I've been checking the downloads for Prelude on Feedbooks, and I've got over 900 downloads now. Feedbooks also has a new feature for authors called Analytics, which gives you various statistics about your book. I'm not surprised that two-thirds of my downloads are from the US, but I am surprised that a small percentage are downloaded from far away places like Malaysia and Ukraine. It's nice to see that there are Holmes slash fans all over the world.
I also saw a prompt on the SHkinkmeme for a Holmes/Watson retirement fic, so I thought I'd post a relevant sketch that I wrote last month.
Anyone not familiar with my sketches should know that they are written in an informal, poem-like style; I use odd sentence breaks and random abbreviations.
This story is a little AU in that it makes up a child for Watson, so I explain that backstory in the beginning before I get into the present time, 1914. A somewhat needy, naive Holmes convinces Watson to not join the war.
Fandom: Sherlock Holmes
Story: Tighter sketch
Warnings: slash, PG-13
W and Mary had a daughter in 1890,
and named her after her mother.
Mary's health declined, and she died sometime after 1891.
When Holmes returned in 1894,
Watson sold his practice,
and sent his young daughter
to live with Mrs. Cecil Forrester, her godmother,
because W felt little Mary needed a maternal figure.
However, he still visited her often,
when not on a case with Holmes.
Watson married again in about 1902,
and moved to Queen Anne Street
with his wife and Mary, now 12.
His daughter got along with her stepmother,
and all was well, except for H suddenly retiring.
Watson heard barely a word from Sussex for years.
Then Watson was widowed again in 1913,
while H was away.
His daughter married a soldier
in early 1914 when she was 24.
In August, W received Holmes's message,
then joined him on his spy mission.
With the war begun, W closes his practice
and attempts to sign up again for the army,
but is rejected due to his age.
He moves back into 221B and stews unhappily.
(Mrs. Hudson is retired,
but Holmes owns the property outright,
and let him go there to be in London.)
W considers trying to join some civilian service instead.
Doyle was talking about organizing something.
Meanwhile H lives in his Sussex cottage
with only a housekeeper and his bees.
Relieved to hear that Watson was rejected, even for medical service,
and he wonders if perhaps Mycroft thought to intervene.
H telegrams W and asks him to come check his health.
W arrives with his bag, slightly worried.
H sits up in his bed, still in pyjamas,
and greets him happily.
He points out his lack of goatee.
"Now Altamont is gone,
and my speech has finally stopped being
I'm back to myself again."
"That's nice, Holmes.
You're not ill, then?"
"No, Watson, but I did want to see you again.
You haven't come by since that night in August."
"You were the one who said it would be our last quiet talk."
"Yes, but I find that you remain in England after all.
So should I not have a consultation with my physician?"
"Your physician, am I?
You haven't taken up with the local doctor?"
"I prefer you, my friend."
Watson looks sceptical,
given how much Holmes hated
being nagged about his health.
The army may not want you,
but I still do."
Watson shrugs and sighs.
"Then this is some pity house-call,
to make me feel useful?"
"No. Come look at my rheumatism."
Holmes shows his stiff joints
and Watson rubs the once perfect fingers gently,
prescribing some lotion for them.
Holmes still insists that he be examined
for other ailments too,
so Watson gets out his stethoscope
and does a full check-up.
Holmes is surprisingly compliant and relaxed.
He says softly, "I have missed you, Watson.
It was quite exhausting spending two years spying,
without even my old friend as my accomplice."
"You never told me of it until the end."
"How could I?
You had a wife and child you could not leave behind.
Mycroft chose me because I was free
and could use some mental challenge.
I let you think I was absorbed with my bees
and my magnum opus.
I did not pretend to be dead this time."
W nods. "I appreciate it.
Though I-I was hurt when you did not respond
at the news of my bereavement."
touching his hand.
"I apologise. I thought Mycroft would answer my mail."
"He did. He offered condolences in your name.
But--but I had expected you to come.
To at least call on the phone."
Watson dismisses it.
"It's all right. I understand now."
"You are always so understanding, Watson.
But since I am here, I wonder...
would you--would you consider...?"
"Would you move in with me here?"
"Live with me again.
You have no wife now and no practice.
Your child is grown and gone.
Come live here as my doctor.
Be my secretary and help me finish
my never-ending book
on the Whole Art of Detection.
I need your company."
Watson looks at him.
"I don't want your pity."
"It is not pity.
Pity me, Watson.
Being away has made me crave our old friendship.
We should never have let it drift away."
"Watson, don't leave.
Don't keep trying to volunteer.
Don't leave me, just when I have returned."
shaking his head.
"I cannot sit idle in this war.
I must do my part."
"You've done your part.
You already served your country."
