I’m still plugging along here, though at a much slower pace than hoped (not expected, I quite expect to be slow). I’m working on Chapter 51 at the moment, which should a fun chapter where something might actually happen. Generally, I feel like I’m floundering a bit as far as the plot goes. I know what will happen at the end and I know some of the stuff I want to happen along the way, but I don’t have a concrete plan for each step along the way.
This is why I generally insist that I’m a planner who hates to plan, or a pantser that cannot pants for the life of me 🙂 Anyway, I’ve worked out in my head the next few chapters and we’ll take it from there. I’ve laid a few plot bits down, so I have ideas I can work with when it comes to that.
On FF.net, I got a second fan who decided to comment on every single chapter, which is awfully sweet. I’ve now 135 reviews, and about a hundred of those are from two people. They simply felt that I needed more recognition, which is quite flattering. I’ve got more comments on AO3, though many are from just a core of a few dedicated fans. It’s nice either way. Not everyone is into AU fan fiction, especially one not even set in Sherlock time whether turn of the century or current. So I’m not particularly distressed by lack of hits or comments. I’m just happy writing whatever I want to write. (And this is definitely that. I’m just making crap up as I go along, which reminds me of a Star Trek song by Voltaire, and that makes me laugh.)
This week was somewhat difficult as I was without internet at home. One would have thought I would have had extra time for reading and writing then, but it was distressing to such a degree (and I realized how heavily I used thesaurus.com) that I was more distracted by the not having internet than I am by all the distractions of the internet. Weird. Anyway, it’s clearly back now, and I got some work done, but it had been almost three weeks without a post on my huntsman story and it’s been about 2 weeks since anything on Regency Sherlock, so I feel underaccomplished and far past any mental deadline.
At any rate, I ought to get back to work now and finish Chapter 51 because I did promise my coworkers I’d have it up by 8 tonight! EEP!! 🙂 Anyway, here’s the finished stuff, through a fluffy, pointless Holmes Home scene in chapter 50:
(oh, and a by-the-by, Chapter 49 is one of my favorite chapters of the fic.. I’ve been waiting to fit it in since I wrote it, which was probably around November as it was in my head very very early.)
Sherlock skulked around outside the frosted windows of the pub, peering in the door when someone entered or left. Why were John and Lestrade sharing drinks and chatting with each other and not interrogating the pub’s landlord? What were they laughing at? What were they waiting for? Sherlock stomped around inside his own head. If only Corbeau hadn’t been so duplicitous, if only Sherlock had been able to go in there, he’d have finished the task already. He might even have a suspect he could hunt down, a name, a direction.
Maybe John was still a little annoyed with him and wanted him to wait out in the cold alone for a while. That seemed unlikely; John had been quite amenable to his requests that afternoon. He even read to Sherlock (in admittedly deplorable Italian) while he worked. The sound of his mild voice had been desperately nice. And John’s rather alarming attempt at the proper Italian accent had been quite funny even if Sherlock had been too intent on his experiment to laugh.
He hadn’t managed to replicate the concoction, but he could keep trying. It wasn’t as important to the case as finding the culprit. But the evidence was leading him all over London. It wasn’t a matter of having too little evidence, but too much. Too many possibilities. Oh, but it was brilliant! This interminable waiting, however, was horrendous.
Sherlock hoped that John and Lestrade might come up with a viable lead inside The Fortune of War. Sherlock hadn’t been strictly honest about why Corbeau was so annoyed with him, and tossing him out of the pub was the best case scenario if Sherlock sauntered in. Finding himself laid out on one of the benches in the back room with a price tag posted above him was much more likely.
Sherlock fidgeted, wanting to hurry John and Lestrade along. What were they doing in there? John was turned to Lestrade, his smile sunny and Lestrade winked back. Blast! The door swung shut again and a patron brushed Sherlock aside in annoyance. Sherlock couldn’t even be bothered to deduce how much the customer had to drink or what sort of profession he held, or which streets he’d walked through during the day based by the mud on his shoes or the smell of his jacket.
