A/N: Once again, credit for the italicized goes to ACD as it is pulled straight from his story "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs".
Well...This did not turn out the way I was expecting it to go. Watson and Holmes decided they were going to take over and this is what happened. Guess I'll have to take a shot at re-writing 3GAR along with everyone else in a later fic.
Holmes spluttered as he choked on his coffee. If glares had any physical effect, then the item he had dropped to the table would be nothing but ash. His gray eyes blazed furiously as he picked up the offending item and reread what he refused to believe he was seeing.
Clearly our moment had come. Holmes touched my wrist as a signal, and together we stole across to the open trap-door. Gently as we moved, however, the old floor must have creaked under our feet, for the head of our American, peering anxiously round, emerged suddenly from the open space. His face turned upon us with a glare of baffled rage, which gradually softened into a rather shamefaced grin as he realized that two pistols were pointed at his head.
"Well, well!" said he coolly as he scrambled to the surface. "I guess you have been one too many for me, Mr. Holmes. Saw through my game, I suppose, and played me for a sucker from the first. Well, sir, I hand it to you; you have me beat and—"
In an instant he had whisked out a revolver from his breast and had fired two shots. I felt a sudden hot sear as if a red-hot iron had been pressed to my thigh. There was a crash as Holmes's pistol came down on the man's head. I had a vision of him sprawling upon the floor with blood running down his face while Holmes rummaged him for weapons. Then my friend's wiry arms were round me, and he was leading me to a chair.
"You're not hurt, Watson? For God's sake, say that you are not hurt!"
It was worth a wound—it was worth many wounds—to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain. All my years of humble but single-minded service culminated in that moment of revelation.
"It's nothing, Holmes. It's a mere scratch."
He had ripped up my trousers with his pocketknife.
"You are right," he cried with an immense sigh of relief. "It is quite superficial." His face set like flint as he glared at our prisoner, who was sitting up with a dazed face. "By the Lord, it is as well for you. If you had killed Watson, you would not have got out of this room alive. Now, sir, what have you to say for yourself?"
Moments later Holmes was dressing and planning his trip to London. Watson had some explaining to do.
"Ah, Holmes! What a wonderful surprise," Watson greeted his friend enthusiastically, completely ignoring the baleful glare. Swinging the door open, he swept his arm toward the sitting room. "I'll just be a moment while I make some tea. Emily will be delighted to see you."
"She's out right now with Mrs. Bennings, but she should be home in time for dinner," Watson continued merrily as he pushed Holmes in the direction of the sitting room.
"Just a moment, dear chap," Watson called back as he headed toward the kitchen. "Would you prefer tea or coffee?"
"Tea it is, then!"
Pausing in the doorway of the sitting room, Watson crossed his arms and leaned a little too casually against the door frame. He could not even begin to disguise the smug smile that lit his wrinkled features as he again took in Holmes' fuming countenance. "Yes, Holmes?"
Holmes threw his copy of The Strand down on the table with enough force to make Watson wince. "You know perfectly well why I'm here," Holmes started darkly.
All innocence, Watson glanced down before frowning dubiously. "Really, Holmes! Retirement must not be sitting well with you at all. It must be those long months spent during the winters with nothing to occupy yourself. When did you take to reading such rubbish?"
Holmes blinked. A moment later he found himself choking for the second time that day as he attempted to force his thoughts into coherent words. Watson's smile had taken on a wicked sort of glee in the face of Holmes' fury. Eventually the detective started to wind down.
"You completely disregarded the facts! This is a blatant—"
"You've made your point, Holmes," Watson finally said, cutting him off before he could wind up again. "And I am in absolute agreement. It was grossly unfair of me. I should never have left out your own injury. After all, the grievously wounded hero caring selflessly for his injured friend is a very popular theme with readers these days."
Still grinning tauntingly, Watson wondered if Holmes' eyes were going to fall out of his head or if his friend was going to faint with horror at the idea. His pale features were red with fury. Watson cut him off before he could speak.
"Don't worry, I did make sure I kept to the facts in The Adventure of the Illustrious Client regarding your wounds and heroic recovery."
