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I had not been in my study five minutes when the maid entered to say that a person desired to see me. To my astonishment it was none other than my strange old book-collector, his sharp, wizened face peering out from a frame of white hair, and his precious volumes, a dozen of them at least, wedged under his right arm. 

"You're surprised to see me, sir," said he, in a strange, croaking voice. 

I acknowledged that I was. 

"Well, I've a conscience, sir, and when I chanced to see you go into this house, as I came hobbling after you, I thought to myself, I'll just step in and see that kind gentleman, and tell him that if I was a bit gruff in my manner there was not any harm meant, and that I am much obliged to him for picking up my books." 

"You make too much of a trifle," said I. "May I ask how you knew who I was?" 

"Well, sir, if it isn't too great a liberty, I am a neighbour of yours, for you'll find my little bookshop at the corner of Church Street, and very happy to see you, I am sure. Maybe you collect yourself, sir; here's `British Birds,' and `Catullus,' and `The Holy War' -- a bargain every one of them. With five volumes you could just fill that gap on that second shelf. It looks untidy, does it not, sir?" 

I moved my head to look at the cabinet behind me. When I turned again Sherlock Holmes was standing smiling at me across my study table. I rose to my feet, stared at him for some seconds in utter amazement, and then it appears that I must have fainted for the first and the last time in my life.

I fainted. 

When I came to, I was sitting in my chair, my collar open, and the taste of brandy on my lips. Holmes attempted to pour more brandy down my throat. 

I sputtered and coughed. Holmes was sitting on my table, leaning over me. When I opened my eyes, he put his flask on the table and rested his hands on my shoulders. He looked remorseful. 

“My dear Watson, I owe you a thousand apologies,” said he. “I had no idea that you would be so affected.” 

I couldn't believe my eyes, my ears. Three years of loneliness, a pervasive, devastating sense of loss, and here he was, flesh and blood, the man I had missed like I would the breath in my lungs. 

I gripped his arms desperately. “Holmes!” I cried. “Is it really you?” 

He smiled, almost shyly. I brazenly touched him, still not believing my eyes. I felt his sinewy arms, his shoulders, even reaching up to touch his face, to run my fingers along his pale cheeks, his long nose. 

In my relief, I abandoned propriety altogether and hugged him tightly. I rested my head upon his shoulder and, to my shame, began to weep. 

Three years of grief poured out of me, and I sobbed as I gripped my dearest friend to my chest. 

Holmes tensed, but after a moment he wrapped his long arms around my back and stiffly hugged me in return. 

And then I had to look at him, take in his expression. I pulled away and sat back in my chair, wiping my eyes and laughing, looking at those features of his which held me enrapt. There had never been anyone in my life who had such an effect upon me, and here he sat, smiling down at me from my desk. 

Holmes looked pale, and even more gaunt than I had remembered him. His thick black hair was unruly from his disguise as the old bookseller. The frayed overcoat and dark wool trousers of his costume made him appear somber, as if he had just stepped from his own funeral. In a way he had. His gray eyes looked my body over with similar intensity, and I realized he was as happy to look upon me after so many years apart as I was to see him. 

“Can it indeed be that you are alive?” I asked him. “Is it possible that you succeeded in climbing out of that awful abyss?” 

“Wait a moment,” said he. “Are you sure that you are really fit to discuss things? I have given you a serious shock by my unnecessarily dramatic reappearance.” 

I assured him that I was fine, and begged him to sit down and tell me how he came to be alive. Holmes sat opposite me and lit a cigarette. He wanted to put off the tale of his survival until later this evening, but I shook my head and grabbed his sleeve in my enthusiasm. 

"I am full of curiosity. I should much prefer to hear now." 

"You'll come with me tonight?" He asked the question hesitantly. 

I grinned from ear to ear. "When you like and where you like." 

Holmes threw back his head and laughed. "This is indeed like the old days!” He inhaled deeply upon his cigarette, and then turned to face me with all severity. “Well, then, about that chasm. I had no serious difficulty in getting out of it, for the very simple reason that I never was in it." 

"You never were in it?" I felt as though my heart had stopped. 

"No, Watson, I never was in it.” Holmes smiled briefly, and then told me of his amazing battle with Professor Moriarty at the edge of the abyss. 

Holmes had fought until Moriarty had plunged into the falls. Upon realizing that there would be other men in Moriarty's association who would want him dead, Holmes decided to take advantage of the turn of events fate had placed his way. If he were to pretend to be dead, his enemies would soon expose themselves, and allow him the opportunity to destroy them. 

Holmes told his story with great precision, as if reciting a speech he had memorized. As I listened, my happiness at his survival was slowly giving way to a sense of betrayal, and a great hurt that he had been alive this entire time, and had not taken my feelings into consideration. 

As he haughtily continued his tale, my anger began to boil. For three long years I had mourned him. Not a day went by that I had not thought of my dearest companion, and how his loss affected me. One word from him would have been enough to save me all the despair I had endured, and yet he had chosen to lump me in with the rest of the world, with the public and his enemies, trusting me no more than a stranger. 

I knew Holmes well enough to see the glint of satisfaction in his eyes as he recounted his remarkable tale. He was pleased with himself, with his trickery and his reappearance. And all the while he described his harrowing escape, my heart began to break in my chest, for the great lie he spouted without a thought, that had torn me to shreds. 

Holmes blew smoke around his face and leaned back in the chair. “I struggled upwards, and at last I reached a ledge several feet deep and covered with soft green moss,” Holmes told me. He put out his cigarette in the empty brandy glass on my desk and stretched back, his hands linked behind his head, staring at me with a small smile. “From this ledge I could lie unseen in the most perfect comfort. There I was stretched when you, my dear Watson, and all your following were investigating in the most sympathetic and inefficient manner the circumstances of my death.” 

I leaned over my desk, swung my arm back, and punched Holmes in the jaw. 

Holmes fell out of the seat and onto the floor. He looked at me in complete shock, holding his cheek. 

