Lady Paperclip (paperclipbitch) wrote,
Lady Paperclip

"These Thing Were Promises" [5a/5], Sherlock Holmes, Holmes/Watson

Title: These Things Were Promises [5a/5]
Fandom: Sherlock Holmes (movieverse)
Pairing: Holmes/Watson
Rating: NC-17
Word Count: 13,870
Genre: Slash
Copyright: Title is from Tides by Hugo Williams.
Summary: Things are different between them in a way that Watson cannot define and Holmes will not define.
Author’s Notes: And you all thought it would never be finished. I thought it would never be finished. But hey, look, here we are. I decided I had to get this finished asap because otherwise I’d let it get in the way of my essays, and that’s never a good thing. There are quite a few spoilers for the opera Don Carlo, which I assume won’t bother you guys, because it’s an epic opera and also has this amazing homoerotic bromance in it, like other things I could mention. Also, you get porn because it’s all about the payoff. So: thank you for sticking with me through [53,181] words (oh dear God).

Apologies if I’ve fallen at the last hurdle. Split into two pieces because I can already tell this will be longer than an lj post limit.

{Part One} | {Part Two} | {Part Three} | {Part Four}

The lamp left on, the curtains letting in the light.
These things were promises. No doubt we will come back to them.

– Hugo Williams

One of the things that Watson learned almost immediately after moving in with Holmes is that Holmes knows people everywhere. He has contacts among the aristocracy and the beggars on the street, among policeman and among criminals, and does not seem to notice any particular difference between any of these types of people. As Holmes has his web of contacts stretching out through London, it is very easy for him to acquire anything and everything that he might possibly decide that he wants or needs, whether it is something tiny, a passing whim, whether it is cocaine, whether it is contentious blackmail material. Watson is no longer surprised at what Holmes can get his hands on anymore.

Therefore, he does not bat an eyelid when Holmes drops two tickets to Don Carlo onto the table between their plates, before walking across to leave his coat and hat across one of their chairs. He is two hours late for lunch, but this is not an unusual occurrence, and Watson has been quietly waiting, immersed in a medical journal. This performance of Don Carlo has been sold out for some time and Watson is not aware of even mentioning that he wanted to go, but nonetheless Holmes has procured tickets. Holmes has contacts in the Royal Opera House – it is where he acquires most of his make-up for his disguises from – and all he has to do is mention that he would like to go to a performance to immediately get a box for it, so Watson knows he should not really be as impressed by this as he is, but nonetheless, while Holmes has his back to him, Watson feels a naked, delighted grin flicker over his face.

“You’re late,” he remarks, fighting to keep his voice steady.

“I am,” Holmes agrees cheerfully, pulling his scarf from his neck and dropping it on top of his coat and fedora before coming to join Watson at the table. “I had a few enquiries to follow up and they were really so tiresome, Watson, you have no idea.” He looks at Watson’s untouched lunch. “You could have eaten without me.”

“I could have,” Watson replies, putting his medical journal aside, “but then I would not have been here when you got back, and then you would not have eaten lunch at all, and I would not have been able to ask you how your cases are progressing.”

“I might have eaten lunch,” Holmes suggests without much conviction, picking up his knife and fork. “In any case, I thought you had patients this afternoon?”

“I am indisposed,” Watson tells him, voice carefully neutral. “They have all rescheduled for tomorrow afternoon.”

“Ah,” Holmes says, looking momentarily surprised. “I see.”

They eat at least one meal a day together, two when it can be arranged. Holmes fussed and scoffed the first couple of days, calling Watson hopelessly interfering and mother hen and overreacting and other phrases of that ilk, but they both know that if Watson did not sit down with Holmes and regularly remind him to eat then he would go days at a time without nourishment, and a dazzling intellect is not a replacement for actual food, no matter how many times Holmes may try to convince Watson of this. In any case, it is also a chance to connect; with Holmes still taking on more cases than is at all advisable and still refusing Watson’s assistance, and Watson tending to patients and trying to tend to friendships outside of Baker Street – superfluous though they may seem to him – it would be much too easy to become strangers. Strangers sharing the same space and drifting past each other. Watson cannot let that happen, will not let that happen, and so they eat meals together every day, no matter how late Holmes is or how many patients Watson has to reschedule. Some things, after all, are important.

