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The Beating of My Heart

He doesn’t know that I can still see him when I close my eyes.

Sometimes I think your heart beats only when there’s a case, he once joked to me.

He is, of course, referring to my periods of stagnation where I might lie for days unmoving on the settee. But he could not be more mistaken in his observation.

My heart beats for him and him alone.

It was never quite the same after Stamford introduced us. After we moved in together, it was only a matter of speed.

When we sit at the table and chat over a meal, it thuds away at an easy gait. When we take on a case together, it picks up a regular, happy gallop. When he stands very close to me and places one hand on my shoulder, it launches into such a cantor that I sometimes think it might soar right out of my chest.

When I play for him on my violin, I let my heart speak its fondest words through the dulcet tones of Scarlatti and Mendelssohn. His lips twitch in the most endearing way as he falls asleep, wrapped in the sonic essence of my love.

Will I ever tell him?

I do not know. But my heart skips several beats simply thinking about it, and for now that’s enough.

*          *          *

Watson is easily impressed. Or, I should say, he seems easily impressed with me. I would be a fool to deny that this is part of his charm, or that I sometimes belabor the conclusion of a case simply to watch his wondrous confusion crease into comprehension and awe.

This is the very reason I allow Mr. Alfred Kimble, a troubled American, to come into our sitting room and divulge a story more than two hours in length.

From his appearance and manner, I can see that he has been distressed since landing in England a fortnight previous. He confirms this when he tells me that he is beside himself over the disappearance of his cousin, his only relative and friend on this side of the Atlantic.

Within ten minutes of his account, I know where his cousin may be found. But the keen interest with which Watson is listening to him is intoxicating. Even more so are the wide-eyed glances he keeps tossing in my direction. I can hear his thoughts asking me if this is to be believed.

And so I smoke pipe after pipe and affect concern as Mr. Kimble speaks. I have stopped listening long ago, as the prospect of delighting Watson with the answer to this puzzle has become decidedly more interesting.

I could pace the room and point out the revealing details. I could berate Mr. Kimble for missing the most blatant signs of his cousin’s disappearance. But I finally decide that this one may best be resolved with silence, as this will give me a chance to reserve most of my winning impressions for Watson alone after our client takes his leave.

When Mr. Kimble finally finishes, I smile and rise from my chair. I place my pipe on the mantle and turn to face him. He leans forward expectantly. Perfect. I walk over to my desk, take out a piece of paper and write down the name of a boarding house in Chadwell Heath.

I approach Kimble and hand him the paper.

Here’s where you will find your cousin, I tell him. Certainly she will be under an assumed name, so when you peruse the registry look for any names from her past. My guess is she’s chosen a family name, which will no doubt be obvious to you.

Kimble stares at the slip of paper, and asks me if I am sure.

If I am not sure, I tell him with a confident pat on the shoulder, then my name is not Sherlock Holmes.

He stammers his thanks and leaves.

After I usher him out the door, I turn to see Watson staring at me incredulously. It is one of his most beautiful expressions.

Out with it, Holmes, he says.

Explaining it to him is like making love. Every detail I share is calculated to invoke reaction.

As usual, he does not disappoint me.

*          *          *

It is late and we are still working.

How many more times must you make that awful solution? he asks me, wrinkling his nose. He goes to the window and opens it.

When I get it right, I repeat for the fifth time. His back is turned and I allow my eyes a quick sweep over his muscular frame. We shed our jackets hours ago, and his white shirt sleeves rolled past his elbows are making his forearms look even tanner.

He approaches me from behind and leans over my chemistry.

I sit back to take in his nearness, but I dab my hands with a towel as if I am taking a break from my project.

Let’s call it a night, he suggests. His breath tickles my ear. I need no more convincing.

Brandy?

Fine. Thank you.

We settle in our respective armchairs and sip in comfortable silence. I can hardly take my eyes from him. The crease of his brow tightens several times and I know he’s deep in thought.

I am merely trying to prove that this particular poison does not react with an acidic compound, I answer his unspoken inquiry.

There’s that expression again. My heart dances.

You’re incorrigible, he tells me playfully. How do you do it?

I smile and shake my head. I place my empty glass on the table and go to my bedroom to retrieve my dressing gown.

Really, Holmes, you must tell me how you read my thoughts. This trick of yours might earn you quite of bit of money, he calls after me.

