A Study in Doubles: A Tale of Two Tournaments
Tournament One: Los Angeles
He was surprisingly fidgety. Any other time and he would pass it off as the result of having been cooped up on a plane for eleven hours even if he had had the luxury of flying business class, but he had been restless before he had even got into the taxi at Baker Street. In fact he had been jittery ever since Clara had announced a change to his expected schedule and then waved his passport and a plane ticket in his face and told him to cheer up, snap out of it and stop being so bloody mopey. Apparently mopey wasn’t allowed for Wimbledon winners and she had got sick of seeing his faked happy smile. After that he had easily achieved the level of cheeriness expected for someone who had found his name praised across both the back and the front pages of the newspapers, and had then dashed off to pack, because Clara being Clara had somehow booked him a ticket for the next day.
“You’re a lot of things, John,” Clara had told him, “and at the moment besotted is one of them. Miserable is another. So go, go surprise that gorgeous crazy frog of yours and bloody well cheer up. Alright?”
So here he was in Los Angeles of all places, pressing his fist into his thigh as he thought about what was going to happen very soon.
He hadn’t been to Los Angeles in years. In fact he had lost track of how many years it had been, certainly not since his injury and even before that he had only competed in the L.A Open a couple of times if that. As nice as it was as a tournament, it was just one of many minor ones that made up the US tour and even the promise of sun, sea and Hollywood hadn’t always made it seem worthwhile trekking all the way to the West Coast, not when you could go to Atlanta instead.
But this wasn’t about him and his tennis schedule, this was about Sherlock.
It had been three weeks and six days since the final of Wimbledon. Three weeks and six days since he had hung up his rackets as the first Brit to win the Wimbledon Men’s Singles Championship in seventy-four years. Three weeks and six days since Sherlock had walked back into his life with an apology, a notebook and a confession that had changed everything.
He leant back in his seat and let the smile creep across his face.
He still couldn’t quite believe that it had only been three week and six days. In fact he was certain that thinking about it was one of the reasons for his giddiness. It sounded a little sad really, like he was some sort of lovestruck teenager on a hormonal high, but was that really surprising?
The week following Wimbledon had been a whirlwind of interviews, appearances and Sherlock. Between the euphoria of winning and the more than brilliant shagging, he wasn’t sure he had stopped smiling at all, even in his sleep, especially in his sleep since that usually involved some contact with a warm, athletic body. More than once he had woken up to find one of them spooned behind the other, or equally as likely, Sherlock sprawled face down, an arm slung out across his chest as if to make sure that he couldn’t run away. It was undeniably endearing, especially as Sherlock would always deny such a thing while his eyes said something different.
It had been like some sort of dream, one where he was popular, famous and revered by the public and then got to go home to a gorgeous, talented man determined to show him just how brilliant he was. But like all dreams there had been that moment when you were forced to wake up and see reality for what it was. In this case reality had involved watching Sherlock silently pack up his tournament gear at Baker Street, knowing that it had to happen but not liking it one bit.
They had both known that their time together in London was limited, even with Sherlock – or more likely Lestrade or Mycroft – rearranging his playing schedule, switching from Atlanta to LA just to give them an extra week together. Sherlock had playing commitments and he had whatever commitments Clara had twisted his arm to agree to. Their lives, which had come together so completely for a short time, were once again to spiral away in different directions.
Their love-making that evening had taken on a sense of urgency and intensity, as face to face they had watched and breathed as he had rocked his body into his lover’s, straining for that little bit more as if by reaching it they would be able to truly become one, never to be parted.
Words that had been on the tip of his tongue had been swallowed by desperate, needy kisses, as hands had gripped and grasped and held on as they had finally tumbled over the precipice of climax, shuddering against each other in a shared moment of pleasure.
“Say you’ll come to Toronto,” Sherlock had mumbled pressing his nose against the hollow of his throat.
“Yes,” he had replied, the tightness in his chest loosening slightly as he had then tipped his head to capture Sherlock’s lips once more with his.
