I asked Sherlock to teach me how to pickpocket.
Now hold on, before you say anything, hear me out. There’s a lot of legitimate reasons why someone who works with Sherlock Holmes, investigating crimes and taking down bad guys and so on, would want to be able to do some sleight of hand. Knowing how to pickpocket, I could find a clue that would help us catch a criminal, for instance, or take a key that we would need to rescue someone. Sherlock uses pickpocketing for cases all the time, and more often than not he has a good reason to do it, or at least it turns out that way in the end.
So I asked Sherlock for some tips. I figured that he would be happy enough to help, since he usually isn’t shy about showing off what he knows.
In fact, he was eager to help me, though not for the reason I expected.
“You would learn how to pick someone’s pockets? You continue to surprise me,” he said, leaning forward in his armchair across from me in our flat. “Really, I’m impressed. This kind of initiative shows admirable dedication to the work. I think you will learn quickly, too. The nimble hands you’ve acquired from your history as a surgeon will be to your advantage.”
“Oh, you think so?” I asked, with a bit of a blush. I wasn’t expecting Sherlock to be so proud of me for making this request, nor had I been prepared for him to comment on the nimbleness of my hands.
“Without question. I have years of training ahead of you, but you should at least get the basics down before long. When do you want to start?”
Encouraged by his enthusiasm, I straightened where I sat and patted the armrests of my chair, ready to learn. “Why not now?”
He clasped his hands together, and grinned.
“First, find a pocket with something in it. Some people skip that part, but there’s no use in diving in blind and leaving it to chance. If you don’t know where someone typically keeps their belongings, then look for a bit sticking out or find an outline of an object in a pocket. Then use a diversion, or create one yourself, and finally, take what you want when they’re not focused on you.”
“Is that it? That doesn’t sound too tricky.”
“Say that again when you’ve given it a try. The tricky part comes in using a diversion. That is the most important part of pickpocketing. No amount of dexterity will do you any good if your target is paying attention.”
“What kind of diversion should I use?”
“Anything that takes their mind off their pockets. You might have accomplices to stage a scene, or save yourself the trouble and find a time when your target’s mind is on something else. But, let us say that I am such a target.” Sherlock rose to his feet, and gestured at himself. “You can start your training on me.”
“Oh, all right.” I lifted myself off from my chair, and took a good look at his pockets. “You’re wise to me, though.”
“Then you had better distract me.”
“How do I do that? I don’t have any accomplices here, and you’re not busy thinking about something else.”
“You can say something to create an emotional disturbance in your target, which will be distraction enough, though you would find that difficult with me.” Looking out the window, Sherlock added, as if it hardly mattered, “There are some pickpockets known to distract their targets by flirting.”
I felt myself flush at the thought.
Well, you don’t get the chance to flirt with Sherlock and get away with it every day.
“Sherlock,” I said, drawing up as much courage as I could, and just barely getting enough.
“Can I take a picture of you?”
Suspicious eyes turned towards me. “Why?”
“So I can prove to my friends that angels do exist.”
Embarrassed at the words that had left my own mouth, I almost started laughing, but I was stopped in my tracks by the effect I had on Sherlock. He stared at me, speechless. I suppose he had just been joking about the flirting idea and never thought I would really try it.
Swallowing my doubts, I dared to step closer, hoping Sherlock wouldn’t figure out how sincere I was. “You must be the answer to all my prayers.”
Sherlock opened his mouth to speak, and then closed it, though finally, he found something to say. “Cheesy pick-up lines,” he muttered, his hand ghosting over his trouser pocket. “You’ll need to do better than that.”
“Yeah, you deserve something better.” Lightly touching his hand, I gently pushed it a little to the side. “But you’re so beautiful that I can’t think of anything.”
“J-John…” His hand twitched against my fingers. “I…”
“Aha!” I cried, taking his phone.
He blinked in surprise, much to my satisfaction.
Proud of my victory, I waved my prize. “I got your phone, Sherlock!”
In a second, Sherlock snatched his phone back, but only because I let him. The stunned expression dropped from his face, and he was once again his usual confident self. “I hope in the future, you’ll make sure to be well out of the target’s sight before they realize something’s missing.”
