For the last half hour, Holmes has been acting in a peculiar way - which is to say, even more peculiar than usual. Taking some weight off my aching leg, I lean against the frame of our sitting room door and watch him, trying to deduce his motives and already knowing that I will most definitely fail. Echoes of his earlier words are reverberating inside my head, and I scrutinise them from all sides, looking for a clue that might illuminate his odd behaviour.
You’re not hurt, Watson? For God’s sake, say that you are not hurt!
If you had killed Watson, you would not have got out of this room alive.
My charismatic friend and his innermost thoughts and feelings have always been something of a mystery to me, and this situation is no exception. Gazing at the back of his head as if attempting to look right through his skull and examine his brain, I recall the events of this day and run them past my inner eye to identify the moment it all stopped making sense.
After Evans had been arrested, Holmes “borrowed” one of the Yard’s hansoms to rush me to the hospital, even though I could very well have taken care of the wound myself. I told him as much, but he would not hear of it, and, tired and in pain as I was, I soon stopped protesting. If I am being entirely honest, I rather enjoyed being fussed over by him in such a way - it happens so seldom, after all.
By the time I had been stitched up and we arrived back home at Baker Street, the street lamps had already come on and rain was pouring from the sky in torrents. The short walk - or, in my case, limp - from the hansom to the door of 221B left us drenched to the bone.
I remember the way he insisted on helping me out of the hansom and up the steps leading to our door, and gratitude floods my insides once again, warm and overwhelming.
“Hurry!” I told him, indicating for him to go ahead, but he shook his head and held my arm as I hobbled across the pavement, dragging my injured leg behind and shielding my newly-bandaged wound from the rain by covering it with my coat as best I could.
He looked so beautiful, and so sad, and it brought to the surface emotions I had once, right at the very beginning of our acquaintance, discovered within myself and then, out of fear and cowardice, never allowed myself to acknowledge for what they really were. Right then, staring at the raindrops painting glistening trails onto his cheeks, it all came back to me, and I hoped he would not notice what must have been written all over my face.
“This happened to you because of me,” he said, in a vacant voice, as soon as Mrs Hudson had ushered us inside, and then he rejected her worried offers of help and steered me up the stairs and into our quarters. “I’m deeply sorry,” he added once he had assisted me in removing my hat and coat.
His hands were shaking.
I opened my mouth to reply, to ask him what was the matter, but he raised one arm as if to stop me, his fingers grasping at thin air, and then shook his head with vehemence and vanished into his room without another word. I was left to wonder what it was that was bothering him so, and I did so as I, too, went to my room to take off my clothes and exchange them for fresh ones after checking whether my bandages were still dry and fastened properly.
Now the rain has stopped and he is back, clad in a pair of immaculate tweed trousers and a matching waistcoat buttoned up over a crisp white shirt, and the only thing giving away that he has only recently been caught up in the worst deluge London has seen in years is his hair - usually he keeps it slicked back and perfectly smoothed against his head with pomade, but now it is framing his face in tousled waves that are still damp and have thus turned an even darker shade of ebony brown. Despite the fact that he still looks weary, it is a lovely vision to see him like this, tinkering with our tea set and a tin of Mrs Hudson’s homemade ginger biscuits, and I cannot help but smile.
This happened to you because of me.
What does it mean that he is behaving so strangely now? Is he really feeling guilty? He had warned me of the danger before I agreed to come along, after all. What is it that makes this day different from all the other ones we have so far spent roaming the dark back alleys of this city in pursuit of villains that we knew would take a dim view of being confronted with the consequences of their deeds?
“I can hear you think,” he suddenly says without turning his head, abruptly drawing me out of my musings.
Something about his tone, and I do not have the words to say what exactly it is, makes me want to walk up to him and put my arms around him and simply hold him, hold him so tight, but that is, of course, a ridiculous notion.
“You give me much to think about,” I answer instead and step closer. “Are you well? Your behaviour strikes me as--- well. Curious. You seem miles away somehow.”
“Curious,” he repeats slowly and motions for me to take a seat on the settee, still not meeting my gaze.
I sit down and wait for him to join me, which he does a moment later.
“I find it difficult to describe what it is about you right now that confuses me so,” I try to clarify. “I’m sorry. I didn't mean to offend you.”
“You didn't,” he says, pouring us tea. “However, I'm not sure I can explain my behaviour in a way that will make sense to you.”
I smirk to myself.
“Try me,” I reply drily, and finally he looks up and into my eyes.
He is not smiling.
“When I said I was responsible for what happened to you today, I meant it, Watson,” he says, sounding almost as passionate as he did the moment I was shot. “It was my fault you were hurt. I--- am not sure I’ll be able to forgive myself.”
He drops a small lump of sugar into my cup and then stirs, and I watch his jaw work restlessly, as if there is so much more he wants to say, but he somehow cannot find the strength to do so. I am touched by his worrying about my well-being, but he is wrong in thinking that it is he who is responsible for my injury.
“I’m fine, Holm---”
“Fine!” he cuts me off and glares at me. “You’re a medical man - do I really have to explain to you what would have happened if that bullet had hit you at a different angle? If it had ripped apart your main artery?”
“It didn’t, Holmes.” I try to speak gently, perplexed by this uncharacteristic outburst. In all the years I have known my friend, I have never seen him lose his composure this completely. “The only casualty are my favourite trousers - that bullet and your pocket knife saw to that. You do not have to blame yourself for anything. It was my decision to come along on the adventure, and I knew about the dangers it might pose. It may have been a close call, but I’ll recover. We’ll be more careful next time. You don’t have to forgive yourself anything. There’s nothing to forgive.”
His face falls and he sighs, apparently lost for a reply. We stare at each other for a silent minute or two.
“If I ever lost you, I’d perish,” he then says, his voice a low rumble that crawls under my skin and sends shivers down my spine. I can tell he is struggling to make himself speak. “Earlier, when we arrived here, I pictured coming home to an empty flat, coming home to find your chair in front of the fireplace, your dressing gown on the hook by the door… knowing your body was lying, cold and lifeless, in the morgue at St. Bart's. I--- I saw it. It felt so--- so real. John.”
I have never heard anybody utter my name with such reverence, such depth of emotion. Looking into his cerulean eyes, usually so keen, but now mellow with sorrow, I realise that I have never truly seen him for what he is. How could I have missed this? How could I not have recognised the human hiding inside the machine? Not even when I realised that my regard for him ran so much deeper than what is appropriate for two friends sharing the rent?
It is time to come clean.
When, if not now?
“Holmes,” I whisper. “Maybe you are even more wrong than I previously thought. Maybe--- maybe you are the one who needs to forgive me.”
Sadness fills my heart, my whole being, sadness over missed chances and wasted time, and it hurts much more severely than any wound in my leg ever could. Holmes was right - I saw, and yet I did not observe.
“Whatever for?” he asks, and it is barely a murmur, subdued and soft and so eerily unlike his usual cool and concise way of expressing himself that to me it appears almost unreal.
I wonder if he really cannot see it or if he is just pretending not to in order to spare my feelings.
“I should have been a better man, Holmes. I did wrong by you by assuming you were not capable of---”
I cannot say it.
Holmes gazes at me through the half-light, waiting. He does not press me to continue, but gives me time to collect myself, and I could not be more grateful. This is so impossibly difficult, so unfathomably dangerous. What if I do it wrong?
“I am not a man of words, as you are well aware,” I eventually manage to elaborate, and it is hard work to keep my voice steady. There is no turning back now. “I lack the finesse required to express myself in matters like this. I can only tell you about what pains me, and about what I regret. I regret so many things, Holmes. I should have been braver. I should have listened to my heart when it told me what I knew all along, deep inside - that if I ever had to live without you, my soul would die. I should have admitted it to myself before I got married. I should have acknowledged it after Reichenbach, or later, when you returned from the dead. But I was a coward. I had you within arm's reach, and yet I never found the courage to take that last step and--- touch. Because I--- Christ, Holmes. I do want to touch.”
I rub my hands across my face in a nervous gesture I cannot control, then let them sink into my lap again. I feel weak. He is mute for so long that I start to suspect that this was too much, too soon - that my worst fear will come true and Holmes will tell me that I have misread the signs, that he is not of this disposition, that I should leave and never come back. Despite the rising urge inside of me to do or say something, anything to ease the almost unbearable tension, I am aware that now it is my turn to wait, and so I do. To distract myself, I sip my tea, but it tastes of nothing at all.
After what feels like several lifetimes, which I spend thrashing back and forth between terror and hope, Holmes finally speaks.
“I, too, am not a man of words, my dear boy. And I've always known that I am not a man of sentiment, either. You, and you alone, are the exception to that rule. From the day I first set eyes on you, you’ve held my heart in your hands - a heart I had never known I possessed until you came and showed it to me. I tried to fight it, to push it away, but each day with you only made it harder to resist. I told myself it had to be a very strong case of companionship. Of course I would be likely to misinterpret the feeling for something else, something much deeper, and more confusing - after all, I had never had a companion before. You fascinated me. Charmed me. You were a marvel to me, a mystery. I quickly found out that you are the only person in the world I cannot fully deduce. All the layers of wit, of personality, of loyalty, and strength. All the complexity you hide behind your calm and quiet exterior. I wanted to know it all, catalogue it, preserve it, be the only one allowed to see it. And eventually I had to accept that what I felt within myself was not simply companionship - or rather, that it was companionship of a kind that is too monumental to be described.”
