Angst, Arrogance, and Assumptions
Jem's Bird

Chapter Twelve



I am dimly aware of Holmes kissing me upon the cheek and telling me that he is only leaving a while, before I roll over to garner some more sleep.


A few moments later, he is back.


“Do you mind if I move a few things in here? Only you did say for me to consider this my room as well. No, don’t get up, there’s not much here. Just a spare dressing-gown and a couple of books.”




I feel him sitting down upon the bed next to me, the bedsprings squeaking slightly. “Of course, perhaps I should wait until you’re fully awake before I presume too much,” he continues, his voice doubtful.


I sit up wearily, the memories of the previous evening still swirling around my head in no little disorder. I look at Holmes, who seems to be busy at re-arranging some books upon my night-stand; although I, who know him so well, can see clearly that he is stalling, waiting for something.


But for what is he waiting? The full record of last’s nights activities is still a little dim in my swimming head, and yet –


And yet my memory of last night seems to contain a vision of Holmes upon his back, squirming in pleasure while I – no, impossible. “Holmes,” I mumble, “did we get … er … rather …enthusiastic last night?”


“Of course not,” Holmes replies briskly, sitting down upon the bed.


“Oh.” I am not sure whether I should be relieved or disappointed.


“You were much too tired to be properly enthusiastic. But no matter; doubtless you shall display considerably more enthusiasm the next time you penetrate me.”


“Good God, did I really –”


In a single catlike movement, Holmes leaps onto the bed atop me, covering my neck and face with fervent kisses. “Yes, you did, really,” he whispers sweetly. “And I hope you will again this morning.” He leans back on his heels, smiling in a way that makes me almost want to pounce upon him and fulfil his hope immediately. However, another memory surfaces, and I sit up, swinging my feet to the floor.


“Something amiss?” Holmes asks, the over-casual tone in his voice telling me volumes. I lean over and kiss his cheek, but still hastily pull on my dressing-gown, goaded on by the memory of a pale face upon a hearth-side camp-bed.


“If your sudden hurry is due to concern for your patient,” Holmes laughs, “he’s on his second helping of kidneys.”


“So it’s worse than I thought,” I chuckle, allowing myself to relax somewhat. “But still, I should like to examine him.”


Holmes lies back upon the bed, his own dressing gown almost, but not quite, revealing his arousal. “Bradstreet is making sure he’s having a full breakfast, and they made it quite clear to me that they did not wish to be disturbed. They have a lot to talk about,” here he paused significantly – “and so do we. Though perhaps ‘talk’ might not be the right verb at this point,” he continued, blushing a little.


I smile, almost bursting with joy, but still I continue to dress. “We have ample time to discuss things,” I explain, “but I really should see to my patient. And I’d like some breakfast, of course, if there’s anything other than kidneys.” I pause uneasily. “I say, old fellow, you don’t think Mrs. Hudson –”


“Oh, she and I had a long discussion this morning, while you were asleep,” Holmes answers. “Apparently she’s known about us longer than we have.”


“And she doesn’t –”


“Let us just say,” Holmes yawns, rising from the bed, “that she has her own unique viewpoint upon the matter. In any case, as soon as she found that we had acquired such distinguished guests from Scotland Yard, she set about preparing an excellent full breakfast. Bradstreet wanted to wake you before we let Lestrade move, but I told him that was out of the question –”




“You were exhausted, my boy. And then Lestrade solved the question himself by walking to the breakfast table unaided while Bradstreet and I were still discussing the matter.”


“He didn’t.”


“By the time we noticed he was no longer abed, he’d already tucked into the kidneys. There’s still plenty of black pudding, though,” he chuckles teasingly; he knows full well my aversion to both of these breakfast items.


I can smell, however, the scents of a full traditional breakfast wafting its way up the stairs to the bedroom: eggs, bacon, sausages and ham send their distinct aroma, as well as Mrs. Hudson’s most excellent fried mushrooms and potato hash.


And yet, there is something in Holmes’ manner that does not seem quite right; he stands by the side of the bed, as if expecting me to demand his exit. I smile to myself as I realize that all it shall take is a few well-chosen words to make his heart sing just as mine is now.