Don Carlo,” Watson remarks, keeping his voice light but knowing Holmes can read his true delight in a hundred little tells that spill across his features. “Tonight, I see.”

“Well,” Holmes says, “I am quite fond of Verdi and the Italian translation is very good.”

“I hear it is,” Watson agrees, noting the little pleased smile flickering around Holmes’ mouth. “I suppose you’ll be wanting to steal one of my jackets?”

“We have a barter system,” Holmes reminds him.

“I thought I wasn’t allowed to wear any more of your clothes since I bled all over your shirts,” Watson remarks. His stitches have been removed and his chest no longer hurts and the gash has healed to an ugly pink streak that cannot even begin to compete with the scars he carried back from the wars. One little incident, swept beneath the rug and no longer able to bother him, though Watson seems to find it easier to talk about it than Holmes does. He supposes it is because he spent the majority of that night unconscious or half out of mind on laudanum, while Holmes was stuck awake worrying about him. Holmes does still seems to be holding himself responsible for Watson getting hurt, and Watson has been unable to convince him otherwise or to find out just why Holmes has such a strong conviction that the blame lies with him.

Holmes shrugs easily enough. “That is no reason to imply that I am somehow stealing your clothing unfairly.”

This is exactly what Holmes is doing, and, in fact, what Holmes has always done, but Watson has never had the energy to point this out. In any case, he minds less than he says he does, and although he does need to find somewhere to hide certain items of clothing he would like not to be ruined by Holmes and his increasingly eccentric experiments, he has never begrudged Holmes anything, really, let alone his clothes.

“You wear my clothes and do not give me anything in return,” Watson points out with a smirk. His lunch is cold but not actually that bad, and in any case it is not the first time that he has had to eaten Mrs Hudson’s cookery long after it has cooled down – Holmes is occasionally punctual, but usually only to prove a point or to be spiteful – and it is generally delicious whatever is temperature. “That does sound rather like theft to me.”

“No jury would ever convict me,” Holmes says dismissively, though his eyes are lit with amusement.

“I know,” Watson replies, “but no jury will ever convict you of anything. You are too clever for that.”

This is something that has always been evident. Holmes may not know the entire legal system inside out but he does know crime better than perhaps anyone; it is not just a lack of modesty on Holmes’ side or blind infatuation on Watson’s that makes them both aware that if Holmes wished, he could commit any crime he chose, no matter how nefarious or cruel or immoral, and cover his tracks absolutely perfectly. He would probably investigate it himself, leading Lestrade and the rest of Scotland Yard a merry twisting dance, and would cap it all off with getting someone else convicted and hung, and Watson would probably end up being the attending physician. It is a circumstance that will hopefully never happen, but its possibility has always been there.

Holmes’ smile turns a little smug as he eats. Watson cannot help but notice that Holmes’ cuffs are still perfectly in place; normally he rolls his sleeves up when they are in the privacy of their own home, relaxed and safe from the eyes of the rest of the world. They both do, shirts untucked, sleeves unbuttoned, braces hanging loose behind them, waistcoats left forgotten. It is one of the pleasures of their home life; this seclusion from polite society and all of its conventions. It occurs to Watson that he has not seen Holmes’ arms in some weeks, and this is not a good sign. It is not a good sign at all. Immediately, his eyes dart to the bottles of seven percent solution on the mantelpiece, but they do not appear to have moved at all. He should be comforted by this, but he is not. Holmes is clever, after all, even if that word seems too inadequate and cheap to describe his intellect, and he is certainly not above misleading Watson and possibly even himself.

Watson notes that Holmes has followed his gaze and is also looking at the mantelpiece.

“If you’re worried about the bullet hole I’m sure we could have someone fix it,” he says.

For a moment, Watson is honestly not sure if Holmes is serious or not, if he is trying to lead Watson away from a conversation he does not want to have, or if he genuinely thinks that Watson is worried about some of the meaningless destruction that has taken place in here all in the name of discovery. It would do better under the name of procrastination, Watson feels, but Holmes always takes immediate offence to that.

