Disclaimer: They belong, first and foremost, to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and then to the myriad film makers, writers, and actors who've portrayed them over the years. I'm just playing for a while, but I promise to give them back relatively unscathed.

A/N: My first Holmes-fic!! A couple words of warning: I am incredibly new to this fandom. I've only seen the 2009 movie, half of one of the older films, and read only a bit of one of the novels. However, I just couldn't wait to write this little one-shot. I do fully intend to immerse myself in canon, though, before future stories. This fic has been based on the characterizations of the movie-verse, though it does contain a huge literary-canon *spoiler*. I've done a quick Wikipedia fact-check, so while I'm not sure I'm entirely correct, I believe this would take place during "the hiatus," after Holmes returns, but before Watson moves back in with him. Oh, and it is slash, though of the very mild variety. If you don't enjoy it, don't feel compelled to read.


John Watson sits by the fire, watching the flames dance and beckon to him, as if hypnotized. Smoke curls up from the pipe of the man sitting in the chair opposite him, wending its way slowly toward the ceiling and scenting the air with tobacco and faint nuances of almond and spiced rum. The violin rests in Holmes's lap, unused, but fairly vibrating with songs yet-to-be-played. Out of the corner of his eye, Watson can see the other man's fingertips lightly stroking one of the strings, eliciting a soft, not altogether unpleasant hum from the instrument.

Watson, prone to quiet introspection as he is, nevertheless grows restless in the still of the evening. There is an itch somewhere, just under his skin, a burning that eats away at his insides like something evil and malignant. He does not move though, determined to sit in silent companionship as long as the other will allow it.

And so he watches the fire as it licks at the hearth, undulating in a slow, steady rhythm, like the carefully choreographed movements of a woman -- the precise and seductive turn of a wrist, or a calculated glance from under a thick fringe of lashes.

Quite suddenly and without even realizing it is coming, Watson finds himself overcome with emotion, his shoulders heaving with tearless sobs. There is no movement from beside him; only a quick glance that betrays the man's concern, and a question asked in a voice dripping with false cheer:

"Are you quite right, old man?"

"Yes, yes," Watson says, waving a hand casually in a gesture of careless nonchalance. "Indigestion, good fellow, nothing more."

They slip again into the velvet comfort of silence, and Watson once more breathes a sigh of relief that he has continued to evade the inevitable confrontation.

"Would you care for a brandy?" Holmes asks after a moment, and Watson starts, unprepared for further attempts at a friendly chat.

"I think not," he responds, giving the other man a vacant but passable expression of pleasant neutrality.

"It is a perfectly natural part of the human condition. To grieve, I mean," Holmes says, and Watson feels a chill steal across his shoulders, settling in with a weight that nearly bows him over. Is it time then, he wonders? Time to have the conversation he's been dreading?

Watson raises a hand to his mouth and clears his throat, the taste of the other man's pipe smoke heavy and cloying on his tongue.

"I do mourn her," he says, keeping his gazed fixed firmly on the fire. "I mourn her terribly."

"It is to be expected," the other man replies, and his voice belies none of the skepticism Watson had feared. If he is honest with himself, he is most afraid of his perceived weakness, of the almost womanly way he has succumbed to his feelings of despair and loss.

"But I do not mourn her the way I should," he carries on, and there is a palpable and immediate shift in the air around them. It has become, Watson notices with dismay, suddenly quite difficult to breathe.

"And how is it you mourn?" Holmes asks, and Watson can hear in the huskiness of his voice that he seems to be experiencing the same respiratory dilemma.

"I grieve my loss as a friend would his dear companion. As a comrade and confidante. As a..."

"A lover?" Holmes supplies, and there is something hard and flat about the word as it falls from his lips.

"Naturally," Watson says, knowing the other man will immediately sense the tremor in his voice, but valiantly trying to cover it. "She was certainly that."

"I cannot see anything lacking in that," Holmes say a few beats later. "Was she not all those things to you and more?"

Watson swallows, wondering almost inconsequentially whether he will feel better once he's had out with it, knowing that truly, it matters not. The truth will out, one way or another, if the years of rapid pulse, dilated pupils, and increased glandular activity have not already betrayed him.

"She was all those things," he concedes, "but nothing more." He wishes his powers of observation were as well-honed as his friend's, not for the first time. Holmes sits, unmoving, calm and collected as ever to Watson's naked eye.

"I do not mourn her as a husband should his wife," he goes on, and the relief of finally releasing that confession to the universe is almost dizzying.

Holmes stands abruptly, as if pulled upright by the quick and steady hand of a puppeteer. He stays there, still as a column, hovering in indecision or trepidation, though Watson finds either one difficult to conceive of, coming from the fearless detective.

"I did not give her all I could have, or all I should have," Watson continues, as if Holmes weren't precariously close to walking out on him. "I, rather selfishly I admit, kept a piece of myself held back from her, though I promised to give her all I had."

