Title: Sherlock 'Hammer Hands' Holmes
Author: pro_prodigy (AKA Ready-made Prodigy)
Rating: PG-13 (for ass whooping)
Character: Holmes, Watson, some asshole OC
Summary: For additional wish #6: I wish for Watson being insulted in some manner in public for something untrue, and in turn for Holmes to challenge the insulter to a round of fisticuffs (think Jeremy Brett in the Solitary Cyclist).
Word Count: 2,000-
A/N: Definitely NOT MY BEST WORK. I had something elaborate and wholly convoluted planned, but i ran out of time and simultaneously recognized it was crap, so i took an axe to it. I focused on the boxing match rather than story development (which makes me cringe). I hope my wisher was hoping more for an epic fight when they had this in mind because that's what i got.
Happy New Years, everyone!
Dueling had been technically outlawed in Britain since 1819, too many aristocrats having died from perceived slights against their honor.
Thus, when Holmes threw down his gauntlet—in actuality my glove, because of course he was unable to locate his own at the time—technically, he was only issuing a friendly challenge to a boxing match, Queensberry Rules. It would not be to the death, although both participants agreed to a bare-knuckle match typical of a London prize ring fight, so technically it was considered a humane and urbane way to settle their differences. Just as technically, I was not truly serving as a second. Besides, no second would arrive at a duel nearly half an hour late. Technically, I was merely there as an audience member because this was not a duel and Holmes had not demanded satisfaction from Sergeant Phillips and therefore I was not the subject of this particular bloodletting.
Technically, at least.
I had been duly surprised to be suddenly pulled from Baker Street by my friend Thurston, who was a much more frequent gambler than me and had discovered the match of the century.
By the time I arrived at the club ring, the match was well underway and into its eleventh or twelth round at least, judging by the state of the two participants. Sergeant Phillips was sporting a bloody nose and Holmes had a cut above his eye. Months later when I would release the case of "The Yellow Face", it would read that I thought Holmes was undoubtedly one of the finest boxers of his weight and that I believed few men were capable of greater muscular effort¹ and it was for good reason because no one who bore witness to that astounding spectacle could possibly think otherwise.
Phillips was no hulking giant, but on the heavier side of the two men's weight class, making him both quick and strong. He also had flawless form. As I understand it, his father had paid to have him formally coached since the tender age of seven. He was unhesitant, confident, and knew instinctively when to press his advantage. He ducked underneath one of Holmes' jabs with a classic duck-and-under, the bend of his knees tightening the muscles in his legs as he came low under Holmes' defenses to shoot upward with a massive uppercut to the chin that would have snapped Holmes' head from his neck.
However, in accurately identifying Phillip's skill and prowess, it only served to reflect on how much better Holmes was. Due to his scant diet, Holmes' lean body was made of nothing but whip-cord muscle and wiry sinew, making his punches come at twice the force of raw strength. Holmes hadn't only studied boxing, but the martial arts from the Far East, which had led to his mastery of Baritsu. It made him the more fluid opponent, moving in a steady flow of block, to punch, to dodge and then swing, hit, jab, punch, and weave rather than the jerky combination and retreat of a classic boxer. He had knowledge of the human body far surpassing a boxer's innate awareness of a man's basic weaknesses. When Holmes struck, it was to specific nerve clusters or contact points.
So when Phillip's uppercut rocketed upwards, it missed by only a hairsbreadth of space and only because Holmes had set it up to do so. Holmes never moved a fraction of an inch more than he needed to, never extended his blocks further than strictly necessary, never stepped back and away when a mere twist of his body would suffice. Thus, having anticipated the uppercut, Holmes turned his body from a forward facing stance to a sideways one by pivoting his hips slightly, taking his weight from his front leg to his back and enabling him to more easily dodge the blow with the merest tilt of his head. Simultaneously, he delivered a hard blow to the nerve center located at the hinge of Phillip's jaw, pivoting on his back leg to put his weight into the blow and then followed it with two jabs, one to the base of the mandible and the other to the V-shaped area of the jawline beneath the hinge.
A bell rang, signaling the end of the three minute round, which would be followed by a one minute break as dictated by the criteria of the Queensberry rules. Phillips stumbled toward his corner, shaking his head and rubbing his neck, where I knew his hand was only barely kept from creeping towards his throbbing jaw.
I pushed my way through the spectators towards Holmes' corner where my friend splashed some water on his head in order to clear the blood from his brow and drank only a few mouthfuls. He greeted me distractedly as he dabbed at where he approximated the cut to be, obviously unsurprised at my appearance or unfazed by my shock.
"Holmes, what are you doing?!" I exclaimed, taking in his sweat damped hair and bruises already blossoming around his left eye and rib cage.
"Engaging in a round of fisticuffs," he replied. "Was I mistaken in that you have been watching since the start of the eleventh round?"
I couldn't even be bothered on how he could have possibly deduced or been able to notice such a thing as I snatched the towel from his hand and wiped away the rivulet of blood stained water.
"You must stop this at once! It doesn't matter what he said about me."
