The Problem

Chapter 1/8 (not including the epilogue)

Characters: Watson, Holmes, Peter Steiler, Mycroft Holmes, Mrs. Hudson, Inspector Lestrade, Constable Clark.

Pairing: Eventual Holmes/Watson

Rating: PG-13/R for language, graphic injuries and sexual situations throughout the eight chapters and epilogue.

Summary: A re-write of "The Final Problem." Holmes and Watson acknowledge their feelings while traveling through the Continent to escape Professor Moriarty, but a tragedy at Reichenbach Falls puts everything in jeopardy. Watson must help Holmes through his recovery while the threat of Moriarty's henchmen still lingers.

Note: Written after a prompt for a one-shot was given to me by Lia Walker. It kind of went out of control. This story will be updated daily and is not a work in progress. I hope you enjoy it!

Chapter One

The two bruised and bloody knuckles were certainly not the worst of the injuries Watson had to mend throughout the years. Holmes's knack for boxing, the ridiculous chases through the London streets and the physical contact with criminals often taller and larger than Holmes all contributed to terrible, sometimes life-threatening injuries. Broken bones he had to mend, bruises he had to scrutinize and torn skin that he had to stitch back together.

Of course, he had been shaken up by these injuries in the past, often begging Holmes to change his ways and to mind his health. Naturally careless and insufferable, Holmes refused and Watson was forced to let it go, knowing there wasn't much he could do.

And yet, these two torn knuckles affected Watson like no other injury Holmes had obtained.

It wasn't their condition. They could be quickly fixed with a bandage. It was the way Holmes had received the wounds.

"You should've come here instead of Mycroft's," Watson said hoarsely, dipping the rag in the basin of water and using it to clean the blood off.

After his initial wince, Holmes gave a small hint of a smile and watched the swirl of red blood in the sink. "No, Watson. As I've told you, I would've made a dangerous guest."

With a dramatic roll of his eyes, Watson chose to keep his mouth shut as he wrapped Holmes's hand in a clean bandage and considered everything Holmes had told him since crawling through his window and nearly giving the doctor a heart attack. An awry carriage. A brick from a roof. Some lowlife with a bludgeon who Holmes had to fend off – the source of his mangled hand. These attacks had all been failed attempts at taking Holmes's life.

And it all had taken place in one day.

"Why are you here, then?" Watson asked, his voice muffled as he covered his face with his palms and rubbed his eyes. He was already exhausted. Holmes's lifestyle usually had this affect on him, but this was too much. When he lowered his hands, Holmes looked stung.

"That's not what I meant!" Watson quickly explained, backtracking. "Holmes, please, you know that's not what … I just … I'm confused. If Moriarty and his men are after you and you didn't want to lead them to me, why …?"

Holmes stood up from the stool he had been sitting on just as Watson collapsed upon the settee, looking up at Holmes for guidance and an explanation.

"There's a reason I came in through the window and closed the blinds," he replied with a wink and a flitting smile. "And that was to tell you to completely end all contact with me."

"Absolutely not," Watson answered straight away. "Not when you're in danger like this."

"…Until tomorrow morning. You're coming to the Continent with me."

Before Watson even had the chance to comment, Holmes gave him very explicit instructions on how to arrive at Victoria station completely unnoticed. It involved handing off his luggage to someone that very night, taking a very specific hansom the next morning and even running through the station like a fool. Watson didn't question any of it and, not for the first time, he considered his psychological health. He was more than willing to comply.

They discussed their plans further and Holmes provided more information on the case. Moriarty controlled some of the worst criminals in London and Holmes had put himself in a considerable amount of danger by vowing to bring him down. Enough danger to cause him to flee the country. As Watson tried to wrap his mind around what Holmes was telling him, his friend was already readying himself to leave.

"I'll need to escape over your garden wall, Watson," he said as he shrugged on his jacket while gazing through the blinds and out into the darkness of the street.

Watson stood and crossed his arms in a vain attempt to appear as though he had control of his friend. "I have to insist that you stay the night, Holmes."

Holmes turned away from the window and cocked an eyebrow, annoyed. "Well then our plan wouldn't work too well, would it?"

Watson stood his ground. "At least until the sun rises. I don't feel comfortable with you leaving now when anyone could be lurking in the dark."

The annoyance left his expression and he gave the tiniest of smiles at Watson's concern. Regardless, he easily pushed past the doctor and towards the exit that led to the garden.

"I don't want to bring danger here."

"Holmes, Mary is away on visit. It's just me," Watson said, defeated, as he followed after him feeling very much like the loyal dog Blackwood had called him only months ago. Not long before they both learned the name Moriarty. "I can take care of myself. And if you're here, then we'll both be safe. Holmes, you can't deny it's a good idea."

Holmes said nothing as he took a few moments to peer out the door and into the garden.

"If they've so nearly killed me three times today, Watson, imagine what they would do to you."

"Very funny, Holmes."

