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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Gambling!John and Wattpad

Last night upon posting chapter 62 on ff.net and AO3, I wrote out a massive author’s note talking about certain details I used in the story (because we all know I research way too much) and also about a story I worked on all day Saturday, much to my own chagrin.  It isn’t as if I need another unfinished work to haunt me!  Lazarus Machine is running over 80,000 words in my file (around 75K posted, finished words) and I’ve been having trouble figuring out precisely how my next Huntsman chapter will work.  I posted a second chapter on Wanderer and have been trying to get the third to coalesce as well.  Not to mention I haven’t done a lick of work on Ethne’s story, which I wanted to have edited by the end of the month, but that just isn’t happening (though I have made a cover for it, so I can post on Wattpad looking semi-professional; I loathe the LazMac cover I put there).

Which brings me to Wattpad.  I started posting Lazarus Machine there, which has received no response as of yet.  That’s fine, it’s still in the early chapters and it’s probably much harder to find on a bigger site, but I do have a few opinions.  First, what is up with the tags?  I hate that you can’t put a phrase as a tag.  “Arranged marriage” becomes a meaningless “marriage” in one part of the list and “arranged somewhere else totally different.  And formatting transfers fine except that the double spaces between paragraphs turn into triples, so I have to go through and fix that before posting.  At any rate, I am just hoping I start getting some views there as well.

Anyway, so this new story I’m working on is called Gambling!John in my head (much in the way Lazarus Machine is called RegencySherlock in my head).  It’s not made much of, but in the original stories, John liked to gamble a little.  As author, Watson wasn’t going to go thoroughly into his own vice, I expect, but it is mentioned as part of the reason he’s looking to flatshare.  So as I was writing RegencySherlock in the early stages, I pondered incorporating this into the story.  I saw John Watson at the Diogenes Club, which had transformed into a gambling hell instead.  I saw Sherlock catching a glimpse of this man, perhaps yet again.  I tried several scenarios in my head, added a bit of a previous glimpse at John at Gentleman Jackson’s Boxing Saloon, just to get John a bit undressed mind you, and wrote a few pages.  Then I let it go because I had nowhere really to go with the story, no plot to speak of, and no real time to focus on it.

Skip to Friday night last week and I mentioned it to a friend somewhat vaguely, and opened my file, surprised I had a good four or seven (can’t recall) pages written.  I read through it and considered the story.  I had several scenes I wanted in the story, and one that I had conjured for Regency Sherlock but just wasn’t going to work as much as I liked it, and suddenly, plot popped up!  I could write it out as a casefic for the plot, the interactions between Sherlock and John would fit in perfectly… and suddenly I was 27 pages in by the end of Saturday.

This reminds me of something about procrastination which I’m not going to look up now, that people who procrastinate generally get something done, even if it’s not what they feel they ought to be doing.  They are not doing it out of laziness, but more out of a sense of prioritizing (whether faulty or not).  That’s how I feel about it as well.  I did not finish chapters on the stories I ought to, but I wrote 20 pages that day and I can be satisfied with that.

And never fear, I finally did make it through Chapter 62 Wednesday night!  I’m still plugging along, even though I rather grimly note that Lazarus Machine is turning into 100K word epic.  (I read a fic or two that are in the 200K range, so I aspire to finish it well before that!)

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Umnichka John and chapters 59-61

So on April 1, I posted about The Lazarus Machine being translated into Russian.  (Actually, not a joke!)  Ten chapters have been posted so far and I’m rather enjoying the totally incomprehensible translations by Google Chrome on the comments.  There was one particularly lovely one that had the awkward elegance of a haiku.  It read:  Bogged down in silent delight.  Each new chapter — a small masterpiece.  🙂  I kind of want to stitch that on a sampler.

Another thing which is interesting with Google Translate is that not all words manage to get translated.  For whatever reason, some words go from Cyrillic letters to Latin lettering, but they don’t actually translate.  I like to look them up to get the gist of the meaning.  One of these words, my absolute favorite, is “umnichka,” particularly in its reference to John (in the original comment).  It is apparently an endearing word relating to “clever.”  So “umnichka John” makes me melt a little.  🙂

Another reader has requested permission to translate it into Chinese, though that has not started yet as far as I know.

I’ve also been considering uploading this particular story to Wattpad.  I had originally decided not to, being that this is fan fiction, but after seeing how much fan fiction was already on there, I felt considerably more comfortable.  Though it needs to stop recommending One Direction fan fiction to me.  Honestly, I wouldn’t even know who they were except I like iCarly!

In conjunction with infiltrating Wattpad, I wanted to start finishing up some salable work.  Yeah, I know I’ve been saying that a long time.  It’s a lot less stressful to write fan fiction, I think, because the audience is already there and if you’re even halfway decent, you’ll get love.  Still, it’s time I really buckle down.  At any rate, on Wattpad I can post chapters as I’m finished editing, much like I do with Sherlock, and perhaps even a limited amount of feedback, I’ll be motivated to finish.

To that end, I started making a cover for Sherlock (and was browsing deviantart because I just like to) and have been pondering what I might do for a cover for Ethne’s story.  I’ve some hardcore decision-making coming up with regards to that story, but I do have some excellent ideas to add a couple of chapters to it!  So it’s in my head already!

Now to just actually FINISH something.  (Though LazMac has topped 70,000 words and I’m hoping, hoping, hoping, that it doesn’t top 100K.  Oh it probably will.  Egads.)

This week I wrote three chapters, 59, 60, and 61 in quick succession.  I had promised the third of those by tonight, Sunday night, and by midday Saturday, I was definitely regretting that promise!  I had been having a really hard time with 61.  I kept inserting so much angst because the phrasing was cool, but everyone was miserable and unhappy and the beginning of the chapter was so sunny.  I just loathed it.  I could not get the conversation to go right.  I rewrote it several times, tried out different concepts, even considered switching from John’s POV to Sherlock’s and seeing if it helped.  Nothing did.

I couldn’t even see the problem at first.  Why wasn’t it working?  Why did none of the conversation flow through the scene.  What was I saying?  What did I want to say?  And while I was at work this afternoon, trying on one of my breaks to (suffer through country music and) write the scene yet again, I realized what I would have to do was throw out three-quarters of what I’d written for it.  It was all wrong.  It galled me to do it, but it was so much better in the end.  It didn’t have that dismal tone, the characters didn’t make me want to cry, and best yet, they weren’t making each other cry!

Points all around!  So when I came home from work, I started several paragraphs earlier from where I’d been trying to work on the scene, cut everything, and wrote the scene.  I did still use a few bits and pieces from the original, from the eight different tries scattered on spare sheets of page-a-day calendars and notebooks and printouts, but it had an altogether more happy result.  And it still accomplished my initial objective!

So relieved.  Now I can watch tv for an hour without feeling (too) guilty.  And I’m looking forward to the next chapter I will be writing.  Yay.

Now, since I typically have been posting about every three chapters, here are 59, 60, and 61.  There are bits that are gross, and bits that are smutty 🙂  Enjoy!

 

 

Chapter 59

 

“John, we should perform a full autopsy on at least one body.  I’d like your assistance,” Sherlock said from where he’d commandeered Anderson’s desk in the corner.

“He’s not here, freak.”  Anderson’s snide voice grated on Sherlock’s nerves.  He was lucky the morgue attendant had kept quiet most of the day, sulking he’d been deemed extraneous when his own morgue was overflowing with bodies.  “He and Lestrade went to get dinner like normal people.”

Sherlock ignored Anderson, and soon after the man huffed and left, balling up his work smock and tossing it ineffectively at Sherlock.  John had mentioned food.  How long ago was it now?  Shouldn’t he and Lestrade be back?  There was a case on, after all!

And the case, the case, how messy it was.  Such a glut of murder.  Nothing but the most superficial similarities between the victims – strong, healthy people who would be missed, taken right out of their daily lives.  Sherlock wanted to talk to more of the families, pinpoint the places where they were last seen alive, find the connection between them all that made the murderer target them, collect them for his little spree.  Had they all visited the same sweet shop, crossed the same street, worn a particular color of clothing?  Or had it just all been happenstance?  Everything seemed so random: the victims, the abduction locations, the dump sites.  There had to be one miniscule piece that was missing.  Sherlock wouldn’t know it until he saw it, so he couldn’t exactly look for it.

Five hands, four feet, three heads, and then eight bodies!  Sherlock had initially postulated a countdown with the first three deposits, but this last day had breached the pattern.  The initial delivery of hands had been followed at length by the feet, but the heads and torsos were discovered in a considerably shorter window.  Had the killer gotten bored with waiting for Sherlock to catch up?  Or had something else happened to make the killer change his methodology?

Sherlock was used to catching up to criminals fairly quickly.  This one, though, seemed to leap ahead each time Sherlock nearly had his thoughts organized.  He was falling further behind each day.  That was infuriating.  However, ire and exasperation would only serve to distract him.

Distractions…  He had so many these days.

