Author's Note: I don't own Sherlock Holmes of any incarnation. I apologize for the lack of action that is noted in a real Sir Arthur Conan Doyle plot. Also, I totally rushed through this chapter - so if your willing to try to make improvements, be my guest. But if I don't finish this now, I'm never going to.
As Watson chases after the shadow of Holmes, he inadvertently brings forth feelings for the man that he never knew existed.
Warnings: slash, bad grammar, hint of sexual situations, lack of page breaks, POV switches as obvious as Anna Karenina
"And that is how change happens. One gesture. One person. One moment at a time."
John H. Watson reflected the sea in countenance and temper and the sea reflected in its monotonous view of the waves his thoughts and what he suspect he is feeling. Mary…
Mary was love from the gentle doting from a woman to her husband. Mary was the guarantee of a stable, quiet future with a solid family. Mary was nice dresses and petticoats, respectability in society through etiquette, soft curves and houses containing a womanly touch.
"- send a message to dear Mycroft. Poor fellow must be worried sick, I don't doubt," Sherlock Holmes stood at his side dutifully filling a black hole with noise. "On another topic, I have procured tickets for the -." John felt his heart lift and soar, warming itself as it tucked itself into a furnace that was the detective's presence. His contentment gave a pleasant ache about his body: Holmes embodied the feeling of belonging. With him, Watson felt his other half fulfilled. This man is very alive, so different from his wife, so… the exact description is still intangible, the strongest feelings usually are.
The adventures continued in the same manner as it has always gone. Life went on despite how much one wishes that it would stop. The duo acted as delicately around each other, reflecting their unease at a situation where each could only comprehend half of the problem, where each refused to communicate to the other. Holmes led the chase around the world, planning, plotting, scheming, cornering- the list of verbs could go on. Twice he attempted to talk about Mary. Watson's reaction was not pleasant. On the other hand, after the initial fear of John leaving his side once again, Sherlock brushed pass the strangeness with the experience of one who had many strange things occurring in his life, with the experience of one who is an expert at mental compartmentalization, of one who is good at ignoring the human element. It was typical of Holmes.
To Holmes, everything was alright.
There was a moment when they sprinted out of the sniper's scope view, cutting across an industrial factory making ores and a tool, swatting with their hands at the flyaway sparks from all the friction of metal against metal. There were men at their heels like hounds, nipping at their Achilles' tendons with an assortment of weapons that couldn't be identified in the darkness, ordered to cripple but not kill by a voice speaking in a mix of the Baltic accents.
To Watson, everything was not alright.
There was a moment when the duo was crouched in a small café behind two potted plants that were dusty from the city smog as the mob ran by their hidden alcove with their modern pitchforks and torches. After assured of their safety once again, Detective Holmes barked a laugh and ran a hand through his hair, grinning madly. He grabbed Watson's hand, fingers entwined; each curled over another, as he hopped out into the streets and dashed in the opposite direction. But as soon as the rush of danger passes, he will let go of the hand – he will let go in a manner of someone who realized that he's stroking fire.
The strained normalcy was irritating and not even the repeated success of their goals could calm John H. Watson. He was a soldier unused to covert fronts with intricacies and intrigue- especially to the man who he had abandoned his wife to follow. With much longsuffering, he endured the Holmes-esque plots noted infamous for their touch of hare-brained now with the subtle influence of Adler added and mixed. His foul mood was deprioritized in times of great stress, when great power was at stake - the initial weeks of tailing and assisting the detective after much overtures had distracted him from his more unpleasant thoughts. But with Moriarty's remaining forces so weak and scattered, with time to rest and to ponder about life and how frustrating it could be to be waiting, a tense string strung between Watson's mind and his heart, pulling ever tauter as the one thing that he wanted he could not have becomes ever more relaxed in the status quo antebellum.
"Are we going to allow the problem to sit there and fester?" He wished to shout to the heavens but instead bit his lip, to the point of nearly letting blood, "Are we truly not going to act? Are we cowards?" This willingness for ignorance is grating on the soul – there's a subconscious realization that both men want something – neither speaking, neither reaching, neither moving. Watson could see that any end to this madness all depended on him, but he kept his strong opinions to himself, finding that it was harder and harder to keep from challenge his friend's notions of fun as they continued eastward.
He kept his tongue until he couldn't hold it any longer.
The irony is that the plan of topic concocted by Detective Holmes was one of his most elegant and greatest yet, much better than that disaster they had with Lord Blackwood and his string of faux-supernatural murders where everything was being played by half an ear. The brainchild involved a battle maneuver to flank Moran's power and to corner them in a deal with the Austria-Hungary underground dissidents – Sherlock's proof of pinnacle of genius. It was a beautiful plot with contingencies within contingencies and enough flexibility to be virtually full-proof: so full-proof that the doctor could see every possible step that can fail, every small micro-chasm: Augustus De Morgan's Law has never been stronger. He's had so much practice staring at the half empty glass that he can't look at it any other way.
