I found myself at loose ends in the spring of 1895 and knew that my boredom was driving my friend and fellow lodger absolutely batty. Holmes had already sent me away once, but the wet and dreary countryside was no better than wet and dreary London, so I returned before I upset a friend less likely to forgive me than Holmes was. Something had caught Holmes' attention, and I watched him fall into one of his typical obsessive moods as every waking hour was consumed by whatever little problem he was researching.
This was the thing about Holmes, what made him so clever. My stories always seemed to imply that his was a natural cleverness and a sort of clairvoyance that fueled his deductive reasoning and crime solving skills. And it was, but the man was like a dog with a bone when a subject interested him -- nothing could tear him away from learning absolutely everything there was to know about it. To the point where his own health was sorely neglected.
Experience had taught me to best leave him at it. It had also taught me that my intervention would be tolerated as long as it was not intrusive. Food would be consumed if I put bits of toast and cups of tea at his elbow and threatened to bother him at regular intervals until they were consumed. Small meals could be tricked into him by asking leading questions about whatever the subject was and hoping he consumed at least a few bites between the rapid fire explanations and expansive hand gestures.
Apparently I was not being subtle and after being a bit overzealous over the consumption of a few bites of Mrs. Hudson's fine roast I was banished. "Distracting, annoying, and about to get himself killed if he interrupts me one more time," was what was shouted at me as he all but shoved me out the door.
I slipped back in just after midnight and slunk past the sitting room where Holmes was still up and straight to my room. The next morning, I returned to the sitting room and settled into my chair in my dressing gown and slippers and attempted to distract myself from distracting my companion.
"Oh for god's sake, John, if you sigh one more time I will not be held responsible for what happens next."
I wasn't doing a very good job at it.
He whirled around and faced me. "And I would know exactly how to get away with it too."
I smiled fondly at his dark look. He shook his finger at me for good measure, but I refrained from laughing because I wasn't entirely sure he wouldn't follow through on his threat. He would tolerate a great deal from me, but not anything.
An hour later he tossed his book aside and ran his fingers through his hair.
"That's it. We're leaving."
"Yes, I cannot continue to sit in this room with your sighs and the noise of you reading that damned newspaper. Perhaps you'll be less annoying away from London. If I'm going to be forced to bear your presence I refuse to do so in this sitting room for even a moment longer."
When Sherlock Holmes made up his mind, he was not likely to change it. It was a surprising characterization for a man who was apt to blame others often for theorizing ahead of the facts. On a case, he was careful and methodical. For anything else, once he had was decided there was no turning back.
I barely had time to pack for an indeterminate amount of time before we were out the door for the 12:05. Once again, I thanked my years of service for Her Majesty in the Army to make me so prepared to mobilize at a moment's notice. I lifted Holme's valise onto the rack and grunted at the effort it took.
"Good lord, did you bring-"
"You were about to say rocks."
"I was not," I replied good naturedly. I most assuredly was and we both knew it.
He grumped, but I could see the smile creeping around the corners of his mouth. I felt strangely cheered to be on a train heading out of London with Holmes who, while clearly distracted, was in a marvelous mood. I smirked at him and settled in with my newspaper.
Once again there was a report on Wilde and I found myself growing a bit tense as I read the report. It was sensational, and designed to both titlate and entertain and I found myself soon annoyed.
A loud sigh distracted me. I looked up to see Holmes looking out the window, long fingers tapping against his lips.
"Why do you read it if it upsets you so?" He asked, still staring out the window.
"The newspaper?" I asked, perplexed.
"I don't know that it does." I answered carefully. "The man should have never attempted a prosecution of Queensbury. It was clear to everyone."
Holmes considered me carefully, and I shifted uncomfortably.
"It's a waste," I said eventually.
We sat in silence as I resumed perusing my afternoon edition.
"Wilde is responsible for his own actions," Holmes said after many minutes of silence. I looked up, brow furrowed. It wasn't like him to take so long a pause and continue a conversation. He was given to quick exclamations and even quicker rejoinders.
I set the newspaper aside.
"I'm not disputing that. I'm just saying his inevitable imprisonment is a waste. The man is a genius and that genius will likely be broken under two years hard labor."
"So he should be spared because he is a genius."
I sighed heavily, quite sure I was being deliberately misunderstood.
