Title: Last Respects
Author: Ingrid Matthews
Rating: PG-13 (for disturbing themes)
Genre: Angst, Friendship
(Warning: Allusions to suicidal thoughts.)
Summary: After Watson is badly injured, Lestrade has to pull Holmes back from the edge, literally.
The surgeons fight around Watson's seemingly lifeless body. His gore-soaked trousers have already been sheared away, showing the slick red of fresh blood oozing from a leg that's already been tormented by a bullet, some ten years before.
The doctors aren't sure where the new bullet has lodged or how to get it out as the deformed anatomy of Watson's bad leg gives them terrible pause in how to proceed. They attempt to staunch the bleeding as they feel for his pulse which appears to go in and out.
One of them determines he will operate immediately. It is Anstruther, Watson's colleague who turns viciously on Holmes who is simply standing there, shocked silent, as if in a nightmare. "Out! If you want him to live! Which, to be honest, Mr. Holmes I'm not all that sure you do. For shame he's come to this after all he's been through, for shame! Now out, you selfish fool!"
Holmes lets himself be shoved into the hall. A door is slammed in his face and the frantic noises beyond it are muted.
He stares at the wood, sightless, save for the memory of Watson being felled by Edinmier's bullet, his blood spilling over the sawdust floor. Remembers Watson sinking into his embrace, his handsome face a mask of pain and regret.
"My poor Holmes," he had whispered, touching the side of Holmes' face before the light of consciousness left his eyes.
He'd let Edinmier go. The man had won whether he knew it or not. He had beaten Sherlock Holmes, his winning hand drenched in innocent blood. Watson's blood and Holmes startles, inhaling sharply, his body trembling.
Watson is not all right. Watson is badly hurt; he's going to die and this is all Holmes' fault. There is no prayer he can say, no Providence he can appeal to, he's brought this on the one person he loves and ...
Holmes stumbles backwards. Blindly, his hands reach out, grabbing at nothing and for the first time, logic fails him utterly. What have I done, he thinks and is running then, running out of St. John's, as fast as his legs can carry him away, to anywhere.
To nowhere, as the streets blur and meld in his dimmed vision. He runs toward the water, to the river that weaves its way through the island. To the stinking canal where the slicks of filth float by, to the docks where a man might be alone.
He has no idea what he'll do there. What does a man who has nothing, is nothing do with a body that has not the good manners to quit once the heart has been destroyed?
Holmes has no idea. But he plans on finding out.
Lestrade is used to searching for Holmes. It's always been a bit of a game, the great detective delighting in being literally a mile ahead of him. But it's a source of pride to the Inspector that he knows how to track the man down when few else can.
It's to this end he works now after Mycroft Holmes comes to St. John's and surveys the situation with the same strange, flickering gaze that overcomes his brother during an investigation. "Sherlock isn't here," Mycroft states, although Lestrade hadn't noticed, so worried were they about the doctor and their lost quarry, Edinmier.
"Guess not," Lestrade says, peering around. "Maybe he went for a walk."
"Away from his doctor's side at a time like this? Hardly like him," Mycroft states again mildly, but there's that agitation that Holmes shows when he's confounded, at least for a few seconds. "I fear my brother may be overcome with grief and gone on to assuage his guilt over the doctor's condition."
"What?" Lestrade gapes at him. Sherlock Holmes, upset over the hurt of another human being? Impossible. "He's chasing down that brute, if anything."
"I don't believe that's the case. Either way, can you find him Inspector? I'd be most grateful if you could," Mycroft says coolly and Lestrade hears the offer - perhaps even a threat - implied there.
"All right," Lestrade agrees because it would be good if Holmes collars the thug and they can close up this mess, even better to prove yet another uppity Holmes wrong. Grieving over the doctor, Lestrade scoffs silently, but as he leaves hospital, he wonders.
As he walks his wondering turns into speculation, his speculation into a theory and that terrifying theory makes Lestrade take off, frantically hailing a cab to the Bridge, to get there at top speed as if the Devil himself were on his tail.
Holmes is shivering in the dock house, debating exactly how to end his own life.
He's gone through the entire scenario a few times, trying to think of the neatest, most logical method, but comes to the inevitable conclusion that suicide is always messy and never logical.
It doesn't matter. He's going to carry on with it. What he's done is unacceptable by any standards, even those as flexible as his own. Watson deserved better. He deserved happiness and true friendship, a loving companion and partner, not someone whom he felt compelled to die for.
For Edinmier was aiming for Holmes at that fatal moment. Not Watson.
The thought makes him groan aloud and he nearly does it right there and then, with the revolver. But it's Watson's gun, pocketed in the frantic race to hospital and he simply can't do it like that. Wasting the man's bullets on top of everything else ..
The bridge beckons, the black water below waiting to swallow him whole. Will he die immediately, probably not, as it's not a tremendous height. Something will break before he drowns and that will be about equal to what Watson has suffered, being shot and left to linger before passing on.
It seems fair and with luck there will be no body to honor later. He will simply ... disappear.
With a determined inhale, Holmes stumbles over to the landing, to begin the climb up. He doesn't see the dark figure standing there, waiting, not until a hand reaches out and grabs his arm.
