Characters: Watson, Holmes, Mary
Warnings/Triggers: poison, references to drug use, hallucinations, vomitting, other poison-related things
Spoilers:Game of Shadows
Word Count 2, 368
Summary: Things have been slightly strained since Holmes came back into Watson's life. That won't stop the good doctor from coming when he's needed, however.
Author's notes: I watched the first movie again at the cottage, and then fic happened.
Hurt/comfort, of course. Only my second attempt at these versions of the characters, so apologies for any rough patches. Also, I've had to wing Victorian reponses to poison a little. Google was very happy to tell me how to poison someone in a Victorian fashion, but not how to save them.
Watson opened his eyes and blinked at his wife, her image somewhat blurred by the fact that she was shaking him. “Mmm?”
She held up a finger for him to be quiet and cocked her head, listening. The doorbell rang. Watson groaned, softly. He threw off the bedclothes and found some trousers to pull on over his nightshirt.
“Do you think it's a good idea to answer?” Mary asked.
“I doubt intruders ring the bell, dear,” Watson pointed out.
“I suppose it depends on your definition of 'intruder',” Mary said.
Watson stopped to kiss her cheek. “If it were him, he'd already have forced the lock or come through the window,” he said. “It's probably a patient, in which case it's my duty to be available.”
She drew him back to give him a proper kiss and that made the journey downstairs in the dark far more pleasant. He grabbed his Gladstone (the bag) in preparation and moved Gladstone (the dog) out of the way with his foot. The dog was an odd creature; he went to the door whenever it rang and sat there, staring, as though he couldn't decide whether it was worth his energy to give a bark or two.
Watson opened the door and found one of the Irregulars on his step. He couldn't recall the boy's name; Holmes had a small army of urchins at his disposal. “Yes?” he said, warily. Holmes had better not have sent the boy in his name to retrieve him.
The boy was badly out of breath, as though he'd run a good distance. “Mr Holmes,” he panted. “Mrs Hudson. Ill. Sent me. Needs. Help. Sir.”
Watson wasn't sure if it was Holmes who had sent him because Mrs Hudson was ill or Mrs Hudson had sent him because Holmes was ill. In either case, he would go at once. The boy was run ragged. If it were a cough or chill, he would have set a more leisurely pace.
“Get us a hansom, quick as you can,” Watson ordered.
The boy ran off again.
Watston turned to find his coat, only to have it gently slid onto his shoulders by Mary. He hadn't realized she'd followed him down. His hat was put on his head next, with a pat to set it down properly. Then his stick placed in his hand.
“Go,” she said.
He went. He hurried after the boy, who had thrown himself in front of the hansom in order to get it to slow for him. Watson was there to provide a more respectable face, and the cabbie let them both in. Watson had to wait for a few moments to let the boy find his breath, then he started to ask questions.
Was it Mrs Hudson who was ill?
No, sir, Mr Holmes.
He didn't know, sir, Mrs Hudson had opened the door at 221 and called out, and he was near enough to hear her, sir. She said to go and get the doctor quick, sir. Mr Holmes was very ill, sir.
The ride didn't take long. Watson hadn't moved too far away from 221 Baker Street, something Mary was constantly lamenting. He realized he had no money for the fare, but the boy had enough coins in his pocket and trusted Watson's promise to pay him back.
Mrs Hudson leaned anxiously out the door. Watson jumped out to meet her. This was not her usual state of distress. She was frantic.
“He woke me up coming in, Doctor,” she said, with tears in her eyes. Watson made her sit down; she looked ready to drop. “He was stumbling all about, and I thought at first he was just in one of his states, the ones he puts himself in sometimes.” Watson nodded. “But it's different, Doctor. He's dying. I'm sure of it.”
Watson didn't ask any questions, he just took the seventeen stairs up to the first floor and entered 221B proper.
It had been some months since Holmes had come back to life and things had been slightly strained between them. Not obviously, not severely. Not unmanageably. Their relationship had merely changed. Watson was settled in his life with Mary and had learned to enjoy a quieter existence when Holmes swooped back in. There was a betrayal of trust that was hard to overcome and though they still spoke to one another and met for dinner or a drink, Watson's involvement in Holmes' latest adventures had been less in-depth than previously--and less frequent. He hadn't seen Holmes in weeks. He'd locked himself away.
