Disclaimer: As always, I own nothing!
Robert Blair (1699–1746)
Friendship! mysterious cement of the soul!
Sweetener of life! and solder of society!
"Watson, what in heaven's name have you GOT in this trunk, anyhow?" Sherlock Holmes gasped, struggling to hoist the offending article of furniture up the steps.
"Books, naturally," I answered breathlessly, straining to lift the other end of the trunk.
"Books?" my companion demanded, finally reaching the landing and slamming his end of the thing down on the carpet, "do you mean to tell me that I have been killing myself carrying up these stairs a trunkful of your ridiculously romanticized memoirs?"
"To say 'killing myself' is probably a slightly ridiculous statement that might belong in one of said memoirs, Holmes," I retorted.
He gave a very undignified snort, but I could see that he was struggling not to grin at my indignation. Three years of absence, and we still were having the same age-old arguments!
"And besides," I went on, shoving the trunk toward my bedroom and calling over my shoulder to him, "those 'ridiculously romantic' stories were all published after your supposed death in '91. Therefore," I gave the box a final shove and then turned round again, "therefore, am I safe in deducing that you actually read them at some point during your absence?"
"Only to reassure myself that your florid writing style had not changed after I died," Holmes retorted, realizing I had caught him in a corner – he had read them, I knew.
But I winced at my friend's choice of words.
"Holmes, you simply must stop saying that!"
"Saying what? How much more do you have downstairs?"
"Just a few more boxes – only one more of books. And you simply have to stop referring to your hiatus as dying. I mean it, really."
"Really what?" he cried defensively.
"You cannot just be walking down Savile Row like we were last night and saying at the top of your voice, 'After my death three years ago, I did thus and so…'. People were staring at us something dreadful last evening!" I said, reaching the bottom of the stairs.
At the time of which I speak, Holmes had shocked the entire world – notwithstanding me – upon his miraculous return to London just over a fortnight ago.
He had been engaged after his return and the subsequent arrest of Colonel Sebastian Moran with some affair in the foreign office involving his brother and the government – I suspected government involvement in his three-year absence, judging from the secrecy his reports to them were given under.
And as for me, I had been trying my best to keep up my good-sized practice in the hopes of selling the thing and moving back in with Sherlock Holmes, who had lost no time in begging me to make the transition as quickly as possible.
But every waking moment I had that I did not spend in my consulting room I had been spending at Baker Street – even after two weeks, the thrill of having my dearest friend back from the very grave itself had not yet lost its novelty.
And today, at last, I was moving back into those dear old rooms – I had closed the papers on my practice only that morning to a polite, sharp young doctor named Verner, and now I was nearly done moving my things into my old bedroom.
But at the moment, I was remonstrating with Holmes for his insistence in terming his absence to be his 'death', as he had done in public already more than once, to my mortification.
Sherlock Holmes jumped the last three steps to the hall and landed with a loud thud beside me, throwing back his head and laughing outright at my last statement.
"Are you embarrassed of me, Watson?" he chortled, picking up two boxes from the stack in the entranceway.
"Of Sherlock Holmes, no. Of walking about London with a detective who still insists he is dead, yes!"
We both laughed then as I bent to pick up another box from the pile, wincing slightly as my leg protested the strain – this late April day had been pouring down rain in absolute sheets and I was feeling cold and achy all over, but especially in the limb where that confounded Jezail bullet still rested.
And the fact that I had spent the better part of the afternoon moving the rest of my things back into Baker Street had not done much to alleviate the pain.
"Leave them, Watson," I heard Holmes call from already halfway up the seventeen steps.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Leave the heavy ones, old chap. I'll be back down in a minute."
He disappeared around the bend of the staircase, heading up the next flight up to my bedroom, leaving me staring after him.
One change I had noticed in Holmes since his return from – for lack of a better way of putting it, his return from the dead – was that he was far more attentive to others than before his hiatus. A change which I very much welcomed from the colder, more aloof exterior he had kept up so guardedly when we first met.
Something had happened to him during that three-year absence to soften that cold façade. I marveled at the change, very pleasantly surprised, for he seemed so much happier in general now that he had in those early years. But I shook myself out of those philosophical musings.
I was not about to allow him to move my entire stock of possessions all the way up there alone, aching leg or no aching leg. Ignoring the painful protests of the injured limb, I hauled two more boxes up into my arms and staggered up the steps with them.
"Umf – Watson!"
