Year of our Lord 1910
As all of you are aware, my father was a brilliant writer, who spent -- and some say squandered -- his adult life at the side of a man that his writings, and that man's own accomplishments, made famous. Not before or since has a man of the likes of Theron Khushrenada existed.
Three weeks ago, my mother finally gave to me a sheaf of papers that she said she'd never wanted me to see, but that she thought I had the right to see them at last, some thirteen years after they were written.
Since my fathers death, I have been editing his un-polished and un-published re-counts of his adventures with Mr. Khushrenada. His abrupt death four years ago had left much of his life hanging in the air, and crushed the will -- and some would argue, heart -- of Theron Khushrenada. When I saw him for the last time, at my father's funeral, he was a hollow looking man, with empty eyes that were so different from the darting, bright things I remember from all previous meetings. The League of Red men, his arch nemesis Maxwell, and case after case of gruesome murders and missing spouses, could not harm his will to live as badly as my father's death did.
Now, I give to you, against my dead father's wishes, a manuscript that should explain the final mystery of why the most intriguing man in England's history of detectives, Theron Khushrenada, was found dead, some weeks after Ezekiel Marquise's death, with a revolver loosely clasped in his hand, sprawled on a divan in 212b Baker Street.
I no longer believe that it was an intricate murder set up to look as a suicide. This manuscript has, in my mind at least, finally closed the case.
Anno Domine 1897 My Dearest son Edward,
Throughout my life, I've taken great pains to be sure that I have put to paper every great or adventurous occurrence in my life, for the perusal of future generations. This is a story that I would rather not have see the light of day, save for your eyes. it is to your discretion as to whether to let Mary see this.
You have, I believe, a right to know why I do not live with your mother -- I'm sure that at your current tender age, you wonder why your father doesn't live at home like all the other boy's father's do. I do attempt my best to see you often, but my own work-load of patients and Theron's cases often prove to be overwhelming for both of us, physically and emotionally.
Perhaps you have already deducted why, when I visit, I often bring gifts from Theron for you and Mary; why it is that all my stories are not the fairy-tales that most men tell their children, but adventures that Theron and I have lived; why he seems to be the focal point of my life. Perhaps you haven't guessed at it yet, denying the possibility out of personal horror.
To this point, I have done my best to paint the more objective picture of my dear friend Theron that I could. I have glassed over the painful cocaine addiction that he has only just fully shaken himself free of. I have often painted a picture of a man who is cold, calculating and sharp of tongue, in my own attempts to shield Theron from the reprisals anything further could cause. He must be the epitome of control to the general public; any weaknesses that were too well known could be targeted by those of evil intent who wish him dead.
If you are reading this, Edward, I am dead. I trust in your mother to give it to you -- she already knows this story, for it is now three years old. I left her, to the scorn of my sister and your mother's extended family, to come back to London, to have a flourishing practice and to live with Theron in his overly roomy apartment. He has no need of so much room, aside from pacing while playing violin and room to set up his experiments.
Theron is a solitary man by nature, as you have gleamed from prior stories, entertaining no-one but clients and the odd person he needs to draw information from. The elderly woman who owns the house, and often serves as a maid, Mrs. Unne, is trustworthy to an extreme, and there are perhaps a half handful of street informant boys that he trusts enough to talk to for any purpose aside from fact-finding.
If I did not room with him, he would spend most of his time practicing Violin, doing chemical experiments, smoking, and breathing cocaine, between cases. He is fitness conscious, but not a man very intent on keeping himself alive for a lengthy period of time. Brilliance, deduction and memory does not mean that once cannot be subconsciously self destructive.
So I warn you -- in this, I will paint for you reality itself, Theron with all of his flaws, within my limited means.
