AN: This is a oneshot that popped into my head as two plotbunnies combined forces and tackled me unawares. It was actually my first try at a fanfiction for Sherlock Holmes, and its taken me this long to finish it.
Thanks belong to Lemon Zinger whose plotbunnies inspired this fanfiction. Listed below from I think "Close at Hand", if I'm not very much mistaken^^
He was sure he was about to die as he blacked out from a lack of oxygen underwater, but he was brought into wakefulness by his loyal comrade's terrified voice shouting at him to breathe.
The hallucinations became more and more vivid, sending him into fits of terror, but he was calmed by a familiar touch that told him everything was all right.
I beg that all spelling errors be forgiven, english is not my native tongue and try as I might to hide it, sometimes it does shine through. Therefore, all spelling errors may be kept and be laughed at.
Thanks to nomdeplume, who pointed my errors out, I hope I have found them all^^
Disclaimer: I'd be happy to own them, but as I do not, I'm sad *weep*
Fears in Darkness
With hindsight, it may not have been the best approach to follow the culprits without the presence of some Scotland Yarders close by, but as usual, Holmes' thrill for the hunt had prevailed. And so we had confronted them near the river front, where a fight had ensued.
Of course, Holmes was a force to be reckoned with and so was I; however against five strong men, three of whom attacked my good friend Holmes, we only stood limited chances. I had just managed to land a good blow upon the last of my attackers, while Holmes had already almost finished his three, when I turned just right to see the last one swing a club at the head of my dear friend. To my utmost horror, I saw him stumble backwards, and losing his balance, he fell into the dark depths of the River Thames.
Reacting before I entirely was aware of the things transpiring, I had landed a striking blow to the last standing (which possibly broke his nose, judging by the audible crack I heard) and was at the spot where Holmes had dissappeared from sight in a matter of mere seconds. Looking over I hoped for my friend to breach the surface, sputtering and coughing and was nearly beside myself with worry when it didn't happen.
Quickly I climbed down onto a nearby dock, hoping I could somehow grab him once I was closer to the waterfront. Also, I was fully prepared to dive in after my friend into the freezing waters of the river, for I was certain he would have surfaced by now if he had been conscious. And just when I was ready to hurl myself in after him, sharing his demise if need be, I spotted his form surfacing slowly, yet with no indication that he still was alive.
Trembling I hurled my friend out of the waters onto the pier, taking in his blank and senseless expression, frantically searching for his pulse, which I found to be there although fading quickly, when I realised the great detective had ceased to breathe. Obviously the blow had rendered him unconscious as he fell and landing in the waters, his lungs must have given out. Beside myself with terror, I started shaking his soaking wet figure, desperately wishing for him to gulp in air to refreshen his spirits.
"Holmes! You must breathe!" I shouted at him, although my own voice seemed strangely changed to me. By now I was shaking in my frenzied attempts to animate his terrorizingly still form and whether it be by chance or some unknown instinct of me, I pressed down hard upon his chest. As if that action had spurred a series of events in my friend's injured form, I heard and saw him coughing up a rather unhealthy amount of Londons very own river and was most relieved when he took a shaking breath afterwards.
"You must breathe, old chap! Come on, once more! Holmes, I will not permit you dying here, not like this!" I cried out, half mad in terror and joy for his condition (for he had breathed and lost some of the water in his lungs, yet he seemed too weak to intake another breath), carefully moving his head to the side, so that more of the water would leave his respiratory system. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest when I heard him coughing again, along with gasping for air. Knowing my friends iron will, I doubted not for a moment that he indeed would continue to breathe, and diverted my attention to the wounds he had received. Seeing a thin line of darker fluid on his skull, my suspicions were confirmed as I saw a rather large bleeding gash on his skull. As a doctor, I know of course how dangerous head injuries could be and if he survived the night, there was a high risk of infection and resulting fever which would only weaken his body further. Realizing this, it seemed to me as if an icy hand held my frame, and I shook once more at the thought of how close my friend came to dying. Not only was he injured, he had fallen into a portion of the Thames where the water was exceptionally dirty and had obviously swallowed a great deal of it, and to add to my growing list of worries, it was a November night and winter held England in its clutches. And if that had not been enough yet, even as I turned Holmes' face towards me to assess if he was conscious once more, I felt a few drops on my head. Now it would start to rain, such an icy rain as could freeze anyone who wasn't within shelter quickly enough.
Carefully I propped my friend up and leaned his thin frame on a post nearby, thinking that the upright position might help his condition further. And indeed it did, for it was not a mere moment before Holmes' eyelids fluttered heavily and his bleary gaze caught mine. Looking into those glazed eyes, normally spraying forth in vibrant grey, yet now blurred and unfocussed I worried even more about his health. I had told him, half in jest, not a while ago that someday he would get himself killed if he kept on going without any regard for his health, and now I feared I might have cursed my dearest of friends, for it seemed to come true all too soon. For a moment his eyes focussed on me and sparked briefly, and knowing my friend as I did, I knew he had recognized me. His voice however, seemed to fail him in this instance and even though I saw his lips move and caught the meaning of my name, I could not hear even a fragment of his voice.
