She spoke to the King, hoping he would forbid his son to go, but he said: "Well, dear, it's true that adventures are good for people even when they are very young. Adventures can get into a person's blood even if he doesn't remember having them." Eva Ibbotson
"I do wish you were less foolhardy, Holmes. Those antics could have gotten yourself – and me – killed." Watson pressed his handkerchief again to his arm, which was bleeding profusely from the bullet that had nicked him. Looking over at his friend, Watson said, irritably, "Holmes, are you even listening to me?"
They were still standing at the place where the latest showdown had occurred: an old, abandoned, dusty house. Without taking the time to reflect on the absurd number of times their cases had led to such places, Watson took up his omnipresent walking stick and used it to poke at Holmes' legs. "Holmes!"
"Yes?" That far-off tone, and Watson knew he wouldn't be getting much of an apology out of his friend until much later, if ever. Holmes tended to stubbornly stick by his plans, even if they succeeded only in getting himself or those around him hurt.
"One day they'll kill you, Holmes, and you'll still say that you came out on top." Looking over Holmes' shoulder, he saw the unwelcome figure of Lestrade coming towards them. "Let's get out of here, old boy."
Nodding, Holmes allowed himself to be dragged away from the crime scene and into a carriage. "221B Baker Street." Watson said, then coughed and shifted as the bullet wound made itself known.
Coming out of the trance violence and crime always put him in, Holmes blinked slowly and looked around. "Watson… you're injured."
"Not for the first time, Holmes, it's a scratch." But he knew it was more, that it needed stitches at least, and he was loathe to go to the hospital when he wasn't actually working there. "Perhaps you can sew it for me when we reach the rooms?"
Holmes blinked in surprise. "Is that necessary?" Watson let the handkerchief fall, revealing a swath of skin that had been cut away as if by magic.
Something flickered across Holmes' face. Surprise? Guilt? Worry? Watson had neither the time not inclination to guess. The wound seemed to have sapped any energy he'd had. No longer was he a young soldier in Afghanistan, India, where he would have continued working after such injuries. He needed rest, and a good stiff drink, before he could put this particular encounter behind him.
"Perhaps you'll be less reckless in the future, Holmes." Watson leaned his head back against the wall of the carriage, letting the rhythmic thump-thud of the horses' hooves steady his frayed nerves. Opening one eye, he caught sight of his companion's expression and sighed, resigned. "Or perhaps not."
Baker Street that evening was an affair. When they walked in, Watson collapsed heavily into his usual chair and could not find the strength to rouse himself. "Get the needle, Holmes." He looked down at his arm, the cut gaping grotesquely on the skin. "And some brandy."
Once the world had taken on the familiar haze of drink and the throbbing in his arm was no longer unbearable, Watson talked Holmes through the operation. "Is this really the first time you've performed such a mundane exercise? I would have thought you'd done this many times."
Holmes often returned from boxing at the club bleeding, battered, and Watson would sew him up on these occasions, biting back any advice he had to slow down, please, you're going to kill yourself because he knew Holmes would not appreciate the sentiment. Watson had been sewing for years, since his early twenties in medical school, then seriously in his late twenties in the dust and gore of Afghanistan in the Queen's army. It had never occurred to him that Holmes, so often injured and so learned in other areas, had never performed the task of stitching people back together.
"I have sewn." But Holmes still did not move the needle closer to that part of Watson's arm that the doctor could no longer look at. "The cadavers at the school -"
"Do not count, as they can't express pain when you've done it wrong." Watson sighed, wondered if not visiting the hospital had been an intelligent move, and ran his good hand over his face. "You have sterilized the needle, right?"
Holmes stared at him, then grabbed the matchbook from his pocket and expertly lit the flame as Watson let out yet another sigh and poured himself another glass of brandy, because it seemed as if he would be needing it.
"Now just…sew. Like you would your ludicrous costumes." But even the warmth of the brandy couldn't fend off the sudden pain of the harsh jab. "Gently, Holmes!"
"Sorry." It was one of the rare looks of contrition, and Watson shook his head.
"I am not a corpse, Holmes. You just stuck the needle a half-inch into my skin." Using his free hand, he placed it on top of Holmes' shaking one. "Please, be careful." A lefty Watson wasn't, but small touches were enough to influence Holmes' hand.
In ten minutes, after a few more drinks, Watson had thirteen more stitches to add to his list and Holmes had placed his pipe resolutely between his teeth, plucking absently at his violin.
"It was a close call today, Holmes." Watson remarked, his hands absent-mindedly trailing along the floor, the table, looking for something, anything, to read.
"We finished the case." Holmes said, almost to himself.
"Ah," Watson murmured, picking up a manuscript from the side table and peering at it. His arm did ache terribly, but perhaps a bit of revision would not make it protest overmuch. "The problem, my dear Holmes, is that in your line of work, one case seems to roll seamlessly into another. I do not doubt that you will have another one before the week is out."
The words had no particular malice behind them. Watson had no delusions about the lives of either him or Holmes: they both thrived, in different ways, off of the thrill the cases brought them. There were times when the endless litany of clues and red herrings, followed by small details and the final reveal, would wear on the veteran, but when push came to shove he knew that he would not miss a single one of Holmes' mysteries for the world.
Except (and here Watson had to exhale a small sigh) he did wish Holmes would be less foolhardy. There were times, when they were deep in a case, where Watson would swear that the world could go to hell in a hand basket and his companion would never notice.
His hand drifted momentarily up to the wound, fingered the stitches, uneven and large but stemming the flow of blood nonetheless.
Suddenly Holmes was at his side, a handkerchief in hand and remorse in his eyes. He pressed the cloth against the wound and held it, an apology of sorts that was strengthened by his next sentence.
"Perhaps a holiday is in order," his words were not very loud, an oddity for the alternately robust and melancholic personality, but they were an atonement, and Watson recognized them as such. "The sea-side is supposed to be…interesting."
"You hate the sea, Holmes." Watson reminded him, "And, anyway, every holiday turns into a case."
"Not this time." Holmes vowed, staring at Watson's wound with a strange fire. "I can wallow at the sea-side just as well as I can at Baker Street…besides, I've been meaning to pen a few articles on the forensics of our last cases, those parts that you always seem to leave out of your romanticized works."
"The public is not as interested in insects and fingerprints as you are, Holmes."
"And anyway," Holmes continued as if Watson hadn't spoken, lifting away the hanky to reveal red, "Even if I do not like the sea-side, you seem to enjoy it immensely."
This touched Watson in a way that he could never sufficiently explain to someone who didn't know Holmes well. He smiled ruefully, blotting out a few words in his manuscript with a practiced hand. A week at the sea might do them both some good.
But, of course, for this dynamic duo, things like vacations are not easy to come by, unless they are of the working variety.
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