“I’m sure we could,” he agrees, and lets his gaze drop so that he does not have to look at Holmes’ expression and try and second-guess it. “In any case, thank you for getting the tickets.”

“I was owed a favour,” Holmes says, tone light and nonchalant, “and I know that it was something you wanted to see.”

Watson does look at him when he hears that, and Holmes gives him the smug grin he saves for moments of triumph, much like this one. “We have not been to see Don Carlo before,” Holmes tells him, “and I noted how disappointed you looked when last we were in Covent Garden and you saw the sold out posters.”

“Thank you,” Watson says again, and he wonders if he has ever been more grateful for his friend’s deductive abilities.

In the hansom on the way back to Baker Street Holmes is quiet, fingers twitching in his lap. Watson does not know much about playing the violin – watching Holmes is not much help as Holmes seems to spend more time plucking distractedly at the strings than actually playing, as such – but he can imagine that Holmes is already playing certain arias in his mind, fingertips pressed to an imaginary violin.

“Did you want me to identify more with Carlos or with Posa?” Watson asks at last, because he might as well, smiling to soften the words.

At the centre of Don Carlo is a love story, of course, a man unable to be with the woman he loves and the ways he suffers because of it. There is gut wrenching music and a suitably tragic and unhappy ending of twisting desperation and gorgeous love songs of pain and separation. But there is also a friendship, two men who love each other and would die for each other – until one of them actually does – and their harmonies and arias are just as beautiful as any sung between Carlos and Elisabeth. Neither he nor Holmes are as naive and idealistic as Carlos and Posa, but nonetheless there are parallels, and Watson finds himself wondering if Holmes’ choice of opera had an ulterior motive. Even as he thinks this, he realises that he does not mind if it did.

“I suppose I’m Posa,” he says, answering his own question, “though you do not pine after an unattainable woman, but rather unattainable answers.”

Holmes turns to look him, surprise on his features. “Posa dies for Carlos,” he points out.

“I imagine I’ll die for you at some point,” Watson replies, and belatedly realises he may have had a little too much champagne in the intervals. It is a four hour opera; there were many intervals. Holmes’ eyes widen, his expression almost impossible to read in the darkness inside the cab. “I mean, I won’t set out to do it, but it will probably happen and there are, after all, far worse reasons to die.”

“You’re being ridiculous, Watson,” Holmes snaps, steel in his tone, and his gaze turns out of one of the windows. “You won’t die for me.”

“I’ve already been stabbed this month,” Watson sighs, “which was not so much for you and wasn’t even caused by you, but was nonetheless in your vicinity and on your stakeout, so sooner or later helping you with your cases is going to end in tragedy of some description.”

Holmes’ jaw has tensed and he keeps his gaze straight ahead, refusing to look at Watson. “You’re drunk,” he says, tone cold.

“And judging by the size of your pupils I don’t want to think about exactly what’s in your body right now,” Watson returns calmly, “through I trust that it improved your enjoyment of the music. And you will notice that there have been no recriminations on my half at all and that we have had a lovely evening.”

“We were having a lovely evening,” Holmes corrects him, and then he sighs. “Your powers of observation are ceaselessly surprising, Watson.”

“I see more than you think I do,” Watson tells him, a little stung, “though I may not always be able to put it together.”

“Well, that is plainly obvious,” Holmes mutters, and in the half-light his smile appears a little rueful. There is an uncomfortable pause where Holmes does not look at him and Watson tries to work out just what it is that he is missing. There is something, he knows, in the way Holmes looks at him sometimes, in the cryptic sentences he drops occasionally and refuses to ever define. He thinks it stems back to the night he was hurt; things were awkward before then, uncomfortable and disjointed. They are not quite back to normal yet, but things are different between them in a way that Watson cannot define and Holmes will not define, and he only wishes he knew what it was that he does not know. If he should have noticed it, if it is staring him hopelessly in the face and he just keeps looking through it.

Knowing him, he probably is.

After a moment, Holmes turns to him and gives a smile that is a little more real. “In any case, we’re having a lovely evening.”

“We are,” Watson agrees, returning the smile, because they are; even if they are both currently under the influence and somehow still missing a connection.