I won't say Phillip's words hadn't stung, hadn't momentarily made me feel more than a little embarrassed and perhaps a tiny hint of shame. That would be a lie, though I hardly thought they were worth physical injury for.
The bell rang again and Holmes pushed away my worrying hands. His expression, if it had been on a schoolmaster, would have been described as stern, but as he was most certainly not a schoolmaster, for his eyes were too bright, it seemed to be more aptly deemed as fierce and I was vaguely reminded of my time in the army and the last look of one soldier to another before battle.
"It matters, Watson."
With that he stepped back into the center of the ring and I was torn between deciphering what he had meant and thinking up some way to stop the match. The bell rang a third time and the eighth round commenced and I immediately set my mind to the task of finding a way to stop the two men without it precipitating into a full out brawl. I decided Holmes' statement could wait because even if my mind could not fathom it, my heart already did and it would not do to waste time as it seemed that despite boxing being merely a sport, the two combatants looked as if they fully intended to thrash each other to death.
Despite my desperation for an end to the match, I couldn't help but watch dazedly. We, all of us, are inherently fascinated by acts of violence and it hardly bears mentioning that Holmes and Phillips were both exceptionally talented.
I watched as Phillips redoubled his efforts, catching Holmes at every opportunity. However, it was clear to me, without bias, that Holmes would be the victor. Above all his other expertise, Holmes had a very practical knowledge of fighting. He had battled thugs outnumbered and with nothing but his fists while up against nightsticks and quarterstaffs, chased down and subdued dozens of murderers and villains of every color. Holmes was not only an accomplished boxer, but a seasoned fighter. In consequence, Holmes could take a beating well above the average sportsman. Thus when Phillips moved in for a heavy strike to the kidneys, Holmes accepted the blow, pushing past the pain and took advantage of his opponent's proximity to deliver an uppercut of his own to the solar plexus and a rapid jab, punch to the ribs and torso.
Though anyone else would think they only saw a grimace of pain on the detective's face, I knew Holmes' teeth were bared in a smile.
Holmes was enjoying himself because for him, boxing was just for sport. He was not fighting for his life or for the safety of London's citizens. There is a vast difference between fighting to live or uphold justice and simply choosing to do so.
On behalf of a friend.
In the last crucial seconds of the eighth round, it was apparent Phillips could no longer see straight. He weaved uncertainly on his feet and his hands drooped from their defensive position before his face, leaving him vulnerable. Holmes preyed on that vulnerability without mercy and dropped Phillips to the floor with a well placed punch to the solar plexus and then nose, new blood billowing out.
Phillips had ten seconds to regain his feet and for the match to continue, but I could tell there was very little possibility of him doing so. He writhed somewhat on the ground and it wasn't the movements of a man striving to stand, but of one simply in a lot of pain.
Holmes stood over him. He wouldn't touch him, he was not allowed and unlikely to do so, but he managed to make it seem threatening all the same.
"Watson is not my dog. He is not a buffoon, a mere observer, or story monger."
Phillips spat at Holmes' feet, most of it blood. "If he's so great, why didn't he challenge me himself?"
"This wasn't about his honor, it was about mine. I take issue with the fact you would think me stupid enough to choose a fool for my friend and colleague, making me the even greater fool. Next time I send Doctor Watson in my stead, I expect full cooperation and if someone dies as a result of your own folly, I'd prefer you to keep the Doctor's name out of it. When someone fails to clean up your mistake, it is still your mistake. Remember that for the next four to six weeks while the breaks in your jaw and left hand mend again."
With that Holmes exited the ring, although I could still feel his agitation practically rolling off him in waves. His gaze met mine with no small amount of fire. "Are you satisfied?"
"Satisfied?" I spluttered. "Holmes if you think me vain enough that I would demand—"
He shook his head. "I meant in proving my position as your friend."
I blinked. "You what?"
"You trust me."
Comprehension was still not forthcoming. "Yes, why shouldn't I? You trust me as well."
"Yes, but I have ample reason to do so. You have given me a plethora of evidence by which I can trust your dependability. You on the other hand, do not. I often forget our dinner plans, am frequently rude to you, and sometimes hurt you needlessly."
As I confessed above, Phillips insults to me and public humiliation via newspaper had stung, but what had stung considerably more was that Holmes did not seem to care one way or the other, had made no move to defend me and it had hurt not knowing my position in my friend's eyes.
Now I did know. I had unquestionable evidence that my friend had thoroughly punished the man who had insulted me. I didn't strictly need it, but it was gratifying to have it all the same.
Holmes had said it mattered.
What he had meant to say was, 'You matter.'
Actions always speak louder than words and it was at that pinnacle moment I realized that all those times Holmes had never said anything, I had always known what it meant.
(1) Direct quote from ACD's Sherlock Holmes short story, "The Yellow Face"
- Less based off the movie fight sequences than my own experience. Not in the sport itself, of course. Boxing is...not preferable. I can only tolerate being hit in the head so many times (my vocabulary would suffer otherwise) and besides, upper body strength was not bestowed upon the fairer sex, but a good kick is perfectly serviceable in any given situation. Cheers.