Christmas,1897
by
Sara
Notes

"You are mistaken. He would never..."

"You are an imbecile, Sherlock. An absolute imbecile."

I heard this incredible comment as I walked up the stairs, laden with Christmas parcels, to the sitting room I shared with Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Holmes was continuously making me aware of the inadequacy of my deductive powers, yet they were good enough to allow me to deduce that it must be Sherlock's brother, Mycroft Holmes, who had made that singular statement. Only he called Sherlock Holmes by his Christian name. Only he would have the temerity to call the great detective an imbecile.

As I opened the door to our sitting room, Mycroft Holmes continued, "You proceed according to your deductions," this was spoken with a decided sneer in his voice, "and I shall proceed according to mine."

"No, I forbid...," Sherlock Holmes started to say. Upon my arrival into the room, however, he fell silent. Mycroft Holmes was gathering his hat and stick from where they lay across a chair, preparing to leave.

Sherlock Holmes, clearly discomfited by my presence, threw himself down into his chair in a brown study without so much as a nod in welcome. Mycroft Holmes, on the other hand, greeted me warmly, "Ah, Dr. Watson, I am just on my way to lunch at my club. If you would care to accompany me, we could eat in the Stranger's Room, so that we might converse."

I was exceedingly surprised to receive an invitation from Mycroft Holmes, who had always given the impression that he regarded me as his brother's somewhat inferior appendage. I looked at Holmes, who appeared sunken into melancholy, and asked, "Is there a client coming this afternoon?"

He waved his hand idly at me, saying, "No, no. It is not the season for interesting crime."

There was an almost feverish intent in his eyes as he watched me turn to his brother to say, "I am delighted to accept your invitation then, Mr. Holmes, if I could take a moment to put down my burdens before we depart."

Holmes continued to watch me as I placed my parcels on my desk and walked out of the room with Mycroft, who escorted me with a hand on the small of my back.

*****



We took a hansom to the club, Mycroft Holmes not being inclined to walk more than a block or two. After seating ourselves in the Stranger's Room and ringing for the boy to bring our lunch, I said, "I heard you and Holmes arguing as I arrived at Baker Street, Mr. Holmes. I hope it is not a serious matter."

He chuckled. "Please, call me Mycroft." Still surprised at his invitation to lunch, I was shocked by this invitation to friendly intimacy. True, I had known Mycroft for nearly ten years, but I had seen him perhaps two dozen times during that period. Holmes, Sherlock Holmes, had never invited such closeness in all the many years of our friendship. I turned away from that thought, and the pang of frustrated longing that accompanied it.

Mycroft did not appear to notice my mild consternation, or my moment of distraction, and continued, "It is a serious matter, but not one of any real import, if you can appreciate the distinction. Do not ask me what our argument concerned," he said, as I opened my mouth to do just that. "It is a matter strictly between my brother and me."

"Very well, then."

Our lunch was delivered, and we moved into a free-ranging discussion of art, Liberal politics, and the situation in India, which took the entirety of the afternoon. Mycroft's attention to my conversation was quite flattering in its intensity. He listened closely to my words, considered carefully my opinions, and, when he disagreed with me, which was often, he expressed his opinion of my thoughts without any of the arrogance to which Sherlock Holmes is prone. During the conversation, we moved from the table to a settee at the rear of the room to, as Mycroft said, continue our conversation in more comfortable surroundings.

I was very conscious of his closeness as he sat next to me on the settee, his knee occasionally pressing into mine. I have always been aware of my highly inappropriate attraction to members of my own sex. I found Mycroft's proximity disturbing, though not entirely undesirable.

He was not, however, the Holmes that I wished to have showing me such attentions, that much I knew. I have desired Sherlock from nearly the moment we first met in the laboratory at St. Bart's, and certainly from the time that he asked me to accompany him on the Jefferson Hope case. I have loved him with all my power since before my wife died, God forgive me. But, I knew that Sherlock was completely unattainable--immune entirely to the softer emotions. My own childish, fruitless longing for the younger brother prevented me from being entirely comfortable with what appeared to be advances from the elder.

