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Title: A Journey to the Core (Part 4 of ?)
Author: [info]nunewesen
Fandom: Sherlock Holmes (ACD)
Genre: pre-slash, slash, romance
Rating: R to be on the safe side
Pairing(s): Holmes/Watson (eventually)

Summary:
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...


Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

~~~


Truth be told

Sherlock Holmes is a master of self control, and however agitated he had been acting with me before, now in the presence of Dr. Mortimer he was all composure. This was more than I was able to say about myself, though.

For as long as I had known him, the word “love” had not been part of my friend’s vocabulary, except in combination with disdain or perhaps under the aspect of it being a possible motivation for a criminal deed. He never used it without a very good reason, and thinking about his remarkable behaviour since his arrival I was convinced that something was the matter with him.

Of course, for the time being, there was no possible way of getting it out of him - so I did what I was used to do, waiting for him to reveal whatever there was on his brilliant mind.

The three of us walked back towards Baskerville Hall, as it turned out that it was the place was Dr. Mortimer was heading to as well regarding some business with Sir Henry. I was more than disappointed that Holmes seemed unwilling to simply dismiss the doctor with some display of his occasionally cavalier attitude in order to grant the both of us further privacy. But no... no, with all I knew about my closest friend (however much that might really be worth), there was indeed a chance of him being even relieved about the interruption - a sentiment I found myself unable to share. Thus I felt much more irritable than I usually consider it to be my nature, and silently and rather absent-mindedly I trotted along with my companions.

Nevertheless, I could not help but admiring the satin shimmer of the morning sun on my dear friend's hair. While I did my best to will him into at least looking at me (without much success, though), I was only too aware that I was hopelessly and head-over-heels in love with him - and the question why it had taken me all this time (not to mention a rather lonely journey to Devonshire) to understand a fact that was so obvious now remained unanswered in my mind.

When we arrived at the Hall and were amidst the process of getting rid of our coats, hats and canes, Holmes suddenly said: "Oh, doctor...?"

Two heads, both Dr. Mortimer's and mine, were lifted in attention.

There was a hint of surprise in the face of my friend, as well as a hardly recognisable frown, when he saw two men reacting to this address. "You have to excuse me, Doctor Mortimer," he said with a faint smile that did not quite reach his eyes. "I'm rather unused to be accompanied by more than one medical man at once. I was referring to my colleague here."

"Oh, very well," was the doctor's reply. "I will see you later, gentlemen." With that he followed the servant towards Sir Henry's study.

A few silent moments passed, until I finally replied: "Yes, Holmes?"

He made an elaborate show of taking off his gloves, and if I had not known him better I had been convinced he was avoiding to look at me. "You seem slightly annoyed, my dear fellow."

It was my turn now to be surprised, because Holmes, when it suited him, was an expert in ignoring my occasional displays of annoyance, frustration or similar impulses.

"I was merely contemplating Mortimer's tendency towards bad timing."

"Ah!" He finally looked at me, and it was the most peculiar expression on his face that made my heart almost skipping a beat.

The next thing we heard was the noise of an opening door, and the voices of our host and the doctor approaching us. But with a barely suppressed curse and an air of determination Holmes suddenly gripped my arm. "Come with me!" And with that he almost dragged me into the next adjoining room, which happened to be the billiards room. There he closed the door between us and the rest of the world, his back against the wooden panels - and there he now closed his eyes and exhaled slowly as if steadying his nerves.

When he opened them again to look at me, I suddenly had no doubt about what was going on with him: For the very first time in my life I saw that he was... afraid.

He slowly approached the billiard table and moved around it. He only stopped, once the large object stood between the two of us like a protective barrier. "You know, there is a very simple reason for my coming here... I..." He turned to face me and cleared his throat. "I've been missing you."

"Oh." It was all that I could say for a moment. Then: "You mean you require me for a new case?"

"No. What I mean is that our sitting room is empty without you. So is Baker Street. And so is my… so is London."

I could only stare at him, trying to ignore my knees that where getting undeniably weak!

What was he saying? And what did it mean? After all, it was next to impossible that Sherlock Holmes, after all these years, was now getting emotional! There were a few truths in my life that I had learned to accept, and one of them was that Holmes despised the softer emotions!

And yet. And yet...

Was I not his only friend? Had I not learned after Reichenbach (though the hard way) how far he was willing to go in order to keep me safe? Was there not true affection in his voice when he called me my dear fellow? Had we not shared the good, the bad and the ugly? And had I not myself been feeling the underlying tension between us, lately back at Baker Street, deriving from obviously unspoken issues?

I did not dare to believe what I was longing to believe. Unspoken issues, I thought...

"Whereas I..." (I suddenly felt like jumping into cold water, and I was not even sure if I still remembered how to swim.) "...have only been feeling half of myself these past days, without you."

Two simple statements. Two simple truths. Two grown-up men, staring at each other in beginning amazement, not unlike two little boys facing a giant Christmas tree. And, in fact, we did exchange some kind of gift that moment - though it still seemed too early to call it by its name.

Holmes looked at me for a long while, and while he did so, his face began to change, almost as if some kind of veil had been removed from his expressions. He gave me a tentative smile. "In that case I am very glad I came."

"Yes. So am I. Very much so."

His smile deepened. "I have no cases right now," he said. "So I was wondering if you would tolerate my presence here for a little while. There should be fewer distractions than in London, so..." He hesitated for a moment, and then bravely continued: "So maybe we could explore this new territory together." He was obviously not referring to the landscape of the countryside. And then he gave a little grimace. "You'll have to pardon my ways of expression. I am rather inexperienced in comparison to the analogies and those flourishing words of a writer."

"I agree, Holmes..."

"Regarding the flourishing words, you mean?"

"No." In one of our usual situations of verbal banter I would have been sorely tempted to a dry remark about his occasional criticism of my writing skills. But this was not the time for banter. "I meant that I agree regarding your plans."

"You'll... hm... accompany me, then?"

In that moment flashes of memories passed my inner eye, like a summation of our shared past. And like a conclusion of that past I knew there was only one possible answer I could give him. "When you like - where you like!"

He threw his head back in a silent, utterly pleased laughter, and when his eyes met mine, there was definite twinkle. "This might be even much better than the old days...!"

Now - how could I possibly not agree to this?


Chapter 5