Sherlock took a sip from the cup of hot tea in his hand.  Then he blinked.  When had he been holding tea?  A burst of laughter in the previously quiet room caught his attention.  John and Lestrade were back.  John.  He must have slipped the cup directly into Sherlock’s hand while all his attention was devoted to his thoughts.  Sherlock took another sip, pushing aside the wrapped pasty also left nearby.  Distraction.

John hovered over Lestrade, who had perched on a stool, rifling through a stack of papers six inches high.  The files.  He must have either fetched them from Bow Street, or, more likely, sent one of the other runners for them.  Either way, he and John had their heads bent over the stack, obviously looking for the names Sherlock had mentioned earlier.  John was standing too close to Lestrade, Sherlock thought, even as he berated himself for the bubble of emotion.  He tamped it down to an innocuous annoyance.

“John, I need your assistance with an autopsy,” Sherlock declared.

“Oh, of course.”  John clapped Lestrade on the shoulder before walking to a wall hung with hooks and borrowing a clean smock to cover his clothing.  “Anyone in particular you want to start with?”

It wasn’t likely to matter, so Sherlock chose a body at random and they started the meticulous dissection and documentation.  He drew one of his thin leather gloves over his scratched hand, not wanting to irritate the wound with chemicals or filth from the body.  Due for another trip to the glovers quite soon.  Must tell John to remind me.

He and John worked well together, Sherlock noted an hour later.  John made quick, deliberate, professional cuts into the body in front of him, as he would, and sometimes made observations on the quality of the organs or preservation from the point of view of someone who had seen this many times.  Sherlock had spent time in anatomical studies, but he had nowhere near the medical and surgical experience John had.

The body had been cut open once before and stitched back together, as if the killer wanted to glory in his own handiwork.  None of the internal organs had been damaged in any way, though the muscles of the abdominal wall had been removed to reveal what lay below and replaced.  The initial cuts through the skin had allowed the body to be lain open completely and the interior observed as in a scholarly dissection.

Both he and John marveled at the expertise with which this had all been done.  It really was quite amazing how the heart looked like it could beat at any moment, had there been any blood to circulate.  The lungs were pink and fresh and ready to draw air.  There was no scent of putrefaction at all and each organ was properly firm.  Even the dismemberment was skilled; time had been taken, amazing dexterity had been implemented.

Sherlock drew samples from within the body, bits of tissue and several volumes of liquid.  He would test these later, hopefully narrowing down the chemicals involved.  He felt he could rule out the common arsenic salts just by the quality of the preservation, but further tests were certainly required.

“Sherlock?”

He’d been lost inside his own head again, watching John’s steady hands closing up the body.  The hour was late, by the insignificant glow of the lamps, yet John had no complaint about his leg, which must be aching.  If anything, he seemed unsuitably cheerful.  They’d gone over the body with detailed precision, but found nothing that was any help at all.  Despite Sherlock’s interest in it scientifically, this was not a case to be solved in the morgue.

“Sherlock?  Did you want to examine another body?”

“No.  We can extrapolate the condition of the rest from the results.  It hasn’t provided any clues beyond the initial visual examination.  Not worth the time.”

“Very well.  So what’s next?”  John clipped off the end of the heavy thread and started tidying the area.

“Where’s Lestrade?”

“He left nearly an hour ago; did you not notice?”  John’s face held humor, but none of the biting snideness of Anderson’s similar comment.  “It is long past supper.  Speaking of which, you haven’t eaten all day.”

“Food slows me down,” Sherlock replied mechanically, moving to gather his samples together into a leather case.

“Food fuels the body and brain, Sherlock.  We’ll go home and see if Mrs. Hudson has anything to tempt you.  Really, that woman is a saint, putting up with you not appreciating her fine cooking.”

“I do appreciate it.  Just not when I’ve got a mystery to solve.”

“Well, this mystery is too complex for you to deny yourself food for the duration.  You will come home and eat.  I will not require anything else from you for the rest of the night, not sociability, nor silence, nor sleep.”

Sherlock agreed to John’s terms before the doctor finished putting away their tools and cleaning up, taking great care that they scrubbed their hands, not knowing yet what sort of chemicals were involved in embalming the bodies.  Sherlock disposed of his ruined glove.

John helped Sherlock into his greatcoat and then put on his own.  Sherlock flagged down a hack with his usual aplomb.  He directed the driver to take them to Baker Street and sat back against the bench observing John in the fluttering glow of passing gaslights.

John’s sitting slightly angled on the bench so he can stretch his bad leg out without interfering with my leg room.  His eyes are closed; he’s weary.  It has been a long day and John was up late last night taking care of me.  He didn’t complain, though, not once about being tired or pained, though he must be aching.  He should go to bed when we get home.

I want to go to bed with him.

Alarmed by his own thoughts, Sherlock gasped.  John stirred.

“Something the matter, Sherlock?”  His voice was sleepy, relaxed, slightly concerned.

“No, no,” Sherlock covered hastily.  “I only just realized that we ought to visit Irene.”

“Lady Adler?  What on earth for?”  John’s voice changed, became more tight and clipped.

“She is known for her intellectual salons.  Many men of learning cross her threshold.  She may have heard something that will be of use, some bit of information she doesn’t realize she holds.”

“Oh, I suspect the lady knows exactly which bits of information are useful to others.  She’ll want you to play her game for them.”

“Hmm, perhaps.  If we surprise her, though, she may inadvertently reveal something.”

“I should like to know what you think will surprise the lady.  Though I suppose turning up in the late evening, when she is no doubt entertaining, and scented with eau de morgue might suitably qualify.”

“We are not going now, John.  Simply arriving may do so, particularly given our interactions the last few days.  I shall think upon it.”

The hack pulled up in front of their Baker Street home.  Sherlock bounced out onto the cobbles.  John didn’t follow immediately.

“Sherlock,” his voice said hesitantly from inside the dark recess of the cab.

“Yes, John?  Oh, your leg.  Here, let me assist you.”  Sherlock half-climbed back inside and let John put a hand on his shoulder for leverage and balance.  It was awkward, but soon John was sighing at the foot of their steps.

“Will you make it up the stairs on your own?”

John paced back and forth a few minutes.  Matthews stood at the open door patiently before John felt fit enough to attempt the steps up to their door.  Sherlock couldn’t help but linger a little too closely.

“You’re threaten me with your cane like some ornery old codger, John.”

“Stop hovering, then!”

“Swear you won’t tumble down the stairs arse over teakettle and I will.”

John started to laugh, but the burst of merriment gave him the energy to make it all the way to their private rooms on the first floor.  Sherlock couldn’t help but chuckle along with him, so diverting was the sound of John’s laugh.

“Matthews, see if Mrs. Hudson can send up a small supper before Sherlock takes over the table again with his experiments.”

“I have not had time to properly set up my laboratory space, John, and the light is better upstairs anyway,” Sherlock defended.

“Heaven help the state of our sitting room,” John said, chuckling again to show he wasn’t truly piqued.

As it turned out, Mrs. Hudson had a lovely stew ready to serve almost immediately, so Sherlock set aside his case of samples forlornly and tucked into the small dinner table in the corner of their sitting room.

After a few hearty mouthfuls, John tore into the loaf of crusty bread between them.

“So you really believe Lady Adler will have some clue for us?”

“I could skulk around the scientific academies for days and learn less than I would spending an hour at Lady Adler’s.”

“No doubt,” John muttered, sopping up some of his gravy with a hunk of bread.

“Should she be forthright,” Sherlock continued, as if he hadn’t heard.

“I don’t like the idea of you going there.”

“I told you, John, she is all taunt and tease, like a cat with a mouse.”

“A cat will eventually bite the head off its prey, Sherlock.”

But John eventually acquiesced, so long as Sherlock promised to not attend Lady Adler without him present.  John stayed at the table long enough to be certain Sherlock kept his promise to eat then excused himself to bed.  When he moved past Sherlock, John rested his hand on Sherlock’s shoulder and squeezed gently.

“Goodnight, Sherlock.”

Sherlock was too distracted by the pleasant sensation that thrilled up his neck at the touch to respond.  If John thought that Sherlock was completely diverted by setting up his samples and beakers and test tubes, then that was acceptable.

Once John was gone, Sherlock let his hands fall into his lap and stared blindly at his equipment for more than a moment.  His mind spun with thoughts that had nothing to do with the paraphernalia in front of him, nothing to do with the mystery.  Instead they were muddled and all about John.  He remembered the small kiss placed on the corner of John’s mouth at their wedding ceremony, the gentle kisses he gave Sherlock that evening in the garden.  Gave, without demanding anything.  Sherlock wanted those sweet kisses again.  And he wanted to respond properly to them this time.

Damnation!  John was nothing but a complication, a vexation, an instrument of devilish temptation.  Sherlock had sworn to hold himself to much higher standards than the common man and until John, it had almost been easy.  John, all charm and kindness, John who eagerly enjoyed Sherlock’s company, John…  John, who just now, without even being present, seduced Sherlock from irritation and anger to soft sentimentality.

