An experiment in Bromance. Slash, if you really want to lean in that direction, but nothing graphic.
A good friend can tell you what is the matter with you in a minute. He may not seem such a good friend after telling.
The scent of clay held but a small existence amongst the overpowering aroma of sand and silt. Dirt, it was, with a hint of gravel defined by the worn rubber of a thousand worker's boots leaving imprints in the ground. Oil and ash and coal lifted to the air from scratching fingers and fisted hands. Miners, steam engine workers, men who worked on oil rigs – rough louts who wore a layer of filth over their flesh like a second skin, and who couldn't get rid of the smell of their employment were they to scrub their epidermis right off. Smoke danced on the wind, blown from mouths like walking narwhals, tainted with the scent of a distinctive diet; eggs, fish, fatty meat, churned butter, cheap milk, bitter bread. Iron surrounded the smell of dirty, sweaty bodies pressed uncomfortably close in a decidedly compact space. Salt, from the sea; hay and feces from the carriage horses clopping by; buttercream and cedar wood immersed in dusty books and soaked in the burningly clean aroma of antiseptic with a dash of formaldehyde on rough cotton.
Holmes shifted, a subconscious spasm of his muscles causing him to give a sudden jerk, and caught himself before slipping off the warm body he had been leaning against.
They were in a jail yard.
And he was on Watson.
"You've changed your shampoo," he commented lightly, blinking away the obvious disorientation. "From sterile soap to something sweet and rich. The cold, untouchable doctor set on a pillar of stone bends to the whims of a lady's delicate senses. I must say, the underlying hint of sugar and custard does a well job of masking the clinging aroma of death and decay. Capitulating your nature for another makes you an easy target for manipulation – perhaps by the lure of a bet or the touch of a delicate hand—"
"Holmes," Watson interrupted. "This is hardly the time or the place to discuss the nature of my hygienic routine."
"I like it."
Watson scowled, shifted away a few inches.
"First you start stealing—"
"—stealing my clothes. Then you drug my dog—"
"—the dog with God knows what sort of hellish mixture of chemicals. What next? Will I suddenly find countless bars of soap missing from my bathroom because you've garnered the fancy to undergo a complete metamorphosis?"
"Watson, this is neither the time nor the place to discuss the nature of my hygienic routine."
He tilted his head to the left to survey the people around them, willingly oblivious but certainly not ignorant to the silent scoff his friend threw his way. He rubbed the tips of his fingers together on his right hand and touched them to the wrist of his left. The temperature had dropped at least twelve degrees since the last time he had been conscious, and by the chill wind that blew through the gates to silently mock those trapped within, it was apparent the evening was setting in fast. His right side was a few notches warmer than his left due to the simple body heat Watson's presence had provided.
Judging by the absence of feeling in my left side as opposed to the regularity of warmth in my right, I can assume…
"I've been out for three to four hours."
"Five," Watson grudgingly replied.
Holmes nodded, then fiddled with the lapel of his jacket for a moment. Interesting. Despite the fact that his left side had been the one exposed to the elements, the hand on his right felt uncharacteristically stiff and immobile. He stretched his arm outwards and flexed his hand a few times. Relaxing his fingers revealed a tick of stiffness when he stretched beyond the diameter of, oh, say…
"Left forearm," said the man sitting beside him.
Holmes tilted his head to regard Watson's stiff demeanor and steady, avoidant gaze.
"And a bit of saliva on your coat sleeve," he confirmed, fingering the rough cotton fabric of his friend's jacket for a moment before dropping his hand.
"Why the sudden change?"
"Your bath products. You smell like something I should slather over a cake, not someone I should consult for the scene of a murder."
"So you would rather I smell like death so I can be perpetually appropriate for a funeral?" Watson seemed taken aback.
"I didn't say that."
"Then what are you saying, Holmes?"
"I'm not saying anything in particular. I had assumed the inflection of my voice would define my query as a question, and it is difficult to say something in the process of asking, unless the asking in question could constitute a statement."
Watson took a moment to stare incredulously at his friend-boss-partner, then curled forward and cupped his head in his hands. His posture exuded exasperation.
Sherlock edged closer, closing that tiny bit of space between them, then patted his friend on the shoulder in a soothing manner.
"There, there, dear Watson. We'll be out of here in no time, and then you can sleep away your troubles in our bed—"
"Persistence is an admirable trait."
"And annoyance is not."
Sherlock gave a rough whap on his friend's back, then rubbed the point of contact in an apologetic motion.
"You didn't throw me off," he noted, once again bringing a hand up to brush along the other's coat shoulder.
"I had no idea you would drool all over me."
"You're very hot."
"Body heat has nothing to do with saliva production."
Holmes gave a little grin.
"No, but your shampoo taunted my sweet tooth and now I cannot possibly survive without making a trip to the bakery on our way home once we get out."
"If we get out," Watson replied.
"Forever the optimist," Holmes shot back, no inflection to his voice.
When his friend didn't reply, Sherlock tilted his head and bent down until his mouth was next to Watson's ear.
"I wouldn't bend over in here if I were you," he whispered, then straightened himself immediately.
"I've got nothing to worry about," his partner mumbled from between his hands, then after a few moments he, too, lifted up to a normal sitting position. "You, on the other hand, should keep an eye out."
"No thank you. Big burly men aren't exactly my type."
"But little scrawny men are theirs."
"Scrawny?" Holmes raised an eyebrow. "This coming from the man who bets all his wages on me in every wrestling match I've ever dragged him to? This really speaks of a great inconsistency on your part, dear Watson. Insecurity, perhaps, or the perverse inability to make up your mind—"
"If you saw the way they were looking at you when you were passed out," Watson interrupted. "You would be concerned, too."
The detective didn't say anything to that, only took a cursory glance around the jail yard. Men gathered into groups, the steady hum of conversation rising up like a nest of buzzing bees into the open air. A few glances were thrown their way in curiosity, but nothing too horribly threatening. A distinct, coppery scent mingled with the dirt, and upon taking a more studious look at the nature of the soil, signs of a brief fight were readily apparent not but a few yards away from where Sherlock sat.
"No," Watson cut off quickly.
"Did what?" Watson bit out, though the look on his face held nothing but embarrassment and guilt.
Quickly, before the other had time to react, Holmes cupped his partner's cheek and forced him to turn his head. The left side of his face – the one that Sherlock had been looking at for the past several minutes – was perfectly normal. The right, however, was distinctively bruised.
"You got in a scuffle."
"So what if I did?"
Watson jerked back and rubbed the injured side of his face with the back of his hand.
Watson opened his mouth, closed it, then opened it again with a frown tugging at the corners of his lips.
"So what if I did?"
He couldn't wipe the grin off his face, even if it was at his friend's expense. Leaning in close – real close – too close to be entirely comfortable, Holmes only paused until his right side was pressed flush against Watson's left, and his lips were less than a centimeter away from his friend's ear.
"Because," he said, then breathed in deeply. "Buttercream is my favorite icing."