“I’ll do my best, if it’s ever necessary to pickpocket someone at all.”
Without anything further, Sherlock walked over to the kitchen. I’m not certain, but, as he moved, I could have sworn that he touched his hand in a kind of thoughtful way.
The next time I went to a pub, I tried to grab a few harmless things like pens and napkins. It went off pretty well.
I didn’t want to try for anything more on strangers though, and there were few people I knew who wouldn’t take it the wrong way if they caught me lifting something from their back pocket. Molly would probably forgive me, but it didn’t feel right to try on her. I didn’t want to give Mrs. Hudson anything to grumble about, and Mycroft was out of the question. Maybe Sherlock could get away with stealing identification cards from the British Government, but I wasn’t sure that I would be so lucky.
Then I considered Greg. Sherlock had taken one or two things from Greg’s pockets in the past, and Greg seemed to forgive him. Plus, Greg was an understanding kind of bloke. If I managed to grab something or if I got caught in the act, he would probably be all right with it, as long as I explained myself either way.
Still, the idea of pickpocketing him without his permission didn't sit right with me. I could hardly expect to pull it off if he knew it was coming, though. In the end, I thought the best thing was to ask for his permission so far in advance that I still had his approval, but he forgot about it and let his guard down.
“Does that sound all right to you, Greg?” I asked him, the next time he visited our flat.
Fortunately, Greg seemed amused by the idea. “Sure. Sherlock never asks before taking my ID, so this is a nice change. Best of luck to you! Try as much as you want, though remember I’m a copper and not much gets past me. Sherlock’s good, but it’s not everyone who can get one off Greg Lestrade. In fact, if you can manage it, I’ll buy you lunch.”
A couple of months went by, and I myself nearly forgot about my plan.
But one day, I noticed that Greg was distracted. We went to see him about a murder case, which is unpleasant enough, though it seemed to me like he was strangely out of sorts. He handles tough cases all the time, after all. Sure, he doesn’t always get the strange kind of case that Sherlock prefers, but he deals with the mundane kind of unpleasant cases every day, and it takes a lot to jar him.
Regardless of why he was a little edgy, it made me remember that the best time to pickpocket someone is when they’re distracted.
Recalling what Sherlock had taught me, I scanned his pockets. I didn’t think I could get to his phone, which looked very secure in his jacket pocket. However, there was a white bit of paper sticking out of his trouser pocket. That was my best chance.
In fact, I was able to slip it out while he was having a serious discussion with Sherlock. It didn’t feel right to take something from him, especially if he was anxious about something, but since I was getting real training out of this, I had his permission, and I was going to return whatever I got anyway, there really was no harm in it, right?
I was fairly confident about this, until I moved into another room for a moment to examine the piece of paper I’d managed to latch onto.
It was a crisply folded piece of paper, with Greg’s handwriting on it:
There is someone I deeply admire,
They say he’s cold but he’s hot as fire.
If I confessed that that someone was you,
Would you meet with me for a drink or two?
You who always glide about every place,
Like a dancer with elegance and grace,
You who with no more than a single look,
Can read me plainly like an open book.
Would you give me just one chance?
Could we maybe share one dance?
For a night, would you agree,
To go out dancing with me?
If you’re free sometime this week,
Drink and dance is all I seek,
A bit of fun, a nice chat,
There’s no need for more than that.
If you would rather not, then that’s just fine,
You can throw away this message of mine,
But if you would make me a happy man,
Then please let me know whenever you can.
I swallowed hard. Of all the things to grab, I hooked onto a love letter! And it was Greg’s own handiwork! The idea that Greg went about writing love letters came as a complete surprise. I had no idea that he did this kind of thing. I’ve been called romantic once or twice, but even I hadn’t written a love letter that rhymed.
I didn’t have any clue who he was admiring, either. He hadn’t told me anything about being interested in anyone, and the letter didn’t give any names. Definitely the whole thing was meant to be a secret. If he found out that I had seen this letter, I was sure he would never let me forget it.
With the idea of slipping the letter back into Greg’s pocket, I turned towards him, only to see that he was standing on his own, drinking coffee. That meant he wasn’t distracted enough for me to do any stealthy work with his jacket. Instead, I stepped quietly into his office and placed the note on the floor, by his chair, with the hope that he would think he had just dropped it at some point.
