Notes: The characters aren't mine, and the story is! This was written for Challenge 23 on the Watson's Woes comm on LiveJournal, the prompt being to depict Sherlock's reaction upon finding out what happened to Watson during his absence in the Granada adaptation of "The Mazarin Stone." This is my first venture for the fandom (and hopefully not my last), so I hope it's a good first impression.
To the average observer, the expression in the piercing, hazel eyes of Sherlock Holmes was absolutely unreadable as he strode down the London streets. But the detective's entire countenance was one that caused everyone in his path to give him a clear berth; tonight, he seemed colder than usual—utterly inapproachable.
His elder brother Mycroft had since given up trying to keep up with him; the elder Holmes had done his part, he decided. After all, he had retrieved the Mazarin Stone and had broken the other news to his brother—that Doctor John Watson had sustained an injury during the course of the case.
It had been that moment that the younger Holmes had slipped into his current disposition. His voice had been eerily quiet as he made inquiries regarding the doctor's whereabouts. But Mycroft hadn't been fooled by Sherlock's seemingly calm reaction to all of this; his eyes betrayed him, and Mycroft knew the truth behind the cold-as-ice expression. Emotions had always been a foreign thing for the both of them, and his brother trying to act as though that was the case even now. But the increase in the frigidity of Sherlock's eyes had showed Mycroft that he was fighting to hold back the emotions that sought to make their presence known—an occurrence that had happened before, usually having to deal with something regarding Doctor Watson then, as well.
Mycroft had told him what had happened—that Watson had been cut by a thrown diamond cleaver and temporarily held hostage, but was now being looked after by the Garrideb sisters. Sherlock had left immediately after receiving that information, and though Mycroft had followed him for some distance to advise him, the elder Holmes eventually let his younger brother go alone.
The younger Holmes hadn't realized how formidable his current demeanor was until the frightened Garrideb sisters greeted him by brandishing fire pokers at him as he stood at the door, demanding to know Watson's condition. He forced himself to speak as gently as his limited patience would allow, introducing himself and once again inquiring about Watson's well-being.
Having established his identity, the sisters calmed down and led him to their drawing room.
"We had asked him if he needed a doctor, but he had insisted that he did not," one of them said. "He's finally asleep now. Do you mean to take him back to Baker Street, Mr. Holmes?"
Holmes didn't answer; the icy expression in his eyes returned as he beheld the sight of Watson asleep in an armchair by the fire, covered with a blanket. The doctor's suit jacket was draped over one of the arms of the chair, and Holmes could see the bloodstain on the right sleeve.
The detective exhaled sharply, prompting the sisters to back away, leaving him to look after the wounded doctor in whatever way he best thought possible. Holmes said nothing as they retreated; had his mind not been focused elsewhere, he would have been grateful for giving him that consideration.
As it was, the detective sat down in a second armchair directly opposite the doctor's, not wanting to disturb him. How long had it taken for him to fall asleep with the obvious pain in his shoulder? On top of that, the wounded shoulder had been Watson's good shoulder; irony was a most merciless creature indeed.
As Holmes maintained his vigil, the parting words he had offered to Watson before departing for the Highlands returned, unbidden, to his consciousness.
"I shall be watching you with my third eye."
He silently cursed himself. How much good had that done? He couldn't deny that he was furious—furious with the man who had done this to Watson, furious with himself for not being there, furious with Mycroft for not being able to stop it…
Mycroft had sensed that, of course, during their brief conversation.
"Do you honestly believe that things would have been any different had you been here?" Mycroft had asked. "If anything, it probably would have ended worse; you may have been inclined to some form of irrationality."
"Ha!" the detective had scoffed, as he had strode towards the Garridebs' house.
"Sherlock, you are most fortunate that the many enemies you have acquired over the years have not observed what is otherwise obvious—that you are no longer without weakness, as you once were. I, for one, am astounded that Moriarty did not realize that he could have avoided a battle of wits with you and had you at his mercy had he simply decided to target the doctor instead of challenging you."
It had been at that point that the younger Holmes had momentarily stopped in his tracks before resuming his pace. He would never admit—not even to himself—that he had been most relieved when Moriarty had sent that messenger boy to trick Watson into going back to the hotel. Mycroft had been right; for someone as genius as Moriarty, it had been an incredible oversight for him not to use the detective's concern for his only friend against him. Both Holmes and Watson had dodged a bullet at Reichenbach that day; if such a thing as multiple lifetimes existed, Holmes suspected that Moriarty would try exploiting the detective's concern if given a second chance at it.
Holmes exhaled quietly again as he brought his thoughts to the present. Like his brother, he had spent many years alone; his few acquaintances could hardly have been described as friends, and that could have been easily explained by his eternally cold countenance and the fact that Holmes had no desire to allow emotions to complicate his intellectual abilities.
And then, for some inexplicable reason, he found himself concerned for a doctor with a wounded shoulder. And now, here was the same doctor, different shoulder… and a greater level of concern.
As Holmes continued to ponder over this apparent weakness, as Mycroft called it, Watson stirred slightly, but did not awaken; he turned his face towards the firelight, and it was then that Holmes could see the beads of perspiration on his face.
"Watson?" he asked, the level of concern now growing exponentially with every passing second.
He was in pain—very much in pain, and his face was pale.
Holmes pulled his glove off of his right hand and gently felt his companion's forehead. His eyes widened in concern; a fever had set in.
The detective's gaze now fell upon the blanket covering his friend—and the spot of red on it, now illuminated by the firelight. The blood was fresh.
