Title: Duty, Honour, and Loyalty
Author: Sara
Series: Sherlock Holmes
Pairing: Holmes/Watson
Rating: R (mature themes, no explicit sex)
Warnings: Death of a major supporting character (not Holmes or Watson)
Summary/challenge: Where duty and honor conflict with love. Written to answer the challenge: "A well-meaning meddler decides to do something about the latent attraction between Holmes and Watson and decides to play matchmaker."
Betas: Lyra was an enormous help--from helping me kill off Mrs. Watson to making sure that motivations were clear throughout. I cannot thank her enough! xs helped with eliminating Americanisms and anachronisms. jm, as always, gave me confidence and helped with refining things. Any errors and problems that remain are probably the result of my stubbornly refusing to listen to them.
Part of the Cliche Fuh-Q-Fest at  http://www.kardasi.com/Cliched/index.htm
Feedback to: sara_merry99 @ yahoo.com
Archiving: With the Cliche Fuh-Q-Fest and, eventually, Slash Cotillion. Anywhere else please ask (especially Sacrilege!).
Disclaimer: Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, and Mary Watson were not created by me. They are in the public domain, so in that sense they belong to me, as they do to the rest of the world. But I am in no way claiming to have created them.
Note on Chronology: Assembling a Sherlockian chronology is a challenging endeavour. There are a multitude of chronologies by various researchers and there is a considerable amount of disagreement between them. For the purposes of this story, I have not followed any particular chronology exclusively, but have chosen between a few different ones as suited my needs for the story. The dating of "The Adventure of the Dying Detective",  "The Stock-Broker's Clerk" and "The Hound of the Baskervilles" (which is not mentioned in this story) I take from Mr. Frankland's "Some Chronological Crankiness" (http://members.aol.com/mfrankland/chronology.htm). The dating of "The Boscombe Valley Mystery" I take from Baring-Gould's Annotated Sherlock Holmes. "The Red-Headed League" is dated according to Brad Keefauver's Birlstone Railway Timetable (http://www.sherlockpeoria.net/Who_is_Sherlock/ChronologyCorner.html). As Watson was very clear with the dates on "The Final Problem" and "The Adventure of the Empty House", there is no substantial disagreement on those.
Additional note: Some dialogue in the last section of the story is taken from "The Adventure of the Empty House" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I am not endeavouring to pass Doyle's writing off as my own, merely to honour him by integrating my own efforts into his.


Duty, Honour and Loyalty


Excerpt from Mary Watson's Journal:

April 6, 1888

John and I will be married one week from tomorrow. I am somewhat nervous about our marriage and, most especially, about our wedding night. My unfortunate, indeed, excruciating and terrible attack at the hands of that... ruffian so many years ago has left me with a hysterical fear of the intimacies between a husband and wife. I cannot dwell on the past, however, as I have a new future as Mrs. John Watson ahead of me. I must strive to put all haunting thoughts and memories out of my head, for John's sake. I will be the best wife to him that I can possibly be and not let my childhood shame come between us. I have not told him, or any other living soul, about it. I was sent home to England to escape the man, and to escape the shame, and I see no advantage in uncovering old wounds. I will do my utmost to pretend the event never occurred, as I have been for the last 11 years. But I am frightened.

I must focus my thoughts on brighter matters.

The dinner party following the ceremony will be a small one, as neither John nor I have any close family in England. My former employer, Mrs. Cecil Forrester, will be there, as will John's friend from St. Bartholomew's, Mr. Stamford.

John's dearest friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, will not be attending either the ceremony or the small dinner. Mr. Holmes has, apparently, made it quite clear to John that he does not approve of our marriage. Not, John assures me, that Mr. Holmes finds anything wanting in me. Indeed, John says that it is quite a high complement--Mr. Holmes feels that I have the mind to make a great detective but that marriage will take me away into purely domestic pursuits. I have no doubt that John has repeated to me accurately what Mr. Holmes told him--but I am certain that Mr. Holmes regrets more losing his roommate, friend and acolyte, for John is definitely that as well. I know John is hurt by what he sees as his friend's neglect, but I feel no small degree of triumph. When I first met John, he was clearly living his life in the shadow of Mr. Holmes, content to pursue Mr. Holmes' interests and to live at his beck and call. Shadows are not a healthy place to live, however, no matter whose.

So, I have made plans. After our wedding, I shall make some modest attempts, as only a wife can, to encourage John to shine on his own, rather than merely reflecting the undeniable brilliance of Mr. Holmes. John is a highly skilled and trained doctor and I think his medical career should take precedence over Mr. Holmes and his sometimes unsavoury cases.



Excerpt from Mary Watson's Journal:

April 15, 1888

My attempt to forget my past was not a successful one. Last night was our wedding night and John escorted me to my bedroom when we retired. Once there, he made what I can only assume are normal marital advances. I tried to steel my nerve and accept his caresses, but each touch drove me deeper and deeper into a well of terror.

I tried to hide my fear under a natural maidenly reserve, with, I am afraid, indifferent success. I allowed him to proceed with his activities; indeed, I could hardly have stopped him as I was rigid with terror, just as I was when Cpl. Harmon savaged me in that dank prison cell.

It is appalling that I am likening my marriage bed with my loving and loved husband to the filthy cell where I was so horrifically used and attacked. But, though my mind can appreciate that John is not at all like that man, my body responds to intimate touches with terror and paralysis, no matter the source. I could hardly see my husband's face at all in the grotesque rictus hovering above me in his supreme moment; it was too like the hideous expression on Cpl. Harmon's face that I see in my nightmares.

I think that John came to realize that I was suffering more than maidenly nerves after his own pleasure was taken. He kissed me tenderly and pulled me close to him and held me tightly. His tight hold was too like Cpl. Harmon's restraining grasp for my fragile nerves to tolerate. My paralysis snapped and I flailed and thrashed at him. Mumbling an apology and reiterating his love for me, he left my room. I listened intently and, when I did not hear his footsteps moving away down the hall, I rushed to the door and locked it behind him.

I was restless and wakeful until early in the morning, finally falling asleep sometime after the clock in the hall chimed four.

Despite my late and restless night, I woke in time for breakfast this morning. I hesitated to descend, embarrassed to see John this morning and fearful of his reaction to my hysteria. I should not have doubted him. John is the most gracious of men, and this morning he was kindness itself, taking full responsibility for my poor reaction on himself. He never chastised me for even a second but apologised for his own insensitivity to my obvious reservations. He promised that in future he would proceed with such marital activities more slowly, so that I might learn to enjoy them and not be frightened.

