by Katie

It has taken me years of study, but I believe I have put my finger on it.

There has always been an adjustment in my friend Sherlock Holmes' behavior when our friend Lestrade of Scotland Yard is present.  It took me all this time to pinpoint it properly, for the difference is subtle and multifaceted, but at last, that evening sitting cozily before the fire at Baker Street, I was able to determine what it was.  The shift lies in two things: first, everything about my friend is slightly heightened when Lestrade is near, as if he were a character in a stage production unconsciously playing himself, and not simply existing, as he does when the two of us are alone.  His hands as we discussed the weather and the newspapers were a bit more flourishing, his sardonic tone a little dryer, his deductions more clipped, and his laughter prolonged.  I do not think that this is because Sherlock Holmes does not like the Inspector, but rather because he likes him heartily and thus presents himself as the leading actor in a drama when Lestrade is around.  And second, he was watching me watching them.  I love to listen to the two friends, whether they are bickering or discussing evidence or merely chuckling over one of their mutual acquaintance's foibles, and it is safe to say that Holmes knows it.  Where Sherlock Holmes is concerned, I am as clearly read as a page in this very journal.

When Lestrade fell silent that evening, puffing at his cigar, my friend eyed him keenly.  The Inspector scratched at his narrow temple, patently not speaking, the picture of an urge suppressed, winding up Holmes' curiosity as easily as he would wind up a watch.  Lestrade has dark brown hair, neatly slicked back, and a slim face with a broad, honest brow and a thin-lipped mouth.  He is a short, compact, slender man--not in the lissome sense of Holmes' svelte poise, but his body is a tribute to quiet understatement and the lack of available time to eat hearty meals.  His dark eyes are brilliant and tenacious, and though he is unimaginative, he is a decided savant in the realm of practicality.  When he is smiling, one forgets entirely that he is rather plain.

"Anything remarkable on hand?" my friend asked when he could stand the suspense no longer, looking sharply at him.

Lestrade's mouth twitched pleasantly.  "Oh, no, Mr. Holmes--nothing very particular."

"Then tell me about it."

Lestrade laughed, and I laughed with him.  When he heard me, Holmes' quicksilver eyes slid in my direction and then drifted lazily away again.  He likes to make Lestrade laugh, for the Inspector is such an utterly honest individual that my friend need never wonder whether his merriment is feigned or flattery.  But when he makes me laugh in the Inspector's presence, the triumph is amplified enormously.  He loves me, after all.

"And yet it is such an absurd business, that I hesitated to bother you about it."

I smiled inwardly.  This was not Lestrade being shy, not a bit of it.  This was Lestrade being deliberately coy; he knew himself the source of some of my friend's most memorable cases, and he knew the cases fully as important to my friend as light or air or water.  And so he dragged it out, as fond of dramatics in his own humble, plainspoken way as my shimmering genius, and wove himself thoroughly into our tapestry.  A solid, dependable brown thread advancing in a perfectly straight line.

"In my opinion," he said, his prim mouth revealing that whatever he had brought us that evening was very choice indeed, "it comes more in Dr. Watson's line than ours."

"Disease?" said I, languidly.

I do not often find myself the center of any focus between the three of us, perhaps because much of Lestrade's performance is for my friend's benefit, and most of Sherlock Holmes' is for mine.  When I am cued to speak in our trio, it is as a divertissement, a departure from the main theme so that when the principle duet is returned to, it is of still greater interest.  Holmes is the virtuoso, Lestrade the programme, and I the audience.  And so I remained silent after placing my single word upon the table.

"But then, when the man commits burglary in order to break images which are not his own, that brings it away from the doctor and on to the policeman."

"Burglary!" my friend exclaimed, sitting up in his chair.  "This is more interesting.  Let me hear the details."

It is impossible to express how much I adore that look from him.  For he was no longer acting, then: he had accidentally slipped into being Sherlock Holmes the man rather than Sherlock Holmes as played by Sherlock Holmes.  The expression on his face when he knows something truly unique and puzzling is about to march dogmatically out of Lestrade's mouth is a thing of pure joy.  My lover has a high, arching brow with a beautiful sweep of black hair, a nose with a regal hook that might have belonged on a Roman potentate, and a pair of eyes that glisten like icicles in his pale countenance when a case is about to be placed at his feet.  This priceless expression--the delight of a schoolboy inside the visage of the most elegant man in London--is why Lestrade drags it out so.  When it works, the look is absolutely worth Lestrade's extra effort, and I love him for performing the additional labour.

