Title: Clinic For Soldiers
Author(s): Sailing Hearts
Rating: PG
Character(s): Watson, Holmes
Summary: Watson is thinking of going back to war, much to Holmes' distress
Author's Notes: I didn't invent Watson or Holmes. I am only borrowing them. Please don't sue! For the holiday fic exchange over at Watson's Woes, a Livejournal Community.

Holiday Fic Exchange Wish:

I WISH FOR (2): FIC – The British fought the Boer War in South Africa during the early years of the twentieth century. Watson considers enlisting, and Holmes convinces him not to by any devious or sappy method you choose.

Clinic For Soldiers

"Watson, please don't." Holmes' voice cut into my introspective thoughts one morning. We had just finished breakfast, and I had been standing at the window, watching the traffic on Baker Street.

"Holmes, what on earth-" I began to ask as I turned to face my friend. I stopped when I saw his face. The cold expressionless mask was gone. Instead, I could see dread and naked terror written across his face, and shining out his grey eyes. I realized he knew exactly what I had decided upon, but hadn't told him yet.

I had been contemplating re-enlisting, with the Boer War going on. I had been through one war as an Army Doctor, and while I knew full well what I would be getting into this time, I also knew that there was a distinct lack of medical care available to the poor souls on the front lines. I could help. I had picked up the enlistment papers yesterday, during my rounds. They were locked in the drawer of my desk, filled out and ready to be sent back. All that remained was finding a way to tell Holmes and make him understand.

"Holmes," I began gently, "they need all the help they can get. Experienced help…"

"I realize that!" he interrupted harshly. "But why you?"

"Because I can. I know what the battlefield is, and I am willing to face it again if it means I can save one man's life. I am a Doctor, Holmes," I continued, putting emphasize on the word. "First and foremost. I am needed there. How can I not go?" I finished softly, hating the pain I saw in his eyes, knowing I put it there.

For several minutes, silence ruled 221B Baker Street. Holmes turned to stare at the patriotic 'VR' he had placed in the wall. I watched him in silence, hoping he could understand my need to help, and that I wasn't abandoning him.

"My dear fellow," he said softly finally, "can I risk being brutally honest about my concerns, without risking your anger?"

"Certainly," I replied. I waited, knowing we were getting to the heart of what was causing him such distress.

"You have been shot in the shoulder and the leg. You are a crack shot, I will admit, but you do not move as quickly as you once did. We are getting old," he added with a quirk of a smile, before continuing. "I am afraid that the limitations of your body will come upon you in a situation that will have dire consequences. I am concerned that you will end up as bad off, if not worse off, then before."

"Holmes," I began only to be halted by a raised hand.

"I," he hesitated then continued, "Watson, I don't want to receive a telegram that you are buried on some battlefield in some forsaken country," he added in a rush, turning away.

I said nothing, waiting and thinking. Holmes was correct in the statement that I wasn't as young as I once was. And it was true that my shoulder still bothered me after all these years. Was there a possibility I could find my self in a situation where the old injuries would cause new ones, or worse, cause someone else harm? If I was brutally honest with myself, then the answer was yes. Blast it! I could live with the thought that my physical inabilities might cause myself further harm, but I couldn't abide by the thought that another person was hurt or killed because I couldn't move fast enough. I had to help somehow, though. If not back in the Army as a doctor then how?

I lifted my eyes from the floor to see that Holmes was watching me. "I have to help, Holmes," I said a little desperately. I realized I had been fooling myself on my physical capabilities. But I couldn't just turn away from the poor men who needed the care.

"I know, Doctor. Your compassion, your empathy for those in need are why you are the best doctor I have ever known. Just, I beg of you, think of another way. Don't enlist again," he said fiercely. "What about here? What kind of care do they get once they make it back?" He rushed on, "What about their families? Can you not help them here? What about once they get discharged, do they have access to quality care then?"

"Perhaps…" I said slowly, an idea forming. Holmes watched in silence, waiting. "A clinic, with a low cost… or free, depending on the case… I could teach the family how to care for those that would need long-term care… maybe not free, but let the patient or a family member work off the cost in service to the clinic in anyway possible…" I was muttering now, moving to my desk and jotting things down.

"Watson?" Holmes asked uneasily after a few minutes of silence during which I jotted down the ideas that had formed in my head.

"Hmmm?" I asked absent mindedly, coming back to the problem of the whole thing, funding.

"What are you scribbling?"

"You raised some great questions about medical care, Holmes," I said, looking at him. "Unfortunately, most of the poor beggars we see in the streets were once the proudest of soldiers. Good care for those less fortunate has always been hard to obtain. This you know. It is why I have always donated my time to the charity clinics when I could. The reality is that if those beggars had had access to medical care after being discharged, they might not have ended up so bad. Wives take their poor husbands home, and soon find their families having to choose between doctors or food."

