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Can you find my iPod, Mr. Holmes?

Yeah, I have no idea.   And surely not interesting enough a case for Sherlock Holmes.

I have two iHomes, one in the kitchen and on in the craft room and the dang thing isn’t near either one.  I even cleaned off the kitchen table to check if it got buried there.  Nope.  (There exists the possibility that I am looking right at it, I suppose.  Wouldn’t be the first time.)  I went through my nightstand twice in case I put it in one of the drawers by the earbuds and charging cords, but no.  I keep trying to bring up a memory of the last time I saw it and I can’t think of anything.  I’m pretty sure I had it when I went to Chicago in June and I feel like I remember seeing it when I unpacked at home… and wouldn’t I have used it at least once since then?  I don’t really bring it anywhere.

To make a lot more whining short, it’s driving me kind of nuts.  I don’t even really want to USE it, but it’s driving me utterly mad that I can’t find it.

Anyway, I’ve had a better couple of weeks in some ways around here.  I managed to write and post a couple of chapters of Lazarus Machine, which pleases me.  I feel like I have a lot to do before the ending yet, but it isn’t insurmountable.  I am a little frustrated with the next chapter right now because I keep writing random sentences but can’t quite figure out exactly how detailed I want to make the chapter.  I don’t want some endless babble that really has no point in the story, but I don’t want all my research to go to waste, either.

Oh, speaking of, I got stuck in research hell the other day with this chapter.  So, the chapter takes place at a warehouse in the London Docks in Wapping.  I found a map of the area, and consulted my period map to get there from St. Bart’s, then was trying to find some clue as to what the warehouses and their interior would look like, as well as what cargo would be inside.  All stuff that would take a few sentences, really, and I could totally bullshit it all and who would know or care, really?

But that wasn’t where I got sucked in.  No.  There’s a major road above the dockyards that forms a sort of border and is also a major highway out of London to the east: Ratcliff Highway.  And in December of 1811, there were two sets of fairly horrific, violent murders along this highway.  A Bow Street Magistrate was appointed to run the inquiry and Runners were assigned to figure out the culprit(s).

So, you can see, with Lazarus Machine on my mind, I can totally see Regency Sherlock investigating this piece of work, one of his early cases, or perhaps something that inspired him to work with Bow Street.  For, of course, the mystery had a rather unsatisfying ending.  A suspect was detained, with the possibility of evidence against him, but he hung himself before reaching trial.

And again, there goes my Sherlock-detector, because what happened to the suicide?  He was carted through the streets and taken to a crossroads where he was buried with a stake through his heart.  (Oh, wait, here comes the good stuff.)  In 1886, a gas company was excavating in the vicinity and unearthed a skeleton with a stake through its torso.  To quote from Wikipedia:  “The landlord of The Crown and Dolphin, a public house at the corner of Cannon Street Road, is said to have retained the skull as a souvenir. The pub has since been renovated and the whereabouts of the skull are currently unknown.”

OMG, it’s Sherlock’s skull!  The full wiki article is quite interesting and detailed.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ratcliff_Highway_murders  But of course really had nothing at all to do with what I was originally researching. Even should I use any of this idea, it would be a line or two, or perhaps I’d dedicate an entire short to Sherlock relating the tale to John.  That might be nice.  But not what I’m doing now.

Speaking of unsatisfying murder mysteries, I recently finished The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale.  I got it as an audiobook from Overdrive through the library.  The book is excellent, but the mystery it relates is rather frustrating.  Even when there is a confession to the murder, you are left dying to know if the confessor was protecting someone else, why they would confess in the first place since after five years, they’d clearly gotten away with it (more or less, as the entire family was under suspicion).  The murder is gruesome and horrifyingly sad and the detective Mr. Whicher is very nearly thwarted.

I had been interested in this book for a while and had not put it on my priority list.  However, the information about detectives (in literature and real life) in the 1860s was fascinating and exactly what I was looking for in a book at the time (much like the book about Mary Shelley and Galvani I was reading when starting Lazarus Machine… just freaking kismet).  When I saw it on the library list, I snapped it right up.

Now if only I could get a detective to come here and find my iPod.  🙂

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Posted by on February 15, 2014 in Writings

 

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What the hell :)

I decided ‘what the hell’ and have continued posting my Gambling John story.  At this rate, I’ll quickly run out of finished story, (as I haven’t drafted the second half yet) but I’m not really concerned about that at the moment.  I just wanted a bit of something out there that makes me happy while so many other things were making me feel bad.

Anyway, I’ve posted up through chapter 7 now, so I’ll post 3-7 here to catch up.

Soon I’d better get something done on Lazarus Machine.  The villagers are restless 🙂

 

 

Mycroft’s Two Cents

 

Sherlock lounged in the chair facing Mycroft’s desk with the indifference of a recalcitrant student facing down a loathed headmaster.

“Brother, have you lost your mind?”  There was no need to question how Mycroft had found out about Sherlock’s little deal with John Watson.  He had spies everywhere that reported directly to him at all hours of the day and night.

“Hardly, Mycroft.  I simply arranged to get what I wanted.”

Mycroft Holmes’ thin lips tightened until they were nearly nonexistent.

“You’re going to track down a criminal with your newest illicit lover.  What happens when that extorter decides to turn his money-grubbing eye towards you?”