I set my empty cup back onto its saucer, and the low tinkling of china seems much too loud amidst the tense silence surrounding us. He watches me, and I can see the vein on the side of his neck pulse quickly. His heart must be beating very fast; I want to put my palm on his chest and hold it in place.
“I feel I hardly have the right to ask you this, because I am guilty of staying silent myself, but… why did you never tell me?” I ask. “Why didn’t you--- show me?”
He shrugs and shakes his head.
“It broke my heart to see you get married and move on without me. But at the same time your happiness was all that ever mattered. And then, when you came back… I was too grateful to jeopardise what I had got back to even contemplate trying to take it any further. The risk was too high. I never revealed to you the full extent of my feelings because I was scared of you leaving me… and because I did not want you to bear my burden. It's---” He pauses. “It's dangerous to love another man like I love you,” he then finishes softly.
I feel an impossible wave of relief wash over me at hearing his words, but the implications of what he is saying are not easy to comprehend.
What are we going to do now?, I want to know. What does this mean? How are we going to handle it?
What am I to you?
Instead of asking all this, I whisper: “Love?”
It is the only coherent thought my confused mind is able to settle on.
Holmes loves me.
Holmes smiles. It is a shy, tender, radiant smile the likes of which has never graced his sharp features before, at least not when I was present to witness it.
“Love,” he replies, and his deep, velvet voice resonates in my very bones. “Adore. Want.”
My heart beats faster at that, and I am amazed by the intensity of the reaction. I always thought I knew what it means to be in love - I was in love, after all, back then in the army, and also with Mary, my poor late wife. But now I see that the memories of those loves are as nothing compared to the bright, burning feeling of unconditional affection and need flaring up inside of me whenever I look at the man sitting next to me, whenever I think of him, even. I want to spend the rest of my life with him, want to wake up next to him in the mornings and nuzzle his curly head, want to hold him, taste his mouth, feel his fingers leave their imprints on my skin as we make love in his bed.
“Holmes,” I mutter and lean forwards ever so slightly, surrendering to the heady, irresistible pull drawing me towards him. “Sherlock.”
He swallows thickly, the sound of it clearly audible in the otherwise silent room. His lips open as if he wanted to speak, but no words come out.
Slowly, so very slowly, I continue my approach. I can smell him now, his skin, his breath, smoke and tea and petrichor, and I want all that on my tongue, my lips, more than I have ever wanted anything before. I want to feel the shape of that gorgeous Cupid’s bow, want to trace it, taste it, but before I am there, before I can close the distance between our faces completely, Holmes raises a trembling hand and puts it onto my shoulder to hold me in place. He is breathing fast and shallowly and his irises have turned into brilliant, bottomless pools of icy blue.
“We need to lock the door,” he says throatily, his nose almost brushing my own. “It’s too dangerous.”
He presses his lips together and moans lowly, pitifully, then shakes his head as if trying to clear it, obviously unable to pull back or do anything more than hold on to me, not pushing me, but merely keeping me at a distance that is still, as far as I am concerned, not at all safe.
Sensing that he needs me to be the strong one, the reasonable one now, thus reversing the roles we play in the rest of our private and professional lives, I force myself to break the spell and draw back, almost too fast, causing Holmes to blink at me in bewilderment.
“Door,” I tell him, keeping the conversation to a bare minimum because I am sure I will die if I have to wait for much longer. “I’ll go.”
I get up, the image of Holmes’ beautiful slanted eyes burned into my retinae, and make my way to the door. I turn the key twice and leave it in the lock, and then I turn back around and find Holmes right in front of me.
“John,” he groans softly, and it sounds like a prayer.
Then his lips are upon mine and his hands are in my hair, and I feel my back hit the door, none too gently, but it does not hurt at all. Nothing hurts anymore.
In a very remote corner of my mind, I find myself musing over the surprising ardency of Holmes’ advances, which does not only clash with everything I used to imagine when I allowed myself to reflect on the idea of Sherlock, the lover, but is also so different from every first kiss I have ever experienced that I do not quite know how to reciprocate. How fast - and how far - am I allowed to go?
Holmes is fitting himself against my front, his lithe body warm and firm in my arms, and we moan against each other’s mouths when our groins collide for the first time, separated by decidedly too many layers of fabric. There is a very definite bulge tenting Holmes’ trousers already, and I, excited by the knowledge that it is me who has succeeded in provoking this reaction in a man who never allows himself to lose control of his own body, feel myself follow suit. Our difference in height makes it difficult to touch in all the places that count simultaneously, but Holmes has bent his head and knees and I have risen to my toes, not even noticing the strain the position puts on the wound in my thigh because his tongue is there now, wet and soft, tracing the seam of my mouth and, when I open it to grant him access, the insides of my lips, insistent and imploring like the man himself, and maybe I should not be as surprised by his passionate approach after all.
“Bedroom,” Holmes mumbles and nips at my bottom lip. “Now.” He grinds his hips into mine in a clear imitation of another, much more intimate act, and my knees buckle in reflex. A low, rumbling sound makes its way out of his chest. “Please,” he adds huskily.
When he slips his hand between us and cups my hardness with his long, nimble fingers to fondle it in his large palm, I growl, and it is half encouragement, half warning. I could finish like this, right here, like an adolescent boy - never before have I been more aroused, more ready. Never.
“Caution,” I rasp, because to my amazement I am not embarrassed and know that Holmes will be pleased and proud to know me teetering on the verge of completion because of a simple kiss. “Or this will be over much too soon.”
Holmes sucks at my lip one last time and then lets go to pull back and smile at me.
“Enticing as it may be - let’s save that for another day,” he suggests, his voice breathy and young. “Maybe for the next time we have to go to the Yard. I might just hide in a back room with you and pin you against the door.”
“You never cease to amaze me,” I reply as I lower my heels back to the floor. Then I reach up to tuck a wayward curl behind his ear. “But we might as well shout it from the rooftops then. You know every wall at the Yard has ears.”
Holmes' smile turns wistful and he leans down to bump his forehead against mine, softly, and the gesture is so endearingly loving and innocent that my stomach clenches with affection.
“It wouldn’t do you justice anyway,” Holmes whispers, his lashes tickling my own. “You’re a delicacy which needs to be savoured slowly.” He pulls back and gazes at me. He looks beautifully inebriated. “An intricate machinery that needs to be taken apart…” He licks his lips, slowly, mesmerisingly. I stare. “Examined with the utmost care…” White teeth press into the plump pinkness of a full, luscious bottom lip. God. “And put together again.”
And there goes innocent.
“You can take me apart all you want,” I answer, glad that our exchange has taken the urgent edge off my need and given me time to gather my wits. “But you’ll do it in my bed.”
Without intending to, I have used the assertive, slightly gruff voice I usually reserve for more formal situations which are in some way related to my military past, and Holmes would not be himself if he had not noticed. He grins mischievously.
“Well then, Captain,” he says. “Lead the way.”
He takes my hand in his to steady me as we slowly make our way up the stairs to my room, and I am both touched and bewildered by his concern. It’s really just a scratch, I want to say, but refrain from doing so because I sense that he would be hurt. If I had to describe him to a stranger, “caring” would not be the first word to come to my mind, and I am mildly irritated by all the new facets of his personality I am confronted with today, and in such rapid succession. But I cannot deny that it is utter joy to have sparked this sudden surge of sentiment in someone who usually prides himself upon his complete detachment from any and all emotions.
“Lock the door,” he tells me as soon as we have closed it behind ourselves.
His eyes are boring into mine so intensely that my mouth goes dry. I want to pounce and take him, make him mine, and yet I have never felt more of a blushing virgin than this very moment. I am sure he would laugh if he knew.
I obey his request while he goes and lights my bedside lamp, and when I turn back towards him after assuring myself that the door is locked securely, he meets me in a slow, deep kiss that eventually makes my back collide with hard wood again.
“You do have an affinity for doors,” I mutter and feel him smile in response.
“I am unable to hold back, now that I have you here with me,” he replies, speaking right into my mouth. “I do like doors, yes… because they keep the world out.”
“Ever the romantic,” I whisper, and he hums in amusement and catches my bottom lip in a teasing bite.
“Have you--- have you known other men before?” he then asks and puts his forehead against mine.
I am not entirely sure if this is supposed to help me by not making me have to look at him or to protect himself. I know him too well not to notice that underneath all his poise something else is hiding, something shy and vulnerable, but I know there is no use asking him - I will have to let him come to me.
“I have,” I say, and he tenses up ever so slightly in my arms.
“I am currently experiencing a most irrational streak of jealousy,” he murmurs after a moment. “I’m sorry. It will pass.”
My heart beating an erratic rhythm inside my chest, I rub our noses together and place a small peck on the corner of his mouth.
“What about you?” I breathe.
“A few. A long time ago. It was--- an experiment.”
I should have thought so.
“Did you like it?”
I am taken aback by the prompt reply. Is he doing something he does not enjoy to please me?
“You know we don’t have to---” I start, but he interrupts me by pressing a brief, but very sincere kiss onto my lips.
“I didn’t like it with them. I thought I didn't need it, either. But I like this. Very much.” The tip of his tongue dips against my upper lip and vanishes again. “I need it.”
