Summary: Long before separation anxiety had a name, Sherlock Holmes was suffering from it. Only an extremely gifted doctor can alleviate the problem.
Author's Note: I don't own or profit on anything Sherlock Holmes related. This is merely for enjoyment and due to inspiration during a snow storm at my house! Ah! My first Sherlock Holmes fiction and I am very excited to share it…though very nervous as well.
Special thanks to my hubby for reading and reviewing all the different parts as I wrote them!
It had started out as only being a routine trip to Baker Street. Watson had been particularly happy to see his best friend since he had let the last month pass by without any conversation between he and Holmes. A mistake on his part, but he was more than willing to apologize upon his arrival.
However, when entering inside the familiar door of 221b, there was no trace of the detective, save a full plate of uneaten toast and cold eggs on the table. 'No matter,' he thought to himself, picking up the various things on the floor as was his habit.
Picking up the scattered papers strewn about the old chair where he usually sat, he came across something that nearly stopped his heart. At first glance it was only a tattered little pillow sitting in his place. Had it not reflected the wee bit of light that the dying fire provided, Watson would have never caught site of its more minor details.
Handling the item delicately, he brought it up closer to fully inspect it. Sure enough in the center of the cushion were two black buttons crudely sewn on to appear like eyes and a small snippet of rabbit fur, shaped like a mustache right below them.
The doctor's heart pounded in his chest as he tried to wrap his mind around what he was seeing.
"Oh, Holmes," he whispered sadly, running his thumb over his beloved friend's artistry.
"Good day, Doctor!" A voice sounded from behind.
Watson nearly jumped out of his skin, the pillow with his likeness falling to the floor at his feet. He was relieved to find it was the other Holmes behind him and not the…obviously troubled one that he was so deeply concerned about.
Grabbing the fallen object, he gently dusted it off and placed it back where he found it, still amazed that it really existed and was seemingly staring back at him. "I'm here to spend some time with Holmes. It's been far too long I'm afraid." Watson explained, looking back and forth between Mycroft and the glossy button eyes.
"I'm afraid I must be guilty of the same thing. I have been quite busy with other matters as of late and even now I am only here to pick up some pies of Mrs. Hudson's…do forgive me, Doctor, but you have a very troubled expression on your face. Are you not well?"
As Mycroft ended in question, Watson couldn't help but wonder if he already knew everything there was to know. Holmes had mentioned that in many ways his brother's abilities even surpassed his own. Was there any reason to hide anything?
Taking a deep breath, he stuffed his hands in his pockets and surrendered to sitting down to get his new fears out in the open. "I'm actually thinking of Holmes' health at the moment. I fear I may have contributed to this matter."
Mycroft listened intently and nodded; giving the doctor permission to continue.
"Ever since the beginning of my relationship with Mary, he's been acting out in so many different rash emotions. Most of the time, I can see it's a mixture of jealousy and frustration and I am in full understanding here. I'm his best friend…he doesn't want anything to change between us. But there's a feeling of his that I've been ignoring this entire time, or at any rate I've been ignoring the idea of it. He's scared, Mycroft. He has been living in some sort of twisted fear that I'm going to abandon him. It's as if he has-"
"…A great phobia of separation?" Mycroft interjected in an all too knowing fashion.
Watson seemed slightly startled at the bigger man's response as a great wave of curiosity hovered over him. It was more than apparent that he held the key to one of Holmes 'darkest hidden secrets and the doctor wanted in.
"What can you tell me?" He spoke in an almost hushed tone, as if he was betraying his absent friend by asking.
"Perhaps by telling you what's in his memory, you will be able to solve your own puzzle, my good man." Mycroft stared upwards as he recalled a particular memory, propping his feet up on the stool next to the settee.
"Sherly had just turned three years of age and I was feeling indefinitely prideful with my double digit status, as most children do when they reach such a goal. To be ten was a wonderful accomplishment, indeed, amongst the other neighborhood scoundrels I played with."
Mycroft laid his top hat aside and adjusted himself more comfortably in his chair. "Though, I'll spare you the Holmes brothers' early history in its entirety, I will tell you that my brother and I were often home alone for hours and hours at a time during the day. I looked after the little imp, as any good older brother would, but I grew tired of his less advanced games and the restriction of being indoors. I much desired the playtime of the mates that were closer to my age."
Watson was instantly in awe at this beginning. Was there ever such a thing as a toddler Holmes? Did he truly exist or was he imagining all of this?
