Despite my best efforts, over the next several days, Holmes drifted in and out of consciousness, the fever spiking to dangerous heights and giving me several premature grey hairs (which I have since pointed out to him as definitive proof I never once left his bedside for more than a few moments, not even to sleep).
On the evening of the third day, the fever, to my immense relief, finally broke. It was astonishing to me how quickly he not only recovered from what should have been so much graver an injury to any other man, but how it seemed to imprint no lasting effects upon his long term health. I, on the other hand, continued to have my doubts as to whether my own physical soundness would ever return to its formerly hale shape.
The night that Holmes' fever broke was truly the first time in days I allowed myself to leave him for a few hours and catch up on my own much needed rest. I thought I had imagined it when, in a state that was somewhere between the realms of the dream world and wakefulness, I saw the unmistakable silhouette of my friend's tall, slim figure standing over my bed, a crack of light pouring in from the slightly ajar door behind him.
I must have stirred, for he backed out in one lithe move, and with the quick obscuring of the dim hallway light by the near silent closing of my door, he was gone.
This was not to be the last occasion Holmes would make these strange night time visits by my bedside. At first, it was always under the pretense of a case, but gradually, either he became comfortable enough or we both simply fell into the routine of it, that I would wake to find him standing above me with no explanation given, nor was one required. In truth, albeit a decade and a half has since passed, I still awake some nights to the presence of him standing by me bedside. It occurs with greater frequency now, after those three years I spent in a living hell, then it ever did in the past. It was only after his return that I realized he does this thing for the simple reassurance that I am still there.
But I get ahead of myself.
As for our friend, Inspector Cartwright, we had not, in fact, effectively deterred him from any further malicious intent. If anything, we managed only to inflame the situation further, though we heard naught from the fellow for some three years after. I was to later learn that Holmes "adjusted" evidence that proved the guilt of this criminal organization, yet in the process, made Cartwright seem the fool for having overlooked it. I was never able to wrest the full story out of him, though he has intimated that this may have led to the Inspector's ensuing demotion.
I had put Cartwright out of my mind entirely when at last he did serve us his revenge, which was so deviously calculated, so intricately worked out, that I am left with no doubts whatsoever he began weaving the web he meant to snare Holmes in from the moment that revolver was pointed at his skull on the morning whose events I have just recounted. When the sting of it is not quite so tangible to either of us any longer, I may eventually pen the tale of how Inspector Cartwright nearly demolished all that Sherlock Holmes had laboured so hard to forge.
Although, whilst I could not rightly leave Cartwright out of this account, this was by no means about him.
It is a dreary September evening. Driving rain or the threat of the skies opening up anew have kept me inside the entire day - ah! I have been at this task longer than I realized. A quick glance at my pocket watch reveals it is well past midnight. Holmes is absorbed with some chemical experiment or other, has been for the entirety of the day, yet I must not complain when this one is so decidedly lacking in fragrance, as compared to some other of his chemical undertakings.
Thus, I decided the day might be well spent going through my old notes, sorting the extraneous ones that could be burnt from those of import that I would do best to place in my permanent files for future reference. It was during this venture that I came across a bundle of hurriedly jotted down notes for the first case I was to assist Holmes on after the events recorded in this tale. I have written of that particular adventure under the title of 'The Speckled Band'.
It was in rummaging through these old notes, most of which were focused on our earliest cases together, that I noticed something glaringly obvious that had heretofore eluded my attention. Of course, Holmes would never miss this opportunity to claim that is the very reason it took me so long to observe it, were I to broach the subject.
A great part of the night has been spent cross referencing through our older cases to confirm if what I saw in my notes tonight was in fact accurate. And it was.
Thus, I set to the task of jotting down this tale in my personal journal, so that when I am too old and feeble minded to remember the events clearly, I shall have this to show me why on that spring day in April '83, Sherlock Holmes, for the first time, referred to me as his "intimate friend and associate".
A greater compliment he could not have bestowed.
A/N: The inspiration for this fic was triggered by my curiosity as to which case Holmes first begins introducing Watson to his clients. If you read Canon chronologically, then SPEC, which takes place in April '83, gives us the earliest mention of Holmes introducing Watson to a client as his "intimate friend and associate".