Watson does not see Holmes until the middle of the next afternoon; he has patients and the silence from next door – occasionally punctuated by the sounds of moving furniture and towers of books crashing to the floor – is slightly ominous. Nonetheless, Mrs Hudson goes not come running in, begging him to intervene, so he assumes that whatever Holmes is or is not doing is not dangerous and is not about to bring the house crashing down around their ears – which is always a nice change. When he has finished assuring a woman that her son has a slight fever but most certainly does not have some kind of horrible life-threatening disease, Watson finally goes to find out what Holmes is up to.
The curtains are open for once, brightly illuminating the mess, long streams of dust motes caught in the winter sunlight. The table they knocked over yesterday – Watson feels a blush rushing to his cheeks just at the thought – has been righted, books and papers rearranged on top of it, and while the room continues to look as though a library and a junk shop had a fight to the death and then both exploded, it also looks as though it has been tidied, just a little. There is order in the centre of the chaos; it shows in the way books and papers have been piled, in the distinct absence of half-drunk cups of tea or broken glassware and spilled unidentifiable chemicals.
Holmes himself has drifted off to sleep on the sofa, breathing softly and deeply, one limp arm dangling off the edge. His sleeves are rolled up – Watson smiles almost ruefully and once again considers getting a lock on his wardrobe – and in daylight the bruises look even worse, startlingly dark against Holmes’ skin. Watson swallows, teeth gritting, and wonders once again just what it is in Holmes that has such a desperate urge to destroy itself.
Further investigation reveals that the bottles of cocaine have disappeared, both from the mantelpiece and from beneath the footstool, and the broken remains of the bottle Watson threw last night have been cleared away, a slight stain on the wallpaper the only indication it occurred at all. He remembers the heat of his fury from last night and is not ashamed of himself in the slightest – it is all very well for Holmes to indulge in his chosen vices, but this no longer counts as indulging and if he does not try to stop Holmes from spiralling into a pit of his own creating then no one else will – but he is surprised to find how little of that emotion remains behind now. There is only weariness and pity and guilt and sadness. Watson thinks that, on the whole, he preferred the anger. But he cannot stay angry with Holmes, has never managed to stay angry with Holmes, and one day this will probably turn out to be a problem.
Irene Adler’s photograph is still standing in its frame, glass repaired from the last time Holmes decided that he hated Irene Adler more than anyone else in the world ever and then changed his mind back again. Watson understands Holmes’ fixation with Adler easily enough: her mind can keep up with Holmes’ and she has no scruples whatsoever, which meshes rather nicely with Holmes’ decision to ignore anything and everything that gets in the way of him thinking and doing whatever he pleases, and on top of all of this she has proven herself the victor on more than one occasion, which is such a rare occurrence with Holmes that she must be fascinating for sheer novelty value. And she is, of course, incredibly beautiful in a dangerous sort of way, which should of course be taken into account. Still, he thinks he knows the truth behind all of it, which is that Holmes is inevitably drawn to those who will hurt him, who will put him into the most painful and difficult of situations.
Watson smiles almost ruefully and reflects that, for all the good he attempts to do, he cannot quite exempt himself from this category.
A slight change in Holmes’ breathing tells him that his friend has woken up and Watson turns around. Holmes looks ruffled and sleepy and a little paler than usual, though something in his eyes lights when he catches sight of Watson.
“I suppose you didn’t eat lunch,” Watson says.
“No, mother hen, I didn’t,” Holmes agrees cheerfully. “But, in all fairness, I should point out that you didn’t either, so you cannot begin to toss accusations about.”
“Point taken,” Watson sighs. “I suppose we should ask Mrs Hudson to bring something.”
“I’ll do that,” Holmes tells him. “By the way, I was reading your latest account of our adventures; I found it very scintillating.”
“It wasn’t finished and it was locked away in my room,” Watson says, “do you really have no idea what privacy means?”
“Of course I don’t,” Holmes scoffs, “I thought we’d established that some years ago.”
Watson rolls his eyes. “You tell Mrs Hudson that we would like some lunch. I’m going to go and find out just how much damage you’ve created.”
Holmes smiles, just a little, but Watson cannot make sense of it and so just turns and leaves. His room is as tidy as ever and his notebooks are still safely locked away, clearly untouched. He frowns, trying to work out why Holmes would deliberately manipulate him into coming back here, when he notices that there are several bottles, empty and in various permutations of full, lined up on his windowsill. As far as he can tell, all of Holmes’ seven percent solution is here, in Watson’s safekeeping.
