With This Pen ~ For Your Perusal
Jem's Bird

I had left London on Saturday afternoon; by Monday morning, I was standing forlornly upon the docks in Lisbon, wondering bleakly what to do next.


I had spent the last sixty hours scrutinizing my fellow passengers aboard the S.S. Granada; no doubt many thought me a madman as I closely observed every gesture and movement of each person around me. No one, however, seemed to have the spark that characterized all of my companion’s alter-egos, and though I had searched every face and started at every new voice, I had not been able to detect Holmes among the passengers or the crew. I had grown increasingly distressed as the voyage wore on, as I had assumed that Holmes would somehow communicate with me, if not appear himself, somewhere en route to Lisbon. I was in low spirits indeed as I retrieved my luggage, when one of the porters tugged at my sleeve, thrusting a telegram into my hand.


I tore the envelope open with trembling hands, somewhat disgusted to see that it had no salutation, no explanation, only the name of a hotel and a room number. I sighed and looked around at the bustling dock before me, with people shouting happily to each other in any one of a dozen languages. Although the sun shone brightly and the breeze felt warm against my cheek, I found none of these tropical pleasures could lift my spirit. I felt deserted and lost: I had come to Portugal for Holmes, and Holmes had not the decency to show up. Moreover, today was the third of April, the one date I did not think he would fail to observe with me.


“Happy anniversary,” I muttered under my breath. “Five bloody years.” Shaking my head in despair, I slowly made my way to the hotel.


I felt somewhat mollified upon seeing the accommodations awaiting me. The suite of rooms at the hotel was spacious and airy; a richly furnished sitting-room connected an elegant bedroom with a surprisingly modern and well-appointed bath. I looked in amazement at the magnificent four-poster which dominated the bedroom, and tried not to think of how lonely it would be without someone to share it. Instead, I set to unpacking my luggage, including the things that had remained in my trunks while on board ship. Perched atop the clothes in the final trunk I opened, I found a small box about six inches long, three inches wide and only an inch deep, affixed to an envelope of high-quality paper, with only the words “read this first” inscribed in Holmes’ precise hand.


“Even when he can’t be bothered to show his face, he still has to give me orders,” I grumbled peevishly to no one in particular, but still I opened the envelope, my mood brightening considerably as I read the letter inside:


My dear Watson [it ran]:


Doubtless you are wondering where I am and when I shall meet you. Rest assured I shall join you soon; be in the arbour of Igreja dos Navegantes[1] at nine o’clock this evening, and you shall not be disappointed. I took the liberty of packing your morning coat; wear the ensemble with a red carnation so that our contact will recognize you. Until then, rest well, and accept this gift as a token of my regard. I remain, dear boy, ever yours,


William Sherlock Holmes


I blinked in disbelief, reading the missive over twice. Not only had he sent a letter – uncharacteristic in itself for the man who communicated almost exclusively by telegram – but he had signed it with his proper Christian name, the name to which he would never admit in public, the name by which I and I alone was privileged to call him in our moments of intimacy. Even seeing “William” adorning his regular signature made me blush, and I wondered at Holmes’ intent in signing the letter thus.


I opened the box to find the selfsame fountain pen I had used to sign Holmes’ mysterious contract a few days ago, along with documentation stating that I held in my hand one of the finest writing implements yet created, to wit, the Waterman Twist Filler, courtesy of the Waterman Pen Company, New York City, USA. I did not need a pompous advertisement to tell me that here was the finest, most expensive pen I had ever seen, let alone owned. I had been preoccupied with my anger at Holmes’ solicitor when I had last seen it, and had not noticed what a beautiful instrument I had held, its solid weight and smooth lines bespeaking elegance and craftsmanship. I saw that an inscription had been engraved in the beautifully marbleized red and umber barrel, and my heart pounded in my breast as I read the words:


To J.O.W. from W.S.H. – All my love.


I stared at the message for a long time, and then burst out laughing. Not one living soul, not even my editor, knew my proper middle initial, save for Holmes. I, on the other hand, was one of a select handful of souls who knew Holmes’ actual Christian name. Engraved into this work of art, Sherlock Holmes had proclaimed his deepest feelings for me, and the rest of the world would see, but not observe.


