An entry into PGF's first-time-injury challenge, as requested. Just for you, m'dear:
That was probably not the smartest thing in the world to do, walking in there openly like that…when will I learn to not be quite so confident in my own abilities?
Mycroft always did say that my faith in my invincibility was both my greatest strength and my worst weakness. Confound the man, he usually is right, much as I hate to admit it.
I wonder why I feel so foggy, quite unlike my normal rapid brainwork…
Oh, oh, oh. Trying to move was not a good idea at all. I dearly hate showing weakness, but not even I can stay quiet under this amount of pain. Good Lord, it hurts…
"Holmes, it's all right. Stop trying to move, you're home now."
What? Blast it, I can't even hear well, perhaps if I move my head…
No. An even worse idea. Is that whimper really me? How pathetic!
"Holmes, shhh, it's all right."
I am thoroughly tired of being half-witted in this drama…perhaps if I open my eyes I shall become more lucid. Surely just that slight movement will not hurt…
I am rather pleased when it does not in fact, though it is probably a full two minutes before the fog clears and I can actually see things. My bedroom with its criminal décor, the same crack in the ceiling above my head that I noticed my first night in the house, the slanting trickle of sunlight filtering through the drawn blinds.
But the foremost vision being that of a very tense Doctor sitting close by my bed. His tanned face is a ghostly pale, and as I glance quizzically at him, too wary of movement to form a question or even turn my head, he settles on the edge of my bed so that I shall have to do neither.
What a perfectly ghastly smell of antiseptic…and blood, too. My room now reeks of a hospital. Wonderful.
What is he wanting me to answer? I really should say something, seeing as he is closer to a verging panic than I have yet seen in the sixteen months I have known him…
"Holmes, can you understand me?"
Now that I can answer, and do with a nod, wincing as the pain in my skull throbs again.
I watch as he fairly crumples with relief, wrapping a shaking hand gently round my bandaged fingers…what did I do to them anyhow?
"What the devil did you get yourself into?" he asks unsteadily.
I am not quite sure that I can answer that, not at the moment…what did I get myself into? Whatever it was, he certainly looks frightened about the matter. I frown, trying to remember. It is no use, I cannot.
Temporary memory loss…that means a concussion probably; I am no physician but even I can tell that. Ah, no wonder he is a little distrait.
I wonder if I can speak…I open my mouth to try but before I can I dissolve into a rather painful coughing fit, which jars something in my chest so badly I wish for unconsciousness again.
"Don't try to talk, old fellow," the soothing voice nearly drowns out the pounding in my head for a while, and finally I lie quiet once more.
I frown, looking at him and cocking a questioning eyebrow. He readily understands, yet another trait I find valuable in him.
"Do you remember what happened?"
I shake my head, gingerly this time. "No." Good heavens, is that hoarse croak my own voice?
He releases my hand to go for a glass of water, returning and slipping a strong arm under my head and elevating it, holding the glass to my lips as I am rather afraid to move and attempt it on my own. This is extremely humiliating, but I am too thirsty at the moment to care. Besides, Watson is not the tale-telling type, so no one shall ever know. I hope.
I am nearly done when it all comes back to me.
I am rather regretful when I startle him, not just because he jerks my head accidentally as he is settling me back down, but because of the fright that shoots across his worried face.
"What is it?" he asks hastily, bending over me.
"That Waterman gang, they were –"
"Holmes, be still!" he hisses, pressing gently on my right shoulder to keep me in one position – I only now realise the other is bandaged – "they're all in custody, the police got there in time, I swear! Now calm down!"
The police? Who called for them?
As if in answer to my unspoken question, he goes on, more gently this time, sitting back down on the bed. "I sent for them. Don't look at me like that, I know you ordered me not to follow you, but you never said I couldn't have Lestrade do it!"
I scowl darkly, as much as the bandage on my head will allow. Rescued by a Yarder? I should never live that down!
But the frown fades unbidden as, now that my perception and senses are indeed returning to me fully (along with a massive amount of pain, but that is better than numbness), now I can see that there is something else in his face other than exasperation for my rather hasty heroics. Worry, yes, but…
I become even more worried when he gets up, releasing my hand, and begins pacing up and down my bedroom.
Watson does not pace, unless woken from a nightmare. He just doesn't. This is not good.
I clear my throat, and he seems not to notice, his movements rather unsteady and irregular. I decide to attempt my pathetic voice again.
"What is the matter, Doctor?"
He jumps, startled, and whirls to face me. "What is the matter? Do you have any idea how close you came to dying, Holmes?"
Dying? Surely not…
At my look of disbelief, he glares at me. "Oh, so you don't believe me. For your information, Holmes, it is now Monday evening."