Watson stands and stares at the bottles until his eyes blur, until his heart rate slows down. Only then does he return to Holmes. He is stood by the window, tinkering with a table full of jars and naked flames and other things only destined to end in tragedy and new marks on their ceiling.
“Nanny grumbled rather a lot but she is bringing us lunch,” Holmes informs him cheerfully. “Are you all right, old boy, you look rather pale.”
“I’m fine,” Watson replies, a crack in his voice. He picks up the day’s newspaper, abandoned on a table, and goes to sit down near the window. “I think I probably need to eat something.”
“Of course you must,” Holmes says, “one of us has to set a good example, Watson.”
Watson smiles. “I suppose that is my task,” he remarks, “since you are so frequently the very definition of ‘inadvisable’.”
Holmes laughs softly, eyes fixed on whatever he it is he is trying to develop at the moment, and Watson looks away from the ugly purple bruises that are so very stark in daylight and instead opens the paper.
After about ten minutes of comfortable silence, he says: “do you think it will help?”
Holmes is silent for so long that Watson is not even sure that he can hear him. “I don’t know,” he says at last. “We shall have to find out.”
“If there’s anything I can do to help-” Watson begins, but Holmes cuts him off.
“You cannot try and ease every aspect of my life, Watson,” he tells him, soft and firm. “You would grow to hate me and I cannot have that.”
Watson opens his mouth to protest but Holmes, as usual, has found the truth at the heart of the situation and spilled it out for everyone else to see.
“You will tell me if you need anything, though?” Watson asks. When Holmes frowns, he adds: “as a doctor, not as your friend.”
Holmes considers this. “Yes,” he says at last, “I will.”
Watson returns to his newspaper, to the ridiculous scandals fascinating English society at the moment and to his little hobby of counting how many times Holmes has been referenced (and, to a lesser extent, how many times he is referenced; he is not a narcissist, but there is something gratifying in seeing his name in print). After another moment, Holmes murmurs:
“You do realise I am not going to stop, don’t you? Not altogether, at any rate.”
Watson swallows, does not look up. “I know,” he replies. “And I am sure that on another day I will give you a terribly long lecture on how irresponsible you are and how you have a brilliant mind that should not be tainted with chemicals.”
“Not today?” Holmes asks.
“Today, I am just relieved,” Watson responds. “The recriminations can and will come later.”
Mrs Hudson brings them food a short while later, laying it out over the table. Holmes is murmuring to himself, engrossed in his experiment, and Watson keeps reading the paper, remembering to look up and thank Mrs Hudson before she leaves. In a moment, he will have to drag Holmes back into mundane real world, mother him into eating, if that is what it takes, but for the moment he is quite content to sit in their study and listen to him work as he has done so many times before.
There is the sound of glass breaking, and Holmes swears. Gladstone, seated under a table, growls softly. Watson does not bother to look; it is a sight he has seen too many times already.
“I appear to be on fire,” Holmes says after a moment, sounding both amused and surprised.
Watson turns the page. A member of the aristocracy has just become engaged, and her pretty face grins up at him. “I imagine there’s a vase with some water in it somewhere in here,” he suggests. “And I’m calling off the barter system.”
“That is unreasonable,” Holmes tells him, and then murmurs: “ah.” He has clearly spotted a likely-looking vase, and stumbles across the room to it. When Watson finally raises his head, Holmes has smoke rising from his shirt sleeve, but he does seem mercifully undamaged and there are no longer any actual flames.
“Shirts do not grow on trees, Holmes,” Watson cannot help but point out. “And we are not quite made of money yet. I imagine my practice will suffer if I have to start seeing patients in various states of undress because I no longer have enough clothes to dress myself in the morning.”
They both look at each other and burst out laughing.
The bruises decorating Holmes’ arms fade from purple-black to a nasty greenish-yellow that make him look as though he has contracted some kind of rare skin disease. True to his word, he does not ask Watson for help and Watson does not offer it, though he does sit up half the night with Holmes at times, distracting him with conversation, and he takes even more care than usual to persuade Holmes to eat. He is not sure whether Holmes’ dependence can ever be removed entirely – for one thing, Holmes would not want to give it up completely – but they have to get it manageable for the sake of Holmes’ sanity, if nothing else.