I could only nod and hope that my fears can be overcome with a slow and gentle approach such as he suggests.

I know I should tell him about Cpl. Harmon. I feel I am somehow deceiving him by not doing so--but I cannot. I cannot. It is difficult enough to write about such things, impossible to speak of them.

After his gentle apology, I withdrew to my room and have remained here all day. When John returns from his afternoon rounds, I will spend the evening with him and try to make our time together as normal as possible.



Excerpt from Mary Watson's Journal:

November 2, 1888

My plan to bring John to independence of Mr. Holmes is succeeding admirably. John still occasionally assists Mr. Holmes, but rarely does it interfere with his attention to his patients or to me. It has been several months now since John took off to assist Mr. Holmes with that matter involving the stock-broker's clerk in Birmingham. I was very angry with him for doing so. At the time, he had a patient who was exceedingly ill and he could have been needed at any moment. Expecting Dr. Anstruther next door to drop everything to care for one of John's patients does not give the impression to other doctors and, most especially, to the hospitals in town that John Watson is a man they may rely on.

After that little row, John has been much more circumspect and if he does venture to assist Mr. Holmes, he at least stays near London. His patients, and the practice he purchased when we were married, are the better for it. His healing touch and personable ways are attracting new patients every day.

I anticipate that soon his love of healing and of medicine will overwhelm any desire he has for the excitement and adventure he finds in Mr. Holmes' cases.



Excerpt from Mary Watson's Journal:

May 18, 1889

I find I am being exceedingly selfish in forcing his medical practice and career on John. I spent several months enjoying the success of my plan, as John focussed his energies on his practice and on me. But the last few months have shown me that I am doing him a disservice. He is still attracting new patients and if the trend continues he may soon have to take on an assistant. We are prospering beyond my hopes. And yet, John is miserable. He is a caring doctor, concerned about his patients and their welfare, but it is clear that medicine bores him to tears. There has been an outbreak of a mild influenza this season and it has had John travelling at all hours of the day treating minor coughs and slight fevers.

The outbreak has passed, thankfully, and he has had some time to catch up and regain his strength. But his heart is clearly not in his work.

Lately, he has been closely following one of Mr. Sherlock Holmes' cases in the newspapers, hanging on every word reported of his friend. I know that John misses Mr. Holmes extremely. They have seen each other on numerous occasions since our marriage, but the easy familiarity of their bachelor days sharing lodgings is gone. I think he regains a sense of that ease when he reads about Mr. Holmes and his work. He beams with pride in his friend on every occasion when praise of his prowess is given in the press.

I have seen Mr. Holmes but a few times since John and I were married. He usually comes to see John when I am away visiting or after I have retired for the night. Once or twice, he has misjudged and called while I was still awake. If the situation were different, I could almost think that he were jealous of me. When John wishes me good night with his usual chaste kiss to the cheek, all he risks anymore after my shamefully hysterical responses to his advances at the beginning of our marriage, Mr. Holmes feigns an exaggerated interest in the fire or a picture on the wall.

Taking John away from Mr. Holmes was, perhaps, quite selfish and wrong of me. I think I have hurt the both of them by insisting on John breaking away. I must consider this and if there is anything I might do to make amends.



Excerpt from Mary Watson's Journal:

June 12, 1889

Three days ago, I encouraged John to go off on a case with Mr. Holmes. This is the first time since our marriage that I have encouraged any such activity on him. I have been reflecting on my selfishness in trying to mould my husband into a perfect City doctor for weeks now and had decided that the time was right to change my policy about his association with Mr. Holmes. So I waited for an opportune time to show him that my mind had changed.

It arrived three days ago in the form of a telegram from Mr. Holmes requesting John's assistance on a case. I have pressed John very strongly about the importance of his practice and the excessive nature of his attachment to Mr. Holmes. When he received the telegram he looked to me with a forlorn hopelessness in his eyes, clearly wanting to go and as clearly expecting that I would not permit it. It quite tugged at my heart to see the sadness in his eyes. He would have declined, saying something to me about his patients not being able to spare him for even a day or two.

Those were the very words with which I chastised him so severely after his sudden trip to Birmingham last fall and I was embarrassed to hear my own words cited back to me.

I am gratified that my opinion is so important to him, though it was not easy to see him so torn about Mr. Holmes' telegram. I feel as if I have somehow unmanned my husband by making him so dependent on my approval. I suppose that is my reward for making my praise and appreciation so conditional on his following my desires regarding his life and career.

On my encouragement, John hastened to meet Mr. Holmes and travel with him to Herefordshire. Their investigation met with great success, as I understand, and John reports that through Mr. Holmes' efforts a young man has been saved from the gallows.

It was delightful to see John on his return from their little trip. He was in a state of vigour and enthusiasm such as I have seen but rarely lately. His eyes sparkled and he greeted me with happiness and a warm kiss. I was so surprised by the kiss that I allowed it and felt little fear of it, though, when he tried to press further intimacies on me, I lapsed into a hysterical attack and locked myself in my room until the next morning.

In any case, aside from my nervous fit on his return, John's trip seems to have been quite a success. I shall have to encourage more of these excursions.



Excerpt from Mary Watson's Journal:

November 25, 1889

What a cruel, cruel trick Mr. Holmes has played on John. In order to catch a criminal, Mr. Holmes pretended to be ill, dying, and allowed John to think that he was witnessing his friend's last hours on earth. Does he not know how much John admires him, how much John values their friendship?

How could he not?

Did he think that John would be unaffected by his supposed death?

John is now bundled up in a woollen blanket by the fire, sipping a hot toddy and shivering uncontrollably. He says that he maintained his calm and professional demeanour the entire time he was with Mr. Holmes and that the reaction to feeling so close to losing his old friend only set in when he was again at home.

John has explained to me why Mr. Holmes deceived him so. It was vital to Mr. Holmes's plan that John himself be convinced of his imminent demise. He did not feel that John could adequately dissimulate and play the part required of him if he knew that Mr. Holmes were not really ill.

It appears to me that John is merely making excuses, persuading himself that Mr. Holmes had reasons enough for what he put John through, so that he might forgive his friend for his cruelty. I know that John feels very fondly for Mr. Holmes, but I cannot help but believe that he regards John as a tool, like his magnifying lens and walking stick, to be used in whatever manner is necessary and regardless of the consequences to the tool itself.



