Angst, Arrogance, and Assumptions
Jem's Bird

Chapter Two



I concentrate upon keeping my every muscle under control as I walk down the path; my legs wish to rise up and give me the kick in the arse I so dreadfully deserve.


I have lost him. Through my stupid, arrogant inaction, I have lost any chance I had with him. During my three years’ absence, he and Lestrade have become involved.


I cannot think of it right now. I have a job to do. I force myself to keep walking.


They must have heard my approach. Granted, the plan I devised for them was to use sexual intrigue as a cover, but they who know me so well must have detected my step upon the gravel and used the opportunity to let me know their feelings for each other.


Could I get away with murdering a Scotland Yard Inspector?


Stop it, Sherlock.


A cough from the shadow of a fountain indicates my brother; I melt into the darkness to join him. I silently pass him the offending envelope and prepare to quit his side, but his hand upon my elbow stays me.


“You are disturbed.”


“This is a disturbing mission.”


“It is not the procurement of this letter which disturbs you.”


“It is nothing.”


“On the contrary, Sherlock, it is everything. But we cannot discuss it here. Meet me at Pall Mall.”


“They are expecting me at Baker Street.” I cannot keep my emotions from my words, and my voice trembles disgracefully.


“As I said, Sherlock, we cannot discuss the matter here. You will come to my rooms tonight, and I will lend what help I can.”


“I do not wish to be helped.”


“You are not happy with how matters stand.”


“I can change them.”


“Once again, you have made a muddle out of things, Sherlock. I have said nothing before, but I shall not let you ruin your life like this.”


“I thought we were not going to discuss this here.”


He ignores my insolence.


“You know my routine, Sherlock. I shall await your visit.” With a heavy grunt, he rises from his seat and melts back into the night. From the Embassy windows come the sounds of angry shouting as the document’s disappearance has now become known to the general public within.


I return to the party, where I shall be called on to solve this intriguing little problem, only to discover the cunningly drawn copy Mycroft left in the jacket pocket of the agent who recently double-crossed him. It will take the Belgians at least a week to discover that this is not the document their man stole from the Italians.


The motions I go through are ingrained and automatic, and I allow my mind to slip elsewhere as I berate poor Bradstreet for his total failure to notice that a team of at least three confederates were involved, drawing his attention to the telltale scratches from Lestrade’s lockpicks and the ash from Watson’s cigar.


I do not listen to myself as I speak the lies Mycroft has put into my mouth, and I wonder that no one can tell where the line of deduction has been bent to point suspicion away from the obvious.


They see, but they do not observe. And yet, for all their slow, predictable reactions, they have succeeded where I have failed, for they are happy where I am miserable. They smile and gasp at my every deduction, chattering amongst themselves and applauding my brilliance, as if my foisting of one more crime upon this man’s already guilty record is some entertainment laid on for their amusement. How I hate them!


How I envy them! I do not look at Watson as he joins me at his side, opening his notebook faithfully, as if he has not betrayed me. Lestrade stands in the background, with only a touch of paint and a bit of cloth keeping everyone from seeing what is before their eyes. Can they not see the beard stubble upon Mlle. Vernet’s chin? No woman would stand as he is standing now; his slouch ruins the illusion of widened hips I worked so hard to create. Would it not ruin Mycroft’s plans, I should rip the wig off his head and expose him as a spy who has eluded the ineffectual grasp of his colleagues. Then he would be dragged to prison and I could –


No. Watson has made his choice. He must know how I feel about him; did I not beg him to move back in with me? I was pitiful in my insistence. He is a gentleman through and through; he did not wish to embarrass me, and so he said nothing, offering the friendship I need, rather than the love I crave but do not deserve. He would never do anything to hurt my feelings, and he does not wish to break my heart.


But then why did he continue to kiss Lestrade when he heard me walking up the path? The vision of them in each other’s arms springs unbidden to my mind.


“Is there something wrong, Mr. Holmes?”


“Forgive me, Inspector. I was momentarily distracted by an unimportant trifle. As I was saying, a man and a woman have left through this window. If you will look at their footprints here upon the path, you will see …”


What a fraud I am! Somehow I manage to babble my way through the rest of the evening’s charade, even bidding Watson a cheery adieu as he escorts his date into the carriage. Brushing aside the rest of the evening’s undeserved accolades, I decide to walk home alone, allowing my feet to guide themselves while I sift through the acid infesting my soul.


I wish that I had had the courage at least to declare my affections for him; at least, then, he would not have had to resort to such gestures in order to tell me that he cannot love me. I have never had any courage in matters of the heart, of course, not even with Victor, even when he made it obvious that any overture I made would be accepted. I knew that once he came to know me – truly know me – he would turn away in disgust. And so I put aside my need for love just as I always had, just as I might skip a meal or a night’s worth of sleep. I had no need for such a luxury as a lover’s touch, and had put such things well out of my mind, until Doctor John H. Watson came into my life.


I cross the street and slip into an alley that leads to a little-known mews, my feet clicking upon ancient pavement haunted only by rats and cut-throats; neither are a concern to me. What is of concern to me is why Watson did not turn away from me before. In those early years, I believed he would have been repulsed by the idea of sharing his bed with a man, and I was relieved when he married, believing I might find respite from my temptations. Little did I know how awful the loneliness would become.


A long-deserted stable leads into the back area of a tannery; I reflect upon the bitterness of my life while following the backs of warehouses and sheds down to the river’s edge.


I wander slowly along the muddy banks, rambling over and under dock and jetty, remembering that autumn evening in 1890, when I saw Watson flirting with an editor acquaintance of his and realized that his marriage was a smokescreen and I was an ass.


Of course I ran. Coward that I am, I ran away, all the way to Tibet. It was only after the monks forced me to sit and listen to my thoughts that I realized I should rather be lonely at Watson’s side than lonely with a thousand miles between us.


The fact that Watson fainted when he saw that I still lived, I can only attribute to my over-dramatic presentation; what an ass I was to reveal myself in such a manner! It was nothing less than shameless, meretricious manipulation on my part: if he had any romantic feeling for me, he would have flung himself into my arms and –


Stop it, Sherlock,” I hiss.


“It’s a sign of madness, talking to yourself,” a thick voice says behind me.


“Well, he’d have to be mad, walking by himself in a dangerous neighbourhood like this one,” another voice agrees.


I curse myself for my inattention, and turn to face the thugs who have been following me since the tannery-yard.


I smile coldly. “Then you gentlemen should know what they say about a madman’s strength.”


They grin at each other, not impressed. They are large, brutish men, and thus overconfident of their own physical prowess. I almost wish they were an equal match for me; I should rather end up in hospital than see Watson and Lestrade together when I arrive home.


I sigh wearily and assume a ready stance. “Very well, then, let’s get on with it.”

Chapter Three



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