‘Tennis has been my life for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is of Dad taking me to the local park to play a little knock around on the concrete courts with those huge wooden rackets we would later use as snow shoes the January after the almost white Christmas. I must have been a natural because Dad kept taking me back and Harry showed her displeasure by aiming tennis balls at my head from close range. She has always been the more violent of the two of us. Her aim was always great back then but it did mean I became very good at dealing with tennis balls hurtling towards my head. Facing a hundred and forty mile and hour serve from a professional player has little on the fierce temper of my sister. Still, without her I wouldn’t be where I am today.’
Which was where exactly?
He stared at his laptop screen, or more accurately at the flashing cursor at the end of ‘today’ and bit back a sigh. The literal answer was in a small bed-sit near his training ground, sitting at the small desk, fingers hovering over the keyboard, ready to succumb to the pressures of his painfully slow two-finger typing. His shoulder ached, his leg ached, both ankles ached, his back felt sore, his neck stiff and he could do with another long massage and hot shower. He was basically falling apart.
“Face it, Watson,” he said with a stretch and a sigh, “you’re a washed-up almost-was with no career and no life.”
And wasn’t that the truth. He should have retired years ago, after that injury to his shoulder, but faced with the prospect of long painful physiotherapy and retraining, or finding something else to do with his life, he had chosen the former. Even his therapist had thought him crazy, reminding him that he wasn’t alone, that there was life after tennis, but then again she was his therapist, of course she thought he was crazy. That was why he was sat staring at that screen now, because she had suggested that writing about his life would either make him more enthusiastic about it, rekindling his love for the game, or enable him to finally be able to let it go. So far it was achieving neither. It was just making him more depressed.
He closed the laptop lid with a sigh. His life was over, he was sure of it. Or if it wasn’t yet, then it would be over in less than a month. Hell, not even that. Three days to Queens and then on to Wimbledon where it would then be all over, no question about that. Out in the first round? Perhaps the second if he was lucky and his shoulder held up. So about eighteen days then.
Eighteen days and then the end.
His shoulder throbbed in sympathy.
Christ, he should have become a doctor.
“Just tell me how bad it is,” he groaned, pressing his face into the towel covering the medical examining bench.
He tried not to groan again as thick fingers prodded at his shoulder muscles, shooting pain down his spine and across his neck.
He should have said no to Queens. He wasn’t as young as he used to be, but they had given him a wild card and it was traditionally one of the last major tournaments before the green, green grass of SW19. Now he was suffering.
Still, he’d made it to the second round before being steam-rolled by the tournament’s eighth seed who had been ranked thirty-first in the world.
“Little bit of muscle strain,” his doctor – Mike – told him in a voice that was far too cheerful, but then again it had been Mike who had put him back together again after the accident, so he had seen far, far worse.
“Nothing to worry about. We’ll have you fixed up in no time. Should I send Günter in to loosen you up a bit?”
“Please,” he said, his voice still muffled. A good, firm rubdown was exactly what he needed right now.
“I’ll go find him then.”
Nodding, he closed his eyes as the door opened and closed. He waited. And waited. And waited. In fact he was waiting so long he was tempted to go out and find out where everyone was.
Eventually, just as his temper was started to overcome the lethargy of his muscles, he heard talking by the door. It was hard to tell, but he was almost certain that it was two male voices and that they were speaking German.
“Sorry for keeping you, Mr Watson,” he heard Günter’s voice say as the door finally opened and warm, strong fingers dug into his shoulder. “I was just finishing off Mr Holmes.”
He winched and sucked in a deep breath as Günter worked out a particularly hard knot. So was that who Günter had been talking to?
“Sherlock Holmes?” he asked between gasps. “I thought…” wince, “he was…” whine, “French.”
“Ja,” Günter said, “but he speaks very good Deutsch.”
Somehow John was not surprised. Everyone knew about Sherlock Holmes. Currently ranked third in the world, he was an English born, French raised, bilingual star on the courts, who despite having an English father had horrified the British press by daring to become a potential world champion under a different flag. Not only that, but the French Tricolour (the traitor!). And all due to having been trained in France from a young age by his French Grandmother. As such the British press had initially been torn between wanting to embrace him as a prodigal son, or vilify him. Luckily for the press he had taken that decision out of their hands by being arrogant, abrupt and downright rude at times, three things the British and the English in particular greatly abhorred. So that was that, Britain would have to look elsewhere for their Wimbledon hopeful.
Well, John thought as his pains and cares were forcefully and efficiently manhandled away, at least they were no longer looking at him either.
‘Johnny, it’s Harry. Look about the tickets, you were joking right? You are gonna get me some. You know how much I enjoy watching you play, and if this is going to be your last, well then… and you promised you’d keep in touch. Sucks having to find out how you’re doing from the newspapers. You know what they’re like. Anyway, call me.’
He sighed and hit three to delete the message. No tickets, that was what he had told her the last time they had spoken, well argued. He had no desire for her to come only to eat the strawberries and drink the free booze, because they both knew what would happen after that. It was a miracle Clara was even still speaking to him after what Harry had put her through. Well, actually she wasn’t, but that was more down to him than his uncontrollable sister.
The cab finally stopping for something other than the London traffic, he made sure to check he had everything before bailing out. It wouldn’t do for him to forget something important, like his rackets… again.
Clothes, check. Laptop, check. Half a pharmacy in acceptable drugs, lotions and muscle relaxant, check. Rackets and other sundries and accessories, check.
Grabbing his wallet from his pocket he paid the cabbie and made his way to his new temporary home. The Dorchester Hotel. Yeah, it was as grand and imposing as he remembered, although he wasn’t sure he recalled quite so many security guards. Blimey some of those men looked imposing.
“Welcome to the Dorchester, Mr Watson,” the woman on the desk smiled as she handed over his key. “Your room is on the third floor. Enjoy your stay.”
He would, he just doubted it would be a particularly long one.
Sighing, he made his way through the crowds, past a number of faces that he recognised. Andy Roddick, 2003, second round Rogers Cup, three sets disaster. David Ferrer, 2006, US Open, third round, painful disaster. He really needed to stop remembering all this, it was hardly helping.
Was that Maria Sharapova?
“Sorry. I’m so, sorry.”
And now he had done it. Distracted as he was he had ended up walking into someone, someone with dark hair who was dressed incredibly smartly in a dark suit and white shirt, both of which were undoubtedly designer. The man looked incredibly familiar, but fumbling for his dropped key and bags he made his apologies and disappeared as soon as he could.