"So, a clinic for the soldiers, one that was equipped to deal with battlefield injuries and their after effects, might help solve this?" he asked.

"Yes, I think it would, but funding, Holmes. How would it be funded? I can donate my time, and I am sure that several of my fellow doctors who were in the Army in their youth would as well, but it would still require money. If only Mary was here, still…"

He looked surprised at that statement.

"She donated her time to raising money for charitable causes after we were married," I explained. "She felt that she should not just sit at home, so she tried to help. And she was good at it, too. I just have no clue how she did it."

"So if you had the funding, you could make this clinic a reality, and help our soldiers that way?" Holmes asked, watching me intently.

"Yes, but it is just a thought, a dream, Holmes. The reality is that for me to best help, I should re-enlist," I replied, pulling the papers from the drawer they had been in.

"Watson, wait one more day."

I looked up at him from the papers. He was looked torn between excitement and terror. I smiled to put him at ease concerned he'd give himself a heart condition.

"Alright," I replied, and locked them back. "I will wait until the morning to send them off."

"Excellent," he called, already in his room. He emerged a moment later, fully dressed. He smiled at me as he grabbed his walking stick. "I have to run an errand. Please, don't reconsider and do anything rash. Give me the time you said, and if you have not changed your mind, I won't say another word."

"Agreed," I said, "but where are you going?"

"To see a couple of people." With this, he was down the stairs and out onto the street.

I watched him walk briskly down the street with some concern. This idea he had inspired about a clinic was a good idea, but not feasible. Tomorrow, I would have to do what I needed to, and send in the enlistment papers. I could only hope that Holmes would find a way to keep busy in my absence without resorting to his drugs.

Through out the day, the thought of a clinic to help soldiers who needed medical care after they left the Army occupied my thoughts. I knew that it would never happen, but it was still a grand thought. Maybe once I had done my time in South Africa, it would be possible. I could carefully save the pay I received from the Army, maybe find a partner. All day, the ideas whirled in and out of my mind.

I did not see Holmes again that day. I left for my rounds soon after him, and returned home to a darkened house. I checked that the papers where still locked in the desk drawer. I didn't put it past Holmes to pick the lock and swipe the papers.

Several hours after I had gone to bed, I heard Holmes in the sitting room below. The violin began to play softly. After a few minutes, I rose, drawing on my dressing gown.

In the sitting room, Holmes was perched in his chair, wrapped in his dressing gown. He looked up when I entered. He did not pause in his play, but gave me a quick smile. With a nod of his head, he indicated my desk. I glanced over, and saw a small stack of envelopes.

I opened the first, and then sat down heavily in the chair there, surprised.

Somewhere in the opening of them, I was aware that Holmes had stopped his play and was now standing beside the desk, watching me. Finally, I laid the last one down, and looked up at him.

"How?" I asked in amazement. There were five letters from past upper-class clients of Holmes, pledging generous amounts of money to the opening of a clinic to help war veterans and their families.

"You are not the only one who feels the need to help our soldiers, my dear Watson. I merely went to a few and did what Mrs. Watson would have." He moved to stare at the fire. "It is a good cause, Doctor. A good way for those who want to help, but should not enlist in the Army, to do so. I spoke to Mycroft today as well. There is a building not far from here that the government owns. It is in a reasonable area – not a rich neighborhood but a safe one. There is even a chemist the next street over. It will need to be looked over in the morning. Mycroft asked that you submit a list of needed renovations so they can begin immediately."

I stared speechless as he turned to look at me, the familiar excitement that heralds a new case on his face.

"There is one more thing," he said gently. "Those that I spoke to today felt a foundation should be set up so people can donate. It would fund the running of the clinic. They also felt there should be money set aside to fund a small staff, supplemented by volunteers, and a salary for a fulltime Doctor."

"A salary for a Doctor…" I repeated numbly, not believing what I was hearing.

"Yes, dear fellow. All of them felt that such a clinic would be best served with you at the helm as the Doctor and as the head of the foundation. That way, the donations would be used to buy supplies and equipment as you saw fit. Things that were actually needed, rather than pretty signs and other such trivial nonsense."

I sat for a moment, absorbing what he had said. My friend had done it. He had found a way for me to help the poor young soldiers, as I so desperately needed to without re-enlisting. Smiling, I unlocked the drawer that held the enlistment papers. I handed them to Holmes, and laughed as he promptly dumped them into the grate.

So it was that Mary's Clinic for the Soldiers was found.