Lestrade had earned that wonderful expression, and he knew it.  So he sat forward self-importantly and made a show of consulting his case notes even though Lestrade never needs his case notes.  All the room in Lestrade's brain left empty of imagination is packed full of simple facts.

"It had been carried out and dashed savagely against the garden wall, under which its splintered fragments were discovered," he said at the end of the tale, and I knew from his matter-of-fact tone just how much he was relishing the bizarre account of wrecked statuary.

Holmes rubbed his hands.  "This is certainly very novel," said he.  He had returned by now to playing himself for Lestrade's benefit, accentuating his long fingers the way a shapely girl would arrange for herself to be backlit, watching me watch them.  It was not always this way between them--in the early days there were testy, useless verbal sparring matches, staged half for my benefit and half because they genuinely annoyed one another.  And then suddenly one fine afternoon I think they found that the fighting had only made them value each other all the more.  Candour is a virtue Lestrade possesses in spades, and while my friend is admittedly approachable on the side of flattery, he knows when admiration is genuine and when it is not.

"I thought it would please you," Lestrade grinned.

These days, so much of what Lestrade does is to please my friend that at times I wonder whether he values Holmes' solutions or Holmes' pleasure more highly.  And then I think of the way Lestrade looked when we arrested Colonel Moran together, the line of rage which had appeared on his flat, smooth brow when he turned to the man who had nearly killed Sherlock Holmes for the second time, and I know the answer.  The Inspector, neat as a pin and at first glance dull as a field mouse, is a man who loves his work in the exact same obsessive fashion that Sherlock Holmes does.  That is the reason, I think, that he has never married--he brings charming, simply spoken young ladies to the annual Christmas ball thrown for the policemen, but they are never the same from year to year.  I know, therefore, that part of his reason for offering puzzles to my friend the way a cat offers its owners dead birds is to see them solved.  But the rest, I believe in my heart, is the delight in giving Sherlock Holmes a little pleasure.

Sherlock Holmes, I have discovered through many years of loving him, is not a happy man by default.  It takes considerable labour.  If he were less moved by the plight of strangers, less certain that justice was his sole responsibility, less terribly unbalanced in his soul, less intelligent, less apt to think of death and suffering until his only solution is of seven percent cocaine, things would be different.  Easier.  Whereas Lestrade offers him cases, I present my entire being to him as a human sacrifice: whatever he needs, whenever he needs it, that is what I will give, for I belong to him.  I will place my arms around him, lay the latest newspapers in his path, request the saddest songs on his violin, bare myself for him, take whatever he gives me no matter how painful and then ask him for more of it.  But I am not the only one who loathes to see him suffer.  Lestrade is living proof of that.  There is something so fine and noble within Sherlock Holmes' melancholy once you have seen it that it makes those few he allows in his private circle want to give to him endlessly.

It hurts us both, at times, truth be told.  Fights between Holmes and Lestrade are now merely a pleasant verbal way for them to pass the time, but the Inspector knows my friend well enough to see when he is truly in pain, and he dreads it like an echo of my own anguish.  It hurts Lestrade when Holmes solves a dark case from his armchair and then adopts an aching, wistful expression.  Lestrade's mouth sets into a tense little dash, and he holds his neatly brushed hat in both his hands as he bids me goodbye, and he sets off for the Yard no matter how many hours he has already worked that day to find something to vex Sherlock Holmes' brain, for fear he might one day leave us permanently.  It hurts him in a way I would once not have supposed possible.  And it hurts me, right to the core, when I am cradling my friend's black head on my bare shoulder, and I know he loves me for an endless fact, and yet I still sense the onset of a misery I cannot always prevent and am afraid of deep down in my bones.

But it is all worth it, every bit of it, to see him when he is genuinely happy.

"Therefore, a local fanatic would begin with them," Lestrade concluded.  "What do you think, Dr. Watson?"

