I have tried to pass this story off to a more able writer, but it would not let me be. I have a full plate at the moment having just posted a 7000 word epic chapter for an other work, but this character would not let go.
I was watching the 2002 version of Hound of the Baskervilles starring Richard Roxburgh on Youtube and was immensely impressed by the work of Ian Hart as John Watson. The Watson he portrayed was honest, loyal and brave and a bit of an investigator himself. What really set him apart was his concern and empathy for Mrs. Stanford and Henry Baskerville, and his outrage at Sherlock Holmes cold-hearted manipulations of everyone around him. Here was the Doctor Watson I had always envisioned. Capable and strong in his own right, more of a partner than assistant.
If you feel that the skills that John Watson shows in this story are OC, then I have not done my job. I want to show that Watson may not have found the channel of investigation without Sherlock but did not make him any less capable in it. He was an able doctor with a strong stomach and an even stronger will. He was learned, and competent and Holmes relied on him as a colleague not just as a friend/biographer.
Between The Final Problem and Empty House, we know Doctor John Watson lost his beloved Mary, had some health set backs and became a Police Surgeon, and from accounts in EMPT a very good one. This is the story of how that came to be.
I sincerely hope the EXTREMELY amazing authors that frequent this fanfiction will be kind. Their work has challenged me to raise the level of my own.
BTW I don't own Watson and the boys, they belong to whomever is cashing the checks for Doyle these days.
Doctor John Watson, Police Surgeon: Scotland Yard
Lestrade sat in the warmth and dry of the carriage cab, seated across from Mycroft Holmes. He was staring out into the gray foggy rain so typical for London this time of year.
"I cannot say that I agree that this is a good idea," he remarked, "that man does not look capable of the trip across the graveyard, much less to be employed as a police surgeon."
The man in question was a solitary, solemn gentleman dressed in all black, standing alone among the marble, his hat pulled low, leaning heavily on his cane. Most would think he was well into middle age to gaze upon him, not realizing that he had yet to meet his fortieth year.
"He has lost much," Mycroft agreed with a grunt, "but my dear brother relied upon him, which speaks to his inner strength. Sherlock would not have kept company with someone weak willed."
Lestrade sighed. "Weak willed or no, very few men could withstand the losses he has suffered and maintain sanity. My objection is not to his character, which is beyond all doubt, just to his present suitability."
Mycroft remained silent. Lestrade glanced over and saw the intensity in the man's eyes. Mycroft Holmes was a secretive man, and Lestrade was a man with a natural curiosity, their association was inevitably strained between the two. "I cannot tell you all I know, Lestrade, but my sources are immutable. Doctor John Watson is nearly at his wits end, financially he can use an influx of cash, and personally, he can use a sense of purpose. If something is not attempted to pull him out of his darkness, he may well be lost. I believe this work is a viable solution to both of our difficulties."
Lestrade pursed his lips as he considered the man's words. "We have a full staff of police surgeons, I don't know how I can justify adding one more, especially one that has not established his credentials."
Mycroft leaned forward piercing Lestrade with gray eyes so much like his brother's. "You seemed to be under the mistaken impression that I am leaving you a choice. You know who I am, and have an inkling at the power I can bring to bear if the need arises."
Chief Inspector Giles Lestrade of Scotland Yard was not in position to know all the rotund man across from him was responsible for, but he knew enough to know that he could be ruined as easily as the man could swat a fly. "When you put it in such generous terms, I cannot see a way to refuse. I will however point out that Doctor John Watson's obstinacy is legendary, I can make the offer, but his acceptance is in no wise guaranteed."
His companion smiled; there was no warmth in the expression, and all of the passion of a waxwork. "I would not trust this matter to your meagre diplomacy, I have ascertained a tact that if followed will guarantee his cooperation. My brother spoke often of the man's character, and as such there is one way to be absolutely assured of his participation."
"That is?" Lestrade asked trying for a flat tone, but betraying his eagerness nonetheless.
Mycroft pulled out his watch, and checked it with a look of bother on his face. "Just simply inform him that you need his help, and that his participation is vital to the saving of lives. He would never walk away from such a request, in doing so; he would be violating everything he is."
Lestrade decided it was time for Mycroft to feel the keen edge of dissection. "I cannot help but notice that you appear to have respect for the man in question, and I wonder why you consider this any of your affair."
