It has been thirty-one hours since I last slept and I am partially embarrassed by it. The event leading to my insomnia is, sadly, not of my own design, but of a purely irrational fear out of which, somehow, my rational mind cannot coax myself. I am afraid to sleep, but this is a tertiary fear. I'm afraid to sleep because I am afraid to dream, but this is a secondary fear. I fear to dream because my dream holds this irrational fear that even now, I am loathe to disclose.
Sleep entices me and I know the nightmares will come. My mind has begun to deteriorate with exhaustion—my body and mind crave sleep—but I cannot because the nightmares could swallow me whole. I fear falling asleep, beginning to dream of this fear, waking up, and discovering that my fear has become reality. It leads to the realisation that I require two things to a truly peaceful sleep from now on: guaranteed dreamless sleep, and someone I trust implicitly to watch over me as I sleep.
Even a guaranteed sleep without dreams could be forfeited so long as I trusted the one who watched me, but I shall have none of either, so I must forego sleep. I don't know how long I can last without going utterly mad, but perhaps the natural state of my mind makes me more susceptible to the throes of insanity—or perhaps the opposite. I could last longer than the average man before careening into madness.
I pray for a case, a complex, involved case, to take my mind away from my sleep-deprived musings, but no relief is to be had. Scotland Yard and the London Police Force seem quite capable, for the time being, of getting along without me.
What I fear is not important—it is small and vague, unnecessary and surprising, given its effect on me. I have never been so paralyzed with terror before. Perhaps, after this has passed, in a month or six, it will all be a distant memory that I may even forget, although this I doubt, for I forget seldom, if ever. A year or more is more likely to pass before I can rest easily, although if I live that long remains to be seen. Suicide is not an unappealing option, and surely I shall not let disease or some other man take my life. I am the only one worthy of taking my life.
One of two, I amend silently. Only one other could conceivably get close enough to me with my guard down to even get a chance to kill me. He, I know, will not.
Someone ascends the seventeen steps to my apartments. His footfalls are uneven—he favours one leg—and I hear the low thud of a cane on every other step. The faint clink of a pocket watch is audible to my straining ears and though it may be someone else, it is most logically John. I know no other men who walk with canes who would not rouse Mrs. Hudson's call of introduction.
Quickly, I cross the room to the door and fling it open as he raises his hand to knock.
"Holmes." He sounds surprised at my appearance. I suppose I have put off bathing longer than necessary.
"Watson." I step back to allow him entrance and then quickly close the door behind him.
"Good God, man, what have you been doing up here?"
"Keeping myself occupied."
"Not at all, Watson. In fact, quite the opposite." I have been avoiding the morphine, for it makes me drowsy but does not lend itself to dreamless sleep. The cocaine, too, I have shunned, for my mind races fast enough on its own now without another boost. Instead, I have thrown myself entirely into the task of playing my violin.
"No cases of late?"
"None at all."
He settles in a seat and looks at me. He appears relaxed considering the mess he's just walked in on, but he's used to it so it doesn't faze him. He does, however, seem to be disquieted by the intensity of my returning gaze as I attempt to deduce what he's pondering. Lack of sleep has made my mind race but dulled its many sharp edges. It's less a sword and more a cannonball.
"We should have lunch," he says finally, quietly, as he looks away. "When did you last eat?"
Today is Wednesday. "Monday."
"Holmes…" His voice is chiding and there's a mix of concern and irritation in his blue eyes. "As your doctor, I really must insist…"
I stop listening to his words. He prattles on so tediously that sometimes I wonder why he calls me long-winded. At least my monologues have a point besides making someone feel like a misbehaving child. Instead I focus on his lips. They're soft-looking and seem fuller—either it's the haze in my head or he just left his wife. There's something strangely alluring about him…
"Holmes!" John's sharp voice startles me back to the present.
"Yes, Watson?" I ask after a split-second to shake my thoughts from my head. My mind was starting to wander to places it really shouldn't go.