"You supported her," Holmes says, staring ahead at the wall, still frozen as though paralyzed. "You made your home with her, gave her parties and dresses, showered her with more gifts than anyone would deem appropriate. You gave her the best medical care your expertise and your income would allow, in the end. What more could there have been?"

Watson blinks against the reminder of those last terrible weeks, recalling with vivid clarity his almost maniacal determination to force Mary to live, if only to prove to himself he hadn't failed her utterly, in every possible way. Slowly, he gets to his feet, wincing against the ever-present pain in his hip, and turns to face his friend.

"My heart, Holmes," he says gently, as if speaking to a wounded and frightened animal. "It was the only part of me I had not the inclination nor ability to grant her. And yet it was the only thing she ever asked for. There is an irony in that, I believe."

"Such a strange piece of the anatomy, the heart," Holmes says, finally turning to Watson with an expression that is by turns shuttered and then achingly open. "Sentimental claptrap, really, to attribute the entire spectrum of human emotion and desires to a lump of palpitating muscle. It is most absurd."

"Yes," Watson says, a sinking feeling in his gut, "well. Of course, you're quite correct." Watson pulls out his pocket watch, studying intently its familiar face. "And I have quite lost track of time," he goes on with a laugh that is far more light-hearted than he feels. "I shall take my leave of you now." With a slight, awkward bow, Watson starts for the parlor door, coming up short when Holmes calls his name.

"You've forgotten your waistcoat," Holmes says, and Watson turns to stare at him incredulously.

"Of course I haven't," he says, though his hand darts inside his jacket to pat his belly, where his waistcoat is tightly buttoned. "I'm wearing it, aren't I?"

"The blue one," Holmes clarifies, gesturing to the settee, where Watson can now see the dark fabric has been draped carelessly over one end.

"How have you managed to borrow it when we aren't even living in the same home?" Watson asks, bemused.

Holmes gives him a slight shrug of the shoulder, an incorrigible half-grin gracing his lips for a brief moment before slipping away into nothing. Watson walks over to the settee, reaching down to finger the stiff fabric.

"And I thought it would still be 'our' waistcoat," he says softly to himself, though he knows perfectly well the other man can hear every word. "Keep it," he says, turning suddenly and marching toward the door with steely determination. "It was more suited to your coloring anyway."

He pulls open the door, only to have it wrenched from his grasp and slammed firmly shut. Whirling, he finds himself nose-to-nose with the other man, dark eyes boring into his own with unforgiving scrutiny and, for once, brutal honesty.

"You will not go," Holmes says, brooking no argument.

"What? What on earth are you talking about?" Holmes sputters, indignant. "I've every right to leave, if I so choose."

"You have not," Holmes says, his bottom lip protruding petulantly. "You have left your belongings here, and since you do not seem inclined to take them with you, here you shall stay."

"Holmes, old man, I hardly think a forgotten waistcoat is --"

"It is more than a mere waistcoat, dear friend. Or have you already forgotten what you have revealed this night?"

Watson stands in stunned silence, knowing of course that Holmes has read between the lines of his superficial speech, but hardly daring to hope for a reaction that doesn't involve either a good beating, or calculated ignorance of the revelation.

"I'm not entirely sure what you..." Watson begins, and then trails off, seeing no further point in keeping up the charade.

"Your heart," Holmes says, cocking his head and narrowing his eyes, bringing a hand up and placing it lightly against Watson's chest, sending a tremor through the other man. "Not this one," he says, one fingernail scraping against a small, white button. "Not this one, going faster than a galloping horse, but the one you spoke of earlier. The one you could not give to Mary all those years. Of course you could not give it to her, for it was never truly yours."

"It was not," Watson says, more a confirmation than a question.

"No," Holmes says softly, shaking his head. His hand moves gradually upward, cupping Watson's neck, his thumb tracing the outline of the other man's jaw. "And who do you think had the keeping of it, all this time?"

"H-holmes --"

"I've grown accustomed to having it, you see," Holmes goes on, his other hand lighting on Watson's shoulder. "Just like your waistcoat. I shall give neither up without a fight."

"You will not," Watson affirms, leaning his cheek into Holmes's touch -- a touch gentler and more tender than he ever knew the man was capable of.

"No. So unless you intend to take both with you and never return here again, I must insist you stay."

"And those are my -- my only options?" Watson asks, finding it difficult to speak.

"No," Holmes says, shaking his head again, a faint gleam of amusement in his eyes. "Your option is only one --" He leans in closer, so close Watson can smell a faint whiff of brandy on his breath, a combination of sweat and lye and talcum on his body.

"What is it?" Watson breathes, as Holmes's lips brush against his, sending a rush through him that is like Springtime, renewing that which has been dead, revitalizing that which has been brown and withered.

"Stay."

A/N: Hope you enjoyed! If you'd like to see more, or if you'd just like to see if I can do the fandom justice next time (I'm always up for a challenge), please review!