“Hardly a sound business practice for an extorter to choose me as a target.  It doesn’t matters to me if people talk; they do little else.”

“You may care when you’re thrown into prison for your indiscreet and indecent behavior.”

Sherlock scoffed, knowing Mycroft dangled enough nobles by their purse-strings to ensure Sherlock would never see time in prison no matter what he did.

“And you wonder why I worry constantly.”  The man looked sadly down at the little empty plate still perched on the edge of his desk from tea.

“Biscuits will only serve to pad your backside, Mycroft,” Sherlock lashed out impertinently.

“You’re no better than the malefactor for whom you’re searching, extorting intimacies from the victim,” Mycroft shot back.

The bright side to this conversation was that after Sherlock stormed out, Mycroft was free to ring for a servant to bring another slice of cake.

 

Baker Street

 

John stepped down from the carriage carefully.  He was healing well, regaining most of the strength in his leg, but it still sometimes weakened unpredictably.  His shoulder wound had healed better, despite the infection, but John attributed that to the time spent in sickbed.  He was certain that with regular walks, he would continue to improve.

He swung the door knocker after assuring himself this was the right address given him.  A young man opened the door, affecting a staid and proper aspect.

“Doctor John Watson for Mr. Sherlock Holmes.”  John offered his card forward.  The young man received it and nodded to someone just inside.  Another footman emerged to lift his trunk down.  John was ushered inside.

“Yes, sir, of course.  Mr. Holmes told us to expect you.  We will bring your belongings upstairs.  You may take tea in the downstairs sitting room, if you wish, or follow Alfred upstairs to take a rest.”

“I believe I will have tea.”  Tea was good, tea was calming, tea was every single day.  It was the last vestige of normal in John’s life.  Even at war, there was tea (though its authenticity was often questionable).

“Very good, sir.”  The footman showed John into the sitting room, where he made himself comfortable.  He wondered when Sherlock would make his appearance, whether he was even at home.  While he waited, he had far too much time to examine his own choices and behavior.  What was he doing here, preparing to play lover for some stranger for the promise of money?  What guarantee, besides the promise of an unfamiliar man, did he have that he’d receive the money he needed?  And even if he found himself able to pay, he would still be trusting that the faceless, nameless criminal would do as he promised and turn over the incriminating letters.

John tried to calm his thoughts, reasoning with himself.  He had Mr. Holmes’ IOU in his pocket, a luxurious roof over his head for the next few weeks, and the freedom to explore the most sinfully titillating appetites this man inspired.  His situation was little more precarious than it had been the day before when he’d struggled to win steadily against the odds.  Maybe for once, the odds were in his favor.

He ought to enjoy it, for what did he have to return to after the month was up?  A mouldy room with a snippy landlady who constantly harped on the fact that John returned to his room quite late at night?  He couldn’t return to the estate house as it was let for the year.  His sister Harriet had been living with her godmother since their father’s death and would do so until the wedding but their mother’s friend had expected John to take his own lodgings after his recovery.  Soon, Harriet would marry and be safely away on her honeymoon trip, and he would have only the most distant family and tenuous connections and few of either in London.

John listed the good that could, that would, come of this.  Harriet had a welcoming home until the wedding; John would have the money by the extorter’s deadline and ensure his sister’s happy marriage.  John would find a job more easily as another month of rest and recuperation would surely benefit his limp and could begin to consider his own future.  He may even meet someone in true need of a personal physician through Mr. Holmes, or at least be able to search for a position at a hospital.  All this for a spending a month of his time with Sherlock Holmes.  A month may go by quite easily, if he could quiet his conscience and assuage his shame.  And surely Holmes would not need him every moment of the day; there would be plenty of time for him to make inquiries of acquaintances and colleagues.

John was hopelessly optimistic about their future intimate relations; their kisses in the office of the Diogenes Club made his blood run hot in simple remembrance.  John hadn’t quite placed the man at first, but he’d finally recalled seeing him at Gentleman Jackson’s Saloon, stripped to his linen shirt, lean and rangy with a roguish air.  John had smiled at him; perhaps the first spark between them was already there.  If he hadn’t already been apprised of the blackmail, he might have considered that Sherlock Holmes had masterminded the whole plan just to trap John into his bed.  Of course, in the way of novels, a few flirtatious winks and honeyed words would be too simple for a brilliant and jaded protagonist.  He would have to play an elaborate game to win his conquests.

If he had, John mused, he was flattered in a twisted way.  It would be a lot of trouble to go through to seduce a retired army surgeon who hobbled around London on a cane.  He may have succumbed to a simple flirtation if his pride hadn’t overruled his loins.

John read too many novels during his convalescence.

The tea arrived, but Sherlock Holmes did not.  The footman acting as butler bade him to feel free to use the library as he pleased, and John spent a pleasant afternoon being astounded by the vast collection of sciences and philosophies.  Dinner was served informally, but there was still no sign of the man himself.

After dinner, the servant offered John a bath, and he was properly ensnared by what awaited him.  The tub was ridiculously luxurious and large enough to recline in.  The rising steam was scented with something subtle and masculine, spicy and foreign and was hot enough to soften his whiskers.  John washed and relaxed in the water until his fingers and toes wrinkled.  To John’s amazement, when he was finished, the water drained away through pipes installed in the townhouse walls.

