“Holmes, where are we going? We’ve been driving for a great while. If it’s a restaurant then it must be out in the middle of nowhere.”
“My dear Watson,” his words held more affection that was standard. Particularly since they were in public and the cabbie was just in front of them. “We are going someplace that I believe you are going to enjoy a lot. I know that you are uncertain about going to new restaurants ever since that place in Scotland, however, I can assure that it will be wonderful. You just need to trust me a little.”
Watson huffed softly. “I do trust you, Holmes. Of course, I do. I’m just not the sort of man that likes surprises.”
Holmes lowered his voice so that he could hardly be heard over the sound of the wheels. “I am well aware of that. I think that you’re going to enjoy this one though. Just a few more minutes my love, and you shall see why.”
Holmes very gently set his hand upon Watson’s knee and Watson flushed a deep red, nearly to the tips of his ears. Watson cleared his throat gently and set his hand on top of Holmes’. The two of them gazed at each other for a single moment. It was broken when the cab came to a jostling stop. The two of them pulled back and composed themselves. Holmes was the first to step out, offering a steadying hand to Watson. He handed a few notes to the cabbie and nodded him off.
Watson watched as it drove away for a moment but then was pulled towards the small building. It was a tiny pub, on the very edge of London and very rundown. Watson gave Holmes a skeptical look. Holmes gave him an inquiring one in return. As if to say, ‘didn’t you just say you trusted me?’. Watson allowed himself to be guided into the building.
A look of relief crossed his features as he saw the interior, which was a lot less rundown than the outside would’ve suggested. A jovial man appeared and gestured with enthusiasm to a table near the back. It was set with a perfect white tablecloth, a set of new beeswax candles and it already held a bottle of wine.
“Welcome, Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson! I have your table right here. Just come this way and have a seat. I am nearly done preparing your meals. Such a romantic idea.” He clapped his hands together and Watson looked alarmed. Holmes placed a soothing hand on his shoulder.
“Mr. Markson is one of us. I met him at a club a few years ago with his partner. Here, we can be wholly ourselves without worrying about the outside world. There is nothing that should trouble your mind this evening.”
Watson gazed at him. “Oh Holmes, Sherlock, this is beyond any gift I could ever receive. To sit with you, as we truly are, even for an evening. Oh, this is too much.” He averted his eyes.
Holmes caught his face gently and nudged it until he was holding eye contact again. “You are the light of my life. The guiding force that keeps me even-keeled even when I think the world is coming to an end. There is nothing in this world that could compare to what you give me every day. Nothing that will ever be enough to thank you for simply existing in my life the way that you do.”
Watson turned bright red again. “Oh, my love. The things that you say.”
“And why shouldn’t I? Hmm?”
“You know what it does to me.”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. And I greatly enjoy it. Now have a seat; we have all evening to say lovely things to each other.” Holmes placed a hand on the small of Watson’s back and pushed him towards the table. Watson complied and found himself across from Holmes. Their host had decided to give them a moment as he was nowhere to be found.
Holmes called out to him and he reappeared from a door towards the back. He grinned when he saw the two of them seated at the table.
“Today gentleman, my partner is preparing a rich onion soup. After that is a roast cooked in red wine and served with cabbage and carrots. Then for dessert, we are having an apple pudding.”
Holmes gave him an enigmatic smile. “That sounds lovely Jacob. I have the utmost faith in Martin’s abilities as a chef.”
Markson smiled a soft smile and poured each of them a glass of red wine. “I will leave the two of you for a moment until the first course is ready.” He set the bottle on the edge of the table out of the way and bustled back into the kitchen.
“Holmes you are an absolute romantic. How on earth did you think to arrange this?”
“I remembered that you mentioned wanting to be able to go and sit down together. To have a meal in a place where we wouldn’t be judged. That as much as you love our place together, that you’d like to show me off. I know that it isn’t much, but its more than we usually have. Plus, I thought we should have a celebration. It is a big deal.”
“I suppose you’re right. Not everyone makes it to 10 years together. I’ve known marriages that fell apart after just two. Tell me about your most recent case. The one in Bagdad that I didn’t go with you on. I am dying to know the details.”
“So, you can write an overly romanticized version of it to give to the people who already view me as infallible?”
Watson just smirked at the jab. “Of course. How else will they be jealous of my position? How else will they know of the wonderful man that holds confidence with no one but me? Call it a vanity, but I just can’t help myself when it comes to this sort of thing.”
