A/N: When I started this it was supposed to be a 500-word oneshot. Right. Anyhow, I'm very bad with commitment but I'm marking this as incomplete because I might expand it in future chapters. Please let me know if you find embarrassing errors; I would get a beta but I hear they're pretty aggressive fish.
This Holmesverse is mostly a hodgepodge of 2009 movie and ACD lit.
Disclaimer: I don't need a disclaimer because Sherlock Holmes is in the public domain!
Realizing his love for Watson was a slowly unfolding nightmare.
Holmes lay awake nights, every part of his mind compelled to wrestle with the details, directing his intellect wholly to the illogic of his infatuation. Yet the thoughts came relentlessly, as unwelcome as railroad spikes in his brain and equally intrusive. His hands shook with rage and confusion to find his bedclothes saturated with sweat, the frailty of his control never more apparent than when he awoke with the taste of Watson's breath conjured so brutally, so accurately in his mouth.
It punished him, and for that he punished himself twice over. He took it out in the ring, hurling himself into deep bruises and ragged wounds. In the evening he stared into his cloudy, ancient mirror and angrily conjured the instant of greatest pain again and again. His body could not hurt enough to make up for the way it betrayed him. And even though he tore the neat white bandages away, the evidence of Watson's stitches poked evenly from his lacerations and through nauseating waves of self-loathing Holmes grew hard remembering the doctor's hands on his skin. He could not avoid knowing, beneath his pretense of self-discipline, that he threw himself into pain's jaws solely for Watson to wrest him free.
He took it out on Watson for being the root of his evils. Holmes was impatient, cross, vengeful and taunting, furious when his most venomous efforts were met with any response at all. No response was ever sufficient; no response would yield the salve to his anger. At once it was good that Watson kept Holmes from his filthy satisfaction--it kept the floodgates closed and discouraged Holmes' most feverish moments. Yet Holmes railed against Watson's complacency even in the face of Watson's ignorance of the matter, and seethed that Watson had monopolized him, was controlling him, was making him reliant without even a word of acknowledgement or a share of the pain.
He looked at the man with intent to wound, to sting, to castigate and maul, and Watson would regard him with his even stare and Holmes would feel the scathing touch of failure: not personal but the failure of his mental faculties, the disappearance of colors from the room and sounds from the outside and the feeling of exposure creeping in on him from all sides. Below all was the certainty that Watson was toying with him, deceiving somehow the finest mind in London into thinking that Watson didn't know, didn't see right to the heart of him.
In the thickest of it, Holmes could think of little else. He ceased to eat, instead consuming an endless stream of tinctures and solutions that folded him in drooling trances into the corners of his room. That was how he was often found, when he was found. He woke to Watson's hand landing hard across his face more than once, his blue eyes cold with disappointment. You're destroying yourself, Watson said. It is a disservice to you and I both. Yet the doctor prepared antidotes to Holmes' poisons, frustration tight on his face as he injected the liquids. After it was done, Watson would sit back on his heels, rock his skull back on the cradle of his neck and sigh heavily. Holmes, he would mutter, and his voice would ring with relief but Holmes would hear only the grate of temptation and denial in the very marrow of his bones.
Watson's presence in Holmes' quarters, his proximity during the injection, the abandon of his physical attempts at revival-- they filled Holmes just enough to addict him, overwhelmed him just enough to fuel his neediness. Watson threatened to stop checking on him, threatened to let him kill himself in the way he most pleased. Holmes responded by concentrating his solutions.
It became routine for a period of time that felt to Holmes like years, that he died daily and was resurrected by night. The futher into death he ventured, the longer Watson would stay after reviving him. He avoided calculating the probabilities of his own demise, instead begging for one more day, one more round, while in the same breath he wished it all to end before he succumbed not to death but to desire, committing himself to the infinitely worse hell of Watson's scorn.
For all Holmes' concern about self-control, it was Watson who broke first.
Holmes memory of it began in darkness, in excruciating pain. Distantly Watson was calling. Yelling. Something. His name, perhaps. Holmes felt nothing quite so strongly as the agony of Watson's stony knuckles digging and rubbing with incredible pressure along his sternum. The sensation was unreal, enough to drag him back into his body. That, and the syringe of liquid cocaine to counteract the heroin. Holmes' heart beat irregularly and then too fast, making him gasp for air, black eyes jolting open to see Watson, disheveled and panicked and kneeling in front of him. Then there was sound, Watson's voice loud and close but still incomprehensible. Watson's hands clamped around Holmes' head, crushing his ears and creasing his skin, pulling Holmes' face furiously close to his own and shaking him, shaking him.