It was only later when he got to his room, sorted out his things and switched on the telly that he realised who it had been.
“Damn,” he said sinking onto the bed. Of all the people to have literally walked into.
‘So,’ he typed a little later having decided that he might as well try and settle his mind with a spot of introspection and self-therapy, ‘the day before my last tournament and I’m here, by myself, in my room, in a huge hotel, basically talking to myself. Christ, nothing ever happens to me. Except tennis of course. There’s always tennis, although not for much longer. Sod it, I’m going to the courts for a last final practice’.
Arm up, ball up, racket up. Racket down, ball down, beer can… not quite down.
He watched as the ball bounced a few more times before rolling to a harmless stop at the far end of the court. The beer can, however, remained obstinately upright.
“Right,” he muttered to himself and went back to the baseline again.
This time the ball clipped the can but the can still remained upright.
“Old injury to your left shoulder, slight tightening of your serratus anterior, partially from overuse, most probably picked up at Queens. Out in the first, no second, round, beaten by someone younger, fitter, faster, but not necessarily better. Wild card entry here, partly due to Queens, mainly because you’re British. They’re desperate and love an underdog. Once ranked as high as 15th in the world, but that was years ago now. This is it, your last tournament. You’re worried you’ll go out in the first round, and unless you change something then I admit there’s a very good chance that you will. You’re just not sure what you need to change.”
He stared in blatant shock at the tall, slight figure leaning casually against the fence behind him. His face fell half in shadow due to the angle of the sun, but there was no mistaking the tousled curls of his dark hair. His image was well known, plastered across billboards, posters, busses, while his name was mentioned practically every time there was a major tournament being discussed. Anyone who knew anything about the sport had heard of –
“Sherlock Holmes,” he man said pushing off from the fence to close the gap between them. “I don’t believe we’ve had the honour.”
No, that was one thing that he did know, they had never faced each other across a tennis court, Holmes’ recent, almost meteoric rise to the top having come after his injury and equally spectacular fall from household name status.
“Yes,” he said nodding as if he understood what had just happened, “I recognised you, although your accent’s different.”
Holmes cocked his head slightly but made no effort to explain, rather a different question emerged. “And you are?” he asked.
John blinked, absently turning his racket in his hand. “John, John Watson,” he said, “but you must have already known that, you know, what with everything you just said.”
“Hardly,” Holmes said. “Everything I said I gleamed simply from my observation of you just now. While from your equipment I can gather your initials to be either JHW, or the slightly less likely due to an inconsistency in capitalisation, MHR, your precise name needed more information than I have in front of me, information you have just now supplied.”
He stared. “You… you don’t know who I am?” he asked slowly.
The other man made a motion that could almost be a shrug. “Should I?” he asked casually.
“No, uh, I guess not,” he conceded.
They both looked up as another man suddenly appeared on the other side of the fence. Older than them both, his dark hair was peppered with white and he had the look of someone who was clearly annoyed.
“What are you doing?” the newcomer said in an exasperated tone. “You know you’re supposed to be back at the hotel room. You have an interview in twenty minutes or did you forget?”
“I didn’t forget, Lestrade,” Holmes bit back. “I said I’ll be there, so I’ll be there. Laisse-moi, vas-t-en!"
The other man – Lestrade? – looked even more annoyed at that if his scowl was anything to go by, but he left without another word.
“Agent or trainer?” John asked, watching as Holmes bounced a ball twice before executing a text book serve that sent the beer can flying.
“Neither,” Holmes said tossing him a spare ball. “Try not to tense your arm and you should be fine.” He pointed to the next beer can along.
John raised his eyebrow but executed the serve anyway. He missed.
“On better thoughts,” Holmes said, “pack it in, take a long shower, get a back rub and spend the evening watching something mindless on the telly.” Then he walked away, just like that.
Bloody hell, John thought. He had literally no idea what had just happened. Was that what people meant when they said that Holmes was abrupt and strange? And why had he come over here in the first place? What had been the point? What had been his motivation?
Shaking his head he shrugged his shoulders and rolled them a few times before retrieving another ball. Arm up, ball up, racket up. Racket down, ball down, beer can… down.
“Hello and welcome to day one of the Championship where the weather is fine and we’re expecting a full and exciting day of tennis. On Centre Court we have Rafael Nadal, Venus Williams and British hopeful Andy Murray. Other Brits in action include Laura Robson and journeyman veteran, John Watson. On the red button you will have a choice of court, including Number One Court where first up is the number three seed, Sherlock Holmes, in what promises to be an explosive opening match.”
Explosive? It was little short of a massacre.
John stared at the TV in silent fascination and horror as Holmes – cool as anything – pulverised his opponent. Actually it was less of a decimation and more of a careful dissection of his opponent’s game. Two games all in the opening set and it looked reasonably straight forward, then it was as if Holmes stepped up a gear, breaking serve and then dominating.
The first set went to Holmes 6-4. The second 6-2.
By the time the third set started it was clear to everyone that it was already all over and the result a foregone conclusion. Nothing his opponent tried worked and his head dropped with every error, missed shot or ace.
Just sixteen minutes into the third set and it was finally over, Holmes had won; 6-4, 6-2, 6-1.
“Yes, ah had a good metch,” Holmes told the reporter afterwards in his usual French accented brisk tone. “It was, uh, nice, eazy. Not so much of a challenge.”
“You looked very comfortable out there,” the interviewer said. “Do you think it could be your turn to lift the trophy this year?”
“Bet of course,” Holmes replied as if it was a ridiculous question to ask. “Ah would not be playing if I beleeeved, uh, differently.”
John didn’t bother to watch the rest, he had his own match to prepare for. Three o’clock, court eleven, against a kid almost young enough to be his son. Oh god, he even looked young enough to be his son. Wasn’t there a rule against looking that young? He shouldn’t be wielding a tennis racket, he should be at home playing Mario Power Tennis on the Wii with his mates.
He was getting too old for this.
Nonsense, Watson, he told himself firmly as he completed his stretches, it’s simply up to you to give him a firm introduction to his first grand slam. Keep calm, keep relaxed, and show the kid what it is really like to play with the pro boys.
