"That's quite enough, Lestrade," said Watson, finally, planting the tip of his cane on the linoleum and rising from the rickety bentwood chair beside the inspector's desk. "I'm taking him back to Baker Street. He needs stitches."
"Oh, do I?" murmured Holmes, blinking up at Watson, one eye already purpling. "I'd have said –"
"And a wash," Watson bit off. "You smell like a sewer. Come on, Blackwood will still be dead in the morning."
"I've heard that before," said Holmes, smirking at Lestrade.
Shaking his head, the inspector said, "All right, off with you, then. I'll be by in the morning with a draft of the report. You can remind your Mrs. Hudson how much I like her scones and a strong cuppa."
"I'll do that," said Watson, catching Holmes' elbow and pulling him to his feet. The detective had hidden his exhaustion as best he could, marching up cockily to the inspector and his men and demanding that they observe how the principles of scientific detection had triumphed where Her Majesty's public servants had failed, but it was obvious – to one who knew him well – how weary Holmes truly was.
It was dark out. The brougham Lestrade's constable had summoned for them waited in the flickering gaslit halo of the lanterns that flanked the police station's door. Holmes climbed in first, leaving Watson to give the address to the driver. The cab creaked as Watson pulled hard at the door frame, trying and mostly failing to take some of the weight off his aching leg. He swung himself onto the bench and hooked his cane around the doorhandle, pulling it shut before rapping at the roof to tell the cabbie to drive on.
Watson eased his leg out, flexing his foot, and thought longingly of distillates of opium. He looked up, met Holmes' eyes, and frowned. The man had been staring at him.
"Yes?" Holmes asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Have you been at my morphine?"
"The bottle in the bathroom, or the bottle in the surgery?" Holmes said, lazily.
"I was thinking of the one on the shelf in the sitting room, behind your second scrapbook of Austrian newspaper clippings."
"Oh. No, that's been empty for weeks. There should be something left in the bottle in the surgery, though." Holmes rubbed at his face. "Leg?"
Watson nodded, pushing the heel of his hand against the knot of scar tissue on his thigh and not bothering to hide his grimace.
Mrs. Hudson, accustomed to their ways, didn't blink when the two filthy, tired men limped across her doorstep, leaning on each other, merely pulled her wrapper about her shoulders and said, "I'll fire the boiler, then, Doctor."
Holmes began shedding garments in the hallway, and it was not until Watson caught him by the arm and pulled him toward the surgery that he spoke. "You weren't serious?" he asked. "It hardly needs stitching." He craned his head around to inspect the gash across his shoulder.
"It certainly does," Watson said, "and the rest of your wounds need sterilizing. And then you can see to me."
"See to your what, doctor?" Holmes said, archly, dropping his shirt to the carpet and bending to unlace his boots.
Watson frowned. "Contusions." He turned up the light.
"Oh, is that the medical term?"
Watson shoved him toward the examining table and took a bottle of alcohol and a wad of gauze from the cabinet behind him.
"You won't win many new patients like this," Holmes said, sitting on the table and gripping the edge with both hands.
"I don't need new patients," Watson told him, "Not when the old ones have such a talent for self-abuse."
"I shouldn't need to resort to self-abuse so often, if you would take a more rational perspective on certain activities," Holmes said, dryly.
He really was in terrible shape, Watson thought, drizzling the alcohol across Holmes' back and following it with the gauze. "You shouldn't get into fistfights in sewers, if you want me doing that," he muttered, loosening a crust of dried blood and filth with another dribble of alcohol before picking it off with one fingernail.
"I thought you'd given that up for matrimony," Holmes said. His tone was too acerbic to be casual.
Watson, in response, gave a particularly vigorous tug at a clot of something foul, and Holmes hissed as it came free and the tear across his shoulder started bleeding again. Watson took fresh gauze and daubed at it.
"The only thing making this tolerable, my dear doctor," Holmes said, conversationally, "is the sure and certain knowledge that I will be reciprocating momentarily."
"I'm quite sure," Watson replied. He took a suture from his drawer. "I'd normally offer a patient morphine for this, but you've already had most of mine, and I'm going to be selfish about what's left."
"I'll try not to scream too loudly," Holmes said.
"Best not. You'll scare poor Mrs. Hudson again, and then there won't be any hot water for your bath." He pushed the needle through the skin and across the gash, briskly, anticipating Holmes' flinch and compensating for it. "Only two or three more, I think," he said, knotting the silk.
