by elfin

The curtains hang like cobwebs in the windows, the sun burning brightly like fire through the dirty glass.

Watson can�t contain an irritated sigh as he taps the end of his cane on the dirty carpet beneath his feet; Holmes is over doing it as usual; too much of some things - melodrama for instance - not enough of others, in particular, natural light.  Since Watson announced his engagement to Mary several weeks ago, Holmes has descended into chaos and mess � a not unusual thing � not venturing out of their rooms but locking himself away, shooting at the walls, conducting vile-stinking experiments and torturing his violin.  He�s asleep now, a lumpy pile of warm blankets over cushions on the floor, curled up on his side, snoring softly, a lamp not far from his hands which stick out from the blankets, pressed together as if in prayer.  

Upon seeing him, a not unfamiliar warmth spreads through John, a feeling he was once used to but over the last few months has turned more to frustration stained slightly with anger as Holmes has systematically yet utterly ineffectually tried to break up his relationship with Mary.  He knows why, of course, why the petty comments have turned to fuming rants, why Holmes is employing such elaborate deceptions in ever-more vain attempts to undermine the engagement.  This new life he�s embarking on with Mary is a different one to the life he and Holmes have been living these last couple of years behind the closed doors of 221 Baker Street.  His life with Mary is simple, one he will be free to celebrate, to live out in the open.  His life with Holmes is complex, lived part in public, part in secret.

But as he crouches down at the head of the blanket bundle and reaches out to touch the untidy thick black hair on the sleeping head of the great Sherlock Holmes, he feels the conflict of emotions in his heart.  The last thing he wants to do is leave, but that is exactly what he must do.  Reason and feeling have never been synchronous for him where Holmes is concerned; this increasingly neurotic, unfailingly irritating yet still inexplicably attractive man has always drawn Watson like a scientist to a puzzle.  The bright spark of life that�s evident even in his dourest moods is like the sweetest nectar � it has a feeling of pricelessness to it, so that Watson finds it impossible to turn his back on Holmes however much he often wishes to.

He knows this feeling, recognises it; in a diluted form it�s what he feels for Mary.  He loves his darling lady so very much but Sherlock... he loves Sherlock with his heart and soul and sometimes it amazes him that there�s anything left over of himself to offer Mary at all.  If he and Holmes could share, even behind closed doors, what he and Mary would share once married, if it could be in any way acceptable to society....  But it isn�t.  If he is to live a respectable life, to own a successful practice, to father children and have all the things he feels he should want, marriage to Mary is his only option.  He thinks Holmes sees that, he simply refuses to accept it.  

�Holmes,� he murmurs softly, intent on waking his friend but not on scaring him, �come on, old boy, wake up.�

He awakes with a start, and Watson sees that he�s slept in his clothes again as he sits up suddenly and the blankets drop away from him.  A flash of pain ignites his features as his hands come up in defence but lower again when he realises who it is that woke him.  

�Watson,� he breathes, a smile ghosting his lips, �good morning.�

�Morning?  It�s a little after one, Holmes.�  Still he can�t resist smiling back.  Holmes is a strong man, an accomplished bare-knuckle fighter, someone who knows the weaknesses and frailties of the human bodies and uses that knowledge to his own advantage.  In a straight hand-to-hand fight, Watson would put his money on him every time, perhaps in a stick fight too, definitely in knife play.  But on some very rare occasions there�s a vulnerable streak that peeks through and draws out Watson�s protective side in the same way as many women he�s met over the years.  That�s not to say there is anything the least bit feminine about Holmes, because there just isn�t, but still he�s someone who is, by way of his own nature, open to attack only by a scant few and it touches Watson deeply to be counted in their number.  He is Holmes� acquaintance, his partner and companion.  This is what he will be giving up, in part, by marrying Mary.  This is why he is reluctant, despite his claims to the contrary whenever in Holmes� company, to take that final step towards respectable living.  Because not only is he friend to the great detective, he is deeply, deeply in love with him.  Not that he will ever let on, because such a thing is illegal, because it makes him a deviant of the deepest circle of hell, and because he knows if Sherlock was ever to become aware of it he would never, ever live it down.