"It's not a joke," Holmes said seriously, turning to look at Watson with a rather frightened look on his face that had Watson staring back in shock. "If I can barely keep myself alive, how am I going to look after you?"

Watson bit down on his lip. He couldn't sway Holmes. No matter how hard he tried. Holmes never let anyone chain him down and take care of him when he needed it the most. Not even Watson. "Please be careful."

"I always am."

"Of course you are. Silly me to believe otherwise," Watson said with an eye roll and a forced smile.

Holmes's mouth twitched slightly before he scaled the wall and disappeared into the darkness.

The doors to the carriage slammed and the whistle let out a shrill sound as Watson fell down into his seat, groaning when he realized that the Italian priest he had assisted earlier was his companion.

Where was Holmes?

Passing a hand over his face as he closed his eyes and collected himself, he tried to remember some of the little Italian he had managed to learn from Holmes throughout the years. Nothing came to mind, however. But all he wanted to say was the equivalent to 'bugger off.' Normally he wouldn't be so rude. But at the moment, this man had taken Holmes's seat and even if Holmes wasn't here he had no right, and –

"My dear Watson. You have not even condescended to say good morning."

Watson turned to the source of the voice in shock. For only a moment, he could make out his friend's face from behind the disguise of an elderly, wrinkled priest. Waiting a beat or two to make sure that this man was, in fact, Holmes, Watson reached across the space separating them and punched him square in the knee.

"You deserved that!" he hissed angrily.

Holmes gasped and shrunk away slightly, gingerly touching the knee cap. "Watson! I could get you thrown off this train for abusing an elderly man."

"I thought you might be hurt or worse! You knew I would be worried about you, and yet you continue to play these games with me."

"Watson, please do stop complaining," Holmes instructed calmly, rolling up the loose pant leg of his costume to get a better look at the damage Watson had done. Although Watson was busy blatantly ignoring his companion by staring determinedly out the train window, he did shoot a concerned glance down at the knee. It was already a little red with the potential to bruise.

Holmes only shrugged and let the pants fall back loosely over his thin calf. He snuck a look at Watson, recognized the signs of a scorned man, and turned to gaze out the window as well.

"Sorry," Watson said, barely above a whisper, after about half a minute.

"What's that?" Holmes asked with fake, infuriating curiosity. "I was under the impression that you were giving me the silent treatment."

"I'm sorry!" Watson said louder, annunciating each syllable as if he were speaking to a deaf man. "About your knee," he added on in a calmer tone after Holmes wrinkled his nose at him. "I shouldn't have hit you that hard."

Holmes only shrugged a shoulder and Watson rolled his eyes.

"Will you take off that horrid disguise? It's not too flattering."

"There's actually a reason I'm wearing it, and it's not just to enrage and confuse you. After all, while this may come as a total and complete shock, you are not the center of the universe."

"Really? Because I thought that harassing me was one of your favorite pastimes."

"Not today," Holmes announced, a little too seriously for Watson's taste. "Look out the window, old boy. That's him."

Watson frowned slightly and followed Holmes's gaze out onto the platform. Pushing through the crowd was a rather tall man dressed all in black. Try as he might, Watson failed to get a clear view of his face. He was blocked by the swarm of people on the platform, but Watson could see him waving angrily at the train, demanding it to stop. But in an instant, they had departed from the station.

Watson turned back to Holmes, feeling rather shaken by the whole incident. But if it had affected Holmes at all, he didn't show it. Instead, he let out a lighthearted laugh as he removed his disguise. It was odd, but Watson immediately felt more at ease now that he could look upon Holmes and recognize him, knowing that the old priest was actually him under the cassock.

"Even though we were careful, he still almost caught up to us," Holmes said as he stuffed the costume into his bag. "Last night his goons set fire to our rooms."

"Holmes!" he cried, scanning over his body. "Are you hurt anywhere? Do you have any burns?" He caught his bottom lip between his teeth, chewing on it anxiously.

"I'm quite well, Watson," Holmes said delicately, aware that he was frightening his friend. "I didn't stay the night, and I instructed Mrs. Hudson to reside with family until we are safe again. They must have lost my trail, or else they would've known that I had not returned home. However, it does seem that Moriarty has been following you. He made it here, after all. Did you slip up?"

Watson stared at him, aghast. "No! Of course not! I did everything you asked, Holmes. Everything."

Holmes nodded and wrung his hands. "Right. I shouldn't have doubted you."

He lifted his head and smiled pleasantly as he disentangled his hands to reach across and pat Watson's knee.

Watson wasn't the least bit surprised when Holmes began to lay out a new, detailed plan. There was a strong possibility that Moriarty would catch up with them at Canterbury, but arresting him there would do no good. His henchmen would still be at large and they were already proven to be incredibly dangerous. Once they arrived at Canterbury, they would catch the next train to Newhaven where they would cross over to the Continent and partake on some sort of expedition on foot. Holmes spoke of it rather fondly, but it already had Watson's bad leg aching.