Ten minutes later he was undergoing the long walk to court eleven, a new crisp white shirt on his back and his racket bag slung over his right shoulder. This was it, he realised, twenty-five years of training, a thousand balls a day, three hundred and sixty four days a year and it was all going to end in front of a minimal crowd, on a far flung court against a kid who was just starting out.
He took his seat and retrieved his first racket, knocking it against his hand to test the strings.
No, he thought. No.
He got to his feet and started his warm-up. The kid was good but he wasn’t that good. He was young and fast but lacked experience and precision. Return his serve, keep him off balanced, get him frustrated and the match was in the bag.
It was time to start and having lost the toss he was receiving first.
Come on, Watson, he thought, his racket spinning as he watched the boy bounced the ball once, twice and then it was hurtling over the net towards him.
He returned, down the line, it was good.
Love – fifteen.
Good start. Excellent start. Got the point, some more just like that and the match would be his. Keep focused, keep alert, keep relaxed.
The ball flew over the net towards him. He hit it back, again… and again… and again.
He won. 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
He was still in the game.
He hated press conferences, always had but they had gotten progressively worse over the years as it became shockingly clear that he was never going to live up to the hype placed on him by eager Brits desperate to find some sort of sporting hero. The one thing the British press enjoyed as much – if not more – than thrusting someone into the dizzy heights of potential stardom was ripping them down again when it became clear they could not live up to the expectations heaped on them. It hadn’t taken them long to realise that he was at best going to be the runner-up and never the winner.
“Since this is probably going to be my last ever Wimbledon press conference,” he said keeping his gaze ahead but not focussing on anyone in particular, “I would like to take the opportunity to formally announce my retirement from the game, effective immediately this tournament ends.”
There, he had said it and the press had hardly been bothered. They had been more interested in the arrival of the American number two seed that happened to walk past as he had been speaking. It was somewhat crushing of course, but he had had worse. Choking in the semi-final of the French Open and losing despite having been two sets up certainly sprung to mind. He had never been allowed to forget that one.
Escaping the conference he headed back to his hotel by taxi, glancing at his mobile to see what he had missed.
‘You have two new messages.’
‘Hi John, Mike here. Congrats on the win. Shoulder’s looking good. Don’t forget to put something on it. Call me if you have any trouble.’
‘Johnny, it’s Harry, you still haven’t called. Good result by the way, second round here you come. Keep playing like that and who knows, you could even make the second week, then you’ve got to get me tickets. Call me.’
He saved the first but deleted the second.
The press were all over the front entrance to the hotel when he got there, although they showed no interest in him, which was more than fine. Slipping past, he made his way up to his room and then froze in the doorway.
The figure stretched out on his bed barely reacted, just glanced up and then returned to whatever he was doing on the laptop.
“I see you managed to relax your shoulder,” the intruder said after a few moments. “Not a bad win, although your backhand slice could do with a little work. You’re turning your wrist a fraction too much, means your returns end up in the net more often than not. And you might want to consider coming in. Standing in the corridor gaping really isn’t a good look for you.”
Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock bleeding Holmes, was in his room, giving him advice. Bloody hell.
Stepping in, he let the door close behind him and carefully placed down his bag and rackets.
“Mr Holmes,” he started as calmly as he could.
“Sherlock, please,” the other man said, “and you’re John, unless you prefer Watson.”
He blinked. “Uh, John,” he said.
“John it is then,” Holmes… Sherlock said.
Right. What had he been saying? Oh yes. “What the hell are you doing in my room?”
“Bored,” Sherlock said, his fingers still tapping away.
“Wait,” he said with a frown, “is that my laptop?”
“Yes,” Sherlock said without an ounce of embarrassment. “Mine’s in my suite.”
“But… but it’s password protected.”
“And it took me less than two minutes to crack yours.”
Bloody hell! Finally spurned into action he crossed the room and snapped down the laptop lid, removing it from Sherlock’s lap. Putting it down he turned back to stare at the Frenchman.
“Seriously,” he said, “what are you doing here, in my room, on my bed, using my laptop?”
The look he received was incredibly similar to the one the reporter had got after asking if he thought he might win the Tournament. “I told you,” Sherlock said, slipping his long limbs from the bed to stand and stretch, “bored. Everyone around here is so dull, but you seem at least mildly distracting, so I thought I’d come here and wait for you.”
“Right.” In a strange, twisted sort of way that almost made sense. “Thanks, I think. Wait, how did you get in?”
The Frenchman just smiled. “I’m thinking dinner,” he said instead. “I know this great little Italian place. Meet me at the rear entrance, seven thirty.”
Then he was gone.
John stared at the door as it closed. What exactly had just happened there?
Seven thirty gave him just enough time to shower, brush his teeth, grab some new clothes, decide he didn’t like those clothes, put some more new clothes on, look in the mirror, decide he preferred the first clothes, change again, berate himself for being an idiot, check he smelt fine, flatten his hair and get down to the rear entrance only to find that Sherlock Holmes was nowhere to be found.
Shifting from foot to foot he stuck his hands in his pockets and tried not to look too obvious, or too nervous, or too obviously nervous, or, blimey, he was babbling in his own head now. That was not a good sign.
He checked his watch. Seven thirty-five, five minutes past their assigned time. He bounced slightly on the balls of his feet. Maybe the mad Frenchman had changed his mind. Maybe it had all been an elaborate joke in the first place. Maybe he was being…
Jumping he turned to find Sherlock practically behind him. How had he managed to get there?
“Took me longer to escape the clutches of my entourage than I planned,” he said without any further apology. “Come on, I’ve got us a cab.”
Not a hoax then. Wordlessly he followed the Frenchman out, noting that he too had changed and was now in an elegant black jacket and trousers, and a crisp white shirt open at the collar. He looked… he looked good, like a model. No wonder he seemed to have so many sponsorship deals.
There was indeed a cab waiting for them and he followed Sherlock in trying to catch the address that was given to the driver. It sounded a bit like Northumberland Street but he couldn’t be certain and his knowledge of London was patchy at best. Deciding it wasn’t worth worrying about he sat back and glanced across at the man beside him. He certainly wasn’t what he had been expecting. In fact he hardly seemed like the man he had seen in interviews on the telly at all. If it wasn’t for the obvious, the dark curly hair, the almost catlike blue eyes and the body build of an endurance athlete, he wouldn’t have realised it was the same man at all. He was also frowning at something on his mobile, his lips thinning as his fingers darted across the screen.
