It was nearly two when I climbed the stairs to my room. I passed by Holmes’s door, which was slightly ajar, and saw there was a faint light coming from the hearth. I decided to check in on him.
“Holmes?” I rapped softly and pushed the door open. He was draped across the settee at the far end of the room, his dressing gown crumpled around him, his right arm thrown across his face. He made no noise, and appeared to be asleep. I crossed the room.
Then I saw his needle and an empty vial on the table behind him.
“How much have you taken, Holmes?”
“Not nearly enough,” came his muffled groan.
I left and returned a few moments later with a glass of water. “Drink this.”
He pulled his arm away and took the water from me but he did not drink it. He rested the glass on his stomach and stared into the fireplace. His breathing was coming in quick, erratic bursts.
“That was quite a performance today,” I said as I sat in the chair opposite him. “If you ever tire of detective work, you ought to try your skills on the stage.”
He said nothing.
“I must admit you almost had me fooled with that sudden fit. But when you said you were prone to such fainting attacks, I knew right away it was no such thing. It could only have been a diversion.” I was walking a precarious edge between sarcasm and sincerity, torn as I was between disgust and concern over his current state.
He registered no comprehension that I was even speaking to him.
“What’s the matter, Holmes?” I finally asked.
He shielded his eyes with a shaking hand. I was genuinely startled when he spoke in a voice fraught with anguish and fatigue.
“I have spent the better part of my days schooling my mind to function in strict and methodical ways, prided myself on the success of my mental acuity and indeed made it my livelihood. But for the last twenty-four hours I have been endlessly tortured by it, and entirely helpless to the agonizing images that refuse to cease parading through my head.”
He dragged his wrist across his brow and covered his face once more.
“No thought has ever preyed upon my mind with more cruel and excruciating clarity,” he paused, his voice at breaking point, “than the idea of you with him.”
I was so shocked it took me some time before I could find any words. My first impulse was to reassure him, but my conscience reminded me that he had no right to claims of betrayal.
“For months I had to watch and listen as you entertained every dignitary in
“Watson, please,” he said desperately, pulling his hand away from his face. “Please don’t. I’ve never been in love before. I didn’t know what it felt like. I didn’t know.”
For a moment I thought I heard the man who did not form such attachments suggest that he loved me.
“What are you saying to me, Holmes?” I said, leaning forward in my seat. “Are you saying you’re—“
“Were you with him tonight?” he demanded, turning his pained expression upon me.
“Is that really any of your concern?”
He turned helplessly back to the fire, which tossed orange shadows over his troubled features.
“I’ve no right to ask, but, please…I must know. If only for the sake of pity.”
I rose and stood before him. “You’re the expert. You tell me.”
His frantic eyes quested wildly over my face, my body, my hands.
He reached a shaking limb towards me. “Come here.”
I went to the edge of the settee and bent over him. He grabbed my collar and pulled me to him until my neck was against his. He clung to me and inhaled deeply.
When he finally exhaled, his body relaxed and he released me.
“I didn’t. Not with anyone since you left.”
He shielded his eyes again. “I can’t imagine you were being faithful to me, Watson.”
I reseated myself in the chair. “I wasn’t. I was being faithful to myself. I admire and respect Colonel Hayter a great deal and I always will, but I do not love him.”
Holmes dropped his hand and stared once more into the fire, as if to question it on the senselessness of my statement.
“I realize this is an idea that’s foreign to you,” I continued. “But simply being attracted to someone is not enough for me.
Another stripe of pain contorted his features. I went on, surprised at how angry I still was.
“Neither is it enough to follow someone about, waiting for him to cast his eye in my direction whenever he decides his cache of superior lovers isn’t quite satisfying enough.”
The blow landed heavily, for he exhaled sharply and folded his brow into deeper creases.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“I’m sorry,” he repeated. “I fear it may be too late.”
Holmes suddenly remembered the glass of water resting on his stomach. He brought the glass to his pale lips and quaffed deeply before answering.
“All the time in Lyons I thought of taking up my pen to write you, but realized I hadn’t the courage. So I threw myself into my work, hoping that over time the sadness and regret would recede and I would feel myself again. But they didn’t. I saw your face everywhere. I wished you were assisting me on the case. I wished you were there waiting for me when I arrived home each day.”
