[identity profile] spacemutineer.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] acdholmesfest
Title: and after me a strange tide turns
Recipient: [livejournal.com profile] fyliwionvilyaer
Author: [livejournal.com profile] obstinatrix
Rating: PG-13
Characters, including any pairing(s): Holmes/Watson
Warnings: References to period-typical homophobia
Summary: In retrospect, it was foolish to assume that a man like Sherlock Holmes knew nothing of London's darker quarters. He lived among them, after all. Title from Wilfred Owen.




In retrospect, I will readily admit that the confusion was largely my own fault. It was not that I myself was unaware of the existence of certain establishments in London's secret underbelly -- on the contrary, I had been a soldier long enough to know that such places, like such people, exist in every city on earth if one knows where to look. On the evening that we entered The Half Moon Club in pursuit of Mr Henry Knight, I recognised immediately the nature of the business and its clientele. The fact of the place itself held no shock for me -- I am fortunate in that I have always enjoyed the company of women, but as a medical man and as a human being, I can feel only pity for the poor souls forced to live and love like this, subterranean. I love women, but between public school and the Army, I learned early on that there are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, and so on and so forth; and it ought to suffice to say that I understand viscerally the appreciation of male beauty.

This much being to say, at rambling length for which I must apologise, that inversion does not upset me unduly. No: my mistake, I now see, was in the assumption that Sherlock Holmes, scourge of the London streets, friend to newsboys and vagrants, collector of news at the early morning docks, did not understand what Henry Knight was, nor where he had brought me.

Idiocy, I see now. Eton and Oxford would have been enough to open his eyes, even were he not an associate of some of the lowest characters in the capital. How many of his Irregulars must sell themselves for trade, I hardly dare think. But there is an innocence to Sherlock Holmes; a purity, rather, almost clinical in its isolation, that made me unable to imagine him in contact with this side of London life. Prostitution, street girls -- these were sorry things, sad things, muttered about quietly in hushed voices. But inverts -- inverts are never spoken of at all. I suppose I thought that a man who found no value in a knowledge of the solar system would be doubly inclined to put away any knowledge of such pursuits upon first encountering it. The innocence I attributed to Holmes was, of course, of my own creation, but then, I was blinkered in the way I saw him. I had, after all, been quite hopelessly in love with him for the better part of four years.

I oughtn't commit this story to paper. I know it. I have double- and three times-checked the lock to my desk drawer, and the trembling in my hands shows on the page. But nothing has so fully transformed my life than what has passed over the course of the past week, from the moment I entered the Half Moon with Sherlock Holmes at my side, and I cannot keep it in any longer. Better to tell an audience incapable of reporting it to Scotland Yard, at least.

He was grace itself as he let the busboy take his greatcoat, behaving for all the world like a regular. I tell myself that I would have noticed his ease, were it not for the sense of sudden dread that had overtaken me at the thought of Sherlock Holmes, fictitious innocent, stumbling all-unknowing into a den of sin to be sullied or, perhaps worse, to find me out. My stomach turned over as I followed him into the club, hoping like a fool that he, who misses nothing, would not notice the casual intimacy among the clientele, or the way their eyes followed him with interest as he moved. Holmes is not handsome after the current fashion: his frame is too slender for that, and his features too finely-cut. But he is very tall, his hair jet-black amidst a sea of varying shades of brown, and when once one has been pinioned by his silver eyes, it is impossible to forget them. Holmes cuts a remarkable figure, and I was immediately conscious of him being quite widely remarked upon.

His hand on my arm made me start, and his brows pulled together for a moment before he put his mouth to my ear. "Knight is by the bookcase," he murmured. "Do you see?"

I should have known then, from his bearing, the way his hand was pressed warmly to my lower back, the way his whole body was turned into mine, that he knew full well what he was about. In a place like this, there was nothing unusual in a man whispering into another fellow's ear; indeed, distance between us is what would rather have sparked interest. But the fact was that I had gone out of my way to restrict those tokens of intimacy that other men think nothing of bestowing upon their friends, because where other men link arms in celebration of masculine friendship, I felt Holmes's touch like a taunt, a reminder of what I could never have. At first, I had taken what I could from him, but soon it became too painful, and I too fearful of discovery. Holmes's warm weight against mine would be read in this establishment as what I longed for it to mean, and the thought left me dizzy with a feeling I could not name.

