After being caught trying to quietly come back to the fandom, I am here to hopefully give you the final instalment of the tale 'Legacies'. I am dreadfully sorry about the three-month holdup, and all I can say is that this is what it is like trying to fight your way to success in this puny island. But you don't care about that, you want the story, and I don't blame you.
Watson spun me around by the shoulder whilst he made himself more presentable, and through a handkerchief began to tell his story:
"Well, we'll start with the least important. I suppose through our acquaintance you have witnessed some disappointment on my part-" he nudged me to say I could turn around again"-that I couldn't continue my service after Maiwand. That wasn't false, I genuinely want to help."
I stooped slightly to look him right in the eye. "I believe you, Watson - John - Lucifer." We shared a little smile.
"The reason I decided to be a surgeon, the reason I joined the army, and the reason my family mistrust me all have one thing in common. My brother." I watched him forcibly relax. "I never really spoke of my family, and I thank you for never calling me a hypocrite all those years ago and since. But you do know he was an alcoholic, and he was even -even before he drank, if you could understand that. Hugo wasn't really made for school; we used to say, because he always got into trouble. He'd sort himself out in an apprenticeship. Then we'd say that Hugo wasn't made for an apprenticeship, he was a better sort to think for himself rather than being told what to do. And when Charlie and Hugo had rows, and I broke it up, I always said it was because Charles was undermining his authority as older brother. I think Charles resented that for a long until he got much older. Still, he never knew that Hugo got the beatings and not him.
"When Hugo didn't come back with a successful business on the new railways up north as he had promised, but had rented a little dwelling two minutes away from the local public house and done nothing but walk to and from it for some months, my parents withdrew his allowance. I had visited him three times and all three times found his lifestyle marvellous, as of course was appropriate as a seventeen year old boy. He wore his best suit all the time, I thought when I visited, and I thought he always wore good suits. It took me two visits to realise that he didn't have any other suits that weren't damaged or smelling or worn out. But these are just little things. My mother banned me from seeing him, and the last time I saw him I paid for it myself, and took him out for dinner. I was eighteen-" my eyes widened at the thought, and he tightened his lips to form a kind of grimace"- I was eighteen, and well on my way to becoming a doctor, just like my father. My father visited him and tried to help him, but he knew what he was looking at.
"I was at university most of the next few years, and through some argument with David I rarely came home. My father sent me letters, and I ignored most of them, only coming home for occasions when my presence was absolutely needed. It was on one such occasion I must have realised that it was my presence needed and not my brother's, but he and I had kept correspondence, and so I merely thought he had escaped what I considered a bore." Tired of standing, I sat down next to my friend and put my back against the wall. He wordlessly leaned his shoulder against mine, as if the story was too heavy when put together with his own body. When I was quite comfortable, he leaned forward a little, putting his ands over his knees, and continued.
"We looked very similar- very definite Watson boys with all of our father's features and none of our mother's, and certainly nothing of David- and so friends began to ask about my progress, rather than his, and my transition was complete. I wasn't perfect, but I wasn't him.
"That was the year my father died. I loved him very much. After the funeral I viewed myself as having nothing whatever in common with the bulk of my family, my alienated younger sister hated me, I saw my younger brother as a coward and my mother's pet. He was by then a fine, responsible young schoolmaster who had done me no wrong in his adult life, but that meant little to me. A month later the mysterious manner by which my brother had lived dried up- I have always assumed it was my father sending him money secretly- and he arrived unceremoniously back in my life, with a top hat and no coat." He shrugged. "I still worshipped him, but I knew enough that he was up to no good, and through my father's memory I gave him money to buy his own lunch whilst I was away, if only that. My social life plummeted and I became a model student. And then it all kicked off.
"I didn't trust him. I should have, should have trusted him. It wouldn't have mattered to me if I hadn't known." He rubbed his chin nervously. I gripped his arm, wanting to say something comforting, but not knowing what to say. "I followed him, you see. I saw everything he did for a whole week. He gambled at my favourite betting shop for whether he would eat, and spend the other half of his money on a bottle of scotch, before wondering off into town and getting drunk. By four he would be very drunk, and if he had won his little bet he would go and have something to eat to try and sober up. I once watched my brother urinate outside my own gate before going in. I saw him barter with old whores before going into their houses. I saw everything. I resolved my mind to confront him next time I saw something, but I always said next time to myself. I didn't do anything before it was too late.
"One day I followed him and he didn't go home. At six o'clock, when I was supposed to arrive home after my lectures, he didn't go home. I couldn't leave him, he was too drunk. And then… then I saw him talking to a policeman. The policeman seemed to be telling him not to drink in the street because of the women and the time of day. It was a cordial enough conversation until Hugo hit the man. The policeman struggled to his feet and Hugo started shouting. Even when the man got handcuffs on him, Hugo kicked at him. He suddenly remembered he had to come home to me.
"The policeman must have been too proud to whistle for help dealing with another drunkard, and it wasn't until I saw blood on his head. I ran out, and saw the policeman- I saw it, Holmes- strike Hugo on the head with his bludgeon, very hard. And he was too drunk to call out, too drunk to feel the pain or to know I was there, and he grabbed the bludgeon and struck the officer back. As soon as he calmed down he passed out. I found myself stood in the middle of the street with two bodies on either side of me, and then I realised that the policeman was nearly dead. I called a cab and took them…" His voice faded away, forcing me to lean closer. He whispered. "He was dead, the policeman. The court was good to give Hugo manslaughter, good not to give me anything. Mother wouldn't pay for his bail, obviously, and promptly wanted nothing to do with me, though Charles was campaigning for my forgiveness all the while. He sent me letters, at least, not like the rest of them, and some of them-"
he was tearing up again "-some of them were very kind. I joined the army to get away, to be in a place that I could hide one witnessed murder with a hundred others, and prevent every one I could along the way…" he stopped. He had been talking fast, hardly breathing the whole time and ending up gasping between sentences.
"That's when you were shot," I said.
"Yes, that's when I was shot."
"That's when you came back and met me."
"That's when you came into my house, with nothing but charm and two bullets in your side, to stop my own addiction, filling the black spaces left by being my only friend. That's when you started picking my coat up off the floor and hanging it up, started ordering my papers, started accompanying me to the opera when you didn't like who was playing, started criticising my arrogance, started making me take cases I didn't think were interesting at first, started making me eat, started sharing the burgundy with me despite preferring brandy, - that's when you started sitting on the edge of my bed and reading when I locked myself up in a black mood, wasn't it?"
"I suppose it was."
"So I am your success story then?"
"Then do I, as a success, make up for an attempt at success with someone far more delicate and precious than myself?"
"Am I your only success story, Watson?"
"No, you are not."
"Then does that make up for it?"
"Perhaps it does."
"Come on, then, Watson. I'm disgusted by them, and they haven't noticed our absence for an entire hour. I blame your mother's hosting for your state." We stood up, and I reluctantly released his forearm where I had gripped it for so long.
"Should we say goodbye?" he asked me with apprehension. I looked at his face, so sad and tired, and something in me hardened against the rest of the Watsons.
"No," I said, and we didn't. We stole under the sill, through the rooms, diagonally across the garden and onto the lane, away from the house, caught a cab that rattled over the road onto the carriageway into the London hum, to Baker Street, back home.
And as if by magic, Mrs Hudson had her two hungry lodgers [or sons] supper ready when we got in.