Didn’t realize how long it had been since I updated, though I suppose since I posted two chapters in the last two days (on AO3 and FF.net), I’m not really as behind as I could be posting 5 chapters here. It had been over a week since I wrote chapters, though, due to a vicious toothache, two trips to the dentist, and enough ibuprofin to kill a horse. I couldn’t think and as much as I wanted to be in my fantasy world, I couldn’t focus. Feeling better since the weekend, which involved rest and antibiotics.
Anyway, I’m starting to write chapter 56 this week, which should be a fun chapter. I got a lot of comments on 53, which was just delightful 😉 Got a lot of good comments on 54, though probably just people so grateful that I hadn’t forgotten about John and Sherlock in the nine days since I’d posted. I’m taking much too long, in my opinion, and need to get these done and out of the way so I can work on something else! 🙂 It’s not that I don’t have time, but the mental energy is harder to come by.
Not sure I have much else to say today about it all. Oh, besides that I saw a Sherlock Holmes slash (Conan Doyle canon) fan fiction for sale as an e-book and I kinda want it! 🙂 It’s called Kissing Sherlock Holmes and I read the first little bit — it seems quite well done. Mostly I want it because I can’t seem to be bothered to pick up any book that isn’t Sherlock Holmes related lately. It’s all I want to read, even though Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison, AND Patricia Briggs have come out with books in the last few months I haven’t read yet. What is wrong with me?? 🙂
Anyway, here’s what’s wrong with me:
The large operating theater where the dissection would shortly take place teemed with richly dressed, educated gentlemen, young, hastily-dressed students, and a very few ladies of indeterminate occupation. The acoustic quality in the room was such that the multitude of voices created quite the din. Sherlock and John had handed their greatcoats to the porter and now milled around, Sherlock’s eye to the attendees.
“Watson! John Watson!”
John turned, surprised to hear a voice acknowledging him. He’d become accustomed to being the stranger in the room.
“Stamford. Good God, man, how long has it been?”
“Long enough for me to get fat on a good wife’s cooking,” the man answered genially, patting a rounded belly. He eyed the man on John’s arm with a bit of curiosity.
“Mike Stamford, let me introduce you to my husband, Mr. Sherlock Holmes.”
“We’ve met a time or two, John. Stamford.” Sherlock nodded his head at John’s acquaintance then continued to scan the room.
“I just can’t believe it. I mean, everyone in the hospital was talking about the announcement in the papers, but I didn’t realize you were the John Watson that Holmes married.” As if Stamford realized he’d said something a bit odd, he added a hearty, “Congratulations!”
“Thank you, Stamford.” John wasn’t quite sure how he felt about the entire hospital gossiping about his marriage, but his experiences in Sherlock’s world perhaps made it a little understandable.
“I’d ask what brings you here, but of course it is the dissection this afternoon. You must come sit with me; I have some good seats reserved for my students.”
“Sherlock, is that alright?”
Sherlock had only kept half an ear to the conversation. “What? Oh, that would be fine.”
“Excellent. I have to round up a few stragglers from my class, but I’ll be back before they start to collect you.”
Stamford shook John’s hand, didn’t even offer to the oblivious Sherlock, and wandered off into the crowd.
“He trained with me here at Bart’s,” John explained.
“Obvious.” Sherlock ushered John into another corner of the room and turned them so they could see the whole of it.
“Who, precisely, are we looking for, Sherlock? The kidnapper? The murderer? The resurrected man?”
“Someone usual, but unusual.”
“It is unlikely that the procurer would attend a public dissection. He is likely a working man in the employ of another,” Sherlock murmured, distracted by a new influx of people at the door. “Oh, fantastic,” he groaned a moment later. “I suppose I should have expected this.”
Not many women attended dissections, though not because they were forbidden from them. Some demonstrations were vastly more gore and morbid entertainment than science, and one notoriously grotesque event had even been credited with the death of a spectator from fear. Thus, the female population of an autopsy audience was generally limited to those who harbored scientific interest or bravely accompanied those who did.
But now Lady Irene Adler walked through the door as if this were a ball or musical entertainment, garnering attention from any man lucky enough to be close enough to the door to fawn all over her. She answered these fond greetings with a gracious and flirtatious smile.
“Goodness,” John breathed, “She is quite the last person I would have expected to see here.”
Sherlock didn’t respond with anything other than a sub-vocal growl when the lady in question caught them with her eyes and excused herself from her admirers to make her way over to them.
“Lady Adler.” John took her offered hand and bent over it politely. “Do you often attend the medical theater?”
“Captain Watson, I do hope marriage is treating you well.” She withdrew her hand and offered it to Sherlock, who, as usual, glared at her hand as if the very delicate skin of it offended him. “Mr. Holmes.” She did not take offense at his slight but smiled the wider at it. “To answer your question, Captain Watson, I do take interest in intellectual pursuits of all sorts. I find a keen and well-honed mind to be the most tantalizing of attributes.” Her voice was all flirtation and seduction, leaving John at a loss for words momentarily.
“And yourself, Captain Watson? Does medical spectacle interest you, or are you here merely to accompany your husband.”
“I was a surgeon in the army, Lady Adler. I believe the occasional autopsy may keep my skills sharp even as I’m not currently practicing.”