“Watson!” his voice was hushed, startled. “What on earth!” 

I was shaking now. To know now that all my bereavement could have been spared by a single word was too much. In three steps I made my way around the desk and lunged at him, grabbing him off the floor by his lapels. 

“You sit there with a smirk on your face, berating my investigative skills, telling me you watched me as I sat weeping for you on that ledge?” My voice trembled with suppressed emotions. My eyes welled with tears again, and I wiped at them hastily. “Do you have any idea how devastated I was? How that moment shattered the man I had been? You stared down at my ruin, Holmes! I was never the same!” I threw him down on the ground. 

Holmes stood shakily, still cradling his cheek. “Watson, please, I--“ 

“-- Do you know how hard the last few years have been for me?” I shouted, covering my face with my hands. “I was so shaken by your death, I was barely present to deal with Mary's illness. She died, and I hardly cared, because I was still too devastated by the loss of you!” 

I looked at him again, and saw he had gone completely pale. For once he did not try to defend his immoral actions. 

“How could you?” I cried. “I thought I was your friend!” 

Holmes looked appalled. “I owe you many apologies, my dear Watson, but it was all-important that it should be thought I was dead, and it is quite certain that you would not have written so convincing an account of my unhappy end had you not yourself thought that it was true.” 

“But afterwards, Holmes!” I stalked towards him and he retreated back towards the wall. “Could you not have trusted me after I published my account? For God's sake, there has not been a single day that I have not missed you. You could have spared me all of this with one word!” 

Holmes would not cry, it was not in his nature. But I knew that the words I spoke affected him, for he looked as though I had stabbed him in the heart. 

“There were other reasons,” said he. He spoke so softly I thought at first I had imagined them. 

“What?” I crossed my arms over my chest. I glared at him, trying my best to loom over him despite my smaller stature. 

“Several times during the last three years I have taken up my pen to write to you.” His voice had gone unnaturally quiet. He looked away from me. “But always I feared lest your affectionate regard for me should tempt you to some indiscretion which would betray my secret.” 

“So I do not deserve your trust.” I swallowed another swell of anger and clenched my fists to refrain from striking him once more. 

“You would have followed me,” said he. 

“Of course I would have!” I shouted back. “You may have used me for support!” 

Holmes looked to the floor. "I had only one confidant -- my brother Mycroft.” 

My hurt raged in my breast once more. “Mycroft is a trustworthy associate, but not I?” 

“No!” Holmes said, eyes wild, hands flying out towards me. “It isn't that! I had to confide in him in order to obtain the money which I needed.” He drew his hands together, pleading with me. “I had no choice.” 

“No choice!” I reached out to strike him. 

“Don't hit me again,” Holmes warned, his voice low. 

But I was beyond reasoning now. My pain and rejection fused into one furious sensation and I leaned forward to throttle him once more. 

Holmes is an excellent fighter, however, and he expertly dodged my blow. With startling speed he grabbed me by the arms and threw me down to the floor. 

I fought back. My heartbreak made me irrational, and we grappled on the floor like schoolboys. But Holmes was less upset and more effective, and pinned me to the ground, sitting on top of me and holding my arms down, above my head. 

We both breathed heavily from the exertion, glaring at each other. 

“Don't hit me again,” said he once more. 

“I thought you were dead!” I yelled pitifully, my eyes foolishly watering. 

“I'm sorry.” He looked frightened. “Watson –- I'm sorry. I had to leave.” 

“But why?” I went limp, and he let go of my arms. However he continued to sit on top of me, warily watching me with his sharp eyes. 

“I had to leave you behind.” He frowned. “There were other reasons.” 

“Why, for God's sake?” 

“I needed to distance myself from you.” Holmes spoke in short, clipped tones. 

But I spared him no sympathy. “You owe me, at the very least, an explanation!” 

Holmes looked crazed. His expression was wild, flushed. Suddenly, he leaned down and grabbed me by the shirt. And then he kissed me, hard. His lips pressed against mine with force. I opened my mouth to protest, and he slipped his tongue inside me, forcing my mouth wider. 

I squirmed beneath him, trying to push him off. Finally he broke for air, glaring down at me. 

“Now do you see why?” he hissed, pressing the length of his body against mine. “Do you understand how hard it was for me to be with you, day after day, when I was filled with depraved ideas of how to express my total, absolute affection for you?” His voice choked at the last, and he finally did tear up, rage and sadness battling across his expressive face. 

I wasn't thinking. My mind had gone blank with the joy of his presence, with the explosive emotions, with this new information. And it had been years since I had been touched, been kissed. I had always been an intensely tactile person, and to be touched in such a manner after so long an absence brought a flare of arousal which burned away all logic from my mind, or any consideration of propriety or gender. 

I reached up and cupped the back of Holmes' neck, forcing his head back down to mine. I kissed him back. 

Holmes' eyes widened, and then he plunged into my mouth. Our kiss turned feral. I rolled over and forced myself upon him. We bit and sucked at each other in a desperate, violent embrace, clinging to each other, running our hands over each other's heads and faces. There was nothing soft about this lovemaking. It was angry, full of years of our hurt. Holmes ripped at my shirt and I did the same with his frayed overcoat, desperate to feel his skin against mine, to have the warmth of another human body upon me. 

I fell back as he opened my shirt, using the angle to extricate his arms from his coat. Holmes helped me, shrugging off his coat and plunging down to run his long, thin fingers along my exposed chest. His mouth was back on mine then, pushing my head back against the hard floorboards of my office, me oblivious to everything other than the thrum of pleasure from my groin, the desperate heat of his mouth, the need to thrust my tongue as deep into him as possible. 

Suddenly Holmes broke from me. He bolted upright and in two quick strides was at my office door. He locked it and returned to me. 

The small interruption gave me a moment to breathe, to finally question what it was I was doing. A sick, guilty sensation was already forming. This was wrong. This was very, very wrong. 

And then Holmes was back, kneeling beside me. He kissed me again, and I forgot all my momentary reservations. 

