|The Sound of Bees
Author: Medorikoi PM
Sometimes he doesn't remember the old days. He knows what he was, he smiles that private smile when his grey eyes focus on the books he knows hold familiar stories, the adventures he once lived even if he can no longer read their faded titles...Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Angst - Dr. Watson & Sherlock Holmes - Words: 5,584 - Reviews: 18 - Favs: 27 - Follows: 2 - Published: 07-03-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7143929
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Sometimes he doesn't remember the old days. He knows what he was, he smiles that private smile when his grey eyes focus on the books he knows hold familiar stories, the adventures he once lived even if he can no longer read their faded titles. He holds his pipe in curled hands even if he no longer smokes, glancing at the slipper on the fireplace without knowing why, only that in some way these objects go together. There is a feeling of rightness about it.
Some days he will say something, like they have been transported back in time, like they were still young men. He will mention Lestrade as if he had seen him this morning at a crime scene, he will reference old adventures, a name, a situation and he will peer over at Watson and his face will drop, wondering for a moment. As if he does not recognize his partner through the haze of years. He grows silent and the look will fade from his eyes and he will settle deeper into his chair, the moment gone.
The good days get further and further in between, a flicker of light in a sea of darkness.
He talks about being busy, about his load of cases, how they need him. He keeps asking for Watson, damning him for not being there, saying again and again as he tries to get him to sit that he needs to go find Watson.
Some days he is too crippled to move, struck by inflammatory arthritis, his hands curl, his arms stiffen and the buttons and laces of his clothing become an insurmountable feat. He growls and fights as deft hands work his buttons for him, as they divest him of his bed clothes and dress him for the day, as gentle hands bathe away the sweat of the night.
At night he cries out for Watson. He will accept only him as his nursemaid, as his trusted doctor. He cries out for the friend he cannot find. He cannot understand why Mrs. Hudson will not heed his calls for help.
His health is failing. They both are. Age and injury had caught up to them at last, its heavy hands laying on their mortal bodies.
Years pass without a moment of lucidity. Days go by where he does not know who he is, or where they are. He cries when he sees the books and knows they have a meaning he can no longer guess at. He looks at the long greyed chemical table and wonders if he knows a chemist, if perhaps the chemicals at this table had taken his mind from him.
He cries silently and without knowing why when old hands ready him for the night, when his bed seems very cold and empty.
It was like any other day. The ocean splashed on the rocks outside, the bees wild on their own hummed happily, the background to their world.
Grey eyes opened and for the first time in years he did not cry out at the unfamiliarity of his room, he sat, a low aching in his limbs but not enough to cripple him, only to make every motion more purposeful, as if he had wasted all superfluous movement in his youth.
He dresses for the day in what he knows is inappropriate clothing, old black pants too formal for their little country home, a black sweater that almost smells like tobacco smoke if he closes his eyes, the acid burns on the sleeves soft against his skin. When he looks in the mirror he scowls a little, he doesn't like where stark black has gone grey and white at the temples but his face is much the same, more tired perhaps. He tries several faces in the mirror, scowls and smiles, an imitation of laughter and discovers that the roads and lines upon his face lend themselves to laughter.
He had spent his life in joy it seems, he fixes a little smirk in place, it feels familiar on his face as he shaves away the thin hair on his cheeks revealing more aged skin. It is a face, he imagines, which has known love.
He walks into the main house and the rooms are soft and comfortable, filled with anecdotes of a harder life well spent, little trophies with half-forgotten memories spend their solitary lives among books that smell rich with age, like old knowledge and forgotten mysteries.
The steps to the other little bedroom are familiar, a pattern of wear shows where feet have tread over the years. He doesn't knock, just lets the door slide open, the lock is not even in place, as if the occupant inside has no fear, as if he listens in wait, already half into the day and wakefulness.
He is beautiful. Age was gracious with him, or perhaps it is just that he knew the old features so well that he still gleans youth in their existence. His eyes are closed of course, his breath too shallow, too labored. He has the rasp of the ill and for a moment slow dread fills him but it stops when it hits his heart. The feeling already lingers there; this is not new data, only the swift remembering of regifted clue.
