April 10, 2008
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Written for kathie_d who asked for a story in an entirely new category…
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The Courtship of Rabbits

bike porn. yes, that’s right. bike porn.

by nlr alicia

<< These stories are inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s tales of his immortal characters, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson. The content shared here is the responsibility of this author.>>

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On style choices: I use Americanized spelling and punctuation because I’m not confident I’ll always remember to use Anglicized alternatives and the possessive “Holmes’s” as Doyle does in the Strand version of HOUN because I like it better.

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Author’s Note: This story is for Mature Audiences. While not overly graphic, it is frank in content and text.

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Content Warnings: Slashy things that happen in spring and a sudden outbreak of bunnies. Or an outbreak of sudden bunnies. Whichever.

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The gentle susurration of our bicycle wheels over the dusty lane was low and rhythmic and would have been quite soothing were it not for the almost palpable sense of displeasure radiating from my companion. The dark mood that had descended on him at the conclusion of his latest case had been particularly irksome, no less because I shared it.

Holmes’s discontent stemmed from the fact that his talents had been sadly wasted in solving the pedestrian puzzle of the missing scion (the lad had simply taken himself off with the similarly vanished daughter of the stableman) and I was distinctly frustrated by the rapid resolution of the case for the simple reason it meant we’d be returning to London a day earlier than planned.

It was my belief Holmes and I might both benefit from a bit of country air. My friend had looked unusually peaked of late. More than once I’d found him sunk in brown study, staring fixedly at whatever object was near to hand, be it his congealing eggs at breakfast or, as often as not, the novel in my hands as I reclined on our couch trying vainly to divert my own wandering attention.

For myself, I had hopes that some brisk exercise in the open air might serve to dispel a few of the dangerous thoughts that plagued my mind. It is well-known folk wisdom that Spring brings with it a stirring of those animal urges we late century denizens of the civilized world try so hard to deny and I’d recently found myself ever more of the view we’re not so removed from the kingdom of the animals as we would like to believe.

Lately, when I’d allowed my gaze to linger too long on Holmes’s elegant and nimble hands or his dark hair that so uncompromisingly sparked visions of disarranged linen and flushed skin, I felt a stirring in my blood that was not easily dispelled. So it was as we cycled on toward Edenbridge and our eventual journey back to town, I was feeling unreasonably ill-disposed toward my companion for dispensing with his latest case with such irritating efficiency.

I was brought to myself by the sound of far-off rifle fire, tinny and shuddering as it echoed off the low hills that lined our track. Seeking for some neutral topic of conversation I observed, “The hunt is up early.”

The rigid line of Holmes’s shoulders didn’t waver as his voice carried back to me on the still air. “You scintillate this morning, Watson, truly. I eagerly await your trenchant observations on the color of the sky and unusual dryness for May.”

I felt my grip on the handlebars tighten. In the normal course of things I’d let this kind of snappish witticism sail past. After years of such off-hand abuse I’d learned to identify it as a response calculated to forestall casual and, in his current mood, stultifying conversation. There was no more malice in it than that applied to the swatting of a persistent fly. Yet that morning, as the steady whir of our wheels served as counterpoint to regular bursts of rifle fire, I felt disinclined to shrug off his attempt to still my tongue.

“I suppose you can identify the make and year of the rifle,” I said, letting some of the irritation I felt creep into my voice.

“Winchester 1886. Lever action,” he replied with no apparent deliberation or even interest.

Despite myself, I did, as always, feel a thrill of pleasure at seeing his startling talents exercised even in so offhand a fashion, but it wasn’t enough to dispel my mood.

“Well, I’ve no doubt you’re right,” I said. “Though I have no way of confirming it as you well know.”

He made no response except to bend lower over his handlebars. The sharp angles of his face showed nothing but rigid determination.

Still feeling unreasonably ill tempered I observed, “You seem to be laboring a bit this morning. Can it be the stifling atmosphere of London, or perhaps that foul tobacco you insist on polluting our rooms with, is taking its toll?”

“It’s interesting that you should make that observation, erroneous as it is,” he shot back. “I was about to voice a similar reservation about your state of fitness. I suspect its simply that you’ve let yourself go a bit soft, spending so many afternoons slack and indolent on our settee. You’ve quite worn a groove in it lately. I was thinking of complaining about the incipient cost of having it re-cushioned.”

