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the island of conclusions

"The Things We Say With Our Hands" (Holmes/Watson fic)

the island of conclusions

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"The Things We Say With Our Hands" (Holmes/Watson fic)

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Title: The Things We Say With Our Hands
Pairing: Holmes/Watson
Rating: R
Genre: h/c
Word Count: 1,562
Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit
a/n: Written as a comment fic for roque_clasique's birthday comment fic meme. Happy birthday, roque! The prompt was: Watson has trouble with his leg on a daily basis, and he tries to downplay it, to Holmes and to himself. Holmes, however, is too observant to miss anything, but he humors Watson and pretends he doesn't notice... but he's sneaky and makes everything easier for him, when he can. Who could resist!
a/n: Yes, the rating and pairing up there are not typos: this is actual, though very mild, slash--a first for me, and I am blushing like a Victorian maiden. Be gentle, 'kay? *runs and hides*

Summary: They never spoke of it.

The Things We Say With Our Hands

They never spoke of it.

Watson might have tried once or twice. Perhaps on the first damp morning that Holmes had wordlessly taken his sword-cane and handed him his sturdy oak walking stick instead, the one he only used when things were particularly bad. He might have protested a bit then. But the lengthy disquisition he got in return—on the number of pieces of toast he had eaten (two and a quarter as compared to his customary three), and the number of minutes it had taken him to dress (twenty-two instead of his usual seventeen)—had convinced him that in this case, as in so many others, some things were better left unsaid.

It was disconcerting knowing that he was the object of such intense observation, so many minute calculations. But Watson found, to his surprise, that the sensation was not entirely unpleasant. And so he held his peace whenever Holmes ushered them into a hansom even though they were only a few blocks from home, or discreetly took his arm in jostling crowds.

Indeed, it was something of a relief not to have to put the fact that his leg troubled him more days than not into words.

The thing for which he was truly grateful was that Holmes never suggested that Watson might not be able to follow through on a case, might not be able to keep up his end of a fight or carry out a pursuit. And so far, thank God, the detective’s faith had been justified: his leg had never let him down in dangerous circumstances—luck or resolve or sheer British pluck getting him through when his friend needed him most.


Holmes, being Holmes, occasionally found ways to turn Watson’s disability to their advantage. The detective himself was a master of disguise, could use a stray prop or a new cravat to alter his persona so completely that his dearest friends could barely recognize him. But Watson was always Watson, bluff, quizzical and unchanging, useless at going “incognito.”

Only sometimes, when they had cause to interview a veteran or a grieving widow, Holmes would make a subtle lurching gesture, and Watson, God help him, would play it up a bit. Use the cane to drag himself more heavily to his feet, perhaps even allow a grunt of pain to pass his lips. He wasn’t manufacturing anything—just briefly, deliberately, letting years of familial and military training slip.

It always worked. The object of their inquiries, male or female, would go soft-eyed and sympathetic, involuntarily reaching out a hand to comfort or assist, and spilling the necessary information without even realizing it. Watson could never decide whether to be pleased or embarrassed by the outcome. But Holmes would clap him on the back afterward and say, “well bowled, old chap, well bowled.”


There were days, however, when the shredded muscles in his thigh ached so fiercely, and for so long, that Watson was forced to dip into the laudanum he kept among his medical supplies. He hated doing it, the drug tended to loose other demons even as it eased the pain. But if he twisted the leg in the wrong way, or spent too many hours mucking through sewers or swamps or worse, even those waking dreams seemed a welcome alternative to the resulting agony.

The first time he dosed himself in front of Holmes he tried to do so nonchalantly, as if it meant no more than taking a neat whiskey at the end of the day. Holmes betrayed no particular interest in his actions, didn’t glance up from his papers as Watson carefully resettled himself in front of the fire, waiting for the drug to smooth the sharp edges off the pain.

After long moments, the fire began to blur in front of him, but he was far from insensible. On the contrary, his hearing seemed to take on an uncanny acuity even as his vision faded. He heard the door creak as Mrs. Hudson come into the room, the clatter of china as she cleared the tea things.

“Is he alright?” she asked Holmes, clearly worried to see the doctor slumped in his chair at barely half past five.

“Tipsy,” Holmes replied, in tones of genteel regret, “for a military man he has a remarkably low tolerance for drink.”

