Summary: Gladstone finds a home and Holmes gets a cold.
A/N: Written and posted for challenge 003 (allergy) on the mere_appendix community on LiveJournal.
How the bulldog pup came to be in Watson's Gladstone medical bag was a mystery even Holmes couldn't solve. But the question of origin was soon dismissed, for Watson was rather fond of dogs and Mrs. Hudson seemed willing to tolerate having one in her house so long as it didn't stain the rugs.
Holmes wanted to know the purpose of retaining an animal in one's home if not as an experimental subject, but his question was ignored by Watson and Mrs. Hudson, who were busily deciding how to care for the "cute little thing." After it had been washed, Holmes had to admit it might be considered cute, and he ventured to touch its fur. The pup took an immediate liking to him, burrowing up against his hand with its wet nose and falling asleep atop his slipper (with his foot still inside it, of course).
Holmes watched with some bemusement as Watson took it on walks and tried to teach it not to urinate on the floor, though several pairs of shoes were casualties in that conflict. Watson eventually decided their pup was male, though the question of a name was met with frustration and dissatisfaction until Holmes made an off-handed comment about the bag in which he'd been found and Watson decided the name was perfect.
Gladstone had been at Baker Street for about a month when Holmes hit a lull in cases and was able to fully observe the animal in his new habitat. Watson had purchased a number of items for the pup, though Gladstone ignored the round bed cushion in favor of flopping in front of the fire (Holmes had to agree with him on that point) and he seemed to dislike the soap for dogs that Watson had to use on him almost daily (Holmes had to agree with him on that point, as well -the stuff smelled like a perfume shop). Gladstone ate heartily, drank messily, played at brief intervals, slept an astounding amount of the time, and appeared to have a tendency to flatulate often. Holmes wondered if that could be remedied chemically, but he made the mistake of theorizing aloud on the subject to Watson, who looked horrified and insisted they would resolve the matter in the typical fashion: with a change in diet.
Holmes was half-inclined to try experimenting anyway, but he was distracted from this activity by a bad summer cold complete with pounding headache, terrible congestion, watery eyes, and the occasional cough. Watson was mostly unsympathetic, perhaps because Holmes insisted upon rolling himself in a blanket and sprawling upon the rug in front of the fire (much like the dog) and generally being in the way whenever Watson needed to take Gladstone out for a walk. Gladstone, on the other hand, appeared to enjoy the company and made a nuisance of himself (in Holmes' opinion) when Watson was out.
One afternoon Watson arrived home from a few visits he'd needed to make to find detective and dog napping in front of the burned-out fire, Gladstone lying on Holmes' outstretched arm. The pup looked up when Watson opened the door and, hindquarters wagging in pleasure, rose to greet him.
"You really shouldn't neglect our dog so," Holmes said, watching the pair and reaching for his pipe. "He missed you."
"I don't neglect him," Watson retorted, scratching Gladstone behind the ears, much to the pup's delight. "What happened to the rug outside our door?"
"Ah, yes," Holmes said introspectively, examining his pipe closely. "Mrs. Hudson will be speaking to you about that."
"Since it was your dog and all."
"*My* dog?" Watson stopped and took a deep breath, pinching the bridge of his nose and trying not to get too angry with Holmes. He still looked terrible, after all. "What happened? I thought you said you would take him out around midday."
"I did," Holmes said defensively. "There was some excitement having to do with him dashing into the middle of the street, with the end result that the dog urinated on the rug outside our door."
"The middle of the street?" Watson echoed, immediately kneeling down and feeling the pup for any injuries, but didn't find any (fortunately for Holmes). He looked up to glare at Holmes, but stopped when he noticed Holmes absently scratching the back of his hand. "What did you do to your hand?"
Holmes looked at the offending appendage, the skin of which was red and scattered with small welts. "I have no idea," he said with some wonderment. He resumed scratching it. "Itches terribly, though."