It likely started with their first meeting, but it was only as Watson got to know Holmes, sharing the rooms on Baker Street - learning his habits, his ways and his moods - that he began to feel that this was something more than a passing acquaintance, more than a single chapter of his life.  At his best, Holmes is exuberant, enthusiastic, passionate; almost mad with his need to work, to experiment, to investigate.  At his worst, he is sour, argumentative and a slave to all manner of drugs and intoxicants.  But at all times, he is utterly irresistible.

And what struck Watson when he first laid eyes on the man is something that strikes him each and every time he does so � no matter what the hour or the circumstance, no matter how unkempt a state Holmes is in, no matter how drunk or high or filthy (in fact, the dirtier the better, and what does that make him?); he thinks privately that the man is gorgeous.  Holmes is his addiction, one he�s trying to rid himself of by marrying a woman and moving into his own home, his own practice.  He knows he�ll never completely free of him, will never be able to totally give him up, because to do so would be like cutting out his own heart and that is something he can�t in all good conscience do.  But he can take steps to preserve his own sanity and that is exactly what he�s doing.  To his credit, he does love Mary, he is happy to commit himself to her side and to spend his life doting on her.  But Holmes was in his heart first and will always be there.  In fact he has heard some say that they already bicker and row like an old married couple.  As often as he wants to press the infuriating man up against a wall and shove his tongue down that unshaven throat, more often he wants to press him up against a wall with his hands around that same throat and strangle the air from his lungs.  Sometimes just to stop him from talking!

But right now he isn�t saying anything, he�s just sitting upright staring into the space over Watson�s left shoulder, and after a quick glance around the general vicinity to discover if there is evidence of his habitual self-abuse, (there isn�t) and a look over his shoulder to make sure there isn�t actually anyone behind him, Watson drops his hand to Holmes� shoulder and dark eyes finally rise to meet his.

�I think I may be in need of your assistance, Watson,� he finally speaks in a somewhat strained voice, and slowly, to Watson�s growing sense of dread, Holmes lifts the hem of his dirty white shirt on the right side, at the same time pulling down the loose waistband of his unfastened trousers.  Watson�s eyes widen at the dark bruising spreading from hip bone to navel, from rib cage to pubis.  

�Dear God, Holmes,� he exclaims, all other thought wiped clean from his mind as his manner turns professional and his fingertips touch heated skin with the clinical detachment of his calling.  �Lie back, let me look at this.�

Holmes does as he�s told, a rare occurrence in itself, and there is pain in his expression.  Gently Watson goes about his gentle probing of the injured area, Holmes wincing away from his fingers more than once, ascertaining no dangerous internal bleeding but deep bruising of the flesh.  �What happened?�

Lifting his head, Holmes looks down as if fascinated by his fingers on his skin.  Or maybe Watson�s imagining it.  �A cowardly brute in the dark last night,� he explains eventually, sucking in air as Watson touches a particularly sensitive area.  �A warning off my latest case, no doubt.�

Watson feels surprise and hurt in oddly equal measures.  �What case?�

�One I took three days ago, a wealthy client who requested anonymity and discretion.�

�But surely not from me, Holmes!�

His eyes slip from Watson�s hands and he turns his head away.  �You�ve been singularly uninterested in my cases in recent weeks.�

Sighing softly and with no small measure of irritation and frustration, Watson struggles not to react physically to the accusation and thus cause his friend further harm.  �For heaven�s sake, Holmes!  My engagement to Mary has taken some of my time I�ll admit but I�m still your friend, I thought your partner!�  Reaching for his bag, pulling it across the floor to his side, Watson opens it and after a short search lifts out a small pot of salve.  �And why didn�t you call for me last night when this happened?  I�m only across the hall � damnation, Holmes....  You�re hurt....�  He trails off, opening the pot and scooping a little of the ointment out on his fingertips.  �This will be cold,� he warns before he starts to apply the ointment to the bruising he can see, hoping there isn�t too much he can�t.  �You need to rest, Holmes,� he instructs, even though his knows his advice is going to be ignored.  �And in a warm bed rather than on this cold floor.�  He concentrates on starting the healing process and not on the flushed skin beneath his fingertips.  