Mycroft indicated the carriage door. "I believe you have an appointment to keep. Good day, sir."
Lestrade tipped his hat as he departed out into the rainy afternoon. He was not a detective to the degree of Mycroft's younger brother was, but Lestrade could sense a hand moving behind the scenes with Mycroft, some pressure the man was under to do a task he felt odious. Lestrade filed the matter away for another time. He did not anticipate contact with the bulbous bureaucrat to be more than intermediate at the most.
He flipped up his overcoat collar to protect against the day and made his way to the lone figure through the solemn garden of stone.
He had opportunity to observe Watson as he made his way; he was not pleased at the man's condition. He thought the man might be haggard, but as he closed, he saw he had passed on to gaunt. Beyond pale, his face was drawn and pained. Lestrade was debating how to approach a conversation when Watson said conversationally. "How are you, Lestrade, I would have perished long before if I could not detect when I am observed, and how is dear Mycroft?" The thick moustache curled into a sly smile as his hazel eyes met Lestrade's.
Weak in body, but his mind's still sharp, Lestrade thought to himself with some manner of satisfaction. "I am well dear doctor; I wish I could say the same for you however. At the moment you are looking peaked, and this weather cannot be good for a man in your condition."
Watson's eyes narrowed and cooled, that old spark of anger flashed in the depths. "And what is my condition, be precise Lestrade, I should like to be informed."
Lestrade saw the danger in the man's demeanour, but he was not going to back away and allow this man's damnable pride protect him all the way into the grave. "You know very well your condition, Watson, you are after all the medico here. If you wish to die, there are less lengthy ways to achieve that end."
Resigned to the conversation, Watson limped over to a bench nearby, and settled into it painfully, propping his cane on his knees. He glanced up to see Lestrade still standing, and indicated the seat beside impatiently. Lestrade had to marvel, as irate at the man was with him, he was still determined to observe the rules of decorum.
Lestrade took the offered seat. He reached into his jacket pocket and produced a flask of brandy. He took a sip, and offered it to Watson. Watson waved if off. "So, you have taken upon yourself the role of keeper, is Mycroft growing weary of the position?"
Lestrade had to chuckle at that admission. "You are aware?"
Watson sighed wearily. "Of course we knew, Mary and I used to tease that we were the second most watched couple outside of the Royals. I've always assumed that Holmes must have sworn the man to some sort of vow before we left for Switzerland..." Watson's voice trailed off, the pain still tingeing it after this time.
Watson's eyes closed as he lost himself in his thoughts, so Lestrade took the opportunity to study the man. He marvelled at the lines and the gray that had crept in, the once robust man had become a shadow of the figure that was ever at Sherlock's side.
"Why are you here Lestrade," Watson inquired, "I doubt it is solely to badger me about my habits."
Lestrade leaned back, trying to compose an answer in his head, to come up with the right words to gain Watson's assistance. Watson turned on the bench to give the man his full attention; he actually seemed to be smiling a little. "Bear in mind, Holmes and I could always tell when you were lying or withholding facts."
Lestrade gave him a dangerous look, which only served to amuse the man further. "What are you going on about, now? I am not that easy to read."
Watson chuckled. "On the contrary dear fellow, you have a significant tell."
"Which is?" Lestrade inquired.
"Information I am not at liberty to share at the moment, now as to this earlier matter, please continue," Watson remarked shifting his cane to the other side.
Lestrade was completely baffled. It looked as if Mycroft's suggestions were now made moot by the competence of his company, leaving him with only one avenue.
"Truth it is, then dear Watson."
Watson nodded, nodding for him to continue. He rested his chin on the head of his cane staring off, concentrating on what Lestrade was saying and nothing else, it was so like Sherlock that Lestrade found it unnerving. "Scotland Yard is struggling, we are having severe difficulty closing the complicated cases. The loss of Holmes and his insights has proven to be more of a dearth and even I ever realized."
Watson nodded. "Of course it would be. Go on."
Lestrade sighed, the man was going to make him say it. "We need an edge, John; we need someone who can provide the clues in these matters for us to run down. We are like well bred bloodhounds with no scent. You sat across from the greatest detective I have ever known for close to a decade, surely you picked up something of his methods. He never shared them with anyone else."
