With thanks to my beta reader, Anozira .
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
"Holmes." I turned to speak to him after closing our sitting room door. He had settled himself upon the sofa and was staring somewhat gloomily at the floor. "Holmes..." I stepped forward.
He visibly shook himself and smiled up at me, "yes, Watson?"
I moved round to sit beside him, I took a deep breath and tried to find the words for what I wanted to say. "Mycroft...he..."
"Eavesdropping is not an activity for a gentleman." He scolded , no doubt knowing full well that I had been listening behind the door.
I ignored his comment; "he asked if...if you told me the truth..."
"I'm afraid, Watson, that the truth is far too painful."
He laughed, "My dear Watson."
"Given your recent declaration, don't you think you should tell me the truth?" I knew I had him with my statement. He could not shrug off the facts or pretend he had not admitted a deep affection for me.
I watched as Holmes drummed his fingers upon the mantle before crossing to his desk and shuffling the piles of papers. He paced nervously for a few moments, returned to the mantle, filled his pipe, looked at it and then discarded it. He straightened the books upon my desk before finally turning back to me, "what I tell you, Watson, never leaves this room." He turned back to the mantle, "in the immortal words of Brother Mycroft, a veritable oracle of truth 'it would be wise to tell you'. The truth, I'm afraid, is rather sinister."
"During my investigations into the events surrounding 'The Gloria Scott', I heard some...troubling rumours regarding my friend Victor. The rumour went that he...enjoyed photographing ...people...young people...boys." My friend began to pace about the room in some agitation. "Naturally I wanted to dismiss such rumours as slander, the Victor I knew... or thought I knew would never... Anyhow... I made an examination of his room and various other parts of the house but could find no evidence. Yet...yet I couldn't dismiss what I'd heard."
He continued to pace the room, back and forth upon our all ready significantly worn carpet. His head sunk on his breast, his charcoal eyes glinting in the fire light showed me the pain that these memories brought him.
"Sit down Holmes... You're making me sea sick."
He smiled briefly at me before sitting beside me. I suppose looking back on the situation I was greatly touched that Holmes chose to sit beside me as he spoke about these clearly painful memories.
"One night, after I had cleared the matter concerning his father up, I sat drinking with him...celebrating in his rooms. I have to tell you Watson, that a great amount of alcohol had passed my lips before I found the courage to ask him what had been on my mind for several days. 'Victor,' I said, 'I've heard some rumours that you have...a penchant for photography.' To my astonishment he rose to his feet, smiling broadly at me. 'I knew it, my friend, I knew it! I knew you did not only share my physical passion!' He declared gripping my hand." Holmes paused, "I'm sorry Watson I should have told you that my relationship with him was purely...physical."
"I suspected as such. What happened then?"
"He sprang towards the fire place, running his hands along the sides until a small panel slid away. I have to admit I was angry with myself for not discovering this secret panel earlier, I think if I was return to that case now I would have no difficulty but at the time I was not in full command of my skills. From this secret place, he brought down a medium sized wooden box, not quite unlike the one you discovered in my desk. In one hand he held this box, with the other he pulled me to my feet and led me across to his bed. There he sat down cross-legged and began to take out the photographs. They were vile. You know that I have something of a strong constitution, but Watson these images turned my stomach and I could taste bile in my mouth. These images...excited Victor in every possible way, he delighted in describing his actions to me, either oblivious to my discomfort or taking delight in it."
Holmes' voice was becoming strained and he lapsed into silence. In order to distract myself from my own queasiness I left the sofa and poured two large glasses of whiskey from the decanter that stood upon the sideboard. I returned to my seat and pressed one of the glasses into Holmes' hand, he took it without a word and gulped the contents down silently. He cleared his throat and toyed with the glass before speaking again.
"He began to...touch himself as he described some of the more horrific things he had done. I don't need to tell you how disgusted I felt. I had shared intimate moments with this man and here he was... I don't know how long we sat there but soon he moved closer and began to...touch me. I swear to you, Watson, with all my might I tried to distract myself from his actions, but I couldn't."
He tried to choke back the emotion that was clearly welling up inside of him, I gently touched his hand encouraging him to let go of his feelings. My own chest felt tight. On feeling my touch, Holmes pulled himself together and with a cough continued his harrowing tale.
