It began, as so many of life's most significant moments begin, with a vocabulary discussion.
As I walked very carefully, one foot in front of the next in the familiar back-and-forth progression, up our seventeen steps that evening, it was with a blackened eye, a box full of broken glass tucked beneath my arm, and a bottle of 1867 Château Lafite in my opposite hand. All of these circumstances will become clear in due course, I expect. I hope they will, as I have a ghastly hangover. Also, my vision is blurred, and my memory in rather poor straights. But nevertheless I will not tell this story the way Mr. Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, the Independent Consulting Detective Himself, sage expert upon any subject he happens to light upon even when he knows nothing whatever about them, would wish me to. Those days, I rejoice to state with finality, are passed. Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street no longer cows me as he once did.
I shall, therefore, tell this story backwards, as it best pleases me. Backwards stories are invigourating to the mind.
As I say, then, it was in a state of supreme drunkenness that I at last succeeded in besting that flight of godforsaken steps, having tripped slightly on numbers eight and thirteen, and arrived in our sitting room. The site of all our countless communal goings-on (the goings-on I should have preferred to term "affairs" in every sense of the word) lay before me, just as dimly lit as Sherlock Holmes doubtless wished it to be. The dining table was laid for a splendid supper, with a brace of pheasant long since grown cold, and a dish of sliced beef, as well as two finer-than-usual place settings. A single glass had been used, by my friend, and then left on the sideboard. The food was untouched.
"Holmes," I called out impatiently, swaying a little.
Holmes emerged from his bedroom, rubbing a damp cloth over his face, neck, and shoulders, and stopped in his tracks.
He had obviously not long been back from his surveillance--masquerading as a stevedore, I believe, though I cannot bring myself to care--but he had managed to remove all of his clothing from the waist up and cover himself with a gorgeously fluttering half-open dressing gown. This is the sort of thing which used absolutely to madden me: Holmes had sworn to return by seven for our mutual feast, and here it was ten in the evening and he had not even finished wiping the soot from his face. And yet somehow, somehow, he had managed to find the time to render himself half-naked. It would have been disheartening if not utterly typical. To be expected. De rigeur. It was what had driven me out of the sitting room and into the wild in the first place, for I have better things to do than wait for a self-obsessed genius to glance at a clock. Or at least, I enjoy pretending so.
Now he stared at me in open shock. My friend had thoroughly cleaned his less sensitive skin, but the area rimming his startled and ungodly brilliant eyes, just beneath the lashes, was still blackened slightly.
"You look like a twopenny streetwalker," I said pleasantly. "Here is your birthday present." I held out the wine.
After a stunned blink at my unprecedented remark, Holmes' long legs reached me in three strides. He turned my chin up to the light.
"What in God's name has happened to you, my dear chap?" he demanded.
"An altercation," I replied as he took the box and the bottle from me, setting them on his chemical table. "A round of fisticuffs. You should see the other fellow. I would have thought you could deduce such a thing for yourself, you know. I was not about to inform you I walked into a door."
I took in the dying fire, the ticking of our clock, the pleasant aromas of roast fowl and tobacco which lingered in the air. A very pleasant setting for our soon-to-be-had chat, I thought. Then I rubbed at my jaw. Nothing more than a slight bruise. I knew my eye probably looked dreadful, but that was an issue for another occasion. Just at the moment, I needed to have a friendly and confidential word with my flatmate upon a highly sensitive subject. Then all would be well.
Holmes returned with a medical kit and a small bowl of water. I looked at his hands, holding the objects.
Of course I did. What startling news there? I stare at his hands the way some men stare at explicit photography. As for me, an entire diorama of naked men and nubile young females, hard and wet respectively, displaying themselves in the most lewd and mutual sharing of Bacchanalian lust, feeding each others' every orifice while Jove in the form of an erect stallion looked on with relish, would not have distracted me for so much as a single second if Sherlock Holmes' index finger also happened to be in the room within my line of sight. Why mince words on the subject?
"Sit," he snapped, nodding at the settee. When I did, he knelt before me, soaking a cloth in the water. "Who was it?" he growled.