"No." John H. Watson shook his head adamantly, crossing his arms and tapping his cane against the floor in agitation, "Hypothetically, you do get caught by Moran's men: do you think they will be more or less merciful to you than Moriarty?" He leaned back, feeling the train moving across the tracks, so fast that the unevenness of the iron makes way for a dull hum, cautiously soothing his nerves. The wooden bench, padded by cushions, creaked in protest. "Moran's savageness was concentrated by Moriarty to a single point, without the Professor, he's out of control. What says you?"
"I…" The detective was lost of words and then clasped his hands together earnestly and settled them over his knee, "I thought that the proposal is rather ingenious. The reason why I would declare it foolproof would be its element of unpredictability. If Mr. Moran does not expect us, then he wouldn't pull out more of his men in a means to intercept us." His eyes pleaded for an agreement that Watson felt faint stirrings to give out but ruthlessly squashed back. "I won't get caught. Nothing bad will happen. You need not worry."
"And if I recall this conversation when I see you impaled and hanging upon a hook? What would you wish for me do if I witness your death?" The doctor pushed, finding satisfaction when his companion winced at the phantom pains, hands unconsciously raising themselves to the puncture site via machinery hook above his breast. A flash of memory tore through his head: a small table with a finished chess game, Sherlock and Moriarty had stood at the balcony when he entered into the all-encompassing tension – Sherlock had glanced behind with a frightened gaze before his eyes narrowed in a split calculating thought. And then the detective had wrapped his arms around his nemesis and they jumped off to the abyss. His heart clenched in shock, denial, horror, pain – pain overwhelmed everything else. John kneaded the skin between his brows and his temples, "The reason," he slowly explained as if speaking to a child, "that I followed you on this barking mad plot around the world was to protect you, not watch you get killed." Again.
"How does this occurrence differ from all the other instances?" His friend peered through his messy bangs with a confused expression, referencing their entire life in London. "This is the prime directorate of how we operate," he reached over as if to place his hand on Watson's leg but drew back inches away. He nervously cleared his throat.
Watson's mind offered various reasons that he could not say- reasons such as since I realized that you were not above the follies of man or if I go to another funeral service of you, it will kill me. A hanging silence drifted between the two men before drowning in the hum of the train.
The absence of sound agitated the detective more than the doctor. "I mean," Sherlock licked his lips, "It's never bothered you before." That statement, spoken with bewildered frankness, hurts Watson more than he will ever care to admit. "Oh no, I didn't mean it in that manner. Sorry, if I'm insulting you, I wouldn't, it's a bit hard to read you, my friend, if I don't know what you're thinking. Don't look at me like that, I may be the world's greatest detective but I can't hear what you don't say. If I did, I would find my business elsewhere outside of consulting." He breaks off, unsure of what he wants to say, trying to equate it with what he is saying, growing increasingly nervous at the dark mood surrounding his friend's body. "You weren't supposed to follow me," He muttered loud enough that John's head snapped up sharply, "The past few days, I've reevaluated these ideas which originally had the assurance that you weren't here – they didn't allow space for the help of someone that I can wholly trust. With you here, well, I had to add more. And yes, this great plan is imperfect from the lack of time." The detective didn't notice his friend's stare as he was engrossed in wringing his hands and rubbing his palms together, "You can't expect me to adjust so quickly. I'm one man."
John closed his eyes as he mentally reviewed the subtext in between the words. Sherlock had plotted with the belief that he was venturing alone, that there was a sharp possibility that he would die alone – that he would live solely through the memory his masterpiece. And when Sherlock died, Watson was expected to live in ignorance with Mary in marital bliss, never knowing, never even suspecting. It was blissful ignorance. It made him sick to his stomach.
Sherlock determinedly reached over to grasp Watson's hands, fingers grazing along palms, thumbs smoothing over skin, "I don't wish for you to leave me, don't take this as an invitation to leave. Though," he hurriedly added, "If you do truly wish to leave, I will not stop you. But you must know that I don't see you as a burden. I am inextricably happy in your presence." Wary of Watson's tendency to storm away when angry, he secured his grip on the other's hands. "Watson, look at me." His eyes flitted over Watson's features, blue eyes to brown eyes, "Please don't be angry. I see you as my closest and most dear friend – I know that I usually don't express my feelings in the most obvious manner and tend to lead to actions subjected by… well… But I thought that you ought to know, in case, but if you already are aware, that is good too." Holmes took a shallow breath and struggled to speak, "So I'm going to inform you that you are positively the best thing to have happened to me and our companionship is years strong, strong enough weather through all challenges, strong enough that the bond even transcends-." He caught himself just before he revealed his less than proper affections and let go, leaning back into his seat in a self-aware horrified perspective of how close he was to losing control and spilling secrets.
