Holmes inched a little closer to his companion on the sofa, but Watson turned his face away.
“Please, my dear chap,” Holmes murmured, his voice quiet and soft.
Watson shook his head. “Not now, Holmes, not now,” he said hoarsely.
“But, Watson –” the great detective was cut off by his companion jumping swiftly off the sofa and away from him with a bitterer oath than he had ever heard him use before.
“Confound you, Holmes!” he exclaimed, almost in tears. “You of all people should know when it’s best to shut up.”
Holmes swallowed, and moved slowly closer to the only other person he had ever really cared about. He said nothing, but gently placed his pale, gaunt hand on Watson’s thick, ruddy one which rested limply on the mantle.
Watson turned his face towards his friend’s, two small tears trickling down his soft cheeks. “I always knew you were heartless – but this…Holmes…how could you?”
The sight of those tears and the sound of those words hurt Holmes more than he could ever have described in words. He could say nothing, for fear this sudden surge of overwhelming emotion might cause him to do something foolish.
Watson shook his head again with a heavy breath and moved to the other side of the room. Holmes looked after him, unsure of what to do. At last he let out a sigh and sat slowly down onto the sofa.
“Forgive me, my dear friend,” he said quietly.” I – I am sorry. I was wrong.”
Watson turned quickly towards his companion, his eyes almost unbelieving. The two men looked at each other for a moment, neither speaking, nor moving. At last Watson walked slowly towards Holmes, and, as Holmes stood to meet him, he held out a quivering hand. The corner of Holmes’ mouth twitched upward, and they clasped hands in a fond embrace, forgiveness passing from one to the other, and a laugh besides.