I remembered our night in Brighton.
How we’d got there?
Holmes and I had followed a couple of villains, two men renowned for the brutality with which they robbed elderly men living alone. They were also blackmailers and we followed them by train, ending up in Brighton. They led us to several establishments I didn’t know existed. First to a hotel, where we also checked in, then into town, and later the outer districts and a certain unsavoury establishment.
Outside the house was ordinary, but inside: a huge ballroom, velvet draperies, lush carpets. Couples sat on settees and bedlike sofas, young servants were buzzing around small tables.
The ringing of crystal glasses, the hiss whispered words; the smell, sweet and somewhat heavy, made me dizzy. Holmes took my arm and we descended into that comfortable modern Sodom.
I thought I remembered a few women, but now I knew – there had been no women at all.
An orchestra, well hidden behind plants and curtains, played Strauss, “Vienna Blood”. When our quarry appeared again, Holmes took my hand and showed me how to dance. I followed his lead, as I always did, but this time…
He was so near, still scanning the room, when some strange kind of flower blossomed in my heart that night, a dark forbidden flower, small but of exceptional beauty.
He saw it, he knew, he always did, and I found his lips too enticing to go unnoticed, his eyes shining, fixed on mine. We danced, and we forgot the reason why we had come, but we knew now who we really were…
“Watson,” he said, and touched my cheek and temples, and I smiled down on him, saw my smile mirrored on his face. And then - I kissed him. It was as simple as that.
I can still feel his lips on mine; quivering, soft, moist, and the taste of him… Holmes!
We danced a long time, bodies aligned, close, oh so close, in perfect harmony. I whispered his name into his mouth, I savoured his breath. He was shaking and in my arms he felt fragile, but I knew he was strong.
He showed me his strength, when we closed the door to our room behind us.
We were drunk, both from too much wine and our desire for each other. We undressed each other slowly, delayed by kisses and touches. Could we have stopped there and then? I doubt it. Our hearts led us, our souls on fire as were our loins.
He laid me on my back and then… o sweet sin, temptation! He knew what he did, what he had to do, I guided his hands, he held my heart, my love for him overwhelmed me. I came all over my chest, he rubbed it into my skin just to lick it off of me again with tenderness and much care.
Never had I felt so complete, so loved, so wanted. I shivered from exhaustion, he laughed, a happy, little laugh. I tussled his hair, kissed him, kissed my Holmes, my man, my love…
When I came a second time he growled deep in his throat and spent his seed in my hand. I watched him sleep that night. A dark form, cradled in my arms, he was smiling, and I touched his face, his lips. My dear friend. He was happy, back then, as was I.
Holmes! Come back to me!
It is odd that we can’t escape our emotions. Even here, at the roof of the world, through the haze I saw him, I called out his name. My only thought was of him. Watson. My dear Watson. I had tried to avoid thinking of him, tried to erase every memory. But now, here in a small room with walls made of clay, a small window and wind torn roof, suddenly, that night was there again. Our night in Brighton.
We had followed two men, one a former teacher, the other a servant. They were not only burglars and blackmailers but also lovers. Maybe because of that I had to pursue them.
We tried to stop them, a danger to their own kind, but also my Watson and me. It wasn’t my intent to follow them that far, but my dear doctor insisted, and so we ended up in Brighton. We took up residence at the same hotel, followed them into depravity. To a house I had never thought to enter together with Watson.
He was puzzled at first, but blended in perfectly when we had to pretend to be participants of the circle holding court here. Why my thoughts strayed to Mycroft at that moment I couldn’t fathom. He would have loved it, I’m sure.
When the music set in, the couple was passing by us, and so I took the next step: I clasped Watson’s hand and we danced. He followed my lead and it was then, for the first time in my life I lost track of my prey. I was held spellbound by his blue eyes which were sparkling with amusement at the ridiculousness of our situation, or so it seemed.
And I remember the moment when this notion was replaced by another feeling, I could see his love for me unfolding its wings, the moment when he became aware that he loved me. I lowered my shields too, and we danced, and we knew, and we were one - perfect harmony.
He yielded to me without any resistance, welcomed my ministrations to his body, a body I knew so well, a body I desired, that I had longed for so many times. No one had ever taught me, I did what seemed natural, and when he came I savoured his essence, his taste, his smell, his warm body squirming under my hands. My beautiful Watson. You had been so open, trusting me so completely!
My eyes filled with tears when I realized how far away my beloved was.
Reichenbach. The fall. His dear face... The crack in my heart widened. I wept.
She tried to hide it as best as she could. But after six months of constantly increasing coughing she became weaker and weaker by the day, more fragile, pale as a ghost.
I should have known that I was going to lose her. I was a doctor, but to my wife slowly dying I was blind. It took over a year until I realized that there was not much time left, and death would tear us apart.
She stayed in bed constantly, too weak to attend to everyday life. I left a nurse and Gladstone at her side, and as difficult as it is to confess – threw myself into work even harder.
Then something unexpected happened.
Twelve months had passed since I’d left Reichenbach more dead than alive when I finally entered the monastery at Lhasa. The monastery was set up high on a mountain, and when I saw it, the sun was already setting, giving it a divine atmosphere, a golden hue as if this place had been created by the Gods themselves.