As I ran through these thoughts in my mind, I lost the thread of my conversation with Mycroft, until he said, "Am I boring you, Doctor? Or may I call you John?" He asked the last with a glance through his eyelashes that, from a woman, would have been called coquettish.

"Of course you may," I replied, flustered by his now-obvious flirtation. I moved away from him on the settee, disconcerted.

Naturally, he noted the movement, and frowned at me. "I do not believe I have misread you, John. Surely, I am not more aware of your nature than you yourself are."

Against my will, I flushed, aghast that this man, this near stranger, could know such intimate secrets. "No...no. But...," I stammered. I paused for a moment to gather my wits. "The setting is highly inappropriate, Mr....Mycroft."

He leaned back into the corner of the settee and smiled.

"That's the advantage of the Diogenes Club. No one is permitted to take the slightest notice of anyone else here. But, if you are uncomfortable in this setting, we could move our discussion to my rooms just across the street."

It was not the first time I had been propositioned by other men, inverts such as myself, but this was the first time it had been in such a public, open forum. I was completely taken aback. I nodded, feeling overwhelmed. "That would be for the best."

We left the club and crossed the street to Mycroft's well-appointed lodgings. He closed the door behind me and immediately moved close, his large body pressing against mine and his fleshy hands taking my shoulders. When he moved to kiss me, I turned away with an apology, "I'm sorry, Mycroft. You are not ... wrong about me, but still ... I cannot."

He turned my face back toward his with a surprisingly gentle touch and looked into my eyes. "John, don't wait for him."

I knew that my face reflected the shock I felt as I took a reflexive step back. I managed to gasp out a choked, "Who?" It was bad enough that Mycroft had seen through the careful charade, the exaggerated admiration I showed for attractive women, by which I hid my perversion. It was so much worse to think that he had seen and understood the doomed and desperate love I felt for his brother and which I had buried for fifteen years into an acceptable friendship.

He shook his head in mild remonstrance, saying, "You needn't dissimulate with me. I know how you feel for my brother and I tell you he will never love you the way you desire, and deserve."

"I know," I said, horrified at the grimness in my own voice. "I know. But I still cannot." I could not help but feel that to allow such intimacies with another man would be to betray, if not Holmes, then at least the depth of my own feelings for him.

Mycroft backed away. "He does not deserve you," he said, gently, yet loud enough to carry across the room. He moved to a small mahogany table near the fire and poured two glasses of brandy. He took a sip of his, and continued, in a conversational tone, "He does not believe in love, you know. I know you think he has deep reservoirs of emotion hidden beneath a fašade of reserve and impassivity." He handed me the other glass and invited me to sit by the fire. "I assure you, there are none. He is as cold, as heartless, as he appears."

I downed my brandy and turned to my host, shaking my head helplessly, rejecting the words that would destroy my hopes. "I cannot change how I feel."

Mycroft sat down next to me. Reaching out with one finger, he ran his finger along the edge of my jaw. When I did not resist his touch, he leaned over and kissed the place near my ear where his finger had stopped. I allowed his kiss, and, after a fashion, enjoyed it. It had been a long, lonely time since the death of my wife. Longer since Sherlock Holmes had stolen my affections, my very soul, and kept me from making other deep attachments. Longer even still since I had felt a man's touch, a man's desire. I was, oddly, grateful that he was so different in physical form from Sherlock, soft and fleshy where Sherlock was all hard lines and lean muscles. It made it impossible for me to mistake the touch of the one who was there courting me on the settee for that of my dearly desired friend.

"I would like to make love to you," he said, looking with unconcealed hunger at me. "I do not expect to win your heart immediately, but I think we could find much pleasure together. And, perhaps, someday you could come to care for me."

