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O Night Divine

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Prompt: Party Time

 

At the age of seventeen, I did what all good young men of a certain class were expected to do and embarked upon A Grand Tour. Accompanied by a dry-as-dust Latin tutor, whom I suspected was actually in the employ of my brother as some kind of agent or other, I spent six months criss-crossing the continent in search of…well, whatever I was supposed to be searching for. And, in truth, I did discover many things, although more about myself than about the history of Western civilisation. For every single thing which I learned by wandering the galleries of the great museums in the company of old Peterson, I learned two more by stalking the alleys and byways of Rome and Paris and Madrid alone. I certainly know which experiences have served me better in my life since.

I assure you that there is a point to this diversion into my distant memory.

Whilst visiting those cities filled with so many museums, I saw much of the most beautiful art in the world. Paintings, statuary, ancient clay vessels and impressive tapestries.

And yet, after seeing all of those objects which the world judges to be beautiful, I can say without fear of contradiction, that the loveliest thing I have ever set eyes on was one John Hamish Watson as he stepped into our parlour wearing his new tailcoat, perfectly tailored trousers, pristine white shirt and silk tie.

I felt an unfamiliar surge of gratitude to my odious brother for inviting us to his ridiculous ball and thus making it necessary for Watson to procure this new ensemble. At the same time, I experienced a flood of other emotions, feelings so powerful, so…intimate that I scarcely possess the vocabulary with which to discuss them. Some of which might be quite improper for discussion in our parlour at any rate.

Watson walked closer to me where I stood by the fire. “I wonder,” he murmured, “if your brother’s power might be employed in getting parliament to pass a new law.”

I raised a curious brow at him.

“I propose a regulation that would require all genius consulting detectives in the world to henceforth only wear evening dress.”

He could so easily make me laugh. “I could support such an initiative,” I agreed, “but only if it would also require that detective’s Boswell to be so attired.”

He smiled.

The clock in the downstairs foyer began to chime the hour and we both sighed. “I anticipate that the carriage just arriving below is the one that Mycroft sent to collect us.”

We added our coats, gloves and silk top hats before setting off down the stairs and out into Baker Street.

*

Walking into the ballroom of Mycroft’s ridiculously lavish home was like stepping onto a stage in the midst of a popular Gilbert and Sullivan production. To avoid any possible misunderstanding, I do not intend that as a compliment.

On second thought, I was actually put more in mind of the wedding cake served at the nuptials of an exceedingly minor royal I had attended several years ago, in order to recover the clichéd missing priceless necklace. That cake stood taller than the ring bearer, was covered in sugared icing roses and lace-like hangings of marzipan. And sparkles. Far too many sparkles.

Here, the formal gowns in a rainbow of colours were the decorative touches. The polished oak floor was as smooth as ice and overhead were strung silver lanterns and glittering banners.

Once we had been announced and moved properly into the room, Watson came to a stop, seemingly struck dumb by the outrageous décor. “My goodness,” he finally said, displaying a heretofore unknown talent for understatement.

I bent slightly to murmur into his ear. “Come, Watson, you have been a soldier. Fluff and glitter should not dismay you so.” We both ignored the small tremor that my warm, damp whisper caused in his body.

He shrugged. “It is a holiday ball, so a certain…freedom of expression is expected. Perhaps it was just the unlikely idea of your brother indulging in such ostentation that startled me.”

“Oh, Mycroft has unexplored depths,” I replied. Before our conversation could lead us into territory best left undiscovered, the man himself appeared, eager, it seemed, to introduce us to far too many members of the upper-crust horde that was beginning to crowd the vast room. Since he had never shown a desire to display me quite so publically before, I can only assume that my newly found fame [brought about by a combination of several recent well-publicised cases and Watson’s literary efforts] made me somehow more respectable in his eyes. Having an heroic former Army surgeon by my side did not hurt the cause either, I felt certain.

The downside [well, one of the downsides] of a ball is that one is expected, if not obligated, to actually dance. For all that I am fond of dancing itself, I could not enjoy the company of the litany of vapid women with whom Mycroft paired me off. The only thing that irked me more was the endless string of unbecomingly eager females he produced for Watson to propel around the floor. Also annoying was being forced to watch the exercise of Watson’s innate gentlemanly charms on every one of them, even the most ill-favoured.

After far too long, we were finally able to excuse ourselves from the dance floor, expressing the need to visit the refreshment table which was situated in the adjoining ante-room. But I cleverly changed direction at the last moment, knowing that my friend would follow me, as he always did. We climbed the stairs, away from the public rooms, going where no one else would follow. Our destination was the library. Once inside, I lighted one lamp only. With the door closed, we were ensconced in a private world; it was only the sound of the music rising up from below that reminded us of the ball.

Watson just stood for a moment, listening. “I dreamt last night that we were at a faerie ball,” he said softly.

I merely shook my head a little at his fancy.

Then he bowed in front of me. “May I have the honour?” he asked gallantly and now his gentlemanly charm was entirely delightful.

I took John Watson into my arms just as a waltz began below and we danced.

We danced.

*

The air of some ancient magic still enveloped us as we travelled home in the carriage. Under cover of the lap blanket, my hand clasped Watson’s. We pulled apart only when the journey ended at 221 Baker Street and then, by common albeit unspoken agreement, joined our hands together again as we climbed the stairs. The rest of the building was still, as we had instructed that no one need await our return.

Watson locked the door behind us. Silently, we shed our coats and hats, taking care to hang everything properly. Nor did any words pass between us as we went into my bedroom. There was a small lamp beside the wardrobe and I lighted it before turning to face my friend. “You are the wordsmith,” I pointed out. “What should I say?”

“I think all the words have been expressed,” Watson replied. “Except, possibly, for the fact that I just might adore you quite beyond all reason.”

“And possibly I might return the sentiment,” I said.

We just looked at one another for a long moment, before I stepped forward and began to undress him.

Tailcoat.
Tie.
Waistcoat.
A shirt with far too many buttons.

I paused and glanced at him before reaching for his trousers and he gave me a small smile.

Shortly, he stood in front of me in only his breeches.

“My turn, I think,” he murmured.

So John Watson undressed me. Absurd, really, how much that simple declarative statement moved me. Me, a man of logic. But all my logic vanished as two men still in their breeches moved to the bed and lay down together.

“Should I put out the lamp?” he asked me somewhat belatedly.

I shook my head. In the dim glow, he was like a golden vision and I could scarcely believe that he was mine.

He wrapped me in his arms and pulled me close. The feel of naked flesh pressing naked flesh made me gasp. Watson chuckled softly. Minutes or possibly hours passed as we explored together what had been forbidden to us for so long. Somehow [Somehow? Is that how a scientific mind worked? Apparently so, at least under some circumstances.] two pairs of breeches were removed and tossed aside.

There was nothing unique about two men coming together in the way we did that night. The ancients knew of it and I imagine that even in the far future men will love one another as we did, with hands and mouths and pricks. It has happened and will happen regardless of law or scripture. There is neither the need nor the desire to dwell on the details here, for all that they are inscribed indelibly in my memory.

There was heat and there was perspiration. Touches that burned and touches that healed. There were words finally, so many words. Apparently not all had been said already.

When, at last, we lay together in a sticky, damp tangle, it was as if the world had been born anew.

“Sherlock,” he whispered.

“My John,” I said.

We slept then and I did not awaken, even when sometime just after dawn, he slipped away and went to his own bed. The proprieties, after all, must be observed to keep us from danger.

I have always wondered if he kissed me before leaving.

***