings Sherlock was stroking almost lazily, and for a moment, he almost tightened his coat around himself before remembering he was still inside, wasn’t wearing his coat, and was, in fact, not at all cold.

Sherlock’s eyes were closed, and he looked as though he was merely resting against the instrument. His hand holding the bow was moving slowly and effortlessly, and the one playing the strings on the neck didn’t even look like it belonged to him as it seemed to be doing its own thing while ignoring the rest of his body, but somehow it worked. Sherlock must have felt observed because he opened his eyes as he was finishing the second movement. His grey eyes had never looked more beautiful than on that moment when John’s head was full of sparkling snow. They looked just like winter: capable of powerful storms, icy gusts of winds, peaceful moments, blinding suns, and playful snowflake dances. There was the suggestion of a smile on Sherlock’s lips, but it was gone when he closed his eyes again and began the third and final movement.

At first, John could still sense some sort of peacefulness, but not the same kind one feels on a sunny morning. The sky in John’s head was clouded, and he felt heavier. He could see snow falling once again, but there was no sense of relief, no long awaited liberation from a heavy burden. The snow fell relentlessly, adding inches after inches on top of the white blanket already covering everything. He felt as one does on those days when winter stretches on and refuses to let go, when every inch of added snow feels heavier than a ton of brick. Sherlock played the despair that comes with it, and John felt an invisible hand holding him down, slowing his every moves.

Eventually, he started hearing high notes that sounded like hope and timid sunrays, but winter stretched on until finally the room seemed a few degrees warmer, and snow turned into rain. Heavy winter rain that makes everything grey, but speaks of upcoming spring. He welcomed the rain, saw it digging into the earth’s white coat until, one day, it would be gone. Like a criminal leaving quietly after a six month crime spree of paralyzing villagers, hiding bushes and flowers, slowing down animal life, and freezing everything.

John knew spring was coming, and he felt hopeful, but with one last swish of the bow, music ceased, and for a moment, John felt as if he were floating, suspended in between two seasons. He had to blink a few times before he could remember where he was and with whom. Sherlock had lowered the violin, and he was looking at him expectantly. John knew he had to say something, to put words on what he had felt during the ten minutes his friend had been playing, but when he opened his mouth to speak, the only thing he managed was “Sherlock….”

Nice effort, but not enough. He tried again. “Sherlock, I….”

Sherlock was putting his violin back in its case, trying to hide the small smile tugging at the corner of his lips. The ten minutes he had spent playing had successfully cooled him down; totally immersing himself in the music tended to have that effect. He was feeling quite good about himself right now; he knew he was an exceptionally talented violinist, and the piece he had chosen fitted the atmosphere so perfectly he was sure John had felt something powerful. Judging by John’s valiant, although unsuccessful attempts at speech, Sherlock could congratulate himself on having been successful. When he turned towards John once again, he still didn’t look like himself.

“Come here, you magnificent marvel of a man,” John said, and Sherlock didn’t need to be told twice.

Sherlock made himself comfortable beside his friend, and when John raised an arm and draped it around his shoulders, Sherlock welcomed the embrace and rested his head on John’s chest, just under his shoulder. It was a fascinating position; he could feel both John’s breathing and heartbeat, and he could concentrate on either one of them to calm down should a fire be awoken in his own body again

“Mm, pillow,” Sherlock said as he shifted against John, silently cursing his long limbs. He didn’t know where to put his hands, and he would have been more at ease with his left leg draped over John’s, but he didn’t feel that daring.

“Mm, kitten,” John replied as he tangled his left hand in his friend’s curls, alternating between massaging the scalp and stroking the soft hair.

“I’m serious Sherlock, what you played was beautiful. I could see it. In fact, I could feel it.”

Sherlock’s only response was a knowing humming sound. He knew exactly what John was talking about; he had felt it too.

“How long have you been playing?”

“I started when I was six years old, but I was obsessed with that violin for as long as I can remember. It belonged to my uncle, but Aunt Martha kept it in the living room, and I was smitten. Eventually, she gave it to me; she was glad to see someone else playing it after all those years.”

