Arrogance, and Assumptions
Watson sinks back into his chair, exhausted, wiping his hands upon the last of the towels. “I can do no more for him,” he says, his voice flat. “Either he’ll sleep it off, or he won’t wake up. It’s between him and his maker now.” His gaze flickers over to Bradstreet, who stands with his back to us, looking out the window. “He’s in reasonably good health, so he stands a better chance than some,” he adds carefully, but receives no response, not that either of us expected any; Bradstreet has not spoken since we arrived at Baker Street, solemnly pacing the sitting room like a caged tiger, often stopping to glare at a bookshelf or lamp in fierce concentration before stalking off again, his slow ponderous steps the only sound beside the ticking of the clock and the shallow rapid breathing of the invalid.
Once Watson deemed it safe to move his patient, we brought Lestrade back to our own rooms, where he has spent the past ten hours on a camp-bed near the sitting-room hearth, fighting for his life. The surgery itself only lasted the better part of an hour; Watson has spent the rest of the time battling the inevitable fever in his patient, brought on from what he has deprecatingly called “blasting open a human body in a godforsaken sewer.”
I admire Watson’s dedication, but I know that I could never be a physician; there are too many variables that put the fate of the patient beyond the practitioner’s skill. As much as he might admire how I practice my craft, I stand in awe of his professional abilities. Tonight I have watched him as he plucked the deadly slug of metal from Lestrade’s body and then sewed back together the wound as easily as a seamstress might mend a torn curtain. I may have saved dozens of men from the gallows, but I could not tear someone from the jaws of death as my friend has done tonight and then wait calmly while they may – or may not – live through the night. Once my work is done, the case is over, and I have either uncovered the truth or the truth is un-recoverable; my completed cases can get no worse.
Now that the fever is broken, all Watson can do is wait to see whether or not Lestrade is strong enough to live, and yet this physician sits placidly beside his patient, knowing he has done all he can. The fact that he is completely exhausted may be put aside; this man once patched together battle-wounded soldiers while sleeping less than four hours a night, for weeks at a time. His readers do not know the man I know, the healer who now keeps his vigil despite exhaustion and fatigue, putting aside his own physical and emotional distress to save a life.
Tonight he performed no less than a miracle; the fact that he has done so directly after proclaiming his love for me makes me tremble. I have ensconced myself at Watson’s writing-desk, just out of his line of sight, wishing to provide my friend with no distractions. We have already said all we need to say; once Watson is rested, we will be able to pick up where we were interrupted.
The thrill that this thought sends down my spine is soured when my eyes light once more on Lestrade’s pale face. I have seen him asleep before – he has often camped upon our settee prior to setting off upon a late-night pursuit – but this is not the healthy sleep of a man expecting to spring into action as the clock strikes the appointed hour; this is some false shadow of sleep, a shoddy facsimile of rest. His breathing, rapid as it is, comes laboured and hard-won, and his motionless limbs seem tense, hanging from his body at the wrong angles.
Suddenly, a vision of Cordelia’s frown springs unbidden to my eyes, and I am surprised at the well of emotion that comes with it. For her sake, this man upon our settee is more than a friend; in a way, he is family.
Lestrade and I have never spoken of our pre-existing connexion. Although I remember Miranda Lestrade fondly, I only met her elder brother once before our professional association began, and that upon the day of her funeral; he and Mycroft were quarrelling bitterly as they returned to my father’s house. At the time, he had been making his living as a cabman; when we met a decade later at Scotland Yard, we both masked our surprise with cool civility.
It was not the most auspicious of beginnings for a friendship, but Lestrade was more willing to listen to my line of reasoning, more –
I refuse to believe that I have just thought about him in the past tense; the thought of Lestrade dying casts a distinct pall of gloom upon anything else. Despite his occasional bull-headedness, he is a good man and I should miss his company sorely.
I refuse to think what Mycroft and Cordelia would say, should they learn that I have not informed them of recent events. I briefly consider sending them a telegram, but find myself unable to goad myself into action.
I cannot imagine what Bradstreet must be feeling; granted, he has followed us here and has made no move to leave his friend’s side, but one can feel the tension and confusion radiating from him as he resumes his restless pacing.
I am surprised, then, when he turns sharply to Watson, laying a hand upon the doctor’s shoulder. “Let me sit with him,” he says softly. “You’re exhausted.”
Watson looks up at Bradstreet, his deep blue eyes asking the question neither of us dare put to words.