Excerpt from Mary Watson's Journal:

October 11, 1890

Ah, I think I begin to see Mr. Holmes as John sees him. I went to a concert with Mrs. Halliburton to-day at St. James Hall. Sarasate was playing a program which included the "Gipsy Airs", which I particularly wanted to hear.

I was quite surprised to see John and Mr. Holmes at the hall as well. They were seated in the front of the large hall. As Mrs. Halliburton and I were a few rows back, I do not believe either of them was aware that we were there. It is sometimes impossible to know what Mr. Holmes has noticed, however.

During the concert, John was watching as Mr. Holmes listened to the German pieces on the program. The rapt fascination with which he paid attention to Mr. Holmes spoke volumes as to the depth of his friendship and his regard.

Later in the concert, John leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes to better focus on Sarasate's lovely rendition of the "Gipsy Airs". Mr. Holmes turned slightly in his seat and watched as John listened. The sweetest smile played around the corners of his mouth as his eyes roved over John's face. As they left, I noticed that they walked out of the hall moving so closely together that their shoulders touched more than once. Out on the street, Mr. Holmes seemed to move ahead of John slightly, clearing a way for him and making his passage down the sidewalk easier.

I see that I have been underestimating the depth of Mr. Holmes' feelings for my husband and John's for him. I have seen in the Andaman Islands that men can have the same loving and tender relations with each other that a husband and wife can have and I cannot see evil in it, despite what Church and Queen tell me. Perhaps Mr. Holmes can fill the gaps in John's life left by my inability to be as loving and intimate as John deserves.



Letter from Mary Watson to Sherlock Holmes:

December 16, 1890

Dear Mr. Sherlock Holmes,

I hope you do not think me forward in writing to you, but I feel very strongly that I must communicate with you privately about matters concerning my husband.

I know from John's reports of you, and my own observations, that you are uncommonly observant. I suspect, however, that while the observation of facts and the deduction of conclusions regarding criminal activities is without a doubt an area in which you excel, the deduction of the softer feelings and passions to which men are prone is outside your area of expertise.

With that in mind, I would like to share with you my own observations and deductions on a matter that might have escaped your attention. Please bear with me if my presentation seems to ramble and digress. You must trust that I am sharing with you the information necessary to support my conclusions.

Since my marriage to John, I have encouraged him to build his medical practice, as you may know. I hoped someday to see him become a staff physician at one of the large, prestigious hospitals in the city. Only John's strong sense of duty to me as his wife, for whose maintenance he is responsible, forced him to comply with my urgings. For himself he has never had any such ambitions.

I now feel that I have been in the wrong in so encouraging him. It is apparent that he finds only occasional interest or satisfaction in his medical activities. None of his medical colleagues have attained the status of even casual friends and, aside from dinners that I press on him to develop his professional connections, he does not go out in the society of other physicians or surgeons. When he returns home from a day devoted to his patients, he is the very picture of weariness and exhaustion.

By contrast, when he returns from an afternoon, day, or week of adventuring with you on one of your cases, he is invigorated and enthusiastic. His friendship with you is as a great reservoir from which he draws strength and vigour.

There is yet more, Mr. Holmes. I should not have troubled you with this letter, merely to inform you of John's friendship for you, as I am certain you have observed this for yourself over the years of your association. He expresses his friendship for you every time he leaves patients, practice, and wife to join you in facing danger, as no doubt you are aware.

What you do not, I believe, see is the light that shines in John's eyes when he speaks of you. His eyes brighten and his whole countenance is filled with a great pride that a magnificent man such as yourself, for that is how he sees you, should choose his company and his aid in your adventures. At the same time, his face is filled with what I can only call tenderness, such as is rarely seen among gentlemen except when contemplating their brides.

Forgive me for being bold, Mr. Holmes, but on those rare occasions when I have seen you with my husband, there is a similar expression on your face when you look at him.

Please do not take this amiss. Draw from my observations such conclusions as you will. My own conclusion is that John holds you in the very highest possible regard. I am certain that his natural discretion and his sense of duty to me will keep him from pursuing that regard in any unseemly direction. However, it might be possible for a clever and determined man such as yourself to persuade him otherwise, if you so desire, as I believe you do.

It occurs to me at this point that you might be questioning my motives in sending you this letter. Allow me to reassure you, Mr. Holmes, that my motives are no more or less than a wife's natural and honourable duty and desire to see her husband as happy and prosperous as possible. You make John happy, sir, and I would like to see that continue in whatever way you and he determine is best.

Do not be deceived, I am not willing to relinquish my role and status as Mrs. John Watson. But know that should you and John come to a mutually agreeable understanding, I will be discreet and happy for the both of you.

I thank you for your consideration of this matter and am

Your friend,

Mrs. John Watson



Letter from Sherlock Holmes to Mary Watson:

December 17, 1890

My dear Mrs. Watson,

I wish to thank you for your extraordinary letter and its revelations. As much as it pains me to do so, I confess that I had not observed much of which you wrote. As for that which I had observed, I did not permit myself to reach the same conclusions as those at which you arrived. I fear my mind was clouded by strong emotion, as you may have suspected. I am gratified that you did not accept at face value Watson's rather exalted presentation of my abilities in his little novels. Of course, that is itself a telling point which I had failed to properly consider.

As I have long thought, Mrs. Watson, you are an exceptional woman with a very clear mind. The world lost a fine detective when you chose to pursue a domestic life. Very few wives would react in the manner you have chosen to the inferences you have made.

I am somewhat concerned, for both myself and Watson, that you will come to regret having sent me that letter, with its implied invitation. Not that I mistrust you or your motives, of course. But what seems to be a reasonable course of action when logic is holding sway in one's mind is often found to be unacceptable when strong emotions become engaged. Are you entirely certain that you wish me to attempt to come to an understanding with your husband?

I fear that even if you and I are in accord on the matter, Watson's natural and proper sense of duty to you will prevent him from taking any action that might dislodge you from your deserved place of primacy in his heart.

If reassured that you truly wish me to, I will, at the least, inform Watson of my own regard for him. It is to be hoped that he will be gratified to know of the esteem in which I hold him. You may rest assured, dear lady, that it is as great as or greater than the esteem in which he holds me.

It is also possible, however, that you are mistaken and he will be horrified by so unnatural a regard. If that is the case, I hope that you will provide Watson with the comfort and friendship he will be lacking in my absence. If our conversation goes badly, I will pursue activities that will keep me out of London for some time.

Let me reiterate my admiration for you, Mrs. Watson. I am

Your friend,

Sherlock Holmes



Excerpt from Dr. John Watson's Private Journal:

December 20, 1890

A most amazing and unexpected thing happened to-day. It is now several hours later and I still find my thoughts quite disarranged. My hands are shaking so that I can hardly hold my pen.

