Holmes fell to his knees beside Watson, who was whimpering in pain, shudders wracking his muscular lycanthropic body.
"Watson," Holmes gently reached out towards the blade, "I am sorry, my dear fellow… but I must remove the knife…"
He grasped the blade firmly, and pulled it free, grimacing at the sight of the dark blood in the half-light of the moon. Watson flinched, but made no other sound or movement. Holmes waited for any sign that the wound was healing, as he had expected, but frowned when there was no sign that the bleeding was stopping.
"Holmes… the blade… silver… get rid of it!"
Holmes stared at the weapon in his hand – of course! The proximity of the metal sapped Watson's strength, and no doubt prevented the wound from closing… Holmes got to his feet, running as fast as he could; the Thames was nearby – he reached the bank, and flung the knife with all of his might. It flashed in the moonlight, and then disappeared into the murky waters with a splash.
Holmes came back to the alley to find Watson trying to stand; the wound still oozed blood, but he favoured the damaged arm, limping forwards on three limbs.
"We should… we should return to Baker Street," Watson whispered, even as he panted with pain and exhaustion, "if… if we take the back routes… no one will see."
"My dear Watson; surely you should rest a while, to see if the wound will close on its own? You have remarkable powers of healing."
"I also have remarkable hearing," Watson replied, "our little encounter with Bryce has attracted some attention; police whistles are blowing all over the city. There are several constables on their way as we speak."
"Damn," Holmes said, softly, "I so rarely have cause to curse the Yard for efficiency! This way, Watson; we will not be seen."
Holmes led his wounded friend through several back-alleys, running parallel to the main roads, keeping out of sight, often having to hide in shadows to avoid people who passed them by without a glance. Once, a stray dog opened its mouth the bark at Holmes; Watson emerged from the shadows behind the detective, and growled at it. The dog whimpered and rolled onto its back, and they passed by silently.
Eventually, they reached the back of their Baker Street lodgings.
"We cannot go through the back door," Holmes whispered, "Mrs Hudson sleeps right next the kitchen. The last time I tried it, I woke her and she nearly knocked me out with a rolling pin, thinking me a burglar."
"The window is open," Watson pointed, "I can climb the wall, and squeeze through it…"
"Watson, your shoulder…"
"The bleeding has all but stopped. I can manage, if you can make it up the drainpipe."
"It would not be the first time."
The two of them scaled the wall, effectively breaking into their own home. The fire blazed merrily in the hearth, and Mrs Hudson had left a covered plate of sandwiches on the table with a low-lit gas lamp and a pitcher of water. She was used to her tenants being out at odd hours, but, to her mind, this did not mean that they should skip meals.
Holmes closed the window behind them as Watson crawled along the floor and slumped down on the rug in front of the fire. Holmes knelt beside him and examined the wound in his shoulder; the bleeding had opened up again. Holmes fetched a towel, soaked it in water, and pressed it firmly over the injury. Watson gave a low, canine whine of pain, but made no other sound.
The fact that the wound had not yet healed worried him, and he caught Watson looking at him.
"Upstairs," Watson panted, fixing Holmes with an urgent, pleading look, "I need to get upstairs, before… before sunrise…"
Holmes nodded in understanding, standing back to allow Watson to haul himself to all fours. Holmes went ahead, opening the doors, as Watson limped up the stairs, to his bedroom. He glanced at the bed, dubiously, and then lay down on the floor instead. Holmes glanced at him, and replaced the blood-stained towel over the shoulder wound. He then went to the wardrobe, and laid out some fresh clothes. Crossing to the window, he glanced outside. The sky was beginning to lighten.
He turned around at the pained, gravely whisper. Watson was struggling to get up, trying to stand.
"Leave me… please… it's happening again…"
Wanting desperately to assist, Holmes hesitated, but it was only respect for Watson's privacy and his friend's fierce pride that forced him to turn his back. He would stay, but he would not watch. He covered his face with his hands despairingly as a canine whimper became a very human moan, a low, agonized sound. Holmes did not turn at the sounds of movements, allowing Watson a moment to prepare himself. He heard the creak of bed springs and a rustle of blankets, and then he finally turned around.
Watson had made it into the bed, pain and exhaustion written on his pale features. Holmes crossed over to him, and sat down on the edge of the bed. Watson had donned trousers, but had not bothered with a night-shirt. The wound to his shoulder was red and ugly; crusted with dried blood and already blackening with bruising. Watson's hand flicked towards it, but his energy was too spent for him to do anything practical.
"Leave it to me, old fellow," Holmes told him, quietly.
He went downstairs and retrieved the medical kit, returning to the upper room. He dressed the wound, and administered a dose of morphine for the pain. Watson looked at him blearily, and Holmes gave him a gentle smile.