When I re-enter the sitting room he is standing with arms crossed in a challenging pose.

What? I feign total innocence.

You heard me, he says. He approaches me where I’m standing in the doorway.

My innocence fades immediately when he is nose to nose with me.

What’s your secret, Sherlock? His brandy-tinged voice is husky and deep.

I gulp. My heart leaps to my groin and my cock begins to swell.

I catch my breath and he looks down. He sees the straining bulge in my trousers. His eyes grow wide, wider, and then his mouth parts.

I slide my hands up his chest and pull him to me. Our lips lock perfectly. The sensation is sweeter than I imagined.

When I pull away he emits a little gasp. I take his hand and place it over my erection. He closes his eyes and swallows. I press my palm over his hand. He dares himself to squeeze my cock in return.

I have to breathe faster now if I am to keep up with the acrobatics in my chest. I hold my hand over his while he moves his fingers over the linen covering my shaft. When I am fairly certain he will not recede, I unbuckle my belt and open my flies. And then I hold my breath and wait.

He watches his fingers wiggle into my clothes and curl around my arousal. When I finally exhale I am shaking with desire. My knees grow weak and begin to give out. I clutch his wrist and we stumble towards my bed.

We bounce softly upon the mattress. He pulls out my cock and glances up at me, asking silent permission. I nod unevenly and he begins to stroke.

It feels so good I cannot be still. I shift my body a number of times, hoping he will soon catch up to the rapidity with which my heart is sending blood to my groin.

Watson relaxes and rolls towards me so his body half covers mine. He is watching my face. If he remains observant, he will see everything.

When I begin to thrust he grips me harder. My hips gain speed. He hoists himself on one knee. I am not going to last much longer. I make a quick mental note not to say anything irrevocable upon my release.

Here it comes. I chance to open my eyes just once. When I catch sight of him gazing at me with more acute fascination than I’ve ever seen, I am lost.

My cock explodes and my heart goes with it, sending a dazzling shower of euphoria into every last one of my nerve cells. I grip his arms, his shoulders and finally his neck as I spend ceaselessly into his hand. My mind balks at the restrictions I have placed on it and I call out anyway, Je voudrais….Je voudrais….Je voudrais….

The convulsions eventually stop but my body is still teeming with activity. My heart is thrumming so wildly that I must place my hand over it. I swallow several times and blink the room back into focus.

My eyes find him again. The look of wonder has not left his face. I reach down and discover that he has grown hard, too. I roll over him in a flash and start on his own flies.

But he is hesitant and unsure of himself. I can hear it in the way his breath hitches.

Holmes, wait, he says. But I must not hear him because I keep going, keep pushing his clothes aside until I am face to face with his thick hard cock. My every instinct tells me to put the entire thing in my mouth.

He gasps and drops his head on the pillow behind him. But his body remains tense and his hands hover an inch from my head as if they might pull me away at any second.

And so, I apply all my strength and skill to pleasuring him to the hilt. In no time at all I am an expert on his manhood. His body sinks into the mattress. His hands grasp my head. His fingers thread my hair. He is now as fully ensconced as I am and I do not waste a single second of this rare privilege.

My heart is in my mouth and it wants to escape. I suck so hard my cheeks cave in and then he comes with a feral yell. He throbs onto my tongue. I drink him down.

When he has nothing left I finally pull away. I close my eyes and luxuriate in the bittersweet taste of him.

I rejoin him on the pillow. His hand is over his face. He can’t quite believe what has just happened. I consider kissing him again, but I sense the taste of himself would not please him.

I want nothing more than to fall asleep in his arms, but he sits up after a short spell. I carefully scrutinize his features for signs of distress. I see none.

Well, I’ll let you get some sleep, he says. He fumbles to refasten his clothing but he can’t seem to find the buttonholes. He turns to me with a grin.

I suppose it’s of little matter now, he says sheepishly. I feel my face break into a smile.

Good night, Holmes, he whispers.

I watch him leave my room and listen to him climb the stairs.

Next time—oh god, I hope there is a next time—I will tell him. I will ask him to stay.

When I hear the creak of his mattress above me, I turn over and surrender to sleep.

*          *          *

I’ve met someone.

He says this apologetically.

Oh?

Please let it be an old army comrade, a former colleague, a potential client, a curious patient, anything but…

Her name is Mary. Mary Morstan. We met at the park.

