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Brief Interlude Before The Storm

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SOMEWHERE in the vaults of the bank of Cox and Co., at Charing Cross, there is a travel-worn and battered tin dispatch-box with my name, John H. Watson, M.D., Late Indian Army, painted upon the lid. It is crammed with papers, nearly all of which are records of cases to illustrate the curious problems which Mr. Sherlock Holmes had at various times to examine.

 

The Problem Of Thor Bridge

 

 

 

Among these curious problems, and unsolved cases, are a series of adventures, unfit for publication. They revolve around, not so much the case in question, but my deep love for the man who solves them. With joy, I am able to say that he shares my love.

 

It is my hope that someday, these papers will see more than the inside of a dispatch box. Until then, I will keep them secreted away.

 

This is one such problem.

 

It was 1911. Holmes and I had been separated for eleven months, with nothing more than hastily scribbled notes that his brother smuggled to us for communication. I hated that we had to be apart, but I knew it was a necessity. 

Through Mycroft, Holmes had been contacted as one of the few men that had both the skill and mindset to be able to work as a counter-espionage agent within America. Despite turning down a knighthood in the past, my detective wasn’t able to completely turn his back on our country. I knew my own duty, and hadn’t been surprised when the call had come. 

We had been retired for several years by this point, living in a small cottage outside of the village of Fulworth. Our time was divided between all the little chores and pleasures that befit two men in their declining years. When the weather was suitable, Holmes would take up his towels and make his slow, careful way down that chalk cliff to the water to swim. I had command of the garden, and worked my fingers sore planting beans, and peas, and carrots. 

When the first whispers of war had started, I had tried to dismiss them as the worried mumblings of old politicians. But when Mycroft had taken a day out to come down from London, I felt the cold dread of something stirring. 

After his brother had left, Holmes and I had our worst row to date. We had screamed vile, hateful things at each other before collapsing together on the floor, desperately clawing at our clothes. The next month, with each day bringing us closer to Holmes leaving, I couldn’t be sated. I needed to feel him constantly. 

I had never hated England more, than when we had to stand on the railway platform, unable to touch as we said goodbye. I kept each of Holmes’ notes tucked away in my private notebooks. Even written in code, they were dangerous to us both. 

Mycroft, in his guilt, helped me to stay busy. Every weekend I traveled into London and helped to train fresh faced young surgeons at St Bartholomew’s in field operation, and emergency triage. Despite my age, my hands were still as quick and deft as ever. 

*

"Am I doing this right, Dr. Watson?" 

I leaned heavily on my stick, and hovered over the shoulder of the young man. “You’re very close." I rested my stick on the table so I could have both hands free, and guided his fingers an inch lower along the cadaver’s arm. “It’s a bit harder to tell, without a pulse, but this is the main artery you want to cut off, when you are applying a tourniquet." 

His lip jutted out in a pout, but he nodded. He was one of the students training to be an orderly instead of a doctor. His voice was rich and low and his curls gave a sweet, innocent look to him, but when he turned his brilliant grey eyes on me, I was staggered. 

"Thank you, doctor." He licked his lips, and dropped his gaze, but not to the cadaver. It lingered around my chest and arms for a moment before skimming lower. Thirty years ago, I would have had him up against the wall the moment the room cleared. On his knees with his mouth open. Over my desk, papers strewn to the floor. 

"You’re welcome, Thomas." I patted his wrist before catching up my stick again. 

Beyond the surprise brought on by the pale shade his eyes, the young man did nothing for me. I was smiling as I walked away to help another student. I would write Holmes that evening.

*

It was a tedious chore, writing out letters in code. It was a cipher of Holmes’ creation, and it was elaborate and complicated, involving three separate books for the code itself. If someone managed to get a hold of one of our letters, they would need to use British Birds, Catullus, and The Holy War to work out what we were saying. My Holmes is, and has always been, a romantic.