Watson is just drunk enough to consider leaning forward and kissing Holmes, pushing him back against the seat and sharing the sweet taste of expensive champagne in his own mouth. But past experience stops him, much as he wishes that it would not; recollections of Holmes’ calculating expression when faced with Watson’s bare passion, and the soft bloody kiss in the Punchbowl that Holmes barely seemed aware he was bestowing. And – but those are the only times they have kissed, and Watson has his pride and the last shreds of his sanity to cling to. But as they look at each other, lit solely by the stripes of lamp posts they pass, Watson does entertain the possibility for a few drawn out seconds, no matter his strong resolution that Holmes will never be anything more than his friend and that that will be enough.

In any case, before he has absolutely reached a decision, the cab stops at Baker Street and they have to get out. Watson gets out first and wonders if he imagines the heavy sigh from behind him. Holmes pays the cab driver – Watson still does not carry money himself, though he wants to believe that one day he will be able to without fear that he will lose it all foolishly – while Watson climbs the stairs to the front door, pleased that he is not drunk enough to be unsteady on his feet.

“I should get some rest,” he remarks when they are both safely inside, “I have all those patients I rescheduled to see tomorrow.”

“You didn’t have to do that, you know,” Holmes tells him quietly.

“I did,” Watson replies simply. He looks at Holmes, tidy for once in his jacket and shirt, a top hat angled a little rakishly on his head, and once again reminds himself that he has a resolution. “Thank you, Holmes,” he says, genuine and soft.

“You are quite welcome,” Holmes tells him. “Sleep well, Posa.”

Watson laughs and wonders how much truth there was in I will die for you. The words settle in his stomach like lead and he reflects that in the morning without champagne bubbles beneath his skin he will probably want to hurt himself for saying those words aloud, especially to Holmes.

As he lies awake in bed, he can hear the soft strains of Holmes’ violin through the wall, singing its way through half-remembered parts of the opera, sweeping beautifully along, and Watson eventually drifts off to sleep cradled in the melody.


Even if Watson had only recently moved in with Holmes and therefore did not know his methods, his temperament or even how to take little details and use them to piece together the bigger picture, he would be able to spot the signs a mile off. He cannot work out if he is angry or not that Holmes is not even bothering to be discreet; his eyes are permanently glittering and he is constantly alight with brittle bright mania, speaking almost too fast to follow at times, and if he is sleeping it is not at times discernable to Watson. He leaves Holmes to it because it is simpler just to pick up the pieces afterwards than to try and stop things breaking in the first place. In any case, he knows Holmes will lash out if he tries to suggest to him that what he is doing is stupid and reckless; after all, it is not as if Holmes does not already know this.

The bottles of seven percent solution on the mantelpiece remain untouched and sealed, but Watson has worked out by now that they are simply a ruse on Holmes’ part, left there in the hope of misleading him. Holmes is keeping the drug that he is actually using somewhere else. Watson does occasionally search through their untidy and cluttered rooms in the hope of finding the bottles that Holmes really is using, if only so that he can know what he is up against, but he has no luck. He is not really surprised about this. Holmes knows far too much about hiding things from the rest of the world.

Holmes has continued with the case of the jewel thieves, and he informs Watson at dinner one night that the net is finally closing in; he and Scotland Yard are laying a trap and the gang will be caught in the next few days.

“I want to come with you,” Watson says.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Holmes replies, suddenly intently fascinated in his dinner.

“I am tired of being treated as an invalid,” Watson replies, “or someone who is incapable of taking care of themselves. I am not scared of being hurt, so you should not be scared of me being hurt. I don’t want to be shut out any more, Holmes.”

Holmes is silent for a long moment. At last, he sighs. “All right,” he says. “You will need your revolver and I get to say ‘I told you so’ if you are injured.”

“You may say it as many times as you like,” Watson promises. “You may say it over and over again as I lie in my laudanum-crazed dreams. And I will probably not punch you.”

“We can use my new anaesthetic,” Holmes says, looking suddenly cheerful.

“Would you like me to get hurt?” Watson offers. “You experimented on Gladstone, I suppose you might want to test it on me too?”

