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Delete

I had another one of those writing days where I print out pages, cut them apart paragraph by paragraph, and sometimes line by line, and tape it together to try to make sense of it all.  I think I ended up moderately successful (finally) and have set aside the final read-through until tomorrow.  But this brings me to a lesson today.  Delete.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase “kill your darlings” and it definitely felt that way today.  I had written and rewritten chapter 74 on Lazarus Machine a dozen times.  I had paragraphs I really liked but they didn’t seem to fit together.  I had two paragraphs I liked, but they said the same thing.  I wanted to mention this and that and the other thing, when, in the end, it all just really needed to go.  I had to delete things.

I’ve been stuck on this chapter for ages (mostly not working on the story at all because I was so frustrated with it) and what really sucks is that it’s not even a particularly important chapter!  I won’t say it is a filler chapter, but it kind of is.  The last chapter I posted ended with something of an exclamation mark, and this one is where the characters move into doing their own things.  Sherlock has his investigation and John has his medical work.

I swear, I can see the end of this story and the moves needed to get it there, but I’m just not putting in the work it takes to get it that final few steps.

At any rate, I managed to finally slice down the pages to a flowing, comprehensible chapter and not even feel the need to post things in my outtakes bin.  Yay!

On the other hand, I have only one more day left of my vacation and I am nowhere near close to accomplishing any sort of writing goal I had for myself.  It is April, and Camp NaNoWriMo has started.  Now, I’ve never managed to do anything during Camp, no matter what month.  This year, I told myself that I would take my week off and use NaNoWriMo principles to push forward in Lazarus Machine to try to at least draft through the end.  I was going to skip over where I had difficulties and press through the next chapters.  Easier to have a sloppy draft to work with than nothing.

I didn’t make that happen.  I didn’t say to myself every day that I was going to push myself to that goal.  I admit that.  I did try making myself sit down most days and focusing on it, but some days it was only successful for ten minutes, even if I was butt-in-chair for nine hours.  I am highly distractable these days.

Nothing was helped by immediately screwing up my previously reasonable sleep schedule and sleeping from about five in the morning until noon each day.  For pete’s sake.  This means that when I work at 7am on Tuesday, I will likely get no sleep at all.  Le sigh.  My own damn fault.  I’m just not a very structured individual, am I? 🙂

 

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Posted by on April 5, 2014 in Writings

 

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A little stool in every room…

So I’m just killing time (and I’m a prolific murder of time) and so I stopped by the ongoing Russian translation of Lazarus Machine to look at the comments.  The translation is currently on chapter 27, just around the wedding.  http://ficbook.net/readfic/693739 if you’re interested.  I view it through Chrome, which will automatically translate the page (thought it comes out mostly unintelligible).  I like to look at the comments, just as I like to look at the comments on any of my other posted sites.

At times, the comments cannot even seem to translate properly, in the case of my favorite reference to umnichka John.  Looking it up separately, it’s a term meaning clever, in an endearing way.  Makes me melt.  Today, the thing that made me laugh was the translator replying to a comment made about the line where John is too short to kiss Sherlock without Sherlock’s assistance.  She said that (cleaning up for the choppy translation) John would have to put a little stool in every room so he could more easily kiss his husband.  Awwww.  LOL.

Anyway, I’m killing time I could be spending either job hunting or writing new chapters.  I feel past the hysterical sobbing stage of my depression and have passed into the utterly lethargic stage.  I did manage to write and post a chapter of the completely episodic series Experiments in Warmth within the last couple of weeks, and have one more chapter in that series done but for a paranoid series of adjustments I can’t stop making.  I was doing that with the chapter I posted, never feeling it was done, never feeling it was as good as it could be.  Every final pass I made changed things, then again, then again, and I finally posted it so I would stop torturing it.

Right now I have a couple hours before having to get ready for work, and several years of NaNoWriMo have shown me how much I can accomplish in a mere couple of hours, but I’m still having a hard time settling down to it.  I suppose part of the problem is my weakness with plot and, while I do know in a general sense what is going to happen through to the end of the story (stories) I’m not quite sure what happens in detail.  I find indecision rather plaguing.  So until I make the decision, I avoid it.  Which is a useless circle, really, since the more I avoid it, the further I get from the story in my mind.

I don’t want to be the writer who dries up for months and months, only to abandon the work entirely.  I want to finish.  The same problem applies to John’s Gamble, which I had originally said I didn’t even want to post until it was nearly done or done, and which now languishes in the same cesspool of depression as everything else, half-finished.

I’m hoping that NaNoWriMo invigorates me, but I’m just not certain this year that it will.  I’m still not certain what I want to do, with little over a week to figure it out.  Last year I started late and did not finish because of indecision.  I hate to think the same will apply here.  I suppose, though, I need one good thing to set me on a happy mental path rather than this spiraling doom I feel when I think of current events in my life.

Before I forget, I did stumble upon a delightfully apt Sherlock crossover fic with Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately the Milk, the very existence of which made me chortle with glee.  🙂  http://archiveofourown.org/works/1015760  So I suppose the world is not all bad.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2013 in depression, Writings

 

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What to do?

Well, it’s October 13th, which means NaNoWriMo is about 2 1/2 weeks away.  Last year at this time, I was completely lost as to what I was going to write, having too many ideas.  I ended up starting a week late and not winning, though I put up a good fight through the end of the month.  I don’t consider it a loss, of course, because I am still working on the project and am (slowly) closing in on 100,000 words.  Actually, if I counted the extra pages I slipped off into another file for later use, I’d be over that mark.  I have, however, been lapsing on the writing altogether in the last few months.

Summer has generally been a tough writing time for me.  It’s not that I’m out doing things or anything, but more that I’m miserably exhausted and hot and can’t really manage much else with my day after work.  I gave a half-hearted attempt at Camp NaNo a couple times, but never made it much further than a day.  I can’t imagine how November works for me at all, being that work is busy and exhausting with holiday setup and such, but I can’t complain.

This year for NaNo, I’m again not sure what I’m going to do.  Again, I have several ideas.  I need to finish both Lazarus Machine and John’s Gamble.  I had hoped to have them done by now, but my emotional state has not worked out in my favor.  Job-hunting and crippling depression have been highly distracting.  My reduced work hours should give me more time to write, but it mostly just gives me more time to feel shitty about myself.

So, options on the plate include, but are not limited to: a historical romance novel that has been swimming in my head for several years now but has less than two chapters written; finishing my current projects, which, paired together, would most likely yield the required number of words; something entirely random, taking the no plot, no problem concept to its purest meaning (least likely); or devising a goal system for revising any of the prior NaNoWriMo novels I’ve written to finally end up with a relatively salable product.

Given my financial situation, the last would be the most advisable and realistic, really, since I really need to finish something, make it presentable, get to a point where I can say, this is DONE and I don’t have to consider/think/fidget/worry about it anymore.  I’ve tried this, albeit somewhat half-heartedly, in months following November, such as December, January, and Camp during the summer, but have never been quite successful at keeping to any sort of schedule.

I also fear ripping apart what I have done and stalling.  That is what happened to my very first complete novel, written in college.  I wrote steadily every week, had several hundred pages at the end, and then started to revise.  I ended up wanting so much changed upon revision, that the manuscript ended up feeling like a huge waste of time.  I’m not so sure that some of the things I wanted to change needed it (particularly in light of certain events in Twilight) but at the time, certain elements seemed childish and ridiculous (*cough*).

So what happens if I rip another one to shreds and am left with no useful scraps worth piecing together?  Should revision be this terrifying?

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2013 in Uncategorized, Writings

 

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67 complete pages, 30,272 words, 28 chapters, week past deadline, still happy with it :)

Finally past the wedding ceremony!  I had intended it to come along much sooner, but I just kept enjoying what was happening along the way 🙂  Plus I needed to put some of the plot-happenings sooner rather than just idle around relationship-town… because if there are no murders, there is no love.  STILL dying to have some of the household bits come up, but there are a few wedding reception chapters after the next morgue chapter, so it’s going to be forever.  And I have a feeling this will end up being one of those 100K words plus fan fics that I’m always so baffled by.  I mean, if you can come up with that much work, why haven’t you just written a book?

Yah, I’m pointedly looking back at myself here.  🙂  Jeez.

