Holmes is bleeding all over the place. This isn’t new. He’s always careless with himself, but never so much as when there’s a mystery to solve. Joan presses a blue hand towel from the victim’s kitchen to his forehead, trying not to look directly at the red tracks down his face.
She doesn’t like the sight of blood anymore. She used to love it. It meant promise and opportunity. It meant she had something to fix. Now it just makes her stomach turn. After everything, that feels like the final humiliation.
All she has to do is apply pressure until the paramedics get here, and even that is almost too much.
“I wish you’d quit doing this,” she says.
He raises his eyebrows at her, then winces in pain. She doesn’t see it. She’s looking off at the uniformed officers milling around, but she can feel his forehead move under the towel. “I didn’t hit myself in the face, Watson. Our friendly neighborhood,” he waves a hand in the direction of a middle-aged man being led out in cuffs, raises his voice in the man’s direction, “uxoricidal maniac did that.”
Joan rolls her eyes. At the dramatics more than his random use of ten-dollar words; she knows now that he’s not showing off when he does that. He’s being exact. “You were baiting him,” she admonishes.
“Yeah. I made him mad. So he hit me in the face. That’s kind of his thing. I’d tell you to ask his wife about that, but she’s dead.” His voice is softer now, but still so angry.
She risks a glance at him. He’s closed his eyes against the pain.
She feels kindly toward him for an instant, and then he ruins it. His blue eyes open, vivid against the blood on his face. “Watson,” he says, “get me some ice.”
Joan huffs. “I’m your sober living companion, not your nurse.”
“Not a nurse, no. You’re—”
“Not a doctor anymore either,” she cuts him off. He keeps saying she’s a doctor. She doesn’t understand why. He’s all about sticking to facts and evidence, why is this so different?
He frowns at her. “Pre-med in undergrad, plus four years of med school, plus residency… you fashioned yourself into a doctor with more focus and commitment than I can imagine. And everything you know,” he says, raising his hands to hover on either side of her head, “is still here.” His hands dropped back to his lap. “You’re a doctor. That doesn’t go away.”
“Medical licenses do,” she says, the hurt of it still fresh enough to burn at the back of her throat as she speaks.
“Bloody bureaucrats,” he scoffs. “It’s a technicality.”
She looks at him. There’s nothing but sincerity, pain, and annoyance on his face. She feels a tight knot in her chest loosen just a bit. All along, she’s been thinking that he’s been calling her a doctor to needle at her, reminding her of her shame even as her presence in his life is a reminder of his own addiction. But he really believes what he’s saying.
“Give me your hand,” she says.
He does, without even questioning her.
She takes it, raising it to the towel. “Here,” she says, “keep pressure on this. I’m going to find some ice.”
What thou lovest well remains, the rest is dross
What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee
What thou lov’st well is thy true heritage
— Ezra Pound, Pisan Cantos, LXXXI