A/N I have written a fanfiction of a work of pastiche.
The work of which I speak is in the book Resurrected Holmes, compiled and edited by Marvin Kaye. The story is called, "The Adventure of the Cripple Parade (or the Singular Affair of the Aluminum Crutch)" by William L. DeAndrea. I will basically tell what happens in the story within my fiction, but I wanted to note the valve reference. In the story (which is from the POV of Holmes), Holmes refers to his keeping his emotions in check as pushing on a valve which, at times, fills and swells and threatens to burst. --End A/N
He was awake.
He was awake, he was awake, he was awake.
The words on the parchment from the commissionaire seized my mind violently. It was a mantra that did not cease until my eyes beheld him in the hospital room.
Watson looked exceedingly better than he did when I left him last, only hours (or was it a day?) before. My mind wandered back to those moments at which I spoke with him.
"Trying a little detective work on my own… crippled… shouldn't have tried to do so much… wanted to impress you… crippled, all crippled, all the same place… I have to tell you… clubbed, clubbed. Doomed…"
Tears welled in my eyes. The valve I had leaned on for so long, pleaded with to not break until I could avenge Watson had opened during my tirade against the treacherous sub-Minister.
"Wanted to impress you…"
Had not Watson known how his friendship impressed me on a day to day basis? Had not Watson known that he was the dearest friend I had?
The one eye I could see (for the other had been bandaged) blinked hard. "Hullo, Holmes. I take it you've solved the mystery…"
I was taken aback, I must admit. I closed the door to the room and sat on the edge of his hospital bed. "However did you possibly deduce that, my dear Watson?"
Watson smiled, despite the evident pain it caused him, what with all the abrasions and lacerations adorning that face I had grown to admire.
"Less of a deduction than a feeling, Holmes. Had it been you in my… situation… and mine in yours, I would search tirelessly for the devils that had done this atrocious deed without rest or pause."
"And I know you would reciprocate."
Why did that word strike such a cord in my soul? Ah… yes… I had spoken such a word to Lizabeth Parkins, during her death throes. "I… loved… him…" she had breathed to me, regarding Sub-Minister Sir Carl Berin-Grutin, who had not only betrayed country, but this sad tale of a woman.
"Obviously, he didn't reciprocate," was my reply. Perhaps, it had been harsh, but vengeance was still on my mind, and this woman was by no means innocent in the part she played that led to Watson's beating.
Another smile from Watson snapped me from my thoughts. "Of course I would reciprocate, dear Watson, and therefore, you are right about your… feeling." I grinned widely. I continued and grasped his hand gently. "After all, I would be lost without my Boswell."
His eyes shone with happiness I would never had believed to come from someone who had just been bludgeoned ruthlessly with aluminum crutches by many men, whilst the man who ordered it sat watching just meters away.
His hand snaked its way out of my grasp, and he folded his fingers into mine. A chuckle escaped his lips. "But I do remember you telling me you promised to chronicle this particular escapade, as long as I promised to get better and rest. And here I am, better and rested. Now where is your report, good man?" Watson's good eye winked at me in a most impish manner.
I could not help but chuckle and felt the thing in my chest beat again, rapid and flurrying. "Alright, alright. As you may know, I had been on a chase for three long days, searching for those bank-note forgers, which I think I might have told you about when you last visited…"
My mind raced for a minute, as I was reminded that Watson did not live at 221B Baker Street anymore. At least not yet. I was still in the process of convincing Verner to buy Watson's practice. Looking at Watson's weakened state, I realized I should pay for the practice myself, considering my relative's hesitancy on the behalf of financial matters and considering this very recent and overwhelming need to keep Watson close and safe in Baker Street once more. I would not be whole again, nor would I be able to close the valve again against my emotions until Watson was back where he belonged.
"As I was saying, good fellow, I had come home to Baker Street and found a note stabbed into the armchair, left there by Brother Mycroft. It regarded, in the simplest terms, what had befallen you and the situation at hand."
I proceeded to tell him about rushing to the hospital and watching the doctors work on his body. I believe Watson knew the anguish it had caused me, sensing the change in tempo of my voice or perhaps the tempo of my pulse in his hands, for he squeezed my hand gently and massaged it with the pads of his thumb softly.
I almost forgot how to breathe.
