I passed that night far more pleasantly than any of the preceding five. I slept surrounded by Holmes's scent and dreamed sweet dreams of him, and when in my dream one of his kisses felt more real than the rest I opened my eyes to find that it had very good reason to do so, for Holmes's lips were indeed upon mine, and his arms were around me. It was not a very elegant kiss, our mouths more open and less tightly controlled than was usual between us, but it felt unbelievably good. All the same, it was not overlong before he pulled away.
"Holmes?" I asked, a single sleep-slurred syllable.
"I surrender," he said simply. "Now kiss me again, John."
I needed no further prompting. It is almost unnecessary for me to say that this kiss was very much superior to that first. It could hardly help being so, as I was no longer half-asleep; it could hardly help being superior to the vast majority of our kisses, in fact, so sorely had we both been tried in recent days. I think I may confidently state, however, that this was a kiss that defied all expectations and exceeded all predictions. I ought to have been aware of every line of his lips, every ridge of his teeth, the tiniest taste bud on his tongue, so oversensitive was I from so much wanting him. I was not aware of all those things. I would not even say that the more general sensations--wetness and heat and the pressure of his body--came through to me very strongly. It was all overpowered and subsumed by pure desire for this man who was everything to me, and with whom it seemed an age since I had last shared a proper kiss. He responded just as wholeheartedly, our arms giving no quarter as we crushed our bodies together with unaccustomed violence, our tongues pressing against each other hard enough to bruise, our lips sealed so tightly that not a single atom might have passed between. For a moment I was above him, and then he atop me, and then I on him again, and then he--I insist that it was he, supremely graceful or no--rolled in the wrong direction and sent the both of us crashing to the floor in a confused pile which seemed to consist mostly of elbows and twisted linen.
For a moment, we could neither of us speak, for the breath had been driven from us both. He finally managed to wheeze out, "Laid low on the floorboards twice in as many days, my dear Watson. I have always maintained that arousal was bad for the mind, and I had not even considered the fact that it rattles the brain about so violently."
As he had fallen atop me, I was longer recovering my breath. Not that he needed me to speak to know what I was thinking. He looked me over and gave me a smug, "I was wondering." I could not help but grin.
He moved to lie beside me, and I finally managed to find air enough for speech. "I was wondering how it could possibly be that, after nearly six days of strenuous appeals to your every carnal instinct, I could possibly have managed to seduce you while unconscious."
He gave that dismissive flutter of his hand which, as he knows very well, does strange things to my pulse. "There is a certain something about you when you sleep."
"I believe that, in general, sleeping persons tend to appear sweetly innocent."
"And if you were one of the general, I should be well-prepared. No, John, it is your very exceptionality that makes you so irresistible, for, while you wear the aspect of an innocent during the day, in slumber your every feature screams that here is a debauched, depraved, immoral wanton. I have not the slightest idea how you manage it, but there it is."
I laughed and pulled his hand up to my mouth, planting a series of kisses, intermixed with gentle bites, along the back of his hand and down his forefinger. "And you are hoping that sleep reveals a man's true self?" I asked, pulling his fingertip between my lips and tickling it with my tongue.
"I am already well aware that, in this particular case, it does." He gave the slightest of moans from some dark corner of his throat, and wriggled his finger a bit deeper into my mouth. I smiled around the digit, looked him straight in the eye, and used my own hand to push the whole length of his finger swiftly into my mouth, all the way down to his palm. He let out a gasp and then a groan as I sucked at his finger with abandon, my tongue stroking silkily back and forth. His free hand slid over me, wreaking havoc as it went--cupping my backside, stroking my neck, pinching a nipple through the fabric of my nightshirt. After giving his finger a thorough working-over, I pulled it free of my lips.
"If I am a 'debauched, depraved, immoral wanton,' I am in good company."
The moment I had stopped speaking his lips crashed back into mine, gifting me with a kiss that left my head reeling. "I do not for a moment deny it," he slipped in between one bruising kiss and the next. "We are quite the well-matched pair of voluptuaries."
"Perfectly matched," I agreed. I grasped him about the middle, pulled him flush against me, and ground my hips against his in one emphatic circle. His breath hitched and his eyes turned wild for a moment. I ought to have taken the time to enjoy causing that look, but I could not; I was too eager to bring it to his face again, and stronger. Where lovemaking is concerned, in my not inconsiderable experience, there is no sufficiency but surfeit.
I flipped him onto his back and moved my hands down to his hem, then slid them up his thighs beneath his nightshirt. "John," he murmured, "as our bed is not three feet away, don't you think we might return to it?"