I incline my head, trying to hide my relief. I would not dream of forcing him into anything he does not wish to do. But to stop now, after having this first taste, would have torn me apart inside.
“Good,” I say.
He huffs, seeing right through me, and I look up and at his face again. He is wearing an almost playful smile.
“I like your moustache,” he murmurs, using his fingertips to trace its shape. “It feels… interesting when we kiss. I’m curious to see if it will feel as good everywhere else.”
“I love the way you flirt,” I say and put my hands onto his throat to slowly unfasten his collar. “It's very unconventional.”
He turns quiet.
I feel him breathe under my palms as I open his waistcoat to give me better access to what lies underneath, and when a satisfyingly large part of his endless neck has been freed from the confinement of his shirt I pull him against me and latch onto the white skin on display to kiss my way up towards the edge of his jaw, careful to employ my moustache to my advantage. He tastes like heaven and feels like expensive silk against my lips and tongue.
“Does this find favour with you?” I ask huskily, self-confidence returning to me as I sense him melt under my touch.
“Yes,” he sighs and tilts his head in invitation. “More.”
He does not have to ask twice.
I take my time getting to know him, showering his collarbone, his neck, his ear with kisses that vary in intent and intensity - some say I adore you, my dearest, my sweet; others lean more towards Get into this bed; I want to devour you whole. Of course there is a lot that lies in between those two sentiments, and I give him all of that as well. Soon he is clinging onto me with closed eyes, lost in sensation, and I finish unbuttoning his shirt and pull it out of his trousers to run my hands up and down his naked back.
“Oh,” he murmurs, as if waking from a pleasant dream, and helps me by opening his cuffs and then shrugging off his shirt and his waistcoat at the same time, his muscles bunching up under my palms.
His clothes fall to the floor with a rustling sound and immediately he looks different - thinner, more boyish, almost delicate. He is very pale, his skin smooth and dusted with small clusters of honey-coloured freckles here and there. There are scars, too, some deep and gnarled, some more superficial, in various states of fading. I have seen them before, at the bathhouse, but I never allowed myself to stare for too long in order not to embarrass him - or myself. Now I take them in and wonder what happened to him during the years we were apart, and how much suffering he had to endure without me by his side. I feel I should have protected him, even though the rational part of my mind is well aware that he does not need my protection, or anyone’s, for that matter. Looking at him now, it is hard to believe that he can take a man down with a single punch, but I have witnessed him do it with my own eyes, and the knowledge that there is so much strength sleeping underneath his slender exterior makes me all the prouder. I tamed this, I think. It belongs to me.
“Look at you,” I say lowly as I dig my fingers into his sides. “God.”
“Sherlock will do, thank you,” he quips, then immediately grimaces in embarrassment. “I apologise. That was awful. I--- I seem to be nervous.”
I suppress a laugh at that. Who would have thought?
“You ramble when you get nervous?” I ask and send him a small smile. It is adorable to watch him deduce himself this way, but I stop myself from pointing it out. I do not want him to mistake my mirth for condescension. “That’s charming,” I say instead, because it is true. He averts his gaze, and a light reddish flush travels up his chest. “That is even more charming,” I add and kiss his glowing skin, scraping my moustache against his dusky pink nipple in a tender caress.
“Mh,” he moans, pressing his lips together tightly, obviously torn between shame and desire.
“I am nervous, too,” I tell him, upon which he looks back down at me with an incredulous expression. “I am,” I say. “This is more important to me than anything has ever been. It… has never felt like this before. I want to do it right.”
“You are doing it right,” he says, without hesitation.
I grin softly.
“As are you,” I reply.
He swallows, looking thoroughly out of his depth for a moment, then composes himself and shrugs.
“After tonight, you’ll have seen all of me, it appears. Everything I usually keep hidden, body and soul. I did not anticipate to be so shaken by that. I’ll--- need some time to get used to it.”
“We have all the time in the world,” I try to reassure him. “You don’t have to reveal all of yourself at once if it’s too hard. I’ll wait. I’ll wait for as long as it takes.”
One corner of his mouth twitches in what I take to be a small, grateful smile.
“Thank you. I’m a ridiculous man, John.”
I use my thumbs to rub soothing circles over his sharp hipbones, the fabric of his trousers rasping against my skin.
“You are. You’re my ridiculous man. And I want you to know that you are safe with me. If you want to, you can let go. I’ll be there.”
He nods slowly, sucking his bottom lip between his teeth. He seems to be thinking it over, in that lightning-fast way of his - I can see it happen behind his eyes.
“I know,” he eventually says. “I--- I do want to let go.”
I pull him in for a deliberately unhurried kiss, and as he kisses back I can feel him relax into it, his arms wrapping themselves around my waist, his thigh slipping between my legs to press me even harder against the door. He is radiating so much body heat that I am beginning to sweat, so it comes as a welcome relief when he finally reaches for the buttons of my shirt and fumbles with them, his hands trapped between our bodies.
“Why did you go to the lengths of putting on a fresh tie?” he asks as his fingers start to wander, and I chuckle weakly and hold on to his upper arms for balance.
“Asks the man who puts on a waistcoat to lounge in his own sitting room and have tea,” I answer. “I wasn’t expecting to be ravished… I apologise for delaying the proceedings.”
He grumbles and makes remarkably short work of said tie and my shirt, which then both join his clothes on the floor to our feet.
“Since you’re not fully operational at the moment, I’ll lend you a hand,” he then whispers and opens his own trousers next, his eyes on mine, his tongue sneaking out to wet his lower lip.
I watch him undress, leaning heavily against the bedroom door because the wound in my leg is emitting a dull throb by now. I will have to lie down soon. Which, however, does not mean that I cannot perform the acts that are bound to follow this prelude.
“I’m operational in all the essential places,” I tell him as he slips off his socks and throws them behind himself carelessly. “And I should let you know that I want more than your hand.”
That earns me a grin, one of the sort I am already familiar with - it means that he is going to show me now, and I had better brace myself. Our banter seems to have eased his nervousness, as we are treading on familiar paths right now, if only conversation-wise, and I am happy to see his old confidence return.
“That can be arranged,” he rumbles, and when our eyes meet for the briefest of moments, I can see it confirmed that he is indeed taking up my offer and letting go, at least for tonight.
He bends down to run his tongue along my neck and up to the sensitive spot behind my ear, giving me goose-flesh all over, and then he slowly, excruciatingly slowly, opens the fastenings of my trousers and slips his hands inside my pants.
His fingers are so soft as he brushes his knuckles against my shaft with not nearly enough pressure or precision - if a touch this light can make me feel faint like this, what is going to happen when---
“My mouth, then,” he rasps into my ear, licking into it as he speaks. “My tongue.”
I hardly have time to take a deep breath and steady myself before he sinks to his knees in front of me and pushes both trousers and pants down my legs, carefully avoiding my wound as he goes.
“I'm sorry, John,” he breathes and places a light, barely-there kiss onto my exposed skin, right next to the bandage. “I'm sorry.”
I hold on to his shoulders and step out of my clothes, and he helps me to remove my socks before caressing up my calves and the backs of my thighs.
“You're beautiful,” he tells me, upon which I feel myself blush furiously.
I do not consider myself special - let alone beautiful - with regard to physical appearance. I am short and rather square-built, and I have lost much of my former fitness due to being wounded in the war and falling ill shortly afterwards. My scar is not pretty to look at, either. Nevertheless, he seems to see something in me that no one else has ever seen before, judging from the way he takes me in and runs his palms, almost reverently, over every inch of skin he can reach, and I feel equal parts embarrassed and flattered to be the sole focus of his attention now.
“Beautiful,” he repeats, whispering, and then he presses his face against my groin and nuzzles it like a huge cat, eyes closed in rapture.
I gasp out a low, high-pitched moan that I am slightly ashamed of, and he clutches my arse and pulls me in close and then swallows me down until I feel myself hit the back of his throat.
“Christ!” I exclaim as my legs buckle in reflex.
He holds me up, my buttocks resting in his palms, and begins to suck me slowly and with relish, moving his head up and down in a lazy rhythm, and the sight of his lips stretching around my girth as he looks into my eyes from under heavy lids is almost too much to handle. I shiver from head to toe and groan and feel myself swell inside the wet cavern of his mouth.
“Stop,” I whisper hoarsely. I do not want this to end yet. “S-stop!”
He draws back and grins up at me, clearly proud of himself.
“I see you’re experiencing difficulties standing upright, but… it wouldn’t befit a gentleman like myself to invite you to sit on your own bed.”
I snort out a chuckle and bite the insides of my cheeks to distract myself. He opens his lips once more and slides them up and down the vein pulsing on the underside of my length, his tongue flickering out teasingly from time to time, his challenging gaze fixed on my face. Watching him like this drives me out of my mind with desire, and when his teeth join his tongue to glide along my hardness, not in a bite, but in a gentle caress, I cannot contain myself any longer.
“I’ll kiss that cocky demeanour right off your face one of these days…” I rasp, cupping the back of his head with one hand, and he smiles against my saliva-slick skin, rubbing his nose into my pubic hair. He looks ridiculously pleased with himself.
“By all means, do try…” he sighs lasciviously.
Nervous as he may be - he is still a supercilious bastard. And I am infatuated with him.
I tug at the smooth strands winding around my fingers, pulling him off me, and he follows, his lips making a small kissing sound as they part with me.