I went to visit Holmes in Baker Street this afternoon. I had been visiting a series of neurasthenic patients in that part of town and, as I was feeling a certain lack of enthusiasm for the medical field at that moment, I decided to call on him.

Holmes was just sealing a letter when I arrived and my appearance seemed to have startled him a bit. He dropped the letter onto his desk and came around it to greet me. "Hullo, Watson. It's good to see you, old chap."

His greeting was almost effusive and my heart was warmed by it. The estrangement between us that has been brought about by my marriage has pained me greatly and I was pleased to see his enthusiasm for my presence.

He looked at me so closely that I found myself almost fidgeting under his gaze. Then he glanced at my feet and said, in an inconsequential tone, "I see you have been dealing with a lot of trifling cases among your patients."

I looked down at my boots, and, seeing a few different colours of mud, nodded. "Yes, I have seen several patients to-day, but how did you know they were trifles?"

He smiled. "Ah, Watson, I see no less than eight different types of mud upon your boots and trouser legs and, yet, the day is not far advanced. You could not have spent much time with any of those patients. So, their illnesses must have been of little consequence."

I smiled. "You are, of course, right, Holmes. There appears to have been quite an outbreak of hypochondria of late. I have seen more neurasthenics in the last two weeks than I have in the previous year. It and head colds are my two most common complaints this season. It is tiresome."

He smiled, a genuine lingering smile such as I rarely see light on his face. "And yet you do not seem so weary as all that."

I considered this, for I had been quite tired when I left my patient's home. As Holmes had observed, I was feeling quite energetic again. "Well, I appear to have gotten a second wind. I should bottle the essence of Baker Street and sell it as a curative to my hypochondriacs. I should be able to afford to leave practice then."

While I was speaking, Holmes had moved toward me, with his quiet, almost feline, grace. "And your presence is a tonic for me, my friend. My thoughts are clearer and my mind sharper when you are near."

I inhaled sharply and my eyes met his in my startlement. Holmes had never before made so clear his opinion of me or our friendship. I could read in his grey eyes a wealth of warmth and tenderness that I could never have imagined were hiding behind his cold, almost stern, facade. I opened my mouth to speak, but what came out was barely a whisper, "Holmes..."

He reached out toward me and stroked my cheek, gently, with a fingertip. I felt the touch thrill through me and I wanted nothing more than to feel his fingers touching my entire body. I tried to summon up the revulsion that a man should feel about such a perverse and degenerate advance.

I could not.

I have always wanted more from Holmes, I felt, than he was capable of giving. More friendship, more consistency, more ... affection. I could tell by the trembling in his finger where it rested on my jaw that he was as emotionally and physically moved as I myself was.  I was shaken by this demonstration that his emotions for me ran as deeply as mine for him.

"Holmes...," I said again, more strongly, and moved toward him. He leaned down as I stretched up and he kissed me, a gentle, courting kiss. But that touch of our lips was as a dam breaking.

The passion between us, so long held in check by discretion and convention, rose, without any sign of stopping. Our kiss grew in depth and intensity, and I slid my hands around him under his dressing gown, feeling the strength in the lean, sinewy muscles of his back through his shirt and waistcoat. His hands similarly explored my chest, opening my frock coat and working at my waistcoat buttons. I looked down in time to see his long, graceful fingers removing the tie pin from my cravat.

The pearl tie pin given me by Mary as a wedding present.

I stilled his hands with my own and stepped back a pace. I do not know where I found the strength to do so, for it was the hardest step I have ever taken, backing away from that which I had desired so long. "I'm sorry, Holmes.... Mary...."

He nodded. "I feared you would feel this way, though I could not..." He stopped. His face was clouded with strong emotion for just a moment before his normal, passionless mask fell again, like a guillotine. "I trust we can remain friends, as before."

"Of course," I replied. He started to walk away from me but I couldn't let him go without explaining my position. "My feelings for you are as they have always been, Holmes, and as they always shall be. But my duty--"

He gave a small, half smile. "I could not have said it better myself, my dear Watson." He stepped away and sat in his chair, taking up the long pipe at his elbow. "Now, allow me to enlighten you about my latest case."

He told me a bit about an affair that he predicted would be very shortly taking him to France.

I left him after an early evening, alternately heartsick at what I had almost had, and then definitely lost, and elated that he could share...but, no, it is best that I not think about that which cannot and should not ever be. My duty, if not my happiness, lie with Mary, and I hope my friendship with Holmes can remain as strong as ever. In that I must be content.

I made an excuse for myself immediately after dinner and retired to my room, as I am still emotionally very raw and could not hide my distraction from Mary even though I know I must. It is essential that I never let Mary know what has occurred and the passions that have been unleashed in me. She will, no doubt, assume that I am susceptible to such perversions because of her fear of marital intimacy. Nothing could be further from the truth; Holmes has held my heart and my soul since young Stamford introduced us at St. Bart's almost ten years ago. I have been susceptible to him since long before I ever knew her.

Whatever the demon is that haunts Mary and keeps her out of our marriage bed, and she will not speak to me of it even when pressed, it is without a doubt a fearsome one to hold a strong woman of such character in its grip so firmly. I will not add to her burdens by making her feel that she has failed me in any way because of it.



Telegram from Sherlock Holmes to Mary Watson:

December 20, 1890

Watson could not be moved to abandon his vows to you. Take care of him. I leave tomorrow for the Continent and shall be gone for some months.

Regards, SH



Excerpt from Mary Watson's Journal:

December 21, 1890

Mr. Holmes appears to have acted on my letter in some manner. 

John spent yesterday afternoon with Mr. Holmes and came home extremely shaken. I made an excuse for him, something about a difficult patient, and gave him a glass of brandy.

Though we dined together before he retired very early, he was distracted and distrait and could barely maintain a conversation about the case he and Mr. Holmes had been discussing. He would talk for a moment, then his thoughts would drift away and he would fall silent. Twice during these abstracted moments, I caught him running his fingers over his lips with the most heartbreaking expression of longing.

Both times, after just a second, he started guiltily and looked at me with an expression on his face that almost made me regret my letters to Mr. Holmes. There was such a great pain in his eyes, as though I, our marriage, stood between him and his heart's desire.

I suppose I do, despite my best intentions.

