The first thing you need to understand is that Sherlock Holmes is almost always right about people. I only add the almost because I’ve been so steeped in his twisted scientific method that it seems too imprecise and fatally inaccurate not to. If I didn’t include the almost, the voice that belongs to Sherlock in my head would say, “I expect better than that, John. Stick to the facts. You should paint me accurately, or not at all.” So I will include it, even though it feels a bit wrong to.
He’s almost always right, especially when it comes to people’s motivations, their desires, the things they are likely to do and not do. For someone who behaves so strangely, so inhumanly at times, you’d think there were some key element of human existence that he had missed, couldn’t grasp, couldn’t fathom; he’s the one who calls his brain a hard drive, like he’s mechanical. He calls himself a sociopath, after all. Surely the whims of the human heart, the depths of its passions and agony, are beyond him. But that’s not it at all. He understands the drives of human beings just fine.
But he was right about me from the beginning. Or, just about. Even when I was mostly wrong about myself.
Here I am, his blogger, his Boswell, having taken to writing about him because I can’t exclaim enough out loud about how unbelievable he is, how utterly amazing. I am truly struck with awe by him on a regular basis. I have to record it for posterity, to pin it down and examine it further, marvel at it. I want people to know what he does, even if he doesn’t care for the acclaim. I need to share with you how fantastic it is to be near him, to be dragged along on all these crazy cases, watching him run his eyes along the latest crime scene, seeing things everyone else misses. He’s an addict and so am I; even knowing I put myself and everyone I meet in danger, I can’t pack my bag and move out of Baker St.
Right now I fear I won’t see Baker St. again.
I’m an awfully good kidnap victim, obviously; this isn’t the first time, but it feels more final and more dangerous than the others. Sherlock, you won’t know I’m gone until it’s too late. There are no clues, because I did nothing different, talked to no one, and there’s no way to confirm that I’m not where I should be right now. It was a perfect heist, the kind of thing only a brain like yours could have worked out (his brain works much like yours does; is that a benefit? Does it give me a better chance?) You will sort it out eventually, I know you will, but by then I’ll have a bullet in my head or through my heart, or I’ll be a pile of broken bone and tissue in a mess on the sidewalk below. One way or another. I’m worth more to him dead than alive. I don’t even know why they bothered to lock me up in this nasty little place rather than just kill me on sight. I’m pretty sure I have no hope. If I had been able to drop something, or dial a number, or let out a strangled yelp for a witness to hear and relate to you, I’d feel confident that you would come barging through that grim metal door sooner rather than later. You’d know, you’d find me. But I can’t think of a single clue left for you to follow.
Logically the chances of you finding this last confession are slim, because surely it will be ripped out and burnt, or thrown in the Thames with my body, or covered in my blood. But the slim chances are the ones you always take. I’ve never been any good at hiding things from you. So I know you’ll read it, even if you have to take charcoal to the pages and reconstruct it all over the sitting room floor. It makes me smile to imagine that. You’ll figure it out.
As I was saying, Sherlock Holmes is almost always right about people, and he was right about me too, that first time we had dinner together in the little Italian place, all a ploy to get me to give up my ridiculous cane and run across the city with him. He thought I was making a pass or something! Well, I suppose he wasn’t entirely right, but he wasn’t entirely wrong, either. I didn’t know it then, not at the time; it was only in retrospect that I was prepared to see what he saw so plainly on my face that first evening.
For some men, it’s pretty eyes, or an ample bosom, or a bottom, a nice set of legs. Me, I always thought what I was looking for was a normal girl, not intimidatingly pretty, with an easy laugh and a nice smile. Someone who finds joy in simple things, likes what she does, and doesn’t dwell on the negative. Likes long walks in the rain. Doesn’t that make sense? For someone like me? I’m an average bloke, aren’t I? Just looking for some normality, some comfort, something pleasant to come home to? What you think is true about yourself isn’t always the case. Sherlock’s brother was right about me at the first glance, which was more than a little scary. Normality makes me crazy, in truth. I can’t stand it. How did I not know that? It’s like down is up and up is down. Everything I thought I knew was wrong. So I couldn’t have known immediately what Sherlock would do to me.