“Come,” I tell him and pull him up and along with me as I walk backwards towards the bed. “I would kneel on the floor if I could, but my leg won’t allow it, I’m afraid… This will have to do.”
He comes to a halt right in front of me as I sit down on the edge of the mattress and lets himself be drawn between my legs, thus giving me comfortable access to the place I want to explore, and before he can say another word, I have him inside my mouth, hot and heavy and bitter-sweet, and he utters a strangled moan that stutters and then fades away to turn into an almost agonised growl that sounds as if he was clenching his teeth to quiet himself.
Sucking softly on the swollen head of his manhood, my hands resting on the backs of his knees, I raise my head and look at his face, which is contorted in a grimace of what looks like a mixture of wonder and lust. It is strange - and beautiful - to see him like this, and to know that I am the one who whisked away the veil of indifference he usually shrouds himself in to reveal the real him, the man behind the mask, more loving and passionate than I could ever have imagined.
My ridiculous man.
I keep my eyes on his and hum deeply, almost soundlessly, knowing from experience how wonderful it will feel around his hard flesh, and he takes hold of my head as his legs begin to shake.
“J-John,” he breathes. “Oh!”
Not so eloquent anymore, huh?
I rub my tongue against the bundle of nerves right under his tip and then draw him inside as far as he will go, and the sensation of him throbbing against my palate makes my blood boil with the urge to go even further, go all the way with him. I pull back and let him slip free, moving my palms to his sides.
“Turn around,” I rasp, my voice sounding foreign to my own ears. “I want to taste you.”
He obeys, and I can hear his breath come even more quickly than before. I hold him in place with both hands and lean in to nip his thigh, scrape my teeth across his alabaster skin and drag my tongue along the cleft of his arse, and he whines and puts his hands over mine, helping me to spread him open for my kiss.
“I--- cleaned myself earlier,” he gasps. “Oh. Yes…”
I laugh deliriously, exhaling a hot puff of air onto his skin, which makes him shudder and moan. Not for one second did it occur to me that he might be uncomfortable with this kind of intimacy, or that, after this long and exhausting day, this might not be the most hygienic of activities we could be engaging in. I frankly do not care if he washed himself - I want all of him, skin and sweat and semen, want to know his most secret places, want to worship every square inch of his beautiful, beautiful body, again and again.
“Sherlock,” I rumble, rolling his name around in my mouth, savouring the privilege of being allowed to use it. “Mmhhh…”
It has been a long, long time since I last touched another man this way, and for a moment I wonder whether he has ever done it before, and if so, with whom. A hot surge of jealousy washes over me at the thought of another one having him like this, and I grip him more tightly and dive into his warmth with vigour bordering on violence, kissing and licking and even biting at his entrance until he whimpers in pleasure and lets go of me with one hand to cover his mouth with it instead.
“Ngh, God,” he moans. “John!” It comes out muffled.
“Sherlock,” I repeat, groaning into his damp heat, but what I actually mean is “mine, mine, mine”.
“Yes,” he hisses, and I know he understands. “Yes, yes.”
“I want you,” I tell him, my free hand stroking up and down his side, kneading his hip, his arse.
“Yes,” he repeats. “Please, John. Please…”
I move my hand to his front and gently roll his bollocks in my fingers, enjoying their weight and tender plumpness resting in my palm.
“Want you so much,” I whisper.
I push my tongue past his tight, puckered rim, and immediately his whole body jerks back and into it, begging for more. I grant it willingly, eagerly, and for a while the only sounds breaking the silence around us are the wet, filthy kisses I administer to his opening and the wanton moans he tries to hold inside, but which escape from behind his hand as small, breathless sobs. I wonder if he could finish like this - the noises he is making right now are more than enough to spur me on to try and find out.
“My legs,” he whispers all of a sudden, tearing me out of the mindless frenzy my need for him has become. “John--- my legs…”
I let go of him after a last, drawn-out lick up his tailbone and wipe my mouth with the back of my hand.
“What is it, my love?” I ask, panting, pleasantly surprised at the ease with which the term of endearment falls from my lips. “Getting weak in the knees…?”
“I need to--- lie down,” he says, sounding delightfully short of breath. “You indeed seem to have managed to kiss ‘that cocky demeanour’ off--- well, not exactly my face, but--- oh!”
He moans again when I squeeze his buttocks and then push at his hip to get him to turn back around to face me.
“I should think I win,” I say and smirk at him.
His cockstand is located right in front of my eyes again, jutting out from a nest of dark curls, beautifully flushed and already wet at the crown, and I immediately give in to the impulse of wanting to taste him once more - simply because I can, now, finally.
“Yes,” he mutters and hums deeply as I run the flat of my tongue along his whole length, from root to tip and back again. “Mmhhh, yes… you win.”
I pull him into my mouth to bid him a thorough farewell, and his head tips back in bliss. He is smiling. I realise he is enjoying himself without holding back, and it is a more gorgeous sight than I ever allowed myself to imagine in those scarce weak moments when I gave in to my urges and touched myself while fantasising about him lying with me.
“Do you--- nnngh! Do you have--- supplies?” he asks the ceiling, whimpering under his breath when I run my tongue around him one last time and then let him go.
“Yes,” I answer without teasing him about his straightforward question. “I do. In the bedside drawer. My medical kit.”
“Get it,” he tells me and walks around my legs to sit down on my bed. “And lie down with me.”
After getting the small tin of petroleum jelly from my kit and putting it on top of the bedside table, I get into bed with him and we end up in a tangle of limbs beneath the covers, kissing again. He is beyond delicious.
“I could spend the rest of my life kissing you, and I’d never get bored,” I whisper into his mouth after a while, my lips pulsing and swollen from where he sucked and nipped at them. “You taste so sweet…”
He hums softly and breaks the kiss to nuzzle my cheek.
“Your tongue is divine…” he whispers back. “But I need more… more of you. I’m--- yearning to have more, John…”
I swallow hard. Whatever he wants, I will give it to him. Anything. Anything at all.
“My fingers…?” I ask lowly, trailing them down his side and between his cheeks until I reach his hot, damp opening. It twitches against the pad of my middle finger as I stroke a light circle around its edge. “Like… this?”
His whole body shudders and he rolls onto his front to give me easier access, pulling one of his knees up, exposing himself without shame.
“Yes…” he breathes. “And--- your cock, John.”
Hearing Sherlock Holmes say “cock” in his deep, sultry baritone is something that could kill even the sturdiest of men. My heart starts to pound.
“Yes,” is all I manage to say in response. “Yes.”
He gazes at me over his shoulder, and the look in his eyes changes from urgent want to tender concern.
“Will you be able to? With your leg?” he asks.
“Holmes,” I answer, falling back into my old way of addressing him by force of habit. “It would need more than a graze to keep me from taking you right now. Much more.” I move down his body, kissing a wet trail from his shoulder to his lower back, and position myself behind him. “Get the petroleum jelly.”
I feel him stretch as he obeys, and then there is the soft clacking sound of the tin being opened.
“Put some on your finger,” I say. “And reach down.”
I gently bite his left buttock, catching a bit of taut flesh between my front teeth. He groans. Then his hand is there, two long, elegant fingers coated in thick, milky salve, and I pull his cheeks apart to reveal his entrance, rosy and soft and so inviting that I can hardly contain myself. Still - I need to make sure this is something he wants.
“Are you comfortable with this?” I ask him.
It is barely a sigh, but I can hear that he means it.
“Sherlock,” I whisper lovingly and kiss the place I want his fingers to go. “Spread it here.”
He does as he is told and spreads the slickness around his opening with slow, careful strokes of his fingertips, and I watch him and grind the heel of my hand against my hardness to give myself at least a little relief from the desire throbbing within my loins.
“Yes, love,” I encourage him. “Mmhhh, if you could see yourself now… You're exquisite…”
He does not reply, but his breathing is growing heavier as he increases the speed of his ministrations, and when he presses one of his fingertips into himself, prodding, teasing, I cannot restrain myself any longer and tenderly push his hand aside.
“Give me,” I murmur, and he scoops up some more of the jelly and our fingers entwine for a quick, seductive dance before he lets go again and wipes the remnants of the salve on his thigh. “I’ll take it from here,” I tell him and, laying a hot kiss against the back of his leg, finally breach his rim to let my middle finger slip inside.
“Oh,” he says lowly. “God.”
“John will do,” I joke lowly, grinning and twisting my hand, and as he laughs, his tightness opens up to me a little more.
He is burning inside, his body as hot as a furnace, and his muscles are squeezing me so hard that I wonder if he has ever been on the receiving end while he shared himself with a man.
“It’s been too long,” he rasps, reading my mind.
I pull back and then thrust inside again, very slowly, trying to accommodate my rhythm to the way he contracts around me and use it to my advantage.
“You have to tell me if it hurts,” I say, carefully working my way past the second ring of muscle. I know he cannot consciously control that one, so I massage it with gentle pressure until I feel it slacken around my finger. “We’ll go slowly.”
“It doesn’t hurt… It just feels--- full.”
He sounds so different now. Unguarded. Open.
“What about…” I crook my finger and find the small bump protruding along his tight passage, nudging it with my fingertip. “This?”
“Yes,” he gasps, and I look up to see him bury his head in my pillow. His raven hair looks beautiful, standing out sharply against the white linen. “Again.”