Holmes pulled me down to the floor with him once more. His hands were everywhere – tracing the contours of my face, running along my shoulders, my chest, even pinching my nipples slightly as he pressed his long body along mine. For my part, I just cradled his head in my hands, keeping his lips prisoner upon mine. I could feel his urgency pressing against my hips, and I instinctively ground my own hardness against his. 

Holmes moaned. Suddenly his hands lowered, deftly unbuckling my trousers and unbuttoning my flies. Within seconds he released my shaft, holding it in his long fingers, grasping at it with strength. 

I swore in excitement. None of the women I had ever made love to had held me with such gentle power. I thrust helplessly into his hand. His fingers curled around the tip of my shaft, and slowed my unsteady pulsing into an even rhythm, his thumb rubbing the tip of my slit with maddening smoothness. 

I was desperately curious to feel what it would be like to rub my member against his. I untangled my fingers from his hair and tried to undo his trousers as expertly as he had undone mine, but I ended up fumbling about, simply stroking at his bulge through the fabric. Holmes hissed in pleasure, his head thrown back wantonly, red, swollen lips parted. He released me momentarily to assist me in freeing his shaft. The moment his hands left my flesh I ached for their return. 

Holmes' member sprung loose through his trousers with obvious need. His cock was thick and long, and oozed from the tip profusely. His entire body shivered as I tentatively touched him there. I closed my eyes, imagining what I would do if it were my own flesh in my hands. I began to stroke him. Within moments, his own fingers returned to my aching need. The two of us stroked each other together, and I pressed my body tightly against his. 

I threw my leg over Holmes' and moved my hips to be able to rub my shaft and sac against his cock. As I did so, Holmes bit back a cry and then climaxed, his seed pouring over my hand and my own member in large spurts. I pushed even harder against him, against his hand and his member, and within seconds I joined his climax, our seed mingling together in a sticky crime scene of unadulterated desire. 

We lay there, panting, clinging to each other as we caught our breaths. As my heart rate returned to normal, I felt awash with guilt and shame. I couldn't even look at him. Was my pleasure at seeing Holmes alive so powerful that it debased my very nature? 

Holmes pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and used it to clean me up, wiping first my cock and then my hands and fingers. He then wiped himself clean and tucked himself back into his trousers. He leaned over to do the same for me. I flushed with sudden, belated embarrassment, and fumbled as I hastily buttoned my shirt. My hands were shaking. 

Holmes didn't say a word. He had a small smile on his face as he trucked my member back into my trousers and buttoned them with delicacy, almost reverence. He looked at me, flush from our exertions, his eyes bright, and happiness radiated from him. His lips were red and swollen from our kisses and he looked absolutely beautiful. Guilt cut me like a knife at the thought. 

I was unsure how to break it to him, but this could never happen again. My heart felt as though it were stabbed. He looked so very joyous, more excited than I'd ever seen him, his eyes glazed with love for me. But my stomach was flipping with my shame. “Holmes…” 

“Halloa! What time is it?” Holmes suddenly stood. He glanced at his pocket watch. “Eight-thirty already!” He reached for the remnants of his bookseller's costume, and then smiled devilishly at me. “I'm almost late for my assassination!” 

“Assassination?” I stood, much more slowly, my head still foggy with all that had transpired. 

“I'll explain along the way,” said he, grabbing his hat and gloves. 

I had barely a moment to glance in my mirror on the way out the door. I didn't look as disheveled as I felt, but my lips were red, my hair a mess, and my shirt was wrinkled beyond repair. Luckily, my hat and coat covered most of the damage. There was nothing to be done with the startled expression in my face, other than rely on the privacy of the dark evening fog of London. Without another word of our intimacy, I followed Holmes out onto the street, and into a hansom, my revolver in my pocket, the thrill of adventure in my heart.

Chapter Text

Holmes and I alighted at Cavendish Square and took a long, winding route through stables and alleys until he led me to an empty house. He had not informed me of what our goal was that evening, but the familiar rush of adrenalin that accompanied my friend's cases was coursing through my veins, and I was able to curtail my curiosity for the moment, more intrigued by the singular route we were taking through the back alleys of London. 

Holmes opened the door to the empty house with utmost precaution. Our feet creaked on the boards as we made our way upstairs. Holmes' cold, thin fingers closed round my wrist and led me forwards down a long hall. We came to rest in a large and empty room which overlooked none other than Baker Street. 

I could barely see Holmes in the foreboding dust and darkness of that place. But he put his hand upon my shoulder and his lips close to my ear. 

"Do you know where we are?" he whispered. 

"Surely that is Baker Street," I answered, staring through the dim window. 

"Exactly. We are in Camden House, which stands opposite to our own old quarters." 

"But why are we here?" 

"Because it commands so excellent a view of that picturesque pile.” Holmes instructed me to look out the window. To my surprise, I saw the silhouette of my friend standing guard in the window. 

Holmes explained his elaborate plan to lure his would-be assassin to the area. His trap had been set. As we waited for the events to unfold, Holmes watched the street with a nervous, excitable look upon his face. Yet every time he made eye contact with me, he would blush slightly, and his nervousness seemed to fade, grow shy, and he smiled with a new sincerity I had not noted in him prior to his demise. 

This was not the Holmes I left in the Reichenbach Fall, I realized. We waited in the dark, silent and watchful, and I thought about what Holmes had told me. For years he had harbored unnatural inclinations towards me, towards men. It explained much about his dislike of women and his cool, distant nature. It also served to help me understand how he could at once be so warm to me, so trusting and friendly, and yet had always held me back an arm's length. 

But here, now, there was a sensuality to him, an emotional side, that I had never seen before in his previously calculating nature. It was as though our years apart had served only to strengthen his feelings for me. In return, I must confess that I too appreciated him more, now that I had once lost him. 

As the hours past, Holmes' anticipation grew, until I heard that thin, sibilant note which spoke of intense suppressed excitement. An instant later he pulled me back into the blackest corner of the room, and I felt his warning hand upon my lips. The fingers which clutched me were quivering. Never had I known my friend more moved, and yet the dark street still stretched lonely and motionless before us. 

