elen_nare: (elen)
Title: Night at the 'George'
Fandom: The Red House Mystery - A. A. Milne
Rating: PG
Length: 973 words
Content notes: set very near the end of the book, so slightly spoilery - though the solution of the actual mystery isn't mentioned.
Author notes: Did you know that A. A. Milne (yes, Winnie-the-Pooh A. A. Milne) wrote a detective novel? And that it is 1. good, 2. really funny, 3. slashable to an almost ridiculous extent, and 4. freely available on Project Gutenberg? Well, now you do :) For the 'confession' challenge at fan-flashworks. Also for the free square in my trope_bingo card, using 'sharing a bed' (canonically. See point 3 above!).
Summary: Antony is not revealing his conclusions about the case, no matter how much Bill asks - but he does have one confession to make.

“Bed at last!” Bill exclaimed, throwing himself down on the one he and Antony were to share and stretching luxuriously.

Antony Gillingham smiled faintly at his friend’s antics, but said nothing, turning instead for a last look through the window. Was he really right, he wondered. It seemed the only possible solution, but was it? Well, he’d know tomorrow, one way or the other.

“Should I find you a violin?” Bill inquired, interrupting his musing.

Antony looked at him in astonishment, baffled by the apparent non-sequitur, and Bill elaborated.

“You look rather like I imagine Sherlock Holmes did whenever he took to playing the violin to clear his thoughts, and I am supposed to be your helpful Watson.”

Antony chuckled, leaning back against the wall. “You might regret your helpfulness if you did find me one! A dying cat would be about the limit of my violin playing, I should think - not that I've ever played one.”

“No violins, then! A violin played by an absolute beginner must be one of the most horrible sounds in existence,” Bill replied, with a theatrical shudder. “But you know, old chap, I really do want to help if I can, and I can tell something’s bothering you. Is it what you think you know about the murder? You can tell me about it if it helps.”

“Thanks, but it had better wait until to-morrow,” Antony said firmly. He’d be sure then, he thought. No point telling Bill until he was quite sure.

“I do wish you’d tell me,” Bill sighed. “I can't begin to guess what was interesting about the woman at the ‘Plough and Horses’, either… Oh! Is she The Woman? You know, your Irene Adler?”

“Ass,” Antony replied affectionately. “You haven't been reading your Conan Doyle properly if you imagine Irene Adler could be described as ‘middling’, for a start.”

“Ass yourself!” Bill retorted. “You didn’t meet the landlord. I’m fairly sure he would have described a literal angel just descended from heaven as ‘middling’ if he happened to see one!” He joined in Antony’s laugh, then looked at him inquisitively. “I don’t suppose you’re going to tell me what that was about, either?”

“To-morrow, I promise,” Antony said, with an apologetic look. He hoped Bill wouldn't be too angry when he learnt he’d been sent on a wild-goose chase.

“That’s all right,” Bill replied. “I don’t really mind waiting… so long as you aren’t going to mysteriously vanish in the night, leaving only a confession behind!”

“I can put your mind at ease about that at least,” Antony answered seriously. “I didn’t do it, and I’ve no intention of vanishing.”

“I was only joking,” Bill said, smiling at him. “You may be a complete madman, but you’re not a murderer!”

“How very complimentary,” Antony huffed, pretending to be offended. “Glad to know you think so highly of me, old boy!”

“Well, you are perfectly mad sometimes,” Bill answered, with a chuckle. “This afternoon for a start, with all your mysterious questions… Still, I don’t mind your being all Sherlocky. Being Watson has its compensations, like being the one who gets the drinks, even if it does mean doing the legwork - and the swimming - too.”

“I am sorry I sent you off,” Antony apologised again. A hearty dinner had done a good deal to revive Bill after his exertions, but Antony still felt rather guilty.

“Quite all right!” Bill said lightly. “All in a good cause and all that. Rather exhausting, though, so I think I'll turn in now, if you don't mind.”

Sitting up, he pulled off his sweater and undid his tie. Still leaning against the wall, Antony watched with appreciation - something that didn’t go unnoticed by Bill. Seemingly forgetting all about the exhaustion he’d just claimed to be suffering - or, Antony wondered, had it always been a ruse? - he smirked and started to slowly unbutton his shirt, holding Antony’s gaze.

“I do have a small confession to make,” Antony said slowly, his eyes dropping to Bill’s hands as they unfastened yet another button. “I had an ulterior motive for insisting that you be the one to do the diving, it wasn’t just because you’re taller.”

Bill snorted in amusement, ceasing his unbuttoning so he could lean back on his hands. “Good Lord, do you think I didn’t know that? Even the dullest and dimmest of Watsons would be capable of spotting that much, old boy. But you’ve rather slipped up as a Sherlock if you didn’t realise I had an ulterior motive for wanting you to do it instead.”

“I did think it wasn't like you to funk a bit of cold water,” Antony said, a hint of a smile playing on his lips.

For a moment, they were both silent, each waiting for the other to make the first move. Finally, Bill’s patience gave out.

“Well, are you just going to lean against that wall and ogle me all night?” he demanded. “Because I can think of much better ways to spend our time…”

“I thought you were exhausted and just wanted to sleep, isn't that what you said?” Antony asked, doing his best to keep a straight face.

“Damn what I said, and damn your perfect memory!” Bill retorted. He gave Antony a speculative look, then shrugged. “Still, suit yourself. If you want to waste the first night we’ve managed properly alone together sleeping against a wall I suppose you're free to...”

He raised his hands to his half-buttoned shirt again, playing with the next button, and Antony gave in, laughing.

“Oh, very well, you wretch, you’ve called my bluff. I never had the slightest intention of really spending the night over here… Though I do appreciate your methods of persuasion,” he said, and, shedding his jacket as he went, headed across to the bed where Bill awaited him.
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