Watson turned to Lestrade, he looked thoughtful, which was a good sign. Once the man's mind was made, even Holmes could not dissuade him, but as long as he was still considering there was a chance.
"Why now Lestrade, why have you not come to me before?" he asked pointedly his eyes flashing with anger, "Why are you coming to me now when I have so little left?" (1)
Lestrade was not a diplomat, Mycroft was right about that, he was a constable, used to interrogating not being on the receiving end. In times of duress, he resorted to what he knew, and offensive conversation was more to his liking. "I have not come before now, because your damnable pride would not allow you to aid me. You were financially well off, supporting a wife and a growing practice and your health, while not robust, was better than it is right now. My wife and yours were acquaintances and I broached the subject with her in conversation, Mary told me that she thought you aiding us was a good idea but your bullpup came out any time she dared make mention."
Watson winced at his accusation, but Lestrade kept on relentlessly, not for any lack of sympathy but because his skills as an interrogator let him know, he was close to breaking through. "This is not a new idea, Watson, this has been bandied about and considered for many months now since we had a serial murderer who managed to take five lives before we caught him, five women lost to the world and we captured him by mere chance. This cannot continue."
Lestrade let the anguish fill his voice; he had to make the man see reason. "Holmes told me one time, when I lamented that he listened to your unlearned opinion over a trained Scotland Yard investigator, that he believed you have the greatest gift of empathy he had ever known. Others see bodies, you see daughters, sons, parents, friends and family, and you feel for them and those they leave behind. He believed that gift is also a curse, it drove you to be a doctor, but it also devastated your mental health during the war. He said you could see things he could not, because you see narrative threads that would only occur to a writer, coupled with your diagnostic abilities you are always an asset to any investigation. I rather thought he was in awe of you at times."
Watson scoffed. "Now you are exaggerating, I was merely an observer, an assistant to his intellect, a chronicler of his exploits living vicariously though his brilliance."
Lestrade, taking a chance placed a tentative hand on the other man's shoulder. "You said I have a tell, you watched me the entire monologue, so Doctor, did I at any time lie?"
Watson closed his eyes and rubbed his temples, finally he looked up. "You believe everything you say, of that I have no doubt, that does not, however, make your pronouncements true."
Lestrade launched himself off the bench, letting out a pent up bellow of exasperation. He strode a few steps away to calm his temper, and then turned back to his companion to find the man silently laughing so hard his face had become red. "Watson? What is the matter? Are you well?" He inquired feeling deep concern at the man's strange behaviour. Watson pulled out a handkerchief and dabbled at his eyes, he finally caught his breath. "I'm so sorry, dear Lestrade, you must not think ill of me, but the last time I saw you that angry was in discussion with Holmes." Lestrade realized the man was correct and he let out a bark of laughter as well, not very suited to their surroundings but it was such a cleansing catharsis that Lestrade felt he did not care. He finally got his composure back enough to say, "If nothing else comes from this conversation, I will always consider it worth it for that moment."
Watson nodded; he had more colour to his face than Lestrade had seen all afternoon. "I have not been able to remember Holmes with anything but sorrow until now. It's quite possible that annoying you is a balm for me."
Lestrade gave him a short bow and a wry smile. "Glad to be of service."
Watson nodded with the lopsided grin that Lestrade would have never thought possible ever again. The man leaned heavily on his cane, pulling himself painfully to his feet and pausing to let the vertigo pass. Lestrade kept a distance wary of Watson's pride and self-reliance. Finally, Watson straightened up and began his walk to the gates with Lestrade two step behind. "I have three hours this afternoon, before pressing business takes me away from you. That is enough time to review one case, if I come upon revelations that your surgeon did not, and my observations prove useful, then and only then will I consider discussing your offer."
Lestrade nodded, trying not to show his eagerness. All of his discussions and defences of Watson's abilities based on Holmes' perceptions of the man, if all went well he would see those attributes for himself, he found that an exciting prospect. "What, may I ask, changed your mind John?" He asked as they arrived at the street, knowing he was jeopardizing the infant agreement by poking at it.
Watson just gave him an enigmatic smile and raised his cane to signal for a cab.
Story Notes: This story is dedicated to Elizabeth my constant fan and reader. KCS and Shedoc who have caused me to fall in love with SH/JW all over again. I do hope they will be tolerant of my efforts.
(1) Check out the corresponding picture in my profile.