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September 29th, 2009

For Your Many Considerations, Part 1

From the unpublished papers of the Dr. John Watson Collection in the Sherlock Holmes Archive.

The faithful readers of the Strand are no doubt aware that my adventures with Mr. Sherlock Holmes frequently appeared outside of the proper chronological order in which they actually occurred. The reasons for this are numerous. It was sometimes necessary to allow the legal proceedings of a case run their course before bringing the facts to the public’s attention. It was neither unusual for me to find myself rather overwhelmed with a handful of cases that required patient transcription before preparing them for my editor, who ultimately decided which stories were suitable for print regardless of their respective dates. The one outstanding circumstance that brought the greatest number of exceptions to all my subsequent writings, however, was the fact that in the late 1880s the relationship between the detective and myself underwent an extraordinary change. For it was then that I discovered I was so dearly in love with the man that it became necessary for me to deliberately alter facts of time and place, and to omit large portions of conversations, so the public would not think anything unnatural was taking place behind the closed doors of 221B Baker Street. But it has remained important to me to bear honest witness to the facts of the actual cases, and in doing so to privately account for the fictionalization of a significant portion of their contexts.

It is hard to pinpoint exactly when the tides began to turn, for one does not fall in love so deeply in one singular moment. But looking back, there were instances in which I noted some peculiar changes in my regard towards Holmes. I recall how the shock of Hilton Cubbitt’s death just before the resolution of the dancing men affair brought a stunning change to his usually stoic demeanour. He was seized with such melancholy on our ride to Ridling Thorpe Manor as I found myself longing to embrace him, to tell him I was sorry and assure him he was not at fault.

There was the time I watched the joy spread across his handsome features when he served Percy Phelps his missing treaty at our breakfast table. We listened in awe to his ensuing narration of the solution to this mystery that had plagued my friend for nearly ten weeks. Holmes was especially animated as he described how he confronted the thief, his grey eyes shining with keen delight, his cream-colored linen suit making him appear almost angelic in the morning light. Again, I was bewildered by the urge to take him into my arms, to kiss him and tell him how proud and grateful I was that he helped an old friend.

The realization that my feelings had settled with troubling permanence came during the case of Miss Helen Stoner. Holmes displayed impressive strength that day, first in his unwavering refusal to be intimidated by the dangerous and towering figure of Grimesby Roylott, then in his physical prowess when he unbent the steel poker our guest had so unceremoniously twisted in his fit of rage before storming from our rooms. As we crouched in the darkness of the shell house at Stoke Moran that night, his face half-illuminated by the moonlight, Holmes told me gently that he had had some scruples about bringing me along on such a risky mission. Touched to the core by his concern for my well-being, I could only give fragmented and somewhat breathless responses as he went on to explain his deductions. It was then that I knew I was in very deep waters indeed.

The next morning, as we escorted our nerve-wracked client to Scotland Yard to corroborate her statement on the death of her stepfather, I began to consider informing Holmes of my feelings. How to tell them to a man who consistently showed disdain for the “softer emotions,” however, was such a daunting prospect that I dismissed the idea as both irrational and ill-advised. He would be disgusted, angry, upset, any number of things, and not only because he scoffed at love, but because the law forbade it.

Of course I wanted him all the more.

My heart fully stopped later that week when he reached across my writing desk to retrieve his cigarettes and mumbled in a low, rich voice, “I do think ‘The Speckled Band’ makes a better title than ‘The Mystery of Stoke Moran,’ but do not let me influence you.”

My breathing quickened at the sight of him playing airs on his violin with closed eyes, and I wondered if a man so moved by the strains of Paganini could be entirely immune to the pleasures of love.

My knees turned to jelly at his closeness when he helped me fasten a stubborn cufflink the following Friday before we departed for the theatre. I made every attempt to retain my normal demeanour as we set out for the evening, though I now knew if I did not take him into my confidence soon, it would consume me entirely.

I neither heard nor saw the play that night. For two hours I sat in the darkness and put my best writing skills to use as I mentally composed a speech to deliver to him upon our return to Baker Street.

“Good heavens, Watson, are you ill?” he asked me with no little concern as we exited the theatre.

“Actually, Holmes, I’ve not been feeling quite myself of late. There is something about which I need to speak with you when we return home,” I returned evenly as we scanned the street traffic. Whether it was my pale face, my trembling hands or the urgency underneath my tone, Holmes was clearly taken aback. He nodded at me with wide eyes and quickly hailed us a cab. We rode home in tense silence, though I was certain the pounding in my chest was audible to us both.

I retreated to my bedroom to change from my theatre clothes and make one last attempt to compose my manner. I reminded myself I was confiding in my best friend, not a stranger, and tried to imagine I would be simply discussing a case with him rather than confessing a secret so painful I could no longer sleep at night.

Holmes had changed into his dressing gown as well, and I found him lighting a fire in our sitting room when I finally descended the stairs. I sat at the table and focused very deliberately on Mrs. Hudson’s silver teapot until Holmes pulled up the other chair, sat down and waited for me to speak.

It pains me to say that my previously rehearsed speech deserted my mind entirely and I was reduced to a sweating and shaking mess barely able to put two words together.

“For a while now, Holmes, I’ve been struggling with some…with…I’ve had...feelings.. of a certain nature…but to talk of…such things…to you, of all people, Holmes, you…I cannot…were I to tell you, I’m afraid…,” I stammered like a terrified child.

I knew I was risking everything I had by telling him how I really felt, that in mere moments I could find myself homeless and bereft of the single most important friend and companion of my life.

I did not notice Holmes rise and cross the room. I was too busy fumbling in my pocket for a handkerchief, which I passed over my brow as I momentarily considered aborting the whole thing.

A warm and comforting hand pressed into my shoulder as the other placed a glass of brandy before me.