After years of acquaintance, one might think that Lestrade would eventually have dropped our prefixes, but he never will.  He likes saying them.  He likes the fastidious air of courteous professionalism the titles give him, the way they sound in his mouth.  He began by calling my friend Mr. Holmes, and he always shall now.  Part of that is because they make him feel like an Inspector, a man with his own title, and part is because Lestrade knows.

Oh yes, Lestrade knows.  I can tell that he knows.  He looks away at precisely the moments when Holmes seems in imminent danger of beaming at me with glowing affection, and doubtless he grants me the same courtesy.  And apart from that, we have all seen far too much of one another to keep it a secret.  I recall a wretched case at the dockyards when Holmes for several minutes thought he had lost me to the Thames, and the hideous grief on his face would have rivaled a mother's, let alone a friend's.  Lestrade knows, and that is the other reason he calls me Doctor and Holmes Mister.  No one, in his sweetly simplistic opinion, ought to say "my dear Watson" and "my dear Holmes" apart from Holmes and Watson.

"That won't do, my dear Watson," said Holmes, shaking his head at my ridiculous little speech regarding monomania.  The "my dear Watsons" do not diminish in Lestrade's company--on the contrary.  I am like a beautiful watch or a handsome new carriage, a lovely possession to be casually shown off to guests at every possible opportunity.  I am a highly prized adornment to be placed out in the open and pointed at.  It is always my Watson, my boy, my dear fellow, my good Doctor.  I am not certain that Sherlock Holmes is aware of this, but he is so obvious in the company of Inspector Geoffrey Lestrade that we may as well both be wearing engraved wedding bands.  I would have had a stern word with him on the subject long ago, but it makes my heart glow quite absurdly.

Lestrade left us that night with the pleased expression worn by a hardworking man who has put in a good day's labour.  And the next morning, I was standing in my bedroom bare from the waist up, still dressing, when there was a tap at the door and Holmes entered, a telegram in his hand.  His sable hair was falling over one grey eye, his dressing gown was open over a clean white shirt, and he walked up behind me where I stood before the mirror.  He slid both his arms over and around my bare shoulders with the paper in his fingers and set his lips against my skin as he lifted the wire before my eyes.

"Come instantly," he read.  "131 Pitt Street, Kensington.  Lestrade."

"Good morning.  What is it, then?" I asked, ducking down to kiss his sleeved arm where it lay draped over my shoulder.

"Don't know," he muttered sleepily into my neck.  "May be anything.  But I suspect it is the sequel of the story of the statues."  He invests his words with absurdly lilting and alliterative poetry in the early mornings, stringing them into silly little rhymes or blank verses when he is just awakening, and not yet fully on his guard.  This was one of his better efforts, so I smiled at him in the mirror.  He nuzzled further into my neck in response, like a great grey and black cat.  "There's coffee on the table, darling, and I have a cab at the door."

It was a case of murder to which we had been called, as it happened.  I ought to have expected it and so should Holmes, for Lestrade rarely sounds so urgent.  Our friend was standing in the front room of the house with a very grave set to his small mouth, his shining brown eyes quite troubled.  It is one of the most significant reasons my friend likes him so much.  Holmes feels tragedies, they cut into him as if he were the murder victim although he gives away nothing on his countenance, and when Lestrade betrays that they trouble him too, it makes my friend all the stronger.  Nothing wounds Sherlock Holmes deeper than violence and evil waste, and my lover--while outwardly stoic--possesses no filter whatsoever to keep such deeds from harming his spirit.  That is the reason we worry so about him.  But Lestrade's far more visible distress gives him permission to be frigidly above it all, without which charade he would fall to pieces.  Their total fellow-feeling in the realm of seeing justice done is an almost uncanny bond at times, as strong as watching Holmes and his brother think in the same room, or viewing Holmes as he listens to Sarasate play the violin.

Once we had interviewed Mr. Horace Harker, the journalist, and studied the photograph found in the dead man's pocket, we all three of us went outside.  We were subdued, as befits a murder investigation, but the identical energy was running through all our veins.  We each knew our parts and how to play them, and it was as thrilling as the instant before an actor sets foot on the stage with every line memorized and every movement learned.