“I’m afraid your powers must be deserting you at last, old man,” I said, feeling a humorless smile curl my lips. “I’ve never been more fit and I venture to say my stamina is more than a match for yours.”

“Brag and bounce,” he said and I was amused in spite of myself to hear my own long-ago words echoed back to me. “I very much doubt a small contest to that effect would bear out your entirely unjustified confidence.”

“The question is settled easily enough,” I answered. “Would you care to enliven the last leg of our journey with a spot of healthy competition?”

“Competition implies a reward,” he said, honoring me with a glance of his smoke gray eyes. “Shall we place a wager on the outcome?”

“There’s not much point in a competition without one,” I said honestly, for my sporting blood would not permit of any other answer. “Although I really don’t care to waste any more breath in the consideration of it. Let us simply agree that the prize will be worth the effort.”

“Done,” he said with surprising readiness for I’d prepared myself for a lengthy negotiation that would exercise his tongue as well as his wit, both at my expense.

I was relieved for I had doubts of the fact that my current imaginings would allow me to keep my silence over the forfeit I’d most like to take. Thankfully, before I could lose myself in futile daydreams of tousled black hair and lips bruised by passion, Holmes offered, “First to the bridge at the millstream. Winner names the reward.”

“Done,” I agreed. “I’ll have made my decision by the time you arrive.” And, not waiting for his rejoinder, I bent low over my handlebars and surged ahead.

The rush of enjoyment I felt at the feel of my muscles thrusting against the upward grade was surpassed a moment later by the thrill of seeing my friend’s lean shape, arced forward and taut with concentration, pull level with me. I spared myself the energy required to reach up and twist my cloth cap brim-backward then pleasure gave way to determination when Holmes pulled decisively ahead.

I was no match for his speed going uphill. Those whippet-quick muscles were highly adapted to the speed and economy of movement required to master the steepest grade. My expectation was born out a moment later when he stood up in the stirrups and rocketed ahead.

I nearly lost my concentration entirely to rapt admiration. I’d never mastered the ability to become one with the motion of the machine. Holmes’s sleek form was so still as to appear motionless over the pendulum motion of the bicycle as it swayed in time with the downward stroke of the tightly bunched muscles of his thighs.

His wheels thrummed over the loose sand of the road as he coursed ahead, but I held myself in tight check. I knew as surely as there was an upgrade there’d be a downgrade and that’s where I’d have the advantage.

I crested the hill barely a second behind him and felt a tight smile curl my lips as I bore down over the forward wheel. It wasn’t often I felt glad of my greater mass. As often as not I felt lumbering and clumsy next to the easy grace of my friend. But occasionally I was glad of my size and as I pulled decisively ahead I felt an unwarrantable bloom of self-satisfaction.

The feeling was short-lived, however, for we soon hit a long stretch of level ground. Once again, Holmes pulled ahead and this time the pleasure of watching his tightly controlled movements was thin recompense for the biting knowledge that I was in danger of losing any chance of naming the forfeit one of us would shortly claim.

The bridge over the millstream was no more than a turn or two ahead and I saw Holmes stretch forward to lay on a final sprint of energy to the finish line. At that moment I resolved to sacrifice the high ground in lieu of the satisfaction of seeing the fire in his eyes at recognizing my outrageously underhanded behavior.

Besides, I rationalized, I knew full well it was not the contest but the competition that fired his blood. Given the choice he’d rather be tested than claim the laurels in an easy victory.

So when I saw my chance coming at the next turning of the road, I took it. The track bent around a copse of spreading oaks and undergrowth of wild camellia. The tongue of green was thickly grown, but I spotted a narrow track between the trees, no doubt a footpath cut by the tread of country boys too lazy to follow the curve of road. Their sloth was to my advantage I decided and with no more thought than that I cut left and charged through the undergrowth.

The hard rubber Dunlop tires lived up to their reputation for smoothing out the ride though they were sorely tested at that moment. As I jolted over snaking roots and rotting branches, ducking low under reaching limbs, I was spared the bruising I’d anticipated.

To my distinct pleasure I found that I was making excellent progress, enough that I felt confident in shooting a quick glance at my competition. Holmes’s mouth was set in a tight line that told me he was well aware of my shameless tactic. No doubt I sounded like a herd of steer barreling through the shadowy wood, but surprise was not my object. As I saw the road arching around before me I knew not even Holmes’s finely honed muscles could compensate for the ground I’d gained.

