This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
© 2008 by the author (anonymous by request) in association with Daylor and Sheldon Publishing™
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I glanced at my watch as I felt my eyelids growing heavy. It was two o'clock in the morning.
I looked at the pages before me, blinking as the words I had just written blurred beneath my gaze.
Did I really need to edit my diaries? Surely the public would tolerate a bit of the personal at this point, now that I had a group of veritable fanatics following my writings.
Holmes was not at all pleased with that turn of events. But then, he had never been pleased with my publishing of his cases to begin with. My interpretations were never logical enough for him, always focused on the sensational details and leaving out the process of reasoning from effects to causes.
I endeavored to explain to him that his methods were indeed there, if he would only take the time to read them beyond the first few lines. But it was to no avail.
So now I sat, half-awake, wondering if it was truly necessary to delete the passages where I describe my worry for Holmes's well being, and my deep fears over the course of the case.
I yawned deeply and stretched myself, bones creaking with the effort. Yes, the public would have to suffer my indiscretions about the personal life of Sherlock Holmes and myself. I highly doubted they would mind.
And I could rest secure in the fact that Holmes would never know, as he never read my writings.
I bound up the pages of my diary, making them ready to take down to the typesetters on the morrow, and started toward the stairs for my room.
I did not get far however, because I suddenly heard the outside door bang against the wall as it was opened too violently and then slam shut. The following rush of footsteps up the stairs could only belong to my friend, so I paused to see what had him so energetic at this ungodly hour.
I was eminently surprised then, when he entered the room and fixed me with such a venomous look that I believe I took several steps back in fright.
"Watson! What is the meaning of this?!" he cried, producing the most recent copy of The Strand magazine and waving in the air like a standard.
"What do you mean?" I asked a moment later, once I had recovered myself.
"This! This…preposterous work of fiction that you have deigned to publish as fact!" he screamed at me. Were it not for the dark fury in his eyes and the flush to his thin face, I would have thought it some elaborate act. But he was quite definitely enraged at something I had written, and I suddenly rethought my earlier decision to publish my diaries unedited. Apparently he did read my work.
"What is it?" I asked hesitantly.
"What do you mean, what is it? Well! If you are going to play innocent, I shall read it to you," he said, his voice still strained in that high falsetto he was apt to use during a crisis, "'He had uttered a cry and bent over the body. Now he was dancing and laughing and wringing my hand.' Now then! Tell me this was an absolute fabrication which you shall retract immediately, or depart from my presence. I will not be ridiculed in such a manner at your hand!"
I recognized the lines as being from a part of a case I was publishing in small parts due to the size of it. It was the next chapter of this tale I had been working on only moments before my friend had entered and begun his outburst.
"Ridiculed? I believe I gave a fair sketch of the events."
"You most certainly did not!" he said, striding across the room to take a pipe from the mantle, "I have never heard a greater falsehood, such an absolute exaggeration, or such a sensationalized piece of—!"
"Holmes!" I cried, now concerned with the way the veins were pulsing in his neck, as well as frustrated with his pernicious attitude, "Do sit down and have a drink. You look near to apoplexy!"
"I will not have a drink!" he said, turning toward me with such violence I was sure he had pulled every muscle in his thin body.
But contrary to his word, he proceeded to the sideboard and sloppily filled a glass with brandy and then walked back to his armchair, sitting down with defiant flair and staring into the fire.
"Now please, dear fellow," I began, moving cautiously towards him, "If you can find it in yourself to calm down, I shall be glad to discuss the situation."
"There is nothing to discuss," he retorted quickly, clutching the brandy glass so tightly I thought it would break.
"Surely, the matter is negotiable," I suggested carefully. But judging from the glare he then fixed me with, I should not have spoken at all.
"Negotiable?!" he exclaimed incredulously, "We had already reached a decision on the matter. I forbade you from publishing any more of my cases," I opened my mouth to speak, but he cut me off, "And now, when I give you permission to publish just this one, you fill it with false facts and slurs against my character!"
"I saw no slurs against your character in the lines you read me," I replied sulkily, "If anything I gave the public a perfectly accurate account of your behavior."
"The public does not need a 'perfectly accurate account of my behavior!'" he mocked me, gesturing wildly with his hands and emptying the glass of brandy all over our bearskin rug.
"Why shouldn't they have one? You would rather I write you as the machine-like façade you so often employ in your dealings? That is the falsehood Holmes," I finished with grim satisfaction. To my surprise he did not immediately scream at me, but instead dropped the brandy glass upon the rug and silently dried the liquid from his hand and wrist with his handkerchief.
"I would rather you not write at all. I have already made this clear to you," he said slowly, with a coldness I did not think him capable of.
Rather hurt, I moved to sit in my own armchair opposite him and joined him in his study of the crackling embers.
"You know I could not survive if I could not write Holmes. It is unfair of you to stop me."
"And what of my reputation then?" he said, finally looking at me with something other than fire in his eyes, "How am I ever to be taken seriously in my line of work if I am perceived as a capricious, drug-addicted, crackpot who leaps joyfully about the body of a dead man?"
"I can understand your perspective, my dear Holmes, but—"
"No you cannot. You have never had your writing rejected by a publisher because they did not think you sane enough to write anything scholarly." I was completely taken aback at his words.