“You make it sound deliberate,” that’s what Sherlock’s voice says in my head, in that complaining tone of his. If you want to write your own story, Sherlock, you’ll actually have to put pen to paper, or fingers to keys, one way or another. Having a Boswell means you get filtered through my eyes. You’ll have to live with it. You have lived with it; I think you even like it, for all your saying you don’t. You love to see yourself through my eyes. It’s better than you could have imagined, isn’t it. You even enjoy correcting me after the fact.
It’s all about the brain with him. You know he doesn’t eat when he’s on a case, barely sleeps even when he’s not. His body is just a thing that carts the real him around. A vehicle. But I’m the opposite; my body knows the truth of things before my brain does. It’s that lizard brain, or my heart, or my gizzard, that’s what tells me. I don’t trust people, you know. Most people. It makes things difficult. I don’t trust anyone except for Sherlock Holmes, even though he’s the most dangerous man in the world, Moriarty be damned. I think I trust him exactly because he’s the most dangerous man in the world. As I said: down is up, up is down. But the moment I met him my lizard brain sat up and noticed. It must be like a neon sign over his head that my conscious mind doesn’t see, because every nerve in my body was tingling after that first meeting. I felt alive again, felt the rush of air in my lungs. Felt like I’d just woken up. That’s why there was no question that I would meet him at 221b Baker St. Of course I would. Even if I didn’t know it yet. Even if I didn’t know why.
So as we sat in the restaurant, talking about girlfriends, boyfriends, and he admitted to having neither, a little glow burst open in the pit of my stomach. Not in my head, mind you; not at all. It was my gut taking note, making plans, having ideas and feelings and all that rot. Not my head. Nothing rational, nothing on the surface. “That’s good,” I said, or something like it. Good? “You’re unattached. Like me.” I didn’t mean it as a pick up line, I honestly didn’t. Well, my gizzard did, I think. Sherlock, being Sherlock, looked past the signs of my brain and looked lower. He knew what my gut was thinking; it was all laid out before him, all my reactions and denials. That’s what makes him so brilliant, you see? He can see things about yourself that you don’t even know. He sees the signs, he knows how to read them. He knows that the most passionate parts of us aren’t conscious. That’s how he knows who the murderer is, even with two flimsy bits of evidence and an old photograph. Because he knows how human lizard brains work, how our metaphorical hearts beat, even if he blatantly ignores his own. Well, most of the time.
It’s not what you’re thinking, though. Well, is that what you’re thinking? Some deeply romantic escapade between us? Everyone else thinks it. Let me clarify: that’s not what’s happened. There’s nothing romantic about it, nothing sweet or normal. It’s not nearly that simple, or that complex.
Sherlock: I have no idea what you will think about me writing this down. We have never talked about it, or really acknowledged it in the daylight. I don’t even let myself think about it too long, as if that too is against the rules. You are not a person known to feel any great level of shame or embarrassment, however, so I can’t imagine you’d be angry with me, especially if I’m dead. Maybe you’ve been waiting for me to say something. That would be like you.
That’s another thing you have to understand to ever come to grips with the life Sherlock and I share: there is a lot of adrenaline in our days, as I’m sure you can imagine. Running from danger of all kinds, gun drawn, chasing down proven murderers, keeping Sherlock from doing something stupid. The danger inherent in a single text is enough to make a regular man’s skin scrawl. So it won’t shock you, I’m sure, to know that as we stumble home with all that adrenaline in our bodies, sometimes it spills over us. Teeth, lips, fingers, zips. The kitchen table, the sofa, in the corner of the sitting room up against the wall with a thump, the motives of our lizard brains pour out. Who starts it? I don’t even know. Me? Probably. Him too, though. I don’t know what he’s thinking at moments like that, or even if he is; he isn’t a disembodied brain, after all, he knows he’s not. He likes to be touched, stroked, cradled, invaded, claimed. He likes fingers in his hair, lips on his stomach, fingernails dug into his skin. For all that brainpower and self-denial, he can be a very carnal, physical man. On a regular day he just opts not to take cues from his body. Instead he bends it to his great intellectual will. But that’s only on regular days.
