"Is it really you?" I cried out, grasping him by the arms. "Holmes—I…thought…and then…but…where…" I gave a hysterical laugh, unable to make sense of anything.

"Yes, yes, it is me, anyone can tell by the sheer stupidity with which I chose to reveal myself." Holmes offered me his brandy and I took a mouthful, trying to control my emotions, wanting to be glad, not these ridiculous tears threatening to spoil our meeting.

"Holmes, I—I…I…"

"Don't speak, Watson. I think you are not quite ready to discuss things." His cool tone was offset by the gentle way he pressed my hand as he took back his flask.

"But I wanted…"

"Watson, please, you look…quite ghastly, really. Would you not care to lie down on the couch? You can't even sit…" he made a soft, fussy noise and pulled me to my feet; his extraordinary strength got me to my consulting-room couch. "Now lie down-- yes, like that. I'll fetch a blanket for you, Watson, you're shivering."

"No, Holmes, don't leave!" I cried, grabbing his sleeve. "Please don't go away!" In my shocked and exhausted state I could not control myself and I began to cry like a child, holding his arm tighter.

"But…" his brow furrowed. Shrugging out of his coat, he proceeded to put it on me, which was no easy task since the violence of my shivering was increasing. As he slipped my arms through the sleeves, his own arms were around me, and I knew it was the closest he would probably ever come to embracing me.

There was no room in my mind for questions or speculations just yet; there was only Holmes, so close at last, after so long, and as I held him tight and felt his hand upon my back, I prayed that he would never disappear from my life again.