Arrogance, and Assumptions
I look back and forth between Watson and Cordelia, my addled mind absolutely refusing to take in the words I have just heard. And yet I must believe them; I can read the truth in every line of Watson’s face, and the light in his eyes in unmistakeable.
He loves me. How could I not have seen it before?
But first things first; I turn to my niece, who is smiling like the proverbial cat in the cream. “You deliberately set this up,” I growl, not bothering to disguise my annoyance.
She shrugs. “Father and I planned this charade to bring you together, yes. Doctor, I am sorry for goading you so, but we could fins no other way to make Uncle Sherlock see what is so obvious to the rest of –”
I cut her off with an impatient wave. “Yes, thank you, Cordelia. May I assume that you do not need any assistance with your botany project, then?”
“No; the note you received was a complete fabrication to bring you to the greenhouse.”
“And timed your manipulation to match my arrival with the doctor’s declaration.”
“There were only a few variables to balance,” she replies, rising to her feet. “My only real challenge was in having not met –”
“Cordelia, please.” And yet, I cannot help but smile. Love is a strange thing indeed.
“It was a pleasure meeting you, Doctor.” Cordelia nods to the doctor, and kisses my cheek, and then she is gone, leaving Watson and I alone, save for Charlie, who has no doubt observed the whole conversation with typical avian detachment, drawing his own conclusions upon the matter.
For my own part, I do not for the life of me know what to do now; Watson stares at me, similarly held motionless by our uncertainty. He laughs nervously, running a hand through his hair.
I take a deep breath. “No doubt you are angry with me for not telling you I had a niece,” I begin hesitantly.
He shrugs slightly. “You have always been reticent about your family and your private life. You didn’t tell me you had a brother until we’d known each other for five years.”
“But that’s just the point. I cannot continue to distance myself emotionally. If we are to be … close … then I should –”
“Holmes, you’re not the only one that has made mistakes here. Yes, it would be useful to know of your family and the details of your inner life, but we can easily remedy that over time.” He looks over at Charlie, who has begun to preen. “I have made some magnificent errors upon my own part,” Watson says distantly, watching the parrot run his beak over his wing-feathers. “Perhaps we should leave those mistakes in the past and start afresh.”
We watch Charlie re-arrange his feathers awhile in silence, each of us considering what we might do better in the future. I realize that if Watson truly loves me, then I have little to fear in his arms; the look of righteous indignation upon his face as he defended himself to Cordelia has washed my insecurities away.
I must remember to thank my niece; perhaps tickets to Covent Garden shall be called for. I wonder briefly what part Mycroft had in all of this, but decide to put the matter away for later consideration.
I turn to Watson, finally allowing myself to look at him. I can see that he has not slept well, that he has barely eaten, that he has spent the last forty-eight hours in a state of anxiety, and is on the verge of a nervous collapse. In fact, he is all but undone, and it is my fault. I know that I must make amends, but I do not know even where to begin. A feeling of deep hopelessness takes hold of me, and I sink to one of the chairs, barely aware that my companion has taken the chair opposite. We have not moved toward each other, nor do we seem to be inclined to do so; it is almost as if, with the dramatic misunderstandings of the day before, we have used up any energy we might have had for romance now. At the very least, Watson does not seem to want to initiate any physical demonstrations, and I decide to follow his lead, concentrating instead upon the less intimidating aspects of this whole mess.
“So how did Lestrade fare?” I ask wearily.
“Slightly bruised, but none the worse for wear,” he answers tactfully. “His lover arrived shortly after you left, and was able to escort him home without any problem.”
“Well, his friend in any case. A typesetter from Aberdeen – you would find him an interesting study.”
“I made a complete ass of myself, didn’t I?”
“No more than I did, Holmes. For what it’s worth, neither Lestrade nor I are angry at you – we both realize that you’re more than a little out of your depth in these matters.”
I wince at the truth of it. I, who pride myself so deeply upon my intellect, I find myself completely outside of any familiar frame of reference. It is as if some fantastical gust of wind has lifted me up and deposited me in some distant country where I know nothing of the language or customs. Even when I travelled to Tibet, I had some knowledge of Asian culture, and so had some idea what to expect. Now, I find I have even fewer resources to build upon than when I found myself in Lhassa.
