Prompt: New Year
“My dear Holmes, I am afraid that there is some tragic news I must impart to you. Hopefully, it will not spoil our riotous celebration of the New Year this evening.”
Holmes looked up from whatever he was examining under the lens of his microscope [I stopped asking at some point.] and frowned. “Riotous celebration?” he said.
No doubt my expression was far too fond as I looked at him; perhaps one day I might be better at schooling my emotions just a bit when we are alone. Then, again, we are so tightly controlled beyond these walls that a little liberty at home seems the least we can ask for. “Those were the words that struck horror in your heart? Not the phrase ‘tragic news’?”
He removed the slid holding whatever it was that had so captured his interest. “Surely you realise that I can read your expressions well enough to know how you would look if something truly tragic were imminent.” The vague smugness in his voice did not escape me. Apparently done with the conversation, he began making some notes.
“Still, you might allow me the pleasure of teasing you a bit,” I pointed out.
Holmes finished the words he had been scribbling and looked at me again, this time with a most woebegone expression on his face. “Oh, no, my dear Watson. Pray tell me what tragedy has befallen us?”
I lifted the papers upon which I had been working, tore them in half and then rose and walked over to the fire to throw the pieces into the flames. They burned quite nicely. “I am afraid that The Case Of the Aluminium Crutch is never going to see the light of day. It is quite impossible for me to create a coherent narrative out of that mess.”
“A tragedy, indeed. I fear for the health of the Empire.”
“Prat,” I replied. To punish him, I pressed a kiss to his temple, before opening the door in anticipation of our mid-morning tea arriving soon and then returned to my chair.
All was quiet for a bit, as I read the Times and Holmes stuck the slide back under the lens. Not done with the analysis, it seemed. As always, I finally succumbed enough to enquire, “What has captured your attention so thoroughly this morning?”
“Hmm.. Are you certain that is a question you really want answered? Your sensibilities are sometimes offended by my scientific endeavours.”
“Only when they are offensive,” I replied, pre-occupied by an editorial letter regarding the problems of the poor in London. It interested me especially because our journey amongst the Irregulars on Boxing Day had not left my mind.
“In that case, my dear chap, I think it best if I remain silent on this occasion.”
“Huh,” was all I said.
As expected, our tea arrived a few minutes later. Mrs Hudson served us and then bustled around the room, tidying as she went. Holmes frowned, as usual, and as usual she ignored him. “Have you gentlemen plans for this evening?”
Also as usual, it was down to me to engage in social chatter, not that I was any fonder of it than Holmes, but I was conditioned to be polite. “No, we have not really given any thought to the matter.”
Holmes made a soft sound of apparent disagreement.
We both looked at him.
He finally gave off staring at the damned slide and started drinking his tea. “Actually, I have booked us tickets for a concert tonight. The programme will be somewhat light-hearted, in view of the holiday.” He looked pleased with himself, which was not a rare look for him, of course.
I stared at him. “When were you planning on telling me?”
“This morning, as it happens.” He gave a wave of one languid hand. “Surprise.”
I sighed and turned to Mrs Hudson again. “Apparently, we are attending a concert. What about yourself?”
She had finished fussing and started for the door. “My friend Mrs Turner is coming round. We will have sherry and cake and perhaps play Patience.”
I decided that she deserved an evening to herself. “I will take us to dinner, Mrs Hudson, so you needn’t bother yourself.”
She gave me a smile. “You are a gentleman, Doctor Watson.” With that, she left, thoughtfully closing the door as she went.
We travelled to Clerkenwell for dinner.
Holmes was surprised that we did not go to one of our usual haunts like Simpsons or Rules, but I had a fancy to try something new on the last night of a year that had already seen a toppling of all that had come before. I remembered entirely too well the night exactly twelve months previous to this one.
We had spent the evening quietly in our sitting room. Holmes had played his violin for a very long time and I listened, toying with the notion that he was trying to talk to me, to say something quite important with the music that flowed from his instrument. I watched his elegant hands and tried to decipher what message he was trying to impart.
At midnight, we each had a single glass of whisky, toasted one another and then went to our separate rooms. I fell asleep thinking of how he had looked standing by the window as snow lightly fell outside, making those beautiful sounds which I failed to translate into words I could understand. When I finally drifted into sleep, it was to dream of Holmes. In my dream, he played again and then he stopped, carefully placing the violin back into its case. Holmes crossed the room to where I sat in my chair and knelt at my feet, bending to rest his head in my lap. I stroked his hair and he whispered endearments that I could not quite hear.
