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The Problem of the Broken Glass

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SOMEWHERE in the vaults of the bank of Cox and Co., at Charing Cross, there is a travel-worn and battered tin dispatch-box with my name, John H. Watson, M.D., Late Indian Army, painted upon the lid. It is crammed with papers, nearly all of which are records of cases to illustrate the curious problems which Mr. Sherlock Holmes had at various times to examine.

The Problem Of Thor Bridge

 

Among these curious problems, and unsolved cases, are a series of adventures, unfit for publication. They revolve around, not so much the case in question, but my deep love for the man who solves them. With joy, I am able to say that he shares my love.

It is my hope that someday, these papers will see more than the inside of a dispatch box. Until then, I will keep them secreted away.

This is one such problem.

By going through my notes, I find that the following events took place late in the summer of 1897. My Holmes had been in France, tending to some family affairs for nearly a month. We kept in almost daily communication, but I have no hesitation in saying that I missed his presence in our rooms at Baker Street. It was far too quiet without his constant mumbling, and fussing, and plucking at his violin. Over the course of that single month, I had lost four pounds, and my limp had returned with a fierce vengeance as a result of a sudden storm around the fifteenth.

So, it will come as no small surprise, that when I received a telegram telling me to meet him at Charing Cross, I was out the door with hat in hand within an hour. As per his request, I had grabbed up my small bag, kept ready at the end of the bed, filled with a few changes of clothing, and my toothbrush. Life with Holmes, combined with my old campaign habits, kept me at the ready at all times.

Leaning on my stick, I looked down the platform, and watched Holmes pace in front of a bench. On the ground at his feet, were his trunks. It was clear that he had just made it back to London. My detective was gnawing on the side of his thumb as he took three steps towards the train, three steps back. Towards, back, towards. His long, thin frame was hunched around himself, and every time he stopped, he rocked from side to side in place.

"Don't worry, Holmes." I chuckled as I walked up behind him. Concealing the action from view with my body, I brushed my fingers over the small of his back. "I was out the door moments after getting your missive."

Holmes jumped, and his cheeks flushed. Smoothing out his jacket, he cleared his throat, and gave me a curt nod. "Excellent, Watson; I wasn't worrying." he insisted.

"Of course not," I bent to pick up one end of the larger of the two trunks. I cast up an affectionate smile at him. "Why would you?"

A thin, pale hand flapped in the air. "I knew you would arrive. So, naturally, there was no call for me to worry. Leave that, Watson. One of the porters will load it into the baggage car." He grabbed up my own carpet bag, and slung it over his shoulder. "Just take up the smaller one. It has my papers in it." Turning on his heel, he vanished into the car.

I followed with a grin.

With our bags safely stowed away in the overhead, I made myself comfortable as I waited for Holmes to explain what we were running towards. He shifted nervously in his seat, occasionally standing and peeking out the door into the rest of the car. As usual, he had secured for us a private, first class cabin. It must have come at short notice, however, as he hadn't managed to book the entire car.

When the whistle sounded, and the train lurched out of the station, Holmes relaxed with a sigh and locked the door. He turned back to me, and sank down at my side. "I have missed you, my Watson." he breathed, before grabbing for me.

Our lips met, almost in a panic. Since his return only a few years earlier, the longest separation we had suffered through had been when cases had kept him out overnight. A month had been a cruel trial for us both. "I missed you." I rumbled back, and ran my hands over every inch of exposed skin I could find. What I couldn't find, I forced out. I pushed his sleeves up to his elbows, and examined the pale skin of his thin forearms. When I saw that they were still clean, and bore none of the red pocks and lines that signified his self-poisoning, I lunged back for his mouth.

His lips twitched, as he tried to remind himself of the simple of act of kissing. It was wonderfully endearing, the soft noises of confusion he was making. His hands caught at my jacket, pushed my hat off my head, fumbled at the buttons of my waistcoat. "Relax, my love." I laughed, and held him still. At my words, he went limp against me. Gently, I lifted him up, and settled him across my lap. It should have been ridiculous, his bony limbs that seemed to be made of too many joints sprawled around me, and his cloth cap pushed down over one eye. It should have been, but as with everything else since this brilliant man had made himself a part of my life, it all seemed so wonderful and thrilling and real.

Pulling the cap from his head, I tossed it to the other side of the cabin before burying my fingers into his hair. "Stop wool gathering, and focus." he murmured after sitting under my scrutiny for several long seconds. I had the grace to blush.

"Apologies," Suckling on Holmes' lower lip, I stood him back up from my lap, and my hands immediately found the buttons of his trousers. I slipped my fingers under the waistband of the crisp black slacks, and my eyes snapped wide in surprise. "Holmes are you-" I pushed the trousers down, finding his skin bare underneath.

"I was in a rush to get dressed." he explained with an impatient grunt. "I wanted nothing more than to see you, so I'm sure you will forgive the lack of underclothes." Rolling his eyes, he kicked one leg out and knelt onto the padded bench. His prick bobbed free, the slightly damp crown nudging up against the front of my waistcoat. The rail car swayed and jumped as it hit a point.

I let the issue go, mainly due to the fact that I had more entertaining things to hold my attention. I had been shocked from the first, at the passion that Holmes was often capable of showing. When we were in private, he turned his attentions on me and my body with the same single-minded focus that he showed to his cases and his experiments. During the first years of our partnership, I had occasionally suspected that I was nothing more than that- a distraction for his chaotic mind, an experiment to tease out the facts from. Now, however, I did not doubt his desire, or the fact that-

"I love you." he groaned, guiding my hand down between his thighs. My free hand scrambled with my buttons, and yanked my checks down. I returned the sentiment with an almost dark growl. Torn between drawing Holmes up to my mouth, and pushing him down to my lap, I leaned back, giving him control.

