Finally past the wedding ceremony! I had intended it to come along much sooner, but I just kept enjoying what was happening along the way 🙂 Plus I needed to put some of the plot-happenings sooner rather than just idle around relationship-town… because if there are no murders, there is no love. STILL dying to have some of the household bits come up, but there are a few wedding reception chapters after the next morgue chapter, so it’s going to be forever. And I have a feeling this will end up being one of those 100K words plus fan fics that I’m always so baffled by. I mean, if you can come up with that much work, why haven’t you just written a book?
Yah, I’m pointedly looking back at myself here. 🙂 Jeez.
Also, I had this inane desire for a Christmas tree Wed. I am not sure if it was just that I got my Christmas money from my mother and it was burning a hole in my pocket or if all the Sherlock Advent stories are getting to me or what, but I really, really wanted to buy some pink lights and ornaments I saw at Goodwill. They even had a crisp white tree there I could have bought to hang them on. I didn’t buy any of it because I’m sure the urge will pass, and I’m not really a Christmas person. (Hmmm, purple bat lights on a white tree and Halloween ornaments… that would match my Cthulhumas tentacle stocking next October and then I could almost justify the pink lights and pink globes and the flamingo lights I saw at Target. Gah. No.)
Anyway, ado, ado, ado. Here are chapters 24 through 28. Oh, by the by, yes, I did have fun looking up bizarre and obscure names to drip all over the extended Holmes clan. 🙂 Also I use the phrase Black Maria for the prison wagon, even though that would not come into usage for a good 20 years after the story is set. (stupid research) Don’t care, Love the phrase. And it would hardly be the first or last anachronistic or completely ridiculous thing in this story. 🙂
Sherlock returned John back to his brother’s home in time for supper. Sherlock declined to enter, informing John that both Mycroft and Harry were currently in residence and that he’d be much better off dining elsewhere that night. However, Sherlock dashed off before John could inquire if that was an invitation to dine with him, so John entered the house.
Harry was in a mood and Lord Sherrinford ignored it, asking utterly mundane and impersonal questions about his day. When the questions turned around to John, he wasn’t quite sure what to reply. I spent the night and most of the day with my fiancé and a couple of bags of rotting body parts. Surely not proper dinner conversation. He tried to avoid the topic entirely and thanked Lord Sherrinford for the clothing he was having made for John, something generally above and beyond his duties.
“You’re very welcome, Captain Watson. We must have you outfitted in the latest to properly present you to our acquaintances. I do hope you like the wedding suit in particular. I had it modeled after your uniform.”
John’s mouth tightened. “It is quite a fine-looking suit, Lord Sherrinford.” It was, and it fit well, but John was no longer part of the army. He wouldn’t have chosen the pattern. Lord Sherrinford just inclined his head slightly.
“Tomorrow will be a busy day. The members of the family who must travel will arrive then. I do expect both of you around for tea and introductions.”
“Sherlock and myself?”
“Heavens, no, they already know Sherlock.” Lord Sherrinford laughed at his little joke. “No, you and Sir Harold. We want them to see what a fine young man will be joining our family.”
“Of course, Lord Sherrinford, I shall make it a point to be available.”
John spent the day in the sitting room, alternately reading and greeting even more eccentric Holmes relatives with Lord Sherrinford and Harry. Many of them had the same sharp, probing eyes as Sherlock, though few had his utter disdain for formality. A few, to John’s delight, insinuated that they had expected this invitation due to Mycroft’s wedding, not Sherlock’s, and that they were anxiously awaiting word of the next heir. This managed to make Lord Sherrinford color and cough into his fist. He could only indicate that he chose to settle his brother first before focusing on himself.