This morning, John was cheerful and as attentive and solicitous as ever. Possibly more so. If it were not for the slightly sorrowful look in his eye, I would never suspect that anything had occurred. I see that he has chosen to focus his attentions and affections on me rather than Mr. Holmes. I am glad.

It appears that Mr. Holmes was correct in his suspicion that I was not really prepared for what I thought I wanted. What seemed proper and correct, or at least reasonable, in the cold light of logic and duty now angers me. I suggested to Mr. Holmes that he take some action and I hoped, sincerely, that he would be successful in negotiating an arrangement with John. Now that he has made the attempt, I am unhappy.

I should be pleased and honoured that John's feelings for me are stronger than those he holds for Mr. Holmes. I am. But I can see so clearly that he regrets having had to make the decision it is impossible not to feel also sadness and a wholly unjustified anger at Mr. Holmes.



Excerpt from Mary Watson's Journal:

April 5, 1891

It has been four months since last John or I heard from Mr. Sherlock Holmes, aside from such reports of his activities as have appeared in the news.

If I did not know that John's heart was elsewhere, I could be quite pleased with our current status. He spends his days busily engaged with his practice, which now employs a young man as an assistant, and his evenings in quiet harmony and gentle solicitude to me.

He seems content...or at least not discontent, though I believe that he will not allow me to see otherwise. I imagine that he feels guilty--guilty for loving me less than he loves Mr. Holmes. Here in the privacy of my diary I feel I can say the words, though delicacy would prevent me from ever saying them aloud.

I have tried a few times to tell him of my hand in the events, of my consent. Each time, as soon as I mentioned Mr. Holmes's name, John just smiled and assured me that things were a bit strained between them when Mr. Holmes left for the Continent but he was certain that all would be back to normal as soon as he returned. I must accept that.

I have been feeling unwell of late. My abdomen aches such that I have had to loosen the laces on my corset quite a bit and I have been bleeding as I do during my monthly affliction, but at odd intervals. I would hope that I am expecting, except that John has not touched me in that manner in more than two years.



Letter from Sherlock Holmes to Mycroft Holmes, hand delivered:

April 7, 1891

Mycroft,

I am currently engaged in an investigation of the most dangerous and intelligent criminal I have ever faced. I am leaving you with my final instructions and my will, in case something desperate happens to me. You will find that my instructions are very peculiar, but I insist that you follow them to the letter. My will is not to be opened or read until six months after my presumed death.

It is possible that I will feel it necessary to feign my death and disappear for a time. If I do this, I will wire to you as soon as it is safe to do so. I will be using the alias H. Sigerson, a Norwegian explorer. If you do not hear from me within six months after my reported death, you may assume that I am truly dead and proceed to execute my will.

If you receive a wire from Sigerson, do not, I pray you, inform anyone that I survive. My safety will depend on no one knowing that I live. No one.

It is to be hoped that none of these precautions will be necessary. However, as you know, it is rather better to be more prepared than necessary than to be less.

I thank you for your assistance in this and remain ever,

Your brother,

Sherlock



Article from Reuter's Dispatch in the Evening Standard:

May 7, 1891

Rosenlaui, Switzerland

Mr. Sherlock Holmes, London's renowned private consulting detective, is reported as dead. Though details are lacking, it appears that Mr. Holmes was in an altercation with an unknown person at the edge of Reichenbach Falls, near Meiringen, Switzerland. Local police believe that the two men fought and tumbled together over the cliff and into the thundering river below. It is not possible to recover the bodies from the base of the falls, though local authorities did make an attempt, so the other man involved in the tragedy may never be identified. As the two men were alone when they fought and fell, it is unlikely that full details will ever be known.



Telegram from H. Sigerson (Sherlock Holmes) to Mycroft Holmes:

Florence, Italy

May 15, 1891

Have travelled safely to Florence and am proceeding eastward. Direct any correspondence to General Delivery, Baghdad.

Please execute my instructions as previously directed.

Sigerson



Telegram from Mycroft Holmes to H. Sigerson:

London

May 20, 1891

Invited JW to Baker Street so he could collect any desired mementos, as per your instructions.

JW chose the Stradivarius and your old dressing gown.

He is very much affected by your death.

MH



Excerpt from Mary Watson's Journal:

May 28, 1891

John has suffered a great shock.

While I was on my recent visit to Bath, John and Mr. Holmes apparently went to Europe. Some time later, John returned, but Mr. Holmes did not. I understand from the newspapers that Mr. Holmes was killed, though John will not speak to me of him or of their trip abroad.

Indeed, most days he hardly speaks at all, but merely sits wrapped in an old, greyish dressing gown I do not recognize staring dully into the fire or at Mr. Holmes' violin, which he brought to our house from Baker Street. Occasionally he sighs. Other days, he manifests a forced, and patently false, good cheer. On those days, he eats a hearty breakfast with me and spends the afternoon away. I believe he is at his club. I am grateful that, though he comes home deeply melancholy again, he does not come home smelling of spirits or giving any indication that he is the worse for drink. I would suspect brain fever, except that he is completely coherent and rational at all times.

I fear that in my misguided and yet loving attempts to ensure my husband's happiness, I may have brought him a greater grief than he can easily bear and one which he needs must bear alone. He must feel that no one could comprehend or condone his love, his passion, for Mr. Holmes. He will not speak of it to me or anyone else. He must grieve without the benefit of an official mourning period because the loss he is mourning must remain hidden. It is most difficult for him.

Some would suggest that this grief, this great evil, has been visited upon John, and Mr. Holmes, as punishment for their sin of loving one another, however innocently. I find it hard to believe, though, that a benevolent God could ever punish a deep and heartfelt love like theirs. Perhaps this failure of my religious understanding has doomed, and damned, us all.

I can only hope that the passage of time will restore John to his former self. It has been but three weeks since his return from Switzerland and I feel he is still in shock from the loss of so dear a friend and the love that they were never free to share.

I am still not well. I have been in some pain and my belly is even more swollen. My trip to Bath to visit Grace Holden was at John's advice in hopes of restoring my health. I have not mentioned my continued ill health to him since his return from the Continent. He has burdens enough.



Telegram from Mycroft Holmes to H. Sigerson:

London

November 2, 1891

JW is publishing accounts of your adventures in The Strand. He is writing as though you are alive.

Should I demand that he stop? As your heir, I can threaten legal action.

JW is acting like a man in deep mourning and no longer goes out in society.

MH



Telegram from H. Sigerson to Mycroft Holmes:

Lhassa, Tibet

November 21, 1891

JW's stories doing no harm. Leave him be.

