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What remains
by Kristophine


Title: What remains
Author: Kristophine
Author's Website: none
Fandom: Sherlock Holmes
Pairing: Sherlock Holmes / John Watson
Rating: PG-13 (m/m love)
Author's Disclaimer: I'm making no profit whatsoever off it, except to bolster my puny ego.
Author's Notes: Nothing shocking. It's all been done before.



"Watson," I sighed, "you foolish, devious man."

I was reasonably sure he had hidden my cocaine-bottle somewhere in his room. More than reasonably sure, I was certain. Watson, whatever his flaws and virtues may be, has never been possessed of delicacy. Although he can display a unique and unsettling subtlety, he is quite firm about his goals.

In this case, the goal appeared to be keeping me from injecting my cocaine, to be accomplished by hiding my bottle somewhere in his room. I had narrowed the possible location to the area immediately surrounding his bed and now, with little exertion, I lifted the mattress to check beneath. My fingers found an object; flat, rectangular, slick to the touch and flimsy -- a photograph. Idle curiosity drove me to hook my finger-nails about it and draw it out.

Whatever sentimental scene I had expected, whatever fond nostalgia would drive Watson to keep such memorabilia, I certainly did not anticipate the picture that greeted my startled eyes. Yes, the great consulting-detective was startled; astonished, even. In one object, my friend had managed to make hash of my deductive reasoning. I, who was so proud of logic, had been humbled.

The photograph depicted my erstwhile companion and another man. It was not terribly recent, I noted; I decided that it must have been taken not long after his return from the war, judging by his tanned complexion and aggressively military posture, traits he had soon lost after we began to cohabit. The man with him was from England, his complexion being the pale colour induced by London fog and his suit, definitively civilian. It was not, however, his clothing that interested me most. Rather, the posture in which they stood. Watson's arm draped carelessly about the man's waist, the man's arms clasped around his shoulders -- pressing his lips against Watson's own, and Watson's eyes closed in what appeared to be ecstasy.

I know that I stumbled. I sat down, hard, upon the frame of the bed. For a long time, I merely stared at the photograph, its silvery tones seeming to mock me. The quality was poor; it was remarkably grainy, but there could be no questioning that it was my friend the Doctor.

Cocaine? You chide me for cocaine, when you hide such a secret? Ah, Watson, I am such a charlatan. Great detective, indeed. How could I have failed to see this? For all that I thought I knew you.

After a long while, I replaced the photograph precisely where it had lain, marking its position by slight tracks in the film of grime. That evening, I did my level best to behave as I ordinarily did, though it took an enormous amount of effort to focus on having an ordinary conversation. I found myself unable to concentrate on the book I held. Every sense seemed preternaturally sharp, though my senses are sharper than the normal man's to begin with. I could smell the dry mustiness of Watson's suit from across the room, could hear every rustle as he shifted in his chair.

"Holmes?"

"Yes?"

"Holmes, you have been reading the same page for the last ten minutes. Are you quite all right?"

Counterfeiting my usual tone of aggrieved tolerance, I replied, "My dear Doctor, I assure you as to my excellent health. I am merely wrestling with an intellectual problem that distracts my attention from my immediate surroundings."

What a lie, oh, what a lie. I wondered if he would see through it at once. I dared not let my eyes linger on his face too long, lest I betray the agitation of my thoughts. Disregarding my will, my eyes wandered spitefully to his lips. Those lips, I thought, have kissed a man. I felt at a loss for balance, and at once brutally dragged my gaze back to my book, praying he had not noticed my lapse.

He seemed not to, raising one eyebrow and replying, "Indeed. Then I shall cease to draw your attention back to them."

Ah, Watson, you could not do that were you to cease breathing.

We sat the rest of the evening in a companionable silence, or at least companionable on his part. I was unnaturally aware of his body. Every indrawn breath, every momentary glimpse by firelight of his face, contours strong and kind; the dark, glittering pools of his eyes in the shadows a convenient metaphor for these sudden secrets. He was not a portly man. Well-built, yes, with a suggestion of strength in wide shoulders. Watson was a quiet man, and might lack the knife-edge brilliance of my intellect, but he was by no means dull. I could imagine no man better suited to provide a foil for my eccentricities and draw me back into life when I had sulkily forsworn it. Yet I now knew him to be an invert. How was I to reconcile this knowledge with the man I had known? He could neither be stereotyped nor placed in convenient pigeon-holes. Watson was most assuredly not the image of an invert so often used by psychiatrists and politicians alike. He was my friend, my partner. Could I not allow his morality to remain his business?

