All That Shimmers
A/N: I have a confession to make: I have only seen the movie, not read the books. So I'm not a true Sherlock Holmes fan, sorry, although the characters are fascinating. This movie inspired me to think about becoming one though, so that's something?
The story behind this piece - well, the one thing that didn't make sense in the movie (okay, there might have been other things too, whatever) was Watson recovering so absurdly quickly - come on, a day! - after the huge slow-motion explosion at the docks. Or factory. Something. There were pigs. Anyway, in this AU he was still at the hospital while the latter third of the movie was going on, but have no fear, Blackwood was stopped nonetheless, the day was saved, and all is well (except for Watson, that is). So that's what this is about.
It's also an attempt to experiment with a completely different style of writing than I'm used to - lately I've been writing very... colloquially, and this seemed like a good opportunity to break myself of that habit. If you know my other writings (which I am working on, promise!) then you know that this is a very drastic change... Anyway. I tried to make it as in character, detailed and intelligent (yeah, sorry if that one didn't come across too well) as possible, but seeing as how I don't actually know anything about Sherlock Holmes... (shrugs) ah well, I did my best.
All right, off you go. Enjoy! And tell me what you think, if you like.
We're here and now,
but will we ever be again?
'Cause I have found
All that shimmers in this world
Is sure to fade,
-Shimmer, by Fuel
I left Irene Adler as she was, with the key to her bonds hanging between her breasts and a not unremarkable view of London's landscape, marred though it was by the gruesome spectacle of Lord Blackwood. I will confess to having experienced mixed feelings at the time, a strange ache taking root in my chest as I steadfastly refused to glance back at her most defiant (and admittedly striking) profile.
Oh, analyze it as you will, dear readers, for I myself hold no truck with useless introspection as certain poetic and vastly more emotional persons than I are wont to do. Looking back, the ache was likely the result of unspent adrenaline, but at the time I dismissed it as a merely unfortunate consequence of attempting to dispose of a veritable giant almost entirely on my own; it was extraordinary how put off I was by the lack of my usual companion, for somehow I was certain that together we could have at the very least encumbered the beast - and yet with solely Miss Adler and one functioning firearm (belonging to the lady, for I had forgotten my pistol at Baker Street yet again) I had been nearly hopelessly outmatched by Dredger and his cohorts.
Indeed, and it vexes me to write this, had Lestrade and Gregson not shown up at the last possible second and availed me of their skills (in a shockingly competent fashion, it must be added), I fear Blackwood's plot would have gone on unhindered, and Parliament left decimated. I suppose it only right, however, that Her Majesty's forces contribute in whatever small, bungling capacity to the security of the empire, and so this will be the last I complain of it.
At least until he wakes up and ribs me about the escapade, as he doubtlessly will – as he must.
But Miss Adler would be fine, I knew very well – I had few doubts she was endeavoring to escape that very moment, and I of all people could attest to her considerable abilities. Those abilities were, after all, responsible for our lengthy acquaintance, and so assuring myself of her welfare would not only be boringly repetitious, but entirely unnecessary.
...That I found myself doing so regardless was probably a testament to how taxing the past days had been to my mental faculties.
"And yet I still would not say I love her, my dear fellow," I murmured absently, wincing as I stretched my bruised arm, abused as it was from being flung about countless times over the past few days. "Though you'd likely protest otherwise – you do tend to be rather overly excitable, old boy, and find proof where there is none to be had… remember what I said about matching the theory to the facts, rather than the facts to the theory -"
And there I paused for a nigh breathless second, awaiting the inevitable rejoinder, before finally remembering that there was no one near who might hear me, and certainly no one who might reply.
...But of course there wouldn't be. Watson was still at the hospital, after all, doing his best to recover from yesterday's explosion. Clearly I had greatly underestimated my exhaustion if I were having such lapses.
How foolish of me.
A different set of emotions made itself known as I lumbered gracelessly down the unfinished bridge, successfully avoiding Lestrade and his men and what would surely have proven to be a quite pointless trivial briefing. I could not tell you what they were for the life of me, but a sense of the utmost urgency resonated like a loud bell throughout my very being, hastening my heartbeat to drum hollowly at my temples, and accordingly I hailed a hansom the moment I made it to a suitably vacant street.