"You wouldn't dare," Holmes said, finally recovering some of his composure. "The players involved in that one were too—"
"I did. It's already done."
Holmes' face went white to his lips.
Pushing himself off the door frame, Watson decided it was time to put an end to this before Holmes' did himself harm collapsing right there. He dropped all pretenses of amusement as he stalked resolutely toward his friend quivering with anger. He was only mildly surprised when Holmes actually backed himself into sitting unexpectedly on the sofa.
"You wanted the rest of the world to think you were a heartless machine, and I was willing to accept that for my own reasons; especially in the eyes of the public. I'm the one that said Emily would be kept a secret for her own safety, and I still say it was the right decision."
Watson stepped forward to loom menacingly over his seated friend. In a voice made soft and dark with his anger he continued, "But you are retired. There is no one left that will likely ever come after you, or me. And, after the wedding, Emily will be leaving London. No one will go after her, either. There is no reason to keep up this little game of yours when all it's really accomplishing is hurting your own niece."
Holmes opened his mouth as if to protest. Watson cut him off with a gesture.
"No! I will not accept any arguments on this subject. If you have no intentions of attending or playing at her wedding, then you will at least find an explanation I can accept."
For a moment Holmes could only stare in wonder. This was the side of his Watson he had seldom had occasion to see in the las thirty years since adopting Emily. The father in Watson possessed the heart of a lion and was not afraid to unleash it, even on his dearest friend. Holmes found he could no longer face that wrath. Bowing his head, he slumped dejectedly into the cushions. Seeing this, Watson felt his anger diminish considerably. Forgoing the refreshments, he calmly seated himself in the chair across from Holmes. He gave his friend some time to gather his thoughts.
"She will be returning to visit? Perhaps for the holidays?"
The last of his anger faded away as his heart squeezed painfully at these words. Watson's face softened in understanding. "You don't want her to leave."
Still staring at his twitching fingers in his lap, Holmes shook his head. He could not find it in himself to face his friend. "I had hoped she would find a decent husband here in London, or..."
"So, driving her away was easier than feeling left behind?" Watson asked gently, already knowing the answer and needing Holmes to see it for himself.
The misery on those features was heartbreaking to his old friend. He knew Holmes had loved Emily just as much as himself in all their years together. But, unlike himself, Holmes was never really cut out to be a full-time father. Seeing his little girl grow into a woman and then marry and move away was more than he could take, apparently. It had been hard enough on Holmes leaving them behind here in London when he retired. He watched as Holmes nodded miserably.
For a moment, the two sat in silence. Watson contemplated these things while Holmes obviously did the same, still giving every outward appearance of shame for his behavior of the last year or so. Feeling the need to relieve his friend of some of the unpleasant emotions he was now falling into, Watson stood and slowly surveyed his surroundings.
"It would seem I was right in my assumption," he finally said, as if musing to himself. "You spend far too many months alone in that cottage during the winters."
Holmes snorted behind him, picking up the thread of this seemingly inconsequential bit of conversation. "I had considered adopting a dog, you know. But they are noisy beasts and disturb the bees."
To this Watson nodded as if in agreement. "And, as I recall, your last attempt at keeping a cat did not end well for either of you."
Holmes was glad Watson's back was turned to him as his face flushed scarlet to his hairline at that memory. "No, not well at all."
Heaving a theatrically exaggerated sigh Watson finally turned his attention back to his friend on the sofa. "There's nothing for it, then. I'll just have to retire and take you up on that offer."
Holmes' gray eyes widened in surprise at this sudden statement. Watson chuckled as he smiled warmly. "I'm too old for these busy city streets anymore. Younger, more energetic doctors are leading the way to new inventions in medicine. I've only stayed this long for Emily. When she weds, there will be no reason for me to stay."
"You would do that?"
"Of course, dear friend. After the first twenty or so times you offered—"
"Fifteen, then," Watson conceded, "I had been seriously considering it. But Emily needed to be here, in London; and I knew she would want to follow unless she had someone else to keep her attentions."
As Watson moved to seat himself at the opposite end of the sofa, Holmes considered these things.
