A/N: This is my first fanfic, so be kind! I read The End of All Things by BookwormExtraordinary, and I just couldn't let it end there! I've published this with her kind permission, and you should read her story first so this one will make more sense.
He doesn't make a sound, just slumps to the ground. The villain throws back his head and laughs. Something inside me breaks at the sound of his delight. Without thinking, I shift my aim and squeeze off another round. His laughter turns into a shriek of pain as he clutches his hand to his chest. The hand that had been holding the switch. I surge forward and bring the butt of the revolver crashing down on his head. He drops like a rock.
What have I done? My best friend gone, and now London destroyed because I couldn't control myself.
I stand there, breathing heavily for a moment, then glance around trying to locate the switch. It registers somewhat belatedly that no explosion has occurred. I see the switch, now destroyed, lying in the dirt. I pick it up and see with a sinking heart, that it was a dummy. It was wired to nothing. I killed Watson for NOTHING. The villain had managed to bluff me – ME – into killing my best friend. I stand there, my chest heaving, feeling nauseous and dizzy. What have I done? I think again. The guilt is crushing. Slowly I sink to my knees, knowing the tears will come soon.
"Holmes?" the voice is weak. At first I think I'm imagining things. It's impossible. "Holmes!" It is more urgent this time. "You've got to stop the bleeding!"
I leap to my feet and spin around wildly. "Watson!" I think my heart will burst for the joy of it all. He's not dead! He is as pale as death and the deep red puddle around him is growing. I rush to his side. The bullet struck him high in the chest. Not where I had been aiming. I yank off my coat and press it onto the wound. He gasps in pain. I wince. "I'm so sorry, my dear fellow," I murmur, my hands are shaking as I try to apply pressure.
He shakes his head, "It had to be done, Holmes. I understand. But why isn't London burning?"
"The switch was as dummy."
Watson's eyes go wide as he looks at me. "So-"
"I'm so sorry," I say again.
"So we are safe?" he asks, ignoring my apology.
I laugh, alarmed to hear the hysteria edging in. Where had my calm, calculating reason gone? "For now, yes. We are safe." I glance at the villain. He is still unconscious. "Watson, I must check on him. Hold this in place." I take his hand and press it to my coat. "I will be right back." I return to the villain's side and stare at him for a moment. My blow had cut his head open to the skull. I feel no remorse. I check for his pulse. Nothing. I feel again. Then put a hand over his mouth. No breath. He was dead. All I could feel was satisfaction.
"How is he?" I hear Watson ask.
"Dead," I reply flatly.
"I'm not surprised. I heard the force of your blow."
I returned to his side to apply pressure to his wound. I find it difficult to meet his eyes.
"God, I thought I'd killed you!" I burst out. "And I couldn't take his laughter. I think for the first time in my life I committed an act without thinking through the ramifications. All I could think of was that I'd just killed you."
He reaches out and puts a bloody hand on my arm, "Holmes, you know that I would gladly sacrifice everything for you, for London. You cannot feel guilty for doing what had to be done."
"But it didn't have to be done." I finally look him in the eye. "The switch was a dummy, Watson. I should have seen that. But I was too distracted. The choice so appalling that I couldn't focus on anything else."
"Which must have been his intention," he points out.
"Undoubtedly. But it is my job to see those things no matter what the villain's intention. I shot you and it was unnecessary. I nearly killed you-" my voice breaks "Intended to kill you, Watson! God! I still cannot fathom how the shot went astray."
Watson smiles slightly through his pallor, "Your hand must not be as steady as you believe."
"Not when aimed at the best man on earth. Thank God," I say softly. Watson's eyes go wide with surprise. "Can you move at all?" I ask quickly. "We must get you out of here. Get you someplace warm and clean to treat this."
"Yes, I think so." He struggles to sit up. "Just help me to my feet, old fellow."
"Of course." I position myself on his good side and help him up. I hear his gasp of pain and he sways on his feet. I steady him.