"You're enjoying this, aren't you?" Holmes asked, voice tight.
Watson slid the needle through again, hard, made his second knot. "Yes, I think I am." He repeated the action, finished the neat row of stitches off, and dropped the needle into a little pan on the cabinet shelf. It rattled, steel against enameled tin, and Watson wiped the blood off his hands.
"Your turn, now," said Holmes. Watson stripped off jacket, braces, shirt, and stepped in front of the mirror fixed to the cabinet door, inspecting himself.
"I think you'd better look at this on the back of my head," Watson said, feeling it himself, gingerly. There was blood there, and ragged skin. He saw Holmes, or, more properly, his reflection, swing his legs around the table and settle himself.
Their eyes met in the glass. "Step back, so I can see," Holmes said, and Watson, not looking away, did so. One step, then a second, and he was up against the examining table, between Holmes' spread legs. Holmes' hand was in his hair, parting it and tipping his head forward to peer beneath. Watson stared down at the floorboards. "Yes, here it is, you've split it open. Just a little, though. Not deep. Pass me some gauze."
Watson raised a fistful of gauze, and felt Holmes' fingers take it from his. He didn't make a sound when Holmes pressed the cold, stinging gauze to the gash in his head, or scrubbed at an abrasion that reached from one shoulderblade to his hip, just fixed his feet and clenched his teeth. Holmes turned him around, then, pushing hard at his shoulder, and swabbed vigorously at one cheekbone. Watson's breath hissed in, at that, and his eyes met Holmes'.
"You're filthy," Holmes said, not unkindly, holding up an illustrative mass of bloody gauze.
"I'll let the ugly bastard kill you next time, then, shall I?" Watson said.
"I hope you do," said the detective. "It will save us all such a lot of trouble."
He didn't say oh, shut up or the hell with you, but he assumed both were clear in his glare. Holmes, damn him, simpered. "The bath water will be hot now," Watson said, instead. "You go first."
"So self-sacrificing," Holmes mocked, but he scooped up his coat, his toolkit, and his boots, and, with those necessaries piled in his arms, pushed past Watson and disappeared in the direction of the bathtub.
Watson leaned back against his examining table, kicked at Holmes' abandoned shirt with one booted toe, and sighed. The man was impossible. The situation was impossible. He needed – normalcy. Restraint. He needed not to be sneaking into Parliament, defusing explosives, chasing killer dogs across Devon. He needed predictability. Domesticity.
He poured himself a measure of morphine, shaking the last drops from the bottle to bring it up to full, and drained the glass. He needed, he needed, he needed -- he realized he'd left the surgery, crossed the hall, was standing over the bath. Holmes whistled, reclining in the tub, balancing a mirror against one bent knee and swiping at his cheeks with a straight razor. The line of stitches across his shoulder was oozing a little, a little runnel of dilute blood trickling into the bathwater.
"You will have your turn, Doctor, but you have to let me have mine, first," Holmes said, pushing one cheek out with his tongue and sliding the blade across it. "Have I missed anything?" he asked, turning his face upward.
"You look very well," said Watson, taking in the black eye and the unshaven cheekbone below it, the scrape on Holmes' jaw that had started to scab over. He pulled at his belt, unbuckling it. Holmes blinked at him, continued shaving as he undid his placket, dropped his trousers on the floor, tugged down his drawers, and finally removed his garters and socks.
"Joining me, my dear?" Holmes murmured, pulling his feet toward him to make space for Watson in the tub.
"Enough," Watson said, angrily, kneeling down in the tepid water. He closed his eyes. Holmes' mouth was fierce, rough, and utterly familiar, down to the iron taste of blood on his cracked lips. Watson could feel Holmes moving carefully, very carefully, placing the mirror on the shelf beside the tub and folding the razor into itself before raising his hands to Watson's shoulders.
Watson felt a little nauseous, if he let himself think on what he was doing. He went, regardless – the hand behind Holmes' head, the hand at the small of his back, leaning in and making Holmes take his weight, his mouth first on Holmes' and then down the half-shaven line of his jaw, over the sensitive spot behind his ear. He knew, and Holmes knew, as he tipped his head against the rolled lip of the tub and gave way, exactly what they were doing.
"You should wash," Holmes said, at last, when Watson leaned back for a moment, breathing hard, his knees aching. "You'll regret it, if you don't." Holmes planted his hands on either side of the tub and rose.