“Ah, so you are in possession of a great amount of anatomical knowledge,” Lady Adler purred, reaching over to touch her fingertips lightly to John’s upper arm. “Your aptitude in such matters must be of great benefit to your husband.”
“I believe he has found it useful on occasion,” John replied stiffly, knowing quite what she was insinuating and refusing to be baited.
“Quite,” Sherlock interjected as if he did not have a clue what ‘insinuation’ even meant, “John’s medical knowledge has proven quite helpful on my latest case.”
“Ah, a case, of course. Well, Captain Watson, if you ever grow tired of our Sherlock’s predilection for puzzles, do call on me at Bond Street. I’m sure we could explore our common interests more in depth.”
With a coquettish smile, Lady Adler departed, finding much more willing prey.
“Sherlock,” John said in a tight voice, “I still cannot believe that woman is someone of your close acquaintance.”
“You forget, John, that the association between ourselves is quite short and that there is much unshared history. It would be unwise to make assumptions at this juncture.” Sherlock’s voice was equally sharp.
“I do not forget.” John might have added more but Sherlock interrupted.
“Besides, she is the harmless one, or relatively. Prepare to meet the arch-demon to her succubus.”
John blinked at the sudden change. Sherlock scooped up John’s hand again and held it to his elbow from where it had long since fallen away.
“Victor. Fancy seeing you here.”
John couldn’t decipher the tone of Sherlock’s voice. Dead, perhaps, was the closest. Then the name Sherlock spoke filtered through his brain. This man was Victor. And Sherlock had called him a devil.
John, curious to understand how the young man in front of him could have earned such a pronouncement, unabashedly examined Victor Trevor as he approached. He was tall, taller than John, certainly, though not as tall as Sherlock. His lithe form reminded John of a rapier: strong, flexible, sharp. He had a headful of chestnut hair, fashionably swept forward, and pretty, delicate features. He wore fine clothes almost exorbitant in their cut and fabric and shoes so pristine one had to wonder if he’d worn them before today. Perhaps he discarded them daily.
“My dear Sherlock,” the man said with much affection, maybe too much affection, “surely you wouldn’t forget my unabashed obsession with human anatomy. I could not resist the afternoon diversion when Lady Adler suggested it. Your presence only makes the decision more apropos.”
Placing hands on Sherlock’s shoulders, the young gentleman known as Victor leaned forward and leaned forward. Sherlock cleared his throat and took a step back, face flaming at the public familiarity.
“Victor, this is my husband Doctor John Watson, formerly a captain with the 52nd Northumberland Fusilers.” Sherlock’s voice was firm, though his eyes flickered over the man facing him with a squint of suspicion. “John, Victor Trevor.”
“Oh, of course, I’ve heard all about the little soldier. How do you do?”
John let Victor shake his hand, regarding him curiously. If Sherlock hadn’t said otherwise, he would have thought this man somewhat a foolish dandy. His German accent was light, his voice was melodious and friendly, his smile was quick and bright.
“I understand you two met at University,” John said, wondering what sort of response he’d get.
“Oh, so my reputation does precede me! Yes, Sherlock and I met after he quite thoroughly tongue-lashed a lecturer. We became close confidants within weeks. He was a regular fixture in my rooms, indulging in all sorts of experimentation.”
John bristled a bit at the odd stressing of certain words by the young Baron. It could be a coincidence of accent, but it seemed likely it was otherwise. Perhaps he was prejudiced by Lady Adler’s quite obvious innuendos.
“Our favorite course of study was anatomy. Sherlock respected how utterly thorough I was in my examinations.” The slow burning smile this statement accompanied made a very lewd picture. “He also found my dabblings in chemistry intensely exciting. We both did.”
Nope, not prejudiced. John felt very annoyed. How could his brilliant, upright husband have anything to do with this Victor Trevor? John understood loneliness, he really did, but honestly, these so-called friends of his were repellant. It didn’t even help that Sherlock admitted that their associations were best left in the past.
“Of course, I understand now that our Sherlock has renounced all licentiousness for a much more ascetic lifestyle. And on the eve of his marriage, too. Pity, that, praying to God in bed rather than shouting for Him.”
Shocked, John straightened his back and reigned in the impulse to brain Victor Trevor with his cane. He tried his best to hide it, to walk away from a leering Victor Trevor and a stone-silent Sherlock Holmes. A demon, indeed.
“If you will pardon me, I do believe Stamford is waving us over.” John could only just force out the words, but not without showing his wounds. “Sherlock, do join us when you’ve finished speaking to your friend. Good day, Baron.”
John shook Sherlock’s hand from his, disengaging from his elbow, and leaned heavily on his cane as he sidled through the crowd and the tiered seating. He refused to look back at his husband and his… confidant. He knew his face was scorched red by the fires of Hell.
“Did you enjoy that, Victor?” Sherlock hissed as his husband stalked off.
“Immensely.” Victor gloated while toying with a gaudy ring on his right hand.
“On the contrary, dear Sherlock, very adult.” Victor stepped closer. Sherlock tried to step away, but the press of people and the orientation of seats in the theater kept him closer than he wished. “Something in which you used to indulge. How sad and boring for you.”