But suddenly I was aware of that which his keener senses had already distinguished. A low, stealthy sound came to my ears, not from the direction of Baker Street, but from the back of the very house in which we lay concealed. Holmes crouched back against the wall and I did the same, my hand closing upon the handle of my revolver. Our shoulders brushed in the darkness. 

For my part, I felt like I was a twelve year old boy again. I had forgotten how exhilarating, how utterly thrilling, it was to be here in the dark, on a case with Sherlock Holmes. This man, my closest friend, a man I thought dead, was beside me, leading me once again into his world of danger and surprise. I could barely contain my joy in silence. 

My happiness must have shown, even in the pitch black of that wretched room, for Holmes suddenly grabbed my hand in his and pulled me towards him. He kissed me. It was slow, heated, and full of years of his unrequited love and years of my grief and regret. It was the best kiss I've ever given or received, and it reached to my very spirit, making me realize how much I had suffered and how every moment was worth it, to be here, now, with Holmes' lips upon mine. 

We broke at the sound of the landing door opening. I saw the vague outline of a man. He crept forward into the room. 

He was within three yards of us, this sinister figure, and I had braced myself to meet his spring, before I realized that he had no idea of our presence. 

We watched in silence as he approached the window and proceeded to piece together a singular weapon, the likes of which I had never seen before. Crouching down, he rested the end of the barrel upon the ledge of the open window, and I saw his long moustache droop over the stock and his eye gleam as it peered along the sights. 

He was aiming at the silhouette of Holmes. A second later, I heard a whiz and breaking glass. 

At that instant Holmes sprang like a tiger on to the marksman's back and hurled him flat upon his face. He was up again in a moment, and with convulsive strength he seized Holmes by the throat; but I struck him on the head with the butt of my revolver and he dropped again upon the floor. I fell upon him, and as I held him my comrade blew a shrill call upon a whistle. There was the clatter of running feet upon the pavement, and two policemen in uniform, with one plain-clothes detective, rushed through the front entrance and into the room. 

"That you, Lestrade?" said Holmes, breathlessly. As I caught my breath, Holmes began to laugh, his eyes dancing with merriment. 

Lestrade was our companion indeed. He took in the re-appearance of Sherlock Holmes with far more grace than I had, shaking my friend's hand and smiling. Lestrade had filled out over the last three years, but his sharp features were just the same as always, and he looked both pleased and chagrined as he congratulated Holmes on another capture. 

“It's good to see you back in London, sir,” said he. 

“I think you want a little unofficial help,” said Holmes, turning quickly to give me a secret smirk before schooling his features back into that of a stern lecturer. Holmes clucked his tongue at the inspector and shook his head. “Three undetected murders in one year won't do, Lestrade. But you handled the Molesey Mystery with less than your usual –- that's to say, you handled it fairly well.” 

Lestrade produced two candles and the group of us took a good look at our prisoner, who Holmes revealed was none other than the highly-distinguished and respected Colonel Sebastian Moran, once of Her Majesty's Indian Army. 

All of us stood and listened as Holmes, with no little arrogance, riled up the enemy that had stalked him since Holmes supposedly foundered at the Reichenbach Fall. Holmes detailed Moran's crimes, and then further surprised the gentlemen from Scotland Yard and myself by blaming the Colonel for the recent murder of the Honourable Ronald Adair. 

Holmes turned to me, a glint in his eye. He gripped my arm affectionately. 

“And now, Watson, if you can endure the draught from a broken window, I think that half an hour in my study over a cigar may afford you some profitable amusement." 

“Of course,” said I. My head spun with the dramatic capture of Moran, with seeing Lestrade again, and with the delicious kiss in the darkness. 

We made our way across the street slowly, watching Lestrade and the two policemen grapple the Colonel into a four-wheeler. 

In the dull yellow light of the street gas lamp, I stood with Holmes at the footpad of 221B Baker Street, my heart swelling with nostalgia. I looked over and saw my friend's face glowing with his happiness, and once again, my stomach sank with the realization that I had to inform him that what transpired between us back in my office could never again be repeated. 

He looked anxiously at the door, and at me. “You will come in then? Perhaps we may even secure ourselves a bite to eat. I informed Mrs. Hudson to prepare for two tonight.” 

“How did you know I would come?” I asked. 

Holmes smiled briefly. “I did not know. But I had hoped.” He reached for my hand, but I stepped aside, feeling my uneasiness creep up my throat like a sickness. 

“Holmes,” said I. “Look, I--” 

“No.” Holmes reached out and quickly covered my mouth with his hand. His eyes grew very wide, startled. “Do not say it yet.” He removed his hand and stared at me. “Let us go upstairs and have a cigar first. Grant me another hour of this happiness before you break my heart, all right?” He gave me a quick smile, and then turned from me to open the front door. 

I stood frozen in place, horrified that he knew what I was going to say, when I wasn't even sure myself how I was going to say it. With a feeling of impending doom, I followed him through the open door, where I was seized upon by my old landlady, Mrs. Hudson. 

Everything about 221B Baker Street was warm, welcoming. 

The smell of Mrs. Hudson's shampoo as her head rested on my shoulder, giving me a hug. The quiet, distant ticking of the grandfather clock in her room. The dim hall light, the crack in the first stair, the familiar colors of the front carpet. The moment I stepped inside, I felt on the verge of tears, for returning to the world I had loved and been loved in. On the banister, a scratch I made when moving in my belongings. On the hat stand, my old red scarf still hung, forgotten but not displaced. 

I ran my hand over the fringe of my scarf. Mrs. Hudson smiled at me. 

“Mr. Holmes' brother instructed me to leave everything in its place for the last three years,” said she. “I even left the few belongings of yours, Doctor, in the exact position you last saw them!” 

My eyes did well with tears then, but I blinked quickly to hide the evidence. Holmes was already on his way upstairs. He turned and looked at me anxiously. 

“Come, Watson.” 