Sigerson



Excerpt from Mary Watson's Journal:

October 4, 1892

John has been forced to consult with a gynaecologic surgeon regarding my case. I am to have a hysterectomy tomorrow in order to save my life. Despite my horror of marital intimacy, I had hoped that someday, somehow John and I might be able to have a family. It appears that hope is to be no longer.

As painful as the thought of losing my ability to become a mother is, I am grateful that I am married to a prosperous doctor with access to the best medical care. If I were still a lowly governess, I should have to suffer the attentions of a midwife. John says that I should surely not survive the year in that case.



Letter from Sherlock Holmes to John Watson, unposted:

December 16, 1892

Montpelier, France

My dear, dear Watson,

It has been almost a year and a half since I last saw you at Reichenbach Falls. Your absence from my daily life has been unexpectedly difficult. If you recall, I remarked to you shortly after your marriage that I was lost without my Boswell. That is true, but I am also lost without my friend and companion.

The night we shared in the Englischer Hof in Meiringen has only made our separation more difficult. At the time, I felt that it also made it more necessary.

I hope that someday you will come to understand, either through your own native understanding and sensitivity, which you have always underestimated, my dear friend, or through receiving this letter after my true death, that I had to end our association when I did. I knew that no matter what else happened between us, you would always return to Mrs. Watson. I could not even make a case that you should not, for she is your wife and you have a duty to her that far surpasses your duty to me, your friend, as you said the morning after as we walked to Reichenbach Falls. It was better for me to choose the time and manner of our parting than to allow you to shake my hand farewell at Paddington and take a hansom home to her when we had returned to London.

I also felt a definitive parting was necessary for my own mental balance. As you observed in your little story about the Irene Adler affair, I was long convinced that strong emotions disrupt the finely tuned machinery of my mind, or any mind honed to a specific purpose. I have learned in the years following my "death" that the grief I feel at the loss of your companionship, your friendship, is as strong as any emotion we could have shared together and yet my faculties seem as sharp as ever.

I am now certain that you would have been responsive to my advances, if I had only had the courage to make my feelings known before your marriage. I know that my own frequently expressed scorn for the softer feelings would have made you reluctant to act on your own affection for me, if your sense of delicacy had not. Wisely so. I do not think I would have reacted well. If I were as wise and as clever as you have so consistently made me out to be in your recent stories, I would have known that love unexpressed is still love.

Yes, I love you, Watson. I hope you know that, even though I never had the nerve to say it directly to you. I regret my lack of courage extremely.

You will no doubt be pleased to know that I have abandoned the use of the cocaine solution. Even the cocaine could not dull the pain of your absence, so it seemed somehow without purpose. I have not needed it to stave off boredom for there has been an adequacy of stimulation in my life of late due to my pursuit by Moriarty's surviving agents. I have even found during our separation that part of the pleasure in the needle was in the care, the love, you showed with your disapproval of my self-poisoning. Most importantly, the remembered pleasure of our one night together far outweighs the pleasure in the little bottle. In rare dull moments now, I lose myself in remembering the taste of your kisses and the feel of your touch.

I know that you have suffered in my absence and from the thought that I am dead. The thought pains me greatly. I have written and re-written a dozen apologies to you in the years since Reichenbach. I regret extremely the pain I have caused you. I know there is no way I can adequately explain why I have not contacted you. It is not that I do not trust you to keep my whereabouts a secret. It is not that I do not want to contact you; on the contrary, I ache to hear your voice. But the wound caused by knowing that our feelings for each other are mutual and, yet, must remain forever unexpressed has, even after all this time, barely healed.

Only two of Moriarty's men remain alive. Once they have been defeated, the way will be clear for me to return to London someday. And I shall do so, once I am ready to resume our friendship as of old. At that time, I will let you know that I live and that I am ever,

Most sincerely yours,

Sherlock Holmes



Letter from Dr. John Watson to Dr. Joseph Waltrop, gynaecologic surgeon:

January 16, 1893

Dear Dr. Waltrop,

I wish to thank you as both a fellow professional and as a husband for the assistance you rendered with my wife's cancer of the cervix. She has recovered from the surgery, but still seems to be in considerable pain.

I would like to schedule an appointment to consult with you again regarding her case, at your convenience.

Sincerely,

John Watson, M.D.



Excerpt from John Watson's Private Journal:

September 15, 1893

I have just sent off what will be the last of my Sherlock Holmes stories to Dr. Doyle, my literary agent. I have written these stories in order to provide a memorial for my dearest friend, who has no grave or stone. For the services he has done for London, England and the world he deserves no less than a great statue.

It is, perhaps, ironic that Holmes would not appreciate the memorial I have toiled so diligently to create for him. He was vocal about his displeasure with my first two accounts of his methods. I can only hope that if his spirit is somehow watching over my writing he appreciates the attempt, however inadequate by his exacting standards. My stories have brought Dr. Doyle no little fame, as I have asked him to publish them under his own name rather than mine.

Each time I set pen to paper to write of Holmes, treating his adventures as though he were still alive and ensconced in our old rooms in Baker Street, it opens anew the wound of his death and of the loss of that great passion we shared in that little room in the Englischer Hof. There are many more cases I could write up, many more stories I could tell of our time together, but I cannot take any more of that pain. Not with Holmes lying forever at the base of that terrible cataract. Not with Mary lying at death's door in her room.

Most especially not with Moriarty's agents writing what can only be called base slanders about my friend, implying that he was the criminal and Moriarty simply misunderstood. My own pain I could possibly have continued to tolerate but these vicious attacks against Holmes' character I could not withstand in silence.

So I have written an account of his final case and his death at Reichenbach. It was possibly the most difficult thing I have ever done, finally admitting to the world and to myself that Holmes is dead. Now his memorial is as complete as I can make it.



Excerpt from Mary Watson's Journal:

November 8, 1893

I haven't much strength anymore and have been unable to write for some months. The pain from my condition is intolerable and John, in his pity for me, gives me morphine to dull it. Unfortunately, the morphine also dulls my thoughts and leaves me in a stupor most of the time. I have refused this morning's dose so that I can write my last thoughts here with a clear head, if a shaky hand.

I am going to die soon, though John tries to keep up a cheerful aspect for my sake. I think it will be for the best. I look forward to a respite from the pain and hope that John will find happiness and love with someone else after I am gone.

In my haze of pain and narcotics, it is sometimes possible for me to forget that Mr. Holmes has died. In his stories for The Strand, which he reads to me every month, John has written of him as though he is still alive. I grieve for him that, in his attempts to provide what he sees as a fitting monument for his dear friend, he must be continually faced with the pain of his absence.