“Okay, you’ve got questions,” the Frenchman finally said slipping his mobile into his pocket.
John tried not to look startled, or at least too startled. Was he really that obvious?
“Yeah,” he said as a multitude of possibilities raced through his mind, including ‘why me’, ‘what is going on’ and ‘what’s up with your accent’ being three considered and discarded before he finally settled on, “Where are we going?”
“Small place I know called Angelo’s. Next.”
“Why are we going there?”
“Because I’ve been reliably informed that eating is good for you, and because, as I said before, you’re marginally more interesting than anyone else I’ve met so far and I find eating alone tedious to the extreme.”
He nodded and glanced out the window. “Yes,” he finally said, venturing to mention one of the other questions that had been plaguing him for a day now, “I wanted to ask you about that. Yesterday on the practice courts, how did you know all those things about me? My shoulder. Queens. Oh and congratulations on winning that by the way.”
“Oh,” Sherlock said almost a touch taken back, “thank you.”
“So, did you see me there or something?”
“No,” Sherlock said simply, “or if I did I’ve deleted it. No, everything I said was pretty obvious just from looking at you.”
He frowned. “How exactly?”
“Easy. Your serve told me about your shoulder. Obviously a new injury or you would have been less angry and more resigned about it, but one that exacerbated an old injury that you picked up playing a few years ago. Your shirt and shorts were both new but with a faint grass stain down one side, so purchased and worn recently, but where? They’re good quality, although not the best, but not the sort you would buy just for training or practice, so a tournament then. A recent tournament, on grass where a fall might have caused some damage to your shoulder. Queens then. Could have been Eastbourne but you would have needed to have rested it for longer before coming here.
“Your frustration with your serve suggests you picked up the injury in the match you went out on, but the fact you ended up on your side says you were already losing. Had you been winning you would have let the shot go and simply lost the point. So you were getting desperate. Every point counted. Your opponent was obviously younger and faster than you, but not necessarily better because otherwise he would have killed the game dead before you resorted to acrobatics.
“Then there’s your hair.”
“Along with your clothes, equipment and style it all screams British. British, at Wimbledon and you’re being ignored, so not a high rank then. No one expects you to do very well. You’re careful with your equipment and clothes because most of them you buy yourself rather than being sponsor given, so not even in the top hundred, probably not even top hundred and twenty, hundred and thirty. Wild card then, issued by the organisers partly on your surprise first round win at Queens, which reminded them that you existed, and partly due to sentimentality. Gone out in the first round and they might not have bothered. Sentimentality is important though, the British like a good reminisce which means you must have been good once, but a long time ago now, at least in tennis years. Not top ten, but high enough for them to have once been hopefully, so probably about fifteenth in the world then.
“Then there’s your attitude.”
“My attitude? What about my attitude?”
“The slump of your shoulder and the way you hold yourself suggests weariness and defeat. You can’t keep doing this indefinitely, as reminded by your shoulder, so you’ve finally made up your mind to throw it in, and where better to do so then at Wimbledon, on grass, in front of your home crowd.
“So, how did I do?”
John stared at him in all astonishment before needing to look away and settled instead on focusing on the seat in front of him.
“That,” he said slowly, “was amazing.”
“Do you think so?”
“Of course it was. It was extraordinary, quite extraordinary.”
There was a slight twitch to the Frenchman’s lips. “That’s not what people normally say.”
“What do people normally say?”
They shared the humour between themselves for a moment and John found himself relaxing for the first time since he had found the Frenchman on his bed. On his bed? Best not think about that too closely.
“Did I get anything wrong?”
He pulled a contemplating look as best he could before answering. “I did go out in the second round at Queens. I did pick up an injury to my shoulder there. This is indeed my last tournament.”
“Spot on then,” Sherlock said a slightly smug, slightly proud smile on his face. “I didn’t except to be right about everything.”
“Except my old injury, the one from years ago that almost ended my career, was very much not caused by playing tennis.”
Sherlock tilted his head. “Really? Interesting.”
“And I once reached eleventh in the world, not fifteenth.”
“Ah.” Sherlock reached into his pocket as his phone bleeped again. “A grave underestimate on my behalf. Please accept my sincere apologies.”
The strange thing was that he sounded genuine. Amused, but genuine.
Lips twitching, John decided it wasn’t worth dwelling on and clearing his throat opted instead to change the subject.
“Anything important?” he asked, nodding to where Sherlock was busy texting.
“As usual,” Sherlock replied, hitting the send button with a flourish, “most decidedly not.”
The phone bleeped again signalling another text.
“They seem very insistent,” he remarked.
“Insistent, yes,” Sherlock said. “Also irritating, frustrating, et très, très ennuyeux.”
He wondered if the other man realised that he had slipped into French at the end. It was slightly odd hearing him do so, but at the same time rather attractive. He mentally shook himself for that ridiculous thought, being as it was neither appropriate not helpful, although technically correct.
“Fortunately,” Sherlock continued back in his crisp English tones, “they’re also reasonably easy to take care of.” He slid the phone shut again and returned it to his pocket. He flashed a brief smile. “We shouldn’t have any further interruptions. In fact, it appears we’ve arrived."
The moment the cab stopped, Sherlock was out the door and thrusting the driver the fare. Following, John found himself on the pavement by a cosy looking restaurant. Well, he thought looking at the name across the front, this must be Angelo’s.
It was rather pleasant inside, busy but not crowded, with a warm friendly atmosphere. John found himself liking it immediately, especially when they were quickly shown to a nice reserved table by the window.
“I took the liberty of calling ahead,” Sherlock said, unbuttoning his jacket as he took his seat.
He didn’t get the chance to respond before a large cheery man came to greet them.
“Sherlock,” the man said in a low voice, “anything on the menu, whatever you want, free on the house, for you and your date.”
John started. “His date?” he asked eyes wide and eyebrows shooting towards his hair line as he twisted to look at his companion.
“This man got me off a murder charge,” the man continued obviously not paying any attention to what John had said.
“This is Angelo,” Sherlock said with a wave of his hand.
Of course it was Angelo, John thought, because naturally Sherlock Holmes would be on a first name basis with the restaurant’s proprietor.
“Three years ago I proved to the police at the time of a particularly vicious triple murder that Angelo was elsewhere, house-breaking.”
“He cleared my name,” Angelo said.
“I cleared it a bit,” Sherlock corrected, “and you’re incredibly lucky that it was my flat you chose to break into.”