Holmes was, Watson noted as he groped toward the soap, quite erect, the warmth of the bathwater notwithstanding. Which was gratifying, if he were being honest. Which he didn't particularly care to be.
Watson slid the soap-cake, slippery and wet, between his palms, across his chest and back, sluiced the water over himself. It was opaque with grime. He couldn't see Holmes' feet at the bottom of the tub.
"You are – " Holmes muttered, eyes dark, "You are –" He reached behind him for a towel, wrapped it around his shoulders.
"Very clean, now," Watson told him.
"I see," Holmes said. "Towel?"
"I think so." He took it, rising, wiped at his hair, his face, and slung it around his hips.
"Bed?" Holmes' voice was dispassionate; nobody else would have read the hesitation in that. Watson didn't answer, just pulled on the chain that held the tub plug, stepped out, and exited, entirely certain that Holmes followed.
"My room?" Holmes asked, in the hallway.
"I don't live here any more, remember? My things are gone. My bed is gone. Though yours is probably filthy." Watson crossed the room, stepping between piles of papers, a half-built chemical apparatus, and the decaying remains of a goose.
"Well, then, you won't have to restrain yourself," Holmes told him, shutting the door behind them and snicking the lock shut.
"I shan't," Watson said, dropping onto the bed. "Come here."
"You're a living demonstration, doctor, of the ways in which a man's natural instincts will overcome his enculturated behaviors at moments of strain," Holmes was saying, but he was climbing onto the mattress as he said it.
Watson caught him, rolled him back, arm across his still-damp shoulder and the other against Holmes' hip, laying him flat, knowing he could only do it because Holmes let him. They'd fought, oh, they'd fought, and this was nothing like that. The thought roused him, entirely, and he pressed up into the hand Holmes slid between his thighs.
"You really think – " Holmes said, gripping him hard, and Watson pushed his hand up into his hair and held him against the mattress and kissed him.
"I keep telling you I don't want to talk about this," he panted, lifting up for a breath.
"And I keep ignoring you," Holmes said, half-frowning. "Why do you think that is?"
"I don't –" Watson started, and then broke off as Holmes' fingers, snug at the base of his cock, pulled up and over and oh, there it was, damn him, damn him, he was as meticulous and excellent at this as he was at everything he bothered to pay attention to. Watson's face hit the pillow, over Holmes' shoulder, and he gasped into it, feathers muffling the sounds he made.
"I think," Holmes said, thoughtfully, as he reached his other hand to clutch at Watson's ass, "it's because I am entirely sure that I am acting in your best interest. And mine, of course."
"Oh, of course, you're – ah – y-you're -- " Watson was stuttering, because he was tired, and he was sore, and the morphine was kicking in, and it was so much more imperative that he thrust into Holmes' hand, right now, than form words into sentences.
"Definitely that. Yes. Exactly," Holmes was saying, into his ear, and Watson didn't know what he meant, but he knew what that was, moving against his hip, and it would be ungentlemanly not to reciprocate. And if he didn't get Holmes off the bastard would probably expect him to suck his cock, and Watson knew he couldn't manage that right now.
He fumbled his hand around, licked it slick, and pressed Holmes' prick up against his belly. "You're such a – I despise you," he said, breathlessly, and Holmes' breath caught and his hand tightened on him and Watson came, shuddering, face pressed into Holmes' shoulder.
Holmes kept moving beneath him, eyes shining, breath fast. He was grinning. Watson inhaled, head spinning; licked his hand again and caught at Holmes' cock. He bit down, hard, on the other man's earlobe, the curve of his neck, the line of his shoulder, and that was it, Holmes was done, one hand painfully tight on Watson's left buttock and the other twitching on the bed, eyes closing and hips shoving and a ragged noise in his throat as he went over.
Watson rolled off, heavily, fumbled across the floor until his hand met something fabric and not too crusty, and swiped at himself with it. He threw the thing – it looked like a shirt, it was, it was his shirt, damn it – at Holmes, who was splayed across the bed, arms wide, belly damp with spunk.
"You're disgusting," Watson muttered. "Clean up." He was hazy, the orgasm and the morphine and all of it coming up over him like a wave. The edges of the room blurred around him.
Holmes didn't move, just sighed, melodramatically. Watson leaned down, reached over the foot of the bed and pulled a sheet and the second-best blanket up to cover himself.
"You're staying?" Holmes murmured, still unmoving.
Watson folded the pillow under his head and rolled over, turning his back.