He’d never felt so pampered before.  But as soon as the word fluttered into John’s head, he stopped enjoying it so much.  Of course he was being pampered.  He was essentially a rich man’s mistress, being tempted and seduced by luxury and wealth, only to ease the master’s way into his bed.  The realistic side of John wanted to keep enjoying it; at least Sherlock Holmes was interested enough to make the effort rather than just demanding John submit.

The footman helped John into a silk robe once he’d dried off and showed him into the adjoining bedroom.  It was elegant and pristine in appearance, but somehow cold and impersonal.  John wondered if it was Sherlock’s or if it was a guest room.  Surely such a fine bath-room would be adjoined to the master’s bedroom; however, there were no mementos, no trinkets.  He explored a bit.  A tall wardrobe did contain clothing, neatly pressed and folded shirts and waistcoats, with drawers of various neck cloths and smallclothes.  The desk near the window had paper and ink set out for use, but all the little drawers and cubbies were locked.  Still, John did not feel entirely confident that Sherlock Holmes actually slept here.  He moved to the bed, piled high with down pillows and what had to be the most expensive sheets he’d ever lain upon.

Most people found they couldn’t sleep in the face of anxiety.  But John had been to war, had needed to sleep whenever and wherever he could.  All the terror for his life was nothing when faced with sheer exhaustion.  As it was, he only had uncertainty for what might happen that night, or the next, or the twenty-eight after that.  That uncertainty, coupled with his stress and worry for his sister could be boxed up and shoved underneath this magnificent bed fit for the King.  John Watson threw his robe over the end of the bed, huddled under the covers and fell straight to sleep.

 

“I’m not done with you.”

 

John woke to lamplight and the scratching of pen on paper.  He jerked his upper half up awkwardly from the bed to stare at the intruder.  No, not an intruder.  Sherlock Holmes.  The man was sitting at the desk in a thick, quilted robe, shiny like satin but likely lined with silk against that posh skin.  It was dark blue, appearing almost black in the lamp and firelight, or perhaps it was so black it was nearly blue.  Either way, it made Holmes’ pale skin glow.

“Ah, so you’re finally awake.”

“What time is it?”

“Half-two.”

“When did you get home?”

“Twelve.”  Which meant if he had been at the Diogenes Club, he left quite early.  Many nights the club was finally escorting the last patrons outside as the sun rose; on occasion, it played host to revelries that took days to dissipate.

“Why didn’t you wake me?”

“I did not believe it to be a wise move to startle a wounded soldier in an unfamiliar bed.”

Holmes was correct, John supposed, as he still did occasionally have nightmares.  He now kept no weapon within reach of the bed deliberately because he’d done so for years.

Holmes fell quiet after his response and continued to write, the nib scratching the paper almost continuously save for the brief second he dipped it into the ink.  John’s heart had begun racing when he thought Holmes (ought he call him Sherlock? Lovers would surely use each other’s Christian names) might join him in bed forthwith, but as the lapsed time increased, John began to feel almost… disappointed.

Well, if Sherlock wasn’t coming to bed on his own, he would just have to invite him.  Perhaps it was the nap that invigorated John, or perhaps it was the dream of gray eyes and sharply-drawn lips.  He wanted those kisses from the previous day.  He wanted more, even if it was an engraved invitation to perdition.

With a playful quirk of his lips, John pushed down the covers to his thighs.  Sherlock’s head didn’t even flick in his direction.  John plumped a pillow under his head, reclining comfortably, but upright enough to still be able to view the man across the room.   Then he started trailing his fingers along his belly.  He’d love the feel of Sherlock’s fingers there more, but the light tickle of his own fingers was enough for now.  He stroked his other hand over his chest, tweaking a nipple and teasing it into rigidity.  John imagined Sherlock’s mouth there, with John’s fingers combing through his dark, curly hair as the man nipped and sucked.

John smiled in Sherlock’s direction, though the man still wasn’t watching unless he had the all-seeing eyes of God.  John let the hand on his belly trail lower, tracing the line where thigh joined hip.  He raised one knee and scratched lightly at the sensitive flesh of his inner thigh.  He combed his fingers through the dark blond hair around his cock and balls, carefully avoiding them while enjoying the exploratory touch.

It didn’t take much thought, seeing Sherlock’s damp curls, to begin to imagine Sherlock in that luxurious bathtub, or climbing in after him.  He could slide his hands over that slick, wet skin, lick away the water droplets, feel the steam rise from the tub and the conversely cool drips from Sherlock’s hair on his chest.

The hum he gave when he allowed his hand to grip his hardening flesh made Sherlock finally lift his head from his work and turn towards the bed.  If John was any judge at all, the man was instantly entranced.  Glittering eyes followed John’s hand as he stroked himself lazily and without rhythm.

“What are you..?”

John smirked.

“Are you trying to seduce me, Dr. Watson?” Sherlock growled, pushing back his chair roughly and prowling towards the bed.  His robe was unfastened.  The shadows in the room were deep, and only a peek of alabaster flesh appeared as Sherlock moved towards him.  John couldn’t move his eyes away.  He suddenly knew what it was like to be prey: heart pounding, mouth dry, breath caught.  He’d been to bed with people before, women, but why did this singular man make him feel so stalked, so caught?  How did Sherlock so suddenly make John feel like the about-to-be-ravished innocent when John had set out to seduce him?

“Depends.  Is it working?”  John couldn’t believe he’d managed to make the cheeky retort.