Luckily for the sake of my life, I suppose, I remembered and continued to tell him my discussion with Mycroft and how he introduced me to the sub-Minister. I noted carefully my observations regarding the stubby and malformed fingers of Sir Carl. Watson knew only that a spy had stolen some plans regarding technical devices and troop movements, but naught of the aluminum. I quickly filled him in on the Crown's designs of an aluminum forger that would lower the world-wide price of the precious metal and how it was that which had been stolen.
I told him of how my endeavors had led me to the wharf, and to the office of Lizabeth Parkins. Watson smiled impishly when I told him of her simper looks and wanton speech.
"My dear Holmes, if you are not careful, you are going to let a woman get away one of these days. You do not recognize very easily when a woman makes overtures towards you."
"Don't be foolish, Watson. Of course I do. How could I not see her blatancy?"
How could I want something so far from what I truly desire in you, Watson?
Watson chuckled. "That may be true in this instance, but many a woman has walked out the doors of 221B aghast at the utter ignorance of the charming detective within. Do not be surprised to know that I keep track. So far you have had twenty-two women make such attempts."
"And how many have propositioned you, dear Watson?"
Watson's smiled lessened for a brief moment, but returned. "A few, but I do not keep track."
Why ever would he keep track of my count and not his, if not for competition?
I frowned slightly and uttered, "We have digressed completely from the topic at hand. I apologize. Where was I? Ah, yes, Lizabeth had told me that the ship I was searching for was indeed the Pervslavia. I left that office, which had strangely become very warm towards the end of my visit, and walked to the vessel."
I informed that I had observed many men, all crippled and bandaged in similar fashions, board the ship with wooden crutches. I told him of how I followed and cornered one after having been sighted. The tale of our eventual struggle brought a smile to Watson's face when I admitted it was concluded with my swift right hook to the man's chin.
My story unfolded to my discovery that the agile man was, indeed, agile and most certainly not crippled or in any need of neither bandage nor crutch. My subsequent disguise into that of a cripple did not seem to faze Watson, who had bore witness to several disguises (including that of which I will never forgive myself or my fiendish impishness).
My journey led me back to the office of Lizabeth Parkins, and I soon revealed myself and ascertained her involvement and the reason behind the warmth in the building.
"They had made the forging device right there, Watson! The crucible was within the building, and they had been smuggling aluminum out of the very country in those dratted crutches!"
Watson's forehead wrinkled in confusion. "But I was most certain that I was stricken with wooden crutches…"
"That you were, Watson, but the wood was simply a ploy hiding the aluminum beneath it." I paused for a moment. "How are you feeling, actually?
"Fine, fine. Please tell me how it ended. I cannot bear to leave this mystery without a conclusion." His eyes pleaded with me, and I could tell it was not mere curiosity that spurred his desire, but resolution.
I sighed softly, glad to know I could bring him peace of mind. I continued my story, telling him of the struggle that ensued, and the entrance of a formidable but shadowed man. Lizabeth had run to him, but he fired his pistol at her and fled, and she shrieked as the blasts pushed her towards the edge of the crucible and into its fiery depths. She had managed to crawl out, smothering the blaze about her now-charred body.
She was a doomed woman, I had thought, and looking at Watson, I realized I had been scared enough to think he had been doomed, too.
And all for the love of a man.
I did not dare to hope Watson wanted my love in the same way I did his, but he had sustained his injuries in a quest for my approval. He at least loved me like a friend and brother, and I am sure that Code of the English Gentleman that had been pounded into my skull by Mycroft had kept all emotions from showing themselves to him. The valve was constantly closed and leaned upon, but did he not know that I still felt them even though I did not show them?
Of course not. What reason could he give that I was indeed more than a calculating machine when I never gave him one?
I would give him one now, by giving him the peace of mind for which he so greatly yearned. "She called to me that she loved that man who had cruelly left her to die. I told her… I told her… 'Obviously he did not reciprocate.'"
"Obviously so. The fiend." His eyebrows knitted together.
Oh, Watson. Seeing the good in everyone despite their blatant faults. I should have known he would have seen it that the sub-Minister had used and manipulated this woman to his bidding using false promises of love. His hope for humanity was one of his winning qualities, however. One for which I admired my friend.