Also, I had this inane desire for a Christmas tree Wed.  I am not sure if it was just that I got my Christmas money from my mother and it was burning a hole in my pocket or if all the Sherlock Advent stories are getting to me or what, but I really, really wanted to buy some pink lights and ornaments I saw at Goodwill.  They even had a crisp white tree there I could have bought to hang them on.  I didn’t buy any of it because I’m sure the urge will pass, and I’m not really a Christmas person.  (Hmmm, purple bat lights on a white tree and Halloween ornaments… that would match my Cthulhumas tentacle stocking next October and then I could almost justify the pink lights and pink globes and the flamingo lights I saw at Target.  Gah.  No.)

Anyway, ado, ado, ado.  Here are chapters 24 through 28.  Oh, by the by, yes, I did have fun looking up bizarre and obscure names to drip all over the extended Holmes clan.  🙂  Also I use the phrase Black Maria for the prison wagon, even though that would not come into usage for a good 20 years after the story is set.  (stupid research)  Don’t care, Love the phrase.  And it would hardly be the first or last anachronistic or completely ridiculous thing in this story.  🙂

Chapter 24

 

Sherlock returned John back to his brother’s home in time for supper.  Sherlock declined to enter, informing John that both Mycroft and Harry were currently in residence and that he’d be much better off dining elsewhere that night.  However, Sherlock dashed off before John could inquire if that was an invitation to dine with him, so John entered the house.

Harry was in a mood and Lord Sherrinford ignored it, asking utterly mundane and impersonal questions about his day.  When the questions turned around to John, he wasn’t quite sure what to reply.  I spent the night and most of the day with my fiancé and a couple of bags of rotting body parts.  Surely not proper dinner conversation.  He tried to avoid the topic entirely and thanked Lord Sherrinford for the clothing he was having made for John, something generally above and beyond his duties.

“You’re very welcome, Captain Watson.  We must have you outfitted in the latest to properly present you to our acquaintances.  I do hope you like the wedding suit in particular.  I had it modeled after your uniform.”

John’s mouth tightened.  “It is quite a fine-looking suit, Lord Sherrinford.”  It was, and it fit well, but John was no longer part of the army.  He wouldn’t have chosen the pattern.  Lord Sherrinford just inclined his head slightly.

“Tomorrow will be a busy day.  The members of the family who must travel will arrive then.  I do expect both of you around for tea and introductions.”

“Sherlock and myself?”

“Heavens, no, they already know Sherlock.”  Lord Sherrinford laughed at his little joke.  “No, you and Sir Harold.  We want them to see what a fine young man will be joining our family.”

“Of course, Lord Sherrinford, I shall make it a point to be available.”

John spent the day in the sitting room, alternately reading and greeting even more eccentric Holmes relatives with Lord Sherrinford and Harry.  Many of them had the same sharp, probing eyes as Sherlock, though few had his utter disdain for formality.  A few, to John’s delight, insinuated that they had expected this invitation due to Mycroft’s wedding, not Sherlock’s, and that they were anxiously awaiting word of the next heir.  This managed to make Lord Sherrinford color and cough into his fist.  He could only indicate that he chose to settle his brother first before focusing on himself.

John tried to remember all names like Aberforth and Euphemia and Drucilla, Philander and Petrina, Lord Talmadge and his young twins Engelbert and Ebenezer.  He’d never spoken so many syllables in his life.  A few looked rather amused at his name, John, the most common name in the country, the name given even to the anonymous man John Doe.  Try as he might, he only could later recall one of Sherlock’s great-aunts, Eunicetine, because of the staggering amount of feathers she wore in her hair (fanned out much like a peacock’s tail) and the fact that the old woman’s hands wandered quite freely.  Far too freely.

Still, John found himself having a surprisingly amusing afternoon and evening.  He and Harry didn’t have much extended family and they were not as jovial and familiar as those who descended upon the Sherrinford house.

“It is a bit overwhelming now, Captain Watson, but they will be diluted among the ton who will attend the ball tomorrow evening in celebration of the nuptials.”  Lord Sherrinford had finally finished a last introduction of a latecomer, Barindel Holmes.  The gentleman had assessed John quite thoroughly, but he was used to it now.

“Oh, I don’t mind in the least,” John said, drinking from his glass of champagne quite newly imported from France.  “Everyone has been lovely.”  And they had been.  Everyone was so pleased that Sherlock had agreed to marry, even if the man wasn’t here to dispel any lingering fancies that this was a love match.  John had flushed when Amphasia Holmes had kissed both his cheeks and declared him adorable and quite what Sherlock needed.

“The reports indicate they are just as taken with you, Captain Watson.  Quite interesting.”

 

Chapter 25

 

John stood at the top of the stairs the morning of his wedding heading down for breakfast, when the front door burst open and a seething mass of Sherlock swarmed inside.  Though to be honest, he wasn’t sure what monster from the depths of the Thames had burst inside at first.  It wasn’t until the voice, that voice, his voice rose over the kerfuffle declaring, “This is completely unnecessary!” that John had any inkling of this raggedy creature being the man he was due to marry in a matter of hours.

The ragged mass separated into several officers and one disgruntled Sherlock, and Lestrade himself stepped in behind, a smug look upon his face.

“I promised your brother I would have you here in time, Mr. Holmes, no matter what methods I had to use to accomplish the feat.”

“You put me in a Black Maria, Lestrade.”  The tone was pure disgust.

“And I’ll put you back in on the way to the magistrate if that is what it takes.”

“I gave my word.”  Haughty.

John slowly descended the staircase, eyes awfully wide.

“Sherlock…”  But he was interrupted by an unseemly bellow from none other than Lord Sherrinford.

“Sherlock Holmes, what have you been doing?  Swimming in the Thames?  On the morning of your wedding?”

“Mycroft,” Sherlock began, but was cut off.

“You will bathe immediately!  Twice!”  John had never seen Lord Sherrinford angry, or for that matter, display any particular emotion.  The man turned as red in the face as an apple, yes, with some sickly green behind.

“And that filth you are wearing will be burned!”

Heads started popping out of doors and John felt an audience behind his back at the stair railing.

“No!  I spent months on this disguise!  It took forever to get the fray and the dirt and the smell just right!”

“Well, it wasn’t very effective from keeping the good men of Bow Street in the dark, was it?”

“That is not what it is for, you blithering…”

“Upstairs!”

If Sherlock’s person had not been quite so foetid, his brother surely would have laid hands on him.  As it was, several resigned-looking footmen crowded around Sherlock and started to usher him upstairs.

“Handcuffs, Lestrade!” Sherlock called over his shoulder.

The detective, still very smug, trotted forward and pulled the key out from… his shoe.

“Dammit, your stride was a little stiff in the foot.  I can’t believe I didn’t deduce it!  I thought you had a blister from your new footwear.  You’re learning quickly, old man.”  Sherlock sounded like he was almost proud of Lestrade for besting him.

“I’ll have to get especially creative if there is a next time, Mr. Holmes.”  Lestrade unlocked the cuffs and Sherlock moved his thin hands in circles to renew his circulation.

“Indeed.”

The footman reinstated their escort, herding Sherlock as much as possible without touching his rank clothes.

“Good morning, John!” Sherlock called jovially as he spied his intended on the stair.

“Good morning, Sherlock,” John replied a little less certainly.

“Lovely day for a wedding, is it not?”

And that appalling man winked at him as he passed by.

Mad, he’s mad, John thought, continuing down the stairs as he heard Sherlock laugh behind him, sprinting towards the bathing room.  John turned the corner at the foot of the stairs and entered the breakfast room, where all the snickering Holmes’ had hurriedly reoccupied their seats.  He couldn’t help but hear the last of the conversation in the hallway as he seated himself.

“Handcuffs and a Black Maria, Lestrade?  Was that really necessary?”  But Lord Sherrinford didn’t look put out in the least as he and Lestrade shared a conspiratorial chuckle.

“He deserved the first.  A hack would have done but none would allow him inside to muck up their interior.”

“Good man, good man.”  Lord Sherrinford tossed a small bag of coin in Lestrade’s direction.

 

Chapter 26

 

The next debacle of the day (there would be many, so keep in mind that this is only the second and they hadn’t even left for the magistrate’s office yet) was when Sherlock adamantly refused to ride with Lord Sherrinford in his carriage.

“It’s ridiculous that tradition states I cannot arrive in the same carriage as John.”