"I'm alright," he says, which is patently untrue, but I do not argue. "Let's go."
Slowly, so slowly, we make our way out of the tunnel. I want to hurry, but he cannot keep the pace. He is still losing blood at a rapid rate, and he is weakening swiftly. I find myself supporting more and more of his weight. Finally we reach street level. London is intact. The people are going about their business without the least idea of the drama that just took place beneath them. What was nearly just sacrificed for them. What may still be sacrificed if we don't get to a doctor in time. Watson's head is lolling, but he still manages to put one foot in front of the other. He wasn't a soldier for nothing. "Stay with me, old man, just a little further." I encourage. Now we are on the street. I take stock of our surroundings. We are only a few blocks from Scotland Yard and the nearest hospital is at least 20 minutes away. I don't know how much time he has and I make my decision quickly.
"Help!" I shout out, "CAB!" A few heads swivel our direction, one man sees our predicament and leaps in front of the nearest cab.
"Here now!" the cabby shouts, "Out of the way."
"There is an injured man!" the stranger shouts.
The cabby looks around and sees us, I am practically dragging Watson by now. The cabby yanks his horse to an abrupt stop and the stranger helps bundle us into the cab.
"Scotland Yard!" I shout.
"God speed," says the stranger as the cab lurches away. I feel a surge of satisfaction at this man's kindness. If he only knew how much it meant. Who he is helping to save.
I lean back, clutching Watson to me, trying to shelter him from the bumps and lurches of the cab. I don't know when he passed out, but he is unconscious by the time we reach the Yard.
The cabby, in an unheard of gesture, leaps down from his perch and hails the nearest policeman. "Here now! Give us a hand!" The officer rushes over and I maneuver Watson out before me.
"Mr. Holmes!" the officer is shocked. "What's happened to the doctor?"
"He's been shot," I said curtly. "Help me get him inside."
"Who did it?" The officer was livid.
"Not now, man! We need to get him inside and stable!"
"Right, sir!" Between the two of us, we manage the weight of the unconscious man and get him into the building. We head for the infirmary, developing an entourage along the way. Lestrade is one of them. He keeps peppering me with questions. I ignore them all, intent on seeing my friend to safety.
We lay him out on one of the operating tables and I step back to let the Yard doctor take a look.
"He's lost a lot of blood, but I think we can get him to pull through," the doctor says softly as he examines the wound and begins to staunch the bleeding. "It's gone through, so no surgery to remove the bullet. We just need to stabilize him and get this bleeding stopped. He can't spare much more."
At this point, I collapse onto the nearest flat surface, which happens to be the operating table next to Watson. I feel as though all the energy has left my body. He HAS to live, I think desperately. I reach out and take his hand. "Come on, Watson, stay with me." I realize I'm pleading, I know that the room is full of policemen witnessing my distress. But I don't care. I can't care about anything but Watson right now. Peripherally, I realize that Lestrade is clearing the room. Soon only he is left. He is silent, which I appreciate. I don't know how I will answer his questions.
We sit in silence. I am still holding Watson's limp hand. The doctor is stitching up the wound. He finishes and says, "I have a few other patients to look in on. I will be back shortly." He leaves.
Finally, Lestrade speaks, "What happened, Holmes?"
I look at him with dull eyes. "You'll find a dead man in the tunnel three blocks from here."
"The case is over then?"
"Not a threat for now."
"Did he shoot Doctor Watson?"
I look at him steadily. "No."
His eyebrows shoot up, "Then who?"
"There were only the three of us there, Inspector," I say softly.
"You!" Lestrade is incredulous. I nod. "WHY! In the name of God, why?" he is horrified.
"He had a dead man's switch. I was given a choice. Kill Watson, or let London burn."
"But Watson isn't dead."
"Not yet, but I had intended him to be. Apparently, my hand was shaking more than I realized. I missed his heart, which is what I had believed myself to be aiming at."