Sherlock glanced across the room to where John was pointedly not looking at him. The man’s face was still red and tight. He’d done something wrong again, though for once he thought he might understand what that was without being informed.
“I must request that you leave John and me alone, Victor. I do not wish for you to be part of my life any longer. I don’t understand how that isn’t clear to you.”
“What is clear to me, dear fellow, is that you neither rushed to your husband’s defense nor departed with him. What conclusions must we draw from that?”
Sherlock didn’t answer. Victor flustered him; well, really, everyone did in these sorts of situations. And he didn’t know why he didn’t raise a defense against Victor, aside from that he’d never really been able to do so.
“You really ought to come by and see my latest experiments, Sherlock. I’ve no doubt your scientific curiosity would be thoroughly and most satisfactorily aroused.”
Victor’s right hand wrapped around Sherlock’s upper arm, pinching it sharply. No, not quite a pinch – a puncture. Sherlock felt his stomach drop and a bit of all-too-familiar warmth seep through his veins. He pulled his arm free, but it was too late.
“I’ve been trying to concentrate one of our favorite antidotes to boredom. Poisons can be effective in such miniscule proportions; why not other physics and remedies? Shall we retire to my townhouse and measure the effects of my latest preparation?”
“I have little choice, I see.” Sherlock could already feel some of the effects of the drug: dizziness, pounding pulse, a certain indolence of spirit.
“Well, we certainly want to study the effects in a controlled environment, do we not? How overwhelming the symptoms, the length of their endurance, with an especial focus on comparing quantity and quality with the previous responses we’ve recorded.”
“No,” Sherlock said. “No, I will not let you force this… congress, Victor. You must let me go.”
“Go, Sherlock? What, home with the enfeebled husband you’ve fettered yourself with? You’ve become domesticated, my beautiful, wild Sherlock.” Sherlock jerked back when Victor raised his hand, but it only whispered down his cheek. The underside of the ring came into view for a brief second; a sharp point extended towards the wearer’s palm. “It saddens me to the core to see you broken to bit. Unless, of course, it was my bridle and bit.”
The ringed hand grasped Sherlock’s upper arm again, this time with more purpose. The pin bit through the fabric of his coat and shirt and into Sherlock’s skin once again, delivering a headier dose of the drug. Victor took advantage of Sherlock’s chemically-induced disorientation and began to guide him most forcibly towards the door.
Sherlock’s brain stuttered. He might have thought of a way to attract John’s attention, or extricate himself from Victor’s clawed grip, or even driven the drugged stickpin into Victor’s own skin, rendering him more tractable and easier to escape. His magnificent mind could form none of these thoughts, however, barely processing a cacophony of jeering voices speaking in gibberish all around him and he stumbled out the door after a triumphant Victor Trevor.
Stamford nudged John as he took a seat next to him, shifting him from his humiliated reverie. John looked up and about as if the nudge had been directional instead of unintentional. When he did, he quite clearly saw Sherlock shuffling after Victor Trevor, being tugged along somewhat intently. Sherlock didn’t appear to be resisting as such, but his movements were unsteady and graceless, two things Sherlock most definitely was not.
At first glance, John thought Sherlock had simply decided to leave him, abandon him here with Stamford, dozens of aspiring doctors, and the corpse of a criminal. He’s leaving me was his precise thought, with the word ‘leaving’ quite open to interpretation. The thought caused a stupid little lump to rise in his throat. It was almost a relief to have the revision He’s being taken bubble up in his brain. Sherlock needs me.
John pushed himself up with his cane just as Stamford had properly settled in beside him. The rounder man looked up at him in surprise.
“They’re just about to begin.”
“I apologize, Stamford. I must be off. We’re on Baker Street. Do come ’round for tea sometime, won’t you?”
John moved away before Stamford could find his voice again and object. The crowd had begun to arrange themselves into their seats, moving down the steps against John. He focused on moving quickly and politely through the esteemed gentlemen, and very deliberately did not think about the possibility that he was wrong. The fear of being wrong, that Sherlock was going to laugh at John as he stumbled after Sherlock racing away with his lover, would have kept John humiliated in his seat. He could not take that chance, however.
And if that supposition turned out to be true, John would rather not discover it under the watchful eyes of the theater full of inquisitive scientists and doctors. Likely enough of them had overheard Victor’s injurious remarks and particularly that the normally loquacious Sherlock saying nothing in opposition. He did not need to add a tremendous row to the hospital gossip.
John’s quarry had reached the door quite before him and had moved far from view once John reached the outer hall. Waving away the porter’s offer to retrieve his greatcoat, John impatiently demanded from him the direction of the last two gentlemen to exit. They had apparently abandoned their belongings as well and gone directly to the nearest outer door.
John rushed as fast as he was able, praying that he’d not be too late. He’d have been, if Sherlock hadn’t been afflicted with an utter inability to climb the step into the Baron’s carriage.
John blew out a breath of relief before intruding between Sherlock and Victor Trevor with the tip of his cane.
“John,” Sherlock breathed. John hoped he was actually as relieved as he sounded.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to decline whatever invitation the Baron has offered, Sherlock. We have an appointment tonight, you remember?” John hoped his voice wasn’t as shaky as he felt it might be.