I don’t know a lot about what happened in his life before me, though I have wondered. Those moments, all skin and tongues and torn clothes, aren’t the time for talking. So I’ve never asked. Most of the words that fall out of our mouths when we are at the will of our bodies are curses, or moans, or gasps. Nothing as complicated as sentences, or questions. At other times, when things are back to normal between us, it seems too intimate a question.
I’ve never done anything like that before, though. Never with any man but him. I wouldn’t say I’m interested in men, frankly. It’s not his masculinity that interests me. In those moments, it’s just him, it’s Sherlock being Sherlock. Everything about him is what I want, right then, with the passion in my gut overruling everything else. If he were a woman I wouldn’t have to have a sexual identity crisis. If he were a donkey, I’d be arrested for animal abuse. There is no one else like him; he is in a category of his own.
Do I pine for him when he isn’t in my bed, under my hands? Well, yes. I do. But I don’t push, and I don’t ask. We don’t have a relationship like ordinary people do. I don’t have carte blanche with him (at least, I don’t think I do). It’s an unspoken contract we both signed in every bodily fluid we possess; when the adrenaline is running high and buzzing in our ears, consent is a given. If I grab him after he’s been brilliant, or frustrating, or annoying persistent, or willful and smart enough to catch the toughest and most dangerously brutal, he understands and we both give in. When he crawls into my bed at 3am, his cold thighs against the back of my legs and his long, thin fingers on my collarbone, his breath on the back of my neck, I don’t ask him questions. We don’t talk, it’s not a sewing circle. It’s not about brains or voices. It’s a physical conversation, gizzard to gizzard. I’ve never told him no. I’ve never wanted to. And we’ve never talked about it.
So yes, I do date in earnest. Sure, if I meet a woman I ask if she’s interested. You wonder, do I do that to hurt him? Or force him to say something? No, not really. Though the obvious jealousy he displays when I take a woman out, or don’t come home at night, is gratifying and flattering. But I don’t do it to annoy him. I do it to claim myself back, to indulge in what my brain knows it wants, the lifepath I’ve been expecting to tread, to train my gizzard to look in more normal places for its kicks. I’m trying to steer this ship, that’s all.
I can’t say these little interludes with Sherlock don’t come along with a lot of confusion and angst on my part. A certain amount of guilt. Am I taking advantage of him, a secretly but desperately lonely man who has found exactly one person who will tolerate him? Am I betraying his trust that I will be the one to tell him when things are a not good? Because this thing we do, under cover of darkness, in the throes of adrenaline-fueled jangled nerves, is the very definition of not good. Am I taking advantage? It’s an odd sort of innocence he has, but there it is. Wouldn’t it be best for both of us if I find the strength to be my normal self, my good, ethical, true self, not just some of the time, but all the time? I wouldn’t abandon him. I can’t imagine my life without him. But if we aren’t in that sort of relationship, shouldn’t I have the ethical backbone to not behave as if he is mine for the taking under the cover of darkness and libido? Maybe he doesn’t care. Maybe it’s just a physical release. Could it be that I’m the one over-thinking things for once?
These are the things I wrestle with that I could never write about on my blog. Can you imagine what my sister would say? Sherlock would be disappointed, I’m sure, that I couldn’t man up and just accept things as they are, wave those ethical issues aside. But when my gizzard isn’t doing all the thinking, my brain knows how unhealthy this is. Not to be in love with a man, per se, that’s not unhealthy. To be in love with this man, as his cook, his blogger, his assistant, his doctor, his perpetual tea-maker, his housecleaner, his flatmate, and his friend, adding lover to the pile but pretending you’re not is not the most emotionally healthy decision. Not for me or for him. Don’t think I don’t know that.