The morning had of course come far too soon, the early morning light adding a glow to Sherlock’s skin as Lestrade left them to take the last bags down to the taxi.
“Toronto?” Sherlock had asked his voice uncharacteristically quiet.
“Toronto,” he had affirmed before pressing a brief, chaste kiss to his lover’s lips.
Then there had been nothing more to be said and Sherlock had gone, and although Sherlock had told him to stay in the flat, without Sherlock, Lestrade and the rest of his entourage, Baker Street felt far too quiet and empty with just him and Mrs Hudson.
It hadn’t taken long for his euphoric mood to evaporate as other lives moved on around him as well, and while Clara managed to keep him busy and his bank balance rising, it wasn’t the same without having someone around to laugh about it with. He missed Sherlock. They may have only known each other for a ridiculously short amount of time in the long scheme of things, but there it was, he missed Sherlock and while Skype was brilliant, it wasn’t a substitute for having his lover lying next to him, a possessive arm slung across his chest.
Which would fully account for his nervousness now, because Los Angeles had never been part of the plan. Not that they really had had a plan. There had been no talk about the future other than the most immediate future and certainly no discussion about them. There had been a few jokes about what might happen if their relationship became known and mentions of Sherlock taking him back to his home in France for a visit, but little else. It had been as if neither of them had wanted to look too far ahead, both of them perhaps aware of their poor track records when it came to relationships.
“We’re here, Mr Watson.”
He pressed his fist further into his thigh and took a deep breath. The car had pulled up outside a very classy looking hotel and the nervous feeling in his stomach had intensified as he realised that this was it. This was where Sherlock was staying, had been staying since leaving London, and this was where he would be spending the next couple of nights as well before they headed off to Toronto.
The car door being opened for him, he stepped out of the cool air conditioned interior into the sharp Californian heat.
He had been met at LAX by a hired chauffeur who seemed to know far more about what was going on than he did. Clara, it seemed, had been busy scheming the whole thing with Lestrade and possibly Anthea behind his and Sherlock’s backs. A number of people appeared to be intensely invested in this relationship and as weird as that was, it did mean he was free to turn up and simply enjoy it and leave the organising, planning and worrying to someone else.
Well, that type of worrying. He had enough to worry about on his own.
Apparently, even here at the hotel everything had been arranged and he found himself checked quickly into a pre-organised room only to be then taken somewhere else entirely.
“I’m sure you’ll be far more comfortable here, sir,” the chauffeur/henchman/conspirator said as he switched the room keycards and pushed open the door on a large, elegant, cool suite.
It was instantly obvious that this was Sherlock’s suite. Even without the practice rackets and other tennis related equipment lying scattered around there was just something about it. It screamed Sherlock almost as much as Baker Street did, although this time there was a sense of imminence about it. This was where Sherlock currently was, even if he wasn’t actually physically there at present.
“Mr Holmes will be along shortly, sir,” the chauffeur said with an expression that was absolutely neutral but which still somehow managed to say that he knew exactly what that really meant. Then the man was gone and he was alone again.
Carefully putting down his small bag, he slowly walked through the room, drinking it all in as he tried to control the giddiness welling up inside him. He was here, he was actually here. Oh god, please let Sherlock be happy to see him. Please.
The knot tightened in his stomach. It would be alright, he told himself. Of course it would be alright. More than alright. How could it possibly not be alright?
Picking up one of Sherlock’s practice shirts from where it had been tossed over some rather large boxes, he lifted it to his nose, breathing in the scent he had come to associate with his lover. Oh yes, that was it, that was Sherlock.
The bedroom had a king-size bed, the bathroom a roomy shower and a very nice sunken bath complete with a variety of taps and buttons.
