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A Marrying Man
|Title:||A Marrying Man|
|Pairing:||Sherlock Holmes / John Watson|
|Rating:||PG-13 (m/m love)|
|Author's Disclaimer:||They don't belong to me...|
|Author's Notes:||The Milverton case begged for this. Really, read it sometime. This one's archived at mooncradle and Sacrilege.|
He looked up at my voice, the mask in his hands. I had found it strangely compelling; the image of my dear friend as a thief, a criminal, shielded from the law by a scrap of silk. John Watson would have made a cunning burglar. With his quite ordinary build and unremarkable appearance, he would never be suspected.
Unremarkable at first glance, at any rate. I had long appreciated the glitter of humor in his eyes, the sardonic mouth, the easy grace with which he moved. Being an honest man, I had come to terms with it. The treacherous serpent of hope still twined within my chest, though I had done my best to banish it, and had succeeded in reducing it to a dull murmur. Against all sense and reason, it lingered, and I cursed myself for the actions it brought me to when I heard that deep, gravelly voice. "Yes, Holmes?"
I watched as he laid the mask aside and turned to face me. He had been sitting in his customary chair for perhaps a quarter of an hour, pondering the black fabric meant to conceal our identities. Knowing John, he was probably once again lost in the morass of morality. "You would not call me a marrying man, Watson?" I used the same words as I had earlier. Chosen carefully, to break the impact as slowly as possible.
"No," he replied, his gaze sharpening in intensity as he continued to regard me.
I turned my face to the fire, which leapt merrily, oblivious to the deadly calm which had come over me. Fatal to our friendship as it might be, I had to give him at least the bare beginnings of fact. "Why do you hold that opinion?" I tempered my voice to a mild curiosity of tone.
His eyes narrowed. "I suppose it is the way you speak of such institutions as love and marriage."
"Never spoke of the softer emotions, save with a gibe and a sneer," I murmured, smiling a little at the memory of his written words. That smile quickly faded, as a spark cast into darkness, as I recalled the purpose of this conversation. His quizzical gaze brought the next words out of my mouth. "Truer words, my dear doctor, truer words... Yet all that's of the heart is rarely spoken."
Shock made his next words short. "My God, do you seriously mean to tell me that you're in love with someone?"
I waved his startlement away. "That is not the intent behind my words. I simply meant to say that I have deliberately misled both you and all others as to the nature of my heart."
"I confess I am puzzled."
"Watson--" I drew a deep breath. "You are a medical man. No doubt you are familiar with a new term: homosexual."
There was stillness for a few moments, silence in which I knew he must be thinking of all the times I had expressed a distaste for women, or laughed at love, or even the times I had expressed my deep regard for him. The dozens of times I had found some excuse to touch him -- even upon this night, my shoulder against his as we hid in Milverton's study, my hand creeping into his, picking him up when he was seized and had fallen. Were I him, I should surely be suspicious. As was human nature, he would find some reason to continue as before; he would believe as he chose.
"I see," he said at last, eyes fixed upon the crackling flames. "Am I to understand that you are such a man?"
I cleared my throat, finding it inexplicably blocked. "Yes."
Again, a few long minutes of tense quiet, fraught with expectancy. This time he broke it with a sudden flood of questions, tossed at me with the short rapidity of bullets from a revolver. "What do you mean? How long have you known? Why tell me -- now, and at all? I thought I knew you, but I find I am more ignorant than I believed."
The simple normalcy of his queries nearly made me laugh, though I admit it was mingled with a strong desire to weep. "To take it one question at a time: How long have I known? Some years. After my adolescence, surely... My peers began to marry, but the thought of women still left me cold. What do I mean? That although women's charms do not ensnare me, those of a man may very well move me beyond rationality or sanity. Why tell you? To be fair. You have been invaluable in my investigations, and I feel it is my duty to give you the truth." I paused, waiting for more of his curiosity, but he continued to regard me with a thoughtful quality I found somewhat disturbing.
"I see," he said, for the third time, but his voice was so low that I could hardly hear it. "You are aware of the medical opinion of homosexuality?"
I shrugged elaborately. "Undoubtedly it is the epitome of mental illness -- caused perhaps by some childhood trauma, a dominant mother, or a natural talent for perversion?"