Victor’s glare was murderous. John met it with a quite adequate display of ‘unhand my husband or I’ll thwack you with the knob of my cane, you blighted todger.’
Victor’s face brightened suddenly, as if everything was going just the way he’d planned.
“Oh, do let me offer my congratulations on your marriage, Doctor Watson.” He reached forward to shake John’s hand with one heavily-ringed hand. Sherlock took momentary control of his jelly legs to lunge forward and grasp Victor’s hand. John saw him frantically pawing at a ring, which must have had a sharp edge on the setting since, after tossing the offending jewelry towards the gutter, Sherlock stared blankly at his bleeding hand.
“Now, Sherlock, that was rude.” Victor’s voice was oh-so-playfully scolding. “I was just going to give John a gift, a little something for the honeymoon.”
“No,” Sherlock croaked out. “John… home.”
“Have fun, Doctor Watson. I apologize that the delights of your evening will be so one-sided, but that one,” he gestured at Sherlock, “is so utterly selfish.” Victor pushed past and climbed into his carriage.
John pulled Sherlock’s arm around his shoulder, bracing him enough to pull him away from the carriage wheels as it jerked forward.
“Sherlock, are you alright? Have you become ill? You were fine this morning.” John had a hard time examining Sherlock supporting half his weight as he was.
Sherlock gestured with his bloody hand, a shallow scrape across his palm. John pulled a clean handkerchief from his pocket. “Hold this.” He couldn’t tie the cloth around Sherlock’s hand just yet, but if Sherlock could clutch it for a few minutes, it would at least slow the bleeding.
“We need to get you back into the hospital.”
“No… John… home.”
“But if you’re ill, Sherlock…”
“No hospital. Please.”
He sounded so broken and weak that John wanted to simply overrule him, but he couldn’t bear to do so. He glanced around, certain he wouldn’t be able to carry Sherlock far, not with only one firm leg between them. Fortunately, carriages for hire circled the hospital with some frequency, what with visitors, arrivals, and checkouts, and it was mere minutes before John was able to convince one to stop.
“Looks like you’re already where you ought to be, with that one there.”
“Baker Street, if you please,” John said, ignoring the pointed comment. “Two-twenty-one.”
The driver gave him an assessing glance. “Not catching, is it?”
“Just a bit too much to drink.”
The driver scowled, “No puking in my hack.”
“I’ll make sure of it.”
The driver grunted; he’s surely heard that lie before. Still, he gestured for them to embark, not offering to help John as he struggled to coax Sherlock into the hack. Still, it was finally done, though John was a bit out of breath by the time they were moving towards Baker Street.
“Sherlock, open your eyes.” John twisted in his seat to examine his listless husband. The first thing he did was secure the handkerchief around Sherlock’s hand; he could wash and properly bandage it at home. “There is something very wrong with you.” John pressed the back of his hand against Sherlock’s forehead. His temperature seemed slightly elevated, perhaps, or maybe John’s hands were just cold. He’d left his warm gloves in his greatcoat back at the hospital.
When Sherlock obeyed, blinking his eyes slowly as he tried to focus, John leaned in close to check Sherlock’s pupils.
“Are you very sure you wouldn’t rather be under observation in the hospital?”
“No, John, please. Promise me.”
“Then you must tell me how long you’ve been feeling ill. It can’t have gotten so bad, so quickly. I was only away from you for a few minutes.”
“Not ill.” Sherlock waved his bandaged hand around as if that would mean anything to John.
“Not ill? Something is clearly the matter. I think you’re a bit warm, you can’t focus…”
“Drugged,” Sherlock finally blurted.
“Victor Trevor drugged you?” John was taken aback. “Do you know what he gave you? Is there an antidote?” Pain clenched within him. “Are you… will you… is it poison?”
Sherlock patted John’s leg awkwardly, nearly missing entirely in favor of the seat cushion.
“Recreational,” he slurred. “Had it before.”
“Had it before? Are you saying that you’ve done this to yourself purposely?”
“Yes.” With this, Sherlock wrapped his arms over his waist and slumped into the corner away from John, closing his eyes and looking for all the world like he was just going to take a little rest while the hack rocked over the cobblestones. He allowed John to slip his fingers over his wrist and count his pulse, but after that, John’s worried hands fell away.
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
Sherlock’s head waggled back and forth. “Run its course,” he muttered.
“I see. Can you at least tell me what effects I might expect to see?”
Sherlock let out a deep sigh.
“Lethargy, at first, loss of fine motor control. Second phase. Elevated body temperature.” It clearly took a lot of effort for Sherlock to marshal his brain and tongue to simultaneously do his bidding. “Perspiration. Elevated heart rate. Heightened… skin sensitivity.” That word alone took Sherlock three tries to pronounce. “Hallucination, fever dreams. Lowered inhibitions. Priapism.”
“Pria… Sherlock, are you saying that you’ve been dosed with an aphrodisiac?”
John fell silent, leaning back against the seat and directing his attention to the buildings they passed. Victor Trevor had dosed Sherlock with an aphrodisiac, a powerful one by the symptoms Sherlock listed. Victor Trevor had been trying to get Sherlock into his own carriage. There John’s stomach clenched again. Sherlock had not wanted to go, though John wasn’t certain if that made it better or worse.
