Part Five

"I am sorry," I returned, attempting to pull free of his grasp - to escape and put an end to the grief I knew I was causing him. My efforts to extract myself from Holmes proved utterly fruitless however.

"You misunderstand me," he protested, pulling me closer, his breath hot against my already heated face. "It is not you who should be apologising; it is I who should beg your forgiveness."

Holmes was right, I did not understand, nor did I possess the energy to try. Regardless of my wish to accept his verdict and continue on as we always had I found his obvious aversion to my declaration of love more than I could bear. I turned my face away.

"I knew," he said, his voice lowering slightly to accommodate my distress. "Not from the beginning, but after a time I came to realise that your acceptance and affection for me had far deeper ramifications and yet, instead of distancing myself from you as I know I should have, I chose to have you stay. I allowed your care, all the time pretending that I merely tolerated your interference. I am a fraud Watson, and a fool it seems to think I could play at this arrangement of domesticity and not find myself caught in it."

I did not know what to say, or what possible response to make under the circumstances. I was not accustomed to Holmes admitting his motives, let alone his faults to me.

"It is not what I wanted," he continued, "but I will not lose your friendship or respect over what equates to a short coming on my part."

"You won't," I assured him.

Holmes paled. "You are wrong. You may think that nothing has to change between us, that we can continue as we always have now the truth is no longer a mystery to you. But in time you would regret your decision to stay with me and come to resent the restrictions our friendship imposes upon you."

It was at this moment that Holmes saw fit to release me and while I understood this was my chance to seek the solitude of my own room if I so desired, I did not move away. Certainly it was not the cold harsh reality of his words, more the pained way in which they were delivered that left me mute and immobile.

"I have no experience dealing with what you have proposed, John, but I am willing for the sake of all things dear to me, to test my ability to learn."

----*----

With Holmes and I safely ensconced in his room and the door secured to keep us both from harm I felt much of my earlier nervousness return. Holmes had spoken briefly of inexperience, which had not surprised me at the time, but now I realised, translated to me being our less than qualified guide in this extraordinary endeavour. He stood stock still as I approached him, neither welcoming nor shunning me. His eyes holding mine with the same level of interest a student might show an admired teacher.

I wanted nothing more than to be worthy of my friends faith in me but I fear my hands trembled noticeably as I reached for him. If he was adverse to my fumbling attempts he did nothing to thwart me from drawing him close and wrapping my arms around his too thin frame. In fact I found myself delighted to note him returning my embrace, albeit somewhat awkwardly and his voice as gentle as ever I had heard it when he finally broke the silence between us.

"Is this what you had in mind, Watson?"

I could scarcely remember how to breathe let alone recall what it was I wanted from all of this. In the absence of an answer I simply nodded, happy for the moment to enjoy the warmth of his body against my own.

At length I found that merely standing breast to breast was not all I had desired and I began a slow tentative glide of hands across my dear friends back to the strong curve of his shoulders and the warm skin at his nap. It was difficult to tell standing so close, but I imagined a look of peace upon Holmes's face as I touched him. Despite the strangeness of this I felt no tensing of muscles or hesitation as I ran my fingers through the short hairs at the base of his neck and gently cupped his head.

My intention was to kiss him. Unlike Holmes I had many years of experience to call upon and with some very slight changes to my stance I pressed my lips first to his cheek to test his reaction and possible acceptance of such a gesture, then noting none to indicate my advances were unwelcome, to his mouth. Holmes sighed as I chastely explored the fine contours of his lips, his body tensing as I gently begged admittance with the tip of my tongue, and then coming alive and responding in the most agreeable manner as I was finally able to delve inside. Despite my many conquests it was not an intimacy I had enjoyed often, most women shied from such intrusive behaviour from a partner, especially if they planned to share no more than a press of lips with a fellow.

I felt as if I were in a dream and for untold moments I found myself lost and very much at the mercy of a man who claimed no previous first hand knowledge of the base needs of men but seemed to, in the space of a very short time developed an un-canning understanding of them. Insistent did not come close to describing Holmes's mouth upon my own, or his hands as they sought to touch me in places and ways I had not thought appropriate even in the most intimate settings.

Needless to say it was not long before I pulled back and was met with the sight of a very different Holmes than the one I was used to. Indeed, the man I knew was one of reason and logic whereas the one I found regarding me at arms length appeared more youth than man and as carnal a creature as I had ever seen.

"Have I done something wrong?" he exclaimed, clearly confused by my withdrawal.

Holmes's voice was breathless, his singular calm obviously shaken. It was almost as if he had uncovered something new and intoxicating and did not know how to deal with it. At any other time I would have found this a most unnerving state of affairs, as it was I felt more drawn to him than I would have ever thought possible.

"No," I assured him, pulling him forward again and allowing him to judge for himself just how mistaken he was. While not entirely unexpected, Holmes's forthright behaviour had prompted a reaction I had no intention of keeping to myself. He started some at realisation of what our actions had wrought but I was pleased to note that this was very likely due to his similar condition.

I kissed him again, reveling in the freedom to do so and the pleasure of finally being able to hold and comfort him. In truth I still had no idea what Holmes and I were doing and yet it seemed very natural as the demands of bodies grew to guide him to the narrow bed in the corner of his room and draw him down beside me. Thankfully, how we might ultimately satisfy one another was not a problem that lasted long as together we made one glorious revelation after another, only parting again when the impending dawn and the threat of discovery forced me to retire to my own room.

----*----

It was some weeks after Holmes and I finally solved the greatest mystery of our lonely lives and by way of mutual agreement concluded that we should embark upon further studies together that he invited me to attend an auction to dispose of the last of Milverton's personal belongings. While there, I observed my friend pay particular attention to a bust of Athena, the ancient goddess of wisdom, industry and war. Indeed, in the end my friend paid one hundred pounds for it, only to destroy it just as soon as we had returned home to Baker Street. He would give no explanation for why he had destroyed the bust, or what if anything he had hoped to achieve by doing so to either Mrs. Hudson or myself. In fact it was only later that night, when once again Holmes and I were left alone to enjoy the privacy of our sitting room that I was to discover the reason.

"I am not sure I understand, Holmes. Do you mean to tell me that you were willing to risk a hundred pounds on a hunch that Milverton's had hidden his most damaging information inside of that statue?"

"Yes."

"But what led you to think that it had any purpose at all?"

"It was elementary really. Milverton's home was filled with works of art. It stood to reason then that the only item that did not fit into that category would be the one that held the greatest value to its owner."

"But you were wrong."

"Well, as I am sure you have realised my dear Watson, my first impression are not always my best."

The End

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