Back to Baker Street

I was glad that when we left the concert hall, Holmes hailed a cab to drive us the short distance back to our Baker Street lodgings. The events of the last few days, coupled with the injury I had sustained to my shoulder were finally catching up me and I was looking forward to once again spending the night in my own bed.

Despite the warm glow coming from the second floor, the lower levels of our Baker Street residence were in darkness when we arrived at our destination. The hour was late and fatigue wore incessantly at me as I climbed the staircase which lead to the rooms I shared with the world's only consulting detective. He aided me a little; ever vigilant of my shoulder as he helped me remove my overcoat and then set about turning up the lamps, which Mrs Hudson had thoughtfully, left burning for us.

"Would you care for a brandy, Watson, or do you wish to retire?" Holmes inquired after the last lamp had been adjusted.

I was tired but a brandy would certainly aid my rest considerably. "Thank you," I answered and then made myself comfortable on the settee to watch him prepare our drinks.

Holmes had been most accommodating since our return. Even though I had accepted his offer to dine, and to accompany him to the concert, I knew he was still attempting to make amends for his poor treatment of me during the case. Telling him I did not trust him had been a truth well over due, but still it bothered me that it had been necessary to deliver such news to the only man to whom I had ever trusted with my heart. It was a contradiction of grievous proportions, but matters of the heart so often are I have discovered.

As tired as I was I knew I needed to settle my dear friend's fears. Oh no, he had said nothing to me of harbouring such fears but I knew him well enough to know that was his way.

It was his ways of course, which drew me to him in the first place and was in all honesty what held me to him now, years after we had made our original acquaintance. Despite our differences, we were also very alike. We shared a common interest in science for instance, and for the coming of the new century. Both, I mused as I watched Holmes' finally turn from his preparations, men who found their baser needs best fortified by another of his own kind.

In spite of my exhausted state, or perhaps because of it I found myself smiling as Holmes approached me, his steel grey eyes alight with every manly charm he could muster. For all his many attempts to seduce me tonight there would be no fortifying of needs, base or otherwise until I was rested, and my arm healed sufficiently for my equal participation. Not because I intended to purposely withhold intimacy from him as a form of punishment for what I saw as his ill-treatment of me, but because I could not, now or any time in the future, see us as anything but equals.

Holmes quite literally beamed as he towered over me, offering me one of the glasses he had filled with an ample portion of the fine Napoleon Brandy that Mycroft had left as a Christmas gift in our absence.

Clearly, he had perceived my smile as a sign of exoneration.

"I take it that you have forgiven me then, Watson?"

He was correct of course and although I still wished to discuss the terms of my inclusion in any of his future cases, I knew it was time I told him so.

Accepting the proffered brandy with my good arm, I stroked gently over the backs of Holmes's neatly manicured fingers.

"I should still be furious with you. For all you put me through. Honestly, Holmes I would have thought I deserved better from you, that after all these many years you would have considered me trustworthy enough to be taken into your confidence, and not be used as if I was no more than a servant."

My last remark was perhaps a little harsh, but to his credit; Holmes had the good grace to appear remorseful as I chastised him.

"That was never my intention," was his only defence."

"Perhaps not," I conceded. And then, because my arm ached from the added burden placed upon it since our encounter with Stapleton, and there seemed to be little more to be gained by dragging this out any longer, I withdrew my hand.

Slowly bringing my glass to my lips, I watched as after only a moment's hesitation Holmes mirrored my actions. His eyes, which now appeared to have lost much of their earlier gaiety, met my own over the rim of fine crystal and at the lowering of his dark lashes we drank together, forgoing a toast or any other ceremony until each glass had been drained of it contents.

As I had anticipated, the brandy warmed me as I swallowed it down, alternately filling me with weary satisfaction and a lingering promise of undisturbed rest. Holmes was ready when I had finished the last of it and I gratefully relinquished my glass back into his care. Instead of returning both glasses to the side table so that we might now declare this night, and the contention between us at an end, he stood gazing down at me.

"Holmes?" I queried.

"I know you do not always approve of my methods Watson, but if my intentions towards you are ever questionable in your opinion, then I request, at your convenience of course, the opportunity to restate them."

Holmes very rarely spoke of his intentions in regards to myself. Neither of us held to romanticisms, or the more common declarations that might be expected in relationships such ours, but the sight of him now, willing to open his heart as it were, for the sake of domestic harmony, gave me a glimpse of the man that the world never saw, and I only seldom. A singular man, who I knew that for all his great intellect, charm and expertise was as in need of solidarity and reassurance as the rest of humanity.

The Hound of the Baskervilles, which was the name I intended to use when I finally set about the retelling of Holmes' latest adventure to the public, had taken a toll on him, that I was only now, with the danger to both of us no more than a dark memory, allowing myself to acknowledge.

For several moments I simply stared at the man in front of me, recalling as I did so how I had found him out on the moor, and how even as I had taken aim at Stapleton's head I feared I would not have the strength to pull Holmes from the bog. Certainly we have faced death before, but never had the cold harsh reality of it come so close, or touched us both so intimately. 'If my tailor had not been up to the test would I have merely watched him sink further and further beneath the murky depths,' I wondered, 'or if faced with living my life without him, would I have opted to join him at the bottom of the bog?' I did not know and yet as I continued to regard Holmes I knew that I never again wanted him to doubt what it was between us.

Forcing Holmes to take a step back, I rose from my place on the settee. "Your methods are often a mystery to me," I told him as I crossed the bounds of friendship for the second time tonight and reached out to him. "But your feelings for me, are not. If it were truly your wish however, to restate them at sometime in the future, then you should know that I would be more than a willing audience to whatever you have to say."

Holmes brightened a little at my words and the intimacy of my hand as I cupped his cheek. Nevertheless, there was more I could do, more I needed to do I realised, as I gazed into the, dare I say, slightly haunted eyes of my dearest companion.

Because he stood some inches taller than I, it was necessary that I draw Holmes down to me so that I could bestow one final gesture of assurance before I bid him a goodnight. It was no more than a brief brush of my lips against his but I knew it would sustain him until I was recovered and able to provide more.

There was no protest when I pulled back. Holmes appeared a little flushed but he nodded knowingly as I took my leave. We would talk when we were both rested, I vowed as I made my way to my room, when we could each find the words that needed to be said.




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