I moved my hands up to his hipbones, caressing his stomach with my thumbs, and rucking up the fabric of his nightshirt as I went so that it crowded just at the base of his ribcage. "No, I don't think so," I replied absently, far too distracted by one or two parts of his body which I had just exposed to the open air. Bending down, I pressed a kiss to the head of his prick, tonguing the slit just the tiniest bit. He gave a little cry of startlement and pleasure. I pulled back an inch or two and inhaled, drinking in the scent of him, then looked him over.
"For the love of God, John, haven't you had enough of not touching me?" he said, curling five long fingers into my hair.
I laughed against him, making sure he could feel it. "Patience, Holmes," I chided, giving in to him no further than by swirling the tip of my tongue once around his cock.
"You seem to have us confused." He urged my head downwards, directing me so that my slightly parted lips brushed against him. "I am the restless wretch who cannot wait for anything to save his soul. You are the patient one."
"You have patience enough to wait for your chemicals to distill, or for a villain to incriminate himself, or for a stakeout to come to fruition." I punctuated each observation with an open-mouthed kiss, pressing my tongue between my parted lips. "Surely you can wait a few seconds for..."
"The cases are not at all analogous, as in none of those examples is it you I am awaiting with such forbearance," he hissed from between clenched teeth. "I am afraid I must really insist that you take me into your mouth this very instant, or I may...ah!"
What it was he might have done I never learned. I suspected then, and suspect now, that it should have been something very grave, and I had no wish to be answerable for such dire consequences. Besides, as he had insisted, it would have been ungallant of me to hold back any longer.
I do not have a reputation as a braggart, so I trust I shall be understood when I say that what I did to him then, with my mouth and my hand, is something I do very well. I claim little personal credit on that front--I have had one or two exceptional teachers, Holmes himself not least among them--but the fact remains that I am quite capable, between my tongue and my lips and the insides of my cheeks and with the useful support of one of my hands, of reducing the great Sherlock Holmes to blasphemous babbling between unsteady breaths. "John, I...Christ! Watson!" was, I believe, the specific exclamation on that particular morning, but they vary on a case-by-case basis. I have some reason to suspect that his Vernet grandmother may have been a Catholic, for he calls at times on the blessed saints, or, on one memorably ironic occasion, on the Mother of God, but that, I suppose, is beside the point.
For several minutes he permitted me to keep him at that height of glorious insensibility, my mouth bobbing and twisting and dancing its way up and down his prick in time with my fist. Holmes was never still for a moment. He writhed; he twitched; he gasped; he stroked my neck; he gripped my shoulders; he ran a finger over his own lips. His hips thrust and his feet flexed and his head lolled and I relished every motion, knowing how intense was the tension that prompted them. Finally he said, "John...John. I think you ought....John, my God, John...mmmh! Watson, I think," here he paused to gasp loudly, and used the hand in my hair to pull my mouth away from him, "I think you had better stop that now."
"Whyever would I want to do that?" I asked, licking my lips deliberately.
"Because, John," he said, hauling me up his body, "I fully intend that you should sod me within the next five minutes, and I plan to be in a position to give it proper appreciation. Being buggered in an immediately post-orgasmic state is a far from unpleasant experience, but not nearly so desirable as being buggered in an immediately pre-orgasmic state. Now, I should be very much indebted to you if you would go to the bed, and kneel with your back against the headboard."
"I...what?" Holmes had, in the course of this speech, pulled my nightshirt from me, and had just cupped my scrotum in his hand. I believe that I may therefore be forgiven my inattention.
"I should like you," he said, giving a delicate but firm squeeze, "to kneel on the bed with your back to the headboard. Would you be so kind as to oblige me?"
My brain seemed to have been replaced by cotton wool, but I finally understood what he had planned, and fairly leaped to obey. As positions went, that was not one we had used frequently, but when we had the results had been positively spectacular. As amenable as I was to his selection, however, I felt that, as he had been permitted that choice, I ought to be allowed a request of my own.
"Then let me watch you spread yourself for me," I replied. His eyes leaped, and he reached for the drawer of the night-stand without a moment's hesitation. Within seconds his fingers were slick and he was half-sitting, half-lying with his back against the bedpost, facing me. He never looked away as he pulled his knees upwards and slid one finger deep inside himself, but he had to fight to keep his eyes on me as they tried to roll back into his head. The sight of that first finger sliding into his body constricted my ribcage; after the second I had to bite my lip; and by the third, I could no longer stand it, and made to throw myself upon him.