“I’ll probably be some time examining my patient and enjoying my breakfast,” I say casually. “Why don’t you spend the time moving what things you need into our bedroom?” He cannot miss the emphasis I have placed upon the word “our.”


“I shall clear out some closet and drawer space for you later this afternoon,” I continue with a smile, “but if you don’t mind, I should rather you leave your criminals’ gallery hanging downstairs in the other bedroom.”


I can see the relief in his face as he moves toward me, his arms opening wide. I take him up in my embrace, surprised to find him trembling in my arms.


I kiss his cheek. “Are you all right?” I whisper.


“It’s just …” he sighs, “it’s just that no one has ever … I mean, I’ve never been in a situation where …” he trails off, nuzzling into the hollow of my shoulder.


I stroke his hair. “I know, it’s strange,” I tell him. “Just remember that I love you, and that this room – and this bed – belong to both of us now, and remember that you are always welcome in my arms.”


He pulls slightly away, a humorous glint in his eye. “You sound like one of those romance stories Mrs. Hudson is always reading.”


“And you’re objecting? It is how I feel,” I answer, a little put out.


“No, no, not objecting,” he says quickly. “I’m just not used to being wooed. It feels strange, having someone say those words to me.”


“I don’t think I could refrain–”


“Oh, no, I don’t mean for you to refrain from wooing me; quite to the contrary, I should like to hear you tell me more,” he finishes coyly.


I kiss his cheek, my heart bursting with joy. “After breakfast,” I tell him firmly.


I rap upon the sitting-room door perhaps a trifle quietly; hearing no answer, I nudge open the door a crack to see if I might enter without causing the occupants embarrassment.


I am met with a charming scene indeed: Lestrade and Bradstreet lie face-to-face upon the narrow camp-bed, their foreheads almost touching, deep in earnest conversation. The murmured words are much too low for my ears to distinguish, but the content is clear, punctuated as the discussion is with tender kisses. I find I cannot draw my eyes away and I watch in fascination as Bradstreet touches Lestrade’s bandaged shoulder with a concerned query, and Lestrade chuckles his answer softly, reaching up to stroke Bradstreet’s moustache. When their lips meet, it is with the confident assurance of a firmly established bond; clearly neither of them is confused any more.


I honestly should leave them be, I think. After all, Lestrade has been hit before and knows all too well how to convalesce from a gunshot wound. And Holmes is waiting for me upstairs –


But just as I consider retreating without breakfast, my stomach lets loose with such a growl of protest that I fear people might have heard the rumble down the street.


“Talk of the man himself!” Lestrade exclaims, allowing Bradstreet to help him up to a sitting position. “Doctor John Watson, if it were not for you –”


“Please, old friend, my task of last night was but an hours’ embroidery,” I say with a modest wave. “Rather, I should congratulate you upon the strength of your constitution; you fought a fierce battle last night.” I moved over to the sideboard to examine the wreckage of breakfast. “And I see you awoke with a hearty appetite.”


“I’m afraid there aren’t any more kidneys,” Lestrade says sheepishly. “And there’s only two kippers left.”


“That would be my fault,” Bradstreet adds with a grin. “Mrs. Hudson just brought up a fresh pot of coffee, though.”


I lift the lid of one covered dish to find that at least our guests from Scotland Yard have not completely decimated the eggs, for which I whisper a prayer of relief. Mrs. Hudson does not just scramble her eggs, but dresses them up with chunks of ham and potato, with plenty of onions and spices to satisfy. I am gratefully spooning a generous helping of this mixture onto a spare plate when I feel muscular arms encircling my waist and soft lips pressing against my cheek.


I nearly drop the plate as I spin around to face Holmes, whose eyes are alight with merriment.


“Nervous, Watson?” he smirks, helping himself to a slice of toast. He moves as if to kiss me again, but I pull away, shooting him a pleading look in the direction of the two Scotland Yarders on the camp-bed, who chuckle with Holmes at my modesty. “I dare say,” he adds, perching upon the stool at his chemistry table, “that they shan’t mind watching us any more than you minded watching them.” His manner is jovial, but I can detect an undercurrent of hurt in his voice, and I realize that he is still amazingly vulnerable.