He often wonders what Holmes would make of his indecent thoughts if he could read his mind, and sometimes he�s surprised he hasn�t been outed by the world famous detective.  When he thinks about it he�s led to wonder if Holmes does indeed know and is sparing him the indignity of having to explain himself.  Other times he can fool himself into believing that he hides it well enough to leave Holmes unaware.  But either way he is almost certain that his perversity wouldn�t in fact disgust his friend.  Indeed, on some occasions he finds himself musing on the probability of Holmes actually embracing the same desires simply to satisfy his innate fascination for new experiences, and how dangerous and destructive that would be he doubted either of them would survive it.  So he keeps quiet, wipes his fingers on his handkerchief when he�s finished, and gently covers the bruising with Holmes� shirt again.  

�Promise me that in the future you will call for me if you�re hurt.  Please, Holmes, promise me.�

Large brown eyes slide across to look at him.  �But you won�t be here.  You�ll be at home, safe in the arms of your wife.  Away from the dangers of life with me.�

Again he has to suppress his frustration, settles for rolling his eyes and states, �I�ll be less than a mile away.  You can call for me whenever you have need of my services.�

�You�re leaving me.�  

It isn�t the first time Holmes has levelled this accusation at him but this time the words are flatter than usual, devoid of their usual spirit.  Watson finds his frustration evaporating and reaches to pat Holmes� arm.  �I�m not leaving you.  I will always be your friend and confidant.  You will always have my devotion and my loyalty.�

It�s a rare speech for him, and it seems to cheer Holmes somewhat, because he reaches for Watson�s shoulder and uses it to pull himself up first to a seated position before he requests help to stand.  Watson gladly provides it, one hand on Holmes� arm, the other on the uninjured side of his waist to steady him.  �You really should lie down,� he tries again but while Holmes apparently needs these reassurances of his continuing friendship more and more, he accepts his professional help only to a point and only when it�s absolutely necessary.  The bruising to his side looks wicked and it�ll be some time before Holmes is able to dress normally and move comfortably again.  

�I have some loose pants,� he says, catching Watson by surprise, �in my bedroom,� he adds, �if you would be so kind as to assist me.�

Holmes really doesn�t have to ask and Watson�s almost certain he knows it.  He puts a careful arm around the man�s torso, letting the body that is hard muscle and no fat (sometimes Holmes barely eats enough to keep himself alive never mind to put on excess weight) lean on him as they make their way across the hall to the small bedroom Holmes seldom uses except to dress.

Once there, Holmes shoos him away, giving assurances that he�s capable of dressing himself, something about which Watson is sceptical but about which he isn�t going to start an argument.  He calls down to Mrs Hudson as he goes that tea and perhaps some toast would be nice if she has a spare moment or two, then returns to the lounge and opens the curtains, pats the dust from his chair and settles himself.   The tray arrives before Holmes does and, thanking her, Watson crosses the hall once again to knock smartly on Holmes� bedroom door.

�Holmes?  Are you all right?�

A grunted answer comes from within and carefully he opens the door, peering inside to see his friend standing in a clean shirt with the biggest pair of trousers he�s ever seen in a pool around his feet.  His pained expression, Watson guesses, is from attempting to bend to pull up the offending garment thus crushing his injuries.

�For Heaven�s sake,� he pushes the door open and steps boldly into the room, �let me help you.�

�Thank you, dear fellow,� is his muted reply as Watson drops to a crouch in front of Holmes, eyes sliding, suddenly embarrassed, over the bulge of his genitalia at the front of his long shorts, glancing slightly higher at the dark bruising before turning his head away, reaching for the waistband of the trousers and pulling them up, standing slowly, seeing now how both of them could easily wear this one item of clothing with room left to spare.  