"Have you listened to a word I've said?"
"No, but I assume it was a lecture on my dietary habits. I'm a grown man and if I choose to fast for days at a time, damned if I'm not going to. Besides, food is not what I require." I barely feel any emptiness in my stomach. My brain suppresses my appetite for anything but sleep.
He pushes himself gingerly out of his chair and limps almost imperceptibly to me. Resting all of his weight on his good leg, he catches my chin between his thumb and first two fingers. This close, his eyes seem almost too blue. I can't look for more than a moment or two, partly because it almost hurts my own eyes and partly because I have to raise my gaze, something my tired eyes protest. I settle for looking at his lips again and he doesn't seem to notice—his eyes are taking in every detail of my face, leaving me to stare at his slightly-parted lips.
"Your eyes are bloodshot and you have dark bags underneath them." He raises a finger to my eye level and draws it from left to right, and I obligingly attempt to follow it. When he lowers his finger, I return my eyes to his lips. "Your eyes aren't tracking movement well. Are you lying to me, Holmes? When did you last dose on morphine?"
"Several weeks ago," I tell his lips. Oh, God, those lips. They're entrancing. He licks them and, before I can suppress it, I lick my own.
"Holmes…when did you last sleep?"
"I woke up at six-seventeen yesterday morning."
"You…" He glances at his watch. "Am I meant to believe that you have gone over thirty hours without sleep?"
"Quite right, Watson."
With the way his lips form the words, I have a suddenly animalistic desire to lick his lips. "I'm afraid I cannot say."
His lips purse and I take a moment to take in the rest of his face. His eyes are narrowed slightly, eyebrows knitted together, nostrils flaring. "And why is that?" His tone says it all: he's hurt.
I have patiently borne his touch until now, something that only he could cause me to do. Finally, though, I shake my head free. "It is impossibly juvenile, so to save my embarrassment, suffice it to say I have recently become disturbed by a quite singular event." I purposely leave out the part about the nightmares and step back.
"Sleep will make you feel better, Holmes."
That it will, John, but only if you are here, I want to say to him. But I don't and instead turn my back to him. "I've begun to take this whole thing in stride. If I remain ever vigilant, this disturbing event is unlikely to bother me further. In addition, I consider this a marvellous time to begin conducting experiments as to how the human body and the human mind react to sleep deprivation. All in all, it's not a terrible occurrence if it's spurred me to greater heights."
In astonishment, he circles around me to face me again. "Holmes, experiments of this sort have already been done."
"They have, but all the data gathered is second-hand. Have any of these scientists personally experienced what the subjects go through? Doubtful."
"You could possibly lose your mind."
"A thought that had occurred to me mere minutes before you entered this room. I believe it is twelve days without sleep that leads to a temporary insanity. That said, my mind is of greater temperament. Would I go mad faster or slower than the average man? This is the question I wish to answer."
"You will deprive yourself of sleep for two weeks for some experiment to divine how much you can stand before you go mad?"
"If that is the result, yes."
"But you are left with the result that you are determined to go mad."
This has not occurred to me. It's an obvious fact, one that I had overlooked, and this is something that, were I in my right mind, would not have happened. "Perhaps I already display signs of instability, Watson." I intend this to be a testament to the effect of my insomnia, but he interprets it differently.
"Holmes, you are not insane by any stretch of the imagination. Quirky, yes. Brilliant, undeniably. Irritating, without a doubt. Insane, though, is not a word to describe you. And you would risk your amazing mental abilities for a simple experiment. Holmes, what if you never come back?"
My grasp is slipping. Surely my fogged brain has injected meaning into his words that John never actually intended. "I will be fine, Watson."
He looks me over intently again and gently places his hand on my shoulder. "You can't let the nightmares keep you from sleeping, Holmes."
"Who said anything about nightmares?" I ask quietly.