After only a moment's confusion, he seemed to understand that I was allowing him decide what he wanted to do. He dropped to my lap, squirming and wriggling about. I spread my thighs, allowing his slender rump to fit between them. His brilliant grey eyes widened for a second, before they fluttered shut. He gripped my shoulders, and leaned back as best he was able in his precarious position.

Holmes rolled his hips, shifting them forward until our erections slid against one another. His length was exactly as I had first imagined it to be. Like the rest of him, it was long and slim. His foreskin was tight over the glans, which glistened with fluid. In his cat like need for grooming, the nest of curls from which it jutted was neatly trimmed. Rather than trailing up towards his navel, the hair was clipped into an almost womanly vee between his legs.

Licking my fingers, I stroked us in tandem. Already, Holmes was making soft whimpering sounds, pleading low in his throat. His much loved, high voice quickly picked up volume.

"You need to hush." I admonished, and claimed his lips to silence him. Without a private car, the risk of being caught was far too real for me to allow Holmes to be his usual, vocal self. Grinning into his mouth, I moved my hand faster, more firmly. My arm snaked around his narrow waist under his pristine frock coat, pulling him snug to my chest. I tangled my fingers in his shirt and rocked up my hips. Holmes slipped his tongue between my lips, and scraped his nails along my scalp.

In the back of his throat, Holmes keened with shock. He pulled back from me, and looked down between our bodies. Before he could let out a cry, I covered his mouth with my hand. Forced to smother a shout of my own, I glared at him when he bit down on my palm. Casting a sly smile, I tightened my grip on our penises, and dragged up. Rich, thick fluid clung to his tip, coating my fingers. "Up," I grunted, and hunkered down. I drew Holmes into my mouth, and sucked in as much of his length as I could manage. Determined, I didn't let up until I felt my nose brush against his wiry, tightly curled hair, and the head of his cock nudged down my throat.

"Soon," he whispered, covering his mouth with one hand. The other reached up, and grabbed a hold of the bar of the luggage rack.

A few more long, forceful pulls of my lips, and I felt, more than tasted, the bitter, salty sweet seed pulse down my throat and over my tongue. Holmes' entire body was held rigid, trembling with the strength of the release.

As always, my own orgasm was secondary to his. As Holmes was still shaking and limp in my arms, I lowered him back down, until I could fit my prick between the swells of his backside. He groaned in annoyance, but rocked his hips for me. Reading my reactions, he rolled and bounced, riding me to completion. I splattered his hips and thighs, and buried my face into his neck to cover my breathless cries.

"You have a handkerchief, don't you, Watson?" he asked me, after several minutes.

Swiping my mouth with the back of my wrist, I nodded. "Just a moment, my dear." I helped him to stand, and tugged the handkerchief out of the cuff of my shirt. Holding the tails of his coat out of the way to keep from being soiled, I gently wiped him clean. He was swaying on his feet, and yawning. "Come here," Like a small child, I brought him down to sit on my lap, with his back pressed to my chest. I cradled him close for a moment, content to kiss and nuzzle at the back of his neck, before helping him back into his trousers. It wasn't until he was tended to, that I tucked myself back into my clothes, and made myself presentable.

“I take it you missed me?” I kissed the side of his head, trailing my fingers over his hair, which had come out of its normally meticulously combed style. Silken, slightly oily threads of black hung limp around his vivid, sleepy grey eyes.

"Nearly five weeks of being in France without you." he groaned, stretching his legs before slipping out of my lap. He took my handkerchief from me, and licked the corner of it. Before I could ask him what he was doing, Holmes lightly dabbed the front of my waistcoat, and the small mark he had left there over the embroidery. "We should take a holiday there." he murmured, resting his head on my shoulder. "A very long one."

"Your work is here." I reminded him, feeling subdued. Two years earlier, after receiving an urgent note from my literary agent, we had fled the city, then the country. Holmes had only just returned to me, and I couldn't have been more blissfully happy as we set up house together once again. It was all thrown into danger, however, when a slip of paper had been left in a club. Wilde's case threatened to bring everything crashing down for so many of us who simply wanted to live quietly. We hid in a busy neighbourhood just outside downtown Paris. Trying to keep our identities secret, Holmes supplemented our savings by playing his violin in cafes and nightclubs, while I took on private patients.

Both The Adventure of the Blinded Marine , and The Case of the Missing Mandolin took place during our time in France. Perhaps I'll commit them to print in the future.

It was more than half a year before Holmes and I returned to London. So many of the others who had run with us had chosen to remain. It would be ten years before I could safely publish any more of our adventures, and even now as I write this, half of them must be stored away in my trunk.

Shaking off my black mood, I pressed another kiss to Holmes' head. "And speaking of your work, I trust that there is a reason you have us on a train heading towards... Where are we going, Holmes?"

From his pocket, he withdrew a tattered, much thumbed letter, and handed it to me.

My dear Sherlock, (it read)

Your grandmother told me that you were visiting her in Alsace. I hope this letter reaches you before you return to London. An incident has occurred that the local police force has been completely useless in untangling. I have contacted your brother, but he hasn't made time for a visit. I would hate to drag you from Grand Mama, but the villagers here are growing frightened. Do please send me notice that you will be coming to clear up the unpleasantness.

You will of course, be bringing your doctor along with you. The country air will do you good, but having a medical professional to attend to your needs would, I'm sure, keep you in high spirits.

Yours,

Cordelia Fontaine

I cringed, and handed the letter back. "I take it that you've let her know we are on our way?"