Wandering back to the main room he crossed over to the French windows, sliding them open to step out onto the balcony. Below was one of the hotel’s swimming pools and his eyes were immediately drawn to a very familiar figure standing at the near end. Even without seeing the person’s front he would have known that body anywhere; from the top of the head with the damp curls, across broad and deceptively muscular shoulders, down to a slim waist. Black swim wear covered a very shapely arse and led onto powerful and toned legs. His skin glistened in the early evening sun, his body flexing nimbly and athletically as he neatly dived into the clear water, gliding smoothly near the bottom before surfacing within a few short strokes of the other end. Executing a roll, he pushed off from the far wall and continued back the way he had come with steady and even strokes, before turning and going back again. As with everything he did, he was graceful and efficient and John could not help but watch with pleasure as his lover continued his swim.
It was Lestrade who ended it of course, Sherlock pulling himself out of the pool with a look that suggested he was unhappy with the interruption. Smiling to himself, John withdrew quietly back into the room, not wanting for Sherlock to discover his presence until the last moment. After all the effort that a lot of people had put in to get him there, it would be a shame not to see close up Sherlock’s expression when he came in.
Provided Sherlock was happy to see him.
Of course Sherlock would be happy to see him. No, not just happy, delighted, ecstatic, euphoric. Clara had almost thrown a thesaurus of words at him in an attempt to reassure him when the doubts had started to creep in. But even her blunt assessment of Sherlock’s emotional state at seeing him hadn’t quite been enough to silence the little nagging feeling that maybe the fairytale dream was over, that in their time apart Sherlock had realised that he didn’t need a retired, half broken down Englishman trailing after him and getting in the way.
No. He pushed those thoughts aside and looked around again, tapping his fingers against his leg. By his estimate he had about five minutes before Sherlock walked – or stormed – in through those doors.
Five minutes. Just five minutes.
Hunting for a distraction of any kind, his gaze was drawn to the various boxes and packages dotted around the room. The first bore the laurel wreath of Fred Perry. The next the familiar red logo of Wilson. Dior was inscribed simply across another. It looked like samples or orders, which made him curious as to what Sherlock was doing with them now and here of all places. Maybe he was thinking of changing sponsors, but he hadn’t mentioned anything. Then again, that would be the sort of ‘inconsequential’ thing Sherlock was likely to forget to mention.
His head snapped up as he heard voices as the door started to open. Sherlock’s familiar rich baritone mixed with the rapid French sent a shiver of anticipation down his spine and then it all stopped, mid-sentence, when Sherlock’s gaze alighted on the travel bag by the door and then rose quickly to look round, an almost hopeful expression hovering on the edges of his features.
He was still a touch damp from his swim, his polo shirt sticking to his chest while his hair lay flatter than usual. He had a towel in his hands and had obviously been in the process of throwing a few choice words at Lestrade. All in all, it was perfect and all capped off by the look of sheer joyful amazement that covered his face as their gaze finally met.
“Hello, Sherlock,” he said simply, offering a small smile. “Surprise.”
Oh god, Sherlock was stunning. Somehow in their short time apart he had forgotten just how much he was physically attracted to the other man. But it was more than just physical attraction, wasn’t it, his mind and the tightness in his stomach reminded him.
Sherlock didn’t move, which worried him for a moment, but then Sherlock was stepping fully into the room, barely even noticing when Lestrade quietly closed the door, leaving them alone.
“Yup, that’s me,” he joked gently. “Are you just going to stand there or can I persuade you to come closer?”
“John,” Sherlock said again and then there was a flurry of movement as, as if waking from a dream, Sherlock tossed the towel aside and strode across the room, catching his face in his hands. “John,” he said again and then their lips were being crushed together, tongues tangling hungrily until the knot in his stomach unfurled with a pleasant tingle.
Oh he had missed this.
Mad, it was mad. They were mad, and the situation and humour finally getting the best of them, they wrapped their arms around each other and gave into the laughter and joy of being reunited.
Any fear he might have had that the surprise wouldn’t be a nice one, that Sherlock might not have missed him as much as he had missed Sherlock, that what they had wouldn’t travel well outside of London, evaporated away as their foreheads rested against each other. The giggles finally subsiding, he allowed his eyes to slide shut as he breathed in his lover’s scent. He was here and Sherlock was here and the time apart, short though it had been, faded away like a dream.
