Reflection.

By Alia 2013

Disclaimer: The characters of Sherlock Holmes & Doctor John Watson were created by the late and great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. They are not mine. No harm or disrespect intended.

Summary: Watson reflects on the changes to his relationship with Holmes.

Rating: PG

Author's Notes: This is story two in my ‘Baker Street after Dark’ series. This story is unbetaed and contains Australia spelling. If you find a mistake please feel free to point it out to me.. This story is also unbetaed and contains Australian spelling.

Comments: Are always welcome and can be sent to aliajones1999@yahoo.com

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Extracts from the private journal of Doctor John H Watson MD

I recall many things about the years I resided at 221b Baker Street. Of all I remember, one night in particular burns clearer in my memory than any other. It was not the beginning of some new adventure with Sherlock Holmes, or even the conclusion of one. Indeed the night in question stands as the onset of a period in our lives that will no doubt haunt us both for all the days ahead.

The other thoroughfares that ran adjacent and parallel to the residence I shared with the worlds only consulting detective had barely ceased their flow of human traffic for the day when the first challenge of the evening presented itself.

After a day spent treating patients for the various ailments that afflict the very young and very frail during the winter months I returned home to discover a cold supper set out with care and no small amount of affection, accompanied by a short note. The familiar hand of our landlady announced that she would be gone until the following morning and heralded an evening of less than congenial company for myself and the only other member of our small household.

I did not relish the thought of spending a night alone with Holmes. We had not been on the best of terms lately. His incessant cocaine use making him more antagonistic than usual. I took full responsibility for our current discord and although many weeks had passed since it had been agreed I should stay as his fellow lodger, and sometimes colleague, I still found myself wondering why I did not simply find an alternative address.

Barely had I time to adjust to the idea of being alone with him or decided if in fact I might adjourn to my club for a few hours than the man appeared.

It had been some time since Holmes had taken on a new client. In truth London had fallen into somewhat of a criminal slump. The residual effect meant that Holmes's mind and body had been dormant for too long and his mood and personal habits had declined markedly with each passing day because of it.

As was his custom, Holmes was dressed in his old grey dressing gown; a collarless shirt beneath the frayed lapel exposed his long thin neck and the hint of a hairless chest. He had obviously bathed recently for his hair lay flat against his head and the faint scent of soap invaded my senses as he stepped closer. It was clear though, that he had not ventured out for some time, if at all today. I spared a fleeting glance toward the Morocco case positioned atop the mantle, but dared not move to investigate its contents or lack thereof.

Holmes offered no greeting as he approached, yet I felt the familiar pounding of my heart and the flushing of my skin as he reached past me to snatch up the brief missive left by Mrs Hudson.

"Aha, I see we have been abandoned," he exclaimed no less than a moment later, flinging the note back in the direction of the table. The small piece of paper missed its mark by a considerable distance and floated to the floor.

I sighed. It was clearly going to be a long night, still I had decided some time ago to make the best of things as they stood between us, and there was no turning back now. A part of me still wished for the days when Holmes allowed me glimpses of himself as a man and not the just the walking brain he portrayed to the rest of the world. He had told me once that he needed me, and although I was now very aware that need for Holmes extended no further than the recording of evidence acquired during a case, I was not willing to simply discard our friendship.

Steeling myself I bent to retrieve the note left by our landlady.

"Hardly abandoned Holmes," said I, returning the note to the table.

"Mrs Hudson has gone to tend a sick neighbour. She has left food for us and will return in the morning."

Holmes sneered, whether at me or our supper I could not tell. It mattered not however. I had chosen my path and now all that remained was to travel it. I seated myself at the table and began removing the covers placed over each dish.

"Will you eat?" I invited.

Holmes looked aghast, as if I were offering him poison and not one of Mrs Hudson's fine meals.

"I have no appetite for food Watson. I hunger for more than that."

More of what Holmes did not say, and I, not wishing to exacerbate the strained relations between us, did not ask.

For sometime I ate while my companion wandered the room, in search it seemed of anything that might hold his interest for more than a minute or two. It was not to last of course. Eventually Holmes tired of his surroundings and folded his tall frame into the chair opposite me, smoking incessantly as I became his focus.

"You have foregone your luncheon." He remarked as I refilled my plate for a second helping and he lit a fresh cigarette from the dying remains of his current one. I choked some on Holmes observation, certainly it did not take a consulting detective to realise that the current season and influenza epidemic meant that many, if not all in general practice were forced to put their patient's needs ahead of their own.

