With Holmes’s death, I thought that, at some point, my bone-deep love for him would diminish or at the very least, if not disappear, lessen its weight upon my chest. Yet six months, eight months, a year and a half on, nearly everything reminded me of him, every day, and my chest aches still at the thought of him.
Sometimes I wish fictions could be true: that I had indeed found a wife, a companion to distract me from my grief, as I led my readership to believe, but that is not the case. I am alone as I ever have been, and certainly lonelier than I was before I ever met Holmes, for now I know what loneliness’s opposite is. In the night, as I sleep poorly, it seems one half of me is always still yearning for him, for some portion of him, even his presence or the mere knowledge that he was lying downstairs as I was upstairs, our positions matched, perhaps even thinking of each other as we each couldn’t find sleep. But the sure knowledge of his death is no companion, and neither is grief. I feel myself become half a man as each day goes by, and there is nothing I have found to salve my own poor soul.
The papers do not help matters, either. Two years on from the worst of it, from the headlines blaspheming his name, shouting twisted claims which I know are not and cannot be true, as I lived with the man and felt I knew him. It was a dreadful business and painful too, and even two years on, his name is merely hushed in high society, and I find strangers who recognise me or otherwise know of my identity skirt along my edges as though I were a contagion of their horrid claims.
Two years since the Reichenbach Fall, and Mycroft Holmes pays me a visit in 221B, in his brother’s flat which he left me — allowed me — to rent. I know he halved what I ought to owe Mrs Hudson each month, even if mangled grief kept me from ever thanking him for it. He paid me a visit to ask my assistance; I thought it was the least I could do. There was an odd business in Berlin, he said (really? thought I), which he would like me to peek in on.
‘Surely one of your own government officials would be better suited,’ I said.
‘This is not an official business,’ was his reply, and so I took the next evening’s train to Berlin, my curiosity sufficiently piqued.
Holmes was always a character on trains. He was a character everywhere, of course, but on trains especially. He was often antsy, especially when our travels were taking us to a new mystery, and too often spent it fretting about. I spent such journeys remaining as still as I could manage, knowing eventually he would sense me and still himself, and by the last thirty minutes of each of these longer journeys, he always calmed enough to sit next to me, lean his head back against the wall of the carriage, steeple his fingers in his lap, and sigh. I do not know if he sensed my smugness each of these times; he never spoke to it. But it was a beauty to see, mirabile visu, he would say if he dabbled much in Vergil — it was a beauty to see Holmes calm and lean against me. Or at least near me.
I fell asleep on the train thinking of this and woke up in Germany the next morning with a stiff neck and heavy heart. The train stopped and I disembarked, hoping my rudimentary knowledge of German would carry me at least to the address Holmes’s relation had provided me.
It did; I hobbled through the crowds with my cane, not attracting as much attention as I had expected (or feared). The address was a home, someone’s home, I figured as I came upon it. There was a flowerbox under the single window, dug out and bare, and a dying wreath on the door. I knocked, not finding the bell, and waited. The elder Holmes had said there would be a man to answer the door who would know of me and my purpose, who spoke elegant English and would accompany as necessary on the mystery. I could only trust him now, finding myself in a very foreign country.
After several moments, I heard footsteps approach. The door opened, my gaze on the doormat, which I just noticed had a strange stain on it which looked of dried blood. I knew, because living with Holmes, accompanying him on his cases, I’d seen quite a bit of dried blood on myriad surfaces and feel with some confidence that I can recognise blood a mile off. The door opened and I looked up, about to warn the fellow that something had happened on his doorstep, and felt all the blood leave my face. Before me, having opened the door, standing in front of me in the flesh, was a gaunt, older, but still — undoubtedly — Sherlock Holmes.
My world went black around the edges, my mouth opened to speak; I heard only a distant gasp and shuffling, and felt myself disappear. I came to most likely only moments later, when Holmes — was it Holmes? Dear God, please tell me it was — was walking me, supporting me, to a chair inside. I heard a door shut and slumped in the chair, gasping, and raised my hands to grasp his arms. He knelt in front of me, this man who so resembled my dear friend, save the darkness in his features and the look of pure concern on his face.