They do not speak of that night, though the table they knocked to the floor has a chip on the corner and the wallpaper is stained from Watson throwing a bottle at it and he spends more time than is at all sensible or healthy thinking about the warmth of Holmes’ body beneath his. Watson does not know how to bring it up, to ask if it was an effect of the cocaine or not, to try it again when they are both halfway sane and halfway sober and if it is something that Holmes even still wants. Watson has lived with Holmes for a long time and knows all about Holmes’ obsessions and passing fancies; the only things he has ever seemed consistently interested in are his violin, his cocaine and Irene Adler. Well, and Watson, of course, but even so Watson wonders if that is because he has become as much a part of Holmes’ routine as his dressing gown has, if he is merely a necessity in Holmes’ life that he chooses not to do without.
For all that he can be laughably transparent at times, Holmes is really an impossible man to read.
So Watson consigns himself to silence and to waiting and to hopeless confusion, and convinces himself day by day that he can live like this forever, if needs be, that it does not hurt in the slightest and that this state of existence is perfectly bearable.
A wet evening finds them by the fireside, Holmes engrossed in a book and Watson doing some writing of his own. The night outside the pub, cold brick against his back, complaining to Holmes about the cold weather.
“I should have let you do this on your own,” I said, watching my breath misting in front of me. “I could be safe and warm by the fire right now, with brandy and a newspaper and possibly some kind of tobacco.”
His memories from thereon out begin to grow hazy, but Watson knows he will probably make up some dialogue anyway. After a while, he looks up to find that Holmes is leant almost comically sideways in his chair, staring intently at what Watson is writing. He immediately feels self-conscious.
“Well,” he begins, “am I getting it right?”
“I can think of a few alterations I would make,” Holmes says lightly.
Watson holds out his notebook and pen. “If you think you can do a better job...”
Holmes takes the items from him and puts them down haphazardly on the nearest table. “If you would permit me to show you?”
Bemused, Watson sits back in his chair. “Go ahead, old boy.”
Holmes moves quickly, leaving his own chair and coming to lean over Watson’s. Hands on the arms, and leant much too close. Watson feels his heart beat just a little faster.
“Your memories of that night are not quite accurate,” Holmes informs him quietly, “and it would be a dreadful shame for your story to be incorrect.”
“Dreadful,” Watson agrees. “What exactly have I missed?”
“You expressed some irritation at my asking you to be quiet,” Holmes replies. “I admit, I was a little patronising, but I too was cold. Still, I did not wish our mission to be compromised, so I had to find a way to persuade you to stay quiet.”
Watson meets Holmes’ eyes and sees that they are not tinged with drugs or alcohol or pain or even cold sharp analysis. They are staring at him as though they can see through to his soul and they are not repulsed by the sight in the slightest.
“A logical choice of action,” he says, the words falling thoughtlessly.
“I thought so,” Holmes agrees. He is so close Watson can feel his breath against his face. “So I told you that you were cold and I needed you to be silent, and that we could find a happy solution to both of these problems. You opened your mouth to ask for classification – just as you are doing now in fact – and I proceeded to demonstrate my plan.”
“And what was your plan?” Watson asks, halfway breathless and he would not look away from Holmes’ gaze now if you held a gun to his head.
“Allow me to demonstrate,” Holmes murmurs, and one of his hands moves from the arm of the chair to the back of Watson’s neck as he pulls him into a kiss.
It is a slow kiss, warm and thorough, as Holmes explores his mouth with as thorough an investigation as he gives in any other aspect of his life; lingering over the details. Deep and warm and luscious; there is nothing hurried about it and Holmes makes no move to break it, fingers running through the back of Watson’s hair, lips utterly certain against his. When they finally draw apart Holmes moves hardly any distance at all, so close that he is a little blurry when Watson tries to look directly at him.
“I am never going to be able to put that in my story,” Watson says softly.
Holmes does not reply; he draws back a little more, seems to realise just how awkwardly he is leant over Watson and moves, shifting so he is knelt between Watson’s legs.
“John Watson,” he says, quiet but firm, “if you do not give me another chance I fear I may be forced to do something drastic.”
“Oh, right,” Watson replies, feeling a smile twisting his mouth, “because you never normally do drastic things.”
“I am perfectly serious,” Holmes tells him.
“I know,” Watson replies. “I know. But- God- Holmes.” He reaches towards him, cupping Holmes’ cheek in his palm. “I’m not Adler,” he says, with something approaching desperation. “I don’t have the capacity to outsmart you at every turn-”
Holmes catches his hand, covers it with his own. “But, my dearest Watson, you can confuse me. You can confuse me excessively.”
