Holmes reflects on his chronicler, watching him sleep as they travel to their temporary home at the end of a particularly galling case for Watson.
Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock Holmes or Dr John H. Watson. They belong to the supremely talented Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
You are asleep. This case has exhausted you, my dear fellow, and the gently swaying rocking motion of the leisurely-driven cab has sent you into a light fitful slumber. So I am free to observe you, to observe the toll my work has taken on you yet again.
You are in a worse state than you know. Your appearance is somewhat dishevelled- your clothes are rumpled and travel-stained, there are tell-tale dark circles around your eyes an your usual healthy colouring is pale. Before they closed, your normally active bright hazel eyes were dull and weary. My poor chronicler, it has been hard on you, has it not?
I curse myself as I sit there. I should have not involved you in this- an Afghanistan war veteran, driven mad by his memories and the phantom pain in his missing limb, murders several high-class society members, leaving a trail of tears and depravations. I should have known what memories that would awaken, memories you have tried to surpress. I can recall that look of terrible anger and…sympathy on your face as the full story of his past and his crimes was revealed. Since that horrible climax, I have kept my eye close upon you. You have seemed to age, my dear fellow, becoming grey with misery. Those memories were surpressed for a good reason…
As I observe your restless slumber, I fall to thinking of our shared adventures. How many times have you risked something for my selfish whims? How many times have you risked your health, your practice, your marriage? Or your life? No doubt you brushed aside concerns for your well-being as your romantic poet's nature became caught up in the excitement of the mystery. And though I had my worries for you I too become embroiled in the case, in the game. I smile as I remember how, once or twice, I have called you to the chase with a cry of "The game's afoot!"
You have often, in your somewhat dramatised tales, remarked on my fearlessness and my sometimes reckless approach to cases, my disregard for danger and the way I plunge onwards, never looking back, never thinking of my own safety. In the cases we have shared I have never had to look back. I have never looked back because you, my dear Watson, are always there defending me against an unseen attack or covering my tracks against a pursuer. And this has become second nature to you, just as trusting you has become second nature to me.
You are my friend. I have a disregard for my own species, culminating in my avoidance of garnering social relationships with my so-called equals. Some arrogance on my part, perhaps, has prevented me. But you are an exception. You have, for an unfathomable reason, become fond of the eccentric amateur detective who uses cocaine, smokes absurdly noxious tobacco and cultivates an odd habit of knocking you out of bed far too early in the morning so you can assist him in his investigations. Investigations that you evidently take great pleasure in describing to the public.
I do not understand it. But I now feel the need to take you along with me on those most exceptional cases, my adventuring companion. It is a mystery that I cannot unravel, despite my analytical and deductive 'genius', as I believe you have described it. It is better that it remains a mystery, perhaps.
I am distracted from my thoughts by a swift movement you make. Your relaxed countenance has become tense, strained, and your sleep has become animated. Your hand flies to your war wound and you begin to emit quiet sounds of distress. I watch, unsure of how to act, as your…for lack of a better word, struggles become more desperate. A nightmare? It must truly be a terrible vision, to affect my staunch Boswell thus. No doubt some half-remembered recollection of the horrors of Maiwand. A re-living of seeing those beloved comrades being 'hacked to pieces'? I curse myself again, I should have known that the case would have this affect. I remember, in our early acquaintance, when the past was closer, that I would hear your nocturnal distress when I sat up to consider a case. Even then, you had my sympathy. Now I feel an almost empathetic urge to wake you and comfort you. But I will not.
I will not so compromise your pride. You are a well-mannered gentleman, but every man has his pride and I would not sully yours.
Even so, I cannot block out your cries. At last I reach out to you, slow though I am to physical contact with another. But I am stopped by your voice. In your distress, unaware but coherent, you have said my name. What place have I in your nightmares?
Your tone is pleading as you speak my name again, your unconscious actions becoming more frenzied. I am frozen to my place, unable to move to assist you, though I would see your suffering end. I put my brain to the problem, as my body has betrayed me.
You dream of that combat, that battle where you were grievously injured. You evidently dream of seeing your companions maimed and killed in an unrelenting bloodbath. Have I become one of those companions? It seems likely. A simple deduction, but one that I take no pleasure in. My dear friend, how you suffer.
Unfrozen, I put my hand on your arm and say, quite clearly with (surprisingly) no tremour in my voice, "Sleep, my dear Watson, I am quite safe."
You still and your tense face relaxes as you return to a peaceful slumber once again. I sit in silent contemplation for the rest of the journey.
As the carriage pulls up at our temporarily shared rented accommodation, I reach out to shake you gently back into wakefulness. You awaken slowly, a sure sign you are tired, and smile as you look up at me. "We have arrived?" Your tone is a little faint but your gaze is as clear and affectionate as ever. You stretch. "I am sorry my dear fellow, I have left you without company for the entire journey. Why did you not wake me?"
I allow a quick smile to cross my face for a moment. Oh, if you knew. "I was glad of the quiet, Watson. I had some thinking to do. Shall we?" I step down from the carriage and pay the driver, hearing you follow suit. I turn and flash another brief smile at you, which you return, before I unlock the door and enter the dark house, ruminating on the events in the carriage. I believe I shall keep my bedroom door ajar tonight, in case any more past demons resuface.