Holmes' Godmother was a strong willed, commanding old spinster. We had visited her several times in the past for quiet holidays.

Folding the letter and slipping it back into his pocket, Holmes nodded, smothering another yawn. "I sent her a telegraph once I came off the ship from the crossing. A coach will be waiting for us at the station." He settled into the curve of my arm, snuggling into my chest before closing his eyes.

“Sleep,” I ordered him, and found his hat to cover his eyes. “I know you didn’t rest on the Channel crossing.”

Holmes grunted something unintelligible, but obeyed.

*

"Thank you so much for coming, boys." Cordelia trotted down the steps from her large mansion, the spring in her gait far more suited to a young maiden, rather than a stately woman in her seventies. She clucked her tongue in dismay at the circles under Holmes' eyes, and the amount of weight I had lost since the last time she saw us. "Sherlock, you are wearing yourself out." She took Holmes by the hands, and kissed each of his thin cheeks. Turning to me, she looked me up and down with a critical eye. "And John, you are wasting away to nothing. I understand that you've been apart for several weeks, but that is no excuse not to take care of yourselves."

Stealing glances at one another, we both chuckled. "Yes, Aunt Delia." we chorused together, and submitted ourselves to her motherly embraces. We were ushered into the house, and one of the footmen carried our luggage up to the guest bedroom that was set aside for us.

"She hasn't told us about the case." I pointed out later, as we were dressing for dinner. I was standing behind Holmes, helping him to fix his bowtie. More than once, I had to give him a swat on the hip to get him to stop squirming back against me.

"She will in her own time." he murmured, reaching up to hold the side of my neck. "It must not be one where time is vital."

Holmes looked much better for having rested. He had napped for an hour while I unpacked his clothing and sent them down to the laundry. Cordelia had provided us with attire for the evening, and I hadn't been surprised to find that the wardrobe in our bedroom was well stocked as well.

Running my fingers through his hair, I cradled Holmes against my chest. "You can go back to sleep if you'd like. I'll bring you some dinner later."

"No, no." Holmes turned in my arms and ducked his head to press a chaste kiss to my lips. "I wouldn't subject you to Godmother on your own." His second kiss was slow, and much less chaste.

*

"So sorry we're late." Holmes finger-combed his hair back from his face, and sat down. "I overslept, and Watson couldn't find his cufflinks."

"Fix your collar, dear." Cordelia sipped a glass of wine, and smirked when we each reached up to check our collars and ties.

“I’m sure you asked us here for a reason, Delia.” Holmes smoothed down his sleeve, and took a deep swallow of wine.

Pushing her plate aside, Cordelia dipped her finger into her glass, and used the wine to sketch out a rudimentary map of the nearby village onto the table cloth. “Over the past three months, animals have been dying in the village.” She splashed red spots onto different areas of her map. “It started with cats and dogs, then sheep, and two weeks ago, it was a horse.”

Holmes drew his chair closer and leant over the picture. “Are these the places that they were found, or the places that they came from?”

“Both,” Cordelia nodded and gestured to the spots. “The horse died in its stable, the sheep in the pasture, and the dogs in their kennels. The cats were found in different places around the village.”

“What were the symptoms?” I asked, taking my notebook from my pocket and scribbling in a few facts.

“It was difficult to tell, since the owners didn’t find the poor beasts until the morning, but they were swollen, and their eyes and noses had been bleeding.”

I frowned and made a note. “That’s a snake bite. Did the police find any evidence of puncture wounds?”

The eager look that Holmes gave me across the table at my departure was enough to make me blush.

“None of the animals showed any signs of outward injury. But, they were just animals, so I doubt anyone put much care into checking. Besides, with the fur, it would have been a task to try to find a bite. And they’ve all been burnt by now, so you won’t be able to examine them.”

Holmes snorted and rocked back in his chair. “So we are looking for a vile serpent. Delightful. Well, it will be cold soon enough, that will drive the wretched animal underground.”

Cordelia turned to me with a questioning glance. “He’s still frightened of snakes?”

“Horrified, yes.”

*

Later that evening, Cordelia and I were playing a game of chess and Holmes was stretched out reading the newspaper accounts of the animal deaths. His stocking feet were in my lap, occasionally wriggling about in a catlike demand for attention. I rubbed at the ball of his foot while taking Cordelia’s third pawn with my knight. Over the course of our match, Holmes shifted and crept closer until he was pressed up to my side, with his head on my chest.

“You both look very tired.” Cordelia pointed out as she took my knight in a vicious attack.

“Exhausted,” Holmes hummed, burrowing against my ribs. “The Channel crossing was rough, and my nap wasn’t restful enough.”

“You are both terrible.” I leant over to tip over my king, and helped Holmes to his feet. “Goodnight, Aunt Delia,” The woman tipped up her face to receive our kisses.

“What are your thoughts, my dear?” I asked later in our room.

Holmes looked over his shoulder at me with a stern eye. “There is almost no information for me to form any thoughts with.”

I caught his shirt before he could toss it to the floor, and folded it neatly to put aside. After we undressed, Holmes massaged the tense muscle around the scar on my back. I was stretched out on my front on our bed with him perched on top of me.

“I suspect that Godmother wanted to give us a holiday, and took advantage of this trifle to get us to come out into the country.” He chuckled softly and kissed the back of my neck before lying down. After being apart for so long, his lanky, angular frame was a comforting weight against my back, helping me to relax for the first time in weeks.

“I trust that she didn’t loose the snake, to try to give us a reason to come here.” I felt Holmes grin against my skin. "Oh, good Lord. It's a possibility, isn't it?" Holmes chuckled silently, but I could feel his body shaking as he did so.