His eyes fall on the slow rise and fall of his chest and travel the length of his body. His eyes crinkle and he begins to understand the lines on his own face when a smile pulls his lips. Watson has pulled the blanket into his arms like a lover, pulling it free of his body, his socked feet sticking absurdly out the end.
For a fleeting moment he imagines himself stroking the tickling sole of the foot, to watch him jump, to make blue eyes open and focus on him; but he wants to watch him sleep, to watch this peacefulness that lingers on his sleeping eyelashes.
He lowers himself carefully onto the bed, all too aware of how his own was made for two and yet Watson sleeps on a tiny bed, too aware of the aches of his own body. He lays down carefully facing his friend, his hand glides over his ribcage, up and down his bare arm, feeling the softness of his exposed skin.
At the first touch of his hand Watson stirs, he releases his grip on the blanket and reaches out, a familiar hand curling over his side, pulling him to crush his blanket lover between them. When the blanket folds against his face and tickles his mustache, changing his face into familiar irritation Holmes cannot restrain his laughter. How a blanket evokes the same face he himself earned so many times.
Blue eyes do flash open now; they fall on his smiling face and seem almost uncomprehending, as if he too has fallen into the slip of time. He closes his eyes and opens them rapidly as he lets the laughter die and only the lingering smile remains pressed to Watson's pillow.
"Are you alright? Is something wrong?" Watson is struggling to sit, his voice filled with worry, hands rub the sleep from his eyes, his labored breath still too heavy.
Holmes lets him wake, lets him dispel the panic, he lays there smiling at him, waiting for blue eyes to calm. His face too is more lined than he remembers, his cheeks have been touched with illness, the fullness of their heyday gaunt, but the lines at the edges of his mouth betray the shared happy life they once knew. He is still beautiful.
Blue eyes do focus and the panic fades. Holmes lets his hand come up to caress the soft cheek, feeling the emaciated flesh, wanting to fill it with his hand as if he were an artist with sculpture and he had failed to see how sick his masterpiece was.
"Holmes?" His voice is weaker than it had been; it has the softness of age, as if the sound was part of the rush of the ocean, invaded by the soft sound of bees. "Holmes!" He gasps again, the steel lingering beneath the scarring of time, beneath the emotion seeming to overwhelm him, the tears that sting the back of his eyes and make him blink away the wetness which makes them shine.
It takes but a heartbeat of time before they are in each other's arms. The last time they fell together like this they made love but their bodies are too old now, the flesh in his arms too thin and sick. It is enough to press a kiss into familiar hair, to taste his lips and know nothing had changed between them but the taste of salt tears falling.
Watsons chest heaves and Holmes sooths the hair from his face, feeling his own eyes sting as Watson looks at him with unconditional love.
"How long?" Holmes asks as they settle in bed together, limbs entangled, hearts beating against one another.
"It doesn't matter now." Watson takes Holmes hand and places it over his own heart, their fingers entwining slowly over the fragile beating. "I never thought I would have this again."
"How long?" His voice is growing cold although he doesn't want it to, doesn't want to waste a moment they have on anger but he can feel the sharp pain in the back of his throat, the ache in his chest at what Watson endured.
"Years. Five years."
The pain in his heart thumps, grows heavy and intense as he does out the math in his mind. If he knew Watson was sick five years ago… He blunders forward with none of the grace his limbs once possessed, presses their lips together in a desperate meeting, and when he is forced to pull back for breath holds him so close he cannot look into his face.
As if he could protect him from the years and illness in the ring of his arms.
As if he could take back what they had lost.
"Holmes." Watsons whispers into his hair with his whispery breath. He clutches him closer, demanding his twisted hand to cradle the back of his lovers neck, to keep their hearts pressed close together as he reins himself in, as the reality he has woken to settles in his mind.
"Sherlock." Watson whispers, his voice too weak, too fond. He tries to pull away and Holmes lets him, doesn't have the heart to stop him even if he has the physical power.
Watson doesn't even have to look before he is brushing the tears away from his lovers face, catching his sorrow in his fingertips. His own blue eyes are clear and resolved now, soft with love and shared sorrow as if he had come to terms with their lives in the brave manner of his character and as always it is Holmes who needed to be taken care of.
