Underneath the Black NightPairing/Characters:
Only for The Empty Room.Summary:
John Watson knew he was a dead man.Notes/Warnings:
Character death ahoy. Consumption fic. Set partly during the Empty Room, sadness and angst ahead. Lovely slash too. Why do I like to constantly torture my Watson? Beta'd by my lovely friend Tegan, who is my total and complete rock during this turbulent period of my life. Title taken from 'Silvia' by Miike Snow, which I am currently in love with, listen to it if you can whilst reading. Also, I am no doctor, and medical knowledge is taken from Wikipedia... :)Disclaimer:
Anything you recognise is not mine.( Collapse )
John Watson knew he was a dead man the second he saw the red flecks against the pure white. He only glanced at it before hurriedly folding the handkerchief and replacing it in his pocket. Turning back to the patient behind him he continued the examination; there really was no need for anyone to know.
He’d lived through Holmes’ death, and Mary’s death, and now it was his time. Really the timing couldn’t be any better, through Holmes’ death he’d struggled bitterly and the loss of Mary only worsened matters further. It would be a lie to say that he hadn’t considered taking his own life more than once, yet it was only the thought of Holmes and what he would say if such a thing happened that stilled his hand. Now, it seemed, the matter would be taken from him. There really was no need to dwell, he was a doctor. He knew the signs. He’d even lived through them up close. They needed no examination.
Gradually the coughing grew worse and Watson knew he’d have to tell someone of it sooner, and so he contacted his long time friend Johnson. Once he’d arrived and examined Watson, the doctor’s façade he slipped into after the meeting only told Watson what he already knew. Consumption, incurable.
He nodded and steered the Doctor towards the door of Cavendish Place, but Johnson tried to stay and talk: “John, you cannot look after yourself. You only have weeks.”
As if in reply his body fell into a long wracking cough that shook him to his very core. It took him considerable strength not to collapse into the nearest chair with fatigue. Johnson gave him a concerned look. Watson just waved it off; stubborn to the last. With one last worried look Johnson exited the room and left, leaving Watson alone with his thoughts.
It was easy; too easy, he thought, to prepare his funeral arrangements. He’d decided to keep his illness quiet, to prevent looks of pity. He was a soldier, he held himself with dignity. He didn’t deserve a slow death that the world would watch. Instead he only told Lestrade, who took the news like any gentleman would: by staring at his desk and remaining silent. No words of apology, no questions. Instead he stood up, told the other Yarders that he was not to be contacted under any circumstances and left to take Watson to a pub. It was what he knew, after all.
Of course it would be that evening. Stumbling home tipsy, but not roaringly drunk that he would knock into an elderly bookseller and return to find said bookseller revealing himself as the world’s only consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes. Seconds later Watson was on the floor, fainting from shock, although he would later lay blame at the alcohol still flooding his system. As it was it took him longer to come round than usual. Something Holmes didn’t categorise or take stock of, most likely blaming it on the amount Watson had imbibed previously. For once Watson was grateful, he just wanted his friend back, for it to be back to almost old times.
It was easy, so easy, for them to fall into step again. On the hunt for Moran and for the next few days Watson felt his old self again, at Holmes’ side, hunting down criminals. But occasionally he would be reminded of the sickening reality when he would look into his hands, or wipe the blood away from his mouth. These small moments he was able to hide from Holmes, so focused on his case that nothing else registered.
Running became much harder, and he fell in step several paces behind Holmes, gasping and shuddering. Each time he skidded to a halt and ducked into an alleyway, coughing into a handkerchief, tears streaming down his face, blood surfacing from his lungs. It was another weakness to add to his already growing collection, and, even if Holmes never ascertained why Watson lagged behind, it didn’t miss his attention.
“Really Watson, anyone would think you had become most lazy and unfit during my absence. Do keep up, old boy.”
It took every bit of his willpower not to walk away. But he didn’t, and he never would.
A few days later and Moran was in custody, waiting to be trialled. And Holmes was installed permanently in Baker Street; it wasn’t long before he asked Watson to return. And he did, he did want to move back in. To become the two most difficult lodgers in London, again, to be back alongside Holmes, doing what they did best. But he couldn’t. And every time the question came up he would remember how long he had stayed that night, coughing, scarlet spattering the sheets and he’d refuse. Using his practice as an excuse to stay at Cavendish Place: to stay away from Holmes. He would always remember the hurt look every time he answered negative, but Holmes was quick to regain his emotionless mask, and the topic would change.
But Watson knew his time was running out. Johnson came to him almost every day to check his lungs and each time his expression was full of sorrow, pain. It was getting harder to breathe, so much so that one day Watson was treating a patient in his practice when such a huge bout of coughing rendered him unconscious and bedridden. He awoke in his own bed, sweating and gasping, a pain so deep it cut right through him. He glanced around him and saw Johnson at his bedside, watching him. Watson squeezed his eyes shut and rasped,
“Yes,” the reply was almost instant, “You fainted from lack of oxygen. John,” Watson could hear the creak of a chair as Johnson rose and approached the bed, “It’s not long now. Sherlock Holmes, does he know?”
Silently Watson shook his head, eyes still closed.
“Will you allow me to raise him?”
Opening his eyes he deeply exhaled, trying to ride through the pain this caused and refused to give into the cough that threatened to take him. However he nodded his assent.
“Wire Lestrade,” He croaked, “He’ll know where he is.”
