The opium gives everything a shimmery edge, like an over-exposed photograph. The drapery and furnishings are opulent, oriental and Byzantine, in lush tones of red and gold. They add to the sense of excess and decadence that hangs in the room with the haze of smoke.
The slide of his silk dressing gown along his skin is tinglingly erotic. He's also aware of the slight prickle from the cashmere robe of his smoking companion through the thin cloth.
This is…pleasant, but I wouldn't have thought it your drug of choice, our drug of choice.
No, we always preferred the thrill of the cocaine, didn't we? The spiking flare of vibrancy that made the dullness bearable. Do we still?
It's harder now. Difficult to obtain. Dangerous to have.
Yes. In my day they are all available at the chemist, prescribed even. An evening like this, with the hookah, is considered no more dangerous than an evening of overindulgence in alcohol.
As if to underscore his point Holmes takes a deep draw on the pipe. The hookah bubbles musically and the sound dances through Sherlock's brain like raindrops on a roof. Sherlock catches Holmes' wrist and Holmes holds the pipe to Sherlock's mouth for him to inhale. The gesture is intimate, dangerously so when every nerve in his body is too sensitive, too aware, but the lethargy in his limbs, the wish simply to lie back against Holmes' legs, shut his eyes and let the drug roll through him in waves, combats the sexual desire.
Holmes draws the mouthpiece down Sherlock's neck and over his sternum. Sherlock feels himself shiver despite his lassitude.
Oh, he sighs.
Holmes chuckles, a low sound that sets up an answering vibration in Sherlock's own chest. Like so much else about them, their voices match, full baritones, resonant with power, seductive and manipulative when they want, cruelly dismissive much of the time. Their voices betray their breeding and their class, but they can put on others when they need.
I knew you would like that. Because I like it.
They both smile with equally suggestive mouths. Holmes takes another drag and blows smoke rings over Sherlock's head. With his other hand he tousles Sherlock's hair.
Such decadent curls, Holmes teases. His grip tightens and Sherlock gasps, tilting his head back into Holmes' pull.
That would have marked you, in my day.
Marked me as what?
Decadent, louche, a sensualist. Perverted, perhaps. Introverted.
Sherlock quirks a sideways smile.
Now, he says, over-styling with product is considered…fussy. Not necessarily…introverted…but taken with other markers…
Every era has its markers. And you are…fussy. We both pretend we don't care, but we like the finer things, expensive clothes, good food when we choose to eat. We are each preening cats. Don't try to deny it.
Holmes shifts, lowering his hip. Sherlock lets his head fall back over the other man's legs. They both run warm despite the appearance of cool, pale skin, ninety-nine degrees when normal, and the opium has made them flush, adding a dust of rose across aristocratic cheekbones.
Sherlock takes the pipe and inhales, lets the hot smoke run out through his nose. He slips a finger inside the collar of Holmes' open nightshirt and smoothes it over the other's collarbone, adding the slight press of his nail in the hollow as a return for the earlier parry. He's rewarded with a slight flutter of Holmes' eyelids.
Engage in a carnal act?
…would it be masturbation?
I doubt at this point either of us would be up for anything, so to speak.
There is no other time.
Ah. Did you? In your time?
I was not…a monk. Though Watson made me out to be in his romantic tales.
My John, yes.
There we are both lucky.
To find a man, a friend, who would gladly die for us.
It's a sort of burden, but one worth bearing. Be good to your Watson. Don't take him for granted.
I don't, says Sherlock, rankled, defensive, starting to rise.
Holmes tilts his head and cocks an eyebrow chidingly. The gesture reminds Sherlock unpleasantly of Mycroft.
Don't do that. You look like Mycroft. Neither of us should ever let ourselves look like Mycroft. We are far better looking.
Holmes laughs again, higher pitched this time, more mirthful.
Sherlock stiffens. He suspects that the laughter is at his expense.
True, Holmes continues, I like my brother more than you like yours.
Mycroft is a manipulative bastard.
I often wished that my Mycroft took more of an interest. But I do understand. It is often easier to love someone from a distance, especially for people like us. When they aren't seen as competition, or as meddlesome. I know that your Mycroft cares for you as mine does me.
Sherlock winces. He takes another pull from the hookah to subdue feeling.
He goes on, why do you remember me but I don't remember you? You're from the past. Surely I should remember your adventures.
I remember you because I remember being you. Or rather, I remember being your age. What I was like; what I liked. What I liked but couldn't always get.
That is somewhat easier to obtain in my time.
But not always from the one we would wish, no?
No. Not always. But that doesn't explain why I don't remember being you.
Because if you exist, then I never did. Likewise if I exist then you cannot.
Sherlock frowns, tries to focus. His brain feels like a cluster of disconnected clues defying pattern.
But we both exist; we're both here.
No, not really. Would you like me to play for you? I imagine in your time that you have fewer opportunities to enjoy someone else's playing. I also remember being rather lax in practicing in my late twenties and early thirties.
Holmes rises, gracefully holding back the skirts of his nightshirt and robe, revealing shapely, muscled calves, slender but strong ankles and long feet in velvet slippers. Sherlock collapses back against the overstuffed pillows. The tapestry feels shockingly rough in his hyper-aware state.
Holmes lifts his violin from its case with bony fingers made soft and gentle in reverence. He slips it beneath his chin and begins Paganini's Violin Sonata Number 6. Sherlock is asleep before the tempo change.