It should not sound like a declaration of love; it should not sound like a promise. But Watson does know Holmes, probably better than the detective even knows that he does, and he knows that this is not a confession to be tossed aside lightly. It should not be underestimated in the slightest.
He has hesitated a moment too long and he hates the expression of nervousness crossing Holmes’ features, so Watson does the only thing he can think of to do, and gives Holmes his answer with another kiss.
It is deeper this time, less gentle, and with a twist in his stomach Watson realises that there really is no going back now, that this is really happening now and nothing can stop it. Well, nothing short of the house falling down – which is less of a ridiculous idea than it initially seems, given the numerous injustices Baker Street has suffered over the years; it is quite frankly astounding that it is still standing – and for a moment he almost cannot believe that he is still awake and that this is not a desperate fantasy born of too many hours of loneliness and longing.
“Now you’re the one whose thoughts are distracting him,” Holmes murmurs, though his voice is amused, not accusatory, pressing a warm kiss to Watson’s lower lip. “All kinds of people manage this sort of thing without any difficulties at all, surely we can’t both be too intellectual to accomplish it?”
Watson hears himself laugh. “No, dear boy, that’s exactly what we are, far too intellectual to manage what everyone else in the world does without a second thought.” He captures Holmes’ mouth again, threading fingers into the dark wild expanse of his hair, teeth nipping at Holmes’ lower lip in a way that makes the other man moan. “I blame you for this, of course,” Watson whispers when they part for breath.
Holmes’ smirk is beatific. “Of course.”
“I’m sure I used to be far better at this before I met you,” Watson continues conversationally, spreading a string of kisses from Holmes’ lips across his jaw, fingers still tight in Holmes’ hair. “Before you none of this required any sort of analysis at all.”
“I’m sure it didn’t,” Holmes agrees, hands busying themselves with the buttons of Watson’s shirt, fingers leaving warm trails against his bare skin. “I’m sure it was all quite instinctive.”
“Oh, it was,” Watson agrees, using his grip on Holmes’ hair to tip his head back a little, leaning to nip at Holmes’ throat in a way that makes the other man shiver, hands slipping from Watson’s shirt. “Never had to give it a second thought,” he adds, mouth against Holmes’ neck. He can feel the other man’s pulse racing against his lips, and his mouth spreads into a grin that he knows Holmes can feel.
“Clearly we shall have to try harder,” Holmes replies, a gratifying hitch in his voice, hands returning to the buttons of Watson’s shirt.
“Try harder not to think?” Watson asks quietly, hearing laughter shiver in his voice.
“So it would seem,” Holmes replies, easing the final button free of its hole and pushing the entirety of Watson’s shirt back over his shoulders. “It may be quite a challenge, but I believe us equal to it.”
Watson shrugs, helping Holmes pull his shirt free from his arms, over his wrists, before returning his hand to Holmes’ hair and dragging their mouths back together again. It is messier now, all tongues and teeth and harsh gasps of breath; Watson sits up in the chair, forcing Holmes up onto his knees to follow him, skidding his free hand down Holmes’ chest to pull his shirt free of his trousers. His hand slides under it, spreading against the warmth of Holmes’ ribcage, and Holmes hisses.
“Is this helping?” Watson asks against Holmes’ mouth.
“I believe it is,” Holmes responds, whose own hands are clenched on Watson’s bare shoulders as though someone might drag them apart at any moment, hard enough that there will probably be bruises tomorrow. “I’m sure if we work at it-”
Watson seals their mouths together, crushing the words completely, sliding his hands up Holmes’ chest and pushing. It takes no effort at all; Holmes puts up no resistance at all and a moment later finds Watson knelt over Holmes, who looks up at him with a wicked grin.
“I do love it when you take the initiative, Watson,” he says, all white teeth and amusement, and Watson’s knee will not be thanking him in the morning and right now he does not care in the slightest. Holmes’ hair is dark against the hearth rug and dying firelight flickers across his features.
“Shut up,” Watson says, and swallows Holmes’ laughter whole.