"You are correct," I returned. "I have not eaten since this morning."

Holmes flashed me one of his quick-silver smiles.

I returned to my meal, his gaze still upon me as I ate my fill and then pushed away from the table.

I considered calling it a night then and there, making my excuses and going to my room to read, but something about the way Holmes continued to observe my every move stopped me.

Taking up my seat in front of the fire I retrieved a discarded copy of the Times from the floor at my feet. For some time I read in comfortable silence save for the crackle of the fire and the sound of rain that tapped against the window panes.

To his credit Holmes seemed to sense my need for quiet and left me in peace.

Having worked my way from the front page to the personal columns my eyes fell upon a small entry that announced the broken engagement of one Miss Alice Miller second daughter of Sir Arthur and Mrs Miller QC to Mister Thomas Oakridge, youngest son of Lord Steven and Lady Oakridge. I was sure I had heard the young man's name somewhere recently but could not bring to mind where and when, or for that matter, what significance it held.

Using the methods I had witnessed numerous times whilst working with Holmes I tried to deduce as much as I could about the announcement in hope that it would prompt my memory. The entry itself was not large in size, suggesting that it was included to provide only the most basic information. It was not a happy occasion, I surmised, placed by the young man's parents after the bride-to-be's family have called off the engagement, no doubt. There was any number of reasons why a wedding might be called off, but nothing I could think of stirred my memory.

"Something troubles you, Watson?"

Looking up from my paper I was met with the sight of Holmes staring quizzically at me from the position he had taken up in front of the mantle.

"Thomas Oakridge?" I said. "The name is familiar but I cannot for the life of me recall why."

Immediately Holmes's gaze narrowed, and his lips twisted into something akin to distaste.

"Tommy," he replied simply.

Enlightenment dawned slowly as the childish name gave way to the recalling of a handsome face, distorted with carnal delight at our first encounter, and with it the details of the whole sordid case.

Some months prior Holmes and I had been engaged to discover the whereabouts of an absent husband. A banker by profession, who according to his good wife had until quite recently been an avid church goer, this she also informed us, was before he had taken up spending each weekend at his new club. The name or whereabouts she did not know. While initially understanding of his need for male companionship, his now regular absence was the talk of the couple’s social circle and could no longer be tolerated.

Holmes had been suspicious from the beginning. A once dedicated husband did not simply abandon habits born over decades without explanation. A woman was suspected, but as it turned out the truth was far more compelling than simply an affair of the heart.

In our efforts to fulfil our clients request we infiltrated several clubs. For almost a week we discovered nothing of use until late one afternoon Holmes instructed me to meet him at Victoria station for the five-fifty train to the country."

The Orchard, so named because the property on which the establishment stood was once filled with row upon row of apple trees. During the course of our investigation we learned that in its day the produce from the trees provided a tidy income to the land owner and served the entire parish over several decades. Many years had passed since then. Now the original house had been converted into an elaborately furnished gentlemen's club, and the surrounding grounds opened up to accommodate its many visitors. As expected the lower levels held rooms for cards and other games of chance, but it was in one of the rooms on the upper level that we found our clients husband -- sans his clothing and in the arms of a young man half his age. A young man who was later introduced to us as Tommy.

I coloured some at the memory, lowering the paper to my knees. "Of course, how could I forget?"

"How indeed," Holmes returned with a smirk. "Truly it boggles the mind, Watson."

Despite his teasing and the slight awkwardness that accompanied my sudden recollection I did not take it as unkindness, more an echo of better times together and I found myself smiling back at him.

Sadly the feeling did not last long.

"Why do you ask?" he enquired stepping away from the mantle.

"It appears that he was engaged to be married and now it's been called off."

Folding the paper in half I passed it to Holmes. "Second column, third entry from the bottom," I informed him whilst he scanned the page I had given him.

"Well," he exclaimed after a moment or two, "there are very few women who will accept a marriage of convenience, especially a young woman who would expect certain proprieties be maintained."

I shook head. "I suppose not."

Holmes attempted to hand the paper back to me then but I waved it away. I was tired certainly, but I also felt a wave of despondency fall over me as he stood above me and I once again became the centre of his attention. The last few weeks had been beyond trying, what with the practice so busy and the tension between us since I had kissed him. Our conversation about young Mister Oakridge and our visit to the Orchard however, had reminded me of the things I had seen there. Things I knew I would never have with Holmes. I would never hear him call out my name during the throes of passion or see his lean frame bared and spread out beneath me while I loved him and I ached with the knowledge of it as if it was brand new and not weeks old.