And Sherlock had taken this before. He’d even admitted it was on purpose. John tried to stop the images from coming, but he could not: Sherlock, half-undressed and draped over a chaise as the languor stole over him. Victor Trevor’s head resting on Sherlock’s thigh, perhaps, that burnished chestnut hair brushing against the fall of Sherlock’s trousers. And then, when the more hedonistic symptoms emerged… John swallowed, knowing he was flushed and embarrassed.
“How long will the symptoms persist?” he asked, trying to keep some sort of professional detachment.
“Not sure. Experimental dose.” Sherlock waved his hand again, the one with the handkerchief wrapped around it. John finally caught on.
“His ring? Is that why you threw it into the street?”
“Pin,” Sherlock said sagely. “He was going to dose you, too.”
I was just going to give John a gift, a little something for the honeymoon, John remembered. That would have made quite a memorable? spectacular? shocking? honeymoon.
“Couldn’t let him. I don’t want you that way, John.”
Matthews flew out of the doorway to help John assist Sherlock into the house, and John allowed him to do most of the work getting Sherlock up the stairs. Sherlock apparently regained some small amount of motor control – his loud protests echo down the stairwell long before John manages the stairs to the first floor.
Sherlock was curled up on the sofa, his tight jacket only on one arm and Matthews has clearly given up on the fight, standing above Sherlock with a resigned demeanor.
“It’s alright, Matthews. Go downstairs and fetch a bowl of warm water, some flannels and a length of bandage, and some strong coffee. I’ll see to it that Mr. Holmes is made more comfortable.”
Matthews gave an efficient nod and disappeared. The warm water and stack of clean cloth appeared within minutes.
Sherlock’s curled-up position exposed the back of his arm to John. Faint spots of blood marred the otherwise pristine fabric where Victor had jabbed him with his ring.
“Sherlock, you’ve blood on your sleeve. Please let me finish removing your jacket so I can examine your wound.”
“Just leave me alone, John.”
“I will not just leave you alone. I need to clean away the blood on your arm and properly bandage your hand.”
“Go away!” Sherlock said. It would have sounded more forceful if Sherlock’s voice hadn’t been muffled by the sofa cushions.
John only moved closer and pressed the backs of his fingers to Sherlock’s neck just below his ear, checking for an increase in temperature. Slightly warm, perhaps, but he couldn’t judge for long; Sherlock shrugged him off.
“Don’t be stubborn. We need to get you comfortable and tucked in bed.”
“No. Bed is interminably dull.”
“You said you were familiar with this drug, Sherlock. Will you be able to function in any capacity until it wears off?”
Sherlock didn’t answer.
“When was the last time you slept, anyway?”
John didn’t properly hear the response beyond its belligerent and petulant tone.
“Well, then, you have little choice in the matter; since you cannot properly investigate or experiment, you may as well get some sleep. It will kill two birds; perhaps you will sleep through some of the symptoms of this drug as well as store up some sleep during the enforced down time.”
“Shut up, John!” Sherlock’s voice was more than clear this time. “I don’t wish to go to bed. I don’t want you to try and soothe my temper or my wounds. You are not my nanny! Just go away and leave me to be wretched in peace!”
“Sherlock Holmes! I will not allow you to quarrel with me over this. I am most certainly not your nanny, over whom I’m certain you ran roughshod throughout your childhood!” John stood to his full height and pulled out his Captain Watson voice, the one that could dictate orders over cannon and gun fire. “I am your husband and a doctor and you have been injured. You will allow me to treat your wounds as I see fit.”
Sherlock raised bleary eyes to his husband. But John was not finished.
“You may insist on familiarity with this drug, but that does not mean that Victor Trevor did not purposely add something to his mix, or that the unmeasured dosage you received is not dangerous. I will be observing you throughout, just to be certain. And you will allow this, without complaint!”
“No, Sherlock, not another word.” John’s voice softened, though. “I will concede to allow you privacy as you suffer certain indignities.” John willed himself not to flush thinking of Sherlock handling certain matters on his own. “But the fact remains that this is very serious and you must let me handle it.”
Sherlock was too weary from the drug to glare back to the height of his ability and John got his way. Sherlock lifted his scratched hand and held it palm up towards his husband with as much haughtiness as he could muster. It was endearingly pathetic.
“Sit up, then, get your jacket off. I know you’ve got other punctures on your upper arm.”
Sherlock obeyed, his lips pressed tightly together and twisted into a scowl. John helped him tug the tight sleeve off his arm and laid the coat over the arm of the sofa.
“Shirt, too.” It only took a moment for Sherlock to offer up his throat with a huff; his unusually clumsy fingers weren’t up to the task of unknotting his cravat. John accomplished this with brisk efficiency, also unbuttoning Sherlock’s waistcoat to avoid getting any of Sherlock’s blood on the material; his stark white neck cloth had already been marred.
Sherlock slipped first his waistcoat, then his braces off his shoulders and, with a few tugs, his shirt was drawn over his head and fluttered to the floor. His chest and throat were pale as ivory, his shoulders broader than they appeared in the round-shouldered fashion of the day. John would have considered how much nicer disrobing Sherlock could be, baring that white throat to his lips, running his hands down that marble chest, but the thought broke his heart a little. He schooled his thoughts and his expression to his profession.