Holmes’ hands slide down his spine, fingers playing across his skin as though across the neck of a violin; Watson wonders just what Holmes thinks he playing, or if this is the equivalent of tuneless string plucking, and he does not care which it is. Holmes’ thigh insinuates itself between his knees, pressing itself upwards until Watson gasps helplessly into Holmes’ mouth, grinding against his thigh, helpless to stop himself. Holmes’ hands spread flat against his back, exploring scars and muscle and probably reading a hundred stories Watson never meant to tell or does not even remember.
“So tell me what this means, then,” he murmurs, forcing himself to sit back a little, shifting against Holmes’ hips in a way that makes the other man squirm. “Tell me what you’re learning about me.” As he speaks, he works on the buttons of the shirt Holmes is wearing – another one of Watson’s, if he is any judge, though his clothing rarely remains his long enough for him to recognise it again when he sees Holmes wearing it; for all he knows, Holmes has no clothing of his own whatsoever – exposing skin that is tinged golden in the firelight. “You cannot make your mind stop making connections so I imagine you have deduced a dozen new things about me; I may as well hear them.”
“Watson,” Holmes says, sounding a little exasperated, “do you not recall the first time we met? When you asked me to tell you the truth about you and you did not like it at all?”
“That wasn’t the first time we met,” Watson replies, undoing the last button. Holmes sits up a little to help him remove it, and Watson is gratified by almost entirely healed bruises on Holmes’ forearms, bringing the right one to his mouth to press kisses along Holmes’ wrist.
“Well, no,” Holmes agrees, eyes closing. “If you want to be accurate about it, the first time we met was when you saw me box at the Punchbowl and your eyes nearly fell out of your head. Of course, you were rather drunk at the time-”
“You remember that?” Watson asks, mouth at Holmes’ elbow.
“You remember that?” Holmes looks a little surprised, but recovers quickly. “In any case, this is neither the place nor the time, so I shall simply say that I have learned I am going to have to hide all of your shirts so that you are forced to stay like this all the time, and secondly, that if you do not remove more of your clothing rather soon I will not be responsible for my actions.”
Watson smirks but does not reply, mouth tracing a line along Holmes’ collarbone. Holmes is all sinewy muscle, a little thinner than he should be because he insists on not taking care of himself, but Watson is not thinking about that right now. Now, all he think about is the scent of Holmes’ skin, the knee shifting tantalisingly between his thighs, the noise Holmes makes low in his throat when he bites down and then smoothes over the pain with his tongue. He continues a slow, exploratory path downwards, thinking of the dozens of times he has watched Holmes half-stripped and sweating in the boxing ring and has wanted to do this, wanted to map every inch of his chest and claim it for himself. He takes Holmes’ left nipple in his mouth, sucking it and then lightly scraping his teeth against the skin, and Holmes sucks in a sharp breath, letting out a mangled mixture of Watson and God. His fingers skim the back of Watson’s hair, distracted, but Watson does not stop, sucking harder until Holmes starts shifting beneath him, desperate arousal pressed against Watson’s stomach.
“Please,” Holmes hisses, breathless, but all Watson does is move his attention to Holmes’ other nipple, laving it with his tongue and enjoying the way Holmes’ back arches with want. His own erection is almost painful, trapped inside his trousers, but he would not rush this for the world. “Watson, you are the most ridiculous tease that ever walked this earth-”
Watson bites down and finds that there is, gratifyingly, a way to shut Sherlock Holmes up. Of course, it might be rather awkward doing this in public, but at least he has found a solution. Holmes whimpers and Watson almost takes pity on him, mouthing his way down Holmes’ chest, fingers skimming along his ribcage, pressing wet kisses down his quivering stomach and then pausing, looking up at Holmes with a grin. Holmes’ pupils are dilated with arousal for once, mouth red and shining in the poor light, dark hair sticking up from his head in a messy tangle from Watson’s fingers. He looks debauched and beautiful and Watson cannot undo the fly of Holmes’ trousers fast enough, freeing the hot, thick length of his erection and a wrapping a hand around it. Holmes’ eyes slip closed, head tipping back, and Watson looks at the long column of his throat, marked red in places from Watson’s own teeth and he shifts, sitting up to kiss Holmes’ mouth again as he pulls at his cock with long, even strokes, swiping his thumb over the head and feeling pre-come slick against his skin. Holmes moans helplessly, the vibrations against Watson’s teeth, and his own erection jumps in his trousers.