Evidently not.

He rose, at his usual hour, and left for his room. I remained awake, sitting in my chair, staring numbly at my book and at the fire by turns. He found me so the next morning when he emerged, a great earlier than was customary for him. I felt his calculating stare rest on me, gauging how much I could be persuaded to tell him.

"Well," he remarked, "your intellectual problem does seem to have been a challenging one."

My eyes had gone to follow him the instant he walked into the room. Even as he turned to the breakfast Mrs. Hudson had brought up, carefully avoiding looking at me so that I might be more likely to explain my aberration, I watched his movements. Perhaps I searched for some essential clue that would explain this mystery to me, unravel the riddle of a man. "Indeed, Watson. I fear I have not solved it yet."

"Mmm, poached eggs. Can you tell me of it?"

"I'm afraid not. It's of a highly confidential nature."

Watson smiled, turning back to me. "Of course. Only to be expected."

Something in his smile, so smug, grated on my nerves. "Would you mind telling me what you find so amusing as to warrant that smirk?"

He raised his eyebrows. "I am merely glad that you have chosen thought over the needle."

Ah. So that was his motivation. My dear Watson--

For all the love of God, I could not call him that, even in my thoughts.

How could I, the great detective, have missed such a simple thing? I could think of no clues that would have led me to such a conclusion. Watson, Watson! Ask instead how I should keep this from interfering with our friendship and our work.

"Yes, well, the needle is not a challenge," I replied, absent-mindedly.

He nodded, a thoughtful expression creeping over his face. "We all know that you prefer a good challenge. Tell me, how is it you have noticed that your cocaine-bottle has gone missing?"

If he had hoped to shock me, he would be sorely disappointed, on this count at least. "I noticed. Indeed, I narrowed the list of places you could have hidden it quite quickly."

"Than why have you not searched my rooms for it?"

"Oh, I did," I replied, allowing myself to answer almost automatically for a moment, while I watched the way his shirt tightened across his shoulders when he moved to sit at the table. At my words, he froze. Tension flooded through his frame, and I wondered at the sudden rigidity, until I realized what his mind must immediately have gone to: the photograph.

"And what did you find?"

"Nothing." My brain spun lies as quickly and efficiently as ever. "I was interrupted in my search. A client."

"The one whose question puzzles you so?"

"Truly."

I had never spoken such a lie before, and I knew it.

Shortly after that, Watson left our rooms with explanation. I took advantage of his absence to slip into his rooms and ponder the photograph once more. Something about it seemed to make my spine itch and tingle. I found myself staring at their images intently, lifting one hand to touch my own lips.

With a harsh exclamation, I replaced the picture and rose, stalking out of our rooms. Hardly knowing where I walked, I found myself heading for a particular portion of town I had heard of in the course of my investigations. I never imagined that I would visit it any capacity beyond the professional. Yet I was moving towards with a speed and agitation of mind that I could hardly credit, for a distinctly personal reason.

I entered the tavern with trepidation. My body nearly shook with the force of the feelings pouring through my veins. Once my eyes had adjusted to the smoky gloom, I stared around me in no little shock.

Gentlemen were actually hanging off each other! In a place that might be obscure, but was certainly public! I searched within myself for the bitter tang of disgust, but found only a strange light-headedness, a rising sensation that permeated my chest. A man perhaps a year or two younger than I glanced my way as I stood, frozen just inside the door. He walked up to me as I tried to make sense of this whole bizarre situation.

"Hello. May I have the pleasure of buying you a drink?"

Distantly, I noted the tell-tale ink on his fingers that spoke of a newsman, a printer. It was with some sense of seeing my former self crumbling that I heard my own voice say, "Certainly."