Sherlock sighed, defeated, and moved to set up his first experiment, one whose chemical reactions would take most of the night to develop.  He very deliberately schooled his thoughts on his upcoming tasks, reciting each step loudly in his head to overpower any other thoughts.

 

Chapter 60

 

It was hours later when Sherlock was startled away from the observations of the precipitate in one of the six test tubes in the rack in front of him.  He lifted his head to monitor the silence of the house.  Matthews and Mrs. Hudson had long since gone to bed and Sherlock had yet to see the meek little maid since his marriage, though he’d met her when he’d first moved in long enough to instruct her to never, ever, not once, not even to look, step foot in his lab.

The sound transpired again.  This time, Sherlock heard it quite distinctly.

“Please, God.”  It was a desperate entreaty, half-sobbed.  Sherlock rose without thinking anything other than, John.

The resounding crash of a considerably amount of glass shattering made him hurry.

“Get down!  Get down!  Murray, I need some help over here!”

Sherlock swung open the door.  The lit lamp still flickered by the door, thankfully, and had not set the room ablaze.  The victim had been an unlit lamp by the bed, though John was hovering precariously close to the pool of oil and glass.

“A tourniquet!” John barked from his position on the floor before he crashed to his side on the floor with a roar.

Alarmed, Sherlock flew to John’s side, desperate that he not fling himself into the glass and injure himself.

“John, John, wake up.  John Watson, it’s Sherlock.  It’s Sherlock.  We’re home in Baker Street, in London.  John!”

John’s eyes were open but unseeing.  His lips moved.  Please, God, let me live, he said, making no sound.  Please, God, let me live.

“John, John,” Sherlock begged, bringing John’s stiff body into his arms as close as possible.  “You’re alive.  You’re home.  You’re in London.”  Sherlock repeated everything he could think of to bring John out of his nightmare.  “You came home to England.  Your leg healed.  You got married four days ago.  I’m your husband, Sherlock Holmes.  You’re fine, you’re fine, I’ve got you.”

Sherlock could feel John’s heart pounding much too hard and much too quickly.  His breath came in wheezing gasps that sounded too much like Sherlock’s when he’d been strangled.

“John, you’re safe.  You healed.  You’re fine.”  Sherlock held his husband tightly and John wasn’t fighting his grasp.

“I’m not fine,” John finally uttered.  The words were weak, but they were conscious words.

“You’ll be fine,” Sherlock amended.  “You’ll be fine.  Let’s get you back to bed.”

“Can’t,” John replied, shaking his head.  Sherlock detected the strain in John’s voice.  He ran his eyes over John’s body, quickly marking the twitching and tightened muscles in his scarred leg.

“I can help.”  Sherlock laid John’s upper body back on the floor, then knelt beside him, careful of the glass nearby.  He quickly determined the muscles contributing to the worst of the pain and laid his hands on the bottom of John’s foot and the lower part of his shin.  Pressing on the calloused ball of his foot stretched out the shortened calf muscle, the gastrocnemius muscle; bearing down on his shin kept his knee straight.  He knew that John also often felt pain in the peroneus longus and brevis, the former of which had sustained some damage.

John gave a bit of a grunt, but soon let out a breath in relief.  Sherlock continued his massage, rubbing the afflicted muscles until he felt them relax.

“It’s always worst when they come together,” John said, moving his arm over his eyes.  “The pain heightens the dreams, makes them so vivid.”

“Do you want to talk about your nightmares?”

John didn’t respond.

“You were dreaming about getting injured, yes?”

“Yes.  It’s not always that, and I don’t always lash out as much.”  John moved his arm from his eyes and pushed himself up into a sitting position.  Sherlock lowered his foot to the floor and pressed his fingers into John’s leg just above his knee.  “Oh, I’ve broken the lamp.”

“Don’t worry about it.  It can be replaced.”

“I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

“No, of course not,” Sherlock replied with some curiosity.

John let himself slump down between his propped up arms.  “I gave Harry a black eye once, when I first got back.  I don’t remember it happening; I was in the grips of a fever and didn’t surface until it had healed, but he made sure to tell me.”

“He deserved it.”

Sherlock said this so mildly and matter-of-factly that John had to laugh, shaky though it was.

“Can you get back into bed now?  It’s awfully cold on the floor and you’re only in your nightshirt and drawers.”

“Yes, I think so.”  It was easy with Sherlock’s help.  He ducked under John’s arm and lifted him back onto the mattress.  The sheets and counterpane were entirely askew, so Sherlock stripped them free and remade the bed with John in it.  Then he stirred up the fire while John stared resolutely up at the ceiling.

“I could get my violin and play for you, or read aloud.  I know you like to read when you’ve woken in the middle of the night.”

“You don’t have to do that.  I’m sorry to have interrupted your…” John flickered his eyes over Sherlock, still fully dressed with the clock near to striking two, “experiments.”  It was clear he hadn’t been sleeping.  Clever John, my deductive protégé.  Sherlock almost beamed at him.

“It’s fine.  There is an occasional lull in waiting for a reaction.  Nothing will set on fire if I don’t return to it until morning.”

“Morning?”

“I wish to try another experiment, John.”  Sherlock bit on his lower lip, not quite looking at John lying so comfortably in bed looking back at him.

“What sort of experiment?”  John twisted his arm up behind his pillow, propping up his head just a little.

“Whether company in your bed helps you sleep better, or worse.”

Sherlock had kept an informal mental log of John’s sleeping habits along with the findings from his examination of his leg.  His sharp gaze could certainly ascertain the weariness in John’s eyes of a morning, the volumes John went through, and the amount of lamp oil spent to keep John aware of his surroundings in the dark of night.

“So you want to lay in bed and, what, watch me sleep?  I don’t think that will help.”

“Don’t be silly, John.  I will sleep as well.  Sympathetic somnolent sounds may be peaceful for you.”

“My tossing will keep you awake.”

“I don’t need much sleep, John.  It will be fine,” Sherlock replied quickly.  “If the experiment doesn’t help, we will cease and I’ll think of something else.  Besides, it may be handier if something like this happens again.  I will be alerted to your pain and your dreaming state and be in a position to help you much more quickly.”

John picked at the counterpane and his facial expressions betrayed his uncertainty.  Apparently, though, he could not think of a good enough reason to continue the debate, so he gave his assent.

“I’ll change into suitable nightwear and be back directly, then.”  Sherlock was glad the low yellow glow of the lamp masked his blush.  His stomach was flipping and he wasn’t certain how he would endure the hours until dawn lying stiffly in John’s bed.

 

Chapter 61

 

John woke slowly, surrounded by warmth and comfort.  He felt content to drift and doze with no pressing need to rise for the day.  He hadn’t woken so pleasantly in… goodness, it must have been years.  Before his injury when he woke with pain and nightmares, before the war when he woke to cannonballs and gunfire and the screams of young men.  It made him feel old briefly, to think of not having a pleasant rest since the years of his minority.  And even then, this luscious, languorous feeling was rare and fleeting.

Then the source of heat against John’s back shifted, awakening him to the fact that he was not alone in his cozy bed.  His heart gave a few thunderous thumps, but the rest of him remained intensely still, assessing the situation.  Sherlock.  Sherlock had climbed into John’s bed last night when John had woken in a panic, broken the unlit lamp near his bed, and had been found crouched on the floor unable to move.  The nightmares were worse than battle.  Fear of pain, he could understand, and fear of death.  The nightmares were fear in its purest form, undiluted and insurmountable, and John found them utterly debilitating.

So that led to Sherlock, quite logically, helping John into bed and back to sleep.  He said the sleep sounds of a bed partner might ease John’s unconscious mind.  And it truly helped.  John had drifted off to the sound of Sherlock’s regular breathing as he lay on his back in the bed, not sleeping but thinking, always thinking.  Though at what point Sherlock had curled up so tightly behind him, John couldn’t say.

John tried to relax, pretend he was still slumbering.  This was the most contact Sherlock had ever initiated, even if he was asleep and unaware.  It felt nice.  John wanted to imagine it meant more than just warmth on a cold night for a little while longer.  Sherlock’s warm breath on the back of his neck was pleasurable; his long fingers were splayed over John’s belly carelessly.  Sherlock’s lanky form was bent up against his, knees tucked behind John’s, groin firmly pressed against his buttocks.

And speaking of firm, Sherlock’s body was displaying a certain tumescence, though whether from dreaming or proximity to another body in bed, John couldn’t be sure.  Sherlock shifted and pressed a little closer; the resultant friction prompted a breathy sigh against John’s nape.  Sherlock’s lips were so close to John’s skin he could feel their heat.  John felt his own arousal stirring, especially when Sherlock’s fingers tightened around his waist, pulling him closer.

John felt the pleasure like a vigorous fluttering inside; when Sherlock’s lips pressed solidly against the curve of his trapezius muscle, the fluttering coalesced into a full-body shudder.  The cords of John’s neck vibrated under Sherlock’s lips much like the violin strings did under his bow and fingertips.