"Stop scratching it," Watson scolded, coming to sit beside Holmes on the floor. "Let me see." The rash was limited to the hand, and his best guess -since Holmes swore he hadn't been playing with his chemicals lately- was an allergic reaction to something. "You're certain you have no idea what might have brought this on?" he asked again as he applied a lotion to the area to help the itch.
"None," Holmes confirmed, then sneezed.
"You still sound terrible, old boy."
"I hadn't noticed," Holmes said wryly, and blew his nose noisily in one of Watson's handkerchiefs.
Lestrade came with a case the next day, by which time the rash had nearly disappeared, and Holmes decided the intellectual stimulation was worth the effort of actually leaving the rooms for the first time in almost a fortnight. Once on the hunt he could ignore the minor inconveniences of his cold, and returned home only briefly in the next three days.
Once the case was finished, Holmes was back at Baker Street in time for dinner. While he was in the midst of telling Watson -at Watson's request- about the issue he'd resolved, Watson interrupted him. "Are you feeling better? You sound like your cold is gone."
"What? Oh, yes, I suppose I am. I hadn't noticed."
"Perhaps the lack of a case made you ill," Watson said with a smirk. Holmes waved this away and returned to his story.
When Watson returned from taking Gladstone on a walk the following morning, Holmes was sprawled discontentedly in his armchair. "I've had a relapse," he announced in a croaking voice.
But Watson had his doubts. It was too convenient that Holmes recovered while away and relapsed after a night at home. Suspicious, even. He suspected Holmes was allergic to something in their rooms, but determining what that might be promised to be a daunting task. The source could be lurking just about anywhere in the clutter that Holmes insisted was all in its proper place.
Unexpected help came two days later. Holmes had agreed to accompany Watson and Gladstone to the park, curious about the dog's behavior around other dogs and people. Gladstone naturally ended up finding his way into the only muddy spot in the entire park and required a bath when they returned home. Holmes remained downstairs to watch Watson bathe the squirming dog in a small tub in the kitchen.
Watson was soaked by the time he had Gladstone in the tub long enough to lather the soap. Holmes made an expression of disgust. "Watson, how can you stand it? Even I can smell that."
"It's not that bad," Watson scoffed as he washed the wriggling dog. "Would you hold him for a moment?"
Holmes complied, turning his face away from the tub to bury his nose in his shoulder. He nearly lost his grip on Gladstone several times while Watson rinsed him, and backed away gratefully when Watson said he could let go. He was finding it curiously difficult to breathe, and his hands felt strange.
Watson didn't notice Holmes' distress until he turned to offer him the towel for his hands. Holmes was still on his knees on the floor, looking at his hands as if they might bite him if he didn't watch them closely and making an odd wheezing noise with each breath. "Holmes?"
Holmes looked up at him, startled, then showed him his reddening palms. "Most intriguing," he said with a faint smile and coughed.
The soap. That must be the source of the trouble. It was somewhat of a relief, for Watson had feared it might be Gladstone himself causing the reaction and he hated to think of giving up the pup. "Holmes, can you get yourself outside?" he asked, wishing Mrs. Hudson weren't out shopping so she could take Gladstone while he saw to Holmes.
Holmes stared at him for a long moment before nodding and crawling on fists and knees -it would be too painful to lay his palms flat on the floor- he went into the hallway and toward the front door. Watson, still carrying Gladstone, looked around the kitchen for a moment, shrugged, and shut the dog in the nearest available cupboard. He found a basin and a towel, and located Holmes sitting against the front door, looking at his hands again.
"Here, we need to wash your hands so the reaction doesn't get any worse," Watson said, gently taking each of Holmes' hands and doing his best to remove the dog soap from them. The palms were already swelling and developing large welts and Holmes' fingers twitched as if yearning to scratch at them. "Whatever you do, don't scratch," Watson warned.
