Flash Fiction: Stop. Don’t Stop.
Each week I’ll ask my Twitter followers for a word, phrase, image or character as prompts for flash fiction. I’ll select a few and write a quick short fic! If you want to take part, follow me on Twitter and look out for the hashtag #FlashFictionFriday.
This week’s prompts are from Twitter users @azriona1912, @avawtsn (who prompted a Sherlockian story) and @Alexxphoenix42. This is a contemporary setting, but not otherwise in an existing universe.
Stop. Don’t Stop.
Sherlock Holmes, unable to actually read minds, did not stop talking.
He was expounding at this point on a treatise he’d read on lividity as affected by ambient temperature, levels of exsanguination, and whether the body had been found in the primary or a secondary location and therefore changed position in the interim.
Forensics was not John Watson’s speciality, though his knowledge had come on in leaps and bounds since becoming Sherlock Holmes’ flatmate.
Sherlock did not stop talking. In the midst of one of his great enthusiasms, he was energetically pacing the carpet at 221b with the easy grace of a natural dancer. He gestured with those elegant arms of his; with those long fingers of which John had written so much in his case studies. Sherlock’s grey eyes were alight with his zeal for the topic. His expression, so often languid and dreamy when between cases at home, was alive with humour and fascination.
Sherlock’s voice thrumming with articulate passion on his favourite topics was always a joy to hear. And if John had not been harbouring his secret crush for going on three months now, he’d be having a wonderful time listening to it.
Well, no. That voice, languid or sharp, in quiet reflection or in full-throttle discourse on the processes of violent death, had been one of the reasons for the secret crush to begin with.
Please. Stop talking.
It was as though Sherlock’s voice had a direct line to John Watson’s libido and John was wondering how he might make a rapid escape without causing offence. It seemed just as likely that The Most Observant Man In London And Probably The World would take offence anyway, when he stopped talking long enough to notice John’s reaction.
Keep talking. Please keep talking.
John fixed an expression of deep interest on his own face, with a tiny frown, his head thrust a little forward indicating close attention, the occasional nod and ‘Mm-hmmm’. It was a technique he’d deployed with overly talkative colleagues, some sergeant majors, and the occasional patient. He made a particular effort to listen to things other than his flatmate’s gloriously sexy voice: the drip of the kitchen tap which he’d yet to fix; the sound of a gunning engine in the street outside; the plinkerty-plonkerty Greensleeves heralding a Mr Whippy ice cream van some streets away.
Sherlock’s voice was now a deep background melody, a delightful low-level murmur of music to punctuate the supple way Sherlock moved through every space he occupied.
Three months ago, his old colleague Stamford had brought the two of them together – this man of purpose and poise, and John Watson – a man robbed of purpose and, still recovering from traumatic injury and life-threatening hospital infection, devoid of poise as well. Most of John’s nights were restless from half-haunted dreams, his days fractious with exhaustion and misery. He spent the latter in the living room, gaunt and easily wearied, half-heartedly applying for locum positions he didn’t think he could get, and watching.
Watching mysterious guests arrive unhappy, leaving full of hope. Watching Sherlock Holmes play his violin, tinker with his chemistry set, contemplating solutions with deep introspection. John’s attention was riveted by the spectacle of this self-contained man with the hawk-like nose, the piercing eyes, the beautiful hands.
For that first week, John expected at any moment for Sherlock Holmes to say, ‘So sorry, Doctor. This isn’t working out. Stay until you can find another flat, of course.’ He seemed a decent bloke, after all.
Instead, Sherlock had invited John’s medical opinion on a client who had just departed. Startled at being so suddenly called upon to contribute, John drew upon his years of army medical practice – a varied field of endeavour for any student of humanity – and gave as thorough an account of his thoughts as he could.
Well, he had been staring. Mostly at Sherlock, but also at the client, at their interactions.
‘You agree with me, then,’ Sherlock had said. ‘The man’s faking his injuries.’
‘Exaggerating them, perhaps. Without an examination or knowledge of his medical history, I wouldn’t like to make a summary judgement.’
‘Ah. You exhibit a healthy caution, Doctor. It’s a capital mistake to theorise ahead of the facts. But your thoughts, combined with my prior knowledge, suggest the inevitable conclusion that this fellow hopes to put me off the scent with his spurious story of a stabbing.’
God, the way the man talked, like a hero in a Victorian novel. In someone else it might have been risible. In Sherlock Holmes, it was utterly captivating.
Sherlock had called on John’s expertise often since then. On his company when expertise wasn’t required. He even told John of his early cases, allowing John to make notes as he spoke. ‘I should make a record of my work and methods someday. Your efforts may be a good beginning.’
John hadn’t any idea of publishing anything. He just liked to listen to Sherlock talk and taking notes gave him the excuse.
Sherlock had stopped talking.
Non-committal. That was the way to play it. ‘Hmm?’
John looked into Sherlock’s knowing grey eyes. Realised that he’d been tuning out of the actual words but zooming in on Sherlock’s hands. His mouth and throat. His slender body, head to foot. Desire had made John’s skin flush, his pulse rate quicken.
John Watson had been sprung checking out his flatmate like a besotted teenager. Or the grown idiot creeper he was.
John made a strange noise. A strangled sound, to accompany his wide-eyed, deer-in-the-headlights stare. He had a powerful new desire, for instant transportation to Mars. Perseverance Rover might be able to tolerate him, with a whole planet to share. Blessed suffocation might eradicate this mortification at some point in the future, too.
‘I…’ John began, but words failed him utterly. Should he deny it? Apologise? Flee?
Sherlock’s smile was unexpected. The warmth in his eyes even less so.
‘Your evident interest is…’
The next word would redeem or ruin it all. Inappropriate. Curious. Unwelcome. Flattering. John held his breath.
John began breathing again, then stopped again. Reciprocated?
‘You talk this time,’ said Sherlock, flinging himself into his armchair, showing off his athletic build like he rehearsed the move three times a week for maximum visual impact. ‘I’ll drink my fill of you.’
He let his eyes roam over John’s physique, much improved now from those early days of recovery. Broad-shouldered, strong, steady. A bulldog to Sherlock’s greyhound.
‘What shall I…?’
‘Anything you like, dear fellow. The sound of your voice is remarkably stimulating. Tell me what you’d like us to do when we’re naked together, now we have the preliminaries out of the way.’
There was nothing in this world so heady as The Most Observant Man In London And Probably The World bending his entire focus upon you, while smiling with wicked and affectionate promise.
John was a man with a powerful gift for description. He spoke, Sherlock listened, until communication happened in motion as well as words and they–
–did not stop.