John’s reaction escalated when Sherlock’s fingertips slipped below John’s navel in a blatant caress.  His nightshirt had rucked up in the night; it would have left him bare from the waist down had he not decided to start wearing drawers to bed.  Sherlock’s fingers danced below the muslin of his drawers, teasing the bared skin of John’s belly.  John laced his fingers with Sherlock’s, halting the downward movement of his hand.  It wouldn’t take much more of this for John to achieve a full cockstand.

Twisting in Sherlock’s arms didn’t stop the sensual assault, but heightened it.  John’s breath caught in his throat as Sherlock’s lips brushed along his jaw, over his morning-rough cheek, and finally over John’s mouth.  Trembling, John returned the kiss.  God, those perfectly etched lips, so soft, he thought, tracing his tongue just along the moist edge.  When Sherlock’s lips engulfed his more passionately, John responded with a husky, “Sherlock,” moaned into that voluptuous mouth.

The repercussion of John’s voiced desire, however, was that Sherlock suddenly became very aware of his surroundings and he pulled back, eyes wide in alarm.

“John, I… didn’t intend for the arrangement of bed sharing to culminate in my unconscious molestation of your person.”

“Sherlock…”  But Sherlock did not allow John to voice his desire.

“No, no, the indiscretion was unforgiveable,” Sherlock blathered as he slid to the far side of the bed.  “I believe the experiment was a success up until that point.  You did not wake from further violent dreams.”  Sherlock’s face was red to his ears and down his long neck, but he kept talking, not hearing John’s pleaded repetition, “Sherlock, please, it’s fine…”

“Apparently my control grew lax as I abandoned my deductions and thought to succumb to a few hours of sleep.  I had only intended to assist in your untroubled slumber.”

“Sherlock, I didn’t want you to stop!” John shouted in his captain voice as Sherlock slid off the edge of the bed and reached for his banyan.

Sherlock’s utterances stumbled to a stop.  He blinked.

“Please, Sherlock, don’t run away,” John said in a much more tender tone.  “I want to talk about this.  Please?”  John shifted so he sat against the headboard with his pillow cushioning his back.

Sherlock wrapped the damask of his banyan around his body, but perched cross-legged on the foot of the bed facing John, the full diagonal space yawning between them.  John mused that neither of them were particularly comfortable, in multitudes of ways.  Still, he smiled.

“First I wanted to tell you that I very much enjoyed what we were doing and I would like it if we did more of that.  I feel I must be blunt.  I am attracted to you.  I want to share a bed with you.  I want to share pleasure with you.  I am aware you are not interested me the same way.”

“I should think this morning’s rather stimulating circumstance would have corrected that idiotic notion of yours, John.”

“So… you are attracted to me?”  John wanted to believe this.  Still, there was one thing that plagued John’s mind, something he had to hear refuted directly.  “But just after Victor drugged you, you said that you didn’t want me.”  John hated that his voice sounded the least bit tremulous.  He steeled himself for Sherlock’s response.

“I said no such thing.”  Well, John hadn’t been expecting that.

“I remember quite clearly.  You, on the other hand, were under the influence of a mind-altering substance.”

“I still remember what I said.  I told you that I did not want you like that, with the drug, with the situation under Victor’s control.  That is why I was going to go with him, to keep you safe.  When you came out after us, I had to muster every bit of control I had left to deflect his pin-ring.  I couldn’t bear to see you sullied with such an obscene chemical.”

While John stared at Sherlock with no response and a warm, bubbling fuzziness in his belly, Sherlock continued speaking.

“I do find myself frustratingly attracted to you.”  Sherlock admitted this in the same way a child might mutter an ashamed apology.

“Then we both want more, yes?  But if you are not ready for more, are not comfortable with that, all you have to do is tell me.”

Sherlock picked at little nothings on the counterpane.  “We both know I am no innocent, John.”

“That doesn’t matter, Sherlock.  You are not accustomed to me, and I am not accustomed to you.  We are new at being together.  There’s always a bit of awkwardness at first, but I think we could get along quite well together.”

Sherlock didn’t answer.

“Sherlock, I cannot force you to love me.  That has to happen naturally or not at all.  But I will ask you to be honest with me.”

“I’m always honest, John, unless it serves my purposes to be dishonest.”  Sherlock’s biting candor was back, if slightly subdued.

“Then can I ask why you pull away?  Do you wish to not be intimate with me?  Or at all?”

Sherlock sighed and drew his legs up and looped his arms around his knees.  His bare feet and long calves poked out from beneath the fabric and he twitched a bit of blanket over them.

“Is it some form of religious or philosophical asceticism, like Victor said?” John asked delicately.  Various men of philosophy and science were known for taking such a vow, believing that the act of releasing one’s seed would somehow diminish the functions of the brain.  This sounded far too much like Sherlock.

“John, I should think you would know me well enough by now to realize I would hardly make random vows to try and appease a fickle deity.”  Sherlock dismissed Victor’s denouncement with an appropriate amount of scorn.  “But when I left Victor, I declared myself celibate for my own reasons.  I had not considered Mycroft’s choice of spouse would be such a source of temptation.”

For all that this wasn’t precisely what John wanted to hear, he was a bit relieved.  He tempted Sherlock.  He could work with that.

“The whole business of matrimony and sentiment is perplexing, I admit that.  And sexual pleasure is most certainly a distraction from the crisp and proper workings of my mind.  It is an indecorous activity made pleasurable to ensure the propagation of the species.  I do not personally feel the urge to procreate, so I felt confident in my ability to sever myself completely from the business.

“I intended to live my life with focus and purpose, forsaking all unnecessary distractions.  I had previously allowed pleasures of the flesh to diminish me to a mindless wretch and I despised myself for it.  I had so much wasted time for which to compensate.

“And then in the midst of my intellectual restitution, I find myself in the company of a man for whom I have the most unrelenting desire.  You’re always infiltrating my thoughts.  I want to say that I ought to have solved this mystery long ago were you not constantly distracting me, only you’ve proven so helpful that I wouldn’t have recognized several important factors that you yourself have pointed out.”

“So you do like me, then.”  John tried to stifle his grin, but there was little use.

“You are a companionable man, John, and a more than adequate physician.  Surely you do not need me to tell you this,” Sherlock replied with a weak touch of condescension.

“Actually, I do.  I’ve been trying to understand what I’ve been lacking, why my husband, whom I greatly admire, turns from me when I ache to kiss him so much.  And then when he does kiss me, it is the most wonderful feeling until he soundly rejects me again.  It was shaving bloody filings off my heart, Sherlock.”

“All the more reason not to have one.”

“Sherlock Holmes, you are not heartless.”  John gave Sherlock a fond look but Sherlock ducked his head away from it.  He scrambled off the bed.

“Lestrade informed me that I need to apologize more.  I am sorry, John, for rejecting you without telling you why.”

“Come back to bed, then.”  John smiled at his husband and reclined a little more, patting the empty mattress beside him.

“Don’t be a lay-about, John, it’s half-eight.  We need to hurry if we are to catch Irene still abed.  I’ll dress and return to help you through your stretches.  Ring Matthews for breakfast, will you?”

“Why on earth would we need to catch her abed, Sherlock?”  The maddening mind of a genius certainly had a thorough method of crushing ardor.  John knew Sherlock wanted to talk to Irene about the case, but why, precisely, would that pop into his head now of all times?

“She won’t be expecting it.”

“She’s met you, Sherlock.  I think that even entering her chambers before ten in the morning will not be a surprise,” John said dryly.  Perhaps someday, when they were old men, Sherlock would cease to surprise him.

“Perhaps I shall bring a squadron of street children to breakfast?”

John was startled into laughter.  “A trifle extreme, but it would be rousing.”

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Chapters 56-58, Lazarus Machine

My word count for Regency Sherlock is 72,507 including notes, something around 67,000 for posted, finished material.  Last night, writing chapter 58, I had to go back through my chapters and take brief notes as to what happened in each one.  I also counted which days had passed so that I might have some idea how long the boys have been married by the end of this section (4 days, jeez, it’s been a BUSY four days).  I wasn’t overly fond of this housekeeping but I found I couldn’t keep the plot altogether straight in my head.  The romance is easy.  The mystery plot, not so much.

I even found in doing this that I’d introduced a plot bunny and then completely forgotten it.  I honestly would have gone on to finish the story (after a few weeks/months) and just never mentioned it again.  Which is funny, in a way, but also a good reason to have a central outline, whether done before or after the writing of the chapters.  Helps keep track of what happened and what you need to do yet.

At any rate, I finished my chapter, started a little of the next (and the chapter after that is mostly written already mainly because I just really wanted to write that scene) so perhaps it won’t be ten days until I post another chapter!  I can’t believe how long it takes sometimes.  I really need to be better at writing on days I work.  It’s hard, though, because either I work early and don’t get enough sleep and I’m tired, or I sleep in and just putter around until it’s time to get ready for work.

I also want to add a project.  I want to Camp NaNoWriMo my Ethne story, finish it up and get it ready to publish.  Goals are helpful!  Not quite sure how I’m going to divvy up the daily goals.  Maybe 2000 words a day, since it is editing, and post the sections in a new file to keep track.  I’m not starting it today, though, since I’m yawning and have to be up for work in five hours.  At least most of the really hard work is already finished, the writing.  Not that editing is easy, but it’s not quite as terrifying as creating completely new content.