I do it again, and again. He stifles his reactions, which are becoming more and more vocal the longer I keep it up, in the pillow, and after a while I deem him relaxed enough to put a second finger in along with the first. He groans deeply, the sound vibrating through him so that I can feel it from the inside, and begins to rock his hips.
“John, yes, yes…” he mutters. “Oh.”
I follow his pace and stretch him open, and soon - much sooner than I expected - I can scissor and spread my fingers inside of him, meeting hardly any resistance when I do.
“Yes,” he repeats. “Oh God, yes.”
“You're being so good, love,” I pant, mesmerised by the sight of my fingers entering him, going deep, and I tap his hip with my free hand to get his attention. “Hand me the tin,” I say, my voice hoarse. “You're ready.”
His fingers trembling, he holds out the petroleum jelly to me, and I dip into it and then take myself in hand to spread it thickly all along my shaft. He drops the tin to the floor, where it rolls away and comes to a halt halfway across the room.
“Come inside,” he whispers. “Now. Now.”
I straighten up and lie down halfway on top of him, keeping my bad leg out of the way, and then I pull my fingers out of him and replace them with the head of my cock as quickly as possible to make the transition as easy and smooth as I can.
“Ngh!” he forces out and shivers violently.
“Are you in pain?” I ask, pressing my forehead against the back of his head and holding myself still, barely inside. “I can stop. We don't have to---”
He shakes his head impatiently and lifts his hips, impaling himself from below with shallow, but forceful thrusts.
“Oh!” I utter involuntarily. “Sherlock.”
It is warm, so warm, and silky slick, and I have to bite my lip very hard to stop myself from pounding into him in response. I could never risk hurting him, not even if he asked for it.
“Slowly,” I murmur. “Slowly. Sshhh.”
When I pull back to give his body time to adjust, he follows my movement and whines lowly.
“No!” His voice breaks and the next word he utters turns into a hoarse sob. “Stay!”
At seeing him so eager for it, a hot wave of pleasure ripples down my spine, setting me alight with desire, and my restraint falters. I groan and kiss his jaw, then the side of his neck.
“Sherlock,” I rumble and finally push back into his tight, pulsing heat, and then I just keep going until I am embedded almost up to the hilt. “I'll--- I'll never leave you… Oh… Christ, you feel good.”
He is shaking beneath me, his whole large frame rigid to the point of discomfort, or so it seems to me. Regardless of what he says, he must be in pain - we went so fast, so recklessly. I need him to relax.
“My love,” I whisper, my lips brushing the tender skin of his ear, tracing the shell and marvelling at its perfect shape. “My sweet, darling man.”
He sobs again, one half of his face squashed into my pillow, his hands clawing at the sheets. Tears are spilling over at the corners of the eye I can see, running down his nose and his sharp cheekbone to trickle into white fabric and leave minuscule marks in their wake. His hair is in complete disarray. He looks like a fallen angel.
“Never, John,” he whimpers and reaches down with one arm to clasp my buttock, holding me still, but keeping me buried deep inside himself. “Never.”
“No, beautiful,” I confirm, overwhelmed with tenderness at the sight of this blatant show of wanton devotion. “Never.”
We stay like that for quite some time, joined in this passionate, most intimate embrace, but not moving save for the rapid rising and falling of our chests and the wanderings of my mouth, which keeps raining feather-light caresses and gentle praise onto every inch of him I can reach. This is not only about him needing time to get used to the physical presence of me inside of him, I realise. This is him showing me all of himself, allowing me access to his most well-kept secrets - his heart; his human soul. It must take him an immense effort. That he deems me worthy of it makes me prouder than I could ever express.
“I love you,” I coo, over and over again. Years and years of adoration, of pining are flowing out of me and into him tonight, and he deserves to hear it, each and every word. “I love you, my darling. I love you.”
Finally, after endless minutes have passed us by in that fashion, I feel his passage ripple around my length and then open up completely, allowing me to slide inside even further, and it is such a divine sensation that I cannot help but grunt in delight.
I am embarrassed by the basic obscenity of it the moment it happens, but Holmes, whose tears have dried up by now, hums a wordless encouragement and bucks against me in a clear invitation to move, to take, and that is when my body takes over and my brain stops controlling my limbs and I start to thrust, gently at first, but more and more deftly the longer it lasts. It is an ancient rhythm of back and forth, in and out, and my hips remember it even if my conscious self does not.
“Oh.” He lets go of my arse to grip the sheet again and pull at it in abandon. “Oh, John, oh.”
I run my tongue along the tendon standing out at the side of his long, white neck and moan against his damp skin, feeling the frantic beat of his pulse flutter against my lips. It is utter bliss to be with him like this, to see him let go of all his demons and be the one responsible for it, and in a fit of possessive pride I put my palm over the place where his heart is drumming as if it wanted to burst out from behind his ribs.
“I adore you,” I sigh. “Mmhhh…”
He huffs out something akin to a laugh and puts his hand over mine, entwining our fingers in doing so.
“Harder,” he rasps. “Please, John--- please.”
I exhale into the crook of his neck, bite his shoulder, then lave the spot with my tongue to soothe the pain.
“I don’t--- want to--- hurt you…” I pant.
This is true. But there is an animal inside of me that is straining against the chains binding it, and I am finding it harder and harder to stay in control.
“I’m not a--- delicate--- flower!” he complains, his voice vibrating with the impact of our coupling. “Do--- it!”
My blood is boiling, and listening to his desperate begging only intensifies my craving for release.
“Oh, love… Oh God!”
I go harder. A little faster. My bollocks, full and heavy already, slap against his buttocks with every thrust, the sounds and sensations catapulting me higher, ever higher. His knuckles turn white as he clutches my fingers and he bites the pillow to smother a shout.
“Ye-esss,” he then slurs around a mouthful of fabric. “Ngh! John! Yes!”
My breath stutters with the effort of our lovemaking, and I am sure I do not have long. The fire of lust inside of me is burning brightly, licking all the way into my fingers and up to the base of my neck, and a familiar tingling is beginning to spread out from my midriff, ready to explode and wash over me in a flash of white light.
“Let go--- of my hand,” I gasp.
He does not react - he seems to be lost in some sort of trance.
“Let go, love,” I repeat. “I want--- your cock.”
He jerks in my arms, then moans lowly and obeys, and I reach down to find his manhood, which is trapped between his thigh and the mattress, leaking freely, already having left a considerable stain on the sheets.
“Down a bit,” I pant and push at his leg to get better access. “That’s it…”
His length feels like hot steel sheathed in silk, twitching into my touch as soon as I begin to stroke it, and I lean heavily onto my other arm and fight to coordinate my movements to make it good for him, make it perfect, better than anything has ever been before.
“John,” he mutters and a long, hard shiver runs through him. His hand lays itself upon my arm, ever so gently. “Mmhhh!”
The sound of his voice, pure and raw, slips into my insides and envelops my heart, and I know that after only one night - a night that is not even over yet - he has already spoilt me for the rest of the world. I will never take anybody else into my bed again after this. No one could ever be good enough.
“Come,” I groan. “Darling---”
I have to break off and grind my teeth to stave off my completion. I will get him there first, if it is the last thing I do.
Deeper, harder, faster, faster, and Holmes in my arms, whimpering into my pillow, his curls bobbing in time with my thrusts, his hand now clenching around my forearm as I caress his shaft, up, down, the glide of my palm soon becoming slick and easy with sweat and Cowper’s fluid.
“I love you,” I repeat mindlessly, no longer master of my own voice. “God--- I love you--- so much!”
He turns his head and his eyes snap open, and I drown in moonlight blue infused with specks of gold and cry out, overwhelmed with the beauty of it all, unable to stop myself.
“Sshh-sshhh---” he hisses. “We have to--- be qu---”
He stops in mid-sentence and his eyes widen, almost as if in surprise. His inner walls grip me, harder than ever before, and then start to pulse rhythmically.
“Yes,” I whisper, thrusting faster still. “Yes--- Let go!”
I watch as his face sets into an expression of blissful agony, listen to him inhale and exhale staccato puffs of breath through his clenched teeth, and I am almost there now, too, finally, and then he starts to shake beneath me, wave after wave of ecstasy running through his body as he bathes my hand in thick pulses of slick, wet heat.
“Ah--- ah--- ahhh,” he chants, and now he is the one being too loud, but I do not have the capacity to reprimand him for it. “John!”
Him moaning my name is the most beautiful sound in the universe.
I want to scream; I so wish I could, to show him that he is the best thing that has ever happened to me, but of course I keep silent and bite back my cries of relief as I spill my release inside the only person in the world I have ever truly loved. It is bliss beyond measure, pleasure so great that it borders on pain, and everything around me goes black.
Salt on my tongue.
It is more, and better, than ever before.
It lasts forever, and I give myself over to it willingly. I never want to return to real, solid ground again, but just stay caught up in blind ecstasy, here, with him, like this. For the first time in my life, I understand why people call it the “small death”.
“John,” he suddenly repeats, whispering, his hand still wrapped firmly around my arm. I have no concept of how much time has passed. “John.”
I moan wordlessly and bury my face in his neck, rocking us both back and forth with ever-slowing thrusts that send sweet shivers into my fingers and toes. Our sweat mingles on my skin, making it prickle.
“Sherlock,” I eventually pant and stop moving, my body tired and spent.