Muddled, everything was muddled. The past twenty-four hours thoughts of John had taken up a rather defensive position in Sherlock’s brain, despite all intent to rout them completely. First John had gotten along at the Professor’s quite famously, proving himself well able to converse along the lines of Sherlock’s more peculiar interests. John was intelligent; perhaps not up to Sherlock’s level of brilliance, but he’d educated himself well and perhaps only his dedication to his comrades-in-arms had kept him from rising higher in his ranks or securing a safer, more prestigious medical position in a hospital or university.
Later that night, John had become unbearably angry with him only to turn about and confide in Sherlock something private and, John clearly thought, shameful. Sherlock couldn’t even focus completely on the heads in the morgue for thinking about how things were broken and how powerless he was to understand them, much less fix them.
And John had touched him. John was always touching him. Sherlock noticed this acutely. They walked linked hand-on-elbow and John sometimes patted Sherlock’s arm which immediately turned his thoughts from wherever they were to John.
Sherlock couldn’t help his voice coming out a bit cross when John touched him. It wasn’t that he didn’t like it. He did – too much. It distracted him and he could not afford to be so distracted in the midst of a case. But he didn’t want to forego that touch either. John’s hand tucked around his elbow, John’s fingers so light and careful on the bruising on his throat, John’s strong hand cupped over his shoulder. Just those simple touches were too much, so much.
And there were more touches to think on – John’s hand warming his knee in the garden while pressing those (kind, smiling, pleasing) lips to Sherlock’s own. It had been all Sherlock could do not to respond ardently in full view of his brother’s guests. There was little, perhaps nothing, John could do to keep Sherlock from wanting to respond ardently, and therein lay the problem. Sherlock wouldn’t let himself fall into that maelstrom of mindless lust and animalism that accompanied intimate relations.
Even now, when Sherlock ought to be spending his downtime going over the details of the case in his head, his thoughts were entirely on the handsome young man he had somehow agreed to marry. It would have been so much easier if he could bring himself to ignore his husband’s existence.
And again, that warm hand on the middle of his back, John’s hand, nudged Sherlock out of his reverie and back onto Giltspur Street where both John and Lestrade were suddenly standing.
“You should have heard John’s Edinburgh accent, Holmes. It was profoundly funny. Had to bite the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing every time John opened his mouth.”
“I do hope it was better than your atrocious Italian accent, John,” Sherlock quipped dryly. John laughed. The sound was merry and made Sherlock warm even in the cold night.
“Oh, aye, I’m a right master of the language of my forefathers, husband,” John said in his thickest Scottish brogue. “So prove to me your Italian accent is quality enough to deride mine.”
Sherlock felt a bit giddy as John looped their arms together and tugged him in the vague direction of home. That giddiness was the only explanation for what Sherlock did next.
He began to sing.
The notes of the rude little ditty bounced along in a catchy manner, the words pronounced in his worst Italian, his rich voice full of all tones playful.
Sherlock could speak flawlessly in six languages, there was the interview with Corbeau to discuss, there was Lestrade to dismiss for the night, but instead Sherlock wanted to make John laugh.
Sherlock burst into John’s bedroom the next morning with unusual fervor carrying, of all things, John’s morning tea tray. He flew across the room dressed in nothing more than an untucked shirt and breeches under an open banyan, feet bare despite the morning chill.
“Do wake up, John!” he said, plunking the tea tray down on the table hard enough that the cup and saucer clanked and rattled.
The upon-waking bleariness shot out of John’s eyes as he assessed the threat before realizing where he was.
“Good morning, Sherlock,” he said when the fact that he was in their home in London, in his own warm bed. It was a comforting realization he’d had to make a couple times in the night. The lamp he left burning by the door still glowed in the daylight. Sherlock noticed and padded over to extinguish it without a word. The thick fabric of his robe billowed out behind him as he walked.
“To what do I owe the pleasure of this early morning call?” John adjusted himself in bed, sitting up and fluffing pillows against the headboard.
“An experiment, John. I could barely stand to wait for you to wake!”
“You didn’t wait, Sherlock.” But his annoyed tone was false and Sherlock didn’t notice it anyway.
“You were sleeping badly as it was.” He made a sweeping gesture at John’s bedside table where a second lamp sat, oil somewhat depleted, as well as a book. John imagined Sherlock knew exactly how many pages he’d read in the night, too.
“Come now, take your morning piss and drink your tea so we can begin.” Sherlock brought up the chamber pot from under the bed. “In whichever order you prefer, John, but do hurry.”
