Although I had always been Holmes' closest- and probably only- friend, I never had noticed how much brighter life was with him around until his return after three years of painful absence. I still remembered how he had suddenly stood before me, how his hand had gently patted my back while I had been sobbing, with my head leaned on his shoulder. The memory made me smile, but at the same time it hurt to recall that maybe I would never be so close to him again. The overwhelming moment when I realized- that here he was, alive!- had enabled me to dare to show my feelings towards him for once. But now, after the joy of reunion had slowly given way to the dull reality of everyday routine, I had become so very cautious- out of the fear that his sharp senses would reveal to him what I tried to hide. Merely watching him made my heart already clench with sudden emotion, but what I felt I had to keep a secret. I was sure that Holmes would not understand, save reciprocate my feelings.
On a cloudy and rainy day we sat on either side of the fireplace, I absorbed in a novel and Holmes curled up in his armchair, half asleep. No troubled visitor or puzzled inspector of the Yard had stepped in for some time, and violin as well as chemicals hadn't been touched for weeks on end. "I don't feel like it.", had always been my friend's reply when I suggested whatsoever pasttime. "Cursed inertia.", I thought to myself, putting the novel aside and, lacking something else to do, made up my mind to visit some old aquaintances of mine. I didn't tell Holmes where I'd be going- he in his passiveness probably wouldn't have heard me anyway.
When I returned to Baker Street, I honestly didn't expect Holmes to even have moved. Indeed, upon my entering the sitting-room I found him still sitting in his chair, but no longer curled up in his feline manner.
Instead he had stretched out, eyes fixedly staring at the ceiling, and a vacant expression, almost a dreamy smile, replaced the usual keenness of his face. A vague suspicion rose in my mind, and when I now perceived his left shirt sleeve being rolled up under the loose fabric of the dressing-gown, it became certainty.
"Holmes...", I sighed while sinking down on the settee, with some reproach in my voice. I knew he wouldn't listen to me regarding this vice, but I just couldn't ignore it. He slowly turned his head and smiled languidly at me. "Ah, Watson. How is Stamford?"
I didn't bother to act surprised- though, I must admit, I actually was. I had never ceased to be amazed at every little demonstration and example of his deductive powers which he was so fond of giving.
"He's fine. -How did you...?" I asked in a slightly tired tone, knowing nevertheless that it pleased him to explain his way of reasoning to me- me, who was hardly ever able to follow his path of thought. Maybe that was the reason why he had always dragged me along.
Maybe he merely needed someone to- by comparison- seem clever himself...
I tried to make this bitter inner voice vanish. It would always pipe up when he'd vex me past tolerance. But still- who was I to think of him in such a manner? Him, who was...
My thoughts were interrupted by his answer: "Well, try to answer that by yourself- you know my methods." Holmes spoke slowly and the words came slightly heavily, like he was thinking about every word he was about to say. "Another effect of the drug, I believe.", I thought to myself and aloud I said: "Let me see- Probably my shoes?" I remembered that he had often inferred where I'd been from looking at my boots.
It seemed that my assumption- rather a guess, to be honest- was correct, since my friend smiled at me: "Quite so. I myself have been but once to his house, but I recall the soil around being of a peculiar quality. Adding the interval of time which has passed since you'd gone out, and with the knowledge that only one aquaintance of yours lives in this part of the city... It was a simple matter." I nodded, but said nothing further.
We sat in silence for some time, but then Holmes said lowly: "It's a shocking habit to make guesses, Watson, but this was a lucky one."
I was slightly embarrassed, maybe even angry to realize that he had recognized my answer as a guess. But he laughed when he saw my face, and continued: "Sorry, old chap- but you're making progress." He still was laughing, but despite the compliment I wasn't in the mood to find it very funny. I deliberately turned my head and stared into the fire.
A moment later I heard him move, and when I automatically looked at him, I noticed he had risen from the chair, that the languid expression had disappeared and had been replaced by a reflective and somehow bewildered glance. He looked like something had suddenly stricken him, something that he had not noticed before, some notion that slowly worked itself to the surface of his consciousness. I was curious what he had now come to realize.
Holmes slightly inclined his head to one side and seemed to study my face. I stared back at him, cheeks still flushed with anger, and waited for him to speak. When he did, he drawled:
"I never noticed... indignation does become you beautifully."
"Pardon?", I said, not sure at all what to do with this statement. He crossed the small space between us, and was now looking down on me. I had already experienced before that he sometimes cared little for the other's personal space, but I couldn't help to be surprised when Holmes leaned forward, rested his forearms on my shoulders and laced his fingers behind my head. His smile broadened into a somewhat impish and sassy grin.
"H-Holmes? What are you-" Then something even more unexpected happened.
His slightly drooping eyelids closed, and impulsively, yet carefully, he pressed his lips upon mine.
I felt like my heart would explode in my chest. I was stunned, absolutely unable to respond in whatsoever way.
A moment later Holmes rapidly backed away, pure shock plainly displayed on his features. His grey eyes opened wide, and like a sleepwalker which had been awoken abruptly, he seemed to come to his senses.
"Oh God... I'm- so... so sorry, Watson. I- I don't know what..."
He trailed off, and stared at me, paralyzed. When I couldn't muster up the strength to say something, he whispered:
"I... uh, let myself go- I don't know what has overcome me. Please... accept my apologies."
I cleared my throat, trying to ignore the sensation of his kiss which was still tingling through my nerves. In a coarse voice, I said: "I'm, uh, not... offended."
"It must be due to the drug." I thought, searching my memory for knowledge about the subject, "oh, yes- I remember that one of the side effects of cocaine is said to be the lack of inhibitions." Then suddenly something struck me: "Inhibitions?! Just a minute- but this means...!"
This meant: what he had done had not been a random act- it was something that he had wanted to do- only his exemplary self-control had restricted him! I desperately struggled for breath upon this discovery. I had never known...
Holmes was still rigidly standing there, the same horrified expression on his face, like a statue. For a moment I faltered. Then, with shaking hands, I reached out to touch his cheek, which burned on his otherwise pale face. His skin was warm, and I could sense his bated breath on my palm.
"Watson, my...- friend...", he whispered, "you're not angry?"
I shook my head. How could I be angry at him, when he...
Suddenly all my courage and determination to dare go further vanished, and I let my hand sink again. With a low sigh, Holmes sat down on the settee beside me. He laced his fingers in his lap, figuratively piercing the floor with his gaze. He looked somewhat broken, like a man facing defeat. After a moment I realized that the reason for his depression was that he probably misinterpreted my faltering. I made a half turn towards him and tried to steel myself for what I felt I had to say.
"Holmes... Let me correct something."
He looked up. Again I took his face into my hands, and again I was so insecure whether I should finally admit what I had hidden for years. As I looked into his eyes, filled with an emotion I had never before perceived in them, I felt so much affection well up in my core that I finally made my choice.
Leaning forward, I closed my eyes.
My lips hesitantly found his, and I layed a soft, brief, chaste kiss against them.
Now that we had dared to make the first step, I couldn't help myself to continue. It seemed that time had frozen when I felt his fingers move up my back and thread into my hair.
As gently as I could, I finally let go of Holmes. The still perceptible hint of the feeling when his lips had brushed over mine was burning ardently on my skin. When he looked at me, I could read on his face the things he could not say.
Sherlock Holmes suddely rather collapsed into my arms, and nestled his head to my shoulder and neck, like a child seeking comfort. With a smile on my lips which had waited so long to show itself I was stroking the dark head on my shoulder, while his soft, velvety voice whispered close to my ear:
"My dear Watson... If I had only known..."