Although my wound from being struck by James Winters' bullet was 'quite superficial' in Holmes' estimation it had the unfortunate aim to strike me in my bad leg in a particularly weak spot.
Adrenaline and relief, at first, were medicine enough. I easily walked away from my near-miss with death only to collapse once we reached Baker Street, my leg giving out from under me, the shivering muscles no longer willing to support my sturdy frame.
Fortunately, Holmes was more than willing to support me. He caught me easily in his sinewy arms and practically carried me up to the sitting room, a testament to his almost inhuman strength. Once I was placed upon the settee, he checked me over worriedly, his hand against my forehead, fearful of the threat of infection.
I wasn't fevered and the wound looked no worse than it did a few hours previously, but he didn't seem willing to take any chances. "It needs dressing," he said crisply, hauling over my bag to lay at my feet where he also knelt, cutting away the entire leg of my trousers in three efficient slices with his pocketknife.
Part of me wanted to wave him away, to tell him that I would do it myself but I was so struck by his concern, heretowith unknown to me, that I simply resigned myself over to his care. I'm ashamed to say that I took great pleasure in his attention; to see those fine brows knit together in worry over my injury, followed by relief once it was cleaned and dressed.
"Well done, Doctor Holmes," I jested, struggling to get up, intent on going to bed as it had been a long day. My leg cried out in protest and I couldn't hide my grimace of pain.
"Watson, will you be still for but a moment?" Holmes sighed. "And, for god's sake, let me tend to you as you have to me, at least this once? Come now, to my room which fortunately is in good standing, Mrs. Hudson having bullied her way in to clean it not two days ago. There, stand up and lean on me, dear fellow. That's it."
I followed his instructions and it was well for me as I found myself still dizzy and not all together well. Holmes was the soul of consideration during that torturous walk, moving slowly but surely until we reached his room. "Good. Now off with the trousers."
I think I might have gaped a little in shock, but his amused expression calmed me. "Look down, Watson. There is but one leg left, I'm sure you'll be more comfortable once they are off. The jacket and the rest must go as well. No false modesty now, Doctor, let's be rid of it all."
A strange shyness overtook me as I obeyed. I shook it away and undressed with Holmes' help. Once clad only in my small clothes, he helped me lie down and gently tucked me beneath the eiderdown. Another fleeting touch to my forehead to check for fever and he was over by the grate, coaxing it to roaring life. "It's still chilly in here," he complained. "How are you there, Watson?"
I thought for a moment, wondering if I should tell him the truth. That my leg was throbbing infernally and that I was shivering from a slight case of shock as well as the late fall air.
But it was too late, he already read my expression as easily as if I'd spoken aloud. With two quick movements, he stripped off his own clothing and shimmied beneath the covers before I could voice a protest. "Shared body heat is the most efficient way to heat a chilled patient. You should know that well enough."
I wanted to laugh as he wound himself around me like a mink, slender and smooth and so very warm. "Perhaps, but I'm not sure my patients would be appreciative of such an unorthodox method."
"They are foolish then," he murmured back, his nose buried against my neck. His hand was on my wounded shoulder, soothing the ache there with small circles of his long fingers. His legs were arranged in such a way to comfort me yet not to aggravate my injury.
I felt my heart rate slowly steady and the rigors that plagued me calm. His fingers wandered easily over my hair and cheek, relaxing me and I reveled in his tender gestures. It was certainly worth a wound, a dozen of them, to have him caress me so and I cared not if he could deduce my thoughts on the matter.
"I would have," he whispered after some moments of quiet.
"I would have killed him," Holmes said. His voice held steel within. "Not as terrible a death as it would have deserved - my knowledge of poisons would have been put to good use then - but death, certainly."
"Holmes!" I admonished, turning to face him. "Speak no more of such awful consequences. For what good would have been our work together to see you throw it all away for a moment of revenge? You would have ended up in the gallows!"
"Gladly. For without you by my side ..." He paused then, his breathing suddenly aggravated. "Never mind, I see I've upset you and that was not my intention. Give me your hand, dear. Ah, yes it is cold, as I thought it might be. Let me hold it to me." He drew me against him and I followed, unable to resist. "It is hard for me to realize in such a sudden and shocking manner that I take you for granted more often than not. You complain so little ..."
"I have no complaints," I assured him firmly. "It is my pleasure to be by your side in all things."
"Still, you need to speak up more. Shake me when I lose my sight of what's most important," he said, his entire body flush to mine, melting me with his great warmth. His voice grew sleepy and I watched as his beautiful gray eyes slipped closed. "Let me not lose sight of you, Watson. Let me never lose you altogether. Promise me, I beg."
"You will never lose me altogether," I pledged solemnly, unable to stop myself from pressing a kiss to his brow. "I cannot be kept away from your side by any simple fate, least of these death."
"Ah, John," he breathed, so content, I had to fight back tears. I felt no pain, no chill, nothing but him beside me.
And I beside him, where I would stay. Always.
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