I ran sherlock_remix again this year and wanted to try something different once more - last year I wrote John/Sherlock and this time I wanted to write John/Lestrade. So I picked lady_ganesh's amazing fic "Under the Skin" to work with. It's a Sherlock-John bodyswap that ends with Sherlock as the least cherubic Cupid ever, getting John and Lestrade together. It is, frankly, irresistible.
My thanks to oxoniensis for her frank and thoughtful work betaing and Britpicking, and to kate_lear for her encouragement along the same lines. Title from "On Turning Ten" by Billy Collins.
"Nothing Under My Skin but Light"
Lestrade opened his eyes, stared up at the ceiling, and gave thanks that it was Saturday. A day without Sherlock looking down his nose at him, a day without John Watson looking absolutely delectable and absolutely out of his reach. Funny how his tastes had changed, he thought; Mark would be laughing his arse off if he knew a middle-aged doctor with lines on his face and the kindest eyes he'd ever seen was what got him all hot and bothered now. A doctor who'd been lit up bright and beautiful by the blinding glow from an artefact his nutter flatmate had deduced would be in the skip closest to the women's clinic.
Lestrade laughed at himself even as he debated having a quick morning wank to the memory of John in that spotlight. Later, he decided, rolling out of bed. After he did his laundry.
The scent of his detergent was still lingering pleasantly in the air, and he had just filled the sink with hot water and Fairy Liquid when his door was nearly hammered down. He started, and soapy water drenched the frayed hem of his vest, wicking its way slowly up his chest. It couldn't be Donovan – she had the sense to call him if there were an emergency – and the Chief thought himself far too dignified to visit Lestrade's neighbourhood, let alone his flat.
He wrung out his vest and stepped out of the kitchen. He swung the door open and rocked back on his heels to see Sherlock standing behind John Watson. "Mobiles got fried in that flash?" he guessed, trying to ascertain why the two of them had chosen to come in person. John had never been to his place before, and Sherlock had certainly never knocked like a supplicant; even when he'd gone blue from one experiment and had temporarily aged a dozen years in as many minutes thanks to a device he'd only explained with a scathing Mycroft, Sherlock had never deigned to ask for anyone else's help.
At the mention of the artefact's burst of light, both their faces shifted: Sherlock had an incongruous expression of hope lighting his features and John Watson scowled at him like he'd been the one to put that bloody bullet in John's shoulder. Lestrade pulled wet fabric away from his belly while he tried to puzzle the two of them out. John, closer to him, smelled like the unbearably expensive shampoo Sherlock used, and there was surely only one good reason for that; his heart sank at the realisation that the flash must have shown Sherlock just what he had in John. Sherlock even had his scarf uncharacteristically unknotted, perhaps all the better to show off whatever marks John's determined mouth had left. Cursing his own masochistic curiosity – call it professional instinct, that sounded better – Lestrade leant forward a bit to get a closer look. Sherlock's throat was unmarked, white and, odder still, he smelt of John's toiletries. Lestrade eyed Sherlock narrowly, and Sherlock looked back wide-eyed, as if he had never deduced a thing in his life. What was the man playing at? All at once it struck him how odd it was that Sherlock was resting his weight on his heels; surely he should be leaning forward, giddy at disturbing Lestrade on his precious day off, fingers flickering to steal whatever wasn't nailed down?
But it was John – who was polite even to Anderson – who was trying to bully his way into Lestrade's flat, whose eyes were darting about as if he needed to catalogue every piece of visual evidence for his own satisfaction. There was not a trace of the warmth Lestrade was used to seeing in him, but the angle at which he held his head was undeniably, uncomfortably familiar, and Lestrade could feel the answer on the tip of his tongue. All of his observations tumbled untidily in his mind, but they didn't coalesce into a proper realisation until John sighed impatiently: that delighted smile Sherlock wore as he rolled his shoulder didn't actually belong to him; Lestrade would have wagered his last tenner that it was John wearing Sherlock's body like a bespoke suit, and that Sherlock, then, must have been squashed into John's.
