Angst, Arrogance, and Assumptions
Jem's Bird

Chapter Four



I am glad to have Doctor Watson’s arm to lean upon; these shoes are becoming distinctly uncomfortable. We hurry along Baker Street together, and I listen blankly to my companion’s grumblings. I am definitely not thinking about the expression on Stephen Bradstreet’s face. Damn near twenty years I’ve worked with the man …


And why did I blow a kiss at him? Have I gone completely off my nut? But the way his eyes glowed when he looked at me – no.


I shake my head and push the thought out of my mind, and return my attention to Watson, who is still bristling with anger and frustration.


“‘What sort of appointment would it be,’ indeed,” he mutters, shaking his head grimly. “One of these days, Bradstreet’s going give me that smirk at just the wrong time, and then we’ll see who’s got a temper –”


“Please, Doctor,” I interrupt him. “Let’s just get me somewhere I can change out of this dress.”


“Cab! Where are we going, anyway?” he asks, as the hansom clatters towards us.


“Damned if I know. Gabrielle Vernet was never supposed to leave Baker Street.”


“And we didn’t invent an address for you, Mademoiselle? Well, the night is still young. Hyde Park, driver, and twice around,” Watson calls out, his voice suddenly jaunty. “And no need to rush; the lady and I wish to see the sights.” He wraps an arm around my waist and hoists me into the seat, and we fall back together upon the cushions as the cab surges forward. We manage to re-arrange ourselves to some semblance of propriety, once I get the doctor to stop sitting upon my petticoat. It does not take me long to see that something is amiss with the doctor, something beyond the already embarrassing circumstances of this evening’s events.


“No, no, nothing’s wrong,” he says quickly, in answer to my question. “Apparently, Holmes has felt the same way for some time. We’re in love,” he adds doubtfully, scowling at the buildings slipping past. “We’ve gotten our happy ending.”


I shake my head; now I know something is amiss. “You’ll excuse me for saying so, Doctor, but you don’t sound all that happy about the matter.”


John Watson turns to me, his brilliant blue eyes rimmed with sudden tears. “Thirteen years,” he hisses, “thirteen damn years I followed him, dreamed about him, fantasized about him – yes, lusted for him. Thirteen bloody years, and then –” he lets out a long ragged breath, burying his face in his hands.


I lay a hand on his shoulder. “Well, at least now –”


He pulls away. “What would you know about it? Have you ever wasted more than a decade of your life because your heart isn’t you own? Have you ever –”


This is too much. “Yes, I do know,” I snap. “Believe me, I know: I’ve been in love with the same man for eighteen years, and he doesn’t have a God-damned clue.”


Watson regards me with wide eyes. “Look, old fellow, I’m sorry. I didn’t –”


“It’s all right,” I say, fiddling with the hem of the dress. “In any case, yes, I know where you’re coming from. But at least you’ve got him now. The man I love will never know how I feel.”


We ride along in silence for a while, as I try not to think of the look on Bradstreet’s face, try not to think what might have happened had he escorted Mlle. Vernet home …


No. Not like that. Not ever, but particularly not like that. I shake it off. “For what it’s worth, Doctor – John?” I pause, touching his hand. He nods, a tiny smile quirking the corner of his mouth. Sweet lord, if I’d only met him when I was younger! “John,” I continue, “I’ve been around the block a few times; I can tell when a man’s found the love of his life, and I can tell when a man’s found there’s a spanner in the works. I’m willing to listen, and I’ve got a soft shoulder.”


“Dressed in a fetching frock, even,” he smiles ruefully. “Actually, if you’re willing, I could use a sympathetic ear; there’s a lot I need to sort through before I face Sherlock Holmes again. But I could use a stiff drink even more, and a bit more privacy,” he adds with a wink. He leans forward and gives the driver the address of a small, only slightly disreputable West-end hotel, then sits down beside me, hugging me close. “We’ll check in for a few hours. It’s a slightly scandalous move, but quite understandable under the circumstances. That is, if it’s all right with you, Mlle. Vernet?”


I flutter my eyelashes. “I rather think,” I say, “that we should register as ‘Doctor and Mrs. Watson,’ don’t you?”


“Gabrielle, you are a devil.”


Merci, mon cher Jean,” I chuckle.


The night clerk at the hotel hardly lifts an eyebrow when Doctor Watson introduces me as his wife. “Didn’t know you’d re-married, sir,” he yawns, handing us the key. “Congratulations, sir. Luggage mis-directed to tomorrow’s destination? Bad luck, sir. Well, everything happens for the best. You and the missus enjoy your stay.”