He had returned to me after having led us all to believe him dead for nearly three years. Running about, he told me, in France, and Tibet, and Palestine. I was so overjoyed to see him again, alive and well, but there was a case to deflect some of my immediate passions. Imagine three years without your leg, or your right hand -- that was what it was like to have Theron missing, presumed dead. Your mother and I grew apart as she learned of my reasons for melancholy; I dearly missed Theron. I missed him more than I would have missed her had *she* fallen into that chasm with Maxwell.
And when he returned, I decided to chance it all -- take up his offer for me to move in with him, since he could already tell I was having trouble with my wife.
After that first case we solved the same day he returned, I moved in, and took my first long looks at him, assessed what had happened in the past three years to him in his wanderlust adventures. He was thinner than he'd been before, and paler; without the fiery energy of a case to spark his eyes, I could pay attention to the bags beneath his eyes, the fine tremble and cold sweat that possessed him as he walked toward his pipe-box and prepared something, talking casually about Dorothy Moran's arrest.
I had feared, for a moment, that he'd picked up using opium in his travels. But it was simply his pipe that he was preparing and a hard touch of exhaustion that made him look so ill. He gave off an air of a man who'd travelled hard for a week to get to London, and I wondered to what purpose.
His marginally lesser height was more obvious as folded himself into his favourite chair, lighting the pipe and taking a slow, relaxed in draw of breath. "Unne put fresh tobaccos here while we were gone this evening. Splendid."
The pleasure on his face was nearly a steady glow of that pale skin, so familiar, so much the same but so changed...
I realised then, sitting there with him in the entry room in 212 Baker that I was thoroughly enraptured by him. Khushrenada isn't the first man I've seen in such a light, but he is the only one that I can think of that I would wish to spend so much time with. If plausible, I can now see us together until we both die of old age.
I never did answer his comment about the Tobacco. I was too enraptured in watching his lips as he pulled the pipe from between them, letting free a thin spiral of smoke from his lips. Once more, I could smell the rich, fiery smell that I've become so familiar with and had missed over those three years.
"I missed you, Theron," I told him, sincere to my very heart. "what brought you back here at last? Come now, it must have been more than sheer boredom." I was hoping it was more than boredom.
"Ezekiel, old chap, I have never been a superstitious man. But two weeks ago, I dreamt of a great fire in London, and I watched, unable to do anything more, as a dark god played with you and my brother, torturing you." He took another slow draw of smoke, and let it out again, through his nose this time, sighing quietly moments later. "I can only assume that it is a warning from somewhere, of something that is to come. So I did the only logical thing and came back, Marquise. I may say that I have missed living here, and have missed London."
"Your mind is still as sharp and capable as ever for crime-work, Theron. I shouldn't take you long at all to re-learn your love of London."
It was then that he surprised me, lifting sharp jewel-coloured eyes to me, expression lightly sardonic. "Gentle Doctor, I did not come back for *London's* sake."
A light knock on the door signalled Unne's arrival, with tea, and I rise, gesturing Theron to stay still as I get it. "Then why did you come back for?"
Only once a brief, pleasant exchange had passed between myself and Mrs Unne, and she'd come and gone, did he answer. Starting to speak with the closing click of the door, as he rose to stand beside me while I poured the tea, and he liberally doled sugar into his own cup. Another habit of his that I frown on, but he runs places more than he walks, so I have no choice but to forgive him it.
"I returned because..." The tremble was back, and I feared that he wasn't fatigued, but going through withdrawal of his drugs. I think, at times, that the only people who knew the extent that the habit controlled him was his source and myself. So many times, he'd disappointed me by falling back onto it, and now it seemed so very possible that he'd fallen again. "Because, Marquise, I am entirely a coward... Maxwell gave me a chance to escape a threat, by dying, and I took that chance."
"Khushrenada." I grasped his arm carefully, just above the elbow, and turn him enough to look into wavering eyes. Yes, I had been right -- upon closer inspection, sapphire darts were rimmed with red, capillaries in his eyes making themselves so known that the whites were almost gone. I could feel the slight tremor of his muscles, even as he looked at me with surprise. "You're withdrawing."
