EVERYTHING WILL BE ALL RIGHT
A sequel to For Watson.
Watson is glad to be back in Baker Street by Holmes's side. He is trying to ascertain quite what has happened in their relationship when they get involved in a case.
An established relationship story.
Written: February 2013. Word count: 2,850.
I had been back in Baker Street, back by Holmes's side, for some six weeks when Holmes was brought the 'Seven Percent Solution' case.
The case itself was for my dear Holmes quite elementary, and was it not for the fact that it occurred during a time when I was trying to ascertain quite what my relationship with Holmes now was, I doubt I would even mention it. However, when ever I think about those first few weeks back in Baker Street, back by Holmes's side following the death of my dear wife Mary, I do think of the Seven Percent Solution case.
It was, in fact, the morning after Holmes had told me he had missed me and had told me he never wished me to leave Baker Street or to leave him again, the morning after he had taken my hand, held it for a short time, before taking it to his mouth and putting his lips on it, that the case first came to our attention.
I had not slept as well that night as I normally did as I was not sure what had happened between Holmes and I; with that one gesture, a gesture I had never expected Holmes to make, a gesture which, in truth, I had believed Holmes incapable of making, everything between us had changed - and yet nothing had changed. I had spent many of my waking hours wondering what the gesture had meant, what it had meant to Holmes and what it might mean to our relationship and what I might want it to mean. And by the time the sun had begun to rise and I had finally fallen asleep for an hour or so I still had no answers to the questions.
Due to my restless night it was a little later than was usual for me when I arrived in our sitting room for breakfast. However, rather than finding Holmes breakfasting, I found him standing in front of the fire, smoking his pipe whilst a man sat on the edge of one of the arm chairs speaking to Holmes.
At my arrival the man hastened to his feet and stared at me; he was, I ventured to guess from his suit, his collar and tie, from the lower middle class. I am quite certain Holmes had deduced considerably more with one look at the man, but that is Holmes. Holmes introduced me to the man, calling me his intimate friend, companion and the person who helped him solve his cases and he invited the man to continue his tale, telling me to pour myself a cup of coffee and join them by the fire - which I did.
The man's story was fairly straight-forward. He, like so many others, had begun to worry about the state of his finances and the economy and was looking for ways to invest a modest amount of money. A friend had told him about something called the Seven Percent Solution Plan which guaranteed a return of seven percent per annum on any money invested in the scheme no matter what might happen. It was seen as a solution to people of limited means, as the money invested was guaranteed to be safe - it was impossible to lose any money you invested and you were guaranteed an additional seven percent each year.
I could see the appeal and when Holmes handed me a copy of the agreement the man had signed, I could not see any flaw in it; I could not see any way those who had set up the scheme could refuse to pay. I had never seen such simply written, clearly set out terms - anyone with a basic education could understand the document. No one could claim to have been misled. It clearly stated that if those who ran to scheme received a higher percentage on the investments that they would keep any amount over and above the guaranteed seven percent, but were the returns less than seven percent then those same people would, out of their own pockets, make up the seven percent. It was safe, it was secure, it certainly appeared, to my albeit limited understandings of such things, completely straight-forward and authentic and even trustworthy.
Indeed when I caught Holmes's eye and indicated I would like to ask a question which of course he permitted me to do and I asked the man if he had received his seven percent each year he told me he had. He had initially invested, three years ago, twenty-five pounds and each year on the last day of December he had received his seven percent. He further told me that the friend who had originally introduced him to the scheme had, after five years of being part of it, needed to take back his original investment and the money had been returned to him without any hesitation or questions and without any forfeiting of part of the money. Thus, I could not understand why the man was sitting in our sitting room; what was the case?
The case it turned out was the fact that our client's friend had vanished four days after his original investment had been returned to him and our client had subsequently learnt that three other people who had invested in the scheme and who had subsequently had to withdraw their investment had also vanished. That was the case our client brought to Holmes to solve.
Holmes asked several questions none of which seemed even remotely pertinent to the case. Indeed from the look on our client's face I began to believe that he believed he had made a mistake bringing the case to Holmes - even I, used as I was to Holmes's line of questioning, struggled to see quite what purpose his questions served. But I course kept my counsel, indeed I smiled and nodded from time to time, hoping to put our client at ease and let him believe that the questions were relevant ones - which I knew they had to be, even if I could not see their relevance, because I knew Holmes.
Finally the man departed and Holmes called for Mrs. Hudson to bring us breakfast. I had expected that we would discuss the case over breakfast, however, we did not. Instead Holmes began to tell me of a new paper on tobacco he had complied whilst I had been absent from Baker Street. Finally, I took it upon myself to ask him about the case, only for him to smile, put his hand over mine and tell me he had already solved the case and suggested that I should be able to do so too. And with that I had to be content.
For a month I tried to concentrate my mind and work out the solution to the case, but instead my mind preferred to turn to the changed relationship between Holmes and myself. Since the night he had told me he was glad I was back in Baker Street, that he had missed me and never wished me to leave Baker Street or him again, he had not spoken of my time away from his side. Not once did he mention my marriage, the death of my wife, the time he had spent alone in Baker Street, nor did he make any reference to the way he had taken my hand and put his lips on it.
Holmes is not a man of words, he is not a man to reach out to others, he keeps himself apart, he is different from other man; he can be cold, distant, apparently uncaring and unfeeling and yet this is the man who brought me back to his side. This is the man who quite deliberately brought me back to his side; the man who made it possible for me to return to Baker Street; to return to him.
