In the passing week, Watson found himself feeling guilty for the harsh manner in which he had treated his friend. True, he was conniving, lying and cold—but Watson was all he had. Sure, Sherlock had plenty of clients and had made himself into quite the celebrity around London, and there was always Mrs. Hudson…but no one else understood his eccentricities, appreciated his nuances, quite like Watson.
But just when his guilt got him out the door, the memory of Mary's funeral would return. The freshly dug grave, the last look at her face, the mind-numbing grayness of it all…and his only friend's face, a spot of brightness among dark veils and bowed heads. Sherlock Holmes, the only man he'd ever admired, stood there offering his condolences with the vague trace of a smile on his face.
It seemed to Watson that his partner was too caught up in the joy of a recently solved case to extend any real sympathy to his only friend. It was then Watson realized what a selfish child Sherlock was.
That afternoon, the doctor looked up from his desk to see Sherlock standing before him dressed in his traveling clothes.
"What is it, Holmes? I'm busy."
"Just thought you might like to know that I am about to embark on a top-secret, highly important and terribly dangerous case. For the Queen of England herself, no less. I will likely return maimed or injured in a few days and may require intensive medical attention for a time. If I had a suitable partner, perhaps I could minimize the damages done to my person." He paused here for emphasis. "But it seems I will have to go this one alone, risking my life for the good of England once more…"
Watson rolled his eyes at the heavy-handed speech, clearly meant to be another jab at his unwillingness to drop everything and follow Holmes. The man was a genius, but his social etiquette was severely lacking. Holmes knew that the Red-Headed League case was to be their last together, and Watson reminded himself that he could not be lenient with the man. Give him an inch, and he would drag Watson a mile.
"I've no time for your games today, Sherlock. I have patients to see and house calls to make. So if you are quite finished with your little pity performance, I must ask you to leave."
Sherlock's sighed loudly to indicate his disappointment and tipped his hat to the doctor. The anticipated rejection was a part of his newest plan to win Watson back. Back into his home, his cases, his life. He knew without looking that there was no one who could take the doctor's place and that it had little to do with his medical expertise or combat experience or organizational skills.
It had everything to do with the way he trimmed his moustache in the mornings, read the evening paper, walked into a room. Something in the way he stood, arms crossed and one foot tapping, when chastising Holmes. And in the clean press of his pants and the combed sweep of his hair. It was there in the hard lines of his body, the angry press of his lips, the barely contained violence that surfaced whenever Holmes pressed one too many buttons. A sore roll of shoulder, a hand scratching his chin in thought. It was in the irreplaceable details.
Holmes knew his every mood, color and mannerism—made a study of the many-faceted man. He could have written a dissertation on the subject: Watson, A Comparative Study. Watson, The Annotated Edition. No one had ever interested Holmes like John Watson. The man was curious, captivating.
On occasion, Sherlock asked himself what sort of attraction this was that he harbored for the doctor. He shook the word sexual from his tongue every time it threatened to come out of his mouth. After all, he had never felt this way towards a woman. He knew what sexual desire felt like, but this was far and beyond those hollow urges—it was real.
And so failure was not an option. This ploy to get John back had to work.
Holmes left the office, intentionally dropping a note indicating his destination in the foyer, and crossed the street to a waiting carriage.