“Propriety, Sherlock.  You have already flouted convention by dragging Captain Watson all over London at all times of day or night.”

“Mycroft, what difference does it make?  He and I will be married in an hour.  What makes it more proper after signing papers than before?  Really?”

“Taking vows, Sherlock.  Promising your life to someone.”

“As far as I am concerned, I made those vows already, when I agreed to marry John in the first place!”

“You are being petty and ridiculous, Sherlock.”

“So are you!”

“I don’t have a problem with riding in the carriage with Sherlock, Lord Sherrinford,” John interrupted, a bit flattered that Sherlock was fighting so hard to ride in the carriage with him.  Of course, it could be that he was simply fighting to not ride in a carriage with his brother.  It doesn’t really matter his reasons, John told himself.  “I agree with him.  It is a tradition that means very little to either of us.  And it is our wedding day.”

Both men turned to John, shocked he’d opened his mouth, much less agreed with Sherlock.  Sherlock recovered first, gloating openly at his brother.

“Fine,” Lord Sherrinford finally gritted out.  “I suppose a little unconventional behavior is expected from Sherlock anyway.”  He quickly reorganized the occupants of the parade of carriages that would take everyone from the house to the magistrate’s office.  Several of the more venerable Holmes relatives were accompanying them to the small ceremony; others would remain at the house until they returned for the celebrations.

A few efficient moments later and Sherlock and John had a carriage to themselves and were riding to the magistrate’s office.  Arranged marriages like theirs, and other marriages involving such a large exchange of money , took place in more legal settings.  They could have a religious ceremony at a church if they wished, but Lord Sherrinford had quite correctly interpreted that his brother would only become much more difficult as the day dragged on and tried to make the formalities as concise as possible.

“So where precisely did Lestrade find you this morning?”  John’s question drew Sherlock’s attention away from the window.  He’d been more subdued since his (second) argument (of the day) with his brother.

John was glad that whatever smell the wretched clothing had been imbued with had not permanently stuck to Sherlock.  That would have made this carriage ride, not to mention life in general, very unpleasant indeed.  His clothing now was very fine: black trousers, bottle green jacket which turned his grey eyes into the color of the ocean, starched whites so bright that they brought color to Sherlock’s pale skin.  His curly hair had been trimmed but still fell over his forehead and along his high collar.

John was very expensively done up for the occasion, but compared to Sherlock, he felt dowdy, very country.  The man was simply stunning.  His slim grace was only enhanced by the well-tailored clothing.  John had to tear away his gaze before he started picturing Sherlock out of the well-tailored clothing.  It wouldn’t do to deliberately frustrate himself.

“I was down by Blackfriars interviewing the mudlarks who spotted the bag of feet.”

“I thought they’d already talked to Lestrade’s men or the River Police.”

Sherlock snorted.

“The boys Lestrade’s men talked to were not the boys who found the bag.  It was passed through several hands before the River Police were summoned, and once more before the Runners got there.”

“But why would they do that?”

“They’re practically feral, John.  They do what they must to survive, though most don’t.  They certainly wouldn’t survive very long if they were known to talk to the police.”

“But some of them did talk to the police.”

“Obviously.  But only the ones who weren’t actually there.  Do keep up, John.”

John paused to process the idea.

“So did you find the ones who were actually there?”

Sherlock nodded.  “Gave me a good tip, too.  Two little beggars tried to lift the man’s purse and got up close and personal when the man tossed them into the gutter.”

“Goodness!  Would they be able to identify him?”

“Could, but won’t if they know what’s good for them.  However, I’m quite keen to do what is bad for me, so they passed along the description.”

“Well?”

“Tall as me, dark hair, scruff, but most telling of all was the fact that someone had apparently tried to slit his throat recently enough that the wound had been stitched but had not begun to heal.”

John didn’t know what to say about that, but they pulled up to the magistrate’s office and all John was required to say for the next half hour was, “I will.”

 

Chapter 27

 

Sherlock observed the man standing before him as the magistrate informed them both of the serious nature of their promises, the obligations of marriage, and whatever sentimental drivel he chose to throw in along the way.  John had clearly charmed his notorious family if the smiles behind him, particularly on Great-Aunt Eunicetine’s face, said anything at all.

And now, John stood straight and proud, a serviceman’s posture, and appeared to be listening quite closely to every word being said.  Sherlock knew about Harry’s failings and John’s valiant attempt to right everything.  He was marrying a stranger, marrying Sherlock, to save everyone whose livelihoods depended on his brother’s estate.  It was noble, if a bit… well, no, Sherlock couldn’t quite bring himself to call the gesture ‘stupid.’  John apparently thrived on self-sacrifice, first with the medical degree, then the army, now this.

Now John was looking at him, stonily he would say.  Uh oh.  He’d missed something.

“I do apologize,” Sherlock said quietly.  “My mind wandered.”

“It’s fine, Sherlock.”  John’s hand reached out and touched his arm, took his hand in his.  “Sir, please repeat the question.”  Calm.  Caring.  Not angry that Sherlock had drifted off, though he could feel Mycroft seething at his side.

“Will you, Sherlock Holmes, take this man, Captain John Hamish Watson, to be your lawful husband, your helpmeet through all the triumphs and challenges this life may bring?”

“I will.”  John’s hand squeezed his.  Sherlock tried to tamp down the millions, no, thousands, no, hundreds, no, the one thought he had about John’s hand in his.

“Will you offer your solemn vow to be true to your chosen companion, in the presence of your family and friends?”

“I will so vow.”

“Will you promise to honor and respect your husband, cherish him in good times and bad, in joy and in sorry, in sickness and in health, as long as you both shall live?”

“I will.”

There, his part was done.  Sherlock blew out a breath.  It had been more difficult than he had thought.  Sherlock, no matter what anyone believed, did not give his word lightly.  Mycroft relaxed a little beside him as John solemnly repeated his required responses.

They moved forward to begin signing the papers.  For John and Sherlock, it was just their marriage certificate and the magistrate’s ledger.  For Mycroft, Harry and two other witnesses, it was much more, taking several quite minutes.

“You are so dutiful, John,” Sherlock whispered to his new husband.  John stood facing forward, quite strong and stoic.  “I’m not making fun.  I can admire a quality without wishing it upon myself.”  There, that broke John’s shell a little.  He almost smiled.

Their brothers stepped back into their places after flourishing their signatures and shaking hands with the magistrate and the other.  The magistrate cleared his throat, settling the assemblage of Holmes’ who’d begun to whisper in the interim.

“I will now ask for Mr. Holmes and Captain Watson to share a kiss of peace and seal their promises to each other.”

Sherlock tried somewhat unsuccessfully to contain the blush that rose to his face; his high cheekbones became suffused with red heat.  John had turned to look at him and lifted his face.  Of course, John was too short to kiss him without his cooperation.  Sherlock leaned forward and brushed his lips over the upturned corner of John’s mouth as perfunctorily as possible.  Much to his chagrin, the familial spectators applauded his miniscule effort.  John seemed pleased enough, though and took his arm as they turned and were presented for the first time as husbands.

 

Chapter 28

 

John had never shaken so many hands in his life, and not even the entirety of the Holmes family had attended the short ceremony.  There had been so many well wishes from unfamiliar faces, but Harry had yet to even offer a ‘congratulations,’ much less a ‘thank you.”  John hoped Harry was jealous of his brother’s welcoming family, of his new husband.  It was an ungracious thought, but John couldn’t help it.

“Lord Sherrinford,” John said as soon as the carriages started filling to take people back to the house.

“Yes, Captain Watson?”

“I don’t know how to ask this, but I was wondering…”

It turned out he didn’t have to ask.

“I sent a messenger with monies for the household servants at your brother’s estate this morning.  I made sure everyone was well compensated for their loyal service at such a happy time, and perhaps to make up for the leaner times in the past.”

“Thank you, Lord Sherrinford.  I didn’t really trust my brother to think of it, or to manage it if he did.”

“I hope you know, Captain Watson, that I am here to be of assistance to you.  Whatever you need, you must only ask.”

John wasn’t so sure he wanted to depend so readily on the man, for he had proven to be the manipulative sort, but he did seem to be reliable.  But he now pressed a small cloth pouch into John’s hand and it clinked with small coin.

“Do redistribute these on this happy occasion.”

Lord Sherrinford walked off, leaving John to find Sherlock in the crowd at the door.