What I hadn’t bargained on was the added intercession of the natural world. As I jolted over a furrow in the ground I heard a skittering in the welter of fallen leaves. The next instant a pair of rabbits, no doubt startled while making use of the warm Spring morning, burst from hiding and bolted across the road.

Before I could draw breath to call out a warning, the first animal cut straight across Holmes’s path just as he was at the apex of his turn. The second hare passed mere inches before his wheel and what followed had a horrible inevitability.

Holmes jerked the wheel to the side, braking hard. The dry sand of the road may as well have been fired to glass for all the traction it offered. His tires skidded, a scree of loose gravel sprayed up, and he was off the bike and tumbling into the bushes at the edge of the trees.

I’d rarely been so thankful for his skill as an acrobat. As I jolted to a stop and vaulted from my seat, leaving the bicycle to crash to the ground, I saw he’d missed the worst of the brambles and had managed to roll through to a soft declivity at the base of an ancient oak. By the time I’d bounded over the undergrowth between us, he was already pushing up to a sitting position.

I dropped to my knees beside him and was relieved to see my worst fears of broken limbs immediately dispelled when he drew up his long legs and began to brush futilely at the knees of his trousers.

He was panting just as hard as I, but he still managed to find the breath to grate out, “I wasn’t surprised to see you were prepared to win at any cost. I just didn’t anticipate you’d enlist small game in your cause.”

I was too relieved at this show of energy to stifle my burst of laughter and was pleased to see Holmes’s lips curl in a wry smile.

“I had no hope of winning otherwise,” I offered by way of olive branch. “You were clearly going to finish a good furlong ahead of me.”

“I agree,” Holmes said stiffly as he fingered a several-inch long tear in the sleeve of his Norfolk jacket. “And I shall enjoy setting my reward all the more for the certain knowledge of it.”

“Steady on, Holmes,” I said, feeling an entirely unwarranted heat spark at the clear injustice of his words. “You can’t claim victory before the finish line. It isn’t done.”

He cast me a dark look under his eyebrows. “You are going to sit there and calmly lecture me on sportsmanship?” he said. “I think even you might have some shame in light of your recent behavior.”

“I don’t see how you can call me unsportsmanlike when we didn’t set any clear rules,” I said equably. “There was no mention I recall about staying to the road. If you’re so inflexible as to stick doggedly to the highway I can’t see that I should make allowances–” I didn’t finish the thought as I saw him straighten his back and make as if to rise.

“If it’s finishing the race you require to satisfy your need for sound defeat, I’m more than ready,” he said.

Thinking quickly, I decided it was the better part of valor to take the blame for delaying our progress if it would ensure that my friend got his breath back before returning to the road.

“All right,” I said, reaching out to catch his shoulder. “I might be willing to relinquish victory if you’ll be willing to let me rest here a minute longer,” I said. “I confess I’m sweating like a racehorse and I’d much rather sit here in the shade than face that dusty road again so soon.”

For an instant I feared Holmes’s hunger for competition wouldn’t permit of the compromise, but to my relief he puffed out a sigh and began to shrug out of his jacket.

My relief soon gave way to less honorable emotions when I saw the way his damp shirt clung to his slim shoulders. The black hair at the back of his neck curled with the perspiration that slicked the skin of his throat and the effect was bewitching in its intimation of dark pleasures. I gave a guilty start as Holmes looked back over his shoulder and met my eyes.

“You do look a bit flushed,” he said slowly. “Perhaps it is best we sit here for a while.”

What with the near-overwhelming desire to taste his damp skin I’d begun to have grave doubts of the wisdom of my own suggestion, but when he went on to strip the jacket from his arms I noticed a spreading patch of red on the torn elbow of his shirt and all thoughts of rising evaporated.

I bent forward to appraise the injury, but he jerked his arm out of my grasp the instant I touched it. “Don’t fuss,” he snapped. “It’s just a scratch.”

I pursed my lips. “I hesitate to question your medical acumen,” I answered, “But I’d venture to suggest it’s bleeding a bit more like a laceration than a scratch.”

At this he looked down curiously as if the suggestion was a complete surprise. “I think ‘laceration’ is a bit strong,” he said thoughtfully. “I will allow it’s a long scratch.”

“If I may?” I said evenly.

He gave a little shrug and lowered his arm back within easy reach. I sat cross-legged and carefully parted the torn edges of his shirt and examined the wound as he turned back to his survey of the road.

