With This Pen ~ Igreja dos Navegantes
Jem's Bird

The capital city of Lisbon, Portugal, is one of the most beautiful in all of Europe, and I spent several pleasant hours re-acquainting myself with its broad sunlit plazas paved with geometric patterns, its bustling marketplaces thronging with the trade of three continents, and its red-roofed buildings covering the rolling hillsides. I took a light supper in one of the many fine street cafés just as the sun set, amusing myself by watching the people streaming by on their own business, and then explored the art galleries and shops, even making a few purchases, returning to the hotel as the clocks began to chime eight. I changed into my formal wear, slipping into my morning coat as I wondered what possible reason Holmes could have for me to appear dressed for a wedding.


I gaped in shock at my reflection in the wardrobe mirror, then threw my head back and roared with laughter at the look of amazement upon my face.


“There is no case, you ass,” I told my reflection. Of course, Holmes’ love of the dramatic would forbid him any other course of action than this intrigue he had constructed for me. I turned and selected a red carnation from the bouquet on the vanity table, inserting it into my buttonhole and grinning at myself in the glass like an idiot. I should have seen it; had he not formally proposed marriage not a week ago? Dash it all, he had even contrived to get the circumference of my left-hand ring finger.


Be in the arbour of Igreja dos Navegantes at nine o’clock this evening, and you shall not be disappointed …


I shook my head, chuckling at the sheer ludicrousness of it all. Sherlock Holmes, the master of cold, incisive reasoning, the human thinking machine, wanted a traditional church wedding.


The fact that he was marrying a man could be dismissed as a minor detail.


I was interrupted in my reverie by a knock at the door. “Come,” I called absently; I had sent for some light tea, not knowing whether the evening’s activities would include a meal. I wondered where our wedding supper might be, and chuckled at the thought. “Just lay it out on the balcony, please,” I said, whistling cheerily as I adjusted my cravat.


“Sorry, Doctor,” a well-known voice said. “No time for tea, I’m afraid; we’re due at the church.”


“Lestrade!” I wheeled around, beaming to see the little professional. He was also dressed in morning coat and top hat, with a white carnation. The solid reality of the whole situation hit me with all the impact of a dropped load of bricks; my face must have reflected this, for my friend raced to my side. “I’m all right, old man,” I protested, shaking his hand.


“Are you sure you’re ready for this?” Lestrade asked. “You know what’s going on, yes?”


I nodded. “I managed to piece together the threads a few minutes ago,” I muttered. “Granted, I should have observed more closely, and no doubt Holmes will take me to task for it later, but honestly, it’s not every day someone arranges a surprise wedding for a chap. So you’re my best man, I take it?”


“If you’ll have me,” Lestrade answered solemnly.


I chuckled and clapped him on the shoulder. “Well, old friend, as I’m marrying the best man from my previous wedding, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have to fill the vacancy for this one.” I frowned slightly. “You knew all along, didn’t you?”


Lestrade contrived to look innocent. “You didn’t like your stag party?”


I laughed aloud. “I had a wonderful evening. I just wish I’d known the party was in my honour. I would have been more gracious about losing to Bradstreet at darts.”


“You are always the soul of graciousness, Doctor. It’s most likely the result of having to put up with Mr. Holmes for all those years. We should probably get to the church,” he added, looking at his watch.


“I had tea ordered –”


“Oh, I intercepted that order; we can go as soon as you’re ready,” he said lazily, pretending to inspect his fingernails as I began to perspire, my head swimming.


“Good God,” I whispered. “I’m about to marry Sherlock Holmes.” I put a hand out to a nearby chair, gripping it until my knuckles turned white. I mopped my brow with my other hand, and saw that it was shaking.


“So how are you doing?” Lestrade asked in a carefully conversational tone.


“I’m not sure,” I admitted. “I mean, you saw me at my wedding to Mary – I was a nervous wreck. If it hadn’t been for you and Holmes, I think I would never have survived.”


“It was the fifth of brandy we managed to get down your throat that did it,” Lestrade answered mildly. “You know, speaking of the late Mrs. Watson –”


I looked up at the ceiling, my eyes absolutely not misting over as I thought of my dear Mary. “She’s up in heaven,” I said slowly, “most likely laughing at all of this.”


“She did have a wonderful sense of humour.”