"As he was...he had a terrible smile upon his face. He suddenly became aggressive pushing me back on the bed, 'Strip.' he demanded. I refused and he laughed, waving a picture at me. 'I'll go to the police,' he said with a harsh smile, 'and tell them that I discovered these images in your room.' I was terrified upon hearing his words. If the police saw those pictures they would not even listen to my story, it would have been...my end. I was barely twenty years old and the prospect of life behind bars or worse terrified me. I'm not proud to say it Watson, but I pleaded with him. I told him that I would do anything he wanted." As he spoke Holmes took the four photographs of himself and Victor Trevor from his inside jacket pocket. "This is the result. No doubt you observed the images...but I'm sure if you were to observe now you would see that I am crying. I did everything I could to prevent my arousal, but whether it was my youthfulness or inexperience I couldn't...I couldn't..."
The emotion that he had been holding back broke and I placed an arm around his shoulders as he sobbed. I tried to pull him towards me in an embrace, but he would not allow it.
"I'm sorry." He murmured through his tears, covering his face with his hands.
"You could not have controlled your body's reactions." I said softly.
We sat together for a long time before either of us spoke again. I wished there was more I could do to comfort for my friend, I knew he would be ashamed of his emotional outburst. There was nothing I could say or do. I shifted somewhat uncomfortably in my seat, Holmes had always been strong in matter what the circumstances. It was painful to me to see my friend in such a state and I knew that he was terrified of loosing control and yet he had. I removed my arm from his shoulders knowing that my gesture was making him more uncomfortable. I rose from the sofa to give him some privacy and busied myself with tidying my desk. Eventually Holmes stopped crying and I held out my handkerchief, he took it without question and blew his nose.
"I take it that Mycroft knows everything?" I asked watching him wipe his eyes with the back of his jacket sleeve.
"Yes." He replied quietly.
"And that Victor was blackmailing you?"
He looked at me momentarily surprised but recovered himself quickly. "I have no doubt that you drew that conclusion from our discussion of Milverton."
"Yes. Although," I frowned slightly, "if it was Victor Trevor who was blackmailing you, why was Milverton in possession of the pictures?"
"Mycroft never heard the full story from my lips. As I have told you before he possesses a greater gift of observation than I, and so upon my sending down and knowing that it involved Victor, he deducted the nature of our relationship. You have let your readers believe I have come from money, but I do not. My father was a geography teacher and Mycroft and myself were Grammar School boys. When I was sent down, my scholarship was taken away and Mycroft helped supplement my income until I was able to support myself. We must not forget that brother Mycroft is an accountant with an amazing faculty for numbers, so it would not have been difficult for him to discover where my funds were going." He took out his cigarette case and with a shaking hand placed one between his lips. I watched as he tried to strike a match before taking the match box from him and lighting his cigarette. "He confronted me and I confessed everything. Mycroft may not have a great heart, but he is very protective towards me. He told me to stop responding to Victor's demands, promising to sort out everything. Through Milverton he managed to obtain the photographs, which he returned to me as a warning to be more careful in the future."
"How long ago was this?"
"About the time of the incident you entitled 'The Greek Interpreter'."
I was alarmed, "Victor Trevor blackmailed you all those years..."
"No, no. He was only able to obtain money from me for three. By a sheer coincidence, soon after my confession to Mycroft he found himself confined to an Indian goal charged with assaulting a young boy." I had no doubt that it had hardly been a coincidence and knew that my friend was under no illusion.
"He escaped the gallows?"
Holmes shrugged, "there was no evidence to collaborate the boy's story of a sexual assault."
"Why did you keep them?" I pointed to the pictures that now lay upon our floor.
"As a reminder to be careful."
I chose my words carefully, "after Victor Trevor there was no more?"
"There were several, but when I told you before that I have never known love, it was quite true. A physical relationship is not as rewarding as an emotional one, or so I am told."
I knelt to pick up the discarded images, Holmes did not move as I crossed to the fire and threw them into the flames. I watched the pictures crumble and burn, the acrid smoke curling up the chimney. I turned to find my friend beside me, staring into the flames.
"I have no physical experience with another man." I said quietly, "but I believe that I am in love with one. I also believe that despite his protest he loves me too." I felt Holmes' hand in mine.
"I have no intention if being improper." He replied in a hushed voice, without taking his eyes from the flames.
"There would be no question of being improper." I squeezed his hand, smiling intently at him. He returned my smile before leading me gently towards his bedroom.
"You have let your readers believe I have come from money, but I do not." Both brothers work for a living, Holmes couldn't afford to rent the rooms in Baker Street himself so much have had a similar income to Watson's at the time (11shillings a week).
"...geography teacher.". Sheer indulgence on my part, Holmes has a decent grasp of geography & map reading and also geography is a subject that requires a good eye for detail... so why not?
"Indian goal." Victor goes off to Terai to start a tea plantation. Terai is at the base of the Himalayas range in India & Nepal. Umm... I wonder if during his hiatus Holmes paid a visit to dear old Victor?