Their conversation was interrupted by Markson exiting the kitchen holding two bowls of soup. He set them down on the table. “Enjoy. We made this particular soup especially for you Mr. Holmes.” He then was back in the kitchen before either of them could say anything at all. Watson raised an eyebrow at his companion.
“Specifically, for you? That’s not unusual for you, but I would like to know why they made a soup for you.”
“When I bumped into them a few years ago his partner was attempting to make a seven-course meal to get his chef’s endorsement. I helped him design this onion soup for the soup course. I think it’s quite good.”
“It is at that. Very hearty. I can see why you enjoy it.”
For a few moments, only the soft sound of them slurping the soup filled the room. Before long they had finished the soup and Holmes began to tell the story of his trip to Bagdad, in the detail that Watson wanted.
“As you know I was called away from our home, to Bagdad on the case of a missing jewel and a dead appraiser. I believed that it was going to be a simple case of a robbery gone wrong. However, when I arrived that as far from the case.”
Watson set his finished soup bowl aside and leaned forward in interest. His eyes sparkling at the promise of another story.
“I deduced very quickly that the original goal of the case had been the appraiser, not the gem. Which made me suspicious. If the killer wanted to kill him, why go through the work of making it look like a robbery but only take one gem.”
“Because most people would take everything that they can find if they are going to make it look like a robbery. That’s the default.”
“Correct. My case led me through all sorts of markets and shops until I came to the heart of the mystery.” Here Holmes paused as Markson returned holding two plates, filled the brim with roast, carrots, and cabbage. He paused for a moment to pour them a little more wine and then whisked away the empty bowls. Holmes took the opportunity to continue his story while Watson took his first few bites.
“I came to know an English woman living there by the name of Antonia Farris. I immediately thought that she must have something to do with the matter. Each of my leads had led me back to her shop. Oh, but Watson, I do so wish you would’ve been there. You are so much better with people than I am. The case was a sympathetic one. So sympathetic that the police didn’t even bother to arrest her. So sure, that she would have gotten off.”
“Would she have?”
“Oh, almost definitely. It seems that she had come to be friends with a local girl who made fabric for her shop. The two of them were lovers, although no one but I knew that while speaking with her. The police simply believed the two of them to be very close in friendship.”
“Make sure you’re eating Holmes; I refuse to let you go hungry on our anniversary.”
Holmes gave him an exasperated look. “You and your henning Watson. Always going on and on about eating and not doing drugs. I just don’t understand it.” The words held understanding though. After so many years together, they had to. Watson allowed him just the barest smile as he continued his food.
“I assume that the jeweler had done something to the local girl and that the English woman had murdered him in retaliation.”
“Excellent Watson, I will make a detective out of you yet. The story laid out like this. The young woman had gone to the man with the gem so that she could sell it to help expand the shop. She did this without her paramour’s knowledge. The two of them wanted to add more items to their inventory. The man told her that the gem was essentially worthless but then offered her a bit of money for it. It turned out he swindled her the gem was worth a lot of money. It was a perfect ruby nearly three fingers wide without a single flaw.”
“I assume the young lady was devastated.”
“Oh, she was. Absolutely heartbroken. She had to return to her lover and tell her what had happened. That her inheritance was gone because she had been tricked.”
“That genuinely awful. What did the English woman plan to do?”
“Originally she went and demanded that he either return the gem or that he give her a fair price. He threatened to ruin both of their reputations and have their shop destroyed. When the woman stood her ground on the issue, he attacked her. She killed him in self-defense and then decided that she would retrieve the gem that she had come for. Not even the police could fault her for that, especially when the local girl presented the papers saying that rightfully the gem belonged to her and that she had never made an official sale to the man.”
“So, it was a happy ending then?”
“I suppose you could say it was.”
Markson emerged again his smile even bigger than before and gathered up their empty plates. “The pudding will be ready momentarily, gentleman.”
“Wait,” Holmes said, raising one of his long thin fingers at him. “Will you give us a few moments, there is something that I would like to do first. No more than 10 minutes should be fine.”
“Of course. I’ll be back in 10 minutes.”
Holmes and Watson watched as he went into the back room. Then Holmes stood and held out his hand to Watson. “Will you dance with me my darling? Just for a few minutes of course.”
Watson gave him a gentle smile and stood with him. “If you insist, but just for a few minutes.”
“Come, my dear John, show me that beautiful waltz of yours. The one that made every woman in the place want to dance the night away with you.”
They fell into the patterns, their bodies remembering the dance even though it had been many months since they had indulged themselves.
For 10 minutes, there was no one else in the world. There was nothing in the world. Just the sound of their feet and their eyes locked together. The two of them wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.