“You missed me then,” he joked weakly and pressed another soft kiss to those lips.
“Irrefutably,” Sherlock said, his voice deep as his tongue wrapped around the long word.
He smiled and then their lips met again, softly, fleetingly, once, twice, three times until they gave in and kissed their hello.
It was Sherlock who took the step back in the end, cheeks a touch blushed, lips parted as he tried to catch his breath. It was a sight he liked and one he was determined to see repeated as often as he could.
“I see you missed me too,” Sherlock said clearing his throat, looking him up and down, the curl of a smile to one side of his mouth. “Direct flight, Heathrow to LAX, business class. Two, no, probably three drinks. Tried the crossword, didn’t finish it. You had the window seat on the port side and spent much of the trip listening to your iPod. You’ve brought one large suitcase and one travel holdall with you which means you’re staying through to Toronto and possible beyond?”
He smiled and nodded. “Spot on,” he said, “although I won’t ask how you know about the crossword. Clara finally got sick of me talking about you, so she rearranged everything, bundled me up and here I am.”
“Remind me to thank her.”
“Knowing Clara she’ll remind you herself.”
“No doubt. I’m certain Lestrade was in on it as well. I’ve been rather… short with him lately and yesterday he snapped that since I wasn’t the only one around here not getting laid I should pull my head out of my arse and stop being a miserable, whiney bugger. His words, not mine.”
John laughed. “Oh god, poor Lestrade. Well, I’m here now.” And wasn’t it good to know that he hadn’t been the only one miserable during their time apart. “Of course, if you want to keep your no sex before a match rule then we can always….”
“Shut up!” Sherlock said, tugging him close again and locking their lips with all the intensity of a man who knew exactly what he wanted and this time was not going to stop at anything to get it.
Closing his eyes, John sank into it, wrapping his arms high around Sherlock’s shoulders and let the Frenchman take whatever he wanted. Their bodies pressed together, Sherlock all lean and muscular and there. Oh yes, he was there, in his arms and….
Sherlock pulled away, stepping back suddenly to break the embrace.
“Shower,” he said a touch hoarse before clearing this throat. “I need a shower, and then you, very naked, very gorgeous and very aroused, stretched out on my bed.”
Fisting Sherlock’s polo shirt, he pulled the other man back and resumed where they had left off, this time pressing their pelvises together, just to make it clear that nothing was going to get between them. If Sherlock had been serious about the shower, then he shouldn’t have used that voice of his. Sherlock knew exactly what he could do when he lowered his pitch just a fraction and today was not a day for teasing.
“Forget the shower,” he said between the mutual wide mouthed explorations. “You’d only need another one afterwards anyway… so why waste water and time.” He slipped his hands under the damp shirt and gripped. “I’ve just spent a very long plane journey waiting for the moment when I can lie back and have you bugger me senseless.”
He let out a puff of breath when strong hands wrapped around to grasp his arse.
“Well, in that case,” Sherlock said rhythmically clenching and unclenching those hands, “how could I possibly keep you waiting any longer?”
Their mouths latched onto each other again, wet and hot as they moved against each other interrupted only by the stripping of clothing and awkward stumbling to the bedroom.
The cool sheets against his back felt in direct contrast to the hot body of Sherlock above him as they fell onto the bed. He gasped and jerked as clever lips sought out the most sensitive spots across his body, Sherlock attacking mercilessly until he was a squirming blend of body and sensations. As the mouth descended onto his erection it was all he could do not to come instantly.
“Fuck,” he gasped as his hips jerked, his hand shooting down to tangle in the damp curls. “Sherlooock… holy jeez… stop.”
It was too much. It wasn’t enough. It was both pleasure and pain and would end one way or the other very soon.
He tugged on the hair trying to pull him up, to ease off on the unbelievably good suction.
Sherlock relented with one last suck and one last flick of that ridiculously talented tongue and looked undeniably smug when he finally let him go.
