Pain and Music
By Alone Dreaming
Rating: T or PG-13 for mild suffering and a harsh word
Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock Holmes (character or books) and, if I did, this would not be under fan fiction.
Warnings: Mild suffering with one nasty word from a particularly irritated doctor
Author's notes: Just rising to the occasion on a particularly delightful challenge (from Watson's Woes) about rugby, a sport I know nothing about. Please enjoy and understand that I self-beta. Thank you.
The infernal screeching of a bow on strings brings him to the conscious world in a whirlwind of annoyance and acute pain. The pain follows the sound—scratch, scratch, throb, throb—into a crescendo of dull thrumming twisted around A sharps and D flats. The softer the sound becomes, the longer the pain lasts, and the louder, the greater the pulses. He's not sure if the pain's actually a part of him or if it's part of the song but regardless, the noise needs to stop or his head will explode.
He peels open glued eyes to stare at the smoke scarred ceiling of his sitting room instead of the strict tidiness of his own chambers. Despite the grey dullness of the pain, the light reflects from an open window and nearly blinds him. It echoes the music, if it's that, and the aches, and makes his stomach twist a bit; but, mostly, it makes him terrifically dizzy even though he's lying down. He lets his eyes slip shut once more to block it out.
It doesn't help and it certainly doesn't stop the music. Instead, he lies in the bowels of a very unstable ship, separated from both horizon and light. It tosses, turns, spins and bows to the whims of Neptune. His eyes open immediately and fixate on a particularly strange stain next to the latest fire escapade. It's a light yellow brown, irregular in shape with small splatters about it. He does not recall seeing it whilst lying on their couch before. 'If this is your couch,' a little voice in his head whispers.
With that, he sits up and infinitely regrets it. The world's spinning like a child's toy, not in his vision but in his body, which disconcerts him far more. It dries his throat out, makes his mouth tacky and lips glued together. His limbs tremble and try to find a point of balance. But in this process, his vision remains surprisingly clear, level and even. It feels as though he's separated from his body, that his aching head and vision are on one level while his body's on the edge of a sand dune, attempting to stand up on a slipping slope.
And, with that, he knows he's utterly, horribly hung over.
The music pauses. "Ah, the sleeping beauty chooses to awaken." The strings pluck instead of resounding with the bow.
"Please," he mumbles desperately. "Stop that."
It does not cease. "Stop what, my dear fellow?"
"That," he waves his hand in the basic direction of the sound. "That."
"My playing?" the irritatingly chipper voice says, as though he doesn't quite understand. "But, this is my room, is it not?"
"Our room," he grits out, putting his hand to his head only to realize that his whole body feels stiff and bruised.
"Our, yours and mine, in other words, partially mine," he clarifies. "And because this room belongs somewhat to me, I should be allowed to behave, within reason, in a manner I see fit. For instance, I should be able to play when I would like."
He swallows hard against his stomach, his annoyance and his ever thickening tongue. "Holmes, for the love of God, the Queen and all that is good, I beg you to stop."
"Ah, from demanding to begging," Holmes notes though he does set aside the violin. "Quite a rapid change and a pleasant one in view of the events of last night."
He has no idea what happened last night which should be unnerving but considering his current physical state—a close approximation to death—he's unsurprised. Still, the amusement in Holmes's tone combined with the obvious fact that he'd been too drunk to make it to bed disconcerts him. "And, pray tell, what events are you referring to?"
"You do not remember then."
It is a statement, not an inquiry, but he responds hastily, "Nay, I do not, though your obvious glee leads me to suspect it was something that brought you a great deal of pleasure."
Holmes plucks a string and sends his headache into its own vibrations. "On the contrary, old chap, I find that last night's intrigues caused me no end of irritation. How is your shoulder, by the way?"
"Sore," he snaps which is an understatement. The longer he sits up, the more aware he is of the radiating stiffness, nearly as bad as it was a year ago when he returned from Afghanistan. Similarly, his leg has become near useless and he doubts he could stand to escape his companion even if he was not assaulted by vertigo.
"Unsurprising," Holmes says with a distinctive lack of sympathy; not that Holmes ever shows a particular amount of compassion about injury or illness but he's become used to an undertone—almost unnoticeable—of concern. "I did warn you of this last night but you were unreasonable about it."
He's not in the mood to play games; with a groan, he lies down once more and closes his eyes, blocking out his flat mate, the room and the worst of the light. Whatever did happen, which he will have to drag out of Holmes when he can find the energy, clearly offended the other in the room. Holmes enjoys playing the mystery and rehearsing the part, but he is well-aware of when to end the charade and be blunt. The lack of such behavior can only mean that the previous night somehow set Holmes into a darker mood and led him to an obstinate frame of mind.