Sherlock was taller than John, and in fine form.  When he leaned over John, he utterly dominated John’s senses.

“I would have left the club much sooner had I realized you so highly anticipated our encounter that you would ensconce yourself naked in my bed.”  Sherlock gave John the most devilishly pleased smile.  John flushed, his hand falling away from his erection.  Sherlock’s eyes fell to it and one hand moved as if he thought to touch it, but changed his mind.

“This is the room to which I was shown,” John stuttered.  “If I’m disturbing your work, I can leave.”

“You are precisely where you are meant to be, John.”

The intimacy of being called by his first name by Sherlock Holmes was unbearably arousing and his cock twitched.  “Oh,” Sherlock said, as if he noticed and was pleased.

Sherlock shed his robe at the side of the bed, let it slip off his shoulders and fall to the floor without the least twinge of shame or nervousness.  His hands moved aside the coverlet and sheets more fully.  John followed the movement up to his arms where the muscles flexed lightly under his skin, to wide, defined shoulders that arched over a well-formed chest.  Sherlock may have been narrow and sinewy, but his state of undress showed off the toned muscle that roped over his long bones.

Sherlock’s right knee, and then the other, popped into John’s vision as he crawled onto the bed.  John’s eyes bounced from firm thighs to tight stomach, to dark and shadowed curls centered between them.  He swallowed, dragging his eyes away.

Sherlock’s eyes tripped down John’s body in return.

“John,” he breathed, making John’s body break out in goosebumps.  Even his nipples hardened at the sound.  Sherlock’s eyes were drawn to them, particularly the left where a tendril from John’s scar dragged low.  “John.”  Those sharply defined lips lowered to John’s chest, mapping the edges of the scar with the narrow point of his tongue.  John’s fingers reflexively buried themselves in Sherlock’s damp hair, tightening when his tongue swirled around the tight nipple.

John felt more sensitive than he’d ever been, as if every nerve ending attuned itself solely to Sherlock’s touch.  When Sherlock’s hands started to drift over his body, examining every inch, memorizing every texture, John could only sigh as he discovered how pleasurable a calloused fingertip could feel stroking the tender skin of his inner elbow.

“You surprised me, John.”  Sherlock peered up at John’s face, eyes soft and half-lidded for once.  “So few people ever do.  I expected to have to tempt you, convince you, lure you into my bed.”

“I am inexperienced with men, but I am neither ignorant nor innocent, Sherlock.  It could be important to know that about me.”

“I will not forget, John Watson.”

“Good.”

John suddenly blushed.  Sherlock noticed and his lips rose in a smirk.

“Blushing, after all that?  What naughty thoughts have crossed your mind, John?”

“I want you to kiss me… Sherlock.”  The name was added on almost as an afterthought, as if John were tasting the word on his tongue and found it quite savory.

“Oh, yes.”  Sherlock shifted so he was mouth-to-mouth with John, chest-to-chest, and nearly hip-to-hip, though Sherlock was slightly longer in the waist.  It hardly mattered that they didn’t exactly correspond, though, once their lips met.  Breathy, heart-racing kisses left John grasping for a handhold; he found the nape of Sherlock’s neck, the springy curls tangling around his fingers.  His other hand wrapped around Sherlock’s back to pull him closer.  His most secure grip, though, was the leg wrapped around Sherlock’s flank; Sherlock’s hips wedged between John’s thighs and they fitted together with perfect intimacy.

The kisses made John dizzy with lust, tongues dueling and then stroking gently.  Sherlock would pull back only to lay chaste kisses on John’s mouth, then moments later, demand entrance.  It tugged him much further down when Sherlock sucked lightly on the tip of his tongue.

“Touch me, John,” Sherlock whispered against his lips.  John’s hands obeyed, stroking that pale, perfect back from shoulders to waist, and lower, cupping and pulling that plush arse.  Sherlock’s cock had only been stirring to life when he crawled onto the bed, but he was now firm and interested and pressed along John’s length.

Sherlock stroked a hand along John’s thigh, the one he’d lifted around Sherlock’s hip, then dug his fingers into the softness of his arse as he pushed his hips tighter into the cradle of John’s.  A stuttered moan came from John’s mouth beneath his.  Yes, again, and that thought came simultaneously from both of them.  Sherlock did it again, even though the heat and friction would quickly become too much.

John whimpered when he pulled away, eyes lust-blown and blinking slowly as he watched Sherlock sat on the edge of the bed and opened the top drawer of a small bedside table.  He pulled out a small bottle of oil, which turned out to have a silky feel and considerable viscosity, and poured a little into his hand.  John watched with a twinge of jealousy as the man wrapped the wet hand around his prick and began to stroke, spreading the oil over the whole length.

And his cock was impressive to look at.  It was of a length commensurate with Sherlock’s height, and a pleasing width.  The foreskin had already moved down to reveal the head.  John shifted to get a better view, licking his lips as Sherlock’s hand slid up and down the shaft.

“Another time for your mouth, John, though I do want it so desperately.  Lie on your side, facing away.”

John did as he was told, though with a rod of tension against his spine.

“Don’t worry, John,” Sherlock rumbled as he pressed up against John’s back.  Of course he noticed the tension.  “I don’t intend to penetrate you tonight.  That is for a time when we are more comfortable together, or it will not be pleasant for either of us.”

