future and he doesn't know if he'll ever see Holmes again.
So don't be angry at him. He's angry enough at himself. In
my other fandom we refer to this as "pain management."
This chapter features an appearance by someone you'll all
know. He was bound to show up, after all.
So... here it is.
Title: "Baker Street 42: An Inspiration for the Ages"
Pairing/Characters: Sherlock Holmes/Dr. John H. Watson; Stan, Oscar Wilde, Robbie Ross.
Notes/Warnings: "Sherlock Holmes" (2009) Universe. Set before the Blackwood case.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Enjoy.
Summary: Watson encounters fame.
First chapter here:
1. "A Walk to Regent's Park"
Previous chapter here:
41. "A Delightful Evening at Home"
New Chapter here:
The hansom let me off on Piccadilly, near the Royal Academy. It was the nearest I could safely come to the Diogenes Club without giving anything away should the Irishman's minions be stalking me.
I wanted to go there to see Holmes, if only to assure myself that he was not in pain, that his wound was being seen to, that...
But I was deceiving myself. I wanted to see him again, if only for one last time. There were so many things I needed to say to him, especially to explain to him why I was going away, even if it was a lie concocted for the occasion.
Would Holmes even believe me? Perhaps he would know I was lying but pretend to believe me. Then we would be able to part on equal terms, both knowing that the truth was too disturbing to support.
The night was foggy, the yellow air enveloping the streets and giving the gaslights a sickly glow. As I walked up Piccadilly, approaching the Haymarket, I noted that the denizens of the night, both male and female, were out in scores, either strolling back and forth on their own particular patch of pavement, or leaning up against the railings, beckoning with their eager eyes.
"Sir? Do you have the time?"
"A light, mister? Can I get a light?"
"Are you alone, dearie?"
"Sir? Oh, sir! Wait a moment!"
"Looking for a friend, captain?"
A woman who had seen better days laughed loudly as I passed by. "Now there's a rare toff! On your way home to the wife and kiddies, squire?"
I ignored her and went onward. But then a young man began walking alongside me. He was a guardsman in uniform, tall, robust, and sandy-haired. I knew that some young soldiers often padded their meagre incomes with "presents" from gentlemen, but I had never been accosted by one of them before.
"I'm having a drink at the Criterion, sir," he said without even a trace of shyness. "It's just down the way. Care to join me?"
The Criterion bar -- the place were my fate had been sealed eight years before.
"No, thank you," I said, not looking at him. He reminded me too much of James.
I quickened my pace, finding my way into the twisted streets of Soho.
Why was I here? What was I looking for? I had only a few nights of freedom left to me, yet here I was, walking aimlessly.
Soon I would be leaving London, perhaps never to return. Never to see anyone I knew again. It was a steep price, but I was willing to pay it. My life was worth little compared to...
The door of a public house opened and I heard music. I lengthened my stride and moved onward.
If I was never to see Holmes again, then I knew I must write him a letter of explanation. I owed him that much at least.
"Don't question," it would read. "And don't try to follow. Trust me that I need to go away for my own peace of mind. It is better thus. Farewell, my friend."
Yes, farewell... my dearest... friend.
I stepped out of the shadows and found myself once more on St. Martin's Lane before the Salisbury public house.
Why was I drawn to this infernal place? Perhaps it was my nature to seek out others of my own ilk, others who must, in their waking life, hide what they truly were.
My thoughts turned to Miss Mary Morstan. She was lovely. And kind. And she stirred my blood. I was not one of those men who could not stomach the company of women. I liked women and had loved many of them through the years, from London to Italy to Alexandria to India and back again. Loved them, yes. But had I ever been in love with one? So I had believed, but in retrospect I knew that I had not. I could not feel about a female the same way I felt about...
But Holmes was a complete misogynist. If he ever felt an authentic emotion for a woman -- even for the loathsome Mademoiselle Adler -- he had never expressed it. I'd come to believe that he was incapable of such emotion for any living being, but certainly not for a female.
And certainly not for...
But I was of no consequence.
The Salisbury was crowded on a Friday evening, swarmed with men of all classes and categories. But unlike the sordid atmosphere of the Red Cockerel, there was a more carefree air here. Yes, there were low boys who were obvious renters, but there were also well-dressed gentlemen having a friendly drink and taking their ease.
"Hello, sir! Remember me?"
It was the redheaded lad who had addressed me the last time I walked into the Salisbury.
"Yes, I remember you," I said.
"Blimey! I vow nobody forgets Stan! Buy me a pint, sir?" he asked, moving nearer.
Perhaps this was what I needed. Something to make me forget. Something...
"I say, Stanley!" called another voice from the far end of the room. There was the hint of an accent -- an Irish accent. But the voice was not the same. It was not low and menacing, but booming and good-natured. "Come and sit with us!"
"I'm talking to this gentleman, Oscar," said the lad.
"Bring the gentleman over to my table. I am always willing to make the acquaintance of like-minded fellows."
Stan touched my lapel. "Come over and meet Oscar. He's a real lark, he is! And no fear -- he's a real gentleman, not just chat."
I followed the lad over to a corner table where the gentleman in question was standing. I recognized him instantly. It is difficult not to recognize one of the most notable men in London society, especially when that man is over six feet tall, stout, long-haired, and wearing an extravagant dove grey suit with a flowing purple cravat.
"Mr. Wilde," I said, extending my hand. "It's my pleasure to meet you."
"Ah!" he cried with undisguised delight. "You have me at a loss, sir, since I do not know your name."
There was no use in prevaricating. "John Watson."
