A/N: I've been absent from this fandom for so long... it's good to be back, though. I have written this story as a prompt exchange with my good friend ..jar, and I sincerely hope she likes it! She deserves it. :) The chess bit is some head-canon-izing on my part, I don't think ACD ever mentioned either Holmes or Watson as being chess players. But perhaps I am spoiling it. And now... read and enjoy, and especially review!
It was a dark evening, the lamplighters having came around and compled their duties a full hour earlier owing to the profuse cloud cover overhead. Sherlock Holmes was sprawled in his armchair, the perfect alter ego of the friend I have come to know and love. Caseless, bored and brooding, I knew he was on the very cusp of reaching towards the mantle piece for his seven per-cent solution. I had lived in absolute dread of it for the past two hours.
I had tried, on two previous occasions, by in turn asking, persuading, reasoning, pleading, and then begging my friend to refrain from the self-poisoning habits of his cocaine addiction. Yet here we were, his addiction no less keen and his need no less pronounced.
As I brooded, my fear was realized as Holmes rose languidly from his armchair and reached for the bottle. In a fit of desperation I too rose and caught his hand by the wrist. Holmes regarded me with a mixture of shock and disapproval.
"My dear Watson, surely you are not intending to rehash our old arguments against my vice?"
"That was not my intention, Holmes," I explained, buying time.
"Then shall you please release my wrist?" He asked, again perfectly calm. I did so, but immediately moved in front of the mantle piece, obscuring the bottle.
"Holmes," I said, to forestall his objections, "tonight, surely, you can forgo the bottle for once?"
"And what else shall fill my monotony?" Holmes asked me, using his best asset- reason- against me. I thought for a short moment, my mind racing, and then came up with an idea.
"You seek the cocaine as an intellectual stimulant, no?" I asked him. He nodded. "And if you were to find another intellectual stimulant to replace it, you would no longer resort to it?"
"My dear Watson, if you are insinuating that my vice is an addiction, I fairly resent it. I can relinquish it whenever I like; but I choose to use it now." Though I had no doubt Holmes's iron will would allow him to quit cocaine when and if he chose, I also knew, as a doctor, it would cause him considerable pain. And so it was that night that I chose sooner, rather than later, to put him through that ordeal by fire.
"Then I am offering you an alternative intellectual stimulation." Holmes raised one eyebrow in a silent question. It was obvious I had aroused his interest, and I smiled faintly at the fact. For now, the bottle was forgotten. I ducked quickly into my rooms and returned, my smile a bit more pronounced, holding a small wooden box. I set it down on the small coffee table between our two armchairs and removed the cover with a flourish.
"Chess?" Holmes announced, the faint hint of a question seeming to ask if I was out of my mind. Perhaps my smile faltered for half a moment, but nevertheless I persevered with my idea.
"Yes, Holmes. Chess. I have no doubt you play?"
"You are correct, Watson. In my youth I was quite avid, in fact. But forgive me for saying, old boy, but have you such confidence in your own skill that you hope to offer me a challenge?" Holmes's callousness stung me.
"In fact, during the war I also was an avid player. It was a good way to while away the time among me and my fellow soldiers. By the time I was injured, we were all fair players." I sense Holmes's interest waning, and added, "Do you accept my challenge?" He favored me with a small smile and leaned forward to grab the black queen.
"Indeed, Watson. I hope you don't mind if I take the liberty of being black?"
"Not at all, my friend." I sat back and silently cheered at my small victory. One night without Holmes resorting to cocaine was worthy of it.
Shortly we had the board set up, and Holmes made the first move.
There followed a game of chess unlike any other I had ever played with my fellow soldiers behind any enemy lines. Holmes was indeed an accomplished player, and it took all my skill to offer him the distraction needed to keep him away from the temptation lying in wait on the mantle-piece. Holmes won, which I had expected from the beginning, but it took well over an hour for him to achieve this. As we put the board away and prepared to retire for the night, I saw him cast one long look of appraisal over his shoulder at me, which I caught and returned with a somewhat self-satisfied smile. It seemed chess was a very good intellectual distraction, and as I fell to sleep that night I had hopes it would prove to continue to be for as long as it took me to break my friend of his self-denied cocaine addiction.
A/N: Now that school has started up again I cannot guarantee any sort of reliable timetable for updates. But for the sake of my friend, I shall try to have this done in under a week and in no longer than a month, for I've already lingered over it too long. Also, if anyone has ever read a cocaine-rehab fic in the SH fandom, can you please point it out to me? I want to make sure this is original and as canon as possible.