The idea came to me while staring at a black-and-white photograph of my great-great grandfather in his early twenties, wearing his early 20th century style Army uniform. The expression on his face and the way he was standing, coupled with the old-fashioned uniform, reminded me of another soldier we all know and love.
Sherlock Holmes cursed to himself as yet another pile of documents crashed to the floor.
"Where the blazes…?!" he hissed quietly. Sherlock Holmes was not usually one to murmur to himself, but the frustration was taking its toll quickly upon him.
How the devil the most celebrated - indeed the only - private consulting detective in the world could possibly be so clueless as the to whereabouts of his own letter-opener was beyond even his own great intellect. Nevertheless, he had now succeeded in destroying half the sitting room in his attempt at locating it.
Mrs. Hudson was not going to be pleased. Neither was Watson, for he was more than likely going to be left cleaning the place, if the contents of the letter were what Holmes was indeed praying they were - a new case, preferably more bizarre than the last. Why the devil a woman forty-three years of age wanted to know the whereabouts of love letters sent in her school years was indeed a mystery in itself.
With an extremely annoyed sigh, he wondered briefly if perhaps Watson had swiped the object from his sight, out of spite…it would be suitable payment for the practical joke he'd pulled Monday morning.
Watson hadn't been overly pleased then, either, when he discovered his stethoscope was missing from his bag only after he'd received is first patient of the day. To be fair, Holmes did feel reasonably guilty when Watson arrived home an hour later, demanding the return of his instrument and informing him as to the snide comments from that awful Ms. Brough.
Still, Watson had never been one for holding a grudge, and so the matter seemed to be forgotten by his return home at ten o'clock that evening. In addition, Watson was hardly an accomplished bandit - surely not proficient enough to keep it from Holmes for this long! Thus it was more likely Holmes had misplaced it than that his Boswell had hidden it.
Holmes stood from his crouched position around the fireplace, deciding to desert this area and move on to new searching grounds. As his gray eyes roamed the cluttered, untidy room (made even more so by his agitated tossing of random objects throughout) he suddenly caught sight of a book lying open, half-hidden under Watson's annoyingly neat desk where it had fallen sometime during the disassembly. Sticking out of the visible part of the open page, he caught a glimpse of something metallic glinting in the evening sun.
"Aha!" he exclaimed victoriously, leaping with graceful ease over three small piles of case records, two larger piles of books and Watson's florid journals, and finally one pile of cushions he'd flung off the couch in his quest.
Dropping with unconscious elegance, he reached under the desk to pull the book out. Blindly, his hand suddenly collided with something else, made of a much thicker paper, the edges slightly tattered.
Never having been mentally able to stave off curiosity, Sherlock Holmes grasped the thing in his palm and yanked it out to examine it with inquisitive eyes.
His breath caught.
Sherlock Holmes had not seen many photographs in his life, but he was willing to bet the on he now held in his hands was among the finest ever taken.
A young Army medico stood upright, his head held high and proud, his broad, strong shoulders held back and his elbows bent a bit at his sides, with his Army cap in his right hand. He appeared to be looking at something out of sight, his head angled slightly to the right, his brow wrinkled ever so slightly with seriousness or curiosity, or both. His jaw was set resolutely, his mouth firm under his modest mahogany brown mustache, giving him the air of one who has made his choice, facing without fear the influence it would bring to him. His Army uniform was without flaw, perfectly pressed so that neither wrinkle nor speck was visible.
His eyes…very nearly indefinable, they were. Glimmering even in the dimness of the photograph, bright with so many unhidden, vibrant emotions and qualities. Loyal and gentle, warm and trusting. Modest intelligence and humble strength, mixed with half-humor and unending kindness. Every unspoken thought, every silent feeling was clear in those expressive hazel orbs - he could somehow see they were hazel, even in the colorlessness.
It was the photograph of a soldier whose gallantry was far more that that of even the greatest of men. Of a doctor whose gentleness could soothe the worst of wounds or comfort away the most disturbing of nightmares. Of a staunch friend whom everyone in the world wished the honour of calling his own.
It was the picture of a man whose character was unparalleled.
It was his Watson.
Holmes wondered how long he had been leaning over that way, staring down into that remarkable photograph. He did not even realize that the room was nearly dark until the door opened and a coat-clad figure entered.
Watson obviously had not yet noticed him, for he gave no greeting as he placed his black medical bag on the floor and removed his coat and hat.
When he turned again to settle thankfully into his chair, Watson suddenly caught a glimpse of a pair of sharp eyes watching him from the shadows. Briefly alarmed, he took in a quick breath, instantly turned up the gas lamps to an almost painful brightness, and then relaxed with a deep sigh.
"Holmes!" he cried. "You startled me, old man; what in heaven's name are you doing?"
"I received a letter from a potential client to-day, Watson. I was seeking out my letter-opener," he answered matter-of-factly as h rose to his feet, and then winced at the painful flexing of his cramped muscles.