How woeful that even in my dreams I dared go no farther than that.
My body was more daring than my imagination and in the early hours of the new year, I awoke with an erection. Helplessly, I took myself in hand and brought myself to completion, thinking, of course, of Holmes as I did.
Now, a year later, in the darkness of the hansom, I reached out and took his hand in mine. He gave a squeeze to my fingers and I smiled.
After dining on pasta redolent with garlic at the small Italian café, we journeyed on to Covent Garden. As Holmes had promised, the concert was comprised of pleasant, almost cheerful music. Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat Major was a favourite of mine, while Holmes leant towards Vivaldi’s Winter.
It all put us in a pleasant mood as we strolled back to the hansom. We debated stopping somewhere for a drink, but soon decided that we had no desire to be surrounded by other people and instead simply returned to Baker Street.
We diplomatically ignored the giggles emanating from Mrs Hudson’s rooms. The sherry had clearly flowed freely between the two landladies and so we quietly took ourselves up the seventeen steps to our haven.
I whistled cheerfully [a bad rendition of Moonlight Sonata] as I donned my nightshirt and my new dressing gown. By the time I made my way back down to the parlour, Holmes, similarly clad, was already there. Two glasses of whisky had been poured and set on the table beside my chair. Holmes was standing in front of the window, violin in hand. He was often inspired to play after we attended a concert.
I kissed him lightly and then took my chair.
There would be no mystery about what Holmes was saying with the music on this night. He lifted the violin, but then paused to look at me. “I composed this, my dear boy. It is entitled To John and no one will ever hear it but you.” Then he began to play.
I was enraptured.
Silvery moonlight spilled in through the window. His hair, freed from its pomade, curled about his head and his eyes closed as his body swayed to the tempo of the piece.
At the time, I had no idea how long the music lasted, whether ten minutes or a decade. When it ended, I realised that there were tears on my face. Holmes set aside the violin and came to kneel in front of me. As in my old dream, his head rested in my lap and I let my hand nestle in his hair. Neither of us spoke.
After a time, Holmes straightened and I handed him his whisky. We clicked our glasses together in a toast to…well, us, I suppose and drank as the clock moved closer to midnight. Before the hour struck, we both stood and walked over to the window, looking down at Baker Street below.
He began to speak. “Occasionally, I indulge in fanciful thoughts.”
“My logical Homes?” I teased gently.
“And where do your fancies take you?”
“Onto a future Baker Street, a future 221B.”
A lone carriage passed by.
“A future Holmes and Watson?” I enquired.
He nodded, smiling faintly. Sheepishly.
“Do they solve crimes?”
Holmes took a swallow of his whisky. “Well, Holmes does. Watson is his conductor of light, as always.”
He wrapped his arm around my shoulders. There were no passersby on the road below. “They care for one another, just as we do,” he said in a soft voice. “But the world is very different. They do not have to hide. They have no fear. That is what I think about sometimes.” The short laugh he gave was devoid of humour. “I am clearly a man out of his time.”
I refused to allow sadness into my heart. “We know our hearts. No one can steal that from us and I refuse to live one unhappy day because of anyone else.”
“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year,”Holmes said into my ear. Then he smiled again. “Ralph Waldo Emerson.”
“I did not know that you paid any mind to poetry,” I said.
He shrugged. “I stumbled across the quote and it appealed.”
The bells began chiming in the New Year.
I looked up at Holmes and he lowered his head to kiss me lightly, tenderly. “Happy New Year, John,” he said.
“Happy New Year, Sherlock.”
I cannot imagine that the future Holmes and Watson, should they exist, would feel one whit more happiness than we did that night, as hand in hand, we went to our bed. We made love slowly, as if the rest of the world did not exist, as if when morning came we could walk out into London with our hands still linked.
Our happiness was indeed written on our hearts.
As my eyes began to close and I gave myself up to Morpheus, still wrapped in the arms of the man I adored, it occurred to me that the love we shared was indeed too powerful to be contained in just one lifetime. It deserved to outlast our puny existence.
I could be as fanciful as Holmes, it seemed.
With that thought, I followed him into sleep.