“Something I’m grateful for every day,” Angelo said. “If not for you I’d have gone to prison.”
“You did go to prison.”
Angelo winked. “I’ll get a candle for the table. It’s more romantic.”
“I’m not his…” John started to say automatically before stopping, because actually, despite his questions in the cab, he still wasn’t too sure what this was. He looked across at the Frenchman who was only paying attention to the menu. He was known for being odd, and this was all rather odd, and….
He looked up as Angelo returned with the candle and John thanked him absently before burying his head in his own menu.
“You, ah, come here often then,” he ventured, then mentally cursed himself for what sounded like an absolutely terrible chat up line. Fortunately his companion failed to notice.
“When I can,” Sherlock replied vaguely before placing down his menu, “which is probably more often than you would think. The food’s good. I would endorse anything on the menu, or if there’s anything else you desire I’m sure Angelo will accommodate it.”
“Hmmm, yes,” John replied still perusing through the names of the dishes. “He does seem very accommodating.”
“We have an… understanding,” Sherlock said with a brief twitch of his lips. “Although most of it is his doing. He is also remarkably discreet, something I more than appreciate. Have you decided yet?”
He confirmed he had and Sherlock signalled the waiter, giving his order in what sounded like fluent Italian, before looking at him expectantly. He stammered for a moment before not even bothering to attempt an Italian accent, while his companion watched with a mild look of amusement.
“So,” he said briefly clearing his throat. “House-breaking. You keep a house here then?”
“Obviously,” Sherlock said in that slightly sharp manner he had. “Despite my French nationality and citizenship I am English you know, born and bred.”
“Which explains your accent,” he said finally venturing onto one of the things he was most curious about.
“Naturally,” Sherlock replied. “I was wondering when you were going to ask about that again. I’ve watched the question cross your face a couple of times now.”
John shifted slightly in his seat, not wanting to imagine what else the Frenchman had seen of the thoughts crossing his face. “You obviously speak fluent French,” he said, “and your English is perfect, so why do all your interviews in a French accent and broken English?”
“Why do you think?” Sherlock asked an amused look in his eyes.
He shrugged. “To annoy the press? To avoid having to do long and in-depth interviews?” He tipped his head slightly. “To have a little fun with them?”
Sherlock’s lips twitched. “Very good,” he said, “but only partially right, I’m afraid. While it is undoubtedly rather amusing to have a laugh at the expense of the international media and the British press in particular, and it does certainly prevent them from asking too many questions or expecting too much in return, it mainly started out due to a matter of identity and self-preservation. I am an Englishman playing under an adopted flag. The French need to see me as one of theirs, and if the British think of me as being French then I court less controversy.”
“You don’t like to remind us too much that you’re a traitor you mean,” John said holding back only half the smile.
“Quite,” Sherlock said. “The French want me to be French, the British need me to be French. So I maintain their illusion and everyone is happy.”
“And the self-preservation?”
Sherlock smiled, his face changing slightly as the next words he spoke came out in his French accented broken English. “With ah racket and ah Franch accent I am world famous tennis player Sherlock Holmes.”
“And with no racket and no accent,” he said.
“Then I am just another posh spoken Englishman who bears an uncanny resemblance to someone you might have seen on the telly.”
“That’s brilliant,” he said before he could stop himself.
Sherlock blinked obviously taken back by the statement. “You really think so?” he asked.
“Absolutely. But why didn’t you use the accent with me?”
“Should I have done?”
“Good. Ah, here comes our food. Bon appétit, Jean.”
The food was indeed excellent and they ate in comfortable silence interspaced with casual and easy flowing conversation and some laughter. John couldn’t remember the last time he had had such a relaxed and pleasant time. It was only when their cleared plates were taken away and the candle replaced with a new one that he was reminded why.
“Sherlock,” he said awkwardly, leaning forward slightly.
“Hmmm,” the other man said turning his face from where he had been looking out of the window.
John fidgeted slightly. The next words out of his mouth had the potential to ruin what had so far been a lovely evening, but… and but was the point.
“Is this,” he stopped but then forced himself on. “Is this, you know, a date?”
Sherlock frowned. “I believe it’s pasta,” he said with no other expression.
John sat back slightly, unsure what to make of that. Everything he knew about the man, really knew about him he had found out in the past few hours. He was, after all, well known for not talking about his personal life.
“No, really,” he said motioning around them, to the table, the drinks, the candle. “Is this some sort of,” he cleared his throat, “you know.”
Prim, poised and looking like some kind of model, Sherlock just continued to regard him before finally consenting to give him an answer.
“John,” he said perfectly calmly, “while I may look and sound like a quintessential Englishman, I was raised in France. Therefore, let me assure you that if this was, as you so eloquently put it, a date then you would be under no such doubts.”
Oh. Right. Good. He licked his lips absently while mumbling something that no doubt made sense, or at least he hoped made sense.
“You, uh, don’t talk about your personal life at all,” he finally heard himself saying.
“If you’re referring to interviews,” Sherlock replied, “then no, I don’t on account of it being personal and therefore not relevant to my tennis.”
“Right,” he said. “So, uh, do you have a girlfriend then?”
“Girlfriend? No, not really my area.”
Right. Right! Oh. He swallowed unsure quite what to make of that.
“A, uh, boyfriend then?” he tentatively tried. “Which is fine, of course,” he hurriedly added more than aware that homosexuality and sport did not necessarily mix well, especially with male sport personnel. There was still a certain amount of homophobia around, even in tennis.
“I know it’s fine,” Sherlock said back in a brisk tone.
John almost winced, getting the impression that he might have struck a nerve there but wasn’t too sure what. “I’m sorry,” he said raising his hand. “It’s obviously none of my business. Just… forget it.”
“Hmm,” Sherlock said obviously agreeing, “while you are correct there, just so we are under no mistaken illusions, I do not have a boyfriend.”
“Oh, good,” John said breathing out. “You’re unattached then, like me. Fine. Good.”
Sherlock’s eyes narrowed and he looked away before oddly looking back.
“John,” he said slowly, “if that was your attempt at a romantic proposition then I have to tell you that it’s a wonder you Brits ever….”
“No!” he said quickly, suddenly desperate to stem that flow of thought. “I’m… not asking. Just, no.”
Mercifully his companion stopped talking and just seemed to be watching him closely. Whatever either of them might have found to have said next was interrupted by the appearance of a young girl, hands clasped behind her back as she looked at them shyly.