“Watson,” Holmes breathes, his own hand scrabbling insistently at the fastenings of Watson’s trousers, and Watson knows then that he will never again be able to hear Holmes say his name without hearing this, without hearing it shiver brokenly off Holmes’ tongue in this moment by the dying fire. Holmes manages to undo the buttons, hand slipping inside and Watson lets out a groan as Holmes grips his cock, fingers curling around it. They match each other’s rhythm for an endless minute, foreheads pressed together and breathing each other’s air. “Watson,” Holmes murmurs again, a thousand wants slipping out along with his name.
“Tell me what you want,” Watson replies, “I can’t- I can’t deduce it right now.” He can barely think right now, Holmes tugging insistently at his cock, precome smudging with his fingertips.
Holmes reaches with his free hand into the pocket of his trousers, drawing out a round, flat tin, warm from being so close to his skin, and gives it to Watson. Watson looks at the tin and then at Holmes and something like incredulity rushes through him.
“You planned this,” he says accusingly, accompanying the words with a long drag of his hand that has Holmes moaning. “You bloody well planned this.”
“I did not,” Holmes replies, looking indignant. “I hoped. I prepared. I did not plan because you, John Watson, are ridiculously hard to predict.”
“You started this evening with the intent to seduce me,” Watson says, amusement colouring his voice.
“And it worked rather well, I might add,” Holmes points out. “Now, really, Watson, must you torment me much longer?”
“You deserve to be tormented for much longer,” Watson mutters, but he does not mean it and they both know it. He sits back, laying the tin carefully at the edge of the rug, and moves to divest both himself and Holmes of their remaining clothing, leaving it all in an untidy heap. It is almost overwhelming, the two of them stripped naked together, and although it is a sight Watson has seen before, helping Holmes when he was drunk or injured or some unholy combination of the two, never before was it ever laid out for his own benefit.
“Watson...” Holmes’ voice is urgent, desperate.
“Just admiring the view,” Watson responds, stroking a finger over Holmes’ hipbone and smiling at the shiver this provokes. “You can’t blame me.”
“There will be plenty of opportunities for sightseeing,” Holmes all but snaps.
Watson laughs, reaching for the tin. “You’re very demanding,” he remarks, “I have no idea why I’m surprised.” He opens it, coating his fingers with the slick salve he finds inside. He has a suspicion that Holmes stole this from his medical bag, but decides he will worry about this sometime in the future. “I like the sound of the future sightseeing opportunities,” he adds, and pushes Holmes’ legs apart.
Holmes gasps when Watson slides the first finger inside him, pressing slowly but steadily deeper. He crooks it, looking for the spot inside Holmes that should make him- Holmes’ hips buck, a groan escaping between his teeth, and Watson grins in triumph and sweeps his fingertip over it again.
“Watson, please,” Holmes breathes, ragged, and Watson slides his finger out only to push two in, scissoring them carefully apart. His own need is becoming rather insistent now and he has to remind himself that it will not feel good in the morning if he has hurt Holmes by rushing this and also he will have to be the doctor who patches Holmes up. Holmes gets hurt often enough without Watson helping him. He risks a third finger and Holmes squirms, control apparently in shreds.
Watson pulls his fingers free and hastily smothers his own cock in lubricant, aware of Holmes’ hungry gaze on him. All thoughts of what his knees and thighs will feel like later flee his mind as he pushes Holmes’ legs further apart and Holmes obediently bends them up towards his chest, spreading himself open and vulnerable for Watson. The thought sends large sections of his mind utterly blank, and Watson kneels over Holmes, carefully guiding himself inside him. He takes it too slow for both of them, slipping inch by inch inside as Holmes’ breathing cracks and shatters and Watson’s hands are pressed flat to the floor on either side of Holmes’ head. He is shaking so hard with arousal that he can barely hold himself upright and Holmes is so hot and tight around him that it steals every breath Watson has within him.
Sherlock Holmes with all his dazzling intellect and habit of keeping everyone at arms’ length is spread out beneath him, eyes wide and glassy, and the realisation almost makes Watson come on the spot. He grits his teeth, taking a breath, stilling within him. Holmes’ unfocused gaze finally comes to rest on him, and his eyes narrow.
“Watson, if you do not move right now, I swear to God I shall get my nose broken next time I go to the Punchbowl, and then I shall find a way to contract pneumonia. And you shall have to be my attending physician, and-”
Words seem to fail him as Watson draws slowly out and slams back in.
“I shall refer you to any or all of the doctors at my club,” Watson gasps breathlessly, “and most of them do not have nearly so charming a bedside manner as I do. None of them will have any patience for your nonsense whatsoever.”