“Don’t be facetious,” Holmes tells him, but he is smiling a little. “It will be good to have you with me.” He half mutters this, gaze on his cutlery, and he clears his throat immediately after saying it.

Watson looks down at his own plate, suddenly immensely intrigued by his own food. “I look forward to it,” he says.

They discuss innocuous topics for the rest of the meal, and Watson watches Holmes’ hands shaking, the hollowness in his dark eyes, and wonders just how much of a problem this is becoming. Holmes’ sleeves are still resolutely rolled down, and Watson finds himself trying to work out if Holmes honestly believes that he is hiding this from him, because he is really not.

The next night finds them out in the freezing cold night air down at the docks. Some jewels are supposedly being shipped and although they left an hour ago, the jewel thieves do not know this. The gang are due to come down here tonight at the original shipping time, and Scotland Yard will be waiting for them when they do.

Holmes is brightly excited, and Watson knows that this, at least, is a natural emotion, one that has not been artificially induced by Holmes’ boredom and melancholy and subsequent addictions. Watson, too, has that feeling curling in his stomach that he only gets when they are on the verge of apprehending a criminal, the twists of excitement and adrenalin that remind him it will be extremely difficult to ever have a life that is calm and quiet and that does not regularly involve nights running through the streets of London after dangerous and vicious individuals.

Back against the wall of a warehouse, Watson checks his revolver for the umpteenth time, finding that it is still fully loaded and ready for use. Holmes is stood beside him, absolutely still, eyes staring out into the darkness. This reminds Watson of last time, standing outside the pub with their breath like smoke in front of them, shivering and cold. It was darker then, though, whereas the moon is clear and bright tonight, glistening above them. Holmes’ profile is tipped silver when Watson looks at him, eyelashes cutting dark shadows across his cheeks.

“When do Scotland Yard get here?” he asks, mouth barely moving.

“A few minutes,” Holmes responds, checking his pocket watch, quietly closing it and tucking it back into his pocket. “And our friends should be here a few minutes after that.”

“So we’re early then?” Watson asks.

“Plans can go wrong,” Holmes points out, “and while I would rather not face them all alone, we are at least both wearing your shirts this time round.”

“We are?” Watson frowns. “When did I agree to this?”

“Oh, you didn’t,” Holmes assures him, “but I believe that, after last time, it is really only fair.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Watson whispers back. “You’ve set fire to at least ten of my shirts.”

“At least that was in pursuit of something productive,” Holmes counters. “My shirts were simply ruined by you running a little faster than me, which is far more of a waste.” There are footsteps nearby; they both flatten themselves harder against the wall and exchange glances.

It’s only the police arriving; they spread themselves out and the feeling of excited anticipation grows in Watson’s stomach. He glances at Holmes to find that Holmes is already looking at him, watching him with what looks like careful scrutiny. Watson wants to ask for clarification, but the need for silence has arisen, with scant minutes until their targets arrive, and so he must remain quiet.

Quiet. For a split second, Watson thinks Holmes is about to – he shakes his head to rid himself of the idea, but just for a moment he honestly thought Holmes was to kiss him. He has no clue where he got that thought from and is immediately embarrassed, but...

He is spared further dwelling on this by the sound of more footsteps, of men with lanterns and low voices, and chaos immediately descends. The police appear from their hiding places, all whistles and noise and Lestrade bawling at the thieves that they have been caught. Watson and Holmes wait on the edges to catch stragglers, to catch the ones who think they will be able to run away. There are always one or two who think that they can run away when they cannot. In this case they are waiting, fists curled and revolvers ready; Watson cracks his knuckles on a man’s cheek, sends him down spitting his own teeth, stamps on his hand as he reaches for a weapon. A policeman is at his side in a moment to cuff the swearing, bleeding thief and drag him away. He takes down two more men, suddenly aware that he has lost sight of Holmes, and goes looking for his friend.

Holmes has an unconscious man at his feet and is currently in the process of beating up another one. The thief has dropped a gun and several coins and a long knife... Watson’s heart almost stops when he sees the weapon, recognising it instinctively as the one that was plunged into his chest only a few weeks ago. Which means the man Holmes is apparently trying to beat to a pulp is the man who stabbed Watson. He has mixed feelings about this situation, but the man is clearly unarmed and is now unable to fight back, and apparently Holmes does not care about this one little bit.