Also had some fun research tidbits pop up doing chapter 58.  In 1815, bodies generally weren’t embalmed and when they were, it was using poisonous chemicals that would be fairly harmful to those that worked with the bodies after, like medical students.  Modern American embalming methods arrived just as the American Civil War started, developed by a man named Thomas Holmes (b. 1817).  None of my research really talks about European embalming and it really wasn’t something I needed to know anyway.  🙂

Also, receiving houses are places set up by the Royal Humane Society along bodies of water like the Thames.  Attendants were trained in resuscitation and would try and revive victims of drowning, whether accidental or intentional.

Anyway, since this section of chapters is rather long, I’ll stop yammering.  Um, Chapter 56 is smutty.  Forewarned is forearmed.  🙂

 

Chapter 56

Sherlock gripped himself firmly once John’s footsteps down the stairs ceased to be audible.  His hand worked his cock quite efficiently, taking only minutes to relieve the pressure that had built up.  Momentarily, the pleasure whited out his mind.  When his eyes blinked open again, Sherlock felt more ireful than sated.  He cleaned himself with the soft cloth John had left for him then threw it across the room.  That Mycroft was downstairs proved Matthews was a well-paid minion of Mycroft’s, though that was no surprise.  Let Matthews find the defiled cloth in the morning.

Previously, Sherlock had always felt much more amiable on the drug – of course, he had never deliberately denied himself pleasure while imbibing, either.  The effects of abstinence were insufferable.  However, the thought of indulging was inconceivable.

So, intermittent self-release was clearly the only course of action.  This is infuriating, intolerable, unforgivable, Sherlock seethed.  The aftereffect of climax in his condition was a blessed moment of clarity, a brief respite before the agonizing desire ramped up again.  The cold lucidity wouldn’t last long, however, and in between, he’d soon begin to deteriorate into little more than a mindless beast.

This was the very reason Sherlock had deliberately shunned Victor and his drug – the constant arousal, the senseless drive of lust, the glee Victor had displayed when preparing the injection.  Sherlock had seen himself becoming little better than an animal, consumed by a maelstrom of carnal lust and rutting between any set of legs Victor opened before him.  It had taken too long to recognize Victor’s depraved divinity over Sherlock, the puppet for pleasure.  He’d been so stupid.

But John, John tended to him, stubbornly ignoring every shout, every insult, every declaration that Sherlock wanted to be left alone.  He didn’t see this loss of control as entertainment or a sign of Sherlock’s weakness.  He understood how this is an attack – how it had always been an attack even when it was self-inflicted.  And most importantly, he was not taking advantage.

Mycroft, his own brother, would have simply locked a couple of prostitutes in the room and let Sherlock shout abuse at them or indulge as he saw fit.  He would not have been caring.  He would have been disappointed in Sherlock’s failings.  He was likely downstairs voicing his disapproval this very minute.

Why was John behaving as he was?  Concerned.  Doting, even.  Sherlock pondered John’s own recent illness.  Clearly he recalled his own need for comfort in his distress, appreciated being cossetted, cared for.  Still, it seemed a trifle unlikely; John had burst out in a temper when Sherlock had pandered to John’s bad leg too much.  So what was the reason?

And John was being so insufferably kind.  Really, it was the most horrid thing.

But John’s presence was comforting; it was the only reason Sherlock had not yet gone mad.  John’s gentle voice distracted him from the burning in his veins, the heartbeat that seemed to throb outside of his body, the desperate feeling of dozens of hands all over his body.  The cool water John bathed him with eased the feverish symptoms, if only slightly, and made Sherlock feel warm in an entirely other way.

And why was he thinking about John anyway?  It was unlike Sherlock for his thoughts to be consumed by another person – not a criminal or a puzzle, that is.

It’s the drug, it’s all the drug, Sherlock tried to convince himself.  He wasn’t really enamored of John.  He didn’t really require John to smile at him, to assist him, to work by his side, to listen to his deductions.  He certainly didn’t want invite the man to his bed, rut with him insensibly, hear his moans and gasps of pleasure, hear that soothing voice crack when panting, “Sherlock.”  No, he didn’t want that at all; he needed it.

Sherlock heard John’s footsteps pause outside the door to his room.  John was apparently listening since the pause between his final footfall and his soft rap at the door was more than generous.

“It’s fine, John.”  Sherlock was in his finest sulk.  Not only was he stuck in bed, useless and unable to focus on anything but the sensations fogging his body, but he was embarrassed.  He was never embarrassed.  Annoyed, yes.  Indignant, wrathful, incensed, even, but not embarrassed.

John walked into the room, moving first to the fireplace where he shifted the coals around.  The firelight haloed him from Sherlock’s perspective.  He had removed his jacket while he was gone, left it in his room with Matthews most likely, and now exposed his shirt sleeves and his cream and gold waistcoat to Sherlock’s hungry eyes.  The winking golden threads reminded Sherlock of John’s hair, fair and glinting in the sun.  Sherlock saw himself bracing John against the wall, the man glowing in front of him like an idol.  He knelt behind him, worshipping him.  He could almost feel John’s firm arse in his hands.  He could feel the curve of it against his cheek as Sherlock poked his nose underneath that waistcoat to snuffle at the small of his back.

Sherlock blinked rapidly and took a deep breath.  The vision faded away and John stood there with a rather worried expression.

“I’m fine,” Sherlock assured.  “Hallucinations starting.”

John hid the worried crease of his brow, ducking his head, and moved to the desk to write this down very carefully.

“What did you see?”

“Irrelevant,” Sherlock answered.

John did not respond.  He carefully checked Sherlock’s temperature with his hand before laying the cool cloth on Sherlock’s forehead out of their established time frame.  Sherlock didn’t argue.

Sherlock went over the hundreds of details of the found and missing people in his head, trying to keep his mind occupied, going over and over each detail of the body parts being strewn so deliberately along the Thames, until the symptoms became too much.  Then he tried cataloguing each symptom and its intensity, dictating to John a scale of numbers which John dutifully recorded at the little writing desk.  Hopefully his observations wouldn’t be a hopeless jumble by morning, the ranting of a madman.

He ignored the needs of his body as much as possible, trying not to writhe against the sheets to pacify his over-sensitive skin, trying not to feel the discomfort, nor respond to the soothing pleasure of John’s repeated cool bathing of his forehead, neck and shoulders.

John read aloud for a while, and that was pleasant, when Sherlock could not direct his own mind anymore.  He could focus on that soft voice, the delighted hum that he added when something was amusing or ridiculous.  But there came a point in the night when even that was too much and the innocuous words seemed to float over his skin and the voice caressed him, blew softly in his ear, entered the most vulnerable parts of him.  He tried to beg John to stop, to be quiet, to leave him to his sensual misery, but he wasn’t sure if John heard him or if he’d just been babbling and moaning.

Sherlock wanted John in here with him, except that he didn’t.  Really, his mind was so horribly abuzz, how could he know what he wanted?  John gave Sherlock periods of privacy once an hour, discreet even in the leaving of a small jar of silky lotion on Sherlock’s bedside table.  Sherlock missed his calm presence when he was gone.  Still, he wouldn’t meet eyes with John when he returned, ashamed in his lucidity.  They did not speak of what happened in the interim.

Sherlock dozed for a short while sometime after the downstairs clock struck eleven, and when he woke, he demanded of John, “Have you been checking every fifteen minutes, John?”

“I let you sleep.  It seemed to… disturb you if I touched you too much.  You need to rest.”

John laid a cool hand on Sherlock’s forehead again before bathing away the heat and sweat.  Despite the sweat, he felt dry, so dry, like every drop of liquid was being forced from his body.  John made him drink each time he checked his pulse, but Sherlock imagined he would have to take a bath and let every inch of his skin drink in the water from the tub before he’d be satiated from his thirst.

“I’m awake now.”  Sherlock imperiously held out his arm for John to take his pulse.  When John had recorded his results and checked Sherlock’s pupils with the aid of a lamp, he bathed Sherlock’s forehead with fresh, cool water which Matthews must have brought up while Sherlock was asleep.  The radiating chill and clean scent overwhelmed Sherlock’s senses for a second.  If he reacted outside his own head, though, John showed no sign of it.  He merely wiped the sweat from Sherlock’s face and neck and replaced Sherlock’s damp, flat pillow with a cool, fresh one.  John’s pillow.  Sherlock buried his face in it and breathed in the scent of his husband.  He wanted nothing more than to do the same to John himself.

Sherlock tugged the sheet loose from the other covers and rolled himself up in it.  The fabric pulled tight against his skin – if he shut his eyes and let his mind truly wander, he could imagine it was another body pressed against his.  John’s.  No real point fighting it, though he still tried.

