Story Notes: This is my entry to Watson's Woes Challenge 009...this is not slash or pre-slash this is a friendship in it's infancy. It finished second place! (GASP!)

If anyone is curious, yes this is the Police Surgeon Doctor Watson fresh back from Afghanistan.

Enjoy!

Bart


To Be Valuable...

"Of all the irresponsible," Holmes grumbled as he payed the cabby and ascended to the door of 221b.

Wiggins had summoned him from a very intriguing investigation into a local business owners missing dog, a disappearance which he had a hunch led to more dastardly activities afoot. According to the message:

"Sor to bot'her you Mister Holmes, Inspector Lestrade flipped me a bob ta come fetch ya, thays playin rug'by and tha Doc got himself 'urt, says they at Baker Street."

"In his condition? What were they thinking?" He grumbled as he searched for his door key, Mrs. Hudson must have stepped out or she would have allowed him entrance, she most likely would have been up stairs commencing the scolding portion of the evening's activities.

Holmes paused at the foot of the stairs up. "Four sets of prints, three muddy, one with shoes fastidiously maintained, Doctor Perry, a Scotland Yard Police Surgeon by the size of the print, one of the rugby players was literally being lifted to keep from putting weight on his right side, the daft fool has gone and aggravated his war wound again!" he muttered under his breath.

They had been flat mates for less than a year and he had grown accustomed to his quiet breakfast companion and his Gibraltar hard stubborn streak, the man would rather suffer in silence than allow anyone to give him aid for any purpose, but this time the mulish pensioner had gone too far!

He made the landing and turned into the parlour to see Lestrade and Bradstreet still in rugby attire, their faces grave.

"Might I inquire, what possessed you two dragging a poor wounded veteran out onto the rugby pitch?" Holmes demanded as soon as he caught their attention, he borrowed one of Mrs. Hudson's patented glares and crossed his arms. "Well?"

Bradstreet was twisting his cap in shame. "We din't drag 'im anywhere 'olmes, e was waitin fer you at the Yard one day and 'eard us lamenting dat the blokes from the West Bank were bringin a ringer."

"He came up to us and asked if we could use a hand, said he played for Blackheath as a flanker few years before, said he was a fair hand, I mentioned that we were playing league but that didn't seem to bother him. I swear to you Holmes he said that he was well enough!" Lestrade explained his cheeks reddening with shame.

"Well obviously he was not," Holmes replied punctuating every word with a subtle emphasis.

"Obviously," Lestrade replied in abject misery.

Holmes was willing to let the matter pass, but curiosity got the better of him. "Was he good?"

Bradstreet answered by picking up an object that had been obscured by the ottoman. It was a battered old school trophy. "He was better than."

Lestrade smiled. "He was no duffer out there Holmes, that ringer they were bringing in he was this big bloke from Surrey, had no reason for being transferred in the city, he was tearing though our lines when Doctor Watson gave him a pop so hard that I think the braggart is still looking for his teeth!"

Both men chuckled.

Bradstreet eyed the trophy with a sense of accomplishment. "I tell you 'olmes, tha man wasn't exageratin, 'e played like a demon, barking orders to tha lads, organizing our lines, leadin tha scrum, never seen tha like."

Holmes was beginning to understand.

The Yarders had not seen Watson in these last months. They had not witnessed the despondency and listlessness that had crept into his demeanour when he thought Holmes was not watching. They did not see how lost the man had been, how little appetite at meals, or hear the nightmare cries in the dead of night. That Watson had found such animation and enjoyment in the day; it was an encouraging sign to Holmes in spite of the consequences.

Doctor Perry, snapping shut his medical bag, exited Watson's quarters and walked down the stairs shaking his head with a familiar exasperation that Holmes and Mrs. Hudson both knew well.

"Ow is 'e Doc? Bradstreet inquired as he made his feet in a rush, trophy forgotten in his big paw.

Perry paused and sighed wearily. "Other than being one of the most obstinately stubborn individuals I have ever run across, he will be fine if he stays off that hip for a day or so."

The other two men let out a sigh of relief but Holmes caught something in Perry's tone. "What's he being stubborn about?'

Perry switched his bag to his other arm. "He's still got a small fragment of bullet near his patella tendon which he is going to have removed as soon as the healing is sufficient, it shifted during one of the tackles, most likely excruciating for him, but won't take an envelope of morphine to alleviate his suffering."

He glared up the stairs at yon distant patient's door. "As a matter of fact he was rather rude in his description of what I could do with my powders."

Holmes and the other two men made a suspicious noise at that declaration, but by the time the elder man turned they were all finding other things to look at their faces flushed with restrained mirth.