"It's not this experiment keeping you awake, Holmes. You forget that I have gleaned something from your own deductive powers. If it was merely an experiment, you would have announced it the moment I entered the room. I have never known you to fear anything but somehow, there is something in you that is susceptible to that very basic emotion. I can see that in your eyes, too. There is a lack of sleep, but also the presence of fear."
He knows. Somehow, he has seen through my whole façade. "Je ne peux pas dormir," I whisper.
And despite his very rudimentary grasp of French, he understands the negative and the reference to sleep. "Holmes, I… Please, let me help."
I sigh. "When I fall asleep, do not leave. Watch me, and if I appear to be in the throes of a nightmare, wake me."
John nods. "Of course, my friend."
My heart aches and I pretend I don't know why.
He insists I bathe first, and I oblige him. It seems strange to me that even this simple act is enough to alleviate me of some of my fear, but not all. It certainly relaxes me.
John shakes out a newspaper and watches me carefully as I settle into bed. "Worry not, Holmes. I'll be here to wake you if need be."
I nod. I believe him. I think briefly as he sets the paper down that he's going to sleep next to me, but I realise immediately that this is too much to hope for.
"You know, Holmes, I'm glad you haven't taken any cocaine lately." He spins his wedding ring on his finger in an absent-minded sort of way, but I recognise the anxious gesture for what it is. For a moment, he wishes he were still a bachelor. I won't let my mind surmise why.
"Why is that, Watson?"
"You're not yourself on the drug."
I don't argue with this. I suppose it's true.
I suddenly awaken with no recollection of ever falling asleep, but there's evidence of the time that's passed. Outside my window is dark now when it was previously bright. A fire is crackling in the fireplace that wasn't alight when I first fell asleep. John is no longer in the armchair—in fact, as I look around, I realise he's not here.
My heart sinks and I roll from my side to my back.
Oh. There's John.
I smile. His arm is so light around me that I didn't notice it there, and his breathing syncs almost perfectly with mine. He's asleep now, under the same covers as me. He looks easily fifteen years younger in sleep.
Then his eyes flutter open, somehow intensely blue, but his gaze doesn't hurt anymore. It's softer, like the sky at the beginning of summer. "Feel better, Holmes?" he asks with a smile to mirror my own.
"Much," I answer. Before I can really stop myself, I lean in, our faces merely two or three inches apart. His eyes close halfway but I can still see little crescents of blue; he seems to hold his breath and his lips part the barest amount. It seems he knows what I'm about to do and he's already accepted it.
I press my lips to his, gently, to gauge his reaction. He doesn't pull away; in fact, the arm around my waist tightens ever so slightly. Sherlock, you have gone mad, I think, but I press harder now and he lets his breath out. His hand moves to tangle in my hair—dear God, his touch is intoxicating, his fingers rake so smoothly along my scalp—and I succumb to my previous desire of licking his lips. Then he pulls back.
"We can't do this, Holmes." He is ever the Victorian gentleman. Damn the prim and proper morality that has somehow infected him. But it's part of the chase, and I do enjoy the chase.
"Whatever are you talking about, Watson?"
"This." He moves his hand from my hair to my cheek. I feel his wedding ring pressed, cold somehow, to my face. His mouth tries to deny this, but his eyes tell the real story. "Mary would—"
"To Hell with Mary," I whisper, knowing that statement will bother him and not caring, and I kiss him again, crushing and deep. I expect him to pull away again and I tell myself that if he does, I'll let him go this time, but he doesn't—his hand slides back into my hair. Someone lets out a ragged breath and I realize it's me.
John moans softly as I run my hand down his bare stomach. I know him. I know his mind is crying "no," but every other part of him is moaning "yes." Still, I pull back the barest amount and say, "Simply say the word, Watson, and I'll stop. I promise."
He stares right into my eyes, his pupils dilated so I can barely make out the blue irises, and he nods before tugging my lips back to his, and I know I have him now.
