A/n: The final chapter. To my reviewers--your support has meant everything to me. Thank you so much, I hope you enjoyed this story. I learned much about history, writing, and Holmes through it. Thank you once again! ^.^
I was relaxing on the sofa with a yellowback when Holmes poked his head out of his door and cleared his throat.
"There you are, Holmes! What's been occupying you all day?"
"I've been—studying." Holmes ran his finger around his necktie and moved into the sitting room. "Watson, I had something to ask you."
"Do you think that in the last week or so—that's to say, have you noticed…ah, to be frank, have I gained weight?"
"Just a little, Holmes; after all your appetite has been better lately. Don't take it badly, you look all the better for it."
He fiddled with the buttons of his waistcoat. "You mean that?"
"Of course I do. And you still fit in your clothes, don't you."
He tried to smile, though now he was fidgeting with his watch-chain.
"Are you unhappy about it?" I asked after a long pause.
"Not—unhappy, exactly. Only…"
"A bit uncomfortable?"
"Well--yes, but how did you know? Ah, I remember now. And I still say it was twelve pounds you put on," he joked nervously.
"Seven or twelve, I got used to it. And Holmes, don't worry yourself; you look fine. I'll still call you 'austere' in my stories."
"I suppose I should count my blessings," Holmes muttered.
I took a breath. "Holmes, I wonder if you're feeling uncomfortable in your mind, as well."
"What makes you say that?" He asked after a brief silence.
"It's only logical, your mind is where you spend the most time. Changing it about is likely to cause disorientation."
"It's difficult, I'll admit. But it has been getting easier. I've refined my garden spider method, by the way; I find it should only be used in extreme distress of mind. Usually it's most effective to simply kill the fly that threatens the thread, and move on with my thinking."
"Well, that's good. And you're still writing in the book when you get inspiration?" I patted the couch cushion beside me.
He sat down hesitantly. "Yes—and I looked at the beginning recently, the earlier entries. I was surprised to recall how dark things were before. How dark they were even when—when I had not long stopped."
"The dark times are easy to forget when it suits our purpose. Truthfully, Holmes, I think life is made of cycles; day and night, waking and sleeping, times of mental stimulation and quieter days. Cocaine only adds a new cycle, one of moods—up and down—and it takes a toll on the body and mind. It also detracts from appreciating the other cycles, such as the seasons."
I reflected on Watson's words, and could not deny that much of the world was made of patterns. Even leaves and fruit follow a strict pattern by ripening and growing each summer, only to fall to the ground in autumn. The trees…my mind dwelt on them now, pondering their life. They flourished, burst into lush foliage in spring, matured in summer and dazzled in autumn—only to lose everything at the end, shivering naked through the grey slush of winter. They grew new leaves, yes—but not without a time of bereavement. Then, in spring, they shone anew with waxing buds.
When Watson asked what I was thinking, I ventured to tell him my analysis in a very few words.
He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Winter is when the trees take time to nourish themselves; that would be studying and experiments for you, or taking a holiday. The tree may not be showing anything overtly, but it's still growing and developing inside. What do you think, Holmes?"
I shifted. "Yes, yes I suppose I agree. But Watson, I've been meaning to ask. Do you recall the time I was on the couch, this couch, and you handed me a blanket, only—it was your own? Well, how did it get to be here?"
He looked into the fire when he spoke. "I tried not to worry too much about you, but--sometimes I couldn't help it, I had to creep downstairs and sleep on the couch, in case you needed me. I would try to go back up before you awoke, but one morning I overslept, and didn't have time to take the blanket with me."
"It doesn't matter now. What matters is how hard you've worked, and how far you've come." His face was alight. "Holmes--I'm very proud of you, you know. Even if you never solved another case, I'd still be proud of you."
"That is one thing that shan't be put to the test. I'm certain that something in the morning paper will prove of interest, no matter how small."
We sat in silence for an hour or so, quietly watching the fire turn to red embers, greying at last to ash. I would venture one more question before the evening ended, only one more. I would simply say it, as I said any other remark or query--it would be easy.
However it was in fact some time before I forced the faltering words from my lips.
"Is it dead, Watson, or merely asleep?"
He sank deep into thought before speaking, and when he spoke 'twas in a voice he rarely used. "I hope it is dead, Holmes. But if it is sleeping, and if it does wake, I promise you won't face it alone, not if I'm on this earth."
I nodded quietly, sitting back against the couch and absorbing the paradox. Only he knows the full extent of my weaknesses, and only I am familiar with his strengths.
Perhaps one day I would write his private biography, so he could hold in his hands what was written in my mind. My eyes rested upon the empty space on the mantle as I thought of this; the firelight reflected off the wood with a faint glow and it all seemed quite peaceful, and still.