I shut the door of my room behind me just as I heard the hall clock striking twelve. It was Christmas Day. And I had been responsible for ruining the holiday by creating a breach between Holmes and myself. The fact that I doubted whether he even remembered that it was Christmas was of no consequence to that.
I had done wrong; curiosity or no curiosity, I had no right to read Holmes's private records, even if I had been cleaning them up for my friend. I had not the right to do so.
I wondered if and when he would let me apologize for my transgression. The fact that I had picked that particular case to read was very unfortunate, since it probably was the only one that had ever hit that close to Holmes's precious emotional defenses. He would not appreciate his privacy being violated in that manner. Worse still, he might not trust me fully again.
At that moment, part of me wished I had never seen the book, never read it, never found out what had really happened in that case. But part of me was so glad that I had at last found out why Holmes had not told me the truth; I was glad that I knew he had a good reason for his deception. And I was more glad still to see a little further into the soul of the man I lived with than I had ever been verbally allowed to see.
But at that moment, I wished to heaven I had never even entered his bedroom. Surely that account was not worth putting such a barrier in our relationship. Sighing, I sat on my bed, absently fingering the red bow on the small gift I had bought Holmes the week before as his Christmas present.
The little curiosities shop at the end of Baker Street was a frequent attraction to us, and it had taken none of Holmes's great deductive powers to learn that he was quite interested in the very fine magnifying glass in the store's front window.
It was very powerful for its compact size (Holmes hated nothing more that to have several bulky objects clanging around in his overcoat – my medical bag usually ended up carrying all sorts of odds and ends when we were out on cases for that very reason) and it did not take a Sherlock Holmes to deduce that he wanted it very badly. I had taken it to a jeweler friend of mine and had Holmes's initials engraved on the leather case.
Now I wondered when I would give it to him – if his mood did not change, it would likely be several days before he would emerge from his room.
And that fact was my fault entirely, I reminded myself sternly.
I unhappily turned down the blankets, suddenly realizing how frigid the air had become. After tossing and turning for over an hour, I finally dropped into a fitful sleep.
How long it was I have no idea, but I was abruptly awakened by a hoarse shout from downstairs. I sat up in my bed, puzzled at first as to what had awakened me, when I heard the noise again, but fainter this time. Throwing on my dressing gown and slippers, I walked to the staircase and listened.
As I had feared, the sounds were coming from Holmes's bedroom. He had been plagued with violent nightmares upon our return to Baker Street in '94, but they had completely vanished with time – now it looked as if they were back with a vengeance.
I crept silently down the stairs and tried the door to his bedroom. Locked.
And so was the one off the sitting room.
He had barricaded himself from all other influences, yet again. Sighing, I paused for a moment outside his door and listened.
I was appalled to hear my name several times as well as Moriarty's and Moran's, once or twice. He had not had nightmares like those in years. This episode with me must have reopened a part of his mind he had succeeded in closing off to the past.
Filled with remorse yet again, I slowly ascended the stairs back to my cold bedroom, wondering how I was going to be able to fix what I had done.
After a few hours of fitful sleeping, I awoke to the sun streaming through my window. Rolling over, I looked at the clock. Half-past eight. As I dressed, I wondered if Holmes had managed to get any sleep or if his entire night had been as violent as the part I had been privy to.
I entered our sitting room with no little trepidation, wondering if I would have to confront Holmes about my actions of the previous night then and there, but the room was empty. An empty coffee cup on the table told me he was up, but his bedroom door was now closed.
A sigh escaped my lips as I walked over to the table to pour myself a cup of my own. Judging from what I believed the day would hold, I prayed that our landlady had made the drink quite strong and considered fortifying it with a shot of brandy.
I was mulling over the possibility in my mind when I saw a package lying on my chair by the fire. Surprised, I walked over and picked it up. Wrapped in a plain brown paper and tied with a neatly knotted string, the parcel was roughly the size of one of my journals. Curious, I opened the package and turned the volume over in my hands.
It was the very same one I had stumbled upon yesterday in Holmes's room.
Opening to the inside cover I read the simple message inscribed there.
December 25, 1897
Merry Christmas, my dear Watson.
Stunned by this unexpected turn of events, I stepped over to my desk and pulled out my family's Bible. John 15:13 reads "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
As my eyes widened in surprise, I heard a soft, almost undistinguishable sound. I glanced up just in time to see a flash of grey before Holmes's bedroom door closed behind him.
He had been standing in the doorway, watching me open his gift.
As I heard his strident voice calling imperiously down the stairs for Mrs. Hudson to "serve breakfast at once," I smiled to myself and gently placed Holmes journal on my shelf beside my own for that year.
He entered the room somewhat sheepishly a moment later.
"I suppose it wasn't quite right to spy on you, Watson," he said, but with absolutely no trace of remorse.
"No more wrong that it was of me to intrude on your private affairs either, Holmes," I replied, beginning my apology.
"No, Watson!" he snapped emphatically. "No," he amended, "your curiosity was perfectly natural. My behavior last night was churlish, considering the fact that it was an accident and that you were actually clearing up my mess at the time. Pray accept my apologies."
"If you will accept mine, my dear fellow."
We stood awkwardly for a few moments until I broke the uncomfortable silence by lighting my pipe.
"You know, Holmes, I can now see why you detest my writing. Because you are no mean author yourself," I said, completely truthfully and without jealousy.
"I have learned from one of the best, Watson," he said magnanimously, gesturing at the rows of journals on my desk.
I could not restrain an undignified snort of disbelief.
"Who are you, and what have you done with Sherlock Holmes?"
He started in surprise and glared at me for just a moment, and then broke into one of those odd, dry laughs of his. And after a few seconds, I joined him.
"I never get your limits, Watson," he finally said, the twinkle of the previous night finally coming back to his grey eyes.
"Nor I yours, my dear Holmes," I replied, gently tapping his journal pointedly with the stem of my pipe. "Nor I yours."