Holmes looks as affronted as he can with his legs wrapping around Watson’s hips and his breath rushing out of him in desperate pants. “You have no patience for my nonsense.”
Watson slams back in, altering his angle slightly and knowing that he catches Holmes’ prostate from the sharp fuck, Watson that spills almost unconsciously from Holmes’ mouth.
“I have far too much patience for your nonsense,” he responds, “I’m here, aren’t I?”
Holmes curls a hand over the back of Watson’s neck and pulls him down into a brutal kiss. When they part, he gasps: “this is not nonsense, Watson.”
“No,” Watson agrees, breathless, “no it is not.”
It is messy and far too fast; Watson slamming hard into Holmes and Holmes shifting his hips to meet his every thrust, nails scraping Watson’s shoulders and there is no sound in the room but their desperate, jagged breathing. It cannot last long and it does not; Holmes wraps a hand around his cock and tugs it awkwardly between them, loose expletives and gasps of Watson’s name spilling from his mouth, and it is not long before he clenches around Watson, spilling hotly between them. Watson thrusts a few more times before he also feels himself coming, an airless exclamation of Holmes falling from his lips as his orgasm rushes through him.
He comes back to himself to find Holmes laughing into his shoulder. “Dear boy, you’re crushing me.”
“That’s gratitude for you,” Watson mutters without malice. He shifts, his cock slipping free of Holmes, who hisses softly. He collapses beside Holmes, too warm and tired to move any further. Holmes smiles at him, face almost entirely hidden in shadow, eyes sparkling. He leans in and bestows a soft kiss on Watson’s lips, curiously chaste given the circumstances, and for once between them, there are no words at all that need to be said. Watson smiles into the darkness, and his eyes drift closed.
When Watson awakes, he cannot work out where he is for a long, confused second. He is not in his own bed, that is certain, and he appears to be lying on the floor because all of his muscles are screaming at him. The room is mostly dark, but the sunlight that illuminates the ceiling reveals burns and bullet holes and stains, and in that moment Watson knows exactly where he is. Looking sideways, he can see Holmes is fast asleep, body a warm presence beside him, face entirely calm for once. They are both lying underneath what appears to be Holmes’ dressing gown; Watson is not entirely sure when this happened, but he is grateful nonetheless. For a while Watson merely lies and watches Holmes sleep, and it makes the ache spreading through him utterly worth it.
Eventually, careful not to wake Holmes, he slides out from underneath the dressing gown and gathers together his rumpled clothes, slipping back into his shirt and trousers. He needs a bath – his stomach and chest are splashed with Holmes’ come – but right now he is more concerned that Mrs Hudson is possibly going to want to come in here sometime soon and while they are in no way presentable at least one of them can be clothed in this situation. He walks over to step behind the curtains and look out on Baker Street, bathed in winter sunlight and more beautiful than Watson has ever seen it.
A soft tapping at the door makes him step back into the gloom of the room, and he hurries across to open it. Mrs Hudson looks surprised and Watson decides he does not want to think about what he looks like right now.
“Are you all right, doctor?” Mrs Hudson asks.
“Fine,” Watson replies quickly, “thank you.” He is holding the door barely ajar, careful to hide the room from view. Mrs Hudson frowns. “He’s in one of his moods,” Watson adds quickly; it has worked surprisingly well as an excuse in the past.
Mrs Hudson’s face is immediately filled with understanding, though her eyes remain shrewd; Watson honestly cannot tell if he is fooling her or not. “Shall I bring some breakfast?” she asks.
Watson suddenly realises that he is absolutely starving. “That would be lovely,” he says, “thank you.”
He closes the door behind her and turns around to find that Holmes is still asleep, a little heap beneath his dressing gown. Watson smiles and goes to open the curtains. He fills the room with light, smiling as it makes Holmes twitch and instinctively try to hide further beneath the makeshift blanket. Finally, Holmes uncurls himself, sitting upright, dressing gown pooling around his waist, hair a messy shock.
“Good morning,” Watson says, “you look gorgeous. Mrs Hudson is bringing us breakfast; you should get up.”
Holmes looks thoughtful. “You could tell her I am indisposed and I could stay here,” he responds.
“I already told her you were indisposed,” Watson replies. “I needed an excuse for my appearance.”
Holmes scrutinises him for a moment. “You do look rather ravished,” he says after a moment. “I’d be quite jealous, but for the obvious.”