I take my plate and place it amongst the test-tubes and beakers, trying not to think of what poisons have been there recently as I push a small Bunsen-burner to make room. Then I make a point of wrapping my arms around his shoulders and drawing his lips up to mine, claiming his mouth in an embrace made even more passionate in the forbidden flavour lent it by the presence of our witnesses.


Another roiling of my stomach interrupts our libertine pursuit, and Holmes pulls away regretfully, his eyes twinkling. “I think you should eat your breakfast quickly,” he chuckles. “And then I believe you wished to examine your patient before releasing him into Inspector Bradstreet’s custody.”


“The doctor’s stitching seems to be holding admirably,” Lestrade puts in cheerily, getting up and tottering over to the sideboard. “Does anyone want a kipper?”


“Go ahead and finish them off,” I laugh. “And I know you won’t listen to me, but try to rest. My stitching may be holding out, but your insides took quite a beating, and consequently deserve to be treated with some delicacy. Had I been here when you first got up, I should have had something to say about you getting up to serve yourself breakfast.”


“He would have expressed severe distaste at your choice of menu items, at least,” Holmes yawns, popping the rest of his toast into his mouth and springing up from his seat. “Now if you gentlemen would excuse me –”


“Holmes, certainly you’re going to have more than a single slice of toast,” I begin reproachfully.


“No time, my boy,” says he, kissing me on the cheek. “I have some pressing domestic arrangements this morning. But I shall take the marmalade, if no one has any use for it,” he added, slipping the small jar into his dressing-gown pocket.


We all three watch him disappear into the bedroom with mild amusement.


“Now, what in the devil did he mean by ‘domestic arrangements?’” Lestrade asks, cutting into the kippers.


“He’s moving a few things into my – I mean, the upstairs bedroom,” I answer, quickly finishing off my eggs.


Lestrade washes a mouthful of kippers down with a long draught of coffee. “So he’s taking over your room as well, eh?”


I blush slightly. “The room shall henceforth belong to both of us.” I conceal the flutter of nervousness this thought produces behind another sip of my tea.


Bradstreet gives a low whistle. “You’re really going to share a bedroom with Sherlock Holmes? You are a braver man than I, that much is certain.”


“I consider it an honour,” I say stiffly. “Now I’d like to check under those bandages,” I continue, taking Lestrade’s plate from him.


“Hey – I was eating those kippers,” he protests.


“You can finish them when I’ve finished with you. Now hold still.” I carefully unwrap the dressing to find the wound healing well and my stitches holding perfectly. “Well, you should be able to go back to active duty after a weeks’ rest – no shorter, Inspector, and I shall be sending a note to the commissioner ensuring that you get that rest as well. If necessary, I shall consult with your aunt –”


“He’ll be staying with me,” Bradstreet asserts, laying a hand upon Lestrade’s shoulder. I briefly consider answering him to the effect that Lestrade shall thus get no rest, but decide against it; this new relationship shall be difficult enough without the interference of any extant running feud between me and Bradstreet.


Instead, I take refuge in professional detachment. “I should like to examine my patient fully before I make any determination upon his release.”


Bradstreet, however, reads my expression all too well, and smiles crookedly.


“So, Doctor,” he drawls, “precisely why did Mr. Holmes take the pot of marmalade with him upstairs?”


I look at the man blankly for a moment before I remember the sight of long white fingers thrusting a small jar into a dressing-gown pocket …


I re-wrap Lestrade’s bandage as quickly as possible. “Don’t let him be popping up every moment to fetch things for himself. And make sure he comes back to-morrow so I can change the dressing,” I add over my shoulder as I make for the door.


I dash up the stairs, no longer caring for breakfast or gunshot wounds, running feuds or domestic arrangements. I only know that my heart feels as if it shall burst if I am not enfolded in his arms before I draw another breath.


I fling open the door, expecting to find him lying upon the bed or standing by my desk; instead, I am astonished as a flurry of muscular limbs descends upon me, dragging me bodily to the bed and forcing me down onto the mattress with all the fury and strength of the leopard springing upon the hapless gazelle. As I open my mouth to protest, an invading tongue stops my words. I close my eyes and surrender to the hands that savagely tear my dressing-gown from my body and roughly pull my arms out to each side, quickly and efficiently securing me to the bed-posts before I can comprehend what is happening.