“What’s the rush?” John tried to evacuate his bladder in the time Sherlock was turned away fetching his tea.
When John finished, Sherlock rushed away with the covered pot, leaving John to sigh and wonder if the man planned to experiment with it rather than just empty it. Really, he did not want to know.
Sherlock had left his tea on top of his book so John could reach it from the bed. Matthews had been leaving it on the table near the fireplace when he came in to build up the fire. The change was nice. Usually it took him a good five minutes to balance himself out of bed and creak the short distance to his comfortable chair. It was awful starting every day feeling so old and decrepit. Perhaps he should request his tea tray beside the bed in the future. The thought made him feel sixty. Perhaps not.
Sherlock returned pot-less.
“So what is this experiment, Sherlock?”
“I’ve noticed your movements in the morning, John. It takes you a painfully long time to rise and start getting about. You walk about a good deal during the day with relative ease, thus your leg must stiffen in the night. I would like to try some different massage and exercise techniques to see if any will make it easier on you.”
John’s eyebrows lifted as he sipped his tea. That was thoughtful and… personal. Very personal.
“Are you drinking your tea? Have you drunk it?”
John hid his smile by further draining his cup before setting it aside.
“First, I must examine the scarring.” He flung back the covers in one great wave.
“Sherlock!” The chill of the room was a bit startling and John’s nightshirt was rucked up, leaving John on display from the waist down. John flushed red and tugged the tail of his nightshirt to a slightly more modest position.
“Yes, what is it?” Sherlock either did not notice his blatant nudity or he was pleased that he could freely examine John’s leg from hip to toe without obfuscation.
“Never mind,” John replied as he lay back and looked at the ceiling. He did not need to look at his own leg again. Let Sherlock see if he wanted.
“Aren’t you cold, Sherlock?” John asked after a few minutes. Sherlock had stirred up the fire, but the room was still cold and now John’s lower extremities were fully exposed.
“Cold is a state of mind.” Sherlock was wrong enough but his dismissive statement made John smile.
He tried not to think of the intense perusal, to pretend that Sherlock was just another doctor, not his rather distant husband. Certainly not the husband that strode into his bedroom in a state of undress looking so handsome and long-legged and rumpled. And definitely not the husband whose slim form John wished to similarly explore. He could only pray that his hot blood stayed in his face and didn’t deflect to similarly heat up his groin.
It was clinical, Sherlock’s examination, and methodic, if very hands-on. Sherlock covered each scar with cool fingertips, moving John’s leg this way and that, bending his knee and ankle slightly to see the movement. Still, sometimes the movements were undignified and John felt incredibly uncomfortable cupping his hands over his groin. If this was going to be a regular occurrence, he was going to wear drawers to bed.
“I shall try massage first, John. It will also allow me to more deeply examine the scarring in the muscles and tendons underneath. It may increase your discomfort at first, though.”
John made a non-committal hum. It wasn’t as if Sherlock was waiting for permission.
The massage – slash – deep tissue exam wasn’t entirely pleasant, but John refused to complain. Sherlock was trying to help; the least John could do was let him. Sherlock might raise John’s leg perpendicular to the rest of his body, for example, and dig his fingers into a particular scar and bend his knee to feel how the muscles and tendons moved under his fingertips. John tried to think of his anatomy dissections and wondered if Sherlock had attended anatomy lectures himself. It seemed more than likely.
John was rather glad that those fingers sometimes caused him pain. It was better than the fluttery feeling of arousal in his belly when Sherlock’s hands were too gentle and explored places like the uninjured inner bend of his knee or the soft skin where this thigh flared into buttock. Sometimes those fingers just ruffled the hairs on his legs, or outlined a deep scar. John would flush with embarrassment, or least he called it that, and will his thoughts to something less lascivious than Sherlock making those same intent observations over every inch of his body.
More than (an agonizing) half an hour later, Sherlock declared himself finished for the day.
“I believe it is the scar tissue here that is the biggest problem.” Sherlock indicated one of the darkest scars just below John’s knee. “It has stiffened up a tendon, though I believe the tendon is intact or at least healed. We shall have to see if we can stretch it a bit. Was it painful, John?”
“Some, yes,” he replied when he realized he was expected to do so.
