The Only Person
It had only been flurries when Holmes left the hotel but now Watson could hear the wind whistling, sending torrents of snow swirling through the air as he stared anxiously out the window. He'd been gone nearly an hour now and it was all the doctor could do not to panic.
The pursuit of their latest killer had led them into the English countryside in the dead of winter, the snow causing them to hole up in an inn for the night. Holmes, however, had been quite convinced that the killer was just barely out of their grasp and that he could find him easily.
"I'm going back out," he had said after dinner, winding his scarf tightly about his neck and pulling his cap down low.
"You must be joking," Watson exclaimed, "No one's going to be traversing the roads in this!"
"It's no matter, Watson," said he, shrugging his coat back on, "I'm going by foot."
"Holmes, you've done some questionable things in our time together but I think this one really…"
"I'll be fine, dear doctor, you needn't worry about me."
Watson rose to his feet and made to grab his coat when Holmes stopped him with a hand on his arm, "Watson, you cannot make this journey. You've already said how the cold was bothering your leg." He opened his mouth to protest but Holmes quickly cut him off, "Now you just sit down and relax and I'll be back before you know it."
Watson set him with a firm gaze, still not convinced, but he knew Holmes would not back down. Finally, he sighed and went to sit down in the chair by the window, leaving the detective to his task. The closing of the door unsettled his stomach in a way that he knew meant disaster.
The snow was coming down even harder now and he wondered how anyone could even see where they were going out there. He chewed his lip as his mind clearly betrayed scenes of upmost terror to him; Holmes collapsed in the snow somewhere, Holmes shot to death by the killer, Holmes unable to free himself from an icy death in a hidden stream… he shut his eyes tightly against the images but he could not will them away. He took one last look at the chaos outside and stood, knowing what he must do.
He pulled on his coat and boots, tied his scarf and put on his hat before leaving the room. He made his way down the stairs, passing a maid on the way.
"May God be with you sir, it's quite the blizzard if I ever seen one," she said, giving him a concerned glance over her shoulder before going about her duties. Her words only chilled him further but he gathered his wits and with a deep breath, he left through the front door.
The gust of cold wind seemed to knock the air right from his lungs and the door slammed shut viciously behind him. He pulled his scarf up high over his nose and set off down the road in the direction they had been heading before they stopped at the inn. The killer, Holmes had deduced, was heading towards his father's country home about five miles away to hide for the night and that is where he had set off to earlier. Watson staggered along, the icy gusts cutting at his skin like daggers, piercing straight through his clothes. He remembered the gloves in his pocket and fumbled them on, not that they were of much help anyway.
His leg was beginning to protest but he fervently ignored it and pressed onwards, blind determination fueling his efforts. He could barely see through his eyes that were constantly watering and he could feel the tears freezing on his face.
"HOLMES!" he cried, hoping absurdly that he could hear him through the monstrous racket of the storm. He kept calling as he trudged on, at one point encountering a deep drift that had him buried up to his knees. He managed to haul himself out of it, his whole body throbbing with the cold and his soaked trouser bottoms clinging to his legs.
He kept calling and calling him until his voice cracked and then they were harsh whispers, prayers. He came to a stop then, his lungs burning and clung to the old fence that lined the road, icy and thick with snow. He leaned against it; feeling desperate and exhausted, what little composure he had left about to shatter, but knew he could not just turn back. He would search until morning if he had to.
And that's when he saw it; the dark shape, partially covered with snow. His heart leapt with hope and he took a step toward it until he could see strands of unmistakable black hair being whipped around by the wind. He wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry as he struggled toward what he now knew to be the figure of Holmes and dropped to his knees beside him. The detective was unconscious; pale, his lips tinged with blue and ice in his hair. Watson's stomach fell and he began to run his hands over Holmes's face, calling his name again, his voice hoarse. There was no response. His shaking fingers pushed down the detective's scarf and pressed on his neck, searching for a pulse. Nothing…he removed his gloves and pressed again, praying more fiercely than he had ever prayed in his life. There it was: a slowing but present beat. He thought at first that he had imagined it but a second test proved it to be true.