He was, as usual, too quick for me. He met me as I surged forwards, pushing me back into the pose that he had dictated, and then he was kneeling above me, his legs on either side of mine and one of his hands braced against the headboard. Before I had time to react, his other hand was wrapped around my cock, firmly enough that I nearly shouted with pleasure. When he guided me inside him and thrust downwards with his hips so that I ended up buried in him to the hilt, I did cry out, pressing my face to his chest to muffle the sound. The noise that passed Holmes's lips was softer, more strained, but that he lost control of himself so far as to give voice to any involountary utterance proved that he was just as affected as I.
Holmes's legs were pressed so tightly against mine as to render me essentially immobile below the waist and give him sole say in the matter of our pace. It was an advantage he had every intention of pressing. For long moments he stayed quite still and gave me a wicked look informing me that he planned to toy with me. On another day I might have permitted him to keep control of the situation, for as a lover Holmes most assuredly never disappoints, but today I was--understandably, I think--strongly disinclined to allow him to take his time. When he finally did begin to move, he lifted his hips with a bloody-minded slowness that confirmed my diagnosis of his intentions. It was clear that I should have to take matters into my own hands. Fortunately, those retained their full range of motion.
I moved one hand to the nape of Holmes' neck, the other just below it, and ran them down his back in one long firm caress which left him hissing, though it did not provoke him to increase the pace at which he rose and fell. I let my hands rest for a moment just above his hips. I worry a good deal about Holmes's emaciation in general, but the fact that I can very nearly span his waist with my hands provokes a quite unreasonable fervor in me. If it came down to a choice between him maintaining that slenderness or consuming a few more good meals, I should, of course, choose the latter, but until the day when I can coax, tease or browbeat him into regular eating habits--which may never come--I think I may as well enjoy that particular erotic spectacle. After lingering long enough to appreciate the sight, I slid my hands around to his backside. Gripping tightly, I pulled him downwards far more rapidly than he obviously intended and circled his hips, grinding us together in an excruciatingly pleasurable way.
Holmes's eyes flashed. He brought his own hands to mine, endeavouring to pry them from his flesh. "Kindly release me, Watson."
I laughed, a little breathlessly. "Did you really think that tone would work when I am actually inside you?"
"It did not seem very likely," he admitted, as I attempted to lift him in spite of his resistance. Meeting no success on that front, I continued to pull his hips in circles instead, which, while not nearly as satisfying as proper thrusting, certainly had its merits. "I thought it worth a try, however."
"I shall let go if you cease torturing me and move," I offered.
"If I promised that, what would be the point of you letting me go?" he replied with a grin. "Besides, Watson, it is not as though you can truly control the situation from here. All that you can manage from this position is to limit my range of motion, which runs decidedly counter to your avowed wishes."
He still had possession of far too much of his vocabulary. I was clearly not going about things as efficiently as I ought to be. "You are precisely right, Holmes. Thank you for pointing it out." Whereupon I flung myself forwards, carrying him with me. His legs wound around my waist by some unconscious carnal instinct as his back came to rest against the mattress, preventing me from pulling out of him as we moved. The look in his eye when he found himself with me above him was delectable, mingled surprise and indignation but all beneath his intense arousal. "In that position, I could not have done this..." I thrust my hips hard, burying myself completely inside him, and settled at once into that favourite rhythm of his--hard and steady, but not too fast--which seemed likeliest to keep him so lost in sensation that he should lose any interest in playing games.
I ought to know better than to ever underestimate Holmes. True, for a little time, he did allow himself to be swept up in passion; I believe I am owed some credit for that, as I had angled my hips with particular care and could tell from his face that I was hitting my mark. It is always difficult to judge time at such moments, but I do not believe it can have been more than a few minutes before the light of command was back in his eyes. I was far too lost in the magnificent sensation of his flesh surrounding me to anticipate his scheme. He moved his arms up suddenly, planting his hands so that as I moved forward on my downstroke my abdomen collided with his hands. It caught me off guard at first, startling my breath from me, and then I understood why he had done it. I could not sheathe myself in him fully while his arms were positioned in the way of my body; this was his method of once again limiting my pace.
"Holmes," I panted, "What on earth are you hoping to accomplish?"
"Tell me how it feels, John," he demanded. "Tell me what it feels like to sod me." It was not an uncommon request, but what sort of answer he wished for--high, low, or positively vulgar--varied by the day.