“Calm yourself, my dear fellow,” he said in a placating voice that soothed his most overwrought female clients.

He seated himself again in the chair opposite me, leaned forwards and rested his right arm on the table. I took a deep quaff of the brandy, drew a breath and resolved to maintain some semblance of poise, for my friend had never seen me in such a state as this, and I did not wish to cause him further alarm.

“Now,” he said, lowering his chin and giving me a reassuring smile, “What is it you wish to tell me?”

The only way to go was straight through.

“Sherlock Holmes,” I said in a quiet but steady voice, “I have fallen utterly and irrevocably in love with you.”

Whatever he thought he was ready for, it was most certainly not this. His brow shifted as it does when he has been taken off his guard, his lips parted in quiet shock and he sat back in his chair utterly dumbfounded. He exhaled sharply twice as he stared for a moment at me, then cast his eyes towards the carpet in disbelief.

My lungs finally released the breath I’d been holding all evening as I fumbled for my glass and downed the remainder of its contents in one determined gulp. When I looked up Holmes was still staring at the floor, blinking under a furrowed brow as the full weight of my declaration descended upon him. In this torturous silence I realized my challenge had only begun, though I was much relieved to have unburdened myself at last.

When Holmes rose suddenly from his chair, I feared for a moment that had decided the only advisable course was to simply abandon the conversation. To my relief, however, he approached the decanter and poured a brandy for himself, which he brought back to the table with him and sat down to face me for a third time.

I steeled myself for his response, but none came. I wryly noted to myself that I had finally rendered the man speechless.

“I realize this comes as a shock, Holmes, but I couldn’t go on living as I was with you in ignorance of what I struggled to hide. Now that you’re in full possession of the facts, would you have me pack my things and leave Baker Street?”

It may have been overly blatant, but I preferred to know the answer as soon as possible.

He glanced up at me in surprise before returning his troubled gaze to the table. “No, of course not,” he said softly.

“Then please, tell me what it is you want me to do, for I cannot stand another moment of uncertainty,” I pled.

 “Perhaps you’d best tell me what you’d like me to do, Watson, for I’ve never been addressed in such a manner before and haven’t the slightest idea what to say,” he said in a strained voice before finally bringing his gaze to mine.

Take me into your arms, kiss me and tell me you love me back..

“I’m afraid I find myself quite out of my province, too,” I confessed. “And I am quite aware that what I’ve just told you has complicated legal implications.”

Of course, I’d never made such a declaration to another man, and certainly not to someone as unsentimental as Holmes. I was beginning to see that by informing him of my feelings, I had merely cast the crushing weight of my onus over us both.

“When the law succeeds in dictating the paths of the human heart we shall all of us be compromised,” he mused.

I was somewhat relieved. That would not be an issue at least.

“Listen, Holmes,” I said, finding my natural voice again. “The last thing I want to do is to alienate you as my friend, and now that I’ve honestly accounted for my troubles I feel my next aim should be to assure you that I expect nothing from you which you cannot give.”

He glanced up at me again, creased his brow and sipped from his glass.

I sighed, wondering how much damage I had wrought and whether it would have been better to simply go on suppressing my emotions, however painful they may have been to endure alone.

“Do I stand to lose you?” I whispered.

It is my perception that was Holmes did next was entirely instinctive. He placed his hand over the tightly clasped knot into which mine sat twisted upon the table between us, and soothed me yet again.

“Watson, you are my best friend. I have always been immeasurably grateful for your support and companionship over the years.”

As soon as he said this, both pairs of our eyes fell the pile of hands before us, and he suddenly pulled his hand from mine. When he realized what he’d done, he froze, then smiled in spite of himself and relaxed, giving me a final pat in a show of sympathy.

“How long have you been living with his?” he asked me after a few moments.

“Hard to say. Such things don’t occur overnight. Months, I think. Maybe longer. I don’t really know.” I suddenly felt very tired.

Holmes took several deep breaths before he spoke. “You have the greatest heart of anyone I’ve ever known, Watson. Man or woman. I mean that. To hear you say such a thing about me is not a little flattering,” he paused to grant me a sincere smile.

I waited.

His expression turned sad. “But I cannot…you know I’m not…” he started to say the words I had expected but could not bear to hear.

“I know, Holmes. I know. It’s all right. I’m sure I shall be feeling more myself soon enough,” I interrupted hastily in effort to spare us both the embarrassment of his rejection.

This was not the truth. I would never be the same and I knew it. But for him and for our friendship, I gathered the fullness of my strength and smiled reassuringly at him.

He looked relieved. “Certainly that is true. Now let us see what we can do to take your mind off things,” he said, patting my hand once more and rising from the table. He told me he was expecting a visit in the morning from a Mr. James Norton, whose sixteen-year-old son had gone missing the week previous. After an exhaustive search, the police had turned up nothing.

I nodded casually as he paced the room and spoke, gesturing now and again towards the letter he had received from Norton. But I barely heard him. I was still trying to fathom what to make of our conversation. In some ways, I was desperate to bury the whole business, as I know my friend had no patience for the subject of human sentiment. And yet, I had only scratched the surface of the depths of my feelings. I longed to tell him all, regardless of his ultimate reaction.

But Sherlock Holmes knew nothing of love and its trials, had never felt a flash of desire, the warmth of a passionate embrace or the sting of a rebuke. When he paused once or twice to cast a questioning glance at me, I realized that he was doing his level best to recover familiar ground between us. It was a change perceptible only to me, for I knew him well enough to note that in spite of the fact that he had resumed his professional mien, he had been unnerved by my disclosure.

I rose from my seat, plucked my notebook from my writing desk and dutifully began to record the initial facts of a new case.