"Thirty years ago!
If you can give two years now, then I can--"
"I did not serve before!
I have never really... not as you did.
I gave those years for you."
He frowns, confused.
"Watson, I-I did it so you should not have to join again.
So that England should have a chance of survival
despite your absence.
I did it to be worthy of you,
who have been so selfless always.
You gave two years before,
so I gave mine now."
"Worthy of me? But Holmes--"
"My cases are nothing compared to your service,
and most of them, I solved with your help.
You served alone, young and brave,
suffering all for gallant patriotism.
I could be no soldier;
I would rebel instantly from orders and discipline.
But this I could do. This I could accomplish
for the good of my country.
My unique talent trying to equal your steadfast sacrifice.
I gave it because of you."
"But I--how can I sit by?
With so many boys to suffer?"
"But that is why we still need steadfast men to remain,
to comfort and protect those at home.
How would your daughter feel
if she should lose not only her husband
but her father too?
You should be here to watch over her."
"I don't know."
"Stay for me also.
Please stay, Watson.
I need you here.
England is not home without you."
caressing his face.
"Are you so lonely?
I thought you had friends here?"
How else could they not notice my absence for two years?
Mostly I have my bees and my housekeeper.
Stay here. Bring life back to me."
Watson sighs, feeling torn.
"Get away from the foul air of London.
Drive your car around here,
and I'll show you the sights.
Tell me your stories and write more.
Watch over my eating and my rheumatism.
Let me try to play my violin for you.
Keep me company, my old friend."
Watson gives in, having missed him too.
"But I should check in on my daughter too."
"Of course. We'll drive to visit her sometimes,
go into London to stay at Baker Street."
He embraces Watson gratefully.
Watson puts aside the stethoscope
and hugs him back.
He starts to pull away, but H holds on.
"Please," he murmurs, " a little longer.
Let this make up for my being gone during your bereavement."
Watson agrees, but still worries. "Are you all right?"
nods. "Tighter, please."
W holds him closer, pats his back.
H savours his arms, sighing against his shoulder.
Finally lets go and lays back against the pillows.
"I apologise, Watson.
We do not embrace often enough,
and I wanted to make this one last."
Watson is surprised, given how cold Holmes is.
"You... are not usually so demonstrative."
"Absence makes the heart grow fonder, as the saying goes.
Two years among strangers, never letting my guard down--
it makes such familiarity more precious.
Watson, if you recall, your greeting for me in August
was brief and not physical,
and you gave me only a glance before driving away."
"I heard your words, certainly," he assured,
"and could feel the emotion in your eyes.
But I craved the touch as well.
It is a pleasant and warm sensation."
"Yes." He finds H peculiar,
and touches his forehead.
H smiles indulgently and touches his arm.
"You are better than Victor Trevor even,
although of course he was mourning over his father
at the time and was clinging to me as he wept.
He must have held onto me for ten minutes
before he could compose himself enough
to show me the cipher and his father's papers.
I did my best to comfort him,
and his final embrace before saying goodbye to me
was more understated." pause
"In America, I wished sometimes
that I had told you of my mission,
so that you could have hugged me goodbye."
W asks, "You have not had many hugs, Holmes?"
"Not regularly, at least since I was a child.
Watson, I told you I was not a sociable fellow.
Not a hearty lad who might wrangle with another fellow
over rugby or cricket.
You have been my only friend for years,
and as I said, we do not hug often enough."
W thinks he looks so young,
despite his grey hair and wrinkles.
"Oh Holmes!" hugs him again.
Holmes gasps in surprise and clings to him.
"Oh thank you, my friend. Thank you."
They lay down against the bed and sigh,
holding each other.
Holmes repeats, "Tighter."
Watson remains there a while,
then sits up and straightens his clothes.
Holmes looks at him fondly, softly.
"I shall be glad when you have moved in,
and we may embrace often."
"Yes." Watson caresses his hair.
"I'll go unpack."
He brought an overnight bag for this visit.
"Yes." Holmes watches
as Watson leaves for the guest room.
Then he gets up and dresses.
They have dinner later and then walk along the coast,
Holmes linking their arms together.
Quite happy and peaceful.
Telling stories of his adventures as Altamont
and mentioning often how he missed Watson.
Checks on the beehives for a moment.
They return to the cottage, then have drinks.
Say good-night and hug briefly.
Watson stares after him,
finally knowing what his duty, his purpose, is now.
He must give H human contact,
to make up for all his years alone.
The next day, they drive up to London together,
and pack the rest of Watson's things.
Reminisce about old days.
They return to Sussex and spend some days celebrating.
Holmes is practically giddy, and tends to touch him often.
