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That Certain Night

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October, 1937

Berkeley Square was scattered with couples whispering in each other’s ears, giggling and walking hand-in-hand. It was a dark, chilly night, the square being partly lit by its lamp posts and by the yellow light pouring out of the doors of the dance hall. Loud swing music could be heard from the hall from a good distance away.

John Watson leant against the side of a police box on one of the main paths, pausing on his way back from a late shift at St. Barts. He watched a young couple disappear off into a bush on the square’s stretch of green, a smirk tugging at his lips.

‘I don’t suppose I could trouble you for a light?’ Sherlock Holmes asked, stepping out of the shadow of a tree near to the police box. He smiled disarmingly at John.

John straightened up and looked up at Sherlock, who was staring down his nose at John. ‘Sorry, I don’t smoke,’ he said with an easy smile, adjusting his hat on his head. ‘And neither should you, really.’

‘Yes, well, if it’s all quite the same to you, doctor, it helps me to think.’ Sherlock span the cigarette between his fingers, his eyes still on John’s.

‘Doctor?’

Sherlock looked John up and down and frowned. He paused the movement of the cigarette between his long, arachnidian fingers. ‘You are a doctor, aren’t you?’

‘Yes, but how--’

‘Oh please, let’s not be obvious,’ Sherlock said with a sneer and a look of disdain.

‘But how on earth did you know that I’m a doctor?’ John insisted.

Sighing, Sherlock rolled his eyes and put the cigarette back in its case. ‘You’re out on your own at eleven o’clock at night, certainly not for the purpose of dancing.’ He indicated the laughing couples going in and out of the dance hall. ‘Smart suit, nice coat, sensible shoes; all of them inexpensive, however. The mud on your shoes would indicate you’ve walked a long way, if I’m not mistaken--’ he squinted down at John’s shoes, ‘somewhere near St. Paul’s. Let’s see... you’re out late, dressed smartly in affordable clothes, and you’ve walked for nearly an hour presumably because you’re trying to save money either for rent or utilities, most likely. Not to mention your entirely patronising distaste for my smoking, an obvious conclusion would be that you’re a recently-qualified doctor working late shifts at Saint Bartholomew’s hospital with not a lot of money going spare.’ Sherlock smirked. ‘Did I get anything wrong, Doctor Watson?’

Obvious? And how do you know my name?’ John demanded, his brow furrowed.

‘Yes, rather obvious indeed, and your medical bag was something of a giveaway,’ Sherlock replied, his smirk growing even more self-satisfied as he glanced down at where DR. J. H. WATSON was embossed in gold on the leather bag.

‘You just looked at the bag, didn’t you?’ John said, laughing in disbelief.

‘Now where would the fun in cheating be, Doctor?’ Sherlock said, his eyes wrinkled in the corners with amusement.

‘Please.’ John offered his hand. ‘John.’

Sherlock took John’s hand in a firm grip and regarded him warmly. ‘Sherlock Holmes.’

‘That’s quite a name.’

‘I’m quite a man,’ Sherlock answered immediately.

John blinked, shocked, and then he laughed. ‘And so modest. Come on then, how did you do that? How did you know everything there is to know about me?’

‘It isn’t a trick,’ Sherlock drawled, pulling a pair of smart leather gloves on.

‘Did I say it was a trick, Mr. Holmes?’

‘Sherlock, please,’ Sherlock replied. He looked thoughtful, his hands linked behind his back, the light from the streetlamp they were under falling across his proud features. ‘Alright, I’ll tell you. I don’t suppose you’d like some company on your walk home?’

John bent to pick up his bag and smiled. The band inside the hall launched into Have You Met Miss Jones?, which had been released earlier that year.

‘I wouldn’t mind,’ John said, looking up at Sherlock. ‘Especially seeing as you’ve clearly got nothing better to do of a Friday evening.’

Sherlock chuckled and the singer’s voice followed them as they walked, talking in low voices, down Berkeley Square.

***

The narrow street on which John lived was dark and silent. John and Sherlock had walked the remaining half a mile to John’s flat together, Sherlock informing John about the science of deduction and how he applied it to the solving of crimes for his work. John had been an attentive and eager listener, only occasionally interjecting with the odd ‘brilliant!’ and ‘but that’s marvellous!’