“It’s not too badly cut,” I said at last. “But I would like to bind the wound just to keep the dust from it.” I cast around for a suitable bandage before an idea came to me. “Since your shirt is already irreparable…” I began.

He offered a long-suffering sigh and held his arm out straight. In a moment I had torn a strip of linen from his sleeve and was wrapping it securely around his arm just above the elbow.

“Now that you’ve cost me a perfectly good suit and one of my better shirts, not to mention a quantity of skin, I submit to you, Doctor,” he said the last word with a pointed look over his shoulder, “It’s I who has the better argument for naming the forfeit.”

I offered a rueful smile. “In light of the tally of destruction against my name,” I replied, “I’m bound to admit you’re right.” I tied off the makeshift bandage and sat back

He cleared his throat and went back to surveying the road, peering alternately to the right and left where it curved around our resting spot. “This is a very quiet stretch of country,” he observed.

“Yes,” I answered, a little bemused by this sudden change of subject. “I don’t believe anyone’s passed us in either direction in at least an hour.”

“Is the bicycle well off the road?”

Frowning, I sat up straight for the better convenience of peering up the small rise and over the rough that surrounded us.

“Yes,” I said. “It’s not likely to hinder traffic should there be any. It’s half under a gorse bush. I don’t like the look of the front whe–” but I didn’t finish the word for the next instant I was being pushed back against the ground with some force.

The thought flashed across my mind that Holmes had decided to forgo the bicycle race for a bit of rough and tumble wrestling. The next instant that idea was swept away by the feel of an unmistakable and deliberate kiss.

So taken aback was I that I was unable to respond except to stare upward in astonishment. Gray eyes looked into mine and as suddenly as he’d launched himself at me, Holmes sat up, his breath coming quick and short.

“I’m satisfied,” he said, his voice hushed and breathy. “We’ll call the contest a draw and say no more about it. I believe I’ll inspect the damage to the machine,” he added and sat forward to push himself to his feet.

“No. You won’t,” I asserted then rolled to wrap my arm around his waist and bore him backward. I heard a puff of breath as he landed hard and I found myself leaning across his reclining body. He was staring up at me with eyes as wide with surprise as my own must have been.

“I’m sorry,” I said quickly, as much to cover my immediate embarrassment at the show of force as for the fact that I was trying desperately to sort out the welter of confused thoughts coursing through my mind.

A smile curled the corners of his mouth and lit his gray eyes. “How unfortunate,” he said. “I am not.”

His hand came up and laced through the damp hair at the back of my neck, pulling me down. I had just time to breathe a sigh before my eyes closed and I felt his mouth under mine.

It was everything I had so long imagined and more than I had dreamed. To taste those lips that had so long tempted me, to part them with my tongue and explore the treasure beyond, to feel Holmes’s lithe body radiating heat below mine, to know his hand pull me ever forward until that deep, searching, searing kiss consumed my every thought, was almost more than my racing heart could stand.

I broke the kiss and quested onward, tasting the perspiration on his cheek, nipping at his jaw – an endeavor that earned me an answering gasp – tracing a line along his throat and burying my face in his dark hair as if I might take him entirely by taste and touch and scent. It was heady and exhilarating and deeply arousing as I felt his heart beating fast against my chest.

At last he relinquished his grasp and I took one more shuddering breath and sat up, drawing my hand across his waist to rest on his belly. It trembled under my touch and the fire that coursed through me gathered strength as I gazed down at his wet and bruised lips and saw an answering flame in his passion-darkened eyes. I sat back as he pushed himself up, but I let my hand linger on his midsection for a moment longer until he turned to sit half facing me.

“I’ve changed my mind,” he said, his voice remarkably low and husky. I blinked, a frisson of fear instantly arcing through my mind. It was banished a moment later when he went on, “I’m not satisfied.” A curious smile curled the corners of his mouth as he said, “Take off your jacket.”

I blinked, but obeyed the instruction. When I had the jacket clutched in my hand he took it from me and tossed it to the side.

“Lie down,” he said and even if I’d been inclined to disagree I don’t know that I would have ventured to argue with that commanding tone.

I settled back against the bracken and leaf mould and gazed up, feeling an unexpected thrill of pleasure at finding our positions reversed again so soon. He seemed to recognize the smile that came to my lips and cocked an eyebrow in response.

“Are you comfortable?” he asked with blatantly false solicitude, “Because you’re going to be there for some minutes and it’s vitally important you be as comfortable as possible.”