He was as close to tears as I’d ever seen him. He gulped down the rest of the water and continued in a stronger voice.
“I never gave a thought to any of the others, Watson, never.
My heart softened considerably at this. “Holmes, why did you not tell me this before you left? You knew how I felt.”
He sighed. “Because I don’t deserve you, Watson. I didn’t then and I don’t now. I thought it better that you should find someone who shares your strengths. You are twice the man I’ll ever be.”
“Oh, Holmes…” The anger rushed out of me in a single sigh. Relief and compassion flooded in.
“I could not face returning to an empty house at
I pushed myself from my chair and knelt by his side. “You have no idea how much I’ve missed you.”
He shook his head. “Oh, my dear fellow…”
“Tell me what it is you want.” I took his hand between mine. It was cold but had stopped shaking.
He struggled to sit up. I slid my arm underneath his back and helped him rise to a seated position.
“If you’ll have me,” he started.
He closed his eyes. “If you’ll have me, I will spend the rest of my life atoning for what a fool I’ve been.”
My heart bloomed with hope at the words I’d always wanted to hear, yet experience had taught me caution. “And what of the others? Are you certain that you’re suited to a life of monogamy?”
He smiled in spite of himself and clipped my chin between his thumb and index finger. “Watson, by some miracle I have earned your love. And I cannot now imagine any other life.”
And then he did something he had never done before. He gathered me by the shoulders, pulled me to him and wrapped his arms around me. I felt the life returning to his limp body as his embrace grew warmer and stronger.
“I never wanted to leave,” I whispered into his ear. “I’m so very glad I did not.”
He nodded and tightened his hold before sliding away just enough to claim my mouth with his. It was the first kiss we’d never had—sweet, tender, and seasoned with only the slightest suggestion of desire.
But after two months of abstinence the kiss soon budded with urgency. With his powerful hands framing my face, Holmes’s intense passion was building to its former extreme. He kissed me harder and longer, wrapping his tongue around mine, dragging his lips down my neck. His hand darted to my shirt front.
“Holmes,” I said, laughing as I pulled away. “We can’t. Not here.”
“No,” he said between sloppy kisses. “I must have you this instant.”
I pried myself away and stood. “I mean it. I cannot disrespect Hayter. Not after he—no, I cannot.”
I stopped short of telling Holmes that Hayter had asked me to move in with him. Of course, I would have relished the fit of possessiveness that might have seized him if he’d found out, but we had still to endure one last meal with our host before bidding farewell, and it had been challenge enough to convince Holmes to be on his best behavior.
But Holmes paid no attention to my hesitancy. With a prim nod, he grabbed me by the hand and pulled me towards the door.
“Where are we going?” I called, but I hardly cared. I was dazed and exhilarated, brimming with love and joy, thrilled that he was already whisking me away on some new adventure.
He led us quickly down the stairs and out the front door.
“Holmes, it’s raining!” I protested, but he ignored me again. We didn’t stop running until we were under the broad canopy of a tall oak tree a good distance from the house. Then, he turned and began kissing me again with renewed insistence. The rain was pouring down on us but once we started on one another’s clothes, it faded into the background. We broke apart only long enough to wiggle out of shirts and kick off pairs of trousers. In a matter of minutes, we were completely disrobed and tumbling onto the grass.
Even now, it is difficult to articulate how good and right his body felt locking into mine, how magnificent his arousal felt pressing against my own, how exquisitely the erotic tones of his impassioned moans rang in my ears.
We rolled over and over each other, grasping and rubbing slick flesh that was growing muddy and wet atop the grassy sluice. A clap of thunder shook the ground underneath us when I took him into my mouth, and he swayed from side to side, his knees pressing into my ears and his fingers threading my hair as I worshipped his cock with my tongue.
He had no reservations about thrusting into my mouth, no admonitions regarding the speed of my pace or my unrestrained need to swallow him whole over and over again. When I had him at the precipice he abruptly pulled back, reached down for my head and clamped his mouth over mine without a word.