Quickly, I got out of there and tried to look innocent by the door. It would have been great if Sherlock was around—for better or worse, he usually draws most of the attention of the room to himself—but I had no idea where he had gone.
“Hey, John, where have you been?”
It was Greg, who took another chug of his coffee. He looked like a sensible guy as he always does, with his grizzled hair and that unassuming, down-to-earth way he has. I could hardly believe that this same man wrote lovesick poetry.
“Oh, I was just looking for Sherlock,” I answered, which, to my credit, was true. “He seems to have vanished.”
“As a matter fact, he walked out a moment ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if he thought you were with him.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised, either. In that case, I guess I’d better go after him.”
As I waved goodbye, I noticed that the wave Greg gave me in return was somewhat half-hearted. It looked like his mind was on something else. I remembered that he had been out of sorts since Sherlock and I arrived at the police headquarters. Was it the love letter that was bothering him? Perhaps he was afraid he would get turned down. There’s no telling what will happen when you give someone a letter like that.
Well, none of this was any of my business. The best thing would be to leave the matter here and forget all about it when I got home.
Yet for the rest of the day, I couldn’t help but wonder who it was that Greg had feelings for, and if they would agree to go out on a date with him.
I hadn’t had much time to read the letter, but I remembered that it was meant for someone Greg thought of as graceful and perceptive.
Sherlock’s graceful and perceptive, isn’t he?
For several days after that, I kept a closer eye on Sherlock without really meaning to. Of course, if Greg wanted to go out on a date with Sherlock, and Sherlock was up for it, then I should be happy for them. However, I found myself hoping that I wouldn’t see any signs that it was Sherlock after all.
That’s petty of me, I admit, and I tried not to feel that way, yet I’ve had a bit of a crush on Sherlock for a while now, and it’s only natural that I should be a little jealous. I wasn’t going to let that feeling get the best of me, though. It wouldn’t be the easiest thing I’ve ever done, but I resolved to support my two friends if they were happy together.
Nonetheless, I breathed a sigh of relief when Sherlock didn’t go out on any dates that week, or at least I don’t think he did. It’s always tricky to pinpoint exactly where Sherlock is going when he’s heading out of the flat, so there was the possibility that he had had a date and kept that fact from me.
And if it wasn’t Sherlock that Greg had written to, I had a hard time imagining who else it could be. I considered Greg a friend, and I thought I had met or heard of everyone who was important in his life. All that I really had to go on was that the letter had been written for a man, if the pronouns in the letter were anything to go by. Even so, I had trouble picturing any of the other people Greg knew as especially astute or perceptive. Although, I might have been too harsh a judge on that point, since I lived with Sherlock. Compared against him, very few people could be described that way.
In any event, we had to go down to the police again after the weekend, and I decided to take another shot at pickpocketing. I still meant to prove that I could pickpocket someone, and I thought it was extremely unlikely that I would grab another love letter. Once I got Greg’s wallet or phone or keys, then I could present the innocent article to him, and we’d laugh about it over the lunch he promised me.
Despite being as serious as the job required, Greg was in a much better mood than the last time I saw him. Actually, he was in such a good mood that he got distracted easily, and once again, I had an advantage in lifting some piece of paper from his pocket.
Once I found safe ground in an empty meeting room, I took a glance at the paper. My mouth fell open in astonishment as I read the familiar handwriting of Greg Lestrade.
I hope it’s okay to tell you outright,
That I had a wonderful time last night.
If you like, call this a thank you letter,
For making my weekend so much better.
I realize it wasn’t your kind of club,
And definitely not your kind of pub,
But you were sweet and charming all the same,
You make a poor bloke forget his first name.
Is it the posh way you speak,
Or your eyes that leave me weak?
When I’m in your clever gaze,
I’m caught in a winding maze.
Take this as praise and no more,
If you want things like before,
We can be colleagues or friends,
And sometimes meet on weekends.
But if a second date won’t be too much,
If you’d be up for more dancing and such,
Or if we could go out to see a show,
Just ring me up sometime and let me know.
Another love letter! I couldn’t believe my rotten luck. I couldn’t show this to Greg any more than I could have shown him the other letter.