The reassuring voice, in Sherlock’s particular deep tone, served to relax John a bit.  He only twitched a little in surprise when Sherlock’s slick hand pressed between his thighs, rubbing the oil into the crevice between and up along his perineum.  John submitted to the intimate massage, holding his thighs just slightly apart, a bit surprised at how pleasurable Sherlock’s fingers were, sweeping silkily over the tight pucker and forward almost to the base of his bollocks and back.

Sherlock teased a little, circling the tight hole, dipping into it just slightly and back around again.  The finger moved forward again, finding a rather unlikely spot and testing different levels of pressure.  Sherlock watched John quite closely, kissing his ribs as his breathing quickened, steadily increasing the pressure until John gasped.

“John?”

John had his face turned into the mattress, fingers clenched in the sheet.

“God, do that again.”

Sherlock did, watching avidly as John’s cock hitched upward and seeped several drops of fluid.  John’s hand moved from the bedsheets to flutter in the vicinity of his cock, clearly wanting to stroke himself but unsure if Sherlock would approve.

“Don’t touch.  Mine,” Sherlock breathed into John’s neck as he plastered himself against John’s damp back.  His cock nudged against John’s arse, prodding blindly for a moment before Sherlock found the right angle and slid into the crevice he’d so thoroughly oiled.  A few experimental thrusts found the optimal movement.

“Sherlock, please.  Touch me.”

A true downfall of this position was that Sherlock couldn’t clearly see John’s face.  Still, he could easily reach around and wrap his hand around John’s cock, slicking it with residual oil; and the sound of John’s moan when he did so was by no means muffled.  Keeping his hips rocking at a steady but indolent pace meant he could spend the time to tease John, alternating firm movements along his shaft with deliberate circles around the sensitive glans or exploratory fondling of John’s scrotum.  Sherlock particularly enjoyed the latter when he thrust forward and could feel the head of his own cock just there.

He also had easy and plentiful access to John’s neck, and he set about to mark him; each bite and suck made John arch his neck and groan, sometimes Sherlock’s name, sometimes just a wordless keening of pleasure.  They both drew it out as long as they could.

It wasn’t nearly long enough, in Sherlock’s mind, before his hips began to drive forth at a tempo of which he was not consciously in control, and John’s hands were clenched white-knuckled in the sheets to keep him from spilling before Sherlock was ready to allow it.  They rocked together faster, John’s hips moving forward to thrust his cock into Sherlock’s tight fist, thigh and arse muscles clenching as he did so to squeeze Sherlock’s prick with a blinding amount of bliss.

John spilled first, his seed erupting onto the bed below and coating Sherlock’s fingers with new slickness.  Sherlock had not yet released him when he reached his apex as well.  Sherlock’s spend trickled down John’s thigh, smearing between them as Sherlock continued to slide in the crevice until he could no longer tolerate the hyper-sensitization.  He panted against John’s neck, gratified to feel the other man slump against him rather than pull away.

Sherlock wanted to catalog the taste of John’s sweat, compare the drops in the small of his back to the ones on his temple.  He wanted to taste the semen that dripped from him.  He placated himself by pressing back against John’s backside once his spent cock had softened and running his hand over John’s stomach and chest.  John didn’t complain that Sherlock was basically painting him with seed and oil.

“Sherlock, that was extraordinary,” he finally breathed, shifting a bit until Sherlock let him go and John flopped on his back.  He was finally in a position where Sherlock could kiss him again, so he did.  John responded lazily, eyes closed even when Sherlock pulled back to observe him.  Sherlock couldn’t help but smile at the utterly satisfied expression on John’s face.  He kissed John’s jaw so as to not disturb the smile, and then forced himself to rise and get a cloth and some water.  John would be uncomfortable if their seed was allowed to dry on his skin until morning.

John allowed Sherlock to wash him, though now that the acute passion was exhausted, a touch of embarrassment returned.  He obligingly parted his legs and let Sherlock wipe his most intimate areas, but he blushed as he exposed himself.  When Sherlock was done, John shifted to a clean and dry portion of the bed and Sherlock tucked the bedding around him.

“Aren’t you sleeping?”  John blinked slowly at Sherlock.

“In a few minutes.  Rest.”

John dozed for a few minutes, waking to find that Sherlock was back at his desk.

“I can sleep elsewhere so I don’t disturb your work,” he offered again.  Surely Sherlock didn’t intend for them to share a bedroom; there must be another tucked away in this three-story townhouse.

“No, I’m not done with you yet.”

John had to fight back a smile, residual from the rush of climax, surely.  He lay back down, eyes watching Sherlock’s hair twitch over the collar of his robe as he wrote, dipped his pen, wrote more.  John wrapped himself in the scent of sex and Sherlock and let himself doze back off until Sherlock wanted him again.

 

Lestrade and the Suicide

 

John woke alone in the morning.  The solitude was a bit of a relief.  After how utterly intimate he’d been with the enthralling and enigmatic Sherlock Holmes, he feared the difficulty of appearing detached and professional in public – or even at breakfast.  He washed and dressed and tried not to think of the night before in too much detail.

Still, his cheeks showed a faint tinge of pink when he was shown to the room where Holmes sat indolent in a chair with a cup of tea and a newspaper.

“Good morning,” John said, cursing to himself when his face flamed hotter.  He needed to get his reaction under control.  John cleared his throat.

