"I'm sorry Holmes?"
Still apparently intent upon his experiment- that chemistry set has certainly caused a great deal of havoc in the years of our acquaintance- Holmes beckons me from my seat with one finger. My paper is placed carefully to one side, and I approach with caution, not, in my opinion, utterly unprovoked.
"Now Watson, if you will just hold this vial over the flame..."
I do so, and he performs some complex feat of juggling with several other solutions that vary in shade. It is with some difficulty that I fix my attention sternly upon the vial in my hand, hovering a decent distance above the flame to avoid searing my palm. I have never been asked to participate in Holmes' experiments before, and my previous joys seem to pale in comparison as the tenderness of such a gesture occurs to me. Without really noticing, I am mesmerised by my companion's pale hands, darting with unerring accuracy from glass to glass, his fingers cushioning each as though it were a gem and yet returning them with a speed that rivals that of his mind.
"Watson, do attend to that vial." His voice is not stern, nor is it reproachful. If anything, it is amused. I am startled from my unabashed staring at his slim white fingers and dark hair that catches and devours sunlight with barely a glint, and the slight ink stain on his left shirtsleeve, pulled up to just below his elbow. Obviously, such things do not vanish from my thoughts easily- it would appear that they are branded there by some sort of iron.
Noting that it is liable to boil over, I adjust the height to cool it slightly, and notice Holmes' slight nod of satisfaction out of the corner of my right eye. It's alarming how observant my right eye can be, when it comes to Holmes' hair venturing across his forehead, dangling towards his eyes and hovering around his stern grey orbs, or the sunlight from the window at our backs striking a golden chord across the dark surface of his head- such thoughts are not suitable to put down on paper, but I cannot stop my own mental journal. It seems to be filled with such things.
Even as I tilt the vial to swirl the contents briefly, my mind summons memories of my dearest friend, smiling or violently barking his amusement, his quips at Lestrade or the sound that I sometimes hear beneath the obvious noise of his beautiful violin- the sound of trained footsteps cutting a path from one end of the room to the other, or the slight flop of his hair as he turns abruptly, like a hound on the trail of a fox.
I learnt a seemingly ludicrous time ago to stop pretending I wasn't thinking of such. That when I looked at my friend, I did not see a collection of gestures, words and characteristics which somehow built him up into a mysteriously beauteous creature. His mechanical disdain for emotions, I sometimes exaggerate, though not intentionally. It is at times when he does such things that I fear most for him, and for me. Purely selfish, of course.
My musings are interrupted as all colour abruptly vanishes from the solution. I start, unintentionally, and Holmes glances across.
"Excellent Watson. Excellent."
I attempt to offer it to him, but it slides right to the tips of my fingers, and I desperately bring another hand up to try and catch it. Familiar slim digits remove the vial from my palm and Holmes chuckles as he continues whatever it is he's doing. "Whatever is troubling you Watson? You seem most distracted."
I can't tell him.
He is a machine and I am oversensitive; these things are not to be risked lightly.
I shrug it off, mutter something about being tired, and divert it with a question about his experiment.
Doctor John Watson is the most frustrating man I have ever met.
Of course, normally that sentence would never cross my mind. He is my dearest friend, colleague, doctor, although the latter is occasionally troublesome. But at present, I consider him incredibly frustrating.
I am, as anyone would know, rather observant. In fact, I am legendarily so. There's no point denying it, and why would I? I notice if my friend stares at my hands, my hair and my general appearance more than would be expected. I might have put it down to the experiment, and watching with curiosity, but instead he watches with a very queer expression on his face.
It is some mixture of sorrow and stern self-control, and frankly, I'm not sure what other conclusion I can draw. He watches me as I watch him. There is one significant difference- he does not see me watch him. Watson reading the paper is a sight I observe with particular regard on a daily basis. Yet, he does not catch my fixation. He watches me, but does not read my answer in the lines drawn by my words or gestures. I am not a blunt man, and I find it nigh impossible to just break down and confess. I am almost certain in my inferences, but I fall at the final test of expression, as others can understand it.
He sees my invitations to dinner; he does not observe the reasons why.
He hears my violin concertos; he does not realise why I play at all!
He obeys my warnings without question; he fails to understand the concerns always hiding in my eyes.
He allows me to try and train him in deduction; he fails to use it on the conundrum he often studies.
What else can be concluded but that Doctor Watson is the most frustrating man in the world?
"So, how many lives will this latest discovery save?" Only Watson could ask such a thing without a shred of irony.
I flick my wrist, sending the contents of the tube in my left hand slipping into the right, switching a new vial into the first hand whilst twirling the other airily, mixing the chemicals.
I should stress that I perform my experiments in such a fashion purely as a result of Watson's fixation.
I am not, as has been previously said, "showing off".
Left into right, now switch with the second, hover over flame, pass back, swirl gently, mix into larger tube, add cork, shake well, preparing beaker of water for dilution with other hand, cast out the bung with a thumb, combine solution, pass remaining three additions amongst hands in an interlocking pattern, end with a flourish and flick of the wrist...
He seems to have forgotten to look away.
A small smirk tugs at the corners of my mouth, and who am I to stop it?
Collecting the tea-tray is usually a hazardous activity, but the chink of beakers hints at a chemistry experiment, and it is always best to avoid being caught in the aftermath of one of those.
Ghastly, smelly things most of the time.
Returning the tea set to the tray, I manage to avoid looking around at the state of the rooms. I don't mean to fret, I'm sure, but...
There are limits.
There was a parrot in here last week. Fancy that! A parrot, indeed! And the week before there was a hideous yellow fog, those curtains wouldn't clean for three days, and the carpet by the window is quite discoloured...
I suppose it oughtn't to bother me by now.
"Watson, do pay attention to your left sleeve. It seems to be attempting suicide."
The poor doctor seems startled out of his skin, and he hauls his hand away from the flame as though already burned. He does get so engrossed in Mr Holmes' experiments...
But if I didn't know better, what with him being a medical man...Well, I'd suspect that flush on his cheeks was less to do with the Bunsen and- no.
Not all landladies are gossips.