“I don’t know,” he answers. “I’m damned if I know how I feel about this; I’ve never been more confused in my life. But …” he sighs deeply, shaking his head as he looks down at Lestrade. “I just hope to God he lives, so at least we can be confused about it together. Whether he lives or dies, I’d … I’d like to be alone with him.”
Watson rises to his feet, stretching. “I shall be upstairs, then. Don’t hesitate to wake me if there’s any change.”
Bradstreet sits down next to Lestrade, immediately covering his friend’s still hand with his own. “You need not make any pretence for me, gentlemen,” he says softly, looking down at the wan face. “I know what I interrupted – no, I’m not shocked,” he adds, smiling at our reactions. “I’ve known about you two for some time, and I only can tell you that every couple has these problems. Whatever caused your rift, please, my friends: do not let my presence keep you from making it up.”
I simply gape at him, comprehension slowly dawning as I replay his words in my mind. Does he really think –
Watson sidles up beside me and takes my elbow. “He’s quite right, my dear,” he murmurs with a hint of a smile. “Come to bed, Sherlock; perhaps our argument will fare better in the light of morning.”
Like many men, Watson develops a somewhat pawky sense of humour when over-tired, and so I know not to say anything until the sitting-room door is closed behind us. “Watson,” I whisper, as we ascend the steps to his room, “did you just call me –”
“Do you wish me to refrain from calling you that?”
“Well, no, but …” I shake my head, not sure how to articulate my argument. Instead, I choose a different tack. “Why did you let him think that we’ve been involved for a while?”
“Did you want to explain to him the exact state of our current relations at this point?” he asks mildly, pushing open the door. He pauses at the threshold. “Listen, old man, I want to make one thing perfectly clear,” he begins slowly.
I bow my head. “I know; this is your room and I am to –”
“No,” says he, cupping my chin in his hand. “In fact, I wish you to consider this your room as well; if I am to share my bed with you, you must be free to come – and go – as you will.” He draws my mouth down into a tender kiss. “No, I was about to tell you that I am currently less than five minutes away from a state of complete collapse; I do not want you to take my lapse into unconsciousness as any reflection upon my affection for you.” He takes my hand and leads me to the bed, where he sinks down upon the mattress, gently pulling me atop him. His arms wrap tightly around me and we exchange long, soft kisses, his lips caressing mine with such tender slowness that I find myself tasting of him deeply, sinking into his mouth until I can no longer tell where one of us begins and the other ends.
His touches begin to slow and his breath begins to settle, and I realize that Watson has started to succumb to the influence of Morpheus. I push myself up upon my elbows, pulling myself away from his sleepy kisses only with great difficulty.
“Shouldn’t we take our clothes off?” I ask, touching his cheek.
His eyelids flutter but do not open. “You may dress or undress as you like,” he mumbles sleepily. “Me, I am far too tired to work something as complicated as a button.”
“Would you like me to take your clothes off, too?”
“As you wish,” he yawns, not opening his eyes. Fingers trembling, I unfasten all his buttons before slowly peeling his clothes away, prompting him to roll this way and that in order to free him of his vestments, stopping frequently to exchange lazy sweet kisses.
Watson may be sleepy, but I am perfectly awake, and much too excited to let my companion’s exhaustion mar the wonder of this moment. I raise myself to my knees and survey him, lying beneath me completely naked, trusting, and snoring lightly. I find I cannot help but touch him, brushing my fingers along his chest, over the scattering of light gold hair that curls from his chest and narrows to a stripe leading to the darker, coarser hairs of his groin.
I have seen him naked many times, but never have I been able to view his body at will before now, always averting my eyes from the crux of the matter, so to speak. His nut-brown penis is half-erect, belying his somnolent state, twitching slightly as my hands wander ever closer. I take his body’s excitement at my touch as tacit permission to continue my ministrations; my caresses intensify from whisper softness to earnest stroking, and he wakes slightly, half-opening an eye as his head rolls from side to side.
“Holmes, that feels wonderful,” he whispers, “but I haven’t the strength to reciprocate.”
I lean forward and plant a single chaste kiss upon his lips. “There’s no need to reciprocate,” I tell him. “I am simply learning the lay of the land, as it were. Do you mind if I continue?”
His mouth curls into a smile against my own. “Far be it from me to impede you in your researches,” he replies with a sigh, wriggling his hips. “Feel free to learn as much as you can.”
