April is a capricious month, sometimes kind, more often cruel.  In the year 1894 she saw fit to play the latter role--stubbornly withholding the graces of Persephone from Doctor Samuel Johnson's city on the Thames--instead deferring the former to her younger sister, May--or conceivably, even unto June.

The sole occupant of the sitting room of 221b had not troubled to feed the fireplace grate for many hours, and so the comforts inside fell commensurate with the steady progression of the night-time and the temperature without.  The environs concerned him little as he had of late enjoyed far meaner conditions in Tibet and in Khartoum with gratitude.  The few corporeal luxuries remaining to him as dawn loomed near were the plush of the mouse-coloured dressing-gown crushed against his skin and the hot glow of the bowl of the oily clay pipe that warmed his hand. That he took care to feed on a continual basis, at great expense to the supply of shag he had carried on his person, for that in the Persian slipper had years since deteriorated to an inutile state.  That would be the first issue he addressed when the shops opened in the morn.

In the other room, the doctor slept, sated, tranquil and--if Sherlock Holmes were even a hundredth of the judge of the emotive as he were of the objective--he must conclude "happy".    They had separated three hours ago; no, now it was nearer on four.  The tug upon his arm where, by rights, a night-shirt should have lain had taken Holmes aback as he edged from their bed, for he had lain quietly and observed in Watson the ineluctable transition from completion to sedation to the torporific somnolence so wont to overtake even the most vigorous of men who have recently so indulged.  Holmes had not stirred from their bed until he perceived Watson to be deep asleep; then he moved only with his most stealthy grace.  

Either Watson had been honing his skills of misdirection during his hiatus, or Holmes had underestimated the extent of the potential accomplishments attributable to the strength of the affections of one man for another.

 "Where are you going?" the sleep-riddled voice had asked.

"Away with my thoughts."  Holmes slid bare feet into slippers.  "They call particularly loudly to-night and need not disturb you as well as me."

A gentle chuckle rose from the sheets. "Surely, Holmes, you jest.  Over the past three years, a great many things have disturbed me intensely.  Nothing concerning your return will be counted among that number."

"Then you leave me no choice than to confess my weakness and cast myself upon the mercy of your discretion. You are an insuperable distraction to them, even if the converse does not prove an issue."

"I shan't apologise for that." Watson's voice was so very calm.  Holmes had turned back to the bed, and they had kissed with the merest echo of the kisses shared minutes before.   

"I shall look forward to testing my powers of distraction later," were the words that Watson voiced when they finally broke apart.  His eyes, however, held the selfsame thought, but posed in the form of a question he would never presume to ask: are you leaving me again? 

From the earliest days of their association, Watson had--by necessity--accommodated himself to Holmes's quirks and singularities, including this ineluctable, unwritten rule.  Holmes would tolerate questions on his actions only as a retrospective.  To receive the bounty of Holmes's companionship was to concede implicit reliance upon his judgement.  It was a relationship Watson had appraised as more than equitable for thirteen years.   Not coincidentally, so had Holmes.

Holmes had kissed him once more before pulling away.  Watson had curled their sheets more tightly about himself to resume the easy sleep of the inculpable as Holmes donned the tattered old dressing gown and shut the bedroom door behind him.    

Holmes smoked alone with his thoughts as the last of the coal died away and the clock ticked on.  Watson is a foolhardy man.  He gives his heart so freely, so utterly without reserve.  It is an engraved invitation to loss and grief; Holmes would never be so foolish as that.

And yet, he had walked away from such unbounded trust and loyalty.  Holmes's own unremitting perspicacity would not permit him to avoid the inherent irony.  Whom did that make more the more foolish?

The bedroom door opened. "A three pipe problem?"  Having no clothing aside from that which he had worn within his erstwhile lodgings, Watson had appropriated Holmes's purple dressing gown.  It was stained with assorted chemicals, long in the sleeve, long in the leg, narrow in the shoulder, and worn in the elbows, yet it seemed more suitable on him this night than any Savile row tweed might have. 

"Not a difficult one, but rife with features of interest."  Holmes laid his pipe aside.

"I am glad to hear it." The caneback chair sighed its familiar creak as Watson settled himself within it.  The folds of the purple robe fell--in a manner unlikely attributable to chance alone--into a most precarious arrangement.

"Do you foresee any chance I could interest you in returning to our bed?"  Watson gapped his knees a few inches apart, inducing the front of the dressing gown to yield still more to bare skin.

Holmes waved him off.  "Sleep is a thing of the body;  mine has had plenty on the voyage from the Continent.  London has suffered sorely for my absence and needs my brain--our brains," he cocked Watson a nod in acknowledgement, "alert and ready, are we to set things right."  While Holmes's sallow skin and jutting bones may have told tale of recent unhealthy days, his grey eyes lit with all the renowned vim as he gave the prospect voice.

Watson stood and wrapped the robe around his legs.  "Well, if this brain is to be at the ready, then this body does require sleep.  It hasn't been allowed much so far to-night; I shall see you in the morning."

"Capital idea," said Holmes. "For if I were you, I shouldn't count on much sleep this coming night either."

"Have we a case?" Watson's head started up.  He caught his eye with interest.

"Not a one."  Holmes recovered his pipe and wrapped his lips around it purposefully.  He shot a pointed look over the bowl and they laughed in unison.

Eyes still twinkling, Watson stepped toward the leather arm-chair.  "If I haven't told you this before, it is very good to have you back; I missed you very much."  The softness the caress of Watson's hand upon Holmes's cheek was lessened somewhat by a crop of stubble badly overdue for its destined meeting with soap and blade, yet the feeling behind it was unaffected, as was the tender brush of thumb across parted lips.  "I'll see you later, then."  Watson retreated back to bed.

"It is happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust."  So spake Dr. Johnson more than one hundred years ago.  It is most fortunate that Boswell saw to it that such words of wisdom shall not fade from the remembrance of the Earth.   To be unaware of a truth is no failure of mortal man, but a transient situation that all face daily on the changing journey from cradle to grave.  However, to be made aware of a great truth, yet subsequently fail to act, now that is the mark of a fool...or a coward.

Sherlock Holmes has been many things, but no one could veritably title him either of those.   Holmes abandoned his pipe and rose--for once--to follow Watson's lead.   It surprised him how easy it was to do.