This note didn’t tell me much more about the intended recipient, either, except that Greg thought he was posh and clever, and to some extent, a colleague. Again, I couldn’t think of anyone in Greg’s circle who really matched this description other than Sherlock.
I also noticed that this poem followed the same rhyme scheme as the previous one. While I was surprised that Greg was romantic enough to write even one love letter, the fact that the style of the letters was so steady and consistent agreed with what I knew about the man’s personality.
I glimpsed out from behind the meeting room door and looked at Greg and Sherlock, standing close together as they leaned over a computer screen. Greg’s voice had taken a higher, more excited pitch as he directed some of his officers, and Sherlock was thrumming with captivating energy as he sorted through little bags of evidence. They both appeared perfectly efficient and competent. Nothing whatsoever hinted that one of them was writing love letters to the other. I didn’t forget that we were in a professional setting, though, and I knew that they might have been hiding their feelings from the rest of us.
It took hours more of sorting through the facts, but before the day was over, Sherlock and Greg had made a breakthrough on the case, and we were all so jubilant over it that Greg actually slapped my back. I returned the gesture, and was able to return the letter to his pocket, though I couldn’t manage to get it exactly into the same pocket I took it from. In all the excitement of the case, I doubted he would notice the change.
Perhaps it would have saved everybody some time if I had slipped the thing into Sherlock’s coat, instead. I wasn’t absolutely certain that the two of them were dating, yet it seemed very likely. I would just have to get used to the idea that Sherlock wanted to be with someone else.
I tried not to think too hard about the uneasy feeling that gave me.
As far as pickpocketing went, there was nothing for it but to wait to try again another day. I was certain that I wouldn’t grab a love letter again. Surely it wouldn’t happen a third time.
It happened a third time.
The next time Sherlock and I were called to New Scotland Yard, I found Greg strangely happy once more, so I took another chance at his pockets. This time, he and Sherlock were using the meeting room, so I stole away into Greg’s office before I unfurled the piece of paper. I lost all hope of presenting my prize to Greg in just a few lines.
Can it seriously be true,
That I went to a show with you,
And your hand rested on my own,
And you spoke in a gentle tone?
Is it right, can it be a fact,
Do I have this thing down exact,
That you really leaned against me,
And you said my name Gregory?
The silky way you say Lestrade,
Ought by rights to be made outlawed,
But how you say my given name,
Ought to go in a hall of fame.
Do I truly have it all clear,
That when in return I moved near,
And I gave your first name a try,
There was a twinkle in your eye?
Would it be too far off the mark,
To ask for a stroll in the park?
When there’s next some sunny weather,
Let’s walk arm-in-arm together?
I groaned after I skimmed through the note. Apparently, Greg kept nothing but love letters in his pockets!
If the letter was meant for Sherlock, then there was a lot going on that I had no idea about. I thought that Sherlock had a hard enough time calling the detective inspector “Greg”; I couldn’t even imagine him putting in the extra work to say “Gregory.”
Setting the letter on the floor by Greg’s chair, repeating the first method I had used to dispose of my loot, I decided to try to find out more. It was true that none of this was my business, but not knowing was getting to me. If I found out that Sherlock was happy with Greg, then so be it; at least then I would know for sure.
Later, when Sherlock and I were taking a cab ride home, the letters were still on my mind. I decided to ask a few subtle questions and hope I learned something.
“Sherlock, what do you think about love letters?”
“A waste of time and effort,” he answered, almost instantly.
“Oh, right,” I murmured, surprised by how quick his answer was. I wondered if he had been prepared for this kind of questioning. “I should’ve guessed you’d say that.”
“And they leave a regrettable paper trail that can be incriminating in certain circumstances. Though, I can’t provide complete information on the subject of love letters.” Sherlock’s voice fell lower. “Since I never got one.”
The way his voice dropped, in such a restrained but gloomy way, struck me like a rock. I didn’t doubt for a second that he had told me the truth.
That meant that he wasn’t dating Greg. The particular uneasy feeling that had been troubling me drifted away, though I was now deeply bothered by that sadness I had just caught a hint of on Sherlock’s face.