Then my assailant withdraws, and the cool rush of air that replaces him brings the shudder of goose-flesh to my already over-stimulated nerves. The small part of my brain still capable of coherent thought is astonished at the mew of disappointment that escapes my lips when I find I can no longer sense my lover above me.


I open my eyes to an incredible sight: Sherlock Holmes, completely naked, stands at the foot of our bed, his gleaming ivory flesh radiant in the dim morning light peeking in from behind the shuttered windows, stripes of lemon sunlight falling upon sinewy muscle. The ivory of his skin stands in stark contrast to the fine scattering of ebony hairs leading downwards to the thick wiry bush of hair at his groin. His manhood protrudes proudly from this ring of coal-black hair, the skin here a darker ivory and still so pale, only a shade or two lighter than the opalescent drop of fluid shuddering at its tip.


I usually prefer to take the dominant role with my bed-partners, but I must confess that at the sight of this magnificent tool, I open my legs in anticipation of the coming invasion, showing myself ready and willing to be vanquished. I am somewhat surprised, then, when Holmes merely shakes his head, his smile widening as he turns to the dresser and retrieves the pot of marmalade he purloined from our breakfast table.


Slowly he advances, dipping a small spoon into the contents of the jar, pausing only a moment before holding the spoon directly above my own throbbing member. I cannot help but gasp aloud as the first drizzle of the marmalade settles upon my needful flesh. I arch my back and moan as I feel the cool metal spoon touch the tip of my prick.


“Close your eyes and lie still,” he whispers, and my body becomes quiet at his command, only trembling slightly as I feel the spoon leave a trail of cold wetness along my length from head to shaft. The spoon withdraws and returns to the base of my manhood, continuing downwards to coat my ballsac with the sticky substance, the tiny bowl of the spoon the only thing touching my poor desire-wracked body. Soon my entire genital area is covered in a thick layer of marmalade and I am quivering with need, pulling at my restraints until my shoulders are sore. It is taking every ounce of will I possess not to open my eyes.


“Holmes –” I breathe hoarsely.


The spoon withdraws and a finger settles upon my lips.


“Hush,” says Holmes, and I feel his body moving to settle between my legs, and then his hot breath upon my groin; a moment later, his lips and tongue are caressing my testes. In slow, luxurious strokes, he bathes the most intimate of my flesh with gentle kisses, sucking first one delicate orb, then the other, into his mouth. If I did not know to the contrary, I should deem him at a professional level in his skill as he laps every trace of marmalade from my scrotum, his tongue dancing over the sac until I am rendered helpless by the waves of pleasure washing over me. Even though un-touched by these tender ministrations, my nether hole tingles with delight and expectation.


He has also left my now-aching cock alone so far, but soon I feel an insistent tongue curling around the base of my staff, painstakingly crawling up my length at a snail’s pace, licking my manhood clean with firm, long strokes before a glorious wetness settles upon me and Holmes takes me into his mouth all the way to the hilt.


I groan and involuntarily thrust my hips up to meet him, but he once again withdraws and changes position, this time straddling my chest. I smell the heady musk of his groin tantalizingly close to my mouth.


My eyelashes flutter as I think to find the treat so close to my lips, but a single finger taps my forehead. “Keep your eyes closed,” he whispers, manoeuvring himself even closer; I can feel the soft brush of his ballsac against my chin.


This time, I have only to open my mouth to gain my prize; Holmes’ manhood is lightly flavoured with marmalade, the underlying taste of him a dark counterpoint to the citrus tang of the condiment. I suck and lap at him gratefully, caressing him to fullness with my lips and tongue, making sure his member is well-coated with my saliva, preparing him for the moment he chooses to claim the ultimate mastery of my body; even now my hole is twitching as I think of how none other than Sherlock Holmes has bound me to this bed for his pleasure.


I am not aware of Holmes reaching behind him until I feel his fingers close around my shaft, gripping it with all the confidence and artistry he normally reserves for his Stradivarius. So amazed am I at his skill and dexterity, I inhale sharply, only to find my mouth already full, and end up coughing on the very delicacy I have been enjoying so thoroughly.


Holmes pulls himself away and touches my cheek. “Are you all right, Watson?”