He didn't dare to look at John and lose his resolve; all he knew was that it was a very dangerous thing for him to be around either John's self or John's body right now. "Get out," he said, fixing both of them with a look that said don't even try it. God help him, they both started to protest, and he didn't know where to look, only where to draw the line. They had got themselves into this mess, and they'd have to find their own way out – he would only complicate the situation with his eyes going one way and his heart the other. "Right out of bad telly," he said derisively, as if solving the problem were going to be as easy as getting into it, as if he weren't burning, from his head to his toes, to set things right and see John smiling out of his own friendly face. "There was a switch, yeah, and a flash of light, and now you need the artefact to get back into your own bodies?" He carefully looked at the patch of wall between the two of them so that he didn't let slip one word about getting himself in John's lovely body.
He shut the door in their protesting faces and took himself off to the bedroom for a long and frustrated wank.
Neither the wank nor the shower had helped take the edge off, and he dressed jerkily, nearly putting his elbow through an Oxford whose collar had long gone soft. Christ, at the rate he was going, he'd only have to think of John's sweet smile before his dick was tearing holes of its own through his clothes.
Because John looked human, touchable. He was just the right height for impromptu fucks in deserted alleys, for sneaking quick snogs while the rest of the crime-scene personnel were distracted by Sherlock's histrionics. And there was something so undeniable about his voice, the way he could snap out a command like any of Her Maj's officers but also soothe feelings when tempers were high. And when he laughed, Lestrade felt cheered, reminded that a good man lived and breathed beside him.
Oh, he wanted John any way he could get him. Just his luck, then, that Sherlock Bloody Holmes had got there first.
He'd meant to do his shopping the day before, but Sherlock's quest for the scuffed artefact had kept him past the end of his shift, and then later still, until the only thing that would have kept him on his feet was John Watson's firm body pressing him insistently against the nearest wall and John Watson's shapely mouth finding a home on his bared skin.
It was a very nice image to be mulling over, and he absent-mindedly chose a block of Gloucester. Very nice indeed. He couldn't help squirming slightly as he dreamt of cutting Sherlock out of the picture and having John all to himself – but look, he was doing what Sherlock evidently wouldn't: he was buying milk and proper food, acknowledging that his body had needs. It really wasn't on to be fantasising about another man's man, but John was so very compelling. Irresistible was the only word, he thought as he bruised the fruit he was holding, as an image of John, naked and sated, came to him. It was a very good look for him.
Lestrade held on to that thought as he paid for his groceries and made his way home, smiling as he made his lunch. At some point he was actually going to have to burst this little bubble and do what he could to solve the problem Sherlock had dropped in his lap, if he ever wanted to have a chance with John.
The knock on his door caught him just as he was on his way to the office, day off be damned, to take another look at the blasted artefact. It was John, that utter torment, wearing Sherlock's skin and making literal what everyone had seen from the moment the two of them had shown up together at the scene of Jennifer Wilson's death: that it was John who was Sherlock's heart, that they fit together so perfectly that it would be a crime and a folly to wrest them apart. But Lestrade was weak and had spent his life clutching at stupid hopes; he let John in.
Even Sherlock's longer arms didn't seem able to cope with the number of books crammed into them, so Lestrade stepped aside and let John through. John smiled his thanks – one more proof that it wasn't Sherlock striding into the flat, no matter what CCTV might show – and headed for the kitchen table. "The envelope on top," John said; "Sherlock sent it for you."
"Really," he said, rather enjoying being a bit of a smartarse and seeing Sherlock's face contort into all sorts of delightfully un-Sherlockian expressions like chagrin and sympathy. "Sherlock sent –"
He cut himself off when he saw the picture he'd long ago given up for lost, the one with Mark standing in the centre of the shot, chest puffed up and grinning from ear to ear, snugged in tight to Lestrade. Lestrade's left hand dangled in front of Mark's shoulder and the ring on it had caught the light with a fiery spark, a visual signifier of his overwhelming emotions. He couldn't remember being that young and willing to look so in love. Of course, Mark had fallen in love with fairly astonishing regularity and had never seen any need to hide it, so Lestrade supposed it was only his own transparent younger self that seemed so absurd to him now. Nineteen and certain that he'd won the game of life.
John murmured something, probably more a warning that he was planning to take a peek than anything else, and Lestrade let him look over his shoulder. He turned just enough to get John's – no, Sherlock's – face in his sights. Those narrow ice-blue eyes were fixed on his image, snapping back to Lestrade's youthful face after giving Mark only a cursory glance. Was it possible, Lestrade wondered, heat blooming inside his chest, that John harboured an interest in him?