I draped myself over his body and aligned my cock with his so every pulse of our hips resulted in delicious tremors for us both. I cried out when he reached around and sank a moistened thumb inside me, starting a small fire inside my stomach. He started to add another finger when I stopped him and insisted he waste no more time in taking me completely.
In an instant he was on top of me again, guiding the head of his raw cock where I ached for him the most. The feel of him was at first a shock to my body, but my overpowering desire compelled me to claw at his hips and pull him determinedly inside me.
He raised his face towards the heavens at the same moment a flash of lightning revealed raindrops tumbling over an ecstatic smile. He pushed forward and upward in unhurried rhythm, knowing full well exactly where to reach me, and the private storm between us soon overtook the one that surrounded us. Another strobe of lightning and he was gazing lovingly down at me, gently cupping my cheek before bending down to kiss me again.
Holmes had never quite given all of himself to me before that night. Our previous couplings had often been characterized by his dominance and arrogant, albeit playful teasing. But now he was fully with me, yielding and affectionate, gracious and undemanding. For the first time I felt we were equal partners.
I drank in his kiss, taking advantage of his proximity to wrap my arms around his back and roll him underneath me once more. I wanted to straddle his hips and ride him until the lights went out and my world narrowed to the single pulse of a pounding heartbeat and the rush of hot blood. Our mingled moans brought us a step closer when he drew up his knees to push himself deeper inside me. As he nudged me forward with his thighs, I grasped my prick and stroked, slowly but firmly, leaning upon the hand he kept pressed into my chest.
When he knew I was about to come, he sat up, closed his hand over mine, and echoed my shuddering cries while I spent over his body. The act drove him so close to the edge he shook with anticipation as he waited for my climax to subside. The tides of pleasure that coursed through me lessened in force but did not cease, for when he stretched himself over the grass and arched his back I was already entering my second state of arousal.
I slid my hands over his long torso, smearing all of nature’s fluids over his damp skin, burying my swollen lips in his neck and calling his name as he bucked and thrust towards our final reconciliation. When at last he grabbed my hips, he shouted and gasped for a beautiful eternity before he finally lowered his boneless body to the ground.
He only rested for a moment before he was up again seeking my lips. There in the pouring midnight rain, he rested his forehead against mine and nodded. This, I knew, was his wordless vow that he was to be mine and mine alone.
* * *
“It was a pleasure to see you again, Watson,” Hayter said, shaking my hand and trying not to show his regret.
I took up his hand in both of mine and thanked him profusely for his kindness. I reminded him what a valuable friend he was to me, and promised to keep in touch.
It turned out he understood more than I realized after I rejected his invitation the previous night. We had shared several passionate embraces on his sofa before he pulled away and, with fire in his eyes, asked me to meet him in his bedroom.
I had assented, but once I found myself alone in the drawing room I realized I was not the least bit aroused.
I walked over to the window and watched storm clouds gather. I thought about Holmes, who would never love me, and Hayter, who already did. I thought about the life Hayter was offering me, and imagined how it would be to live in this quiet village with someone who treated me like a prince. He would no doubt be a faithful and doting partner.
But to never experience the sweet stings I felt when Holmes’s fingertips brushed my skin, to never know the constant and pleasurable longing for someone whose very presence made my heart race, to never lose myself in the sound of my lover’s voice as he made love to me, were too much to sacrifice for a life of loyalty and comfort.
Even if Holmes could never love me, I would not stop looking until I found someone who affected me the way he did. And Hayter was not that man.
When I finally reached his bedroom, Hayter was sitting on the edge of his bed, head bent sadly towards the floor. I started to explain to him how I felt but he lifted his face and stopped me. He said he already knew.
“I’m sorry, Geoffrey. I truly am.”
He shook his head. “Don’t be. Even if you stayed, I don’t think you’d ever look at me the way you look at him.”
* * *
Holmes was more kind to Hayter upon our departure than I could have hoped. He never let on that we had consummated our newly committed relationship on his front lawn, never cast so much as a smug glance in his direction. In fact, he was so warm and genuine that I suspected he was grateful for Hayter’s attentions on me. Without them, he might never have been moved towards his confession.