Holmes hissed out a curse; that scoundrel responsible for this, Winter, was the luckiest he'd ever been now that he was in the custody of Scotland Yard. Fifteen seconds would have been enough for Holmes to teach him a lesson.
The detective drove him from his mind as he now removed the blanket and the bloodied dressing over the wound and pressed his own handkerchief upon it. Watson cringed involuntarily.
"Forgive me, my dear friend," Holmes responded, quietly.
The doctor's eyes opened slightly at the sound of the detective's voice.
"Holmes? I thought you were in the Highlands…"
"I decided that my business there could wait indefinitely," Holmes replied. He hesitated. "In hindsight, I should never have left."
Watson winced again as the wound pained anew.
"You needn't worry," he insisted. "Holmes, I can manage…"
"You are feverish, and the wound has bled through the dressing," the detective said, plainly. "Once I have given it a new one, we shall return to Baker Street, and I will summon another doctor."
"I could have made it back on my own," Watson insisted. "You really didn't have to come here. If anything, I would have expected you to help your brother recover the Mazarin Stone."
It did not escape Holmes as to how weak he sounded, however.
"Mycroft has succeeded in retrieving the Stone without my help," he informed Watson, as he placed a new dressing over the wound. Even if his brother had not succeeded, the younger Holmes would still have been here. In the past, his priorities would have been different, but despite however valuable the Mazarin Stone was, it was nothing compared to Watson's well-being.
"Has he?" the doctor asked, startling him from his thoughts. "…Then it is but a small comfort that I did not have to endure this for nothing."
"Ah, my friend, a good man such as yourself should not have to endure suffering for any reason."
His expression darkened somewhat. Indeed, if he had just been here, perhaps there could have been some way to prevent it…
He shook the thought from his mind, focusing on redressing the wound. Emotions were threatening to cloud his mind completely; it was truly most unlike him.
Perhaps that is why Mycroft had referred to it as a weakness earlier. The brain worked best without distractions, and emotions were the most distracting thing to the brain. That was also why, perhaps, that he and Mycroft were surprisingly distant from each other, despite being brothers; Watson, on more than one occasion, had been more of a brother to him than Mycroft himself.
The detective and the doctor both turned to see one of the Garrideb sisters standing in the doorway of the room.
"We heard you say that you intend to take the doctor back to Baker Street," she said. "My sister went to call a cab for you."
Holmes responded with an awkward "Thank you" as Watson managed to convey his gratitude much more eloquently, despite his weakened and tired condition. The detective ended up giving his companion a sidelong glance.
The other sister returned, having led the cab back to the front door; Watson thanked her, as well, as he attempted to get to his feet.
"Can you manage?" Holmes asked.
"I think so," he replied.
But as he let go of the chair, Watson's knees gave out from under him. Holmes caught him as he fell, supporting him.
"It's bad enough you overestimate your writing abilities; pray, don't start to do the same with your health, Watson!"
It had been an honest attempt to lighten the mood—one that had failed, for the worry was all too conspicuous in his voice.
"I shall be fine, Holmes," Watson insisted.
"And I shall see to it that you are," the detective insisted, supporting him as they walked. He, somehow, managed to thank the sisters again before they departed.
Upon their return to Baker Street, Holmes temporarily left Watson in the caring, capable hands of Mrs. Hudson as he searched for Watson's medical bag; he wanted it on hand in case there would be a need to change the dressing again. Once he had retrieved it, he passed Mrs. Hudson as she left to summon another doctor, as Holmes had instructed.
The detective took the medical bag to Watson's room.
"Holmes, really…" the doctor said, noticing him with the bag.
"I may not be an expert of the medical sciences as you are, but I daresay I have learned something from observing you over the years, just as you have learned deductive reasoning from me. Ah!" Holmes let out an exclamation of triumph as he found the other item he had been searching for in the bag—the thermometer.
Watson let out a quiet sigh, but allowed the detective to take his temperature. Holmes didn't seem pleased by the reading and grumbled something about the whereabouts of that doctor he had asked Mrs. Hudson to fetch.
"I tell you, Watson, if there is a profession with the most aggravating of practitioners, it would be the medical profession." He managed a smirk at Watson's indignant look. "Present company excluded, of course. Though you have had your moments…"
"One may say the same for you," Watson countered, quietly. "I have lost track of the number of hours of sleep lost due to your zeal of solving cases."
"Rest assured, then, my friend, that I have no intention of chasing after a case tonight, so you may sleep uninterrupted."
"I am most relieved to hear that," the doctor murmured. He winced slightly as the wound stung again, but tried to shut his eyes and ignore it.
"And I am most relieved that your injury was not any worse," he said, at last. "I do offer my most sincere apologies for not being here to take the case—and subsequently have the potential to have stopped that ruffian."
"Your apologies are unnecessary, but are accepted all the same," Watson replied. "And your concern is most appreciated, as well."
Holmes managed a wan smile. After all the concern that Watson had shown him over the years, this was the very least he could do.
"Now, if we could only do something about your writing…" he teased, after a moment.
When he did not get the reply he had been expecting, he looked back towards the doctor to see that he had fallen asleep. Holmes then drew the blanket up to Watson's shoulders and sat in the chair in the room, pressing his fingertips together as he lapsed into deep thought once again.
If this—all this concern and worrying for another person—truly was a weakness, then he decided that it was a weakness he did not mind having, for no diamond, no reward, and no treasure could ever hope to measure to the value of a friend.