I recently read a slash story that posited the idea that Holmes must have used cocaine during the Baron Maupertuis case in REIG, in order to work fifteen hour days, for five day stretches. Here it is: Katie's "An April's Journey." This is a sketch inspired by that notion, and it's more angsty than my previous hurt/comfort fic called Paris Nights.
In my novel DIM, though Watson is and always will be close to Holmes, he over the years comes to have an intense love/hate relationship with him. This explodes into a bitter breakup, in which he moves out of Baker Street, just before Holmes takes the Maupertuis case. The following scenes show what happened in the hotel in Lyons, and what happened after they returned from Colonel Hayter's in REIG. I already wrote the scene with Mrs. Hudson years ago, so I'll repost that too. Otherwise the content's mostly new.
Fandom: Sherlock Holmes
Story: partial chapter 9 of Deeper in Memory novel
pairing: Holmes/Watson, with implied Holmes/Helen Stoner
warnings: slash, rated R
This is a sketch, meaning that most of it is in sentence fragments, and in present tense.
Holmes and Watson fight constantly about everything in early 1887. Seething viciousness in their insults, like animals clawing at each other. So Watson packs and moves out, reflecting on the irony that his first novel about Holmes is going to be published late this year, and it shall surely be his last, since he's thoroughly sick of Holmes now. Holmes leaves for France for the Baron Maupertuis case.
Watson tries to get on with his life without Holmes. Stays in a club or hotel? Returns to medical practice. But what about all his accumulated case notes of the past six years? What about his promising experiments in short stories, like Silver Blaze? Should he just transform them all into fiction, about a made up detective? Then he could still pursue a writing career, without Holmes in his life. But would Holmes still accuse him of transparent roman à clef, thievery? Still take every opportunity to take scornful swipes at him?
Miserable. Then he receives a telegram from Mrs. Hudson. (It was addressed to Watson at Baker Street, and she brings it to his new address.) After his case, Holmes has collapsed in Lyons. Mrs. Hudson begs him to go help, and Watson does. Swiftly packing and travelling there within 24 hours. Finds Holmes in bed, sleeping. A darkened sickroom with crumpled telegrams on the floor. Watson quietly approaches and begins to examine him.
Holmes is skeletal, pale, with laboured breathing. [need symptoms of cocaine withdrawal.] Startled by what he sees, Watson looks at H's arm and sees fresh needle marks. "Oh my God," he whispers. Holmes never injected during a case. Never. Until now, apparently.
Holmes stirs awake and looks up at Watson. Smiles faintly, touching him in awe and wonder. "You came."
Watson still horrified, pointing to his arm. "How could you? During your case?"
Holmes sighs and explains weakly, "Had to, to stay awake. Worked fifteen hour days..." coughs, the rest unintelligible.
Watson shakes his head, full of pity. "You're killing yourself." Despite himself, he feels tremendous sorrow at the thought that so great a mind, such a brilliant man, could destroy himself. He tries to be just angry and disgusted at Holmes, but instead feels miserably unhappy at the tragedy.
H tells him urgently, "I've stopped now. Stopped for you." between ragged breaths. "Been locked in here... shaking... waiting... ripping up telegrams to keep from going crazy... waiting. Hardly dared hope that you'd come. But you did. Just in time." overcome with emotion, pulling him closer. "Need you. Need you to get through this."
Watson a little flustered and distracted by the familiarity. Meets his eyes, the words sinking in. "You mean, you want me to assist you through your cocaine withdrawal?"
Nods, pleased that he's understood. H indicates that the police wanted to send him to a hospital or call in a local doctor to attend immediately, but Holmes insisted on their telegramming Watson. "No one else. No one but you." clinging and shaking without control. He's letting himself completely go now.
"Holmes!" Watson begins treatment, trying to hush and soothe him. Still resentful though, and tells H icily that he's not going to inject him with any morphine.
"I know. Trust you." Moans in pain. "Watson!" clutches, sweats feverishly.
"I'm here!" Takes off his coat and puts it on a nearby chair with his medical bag. Watson primarily gives him water at first, to keep him hydrated. He needs food too, but probably won't be able to keep any down for some time. Just got to get through this painful stage. So glad he read up all those medical journal articles about the effects of cocaine...
horrible, demanding night. Eventually W gets tired and starts to rise from bed to get his still packed bags. H, who had been fitfully asleep, reaches out in protest. "Watson!"
"Shh, I'll be back. Let me change, for heaven's sake." taking off his waistcoat, loosening his tie. Mutters to himself that maybe it's too late to get more linens so he can sleep on the nearby settee.
Holmes reaches for him and says, "sleep here."
"Please." he begs and clings to him.
Watson sighs wearily at the return of Holmes's tremors. Clearly he has no choice. Not going to be able to leave his side for hours yet. So with resignation, kicks off his shoes and lays down beside Holmes. Strokes and holds him soothingly until he calms. Yet as he tries to get some sleep, he notices that Holmes is being much too familiar. Tangles his fingers in Watson's hair. Wraps his leg around Watson's. Breathes against his neck and nuzzles his scarred shoulder through his shirt. Alternately sighs Watson's name or murmurs "your wound" in apparent delirium.