Every sense is filled with John now. When I open my eyes every now and then, I see his whole damned body, seemingly coiled, and seemingly made for this moment. I start to nibble on his neck and I hear his panting and moaning echoing into my ear, driving me even more insane. I taste his skin, salty from sweat, and smell the soap in his hair. His skin is so slick and soft beneath my fingertips. I hesitate to describe him as angelic, but it's the only word of which I can think to describe him.
"Holmes…" he whispers, twisting his body against mine. He's climbed into bed with me and he's completely naked. As am I. So much the better.
I can't help but move down his body. I make a study of his moans as I pass my hands down his sides, discovering that he's most sensitive just above his right hip. I love feeling him arch into my touch. He loves my touch, too, and my hands drift lower.
He's driving me mad with desire. How anyone can be expected to focus on anything not John Watson when John Watson is groaning like that in his ear absolutely escapes me. There's nothing else to do now except dig my fingers into his hips and position myself carefully between his thighs. I admit I'd much prefer it if our roles were reversed, but there is always the possibility of another day.
I lick his ear and gently nibble on his neck. He moans again, a high-pitched keening, and then he murmurs, "I want you, Holmes."
"Oh, John," I breathe, pushing myself into him. He cries out something unintelligible and I pause, afraid of hurting him no matter how much I just want to pound him into the mattress.
"Damn it, Holmes, fuck me!" Damn his proper ideals—he's thrown them away. Good man.
I thrust into him again and breathe his name in his ear. I need him to know that he is the sole focus of my attentions. No one else is important.
"Oh, Holmes…yes," he whimpers, eyes fluttering open and closed. His arms are around me and even if I wanted to, I could not hope to get away.
With every beat, slowly moving faster, I whisper his name again. Oh, John… Oh, John… Oh, John… He responds by gasping out mine, getting incrementally louder until he's nearly screaming, "Holmes! Oh, God, Holmes!"
I can't hold on much longer with him raking his nails over my back and his legs wrapped around my waist, but suddenly his back is arching and I know he's about to come and he's still screaming my name: "Holmes! Holmes!"
My eyes open. John is standing next to me, next to the bed, leaning over me, his hand on my shoulder to steady me. He is most decidedly clothed.
"Holmes, are you alright?"
"Never better, Watson."
"Did I catch you in a nightmare?"
In a manner of speaking. "No. Quite the opposite, in fact." I hope I haven't been talking or making other damning sounds in my sleep. It's distracting to have him this close.
"Ah. Well. I shall let you get back to sleep then."
I roll onto my left side, turning away from him. I feel wide-awake now, unwilling to sleep. The dream… I've been trying not to admit to myself how I actually feel for him, content to quietly let it fester, ignore it like one would ignore the taunting drunk in the pub, but the dream has brought it irrevocably to the forefront of my mind. I could pretend I didn't know the extent of my emotions by refusing to contemplate it, but now, I am truly aware, and once I know something as utter fact, I cannot disregard it.
I want John so badly it hurts. I want to feel him pressed against me, me between his legs or him between mine and I don't really give a damn which it is—I just want him. Although I've never thought about anyone in this way before, I know I want to make love to him. I just want to make him happy and to Hell with Mary and his damned Victorian sensibilities. There's no point to living if one is unhappy and this bloody era is nothing but suppressing one's happiness.
"Holmes?" John asks softly, unsure if I'm asleep and not wishing to wake me if I am.
"Yes, Watson?" I don't turn over to look at him. I could lose myself in the sky in his eyes.
"Are you sure you're alright?"
Hands shaking. Head spinning. Mind weakened. Erection aching. Heart pounding. Lips trembling. Am I alright? Absolutely not. "Of course."
There's no response and I imagine him biting his lip in concern and confusion. Finally, he says, "Don't lie to me, Holmes."
"I only lie to you to protect you."
"Protect me? From what?"
From the dark, crushing, sinful, delicious, heady oblivion of all the ways I want to make John Watson moan my name. Simply, from everything I want. "From the truth. I've even had to lie to myself."