He was a handsome man. Interesting, too; he had a ready wit to match his eyes, dark and shining. His hair was a startling contrast, quite fair. Wearing a somber suit and speaking in an intimate tone, he ordered for me as he led me to a table for two. I ended up in quite a lengthy conversation with him as to the uses of a certain chemical in printing. He loved his job, certainly. When next I glanced up, the sky was beginning to darken with the advent of a winter evening.

I will not mince words as to what happened next. He invited me back to his rooms, and I, like the mystery I was rapidly becoming to myself, assented.

Barely had the door closed behind us when his hands found my sides, pulling me into a kiss the like of which I had never before encountered. Agatha's light kisses had been perfectly chaste and had left me cold as a marble tomb, but this man, whose name I could only remember with some effort, awoke a fierce passion in me that rose like fire. His tongue parted my lips, and I stifled a groan as he introduced me to the intense heat of his mouth. My body strained towards his. His hips thrust slightly against mine and all attempts to stifle my sounds were abandoned. I gasped against him and before I quite knew what was happening, he had maneuvered me into a chair and had removed my pants with a practiced ease.

What came after that, I refuse to write of.

A Friday, I dimly realized as he murmured against my hair, "You may sleep here if you like." At my jerky nod, he added with a lazy smile, "You seem like a lost soul, you know. Terribly romantic."

I did not answer, and we were soon asleep.

When I woke in the morning, he still slept beside me. Silently, I made my escape.

Watson started up out of his chair as I walked in. Beyond the windows, the light was cool and gray, almost pre-dawn. "Holmes! For the love of God, where have you been?" he snapped.

I raised one hand. "Silence, Watson. You are not my keeper, and I will thank you to remember that."

"Has this to do with that fascinating problem for a non-existent client?" he asked, voice dripping sarcasm. "I spoke to Mrs. Hudson. There were no callers."

I pointedly turned my back to him, focusing on the fireplace to avoid having to consider him -- I was desperate to hide my reaction to his proximity. The effort it cost not to shiver was equal to any exertion of strength necessary to bend a poker. "Checking up on me? You have never questioned my word before."

"Lestrade has never before arrived in a towering fury, nearly sobbing with rage, demanding to know your whereabouts and whether or not you have taken on one new client in particular, a Mr. Jameson, apparently an accomplished burglar. Luckily, Mrs. Hudson was present to disprove me when I spoke of one new client with a perplexing problem. What game are you playing at, Holmes?" I could feel the words strike at me as clearly as I felt his hand upon my shoulder. It seemed a thing of flame, burning through my rumpled jacket to brand my skin.

I wrenched away. "I have taken no thief for a client, and you may tell Lestrade that. As to the rest, it is none of your business. I am not to be disturbed." I bolted into my room and shut the door heavily. Leaning back against it, I heard through the wood a soft whisper: "I know you are there. I know it. Why are you doing this?"

"Go," I heard my own voice hiss, a dry and rasping thing. "Please."

Silence for a moment, then "As you wish," and his receding footsteps.

I spent the rest of the day in a solitary hell, thinking on Watson's inversion and my own deviant behavior. Psychology had never appealed much to me, beyond the study of the criminal mind. I was at a loss to deal with this development. It seemed that I was no so asexual as I liked to believe; and now everything had come flooding up to overwhelm me. Was it possible that I shared my friend's proclivities? From my behavior, my body had already decided, if my brain had not.

It was in a state of extreme disturbance that I left my rooms that evening. Watson stood at the fire, staring moodily into its depths. I noted the slight shadow of stubble on his jaw, the muscles of which were tightly clenched. It had been hard on him, I realized, the silence and the absence which I had summarily thrust upon him. Faint lines of strain were etched into his face. He turned to me as I emerged, involuntarily stepping forward. "My God, Holmes, what has happened?" He searched my face, the alarm in his voice ringing dully in my ears. I could not bear it.

Stepping up to him, I said, harshly, "I do not know."

I kissed him. Gripping his face, I kissed him the way the young printer had kissed me. His mouth opened to mine and for an instant, I was lost in the conflagration.

Common sense reasserted itself with a jarring blow. I tore myself away from him and fled before he, stunned as he was, could react.