“She had to,” I sighed. “For all the times I left her alone to go chase criminals with Holmes –” I broke off, closing my eyes, brushing away a tear that positively had not dared to roll down my cheek.


Lestrade laid a hand on my shoulder. “I remember at her funeral, you told me something she’d said once, that she’d known even as she agreed to marry you that she would always have to share you with Sherlock Holmes.”


I nodded. “She always told me it was worth it. Lord only knows why,” I continued with a deep breath.


“Because you’re a good husband.”


“I just hadn’t planned on being one again,” I said quietly.


“Do you want to go through with this?”


“Yes,” I answered without hesitation.


“Are you sure?”


“Yes.” And yet, still my feet were not moving.


“Do you need a drink?”


Yes.” I grasped at the hip flask that had materialized in front of me. The liquid burned its way down my throat. “All right,” I coughed, handing the flask back to Lestrade. “Let’s get to the church.”


We ambled along the streets, talking about the various sights of Lisbon. I had been to the city twice before, once as a child, and Lestrade had spent a year living in a small village to the south. Looking back on that evening, I can see that my friend was putting me at my ease with all the skill of a professional; police officers have a bedside manner all their own, and that night I was grateful for his tact as we chatted and traded memories of Portugal’s capital.


Thus we made our way to Igreja dos Navagantes, a charming eight-sided baroque church near the centre of town, talking of the sights so animatedly that we soon became mere tourists in our minds. We crossed the threshold and stood in the nave, admiring the portrait of St. Pedro Gonçalves, the Portuguese patron saint of navigators, when the bell began to toll the hour.


We both jumped.


Suddenly, it occurred to me that there might be a higher law to consider than the ramifications of a legal contract. Not only was I using one part of British law to subvert another law …


Lestrade laid a hand on my shoulder. “My mother says that coppers are born, not made. She ought to know; she married one and gave birth to two.”


I gaped at my companion, more than a little confused by this non-sequitur.


Lestrade looked down at the floor, chuckling to himself. “My point is, I think like a copper, and I believe like a copper. My God is a God of Justice. I know that there are laws of man, made in the name of Justice, that have precious little to do with anything just. Perhaps, just perhaps, there are laws of –”


“You’re in a house of the Lord, man!” I hissed.


Lestrade merely smiled. “Do you love him?” he asked.


I dropped my gaze. “Yes,” I said, my face flushing crimson. “Doubtless I shall burn for eternity –”


Lestrade grabbed me by the shoulders and wheeled me around to face the image on the cross. “He won’t let you,” the detective whispered reverently. “He is a God of Justice, but He is also a God of Love.”


I looked up into the sad, thoughtful face and knew what I must do. I turned to Lestrade. “Shall we go into the arbour?” I said calmly. “I believe we’re late.”


“You go on ahead,” he said slowly. “I’ve got to go tell the brothers Holmes we’re here.”


My stomach jumped. “But aren’t you –”


Lestrade smiled and patted my arm affectionately. “I’ll be there, when the time comes. But you need to go to the arbour by yourself. I think you know why,” he added.


I took a deep breath. “How do I look?”


“Like a nervous wreck.”


“I like that!” I muttered, fumbling with my cravat.


Lestrade pulled my hands away from it. “You look fine,” said he, fixing the knot. “Now stop stalling and go.”


“You’re a good man, Gabriel Lestrade.”


“As are you, John Watson. Now go.”


The arbour behind the church is beautiful by daylight; by moonlight it is a vision. Ancient topiary surrounds beautiful marble statues, which tonight glowed as if lit from inside. The gravel beneath my feet crunched in rough syncopation with my pounding heart as I made my way along the path. Insects sang shrilly in the hedges that were alternately shrouded in blue shadows and picked out in silver light. Few sightseers came to this little-known garden even during the day, and tonight it was deserted, save for myself and a solitary figure standing by a small fountain, reading a book by the light of an old-fashioned lamp upon a pole.


I gasped as the man turned; Holmes had not done much to disguise himself. He wore the habit of a priest and had greyed his hair at the temples, even added some age lines at the eyes and mouth. Someone who did not know him well might have been fooled in poor light; yet, I could tell by his manner as he approached that he did not wish me to acknowledge what we both knew.