“Excuse me,” she said as Sherlock looked away from her, “I’m sorry and my daddy thinks I’m being silly, but I think…” she bit her lip, “you look just like, uh, are you John Watson, the tennis player?”
John blinked, having really not expected that one, especially from a child when he was far removed from his usual setting.
“Uh, yes,” he finally said with a slight laugh. “Yes, actually I am.”
The girl’s face lit up. “Really?” she said as if she didn’t believe him.
“Really,” he said with a laugh. “I would prove it but I don’t have my rackets with me unfortunately.”
Hearing Sherlock snort he was almost tempted to kick him under the table. The girl didn’t notice being far more intent on meeting someone apparently famous.
“I told Daddy it was you,” she said excitedly. “He said it wasn’t, but I knew I was right, cause you look like you and everything. Can I have your autograph?”
“Of course,” he said and was handed a napkin and a pen. “What’s your name?”
“Rachel,” she said watching with wide eyes as he carefully wrote out ‘To Rachel’.
“And how old are you, Rachel?”
“And do you play tennis?”
She nodded. “I’ve just started taking lessons and I’ve got posters and everything. Mummy told me about you. She said you were really good and then you had an accident or something.”
He smiled weakly. “Have you any favourite players?” he asked instead.
“Oh yeah,” she said. “Andy Murray of course.”
But of course.
“And Nadal, he’s cool. And there’s this French player I saw on the telly, he’s good and really funny when he talks.”
John pressed his teeth against the inside of his mouth, glancing briefly to the side to see if he could make out Sherlock’s reflection in the window.
“Would that be Sherlock Holmes?” he said mildly.
“Yeah, that’s him,” she said excitedly. “He’s so cool. I bet you know him and everything.”
“I’ve met him,” he admitted. Smiling he handed back the now signed and messaged napkin just as a man he took to be her father approached looking like he had just returned from the back, the toilets no doubt.
“I’m sorry,” the man said, “I only left her alone for a few minutes. She seems to think you’re some tennis player. Silly I know.”
“But he is,” the girl said showing the napkin. “Look.”
Her father smiled awkwardly and gripped her shoulder, throwing John a look as if to say thank you for playing along. John bit back a sigh and just nodded in acknowledgement. He knew he had a generic sort of face and even while he had been at the top of his game he had still been able to get on with his normal life with very few interruptions. It had been nice to be recognised again, if only briefly.
“Come on, love, let’s leave the gentleman alone to enjoy his meal.”
Yup, definitely didn’t believe.
“Excusez-moi, monsieur,” a deep voice suddenly said in a very recognisable French accent, “but ah can assure you that this is indeed Monsieur John Watson, tennis player extraordinaire. Your yung ladiee is quite correct on zis account.”
The man stopped and gaped, and he wasn’t the only one. John found his eyebrows shooting towards his hairline as he stared across at his companion who within the twitch of his shoulder had changed his entire posture, appearance and accent. It was almost as if he was looking at a completely different person, as if he was looking at the tennis player and not the man.
“You’re,” the man said, “you’re….”
“Sherlock Holmes,” he said reaching to pluck the napkin and pen from the girl’s grasp. “Rachel,” he said as he wrote, pronouncing the name the French way. “You ah a viry smart yung ladiee. You observed and saw my friend here for who he is. This is a viry important skill. Do not forget it.”
He signed his name with a flourish and handed both pen and napkin back. John smothered a laugh as he noticed what the other man had written. ‘Rachel’, the napkin now also said, ‘you were right, and my accent is funny. Sherlock Holmes’.
“Thank you,” she beamed. “Thank you so much. Daddy, I was right.”
“Yeah,” the man said. “So you were. Uh, sorry again,” he added to them still smiling in an astonished awkward way as he led his daughter back to where they had been dining.
“You didn’t need to do that,” John said softly once they were gone. He fiddled slightly with his napkin.
“Nonsense,” Sherlock said once again very much the Englishman, “that man was clearly an imbecile. Now, what do you say we ask Angelo if his generosity extends to low fat desserts.”
They weren’t interrupted again, being as they were politely ignored by the other diners in a way only the British could do. A still delighted Angelo fixed them a generous mascarpone fruit salad which they shared between them mindful of the alcohol and calories, enjoying it slowly as they regained the easy conversation of before.
Finally finished, Sherlock slipped a generous tip under a plate and they headed out into the still warm, light night. For a moment John thought he saw a look of hesitation cross the Frenchman’s face, but then they were climbing into a taxi and on their way back to the Dorchester.
They were standing alone by the lift in the hotel, the next closest person to them being a black-suited security personnel some way down who was pointedly ignoring them. Glancing up, John was startled to find his companion closer to him than he had been expecting, head tilted down as his voice dropped in volume.
“I believe it only proper to inform you that while I don’t do dating on any account, I do on occasion, however, do coffee.”
John swallowed, his heart suddenly pounding as the doors of the lift opened with a ding. “Oh right,” he managed as he was followed in. He carefully pressed the button for his floor.
The lift doors slid shut. He stared at them for a moment, hands clasped behind his back, his mind in a strange state of both action and inaction.
He cleared his throat.
“In that case,” he said carefully, “would you care to join me for coffee in my room?”
Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.
Lips twitched. “Delighted to.”
The doors slid open.
They walked down the corridor to his room and stood patiently while he fiddled with the keycard. The door finally open they entered.
Their lips met with almost bruising force the moment the door clicked shut behind them, hands scrabbling for purchase in clothing as their mouths opened and their bodies pressed together in an almost unseemly manner. Christ, he was hard already and they hadn’t even managed to get any clothes off yet. Sherlock’s body was warm against him, lean and firm and felt so shockingly good against him, that he would have wondered why he hadn’t considered this sooner if it weren't for the fact his brain was currently incapable of thoughts more complex than, ‘bloody hell, yes, god yes!”
“You bastard,” he managed, gasping for breath as the extremely talented lips left his to seek out the newly discovered realms of his neck and throat.
Sherlock hummed against him, consenting for his jacket to be pushed to the floor before nipping gently at a rather sensitive spot behind his ear.
“No marks,” he spluttered after a slightly unmanly yelp before wrapping his fists in expensive material and pulling the Frenchman’s lips back to his. Tennis, it turned out, was not the only thing Sherlock was good at, or put another way, lawn tennis was not the only type of tennis he was an expert at. It appeared, he realised as the warm, very agile tongue wreaked havoc against his own knowing just where and when to flick, rub and caress, that the French really were masters of the type of kissing attributed to them.