The bust of the great emperor lay scattered, in splintered shards, upon the grass.  Holmes picked up several of them and examined them carefully.  Something in his gaunt posture changed that only Lestrade or I could have noticed.  A little of his languid fluidity disappeared, as his enormous grace was channeled into purposeful examination.  It is like watching a tightrope walker whose every movement is balletic suddenly stride with piercing concentration onto the slender line high above the ground, and Lestrade and I had seen it hundreds of times before.  I was convinced that at last he was upon a clue, and so was the Inspector.

"Well?" Lestrade said, not needing to say any more.

Holmes shrugged his shoulders.  "We have a long way to go yet.  And yet--and yet--well, we have some suggestive facts to act upon.  Why did he not break this in the house, or immediately outside the house, if to break it was his sole object?"

"He was rattled and bustled by the other fellow," Lestrade said reasonably.  "He hardly knew what he was doing."

"Well, that's likely enough.  But I wish to call your attention very particularly to the position of this house."

Lestrade looked around him.  Sometimes when Holmes delivers him hints, he can guess at them, and sometimes he falls short.  For that reason, my friend peers at the considerably shorter man intently, waiting to see whether or not his seed will bear fruit.  And I watch, as I always do, and Holmes watches me watching them.

"It was an empty house," Lestrade decided, "and so he knew he would not be disturbed in the garden."

My friend pursed his shapely lips into an expression he reserves exclusively for Inspector Lestrade.  It means that Lestrade is both right and wrong at the same time, and begs him to try just a bit harder.  That set of Holmes' lips does make Lestrade try harder, but when Lestrade is trying hardest, he is inevitably least successful.

"I give it up," he said at last, as if Holmes had presented him with an impossible riddle at a dinner party.

Holmes pointed a slender finger above our heads.

Lestrade started laughing appreciatively.  "He could see what he was doing here, and he could not there.  Now that I come to think of it, Dr. Barnicot's bust was broken not far from his red lamp.  Well, Mr. Holmes, what are we to do with that fact?"

My friend smiled silkily.  "To remember it--to docket it."

They continued to discuss what were the best approaches to the case while I listened.  They have been so long working together that they are effortless in their ease of planning with one another, because they know that their planning is not truly leading where they pretend it is.  Lestrade knows that he is only really telling Holmes what he plans to do so that Holmes can warn him off if the approach is harmful to his own thread of inquiry.  And Holmes knows that he is only telling Lestrade a fraction of what he has already deduced, because Holmes is as much a magician as a detective.  But Lestrade knows he does good police work even if he may well be surprised in the end, and so does my friend.  It is a partnership based upon fair trade: Sherlock Holmes gets the brilliant surprise, and Geoffrey Lestrade gets the official credit.  And I get the satisfaction of seeing the man I love most in the world happy, even if only for a day.

My friend and I continued the investigation along his line that afternoon, for Holmes seemed bent on tracing the busts.  Our efforts quickly brought considerable results: Mr. Morse Hudson supplied us with the name of Beppo, and with his relentless energy Holmes pushed on, taking us through fashionable, theatrical, literary, and maritime London on route to Gelder & Co., of Stepney, where the tenement houses sweltered and reeked with the outcasts of Europe.  There we learned that Beppo had knifed another Italian in the street and was sentenced to a year's imprisonment just after the 20th of May.

When I was visibly beginning to flag from hunger in the late afternoon, my friend took my arm and ducked without a word into a restaurant for a hasty luncheon.  I finished a dish of curry while Holmes sat tearing a piece of bread to useless bits with his long fingers, reading the account of the murder writ up by Mr. Horace Harker in a freshly printed news-bill propped against the cruet-stand.

"Eat," I said to him, pushing his plate of grilled fish in his direction as I kicked him under the table.

He chuckled, still reading.  "This is all right, Watson.  Listen to this: 'It is satisfactory to know there can be no difference of opinion upon this case since Mr. Lestrade, one of the most experienced members of the official force, and Mr. Sherlock Holmes, the well-known consulting expert, have each come to the conclusion that the grotesque series of incidents, which have ended in so tragic a fashion, arise from lunacy rather than from deliberate crime.'"