He has gone limp, his muscles quivering everywhere we touch. His breath comes loudly, enters and leaves his lungs in broken gasps and sighs. I kiss him on his shoulder, sloppily and with my eyes still shut, and his skin tastes of white heat and passion. I find myself wanting to sample him all over again, right now, but although my spirit is willing, my flesh is weak. I can hardly move, as all my joints seem to have turned into some form of soft putty, and pulling out of him and rolling onto my back alone takes up all my remaining strength.
“Oh Christ,” I groan. “Sherlock.”
He huffs and turns, then draws me against himself and helps me to get into a comfortable position, his arm wrapped around me, his hand in my hair, petting and stroking me in a surprisingly calming fashion.
“Your bandages--- have bled through,” he informs me, still breathing irregularly.
It takes an incredible effort to raise my head and glance down at my thigh - I cannot feel my legs at all at this moment. He is right. The once white dressing covering my wound is stained red, which means I will have to change it, which, in turn, means I will have to disentangle myself from his embrace and get up.
I do not wish to get up ever again.
“Later,” I grumble and let my head fall back against his shoulder. “Later.”
He is mute for a while, then his ribcage vibrates with silent laughter.
“You are not a man of words, indeed… but to have reduced you to this degree of taciturnity fills me with a certain amount of pr---”
He is interrupted by a deft knock on my door, the vigour of which I recognise even before Mrs Hudson’s voice rings out to verify my deduction.
“Yoohoo! Dr Watson? Are you in?”
I rise onto my elbow and for a moment my eyes meet Holmes’, which are mirroring the panic settling in my chest.
“Yes,” I call out. “I’m resting. I--- do not feel well.”
“Is there anything I can do to help? Have you had supper?”
“No, thank you, Mrs Hudson. You’re very kind. But… I’m not hungry. I just need some sleep.”
“There is a gentleman here who wishes to see Mr Holmes. Do you happen to know when he will be back?”
“No, I--- no, I’m sorry, Mrs Hudson. I don’t know. He might be a while. Please tell the gentleman to come back tomorrow morning.”
“Alright. I’ll be downstairs, if you need assistance.”
When the sound of her steps has died away, Holmes and I look at each other. His pale cheeks have turned even whiter than usual, the beautiful flush of ecstasy already gone and almost forgotten in the face of this narrow escape from being caught red-handed by our landlady - and, even worse, a potential client.
“She let herself in,” he whispers at last. “I did not expect the door to open with our key in the lock from the inside. John… If she had come upstairs only five minutes earlier---”
He does not need to finish his sentence. I know what the consequences of that would have been.
I put my hand on the side of his jaw, caress his sweet rosebud lips with the pad of my thumb.
“We’ll have to take her into our confidence,” I reply, just as quietly. “Without her protection, our secret will be out in no time at all. And we’re too well-known in society. We’ll have to take precautions. She loves you. She wouldn’t---”
I cannot finish. How sure am I of Mrs Hudson’s loyalty? Is it worth the risk? And what is the alternative?
“I know,” he answers, his lids fluttering as he leans into my touch. “But if any harm should come to you because of this--- If you end up in prison---”
“Then it will have been worth it,” I interrupt him, tightening my grip on his face. We are in this together, and I need to make him see that I would do anything just to know him mine. “If it happens despite all our best efforts to protect ourselves, then it will have been worth it to me. Even if they take me tomorrow, I will have had this night. Nothing they could do to me would ever make me regret having you here with me.”
“John,” he breathes, and I am astounded to see that his lips are quivering again. “If I am forced to, I will protect you with my life.”
Maybe those are tears in his aquamarine eyes. Maybe it is just a trick of the light. Maybe the pleasures of the flesh are the one and only thing that make Sherlock Holmes forget his pride.
“And I you,” I say, my voice firmer now. “There’s nothing that could keep me from you, from this. What we're doing is not wrong. In fact, nothing has ever felt this right. I love you. I’ve loved you all this time. I see that now - I regret not seeing it sooner. No one could ever convince me otherwise.”
He nods, but does not answer. Instead, he embraces me, ever so tenderly, and hides his face in the crook of my neck. I push my nose into his matted hair and inhale his scent, marvelling at the warmth of his scalp radiating against my lips.
“I love you,” I repeat. “And I will until the day I die.”
He sighs deeply. His mouth pressed against my skin, he mumbles: “Let's just stay like this for a little while. Just… lying here, together. That's all I want. Before we go out there and face the world.”
I breathe him in, thinking about the obstacles lying before us and trying to ignore their existence for the time being.
“Yes,” I say. “That would be lovely.”
My leg has started to make itself felt again, but I revel in the pain. Without this wound, we would not be here now. I would still be alone, still so scared, so stupid. He would still suffer from afar.
It was meant to be.
“If you want, you can doze a bit,” I tell him. “I’ll stay awake and keep watch.”
He kisses the soft patch of flesh where my chest meets my armpit.
“No,” he says. “I wouldn’t miss a single moment of this.”
My mouth pulls itself into a smile so wide that it makes my cheeks hurt, but I cannot control the muscles of my face. I do not think I have ever been this happy before - law, society, and danger be damned.
We lie together quietly for a while, enjoying the sparse remnants of the afterglow of what has just transpired between us, but soon it becomes apparent that we must rise and clean ourselves and summon Mrs Hudson before she retires for the night, and change my bandages, too, if I am not to bleed all over my bed.
With my medical kit located so handily close by, the latter is achieved in less than five minutes, and after dressing ourselves and attempting to fix his hair and my moustache in order to look presentable for the task lying ahead, we move to the sitting room and Holmes rings the bell.
His face is tense. I myself feel my stomach churn with mild nausea, but I breathe deeply and try to fight it off. We cannot afford losing our nerve now.
Half a minute later, soft steps on the stairs announce the arrival of our landlady, and for a moment, Holmes’ eyes meet mine. They look apprehensive, but determined.
“Into battle,” he murmurs.
I just nod.
“Mr Holmes! You are in! I did not hear you come home. Why, I must be getting old and deaf.”
Holmes gets up and gestures for Mrs Hudson to sit down in the clients’ chair, and she gives him a slightly confused glance and does. She obviously thought I was ringing to ask for food or assistance, and Holmes’ presence in the flat has knocked her out of her stride.
“Do not do yourself an injustice, Mrs Hudson,” Holmes says and sits down in his own chair again. “You are far from old - or deaf, for that matter. You did not hear me come home because I was never out in the first place.”
Alright. The original plan was to offer her tea, or a glass of sherry, but apparently Holmes has decided to make fast work of it. I am not at all sure whether I think that his way is better or worse than the tea-and-sherry route, but I know that I am about to find out. I have no choice now, at any rate. Mrs Hudson frowns.
“You don’t say. Dr Watson told me--- but no. Wait! Don’t tell me.” Her eyes go wide with realisation, and I would call her epiphany comical if I was not so terrified of the deduction she is no doubt going to make. “When I knocked on Dr Watson’s bedroom door, you… you were in there with him! I had looked for you everywhere before I came knocking. It’s the only place you could have been!”
She sounds proud instead of repulsed, which irritates me beyond belief. This is all unfolding so completely differently from how I expected it to go that I find it difficult to wrap my head around it all. Holmes nods. He seems to be not as taken aback by her reaction as I am, but I can sense his confusion nevertheless.
“Yes,” he replies calmly. “I was. Mrs Hudson---”
She utters a brief, disbelieving laugh, thus interrupting him.
“Well, I never! Why didn’t you ever tell me? Who knows what could have occured! What if I had shown up a client, or, God beware, Inspector Lestrade? I would never have forgiven myself!”
Holmes gapes at her for a moment, then collects himself, his trademark mask of cool composure sliding back into place.
“Mrs Hudson… you are too kind. But--- it is a… newish development. Very--- very new.”
“Very new?” she asks curiously.
He purses his lips and nods.
“We…” he starts, but then does not finish his sentence.
I am positive that he has exhausted himself introducing our confession, so I jump to his aid to the best of my ability.
“We discussed it today, after coming home from the hospital,” I elaborate haphazardly. “It appears that my getting injured brought to the surface some--- facts that should have been addressed in the past, but never were.”
To my astonishment, she nods sympathetically.
“Took you a bloody long time, if you don’t mind me saying so.”
She is right, of course. But what in the name of God am I supposed to reply?
“I’m---” I say stupidly, with no clue as to how to continue.
My head is filled with nothing at all. I am not even scared anymore. “Dumbstruck” might be the best word to describe it. What does Mrs Hudson know that I do not? How come she is not surprised, or disgusted? I feel like a blasted idiot, and I am sure I look it right now.
“If you would like us to look for new quarters, we understand,” Holmes says after another brief and awkward pause, and I applaud the steadiness of his voice. “But please do not report us to the authorities.”
Well, it is out now. I know how hard this must be for him - from what I gather, Mrs Hudson has almost been like an aunt, or even a mother, to him. They have known each other for decades.
She tuts, looking utterly offended at the mere thought.
“New quarters? Don’t be silly now, Mr Holmes.”
I can see him swallow.
“Thank… you?” he stammers.
I have never seen him this flustered before. If it was not such a serious matter, it would all be quite amusing.
“You’ll have to keep your own bedrooms, of course,” Mrs Hudson continues, disregarding his questioning gaze, her tone entirely business-like. “And you’ll make both of them look like they’re being used. All those comings and goings of clients and the police. There’s only so much I can do to keep you safe.”