My dearest Holmes;

Your infernal bees are doing well. They seem to miss you nearly as much as I do. 

I’m sorry. I had planned on trying to get the rest of the letter out of the way before I started in on that. I’m lonely, and I miss you, and I hate your brother for doing this to us. 

Pray, tell me that you’re safe. I have nightmares of you in some seedy den in Chicago, running with murderers and arsonists. Every day, I fear that you might be caught out. That you might let slip some little English oddness that would alert your hosts to who you truly are. 

Mycroft tells me that I am worrying needlessly, but he doesn’t understand that you don’t look after yourself without me there to chide you. You’ve not slipped into bad habits again, have you? You know how difficult it is to-

There was a sound of pounding feet up the stairs to my small gable room. I stuffed my papers into my carpet bag, and took my gun from the back of my trousers, thumbing back the hammer. 

"Doctor?" A young man of about twenty-five bounded into the room. His hair was a soft cap of red curls, and his cheeks and nose were dusted all over with freckles. He scanned the room quickly, to find me in the corner. “Oh, there you are, doctor!"

I kept the gun in my hand as I stood, eyes narrowing. The man was dressed in a smart suit, with well polished shoes and an expensive watch hanging from his waistcoat. He was small, and wane, evidence of a sickly childhood, but his eyes were bright and clear. 

"Don’t recognise me, sir?" he giggled and tugged on his ear. Shutting the door behind him, he put a finger to his lips until he was closer to me. When he spoke again, it was in a high, fluting voice and a bad lisp. “Well, sor, I don’t blame you, sor! You was a bit busy last time you saw me, tendin’ to Mr Holmes, sor. And I was mighty cold, all wet and shiverin’ from a dunk in the river with yer bally great detective! But you fixed me right up good and proper, you did. Warmed me up and stuffed me full o’ soup, and didn’t even get too mad when I tried to filch yer watch from yer pocket!" He coughed, clearing his throat, and spoke again with a man’s voice. “My mates hate when I do that."

I tucked my gun back into the waistband of my trousers, and caught the boy up by the arms. His name was Alec, and had been one of Holmes’ Irregulars. He had replaced Wiggins as the head of the little gang of ruffians. I knew that Holmes took care of his boys, but most of them went on to be tradesmen, or sailors, or soldiers. Alec looked like a well dressed gentleman of standing. 

"He bullied one of his old classmates into accepting me at University." he explained, sheepishly. His chin rose in pride. “I’m a lawyer now. Or, I will be soon." 

"Congratulations! I’m very proud." I shook him by the hand. “But…"

"But, you’re wondering what I’m doing here." I nodded. “I still keep in touch with some of the boys. Jake works down at the shipping yard. Imagine his surprise, when a little wizened old preacher man slipped him a letter and a coin."

"Holmes?" I clutched at Alec’s sleeve, my eyes wide. “He’s in London? When did this happen? Today? Where’s Jake?"

He gave me an impish smile. “Well, Jake spoke to Chrissy, who spoke to Little Pete, who spoke to Anna, who came running out to me." With a flourish that he could only have learnt from Holmes, Alec produced a piece of paper. “None of us could make heads nor tails of it." 

Scrawled across the page were childish stick men in different positions. Some were holding flags. I grinned and smoothed the paper out. “A flag denotes the end of a word." I murmured as I scribbled out the message. 

W, James Altamont is waiting at Goring. You are Daniel Cosburn. Altamont is here for three days. 

I was on my feet and out the door as soon as I finished the note. Behind me, I could hear Alec’s soft laughter follow me down the stairs. 

I didn’t want to know how Holmes could have afforded rooms at the Goring for a single night, let alone three. Alec had chased after me, to remind me that I was still in my clothes from the day at the hospital, and had gone several days without shaving. The barber nearly cut my ear when I couldn’t stop fidgeting in the chair. The bill for the suit I had purchased, I sent to Mycroft as a punishment for not informing me of Holmes’ temporary return. I was certain that he wanted to keep it as quiet as possible. 