I open my eyes and gaze up at him, my heart bursting with joy to see such open concern in my companion’s look.


I reassure him that I am perfectly well, indicating with my words and manner that I am ready for us to become one flesh.


Still grasping my pulsing rod in his fingers, he presses his mouth against mine. “I had hoped that you would say that, Watson,” says he, and then he sits down upon my hips; suddenly I am encased inside him, his muscles yielding to me easily, yet pressing back with delightful pressure. After yearning for – and expecting – his imminent entry, I find myself pleasantly shocked to enter him thus, without any warning, and the sensation is enough to bring me almost to the brink of glory.


Holmes bends to kiss me, sliding up my shaft while gripping it with his inner muscles, and then sits down again to impale himself on me, the ring of his entrance squeezing so tightly that the eruption of my climax begins just as I begin to thrust my hips upward, calling out his name and straining against my bonds as my pulsing rod spurts its load deep into his bowels.


I lie spent beneath my love, panting heavily with my exertion, shuddering as he slowly rises up from my hips, my already softening member sliding ungracefully from his hole. Holmes leans over me once more, claiming my mouth in a breathless kiss.


“Take me,” I pant wildly, biting at his lips in frantic abandon. “For God’s sake, man, take me now.”


He kisses me fiercely, and then situates himself between my legs once more, this time lifting my hips and placing something soft beneath my bottom. Before I can wonder how this admitted virgin should know how the act is best done, he has taken up the marmalade-spoon again and is applying it to my twitching anus. I groan as a finger, then two, replaces the spoon, throwing back my head and closing my eyes once more.


The ministrations pause, and his mouth is on mine, his lips delivering tender bites as I pull at the bonds holding my wrists in place.


“I want you to look me in the eyes, John.” The softness of his voice, combined with the use of my Christian name, is enough to startle me out of my lustful haze. My eyes fly open as Holmes presses the tip of his prick against my opening.


He gazes down at me with some deep unfathomable emotion transforming his features. For a moment, I am put in the mind of a Greek statue, ageless and implacable. Then his expression softens, and he leans forward to kiss me, just as my muscles open further to his urgent invasion.


Then he plunges inside, and I am gone. I do not remember closing my eyes, but my vision is obscured by flashing lights as my lover pounds into me over and over again, ramming his hardness frantically into me, groaning in his body’s giving as I moan in my body’s reception. We cling together as our pace quickens, and when his completion sends his muscles into paroxysms of shudders, I tremble along with him, his outpouring flooding me with liquid fire.


We collapse together into a sticky, sweaty jumble of arms and legs. I am only dimly aware of Holmes releasing me from my bonds, rubbing my wrists to bring back the circulation of blood to my hands. My joints complain slightly as I wrap my arms around my lover and pull him down to my breast, but then I know no more as exhaustion overtakes me and I fall into a sated slumber.


I awake some time later to find Holmes struggling with a large leather-bound trunk at the door. 


“Wasn’t that in the lumber-room?” I ask blearily, sitting up and rubbing my eyes. It is not yet noon by the bedside clock, but I feel as if I have slept ten years rather than just over three hours.


“Yes, this trunk was in the lumber room,” he replies as he manoeuvres it over the threshold with a final tug, “and it shall be returning there later; I merely wished to retrieve a few things from it.”


“Holmes, why in –”


“Why in the name of all that’s holy did I not simply take what I needed from the trunk rather than drag it across the hallway? I dare say the answer to that question shall become clear shortly,” he finishes with a grunt, as he pulls the trunk to the side of the bed, sitting down beside me to fiddle with the ponderous latch upon the front of the trunk.


“So have Lestrade and Bradstreet –”


“They left shortly after Mycroft came to fetch them,” Holmes continues, still fiddling with the trunk’s lock. “Apparently Cordelia is quite upset to hear that her favourite uncle was in mortal peril.”


There is a rueful tone to his voice I cannot ignore. “And you are not –”


“Earlier this morning, Cordelia went round to Scotland Yard to surprise her uncle Gabriel, only to be told that he was here recovering from a gunshot wound.” Holmes pulls a pen-knife from his dressing-gown pocket and begins to pry at the lock. “The fact that her uncle Sherlock did not inform her of these circumstances himself was enough to demote him from beloved relation to heartless blackguard.”