I wanted to tell Sherlock that he deserved a thousand love letters, though as always, I didn’t know how to express how I felt about him. Telling him could also have terrible consequences, especially if I offended him or made him uncomfortable.
All that I wanted to say went unsaid.
When I set out to do something, I do it, and I wasn’t ready to give up on winning my lunch from Greg. I was bound to lift something presentable from his pockets eventually, and if not, then at least I’d find out more about who the letters were for. I shouldn’t have been so curious, but I couldn’t keep myself from wondering who had roused the softer feelings of the sturdy detective inspector.
It was a while before I found the opportunity to pickpocket Greg again. Given the time that passed, I think I missed some of Greg’s correspondence, yet, in keeping with my awful luck, I nonetheless ended up getting one of his letters again on my fourth dive into his pockets:
My world becomes warm and soft,
When I’m with my dear Mycroft.
As your brolly stays with you,
I would always like to, too.
Is it too bold of me to make a wish,
That I could someday be your dear goldfish?
Sorry, I got that one from your brother,
It’s as good a term as any other!
What I mean is, it would really be great,
It would actually be top-notch first-rate,
It would make me happier than you know,
If you would make this DI your SO.
To the man with witty eyes like a hawk’s,
And pretty body like a ginger fox,
With an intellect as sharp as a knife,
Can I hope to be your partner in life?
If you approve what I’ve said,
And it gets your go-ahead,
Next time we find time to spend,
Could I call you my boyfriend?
Finally, Greg had revealed the person in question: Mycroft.
At last, I had got a letter that was specific enough to give me not only a name but a pretty decent description of the recipient (eliminating any possibility that Greg knew some other person named Mycroft, as unlikely as that was already). Although I wish the truth had come more gradually! Reading Mycroft’s name near the start of the letter gave me a shock.
Mycroft had never occurred to me as a possibility. I could remember times when the detective inspector and Mr. British Government were at least in the same area, though I had never seen them talk to each other. Now that I had evidence in my hands, it occurred to me that, given their connections to Sherlock, they would run into each other sooner or later, yet still, I couldn’t imagine more than one or two words being passed between them.
The two of them were so different from each other. On one hand, there was a practical, straightforward kind of bloke I could go out for a pint with, who wore a sensible coat and a patient expression. On the other hand was an aloof politician, who spent his time in an exclusive club, outfitted with a bespoke suit and an enigmatic smile. Not in a thousand years would I have guessed that they would hit it off, but apparently they had, going by Greg’s letters. Well, I’ve heard that sometimes opposites attract, and you can’t get more opposite than those two.
Seeing that something deep could develop between an ordinary bloke and a man that can only be described as a Holmes, a small part of me thought that, maybe, there was hope for me yet.
As much as I wanted to ask Greg how he had found the nerve to start writing to Mycroft in the first place, I knew better than to try. Actually, knowing how private Mycroft is in general, I was more embarrassed than ever for having read one of these letters. The content of this particular letter only made things worse. This was a private request from Greg to Mycroft to start a serious relationship, and I wasn’t even supposed to know that they were dating.
Things could go very bad for me if either Greg or Mycroft found out what I knew. If Greg hadn’t told me about this by now, then I was sure he didn’t want me to know, and apparently, neither did Mycroft. I wasn’t afraid of Mycroft, but I wasn’t going to kid myself that he would be all forgiveness and sunshine if he discovered my intrusion.
Though reluctant to give up my goal of grabbing something from Greg’s pockets, I understood now that the risks outweighed the benefits. I might get caught with one of these letters eventually, and that wouldn’t be any good. And given my luck so far, I couldn’t expect to draw anything but a love letter from Greg’s pockets. I had to abandon pickpocketing, and with it, the hope of victory and a free lunch.
Once I managed to get the letter back into Greg’s pocket (thanks to Sherlock, my unwitting accomplice who made quite a spectacle when he became impatient with Anderson), I decided that it would be the last time I dared any sleight of hand where Greg was concerned.
And yet, as the letter left my hand, I wondered: would Mycroft, the man I had always known as aloof and detached, actually agree to what Greg had asked?
This might come as unexpected, but I really did try to stop peeking at the love letters. I can’t be blamed for one of the letters being left out in the open on Greg’s desk, can I? Spotting the handwritten sheet from outside the office, I knew right away that it was one of the love letters.