"Rest now, my dear fellow," Holmes told him, softly, "dawn is here, and you are safe."
"Holmes… I… I never thanked you… for the aconite…"
"Do not dwell on it, Watson. It is not every day a man is thanked for poisoning his friend…!"
It was gone midday before Watson finally awoke. Late sunlight streamed through the gap in the curtains, and he glanced around, fuzzily. His shoulder ached, and, examining the wound, he winced; it was still open and ugly. It seemed silver-induced injuries were a lot harder to recover from than what he was coming to think of as 'normal' wounds. Had Holmes not removed and disposed of the knife, Watson had no doubt he might have lain there and simply bled to death helplessly. Holmes had dressed the wound neatly, so Watson simply replaced the bandage.
He rose, and carefully got dressed. His arm was stiff, sluggish, the shoulder burning with pain, his hand swollen and heavy. He was sweating a little by the time he was dressed, though he had already checked and the wound was not infected. Reluctantly, he tied up a rudimentary sling from the triangular bandage in his kit, slipped it over his head, and awkwardly worked his arm into it. That should keep the pain and swelling at bay…
Satisfied with his self-treatment, Watson stepped out of his room, and heard voices downstairs. When he entered the sitting room, he found what his senses had already told him that he would; Holmes and Lestrade, engaged in some sort of argument. Lestrade looked annoyed, while Holmes had adopted his most irritatingly casual air.
"…But if there is no body, how can you expect me to deduce a crime from some distant noises and a few blood traces?" Holmes was saying, "Ah! Watson. How are you feeling, old chap? I was just telling Lestrade that the bite from the hound wasn't quite so healed as you managed to lead us to believe…"
"Oh… yes, of course," Watson touched the sling, and winced, "fine, thank you…"
Watson nodded to Lestrade, favouring him with a pained smile, as he eased himself into his armchair. The wound still burned, but the pain had lessened, and he tuned into the conversation.
"Perhaps you can talk him into helping us, doctor," Lestrade grumbled.
"The Inspector was just telling me that there was an incident in the docklands last night," Holmes said, in a deceptively light tone, "apparently, witnesses heard the sounds of a violent fight, but when the nearest constables arrived, they found nothing but a few blood traces."
"Then I fail to see what there is to investigate," Watson yawned, not having to pretend his weariness; oh, how he was beginning to loathe silver!
"Witnesses heard a dog howling, and reported that they thought a wild dog had been set on someone," Lestrade replied, "God knows, Holmes, I've had enough of cases about rabid dogs!"
"I still fail to see what you expect me to do about it," Holmes rejoined, "especially as there is no body and no witnesses who actually saw anything."
"So you're not interested?"
"I have already tracked down one gigantic hound this week," Holmes waved his hand dismissively; "I doubt some stray mutt will be of much interest after that. Send out a dog-catcher, Lestrade; don't waste my time with trivialities."
"Fine," Lestrade sighed, and stood, "I just thought it might interest you; I know you haven't had any decent cases since Dartmoor…"
"And if you brought me a decent case, Lestrade, I would be interested," Holmes said, dryly.
"Then I'll leave you to your boredom," Lestrade shot back, getting to his feet, "Good day, gentlemen…"
He touched his hat respectfully, and left quietly. There was a long moment of silence, before they heard the front door slam.
"At least we were not observed," Watson commented, at last.
"How is your shoulder?"
"Healing, slowly… that is to say, much faster than it ought to and slower than any other wound I have had since the hound's bite!"
Holmes crossed to the table, and poured him a cup of tea from the pot on the table. Watson accepted it with thanks with his good hand, as Holmes sat down in the chair beside him. A companionable silence stretched between them.
"Holmes," Watson said at last, "what are you thinking? I can smell the curiosity on you…"
"Ah! I am going to have to work harder to disguise things from you," Holmes exclaimed, "my apologies Watson. I was merely wondering how you are… how you are coping?"
"Well enough," Watson replied, with a shrug and a wince, "I think… I shall continue to research the condition, and hope for a cure. Now we know that we can control the worst of it, we can make the best of it."
"Agreed… your abilities could prove very useful in our cases," Holmes remarked.
"And I've always wanted a pet dog…" Watson joked.
"Maybe we should get you a collar," Holmes smirked, "and a leash – I could take you for walks around Hyde Park – it would be an excellent disguise for trailing someone!"
A/N: Thanks for reading. Please let me know what you thought. I was tempted to find a way to "heal" Watson, but I am selfish - I so much enjoyed writing him as a friendly werewolf that I might well do a sequel! If anyone has any ideas/suggestions - I think you call them "plot bunnies"? - please do send them my way. Cheers!