“Why is my brother talking to Lestrade?” Sherlock asked as soon as John approached.

“Is he?  He wasn’t a second ago.”  John turned his head in the direction Sherlock had pointed his chin.  There were the two men, colluding for the second time that day.  Lestrade appeared slightly less jovial than he had mere hours ago and Lord Sherrinford’s expression was pained.

“Shall we find out?”  Sherlock quite eagerly grasped John’s elbow and drew him along.  “Lestrade, is there news?”

“I apologize for disturbing your wedding day, Holmes, but this really couldn’t wait.  I’ve promised Lord Sherrinford not to keep you more than an hour.  Just a detour, really.”  Lestrade glanced at Lord Sherrinford with meek apology in his eyes.

“I have agreed you may go, but you must return to the house within the hour.  I will not have you ensconced in the morgue the entirety of your wedding day.  And do not muss your clothing, if you please.”

Sherlock waved at his brother impatiently, whether to agree or to hurry everything along.  “What is it?”  The way Sherlock’s eyes gleamed, he clearly couldn’t have received a better wedding gift than a mystery or a piece to a puzzle.

“One of the mudlarks was found in the last hour with several crushed ribs and a punctured lung.  I was hoping you could identify him so we could notify his family, if he has one.”

“Of course.  Coming, John?”  Sherlock’s eyes kept none of their gleam, as if a solid oak door had slammed behind his eyes and none of his light could escape through the cracks.  He proceeded to their wedding coach in silence, allowing John to distribute the coins in his hand to the well-wishers who gathered at any wedding, cheering and applauding for the lucky coins strewn to the crowd.  Their joyful cries sounded like the sobs of professional mourners, just a bit.

Lestrade joined them in the coach in spite of the strangeness of it, to answer Sherlock’s questions.

“Where was he found?”

“In that little alley behind Lorstan Street, near Vechney.  Anderson thinks he was struck by a carriage.”

“And then, what, dragged himself down that alley to die of a punctured lung?”  Sherlock’s tone reverted back to his annoyed-with-stupidity normalcy.  “How was the body arranged?”

“Curled up in a ball, behind a crate.  He was next to an alley door a merchant used for deliveries or he might not yet have been found.”

“Did anyone actually see him get struck by a wagon or carriage?”

“No one has come forward as a witness, no.  I still have a few men asking around.”

Sherlock huffed.

“I shall have to examine the body.  I will be quick about it,” he added, peremptorily defensive.  Neither John nor Lestrade offered any sort of fight.

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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21-23 and a little gnashing :)

Well, as we all know, for the first time since I started NaNoWriMo, I did not finish.  Not even close.  I didn’t even make it to 25,000 words by the end.  Granted, I started quite late and had little to no dedication towards my daily writing goal even when I did start, but I feel a bit pleased with the story I’m telling anyway.

Okay, so I’m totally obsessed with Sherlock, and that was pretty much the only thing that kept me going at all.  🙂

I could whine for a few more paragraphs, but that’s tedious, so I’ll move it along.  I have the next three chapters for today.  I kept hoping to get to the wedding, but it keeps getting pushed back in favor of plot.  So things are happening, but my Baker St home life scenes are getting further and further away, and they’re my favorite parts! 🙂  I’m hoping that the one day left between the scenes here and the wedding will pass in a flurry of exposition and soon we’ll have the ceremony and the celebration and… stuff 🙂

Chapter 21

 

John followed Sherlock to a cab that he somehow managed to wave down even with an unpleasantly lumpy and stained burlap bag in his grasp.  To his surprise, Lestrade hopped up inside with them.

“So, Captain Watson, how long have you been home from the war?” he asked genially as the cab sprang forth towards the hospital.

“Since summer,” John answered warily.  “My leg was injured during Waterloo.  I recuperated from fever at my brother’s home in Essex.”

“You must have fully recovered then, to chase around after this one.”

John wasn’t quite sure how to answer that.

“Much improved, thank you,” he managed.

“So how long have you known Holmes?”

John glanced at Sherlock, but he was staring out of the window, thoughts completely obliterating the conversation happening only a foot away from him.

“We met a couple of weeks ago.  He and his brother visited me and mine at my brother’s estate.”

“Just about the time of the announcement in the papers then.  Couldn’t see it being a love match, I suppose.  Congratulations, at any rate.”  Lestrade’s leaned back, pleased with John’s startled look.

“It doesn’t take a genius, Lestrade, to read a newspaper announcement.”  Sherlock’s chill voice didn’t put a damper on Lestrade’s pleasure.  “And Donovan would offer condolences, but the prat isn’t here.”

“Oh, so you knew.”

“Not for sure until you were introduced.  Never thought Holmes would marry.  Figured it must have been arranged when I saw the betrothal notice, or a grievous misprint.”  The man laughed, but in a pleasant, amused way.  “I never expected to actually meet you, and certainly not at a crime scene.  Figured you’d two keep your paths as separate as possible.  That he’d keep you at home like a little wife.”

“You’re not as dull as I often suspect, Lestrade.”

The man beamed at the offhanded praise from Sherlock Holmes.

“Except if you thought for a minute I’d simply obey Mycroft and be married without the spouse being in the least bit useful, you’re more cracked than Donovan’s left shoe.”

John hadn’t quite known Sherlock well enough to recognize the twisted, deformed nature of his praise, but Lestrade merely laughed again.

“A medical man, and a soldier.  You’ve done quite well for yourself, Holmes.”

An hour later, John Watson found himself watching his fiancé examining a severed foot with a magnifying lens.  Lestrade had hopped out of the hired coach when it neared Bow Street, exchanging promises to keep the other informed, leaving John and Sherlock to travel the rest of the way to the morgue in silence.

“John, take notes,” he had said.  Not, please, John, it will go faster and more efficiently if you take notes.  Still, John wrote down all the measurements and details Sherlock provided, rarely requiring him to repeat anything, and generally submitted in silence.

“Amazing,” he said once, unable to contain himself when Sherlock launched into the conclusion that none of these feet matched any of the hands.  It was simple enough to deduce that, because they were all left feet, there were at least four victims, or at least dismembered corpses, but Sherlock’s tiny details provided very different pictures of the former owners than had been provided by the hands.

“See, John, look!”  Sherlock raced around the morgue, shoving Anderson into the slab where he was working in a fume three times more often than necessary.  “Honestly, Anderson, where did you put the jars?”

“Storage, you dolt, that cabinet there.”  Anderson gestured with a wicked filleting knife.  “Now get away from me.”

Sherlock opened each jar and carefully removed the pickled remains, laying each on a cloth John later realized was Anderson’s coat (due to venomous swearing that went unheard by a flurried Sherlock).

“The feet are all male.  Two of the hands belonged to women, so that leaves us three.  Dock worker, marine, very common jobs.  After years on their feet, there are all sorts of likely callouses, marks from rubbing shoes, probably broken toes from heavy boxes being dropped, et cetera.  Salt water, very drying, damp, causing rubs and rashes.  Also, with the weight of muscle and the added weight of cargo, the bones in the feet would have spread, widened.  See how narrow each foot is, how clean and healthy, skin unbroken?  Plenty of time on horseback, chair, in well-fitted shoes or boots.”

“Third hand, chef.  Obvious from the burn scars and shallow knife cuts.  Much older than the others, though not yet wizened.”  John noticed the scars and cuts, imagined using a knife to cut vegetables and a few small scars were right where he could see the knife slipping.  The scars were faded, almost invisible except for how they sometimes interrupted the flow of the whorls on the fingertips or oddly puckered the skin.  Very old scars, then, from when the man was learning his trade, developing his skills with a knife.

“Fascinating.”  John picked up Sherlock’s lens and peered through it at the fingertips.

A few moments later, he noticed Sherlock had stopped talking and was looking at him quite oddly.

“Er, sorry.”  He offered the glass back to Sherlock.

“No, it’s… fine.”  Sherlock swept away and back, dramatically pacing in a small three step area.  “What else do you see?”

John peered through the glass.  He remembered his questioning the sketches Sherlock had sent him and began to examine the stump end.

“There is more skin than you would typically leave on the amputated limb.  See, here.”  John used a couple of instruments to fold down some of the skin around the wrist.  It didn’t cover the whole of the rawness, but perhaps that was a result of the preservation methods.  “Usually you would leave that on the stump end, to help cover the wound.”