I smiled in relief; the very absurdity of it washed away my nervousness, and I fell into the game, greeting him as I would greet any man of the cloth.


“You must be Doutor John Watson,” he said in a soft voice quite unlike his own, and touched with a perfectly lilting accent. “I have been looking forward to meeting you. Your friend has been telling me much about you.”


It was amazing; Holmes’ entire manner suggested that we were indeed meeting for the first time. “I doubt he has told you all about me, father,” I said teasingly.


Holmes looked faintly amused. “He has told me of your love, yes,” he murmured.


“And you’re not shocked?”


“Why must I be? Our Lord bade us love one another. If you did not believe this as well, you would not be here.”


I smiled, looking up at the moon, a perfect semicircle of luminous silver, hanging half in shadow and half in light above velvet-grey wisps of clouds. “You’re right, father,” said I, chuckling. “Well, I’m ready; where is my darling betrothed?”


I expected Holmes to reveal himself with some dramatic gesture, but instead he looked up at the moon as if considering my question. “We shall go to him soon, my son,” he told me softly. “He, too, is nervous. You know, he did not believe that you would come tonight? He thought that you might not wish to take this step with him, that he had asked too much this time.”


“There is nothing I would not do for him,” I said with some feeling. “I rather thought I made that point eminently clear the last night we were together,” I added, playfully rebuking him.


The man looked confused for a moment, and then blushed. “I believe,” he said in a low voice, “that we have been talking at what you English call the crossed purposes.”


I gaped at the priest and immediately saw what I had missed before. This man could not be Sherlock Holmes. For one thing, this man was much shorter, but had none of the marks of posture that Holmes acquired when forced to take several inches off his stature. The hairline, although in the familiar widow’s peak, was too far back, and the age lines were real, not cleverly added. The eyes were not grey, but a charming shade of hazel, and they twinkled in the light of the priest’s lamp that swung above his head.


“I am Father Marc Angelo Vernesi,” he said gently, “the subordinate priest of this parish, and cousin to Sherlock Holmes. The resemblance is startling, no? But here comes your other friend.”


“Sorry I took so long,” Lestrade said, puffing slightly as he ran up to us. “I got completely turned around at the last bend. Hullo, Padre, I see Watson’s found you. They’re ready when you are. Shall we go?”


In the arbour of Ireja dos Navagantes, there is a small stone gazebo, an elegant work in ancient granite, entwined with thickly-hanging grape vines, the fruit hanging lustrous in the moonlight. We stepped inside to find ourselves enclosed in our own private cathedral, with the moon and stars shining through the high windowed dome above our heads.


There, in that leafy chapel, side by side, stood Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes, the former with a proud smile upon his wide features, the latter looking at least as nervous as I, if not more.


After all, I thought, suppressing a smile, he hasn’t been married before.


I knew at that moment that all would be well. I reached for his hand and he took mine, his gaze fluttering downwards as our fingers touched.


The five of us stood a moment in silence before the priest began.


“Dearly beloved, we are gathered in this place and in the sight of the Lord to join these two men in the bonds of partnership, to witness their vows that shall consecrate their love for one another and weave their lives and their paths together as one. We ask, O Lord, that you bestow your blessings upon them as they grow in their love for each other and their service unto you.”


So charmed was I by the father’s lilting accent, that for a moment it did not occur to me that he was speaking in English, and not in the traditional Latin. It made sense; this would not be a traditional service, I thought, suppressing a nervous smile.


“I first met my young cousin William Sherlock when he had been but seven years in this world, when he came to live with my family for a summer,” Father Vernesi told us. “Even then, he was wilful and headstrong, a fiercely proud boy, with much to be proud of; his genius was evident to all who met him, as young as he was. Even though many years have passed, and even though many miles have separated us, I rejoice in the knowledge that this wilful, headstrong boy has not only grown to be a fine, wilful, headstrong man, but has found a compassionate and understanding soul to walk alongside him upon life’s path. I am told, John, that you have much strength within you, enough to match my cousin William and more, enough to sustain him in his darkest hours of need, just as I am sure he sustains you during yours. The love we celebrate tonight is a deep and abiding love, a love founded upon a strong bond of friendship and trust. This unique friendship began due to a shared need for living quarters, and in forming a household together, William and John found something no one could have predicted. Their partnership has benefited many souls over the past eighteen years, and their work together has brought justice and comfort to thousands.