“Now, Holmes, I’m sure –”


“‘Heartless blackguard’ was her own appellation.”


“Ah. Well, some women –”


“Cordelia is no ordinary woman. But still, no matter; in another month, she will have forgiven me enough that I can take tea in her presence without fear of poison. There we have it!” he cries, as the lock finally gives way.


“Why didn’t you open it –”


“Oh, I lost the key to this trunk ages ago, even before I moved into Montague Street, and I didn’t feel like bothering with the lock-picks. Most of the time it opens with the simplest amount of –”


“Doubtless your nervousness affected your skill.”


Holmes has the audacity to look hurt.


“You never let me finish a sentence when you’re nervous,” I chuckle, bending forward to kiss his cheek. “So what is it that you could not remove from the trunk from where it stood in the lumber-room?”


Without another word, Holmes slowly opens the trunk and lifts three items from its depths; an ancient leather-bound volume, its spine cracking with age, an ornate silver frame, and a small floppy object fashioned of some greyish material. The album he places gingerly in my hands, the frame goes immediately to the bedside table, and the greyish lump he holds tightly in both hands, closing it in his long white fingers so that I cannot see its form, although by now I can tell that it is some variety of stuffed animal, threadbare and worn as only a much-loved toy can be.


It is with a shiver of amazement that I realize what a unique honour I am about to receive; Sherlock Holmes is about to bare his soul to me.


I look down for a moment at the coat of arms upon the cover, beneath which is emblazoned a familiar motto: “Nous ne pouvons qu'essayer.” With trembling fingers I open the book to the first page to find a small watercolour landscape, cut from a sketch-book and affixed carefully to the page with gum. The colours are muted and the scene traditional, and yet the fluidity and grace of the lines combined with the attention to detail brings the piece into the realm of the extraordinary. Although it is unsigned, no doubt remains as to what great genius produced this beautiful piece.


There is no text, but rather page after page of beautiful work, all unsigned, all unique, of varying media. Here is a pencil-sketch of a groom rubbing down a fine arch-necked mare; every stroke of the medium highlights the thatch of the stable, the glossy flanks of the steed, even the rough cambric of the man’s shirt.


An Arabian scene of women relaxing by a well is next, done up in pastels and carefully preserved by a sheet of tissue. When I lift this yellowing veil, the colours of the scene bring a gasp to my lips. Just to the right of centre, a dark-eyed woman in blue smiles seductively up at me, and I wonder if I am looking at a portrait of a real woman Vernet met and loved.


Another drawing is in India-ink, a stark scene with a crumbling ruin in the foreground, every detail of the ancient brick cottage faithfully rendered, even right down to the ivy tearing the old wreck down. A gnarled oak stands at the darkened doorway, its roots twisting and curling amongst the scattered gravel of the yard, its branches reaching up to the clouded sky, where a single hawk has been sketched with deft, masterful strokes, forever frozen in time with its wings outstretched as if to encompass the scene below.


It strikes me as a pity that this forgotten work of such a celebrated artist should be thus sequestered, and I say so, pointing out that this simple album holds some of Vernet’s greatest work. “Indeed,” I continue, “I should think that within these pages, your grandmother’s brother has surpassed himself.”


Holmes shakes his head with a sad chuckle. “This is not the work of Horace Vernet,” he tells me quietly. “Rather it is the work of his niece, that is, his sister’s daughter, and my mother.”


I frown deeply. “But surely, as the niece of Horace Vernet, she would have been encouraged to further her gift.” I turn again to the pastel of the Arabian women. “Holmes, she should have been as famous as her uncle. No, rather her reputation should exceed his; she clearly surpasses him in skill and vision.”


“She might have been a great artist,” Holmes agrees sadly, “had she been encouraged. Her father, however, did not approve of her artistic pursuits, and married her off at a pitifully young age to Doctor Sherringford Holmes, M.R.C.S, a country practitioner some twenty-five years her senior, who nonetheless outlived her by a further quarter century.”


“My father did not disapprove of his young wife’s art, but neither did he encourage it. He viewed art for its own sake as a waste of time; just as he would later view my violin as a tool to develop my coordination and discipline, so he viewed my mother’s brilliance as a distraction, only to be practiced when no other duties pressed.”