Before I could draw breath to admit that I was as comfortable as could be expected given the root I’d just discovered under my shoulders, he bent forward and claimed my mouth with his. It was all but impossible to simultaneously absorb all the sensations that occupied the next few seconds.

I felt his kiss move over my jaw and to the base of my throat then his fingers were at my collar tugging it lose as his mouth and his hand moved ever lower, undoing the buttons of my shirt and undershirt in quick succession, kissing down the midline of my chest.

His breath was hot against my aching skin as he paused to arch back upward and nip at the base of my throat once again. At the same time I felt his hand at my waist, tugging at the fastenings of my trousers. I groaned aloud as his fingers traveled down.

I felt his smile against my throat and he murmured, “I’d control that impulse if I were you. You wouldn’t want to give the game away if some country gentleman should happen by.”

The best response I could manage was to force my eyes to focus as I felt him sit up by my hip. The concentration in his gaze was remarkable as he freed the fastenings of my trousers and my light underclothing. His eyes met mine and the desire I saw there stopped the breath in my lungs.

“Up.”

I obeyed without thinking, not needing to consider his intent. His hands hooked in the waist of my garments and tugged downward as I raised my hips. His gaze dropped.

If I hadn’t already been as hard as the concentrated force of what felt like the entirety of my blood could make me, the sight of the way he drew in his lower lip in open admiration would have done it.

I had to catch my own lip in my teeth to keep from groaning again as his hand came up and his fingers traced over my shaft with a touch as light as the caress of a breath. My muscles tightened and jumped and I heard him exhale in a sound of amusement as he bent lower.

His tongue flicked out and teased the tip of my glans as his hand stroked back with greater pressure easing my foreskin down over the crest of my corona and lower still. If I’d wanted to tear my gaze away it would have been impossible. The vision of his dark hair hovering over my straining shaft was too entrancing.

Just as he exposed the entire length of me his lips enfolded my corona and pulled at the tight skin. I choked back the moan that started in my throat and I felt a puff of breath like laughter before his mouth sank lower.

His long fingers encircled my shaft and stroked up then back down with ever more insistent pressure. I felt the back of his tongue against my skin and the throb that pulsed through me said I couldn’t bear such treatment for long.

He clearly sensed my condition for his hand relaxed and he tightened the grasp of his lips and tongue as his fingers quested downward. My eyes drifted closed then and I heard my own breath quick and harsh in my ears as my body was entirely given over to the sensation of his lips moving ever lower until I felt his throat contract and I knew nothing in the world could stop the release that pulsed with surging pressure under my skin.

I reached down and touched his shoulder, afraid to speak for fear the sound would come out as the moan that fought to escape my throat. When he didn’t relinquish the tight grip of his lips and tongue I forced my eyes open and looked down along the length of my body.

His eyes met mine and I saw the amusement there and that was all I knew as my conscious mind disintegrated in the thrusting, pulsing, pounding pleasure that gripped every muscle and forced my hips upward until with a shuddering sigh I became aware of light and sound and touch again and with a last series of vibrating throbs I collapsed back against the leafy ground.

Holmes’s mouth relaxed and moved upward until with a last flick of his tongue he released me. My eyes focused and fixed on his just as he drew in his lower lip and traced it with the tip of his tongue. The corners of his mouth curled in a smile.

At that I had to finally release the moan that threatened to stop the breath in my lungs. His smile broadened into a grin then he leant forward and kissed me with a long, slow, thorough deliberation that was entirely unique and utterly devastating in its heady fascination.

When at last he sat back, I drew in a long breath. I tried a quick cough to test my voice before I ventured, “I’d like to–”

But he shook his head before I could get the words out. The smile that lingered in his eyes belied the aloof tone in his voice as he said, “I much prefer not to get leaf mould in my hair, thank you all the same.”

And in a very few moments he had my clothes done up neatly, my shirt rearranged and collar adjusted at my throat. He settled back on his heels as I sat up, my mind still reeling at this sudden shift in my perceptions and, I thought with some amazement, my fortunes.

Holmes seemed content to let me gather my thoughts and I became aware that he was apparently admiring the scenery of our leafy bower.

“I’ve never been overly enamored of the outdoor life, but this is a rather pleasant spot,” he said thoughtfully. “I don’t expect I’ll want to come back, but I will remember it fondly. Now I require a large and fortifying luncheon. Are you ready to move on?”