And yet I will admit to a weak period of indecision as I opened my mouth to call to the driver my destination. My back, right shoulder, left quadriceps and indeed my head were bruised enough from the day's altercations, I was weary as well as slightly famished – jumping into the Thames was not at all conducive to developing an appetite – and really the whole of me longed for my own familiar bed at Baker Street. It was only logical that I pursue my way home to make my own recovery. After all, I had little doubt that Watson's beloved Mary was at his side right that very second, little doubt she had been at his side the whole of the night, as I…
Regardless, the moment was brief. There was only one place I would go.
Mary Morstan stood as I entered. From the wrinkles on her dress I determined that it had been long since she had last moved from her bedside vigil, although a slightly irregular patch of moisture at her collar and shoulder implied that someone had brought her an overly full glass of water not ten minutes ago – likely the child of a doctor pressed into duty, or else a young and inexperienced nurse. Her fair skin was pale and translucent, her lips lined with a faded layer of rouge, and from her somewhat glazed eyes, underlined with dark circles like a raccoon's mask, I understood that what little sleep gotten had been in that likely uncomfortable chair.
An aptly-placed curtain hid the bed's contents from my sight, but I took the opportunity given me to delay the inevitable for the moment, finding myself in urgent need of additional time to steel my composure.
"The doctor returns," Miss Morstan greeted me, a bit of wry humor lighting her vapid and colorless gaze. I did not care to reply, and she examined me, eyes widening upon encountering my bruises. "Oh, you're hurt!"
How I detest such acknowledgments of the obvious. "Only a tad," I responded shortly, thanking my natural impulse to walk and stand as normally as possible no matter my bodily condition, so as to hide weaknesses from potential opponents.
...Because whether she knew it or not, Mary Morstan was very much my opponent.
The governess took me in once more, pursing her lip. I am sure she realized expanding on her current topic would only prove fruitless. "Is it over, then?"
I studied her in bemusement, paying little attention to her words. Mary is such an ordinary name, I thought absentmindedly. This is what Watson wants to chain himself to? Common, nondescript women with common, nondescript names?
Perhaps it was a problem of Watson's lacking self-perception. For I knew Watson has in him ingrained the deepest humility, the deepest appreciation for the simpler things in life, and the deepest self-belittlement of anyone of my acquaintance. Perhaps his choice in women was simply a reflection of these unfortunate flaws.
And if so, what nonsense. Why Watson keeps thinking himself ordinary, deserving of only ordinary things, I will surely never know.
I ignored her question – surely the lack of panic in the streets and my presence were enough of an answer – and finally stepped around her to see what I most wanted to see.
I may have blanched upon the sight. "How is he?" I asked, words slipping involuntarily out of my mouth. My eyes were already marking burns and gashes of their own volition, helplessly cataloguing wounds and lesions where none ought to be. Poor Watson, he looked so pale, so bloodless, so unaware! Never in all our acquaintance had I witnessed him in such forced repose, such blatant injury, although unlike my last visit he was at last sleeping – let it only be sleeping! – on his back, rather than his side, and so I dared hope it was an indication of recovery rather than… well, whatever else it might have been.
Shamefully, my initial impulse upon seeing my dearest friend so unwell was to hail another hansom or, barring that, run at full speed through the rain (for the storm Miss Adler had mentioned was indeed making itself most rudely known, ramming with considerable force on the hospital windows), whatever would hasten me that much faster to Baker Street and a bed and the possibility that this was naught but a bad dream, perhaps fueled by opium, needing only to be dispelled with the morning.
But of course I did nothing of the sort.
"Not well, he needs time to recover," the woman told me grimly, assessing Watson with me as if from anew. "There nearly was very serious damage done to his neck, and his abdomen has been…" she fell silent mid-sentence, perhaps seeing something in my expression. "He will live," she said instead, quietly. "Do not worry. John's alive."
I noticed the hesitation in her manner, the slight untruth, and disliked her all the more for it. And who was she to order me about?
Tired and overwhelmed as I was I wasted no time in divesting Miss Morstan of her seat, as she was no longer using it. It did not matter to me a whit that it was the sole chair in the room – indeed, that only served to further my purpose.
