My sutures tell a story, if you read them correctly. It’s a bit like a palm, I suppose, or wrinkles in papery skin. Come close, and I’ll whisper it to you. You will wonder how my lipless mouth forms plosives, or how I can drip words without a tongue to birth them. But then you will forget these things, as you’ll forget we met. Because that’s what people do when they retreat to the confines of logic.
The living can be so dull.
He knows me, though, knows I’m more than a solemn caricature, a decoration. Some people look at me and they only see bones and gaping holes (fenestrae, open windows). But he sees what I keep, what I hold. His secrets, the weaknesses of the flesh and confessions in the dark. His brilliance when it overflows and needs a vessel. I scoop it up as it paces around the room and hoard it, a precious thing.
I suppose staying with him was the only reward I could offer for his work to lay me to rest. The only person I’d allow liberties with my bones. And so here I am, watching over the bleeding red motions of his tumultuous life.
I’m the solid one. Constant. Those tendons and tissues and bloody things he finds are fleeting, only quiet distractions. They bring with them their fragility and once-lived nuances that I don’t care for. I know he doesn’t, either. They’re just experiments, dalliances; he always comes back to me after. He’s more like me than them: thin, webbed skin that barely covers his sharp edges and those beautiful bones. No frivolities.
We’ve moved, a mantel is my new home (fireplace, moving up). I’m glad to be out of the box, packed up flush with a gaggle of achingly silent books, their spines digging into me. I wipe away the dust and take in the new surroundings. Muted stains, creased leather, the wallpaper reminds me of the delicate patterns of veins under the skin I once knew. Room to stretch out, to observe.
I sense the change in him. He expands, filling the spaces of the flat. Most might miss the slight swell of pride in his ribbed chest, the way his eyes sweep over his new kingdom. I can tell he is happier here. Soon the detritus of our life is strewn across the surfaces of this place, seeping into the seams. Glass and metal and papers emerge and collect on the kitchen table. Raids at the morgue fill our refrigerator with rusted, bloody things for him to play with. The violin is at home, too, in this sitting room concert hall, its wooden bones curved and sated. All of us a family of the oddest sort.
Sometimes Mrs. Hudson comes up and secrets me away downstairs, down with her bored, hollow porcelain. I ask her to leave me, that I’d like to be with him, but I only receive shivers as she folds me gingerly into her ruffled apron. I would close my eyes for her had I the skin to react. Bones are never loved by the living for what they are: beautiful knights that cradle us as we breathe and dance and hurt. Life does not appreciate those stark white things when they’re outside and bare, not usually. Certainly not someone as unimaginative as Mrs. Hudson.
She may not see me, but he still does, always does. And I watch over him as he flushes and runs and heals and comes home to our space, humming and content and intrigued and distracted. He is lovely.
Yet, somehow, I feel an emptiness persist, a hole waiting to be filled. He laps around it, testing its boundaries. The tension fills us all, systolic waiting for the diastolic.
Yesterday, he came home expectant. I felt his vibrations, that familiar pulse fluttering. Not a case, not the usual; a difference pulls at our edges. The violin sings a new murmur Baker Street has never known. Moths flutter at the windowpane, begging entrance.
Sherlock’s axials stretch in anticipation, and I wonder what storm is coming.
There’s a new breath in the flat tonight. Someone soft and sturdy. I’m drawn to his heartbeat, to the warm pulse visible in the neck just under fair hair. Blood pumping, obscenely wet and viscous. His bones are loyal, they proclaim heat and fear, steadfastness and unsettling boredom. They whisper of the past, of healing and scar tissue blueprints and a life lived on the edge. They lure me in immediately, shamelessly.
The storm remains. He brings boxes, petty things that tell me nothing as lascivious as his body does. Though there is one piece: molded, intent metal with a lethal scent – and it makes itself at home in this eager space. Its lure is not lost here.
John awakens us. No longer severe and unclaimed, we pulse and swell. Saturated colors, deeper sounds fill the flat, a painting slowly filling in with an unsuspecting artist’s touch. Delicate yet sturdy. A flatline murmuration underscores and fills our evolution.
This island of 221B gains its shape from the tide of Sherlock and John. Washing in and out with the moon’s pull, pacing and soothing and relentless. We bask in slow days of rest and newspaper ink and the click of laptop keys. Indian takeaway rests on the countertops, an offering. Sunset, sunrise. Movement of light on the carpet, dust motes dancing. On others, I wait on the mantel for the sound of footfalls on the stairs, count in the paces a testament to chases and skip-diving and bruised knuckles. Listen to harsh words and subcutaneous supplications. These nights bring me close to a love of blood, feeling it flush and ripe and lusty as it thrums.
I learn to read every red cell of John’s bones; Sherlock learns to read the rest. I suspect Sherlock could identify every physical thing about this mighty man - the taste of his fingerpads or the rate of his beard growth or the parabolic curve of his kneecaps. There is no mystery there, only amnesty and infallible conviction.
If bones could hold jealousy, I suspect I might feel its twinge for the way John and Sherlock arch together, flushmount, for the way Sherlock pulls him unabashedly into our space. But the sweet sound of John’s joints as they fold around him sway me – I could never wish him away. For this, I’m willing to share Sherlock’s intensity.
We construct our own catacombs. A femur, fourth metacarpal, C6, cracked and bleached clavicle. One, I suspect, is mine. I welcome them all.
When you’re made of bone, change becomes nothing but a bitter distraction. Something foreign, unnecessary, fleeting. The long march of time affects little of calcium and matrices, and the learned behavior is to watch it pass by with little concern. My presence is a stabilizer, a reliable and indulgent constant. Over all this, I am a protective sentry.
This change, however, has no enmity. John’s heartbeat has brought such completion, a sort of tumultuous peace. We have become an unorthodox and elegant haven, a hypocritical combination of domesticated tea and murderous exhilaration. It’s a heady mixture that permeates our home, broadens the lives within; I feel it seep into me and can’t help but embrace the enchantment.
Here is our purpose, the destination these veined maps have laid out. It’s a persistent masterpiece.
My bones are silent, dead, dormant. No transcription, no marrow. Cool and distant. But Sherlock’s bones… they still sing. And here, now, they sing with more beauty than I have ever known.
It seems appropriate that I’m drawn into a constant skeletal grin, pearl-rich. For this is the stuff of stories and legend. I feel pity for my brothers in the whispering ground, those that will never experience this from the other side.
I am blessed with this existence. Though we may count the years in cases or snowstorms, shattered beakers or fits of laughter, they still pass. We endure, thrive, bloom. I meet the bees.
And when the time comes to welcome their bones, I will be ready and grateful.