Holmes tried to say the doctor's name but it was a mess of consonant-less moans. Watson didn't seem to care. He had scuffed nearer to Holmes on the threadbare Persian rug and was frantic with a terrifying array of emotions, in turns pressing his face to Holmes' and listening to the heartbeat under his worn and dirty shirt. Holmes took minutes to be fully conscious, but Watson waited only until the first sign of focus in his eyes to give Holmes an unrestrained backhand. Holmes, he spat. You devil. You cruel, small, fool of a man. He took Holmes' jaw in his hand and with each epithet he shook it. Holmes could do little but blink, and that stirred Watson into an even higher passion. He grabbed the empty syringe from the floor and held it fast against Holmes' cheek, where his eyes rolled to see but could not.
"This is poison," Watson growled. "This is not a cure; it is a risk atop a risk, and you--you pile them endlessly! You cannot! You cannot, Holmes!" Holmes was staring down, the harbingers of self-pity riding forth in his dark features. That will not suffice, Watson thought. He pushed his face closer to Holmes', demanding focus, demanding attention. "You will die, Holmes," he pressed angrily, "You. will. die." Holmes looked into the pinpoint pupils, the red flush, the forcefully clenched jaw, and he managed his first words with all the detachment he could.
"Let me," he breathed heavily. There was no greater wrath for Watson to access, no higher blood to achieve, and so when he comprehended Holmes' words he could not react to them, found the pain they provoked to be beyond expression but not inescapable. It expanded in him like bad air, rendering him faint and overheated and robbing him of linear thought. A shudder warped him. He was going to kill this man he'd saved, he had never been more certain of anything.
Holmes was watched his friend's face with growing wariness. Perhaps he had pushed too far. Watson seemed frozen and it was that stillness that produced the nervousness in Holmes, forcing him to watch with prey's fear and detective's curiosity to see if there would be a display of aggression, something to come from Watson that Holmes had not foreseen.
When Watson moved, it was sudden and from the base of his spine, his whole self moving at once from a limbic command, unfiltered and unrefined, his hands gripping fists of hair and pinning Holmes' head to the wall, his elbows taking care of Holmes' shoulders. His eyes shut to not see the thing he was doing, the thing he knew he was going to do but feared for what would come after. His shoulders rose and tensed and his throat closed in an exhausted moan as he pressed his mouth against Holmes', who froze only momentarily with the cold rush of shock. Then it was all heat and friction, the burning of Watson's noises and the high keening sound he didn't recognize as Holmes' own cry of despair muffled by lips and tongue. Watson dragged his mouth off Holmes to grate, Let me? into Holmes' ringing ears. Holmes moaned atonally, eyes unfocused and head immobilized but canted, mouth open and upon his lips hung the balance of what seemed his entire life.
"Let me!" Watson yelled, his closeness making his trembling voice terrible and wretched; Holmes felt its volume vibrate in his teeth and cringed. Watson was spitting, screaming at him, his breaths rasping and eyes watering as his skin blotched ever-deeper shades of red. "Enough!" His voice cracked finally and he released Holmes' hair with a ragged, lost sound. He grasped instead the detective's shirtcollar and pulled his body off the wall and into his arms, holding and shifting his hold and fitfully aligning his cheek with Holmes' to hide his raw nerves in Holmes' hair.
Holmes could not muster a single muscle to object. He was a rag doll in his partner's arms, counting the limbs he would sacrifice to only be sober for this moment, with Watson's fear-sweat smell in his nose and the doctor's heart hammering against Holmes' chest. Until the chemicals had cleared his system, although his heart was beating and his lungs were filling, everything would seem far away and not quite real. Just as well, he thought miserably, that it might blunt the devastation to follow.
But the longer the moment extended the deeper and clearer Holmes' perceptions became. The details simply filled in the framework he had built so extensively in his mind. The textures of Watson's skin, the precise interlocution of their breathing, the strength of Watson around him. Holmes almost sobbed to feel the slightly imbalanced tension of Watson's right and left side, the scar on his shoulder still left to his imagination but nevertheless only millimeters from his face. Watson, he thought, his fear momentarily overcome with fretful tenderness, and he struggled to bring his arms jerkily around the man, his hands weak against the tweed-jacketed back. Watson held him tighter at his attempt, his exhales shakier as he tried to dissipate the effects of adrenaline without succumbing to the heightened emotionality it rendered within him. Holmes knit his eyebrows in empathy.
"I am no judge of you, Watson," Holmes managed to say, and at that Watson released a tearful grunt, the bark that held back the rest with a single powerful shake of his shoulders. Holmes swallowed hard. He would not move. He would leave it entirely to Watson. He would not move.