Holmes was dead; Sherlock Holmes is dead, I told myself. I slapped my mouth open and shut several times before I managed, ‘My sincere apologies, I thought you were — I thought you might be —’
‘Oh Watson, your first observation was quite correct,’ the voice said, and it was Holmes’s own, could not be any other’s. ‘I am indeed your Sherlock Holmes, and I believe I owe you a thousand apologies.’
‘Holmes,’ I said, and I felt myself begin to shake. His hands, those hands I’ve yearned for, with those long, thin fingers, clutched my shoulders, and I buckled forward. ‘Holmes, is that really you?’
‘Yes, Watson.’ The words were hushed against my head; our foreheads were aligned and touching, and without thinking I was cupping his face. ‘I could ask the same of you,’ he whispered, and the depth of feeling in his words swelled my heart to bursting.
‘You’re alive,’ I said, but instead of shouting it like I wanted to, like the feeling in my chest bid me to, it came out on a shaky exhale. ‘Holmes, by God, you’re alive.’ My voice broke and I watched a tear rush forward and slide down his cheek. Holmes, crying! I wiped it away quickly with my thumb and leaned back just to look at him, look him in the eyes, in those verdigris eyes which were searching my own, and with a soft noise I broke and leaned forward, pressing my lips to his.
Immediately I realised my mistake — I kissed Sherlock Holmes — and retracted myself, breathing heavily, trying to backtrack and save myself, save our friendship. But he held my good shoulder with one hand and clasped the back of my head with his other and brought us back together, our noses touching. He closed his eyes and I did the same and breathed him in, and he whined, I would swear it to the day of my death, Sherlock Holmes whined against my lips before pressing his lips to mine, continuing the kiss which I had started.
Passion overtook me; I felt it rise up from deep within my chest, where it had sat forlorn for years and years, bubble up through me, into my fingers which were on either side of his head, threading through his hair, as I pressed myself forward and pulled him closer simultaneously, in the vain attempt that we become one. As a result of my shoving and pulling, Holmes ended up in my lap in the chair, his head tilting this way and that before he found the best (of course he would find it quicker than anyone else) angle and kissed me with what could only be described as desperate, passionate, aching fervour. It was as such that we spent several minutes, before I was beginning to become so heated I felt sweat form at the back of my neck; moments later his fingers brushed through it on his way into the back of my shirt, at the same time that his sharp hips found mine, and I broke the kiss.
‘Watson,’ he whispered, moving to my cheek, my jaw, my neck, kissing me hurriedly or otherwise pressing his lips and dragging them about. ‘Watson, Watson, Watson,’ he chanted, and my heart broke again as I could only lay back and pant, eyes closed, holding in my arms the man I had wanted for so very long.
‘Sherlock Holmes,’ I murmured, testing the words in my mouth, particularly my mouth against the side of his very very alive neck. Finding them worthy, I repeated them again, and made him look at me once more. I kissed his lips once, where a smallish pout was forming, I think to be parted from my skin, and said, ‘Sherlock Holmes, you’re alive.’ He nodded and bit his bottom lip. I pulled it out from his teeth with my thumb, brushing along it as I did. ‘You’re alive and you must know —’
‘Yes, Watson,’ he hushed. I thrilled at the sight of his full attention, those dark, wide eyes boring into my own.
‘You must know I have wanted you for a long time.’ My voice broke but my reserve bid me continue. ‘I never thought I would see you again and I love you.’
My thumb brushed his cheek rhythmically, left right, right left, as I watched his eyes change with my pronouncement.
‘John,’ he exhaled several moments later, and it was all I needed to hear before I kissed him again. My heart was in my arms, all the love and light I ever had in my life, alive once more in my lap; if I never moved from that chair, I would die the happiest man on earth.