Story Notes: I finally won one!
After twelve tries and one honorable mention and one third place I finally won a Watson's Woes challenge.
This was challenge 013 Maiwand Anniversary challenge which was a story having to do with Watson's remembering Maiwand in some form. Being a angst maven, and because I write a good sick Watson this plot bunny hit me. What would happen if Watson developed the same disease that almost took his life after Maiwand, what would that do to his weary mind, what memories would that resurrect from his conscious. Lately, my cigar chomping muse has been AWOL for the entire month of July, but he came back in a big way so I am posting two stories today, after you check this one you might want to check the other, which is called "At First Glance" both are Police Surgeon Watson stories.
I hope you enjoy this award winning story as much as the WW's did. WARNING! There was a consensus that this is a tear jerker so sorry in advance.
From the diary of Sherlock Holmes:
I write this now with a shaking hand.
I cannot form the words that I need to express the feelings gripping my heart. I lost my friend this week. The same illness that nearly took him from this earth before I ever had a chance to know of his existence crept into his bloodstream from origins I know not and took him away from me.
Could the source have been one of his altruistic endeavours? Some poor widows tainted water, a bleeding little urchin or the drainage sluice from a passing cab in the Rook? I will never know how it got there, just the devastating result.
It is fragile, this thing we call life...fleeting like a light footed dear on the cusp of dawn...I must be more addled than I thought, I seem to be picking up a romantic streak from somewhere, maybe it's the influence of my flatmate...
Emotions are making it impossible for me to say much more, those hated impulses that I have long eschewed and attempted to subdue are stealing from me my breath, my words, my thoughts and desire to do anything but reflect on how I found you delirious...if I had only finished my case sooner...the gnaw of regret shall always chew my soul like cud for my callous disregard...I may never forgive myself...
Nor should I!
I arrived back at our lodgings at the conclusion of the Merrylebone Pearl case in Derry to be met at the door by a concerned Mrs. Hudson inquiring as to the condition of, Doctor Watson. She had not seen him since the previous morning and he looked more worn than she had ever seen him before, he was carrying his medical bag and he was sweating even though the day was temperate at worst.
She thought that I had sent the good Doctor on an errand for me, so when she heard nothing further from the rooms above, she believed that he had left out later.
I suddenly had a feeling that this seemingly innocuous situation was direr than it appeared and I implored her to send for a conveyance while I made the stairs at best speed.
I found him in his room, dressed only in his nightshirt; he had collapsed in the floor and was trembling and experiencing convulsions for how long I know not.
I made a quick study of his discarded clothing, and found traces of Shoreditch mud, to be specific a type found in the region of the docks at Wapping. My mind made some connections to an article I had perused about an outbreak of Typhoid in that region that had claimed lives. One I had shared with him over a morning coffee just three days before, I did not miss the welling of compassion in those familiar eyes or the pulsing muscles under the skin of the back of his hand, and that familiar determined clench of the jaw as he read the article I indicated...fool that I was.
When he begged off attending me on this case just completed, one that was rife with fictional possibilities and romantic embellishments, I deduced that he was going to go to offer his services to that beleaguered community, but since the disease is not airborne I felt with proper precautions that he would be reasonably safe. It appears I was in error.
His modesty be damned, I immediately wrapped him in a robe and carried him down to the waiting hansom Mrs. Hudson had constrained, the idiot awoke at one point and murmured for me to put him down he was fine. His feverish body was as hot against my skin as a banked coal from the grate. I held him all the way to the hospital, he vomited twice, but I paid it no mind.
Once I checked him into the facility and gave them my diagnosis, I realized that the doctors there were not sufficient for my liking so I hastily wrote a missive to my brother, Doctor Watson had a debt owed, one he would never deign to call in, but I am not he. Where my dear friend is concerned I have no pride to claim.
After all, I took him at his word; he said he would be fine that breaking of fast the last time I saw him sentient. I should have known the imbecile's lack of self preservation would put him in the way of harm, I should have cancelled my trip to attend him, but once again I believed him when he said that I should go, the case was too good for me to tarry in London.
As they rushed him away from me, imploring me to stay behind, I watched his fevered visage as he was rolled down the corridor, it might be my imagination but I believe I heard him weakly berating me for checking him into a hospital without his permission, the unmitigated ass.
Those were the last words from him that fell to my ears for some time...
Notes on Patient John Hamish Watson: A.P. Doctor Willard Perry
I cannot countenance how it is that I am in this place.
I write these notes in a borrowed office in one of the lesser places of medicine in this city. The queen's own physician called to this lowly duty, constrained by the royal hand itself to see to the health of a lowly street doctor.