“Hmm.”  Suddenly Sherlock was leaning quite closely over John’s shoulder.  The man radiated heat, but John shivered a little.  “Anything else?”

“Amputation isn’t always done at a joint, depending on the need.  Sometimes you just have to saw through the bone, trying to save enough of a limb to save a joint like the knee.  Makes it easier to attach a false limb and save some of the patient’s mobility.

“These appear to be very methodically removed at the joint.  Disassembled, much like a piece of meat.  You may remove some of the cartilage or tendon to make it easier, but then you just twist until the joint pops.”

“Difficult to do were the patient alive, John?”

“It would be blatant torture.”  John didn’t even want to think about that.  It was bad enough to remember the screams, the all-encompassing horror of the surgery tent, all the blood and pain and torment he’d seen, become acclimatized to on the continent; but to think of someone here, in London, doing this for some sort of sick game made him dizzy.

“Can you tell if the limbs were removed post or ante mortem?”

“Not for certain, no, but the neatness of the cuts would suggest postmortem.  At the very least, the victim would have had to be complete immobile or unconscious.”

“Hmm.”  Sherlock resumed his narrow pacing.

After a while, Sherlock bellowed, “Anderson, clean up!  We’re going!”

John’s head rose from his arms where he’d been dozing awkwardly on the desk in the corner.

“Anderson went home hours ago, Sherlock.”

“Oh.”  Sherlock glanced around him, noticing for the first time the low level of oil in the lamps and the pale grey creeping into the sky beyond the east-facing window.  “Then Anderson will be back shortly; he can clean up then.  Let’s go.”

John struggled to stand.  Sleeping hunched over in a hard wooden chair hadn’t done him any good and now his back ached in addition to his stiff leg.  At least he hadn’t had any nightmares or leg cramps; he supposed he hadn’t gotten enough proper sleep for his body to bother.

“Where are we going?”

Sherlock paused.  “I suppose I can’t very well take you back to Baker Street until we’re married, so Mycroft’s, I expect.  He’ll have my head if I don’t present you for your fittings this afternoon.”

“I have fittings?”

“For your wedding suit, John, yes.  Besides, there isn’t much else we can do right now.  We’ve examined both the hands and feet, and I’ll send along the descriptions of the new victims to Lestrade.  He may need a couple of days to have his men go through the missing persons files at Bow Street.  At any rate, he won’t be there until at least nine to bother him about his lack of progress.”

John blinked wearily.  For someone who clearly hadn’t slept, Sherlock was amazingly alert and spoke almost faster than John could comprehend.  He leaned heavily on his cane and followed Sherlock out onto the street, where he immediately hailed a passing hack.

“I would have thought it would be impossible to find a cab at this time of day.”  London never truly slept, but surely the hour before dawn would be the closest it would come.  Cool grey fog lined the streets, mixed with coal smoke from thousands of homes.  Most people wouldn’t be awake yet and even the night watch might be settling their heads against a convenient wall for a rest.

Sherlock didn’t answer and John dozed off again in minutes, head bouncing against the worn padded seat-back.

He woke to Sherlock instructing the cabbie to wait.

“Go inside, John, and get some rest.”  He hopped out of the cab and gave John a hand down.  John might have protested the gentle treatment if he was more sure that his bad leg wouldn’t turn to jelly at any moment.  He was already dreading the long staircase up to his rooms in the Sherrinford household.

“You’re not staying?”

“I’ll not stay another night in my brother’s house if I can help it.”  Sherlock dashed up the stairs ahead of John and let the knocker fall twice.  One of the rather anonymous footmen answered it almost immediately.  “Good night, John.”

“Good night, Sherlock.”  John’s eyes followed Sherlock as he bounced back into the hack and set off.

 

Chapter 22

 

“Holmes, you can’t just break into my office whenever you have a theory.”

Lestrade was neither surprised nor angry to find Sherlock Holmes sitting at his desk with stacks of papers in front of him.  It didn’t pay to be either.

“You mean to say I shouldn’t, Lestrade.  Obviously, I most certainly can.”

“Have you at least found anything?”  Lestrade removed his hat and coat, hung them on their hook by the door, and eyed Sherlock’s unlikely “organizational method.”  Not only had papers found their way into a multitude of stacks on the desk, but there were now nine haphazard piles on the floor as well.

“There are at least two possibilities for each extremity, though I have categorized them in order of likelihood due to the date they were last seen and the relative lack of decomposition of the feet.  With the hands I could not be sure they had not been preserved since I did not have the chance to examine them immediately.”  His attitude was sharp, but Lestrade ignored it.  “With the feet, there was no lingering preservative odour; they smelled of the burlap, the Thames mud, and only faintly of rot.”

“So they couldn’t have been sitting around too long.  But they could have been taken months ago, held captive, and then murdered all at once.”

“All at once!  Exactly!  The similar state of early decomposition shows that the feet were likely removed within hours of each other.”

“Jesus, Holmes.”  Lestrade didn’t like this investigation one bit.  “You’re not going to let me hold on to my cadavers-from-the-university idea for even the rest of the morning, are you?”

“Why would I let you labor under that misapprehension one moment longer?”

“Because it’s much less grim, Holmes.”

“Boring!”

“The post, sir.”  One of the young lads hired for general errands around the building knocked once lightly and held out a stack of mail.

Sherlock jumped up and grabbed the letters from the boy, turning his back to Lestrade in an effort to hoard them, and flung them aside one by one as he examined their direction.

“Holmes, honestly.”  Lestrade waited until Sherlock had finished flinging papers before bending to gather them back up.  He didn’t notice until he stood again that Sherlock was staring quite thoroughly at one carefully folded and sealed note.

“Boy, come here immediately!” Sherlock shouted into the hallway.  His tone was so forceful that three young men flew to stand before him.  Sherlock proffered the letter at the middle one.  “Where did you get this?”

“Downstairs, sir, at the desk.  Mr. Hampton always takes in the post and sorts it out.”

“And you never set it down from Mr. Hampton’s hands to mine?”

“No, sir, never,” he gasped.

“No one else gave you anything extra to slip this in the pile.”

“No, sir.”

Sherlock barely waited to hear the answer before dashing down the nearest stairs and confronting the unfortunate Mr. Hampton.

“How did this come into the building, Mr. Hampton?” Sherlock demanded in a most hostile tone.

“I beg your pardon?”  Hampton stuttered.  He was not overly familiar with Sherlock Holmes.  He’d heard stories, of course.  Sherlock was simultaneously admired and reviled through the magistrate’s court.  He hadn’t had cause, as a mere clerk, to really work with the man himself.  All he really could do was stay out of Sherlock’s way when he was on a mission to see Lestrade and allow some of the other officers complain in his presence with a reassuring pat on the shoulder.

But to be confronted with the man’s wrath a mere two inches from his face was quite the shock.

Lestrade quickly intervened, tugged Sherlock back.

“This letter, Hampton.  How did it come into the building and how did it come to be sent to my office?”

Hampton ducked around to peer at the letter in Sherlock’s hand, responding nervously even to Lestrade’s even voice.

“Was in with the regular post,” he said quickly.  “I sent it up to your office just like the last because everyone knows he only works with you.”

Sherlock examined Hampton with an intense glare.

“No special messenger arrived with it, then?”

“No, sir.  I’m certain of it.”  It may have been on the tip of Hampton’s tongue to ask what the letter was, why its origin was so important, but he wouldn’t dare speak out of turn.

“Thank you, Hampton.”  Lestrade nodded to the man after Sherlock had turned and started back up the staircase again.  “If any other messages for Holmes arrive, notify me immediately.  If they come special delivery, delay the courier.”

“Yes, sir.  Of course, sir.”

 

Chapter 23

 

John barely managed to be roused for his fittings that afternoon.  Despite how tired he’d been, he laid awake once in bed for a long time.  Funny how that night he could sleep anywhere but in a comfortable bed.  He allowed himself to be poked, moved, dressed and undressed and accidentally stuck with pins without complaint.  He wouldn’t look in the mirror or give an opinion on the clothes, which annoyed his high-strung tailor to no end.

When finally his idea of torture was concluded, John dressed and went downstairs.  He ended up in the library, learning from one of the many footmen that no one else was at home.  Lord Sherrinford was away for the day as usual and Harry had apparently found somewhere else to be as well.  John wondered idly if he’d gone to beg of Clara’s parents again.  Certainly his situation was quite immediately about to improve.  John’s wedding was in two days.