"Whatever do you mean?"
"This," he said, pulling some rolled papers from the pocket of his overcoat and tossing them toward me. I unbound the sheets and read the title aloud.
"A Study of Shirtsleeves and Trouser-knees and Their Relation to A Man's Trade." I bit my lip as I tried to formulate a reply. "Well Holmes, I—"
"Oh, do not even say it Watson. It is as unlikely to be published in a periodical as was that precociously titled work I squeezed past the proofreaders at The Times which you read during our first week of acquaintance."
"Well, it really is not the sort of thing one ordinarily finds in the Sunday paper."
"But it could have been, if not for the fact that my reputation has been degraded over our years of familiarity to the likes of those popular fictional bunglers such as Dupin or Lecoq."
I could scarcely believe my ears. My intimate friend of over twenty years had just dealt me the harshest of insults, which quite honestly left me speechless. He had not only compared my writing to that of those authors that he passionately loathed, but had also shown that his true feelings on the nature of our friendship were no deeper than that of the court stenographer to the judge.
I sat and stared at him for a moment, as he took a cigarette from his case and lit it with a coolness that would have been maddening, were I not in such a state of shock.
I rose and made for the decanter myself, my hands shaking as I sloshed the amber liquid into the glass.
The drink did nothing to quiet my nerves, but I knew I must say something. I composed myself as best I could and then began in a low, quivering voice.
"If…if that is how you feel," I could hear the pleading in my voice, even as I struggled for it to remain steady, "I shall never lift my pen again."
I thought for a moment that he had not heard me, as he made no move to reply. But just as I was about to repeat myself he turned around and fixed me with yet another unusual look, this time intense questioning.
His eyes bored into mine for a long minute, and then he looked away, true confusion written upon his features. I was sure that my own were a match for his, as I now had no clue as to his thoughts.
I drained the glass and began to pour another, my hands still shaking with the emotion of what I thought was to be the end of our long and happy partnership. And when I looked up, Sherlock Holmes was giving me another curious stare, the reason for which I could not imagine.
I broke his gaze uneasily, searching for some way to break the uncomfortable silence which had settled over the room that had been so loud with our argument before, I was certain a cry of murder would have been raised.
My friend solved the problem by speaking for me, answering my thoughts as he was often wont to do.
"I fear my reaction has caused not only you but Mrs. Hudson and the neighbors to become distraught as well. Though likely not enough to bring the police upon us, considering…considering the reputation that has built up around this small suite of rooms in the past two decades."
I was amazed at his words. It seemed to be a backward attempt at an apology, or at least an acknowledgment that my writings were not complete fantasies as he had suggested mere moments before.
Unsure of his mindset, and with my nerves still shaken, I uttered the safest words possible.
"My offer stands, if it is your wish. I shall never publish another case if it disturbs you so greatly."
He quirked a smile at me, and taking up the dropped glass he moved to stand beside me and get another drink. I stood stiffly, not looking at him as he replaced the delicate glass stopper, uncertain as to what this new change of mood would bring.
"It was unfair of me, I am afraid, to unleash my disgust for the wasted day upon you," he said, leaning against the sideboard and looking up at the ceiling as if it was the most fascinating sight that his eyes had ever beheld. He did not speak again, so I carried on the line of this safer topic.
"Your investigations were unsuccessful?"
"Not only were they unsuccessful, they were a complete waste of my time. I spent eight hours of the evening and early morning in the public houses along the wharf, listening to the incomprehensible babble of drunks and rejecting the affections of soiled doves." He moved from my side and returned to his chair, but rather than sitting leaned against it and fixed me with a pointed stare. "And then acquiring a cab and starting for Baker Street, very much in need of rest, I hear from a gossiping cabby about how 'Mr. Holmes is up to his old tricks again,' and received a lengthy and unscrupulous version of your newest publication from his lips. He then handed me the latest copy of The Strand and recommended it as 'good fun' and drove away laughing. So you see Watson," he attempted another smile, "my earlier vehemence was not entirely unprovoked."
After his explanation, my spirits were somewhat livened, and I left my drink to join him by the fire.
"But surely Holmes, if you indeed read the chapter you cannot deny the truth in it. I endeavor to reproduce exactly every event of a case."
"That you do, dear fellow. But in doing so, you have given rise to such opinions as that odious cabman had of me. Do you not think you could reign in the romance to a certain degree, in the interests of my professional reputation?"
"I dislike being untruthful Holmes. And honestly, do you want the public to think of you as a calculating machine?" He did not answer, so I continued. "You put on a grand show Holmes. You claim to be brain detached from body in your pursuit of the solution to a problem. You display no evidence of possessing any of the softer emotions. And as a result, your essence is lost on the vast majority of the population. You may think it romantic, but I want people to know you for you truly are."
"You know me. That's enough."
Those words and the warm look he gave me banished any thoughts of doubt I had had. And we shared drinks and discussed romanticized facts of cases and ridiculously titled monographs until dawn.
Author's notes: Did I do it? Did I get the 1,000th Sherlock Holmes story published on this site? I wrote this rapid-fire in the last hour trying for it.