Even though I had quit medical practice for some time now, I still visited old friends if they needed my help and would accept any emergency case that was send my way.
For that reason, I was still up and about at this late hour, when I would much rather sit in front of a blazing fire, smoking and trying to ignore Holmes playing his violin.
As it was, I was just leaving the home of my last patient, an old army acquaintance of mine, who really was who he claimed to be, or so Holmes had said with some surprise, which had confused me in turn.
Anyway, it was nothing serious, he would be well in no time and that was really the only thing that mattered, I thought, while putting on my scarf, hat, coat and finally, my gloves.
I picked up my medical bag with my left and took my walking stick in the right hand, then his wife accompanied me to the door to see me off.
Stepping outside, I noticed just how cold and dark it had become.
It was the kind of cold, that penetrates your body to the bone in a astoundingly short time, weighing you down.
Shuddering, I buried my nose in my scarf and drew my coat closer around me.
I made my way towards one of the main roads were I hoped to find a cap, as I didn't feel up to a long walk.
My leg wound, usually scarcely noticeable, now aggravated by the cold and damp, bothered me these days.
I was still some streets away, when it began to snow.
The heavy white flakes fell slowly, the light from the streetlamp’s illuminating their dance in the air and the bizarre patterns they left on the grey stone, a silent reminder to all of London that Christmas was almost there.
I finally made it to the main road, already frozen and barely able to walk.
I found a cab that, after a ride that seemed far longer than it ought, even with the heavy snowfall, brought me right up to the doorstep of 221B.
Worn from a long day, stiff from the drive and tired from the suffocating air in the cab, I stumbled out of the car, paid the cabby and wished him seasons greetings.
As he departed, I walked the few steps up to the door, now with a pronounced limp.
With clumsy fingers, I searched my pockets for the keys, without finding them however.
Therefore, I rang the doorbell.
After a short wait, Mrs Hudson opened the door and as she did so, a wave of light and warmth greeted me.
She ushered me inside and fussed over my person, in her usual motherly fashion, then send me up to our rooms with the promise of hot, sweet tea and biscuits soon to follow.
The seventeen steps seemed rather like seventy.
When I had finally made it up to the landing, I knocked on our living room door, but as there came no answer, I opened it and entered.
It was dark inside.
The coals in the fireplace had burned down, warming the room, but failing to lighten it.
The curtains were half drawn, preventing the dim streetlight from entering the room. From were I stood, I could just see a thin line of the dark sky and the snow covering the roof of the house opposite our own.
I put down my medical bag and stood, the light from the landing streaming past me and throwing my own shadow in stark outlines on the floor.
I was fairly irritated by the atmosphere in the room.
To dispel the feeling, I called out into the gloom: ''Holmes? Holmes are you there?''
A sigh from the direction of the window. ''I am here my dear fellow.''
I huffed, ''Why don’t you turn on the lights then?''
Another sigh, but no answer.
I turned on the lights myself, then and closed the door.
When I circled around again, I spotted Holmes, who indeed leaned on the wall next to the window, starring out, sightless.
He wore his old dressing gown, tightly drawn around his thin frame and holding his precious violin hugged close to his chest, bow in hand.
I hung my wet hat, scarf and coat upon the rag, together with my walking stick and picked up my medical bag, limped over to the cupboard and placed it inside, leaving my gloves on the small table by the fire, on the way.
Holmes half turned to watch me with an abstracted air.
Announcing herself with a gentle knock on the door Mrs Hudson entered, bearing a tray laden with tea and biscuits.
She set the tray down upon the only free surface of the table, tended to the fire and left, not without a worried glance in Holmes direction, however and one in mine, a silent plea, that I may look after him.
From were I stood, I turned to Holmes ''Won’t you have a cup of tea, my dear chap?''
''No, no. No tea for me, thank you.'' Came his airy reply and he turned back to the window, effectively declaring the end of our conversation, before it had begun.
Resigned, I walked over to the table and sat down upon my chair.
I picked up the two teacups with their saucers, setting them upon the papers and books that were strewn across the table, poured tea for both of us and added milk, all in hopes that Holmes may change his mind.
While I drank my tea, I became suddenly aware of the near complete silence that had fallen over our rooms.
The heavy snow outside, now lay like a cold blanket, muffling all sound, while the soft crackle and shifting of the coals in the grate, provided a contrast, that served only to pronounce the silence.
From were I sat I watched Holmes over the rim of my teacup.
The hot tea and the silence, both produced in me a curious clearness of mind and thereby enabled me to see the melancholy, that seeped through the cracks in the usually smooth, cold stonewall Holmes had built around himself, a safeguard, even against myself.
I hope, that someday he will trust me with all his heart, just as I trust him with mine.
I know it is difficult for him, but I can wait, as long as he needs me to.
Despite the fact, that it would take me but a very few steps to cross the room to stand beside him, he seemed so far away, the way he clung to his violin like a drowning man might cling to a lifebelt, he was a man lost in the great, cold sea of his own thoughts.
I myself am not a man of thought however, rather of action and so I set down my teacup and went over to him, determined to free him from this dark place.
He started, as I carefully took violin and bow out of his hands, then watched curiously from were he stood, as I put them on the table beside the tea pod.
''Watson, whatever are you doing?''
Rather then answering him, I took him by his elbow, stirring him away from the window and towards the settee.
He followed and as I sat down, he sat himself close beside me and carefully, draped his long legs over my own, so that he could curl up on his side to rest his head comfortably against my chest, while avoiding to put pressure on my bad leg.
Perhaps one of the most unexpected things that I discovered about my love, is that he enjoys it tremendously to cuddle up beside me and do nothing for hours on end.
His mind, usually demanding some stimulant or other seems to find peace, at least for a short time and so I wrapped my arms around him, to hold him close.
His warmth bled through my clothes, chasing away the last of the heaviness the cold had left in my bones and warming me to the core. To be so close to him, felt just as marvellous as it had the very first time, like holding a part of oneself that had been missing, but was now finally found.
I placed a soft kiss on his head and proceeded to draw soothing circles on his back.
Slowly, I could feel the tension draining from him and his body relax.
It took but a few minutes until he had fallen asleep and I could already feel myself drifting of, too.
I was finally warm, I was home again.