"Good evening," I smiled to the clerk behind the desk, sweeping my hat from my head. “My name is Daniel Cosburn, and I believe that a Mr James Altamont has reserved a room for me. He would have arrived shortly after four o’clock." 

The clerk scanned through his ledger, and nodded. “Yes, he came in at ten past four. May I have your signature?" He tapped the open page, next to Holmes’ fake name. I scrawled something out that looked like it could have started with a D, and ended with an N. I accepted the room key with a polite smile, and tried not to sprint to the lift. 

There was a card on the door handle, requesting that the occupant not be disturbed by staff. My fingers were trembling as I unlocked the door and entered the room. “Holmes?" I called softly, making sure to securely lock up behind me. “Are you here?"

From the bathroom, Sherlock Holmes emerged, wiping his face on a towel. “I didn’t think I’d actually heard you." he whispered when he saw me. “I’ve heard you in my head constantly for months. I didn’t know it was real."

I dropped my stick, and rushed across the room, catching him up. Crowding him against the door of the bathroom, I lifted him up so that his feet were dangling a few inches off the floor. “Real enough?"

Holmes shook his head, his arms going around my neck for support. “Not yet." he groaned, wrapping his long thin legs about my waist. Our lips found each other for the first time in nearly a year. His fingers buried in my hair, and my hands went to his rump. 

"Now?" I breathed against the side of his neck before nipping at it. I nosed down under the collar of his shirt, where it would be concealed, and bit. Licking and sucking, I left a small mark behind, claiming him as my own once again. 

"No, not yet." His already high voice rose, and he had to press his lips to my temple to cut off the sound. Pushing at my shoulders, Holmes climbed down from his perch on my hips. His cheeks were flushed, and his eyes hooded. 

Three days. I only had three days with him. It wouldn’t be enough. 

I left my clothes on the floor where they fell, and let Holmes push me into the bedroom. It was lavishly furnished, but I only had a mind for the bed. We toppled down onto it with perhaps a bit more force than was strictly smart for men of our age. Holmes seemed to be all knees and elbows when he crawled on top of me with a manic grin. “Starting to feel it," he chuckled, taking one of my nipples between his lips. 

If I ignored the lightening of hair around his temples, and the shadows under his eyes, in Holmes’ eagerness, he could still be the same smooth faced youth I had met so long ago. We wouldn’t be sprinting across a moor anytime soon, but we weren’t old. Not yet. 

"One of the students in your class is attracted to you." Holmes murmured after letting go of the sensitive little nub. 

"Mm?" I was easily distracted by the much more interesting developments between us. I was already rigid and stiff, lying flush along my stomach. Holmes- always a bit lazier in this regard- was thickening steadily each time we rolled our hips together. “Let me guess." I trailed my fingertips down his spine and raised my head to kiss his neck."There’s something in the way I’ve parted my hair today?" His slim backside fit perfectly into my hands, and I kneaded and massaged the firm flesh. “Or a certain scent to my skin? Surely I don’t have his address scrawled somewhere on me."

Holmes giggled and shook his head. “I peeped in at you at the hospital today. Briefly. Just briefly. If I had stayed, we would have been in danger of making a mess of one of your dissecting tables." He tilted his head to the side, pretending to consider that. I used the opportunity to cover him in a larger mark. “And, I suppose, alarming your students."

"Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?" I tightened my grip on Holmes’ waist and sat up, rolling us both. Poised above him, I smoothed his hair back from his face and kissed him. It was slow, and gentle, indulging months of wanting him so badly I ached. If we only had three days together, though, I wanted to get as much of him as I possibly could in that short time. I worked my way down his body until I was settled down between his thighs. One of his hands came to rest on my hair, threading through it. 

"It wasn’t a sure thing, until the day I stepped onto the ship." Holmes explained. His voice was becoming stuttered and breathy. “Any of my messages would have arrived the same day that I did."