“I’m not doing this as systematic torture. You should have said something if it hurt too much.”
“It wasn’t too much, Sherlock.” John laid his hand on Sherlock’s arm, not even sure if the man was still listening. “I promise I’d tell you if it was too much. It was nothing more than I’d feel all morning hobbling around on my own. Besides, I have faith that this will help.”
“I do, Sherlock. If my health is a puzzle for you to figure out, I imagine I’ll be an acrobat by the end of the month.”
Sherlock rolled his eyes at the hyperbole but it was clear to John that the faith and flattery eased some strain inside him. Inside both of them, perhaps.
“Well, walk about then, and tell me if it is improved.” Sherlock handed John his cane and moved far enough away to properly observe. So this was why Sherlock had asked him to walk around so randomly the day before. John slid off the bed, balancing carefully. He took a few steps, one hand on the edge of the bed. By the time he’d made it to the fireplace, he felt much more comfortable.
“I feel very much improved, Sherlock, nowhere near as rough as I usually do first thing. Thank you.”
John beamed at him and Sherlock was momentarily taken aback.
“You’re welcome, John.”
A few more trips about the room and John said, “I think I’m ready to dress and join civilization. Would you like to walk out with me around ten and perhaps discover a new restaurant for luncheon?”
“If you wish, John. I must make a list of the unguents and salves I want to try, and we can go shopping after I finish writing up my notes on our experiment.” Sherlock abruptly strode out the door, slamming it shut behind him.
When John had been dressed, he joined Sherlock in their sitting room. A heartier breakfast had been laid to table and John helped himself to it. Sherlock lounged in one of the chairs at the small table, left hand hovering over his teacup and no evidence of food on the plate before him. His attention was on a silver tray of mail to his right. A hearty percentage of said mail had already been flicked to the floor. Matthews stood near the door with his eyes trained studiously away, as if he desperately wanted to pick it up but had already been scolded from doing so once.
John scooped up a few stray letters from the floor after he’d set his plate down and settled himself in his chair.
“Well, you did say once that you had little interest in correspondence, Sherlock, but this is a trifle extreme, is it not?”
“Nonsense, John. Extreme would be setting fire to the salver. Or at least that’s what Mycroft deems extreme.”
John shot an alarmed glance at Matthews. The servant flicked his eyes over, gave the smallest of smiles, and straightened up again.
“Perhaps I ought to deal with the mail, then, shall I? Then you only have to view those few pieces of the utmost importance.”
“Gladly.” Sherlock nudged the salver towards John, keeping only one small square of paper for himself. John nodded towards Matthews, who quickly crouched by his side to collect the rest of the letters discarded on the floor. John then tidied the pile and examined each return address before sorting the letters into one of several piles. Notes clearly from Sherlock’s family, or which addressed Dr. and Mr. Watson-Holmes, John piled together in a “wedding salutations” stack, while others from addresses and names he did not recognize, or notes addressed to Sherlock in particular were designated into another. A third stack emerged when he recognized the name of Edgers and Sons and he began a “bills” pile.
John took a few bites of his meal before tackling the first pile. Each note was unfolded carefully, read, and set aside for a later reply. John also made a mental note to start a book of addresses for the directions of each of Sherlock’s relations. Only two of the letters had been from John’s own relation, and no one besides Harry had been in attendance at his wedding.
“Just throw those away, John. If you get into the habit of replying to correspondence, then it shall become expected that you do so. The volume of letters exchanged will increase exponentially.”
John agreed just a little bit, if only because he dreaded writing out the same insipid reply to each well-wisher.
“Oh, but your cousin Petrina writes. We should have her for a visit before she leaves London. She’s quite engaging.”
Sherlock didn’t answer; he appeared to be lost in his mind once again. The letter he’d kept was held open by his long fingers; John took a bite of his toast and tried to see who it was from. Lestrade, he guessed by the sprawling initial at the bottom of the page.
“What does Mr. Lestrade write this morning? Some new evidence on the case since last night? Or has he written to inform you of another mysterious letter arriving at Bow Street?” They had left the man less than twelve hours ago. Surely, unlike Sherlock, Lestrade was a man who went home and slept occasionally.