"I know that you do not approve of it, Marquise, but there is no need to further scorn--"
I silenced him the best way I knew how to, fully expecting to find myself slammed against a wall, or tossed off him, as he would do with any unexpected attacker. Disable them, then interrogate.
I had kissed him, full on the lips; I regret to say that our first kiss wasn't the most memorable. Theron didn't move as I pressed my lips against his warm, lightly chapped lips. He'd always had such a trouble with his lips bleeding -- from so much time spent running around outside without a scarf on, I know.
Now I'd done it, I thought to myself. He was going to completely take back the offer to share rooms with him, perhaps leave London again, perhaps never be heard from again. The horror I caused myself at my own actions made me draw back, an explanation, an excuse, trying to fumble out of my lips.
He still looked to be in shock, as I stayed close, touching him at arm and waist, looking into those bewildered, blood-shot eyes. It was possible to almost see the wheels of his mind spinning wildly, trying to put together the pieces to find out why and since when, and so many other things that were crucial for him to know.
"I am a Fool," he declared solemnly, and I was going to refute that, when he leaned in and kissed me. The movement spoke of confidence until the moment his lips met mine, and then he trembled, unsure of what and how to do what he seemed to want. I coaxed him on by moving, reacting only to his own tentative motions. A press of lips to lips, sweet friction that lifted my soul as he pulled back, those blood-shot eyes seeming to glow for a moment in joy as he pressed his lanky form closer to mine.
What struck me so odd as his very... tenseness. He looked as if a wrong move would cause him to fly apart and shatter in a breeze. Theron was never a man who did anything in half measures, so this was particularly peculiar.
My mind had drifted for a moment and I'd unconsciously pulled him closer, into a gentling embrace. I felt for all the world like I was soothing a frightened horse -- one hand resting firmly in the small of his back, the other petting through thick golden-brown hair, stroking across trembling lips until he pressed his face into my hair.
He'd always had a sort of fascination with my hair -- I wore it in none of the favoured fashions, choosing the keep it in the style my mother had first suggested so many years ago. Kept shoulder-length, pulled back into a low tail. And now he was pulling it free, relaxing a little as he had something to concentrate his waning energies upon.
"Theron." My voice, soft and deep, seems to shake him further; my hand motions could not be stopped, as those limbs started to run of their own will, still comforting him. "You need desperately to rest."
"I stayed away because I did not want your disgust," he told me absently, voice shaking as I started to lead him towards his room. "I'd thought there to be no sense in upturning my married friend's life..."
Now it made more sense to me why he'd let us all think him dead, but it still hurt; why hadn't he simply spoken with me? Was I so untrustworthy to him? "We'll talk more tomorrow, Theron." No, he trusted me -- it had to have been fear that had driven him to run from his established life. "Know that I want this as much as you do."
In my life, I'd been with men before. I still love the company of women, for nothing can compare with their softness, but there is something particularly about men that draw me to them. Theron was one such man who drew me in to him. I wondered, as I helped him onto the bed, and averted my gaze as he dug for his syringe in a teak-wood box atop the dresser beside the bed. Best to turn a blind eye to it, and clear up the tea that we hadn't touched.
I left his bedroom and re-entered the main room, putting all of the things for tea back upon the tray, except for my own cup, which I drank a few slow sips from, letting that hot liquid seep into my pores. It gave me a chance to process things a little more. What I had before me was a wondrous chance; the possibility of the deep friendship and understanding I shared with Theron to become something more.
We'd first been introduced to each-other by a mutual friend, and I'd been put off by his disdain, but somehow... we ended up trapped together, talking, and his trust in me developed. Emotionally, Theron has always been stunted; his parents were cold and uncaring toward he and his brother Trowa. Both of them have struggled to find someone they can depend on, someone who won't pass them on when they're inconvenient.