But this I could not perceive, because my sight had been shattered, my body teetered on the brink of life and death.
I had been unprepared, exhausted from too long a journey, less food and drowning in a dark mood, all my joints aching from long absent rest, fool that I was…
Fortunately they found me not far away and brought me to the divine place. I hardly remember anything. I heard voices, whispering in a strange tongue, two broad warm hands spending comfort, another voice, penetrating my cocoon built by a high fever, shaking limbs and restless thoughts of Watson.
Did I whisper his name? O my beloved! I wanted to leave the earth, wanted to leave my tattered body behind
But the voice commanded me.
“There is nothing here for you. Return to your friend.” It said, and I obeyed.
Reluctantly I returned back to life which took me several weeks. Every breath a torture, every move a force of will.
“There is nothing here for you. Return to your friend,” The head lama said gently to me, and I regarded him, still in pain and full of dread.
“I left to give him his life. A clean break is always best,” came my thready reply, as I struggled for breath in the thin air.
“In leaving you upset the balance. Only by returning can it be restored. You will neither of you know peace otherwise.”
I nodded, for I knew him to be a wise man. Nothing else in this life - only my return to England and Watson - would ever make me complete again.
The monks gathered at the gate, watching me moving off into the distance.
“Is it his karma to wander?” They asked the head lama as their strange guest was lost to their sight.
“No. His wandering must end, he must return to his other half. It is his dharma – –but not in the sense that Buddha teaches us – but that which comes to us in the original meaning of the word – the natural order of things.
Disaster always follows when we deny our essential natures. You would do well to remember that, young ones.”
And so saying they returned into the peaceful building to fulfil their own karma.
A fast drifting fog, a moon hiding behind dark clouds. I followed the near invisible path down the slope into India. Delhi was my next target; I hoped to reach it within two weeks.
Most legs of my journey I spent on boats, most of the vessels not worthy of the name. I dressed as a peasant, my skin sun burnt, a great straw hat pulled down to shield my eyes.
I looked upon the wonders, the daily miracles, spread out before me.
In my bag I still had my disguise, as I used to call it. White linen breeches, a long coat, a helmet and a notebook. I was split in half: Sigerson, explorer, naturalist, geologist, and yes I admit it, even a kind of humanistic research was in the game too. Sigerson took things as they were, but Holmes…
For as much as I wished my mind to be calm and fixed to one single point, whatever that point might be, it was as fast as it always had been at moving through several topics at the same time.
I tried to focus on one thing – but it was like living in a floating world. Like sun’s rays flittering through the branches of alley trees when passed under quickly. One instant everything was bright and clear and golden, the next all was shadows and dust.
My nerves were still shattered, but my eyesight was sharp as was my hearing. My appetite had returned, but that iota of food I needed was of little concern to me.
I felt much better now. The cold and heat in combination had healed my body. My dear Watson would have scolded me for my obvious loss of weight, but then – what else had I been, back then, but a floating, lifeless body? A spirit in a surreal world.
How I missed my dear man. I lit another pipe and in the sweet scent of the opium I dreamt…
I was dreaming. Again. The same dream over and over and over again.
I dreamt of Holmes and Mary… My dear wife. I pitied her, I did my best to distract her from her dreadful state, she was a silent patient, always hopeful, always smiling at me when I brought her a bowl of soup or sat evening evening reading to her favourite parts of her most beloved books.
I even read one of my stories about Holmes and then it was she who had to soothe me over the loss of my best friend. I sat, crouched at the bedside, my head in her lap, her hands stroking my hair.
I wept, for the three of us. Holmes, who was dead, Mary who soon would be and I… I…
It started three months after the question mark incident. I saw Holmes. I saw him in the corner of my eye, but when I looked he was gone. For months this happened again and again.
Mostly it happened when I sat in front of my typewriter, hacking out all the memories of him and me into haptic form.
Black ink on white paper.
My intention was to exorcise all of it; banish the memories to reams of paper, to a book to be put on a shelf and forgotten.
…But my mind was always with him. The more I struggled to be free of him, the more my heart told me a different thing. Every beat bore his name. ‘Holmes’, it said and ‘Holmes, Holmes, Holmes’, or like a lullaby it called out for him: Holmes come back, Holmes come back, Holmes come back...
…a breeze stirred behind me, I flung myself around just to discover… empty space and the night too far gone already to go to bed and sleep. Sleep often eluded me and I was glad. Without sleep there are no dreams…
Brighton… the night as gentle as Holmes caressing my face. We were far from home, far from every harm. I held him in my arms and he sighed.
“So contemplative, Holmes? What ails you?”
“Thinking, John. Inevitabilities, rumours, reputation… Nothing lasts forever.”
“What about love, Holmes?”
“No, not even love...”
“What about true love?”
“Have you ever found such a love, John?”
“I think, I have…”
Closing his eyes, a shy smile appeared on his handsome face. Holmes, tracing my features with one finger, frowned.
“No, nothing lasts forever. But as long as it lasts, I will enjoy it. John…”
And so did I.
“Real love lasts forever. I love you.”
More kisses, tender at first, than desperate. Two souls breathing as one. A bond not in blood, but in spirit.
We left the next morning, and I had sworn to myself never, ever to return to Brighton again!