Watson smirks and walks across to him; Holmes stands up, the dressing gown falling off completely, and it feels like the most natural thing in the world to wrap his hands around Holmes’ waist and draw him into a kiss. There is something about this, about Holmes stark naked and Watson fully clothed, that uncurls a ribbon of hunger in Watson’s stomach, and he forcibly pulls away.
“Mrs Hudson is bringing us breakfast,” he says, as much to remind himself as Holmes. “She cannot walk in on this.”
“She will, sooner or later,” Holmes responds pragmatically. “We might as well get it out of the way.”
“No,” Watson insists, letting go of Holmes reluctantly and taking a step back. “You should put some clothes on,” he adds.
“A man is free to do as he likes in his own home,” Holmes tells him cheerfully, though a knock at the door has him grabbing the dressing gown and slipping it on. Watson walks over to answer the door, and to receive the tray from a smiling but faintly concerned-looking Mrs Hudson. After he kicks the door closed behind him, he turns to find Holmes has removed the dressing gown again and he is standing with his back to Watson, apparently intently fascinated in the mantelpiece.
Watson almost drops the tray. He had not thought of the consequences of fucking Holmes on the hearth rug, but he evidence is there this morning; reddened swathes of carpet burn decorate Holmes’ back and buttocks, long brilliant marks making what happened last night appear only too evident.
“Don’t they hurt?” he asks. “My God, Holmes-”
“I rather like it,” Holmes replies, shifting his shoulders and turning around. “New experience and all that. Of course, I will have no objections at all if you’d like to kiss them better later, but right now I’d really like a cup of tea.”
Watson carefully carries the tray over, weaving his way through the books and papers on the floor. He makes to put it on a table, but Holmes shakes his head, indicating the much-abused hearth rug. “Put it here.”
Watson frowns. “What?”
Holmes sits down, still naked, and grins up at him. “I rather feel like a picnic. Don’t you?”
“This is ridiculous,” Watson says.
“So you have no objections to doing all kinds of unspeakable and illegal things to me on this rug but you won’t eat your breakfast?” Holmes asks, looking amused. “Your priorities are really most intriguing, Doctor Watson.”
He can never deny Holmes anything; Watson obediently carries the tray over, laying it beside Holmes before sitting down. Holmes gives him a significant look.
“I am not having a naked picnic with you in our living room,” he hisses.
Holmes shrugs, reaching for the teapot. “Suit yourself.”
Ten minutes later, of course, Watson is wearing nothing but his cravat and allowing Holmes to feed him grapes, but he supposes that it was inevitable.
“We are going to have to set this rug on fire,” he remarks. Holmes looks amused.
The rug has gathered several different kinds of unseemly stains, from tea to semen, and Watson does not think Mrs Hudson will appreciate this. Watson points this out. “We will have to pretend one of your experiments got out of hand.”
“I never thought I’d see the day you were encouraging me to ignite our rooms,” Holmes remarks, smiling, “you really are full of surprises, Watson.”
So it would seem, Watson thinks, but all he does is smile back and accept another grape.
A week later finds them down at the docks; a case of a missing husband that Holmes has got himself cheerfully caught up in and Watson has been dragged along for the ride, as ever. He has patients waiting for him and no matter how many times he says this, Holmes blithely ignores him and continues an epic monologue that began with what an imbecile Lestrade is, passed briefly through the terribly telling traits of bloodstains, dallied for a moment on Watson’s sexual prowess – phrased in vague and insinuating terms as they are in public, after all – until Watson threatened to go home, and is now focusing mainly on what you can tell from a footprint in mud.
“I really do have a lot of patients this afternoon, Holmes,” Watson points out without much hope, as Holmes fiddles with his lockpicks, trying to break into an apparently empty warehouse that may or may not hold a clue. He really is hopeless with lockpicks, Watson reflects, and eventually takes pity on him, kicking the door down. Holmes grins, and Watson realises that was what Holmes wanted all along. He is still shamelessly manipulative, after all.
“I might be injured if you left,” Holmes says. “I might lie in the dark for hours with no one at all to help me.”
“You’re not very good at emotional blackmail,” Watson tells him. Holmes merely holds the door open for him, looking expectant. “You are ridiculous,” Watson adds. “I hate you. And I hope you die in there in a horrible fashion.”
Holmes blows him a kiss, eyes full of laughter as he walks inside. “That’s the spirit.”