"Don't try to move, Holmes. For a moment there I thought I had lost you to the Thames. You have a pretty gash on your head, old boy and fell in the river." I was not entirely able to mask my concern for the health of his, and for a brief moment he looked at me with a strange confused expression, such as I had never seen on my dear friends face before, nor ever after. It was only a moment however, a fleeting glance, before the cold of the night seized him and he began to shiver violently, coughing up even more dark water than I had thought he could hold in his lungs. Shrugging out of my warm coat and wrapping it around his thin form I ensured that at the least a bit of the cold would stay out and perhaps the coat could warm him a little.
My caring for my health had dissipated into nothing, a passing shadow in a dark night, so to speak, even as the rain poured down on us. Yet nothing, as I was used to, could get past Holmes, no matter the state he was in.
"Need your coat... will get ill, Watson" he managed between shivers, while his mind swam back and forth between oblivion and awareness. To this day I do not know why I suddenly was furious with my friend, but I did feel a sharp anger at his words. Here he was, soaking wet after a knock to the head and a plunge into the waters of the Thames, after having ceased breathing for perhaps a minute and he was concerned that I could get sick. I actually had to bite my tongue to prevent myself from shouting at him. Knowing the man that Sherlock Holmes was, at least as much as one man could know him, I knew if I shouted at him now, he would possibly retreat back into that indifferent shell which he called his own and reject further care.
"Never mind that Holmes. We must get you into a warmer place. Do you think you can stand, old friend?" I asked and was astounded that I could sound so calm, while my insides were churning at the very fear of the infection my dear friend could get. It nearly was a miracle in and of itself that I could keep my hands relatively from shaking as I had wrapped the coat around my friends shoulders.
"I believe I can... try." Holmes shivered out and with growing alarm I recognized that he seemed to be slipping back into unconsciousness. And as we were out in the cold winters night, there was the high probability that he should never awaken, should he fall asleep.
Hypothermia is a pretty tricky thing. One does not even know that he is on the verge of death itself and the grim reaper stretches its hideous hand, one simply fell asleep and never woke up. I doubt not that even from the fall into the river my friend would have died, had I not been with him to hoist him out of its depths.
Helping Holmes to his feet and assisting him to a short walk up the pier and onto the level we had been on before he had taken the plunge, I could see that even as I had feared, our quarry had run away, seizing the chance at escaping our grasp. It mattered not, we already knew their names and had informed Lestrade. He would find them now for sure, as they could not hide the evidence that they had been in a quarrel with us. Holmes remained silent as we passed the spot, yet I knew he had seen that it was empty, but had no strength left to argue with me. Or with himself rather, for I would have no doubt that he blamed only himself for their escape. And, as I was sure, he would soon enough be on the trail again, like a wounded bloodhound, slowed down maybe, but impossible to shake off.
My task however was to get Holmes back to Baker Street and tend to him there.
To my utmost terror Holmes had not spoken again on our way back home, yet his shivering had even increased so that the tremors now shook his entire frame, even to the point of teeth clattering and he had fallen unconscious soon after I had managed to hail a cab. I had rubbed his hands between mine, registering with mounting concern that they felt as if they were made of ice themselves. His forehead was clammy and cold and still he shook, it almost seemed as if someones invisible hand grabbed him by the shoulders and continued to rattle him. Constantly I tried to rouse him, but ever I failed in my frenzied attempts. His mind was caught in the blank oblivion that is unconsciousness and I dearly hoped we would reach Baker Street soon and I could get my friend in his bed where he could recuperate again.
Being as he is, a man of thin stature and odd habits, I doubted not that an infection would have a somewhat grimmer effect as it would have on any ordinary man. I also recalled with horror that I had not seen him eating for some two days, but as my friend often used to cease eating or sleeping when a case had him interested, I had thought nothing of it at the time. Only now did I fully realize the weight of that little thing. His body would be even weaker and the headwound would do the more to draw strength so much needed. Oh, how I wished for the horse to run faster, for the cabbie to drive the poor beast to exhaustion, so very high was my concern for my dear friend, who leaned in the corner of the hansom, shivering senselessly. Never had I seen my friend in such a dire state, and I hope and pray that I will never have to bear witness to it again.
Forcing my head to cease worry for at least a moment, I looked upon the gash on his head again. It was not as big as I had feared, thankfully. The blood had made it look worse than it really was and it had stopped bleeding. Doing my best to keep it clean, I dabbed carefully at the wound, while Holmes didn't even flinch at the contact. He never stopped shivering, but besides that, his frame and features were as still as a dead man's.