"So how comes the villain to be dead?" Lestrade asks softly. "And London still in one piece?"
I take a deep, shuddering breath. "The switch was a dummy."
"Yes. I was bluffed." I surged to my feet, energy returning in a rush of adrenaline as I remembered the moments in the tunnel. "Bluffed into shooting my – " I cut off. "Then he laughed, and I suddenly didn't care about London anymore. I could only think what a vile thing I had just done. Without thinking, I turned my revolver on the him and my aim was truer there. I shot him in the hand, destroying the switch. I then killed him with a vicious blow from the butt of my revolver. That's when I realized the switch was a dummy, London was safe. And I had shot Watson for nothing. Then he spoke, and I saw that my shot had been off by quite a margin. We came here as quickly as we could." I stop speaking. I'd run out of words.
"Good God," breathes Lestrade.
"Now that I've just admitted to murder and attempted murder, I fully expect that you will be arresting me."
Lestrade just looks at me, dumbfounded. "We'll see," he says finally. He stands and leaves the room. I turn to Watson's bed, looking down at the one individual on earth who I cared about more than myself.
I close my eyes and hang my head. "I'm so sorry," I say yet again.
"Holmes?" Watson's voice is barely a breath, but my eyes fly open to meet his. The brown eyes are dull and confused. "What – what's happened?"
"Shh, you must be quiet and rest."
He looks at me, and I can see fear in his eyes. It nearly breaks my heart.
"Don't leave me," he whispers as his eyes drift shut.
I lunge forward and feel for his pulse. It's still there, thready and weak, but still there. "Doctor!" I shout. I'm not sure if I'm yelling at Watson or calling the Yard doctor.
A moment later, the Yard doctor bursts into the room, "what is it?"
"He was awake, just for a moment."
"Was he lucid?"
"He seemed to understand what I was saying, but he couldn't remember what happened."
The doctor looks at me, "He is going to need a blood transfusion. He has lost too much of his own and will not be able to replace it on his own in time."
"Then I am your man," I volunteer immediately.
"It is dangerous. He still may not pull through."
"I understand. But one way he will surely die. The other is only a maybe. I'll risk the maybe."
"He will need it immediately."
"Let's not waste any more time talking then."
"We do not have the necessary materials on hand for the procedure, but he is too unstable to move yet. So I've sent a messenger to the hospital requesting that they send us what we need. And that includes a doctor who knows how to do the process."
"Very good. Thank you."
Later, I am laying on the operating table next to my dearest friend, all the paraphernalia for the transfusion being attached and readied. Watson stirs on his table.
"Holmes?" he calls weakly.
"Right here, dear chap."
His head rolls my way. His eyes fix on mine. "What is going on?"
"You need blood, my friend. And I'm giving it to you."
"No buts, Watson. Just lie quiet now. We'll talk soon."
The doctor from the hospital stands over Watson's and says, "We're going to give you a light sedative to make sure that you lie still through the procedure," and he proceeds to administer the drug to Watson. His eyes don't leave my face until they slide shut in drugged sleep. I remain concious during the procudure and watch my friend the whole time. How could my powers have deserted me so completely that I missed the fact the switch was a dummy? Now his life was at risk because I allowed emotion to cloud my judgement.
Well, it is a mistake I will not make again. If I have to leave Baker Street and Watson behind to avoid this mistake again, so be it.
I can feel myself getting light headed, and I lie back on the table. I turn my head, fighting dizziness, and look at Watson. He is looking better already, the deathly pallor of his skin has faded. He looks peaceful. I struggle to sit up. The doctor is at my side quickly.
"Lie back, Mr. Holmes. You're going to need a bit of recovery time yourself. I took a pint from you. It'll have to do him since that's all I can safely remove."
I lay back down, feeling a little faint. He brings me a cup of tea. "Here, drink this. And have some biscuits. It will help." He helps me lift my head and I sip the tea. He slips a couple of pillows under me to keep my head up.