Sometimes I imagine that if I asked, Sherlock would find it odd that I think it’s a secret. This might be him in a perfectly happy, stable romantic relationship for all I know. But to me its in the shadows, secretive, it happens and then we pretend it didn’t. The cone of silence descends. That must mean something. I get to stay a straight man with an interest in the lovely ladies of London, which is what I am, and he gets to pretend he doesn’t given in to physical desires, that he is above that, which he also is. He gets to focus on his deductions rather than on me, or on anyone else. It works out.
The first time it happened, I woke up in my bed uncertain of how exactly I got there. Oh the ripples of embarrassment I felt, remembering just how animalistic it had been, how shameless. Did I really do that? With him? I had no experience with this sort of thing, but I dove right in, got on my knees, gladly swallowed him up. The sound of his voice then, guttural, without any words, it carried me along in this bizarre alternate universe where I don’t think through what I do, where I don’t think at all. I had never lost so much control over myself as at that moment. I barely recognize myself in retrospect. Downstairs the next morning, Sherlock was curled up on the sofa, texting. He looked up briefly as I descended the stairs.
“Don’t open the fridge,” he said, looking back at his phone. Actually, I think it might have been mine. Nothing new there.
“More body parts?” I asked, trying to keep my voice steady.
“Best not to check,” Sherlock said, then flipped open my laptop.
“That’s mine,” I said. A habit. I always said something like that when he chose to use my laptop instead of reaching across the pile of papers in front of him to grab his own.
“Yes,” he said, typing at a rate of speed heretofore unheard of. “So it is.”
And that was it. No acknowledgment; just life as usual. I think the kettle took longer to boil that morning than it had ever taken, and has ever taken since. We just went along as before, comfortable, co-dependent, brothers-in-arms, accomplices. It was less than a week later when the second episode occurred, on the floor of his bedroom, between a stack of beakers and three buckets of unidentified mud. I sneaked back to my bedroom before dawn. He fell asleep on the sofa the next morning.
This is how it has been, and I don’t know if I want it to change. Sometimes I know I do. One way or another, bring it into the light; acknowledge it, be honest, have a normal relationship where you wake up next to each other and don’t pretend you don’t how he feels from the inside out, the smell of his skin, the feeling of his hips under your palms. Or don’t: go back to being friends, normal people, flatmates, with girlfriends or boyfriends or whatever to stand in to take on all that gut-level intimacy and animal passion. But for all he tells me he’s not, Sherlock, you are magical, and I’m a little afraid that if I open the door you will disappear into thin air, like mist. I won’t be able to hold on to you. As if it all depends on upon all this silence and complicity, this little secret between us. But I don’t know if I can take it.
But in truth it doesn’t matter any more. I can hear them outside now, the cocked guns dragged against the rough concrete of the wall. That gun has my name on it, it’s got a bullet in it that I expect will pierce me through. So it doesn’t matter anymore. The game is up, for me at least.
John closes the notebook as the door opens, letting the dingy light from the hallway into the cramped storeroom where John is held prisoner. A figure in a long coat dashes in, lockpick sliding into his pocket with a metallic click. John feels such an intense sense of relief that he almost laughs; his hands start to shake, and the little notebook feels slippery in his suddenly-sweaty hands.
“Alright?” Sherlock asks, barely above a whisper.
“Alright,” John says, sliding the notebook into his pocket. “How did you--”
“Later,” Sherlock interrupts. “What’s that?”
“Notebook,” John says. “Just passing the time.”
Sherlock gives him a look. John knows there is no place in the world he can hide that notebook where Sherlock will be unable to find it now that he’s seen it. He considers finding a way to burn it into ashes as they sneak through the dark, dank hallways like thieves, the chill rush of the escape rattling his bones.