His face burned from how ashamed he felt talking about something that he instinctively grasped as the Taboo subject. There's no reason to why the doctor wished to follow him, seeing that there is an unexplainable impasse that should break their friendship (it should but its not). In the aftermath of his fake death, Sherlock Holmes had wished, somehow hoped beyond all measure that John would appear at his side – and was rendered speechless when that wish came to fruition. But now it seems as though this partnership was taking a turn for the worse. Why was the doctor following him? There was no reason.
Sherlock blinked out of his thoughts, "Pardon?"
"I said yes." The words were spoken with a finality that didn't allow further inquiries. There can only be so many gifted horses before one feels the need to start asking why. As always, there was no reason.
There were nights when they slept in the same bed of a rundown hostel or nunnery, something that they had usually done on long haunts around London in the past to save time, money, and prepare in the case of a need for immediate action. But these nights were uncomfortable. There was a distinct effort to not meet the other's eyes and to, in the most casual way possible, maintaining respectable distance of bodies. Sherlock took his time to stare at the ceiling, listening to the slow beat of his heart matching the slow breathing coming from his partner, patiently waiting for sleep to claim him.
Three days later, Sherlock wondered if John regretted his words, as footsteps muffled under the sound of constant downpour slowly crept towards the sounds of shouting and shooting; the duo hurriedly ran out of the sudden ambush from the country's rebels and Moran. A normal negotiation with Moran's men had suddenly turned into a three way battle with people falling left and right, bodies thudding to the floor, bleeding out of newly made holes. Sherlock suffered some grazes and his hat was a lost cause only a minute into the fire. John wasn't hurt, soldier that he was, crack shot as well with fierce instincts that made the enemies tremble. He had taken out his own weapon, leaved over the storage box, shot once, and Sebastian Moran fell with a bullet hole fitted perfectly between his eyes. Sherlock had stared at his friend, cocking one eyebrow up in disbelief, and received a nonchalant shrug in return.
"What is most interesting," Sherlock had loudly noted before everything turned South, giving John's hand a reassuring squeeze, "is that you have a hunting rifle in your possession and a hidden pistol – nothing else, which could say two things. You are overly confident in the efficiency of your men to draw and shoot or you simply ran out of arms. Is it the lack of funds? Feeling the slight pinch in your wallet, Sebastian?" The pinch of Sebastian's face told him much more. Thank god that there were no snipers – Sebastian couldn't pay them for services either.
Only, they never expected a fourth party to enter the fray, a couple representatives from a weapons manufacturing company that had bought along a couple of samples as a gesture of good-will. Moriarty's investments should have fallen flat, with the way that Sherlock had completely decimated and gleefully burned to a crisp all of his businesses – then how…
Someone threw him onto the floor as heat slammed into his right side, shielding from most of the blows. His breath left him, vaporized in the incoming shockwave that pushed him back towards the broken industry building wall.
And then it's over.
The world tilts and the ringing in his ears are unbearable. The ringing tones down from a high pitch whine to a low thrum. His hands shake and the blood trailing down from his shoulder to his fingertips scatter before him. It takes a while to place where he was – who he was.
There was silence except for the rain. There are quiet people in the backdrop twisted in all sorts of positions. There was a flame crackling merrily moments ago but slowly fizzling and dying out till there are ashes and ashes and ashes mixed with spreading pools of blood. The rain soaks him to the bone till he is hyper aware of the wet rivulets seeping greedily over his skin as the adrenaline slowly wears down.
Watson has half of his body supported by the destroyed wall, his right hand clutching at the entry site where bomb shards had entered. Sherlock was frantically pulling all the layers of clothing back trying to reach his side. As soon as he reached skin, he started to gingerly pick out the large pieces as Watson attempted to instruct him between coughing up blood, "Don't snap away, extraction is a matter of delicacy, Holmes. But you already know these things, don't you? As a veteran of this sort."
"Keep talking," the detective muttered, engrossed in his work and afraid to glance up, "Don't fall asleep." His one hand braced against the skin, ignoring the trail of blood moving slowly between his fingers. Blood smelled like metal but his sense of smell has disappeared. Or maybe, Sherlock leaned in to examine his work before reaching for the bandages: or maybe the entire industrial site is in danger of rust – with the obvious destruction of the roof. "I forbid you from closing your eyes," he idly wiped away a small trail of blood from Watson's brow.