"I doubt she would actually commit a crime to get us to rest." he explained. He slid off my back and nestled down beside me. His words were quiet and sluggish and his eyes were half closed and glassy, showing me just how tired he was. I contented myself to lean up on my elbow and watch his face as he tried not to drift off yet.

"When was the last time you slept for more than an hour?"

Holmes pursed his lips. I'm sure it was a scowl, but I kissed them anyway. He grinned and tugged on my arm until I covered him with my body. "This is not sleeping." I pointed out before leaving a line of kisses down his neck.

"True," he wound his legs around my waist and pressed his heels into my rump like he was spurring on a horse. "But it should prove very tiring nonetheless."

*

It was close to four in the morning when I was awoken by a frantic knocking at our door. It was a testament to his state that Holmes slept through it. I belted a dressing gown around myself and opened the door an inch to look out.

Cordelia's maid was in the hallway, rocking anxiously from foot to foot with her hands clutching in front of her. "Dr. Watson, is Mr. Holmes awake?" she asked in a hushed whisper. Her face was pale and she was trembling slightly. "There is a policeman in the drawing room, waiting for you both."

A tendril of cold dread wormed its way through my stomach. I told her that we would meet them downstairs, then shut and locked the door.

"Holmes, I need you to wake up." I crouched beside the bed and shook him by the shoulder. He groaned and took a weak swing at my head before he woke properly. I insisted that I didn't know what the matter was while I was laying out clothes for him to put on.

Coffee was waiting for us when we got downstairs, along with a small red-faced little police constable. He was yawning into his fist between sips of his own coffee. When he smiled with relief at the sight of Holmes, the tension began to ease out of my shoulders.

"Madame Fontaine let us know that you would be coming, Mr. Holmes." he explained after being introduced to us as Nicholas Cobb. "That she has told you about the problem we've been having with our animals here."

"Yes, the snake bites. Loose some mongooses in the area and you'll be fine." Holmes frowned and glanced at me, mouthing "Mongeese?"

"I'm afraid it's not as simple as all that, Mr. Holmes." Cobb set his cup down and twisted his fingers together nervously. "This evening we were called into the Oliver estate. That was the big stone monstrosity you saw as you were coming along the road from the train station. The entire party was dead. That's fifteen people, Mr. Holmes. They all showed the same signs as the animals."

Holmes perked up and squirmed excitedly in his seat. "So, clearly not a snake." He looked over to me with a smile.

"Because fifteen people wouldn't all stay in place, allowing a snake to bite them one by one." I finished for him, as expected.

"Exactly; Well, Mr. Cobb, if you want to catch the one that did this, we should move quickly."

Cobb cleared his throat politely. "That's just the thing, Mr. Holmes. We already have the man that did it. He confessed and everything. What we're concerned about is the whys and the hows, rather than who. Jason Marcus was the Oliver's head butler. He was the one that came down to the station house, calm as you please, to tell us of the murders. He all but strolled into one of our cells. But he won't tell us how he killed them, and I know that people are going to be worrying about that for years to come. I'd rest much more easily, for knowing that we have it settled."

In the carriage on our way into the village, Holmes was silent, with his chin tucked down to his chest. He tapped one of his long fingers against his knee in thought, and waved our questions aside. I gave Cobb a reassuring smile, and told him that this was his usual method when it came to the beginning of a case.

At the station house, we were ushered down the hall towards the cells. The village was a quiet, sleepy little place, and the station house only had three cells, and I imagine they mostly housed the occasional drunkard. None of the fussing constables seemed to know how to take the fact that they had imprisoned a murderer. I could understand Cobb's concern for the villagers' worry. If Jason Marcus had taken on the blame for someone else, or if he was simply trying to make a name for himself, it was possible that after Holmes and I left, more victims would be appearing with the same signs.

"Watson and I will be speaking to him in private, please, Mr. Cobb." Holmes swept the cap off of his head and ran his fingers through his hair a few times to scratch at his scalp. He spoke with authority, implying that he wouldn't take an argument against his wishes. In truth, my detective was tired, and likely just wanted to get this over with as quickly as possible so that we could return to our bed.

Cobb agreed, and unlocked the cell door. "Call, if you need anything."

Marcus was seated in the corner of the cell, on the floor rather than the small cot. He was little more than thirty, with reddish blond hair and a smattering of freckles across his cheeks and his little upturned nose. His eyes were a watery grey, and wide set below straight brows. When he looked up at Holmes as we entered, he gave him a toothy grin. Instincts urged me to take Holmes back out of the room. The man waiting for us filled me with the same distaste as the snakes he had used to claim his victims.

"Ah, Mr. Holmes." he greeted in a soft, low voice. The chains that were shackled to his wrists and ankles chimed together when he stood and rolled his shoulders. "I was wondering how long it would take them to bring you in."

"You knew I was in the area?" Holmes asked lightly. His chin was still tucked down, and he looked down his hawkish nose with his brows drawn in. Another person might have mistaken the expression to a reaction to the low light in the cell, but knowing him so well, I could see that he was scowling in frustration and annoyance.

Marcus examined one of his fingernails and offered a bland little smile. "Yes, of course. Everyone knows that that old spinster on the hill-" he nodded his chin in the direction of Cordelia's house. "would be calling in her dear little nephew." The man leant in with an exaggerated whisper. "Truth to tell, the constabulary here are next to useless. I'm surprised they haven't called you in before. But then, it was just dogs and cats before."

I saw the colour drain from Holmes' face, and I rested a hand on the back of his arm in comfort.

