|Time is the Best Doctor - Sherlock Holmes - Holmes/Watson
||[Jan. 2nd, 2010|05:58 pm]
where the daydreams reign
Title: Time is the Best Doctor
Word Count: 3913
A/N: Written with a citrus_taste prompt.
Summary: Watson is certain that Holmes's recklessness is sure to be the death of him. His medical skills can only do so much.
The clock ticks in the corner of the room and neither one of them speaks. The silence is punctuated occasionally by the hiss of pained air through Holmes's teeth, but beyond that there is nothing. Watson prefers it like this, currently.
He looks down at Holmes's fist as he washes away fresh blood in a hand basin. He can't count how many times over the years he has had to patch Holmes up in the evening: stitch, sew and patch up the holes, holding him together like a well-loved teddy bear. It is grazed knuckles this evening and nothing more, the product of a skirmish with some unreliable ruffians. On the general scale of things, it is true that they have both suffered far worse injuries than this. The scars upon Watson's shoulder are enough proof of that, although he tries to give as little thought to that particular incident as is possible. It isn't safe to dwell upon how close they came to becoming victims of Blackwood's plot.
"You ought to be more careful," he sighs. He knows perfectly well that his words will be ignored. The sound of his voice breaks the silence; he almost winces at the noise himself. "I don't mind patching you up when it is necessary, but you do appear to go out of your way to keep me in business."
"I like to keep you busy," Holmes answers. His eyes are closed and his head rests against the back of his chair. If Watson hadn't had solid evidence that he was conscious, he would have been inclined to imagine he was sleeping. Somehow, Holmes manages to look harmless when he is asleep, almost innocent. Slumber, evidently, is highly deceptive. "If I didn't get hurt on a regular basis, you would no doubt have to find some other aspect of my behaviour to complain about."
"I would not have a great deal of difficulty with that task, Holmes," Watson says, the words falling out on a sigh. Holmes's personality is troublesome. Brilliant, genius, charming and mad, but certainly troublesome. "I could complain about any number of the things that you do that contribute to the gradual destruction of my sanity, yet it is your carelessness that troubles me most. You'll get yourself killed one of these days."
Holmes's coughing snort does not sound encouraging. "This is a vast over-reaction to a set of grazed knuckles, Watson," he says after a pause.
It's not about the knuckles, and Watson would venture that Holmes knows as much himself. It is about foolish risks and sloppy practices. They both know that Holmes could destroy anyone that he wanted to in a fair fist fight.
They both also know that not everyone plays fair.
"If you won't care for your own safety then perhaps I can persuade you to care for my own," he says. An appeal to Holmes's sense of self-preservation has poor odds on the best of days, especially when it runs the risk of slowing down a case. Watson has learned, however, that an appeal in the interests of his own safety has a slightly higher chance of success. "When you take risks like this you put me in danger as well."
Holmes opens his eyes, though his head still rests against the back of the chair. He peers at Watson along the length of his nose, utterly undecipherable. Watson refocuses his attention upon the knuckles in front of him, cleaning away the last few specks of dried blood.
"Watson, my dear," Holmes says, using the tone of voice that he usually employs in order to soothe him. "I assure you that I have no intention of putting your safety in jeopardy."
From a man who has allowed him to fight thugs and weather explosions and duel with men twice his size, Watson has to find such a reassurance dubious at best. He does not require protection in any case; he does not take foolish risks in quite the same way that Holmes does.
"You have quite a face on you," Holmes says. He takes his hand out of Watson's grasp before Watson can finish his work. "I'd stop worrying. I know what I'm doing."
"As do I," Watson sighs. Trying to get Holmes to see sense is a long lost battle. "As your doctor, it is my job to worry about you."
Holmes's smile is a warm, wicked thing. "And as your friend, it is my place to tell you to stop."
It has always been difficult to argue with Holmes. Watson retires to bed with a smile on his face, worries banished for now, but he knows it will not belong before they have cause to return.
It is a head injury, this time; an attack from behind with a bottle of good gin. Holmes stinks of the alcohol, and his clear gaze is enough to persuade Watson to believe that it is not because he drank it. "It was very unsporting," Holmes complains. This appears to be on the only comment that he has on the matter.
"You walked gamely into a den of known thieves," Watson points out. "Did you truly expect them to fight fair?"
No doubt Holmes believed he could overcome them, and perhaps if he had not been so out-numbered it would have been so. Watson cannot believe that Holmes was taken by surprise by their numbers. His ego must have caused him to enter the room under the mistaken belief that his unarguable skills in the boxing ring would be enough to allow him to come out unscathed. As irritated as Watson is with this recklessness, he has to confess - privately, of course, it wouldn't do any good to say as much to Holmes's face - that it was a gamble that had very nearly paid off.