The two men came to a stop outside a front door that looked as though it could do with a good lick of paint.

‘Chez Watson?’ Sherlock asked, drawing himself up.

‘Ah... yes,’ John said with a nod. ‘I-- this has... uh...’ he trailed off and grabbed the back of his neck. ‘Listen, how about that light? And a cup of tea, maybe?’

‘Tea?’ Sherlock said, rocking up onto his tiptoes, his eyebrows lifting. ‘Alright then.’

John grinned and opened the front door. ‘You’ll have to excuse the mess, I’m afraid,’ he said as they both stepped into the dingy hallway. ‘My work doesn’t leave much time for keeping house.’

‘That’s quite alright, John, neither does mine,’ Sherlock said, following John up the wooden stairs. ‘I’m positive I shall feel right at home.’

John laughed quietly as he unlocked the door to his own flat. ‘Um, let me take your coat?’ he said, taking in a surprised breath when he turned to face Sherlock and found him much closer than was usually considered decent.

‘Thank you, John,’ Sherlock said, removing his gloves and scarf, putting them in one of his huge pockets. He maintained his proximity as he took his hat off and handed his heavy coat off to John. Underneath, he wore a sharp three-piece suit with a light tweed pattern in dark grey, a plum-coloured tie fastened around his neck. The top couple of buttons of his shirt were undone, revealing a long white neck that was almost too long. John’s eyes flickered over Sherlock’s skin before he came to himself.

‘Right,’ he muttered, hanging Sherlock’s coat and hat and then his own, taking his suit jacket off so he was just in his practical brown waistcoat and shirt. He unfastened his cuffs and rolled his sleeves up. ‘I’ll go and see to the tea, you...’ he turned around and noticed that Sherlock had disappeared from the tiny hallway and was seated at one end of the lumpy sofa, his legs elegantly crossed, his smirk still in place. ‘...make yourself at home,’ he finished lamely.

Sherlock laughed lowly. John couldn’t help but smile back before going into the cramped and overcrowded kitchen and making a pot of tea. He carried the pot and a bowl of sugar lumps out to the sitting room on a circular tin tray, along with a box of matches. ‘I haven’t got any milk, I’m afraid, we’ll have to make do without.’

‘It’s not a problem,’ Sherlock said, jumping up from the sofa just as John lowered himself to sit on it, putting the tray on the coffee table. He moved over to John’s overstuffed bookshelf in one graceful movement, his eyes narrowed as he scanned the titles. ‘Hullo, what’s all this?’ he said, pulling a volume entitled Romanticism off one of the shelves. He looked over his shoulder at John. ‘Didn’t have you pegged as a romantic, doctor.’

John smiled. ‘Well it appears I have depths hidden even to you, Mr. Holmes.’

‘It’s Sherlock. Don’t make me tell you again, I do loathe repeating myself.’ He rolled his eyes and opened the book in his hands, flicking through it. He held the book open at arm’s length and tilted it ninety degrees. ‘Who’s this Byron fellow?’ he asked, wrinkling his nose.

‘I’m sorry, you don’t know who Byron is?’ John exclaimed, going over to stand next to Sherlock.

‘Well, if I ever did, I’ve erased it.’

‘Erased it?’

Sherlock waved one of his elegant hands to dismiss the matter. ‘I’ll explain another time,’ he said, pushing the book back onto the shelf. He swept his fringe off his face before sitting down again, leaning forwards and pouring them both tea. ‘I’m afraid I’m one of those rotten heathens who has sugar in their tea,’ Sherlock said, popping three cubes of sugar into the little cup and stirring. ‘Although I assume by your putting it on the tray, so are you.’ He smirked at John and stirred two sugarcubes into the other cup. ‘Two. Did I get it right?’

‘Yes,’ John said, a short laugh escaping from his chest. ‘Yes, top marks.’ He sat down and took his tea from Sherlock, closing his eyes as he leant against the back of the sofa.

‘Busy day?’

John opened one eye and found that Sherlock was staring at him from the other end of the sofa, his elbow resting against its back, his fist supporting his head. John’s cheeks coloured slightly under the sharp gaze.