And so we left it unresolved because neither of us was prepared to confront the enormity of what had just happened, and the exercise of our customary roles served to temporarily distract us both from this seismic and troubling shift in our relations.

*          *          *          *

 “If he was abducted,” Holmes said around the stem of his pipe, “there would surely have been a ransom note by now.” He waved the flame from his match and puffed away thoughtfully.

For the last two days I had been following Holmes through the darkest streets of London in search of Aldous Norton. It was a frustrating case, for the people we questioned either supplied us with misinformation or none at all, and it proved to be a much longer conundrum than either of us had expected.

We both struggled to ignore the strain between us, and in doing so it was all the more apparent to me that I should have kept silent on the subject. Keeping focus on the case meant we were protected by the habits of work, but those idle hours we used to pass so easily in warm and amiable company were now fraught with unease. Neither of us had any idea what to say and so began to avoid each other, he from guilt and me from shame.

“But James Norton is not a rich man,” I reminded him. “What could a kidnapper expect to gain from him?”

Holmes frowned and took the pipe from his mouth. “I have been asking myself what reason the boy would have for leaving under his own power. I fear he may be mired in a situation for which his youth has not prepared him. But where? And with whom?”

I sighed. We had been going back and forth like this for some hours and to no avail. It did not help matters that I could not recall the last time I had slept through the night. I’m afraid my melancholy discomfort had mounted a full attack on my nerves, and I was losing the battle. If I was under torment in the weeks leading up to my confession, I was in outright agony in the aftermath of our conversation. My heart and hopes were shattered and I feared I had unwittingly sacrificed the great friendship I treasured above all else.

“We shall do nothing more today, Watson,” Holmes said, misreading my frustration. He checked his watch. “We ought to get ready for dinner. Lady Constance expects us on the hour.”

Holmes had recovered a document of immense importance last month in a bizarre case of fraud that I shall one day recount. Lady Constance was the wife of one of the grateful government officials upon whose careers the recovery of the document depended. She had insisted on hosting us for dinner in an official, if ostentatious, show of gratitude. Normally, I would have enjoyed attending such a thing for the sheer spectacle of it, but I knew Holmes generally abhorred such gatherings and I was hardly feeling social myself.

I reluctantly washed, donned my best dinner clothes and waited for Holmes on the settee at a quarter past seven. I was sipping a whisky and reading the Times when he emerged similarly attired from his bedroom. I turned to greet him and caught my breath.

Holmes was nearly sparkling from head to toe. He wore a black tuxedo of a particularly elegant and dramatic V-cut that flattered his tall frame. His vest was tastefully ornamented with flecks of maroon and gold thread that gave him an air of understated royalty, which was further highlighted by his gold cufflinks and newly polished shoes. With his slick black hair under his finest silk hat, he looked as if he were about to enter a grand ballroom full of London’s most polished elite.

He smiled as he breezed past me. “Ah, Watson, you clean up nicely, as they say. Mrs. Hudson!” he sang as he pulled on his gloves. “Mrs. Hudsoooooon!”

“Yes, Mr. Holmes,” she answered with some consternation. She had been standing near the landing when he called her, but he was too impatient to wait her response.

“Ah,” he said, turning on a charming smile and bowing towards our landlady. She could not help herself smiling back. If he had looked at me like that I would have melted into the floor.

“Dr. Watson and I shan’t require dinner this evening, but I would appreciate it if you could light a fire in this sitting room before you retire this evening. It promises to be dreadfully cold outside.”

“As you wish, Mr. Holmes,” she curtsied. “Such a pair of gentlemen need looking after!”

I could not help but laugh at her kind words.

“Ready, Watson?” Holmes asked me amicably.

“And waiting, Holmes,” I returned, suppressing another sigh.

“Then let us be on our way,” he called out as he glided from the sitting room.

A short cab ride later, we alit at Ridgley Hall, and found ourselves in the company of eight well-dressed gentlemen who greeted Holmes as if he were the highest dignitary in Europe. Our hostess made the usual exercise of introductions, and I smiled and nodded obediently at the familiar phrase “friend and colleague, Dr. Watson.” When drinks were served, I made short work of my gin, then started on another, hoping that I would soon reach a point of comfort. I have never been much of a drinker, but I found this stiff and formal atmosphere was no help to my nerves.

It wasn’t long before I was forgotten entirely, and the party fawned all their sycophantic attentions upon the detective. He appeared as ill at ease as I, but there was little I could do to divert them, thus I took the opportunity to slip away and wander about the drawing room. Lord Adderly had been a game hunter, and the walls were adorned with rifles, trophies and the stuffed, mounted heads of several large animals. Had it been more carefully done, it may have appeared a dignified salute to his achievements, but as it was the whole room looked rather grisly.

“Dinner is served, Madam,” announced the parlor maid, and we were promptly ushered into the dining room. It was a chilly evening as Holmes had predicted, but the huge fireplace near the table blanketed the room in a stifling heat. I caught Holmes roll his eyes more than once as the evening proceeded, and I missed the connection we shared in such instances when we were both uncomfortable in the presence of certain company. He used to make me laugh when he uttered offhand remarks under his breath, and this always did much to ease my tension by pulling me into the warmth of our little private world. Tonight, I merely felt like an appendage.

Dinner began with the usual ceremonies. Wine bottles were uncorked. Plates were presented. Stories were shared. I interjected once or twice when prompted, but when I spoke, my voice sounded rather like it was coming from somewhere else in the room.

I am afraid I drank more than I ate that night. My appetite had deserted me, and I found it easier to raise a glass to my lips than to grapple with the dizzying assortment of silverware that splayed out from either side of my plate. I barely looked at Holmes, but when his gaze found me I felt it burn through my skin when he observed my uncharacteristic preference for drink over food.

