==It's a Wonderful Life, Doctor==
Christmas fic! When Dr. Watson falls into deep financial trouble, he is tempted to commit suicide—until an angel shows him how profoundly his life has touched the lives of others. Based on the Jimmy Stewart classic.
"I owe everything to John Watson. Help him, dear Father."
"Joseph, Jesus, and Mary. Help my friend Dr. Watson."
"Help the dear Doctor tonight."
"He never thinks about himself, God; that's why he's in trouble."
"The Doctor's a good'un. Help 'im, God."
"I love him, dear Lord. Watch over him tonight."
"I'm not a man of faith, God, but my dearest friend—my only friend—needs help…"
"Hello, Joseph. Trouble?"
"Looks as if we'll have to send someone down—many people are asking for help for a man named John Watson."
"John Watson. Yes, tonight's his crucial night. You're right: we'll have to send someone down immediately. Whose turn is it?"
"That's why I came to see you, sir. It's that clockmaker's turn again."
"Ohhh, Clarence. Hasn't got his wings yet, has he? We've passed him up right along."
"Because, you know, sir, he has the brains of a rabbit."
"Yes, but he has the faith of a child—simple. Joseph, send for Clarence."
"You sent for me, sir?"
"Yes, Clarence. A man down on Earth needs our help."
"Splendid! Is he sick?"
"No, worse. He's discouraged. At exactly 10:45 PM tonight, London time, that man will be thinking seriously of throwing away God's greatest gift.
"Oh, dear, dear! His life! Then I've only an hour to dress. What are they wearing now?"
"You will spend that hour getting acquainted with John Watson."
"Sir… if I should accomplish this mission… I mean… might I perhaps win my wings? I've been waiting for over two hundred years now, sir… and people are beginning to talk."
"What is that book you have there?"
"The Adventures of Tom Sawyer."
"Clarence, you do a good job with John Watson, and you'll get your wings."
"Oh, thank you, sir. Thank you!"
"Poor John… Sit down."
"Sit down, Joseph? What are…"
"If you're to help a man, you want to know something about him, don't you?"
"Well, naturally, of course."
"Well, keep your eyes open. Do you see the hill?"
"Where? I don't see a thing."
"Oh, I forgot. You don't have your wings yet. Now look, I'll help you out. Concentrate. Begin to see something?"
"Why, yes. This is amazing."
"If you ever get your wings, you'll see all by yourself."
The hill was perfect for sledding, and if one did well, he could slide far across the ice on the river below. One of the several boys present threw himself facedown on his sled and coasted down the hill and onto the ice, whooping with exhilaration.
"Who is that?"
"That is your problem, John Watson."
"That's him when he was twelve, back in 1867. Just watch."
The other boys followed John's lead, whooping and sliding down the hill and across the ice. John grinned at the older boy still on the hilltop. "And here comes my lazy brother Harry!" he called.
"You'll pay for that, Johnny!" Harry retorted, just before he slid down the hill. But the older boy slid so far out onto the ice that he hit a thin patch in the river's bend. The ice broke beneath the sudden weight, and Harry slipped into the water.
"Harry!" John screamed, hurrying across the slippery ice as quickly as he could.
"I'm coming, Harry!" Without a moment's hesitation, John plunged into the water and grabbed at his flailing brother. "Lads, come on!" he shouted. "Make a chain!"
The other boys threw themselves down, forming a human chain to reach the Watson brothers. In just a few moments, the brothers were safely back on thicker ice.
"John saved his brother's life that day. But he caught a bad cold, and it was weeks before he could return to old man Gower's pharmacy, where he worked to learn more about medicine."
"Why? Was he going to become a doctor?"
Several boys walked arm in arm down the street, whistling, until their attention was drawn to an elegant carriage passing them. "Mr. Potter," one of the boys murmured.
"Who is that? A king?"
"That is Hilton F. Potter, one of the richest and meanest men in London."