I kiss him again, caressing his lips with my own, the brush of his moustache against my mouth sending tingles of unutterable pleasure down my spine.
“I think I understand now,” I whisper against the hollow of his cheek.
“I was labouring under the misapprehension,” I begin, kissing his jaw, “that sexual congress would be an unpleasant means to an end: that end being to quench the desire I felt so keenly.” I run my lips along the line of his chin down to where his neck meets his torso, just at the join of his collarbone. “Before now, I only knew of the burning need for completion in your arms,” I tell him, nuzzling the scar upon his shoulder, “but there is much to be said for the sheer pleasure of these simple touches; I must confess, I never knew how gratifying such a simple act as pressing my lips to your flesh could be.” I kiss the rough tissue that marks his wound before trailing down to his left nipple, the touch of my lips there drawing forth a sudden intake of breath from Watson.
The unique texture of this portion of his anatomy fascinates me; I dimly remember from my rather unsystematic studies being briefly curious about the erectile properties of the mammary glands, but I had not envisioned anything like the way these tender buds expand so enthusiastically beneath the workings of my tongue.
Watson moans softly, lifting an arm to rest upon my shoulder. I smile and cross to the other nipple, teasing this one mercilessly until it, too, is standing fully to attention. I take it into my mouth, gently nibbling and sucking before releasing it and proceeding downwards.
I leave trailing kisses along the centre-line of his torso, circling round his navel with my tongue. His hand upon my shoulder gives me an encouraging squeeze, and I turn my attention even lower, but then I freeze when brought face-to-face with the reality of the situation.
He is no longer half-erect; his straining flesh bobs and twitches before my eyes and I find a sudden wave of doubt overcome my curiosity. What in God’s name am I doing? What am I supposed to do? What if the taste is unpalatable, or worse, what if I choke? And what about when he –
Watson brushes my cheek with his hand. “Come back up here,” he murmurs, pulling me gently to his breast. He cups my chin in his hand and captures my mouth in a tender, lingering kiss, wrapping his arms around me and hugging me tight.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper, my face burning with my failure. “I’m so sorry, I just couldn’t –”
“Shhhh.” He strokes my hair, kissing my cheek. “Here, give me your hand, love.”
I allow him to bring my hand to his hardness, and together we stroke his shaft, our intertwined fingers caressing his need.
He presses his lips to my forehead. “You have done this with yourself, yes?”
“When I was much younger,” I answer, blushing as I remember the dull, lonely ache that invariably followed. My fingers close around him, causing a slight shudder to run through Watson’s body, and I know I shall not feel lonely tonight.
As I begin to pump him steadily, I feel his fingers move slowly from his groin to mine. Intent upon my own explorations of Watson’s responses, I have ignored the effects upon my own body, yet just this simple touch of his hand upon my member brings my arousal to full attention.
“May I?” he asks, his lips against mine.
I answer with a fervent kiss and a re-doubling of my efforts; our mouths open wide to each other as we match the rhythm of our hands. The sensation of his grip upon my erection is like nothing I remember, and I tremble in his embrace as he tugs and kneads my flesh, literally pulling my climax from me with a few deft strokes, surprising me so that there is no time to process the white-hot flash of ecstasy that rips through me, setting every single nerve aflame. Every muscle in my body clenches and then succumbs to the fire, burning away all tension, all fear, all need.
The brush of his moustache upon my neck brings me back to myself. “Are you all right?” he asks softly.
“Mmmmm,” I reply, nuzzling further into the crook of his elbow. I can barely remember how to move my limbs, let alone be bothered to form actual words. “Rhhm-mmph,” I add, kissing the nearest bit of Watson I can reach with what I think are my lips.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” says he, chuckling low. He shifts his arms round me slightly, and it is only after a few seconds that I realize what he is doing.
With a great effort of will, I pull myself out of my torpor, my hand joining his again. “I should be doing that,” I begin reproachfully. “I should get as much practise as possible, after all.”
“You’re doing well for a beginner,” he says, allowing me to take over the task. “But just … ermph.” He pulls back as my hand slips over his shaft. “A little less force than that … there,” he sighs, guiding me once more.
My hand moves mechanically now, just following his strokes. “I apologize for my inexperience,” I whisper. “I see that I have much to learn.”