"Holmes, am I not your friend? Do you think so little of me as to assume I cannot handle a painful truth? Aren't I the only person who could have helped you today?"
I finally turn and look him right in those beautiful blue eyes. "Watson, you are my friend, and you are the only person who could have helped me. However, I think it unwise of you to ask questions when you really will be happier if I lie or do not answer."
"When you withhold pertinent information, I am quite unhappy."
"You will be unhappier if I do not."
He gazes at me for a moment that seems elastic, stretching further and further until it breaks and he says, "I'm sure you've realised by now, Holmes, that I am a degenerate and a disgrace to English ideals."
"Realised well enough. I saw no need to inform you, however, of what seemed to be utter ignorance of the fact."
"I've known for months now, or suspected it, at any rate. Last night, I finally got confirmation." He pauses, glances at the floor, and looks back to me. "This is what I came to tell you, actually."
"And just how did you come to this dramatic conclusion?"
"The reaffirmation that degenerates attract degenerates. Brought on by…" He sighed. "It's about Mary."
"Oh, to Hell with Mary!" I snap, anger sparking before I can suppress it. Quickly, though, I regain control. "It is not always about Mary with me."
"This is not about you and Mary, Holmes." He's visibly irritated. "She has told me that she has… she has fallen in love with someone else."
"Watson, are you calling your wife a degenerate?"
"Very much so. Not that I blame her. Surely, you and I are degenerates—addicts, both of us." He takes two steps back from the bed as I sit up, and he sinks against the closest armchair. "You, addicted to the needle, and I, addicted to the bottle. If that were my only vice, however, Mary would have never found me. But it's not, and she's asleep at my home now. An adulteress, but I cannot bring myself to condemn her."
"Your fair wife's vice mirrors your own? Perhaps it would be best for both of you to dissolve this marriage and allow her to be happy with her new man while you return to your previous happiness here."
"Dissolving my marriage is not necessary and would, in fact, raise certain questions. She does not have a new man with whom to run off."
"I fail to see how she is an adulteress, in this case. I also fail to see how you're an adulterer."
He shoots me an almost angry look before explaining. "She has fallen in love with Katherine Davis-Potts, the butcher's wife."
I must still be dreaming because I know there is no way that Mary Watson, formerly Mary Morstam, has actually begun an affair with someone else's wife. John looks impossibly serious, but I won't let my subconscious fool me again.
He seems annoyed at my lack of reaction. "Holmes, did you hear what I said?"
"Of course I did. I may be many things, but deaf is not one of them. I'm merely waiting to wake up again."
"You think this is a dream?"
"I know this is a dream."
He sighs disgustedly and shakes his head.
"However, until I awaken, please continue to regale me with your theories. I'm quite intrigued."
"Alright, Holmes." He spins the armchair and settles into it. "To your other declaration, that you fail to see how I'm an adulterer, I should confess that for some time now, I've felt an impossible sort of attraction to you. There are all sorts of things I would like to do to you, and while I've suspected you may feel the same way, I never really had any sort of assurance one way or the other, so I opted not to act on my more… baser instincts, so to speak. Holmes, if you do not let me finish, I will be forced to strike you, and I really don't care to do that," he adds as I open my mouth to speak. I shut my mouth and let him continue. "And then Mary came along, and for her sake, I attempted to put it entirely out of my mind. But it seems as though she has the same sort of desires as I do, but they remain unhindered by whatever kind of morals I seem to have. She told me last night about the affair, expecting me to leave her immediately, but I could not bring myself to even raise my voice against her."
I imagine this scene taking place—Mary's tearful confession, the smile that probably crossed John's face, him taking her into his arms and telling her it would be alright—and I can't help wishing it were true.
"In fact, I told her of my own feelings for you, and we came to the conclusion that, for appearances' sake, we should remain married but are both free to pursue whoever we choose." He smiles faintly. "I suppose you still think this is a dream."
"I wish it were not."
"Why are you so convinced that it is?"
"Because this doesn't happen in real life."
