This story is about the choices we make.
I hope you enjoy this my first foray into the Sherlock Holmes fandom. It is quite an intimidating lot!
Thanks to KCS for reawakening to me the love I have always had for the character of John Watson.
The Breaking Strain
"I can't do this anymore, Holmes," Watson said standing at the drawing room windows.
Holmes had just come back from Scotland Yard to find his erstwhile flat mate in a reflective mood. Sherlock did not feel overly concerned; they had had conversations like this before.
Watson turned to him, and Holmes saw it. This was not going to be as their other talks.
"You used me," he stated simply his posture stiff, his hands clasped behind his back in a military manner. He had lost most of those mannerisms in the course of their life together, seeing them return was not a good omen.
"I did not use you, Watson; I merely took advantage of information that fell to me due to your ongoing affiliation with someone who had become my suspect." He declared hating the placating tone in his voice. The world's only consulting detective did not equivocate, placate or apologize, it galled him that he felt he might need to change that policy. This was Watson, he would come around, he always had before. Consistency had always been one of his hallmarks.
Watson's face was empty, distant, all the humour and kindness that had shown from his eyes since Holmes and he had been acquainted was missing, like the colour green on a snowy winter's day. "You knew she was a suspect before we became acquainted, you always know from the first, and yet you allowed me to spend my affections and grow attached while you constructed your case using information I inadvertently provided. I can see even now how oblivious you are to what you have done."
Holmes was affronted. "And what is this vile deed I have done exactly, dear Watson? What blight have I created to your happiness? I allowed nature to take her course, you created your own affiliation, one which brought you enjoyment, and I did not intervene because it was not in the realm of my business to do so."
His companion turned away, causing Holmes to think he had penetrated this sudden icy veil, but then the man spoke. "It was not in the realm of your business to do so, if we were but associates, but as a friend..."
The couch was nearby; Holmes sank into it, his eyes not leaving the man across the room. "I would not expect you to intervene on my behalf, Watson, why would I have the reasonable expectation that you would require it of me? Such an intervention would not be at all logical."
Watson walked over to the hat rack, took his coat over his arm, and affixed his hat to his head, removing his cane from its customary spot. He turned to the stairs without another word and began his descent.
This was the most alarming thing he could have possibly done. As long as Watson engaged in conversation with someone, there existed the opportunity to change his course, it was when the man stopped conversing that you knew his indomitable will was set in stone. Holmes has always managed to alter his course previously, and rarely had he run across such an impasse.
He crossed the room. "Watson, you are being unreasonable, I have never known your nature to be this mercurial before." The man paused on the stairs, so Holmes had fleeting hope that there was to be a discussion yet, that hope, dashed when the man refused to turn around. "I travelled the world, to the far corners of the empire, I've had everything taken from me, my health, my belief and faith in mankind, companions who were killed paces from me in horrible ways, but I have never lost my honour before now. She trusted me; she might have been a murderess, but she trusted me, I was her betrayer the silver is in my hand. You have always accomplished things others thought impossible, add this to that prestigious and growing list."
Holmes' brilliant mind had never failed him. It had opened the universe and all its complexities to his eyes, allowed him to never meet a challenge and find it insurmountable, but in that moment, he could find no words.
Watson stopped in front of the door, and finally turned back to Holmes. "If you would see to my possessions for a day, or so, I should be appreciative. I will send for them when I find lodgings." He paused when he saw Holmes' face. "I have never wished to be a master of portraiture before now, this is truly a magnanimous occasion to capture, never to be repeated. Sherlock Holmes rendered speechless."
He turned, there was a flash of brightness from the outside day, and then he was gone. Holmes sat heavily on the stairs, unable to process his astonishment.
"Holmes?" Watson called shaking him from his revelry. Sherlock startled. He had been standing at that same bank of windows that he saw behind Watson in his mind's eye.
"What is it?" he said rather more harshly than he meant. His heart was still racing from the vividness of that vision.
Watson, seated at his desk, quill in hand was eyeing his flat mate curiously. "I have been talking to you for a minute without response. Are you well?"
Holmes shot him a look. "Before you pull out your black bag of Dominican tortures, I am quite well, just a quick wrestle with a daylight rambling Morpheus. What was the topic?"
"Lady Adderly," Watson stated in his all too patient tone, "she invited me to tea; I was trying to decide what to reply."
Holmes felt a chill touching his heart. This was the moment, two paths diverging in a wood. Here there be Tygers. "What are you asking me, be precise, I have little patience for deviation as you well know."
Watson was staring at him with an odd intensity. "Are you sure you are well, I can take your temperature, it is not a bother."
"Watson, just restate your query."
He frowned at the obvious elusiveness of his companion, but continued, "At the investigation today, Holmes, you saw the attraction that appears to exist between her and I. That did not escape your keen observation, correct?"
Sherlock waved at him to go on impatiently.
Watson held up a letter. "This came for me, a short while ago. I was wondering if you thought I should accept it, considering we are involved in the investigation concerning her father's death and subsequent missing will."
Holmes could see the trap. His devotion to his craft was telling him that Watson's continued fraternization would make a perfect inroad to this rather intelligent woman's mind. Holmes could already see that her careful nature and considerable grace posed tremendous obstacles to proving her status as a viable suspect. All he had now was speculation, and that was not going to be sufficient. Her interest in Watson appeared to be genuine; they conversed for most of the moments they were together just that day. Holmes had noticed that in the past that his partner had some conversation with members of the fairer sex, which would be an asset here.
However, the vision he had just endured weighed heavily on his mind. The choice was clear, friendship, or the work to which he had devoted his entire existence?
"Actually, I would request you not accept her invitation, Watson, I have reason to suspect her involvement, and I would not have you placed in that position."
Watson blinked, his face clearly showing that he was not sure how to take his flat mate's concern over his well-being. Holmes had not been entirely callused to his plight in the past, but such a direct mention of Watson's welfare and how it related to his work, was certainly not commonplace.
"Thank you, Holmes; I shall take your advice."
He turned back to his writing, making an offhand statement, "I should not like to think of what might have occurred had I not asked, or you been less forthcoming."
Holmes picked up his violin, feeling in a reflective mood.
"Nor I, Watson, nor I."