Chapter Notes: I wrote this for LJ community Watson's Woes, for challenge 005.
The setting is an AU universe where Holmes was around during the time of John Watson's bereavement after he lost his wife Mary.
I have suffered a few deaths in my day. One thing I feel is not touched on often enough is the anger and abandonment issues that ensue. If Holmes was there for Watson after Mary's death, I feel he would be the one to say the hard words, to make the difficult decisions. He would sacrifice all for the sake of his friend, even that very friendship. I hope you guys enjoy this. I think it is one of the better things I have written lately.
Turbelence :a: great commotion or agitation emotional turbulence b: irregular atmospheric motion especially when characterized by up-and-down currents c: departure in a fluid from a smooth flow
The wind was picking up, Holmes mused. His barometer readings had told him it was likely.
Holmes was never one to feel nerves, or at least admit to it, but his mind was awash with trepidation.
He thought back to the beginning of this odious undertaking.
Lestrade stood in his parlour as he had many sundry times before, but the man was twisting the brim of his hat in his hands.
"Your haberdasher would be grateful if you would just verbalize why you are come to my humble apartments, Lestrade." Holmes remarked bending back to his task, at the moment, a close observation of the deterioration of copper under oxidation. He was working on a monograph, The Deterioration of Metals: How it applies to visually deducing the age of supposedly antique objects.
Lestrade realized the sorry state of his hat and forced himself to place it on the rack. Without the hat to focus his energies, he began to fidget.
"Lestrade, really!" Holmes bellowed, after a few moments of this silent commotion.
Lestrade's eyes flashed, the old anger the man carried around inside him was never far from the surface. "Give me a moment, Holmes!"
Holmes gave up on his task, turned back to the room; he crossed and sat in one of the armchairs. He graciously offered the one across from him to the Inspector.
Lestrade turned it down choosing to pace instead.
"This is concerning?" Holmes prodded.
"Doctor Watson, Holmes, this is concerning Doctor John H. Watson," Lestrade remarked leaning against the mantel wearily.
Holmes felt a moment of confusion. "I know he lost his beloved Mary, less than a month past, but when last we talked he assured me he was coping."
Lestrade rounded on Holmes. "And you believed him, you who are always informing those around you that they see but they do not observe? What did your eyes tell you, Holmes?"
"It is none of my affair to dispute my dear friend, the man has little left but his pride these days, I refuse to take that from him," Holmes replied testily.
"His damnable pride is going to place him beside his bride before the year is out, you arrogant pretentious ass!" Lestrade bellowed. He immediately covered his eyes with his hand, trying to compose himself.
He is under a lot of duress; I may have to give this tête-à-tête credence. Holmes thought.
"Please, explain what it is that I have missed," Holmes nudged careful to keep his tone even and non-combative.
Lestrade's shoulders slumped. "I could start with his physical condition. The man never eats, he never sleeps, I have had night shift Yarders inform me that they saw his parlour lit up like Christmas morning in the dead of the night. He has been lax with his shaving; you know how fastidious he is normally."
Holmes nodded, "I have heard nothing contradicting normal grieving period activity."
Lestrade's face looked haunted when it turned to Holmes. "He is having chest pains, Holmes, more than one person has seen them. Rather than have another doctor prescribe a treatment, he is taking nitro glycerine and ignoring the warnings."
Holmes shot up in his seat. "Are you absolutely sure? This has been observed by you as well?"
Lestrade nodded. "Just this afternoon, I visited with Clea. You may dispute me, but my wife informed me we would be burying him beside his beloved wife unless a change in his status occurs soon. Her word, you can be assured, has proven to be infallible in such manners in the past."
Holmes nodded. "I have heard of your wife's abilities, Lestrade."
"Then will you intervene?" Lestrade asked but his tone was pleading.
"I will observe him myself, if I deduce the same things I give you my word," Holmes replied offering his hand to shake on it.
Lestrade grasped it. "He's not just your Watson, Holmes, he has friends in the Yard, and all over the East End."
Holmes considered the man's words. "Then why come to me?"
"You are the man who knows him better than anyone else alive. Mary was there for him when you did not come back from Switzerland, but she is not here now. No one else can get through to him," Lestrade replied as he went for his hat. "Please...at least try."
Holmes nodded. The burden Lestrade had been carrying upon his arrival visibly diminished, he left without a word.
Holmes had been true to his word.
He sat up surveillance on his Boswell with the same diligence he had shown in other less weighty matters.
He followed him one day to the charity wards disguised as a chimney sweep. The next, he staked himself in a Park and watched as Watson sat despondently for two hours on another park bench across the proper. From the line of the man's gaze, he was watching the couples and families as they enjoyed the day. During his travels, Watson was never far from Mary's graveside, he made stops there several times under Holmes' scrutiny.
Holmes was beginning to write off Lestrade's assertions as a bad job, but then Watson winced and grabbed his left arm during an impromptu medical consultation with a peddler just off Piccadilly. He fished out a small phial and held a pill under his tongue until the moment passed waving off the other man's queries. He then proceeded on his task, as if nothing untoward had occurred.