Holmes was confident with his plan to throw Moriarty off his trail. But Watson, with a stab of fear, realized something. If this man who Holmes considered to be his intellectual equal wanted the detective dead before he could snare him and turn him into the police, he could very possibly be succeed.

And Watson simply couldn't let that happen.

They had fallen into a rather comfortable silence and, at some point, Holmes had drifted off.

It had gone unnoticed to Watson, who had been staring out the window absently. But when he made a remark about the stuffiness of their carriage and Holmes didn't reply, Watson turned to find the detective with his shoulders slumped and his head fallen to the side at an uncomfortable angle.

Watson pursed his lips, studying his friend. There was no doubt that he was exhausted. After all, he spent yesterday and the night that followed trying to avoid death. Watson couldn't even begin to imagine everything he had been through. Yes, he knew of the three attacks made against Holmes as well as the fire set to their … his … flat, but he was certain there was more to the stories. Things that Holmes hadn't told him and perhaps never would. Watson would have to settle, though. He was safe here and Watson would keep him safe.

He could start by preventing the terrible crick in his neck Holmes was sure to receive after sleeping in such a position. Watson already knew how this would end. Holmes would wake up –cringe and complain while gingerly holding his neck – and then somehow place the blame on Watson. Why didn't he wake him? Why not readjust him and provide a cushion? Holmes could go on and on with so many accusations if he wanted to and still, no matter how ridiculous they might be, Watson would still feel guilty.

So it was self-preservation, really. Watson moved over to Holmes's side of the carriage and sat down, carefully adjusting him so his head fell down onto his shoulder. Holmes hardly stirred. When he actually could sleep, the man was a rock. And now, overcome with unbearable exhaustion, Watson didn't think he would be waking anytime soon.

Watson wasn't sure if he had relieved all the discomfort, but he felt certain he had helped. Holmes's body had immediately relaxed against his own. Watson wrapped one arm around his waist before resting his temple on the top of Holmes's head.

It would be foolish, he knew, to doze off. But the repetitive sounds and movements of the train along with Holmes's soft breathing eventually pulled him into a light slumber.

It was the noise of the other passengers departing that caused them both to wake when they arrived at Canterbury. Holmes took no time in springing up from the seat and preparing his bags, muttering irritably under his breath.

"Idiot!" he hissed, busying himself around the carriage and angrily throwing Watson's bag in his general direction. Watson managed to catch it before it slammed into his face. He peered over at Holmes, hesitating.

"I didn't mean to fall asleep," he began sheepishly, bringing the bag down into his lap. He was still sitting.

"Oh, no, dear fellow," Holmes sighed, turning around to stare down at Watson ruefully. "The only person I should be angry with is myself."

"You were exhausted. We were on a train. Safe. Holmes, it's quite all right."

But Holmes didn't look convinced.

"I should have been alert."

With that, he turned on his heel and left the carriage. Watson sighed before standing up and hurrying after his friend.

Watson eventually made it to the platform where he located Holmes's retreating back and sped up. Coming up behind him, he grabbed his elbow and leaned forward to speak in his ear.

"Come on now, Holmes. You were just beating yourself up about not being on your guard during a quiet train ride while I was right at your side, and now you're going to go running through a busy station alone?" His hand slid down his elbow and stole into Holmes's own, squeezing gently.

Holmes said nothing, but Watson saw the passing smile that flashed across his lips in mild amusement.

"Come on," Watson said with his own smile, taking his place next to Holmes now and keeping their hands linked as he scanned the crowd. "Let's check the times for the Newhaven train."

After discovering there was only an hour to wait before the train departed, they crossed the station and – hands separated now but Watson's shoulder still pressed against Holmes's protectively – fought over whether or not to dine during their free hour or to wait. When they tired of that and ultimately reached no conclusion, they switched to arguing about their luggage which had been sent ahead of them to give Moriarty something to chase after.

Watson was busy expressing his frustration on not being able to pack an extra waistcoat in his bag when Holmes's eyes focused on something behind him. He grabbed Watson's sleeve and urged him to turn and look.

Watson stared across the stretch and down the track where he spotted an engine and a single carriage approach the station. Just as it neared, Holmes dragged Watson behind a pile of luggage. Safely concealed, they watched as Moriarty's train carried on past the station. Watson found himself breathing normally again as he gripped Holmes's forearm.

"As you can observe, the man has limits to his genius," Holmes announced rather proudly.

But Watson felt ill. "He would've killed you if he saw you here."

"Yes," Holmes agreed cheerily, leading Watson back out from their hiding place. "But we've successfully tricked him. Nothing to fear now, old boy."

Watson remained unconvinced. He didn't have to say anything – his expression was the indicator and Holmes noticed immediately. Giving him a warm, comforting smile, Holmes put a hand on his back and guided him over towards the small café within the station.

"I can assure you that everything will be quite fine, Watson," Holmes promised.

Watson's lip twitched slightly in a forced smile.

"Good!" Holmes said, clapping him on the back. "Now. The real concern is what we will have for lunch." He gave Watson a little wink. "I know how picky you are about your food, so this will truly be a challenge."