I finally forced my eyes away from Watson and looked at this woman he was so enthralled with. "You cannot have slept more than an hour," I observed coolly. "Watson would be distressed to see you so discomposed."
She narrowed her eyes, astutely deducing my intention of clearing her from the room.
"Mr. Holmes, you cannot be suggesting – " she began, finally a touch of fury blazing in her glare. Not one to mince words, was Miss Morstan, and for the first time I mused that she was rather like Watson, in that way.
This needed to be handled quickly and deftly; I hadn't enough patience for anything less.
I cut her off. "My dear lady," I said most soberly, taking hold of her hands (I have often found this gesture helpful when occasion demands I appear sincere – Watson once commented that while astonishingly lacking in social niceties, when I require a favor of someone I am very liable to receive it. I did not tell him, of course, that this is because I have observed him and his earnest mannerisms to the greatest detail – something told me he would not have been overly thrilled). "You are pale, sleep-deprived, slightly dehydrated – I suggest you drink another glass of water at the earliest possible convenience – and your hair is, if you'll forgive me, a veritable mess. A bit of respite from this room would only do you good. More than that, tomorrow is a Saturday, and your employers intend to go off to a weekend in the country, leaving their young rascal in your care. I suspect you've told them little of the current situation. You will need to inform them that you are otherwise indisposed."
A wrinkle formed between her brows. "How –"
"I also recommend, while you are at it, that you get yourself some sleep as well as a hearty meal. I would rather Watson not dwell on his future wife's health, but on his own."
Miss Morstan's eyes glistened slightly, quite possibly due to exhaustion, and I wondered idly if she understood the concession I was making. She bit her lip – a most unfortunate habit – and I assumed she was agonizing between staying with Watson and obtaining the sleep she so clearly needed.
"I assure you I will watch over him," I suddenly found it necessary to add, though I believe it bore no speaking. "And probably nothing of import will occur while you're away. If he hasn't woken up yet, he will surely wait until your return."
It would be like Watson to do such a thing, I thought wryly. He was that sort of gentleman.
"Mr. Holmes…" Watson's fiancee smiled a little, then shook her head, spots of color blooming on her cheeks. She squeezed my hands lightly before leaving their grip, and met my eyes. "Thank you," she said simply.
"No," I answered, "thank you."
The peculiar thing was that as I said it, I suddenly realized I meant the expression of gratitude wholeheartedly.
I realized belatedly that I was woefully unprepared for a bedside vigil, having brought nothing to occupy myself with. I did not like to look at Watson overmuch - the sight kept filling me with foreign sensations - and so for the most part refrained. Though Watson could not have been much more than a stick when we first became acquainted, having been ill and just returned from Afghanistan, over the years he has become a steady looming presence at my side, solid and supportive and ever unfailing, so much so that seeing him so injured felt like the proverbial rug had been pulled out from under my feet. Indeed I knew not what to do with myself. While I was not of inconsiderable athleticism, I had come to greatly rely on Watson's physical strength and steely constitution.
However, it would be insulting the good doctor to imply that it was solely his physical attributes I relied on. He was a great deal more to me than a convenient bodyguard, and his list of assets stretched far beyond the brutal arts. At some undetermined point Watson had become a genuine pillar in my world, and however I tried I could not begin to fathom how to change that fact. It was - and still is - impossible. I simply couldn't imagine not encountering the sight of him at the table for breakfast, idly reading his newspaper and raising an amused eyebrow as he notes my less than gentlemanly state of dress - what would life be like, without his customary sigh when he picks up my pipe from his hat, or his by now halfhearted protestations to leave Gladstone be? The few cases I had taken without him since our initial partnering were lackluster and dull without his companionship – and to think that the one passion I have in my life, made so much greater by his presence, could so easily degrade into unimportance by his absence! I suppose it simply proves that even the great Sherlock Holmes is not invulnerable against the gentle force of friendship.