"The Olivers would still be alive, if I hadn't come, then?" Holmes bit the words out, moving away from me.

"Oh, for a few more weeks, at least. But, circumstances being what they were, I decided it would be best to move things along apace." Marcus stepped back towards the wall to give him enough slack in his chains to fold his arms over his chest.

Holmes tilted his head to the side. "What circumstances might those be?"

Marcus snorted in reply and rolled his eyes.

"What poison did you use, to imitate a snake bite?" I asked, giving Holmes' arm a squeeze.

"That's my secret, Dr. Watson." Marcus glanced down to where I was still holding Holmes' arm, and smirked. "Isn't that what he keeps you around for? To examine bodies, and determine causes of death?" He pushed himself off the wall and took a few shuffling steps closer to us. "I'm sure he is very fond of how you examine bodies, Doctor."

Beside me, Holmes stiffened. "Yes," I lifted my chin and took a half step forward to try to put Holmes behind me. "He has more important things to focus his time on, so it falls to me to deal with the unsavoury aspects of cases."

"Will this one make it into your sensational little tales?" Marcus unfolded his arms and held them behind the small of his back. "They were ever so fascinating to read. Sifting through, picking out ideas, spotting the obvious lies." His pale eyes ticked down to my left hand, where I was wearing a discreet gold band. I flexed my hand into a fist, tight enough to feel the metal digging into the fingers on either side.

Holmes wore a similar band on his own hand, but his was smaller, and often worn in company of other rings and bangles to distract from it. On that early morning, he hadn't had time to put on his usual magpie collection of jewellery before we had been bundled out of the house.

Marcus giggled. "Tell me, do you have to share him with his post boys and street lads? Or do you play with them as well?"

Beside me, Holmes drew up straight and took a step back as if he had been slapped in the face.

"Ooh. I've struck a nerve. Which is it then, Dr. Watson? Do you watch them together? Maybe give him instructions on how to fuck them? Sodomites and perverts and ped-"

My temper flared, and I struck him in the mouth, cutting off the bile he was spouting. Pain shot up my arm, quickly ebbed by the satisfaction of seeing Marcus rock back into the wall, hands clapped to his face as blood spurted from his nose. He began to laugh, and I grabbed Holmes by the wrist and tugged him from the cell. My detective didn't put up any protests as I led him away, moving with jerky, puppet-like movements until we were out in the front room of the station house.

"Did he... Fall down?" Cobb asked quietly, seeing the blood on my hand. Marcus' teeth had split the skin over my knuckles. Looking down at it, the pain returned, and I swore under my breath.

"Yes, he tripped on his chain. I scraped my hand trying to catch him."

Holmes rocked from his toes to his heels and back again, not taking his eyes off my injured hand. He was silent and pale while Cobb took us to see the bodies. I touched him as often as was possible, and each time my fingers brushed against him, he was trembling slightly.

I wasn't able to find any evidence of puncture wounds or bite marks on any of them. It was nearly eight o'clock by the time I finished the examinations. Holmes had been sitting quietly in the corner, having not found any useful information from the victims. After scrubbing my hands in a basin I collected Holmes and walked him back out to the carriage. I assured Cobb that we would be back after Holmes had rested and eaten something, and had a chance to work with the slim facts we had on the case. The constable waved us off, and I turned to Holmes to press a kiss to his forehead in the privacy of the carriage.

Over the years I have comforted him through black fits and depressive drops, but I could never be sure that he would react the same way to each one. I petted his hair and crooned into his ear. At Cordelia's mansion, he tucked his hand into the crook of my elbow and leant heavily on me as if he was having trouble supporting his own weight. It was all I could do not to pluck him up and carry him inside.

Cordelia met us in the sitting room, and rushed over to gather Holmes up in her arms when she saw the expression he wore. He sagged into her, burrowing his face into her shoulder and made a pitiful little sound. I was struck with the idea of him as a boy, savouring those rare visits with his Godmother, and taking what affection he could before being sent home to the silence and torturous nurses of his family home. “Hush, my lad.” She stroked his back like he was a child. “John, try to get him to eat something, and take him to bed. I’m going to go into town to see what I can do. I've sent messages to the rest of the Women's Auxiliary, and called a meeting." Rocking Holmes from side to side, Cordelia guided his head up. "Sherlock. Listen to me, little one. I want to you to go with John, and do as he says."

With a hand on the small of his back, I walked Holmes up the stairs to our bedroom. He flatly refused to eat anything and sat on the edge of the bed, plucking at the cuff of his shirt. After calling for some hot water, I washed and rebandaged my hand, keeping a close eye on him. "Holmes?" I knelt in front of him, taking his hands in my own to keep him from scratching at his skin. "This was not your fault."

He grunted and rolled one of his shoulders before tugging his hands back. "You're hurt." he mumbled softly, touching the back of my hand above the dressing.

"It's nothing. I've had worse." I smiled and rose to sit beside him. "He was saying disgusting things. You know I have a temper when it comes to people insulting you."

Holmes sighed and rested his head on my shoulder. "I can't think. I can't see through his reasons for this. With no marks on the bodies, I can't tell how he got the poison into their blood stream to react so quickly. My head is too loud. Too many thoughts and ideas and theories and poss-"

I cut off his words with a kiss, cupping his jaw in my hand and tracing my tongue against the seam of his lips. He made a high noise in the back of his throat and pressed himself against me. Before I could draw away and suggest that he try to get some more sleep, Holmes clambered into my lap.

"Touch me," he ordered after pulling back just enough to speak. Rolling his slim hips, he guided my hands to his rump.

