Birthday Wishes

The surprise birthday dinner was now officially cold, the gravy congealed, the potatoes icy. I sighed.

The birthday cake went untouched. There was no sign of Holmes.

I couldn’t even bring myself to pick at the food. I glanced around our Baker Street rooms; the gaslights were set low, and most of the illumination came from the candlelight on the table, highlighting the perfect, uneaten dinner. The candles were slowly burning lower and lower, marking the passage of time. The tickets to tonight’s concert lay on Holmes’ chair, never to be used.

The Christmas decorations had been taken down, marking the end of Twelfth Night, and had been replaced by colorful streamers. A sign I had made, declaring, “Happy Birthday Holmes!” lay propped upon the mantel.

I sighed again and lay down upon the sofa. The one time I had actually managed to keep a secret from Holmes was, of course, the one time that he was nowhere to be found, his whereabouts unknown, his arrival unpredictable. Swallowing down my disappointment and ignoring my unfed stomach, I closed my eyes and drifted into an uneasy sleep.

I don’t know how long I rested, whether it was minutes or hours, but I awoke suddenly with the slam of the door announcing Holmes’ arrival. I honestly don’t know which of us was more surprised; him as he took in the changes to our rooms or me as I saw his bloodied and battered state.

“My God, Holmes, what happened?” I exclaimed, leaping to my feet.

But he stood still in the doorway, his gaze focusing on my decorating attempts. “What’s this?” he enquired with bewildered wonderment.

I reached him and drew him into the room. “It’s a mere attempt at a birthday celebration, Holmes,” I said as my trained eye quickly diagnosed his various injuries.

He followed me, paying far more attention to the room than to where he was going, as I led him to the sofa. “You did this for me?” he asked in puzzlement.

“Yes,” I replied, wondering if he was more gravely injured then what was apparent at first glance and if he was going into shock.

“No one has ever done such a thing.”

I blinked in surprise as I realized that his shock had nothing to do with his physical injuries. “Well then, happy birthday Holmes,” I said gently.

“It is my birthday, isn’t it? I had nearly forgotten.”

I touched his shoulder, which drew his attention to me. “Would you tell me what happened?” I asked, hoping that my professional tone hid my worry and my own surprise.

He visibly shook himself and then met my eyes. “Oh, my dear Watson, it is nothing. Just a mere trifling argument with some ruffians in an attempt to correct Lestrade’s incompetence. Really, doctor, no need to worry yourself.”

“Holmes, you’re covered in blood.”

“All theirs, dear fellow, I assure you.”

“And your clothes are ripped.”

“Nothing Mrs. Hudson’s amazing skills with a sewing needle won’t easily mend.”

“And you’re clutching your hand.”

“Ah, you noticed that, did you?”

I suppressed a sigh. “Holmes,” I said firmly, making sure that my tone allowed for now argument, “we are going to clean off that blood, I will examine you for injuries, and I will look at that hand.”

“That’s not necessary, Wats—“

“Quiet, Holmes,” I said, raising my finger and demanding his silence with a stern look. “I am going to get a basin of water and my medical kit, and you are going to stay here. Have I made myself clear?”

He nodded.

I glared at him in warning and then all but ran up the stairs, grabbing my medical bag from my room. I hurried back downstairs, fetched the water, and went back into the sitting room. Holmes was standing near the table, holding the concert tickets in one hand and clutching the other hand close to his body.

“These were for tonight,” he said, gesturing with the tickets, his voice barely above a whisper.

I took them from him and placed them on the table. “Don’t worry about it,” I said as I urged him to sit down.

“I didn’t know,” he murmured as I slowly washed away the blood on his face.

“It was supposed to be a surprise. I should have told you earlier. Now hold still; you have a few scratches I need to clean.”

He winced slightly as I applied the antiseptic. “You did a good job of hiding this from me, Watson. What about the dinner?”

I continued to clean his wounds. “From Mrs. Hudson; she made all your favorites.”

“Ah. I’ll have to apologize to her. And the sign and streamers?”

I followed his gaze to the ‘Happy Birthday Holmes!’ sign on the mantel, and snorted in wry amusement at my own foolishness. “Just a bit of silliness on my part, Holmes.”

He met my eyes. “It wasn’t silly at all, Watson. In fact, it was great kindness. Thank you.”

I could feel myself flush slightly and I quickly turned my attention back to his examination to cover my embarrassment. “Let me see that hand.”

He reluctantly gave me his right hand. I could see that there were many abrasions and that one of the fingers was severely swollen. “One of your fingers is broken, Holmes. I’ll have to set it.”

He nodded, then looked at me and smiled briefly. “I’m sorry for ruining your evening,” he said, and then his face looked incredibly sad.

“Don’t worry about it, Holmes,” I murmured soothingly. “I’m just glad that you’re home safely.” I cleaned his hands and he grimaced as I touched the broken finger.