Even as I longed to be loved, my heart shattered utterly at the suggestion that I should give up my dreams of Holmes someday coming to return my love for him. I was grateful that my self-command, already severely tried, allowed me to master both my countenance and my emotions before tears so much as welled up in my eyes. "I do not know that I can ever respond the way you wish, Mycroft. My heart is not my own."

"Perhaps I can steal it back for you," he said and smiled, an odd glitter in his eyes. "I can be extremely persuasive when the cause is good." He kissed me chastely, on the lips, before leaning away.

I nodded and stood, saying, "For tonight, I think it is best if I leave. There is much I must think about."

"I will let you go, then," he said, rising and escorting me to the door. "When may I see you again?"

I tried to muster a warm smile, but I am afraid it came off as wan instead. "I have tickets for the theatre on Boxing Day; perhaps you would like to join me?"

"I should be delighted. Will you wire me tomorrow with the details?"

I nodded, said, "Yes," and slipped out the door.

I walked slowly home, lost in my thoughts. I understood that Mycroft was right; I would never see the day when Holmes would love me as I loved him. Perhaps he was right also that I should accept that which he offered to me.

*****



As I walked up Baker Street to the lodgings I shared with Holmes, I noticed that there were no lights in our sitting room windows, and I assumed that my friend had retired very early or else had gone out for his dinner. I was surprised, therefore, on entering the sitting room, to find Holmes curled up in his chair, puffing on his long clay pipe in the darkness.

I entered the room quietly and without lighting the gas lamp, respecting both his silence and the darkness. He spoke first, and his voice was rough, as though he had spoken little and smoked much since I left, "I take it you and my brother shared a pleasant afternoon, Watson."

After an afternoon and early evening spent enjoying the casual intimacy of being on a first name basis with Mycroft, it was a reminder of the impossibility of my hopes and dreams to hear Holmes call me, as always, by my surname. I forced my voice to normalcy and said, "Yes. He is an excellent conversationalist and the chef at the Diogenes is first rate." I hung my coat and muffler on the rack. "How was your afternoon?"

A match flared in the darkness and illuminated a ghostly cloud of rising smoke which briefly wreathed Holmes's head. "I have spent the afternoon in thought."

"A case?"

"No, but a problem, nonetheless."

"Might I assist you in any way?" I asked, hoping, as always, to be permitted my usual place in the fringes of his life.

"Not at this juncture. Mycroft and I are in disagreement, and I am being forced to reevaluate my line of reasoning."

"Ah, yes. He mentioned it."

He looked up at me, eyes glittering. "He did?" His voice was as sharp as the click of a cocking pistol.

"Not in any detail, of course. He said you and he had a disagreement on a serious matter, but one of little import."

A very brief smile flickered across his face and his voice softened to its normal tones as he said, "Not, I think, how I should have described it. I should have described it as a matter of tremendous personal import."

I raised my eyebrows, curious at his words but knowing better than to press him. "I hope your afternoon of thought has, at the least, been productive."

"It is too early to tell. I have a hypothesis and I must test it."

I nodded. "Very well." I walked to the bell pull. "Have you dined?"

"No. Nor have I lunched. If you would be so good as to ring for dinner, I find that I am quite famished."

I rang for Mrs. Hudson, and lit the lamps. With that, our evening became much like a normal one, though Holmes was, perhaps, more introspective than was usual. On more than one occasion, I found him staring at me curiously. I allowed the looks to pass without comment.

As I was retiring to my room hours later, I thought of Mycroft for the first time since ringing for dinner and asked, "Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, Holmes. Would you care to invite Mycroft for dinner on Christmas Day? There is still enough time to let Mrs. Hudson know to cook for a third."

Holmes' face soured at my mention of his brother's name. "I do not desire company at our meal. In any case, I am certain that Mycroft has his own plans for the holiday and has no interest in dining with us."