He pauses and wraps both arms around me, soothing me with kisses and tender reassurances. “You cannot fault yourself for your virginity. Rest assured; we will have many more nights together to explore this new territory. But for now, I really think it would be best … well, if I just took care of my own need while you kiss me. You really do kiss quite well.”
I burrow into his arms once more, and suddenly it hits me. I pull back and look into his eyes. “I’ve got a better idea,” I say, rolling onto my back.
“What do you – now hold on, we’re not going there tonight,” he answers quickly.
“Why not? Can you deny that you did not wish to deflower me thus in our grappling upon the hearthrug?”
“Holmes, I already apologized –”
“And we would, at some point, be exploring that part of this new territory?”
“It’s rather advanced study,” Watson points out patiently. “Holmes, forgive me for bringing it up, but you weren’t able –”
I prop myself up on one elbow. “Actually, to my mind, it seems simpler. On the one hand, the other methods I have thus tried require actual skill; if I inadvertently hurt you with my hand, imagine what I might do with my mouth at this point. On the other hand, for what I propose, all I have to do is lie back and take it, so to speak.”
“It’s not that simple, Holmes. It requires an inordinate amount of trust –”
I press a single finger to his lips. “I have just died in your arms and come back to life to your kiss. There is nothing with which I could not trust you, Watson – John. Please let me open myself to you, John.” I take a deep breath. “I want to … I want to feel you inside me. No matter how much it hurts, I want to know what it feels like to have you come to glory in me.”
He stares at me for a long time. Then he bows his head. “If I properly prepare you,” he says slowly, “it shan’t hurt at all.”
I reach up and touch his cheek. “Then prepare me. I want you.”
He nods and rolls over to the bedside table, taking out a small bottle and handing it to me. I remove the stopper. “Rosemary and chamomile?” I ask.
He nods, blushing charmingly. “And cocoanut oil. Are you sure you want to do this?”
For answer, I pour a small measure onto my fingers and give him back the bottle before spreading my legs and applying the oil to myself. I circle around the ring of muscle with my finger, a slight shiver of pleasure surprising me.
“Have you done this … taken a man like this?” I ask, teasing my hole.
He nods, licking his lips, his eyes focused intently upon my task. “It can be pleasurable for both parties, if done right.” Exhausted or no, the flame of desire shines brightly in his eyes.
I pull my hand away and spread my legs even further, holding myself open for him with both hands. “You’re the doctor,” I smile.
He pours a generous amount of oil upon his own fingers and kneels in between my thighs. I nod and lean back upon the pillows, closing my eyes as I feel him begin his ministrations. A teasing around the opening becomes a tentative entry, and the tentative entry with a single fingertip becomes a disconcerting invasion.
“Shhh,” he whispers, leaning forward to bestow a kiss upon my cheek. “Breathe and open to me.”
I relax my muscles, and he slides his finger deep inside me, brushing against my inner muscles until –
“Ahhhh.” My eyes fly open, and Watson is smiling as he bends over me, his index finger deep inside me. He touches the spot again and I shudder with pleasure. A second finger joins the first as I begin to rock onto his hand, goading him ever deeper. A third finger insinuates itself, and I know exactly what I want. “Take me,” I moan. “Please.”
He lifts my hips into position, pressing the tip of his hardness at my entrance, stretching open the ring of muscle, so much bigger than anything I could have imagined, and then he is deep inside me and I am filled to the bursting point with him. His breath is hot upon my cheek as he holds himself still inside me, allowing me to become used to the feeling. Only when I nod my assent does he begin to move his hips, and as he pumps slowly in and out again, he caresses that spot inside me with the tip of his manhood, and I am lost as the joined bucking of our hips speeds up. We throw our bodies together, becoming a tangle of limbs and sweat and still he fills me over and over again until my muscles clench around him and I feel his flesh jerking deep inside me, a rush of fluid filling my bowels as my lover clings to me and I to him.
And I to him …
I am conscious of little else save the salty taste of Watson’s forehead, the decidedly odd sensation as he slides from me, and the wonderful musky scent of our joining as we snuggle together beneath the sheets. Just as I feel myself sinking into the depths of sleep, I hear voices in the sitting room, Mrs. Hudson’s unmistakable contralto murmuring a question and a low baritone answering her with a soft laugh.
In that state between sleep and wakefulness there is much I do not comprehend. And yet, I know, hearing those voices, that Lestrade lives, and smiling to myself, I surrender myself to exhaustion and know no more, blissfully slumbering in Watson’s arms.
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