Once we are safely in our suite, with the door locked behind us, I take off the shoes, then the wig, and then loosen the corset, flopping down on the sofa. “So, what now?” I ask, taking the glass Watson hands me.


“I don’t suppose we could just smuggle you home as you are,” he begins tentatively, straddling the cane-back chair opposite.


I cover my eyes with my arm, leaning back into the cushions. “You wouldn’t be asking that if you knew where I lived.”


“I thought you lived in Norwood.”


“Yes – with my maiden aunt. If I came home in the wee hours of the morning wearing a dress, well …” I sigh, thinking of Aunt Sophia’s disapproving scowl.


“Is there anyone you trust to … well, I don’t know, get one of your suits?”


I take a deep breath. “Well, there’s Alan, but I know I’ll never hear the end of it.”




“We have an arrangement,” I say shortly, not wanting to open that particular file. Alan is seventeen separate conversations unto himself. “He’s a typesetter for the Times; he lives just off St. Anne Street. I … I keep a few of my suits over at his place. He’ll be putting the paper to print just now; if I send a note to his office –” I sigh wearily. “I’m definitely not going to hear the end of this one.”


“Do you want me to wait with you until he gets here?” Watson’s voice sounds flat.


“No, I think I can handle him.” I postpone all Alan-related thought; that can wait until much later. I sit up and look at the doctor, who is pouring himself another drink.


“But you don’t have to leave right away,” I add doubtfully. The doctor doesn’t seem quite ready to leave just yet, and I realize that it has come to me to let him say what he needs to say before he’s ready to face going back to Baker Street.


I wonder if I can get him to say it before Alan arrives. “So,” I begin encouragingly. “Thirteen years. And now he admits he loves you.”


He downs the liquor in one gulp. “And you want to know what went wrong.”


“Well, apparently something went wrong.”


He smiles grimly. “All right, Gabriel – I assume you don’t mind me calling you Gabriel? All right, consider that man you’re in love with. Imagine that you thought you lost him forever, and then imagine that he’s back and in your arms and telling you that he’s just as mad for you as you are for him.”


I close my eyes and push away the haunting vision of Bradstreet’s large brown eyes. “All right, I’m imagining it,” I lie. “I’m not sure I see your problem.”


“Exactly how much self-control would you be able to keep?”


“I think my self-control might last five seconds, tops,” I concede. “After that, things might get a little heated.”


“Oh, things got more than a little heated. Now, how much actual experience do you think Holmes has with such situations?”


“Ah – Oh. You think you scared him, do you?”


“I think I frightened him out of his wits,” he admits with a groan.


“More beast than brain, eh?”


“Let’s just say a different part of my anatomy was doing all the thinking. Sweet lord, what have I done?”


“Nothing that you can’t fix, John. I’m sure that Sherlock Holmes won’t stay frightened for long.” I stare up at the ceiling, sifting through old memories. “You know, I think I’ve only seen him frightened three – no, four times in all the years I’ve known him. Twice I’ve seen him frightened when we ended up on the wrong side of some serious firepower, and another time was on the tracks at Paddington Station, when we both got snared on the points – before your time, shabby little jewel-theft – nothing that’d stand out about it if it hadn’t nearly got us both squashed flat by the 4:15 from Leeds. Do you want to know the one other time I’ve seen him frightened?”


“Well, there was when we were looking into the Armstrong hangings, but you weren’t there for that.”


“No, though I’d imagine he would’ve probably had a nasty turn on that one. He’s not particularly fond of spiders, is he?”


“No, he isn’t,” Watson chuckles. “Did Hopkins tell you?”


“Oh, yes. I think I should have done a fair amount of leaping about, myself. But there’s frightened and then there’s frightened. There’s only one time I’ve seen real, honest-to-goodness, helpless terror on that man’s face, and that was on the morning of your wedding.”


I listen to the silence. Damn and blast; I’ve gone too far.


“I’m sorry, Doctor, I didn’t mean –”


“No, it’s all right, Gabriel. It’s just that I’d never thought ….” He does not finish the sentence.


I sigh with exhaustion, wishing that just once I’d learn to keep my damn mouth shut.


“He was frightened at my wedding, wasn’t he?”


There is a hopeful tone in his voice I haven’t heard before, and I realize that I wasn’t that far off the mark after all. “You mean way too much too him, John,” I tell him. “He won’t give up on this just because you gave him a fright.”