"I can still drive a deaf person out of the room with my violin when I'm in a mood and I perform odious experiments with my chemicals," he warned with mock severity.
Laughing heartily Watson took up his own part of the memory from a time long past. "And I still spend more time scribbling in journals and reading than doing anything useful with my time."
"Well, then I suppose I could tolerate sharing a living space with you again for a while," Holmes threw back airily.
"How very gracious of you, Holmes."
Holmes shared a smile, relieved that this part was over. Now for the worst. His expression darkened as Watson cocked his head curiously at him.
"I really should apologize to Emily."
Watson nodded. "That would be best."
Slumping dejectedly once again, Holmes stared morosely at the floor. He had never really developed that skill. He was already considering other options when Watson caught on to his thoughts.
"Worry about that later. I'm going to make some tea. Come, we should—"
"Uncle Holmes!" Emily's excited cry came from the foyer as she opened the door to spy them on their way to the kitchen.
Obviously uncomfortable with this encounter so close on the heels of his previous line of thought, he glanced to Watson helplessly as Emily threw her arms around his neck. Watson grinned and nodded toward the sitting room before turning to disappear into the kitchen.
"I've missed you," Emily said, pulling back. "You're not eating enough, again. Really, Uncle Holmes! You would think a grown man would have enough sense to at least take care of himself."
Chuckling at this motherly display from a woman he could remember admonishing for refusing to eat her peas, he helped her shed her coat and other accessories. "It is good to see you, Emily."
For a moment, she cocked her head at Holmes in a way that reminded him so much of his Watson it instantly eased his tension. "What brought you here, Uncle? Are you quite alright? You and Father didn't have another argument or—"
Silencing her with a raised hand, he led her into the sitting room. "You need not worry. That part is over, I assure you."
Emily seemed relieved by this news as Holmes sat her on the sofa. Taking the chair across from her, he could not help noticing those large blue eyes scrutinizing him with some concern nonetheless. That critical gaze again reminded him so much of his Watson he could feel his heart softening all over again.
Sentimental old fool, he told himself. Staring down at his clasped hands, he forced himself to begin.
"I came to apologize to you and ask your forgiveness. My behavior these last several months has been atrocious and—"
Holmes stopped as he found his hands enveloped in her smaller, daintier ones. Chilled as they were, they warmed his heart as she ducked lower to force his gray eyes to meet hers.
"You don't have to apologize, Uncle. I'll miss you too."
Not for the first time, this child—no, woman—surprised him to speechlessness. Her insightfulness into his character more than rivaled even Watson's; it always had. He should have known she would see straight through to the truth. Not certain if he should be feeling embarrassed or relieved, he watched as those deep blue eyes turned uncertain.
"I do love him, Uncle. And I—I had hoped...that—that maybe you..."
Now Holmes found his hands wrapping around hers. "Does he make you happy?"
"Yes," she replied without hesitation, though somewhat curious.
"And he knows there is nowhere in the world he can hide from your father and I should that ever change?"
Emily giggled in a way that reminded him of the child she had once been so very long ago now, it seemed. "Yes, Uncle. Finding out he was engaged to the daughter of the great Dr. Watson and niece of the great Sherlock Holmes was almost enough to scare him off by itself."
Holmes sniffed disdainfully. "Well, then maybe..."
Seeing her heart in those eyes plummeting at his words, he sighed. He never could deny them for long. "You have my blessing, and my sincerest desire that you always find your happiness in the man you love."
The expression of joy that filled her features was more than Holmes could have ever imagined. When she flung herself into his arms this second time she was trying to conceal her tears in his shoulder. Holmes wrapped his arms around her and held her tight, knowing he would not have many of these opportunities left to him.
Watson stepped around the door frame with the tea tray in hand and stopped. For several seconds he took in the sight of his healed family. He felt a sense of peace settle over his heart that warmed him. Sensing that other presence that had hovered near his heart for so many decades, he smiled.
Do you see it, Mary? I told you he would come around.
"And I told you not to push him, stubborn old man," he fancied he could hear her retort.