It was, as Holmes would say, an elegant solution.


I put the pen back in its box and laid it carefully aside, then set to unpacking the last trunk. I had just lifted the last of my shirts out when a large manila envelope fell onto the carpet at my feet. This one simply said: for your perusal.


I put the rest of my clothes away and sat upon the bed, kicking off my shoes and loosening my collar. I had opened the French windows to the balcony, and a warm ocean breeze floated in, lulling my senses. I slipped off my jacket and waistcoat and lay down, opening the envelope and pulling out its contents.


I recognized the papers as a copy of the contract I had signed in Baker Street, with another note in Holmes’ hand, this one unsigned.


You did me a great honour [it ran] by trusting me enough to sign this at such a brief reading. I beg of you, old friend, please take time to digest the full implications of its contents. If there is any point, however small, that you wish to alter in any way, please let me know, and I shall have Cox revise it accordingly.


I smiled and laid the papers on the bedside table. For a man who claimed such unease with the softer emotions, Holmes certainly had a fine strain of good old-fashioned chivalry, especially when it came to our own private relations. How could I not trust him?


I closed my eyes and yawned, breathing in the sultry ocean air. The room’s balcony looked inwards to a courtyard garden, where a handsome woman had been hanging laundry on a line the last time I looked out. I could still hear her singing, her pleasant contralto voice wafting up with the rich smells of spices and cooking vegetables from the hotel’s kitchen.


“Well, old man, you’ve fallen on your feet and no mistake,” I said to myself with a deep sigh. I covered my face with my arm and listened to the woman’s song. I do not speak Portuguese, but it was clear, from both the expression the woman gave her words and the luxuriant melody, exactly what the song was about.


She was singing of absent love.


Holmes often chides me for what he terms my “needless romanticism,” but greater men than I have attested to the uniting thread which runs deeper than mere words and stifling grammar, the universal dialect which speaks to our hearts and not our minds. The woman in that courtyard sang a song that warmed me like the morning sun streaming in the windows, and I fell into a drowsy state, not quite asleep and not yet awake. I thought dreamily about my dear love, that wonderfully annoying man with the slate grey eyes and the phantom smile, the man who scoffed at the softer emotions and yet was so needful, so endearingly vulnerable in so many hidden ways that he chose to make visible only to me.


I thought of how nervously, how tentatively we had entered into our first sexual forays, Holmes wanting to experience everything, but so skittish and unpredictable in his reactions that for a long time we could do nothing but take each other in our hands as we lay face to face, exchanging gently lingering kisses. I thought upon that beautiful, brittle lovemaking we had had in those first heady months of our affair, and the way we had slowly learned how best to please each other with light touches and soft caresses. Later on, we would discover the rough, wild, uninhibited side to our sexuality, but the first nights in our shared bed remain among my sweetest, most cherished memories to this day. I thought of that first time that Holmes had taken me into his mouth, and my hand strayed to my groin. I rubbed my palm into the hardening bulge I found there, thinking of how his lips felt around my shaft.


I smiled and unbuttoned my trousers, slipping a hand inside the flies. After all, I didn’t have to be anywhere for a while.


I gripped my shaft and imagined my lover’s mouth working upon me; I caressed my sac and dreamed of his fingers tickling me.  I wriggled free of my trousers and drawers, and thought of how he would sometimes tear my clothes from me, sending buttons flying in his haste to have me naked. I pumped my rod harder, remembering how knowingly his tongue could wrap around it, tasting every last inch with all the delight of an unrestrained wanton. With my other hand, I began stroking my testicles, squeezing them as I thought about how, on the last night we had been together, he had bathed my ballsac in kisses, even letting his mouth drift lower, down between my legs. My fingertip circled around my hole, as I remembered how I had gasped when his tongue brushed over my nether entrance. I licked my lips, thinking how his muscles had twitched in response when he allowed me to bestow upon him the same favour. He had even allowed the tip of my finger inside him, and I groaned as I pushed a finger deep inside myself, joined by another. My hips bucked as I remembered how he had writhed against me and called out my name just as his cock had released its musky fluid deep down my throat. I tugged mercilessly at my prick with one hand, while my other hand went lower, frigging myself rapidly; I fell over the precipice and was gone, moaning as white-hot bolts of ecstasy pulsed from my puckered hole to the tip of my penis.