"But it itches," Holmes almost whimpered; Watson was relieved that the wheezing sound in his breathing was waning.
"Yes, I'm quite aware of that. Scratching won't help and may even make it worse, so don't even start." Holmes started to reach with one hand for the other, and Watson grabbed his wrists. "I'll bandage your hands," he threatened.
"Really, Watson, that won't be necessary. I only wanted to touch that large welt," Holmes said innocently, trying to pull away from Watson's grasp.
"Yes, I'm sure that's all it was," Watson said in the same tone. He helped Holmes up to their rooms and generously layered the lotion on his palms, then wrapped his hands until they resembled mittens so he wouldn't get the lotion everywhere (and so he wouldn't be able to scratch).
Holmes watched him, and said musingly, "It is strange to think that touching something can cause such an affliction."
"It can when you're allergic to what you're touching. I'll get rid of that soap and you should feel better in a few days."
"Are you quite certain it's the soap and not the dog?" Holmes questioned.
"Yes, Holmes. Didn't you see your hands? You've touched the dog plenty of times without having such a severe reaction."
"Still, I think a test is in order." Holmes got up from his chair and sauntered downstairs, Watson following hesitantly, not certain he wanted to find out what Holmes had in mind.
Holmes went back to the kitchen. "Roll up my right sleeve, if you please," he directed as he leaned against the pantry door. Watson did so, and understood what Holmes was about. He wetted the soap in the tub and smeared a stripe on the inside of Holmes' forearm. He might as well cooperate if the insufferable man was intent upon performing his little test.
The effects were not long in coming. Holmes closed his eyes and Watson swore he could see the skin reddening and swelling before his eyes. "Tell me," he demanded of Holmes even as he wetted a cloth to wipe it all off.
"It stings," Holmes said, opening his eyes to inspect the damage for himself.
Watson ran the cloth over the arm several times, not caring if he got the bandage on Holmes' hand wet in the process. "Now are you satisfied?" he asked with exasperation.
"Next time you might try believing me. I am a doctor, after all."
"It's better to be sure," Holmes insisted, prodding the growing welts with his thumb. "How interesting."
"You say that now. Just wait until the itching starts," Watson grumbled, and dragged Holmes back upstairs to slather lotion on this new irritation. While they were thus occupied, there came a noise from downstairs that sounded suspiciously like Mrs. Hudson shrieking.
"I believe Nanny objects to our mess," Holmes said placidly.
"Or to the dog in her cupboard," Watson said with a sigh.
Holmes' eyebrows shot up. "You put Gladstone in a cupboard?"
"How else was I supposed to keep him from wandering off and getting into something while I dealt with you?"
Holmes smirked. "It will take some doing to appease her this time," he warned, awkwardly grasping his pipe and putting it, unlit, in his mouth.
"Believe me, I know," Watson groaned and went to face Mrs. Hudson's ire. Gladstone had curled up in a colander but fortunately refrained from relieving himself, so the damage wasn't nearly as bad as he'd feared. Mrs. Hudson was mostly just startled and dismayed that an animal was in the midst of her dishes. Still, he wasn't surprised that he and Holmes had burnt toast for a week afterward, in which time Holmes' skin completely recovered from the incident with the soap and his "cold" cleared right up.
Predictably, Holmes devoted his new-found energy to chemical experiments that he used on Gladstone. After coming home to find Holmes hovering over the dog with a notebook in hand for the third time in as many days, Watson was tempted to prefer Holmes in his lethargic, allergy-ridden state. But it wasn't until Holmes gave up on his failed attempts to locate a remedy for the bulldog's flatulence and moved on to drugging Gladstone into unconsciousness -repeatedly- that Watson was truly concerned.
Then he remembered who was likely to be the experimental subject if it wasn't Gladstone. Gladstone was a good, sturdy dog; he should be fine. Watson would just have to take matters into his own hands if Holmes was too free with the experimentation. A bit of that soap might do the trick . . .