That idea is ridiculous. I just went into that gang's den, and it was Thursday afternoon. It could not possibly be…
No, judging from his face it was. Four days?
"Yes, Monday. When they brought you back I – I didn't even know if you were going to live the night, you stupid, stupid fool!"
Any sting of the words falling so angrily on my ears is completely neutralised by the choking tone of his voice, and he turns away to look at something in his medical bag, drumming a set of nervous fingers on the latch.
Yes, it had been rather an inane idea to go in there without a backup plan in the event that I was recognised…
I jump in surprise as he slams a glass bottle down, nearly shattering it into a hundred pieces, and turns back to me.
"That was the stupidest thing I have ever heard of a man doing!"
I wince as his voice rings through my head, but he appears not to notice for he keeps doggedly on. "I thought you were the most intelligent man I'd ever come across, until you pulled an absolutely imbecilic stunt like this one!"
"Necessary," I manage to growl out of my hoarse throat.
"No! Alone, and unprotected, and with no back plan – that is sheer stupidity. If you were a general you would have lost your army the entire war due to your ridiculous theatrics!"
His voice breaks unaccountably on that last word, and I can see his throat working desperately, swallowing hard more than once as he sits on the edge of the bed, rubbing his eyes as if to scrub away a painful memory.
I cannot say I regret routing that infernal gang, no matter what the cost has been, but I do regret worrying the poor chap so. His nerves are not yet close to being healed from his own horrendous experiences, and this no doubt is not helping.
I cautiously move my hand, pleased to find it fairly free of pain, and close it over the one that lies trembling on my coverlet.
"I'm sorry, Doctor." I have no idea what else to say, nothing useful anyway.
He gives a long shuddering sigh but does not move away, looking at the wall for a long moment before turning to me, and I find myself very much disturbed by the ghostly haunted quality I observe now in his eyes.
"In the army, Holmes," he whispers, "a man soon learns not to grow too attached to any particular person, for he never knows what the day's horrors may hold. A doctor has even more reason to not form attachments, for one never knows when and where illness or injury will strike and kill."
I very much do not like either the similarity in his idea to my own dislike of emotional attachment, or the vicinity where this discussion is heading…
"I could watch men…lads, really, was all they were…literally hacked to pieces, shot, maimed, killed, in front of me, and not lose my nerve," he tells me intensely, the ghosts in his eyes taking on a fiery sheen, "but…but I can't do this, I didn't bargain on this when I agreed to assist you on those cases of yours! This is totally different from being a soldier or even just a doctor!"
So that is it – the heart of the matter at last.
"I've not enjoyed anything more than tagging along with you for over a year now on these fascinating businesses, Holmes – but I can't do this!" he gasps suddenly, turning his gaze away as his voice shakes unusually and he looks positively ill.
He is refusing to look at me, hanging his head wearily. I just now notice how dark the circles are under his tired eyes – no doubt he has been up with me for heaven only knows how long.
Oh, that hurts. I repress a gasp of agony as I shift, groping for the hand that he had withdrawn at his pained explosive outburst. He flinches as I grip it as strongly as my bandaged fingers will allow, but he does not pull away.
I cough dryly, then speak, pleased to hear my voice is somewhat normal. An improvement at least.
"Watson. I'm sorry, I swear it."
The pain in his eyes as he finally glances back at me is almost as bad as the pain in my head at the moment.
"But – I cannot promise it won't happen again," I say quietly, "I refuse to back down over a case simply because I am threatened. I cannot promise that I wouldn't go in after them just the same if having to do it all over again."
"No, you probably cannot," he replies lowly. I am about to nod agreeably when his eyes contract and darken. That is not good.
"You can't promise that you won't do something that stupid again, but I can," he snaps. "That's the last time you go in alone after anyone or anything, even so much as a stray dog in a kennel, do you hear me?"
I wince at his vehemence, it is driving into my skull. "I –"
"I am not asking you, I am telling you, Holmes! You are not going to do this to me again!"
I lie back with a weary sigh, glaring at his rather endearingly angry face before breaking into a small smile. I am pleased to see his brow clear and he relaxes ever so slightly, gripping my hand between both of his. It appears that I now have acquired a constant comrade-in-arms, whether I welcome him or not. The man is truly a soldier to take that risk either direction.
Odd, very odd, how that in a little over a year one man could not only deflect all my defensive efforts to keep him at a distance, but also launch an offensive of his own to make it past my natural barriers against anything remotely akin to emotional attachment - and all without giving the actual appearance of declaring war upon my solitude and attempting to storm his way into my life.
Stealth tactics, indeed.