Sherlock's mind palace had served him well since he'd first formed it, but he had never discussed its formation with anyone. Not even with John, who had seemed utterly baffled by the concept of discarding knowledge, and especially not with Mycroft. (It had been one of Mycroft's books that had given Sherlock the idea in the first place and he'd spent a thrilling few days tracking down the footnotes in a thick hardcover on types of memory and reasoning before he eventually found the name Simonides of Ceos. Even now, this name was just faintly visible in engraved letters eroded by time on the foundation stone of his particular architectural creation).
His mind palace was not just a site of work or a warehouse for the tools to which he needed ready access, but also a place of refuge. It was comforting to wander at will, the way John might in a library, revelling in all of the information stored within. There were times when he escaped the flat just to run a hand along the walls, secure in its towering strength, only to return to find John watching him with that look of indulgence on his face, a look that made him more certain than ever that having a mind palace was just one more way he deviated from the norm. He didn't mind, of course, though it did underscore that he had no audience in which to confide when he suddenly discovered a room he'd never built.
The new room was accessible through the room that stood for John, a bright space kept as tidy as John did his small bedroom. But the neatness wasn’t what bothered him most about this unexpected room; that honour belonged to something else: the light. John's proper room in the mind palace had a clerestory running the length of one wall, which allowed sunlight to ooze in like the thinnest honey. This new room was a mirror for the one Sherlock had created, the clerestory on the other side, and yet warm amber light came in at an identical angle, illuminating everything with the same soft glow. That was impossible; Sherlock insisted on his mind palace obeying the laws of physics, even if the walls had suddenly developed the properties of sliding doors (to be fair, he'd never investigated the masonry as closely as he would a crime scene).
Clearly, the point was that the rooms were doubles, mirrors of each other, with nothing to distinguish them other than Sherlock knew which one was the original and which the faithful copy. But what was the significance?
A brief run through the rest of the mind palace was enough to ascertain that it was only John's room that had duplicated. And then the warm pressure of John's hand on his cheek brought him abruptly back to Baker Street. There was a look in John's eye that hinted at nothing and yet was so very clear, and Sherlock pulled him down, intent on filling his arms with the heat of this man who could commandeer a second room in his mind and still scold him for "eating on a schedule roughly equivalent to the appearance of Brigadoon" (whatever that meant).
Surprise flickered swiftly in John's eyes, which soon grew intent. Sherlock knew that John had tracked their encounters, dimly deducing that they only occurred when they were both wound up from the resolution of a case or when the insidious gulf of boredom threatened. (Sherlock might have claimed boredom when really all he wanted was an excuse to lay his hands and mouth on John's golden skin, to swallow down all of John's throaty murmurings, to wind his fingers in John's soft hair and pull.)
John was so responsive, so very alive, in these moments, as if a candle burnt inside him that only Sherlock could fan into a roaring flame. (He knew that wasn't true, that there had been three damnable continents' worth of people who had sparked that blaze; he had to settle for the knowledge that he was the only one allowed to do so now.) Sherlock had seen it - and felt it - when it was a conflagration, when John had been frantic to reassure himself that Sherlock was whole, was still breathing, and had pounded into him without mercy, as if his hips were powered by a perpetual-motion mechanism; now what he wanted was the counterpoint, the kind of connection that came slow and sweet and luxurious.
Unhurried, Sherlock spread his legs to accommodate John's compact warmth, then reached up to peel John's t-shirt off of him. The hair at John's nape was still damp from his shower and his skin retained the heat of the water that had rained down on him. Sherlock skated his hands along John's spine and drew him in for a lingering kiss. He could feel it the moment John stopped counting backwards from the present to the time Sherlock had wrapped up their last case and simply gave in to the demands of Sherlock's mouth. John's weight pressed him down into the softness of the sofa and his hands wandered beneath Sherlock's shirt, bestowing tickling touches to sensitive skin.
Sherlock moaned into John's mouth and shifted his hips restively. John leaned to one side, still kissing him, his freed hand busily unbuttoning Sherlock's shirt, crumpled now. There was only one moment of cool air on his bared chest before Sherlock watched John's head dip down to drop kisses there: careless and open-mouthed, catching his nipples and moles, spreading lambent heat with every touch. He could see the way John's scapulae moved, lovely and alien under scarred golden skin, the colour of which struck a chord in his mind.
But he had no time to think, because John's mouth was insistent, and his hands were busy; no sooner had John undone their zips and drawn their cocks out than he'd caught Sherlock's wrists with one strong hand and pinned them against the armrest. John's fingers were slim and clever, rubbing and stroking and soothing. "John," he gasped out when he saw John's bright head inexorably descend down his chest; he left his hands where John had pressed them and John pulled down his trousers and pants in one savage motion, before descending on him like a starving man at a banquet.
Sherlock had not known that it was possible to be voracious and painstaking and half out of one's mind all at the same time, but here John was, the living proof. John was trembling - juddering, really - with what must have been desire even as his mouth was mapping out every bit of Sherlock it could reach. His tongue fit into the groove between trunk and thigh like it had been moulded for that express purpose, and the wet kisses John trailed along his inner thighs cooled and then went warm again when John's shoulders bumped up against them, nudging Sherlock's legs further apart. Sherlock thrashed helplessly, and when John's mouth closed over one of his bollocks, he came with a cry that felt wrenched up from his toes.
That shout was like the trumpet blast that had levelled the walls of Jericho (there was a volume in a small but crowded room in the mind palace that contained ancient legends): the wall between John's twin rooms vanished as if it had never been.
Deprived of rubble to shift and dust to peer through, Sherlock had no excuse not to examine the room minutely. Now one large space, it was lit by complementary shafts of light and retained its doubled nature: John's early-morning greetings were there and there, and his reasoned admiration showed up twice as well. Sherlock frowned; redundancies and fail-safes were all very well, but having one in the same space as the original defeated the purpose.
John's hand, warm on his cheek, roused him once again from his contemplation; this time, he held a plate with a hearty sandwich and some crisps out to Sherlock. A mug sat on the coffee-table, sending wisps of steam into the air. Sherlock watched as John nodded, satisfied, when Sherlock accepted the food and then settled into his chair and opened a medical journal. Half his sandwich devoured, Sherlock stretched out his legs, mindful of the mug, and rested them on the table. John's hand dropped down and began absent-mindedly drawing patterns on Sherlock's ankle, and that was when Sherlock solved the mystery, rather disappointed in his mind for selecting such an obvious metaphor. One room for John as a friend and another for John as a lover, melded together because John acted no differently no matter what the role, no matter that two kinds of light shone in on him.
He slouched on the sofa and contemplated John - from the fine line between his brows as he read to the delicate hands circling his ankle to the strong thighs in faded jeans - and wondered if that wasn't the point: the metaphor had to be simple because what it described was not. It was just as well that the room had grown so large, as there was always something more to discover about John.
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