A/n: First this story was working fine. Then only half showed, then none at all. DX So I reposted after deleting the original version. I saved KCS and WW's reviews, so guys, I can paste them back in under my name, or--chance of a lifetime--you can review again, after having let the story soak in your subconcious. Whatever works. XD
I set down the butter knife and sniffed intently--a quick glance to the window strengthened my suspicions, and Watson's audible limp confirmed them.
"Good morning, Holmes," he said quietly, walking past the table.
He gazed vacantly for a moment before nodding and lighting a cigarette. "I'm surprised you're eating."
"How d'you mean?" I pushed aside my plate and turned to face him properly. He had been acting quieter of late, but this morning it was plain (even to me) that he was not himself.
He pitched his cigarette into the grate though it was barely smoked. "That collection of papers by your armchair. You're planning to go through the agonies...it's unusual for you to let eating get in the way of work."
"It's only a break. Look there—no, there, beyond the—yes."
"Holmes!" He stepped behind the chair and I could hear the rustling of papers. "You were up all night going through these?"
"That's right." I dropped another cube of sugar into my tea. "Aren't you pleased, Watson, that I stopped for breakfast at least?"
He sat in his armchair as if he'd not heard, and curled up, partially, like a wounded creature.
I took a sip of tea and got to my feet. "Back to the agonies. Would you like to split the stack of papers? I'll give you a pencil, just circle anything outré."
"Right," he mumbled, accepting the pencil I offered—or, rather, allowing me to lay it in his passive hand.
I spread an open paper on my lap and began running down the column, marking here and here and—"Watson, this lady says her son has a most peculiar habit, every time he visits a doctor, he tries to eat—actually eat—the thermometer! I hope none of your patients ever do that…hm…and this fellow writes that he's been suffering from depression the last week or so, but he doesn't want to worry his...his...Watson, did you write this?"
He coloured deeply and looked away. "I was bored, I'd been so gloomy—couldn't seem to shake it off, and--such a ridiculous thing to do! I suppose I just wanted someone's opinion."
"Did you read their reply?"
"No. I wish I hadn't written in, it was absurd."
"Well you wrote in anonymously, no harm done. Let's see, they say—"
"No, don't read it, Holmes! That is—I'd rather you didn't. It was a moment of weakness, I'm all right now, quite all right, and I think I'll go for a walk." He began rummaging with great energy through our collection of walking sticks. "The fresh air will no doubt--"
We both cringed at a crack of thunder.
Watson paused, holding his stick, then all at once he threw it down and walked across the room, leaning his forehead on the window. He rubbed his head slowly against the glass, searching for escape.
I folded the paper, taking a long time with every crease. "You know, Watson--fresh air is as close as opening a door or window."
"It's beginning to rain," he noted dully, and indeed the musical drops were starting to splash generously. "It would soak the carpet, warp the wood...but then..." he turned to look at me with a feeble smile. "When has something like that ever deterred you?"
"Ha! that's the spirit; I've gotten the umbrellas, so just follow me. By all means, grab your toast on the way." I handed him one of the umbrellas, and together we descended the stairs. I could hear his sluggish pace quickening behind me, though his breath caught slightly at each step.
I opened the door, made it fast against potential wind gusts, and sat on the last step. Watson sat down beside me curiously, munching his toast. "But why did we bring the umbrellas, Holmes?"
"Oh, we will need them later. For now, just watch--and smell. I often wonder, Watson, why ladies think it fashionable to scent themselves with strong perfume. Surely this--new rain--is the greatest scent in the world. You can't deny it, can you? It's a marvelous thing."
"A sociable thing too, apparently," he chuckled as a wind sent the cold drops at us, spattering our faces and knees. "So bracing--and refreshing! And see the way last year's leaves caper about--they're tattered and stiff, and quite brown--but they have a bit of life in them yet. Holmes--" he pushed the last bite of toast into his mouth and spoke eagerly around it. "Let's step outside, just for a moment."
"And here the umbrellas come into play. We must be wary, of course, and not stay out too long." I stepped outside first, popping open my umbrella and waiting for Watson to catch up; he shut the door behind us.
"To the end of the block and back, Holmes?"
"It seems you have enough energy to walk to the end of the world."
"You'd come with me, of course."
"Naturally. Who else would solve the cases scattered betwixt here and the horizon?"
He gave me a flushed grin before stretching out his hand and catching at the raindrops. We hadn't yet reached the end of the block, however, when he faltered; he smiled bravely, but I saw the pain etched between his brows and speaking in the paleness of his face.
"You know, Watson, I think it's time to warm up with more tea. Would you mind if we turned back?"
He didn't talk on the way home, and I didn't press him.
We went up the stairs much slower than we had gone down; I adjusted my tie as his pauses between stairs seemed to increase exponentially.
When we reached the top, he glanced at my face and paused. "Holmes, you're not blaming yourself are you? You shoudn't, I'm glad we went outside. Though--" he set his umbrella down and sighed, rubbing his leg. "If we ever do walk to the end of the world, we'd better do it in late summer."
I helped him out of his coat. "Won't it take us longer than a season?"
"Holmes, really." He limped to the table and refreshed my cup of tea. "You cheered me up; making an endless summer should be easy."
I smiled, but my mind was revolving around serious thoughts, and as I sat down I cleared my throat. "Watson..."
He looked up quickly.
"I know, I know Holmes, it was ridiculous, I'll never do it again." He stabbed at his egg 'til it bled yellow. After several minutes he looked up. "At least, I assume you were going to talk about that."
"In a way. I only wonder...you know me, Watson...blackest fits of depression known to man."
Watson had his mouth full but I could tell he was listening.
"Did you think I wouldn't listen, or understand?"
He shrugged uncomfortably, and took a very long draught of juice. "Experiencing something is one matter, talking about it is something else. I don't even know why I've been in such a dark mood, anyway--and I didn't know for sure you'd want to be a sounding board."
"In addition, I don't set the best example for dealing with black moods."
"No, you don't," Watson admitted frankly, nibbling on a strip of bacon. "Apparently neither do I, and I'm a doctor. But--" he waved the bacon emphatically in my direction. "Maybe it comes down to this--you can't see your way when you're in darkness. It's only standing on the outside, observing another person, that you can help them out of it."
"Well but if they're in the middle of darkness and you're outside the darkness, you can't see--"
"Holmes--" he raised his eyes.
"All right. I suppose I can make some sense of that tortured metaphor. Ah! speaking of torture, would you be offended if I looked through more agonies at the table? Thanks. I can feel it--our next case is close at hand."
And I knew my Watson would be there once we found it, I knew he'd follow me wherever the trail led--even through darkness within, even to the end of all things.