"I'll be sure he takes the appropriate dosage," Holmes managed finally accepting the medicine.

Lestrade and Bradstreet exchanged a look, obviously wanting to get away from the battlefield before the cannons lined up.

"Tell the Doc we said get well," Bradstreet said as he and Lestrade evacuated. Lestrade handed Holmes the battered trophy. "He can hold on to that for us, and thank him for his inspired play."

Holmes nodded and waited until the downstairs door shut behind them.

He turned to the stairs leading up. Even with the bad hip Watson was determined to sleep up those steps. He was the most determined man that Holmes had ever met, and one of the most intriguing. It was disturbing that Watson felt his health such a casual thing to be caste away on a frivolous activity as rugby.

There was a strange tug in Holmes's chest, a depth of concern of which he could not countenance. With a start he realized just what that sensation was.

Somewhere in the intervening months of their co-habitation, he had come to care about Watson's well being, the fact he was in such straights, and that he had placed himself there just because he wanted to feel useful again, it bothered Holmes on a level he was not even aware existed.

Was this friendship? He needed more data.

He ascended with the trophy up to Watson room door and gave it a knock.

"Go away, Holmes."

"How did you deduce it was me?" Holmes called out.

"You don't know how to take one step at a time, sounds like a herd of geriatric oxen," was the pawkish reply.

Holmes had to smile at that. It was good to hear that his sense of humour was intact at the very least.

"I'm coming in."

"If you must."

He opened the door to a darkened room, the lone window above offering the dying light of late afternoon. Watson was lying in his night clothes under a light sheet on his good hip to take pressure off the injured one, his back to the door.

The man still looked far too wan and thin, the dark tan had faded from deep brown to a light yellow, his face was still relatively unlined, reminding you that in spite of the haunted eyes, here was a man who had yet to see his thirtieth year.

Holmes walked around the bed and pulled a chair up, Watson had his eyes closed, there was evidence of strain in his white knuckled grip on the spread, sweat at his brow, his lips tight in a grimace and his face was pale. For Watson to be revealing this much pain meant it was daunting indeed.

"What do you want?" Watson said opening his eyes, the pain shown in those bright hazel depths but so did anger and rage at his betraying body.

Holmes saw a water pitcher and glass with several envelopes of morphine.

"I want you to take this morphine, your moans of agony might interfere with my musings," Holmes replied crossing his legs in an insouciant manner.

There was a twinkle of relief in Watson's eyes at Holmes lack of sympathy as he murmured, "We certainly can't have that!"

Holmes nodded in a manner most grave. "I can only tolerate so many cries of agony before my limit of patience is reached, so do take this medicine, old boy, there's a chap."

He emptied the contents of a single envelope into a glass of water, stirred it clear then offered it.

Watson glowered at him as he accepted it, drinking the contents with a wince and handing it back in a manner that showed his irritation. "Is there anything more you require of me?"

Holmes placed the glass with the water pitcher. "While we are on the subject, I would appreciate it if you would go ahead and return to some manner of healthy form, if you keep involving yourself in questionable activities and refusing to eat your portion, then I may have to look outside my lodgings for a partner to help me in my work, when I was going to ask you for aid," he informed with mock exasperation.

Watson's eyes were wary. "You want to clarify that last remark?"

Holmes stood. "I will as soon as you get to the point that will allow you to act upon it."

He placed the battered trophy on the stand within Watson's line of sight. "The Yard lads said thank you for your effort."

He headed for the door pausing before exiting. "Mrs. Hudson will be back soon, I am sure she will not mind bringing you a tray up here , I may join you because eating alone is rather inconvenient, shall I tell her to bring you your usual half portion?"

Watson's back was still to the door as he replied. "Rugby gave me an appetite; Morphine is bloody hell on an empty stomach. full amount if she would be so kind."

"Very well, rest up will you, this cranky demeanour is beginning grate on my nerves," Holmes called with a mild tease in his voice.

"If I don't have to listen to your inane chatter and deal with you plying me with opiates, maybe I shall!" he shot back over his shoulder.

Holmes pulled the door to.

As he descended he thought of his hasty words. Partner in his work? The idea was not as abhorrent as he once thought. Could this be friendship?

The warm feeling in his heart told him empirically, it might be so.

He still needed more data.

Fine


This idea came from the knowledge of Watson's character. This was a man who had spent his entire life wanting to make a difference, to be stuck in this betraying body as a cripple without employment would have been a kind of death to him. He would do anything to escape that even to the detriment of his health.

thanks for reading!

Bart