Dimly, I was aware that Holmes was speaking. Now I know that, of course, he meant us to provide each other's cover: two men in an inverts' club are less conspicuous than one. He touched me deliberately like a lover. But I could not, would not allow myself to see this in the moment, and when he left me to speak to Knight's associate, the spike of jealousy in my chest made me feel ridiculous as well as pained. I leaned against a pillar and forced myself to breathe steadily while Holmes conversed with the gentleman, laughing in the right places, angling his body in a way that might have been flirtatious had such a thing not seemed impossible to me. Holmes is a fine actor, but flirtation is one thing he has never understood. Every woman who crosses our threshold makes eyes at him, and he is utterly oblivious. The idea that he could read accurately the intentions of a man like this one, when the sweet smiles of London's eligible spinsters passed him by entirely…

His fingers brushed the inside of the man's wrist, caught in the crook of his elbow. My gut churned uncomfortably with what I told myself was fear of being caught in such a place, should the police happen to come by, but when Holmes leaned up to whisper in the man's ear, I felt my fists clench quite involuntarily and knew I would have punched the cad if I could. All for having taken the liberty of what? Of responding to a conversation Holmes had initiated? I recognised my own foolishness, but this made no odds. By the time Holmes returned to me, his smile a pleased curve of triumph at having uncovered what facts he needed, I was fairly seething with anger.

He noticed, of course. In the cab on the journey back to Baker Street, he made one or two parries: was I quite well? Did I need air? I only shook my head, assured him I was perfectly fine, not fully knowing myself what target my anger sought. Partly, I think, I was angry with him, for having taken me to such a place and stirred up what I had so painstakingly tamped down, and for not feeling whatever it was I felt when he touched me. But how, after all, could Holmes have known? He did not deserve to catch the brunt of what was building in my chest, so I kept my counsel, and eventually he left off questioning me.

My plan, such as it was, was to take the stairs two at a time to our flat, bid him a swift and convincingly cheerful goodnight, and retire to my room; whereupon I was hopeful that all would be well again in the morning, or at least as well as it had been. Naturally, because Holmes is Holmes, he made quite certain to foil my plan at the first hurdle.

The door to our sitting room had barely closed behind us before he said, in a tone that brooked no argument, "Watson, I expect you to tell me at once what it is that has upset you, or I shall be forced to work it out for myself, and we both know how you hate it when I do that."

I sighed heavily and passed a hand across my eyes. "Holmes, my dear fellow, I swear to you that I am perfectly all right -- or I shall be, at least, after a whisky and a good night's sleep."

I made to pass him, heading for the door that led to my room, but he had clearly anticipated that. He moved, one slender hand flattening against the door, holding it firmly closed.

"We have lived together for upwards of four years, Doctor: I know when you are out of sorts. You make a very particular face, which just so happens to be the one you're wearing now."

Something about his tone rankled me and, unwisely, I let a little of my irritation show. "I don't know why all of a sudden you're so immoderately concerned about my feelings," I snapped, and his eyebrow went up.

"Because," he said, very deliberately, "I had never thought you the sort of man to be offended by how others live their lives, but now I fear I may have to reassess your character."

Realisation hit me like a fist, pulling me up short. I had already told myself that nothing he said would persuade me to remain downstairs with him, not until my black mood had dissipated, but, being Holmes, he had of course found the only thing that could have changed my mind. He believed I was angry with him for having brought me into company with inverts -- that I felt myself fit to judge them, and he thought less highly of me for it, as well he might. Sighing, I lifted my head and met his eyes.

"Holmes," I said tiredly, "Whatever misapprehension you are labouring under, I must ask you to set it aside at once. Do you think tonight was the first time I've come across a place like the Half Moon?"

That puzzled him. At any other time I might have allowed myself a certain smugness at the way his brows drew together, but at this moment I was rather too strung out to concentrate. After a moment's pause, he said, "Wasn't it?"

"Evidently not." I made another move for the door handle, but again he stopped me, this time with a hand on my wrist. All at once, I remembered how my gut had twisted at the sight of that same hand on another man, and closed my eyes.

"You were upset," Holmes insisted. His tone said that he would have the truth of me, if it took all night, and I shrank under it. "If the nature of the Half Moon did not shock you, why then…?"

God, but I wished we had taken the opportunity to imbibe even a touch of whisky at the Half Moon; my cornered soul craved it, just an edge of alcoholic softness to soothe my nerves. "Because, Holmes, I feared it would shock you. I was certain you couldn't know the whole of it; every man in the room watched you as you entered, and --"

I stopped myself, bit my lip. I had barely said anything, and already I felt I had shown too much of my hand. Holmes's face confirmed it, the silver eyes reading God knew what in the tense lines of my face.

"Oh, my dear Doctor," he said, eventually, and the hand on my wrist tightened. "They watch me every time."

My breath caught. The sound of it was overloud in the quiet room, shock and some errant flare of possessiveness rising up in my chest, and he smiled at me a little sadly.

"I've shocked you," he said, and I shook my head, although he had, but not in the way he meant.

"I never knew," I told him.

"Of course you did not, but that is no fault of yours. I went to great pains to keep it from you." He laughed shortly. "This is not quite how I fancied it would all come out, but then, at least you do not appear to be running for the hills."