John left his book; he couldn’t concentrate anyway.  The library had an impressive collection of medical texts, books on plants and the sciences.  Normally John would have been utterly lusting after those tomes, breath-taken and overwhelmed with the need to open each one and luxuriate inside.  Today he felt like a bit of flotsam in the surf, buffeted around the huge empty house with no real direction or purpose.  The long, empty hallways, dark from closed doors and lack of life, stretched on forever and twisted into nothingness.

John growled and pushed to his feet.  The servants didn’t seem at all surprised when he called for his coat and said he was going for a walk.

London at least had more life to it, especially once he’d gone further than the posh streets of Mayfair where a few ladies he’d tipped his hat to barely acknowledged his gesture once they’d seen a loose thread on his coat or the battered cane in his hand.  He wondered idly where Baker or Bow Streets were in relation to him now, at which he might find Sherlock, and whether the few pence in his pocket would get him anywhere at all.

A bit of conversation with a grocer’s boy let him know that the Bow Street Magistrate’s Court wasn’t too terribly far so John decided to walk.  The exercise would do his leg good, after all, and the day was somewhat pleasant.  Hopefully his spare change would get him a good way towards the Sherrinford house if he didn’t find Sherlock.

By the time he’d found the Bow Street offices, John was tired.  Still, he asked after Lestrade and was taken straight to a small room cluttered with papers, a disgruntled Lestrade, and Sherlock.

“John!  You’re finally here!”

“Finally?  I wasn’t aware you were expecting me.”

Lestrade very kindly gestured to a comfortable leather chair wedged in the corner and sent a young lad loitering in the hall for some tea.

“Where else would you be?  Mycroft spends his days running England from his club and you aren’t speaking to your brother.”

“Just so.  Have you been here all day?”

Lestrade snorted.  “Had sorted through a stack of missing persons before I even made it in this morning.”

“Sherlock, haven’t you slept at all?”

“Sleep is a waste of time!”

“Nonsense, Sherlock.  We can only function at our peak with proper amounts of rest.”

“Maybe the rest of the mundane population, John, but I simply don’t need it.  Look at how much I’ve accomplished while you spent your day sleeping.”

“You’ve accomplished making quite a mess, Sherlock,” John retorted with a half-smile.  “And I’ll have you know that I also had hours of bloody fittings this afternoon, and I walked here from your brother’s house.”

Sherlock gave a miniscule, “Hmph,” in return and continued peering at the two pieces of paper spread flat on Lestrade’s desk.  A moment later, he jumped up and held each sheet against the window to observe the watermark.

“What are you looking at?”

When Sherlock didn’t answer, Lestrade did.  He handed John a cup of tea as he did so.

“Two letters were addressed to Sherlock, in care of Bow Street, mentioning the hands and now the feet.”

“Letters?”  John knew his voice sounded a bit weak, so he cleared his throat as if he felt a little froggy.  “What do they say?”

“Here,” Sherlock strode around the desk and handed John the papers.  “Do have a look and tell me what you think.”

John took the first and examined the two short lines on the page.

 

Five little hands, waving hello.

Do they tell you what you want to know?

 

“When did you get this?”

“Shortly after we found the hands.”

“Was this letter why you left Essex in such a rush?”

Sherlock confirmed this with a nod.  “If I had been told about the hands in the first place, I never would have left London.”  He was clearly still a bit bitter about his brother’s intervention.

The second letter was also a mere two lines, written in the same careful, perfect script.

 

Care to waltz?  Shall we meet?

My tribute to you:  four left feet.

 

“It’s going to be a rather clumsy dance; all left feet, yah?”

“John, this is hardly the time for levity,” Sherlock scolded, but the corners of his eyes were lifted, like he was schooling his mouth very carefully not to smile.  “Now, tell me, what do you see?”

“I see a madman leading you on a merry dance.”

“John, at least try.”

John sighed and looked again at the letters.

“Waltz leads with the left foot.  He offered you his hand, he’s leading in the dance.”

“Hmm, go on, get to something useful.”

“Well, the waltz is a rather intimate dance, Sherlock.”

“Is it?”

“Don’t you know it?”

“Not important.”  Sherlock paused a moment.  “What if it is?  Show me.”  Sherlock stood from where he’d leaned against the edge of Lestrade’s desk.

“Show you?”  John glanced at Lestrade and the man shrugged, moving into the doorway so he was out of the way.  Papers still littered the open floor space, but there would be room enough for a simple demonstration.

“Yes, John.  It may be vitally important!”

John sighed and pushed himself out of the chair.  He removed his greatcoat and laid it across his seat.

“I expect I’ll be total rubbish, what with my leg and all.”

“We don’t need to careen across a ballroom.  Just show me the steps.”

“Very well.  The most popular, the French waltz, begins with a promenade, like so.”  John stood next to Sherlock, hip-to-hip, facing the opposite direction, and put his arm across Sherlock’s waist.  He pulled Sherlock’s right arm across his in return.  “Sometimes, the posture is different.”  John shifted so that he faced Sherlock, arm one arm still around his back, their free arms joined at the hand.  He guided Sherlock into position, tucked in very close to him.

John made the mistake of demonstrating the eye contact common in the dance.  He forgot that he’d been about to mention the difference between the French waltz and the German waltz, and which steps and positions were common to each.  His mind went blank except for the tall, striking man in his arms.

Sherlock pulled back to see what John’s feet were doing.  They were still.

“Aside from the close positioning, this doesn’t seem like a very scandalous dance,” Sherlock stated.

“That’s because you’re not dancing with a woman,” Lestrade offered.  “A vigorous dance leads to a heaving bosom.”

John flushed and pulled away.

“Is that all?” Sherlock asked.

“No, no,” he coughed falsely, trying to gather time and his mind together.  “There are usually two other parts before the final pirouette.    They would step like so.”

John demonstrated, Sherlock’s attention now on his feet.  He was not fluent with the steps any longer, but he managed to go through the proper movements.  “The dance would progress to faster movements in the third part of the dance, moving in a circle.”

“How do you know all that?” Lestrade asked.  John’s blush deepened with the knowledge that both men were watching him quite markedly.

“Officers were expected to be sociable.”

“I don’t believe the specifics of the dance will be of any use,” Sherlock said suddenly, returning to the chair he’d commandeered behind Lestrade’s desk.  He set his elbows upon his knees and steepled his fingers in front of his lips.

Gratefully, John sank back into the chair in the corner.

Sherlock began to list, in his fashion, everything he knew about the waltz.  Whether he was mumbling to himself or expected John and Lestrade to take note was unclear.

“So I take it there will be no waltzing at your wedding?  Pity, that.”

Both Sherlock and John shot Lestrade with a glare.

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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A little beginning… (word count 8974)

For NaNoWriMo this year, I have decided to go with having a little fun.  So I’m writing something that is a bit ridiculous and 100% for fun, rather than previous years when I wrote with the intention of editing the things someday.  I haven’t done so yet, so nothing much is ready for publication.

However, since this year I can be much less concerned about whether something is worthy of publication, I thought I might just publish (relatively) finished segments on my blog.  The end of this post will be the first four (short) chapters of my Sherlock Holmes fan fiction novella.

I may have mentioned in my previous post that I had been conflicted about doing a Sherlock tale, a romance book, or a zombie book.  I went with Sherlock just because that is what is strongest in my mind, and makes me most giddy to work with.  I had suggestions of doing all three in one story.  Well, since I’m a hardcore Johnlocker, romance was always in the plan.  I ended up getting an idea for a Regency romance with Sherlock and John, setting it well before their time, in 1815.  John has returned from the Napoleonic Wars, injured, and Sherlock would have been dealing with a much, much more inept police system, though in an age of scientific discovery.

The twisted fangirl in me, though, has decided to go Alternate Universe, beyond the time period and setting, because I’ve introduced Sherlock and John to each other on the threshold of their arranged marriage to each other.  Yep, Mycroft and Harry baked up a scheme to take their brothers off their hands and with an immense money exchange, John is a bought and paid for husband for flighty Sherlock.

All this, because, reasons.  Just wanted to, no excuse.  Sorry.  🙂

And while there won’t be zombies… precisely… I have figured out a brilliant plot and an awesome villain to go with.  So cheer me on and make me work!!