‘Yes,’ he said, sipping the hot, black tea he held in his hands. ‘Quite busy.’

The wind whistled outside the window. Sherlock smiled and pulled out his cigarette case, laying it open on the sofa in the space between the two of them. He put one cigarette between his lips and reached for the matches on the table before John sat upright and moved to get them as well.

‘Let... let me,’ John said, wrapping his hand around the small box. Sherlock’s fingers brushed the back of John’s hand lightly - light enough for it to be considered an accident - as he withdrew and sat back. John pushed the box open with his thumb and pulled out a match, striking it one-handed. He dropped the box to his lap and cupped his right hand round the flame, leaning over to light the cigarette that Sherlock held in his mouth.

Sherlock reached into his still-open case and plucked another cigarette out, sliding it between John’s lips.

‘One’s not going to kill you, Doctor,’ he murmured around his own cigarette, his voice low and full-throated as he leant forward, taking the box of matches out of John’s lap and striking one. He held the flame under the tip of John’s cigarette, far closer than he had any sort of right to be. ‘Puff,’ he purred. ‘Gently, now.’

John looked away from Sherlock and brought his fingers up to hold the cigarette. He puffed on it quickly a few times to light it and when the tip glowed, Sherlock shook the match to extinguish it. He stared at John’s face, maintaining his proximity. He inhaled deeply from his cigarette and turned his head to blow the smoke to one side a moment later.

‘Are you in the habit of inviting queer men back to your flat, John?’ he murmured, his eyes half-lidded as he stared at John again.

John huffed a breath through his nose. ‘None quite so peculiar as you,’ he said after a long pause, lifting his eyes to Sherlock’s. He inhaled from his cigarette with little finesse, blowing the smoke away after holding it for barely a second.

‘I shall take that as a compliment,’ Sherlock said before sucking in a huge breath of smoke, pressing the pad of his thumb against John’s bottom lip.

‘Sherlock,’ John breathed, his mouth falling open. They both leant in at the same time and as their lips met, Sherlock exhaled, blowing the smoke into John’s mouth.

‘Breathe in,’ he mumbled against John’s lips.

John inhaled slowly, his chest expanding.

‘That’s right,’ Sherlock said, splaying his palm against John’s chest. ‘Hold it in your lungs.’ He sucked John’s bottom lip into his mouth, nibbling gently. ‘Now breathe out.’

Pulling away from Sherlock’s lips, John shakily released the smoke into the air between them. He inhaled from his own cigarette this time, and Sherlock did the same. ‘You are in the habit, then?’ Sherlock asked.

‘In the habit of what?’ John blinked, looking dazed.

‘Inviting strange men back to your flat.’

‘On... on occasion,’ John said, looking down at the floor, his tongue flickering over his lower lip where Sherlock’s mouth had been a moment before.

Sherlock lifted John’s head with a hand under his chin. ‘Splendid,’ he whispered, lifting one eyebrow and moving his fingers to undo the buttons of his waistcoat.

***

‘Sherlock is your real name, isn’t it?’ John asked as he pulled on his dressing gown the next morning, turning round to where Sherlock was reclining, unashamedly naked, on the rumpled covers of John’s bed.

‘So suspicious, Doctor Watson,’ Sherlock said with a smirk, his voice a deep rumble. His arms were folded behind his head, his muscles lightly flexed. One dark curl fell over his brow and the autumn sun through the curtains gave his eyes a soft glow.

‘Well?’ John said, his gaze raking hungrily over Sherlock’s body, evidently distracted by the expanse of skin on display. Sherlock writhed, cat-like, under the attention, and John lowered himself to sit on the edge of the bed, running a warm hand up Sherlock’s thigh.

‘I can assure you it is.’ Sherlock sat up in one graceful movement and caught John’s mouth in a kiss, his fingertips brushing John’s cheek.

‘That’s, um, that’s jolly good to know,’ John mumbled when they pulled away, breathless, his forehead resting against Sherlock’s.

Sherlock chuckled quietly, the sound coming from deep within his chest. He rubbed gently at John’s neck. ‘Come back to bed,’ he whispered, biting down on John’s earlobe. ‘Come back to bed, John.’

'Yes,' John said, licking his bottom lip. 'Yes, alright.'