When dessert was served, the sounds of conversation echoed so wide and hollow in my ears I was briefly disoriented when my focus narrowed back to the small slice of torte on my plate. Where there had been one there were suddenly three. I blinked. There was one again.

“So, Dr. Watson, tell us,” said Mr. Cadwell-Harwood as he lit a cigar, “what is it like living with a genius?”

“It’s a laugh a minute,” I said drily as I poked at my uneaten cake.

Holmes cleared his throat. “The doctor and I do enjoy a similar humour, but I am afraid I am often not so agreeable in my habits as he.”

“Oh, come along, Holmes,” I said thickly, “living with you is the very pinnacle of my existence. I thank God every day for the constant joy of it.”

A tense silence fell over the table.

“I imagine you must have shared a great many adventures over the years,” said Lady Constance rather stiffly.

“You imagine correctly, Madam,” I scanned the blurry faces to find our hostess. “It’s a real boon living with a detective. Missing a cufflink? Holmes can find it. Misplace your reading glasses? Why, simply ask Holmes to get out his magnifying glass and he’ll unearth them in no time.”

The few laughs that this generated emboldened me to continue.

“That’s Sherlock Holmes, world’s greatest consulting detective, always scouring the corners to lend his services to humanity.” This is not precisely what I meant to say, but it didn’t matter.

Holmes rose abruptly from the table and bowed to our hostess. “Lady Constance, your impeccable hospitality has been unsurpassed this fine evening, and please do give my compliments to your very excellent cook.”

He smiled politely at the table of guests. “I regret that we must take our leave. My friend is not well,” he said, turning sharp eyes upon me, “and is in dire need of respite. Our latest case has been a trying one.”

What transpired next has all but evaporated from my memory, and the next thing I knew I was jostling next to Holmes in a cab as we rolled along the cobblestone drive of the Manor. He said not a word to me on the ride home, which suited me just fine. I had suddenly acquired a throbbing headache.

I barely registered Mrs. Hudson’s exclamations as Holmes led me inside. He raised his hand in protest when she attempted to rid me of my overcoat, and he led me gingerly up the two flights of stairs to my bedroom. He sat me down and my bed and disappeared, returning momentarily with a glass of water. He removed my shoes while I drank it.

“How very kind of you, Mr. Holmes,” I slurred as he loosened my cravat and released my collar. “Always looking after the needs of others before his own…”

The room was spinning. I looked up at Holmes in confusion and tried to blink the room back into stillness. I was overcome with the sudden urge to be completely honest with him. I grabbed his lapels and looked him straight in the eye.

“I don’t blame you, you know. Love is indeed a horrible thing and if I were you I should avoid it altogether. I wish I had.”

“Not your fault, o’course,” I added, and began to falter. Darkness was closing in.

Holmes smiled grimly and gently removed my hands from his coat. He eased me back on the bed and covered me with a blanket.

“Good night, Watson,” he said softly before turning out the light and shutting the door.

For Your Many Considerations, Part 2

I awoke the next morning with a heavy nausea in my stomach, a searing pain in my head and a stale dryness of mouth that precluded any notions of remaining in bed. I found I was still wearing my evening clothes, though someone had taken the trouble to remove my shoes and collar and place them neatly on the chair in the far corner of my room. I gingerly rose, put on a dressing gown and went downstairs to the sitting room.

Holmes was seated at the table in his night shirt and dressing gown, sipping tea and reading the newspaper. He regarded me with kind eyes.

“Morning, Watson,” he said cheerily. “How are you faring today?”

“None too well, thank you. And I have a feeling the more I recall of last night the less well I shall soon be. Holmes, what happened?” I sat down rather heavily and placed my head in my hands.

“You were overgenerous with the wine,” he told me. “And your conversation.”

I glanced up at him sharply. “What do you mean? What did I say?”

“Nothing incriminating, I promise. And I assure you your interjections, acerbic and ill-advised as they were, did no disservice to the conversation. Those were the dullest people I’ve ever dined with. Wealth is a most unattractive trait in the unimaginative.”

“Oh God,” I moaned as I dropped my head to the table. “I wish I’d never gone.”

Holmes reached over and patted me on the head. “Do not be so hard on yourself, my dear friend. However much you suffer today shall more than atone for your social missteps.”

He poured me a cup of tea and shoved it towards me. “Drink this. I shall ring Mrs. Hudson to bring you some breakfast.”

Nothing sounded worse to me than food at that moment, though I did manage half a cup of the lukewarm tea.

“If it’s all right with you, Holmes, I think I’ll lie down a while on the settee.” I hobbled over to it and laid my head upon the pillow.

“Suit yourself,” Holmes said with a shrug. He retrieved a blanket from his bedroom, then covered me for what I later learned was the second time in twelve hours. He cast a concerned expression down at me.

“Get some rest. We can talk this evening,” he said, and then left me there to wonder what I may have said to him the night before.

I drifted into a deep slumber, and awoke some time later to find Mrs. Hudson quietly tidying the room around me.

“Feeling better, Doctor?” she asked me pleasantly as she retied the curtains.

“A bit. I wonder if you could bring me some fresh tea and a few morsels of bread.” I sat up cautiously and gauged my condition.

“I’ve a fresh chicken soup on the stove that ought to restore you in no time,” she said.

After the previous night’s sickening overabundance, the idea of taking a quiet meal in the comfort of our clean sitting room cheered me considerably.

“Thank you, Mrs. Hudson. Have you seen Mr. Holmes?”

“He posted a telegram about an hour ago, and promptly left. I tried to serve him lunch but you know how he gets when he’s hot on the trail,” she said with tired maternal patience. “I suppose he cannot be blamed for serving his clients.”

Something about her last phrase resonated as familiar, but I could not place it.

Ten minutes later she served me a large bowl of steaming broth, the first sip of which was immediately rejuvenating. I felt my blood warm again and the rolling sensation in my stomach begin to disappear.

