With This Pen ~ Third of April, 1894
Jem's Bird

We have turned down the lamps, and the bust in the corner glows eerily in the remaining light from the fireplace, the bullet hole in its forehead a stark reminder of this evening’s danger. Earlier we tacked a blanket over the broken window to block out the damp April chill, but the rain has brought a stiff breeze that blows through the sitting-room. We have pulled a together a divan of pillows before the fireplace and Holmes is showing me various souvenirs he has brought from his travels.


Over half of them are, in some way, presents for me. Time and again he presses some small treasure into my fingers: a bell from a Tibetan monastery, a carved pipe from Cairo, a polished stone from the beaches of the Caspian Sea, a slim volume of poetry he picked up last week in Paris. He tells me how he thought of me in such a place or how a piece of music would remind him of an evening we had spent together. He tells me how he would often write his journal in the form of a letter to me, so used was he to framing his thoughts for me to hear. As he tells me of his travels, he tells me more than he intends; suddenly we both know why he left, and, more importantly, why he returned.


It happens in an instant; one moment, he is describing a sunset in Palermo, the next, we are in each others’ arms, our lips crushed together furiously. We roll onto the hearth-rug, hands grappling and mouths exploring, as we whisper of want and loneliness and need. With fumbling hands we loosen enough clothes to satisfy our immediate requirements. It has been a long time since I have bedded any partner, much longer since I have had another man, and the fury of my desire is such that I know he shall have bruises in the morning, yet I cannot hold back.


Holmes has also left all restraint far behind; he moans and sighs in my embrace, hungrily returning my kisses with violent ardour. He bites my neck and strokes my chest as I rip his shirt from his back, raking my fingernails down his spine. Our mouths lock furiously together as we scrabble at fly-buttons, and even the tearing of cloth does not stop us as our hands grope toward the ultimate goal. I grip his hardness just as his fingers close around my member, and we stroke each other to a rapid, desperate completion, our tongues battling together between suddenly ice-cold lips.


We lie together afterward for a long time, his head upon my breast, my arms wrapped around his waist, our legs intertwined. I kiss his forehead, and, without thinking, whisper the three words I never dared dream I would say to Sherlock Holmes. I wince immediately, and open my mouth to apologize, but he lays a single long finger upon my lips.


“I might not be easy with my emotions,” he says quietly, “but that does not mean that I do not have them. I swear to you that I shall learn how to express them, but for now, know that you need not apologize for saying what we both feel.”


I kiss his brow once more, trembling with joy. “I had no idea you had such feelings,” I murmur.


Holmes raises himself up on one elbow and frowns down at me. “I learned at a very early age,” he says quietly, “that there was no one whom I could trust with my emotions, no one to whom I could open my heart, no one that would ever be a safe harbour for my spirit. Then I met you.” He leans forward and plants a single chaste kiss upon my lips.


“At first,” he continues solemnly, “you merely seemed a decent fellow with an open, inquiring mind, intelligent enough to hold your own in a conversation, and imaginative enough to be stimulating company. Then, when you started accompanying me on cases, I found myself comparing you to the rest of humanity. You were compassionate where others were cruel, generous where others were greedy, willing to listen where others were obstinately deaf.


“For a long while, I thought my admiration purely intellectual, but slowly, I came to realize that I was capable of the softer emotions I had so long discounted as unimportant, that, in fact, I needed those feelings I had previously spurned. I realized that I … cared for you.” He closes his eyes for a moment, and when they open again, they shine brightly in the firelight. “I did not know, I swear,” he continues, touching my cheek, “exactly how deep those feelings ran until …” He takes a deep breath. “It was the night of your wedding, and I had just returned from the reception, having faithfully discharged all my duties as your best man. I was standing here, at this hearth, and I was drinking a toast to your health and to that of your new wife.” His eyes darken momentarily. “She was an excellent woman, Watson, a credit to her sex. But that night, I hated her for taking you away from me.”


I stiffen in his arms slightly, and he reassures me with a gentle kiss. “It was only then that I realized what I had lost,” he tells me. “I endeavoured to put my feelings aside for your sake and for the sake of your marriage, but I found myself going out of my way to be closer to you, even taking you away from hearth and home for my own selfish pleasure. Do you remember the Neville St. Clair[1] case?”


“Of course. But –”


He silences me with a finger upon my lips once more, and this time I can taste my own essence upon his hand. “It was then I knew that I had gone too far,” he says mournfully. “I foolishly thought that Fate had thrown you my way, so I decided to seduce you that night.”


My jaw drops in shock at this revelation. “What … what kept you from …” my throat tightens uncomfortably. “What kept you from acting on your plans?”