"An old acquaintance at my club."
From closer up, the kohl-like border around his sparkling eyes was still more arousing. Naturally it was. His features are hardly feminine, but they are undoubtedly beautiful and thus when enhanced, more so. My friend's eyes are a still worse temptation than his hands. Had I not interrupted him from his wash, I would never have known it, but apparently the only thing more devastating than Sherlock Holmes is Sherlock Holmes wearing eye liner. He looked mysterious, enchanting, and vaguely Eastern. Confound the man.
"On second thought, you don't look like a twopenny streetwalker at all. You look like a much more expensive one. The sort who dress up as geishas and sing pornographic versions of Gilbert and Sullivan melodies before one beds them."
"Watson," he said in stark horror. Then he leaned forward, fine nostrils flaring a little. "Watson, are you drunk?"
"Oh, yes," I nodded. "Well, no, I was drunk, half an hour ago. I do beg your pardon. Now I am decimated."
Holmes gritted his teeth, got a better hold on the cloth, and strove to conceal his disapproval of my timing as he raised his hand to clean the cut above my eye. I could not wholly blame him. It was his birthday, after all. Even if he had missed the beginning of it. Intentionally. Again.
Have I ever mentioned that I am unhealthily preoccupied with my flat mate's eyes? I am. And so I moved past the question of eye makeup to the colour of the eyes within that border. They were very angry with me, hard as his will, which brought a metallic hue to them. I embarked on the wonderful exercise of deciding which metal in particular, just at the moment, taking into account his mood. Steel? Iron? Silver? Platinum? Chromium? Nickel?
Aluminium, I decided happily.
"What on God's earth are you thinking about?"
Small wonder he had not been able to follow me. Logic is common. Perception is rare.
"I am pondering the metallic question."
His scowl deepened in confusion. "You mean the bi-metallic question?"
"No. I mean the metallic one. And I'm sorry," I said. "It needed to be done."
"No, the Scotch, you ridiculous man. A third of a bottle at least, and that was after the wine."
"I will take your word as regards its necessity, provided you tell me what happened."
I sighed as the cloth soothed away the dried blood on my brow. He owns a remarkable delicacy of touch. It must have something to do with the parallel delicacy of his hands. Have I mentioned his hands? Holmes' hands are God's proof of benevolence to mankind, me in particular. They...but I digress.
"Well, in the first place, there is the box of broken glass," I began. "It belongs to you. A gift."
"You are most welcome."
"Why do I possess a box of broken glass, may I ask?"
"Because I purchased for you a case of vials and instruments and pipettes for your chemical studies, and while at my club they fell to the floor off a table by accident and broke into hundreds of merry little pieces."
"Oh," he said softly. "My dear fellow, you didn't have to--"
"No, I didn't have to at all, but you seem to forget that you are the untouchable Bohemian encased in the glass sarcophagus of your own invulnerability, while I am the kind-hearted physician who keeps insisting on throwing himself prostrate at the slippery facade of your solitude, sliding off its sheer face and breaking my ankles repeatedly."
"Breaking your ankles?"
"Stop interrupting. And don't stare at me like that, you look enough like a dollymop at the moment as it is without that wide-eyed, doe-in-an-opium-den expression. In any event, the old acquaintance of whom I spoke asked me what had been inside, and I told him, and I said the gaiety of the occasion would not be diminished by the loss of a bit of glass. Then he chuckled at the word gaiety, which I did not understand at first. After he explained his joke, I understood it rather better, and we fought. Then I went out and bought you this alternative birthday present, the 1867 Château Lafite Lafite you see before you. Fetch it here, please."
"Doctor," Holmes grated through his teeth, "I am astonished at a number of things you have said to me this evening, but not least your generosity. How the devil do you mean to afford a bottle of 1867 Château Lafite?"
"I can't afford it," I agreed cheerily, "which is why I took the step--between the fight and the purchase, mind--of making an extremely foolhardy bet on a cockfight. Happy birthday."
"Stop saying that."
"Cockfight? Does the word make you uncomfortable?"
