TITLE: A Matter of Opinion
SUMMARY: An evening out with old friends becomes anything but pleasant as Watson is grilled about his and Holmes' relationship.
He hadn't been quite this angry in a very long time. He wanted to break something. Or better yet, someone's face. The evening could not have gone worse, he thought in indignation. Or perhaps it could have, he was after all, walking home and not sitting in jail. And it was all Holmes' fault. He had urged Watson to go out. He'd received a letter urging him to meet old friends from school for dinner. He hadn't been very enthusiastic.
"Nonsense, old boy! You complain that you never get to go out, and when an invitation comes you spurn it? No, you shall go out. I tire of your attempts to pry me from our rooms." Watson had felt a brief sting of rejection, but knew he was overreacting. He had been trying for days to get Holmes out of the house to no avail.
"Very well." He sighed as if he were doing Holmes a favor. The amused chuckle that followed him out of the room brought an answering smile to his lips.
So he had met his old friends and it had all gone downhill from there.
"John Watson, I can't believe it's really you!" Jacob Lowsley cried, rising to his feet. Another vaguely familiar face lit up and another man stood. Watson smiled warmly at them both even though he could not recall the name of the second man.
"Indeed. You both look well."
"I was just telling Matthew here you have become a Doctor."
"Yes." He agreed sighing imperceptibly in relief. Matthew Hollingberry. That was the fellow's name.
"And we've also been told you served in the military." Matthew said.
"Yes, long ago." He ordered a drink from the waiter before continuing. "Well, not so very long." He admitted with a wry smile.
They made small talk for a while as dinner arrived and afterwards when each had their drinks refilled and a pipe or cigarette in hand the questions began.
"We've heard you were in Maiwand." Jacob began, his smile wiped off his face. Matthew nodded soberly. Watson's eyes narrowed. He knew they were merely curious but he had no wish to even think about that disaster, let alone speak of it with men he barely knew anymore.
"Who is your source, might I ask?" At that both the men smiled conspiratorially. Jacob even laughed.
"Oh, John, you always were a modest one! Why everyone in London seems to know your name!" Watson merely allowed one eyebrow to lift.
"Indeed, you and that Sherlock Holmes fellow."
"Ah, I see." Watson said, nodding reluctantly. He wondered what they had heard. While it was quite true that Holmes had many admirers, there were just as many who thought him crazed. And, of course, that was not taking into account those of the criminal element who despised him and would love to see him dead. He prayed they had only heard from the former. He tended to have little patience for any who would belittle Holmes.
"So is it true what they say?" Jacob asked, and Watson had the sudden impression that they were only interested in interrogating him about Holmes. His expression became guarded.
"It depends what they say." Matthew and Jacob exchanged a glance.
"Well it is commonly said that he is a genius." Matthew began.
"Some say he would have been burned as a witch a few decades gone." Jacob added. Watson said nothing, folding his hands and lifting his eyebrows expectantly waiting for them to continue. Jacob drained his glass of Scotch and added:
"Some say he's mad as a bag of ferrets and that you must be at his side constantly so he doesn't run off beaked up." He said with an amused chuckle. Watson scowled, but neither man seemed to notice.
"That is not true." He ground out. He drained his glass as well.
"Is it true he's a Nancy boy?" Jacob said, his mouth twisting in a smirk. Watson gasped and choked on his drink.
"Get stuffed!" he snarled and rose to his feet. "I'll not hear anyone slander him! I'll give you what for if you don't cease this immediately!"
"John, we didn't mean anything by it! We're only telling you what we've heard!" Matthew began, his eyes wide.
"And enjoying it rather well, weren't you?" he hissed and made to leave.
"John, we meant no harm! You're overreacting!" Jacob said with a smile that said he had anticipated this reaction. Not only anticipated, but hoped for it. Watson laughed bitterly. "I felt it my duty to make you aware of the rumors circulating about the two of you. Your reaction seems to lend them a bit of weight."
"Is that so?" he hissed, gripping the edge of the table tightly.
"I hate to admit it, but yes. You never were the type to become defensive for no reason. I believe the years may change a man, but not that much."
"John," Matthew began, looking nervous and stricken. "Please do not be angry. You know women and their gossip. But if left unchecked it can become a disaster! I would hate for it to come to that."
"What exactly are people saying?" he replied woodenly, although he had a terrible feeling he knew precisely what was being said.
"That the two of you are lovers." Jacob said, his smirk still firmly in place. Watson felt his eyes widen and Matthew immediately gasped.
"Jacob must you-?"
"He needs to know. I would wish to know these things would you not? His reputation is being tarnished, and the poor man obviously has no clue." Said he with an expression that conveyed plainly he neither believed nor cared that Watson was utterly clueless in the matter.