He reacts instantly but half-heartedly, swinging with a punch that is caught and pushed aside. "None of that now." It's Lestrade and Holmes squeezes his eyes shut with frustration. "Where have you been? And what do you think you're doing climbing up there, eh?"
"I need some air," Holmes rasps, his frustration nearly choking him. "Pray let me get it."
"There's plenty air down here," Lestrade says, lighting a brown cigarette. He offers one to Holmes who waves it away. "To tell you the truth, I don't think that's the whole story there. In fact, I think you were planning on pulling a jump on us."
"You are twisting data to suit your own theory," Holmes replies dully. "Let me on my way, Inspector."
Lestrade leans back casually, blowing a smoke ring. "I would, Mr. Holmes. Be right glad to, I suppose, as there's no stopping a man from doing something stupid. Not that I'd ever imagine you being stupid. Oh, yes, you're a lot of things - rude, irritating, egotas ... egotus ..."
"Egotistical," Holmes sighs.
"Right. But stupid, that's a new one." Lestrade ponders for a moment, staring up at the cloudy sky painted with the half-moon's light. "And I'd say it's stupid for any man to kill himself for any reason because, well, it's not like that dark day ain't coming down the road sometimes anyway. But in this particular case, I would be thinking that a man as smart as yourself would want to see how this day turned out rather than running off before his time."
"I've seen how the day has turned," Holmes snarls, suddenly shaking. With rage, with fear ... he doesn't even know anymore. Emotional outbursts confuse him, he often can't tell one from the other but what he is feeling now, it's not pleasant. "My friend," He pauses, breathless with horror. "My poor, dear friend ..."
"Will be a lot worse off waking up and finding you floating in the drink," Lestrade finishes coolly.
"He's not waking up!" Holmes cries. "I've killed him, don't you see? They won't be able to save him, didn't you see? His leg ..."
"Was shot in before and he lived through it. I'd never thought I'd say this, but it baffles me that I have more faith in the doctor than you do. He may have the look of a pampered gentleman about him, but underneath he's as tough as a war horse and twice as feisty."
Lestrade turns on Holmes, somewhat angrily. "And I doubt that he'd give up on you so easily. Where's your courage, man? No, no, don't tell me that it's brave to face down all the brutes you do, it's not all that hard, I do it myself. To stand by a friend through to the bitter end, if it comes to that, is courageous. This ..." Lestrade waves to the bridge looming over them. "This is the coward's way out and you know it. Maybe he'll die, true, but he might live and what a memory you'll leave behind. Forever you'll be the man who ran away when the chips were down, the friend who had no heart."
Holmes' lip trembles violently. "I have a heart," he whispers and to his horror, he feels the salt-burn of tears on his cheeks.
"Then use it," Lestrade replies kindly. Too kindly. "Go back to the doctor's side and be there for him. Show him the courage and honor he'd show you, even if he dies. He's counting on you for his memory to keep. That's the hard thing in the end, but it's what you have to do."
Holmes stares at him, wondering at the uniquely unwelcome realization that the Inspector, for perhaps the first time, is right. He allows him to lead him away by the elbow and together they take a hansom back to St. John's.
He enters the hospital, his head hung low.
He knows his brother is there, watching him and knowing what he attempted to do. Holmes waits for the lecture, but Mycroft says nothing. He squeezes his shoulder before leading him to the door of the private ward - the door where wait remains of Watson awaits.
Holmes shuts his eyes tightly. He steels himself before slowly pushing the door open.
He sees Watson lying there, looking very small and helpless against the starched white sheets. He's lying very still, too still. But then ...
The dear face turns, blue eyes open. "There you are," Watson rasps, his voice so low even Holmes with his sharp ears has to strain to hear. "Where have you been?"
Holmes thinks he's going to faint with relief. He pulls over a chair and sits down beside Watson who examines him with heartbreaking concern. "Getting some air. How do you fare?"
"Been better, but will be well soon enough. As I might have insinuated at some point, I'm not one to be easily carried off by the Reaper, as anxious as he is for me. My dear, how pale you look. Ring the bell, they will bring a brandy if you say it's for me," Watson says, his heavily lidded eyes speaking of the morphine coursing through his blood.
"I don't need anything, thank you," Holmes says and he leans forward, putting his hand to Watson's cheek, which makes the doctor smile for some reason. "Forgive me for leaving your side. I promise I will try to be braver."
Confused, Watson shakes his head. "You are the bravest man I know."
"We must buy you a mirror then, to dispel such a ridiculous belief. But you are tired and must sleep," Holmes says, stroking the rough stubble of Watson's face. "I promise to be here when you awake."
"Mycroft said Lestrade was going to fetch you." Watson yawns and winces a little in pain. "Did he actually find you?"
"I suppose even a broken clock is right twice a day," Watson says before slipping off to sleep, smiling at one of their old shared jokes.
A joke Holmes is quite sure he's never going to use again. He bends forward to kiss Watson's forehead and his eyelids before settling back into the hardback chair.
He knows Lestrade is watching. He doesn't mind.
Not when he is being watched by a man he respects.
Thanks for reading! Reviews are appreciated. :D