Mrs. Hudson snorted delicately, and although Holmes’s explanation had done his dignity no favors, Watson was obscurely grateful he hadn’t shared the details of his condition with their landlady.

“Right,” Holmes said, once she’d left, “off to bed with you—you’ll regret it tomorrow if you sleep here.”

He pulled Watson to his feet, and with the wiry strength that still so often took Watson by surprise shouldered most of the doctor’s weight. Holmes efficiently divested him of jacket, waistcoat and boots, and steered him into bed, propping his still mildly aching leg with pillows.

Watson had pried his eyelids open at that point, suddenly worried about what he might find on the other side of wakefulness. He had taken a heavy dose, and the drug was starting to raise figures in the shadows. His lips twisted as he tried to warn Holmes about the things lurking in the corners of the room, but they refused to form coherent words.

Holmes seemed to understand his unspoken, shameful fears, however. He laid an unexpected, steadying hand on Watson’s forehead and said firmly, “Rest now, there’s nothing to fear here. Rest.”

And Watson did.


Even more rarely, the whole leg would cramp suddenly, excruciatingly, leaving him in frozen agony.

This happened late one night after a rousing chase that had taken them down alleys and over rooftops, culminating in a particularly satisfying round of bare-knuckled fighting in an abandoned root cellar in Shoreditch.

They had laughed all the way back to Baker Street, riding a wave of physical exhilaration and good-fellowship, collapsing into the well-worn furniture of the flat with the happy exhaustion of a job well done.

And then, without warning, someone drove an ice pick into his thigh, wrenching and twisting the flesh as if searching for the bone. That’s what it felt like, at any rate.

Years of training, ingrained systems of belief, demanded that he hide the pain, so he resolutely did not gasp, did not make any sound at all. Didn’t move, except to push the heel of one hand into the suddenly petrified muscles. He thought longingly of the laudanum, stowed in his black bag on the impossibly distant far side of the room, but he doubted he stand at this point, much less walk.

Watson could have sworn that he kept his face impassive as well, but he must have let his eyes slide shut for an instant, because when he blinked them open again, Holmes was crouched in front of him, his knees bracketing Watson’s bad leg.

Without asking permission—which was just as well, since Watson was once again beyond speech—Holmes dug strong, precise fingers into his tortured limb, kneading the knotted, clenched muscles with the same exactitude he brought to difficult violin sonatas.

They had never done this before, never crossed this particular line of intimacy, yet Holmes worked with a sureness, a certainty, that might have been the product of years of practice. A quick study, Watson thought vaguely, as the fire threading through the sinews of his leg began to cool—probably effortlessly converting some carelessly perused anatomy text into practical knowledge.

He should protest, he thought, should shoo Holmes away. But he was incapable of thinking anything, feeling anything, apart from the necessity of those hands as pain gave way to comfort, and comfort gave way to pleasure.

Watson watched Holmes’s face as he worked, the golden lamp light limning the creases and shadows of it, emphasizing the intensity of his dark eyes. Holmes was giving Watson’s leg the same concentration that he habitually bestowed upon mathematical or criminal problems, but he must have sensed the doctor’s gaze, because his fingers slowed, and he looked up, meeting Watson’s eyes.

For a long moment, they hung fire, cradled in the skein of their mutual regard.

Then, the release from pain somehow freeing him from other strictures, Watson leaned forward, caught the nape of Holmes’s neck in his hand, and drew him into a kiss. Holmes’s lips were warm, as strong and supple as his fingers, and Watson could feel them curving into a smile. He sank deeper into the kiss as Holmes’s mouth opened under his, the joyful discovery of new tastes and textures driving away the lingering ache of his leg.

Holmes pressed closer, his hands moving again, confidently stroking up Watson’s legs, tracing the line of his hips. With a groan that had nothing to do with pain, Watson reached for more, pulled Holmes up to straddle him, hands burrowing under his waistcoat and shirttails, searching for skin.

With the last trace of coherent thought he had left, it occurred to Watson that he should say something, make sure that he was allowed to take this step, ask Holmes what he thought they were doing. But the thought slipped away under the pressure of Holmes’s body, his hands, his tongue, and he concluded, that in this instance, as in so many others, some things were better left unsaid.

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