The drive seemed to take forever, an eternity spent with me watching Holmes grow ever weaker with every tremor that shook him. It was only a feeling however, for it could not have been more than ten minutes drive that seperated us from Baker Street and the cabbie did his utmost best to ensure the drive to be over as soon as possible. Before long (yet still not fast enough for me) I caught the familiar surroundings of Baker Street and the cabbie stopped the hansom with tremendous clatter before our door. Paying him an extra sovereign to make him help carry my friend upstairs, we made quick work of the business. Mrs. Hudson, poor landlady of ours, gasped as she saw the state Holmes was in.
I must admit, I flinched and pity roared in my heart as I saw his face in the lamplights upstairs. In the cab I had not caught much of his face, as it lay in shadow for the most of the drive, yet now I could see the deathly pale colour my friend showed and that his lips had a sickly blue tinge. And as I saw that through a doctor's and a friend's eye, even though I had deemed it impossible, my concern grew even more, so much indeed that now I feared over my own sanity.
I had sent Mrs. Hudson downstairs to bring heated water into Holmes' bedroom, and I used the time to relieve him of his drenched clothing, allowing him as much dignity as I could. I knew he would have preferred to do this in private, and would he have been conscious he would have commanded me out of the room, but as he was senseless still and I needed to warm him up, I had no compunctions in taking off his wet clothes. I worked swiftly and concentrated on my task and before I knew it, Holmes lay in his bed, his shivering form covered with a blanket and his head covered in a plain bandage.
Overnight my friend developed a high fever and there was not much for me to change it, save trying to cool his fever with a dampened towel placed on his forehead, but his condition worsened ever farther. By daybreak he was delirious, babbling all sorts of nonsense and I could do nothing to ease him. The dreaded illusions threw him into fits of terror, where he clutched the blanket until his knuckles where white with the pure force at which he dug his fingers within the cotton. And all the while I sat next to him, kept the towel on him and tried to assure my friend that what he might see were only illusions conjured of his mind, worsened by the condition his body was in.
I do not know if I succeeded, but I hoped that my mindless chatter would rouse him, only so that he could snarl at me to get to the point. Knowing that he was a man who liked to have facts rather than fiction, I told him mindless and dreadfully boring things, which normally would have him in a fit of anger, because I told him useless little things. But to my dissappointment, it did not work and my friend was still caught in the terrors of his own imagination. Never had I seen any poor soul so tormented, never before had I to bear witness at such dire struggle. His glazed eyes opened ever and anon, but he never focussed on anything and the unveiled terror I saw within them, made me shudder to think of. Even now, as I record this instance, I can feel my hands trembling as I remember it.
I caught myself wondering from time to time what it was his mind conjured him to see. I knew from experience that most of his sleepless nights were attributed to a tendency for nightmares, yet he had never told me what they were about. I could only guess what it might be. What could so fearless a man be possibly afraid of? What could throw him into such fits of sheer horror that he refused to sleep altogether until he had raised a wall around his fears again which allowed him to have at least a few hours of rest? In the dead of the night, while all else was resting and I myself was close to fainting with fatigue at my friends side, my questions were answered.
He had been mumbling incoherently all day and it had continued into the night, while I never left my vigil at his bedside. Yet now, his eyes shot open and glazed grey orbs stared at the ceiling above him as another fit took him. Concerned I bent over him, hoping beyond hope that he would somehow recognize me and realize that only his mind played tricks with him. Yet not once did he focus on me, he stared right past me, through me really with a look of utter panic that I hope I will never see on his face again.
"No... don't! Don't!" he yelped out (for lack of a better word) and his long thin fingers dug into the fabric of my shirtsleeve. More on impulse than anything else, I patted his trembling hand, for a moment too stunned and frankly, too frightened to think of an adequate response.
"No! Don't hurt him!" he cried out miserably, his panic seizing him with icy claws and I desperately wished for him to emerge victorious out of this battle with his own senses. Finally I found my voice and weak though it was, I was willing to aid my friend.
"Holmes, calm yourself. It is only a dream, whatever you see is not real. Holmes, please, its not real." I said, hearing my voice break as I pleaded with him, my delirious friend, who was still petrified by the vision he saw before his minds eye. To see him, of all people, in such agonizing fear was almost more than I could bear. How I managed to stay where I was I can never for the life of me, find out. I felt as if I would break with every sharpened gasp he took, as if every tremor shook my very core and I caught myself fearing that the blow he had taken could have possibly affected his mind permanentely. My dark and frightened thoughts were broken as Holmes raved on, unaware of my presence, or so it seemed.