I felt a tiny moment of disappointment, which was quickly replaced by a much greater sense of relief and anticipation. I was pleased that Holmes wanted to spend the day solely with me and resolved to make it as enjoyable a day as possible. These were the scraps of affection I received from Holmes, and on them my foolish hopes, and my soul, survived. Scraps they were, but still more desirable to me than all of Mycroft's wooing. I smiled, nodded and continued to the door.

I was stopped by a question a few feet away from it. "When are you next seeing my brother?"

"We go to the theatre on Boxing Day, but how did you...?"

"Mycroft is a diplomat. He knows how to press an advantage."

I could see instantly that Holmes was right; Mycroft had used his knowledge of my deviant and desperate love for his brother to emphasize my loneliness and longing. He had pressed this advantage even to the point of my allowing him some degree of physical intimacy. Very neatly, too. But what advantage did Holmes think Mycroft was pressing? Did my friend also read my perversion, which I had imagined I kept so well hidden, on my face? Worse, did he know also of my secret love for him? Suddenly, I was certain that he must have known all along and became anxious to escape to the privacy of my room.

Unable to marshal my countenance, I whispered, "Good night," and quickly turned to walk away.

I had just opened the door to the landing when I felt his strong hand close around my arm. "Don't go, Watson." I hadn't even heard his approach, so swiftly and silently did he move.

His use, again and always, of my surname was more than I could bear. Anger, composed of a mixture of frustrated longing, humiliation and accumulated years of hurt, washed over me like a wave. "Curse you, Holmes." I snatched my arm from his hand and stalked away toward the fire. "We have been friends for over fifteen years. I have followed you into danger, broken the law with you, even endured three unspeakably awful years of believing you dead. What would it take to induce you to call me John?"

He smiled, but his grey eyes were as sad as I've ever seen them. "Why, merely your asking me to, my dear friend. I've been waiting for all these fifteen years for you to do so. And a long fifteen years it has been."

I gaped at him openmouthed. After a moment, I recovered my wits enough to say, "You never, in all those years, gave me any indication. You never invited..," I was unsure what to say next, and my voice trailed away.

"No. That is very true; I never did invite you to use my given name." Holmes took my hand and guided me to the nearby settee before speaking further. "You have been, for much of my life, a devoted assistant in my detective work, even doing me the honour of recording a few of my cases. In the study of my methods, you might even be called an acolyte. I could not have asked for more loyalty than you have shown me."

I sat dumbfounded at these words. To think that for all these years I had thought my humble service was unnoticed and unappreciated.

Before I could gather my wits to apologize, Holmes continued, "I know that I am not a warm man. There is nothing about me to suggest that I welcome or desire friendship or intimacy." His eyes clouded for just a moment, his thoughts apparently turning inward, then he shrugged and a sad smile crossed his face. "Nonetheless, I had hoped that someday you would come to see through my cold manner. Or, at least, that you would feel yourself enough my equal to invite intimacy despite it. And I have waited for that moment, until I despaired that it would ever come."

I was embarrassed that I had ever imagined that he preferred me as his humble servant and aide, and mumbled, "I'm sorry, Holmes...Sherlock. May I call you Sherlock?" It was strange to be asking the question in the situation, but I couldn't seem to avoid following the convention.

Holmes leaned a little back from me, a sad look on his face, and said, "No." I am certain that my heart stopped its beating for a moment; my body froze, instantly chilled through to the bone. Shamed again, I began to rise, desperate to leave, but Holmes rested his hand upon my knee, staying me, and continued without a pause, "I have always disliked my given name. Mycroft uses it only because he knows it vexes me. Yet, if I may, I should dearly love to call you John."