Such a horrible mistake I will not soon make again, I thought to myself.

And then the memories of last night began to surface.

I remembered how unhappy I was the moment we set foot inside Ridgley Hall, how I felt artificially and temporarily comforted when the first cold sting of gin touched my lips. I saw the plates of food that passed before me, the smiling, intrusive faces that stared back at me as though I were a curious pet who mindlessly followed its master in hopes of lapping up any morsels of praise he saw fit to throw my way. I heard my voice dripping with sarcasm in response to their inane questions, telling them in so many words that I held the lot of them in contempt. I was painfully aware that at least one of these comments had been directed at Holmes himself.

How we made our exit I shall never know, and prefer to remain ignorant of what was likely a very uncomfortable farewell. But I remember alighting at Baker Street. There was Mrs. Hudson’s horror at my state, so unlike the neat, well-mannered gentleman who had departed her company just hours before. There was the unsteady climb up the two flights to my bedroom, with Holmes bracing me from behind.

I remembered it was Holmes who put me to bed. I recalled how he had undressed me while I considered whether or not I would be sick. I remembered how the cool water he brought to me felt in my dry, wine-coated mouth. And I had said something to him. Yes, I had clung to him for support and said…something. I closed my eyes and concentrated.

Blame you…love horrible… should avoid …not fault…

Whatever had occurred at dinner paled in comparison to that. For the second time I had fallen bumbling and vulnerable before Holmes, who was very likely growing weary of my emotional distress.

This would not do.

I bathed myself, changed clothes and left Baker Street. The cool air held the final curative, and each step I took as I walked through Regent’s Park restored my mental and physical resolve.

Why Holmes had not been angrier rather confounded me, though I supposed his own disdain for the absurdities of the aristocratic social sphere prevented him from any feelings of regret on my behalf. I had in actuality been quite lucky, for my lovesick and frustrated heart may very well have led me to betray far more than mere irritation with last night’s company. What Holmes thought privately about the whole incident was unknown to me; perhaps he felt I had suffered enough, perhaps he did not wish to pursue the topic for discussion, perhaps worst of all he pitied me. But this much was clear: Sherlock Holmes was not going to change in his attitude towards love. I could not allow my emotions, however overwhelming they were, to be the undoing of us both. I could take comfort in the fact that it was nigh impossible Holmes would ever take up with someone else. He was mine enough as a friend and colleague, and that would have to suffice.

The afternoon sky was beginning to darken when I returned home. I entered the sitting room to find Holmes pacing the floor.

“Watson, there you are! Come, we’ve not a moment to lose,” he said excitedly. He waved a telegram as he swept into the hallway. “I shall explain on the way. Bring your revolver!”

“Way to where?” I rushed to my desk to retrieve my gun.

“I know where Aldous Norton is!” he called as he bolted down the stairs and onto the street. “Cab!”

I sprinted down the stairs and caught up with him just as a cab pulled up to the curb.

“East end docks, and hurry,” he ordered the driver.

“Ah Watson, I have been a fool,” he said as we sped down the street.

So have I, I thought, but remained silent.

Deep in the squalor of the seedy underside of the city we found Aldous Norton working as a page in an undesirable and unhealthy establishment that no young boy should enter, much less inhabit on a regular basis. He had not been abducted at all, but had run away in an attempt to escape punishment for his misdeeds at school. He made a foolish attempt to flee when Holmes cornered him and sternly asked him to accompany us to the loving arms of Scotland Yard. The ensuing commotion so startled the patrons that tables were overturned and a young man slightly older than Norton had panicked and fired two shots in our direction. I regretted not treating myself well enough to maintain a clear focus of mind, for my reaction to these events felt painfully slow. By the time I had my own firearm drawn, the gun-wielding man had disappeared into the crowd, and poor Norton lay slumped against the front door with blood streaming from his leg.

Holmes sprinted after the man who had shot him, while I recovered my medical instincts and rushed to young Norton’s side. I shed my coat and rolled up my sleeves before assessing the extent of his wound. I was relieved to see the bullet had not penetrated as far as the bone; it had been issued from a small pistol and fired from enough distance to prevent graver injury. But the poor youth was terrified and my sympathies went out to him. I called for a basin of water and a clean towel, and tried to calm him as I soaked up the blood that was pouring from the ugly gash in his leg.

“He’ll be all right,” I said to the frightened crowd. “Please do give us some space.” I looked at Norton’s face and was alarmed to see that it had turned ashen, and his breathing had become quite shallow. I tucked my coat behind his head and told him to take deep breaths. As I ministered his leg, I began to tell him a story. It was a tale from my boyhood, one of those singular instances in which an unbelievable series of events results in a surprising and humorous conclusion. Such was a method I would employ when my fellow soldiers were injured beyond repair in Afghanistan. I learned it helps a man immeasurably to be temporarily transported from his present reality in the face of death, and while this boy would certainly not perish from his wound, the onset of shock could do him far greater harm than the bullet.

I did not notice Holmes return after he apprehended the perpetrator and turned him over to the police. I was so focused on my patient that I thought of nothing except making sure he remained engaged with the story until the color returned to his face. When at last I looked up, Holmes was staring at me with an expression I’d never seen before. It carried shades of tenderness and affection, as well as a curious element of incredulity. Our gazes locked meaningfully before I turned back to Norton.

“And so,” I concluded, finishing the dressing on his wound, “there was the horse, back in his stall, as though nothing had ever happened. And not a mark on him.” I was gratified to see the terror in his eyes had been replaced by amused interest.

“Do you think it was aliens from another planet?” he asked me eagerly as I fastened the makeshift bandage

I chuckled. “Perhaps. Some members of my family had some rather lofty theories of their own.”