"It generally goes in this fashion: one grips a fork, just so," I explained pleasantly, "and places a small amount of food upon it.  Then one has nothing further to do than simply lift it into the mouth."

"The Press, Watson, is a most valuable institution, if you only know how to use it."

"Some even say," I continued, "that the thrice daily practice of eating goes a long way towards sustaining one's health.  But I am a licensed physician, and thus give no credence to such wild, unfounded rumours."

"And now, if you are quite finished, dearest boy, we will hark back to Kensington and see what the manager of Harding Brothers has to say on the matter," he said cheerily, pushing to his feet.

"If you collapsed in the middle of the road, I would leave you there and watch the carriages run you over," I muttered darkly.  "You and your brain, it having grown too heavy to support any longer."

"No, you would not," he whispered against my ear as he bustled me out the door, ghosting his fingers over my arm.  "You would drag me home through the mud and invent exquisite punishments for the crime of total mental engagement mixed with a rigourous work ethic."

"I am inventing the punishments now," I sighed.

"And I look forward to suffering them.  After this matter of the busts is settled."

When we had taken detailed notes of the location of all the busts, we returned home to Baker Street to find Inspector Lestrade in a fever of excitement.  He was pacing about with quick, dapper little steps, wearing the same flushed glow of triumph my friend adopts when he has seen the light.  Apparently, he had identified the dead man as Pietro Venucci, a cutthroat with extensive Mafia connections.  Lestrade was fairly giddy with success.

"If you will come with me to Chiswick tonight, Lestrade, I'll promise to go to the Italian Quarter with you tomorrow," my friend suggested with his stunning air of breathless refinement.  "You'll dine with us, Lestrade, and then you are welcome to the sofa until it is time for us to start."

That night is the reason I wanted to set it all down.  Before I forget any of it, and how utterly perfect it was.  What happened the following day was beautiful in its way, but I still believe that it was the evening the three of us spent together that I shall recall to my mind on the next occasion my friend is in agony, staring down at the traffic below us with a freshly made hole in his sinewy forearm, and I can do nothing about it save grieve and wait for him to want me.  At first, when Holmes went up to the lumber room to rummage through his newspapers, Lestrade and I were left companionably to our own devices and we played several games of cards.  But then he came back down again, and dinner was served, and he spoke.  Holmes spoke of everything and nothing, of Medieval painting techniques and Chinese syntax and the weapons of Aboriginal tribesmen, and poured the wine, and distributed cigars, and then portioned out the sherry, and all in all gave the finest performance of Sherlock Holmes as Sherlock Holmes I had ever yet seen.

Lestrade did take the sofa.  He is often up at five, poor man, and so was weary after our supper.  But he was still fully aware and speaking with us, though he yawned occasionally, as Holmes curled up in his armchair with his cherrywood pipe and sat I in my usual place with a glass of brandy between my fingers.

"And it's a downright miracle she said yes," Lestrade finished emphatically, referring to the recent engagement of young Stanley Hopkins.  "I can tell you what constituted the main of her wooing, and it went along the lines of, 'Mr. Holmes, my dearest, seems to see something in me.  My darling, I wonder if I have ever mentioned to you that Mr. Holmes believes my rise through the ranks of the Force will be a meteoric one.  Mr. Holmes would tell you, my love, that I am a very promising individual.  If only Mr. Holmes were here, Miss Patterson, he would certainly endorse your accepting my hand in marriage, and if you like I could easily settle the matter for you by wiring him.'"

By then I was laughing so hard there were tears streaming from my eyes.  Holmes was smiling too, but the smile broadened when he looked at me, and then he returned his grey eyes to the Inspector with a soft sheen of simple gratitude.  I was not the only one, it seemed, grateful to the Inspector for cheering my partner.

"He convinced her at last by saying, 'If it would make you easier in your mind, my precious lumpkin, I shall fetch Mr. Holmes round in person, and then you would not only have the unparalleled honour of meeting him, perhaps even speaking with him over tea cakes on the subject of violent crime, but he would assure you in no uncertain terms that to wed me would be a highly logical decision for you to make.'"

I was gasping for air, but could nevertheless see out of the corner of my eye that Holmes had begun to laugh along with us in his odd silent fashion, and heartily at that.

