That Elusive Quality
Author's Note: I've been thinking about Pompey's review - and I'd like to have seen a little more of Watson too, poor chap. So here's an eppie. Enjoy. KCS
I became dimly aware of various sensations as I slowly struggled to overcome the effects of the morphine, the chiefest of which was a sharp throbbing pain in my right leg.
How I detested all forms of sedatives (partially colored by my continual struggle to keep my friend from abusing them)! They never failed to leave me feeling quite sluggish, almost making the side effects not worth the relief from the pain. But both Holmes and my fellow-practitioner Anstruther had insisted absolutely that I would not rest properly without something in the way of a pain reliever, and I had not had the strength to refuse.
As my muddled brain began to be more functional, I began to recall the horrific events of the last – how many had it been? Six hours? Seven? I attempted once more to focus my attention, fighting a losing battle against the effects of the morphine.
As I tried to move, I felt something or someone gently pushing my shoulders back onto the sofa and a familiar voice telling me to lie still. Too weak to fight, I did so; and as I did, bits and pieces of what had happened began to filter back through my slowly-returning consciousness.
We had been waiting, impatiently on my part at least, for Killer Evans to return to Nathan Garrideb's rooms. I remembered stepping out of the shadows beside Holmes, pointing my revolver at the American. About the rest of the evening, I had difficulty remembering clearly. Even now, the events following my getting shot were rather hazy at best.
I did, most vividly, remember the abject terror on Holmes's face as I fell from the impact of the bullet slamming into my leg – it shall always haunt me as a replica of the same horror I felt when I returned to the Reichenbach Falls that terrible day over ten years ago, when I thought Holmes to be gone forever.
My poor Holmes, he had been so absolutely and completely frightened that he had not even cared that he dropped his usual guard down. I have seen him distraught before, but never to the extent that he had been last – or was it this? – night. The look in his eyes as he fell to his knees beside me on that cold floor will remain in my memory long after the pain from this injury has worn off.
That haunted look of near-terror had not fully faded even after we had made it back to Baker Street and my medical colleague had seen to my injury, which was not actually that serious. My last recollection before falling to sleep was of my companion nervously pacing up and down the room, his shaking hands barely able to hold his cigarette.
I tried once more to open my eyes, and this time I succeeded. When my hazy vision cleared, I saw Sherlock Holmes sitting in a chair beside the sofa, looking at me solicitously.
"How are you feeling, old chap?" he asked, his keen eyes searching my face to make deductions for himself as to my condition.
"I - have been - better," I admitted, my voice slightly thick from that blasted medication.
I began to move a little, as the sofa underneath me was not the most comfortable article of furniture Mrs. Hudson possessed. Holmes had insisted on my staying there so that he could "watch over me," and he had been in such a near-panicked state even after my wound had been dressed that I gave in without question to him.
But I moved too much, too quickly, and a hot flash of pain shot through me. At my involuntary gasp Holmes flinched and his brow creased worriedly.
"Don't try to move, Watson!" His words came out sharper than I believe he intended them to be, and I saw the worry lines in his face deepen at my surprised look.
"You know, my dear Holmes," I said, shutting my eyes for a moment against the pain, then opening them and finishing my statement, "you would make a most terrible physician."
He stared at me for a moment, and then his mouth twitched in that peculiar half-smile he was wont to give me. I matched it with a weak grin of my own, and I was rewarded to see his features relax somewhat.
He straightened out the tangled afghan that he must have put over me while I slept and then sat back in his chair, scrutinizing me carefully but attempting to not look obvious about the fact. I could not restrain a low laugh.
"What do you find so amusing, Watson?" he asked, quirking an eyebrow at me.
"I am not likely to leave this life because of a superficial flesh wound, Holmes," I said, looking him directly in the eye, "so for the love of heavens stop worrying yourself so! You look simply frightful!"
"Thank you, Doctor," he replied dryly, and I was glad to see some of his old odd humor returning to his face and to his tone of voice.
His unusual and uncontrolled emotional outburst had been, although very welcome to me, rather much of a shock – to both our nerves, I supposed. I was most certainly overjoyed to find, after over twenty years in this extraordinary man's company, that my ideas were correct, and that there really was a heart as great as his formidable deductive powers hidden in that aloof façade.
But this was also slightly awkward, as I knew just how much Holmes hated to be caught with his defenses down. I had no wish for him to feel any more uncomfortable than he must already.
I tentatively tried moving my legs slightly once more, and was rewarded with nothing more than another flash of pain through my injured limb. With a soft curse I closed my eyes again, opening them a moment later to see Holmes bending over me in concern.
"I am afraid I shall not be able to get up those stairs tonight, Holmes," I said tiredly, wishing to heaven I could remove that worried look from his face.
"Watson –" he began, stopping abruptly and turning his face away from me for a moment. I could see his forehead creasing deeply as he revolved in his quick mind the things he wished to say.
"Watson, I am so very, very sorry," he whispered at long last, dropping his gaze in what I could only assume he felt as guilt.
"Whatever for, my dear fellow?"
"For - not realizing what Killer Evans was capable of. I – I should have known how dangerous he was and should never have taken the chances I did with him. My carelessness and love of the dramatic very nearly - very nearly got you killed. And – and I never should have forgiven myself if that had happened," his voice became unaccustomarily shaky on the last word, and again he would not meet my gaze.
I was feeling nearly as uncomfortable as he was – I knew what an enormous leap this was for my friend, revealing emotions that obviously he rarely even felt, much less acknowledged. This evening's events had shaken him to the core, and I realized from a doctor's viewpoint that talking about what had happened was necessary to Holmes's emotional healing.
"Holmes." He still refused to look at me, and I attempted to raise myself slightly on the couch, a hiss of pain escaping my lips as I tried to move.
"Lie still, Watson!" he said in exasperation – but it had worked. He had turned back to look at me.
"Holmes, you must not blame yourself for what has happened," I said firmly.
"Let me finish, Holmes!" said I with a show of spirit I honestly did not feel at the moment but I knew Holmes needed.
"You are not to blame – if anything, I am, because I am the one who always holds the weapon and is supposed to be on the alert for physical danger. You – are – not – to – blame. Do you understand that?"
I had spoken to him as if to a child, but at that moment I believe my words were what he needed to hear. He finally looked at me directly in the eyes, where he could see that I meant every word, and then a small, shaky smile broke across his troubled face.
"Now, for heaven's sake either go to bed or get yourself a stiff brandy, Holmes," I went on, slumping back to the pillow in exhaustion, "you need one or the other."
My eyes closed, the effects of the medication still muddling my thoughts. I was nearly asleep again when I felt him pull the blanket up around me once more, and the low whisper of his voice when he thought I was already unconscious. And to hear the latter made the pain in my injured leg of so much less importance.
"Thank you, my dear Watson. Whatever should I do without you."
OK, now that really is the end.