wordwhacker: (NaNo 2005)
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Written for prompt 212 over at [livejournal.com profile] tamingthemuse.

Sherlock Holmes (ACD) H/W slash fanfic! Set against FINA. This is approximately the most chaste slashfic ever, but I can't help it - my Watson voice squicks at the idea of writing out sex, particularly deviant sex.

Sort of a sequel to a story I wrote a couple of months ago, though it's basically a stand alone piece. The idea is that this story was written later during the hiatus, and Watson is remembering some things differently. (Translation: this story is closer to the original vision that I had for the first story, but time constraints forced me to bang out something quick before. This go is more detailed and does more of what I wanted, but it still feels a bit "Reader's Digest" to me - who knows? Maybe I'll come back and write this story AGAIN at some point.)


Dare Not Speak (short story, 3,484 words, first draft)


A touch told me more than I could have ever hoped to deduce. Perhaps he had tried more subtle means in the past and I, fool that I am, had failed to notice them. I was aware of his frustration with my sadly oblivious nature, the evidence of which arose in him from time to time, most often when his senses were keenly tuned to the task of ferreting out the smallest of details which, nevertheless, could mean the difference between life and death, innocence and guilt. But his frustration could have been about more than just my feeble attempts to follow the strong tread of his thought through matters of crime and injustice. I believe now that his thoughts had confronted nothing less than the quiet swell of human decency; and, impossibly, he had found beyond it something not so horrible as society has often imagined.

He had found me – or a gamble for me, for though he knew me as well and likely better than any man had, he had very little data with which to deduce that I would be open to his advances. Or so I thought. Perhaps, as he had demonstrated many times, he knew me better even than I knew myself.

His hand, the long, thin fingers, rested in my own, bandaged after his harrowing encounter with Professor Moriarty’s henchmen. I could have let it go; I should have. But there coursed through him an energy that infected me with a strange sense of daring. So I waited for him to speak again and set free what he would of the fervent thoughts that I could see behind his grey eyes.

“My dear Watson,” he said, almost in a whisper. “I have become, I think, too dangerous a companion. You have my apologies for troubling you with this matter. It would be best if I travelled alone to the continent.”

“If that’s what you truly wished, Holmes, you certainly wouldn’t have told me of the attacks on your life.”

A smile touched his lips. “Watson. You impress me with how well you have studied me.”

“Surely it is only that I am becoming painfully aware of my own shortcomings. But I won’t hear of you travelling alone at present.”

“You remain steadfast?”

“Absolutely.”

“Then I have little choice but to do the same.” He broke away from me and paced, slowly and deliberately, from one end of my examining room to the other. Though he did not look at me I felt the heat of his attention; he was scrutinizing me, reading me, as he would a suspect at the scene of a crime. My heart raced. I will not pretend now that I had no conception at all of what his intentions were, but I was certainly blind to the reality, to the physical nature of the desire. I expected… I know not what. Some kind of confidence in me, perhaps; something intangible, yet utterly real.

“You will no doubt realize, upon reflection, that my coming here tonight was unnecessary if I was wholly dedicated to keeping you safe, Watson. Better to leave you out of the equation entirely than risk drawing the scent of Moriarty’s henchmen. Naturally, this is why I must eventually leave you in the aforementioned inelegant manner. Apart from this service, however, I renounce my obligation to preserving your wellbeing in this dreadful business, though not without significant reservation.”

“Holmes, I am quite capable of taking care of myself, I assure you.”

“I have allowed these dangers only because they provide some measure of protection – of obfuscation, more specifically – for my next act, which would under more scrupulous circumstances be far more dangerous.”

I would have responded if he had not then abruptly broken from his pacing and drawn me into an embrace. His lips met mine for the briefest moment, and then he became very still, his hawk eyes watching me. Ten thousand thoughts slipped through my mind and I could not find purchase on any one of them. My breeding, my marriage, every part of me that valued the world outside told me that this was wrong; and yet –

“Holmes.”