Last notes:  in England, civil marriage contracts were not made legal until 1836; until then, all marriages had to take place in an Anglican church.  I chose to ignore this because, well, I’m ignoring the fact that it would have been more than a little strange to have two men contracted to marry each other in 1815, so whether they choose to do it in a church or as a legal contract is somewhat irrelevant.  Also, I try to abide by the etiquette rules dealing with the forms of address for the aristocracy, but Jesus, it’s super nit-picky and makes my eyes glaze over.  I did the best I could and said screw the rest.  🙂  So if anything is wrong, well, so much is deliberately wrong that you ought to just chill out and enjoy the story.  🙂

Chapter 1

Captain John Watson, late of the 52nd Northumberland Fusilers, was in the upstairs sitting room when he heard his brother return from London.  So much for the peaceful afternoon.  John sighed and placed a marker in his book.  He could sit here and wait for Harry to come to him, or he could confront Harry directly.

John’s elder brother Harry had been recently in London for business, he’d said, though John knew that business was primarily wooing a young woman named Clara.  What Harry hadn’t mentioned before he left was that he’d taken the Gainesborough their Grandfather had bought with him.  It wasn’t the only thing missing.

The attics were empty of anything salable, though John hadn’t thought to even look until he wandered into the Peacock Room, his mother’s old bedroom, and realized it had been stripped clear.  Several other unused rooms were stripped of furnishings and antiques, things that had been on the Watson’s estate for three generations.  John had found the silver cupboard nearly bare except for the things they used on a regular basis.

People had been missing, too, though not in a totally sinister way.  When John was a child, the house was bustling with servants, guests, little entertainments.  In the months he’d been home, there had been no guests, few visitors, and the staff had been cut back to those that were left behind when the family was not in residence.  The stables were tended, though the horses kept were only the ones necessary to pull a coach.  There were none left to simply ride, not that John could ride anyway, not with the stiffness in his leg, nor the fiery pains that occasionally erupted from hip to ankle.

Since John had not seen many of these things packed up and removed, he could only assume they’d been gone long before his return home.  He’d been ill and confined to his room for two months with only the cook to nurse him, but he thought he would have noticed entire rooms being carried out the front door.

John had not expected this slow ruination after his interminable, miserable journey home from the Peninsula.  He’d expected more of a welcome, more gratitude that he was alive, and a lot less heartbreak.  Yes, Harry was glad his brother had not perished so soon after the death of their father, but John was a burden.  John was doctor visits and medicine.  John was questions about bare rooms and a mirror to the emptiness left behind.

John’s injury, illness, and sudden return home from war and career had been just another straw for the camel’s back, and clearly Harry was weakening.  The man spent most of his time in his study, papers spread before him, draining a decanter.

But this, this last lie, was utterly abominable, so contemptible and dishonorable, John almost couldn’t fathom it.

Harry Watson had barely removed his greatcoat in the entryway before his younger brother came limping down the stairs, gripping his cane in one hand and the railing in the other.

“Not now, John.”

“How could you sell my house, Harry?”  John’s grip on the stair rail was tighter than it needed to be for his support.

“It wasn’t yours.  Father left it to me.”

“Father meant for me to have it.  You knew that.”

“Father meant for me to allow you to live in it once you retired from the army.  I had no knowledge that you would even make it back from the war.  I needed the money.  I sold it.”

John gasped and stopped just a few stairs from the bottom.  This is the first time Harry had ever outright admitted he needed the money.  John had known, he was not stupid, and had long since offered up the pittance paid by the government to its injured soldiers, but Harry had never once told him how dire his straits were.

“You hoped I would never find out.”  I hate you, Harry Watson.  How could you?

“No, John, I hoped you would never find out.”  But Harry looked much more tired than vindictive when he said this.  “Come into my study, John.  We must talk.”

Chapter 2

Captain John Watson sat in his older brother’s study.  He no longer wore his uniform but he held himself with military precision.

“Marriage?”

“Yes, John,” Harry replied shortly.  “I’d do it myself but Clara’s family has refused my suit.” Not that her family had the funds to dower their daughter enough to meet Harry Watson’s needs.  He knew that, and somehow, they guessed that, too.  They wouldn’t throw away their perfect daughter and her healthy, if not estate-saving, dowry on a wastrel like Harry Watson.  The Watsons were without funds and, more recently, without connections.  Harry felt more and more spurned with every trip to London.

Clara’s father’s refusal was not surprising, given the heavy whorls of exhaustion beneath Harry’s eyes and the ever-present glass of port or sherry or Scotch whisky beneath his hand.  Harry picked one up now, port by the color and time of day, and took a gulp.  It was never a refined sip.

“We need the money, John.  The estate simply won’t hold together without an influx of cash.  I had to borrow to pay the estate taxes when father died, and those loans are quickly coming due.  I’ve tightened the household budget as much as I dared to keep up a good front, but soon I’ll have to borrow just to pay the staff that is left.  I don’t even know that there is anyone else who will lend to me.”

Harry continued to get more worked up, as if John was fighting him.  “Who do we let go next?  Which tenants have to try and pay more rent?  Which parcels of land do we sell off just to keep afloat, only to wonder where the payment is coming from next month?  I could sell everything and we’d be debt free, but we’d have nothing left at all.”

“Harry, please, I’m not fighting.  I understand.”

The look on Harry’s face told John that his acquiescence was almost worse.

“Of course you do, John.  You were ever the dutiful one, the obedient one.  You made father proud.  If you hadn’t been off at war when he fell ill, he would have made you his heir instead of me.  He didn’t trust me to take care of things, and here I am, proving him right.”

“Father didn’t take care of things properly, either, Harry, if he left the estate with enough debt to be bankrupted by estate taxes.”

“You’re just saying that to try to make me feel better, John.  It won’t work.  You were always his favorite and I was just his damned failure.”

John sighed.  No matter what he said to Harry, he wouldn’t be able to win this age-old fight.  Long before John had gone to university, to medical lectures, to war, he and Harry tended towards animosity.  Harry hadn’t liked the shining golden boy born to his father’s second wife, and John hadn’t liked the unending roughhousing inflicted upon him by his elder brother since before John was able to defend himself.  They’d been separated by age, school, and the army, but John was back at the estate now, with no one but Harry and the servants, contributing his meager army pension to the running of the household.

“So, which wealthy, illustrious family would willingly thrust one of their unfortunate children into such a household?”

Harry glared at him.

“Don’t be daft, John.  One that needs a husband for their embarrassment of a second son.”

“Embarrassment?”

“Some scandal at university, perhaps.  I have no idea.  We are not of a level fit to gossip about it.”  Harry sounded rather snide, as if he’d tried to find out details and been rudely rebuffed.  “It hardly matters, with the amount of money they’re offering.”

John didn’t reply – it wouldn’t make any difference if he did.  Harry had found a solution, somehow, and would cling to it desperately, through any sort of dissuasion.  John could protest, refuse, be thrown out to fend for himself on his pension and his cane, and be reminded daily that he’d let everyone down.  The livelihood of many people relied on the estate, and refusal would throw their fortunes to the wind.

“They’ll be in from London tomorrow afternoon,” Harry informed him, with a gesture of dismissal.

Chapter 3

“Mycroft, I will surely die if you leave me to rot in this hovel.”

“The Watson’s estate is hardly a hovel.  And before you spout off all the signs of neglect, do remember I am not blind.”  Lord Mycroft Holmes knew better than to try to curb his brother into being civil.

Sherlock huffed, but kept his observations to himself.

The front door opened as their carriage pulled up.  Sherlock trailed his older brother up the wide steps, past shrubbery that had not yet been either pruned or covered for winter.  The steps had not been brushed of leaves this morning, and the stately butler at the door noticed, but tried hard to ignore the embarrassment that crept up in front of such distinguished visitors.

“I will wither away from boredom here.  If you make me do this, I will never speak to you again.”

“Then do begin immediately, Sherlock.”

Sherlock sulked in response, following his brother into the foyer, his sharp eyes darting everywhere.  Baroque vase, dust in the crevices.  Either a lazy household or not enough maids to spare on the details.  The house was quiet, no dogs barking at the unfamiliar carriage, no maids tittering at footmen, no ground crew raking the stones in the drive.  The few paintings on the wall were amateur; talented, perhaps, but still amateur.  Either the work was hung due to sentimentality for the artist or the more expensive works usually boastfully displayed were sold and the bare spots hidden with inexpensive flotsam.  Combination?  A lack of money.  Obvious, given Mycroft’s long lecture (he said discussion) on the interminable trip here, so Sherlock kept his observations blessedly to himself.