"Then to what end, Watson? The man is going to gaol for his own selfishness. His own inability to control himself. His flights of fancy, his indiscreetness, and his absolutely moronic prosecution of Queensbury. Over who? Douglas? That twit."
I was taken aback at the vehemence and anger in Holmes's voice.
"Why does it upset you, so?" I asked carefully, turning the question back on him. Wilde's prosecution for sodomy after his failed libel case against Queensbury bothered me, true, but that was because I found the man completely astounding in his stupidity. Holmes, however much he was dismissive of stupidity was rarely angry over it. Especially when it had nothing to do with a client or case.
Holmes hummed and turned toward the window again. Effectively ending the conversation with the unanswered question. We finished the rest of the train ride in silence.
A few days passed, and the subject appeared to be well and dropped. The newspaper tucked under our breakfast every morning at our furnished lodgings was decidedly less enthusiastic in its reporting of the hung jury of Regina v. Wilde. The report of Wilde's speech was sterile at best, but the eloquence of the words still rang through. But I knew the issued had become too politicized and another trial was inevitable at this point.
I found myself instead rather enjoying the break from London scandals and quite fond of the doings of a Mrs. Crabetree and her apparently near-nightly dinners at the Cross residence. Small-town gossip amused me to no end and I was quite well on my way to crafting the most ridiculous story in my head as exactly what those visits entailed.
Holmes was fully absorbed by his researches into early English charters, and yet was surprisingly companionable,always finding time for a late supper with me and a few minutes by the fire for a chat before bed.
"I am, or I was, friends with him, you know." Holmes said one night.
"Who?" I asked, half distracted by my latest muses on Mrs. Crabtree.
"Wilde?" I was taken aback by the familiarity and casualness of the way Holmes said is name. He had given no previous indication that he had any acquaintance with the man, and certainly not one that would warrant such an intimacy of being referred to as Oscar to your friends.
Holmes hummed in response and studied his evening brandy with far more attention than it deserved. I held my breath, afraid of upsetting the careful balance of the moment.
"I'm a bohemian, you see," he said, as if that explained it all. It didn't, but I had learned to be patient when it came to the morsels of personal information that Holmes doled out to me. "His prosecution of Queensbury was ill-advised, we all told him so. And now the inevitable will occur."
I nodded, waiting for him to continue, but he appeared to be done. He rose and retired to bed not long after and left me with a gentle squeeze on my shoulder. A not uncommon gesture from him, but one that seemed to carry more weight tonight than it ever had. Holmes had said something important to me tonight and I was not quite sure I understood him.
We let the moment that had passed between us that night be and carried on as usual the next morning.
A few days later, after the little puzzle of the three students and the exam, we sat down to breakfast. Holmes was positively buzzing with cheerfulness. A solved case would do that for him. Especially one that relied solely on his cleverness, worked out so neatly for all involved in the end, and granted him an audience of more than his Boswell for the solution. I could not help but delighted and found myself utterly charmed by him and unable to suppress my delight.
The only damper on the mood was the papers proclaiming the news that Wilde's third trial had begun. I read it with a sort of detached interest, still troubled by the whole business.
"He won't flee, you know. The idiot doesn't know if he's doing it for love, pride, or ennui, but regardless he won't flee," Holmes said before shoving a piece of toast in his mouth.
"He'll be convicted and they'll sentence him." There was really no other outcome possible at this point and everyone knew it.
"Two years. The maximum."
"A damn shame."
Holmes had worked some rather delicate cases. I remembered the first time he had included me on a case that involved a pair of male lovers. They had come to him for assistance in a family matter and he had provided it without so much as raising an eyebrow. Holmes had worked hard at leaving me out of it, but it was a rather complicated matter that involved my pistol at one point and he had taken me into his, and his clients' confidence.
I had cared little for what living arrangements the men had and reminded Holmes that I had seen far worse crimes than buggery in the Army: if buggery was the worst of men's depravities, we'd all be better off. He had seemed satisfied with my sensitivities, and thereafter included me on other such cases where clients required additional levels of discretion. It never crossed my mind to wonder as to why these clients felt comfortable trusting such personal information to Holmes.
I did not want to pry as to how he had been friends with Wilde, but since our chat by the fire I had been wondering. It had only recently begun to dawn on me that perhaps my companion's eschewing of the softer emotions was not quite what it seemed, but rather a lack of interest in the female sex. For all his bohemian ways, Holmes also was not foppish, but experience had taught me that was not a reliable indicator of deviant behavior.
