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As long as it takes

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John sat on the edge of the bed, smoothing his hand over the sheets. Everything was ready.

He rolled up the sleeves of his shirt, frittering away a few more minutes. He was nervous, but not because he wasn’t looking forward to it—particularly if it went as he was hoping it would.

He was far too honest with himself to pretend he was not very keen for what was, possibly, the most important night of his life. In fact, though he was not a deeply introspective man, there were several truths about Dr. John H. Watson he had come to terms with since meeting Sherlock Holmes:

1. Dr. John H. Watson is very decisive.

Having spent the better part of his adult life making life and death calls, both on and off the battlefield, John was used to quickly analyzing his circumstances and reacting with very little fuss. He’d never given it much thought, but living with Sherlock had crystallized the trait in his mind.

For instance, very few people would have followed Sherlock and his murderous cabbie as John had. Fewer still would have run into the building without backup. And it is unlikely anyone other than John would have taken the fateful shot without a moment’s hesitation. It was just who John was: assess and respond.

Which was for the best, really. If he were inclined to dithering, he’d never have lasted this long. Sherlock would have killed him—or got him killed—by now.

This, of course, was what prompted John’s sister, Harry, to argue that his continued association with Sherlock Holmes was evidence that he occasionally reacted with very little analysis or assessment at all. Particularly after the bastard faked his own death and disappeared for three years.

Instinct, John would reply. As valid a decision-making tool as any other, as far as he was concerned.

Sometimes the universe just knew what he needed. If his gut agreed, that was good enough for him.

2. Dr. John H. Watson is a gambler.

After his first night with Sherlock Holmes, John had given up trying to pretend he didn’t need danger in his life. The adrenaline rush that followed a high-risk activity was something he seemed to require as certainly as (most) people needed sleep. Hiding his nature made him miserable—Sherlock (and Mycroft, he could grudgingly admit) had helped him realize that.

Chasing serial killers through the streets of London with a recovering drug addict/self-professed sociopath might seem mad to others, but Sherlock had been right: it was no more ridiculous than being up to his elbows in blood and guts in the middle of a land war in Asia.

And it was no more ridiculous than his oldest coping mechanism.

It had started with horse races when he was in uni; just a few pounds here and there. By the time he was deployed for the first time, he’d lost a considerable amount of money. He’d tried his hand at casinos and card games. He’d wagered on sporting events, politics and pop culture, and just about anything else bookies would take money on.

Fortunately, he didn’t really need it anymore. He’d struggled a little, while Sherlock was away, but gambling was no longer his fallback.

Oh, he still liked a little flutter now and then, but he had—finally—learned that, in some things, it was best to hedge one’s bets.

Every good soldier knows enough to leave an avenue of retreat.

3. Dr. John H. Watson can keep secrets from Sherlock Holmes.

There was no question that Sherlock was the most intelligent and observant man John had ever known. Most of the time, John found it remarkable. Sometimes it was just plain inconvenient.

Still, though Sherlock was a genius, he did confine himself to things he deemed relevant to the work with which he was entirely consumed. This meant the great detective had some blind spots, including:

  • the solar system
  • current events
  • films and television programs
  • most popular music
  • politics
  • feelings

And so he would monopolize John’s personal space, his laptop, his refrigerator and his relationships, but if John’s secrets concerned any of the above, then usually Sherlock could be relied upon to ignore them. With contempt. Or they might escape him completely, as in the case of feelings—particularly his own.

Sometimes, though, John had to rely on a little distraction.

Well, distraction and baggy trousers.

4. Dr. John H. Watson is incontrovertibly heterosexual.