I know not how this man found favour in the eyes of his betters, or just who had the political clout to pull me from my studies to do this pedestrian work, but nonetheless I am here, I will do my best.
Fortunately, for this Doctor John Watson, my best is superior to just about any other man alive at this time.
The patient was brought into the hospital this morning by his flatmate, one Sherlock Holmes, a name I have heard before; he was suffering from an extraordinarily high fever. There were signs of dehydration and of extreme physical fatigue present upon first examination. As soon as I arrived and took over his care, we attempted to lower the core temperature of the body with an ice bath, but even to the point of hyperthermia the fever never seemed to abate. I have prescribed an IV to keep him hydrated and an experimental strain of Penicillium fungi I've been developing to combat this bacterium, but the prognosis is not good.
This is indeed a man well thought of; I have never seen such a cavalcade of well wishers and persons wanting regular updates in my life! I have been engaged in conversations from everyone from a scullery maid, a group of street urchins, Constables and Inspectors all the way up to Superintendant of Scotland Yard to members of the House of Lords itself. There in the background like a constant shadow is this Sherlock Holmes, he has been pushing himself to exhaustion and beyond, to the point that I had to give him a bed nearby for his own recovery.
I do hope this Doctor Watson revives at some point, I have a premonition he would be an interesting man to know.
One further issue that I have been informed of by the amateur detective that has become a constant companion to me in my treatment.
This non-assuming contemporary under my care is also a veteran of that most debated battle in the wiles of Afghanistan, whose anniversary is soon to be celebrated, if the worst defeat of the queen's army in this or any other century can be called a matter for remembrance. As such, according to his ever vigilant guardian, the man suffers from vivid nightmares from time to time, as such in his confused state he can be prone to violence, and this is something I must instruct the nurses to be cautious of.
I honestly see no need, this man, Sherlock Holmes has not left his friend's side for the duration, and he will be available to handle any such outbursts. Then again the man is in a right state himself.
So I continue my treatments, I have other variations to try, and I will continue to give this individual the best care available, he is indeed in the best hands, if anyone can break through this milieu it is I, however, I fear he is slipping beyond even my retrieval.
I must return; there is a new batch of experimental vials arriving by courier and I am confident that these new medicines will turn the tide back in our favour.
From the desk of Chief Inspector Giles Lestrade Scotland Yard:
Concerning the disturbing news about our colleague's current condition I feel that there should be a guard placed on the door of his room.
As you well know, Doctor Watson has been instrumental in the closure of cases and the assistance of other matters concerning the criminal element during his career as both consultant with his partner Sherlock Holmes and as a Police Surgeon, as such he has acquired enemies both influential and dastardly who could take advantage of his current condition.
I have included within this letter a list of names of volunteers for that duty, as soon as the possibility was mentioned all of the slots for the next two weeks were filled with others willing to fill in if needed. We here at the Yard take care of our own, but in this case the man in question has earned more than our support bourn of duty alone, but to a man, all of these volunteers have stated they would forgo any salary involved and will fulfil any regular duty required of them.
I make this request, not only on their behalf, but on my own, he is more than just a co-worker but my dearest friend and I will not have him come to harm during his convalescence. If he does not recover, at the moment that is a distinct possibility, then his death will be due to the failure of his own body, and not from an outside force taking advantage of his insentient state.
Even if you do not feel this extra duty is warranted, then know that the men are ready to proceed in plain clothes utilising private weaponry.
Sanctioned or not, Watson will be protected, but for all he has done for this organization we owe him our best.
Chief Inspector Giles Lestrade: Scotland Yard
From the report given to Chief Inspector Giles Lestrade Scotland Yard by Police Constable Withers concerning an incident he witnessed 3:06 Sunday morning :
I was watching the door to Doctor Watson's room, having come on shift at midnight relieving PC Milligan, when a nurse approached me and asked me to help her attend her patient. She said he was murmuring in a way that indicated he was having nightmares, and she had been warned not to disturb him when he was in such a state without someone there to help subdue him if he became violent. Mister Holmes was in the room, but he was so worn she did not have the heart to disturb his rest.
I couldn't imagine Doctor Watson ever hurting a lass, but in his present state, the possibility was there, so I followed her in.
He was indeed thrashing about, muttering and in distress; he was saying something about blasted sand fleas, and red sand.
I reached out to rest a calming hand on his chest when he grabbed my arm, his eyes were red rimmed and haunted, looked like a man staring into the face of the old reaper himself, f ace pale but cheeks flushed with the heat of fever.