John’s hand was low enough that his thumb could stroke Sherlock’s neck, and he did, in slow up and down motions. Sherlock shivered, and he felt his heart quickening very slightly. John must have felt his reaction, because his heart started beating just a little bit quicker too. It was fascinating, as if their hearts were having their own private conversation.

John’s hand dipped lower until his palm was on Sherlock’s neck, and he stroked the soft skin hidden by his shirt collar. Sherlock’s breath hitched, and warmth spread from his neck to his extremities. Once again, his heart rate quickened, but more significantly this time. John felt it too, of course he did; their chests were pressed together.

“Do you want me to read for a while?” John asked.

“Yes,” Sherlock whispered in response, and John grabbed the thick leather book he had put on the floor, opened it, and began to read.

“On the first Monday of the month of April, 1625, the bourg of Meung, in which the author of the ‘Romance of the Rose’ was born, appeared to be in as perfect a state of revolution as if the Huguenots had just made a second Rochelle of it…”

John read for a long time, and Sherlock tried his best to pay attention to the men wearing capes and fighting for justice. Nevertheless, he kept focusing on John’s voice, his charming accent, his changing tone and inflexions, the sound he sometimes made as he licked his lips when he turned the pages, and always, always the gentleness of the hand stroking his neck.

At one point, John stopped reading to make tea that he brought back on a tray with biscuits. He set the tray down beside them, and they switched positions. Sherlock sat with his back to the wall, and John positioned himself between his legs. He picked up the book, and he resumed reading as Sherlock slid his left arm around John’s waist, keeping his right hand free to take frequent sips of his tea.

Once he was done with his beverage, around the time John was describing Athos’ valet (Grimaud, frightfully dull man, never smiled or laughed), Sherlock got distracted by his friend’s hair. He had thoroughly analyzed the colour during their previous meetings, and he had felt its texture. Now, he wanted to smell it. He pressed his cheek to the side of John’s head and inhaled deeply. Multiple times.

“Although Athos was scarcely thirty years old, and was of great personal beauty, and intelligence of mind, no one knew that he had ever had a mistress. He never spoke of– Sherlock, are you smelling me?”

“Yes. Your hair doesn’t smell the same everywhere.”

“What does it smell like?”

“Soap, roses, tea, and snow. It’s most puzzling.”

“Well, by all means, continue your exploration. Do you want me to stop reading?” John asked before taking another sip of tea.

“Don’t stop. I like Athos.”

John continued to read, and Sherlock put his face back in John’s hair. The scent was lovely, but by far his favourite spot was close to the neck. Obviously, he wondered if the neck’s scent influenced the hair, so he lowered his head and inhaled. Surprisingly, the neck had a decidedly distinct smell from the hair; a mix of soap, wool, and something else that he couldn’t quite put his finger on.

John breathed in sharply, and he had to stop reading for a few seconds when Sherlock brushed his nose against his neck. When he resumed his description of Bazin, Aramis’ lackey, he did so with a slightly shakier voice. Sherlock’s nose was now buried under John’s right ear where he smelled like warm cream, and pretty soon smelling him wasn’t enough; the urge to press his lips to John’s skin became stronger with every breath Sherlock was taking.

When he couldn’t resist the temptation anymore, he spotted the best smelling spot – halfway between neck and ear, just below the hair – and he pressed his closed lips to the skin. Once again, John stopped reading, but this time he didn’t continue; he tilted his head back and slightly to the left to give his friend better access. For a while, Sherlock was happy just to run his closed mouth on John’s neck, feeling the warmth, the remarkably thin and soft hair, and the goose bumps rising every time he hit a particularly sensitive spot.

Once he felt he had analyzed the entire available area with his closed mouth, he pulled away from John’s neck, licked his lips, and resumed his exploration with his parted and wet lips. John’s eyes squeezed shut, he arched his back, and the hand that had been holding the book fell to the floor, toppling the empty teacup.

“Sherlock…” he whispered, and as his only response, Sherlock grabbed a fistful of John’s cardigan and tightened his grip on his waist.

Every time Sherlock’s lips made contact with John’s neck, he sucked in the air he had trapped, and the way John shivered and tried to lean into the touch were more than enough hints telling Sherlock not to stop. Once he reached John’s ear, he captured the lobe between his lips and gave the tiniest amount of suction. John’s back arched again, and he moaned. When he realized it, he slapped a hand to his mouth, and Sherlock let go of the earlobe to chuckle.

