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Like Racing an Engine

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The train for Edinburgh left Kings Cross Station at ten in the morning. I had a quick breakfast before we caught it; Holmes had two cups of coffee and a pipe. I would get lunch into him, I decided, and Mrs. Hudson clearly shared my determination, judging by the contents of the basket she handed me as we left. It also contained the day’s Times, and once we were settled in a closed-off first class compartment I presented Holmes with it.

“Ah!” he said. “I admit, Mrs. Hudson knows what she is about.”

“Is there likely to be anything about the case in there?” I asked.

“If there is, we are too late,” he said. “Any further developments cannot be good.”

The young lady who had summoned us to Scotland had no friends she could call on, and her employers’ mansion was quite alone in the countryside. If she was correct in her suspicions of the husband, we were needed at once. We had received her telegram calling for us—after a longer exchange of letters—just after the night train departed London the night before, and I suspected Holmes had not slept since.

“I hope she and the lady are at least forewarned,” I said.

“She may,” said Holmes, “be able to—no. I don’t have sufficient evidence to judge.” With that he snapped the newspaper open in front of his face and ceased speaking.

I settled myself with the British Medical Journal. Holmes seemed completely absorbed in the paper, and I hoped that he would spend the entire journey so occupied. After two hours he folded up the newspaper and steepled his fingers under his chin, and seemed to retreat into a brown study. I picked up the discarded paper and read happily for some few minutes.

Near the end of this time Holmes suddenly jumped to his feet and began pacing back and forth in the narrow space between the seats, muttering to himself. I drew my knees back, tried to remain focused on my paper—I had years of practice by now—and thanked Providence that we were alone in the compartment.

“Watson,” said Holmes at last, “this is intolerable.”

“It will be soon if you don’t sit down,” I agreed. Though the train was an express, there were still another six hours until we reached Edinburgh, and I desperately hoped he would not have this excess of energy the whole way.

Holmes glanced at me, smiled slightly, and threw himself back onto his seat. Within a minute, however, his foot was tapping and his fingers were drumming against the window-glass. I raised my eyebrows at him.

“Have you one of your adventure stories?” he asked.

“No,” I said, “and you hate those. I’ve the British Medical Journal, but you’ve read that already.” This edition had an article on forensic medicine, and he’d finished the entire journal before I had a chance to look at it at all. “Have you read everything in the papers?” I asked. He nodded brusquely.

I sighed, and suggested, “Have a cigarette.”

“Hmpf,” he said, but he reached into his waistcoat pocket and pulled out his cigarette case with a flourish. And I watched; he drew out a box of matches, and his long bony hands began to select a cigarette and a match and bring the two together. His sleeves had ridden up slightly. As he flicked the match alight the knob of the styloid process of his ulna stood out against his wrist, and the air vanished from my lungs. He placed the cigarette in his mouth and brought the match to it, and I watched his lips purse, watched the light momentarily flare across his face, watched him shake out the match. His eyes closed in something like bliss as he inhaled. At last he blew out a stream of white smoke, and I belatedly reached to open the window slightly, still unable to take my eyes off him as I did. He caught my gaze as he tossed the match-end out of the window, and I realized that of course it had all been deliberate.

“Really, Holmes, what is this all about?” I could not imagine why he was toying with me when he had a case.

He sighed. “I can gain no further information until we are at the site. There is no point in my speculating further until then—I may begin, fatally, to convince myself of some single theory, and so unforgivably prejudice my mind against any facts which do not accord with it. I keep dragging my mind away from the subject, and yet it keeps snapping back to it, like a rubber band upon one’s fingers. I am sorry. It is not normally this difficult to stop.”

It explained his frustration, but not his desire to catch my attention. I made some sympathetic noise. Holmes kept smoking as I tried to think of a solution he would not immediately reject. His hand was still beautifully graceful and kept catching my eye, contrasting as it did against the black of his coat. For a second he looked at me as if he thought I had a cure for his mental frustration in my pocket and was cruelly withholding it from him, and I sighed and tried to go back to my reading. I knew, at least from watching him, that this must be upsetting, but I had no solutions.