I asked him several times to make sure he wanted this, and stood him up from my lap. Each time I asked, he nodded and kissed me deeply. He was blinking slowly and clutching at my shirt, and I was worried he might drop to the floor if I let him go. On the vanity in the corner, I added more hot water to the basin, and tested the temperature. While I was lathering some soap into a cloth, Holmes fumbled with the buttons of his shirt. "Let me help, dearest."

When we were undressed I held Holmes close, nibbling kisses along his jaw and down his throat. I picked him up around the waist and sat him down on the edge of the vanity. Standing between his legs I took up the washcloth to sluice water down his chest. Holmes sighed and braced his hands on the marble top and wound his legs up around my chest.

I pulled away just enough to soap myself around my lower belly and between my legs. By the time I was bathed clean, my touches and the warmth of the water had left my prick standing rigid. Holmes watched with an avid expression, his grey eyes half closed and his cheeks flushed. I slicked myself with soap once more and settled up close to him, rocking my hips forward. The soap spread between his thighs and over his groin, each slide of our body lathering more suds between us.

Holmes batted at my shoulders to push me away and hopped off the vanity. Turned around, he bent over with his elbows on the top. He clasped his hands together and pressed his forehead against them, tilting up his hips.

Smoothing my wet hands over his skin, I praised his beauty. The sensitive hole between the mounds of his arse fluttered at the touch from my fingertip, obviously still loosened from the night before. I held his cheeks apart with one hand, and carefully ran the bar of soap between them with the other. Holmes squirmed and arched his back like a cat. "Stay still, my boy." I patted his hip and moved a fresh cloth over him to rinse away the suds. When he was scrubbed clean and glowing pink, I sank to my knees behind him.

Holmes jolted and swore when I swiped the tip of my tongue along his cleft, licking him from his sac to his tailbone. I kneaded the flesh of his rump, holding him open and buried my face into him. His hole opened for my tongue when I probed against it, and I kissed it like a pair of puckered lips. Holmes was trying to stay still, but he bucked and twisted. He reached back and brushed his fingers against my hair. "Your moustache tickles." he muttered breathlessly. I laughed, and nuzzled him to drag my- admittedly unkempt- moustache against his delicate skin.

I continued bathing him with my tongue, working him open more and more with each lap. He was salty, and his hole had been softened with oil last night.

"Let's get in bed," I murmured, wiping my hand over my mouth before standing. Holmes was shaky on his feet when he made his way over to the bed and collapsed on his front. "Lazy fiend," I made a pile of cushions and tucked them under his hips to lift his rump into the air with his thighs spread. Almost with a growl of hunger, I nosed along his cleft again, dipping my tongue back into him.

With his head on a pillow, Holmes mumbled about bees and flowers, startling a laugh from me. "Not quite nectar-sweet," I chuckled, biting down on the slender rise of his arse. He bucked, rutting down into the pile of cushions. "But it certainly draws me like a flower." I rolled him over onto his back and crawled up his body, trailing kisses over his flushed skin, and buzzing playfully. Caressing Holmes' hair back from his face, I held his eyes with my own. "Is not the male bee's only purpose to mate with the queen?" I asked, voice rough. "Over, and over again? Bzz, bzz."

For the first time since we returned from the station house, Holmes smiled. "So am I the flower, or the queen?" he asked lightly, stroking his fingertips over my chest. His thumbs grazed over my nipples, rolling against them before he plucked them with care.

I flicked my tongue against the lobe of his ear then nipped down on it. "Both, Holmes. In equal turns." The cloth bag that held our supplies was sitting on the bedside table. From it, I took out a small glass bottle of golden hued oil. The bottle was nearly empty, and I would have to refill it by the time we returned to London. After experimenting with different substances, we had learnt that baby oil and Vaseline left Holmes' hole feeling dry and irritated after too much use. A chance encounter while hiding in the kitchen of a suspect's house led us to discover how his body responded to olive oil. It was sweetly fragrant, but with no added perfumes to annoy his skin, and it stayed slick until it was washed away or massaged into him. There was also the added benefit that it wasn't suspicious in the least to purchase it in public.

I drizzled some oil onto my hand and worked it between my fingers to warm up. Holmes lifted his legs up out of the way, and braced his feet on my thighs. His erection bobbed against his belly, a thin line of pre-ejaculate trailing from the tip to a gathering pool just below his navel. I smeared the oil around his entrance, the slight pressure making him gasp and fist at the sheets. "Bzz, bzz, bzz ." I pressed my finger in, locating his prostate with practiced ease, and rubbing it. Holmes tossed his head and moaned. His feet moved from my thighs to rest on my shoulders, tipping his hips up off of the bed. The new angle was a bit much for him, so he wrapped his legs around my chest instead, pulling me down on him.

Holmes tugged me into position so that our pricks were sliding against each other, then closed his fingers around the shafts. He couldn't quite reach the full way around us both, even with his long hands, but he touched and fondled as much as he could. His hips rolled as if I were thrusting into him rather than just teasing him with my hand. Holmes tightened his legs around me, calling my name. I added a second finger, spreading them each time I drew out, and hooking them over the tender little gland when they slid back in.

"Close..." he groaned.”I'm getting very close."

I pulled my fingers out and straightened up on my knees. Shifting Holmes' legs so that they were around my waist, I took his cock in hand and stroked it firmly. I poured some oil along the length of my own prick, and made certain I was completely coated before nudging it against his hole. He clenched his muscles, so I rubbed the head around the spot to soothe him. My fist didn't let up on him, working him from root to tip of his perfectly formed cock. I twitched my hips again until I began to breach him.

