Watson reads the paper; Holmes works at his chemicals.
"What news is there to-day?"
"By 'news', I presume you mean criminal affairs."
"You know I do. What else could merit my attentions?"
"Then you're to be disappointed. The police columns are filled with the
Wilde scandal. He's been found guilty and given the harshest
sentence--two years hard labour. 'Lord Alfred Douglas has declined to
make a statement.' Imagine that; the boy himself has nothing to say.
What do you think of it all, Holmes?"
There is a long silence.
"I try not to, Watson. I try not to."
I rise from my chemistry, and wrap my dressing gown more tightly about
my waist. I light a cigarette only to discover it has no taste. From
the window I look down upon Baker Street, the British subjects--perhaps
the self-same jurors whose sensibilities have transmogrified the beauty
of great love freely given.
A printer passing by indicates 221b to his son. I consider how his
gesture would change if certain truths should be revealed.
I'm careless holding my cigarette, yet I scarcely feel its burn upon my
"I try not to, Watson." Heaven knows, I try not to.
He turns his back to me. That is when I know. How could he keep this
from me--risking me, risking himself, risking our association?
The November sun is in my eyes; I can discern little except his shadow.
As he so often tells me, every truth is laid out for public
consumption--ordinary men but fail to see.
He has never kept anything from me.
He has been teaching me his methods, assuring me I am not ordinary, yet
again, I have failed to see.
I set my paper down.
"Holmes, is there something you wish to tell me?"
In 1884 I attended Holmes through a severe bout of brain fever. Then he
said such things to me as no gentlemen should know, much less engage in
with another gentleman. He grabbed at the most intimate areas of my
person and shouted such indecencies that I feared for his sanity and
his very life.
Later he ranted of oysters, hyacinths, and charging minotaurs. When his
fever broke, he remembered nothing.
Naturally I said nothing, for the raving ejecta of delirium mean
Now I make the diagnosis. That fever lay not only in the brain, but
elsewhere lower down.
Holmes paces the confines of the room. He tosses the cigarette into the
fire grate and watches it burn inexorably away. He doesn't turn to
speak--won't meet the compassion in those eyes. His pride craves honour
and adoration, but will compromise on resignation to respectful
confusion. Pity is the one thing that would never, never do.
"Quite the contrary. There is something I would wish, with all I hold
dear, not to be compelled to speak of."
Watson grasps his shoulder. He turns his body slightly and holds his
gaze with no sympathy. "Then by all means, Holmes, don't."
I observe every nuance as the face before me falls. No man has ever
looked at me so; nonetheless I recognise the pain-stricken visage of
love denied. In the fifteen years of our affiliation, I have never
witnessed Holmes so starkly vulnerable. It shocks me more than a little.
I suspect no one else ever has. The feeling that elicits within me
shocks me substantially more.
I clasp his shoulder. "Then by all means, Holmes, don't. If it pains
you so, then I assure you there is no need. My friendship comes without
conditions. It always has and always will."
Frequently I inventory my assets. I include intelligence, knowledge,
reflexes, stamina, strength, and resolve. Perhaps I have steeped in
criminality for so long that I have forgotten the ways of the good.
Faced with Watson's unrestricted generosity, I know I am unworthy.
Watson is the better man. He has never given me less than his absolute
I cannot say the same.
Is that extreme of trust not a form of love? It is not the same as what
I feel for him, but it is pure and far safer as well.
"If you wish, I shall tell you everything."
Watson slides his grip down to Holmes's hand. Holmes returns the
squeeze with a pressure so fierce it startles Watson. This
manifestation of the strength of passion constrained within Holmes's
haggard body is like a revelation.
Holmes conceals so many strengths. He must not forget that now, or he
is surely lost.
But how can he deny those eyes? Laden with sadness so keen it hurts,
the eyes bore straight through his heart. Watson makes his choice. No
decent soul could do otherwise.
"Quite superfluous, Holmes; you already have."
Watson closes the drapes.
Not revelation; 'epiphany' is the better word.
When I hold him, it is out of compassion. I cannot bear to see him hurt.
When I move to caress him, it is to prove I can. Sherlock Holmes--my
dearest friend--who has never permitted me closer than arm's length,
has not the capacity to beg me stop. The power is mine to govern as I
will. I must care for it well.
When I open for his kiss, I tell myself it is simple curiosity.
When I crush his body to mine and kiss him back with all my affection,
I must accept that it is neither.
My life has been one of intellect and discipline. There is nothing of
that here. I press against him in a way dared not do in dreams. I am
not myself, but some stranger. I am Icarus newly freed from the maze to
My fingers find the button that secures his waist.
"No!" Watson pulls away.
Icarus flew too close the sun and died.
"You'll tear the wool," he says. "Let me."
The trousers come down and I am on my knees.
Icarus died, but Daedalus lived to soar the heavens. I am soaring. I
may never come down.
November is a bitter month. Soon the flush of discovery spent chills
upon their skin. Watson adjusts the coverlet and traces lazy patterns
on Holmes's skin. Outside the window, he sees an early snow. With
Holmes asleep, Watson rises to watch.
Winter signals an end but also a verdant beginning soon to come. Snow
blankets the grimy London street in a veil of white.
Night falls too early in winter. It's not even 7:00--far too early to
retire--but it is cold on the floorboards and warm within their bed.
Turning from the city, Watson goes back to Holmes.
that dare not speak its name" ...in this century is such a
great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between
David and Jonathan.... It is that deep, spiritual affection that is as
pure as it is perfect.... It is in this century misunderstood...and on
account of it, I am placed where I am now. It is beautiful, it is fine;
it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about
it.... The world mocks it and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it.
--Oscar Wilde, the Old Bailey, November 1895