Carefully bunching the grey cloth animal into one hand, he reaches out with the other and plucks the silver frame from the bedside table, passing it solemnly to me.


I stare down in amazement at the woman in the photograph. She must have been handsome, once, but by the time of this portrait the eye can already detect the careworn lines upon her brow and the dull glimmer of sorrow in her eyes. At her side is a boy in short pants, presumably Mycroft, scowling at the camera through a layer of baby fat that would only expand, rather than recede, over the years; upon her lap, a small bundle of swaddling clothes with bright eyes poking out from a ruffle of lace must be Sherlock. Were it not for the doomed expression upon his mother’s face, I might find the picture amusing, but any risibility gleaned from the greatest detective of all time as a babe upon his mother’s lap is washed away by those haunting eyes.


“She was but seventeen when she married my father,” Holmes tells me, “and Mycroft came just a year later. Then she had two miscarriages before I was born, and another a year after I was born, from which she never properly recovered. She was only twenty-six when this picture was taken; she died at the age of thirty-two, a broken woman.


“My memories of her are always of when she would be doing her embroidery, the only art allowed to her in those last days when she was ill, her chief task being to get well again, so Father told us, and as her medical adviser, his word was law to her. In order to keep her fingers working, Mother would sew animals out of old cloth, embroidering them with rich decorations of geometric or floral patterns,” Holmes murmurs, fingering the faded toy absently, his eyes growing misty at the recollection. “My father tolerated this pursuit, viewing it as therapeutic, I suppose. At one point, our house was littered with cloth animals of every species and colour, all magnificent works of embroidery, numbering in the hundreds, each one a work of art in its own right. While she sewed the animals, we would think up a name for it; when she embroidered the decorations, she would tell me a story all about the animal, where it came from and what its life was like.


“I could not hope to remember all the names we had for each one, but I remember my favourites: Bertie the purple giraffe, Casper the yellow and blue goose, Audrey the green kangaroo.” He pauses, allowing himself a tiny flicker of a smile. “I suppose you think this all rather silly,” he says tentatively.


I lay a hand upon his shoulder. “I had a pink dog named Seymour,” I tell him honestly. “Who is this you have here?”


Holmes opens his hands to reveal a threadbare mouse, completely naked of any embroidery, with two black buttons for eyes sewn on rather unevenly.


“As you see, he was never finished,” Holmes answers in a small voice. “We had just finished putting in the stuffing – by this time, I was allowed to put in the stuffing by myself – and Mother said she was tired and should like to rest before we decided on a name and started on the embroidery. I left her and went down to my tea; a few hours later, Father summoned us his consulting-room …” he sighs wearily.


“I’m sorry, old fellow,” I say, reaching over and squeezing his hand.


“After the funeral, my father ordered all of the animals, every last one, gathered up and thrown upon the rubbish heap. When Mycroft and I raised a protest, he … he …” Holmes closes his eyes, biting his lip. When he opens his eyes and speaks again, it is in the same detached voice he uses to describe his line of reasoning in a case.


“Sherringford Holmes was, essentially, a practical man. The animals had failed their purpose; his patient had died and no more therapy would be needed. Neither work of art nor child’s plaything had any inherent value to him; so, in order to teach his sons a lesson about waste and frivolity, he ordered the servants to torch the pile.”


I cannot believe it, and gape at my companion in stunned silence for some time, contemplating the vilest depths of humankind. “The blackguard dared call himself a man of medicine,” I whisper fervently. “Didn’t the servants protest?”


“The butler, a man named Blake, did; he refused to light the fire, and so lost his situation. The next man was not so brave and did as he was commanded. I had saved this one from the search, hid it away underneath my bed; he is simply called Mouse. Mycroft helped me sew on the buttons a few weeks later, when I could not sleep,” he adds in a voice now trembling with emotion. “He told me that with eyes, Mouse would keep watch for me, and …” he cannot finish.


I draw my lover close and kiss his forehead, reassuring him with my words and caresses until the storm passes. It does not last long, and soon Holmes pulls away, looking more than a little embarrassed at his own vulnerability. I decide to spare his blushes and change the subject, though admittedly my curiosity forces me to choose a topic no less embarrassing, but definitely more cheerful.