Watson tells himself that it's just the cocaine. Holmes is not aware of what he's doing. In fact, wasn't one of the side effects of cocaine an aphrodisiac-like stimulation? Ah, yes, of course! That would surely be the only thing that could reduce the world's greatest consulting detective to an unthinking sexual creature, let alone a perverse one. Shakes his head and tries to sleep anyway, despite Holmes's possessive claiming of his body.
In the morning Holmes is a little better. Watson gets up and changes out of his crumpled clothes while H watches from the bed. Watson orders breakfast, so that he can at least try to feed H a little. Borrows some pillows and blankets to make it look like he slept on the settee. "Otherwise the maids will remark."
Holmes silently blinks and touches the warm place on the bed where Watson had been in his arms. Smells his scent on the pillow.
After breakfast, Watson sits in bed with H again, absently massaging his back while reading a paper.
H looks up at him, softly murmuring his gratitude that Watson could forgive him.
So presumptuous and arrogant still! "I don't forgive you," Watson points out, putting the paper down. "In fact I hate you more because you've done this!"
H absorbs that but insists, "You still came."
W scoffs bitterly, hating himself as well. "Of course I came, Holmes. I came just as you've trained me. I'm only your faithful fool. I'm only your dog."
H looks broken and regretful. Touches his arm and whispers, "You're my friend. My doctor."
W doesn't believe him, still not looking at him.
H says, somewhat ragged with emotion, "My doctor. You are, Watson. I give in. Won't fight you now. I give up."
Watson turns to him and raises an eyebrow in disbelief.
Holmes continues seemingly in all sincerity, "I submit to you. I surrender. I am your patient now. Do with me as you like."
sceptically, "Oh, you'll obey all my orders?"
Nods. "About cocaine. Food. Sleep. Anything. I give in, if only you'll come back to Baker Street." then he adds as an afterthought, realizing that he hasn't said it yet, "I apologise."
"For what precisely?"
"Everything." Seeing that W remains silent, H elaborates as humbly as he can, "For mocking your qualifications as a doctor. For insulting your writing. For taking advantage of your good nature. For abusing your trust. For reminding you of your alcoholic brother. For not appreciating your friendship. For causing you pain." H sighs and wonders if he'll have to list cutting him out of Helen Stoner's life as well. Really did not want to discuss that former client now.
Watson stares at H's face, confused and wondering who on earth was impersonating Holmes so badly? This was not the man he knew. And yet, touching the pale arm with needle marks, he knows that it is no imposter. Somehow, Holmes is forcing himself to speak these things that he would never deign to say before. "You submit?" he repeated. "Completely?"
H pulls him closer, sighing into the crook of his arms. "Yes. I am yours now, John Watson."
Watson stared at him, then stroked Holmes's hair. This must, of course, be part of the delirium of his withdrawal. They sit together a while, Watson questioning H about his fifteen hour days on the Baron Maupertuis case. Might as well learn the extent of the damage H did during these two months.
Holmes answers him until his pain returns, then Watson eases his suffering again. That night in bed, Holmes clings once more and almost seems to mew and growl like a cat, biting Watson's skin in his desperate agony. Watson shivers and tells himself that Holmes will probably not remember any of this when he's back to normal.
On the third day, Watson gets up and says they should return home to Baker Street. Holmes blinks in surprise. "Now?"
"Yes. I think you are well enough for the journey. You need some mothering and care from Mrs. Hudson." confused by Holmes's strange, confused frown. "You did want me to come back to Baker Street, did you not?"
"Yes, but..." staring at him. "I-I thought you would prefer... to mother me yourself." frowns and blushes, unsatisfied by the euphemistic words. But he could not think how to be indecent and not offend W's romantic heart.
Watson rolls his eyes, yet is almost relieved. "Ah, I knew the insults would come again. Doctoring is not the same as mothering, Holmes. For example, I will prescribe food for you, but Mrs. Hudson shall provide it." Starts to dress and pack for both of them.
Holmes continued to stare. Did Watson not understand, then? The surrender that Holmes had given to him? Did he not desire...? What about the seething tension between them? The indecent, animal heat of their last arguments in Baker Street?
Watson sat on the bed to put on his shoes.
Holmes watched his back, and his eyes traced the war wound that he had felt through his shirt. In this very bed, Watson had let him touch him so... blatantly. It was as much as Holmes could guess should happen; he thought Watson would respond and lead them further, out of his depth.
"I-I meant," he whispers cautiously, "the way you cared for me. The way you... pet me." He caressed Watson's hair to demonstrate.
Watson finally turns to look at him. Meets his eyes and whispers, "You were... aroused by that?"
H nods, glad that W is being direct.
But W only says uncomfortably, "Then I shall stop. I do realise how you are affected by the cocaine, Holmes. I shall not make it worse for you."
H just blinks at him, speechless.
Watson gets up and goes to buy their tickets back to London.