"We'll all have to put a brave face on it at the wedding," Lestrade continued dourly.  "It will be dreadfully painful, that much I know.  Hopkins will doubtless hire an assassin for the occasion, so that he can have the privilege after exchanging vows of throwing himself bodily in the path of a bullet for Mr. Holmes in a public arena, and then dying in his arms."

Holmes snorted.  "Lestrade, that is the foulest image you have ever conjured for me.  Do please be still."

"You'll be best man, of course, my dear fellow," I grinned, "and can shoulder the task of finding him something borrowed and something blue."

"Don't be hideous, my boy," he advised me.

"And what about you, Lestrade?" I asked him, still smiling.  "How fares the lovely Miss Price?"

"I don't rightly know, Doctor," he said evenly, his eyes falling shut as he yawned.  "Pretty girl, but she took exception when affairs at the Yard dragged me off time and time again.  And the funny thing is, I can't imagine ever giving it up.  Gregson was speaking of retirement the other day, a few years from now when the century turns, and I swear to you I caught a cold chill just thinking about it."

"You are irrevocably wed to your vocation, then?" Holmes mused eloquently.

"It isn't my fault, Mr. Holmes.  If I found the one right person in all the world, that would change in a minute, I suppose, and I'd get married.  But I haven't.  That sort of thing isn't guaranteed in this life, the way I see it.  You're very lucky, you know."

Inspector Lestrade's bright eyes were closed, and his plain, honest, narrow face expressionless save for being well-fed, contented, and tired.  It ought to have been a terrible catastrophe, the sort of instant one dreads for one's entire life--the spoken revelation that a police inspector, of all people, knows that you are daily enacting a sordid and punishable crime.  I confess that a brief thrill of fear went through me, even though it made no logical sense to be frightened.  I had known that he had known, after all.  It was a visceral reaction, uncontrollable, and it cut through me and out again almost before I could register its nonsensical basis.  And then it was gone, and there was only the three of us, with the fire crackling in the grate.  Holmes contorted into a cozy ball on his armchair, I with my legs crossed, and Lestrade lying on our settee.

I looked over at my friend.  The hand still holding his pipe had frozen in place, but his eyes were calm.

"I do know," he said softly, bringing a lump to my throat.  "I know every day."

Lestrade was silent for a while, seeming quite peaceful with his slim little hands folded over his neat waistcoat.  And then, without opening his eyes, he said, "Let us all pray that Miss Patterson, when she becomes Mrs. Hopkins, will prove as perfectly matched a spouse, so that we can all get a little relief.  I swear to you, Mr. Holmes, if I hear your name out of all context on one more occasion, whether it's how you take your tea or how you solved the murder of Black Peter or what your shirt size is likely to be, I am going to put someone's head through a window.  You can deduce, I think, to whose head I refer."

The four-wheeler was at the door at eleven, and in it we drove to a spot on the other side of Hammersmith Bridge, in the friendliest silence I have ever experienced.  Our vigil crouched against the wooden fence of Laburnum Villa, which might have been a long and difficult one, lasted but half an hour.  Then the garden gate swung open, and a lithe, active, ugly figure rushed up the path.

"Let us get to the open window," Lestrade whispered, his tone vibrating with the thrill of the chase.  But our quarry was already out of the house again in another instant, looking stealthily around him, carrying something white under his arm.

Silent as jungle predators, the three of us crept across the lawn toward him.  We knew our business.  We were professionals, ones who knew each other to the core and would have fought for each other tooth and nail, the same feeling I had experienced upon the battle plains of Afghanistan as I tried my utmost to save the lives of my friends.  With the bound of an airborne tiger Holmes was on his back, and like a choreographed dance Lestrade and I had him by the arms an instant later and the handcuffs had been fastened.  It was beauty in action, poetry in crimesolving.  Holmes had directed his attention to the bust of Napoleon an instant later, but that did not diminish our glow of concerted triumph in the slightest.

Later, at the Yard, we learned that a search of our prisoner had revealed very little, but Holmes mysteriously promised Lestrade that more details would be forthcoming the following day if he would come round to see us.  Lestrade frankly confessed he did not understand how Holmes had known where to look for our prey, but he vowed to be at Baker Street at six the next evening.  Then Holmes offered me his arm.  I took it, happily wearied by the night, and we left the Yard to seek out a cab.