For how else am I to explain it? I certainly never noticed his invasion of my space, and Watson had never been an imposing person, never asked a question when he deemed it improper, never even complained unless one was adamantly out of line. Gently, then, did he penetrate my life, and I was all the more and less for it. Never in my wildest dreams as a university student had I ever thought I would one day gladly exchange the stimulation of cocaine for the stimulation of conversation with a friend, or that I might find myself so vexed with that friend's plans to marry that I would take possession of his old rugby ball, as if that would somehow impede his leaving!
Oh, Watson. Only he could lower me to such depravity, whatever he may assume.
It is the truth of the world that one does not know what he possesses until he faces its lack. Watson leaving Baker Street, leaving me, ending the world as I knew it far more effectively than any plot of Blackwood's, forced me to acknowledge for the first time just what large, irrevocable part he played in my life. Any degree of absence was unthinkable, and therefore to be prevented as swiftly and permanently as possible.
And yet! At that moment, sitting uselessly by my dearest friend's bed, I realized I would gladly let Watson marry Miss Morstan or any other woman, however ordinary her name! I would have had him sail to Nepal, to America, to anywhere in the world, if only he would not... if only he would not leave. Not forever.
Not like this.
"Don't go, old boy," I whispered in an uncharacteristic fit of feeling, my hand lightly clutching his upper deltoid, mindful of his bruises and his old scars. I caught myself, and forced a smile. "You still have to write this story."
I dropped my hand and my gaze, feeling fairly ridiculous for talking to someone incapable of listening. True, it is said that the ill and comatose are benefited when spoken to, but I have always regarded such stories as rubbish and superstition. What aid could words be to a man, after all, when it is physical injury that ails him?
My eyes strayed to the bedside table, where Miss Morstan had left a book laying carelessly on its side, frayed edges almost perilously close to the gas lamp. The back binding appeared familiar, and indeed when I picked it up I saw it was a dog-eared copy of A Study In Scarlet, Watson's first chronicle of our adventures.
A small smile came unbidden to my lips, and I wondered whether Miss Morstan had read it aloud to Watson, and if so how far she had gotten. Her voice had been a bit hoarse, in retrospect.
I rifled through the book, landing on the fifteenth page where Watson had, having only just met me, endeavored to compile a list of my abilities - and had to chuckle, well remembering my own initial dismissal of the man. How long ago it all seemed, and yet here it was, same as ever, freshly printed for any given moment's perusal. Perhaps for the first time, it occurred to me that Watson's stories were truly a precious constant in an ever-changing world, and I thought to the diamond in my pocket, contemplating that perhaps, as proved true in Watson's case, there was more to Miss Morstand than I had initially assumed.
A quiet groan swiftly caught my attention, and I hastily stood and watched as my friend's eyelids flutter like a pair of wings on a butterfly – or some such thing, I am dreadfully useless with poetic devices. Right, yes, those are better left off to Watson's books.
Enough of them then.
In any case, Watson proceeded to make several ghastly noises that were not words by any stretch of the imagination, and fearful visions crossed my eyes of Watson mute, deaf, brain-damaged, dying. But these soon came to an end when his gaze fell to the left where I was standing, and a croaked "Holmes?" passed his lips.
For whatever reason, it was much easier to accept that Watson would live after that moment.
"Me, Watson." I smiled. "How are you feeling?" I asked, although in truth I already knew, as I was familiar with his facial expressions and his hand was evidently twitching to grasp at his pained belly.
But that is what people do in these situations, and I am no different.
"...Decent," he lied, with barely a wince, and though I felt a disbelieving snort was not out of place, I honestly had expected no less from my stalwart companion.
Watson's eyes went around the room, likely making note of the fact he was in a hospital, and perhaps recalling something of urgency, made to sit up. However, sensibly thinking that might be an adverse course, what with his neck being possibly traumatized and I not one of the medical profession to judge otherwise, I quickly acted to stop him, pressing a strategic finger down upon his chest.
...I tried not to worry over how easy it was to do so.
"You are going to want to hold off on that, my dear fellow. I would rather you didn't risk further injury."
It was remarkable how coherent his gaze was, and furthermore how much I understood this man, who even while laying in a hospital bed was only seeking evidence of my wellbeing. "You stopped him?" he whispered. "Blackwood?"
"Indeed I did," I answered, sitting down. Adler's and Lestrade's involvement could wait for another time. But still I could not resist adding, "And just as I theorized, magic had absolutely nothing to do with it."
