A one-shot of fluff with fluff on top! I hope you enjoy!
I sadly do not own the characters!
Sherlock Holmes, the great detective himself, Watson calculates, is now no more than two inches away from setting his hair on fire.
He has been nodding over that same candle for over an hour now, his head sinking progressively lower and lower, chin sinking down to chest, then jerking awake and upright just before his hair actually touches the flame itself. After the first few times, he has silently attempted to wake himself up, checking over the various chemicals that bubble and spit on his well-loved chemistry set before him, but after a while he appears so wearied that he merely opens his eyelids for a few seconds before letting them fall closed once more and repeats the same action all over again.
Watson sits sprawled across his chair opposite, one eye on the page of his latest sea adventure novel (the kind of which Holmes despises and Watson covets) and the other on the increasingly wearied state of his roommate. It is not that late at night, but has been thunderous all day, so they have both stayed in their rooms rather than face the vicious weather. It is still stormy now; he can hear the rain battering incessantly against the curtained windows.
Holmes head nods over the flame, just slightly too close this time, his face slipping off his supporting hand, and Watson says loudly, "Holmes," before he really does set himself on fire and Mrs Hudson has to be woken up.
Holmes jerks awake, with his familiar momentary wide-eyed stare of one who has forgotten where they are, and then he focuses on Watson and his bubbling chemistry set, and grunts grumpily.
Watson returns his attention to his book, turning a page.
"If you're tired, go to sleep, old boy."
Holmes makes a further sound, this time one of denial, and attempts to turn himself back to his chemicals.
Watson glances up five minutes later to find the great detective once more drowsing over his desk. This time he throws a ball of rolled up newspaper at him, which glances off his head and wrenches him back into the real world with a start.
"Wha? Wazzit?" He stares around wildly for a moment, then focuses back vaguely on Watson, looking puzzled. Watson glares at him.
"Holmes, you've not slept for three days - possibly four, if I remember correctly. You have to sleep."
"I'm fine," Holmes protests.
"You've been dropping off for over an hour now. Go to sleep." He looks back to his novel.
Holmes fiddles with an empty test-tube.
"I can't," he says quietly.
Watson glances up from his book. Holmes examines the flame of the candle through the glass of his test-tube, not meeting the doctor's eyes.
"I keep…thinking," he says faintly.
"About?" Watson's voice is petulant, but Holmes still refuses to look at him. He is staring at the candle as if he has never seen fire before, examining the red-gold glow on his fingertips as he holds his hand close to it. From this angle, Watson can see the red scar illuminated on his arm, a mark of their last adventure. A sudden thought springs to his mind, but he keeps his peace.
"Dreams," says Holmes finally, staring at the candle as if the intensity of his gaze could extinguish it. "I keep dreaming about - I dream about - "
But Watson has already - to coin a phrase - deduced it, and says it for him.
Holmes, unable to do much more, nods tightly.
The girl. One of the rare ones that they are unable to save. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes they are too late. A few days ago they finished a case that ended in disaster. A house had burned down. The kidnapped girl of their client had been inside it - a young girl, twelve at the most. Holmes had realised what was going to occur only a split second before it had, and they had arrived in time to hear her screams but too late to do anything about it.
No wonder Holmes has nightmares, Watson thinks, remembering the screams with his own chill of horror. No wonder he does not sleep.
He looks back over at Holmes. Holmes is passing his finger distractedly over the top of the flame, cheek in hand, eyes dark.
"You couldn't have done anything, Holmes," he says quietly.
Holmes's face darkens; fury - at himself, at the world, at everything - writes itself across his eyes.
"I couldn't have done anything," he snarls. "Of course I could have, I could have done a thousand things, don't be a damned fool, I could have done - I could have - " And instead of plunging his finger inside the naked flame, which Watson is half expecting, he curses and runs both hands through his already irreparable hair and draws his fingers across his eyes and sits very still.
The wind howls at the window, the rain lashed alongside it. Watson silently puts his book down and pads over to where Holmes is sitting, kneeling down so that he is just below Holmes's eye level.