“As we gather here to honour this unique and beautiful union, we must ask ourselves what such love means to each of us. You, Mycroft, and you, Gabriel, have witnessed the love between these two friends, have watched after them and cared for them, and have seen them through their triumphs and their troubles. They have faced danger together, and they have created a place of safety for and with each other in their small household. They have cared for each other as any loving couple has, and together they have found all the love and happiness they so richly deserve. Do you, Gabriel, and you, Mycroft, promise to guard and cherish this special bond, to remind William and John of their love and their duty to each other, and to celebrate with them each day the love with which our Creator has blessed them?”


“We do,” Lestrade answered in unison with Mycroft’s deeper voice. I felt Holmes squeeze my hand, and I returned the gesture.


The priest turned to Holmes. “Repeat after me: I, William, take you, John, to be my partner in love and in life –”


Holmes’ eyes met mine and I felt my heart bursting with joy as he repeated the words: “I, William, take you, John, to be my partner in love and in life –”


“– to have and to hold, from this day forward –”


“– to have and to hold, from this day forward –”


“– for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer –”


“– for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer –”


“– in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”


“– in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” Holmes’ eyes gleamed in the moonlight, and his smile outshone the moon itself.


Father Vernesi turned to me, and I repeated the same vows, my voice cracking with nervousness as the full implications of the ceremony dawned upon me. I gripped Holmes’ fingers more tightly, and received from him a reassuring squeeze. I smiled as I finished the vows, knowing that if we could have this, then there was nothing that could tear us apart, ever.


Father Vernesi nodded to Mycroft, who handed him a small golden band. The priest blessed the ring and passed it to Holmes.


“John, take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity.”


It fit perfectly. I gazed up into Holmes’ eyes and felt my own misting over. I gripped his hand tightly in mine, feeling that this all must be a dream and praying fervently that I might never wake.


A gentle cough startled me out of my thoughts. Lestrade, of course, had passed Father Vernesi the second ring, and the father had blessed it and was now presenting it to me. I swallowed hard and took the golden band, sliding it onto Holmes’ long white finger.


“William,” I said, “take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity.”


“You are now pledged one to another,” Father Vernesi pronounced, “partners in love and in life, and let no one break this bond we have formed today. You may now kiss each other as a sign of your union.”


Save the one time we had been caught by Lestrade (and the few hundred times we had been caught by Mrs. Hudson), we had never kissed each other in front of anyone else. But somehow, there in that ivy-twined gazebo in that moonlit arbour, it felt as natural as breathing to step close to my love and feel his fingers cup my chin as we drew each other into a slow, gentle kiss, our lips parted just slightly, his mouth sweet and soft against mine. It seemed to me that our whole life together – from the moment Stamford had introduced us in the chemical lab at Bart’s, to the present moment here in the arbour of this Portuguese church – coalesced and wound itself into a single golden moment at the simple caress of our lips, and as we withdrew, I swear that I could feel the world around us shift ever so slightly, away from the sad realms of doubt and fear and toward the brighter and better lands of love and acceptance.


Then Lestrade was wringing me by the hand and clapping my shoulder, and then Mycroft was embracing me, addressing me as “brother,” and Holmes was speaking in excited, rapid Portuguese to Father Vernesi, his manner and voice back to normal. In less time than it takes to tell, we left the arbour and crossed once again into the streets of Lisbon, the priest bidding us a fond farewell at the vestry door. We remaining four made a merry party indeed, laughing and talking as we proceeded to the hotel.  Eventually, however, Lestrade and Mycroft, in deep debate about the new legislation on grain prices, began to hang back, and as I slowed to keep pace, Holmes laid a hand on my arm, shaking his head ever so slightly.


“Let them fall behind,” said he. “We shall see them soon enough at breakfast.”


My face burned brilliant crimson as I realized what was about to happen next. I do not know why my knees turned to gelatine at the thought, nor why my throat suddenly went dry as sand; certainly I was no nervous virgin, and we had lain together more than a thousand nights, just as we would tonight. And yet …


Holmes squeezed my arm. “Are you ready for our wedding night, my dear Watson?” he murmured.


For answer, I gripped his arm tightly and quickened my pace, and we fairly flew to the hotel.

Earl Grey and Marzipan



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