"Watson!" Holmes twisted his hands in the bedding and lifted his hips up. I hadn't even gotten the head of my cock into him when he started to spill out over my fist, splashing his belly. The strength of his orgasm had him pulsing thick semen as far as his neck and jaw.

With a pleased, proud little chuckle I let him go and leant over him to lick him clean. He was still shaking and gasping, pressing his hands to his face by the time I had worked my way up to his neck. "I'm sorry," he moaned and wiped at his eyes. "Should I turn over for you? I don't think I have the energy to ride you, Watson."

The image of him above me, his slim body held taut as he rode me at a gallop, was a wonderfully tempting one. There were times when I was just as lazy as he, and being stretched out on my back while he fucked himself on me was a lovely way to pass an afternoon. I looked down at his sleepy face, and kissed the tip of his nose. "I don't need anything from you, Holmes. I'm perfectly happy to lie next to you, and hold you until you fall-"

"I'm not useless!" he snapped, shoving at my shoulder. Despite his exhaustion, he used his deceptive strength to knock me onto my back with such force that I almost bounced off of the bed.

"I never said you were!" I insisted, but he was already climbing on top of me, and kneeing my legs apart to settle between them. My eyes went wide and I rose up on my elbows. I could count on both hands the number of times he had entered me. He found it distasteful, and uncomfortable, and usually spent the entire time complaining about the fit and the pressure and how much effort it took. Before I could remind him that I needed to at least be prepared, he snuggled down and closed his lips around the head of my cock. "Ohh," I sagged back on the pillow and rested a hand on the back of his head.

Holmes suckled and licked, his thin cheeks hollowing with each pull. His quick tongue darted under the foreskin and teased around the tip. I shuddered, and felt a small pulse of fluid coat his mouth. Holmes pulled back and nuzzled around my hips while he caught his breath, before returning for more.

When Holmes swallowed me down once again, he hummed in the back of his throat. I swore and tangled my fingers into his hair to hold him still, my hips moving in tiny little thrusts. It took an enormous amount of self control to keep myself from snapping up, driving down his throat as I felt my orgasm roll through me. Like a plucked bowstring, it got more and more intense, until I was spilling my seed into his mouth. For a moment I forgot that we weren't in the thick walled rooms of 221b, and let out a loud shout, calling his name. I cried out how perfect he was, and how much I loved him as wave after wave of pleasure washed over me.

Holmes pulled off and sat up, rummaging through our toiletry bag for a napkin. Scrubbing the sweat from my forehead, I sat up and asked him what he was doing. He grimaced, and pointed at his sealed lips.

I smirked, and pressed an open mouthed kiss to the side of his neck. "You know that I'm clean, dear. You can swallow it." I felt his throat move as he obeyed. He gulped a few times after, I'm sure to rid him of the feel of it. In truth, I loved both the taste and the thickness of Holmes' seed, and was always happy to take it in my mouth whenever possible. Even when he coated himself, as he did that morning, I was still eager to lick it up. Holmes, however, did so grudgingly and only because he knew how much I enjoyed it.

"Swallow," he murmured.

"Yes, Holmes. I love knowing my mettle is in you. Whether it's in your arse, or your mouth, or just rubbed into your skin."

"He made them swallow it."

"What?"

Holmes' eyes lit up, and he scrabbled from the bed, nearly tripping over his own feet and stumbling into the wall. He scoured the floor for his clothes, and tugged his shirt over his head. "He made them swallow it, Watson! That's why there were no marks on the body. They swallowed the poison, and that's how it got into their blood so quickly." Not bothering with underclothes yet again, he pulled his trousers on and hastily buttoned them. He gathered up my clothes and tossed them at me while trying to find his shoes.

"When you were doing your examinations, did you cut into the bodies?"

I was still buttoning my shirt and tucking it in as we made our way down the steps of the mansion and out into the lane. "No, the police wanted to wait until the surviving family members had been contacted." I explained, trotting to keep up with his longer legs. Instead of taking the road, we cut across a cattle field and hopped a few fences to make it to the village station house. Holmes rang up Cobb, his bright eyes dancing with the keen pleasure of satisfaction he got when he neared the end of a frustrating case.

We were shown back to the bodies, and Holmes picked one at random for me to examine. I assured them all that I knew what I was doing as I picked up a scalpel. Holmes hovered near my shoulder, directing me to look at the esophagus first.

"There are no marks on the body," Holmes said to Cobb, rocking from foot to foot with pent up energy. "Because the marks are not on the outside where they can be seen."

I made my incision in the side of the victim's throat, and gently exposed the trachea and esophagus. The flesh was swollen, the trachea obviously closed shut. Someone brought me another lamp to see better, and I opened the esophagus. It was nearly purple and black, and the blood was thickly clotted. In the light of the lamp, I noticed a tiny glimmer.

"Don't touch it! They are likely still coated in the venom." Holmes warned, pressing pair of tissue forceps into my hand. Using these, I plucked out a shard of glass from the remains, held it up to the light. It was tiny, and could easily be concealed in a bite of food, or at the bottom of a wine glass. When it was swallowed, it probably caused no more discomfort than if the victim had eaten a piece of stale and crusty bread.

Over the next several hours, we examined each of the remains, finding shards in each of them. Holmes went over each of them with his high powered lens, moving them around on their tray. "Look here," he pointed to one of the shards, which had small bumps on one side. He picked up a bottle of cleaning solution, and turned it over and gestured to the bottom, which had similar bumps around the edge. "Cobb, we will go and speak with Mr. Marcus again."