I dimly remember cleansing myself with my drawers before drifting off to sleep, still naked from the waist down, my softening prick in my hand and my darling William’s name upon my lips.


I awoke some time later, disoriented and confused. I sat up in the bed, wondering at my half-naked state and the unfamiliar room before my memory came back to me. I took my watch from the bedside table and saw that it was only a few minutes past two in the afternoon. I was too late for lunch, but the concierge had informed me upon checking in that I could order a meal from the kitchen at any time. I pulled on my clothes and rang for a servant, who cheerfully offered to bring me a selection of local delicacies for my refreshment, setting a table for me upon the balcony so that I might dine in the fresh air without leaving the suite.


As I was waiting for the food to arrive, I decided to take a look at the contract, more for something to do than due to any need to review the arrangement. I lay back down on the bed, propping myself up with a few cushions, and took up the envelope once more. I skimmed the contract superficially at first, nodding to myself with satisfaction at the equity and even-handedness of the various clauses, covering not only business expenses and earnings, but also the management of our joint household and even providing for our retirement together. Holmes and Cox had obviously taken some trouble to draft a fair and binding partnership contract; in fact, with different phrasing, it could almost be …


I gasped, sitting up sharply, my heart leaping to my throat.


“Sweet mother of God,” I whispered, staring blankly at the marriage contract I had signed, not knowing what to think or how to feel.


A knock at the door sent me jumping to my feet, and I knew immediately who it must be. I fairly sprang to into the sitting-room and threw open the door.


“My dear fellow!”


The waiter gave me a puzzled look. “Your meal, Senhor,” he said, wheeling in a cart laden with silver dishes.


“Thank you,” I mumbled, blushing, giving the man a larger tip than necessary out of sheer embarrassment. I sat down at the table that had been set, and gazed numbly down into the courtyard, where the laundry-maid was taking down the sheets I had seen her putting up earlier. I closed my eyes and tilted my head up to the sky and listened as the woman sang as she had before, this time a lilting melody that danced like the dappled sunlight through the palm trees that waved in the ocean breeze and played upon my features, warming them and soothing my spirit enough for me to hear my thoughts.


Sherlock Holmes had found a way to marry me. I knew already, without needing to consider even a moment, that I would marry him if I could. I simply had not believed it possible before now. I opened my eyes and watched the laundry-maid fold the last sheet, placing her full basket of linens atop her head and walking through the courtyard, still softly singing.


I realized that my heart was singing, as well. Grinning broadly, I turned my attention to the excellent meal before me, falling to it with a will, before turning my full attention to the contract, making notes in the margins upon some minor points as they struck me. If I was to be married, I decided, I might as well do it in a properly businesslike manner.


After I finished reviewing the contract to my satisfaction, I made my way to the bath. I described it before as well-appointed; it was, in fact, a marvelous fixture, all gleaming blue and white tile after the classic Moorish geometric style, with hanging plants and highly-placed windows set to bring in the daylight while preserving modesty. Gilt mirrors and exquisite frescoes completed the décor, all of which was eclipsed by the tub itself. This was no foot-tub to be drawn before the fire, but rather a small swimming pool sunk into a raised section of the room, with modern chrome-plated taps and an array of bath oils and candles clustered at one side upon a spacious tile ledge, wide enough for a man to sit upon. A generous stack of soft towels lay just by the foot of this bath, and a deep-pile throw rug filled most of the floor in front. I stood upon the rug and disrobed, taking only a moment to remember the proper letters for hot and cold (“Q” and “F”) before filling the tub to my satisfaction. I sank into the water with a satisfied sigh, and wondered what manner of case it was that had brought us to Portugal, and why Holmes would choose such a queer time and place to make our relationship legally binding. And why had he not waited until after he was finished with whatever investigation he was pursuing? I sighed resignedly, casually scrubbing my knees with a handy loofah as I pondered the many facets of my singular friend. I doubted if I would ever fully understand Mr. Sherlock Holmes.



[1] Church of the Navigators

18 November 1896



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