Coming Home, April 1887
(previously posted on my old site)
Holmes slept through much of the trip home, and only half awoke as Watson supported him with an arm and brought him out of the carriage at Baker Street. Mrs. Hudson saw them coming and opened the door for them. She greeted Watson effusively, expressing now in her face what she could not in her replies to Watson's telegrams from Lyons--that she was quite glad that he had returned at last. "You are so good to Mr. Holmes.... I knew you could not stay away for long," she murmured as she rang for the page and [the maid] Martha to get the luggage and pay the cabby. Mrs. Hudson half shut the front door, and then helped Watson bring him up the seventeen steps. "I know you gentlemen have had your disagreements," she patted his arm, "but you must both put them aside, I beg you, for all the good that you do!--for how well you work together."
Watson sighed. Work together? Sometimes it felt as if he were useless, worthless. What real partnership had they? He was tempted to use the phrase he had found in that French hotel: "I'm only his dog."
Mrs. Hudson continued as they entered the open door of 221B, "I have kept your room just as you left it, save I changed the bedclothes of course. Mr. Holmes wasn't interested in the arrangements when you went, and I hadn't the heart to close it up completely, as if you never were to return."
They brought Holmes through to his bedroom and laid him down.
Mrs. Hudson started to go. "I'll just go down and bring up some dinner for you, Dr. Watson, unless you're too sleepy? Good. I'll be back in just a moment, while you finish in here." She started to close the door behind her, but paused. "Dr. Watson?"
He looked up, and found an expression on her face so near to tears that he came forward quickly and put his arms comfortingly around her, realising at once how small and old a woman she was, though strong.
She smiled and murmured into his shoulder, "How I've missed you, missed you both! Mr. Holmes left for his case in France almost immediately after you departed, and it has been so very quiet around these old rooms all these weeks." Then she giggled, an amusing schoolgirl giggle which made Watson smile. "I believe Mr. Holmes has made me unable to bear peace and quiet in this house."
He kissed her cheek spontaneously. "You amazing, dear, sweet thing! I came back for you, not him." He grinned.
"Oh don't say that! You adore him too, I'm sure." Then she touched his hand seriously. "Do take care of him, please. I was so upset when I read that telegram from the French police about Mr. Holmes's collapse that Martha could not calm me down for several minutes, and--" she broke off, shaking. "It was she who finally thought to find your address again and forward the telegram to you. I am so glad you came, doctor, so glad that you rushed to him and agreed to come home again, despite everything."
He looked down, away from her glance. "I could do no different," he said.
"I knew it," she smiled. She embraced him warmly once more and then pulled away in restored decorum, coughing, before she hurried off downstairs.
He stared after her for a time and swallowed. "Did you?" he whispered to himself, "You couldn't have warned me, could you?" He closed his eyes and leaned a little against the door frame, feeling weak. In truth, he was ashamed of himself for being able to do no different.
Finally he turned away and went looking for Holmes's night-clothes, undressing him and putting him snugly to bed before Mrs. Hudson brought up supper. Within a few hours Watson came again to his bedroom, pausing for a moment at Holmes's door. He walked on, not checking in on him. Watson undressed and slipped into his old bed. Such was the sum of his first night back.
A strange, awkward week in Baker Street, until Watson decides to take Holmes to Colonel Hayter's in Surrey. Having promised to submit to his doctor's orders, Holmes consents, though Surrey surely should remind him of other cases spent there, including SPEC.
they return home, Watson mad about the deception.
H apologises again, tries to make sure that he won't move out again. Watson still threatens and Holmes suddenly kisses him, desperate.
Watson stares stunned for a moment, then kisses H back. Fiercely. Grabbing him, opening his mouth, pulling him to the bed.
H sighs in relief. He was right, after all. Watson burned with unresolved sexual tension.
Taking their clothes off, Watson ferociously makes love to him, making H yelp a little and realize that he is not fully recovered after all. But it feels good anyway. Better than the seething fighting before.
Afterward, H lies there breathless and in awe of sexual passion, that it could so corrupt a moral, upstanding man like John Watson.
Watson however feels troubled and shocked, that he has so violated the ethics of patient/doctor relations.
H tells him that he submitted to him in every sense, in that hotel room in Lyons.
Watson blinks, finally understanding the extent of Holmes's apology.
They tentatively continue for a while, but soon Watson cannot take it any more, and calls it off. It's madness. But he agrees to stay in Baker Street anyway because he still wants to be Holmes's doctor.
As you can see, Holmes is bisexual in this novel. He still misses Helen Stoner, but at this point has resolved never to see her again, and he can now clearly detect the signs that his relationship with Watson is no longer strictly platonic. It is much harder for him to cut Watson out of his life than to cut out Helen Stoner, so that is why he decided to give in and beg for his return, only to be surprised by Watson still being in denial. Yet Holmes still harbors an irrational jealousy because he imagines that Watson loved Helen Stoner too and that nothing happened purely because Holmes schemed to keep them apart.
After this brief affair, Holmes and Watson will awkwardly fade back into friendship. However in 1888, after VALL, Holmes suffers a checkmate from Moriarty, and feels like a failure. So Holmes goes back to cocaine in the summer of 1888, before SIGN. This time Watson has the willpower to leave him for Mary Morstan.