Realizing he had another hand, and that it wasn’t occupied at the moment, Sherlock placed it on John’s chest, over his heart, and he felt his friend’s quickened heartbeat, much quicker than it had been earlier. Since John didn’t seem to object to the scrutiny of his neck, Sherlock once again pressed his open lips to the skin, just below the ear, but this time he added his tongue, and finally he could taste John. It was even better than he had imagined, there were no words other than John to describe the flavour. It was marvellous.

John couldn’t remember the last time he had felt such raw pleasure. Sherlock had been the first person – other than Clara – to willingly touch him since he had returned broken from the war, but everything before today had been friendly and innocent. This, judging by the physical response it was causing, was not innocent at all. Sherlock’s nose had been a surprise, his lips had been unusually pleasant, but his tongue, precise and experimenting, made him want to scream, lean back, and push into Sherlock until they were the very same person. He thought Sherlock was bound to bite off a piece of his neck soon if he kept the same rhythm, but John didn’t mind, he would allow him do so without any questions or protests. At that point, he didn’t care that this was the tenth treasure, and he didn’t care about the possibility that Sherlock wouldn’t want to see him again once the game was over. All he wanted was more of his friend’s mouth on him, and if this was their last meeting, at least the memories would keep him warm at night.

Similar thoughts were running through Sherlock’s head, but he was pushing them away as his kisses on John’s neck got more desperate. There wasn’t enough skin, enough contact, enough data. He wanted to explore some more, compare the scents, tastes, and textures of skin. He wanted more, so much more than he could wrap his mind around, but he didn’t know how to ask for those things or how to take them. All he could do was squeeze John tighter against his chest, and whisper his name between open-mouthed kisses.

Eventually, John couldn’t stand his passive role. He reluctantly pulled away, and he turned around to look at Sherlock. He searched the grey eyes, looking for a sign that this was a terrible idea, but he found none. Sherlock’s eyes were wide, and there wasn’t a hint of fear in them, just curiosity and something that looked like mild surprise. His lips were parted, and his breathing was heavier than usual; he looked gorgeous. John nervously licked his lips, and he straddled his friend’s thighs. Sherlock immediately got the message, and he squeezed his legs together to offer John better support.

John rested his hands on either sides of Sherlock’s throat, and he stroked the skin with his thumbs, delicately as if not to break him. Then, finally, he lowered his head and attached his lips to the other man’s neck. Sherlock gasped as his head hit the wall of books behind him, and he grabbed John’s woollen cardigan with both hands. He wondered if that’s how it had felt for John when it had been his lips on his neck, but the thought was gone when John flicked his tongue, and his eyes rolled back.

“John…” he half said, half moaned as John made his way from his throat to his chin where he paused to bite gently before moving up to his right ear.

“You’re beautiful,” John whispered before pressing his lips to the side of Sherlock’s ear.

“Exquisite,” he said before kissing his right eyelid.

“Gorgeous”, he murmured as he kissed his other eyelid.

Both of Sherlock’s hands had slid down and were now resting on John’s hips. Part of him was mortally embarrassed; John had obviously noticed his erection, but he didn’t seem to mind, and had Sherlock looked down, he would have noticed the matching tightness in his friend’s trousers. No matter how embarrassed he felt, it was hard to linger on the feeling when John was stroking his throat and kissing his face. His inner thighs were on fire, he could feel his heart pounding in his groin, and he felt as though an invisible hand was twisting his organs around. Meanwhile, John continued his exploration of Sherlock’s face.

“Handsome, stunning,” he said as he kissed each gravity defying cheekbone before pecking the tip of his nose.

“Delightful,” he added, and Sherlock could hardly breathe anymore, he felt as if the whole room was waiting for something to happen. He couldn’t hear anything other than John’s breathing, see anything other than John’s blue eyes lost in the mask, smell anything other than John, and feel anything other than John.

Everything was John, John, John.

“Ravishing,” John whispered before pressing their lips together, and, finally, they were kissing.

Next chapter


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Ellie L.

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