Romantic Holmes

After the fact

In spite of my sated state and the warmth provided by my companion I can not sleep. In fact, I am resolved not to succumb to Morpheus' insidious call or the growing need to close my eyes at all costs. Before tonight I had spent every night of my existence alone and now, if for only this one time I shared my bed with another. It will be morning in a few hours and I am determined not to waste a moment of what I know might never re-occur.

Much had been declared in the heat of passion but I could not help wonder if the cold light of day would find my love regretting all that he had promised. If that were the case, then I know this night might be all we ever shared. Despite my lack of experience I am not so naive in the ways of love that I do not know that much can change with the cooling of one's ardour. Ours is not a relationship that would be accepted in polite company or sanctioned by any church after all. Indeed, in the eyes of the law we are both now criminals, destined, if we should continue, to always conduct our affair in private.

I can not let myself hope that once the sun rises again he would even want to persevere and I know I have no right to ask him to. We have no future as lovers but there was still a chance of a family for him. I will continue as I always have - alone.

No, it would not be fair to hope, or to ask. It was far better to have loved this once then to have never known love at all.

Dawns early light.

[The following parts are unbetaed.]

I keep my silent vigil, but as the hour grows later still, and the shadows in my room gain shape, dawn arrives, as I knew it ultimately would, uninvited, and more unwelcome than any other I have known in my long life. I curse the first sight of it as I would the appearance of my greatest and most detested enemy, though in all my recollections not even my foulest encounter with Moriarty led to feelings of such complete and utter loathing as those that weigh upon me now.

There are no sounds from the street below yet, but even with this day barely begun I know it brings no hope, only the promise of a slow painful death to the friendship that I have above all others, always held dearest to my heart.

With no way to hold back the sun and my sentence already beginning I drag my eyes from the window and the dismissal glimmers of light appearing through the tightly drawn curtains. My heart, the one which I had until our meeting believed was immune to feelings of love and desire aching in my chest, already preparing itself for the loss that it will have to accommodate, I realise, as I glance down at the man beside me.

The object of my affection still lies blissfully unaware, seemingly unconcerned by all that awaits us and for this last mercy, I give thanks to the same group of deities that I know will condemn us even in the after life.

I am pained to leave him, my dearest John, though I know it would not be wise to be here when he wakes, and until reason prevails, it will be difficult enough to live with his regret without having to hear it from his lips.

I cannot stay abed, cannot linger over the rare sight of him as he is now, sleeping peacefully in my bed and I move with measured care so as not to disturb him. Turning down the covers and slipping from his side I wrap my dressing gown around my shoulders. Steeling myself, I then head for the door, I dare not look back, for I know to delay even a moment longer would be risking once again succumbing to his charms.

Cold comfort.

As I had already anticipated, the usually cosy sitting room that I have for these past many years shared with Watson, offers me only the coldest of comforts when I seek refuge there. At this hour the familiar items of our domestic life are still shrouded in various shades of grey, providing me with a decidedly drab view of our existence together - an existence, that I know now will not be altered with the drawing of curtains, or the letting in of sunlight.

I gravitate towards the mantle, seeking warmth against the cold settling into my bones - into my life, I muse miserably. The heath is as still, and as welcoming as a grave however, and it is not very long before I find myself turning away again, searching for a harbourage of sorts from the storm raging within my breast. Drawing my dressing gown around my shivering frame has little effect. Everywhere I look, each nook and corner prompts a memory, an echo of happier times spent in his company. Times that we will never revisit, that he will not even want to recall once he wakes.

The muscles around my heart constrict painfully in my chest as I stare through the gloom at the remnants of my life with Watson. I am not usually a man given to grief. I have lived, since I left my parent's home, dependent on no one, and yet his inclusion in my affairs has changed me.

Oh, but how he has changed me.

Alone in the semi-darkness I close my eyes, savouring, for the last time I tell myself, the lingering memory of his lips and hands on me, recalling his total possession of my person, of my very soul. I shudder at all the previous night held but I know we will never again be as we were and I will not, I fear, ever be the same because of it.

Refusing my self-indulgence to go on longer than is wise I open my eyes. It will do no good to ponder on the past, when it is the future I must now plan for.

Shaking off my growing melancholy I stride towards the settee, taking the afghan that Mrs. Hudson had kindly given to me during my first winter at Baker Street from its high back, I don the gift in the manner in which it was intended - as a cloak against the harshest of elements.

There are faint sounds emanating from the street below now and as I move to the front of the settee I also note movement below me. Another hour will see our land lady in this very room, fussing about as she lays out breakfast for Watson and myself, and I must, if I am to avoid their inevitable questioning, be indisposed before either arrives.

Taking up a familiar pose on the settee I draw the corners of afghan to my chin and close my eyes, welcoming at last, Morpheus' dark embrace and the temporary escape it will provide me from the aching of my heart.

The new day.

My slumber was not what I had hoped. My dreams were hellish things, fraught with the kind of danger and trickery that no needle, vile or the like could ever have gifted me with.

I found myself in a dank tunnel, surrounded on all sides by images of my past, present and a future not yet realised, all of which taunted me without mercy, and in truth, terrified me beyond clear reason.