After a moment Holmes stretched his long legs across the compartment and rested his feet next to my thighs, and I looked up at his face. He was now wearing an expression I was all too familiar with, that of a tutor with a disgracefully slow pupil.

“If you’ve thought of some method to stop yourself from fretting over the case, do get on with it,” I said. I was no more naturally fond of long train journeys than he, and his fits of energy were far more suited to our rooms at Baker Street.

Holmes took a last draw on his cigarette, then stubbed it out on the brass window frame and tossed it out of the train. He closed the window carefully, with a glance beyond it at the empty countryside and few windpumps of the fens. Then he crossed the compartment and sat next to me.

I turned to look at him, my hands with the newspaper falling to my lap. He cupped my cheek and kissed me.

“Holmes!” I admonished.

But after that one surprised protest I leaned in and kissed him back. If this kept his mind from unprofitable speculation I certainly had no objections. There was no corridor; our compartment was closed off from the rest of the train and no one could interrupt us until the next station.

He did not fall upon me with immediate passion—which I really might have had to object to, given our circumstances—but kissed me softly, his lips playing with mine, drawing a reaction out of me, making me chase him. I reached for his face, to hold him still for my mouth, and pressed my lips against his firmly, and I felt him smile in response.

He pulled me closer, his hand settling at the small of my back, his mouth opening gently. It had been some time since we had last done this, just kissing with no intention of going further. I assumed we would not go further, at least; we were still in public, and surely Holmes would not risk it. This seemed to be distracting him very effectively by itself. He caught my lower lip between his and sucked gently, and he knew what that did to me. Damn the man’s experience over the years. I chuckled a little as I turned my head to press my tongue into his mouth.

His fingers combed through my hair, then settled at the base of my skull, his nails digging in slightly. My head fell back and he kept going, bending to kiss my neck as my thoughts faded out.

He pulled at my collar, and then my shirt, opening it enough for him to reach my collarbone. His hand clutched my shoulder while he pressed his lips against my bare skin. I drifted in his arms, relaxing into a more comfortable position and thinking of nothing but his hand in my hair and his mouth on my neck.

He returned his lips to mine and I kissed him back passionately. His hands moved between us, and as we shifted I held him tighter to keep him close to me. He found one of my nipples under my shirt and waistcoat with his usual uncanny precision, and I shivered all over as he stroked it into stiffness. I clenched my fingers in his coat and stroked his tongue with mine.

His hand left my chest and slid into my lap, under the paper. Oh. He’d been easing me into this, leading me up to the point where I would acquiesce. His hand cupped my erection—his tactics certainly weren’t ineffective—and the newspaper fell off my lap and scattered across the compartment floor.

It took me a moment to remember why I shouldn’t just let him continue. As it became utterly impossible to ignore his intentions I grabbed his hand and pulled it away, and then reluctantly pushed his head away from my neck. “We’ll—this train stops at York,” I gasped, shaking my brain back into commission. His lips were dark red.

“Not for over an hour.”

“Someone outside will see us—”

“You don’t believe that any more than I do,” said Holmes. “We’re going at at least forty miles per hour, and there are few enough people in this part of the country. If we are seen there is no chance of recognition.” I noticed his imprecision over our speed and had a moment of pride that I’d distracted him so thoroughly. It was perhaps that as much as anything that made me kiss him again.

“Come,” Holmes whispered against my mouth. “There is no risk.” He nipped at my lower lip. It would, I thought, certainly be more enjoyable than spending another hour in a train compartment with him sulking.

So I said, “Yes,” and he started stroking me through my trousers. He was very gentle at first, barely doing more than feeling out the dimensions of my arousal, though he was more than familiar with it by now. I pulled his face to mine and kissed him, and as his tongue played with mine his grip slowly grew harder.

I realized eventually that he was not stopping, and that this might have extremely undesirable consequences. I pushed his hand away and pulled just far enough away from his mouth to glare at him as I unbuttoned myself. He smirked back, unrepentant, and I pulled myself out of my drawers and fumbled for a handkerchief. Which, I thought with annoyance, I was going to have to discard once we arrived. Holmes was hard on clothes, mine and his equally.