The uncertain ending of the previous letter resounded in my mind. Curiosity all but dragged me into the office.
From the start of the letter, I could tell that Mycroft’s answer to the previous one had been satisfactory, and that this note was the most sentimental one yet. Greg continued to surprise me with his hidden depths.
By the end of the letter, I was even more surprised.
How should I admit it, quickly or slow,
That I want to hold you and not let go?
You who know so much, how do I say best,
How far you are to me above the rest?
I love the chats we have when we go out,
No matter what it is we talk about,
You will have something insightful to say,
I love the sound of your voice anyway.
I want to dance with you all night,
Until the darkness turns to light,
And we will keep on dancing then,
Even when it gets dark again.
It’s a great joy to hold your hand,
So much that I can hardly stand.
Don’t tell me it would be a crime,
If I think of you all the time.
You are the person that I love,
You are the one that I dream of,
Who makes my heart run away fast,
Who makes me feel at home at last.
Oh, and one more thing, for my good pal John:
Reading others’ letters is just not on,
But honestly it’s been funny as hell,
And I should add Mycroft thinks so as well!
“Oh, the look on your face is priceless!” Greg laughed from the doorway of his office.
“Ack!” I shouted, a bit incoherently.
“Looking at my letter, are you, John?”
“I… I…” For a moment, I stammered uselessly, though I stood my ground and got a few words out at last. “It was right out on the desk!”
“But it’s not the first one you’ve looked at, is it? I once went to get something from my office and saw you placing the third letter on the ground, and I knew then that you’d done something like that before. It also explained why my second letter had gone into one pocket and come out another.”
“Well, you said I could try to pickpocket you, remember?”
Greg grinned. “Yeah, that’s true.”
“I tried, but I never drew anything other than a damn letter. I didn't tell you because I didn’t think you’d be happy if you knew I’d seen one of them.”
“Fair enough. The truth, though, is that Mycroft and I aren’t trying to hide anything, so you didn’t need to worry about that.”
“Really?” I asked, astonished.
“That’s right. Neither of us is very chatty about it, but we don’t mind if anyone finds out. All the same, we thought it was hilarious that you thought we wanted to keep our dates secret. I swear, when you looked over the letter with Mycroft’s name in it, you’d looked like you’d stumbled on some big conspiracy.”
“So you two had a laugh at my expense?”
“Serves you right for going through my letters, mate.”
I couldn’t argue with him there. “Fine, you’re right. Let me get you lunch to make up for it.”
“I thought I was the one who owed you lunch? You did manage to lift a few things from me.”
“Then let’s call it even.”
We shook hands on the matter, him with a big smirk and me smiling somewhat sheepishly.
“By the way,” I said, taking a deep and fortifying breath, “there is something I’d like to ask you.”
“Could you help me write a letter to Sherlock? I’ve wanted to get the nerve to ask him out for a long time now, and I would like your help.”
“Oh, you have feelings for Sherlock?” he asked, more interested than amazed.
I nodded bashfully, grateful that he wasn’t making a big fuss about it. “Do you think he could feel the same way about me?”
“Well, that’s up to him, but a little love letter goes a long way, as I can rightly tell you. Although, do you think Sherlock would like something soppy like a love letter?”
I remembered how Sherlock had reacted—with disappointment—when I had brought up love letters to him in that cab ride. “I think he’d like it more than you’d expect.”
Greg gave me a lot of encouragement for writing the letter, but I still found it hard to go through with actually giving the note to Sherlock. For all I knew, Sherlock would laugh at me for having written something so emotional, or he just wouldn’t understand it. For several days, the letter stayed hidden, undisturbed, in my bedroom, while I tried to sort through my doubts.
Shortly after Sherlock had left the flat one day, Mycroft came strolling in. He had a casual air as if he were only visiting and happened to stop by when Sherlock had gone out, so of course that wasn’t true. He meant to speak to me alone.
“How are you, John?” Mycroft inquired.
“I’m fine. Can I do something for you, Mycroft?”
“It is probable. To put it another way, I think you can do something for my brother. I understand you are about to bestow upon him a love letter.”