“Thank you, Colonel, for the much-needed respite,” he said when he shook his hand, and I knew he meant it. “Your charitable hospitality and this most interesting case were exactly what I need to rejoin the world of the living.”
Hayter nodded and bowed, and thanked Holmes again for lending his expertise to the mystery.
“So, Watson,” Holmes said as we settled into our compartment on the train to
“I suppose I will. Anything you’d care to add? Or omit?” I hadn’t slept all night, but I was ready to write volumes on how well the case had turned out.
“Best leave out the part where Hayter asked you to come live with him. It might raise certain speculations on the part of the public.”
My eyes widened in shock, but when he leveled a smirk at me, I simply shook my head and laughed.
* * *
The following Thursday a bouquet of white lilies arrived at
“These are for you, Dr. Watson.” She placed them on the table in front of me.
“Thank you, Mrs. Hudson.”
It was the largest bouquet I’d ever seen. Thinking they were from Holmes, I was already blushing when I opened the card.
All the best to you both~
I was so stunned I fell into the chair. I stared up at the huge arrangement and wondered if it was some kind of joke. Then I heard Holmes’s footsteps on the landing.
“Hullo, what’s this?” he said upon entering the sitting room.
“They’re from Trelawney-Hope.”
He paled. “Watson, I swear to you that I—“
“I know,” I said, waving away his assurance. “The card is addressed to me.”
He stared at me in confusion. I handed him the note, and he read the message aloud.
“I hardly know what to say, Watson,” he said softly.
“Tell me, Holmes,” I said, suddenly feeling a little bolder. “Is this sincere?”
“Undoubtedly. That man hasn’t an unkind bone in his body.”
I decided to dismiss the unpleasant reminder that Holmes knew the man’s body very well, and broke into a smile.
“So, it seems he’s congratulating me on a fine catch.”
“I’m sorry for this, Watson, really. I’m sure Mrs. Hudson can find an alternative place for these.” He picked up the vase and carried it towards the door.
“You’ll do nothing of the kind.”
I crossed the room and snatched the vase from his hands. “I’m keeping them. It’s not every day one receives a fine bouquet and best wishes from the Secretary of European Affairs, is it?”
I firmly replaced the flowers on the table.
For the next week, I was flooded with similar gifts—bundles of roses, bottles of fine wine, handmade chocolates, fresh fruits and even a knitted Afghan of the most remarkable amethyst colour. They came from every corner of
Holmes was mortified.
“What exactly did you say to these gentlemen?” I asked him as I examined the fancy bottle of vodka sent by a well-known Russian nobleman.
“I merely told them that our relations must remain strictly platonic from now on.”
He could only gaze in sullen defeat at the entire history of his love life adorning every surface of the sitting room.
I felt glorious. Since we returned from
* * *
“It doesn’t add up.”
“What doesn’t add up?”
Holmes was lying face down, one arm dangling from the side of the bed. I scooted towards him and scripted the words “I love you” on his back.
“If you told your former lovers that you would not be seeing them in any intimate capacity from now on, why on earth would they send congratulatory gifts to me?”
He finally rolled towards me bearing a sheepish grin.
“I may have mentioned something about having found a good doctor.”
“I am not the only doctor in
His grin spread even wider and he shook his head. “Oh, Watson. This modesty of yours borders on willful ignorance, you know that?”
I still didn’t understand.
“Did you think you escaped their notice? They all of them asked me about you. Some expressed interest in getting to know you better. Others simply remarked on your many fine physical qualities.”
I felt my blush turn to scarlet as I groped for a response. “Well,” I finally said, “I do recall that Frenchman inviting me to join you. But you thought I was too weak.”
His eyes grew large and he quickly took up my hand in his. “Is that what you thought? Oh my dear, no, I’ve never believed anything of the kind.”
He stared at me for a moment before he answered.
“Because I hated the idea of sharing you with anyone.”
“But you’ve had so many lovers, and continued to long after we moved in together. What difference could it possibly have made?” I fought to keep a knot of emotion from lodging in my throat.
“They never came close to you, Watson. The connection we share was and is too valuable to waste on the company of an overstuffed French imbecile.”