“I wouldn’t have let it get that far,” he said, returning his hand to my cock. He started lightly again, and I scoffed and undid his collar so I could bite at his neck. He had the advantage of me in dress, and it was high time to do something about that.

But though I unbuttoned his waistcoat and worked a nice bruise onto the juncture of his neck, where it would be safely hidden by his shirt, most of my focus was narrowing in on my cock, and his hand’s increasing speed and firmness. I leaned back against the cushions, pulling him with me, and spread my legs wide to welcome him.

Ah, he was pulling me slowly toward orgasm, as he knew so well how to, flicking his fingers against the tip of my glans and then giving me hard, fast strokes. I reached up lazily and tangled my fingers in his slicked-back hair, kissing him more deeply, feeling myself rising towards climax.

And then all at once his touches lightened entirely, slow and gentle and not at all what I wanted. I opened my eyes and pulled my lips from his, but before I said anything I saw that he was focused, interested, and watching me.

“Holmes,” I said, but I didn’t protest further, letting him pull me away from the peak and into slow simmering pleasure, too gentle to bring me back to the edge any time soon. He liked this, and I liked it more than I would admit, being held at a plateau of arousal for as long as I could stand it rather than finishing quickly and being done. I didn’t think it particularly wise in a train compartment, but we would probably have ample warning before any interruption.

So I slumped back against the seat and let him toy with me. He brought me, achingly slowly, up to another near-climax. When I was almost there, could feel myself on the edge, he pulled away entirely, and I choked back a yell.

“Dammit,” I begged, tugging at his hand, but he twisted his fingers around mine, his grip very firm, and kept our hands away from my cock. I kicked him, and he laughed, and I relaxed and let myself fall back disappointed from the edge. He kissed me, pressing me against the cushions, still holding my hand away. My other arm was around his shoulders, and I at least could pull him closer and kiss him back. I was desperate, and could not pretend I wasn’t, sucking on his tongue and biting at his lips and pressing all of me against him as we kissed.

When I was slightly calmer, his hand returned to my erection and I groaned and thrust up against his touch. He chuckled under his breath and stroked me very lightly.

He kept on so for what felt like hours, until he was leaning over me, almost on my lap, his free hand braced against the back of the seat, and I thought that this time he might just let me come. Suddenly he pulled back, and turned so he simply sat next to me, though his hand remained on my cock and didn’t noticeably slow. I opened my eyes and caught sight of the window. We were passing through a city now—Doncaster, I supposed.

“Just hold still,” he said, speeding his hand a trifle. He was smirking slightly, and I knew that this time he did intend to finish me soon. Now, of course, when there was a slightly higher risk of being seen and I would have to hold myself in check as I came off. And god, I wanted to come off—anything, any way of coming, by now—but—

“No,” I said, pushing his hand away. He raised an eyebrow at me. “I know no one will see,” I said; “I just want—”

It was ludicrous; we’d made love in our own bed for years, I knew how he felt about me whether or not this one encounter ended with alleyway efficiency, but even in this train carriage I wanted, romantically, ridiculously, to hold him as we touched each other.

He complied, however. He took his hands off me and let me pull some sheets of the mangled newspaper over my lap. “Just until we’re through the city,” I said. Holmes raised an eyebrow and smiled and made a show of looking out the window as if fascinated by the factories and churches.

When we were well on our way out of the city Holmes tilted his head and smirked at me. I laid the paper aside and smiled at him, but he did not immediately resume touching me. Instead he said, “Is that enough waiting, or shall I stop now entirely? Shall we wait an hour or so until York, perhaps have to switch trains—you should be able to walk respectably by then—”

“And what of you?” I asked, sliding my hand into his lap where I could feel that he was no less affected than I. He ignored my interruption.

“—and then perhaps we can finish matters further north—or perhaps not, perhaps we’ll be joined by other passengers at York, and you’ll sit there, across from me—it looks so much more chaste sitting across from each other—knowing what I’m thinking every time I glance up at you. In this area at least I have no doubts that your powers of face reading will be more than adequate. There may be six others in this compartment by then. Will you need to keep the paper on your lap all the way to Scotland?”