I had run straight into him, unable to see where I was going over the stack of boxes, and the jolt as I stumbled sent a dull throbbing pain through my ankle, and I should have dropped the crates had Holmes not grabbed them from me.
"Your innate stubbornness has not changed in three years, Watson!" he said, his sharp grey eyes barely visible over the top box, fixed on me with a warning glare.
"Nor have your powers of perception, Holmes. Bravo," I shot back at him, returning the dark look.
He snickered at my sarcasm and trotted back up the steps with my things.
"How many more have you got, Watson?" he bellowed from my bedroom. I peered down into the hall.
"Just three more, and two of those are for the sitting room," I called back.
I heard a muttered exclamation of gratefulness and I smiled, limping slightly back down the steps.
Ten minutes later, I was busily engaged in unpacking my journals from one of the boxes in the sitting room, and Holmes was sweeping things off my desk and half the shelves right and left, scattering papers everywhere and sending knickknacks rolling to all remote parts of the room, where they met any resistance with a resounding crash.
I stared in amusement as a water glass rolled all the way into his bedroom, casting rainbows of light dancing everywhere when he knocked it off the table.
"I should have thought to do this before now, Watson," he apologized, tossing a large scrapbook toward the couch – he missed, and the thing nearly went into the fire. I assured him that it was of no consequence, trying not to laugh at the small tornado he was stirring up in the little sitting room.
How much I had missed this! Not necessarily having to dodge – good gracious! – as he flung the mismatched pieces of a chess set onto his own desk behind me, but I had so missed all the just pure fun we used to have in these rooms before my marriage, and occasionally after it.
I jumped and cringed as there was a crash behind me, and I heard Holmes swearing violently.
"Watson, how much do you think Mrs. Hudson will add to our rent this month for the cost of a large china teapot?"
I threw back my head and laughed at his panic-stricken face.
"Well, if I remember correctly, Holmes," I chortled, "when you shattered the last one on that Algernon chap's head in that banknote forgery case in '89, I believe she threatened eviction!"
Holmes moaned dismally.
"It is a good thing for you I just sold my practice – I suppose I shall just have to replace the thing until your first case comes along!" I said, grinning at him and beginning to shelve my journals on my old desk.
Just then we heard the footsteps of our inestimable landlady approaching the sitting room door and I glanced at Holmes, who was now bordering on panic. He hastily threw an afghan under the table to cover the remains of the teapot and seated himself on the couch casually as she knocked. I stifled my laughter and hid my red face by shelving another stack of books.
"Come in!" he called in a perfectly normal, cool tone of voice.
"Mr. Holmes?" the good lady asked upon entering.
"Yes, Mrs. Hudson?"
"You have a visitor, Mr. Holmes, a Mr. Eckerton. Here is his card, sir."
"A client, Mrs. Hudson?" I asked, a growing excitement rising in me.
"I believe so, Doctor," the woman said to me. My gaze met Holmes's, and he raised his eyebrows in an unspoken question.
"Well of course! What are we waiting for?" I cried, fumbling excitedly round for a pencil and a blank journal.
Holmes laughed at my exuberance and instructed Mrs. Hudson to show up our guest. I was scrambling under the desk for the pencil, which had rolled away from me just out of reach, when I heard him clap his hands in glee and cavort about the room, no doubt as eager as I for this new case – the first since his return.
But the sudden noise was so loud that it startled me and my head jerked up - straight into the bottom of the desk, eliciting a yelp of pain from my lips.
"You all right, Watson?"
"I suppose so," I sighed, retrieving the pencil and slowly getting to my feet, rubbing the sore spot on the top of my head gingerly.
I could see by the look on his face that he was trying to do the polite thing and not laugh at my misfortune, and I saved him the trouble by laughing at myself.
Smirking, he sprang up and grabbed his oldest pipe, stuffing it with tobacco from the slipper on the mantel – I absently wondered if anyone had thought to replace it after three years – his long fingers twitching with earnestness, so eager was he to attach his formidable mind to this new problem.
I was scarce less excited, and it must have showed upon my face, for Holmes glanced at me and his mouth twisted in a fond grin.
"Do sit still, Watson – you're fairly bouncing and that might seem rather odd to our client," he teased me gently.
I sent him a diffident glare and then we heard a quiet rap on the door.
"Well, old fellow? Ready for our very first case together after my death?"
"Holmes, for heaven's sake!"
"Ahem, yes. Well. Come in, Mr. Eckerton!"
To be continued...please review!