"No. Happy birthday. And Watson, for Heaven's sake, we've been over this. There is a reason your chequebook is locked in my drawer."
"Yes," I assented as he went for the bottle, shaking his head all the while. "The reason my chequebook is locked in your drawer is that you are the western hemisphere's most dominant narcissist. Now, open the bottle before I lose my patience with you entirely."
Holmes appeared at this point to have misplaced a good deal of his ability to drive the conversation in his desired direction to the exclusion of all others. It may have had to do with pure, unadulterated shock. And so he opened the bottle, pouring two small glasses, using his already christened glass and a new one from the sideboard for me, with rapturously elegant hands.
Have I ever mentioned Sherlock Holmes' hands? God or Satan alone could never have created them. I suppose the two worked, for once, in concert. A worthier project could not have been found in this or any universe.
"Bring me the wine," I commanded.
Holmes returned to stand before me. He handed me my glass.
"Now, drain it," I continued, setting him a fine example myself.
The shock was supplanted by anger.
"That is a tremendously expensive vintage you just treated like a dram of gin," my friend snapped.
"Trust me." I rose with great difficulty, returned my glass to the sideboard with still more difficulty, and resumed my place on the sofa with greater difficulty still. "Drink it. You need a drink. You trust me with your very life, Sherlock Holmes, and this has a direct bearing on the subject. The subject of your life, that is. Drink the sodding Château Lafite and we can get on with it."
Holmes obeyed me with two swallows. Then set his glass back on the dark wood and crossed his arms defiantly.
"What did your acquaintance say to so upset you?" he demanded.
"He said," I explained blithely, "that you were a homosexual."
Holmes went utterly white.
"A man who sleeps with other men, not because he is intoxicated and a clever rent boy has taped his privates to his backside, but because he truthfully desires the male form, and has sought it out deliberately."
"I know the definition of the word homosexual," he snapped viciously. Then he placed a hand over his mouth and gazed at me.
I had never so completely surprised him. It was magical.
"He said I..."
"Was an invert," I went on, finishing what must have been his thought for him out of charity. "A fruit. A queer. The sort who are beginning to be labeled gay. Therein lay the joke, you see. Gaiety."
"I said he was wrong."
After several more seconds of thought on this topic, Holmes returned to the sideboard. He poured a gigantic Scotch whiskey, a wine-sized draft of whiskey, in (appropriately) his wine glass, and drank it in three swallows. I watched his throat muscles constricting. It had been admirably done. Then he refilled his glass with Château Lafite, brought the bottle with him, restored my portion as well, and knelt once again before the settee to finish nursing me back to health.
"I'm sorry," he said. "But it needed to be done."
"No, the fight," he retorted. "I am deeply sorry you were hurt, my dear boy, upon my life I am, but it would never do for--"
"Of course not. And in any event his suggestion was repulsive."
Holmes went silent, dabbing at my brow tenderly. Like a gentle nursemaid. Like a loving helpmate. Like a caressing spirit. Like a very, very gay man.
"He was obviously making the implication that you troll about, a mandrake on holiday, picking up sodomites as if they were your afternoon mail. Disgusting."
The lovely arched line of my friend's lips tightened, but he held his tongue. I was beginning to admire him still more, if possible. It was a remarkable display of willpower even for him. That sort of flinty resolve might have won me an empire hundreds of years ago, had his spirit landed in the craggy, imperial body of Alexander the Great. It was a decided shame, really. I could have been made a god by this point in my life, which would have been a lark, and not entirely undeserved. But I digress.
"Have you ever considered conquering Persia?"
"Never mind. In any case, the very idea of you in one of those clubs, Holmes, arching an eyebrow at a virile young blond wearing a green carnation, an implicit signal that you would like to bend him over in a washroom while two of his other friends watched you at work, well...it quite boiled my blood, I need hardly tell you."
"Precisely. You need hardly tell me. Therefore, cease doing so," he said icily. "I might also have cause to remind you that you are under the influence of copious--"
"I mean to say, the concept that you, of all people, should spend your time buggering attractive young men is frankly impossible."