Watson often mentions my ability to break into his thoughts; what he does not mention is that he has a similar strength, at least where I am concerned. “I know,” he sighs. “I’m afraid it shan’t be easy for you. I know it won’t be easy for me. But I shall do what I can to make it worth your while.” He smiles shyly at me, and I feel a strange stirring in my breast as I suddenly realize that he is most likely holding himself in check for my benefit. This is unfortunate, as I should dearly love to feel his arms around me right now.
I am less sure that I shall like much of what will follow; from all accounts it seems messy, uncomfortable, and a wasteful exertion of valuable energy, but if Watson wishes it, I shall do whatever I must to satisfy this burning need that plagues both of us. Lie back and think of England, eh? For my Watson, I would do this and much more.
“Holmes, about … about what happened before,” he begins tentatively, leaning forward in his seat, frowning at his fingertips. “I deeply regret …” he sighs, shaking his head. “What I mean to say is that I promise I won’t … I won’t insinuate my attentions like that again. I can’t begin to explain …”
“It’s all right, old fellow,” I tell him nervously. “Even I understand that thirteen years is a long time.”
“I should have told you how I felt. What an ass I was!”
“Not an ass, Watson, merely cautious; I gave you no sign that any advances would be met with anything but disdain. I blame myself; I saw, but I did not observe.”
“From what your niece told me, you had no frame of reference.”
“I still lack a frame of reference,” I admit heavily.
Watson slowly rises from the chair and steps to my side, extending a hand toward me. “You once said that when you were very young you confused the Leeds Mercury with the Western Morning News; now you know the typeface of every major newspaper at a glance. I have every confidence that, once you get your bearings in this new sphere of worldly experience, you shall adapt quickly.”
Good old Watson! I take his hand, squeezing it gratefully. I pull myself to my feet, using the firm grip of his hand to stabilize myself. It is a simple gesture, one we have repeated many times – he might have retrieved some small object from beneath the credenza, and I might lend him an arm to assist his return to a vertical position – but now the import of the position in which we find ourselves in cannot be mistaken, and I find myself drawn into his embrace as inexorably as a moth to a flame.
When he encircles his arms around me, I know that he shall not harm me. When his lips meet mine, I know that nonetheless I shall burn in this flame. The buzzing in my head I experienced before has returned, and as I open my mouth to his, I find that the sensation extends in a line of fire from our joined mouths, along my spine, directly to my groin. Before I was to frightened to appreciate how sweetly urgent this feeling is, but now I allow myself to relax into the impulse to press closer to him, consciously taking the time to feel every contour of his muscle beneath my hands, tasting his unique flavor upon my lips, relishing the way his moustache tickles my lips.
Too soon, he pulls back gently, laying a trembling hand upon my chest, his eyes shining like sapphires. “We need to take this slowly.”
“You were not moving too quickly for me.”
“I was about to lose control.”
Suddenly, I find myself fascinated with the idea of what it would be like to see John Watson lose control. I reach out and touch his cheek, amazed at the way he leans into my caress. This is powerful stuff indeed! I am filled with a strange hunger that has nothing to do with food; my eyes cannot get enough of the tantalizing sight before me as I stroke his chin with my thumb. He tilts his head back slowly, his eyelids fluttering softly, a soft moan escaping his lips.
I lean forward and claim his mouth with mine, marvelling at how he melts into my embrace. When my tongue meets his, however, all rational thought is driven from my mind, and I am aware of nothing until a loud shriek makes us jump apart.
Watson looks around in confusion. “What in the name of …” he pauses, seeing no one. “Holmes, what was that? Holmes?”
I find I’m having difficulty speaking; all I can do is stare at his lips. “It’s Charlie,” I answer finally. “That’s his way of saying we’re not paying any attention to him. He’s also upset because it’s past his bedtime.” I lean forward to kiss him again, but he draws away with a charming smile.
“Perhaps we should leave him be, then.”
I wrap my arms around Watson’s waist and pull him to me. “He can sleep late to-morrow,” I murmur, pressing my lips to his neck.
“I meant perhaps we should go home.”
The word has an indescribable effect on me.
Home. Baker Street. Watson.
“Why am I feeling frightened again?” I whisper. I had not been aware that I would speak aloud, but Watson nods understandingly.
“This shall change us, Holmes,” says he solemnly. “This shall colour everything we do together; our home shall become a very different place.” He touches my cheek.
“Let us hope,” I answer fervently, “that the changes are for the better. You will help me adapt?”
He grins, his eyes twinkling. “We can but try,” he answers softly. “Come on, let’s go home.”
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