His fevered, drugged mind took hold of the fantasy and John was right there next to him.  Had Sherlock fallen asleep and woken to find John taking a well-deserved nap in his bed?  No, when Sherlock opened his eyes, he saw two of him.  Hallucination, then.  John the doctor had fallen asleep in the chair at Sherlock’s bedside, fully dressed with his robe wrapped over his waistcoat and shirt sleeves; he’d donned the robe as the night chilled.  John the lover was in Sherlock’s bed, bare and smiling.  He pressed against Sherlock’s back, arm around Sherlock’s chest holding him tight, giving kisses and little nips on the back of Sherlock’s neck.

Each little touch sent sparks through Sherlock’s body.  There was no mind now, no thoughts to interrupt the pure feeling.  John was pressed up to him; John was kissing him; John’s hand was stroking over his chest, his belly, lower and there was only John.  Sherlock turned to John, unable to resist kissing that clever mouth, tasting him, swallowing the other man’s moans and whimpers of pleasure.

Sherlock touched John like he could never touch him enough.  His hands skimmed over bare skin, firm muscle, scars, yes, even the scars on his leg.  Beautiful, so beautiful.  But John’s eyes were the most captivating.  Pale blue irises surrounded open, dark pupils.    They were crinkled at the corners from marching in the sun and from general good humor.  John’s eyes fluttered closed when Sherlock kissed him, opened to follow Sherlock as he moved to kiss John’s neck, shoulder, chest.

Sherlock pushed him flat against the bed, and John accepted Sherlock’s weight above him.  Their heated fumblings pushed Sherlock’s drawers down over his hips; once freed, Sherlock pressed his erect cock against John’s.  John’s moan of pleasure brushed against him like a sultry summer breeze.

John’s thighs rose around Sherlock’s hips as he thrust down against John.  Splayed beneath him, wrecked with pleasure, whimpering – John was as gorgeous a creature as Sherlock had ever seen.  He needed him, needed all of him, needed to be inside of him.  Sherlock abandoned his desperate movements to slip a finger into John, then two.  John urged him to hurry; he was as impassioned and frantic as Sherlock.  Sherlock eased inside with no more lubricant than was provided by his pre-come.  John didn’t seem to mind.  He implored Sherlock to move, that he couldn’t hold off, that he needed Sherlock.

Sherlock needed John, too.  And now he had him.

John’s hard cock rubbed between their bellies as Sherlock rocked into him.  Sherlock breathed hard against John’s skin, covering him so close and tight that he finally understood the ‘beast with two backs.’  They were one being together, writhing and grunting and moaning, but most importantly, one.

It ended too quickly, though the climax shuddered through Sherlock for long moments until he thought he wouldn’t be able to stand another wave.

“John, John,” Sherlock cried out, rutting against the rumpled sheets.  The empty sheets.  The lover John had disappeared and the doctor John was beside the bed to comfort him.

“Shh, I’m here, I’m right here.”  John must have woken from Sherlock’s exclamations of passion.  He was warm and sleep-rumpled, but he stood by the side of the bed quickly.  He soothed Sherlock with a cool wet cloth on his forehead, his neck, his chest.  What Sherlock wouldn’t give for that same treatment by John’s lips, but he can’t have that.  His breathing calmed as John bathed him, stroked light fingers over his brow and along the delicate skin beneath his eyes to judge his temperature – still elevated, but improved.  Hopefully, the drug’s effects would soon abate.

John untangled the sheet from Sherlock, stripped him of the linen drawers he’d managed to wear the entire night.  He cleaned Sherlock emissions most professionally and Sherlock lay still, unable to assist or resist.  Then John covered Sherlock with a clean, dry sheet and a thin quilt and sat down, eyes firmly on the pages on the writing desk.

Reality came to Sherlock as he surfaced from the fever-dream.  He rolled over, facing away from John’s patience and kindness.  Knowing John, feeling him wrapped around him, hot and welcoming, had been so gut-wrenchingly real.  He wanted John, every bit of John, but he doesn’t want this hormone-driven, lust-addled life.  He’d put it all aside, filled himself with the purity of the work.  The work had been enough, until John.  Now it would never be enough.

Despair.

 

Chapter 57

 

A faint knock at the door woke Sherlock.  The sun was beating against the drawn curtains; it was an unusually sunny day for this time of year in London.  A strong wind rattled the shutters just as Sherlock noted that there must be one to rid the city of the ever-hanging fog and smoke.

John slept on, oblivious to the sun and the visitor at the door.  He was going to be sore and stiff when he awoke, having slept in the chair all night.  He had his robe on and his feet propped up on the edge of Sherlock’s bed.  At some point, John had found a blanket as well, or Matthews had draped one over him.  Despite his uncomfortable position, he was sleeping peacefully.

Sherlock wrapped himself in his clean sheet and went to the door to keep Matthews from rapping again and waking John.  Matthews looked none the worse this morning for likely having been awake as late as John or later, ready to assist if needed or run any errand.  Sherlock made a shushing gesture and stepped into the hall.

“Mr. Lestrade is downstairs, sir.  He says it’s more than urgent.”

Sherlock ignored Matthews’ surprised, “Sir!  Your clothes, Mr. Holmes!” and flew down the two flights of stairs in nothing but his improvised toga.

Lestrade was in the public parlor waiting, pacing to be more precise.  He wasn’t taken aback by Sherlock’s dishabille, but intensely worried.

“Did another note arrive?”

“That’s not why I’m here, but yes.”  Lestrade handed Sherlock the folded and sealed sheet of paper.  Sherlock wasted not a second before he broke the seal and read the contents.

The three I freed cannot tell tales.

You won’t catch me before another ship sails.

“What does it say?”

Sherlock wordlessly handed over the paper.  He glared at Lestrade when the runner snorted, but Lestrade was not amused.

“It’s right, Holmes.  We’ve found at least eight bodies this morning, torsos, vivisected.  Lord Almighty, was that another whistle?”  Lestrade rubbed his hand through his hair.  “The watchmen are frantic this morning.  It’s one thing for a suicide or two to wash up, or a few frozen vagrants in the dead of winter, but this… this is…”  Lestrade cut off.

“No time to waste, Lestrade.  Where have they been finding the bodies?”  Before Lestrade could respond, Sherlock called out the doorway, “Matthews, clothes!”

“Three were found on the stairs to the Thames, much like the others, and one was propped up against a receiving station, but no one saw anything until the watch walked by at the six o’clock mark.  The others have been found in busy places.  I’ve every constable and runner I can contact searching for witnesses, but it’ll be hours before we have anything useful along that line.”

“I hope your colleagues have been keeping detailed notes on which body was found when and where.”

“We’re doing our level best, Holmes, to keep everything in proper order.”

“And the bodies are being transported to a central location?”

“Bart’s.  If we run out of slabs, there are surgical theaters.”  Sherlock nodded swiftly, finding relief that his mind seemed to be functioning properly this morning.  He would have an immense amount of data to categorize today and he couldn’t waste any more time on inconvenient bodily functions.

When Matthews appeared with a stack of clean clothing, Sherlock unwrapped his sheet and pulled the billowy shirt over his head and the drawers up over his bum with haste.

Seeing nothing he hadn’t seen before dealing with Holmes, Lestrade exited the parlor calmly and stood in the hall.

“Oh, good morning, Dr. Watson.”

Sherlock paused, almost flinched.  He quite deliberately pulled on his trousers and focused on tucking his shirt in.  Matthews fussed with his braces.

John made his way slowly down the steps.  “Good morning, Mr. Lestrade.  I take it there has been some progress in the case?”

“I’ll let your husband fill you in on the way to Bart’s.  Sherlock will have need of your medical expertise, I imagine, with the sheer number of bodies turning up.”

Sherlock swatted Matthews away from his neck cloth and tied it haphazardly himself while entering the hall.

“I will need to examine every body personally, Lestrade.”

“Of course, Holmes.  I’ll make sure they’re kept in state as much as possible.  Gentlemen.”  Lestrade ducked his head in adieu and flew out the door, his coat tails flapping behind.

Sherlock was all aflutter, with Matthews following in his wake trying to finish dressing him.

“I must fetch some of my surgical equipment from upstairs.  No, no, Matthews, I’ll get them.  It’ll take longer to explain what I want.”  Sherlock lunged up half the staircase, but John shifted minutely to block his ascent further.

“How are you feeling this morning?”

“Fine, fine!  Move aside!  There’s no time to waste.  I’m sure evidence has been lost simply because I overslept.”

Sherlock moved to the side, but John caught his face with his hands.  Sherlock was still two steps below John, putting John a head higher than him for once.  Those hands touched his neck, his face, his forehead, stroked his cheek.  For a brief second, Sherlock enjoyed the warmth and comfort of those tender hands before jerking out of John’s gaze and reach and retreating down one step.

“I’m fine, John!  The drug has fully metabolized.”  He wouldn’t look at John; his face flamed anyway.

“Very well, Sherlock.  But if you feel the least bit odd or ill, tell me.”  John didn’t quite look like he believed him, but he seemed satisfied enough with his brief examination.

“I will, John.  Now let me pass.  I’ve got to find the equipment I’ll need to bring along to Bart’s.”