“It’s just that I had no expectations, Watson,” he continued as I worked. “You see, I’ve never had a birthday celebration.”

I frowned slightly and then reached into my bag for the materials for a splint. “That doesn’t seem right,” I said, still preoccupied with looking for the supplies. “Surely when you were a child—“

“No. Definitely not then.”

I looked over at him in confusion, but he refused to meet my eyes. “Well,” I said carefully, “although the meal is inedible, we can enjoy the cake. We can still have a late celebration, after I set your finger that is.”

He looked up at me and smiled, his grey eyes brighter and softer than I had ever seen. “Thank you, my friend,” he said quietly.

I turned my attention back to his hand. “I’m going to have to set this now, Holmes,” I said, using my most professional tone, trying to hide my confusion at the warmth I felt in my chest at his smile.

He nodded and the expression on his face became tight.

I gently grasped his hand, examining the broken index finger. “Would you like a brandy to help dull the pain?” I asked. “Or, perhaps,” I sighed, loathing to go on but knowing I must make the offer, “morphine?”

He shook his head and closed his eyes. “Just get on with it, Watson.”

I probed his finger and I could feel the break; it felt clean. I swiftly positioned the pieces into their correct place. He winced and paled, but said nothing. I then took the splint and gauze, and began to bandage his finger.

“It will be fine, Holmes,” I said soothingly. “You’ll be playing the violin in no time.”

He did not open his eyes, but he did smile.

As I worked, I found myself studying his hand. I touched the uninjured long, thin fingers, which were always so animated and expressive. I finished tying off his bandage, and then stroked his palm, marveling at the hidden strength contained in his hand. Yet there was also a gentleness and an exacting precision – ranging from his delicate chemistry experiments to his exquisite violin playing.

With a start, I realized I was caressing Sherlock Holmes’ hand. I dropped it quickly. “That should do,” I said in a shaky voice and went to move away.

He reached out and touched my sleeve. His now open eyes were staring at me intently. “Watson, why did you set up a romantic dinner for the two of us for my birthday?” he asked, gesturing to the candlelit display before us.

“That was certainly not my intent,” I said, trying for an angry tone but only succeeding in sounding nervous.

“Concert tickets as well. That sounded like a lovely date.”

“Stop this at once, Holmes,” I said, this time succeeding in being angry. “I realize that you are not interested in something as trivial as a birthday celebration, but do not mock me.” I tried to get away, but he reached out with his bandaged hand and touched my face.

“That was not my intention,” he said, and with that, he kissed me.

I should have stopped him. I should have pulled back. I should have been horrified. Instead, I kissed him back.

We broke apart, and I realized that he was looking at me with a most fearful expression, as if terrified of my reaction.

I reached out and kissed him again.

We finally separated. “How long have you felt this way?” he breathed as his forehead pressed against mine.

I snorted wryly. “Probably forever. But I just realized it since you kissed me.”

“Ah.” He pulled back. “If you don’t want—“

“I do.” I touched his face and gently caressed him. “And you?” I asked. “How long have you known?”

He smiled a little sadly. “Since the Jefferson Hope affair, the “Study in Scarlet’, when you adamantly exclaimed your intention to publish and credit my work in that case. It’s not that I actually cared about the public acclaim, you understand. It’s just that no one before had ever supported my work so enthusiastically. No one had ever supported me like that before. I’m afraid that my budding attraction for you firmly took root at that point.”

“My dear Holmes,” I exclaimed, “that was years ago.”

“Yes,” he said sadly.

“I never knew.”

“You weren’t supposed to.”

I grasped his uninjured hand. Then a sudden inspiration hit me. I sprang up and hurried to the sideboard, where I grabbed the birthday cake and a single candle, which I lit. I could feel Holmes’ gaze upon me. I placed the candle into the cake and brought it back to Holmes, putting it on the table in front of him.

“A birthday cake,” he said with amusement.

“Indeed. Blow out the candle and make a wish.”

He looked at me with the gentlest expression I had ever seen on his face. “I already have all that I could wish for, Watson.”

“Surely there is something more that you desire,” I murmured, feeling my face flush as he looked at me warmly.

He nodded briefly and then looked at the cake. Suddenly he smiled and blew out the candle.

“I hope you get your wish,” I said quietly.

He stood and held out his uninjured hand to me. “So do I,” he said. He looked very vulnerable.

I took his hand and stood up. I kissed him. “Yes,” I said, agreeing to everything.

He smiled, his face more open than I had ever seen. He looked beautiful. “Well Watson,” he said, with a nervous, mischievous grin, “seeing as it is my birthday, don’t you want to see me in my birthday suit?”

I snorted in amusement and kissed his forehead. “Lead on, my friend,” I told him.

He squeezed my hand and led me to his room.




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