Watson smiled a little, as if reluctant to be amused by my airy manner. "Something of the sort. And, of course, it's quite illegal." He caught my wry grin, and laughed slightly. "Not that breaking into a man's house isn't also quite illegal."
"Let's not forget immoral," I said, feigning an unconcern I did not feel. How Watson reacted to that statement would most likely tell me how he felt about the issue. He had not bolted from the room yet, at least.
Those sharp eyes met mine. "Really, Holmes, for all the times you've flouted the law, I can count the number of times you've done something immoral on my thumbs."
I let out my breath, conscious of that fact that we were still both dressed in our evening-clothes, though we'd each removed some of the outermost articles for the sake of comfort. John looked rather too handsome, but at least he would accept me, if nothing more. I had hardly dared hope for such an easy acquittal.
Perhaps it would not be so painless, after all. I realized that I was wringing my hands as the panic left me. A nervous gesture that had no doubt attracted his attention.
"Holmes," and uncertainty was abruptly present in his face, his voice, "are you in love with someone?"
We both knew what he was really asking. He has never been a slow man, and the meaning of my attachment to him could hardly have escaped his notice. I answered with a statement that I thought plain enough. "No-one I shall endeavor to make love to, let me assure you." I had risen, and was about to move towards my room, having so given Watson my word -- however obliquely -- that he was safe from my amorous intentions. For one horrifying moment, I thought I might let the tension of the situation crack me so that I should weep, but I regained control of myself.
I think that my focus upon that was the reason I missed whatever fleeting emotion may have crossed his face, for next he asked, "And if someone endeavored to make love to you?"
Certainly I went quite still, my back to him. "Why," I said, slowly, "that would be an entirely different matter, I suppose."
I heard the chair creak as he rose from it. One step, then another, and he was directly behind me. He put his hand on my shoulder. With a sudden shiver, I am sure I revealed it all. It must have been enough for him, for his lips were pressed against the back of my throat. I stumbled and his arms went round me. Though it was barely a word, I managed to whisper, "John--" and feeling him hesitate, continued simply, "yes."
He kissed a trail from the base of my throat up to that place where my jaw met my skull; from there, he went on to nibble at the lobe of my ear. I could no longer stand it. I turned and met his lips with my own.
Often had he recorded my love of music in his chronicles, so perhaps the reader will understand when I say that to kiss John Watson was to experience a symphony of touch, an unrivaled composition of lips, tongue, teeth, hands -- his scent, the texture of his clothes as his body pressed into mine. For some length of time, we simply stood in a sort of motionless dance, swaying a little. Until the inevitable, the deliciously inevitable, occurred, and the solemn romance of it turned to something less pure. We half-fell upon the couch, his solid form above me, and could not bear to relinquish each other's lips; so it was that we spent our lust grinding our hips together, like schoolboys. Afterwards, he showed no great desire to get up. I rather enjoyed the warmth of his arms, and so remained there for the rest of the night, falling gently into an easier sleep than I had known in many years.
I woke the next morning to find his lips again at my ear. As I shifted a little, I heard the smile in his voice. "It's early, Sherlock. Are you sure you want to be awake at this hour?"
I replied in kind, finding an answering smile upon my own face. "If being awake means having the pleasure of your company, then let me never sleep again."
He chuckled and kissed me. Suffice it to say that we managed to remove our clothes in time to take a hot bath, and by the time Lestrade arrived, we were quite composed. We had breakfasted and were smoking our morning pipe as he bid us good morning and begged my assistance as to the solving of the murder of Charles Augustus Milverton.
"There are certain crimes which the law cannot touch," I said, and had the reward of seeing Watson hide a grin behind his moustache and his pipe. Later that day -- which was by no means as uneventful as my dearest friend and partner portrays it -- I recalled the name of the lady we had witnessed in the act of killing Milverton, and I hurried him down Baker Street and along Oxford nearly to Regent Circus. He stared in some astonishment at the shop window wherein was displayed her portrait. His eyes met mine, rich with words unsaid, and I put my finger to my lips as we turned away.
The case was closed, loose ends tied up, the business with Milverton the blackmailer finished -- and a new, exquisite aspect of both our selves and our relationship in the sweet process of beginning.
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