"I can hear them being tortured, we've got to mount a rescue, damn it! Don't tell me that the situation is not advantageous, you blasted coward. I'll lead it myself just give me a contingent of brave men! We'll bring them home; they're not beyond saving if they can cry out that loud!"
His grip on my arm was painful to say the least and I was debating how to extract myself when a hand reached out and rested on Watson's chest. "They are already dead men, Major; our responsibility is to the living, there are young men with us who are not beyond our help, and who need strong leadership. Those being tortured are bait to the trap and you know it, as soon as they know we are not coming they will put them out of their misery, we must stand fast, and do our duty."
I looked up and saw a weary Mister Holmes.
"Mind me now, Major, let this young man go," he said.
Watson let my arm go; he rested his head back on the pillow, his eyes filling with tears. "I can still hear them, sir, sometimes I think I always shall."
"I know, Watson, I know..." Holmes replied.
Watson seemed to take solace from the other man's steady presence, but as soon as he drifted back off, Holmes nearly collapsed; I managed to support him before he fell across the bed. I helped him to a chair while the nurse began to check Watson's vitals.
"What is he referring to, Mister Holmes?" I inquired as he recovered his strength.
To my surprise, and possibly because of his exhausted state, I received an answer.
"There was a patrol captured in the final days before the battle, the Ghazi tortured the men all night long within earshot of the main force attempting to lead them into an ambush, to diminish their numbers even further. The British Army was near exhaustion, and receiving orders from generals hundreds of miles away safe in Kandahar, moral was at an all time low, it is just one nightmare among many Watson suffers from time to time."
I had to ask. "Is that the worst?"
I shall never forget the haunted look in his eyes as he replied. "In my experience, it is one of the most benign. There are some far more dastardly that he will never related to another soul for fear that it will seep into their minds like a contagion."
"How does one stay sane?" I had to remark.
He made an ugly sound that was as bitter a noise I have ever heard a man produce. "How do any of us know if we are truly sane? That men, even in times of warfare, could do things like that to other men is all the evidence I need that madness exists, perhaps civilization itself is just a thin upper crust to a massive insane pie that bubbles up through the slits. Watson carries around inside of him memories of horror of which I cannot begin to cogitate, and yet he chooses to be kind rather than cruel, a guardian instead of a ruffian, and he uses that knowledge of evil to inoculate himself against the criminal element in this city. He can attend to the terrors and corruption that exists in the dark corners of our Metropolis because in his dreams he sees far worse."
His eyes found mine as he added, "Maiwand made him the man that he is, and that is far better a man than you are I will ever be, however, at a grievous cost that no man should ever have to pay."
I offered to fetch Mister Holmes a coffee, and he accepted gratefully, but by the time I returned he had nearly fallen out of his chair unconscious.
I managed to get him to a bed, and by that time Watson had quieted so I returned to my post.
I fear if Doctor Watson's situation does not resolve itself within the week we will be burying two men.
From the diary of Sherlock Holmes:
I lost my friend this week. I watched his deterioration and was helpless to do anything to bring him back.
Never have I felt so helpless...and I hope I never feel so impotent again.
Fortunately, Doctor Perry is as good as his word, and as his reputation.
It was nearly a week and three days into the vigil that something changed.
I fell asleep, my blasted body betraying me once again, when I heard a murmur nearby...
"No, don't you dare disturb him, my fever has broken, I will be fine but that imbecile has driven himself to the point of collapse and he needs his rest, so let him be, I'll talk to him soon enough."
Even in my partial slumber I had to smile.
We are home now, and he is resting comfortably on the couch, under a blanket, his ears still red from Mrs. Hudson's latest barrage to keep him prone, discarded empty bowl of her homemade chicken soup nearby. That woman has treated him like a king, she brings him all manner of delicious foods to whet his flagging appetite, and I get a platter of cold sandwiches. I know he is laughing about the whole matter but I have yet to catch him at it.
I lost my friend this week, but providence has brought him back to me...however, this ordeal has reminded me of the burden he carries around inside his mind...those men buried under the sands in a far away land are still alive in his conscious. A lesser man would have succumbed by now, but I think it just makes him more determined to live a life of significance.
He reminds me that terrible things can happen to anyone, such is this existence we all share, of that we have no choice, but taking those tragedies and doing something productive is within our grasp.
That is why the man gently snoring across the room forever more will be the bravest man I have ever known.
Just in case you were wondering:
There were other scientists looking into the feasibility of using Penicillium Bread Mold in antibiotic capacities before Fleming made his patented discovery, several of the papers published were by the Royal Medical Society of which Doctor Perry was a member. This story takes place in the very early 1900's so I don't feel it is too much of a stretch that he had this capability. So there you go.
Thanks for reading!