Okay, I want to thank KCS for assuring me that this could be Canonically accurate, and that everyone was in character. Thanks also to those who reviewed and/or favorited my previous stories. Holmes and Watson were created by Doyle.
All seemed quiet and still, the lake as smooth as polished glass. In the far distance one could hear the honking of geese as they flew over head. The sun was warm and bright in a cloudless sky. The setting was so tranquil it was hard to imagine that just mere moments ago it had been the setting of something out of a nightmare. But the two men who were sprawled upon the shore were slow in realizing that the nightmare had indeed ended. Both were soaked to the skin and shivering but whether it was from cold or fear neither could say.
Holmes was lying on his side, his head resting on Watson's chest and his arm wrapped protectively around his friend. He closed his eyes, taking comfort in the sound of Watson's heartbeat as he tried to will his own heart to beat in a less chaotic fashion. Both he and Watson were gasping for air and Holmes soon found himself matching Watson breath for breath. Inhale, and exhale, in perfect unison.
Too close, that was far too close, Holmes thought.
It had started out as a fairly relaxing, albeit dull, holiday. Watson had once again voiced his concern that Holmes was pushing himself too hard and needed a rest. Holmes had agreed only on the condition that Watson accompany him. He was fully convinced the real reason Watson agreed was to keep an eye on him. They had rented a cabin that overlooked the pristine lake on whose bank they now lay. Holmes had noticed that while he would swim Watson would remain on the dock and watch him from there. No amount of teasing on Holmes' part could coax him into the water. "Come now Doctor, the water is most pleasant," he had said at one point, splashing Watson as he spoke. "See? Rather like bath water is it not?" Watson's response had been to scowl and scoot out of splashing range. The reaction puzzled Holmes. "What is it Watson?" he had asked, the mischief gone from his voice. "Normally you are my shadow. Is something troubling you?" He had also found it odd that Watson had not given in to his teasing, something he had always done in the past. Oh, how could he have been so blind? The deductions should have been obvious to an idiot.
"No, nothing is wrong," Watson replied in a tone that indicated there was indeed something wrong and he had no desire to discuss it. Upon seeing the skeptical look on Holmes face he added in a warmer tone. "Truly, I am fine. Please do not let me spoil your fun." Not knowing what else to do, Holmes had let the matter drop.
It wasn't until this morning-Was it really only this morning? It felt as if they had been lying on that shore for eons.-that Holmes had extended a peace offering of sorts. Knowing that Watson was fond of fishing Holmes had rented a boat and some fishing gear. Watson had seemed uneasy at first, but Holmes was quick to reassure him. "I am not so lacking in common sense that I would stand up in the boat Watson." Then he had added, almost teasingly, "You do trust me, do you not?" Watson's response had been completely serious as he answered, "Of course, I trust you with my life." Those words now felt like a knife twisting in Holmes' gut. He should have known, why on Earth had he not realized?
Things had been peaceful at first. Holmes at one point found himself wondering how Watson could stand this sport. Most of the time you merely sat around doing nothing. Then-what happened next Holmes could not tell. Only that one moment they were in the boat, and in the next instance they were in the water. Somehow the boat had capsized.
Holmes had surfaced first and looked around frantically. Where's Watson? A second later his question was answered as Watson violently splashed to the surface and frantically began flailing about. "Holmes-help me-I can't-swim!" He screamed as his words were interrupted with choking as his head kept disappearing beneath the surface and bobbing up again. Holmes had never heard Watson sound so terrified in all the time they had known each other. He had not even thought Watson capable of such fear. These were the thoughts that had flashed through his head as he swam to Watson's aid. He wrapped his left arm across Watson's torso, trying to keep Watson's head above the water. Watson clung to Holmes' neck for dear life as the two of them struggled to reach the shore. Purple dots danced in front of Holmes' eyes; Watson was hanging on too tight, almost strangling him. Holmes tightened his grip around Watson's chest as he used his free hand to try and loosen Watson's hold. "Watson-you're choking me!" He gasped. "Loosen your grip. I won't let you drown, Watson! I swear to God that I won't!"