In fact, I was a bit chagrined to admit that this even applied to myself. At various times in my life, I enjoyed intimacy with men when women were not available. Yet because I was not a Nancy, I dismissed these as simply needing urges satisfied. Men needed not be nancies to be inverts, or even inverts to enjoy relations with other men and believing that it was only these men who did was dangerously close to theorizing ahead of the facts.
I glanced up from my musings to see Holmes regarding me with a half-smile.
"Just friends, Watson. And not close ones at that. I assisted him with a delicate personal matter and he provided to be a critical reference early in my career. That is not to say I believe he deserves his sentence."
"Neither do I."
"No, I dare say you are not the type to judge a man for his proclivities."
"Do you--" I started, then paused for a moment to collect my thoughts. "Are you afraid that his conviction will lead to further troubles?"
Holmes sniffed in derision. "No."
I stared at him. He appeared ready to end the conversation.
"No, Watson. No one wanted this case and only Wilde seemed to be surprised that it happened at all. It had simply gone too far after the Queensbury trial to not proceed. But as you said, a conviction for sodomy is inevitable but this was prosecution was not brought by zealots bent on punishing those for private matters."
I let the conversation die at that point my thoughts in too much turmoil to continue. I was sure Holmes could seem the plain as they ever were to him, but for me, I needed more time to sort through it all.
A few days later, Wilde was on his way to Pentonville by way of Newgate, Holmes had finished his research, and we were on our way back to London by way of the express. I found myself considering my partner. His manner had always intrigued me, drawn me in, and kept me fascinated. I had always thought my attraction to his mind, but was beginning to understand it was not just his mind I had been attracted to.
London seemed sadder, diminished, for the loss of Wilde. I went to the theater, same as always, and the music halls. I spent time in the company of women, and even a man or two. Holmes and I settled back into our ways. The cases came and went, and I did my best to put my thoughts about my companion firmly from my mind. It was for the best, I assured myself, even as I found myself more and more drawn to him.
I doubt I was fooling either one of us, but bless the man, he did nothing to torment me further. In fact, it was just the same as it ever was.
Then at the very height of summer, Sherlock Holmes disappeared.
I spent plenty of time fretting that perhaps I had something to do with it, until an enquiry for Captain Basil appeared and set my mind at ease. I couldn't help the absolutely delighted grin that broke across my face when he appeared with that barbed-headed spear in our sitting room.
"Good God, Holmes!"
He laughed at me, and the last few months became all for naught. I blushed and looked down at my breakfast only to glance up at him and see a fond and indulgent smile on his face. He quickly hid it, but we both knew I had seen it.
We had arranged for the release of young Neligan after Holmes utterly dazzled young Hopkins with his deductions. I couldn't help but admire the way Holmes enjoyed revealing the solution to the case to the young inspector. After he had left Hopkins with a promise to help on future cases if needed, we headed back to Baker Street, arm and arm despite the heat.
"So," I began carefully, finally ready to broach the subject.
"Watson, only if you are very sure. I could not bear to lose you. Not to this."
"You could never lose me."
"Don't be an idiot, John, it doesn't suit you."
"And don't be an ass, Sherlock. It doesn't suit you either."
He sighed. "We both know that I can very much go without, and you can very much not. I am prone to moods and episodes. There is the issue of the cocaine. And I don't think you have quite forgiven me for those three years, not yet. Sharing lodings is one thing, a bed is quite another."
He stopped and turned towards me. "If you begin, I could not bear the end, you see."
His gray eyes searched mine and I was startled at the depth of emotion in them. Please let me never say the man has a clockwork heart again.
I took his arm and led him home and straight up our seventeen steps into the sitting room where I locked the door and pressed him against it, hands firmly wrapped around his upper arms.
"Did Reichenbach teach you nothing?" I asked. My devotion had been more than proven during those three years. "You see everything-"
"No, I observe."
I shook his arms and made a noise of frustration. "Do not distract me!"
His expression sobered and he stared into my eyes.
"You see everything, Holmes," I whispered, "How can you not see me? The world knows that I would do anything for my friend Holmes, but you know there is absolutely nothing, nothing that I would not do for you, Sherlock."
He smile was so bright it nearly blinded me.
"I love you, John Watson."
"And I love you."
Reader, I kissed him.