Holmes does not move, his hands are still across his eyes.
"You did what you did," Watson says, examining that face avidly. "You did everything you could. No one blames you."
Holmes does not remove his hands from his eyes, but he speaks, in a low, soft voice.
"I should have thought - I should have considered - " He removes his hands from his eyes, folds them neatly on the desk in front of them and stares into the candle flame as if he can see through it into another world.
"It is my fault she is dead," he says dully.
And that just about does it - Watson finds himself suddenly seizing Holmes's hands with one of his own in an iron-tight clasp he didn't know he had, and gripping Holmes's chin with the other, bring his face round forcibly to face Watson's.
"Don't," he hears himself snap, from far away, it seems. "Don't you dare blame yourself. It was her sick kidnapper who killed her, it was not you. You tried to save her. My God, Holmes! You tried, where others would not have even bothered to care."
Holmes is staring at Watson with a mixture of guilt and faint astonishment, and Watson realised suddenly how tightly he is clutching Holmes's chin. He lets go gently, but keeps his other hand on Holmes's.
"It is not your fault there is evil in the world," he says quietly, to his knees.
There is a small silence. The world outside Baker Street screams at the windows.
Holmes coughs and says meekly, "I - ", but Watson realises he isn't done, and interrupts him.
"You can't save everyone, Holmes. Not all the time. As a doctor, I think I'm more qualified to say that than a lot of people." He glances sardonically up at Holmes, to find that the man is staring down at him intensely, drinking in every word, every gesture on Watson's face, as if it is the holiest of scriptures. It makes him nervous, and a little flattered. "Sometimes," he says simply. "You just have to let them go, and accept that this is what is meant to happen."
Holmes's lips twitch, and Watson recalls how fervently Holmes is against any sort of higher power - the man is too decided that it is his own actions which make his fate, too determined that he is the one who is control of his life, that ideas such as destiny will never even figure in his mind. Nevertheless, when Holmes says, predictably snidely, "You mean - leave it to a higher authority?", Watson still says, obstinately, "Yes."
He expects Holmes to argue with him a little more, but when only silence greets his stubbornness, he looks up to find his friend is once more staring over at the candle, watching the flame dance and flicker in the air, illuminating his dark and tired gaze.
"Perhaps," says Holmes, is all that he will say, and Watson knows he has to be content with that.
His leg is protesting; he stands, pats Holmes's unmoving hands and, bizarrely he thinks later, leans forward and kisses the side of his detective's forehead lightly, lips just brushing skin, leaving a trail of warmth and comfort behind.
"Try and get some sleep, dear boy," he says quietly, then retreats, deciding that he himself is tired, and that the day has wearied himself enough for him to be ready for bed. He glances behind him as he reaches for the doorknob. Holmes is still sitting, though, as Watson watches, he licks his fingers and reaches forward, extinguishing the candle's flame as gently as possible, watching the faint shadow of smoke twist up in the air as if it is a spirit, a ghost in need of watching as it transgresses into nothing, or into something more.
Watson leaves his bedroom door a little ajar and makes sure the second half of his bed is neat and made. Sure enough, not much later, Holmes appears at his door, a little shadow amongst shadows. The storm has lessened enough for Watson to hear him shift a little nervously on the floor, before he says, "I wonder - ?"
Watson is already beckoning to him and pulling back the bedclothes, and Holmes takes his place, with the minimum amount of fuss, for him. They lie silently and separately in the dark for a while, and Holmes is so quiet, his breathing so regular, that Watson wonders if he has already dropped off, but then his hand creeps slowly along the bedclothes to Watson's, and grips it so tightly that Watson is amazed his fingers aren't glowing white.
He squeezes Holmes's fingers, a reassurance that he is there, that he is still here, that he will be always be here, and is relieved when, finally, Holmes's grip lessens and his body relaxes into sleep.
The storm wails itself into nothing, bringing the next day as one of bright and brittle sunlight.
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