Watson's own tidy habits had kept the shared rooms in a semblance of order during his time at Baker Street, but since he'd moved out, Holmes's refuse and remnants of experiments and obscene love of hoarding newspapers had gathered and grown outwards like a skin disease. Watson could see Holmes curled up on the floor, but had to jump and hop and balance on one foot to get to him.
“Oh, hello,” Holmes greeted him, his words badly slurred. “How good of you to join me, Watson. I'm sorry I can't greet you properly.”
Watson forced him to lie flat so he could examine him. His pulse was racing madly, and his breath was quick and uneven. He poured sweat. His shirt front was wet through with it.
“What did you take?” Watson asked. “What did you do to yourself?”
Holmes groaned and twitched. Watson held him flat. He turned the key on a nearby lamp and it blazed to life. Holmes' pupils were blown wide, retracting only marginally in the light. It was hard to see, as Holmes' irises were so dark. Watson suspected much of his drug use had sneaked by him for that reason.
“Tell me what you took!” Watson said, urgently.
“Nothing, I took nothing,” Holmes gasped out. “It was forced on me.”
“Yes, I'm sure,” Watson said. “Isn't that always the case?”
“No, I swear,” Holmes insisted. “This is not of my own making, Watson, this is poison.”
Watson couldn't afford to argue. Whatever it was, however it had entered Holmes' body, it needed to be eliminated. He bellowed for Mrs Hudson, and she came running.
“I need pots of strong, sweet tea,” Watson said. “Quick as you can, as much as you can and keep it coming.”
She nodded and hurried off. Watson forced Holmes into a sitting position, and Holmes clung to him as though he were drowning. There was a fear there, and Watson wondered if Holmes hadn't been telling the truth. It didn't matter. The results were the same.
“You're going to have a rough night, old boy,” he said.
“Well, it shall be like old times then, won't it?” Holmes said, with a ragged smile.
“And up we go,” Watson said. He groaned as he hoisted Holmes to his feet once more. “Come on, you great lug, walk. Walk, Holmes.”
“No, I shall not,” Holmes said, stumbling along as Watson dragged him from one end of the hall to the other. “I care not for this exercise, Watson.”
“I care not for what you care for,” Watson said. “Walk.”
“Perhaps you should try pugilism,” Holmes continued, unheeding. “It's far less repetitive. I think I'll sit down.”
“No, you won't,” Watson said, gritting his teeth as all of Holmes weight came down on him. He pushed him back upright and made him keep going. “If you fall asleep, you won't wake up. Keep walking.”
“Is this what you were like in the army?” Holmes asked. “Little wonder someone shot you.”
Watson huffed a laugh at that, but it was all the breath he could afford to spare. Carrying Holmes around was exhausting, and they had a long way to go yet. They made several turns about the landing, and then Watson allowed him to sit down again. He picked up the pot of tea that Mrs Hudson had delivered and held the spout to Holmes' lips. He was hoping to flush whatever toxin it was from Holmes' body, that the milk and sugar would protect his stomach, and the stimulant would keep him awake. Plus, he had added a large dose of Ipecacuanha powder to it to help purge.
“Drink,” he ordered.
“No, I respectfully decline,” Holmes said. “If I have to drink any more of your potion, I will bring it all back up.”
“That is my intent,” Watson said. “So, drink.”
Holmes managed a few mouthfuls and turned quite green. Watson kept him steady while he vomitted, and then hoisted him on his feet again.
“And now we're going to walk.”
Of all that occurred that evening, of all that Watson saw and took care of, the deliriums were the worst. A mind like Holmes' was prone to amazing acts of logic and intuition, but so much data stored made for the richest of imaginations as well. He created monsters and scenarios the likes of which Watson would have never come close to conceiving. It was almost as terrifying to watch Holmes as Watson imagined it was to be him, and there was very little he could do to soothe the demons appearing before Holmes' eyes. He could only continue to treat him as he ranted, and screamed, and raged, and sobbed.
His pulse was coming down, at least. Though now it was quite weak and irregular. Watson wasn't sure which he preferred. He feared this was a kill or cure situation. There was little more he could do. Holmes would pull through, or he wouldn't. Watson couldn't think of the latter—his mind literally could not comprehend losing his friend so soon after finding him again. Whatever the current state of their relationship, he couldn't deal with that. He focused on keeping Holmes alive and tamped down his own terror, shaking hands, and exhaustion.