"Thank you, doctor," I murmur. "I don't believe I got your name through all this."
He smiles, "Peters, Andrew Peters."
"Well, thank you, Doctor Peters. I am deeply grateful for the help you've given my friend."
"A pleasure to be of service, Mr. Holmes," he replies. "I must get back to the hospital now. Call Dr. Phillips, the Yard doc, if you need anything. He can get me a message at the hospital and I'll be over as soon as I can."
"Of course. Thank you."
Propped up on my pillows, I watch Watson's face for any signs of consciousness. I am very aware of time passing, and no change in my friend. The Yard doctor pops in every now and then to check on him, take his pulse and assess his condition.
"He is stable, with a strong pulse," he says on one visit. "His body just needs time to replenish the blood stores. He may be unconscious for a while."
I just nod, my eyes not leaving his face. This is entirely my fault. The thoughts that I have been managing to keep at bay come crashing down on me. Watson is lying there because of my failure. How can I ever make it up to him? What can I do to atone? I know there is nothing. Nothing but not putting him in this position in the future.
Hours later, I wake from a fitful doze to find his eyes open and resting on me. I sit up quickly and am beside his bed in a moment. I take his hand in mine. He smiles at me. I can't help my answering grin.
"My dear fellow," I say with no small amount of emotion, "how are you feeling?"
He huffs a small chuckle, then grimaces, "I feel like I've been trampled by a cart horse."
"Close enough," I reply. I hesitate, "Do you remember what happened?" I ask.
He nods, his eyes not leaving mine, "Yes. I remember it all."
I release his hand and step back, "I can have my things out of Baker Street in a fortnight."
"What?" His eyes cloud with confusion.
"I don't imagine you want to continue sharing rooms with someone who shot you. So I will move out."
"No!" his voice is explosive, much stronger than I expected from someone in his condition. "You will not-"
He is cut off by the entrance of the doctor who looks at me disapprovingly, "You were supposed to call me, not start an argument, Mr. Holmes."
"My apologies, Doctor," again, I am not sure which doctor I'm really addressing. I step back out of the way as he examines Watson.
"Excellent!" he says eventually. "Even better than we'd hoped. You will, of course, have to remain in bed until you have recovered sufficient strength. Probably no more than three weeks and you will be up and about again, Doctor Watson."
He leaves shortly after shooting me a look and saying, "He needs rest, not excitement."
I nod, not looking at Watson.
"Holmes." Watson's voice is firm. I glance at him.
"Stop being ridiculous," he says. Then his eyes slid closed and he is asleep. I laugh softly to myself. Am I being ridiculous? How would I react if I were in his shoes? What if he had been the one to shoot me? Would he have made the same choice I did? I didn't think so.
I leave the Yard briefly to fetch fresh clothes from Baker Street. When I return he is awake again. He looks relieved to see me and a smile lights up his face.
"Did you think I'd deserted you?"
He shrugs with his good shoulder, "The thought did cross my mind," he admits.
I find myself bitterly disappointed that he would suspect me of such a thing, but have to admit that he has good reason for his thoughts.
"Are you really planning on moving out of Baker Street?" he asks softly.
"I will stay if it is really what you want." Again, I let judgement take a back seat to emotions, but we pulled through this time, and I resolved to be on my guard in future.
"Holmes deferring to my wishes. Someone mark this day on the calendar. I don't believe it will ever happen again." I meet his eyes and see the humor sparkling there. "Of course it's what I want, Holmes. Besides, if you move out, who will wait on me hand and foot while I convalesce?"
I laugh, relief and delight rising within me at his words. "So I will be nurse for the next few weeks."
"If it's not too much trouble," he says still smiling.
"No, my dear friend. Nothing is too much trouble for you."
Hope you enjoyed it! And the first successful blood transfusion was in 1818, so Holmes giving blood is at least plausible.