"Why?" he snarled, dropping the sodding cloth at last.
I thanked God for that, with all my heart.
"Why is it impossible, Watson?"
I raised my eyebrows. It hurt. So I stopped.
"Because you are in love with me. That is why it is impossible, Holmes. The man you wish to bugger sits before you in your parlour inches away, not out in some ghastly gentleman's club."
Holmes was silent. Very silent. So silent that the silence screamed in my ears. The word the silence was screaming was, quite discernibly, gay.
"You are," I expounded, "the ponciest tosser to have ever minced his way into a pair of trousers. You are gayer than Stanley Hopkins when he sings second tenor in the policeman's chorus wearing his dress uniform. You are as queer as a public schoolboy with a penchant for Greeks. But you love me, as I said, so I shall allow it to pass."
The silence only grew.
"Let me explain," I said, leaning forward with my fingertips together in imitation of the world's brightest, gayest consulting detective. "I myself am enamored of the male cock, Holmes. I'm quite fond of the things. Can't seem to get enough of them, in fact, and I stick them in all sorts of--well, let us just say that I find creative uses for them. Some might call it a craft, but I prefer to think of it as an art. The art of...what shall we call it? Cockfighting. There. I embrace the art of cockfighting. And what I would like to know right now is, would you prefer that I bend over the arm of this settee with one of Mrs. Hudson's embroidered pillows between my teeth, or take you into your room and bugger you senseless? There's a lovely pillow just here--look, pansies!...perfect--or else I take you in the bedroom and have my way with you. You're quite a masterful type, I have found, which means you are either going to prove a lover in whom dominance, force, and tenderness are irresistibly mixed, or else a pliant thing of infinite grace who wants nothing more than a strong man inside you to rob you of your habitual control. It's one of the two. You're undoubtedly splendid at it, whatever your answer. But go on and tell me which it is, I haven't a preference. I love you too, you see. And fortunately, they both involve cocks.
"Let's put it to a vote," I continued in desperation when he drained his wine, reached out and drained mine, and then walked to the sideboard to drain the rest of the bottle back into the now-empty glasses. "There are only two of us, so if we reach a tie there might be some trifling awkwardness, but I can always wire Lestrade, as he knows us both better than anyone. Hand me the telegraph forms, I've worked out the message in my mind. 'To Inspector G. Lestrade. Re: sodomy. Does Sherlock Holmes strike you as a man whose personality would materially benefit from taking it up the--"
That was the moment he decided to kiss me. I might have quibbled over his timing, had my tongue not just then been stealing the breath from his lungs. And my heart not been racing and flying simultaneously. And his hands, those bloody hands, been running up and down my thighs.
Suddenly he sat back on his haunches, his lips and cheeks reddened and the kohl-like line along his lashes smudged slightly. I have never seen anything so delectable in all my days. Confound the man.
"This is all very sudden," he breathed.
"It isn't sudden at all, you great buggering prat. It's years in the making, for no reason other than the fact you can't seem to either see or observe a homosexual when he is leaning with both hands against your own bookcase with his trousers round his oft-broken ankles."
"In all fairness, I think I would have noticed that."
"Perhaps I exaggerate. Drink more wine, you'll come round to my view of the subject."
He brought both glasses over, full to the brim, and we eradicated them. I looked at him.
He stared back. Grey-eyed, long-limbed, and beautiful.
"If you don't make a decision soon, I am taking an enormous bite out of this beautifully rendered tussie-mussie," I observed, reaching for a pillow.
"Well, it is my birthday," he drawled, vaguely breathless. "Suppose you do the heavy lifting on this occasion, and I shall promise to oblige you on other holidays?"
"This isn't a holiday. It's your birthday, you arrogant donkey."
"It's Twelfth Night. And my offer stands."
"Which holidays are mine?"
"I am willing to rodger you into ecstasies on Christmas, Bank Holidays, Easter, Bonfire Night, and every other American Independence Day."