God, to fuck that mouth, to slide back and forth and lose himself in the sensations, but that wasn’t what he most wanted right not. Right now he wanted Sherlock closer and harder and pounding into him until every worry, every little piece of doubt disappeared, if only for a moment.
“Come here,” he said, pulling his partner up and over him, looking into those sharp eyes. “I didn’t fly all this way just to come off in your mouth.”
Another curved smile and a gentler kiss pressed to his lips.
“Is it our time apart or your ‘epic win that so encapsulated national pride and the British never say die attitude’ that has made you so demanding?”
He groaned, the words from one of those sensationalised articles about him taking on new meaning when murmured in a low voice in his ear.
“Shut up and bugger me,” he said, sinking his hands into the delectable arse and pressing himself up for another kiss.
For once Sherlock made no comment, no complaint, just complied with nimble fingers, stretching and preparing him, before sinking in with a mutually contented sigh.
He had missed this. It felt so good, so natural now to have Sherlock pressed deep within him that he wondered how he could have done without it for so long and why he might have once shied away from it. The intimacy, the trust and the incredible sensation of Sherlock moving against his prostate had him aching for me.
“Oh Mon Dieu, Jean. Tu es si bon… parfait… si exquis. Tu me rends fou. Tu es dans toutes mes pensées… tu m’as manqué. Ne me quitte pas. Je t'en prie… ne me quitte pas.”
And then there was the smooth caress of words brushing over him in a stream of low murmured French that never failed to affect him. In the throes of passion he had no chance of understanding what was being said, but even this sounded different from usual. This wasn’t simply short commands or curse words, this sounded like more. Sherlock, who was so often controlled and distant, seemed to be unravelled in his arms.
He gasped as a particularly well aimed thrust sent waves of pleasure to curl in his stomach, one hand clutching at Sherlock’s shoulder, the other falling to the bed to clench and unclench aimlessly.
“Yes,” he said, the rest of the words cut off by Sherlock’s descending mouth.
He wasn’t going to last long, not like this, the feel of flesh against flesh, damp curls brushing his face and the time apart combining mercilessly to outweigh any travel fatigue. He gasped again, his mouth falling open to the probing tongue and then he was there.
Hands clutching, back arching, he groaned as Sherlock’s hand pushed between their bodies to grasp at his straining length, and with a few perfect, brilliant strokes, he came with a silent moan, his lover only a few seconds behind.
There was a limit to the amount of post-coital snuggling and pillow talk he could get out of Sherlock, especially in the early evening when the other man was literally itching to take a shower. Not that they snuggled in a way that his ex-girlfriends would have instantly recognised, but after the clean-up they had flopped down and shared some of the minutiae of their lives, the type they wouldn’t have bothered with during their daily conversations on Skype. How the girl on the check-in desk at Heathrow had recognised him. How Sherlock had broken two racket strings in one match. How neither of them had been to LA in a while.
Then there came a point where Sherlock’s restlessness and discomfort grew too much and John let him take the first shower, turning down the offer to share it. Sharing would come later, he reasoned and Sherlock had that expression that said he wanted to get clean. Apparently, despite having had a shower after his semi-final victory that afternoon – a relatively short match in which he had beaten Feliciano Lopez 6-2, 6-1 – a short warm down in the hotel’s gym followed by a leisurely swim and then hot welcome back sex meant he was long overdue for another shower. Sherlock was nothing if not meticulous about his hygiene.
He lay there for a while, staring up at the ceiling as he listened to the running water. The smell of LA and of Sherlock surrounded him and he relaxed into it.
This was where he was going to stay and sleep, Sherlock had confirmed, no, not confirmed, demanded. He had been rather firm on the matter. A small handful of nights here and then off to Toronto, another flight, but this time together.