There was a knock upon the door as I stood there, finishing my tea, and I let Mrs Unne into the room. She had a smile on her face, still overjoyed by Theron's return. It was as if he'd stepped back into life, picking right up where he'd been three years ago, and nothing had changed at all.
"Will you be staying the night, Mr. Marquise?"
"Mmh, Yes, Mrs. Unne. Theron's already retired for the evening, and I believe I will follow," I told her, already stripping off my jacket and laying it casually over the back of the chair I liked to think of as 'mine'.
"I'll ring the bell for breakfast in the morning, then. It's so good for there to be *things* going on in the house again."
"I've missed it, too, Mrs. Unne -- Good-evening." A gentle smile was cast towards her as she left the room, closing the door behind her.
I puttered around the parlour for a moment more, admiring the wax dummy of Theron that had taken Dorothy's bullet, before I gathered my wits about me and re-opened the door to his bedroom. No sign of him, but the connecting bathroom door was open, and I could see his shadow moving about n there, the occasional splash of water from the sink making itself known.
He likes to do shaving when he can, and it was an opportunity given; given to me, also, as I take the chance to unbutton my cuffs, and take off my vest. He wanted that kiss, wanted me, but would it be enough to tempt my friend, the bachelor that I was willing to bet money was also a complete virgin...? Not a clue was given to me.
Looking up from sitting on the edge of the bed, where I was sitting to take off my shoes, I found Theron standing in the door-way, looking at me. His normally cool, reserved expression was tender, almost hopeful, though his eyes held a disturbing light that told me he had fed his habit when I left the room. I had only seen such a purely caring look in his face before when he was trying to protect me in the line of a case -- and then it was fleeting, a look seen from the corners of my eyes. Now it was intense, concentrated on me as he moved forward.
"Theron," I murmured softly, rising to my feet, arms open and awaiting his decision. Mine had already been made, years before, when I'd first met him, despite my attempts as social propriety. I don't know from where he gathered the strength to cross the awkwardness that filled the room between us, and fitted himself into my arms, trying to pull me down onto the bed.
The lean form was all energy, a knot of tensed muscles -- so expectant, and wanting, but so unknowing of what to do or how, or even if he could. I moved us both onto the bed, stilling him with sure hands. "It's too fast for you, Theron -- you *need* to rest." And I needed to bury myself in his strong body, but that was unthinkable at the moment. I wanted his mind clear of the drug, and I wanted to be sure that the tremor in his hands was want, not want tainted with fear and uncertainty. Three years had been a long wait, but I would not ruin his fragile emotions for my passions' satisfaction, no more than I would stomp through a field of flowers to pick the tempting one in the middle.
"I wanted you, Ezekiel, before I left," he spoke in his rich tenor; but the tone was tremulous, tense with emotions. It was as if he was trying to assure me that I could go on without begging. "I love you." Those words made his voice shake all the worse.
"And I, you." My hand on his chest, pressing the bare skin of his half-opened shirt, drew from his lips a loud gasp. Taut as the strings of his violin, and just as likely to break. Denied of emotional comfort as well as physical, and I looked forward to initiating him into the world of physical sensations -- it made even better sense as to why he'd clung to cocaine. The thought passed through my mind that I could replace that drug, the sensations he needed that it gave him. "I love you my friend."
I pushed his shirt off, un-tucking it as I did so; every brush of fingers over his skin made him writhe and arch, nearly begging for more touch. I knew that if his fingers hadn't have been buried in the bedding beneath him, my arms would have bruised quickly. Finally it was done, and I pulled back to take off my own.
Jewel-toned eyes looked at me with hazy concentration, from a face flushed with passion and want. "Marquise," he murmured, then "Ezekiel," as if testing which he better liked the sound of from his own lips. One hand rose from the bedding as I moved to lay atop him, pulling the sheets around us, and his fingers grasped onto my shoulders, pulling me close to get another kiss.