"Incredible," I murmured, my hips still pumping into him as far as I was able, too near my peak, I thought, for eloquence. "So very, very good."
He raised an eyebrow, though even Holmes could hardly seem scornful with lips so very red, cheeks so very pink, eyes so very dark. "Is that the best you can manage, my lust-drenched sometime poet?" he teased, though in a voice not entirely steady. He eased back his arms by half-an-inch, allowing me to take him the slightest bit more deeply.
I groaned and compelled my mind, through sheer force of will, to function. "It feels...sublime, euphoric, unearthly," I babbled, knowing that he would not allow me my release until I had given an answer that met with his approval.
"Merely the scholar's version of 'very, very good.'" He would have scoffed, I think, had my hips not been actively driving into him at the time. Once again, he teasingly pulled back his arms and allowed me just a fraction of an inch further inside him. "Give me something more, John."
"You feel like Eden," I gasped, desperate for anything that might please him. "Like Eden, but a brighter paradise."
His eyes widened to their fullest extent before rolling back in his skull, and his entire upper body seemed to lose its strength, his arms falling away from me onto the mattress, freeing my hips to plunge into him just as deeply as I wished. Instantly I fell into a pounding rhythm--the sort which I could not maintain for long, but would not need to. "Touch me, John, please touch me, touch me now..."
That is a command which I am always willing to obey, and the knowledge that it was my words as much as my body which had finally brought him to the point of pleading only increased my eagerness on this occasion. "Will you come for me, when I touch you?"
"Can you doubt it?" How either of us retained sense enough for coherence, even in such brief form, I haven't a notion, but thereupon the conversation ceased.
I slipped my hand between us to wrap it around him. He gave a frantic little cry, louder than we ought to have allowed ourselves, and then moved his hand up to his mouth and sunk his teeth into it. The first time I witnessed him indulge in that act I was puzzled and a little alarmed, until I understood that it is his way of delaying an orgasm. He was waiting for me, but I wanted the sight of his face as he spiralled into bliss to be what sent me to my own little death. As my hips continued to pound into him and my right hand to stroke him, I used my left to pull his hand away from his face. His eyes were imploring, though whether to hold him back or to let him go I could not tell. I knew which I intended, however. I bent my lips to his and kissed him hard, knowing it would be enough. It was; within seconds I felt him spasm beneath me, and caught his scream of climax in my mouth. The warm rush of his release had not ceased spilling over my hand and stomach before I was following him, the feeling of my seed spurting into him no doubt heightening his orgasm as the feeling of his on my fingers was heightening mine. I was not aware of the moment when my muscles gave out, and I collapsed onto his chest.
I do not believe that most people retain very accurate memories of the moments after such acts, the untangling of bodies and the gradual return to full awareness. I most assuredly do not. I am profoundly grateful, however, that my recovery is generally somewhat swifter than Holmes's under the same circumstances. I know the pattern of his orgasms very well; I have devoted considerable time and effort to the study. In the very best cases, his initial reaction is a sort of paralysis as the first waves of pleasure hit him. This is interrupted by a series of shudders, which culminate in one more violent than the rest (often triggered when I slide myself from his body), and which are followed by many moments of desperate struggling for breath. When, finally, he manages one long exhalation through the nose, it signals a stillness of a different kind, that of absolute calm and contentment. I always endeavour to be entirely conscious by this point in the proceedings, for it shortly precedes the opening of Holmes's eyes, and that is a sight I would not miss for anything.
His eyes, at those moments, are breathtaking. They turn the perfect grey of a restless sea in winter, and his brows raise just the slightest bit. But it is their expression that I crave, that look of pure wonderment and joy which even our lovemaking is only rarely able to produce. On this occasion I was gifted not only with that look, but with a smile as well, close-lipped and small but as genuine as any I have ever seen him wear.
I lay on my side next to him and drank in the sight of him for as long as I could, and then, feeling that I could not possibly bear to go any longer without some contact between us, leaned over to kiss him, once on the eyebrow, once on the corner of the mouth. My lips brushing against his ear, I said softly, "I..."
"I am very well aware of it." He must have considered it worth considerable effort to interrupt me, for it cannot have been easy in that languid state. Pulling back, however, I saw that his eyes were still shining. "You are an incurable romantic, John."
I felt no annoyance at his manner. How could I wish him to be anything less than himself? "And yet you manage to tolerate me."