John tried to remember all names like Aberforth and Euphemia and Drucilla, Philander and Petrina, Lord Talmadge and his young twins Engelbert and Ebenezer. He’d never spoken so many syllables in his life. A few looked rather amused at his name, John, the most common name in the country, the name given even to the anonymous man John Doe. Try as he might, he only could later recall one of Sherlock’s great-aunts, Eunicetine, because of the staggering amount of feathers she wore in her hair (fanned out much like a peacock’s tail) and the fact that the old woman’s hands wandered quite freely. Far too freely.
Still, John found himself having a surprisingly amusing afternoon and evening. He and Harry didn’t have much extended family and they were not as jovial and familiar as those who descended upon the Sherrinford house.
“It is a bit overwhelming now, Captain Watson, but they will be diluted among the ton who will attend the ball tomorrow evening in celebration of the nuptials.” Lord Sherrinford had finally finished a last introduction of a latecomer, Barindel Holmes. The gentleman had assessed John quite thoroughly, but he was used to it now.
“Oh, I don’t mind in the least,” John said, drinking from his glass of champagne quite newly imported from France. “Everyone has been lovely.” And they had been. Everyone was so pleased that Sherlock had agreed to marry, even if the man wasn’t here to dispel any lingering fancies that this was a love match. John had flushed when Amphasia Holmes had kissed both his cheeks and declared him adorable and quite what Sherlock needed.
“The reports indicate they are just as taken with you, Captain Watson. Quite interesting.”
John stood at the top of the stairs the morning of his wedding heading down for breakfast, when the front door burst open and a seething mass of Sherlock swarmed inside. Though to be honest, he wasn’t sure what monster from the depths of the Thames had burst inside at first. It wasn’t until the voice, that voice, his voice rose over the kerfuffle declaring, “This is completely unnecessary!” that John had any inkling of this raggedy creature being the man he was due to marry in a matter of hours.
The ragged mass separated into several officers and one disgruntled Sherlock, and Lestrade himself stepped in behind, a smug look upon his face.
“I promised your brother I would have you here in time, Mr. Holmes, no matter what methods I had to use to accomplish the feat.”
“You put me in a Black Maria, Lestrade.” The tone was pure disgust.
“And I’ll put you back in on the way to the magistrate if that is what it takes.”
“I gave my word.” Haughty.
John slowly descended the staircase, eyes awfully wide.
“Sherlock…” But he was interrupted by an unseemly bellow from none other than Lord Sherrinford.
“Sherlock Holmes, what have you been doing? Swimming in the Thames? On the morning of your wedding?”
“Mycroft,” Sherlock began, but was cut off.
“You will bathe immediately! Twice!” John had never seen Lord Sherrinford angry, or for that matter, display any particular emotion. The man turned as red in the face as an apple, yes, with some sickly green behind.
“And that filth you are wearing will be burned!”
Heads started popping out of doors and John felt an audience behind his back at the stair railing.
“No! I spent months on this disguise! It took forever to get the fray and the dirt and the smell just right!”
“Well, it wasn’t very effective from keeping the good men of Bow Street in the dark, was it?”
“That is not what it is for, you blithering…”
If Sherlock’s person had not been quite so foetid, his brother surely would have laid hands on him. As it was, several resigned-looking footmen crowded around Sherlock and started to usher him upstairs.
“Handcuffs, Lestrade!” Sherlock called over his shoulder.
The detective, still very smug, trotted forward and pulled the key out from… his shoe.
“Dammit, your stride was a little stiff in the foot. I can’t believe I didn’t deduce it! I thought you had a blister from your new footwear. You’re learning quickly, old man.” Sherlock sounded like he was almost proud of Lestrade for besting him.
“I’ll have to get especially creative if there is a next time, Mr. Holmes.” Lestrade unlocked the cuffs and Sherlock moved his thin hands in circles to renew his circulation.
The footman reinstated their escort, herding Sherlock as much as possible without touching his rank clothes.
“Good morning, John!” Sherlock called jovially as he spied his intended on the stair.
“Good morning, Sherlock,” John replied a little less certainly.