Step lightly, he told himself sternly as he turned to face John fully. His heart beat a violent tattoo as John stepped a little closer. He heard himself promising John he'd get anything he could on the artefact and turn it over to the two of them. He heard himself holding out the faint hope that things would be back to normal in the morning. He kept his lips shut firmly over everything else he could have said, on his knees in front of John Watson.
But that wasn't the end of it, of course. Because he knew there was no such thing as an easy solution to this mess – Sherlock's messes were always exotic – and it wasn't just a matter of unwinding the strings that had got tangled. He signed in to the evidence room and stared at that artefact from every angle, gingerly manipulating it with a couple of pencils and his leather gloves on. There was some faint engraving on it that reminded him of the script that showed up on the One Ring. Lestrade photographed it as carefully as he could, and then settled into his office to send the best shots to Mycroft Holmes; with the stakes this high, he had no pride and even less concern about whether Sherlock would want his frankly creepy brother involved.
Lestrade wasn't going to lie, even to himself, about either Holmes; seeing Sherlock's pale eyes pleading with him, his carved-ivory face gone soft with hope, had given him a pleasant squirm in his belly. Was it Sherlock he was truly after, then? No, he protested as he drove home, reassured only when he recalled how that heat uncurling in his belly had frozen into something splintery when John's dark eyes, animated by Sherlock, had dismissed him coolly, John's mobile face held contemptuously still. It was definitely John he wanted, John in his rightful, delightful body.
If only John had been safely away when Sherlock had gone on his mad treasure hunt, Lestrade thought savagely, if only he and Sherlock had laid hands on the artefact together. Then he'd have been the one to switch places with Sherlock, and would have got to watch John taking his small pleasures – that first cup of tea in the morning, a quick run up the stairs – and hear his contented sighs. If he could see John light up at his brilliance – though he wouldn't, would he, because even in Sherlock's lanky body, he'd still have the same mind he's working with now, the one no one had ever called first-class. For fuck's sake, his biggest contribution to solving this maddening puzzle was bringing it to the attention of a genius who probably already knew every last detail.
It was a stupid train of thought but it would not be denied. As he tossed and turned in his too-large bed, he considered the possibilities. John would look at him with that unhesitating affection. John would walk out of his bath in a dressing-gown and towel, or maybe just pants and a vest, not caring about the greedy eyes on him. John would scold him for not eating in that exasperated, indulgent way, and Lestrade would feast happily on whatever was put in front of him just to see John's mouth curl up at the corners. John would be safe, because Lestrade would –
No, it would never have worked, would it? John was happy and vital when he was with Sherlock, partnering him in whatever sense of the word they chose, and Lestrade needed to stop thinking of what might never be and apply his mind to helping his friends.
The researchers at the British Museum eyed his warrant card nervously, as if he were liable to haul them off to the clink for insufficient detail, but all they were able to tell from his photographs was that the artefact looked Mediterranean and surprisingly sturdy for something so obviously old. "I could tell you more if I were allowed to examine it in person, sir," the oldest of the experts said finally, nodding bemusedly as Lestrade stuttered out something about protocols for handling evidence.
As he left the Museum, a dark elegant car glided up, a car that the knot in his stomach told him was Mycroft Holmes's chariot. "A word, Detective Inspector, about the situation this Minoan artefact has wrought," Mycroft said, lowering the window just enough to present a heroic bust, and Lestrade didn't labour under the delusion that it was a request and not a polite order. "I do appreciate that you are cognisant of the necessity of keeping me informed of my brother's more extravagant blunders. I find it saves time."
"I'm all for fixing this one right quick," Lestrade said, eyes on the careful part of Mycroft's hair.
"Indeed," Mycroft returned knowingly, mercifully raising the window so that Lestrade could tell himself that there were no witnesses to the flush crashing across his face except the falling night.
A shiver zipped down his spine when he and John exchanged amused looks at Sherlock's befuddlement; he might be grasping at straws, but John was not giving him any signal that his attentions, however cautious, were unwelcome. "The story you spun about the artefact causing a rash was clever," Sherlock said reluctantly, John's voice making the admission all the sweeter.
