Characters: Watson, Holmes, Peter Steiler, Mycroft Holmes, Mrs. Hudson, Inspector Lestrade, Constable Clark.
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!
He had once loved London. The bustling of the streets, the loud crowds, the interesting conversations he caught as he made his way across town. It had been his home for so long. His happy oasis. The city that saved him after the Battle of Maiwand.
But it hadn't really been London that he loved or London that saved him. Not really. It was Sherlock Holmes.
Holmes had taken him in after he returned from the war, broken and wounded and suffering from the memories. Holmes, of course, hadn't coddled him through the worst of it. And Watson, hardly knowing the man, didn't expect that from him. But now, looking back, Holmes had helped him through the trauma in his own way.
He brought him breakfast when Watson couldn't find the will to rise in the mornings. He had provided him with warm towels to soothe his wounded thigh. When Watson couldn't sleep at night and wandered aimlessly to the sitting room, attempting to distract himself with a book, Holmes would be there. Often unable to sleep himself, the detective would pick up his violin and run the white bow hairs across the strings, pulling out a melodic tune from the wooden belly and lighting up the room with a few slow, comforting lines. Watson would wake with the book spread over his chest, a pillow that wasn't there before behind his neck and a blanket draped over his thin frame.
The memories were flooding back as Watson stood in the sitting room, staring down at the instrument. He reached out and plucked the E string with his thumb.
"Holmes has asked you to keep our rooms in the same condition?" Watson asked as he closed the violin case and turned to Mycroft Holmes, whose large figure was standing in the window and literally blotting out the sun.
"Yes," he answered, moving from the window and strolling across the sitting room, the floorboards creaking under his weight. "This won't last forever, Doctor. You'll both be home before you know it."
Watson forced a smile and followed Mycroft down the familiar seventeen steps where Mrs. Hudson was waiting for them anxiously.
"Oh, Doctor," she cried, grasping his hands as he reached the landing. Mycroft watched on, looking mildly amused and very much like his younger brother at the moment. "I hear you're leaving town. When?"
"Next week," Watson answered, keeping his expression even as he took Mrs. Hudson's hand and patted it.
"Oh dear," she sighed, looking up at him mournfully. "Will I ever see you again?"
"I should hope so, Mrs. Hudson."
She smiled thinly, a tear trickling from one of her eyes. "Losing Mr. Holmes was such a terrible, terrible shock. The man and I could never get along, you know, but that doesn't mean I didn't care for him."
"I know you did," Watson assured her. "And I'm sure he felt the same way about you, even though he had a very hard time showing it."
"I do hope so," she sighed.
After saying goodbye to Mrs. Hudson, he and Mycroft set out onto the streets in search of a place to have dinner. He had taken comfort in Mycroft's company and in having someone else know that Holmes was alive. Otherwise, he was sure he would've lost his mind by now. It seemed that everywhere he went people watched him with sad eyes or shook his hand, offering their condolences. Even Mary had written, telling him how sorry she was. She had, Watson mused as he read the letter, probably always knew that her husband would love Holmes more than he ever would love her.
Inspector Lestrade was beside himself. Soon after Watson returned from Switzerland, Lestrade and Constable Clark had tried to talk him into allowing a separate memorial service on Scotland Yard's bill, but Watson wouldn't allow it. This caused some hurt feelings on Lestrade's part, claiming he was just as much Holmes's friend as Watson was. Even Clarky, who had been troubled by the news of Holmes's death, had laughed at this. Instead of a service, the Yard spent their money on decorating their uniforms with black mourning bands. This had Watson wondering if they were mourning Holmes or the increased crime rate that was sure to follow with his absence.
After Lestrade licked his wounds, he stopped by to ask Watson if he would like to become a police surgeon for the force. Although touched, Watson had to decline. He insisted that it was nothing personal – he was sure that he would've taken the position if he hadn't been planning to leave in two months – but Lestrade had, of course, taken Watson's response the wrong way. He hadn't heard from him since.
Watson's literary agent seemed to be the only man in London who didn't really seem to care much for Holmes's death. In fact, Watson was positive he had never been fond of the detective to begin with and only continued working with Watson because of the public's interest. Still, he seemed a little melancholy once he finished Watson's account of Holmes's death, fittingly titled "The Final Problem."
"Well," he had said quietly, turning the final page of the manuscript. "I suppose that's the last we'll ever read of Sherlock Holmes."
Watson, at Holmes's bidding, had included an edited version of Holmes's note in the narrative. Watson hadn't even glanced at the folded piece of paper until he arrived in London, and reading it then had brought on emotions that he hadn't been prepared for. It was a romantic, almost poetic rambling of words that Watson knew could never see the light of day. So he penned a new version for show and included it in his story.