Sherlock’s eyes finally flickered up from his paper.  “Watson,” he said coolly before returning to the accounts of things happening in London.

See, John, Sherlock can comport himself like a proper gentleman; you can do the same.

“Have you plans for the day, Holmes?” John asked politely as he filled a plate from the buffet.

“No.  The city is insisting on being insufferably dull at the moment.”  Sherlock flung away the paper in his hand and reached for another.  One of the footmen retrieved the paper from the carpet, neatly refolded it, and handed it to John upon the doctor’s gesture.

“Have you eaten?” John asked, realizing as he seated himself that there was no plate in front of Holmes and there was an inordinate amount of food on the buffet for two men, especially if one was not eating.

“Doctor Watson, may I remind you that your guise as my personal physician does not actually require you to act in that capacity.”

The scathing tone of Sherlock’s voice did much to tamp down the lingering flush in John’s cheeks.  He found it much easier to focus on breakfast and his paper.  Still, John wasn’t about to let a whole meal go by in silence.  It took less than ten minutes for him to speak up again.

“I wonder what happened,” John said, pointing to a short article in the newspaper.  “I only met Captain Howell a few times, but he seemed like a good man.”

“Hmm?”  Sherlock barely looked up from the crime section of the paper.

“It says here that The Honorable Sarah Blackwell ended her engagement to Captain Thomas Howell.  I wonder what happened.”

Sherlock rustled his paper, turning the page and refolding it to hold in one hand as he sipped his tea.  “Likely Miss Blackwell found out about Howell’s predilection for a certain male opera singer.”

“What?  How do you know that?”  John was startled.  While he shared only a mild acquaintance with Captain Howell, having treated him for an arm fractured by a bullet, he’d never known the man to mention anyone but the girl he had waiting for him back home.  Sherlock merely raised an eyebrow in reply and returned to his paper.

“He and I have run into each other once or twice.”

John cleared his throat, took a sip of tea, and cleared his throat again.  “I see.”

Their breakfast descended into another bit of awkward silence until it was broken by a knock at the front door.  Sherlock’s ears perked up and he set aside his paper, gulped the last of his tea.  He bounced up and gestured to John.

“Come along, Watson!  Our presence is required at the scene of a crime.”

“A crime?  Holmes, what?”

“Don’t be slow, John.  I occasionally consult for those that pass for police in this city.  They’ve come to me with a case.”

“How can you tell that from a knock at the door?”

“Donovan always knocks the same way, five times, holding the door knocker instead of simply letting it clack once or twice.  Do hurry, John.”

John descended the staircase only to see Sherlock and an unknown man talking in the foyer.

“And who is this?” Donovan drawled, clearly delighted to be an observer to some immoral facet of Holmes’ life.  John was incredibly glad that Sherlock’s man had dressed him immaculately before breakfast this morning and that he had a starched, buttoned-up façade to show the constable.  He was also glad that Sherlock had conceived of a realistic story to relate as to their cohabitation, though John wondered why people might believe Sherlock would be in need of a doctor ’round the clock.

“This is Doctor Watson, my personal physician.  He will be accompanying me today.”

“Lestrade said nothing about you dragging along your physician to the crime scene.”

“Nevertheless, I require Dr. Watson by my side and Lestrade will surely allow it.”

John was quick to don his greatcoat and followed the two men to the hackney cab outside.  The ride progressed in silence as neither Sherlock nor the man he’d named Donovan seemed inclined to small talk and when John asked about the nature of the crime, Sherlock responded tersely.

“I prefer to know as little about the scene as possible before viewing it, so as to not defile my observations with presuppositions.”

When they emerged from the cab less than two miles away, Donovan pulled John aside as Sherlock swept through the open door of the boarding house and up the stairs.

“Whatever you’re doing with that man, I recommend you run fast and far away.  Sherlock Holmes brings no one anything but trouble.  He’ll destroy you the second he doesn’t get his way and never feel one iota of guilt about it.”

“Pardon me,” John said coldly.  He jerked his sleeve from the hand of the constable.  Perhaps he felt some certain loyalty to Sherlock, whether the man deserved it or not.  He had seen fit to take John’s problems as his own, even if it was because it served his own selfish needs.  And if John was later tossed out and forgotten, well, it was nothing less than what he expected anyway.

None of the officers stopped him from mounting the stairs and from there it was easy to find Sherlock.

“Why have you called me in for a simple suicide, Lestrade?  You do not need my confirmation when the gun is in the man’s dominant hand and he has left a note, several, in fact, to family and friends.  Even you can see, Lestrade, how deliberately he prepared for his death.  Howell rose early, or, more likely, stayed up through the night writing his letters, shaved and dressed to present the most respectable façade to those that might find him.  So melodramatic, that, suicide at dawn, all too common among so-called men of honor.  If you bumbling idiots have not noticed, this man is Captain Thomas Howell, who so recently became estranged from his long-standing fiancée.  He would have been distraught over the circumstance and thus took his own life.  Obvious.”

John made it to the door just as Sherlock approached it to leave, fuming.

“Yes, he did leave letters, Holmes.  One of them, in fact, was addressed to you.”

The gray-haired man’s exasperated voice stopped Sherlock cold.

“Give them to me.”

