|The Devil You Know
Author: The Doors Of Perception PM
Watson feels the strain of Holmes' conflicting and whimsical emotions. Will a chance meeting with an echo of his past rekindle his passion for his constant companion, or simply confirm the distance between them? H/W.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Romance - Dr. Watson & Sherlock Holmes - Chapters: 4 - Words: 11,753 - Reviews: 22 - Favs: 14 - Follows: 29 - Updated: 02-03-10 - Published: 01-18-10 - id: 5676875
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: Unfortunately, I am netiher Sir Arthur Conan Doyle nor a Victorian citizen, so therefore no characters used here belong to me. Only the plot. (: Enjoy.
The Devil You Know
By The Doors Of Perception
As I stood by the draped window that overlooked the cobbled streets below, I admired the heavily inhabited lane, fraught with bustling throngs of finely dressed ladies with blossoming parasols, their equally lovely escorts hooked and baying at their elbows. Distantly I could hear their soft chatter, the clatter of polished hooves on battered stone, the grunts of labour men, the cries of cunning kiosk owners flogging their wares. The liveliness of this fair city often brought a faint smile to my lips, as it did now, whilst I shared a rare moment of tranquility in my own quarters, relishing in this spot I favoured to linger by on quiet afternoons such as this. After a few moments my leg began to tire from the rigid stance I had been accustomed to standing to, thanks to my military endowment, and I crossed the room to my desk, glancing over the pristine surface, the carefully stacked papers. My hand hovered over them, dithering, and I wondered briefly whether I should look over the paperwork of our last case once more.
Early in to the month of February we (I say we, but of course it was my dear companion whom is famed for the unraveling of mysteries) had been contacted by a distraught young woman by the name of Jessica Lawrence, who had recently been bereaved of her husband, Edgar. She informed us that the police had dismissed the death as a nasty case of bad luck, but it became apparent during her inquery that the widow suspected her father of having dealt a card in the demise. Her father, as it came about, owned a rather large percentage of one of England's largest coal mining companies, branching across the country and even owning properties overseas, mostly situated in the colonies.
The widow explained that her father had disapproved of her marriage to the late Edgar Lawrence, as he had come from a family that owned little and were notorious for carrying mental illness in their blood. The daughter protested and eventually fled to be married to him, shaming her prestigious family immensely, and it was noted that the father, and partriarch of the estate, had taken the blow ratherly badly. Shortly after the new year, she and her husband returned to London by carriage, and stayed the night at the home of a family friend. The next morning, Edgar's body was discovered at the foot of the stairwell, his neck broken, as though caused by the fall.
Holmes of course immediately became infatuated with the young widow and requested she take up residence in a nearby hotel, for him to keep absolute surveillance over her, and forebode her to have any contact with her father whatsoever. During the investigation Holmes seldom spoke to me unless it was of importance to the case, explaining that he would prefer to indulge in this case privately, and often in the evenings I would take my meals alone, as he would be out dining with the prolific men that controlled the country's main industry exports, as an attempt to infiltrate their world, understand their ritual. It occurred to me, on these quiet nights, that all the men Holmes encountered were suspects until proven innocent.
I often wondered whether I myself were similar to the men he spoke to as if no gap in intelligence or class separated them, but felt nothing towards when his task was complete. It saddened me to think of such things, especially when the young widow exhibited equal and enthusiastic interest in the detective, and would at any opportunity laugh seductively at Holmes' mild mannered anecdotes, ruffling her skirts and decorating her lithe neck in the finest of jewelry. Once or twice I could not bear to be seated in the same room as them, and left wordlessly, only to be scolded later by Holmes himself in hushed tones, commenting on my rudeness, my unpleasant aloofness. I said little in response, too enthused with resentment, and consequently buried myself in my own research, my own medical essays that needed to be attended to.
But, as a child who soon grows weary of a beautiful doll, Holmes paid no further interest in the pursuit of her after he had solved the case. Evidently her suspicions had been correct, and her father had hired a man to break in to the house, lure Edgar from his room by feigning hurt, and push him down the stairs, to which he succeeded without arousing immediate suspicion. The father was stripped of his status and his wealthy estate, a second shame to the family, no doubt, and is currently awaiting trial in Scotland Yard. The widow was unnerved to hear such a thing when it came about in the evening paper, and sought ill comfort in Holmes, but as I had predicted he did nothing but bid her luck in finding a new, less gullible husband. I remained distant from him until the widow Ms. Lawrence had departed from London completely, for that remark alone.