In late October, the day finally came to make his journey to Florence. As he waited on the train in Victoria station, he felt surprisingly calm – like he had on the day he had to say goodbye to Holmes. It had been a quiet and composed affair. A few quick kisses and a "see you soon" and "be careful." He wondered if, once they reunited, he would be able to keep himself in check. There was no denying that he missed him terribly and worried constantly. While Watson had the familiarity of London and the support of Mycroft, Holmes had nothing.
He slept for most of his trip, trying to fight off the nervousness that was beginning to consume him. So when he was led by a waiter to a table in a Florence hotel, he was positively shaking.
"Signore Sigerson," the waiter said with a nod, addressing a man with a heavy beard. Watson only recognized Holmes from his softened, steel-grey eyes.
He all but collapsed in the chair across from Holmes as the waiter left their table. They stared at each other for a few minutes until Holmes pushed a glass of wine towards him. Watson took one sip and set it down before reaching out to catch Holmes's hand before he put it back under the table.
"Can we go to your room?" he whispered, pleading.
Holmes only nodded and took his hand back before casually rising from the table and leading Watson to the stairs with the help of a cane.
Once in the protection of their room Holmes turned away and removed his disguise. Setting it down on the vanity and tossing his walking stick into the corner, he hesitated before finally turning to face Watson.
He was so thin. That was the first thing Watson noticed. His cheek bones were far more prominent and his scar, once hidden by the disguise, was not nearly as obvious as before. Despite the slightly alarming state of his sinewy body, Holmes seemed well for a man who had fallen fifteen feet or more onto a freezing ledge.
"Holmes…" was all Watson could make out through a trembling smile as he reached and pulled the man into his arms. Through slow, languid kisses they eventually made their way to the bed where clothes were carefully removed and old and new scars alike were treated with tender kisses and light touches.
It was all very clumsy and new, and perhaps even a little painful for Holmes, but they made their way through it slowly and gently.
In the final moments when Holmes began to pant and Watson started to moan in response, Holmes reached and grabbed Watson's arm, pulling himself up to kiss his shoulder.
"John – " he gasped, his head falling back onto the pillow as he stared up at the ceiling, his eyes unfocused.
Startled by the use of his first name, Watson kissed it away from his lips and buried his face into Holmes's shoulder, speeding up the movement.
"I love you," Holmes whispered, fingers digging into Watson's back. "I'm sorry I never said it before. I – I…"
He never finished his sentence. With a low whine, he reached the end and lost all control over his body. Watson followed soon after. It wasn't how Watson had first pictured it – tucked away safely in Baker Street – but that didn't matter now. They couldn't have picked a better time.
Watson awoke half-draped over Holmes's body with one knee nestled between Holmes's thighs and the other pressing against his hip. Holmes was already alert, rubbing one hand up and down Watson's bare bake.
"How do you feel?" Watson asked, kissing his jaw.
"Sore," Holmes mused, moving his hand to rub at the joint of his right hip. "Everywhere."
Watson sat up and pushed his hand away, pressing a kiss to the protruding hip bone. "Worth it, though?"
"Every second of it," Holmes answered, sitting up to lean against the headboard. Watson joined him and grasped his hand, running a thumb over the knuckles.
They stayed in bed awhile longer, catching up and discussing their three months apart. Holmes told Watson about all the wonderful cuisine Italy had to offer while Watson amused him with stories about London's reaction to his supposed death. He found Watson's account of Scotland Yard's armbands particularly hilarious.
Eventually they dressed and Holmes became Sigerson once again. They had breakfast at the hotel and then took a walk around the city, visiting some of Holmes's favorite locations that Watson had only read about in travel guides he perused before leaving London. During a walk through the Boboli Gardens, Watson wasted no time in proudly telling Holmes all he knew about the Neptune fountain and the Pitti Palace, visible from the area.
Watson figured that Holmes most likely knew the history already, but he still smiled and listened to everything Watson had to say. It wasn't until they stopped to sit on a stone bench that Holmes removed his disguise and tucked it away in his jacket.
"Holmes…" Watson muttered nervously, frowning as he scanned the area.
"It's all right, Watson," Holmes assured. "No one's around just yet."
Still a little wary, he nudged Holmes with his foot. "Why'd we stop?"
The corner of Holmes's mouth turned up into a smile. "You do realize we'll be leaving for Tibet by the end of the week, don't you? It's just that you seem so taken with the city, I'm afraid of disappointing you."
Watson shrugged a shoulder. "I did have to pretend I was going on some remarkable explorations with my good friend Mr. Sigerson. Nearly everyone was asking where I was going and the locations I was planning to visit. I'm an encyclopedia now. Ask me anything."
Holmes laughed rather loudly, having to cover his mouth with a hand to quiet himself. Watson grinned, pleased, and stood from the bench as Holmes worked on putting his disguise back in place.
"Come on, old boy," Watson smiled, reaching out to help Holmes off the bench and linking arms. "Let's enjoy the city while we can."
With that they made their way down the path, ready for the coming adventures.