The thrumming perks up once more and he assesses the playing with the interest of a man doomed to the gallows. Even if he discovers what he's done and apologizes, Holmes will spend the rest of the day, and most likely, a large portion of the night playing. It is not punishment in full—Holmes only dolls out minor revenge for minor hurts—but an outlet for the detective's displeasure. 'There are always consequences, John,' his mother's voice informs him sternly. 'Always consequences.' He groans at her in response, rather loudly, and the music stops with the end of it.
"Are you going to be ill?" Holmes inquires. "I would prefer it not be on the carpet."
No, he's not going to vomit. He rarely ever has due to overindulgence, even when he's wanted to. "I think I am going to perish, old chap, not vomit. Just roll me out into the road so the body doesn't stink up the room, would you?"
"No, I don't think I will," Holmes says, though he's changed places in the room. "Not after I promised your rugby chaps I would look after you. They would be offended if I left you for the urchins to pick on and, though you may not think so, you are abominably heavier than you appear, Watson. Dragging you down those stairs and into the road would be a trial I am simply not up to at the moment."
"Then you'll have to live with the smell, I'm afraid." He raises his good arm and lays it over his eyes, applying the slightest amount of pressure.
"Or I'll have Nanny and Clarky take care of the nasty business for me," Holmes offers. He's closer now, almost hovering. Something cool and wet drops onto his arm which he immediately splays over his eyes, "Though, I have always been intrigued by the soldier's mind. Would you be against my dissection of your brain once you've passed?"
"Not at all," he sighs. The rag does a small wonder though it does not stop the swaying motion of the couch. "Go right for it. Please be sure to add whatever you discover to my scribblings."
"I shall file it along with all the ingenious sentiments you imparted on me last night," the topic breaches again, taunting him, "with side notes for your spectacular amnesia the following morning."
It's tempting to deal with the situation now, rather than leave it for a later date. Vaguely, he recalls meeting a group of his old scrum mates on his way home and agreeing to dine with them. There's the haziest, most fleeting idea that he may have agreed to do something stupid after his seventh round of drink and the oddest sensation of barking orders to the thrilling high of the game. But he writes it off immediately—though uncertainly—to older memories when he was in better health and able to scrabble about; these days, he could ill afford to take a poorly placed hit or get too winded in London's dirty atmosphere.
His companion is silent except for a shuffling over by his chemistry set and he pulls back the cloth just enough to view the worn dressing gown surrounded in the violent glow of a cloudy London day. From his position, he views the drapes in the vain hope that Holmes will have the mercy to close them but, with a start, notes that they're hanging unnaturally, the bar twisted from its perch by some brute strength.
He cannot help himself. "Whatever happened to the drapes?"
"You did, my dear," Holmes turns back to him. "You decided to dance but forgot how graceless the inebriated are. I'm afraid you tripped and fell through them. Luckily, I had the good sense to keep you from ripping them down completely and have prevented our vicious Mrs. Hudson from seeing the destruction."
His pulse quickens. "I did this?"
"Indeed," there's a note of barely suppressed pleasure in the voice. "Though, I have no doubts you, at some point, led many a young lady through a terrific waltz."
"I waltzed?" It would explain the shivering going up and down his leg.
"Yes, and I have never been led so gracefully," his face goes red.
"I waltzed with you?"
Holmes seats himself on the floor close to the couch, just in the corner of his vision, tubes in his hands. "Well, as Nanny had retired and Gladstone is short for the job, I was the only available suspect, and it seemed much better to indulge you than to insist upon your compliance to lie still. You're quite an amiable drunk as long as you are allowed to do as you will."
"I waltzed with you," he repeats, dumbfounded, feeling the flush hit his ears. The spinning triples and he feels rather faint. "And I tore down the curtains."
"And blew up the experiment I'd spent the day on," Holmes adds. "Hence why we now have a wonderful brown color to add to our smoke stains."
"Blew up," he echoes. "I?"
"You," Holmes assures. "And you tackled your desk chair clear through the window. Luckily, I'd opened it earlier which kept you from enduring any cuts from broken glass. Apparently, you thought it was a member of the opposing team."
He wishes that Holmes was one to exaggerate in order to further a joke but Holmes delights in truths far more than elaborations. His face feels aflame and his hands shake, most especially his bad one, as he realizes, without a doubt, that this has all happened. His days as the easier tenant have ended in a drunken revelry that he cannot recall and already regrets. Once someone on the street discovers the shattered chair, there's a chance of the Yard's involvement; even without that, there's no way they can keep Mrs. Hudson from the rooms forever. Eventually the broken drapes, missing chair and new stains will be revealed with whatever other damage that Holmes has yet to tell him; he may as well put out the search for new lodgings immediately. Mrs. Hudson has already made it clear that she can only handle one unpredictable tenant.
"You look a tad feverish," Holmes says. "You haven't given your health a turn, have you?"