This kiss was rather better than my previous, as I had risen and the force of my body knocked him back into the sideboard very inelegantly. I heard the sound of a wine glass shattering. That was to be expected, a casualty of war. I tore the gown from his shoulders, leaving his torso bare and pale and muscled and panting with desire. Meanwhile, I was admittedly too intoxicated to know how he had done it, but he seemed to have gotten my shirt nearly off and somehow his belt was undone. He is known for his cleverness in many spheres. Then again, perhaps I had done that. If I had, it had been the right decision. I congratulated myself. While I was congratulating myself, I shoved my hand into his open trousers and gripped at one of my favourite items in the world. The lips beneath my own parted with a strangled little animal sound, and the toes of his bare feet curled slightly.
"You," I growled tenderly, "have been wasting my time."
I had lost my tie by this juncture, and my collar, and most of my buttons were either unfastened or missing, so his head fell forward as his hot mouth sought out my collarbone, his breath coming raggedly against my shoulder.
"If I apologize prettily enough, will you skip to the part you referred to earlier, in my bedroom?" he laughed.
"Yes. Commence apologizing."
"I am sorry for not noticing a broken-ankled indorser leaning against my own bookshelves with his trousers down."
"Not pretty enough."
"I am sorry for wasting a single second which I might have spent in your arms?"
"Perfect. This way."
"Watson, there's glass every--"
Had I not still been wearing my boots and he been barefooted, and had I not been very, very drunk, I may not have pulled it off. But it seemed the ideal occasion for me to grip that impossibly svelte waist with both my considerably more masculine hands and lift him bodily over the broken glass, carrying him two feet past the scattered shards. He is composed of nothing but six foot three inches of muscle, so lifting Sherlock Holmes is not a trivial enterprise, but that did not occur to me at the time. He was less drunk than I, although beginning to match me as the alcohol absorbed into his system, so when once he might have struggled, he simply wrapped his legs around my waist, which was much easier. When that little move had been achieved and I had slid my hands down to his backside, it was remarkably easy, in fact, for a man of my strength. So I carried him into his bedroom and deposited him flat on his back none too gently, diving down to ravish his lips as we descended.
"I was wondering something," I hissed as I stroked my hand over his breast, lingering over his pectoral definition and the sweet nub of darker flesh. He had neglected to release me with his legs, so I saw no point in going anywhere for a brief while.
"No, I'm not actually a bottom, but this opportunity is too precious to waste."
"Not that. I had assumed that. I had assumed that, following this encounter, hansom travel will be uncomfortable for me for a minimum of six months."
"Make it nine. What were you wondering?"
"I was wondering if you have been with other men since I fell in love with you. Because if you have, you are in a world of trouble."
"Did you fall in love with me within two years?"
"I think so. The precise figure is hard to recall just now, but it's very likely."
"In that case, no."
"How are you so certain?"
He sat up a little, his fingertips caressing my cheek. "Because two years ago I found myself in bed with a man, and absolutely incapable of continuing the encounter without calling him John."
I covered his hand with my own, a mist rising before my eyes. It was the most beautiful thing anyone had ever said to me.
"Was his name in fact John?"
"That was the whole trouble. His name was Eric."
In some fashion, I will never know for certain, Sherlock Holmes rolled his entire body so that I flipped onto my back as he knelt above me. Then he was gone, vanished without trace. Something was happening in the region of my shoes. But not for very long, because then my feet were bare and my trousers missing and I was as naked as the day I was born. Then my friend, equally naked, was seated on my thighs, running one long finger down my abdomen with a strangely reverent expression on his face. I tried to duplicate his previous manouever. I failed. But I did manage to sprawl on top of him, the feeling of all his skin against mine sending shivers down my spinal cord. I went to kiss him again, but he was looking down.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"Nothing," he breathed. "By George. I'm going to feel that in the morning."
"Perhaps," I owned, "as it has been--"
"Two years, three months, and sixteen days."
"Precautions had best be taken."
"You ought to be able to find something useful in my makeup kit," he suggested hoarsely.
I was up in a trice, flinging myself none too gracefully toward his simple vanity table. About a dozen likely-looking glass bottles winked up at me. I chose a promising one.
