Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock Holmes or Dr Watson. They are the characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But i do enjoy borrowing them !! :)

Broken Wheels

Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson sat in the hansom cab exhausted after a long and gruelling case which had seen them both chasing across the Devonshire countryside after a kidnapper named Hawkins who had taken the daughter of a wealthy banker. He had been caught eventually after becoming careless and both Holmes and Watson had cornered Hawkins in an abandoned warehouse. But the closure of the case was not without incident as in a last ditch attempt to escape, Hawkins rammed himself into Watson who in turn hit his head hard on some farm machinery and had suffered a slight concussion in the process. Now a day later after concluding matters with the Devonshire Police, both Holmes and Watson were in a hansom cab heading back to the station some twenty miles away from the hotel they had been staying in whilst engaged on the case.

"How is your head Watson?" asked Holmes in some concern as he noticed Watson absently rubbing the place where he had been hit.

Watson had been watching the snow falling heavily across the moors. He was glad to be going home, to Baker Street, and to Mrs Hudson's wonderful cooking. His head was aching intolerably, although he took great pains not to allow Holmes to see how much it hurt. He had not realised that Holmes had been asking him a question, as he had been slowly drifting to sleep trying to shut out the pain and the cold. He wished he had taken a pain reliever before setting out on the journey home. He felt a hand on his arm and Watson groggily awoke to Holmes leaning closer to him, grey eyes betraying the concern for him.

"Watson, did you hear me? I was asking how your head was old chap" asked Holmes again. This time he was rewarded with a reply

"Sorry Holmes I was distracted by the snow, yes I am alright Holmes, just a slight headache, I will be glad to board the train back to London". Said Watson tiredly.

Holmes sat back as he felt his own exhaustion beginning to take its toll. He involuntary shuddered and wrapped his Inverness round him tightly keeping out the cold and a slight smile alighted his aquiline features as he observed his Boswell fall back asleep. You are right my dear fellow, it would indeed be nice to be back to the warmth and comfort of our lounge at Baker Street on a winter's night like this. He had not told Watson of the cold and sore throat he had felt coming on, too concerned over his friend's wellbeing than that of his own. Holmes closed his own eyes and allowed Morpheous to take over.

Outside the blizzard of snow became intense and the hansom cab driver was finding it difficult to see what was in front of him. The horses were snorting in disgust as the weather worsened. He took up the reigns and tried to encourage them to speed along faster. All he wanted to do was get his passengers to the station quickly and to take shelter in the station stable for the night. He was looking forward to the company of Alice the station master's daughter, and the prospect of beer and some food. He was relishing the prearranged overnight stay. As the cab driver thought of a prospect of a night with Alice he did not see the fallen tree until it was far too late. The horses panicked as they galloped straight into danger sending the carriage tumbling into a fury of destruction and the sound of wood breaking and then the deafening silence that followed, save for the squeaking of broken wheels, and the howl of the winter snow as it came down relentlessly covering the now damaged cab that lay strewn across the snow.

****

Watson was the first to awaken, choking on the dust and debris. He tried to move, only to be rewarded by a sharp pain that seemed to come from his leg. Watson looked down and found a large chunk of wood stuck in his left leg. Blood was already seeping from where it had been embedded. But what of Holmes? Watson looked round at the wreckage that surrounded them.

Holmes!!!! Cried out Watson as he shivered with blood loss and the cold of the snow beginning to bite.

There was no reply.

"Holmes can you hear me? Where are you? "Called out Watson once more as he looked round for his friend, concern mounting.

Suddenly Watson gasped as his eyes fell on the sight of a hand and then horror as he realised the rest of his friend was buried underneath the remains of the carriage. It was clear from the fallen snow he had been unconscious for some time. Holmes must be half frozen by now thought Watson in panic.

He pushed himself forward towards his leg and gripped hold of the wood and braced himself for the inevitable pain that would follow. His cries echoed in to the night as the wood was pulled free from his leg. Shakily he worked quickly to tear a strip of his shirt which he used to tighten round his wound and stop the bleeding. Watson then focused on helping the closest friend he ever knew. He crawled painfully towards the debris which covered Holmes, and began to frantically remove the initial layer of rubble until he cleared enough to reveal Holmes's upper body,. He sought for a pulse and found one. It was weak and slow, but Holmes was alive. But half frozen. Already he saw the signs of frostbite in his exposed hand. Watson signed in relief but knew that his friend was seriously injured. Quickly covering the frostbitten hand, he worked to remove the remainder of the wreckage despite the freezing cold biting at his own hands, until Holmes was freed. He pulled Holmes up to him and examined the unconscious form. He detected several broken bones, mostly in the ribcage, but he also discovered Holmes had also a fractured arm. As if on cue Holmes suddenly moaned and wearily opened his eyes. The greyness dulled by the pain he was in.