"So this one particular day exactly three weeks after Sherly's birthday, I could not stand for it any longer. I decided to venture outside to make up my own fun. As you can imagine, my brother was none too keen on this decision and he was absolutely terrified of the nanny that looked after us. He begged me, in his own childish babble, not to leave him behind but I ignored his plea and latched the door behind me with no guilt in my heart, whatsoever. However, when I turned back around and I saw his miserable face in the window, quite pitiful mind you, it has stayed with me to this day."
Watson poured the older Holmes another cup of tea as he eagerly awaited the rest of the tale. Abruptly thinking of the current hour, he glanced up at the dusty clock in the corner. Holmes was not due to be home for another thirty minutes, which would give Mycroft plenty of time to finish without being interrupted or ordered to end the story.
"As you can probably guess, my brother was not about to let a mere door stand in the way of what he wanted. It was only a matter of minutes before he discovered how to escape out of the house without drawing attention. Imagine a tiny tot figuring out something well above what is considered normal for his age. Unfortunately for him, I was long gone, exploring the town with the other chums. The naughty thing got himself completely and utterly lost."
Now it was almost impossible for Watson to hold back a smile. Picturing such things felt as foreign and abstract as seeing a pig fly or perhaps watching a fish that was struggling with learning how to swim. Putting it simply, Sherlock Holmes being a lost and helpless child with absolutely no plan was quite…adorable.
"When I returned back to our residence that evening, the nanny was running about the house with terror written on her brow. Of course I knew immediately what the case was concerning even before I heard her screaming Sherlock's name. It was not a complicated situation and I was calmly able to find my brother by simply following the obvious evidence he had left behind in his travel."
"You weren't the least bit worried about him?" Watson interjected in slight irritation. It wasn't as if he expected Mycroft to be overly frantic, as both boys rarely showed any interest in meaningless emotions, but the younger Holmes was only a baby and had been lost the entire day.
"The damage was already done," Mycroft continued, seeming to ignore the doctor's troubled question. "When I finally reached him by nightfall, he was sitting in the middle of the street, writhing…shaking with sobs and calling for me in the pouring rain. I was not quite sure what bothered me more; that no one had taken notice of my dear brother, or that I had initially caused this event.
Never the less, I stooped down to lift him up and wrapped him in my coat. His head was hot to the touch and I later learned the fever had spiked dangerously high. The boy clawed his way up my arms and latched so tightly onto me, I could scarcely breathe. The entire trip home he was screaming, "Don't go! Don't go!" He wailed like some sort of banshee and I feared for his mind. From that day on, if I ever tried to leave anywhere without him, he would throw himself into a tantrum of such big proportion, that he would often make himself sick.
….So yes, Doctor, I believe what you may be experiencing is the repercussions of that time in his life."
Even as Mycroft ended his memoir, Watson found that he could still hear the distant wails of the small innocent boy that had now grown into his dear companion. The annoyance and blame he just had thrown upon the older brother was now quickly spreading and spilling over onto his conscience.
He could now see for certain that Sherlock Holmes was conclusively, unquestionably afraid of being alone…of not always having his ever faithful Watson by his side. In the truest sense, he was suffering from a severe separation phobia. The brilliant man that he was, however, made the task of hiding such vulnerability a rather… elementary task.
"Does he remember any of what you just told me?" Watson asked softly in concern.
"Well, of course, doctor. As I said before, the circumstances lasted another eight years after that dreadful night. It was only when he started getting tormented by the other children for his strange behavior that he began to turn reclusive. He soon focused his entire life on the intellectual gifts that he and I both possess. There was nothing more that he could want as the comforts of friendship and family were slowly purged from him. Of course, that is until you came along." Mycroft smiled as he read the many different emotions written on the other man's face. It was very apparent just how strong of a bond his brother and the doctor had. "You are far more valuable than you know, dear fellow… He needs you."
As he lit up his pipe with the intent of answering any more questions, there was a sound at the door, giving signal to both of them that Holmes had returned. Watson limped awkwardly to the fire place as he pretended to be preoccupied with getting a fire ablaze, while Mycroft stayed put where he was, not in the least bit conscience-stricken about giving away the younger man's secrets.
"Good evening, Holmes." Watson exclaimed as he caught site of the completely drenched detective. "Give me that hat and cloak."
Holmes remained silent for a moment as he immediately began analyzing the odd atmosphere. Allowing his companion to shed the wet clothes from his arms, his attention went to the man's worried blue eyes and the extra care in his movements. "I was not expecting either of you this evening, yet here you are in my room, one of you acting as if I'm in great need of compassion."