John shifted aside to let Sherlock bound by.

“When you’re finished chasing after Sherlock, I’ll be needing a change of clothes as well, Matthews.”

“Yes, sir.”

Sherlock was heading back down the stairs before John had crested the first floor landing.

“I have no time for your leg this morning, John, so you’ll have to catch up.”

John’s voice was hollow as he responded, but Sherlock did not register the change as he pulled on his greatcoat at the foot of the stairs.

“Do you even wish for me to go to Bart’s?”

“I need an assistant, John, or I may well throttle Anderson by the end of the day!”

Sherlock was out the door before John could say another word, leaving him behind yet again.

 

 

Chapter 58

 

When John arrived at the morgue at St. Bart’s hospital less than a half hour behind Sherlock, he was surprised by the crush of people in the morgue itself, in the hall, bustling back and forth outside.  What he wasn’t surprised by was Sherlock’s bellow for every unnecessary personage to immediately exit the room so he could think.

John hated that this made him hesitate about going in.  Yesterday, last night, had been a disaster.  John had been able to put aside Sherlock’s blunt rejection of him due to medical necessity and common decency, but in the daylight, he felt awkward.  Sherlock had made himself clear.  And this morning on the stairs, Sherlock didn’t even want John touching him long enough to check his temperature, much less the bruising on his neck from being strangled.

John wasn’t sure quite what Sherlock wanted him to be.  He seemed amiable enough to John’s company, had spent whole days taking him around Town.  John would even go so far as to say that they seemed very well suited for each other.  But Sherlock judged him wanting in some way, and that grieved John more than he wanted to admit.

Really, John, you’re too damn sensitive where Sherlock is concerned, he scolded himself.  What happened to patience and learning where you two fit in each other’s lives?  You haven’t even been married a week yet.  He needed to try and be happy providing assistance and companionship if that was all Sherlock wanted.  Just be near him, just care for him.  Be his friend.

And maybe one day your heart will stop jumping at the sound of Sherlock’s voice or the sight of his lips.  

John took a deep breath, straightened his back, and pushed against the tide of people exiting the morgue.  Lestrade had said something about a quantity of bodies, and Sherlock had acquiesced that he would need an assistant.  There was no time for this self-pity and wallowing.  No time for longing and whinging.

John stood to one side of the door, watching for Sherlock’s head to bob above all the others.  Once again, his voice made him known before the sight of him emerged.

He was in a proper flurry, in his element, dashing from slab to slab and several wheeled tables which had been commandeered to hold extra and various dismembered pieces of smaller dimension.  The tails of his coat flared out behind him as he rushed about the room.  His dark curls, not properly tamed before he left the house, were charmingly unruly from the rough night and the morning breeze.

“John, excellent, you’re finally here.  Start a file for each body; interview the watchmen standing by each slab and take special note of where each body was found and in what position.  Note the compass direction as well when you make a sketch.”

John hadn’t even realized Sherlock noticed him entering the room, but he shed his greatcoat and began his assigned task, relieved that Sherlock apparently welcomed his presence.  He found sheets of paper and ink on the desk where he’d napped a few nights before their wedding.  He progressed to the nearest slab, where the watchman present looked the youngest and most uneasy, and started his notes.

The man had simply been doing his rounds without any alert called or distress from the few people out in the wee hours.

“It were quiet, sir, like usual in the stillness of the morn.  I almost wouldn’t have noticed the body except that it was set right in the glow of a gaslight.”  He answered John’s questions succinctly, quite professional for one so youthful, but John noted he kept his eyes specifically on either John or the far wall and never on any of the bodies in the room.  “On its… his back.  South, mainly, towards the river.  Well, the river bends, don’t it, so pointed towards the Thames, but not towards the nearest bank of it.”

John also took note of anything else that came to mind, including the man’s name and address, time on the job and whether this was his normal shift and beat.  He took rudimentary notes on each body to connect it to the watchman and location, so even if the papers got confused later, they could be properly sorted.  He moved on to the next watchman, and the next, and the room gradually began to clear.

The constant work cleared John’s mind, much like surgery after surgery often made him forget about the bloody battle raging less than a mile away.

Even as the number of people in the room dwindled, the room still seemed awfully crowded with even just the bodies present, not considering the morgue staff, himself, Sherlock, and Lestrade.  Sherlock was moving from body to body, sometimes prodding lightly with gloved hands or moving the odd still-attached limb, still working through his cursory examinations.  Lestrade was doing his best to coordinate everyone and kept running to the hallway and back, taking reports and talking quite seriously to the occasional government official.

“John, are you done yet?” came Sherlock’s imperious voice over the conversation with the last of the watchmen.

“Nearly.  Just want to get this last sketch verified before I send Mr. Abbey on his way.”

“Well, hurry, then, and we’ll get started examining the bodies.”

John nodded, turning back to the watchman and his notes.  He made a few changes to the position of the body in his sketch, propped up as it was against the receiving station near the Thames, then thanked the watchman for his time and dismissed him to speak to Lestrade on his way out.

“So, John, shall we go through the bodies chronologically as to when they were found, geographically north to south, or east to west, or just take the nearest slab and have a go?”  Sherlock winked at John cheekily, any residual ill humour from the night before long faded.  The gesture prompted John to smile in return.

“Oh, let’s go chronologically.”  John shuffled the papers in his hands and led Sherlock to a particular slab.  Sherlock brought along a lamp, though the sun still lit the room sufficiently.  “Three-forty-five, Salisbury Square.”

“Not far from Blackfriar’s Bridge.”  Sherlock hummed, glancing at the map Lestrade had tacked to the wall.  The runner had marked the location of each body with a T-pin.  Sherlock nodded sharply once he had apparently fixed in his memory the particular body with its mark on the map.

John hastened to show Sherlock the sketch he had drawn of the body’s position relative to nearby landmarks and compass directions.  Sherlock scanned through the report and then began to examine the body itself.

Like the others that had been found that morning, the body was removed of both clothing and extremities.  In most cases like this, if there had been any other cases like this, unless the victim had some particular scar or birthmark, the body would go unidentified.

“Seven distinct skin discolorations on the ribs, back and left thigh.  One scar on right hip, barely visible, consistent with a fall as a child off a short wall or lower limb of a tree.  No other wounds, no scarring from disease, slight excess weight carried mostly around the waist, firm musculature otherwise.”  John took careful note of each observation.  Sherlock bent close to examine a few tiny puncture marks along the neck tissue.

“Does the body smell unusual to either of you?” he asked, frowning.

Lestrade raised his eyebrow in a manner that said he was trying his best not to smell anything.  But John leaned forward to take the barest whiff.  Those unused to the smells in the morgue were typically relieved by camphor or other strong unguent rubbed beneath the nose, but none of the men, even those watchmen who were ill at ease, had requested such a thing.  Wait, camphor…

“Sherlock, have you noticed that Anderson has not offered us any camphor for the smell?”

“It is unlikely that he’d offer to do so, John, as he resents my intrusion on a normal day, much less under such extraordinary circumstances.  Besides, it is unnecessary.”  Sherlock gave John a questioning look, as if the doctor was admitting he needed such a thing.

“With a roomful of bodies whose time of death has yet to be determined, though they were found hours ago, in places all around the city and some by the Thames?  Even If they all died in the last twenty-four hours, which seems unlikely due to the extent of the pure butchery the bodies have undergone, there would be more than a faint chemical smell emanating from them.”

Sherlock raised an eyebrow, sniffed again, then resolutely and methodically sniffed each body in turn.

“Clever John,” muttered, his face closing down as he added the new information to all that which was swirling around in his brain.  “I would be interested to know the formula used to so thoroughly embalm the victims.”

“Could be Ruysch’s liquor balsamicum preservative, or something similar,” John suggested.

“He took his formula to the grave eighty-four years ago, John, and his methods were not widely copied.  And I’m not even certain that his results were quite so pristine,” Sherlock argued, but his tone and smile indicated he was surprised and more than pleased with his husband’s knowledge.  John flushed and ducked his head.  “We shall have to take further samples to see if we can isolate the preservative.”

“Is it similar to the scent of the man from the other night?”

Sherlock considered, sniffing again and rolling the scent around in his memory.

“There are a few notes of similarity, but I suspect this formula was created for a different intent.  Still, such a master of mortuary chemistry!  There is only the slimmest chance that the two formulas are unrelated.”

Sherlock bent over the body again, examining all the raw edges in detail.  John scratched out notes as quickly as he could, trying to keep up with Sherlock’s quick and incessant deductions.

“This quality of preservation calls into question my deductions about the hands and feet we recovered.  I had thought they had been removed close in time, but it now seems entirely possible that each victim could have been killed quite close to the date of abduction.  Between the cool weather and this excellent preservative, these corpses could remain in state for weeks or perhaps months, if not longer.”  Sherlock gestured for John to assist him and the two of them rolled the body on the slab to its side.  “I also believe we can make a reasonable deduction of identity, at least of this particular body.”

“Really?  That’s amazing!” John blurted out.  Sherlock lifted his head for a mere moment.  “Sorry, do go on.”