"That would be hypocrisy in more ways than you could count," I said, meeting his eyes again. My head was swimming, alcohol or no. The words fairly stumbled out of my mouth, although I knew, I knew I should not let them, but the thought of it -- of how wrong I had been; of Holmes in that club every Friday night with the eyes and hands of half London's inverts upon him -- it unhinged me. To think of consequences seemed beyond me. "It's a long time since I've been to such a club, but that is not because -- because men do not interest me. It's just that…those men are not…"

My courage failed, or common sense finally pulled me up short, I am not sure which to thank or blame. But Holmes, my splendid singular Holmes who can read years in the heel of a boot or the scuffs on a hat, had read at last the true state of things in my face, by some miracle of his own making. His eyes widened, and then, impossibly, softened, and then the wry little smile fell away as his lips parted in understanding.

"Watson," he said, wonderingly. "I feel I understand your meaning, but I cannot quite…" He broke off, picked up the thread again. "You are a soldier. A doctor. A fine upstanding citizen; a true man's man. You are England's finest. And I --"

"I have been yours alone from the moment I took up residency in these rooms." I cut him off, reckless, my voice firm. Perhaps it was his unaccustomed uncertainty that made me bold; I could not say. All I know is that I wanted him to know the whole of it, and damn the consequences; if he was every week on his knees in some back room at the Half Moon Club then I deserved at least to unburden myself on his shoulders. He owed me that much, or so my jealousy told me in that moment.

"Watson," he said again, and his hand came up to cup my face. "Watson, when I go out, I am only ever looking for you. I never thought to find you in any of my dark places."

I covered his hand with mine, my heart pounding in my chest. "It seems we have misread each other terribly, my dear. And you, a consulting detective."

For a second, Holmes looked about to tell me to shut up, but then his mouth was on mine doing the job quite as effectively, and in a fashion that pleased us both far more.

Date: 2015-05-23 05:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jcporter1.livejournal.com
...a purity almost clinical in its isolation."
That is such a astute description and understanding of the early Holmes I think we all felt in the first stories "Study in Scarlet" "Scandal in Bohemia" . Before his truer emotions presented themselves in the later stories.
Well done.

Date: 2015-05-23 09:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hiddenlacuna.livejournal.com
Awww, adorable! Would love to see more, but it's very pretty as is! Love the language - spot on!

Date: 2015-05-23 09:18 pm (UTC)
ancientreader: black and white pet rat (Default)
From: [personal profile] ancientreader
"I never thought to find you in any of my dark places."

A particularly lovely line in a lovely story.

Date: 2015-05-23 09:19 pm (UTC)
hardboiledbaby: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hardboiledbaby
Ah, a grave misunderstanding resolved in the very best way :D

Date: 2015-05-23 10:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] saki101.livejournal.com
"Watson, when I go out, I am only ever looking for you..."

What a beautiful declaration and wonderfully atmospheric story with a most satisfying outcome.

Date: 2015-05-23 11:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tripleransom.livejournal.com
A lovely first time story. Some things never get old.

Date: 2015-05-24 08:01 am (UTC)
ext_1620665: knight on horseback (Default)
From: [identity profile] scfrankles.livejournal.com
Adding to the admiration for "Watson, when I go out, I am only ever looking for you. I never thought to find you in any of my dark places." It's such a wonderful line.

Date: 2015-05-24 04:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maestress83.livejournal.com
"I have been yours alone from the moment I took up residency in these rooms." Truer words were never spoken.

Date: 2015-05-24 09:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stellinia.livejournal.com

You have great way with words and your understanding of the characters is equally admirable. Plus, I always like seeing jealous!Watson XD

Date: 2015-05-25 06:05 pm (UTC)
hagstrom: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hagstrom
I'd point out that lovely line that appeal to so many, because I feel it redundant, but I still need to tell you that it was awesome, so close to the spirit of them both and so angsty and sweet that it's impossible to stop reading.

Saturday, May 23 and Sunday, May 24, 2015

Date: 2015-05-25 10:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] livejournal.livejournal.com
User [livejournal.com profile] madder_badder referenced to your post from Saturday, May 23 and Sunday, May 24, 2015 (http://holmesian-news.livejournal.com/443760.html) saying: [...] by (G | ACD) + Anon Exchange Entries Fic for fyliwionvilyaer: and after me a strange tide turns [...]

Date: 2015-05-26 05:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fyliwionvilyaer.livejournal.com
Oh my. Oh my oh my oh my. I was away this weekend and only just got to read it and wah.

Author- you are you my absolute favourite person. This is absolute everything I want in a fic and most definitely goes into "fics I will constantly think about and reread" because Holmes and... and the "They watch me every time."

*covers you in roses*
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