"That's a mild solvent, my dear chap, and thus...highly inadvisable, to my mind. Forgive me."
I kept rummaging. My eyes did not seem to wish to focus on the tiny lettering. It was dim in that blasted room, and the cursed labels were old, and I had other more pressing things on my mind, to wit: what would happen immediately after I grasped the right bottle. He was my Camelot. My only task was to pull the sword from the stone, as it were. And then put another sword back in a different stone as quickly as possible. As it were.
"That's concealer." I began to suspect he was hiding a smile. "I use it to blend in the edges of scars."
My fingers closed around a small and very likely jar.
"Rouge, my dear fellow? How very...deviant of you. I admit I do not know your...tastes in these matters, but apart from the indignity to my person, it comes in powder form."
I made a renewed effort, raising a vial with a flourish of triumph.
"Watson, that's spirit gum, and as such not remotely amusing, even in sport. Do you think it would be too much to ask that we emerge from our first sexual congress fully intact?"
Flinging it back with a grimace, I made a final choice, this time selecting a dull brown bottle marked in capital letters LINSEED OIL. I executed a flying dive for the bed.
Sherlock Holmes is an unqualified Mary boy. But he is also a fast unqualified Mary boy. And a sly one. And so it was that, while I had been anticipating other arrangements of limbs, I suddenly found myself awash in an avalanche of sensation with his lips around my member, my heart and all other relevant organs writhing in pleasure. My flesh tingled with electric desire when he pulled me deeply into his mouth, my lungs burning with my gasping breath. And--as there was a complementary cock at my own lips--I could think of no better action to take at that moment than to swallow him to the bollocks. And so that is what I did.
I used to be pitifully preoccupied by my friend's eyes and his hands. That was a mistake. His mouth. His mouth wins by a furlong. And when his mouth moans because you have just put his cock in your own...
It was a landmark in the history of cockfighting.
I could have allowed us to pleasure each other for hours in that fashion. Well, if by hours I mean to convey four or five minutes. But I am a man of focused mind. I have been in situations of extreme distress and also extreme distraction. I am capable of performing multiple tasks at the same time. So when I managed to get the stopper open, I poured linseed oil over some key fingers and lost no time in making use of them before throwing the bottle in the general vicinity of Holmes' fireplace.
If you have never heard a man say God's name with your cock in his mouth, on my honour it is an experiment worth making.
Holmes left off swallowing me. I think he may have been afraid something might cause him to clench his teeth involuntarily, and he might do me damage. Or else he was saving a bit more of my stamina for other purposes. I am tempted to think it was the latter. He bit my thigh, meanwhile, the one his head was resting on. Hard. I thought to reward him in kind. A third finger did the job nicely.
"John," he gasped, reaching out and tugging at my prick.
My tongue had been busy, but I pulled away to answer. "Had you called me Eric, it would have been over between us."
"If you don't take me soon, you are going to waste a rather glowing opportunity by bringing me off beforehand. Now, fuck me, there's a good fellow."
I did not require a second invitation.
It was at some point within the next ten seconds, my chest to his back and my lips in his hair and the raw sounds he was making lost in the quilt, that I realized that I was in a spot of serious trouble. Not so far as the sex was concerned, mind. It takes more than two bottles of wine and two glasses of sherry and a glass of half-and-half and a third of a bottle of Scotch and half a glass of port to render me incapable of gently riding a man until his clutching fingers disappear entirely into the bedclothes. No, that all went off without any unfortunate mishaps. It went off spectacularly well, as a matter of fact, what with the sweat from the small of his back dampening my stomach and the way his shoulders flexed when I breached him. But I was in trouble nevertheless. For I began to realize at that moment that I would never be a free man--even if a hopelessly enthralled free man--again. He owned me. Every part of me, completely. It is a surprise to learn that you have enslaved yourself willingly. And I had no idea just yet of how he would treat a gift as enormous as myself.
When he did finish, it was silently. Struggling for air like a man lost in the ocean. His eyes flinched shut and flew open, a silver crescent in the black, blown void of space. His hands gripped and then slowly relaxed again as mine tightened around them.