“Yeah. I suppose Greg told you.” It felt odd to acknowledge their association openly, if indirectly, and though Greg had assured me the relationship wasn’t a secret, I was still surprised when Mycroft didn’t try to deny it. “You two tell each other everything now, I bet.”
Mycroft blushed, which was sort of endearing, considering how prim he is all the time. “Indeed. Regarding your own letter, I thought it would be best to tell you not to wait too long.”
“I don’t know that it’s a good idea. Sherlock might not like it.”
“Sherlock will like it. I know my brother, and I am certain that your letter is sure to make him very happy. Perhaps it will have as great an effect on his life as Gregory’s letters have had on mine.” The blush that had almost vanished came back to the surface. While not as effusive in his joy as others might be, Mycroft was clearly happy, and it was nice to see. “Now, may I look over the letter to see that it is satisfactory? I trust that Gregory was of great help, but one doesn’t like to allow any errors to slip by.”
Handing the paper to him, I told him, “I’m still changing things here and there.”
Carefully, he scanned the letter, as if it were an essay. “This seems satisfactory. I suspect you will do well if you offer this to Sherlock.”
I thought it was funny how he judged the piece of paper. “You know, in the old days, blokes had to ask permission from a lady’s father before asking for her hand. This feels a lot like that for some reason.”
“That’s ridiculous, John. I’m merely providing advice. You don’t need my permission to court my brother.”
Trying to imagine Mycroft sitting idly by as his brother was pursued by someone the older Holmes brother didn’t approve of, I grunted with a restrained laugh. “I have a hard time believing that.”
Mycroft smiled knowingly at me, and returned the paper. “Then be happy you have my approval, John.”
He turned to leave, stopped only by my question: “Are you going to tell Sherlock about you and Greg?”
“I would be surprised if he hasn’t already deduced the truth for himself. In all likelihood, he knows, but hasn’t given it much thought. It’s not easy to celebrate the romance of others, after all, when you are not with the person you love.”
Mycroft left the flat then, though not before giving me an eyebrow-raise that seemed to say, “So get on it, John!”
Bolstered by the encouragement of England’s latest and strangest power couple, I found an envelope and sealed my letter for Sherlock within it. You could say doing that was a little silly, since I could have just handed him the letter, but I wanted to do it right, and the message didn’t seem complete without an envelope.
More than a little nervous, I somehow managed to give the envelope to Sherlock in person, when we were alone in our flat.
“It’s for you,” I told him, calling upon all my bravery.
Confused yet curious, he made his way to the knife embedded in our mantel and cut open the envelope. The letter that he withdrew was made in my own handwriting, and it ran like this:
I don’t know how this letter should start,
And I’m lost on the other parts too,
So I will just write straight from the heart:
I’d really like to go out with you.
Your energy always shines bright,
So lovely, your curly dark hair.
Bursting full of life and of light,
Your bright eyes that shine so aware.
It’s all I can do not to stare.
I wanted to tell you before,
Love letters should fall at your feet.
You deserve one and many more,
With love of you on every sheet.
You made my life so exciting,
You were truly answer to prayer,
You gave me cause to keep writing,
So if you have some time to spare,
Can I buy you a drink somewhere?
If this plan doesn’t sound any good,
Then that’s fine, we can give it a miss.
Things between us can stand as they stood,
Just know you got a letter like this.
“John?” Sherlock asked me, his voice soft.
“Yeah, Sherlock?” My voice was nearly trembling.
“Is this a love letter?”
Clearing my throat, I tried to stay calm and composed. “It is if you want it to be.”
“I never thought I’d get a love letter,” he whispered, his eyes fixed upon the paper, “and certainly not from someone as good as you.”
My heart started going a little faster, though I didn’t want to let myself get my hopes up, in case he turned me down. “I got a bit of help in writing it, though it’s all true. I think you’re great, but I don’t want to make you uncomfortable at all, and we can forget about it if that’s what you want. I thought, if nothing else, you’d appreciate getting something like this, a letter from an admirer. Not too sweet, is it?”
“It’s perfect, John. We can go out tonight.”
The next thing I knew, Sherlock’s arms were wrapped around me, and his head was down against my shoulder.
“Are you all right, Sherlock?” I asked, amazed.