"Watson...you there... Wat-". Holmes stopped short and coughed violently as breathing became a struggle.

Watson held Holmes protectively, placing a hand on his forehead soothingly, noting with alarm, the sheen of sweat coming away. He replied.

"Easy Holmes, it's alright, I am here, everything will be alright".

"You…not hurt?" Asked Holmes with concern.

Watson smiled grimly. He would never understand his friend. He was lying injured, on a freezing snowy night and Holmes was asking of my welfare? And then his frustration and fear gave way and could not stop himself

"I'm alright Holmes. Why did you not tell me you were running a temperature and likely to be suffering from the first stages of flu? "Said Watson angrily.

"Did not want to worry you…" replied Holmes feebly.

Watson frowned and then bit back his anger as he felt Holmes shudder with the cold. They were both exposed to the snow. They had to get warm and fast. Watson quickly tried to restore circulation in Holmes's frozen limbs and Holmes responded with a cry of pain.

"I'm sorry Holmes, I need to get your circulation moving again, you are half frozen" said Watson apologetically.

"'Tis alright Watson...understand" responded Holmes sleepily.

Watson noticed this with alarm, fearing Holmes was beginning to show the first signs of exposure. He patted Holmes's face and shook him awake.

"Holmes, stay with me, you MUST stay awake!" Said Watson his distress mounting.

Holmes barely responded and mumbled something incoherently and fell back into Watson's arms, too tired to stay awake anymore. He was in too much pain and too cold to even try.

Holmes heard Watson calling him, but he was so far away. It sounded sad and in pain. I must reach out to him. But oh I am so cold. His mind wandered back to Baker Street and looked at an empty fire place. Why had not Mrs. Hudson lit the fire? And then he remembered Watson, needed to tell him something important, oh how I wish I could remember. I'll go back to my Boswell; he will know what it is.

Watson had pulled his coat round Holmes in an effort to keep him warm. He was barely conscious now, swimming in and out of awareness. The snow was not relenting. Watson slammed a fist down into the snow in anger. He knew Holmes needed help, but he could not leave him, even if he wanted to. He had to try and keep Holmes warm until the morning. He saw the driver lying in the snow. He did not need his medical knowledge to tell him he was dead. At the awkward way the body laid, it was clear that he had broken his neck in his fall. The horses were in a bad way too, dead and dying. Watson turned away from the ghastly sight. All he cared about now was Holmes. Watson shivered, trying to keep both of them warm and knew he was failing miserably. His thoughts were interrupted by a muffled whisper.

"Fire Watson…" croaked Holmes who still shivered despite the relative warmth of the coat wrapped round him.

"Holmes?" Responded a tired but surprised Watson.

But it was no use. Holmes was not responding. Of course! Holmes wanted him to light a fire; there was plenty of broken wood! Watson settled Holmes down gently and tried to stand, only to be rewarded by blinding white hot pain which radiated through his leg and he fell forward flat onto the snow. Watson was undeterred determined to save his friend. He crawled towards the strewn pieces of wood and gathered them together. Digging into his pocket, Watson found a damp box of matches. He struck one and then another until he found a match that struck and then lit the small bundle of wood which slowly began to burn. He added more wood on and crawled back to Holmes and pulled him closer to the fire. It was not much but it would keep them both alive.

"Holmes, can you hear me?" asked Watson anxiously, checking for a pulse and was relieved to find one, weak as it was.

A small moan came from the still form that was cradled in his. It was enough for Watson who breathed a sigh of relief. Over the following hours that stretched long into the night Watson kept talking to Holmes, keeping him awake, being sure not to let him sleep and adding fuel to the fire that flickered into the night. Eventually the cold became too much for Watson and he succumbed to pain and exhaustion that wracked his own body. Holmes, too weak and powerless to help, let out a moan of despair as he watched his Boswell lose the battle against the cold. He weakly lifted his arm and gently placed it round Watson, giving what warmth and security he could. And then Holmes drifted into the darkness and nothingness.

*****

The first thing he felt on awareness returning to him was the taste of brandy on his lips and then the warmth of a coal fire. He opened his eyes and looked round. The room was homely, a picture of a steam train hung above the fireplace. He looked down at the fireplace and smiled as he saw a black cat curled up contently in front of the fire, purring softly. He would have been content to stay lying where he was but then full memory of what had happened came rushing back to him and pushed himself out of bed, stumbling as he did so.

"Holmes!" cried Watson anxiously as he looked round for him, only to find strong hands pushing him back to bed.

"It's alright Dr Watson, your companion is safe, see over there, and has been treated" came a gruff but kindly voice.