Three days ago, Holmes received a beautifully scripted postcard of the chalk cliffs of Dover that was signed from her, to which he scanned once and discarded, claiming he had no use for such a thing. After some time I retrieved it, irritated with my companion's cynicism and dismissal of the woman's feelings, despite loathing her myself, and here it remains, in the file of the Lawrence widow which lay beneath my hand. I sighed, softly, and curled my fingers, retracting my hand. My mood had plummeted from thinking of the past weeks I had been forced to work in solitude, so unwelcome after the years of progressive closeness me and my companion had worked in. We were now attuned to each other as musicians were to their delicately crafted instruments, and I would be the first to admit that a hollow, cold feeling grew within me if I once pondered that I would have to go through that ordeal again.
At once I heard the slamming of the front door, the comely jangle of the servant bell, my glass instruments chiming with the force of the disturbance. My curiousity aroused - though not challenged - I drew away from my desk and left the room, peering over the bannister which gave an apt view of the downstairs hallway. My dear companion was hanging up his dusty charcoal coat, a belligerent grin plastered across his face, a rare occurrence for such an evening. I watched, inquisitive, from the stairwell. His mass of dark hair was clamped beneath a bowler hat I did not recognize, and soon he spotted me, or at least made it appear he did so, as I assumed that he had seen me before I him, and simply chose not to acknowledge my presence. His arms spread wide.
"Watson, my good man! Why do you look so uncharacteristically glum?" he all but crooned, removing the hat from his head and shaking his curls free. His handsome jaw stiffened with a good-natured grin, tossing the cap so that it landed neatly on the banister crook. His waistcoat, soft grey in colour, was crinkled, as though he had removed it. I frowned at this.
"That is not the hat you left with, Holmes," I said tonelessly. My leg stiffened as I ascended the stairs, my eyes averted from him, controlling an unusual stir of disgust for my friend that flared in my stomach. I knew very well of the shady side of his complex persona that he allowed no-one but me to see, the decrepit Holmes who numbed his woes with sultry poison, who raised hell in the dead of night without any indication of warning, who broke things for no particular reason aside from merely fancying the idea of destruction. This behaviour was hidden well, but I was sure he was unaware that I would sit at my desk for hours and sicken myself with concern for his life when that mood took to him like moth to bitter flame. And of course, I knew that the most astute man in all of England, in all the world most likely, could certainly take care of himself. But still, I worried.
I turned away from him to step in to the drawing room, holding a sigh in my chest, when a hand fell gently upon my shoulder, spreading warmth even through my jacket, and at once I was calmed, comforted by the contact. A mild inclination and I turned to my dear friend, watching the expression of lustrous joy softly diminish from his features as he studied me intently, as though I were a rare butterfly captured and pinned behind glass, or an unexpected twist in an ever thickening plot.
"Whatever is the matter?" he muttered imploringly, the weight of his palm light and pleasantly affectionate. However, before I could answer him his eyes darted downward from my face, and a look of comprehension passed over his features. "Ah, your old wounds."
"But.. how could you... ?" I asked, bewildered, as he guided me toward my favoured chair in the drawing room, one close to the hearth and the crackling fire. He merely smiled complacently, seating me tenderly, his hand resting upon mine.
"Even after all these years, Watson, you still question my knowledge of you? An endearing man you are, Watson," he uttered this with a faint chuckle, wandering over to our lavish collection of leather-bound books, each allocated our own selection of shelves. Mine, of course, consisted mostly of medical journals, a few of which I myself had articles published in, several anthologies concerning the latest theories of anatomical structure, and various magazines I indulged in when business was not too wearing and evenings were free. Holmes' books were mysteries to me, and as far as I could deduce from the golden titles printed on their spines, the subjects could vary from anything, from ancient Eastern history to bird identification. Still, I rarely looked through Holmes' possessions unless asked.
"It unnerves me that you can read me as easily as any one of those books. That is all I wonder about," I replied. He turned to look at me, wearing a faintly amused smile, retracing his steps and passing me, stopping at the liquor cabinet. I held my breath as his fingers ran along the glasses, leaving faint impressions, and exhaled with relief as he only selected one. He filled it generously with scotch and placed it in my hand, our fingers brushing. I subdued a pale shiver.
"There. That should warm your bones. Do cheer up, dear Watson."