Oh.

As soon as I hear the name I hate it, hate the way it floats from his lips with the quiet awe of someone who has come under the spell of new courtship. He proceeds to tell me a charming story of how this pretty governess lost sight of one of her charges at Hyde Park, how he observed her distress and stepped in to assist, how they discovered the boy wading into a pond, something about a duck, a balloon, I don’t know. I can barely hear him.

I bolt from my chair and lunge for my pipe. My heart is flailing helplessly around my ribcage like a bird that has just found itself trapped inside a storefront window.

I find my pipe and try to light it but my hands are shaking so badly I can’t even strike the match.

Here, Holmes, he laughs. With two sturdy hands he strikes a match and holds the flame out to me. I meet his eyes over it and see them sparkling with amusement and recent fortune.

I lean into it and puff my pipe to life. I’m clinging so hard to the stem that my fingers have turned white.

So, are you willing? He asks me.

Willing to what?

Meet with Miss Morstan and hear her story. I think her case would interest you terribly. She is most hopeful that you might be able to shed some light on it. I told her how brilliant you are.

The small compliment does nothing to assuage my sense of betrayal.

Certainly, certainly, bring her by, I tell him with a wave of my hand. If I stop moving them I will surely collapse into a nervous fit.

I shall have to take morphine tonight.

*          *          *

Of course she is a model client.

Watson no doubt coached her on client etiquette, for she arrives at Baker Street armed with letters and jewels and an admittedly remarkable story.

Did he tell her to wave these articles in front of me like so much bait? And that I would take them like a starving animal?

I’m having trouble containing my discomfort. I listen to her speak, imagining what Watson feels when he hears her voice.

I get up from my chair a few too many times. I can see him giving her reassuring nods when she trails off and glances at him with uncertainty. At one point, he presses a hand into her shoulder and I must leave the room altogether. When I return, I brush my clothes furiously and try not to care that he’s now sitting beside her on the settee.

Watson, this room is a mess, I bark.

But it’s not the room.

*          *          *

He is with her again tonight.

Their chaste afternoon teas have become amorous dinners and romantic nights on the town. I drive myself insane by waiting up for them, praying that when he returns he will be alone.

Oh, Holmes, where did I go wrong? he would say in mild despair.

She wasn’t the one for you, Watson, I would offer soothingly.

He would look at me gratefully. I suppose there’s no one more suited to me than you, Holmes.

I would nod and lead him into my bedroom where we would make love until dawn.

But it would not be tonight. The streets are empty now.

My heart labors to pump heavy life into my veins. When I drive the needle into my arm, I can feel it come to artificial life, though this is temporary. But it stops me from pacing at the window.

I mix another solution and soon the room begins to spin. I lie down on the settee and everything goes black.

I am next aware of a pair of strong, gentle hands shaking my shoulders.

Let’s get you to bed, he says.

I can smell her perfume on his lapels. She touched him there, the same place I did when I impulsively pulled him in for a kiss that he did not deny me. I’m going to be sick.

Watson watches me retch into the wastebasket, stands aside until I finish. He escorts me to my room and puts me to bed.

I am gripping his arms with all my strength. It isn’t much.

When I lie down I do not let go. I mean to ask him to stay with me, but my raw throat is too tight. I attempt to pull him down with me, but he resists. And then he is gone.

*          *          *

He is leaving me.

My heart has broken in half. Each side beats erratically and alternately, always trying to catch up with the other. But they never do.

I have a meeting with the vicar at three o’clock, Watson says. I shall stop by for the rest of my things afterwards. Will you be here for a proper goodbye? His blue eyes are anxious and hopeful.

Certainly I will, I tell him. Of course I won’t be.

The cocaine is wearing me down, even I can see that. I need another outlet.

I find my grubbiest groom’s clothes and disguise myself so thoroughly not even Mycroft would recognize me. I find my way to a dark corner of Vere Street and step inside a tiny cave where the walls are lined with men.

What is your name? Christian.

What is your name? James.

What is your name? John.

I nod. John takes me to a poorly lit bedroom and we undress. He puts his mouth over my cock and begins to work. I close my eyes and imagine the John I mean when I softly croon his name.

But I’m having a hard time replacing this John with the one in my mind. Watson’s sweet and inexperienced mouth was nothing like this. The nimble tongue that’s enveloping my cock has traveled over more bodies than a career sailor.