Luckily the comedy of the clothing draws his almost complete attention.  �Where on Earth did you get these?�

�A very peculiar case during which I was compelled to dress for days as a heavy-set professor,� Holmes responds, quietly, giving Watson a fair idea of the amount of pain he is in.  �Heavy-set� seems something of an understatement given the circumference of the waist.  There is a belt through the loops and he uses it to pull the waist in above Holmes� hips, fastening it as loosely as he can and not have the trousers drop again.  But even as he does so, he feels Holmes wince beneath his hands and he knows it�s no good.  

�Holmes, you�re in pain,� he hates to point out the obvious but it�s often the only way with his stubborn friend.

�I can�t wander around the house without pants, Watson!� he exclaims, and Watson stares at him in disbelief.  

�You wander around the house in many and varied states of undress!  Just last week I found you conducting chemical experiments wearing nothing but your socks!�  And what an interesting and arousing sight it was; not the first time he�s seen Holmes nude � they�ve shared rooms for long enough � but something about the socks with the garters served to enhance his nudity and the innate carnality of it.  He takes a deep breath.  �If you�re not expecting any visitors and you have nowhere to go, I implore you � put on your sleeping gown and give your wounds a chance of healing.�

It�s to his surprise that Holmes nods quickly his acquiescence and with much relief he unfastens the belt and lets the trousers fall.  He gives him some privacy and it�s only a couple of minutes before Holmes appears in the doorway of the lounge, the hem of the long, off-white gown brushing his shins as he walks over to the couch and eases himself down onto it, closing his eyes with a groan.  Waiting a few moments, Watson asks him in a gentle bedside voice if he�s all right, and Holmes�s eyes snap open, declaring with more joie de vive than he can possibly feel that he�s perfectly fine and that the toast smells rather tantalising.

Watson holds his tongue.  He�s won a major battle in this - Holmes� latest recovery - he doesn�t want to try his luck.  So instead he pours the tea, butters two slices of toast for his companion and places both on a small table close to the couch.  Holmes berates him for fussing but he lets it drift over him as he does with his music, his drug-induced mutterings and his methodical yet endless ramblings on those things that interest him the most.  He waits until Holmes quietens, then he asks again what happened to cause his injuries and this time Sherlock explains.

�I have been on a case these past three days,� he repeats and Watson nods.  �Lady Cordelia Dovecote brought me a perplexing story regarding the disappearance of a valuable case, the contents of which she refused to disclose to me.  She would only describe the case itself �� he pauses and from the expression on his face Watson can tell he is being bothered by his side as he shifts uncomfortably before he continues, �- and tell me the circumstances of its vanishing.  I pressed her for more details and when she would not divulge them it obviously attracted me further to the mystery and I assured her that I would locate her case and return it and its contents to her.�

�Then what happened last night?�

�I was making what could only be described as a singular lack of progress towards the return of Lady Dovecote�s property when I stumbled upon a man in the street selling a case that matched her description precisely.  I of course tried to purchase it from him, but with one glance I could tell he recognised me and he ran.  I gave chase, followed him down several streets and into an alley, halfway along which two brutes jumped me.  Despite their size and the damage they inflicted as you�ve seen, I fought them off and made my escape.  But by then the object of my chase was long gone.  You see, Watson?  A simple tale that really isn�t worthy of the fuss you�re making.�

Watson sits forward just a little.  �You, Sherlock,� he murmurs softly, �are more than worthy of the fuss I�m making.�  Then he straightens again and drinks his tea as if he hasn�t spoken the words that have, for a moment at least, silenced the great and often interminable Sherlock Holmes.  It�s a great many minutes before he speaks again, and when he does, he says in a voice so full of uncertainty Watson can barely believe it�s his old friend speaking,

�So you do care for me, my dearest John?�

Watson�s taken aback, he has no idea how they could have come this far and Holmes still feel the need to ask that question.  Still he answers it because just to see such mistrust in his companion�s eyes cracks open his already rendered heart, but he answers carefully, lest his best-kept secrets tumble from the jagged wound.  He feigns indignity for the first part, �Of course I do, good fellow!�  Then gentles his voice and adds sincerely, �Holmes... you are the greatest man I�ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.�

�Then why are you leaving me?�

Oh, Holmes.  He doesn�t want to have this conversation, not in these tones.  He wants to keep that discussion for their bickering because then he can defend his decision and mean it, the very last thing he wants to tell Holmes is the truth and during these very, very rare moments when their true feelings are bared to one another � moments that have, in the past, only followed severe injury or the very real threat of death � he feels compelled to say what is truly in his heart.