He glanced toward the shore. How had it gotten so far away? It had seemed much closer from the boat. The clothes they were wearing were not suited for swimming and the weight of them kept dragging the two men under. In an effort to give himself more freedom of movement Holmes managed to kick off his boots and tried to propel himself forward. "Watson, please! That's still too tight," Holmes wheezed. Watson's grip had only loosened by a mere fraction of an inch. Holmes again tried to pull Watson's arm away from his neck. The detective only had his legs available to keep them moving. A roaring sound began to fill Holmes' ears. "Watson-" he rasped again, choking as his mouth filled with water. "Please-you said-" he choked and tried to spit out the water. "you trusted me." Holmes felt exhausted, and the shore did not appear to be getting any closer. He had to fight against the urge to just close his eyes and slip beneath the surface. Just then Watson's grip slipped, allowing Holmes to get a lungful of air. It was only for an instant, but it was enough to renew Holmes' determination. God please, let us reach the shore.
It was with that last prayer that Holmes had suddenly felt his feet brush the bottom of the lake. Now that solid ground was beneath them once again Watson released Holmes' neck completely and collapsed on the shore. Holmes fell down beside him, taking in huge gulps of air as he rested his head on Watson's chest. Thus was the position they were currently still in.
The intensity of his emotions gradually faded away, leaving Holmes feeling drained. He knew that he and Watson needed to get back into the cabin and into some dry clothes, but he didn't have enough strength to move. The sun seemed to be doing a decent enough job of drying them anyway. He noticed with mild surprise that Watson's heartbeat had also returned to normal, and that his breathing was shallow and even. Don't tell me he's fallen asleep! Holmes thought, though in truth he felt like dozing off himself.
"I, I'm sorry Holmes," Watson's voice, no more than a whisper, gave Holmes a start. He raised his head so he could look at Watson's face.
"Don't apologize, you were terrified for your life. It's difficult, if not impossible to retain rational thought in such situations. Besides, going out in the boat was my idea,"said Holmes. Then he added in a softer voice, "I should have been able to figure out you couldn't swim."
Watson smiled sadly and sighed. "I should have just told you in the first place. It wasn't very smart of me to keep it a secret from you."
"Why didn't you tell me?" Holmes asked, starting to feel hurt and angry. "Did you believe I would mock you for it? I would never have done that."
Watson put his hand on Holmes' shoulder. "I know. I suppose I was embarrassed. I've been through all sorts of dangerous situations and have never lost my nerve. But place me in deep water and all rational thought flees from my mind."
Holmes chewed his lower lip for a moment, trying to think of what to say next. "Have you feared the water your whole life? Is that why you never learned to swim?"
Watson dropped his hand and began to pick at the grass. "When I was about seven," he began, "My family had gone on a holiday to a lake not unlike this one. My father had decided he would teach me how to swim. Unfortunately, his method of teaching me was to simply throw me into the water. I suppose he thought I'd figure out the rest on my own." He gave a mirthless laugh. "Perhaps this method had worked on my brother but I panicked." His voice was tight with emotion as he continued. "I was screaming, crying, pleading with him to help me. Finally he pulled me out-but the damage had been done."
"That's terrible Watson! I am sorry," Holmes said quietly, rubbing Watson's arm affectionately. He felt sick to his stomach. How could his kind friend have had a father who would do such a thing? What could Holmes say after that? Finally he said, "There's nothing to be ashamed of, you know. Everyone has something that terrifies them." He gave a shaky smile. "Even myself."
"You?" Watson asked with some surprise. "What on Earth could you possibly be afraid of?"
Holmes looked Watson straight in the eyes. Once more his mind flashed back to those horrible moments in the lake, Watson's terrified screams echoing in his head. "Need you ask, my dear fellow?" Holmes whispered.