I helped him to his feet, took out my notebook and wrote down a name and address. I tore out the page and handed it to Norton.

“This is a friend of mine who will fix that hole in your leg with the proper instruments. In the meantime, I’m afraid you must accompany my friend and me to Scotland Yard. You’ll not be detained long, but young boys cannot work in places such as these, and your father is very worried about you.”

The lad winced before nodding sadly in quiet defeat. We led him to a cab and escorted him to the Yard where he cooperated with the inspector and met his overjoyed and relieved father.

Holmes and I rode silently back to Baker Street. I twice caught him regarding me with the same odd expression as before, though he quickly looked away from me when I glanced towards him. It wasn’t until we alit the cab that he finally spoke again.

“You’ve blood on your shirt, Watson,” he observed.

I looked down and saw where the boy’s blood had splashed just above my waistline. “So I see.”

“Give it to me when we get upstairs and I’ll see to it that Mrs. Hudson washes it for you straight away,” he said kindly.

“All right. Thank you, Holmes.”

I was in better spirits than I’d been for weeks, for not only was I pleased by the completion of a case, but I was grateful for the opportunity to apply my best skills to its satisfying conclusion. I changed my shirt, splashed some water on my face, and returned to the sitting room. Holmes was at the table sorting idly through the daily posts. I seated myself at my writing desk to begin a formal account of the Norton case.

“Thank you for your help today, Watson,” Holmes called out unexpectedly behind me.

“You’re welcome, Holmes,” I returned with my back still to him.

“You were quite good with the boy,” he continued, rising from the table.

I turned to face him. “Was I?”

I was surprised to see him blush ever so slightly.

“Your presence of mind in that chaos is commendable. You tended to him with a great deal of kindness and patience that I imagine will go far towards his eventual recovery,” he said, and offered me a shy smile.

I waved away his compliment, “Ah, just a few tricks I learned in the army. But thank you for saying so.” I turned back to my task.

“Watson…” Holmes began again.

“Yes?”

“Are you all right?” he asked me in a tentative voice.

“No worse for the wear, Holmes.”

“You are not angry with me?”

I don’t think he’d ever asked me such a thing before.

“Why should I be angry with you?”

 “I fear I have not been very fair to you,” he said.

“Oh?”

“I perceive that you have been suffering, Watson, and I know it has been on my account. You took a great risk when laid your heart before me, likely hoping for some reciprocation, and I left it there with a thoughtless and negative response that you probably wished I wouldn’t have. I’m sorry. You deserve better than that.” He spoke these words with great sincerity.

“Well,” I replied, “is there something you wish to say to me now?”

I saw the fear return to his eyes, the same look he had bestowed upon me when I first revealed my secret. But this time it passed after a moment. He appeared to be gathering strength.

“This…love, “ he said sternly, “that you spoke of. What does it entail?”

“Well, there’s…” I hesitated, realizing it was an excellent question not easily answered. “There’s a strong sense of devotion, of course. I suppose I mean that in loving you I put your happiness and well-being ahead of mine. And there’s a desire to be with you in…in every sense.” I swallowed. I had not wanted to offend his gentlemanly sensibilities with specifics on this last point.

“In every sense,” he repeated. He thrust his hands into his pockets and regarded me steadily. “You mean physical love.”

“Yes, well,” I fumbled for a suitable answer. “you’re no doubt aware of the kind of activities in which a man and woman engage, though I’m not sure if you know exactly how two men…”

“I have some ideas about that, yes,” he said with a slight nod and a brief smile. He walked slowly to the window at the far end of the room.

“It may surprise you to hear, Watson, that yours is not the first such invitation I ever received,” he said as he gazed towards the horizon.

It did not surprise me.

“But it is the first I ever considered,” he said in a softer tone, turning his a little head in my direction.

My heart fairly leapt from my chest, but I was loathe to entertain new hopes after having so recently recovered myself.

“Well then, Holmes,” I said evenly, “I will be glad to hear of your decision when you make one.” I picked up my writing materials and made to leave the sitting room.

“Watson,” he called out just before I reached the stair landing. I stopped, turned and stood in the doorway.

Holmes turned to face me. “Why me?”

“What?” I said, returning to the room.

“I have been trying to understand what it is you’ve seen that causes you to desire me in such a way,” he said with traces of sadness in his voice.

He gripped the back of the chair behind the table.

“It is difficult for me to fathom how someone so kind-hearted as yourself would not prefer a…a better person.”

“You are the best and wisest man I’ve ever known,” I told him honestly. “You’re not perfect, certainly, but no one is.”

He smiled and looked down. “That’s very kind of you, my friend. I suppose if I had thought myself worthy of your affections I might have reacted very differently to your pronouncement, aside from the obvious fact that I’ve no experience in such matters.”

My heart swelled. He had so often been the first to laud his extraordinary mental prowess that I had never imagined he considered his own deficiencies. I went to him and took his hands in my own.

“Who else but you, Holmes? These past years I’ve spent being at your side have been the best of my life. Believe me, I’ve never had a thought for another man before, but then I’ve never known anyone like you. You take my breath away. I’ve wondered for months now what it be like to kiss you.”

He looked at me in genuine surprise.

“I am afraid I don’t know how,” he confessed.

I moved closer to him until I was inches from his face.

“Part your lips,” I murmured. He did so.

“Close your eyes.” He did, and my every nerve came alive.

“Now,” I whispered, “taste my bottom lip as though you’re trying a spoonful of something sweet.”

I brought my mouth to his, and he tentatively and delicately pulled at my lip. After a moment, he released me again. Before either one of us opened our eyes I locked my lips onto his with measured confidence, and allowed my fingers to graze the side of his face. I felt the corners of his mouth turn up in a smile just before I broke the kiss and took a small step back.