“Were your previous experiences with this drug intravenous?”
Sherlock nodded once, roughly, baring the crook of his arm where the skin was littered with tiny round scars. John examined their placement relative to the pale blue veins running below. He twisted Sherlock’s arm gently, comparing the two pin pricks from the current dosage.
“The dose was delivered into the muscle, Sherlock, instead of the vein. The symptoms may last longer than you’re used to as the chemicals slowly leach out of the tissue, though perhaps they will be less severe as well. Though with three doses, it could be quite the opposite.”
Sherlock didn’t comment, just turned his head to the side and let John examine him as he must.
The punctures on Sherlock’s upper arm could wait. They were deep but had already stopped bleeding and there was little that could be done. John dampened one cloth, set it aside, letting a second soak in the bowl of warm water. He took Sherlock’s hand in his and peeled away the handkerchief. It stuck in one spot where the blood had dried, but Sherlock didn’t even wince. He stared icily at the fireplace. John bathed away the blood so he could judge the depth of the cut.
“You won’t need any stitches,” he decided once the scratch was bared. “We’ll have to watch for infection, especially with the sorts of things you get your hands into, but it should heal just fine on its own.”
Sherlock didn’t answer, didn’t speak even when Matthews brought a tray into the room with a pot of coffee, though his nose twitched at the warm smell of the roast beans.
“Bring that to Mr. Holmes’ room,” John ordered. Matthews jumped a little; John still had a touch of the Captain Watson in him. “Then come back down and help Mr. Holmes to bed.”
“Yes, sir, of course, sir.” The tray rattled a bit as Matthews moved instantly to obey. John sighed a bit and wrapped Sherlock’s hand in a length of bandage. Once that was taken care of, he took the damp cloth he’d set aside and wiped away the blood crusted on the back of Sherlock’s arm.
“It will be difficult to judge whether infection has taken hold, since you indicated fever as an effect of the drug. I shall have to examine the scratch from time to time to make sure it isn’t red or swollen. If it begins to pain you unusually, do tell me.”
Sherlock tossed his head, presumably in acquiescence, though John couldn’t be sure. He didn’t press the issue, however. When Matthews returned to the sitting room, hovering beside the sofa, Sherlock heaved himself up using his good hand and clearly gathered all his self-control to walk to the stairs to his room unassisted. Once there, he made use of the wall to prop himself up and Matthews followed close behind with care, but he staggered up under his own power.
John followed slowly behind, arriving at the bedroom door in time to see Matthews, having already removed Sherlock’s footwear, assisting with the buttons of his falls. Sherlock’s long, bare back was towards the door as he perched indolently on the far edge of his bed. His dark hair curled just slightly about the nape of his neck. It looked soft. John wanted to run his fingers through it, and down that straight spine.
John had to scold himself, remind himself that there was no point in looking. The pang remained; however, he busied his thoughts.
John realized he’d never seen Sherlock’s room before, though Sherlock had visited his. It was Spartan in nature, kept tidy by Matthews and devoid even of books as if Sherlock only ever dressed and undressed in there. John hadn’t witnessed Sherlock approaching the room with the intention of sleeping yet.
It was slightly smaller than John’s, with no sitting area by the fireplace. The wardrobe was more austere and the screen in the corner merely functional, where John’s furniture was elegant and expensive. Had Sherlock deliberately given John the better room, or did he just care so little for his surroundings that he decorated for himself perfunctorily?
Matthews was worth every penny of his pay, however, for he soon had Sherlock in nothing but his drawers, reversed his step quickly when Sherlock refused a nightshirt with a shake of his head, and had the bed turned down before John could even fully take in the room. Sherlock slid under the covers, arms curled around his pillow in such a way that his back to his waist was stretched.
“You should have a little coffee, Sherlock, or I can send for tea if you prefer.” At the negative-sounding grunt from the depths of a feather pillow, John sighed. “You really should try to eat or drink a little something. No? Very well. Matthews, do bring up the chair from my sitting room if you can, and the book from my nightstand. I’ll be spending the foreseeable hours observing Mr. Holmes.”
“Yes, sir, of course, sir.”
John stood by the bedside being ignored until Matthews had ever-so-carefully hauled the wingback armchair from John’s bedroom up the stairs step by step and placed it a few feet from the bed. Then he sat and was ignored.
John drank his coffee. Sherlock’s shoulders moved with every breath, or he would have felt the need to check his vitals continuously.
“If you really must remain, you will take notes,” Sherlock said after long silent minutes.
“Notes, John, observations on my condition, details of my vital signs. This is an experimental dosage of an unknown strength of drug. It would be useful to compare the series of effects in comparison to previous reactions to doses I’ve recorded. That is to say, I’ve had recorded. It is a trifle difficult to retain a scientific demeanor throughout the process. I shall dictate to you as I am able and you will record your observations ever quarter hour as I am not.”
“Agreed,” John replied, if only because then he’d be allowed to check Sherlock’s vitals regularly without receiving complaint. “You have notes on previous experiments with this drug?”
