Finality

(A Sequel to Fragility)

By L.A. Adolf

Prologue:

Leukerbad, Switzerland

Late May, seven months after the conclusion
Of the Case of the Abominable Lord Blackwood

From the Diary of John H. Watson:

The bullet wound, while far from minor, was the least of the matter. Shot from a distance by a rifle, the projectile had fenestrated through and through, resulting in, paradoxically, less damage that it would have had it lodged in bone and tissue…

Note: Holmes had pointed that remarkable detail out to me in the early days of our association, when he still haunted the dissecting rooms with some regularity and I, enthralled by his methods, had been a willing pupil of the macabre.

{why is this notation smeared and stained…oh, exhaustion and worry play tricks with me even as I write this, tears are falling onto the page that I'm not even cognizant of shedding…}

The wound, debrided surgically before I had ever arrived, was in fact, healing well. At least as well as could be expected in one so worn and run down, so obviously already quite ill before its infliction.

Of larger concern had been and continued to be the complete and total collapse, both physical and mental that had occurred almost simultaneously with the gunshot wound, the genesis of which was well established before the physical mishap. Said collapse had resulted in a brain fever which had proved systemic and which now threatened the life of the patient most immediately.

Switzerland boasts some of the most advanced medical thought of our time and the care given had been exemplary, so much so that there seemed little to do once I arrived. Control the fever which had become chronic, attempt to force fluid and sustenance into a body already wasted and wanting from overwork before the advent of illness…

{I could have prevented this! Perhaps affected the outcome before his ever having left London. Why did I not see this when he came to me in the night, afraid of air guns, full of dark tales and convoluted plans to lure Moriarty out into the open?}

Calm an agitated patient so far into the clutches of prolonged delirium that he recognized no one in the immediate vicinity, calling out repeatedly and plaintively for those who already sat vigil at his bedside.

{Why did I not see that his request for my assistance was a mere double blind for what he really intended, that the promise to meet in Newhaven was a sham for a departure by privately contracted ship from another port entirely.}

John Watson looked up from his notebook, ignoring the crick in his neck and the cramping in fingers that held his pen too tightly, his gaze deliberately skittering across details of the sickroom before settling on the figure in the bed.

{Why was it not I who was there at Reichenbach Falls-on the Continent at all for that matter -when this long building situation came to its dramatic and tragic head?}

Sherlock Holmes, gaunt with injury and illness, was peaceful for a change, profoundly unconscious in a way that left the observer hoping that perhaps, finally, a healing rest was being obtained.

It was largely, Watson mused, bitterly, a pretty conceit. Nothing but a quiet phase in course of illness marked by remitting fever, waxing and waning delirium and a steady, implacable deterioration.

"You should be prepared," they'd told him, his Swiss colleagues, with their sympathetic faces and understanding voices in lightly accented English, "his system cannot tolerate this strain for too much longer. It is only a matter of time now. You may want to consider saying your farewells, letting nature take its course…"

John Watson threw his notebook across the room, broke his pen in half, mindless of the spots of dark ink that erupted from the fountain and stained clothing and bedding.

He jumped up, perched on the edge of Holmes's sick bed, leaned close, and grasped the wan face between two hands which were exquisite in their gentleness in marked contrast to the violence in the voice that broke the stillness of the sickroom.

"I. Will. Not. Say. Goodbye! Holmes, do you hear me? Damn it you will hear me! You will not die! I will not allow it. I expect better of you, the best and wisest man I have ever known!

Watson panted, focusing all his energy on willing the eyelids, bruised looking bits of onionskin thin above sunken and dark hued eye sockets, to open.

"I am here, Holmes. Look at me. Open your eyes and look at me."

Sobbing, Watson laid his cheek to the fevered forehead for a moment, willing himself to find the reserves of strength to put the force of his conviction into his words. "I am here. I love you. And I will NOT. Let. You. Go."

The barest of movement, eyelashes fluttering against the skin of his jaw.

Watson reared back a few inches, loathe to relinquish that magical bit of response, but eyes hungry for proof that it was more than involuntary muscle spasm.

The brown eyes were but tiny slits in that ghastly, pale face, but they held a small degree of what might have been recognition, and the voice, heard in nothing but mindless raving for so many weeks, seemed at least a passable spectre of its usual self.

"W-Watson?"