Marcus was napping in his cell, so we crept in quietly. Holmes sat on the cot opposite, and crossed his legs. After a few minutes, he nodded to me. I cupped Holmes' cheek, brushing my thumb under his eye before turning and kicking the side of Marcus' cot to wake him up. I suppose I should be ashamed to say that I grinned at the look of fear that flashed across his face.

"It had nothing to do with my arrival." Holmes tucked his hand into my elbow when I sat beside him. His other hand toyed with something in his pocket as he spoke. "It was purest chance that I was in the area last night. In fact, it was purest chance that the Olivers were holding a dinner party last night, as well. Wasn't it, Mr. Marcus?"

The vile man sat up in cot, and leant against the wall. "Oh no, Mr. Holmes. When I heard you was in- were in the area, I knew I couldn't find a better time to play. What makes you think you aren't to blame?"

"Because your clumsy fingers are." From his pocket, Holmes produced the bottle that he had stored the glass shards in. He set it on the table between Marcus and us then raised an eyebrow. "Allow me to explain to you what happened, and you can fill me in on any little detail I might be missing." Holmes drummed his fingers together after taking his hand from my arm, and folded them under his chin. "In some manner or another, you came into possession of a bottle containing the venom of a serpent. Since there have been no snakes found on the Oliver estate, it stands to reason that you purchased it, rather than milking the beasts for their poison yourself. Perhaps you thought it was a fake, so you tested it by leaving drops in milk dishes for cats. However, cats are notorious travelers, so you weren't able to monitor the results to your satisfaction. So of course, you moved onto dogs in a kennel.

"When you got the result you wanted, and knew you had a genuine substance, you decided to move onto bigger animals. First, sheep in the paddock. It would be a simple thing to mix the venom in with their water and watch from a distance as they fell. By now, the villagers were taking notice. They were talking. In your mind, they were talking about you. You were proud. But what are sheep and dogs? Nothing impressive. You can pick up a pup off the street for nothing. A horse, on the other hand? Now that would get people's attention. And, it would show you how much you need to use, to take down an animal of that size.

"By that point, the villagers were getting scared. Rumours were spreading. Everything from traveling murderers, to summoned demons were being whispered about. Why, they even brought in a city detective, to look into the issue. In your excitement of getting recognition, you decided that animals weren't enough anymore. Your master was holding a party last night, something he had probably planned months ago, and obviously had no connection to my arrival. Since he had been planning it for so long, it reasons that you were planning your move for the same length.

"Then something happened. You had likely planned on mixing the venom in with a bottle of wine, and watching the whole party convulse on the floor. But the bottle broke, didn't it? In your eagerness, you dropped it on the floor, and it shattered. You couldn't very well soak it up, so you did the next thing available to you. You swept up the pieces of broken glass, and you mixed it in with their food. It happened faster than with the animals, didn't it? You didn't take into account the speed it would work with broken skin. The glass cut into their mouths and throats, and the venom went directly into their blood stream."

"They died choking." Marcus muttered, twisting his fingers together. His watery eyes darted around the cell, and seemed to relax somewhat when he saw that it was just the three of us.

"Why did they have to die at all?"

He snorted and rolled his eyes. Leaning forward on the cot he blew a kiss at Holmes. "Wouldn't you like to know?" Marcus lunged, grabbing up the bottle. Swinging his legs at me to keep me at a distance, he up ended it into his hand, and scraped the broken glass across his throat. They didn't cut deeply, but blood ran free.

Holmes yelled for Cobb, and several constables rushed into the cell. Marcus was sprawled out on his cot, laughing weakly. Taking up his hand, I pressed my fingers to his wrist. Already his heart rate and blood pressure were becoming erratic. Without knowing the type of snake venom he had been using, it would be impossible to administer an antivenin, even if we had access to one. Likely, the original bottle had contained the venom from multiple species of serpent. We could do nothing but watch as he succumbed to his own poisoning.

We were bundled from the cell, and I checked Holmes over for injuries, fearing that Marcus had scratched him as well. He looked shaken, but nowhere near as lost and broken as he had that morning. I ushered him into a secluded corner of the office, and pressed quick, loving kisses to his lips and forehead before Cobb returned.

The police constable waved off our apologies for what had happened, admitting that he was relieved more than anything. "Without a proper motive to speak of, any lawyer he might have been assigned or hired could've claimed madness." With shaking fingers, Cobb lit a cigarette and blew the smoke at the ceiling. "Granted, there's no way he wasn't at least a little mad, to do the things he did. A dozen people, for no reason at all." The man shook his head wearily. "No reason at all."

London, with all her crime, and stench, and corruption was a welcome embrace for Holmes and me when we returned that night. Our landlady had prepared dinner for us, and Holmes fell on the meal like a starving man before leading me by the hand up to our room. We didn't bother unpacking from his long trip, simply fell into bed and let him get reacquainted with the familiar bedsprings and creaking floorboards.

It would be three months before we received a letter from Cordelia, with an enclosure from Cobb. Investigations had uncovered little about Marcus' motives save for a few scribbled notes between him and one of his mistress' chambermaids. They told us nothing more than the fact that Marcus had promised her that he would be able to give her a lavish and comfortable life. He made her promises of riches and security, but gave no hints as to how he would provide it. There were no answering letters from the maid, suggesting that his infatuation was entirely on his own part. Holmes sneered with disgust at the lack of information, and made me promise to tuck this story away among the complex little problems that never had a satisfying solution for him.

I wrote it now, to add to my personal collection, so that Holmes and I can read them in the future, or possibly pass them on to others. The case may have been a failure for Holmes' deductive skills, but it stands as a solid reminder of the love and devotion I feel for him. A proof that I will support him through whatever trials he might be forced to endure, and come with him on the other side with open arms and eager lips.