“Lovely day for a wedding, is it not?”
And that appalling man winked at him as he passed by.
Mad, he’s mad, John thought, continuing down the stairs as he heard Sherlock laugh behind him, sprinting towards the bathing room. John turned the corner at the foot of the stairs and entered the breakfast room, where all the snickering Holmes’ had hurriedly reoccupied their seats. He couldn’t help but hear the last of the conversation in the hallway as he seated himself.
“Handcuffs and a Black Maria, Lestrade? Was that really necessary?” But Lord Sherrinford didn’t look put out in the least as he and Lestrade shared a conspiratorial chuckle.
“He deserved the first. A hack would have done but none would allow him inside to muck up their interior.”
“Good man, good man.” Lord Sherrinford tossed a small bag of coin in Lestrade’s direction.
The next debacle of the day (there would be many, so keep in mind that this is only the second and they hadn’t even left for the magistrate’s office yet) was when Sherlock adamantly refused to ride with Lord Sherrinford in his carriage.
“It’s ridiculous that tradition states I cannot arrive in the same carriage as John.”
“Propriety, Sherlock. You have already flouted convention by dragging Captain Watson all over London at all times of day or night.”
“Mycroft, what difference does it make? He and I will be married in an hour. What makes it more proper after signing papers than before? Really?”
“Taking vows, Sherlock. Promising your life to someone.”
“As far as I am concerned, I made those vows already, when I agreed to marry John in the first place!”
“You are being petty and ridiculous, Sherlock.”
“So are you!”
“I don’t have a problem with riding in the carriage with Sherlock, Lord Sherrinford,” John interrupted, a bit flattered that Sherlock was fighting so hard to ride in the carriage with him. Of course, it could be that he was simply fighting to not ride in a carriage with his brother. It doesn’t really matter his reasons, John told himself. “I agree with him. It is a tradition that means very little to either of us. And it is our wedding day.”
Both men turned to John, shocked he’d opened his mouth, much less agreed with Sherlock. Sherlock recovered first, gloating openly at his brother.
“Fine,” Lord Sherrinford finally gritted out. “I suppose a little unconventional behavior is expected from Sherlock anyway.” He quickly reorganized the occupants of the parade of carriages that would take everyone from the house to the magistrate’s office. Several of the more venerable Holmes relatives were accompanying them to the small ceremony; others would remain at the house until they returned for the celebrations.
A few efficient moments later and Sherlock and John had a carriage to themselves and were riding to the magistrate’s office. Arranged marriages like theirs, and other marriages involving such a large exchange of money , took place in more legal settings. They could have a religious ceremony at a church if they wished, but Lord Sherrinford had quite correctly interpreted that his brother would only become much more difficult as the day dragged on and tried to make the formalities as concise as possible.
“So where precisely did Lestrade find you this morning?” John’s question drew Sherlock’s attention away from the window. He’d been more subdued since his (second) argument (of the day) with his brother.
John was glad that whatever smell the wretched clothing had been imbued with had not permanently stuck to Sherlock. That would have made this carriage ride, not to mention life in general, very unpleasant indeed. His clothing now was very fine: black trousers, bottle green jacket which turned his grey eyes into the color of the ocean, starched whites so bright that they brought color to Sherlock’s pale skin. His curly hair had been trimmed but still fell over his forehead and along his high collar.
John was very expensively done up for the occasion, but compared to Sherlock, he felt dowdy, very country. The man was simply stunning. His slim grace was only enhanced by the well-tailored clothing. John had to tear away his gaze before he started picturing Sherlock out of the well-tailored clothing. It wouldn’t do to deliberately frustrate himself.
“I was down by Blackfriars interviewing the mudlarks who spotted the bag of feet.”
“I thought they’d already talked to Lestrade’s men or the River Police.”
“The boys Lestrade’s men talked to were not the boys who found the bag. It was passed through several hands before the River Police were summoned, and once more before the Runners got there.”