Kiss upon kiss followed, our fingers exploring the skin I'd exposed on both of us. The gasps he made were less of shock and more of pleasure, as he became less fearful of those mutual touches. That night, I learned to drink in his kisses like nectar from the flowers, and Theron learned how good something so supposedly base could feel so pleasurable.
We explored until he began to drift off, coming down from the drug's high point, and I settled in against him, happy to sleep while holding him in my arms.
In a matter of less than two days, my closest friend had returned from the dead, solved a murder case narrowly missed dying, and by some miracle, admitted that he loved me.
When I awoke in the morning, it was with a lingering guilt that I had trampled through virgin snow-fields and left dirty-footprints where-ever it was that my feet has landed.
But I had not, and Theron hadn't seemed to pull back from me while we slept; indeed, he clung all the tighter to me, desperate for the human contact he'd deprived himself of all his life. In my arms, I held my life itself -- my goals, my motivation, my companionship and my heart, all packed into an eccentric, reserved, socially shy man with a sense of humour so dry it could be used as kindling.
The dim light, on what I knew would be another London cloudy day, passed slowly into the room through linen curtains, picking up the warmer colour of the cloth as it filtered through. Pale cheeks still looked ashen, but better than they'd looked the night before. It was so strange, yet so *right*, to awaken beside him; to be able to study the sculpted, narrow face in those moments before the lines of stress came back; to lazily trace those forked eye-brows, that he so seemed to hate, with a finger, and not have to worry about what may come of it.
Mrs. Unne's voice entered my reverie, her gentle tones breaking the morning silence with ,"Mr Khushrenada... it's morning -- breakfast will be served soon."
My tender stroking of cheek and brow had already stirred Theron to wakefulness, and he mumbled out a sleepy, "thank you," before huddling down further under the sheets, and involuntarily closer to me.
Perhaps that was what brought reality to him, as much as it did me -- the press of flesh to flesh again, the undeniable presence of morning erections between our bodies.
"Ezekiel." Roughly spoken, as sleep heavy eyes crack open, peering at me as he lifts his head a little from the bedding we were cocooned so tightly in. "I did not expect..."
"For me to stay, Theron?" One hand sliding up the soft skin of his chest curled at the back of his head, gently brushing the short ginger hairs that curved around his ears and tickled at the nape of his neck. The touch, so unfamiliar to him, made Theron give a tight little shiver. "Why-ever would I leave when it's so comfortable here?" I had wondered how far I could gently tease him, but he allowed that, relaxing a little with the assurance that what little had passed between us the night before had not ruined our companionship. "Dear Theron... my Friend." That time it was he who kissed me without hesitance; what he lacked in skill, Theron made up in eagerness. With the clarity of being fully rested, I could classify it all; the slightly rough rub of his lips to mine, the clean flavour his mouth held, the shake of his fingers sliding through my long hair as I moved atop him, kneeling yet bent forward.
Mrs Unne knocked on the door again, chided Theron for sleeping so late, and threatened to come in and get him.
"My apologies, Mrs Unne!" he called back, sounding half-choked as he said those words. He should have, in all reality, since I was perched atop his hips so that our erections rubbed through the barrier of our trousers. "Marquise, we need to... Oh god!"
My hand was working it's way under the waist-band of his rumpled pants, tickling and teasing over the soft skin I found beneath; with my other hand, I unbuttoned and un-zipped them, peeling back layers of my prize like he were a orange. One that I couldn't wait to drink the juices of, squirming down the length of the bed to give him pleasure that every man should have at some point in their life. Pleasure made better by the care between us, the delight in his voice and moans.
Undergarment and trousers were pushed off his hips, baring the sharp bones of his pelvis to my eyes -- proving that he surely wasn't eating enough -- and a slender hardness that pulsed with the beats of his heart. The most beautiful thing I'd ever set my sight upon, that slender, long arousal, the beautifully flared head that was all mine to caress.
"Ezekiel," he pleaded as I wrapped my hand around it, stroking firmly as I laid between sprawled legs and nosed the tip. "Oh, god, I've never been... ahn!"