The boys continued on till they reached the pharmacy, John waving to his chums as he disappeared inside. "So long, lads!" He moved on towards the back room, calling, "It's me, Mr. Gower—John Watson."
A middle-aged man peered out from behind the door to the back room. "You're late, boy." He took a swig from the bottle in his hand.
"Yes, sir," said John, slightly subdued. He took a nearby broom and began to sweep the floor, soon whistling once more.
Gower stepped into the front room, bleary-eyed, unshaven, and chewing an old, unlit cigar. "Watson!" he called gruffly. "Watson!"
The boy looked up from his task. "Yes, sir?"
"You're not paid to be a canary!"
"No, sir." As Gower returned to his haunt, John moved on to polishing the counter. A telegram lay in his way, and he was about to move it when his eye caught the word died.
WE REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT YOUR SON ROBERT DIED SUDDENLY THIS MORNING OF INFLUENZA STOP EVERYTHING POSSIBLE WAS DONE FOR HIS COMFORT STOP WE AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS FROM YOU FINAL STOP
John bit his lip and glanced at the back door, then made up his mind. He poked his head through the door to see his drunken employer filling a box with capsules. "Mr. Gower," the boy said timidly, "do you want something… anything?"
"Anything I can do back here?" John persisted.
"No." Gower fumbled and spilled some capsules on the floor.
"I'll get them, sir," John assured him, swooping down and retrieving the capsules.
Gower waved John aside, clamping down on his cigar and casting himself into a chair. Curious, John turned the bottle from which Gower took the capsules —the label read Poison. John gasped.
"Take those capsules over to Mrs. Blaine's house," Gower ordered. "She's waiting for them."
John's hazel eyes widened as he picked up the box with suddenly-numb fingers. "Y-yes, sir…" He glanced at the poison bottle, uncertain of what to say. He surely couldn't deliver the capsules! "Um, they have the diphtheria there, haven't they, sir?"
"Mmm." Gower stared moodily into space, sucking his cigar.
"Is it a charge, sir?"
"Mr. Gower, I think…"
"Get going, boy!"
"Yes, sir." John beat a hasty retreat and halted just outside the shop. Well, this is really a fix. As he wracked his brains for a solution, he glanced around the street… and caught sight of Mr. Potter's carriage, parked before a very familiar building. "Father," John breathed.
He dashed across the street and entered the building labeled Watson Building and Loan Association. Running up the stairs, he burst into the old office, startling the occupants. "Master John," the secretary frowned worriedly, "if you're wanting your father, you can't see him."
"I ken he's with Mr. Potter," John assured him, "but this is important."
"It's shaping up to a storm in there!" the clerk warned.
The boy faltered for a moment, then shook his head, resolute. "It's important." He crossed the room and opened the door to his father's office.
Henry Watson was seated behind his desk, a gentle idealist of a man, early forties but looking older and wearier. Before him in a majestic easy chair sat Hilton Potter—a man about the same age, with flint-like dark eyes and a cruel slit of a mouth. "I am not crying, Mr. Potter," Mr. Watson was protesting.
"Well, then, you are begging, man, and that is a good deal worse," Potter retorted.
"All I ask is thirty days more—"
"Father!" John interjected.
"Just a minute, son." The man returned his attention to Potter. "Just thirty short days. I can dig up that five thousand, I swear it."
"Have you put any true pressure on those people of yours to pay those mortgages?" Potter sneered.
"Times aren't good, Mr. Potter. Many of these people are out of work."
"I can't do that—these families have children!"
"They're not my children."
"But they're somebody's children."
"Come off it, man—are you running a business or a charity ward?"
"Not with my money!"
"Mr. Potter, what makes you such a hard-skulled character? You have no family, no children—you can't begin to spend all the money you have!"
"So I suppose I should give it to miserable failures like you to spend for me, is that it?"
John's eyes flashed dangerously as he took a deliberate step toward the easy chair. "He's not a failure! You can't say that about my father!"