When the worst of the tears had been wiped away and still they came, slipping from his eyes under Watsons loving gaze they were kissed away in soft dry lips.
"Don't cry love." His smile soft and real, an echo of a thousand shared nights. "I have you back. How could I wish for more?"
Holmes could feel his throat constricting. He felt like a child soothed from a nightmare but it was not his nightmare to which he woke, only one to which he could visit. He clenched his fists in an effort to regain his composure but there was only hopelessness and weakness there, where in Watson there was only bravery. He wanted to cry and rage and scream and all for him and the man himself was all too calm. As if his life meant nothing, as if everything were not terribly cruel and bittersweet and unfair.
"And tomorrow?" He gasped, a new flood of tears stinging his eyes but not falling, enough that his voice was choked and wet. Enough that Watson cared for him in the years that he cried without a mind. "When I don't remember you?"
Tears filled Watsons eyes, his shaking hand touched his cheek and held it. Holmes knew that it was not for himself that Watson was brought to the edge after so much, but for him. He could see it in his eyes.
He knew the moment he came in the room.
It was buried in the rasp of his breath.
In the hollows of his body.
"I don't have many more tomorrow left." A single crystalline tear fell but his face remained in that beautiful serenity. Watsons tear was warm when it hit his face and down his own cheek as Watson held him close, blue eyes looking over every inch of him as if he still could not get enough. "I was so afraid that one day you would wake up and I would be gone, that I would never tell you." He closed his eyes, his voice falling into nothing, his heavy rasping breath filling the air between them, mixing with the distant crash of the ocean.
A million words mixed on his tongue. A million things he would never say, years left in silence, stolen from them by fate and only darkness on the horizon.
A million things that die on his lips when Watson is in his arms, crying for him as if only a moment had passed with them apart.
"I love you." Sherlock brought them together, a handful of kisses stolen in the span of dark years. "My Boswell. My Watson." It tore at him horribly to hear the rasping increase at the momentary loss of a breath for a kiss, the way his hands could no longer soothe him into health. But when he pulled away the soft permanent melancholy that seemed to reside on his face had melted away and a smile stolen from their youth captured his lips.
"I thought it was my job to be the sentimental writer." He whispered in his ear with that peculiar mix of bone deep sorrow and ethereal joy, that depth of feeling that one can achieve only a handful of times in a perfect lifetime. "But you seem to have stolen my words from me." Watsons smile pressed into the soft flesh of his cheek, half of his smile pressing into his mouth as he laughed. "But I love you. My lover. My bestfriend. My constant source of agony since the moment we met."
Holmes held him as he laughed, the soft breathy sound beautiful now that he understood it, how precious it truly was, not a condemnation but the result of a lifetime. "My Sherlock Holmes."
They collapsed against each other the way they might have in their youth after a chase through damp streets, screaming and chasing and punching only to fall together in a mess of limbs on the floor in front of the fire at Baker Street. Half laughter and victory, half searching hands and memorized heartbeats.
"Shall we get out of bed today? Perhaps if we do not then time will never pass. Maybe time will forget us here." Holmes let the words slip from his lips wistfully now that Watsons hand was spread over his own heart and piercing blue eyes were no longer trained on his face, dissecting every fiber of his thoughts, a student taught too well.
"If-" They kept their voices perfectly light, as if it were a game passing between them in that glow of just enough alcohol, laying beneath the veil of blue tobacco smoke that seemed to hide them from the world. "You had but a single day left what would you do with it?" He was warm in his arms, his breath and heart a constant reminder of his presence in a way they had never been, a clock beating loud in its final hours.
"Spend it with you." His response was quick and honest and would have earned him a kiss if they had not settled so comfortably against each other, two pieces of a puzzle long left uncompleted.
"Granted. Now what would you do with me?"
He pursed his lips as if deep in concentration but he already knew the words. "Watch the sunrise so I can think of all the hours I have left with you." This time Watson did move, kissing his face, his eyes, his mouth as if now that he had begun he could not stop.