A flush splashed across his cheekbones and a soft light shone behind his unusually round eyes.

“Now was that the worst thing you’ve ever experienced?” I asked him half-jokingly.

 “No,” he smiled, then glanced up at me shyly. “That was very nice.”

“I’m glad,” I whispered, still holding his face close to mine. “We can take it as slow as you like, you know.”

He brought his hand up to my wrist and laced his fingers in my own. He spoke again in a velveteen murmur so soft it tickled my ears.

“You must continue to write of me as a brain without a heart, and yourself as no less an authority on the subject of the fair sex. The sitting room must remain locked at all times when you and I are the only ones occupying it. You must never address me in any other way than your friend and colleague when in the company of others, and most importantly, Watson,” he looked into my eyes with grave concern, “if this arrangement does not come to suit either or both of our best interests, I want you to promise me it would not cost me your companionship. I would regret that exceedingly.”

 “Done,” I said firmly. “I promise.” I gently kissed his forehead and thus sealed our pact.

“Holmes?”

“Hmm?”

“Why me?”

“Pardon?”

“You said mine was the only such offer you’ve considered. Why?”

He searched my face for a moment. A beautiful smile then spread across his features.

“Who else but you, Watson? You take my breath away.”

An ocean of joy swelled so large in my heart I felt its moisture overflowing in the rims of my eyes, but all I could do was smile with gratitude as I pulled him to me for another embrace.

For Your Many Considerations: Epilogue

“Holmes, please.”

“Hum?”

“Holmes, you must stop this. If I spend myself one more time today I shan’t have the strength to meet our client in Devon tomorrow.”

“Well, now, that really is too bad of you, Watson,” my lover said. He made no attempts to stop what he was doing. “Supposing the case is so deep that a week passes before our next congress?”

“Supposing your ministrations are so deep I find myself unable to sit down for the next  week,” I countered, struggling to concentrate on words.

“Doctor, how you talk,” he said with mock scorn. “Now, be a good fellow and move your—that’s it.”

“Holmes,” I groaned into the pillow, but it was a lost cause. He was nimbly working his way towards my most sensitive area.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered with his lips against my ear. “Do you want me to stop?”

He knew I wanted no such thing, and his ensuing gasp was nearly enough to send me over the edge then and there. I grasped his thigh behind me and pressed into him.

“Whatever you do….please…don’t….stop,” I exhaled.

It has not always been this way.

In the first weeks of our intimacy, we did little but perfect the art of kissing, a skill which Holmes developed quickly and with the most gratifying interest. I thought I should never cease to gain a thrill from the simple way in which his hand would gently cradle my back when I leaned into him, or how delighted I was to learn that his tongue was as nimble and sensitive as his fingers. He seemed to me designed to be a great lover, for when his shy glances soon turned seductive I imagined that few citizens of the world would be able to resist the allure of his deep dark eyes.

Ah, those eyes. When they looked into mine with unguarded sincerity all that surrounded us seemed to fall away. Ours was a connection borne of the very closest friendship and the wonderment and awe which this inspired in us both was often communicated in the looks that passed between us. I would not trade those moments for anything, for even now his loving gazes are capable of bringing my world to a standstill.

When we first entered his bedroom, I knew what a rare privilege it was to be admitted to what had heretofore been his sole sanctuary. We slept together that night, side by side, half-undressed and having done no more than gently touch one another until the lull of mildly questing lips and hands brought us both to slumber. I watched him sleep before my own lids grew heavy, charmed and aroused by the look of innocent serenity on his face. It would not have taken but a few minutes to bring myself off as I gazed at him, but to do so would have risked awakening him and violating the chaste closeness that was enchanting in itself. I had told him I could wait, and I remained steadfast in my promise.

My patience was rewarded a week later when I asked Holmes if he was ready to engage in a more intimate fashion. He was willing but rather unsure of himself, and it would be a little longer before he granted me full access to his person. In the meantime, I wasted no time in instructing him on how to please a man. After an evening of heady and heated kissing, and after we had shed a fair amount of clothing, I gently guided his hand to my arousal and showed him what to do. The feel of his deft and sensitive fingers on my throbbing flesh was enough to send euphoric stings up my spine, and I shall never forget how intensely he watched my face during that first encounter. If he was taken somewhat aback by my ragged breathing and moans of pleasure, he was no less intrigued by the power he wielded over me in such a state.

“How remarkable,” he noted after I climaxed in a shuddering groan.

My initial attempts to pleasure him were less successful as his own flesh remained stubbornly unresponsive. He stopped me, apologized, and suggested he was simply not equipped for such attentions.

“Nonsense,” I scoffed. “You may be a genius, but you’re still a man.”

I found the solution a few days later in the form of a pigeon’s feather I had found on the windowsill of the sitting room. I laid along the length of him and we both watched as I lightly traced his graceful phallus with the very tip of it.

“There, you see,” I said with triumph as it twitched and danced and rose underneath the feather. He was soon fully erect, though it took several more sessions before he achieved his first orgasm.

It took him quite by surprise.

One lazy afternoon we had retreated into Holmes’s bedroom, with no particular mind to do anything but simply relax. What began as pleasant conversation became the slow erotic exercise of divesting each other various articles of clothing until we were both clad only in our trousers. We tousled playfully, half-caressing and half-wrestling one another until he bested me by rolling atop me and undulating his hips in a flirtatious challenge to see how long I could withstand the friction. However, the sudden growing insistence of his rhythm alerted my every sense to the fact that his own release was imminent.

“Watson,” he hissed urgently. “Watson...”

We both reached down between us and quickly unfastened our trousers. I shifted slightly underneath him in order to increase the contact between our hardened pricks. He cradled my neck and sped his thrusts while I pressed my hands into his buttocks.