Watson's lips parted and then pursed nervously beneath his mustache, always in awe at Holmes' deduction powers. "Well, you are soaked to the bone, Ol 'boy! Now, get over there and warm up by the fire before you freeze to death."
The doctor tried his best to raise the sarcasm and lower the pity in his speech but it was proving to be more difficult than was normal. The mother hen condition Holmes often teased him about was attempting to leave him completely exposed. It would be only a short time before Holmes questioned him on what he and Mycroft had discussed.
"There now, Sherly," the older Holmes smirked. "I had only dropped by for a moment to pick up the pies that Mrs. Hudson had baked for me. Dr. Watson has come for your companionship so I will bid you both a goodnight."
Thus, with a tip of his hat and a nod between the two eccentric brothers, Mycroft was gone, but not before grabbing the boxed delicacies on his way out the door. The latch shut loudly behind him, the sound bouncing off the dingy walls.
"What horrific narrative has he given you? Speak now!" Holmes shouted in distress, lifting himself away from the warm fire. "I should have known something was amiss as soon as my ears began to flush on the way home."
Watson rubbed his temples in frustration as he inwardly kicked himself for being too obvious.
"That preposterous man will rue this day to be sure."
"Perhaps if I purchased a new bolt for the front door-"
Instant silence disrupted the conversation entirely as the two rather dysfunctional friends contemplated each other's thoughts. The clock chimed on the eleventh hour as the rain continued to pound against the roof. Watson finally grabbed the other man's arm and bade him to sit back on the chair.
He was so caught up in his own worries that his instincts told him to leave out the door. To confront this problem wisely, he would need time to ponder on ways to approach Holmes on the matter. This was simply not an option he would choose, however. His friend needed him now and it had already been a month since they had last talked.
An involuntary shudder ran down Holmes' body as he hastily pulled a pipe from his pocket. "Always good to see you, Watson," he murmured quietly as he always did, staring intently into the orange and scarlet colored flames. More than a little obvious was the sadness that shone through his chocolate colored eyes.
He felt a heavy blanket being draped over his shoulders right before Watson took a seat next to him. The doctor tapped his cane against the floor a couple times as he fought for words to say.
"I sincerely hope this isn't a doctor's visit, my dear Watson. I am in no need of-"
"Am I not allowed to be concerned for my friend when I come to visit? You look as though you haven't eaten in days!" Watson questioned.
"It's dead end after dead end with every drop of evidence I find! You would gradually lose your appetite too, I'm afraid." Holmes sighed heavily as he sank deeper into his chair, his melancholy mind drifting away for a spell.
The examination began almost immediately as any doctor would in their patient's best interest.
"It has been too long, old friend." He tested, looking for any signs of agitation in the other man's face.
"Has it?" Holmes replied back, picking up the fiddle next to him. "So tell me, what brings you here at such a late hour? Were you taking home some pie as well?"
'He's got his guard up. I mustn't become affected by anything he says.' Watson told himself fearfully.
"I came to talk with my friend." He shot back, pleased that it didn't sound too pestered in his own ears.
"Oh, come now, Watson. I know you didn't come here to converse in only small affairs. "You and Mary clearly had a disagreement, hence the reason you came to visit after a month of absence."
"Don't be absurd-"
"I expect that as soon as I grate on your last nerve of the night, you will once again be on your merry way back to your Mary wife."
"Yes, she says hello, by the way." Watson growled sarcastically. "You know, you're always so quick to analyze and invade everyone else's personal life for your case's sake but when someone tries to glance into your mixed up world, you get irritated and reclusive!" Despite the man's best intentions, the shouting match had begun and there was little chance of it letting up.
"Ah! You see, it's already happening!" Holmes cried, his voice rising to match the other man's as he jumped to his feet. "I always take such pride in my accuracy! …won't be long now!"
Watson grew hot with inner rage, forgetting everything except the strong willed bullets that were hitting him at top speed. "I'm going to ignore your idiocy for only a moment while you take down the pathetic walls you've attempted to build to keep me out." His voice was low and dangerous, a quiet warning of an imminent explosion.
"Strange, I don't see any walls." Holmes feigned ignorance, scanning the room.
That was quite enough. The detective had left him with only two options…He could either beat the man, or get some air outside until he could calm himself.
"Holmes…I am sick to death of your stubborn games. How I put up with this for so many years is…beyond me!"
The exasperated doctor grabbed his coat from the settee and moved towards the door, shutting out his conscience to make room for the growing anger he was dealing with.
"John, don't go."
"Why? Will you throw a tantrum if I do?" Watson shouted coldly.