Holmes kisses me softly. “I knew,” he murmurs with his lips against mine, “that I could never ask you to choose between your loyalty to me and your love for her.”


I find myself unable to speak. I do not know which I would have chosen. I hope that I do not know which I would have chosen.


“I only had myself to blame for my predicament,” Holmes continues in a low voice. “I knew that you had found pleasure with both genders long ago, and thus would not have been horrified at my advances, had I chosen to make them. But I had waited too long, and by the time that I realized the true nature of my affections, you were pledged to another.”


“I did not think you had any use for love,” I reply, kissing his hand and taking it in my own. “Had I but known –”


He cups my chin in his hands and brings my mouth to his in a tender kiss. It occurs to me as our lips slide together that although he is clearly enthusiastic in this new sphere of our relations, he cannot be experienced, unless –


“Holmes,” I ask softly, touching his cheek, “where did you learn to kiss?”


“I didn’t,” he smiles. “I am merely following your lead and doing what seems to work. I have never kissed another human being before tonight.” His smile widens. “Am I doing it correctly?” he asks.


For answer, I bring his mouth to mine again, savouring the sensation and the taste of him, only pulling away when we are both breathless. “As with everything else, you excel without trying. But if I had known it was your first kiss,” I continue, “I should have been gentler.”


He laughs quietly. “I found the frantic abandon you displayed earlier quite flattering,” he says.


“Holmes, until this morning, I thought you dead,” I say, my voice betraying my emotion. “Of course I would embrace you passionately, if given the chance. But still, I should have considered –”


This time, it is the look of hurt in his eyes that stays my words. “If you have reacted more from your relief at seeing me alive rather than from a genuine desire to pursue a sexual relationship –”


I cut off his protest with a passionate kiss that clearly illustrates my desires, running my hands over his naked torso, caressing and soothing him as our embrace grows steadily more involved. “I should like nothing better,” I tell him between kisses, “than to be your lover, to share my bed and my life with you.”  We have been shedding various items of clothing between us, and now lay together upon the hearthrug as naked as we were born. Holmes’ alabaster skin glows in the firelight, and I find I cannot keep my hands from exploring every contour of his body, caressing him as I never dared before, even in dream. I press my lips to his cheek. “Such pleasures I shall show you, my darling,” I murmur, my hands slipping down to his muscular buttocks. With a single fingertip I trace a route along the crack, feeling the velvet texture of his skin in that most intimate location. So intent am I upon experiencing every sensation of my new lover that I do not notice how he had stiffened in my embrace, his muscles going rigid with fear as my finger reaches his small opening.


At first I mistake his faint protests for sounds of pleasure, but soon enough I sense something amiss and draw away my hand, soothing him with tender caresses.


“What is wrong, my love?” I ask, kissing his cheek.


Holmes does not answer immediately, trembling in my arms like any nervous virgin. I nuzzle him gently, reassuring him with my voice and my touch. When he does speak, his voice is so quiet that I have to strain to hear his words.


“I am not exactly a virgin, Watson,” says he. “When I was at University, I …” he shakes his head, burrowing his face into the hollow of my shoulder. I kiss his brow and stroke his soft raven hair, waiting for him to continue. “I was telling the truth before; I have never kissed another human being. But I have been …” he trails off again, and with sudden dread I realize what he is confessing.


“You were raped?” I whisper.


He nods, and I feel moisture from his eyes upon my chest. “It happened in my first year. As you might imagine, I didn’t get along with most of the other students, and there were many that had come to dislike me intensely. I had let my arrogance get to me and I did something … stupid … that made me extremely unpopular with three particular men. The next night, they came to my room …” he shudders, unable to continue.


I stop him with a kiss. “You don’t have to tell me anymore,” I say, holding him tightly to my breast. “And I promise you now, my dearest one, I shall never force anything upon you that you do not wish.”


“But have you … have you done that?”


“I have; both receiving and giving, but only with men I trusted. It takes caution and preparation for it to be pleasant for both partners. If not done gently, it can cause great harm.”


“I could not stop the bleeding for a week,” he whispers, and I draw him into a kiss.


“I am sorry that such a horrible thing happened to you.”


“Don’t worry; they paid for their crime.” Holmes snuggles further into my arms; I realize with a chill that I do not wish to know how he avenged himself. We lay thus for a long time, trading soft kisses, until the warmth of the fire and the caresses of my lover lull me to sleep.



[1] In “The Man with the Twisted Lip,” Holmes meets up with Watson by chance and convinces him to come away on a case, leaving Mrs. Watson at home with only a note sent via a cabman to tell her where he has gone.

Androcles and the Lion



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