Watson refused to be held back down into bed and pushed past the burly stranger and staggered to Holmes's bed. He saw Holmes had indeed been treated, his arm and ribs were bandaged and he could tell Holmes was under the influence of morphine to ease his pain. He was disturbed to find Holmes's hands bandaged and carefully examined them. They were badly frost bitten, but they would recover. No violin playing for a few weeks though thought Watson grimly. He knew how close Holmes had come to permanent loss of at least one hand. I will never moan about his violin playing again! Watson buried his face in his hands at he broke down as the shock finally took its toll on the exhausted Boswell. He felt a hand on his, and Watson looked up and stared into tired grey eyes.

"Watson…it's alright, we are safe now…" Holmes coughed not being able to speak any further.

Watson supported his ill friend and smiled at him.

"Holmes….you gave me quite a fright". Watson said shakily not quite succeeding in keeping his emotions at bay.

"Will you forgive me Watson?" asked Holmes as he knew that his neglect of his own health had caused unnecessary worry and distress.

Watson looked at Holmes and grinned mischievously replying,

"Only if you promise to take some of the cough and flu medicine I will be administering to you for the next week!"

Holmes groaned but then smiled. He knew better than to argue with a half thawed Doctor.

"Blackmail Watson?" retorted Holmes good humouredly.

Watson laughed, glad to see that Holmes was rapidly returning to his normal self

"If you take the medicine, I promise not to tell Mrs Hudson that you managed to break another of her favourite China teapots last month" quipped Watson.

"Watson! You wouldn't dare "said Holmes in mock mortification

The silence filled the air before the room was filled with the roar of laughter, startling the sleeping black cat which was jolted awake and mieowed in protest.

It was their host who finally interrupted the banter.

"Gentlemen, I am Stationmaster Sanders. It was my daughter Alice who alerted me to your delayed arrival. It seems we found you just in time. Unfortunately we could do nothing for George the cab driver. He was already dead. We brought you and what was left of your luggage here. The doctor said you were both fit to travel when you were ready. As I see you are heading for London the next train for Paddington leaves in an hour. Just thought I would let you know". Said the station master who was keen to see his guests on their way.

Holmes and Watson looked at each other and then offered condolences to the station master for the death of the cab driver and began to make preparations to board the next train home. Watson helped Holmes with putting on his clothes, knowing Holmes would find it impossible to do so with his bandaged hands. Within the hour both Holmes and Watson were on the 10:15 train to London. They both passed the journey in silence knowing they were lucky to be alive.

Arriving back at Baker Street, Holmes and Watson both sat in their chairs by the fire each with a brandy, staring at the fire and contemplating events. It was Watson who spoke first.

"Holmes, we came too close this time…I feared we would die on that forsaken moor" confessed Watson.

Holmes looked up from his brandy and could see the pain in his Boswell's hazel eyes. He was concerned.

"Are you alright?" Holmes replied worriedly.

Watson finally let his concern and worry of the last twenty four hours overwhelm him. He rubbed down at his damaged leg and bit back the pain.

"Holmes, you almost died out there, I held you in my arms, talking to you, trying to keep you with me, I was afraid I would lose you…." Watson paused and looked up at the picture of the falls and continued, tears in his eyes.

"I could not stand to lose you again..." Watson could not finish fighting back the tears.

Holmes stared at his Boswell and knew that he was right. It had been too close for comfort. It had been an accident, but next time it could be as a result of the actions of a criminal. Holmes frowned. The criminal community was becoming more violent by the day. The unwritten code of honour was slowly being eroded by no rules at all. They were both getting old, and the world was changing. Holmes sighed. And then smiled.

"Bees, Watson ". Said Holmes softly.

Watson looked at Holmes and wondered if the cold had done more damage than he had realised.

"Watson, I have always wanted to keep bees. Would you care to join me, there is a place in the Sussex Countryside I have been keeping my eye on for some time. We can escape London and retire there. Of course it is your decision; this is a Partnership after all".

Watson was stunned. Had he heard Sherlock Holmes correctly, or had the accident affected his hearing. Retirement?!!!!

"Holmes are you serious. I had been thinking about cutting down on the hours myself, but if you are sure Holmes, then yes I will join you in Sussex".

Holmes smiled. He had agonised over this for some weeks now and he had not been sure if his Watson would agree to the idea. He looked up at the picture of the Falls and back at Watson.

"I promise you Watson, I will not leave you ever again. We shall face the future together you and I as we enjoy the sunset of our lives". Said Holmes seriously.

Watson smiled and looked back at the fire and the two friends relaxed. It was settled. They had agreed to retirement at last. As the flames danced and flickered, two snores broke the silence. Holmes and Watson had both fallen asleep at last. Holmes was clutching a book on beekeeping and the good doctor had a map of the Sussex Downs next to him. The Greatest Adventure was waiting for both of them, it would be many years before they found the answer to the ultimate mystery, but they would find the answer together, as they had done in life.


Hope you enjoyed this story !! I had alot of fun writing it.