"I cannot fathom why," he said, in a voice which left made it clear that he did nothing of the kind. Then he cleared his throat, and something subtle changed in his posture. I would not quite say that he returned to his usual self, so much as he decided that this had all gone on long enough. While that magnificent unguardedness was gone, however, his tone was not lacking in affection as he said, "By the by, my dear Watson, there is something in the drawer of the nightstand which you might care to see."
While the nightstand could not possibly have held anything more appealing to my eyes than the sight which was already before them, obeying Holmes is a habit of mine, and I did as I was bidden. I knew at once what he was speaking of, for it was the only object in the drawer which I did not recognize--a slim volume, bound in red cloth, with gold gilt lettering on the cover. My French, though competent, is not particularly extensive, but even if I had not understood the meaning of La Marque des Quatre, I should have known what it was from the par Arthur Conan Doyle which followed. What did mystify me, however, though not for reasons of linguistics, was the line of smaller type below that: traduit par P.O.
"P.O.?" I asked, as I lifted the little book from the drawer. "I thought that the point was for you to do the translating."
Holmes grinned, and stretched in a way which, while not particularly sensual, made his utter nudity suddenly much more apparent. "That is your choice of question, Watson? Not 'My goodness, Holmes, how could you possibly have managed to translate my novel, locate a publisher, have the thing printed and acquire a bound copy all in the few minutes since you lost the bet, and still had time to bring me to the most devastating state of ecstasy in the meanwhile?' You might even have added a 'You are truly a marvel, oh exemplar among lovers and men,' but I shouldn't have insisted upon that."
"How very generous of you, oh first and foremost of the narcissists of Britain," I replied.
"And how, precisely, do you expect me to avoid gasconade while such an ideal specimen of the male of the species lounges naked before me in my bed? Really, Watson, you ought by now to have learned to expect egotism in any lover of yours, if only because the very fact of enjoying your favours is enough to provoke that trait."
I could not help blushing, but replied with a flippant, "You only resort to such extravagant flattery when you want something from me. What is it now, Holmes? Wasn't that last enough to satisfy you for an hour or so, at least?"
He gave me the most wicked look imaginable, his mouth tugging so dramatically to the left that it pulled the tip of his nose in the same direction. "I hadn't planned on anything of the kind just yet, but if you are ready for another round, my dear Watson..."
"What did you want, then?" I interrupted, suspecting that if he were allowed to elaborate, I should find, in spite of myself, that I was indeed ready and more.
"Simply for you to pass me that little volume which you have sacrificed and laboured so assiduously this past week to acquire, before declaring yourself to have been cheated of the prize that is your due. Is that a boon which you might be persuaded to grant?"
I scoffed at his flowery choice of terminology, but I saw no reason not to do as he asked. "And my pen, Watson, if you would be so good."
"Your pen is on your desk in the sitting room."
"A scrupulously exact assessment of the situation, Doctor."
"Might you not get it yourself?"
Holmes gave me a look which expressed more eloquently than any words could have done the sheer absurdity of that proposition.
"Insufferable man," I grumbled, clambering over him on my way to the door as a petty revenge for his sloth. It backfired as a punishment, however, as, while I was above him, he took the opportunity of giving a certain portion of my body a decided squeeze.
"Blame it on your own enthusiasm, Watson. Let us suppose that I am rather too sore to be moving just yet."
"You're nothing of the kind," I replied as I pulled on my discarded nightshirt and my dressing gown. "I have seen you leap from your bed like a jack-in-the-box after far more vigorous buggerings than that."
"Then declare me prostrate with grief that you did not bugger me so over-enthusiastically as to render me immobile."
"I would have done, had you not insisted on slowing me!" I called through the open door.
"Why, Watson, I am surprised at you! You could wish to have caused me discomfort? I had always thought you a more considerate gentleman than to so ill-use your bedfellows."
"Bedfellow. Only the one. And none, soon enough, if this one continues to drive me to distraction and beyond. Fortunately for us both," I was back in the bedroom, pen in hand, and knelt beside him on the floor next to the bed, too eager to reach him to trek around to my own side, "I may now employ the only method I know of quieting you when you are in this mood." After so many days of being denied the pleasure--and such trying days at that--I am not ashamed to admit that we spent some minutes necking as enthusiastically as any pair of youths. Eventually, however, I stood and made as though to rejoin him on the bed.
"My dear Watson, wherever are you going?"
I stopped. "To precisely where I was before I was sent off as your errand boy."
He shook his head. "Quite out of the question. I have a rather tricky bit of composition to be attending to, and I am afraid that your company would prove most distracting."