During those four weeks on more than one occasion he took my hand in his, sometimes he just held it for a moment or two before letting it fall once more onto my lap or by my side; on a few occasions he lifted it to his lips and let them make contact with my hand before letting it slip from his grasp. However, he never once spoke of his contact; he never once gave me any indication he might wish me to speak of it or return the gesture.
It was not the only difference, his hand would come to rest on my shoulder a little more often than it did before I had left him to marry; his gaze would settle on me and stay on me as he watched me in a way I could not understand, before he would return his attention to his book or whatever paper he was writing. He played his violin for me more often without me asking him to do so, and as he played his attention would settle on me and not leave me. He turned to the cocaine bottle far less often than he had done before I had left his side.
And he started to come to my room on some evenings. Sometimes it would be when we were about to retire for the night, he would walk by my side to my room, but rather than leave me as he usually did and bid me 'goodnight' he would come inside with me. He never spoke, he would just stand and look at me sometimes for mere seconds sometimes for a minute or two before he would bid me goodnight and retire to his own room. Other times he would reappear whilst I was undressing or indeed when I was already in bed and he would arrive dressed in his nightshirt and dressing gown and just stand by my door, saying nothing, just looking at me, before again bidding me goodnight and leaving me.
I did not know what to say nor did I know what to do. I did not know what it meant; I did not know if he knew what it meant. I did not know what he wished and in truth I do not believe he truly knew either. I just knew that something had changed between us and the change was not insignificant. I also knew that despite him putting his lips on my hand on more than one occasion and his appearances in my bedroom, that in many ways our relationship had become even more intimate that the relationship I had had with Mary. And yet beyond his lips on my hand from time to time nothing has happened.
And I did not know if I wished for anything else. I knew I loved Holmes; I always had. I even knew, I was even prepared to admit, that my love for him went somewhat beyond the love it is permitted a man to have for another man. But it was an emotional love, I had never thought, I had never imagined, I had never even dreamt it would be, it could be, anything other than that. And even a month after he had shown me he cared about me more than I had realised, more than I had dared to hope, more than I had known, I did not know whether, given the chance, I would like things to change even more.
I liked the way he took my hand; I liked the way his lips touched it; I liked his appearances in my bedroom; I liked the way he looked at me more often than he'd used to; I liked the fact I now knew quite how much I mattered to him - but I didn't know if I wanted more.
The more I thought about it, the more uncertain I became and the more I thought about it the more I began to wonder if the reason I wasn't certain if I did want more from Holmes than he had thus far given me was because I was afraid that if I admitted I did, whether I would then begin to resent the fact he did not, he would not, he could not give more and what would that do to our relationship?
The more I thought about it, the more confused my thoughts became until I was no longer quite certain of my own feelings other than I knew I never again wished to be apart from him. That I knew I never wished to leave his side.
We were sitting by the fire one evening, smoking our pipes, drinking whisky, he was reading the evening papers, I was reading a book or at least I had a book on my lap. I had believed him to be completely absorbed by the papers so when he spoke to me I jumped and splashed a little whisky onto my coat.
"I'm sorry, Holmes," I said, extracting my handkerchief and wiping the sleeve of my coat. "I'm afraid I did not hear what you said."
He gave a slightly shrug. "I merely said your name."
"Oh." It was all I could think of to say.
He stared at me in silence before moving to the edge of his chair, leaning forward, taking my hand and pulling it to his lips where he let it linger for a little longer than he had done on previous occasions. "Everything will be all right, Watson," he said softly.
I did not know what to say, so I said nothing. I just smiled at him; he held my hand for quite a lot longer than he normally did, before he gently put it back on my lap. "Shall I play for you?"
"Yes, please," I answered him and settled back in my chair to listen.
He played for quite some time, and all the time he played his gaze remained affixed on me. By the time he finally drew the bow across the violin for the final time, the fire had died down and the room had become a little chilly. He put the violin down onto the table and came to stand by my chair. For a moment or two he just stared down at me; then he held out his hand to me. I hesitated for a second or two before I took it and let him help me to my feet. He then led me out of our sitting room and to my bedroom, my hand was still in his, where he opened the door and still without speaking led me inside and closed the door behind us and put the candle he had lit before leaving the sitting room down on the table which stood beside my bed.
My mouth became dry as I stared at him and my mind once more began to spin as again I wondered what was going to happen, what I wanted to happen and what I would do. "Holmes?" I said his name softly.
He just shook his head, lifted my hand to his lips and again touched them to my hand before letting it fall. He then leant against the door and waited. After a moment or two, I began to undress, still wondering what was going to happen and what I wanted to happen. Once I had changed into my nightshirt I murmured something about visiting the bathroom and he opened the door for me and let me go out into the hall. I had no idea whether he would still be in my room when I returned.
But he was. And he had turned my bed back. I hesitated for a moment before he held out his hand to me. "Holmes?" once more I said his name softly, making it a question.
Again he just shook his head and this time gave me a faint smile and nodded towards my bed. After another moment I moved across the room, took his hand for a moment before I got into bed. I looked up at him, still uncertain what would happen; still uncertain what I wanted to happen.
He stood staring down at me before he carefully sat down on the edge of my bed and once more took my hand to his lips. "Everything will be all right, Watson," he said once more and then said quietly, "go to sleep."
I closed my eyes and I must have fallen asleep with my hand still in his. When I awoke in the early hours of the morning, he had gone and the candle by my bed had been extinguished. I didn't know what had happened, I did not know what it meant, I did not know what would happen, what could happen, I still did not know whether I wanted anything else to happen - all I knew was it was as he said; everything would be all right.
Just before I fell asleep again I realised I had never managed to solve the 'Seven Percent Solution' case and I told myself to ask Holmes in the morning what the solution was.
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