Sherlock muttered an affirmation.
“Might I see them?”
“No, not as of yet. It might skew the data.”
John settled in with a portable writing table Sherlock demanded Matthews retrieve from the first floor sitting room, listing the times (estimated to the best of his recollection) and details of the beginnings of Sherlock’s unexpected dosing. Sherlock dictated a few things he wanted recorded as well.
After the first interval, Sherlock intoned, “Bored,” when John takes his pulse. John notes that it has sped up noticeably from the last time and Sherlock must be aware of it.
“Would you like me to read aloud? It might distract you a while.”
“Dull,” he sulks, but doesn’t offer any further objection. John starts over from the beginning of the travelogue Matthews retrieved from his bedside table.
When two more intervals have passed, and the early winter dusk began to fall, John noted Sherlock’s skin glowing in the lamplight. His temperature had definitely increased, beads of sweat popping up across his forehead. Matthews brought a pitcher of fresh, cool water into the dim room, and John poured a bit of it into the washbasin he set on the nightstand beside Sherlock’s bed. John swept back Sherlock’s dark curls, pressing a cool, wet cloth against his skin. Sherlock kept his eyes closed until John required them open to examine the fever-bright orbs, but allowed John’s tender ministrations. If he appreciated the cool water on his brow, the back of his neck, his bare chest, however, he said nothing. He flinched, though, when John’s hands approached the sheets at his waist, so John quite deliberately avoided anything lower. When Sherlock felt the need to record his full reaction to the drug, he would.
John made sure to lift the dressings on Sherlock’s hand to examine the scratch every so often, but it showed no sign of inflammation or redness, nor did gentle probing of the two punctures reveal any swelling. He tried to keep his worry in check, telling himself that it was just the effect of a drug, not an illness that would take Sherlock from him. It would be over soon, no more than a day, surely, and it was nothing like the illness that John himself had suffered for weeks after his injury.
He offered food and drink every time he rose from his chair, thankful when Sherlock finally accepted water. He was certain there was at least a few minutes where Sherlock had dozed off, though he didn’t admit it when asked.
“It feels like insects are crawling all over my skin,” Sherlock voiced for the sake of the notes. John paused, pen in hand.
“Is it worse when I rub the wet cloth on your skin?”
“No,” Sherlock said reluctantly. “It… it’s almost too good. Like it’s the only cure against the incessant need.”
He didn’t speak, face buried in his pillow, for the next several intervals. John, in return, was a little extra generous in the application of his cool, damp cloth against Sherlock’s sweaty neck and back.
When Sherlock did finally speak, it was in response to a sound from downstairs. The knocker. Sherlock simply said, “Mycroft,” in an aggrieved tone.
“I’ll go downstairs, tell him you’re not available.”
“He’s not here to see me, anyway, John.”
John gave Sherlock’s flushed skin one last, soothing wipe-down.
“I’ll be back soon.”
John couldn’t help but flicker his eyes downward. He’d seen Sherlock’s torso bared to the waist despite the cool air of the room, but he’d allowed Sherlock a certain amount of dignity. It was impossible not to realize that Sherlock had become aroused since the last interval, and while John had recorded so in his notes, he hadn’t spoken aloud of Sherlock’s discomfort.
So when he left Sherlock a clean, dry cloth within arm’s reach, he did so without comment.
“I’ll give you some time before I check in on you again. Try to rest.”
“Lord Sherrinford. I most certainly did not expect you.”
John found the tall aristocrat standing in their public parlor, another room John hadn’t really stepped into since his marriage. He really ought to take some time to explore his own house.
“I did tell you once that I worry about my brother, Captain Watson. When he is injured, I will, of course, take the time to inquire about his health.”
“How did you know..?”
Lord Sherrinford merely raised one pale auburn eyebrow.
“Of course, what am I thinking?” John shuffled forward, gesturing for Lord Sherrinford to sit with the tip of his cane. “The servants are all in your employ.”
“So, Sherlock’s condition?” Lord Sherrinford prompted when John had settled into a chair of his own.
“He’s uncomfortable.” John was nearly as uncomfortable trying to decide how to answer Lord Sherrinford’s question. It was a delicate subject. “Victor Trevor managed to inject a dose of one of his serums into Sherlock at St. Bart’s this afternoon.”
“Yes, one of his aphrodisiacs, I heard. One Sherlock was quite enamored of at one time.” Lord Sherrinford shook his head slowly. “Sherlock is not reveling in his relapse? I suppose that is a good sign. And yourself?” The question came across so innocent, until John deciphered Lord Sherrinford’s meaning.
“And myself, what?” John snapped. “If this is the nature of your concern for your brother, you can…”
“Pax, Captain Watson,” Lord Sherrinford interrupted smoothly. “I apologize for my base curiosity.”
“It’s none of your fucking business,” John gritted out.
“Please do forgive me, Captain Watson. I so rarely deal with honorable men, particularly in Sherlock’s life.”
Lord Sherrinford’s calm, smarmy voice just grated on John’s nerves. Of all the devils to be cursed with as brother-in-law, he had to be saddled with a politician. John clutched the handle of his cane until his fingers ached.