Lestrade rode the high from the grudging compliment and invited John out to Sunday lunch. Another exchange of looks – conspiratorial this time, even more delicious. John couldn't help being a doctor and Lestrade could never quite forget how pathetic Sherlock had appeared when he'd first barged into Lestrade's life, one stone lighter than he was now, shaking with urgency and addiction; between them, he and John were going to make sure Sherlock's body got all the calories it needed, for however long this bloody spell lasted.
And watching John Watson indulge in fried food, licking his fingers and uttering obscene noises of appreciation, was a reward all on its own. Mycroft had said something about the artefact being Minoan, home of the Minotaur; Lestrade found himself thinking of Sherlock's body as the labyrinth concealing a prize instead of its usual monster, John Watson waiting patiently at the centre.
He'd never been so thankful for Sherlock's preference for texting; he knew he'd have parsed Sherlock's words, even his voice, for lingering traces of John, too worried to believe that the problem had been permanently eradicated in just two days. But the few simple words that appeared on his mobile were precise and clear, even to his sleep-bleary eyes, and capped off with SH, declaring that there were no complications and everything had simply been set to rights.
Lestrade lay on his stomach under his duvet and considered. He had some time off coming to him. He called Sally and told her not to expect him that day. It didn't feel like much of a gamble – John, that well-brought up man, was sure to come by to say thank you at the very least; Lestrade was not about to let this opportunity slip.
Lestrade pressed his stupid grin into his pillow and bounded out of bed.
"I heard you were back," he said, just as he'd rehearsed, as he happily swung the door open. It took him a moment to look past the bright smile John was wearing, but when he finally noticed, his spine stiffened involuntarily. John was bruised, the clean line of his jaw overwritten with purple, and Lestrade forced himself to stay calm and not fantasise about giving Sherlock a good smack. "You alright?"
"Yes," John said dismissively, eyes alight with same interest he'd shown in examining that faded photograph, then muscled his way forward, pivoting so that Lestrade was the one with his back against the closed door. Lestrade couldn't keep a grin from stealing across his face, and John wore one of his own, head tilted up to meet Lestrade's gaze.
He'd have to consider later why having John around was a siren call for his smartarse mouth to try to hide the emotions bubbling up inside him. "You don't normally ask a bloke to dinner first, shortarse?" he quipped.
"It's eight in the morning," John shot back. "You hungry?"
"Not really," Lestrade said, meaning not for anything but you. John grinned like he could hear the words, like he was licking his chops, and surged forward. Lestrade met him halfway.
John's mouth was soft and hot and wet; Lestrade blindly brought his arms up to keep John close and not let that lovely mouth stray from his own. God, God, was this really happening or was he just in the throes of the last dream of the night, imagining the early-morning light touching John's skin and dreaming up how deliciously John's little murmurs kept breaking the silence of the flat?
If he were dreaming, then the place to do it was in bed. He pushed off from the door and started to walk, not letting go of John, who not only gamely walked backward and let Lestrade steer, but also took the initiative – the man was a genius, really – to slide his hands under Lestrade's baggy t-shirt and then under sleep trousers and pants so that he was cupping Lestrade's bare hips.
They fell on the bed gracelessly, limbs too tangled for precision, panting mouths steaming over skin. "Help me," he muttered, struggling to strip himself, and John obliged, ripping the soft cotton away from his body. Ah, but John was a gift and should be unwrapped as one, and Lestrade took his time, fingers and tongue touching each bit of scarred, unevenly tanned skin while John moaned, sounding delirious with pleasure.
John rolled forward, his mouth open against Lestrade's neck, and took both their cocks in his hand, his steady grip never fumbling or faltering. Lestrade could hardly keep his eyes open with John half on top of him, John breathing sharp and quick against his skin, frantic and careful at once. He pushed his fingers into John's soft hair, just starting to curl with sweat, clutching at him desperately.
When he shouted, hoarse and gladdened, John bit him.
Lestrade opened his eyes a few hours later, stared up at the ceiling, and gave thanks that it was Monday, still his day off. A day with John Watson looking absolutely delectable, snoring softly, and still half on top of him.
As always, I'd love to hear what you think.