I nodded and kissed his thigh. “I’m just glad that you’re here, and that you’re safe." I murmured against his skin. 

It never seemed to matter how much time we were forced to spend apart. I could never forget the taste of him on my tongue, and the feeling of my lips stretched around him when I took him back into my mouth. He was salty but clean, and his little tangle of curls held onto the the sweet rich smell of the vanilla oil he scented his bath water with. 

He swore softly, and twisted his fingers in my hair. “I love you." Holmes hummed. 

My mouth was too full to reply. I suckled and licked and nibbled until he was as hard as my own member. When I was satisfied with his body’s interest, I relaxed my throat. Holmes was slim, but long, and I took it as a personal challenge, to see just how much of him I was able to fit into my mouth. That it turned him into a writhing, incoherent mess, was a pleasant addition. 

Holmes’ feet slid along the blanket, his toes flexing into it as he sought out some purchase to thrust up into my mouth. “You’re going to choke me!" I laughed, pulling away with a gasp when he nudged me with a little too much force. I wiped my mouth with the back of my wrist and tried to get my breath back. 

"I’m sorry ."

"No you aren’t." 

Propped up on his elbow, Holmes bit his lip. “No, I’m not." He snaked one of his thin arms out to pluck a bag off of the small table beside the bed. He tugged open the drawstring, and over turned it onto the bed. It carried his toothbrush and comb, as well as a tin, some handkerchiefs, and a small bottle with a chemist’s label on the glass. “Dr. Longisle’s Elixir and Brain Curative?" I held the bottle up to examine the contents. It was some sort of thick, golden liquid, and almost completely full. “What have you been taking this for?" 

With a smirk, Holmes took the bottle from me, and worked free the cap. “It’s just the name on the bottle, my dear. I couldn’t risk being caught with this, in case my belongings were searched." He dribbled some of the liquid onto his fingers, and the slightly fragrant aroma of olive oil reached my nose. Before I had a chance to respond, he slipped his hand between his thighs. 

I rocked back to watch as Holmes gently probed one of his fingertips against the puckered hole between the small mounds of his arse. My eyes were heavy and hooded while lightly stroking myself in time with him. When he was able to move his finger in and out to the knuckle without resistance, I took the oil and coated myself. 

"What’s in the tin?"

"Condoms." He added a second finger, and I could see that he was scissoring them apart each time he withdrew. 

"Have you been unfaithful while you were away?" 

"No, I swear. Never."

Adding some more oil to my fingers, I brushed Holmes’ hand out of the way, and replaced it with my own. My fingers were shorter, but thicker. More callused. Holmes whimpered and shuddered at the new intrusion. I used my free hand to keep his cheeks separated, and worked myself in as deep as I was able. Finding his sensitive little prostate, I tapped it gently and an impressive amount of pre-ejaculate pulsed out over his stomach.

"No condom, then." Still working my digits in and out of him, I leant over, holding myself up above him with one arm. I rubbed our noses together before kissing him deeply. “I haven’t strayed. And I want to feel you." 

Holmes cringed, but nodded his consent. “You’re cleaning me up after, then." he muttered under his breath. 

With a scowl, I thrust in a third finger roughly. His whole body trembled and he clutched at the bed spread. 

I kept up my torment for as long as I could. My hips were jerking back and forth of their own accord, each time Holmes let out a breathless wail. Being away from him for so long, I was at risk of finishing without even feeling myself inside of him. 

Drawing back up to my knees, I lined myself up. Holmes has always been as keen about roughness as I am, but I was painstakingly careful at the very beginning. It had been a long time for him, and I couldn’t risk doing him any damage. Even with that thought in mind, I had to bite down on the insides of my cheeks, to keep from slamming myself home. His body opened up for me, but I still had to go slowly. My shaft is thick, particularly around the head. I had to stop with every inch, to allow Holmes a chance to grow accustomed to the feeling. 