Well, sort of together, but at the same time not. Sherlock was going to play, and he was going to, well, be close to Sherlock he supposed. Then they would be parting company again, off to Cincinnati for Sherlock and back to London for him. That was as far as he had allowed himself think, although it wasn’t hard to go further. The US Open wouldn’t be long after that, then a return to Europe, the Moselle Open most probably as it was in France, before a long tour around Asia, then finishing once more in Europe. Sherlock’s season would close at the end of November with the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London and then there would be six weeks before the New Year, Brisbane and the start of the new season. It was a calendar he knew well.
Sighing, he pressed his fist to his forehead and reminded himself that he wasn’t going to think about it. He was here in LA, Sherlock was here, he should enjoy the time they had together and not worry about what the future might or might not involve. Three months, four months, a lot could happen in that time. They might not even still be together.
He ignored the way his stomach clenched at that thought and slipping from the bed, pulled his trousers back on before going to retrieve his luggage. Unpacking would at least give him something to do while Sherlock attempted to drown himself.
It was his name that caught his attention. He wasn’t one to usually pry into someone else’s life, god knows he hated it enough when people pried into his, but a letter with his name coupled with the official ATP logo gave him enough pause for his curiosity to get the better of him.
The paper had been shoved under a couple of slightly battered notebooks but only took a moment to retrieve. Picking it up, he scanned through it just to see if it actually had anything to do with him and then he found himself reading it again, more carefully this time, just in case he had possibly made a mistake. The words, however, failed to change on either the second or even the third reading.
‘Dear Mr Watson,’ it said, ‘we are delighted to confirm your wild card entry for the Canadian Open, ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Rogers Cup in Toronto where you are to partner Mr Sherlock Holmes in the Men’s Doubles. Your first round draw is scheduled for the 9th of August 2010. Further details will be released nearer the time…’ etc, etc.
Doubles? Men’s Doubles? Toronto?
He placed the paper down slowly.
Clearly there was a simple explanation for this, well, other than the obvious, that despite his having announced his retirement from the sport, Sherlock had signed him up to compete in the doubles.
Doubles? He hadn’t played doubles in years and the last time it had been mixed doubles. It had been even longer since he had played Men’s Doubles. What had it been, the Davis Cup? No, more likely a match with Dimmock. His last doubles partner had of course been Sarah and that had been an unparalleled disaster.
Men’s doubles with Sherlock. Sherlock. Could he do that? He was retired. He had hung up his rackets. It was over. He had walked off the court for the last time, and Sherlock bloody well knew that. They had even joked about it, back in London, before ignoring it just in case that twisted feeling returned to his stomach.
Also, while of course there was no one else he would consider playing competitively with, this was Sherlock, whose own doubles history was one of the few that could be considered worse than his. By his own admission Sherlock didn’t play well with others, and other than a handful of Davis Cup ties partnering Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, Sherlock hadn’t played doubles since parting company with Victor Trevor.
So what had Sherlock been thinking? It wasn’t even as simple as just picking up a tennis racket and playing, and anyway, he hadn’t brought any of this tennis equipment with him.
That thought trailed off as his eyes settled on the large box with the Wilson logo across it. He frowned slightly. Sherlock didn’t play with Wilson rackets, his sponsorship was with Head. No, he was the one who played with Wilson.
Crossing over he searched for the label and groaned when he saw his name in neat type. A quick hunt revealed that his name was also on the Fred Perry box and although Sherlock’s name was on the Dior one something told him there was more to be told about that as well.
There was no response other than the continued sound of running water. Damn the man, he wasn’t even here to be shouted at. It was frustratingly inconvenient.
He refrained from banging on the bathroom door in a demanding fashion, or even barging in there. If this was going to turn into some sort of argument then he would prefer it if Sherlock wasn’t naked while it happened.
Oh god, no, he was not about to turn this into some sort of lover’s tiff. He would deal with it logically and calmly. He was not about to spoil this time they had together, or do something that would unbalance Sherlock’s mental state for tomorrow’s final.
He went back to the main room and searched through any other paperwork that had been left behind, just in case. A queasy sensation was settling in his stomach, one he really did not like.