“Mrs Hudson…” I start, but trail off again, helpless.
This is too much to ask. It is too dangerous. What were we thinking?
Holmes’ eyes settle on my face for the fraction of a second, then slip away again. Calm now, his look says. Be calm, my dear.
“Mrs Hudson,” he says softly. “We do not want you to jeopardise your own safety for us. As our confidant, you might be charged with conspiracy if we are found out.”
Mrs Hudson furrows her brow, which makes her look more intimidating than you would ever expect from a petite elderly woman like her.
“Tsk! I’d like to see them try!”
He smirks appreciatively.
“You’re indeed one of the few people I would trust to put the fear of God even into the Yard’s most hardened inspector, but the risk you are about to take is not to be underestimated. Please give it some thought before you consent to it.”
She shrugs non-committally.
“If it helps you sleep, dear.”
He grimaces in resignation, then smiles tiredly. Now that the initial tension has left him, he seems to be crumpling a bit.
“You have already made up your mind, haven't you?”
She nods and sighs good-naturedly.
“Of course I have.”
Still trying to grasp the scope of what has just happened, I shake my head in amazement and look at her, hoping my gratitude will show on my face.
“Thank you, Mrs Hudson. This--- this means more than words could ever express. I--- I can’t tell you how---”
She nods and smiles at me, the lines around her eyes crinkling.
“Do not mention it, Dr Watson. You do not choose who you love, after all - who would I be to judge you for it? I do not agree with how the government treats men of your kind. Look at poor Wilde. I so loved his plays - and all his shenanigans, too. Speak his mind, he did! Alas, it was his downfall in the end. The two of you will be more careful, won’t you?” She stops and thinks for a moment, then adds: “Oh, and another thing… You have probably already thought about it, but make sure you do not buy your supplies at the same pharmacy every time. It is known to raise suspicions.”
“Mrs Hudson!” we exclaim in unison - Holmes laughing, the merry sound tinged with hysteria, and I cringing in desperate embarrassment.
She rolls her eyes and flaps her hands impatiently.
“Oh, shush! I wasn't born yesterday, you know. Would you like to have some cold supper now? You do look like you could use a bite to eat, to be honest. So pale! Some bread and cheese, maybe? And a cup of tea?”
Tongue-tied in mortification, my cheeks aflame, I look at Holmes, who shrugs.
“Only if you do us the honour of sitting down and eating with us,” he answers and gets up. “And I think our Watson here needs something stronger than tea. If you’d be so kind to prepare the food, I’ll go and concoct a brandy and soda for the patient.”
Mrs Hudson rises and nods, making a little detour on her way to the door to come and pat my shoulder.
“That wasn’t so bad now, was it?” she asks kindly before bustling off downstairs.
I stare at Holmes, my mouth dry, my heart stumbling over every other beat.
“What happened?” I want to know. “What was that?”
“Proof that one should never assume to know everything about one’s fellow human beings,” he replies and walks over to where I am sitting. “Some things cannot be predicted or deduced. I knew it was unlikely for her to turn us in, but I never expected her to be so fundamentally underwhelmed by our news. And so supportive. And quite so… knowledgeable.”
He bends down to kiss me, then grins.
“Does a brandy and soda sound good to you?”
“Make that a double, please.”
“How’s your leg?” he asks me when we are once again nestled up against each other in my bed, stark naked under the covers after a long and slow post-supper kissing session that took us from the sitting room into my bedroom and involved a lot of touching each other all over, which, as I am sure everybody would agree, is best done while wearing nothing at all.
“Fine. Hurts a bit, but I’ve had worse,” I reply. “But I’m disappointed. I was so looking forward to the Turkish bath - I will not be able to go again before it’s healed. The risk of infection is too severe.”
He sends me a crooked smile.
“I’m afraid we won’t ever visit the Turkish bath again, my dearest John. At least not together.”
I frown at him.
“And why is that?”
“Because after tonight, I do not think I will ever be able again to conceal the reactions beholding your half-clad physique provokes in me. It will spark too many memories. Most pleasant ones, I should add. It used to be hard in the past, but now it will only be… harder.”
With an impish, challenging glint in his eyes, he looks at me, and I take the bait, curious to see where this might lead.
“It used to be hard? How so?” I tease.
He takes on an expression of mock contemplation.
“Oh, let me put it like this… I was beyond grateful for the thickness of the towels. Even a splendid mind like mine cannot always control an over-enthusiastic body. Not when it comes to you.”
He smiles and pulls me closer to kiss my temple, then lays his head down on my shoulder.
“I wish we lived in another time, John,” he murmurs, suddenly serious. “I wish I could look at you and not hide my true intent, even when we are out on the street - or in the bathhouse. I wish I could kiss you in the back of a hansom, and hold your hand while we walk in the park. I wish we did not have to live half a life.”
I am amazed by his openness, but try not to let it show. Somehow, I am scared he will withdraw from me again if I voice my delight. He is, apparently, not the only one who needs some more time to get used to our new living arrangements.
“Do you think a time like that will come one day? A time when all this will be possible?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” he answers, his arm tightening its hold around my waist. “There are other countries where the laws are not as strict. If we lived in Paris, we would not have to pretend as much. At least we could share a bed and no one would put us in prison for it.”
I kiss the top of his head.
“Maybe we need a revolution, too.”
I trail my fingertips across his elbow, tracing wiry tendons and protruding bones.
“One day I’ll take you to France,” I muse, looking at the ceiling. “I’ll book us a suite at a fancy hotel, and we’ll get room service every day and just stay in bed and make love until we’re sore. Loudly.”
The weight of his body resting in my embrace is the most divine thing I have ever felt.
“Yes,” I say. “I’ll pleasure you until you scream my name, my love.”
He utters a vague sound of acknowledgement.
“What happens once we’re sore?”
His conversational tone amuses me. I grin lazily and run my hand through his hair, enjoying its thick, smooth texture curling around my fingers.
“We’ll switch and start all over again.”
He chuckles lowly.
“That sounds promising.”
I think about him inside of me, the delicious ache of being filled burning in my centre, about him rolling his hips, his face buried in my neck, about his voice moaning my name. I think about Egyptian sheets clinging to our skin, damp with sweat. About my fingers in his hair, and his lips kissing my ear. I want that, I think. All of it. All of him. He is quiet, and although my ability to deduce people is mediocre at best, I know that he is thinking about it, too.
“What else will we do?” he asks after a while.
I ponder this for a moment.
“At night, I’ll take you for a long walk along the beach,” I then say. “I'll explain the stars to you. And who knows, there might be a quiet spot where it’s just the two of us…”
He raises his head at that and looks at me, rolling onto his side with a graceful motion to prop his chin against my chest.
“Tell me what you’ll do if we find such a spot,” he murmurs and caresses my stomach.
I smile, brushing stray curls off his forehead. I love his hair; I want to stay like this forever, touching him. His eyes look a darker shade of blue in the shadows playing across his face.
“I’ll sit down with you…” I continue. “The sand will still be warm from the sun, but the air will have begun to cool down, nice and soothing on our skin…”
He shivers lightly, but doesn't interrupt.
“The crescent moon will bathe you in its silver light, making your eyes look so beautiful…” I resume my tale, seeing it all before me as if it was real. “I’ll hold you close, and kiss you so tenderly, and whisper sweet nothings into your ear… and if you happen to be in the mood, I’ll put my head in your lap and suck you until you spend yourself down my throat.”
I fall silent, surprised by my own boldness, and wait for his reaction. He presses his lips together, then inhales shakily and attempts to speak.
“Ever---” he croaks, and stops to clear his throat. “Ever the romantic,” he then whispers.
His cheeks have turned an enticing shade of pink. I feel arousal tug at my insides again.
“I can picture it clearly,” I continue lowly, my voice rough. “Your cock sticking out from your flies, so hard, begging for my lips around it… gleaming milky white in the moonlight… Your hands buried in my hair, tightening their grip as I move up and down slowly… tasting you… hmmm… teasing you…”
“John,” he sighs, his eyes fixed on mine. “I should warn you. And not only because, liberal though the law may be, public intercourse of this sort is still a criminal offence, even in France. I have several years of celibacy to make up for, so... be aware that you're playing with fire."
I give him an amused look that says Is that so?, and he nods as if to confirm his statement.
“Well,” I mutter and shrug. "You'll be happy to find that I'm not scared of getting burned."
He hesitates, then surges forwards all of a sudden and catches my lips in a deep, impetuous kiss, his body coming alive next to me, his naked skin brushing mine as he rubs himself against my side, my thigh. The duvet makes a rustling sound as he shoves it off our legs and to the floor with an uncoordinated, urgent movement of his arm.
God. He's wild with it.
I try to breathe through my nose and let him plunder me, my lids fluttering shut without me telling them to. He pulls at my bottom lip with his front teeth, then lets me go and grips my face, runs his thumb across my cheek, my chin, searing my skin with his touch.
“Give me your sweet mouth,” he rasps. “Give me your sweet, filthy mouth.”
His length is throbbing against my hip, rock-hard and silky, and I feel myself stiffen in response, so immediately that it leaves me feeling lightheaded. My hand strays towards his chest, pushing gently. He growls through clenched teeth, sounding delirious with passion.
I open my eyes.
