the green carnation society
"Nothing you would be too terribly interested in," Watson beaks through his early-morning breakfast table thoughts of anything in the paper, my dear-?
"I suppose you could read it to me in any case," the detective muses, his eyes flashing like antimony—toxic and all-too-beautiful.
"Nothing you would miss out on, my dear detective," is the faux-casual reply, and with the upward twitch of a curiously feminine eyebrow, the paper is brought up to obscure Doctor Watson's face, and Sherlock knows he has lost.
"I am merely conducting a study, dear doctor; it seems you voice has been under all-too-much strain recently."
There is silence, and here Sherlock knows he has won:
"My voice is always under strain, Mr. Holmes. Leave it be and perhaps you shall figure it out one day."
John Watson is a handsome man, Mrs. Hudson cannot help but to notice. He's good-looking, but with a touch of something almost feminine in the contours of his face, the round of his eyes—perhaps, she thinks idly, it's to go along with his short stature, the thin of his shoulders and his small, petty hands with the nails perfectly trimmed.
"Your tea, Mr. Watson."
Perfect cupid's-bow lips curve in a smile around the rim of the teacup he delicately brings to his face.
She almost wonders what Sherlock Holmes could possibly see in this man, and thinks twice, deciding she doesn't in particular want to know the answer.
Their life is wonderfully domestic, and Watson soon learns to hate it.
He hates this languid sitting around doing nothing or next-to-nothing-he hates Sherlock's awful habits, hates him a bit more every time he reaches his long white hand up for the cocaine bottle.
He especially hates the way Sherlock's eyes follow him, how close he is watching, how interested he looks.
He is looking for something.
Goosebumps rise on Watson's arms, and with a dreadfully uneasy feeling pooling in his stomach and a woman's blush on his cheeks, he turns back to his writing, adding a few new embellishments to the recollection of their latest tale, if only because of how much Sherlock is put off by it.
He turns something so awfully rough-around-the-edges, so cold, so painfully self-interested into something beautiful.
Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
But then, Sherlock Holmes was beautiful, in his own very unconventional way.
Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope.
Watson paints a smile on his face, turns his head to look at Sherlock, and breaks his impenetrable gaze.
"My dear friend Oscar," he starts, an upwards quirk of the corners of lips that are all too pretty for a mere doctor, "Oscar Wilde, that is-perhaps you have heard of him? No?-well, he has just published a story which I think you would find quite interesting, Mr. Holmes."
The room is filled with the suffocating atmosphere of tobacco smoke, and when the still air stirs through the house, there comes through the open kitchen door the heavy scent of rosemary and sage, or the more delicate perfume of fresh-picked mint.
There are secrets here. In the blue of the tobacco smoke and how it stings Watson's eyes and rubs raw the back of his throat. In how he sits when he pretends Sherlock isn't looking, his bad leg carefully crossed at the knee over his good one as if this is how he is comfortable and this is how he was taught to sit, toe pointed, all proper and perched on the edge of the chair and all too ladylike.
"All art is quite useless," speaks up Sherlock Holmes from his seat at the sitting room's most comfortable armchair.
And it is true, of course. Watson, in his writing, makes them both into heroes, despite themselves.
"We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it," quotes the man back, inky blue eyes tired and melancholy. "The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely."
Perhaps it is the weary look on Watson's face, or the way he puts down his pen, or simply that he has the air of a man who is in the wrong place at entirely the wrong time.
He snuffs out his pipe and rises from the armchair, the expression on his face wonderfully tragic, and takes two cautious steps towards the other man.
"You are the one man in the world who is entitled to know everything about me," says he, and Watson almost sees his gunmetal and antimony eyes flash a particular shade of prussian blue. "You have had more to do with my life than you think."
Sherlock's hand settles on his shoulder, the other a feather-light touch tilting his chin upwards.
Sherlock smells like tobacco smoke and gunpowder and freshly picked mint. He smells like the secrets running at large in the room, even though Watson is their keeper. He curses the maiden blush paining his cheeks and not his ears, curses the way he tenses up at Sherlock's touch.
"So you think it is only God who sees the soul, Basil? Draw that curtain back, and you will see mine."
It is strange, how he whispers it in such vulnerability, how Basil does not seem too out of place.
"You are mad, Dorian, or playing a part," Watson breathes back, scared that if he speaks any louder he will give himself away. His head is swimming with things he is trying with all his might not to feel.
"You won't? Then I must do it myself."
He thinks of other people and places as Sherlock's kiss turns his lips to ash. He thinks of other times and settings where this might have been welcome.
He thinks of Basil Hallward and Dorian Gray, and in some convoluted way he makes sense of it.
He dresses in the morning in his clothes from the day before, back rigid and eyes empty as he draws the medical bandages around his torso.
His hand fumbles, and Sherlock is there, rising from the disheveled sheets to pin the gauze in place, and perhaps Watson shivers because his hand lingers too long.
"Thank you," he says, and his voice is stiff and high and natural for once in his life.
He finishes dressing by Sherlock's bedside, and hates how concerned Sherlock's face is, how soft his voice-
"My dear Watson?"
"My cane, Holmes."
"Downstairs. I will help you."
He does not like being treated like a porcelain doll. He does not appreciate Sherlock's grip on his arm as he walks him down the stairs to the sitting room.
(Nevermind the fact that this is not the first time; sometimes even with his cane, when the weather gets cold enough Sherlock finds enough excuses to carry him up the stairs.)
He has learned easily enough to push people away. To be rude without dismissing his polite nature, to be just abrasive enough in the confines of fine jackets and silk cravats to keep men from coming too close and women from getting too friendly. He has survived medical school and the army and was only found out after the damned bullet he had not seen before it had hit him.
He wonders, then, what went wrong with Sherlock Holmes.
He walks down the stairs, and finds the good doctor sitting at the small center table in the sitting room, a flute of red wine tipping over in his fine artist's hands. It spills over to stain his fingers; the trousers he is wearing; the sofa he is sitting on; the rug on which he has planted his feet.
Sherlock sits next to him, wordless and accusing. Watson's inky blue eyes turn up to meet cold gunmetal, and he attempts a smile. His eyes are ringed with red and the dim light casts black-ink shadows over the hollows of his face, looks possibly happier than Sherlock can ever recall.
He stills his surgeon's hands to pour another glass. It spills over the edges, and Sherlock's hand automatically shoots out to cover Watson's. He lowers the bottle to the table, and Watson looks down.
"You're drunk," says Sherlock, quite matter-of-factly.
"Good wine is a necessity for me," he mumbles, and Sherlock can smell the alcohol on his breath.
It is only in this way that they can be happy.
Sherlock dreams of fine white dresses and black tailcoats and romances he's read and convinced himself he's better without.
He wakes up to the wedding march ringing in his ears and scorns the thought immediately.
He rises from his all-too-empty bed and dresses for breakfast and for a fleeting moment wishes for something more.
She puts her pen to the paper and in words, draws the portrait of Sherlock Holmes that he might, in other times perhaps, sell his soul to.
The words become prettier with every sin he commits, and she almost resents him for it. This is the picture of Dorian Gray that Basil will put on display, the "Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" that Watson will publish, and in other times, perhaps, they, Sherlock and Watson (not John, never John), might be happier than their literary counterparts.
She knows this is not other times with the sight of him at the breakfast table, pensive and playing with something in the pocket of his morning jacket.
"I have been thinking," he says slowly, and her blood turns to ice in her veins.
It is with the ring that Sherlock (Dorian) drives the dagger through to its fatal implications.
As with its likeness in death, it is too late to turn back once the thing has been started.