"Do you know the view we have here is unlike anything in all of England? The way the first rays of sunlight splash across the water?"
"I will save the poetry and romanticism for you. I have changed my mind. We will go outside and you can bask in your pretty words and watch the sunrise, I will watch something much rarer." Watson sat carefully, his legs falling over the side of the bed, gathering in his efficient military fashion his clothing for the day.
"Who is to say at our age the sunrise is not rare?" Holmes lay still on the bed, watching the bedclothes fall carelessly to the ground, both of them knowing the time to put them to order would be too precious to waste. He watched as well remembered arms were revealed to him, a chest that had come to mean home to him. "To those who have lived through so many without ever taking notice and so few remain?"
Soft worn cloth covered his body, hiding him but adding something to his character, that elegant crispness, the well put togetherness and perfection which never wavered. His hands were slow to button the shirt, his eyes met Holmes, watching each other watching each other and he smiled.
"Observed or not sunsets will last until the end of the world." Holmes levied himself up, capturing Watson in his arms and bestowing on him a lingering kiss that tasted of sunlight and honey, the hands still working the buttons between them stilling. "They occur every day to everyone across the wilds of the world." Another kiss left the buttons half done, the collar falling open to reveal tanned skin, brown like war and youth and age and country life. "There has only ever been one Watson and I have preoccupied your grand attention for most of our lives."
"A life well spent I think." Watson hummed against his lips, as they shared another lingering kiss, his smile not making it awkward in the slightest. Holmes offered his arm and Watson laughed a little, that soft laughter like silver bells and wind chimes, letting their arms link together as if they were taking to the streets of London, silently possessive of each other as the world passed them by.
The air they walked into was fresh and crisp and ancient at once, the breeze across their faces endless and sweet. The waves crashed an endless blue upon the craggy shoreline as the golden rays of sunlight spilled across the water, setting it on fire, a spectrum of gold and crimson.
They sat together as the bees hummed their presence, making the light seem more like honey, thick and sweet instead of thin and elusive. True to his word as Watson watched the waves, the spin of the earth relative to the sun, ethereal and so much larger than them, Holmes watched the first streams of daylight light caress his companions face as sweetly as if they were secret lovers.
Bold brave features he had fallen in love with decades before lingered in the shape of his face, the proud set of his jaw as if personality commanded the flesh. Warmth touched the lingering ever-present smile that grew when he touched his hand, entwined their fingers carefully. The hollows of his cheeks betraying the years that passed without him washed away as if time and illness could be erased.
Perfect and rare.
There was a softness in his features now, nothing physical, nothing flesh and tangible. It was a surrender and a silent acquiescence. It did not feel like defeat, like the end of a long and bloody battle, surrendering when all hope was lost. He imagined the stage, the violins playing and that last bow when the crowd still screams for more. The last bow because the piece was complete and it was time to go home.
Watson looked over at him, his eyes widening when he realized that blue eyes had focused on him, that he was watching the sunrise reflected in his smile, in his eyes. He laughed again, leaning in closer, laying his head on the upper part of his chest, just below the sharp crest of his collar bone, the hollow of his throat, his ear pressed against flesh, eyes closing against the sunrise just to listen to the beat of his heart.
Holmes wrapped his arms around him and was content to hold him as the remnants of laughter faded into the crash of the ocean.
How long, he wondered as he pulled the other man closer, tighter to him, had the world gone without hearing that laugh?
Neither of them were hungry when they ambled inside with the smell of the ocean breeze clining to their skin. Holmes walked through the kitchen as Watson made them tea, hands skimming over the labels of jars and baskets of food without touching. It seemed like a dream, a painting that would melt away if he pressed too close. He had never had an affinity for food, never craved it or wasted time trying to imbibe three meals a day. It was always Watson who wanted to eat, who wanted him to eat, to be healthy, to survive another day in the practical manner he was so good at.
Watson did not press him to eat now, humming in their divine silence.
He looked almost healthy as he set up two glasses, delicate little things that in another time would have been hidden away lest he use them for an experiment, an impromptu beaker. Acid rings staining porcelain cups. Mrs. Hudson lamenting her life and closing the door with a smile she imagined no one saw.