I push him roughly from me.

I want to bugger you, I announce.

He shrugs, walks calmly to a small bureau and extracts a container of Vaseline. I prepare him and myself. When I slide into him, he growls but soon relaxes. I try again to imagine John Watson underneath me, but it is very difficult. The shoulders are too narrow, the vertebrae too pronounced, the hairline too long and dark.

I close my eyes. I moan more loudly to cover the unfamiliar tones coming from beneath me. I push and thrust and grind. I match my rhythm to the hollow thumping in my chest. I imagine Watson waiting for me at Baker Street, pulling the curtain aside, wondering where I am.

I think I hear him…

Oh my god…Holmes…ungh

I climb to a frenzy and come. For the length of my death I imagine he loves me. I call his name before the sensation dissolves at the base of my spine.

I pull out and collapse. This John has not finished yet but I do not care. I roll to my side while he takes himself in hand and releases. I think I fall asleep.

When I open my eyes there’s a strange face peering down at me.

For another half a guinea I’ll gladly spend the night with you, he says.

I decline and rise to leave. No one will be in the sitting room to care if I don’t come home.

*          *          *

When I return to Baker Street there are two scraps of paper on the table. One says, I’m sorry I missed you. Surely I will see you at the wedding, but we would also be delighted to have you for dinner at your earliest convenience. JW

The other is a forwarding address in Kensington. I stare at it. It looks so proper, so permanent and so much more respectable than 221b Baker Street.

The pieces of my heart falter again. I can feel one of them give up the fight altogether.

Of course I will be nowhere near the wedding. Thankfully, there is no need to invent an excuse as a small case presents itself just in time. A trifle case, really, but I let it go on for two days longer than necessary. I need the distraction and besides, I rather enjoy watching the criminal believe himself a free man. I sit in dark corners and smoke while he becomes easier in his mind. He stops glancing behind him every five minutes. He grows bold enough to enter a tavern and meet with his cohorts.

And then, I pounce. All of Lestrade’s force is in attendance. The criminal is dumbstruck and devastated. With a ceremonial huff, I accept the inspector’s gratitude and make my way back to Baker Street.

The satisfaction is short-lived.

By now, I realize, they are John and Mary Watson.

 

*          *          *

After three weeks, I can no longer rebuke the daily invitations to dinner. On the night of my visit, I inject a small amount of the seven-percent solution and slowly dress. When I knock on their door I am a half hour late. I’m already wondering how best to leave early.

Come in, come in, Holmes! Watson says. He has answered the door himself, a sign that he’s eager to see me. For a moment, I almost feel good. We shake hands warmly and I am relieved to look into those smiling blue eyes and see his old affection.

But when I look past his shoulder, I see her standing in the doorway of the parlor. Her smile makes me cringe.

Do come in, Mr. Holmes, she says. May I offer you something to drink?

I feel my glare narrowing on her face and wave her offer away. I try to distract myself by looking about the room.

The sparkling crystal vase and blanket with creases still in it are obvious wedding presents. The faded pillows on the sofa appear to have been stitched by her mother. The slightly tarnished silver tea set must have come from her grandmother, who was apparently of French provenance.

I carefully steer my eyes past the newly framed wedding photo that adorns the mantle.

Mary is nervous and begins to chatter. My heart, charged with fresh cocaine, patters right along with her. She continues to offer me refreshment, which I continue to decline, and then recklessly offers me a tour of their home. Watson steps in.

Mary, why don’t you see how Mildred is faring in the kitchen? He says this with the same command he uses to convince me to eat.

Watson offers me a seat and we face one another in awkward silence. It occurs to me that I have not yet apologized for my absence at his wedding. When I do so, he casts his gaze downward.

I’m sure the case was an important one, he says with quiet resignation. I know he believes no such thing.

The rattling of my heart pieces begins to slow. They are tired and beginning to ache again.

Are you taking care of yourself? he asks me.

I lie and tell him yes. He returns me a skeptical look. Only later when I stare into the mirror that night will I see how drawn my face, and how deep the circles under my eyes.

Mary announces dinner, and Watson leads me into their modest dining room. There is a small table with two matching chairs on either side. A third chair sits between them. It has been brought from her sewing room and is of a different color and style. I stare at it, hating how it has been so artificially included in this intimate domestic scene. It’s too late to back away so I sit down.