“God, you're the most amazing sight,” I tell him, taking in his pupils, widened with want, his burning cheeks, his tousled hair. “Sit up against the headboard.”
I need some room to rest my leg, and I want our position to be as close to my fantasy as possible, so I wait for him to comply and then settle between his thighs, gazing up at him. I can smell his need amidst the unique musky scent I have already come to associate with him, and my mind goes numb. It all narrows down to the man spread out before me in invitation and surrender, and nothing else in this whole wide universe is important anymore.
“Can you feel the beach beneath your palms?” I ask him huskily, and from the corners of my eyes I can see him run his hands across the sheets, lightly, his fingers playing with imaginary grains of sand.
“Yes,” he whispers.
I rut against the mattress, aroused beyond belief, and lick a long, slow stripe up his hardness. My loins are burning with the need to come, but I want to take care of him first.
“Can you hear the waves caressing the shore?” I sigh once I have reached his tip.
“Mmhhh…” is all I get in reply.
“Put your hand in my hair,” I tell him, and, his gaze fixed on mine, he raises his right hand and weaves his fingers through my hair, tugging softly.
I open my mouth and rest him against my tongue, blinking slowly up at him, willing him to read in my eyes what I want him to do, and he takes a deep breath and increases the pressure of his palm on my head. I know he is watching me, watching in fascination how the muscles of my buttocks clench and unclench as I fuck the bed the way I fucked him earlier, and a perverted part of my soul shamelessly basks in his rapt attention.
“May I?” he asks, breathing hard and obviously crazy with desire and yet every ounce the gentleman, and I give him a barely-there nod and close my eyes.
“John,” he rumbles.
Then he pushes me down and cants his hips upwards at the same time, and I relax and allow him to slide inside, suppressing the urge to heave when he nudges the back of my throat.
“Oh John,” he moans, and his voice breaks. “Oh, yes!”
Ever so gently, he dictates my movements, pushing and pulling me up and down, and I suck with all the finesse I can muster, determined to make it the best experience of this kind he has ever had. My cock, still overly sensitive due to our previous encounter, is pulsing violently, the friction of the sheets against the tender skin almost too much and still not enough.
“John… John… ahhh...”
Up and down I bob, faster and faster, with him guiding me more and more vehemently, and then his rhythm turns erratic and his legs twitch against my sides.
He is close.
“Mmmhhh…” I hum around him, making the sound last, pressing him against my palate with my tongue on every downwards move.
He bucks wildly, gasping for air.
“Look--- at me,” he begs. “Oh! John!”
I open my lids just in time to see him bite his lip, hard enough to draw blood, and a second later his grip on my hair becomes painful. Liquid heat floods my mouth and I swallow, my eyes still set on his face, which looks its most beautiful in this state of ecstatic relief.
“Oh--- John,” he repeats, his eyes rolling behind half-closed lids, his long neck bared as he throws back his head and moans.
There are unshed tears in his voice, and when I release him after a last gentle lick, his fingers slacken and caress my hair, so softly, building a stark contrast to the roughness from only moments before. The sensuality of it all is overwhelming, and my pleasure mounts. I wonder if I should wait, give him the chance to reciprocate, but I cannot stop myself. I have to give in to it, or I will go insane. My heart aching with affection and his taste still lingering on my tongue, I press my face against his thigh and stifle my needy groans, my hips rocking back and forth more and more quickly, my lungs stinging with exhaustion.
“Ah, oui,” he rumbles hoarsely and digs his thumb into the back of my neck, rubbing slow, encouraging circles. “Oui, mon amour. Come now. Come, my love.”
His voice is a velvet rope, slinging itself around my middle, my throat, my cock. Pulling, pulling, pulling at me until I am there, inside him, and he inside of me, two souls as one even though our bodies are not joined this time, and in a final, desperate crescendo of lust I spend myself against the bed, making a right mess of everything, but utterly unable to care.
“Yes,” he breathes, running his hand up and into my hair again. “Yes, John.”
He starts to massage my scalp with his fingertips, his blunt nails giving me the most glorious sensations, and I shiver from head to toe and finally still and slump into the gap between his legs, my nose so close to his now softened manhood that I can smell his release and his sweat and my saliva mingle on his skin, which, come to think of it, should really not be as pleasant as it is.
“Beautiful,” he murmurs and continues to pet me, gently helping me to calm down and collect myself.
After a long while I manage to look up, and he smiles down at me with the most loving, tender expression I have ever seen playing around his kaleidoscope eyes.
“You speak French,” I state, still panting slightly.
He smirks with only one side of his mouth, which makes him look more handsome than should be permitted, and nods.
“Yes, chéri. Since we are currently residing in your fantasy version of France, I thought it appropriate.”
“Very,” I agree. “Very appropriate. Not to mention seductive.”
He licks his lips, looking subtly proud of himself.
“I admit that this notion struck my mind as well.”
Of course it did.
“Love your mind,” I answer, too tired to hold my head up any longer. My forehead falling against his hipbone, I add: “Love you.”
His hands come down to stroke my shoulders then, warm and comforting, and I realise that I need to sleep. I feel sated and content and absolutely wrecked, and I could sleep for a whole week now.
“Let us retire to my bedroom,” he suggests lowly. “There are clean sheets on my bed. We’ll change yours tomorrow.”
“We cannot have Mrs Hudson wash these,” I reply drowsily. “We’ll have to do it ourselves.”
“I agree,” he says. “Some things are best kept between the two of us.”
“I expect we will do a lot of our own laundry in the days to come,” I muse, chuckling softly.
He huffs out a short laugh.
“Yes. Although I do hope that next time you’ll allow me to return the favour. Apart from giving me great pleasure, this would have the added benefit of a more cleanly completion.”
“Mm-hmm…” Even though I approve of the idea, I am too drained to answer properly. Getting up and moving to his bedroom will consume all the strength I have got left. “Tomorrow.”
“I'll take your word for it.”
He carefully steadies me as I try to sit, my limbs slow and uncooperative. When I get to my feet and rub the tense muscles of my neck to loosen them, swaying slightly because my injured leg protests the exertions of this day, he rises as well and takes hold of my arm.
“I'll help you down the stairs.”
I huff indignantly, secretly moved by the gesture.
“I can manage,” I tell him.
He raises one eyebrow.
“I am very aware of that. But I cannot resist the temptation to touch you. Prepare yourself, because I will take absolutely any excuse to do so in the future. Permit me, please.”
I gaze at him standing before me, naked and with all his walls lying crumbled at his feet, and my heart bursts with the tenderness I have finally allowed it to feel. I know, like I did on that very first day, that there is nothing in the world that could keep me from giving in to him, over and over again.
“Go ahead, then,” I say. “You lead the way this time. Just let me get some clothes.”
After I have put on my nightshirt and slippers, we slowly make our way downstairs and into his bed, and as we walk beside each other, blurry visions of what is to come flit past my inner eye. Waking up tomorrow, his face next to mine, his scent all over me. Breakfast together, our feet tangling underneath the white table cloth. Clients and adventures and the odd fight, and making up afterwards. Coming in from the cold on Christmas Eve to make love on the hearth rug in front of a blazing fire. Summer holidays in France, because why not?
“It is not half a life,” I whisper into his ear once we are settled beneath the duvet, sharing his pillow. “It is a life with you, which makes it as perfect a life as I could ever have wished for. No matter what the world will become. Inside these rooms, it will always be us.”
Silence. Then he huffs, almost violently, and starts to vibrate in my arms. For the fraction of a second I am hurt, humiliated even, because it sounds like he is suppressing a laugh, but then I realise that it is quite the opposite. He is holding back a reaction that might be too painful for him to reveal just now, and I chide myself for not noticing right away. He does not answer, so I pull him against me and kiss his hair, over and over again.
“I'll make up for the time we've lost, Sherlock,” I say between kisses. “For all those years. I’ll love you with every fibre of my being. Every single day. That is my promise to you.”
He hiccoughs lowly. His large hands grip my nightshirt and hold onto it, twisting the fabric in their grip in an incoherent gesture of despair.
“I know it's too much right now,” I murmur against his forehead. “Too much sentiment. You don't have to say anything. You were so brave today, to open up to me like you did. So brave. Let's go to sleep now. The new day might present us with yet another case that needs you at full capacity.”
He nods against my neck, still quite upset, it seems, so I rock him back and forth gently, like a small child.
“Sshhh,” I try to soothe him. “It will be alright.”
It takes him a while, but eventually his breathing evens out again. He presses a chaste kiss onto my collarbone, then sighs deeply, molding himself against my side.
“Rest, my sweet,” I tell him, my lips brushing his curls. “Rest now. Our new life begins tomorrow…”
I trail off, suddenly too exhausted to even speak. On the verge of dropping into unconsciousness, I think I hear him whisper a shy declaration of love in response, but I am too far gone to make sure. Too warm. Too comfortable. I feel so absolutely safe, here with him, behind this locked door that keeps the world out. Too safe to care about anything but his heart beating alongside mine, telling me what I need to know more clearly than words ever could. Telling me what I already knew I needed but was too scared to pursue.
And as I finally fall asleep, I do so with the knowledge that what I told him was not merely a platitude to help him calm down.
It was the truth.
No matter what will happen in London, in Britain, in Europe, or the world.
No matter what the future might hold.
Inside these rooms, it will always be us.