Disclaimer: I don't own Sherlock Holmes. *sigh*
A/N: This is set sometime after the movie, with Holmes and Watson in an established relationship.
This is my first time writing in present tense and writing slash. *is nervous* It's self-beta'ed, so if there are any errors (likely with the tense) I apologize...none of my usual betas read slash. So goes life. I'm really fond of this, and it might be one of the better things I've written, so I hope it works. Heh.
Watson comes in the door at a quarter past nine and silently takes a seat. Holmes knows something's wrong by the mixed expression of guilt and despair on his face and sits up a little straighter in his chair.
"Watson? Care to tell me what happened this evening?" Holmes asks. When Watson doesn't reply, he notes, "You smell strongly of alcohol, but you don't appear drunk, so you must have been in contact with people who were. Gambling, am I right?"
"As always, Holmes," Watson admits reluctantly, shamed. "And I lost the rent again."
Holmes takes the news well, as if it's no great surprise to him. Instead, he stands and puts on a jacket. "Well, I suppose I'll have to get it back. I need you to be with me to place the bets."
At Watson's slow nod, Holmes squeezes his shoulder and assures him, "It's no trouble, really. We'll lose a quiet evening with Gladstone, but we'll get the money back. Are you ready to leave?"
"If you are," Watson says quietly, and they leave through the door he entered through not five minutes ago.
The crowd jostles Watson as he tries to step closer to the ring. Giving up the idea as a loss, he moves to one end that affords a narrow view and settles in, leaning against his cane for support. He's been standing for almost an hour now, and his leg is starting to bother him.
He shouldn't be complaining. All he has to do is stand there, place the bets, and watch the fights. He doesn't have to go out there and actually do the fighting. He wishes Holmes didn't have to, either, but it's the only way to make up the lost money. To be honest, he isn't sure how he got his money out of Holmes' drawer to gamble it away in the first place, but here they are. Again.
Holmes steps into the ring again, sweating but mostly unhurt. He's well-warmed up with three wins already, and he smiles at Watson from across the room. If he wins this, they'll have enough money for rent and they can go home.
A medium-sized man of stocky build follows him, and Watson knows Holmes has already begun analyzing his opponent: the man's solidly built, so he's likely not as agile as Holmes, and he's favoring his right leg very slightly, perhaps because of an ankle injury. However, there aren't any signs that he's a heavy drinker, and he's still taller than Holmes, giving him a possible advantage.
The match begins and the man—Watson overhears someone saying his name is Gaines—lunges for Holmes, an attack he easily fends off. Gaines attempts to land a blow four more times, and Holmes repels him with a dart to the left or right.
Watson can tell Holmes thinks the fight is over when he advances on Gaines. Suddenly Gaines drops the incompetence act and sidesteps a punch and sends one of his own to land on Holmes' ribcage. In a matter of seconds, he lands another in the same location along with one to the stomach.
On his next try, Holmes whips out his fist and connects with Gaines' wrist. Howling at the dislocated joint, Gaines literally runs into Holmes and shoves him to the ground. Holmes hits hard, and Watson notices with some worry that his head seems to hit the side of the ring.
This is the part he hates. Right here, when Holmes gets hurt and Watson knows it's all his fault, because if he hadn't blown the money on gambling, Holmes wouldn't have to fight tonight. Watson's chest is tight with fear of serious injury and attempts to repress the twofold urge to run out there and help. He is a doctor, after all.
Holmes is slow to get up, and he's supporting himself on the wooden railing when Gaines sends a hook flying at him, connecting with the same spot on the ribcage as before. He's trying to beat Holmes into submission by weakening one particular point, Watson notices. It's working on one end, not working on another, since Holmes isn't about to give up soon. But the punches continue to come, beating him down bit by bit, leaving more bruises in their wake.
Finally, a fist to the nose distracts Gaines enough for Holmes to land a series of quick blows, though there's a longer gap between them than usual. One damages Gaines' left hand and leaves him with no means of attacking save his legs. Holmes remedies this by shooting out a kick to the knee, dislocating it.
Watson sees Holmes' mouth move and assumes he's asking Gaines if he wants to continue. Apparently Gaines declines, and Holmes is declared winner, after which he exits the ring.
Winding his way through the crowd, Watson collects the money and then rushes to Holmes, who staggers towards him.
"Remind me to avoid facing him in the future," Holmes jokes, but his attempt at levity is eclipsed by the lack of color in his face. "You collected the money, didn't you?"
"Yes, I did," Watson says, reaching forward to steady Holmes by the elbow. "Now let's get you home."
Holmes lies on the bed on his right side—the less painful of the two—and watches Watson build up the fire. He had to nearly strip earlier so Watson could check for all injuries, and now he has a blanket pulled up past his hips. Watson's worried about him catching a cold on top of everything, so he keeps fussing with the fire.
