I don't own Sherlock Holmes, or anything affiliated with the series. I was inspired by the close relationship between Watson and Holmes in the books and screen adaptations. This story is told from the point of view of Watson. There will be explicit sex later on, so be prepared!
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It was seven years ago that we found each other. I had just returned from the war, still shaken and battered, and was living in a shabby little hotel while my funds quickly withered away. I needed a place to stay and a medical practice to join. A mutual acquaintance introduced us, since we shared a common need for a room. I jumped at the chance.
I remember he had just made some discovery to do with criminology, and was practically basking in his own glory. We met in a university laboratory in a cluttered old basement room. Back then, his dark hair was longer, and even less well-kempt, and his flushed cheeks were hairless, with merely a soft fuzz around his upper lip and jaw line.
These days, it's all I can do to buy him new razors and leave them sitting conveniently beside the sink as silent encouragement to follow basic grooming etiquette. He was tall, though not as tall as I, but his exceedingly lean body seemed to stretch past its proportions.
He shook my hand with a surprising strength and his eyes lit up like little wicks, burning manically in their sockets. The smile that touched the corners of his lips reminded me of a housecat cornering a field mouse, and his mannerisms were somehow delicate and precise. The way he touched his hat to me, put his pipe to his mouth, drew the bow across the strings of his violin or gave a cursory yet calculating glance.
Though later I found many of his actions to be reckless and arrogant, his movements retained an almost feminine touch that inspired in me a certain amount of affection. And those hands…it was difficult not to stare when they were at work picking a lock, playing his violin or conducting a particular experiment. The long bone-white fingers, even when stained by various chemicals, moved like gentle birds and with more grace than any woman I had ever met.
We hadn't been living together long before I understood what his profession truly was, and it wasn't long before he had me working cases with him, as an assistant of sorts. I was his secretary, messenger, test subject, lookout, bodyguard, errand boy. And although I opened a practice down the street, it always seemed he was my primary patient.
Whether an acid spill, a fist fight, an experiment gone wrong or some clumsy needlework while injecting himself with god-knows-what, he was in and out of my office often. I suspect that for many of these minor injuries, he could easily have dealt with them himself, but he would always say that if he stopped coming to me with his every ailment, I would cease to have any business.
He was always an eccentric man, and living with him has never been easy. Sometimes he would slip me something in my drink to see how the human body would take to a new compound he had created, go days without speaking or eating, or dirty a new pair of trousers of mine in order to disguise himself as a beggar. His room was a mess of wrinkled documents and oddities which, although I could not see any semblance of organization in it, he could find the smallest slip of paper at a moment's notice in.
In recent months, I met a woman named Mary Morstan. She was sweet and young and full of life, and I had made up my mind to marry her and settle down before I got too old to do so. I had decided that I was too old to be running around solving mysteries and needed to focus on my medical practice.
I was going to buy a ring and begin looking for another place to live, but I needed to tell Holmes first. And it wasn't going to be pleasant.
"May I come in?"
"Hmm? …ah, Watson, is that you?" I opened the door and a cloud of smoke enveloped me. Holmes sat smoking his pipe by the fire with his eyes closed and didn't even turn to look as I entered. I knew that, somehow, he already knew what I was going to tell him. I could see it in his slightly furrowed brow—he knew, even though I hadn't told a soul or even spoken to him about her, he knew.
He didn't have to ask who it was. He recognized the cadence of my footsteps and the squeal of my leather shoes against the floorboards and the light swish of my tailored pant legs. He knew all of my habits and could easily pick out the back of my bowler-ed head from a distant crowd. Standing behind his chair, I took a deep breath and crossed my arms like a shield across my chest.
"I'm getting married."
Sherlock didn't bat an eye.
"To Mary Morstan," I continued.
He didn't even turn around, just puffed calmly on his pipe as if he was not a part of the conversation. When he finally opened his eyes, they were bloodshot.
"You're engaged," he said, blowing smoke into the air as he leaned his head back. "Did you propose without a ring?"
"Well, no. I mean, I haven't proposed yet, but I've set a date." Of course he knew I didn't have a ring yet. He knew everything about my comings and goings.
"She'll say yes." As he stood up, I noticed he looked as if he hadn't slept in days. His smile looked painful and the words sounded rehearsed as he said, "Congratulations, old boy," and shook my hand with a stiff grip. "A toast, shall we? To the married life."
He pulled out a crystal decanter someone had given him in return for reuniting them with their son or something like that and poured us each a drink. "To my dearest Watson! May he find peace and happiness in the arms of a wonderful woman!" His toast fell like a knife fight on my ears in all its thinly-cloaked sarcasm. He downed his drink and poured himself another in a flash. "To take the edge off the first one," he said grimly as he gulped down the second drink.
We sat down in front of the fire as he took out his pipe again.
"456 Brown Street," Holmes muttered under his breath as if saying something offensive to his palette.
"What? What's on Brown Street?"
"A lovely little apartment just a few blocks away from your practice."
"Something happen there?"