“Entirely fine,” he answered matter-of-factly, as if his words weren’t muffled against my shoulder. “I merely intend to hold you for a while, if you don’t object.”
“Oh, not at all! You go right ahead.”
Smiling widely against Sherlock’s soft dark hair, and feeling his arms around me, I returned the embrace, and we stood there in a hug for a long time.
At that moment, I was so happy that I had decided to learn how to pickpocket, happier still to have friends like Greg (and Mycroft), and even happier than that to be the luckiest guy on earth, sharing an embrace with Sherlock.
“Mycroft? Everything all right?”
Prodded with these words to return from the reverie into which I had drifted, I turned towards the man sitting next to me at my breakfast table. Though only briefly restored to awareness, I noticed a great many things at once: his meal was nearly finished while mine was hardly touched; his hand, warm and gentle with his concern for me, was lightly touching mine; he was facing me, so that I could see plainly the handsome face I had once known better in wishful dreams than in reality.
Those times of pining were past, and now I had the immeasurable pleasure of sitting with Gregory at breakfast, neither of us more formally dressed beyond a shirt and trousers. I could not remember when my home had felt so inviting and comfortable before Gregory had moved in.
“Certainly,” I answered, clasping his hand in return. “I was merely thinking of the delightful letters you’ve written to me.”
“Oh. Those little things?” Gregory laughed, with a nervous note to his voice, and he rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m glad you put up with them.”
I was happy to reassure him on this matter. “That is hardly a sufficient statement. They are truly lovely, and I count them among my greatest treasures. In fact, perhaps I ought not to admit it, but I was reciting your first flattering letter in my head just now.”
“Reciting? You don’t mean you learned it by heart?”
“Indeed, I can recite all your charming letters from memory.” This time, I heard the note of nervousness enter my own voice. “I suppose it might seem egotistical, to learn so well letters that spoke such gracious things about me, but it’s more than I can fathom that you return my feelings for you, and remembering your letters assures me that it’s all true, and I’m not living in some fantastic dream.”
“Oh, Mycroft,” Gregory murmured. He held my hand more tightly, his grip as steady and dependable as ever, and I felt reassured.
“I don’t know if I have thanked you properly yet, so thank you for those letters, Gregory, and for everything.”
“I should be thanking you!” He gave me an endearing grin. “I’m the one who gets to go out with a sweet, gorgeous man who’s got a brilliant mind and legs for days."
Heat rose to my face, and I futilely tried to cover my blush with my free hand. When I think about the stern and poised presence I hold in other parts of life, it astonishes me that Gregory can have such a strong effect on my composure.
“Oh, and look at how cute you are when you’re flustered!” Gregory’s tone was full of affection, and surely his fondness made me blush harder.
“Yes, well, in any case,” I said, more or less muffled against my own hand, “there’s something else I should thank you for.”
The flutters in my stomach settled enough so that I could face him again, though perhaps just barely. “For helping John and Sherlock. I know my brother will be happy with John, and you know how much Sherlock means to me.”
“I was happy to help, especially since we got such a great laugh off John.” A smile of a somewhat conspiratorial nature was shared between us; we wished John well, of course, and would not ordinarily amuse ourselves with keeping a secret from him, but he was the one who read Gregory’s private letters, thus allowing the two of us our harmless amusement. “At least he really has nothing to complain about now.”
“I did enjoy that little note you added for him in that one letter. Though, I should mention that the previous lines of the letter moved me so intensely that it was some time before I could really appreciate the comedy at the end.” I brought my hand up to Gregory’s face, feeling rough stubble and the curves of a hearty smile under my fingertips.
Gregory leaned into my hand, and his dark eyes glittered as they met mine. “It’s all thanks to my muse, really.” His voice dropped to a playful whisper. “That’s you, by the way.”
His playful mood reached me, and I also whispered. “I gathered as much from your letters.”
“I’m glad they weren’t too subtle! Now finish your meal, so we can cuddle on the sofa and I can wonder how my life became so great.”
“Of course,” I smiled, blushing again. Our hands unclasped, but somehow I continued to feel his warmth as he moved to clean some dishes and I returned to my meal. In some way, Gregory was always with me, just like his written words, which I kept in a safe place in reality, in my mind, and in my heart.