A/N: What was originally going to be a one-shot is now officially the journey of Holmes, leaving one of his more harmful vices and heading for...? The first chapter is set during Granada Musgrave, otherwise it's not in any particular case. And thank you Bowen Cate. ^^
"Holmes?" I rapped on his door, smiling and adjusting my bowtie. He might think we were going to have a miserable time, but I was determined to make him see the light. Surely he would enjoy dinner, and the chance to dazzle all with his skills.
When there was no answer I pushed open the door. I found him in a chair—preparing to fill the syringe. My heart dropped and I sagged against the doorframe. "Why?" I burst out, causing him to jump.
"Why?" He snapped, meeting my gaze as he deliberately drew a dose. "Because I'm ill, I'm bored, and there's nothing better to do."
"Nothing better to--I don't understand!" I choked. "Who do you think I am? Come to me when you're ill, I'm a doctor and your friend…damn it, Holmes, I just don't understand! Why, why, when will you stop? It makes me sick myself! I cannot stand this disappointment any longer."
Holmes was quiet a minute. "You're disappointed in me?"
"In a way, yes." I walked to his chair and held out my hand.
He looked at me for a long moment and I feared I would be sick with the strain, but in the end he quietly placed the needle in my palm.
"Thank you, Holmes." My knees nearly gave out from under me as I closed my hand over the syringe and put it on the mantel for the moment, 'til I would find a better way to dispose of it. "I know you're ill, I know you're miserable. So will you please tell me what I can do to help?"
"No. Watson, wait—it's not that I don't trust you. I just hate to…impose."
"You are so blind when it comes to this, always," I sighed. "Will you never understand? I want to take care of you!"
"I know you do, Watson." He smiled sadly at me. "But I'm not a child; I can take care of myself."
"In many ways, yes, you can. But everyone has their weak points, and when it comes to them…sometimes we need help. Listen, Holmes, you know the saying, iron sharpens iron?"
"And you know what it means."
"I do, yes." He stirred restlessly, eyes going to the mantle.
I stepped in between him and it. "One piece of iron can't sharpen itself. It takes at least two, to scrape off the imperfections and become stronger, better. It's not ridiculous for a piece of iron to need another, and it's the same for men."
He was silent, tapping his fingers rapidly.
"So will you please let me help you?" I finished in a low voice.
Holmes looked away. "I hate being ill, and this damn house is freezing, and I wish I was dead."
I heaved a sigh. "I know."
"And?" I stiffened, my ears perking up.
"Watson, I know you're trying to help. I know you think if you just give me enough encouragement, enough support…but it's not…it's not…" he closed his eyes. "It's not a choice I have to make. It's made for me."
"How do you…?"
"You don't understand…when you're bored, Watson, you're free to control your mind, your path. You can write, you can think, this or that. With me it's different, don't you understand!" He cried out. "It's not some habit, not a choice, I HAVE no choice! You think—you think—you think I'm being a disappointment, you think I'm making a bad decision. It's not a decision! I have to take it, or I…I can't bear…it's intolerable, Watson, it's…my mind, it falls apart…I'm scared of what will happen!" He snapped out, breathing faster.
"What? There's nothing to say! It's over; it's the way things are going to be. There's no use telling me I should stop, I KNOW that already! My brain is…it's all I have. I don't want to go mad, so I can't take that risk. Watson I try, I swear, I try to keep myself occupied, but it all ends in uselessness! I end up running myself into the ground, then I'm left sitting around with nothing to do and I HAVE to use it. No, don't—don't even try to tell me I can resist. I will go mad, I know it—I can't bear it, Watson, don't look at me like that, don't, I can't bear it!"
I watched, shocked, as his nerves shredded themselves in front of my eyes and he buried his face in his hands, crying out in agony.
How could I have done this? How could my earnest intentions end up hurting the man who was my closest friend? My heart thudded in my ears and every one of his quiet sobs physically pained me.
"Holmes, I wasn't trying to be judgmental," I tried, and lay my hand on his arm.
He swatted me away, hiding his face and sniffling miserably with his cold.
I felt as if I were carved from wood—I could feel no physical sensation. How could I have been so blind? I felt such a savage fool...Holmes had been going along, gamely trying to follow my impossible demands. How could I have not grasped…the overwhelming load I'd been constantly putting on his shoulders? I pulled out my handkerchief and gently brushed his wrist with it. He hesitated, then took it. There was a long, broken and heavy silence.
"I'm sorry, Holmes," I said at last, softly. "I didn't…quite realize. This…you must have been feeling pressure from me to stop at once, and…it feels impossible. Like I'm asking you to do something that just can't be done."
He nodded, still cleaning himself up.
"My dear Holmes, I can never apologize enough," I said, choking on sorrow. "I will try to be different, I don't know how exactly I should be, it's all a fog, but I will try somehow!"
He sat up, folding the handkerchief in a neat triangle. "Do you truly mean that?" He asked quietly.
I could only nod.
"Then perhaps, Watson, I can do the same," he murmured, and we clasped hands.