"You shouldn't scold me so," Holmes says. He is whining and no doubt is fully aware of this fact. "I am a wounded man, Watson. Show some compassion."
Watson answers with a vague humming sound, distracted and irritated by his companion. His worries for Holmes's health go unnoticed. His urges for extra care are ignored.
Caring for Holmes is a difficult business - and Watson is so very tired of having to pick up the pieces.
"Sometimes I fancy you must think yourself immortal," Watson sighs as he cleans grit and dirt out of an ugly wound on Holmes's arm. There are others that require his attention, yet this is the one that troubles him most. It is an open invitation for infection, and Watson knows that Holmes will not be delicate enough to allow it to heal. "Immortal or invincible, neither of which is the case."
"I merely have faith in my own abilities," Holmes tells him. He is staring towards the curtained windows as opposed to watching Watson's work, something that Watson finds himself glad for. Holmes is a tricky audience member. "Which is more than can be said for you, it would seem."
"You are a brilliant man, of that I have no doubt," Watson reassures him. Sometimes, pandering to Holmes's ego is essential. "Yet even you have your limits. I would rather not discover those limits the hard way."
"There is no easy way," Holmes answers. He looks towards Watson, his perceptive gaze nearly black in the dim light. "Regardless, while you doubt my abilities I have absolute faith in your own. You are a remarkable doctor, Watson."
He waggles his fingers as if to demonstrate as much. Watson frowns and tells him to remain still; it is difficult to work on a patient in perpetual motion. "I am a doctor; I am, sadly, no miracle worker."
If Holmes is injured too severely, if a certain criminal gains too great an advantage, no degree of medical skill will be enough to rescue his dear friend. He swallows against a swell of emotion and forces his expression to remain neutral, although he is certain that Holmes will have caught every minor twitch and tremor. The difficulty with living with such an observant gentleman is that nothing can remain secret for even a brief second.
Yet, for once, Holmes holds his tongue. Watson can feel the intensity of his friend's gaze upon his face even as he focuses upon the red, ragged flesh of his arm. He tries to slip into a distant state of mind, into the calm of his profession, yet such solace eludes him. Holmes is no ordinary patient and this is no ordinary ailment. It is a graze caused by a bullet and made filthy by mud and grit. His jaw clenches.
It takes him an hour before he is satisfied that Holmes's wounds are as well cared for as he can manage, and during that time they talk very little. Holmes's silence is a thoughtful one that Watson chooses not to interrupt; doing so would no doubt shatter the cracking of the case. Sometimes, it is best to simply let Holmes be. Interference can be harmful for the mental health of all those involved.
When he is done and Holmes is wrapped with a healthy amount of pristine white bandages that will no doubt be grubby before long, Watson stands up and prepares to leave - yet Holmes reaches out and grabs hold of his arm before he can do so. His grip is tight; his hand is warm on the bare skin of Watson's forearm. Watson looks down at the tanned hand that restrains him, and then up at his friend's face. Their friendship is one that is characterised by a lack of distance. They lean against one another for comfort and they have no issue with falling asleep on the others' shoulder. This is different. This has far more purpose.
"I will be careful, Watson," Holmes promises. There is a level of sincerity in his voice that Watson has not heard in a long time. This is a rare moment indeed. "I don't wish to make you worry."
Watson leaves his arm in Holmes's grasp and does not allow himself to slip away. He holds Holmes's gaze and wishes that he had the same skill set as Holmes. Then, perhaps, he would be able to tell whether or not he could trust such a promise. He chooses to nod; he chooses faith. "Thank you, Holmes," he says with genuine gratitude. It won't stop him from worrying, but it will at least help.
Holmes's good health lasts for six months. During this time, they have cases in which neither one of them ends up with anything more than a paper-cut from over-enthusiastic research, and the occasional sore muscle from frantic chases. They are the picture of health and happiness, and their cases result in success after success after success. No more bandages are required, and for a short period of time Watson is afforded a stress-free existence. He should have known, he thinks, that it was not to last.
In this instance, the injury is not a result of a case gone wrong or a mighty enemy: it is a boxing match. It is the result of Holmes's proud vanity, swollen by their successes.
He ends up in the hospital this time, and men far more skilled than Watson himself repair him. Watson is a damn fine doctor, but he is no surgeon. It makes him glad that the life of such a cherished friend rests in the hands of those experienced enough to keep him alive and well. As he waits for Holmes's recovery, his own leg itches and tingles in sympathy, remembering the time that he had spent in a hospital far more poorly equipped than this one. He closes his eyes, sitting on an uncomfortable seat in the private room acquired for Holmes to rest in. He doesn't want to think about the war. He can't allow his mind to stray to such dark places.