“It’s fine.”  Sherlock shook himself and resumed.  “I believe this man to be Liam O’Malley.  Lestrade, you’ll have to check the files in your office; I believe I initially set this one aside as I did not believe any of the limbs we found belonged to him, but this scar is mentioned in the missing person’s report.”

Lestrade noted the name in a small notebook with a stub of pencil.

“Next!”  Sherlock looked at John expectantly.  John flipped through his papers and led Sherlock to a female body.

“Four twenty-five.  Guilford Street near the Foundling Hospital.  Shoulders oriented towards the north.  This particular location is on regular patrol, so it’s certain that the body appeared within an hour of being found.”

“Were any of the other timeframes pinpointed so precisely?”

“No, this was the only one that was directly in the regular path of the watch.  The ones not along the Thames were in trafficked areas.  The body at the receiving station was the penultimate discovery; the man on duty heard nothing to signal its arrival and only happened upon it when he went out for a piss.”

“Probably slept through the night sound as a child rather than keeping watch.  South end of the Waterloo Bridge?”

John confirmed this with a nod.

They continued this way through the morning and well past the noon hour, going through each of the bodies in turn.  John continued to be astounded at Sherlock’s ability to connect the subtlest markings with the files he’d read in Lestrade’s office several days past.  Lestrade had a great deal of work ahead of him, between informing the families and interviewing each again about the last days of their loved ones.

“It is unfortunate that the time of disposal cannot be properly pinpointed.  However, we must expect a logical progression through the city.  Lestrade, have your men keep their ears out for descriptions of a wagon or other conveyance travelling in an east-to-west manner between these points.  That would be the most logical progression, given the discovery times and the methods of the watch.”

All three men knew that little would likely come of that.  A wagon going through the streets of London, even in the middle of the night, would bring little attention to itself.

“What is unusual is why these victims were chosen,” Sherlock mused.  “They were people that would be missed; in many cases, almost immediately.  If one was looking for test subjects and did not want to be discovered, there are legions of beggars on the streets.  Few would be missed, and those that were would have no family of means able to search for them.

“Also, the dumping of the bodies stretched over miles, all over Town, with no connection between them.  Why not just dispose of them all at once?  What is the pattern here, the meaning?”

“Were the bodies found near where they were taken, by any chance?”

“Hmm, no,” Sherlock answered after reorganizing the information in his head.

“Whoever it is clearly wants to be discovered, or is playing some kind of game of terror with the city.  After today, there will be no keeping the news from the papers.  Too many witnesses,” Lestrade sighed.  He was not looking forward to the panic this case would bring by the evening editions.

“What?  Be discovered and surely hanged for the crime?”

“Be legend.  Prove his genius,” John said.

Lestrade snorted.  “You know all about showing off, Sherlock.  That motivation cannot come as a surprise.”

Sherlock gave Lestrade a most disgusted look, distracted from his glare only when John patted his arm.

“I think it’s time for a break, Sherlock.  Man cannot live on crimes and puzzles alone.”

“Do not bastardize proverbs, John, to excuse your stomach.”

John did not take this personally; after all, his stomach had been distracting him an hour now.  He smiled and patted Sherlock’s shoulder.

“Shall I bring something back for you?”

“I don’t eat when I’m working.  But do take a break.  Your leg must be paining you.”

“Some tea, at least, Sherlock.”

Sherlock hummed a non-response and moved to another slab.  He carefully extracted a sample from the body and brought it to a microscope near the window.

John took the cold-shoulder with grace and left the room with Lestrade.

Lestrade nudged John in the hallway.  “Well done in there, even if Himself won’t acknowledge it.  But just so you know, I’ve never once known him to trust the questioning of witnesses to another person.  Not even myself.”

John isn’t quite sure how to answer that at first.  Had Sherlock paid him a veiled compliment in trusting him?  “Perhaps he was just overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information to be collected that he was forced to delegate.”

“If you feel the need to believe that, Dr. Watson, go ahead.  But I suspect something else entirely.”

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2013 in Writings

 

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Rough week, (massive amounts of) self-pity and Russians.

Numerically interesting as it was, my anniversary blog entry was also my 50th entry here.  However, it really was so depressing, and the ensuing week so depressing, that I hesitated to post anything else.  This is more depressing, self-pitying shit.  You’ve been warned.  Skip down about two thirds of the way if you’d rather just read the good news.  I do have some, I promise.

At the beginning of March, I came down with a horrible toothache.  After stress with finding a dentist, insurance, and other things I’ve been putting off, it came down to me having to have the tooth pulled in three weeks time, after the infection was handled.  I was in pain several more days until the antibiotics kicked in, leaving me taking much more ibuprofen and acetaminophen than was strictly healthy.  I have a fairly high pain tolerance, but my jaw hurt from my chin to my ear and the constancy of it was just grinding me down.

Still, the pain faded, and when the appointment at the end of the month came around, I thought I was okay with pulling the tooth.  Until I was actually in the dentist chair.  It wasn’t exactly comfortable, but I was numbed up plenty and, aside from the shots, it didn’t really hurt.  They took out the molar and asked if I wanted to remove the wisdom tooth on that side as well since I was all numbed up already.  I shook my head, and also refused the bone graft I would need if I was going to get an implant to replace the tooth.  I could feel myself beginning to get anxious, the kind where I flee and lock myself in my room for as long as humanly possible.  It’s been a good while since I’ve been that bad because, living alone, I can hide in my whole apartment.

I managed to pay my bill, make my next appointment, and get into the car before sobbing.

As I said, I wasn’t in pain.  Even after the numbing shots wore off, I wasn’t really in pain.  I probably took six ibuprofen in the four days following when I had a scrip I didn’t even fill for Tylenol with codeine.  So it wasn’t the pain, not physically.  But in my head, I was freaking traumatized.  It was part there-is-a-permanent-part-of-my-face-that’s-just-been-ripped-out-of-my-head and part gross-disgusting-toothless-mess-loser.  Any self-esteem I had over anything at all was completely gone.  I was broken.

I drove myself home and crawled into bed.  I’d only gotten a few hours of sleep the night before but disgusting-hole was bleeding so I didn’t really want to sleep right then anyway.  A friend of mine had lent me a dvd set of an anime series.  I told her I’d give it a try, even though neither manga or anime are really my thing.  Occasionally the drawing style can be cool, but I suppose I feel too old for it.  Because in my head I am, and have always been, about eighty-four.

Of course, I watched the entire first season straight through and whined until she found the second season online for me.  She also hastily recommended a companion series.  I did little else for two days.  This was in part because my Johnlock obsession apparently makes me partial to yaoi anime and partly because it was a fantastic distraction from the gross-me-disgusting feelings I had every time I turned it off.

I should not know, at eighty-four mental years, what yaoi means, nor seme and uke.  (Seriously, I had to look the conventions of the category up because it’s got some pretty specific rules that were obvious even in the very little I watched.)

Anyway, I’d taken a couple of days off work because I wasn’t sure how bad I would feel and I didn’t really want to feel bad at work or call in sick.  I spent the better part of my time in bed, mostly watching anime but sometimes writing.  I’ve been very bad about the writing this month.  First I was miserable and couldn’t think for a whole minute straight, then I puttered about with it and didn’t get nearly as far as I would have liked to.  I wanted to have my Huntsman story done, for instance, but that hasn’t happened yet.  It keeps getting to 9 days or more between posting updates.  I think Huntsman went almost a month.

I just topped 70,000 words on my Regency Sherlock story, which does make me happy.  Until, of course, I had to go through it tonight to find out what I’d said about the plot so that I didn’t contradict myself or forget a hastily devised plot point that would have simply left an open hole (much like the one in my mouth) as I finished the story without ever revisiting the outcome of that chapter.  Ahem.  Seventy thousand words and 58 chapters is an awful lot to skim through and take notes on.

Oh, and Russians.  Because I had to look at my title to remind myself that I did have a HAPPY thing to post today.  Perhaps I should have started with this so that people wouldn’t be sick of my self-indulgent bullshit long before I got to mention it.  A few weeks ago, someone contacted me through both FF.net and AO3 and asked if she could translate Lazarus Machine into Russian and post it.  At first I didn’t reply, not really knowing how that would work and what would be expected of me, but finally I said, sure, go ahead.  I mean, it’s not like I can be screwed out of royalties or anything since it’s just for fun.  So here it is:  http://ficbook.net/readfic/693739.  Six chapters are up so far, I think.

I do have to admit, it is a little exciting to translate the page and see the (horribly indecipherable) comments translated into some form of English.  I mean, all writers are comment-whores at heart, are we not?  So 49 extra comments from the other side of the planet from people who never would have read it since it was only in English?  Bonus.  So that did brighten my day a little.  So thank you ukatan92/ummi for the massive amount of hard work I see in your future.

This entry is definitely disjointed, and I could have more to say (whine more, it’s never ending) but I think I’m going to leave it as is.  Next entry will be a few Regency Sherlock chapters to make up for all the rest of this.  🙂

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2013 in Uncategorized