He settles for insisting yet again, �I�m not leaving you.  I�m getting married, that�s all.  We shall still see each other every day, can still work together if the occasion calls for it.�

Holmes� raised voice floods him with relief.  �When you�re devoting half your time to your practice and the other half to your wife?�  This, now, is an argument, and arguments he can deal with.  �How will we still work together?�

�You�re being ridiculous!  Not to mention childish.  All men eventually marry.  They do not then get eaten by their spouses.�

�All men do not marry!  I have not nor will I not.�

He counters that with ease.  �That�s because the only woman you�ve ever shown the slightest romantic interest in is a blackmailer and a thief!�

�That�s insane, Watson!  I have no romantic interest in Irene Adler.�

�Then why do you keep her photograph on the mantelpiece?�

�It�s not on the mantelpiece, it�s on the bureau.  And I keep it there to remind me what a fool love turns me into!�

�Ah!  So you admit you love her!�

�Of course I love her!  She has spirit, Watson!  How can I, of all people, fail to love that in a woman?  But I have no romantic interest in her.  What man would share his bed with a lady as likely to stab him in the back as make love to him?�

He has a point, and the argument pauses.  Watson takes a deep breath and leans back in his chair.  �Why haven�t you ever married, Holmes?� he asks, bolstered by their exchange.

Holmes appears to weigh up his response before making it.  �I am not a marrying man,� he states, disappointing Watson by doing no more than stating the obvious.  

�There is no one with whom you�ve ever wished to spend the rest of your life?�

With a shake of his head, Holmes denies it.  �I didn�t say that, Watson.�

Surprise is met head-on by a not insignificant surge of jealousy, an emotion he finds very unattractive in his friend and one he doesn�t want to be displaying himself.  Then he meets Holmes� intelligent brown eyes and realises that he has no one to be jealous of, because Holmes is speaking of him.

�Oh.�  As reactions go, it probably isn�t the one Holmes has imagined if he�s ever played this scenario through in his head, which Watson is almost certain he has.  He owes him something more, certainly, than a single syllable as he�s finally plucked up the courage after however long it�s been � possibly years � to admit his feelings.  If indeed, that�s what he�s doing.  He might just as easily be admitting simply to wanting his partner-in-solving-crime at his side, nothing deeper, certainly not to the perverse fantasies Watson has been hiding from him.

He has to know.  His heart is almost literally in his throat when he leans forward and asks in not much more than a whisper, �Do you... desire me, Holmes?�

Holmes blinks once, twice, tilts his head to one side and for the longest time he regards Watson with an unreadable expression.  Then, finally, he nods very, very slowly and speaks his words carefully and quietly, �I do, John.  I desire to do with you all the things I�ve read about in publications banned by law and shunned by decency, all the things I�ve imagined in the filthy engine I call my mind.  And I can see now that you want these things too, something I�ve suspected yet could never prove to my own satisfaction.�  He continued steadily.  �But you�re a good man, Watson, with a loving fianc�e and excellent prospects.  You absolutely should not get involved in that way with a deviant such as myself.  I beg you, forget these revelations and let us go back to being the friends we were no more than a minute ago.�

Watson knows he�s staring but he can�t help it.  His brain is yet to catch up with the end of Holmes� unusually imploring speech as the words, �I do, John� are just registering with him and all he can see is his gorgeous friend and companion sitting across from him telling him what he�s wanted to hear almost from the moment of their meeting.

In fact, the rest of Holmes� speech doesn�t matter, because in a second Watson is across the room, on to his knees before the couch, and with a hand either side of Holmes� unshaven face he�s mashing their mouths together, freed suddenly from invisible bonds that have been holding him in check all this time.  Holmes doesn�t push him away but neither is his welcome overly inviting, and when that fact finally gets through to Watson, he pulls away as sharply as he imposed himself on Holmes, feeling a cold, sickening sense of horror wash away his initial elation.  He starts to shift back, knees scuffing on the carpet but Holmes� strong hands are suddenly clutching at his arms and he�s prevented from getting far.  