I managed to stammer out an affirmative, despite the sudden hammering of my heart and the whirling of my thoughts. My emotions were spinning like a child's top, from sadness to shame to a strange kind of hope and back to sorrow again. I tried to determine what obvious signal I had missed, how I should have known that Holmes desired a greater intimacy with me, or even that he desired me to think myself his equal. My thoughts would not settle, however, and I kept hearing his precise, controlled voice saying that he would dearly love to call me John. It was so much more than he had ever given me in the past.

I closed my eyes, leaned back against the arm of the settee, and tried to steady my breathing and my mind. I was just bringing a semblance of order to both when I heard Holmes rise and cross the room. The clinking of glass and the sound of a poured liquid told me he was at the brandy decanter, so I wasn't surprised when he pressed a glass into my hand, which rested limp upon my knee. I opened my eyes and smiled at him in thanks.

He smiled in return, so briefly I might have missed it had I not been looking intently at him. His face turned somber again when he spoke, "Is this so much of a surprise, John?"

My eyes flickered away from his face toward the fire as I answered, simply, "Yes." I was afraid of what he must be thinking. I was certain that he had blazed a trail for me to follow, marked with abundant and obvious clues, and I had missed them all. He was undoubtedly disappointed in me once again. I turned my gaze back to him and offered a rueful smile, "No doubt it is my own blindness which kept me from seeing. I never imagined that you wanted anything more than a devoted acolyte, so I set myself to be that to you with every fibre of my being." I could feel a blush burning on my cheeks and turned my face away entirely, hoping to mask the color in the glow of the fire. With shaking hands I lifted the brandy glass to my lips and drank deeply.

Holmes gave me a moment to compose myself before he asked, "And if I told you I wanted something else, something more?" He turned my face back to him with a strong hand on my chin.

Pinned by his all-seeing gaze, I knew I could not lie, could no longer hide my feelings for him, if indeed they had ever been hidden at all. "I would gladly be to you whatever you desire of me, Holmes. I would go wherever you go. Do whatever you ask of me." A look I had never seen before passed over his features, and I dropped my eyes, studying the frayed lapel of his old mouse-colored dressing gown, afraid to see the disgust that would no doubt consume him when he understood my thinly veiled words. He was asking for friendship, and I was offering a passion which must appall him.

"I have been an imbecile," he whispered, his voice so stricken that I flinched away, closing my eyes, afraid that, at any second, I would feel his hand upon my cheek turn harsh. To my surprise, he instead stroked the edge of my moustache and the corner of my mouth with his thumb. I looked up, startled. "Whatever I desire?" he asked, with a piercing stare and a strange heat in his grey eyes.

I nodded, transfixed and struck dumb by his intent look. One of his hands stayed on my cheek, while, with the other, he took the brandy glass from my nerveless fingers, setting it on the side table. He leaned forward toward me, but it wasn't until his gaze dropped to my mouth that I was certain he was going to kiss me. I licked my lips just as he was lowering his head and he moaned almost inaudibly before his lips reached mine.

Even in the first moment, when his kiss was chaste and courtly, it felt nothing like Mycroft's. My love and genuine desire for him made the kiss into something much more profound than a mere touch of lips. I parted my lips slightly in invitation and Holmes moaned again. Instead of delving deeper, as I hoped he would, he pulled away, just enough that he could look into my eyes.

His lips brushed over mine in tantalizing touches as he asked, "What do you wish of me?"

I dared not speak my fondest desire, that we bind ourselves to each other for all eternity. Pledges of heartfelt emotion I knew would sit ill with him. Indeed, I hesitated to ask anything of him at all, not certain of the extent of what he was seeking or offering. So, after just a moment's thought, I said, "I want to give myself to you, so that you know that I am always yours."

He kissed me again, with a fierce passion, burying his hands in my hair. When he spoke afterward, his voice was rough, "No, John. You have been showing me that for years. What do
you want?"