Watson makes a small noise between a grunt and a whine, "You're such a mother hen." Sherlock pulls and tightens the bandages with an abrupt tug before ripping the end away with his teeth. Then he leans back to reach into a pocket and takes out a flask of alcohol and a syringe filled with an ominous red liquid and a covered needle tip. John's face flashed through many emotions before settling on one of open trust, he doesn't even ask questions, "It's the-." His breath hitches when he pours the alcohol in liberal quantities on the wounds, "It's the least I could ever do. For… For…" John squinted, "What is in that medication that you just gave me?"
"It'll help with the pain. Just don't sleep, not yet," Sherlock lifted an eyelid to inspect the pupil before making an agreeable noise.
"I never thought that," Watson's head fell against Sherlock's bare collar, his breath danced across his skin, encouraging goose bumps to form. The detective eyed his friend critically before relaxing his frame, a silent acknowledgement of the action. "I never thought that," the doctor tried again, "That this would be a conclusion, though it seemed inevitable. At the moment I knew that you were alive, I couldn't stop. I kept running and running and running away from what you were trying to keep me in, away from what I thought was best for me – and into what? This?"
"To be honest," Sherlock choked out, "I've been wondering why too." His heart beats a bit stronger – much too painful for him to control. "You shouldn't be like this – this is why you should've stayed behind. You don't know how much it hurts seeing you like this. It's more dangerous now, my dear Watson, it's not like the days when we had clients coming in and it was a game to deduce which parts of London they hailed from. This… is… a mistake." Watson shifted his head to rest against the junction of his neck and shoulder – Sherlock closed his eyes and rested his forehead onto the others. He waited for the medication to kick in and watched as the man's pupils continue to dilate, "You're dangerously feverous. I'll take you to a safe house- there are people who owe me favors that can shelter us. I'll look after you and see to your well-being. And then I implore you to return home to London where Mary is waiting – please, as soon as you can walk, you must leave. This isn't safe. Promise me."
Watson shifted his head and tilted his head just so and caught the detective's lips, biting gently on the bottom lip and running it with his tongue. The heat spread between them, warming their cores against the pouring rain as the doctor pulled Sherlock closer, desperate for more fire. It takes ten seconds for his friend to still in surprise and let out a shuddering breath and pulled back.
The rain still poured. Sherlock's eyes betrayed heartbreak, "You aren't thinking properly. Please sleep." Please forget this.
"Please sleep," Sherlock whispered and leaned forward to press a kiss onto his friend's lips. John was barely holding onto conscious, but at this point, Sherlock was sure that he would live through this event, if not scarred. The affection seemed to sooth the doctor, just enough to convince him to close his eyes.
He dreamed of Mary's face, bright, happy, then sad and dark. He dreamed of a familiar silhouette in that familiar coat with that familiar hat giving him a jaunty wave before walking away until he blends with the background. He dreamed of fire running down from his mouth and into his stomach.
John Watson woke up in a small cozy room with the smell of tea hovering by his senses. The light from the window gave a yellow hue – early morning or a sunset after a rain. There's someone resting at the bedside. Sherlock was slowly stirring from his sleeping position half sprawled over the bed; his wrist was in a tight grip in Watson's hand. After several minutes of quiet breathing, Sherlock was attempting to extract himself from Watson's hold but Watson wasn't having any of it and his grip tightened.
Still rubbing sleep from his eyes, Sherlock looked back at his wrist with a quirk to his lips, "We had quite a night, my dear friend, and though you've already slept an entire day, you should sleep more to regain more of your energy." Sherlock's visage was a mass of fatigue and exhaustion – his shoulders were slumped forwards.
"I remember everything," Watson cautiously offered, his throat still sore from his cold. "I don't want you to leave me." His eyes greedily took in the other's countenance.
Sherlock's expression ran through a variety of emotions: each one more fleeting than the other. His stance was frozen, almost like prey cornered by a predator. Watson took the chance to tug Sherlock with his good arm, causing the other to lose his balance and collapse into bed with an ungraceful yelp. He wrapped his arms around the slighter man to prevent escape. Sherlock whined in protest and half-heartedly struggled against his binds.
"Shh, calm Sherlock." Watson muttered, digging his face into his companion's neck. Slowly, Sherlock listened.
Watson waited for Sherlock to doze off before adjusting his grip on the man to prevent what he was sure to be another escape attempt in the near future. He shamelessly made sure to tangle their legs together. He blinked a bit at the weak light from the window, listening to breathing, listening to conjoined hearts. He felt his body relax.
Because now was not the time to dwell on new developments, there's always morning to face the challenges. "Promise not to leave." Then Watson closed his eyes, and he too, was dreaming.