Nevertheless, I know I must have fought against my demons, for when I woke to the familiar sounds of Mrs Hudson engaged in conversation with the only other member of our household my hands were tangled within the afghan, almost to the point that circulation to my fingers had ceased.

I wanted nothing more than to release myself from my prison of bedclothes and be on my way but as rising now would certainly mean a confrontation, and would I believed, only bring undue grief to those I held dearest to me I kept both my place, and my silence.

Despite my unsatisfactory position I listen as Mrs Hudson fusses over my dear Watson in her most attentive manner and even allow my heart to lighten briefly at the sounds of their voices, so full of genuine affection that I would have given anything to be able to join them.

I would miss our little family, and yet I knew there was no saving it. One of us would have to leave this place.

My fingers curled with an accord of their own, paining me further, but even so nothing could compare to the ache within my breast. I stifled my urge to scream - to curse the unfairness of it all, though I knew I only had myself to blame. If I had not weakened, and allowed Watson into my heart, not to mention my bed, none of us would ever have to contemplate a day without the other.

Oh, there was no doubt in my mind that my sentence had truly begun, but my torment it seemed, would be as my dreams had predicted, slow and without mercy.

Watson had always been somewhat tardy over his meals and our good landlady was apt to indulge him at every opportunity. Still, the time taken over tea and toast seemed an insufferably long duration and it was a good while later before I heard the table being cleared and Mrs Hudsonís departing foot steps.

I could feel Watsonís lingering presence long after Mrs Hudson had gone. It was far longer than was wise I thought, considering the demand for his attention elsewhere. He stood over me at one point, gently encouraging me to wake. It was a tempting invitation and in my minds eyes I imagined him also reaching for me as he had last night, pulling me toward him and pressing himself impossibly close. Sadly though, last night, was and could only ever be, a sweet memory and as I finally noted his withdrawal from the room and eventual departure from our lodgings, I let him go - farewelling my love and the better half of my heart.

And so it begins.

Left to my own devices once again, I finally free myself from the afghan and sit upright to contemplate the emptiness around me, and within.

It has been my intention all along not to waste time or thought on what could not be changed, but as the minutes are measured by the mantel clock and the sun cast its cleansing rays across the living room floor I find that I am able to do little more than note its progress. I have no interest in following through with my plan to distance myself from my home or those of whom I have come to count as kin.

The sounds from the street are now filled with the many about their business, making the best of the waning morning and the money that can be earned from their meagre trades.

I wonder about Watson, now at his surgery, tending his patients, the frail and the sick. Does he spare a thought for me, or is his mind already calculating away to rid me from his memory? It is probably for the best I tell myself, if the latter is the case. No earthly good can come of what we have done, no family, no future, and no peace of any kind. It is better that I leave and give him his chance.

It is an honourable decision, fitting of our friendship and our regard for one another, and yet now the time has come to act, my body refuses to cooperate. For the longest time I simply sit, reminiscing with the ghosts that inhabit our shared rooms and wallowing in my grief.

At length the same time piece which has measured the moments of my torment alerts me to the fact that the hour has now reached noon. It could be foolhardy to remain any longer my conscience reminds me - Watson may return for his lunch, he may demand an audience, an explanation.

I know if he finds me here what could have stayed a sweet memory may forever be marred by harsh words, sorrow and regret. I could not bear it. To see him pained when I have seen him glowing and aroused. To hear his voice clipped and bitter when I have heard it roughened by passion and the most intimate of admissions would surely be too much to endure.

Even as I recall the words of love I had never thought to hear from him once more there is a commotion outside followed soon after by a familiar tread on the stairs. I close my eyes and clutch at the front of my dressing gown. I will be damned I tell myself, as the cruellest of men and the greatest of all fools, but still I do not flee.

I open my eyes again when I hear the footsteps reach their inevitable end and the door opens. Watson's face is flushed as he appears at the threshold, not from our coupling last night but from the physical exertion necessary for running, I realise. I do not know what this means, but I am completely at his mercy now that he is here and I can not pretend his presence does not affect me. My heart beats a furious tempo in my chest and my hands turn white from the way I grip my dressing gown, although I do not know why I bother to try and cover myself when he has seen me as no other man has.

With not a word of greeting the sitting room door closes behind him and I steel myself as my old friend approaches me. It is too late now to escape.

"Dear God, Holmes," he exclaims, breathless from the several city blocks he has travelled to reach Baker Street in a time that must, by his own standards, be a record.

I have a mind to ask him what has come over him, but I am not given a moment's reprieve from him as he crosses the room to kneel at my feet.

"I had feared you'd gone and I would return to find our rooms as empty as I found our bed this morning. Please," he continues, "tell it is not what you are planning?"

Watson's hands are as insistent as his pleas for reassurance, and though I know it would be prudent under the circumstances, I can not bring myself to fend him off as he reaches for me. I feel myself begin to tremble as he buries his face in my lap while his arms circle my waist to draw us closer still, but the feelings he stirs in me are too much to deny and I can no sooner control my body's response to his nearness as I could will my heart not to beat.

"I should leave," I tell him, knowing that it is impossible now to do so. "But I have found I can not."




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