"There is no medical evidence that suggests alcohol warms the internal organs," I remarked, my voice largely colder than I intended. Holmes watched me impassively for a moment, seated in his chair opposite to mine, waiting. I broke in to a helpless smile. "Thank you, all the same. The gesture is appreciated."
"The pleasure is mine entirely."
I drank deeply, draining the amber fluid from the glass, and sighed, rather irritated with myself. Holmes smiled, satisfied with my quiet, and busied himself with inspecting the contents of his waistcoat pockets, his brows furrowed with enigmatic interest. It amused me quite largely he found use for trivial things as the inspection of his clothes or anything else, for that matter, and at watching his delicately arched, spindled fingers grasp at the nothingness that was the stray threads of his cuff, I allowed myself a content smile, comforted by his presence, by his silent, although utterly abundant aura. Frequently when we were alone like this I felt my humble body becoming rapt by his overbearing knowledge, the genial glistening of his eyes, the hesitant, poised curve of his lips, always slightly parted, as though on the verge of speaking, but never quite there. I became weakened, quite breathless in fact, simply from observing him for this short period of time.
"Tell me, Holmes, if I may be so bold as to ask, to whose company was it necessary to share for all today?"
Holmes abruptly looked up from the twisted entwining of his fingers, his pale eyelids fluttering in the most obscure of manners, the dullest hint of surprise in the motion, as his dark, persuasive gaze lured out subtle questions in his features, a thousand of them rising to the surface; from where I sat I felt the hunger of his wildly inquisitive nature, and felt baffled, as it was I who had asked the question to riddle Holmes, of all patrons, rather speechless.
"I am afraid I am not at liberty to discuss such things."
"Do not mock my intelligence, nor my intricate understanding of your list of vices, Holmes. Answer me simply," I drew an impatient breath, my fingers tightening around the empty glass I held tautly between finger and thumb. "Was it a woman?"
Holmes' eyes grew colder, starker in their brooding tone. "It is you who should not mock me, Watson. You of all people should know that I have little need for the company of women, delightful as they may be, outside the borders of investigation."
"That may be, but I am well-aware that you fall victim to bouts of depression, needless, helpless sorrow, in which not even I can ease the weight of the world upon your shoulders."
"I... am dearly sorry you feel that way, my friend," the genuine tenderness held in my companion's voice silenced me. "However, as a leopard cannot change the decoration of his hide, neither can I manipulate my own true behaviour; especially not in the comfort of the single person I hold dear to myself."
I tore my eyes from him, humiliated by the prickle of heat that spread across my neck, the churlish warmth that rose to my cheeks and coloured them an impish rose, as I well knew due to Holmes' formal repertoire of my attributes. My heart trembled and knocked anxiously in my chest, and I was relieved to discover that at least my hands had ceased in their mild shaking. When my eyes had run along every other crevice of the mantle piece to my right, gazing any where other than the man seated across from me, they returned to find that Holmes had stepped very near to me, and was looking down to me, his exceptional height casting a slender shadow across my shrouded form. The contours of his face were very still, and very smooth, and from my disadvantaged perspective I saw the adept brilliance of his eyes as they shone, the sculpted features, prominent yet handsome, beneath a disheveled tangle of dark curls. I swallowed a shallow breath as he leaned over me, and as tenuous as the wing of a bird, his lips touched mine, drawing back to fondly smile at me, his head cocked askew.
I, bewildered, committed an act of pure rudeness, and roughly shoved him away from me, the heat now searing beneath my skin, fevered with coy damp and rippled with goose flesh. He near stumbled, but gained his footing, and watched me expressionlessly, his eyes large, glassy. I rose quickly, clumsily, from my chair and quickly exited the room, slamming the door to our airy sitting room behind me. The walls spun in a haze of confusion, and my fist was heftily swung to steady myself. A hand was clutched at the fabric of my shirt, pleading with the hammering of my heart to cease, for the pulsating beat of my blood to soften. My palms were moist and quivering, my lips dry and parted with a soundless gasp.
"The devil you are, Holmes!" I muttered furiously beneath my breath, turning to gather my coat, hat, and mostly importantly, my loyal walking cane. And soon I was out of the door, astride despite my leg, in to the charming, rose-coloured evening that was enveloping London, without even a pithless glance over my shoulder. I did not dare to do so.
"We know what we are, but not what we may be."
- William Shakespeare.