He giggled, finding himself leaning against the wall, shirt unbuttoned and half off his shoulder while nimble fingers were making short work of his jeans belt.
“Something amusing?” There was a quirk to Sherlock’s lips, lips now a touch plumper and noticeably pinker than they had been earlier in the evening. It was definitely a good look for him, a touch dishevelled, his shirt untucked and showing the signs of manhandling.
“Mad, totally mad,” he said, sliding a hand up the near hairless chest to test the sensitivity of a nipple.
Sherlock’s eyes fluttered and then a hand pushed open his flies and John groaned as long, agile fingers cupped his length. His hips thrust forward automatically, his eyes sliding shut at the sensation even dulled as it was by his underwear.
“Oh God,” he said grasping at the top of the arm teasing him to distraction.
“If you like,” said the deep voice, head bending so he could feel the words against his check, and then his mouth was claimed again, wet and wide and deep.
It had been years since he had been snogged so thoroughly and even longer since it had been by another man. He had almost forgotten the feel of slight stubble against his skin, the smell of the more earthly aroma of male cologne, the feel of a powerful thigh between his….
He pulled away, pressing his nose against the long neck on display in front of him and breathed deeply. “What cologne is that?” he asked.
The lips were again on his neck, teeth nipping playfully at his skin.
“Hmmm? Oh, Dolce and Gabbana.”
“Aren’t you the face of one of the others?”
There was another hum, a slight chuckle and then a squeeze of the hand that had his knees momentarily wanting to buckle. Any and all thoughts about cologne, sponsorship and being a traitor flew out of his head and batting the hand away decided it was quite time he became more of an active participant in the current proceedings.
With a firm hand he pushed the Frenchman back before kicking off his shoes and stripping away his shirt. By the time he had made short work on his jeans, pants and socks he had a naked and very aroused Frenchman in front of him. Then his back was somehow hitting the bed and everything got considerably warmer and more intense.
God Sherlock was good. It was as if he knew exactly where to kiss, to lick, to touch; and that mouth, god that mouth should be considered illegal, because although it might have been a while for him it surely had not felt quite like this before, not with a new partner at least.
A new partner?
Oh. Christ. Damn!
He tapped the broad shoulder and tried again when he didn’t get a response more than a quick nip against the skin on his ribs and a hand curving around one of his balls.
Jesus! He jerked upwards at the light squeeze, one hand scrambling in the sheets as the other pressed into the man’s shoulder.
“God, no, Sherlock, we haven’t, uh….”
He stopped as the small blue packet almost hit his chin.
“You were saying,” the deep voice rumbled in the chest pressed against his side and leg.
“Oh god, you knew, you planned this,” he said his head falling back weakly.
There was a chuckle. “This…” the hand on his balls finally moved up to tighten around his cock, the thumb flicking across the pre-come gathering at the tip in a way that made his hips jerk and embarrassingly high sounds escape his throat, “was always a possibility, yes.”
Then the hand was a fist and was moving up and down at just the right speed with just the right amount of firmness, and… and… oh, yes, that was good, so very, very, very….
He whined as the hand left. He couldn’t help himself. He wanted, he needed….
The condom had been plucked from where it had fallen to the sheets and was now being carefully opened.
“Wait,” he said, “I… I don’t…” he started and then swallowed because how do you explain in this sort of situation that it’s been such a long time since you’ve been ‘on the bottom’ that you’re not too comfortable doing it now, especially as they were in the midst of a tournament. Fooling around was one thing; running the risk of being unnecessarily sore in a delicate place was completely another.
“Yes,” Sherlock said his tone firm but brisk, “but I do,” and with that John watched in mild surprise as the condom was rolled onto him.
“Now, if you’re quite prepared,” Sherlock continued, moving to straddle him, his own cock hard and leaking against his stomach. “I believe the phrase is, ‘lie back and think of tennis’.”
The bastard had even brought lube with him.
John felt his mouth fall open with a gasp as in one steady but smooth movement Sherlock sank onto him, taking him deeper and deeper until there was nowhere else to go. It was so hot and so tight and so fucking, fucking good that his hips jerked just in case there was more to be had.
“Fuck!” he said, hands scrambling to grasp at the narrow hips, and then Sherlock shifted, gradually leaning downwards until their lips briefly met, eyes hooded but alert.
“I do believe,” the Frenchman said breath warm against his lips, “that that’s exactly what we’re doing.” Then his lips had curved into an elegant but teasing smile and he was moving, just slowly at first, but up and down, thighs flexing, head falling back. It was an incredible sight, absolutely fucking incredible. Forget tennis, this was a far more enjoyable type of bouncing.
“Mon Dieu, that’s good,” Sherlock breathed shifting his hips just slightly on the down stroke, back arching as he obviously found his prostate. His cock bobbed with his movements, slapping wetly against his stomach, hard and incredibly enticing.
Jerking his hips in time with the thrust down, John moving his hand from where it was gripping the beautifully shaped thigh to stroke his fingers down the offered cock. He almost laughed when Sherlock’s rhythm faltered for a moment, a growl coming from deep in his chest. Taking pity on him, he wrapped his hand around the erection and stroked in time, gasping himself at the rewarding extra squeeze around his own hard length on a rather forceful down.
Christ it was all so good, but he already knew it wasn’t going to be enough for him, not unless it went on for the duration of a set and he doubted that would do either of them any good.
Smiling slightly, he continued to enjoy the rise and fall until finally he reached his limit. Using Sherlock’s own momentum, he twisted his hips and in a move he had perfected over the years, reversed their positions. It was a far from perfect execution, but Sherlock’s surprise had given away to a look of pure desire that he didn’t care that it hadn’t been particularly graceful and had ended with him slipping out.
“Now,” he said, holding himself over the other man, caging him in with his limbs, “what were you saying about lying back and thinking of tennis?”
Re-angling his hips, he pressed his lips against his partner’s and swallowed the resulting gasp as he pushed back in. The strong thighs moved to once again grip at his waist, hips shifting up for a better position.
“Oh, god, yes,” he gasped as one particular thrust had the body below him arching in a way that was almost indecent. “That’s it, isn’t it? That’s the one.”
