Title: A Study in Patience
Fandom: ACD!Sherlock Holmes
Summary: Holmes cannot help but test Watson’s patience.
Notes: Thank you to my wonderful beta forestrose.
A Study in Patience
It is my great fortune to have found, in Dr John Watson, a man of the most exemplary patience. Indeed, I am quite sure that no other man existing could tolerate my oddities as he does. Where most men would quit my company altogether, Watson expresses only exasperation; where most men would express exasperation, Watson conveys admiration instead. At those aspects of my character that would make almost every soul in England recoil in horror — well, that is not a matter of tolerance, for my dear Watson shares those proclivities.
Even so, I try his patience in that respect too.
It is wrong of me, perhaps, to do so. But at this moment, as I compose this note in my head, I cannot regret it. Watson lies at my side, his skin warm against my own. He has fallen into a quiet sleep, and I am loath to move, lest I disturb him. It is not often that I see such peace upon his face after one of our encounters.
I digress. It is well that I avoid such intimate congress during my cases, for I am afraid that such acts are antithetical to the logical and well-ordered mind. It is well that Watson understands this need, though it frustrates him. We return, you see, to his patience.
This most recent case, only today concluded, was longer than most. Many nights, these last few weeks, found me wrapped in disguise, in one dark den or another, where the most foul of London’s criminal classes based their operations. As for those nights I spent at Baker Street—on those nights, I thought only of the case; the clay on the shoes of the Member for Hastings, the black silk thread tied about the wrist of his maidservant.
This afternoon, the pieces came together—I am sure that Watson will relate the details in one of his stories—and after Lestrade had arrested the villainous wretch responsible for two murders and the theft of several notable artworks, Watson and I found ourselves departing triumphantly from Scotland Yard in the back of a hansom cab.
“I say, Holmes,” said Watson, “I’m glad that’s done with.”
“Yes,” said I. “Though it would have been done a week ago, had Miss Irving noticed the missing cravat. Really, Watson, the vast majority of crime could be prevented, if people would only observe.”
“We don’t all have your powers, Holmes.”
“It would have been a simple deduction, my dear fellow. It was clear that—”
“Holmes,” Watson interrupted me.
“What is it?”
“You were astounding today, Holmes. Quite at your best. But it has been weeks, and—let’s go back to Baker Street.” Watson’s fingers closed about my wrist, and I confess, for once, I found myself utterly surprised by his actions. Though we can, of course, display a careful degree of filial affection in public, this gesture bespoke of an intimacy that we do our best to conceal from the world.
Naturally, none could see what he had done, lodged as we were in the small seat of the cab, but still, such gestures were rare outside the safe confines of our Baker Street accommodation. My poor Watson must have been desperate indeed, to slip up so.
I confess, this knowledge thrilled me. Now that the case was done, there was room for other pleasures, and the allure of Baker Street and the privacy afforded by 221B was a strong one. Yet—he had taken my wrist, and his thumb ran gently over my skin. To what other action might he be prompted, should his satisfaction be further delayed? I turned all my mental faculties towards this question.
“My dear Watson,” said I, “I am afraid that I cannot contemplate Baker Street just yet. I have barely eaten these last few weeks, as you well know, and now I find myself ravenous. Dinner at the Grand, I think, before anything else.”
He did not object. He had protested a number of times during this case that I did not attend to my own nourishment, and in this as in all things, he was willing to put my needs ahead of his own. He called out to the cabbie to change his course without a word of protest. Only his hand, growing tighter round my wrist, told me that he chafed at the delay.
I fear that Watson did not enjoy our fine dinner as well as he should, though he did his best to conceal his disquietude. Indeed, I am certain that only my unusual powers of deduction, coupled with my intimate knowledge of his person, allowed me to see through the relaxed facade that he maintained throughout our meal. In recompense, I believe I brought him some cheer, for he delighted in my observations of our fellow patrons, and it brought me great pleasure to see him smile at my insights.
It was not half so great as the pleasure I found, however, when his feet brushed against mine, beneath the table. Though the tablecloth concealed us from all who stood or sat at their tables, a single dropped fork might have exposed us. I saw a plea in Watson’s eyes, and I said—
“Do you know, my dear fellow, that Johannes Busweiler, the renowned German violinist, is playing a concerto at the Royal tonight?”
“Is he, indeed?” said Watson, a careful measure to his tone.
“By happy coincidence, Lord and Lady Dunthorpe, whom I assisted last month in the small matter of some stolen rubies, have gifted me with box seats for tonight’s performance. I am sure that, after the exertions of this case, a relaxing evening at a concert is exactly what I need.”
For the briefest of interludes, Watson considered a protest; his shoulders tensed, and his lips parted. But that dear man will ever put my needs before his own, and when he spoke, his voice was mild. “Of course, Holmes,” said he. “I am pleased to see you taking care of yourself, for once.”