And like I had always done, I obeyed him. 

Upstairs, we recounted the capture of Colonel Moran and Holmes filled in the missing details of the case as we smoked cigars and drank his brandy. The familiar sounds and smells of our sitting room lulled me into a peaceful state. I never wanted this evening to end. And yet I had done wrong; I had led Holmes astray, and there could be no peace between us until I corrected my former mistake. 

When Holmes finished his story of Moriarty's gang and his tracking of Moran, I tentatively began to ask him questions about our time apart. He spoke more hesitantly than he had in my office that afternoon. He had learned from his errors, it seemed. As he told each story he would pause frequently and look me in the eye, as if weighing whether this new information would cause me to strike him once more. 

“So you have returned to Baker Street, and to your old life once more?” I asked. 

“Indeed.” Holmes leaned back and stretched his long limbs in his chair, yawning. “Once again I am free to devote my life to examining those interesting little problems which the complex life of London so plentifully presents.” Holmes drained the rest of his brandy and stood. He turned quickly and smiled down at me, where I sat on the settee. 

“You should sell your practice and move back to Baker Street with me,” Holmes said. He touched my shoulder, and I straightened. Holmes immediately withdrew his hand and retreated back to his chair. He refilled his pipe, never looking at me. He lowered his voice. 

“I realize that what happened in your study was an anomaly,” said he. He looked up at me then, with no anger, just stating a fact. “I can think of no other reason than gratitude for my survival, that would explain why you would allow my advances to go so far. But you may rest assured that I will never again touch you if you do not desire it.” 

“But Holmes…” I could feel my face turning red with the embarrassment of the conversation, but I had to know. “… You confessed that you have had feelings for me for some time. How can I pretend to ignore this?” 

Holmes' mouth quirked up into a brief, cold smile. “You forget, Watson, that I lived with my desires firmly under wraps for several years before. If I succeeded in doing so once, I can do so again. For I would much rather stifle my unnatural tendencies and live with the consequences, than lose you as a friend.” He looked to me then, eyes bright. “Please consider returning to Baker Street. Your rooms are just as they were when you left them. Quit your practice, and continue your excellent work as my associate and biographer.” 

“Let me consider it,” I told him. I was weary from the long, emotionally trying day, and I could no longer trust my own decisions. 

Holmes sat back in his chair again, curling his long legs up. “Of course. And now, to repay you for your assistance this evening, perhaps I shall play some of the songs you used to enjoy, back when we were slightly younger?” 

Holmes reached for his violin. I closed my eyes and leaned back against the settee, smiling as I listened to the beautiful notes of my friend's playing. How many evenings had I fallen asleep, content and at peace with myself and the world, listening to Holmes play me my favorite songs beside the fire? I sank back into that contentment, still hardly able to believe that after so much time, I could be happy once again.

Chapter Text

I must have fallen asleep during Holmes' playing. When I awoke, the fire in the hearth was reduced to glowing coals. A blanket had been carefully draped over my body, and a pillow discreetly propped behind my head. 

The dim light coming in from the blinds suggested that it was very early, almost dawn. The stiffness in my neck suggested the same. The door to Holmes' bedroom was closed –- I could only assume that he had given me a blanket and then retired himself for the night. 

I shifted under the blankets, stretching, and realized that I had awoken in a state typical of most healthy men upon arising. My thoughts immediately returned to Holmes' red lips, to his long hands, working my shaft, and I couldn't help the shudder of pleasure that racked my body from head to toe. It would be so easy to feel that again. To take pleasure in him again. 

And, my aroused mind reasoned, what harm truly was there? I had known inverts in the army and in my medical practice, and they were otherwise respectable men. Would it be such a crime to be associated with such a person? 

And truly, there were great advantages to having a male lover. I would never worry of pregnancy. With women, I would have to propose, and marriage was a venture I was not yet prepared to undertake so soon after Mary's death. My only other option for physical pleasure would be from a brothel, which I found degrading and unappealing. So why shouldn't I look to a friend of mine, who had expressed interest in such proclivities, whose discretion I could trust, and who would expect no proposal of marriage or long-term commitment in return? 

Thus my sexually-fevered mind worked furiously in that early morning hour to justify approaching Holmes with my morning state of need. I always felt that I received far more in my friendship with Holmes than he had in return. If I could do something small like this, to make him so happy, wouldn't it be wrong for me to deny him? 

All of these thoughts, coupled by the memory of his fingers massaging my shaft, was enough to bring me to the brink of excitement. I tossed on the settee, unable to think of anything else. I realized my reason had once again become hijacked by desire, but I no longer cared. 

I abandoned the warmth of the blanket and made my way slowly over to Holmes' door. My heart pounded in my chest, so loudly that I thought the sound could be heard by everyone in the house in the quiet of the morning. My trousers bulged obscenely, but I hoped the darkness of the sleeping apartments would hide my excited state. 

I knocked on Holmes' door quietly. “Holmes?” I whispered. My heart beat so rapidly it was hard to speak. 

“Come in.” 

I opened the door slowly, and found Holmes in his bed, leaning over to light a candle. The explosion of light made us both blink. I sat down quickly on the edge of his bed, crossing my legs to cover my urgency. 

“Are you leaving?” Holmes' voice was cracked with sleep. He wiped his eyes with a fist, trying to wake up. 

I sat still, unable to speak. Now that I was here, on his bed, I was terrified. How on earth did I believe I could proceed with this? 

Holmes sat up and stared at me. His eyes met mine for one long, excruciating moment. He seemed to be reading my mind. His eyes flickered over my body, stopping briefly at my waist, and then quickly returning back to my face. 

I flushed. 

Thank God, Holmes took the lead. Without another word he reached out and cradled my face in his hands. He closed his eyes and brought his lips to mine, kissing me with exquisite sweetness. These were not the violent, starved kisses we shared in my study. These were slow, lingering, exploring, both of us getting used to the feel and taste of each other. 