And then it happened. Holmes squeezed his eyes closed and gasped, a small cry escaping his throat several seconds after he opened his mouth, as he finally surrendered himself to the little death. It overtook his body in a series of involuntary convulsions that caused his back to curl into an arc and his breath to quicken into little bursts. I held him close while he quaked and rocked on top of me.

“That was very singular indeed,” were his first words to me after he rolled to my side.

Needless to say, his first taste of the ultimate reward of sexual activity opened a vast realm of further possibilities. How he managed to remain so unrelentingly innocent mystified me, but it was all the more endearing, particularly the first time I lowered my mouth on him. We happened to be on a train at the time, but this is of little matter.

“Really, Watson, does that not seem a little extreme? I cannot see how…ah…why you should…oh…,” and we added one more avocation to our repertoire.

I must admit I delighted in shocking him the first time I bade him to take me.

“Come into me tonight,” I breathed into his ear one late night on the settee. We had been pleasantly tangling for some time.

“You want me to—?“ he asked in wide-eyed disbelief.

“I want to feel you inside me,” I whispered, relishing in his blush. I took his hand and led us into his bedroom where I had surreptitiously left a container of lime cream on the nightstand.

I showed him how to prepare us both and braced myself for the feeling of his length sliding into my tight heat. He grasped my right shoulder and entered me with painstaking and delicious slowness. It took some patience for us to achieve a position that was mutually comfortable, but it was well worth it. I’d never experienced such intense gratification with anyone, for this was the first time we had truly made love. The feel of his entire body pressed into me while he penetrated my very essence was exquisite. We did not climax together that first time, but the idea of being conjoined in the most intimate possible way helped us bring one another to an especially thunderous finish by other means.

“I suppose I ought to ask you where you learned to do that, Watson,” he said wearily as we lay side by side in sweat-soaked sheets.

“Well, one sees quite a bit in the army,” I answered. “Though I never experienced it firsthand, I bore witness to many a lonely coupling in Afghanistan. Incidentally, I do wish you’d temper your ah…enthusiasm just a little. While it adds immeasurably to my own pleasure, I am wary of rousing Mrs. Hudson’s suspicions.”

I actually supposed that half of London had been awakened by his belaboured cries.

“Oh Watson, you are so long-suffering,” he said as he rolled his eyes and reached for a cigarette from the nightstand. “Mrs. Hudson has known for weeks.”

“Really?” I drawled, staring at the ceiling.

“You take her for a blind fool?”

“Certainly not, but how…I mean, I’ve never said a word to her about us.”

“Our good landlady possesses eyes and ears, my dear fellow. I daresay my constant exposition on the benefits of observation have rubbed off on her.” He thoughtfully brought his cigarette to his lips.

“Are you sure?” I asked. I plucked the cigarette from his hand and stole a puff.

He rolled onto his side and propped himself on his forearm. “Do you know what she said to me last Friday, Watson? As I was preparing to go out and meet you at Marcini’s she brought me my hat and my stick and said, ‘Mustn’t keep the good doctor waiting, Mr. Holmes. He has been buzzing around like a happy butterfly all week and will surely burst with pride at how handsome you look tonight.’”

 “What did you say?” I asked him in astonishment.

“What could I say? I thanked the lady and went on my way.”

I grinned, and hoped Mrs. Hudson had enjoyed a rare moment in finding herself one step ahead of the great detective.

“You did look positively resplendent that night, Holmes,” I murmured, as I closed my eyes and fondly recalled the moment he entered the restaurant. Half the women and more than a few men turned and cast approving glances in his direction.

“Ah well, I suppose it would behoove us to have an ally. It will be all the more pleasant not to have to be on constant guard around here,” I said when I returned from my reverie.

He gave a throaty chuckle. “Well, I’m sure if she opened the door to the sitting room and found you bent over the settee and me thrusting vigourously into your backside, she may be more inclined towards a distasteful attitude.”

I blushed. “Mr. Holmes, how you talk.”


And now we lay, our bodies writhing together in that perfect and ancient rhythm, his soft cries reverberating against my neck and every space between us filled. To be with him like this far surpassed my every fantasy of a perfect first-time encounter; we had worked for it and earned it and never a day passed that I did not feel closer to him because of it.

In every new moment of intimacy we grew bolder and more spirited, and this time was no exception. I pushed myself onto my knees in order to feel him as deeply as I could, and he reciprocated with equal pressure, expertly plunging the well of bliss inside of me that wrenched uncontrollable shouts of ecstasy from my throat. We reached for my cock at the same time, and with his hand covering mine, together brought my release to an earth-shattering finish. As I spent myself raggedly onto the bed beneath us, Holmes redoubled his efforts in a fervid attempt to meet me at the height of my euphoria. Seconds later, I felt his body tense and immediately relax. He melted into my flesh, gyrating his hips in tiny circles with his groin pressed tightly against me to draw out his climax. He wrapped his arms around my torso and rocked us together until we collapsed in an exhausted heap.

We were quite some time in speaking again after that.

“You never cease to amaze me, John,” he murmured. My head was pillowed on his chest and he was tracing lazy circles on my arm.

I sat up and looked at him. “You’ve never called me John before.”

He frowned thoughtfully. “No, and I don’t believe I shall.”

“And I shan’t call you Sherlock, either. That is Mycroft’s domain.”

He smiled. “It is as well. No one calls me Holmes but you, nor to my knowledge do any of your friends or acquaintances call you Watson. I prefer to remain your Holmes and you my Watson. Is that all right?” He brushed his hand across my forehead and down my cheek.

I took his hand and kissed his palm. “I wouldn’t have it any other way, Holmes.”

“Thank you,” he whispered.

I settled against him and sighed contentedly. “And I thank you, my love, for your many considerations.”

I heard him laugh softly before he fell asleep.