A man started down the stairs, one hand grasping a sturdy cane, the other arm resting from elbow to fingertip on the bannister.  His hair was a dark blond, his height average, boots polished.  He held his head upright despite his reliance on both cane and bannister.  He had a kind face, if stoic and serious.  His eyes took in the two gentlemen in the foyer as he descended.

Another man, slightly older, darker haired, tired, no, hungover, entered the foyer from the left.  Study door.  They were meant to be announced, but the awkward timing of his brother on the stairs meant Sir Harold must greet them in the foyer to make proper introductions.  Formality, ridiculous.  Sherlock’s lip crooked up in a mild sneer.  Appearances were worthless.

“Lord Sherrinford, we are quite honored by your visit.”  Harry offered the elder of the two men in their foyer a short bow, getting little more than an imperious nod of the head in return.

“Sir Harold Watson, my brother, Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” the elder motioned behind him where Sherlock was still busy taking in every minute detail of the entryway.  Apparently he took in enough detail of the people in the room, as well, for his only words were directed at John, though they had not yet been introduced.

“Waterloo or Quatre Bras?”

The man who had finally descended to stand behind his brother started.

“Quatre Bras.”

“You were ill.”

“Yes, enteric fever.”  The eyes had opened in wonderment.  Interesting, thought Sherlock.

“Lord Mycroft Holmes, Viscount of Sherrinford, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, my brother, Captain John Watson, late of the 52nd Northumberland Fusilers.”

Sherlock stared at John, taking in every detail of the small captain as he made his bow to his brother and shifted his cane from one hand to the other.  His hand was steady when he stuck it out for Sherlock to shake.

“You left for war at least four years ago, for that is how long that particular waistcoat pattern fell out of fashion.  Clearly the money for new was not available when you returned home, and your old clothes were not worn enough to justify replacing so you continue to wear them.

“You must have enjoyed being a soldier, for that length of service means you stayed when you could have been reassigned elsewhere.  There was nothing for you at home, or perhaps you felt needed where you were.”

Sherlock had waited longer than typically polite before grasping John’s outstretched hand in greeting.  John had been too surprised to pull it back when Sherlock had opened his mouth.

“Oh, a surgeon’s hands.  That is the thing.  You felt you were needed out there.  Surely you were.  Steady hands, steady nerves, skill with a scalpel and saw.  Did you keep track of your success rate?  I’d be interested to know.”

“No, sorry,” John stuttered.  “Field hospital.  It often went too quickly to keep track.”

“Pity.”

Sherlock’s eyes moved over Harry and he opened his mouth again.

“Brother, perhaps your observations are better left unsaid for now,” Mycroft intervened.  It wouldn’t do for Sherlock to spill what was so obvious about Harry and spoil the forthcoming contract negotiations.

“Yes, yes, please come into the downstairs drawing room.  I’ll ring for tea, shall I?”  Harry seemed spurred into action by Lord Sherrinford, burst out of whatever thoughts he’d been having.  He gestured the two men into their receiving room, following and leaving John to limp along behind.

Chapter 4

 

John descended the staircase slowly.  The gentlemen in the foyer were striking, each more intimidating than the other.  The elder was auburn-headed, with pale skin that would likely freckle if he let it, but something about his manner said that he’d never allow something as insignificant as the sun damage his skin that way.  He had penetrating eyes, much like a hawk, bored but always on the watch for some sign of weakness.  The younger was as fair of skin, but his hair was ebony and wild.  As John watched, Sherlock whirled his greatcoat from his shoulders, and gracefully over the arm of their butler.  Lack of coat revealed a long, narrow body; he was incredibly tall and his thinness only emphasized that fact.  He seemed stretched, so thin and narrow, though tight breeches indicated he was quite fit.  He had his brother’s eyes; they clearly missed nothing.  The pair was quite astounding.

Harry burst in to make introductions in the foyer.  Before the ritual of rank and introduction could be completed, the raven-haired man burst into words.

“Waterloo or Quatre Bras?”

John’s limp could have been anything, a childhood injury or deformity from birth.  He could have been thrown from a horse or fallen down the stairs.  The man in front of him simply wanted to know during precisely which battle he’d been injured.

“Quatre Bras,” he answered, amazed.

“You were ill.”

“Yes, enteric fever.”

Harry finished his introductions, clearly unnerved.  The elder was Lord Mycroft Holmes, Viscount of Sherrinford.  The younger was named Sherlock Holmes.  Unusual names for those that must be quite unusual men.

John made his bow to Lord Sherrinford.  The man seemed to inspect him up and down rather than bowing or nodding in return.  John offered the younger brother a hand to shake, switching his cane to his left hand in the process.  He faltered for a second, wondering if he ought to have bowed, though neither brother indicated that the younger brother as well held a title.

Sherlock Holmes did not take his hand.  Instead he further proclaimed a half dozen facts, knowing… well, knowing John quite exactly.  Then he took John’s hand in his and announced a few more.

Their odd conversation was interrupted by Lord Sherrinford’s disapproval and Harry took the break to usher them all into the drawing room.

And somehow, just then, John realized that this tall, bluff man was intended to be his husband.

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2012 in Writings

 

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NaNoWriMo Day 11

So what did I say about NaNoWriMo last year?  Don’t get behind; catching up sucks.  What did I do this year?  Blew it off until November 5 and then only write anything longhand so that I don’t even have an official word count until Day 10.  Jeez.  Punishment, meet glutton.

To be fair to myself, I’m been having a rather unhappy fall.  Lack of money is getting stressful and I have no one to blame but myself on that one.  To be cruel, I would have felt much better if I would have been writing.  Instead, I’ve been burying myself in as many distractions as possible and trying to stay out of my own head.  Difficult to write, doing that.

However, Day 11, and I finally have an updated word count, even though it’s only 4416, when the schedule would have me at 18,334.  Oh well.  🙂  As I said, I have been working longhand this week, and not everything is typed up.  (Nor is anything I’ve written in much of a chronological order.)  That not everything is typed up makes me feel better.  The 4K+ is not only stuff already written, but it is quite a bit of elaboration on what I had.  Some things were just moments, just a few lines, and I put them into context (or sometimes not).  So I feel much more confident than I did at the beginning of the weekend.

I actually had the weekend off, which was nice.  Supposed to get one weekend off a month, but it doesn’t always quite work out that way (though if I plan vacation right, sometimes I get three.)  I really needed the down time, without having to leave the house, see or speak to anyone, get out of bed early or plan my day around anything else but what I wanted to do.  Glorious.  I didn’t even feel this good on my week off last month.  Of course, I wasn’t up until four or five or six in the morning this weekend, which helps a great deal.

I did, however, sleep in, and in the most luxurious fashion possible.  I awoke, lay in bed dozing and daydreaming of scenes in my NaNoWriMo fic, until it screamed loud enough in my head to entice me to grab a pen and notebook.  Interestingly, I have NOT been writing in the Sherlock notebook I put together on Halloween night.  I’ve been writing in a spiral bound legal notebook I got a few months ago.  Guess that just suited me for some reason.

So, what, precisely, have I been writing?  Yeah, I ended up with the Sherlock fan fic.  At least in that, I did learn my lesson from last year.  Write whatever is strongest in your head.  Sort of a strike while the iron is hot sort of thing.  Sherlock is still strong in my head (read, I’m unhealthily obsessed) and so I went with that.  And since I’m a diehard Johnlocker, of course it is romance, too. 

There have yet to be zombies, but I don’t really have a plot yet.  So, Amy, maybe.  Damn, I actually got a pretty awesome blip in the head right there… something about Frankenstein monsters… that’s sort of a zombie, right? 🙂  It would sort of weirdly fit, too, since I went back in time, pre-Doyle, and have a Regency Sherlock instead.  (Yum, Regency Sherlock with his greatcoat flapping on the moors, like gothic romance only Sherlockier.)  Hmmm, the plot bubbles are colliding and bursting in my little head.  Hmmm.  I’m chortling, so it must be good.  And there will be bees.

As they say, ta!

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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