Holmes' cheeks were slightly rough with stubble, and the feeling was strange against my own whiskered cheeks. I broke our embrace for a moment to run my hand along my chin. 

“Do you wish me to shave?” Holmes whispered anxiously. 

I smiled and shook my head. “No.” I kissed him again to reassure him, and he fell back against the bed. 

Once again, all thought fled the moment I felt his fingers upon my flesh. There was something so erotic about making love to Holmes, it was mind-destroying. It had never been so with women for me. I had never lost my reason. But with Holmes I devolved into a base creature of sexual appetite, my body arching towards him in a reckless need for more contact. 

Holmes' body was trembling. He ran his hands along my body, his fingers gently tracing my contours through my clothing. With silent grace he undressed me, his lips never leaving my mouth. I tugged at the hem of his nightshirt, and without a word, he lifted it from his body and revealed himself to me. 

I had been worried about what thoughts might occur at this moment, staring down at a naked man with the intention of pleasing him. But Holmes was so stunning a specimen, my concerns vanished. He was at once both feminine and intensely masculine. His lithe body had only a scattering of hairs. His hip bones proclaimed themselves pointedly, and his thin wrists, his svelte thighs, they all spoke of a man much softer than Holmes in personality. 

But there was great strength here as well. Each of his muscles was taut and defined. His years abroad had thinned him, made him more toned. I wanted to touch him everywhere, to learn where he had been by feel rather than words. 

But I held off my explorations until Holmes finished undressing me in return. I was shy once more, especially as he pulled my trousers from me and my member bounced forward, actively seeking his warm palm. He looked me over with eyes glazed over with emotion. 

“John,” Holmes whispered. The sound of his voice sent a tingle of pleasure from my head to my groin. He had never called me by my Christian name before, and the sound of it on his lips drew me towards him, it banished my shyness. 

Holmes' skin smelled like sleep and sweet tobacco. His flesh was soft and warm, fresh from slumber, and I ran my nose and cheeks along his chest and stomach, savoring his scent. My moustache must have tickled him, for he suddenly convulsed and began to laugh. I laughed with him, too joyous to hold back. 

Holmes crushed me in his arms and threw himself down upon me. He pressed the length of his shaft against mine, and I opened my mouth to groan. At that moment he thrust his tongue in, and I felt completely and utterly consumed by him. He was swallowing me whole, eating me alive, and I wanted it. I wanted more. 

Holmes' hands constantly caressed the sides of my body. His hand traveled lower and reached between us to cup my sac. 

I moaned in ecstasy. I had never known such a delicacy, and I spread my legs wider to encourage him, bring him down closer to me. His long fingers gently held my testicles, weighing them, and then he rolled them in his palm and I cried out in pleasure. I placed my hands on his face, one above and one below his mouth, and gently held his mouth open while I plunged into it with my tongue, thrusting as deep as I could, forcing him to stay open for me. His trembling increased, and he rubbed his cock against mine in mounting urgency. 

I broke from his mouth and ran my lips and tongue down that perfect neck, sucking at the base of his throat. “Oh God…oh God…oh God!” he prayed, sounding like he was crying, and I laved his collar bone and moved lower. 

His hands reached for me again, one cupping my testicles, the other stroking my erection, and each touch sent a fire through me that burned all thought from my mind. I licked at his left nipple, biting slightly, and he started to sob for real then, mumbled chokes mingling with “Christ!” and “God!” until it sounded like a heart-wrenching religious confession. 

Holmes slowly lowered himself, kissing his way down my chest. I leaned back and reveled in the feel of his burning lips against my flesh. I arched upwards to meet his mouth, anticipation growing as he lowered his head towards my groin. I was so excited I could barely breathe. 

And then Holmes stopped. He moved to my side, and slowly turned, until I was face to face with his own straining member, and he had his head between my thighs. Arousal throbbed through me at the sight. 

I felt his hands upon my thighs, pushing me open for him. Before I could react, or think, or act, his mouth pulled my cock into him, his tongue circling the tip of me, and I froze. I rested my head against his thigh, taking in the earthy smell of his own sex as my body sank into delirious sensation. I opened my legs wider so I could watch him, and the sight was exquisite, his long, thin neck moving as he ran his tongue over the tip of my shaft. My slit oozed pre-cum, and I felt myself blush in embarrassment. 

Holmes smiled slowly, sensually. And as though he were a cat licking himself in a sun beam, he closed his eyes and slowly licked the tip of my cock clean. I moaned at the exquisiteness of the feeling. Nothing in the world felt like this. It was wet heat, slithering across the top of my most sensitive skin, a combination of gentle licks and hungry strength. Holmes sucked my cock, his face lit with an expression of bliss. He opened his eyes for a moment and looked at me, and the two of us smiled at each other. Then he turned once more to plunge his mouth down upon me, swallowing me whole, using his hands to pull my sac to his face, and I cried out and climaxed, pushing even farther down his throat as I did so, wanting to be consumed by him, owned by him. 

Holmes swallowed my seed, and then slowly slid my cock free of his lips, licking me clean as he did so. I shivered with aftershocks of pleasure. And then I looked over to see the engorged shaft at eye level, standing erect and proud between his legs, and I hardly gave it a second thought. 

I spread his legs and he tensed. He looked startled, almost afraid, disbelieving. I could hardly believe myself. What on earth was I doing? 

But the sight of his cock was too beautiful, to enticing, for me to wonder for long. I let my prudish concerns be damned, tempted towards his straining flesh, the head of his cock leaking clear fluid, shivering with each breath nearby. I hovered over his prick for a long moment, taking in the smell of his desire, the softness of the flesh, the ruddy color, the delicious hang of his testicles. 

I reached down and cupped his heavy testicles in my hand. Holmes moaned, his whole body curling around me, drawing me closer. I tentatively leaned forward, and gave an experimental kiss to the tip of him. His flesh was warm and smooth, and smelled pleasantly masculine. I could do this. I thought about the intense sensation of his lips upon my shaft, and I closed my eyes to return the favor. 