“Stop it,” Watson orders, voice low and even. “Holmes, he’s had enough.”

“I told him I was going to beat seven kinds of shit out of him,” Holmes responds, words clipped and sharp and eerily calm. “I’ve only found five so far.”

There is the unmistakable sound of a jaw breaking, and the man screams. Watson makes a decision and dives for Holmes, grabbing him by the arms and pulling him back. The bloody thief falls to the ground, moaning, and Watson swiftly kicks the weapons out of his reach, though the man looks barely capable of staying conscious right now, let alone trying to fight back. Holmes struggles for a moment but Watson does not let go.

“He’d had enough,” Watson repeats. “You don’t need to get in trouble for using unnecessary force.”

“Watson,” Holmes begins hotly, “he was-”

“I know,” Watson interrupts. “Holmes, I know.”

Holmes twists in his grip, turning around to face Watson. His cheek is cut, his nose is bloody, teeth stained red, and there is a naked fire in his eyes that Watson has not seen before.

“We’re going home,” he says firmly. “Lestrade and his men can finish up here.”

Holmes looks at Watson for a moment and then down the cringing man bleeding onto the ground a few feet away, and nods. “Yes,” he says. “Yes, I think that would be a good idea.”

They do not speak in the hansom, or even really look at each other. Watson’s mind is working too fast, and brief flashes of moonlight and Holmes’ dark eyes keep colliding in his thoughts. There is a memory there, he thinks, only it is fragmented like a partially-burned photograph and it keeps sliding between his hands like wet soap. He thinks and thinks and prods at the scattered pieces of the memory that may or may not be a fantasy or a dream or a trick of the light until he begins to feel like a dog chasing his own tail, and his head is thumping.

He patches Holmes up by the fireside, cleaning the cut on his face and providing him with gauze to hold against his nose to try and staunch the flow of blood.

“I’m not a damsel in distress,” Watson murmurs at last.

Holmes smiles, and then winces. At least his nose has stopped bleeding, and Watson lays down his right hand with its cut and bruised knuckles. “I never thought for one moment you were, dear boy.”

“Well, you were certainly doing a good job of trying to knock out all the teeth of the man who attacked me,” Watson points out, struggling to keep his voice light. “I don’t need you to defend me like that.”

Holmes catches his gaze; there is something in his eyes that Watson has not seen since that night, since he was delirious in his bed with Holmes trying to get his temperature down. “You did not have you find you, Watson,” he says quietly, voice utterly calm. “You did not have to find you lying covered in your own blood in an alley while a man stood over you with a knife. It was very dark that night, if you recall, and for a moment it was rather difficult to tell if you were still alive.” Watson feels all the breath leave his lungs, ice flowing through his limbs. “I did not attack him for you,” Holmes adds a moment later, his voice barely above a whisper.

Watson does not know what to say, cannot find any words at all. Holmes offers him a smile that does not reach his eyes and pushes himself to his feet.

“I’m going to bed,” he says, and then abruptly holds out a hand. “Nice working with you again, dear boy.”

Watson shakes his hand, noticing that they both have matching sets of damaged knuckles. “Nice working with you too.”

They stand there like that for a moment too long; eventually Holmes pulls his hand free. He looks as though he would like to say something to Watson but in the end just scrapes together a meagre approximation of a smile, smacks his hand against Watson’s shoulder, and leaves the room.


Silence is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. Holmes continues to take on more cases than he really should, though at least he is now allowing Watson to help him with the workload. Watson realises just how much he has missed helping Holmes to unravel mysteries and he knows that Holmes has missed having him along; Holmes’ increasingly long monologues on every little detail that crosses their path show him that. After all, who else will listen to Holmes pontificate on his own genius without losing interest in moments? Watson remains fascinated, no matter how well he comes to know Holmes and no matter how much patience he loses with the man. Holmes’ mind is still a shining and beautiful thing that Watson cannot help but be drawn to, a moth to a flame.