After a few minutes, Holmes comments, "I think the fire will survive without your care for now, Watson."
"Is there any more water over there?"
"Yes." Watson brings him a glass, and Holmes manages to drink some of it despite the fact that he's lying down.
"Are you comfortable? I can get you another pillow if you'd like." Watson looks quite uncomfortable himself and meshes his fingers together as he waits for an answer.
Holmes shifts a little on the mattress. "Yes, I'm as comfortable as I can be. You've done a fine job patching me up. What do I have, exactly?"
"Four ribs broken, two cracked, two broken fingers I've already set, a nasty concussion, and assorted cuts and bruises," Watson lists automatically. "You may have outdone yourself. Unfortunately, because of the concussion, I'll have to wake you every hour tonight."
"Oh, good. It's nearly morning."
"Midnight does not count, Holmes." Watson turns away, but Holmes' next words stop him.
"Have I done something wrong?"
When Watson turns back, his jaw's dropped slightly from the shock of the words. "Absolutely not, Holmes! Why would you think that?"
He has to look away after a few seconds, though. Watson meant to hold eye contact, demand an answer, but he can't stand looking at Holmes for long. It's because of him that Holmes is lying there with taped ribs and fingers, a short gash cutting across his temple. As the fire casts light across his bare chest, Watson sees a collection of forming bruises that turn the skin into a veritable painter's palette.
"Come sit, Watson," Holmes bids him, and Watson has no choice but to comply. He perches awkwardly on the edge of the bed, holding himself stiffly upright.
"Why do you think you're at fault for something?" Watson repeats his earlier question, determined to find out the source and correct it.
"Maybe because I generally am," Holmes responds lightly. He looks up at Watson. "In this particular instance, you're tending to be brief in addressing me, and you won't look in my direction for any considerable length of time. However, your need to keep your hands occupied suggests your irritation is directed inwards."
"I have no need to keep my hands busy," Watson protests.
"Lie down, dear boy. As for your hands…you spent an unusual amount of time on making sure I was properly bandaged, you fussed over the fire for nearly seven minutes, you keep straightening the items on the table, and between tasks you twist your hands about."
Watson listens to all this as he makes sure the blanket's tucked firmly around Holmes' waist and eases himself onto the mattress, mindful of Holmes' ribs. He'd already removed his jacket and shoes upon returning to the room, so he feels comfortable there in pants and shirt.
Once Watson's lying down, Holmes moves closer and blinks owlishly in Watson's face. "So, is your irritation directed inwards?"
This earns him a small smile. "It's not so much irritation as it is guilt. You know that I hate seeing you hurt, and I feel terrible that it's on my account."
"I'm sure you do, and I appreciate it," Holmes says softly, trailing his fingers up and down Watson's back, dipping beneath the shirt at times. "But I can tell you honestly that I do not mind it, even when I get hurt, because it's for you. Yes, I would prefer you didn't gamble, but for every man there is a vice. Goodness knows I have more than my fair share."
"I won't gamble away the rent again," Watson vows, conviction brightening his eyes.
"I have no doubt that you will, Watson, at some point in the future," Holmes gently disagrees. "And when that day comes again, I assure you I will not mind making up the money, just as it is now."
Holmes' eyes are on him now, the dark brown full of more forgiveness than Watson can bear. He feels another rush of relief that Mary broke off the engagement, citing his distance and unpredictable hours as issues. It's a good thing she left, because now Watson's heart belongs wholly to the short detective next to him.
"I—thank you," Watson whispers, kissing Holmes on the cheek.
Holmes' lips curve into a smile. "Care to show me how grateful you are?" he asks, teasing, eyes dancing merrily. "Just be gentle with me, Watson."
Be gentle with me. Watson remembers the plea thrown out to deaf ears as he mercilessly threw back the curtains, no doubt causing Holmes a considerable amount of pain from the combination of sunshine and a hangover. Regardless, Holmes just finished telling him to not fret about his injuries, so Watson pushes back all traces of guilt. He rolls so he's on top of Holmes, arms supporting his weight so he doesn't cause further damage, and shows him.
Afterwards, Holmes rests his head on Watson's chest and hums contentedly. His breath tickles against Watson's skin, but Watson chuckles and draws the detective closer, pressing a kiss to the top of his head. "You should really get some sleep," Watson reminds him.
"What about you?" Holmes mutters. "I'm at least accustomed to long periods without sleep. You are not."
"I have to wake you up every hour, remember? Now sleep."
"Alright." Holmes slides up and kisses Watson gently before resuming his former position. Within minutes, his breathing evens out and he's asleep.
Watson threads his fingers through Holmes' wild hair and glances at the clock. One hour, then. It's the least he can do.
Thanks for reading! If you have the time, let me know what you think. Every review is appreciated.