"I find your disbelief troubling."
I sigh and then remember that John has said he's attracted to me. I smile. "Since this is a dream, I see no reason why we should not act on this attraction we have for one another."
He stares at me for a moment, his blue eyes filled with something I can't name, and then he starts to laugh. "You're incorrigible," he manages to splutter out.
I can't honestly say I know what's so amusing, so while he's still laughing, I slide out of bed and cross over to where he's sitting before pressing my lips to his.
His laughter stops and his arms wind around me as he slowly stands. Even with my eyes closed, I'm able to unbutton and remove his waistcoat and it falls to the floor. One of his hands slides up my stomach and I'm barely able to hold back a moan. His lips move to my neck and I begin fumbling at his shirt. He groans softly, leans back for a moment, and simply sweeps it over his head, still buttoned.
His belt is easier for me to undo and remove as he backs me up to the bed. He can't keep his hands off me—one is tangled in my hair and the other is working on pulling down my trousers—and he moans, his mouth open against mine now, when I press my hand against his already-stiffening cock. I take advantage and slide my tongue along his.
He shudders in pleasure and I find myself staring, lost, right into his eyes, still blue but with the pupils so large that I can see my own eyes reflected in them. Suddenly I'm bent over the side of the bed and he's fumbling behind me in the bedside drawer for something, and a moment later, I feel something slick push into me.
Oh, Jesus. His touch is making my knees unsteady, and I'm suddenly grateful to be leaning against the bed. When a second, then a third finger join the first, I moan so loudly I'm almost surprised I don't wake all of Baker Street. He knows just where to press and white stars appear at the corners of my vision. "Oh, fuck... John...!"
"Yes, Holmes?" he breathes, a note of teasing in his voice. His fingers never cease.
"Oh, John... please, fuck me. Please," I practically beg, and even though I've never begged for anything before in my life, I'm quite happy to do so now. "Fuck me, please! I need you..."
He lets out a ragged, shuddering breath next to my ear, and I feel his fingers slip out of me. I moan like an addict, craving relief from the pressure building inside me. He turns me over onto my back, pulls down his trousers halfway, and breathes, "Are you ready?"
I nod mutely, my hands on his shoulders, and he suddenly pushes into me.
I moan so loudly that no sound escapes. Holy God in Heaven, John feels so good inside me. My nails dig into his shoulders as he pauses briefly and stares down at me, a bead of sweat trailing down his temple. "I think this is the first time you've been rendered speechless," he murmurs with a faint smile. I open my mouth to respond, but he quickly pulls back and pushes in again, and the words are lost. It doesn't matter, though.
John thrusts again, so hard that my vision goes fuzzy and my back arches. I think I moan his name but I can't be sure because with the next thrust, all my capacity for cognisance evaporates and it's just the two of us and he's going for it harder and faster and I feel myself breaking apart and his mouth is next to my ear and he's moaning, "Oh, God, Sherlock, you're so beautiful... I think..." He groans something unintelligible, then continues: "I think I'm... I'm gonna come...!"
"Oh, my God, John!" I gasp and release, my arms tight around his shoulders, as he does the same, filling me so sweetly that it almost doesn't feel real. For several long moments, we lay there, just breathing, and I can feel his heartbeat against my chest.
"I am thoroughly exhausted," he finally says before disentangling himself from me.
"As am I."
He peels back the duvet and we settle under the sheets, and as I fall back asleep and dread my actual waking reality, I could swear I feel his lips on the back of my neck.
I awake to the curtains still half-open and the sun striking my face. Something is wrapped around me and I glance at my stomach. I recognize that arm.
"Still think it was a dream?" John asks, and I can hear the smile in his voice.
*Author's note* So, in case you're confused, the last bit wasn't a dream, no matter how Holmes was convinced that it was. Yeah. I'm probably going to write a related one-shot where he, John, Mary, and Katherine all meet for the first time. Personally, I like Mary... she's not afraid to show Sherlock who's boss.