On the bed in front of him, Holmes is motionless. It is unnatural to see him so still, with no churning thoughts ticking away in his mind. His eyes are closed, his face is slack. Dreams are all that remain.
He will wake, soon, and Watson holds his hand until he does. He holds his hand and thinks of everything that this blasted friendship has put him through. It is damaging. It is dangerous. It is something that will no doubt ruin his life as it ruined his marriage, and yet it appears to be something that he is incapable of giving up. He could never turn his back on Holmes. A faithful friend, loyal colleague and mindless follower... Holmes will always be able to count on him. Always.
Holmes's hand twitches when Watson's consciousness is beginning to waver. Watson's eyes snap wide open immediately and he leans forward, studying Holmes's face. He sees the grimace of unfortunate consciousness and the registering of pain. "Try not to move too much," Watson advises. Holmes's eyes blink open, but other than that he proves willing to obey. "You were injured in the boxing ring, quite severely. Do you remember?"
Holmes closes his eyes with a disappointed groan. Watson believes that that is an affirmative.
"Your surgeons have done a marvellous job, but they recommend bed-rest for several weeks."
"I have a case," Holmes says. Watson smiles unwillingly; it seems perfectly typical for those to be Holmes's first words in such a scenario. He does not know how to switch off. "Rest is out of the question."
"Holmes, you are going to do as your doctors order, even if I have to hold you to the bed myself," Watson tells him. His smile laces affection through the words, yet he feels a strange warmth through his chest when Holmes looks towards him, eyes connecting. It is a warmth that has nothing to do with mere attachment and friendship. It is something sharper, something hotter, something more forbidden - and it is something that Holmes's wicked grin tells him is shared.
Heat rushes to Watson's cheeks and he looks down at their interlocked hands in an attempt to clear his mind. Holmes has clearly had a very negative effect upon his psyche. Too much time spent in his presence leads to impure thoughts.
"Please, Holmes," he says after clearing his throat. "A little common sense would, in this instance, be appreciated. If your case is so important, I shall run any errands you need."
His own gaze is not as attuned to such fine details as Holmes is, but he is nonetheless far from useless. It will be enough to suffice until Holmes is back on his feet.
Holmes begins to heave a sigh, but the pain from cracked ribs evidently makes him change his mind about such a course of action. "As you wish, Watson. The sacrifices I make for you truly are remarkable."
"Consider them remarked upon," Watson says with a wry grin. He isn't used to getting his own way with Holmes; he isn't at all used to such easy victories, but he finds that the thrill is not lessened at all by the weak battle. On a whim he picks up Holmes's hand and brings it to his lips, avoiding the familiar grazed knuckles and aiming to place a kiss upon the centre of his hand instead. "I am glad to see you pulled through," he confesses, lips to skin. He doubts if Holmes appreciates how dicey his fate had appeared for an hour or so, battered and blood-soaked.
When he looks up, Holmes is watching him with nothing short of curious indulgence in his eyes, as if Watson himself has suddenly become a mystery worth solving.
"Go to sleep," he advises. "You need your rest, and I need to go home." It will be a short visit, a trip designed to allow him to wash himself, change his clothes and put some food in his famished belly. He will be back before Holmes has a chance to miss him - and yet when Holmes's hand tightens its grip, such plans flee the scene. Holmes doesn't say a word and instead stares at the ceiling above them, studying it with the intensity that he usually reserves for suspects. After a moment's pause, Watson allows himself to relax into his uncomfortable chair as much as he is able. "I could stay a while longer," he suggests.
"I think that would be best," Holmes agrees.
Watson tries his hardest to hide his happy smirk.
He doesn't think he has much success.
By the time Holmes is deemed well enough to return to Baker Street, Watson already feels run off his feet. There appears to be an endless list of tasks that Holmes requires him to do each day, and fitting them in around his own work and his patients is quite the juggling act. He manages it because he has to; because Holmes needs it.
"You've tidied my room," Holmes observes as they walk inside, Watson hovering near Holmes's side in case he needs additional support.
It ought to be said that the keen skills of Holmes's eyes are not truly required to observe the difference that has taken place while he has been in hospital. Watson and Mrs Hudson had taken the opportunity to clear up without Holmes there to scold them for it. It still feels strange to be able to walk across the floor without the risk of falling over.
"I thought it would be better like this while you are recuperating," Watson explains. Holmes's unhappy mumble suggests that, for him, this is not a satisfactory explanation.