"If I do not die on my own in five minutes," he mumbles. "Do me a charity and use my revolver to quicken the process." He flips over the cloth, trying to grasp the last bit of comfort from it.
"While the idea appeals, I'm afraid the blood will take work to get out of the couch, and as I have already lost a shirt to splatter, I have no inclination to lose one of my favorite pieces of furniture as well."
This catches his attention and he tilts his head backwards, awkwardly, towards Holmes. For the first time, he sees that Holmes sports a pair of spectacularly blackened eyes and has a small amount of blood crusted under his nose. The front of his food dribbled shirt has dark splotches reaching from collar to tail, some fairly large. The world tilts and he rolls off the couch with an unhappy thud.
Just before he hits the floor, he thinks about how foolish he obviously was for getting so drunk and causing such a ruckus and hitting his roommate. When his shoulder and side actually come into contact with the ground, he thinks of little else than how his whole body's been wrapped in a velvety blanket of agony. He makes some noise, muffled as he chews his tongue in two, and shrugs away, with his good shoulder, the hands that try to pull him off his damaged appendage. Oh, if only he could remember who he'd spent the night with, he would put to use the observational skills Holmes has been teaching him and murder the bastards.
"Come on, now," a somewhat nervous voice says. "You need to get off that shoulder. If you keep making that sound, the whole neighborhood will be at the door." He's not making noise but cannot voice how indignant he is over the thin screeching permeating the room. "Watson, I cannot do this if you fight me."
Together, or mostly with Holmes because he can't put weight on his leg and he cannot grasp with his arm and the rest of his body's gone to mush, they get him onto the couch again where he drifts in a stupor, wondering when London started having earthquakes. At least, he thinks, when he can overcome all of it to focus on thoughts, it's blessedly quiet in the room again. Not even the shuffle of Holmes moving about the room to disturb him as he tries to get a handle on his pain.
"I hit you," he hopes for denial.
"Eh, unintentionally," Holmes says, from a distance. "You were drunk and still riding the rush of playing a few rounds with your old team. I dare say it was my fault for asking you to tell me where the book was."
"Book?" he gasps, not in horror but because there's a particularly vicious stab at the same moment.
"You did not harm it," Holmes tells him. "You simply decided to fetch instead of telling where I could find it and chose to climb onto the end table rather than the perfectly workable stepladder in the corner. When I approached to suggest that I could retrieve it, you swung around and caught me in the face with said item."
He hopes that he will soon awaken to discover this all a dream brought on by too much good food and the general laziness he's fallen into since his discharge. 'There are always consequences,' his mother reminds him, again, and he mutters a vulgar phrase under his breath.
"Pardon?" Holmes replies.
He doesn't repeat it but says, "Well, it appears I have behaved rather badly, Holmes."
"It is bound to happen on occasion," Holmes dismisses.
"Still, I must apologize for the… ruckus and the injury I've caused you."
"Apology happily and readily accepted. Think no more of it."
He does feel a bit like throwing up now, between the pain and the uncontrolled dizziness, "I'll take full blame and pay for the damages."
"Oh, I know you shall," Holmes is very far away now. "Just be sure when you do, to tell the good landlady that you had nothing to do with the ball. That was a concoction of my own which I fully intend on taking credit for."
He feels like an idiot child, or as though they're on one of Holmes's first cases with him, where the entire idea of deduction is still new to him and Holmes must lead him step by step to the conclusion. At least then, though, he had seen the events himself and could confirm the validity of his brilliant roommate's theories; now, he's alone in the dark, feeling twice as imbecilic as he's ever felt in his life.
"Was there anything else?" he whispers. "Do I owe apologies to any of the neighbors for some lewdness I am not aware of?"
Holmes hears him—because Holmes hears just about everything when he's attentive—and there's an almost audible chuckle in his voice, "No, no, you've heard the worst of it that I witnessed."
"Implying there may have been other inequities outside your presence?"
"Anything is possible when a group of rugby players go out for a rousing night in the clubs," he hears the slight sound of the violin as Holmes picks it up again. "But for the moment, I think you should cease your worrying and try to rest. No doubt you will need your strength to move yourself later tonight unless you choose to spend another evening convalescing on the couch."
It is not an uncomfortable place to recline but he can already feel it adding to his shoulder and leg woes. "Please leave me whatever mess is left to clean."
"I would do no less," Holmes says. "Now, if you'll excuse me."
The bow draws over the strings, starting in the middle of Mendelssohn's Lieder. While it does not prove pleasant, it is not as bad as the incessant, formless chords from before. He bites his lip against the sway and the pain and lets the familiar tune sooth his frazzled nerves. Sleep beckons, mainly as an escape route, and he chooses to obey it. After all, no doubt, it will all still be here when he awakens, along with his roommate to remind him exactly what he's missed.