"They say Sherlock Holmes is as mad as a hatter and his genius has warped his mind. At least they are charitable enough to acknowledge his intelligence. But charity ends there. They say you are depraved sodomites living together-"
"Enough!" Watson gasped. He grabbed his walking stick and coat.
"John, please!" Matthew cried, looking thoroughly distraught.
"Just let him go. His delusion of secrecy has been shattered." Jacob sneered. Watson felt a jolt run through him and glared murderously down at his former schoolmate. Jacob finally had the decency to erase that infuriating smile and lower his eyes.
"Say no more." He hissed. "Think what you will, I cannot stop you." He turned to leave.
"John…" Matthew attempted.
"To hell with you both." He called over his shoulder, ignoring the shocked gasps of other patrons. He'd had more than enough.
He stood outside his flat, wanting to go in and afraid at the same time. The moment Holmes saw the look on his face, his eyes, his clenched fists, he would know. He wouldn't know exactly what had been said, of course, but he would see the rage in Watson's face and it would be enough.
He paced outside the door, breathing deeply in an attempt to calm himself. He hadn't wanted to go to begin with. He wished he would have sent a note begging off. But it had never occurred to him (rather foolishly, perhaps) that their true interest was Holmes. How had it not occurred to him? He hadn't heard from either man in at least fourteen years.
"Are you ready to come inside, Watson? The night grows cold." Holmes called down from their windows. He gasped and nearly dropped his walking stick, an angry rebuttal rising to his lips. He stifled it quickly and stormed inside. Holmes stood at the top of the stairs, barring any chance Watson had of escaping into his room. "You seem rather tense." Holmes commented the moment he reached the top of the steps. "Did the night not go well?" Watson scoffed, his face bitter as he slumped into a chair.
"However did you guess?" he replied, voice thick with sarcasm and fury. Holmes blinked in surprise. He was immediately at Watson's side.
"What happened?" his brows drew down in concern and the beginnings of his own irritation. He was quick to anger when he felt Watson had been mistreated.
"Nothing." Watson muttered sullenly. Holmes tugged his elbow.
"Do not lie."
"It is my business." He said, not looking at Holmes. As ever the detective was quick to notice his lack of eye contact.
"Look at me, Watson." He neither demanded nor begged, but the hint of concern in his voice caused Watson to flinch.
"It's nothing, really. They angered me. I overreacted, they said as much." He replied, deliberately evasive and still refusing to look at Holmes.
"Watson." Holmes said in a dark voice. Watson knew that voice and he knew what would happen should he choose to ignore it.
"I do not wish to discuss this." He knew immediately it was the wrong thing to say. Holmes eyes grew dark with fury.
"What did they do? What did they say? They've hurt you, it's as plain as the nose on your face!"
"It doesn't matter, now please-"
"Like hell it doesn't!" he raged, his face growing pink. "You tell me what they said to make you this angry, or so help me I'll find them myself and beat the answers out of them!" Watson felt a wan smile tugging the corners of his lips up. Holmes did not make idle threats. He would do exactly as he'd said.
"Please, drop it. It is of no consequence." Holmes scowled at him, groped blindly at the table top next to him and flung the first thing that came into his hand against the wall where it shattered. Watson flinched but said nothing and still refused to look at him.
"Tell me!" he cried, then in a much softer voice: "Watson, please." He said. Watson grimaced. He felt gentle fingers against his chin urging him to look up. He didn't raise his head, but allowed his eyes to finally meet Holmes'. He felt a wave of guilt at the pain in those dark eyes. "Tell me, please." He sighed in resignation as Holmes sat beside him and pulled him close, his forehead falling to rest on Watson's shoulder. "You can tell me."
"I know." He replied. He just didn't want to. He sighed again and ran his hand through his hair.
"Please stop stalling."
"I'm not. I just- don't know how to say it."
"Well, then you'd best just say it and be done with it." He then straightened, sitting back. "Or are you attempting to spare my feelings?" Watson bit his lip feeling like a coward. He didn't want to repeat those vile phrases, they had been cheap and cruel, and had belittled the man who sat next to him. The man he loved so much that his heart ached sometimes just from looking at him. How could he give voice to the things those fools had said? "So, it was about me, then." Holmes sighed. Watson remained mute, unable to confirm or deny. "So what was it then?" He said, his words clipped. "That I'm mad? That I'm an addict? That I could care less for propriety? That no woman in her right mind would marry a loon such as myself?" Watson looked away and felt his eyes burn. Holmes gasped. "Don't, please don't! I give up, all right? You don't have to tell me! It's only that-"
"They said that we're depraved... sodomites." He forced out, his throat felt like he'd swallowed ground-up glass. Holmes sighed.