He actually wants to die, Holmes observed incredulously.
Holmes had proceeded to St. Bart's and spent the better part of two days with various breaks looking through medical texts, perusing tomes on psychology.
He came to believe a two-fold diagnosis.
First, Watson was deeply repressing anger. This anger was aimed at someone he could not bear to express rage towards, his dear wife Mary. Instead of dealing with his fury, then moving on, he had turned it upon himself, and was refusing to see to his own health as a form of self-punishment.
Secondly, the man's stiff upper lip, and colossal pride that refused to allow him to be outwardly weak had stunted his expression of grief, and all of that bottled emotion was causing him physiological symptoms, such as the chest pains.
These duelling maladies were conspiring to kill his beloved friend.
Holmes sat for hours in that musty library with an empty sheet of paper in front of him toying with his pen. Two questions glared up accusingly, repelling any attempt at solution.
"How can I get him to express anger at Mary, and turn it into the proper channels so he can let it go?
How can I force him to express his grief so it can be assuaged?"
"Of several acceptable explanations for a phenomenon, the simplest is preferable, provided that it takes all circumstances into account."
"How can I get him to express anger and grief?"
Holmes shot up in the seat, where he had been slouched. The solution was easy enough, but the execution he feared would be the end of their friendship.
Watson would need a new target for his rage, long enough to take it off himself, and give it the chance to find the proper direction, only then would he allow himself to grieve.
The new target would have to be Holmes, himself.
Holmes stood in the gate of the cemetery cursing his cowardice as the stiff wind brought tidings of a disturbance to come.
He made his way across the solemn garden of granite and stone navigating the swirling eddies of retreating fog that had blanketed the city with vapour of trapped heat.
Watson was so entranced with his wives bier he did not acknowledge his former flatmates approach.
I am so sorry dear boy. If this were not necessary...
"The storm is approaching Watson," Holmes called out conversationally, "I must insist you allow me to offer you shelter."
His gaunt friend's hollowed eyes found Holmes, "I am fine here, dear Holmes, you must not worry. Go, seek out that safe haven for yourself, you have my word I will as well before the rain falls."
Holmes let out a snort of derision, it sounded ugly to his ears, but it was necessary. "You always were a dreadful liar, dear Watson. It is an admirable quality in a physician, but was dreadfully discomfiting in an investigative partner."
The first stirrings of lightening reflected in Watson's hazel eyes. "Are you accusing me of deception, sir? I should like you to be plain spoken, if so."
Holmes affected a bored posture. "Anyone can see how little you are valuing your self-preservation these days, etched so clearly in your face Lestrade was able to see it. Personally, I think you are being rather ridiculous about this entire affair."
Watson's posture became ramrod stiff, his military bearing seeping out, the defeated slump absorbed into deadly purpose. The bullpup was stirring. "Ridiculous? Is it so preposterous to you that I mourn my wife?" Watson remarked in a steely tone.
Holmes felt like a coiled spring. He often felt this way when he knew someone had laid a trap for him, one that he intended to trigger.
Forgive me Mary.
He smiled condescendingly. "Of course you are being absurd! After all, she was only a female, and a fragile one at that, not to mention foolish. Here she was living with one of the most talented medicos in all of London, and she failed to mention to him her worsening chills. Rheumatic Fever is deucedly slow in its early stages; she had to have known something was amiss."
Watson took a step toward Holmes; the rising wind whipped his overcoat tail around his feet as he did so. "She was not one to complain, Holmes; she understood the importance of my work, of our work. She was never jealous of you and I, never asked that I choose between you, for that sacrifice you owe her a better report."
Holmes knew they had reached the tipping point. For a moment, he balked, but he glanced down at the plot that lay adjacent to his Mary Morstan Watson. He realized with a cold certainty of deduction that Watson was keeping it trimmed as well. In that moment, Holmes desperately wished he could believe in a higher power.
If beyond this mortal veil there does exist a higher entity, I hope that I have your support, not on my behalf, but on the behest of this dear man who has spread nothing but kindness for all his days, and did not deserve this fate. You owe him and that dear woman that is with you now, Holmes silently prayed.
"She was not jealous because she knew she could not compete," Holmes informed in clipped tones, "I declare, I have no frame of reference as to why you see such value in her ilk. They are not clever, strong or particularly resilient..."
He made sure that Watson saw his utter conviction; it was the best acting he had ever accomplished.
"Why don't you come away from this place with me, we'll drink a toast to her at Simpson's if you so desire. We will resume our previous arrangement as if this dubious interlude never occurred. Perhaps you have finally learned the folly of personal attachments."
The storm broke overhead with a deafening rumble; even so, it barely drowned out Watson's cry of abandoned rage as he lunged for Holmes.
As the deluge poured down upon them, Watson attacked with ferocity but luckily without much skill. Holmes did his best, but still some punches made their way through.
The man has always punched like a locomotive, he lamented after one particularly brutal right hook nearly drove him to his knees.
Watson still had not reached the point to which Holmes had deduced was optimal, so he forced himself to continue the cruelty.