His tennis career was over. He had said so, everyone knew that, Wimbledon had been it. It didn’t matter that thoughts of ‘what if’ had battered his brain during the quiet moments, when he had tripped over yet another tennis ball at Baker Street, when Sherlock had come back sweaty from a run, when it had just been him lying in Sherlock’s bed wondering how the latest match was going. His mind had been made up and Sherlock had the audacity to simply ignore that, to go above his head, to change his decision, and worse than that, to not even be bothered to tell him.
“You’re probably a bit jet-lagged, so we can eat sooner rather than later if you would prefer… ah.”
He turned as Sherlock emerged from the bedroom, damp curls sticking to his forehead, dressed in a loose pair of linen trousers and a pale blue untucked shirt. His eyes widened for a moment as he took in the particular piece of paper that John hadn’t quite managed to let go of.
“Yes, ah,” John said, throwing bite into that very short word. “I’m not going to ask what this is because we both know. This is you deciding you know best again, going over my head, ignoring everything I said.”
“No, don’t John me.” He could feel his temper rising. “This is tennis, professional tennis at a professional tournament, but more than that it’s doubles, Sherlock. You signed us up for doubles, in Toronto, without my permission. When, exactly, were you going to tell me? When we next talked on Skype? When I arrived in Toronto? When you shoved a racket in my hand two minutes before the start of the first match?”
“I…” Sherlock started and then shook himself as if trying to clear both his mind and his body and then his expression changed, his jaw bones become more pronounced. “I was waiting for the right moment,” he said firmly. “It was harder than I had anticipated.”
“Anticipated?” He looked at his lover with a rising sensation of incredulousness. “You planned this? Oh, what am I saying? Of course you planned this. Oh god,” the twisted feeling was growing in his stomach, “is this why you asked me to come to Toronto?” Had the invite been about the tennis and not about them? Had Sherlock only asked him to go to Toronto so he might have a doubles partner?
“Don’t be absurd,” Sherlock said in a tone that suggested somehow that he was being the unreasonable one.
“Absurd?” he said back his voice rising in volume. “I’m being absurd? You planned this. You must have done. You know I’ve retired from competitive matches. You knew Wimbledon was to be it for me from the moment we first met. Christ, Sherlock, it was one of the first things you deduced about me, so why would you so blatantly go against that and behind my back as well?”
Sherlock’s eyes told him nothing, his expression hard and unapologetic. “I had hoped you would react better than this.”
“Hoped, yes, I’m sure,” he snapped, “but not enough to actually tell me and find out.” He stopped and rubbed his thumb across his forehead.
Sherlock didn’t respond but continued to look on without an ounce of shame or remorse.
This was not what was supposed to be happening, John thought in almost fleeting desperation. They weren’t supposed to be arguing, they were supposed to be laughing, or kissing or even just watching the telly, not on the brink of turning a minor problem into a Middle East war zone. Sherlock was standing his ground, as still as a statue, which was something at least. The only other real argument they had had so far had ended with words being thrown that neither of them meant and them parting company for what they had both thought would be forever, two days before the Wimbledon final.
Sometimes that seemed such a long time ago. And sometimes, like now, it seemed just like yesterday.
“Okay,” he said sucking in a deep breath, “talk me through it.”
“It was an idea,” Sherlock said. “That’s all. One tournament, one experiment. It would not affect your retirement from men’s singles and it’s less strenuous on the body than singles, reducing the possibility of you exacerbating an injury. There is also no pressure on us to win.”
John stared at him. “You actually mean that?”
“About the winning, of course I mean that,” Sherlock said. “And you are not compelled to say yes. I’ll be playing singles regardless and if we pull out of the doubles then the tournament organisers will hardly be in a worse position. We were only offered the wild card in consequence of Murray’s doubles withdrawal due to his ankle.”
“And what about those?” he asked waving a hand in the vague direction of the boxes. “Is that all you as well?”
