Angst, Arrogance, and Assumptions
Jem's Bird

Chapter Eight



He loves me.


I cannot believe it; my mind is spinning so fast I can barely keep my thoughts in any coherent order.


He loves me. Sherlock Holmes, the man I have all but worshipped for thirteen years, the man I have followed into danger, the man I mourned as dead, the man who has become the centre of my existence – Sherlock Holmes loves me.


As we ride together to Baker Street, I cannot help but steal furtive glances at him as he sits beside me, staring out the window as if slightly bored; to all appearances he is calm and composed, but I who know him so well can tell that his nerves are stretched tauter than a telegraph wire. Although the hansom is enclosed, we sit well apart, not touching, although my hands fairly itch with the desire to stroke his hair, and my lips are tingling as my mind dwells upon the fervent kisses we shall no doubt exchange as soon as we are in private.


He loves me. My heart is pounding so hard in my chest that I swear my shirt-buttons shall pop off with the strain. I watch his long fingers idly tapping upon his knee and I think what it shall be like to have those fingers stroking my skin, exploring my flesh, probing my …


“Watson, such thoughts,” Holmes chuckles. “And you, a doctor. Absolutely shocking, that.”


I gape at my friend with no little amazement; he has not looked at me once during this interminable ride. “Holmes, how in the world –”


He turns to face me, and his smile sets every nerve below my belt aflame with desire. “It is not hard to extrapolate your thoughts, my dear Watson,” he says with a mischevious chuckle, “especially as my own thoughts are running in a similar vein.” He reaches for my hand and squeezes it, but does not release my fingers, instead caressing them with surprising tenderness. He has held my hand before, to guide me in the dark or to illustrate a point, but never before has such contact sent a frisson of delight surging up my spine.


I regretfully slide my hand away from his, and immediately I see the pain blossoming in his eyes. “It is only because, my dear Holmes,” I whisper, “if you held my hand like that for much longer, I don’t think I’d be able to keep from kissing you.”


Holmes’ reaction is extraordinary; if I live to be as old as Methuselah, I shall never forget the mingled look of joy, confusion, and wonder that light up his eyes. A flush of brilliant scarlet colours his pale cheekbones, and he opens his mouth to formulate a response, but the cab draws to a halt.


We sit motionless in the seat, staring at each other.


“Your destination, gents,” the cabby says with a polite cough.


Holmes pulls himself together and leaps to the pavement in a single catlike movement. “Pay the man, Watson,” he says in something approaching his old imperious tone. “I’ll meet you upstairs.”


My hand is visibly shaking as I scrounge up the fare from various pockets; by the time I’ve managed to stumble up the first flight of stairs, I can barely work the latch to the sitting-room door. When I see that we have a visitor, my heart turns to lead in my breast.


“Good heavens, Doctor, you look as if you’ve seen a ghost,” Inspector Bradstreet says cheerily. “I hope you gentlemen don’t mind my looking in on you, only I wished the pleasure of your company for a few hours.”


“This really isn’t a good time,” Holmes snips, striding over to the bow-window. I move to the tantalus, my hand pausing at the brandy before I pass it over, instead reaching for the vodka just beyond.


“You are a brilliant man, Mr. Holmes,” Bradstreet sneers, “perhaps the most brilliant man I’ve met, including that pompous brother of yours. But like most brilliant men, you forget that the rest of us mere mortals aren’t as slow as you think.”


Holmes did not turn around, but crossed his arms and glared down at the street below. “My time is a valuable commodity, Inspector. Is there a reason you came here besides abusing my family and employing backhanded compliments?”


“Don’t insult my intelligence, Holmes. I have a message for your brother, in fact.”


“Don’t you have the courage to deliver it yourself?”


“No; I don’t have the stomach.” He deflates slightly, shaking his head. “Look, Mr. Holmes,” he continues in a milder tone, “my quarrel is not with you. I know who was pulling your strings the other night, and I know that you wouldn’t have done it if it didn’t serve Her Majesty at the end of the day. I just wish that the next time your confounded brother needs to stage-manage one of his little productions, he’d let me know instead of asking you to make me look the fool in front of the whole diplomatic corps of London. And speaking of making me look the fool,” he adds with a chuckle, “believe me, old Lestrade is going to have to buy me more than a few pints before I let him forget this one. ‘Gabrielle Vernet,’ indeed.”


Holmes turns his head slightly, flashing the inspector a sympathetic smile. “We honestly did not have the time to include you, as we only found out about the letter less than six hours before the embassy ball,” he answers. “And for my part, I apologize for my brusque manner. But once again, I really must reiterate that this is not a good time for a long discussion, as the doctor and I have some important matters to attend to. If you have further questions about –”


“Oh, I didn’t come about that, Mr. Holmes,” Bradstreet answers quickly. “I’ve come about our friend from Chicago.”


Holmes wheeled around to face the man, his every muscle tensing. “You’ve found Addams?”


“Thanks to your directions, my men were able to locate his bolt-hole. We’re moving in on him within the hour, and I know you wanted to be there when we brought him in.”


Holmes hesitates, looking at me.


My heart bursts with pride to see the unspoken question in his eyes, and I waste no time in giving my answer. “I’d better fetch my revolver,” I say, moving quickly to my desk. “Holmes, shall I pack your firearm as well?”


“That and your medical bag, Doctor; Addams is a rather desperate fellow, as I recall. How many of us are coming to this little soiree, Inspector?”


“I’ve got a half dozen of my best constables already in position, and I’ve wired the charming Mlle. Vernet, asking for the pleasure of her company,” Bradstreet answers with a laugh. “I told her to bring her gun but leave the girdle at home.”


Somehow Holmes manages to hustle the inspector downstairs before us, and we are able to steal a quick kiss just out of sight. This time Holmes is more eager, his natural grace already a noticeable asset in this particular sphere as his lips rapidly move over my own, nimbly delivering tender bites to cover my entire mouth.


I do not employ such finesse; Holmes nearly topples over the hat-rack as I slam him against the door, devouring his neck and forcing a moan to escape from his mouth that nearly sends my blood boiling.


Somehow, I manage to pull away, and we stand staring at each other, our shoulders heaving with our recent exertions, our clothes and hair scandalously disarranged. Suddenly we both burst out laughing at the sheer absurdity of it all, before hastily putting ourselves to rights and rushing down the stairs lest Bradstreet starts wondering what has kept us.

Chapter Nine




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