The act had been a question, and he had been waiting for an answer; and though it had come unbidden, though it lurked somewhere in my face or the way his name had escaped my lips, he had found it. He kissed me again, and I did not pull away.

It may seem strange to draw a line of decency here in the murky waters of deviance, but I must. I do not have the vocabulary for what happened between us that night. Blasphemous or sacred, I am bound now by more than those things to hold my peace. I would no more write of them than I would divulge my most intimate moments with my poor Mary. I feel that it is important, however, that some record exist of this moment between us, even if it is only I who will ever read it, as it should likely remain.

I regret nothing. I must remind myself of this; there have been moments when my own weakness has let me dwell on those things that I cannot change, and the darker thoughts of how I might purge myself of them forever. But it is not for me to decide when my life will end. And though the memories of my dear friend sometimes torment me – for how many years had we grown as close as brothers, as… ? And why had he waited until the breath of the undertaker was at his collar to open my eyes? – there was also joy in the remembrance. I had known war, but I had not known the thrill of adventure, the delight of mystery, or the passion for justice until I knew Sherlock Holmes.

He left that night, despite my insistence that he should stay and damn the threat of Moriarty. I knew he would not sleep before dawn, and for once I felt very much the same. The next morning I found my way through his labyrinthine measures of security to meet with him on the train. He was more his old self, as pleased as ever to have once again utterly fooled me with the simplest of disguises.

“I think you take more pleasure in fooling me with your disguises than you do the criminals you pursue,” I said.

“Of course I do, Watson; it is only to you that I have the pleasure of eventually revealing myself.”

I felt that I existed in two worlds at once: the surface world, a place of bubbling conversation and sights and sounds that were so familiar as to be nearly indistinguishable one from the other; and an unspoken world, one made of subtext and the smallest movements of his face and hands that spoke vividly, colourfully, like things utterly alive. Between these worlds we spoke a myriad secrets to one another – at least, I spoke them to him, and tried to read him but was confounded as I often had been.

I did not know what the nature of this journey to the continent would be, now that there had been this reckoning between us. Until the second night of our stay in Brussels I had convinced myself that we were meant to resume our lives as normal, that what had passed between us was the product of a peculiar moment in time. The threat of death has been known to bring men to strange conclusions; I had seen men take much stranger actions in times of war. Holmes seemed more at ease now that we had left London behind us, and I had resolved to be content to trade intimacy for stability.

I had retired to my room at the inn for the second of our nights when there was a soft knock on my door. Holmes came in before I had the chance to respond, brandishing a bottle of wine.

“If I might intrude upon you for a few minutes, Watson, I thought you would like to share a celebratory drink.”

“And what are we celebrating?” I said as a glass of freshly poured wine was placed in my hand.

“The fall of Moriarty – albeit, somewhat prematurely. It all comes together tomorrow. We shall send for news upon reaching Strasbourg and should have a reply that very evening.”

“It is an ill omen to speak of it as a fait accompli, Holmes, wouldn’t you say?”

“Nothing can change what is to come.” His voice held some slight note of darkness; his eyes met mine as he clinked his glass against my own. “We must move forward with the conviction of men who know they are in the right.”

“Hardly a difficulty, when one’s foe is of Moriarty’s caliber.”

“True enough, dear Watson. Though in other matters, we are perhaps not quite so clearly on the side of decency.”

I swallowed quiet a large amount of wine before I dared meet his gaze again. “You are concerned about these other matters?”

“Only insomuch as they could become… problematic. In a number of ways.” He studied me for a long moment, and I took the luxury of doing the same to him. He was not handsome – though I am hardly in a position to judge, having expanded somewhat in girth myself, as is the norm in the settled life of a married man – but his features were compelling. I had felt compelled before, though not in this way. It was difficult to concentrate; privacy and proximity were taking their toll on me. I tried for a long moment to formulate an expected response, perhaps some remark that would solicit an elaboration about how these other matters could be come problematic.