Hunger did not touch them now.
Watson smiled as he handed over the cup of strong tea, the way he used to have it, their fingers brushing purposefully, lingering around warmed porcelain. Like a couple meeting eyes across a room, the first flirting moments of a couple yet to be. The scent of their friendship rising up in curling tendrils of steam, strong and English and familiar.
Without meaning to they fell into the books, into the barrage of memories, a lifetime set to paper with a fairy tale background. Watson pulled the tomes down without reading their titles, his fingertips tracing the golden lettering as if they left an impression on his skin. They fought old battles, mourned old sadness's and laughed as if it were the first time at their triumphs.
Holmes did not ask what had happened to the other characters in their story, where their lives had brought them. He did not want to know if their lives had been fraught in bitterness, he did not want to hear that the glistening memories in his mind had died alone, died in blood. In the moments of silence as he watched Watson fall into a new story, a different year, a different happiness, he hoped that they had had even a single day such as this so that all of their lives would have been worth living.
He imagined that the people he knew as children were grown, safe and surrounded by family they would not have had without him, reading the books that Watson held now.
They poured over their old adventures, Watson resting against his chest, his breath deep and even and slow during periods of relative calm in the novels, the stories that ended happily, the tales in which no one ever got hurt. When old demons seemed to fly off the page and wing old darkness over their minds they would clutch each other as if the bullets were still flying, as if they could protect each other from the fates they had already suffered.
A lifetime spent in the course of hours.
In shared cups of tea.
Watson read aloud the passage from a lifetime ago when he had been shot in the leg, a smile on his lips, eyes glancing up every few seconds from the page without ever missing a beat, the pages here were worn, the spine opening to the passage as if telling them that the only thing worth knowing lay here. As if the words were already known every day of their lives here.
When Watson read about his great heart he kissed his cheek, his nose, his eyes as he recited the words without looking.
When Watson read of Reichenbach Falls Holmes held him tight, whispering that if there was but a single regret in his life it would be the loss of those three years. That lie. That cruelty.
Out of a lifetime to remember why do those years stand out as so bleak? As a life wasted, adventures unloved. Out of a lifetime to forget or remember nothing stayed with him like the look on his only friends face when he thought him dead.
He must have fallen into himself because the books were stacked on the table in front of them, Watson leaning forward to hold his face in the dying light, to kiss away the look of tragedy that afflicted his face.
"It was worth losing you to get you back." Watson whispered against his lips and Holmes knew he was no longer talking about the falls.
The sun was dying on their perfect day, already it dipped low in the sky, dark red and heavy. Watsons face seemed to fall with it, his melancholy creeping into the sides of his mouth, glistening just behind his eyes , unnamable, indefinable and tragic as love.
How do you say goodbye after a lifetime together?
Holmes stood carefully, hitting the gramophone he knew Watson kept in the corner of the room, waiting until the first threads of music filled their room, dancing with the sound of the waves. Soft and beautiful.
"Dance with me?"
He held out his hand. Watson looked at and let out a laugh that was a mixture of joy and sorrow while compromising neither.
"I think I may have forgotten how." Blue eyes smiled up at him. Holmes shook his head and pulled Watson from the settee and into his arms, their bodies coming together, hands placed tentatively on hips, around necks, as they swayed in their little living room as if they stood in a ballroom of lovers.
"You? The heart breaker with women on three continents? I cannot believe that." Watson let out a laugh that echoed the old bulldog, It was Watson who pulled Homes closer, his hands resting in the small of the other mans back so that no space remained between them, more of an embrace then a dance.
"It is tragic, how I lost my prowess with ladies, it's an old tale you see."
"Old tale?" The music grew a little faster, a little louder and Holmes spun them both, causing suppressed grins to plague both of their mock serious faces. "Of all people I would assume you would be best at telling those."
"My stories were never tales, all factual you see. The characters were truly that brilliant, that mesmerizingly beautiful."
"Of course. But being as this story is true as well…"
"I see your point. But still it is the same old story. Upstanding military man travels the world, fights for his country and woos his fair share of women. And then in an instant it is over, all the skills earned focused only on one thing."