Holmes held his legs up out of the way for me, tucking his hands behind his knees. It angled his hips up off of the bed, giving me a direct line to glide over his prostate. When I reached that delicate spot, I stuttered my hips to massage it. 

Letting out a soft shout, Holmes let go of one of his legs so that he could clap a palm over his mouth. His eyes were wide, almost panicked. 

"Here," I murmured, stilling my movements so that I could take each of his legs, and wrap them around my middle. Holding them behind my back, I smacked one of his calves until realisation dawned, and he crossed his ankles to keep them there. 

Having his hands free, Holmes immediately gripped my shoulders, his fingernails biting into the skin. It only encouraged me to move my hips harder into him. 

Stretched out above him, I took each of Holmes’ hands, and pinned them to the bed on either side of his face. I linked our fingers together, and bore my weight down on him to keep him still. As always, it only made him squirm and struggle all the more, until he was bouncing his hips up to meet mine, and rutting his cock into my belly. The more I tried to hold him still, the harder he worked against me, bucking and tossing. His feet skittered down my back to dig his heels into my arse, driving me faster and harder. 

In the end, I had to kiss him to keep him quiet. It was difficult to keep our lips together with him all but thrashing beneath me, but I gave him a chastising bite to his bottom lip, and he kept his head still. Transferring each of his hands into one of mine, I held them down against the pillows above his head. I slipped my free hand between us, and darted my fingers around the tip of his length. 

A small part of me was regretting going without a condom. Each time Holmes fidgeted and squirmed, his snug hole and the muscles beyond clamped down around me. Working my hand over his erection was only making him more active. I didn’t even need to move myself into him anymore, he was doing all the work himself. Holmes had found a rhythm, and an angle that was giving him what he needed. 

Tearing his head to the side, Holmes bit down on the side of my arm. “I’m going to finish." he moaned, sounding heartbroken. 

I swore quietly, and moved my fist more forcefully, stroking his entire length, but focusing on the head. When I felt it begin to twitch and jump in my hand, I swiped my thumb over the pouting slit to encourage him. “Go on, my love." I breathed against the side of his head, pressing into his temple. 

I could see tears pricking at the corners of Holmes’ eyes, and his cheeks flushed a dark red that moved down his neck and chest. With one final, deep thrust, I held us together as he began to spill over my fingertips. 

My name was repeated in a desperate chant, and Holmes was almost sobbing. I let go of his hands, and gathered him close to ease him through his orgasm. “I’ve got you," I crooned against his hair when he finally seemed to be finished. He was limp as a rag, and his legs fell weakly to the mattress. Between us, our chests and a good portion of my stomach were splattered with his seed. “I love you, Holmes." 

Nodding, Holmes wiped at the tears that streaked from his eyes down into his hair. “Love you," he mumbled, blindly trying to find my lips with his own. “You’re not done yet." 

"Clever observation," I chuckled, carefully pushing myself up onto my knees. I licked my fingertips, and massaged the taut skin around his hole that was still holding us together. Holmes whined, but eventually relaxed enough that I could withdraw without him gripping down on my swollen head. I gave his thigh a pat. “Over," 

Scowling, but obedient, he rolled over onto his knees with his rump in the air. Holmes hugged one of the pillows to his chest, and snuggled his cheek down into it. 

I scooped up the semen that was clinging to my skin, and slicked it down my length. I was still coated with oil, but with the new position and sharper angle, I couldn’t risk hurting him. Holding Holmes by one hip, I nudged back up against his loosened entrance, and slowly sank in. 

It didn’t take much. When I was buried in to the root, I felt my own orgasm begin to build. With my hands on him, I guided Holmes forward until I was nearly out. He was more open for me now, relaxed and spent. I could be rough with him. I jerked him back, our bodies jarring together at the impact, and I saw Holmes bite down on his pillow to keep quiet. 