"No, please! Don't... No, Watson..." his voice drooled off and suddenly I seemed to know what my friends mind made him see. Whatever it was exactly, I could not find out, but somehow I was the subject in his feverish nightmare. Something happened to me and he was to some extend powerless to stop it. As to why the thought of it frightened him so, I would never find out, for he would never tell me in person. Holmes was a man who pretended not to have a heart, as if his brain was in control all the time, but on very rare instances I could see it anyhow, try as he might to hide it. Perhaps I could see it because I had been his friend for so long, who knows.
I managed to stop shaking long enough to lay my hand on his shoulder (which was alarmingly bony, even compared to his normal standard) and held him firmly.
"Holmes, you need not fret, old man. I am quite safe. We are at Baker Street and there is no one that might harm me. Trust me, my friend, we are both quite safe." I half whispered, not daring to raise my voice louder, for I could not be certain that it wouldn't break.
To my utmost astonishment, his eyes closed and he let loose such a breath of relief as I have never heard the like before. Unconsciousness seized him once more and for a mere moment, a small fragment of time, I fancied I saw a faint smile ghost over his lips. His sleep was uneasy, but he had no further delusions. I seem to recall, that sometimes my mind seemed to flutter away, throwing me into a few minutes of rest, only for me to wake gasping and staring at my friend, fearing only to find his still and dead form among the sheets. So I passed most of the night and just as the eastern sky grew paler, finally his fever broke and began to sink.
Relieved I rested my head on my hands for a moment, just relishing in the fact that my friend had cheated death once more. How he managed to do that time and time again, is entirely beyond my understanding and frankly, in those moments I cared for no further explanations. I just allowed myself to relax, confident that now the worst was over. My friend would recuperate again, if nothing else, his will would enable him to do so. And when Sherlock Holmes set his mind onto something, there was next to nothing that could stop him.
Before I knew it, I reclined in the armchair that I had set up next my friends bed and in which I had held my vigil over him for all this time, and let my eyes close for a moment, feeling more relaxed and calmed than I had in a while. Sleep seized me fully and I relinquished myself into the arms of Morpheus.
I awoke some time later, to find my friends cleared gaze looking at me with a slightly aggravated expression.
"Holmes! You're finally awake!" I half-cried out, unable to keep my joy over such a sight contained. Briefly a small grin played over his features and I saw the friend I knew.
"And you, my dear Watson, have evidently driven yourself to the point of exhaustion again in your concern." he stated matter-of-factly, although his voice was still somewhat weaker than it had been. However, it was enough that he was lucid once more, at least for me.
"Well, you did give me a slight scare there, my dear fellow." I managed to say, hoping my voice didn't quiver as I recalled that dreaded moment when he wouldn't breathe. I believe that sight will haunt me for years to come.
"I can assure you, that was quite unintentional." he muttered, frowning as he saw my expression, which I have no doubt over was deeply troubled.
"Judging by the unmistakable stubble on your cheeks, I have been unresponsive for a few days, but would you mind terribly to tell me how long exactly?" he asked, and as his gaze was clear again and he seemed to have strength enough to stay awake for a moment, I told him what had happened. I left out what he had said the night before, but other than that I gave him all the information he seemed to need.
As I ended, he was silent for a few moments, possibly thinking it all over. His gaze bored into mine, in that scrutinizing way of his, and for a moment there I feared he had guessed what I had left out. Though it was utter nonsense, but sometimes the deductions my friend seemed to pull out of nowhere bordered on wizardry. However it was, after perhaps a minute or two, he relaxed and eased back down onto his pillow with a slight wince at which I found myself grimacing in sympathy. It was only natural to assume that my friend would suffer a dreadful headache in the following days, along with the cold be would possibly develop from being subjected to the cold winter weather of London.
I kept silent, as I watched his tense features relax as his mind fell back into the caress of sleep. He had not asked me to leave him alone, perhaps he knew that it was a futile task to attempt, I would not leave his side for the time being. Perhaps he had not recognized it, after all he had received a knock to the head. Or perhaps he subconsciously wanted me there, as if my presence would calm his nerves.
I had not told him of the fit of terror he had endured the night before, but I am now sure that some of his nightmares involve me, for some reason. Possibly just as much as mine involve him in some sort. And just as I sat there, thinking it all over while listening to his faint, calm breathing and watching his calm face, I recalled several times where I had woken; terror-stricken out of some sickening nightmare where he died, was hurt terribly and I was unable to help him; to the soft tunes of a violin played downstairs. It had always helped to know that he was there, that what I had dreamt of was not reality.
Therefore I kept where I was, giving him the same silent comfort he had given me to assure him that the nightmares would not come true for the time being.
Please leave a review, if you thought it was worthwhile. Constructive criticism is always welcome!
I might add a second chapter, if the fancy seizes me; Adding holmes POV to the mix, but that must wait until after the multi-chapter I am currently battling with^^