Have I mentioned his eyes? Or his hands?
They are astonishing.
When I died seconds later, wracked with the severity of my pleasure, I thought I had been wrong about aluminium. Platinum was a far richer choice.
I could not move for many long moments, after. And he did not seem to want me to.
Finally, we parted. At long last, I slipped my arms around him, tasting his shoulder, drawing my knees up into his as we shifted to our sides. After seventeen eternities of waiting, I traced the hollows of his throat with my fingers as we recalled how to breathe.
"Sherlock," I murmured, "I love--"
I found myself unable to continue. It is difficult to continue speaking when someone has clamped a hand over your mouth.
He had twisted to face me in one of his lightning-quick surges of energy, his fingers stealing the breath from my lips as he touched them.
"We must never speak of that," he whispered to me. "Please forgive me for it. There are many other pleasures I can give you, many other ways to express the passion which we have forged this night, many other offerings I will lay at your feet alone, but never ask me to say the phrases to you aloud. I will try in every other way that I can. Your body will be my temple, and your breath my very life. I shall take every beautiful sentiment on earth and bind them all into the nutshell of your name, but of the softer emotions...of what I feel when I see you without expecting to, or catch your gaze from the other side of our fireplace--please do not ask me to reduce such splendors to words. My life has been such that what seems to you cold-heartedness is the very armour that keeps me alive. I will deprive you of nothing, my only love, save for the word itself. Please..."
His eyes wandered over my face, slowly drawing his fingers away from my mouth.
"You sodding cow," I announced, gripping the pillow beneath my head.
Holmes began laughing helplessly.
"Come off it, I had you all the while!" he gasped, doubling over into the fetal position while I beat him repeatedly with goosedown. "You are the most--" he fended off a blow with his forearm, "--gullible man in all of Christen--"
"Bollocks I am. You have been found out. Confess your true heart, or I will beat you with something more interesting than goose feathers."
"Is that a promise?"
"No, no, keep laughing, my dear fellow. We shall see who laughs last."
"Idle threats will avail you nothing. Christ--stop that. Stop! John, you're about to split the--"
The seams of the pillow burst open, exploding in a storm of grey and white feathers. It was the second most satisfying experience of that night. When I could see him again, glaring prettily at me, I snuggled down next to him, kissing either darkened eyelid. Then I selected a larger feather, white with a charcoal streak down the side, and tucked it fetchingly into his black hair.
"I shall call you Macaroni," I whispered lovingly.
He thought for a moment. "John, I do believe you have lit on the only given name worse than the one I already have. Thank you."
"You are welcome," I yawned, "but I cannot agree. Sherlock is quite a lordly name. Regal. Imperious."
"I see the picture you are drawing clearly, I assure you."
"I shall have to act more in character on the next occasion we engage in degenerate sex acts, then."
"See that you do."
Between fits of laughter, our breathing slowly settled as we lay together on the single pillow, our hearts shifting equally slowly to beat in concert. It was the most perfect night of my life, though I was already developing a headache of rare power. That did not matter in the least. I was home at last.
And Sherlock Holmes, as it happens, looks alarmingly beautiful with a feather in his hair. Confound the man.
"All joking aside," I whispered, "might you consider allowing me to cherish you for the remainder of my lifetime?"
"All joking aside," he murmured sleepily, "I was about to ask you the same question."
Which brings us to this morning. Not so very long ago, in fact. Sherlock Holmes leaned upon his hand, with his untasted breakfast before him, absorbed with his own thoughts. At long last, his eyes focused and he looked up at me with an impish tilt to his mouth. Then he crossed his legs, wincing at me charmingly. I felt a pleasurable stirring in response.
Confound the man.
"A lesson learned, Watson, about being truthful with one's friends," he smiled.
"And I hope you take it to heart," I agreed. "At times, a thing has to be done, Holmes. When a task has sat before you for long enough, daunting but not impossible, fearful but utterly worthwhile, and nothing stands between you and the executing of that task save to do it, then I am inclined to think--"
"I should do so," he finished.