"Watson! Take hold of yourself man! She was foolish, and emotional, not worth this drama! She left you old boy, you could not have saved her, had you even known!"
Watson shook his head adamantly as if combating Holmes' words as well as the man.
"No! You did not know her, she did not tell me because she did not want me to worry! Never speak of her again you heartless, emotionless, bastard!" he roared
Holmes ducked a particularly wild swing and stepped in behind the weary man, using a Bartitsu restraint to immobilize him.
There they struggled as the storm raged in the heavens, both soaked to the bone, Watson had used his last reserves in the barrage, and Holmes held him easily.
"Say it, old boy, say what you want to say, you need to speak it out loud, it is the only way you will be able to forgive her. I have you, Watson, you are safe, just say what you need to say," Holmes spoke directly into his friends ear, both their hats gone long before.
Watson shook his head ferociously. "No! I will not."
"Say it," Holmes pleaded, his voice breaking.
"Why!" Watson bellowed suddenly, "why did you leave me?"
Watson collapsed limp in Holmes' grip, the other man's arms left the hold and wrapped around his chest in support as he wept.
"I have you, John, you are safe, no one can see in the rain, she deserves your tears, old chap, let her have them"
Watson sobbed in the privacy of the downpour, Holmes held him in support, his face buried at the nap of Watson's neck, murmuring encouragement.
"I'm so sorry Mary, I should have known," Watson lamented.
The thunderhead rolled on, leaving a gentle shower in its wake, Holmes helped his friend over to a bench. They sat in silence punctuated by Watson's laboured breathing.
"I know that you shall never forgive my words, Watson, I hope in time you will come to understand that I held your wife in the highest regard."
Watson reached out a hand and rested on Holmes' shoulder. "We shall never speak of it," he stated adamantly.
Holmes nodded. "Share a cab?"
Watson nodded. He stood, retrieved his sopping wet hat, then in a ridiculous show of Victorian propriety, dusted it off pouring the rainwater out of it and jammed it on his head with a slosh.
Holmes followed suit by standing, adjusting his cuffs, dusting his hat off with a splash, and placing it on his head, he retrieved both canes, tossing Watson his, the man plucked out of the air deftly.
Watson turned and offered an arm. Holmes accepted it, and they strolled through the rain as if taking a stroll through a summer's eve.
The cab rolled up immediately.
"Shall I drop you at Kensington?" Holmes inquired.
Watson met his gaze forthrightly. "No."
Holmes nodded, tapped the Hansom roof with the head of his cane. "221 Baker Street, my lad. An extra pence if you step lively."
They spoke no words as they travelled, a comfortable silence stretched out between them like well-established tabby cat before a fireplace.
They disembarked, Holmes paid the cabby. They ascended the stairs and were met at the door by a worried Mrs. Hudson. Her face went pale when she saw Watson.
"John Watson! What are you doing out, you will catch your death! Holmes I should think you would take better care of your only friend!" she chided.
Watson gave her a mournful look, "I tried to talk him into an early evening, but he insisted the rain would not tarry."
"Traitor," Holmes growled.
Mrs. Hudson pursed her lips disapprovingly. "Let's get you out of those wet things, Doctor, you can borrow a nightshirt and dressing robe from Holmes, I daresay he has plenty. I drew him a hot bath, I insist you get in first. Holmes won't mind if he knows what's good," she stated shooting Holmes a patented death stare.
Holmes stepped to the side and graciously indicated for Watson to go first.
"I will bring dinner up within the hour, do try to look presentable Mister Holmes," she called in a threatening tone.
Watson was actually whistling a merry tune.
"I cannot believe you set that Valkyrie upon my person, have you no heart, man?" Holmes complained.
Watson glanced back, Holmes could see his moustache cocked up in that old lopsided grin, and it warmed his heart. "I owe you for this afternoon, Holmes; this is just the first installment of many more."
Holmes sighed. "No good deed goes unpunished."
They sat in companionable silence, the fire was going behind the grate, and Holmes had put down his shag and picked up his violin.
They both were well fed, and Watson, who had shaved after his bath, was now looking a bit more like himself. He had found a box of battered paperbacks in his old quarters, and now had one face down upon his knee as he focused on the music his companion was making.
Holmes was restraining his tendencies for the abstract and was working his way through Brahms.
Watson had nearly nodded off when he snapped back awake. "I need to ask you one question, Holmes, if I do not, it is certain to haunt me."
Holmes puffed on his pipe, "Then, please do."
Watson leaned forward, his eyes boring into his partners. "All of that happenstance seemed rather rehearsed. You knew the most salient words to use to further your ends. Was my grief just another intellectual exercise, a puzzle for your deductive mind?"
Holmes considered his response. "I do not know."
"Good answer." Watson replied. He leaned back as Holmes picked up violin.
Soon the man was breathing evenly as Holmes continued his piece.
It is very fortunate that tears and rain on fabric look very much alike, Holmes observed.
Story Notes: I do not think that Watson suddenly forgot his grief, but after a moment of such an intense release, there is an euphoria that takes over for a little while. Do I know from experiance...maybe.
Thanks for reading!