I told him them of my meeting with Mycroft and Sir Carl to unveil the thief. Watson look astonished when I told him I had yanked roughly on the whiskers of the sub-Minister.
"Whatever did you do that for, Holmes?"
I chuckled. "The man who shot Miss Parkins had not a hair upon his face. Also, I had noted on several occasions that the sub-Minister scratched his beard. A man who is famed for his cultured look would undoubtedly be accustomed to his facial hair and not have the necessity of scratching."
Watson laughed loudly, filling the room with light and hope. "I take it they came off?"
I nodded with mirth. "That they did, Watson. He appeared quite unhappy with the accusation, but I had told him of how your clue of 'clubbed' and 'doomed' led me to realize you had seen him as those ruffians beat you. You had told me quite recently of the symptoms of a particular and advanced heart disease, and upon remembering those malformed fingers, I knew it had to be him that you viewed as doomed, him that instilled this fate upon you.
"Oh, Watson, I had wanted to strangle him when the truth was out. Seeing him admit the truth in his eyes that he had watched you was maddening. It was revolting. Oh, but I watched the light die in his eyes. I told him that Mycroft and I would only tell the Crown and select high officials of what had occurred and leave him to his fate.
"I told him, 'And so, every day, you'll leave the gilded prison that is your home, and come to the gilded prison that is your office, and one day, a year from now, perhaps six months, maybe less, Providence will swing its hammer, once, twice, crushing your black heart, making you cry for mercy, and you'll die, clawing at the carpet and whimpering.'"
I realized suddenly that the conclusion of my report had resulted in my voice increasing in volume, and I was shaking violently with the hatred that I felt towards Sir Carl. My grasp on poor Watson's hand had become very tight, and I released him entirely from my grasp and stood up.
Watson grabbed me by the sleeve quickly, much faster than I ever would have expected. I looked down at his face and saw a flood of tears.
"Thank you," he gasped. "Thank you, Sherlock."
I felt a tear escape my eyes, as well as a pulling sensation. I was being dragged downwards to my friend, albeit quite willingly. My face hovered inches from his. "Y-You're welcome… John…"
Returning his Christian name seemed requisite and appropriate, and how I had longed in my long years with him to say it in such close proximity and intimacy to him.
I had been so absorbed in such introspective thoughts that I almost did not realize he had kissed me until it was over. I inhaled sharply and stared down at the man below me. His face looked less worn and beaten than it had only moments before, and he looked boyish and almost healed. A hesitant smile overtook his lips, and I claimed them with my own, passionately and fervently, but with pains to not hurt the man.
I ran a hand through his hair, noting sadly as it passed over a bandage or two on its journey and sighed into his adoring mouth. My hand made its way to cup his cheek, and I pulled away from the kiss, fearing the both of us had gone too far.
"Watson… I thought I truly had lost my Boswell forever… But I simply cannot lose you again due to my inverted desires."
Watson laughed, and once again it filled the room… and my heart… with a bottomless mirth. "As you are always telling me, 'you see, but you do not observe.' Do not think yourself the only invert in this room, Holmes. It was I who kissed you, despite the risk of intrusion from a nurse or orderly, despite the risk that you perhaps might not reciprocate such perverse fantasies. And yet I did it. And what does that tell you?"
I suddenly felt foolish and smiled sheepishly and muttered, "Whenever you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
I kissed him again, this time more gently. I intertwined our fingers again and pulled softly away. "John, seeing as how our relationship has just suddenly developed in this wonderful fashion, I must tell you that it should not take another tragedy to see you living again in the rooms at Baker Street. I simply could not bear…" The valve to my heart was fully open now, and I was in danger of collapsing towards an emotional tumult.
Watson reached upwards with his other hand and fondly stroked my cheek. "I would be happy to come back. My practice can deal without me for a bit longer, at least until it sells. After all, I need time to, ah, heal under the care of a good friend." His eyes twinkled amusedly at me, and I laughed lightly.
And so it was that the Singular Affair of the Aluminum Crutch (or the Adventure of the Cripple Parade, as Watson calls it) came to an end. However, the adventures of Watson and Holmes, or Holmes and Watson, (it really never matters to me when people or Watson mention this) were only beginning along this new avenue of relationship.
And I am only obligingly happy to follow it wherever it may lead the two of us.