They hug, and Holmes lingers,
remarking on what a fool he was to not request embraces before,
always waiting for Watson to overcome his reserve.
"My dear friend.
I would have hugged you as soon as I took off my disguise in 1894,
but you fainted and thwarted me.
I can hardly believe that you forgave me."
They go swimming sometimes at the shore,
then sit wrapped in their towels, slightly shivering.
Holmes dares to sit closer, lean against him.
Watson looks at him, asks him why he retired
and moved so far away from London.
"I thought--you hardly came to see me.
You were like a hermit."
"I thought it best, Watson.
You were married again,
and preoccupied with your family.
I thought perhaps you might want to have another child.
I remembered how you were when your daughter was born.
We only saw each other three times that year."
Watson touches him with regret.
"Well, that and Mary's health had begun to...
Did you leave me because of that?
You pretended to die so that I could be safe,
taking care of my family?"
They return to the cottage,
go change clothes,
then sit by the fire to dry some more.
A calm and peaceful silence,
as Holmes leans against him on the couch.
That night, Watson goes to H's room again.
They embrace again, whispering.
"I am not a habit to you? Just--"
"No. Not a bedpost.
How could you write of yourself that way?"
"Oh Holmes." holds him tighter.
H asks him to stay the night, just once.
W nods and they lay together.
Begin to regularly hold each other in bed.
They also go to town sometimes.
Visit Watson's daughter, then spend the night in 221B.
H realises that he did not have any clothes here anymore.
Borrows a night-shirt from W,
and they lay in the narrow bed.
Curled up close.
H wakes in the night;
W is dreaming of his wife Mary,
sliding his hand up the shirt.
H wakes him,
W realises that he's aroused.
"I'm sorry." blushes,
then starts to withdraw to his own room.
H stops him, says sadly,
"I am sorry I am not as good company as your wives."
W tries to dismiss it as nothing.
"Are you--do you think of marrying again, Watson?"
"No. I'm too old.
And certainly not in this war."
"I wish--I don't want to be selfish.
To keep you from--"
"No, Holmes. I want to stay.
I've missed you too."
"If I could only give you...
But no, that's a sin."
Watson stares at him.
"You're talking about--?"
"Call it my senility. My feeble mind going."
W leans close, kisses his cheek.
"There is something we could try."
W asks him if he went to boarding school.
H says no, he was educated with a private tutor,
since he did not get on well with other boys.
W explains something they could do.
Lays Holmes down and presses their sexes together.
H trembles, asks, 'Is this sodomy?"
W says no. It's merely harmless, boyish.
No need to fear. Why if this were a sin,
then many Englishmen would be doomed to Hell,
would not have married as he did.
He slides up H's shirt and rubs them together.
H moans and clings to him.
Thrusting softly, sometimes kissing each other's cheek.
Friction and pleasure,
soft sighs in the darkness.
Then urgency and release.
W wipes them clean
and they lay together embracing.
Nuzzles his neck. "I love you."
H catches his breath and nods.
"My dear Watson...
Very warm and pleasant.
Keeps describing the sensations,
fascinated and overwhelmed.
Watson smiles. "Beautiful."
"Yes." Finally falls silent,
just staring at him with wonder.
Clings to Watson until they fall asleep.
In the morning they smile at each other,
then get up and dress.
They go home to Sussex as normal.
They make love often,
acting as if it's chaste, blameless.
Holmes tells Watson that he loves him too.
Have to stifle their moans from the housekeeper,
until they decide to have her only come in
during the day, and not at night.
They make their own breakfast too,
so that they do not have to worry
about sneaking out of bed in the early morning.
Perhaps sometimes they have intercrural sex as well,
and take baths together after swimming.
Cherish each other.
Mycroft eventually inquires after learning
that they're living together again.
Deduces and tries to tell them they are too close.
They don't want to see it his way,
don't want to let go.
It can't be wrong. It can't be.
They're at home at last,
so perfectly at home with each other.
Mycroft eventually gives up,
but warns them not to be overt or public.
W says he would do nothing to embarrass his daughter.
He publishes more stories now,
mentioning his wife, and H's retirement,
but not mentioning her death
or that they are living together again.
Writes BLAN and LION to keep up the fiction
that they never see each other anymore.
All the while living in cozy retirement.
I didn't want to stretch out the end to their eventual deaths, 'cause that depresses me.
Also, in case you didn't notice, I don't equate Mrs. Hudson with either Martha the spy or Holmes's housekeeper in Sussex, because she can afford to retire after all of Holmes's princely payments. I think she deserves to retire too, and not spend her elderly years still looking after Holmes, or being a spy. The whole "Martha" thing strikes me as being unrealistic Sherlockian nonsense, as much as Holmes living forever on the royal jelly from his bees.