I am going to request that John read these diaries after I am gone. Perhaps it will help him to understand that which I could not tell him in life.



Excerpt from Dr. John Watson's Private Journal:

December 9, 1894

Oh, God.

In her last moment of lucidity before her death a week ago, Mary called me to her bedside and said, "John, there is much about me that you do not know." I shook my head to negate her statement, because we have been close friends, if not as intimate as husband and wife might be, but she continued, "I know that I have not been all you hoped for as a wife. Read my diaries," she feebly waved a pale, thin hand toward her writing desk, "after I am gone. You will understand more then."

I held her close as she slipped back into sleep, hating myself for enjoying the fact that in her last days her illness made her less fearful of my touch. The innocent intimacy we were able to share in those horrible days was, I think, a balm to us both.

After her death, I began reading her diaries and have just now finished them. She was right, as she so very often was; there was much about her that I did not know, and I do understand more now, though the understanding isn't necessarily a pleasant thing.

She was cruelly used and savagely attacked by a corporal under her father's command at the convict prison in the Andaman Islands and as a consequence she was sent back to England. I understand now why she was so frightened of my affection, my touch. Some discreet inquiries sent to the Andaman Islands by telegraph indicate that the man was never directly punished for his abominable act, though he died there several years ago of breakbone fever. I must admit that I gain some ghoulish satisfaction from the fact that he died in pain, as she did.

My poor Mary. She must have felt such shame and so alone. If only she had talked to me, had shared with me the source of her terror, I might have helped her to see that she could be treated with love and gentleness, and so I might have taught her to enjoy the touch of a lover.

And Holmes. She saw how I felt for him and how he felt for me. She was always so very astute and intuitive. I should have known that she had given him her blessing in approaching me. He never would have attempted to change the nature of our friendship otherwise. He is far too honourable and discreet to have come between a man and his wife under any but extraordinary circumstances. Once again my deductive powers proved themselves inadequate to the task; Holmes must have been so disappointed in me.

I am weeping. I am weeping for what Holmes and I might have had if I had trusted him just a bit more. That one night in Meiringen has been haunting me for nearly 3 years as I felt that I had betrayed my wife and my honour. It haunts me now because that glorious pleasure, that love, could have been mine for months before that fateful day.

Oh, God! Perhaps, if I had not turned Holmes away, if I had not rejected him, he would have stayed in London pursuing interesting cases here instead of travelling Europe and getting involved with thwarting Moriarty's plans. Could I, in my unnecessary concern for my wife, have started the chain of events that lead Holmes to his death?

Could my rejection of him, first in London and then again after our passionate night at the Englischer Hof, have driven him to engage in a battle he knew he must lose? Or, God, so much worse, to leap into the chasm after Moriarty before I could return to him?

It is all too much for me. I have lost both Holmes and, now, Mary. If only I had allowed myself to have both for the time I might have, I would now have at least memories to keep me company during the dull days and interminable nights.

Thank God I still have a thriving practice, for it gives me some way to fill my days and keeps me too busy to think about the friend I have just lost in Mary and the love I lost years ago in Switzerland.



Telegram from H. Sigerson to Mycroft Holmes:

Alexandria, Egypt

February 4, 1894

Have heard that Mrs. JW has died. Please confirm.

How fares JW?

Reply to General Delivery, Cairo.

Sigerson



Telegram from Mycroft Holmes to H. Sigerson:

London

February 5, 1894

Mrs. JW's death on December 2 after a long illness confirmed.

JW's medical practice declined during wife's illness and has now recovered. No other news of how he fares.

MH



Telegram from H. Sigerson to Mycroft Holmes:

Luxor, Egypt

February 10, 1894

Learn what you can about JW and relay as soon as possible to Khartoum.

Sigerson



Letter from Mycroft Holmes to Sherlock Holmes, sent to the British Embassy via diplomatic bag:

February 12, 1894

Dear Sherlock,

I hope this letter finds you in Khartoum.

Professionally, Watson is well enough. His practice naturally declined when he was taken up with his wife's care. He was a model of devotion and spent much time at her bedside. He now is giving all of himself to his medical work. He wakes early and spends the entire day seeing patients, both his own and those of other doctors who request his aid, returning to his house late in the evening.

You may not have had the opportunity to notice in your travels but he ended his stories of you in The Strand with an account of your death at the Reichenbach Falls. It is most touching.

I have had a difficult time learning anything about his personal affairs and well being. He no longer goes to his club even occasionally. The porter there described him as being in a very bad way for some few months after your "death", though he attributed it to the onset of Mrs. Watson's illness. He was rarely seen while caring for his wife and has not been seen at all in the months since her passing.

I can say that he has lost considerable weight and appears frail and worn.

A conversation with his housekeeper indicates that the house felt like a house of mourning since long before Mrs. Watson took ill. She said that Dr. Watson stopped participating in society after your death, though he does go out every so often for a drive.

I must conclude that the double blow of your death and Mrs. Watson's has left the good doctor in a state of grief that he may never escape.

Your efforts in Cairo and Luxor were appreciated at the highest levels. The situation in Khartoum should prove to be even more suited to your particular skills. The consulate can provide you with all the information you require to resolve the situation, if you have not done so already.

Your brother,

Mycroft



Excerpt from Dr. John Watson's Private Journal:

April 7, 1894

I sit here writing this at my old desk in Baker Street. I feel as though the world had been turned upside down for the last three years and has now righted itself. Holmes sits in his accustomed place by the fire, and if I strain my ears listening I can hear Mrs. Hudson puttering around with the tea things.

Holmes is alive! The very idea is so amazing that I can scarcely credit it, though he sits almost close enough for me to touch, and I know that if I requested it he would move so that he was closer. He returned a few days ago, but until now I have been unwilling to allow him even as far away as the few feet that separate us.

He appeared in my study three afternoons ago in the guise of a wizened old bookseller I bumped into on the sidewalk earlier in the day. He did not reveal himself immediately, but distracted my attention away from himself for a moment. When it returned to him, there stood Holmes. For just a second I feared that years of grief and strain had finally snapped my reason and that I was imagining him there in the place of the old man. Then he smiled his unmistakable smile.

I am embarrassed to admit that I fainted. It is only because of his assistance that I collapsed onto a chair rather than the floor.

I awoke with my collar loosened and Holmes taking a flask of brandy away from my lips. As soon as my eyes fluttered open, he spoke, and that voice which is forever indelibly imprinted on my heart and soul said, "My dear Watson, I owe you a thousand apologies. I had no idea you would be so affected."