With the details flooding the newspapers, Watson begins to write a heavily edited account of their adventures with the jewel thieves. Certain details can be left in – the stakeouts, Watson’s own injury, the eventual capture at the docks – but Watson cannot think of a way of writing I came upon Holmes attempting to beat ‘seven kinds of shit’ – in his own words – out of the scoundrel who had stabbed me without making the narrative take on a rather different tone.

It has been a quiet evening; they ate dinner together, discussing their latest cases and a couple of rather scandalous stories that appeared in the newspaper today, and then Watson retired to write and left Holmes scribbling away industriously about a new chemical he is thinking about developing. Watson goes back through his notebook and begins to record the first cases of theft that brought the whole thing to Holmes’ attention, continues through various ridiculously domestic scenes in which Holmes deduces where the thieves will be while they sit in armchairs by the fire (Watson leaves out the fact that these were the only conversations they were actually having in those weeks), and writes about how cold their stakeout was. He is normally quite good at remembering conversations and most of the dialogue in his scribbling is true enough to life, perhaps edited for expletives or to make Holmes look a little less like a maniac. But that whole night is full of fog and a little wavering, but he does his best to fill in the gaps anyway. They discussed how cold it was, he recalls, and Holmes wanted him to be quiet-

Watson closes his eyes, massaging his temples, and tries to slot the pieces back together. Holmes wanted him to be quiet and they looked at each other in moonlight and... he gasps, pieces flowing together. Still indistinct, still desperately confusing, but Holmes’ mouth closed over his in that alley in the darkness and that was why Watson was ahead of Holmes in the chase. He knows this with absolute certainty, though the proof is absent, lost to the grey expanses of head injury.

His pen has leaked ink into a huge wet blot on the page and Watson does not care. The memory is fragile, warped by concussion, and he realises that Holmes lied to him when he said that Watson had forgotten nothing from that night. Watson forgot something important, and he needs to know the truth. He knows, if he directly confronts Holmes, he will be able to get the truth from him. And he needs to; God, he needs to.

He opens the wall that divides his practice from the main room and walks through. Holmes is sitting on the floor, firelight illuminating his features, and he is staring unblinkingly upwards at their damaged ceiling. Watson, filled with an emotion he cannot define or name, does not bother to follow his eye line. There is something about Holmes’ almost unnatural stillness, something about the way he is just sitting there, that fills Watson with something like fury and something like dread and something like disappointment. He closes the wall again, and the banging noise makes Holmes get to his feet.

“Watson!” he says. “What-”

Watson does not want to let him finish. Anger is filling him, replacing whatever he was feeling earlier, and he strides over. Watson looks into Holmes’ too-bright eyes, and silence no longer appeals to him. Pretending not to see, trying not to make it his problem, letting Holmes lie humiliatingly badly to him; he cannot take it anymore.

“Roll up your sleeves.”

“My dear fellow-”

“Roll up your sleeves right now.” Watson is spitting the words between his teeth, anxiety and fury mingling in them, and Holmes seems to realise that now is not the time to negotiate. Slow, reluctant, looking wronged and martyred, he undoes his cufflinks and turns up the sleeves of his shirt. Watson’s shirt, he notes dispassionately; nothing belongs solely to him anymore, Holmes has taken all of it, or perhaps he handed it over without even noticing.

The insides of Holmes’ arms are a mess of needle pricks and deep purple bruises, bright and ugly and vivid. Watson forced himself to grow used to Holmes’ occasional use of cocaine when it all came out in the first place, but this is not anything approaching an occasional use. This is something far darker and far more messy and it almost turns his stomach. He does not know whether he wants to cry or to scream or to hit Holmes for being such a great fool.

He is speechless, he realises, recriminations shrivelling in his mouth. Watson cannot find anything to say at all, struck dumb by the black and mauve marks that streak up and down Holmes’ forearms. Holmes looks at him and does not seem to know what to say either.

“There are not words for how stupid you’re being,” Watson says at last, tone hushed. “And you know how stupid you’re being and I cannot comprehend how you can do this. I cannot.”