John looked over at the body, lying across the bed in full dress uniform, blood staining the wall and the bedclothes.  It was no shock to John, not after all those years at war, but the senseless loss of life still saddened him.  The gunshot was at close range, through the temple.  The captain’s hand was still wrapped around the butt of the gun, finger against the trigger.  It was, as Sherlock had said, the man’s dominant hand since the other arm had been significantly damaged by his injury and John remembered Howell being relieved that it was his weak arm anyhow.

John was afraid of something like this happening to his sister Harriet.  She’d been so distraught when she’d come to him with the blackmail note.  John had been surprised anyone had ever found out about Harriet’s first lover, but apparently her highly incriminating letters from the man had gone undestroyed.  Some enterprising servant must have come across them and was now using them, or had sold them for quick coin to someone who was willing to wait for and force a much larger sum.  John had promised to help.  In fact, he’d written her a letter before leaving his small rooms for Baker Street explaining he’d be able to produce the full amount of money when the time came for the exchange and necessarily indicating his address change.

Sherlock, meanwhile, had broken the seal on the letter addressed to himself and skimmed the contents quickly.  He handed the letter to John, who, confused, took it.  Sherlock gave him a significant look and broke the seal on the letter to Miss Blackwell.

“Oi, you can’t read the lady’s letter without her permission.”

Sherlock rolled his eyes.

“Just proceeding at the height of efficiency, Lestrade.  We could trek to Mayfair, wait while the lady weeps over the death of her captain, wait for her to read it through bleary eyes and sniffles, and then beg permission which she will surely give, or we could simply read it now and pass it along later as necessity dictates.”

John read through the letter he’d been handed.  The captain wrote to Holmes that he had been found out by an extorter and certain letters had been stolen from the dressing room of his opera singer lover.  He’d refused to pay the extorter out of a mix of honor and fury, and the letters had been promptly delivered to his affianced.  He did not beg forgiveness for his actions, only requested that Sherlock track down and stop the culprit before these terrible events repeated.

I know you will not be sympathetic to my plight, Holmes, but I rely on our most tenuous bond to request your assistance.  I never knew the man who threatened me.  Others must know, for I do believe I am not his first target.  For their sakes, as well as the sake of my dear Sarah, who will be heartbroken even as she evicted me from her future, I implore you to stop this man.

Sherlock barked at the constables to vacate the room so he could search for more evidence.  Even Lestrade seemed baffled by this instruction.

“Evidence of what, Holmes?  I thought you agreed this was a suicide.”

“Hush, Lestrade.  Watson, you stay.  Everyone else, get out so I can think!”

Lestrade rolled his eyes but did as he as he was instructed.  He was familiar with the ways and methods of Sherlock Holmes.

As soon as the room cleared, Sherlock began to spin in a slow circle, his eyes raking over everything.  John looked around, too, curious and eager to look away from the sad sight of the corpse cooling on the bed.

“If you were going to hide a letter from an extorter, where would you put it?” Sherlock asked.  John opened his mouth to reply, but Sherlock cut him off.  “No, not you.  Your concepts of pride and honor do not match those of Captain Howell.  You are willing to pay; he was not.  You sought a solution to your problem; Howell knew me and my reputation beforehand, yet foolishly did not seek my help until after his death.  Idiot.  He has made this much more difficult.  Where would a vainglorious wastrel hide a threatening letter?”

“I was going to say, he probably burned it.”

“Of course he would!” Sherlock exclaimed as if he’d thought of it himself.  “He would have been angry and embarrassed and tossed it directly into the fire.”  Sherlock crouched immediately by the small fireplace in the room.  “Shame his landlady was worth more than most.  His grate has been cleaned recently and likely several times since he received his letter.  We may as well go, Watson.  How do you feel about the opera?”

“The opera?  It’s still morning.”

“All the better to interrogate the performers when they are not performing, John.”

Sherlock brushed past Lestrade and dashed down the stairs.  Lestrade shouted after him, but the man paid no attention, having hailed a passing hack by the time John had politely moved through the constables in the narrow hall and down the stairs after Holmes.  Lestrade followed John out onto the street and demanded Sherlock speak to him.

After a deep, put-upon sigh, Sherlock acquiesced.  “Lestrade, it was suicide.  Your men can remove the body.  Be sure to go through the man’s belongings and let me know if you find a threatening letter addressed to him, though I doubt you will.  The man was being extorted.  I’m on the case!”

With that, Sherlock swung himself into the carriage after John and pounded on the roof to get the driver moving.  When they were a few blocks away, John fancied he finally couldn’t hear Lestrade swearing anymore.

“What did you do with your letter, Watson?”

“My letter?  Oh, it’s tucked away in one of my medical texts under A for aneurysm.”

Sherlock laughed.  “You are much less idiotic than Howell, at least, to have saved valuable evidence that may prove useful in tracking down the culprit.”

“You think that the same man is behind both threats?”

“I would be a fool to discount any possibility at the moment, but that is one of my theories, yes.”

The remainder of their trip into the depths of London was spent with Sherlock alternating between a manic sort of silence and sharp questions regarding the letter in John’s possession.

Suddenly, he said, “We’re nearly there,” and he directed the carriage to the mouth of a narrow street.  He stepped down and tossed a coin to the driver.  John emerged immediately behind.