"And what is this thing in case I should come across it? What happened?" Holmes asked with mock seriousness, loving the way he could bring the smile back to his friends face, the glimmer of life back to his eyes.
He glowed in the fading sunlight, orange and red until all the sickness seemed to slip away. "I fell in love."
His voice lost that teasing seriousness, suddenly real, suddenly doubtful and dark. "I do hope they were worth it."
Watson did not make light of his sadness, only pressed closer, the breeze coming through the window to brush his silvering hair from his face. His own voice an intimate whisper in a world that seemed suddenly empty of everyone but them. "Worth me more than I can over hope to repay."
When they kissed they did not stop for words, did not venture out to see the dying sun, did not stop when the music came to its end.
They fell together so completely that the press of time could no longer touch them. As if they had been made for one another and neither time nor illness would keep them apart.
When darkness had truly fallen and the stars emerged from the black dark night and the lingering rays of sun had soaked into their naked skin they lay in each other's embrace. Arms entwined, heart pressed to heart and dry eyes gazing into one another.
"I don't want to wake without you." Holmes' hand lingered on Watsons face, tracing cheeks and illness and years, brushing away tears that did not exist.
"I don't want to live without you."
They smiled at each other in perfect understanding, soft and sweet and low. A duet reaching its finale. Perfect.
"We had a good life didn't we?" It was musing more than anything, embarrassingly philosophical, but talking together was like hearing your own heart.
John smiled and traced his lovers lips with his finger. "A day with you is equal to more adventure and love then most men get in a lifetime and more than any man deserves."
Holmes smiled at the odd complement, shaking his head as if to say that John was a fool for not thinking the absolute reverse. His eyes betrayed how mutual the feeling was, how lucky he knew he was to be here even now. His thoughts wandered, lingering always on the man before him.
The man who had faced death and evil at his side, the man inured fighting for his country, the man who had saved lives, the futures those lives had, the families they would create, all with his hands. So much life lived on the verge of death.
Watsons blue eyes stared into him and although they betrayed a deep fondness, love, and adoration, what lay beyond that was shrouded in mystery the way no other man had ever been to him. Amazing that even after all they had shared the man he loved more than himself was still such an enigma to him, his thoughts belonging only ever to him.
His life had never been easy, he always imagined that in the end, probably laid out in a pool of his own thick blood, he would wonder about his own soul. Heaven and hell, oblivion or eternity.
Now darkness closed around them and the night was beginning to cool and all of his thoughts centered on what thoughts lingered behind blue eyes. What did John imagine about eternity?
"Are you afraid?" His voice was low and melodic, dark as their room, as the ocean crashing always behind the veil of walls.
He looked away as if looking into his own mind for the answer, serene, beautiful. His voice was an intimate whisper in his ear.
"When I thought I would die alone my only thought was of you. I was so afraid… but now…no." He shook his head al little, fanning his hand over Holmes heart. "I am not afraid."
Holmes smiled and gathered him closer to his chest, holding them together as if to make them one person. Their lips met in a kiss worthy of old tales, enough to bring the thought of tears back into their minds.
"If you change your mind, I am here." Holmes whispered into his hair. Watson nodded against his lovers skin, pressing soft kisses to anywhere his lips fell, not the fear but sentiment making his heart pound faster. They settled together in the darkness, closing their eyes against the world. Safe in each other's embrace.
"Tell me what it will be like." He said, pressing his smile into warm flesh to make sure he felt it, make sure he knew. "Will I know when it is coming? Will it hurt?"
The last shared cup of tea cooled on the bedside table, the dregs turning crystalline next to the empty glass vial, fingerprints of a chemist dull in the moonlight, a label marking danger not ignored but embraced.
"It will not hurt. We will fall asleep together." A kiss, the note for the maid fluttered on the kitchen table. "And I will never wake to forget who you are. You will never grow sicker. You will never suffer again. Illness will never touch us. And when the time comes I will be here."
Watson kissed him again, wanting to say something meaningful, to justify all the words they had ever spoken. But it had all been said.