"Holmes," Watson murmured finally. "Holmes. You...must not, you must not continue." He rubbed a hand vigorously over Holmes' back, an outlet for his taxed nerves. "You see that it...affects me."
"You are affected," Holmes whispered, half a question and half an observation.
Watson pulled back and rubbed his eyebrow anxiously. "I am, point of fact, quite nearly destroyed," he confirmed bitterly. Holmes did not venture so much as a single upward glance into that explicit face. Watson would have none of his cowardice now, after his foolishness, his thoughtlessness, his reckless play with the gravity that kept Watson firm to the earth. Anger having left him in its tired wake, Watson simply bent to reach Holmes' gaze, pulling it back up again.
"Would you like to complete your work?" Watson asked. His voice was flat but perched on the edge of a cliff. "Now is the time, while I am at my most unnerved. I cannot go on in this manner with you. Take the full vial. I will have the maximum amount of time to labor over your lifeless corpse, and when I fail to make you live again I will know it was not that I did not arrive in--"
Holmes interrupted with a bareknuckle jab to Watson's mouth, which Watson quickly deduced was half-hearted from the fact that his jaw was unbroken. Watson lunged for him, able in close proximity to keep Holmes from applying the rest of his deceitful arsenal by locking arms and holding him steady with brute force. Holmes did not seem to know whether he wanted to escape; he struggled and then did not, content to stare venemously at Watson. Could Watson not see the truth of the matter? Nor all of his agonizing reasons?
"It is my work to do, Watson," he said stiffly, "and it is a matter beyond your concern." Watson jarred Holmes with a slight shake of his arms.
"Master of deduction," he said firmly, and Holmes softened with the compliment. "Is that truly the conclusion to which you have come? Might you just as well be immobilized now in the rugged arms of Mrs. Hudson? Shall I give the drugs to Gladstone, and the key to your room that he may step in at just the right hour to save your ungrateful life?"
"Your comparisons are not apt," Holmes muttered.
"There is no comparison for what I am to you." Watson said it with such command that Holmes tensed in his arms. "Likewise, there is naught for you."
Holmes was uncharacteristically quiet. Watson feared he had withdrawn only to think of some clever psychological egress, some trick of the mind that would allow him to dismiss this, dismiss Watson, dismiss his guilt and anger and turn immediately back into that hateful stupor.
"Holmes." Watson gently, slowly disengaged his arms from Holmes', clasping them instead around his friend. Holmes did not immediately respond nor reciprocate. Watson leaned into the embrace, eclipsing Holmes' face. "This body," Watson said, his palms pressing against Holmes' back, "is my body. When it is imperiled, I fear. When it is injured, I am injured. If it should...die," he paused, "I feel I should follow."
Holmes was still. Without seeing his expression it was impossible to gauge his response, except that he hadn't taken a full breath since Watson had held him.
"I belong to no man," Holmes whispered after a prolonged silence.
"But you are kept by one," Watson said.
Holmes shifted minutely against Watson's shoulder. He feared speaking, breathing, moving at all lest he give away some fatal clue; all it would take was a single tremor, a flutter of eyes, a catch of breath to reveal him for all his perversity. He did not know how he would pull away from Watson's heated body without exposing his unfocused eyes and flushed neck. He could barely comprehend the present, let alone plan for even moments ahead. He clamored in rigid silence to be freed.
It seemed an eternity had passed before Watson withdrew, leaving his heavy hands upon Holmes' shoulders.
"Do you understand?" he asked. He looked down into the black eyes, more familiar than even his own. Holmes' lip trembled and he clenched his jaw to stop it. And then it was Watson who understood.
"Then," he said, tilting his head, "we are in solid agreement." Watson moved the smallest distance and placed his mouth so close to Holmes'--his intent unmistakable--that Holmes moved as if magnetized, unwilling to maintain his restraint when his forbidden satisfaction seemed, for the second time and perhaps never again, within his reach.
Holmes charged the kiss with gratitude, a tribute to the last of his civility before desire overwhelmed him. Watson, for his part, was as direct and as forthright as he had ever been, breaking Holmes' heart with the admiration in his touch. Despite Watson's slow, gentle movements and his reassuring calm, Holmes felt scattered and unstable. The longer he remained in contact, the more deeply he sensed Watson, the more impossible he felt it would be to survive Watson's absence. He gripped Watson's shirt with white knuckles, shivering fists, pushing their bodies closer to compensate for the distance he imagined and feared. Watson laughed humorlessly into Holmes' mouth.
"Holmes," he mumbled gravely as he extricated his shirt and lifted Holmes' hands, placing them flat against the sides of his neck. "You needn't worry. This man belongs to you."