His eyes looked into my very soul and I found myself answering without any thought at all, my voice little more than a growl, "You. I want to hold you, and kiss you." I matched word to deed, pressing kisses to his cheeks and lips until we were both breathless. "I want to mark your white skin with my teeth," I said, as I opened his collar and shirt, slowly trailing my moustache down the lovely, long column of his neck. He made a small noise, something I should have called a whimper if it had come from anyone save the great Sherlock Holmes, which drove my passion even higher. I licked at the point where his neck met his shoulder, and whispered, "Right here." He shivered and I smiled against his skin, heady with the influence I was having over him, headier still with the overwhelming joy of being able to make love with my dearest friend at long last. When I pulled back and gazed at him, his eyes half closed and almost vacant looking, his cheeks flushed and lips swollen, clothes disheveled, I kissed him again, tasting him as deeply as I could. When I broke away, I leaned close and whispered in his ear, "I want to take you, Holmes. Take you and make you mine."

The fine shivering I could feel under my fingertips turned into a full-body shudder and his fingers clenched hard on my shoulders. "Then do it, John, do it," he said, his voice hoarse.

I smiled wolfishly, pressed my lips against his, and bore him back with the force of my kisses and my passion, until he was lying on the settee. There we made love in front of the warm fire. Everything I told him I wanted, we did, and more. As I sank deep inside him for the first time, I felt a sense of wholeness and rightness that I had never known before.

Afterwards, as I lay holding him, both of us gasping for air and for a semblance of our normal selves to be restored, I allowed myself the unmitigated pleasure of clasping him tight to my bosom, my spent manhood nestling against his backside, and kissing again and again the rosy mark I had left on his fine alabaster skin.

My happiness was only marred by the pang of not knowing that Holmes felt the same way. I was almost afraid to think or speak, afraid to know Holmes' reaction to my passions. Oh, he had certainly responded enthusiastically enough, encouraging me with gasps and moans and halting words of pleasure and praise. Still, I did not know his heart, and I feared to learn.

I held my breath when Holmes stretched and a normal, waking tension returned to his lax muscles. It appeared that he had regained his mental equilibrium and I was grateful that he was facing away from me and I didn't have to see the expression on his face. "Ah, my dearest John, how long have you desired me thus?"

My heart swelled to bursting as I realized from the tone of his voice and his endearment that all would be well, and kissed his neck again. "A very long time. Since almost the moment we met."

He gave a very dry chuckle. "And I missed it entirely. I can only imagine that I saw nothing only because I desired it so much. Mycroft was right."

He turned in my arms so that he was facing me. His long fingers traced sensual patterns on my sweat-dampened chest as he spoke, "He told me that you are an invert, like myself, just this morning. And I did not believe him." I blushed, but Holmes kissed me, and would not let me look away. "He told me you desired me," he said, before kissing me again, more passionately. "In those deductions he has been completely borne out." Holmes grew thoughtful as he continued, "He also told me that you love me. Should I assume..." His voice trailed off and his eyes turned away from my face.

This never before seen diffidence in a man usually so masterful endeared him to me all the more. I took his hands in mine and held them tight against my breast. "I do love you, Holmes. You are my hero and my guide. But I do not expect that you will share..."

He did not let me finish my sentence, interrupting me with a forceful kiss that almost rolled us off the settee. When we had recovered our balance, he smiled, laughed and said, amid his chuckles, "At least I have not been an imbecile alone all these years. I love you as well, my dearest. Love you with more fervor than any who know me could imagine possible."

At that moment, my happiness was complete and knew no bounds. We lay on the settee together until the fire began to wane and a chill came over us. Then, we rose and retired to his bed. I did not think of anything save the exquisite pleasure of holding him, of feeling his tender kisses, of cradling him in my arms until the next morning.

*****



We were enjoying one of Mrs. Hudson's excellent breakfasts when my eyes fell on my theatre tickets, and I was reminded of my invitation to Mycroft. I was trying to puzzle out how to broach the subject with Holmes, when he spoke, his voice cold, "Will you be keeping your theatre date with my brother?"