His eyes closed for a moment, and I was infinitely relieved when they opened again. "Excel…" he coughed, harshly, and I worried. "Excellent, old boy. You are... you are fine?"
"Yes, yes, do not fret," I told Watson, seeking to reassure him. "I promise I will regale you with the entire thing once you recover a bit more, and you will soon be able to wax poetic over it to your heart's content. For now, my friend, rest easy. You worried us greatly, I hope you realize, and it would be very rude of you to continue doing so intentionally."
He frowned dazedly a little. "Us?" he repeated slowly, and then asked in puzzlement, "…Why are you holding a book?"
That was when I realized I still had A Study of Scarlet in my hand. "Ah," I said stupidly, bringing it up to the bed. "That would be because Mary had brought it."
The poor fellow, what pain he must have been in to discombobulate him so. "Your fiancée," I reminded him lightly. "She sat here all night reading it to you, you see. Ah, you will to have to pretend to wake up for the first time when she returns, I sent her off to bed promising you would wait for her." I paused. "Though in retrospect, it was a silly thing to promise."
"Holmes…" he said, somewhat hoarsely, and I fancied I saw a smile quirking beneath that moustache.
Whatever realization or sentiment he wanted to express, I wanted none of it. Perhaps I was not incapable of adapting to change, but even so I felt I was still well within my rights to deny it.
"Now I am very glad you're alive and speaking," I said hastily, "but as I do not know when Mary plans to return, I will need you to remain as utterly still and quiet as you can manage, Watson. In fact, it would be simplest if you were to go back to sleep right this very moment."
I suspect that if it weren't for his throat, Watson would have laughed. As it was, he simply flapped his hand and smiled at me affectionately. "Holmes," he said. "You utter nitwit."
"This does not constitute motionless and quiet, Watson," I repeated sternly, not giving voice to the pleasant swelling in my chest, which strangely enough had stopped aching some time ago.
An amused sigh. "...Read to me, then. If I am to return to my comatose state."
I stared for a bit, then smirked uncertainly. "If you'll forgive me, my dear Watson, I think I must have misheard. I could have sworn you only now asked me for a bedtime story."
My efforts to discomfit him enough to desist evidently failed, for his gaze remained steady, unrelenting, and completely unembarrassed. "And so what if I did?"
"Well, that's preposterous. You're a grown man."
He unsuccessfully attempted to swallow a yawn, and pointed out, "A grown man you are attempting to coerce into deceiving his future wife."
I fisted my chest dramatically. "Out of the goodness of my heart!"
His tired blue eyes positively twinkled with mirth. "A heart, you say?"
"I do have one, you know," I found it necessary to mention.
"Perhaps you could prove it by fulfilling the wishes of an injured man."
"Perhaps I could lay my hands on an anesthetic and spare us both the misery."
Watson's smile was so unbearably warm I found myself wondering how many painkillers were yet in his system. "Surely you would not withhold from me entertainment, Holmes?" he whispered softly, studying me from under heavy lids.
I cleared my throat, suddenly uncomfortable. "I, er…"
He gave a heavy sigh and with difficulty opened his eyes to their full extent, meeting my eyes.
After a strangely breathless moment, I completely folded. My friend's raised eyebrow is an oddly powerful force. "Oh, all right, Watson!" I huffed "Very well!"
While I read the account of our first meeting Watson's eyes fell shut, an earnest, content smile tingeing his lips as if his pains had left him and all was well. I truly hoped that was the case, and continued reading, seeking to maintain that peaceful expression as best I could.
...And as I immersed myself in a time gone by, I thought to myself that perhaps the world as I knew it was not truly ending, after all.
A/N: Reasons I am proud of this fic: 1. Not one curse word to be found (unless you count nitwit, which I certainly don't) 2. First time in a long time that I've played with new characters. 3. I didn't write like a hick or overly excitable teenager! Woot. (instead I wrote like a middle aged man, woot?) 4. I wrote this in four hours! 5. First person! Woooooooo(t).
However, same old same old: character is very much (or at least somewhat) in denial over relationship with another character(s). But isn't that all fic, really?