I swallowed his velvety head and lowered my mouth down upon him. I moved slowly, getting the feel of his throbbing flesh in my throat, trying to milk out a rhythm that he would find pleasing. At this point, I had to go by feel – Holmes had devolved into sobbing, his moans hushed and tremulous as he pumped his cock into my mouth. 

It did not take more than a few thrusts to bring Holmes to completion. He cried out, rather loudly I'm afraid, and his entire body shivered. His hands curled in my hair and held me to him as he spilled down my throat. 

As we lay there, faces nestled in each others' crotches, my first feeling was one of intense pride. I was the one that the great Sherlock Holmes desired. I was the one who brought him to completion. It had always given me pleasure to gift my friend with something dear. And now I had. Holmes was not cold-blooded, he was merely secretly in love. And he was in love with me. 

But as we lay there, catching our breaths, that unnerving feeling of guilt and dread began to sink through me once more. It wasn't as though my reasoning before I entered his room was wrong , but I had not considered all the potential consequences of my actions until this moment. 

Holmes was in love with me. I was not sure I was in love with him. I knew I had strong feelings towards him… but love? This was a concern, as well as the fact that what we were doing was illegal. We faced terrible disgrace should we be discovered. And I was also troubled by what this all meant about me, about my manhood, and whether it meant I could no longer look towards a future with a wife and children, continuing down this path with Holmes. 

My head hurt with all the repercussions of my act. 

Holmes chuckled softly to himself and turned around so we were face to face once more. He pulled me close, resting his head on my chest and throwing his leg over mine. The action pulled our sticky groins together once more, and shame burst through me at the thought. My God, what had I just done? 

I looked hesitantly into Holmes' eyes, and I saw pure, unadulterated joy. He was languid, boneless, sated as if drugged. I could see that he would no longer need his cocaine to reach this state if I were to agree to our continued cohabitation. But I myself had not decided that this was something I wanted. 

He was beautiful. His long body was alabaster, sinewy and graceful. He was all poise and strength, his thin arms pulling me tightly and stroking my back with absent-minded affection. 

“I had never, in all the years of our acquaintance, dared to dream that my inclinations towards you could be reciprocated.” He softly leaned forward and kissed my forehead with all the love and tenderness of a mother. “John, you have given me something I thought I could never have.” 

My stomach rolled. What had I done? I must have stiffened in his arms, for the languid stupor in Holmes' gray eyes instantly disappeared, and he stared at me with all of his intensity. His smile faded quickly. 

“Holmes…” I sat up and rubbed my face. “Look, I… I need to think.” Without glancing back, I got up and quickly dressed. I didn't dare look at him, for fear of the pain I might see there. I didn't even bother with my tie. I threw on clothes in a haphazard fashion, all-too-aware of the pervasive silence from my recent bed partner. 

At the door, I hesitated, my shoes in my hands. I turned to see Holmes sitting up, still naked, staring at me with an inscrutable expression. He had carefully washed his face blank of emotion. But I who knew him so well could see the hardness in the line of his mouth, the pinched expression behind the eyes. I had hurt him, and terribly so. 

“I will see you later this afternoon,” I said quickly, hoping to hide my own queasy emotions. I opened my mouth to say something more, but realized I had no idea what I wanted, what I needed to say. I was at a complete loss, and for once, I believe Holmes was as well. As I turned, he reached out his hand and started to say my name, but then dropped his hand and looked away, changing his mind. 

I fled from Baker Street in all haste.

Chapter Text

What power the mind has over the body. And vice versa. Just a few hours ago, my sexual desires dominated all thought, all logic. And now my own guilt was tearing my body apart. In the hansom back to my quarters, I felt like vomiting at every sway of the carriage. My stomach felt as though I had eaten poison. My head pounded. Nothing but heartache could explain why I was in such physical duress. 

I thought the tranquil sterility of my small rooms in Kensington would alleviate the worst of my symptoms. But as I sat down, alone, in my barren room, I felt more at loss than ever before. 

This room was desperately lonely. 

This is the room where I mourned the death of Holmes, the death of my wife. Everyone I had loved had left me, and it was to this room that I had retreated, to nurse my wounds and try my best to continue on. I had failed, I knew that now. The fact that Holmes' return meant so much to me showed that I had been barely living while he had been gone. 

I needed him. 

The thought soothed my stomach. 

I needed Holmes. I looked around the vacant quarters I had called home for three years, and realized there was hardly an ounce of the comfort and warmth of my old Baker Street rooms. 

In Baker Street, I was the best friend, the Boswell, of the brilliant Sherlock Holmes. I was his famous biographer. I was his partner in deduction. I was a respected doctor with a small number of devoted patients. I was creative, energetic, humorous. I was happy at Baker Street. I was myself. 

Who was I here? 

I was Dr. John Watson, bored with his patients, run down by the drudgery of daily life, friend to few, lonely, uninspired. Other than revisiting old cases with Holmes, I hadn't written anything in years. I didn't like the Watson who habited this rooms. I missed the old me. 

“Your breakfast, sir.” 

I turned at the sound of my landlady, Mrs. Bryce. Even she seemed cold and unforgiving compared to the unconditional love and affection of Mrs. Hudson. She placed down a setting for one at the small table. Once again, my breakfast would consist of rubbery sunny-side eggs and weak coffee. I stared at the walls of my room and realized that nothing, absolutely nothing , gave me more happiness than the idea of moving back into Baker Street. Back to my old life again – the life I had been forced to abandon only because of Holmes' death. 

I sat down and ate my overcooked eggs and thought hard. I would have to make my mind up now. Knowing Holmes, he was already preparing himself for a life without me. I had surely given him cause for concern the way I had left him. 

Regardless of how strained our relationship may be, I decided I had to return, even if life with Holmes after our indiscretion was uncomfortable. The walls of my bachelor pad seemed to be closing in even as I considered the idea of staying here, alone. 

The real question was, however, in what capacity was I returning to Holmes? As his best friend and biographer? Or as his lover? 