I looked up, startled, but also grateful that he had broken through my reticence. "I feel as though I must honour the invitation, though I have no desire to be with anyone but you for quite some time."

His gaze dropped to his plate, but he smiled and I knew that I had pleased him. A thought seemed to strike him because his face grew suddenly cold. "What was the nature of your conversation with Mycroft yesterday?"

I could not understand his sudden change of mood, but instinctively responded to it, becoming tense and wary. And not a little embarrassed, as I admitted, "He was attempting to seduce me." Holmes' face grew black. Thinking that he feared Mycroft had forced unwanted attentions on me, I reached across the table and took his hand as I hurried to say, "No, no! He was courting me, hoping that I might come to care for him some day. He only kissed me, chastely, just before I left."

I was surprised when my attempts to soothe him only made his mood even blacker. "The blackguard! He tried to win your heart?" I nodded, and he squeezed my hand fiercely, clenching his other hand into a fist in his rage. The fury in his eyes was beyond anything I'd ever seen before.

I looked at him in some dismay, uncertain of the source, and object, of his anger. "Holmes? I am so..."

He stopped me before I could complete my apology, "No, John. You have done nothing wrong." He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, and I watched as his mastery of his emotions reasserted itself. When he opened his eyes, they still glittered with barely banked fire, but his grip on my hand had eased. "You do not understand. Mycroft knows of your love for me and of mine for you. He has known since shortly after he met you. And yet he attempted to displace me and win your heart."

I thought back to Mycroft's flirtation in the club, the wooing in his rooms, the bold and bald statement, the lie, that Holmes would never love me as I loved him and I felt my own fury rise. "Damn him!" I stood angrily, almost knocking the chair over in my fervor, and paced the room. "Why would he?"

Holmes, watching me as I stormed around the room, smiled just a bit then. "You have no idea what a desirable man you are, do you?"

I waved off this ridiculous statement and strode toward the window. I found myself at my writing desk, and penned a few quick, angry lines on a telegraph form. I showed it to Holmes.

Mr. Holmes, invitation for theatre on Boxing Day withdrawn. Do not expect to see me again. -- Watson

Holmes' smile was broad and genuine then, though some of the anger still lingered around his expression, giving his face a very hard look. "Very good. Will you hand me a form and a pencil as well? Thank you."

I was curious enough to openly watch over Holmes' shoulder as he wrote his very simple telegram:

Mycroft, You were right on all points. -- SH

Holmes and I continued to seethe, each of us alone in his anger, while the page came up to take the telegrams, and Mrs. Hudson cleared away the breakfast things. Once they had both gone and the sitting room was our own again, I walked to where he sat and extended my hand to him. He rose and took it; I pulled him into my arms, finding solace, comfort and peace there. He returned my embrace, holding me against his breast as though he would never let me go. My anger ebbed away under the joy of holding him so.

I whispered into the fine linen of his shirt, "He could never have won my heart, Holmes. I do believe it has been yours since the day I was born." I was uncertain how Holmes, in the hard light of dawn and removed from the sanctity of our passionate embraces of the night before, would react to this blatantly emotional display.

To my surprise and delight, he held me tighter and kissed my temple and said, "Then I shall care for it always, John." He kissed me again, and then we regretfully let each other go.

We spent the day quietly in our sitting room, talking and reading together. I was unspeakably grateful for the fact that the ease and comfort of our friendship and our daily life together, which I cherish, were only increased by the changed nature of our relationship.

A single reply to our telegrams arrived shortly after lunch. As Holmes read, a smile spread across his face. He began to chuckle, and then, finally, to laugh wholeheartedly. He handed me the telegram and I read, first with puzzlement, and then my own amusement:

Sherlock, My apologies to Watson and to you. Please understand that I had to force you both to act. Ten years is a long time for a man to watch and do nothing. Merry Christmas. --Mycroft

 


 

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