They reach the bed, with its fresh, crisp sheets and its wealth of soft pillows, and Watson helps Holmes to lower himself onto it with the least amount of pain possible. They both sit down, side by side, and then Holmes swings his legs up onto the mattress. He sinks against the pillows with a long, relieved sigh, while Watson sits at his side and watches with a smile. It feels right to have him back home once more. The place has been dreadfully empty and quiet during his absence.
He is ready to stand up and leave Holmes to settle in once more, but Holmes's hand refuses to let go of his arm. It feels devastatingly familiar. "Holmes, I-"
"I have never thanked you, Watson, for the way in which you care about me," Holmes says. He throws the words out in such an off-handed way that Watson knows it has to be scripted. He has planned this. "I know I am not an easy man to live with."
"That is certainly true."
"And, equally, I am not an easy man to befriend. You have show true loyalty." He pauses and smiles. Watson wonders if that, too, is rehearsed. "It is something I no doubt do not deserve."
Watson makes another ill-advised attempt at interruption - "Holmes, really, I..." - but the words are never completed. Even injured, Holmes possesses more strength and natural cunning than an invalid ought to be capable of, and he seems to find no challenge in pulling Watson off-balance so that he sprawls onto the bed beside him in a most ungainly way. Watson would complain about such treatment were it not for the far-from-polite intrusion of Holmes's mouth against his own. Lips are closed at first, but after the initial shock and after a few pleading nudges by Holmes's tongue, Watson's lips part.
He closes his eyes before he can come to his senses, and his hand cups the back of Holmes's head. This is foolish. This is utterly foolish, illegal and inevitable. Holmes's mouth feels like a sweet addiction; a rush overcomes him, more powerful than the largest bet. Their hands are naughty and their mouths are daring. The room is silent but for their panting, desperate breaths.
From a medical stand-point, Watson thinks in the small, forgotten part of his mind, this is against all recommendations.
He leans over Holmes and makes sure to hold up all of his weight, allowing no pressure upon Holmes's chest. Their bodies interlock, groin pressed to thigh through their trousers, and they grind together in blind madness, chasing longed-for release. Their kiss ends as they are distracted by sweet friction, and as Watson looks down upon Holmes he is able to watch his face, flushed with exertion and with a wild, happy look in his eyes. They watch each other, grinning at the high from their own recklessness, and Watson feels Holmes's questing hands sliding down his back and lower.
Before the end comes, Watson lowers his head to kiss Holmes once more; the ferocity of years of waiting fuels them both. This action is so blind to all consequences and yet Watson can't care enough to stop; he wonders if this is how Holmes feels on a regular basis, this complete freedom. It's beautiful and addictive. He understands, when white-washed climax comes, why Holmes cannot afford to let this go.
The awkward tension that initially creeps between them has faded within a week, replaced with casual kisses and lingering hands. Watson has to struggle not to panic whenever Holmes pushes their luck in public by placing his hand on the small of his back or allowing himself to whisper directly into his ear; nothing that could be conclusive evidence to the casual onlooker, but enough, damn it, enough for anyone who knew what they were looking for. It causes Watson's heart to race every single time.
"It would appear that you are back to your blatant disregard for our safety," Watson complains when they are alone and Holmes's hand is stroking a soft rhythm across his bare shoulders. He lies on his front in Holmes's bed, his eyes closed.
"On the contrary, dear Watson. If a sudden distance developed between us, I believe even our incompetent police force would find it strange. We have been cemented at the hip long before we were joined elsewhere." His hand takes a slow path down Watson's back, tracing the line of his spine, as if to prove exactly which elsewhere he is referring to. "I plan to carry on as normal."
"It is like torture," Watson says. "You are like torture." And, he feels, he is fully qualified to make such a statement. He is a veteran and he has been Holmes's known colleague for a considerable length of time; violent foes have, on more than one occasion, turned their weapons upon him.
"A torture you enjoy, I presume," Holmes says. By now, his hand has reached the swell of Watson's buttocks, although he pauses for Watson's answer before he dares to venture further.
"You are a constant source of frustration, but I would not be here if I found you loathsome."
"That you are still here is evidence of your mental deficiencies," Holmes deduces, "and that I am still here in this world at all is a fact I owe solely to you and your medical expertise, Watson. Did I ever thank you for that?"
"Yes, extensively," Watson comments. Holmes likes to make a habit of thanking him at least once a week - and, he has noticed upon occasion, Holmes's risk-taking has lowered dramatically since Watson offered him a new way to expend that daredevil trait. "Yet I can always stand to be thanked a little more."
"Excellent," Holmes murmurs, and a set of fingers press inside of Watson, familiar, careful and right.
Watson sighs and relaxes like melted butter against the mattress, completely at home in his companion's hands. Together in bed they are utterly safe - and, although it is a risk, it is one he feels good taking.