“Enough of that,” I said, and I climbed onto his lap. He was the surprised one, this time, and I pushed him back against the cushions and kissed him deeply, no longer able to restrain myself.

“You can hold this position?” he asked when I released his mouth. It was a fair question, even if I resented it a little—I was forty-five, and my leg did still occasionally inconveniently remind me of its injury.

“Perhaps not for long,” I said, deciding to take advantage of his concern. “You’ll have to make me come quickly.” I didn’t like admitting it, but I was damned if I was going to let him keep teasing me all the way to York. He groaned and reached into my still-unbuttoned trousers.

He did go faster now, and I clung to his shoulders and revelled in it. His left hand was behind me, at first steadying me but then slipping lower. He grabbed my arse, noticed of course how it made me jerk in his hand, and reached down the back of my trousers for bare skin.

I fell forward a little, to keep myself from falling off him entirely, and pressed my face to his shoulder. He was going further, clawing at my buttocks, afire himself, his breathing fast and loud in my ear, and his hand focused fast and tight on the head of my prick and I was there, he couldn’t stop me this time and he didn’t want to, I was gone and falling apart in his arms and he kept going to lengthen it for me.

He stopped before I had to shove him away, and I remained astride him, catching my breath. His hands moved between us again.

“No,” I said, as he started to unbutton himself. I caught his hands and pushed them against the seat cushion. Holding him there, I knelt between his legs, and saw that his shirt was stained with my spendings. “Damn. Where’s that handkerchief?” His waistcoat would cover it, but I wanted more delay before I started touching him in return.

“Watson,” he said, choking on my name. I let go of his hands and they were at once back at his trouser-front, so I caught them both in my left and started to unbutton him myself with my right.

“Hold still,” I said. “There’s nothing here for me to tie you with—unless you want to sacrifice your cravat?” He shook his head, silent and desperate now.

“Good.” I released him and pulled him out of his drawers, careful not to give him too much pressure. I might not be planning to torture him as he had me, but I did not plan to let him get off too easily either.

“You brought this on yourself, you know,” I said, just before covering him with my mouth. His fingers at once clenched in the cushions.

He was already so hard that I could feel every fold and ridge of his cock. I kept my mouth gentle and delicate on it, and felt his hips shifting beneath me, as he wanted to thrust and then worried that would make me stop entirely. I wondered vaguely how long it was until we reached York. This gentleness would eventually bring him off, far later than he wanted—I was not sure if I would have time or patience to hold out that long, but I rather wanted to.

I licked him, more than anything else, softly and continuously. He was clawing at the cushions shortly, and to my extreme gratification was stifling small noises that would have driven me wild if I had not already spent. As it was, they only encouraged me to draw further off and concentrate on his glans. He seemed to be having more trouble staying quiet than usual. I glanced up and saw him watching me, his teeth clenched, and I winked at him. He threw his head back against the seat.

I found myself going faster without intending to, sucking him in properly, and he thrust up to meet me. I pressed my arm against his hips to hold him down, but I didn’t slow, and it was not very long at all before I knew from his breathing and the hardness of his cock that he was going to come off soon no matter what I did. At the very last his hands came up and pulled my hair and I took him as deep as I could.

I pulled off, smiling at him, and he sighed, dazed. He slumped sideways onto the seat, and then drew his legs up and reached a hand to me, laughing softly. I tried to stand and winced, then climbed onto the seat half on top of him. We sorted out our limbs and lay there, breathing, as the train rattled beneath us. It was not at all stable, but just now it was the most comfortable position in the world.

When we saw the growing city outside the windows I got up and we set ourselves to rights. It was surprising, how such an encounter could be entirely tucked away beneath the appearance of a gentleman, no matter how many times I had seen it before. Though Holmes, I suspected, had higher standards for what counted as “hidden away.” He stretched his arms over his head and smiled at me, and I sat back down beside him for the few minutes before we reached the station.

At York the train stopped for lunch, and to switch engines. I gave Holmes a sandwich from Mrs. Hudson’s basket and a stern look, and stepped out to the newsstand to buy a brace of lurid penny dreadfuls, and a pencil so he could add marginal critique.