I gripped him by the arms, feeling the lean strength of his muscles beneath the sleeves of his coat. "Holmes! Holmes! Is it really you?"

I reached out and stroked his cheek and, though I had only touched him in so familiar a manner twice before, my fingertips instantly knew the smooth skin of his cheek, despite the traces of gum remaining from his disguise.

He smiled at me, stroked my lips with the tips of his fingers, and, after I nodded, leaned in and kissed me. Like our first kiss so many years ago in Baker Street this was a chaste, courting kiss, gentle and delicate. And, like that first kiss, the passion we felt quickly rose and overtook us. I opened my mouth to him and immediately felt his tongue slip inside my mouth. The sensation made me moan and I was grateful that I was sitting for I knew that my knees would not have the strength to hold me up were I standing.

Holmes pulled away, and I made a small noise of displeasure at the loss of his mouth on mine. "JohnÉ John, before we continue I must apologise."

I confess that I was surprised by this statement. He was here, in front of me, again. Kissing me again. At that moment, his apology made no sense to me at all. I'm afraid that I blinked rather stupidly at him for a moment before he continued, "I have caused you so much pain the past three years with my absence and by allowing you to believe that I was dead. It is for that I owe you a thousand apologies, my friend."

"I understand. I would not wish to live a single minute of those years again, but I do believe I understand."

He smiled at me, his grey eyes soft with emotion. "Tell me your deductions then, Watson."

I smiled, recognizing an old, familiar game. "After falling into the chasm and somehow surviving when Moriarty died, you saw yourself with an opportunity to begin a new life elsewhere. One away from London and, most importantly, away from me and my exaggerated sense of honour and duty." At that thought the smile disappeared from my face and I felt tears pooling in my eyes. "HolmesÉ Sherlock, there were times that I thought I might have driven you to suicide at that horrible place with my rejection of our..." I paused and searched his face for a moment then steeled my courage and continued, "Our love. I am more grateful than I can say that you live and that you have returned to me." A few tears broke out of my control and slid down my cheeks.

Holmes pulled me close, holding my head against his breast, and stroking my hair and neck as I brought myself back under control. "Hush, John, hush. I understood as well, my friend. Your honour and loyalty are two of the many things I love about you." The tears passed swiftly, though I continued to allow Holmes to hold me.

He pushed me ever so slightly away a few minutes later. "What do you say we forgive each other and move on?"

I nodded, and we kissed again to seal the promise. I was about to suggest that we retire to my room, so as not to scandalise the housekeeper, when he sat back on his heels and said, "I'm afraid that my troubles are not quite yet over, Watson. We have, if I may ask for your cooperation, a hard and dangerous night's work in front of us. Allow me to explain the situation to you."

I nodded and moved to the settee, so that Holmes could sit next to me. Our shoulders and knees brushed as we sat and talked, and that small contact was enough to keep my desire for him aflame. He explained that he did not have to climb out of the chasm at Reichenbach because, through some fighting techniques he learned from a Japanese sailor, he was never in it. I admit that I was listening with only half an ear to the meaning of the words he was saying, most of my attention being on appreciating the cadences of his speech, which I had long missed.

Somewhere in the middle of his long speech, I heard him say that he had several time taken up his pen to write to me. My heart was warmed to know that he had thought of me in his absence, as I had so often thought of him. A stray thought--which Holmes would no doubt dismiss as nonsensically romantic--occurred to me that, perhaps, he and I had been thinking of each other at the same moment, though separated by circumstances and miles. My heart was warmed by the notion.

He snatched me out of my reverie by taking my hand in his as he said, "So it was, my dear Watson, that at two o'clock to-day I found myself in my old arm-chair in my own old room, and only wishing that I could have seen my old friend Watson in the other chair which he has so often adorned."

He smiled at me so dazzlingly and warmly that I could have fallen in love with him all over again, and I recognized his words for what they were, an invitation to return with him to Baker Street and live there again as his friend, and his lover. I smiled at him in return and nodded my agreement.

His eyes sparkled and his smile became even broader. "You'll come with me to-night?"

"When you like and where you like."

"This is indeed like the old days.  We shall have time for a mouthful of dinner before we need go."

I looked up at him a little shyly, afraid for a second that I had read him wrong. "I hope the new days we will share will be even better than the old ones, Holmes."

He leaned down and took my head in his strong, graceful hands, taking my mouth in a passionate, desperate kiss. "They will be, John," he said, looking intently into my eyes before he pulled away from me again.

Over dinner, he told me more about his adventures in the three years we were apart. His tales of the dangers he faced would have chilled me with fear for his safety had not the man himself been sitting before me to show that he had survived all that he went through.

My case file contains my notes on our adventures of the evening: the wax dummy, waiting in the empty rooms across the street for Colonel Sebastian Moran to attempt to assassinate Holmes, Moran uncovered as the murderer of the Hon. Ronald Adair. I will not repeat all of those notes here in my personal journal.

After we had finished with Lestrade, we retired to our old rooms in Baker Street. It was strange and wonderful to share the sitting room with him, the mutilated wax bust set aside in the chemical corner. We sipped a brandy together, sending each other looks that smouldered hotter than the coals in the fireplace.

"So, Watson," he said, setting his glass down on the table at his elbow, "when can you arrange to have your things moved here?"

I stood and walked toward him, extending a hand to help him out of his chair, before I answered, "I can have my personal items sent 'round tomorrow, but I to stay  here tonight with you."

I opened his shirt a button at a time, kissing his neck and jaw as I did so. I could feel his hands working at my tie, and I was struck with the thought that we were standing in almost the exact same place we had been the first time we kissed so long ago. I was grateful for an opportunity to undo the mistake I made then. I stilled his hands and pulled away fractionally. I could see that he was remembering that afternoon as well, because his eyes showed his hurt, though his face was still and impassive until I spoke, "You are my primary duty now, Sherlock. Never again will your needs be put aside because someone else has more of a claim. I swear it."

He smiled and swooped down on me, taking my mouth with his and stripping off my shirt in a shower of buttons. Sensing my urgency, and knowing his own, Holmes led me to his room and there we made love such as I have never known it to be possible. My body thrilled to his touch and to the thrill of touching him.

It has been three days now and this is the first time either of us has allowed the other to be far enough away that we could not touch if we so desired.

I must stop writing now. I have just looked up and Holmes is smiling at me in a positively scandalous way. I believe it is time for us to retire.

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