�Don�t think for a moment that your ardour and enthusiasm aren�t appreciated, Watson,� he says, his voice low and clipped, �but before we get carried away down a path that could land us both in a great deal of trouble, I want you to take a day to think about it, to consider your course, because I will not share you with Mary in this.  I can live with you being married to her if I have no choice.  But I cannot give my body without giving my heart and I will not give my heart to someone who will leave me to sleep alone in a cold bed while he returns home to make love to his wife.�

Held by the intensity of his eyes and the fierce truth of his words, Watson finds himself incapable of any form of response.  He wants desperately to tell Holmes that he loves him but something is stopping him.  Mary.  He does understand.  If he wants Holmes he must give up Mary, give up the dream of moving out, of having his own practice independent of London�s finest consulting detective, of breaking away from this infuriating yet wholly absorbing man.  Instead he must devote himself completely to the danger, the madness, the whirlwind that is Sherlock Holmes.

He sits in silence for a long time, Holmes not once shying from the tenuous connection between them, until he is able to force words from his throat.  �My dear man....�  They sound scratchy, as if he hasn�t spoken in years and indeed, right now that is how it feels.

Holmes releases his arms and reaches to instead grasp his hands which lie useless in Watson�s lap.  �Please, dearest, take the day.  Make your decision and whatever that is know that I will always be your friend, that I will always cherish your company even if I appear too often to take it entirely for granted, and that I acknowledge your feelings for me and return them with all my heart even if we never share another kiss.�

These events, as sudden as they�ve happened, are so strange, so out of character for both of them, that Watson worries if he leaves the room they will evaporate, will never have happened except in his mind; turning all this into nothing but another fantasy.  He turns his right hand in Holmes� and raises his other to the unkempt face, his thumb brushing over the bristles of Holmes� uneven beard.  If he wants to hear more then he�s disappointed, because with a simple press of his chin into Watson�s palm, Holmes settles back, retrieves his hand and thus breaks all physical contact between them.  Then it is as Watson feared, the intensity passes like spent clouds and Holmes reaches around him for his tea cup as if nothing untoward has happened.

Climbing to his feet, his old war wound reminding himself that such frivolity is not such a good idea, Watson nods once and walks in silence to the door, turning the knob slowly, and stepping out into the cool air of the corridor.   Drawing the lounge door closed behind him, he stands for an eternity on the landing, replaying Holmes� words in his mind.  He has a day to make his decision, to choose one of the two doors now open to him.  But surely his decision has already been made and all he needs do is not to open one of those doors, but the close the other?


�I love you.�  Mary�s gaze into his eyes is the sweetest thing he�s ever seen, her smile the most dazzling.  Yet he cannot change what�s in his heart and he cannot deny that his first love always was and always will be Sherlock Holmes.  �I am so very sorry.�  The smile fades, her gaze turns cool and she asks him what he�s sorry for.  �I cannot marry you, Mary.�  He feels sadness but his heart is whole and to his shame, still singing.

From Mary he expects hysterics, he expects a row.  He expects her to react to the news the exact same way Holmes reacted to his telling him about her in the first instance.  But there is neither hysterics nor a row.  She just looks at him with a sad expression and asks, �Is it him?�

There�s no question to whom she�s referring and Watson nods.  �Hasn�t it always been?�

She reaches up and gently strokes his cheek.  �Is he finally able to admit to himself and to you that he loves you as you deserve to be loved?�

He answers in all honesty.  �I don�t know.  I think so but nothing�s simple where Holmes is concerned and I know our life together isn�t ever going to be easy.�
She smiles, although it doesn�t quite touch her eyes.  �But it will be together, as much as the closed collective mind of society allows.�

