[identity profile] spacemutineer.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] acdholmesfest
Title: Literary Shortcomings
Recipient: [livejournal.com profile] scfrankles
Author: [livejournal.com profile] rachelindeed
Rating: G
Characters, including any pairing(s): John Watson; main focus is on Watson & Holmes, also touches on John/Mary marriage
Warnings: minor character death, non-specific references to illness and depression
Summary: Glimpses of a shared life.
Author’s note: Many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] thesmallhobbit for the beta! I know that [livejournal.com profile] scfrankles has a special love for micro-fiction, so I chose to use the "1sentence" format, wherein one takes a prompt table of 50 words, writes one sentence for each prompt, and ultimately combines them to examine a character or relationship.
Disclaimer: Thank you, Sir Arthur. Also, I am grateful to the [livejournal.com profile] 1sentence LJ community for the format and also for the prompt table (I used their theme set Epsilon).

The shrapnel did its work in under a second, but if I live to a hundred, I shall feel it still.

“You don't know Sherlock Holmes yet,” young Stamford demurred; “perhaps you would not care for him as a constant companion.”

In those first weeks, for the only time in our acquaintance, I was more bored than he; his eccentricity proved a godsend.

Rooming with one of the greatest forensic minds of our generation taught me many valuable lessons, and the first was to avoid the butter dish.

When making music, Holmes, like all violinists, became an awkward clash of crooked limbs, head listing while his arms flew out, all elbow.

Thank heaven we quarreled but rarely, for my temper ran hot and his cold; as in nature, any return to equilibrium required collisions both thunderous and brief.

I viewed my newly bared flesh with distaste and resolved never again to surrender my mustache.

I used to fancy myself a natural bohemian, but on closer examination, that allegiance is less to my liking.

Only once did I fail to make rent; I was preparing to pawn my pistol when I found that Holmes, without a word, had locked it -- and my cheque-book -- in his desk.

My stories contain no printed acknowledgements, but privately I consider them as dedicated to Mr. Victor Trevor and his father; the one was the first to see in Holmes the makings of a great friend, the other the first to see in him the makings of a great detective, and the public no less than myself shall be forever in their debt.

Holmes chose to ignore the law when he felt the arrest of a criminal would do more harm than good; I needed no convincing to act as his accessory, for these ethics were mine by oath -- felonies be damned.

As he relived his early triumph in deciphering the Musgrave Ritual, I shared his exaltation, for the excavation of his past was as rare a prize as any crown.

He had a keen appetite for interest and applause, but I learned with some unease that he considered common fame a step too far.

He summoned me to Lyon by means of a telegram which consisted of only two words -- ILL SH -- for he knew I would need no further instruction.

“When it comes to tearing incriminating notes from the stiffened hands of corpses, the modern criminal cannot be relied on to do a thorough job,” Holmes remarked with some asperity.

I am aware that he plays upon me too readily, yet the marvelous results he achieves so far outweigh his trespasses that I cannot resent them -- but if I have learnt the wisdom of trust, cannot he?

He referred to his drugs as his solution.

I knew what he must do, but it took me a long time to find the courage to tell him.

She preferred my hand, empty as it was, to a treasure of untold price -- has ever a man married into such good fortune?

Afghanistan has never left my dreams, but gradually its beauties rather than its terrors have grown predominant -- last night I stood in the Hindu Kush, surrounded by snow, while the proud notes of a distant azan called the faithful to their prayer.

Holmes was so well-versed in Shakespeare that it surprised me to find him no admirer of Hamlet; he resented the implication that a man of resolution could ill afford deep thought, of course, but I believe the secret root of his antipathy lay in the Bard’s decision to solve the murder by means of ghost within five minutes.

Many mistook my wife for the retiring sort, but self-effacement was no virtue for a lighthouse; she faced the dark and blazed.

From January to the close of April, my friend’s worst enemy knew far more of his doings than did I.

When he judged the danger had grown too great, Holmes proposed that I should leave him and return to England; I was forced to remind him that he must begin by eliminating the impossible.

“Pray give my greetings to Mrs. Watson, and believe me to be, my dear fellow, very sincerely yours.”

Holmes had been only thirty-seven; Mary, the following year, was twenty-nine.

My wife’s was not the first deathbed I have attended, but a quarter hour after her last breath I found myself still staring down at my clenched hands, waiting to hear another.

Death was a chasm and grief a cliff wall, and I had no heart left to climb or to fall.

As I slid to the floor I caught a confused glimpse of ‘tree worship’ and brown mahogany; my dazed brain informed me: he has only been buried until the sun cleared the oak and the shadow fell under the elm.

I may have been owed a thousand apologies, but regardless, accepted the first.

The water pouring into the Friesland’s hold was near to freezing; I caught his hand, determined that if he were to drown, this time it should be in good company.

“I begin to notice, Watson, that these accounts of yours, embroidered as they are, provide vivid descriptions of everyone except yourself -- what are we to make of that?”

Our humble sitting room has hosted many an eminent guest; at times I tried to observe what effect these commanding presences produced on my companion, but I found that his eyes -- when they were open -- turned less often to them than to me.

“Mr. Holmes,” our landlady said, “I read The Strand the same as everyone, and if you can solve a man’s disappearance with a bit of soap and water, like you did with Mr. St. Clair, then rinsing out your chemicals before they stain is not beyond you.”

Crouched behind the headboard, I listened to Culverton Smith and slowly grasped the extent and aim of Holmes’s performance; he was a keen emotional tactician, for he had secured me in such arrangements that I could not storm out, but had to sit in silence until the first flush of both relief and anger passed.

Most days his cravings lie, if not quiet, then at least submerged, but in idle hours his eyes glaze over and his hard-won peace can neither be seen nor observed.

Holmes turned his great powers to the pursuit of justice, yet in the face of guilt he still found place for charity; a remarkable brain he undoubtedly possessed, but his true pre-eminence was that of spirit.

Unsolved mysteries rankled him as nothing else could; one afternoon, a full five years after my Mary’s passing, he finally buckled under the strain and humbly asked, “why James?”

No secrets were safe from him, but a vast number were safe with him.

“Watson, please,” he said, “at this late date the subject is hardly worth discussing, but if you must know, I found your absence costly and the price of your practice a pittance in comparison.”

It was hope, rather than faith, that Holmes placed in God, but that hope was as profound, perhaps, as any mystery.

Age has crept in on me so gradually, I barely noticed when our lovely clients ceased to evoke ‘my dear lady’ and became instead ‘my poor child.’

When I asked him if he had given any thought to retirement, I assumed he would defer the subject -- I’d have thought he’d sooner settle on the moon than in the countryside, but he tells me he has actually bought a cottage.

The borrowed, broad-brimmed hat with its sheer veil covered my face in friendly shadow; the approaching bees, however, seemed decidedly less friendly.

Where are the days going, where the years...how can it be so long since we have spoken?

I’ve a telegram in my pocket, a German scowling at the back of my head, and a song in my heart.

Dear God, what a hideous goatee.

I am not the one fixed point in our changing age; he has always moved me and he always will.

He tells me our dear country will survive the coming storm.

There will be last words for us, of course there shall…but I do not think that there will be an ending.
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