If I chose to move back as only Holmes' friend, I had no doubt he would respect this wish of mine. He had said so only the night before. It was my damned weakness that led to our second indiscretion. 

And that gave me pause. How often would I allow my mind to lose control, to let myself be tempted by the ease and comfort of Holmes' embrace? Once that type of forbidden touch was tasted, I found myself completely incapable of fighting it. Twice in eight hours I had indulged in the pleasure of carnally knowing my friend. Could I truly resist it from this point forward, if presented the temptation day in and day out? 

Or did I go back, and just let things happen? Give Holmes permission to touch my body, to have hold of me completely, both physically as well as emotionally? There was no doubt in my mind that my heart belonged to Holmes. 

The only other consideration was the danger. If we were caught, we would be destroyed. I would say good-bye to my practice, my pension, my club membership, my standing in society. I would be responsible for Holmes' ruin. 

But, I reasoned, as I cut through a particularly hard, crusted part of my sunny-side egg, no one had suspected Holmes and I of any misbehavior in the long years we were roommates before. Why would they suspect anything now? 

I chewed on my hard egg, a flutter of excitement growing in my chest. I was going back to Baker Street. I was going to join Holmes on his adventures once more. The possibilities were so exciting, my anxiety over this new development faded more and more. Although our behavior would be considered immoral, it felt honest. Every bite of my unsavory breakfast firmed my resolve a little bit more, until I had practically decided my course of action by the time my wretched egg was no more. 

I managed to indulge in a restless cat nap for an hour or so before I had to clean up from the night before and make myself presentable for my patients. I was exhausted from the previous night's activities, and wanted nothing more than to close my practice there on the spot. However, I did have a responsibility to those with appointments, so I endured hour after hour at work, listening to their ailments and pretending to give them all my attention. 

In reality, my mind was focused on Holmes. 

On Holmes as a lover. The more I considered the notion, and the more my guilty sick sensation went away. The thought gave me a surprising amount of pride and satisfaction. 

And if it hadn't been for his terrible secret, I probably would never have forgiven him for putting me through those last three years of grief. 

My dreary work routine helped cement my decision in my mind. I could be doing this for the rest of my life. Or I could be in Baker Street, solving cases with Holmes, embroiled in political scandals, murders of passion, missing persons. I could be hot in pursuit of the criminal element of the city, instead of sweltering in the city heat, listening to stories of unattended abscesses. By the time my last patient left, I was practically laughing in joy for my decision. Now that I had made up my mind, there would be no going back. 

I would sell my practice, and move back to Baker Street. 

And I would be Holmes' lover. 

I waited for the consequential punch of guilt to wash through me, but now that I had reasoned out the situation, I felt only excitement for this turn of events. True, I was still terribly nervous about discovery. We would be playing a very dangerous game. 

But then I would remember the look in his eyes, as he held me, and I realized there was no other choice to make. 

At four o'clock precisely, I shut up my office and frantically hailed a cab, with instructions to drop me off at Baker Street.

Chapter Text

When I arrived, Mrs. Hudson greeted me warmly. I could hear voices upstairs – Holmes had visitors. My heart immediately sank in disappointment. 

“Mr. Holmes mentioned yesterday there may be a possibility that you would come back to stay. Is it true, Doctor?” Mrs. Hudson asked enthusiastically. 

“Did he discuss the matter at all this morning?” I inquired, wondering how he had reacted to my departure. 

Mrs. Hudson shook her head as she helped me off with my coat. “Not a word, although he's been one of his black moods. I hope the inspector is bringing him a case to pull him out of it!” 

I smiled at her, and took off my hat. “Well, Holmes was correct. I am interested in moving back in, assuming he'll have me.” 

“Have you?” cried Mrs. Hudson, laughing. “Why, I am sure the news will turn his spirit quite round! I'm delighted to hear it!” she gave me a small hug, and then laughed again. “I will tend to your room immediately!” 

I made my way slowly up the stairs towards the sitting room. 

The door was slightly open. Inside I could see Holmes pacing by the fireplace, puffing away on his pipe. Inspector Gregson was sitting on the settee with a younger constable, explaining something to Holmes. I moved slightly in the door frame, hoping to catch Holmes' eye. 

My movement caused him to immediately freeze. He stared wide-eyed at me for one moment. 

I smiled, trying to show my acceptance, my love, my desire to be back with him as much as I could through a silent gesture in a half-closed doorway. 

Holmes always understood me so well. His shoulders suddenly released their tension and dropped. His eyes sparkled. 

“Dr. Watson!” He cried loudly, interrupting Gregson's speech. Both gentlemen looked up as I entered the room. 

Holmes gestured dramatically to my old chair. 

“Inspector Gregson, you remember my old colleague and friend, Dr. Watson?” 

Both men stood, and I shook hands with Gregson. 

“Good to see you again, sir,” said Gregson. 

I nodded and then sat in my old chair. Every muscle in my body seemed to relax as I melted back into the familiar feel and bend of the wicker. 

“Its good to be back,” said I. I caught a flicker of Holmes' eyes. 

“Are you going to work with Mr. Holmes again, now that he is back?” Gregson asked. 

I looked to Holmes. He looked back at me, his face showing his anxiety. I could see his desire, his ardent hope I would say yes. His Adam's apple bobbed in his throat as he swallowed. 

The joy in me bubbled, escaping in a giant grin that burst across my face. I couldn't help but look into Holmes' eyes as I answered the inspector. 

“Yes,” said I. “I plan on moving back in and taking up position as Holmes' full-time biographer and assistant.” 

“Ha!” Holmes shouted, clapping his hands together and smiling. He rushed over and squeezed my shoulder affectionately, before sitting down in his own wicker chair, across from mine. With one last smile in my direction, he gestured to Gregson. 

“Now, inspector, please continue your remarkable tale. And perhaps you could be so kind as to explain once more the unique circumstances surrounding the duke's death, for my dear Watson's benefit?” 

I leaned back, lit my pipe, and pulled out my old notebook. 

I was with Holmes. 

I was me. 

I was home.