Instead I set down my glass and kissed him. He made the smallest of sounds which told me that I had surprised him. If there is a single moment in my life that I can distinguish as one of pure joy, it is that moment. I do not believe that I could regret it, even to save my life. It is not a matter of principle or belief; I simply have no choice.

The reply in Strasbourg did not bring good news. The henchmen had been apprehended, but Moriarty had escaped. Holmes was furious, more than I had expected him to be given his strange note of foreboding the last time we had spoken of it openly. He slipped into one of the brooding silences that I had come to know so well. I left him alone and spent some time among the other guests, knowing that intruding would do no good, but eventually my resolve faltered and I sought him out, determined to bring him some cheer and hope.

He sat with his back turned to me as I entered his room; plumes of smoke coiled round him in the soft light of the fireplace. “I think that you had better return to England, Watson,” he said, coolly.

I crossed the room and sat opposite him, much as I had done for so many years in our digs at Baker Street. “Why?”

“The man’s occupation is gone,” he said; his eyes were on the fire as though he was reading a tome amid the flames. “He is lost if he returns to London. If I read his character right he will devote his whole energies to revenging himself upon me.”

“And you expect me to leave you to him?”

“I expect nothing,” he said. His eyes locked on mine, threatening. “I demand it.”

“I’m afraid you will be disappointed in your demands.”

His voice lots its venom, though his eyes retained their fire. “I beg you, Watson. Do not deny me this last request.”

“Last request? You are speaking like a man already dead; unfortunately it is only having the effect of making me more determined to preserve your life.”

He watched me for a long moment. I became aware then of how tired he looked; he was poised, as always, but beneath the veneer of taut control there was an unsettling frailty that I had never seen before. He was all uncertainty, held fast with the force of will that I had come to so revere in him.

“This melancholy doesn’t suit you, Holmes.”

“I have made some inexcusable errors in judgment,” he said.

“And so has he. We can outlast him.”

He leaned forward and rested his chin on his hands, the long fingers laced together. “And still you remain steadfast. How I could have expected less from you, my dear, dear Watson, I do not know. If only Moriarty knew the nature of his true adversary – but for his ignorance in that, I am grateful.”

“I would rather his attentions were upon me – but this is an old argument. Where will tomorrow take us, Holmes?”

He sat back in his chair and took a long draw from his cigarette. “It matters little, so long as we are swift and make few footprints.”

In the morning his spirits seemed to have improved considerably, though not for a moment did he let down his guard as we wound our way through the countryside at a brisk but amiable pace. I could hardly have imagined that Moriarty would find him this far from the place where his web had so painstakingly been crafted – indeed, I fully believed him to have given up his pursuit until the incident at the border of the melancholy Daubensee. His hand clamped my shoulder and he whirled me around. “Look!”

The ridge upon our right had housed a large rock, which now had been dislodged and roared with terrifying force across the path where we had stood not moments ago. It crackled as it slid into the lake, but Holmes had not paused to watch it; he scrambled up the ridge and did not come down until he was satisfied that the perpetrator was nowhere in sight.

“I’m so sorry, sir,” said our guide as Holmes hopped and climbed back down with alarming energy. “It’s a bad time of year for it, especially along this path. Just last year I watched a boulder three times the size come down, just from that spot across the way.”

Holmes smiled affably and clapped the man on the back. “Yes, of course,” he said. “Merely a whimsy of mine, I suppose. There is little point of our delaying any longer.”

I held my tongue until the evening, knowing that Holmes would not have discussed the matter in the open air, but the door to our rooms had scarcely closed behind me before I spoke. “How the blazes did he find us?”

“He is a man of many talents, Watson, such as myself. I hope you would not think me incapable of undertaking such a chase myself, were it in my interest to do so.”

“I would pity the man with you on his tail, Holmes, unless his crimes truly warranted your wrath. But that is beside the point. We must shake him.”

“I am beginning to doubt that it is possible.”