“Forgiven.” That was an incredibly difficult word to say. John knew very well that it was his reaction to the question, not his answer that was the test Lord Sherrinford had given him. Nothing the man did was not completely deliberate, of that John was sure.
“Thank you. In return, you may ask what you wish of me. I will endeavor to be honest and forthright.” Lord Sherrinford leaned back in his chair, crossing one long leg over the other, giving the impression of a man comfortable and at his leisure.
“That’s quite a boon to grant, Lord Sherrinford.” Not that John felt he could trust it, but he’d take what he could get.
“Quite. My time is limited, Captain Watson.”
John cleared his throat, stalling as he considered what to ask first.
“He mentioned he was familiar with the drug he was given. He used to ingest it often?”
Lord Sherrinford’s mouth tightened. “For a time, I thought him utterly lost. Of course, that was only one reason why I disapproved of Victor Trevor.”
“And the other reasons?”
“Captain Watson, are you enticing me to indulge in gossip?” Lord Sherrinford’s tone was playful, but had sharp edges.
“I am merely trying to ascertain the danger to my husband, your brother. For all I know, he sought Sherlock out today. I am certain he took advantage of their proximity to use a previously prepared dose of a strong aphrodisiac, inject him with it, and attempt to abduct him. I do need to know what else I may expect from the man, now that this attempt has been partially thwarted.”
Lord Sherrinford folded his hands in his lap and stared at them awhile. When he spoke, he clearly chose his words very carefully.
“Victor Trevor is accorded the privileges of a foreign dignitary on our soil, Captain Watson. His obsession with my brother notwithstanding, he can be punished for very little except outright murder. However, given his prowess as a chemist, it is unlikely that any suspicions on that line would ever be proven. They certainly haven’t been in the past.”
“The past?” Lord Sherrinford could have meant that certain types of poisons were quite difficult to detect, but John didn’t get that impression. His stomach clenched.
“His father died at quite a convenient time, Captain Watson. Young Victor had achieved his majority and the Baron’s legal marriage to Trevor’s mother had come to his attention, rendering Victor a legitimate heir. With that said, no accusation of foul play has ever been more than whispered. Even Sherlock did not suspect at the time.”
“Sherlock was visiting there when Victor’s father died.” Sherlock had shared at least that much with John.
Lord Sherrinford inclined his head. “Of course, I have no jurisdiction over a crime that has taken place in another sovereign nation, but the events led me to keep a much closer eye on the relationship between Victor and my brother. It progressed very quickly to dangerous levels. Sherlock was never prone to excess, as such, but his curiosity knows no bounds. And Victor promised him every sort of indulgence, every sort of pleasure – always a new experience, more debauched and spellbinding than the last. Intoxicating substances such as the aphrodisiac Victor created, the opium pipe, women, men, often several at once, all of these were carefully contrived to keep Sherlock intrigued.”
John felt a bit deflated hearing all this so clearly. He’d begun to suspect when he’d met Victor this afternoon, more so when Sherlock confessed he’d taken an aphrodisiac before, but knowing how utterly Sherlock had been corrupted by Victor was disheartening.
“To this day, I do not know what happened to make Sherlock put all that aside.” Lord Sherrinford still sounded a bit astonished.
“I thought you had put a stop to it, honestly,” John replied weakly. “Locked him in his room until he saw sense or something.”
“If anything, my interference made it worse. No, Sherlock walked away from Victor one morning, quite on his own. Victor seemed certain he’d be back, but he hasn’t voluntarily entered that man’s presence in the year since.”
“Has Victor been pursuing him all that time?”
“Not at first. He traveled back to his home in Darmstadt, stayed quite out of the way for several months. It wasn’t until he returned to England in the summer that I started making inquiries for a husband on Sherlock’s behalf.”
“I see.” It was all John could find to say though a thousand things ran through his head. Why couldn’t you be bothered to assassinate Victor Trevor long before now? Would it be an international incident if it looked like an accident? Bar him from the country? What reason could one give for that? There is no proof, no legal argument even should Sherlock testify about the attempted abduction, and who would believe him about the drugs? Bribery? Hardly effective against someone as wealthy as the Baron. Blackmail? Doubtful that depraved bastard cared enough over any facet of his reputation to succumb to blackmail. Back ’round to assassination then, as simple reason would never work with a madman.
“I should let you get back to Sherlock, then.” Lord Sherrinford rose from his chair. John rose as well, automatically, though still wedged deep into his own thoughts. “Do send word if anything unexpected happens.”
“Of course, Lord Sherrinford.”
“And it seems unnecessary to say, but don’t eat or drink anything in the presence of Victor Trevor, Captain Watson. He does not seem to wish Sherlock permanent harm, but I highly doubt that concern extends to you. Goodnight.”
Lord Sherrinford exited the room and let himself out the front door. Matthews was nowhere in sight, though Mrs. Hudson was lingering in the hall.
“Shall I send up some supper, Captain Watson? You must be hungry, even if Sherlock is not.”
John wasn’t hungry, either, not now, but he allowed a tray might be sent upstairs. The coffee he’d drunk earlier felt bitter and roiled in his stomach. He should have sent for tea, something calming. He began to wearily trudge up the two flights of stairs to Sherlock’s room, leaning heavily on his cane.