Watson considers this a while, frowning at the carpet as if the flowers woven there might hold some answer. “I wasn’t just like a beast,” he whispers. “I was like some sort of … lustful monster, not even noticing or caring about his feelings on the matter. I made a complete muddle out of things. Even if I go back now and he welcomes me with open arms, I’m bound to muck it all up again, somehow. Sweet Lord above, I’ve been so long keeping myself from showing my love for the man, I don’t think I know if I can make love to him – not without turning the thing into a total fiasco. I’ll make a complete ass of myself –”


“But so will he. In fact, I’m willing to lay any money you like that he’ll make more mistakes than you.”


Watson laughs softly. “Well, there is that.” He slowly rises to his feet with an air of determination. “We’d better get that note sent, and then I should get home,” he says, as he breaks into a wide grin. “I have a lot of mistakes to make.”


I smile to myself as I scribble down a note for Alan and hand it to Watson. I help myself to another drink while he goes off in search of an awake messenger, and set myself to loosening what straps and buttons I can to make myself slightly more comfortable.


“You do present an alluring picture,” Watson laughs upon his return. “If ever I were tempted to commit an indiscretion –”


“Easy, my boy. You’ve just found the love of your life.”


His face grows grave, and he veers sharply to the sideboard. “Then why the bloody hell do I feel so nervous?”


“Because you’ve just found the love of your life. Go on, I can wait for Alan alone. It would be better, in fact – he’s not … well, he’s not the type to make a good first impression under strained circumstances.”


“I’m not sure I’d make the best first impression myself at this point.”


“And I’m certainly not dressed to impress,” I laugh.


“I don’t know; you made quite an impression on Bradstreet,” Watson chuckles. “He was ready to fight me for the honour – I say, er …”


It is too late to hide my reaction; I merely shrug resignedly. “It’s an old wound, John. And I don’t hold any hopes; he’s a normal, red-blooded Englishman, through and through – he’d probably kill me if he knew how I really felt about him. Did you know I stood up for him at his wedding? And I was there for him at his wife’s funeral. I still don’t know how I survived that one.” I realize that I’m babbling and shut my mouth, but my words have drawn him in.


Watson sits back down, staring at the floor.


“You go on,” I tell him, knowing that he will not move now. My relationship with this man, whatever it might have become, has moved beyond the point where he would leave me alone after such a revelation.


Watson looks quizzically at me. “Bradstreet? For eighteen years?”


I nod solemnly. “Ever since we worked together on the Sandersen forgery case. Another bit of ancient history you don’t need to know about. He pulled me out of the path of a bullet, and I knew my heart belonged to him. Look, John, this is my own cross, and I’ve borne it for longer than I care to admit. You don’t need –”


“I can’t just leave – good heavens, man! what if he’d recognized you?”


I blush furiously, bowing my head. “I still don’t know why I blew a kiss at him. I must have taken leave of my senses.”


“I thought you were just being playful.”


“Playful isn’t the word for it. And yes, you can leave. I’m all right; I’ve been this way about the man for eighteen years. Nothing about that is about to change. But you and Holmes –”


The look on Watson’s face is extraordinary; he springs to his feet once more, his bright blue eyes blazing with sudden emotion. “I didn’t even say good-bye,” he cries. “Lord only knows what he is thinking. And what –”


His words are interrupted by a knock upon the door. We exchange a puzzled look before Watson goes to the door, frowning. “You’d better hide out of the line of vision until we know who it is,” he says over his shoulder.


Before he can turn the knob, the door flies open and Sherlock Holmes bursts into the room, looking about as angry as I have ever seen him. He glares at Watson before turning to me, literally quivering with rage.


“So,” he snarls, “I see you and Watson have decided to take advantage of the situation and –”


“Holmes, please –”


Holmes spins around to face Watson, who stands before him in an attitude of supplication. “You have made it clear where your affection stands, Doctor,” he sneers, putting so much acid into the epithet that I expect Watson to flinch; however, the man merely sighs wearily, pinching the bridge of his nose.


“Holmes,” says he in a soft voice, “I did indeed make it clear, or so I thought. My heart is and shall always be yours; Lestrade and I were merely –”


“HA!!!” Holmes laughs bitterly.


I decide that I have had enough. “Look, Mister Holmes,” I growl, “you might be too dense to recognize it, but this man loves you with every fibre of his being. Now whether or not you are worthy of such devotion –”


I only realize that I have said too much when Holmes’ knuckles connect with my jaw, sending me reeling. I am dimly aware of Watson shouting, and then all goes dark and I know no more.

Chapter Five



Home     Monographs     Authors     Latest Additions     Gallery     The Radio Parlour     Moving Pictures

Sites of Interest     Submissions     Acknowledgements     Contact