Two more hard thrusts had me tumbling over the edge. I was able to control my noises, but I scratched deep scores over Holmes’ hips and thighs. Groaning low in my throat, I pulsed into him, holding us tightly together. 

"Hand me a cloth, please." 

Grunting, Holmes slid his hand along the blanket until he found one of his handkerchiefs, and thrust it back at me. The poor man was completely done in, his movements sluggish and weak. 

I wrapped the cloth around my still rigid erection, and began to carefully withdraw. My companion’s body clamped down on the corona, so I petted and stroked his back until he began to relax. Every clench and flex of his body was keeping me swollen and hard. Finally, using the cloth, I massaged his hole where our bodies were joined. Holmes gasped when I was able to pull out at last. 

Quickly, I pressed the square of linen up, to hold him open. “Bear down," I murmured, rubbing my hand over his lower belly. Holmes looked back at me in confusion for a moment, but bit his lip and nodded. I probed with my fingers, encouraging him. Holmes pushed his face back into the pillow to smother another groan, as my semen flushed out of him. I caught it up with the cloth before it could trickle down his sac and onto the bed. 

Humming praise and nonsense, I used one of the clean corners of the cloth to wipe us both down then check Holmes over for bruises. His skin was scratched, but he wasn’t bleeding. His knees were red and raw. Of the two of us, I seemed to have taken more damage. My hands had deep scratches that were spotted with blood and my shoulders were stinging from the lines his nails had left. 

I kissed him soundly, before getting up and making my way into the bathroom. From the complimentary basket on the vanity, I selected a few oils and soaps, and filled a bath for us. When I returned, Holmes was curled on his side, still hugging the pillow. He blinked sleepily at me, and held open his arms like a child. I picked him up and cradled him to my chest to bring him into the bath. 

The hot water was wonderful. We sank into the large tub, with Holmes on top of me. He took one of the pieces of soap, and lathered my chest to clean away the mess that was drying in my hair. 

"I have to go and speak with…" He sighed, and nuzzled into the side of my neck. “Someone of importance, in the morning." 

Humming, I scooped up handfuls of water, and let it spill out over Holmes. I massaged my fingers into the back of his neck, and down his shoulders. I would need to give him a proper massage before we went to sleep, to prevent his arthritis from keeping him awake all night. “How long will that keep you away?" 

Already, the world was starting to intrude on us. I was an old campaigner; the politics meant nothing to me. War was inevitable, and when it set in, Holmes and I would be kept jumping, I knew this. If he was perfect for working in the field, it would stand to reason that they would want to keep him working at home, to sniff out spies and double agents when the time came. It was selfish, and unpatriotic, and smacked of treason, but I wanted to go with him in the morning to tell his ‘person of importance’ that Holmes was not their pawn to shuffle about on a game board. 

The man couldn’t be trusted to remember his pistol when he ran headlong into danger. He could barely be trusted to remember to feed himself daily, let alone keep himself safe. He needed me as much as I needed him, and I hated that I wasn’t with him to tend to him. 

"Stop," Holmes tapped me in the middle of my forehead. “I’m in deep, Watson. If I pulled out now, it would raise all the flags that we don’t want, and things will move faster than we are prepared for." He yawned, and turned onto his front to soak his legs. I continued to work my fingers into his muscles, this time over the slender expanse of his upper back. “And tomorrow will keep me away for a little more than three hours. Afterwards, we can go to the club, and have lunch."

I would have to accept it. Wrapping my arms around him, I pressed a kiss to his hair, and pretended that things were normal. Countries were mustering their soldiers, politicians were frantically trying to guess where the blow would fall first, and secrets were being whispered. But for however brief a time, I had my Holmes. He was safe with me for now, and tomorrow we would have the afternoon together. We would have lunch, and walk in the park with his arm in mine, and we could pretend that there was nothing for us but my garden, his bees, and swimming in the sea.