"It's empty." His sideways glance stung my face. Those burning eyes burrowed under my skin. "You're looking for a newlywed's nest, aren't you?"
The voice that came out was dry and cracked, and his posture was especially rigid and strained. It was as if he was struggling to keep something within him leashed, and it worried me to see him so uncollected. He must be drunk, or else he's been using again, I thought, quickly assessing whether or not I should search his room for the substance.
"I'll be sure to take a look at it on my way home from work one day this week," I said, slowly sipping my drink and surveying the room for any telltale signs of his condition. I had made it quite clear on many occasions how I disapproved of his drug usage, but on this matter, my medical opinion meant little to him.
Still unsatisfied, I gave up searching and decided I would merely stay close by in case he needed me instead of heckling him today. He was in a foul enough mood already, no need to exaggerate his condition further. I finished my drink and moved towards the door to retire to my own room where I could easily hear his activity without having to fend off his fiery gaze.
"Oh, and Holmes…" He poured himself another drink, gripping the glass so tight I thought it might shatter in his lovely white hands. "Don't tell anyone about this. I want it to be a surprise." With that, I closed his door behind me, leaving him to his thoughts.
It was a solid three weeks before he spoke to me again. He kept to his private quarters mostly, sometimes playing his violin in that terrible discordant fashion he goes for when in a rut, sometimes making no noise for hours. During the day, I would ask Mrs. Hudson to check in on him every hour, and at night I would shove my sette against the wall separating our rooms and sleep with my ear pressed towards a crack.
Between babysitting Holmes and my office hours, I bought a lovely engagement ring. Nothing flashy, but substantial enough to please the soon-to-be wife of a modest doctor. I set a proposal date and made plans with Mary for an evening in the near future.
And perhaps I should have spent more time with my potential fiancé instead of worrying about my partner. It wasn't unknown for Holmes to go a few days without speaking to anyone, and often times after concluding a case, he would retreat into his room in a bad mood. But this felt different. And when he finally spoke to me again, sitting down at the breakfast table one morning without a glance in my direction, he was colder, distant.
No good morning, no eager over-my-head babble, no sarcastic comment about my striped pajamas. And my name fell from his lips like lead as he simply said, "Watson, cancel your afternoon appointments, if you have any. I need you to accompany me to Fulton Estate today."
Folding the paper underneath my arm, I rose from the table and said, nonchalantly as possible, as if my nerves weren't frayed from weeks of worry, as if I weren't hanging on his every icy word, as if I hadn't noticed the new scar tissue forming in the crook of his arm and nothing at all was wrong: "I'll refer them to Doctor Reynolds for today. When will we be leaving?"
It wouldn't have mattered if I'd had an appointment with the Queen of England herself that afternoon. Holmes was speaking again, and it was a surprisingly soothing sound despite the bite in it. I arranged for a carriage to take us the six hour ride to Fulton Estate, hoping that Holmes had made accommodations for us somewhere nearby. It wasn't odd for us to beg a bed from whoever's service we were at as our cases sometimes took us miles away from our home. Luckily, I had long ago put my pride aside when dealing with Holmes's rather haphazard methods.
The ride to Fulton estate was rough. Not only was the terrain uneven and rocky, but Holmes retreated into a corner and stared out the window the whole six hours without a word to me. When we arrived to an ancient, ivy-crawled, crumbling French-styled chateau, I wished that Holmes could have at least had the decency to explain to me what we were doing there.
He paid off the carriage driver and we picked our way across an untended garden to the front gate. I used my cane to break the rusted chain and Holmes led the way to a side door in a knowing, secretive manner. As he jostled the doorknob and let us into the dusty corridor, I cleared my throat to get his attention.
Finally, he looked at me, brows furrowed in annoyance. "Yes, Watson?"
"Before I go running around in some drafty, possibly dangerous, old house, would you mind telling me what we're doing here?" A cobweb caught in my moustache as I ducked beneath a low ceiling beam, following Holmes further into the darkness.
My eyes were adjusting well enough to see the odd expression on my companion's face. One I recognized as a precursor to many, many…memorable situations, to say the least.
"Just a routine case of jewel theft, Watson. All you need to know is that I have reason to believe that the thief uses this chateau as his base of operations. And I brought you along in case things were to get…out of hand." He was weaving in and out of vision, and I stubbed my toe on several side tables trying to keep up.
This wasn't anything new. While working a case, his answers and explanations were often veiled and elusive like a child refusing to tell his parents what he wished for on his birthday because it might spoil it. Once set in stone, Sherlock would get positively giddy in weaving for me the minutest of details that led to his revelation of the truth. A few times, I thought he would burst into song and dance he was so excited to share his infallible genius with me.
When we came to a stop, we seemed to be in a library or study. Holmes poked around a bit as I attempted to find a lamp or candle to light somewhere. I struck a wooden match against my boot to have a look, heard Holmes stomp rather hard on the floorboards, and suddenly there was the sound of breaking wood and the support fell out from under me. Fumbling for something to grab, I found only Holmes' coat, and we crashed down into the darkness together.
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