"In the dark?" he asked incredulously as he turned the gas lights down to a warm glow.
The doctor chuckled. "Oh, never mind, old fellow. Look here, Holmes, I stopped by Barnes Bookshop¹ on the way and brought you something to read." He removed a thick volume from his jacket pocket. "The Art of Drama² - you may at first look at it as romantic drivel, but I believed it would interest you, but since you now have a client…Are you all right, old fellow? You look as if you have been brooding, if I know you well enough."
Holmes' lips twitched in a smile. How well his Watson did know him - better than he knew himself, in fact.
"Watson, why have you never shown me this?" he asked, the unheard of (for him) emotion seeping unwittingly into his tone.
"Showed you what?" the man questioned, his brow furrowing as he placed the book on the table near the door.
Holmes extended the photograph without answer.
Watson, bewildered concern evident on his face, stepped forward and took it from his hand. Confusion replaced concern as he glanced over the paper.
"My Army photograph?" he questioned, lifting his eyes to Holmes' uncomprehendingly. "I don't know, Holmes…I just never felt the need, I suppose. Where did you find it?"
"Under your desk, which, my dear fellow, is not at all where it belongs."
Watson chuckled once, quietly, half-amused and half-puzzled. "Whatever are you talking about, Holmes? And what were you doing digging around under my desk?"
"As I have elucidated," he answered impatiently, "I was searching for my letter-opener. That photograph, Watson - why have I not seen it until now?"
He chuckled again, a bit more seriously. "I suppose because I forgot it even existed. It was a rather long while ago that it was taken, you know. Why do you ask, Holmes?"
Holmes took the picture from his friend's hand, his gaze flickering over it and then resting on the man himself. Watson was no different now - the only difference was that the young, eager soldier had matured and was fighting a new battle.
On this time, the violence and sorrows that came with the battles of war were not forced upon him; it was his choice to remain and fight. It was, as he had always so romantically put it, his "greatest joy and privilege" to stand bold, unwavering, despite the fact that it was more difficult at times than a true physical war.
He had already suffered much pain in his still-young life, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Surely the last thing in the world he needed was to share rooms with a moody, selfish, enigmatic amateur detective, blindly following him through the worst of violent and dangerous affairs, risking his life nearly every moment of the day and sometimes suffering because of it.
Why, then? Why did he choose to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him, a sounding board and anchor to the man who certainly did not deserve him?
With all his "boundless intellect" and "ingenious puzzle-solving skill," The Great Detective was at a loss for a logical answer.
And suddenly Sherlock Holmes found himself very nearly overwhelmed by the emotions and thoughts he never himself claimed to experience.
All traces of amusement or humour gone from his tanned features, Watson rested his hand on his friend's thin shoulder.
"Holmes? Are you quite all right? What's troubling you?"
"I am all right, Watson - very much so, actually," he answered quietly, gazing into the hazel eyes with an intensity the doctor had rarely seen.
"Yes, quite." The aloof exterior was back, shielding everything but the smallest hints of his innermost feelings. "And now, my dear Watson, I do believe she shall inspect the letter sent from a Mr. Sullivan Barlow. Call Mrs. Hudson to bring the supper, like a good chap."
Watson, though still very much perplexed at his friend's behaviour, obeyed, and forgot entirely about the old, meaningless photograph that had been discreetly concealed in the dressing gown pocket.
Two years later, a man by the name of Sigerson sits in a dank, lonely room in Tibet, gazing intensely down at the photograph of a young Army soldier.
The strength that had been stolen by yet another day of enemies and violence suddenly fills him again.
He is not alone in the battle, for no matter how far apart they are, his comrade is continuing to fight by his side…to lend him courage…to chase away his fears.
With this thought echoing through his now-peaceful mind, he rises from the desk and, for the hundredth time in the past year, replaces the small, worn photograph into his pocket before exiting the empty room.
¹ Unsure if there really was a Barnes Bookshop, but I was playing "The Awakened" PC SH game the other day and this was the name of the bookstore a few blocks away from Baker Street. By the way, The Awakened…coolest (and creepiest) SH adventure ever! And Dr. Watson looks perfect - just like how I imagine him.
² The Art of Drama is a tiiiiiny little mention of an original series of fiction mysteries I am going to start post-Christmas, involving two other best friends and colleagues, and their shared harrowing adventures. These two men, however, live in the 1930s London and are called Lonan Hoyt and Adam Wilson. Very, very, very close imitation of our beloved Holmes and Watson (hence the last initials), with the same mysterious and suspenseful atmosphere and brother-like friendship we all love so much. If you'd like to know more about The Art of Drama, message me or mention it in a review…I'd also gladly take tips on how to write the stories, and even would gladly do a collaboration if wished, since they are original characters and plots of mine that have never been used before (I think they have good potential if I can figure out what to do with them). Tell me if you want to learn more about Hoyt and Wilson - if you love Holmes and Watson as much as I do, you're sure to love these two as well!