The average person, when trapped in a room with Sherlock Holmes for more than five minutes, finds himself possessed of a powerful desire to do violence to the man. I am not the average person, in that sense at any rate, but even I have my limits. Holmes, of course, knows me so well that, unless he is deep in one of his dark moods, he is able to push me precisely to those limits and not beyond. As my lips pursed with irritation, he caught my hand and pulled me back towards him.
"My dear Watson." He pulled my hand to his mouth and kissed the backs of my fingers, between the third and second knuckles. "My very dear Watson," he cajoled, noting my unimpressed expression, and planted another kiss half-an-inch down my fingers. "I promise you most sincerely," another kiss, "that if you will only give me an hour," and another, "I shall join you in the sitting room," he had reached my fingertips now, "with your prize in hand. It is a good deal to ask of you, I know," here he flipped my hand and kissed my palm, "but I trust your generosity of spirit."
I waggled my head. "Insufferable man," I repeated, but with a smile, and left him--after one last kiss--to his work.
He was as good as his word. Fifty-five minutes later found me on the settee, crunching away contentedly at my last piece of toast over the morning Times. I had just popped the final bite into my mouth when Holmes's face buried itself in my neck.
"Did you have a pleasant breakfast, Watson?" he asked, kissing the edge of my jawbone, just beneath my ear.
"Mmmm," I agreed--partly because my mouth was full of toast, and partly because it was a very sensible response.
He kissed me once more on the cheek, plucked the paper from my hand, and substituted La Marque des Quatre in its place, then tossed the Times aside and sat down beside me on the settee. His arm linked through mine, and he gave me an expectant glance.
I knew very well what was wanted of me, and I was as eager to read his dedication as he was to see me do so. I flipped open the cover to find the front endpapers covered over in Holmes's hand, more tightly packed than was his habit, all in that familiar cipher.
My dear Watson, the inscription read,
I do not consider myself to be shirking my duty to you in failing to append my name to this little work, seeing that you have not seen fit to attach yours to it either. Rest assured, however, that Madame de Polignac, the real P.O. and an old family friend, stands in precisely the same relation to me as your Conan Doyle to you: we do all the work, and they take all the credit. The translation itself is, I assure you, entirely my own. I had intended it for a birthday present, but you seem to have earned it of me sooner, and I shall thus have to come up with some other gift for your natal day. You may have to content yourself with chocolates or a new pipe on that occasion, my dear fellow. I do not think myself up to tackling A Study in Scarlet for you; I should fall asleep twice hourly attempting to slog my way through that tedious American section which you so unwisely permitted your publisher to insert.
"Most people would not consider it entirely generous to berate a man for his shortcomings while inscribing a book for him, you know."
"Fortunately for me, Watson, you are not most people," Holmes replied. He slid us sideways on the settee, slipped his arms around me, and rested his chin upon the crown of my head. "Do go on, old fellow. I...I hope that the rest of it will please you better."
His hesitation was so uncharacteristic that I looked up at him, but his face was deliberately inscrutable. He gestured me back to the page with his eyes, and I turned back to my reading.
My lack of affection for its predecessor is, I confess, John, not the only reason I chose this particular work to translate for you. You are always the hero of your own tales, you know, and The Sign of Four is the story of our brave doctor fighting selflessly to protect a man and a woman who, in despite of his gallant efforts, both forfeit their treasures in the end. There were years when the sight of that spine on my bookcase was hateful, a bitter reminder of that which was gone from me--much the same reaction, I suspect, which the most recent of your tales once provoked in you. Of late, however, only one other sight on this earth has pleased me better than that little book, for now it reminds me of how very kind fate can occasionally be. To regain that which is loved and lost is a privilege for which no man ought even to dare to hope, but I, however unworthy I may be, have lived to see my treasure return to me. And for that, my dearest Watson, I say, 'Thank God,' too.
Before all else, I remain yours--
It was a strange world, I thought, in that small part of me which could be spared at that moment from the active practice of loving Sherlock Holmes, in which the wrongs we had done each other could become a symbol of our communion, and this frivolous week of mutual teasing make it as clear as it had ever been just how deep and how real our feelings ran. Life had been a curious thing long before Holmes or I passed into it, and would remain so long after we left. But in that little volume in my hand, we would remain, in all our mutual oddity, the quirks and strangenesses of our partnership set down where even Death and Time could not erase them. And for that one moment, just the one, wrapped in Holmes's embrace and with his heart on the pages in my hand, I felt that we ourselves had become immortal, for that which is made perfect cannot change.