Paradigm Shifts

All characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

AN: This ficlet borrows a plot point from the new Sherlock Holmes film, though this is not necessarily set within that universe.

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'You're in a particularly pensive mood tonight, Watson,' I said, from where I was currently occupied at my writing desk, working on my latest monograph.

I heard him shift in his chair. 'What gives you that idea, old man?'

'Well,' I answered, still focused on my writing, 'you've hardly said anything all night, and for the last half-hour you've stared into that fire like it held the secrets of the universe.'

His only response was a low noise of acknowledgment.

Despite having my back to him, I could sense his preoccupation – Watson is not the brooding sort.

'So, what is the matter, then?' I pressed, my curiosity growing.

He sighed. 'Nothing, Holmes, I'm just thinking – that's all.'

I paused for a moment, and then carried on writing. 'What are you thinking about?'

'Holmes, really, this is most unlike you to be so obtuse – I don't wish to discuss it.'

I placed my pen in the inkpot and got to my feet. Making my way to the mantelpiece, I picked up my pipe. 'You're thinking about Blackwood again, are you not?'

There was an exasperated huff behind me as I endeavoured to light my pipe. 'Yes,' he admitted tiredly, 'well, in a roundabout way.'

I sat down in my armchair. 'Explain.'

He glared for a moment, before preoccupying himself with a cigarette. 'If you must know, though I am sure you will think me quite ridiculous when you do,' he paused. 'I, um... Well, do you think that many people see me, metaphorically, of course, as some sort of... pet dog?'

I raised my eyebrows at such an unexpected opening gambit. '"Pet dog?" I'm sorry, you've completely lost me, old fellow.'

'The other night, when we apprehended Blackwood, do you remember that comment – "Ah, Sherlock Holmes and his dog"?'

I did remember it, though I was surprised it had bothered him. 'My dear Watson, I should not let myself be affected by throwaway comments from such people – it is not worth it!'

I stood up and walked towards my bedroom in order to change into my dressing gown, convinced that was all that needed to be said on the matter.

He spun round in his chair to face me. 'Perhaps you can rise above these things, Holmes, but... I think there is an element of truth in what he said.'

'Rubbish!'

'Is it?' he demanded vehemently. 'I'm a doctor, Holmes, and yet I choose to follow you about instead of working to build up a practice—'

'This is ridiculous, Watson, and besides, there are worse things one can be compared to, let me tell you!'

It was the wrong thing to do, to make light of the matter.

He shook his head and threw his cigarette into the fire. 'I knew you wouldn't understand!'

I moved back to the fireplace, rather affronted by his tone. 'What do you mean by that?'

He raised his hands in exasperation. 'Well, you... sometimes you treat me like I'm just an extension of yourself to be utilised or...'

I froze where I was standing in front of the fire, and stared at him. He stared back, and already a contrite expression was forming on his face.

'Are you trying to say I treat you... like a dog?'

'Forgive me, Holmes, I did not mean that. I just can't help feeling rather...' He shrugged and looked away uncomfortably.

I cleared my throat and returned to my chair. 'It's all right—'

'No,' he shook his head slowly, 'I shouldn't have said it – you know it is my greatest pleasure to assist you in your cases.'

'A fact which, admittedly, I have begun to take for granted, and you are quite right, Watson, it has led me to treat you, at times, in a rather cavalier manner.' Previously avoiding his gaze, I now raised my eyes to his. 'I shall endeavour to be more considerate of my Boswell in future.'

The corner of his mouth lifted upwards. 'I appreciate that, Holmes, but... it's really not you that is the issue here – it's me.'

He rubbed his chin thoughtfully, and I found myself mentally steeling myself for his next words.

'I think it's time I found some independence of my own–'

'Independence?'

'Yes, Holmes; independence. This is your life I'm living – detection is your job, not mine. I should start practising medicine again.'

'Well, of course, my dear Watson, I should not presume to keep you from that.'

'And, maybe then, I can start looking for a wife—'

'Marriage?' I scoffed loudly.

'It's time I started thinking about the future, Holmes. '

Abstractedly, I wondered where I would fit into this future, if indeed, I would at all. 'I confess this is most sudden, yet, you cannot tell me this has all arisen from one chance comment made by a criminal?'

He glanced downwards, and I chewed on the stem of my pipe, fixing him with a resolute stare. Selfishly, I feel a stab of resentment at his desire for change.

'No,' he conceded, 'it's something I've been considering for some time now, and, well, this has just added to my resolve.'

I puffed hard on my pipe, sending a wreath of smoke billowing about my head. 'Well, then, I can tell your mind is very much made up. I, ah, wish you the very best.'

What else was there to say? I doubted I had the capacity to make him change his mind, and, whatever my feelings on the matter, I really did wish him the very best.

I stood up and placed my pipe back onto the mantelpiece. Unsure what to do with myself, I returned to my desk and picked up my pen. I'd lost my train of thought, however.

'Holmes, I...'

I sensed that he'd got to his feet, and a moment later he was standing behind me. 'It's just something I want to do, Holmes. You know that nothing need change... I mean, I'll always consider it an honour to be included in your cases... and to be your friend.'

'I know, Watson.' I glanced briefly at him.

He patted my shoulder and returned to the settee. I dipped my pen into the inkpot, rather forcefully, but I didn't put pen to paper. Only one thought occupied my mind.

So my Watson had finally outgrown me.

Or, had I driven him away?

Maybe, his patience had finally run out.

I thought of the dog comment again. While it hadn't registered before, now it discomfited me, especially that he might think that I considered him in such a derogatory way. I found myself clearing my throat. 'Watson... you know I have the utmost respect for you?' I glanced over my shoulder.

He had paused in the action of raising a glass of port to his lips, and he nodded slowly.

'Good,' I murmured quietly.

Perhaps I could delude myself into think he'd never leave, but I knew that it wouldn't take long for some feminine beauty to snap him up. I could hardly expect to keep him to myself forever.

Watson might not care for the comparison, but he is as loyal as man's best friend, and I knew, despite whatever obstacles wedlock might throw in the way, that he would not forget me.

Besides, I resolved quite firmly that I would not let him.

FIN