I nodded slowly. “Yes, I think so,” I said somewhat distractedly. “Are we going back to town?”

Holmes shook his head as he pushed smoothly up to his feet. “I think not. There’s a small inn at the next junction as I recall. I imagine they can provide passable fare. Or at least a hot bath.”

Unable to argue with the logic of his suggestion, I too climbed to my feet, though with rather less grace, and stood surveying the ground around us. With a vague sense of recognition I saw my coat lying crumpled to the side and bent to retrieve it. I’d no idea where my hat had gone, I realized, and couldn’t quite work up the energy to be concerned about it.

Holmes was moving about the clearing gathering his coat and shrugging into it, easing it over the rough bandage on his upper arm. With the returning sense of reality I decided to find my bicycle and having done so carried it over to where Holmes stood looking down at his own machine with dismay.

As I’d started to mention some time before, the front wheel looked as if it would need more than two sets of strong hands to set it right again. I set my bicycle down and pushed it toward Holmes. He took it and I bent to lift the other over my shoulder.

He cocked an inquisitive eyebrow. I shrugged. “It’s the least I can do,” I said. “They were my rabbits, after all.”

He snorted a laugh and we turned up onto the road. As we started down the dusty track the steady clip-clop of hooves sounded ahead and as we rounded the curve a mounted horseman approached. He was heavily built and wore a suit of dark green and brown hunting tweeds that strained across his ample middle. As he drew level with us I saw he had a Winchester 1886 rifle resting across his lap.

Holmes shot me a meaning glance from the corner of his eye then gazed up impassively at our new acquaintance as he offered a bland, “Good morning.”

The man’s bushy eyebrows drew together as he frowned down at us. Eschewing a greeting he snapped, “You two lads look a bit worse for wear. Machine playing up, eh? Next time you might stick to horses.” His sharp gaze fixed on my disarranged hair. “A damn sight more agreeable than a tumble in the bracken.”

I stared up dumbly as Holmes answered, “Well, bracken does have its charms. Good morning.” And with that he turned and started up the road. I nodded and stepped lively after him, before the horseman could even finish his huff of irritation.

The thud of hooves receded behind us and we walked on. We were nearing the low bridge that traversed the millstream when I said, “Holmes.”

“Hum?”

Clearing my throat, I remarked, “You know, we never actually finished the race.”

By the time I heard the sharp curse behind me I was already sprinting. There was the unmistakable sound of the other cycle clattering to the ground and pounding footfalls, but I crossed the bridge at a dead run and dropped the bike from my shoulder a split second before Holmes slid to a stop beside me, throwing up a spray of loose gravel from his skidding heel.

“You, Doctor,” he panted, “Are no gentleman.”

I shook my head, grinning as I bent forward and braced my hands against my knees. “That’s very true,” I gasped then I drew in a deep lung full of dusty air and added, “But I won.”

Holmes looked rebellious as he crossed his arms on his heaving chest, but after a moment he pursed his lips. “Fine,” he said. “I’ll concede this contest. But only out of concern over what depths you’ll sink to next. I’m feeling distinctly unsafe around you at the moment.”

“As well you should,” I agreed. “Because I haven’t named my prize yet and I’m quite taken with the idea of seeing you with bracken in your hair.”

His face darkened at that, but I waved a hand as I started back across the bridge to retrieve the fallen bicycle.

“Not to worry,” I said over my shoulder. “I shall come up with a forfeit that doesn’t require that level of sacrifice.”

“Might I suggest something that involves a hot bath?” Holmes offered.

“You might,” I answered graciously. I righted the cycle and turned back toward the bridge. Holmes stood on the other side, his long legs braced on the dirt track, suit disarranged and torn, hair a wild disarray, skin flushed and shining with perspiration.

Once again, I had to stop in my tracks and catch my breath. He cocked an inquisitive eyebrow.

I shook my head as I re-crossed the bridge wheeling the bicycle beside me. “I was just thinking,” I said, “How dry it is for May.”

Holmes rolled his eyes as he hefted the bicycle that lay at his feet and balanced it on his shoulder.

“And the sky is very blue,” I went on, grinning broadly as I drew up beside him. He snorted expressively as we started off at a leisurely walk.

What I didn’t say was what I had actually been thinking, but in the years that followed I had many occasions to recall how grateful I was for warm Spring mornings, a young squire’s fancy for the stableman’s daughter, bicycles, bracken, and the courtship of rabbits.

fin.

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