In response to this prompt
, some liberties taken with the specifics. Watson tries to live with the memory of a terrible bargain in secrecy.
Warnings: Emotional aftermath of rape.
Now complete, 21 parts total, 45,300 words.
Winter in London
Sometimes I even wonder if after all he is simply not so brilliant as we have both allowed ourselves to believe. Where are those extraordinary powers of his, that superhuman agility of perception that has dazzled me so often? My friend, the data is before you. You have not seen certain items of my clothing in weeks. A shirt and waistcoat laundered quite two days before the usual time, remain unaccountably unworn in my wardrobe. Other garments still have been destroyed. Why is this? I seek my room at odd times, when the effort of maintaining normal behaviour in front of you becomes exhausting. I have given up harassing you about your seven percent solution or your morphine, as I am no longer innocent of chemical assistance myself. I will leave your favourite poisons well alone, though I confess the appeal is less unfathomable to me than it once was. But I have had to purchase a small bottle of chloral, as sleep is now as precious to me as it is unreliable. I am sure there is more. When did these changes occur? What do you make of them? Apparently nothing.
You see but you do not observe.
* * *
I do not know why I should write as if I wished my friend to discover what I am at such pains to conceal from him. But in honesty, I feel as if I betray myself a thousand ways every instant, whenever I leave the house I expect the dullest of my fellow citizens to detect exactly what has occurred by the merest glance at me. To live with the world’s only consulting detective, a man who can unravel an entire life from the seam of a glove or a scuff on a boot, and watch him continue in apparent ignorance of an event whose memory, do what I will, has taken such inexorable possession of my mind -- it is like living on a knife edge.
Or it is like living in a strange echoing mist in which everything lacks its proper form and nothing is quite real.
I am no actor, as he is. Or I thought I was not. I think I have never been anything but a frank and straightforward person. He sometimes praises me for that, sometimes laughs at me. But somehow each morning, after lying for some time quite weak with dread at the day’s approach, I get up, breakfast with my friend and I listen to his talk; I work on my notes, and all through the day I can hear my own voice, as if from far off - acclaiming him, scolding him, laughing at him - running on as if nothing were amiss. Perhaps it is not so strange, for certainly I do not know how else I should act, or what I should do.
He picks idly at the small wound left on his face and I tell him to stop or it will scar. I do not tell him what it means to me that it should not.
I do not wish him to know what happened while he was bleeding and insensible on that marble floor. But that I should be capable of deceiving him, and he not be capable of cutting the deception at a stroke – sometimes I think I recognise neither one of us.
* * *
It has been snowing again. We cannot seem to get these rooms warm. The cold gnaws on my shoulder and numbs my fingers. Sherlock Holmes lies stretched as close to the fire as he can get like a great lazy cat, and yet even then, even when I am trying not to look at him I notice him shiver.
* * *
There is another interpretation, of course. It may be that he does know, and is too disgusted or too uncomprehending to speak of it. Well, that is much my own view of the matter, so I could hardly be surprised.