Another thrust, another arch and he knew he was hitting the prostate virtually every time. He was also hitting all his triggers, not helped by the fact the man below him was watching him opened mouthed and clearly enjoying the proceedings.
He really wasn’t going to last much longer like this. Not with the tight heat and the firm thighs and the way Sherlock’s knuckles were now knocking against his stomach having wrapped those long fingers around his prick and was pumping in time with every thrust.
“Plus fort,” he heard breathless but demanding. “Plus fort, Jean. Comme ça. Oh oui. Encore… Encore, Jean… Mon Dieu, oh… oui!”
And then the Frenchman was arching against him, thighs flexing, head back as he came.
That was all John needed, and as Sherlock’s body clenched around him he thrust once, twice more, buried himself in as deep as he could be, and let go.
“That was ridiculous. That was the most ridiculous thing I have ever done.”
Condom dealt with and his muscles sinking into a pleasant state of unresponsiveness, he flopped back on the bed, the back of his wrist pressed against his forehead. He barely managed to get his words out from between the giggles he was being subjected to. Oh god he was giggling, actually giggling. He hadn’t done that in years. He really shouldn’t be giggling, it was bad, giggling bad, oh god he couldn’t stop.
“And you posed naked for a photo shoot.”
Oh god. His arm fell into his eyes.
“Charity,” he managed,” and that wasn’t just me.” He really shouldn’t have told him that story over dinner.
At the sound of running water he finally opened his eyes, stretching out as he contemplated whether he should be pulling his clothes back on. What was the standard protocol for when you’ve just had a jolly good shag with someone you’ve basically only just met.
He looked across to where Sherlock was emerging from the small bathroom and tossed him one of the hotel’s handtowels that had been dampened slightly.
“Thanks,” he said, wiping it down and across his chest and groin. His companion had obviously already done so but was now moving around the room still completely naked and not appearing to be bothered by that in the slightest. Well, why should he be? He had the loveliest of bodies. Well shaped thighs, a perfectly shaped bottom, trim waist, flat stomach, broad shoulders, and arms that suggested both strength and agility. His chest was defined but not overly so, and was almost hairless save for the dark patch that ran from his navel to his crotch.
Oh his crotch.
Flaccid, his penis was nothing particularly special but he was obviously more of a grower because when erect he had nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing at all. The man looked like some kind of model, albeit one with differing tan lines across his body, but they only seemed to add something.
“So,” he said because he felt he should say something, “do this sort of thing often?”
Sherlock bent down to retrieve his jacket, or at least something from his pocket, his mobile from the looks of it. “Please refrain from asking questions you don’t really want the answers to,” he said.
Oh. He scratched absently at his belly. Sherlock was reading something on his phone.
“This going to happen again?” he asked because well, it was good to know those sorts of things. It usually meant far less confusion in the long run and he wasn’t about to claim that it hadn’t been an enjoyable experience. It had certainly been that. If nothing else it had been a long time since he had been with another man, and there was no way that he would believe that Sherlock hadn’t enjoyed it just as much. The man had practically shattered apart beneath him.
“I don’t shag before a match.”
“Right, just after one then.”
“Of course.” Sherlock looked up from his phone long enough to flash him a brief smile.
“So did you talk to me yesterday just on the off chance I might shag you through the mattress today?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I told you, you seemed interesting. It was your serve and not your sexual prowess that attracted me.”
He laughed slightly. “My serve? You expect me to believe that?”
“I expect you to believe whatever it is you want. I may be considered strange if not weird by many, but not even I am likely to proposition a fellow tennis player on the off chance he’s not a raving heterosexual. I do have a modicum of self-preservation and sense despite what some believe.”
“So when you invited me for dinner….”
“It was for the purpose of sharing food with not totally imbecilic company. It was only your comments throughout the evening that led me to believe you would not be totally averse to a quick rough and tumble between the sheets.”
“Well, that and the porn on your laptop.”
“Oh god!” He covered his face, feeling his skin heat up beneath his touch.
“Nothing to be ashamed of,” Sherlock continued. “You have half decent taste in porn, although the one with the two guys over the front of that….”
“Shut up!” It was all he could do not to toss the nearest pillow at the bastard’s head. “Can we please not talk about this? It’s bloody awkward as it is.”
Sherlock cocked an eyebrow. “Why? Is it because we’re both unclothed still? You needn’t worry, I’m sure you’re more than aware that you are an attractive man. I am quite enjoying the view if you must know.”
“Oh god, stop, please, just stop.”
“Interesting. Are you aware that when you blush it goes down to your chest as well?”
He groaned, scrubbing his eyes with his hands. “Do I need to find something else to occupy your mouth with?”
Sherlock’s lips twitched. “If you’re referring to a second round of horizontal tennis then I will have to decline. While I don’t have a match tomorrow I still need to retain my stamina and we certainly don’t need to do anything that might damage that shoulder of yours. No, I should take my leave and let you do whatever it is you do before retiring. You’ve no doubt got plans for tomorrow.”
Oh. He swallowed, finding that far more disappointing than he would have thought he would.
“Yeah,” he said staring up at the ceiling. “You might want to get dressed first though. People might talk.”
“People do little else. But you’re right, not even my eccentricities will allow for me to be able to walk through the hotel au naturel. And by all means, feel free to stare at my bum as I continue to pick up my clothing.”
Groaning he returned to staring at the ceiling trying to ignore the now silently dressing Frenchman. It was weird to think that less than half an hour before they had been panting into each other’s mouths and sharing bodily fluids.
“Good night, John.”
Fully dressed again in his suit and shirt, the man looked just as delectable but somehow far more untouchable.
“Au revoir, you mean,” he said with a slight smile.
“Quite,” and then the Frenchman was gone, the door clicking shut behind him.
Flopping back on the bed John tried to figure out what to do next. Sleep would be good he knew. He had had a long and surprisingly eventful day, but he doubted he would be able to sleep quite yet.
His eyes fell to his laptop.
Getting up he pulled on his pyjamas bottoms and switched on the computer. For the first time ever he felt inspired to write but sighed when he realised he couldn’t. After all what would he say? Won a match, was taken out to dinner by a mad Frenchman who I then shagged through the mattress. No, really not.
He sat for a moment staring at the blank screen, tapping his fingers absently against the table. Then he smiled.
Turns out I’ve still got it, he typed and left it at that.
Although he also thought it wise to change his password. Just as a precaution.
End of Part One