"I hate to tell you, old boy, but I'm afraid they are not the only ones who think this. Not to mention that it is true. Minus the depravity. At least on your part."
"I do not care what they think." He said and finally his blue eyes locked with Holmes'. "But the way they said it, made it seem cheap and tawdry. That was... Painful." Holmes made a small sound of anguish and clutched him tighter. Watson smiled weakly, but the smile was gone as quick as it appeared. "The way I feel about you is anything but that. I could not tolerate them dismissing it as… a flaw or defect. That's not what it is!"
"I know." Holmes said after pressing a chaste kiss to Watson's cheek.
"It isn't fair!" he continued vehemently. "I hate that I have to hide how I feel for you! I hate that this is the only place we can be ourselves! Suppose we should have to move? Mrs. Hudson is far more tolerant that you give her credit for, anyone else would have us imprisoned!"
"Can you imagine it? Locked in separate cells, forever close yet never enough? I'd bash my skull in! I couldn't endure it!"
"You will not have to."
"Said easily enough-"
"Do you really think Lestrade would do that to us? He has far more insight than I care to admit, he must have some guess-"
"I should think so, half of London already does apparently."
"Nevertheless, he wouldn't-"
"You don't know that."
"Holmes!" he gasped. "I couldn't bear it! I hate this!" He felt Holmes stiffen and gasp beside him. Watson looked up as he was recoiling, his eyes wide and wounded. "Not, that! Not you! Please don't misunderstand me!" he gasped, his eyes burning, realizing what had to be going through Holmes mind. "I love you. I can't live without you, don't you see I'm just-" he choked and bit his lip, feeling tears spilling down his face and powerless to stop it.
"Please, don't." Holmes gasped, the pain in his face intensifying. He pulled Watson close again rubbing his back in soothing circles as he wept.
"It is not fair." He whimpered.
"I know, my dearest, I know." Holmes held him for a long time. His tears dried quickly, but he could not tear himself away. He was terrified. He'd done his best to ignore thoughts that one day Lestrade would be at their door, a look of revulsion plastered across his face. It was too painful to contemplate, but he could do nothing else. The thought of being locked in a cell, of knowing Holmes was in an identical cell, and never seeing him, hearing his voice, or touching him again. He groaned and tears sprung to his eyes anew. "Watson," Holmes pleaded, his voice thick, "Please do not be upset."
"I am trying." Watson murmured dully. Holmes hugged him harder and began to cover him with kisses.
"I hate those bastards. How dare they do this to you! I'll have their guts for garters-"
"No!" Watson snapped, jerking out of Holmes grasp. "Please if you have any regard for me at all you will not do anything!"
"No!" Watson demanded again. "I would imagine they are all ready expecting you to pay them a visit. And Jacob seemed to relish the idea. It was obvious that he derived the most pleasure from the whole miserable exchange. And I'm afraid my violent reaction did not dissuade his ideas. You would put yourself in a position that could make all my nightmares come true?" Holmes flint-eyes gaze softened.
"I would not." He admitted in a whisper. "I only want your happiness."
"Then promise me you will not seek them out." Holmes swore under his breath and Watson stifled a gasp, sitting upright and grabbing Holmes' arms, shaking him lightly. "Promise me!" he demanded. Holmes face was sullen, angry. Now it was his turn to evade eye contact. "I beg you!" he gasped, feeling more hot tears scalding his face. Holmes winced and his eyes rose to meet Watson's. He grimaced and reached out a shaking hand to brush the stray tears away.
"I promise, Watson. And now it is your turn to make a promise to me."
"Anything." He replied instantly.
"Please smile for me, I can't bear to see you cry." He was surprised at the ease with which he complied. "Much better." He pulled Watson close again. "Try and forget their hateful words and think of this, perhaps it was jealousy that made them say such things."
"Jealousy?" Watson murmured, his head pillowed comfortably on Holmes' chest.
"Of course, my dear. I have you, they do not, nor shall they ever. Your beauty and general magnificence has made them realize what their lives sorely lack." Watson smiled again, even managed a small chuckle. "And of course, you have me, which should also serve to make them even more green with envy, after all I am a near-perfect specimen am I not?" Watson knew he was trying to elicit more laughter, and it nearly worked, but instead of joking he looked up at Holmes, his expression serene.
"Yes you are. And I love you." Holmes' expression of mirth softened to one of adoration.
"Then I am the luckiest man alive, you see? Pure, unadulterated jealousy."
"It must be." Watson allowed with a soft smile before he pressed his lips to Holmes'.
A/N: I sorry for writing angst and no sexy time! But this has been a bad week in a bad month in a bad year. I hate for these 2 to be miserable I admit, I feel kinda guilty. Sexy times will be in next fic!