My mind also filled with the images I had unwittingly conceived and my heart pounded against the confines of my chest, the force of which all but rendered me incapable of ordering my thoughts or controlling the trembling that wrecked my body. It was all too much and I knew that I could not remain a moment longer in his company, not if I wished to maintain even the smallest amount of my self-respect. I needed my own counsel, and the privacy of my room.

I drew a steadying breath. Using the armrests of my chair to assist me I leaned forward as I attempted to stand up, only to find my path blocked when Holmes did not automatically step aside. From my position I could make out the soft folds of his dressing gown and the copy of the Times held at his side, but little else.

"Holmes." Slowly I let my eyes travel upward to the opening his shirt and the pale skin beneath it.

"I feel it too, this strain between us," he said.

I shook my head again, my eyes seeking his with an accord of their own as I forced myself to meet his gaze. For a moment or two we regarded each other. He standing over me, his gaze intent, un-waving and I leaning forward as if I were balanced upon a precipice of sorts and if I was to move even an inch I would surely fall. Discretion being the better part of valour I sat back instead, resting against the familiar construct of my chair as I tried to settle myself.

I did not know why after weeks of silence he had chosen then to discuss what had occurred between us. For untold moments I considered telling Holmes I did not know what he was talking about, but something about the way was regarding me, had been regarding me all evening told me it was pointless. Somehow I knew that we were of one mind, perhaps more so than at any other time is the past and feigning ignorance would change nothing.

"I have found the last several weeks intolerable," he informed me. "And I imagine," he went on to say, "given your growing fondness for spending extended periods of time at either your club or in your room, you have also?"

I opened my mouth to something, I know not what, but ended up simply stating the truth. "It is easier I have found to have some distance, but I agree, it has become tiresome."

Consensus and no small amount of satisfaction flashed across his face as I spoke. "Just as I thought," he replied, stepping back. "Now, if you would be so good as to lock the sitting room door, Watson I would be most thankful."

Turning on his heels I watched as Holmes then crossed the room to the window and closed the drapes against the rain outside.

"We are quite alone." I returned.

"Still, I think it best."

This added as he moved from the window to the settee.

Over the course of our short exchange I had managed to settle the pounding of my heart and regained some of my composure. My head throbbed however and I imagine that was the reason why I did not grasp the magnitude of what was unfolding in front of my very eyes until it was almost too late.

Without another word Holmes released the tie on his dressing gown and let the folds part. As I have already said, he wore a collarless shirt which he had neglected to completely button. Watching him in something akin to a dream he then proceeded to unfasten the ones be had buttoned. A look unlike anything I had ever seen before upon his face as my mind finally made sense of what I was seeing.

"What are you doing?" I cried, at last abandoning my chair.

"I propose a compromise," he replied.

"No."

Holmes faltered as I closed the distance between us. I reached out to still his hands but could not complete the gesture, my own falling uselessly to my side. It made no difference though. It was clear that my reaction was not the one he expected.

I endeavoured to explain. "You have made it quite clear you have no interest in altering the bounds of our relationship."

Holmes offered me one of his shy smiles, nodding his understanding. "I have an interest in you dear boy, I would think that was sufficient reason to take whatever steps necessary to ensure our ongoing partnership."

"It is not enough." I told him, horrified that I would even consider such a thing. "I would no sooner force myself upon you than I would abandon my oath."

I noted a slight twitching at the corner of his mouth, as if he too found the idea repulsive. I was relieved if no less confused. "Of course not, and you would not find it necessary to do so. I would allow whatever you wished. You have my word on it."

I would like to say that it was exhaustion, or that I surrendered to a force that I could no longer fight that eventually enabled to me to accept his terms -- to finally do as he had asked and lock the sitting room door and take my place beside him on the settee.

It was neither of course.

It was love and my deep desire to know him as only one man can truly know another that prompted my behaviour that night. That allowed me over the span of unmeasurable minutes to raise my hand, to cup and caress his sharp features, to kiss him deeply and to divest us both of enough clothing to achieve my goal.

Holmes would say that I had allowed sentiment and the demands of my body to dominate good sense, but as I reflect upon our many years together I know I was not alone that night or any that followed when I sought him out and found my release.

 

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