“But why would they do that?”
“They’re practically feral, John. They do what they must to survive, though most don’t. They certainly wouldn’t survive very long if they were known to talk to the police.”
“But some of them did talk to the police.”
“Obviously. But only the ones who weren’t actually there. Do keep up, John.”
John paused to process the idea.
“So did you find the ones who were actually there?”
Sherlock nodded. “Gave me a good tip, too. Two little beggars tried to lift the man’s purse and got up close and personal when the man tossed them into the gutter.”
“Goodness! Would they be able to identify him?”
“Could, but won’t if they know what’s good for them. However, I’m quite keen to do what is bad for me, so they passed along the description.”
“Tall as me, dark hair, scruff, but most telling of all was the fact that someone had apparently tried to slit his throat recently enough that the wound had been stitched but had not begun to heal.”
John didn’t know what to say about that, but they pulled up to the magistrate’s office and all John was required to say for the next half hour was, “I will.”
Sherlock observed the man standing before him as the magistrate informed them both of the serious nature of their promises, the obligations of marriage, and whatever sentimental drivel he chose to throw in along the way. John had clearly charmed his notorious family if the smiles behind him, particularly on Great-Aunt Eunicetine’s face, said anything at all.
And now, John stood straight and proud, a serviceman’s posture, and appeared to be listening quite closely to every word being said. Sherlock knew about Harry’s failings and John’s valiant attempt to right everything. He was marrying a stranger, marrying Sherlock, to save everyone whose livelihoods depended on his brother’s estate. It was noble, if a bit… well, no, Sherlock couldn’t quite bring himself to call the gesture ‘stupid.’ John apparently thrived on self-sacrifice, first with the medical degree, then the army, now this.
Now John was looking at him, stonily he would say. Uh oh. He’d missed something.
“I do apologize,” Sherlock said quietly. “My mind wandered.”
“It’s fine, Sherlock.” John’s hand reached out and touched his arm, took his hand in his. “Sir, please repeat the question.” Calm. Caring. Not angry that Sherlock had drifted off, though he could feel Mycroft seething at his side.
“Will you, Sherlock Holmes, take this man, Captain John Hamish Watson, to be your lawful husband, your helpmeet through all the triumphs and challenges this life may bring?”
“I will.” John’s hand squeezed his. Sherlock tried to tamp down the millions, no, thousands, no, hundreds, no, the one thought he had about John’s hand in his.
“Will you offer your solemn vow to be true to your chosen companion, in the presence of your family and friends?”
“I will so vow.”
“Will you promise to honor and respect your husband, cherish him in good times and bad, in joy and in sorry, in sickness and in health, as long as you both shall live?”
There, his part was done. Sherlock blew out a breath. It had been more difficult than he had thought. Sherlock, no matter what anyone believed, did not give his word lightly. Mycroft relaxed a little beside him as John solemnly repeated his required responses.
They moved forward to begin signing the papers. For John and Sherlock, it was just their marriage certificate and the magistrate’s ledger. For Mycroft, Harry and two other witnesses, it was much more, taking several quite minutes.
“You are so dutiful, John,” Sherlock whispered to his new husband. John stood facing forward, quite strong and stoic. “I’m not making fun. I can admire a quality without wishing it upon myself.” There, that broke John’s shell a little. He almost smiled.
Their brothers stepped back into their places after flourishing their signatures and shaking hands with the magistrate and the other. The magistrate cleared his throat, settling the assemblage of Holmes’ who’d begun to whisper in the interim.
“I will now ask for Mr. Holmes and Captain Watson to share a kiss of peace and seal their promises to each other.”
Sherlock tried somewhat unsuccessfully to contain the blush that rose to his face; his high cheekbones became suffused with red heat. John had turned to look at him and lifted his face. Of course, John was too short to kiss him without his cooperation. Sherlock leaned forward and brushed his lips over the upturned corner of John’s mouth as perfunctorily as possible. Much to his chagrin, the familial spectators applauded his miniscule effort. John seemed pleased enough, though and took his arm as they turned and were presented for the first time as husbands.