I claim his mouth in yet another kiss, deliberately taking pleasure in the unique flavour of his lips. “My dear, dear friend,” I sigh, resting my forehead upon his, “I must say that you have surprised me with your skill at love-making. Your kisses alone are breathtaking, and the marmalade – how is it that you were so inspired?”


Holmes blushes charmingly. “As I said earlier, Mrs. Hudson and I had a long discussion whilst you were asleep, after our first … attempt. I was appalled that my lack of skill could result in my inability to satisfy you.”


“Holmes, you more than satisfied –”


“Yes, we were able to effect a satisfactory conclusion to the encounter,” Holmes interrupts with something approaching his old imperious spirit, “but I could not allow my inexperience to inconvenience us a second time. So I asked Mrs. Hudson –”


“You what?” I cry, unable to believe my ears. “Holmes, are you mad?”


“Watson, I despair of you sometimes,” he retorts affectionately, his eyes twinkling. “I told you: Mrs. Hudson has her own unique viewpoint upon the matter. Now, of course, you’re going to be tiresome and ask me exactly which viewpoint enables our mild-mannered upstanding landlady to be so well-informed about how to pleasure a man; I would beg you to refrain from doing so. Deduce, man, deduce!” he chides playfully, but the wheels are already turning as I consider our ubiquitous landlady.


I have never heard her mention a husband, nor are there photos of husband or children in her private apartments. Her face, though bearing the clear lines of over six decades upon this Earth, is still handsome, enough so to be striking, and her bearing and figure are as graceful as any dancers’. She is at ease with every class of man who has crossed this threshold, and is blessed with an earthy sense of humour and an unflappable nature –


“Good heavens, she’s a retired whore,” I say.


“Certainly not; she’s a madam, and retirement is negotiable.”


I think about some of our chambermaids, and their more than passing familiarity with some of the local tradesmen, and then remember some of our more expensive repair bills that always seem to be mysteriously lower than what I know must be the going rate.


“Half of Scotland Yard visits this house on a weekly basis,” I mutter. “We all must all be mad.”


“Ah, but my dear fellow, you forget; we all only see what we wish to see, spending most of our lives clouded by our own assumptions.” He places Mouse upon the bedside table, and places the picture frame beside it. “No one shall ever expect the brain without a heart to love,” he says in a resigned tone, “and you are a well-known ladies’ man who recently checked into a hotel with his new, mysterious Belgian ‘wife.’ I do not think we need harbour any fears on that front, so long as we maintain reasonable precautions.” He flashes me a hopeful smile as he takes the album from me and returns it to the depths of the trunk from which it came. “And as for Mrs. Hudson,” he continues, “she is quite discreet; after all, you had no idea until just now, did you?”


I admit that I had not the faintest clue, and, knowing that he desperately wishes me to ask him, inquire how long he has known our landlady’s secret.


“I must admit that I suspected nothing until a few weeks after we moved in, and even so, it wasn’t until well after the Jefferson Hope affair that I had deduced precisely what sort of criminal activity she was engaged in. At first, I thought she was running a circle of cut-purses.”


“And does she know that you are aware of her activities?”


“Oh, yes, we laid our cards upon the table sometime during the first few months of your marriage,” he says quietly, and for the first time I can hear the pang of regret in his voice at the subject.


What an ass I was! Assumptions, indeed! I lean in for another kiss, caressing his lips with my tongue. “So Mrs. Hudson was helpful?” I ask eventually.


“Extremely so. I told her where my difficulties lay, so to speak, and she was quite explicit in her instructions, even suggesting a few things she thought you might like. May I assume from your reaction that my execution was satisfactory?”


I answer him with another kiss, this one growing ever more fervent as we sink back down upon the bed together. As his lips begin to trail down my throat, I breathe a prayer of gratitude that I no longer have to restrain myself from showing my heart to Sherlock Holmes. I smile, my lips curving against the skin of his chest, as I think that we shall not be leaving bed for a while.


It is, of course, an assumption. But it is an assumption I am happy with.




Home     Monographs     Authors     Latest Additions     Gallery     The Radio Parlour     Moving Pictures

Sites of Interest     Submissions     Acknowledgements     Contact