Oh, how awful and wicked it felt as the words flew out of his mouth, but there was nothing he could do about it now. He watched helplessly as the sentence seemed to strike his friend hard across the face. Holmes' jaw clenched tightly as he attempted to swallow the rising lump in his throat.
"On the contrary, dear man," he choked weakly in reply. "I prefer a far more… repressed reaction."
The doctor hated himself at that very moment. He had done something more criminal than any other villain could have accomplished. The fiendish John H. Watson had brought tears to Sherlock Holmes' eyes. Oh, they hadn't actually fallen down the consulting detective's cheeks, but none the less, there they were, attempting to come, but held back only by the man's strong-willed persistence.
"I won't keep you, doctor. Have a lovely evening." Holmes stated politely, trying to push Watson gently towards the door.
"Hold on, just stop for a moment!"
"For what, pray tell?" Holmes shouted. "…For what!"
Watson moved away from the door, figuring it would be the first step in fixing the damage he had just done. "For making you believe that I am somehow going to…to…vanish… for leaving you to deal with…everything by yourself."
"I see, now that you've heard the terribly tragic story of the young and pitiful Sherlock Holmes-"
"Oh, do shut up!" Watson demanded angrily. "Yes! Mycroft told me about a difficult time in your life as a child, but that doesn't change my opinion of you!"
Holmes felt his chest rise and fall at a rapid rate as he became exceedingly more upset. If Watson figured out that he was seriously struggling with the pains of loneliness and …the anxiousness it brought him…
"…Bloody Lunatic." Watson muttered at seeing his friend in such a state, and without another word, he grabbed the detective's shoulders to steady him.
"I'm not going to abandon you." His tone was soft and comforting, doing wonders for Holmes' emotional needs but also shattering his composure. "…I promise, Ol 'boy."
Holmes worked hard to look upon anything that wasn't Watson, anything that would keep him from crumbling into a heap. His subconscious was against him, no doubt, as it forced his gaze back to his companion anyway.
His eyes widened in horror as a few tears plummeted down his cheeks before he could try and hold them back.
Watson stood as shocked as the other man, his head tilting at such an unexpected site.
"Are you…?" He tried saying in disbelief. "You're actually crying."
"What a brilliant observation." Holmes sniffled, turning away and moving back towards the stairs, Watson chasing right behind him.
"Holmes!" There was unmistakable mirth in his voice as he called out the name.
"Yes, go on! Out with it! Mock me as you wish." Holmes cried spinning around at the top of the steps.
Watson was fully smiling now; strangely relieved that his stubborn friend was showing his secretive vulnerable side. Whether it was his choice or not was irrelevant.
"Oh, cease. I don't wish to tease you," the doctor laughed assuredly, suddenly pulling the man into a tight embrace. "I'm only surprised that you allowed such emotion to surface."
Holmes stared blankly at the wall, his chin resting against Watson's shoulder. He was more than content to linger a moment longer in his friend's hold. "As am I…It's one of the unfortunate side effects of having a meddling mother hen as a companion."
At the sound of Mrs. Hudson entering the house, Watson quickly pulled away, staring down at the direction of the sound.
"Good evening, Mr. Holmes!" the landlady called from below as she bustled to the stairs as well. "Tonight I'll be fixing up a pot of that beef stew you enjoy so much. Perhaps if- Oh, Doctor Watson! "
Both men silently regarded each other before nodding politely at the older woman. The air remained thick with unresolved issues but at least there was a sense of breakthrough intermingling in it as well.
"It's nice to see you again, Mrs. Hudson!" Watson acknowledged kindly, glancing at Holmes in hopes that he wasn't still teary-eyed. In essence, he wanted nothing more than to protect his friend's privacy.
Moving closer to whisper to the doctor, as she always did, Mrs. Hudson prepared to give an update on her last remaining renter. "Please, doctor, you must stay and eat with him tonight. He hasn't touched any food for days, as you have probably noticed by now."
Watson nodded and gently led her back down towards the kitchen. "I'll do one better and stay for a couple days," he stated kindly, turning to look back at Holmes to see if he had heard. "Mary is visiting a friend in Warwickshire this week. We'll have lots of time to visit…and talk."
"We're finishing this conversation later." Watson mouthed to the detective, thankful that the worst part was over.
A/N: Alright! Phew I am so nervous about this, my dear readers! How was it? I am thinking of making one more chapter since there's more material to work with…that is…if its worthy enough to have a second chapter. Would that be something anyone would be interested in? Please leave a comment or review and have a wonderful day!