He looks at her.   �I know it�s impossible.  He�s impossible and I have little doubt that we will eventually tear one another apart.  But I feel that it�s what my life was meant to be, that he is... where I am meant to be.�  He takes her hand in both of his and holds it to his cheek.  �I am sorry, my beautiful Mary, I can only hope that one day you�ll find it in you to forgive me.�

She pauses, but tells him, �There is nothing to forgive.  You�re going only where you heart is leading you.  I am upset, John, to be losing you.  But at least I am losing to a worthy opponent.�

He�s surprised to hear her say it.  �You really think so?�

�I do.�  She pulls back her hand and leans up to kiss him with just a little longing.  �Be happy, John.  Look after him and make certain that he looks after you.�

She leaves without giving him back the ring and he doesn�t ask for it; after all, that was a gift from Holmes.


�I choose you.�

Holmes regards him from his perch on the windowsill, the cobweb curtains hanging about his head and his shoulders, violin and bow held loosely in his hands, dressed now in a white shirt and black trousers that are at least unfastened.  He says nothing immediately, and Watson�s rapidly beating heart is all he can hear.  Then a triumphant cracks the man�s clean-shaven face.

�Of course you do.�

A part of him immediately wants to wipe that smile from his face, and Watson crosses the mess of the room in four long strides, narrowly avoiding the debris and clatter littering the floor, and grasping Holmes� chin with a gentle but firm hand he kisses him.  This time Holmes� mouth opens under his and he slips his tongue inside, tasting tobacco and tea, cracked lips surprisingly soft against his own.  His hand moves to cup first the man�s jaw then to curve around the back of his neck, fingers brushing the thick, slightly greasy hair at his nape.  Holmes hums, deep in his throat and Watson feels it as well as he hears it, his body responding to the sound.

At first he thinks Holmes is going to be no more than a willing participant, but suddenly he�s proven wrong as the man surges up, violin and bow flying in opposite directions as his hands cradle Watson�s head, Holmes pushing his tongue into his mouth, body hard against him as Watson tries to stand his ground.  But Holmes� momentum ploughs them backwards into a long-legged table, Watson loses his footing and together they go crashing into an old chaise-longue piled with books and files.  Everything goes flying upwards and sideways and they land in the middle of it all, paper sweeping down around them, Watson mindful of Holmes� injuries, Holmes seeming not to care.  They don�t break apart, instead they lie in the chaos, rutting against one another, fully clothed and desperate.  Despite his worries about Holmes� well-being, Watson can�t get close enough to the man he�s desired for so long; knots his fingers in the grey-streaked black hair, delves down the back of his shirt and scrapes his nails between the sharp shoulder blades while all the time his tongue is restless in Holmes� mouth and his hard prick is being stroked through the rough material of his trousers by Holmes� answering arousal.

Everything they share usually ends up getting messy, and carnal relations are apparently no exception.  The room isn�t the only thing to be wrecked as they both find their release within a minute or two, the tension finally snapping, leaving them incapable of pausing or halting.  And afterwards, Holmes rolls unceremoniously off to one side, lying on his back next to Watson amongst the strewn papers, panting softly, Watson glancing down to watch as he reaches down to gingerly touch his fingertips to his bruised side.  Turning his head to regard his friend, now... something else, he sinks into Holmes� brown eyes and moves his lips around the words,

�Are you all right?�

�More than all right,� Holmes replies, �one might say at this moment I am, for want of a better word, flawless.�

It�s a response that makes Watson smile; so perfectly Holmes.  �This isn�t going to be easy,� he says softly, �we must be careful, and of more than furthering your injuries.�

Holmes waves the potential problems away with a careless hand.  �We have lived together for so long, no one will question it.�

�But my breaking off the engagement will draw closer scrutiny.�

�Only until London high society bores of it, then there will be something else to talk about and people will forget you were ever to be married.  We will simply be two bachelors, more suited to solving crime than to marriage.  And maybe one day the opportunity for a beard will present itself to one or both of us.  But I will not share your heart, John, and will not ask you to share mine.�

Watson nods slowly.  �I understand, Sherlock.  And I share your sentiment one hundred percent.�

Holmes� head rolls away from him but not before he catches the smile on that full mouth and feels finally content to see it.