Watson carefully avoided all physical contact with me as we made our way to the theatre. I feel certain that he would have been overcome had we attempted even the most fraternal of affectionate gestures. I had anticipated that his reticence would not extend to our box seats, where we should be shielded from the curiosity of others, but even there he kept a safe distance. It was clear that he still did not trust his own restraint; that he might be tempted to the most flagrant displays of carnal desire, if he did not take great care.
I found that this knowledge had a most profound effect upon my person; blood rushed from my head towards my groin, and only the distraction of the music—the soft chords of the opening adagio—prevented me from initiating relations between us.
The music caught me, and I am quite afraid, that for the next two hours, I barely thought of anything else, though I was never unaware of Watson’s presence at my side. In a stray moment, I wondered if I had erred in teasing my friend so, for perhaps his passion may have passed, but when Busweiler reached his crescendo, such fears were alleviated, for as the music swelled, Watson seized my hand, and raised my palm to his lips, in a gesture that could only occur between lovers.
At once, he realised what he had done, and he dropped my hand as though it were filled with hot coals, but none perceived us. There was a red glow to his cheeks, and again, I recalled the desires that I had felt earlier.
How tempting it was, after that concert, to act upon Watson’s suggestion that we hail a cab, to expedite our return to Baker Street. But having begun my inquiry into the limits of my dear Watson’s patience, I could not abandon it.
“I believe a walk in the cool night air will do us good,” said I.
“Are you quite sure—”
“I am certain, my dear Watson.”
“Really, Holmes, I—”
“Come now, Watson!” I said, and set off towards Baker Street.
Watson spoke not another word of protest. He hurried to catch up with me, and at a suitable moment, linked his arm with mine, as though he was afraid that I would run off on some mad scheme should he not restrain me in some way. It must have cost him dearly to maintain the appearance of a merely fraternal understanding between us, but his patience held.
We spoke of mere trifles as we made our way through the streets, and when we were but a five minute stroll from 221B, I made my final move.
“It is such a lovely evening,” said I, “I feel a great reluctance to retire indoors. Let us head towards Regent’s Park, and—”
I stopped speaking, for Watson had turned about in front of me, and his hands gripped my shoulders, forcing me to a halt.
“Holmes!” he ejaculated. “Holmes!”
“What is it, my dear fellow?” I replied, as though his behaviour was not at all unusual.
“I do believe you are—it is most cruel—”
“Please do try to make sense, Watson.”
At that moment, my good friend’s admirable patience broke. Watson took me by the hand, and pulled me down a narrow alleyway that ran off Baker Street. I had indeed selected an excellent point to make this final provocation, for the end of the alleyway was shrouded in darkness; the light of the streetlamps did not extend so far. When we found ourselves concealed, Watson pressed me against a cool brick wall.
“I tell you, Holmes,” said Watson, “I cannot wait a moment longer.” He kissed me then, with such pure passion that I found myself trembling. I feel sure that my legs would have ceased to hold me upright, had it not been for his grip upon my person. My hands reached for the lapels of his coat, and I pulled him closer yet, so as to leave no doubt that Watson’s eager affection was unabashedly returned.
I am sure that worldly men and women will be able to imagine what ensued; should I ever commit this reminiscence to paper, there will be no need to record the details of that most exhilarating interlude. Forever forced to hide, to conceal; to reach for each other in the open air—to allow ourselves this moment of liberation—oh, how glad I was—how glad I am, that I pushed Watson’s patience so far.
When we were spent, when we had allowed ourselves time to put our suits aright, we made our way back to our rooms in a kind of daze, overwhelmed with the enormity of what we had done. To my great relief, Watson displayed no sign of guilt or remorse, as he so often did after our intimate congress (though he ever sought to conceal such sentiment from myself). Instead, when we were locked safely within our rooms, he kissed me again, with tenderness, though not with urgency. We relieved ourselves of our recently restored clothing, and retired to my bedchamber, not for the purposes of carnal lusts, but so that we might have the pleasure of close contact.
On some other occasion, perhaps, I might argue that I indulge in such for his sake only; that for myself, I am above the need for such intimacy, but tonight I will not deny it. I enjoy holding him near to me. My fingers brush against the scar on his shoulder, and he murmurs in his sleep.
I find myself now returned to my place of departure—Watson asleep beside me, and myself reflecting gratefully upon the stroke of providence that sent him my way. But I grow sentimental, and I must not allow myself to indulge in that too long. It is well that Watson is not conscious to witness this.
Tomorrow, he will awake refreshed, his miraculous patience renewed, and I—I shall test it again, no doubt, in small ways and large. For now though, he rests, and I let him do so. I allow my eyes to close, and for once, all thought abandons me.