“Surely the man cannot follow you forever. We must simply keep moving, and taking turns he does not expect.”

“And for how long will Mrs. Watson tolerate her husband’s absence as he traipses about on the continent?”

I clenched my jaw. It was true; I could not stay away forever. I had a wife, and a practice; London held many things that were dear to me. Suddenly it became clear to me that the same was perhaps not true for Holmes.

“Come back with me,” I said. “At least in London he will have the police to contend with, and will not be able to so freely pursue you.”

“But you must see, Watson, that if he were to find reason enough to stay in London all would be for naught; in time he would grow his web, and in five years he would once again be the fattest spider in town. Therefore he must either be stopped, or the chase mustn’t end; this pursuit may be the last great gift that I can offer in service of the law.”

He put his hands on my shoulders. The intimacy that had grown between us since the eve of our departure had changed our relationship so little that it was startling to think on. We had entered another realm with a myriad little extras born of gestures and looks, but it had all been in place before without the secret of where those extras could lead. I did not know if this realm would exist when we returned to London. Nothing was certain, except in this infernal chase.

“You must go home,” he said, “though it brings me great pain to say it. To say that I treasure your presence is – inadequate.”

“In another few days, perhaps,” I said. “I find it quite impossible to consider it at present.”

“Let us consider other things, then.”

I do not know how long I hoped to keep up this ruse that I would return to London; I do not know if I, myself, believed it to be a ruse at the time. I knew only that returning would mean the end of the magical spell that had allowed this union between us to exist. I feared for Holmes, yes, but I did not truly believe that a life so vibrant as his could end. When I left – if I left – it would be to set this great mastermind adrift in the wilderness to wander until the end of time like a mythical creature. It was comforting, when I could bring myself to think of it. At times an aimless anger built in me and I grew quarrelsome, but Holmes’ good mood was uncanny, and it was impossible for me not to take some heart in his cheeriness after a time.

The fourth of May; the fateful date will be forever etched upon my mind. This is the first time that I have mustered up the courage to write of it, and already I fear my resolve is wearing thin. My anger vacillates between myself and Holmes, for though I bear the terrible weight of guilt for having fallen for Moriarty’s ruse about the patient at the hotel, Holmes knew, he knew, and he let me go. I have kept his last correspondence with me, and I will copy a small part of it here in the event that some misfortune should fall upon the original, such as my hurling it in the fire in one of my darker moments.

… I am pleased to think that I shall be able to free society from any further effects of his presence, though I fear that it is at a cost which will give pain to my friends, and especially, my dear Watson, to you. … Indeed, if I may make a full confession to you, I was quite convinced that the letter from Meiringen was a hoax, and I allowed you to depart on that errand under the persuasion that some development of this sort would follow. … Regarding those other matters between us, please accept at once my most grateful thanks and my deepest apologies; I am afraid, however, that my prison will be to walk through this world all alone, or else exit it entirely. Pray give my greetings to Mrs. Watson, and believe me to be, my dear fellow,
Very sincerely yours,
Sherlock Holmes.


And so he would have left, even if Death had not taken him. It should not anger me, but it does, even to this day. I loved him – God help me, I did. But how could he believe that I would not trade that newfound realm of ours, that impossible place, to keep his friendship? That his presence, no matter how it manifested, was the thing that was truly dear to me?

The nurse has come to fetch me; poor Mary has been asking for me. I have done what I can for her, but it is a struggle now to see the light of life in her eyes. I wonder how many days are left before my own prison will be walking through this world all alone, and whether it is my own wickedness or simply fate that has willed it to be so.


Watson,
This ending is dreadfully sentimental, though I will take at least part of the blame for having supplied you with that phrase about prisons and whimsical wandering. What I would have preferred to express in that onetime-final missive is not fit for print, not even among this rather scandalous manuscript. Must I deliver the message personally?
- H


I knew I should have burned this. I would complain but it is my own fault. Thank you for the message.
- W

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