Mary and her housekeeper serve the meal. I try to eat it but everything tastes like sand.

You do not care for grouse, Mr. Holmes? says she, leaning anxiously towards me. Perhaps we can prepare you something else?

Watson holds up a warning hand and she sits back in her chair, utterly perplexed. There are few things more distressing to a new housewife than the rejection of a meal by one of her first guests. Good. Maybe this hurts her as much as it hurts me.

Impossible, groans the last filament of my heart that has any energy left.

I place my hand over my eyes and slump towards the table.

Holmes! shouts Watson and Mary jumps out of her seat.

Get him a glass of water, he calls and she runs to the kitchen.

Thank you, Watson, if you’d kindly call me a cab then I shall be on my way, I tell him calmly.

He tries to convince me to lie down, but I’m not having it. When I offer to call a cab myself he relents. His parting look of disappointment and worry is enough to sustain me until I reach Baker Street.

*          *          *

I do not stay long at home. I change clothes and in ten minutes I am in a cab speeding towards Vere Street. I duck in and out of pubs until I find John. He is drinking ale with a another pair of rent boys. I approach him and offer him a sovereign to sod me until I can’t remember my name.

He slams down his glass and takes me to his room. He fulfils my request so voraciously that it feels more like punishment than solace.

The bed shakes with our slapping flesh. I beg him to pound harder, pound away the vision of him and her in their marital bed, pure and sanctified and held up as the model of perfect human society.

John offers me his bed for the night. He would be delighted to pleasure me again, he tells me.

Silently, I rise and dress. Then I place a single coin on the table and tell him I never want to see him again.

*          *          *

 

It is stupidity rather than courage to refuse to recognize danger when it is close upon you.

But I gladly accept the danger. It would be far more heroic to sacrifice myself for the benefit of London than to do myself in with the needle.

I surprise myself by asking Watson to join me. He surprises me by agreeing. It is my last hope. A single word or a glance from him and my heart might fuse together again.

We travel across the Continent. He is close and concerned. I keep my eyes on the horizon and assure him that no danger is visible. It is a lie, but I don’t wish to alarm him. Not yet.

We share small meals together. I ignore the band of gold around his finger and keep conversation light. I imagine we are traveling as a couple and for pleasure. Where might we go after this? Prague? Minsk? Tibet?

I catch sight of a letter he is writing to Mary. I cannot help myself. My eyes travel over the words.

My dearest Mary,

I am writing to you from one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I hope to return here with you one day so you may see it for yourself.

Holmes and I are keeping a close watch on his pursuers and he assures me that so far, we are safe.

I have not forgotten of your doctor’s appointment next week. I hope it goes well, and that you receive the news we’ve been waiting to hear…

I stop reading. I cannot bear this any longer.

Tomorrow we will go to the Reichenbach Falls. Only one of us will return.

*          *          *

Disposing of Moriarty is easier than I thought. At first, I don’t care if I live or die, but I soon realize that the pain I have been living with, when channeled into rage, is extremely effective.

I watch him go over the falls and disappear into the jaws of murderous white froth.

I am finally exhausted from the struggle but I must climb, as I doubt very much that Moriarty has come here alone. I scramble over rocks and steep inclines until I reach a hollow tree. I sit and rest for a moment. My heart pounds with exhilaration.

And then I see him. Watson is struggling up the path in a terrible panic. He reaches a small grassy knoll and looks about him. He leans over the falls and calls my name, but after the first tone the rest of it dies in the roar of the rushing water.

He finds my letter and leans against a boulder as he reads it. When he finishes, he covers his face with his hand and doubles over. He rocks and shakes, and when he pulls his hand away there are tears coursing down his cheeks. He stares in disbelief over the edge and shakes his head.

My blood turns cold in my veins.

Scientifically, I am still alive. But spiritually, emotionally and psychologically I die here watching my beloved torn apart.

I will go on. I will avenge more crime and contribute my gifts to the world. But my heart is beaten and beats no more.

Comments

charlotteyonge
Aug. 30th, 2010 01:14 pm (UTC)
Re: Why Watson? WHY?
Oh, thank you. I had to giggle at your subject line. :) I really appreciate your reading my journal. It makes all the difference in my writing knowing there's a kind audience.