This is a fill, written for lj user="sherlockkink". PTSD!Watson has a bad night.
Title: "All But Eleven"
Fandom: Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Summary: The gates of Kandahar are closer than he thinks.
All but eleven ...
Watson's fingers twitch, clinging onto an imaginary saddle horn. He can hear Murray, his orderly's, voice as a faint echo beneath the burning sun.
"Not far, sir. Not far. Hold on, sir. Don't leave me by myself."
Watson's lips move, but he can't speak. All but eleven of them are dead. Connor and Burke and poor Mandle, a portion of his head shaved off by the enemy's sword. There was a look of surprise on his face as he held part of his own brain in his hand a second before falling down dead.
The 66th ... the 3rd and the 30th ... the Queen's Own and the Scinde Horse, gone.
There's Kandahar, the last place left on Earth for them to run to and he can't move, slung face down over his horse, his wounded leg useless. The poor creature is stumbling, dying too, just as his comades ... his friends ... did a few hours before.
He can still hear the enemy fighters, jeering at him, taking long shots with their rifles, making bets to see if they can kill him from a distance but by God's grace - or curse - he lives.
He can't understand why he didn't die as well. He deserved to and it was so hot, with so much pain and fever. Even on the battlefield where right at the end they behead two of his fellow officers, sloppily, in front of the men ...
A dreaming Watson remembers and he bolts upright in the bed, his screams echoing through the flat. He tumbles from the bed, hunting for his rifle, his sword ... anything because they're coming for him and he - damned coward that he is - doesn't want to die.
His leg feels shattered. He has to crawl along the floor, things crashing around him in the darkness and it must be nightfall in Kandahar again. They sometimes come at night, he thinks wildly. By some luck of the devil his hand finds his revolver and he sees a sliver of light - a door is opening and it's them and by god, they're not going to kill him too.
He raises the gun and points it at the door, his hands shaking dangerously. "No," he rasps. "You won't."
Watson blinks. Is it one of them? Perhaps he should shoot first but something stays his hand. "Who are you with? Which regiment?" Why does his voice sound so strange, so far away? "I've come from ... from ... " His leg throbs horribly and he has to sit down on the floor and think. The terror ebbs and confusion flows into its place. "Maiwand. I'm with the 66th. I'm going to ... Kandahar. That's where the garrison is."
"Then let me take you there." The man's voice is gentle. A gas lamp hisses to life and Watson recognizes the face in front of him; it's lined with deep concern. "Come, it's this way."
"Holmes ..." Watson allows himself to be tugged upright. An arm twines around his waist and Holmes leads him out of his wrecked room, down the hall and back into familiar chaos. Watson soon finds himself gently tucked beneath warm linens and a wash of shame floods over him. "I'm sorry, Holmes."
A pipe is lit and Holmes shrugs at him. "Nothing to be sorry about."
There was Carr and Lewis and Sinclair and they even killed the poor dog, the little mascot they'd picked up in Kabul as a puppy. All of them, their bodies strewn over the rocks, bits of them left everywhere, like rubbish. As if they were never human at all.
"Really?" Watson's breath hitches. "What would you say if I told you I left them there? Left them behind for the vultures and the beasts?"
"I'd say they were dead already and it makes no difference, except that someone survived to tell their tale. Watson, you'll never convince me that the survivors are so very much better off than the dead when it comes to the ravages of war. My observations lead me to believe otherwise." He reaches out to brush a damp bit of hair away from Watson's eyes. "Try to rest your mind, dear friend."
"I can't. I see their faces. What's left of them, at any rate."
"Then let me fill you with other thoughts," Holmes rejoins, tapping out the pipe. The kiss that follows is gentle and has the desired effect of erasing some of the visages that will haunt Watson until the day he dies.
But not all of them.
The first kiss is followed by another, then a few dozen more, down his neck and chest and Watson lets himself be taken into Holmes loving care. This is good, wonderful actually, but it won't completely blot out the past - nothing can do that and Watson isn't sure that if he had the choice, he'd allow the memories to disappear.
They deserve to be remembered, at least. No one else can do so.
It's some time later, far away, beneath Afganistan's sun, Murray's voice rises and Watson sees the gates of Kandahar gleam, then open.
We're here, sir. We've made it. Thank God, but we've made it.
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