Fandom: Sherlock Holmes (ACD)
Genre: pre-slash, slash, romance
Rating: R to be on the safe side
Pairing(s): Holmes/Watson (eventually)
Dr. Watson is finding himself unusually uncomfortable in his friendship with Sherlock Holmes. He decides to take a break and visit an old friend and client to clear his mind. But things do not work out exactly as anticipated, and so this particular journey takes him much further than simply into the country of Devonshire...
The Art of Self-Observation
I spent the next two days reacquainting myself with the area as well as with several people. Doctor Mortimer, the resident physician who had been the one to consult Holmes all those years ago on the mysterious case of the Baskerville family curse, came over to dinner and the following day took us for an excursion to show us his recent archaeological findings.
This endeavour also brought us amidst the circle of ancient stone huts which had in Neolithic times been inhabited by our early ancestors – and one of them, though for a much shorter and more recent period of time, by Mr. Sherlock Holmes himself.
The memories came over me like a tidal wave. While Mortimer explained something to my host of which I only caught some phrases about bones and skulls, I entered the simple prehistoric abode, the voices fading into oblivion.
There was not much light, and the air was a little cooler than outside in the sun. I sat down on the low platform that represented the equivalent of a bed and touched the cold stony surface. Holmes had slept here for a few nights, and if I concentrated hard enough I would surely be able to imagine a remainder of his body warmth… ridiculous as the thought might seem from today’s point of view.
I closed my eyes, almost involuntarily. Pictures, flashes, were rushing through my mind… he was playing the violin for me, a hauntingly sweet song, one of his own compositions… he was taking my arm as we were walking down the street, side by side… his eyes sparkling with excitement over a new case… the tone of his voice when he was calling me “my dear fellow”… his presence in the drawing room in companionable silence… the expression on his face while listening to a musical performance… we both sitting and chatting over dinner at Marcini’s… a slight touch at the shoulder… a little amused wink… his face close to mine as I regained consciousness after fainting at his unexpected return into my life… his nonchalant yet ever elegant way of moving…
I could almost hear him, feel him… it was as if he was with me every step of the way, wherever I went. I have a small tattoo on my shoulder, some remainder of my time in India. It is quite artistically done, colour applied directly under my skin to remain there. It suddenly occurred to me that I wore Holmes almost the same way – though he had gone under my skin far deeper. And into my mind. And my heart. Where he would always be.
Yes. I realised it there and then. I loved him, had probably been loving him for a very long time by now. I felt not shocked by this sudden awareness, only amazed that I could have been so blind as to not understand it earlier! I had never perceived myself as an invert before, though – but it was true: I was longing for my friend in every sense of the word! Far too present in my mind was that dream of him kissing and caressing me, far too present the instantaneous reactions of my body as that I could possibly deny it.
There was it, the secret source of my trouble, disguised as discontent, weariness, anger and uneasiness… I was sensible enough to finally admit it to myself.
But the realisation of my feelings was only one part of the problem. More important was the question, how I could hide them from my friend, now that I was aware of them. Would he not be able to read it from my features – he, who had always known me better than anybody else, even better than my own wife? Would I not lose his respect? Would he not ban me from his presence, he who abhorred the softer emotions? How was I to veil such a monstrous secret? What was I to do now?
For some reason Sir Henry chose exactly this evening for the topic of love. We had been discussing some of the paintings in the gallery, one of them his infamous ancestor Sir Hugo… which brought us to the old case of the deadly hound… which brought us to Beryl Stapleton, the woman my host had wooed before he had to learn that she was in fact not the sister of the brute Stapleton (like I have decided to keep naming him in my mind) but his wife, forced to pose as a bait for the new Baskerville heir.
“I have had much time to think the matter over, you know,” Sir Henry said philosophically over a glass of fine port. “There is a distinctive difference, I believe, between falling in love with somebody – and being in love with somebody. You fall in love with a person as you perceive her to be at the start. And you are in love with the person you get to know, comes time. I have never had the chance to be in love with Beryl Stapleton… does that make any sense for you, doctor?”
I did not answer directly, for my thoughts were highly occupied with an incident that had sprung to my mind by the words of my companion. There are moments in the life of a person that seem small and of minor importance when they happen – and yet they mark the point of some path turning into crossroads. Such a moment had taken place for me in 1881, when a much younger Sherlock Holmes had shaken my hand and said casually: “You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive.” I could not help but wonder if that had been my moment of falling in love as well… only I had not noticed for the duration of years… were such things possible?
Sir Henry looked at me expectantly, and I understood that I was still owing him a reply. “Indeed”, I said. “And those are lucky people who have the chance to experience both states of mind… or maybe we should say… of heart. It might take some time, though, but one shouldn’t give up hope on finally finding the right m…- person.” I hastily cleared my throat. Lucky people… I added grimly in my mind. At least if the love is reciprocated.
My host did not seem to have noticed my little lapsus. Instead, a sudden smile brightened up his face. “Would you care for a bit of society tomorrow evening? There are a few people – a certain lady especially – I would like you to meet.”
I eyed him curiously.
I withdrew to my room fairly early, because I finally felt the urgent need to be alone with my musings. The day had been so extremely remarkable… had I really have to travel all the way to Devonshire to understand what had been right in front of my nose all the time? I kept pacing on the thick oriental carpet of the guest room. Then again, it was good that the moment of realisation had caught me in solitude, far away from Holmes’ observant eyes. Had he been with me at that time, no self control in the world could have prevented me from displaying it all on my face, willingly or not.
When I finally had dressed to lie down I found myself tossing and turning. Sleep did not come easily to me that night. Eventually though, I must have fallen asleep, because when I woke up in the morning, all of the bedclothes were in utter disarray, and I had the vague memory of a whole series of dreams. Parts of them were rather blurry in my mind, but they seemed to have one thing in common: All of them were of Holmes – and all of them were of a more or less carnal nature…
It seemed my whole body was still aching for him. I don’t know if it was the usual early-morning-phenomenon or a result of those dreams, but my state of arousal was so very acute… I could still feel his hot breath on my skin… I heard his voice telling me things I knew he would never, ever, say to me… I got lost in the depths of his eyes… the touch of his hands… until in fact it was the touch of my own hands… touching myself… touching… till and beyond that point when I found the so urgently needed release…
Some time later a look in the mirror revealed the face of a man I had never seen before that way. I think I even held an inner dialogue with that man in the mirror, telling him that such behaviour would better have no place back in Baker Street, telling him to get a grip, to return to the path of reality, to use a little bit of common sense!
I can not claim the best of moods when I left the room and ventured downstairs for breakfast. But I thought some strong coffee would do me good now, and maybe a stroll outside for some fresh air. I heard little noises through the open doors of the dining room that told me that Barrymore was in the process of serving breakfast. And as I entered I was greeted by a well-known voice:
“Morning, my dear fellow. It seems you are quite an early riser today!”
I believe I actually made half a step backwards in my surprise…
This… was… impossible!