He saw Johnson nod and leave the room. Watson lay heavily against the pillows and stared up at the ceiling, then had the sudden realisation that this would be the last room he would see. The last room in which he would live and breathe, the last room that would hold his living memory. He would never once again see his childhood home; never visit the graves of his parents one last time. Never see Murray again. Never leave this house again. Never sit in Baker Street sharing a glass of wine with Holmes. Oh God, Holmes… He tried to blink back tears, wondering what his dearest friend must think of him. Ignoring his messages, refusing to move back into Baker Street. Refusing his cases. He would never accompany Holmes on another case, never catch a criminal again, and never be there to hear Holmes recount how he solved yet another case simply by the ring a client was wearing. Never… he stopped himself. Afraid to go on. Instead he looked at the window; it was opposite the door and opened onto the street. Watson shuffled to the edge of the bed and lowered his feet to the floor. Then he slowly raised himself and walked shakily over to the window, grasping the frame for support before looking through.
Outside, it was the typical street scene. Men and women scurrying through the crowds, street sellers hawking their wares, cabs and horses trotting through the roads. However it was one that pulled up in front of the house that he watched, expression solemn. Two figures darted out, one paying the driver whilst the other knocked and entered the house. Watson leaned his head against the glass and breathed out, watching it fog up the window. The glass was cool and it quelled part of the rising headache that was threatening to overtake him. Behind him he could hear steps upon the stairs and he tried to stop the rising fear in him but all too soon the door was open and Holmes was in his room. Holmes, glorious Holmes who was his longstanding friend, and one who had been abused too much these past few weeks for him to be standing there.
Watson didn’t turn from the window, he didn’t want to. Instead he felt steps behind him as Holmes placed his hands on either shoulder and turned him around until he faced the detective. It was at this point Watson felt weak, too weak, and as he began to fell he was caught and lowered to the ground in another’s embrace. For a few second they lay there, and Watson thought he shook. However it was the body underneath his, as he turned his head it was to find Holmes silently weeping behind him.
Utterly mortified Watson tried to raise a hand to wipe away the tears, instead it was caught and held in one of Holmes own, lowering it to Watson’s chest he never let go. Instead decided to rub soothing circles with his thumb. Unsure how to react in the intimate situation he found himself in, Watson decided to let Holmes steer them through this. As he had always done.
As it was Watson found himself placed back into his own bed, lying under the covers, eyes only half open. Watching Holmes as he settled into the chair beside the bed. His hand holding Watson’s, never letting go.
“When did... this start?”
“A few weeks before you returned to me.”
Holmes nodded and stared at their conjoined hands. Watson watched his face. It was pale, and lined. Grey eyes were flecked with an emotion Watson couldn’t discern. Watson squeezed his hand.
“What did Lestrade say?”
“He said you were ill. He didn’t elaborate. When I saw you… I knew enough.”
“Holmes, I’m so sorry.”
His expression changed so suddenly I wondered if it had merely been bubbling beneath the surface. A maelstrom beneath the calm.
“Do not apologise. It is I who did not notice, who didn’t see his own…” He sucked in a great breath, a feat I found myself briefly jealous of, “His own best friend, in the greatest of suffering.”
He shifted in position leaning forward and threading his fingers through my hair, “Please, my dear, forgive me for not seeing what was right in front of me.”
“Always.” I whispered it so lovingly I worried that Holmes would twitch at the pure emotion I conveyed with the single word. Instead he responded with such a heartbreaking smile that I couldn’t help but smile back at him.
“Oh Watson,” He whispered leaning closer, “You are so very beautiful when you smile. I always want to see your smile.”
“You’re being terribly sentimental, Holmes. One could almost mistake you for having feelings.” My voice was so low it was simply a few whispered words upon the breeze. Instead he only leaned further, he was sitting on the bed now, one hand still holding mine, the other had moved from my hair to my jaw. Gentle fingers catching on light stubble. They moved down towards the hollow of my throat, where the sensitive skin magnified his touch tenfold. I felt my throat constrict and click beneath his touch; my breaths were low and husky now. I was watching his eyes, they were dark and constricted, clouded by what I concluded was desire and love. I, in turn, moved my hand from the bed to slip through his hair, brushing at the strands and tingling along his neck, I was directing him closer. He leaned further forward, our noses where touching and our foreheads close. He was close, so close. Close enough to where I’ve wanted him to be since that haunting realisation at Reichenbach. Where the façade of mere friendship tipped and followed my friend into the unforgiving Falls, or so I thought. Instead, here in front of me, eyes half closed, our lips almost touching. Our breaths mingled, my eyes slid shut as he adjusted his angle and closed the last few seconds of air before our lips touched.
It was chaste, unforgivingly so. He pulled back and rested our foreheads together, for once in our lives we were at peace. But it was that moment my blasted body decided to betray me again, and I couldn’t withhold the coughing fit that followed only seconds later. I emerged from the experience feeling soothing circles on my back and whispered words of encouragement in my ear. I screwed up the handkerchief and dropped it onto the bedside table before leaning heavily back against the pillows eyes closed, and exhausted.
Next to me I felt the bed dip, I cracked open an eye in confusion as I saw Holmes rise. I opened both and leaned onto my side, suddenly afraid he was to leave me. With him here, I was ready for whatever I would face, however I despaired should he ever leave me. He had only returned, for such a short time, I wanted to spend all my remaining life with him.
“Hush, Watson. I am not leaving you.”
He removed his shoes then walked around the end of the bed to the other side, where he lifted the sheet and joined me in the bed. He moved up behind me, and I shuffled back closer to him, turning so that I faced him and ultimately I rested my face on his chest. Just over his heart. I felt him encircle me with his arms and I relaxed into his embrace, for the first and last time.( Collapse )