“I apologize for your maroon waistcoat's demise,” Holmes said, sleepily. He was staring vaguely off in the distance, and for a moment Watson wasn't sure if he was speaking to him or not. He'd spoken to several people who weren't there—Mycroft, Irene, Moriarty.
“My maroon waistcoat?” Watson echoed. “Why should you apologize for that?”
“I tore it,” Holmes said. He sounded like an abashed child.
“You told me Gladstone chewed it,” Watson said.
“Yes, it was a lie,” Holmes agreed. “It was very devious of me. Please forgive me.”
“I think I can manage it,” Watson said. “Ease your mind.”
Holmes looked a little relieved. He stared off into space for several minutes before he spoke again. “I'm sorry I was alive and didn't notify you immediately,” he said.
“Ah, well, that's harder to forgive,” Watson said.
Holmes looked stricken. “I've missed you,” he said, sadly. “I regret that our adventures are over.”
Watson smiled. “What do you call this, hmmm?” he said. “Come on, old fellow, don't be maudlin.”
Holmes looked to him now. “You are the very greatest of men,” he said, sincerely.
“That is resoundingly untrue,” Watson said. “But thank you. Now, up we go. Once more unto the breach...”
By the time morning fought its way through the thick curtains of 221B, Holmes seemed to be on the mend. His pulse had returned to acceptable ranges, and his pupils contracted to their proper size. Watson allowed them both to sit down. The rooms smelled of vomit and sweat and worse, reminding him of Afghanistan.
Watson seemed to have drifted off to sleep at some point and awoke with alarm at having done so. Holmes was on the settee beside him, his head fallen to Watson's shoulder. For a moment, Watson feared he was dead, but his pulse beat steadily, and a loud snore emerged when Watson shifted.
Every muscle in his body ached. His old leg wound was in an especially foul temper, the pain radiating from groin to ankle. There was a reason he used a cane, and forgoing it—plus adding a 12 stone man to carry—had exacerbated all his problems. His shoulder was also quite incensed, but not so painful as his leg.
He couldn't get Holmes off of him, and eventually stopped trying, too tired himself to move. He leaned back and stared at the ceiling in a bewildered haze. The whole night seemed surreal, and pieces of it floated through his mind as though he were remembering a dream.
“Someone has dropped me from a three-story building,” Holmes muttered. He stirred to sit up, but his head dropped back down. “No, I am mistaken. It was a four-story building. Watson, what are you doing here? You've run quite a ways. Look at your trousers. What would your wife say?
“I suspect she'll be quite disappointed I kept you alive,” Watson said. “Get off of me.”
“You get off of me,” Holmes replied.
“I'm not on you,” Watson said.
Holmes struggled to a sitting position, giving Watson just enough time to slip out of the way before Holmes fell back down and draped himself over the settee. Watson's leg didn't seem to want to get him to his feet, and he remained crouched on the floor. Holmes fell asleep momentarily and woke up again confused.
“Watson, why are you on the ground? You look ridiculous. Why are you here? You no longer live here, you cannot simply drop in unannounced.”
“Do you remember nothing of last night?” Watson asked, incredulously.
“I remember tailing a thief through the docks and stopping in a tavern of very ill-repute— and worse hygiene—and having a pint to blend in. Then...nothing. Why, did something happen?”
Watson filled him in on the events of the night. Holmes seemed genuinely ignorant of what had gone on. Watson supposed it wasn't surprising considering how ill the man had been. Perhaps for the best as well. Holmes had enough demons without reliving those he'd conjured during the night.
“You came without hesitation when I needed you,” Holmes said, sounding bewildered. “Even now?”
“I believe we established long ago that I am psychologically disturbed,” Watson replied.
Holmes smiled. “It's good to know I may still rely on you.”
“You always will,” Watson promised. “We aren't out of adventures yet. Get some sleep; you are still very ill.” He managed to get to his feet and pulled a blanket over to cover his friend. Holmes seemed hesitant—nervous. Watson wondered if he remembered more of the night than he let on. “I'll be here when you wake up.”
Holmes' eyes fluttered closed. “You really are the greatest of men,” he murmured.
“Go to sleep,” Watson said.
Holmes drifted off, and Watson sat down in a chair, settling in to keep watch over him.