One of my hide-outs is particularly well-suited for excursions into the dark side of London. The proprietress is always more than happy to dredge up a warm bath, and it was to this place I went, intent on using the relaxing qualities of such a bath to clear my mind. My agitation, however, only increased. It seemed that the world was John Watson, and John Watson the world. I should not presume that Watson cared for me in any capacity other than that of a trusted friend, a confidante. To form a hypothesis without sufficient data--

My brain could not finish the thought.

When I held him so, he had not moved; except for his lips, parting, his tongue snaking to meet mine. An instinctive reaction? A genuine emotion? I wanted John as I had never wanted anything in my life. No pure, bright, tangled skein of logic and intrigue had ever proved such a temptation. Psychology had failed me. Logic had failed me. Watson--

Would every thought be unfinished, then? In this labyrinth of fear and doubt, pain and confusion, the shining star that was lust and soul-deep love woven into one?

I found myself stepping out of the bath, drying off, and dressing in an outfit I kept at this address. It was a dark suit, definitely a thing for evening, with hints of color that caught the eye. A subtle flare. Most appropriate for my intended destination. Yes, I would return to that tavern, and seek another brief encounter. Anything to erase from my mind the image of my friend, his mouth on mine, his skin beneath my hands.

The atmosphere of the bar was, as before, dark and smoky. Faint noises of clinking glasses mingled with the low hum of chatter, occasionally punctuated by a throaty laugh. This time, I would be the hunter. A gentleman a few years older than me, a jeweler by several clues, and prosperous, sat at the bar. I approached him and was not rebuffed. One of my more up-scale establishments saw more that night than I had ever intended. His hands were large and rough on my body; they almost drowned out the memory of my hands on either side of Watson's face. To kiss this man was a strange thing. Images of Watson seemed to continually flash into my mind, overlaying the sculpted features before me. Pointless, I thought, to attempt to replace that which could not be replaced. I sent the jeweler home, perhaps to an empty house or a wife. I bathed again to scrub the traces of him from my skin. I tried to sleep, but soon gave up the attempt as futile, and spent hours -- I did not know how many -- sitting in my dressing-gown, awake. Tormented by the demons that were thoughts and memories. To try to deal with this in a rational manner had failed, was impossible. I could not be rational where Watson was concerned.

I had failed.

So I sat, sleepless and in a great turmoil of mind, until Watson found me. His attempts at deduction did, occasionally, lead him to successes -- in this case, locating my hide-outs.

I gathered from the slight dampness of his greatcoat and shoes, the way in which he had muffled himself up and the dark circles beneath his eyes, that it was still quite early, perhaps before dawn. He pushed the door closed gently, then turned to face me removing his hat, eyes unreadable and a sort of a concern mingled with weariness stamped in his face. His voice was quiet. "Holmes, what game is this?" Weariness, yes, but no blame, thank God.

I knew my air was that of a man very close to cracking. "I do not know myself." My eyes were hungry, taking in every line of his form, every texture, each sound and movement,

He came to stand beside me where I sat in the armchair. Looking down at me, my face pale with strain and fatigue, he asked me for the truth, and I gave it to him. Told him of the photograph; his breath hissed between his teeth, but I went on before he could speak. I talked of the tavern, the printer, the how I could not believe nor understand what was happening to me. How, on seeing him, I had become intensely conscious of him, and this made me want things no sane man could understand, but that I evidently needed -- and badly. My fear at kissing him (and I stumbled over the words), that all would be undone, and how I had sought the jeweler in an attempt to restore some semblance of reason -- and failed. When I finished speaking, he was silent for a time, and we made a tableau -- the gentleman doctor and his unwell friend.

When at last he moved, it was to kiss me, a firm thing with that subtlety I love so well in him. I think perhaps I made a sound, for he straightened up, pulling me with him, and drew us together so that our bodies met and pressed against each other. His arms were strong around me. It was with a sense of wonder that I finally succumbed, a gut-wrenching surge of emotion sweeping over me, drowning and dissolving in his hold.

I have my reason, my rational thinking, my deductive powers, my keen mind. He sits beside me and smiles, a rare thing, as he notes that I appear to have made it through cocaine withdrawal quite nicely. Then he kisses me again.


~ The End ~


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