“Hmm? No, not yet. He writes to remind me of an execution this morning, a man named Davies we caught some months ago. His sentence came as quite a relief to Mr. Lestrade. The evidence against him was quite circumstantial until I noticed a new, shiny nail in one of the floorboards. It suggested a bent nail had been recently replaced, so I had the constables tear up the floorboards in his house and dig beneath. If the man had disposed of his bloody clothing and the murder weapon in the Thames and they’d been swept out to sea, we would never have obtained a conviction.”
“So he was hanged this morning, then? Did you not wish to attend to see the sentence carried out?”
“Not particularly. It is enough knowing it was done.”
“So whom did he murder?”
“Irrelevant. The details of his sentence were related to the cannibalism.”
“Oh.” John removed the sausage from his plate. After a moment, he laid a napkin over it.
“Lestrade writes that the body will be subjected to dissection this afternoon. The presiding surgeon will be Forrest Oliver. He is not the most entertaining or dramatic of dissectionists, but he does have some interesting theories on the human brain. It is likely he will be curious about what might turn a man to such unnaturalness. After all, Davies was quite plump and hardly ill off enough to starve.”
Sherlock returned to thoughtfulness and John returned to a somewhat unappetizing breakfast.
“Did you wish to attend the dissection, then, Sherlock? Or did you have other plans for the afternoon? We ought to be here in the evening in case our resurrection man turns up, but otherwise our plans are flexible.”
“It could be useful. Not for the dissection itself, but to view the audience.”
They agreed to go and Sherlock mentioned nothing of being banished from the theaters of St. Bartholomew’s as he had been from the Royal Society; he was clearly allowed free reign (despite Anderson’s objections) over more than just the bowels of the building. John looked forward to Sherlock’s likely heckling of the afternoon’s lecturer with some juvenile delight. It seemed fair to assume that he wouldn’t hold his tongue if he deemed anything the lecturer postulated was untrue; and with as brilliant as Sherlock had proven to be so far, it was probable that the lecturer would stumble on at least one topic.
They spent the morning strolling around London, John’s gloved hand curled around Sherlock’s elbow as was becoming custom. Sherlock spent much of the time describing the differences between mud splatter from the banks of the Thames and the splash of a puddle of slush forming amongst uneven cobbles. John laughed when he realized Sherlock had delivered a deliberately ridiculous deduction about the mud in Mayfair being of much finer grain than mud elsewhere in London and, of course, imbued with gold shavings from the wealthy inhabitants.
Sherlock smiled back, pleased. He allowed John to examine the splashes on his boots when they sat to luncheon a couple hours later and described the area of the city where each bit of dirt originated.
“It is the smallest detail, John, that often solves a puzzle,” Sherlock lectured over their midday meal. “The shininess of a nail head betrayed Davies. By a man’s fingernails, his callouses, the cut and mend of his coat, one can decipher his life. I have trained myself to notice these things as much as possible.”
John’s face glowed at Sherlock, surprising the taller man into an uncomfortable silence. He picked at the spicy food in front of him. John had not objected when, instead of a fine hotel restaurant, Sherlock had led them to a rather dark and smoky room inhabited only by dusky foreigners, though he couldn’t help but question whether this was even a restaurant. Sherlock had met this with a bright smile and wink.
“There are small pockets of foreign lands within London, John, if you know where to look.”
Sherlock had ordered for both of them when a smiling gentleman stopped by their table. John’s mouth had dropped open when Sherlock began speaking in the same nasal tongue he heard all around him. The waiter (if that was what he was) smiled again and bowed three times before backing away.
“My goodness, Sherlock, when did you learn that language?”
“I daresay, I would never starve in Canton, but I am not fluid in all aspects of the language.”
John chuckled. “They seem unsurprised to see you here. Do you visit often? I had no idea this part of the city existed.”
Sherlock allowed that he’d eaten here several times, and that the food was excellent, if unfamiliar to British palates.
Their food arrived quickly, thin soup and noodles, a few vegetables John was unfamiliar with. It was quite delicious and he made quick work of each dish placed in front of him. Sherlock was too distracted to eat much but he did sip down his portion of the soup and ate a few bits off John’s plate to show him the unfamiliar dishes were tasty.
After John’s appetite was sated, they rose to meander in the direction of St. Bart’s Hospital.