"John," Mr. Watson tried to soothe. "John…"
But John's Scottish temper had come to the fore. "You're not! You're the greatest man in town!"
"Run along, son, please." Watson pushed his son gently toward the door.
"Greater'n him!" John continued indignantly, giving a shove at Potter's shoulder as he passed. "Greater'n everybody!"
As Watson steered his son out of the room, John half-heard another derogatory muttered under Potter's breath. His blood fired up in him again, but he was now outside the office and his father was closing the door. "Don't let him say that about you, Father!" John pleaded.
"All right, son, thank you. I'll talk to you tonight." And the door shut.
"Now what am I to do?" John moaned, staring at the box still clenched in his hand. He breathed the sigh of one with the world on his shoulders and returned to the pharmacy, much more slowly than he'd left it.
Gower was leaning against the counter, still chewing on his cigar. "Back so soon?"
John winced as he smelled the alcohol but stood his ground. "Yes, sir. But, um, sir, I didn't…"
"Didn't deliver 'em, is that so?" The drunken pharmacist was off the counter now, advancing on the boy. "Well?" He took John by the shoulders, pulled him into the back room, and shook him. "Is that so?"
John stared at his employer with wide, frightened eyes. "Y-yes, sir, I—argh!" Gower had backhanded him on the side of his head and continued to slap him. Tears stinging his eyes, John raised his hands to protect himself.
"What kind of tricks are you playing, anyway? Why didn't you deliver them right away? Don't you know that boy's very ill?
"Stop it, please!" John pleaded.
"You lazy loafer!"
"Mr. Gower, you donnae ken what you're doing!" John burst out, sobbing in a voice now more Scottish than English. "You put somethin' wrong in those capsules. I ken you're unhappy. You got that telegram, an' you're upset. You put somethin' bad in those capsules. It wasnae your fault, Mr. Gower…" John held up the little box, which was promptly snatched away. "Just look an' see what you did. Look at the bottle you took the powder from. It's poison, I tell you, it's poison! I ken you feel bad… an'…" He faltered, gingerly feeling his red face.
Gower looked up from the hurting boy to the large brown bottle on the shelf, the damning label still visible for all the world to see. Abruptly sobered, he staggered backwards, turning to the whimpering boy backed up against a shelf. "John…"
John cringed as Gower took a step forward. "Donnae strike me 'gain, sir!" he cried.
But Gower swept John into a shaky embrace and sobbed into the boy's golden brown hair. "No… no… no…"
"Oh, John, John…"
"Mr. Gower, I wonnae ever tell anyone. I ken what you're feeling. I wonnae ever tell a soul. Hope t' die, I wonnae!"
A sixteen-year-old boy inspected the assortment of luggage before him. The clerk behind the counter hefted up a suitcase and opened it. "An overnight bag," he declared. "Cowhide, combination lock, fitted up with brushes, combs…"
The boy shook his head. "No. No… no, no, no. Now, look here, Joe, I want a large one." He stretched out his arms to demonstrate.
"Take a good look at that face, Clarence."
"Who is it?"
"Oh, the boy who was slapped by the pharmacist?"
"That's the boy."
"It's a good face. I like it. I like John Watson. Tell me, did he ever tell anyone about the pills?"
"Not a soul."
"Seems like he's an adventurous sort of fellow. Did he ever have any adventures?"
"You read Tom Sawyer, but I think you should have read A Study in Scarlet instead. Just wait and see."
To Be Continued…
Well, hey, what do you think? My family watched It's a Wonderful Life this past weekend, and I'd already had the idea to adapt the story to the world of Sherlock Holmes. Watching the movie (which is one of my all-time favorites) just gave me the drive to get this going. Maybe I'll even get it done by Christmas!
This fic probably isn't fully Canon, in order to fit more with the original story—that can be excused, yes? Don't worry, you'll still see Mary and Holmes and Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade and Gregson and even Wiggins!