“I wouldn’t expect you to understand,” Holmes replies. He does not sound accusing; simply sad. Watson does not have time for Holmes’ sadness, for his ideas of isolated genius, right now. He looks away from him and sees the empty and half-filled bottles of seven percent solution lying, half hidden beneath a footstool. There is no subtlety to this, no elegance, and pure desperate devastated fury spreads through Watson.

“You bloody idiot,” he half-shouts, and Holmes flinches.

Watson sees red, grabbing one full bottle of seven percent solution and throwing it against the wall, where it shatters, spilling the liquid cocaine everywhere. They stare at each other for moment in which the sound seems to echo and magnify and fill the room, and then Holmes punches him, the movement clearly purely instinctive, fist connecting hard with Watson’s chin. His head snaps back and he stumbles. Watson reaches for Holmes, dragging him close with fingers cruelly tight around Holmes’ arm. Holmes is tensed for a blow but Watson kisses him instead, kisses him with all the fear he has, hot and enraged and terrified of losing Holmes to his own demons.

Holmes responds swiftly, kissing back with just as much anger and frustration, bruised arms wrapping around Watson’s neck and dragging him closer. They stagger back a step, knocking an entire table over with such a racket it is a surprise Mrs Hudson does not try to come and find what on earth they are up to, and crash past the wreckage to the sofa. Watson pushes Holmes down, covering him with his own body, hands shaking against Holmes’ chest.

“Watson,” Holmes murmurs between stinging, biting kisses, “Watson-”

His hands are pushing insistently at Watson’s shoulders which he ignores until Holmes manages to catch his scar from the war – probably intentionally – and his sharp pained intake of breath is enough to clear his mind a little.

Watson,” Holmes says urgently, mouth swollen red and eyes pure black, and Watson hears what he is really saying, which is stop.

“We can’t do this now,” Watson murmurs, realisation sinking in. Holmes figured this out quicker than he did, which is not surprising, but it is perfectly plain that they cannot do this right now. Not with Holmes so desperately under the influence and Watson literally shaking with rage. “I’m too angry. I could quite happily pound you into this sofa until either it or you collapses; I don’t mind which.”

Holmes shivers beneath him. “Neither do I,” he says quietly, and then closes his eyes, swallowing hard. “We really can’t do this, Watson.”

It takes a great deal of willpower for Watson to push himself up and off the sofa. Holmes sits up, looking beautifully dishevelled, and then Watson notices, once again, the rows of drug-induced bruises. He forces himself to breathe, to swallow yet more helpless anger, and tries to think rationally about this. Something clicks, and he suddenly realises everything, the missing pieces that were staring him in the face all along.

“It really wasn’t your fault,” he says quietly. “You think that I nearly died and it was your fault. But it wasn’t.”

“Leave it, Watson.” Holmes’ voice is halfway between a plea and an order.

“You think because you kissed me you almost got me killed,” Watson says. “But I’m not blaming you and you need to stop blaming yourself.”

Holmes stares at him, wide-eyed. “You remember?” His voice is barely above a whisper.

“It has finally come back to me,” Watson says. “Well, some of it anyway. Head injuries can do that to a person.” He fixes Holmes with a firm stare. “And you told me that my memory of that night was perfect.”

Holmes seems to be looking for words and has not found any. Tonight has been too full of striking each other dumb and Watson is very tired and a little confused and maybe, underneath it all, a little hopeful.

“I’m going to bed,” he says. “I will have this conversation with you when you are in your right mind, or whatever approximation of that we can get you to.” He steps closer, curling a hand under Holmes’ chin and tilting it up so that Holmes will look at him. “I was fine. I am fine. And you must stop blaming yourself.”

“You cannot make me stop,” Holmes murmurs, but there is an easing in his voice.

“Oh believe me, I will have a good try,” Watson promises. He pauses at the door. “In any case, I hear that scars are thought rather dashing. I should probably be thanking you.”

Holmes looks reluctant, but a smile creeps across his mouth. “You are quite mad, Watson.”

“I wouldn’t still live here if I weren’t,” Watson responds. “Goodnight, Holmes.”

{concluded here}

Tags: character: john watson, character: sherlock holmes, movie: sherlock holmes, pairing: sherlock holmes/john watson, type: slash

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