A/N: I recommend reading Kipling's "If" before reading this story if it is to really make sense: http : / / www . poemhunter . com / poem / if /

And So Hold On

"It's not the worst idea you've ever had, but really? An acting troupe? I couldn't abide these people when we were twenty. Remember I told you that's one of the many reasons that I never acted? And now age has only made them worse. If I weren't so bored, I would never keep it up." He sighed and counted the spots on the ceiling for the twenty-third time in as many minutes. He was running out of things to look at while he talked. "Even the romantic intrigue is dull. They think they're so subtle, but if they announced who is going to Bingo with whom at the beginning of rehearsal, it would be just as obvious to me. Dull! Dull! Dull! Even you would…Ah!" He turned to look at the young woman walking through the door with a tray holding a bowl of soup and a cup of weak tea.

"Here's your lunch! And I see your friend is here. How nice. Maybe he'd like to…"

He stood up abruptly and strode toward the door. "Do what you're paid to do, or I'll report you. I'm leaving."


Sherlock Holmes stood leaning against the wall beside the door. Again. He couldn't leave yet, but he wanted to force his mind as far away as possible. He started dredging up old information that had been deleted, but not yet overwritten. Odd facts about…some song…Bon Jovi? Horrible. But yes, he'd walked up the stairs one day many years ago to the sound and had found… No. No good… Facts from school he'd tried to erase? A lot of them. The saccharine poetry he'd been forced to memorize. He'd try to recite one to himself. It might occupy his brain for a few minutes…

"If," by Rudyard Kipling. His mum had forced him to recite it for some friends once. Thought it was cute. He could restore that memory:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

Deleted memories were strange… Even as he pieced the words together he saw and heard brief disconnected moments from his past.

A hand suddenly steadying as it raised a black handgun.

"Any good?" "Very good."

A seventeen hour stake-out, but he wasn't alone.

A three week absence without any communication, and being greeted with, "Tea?" … No, no. There had been quite a bit of shouting…and a lecture…and then tea. That was right.

His own chuckle when he realized that that particular atrocious jumper was a new purchase…

He was losing the thread of the poem. The snatches of memory began to take the lead.

A funeral with two coffins—one barely a quarter of the size of the other. ...Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,/And stoop and build 'em up with worn out tools...

"What's this?" "It's none of your business! Give it back." And never breathe a word about your loss. "You were training to be a surgeon?"

If you can force your heart… "We have a pulse!"

"I'm nearly seventy, you know. I can't be your knight in shining armor every time you decide to leave retirement and get yourself kidnapped!" ...to serve your turn after they are gone "This is the first time it's happened..."

Or walk with kings... "So, how did Mycroft force you to accept this knighthood?" "He promised me company." "What? I'll kill you for this, Sherlock!" …nor lose the common touch.

And then the nurse's voice broke into his memories again. That falsely cheery…

"Almost half-way there! Swallow it slowly. There you go! It's a beautiful day today, isn't it? You're lucky to be by a window!"

Sherlock squeezed his eyes shut.

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more –

"Here, open…"

Sherlock burst back into the room. "He is a man! Don't treat him like a child. Give me that!" He grabbed the bowl out of the startled nurse's hands. "Don't you have someone else to bother?"

She gave him an angry look and started to do…whatever it was that she was supposed to do…

"Idiot!" He didn't bother to keep his voice down, even if he could hear the (strangely warm) voice of his conscience telling him to. "How did you stand working with nurses? I think I would have killed one of them if I were a doctor!"

Then he sat with the bowl in his hand and stared at it awkwardly. He looked at the medical equipment on the side of the bed. He looked up at the wall over the head of the bed.

The nurse had finished fussing, and was standing with her arms crossed. "Are you going to do it, or am I?"

He tried to glare at her and pretend he hadn't heard…not easy to do, really. But then he picked up the spoon and carefully brought it to the patient's mouth. He wiped a stray drop of food off his chin. Finally, he looked straight into his eyes.

"You're still better than my skull, you know."

Sherlock's sight was not what it had been thirty-five years ago, but he was still the most observant person in the room. That ridiculous nurse did not notice that John Watson smiled.