It tasted just as I'd hoped -- hot and only a little salty. More thick, clean and heady than anything. His hygiene was impeccable. But I never expected different of him, because, after-all, he was Theron Khushrenada. I had feasted on that taste for only a few short moments, grasped the shaft in my hand long enough to give only a few trembling, exploring touches, before my mouth was flooded with his semen, and his voice rang out in a near shout, fingers knotting into my hair.
When the grasp loosened and I'd swallowed it all, I slid back up, taking the covers with me to cover his trembling sated form. His pale face had flooded red by the time I kissed him, sharing his taste with himself.
"You over-whelm me, Ezekiel," he whispered after our lips had parted. There was a sort of fear still in his gaze, an embarrassment as he realised that my need was still un-satisfied. "Show me how to please you so much, Ezekiel. I have never... learned such things, only... I do not wish to display a lack of surety..."
"Shh." I silenced him with a kiss to the tip of his nose, scowling at him with my eyes. "Everyone must start somewhere." Still licking the edges of my lips, I reached between us, and grasped his left hand, pulling it down to my groin, and guiding his fingers to grasp me.
That touch was all it took for his natural curiosity to come into the playing, and now it was my turn to hold back a shudder as he squeezed, as if checking to make sure I was whole. "Now, Mister Khushrenada -- are you getting up, or am I going to have to *get* you?" Unne's voice meant business now, but it didn't seem to reach Treize, so intent he was on tugging me closer, touching me.
"Theron," I hissed softly in his ear, pulling back. "Tonight... at the first chance we have." We hadn't had the time I wanted -- I wanted days and days with him, in that bed, him beneath me, atop me, beside me, within and without me -- but it wasn't there to be used. Not just then....
An act of god, the fact that we finally pulled our bodies away from each other, and it was only done when I bodily rose and stepped away from the bed, suffering the cold air to duck into his bathroom and calm myself under the cold shower.
When I came out, he was dressed in fresh clothes; I had to slide on what I'd came into his room wearing, nearly sneaking back to my own room so Mrs Unne didn't see me. And it is hard, indeed, to sneak when your heart is singing.
Breakfast was a simple affair, and Theron dismissed Unne from serving us so that we could talk -- 'about a case of great importance.'
Neither of us spoke right away -- rather, we let the silence simmer between us.
"Marquise, I have been thinking of... last night, and my time away, and other things and reached a simple conclusion: that it would be best for the both of us to... pursue this furt--"
"I won't have you hiding behind formality, Theron," I spoke up, rising from the chair and setting aside my copy of The Lancet. "I want your heart, too, not just your mind." He swallowed, visibly, the only sign of discomfort that I can pick up -- he's so easy for me to read, after all of these years at his side. And I knew he could read me as well, if not better. Taking a step toward him, I saw it again.
A flash in his eyes, as bright as the flash of a rifle; want and need as unconquerable as the cocaine, fear of loss, fear of ruining a friendship and fear of harm.
And I watched all of them melt together, softening as he rose from his chair, unfolding long legs as his dressing gown swirled out behind him while he crossed the parlour floor towards me.
"You have both, Ezekiel." His voice was in my ear as we held each-other before the window, and it was with only half my attention did I notice that the shades were still drawn too much for anyone to see us. It was another chance to listen to the steady thump of his heart as he rested my head just beneath his chin, not standing straight, but... just to savour the beating of his heart, the soft sighs he gave every time one of us shifted, it was worth it.
We passed much of the morning that way, lazily, doing nothing more than sharing kisses and embraces, telling each-other what had passed in our three years apart. We had just shored up the plans to have me move in with him permanently -- and why not? -- when I remembered the letter I'd received from his brother a week before.
Reality was intruding on our new-born world with each-other, because Trowa Khushrenada was going to wed his secretary. And I was supposed to leave the next morning, bright and early, to catch a train...
So the only solution was for both of us to go -- and Theron could surprise him.