I smiled through the fine mist that was forming in the corners of my eyes.
Holmes squeezed my hand and continued. “I used to find it a challenge to impress all these men who begged for my attentions. What they thought or felt was of no importance to me as long as they got the release they were seeking. And then when you came along I realized—after far too long, I grant you—that what you think and feel is very important to me. And not just in the bedroom.”
I blinked away the tears but they kept coming anyway.
“I thought I could separate the two spheres by keeping you apart from the rest of them. But the excitement of the challenge quickly died, and then I lost you. It was my own fault. I can be quite daft sometimes, you know.”
I couldn’t speak. I placed his hand against my cheek.
“Will you forgive me?” he whispered.
He pulled me to him and I soon fell asleep in his arms. He was still there when I woke the next morning.
* * *
FIVE YEARS LATER
“You’re going to have to explain this to me again, Holmes.”
He poured a small pool of jasmine oil on my chest. It dribbled down my stomach.
“I understand that pushing the Napoleon of crime off a cliff would necessitate some discretion in the aftermath. But I still don’t see the usefulness in pretending you’re dead.”
Holmes began to knead the oil into my skin.
“There are still men after me, Watson. I told you that.” He poured more oil into my open palm.
“Men? You said man. This Moran fellow.” I started rubbing the oil over his stomach. God, his abdominal muscles are exquisite.
“Well, I’m not so much worried about the others. Ah…” he trailed off when I anointed his erection.
“Why not do away with him, too, then?” I asked.
“It’s not quite that simple, Watson. My death will induce them to take liberties. Eventually they will lay themselves open, and I can pursue them more sensibly through the British legal system.” He picked up my right hand and began tying it to the bedpost with a small piece of rope.
“Eventually? How long must we traipse around the continents in disguise to meet like this?”
“Right now, I cannot answer that. But you must admit it is rather exciting. I nearly fainted when I saw you in that soldier’s uniform.” He concentrated on securing the small loop around my wrist.
My cock stiffened further at the memory of him meeting my eyes across the train platform in
“It is, I grant you that. But I miss you. And as much as I enjoy having my own practice, I miss
“We’ll be back there soon enough.” He tested the loop to make sure his own hand could fit through it. “Have you not been enjoying my letters in the meantime?”
“Oh, very much.” I was never so happy to see those dancing men as when the first one arrived, though I’m afraid the late Hilton Cubbitt would not have agreed.
“How many times did you bring yourself off after the last one?” he asked, with a gleam in his eye.
“Three. And once more on the train out of
He smiled triumphantly, and started tying my left hand to the other bedpost.
“And you, Holmes? I trust you’ve been keeping your own company out here?”
His dazzling smile made my toes curl. “Watson, you know you’re the only man for me.”
Of course I did, but I never tired of hearing it.
“And what of the needle?”
He sat back on his heels and paused. His next words came out in a rush.
“Well, there was a time a couple weeks ago when I had to spend four days holed up in a monastery near the Prussian border and there was so very little to keep me occupied that I did go out and purchase some necessary supplies but only used a small, weak solution that proved quite sufficient and as I found my way out the next day I required no more distractions and so disposed of them entirely I love you.”
He sang the last three words as one cadences the end of a nursery rhyme.
“If you ever actually die, Holmes,” I glowered at him, “I’m going to kill you.”
“Fair enough.” He gave the second loop a final tug.
“Oh, you’ll use your hands. It’s your arms that will be quite helpless.”
With a mischievous tilt of his eyebrow, he slipped his hands inside the loops and wound his wrists until they tightened. He dropped his head and began to nibble my jawbone.
He was right, of course. The bindings around our wrists contained the force of our reactions to our lubricated hands. Twining our fingers and pressing into one another’s palms heightened the intensity of making love without embrace. But thanks to the jasmine oil, there were no spaces in which we could not insinuate ourselves.
We finished twenty minutes later with his knees wedged underneath me and my legs locked around his waist. With him buried to the root inside of me, I concentrated on closing the gap between us until the friction ignited my release.
After he untied us, Holmes congratulated me on my ingenuity.