John had never shaken so many hands in his life, and not even the entirety of the Holmes family had attended the short ceremony. There had been so many well wishes from unfamiliar faces, but Harry had yet to even offer a ‘congratulations,’ much less a ‘thank you.” John hoped Harry was jealous of his brother’s welcoming family, of his new husband. It was an ungracious thought, but John couldn’t help it.
“Lord Sherrinford,” John said as soon as the carriages started filling to take people back to the house.
“Yes, Captain Watson?”
“I don’t know how to ask this, but I was wondering…”
It turned out he didn’t have to ask.
“I sent a messenger with monies for the household servants at your brother’s estate this morning. I made sure everyone was well compensated for their loyal service at such a happy time, and perhaps to make up for the leaner times in the past.”
“Thank you, Lord Sherrinford. I didn’t really trust my brother to think of it, or to manage it if he did.”
“I hope you know, Captain Watson, that I am here to be of assistance to you. Whatever you need, you must only ask.”
John wasn’t so sure he wanted to depend so readily on the man, for he had proven to be the manipulative sort, but he did seem to be reliable. But he now pressed a small cloth pouch into John’s hand and it clinked with small coin.
“Do redistribute these on this happy occasion.”
Lord Sherrinford walked off, leaving John to find Sherlock in the crowd at the door.
“Why is my brother talking to Lestrade?” Sherlock asked as soon as John approached.
“Is he? He wasn’t a second ago.” John turned his head in the direction Sherlock had pointed his chin. There were the two men, colluding for the second time that day. Lestrade appeared slightly less jovial than he had mere hours ago and Lord Sherrinford’s expression was pained.
“Shall we find out?” Sherlock quite eagerly grasped John’s elbow and drew him along. “Lestrade, is there news?”
“I apologize for disturbing your wedding day, Holmes, but this really couldn’t wait. I’ve promised Lord Sherrinford not to keep you more than an hour. Just a detour, really.” Lestrade glanced at Lord Sherrinford with meek apology in his eyes.
“I have agreed you may go, but you must return to the house within the hour. I will not have you ensconced in the morgue the entirety of your wedding day. And do not muss your clothing, if you please.”
Sherlock waved at his brother impatiently, whether to agree or to hurry everything along. “What is it?” The way Sherlock’s eyes gleamed, he clearly couldn’t have received a better wedding gift than a mystery or a piece to a puzzle.
“One of the mudlarks was found in the last hour with several crushed ribs and a punctured lung. I was hoping you could identify him so we could notify his family, if he has one.”
“Of course. Coming, John?” Sherlock’s eyes kept none of their gleam, as if a solid oak door had slammed behind his eyes and none of his light could escape through the cracks. He proceeded to their wedding coach in silence, allowing John to distribute the coins in his hand to the well-wishers who gathered at any wedding, cheering and applauding for the lucky coins strewn to the crowd. Their joyful cries sounded like the sobs of professional mourners, just a bit.
Lestrade joined them in the coach in spite of the strangeness of it, to answer Sherlock’s questions.
“Where was he found?”
“In that little alley behind Lorstan Street, near Vechney. Anderson thinks he was struck by a carriage.”
“And then, what, dragged himself down that alley to die of a punctured lung?” Sherlock’s tone reverted back to his annoyed-with-stupidity normalcy. “How was the body arranged?”
“Curled up in a ball, behind a crate. He was next to an alley door a merchant used for deliveries or he might not yet have been found.”
“Did anyone actually see him get struck by a wagon or carriage?”
“No one has come forward as a witness, no. I still have a few men asking around.”
“I shall have to examine the body. I will be quick about it,” he added, peremptorily defensive. Neither John nor Lestrade offered any sort of fight.