Watson barely noticed the tears as they slid down his face, crystallizing there and his smile was so wide it was hurting his cheeks. Though soon his doctor's instincts kicked in and he knew there was no time to waste. He quickly brushed all the snow off of Holmes and pulled the smaller man into his arms. His leg gave a dull ache as he stood though the rest of his lower body had grown blessedly numb. His exhaustion didn't seem as important with the weight of his rapidly fading friend in his arms and he found himself persevering as he never thought he could.
After what seemed like an eternity, he could see the golden glow of the inn ahead of them and he quickened his pace until he found himself kicking the door roughly with a foot that he could no longer feel. The door was opened by the stunned innkeeper who wasted no time in helping him inside.
"Sir, do you need any…"
"Hot water. Now," he demanded in a strained voice and then made for the stairs. His feet felt like they were made of lead and he feared once or twice that he might fall but he would let no one take Holmes from him even for an instant.
He stumbled into their room and laid him down carefully on one of the beds. He set immediately at removing Holmes's shoes. He then removed his wet coat and grabbed all the blankets off his own bed to cover him. The maid from before showed up then with a bucket of hot water and a cloth.
"Thank you," he muttered brusquely and took them from her, returning to Holmes's bedside.
"Shall I bring more blankets, sir?" she asked.
"Yes," he replied a little more loudly than he should have and she left the room in a flurry of skirts.
He sat on the bed next to him, setting the bucket down on the nightstand that separated the beds and soaked the cloth. He pressed it against Holmes's cheeks and forehead and then began to rub gently. "Come on Holmes," he spoke to him. He then pulled Holmes's hands out from under the blankets, rubbing them with his own, flexing them out of their locked position.
"Tssonn…" Watson stopped what he was doing, his eyes fixed on the face of his friend.
"Watson…" he muttered, his eyes flickering but not opening.
He kept up his ministrations and continued to speak to him, "I'm here. Come on old, boy…wake up…"
The maid returned with the blankets and towels and another girl followed with two steaming cups of tea on a tray. Watson muttered another thank you as he took the blankets and bundled them around Holmes, not taking notice of the girl with the tea.
"You should drink this sir," she ventured quietly, "You're shaking like a leaf."
"I'll be fine," Watson replied tersely, soaking the cloth again.
"There's frost in your mustache."
He sighed, "Fine, set it there," he conceded, gesturing towards the table.
She did as she was told and then followed the other maid out the door. He grabbed a towel and started to dry Holmes's hair, hoping to rouse him some more. As he did so, the detective's eyes slowly slid open and he regarded the doctor blearily.
"Watson..." he said again, blinking.
The other man grinned broadly, "Thank God," he whispered, "How do you feel?"
"Mm…feet…my feet hurt."
"Feet! Yes." Watson hastily removed Holmes's wet socks and tossed them on the floor. He then filled the wash basin with hot water from the bucket and set it on the floor. "Pardon me for this," he said and grabbed Holmes's legs, pulling him down the bed until his feet rested in the water.
Holmes hissed at the shock and said after a few moments that it felt better. Watson normally wouldn't be so abrupt but the terror of nearly losing Holmes had made him frantic.
"You're lucky you didn't get frost bite," he said, "Mind if I sit you up?"
"No," Holmes replied and Watson gathered some pillows, propping them under Holmes until he was inclined enough to drink. "Can you feel your fingers yet, Holmes?"
"Somewhat," he said, trying to flex them and wincing.
Watson the right in his hands, rubbing it and then bringing it up to his mouth to blow warm air onto it and then did the same with the left. Holmes watched him all the while, his dark eyes filled with affection. It was a while before Watson noticed this and he paused when he did, staring back at him.
"Thank you," Holmes said quietly, "Not many people would run out into a blizzard to save my stupid arse."
"Actually, I'm the only person that would run out into a blizzard to save your stupid arse," Watson teased but his smile slowly faded as the gravity of what could have happened settled onto his shoulders once again, "I thought I had lost you, you know."
"Come now Watson, you can't get rid of me that easily," Holmes joked with a warm grin.
The only reply he could manage was to gently kiss the back of Holmes's fingers; everything he could have said, summed up in that one gesture.
"Watson…" Holmes said, gazing up at him.
"Your tea is getting cold."
(A/N: Please review!)