"Well, John Watson, please sit and drink with us. I stand on no ceremony when it comes to interesting people." He indicated a slight young gentleman next to him. "My dear friend, Mr. Robbie Ross, who is just down from King's College."
I nodded and shook his hand as we all sat down, even young Stan.
"John Watson," said Ross, regarding me closely. "You publish in 'The Strand,' do you not?"
I was taken aback. Although I had a number of works in print it always surprised me when I found that someone had actually read one. "Yes, I do. A few modest stories of suspense and adventure."
"Robbie reads everything and knows all the writers in the city," Wilde explained. "Many of them are here tonight, along with some of our most illustrious artists and actors. And some that are not so illustrious, of course -- all incognito, naturally. But I make no distinction whatsoever. I welcome the attentions of anyone who acknowledges my genius."
"So I have heard, Mr. Wilde," I said rather archly. But the man was so open and good-humored it was hard to be cynical about him.
"Let us have some sherry," Wilde said, giving the redheaded lad some coins. "And a pint for yourself, Stan. And you, my dear John, must call me 'Oscar.' All my friends call me Oscar. I detest false formality. If all the world were on a Christian-name basis we would be the better for it."
I was uneasy about such intimacy with a man I had only just met, but I had heard that Wilde had a number of queer ideas. I must also admit that I was not surprised to see him at the Salisbury, for I had heard many rumors about him and his circle of male friends. But I was surprised at how open he was about being at a public house so well-known as a meeting place for gentlemen of a certain proclivity. But I imagine he felt safe because anyone seeing him here would also be a man of that same persuasion and unlikely to point him out.
The boy brought the glasses and then sat down next to Wilde, grinning broadly. Although he was a very common lad, Oscar treated him as if he were a young lord, petting and fussing over him.
"I swear, John," said Wilde -- Oscar -- as we sipped the sherry. "I have the strange sensation that I know you from somewhere, but I cannot recall where we might have met."
"Never," I stated. "I would not forget if I had encountered you before. After all, you are the most famous man in London." Or infamous, I neglected to add.
"Indeed, I am a personage hard to dislodge from the brain," Wilde agreed. "Yet this feeling is very strong. Your visage is so familiar to me."
I shook my head. "It must be someone else who resembles me."
But Wilde's friend, Mr. Ross, was staring at me intently. He leaned over and whispered some intelligence in Wilde's ear.
"Eureka!" cried Oscar Wilde. "I believe you are correct, Robbie. Excuse me, my dear John, but are you aware of a gallery over in Bond Street? It is rather new. It's called the Glendalough, although how it obtained that twee Hibernian moniker is beyond my understanding."
The Irishman's gallery. "Yes," I said tightly. "I know of it."
"In a side annex of this establishment there are some interesting portraits on exhibit..." Wilde began.
But I cut off his dissertation. "Yes, I am familiar with those portraits. And yes -- I am the person portrayed in them." I picked up my glass of sherry and bolted it. "I posed for them a very long time ago."
"I knew it!" cried Wilde. "The eyes are the same. And your face..."
"It was long ago," I repeated, well aware that I was no longer the young man portrayed in the Irishman's treasures.
"There is no need to apologize, my dear fellow," said Wilde. "I must allow that you were a paragon of male beauty of the purest kind so admired by the Dorian Greeks -- blond and stalwart and sensual, an inspiration for the ages. That is no shame, John. And that beauty has been forever preserved in rare works of Art, which are always to be preferred to mere reality."
"Were you an artist's model?" asked Stan, gazing at me with new eyes. "Did you pose in... in the altogether?"
"Yes," I admitted, not wishing to explain in further detail. "Sometimes."
"I am very interested in the effect of Art on the senses," continued Wilde. "And the consequences of Art on how one lives one's life. It must be a disconcerting thing to look upon one's own face from many years before and understand that time has passed. Not that you are not a handsome fellow now, my dear John."
"I know what I was," I said. "And I know what I am. I am aware of the passage of time. But I am not an immortal who can make it stand still."
"But you are immortal!" Wilde insisted. "In those pictures you are forever captured at the pinnacle of your male splendor. What a gift that must be!"
"Yes, what a gift," I said. But Wilde did not seem to catch the irony in my voice. "I fear I must go." I stood and shook Wilde's hand. "It was a pleasure to meet you -- Oscar."
"It was a delight, John," Wilde bowed. "And I shall be looking for your tales in 'The Strand.' I adore stories of suspense and adventure. I would love to try my hand at one some day."
I pushed my way through the throng and out the door. The fog had become almost impenetrable and I despaired of finding a cab at so late an hour.
"Pardon, Mr. Watson."
I turned to see Wilde's friend, Mr. Robbie Ross, at my side. He was a small, neatly-made young gentleman, boyish and bright-eyed.
"It's Dr. Watson," I said.
"Dr. Watson, then," said Ross. "Please excuse Oscar. He did not mean to be rude, but he is obsessed with the beauty of boys. Anyone who is of a more mature age is beyond his interest... that way."
"That is fortunate, for I am not interested in Mr. Wilde in 'that way' either," I replied. "You may tell him I was not insulted by his words. Those pictures are here in London and people will see them. I must resign myself to that fact."
"Like Oscar, I think they are beautiful." Ross fingered the sleeve of my coat. "But not as attractive as the man who inspired them. Unlike Oscar, I am partial to reality and not fantasy. He searches for the perfect artifact, but I am content to find a congenial companion -- even if only for a night."
I stared at the murky night and felt a yearning within that I knew would not be denied.
"Oscar keeps a room at the Savoy for his assignations," said Ross. "It's not far and I have the key."
It was not what I desired, but it was something.
"Lead the way," I said.
And we strode off together into the swirling fog.