"How do you suppose he knew?" Holmes asked me when we were alone again--in bed, with the dawn rising and the curtains pulled shut.

I was running my fingers softly through his hair.  "To be honest, my love, it would be difficult for a man in Lestrade's position not to know.  You verbally mark me as your own private property twenty or thirty times an hour.  He would have to have been very unobservant, for a police inspector, not to have noticed."

"No, not that I love you," he drawled.  "That would be patently obvious to a blind, deaf asylum escapee.  How did he know that Hopkins used my name when he proposed to Miss Patterson?  Did Hopkins tell him about it, or was he there?  It seems a strange sort of knowledge to have, as they aren't close."

"You're utterly incorrigible," I whispered to him.  "But luckily, I love you too."

"I'm the luckiest man in the world," he murmured.  "I know it.  Not a day goes by that I don't.  When are you going to punish me for not eating, by the way?  You can't promise that sort of thing to a fellow and then fail to follow through."

"Later," I replied.  "When you've nearly forgotten about it, and it comes as a surprise, and I have had time for extensive planning."

He was cradled on my chest, so I could feel it when he started to laugh.  "This is beginning to sound a far severer mortification of the flesh than I had at first anticipated."

"Let me put it to you this way.  When once I am through with you, you will be longing for a hearty meal."

So he does think himself lucky, and I have Geoffrey Lestrade to thank for the fact that now I know it too.  There have been times in my life, times when I have found him flat on the bed with his sleeve rolled up and his arm bleeding, or silent as the grave for days on end, or simply cowed almost to tears by all the miseries than his own mind inflicts upon him, that I would have been desperately grateful to know he thought himself lucky in any way.  People who think themselves lucky need not be warned against killing themselves.  And apart from that inevitable, sickening thought, there is no torture that could possibly be worse in this world than seeing him suffer--standing there helpless, simply loving him, while he all but drowns.  But now, thanks to Lestrade, I am aware that he considers himself lucky in spite of everything.

That is a remarkably beautiful gift.

The next day, Sherlock Holmes introduced Inspector Lestrade and myself to the black pearl of the Borgias.  Sherlock Holmes was playing the starring role of Sherlock Holmes again, and we were his rapt admirers.  In an unplanned moment of heartfelt delight, we burst simultaneously into a round of applause.  A flush of colour brightened his cheeks, and then he bowed to us as if it was the well-wrought crisis of a play, because it was exactly that to him.  He was the master dramatist, being Sherlock Holmes was his life's work, and he needed Lestrade and me to make it all fit together.  Without the audience, the actor languishes and fades.

Geoffrey Lestrade when he is watching Sherlock Holmes be amazing is a sight to see.  His thin lips open in a gasp, his half-closed fist drifts knuckles-first toward his mouth, and his cheeks brighten until they are nearly as brilliant as his eyes.  Then he begins laughing a little, and clapping his petite hands in admiration.  He had never done it so well and so heartily, and I loved him for it.  Then he went up and caught my friend by the sleeve.

"We're not jealous of you at Scotland Yard," he said urgently, his brown eyes staring like arrows into my friend's grey ones.  "No, sir, we are very proud of you, and if you come down tomorrow, there's not a man, from the oldest inspector to the youngest constable, who wouldn't be glad to shake you by the hand.  But of all them, sir, young and old, I am the lucky one to have the honour of working with you.  I'm very lucky indeed to call you a friend, Mr. Holmes, and I assure you that I know it every day."

Sherlock Holmes, looking down at our friend the Inspector, stopped playing Sherlock Holmes and commenced being Sherlock Holmes.  He had little choice, after all, for he was more moved by the softer emotions in front of anyone save myself than I had ever seen him.  For a single moment he was entirely human, a man and not our idol, a member of a family and not the deity to whom Lestrade and I brought our finest offerings, a loved one and not a sad, distant god who performed tricks and bestowed fire.  He was my husband, and Lestrade's friend.

"Thank you," he said hoarsely.  And then, because it had not sounded right to his ears in the slightest to have spoken as his true self, "Thank you."