“Hardly,” Sherlock said. “Those can be laid at the feet of your delightful agent. I just agreed to take ownership of them in the interim. She does assure me, however, that she has got you some rather lucrative sponsorship deals. Unsurprisingly, Wilson were more than willing to renegotiate your racket contract and who else were Fred Perry going to want as their new front man than their namesake’s British Wimbledon successor. No doubt she will be in touch with further details, but with the prize money and appearance fees you’ve already added to your bank account in the past month, expect a very flattering Christmas card from your bank manager.”
“I’ll add it to the pile,” he said dryly then nodded to the last box. “Dior,” he said. “Dior’s your sponsor, isn’t it?”
“One of them,” Sherlock said almost dismissively, as if he hadn’t been forced to be part of Dior’s most recent men’s cologne advertisement and launch, his cheekbones and neck splashed across European billboards.
“So, what is it then, new samples?” he asked.
“Yes,” Sherlock said his tone slightly clipped, but did not offer anything more.
This really wasn’t what he had imagined while on the plane. Somehow there was always such a large gap between daydream and reality.
“Right,” he said and ran a hand over his face. What was he supposed to do now? He could feel the effects of the eleven hour flight catching up on him and while the clocks said early evening here, his body said late night. He felt sticky and uncomfortable and while he had once wanted to be as close to Sherlock as possible he now wanted his space. He needed time to think, to breathe and hope that the churning sensation within him would disappear.
“I’m going,” he said turning to grab his bags, just catching the slight look of panic that flickered briefly across Sherlock’s face. “For a shower,” he quickly added. “I’m not leaving, I just need to freshen up and think. Alright?”
Sherlock nodded and let him pass.
The shower was gorgeous and he stood under the warm powerful water for what seemed like an age, letting everything wash off him.
Doubles, in Toronto, it was so tempting, but Sherlock should have known better, or at least he should have asked. That was it, right there, he should have asked rather than presumed. That was Sherlock all over sometimes. The one who made decisions without consultation because everything was just so obvious. Well obvious or not, it would have been nice to be included in the decision making and that he didn’t have to find out like this.
Switching off the shower, he stepped out and towelled himself down with a large and very fluffy towel before slipping on some fresh clothing. Sherlock wasn’t in the bedroom when he emerged, although that didn’t surprise him. Rather, the Frenchman was standing by the large windows, looking silently out at the city. Their eyes met in the reflection on the glass and Sherlock turned but shifted his gaze to a point just to the top and left of him.
“John, I must apologise for my actions. It was not my intention to make you angry, although I see now how that might have happened. I have no expectations as to your decision over the matter and your preference is all that I care about.”
That was good to know.
“You should have spoken to me about it first,” he said.
Well that was a start.
“Look,” he continued, “I really don’t want to turn this into some kind of argument, our time together is precious as it is, just promise me something… don’t do anything like this again, alright? I don’t need you making decisions for me and if you have an idea of this sort again, discuss it with me first. Agreed?”
Sherlock gave a small nod. “Agreed.”
“Good,” John breathed out. “Now, come over here and seal that promise with a kiss.”
Sherlock’s eyebrows pulled together in surprise.
“No, I’m serious,” he said holding out a hand to beckon him over. “I’m not having this hanging over us. I fully intend to get the most out of our time together, so come here and let’s put it behind us.”
Sherlock was awkward at first, stiff as if he didn’t know what to expect, but allowed himself to be pulled into a loose hold. Rising up on tiptoes, John pressed a kiss against his lover’s mouth, closed lipped and brief but enough for some of the tension to leave Sherlock’s body and for the second kiss to be soft and forgiving.
“It’s not as simple as you’ve made out,” he said keeping Sherlock within his arms. “I’m not as young as I used to be and I’m not tournament fit. Other than those knock-arounds with you I’ve barely touched a racket since the final and I haven’t been keeping up with my fitness training either. But…” he added firmly, “that doesn’t mean I’ve made up my mind, and I’m not going to yet. Once I do though, you’ll be the first to know, alright.” He pressed another soft kiss to Sherlock’s lips. “Now, what were you saying about dinner?”
End Part One