 

Sherlock and the Case

 

“Where are we, Holmes?” John asked, looking around after descending to the street.  There certainly wasn’t any indication of an opera house or any sort of theater in this neighborhood.  The wider cross-street was lined with small shops and secondhand dealers, with a cobbler on the corner.  The people moving around were simply dressed but not caked with the filth of poverty.  It was a working class area, proprietors of small shops, perhaps, and respectable.

“Nowhere, yet.  It wouldn’t do to be dropped directly at the door of a molly house, now would it?”

John tugged the brim of his topper a bit lower over his forehead and followed Sherlock down the narrow street, through an alley lined with garbage and prowled by strays, and up to the back entrance of an unassuming building that John would never have guessed housed much more than a lowly pub and a few rooms for tenants upstairs.  John ducked in after Sherlock who spoke to a man sweeping the floor.  A coin flashed between them and Sherlock was given a nod and a room number.  Sherlock found the stairs and took the steps two at a time to the third floor.  John trailed after only to see a door open a crack in response to Sherlock’s incessant knocking.

“What do you want?”  Little more than a dark eye ringed with thick black lashes appeared between door and jamb.

“You know a Captain Thomas Howell?”

“I know a lot of men,” came the disaffected reply.

“He committed suicide this morning.”

The only indication that the resident of the room heard this pronouncement was the squeak of the hinges as the door swung further open.  The young man disappeared from the crack and Sherlock took this as invitation to enter.

The room was dingy and dim, the single window covered over with a haze of gauzy fabric.  Shimmering costume pieces decorated every flat surface, including the floor, though the majority hung along the nearest wall.

The young man suddenly looked particularly boyish as he wrapped his robe tighter around his waist and perched in a chair with his bare feet tucked underneath him.  The shape of his face had a certain sweet charm, though his dull eyes spoke volumes.  John sat where the boy gestured, but Sherlock stood, pacing the room and no doubt collecting every bit of the detritus with his eyes.

“When did the captain’s letters to you go missing?” Sherlock opened with the toss of a shilling into the lap of the captain’s lover.

If the young man was surprised at the stranger’s blunt question, he did not show it.

“About six weeks ago.  I didn’t tell Tom, but he found out a few weeks later.  He thought I was behind the threats, at first.”

“Did Howell injure you when he found out?”  John thought the young man’s face was showing the faint discoloration of much-faded bruising, but perhaps it was just remnants of powder from a performance.

“Irrelevant,” Sherlock announced, still taking note of the reaction, which was better than an answer any day.  “Had you any other gentleman callers who may have stolen the letters from your room?”

“No, Tom paid for exclusivity.  He said he loved me and could not bear for me to be touched by any other.”

“Did you love him?”

Sherlock raised an eyebrow at John when he interrupted again, but let the question stand.

The boy exchanged glances with Sherlock then answered John with half a shrug.  “He was handsome and wasn’t usually rough with me.”

“What did you think of his upcoming marriage?” John asked, curious if the boy had been jealous of his lover’s fiancée.

“Can’t say as it made any difference to me,” the boy replied, giving John a look that said he thought he was ridiculously naïve.  “Wasn’t planning on becoming his lady wife myself.”

John flushed.  What was he thinking?  Of course the boy knew precisely where his place in Howell’s life was, and that would likely be unchanged by the man’s marriage.

“Who else besides Howell had access to your room?”  Sherlock moved to the door to examine the lock.  The rim lock was fastened to the door on the inside, but the keeper on the jamb was loose enough that a bit of wiggling and some force might encourage the release of the bolt.

“Anyone who had an interest, I suppose.”

“Hmm.  Did anyone who worked here leave around the same time?”

“Rhetta’s been gone about a month.  She did a shite job on the costumes, but the audience didn’t seem to mind when the stitches burst open on occasion.  One night she told Steeds to shove the eight pence he owed her up his arse and sauntered out.”

“Do you know where I can find her?”

“She sometimes stayed in the garret above, but mostly with a man when she could.”

“Which man?”

“Any man.  The only place she’s likely to turn up is at Three Sheep.”

John saw Sherlock calculating in his head.  It was clearly far too early to visit a pub.

“We’ll go straight on to speak with Miss Blackwell.  Lestrade will have informed her by now.  Hopefully she will be able to provide some information on how the letters were delivered into her possession.”

Sherlock gestured to John, who stood.

“I’m sorry for your loss…”  John realized he had no idea of the boy’s name.  He nodded his head as if dismissing himself then followed Sherlock out the door and back down to the street.

“I’m sorry for interrupting, Holmes.  I make a horrible investigator,” he confessed as Sherlock raised his hand for a hack.

“It’s fine, Watson.  Your questions were the questions anyone would ask.  That you asked them did not impede me from asking the correct questions.”

“Thanks for that,” was John’s dry response.

Sherlock grinned.  “We now know a number of useful things, Watson.  It is likely that this Rhetta stole the letters and sold them to someone else.  She is an unlikely candidate for something as sophisticated as blackmail, but she would have been easy to approach for a small amount of burglary.  A few coins in exchange for a few letters, so very simple.  If we’ve any luck, she won’t have been paid quite enough to completely forget her employer.”

John nodded, but he wasn’t thinking ahead to the next step of the investigation as Sherlock was.  He was wondering how fate had entangled him with this inexplicable man, and for what possible reason.

“You ought to be more excited, Watson!  If we can hunt the villain down through the clues Howell has left for us, we may be able to solve your little problem as well.  That seems most efficient.”  Sherlock rubbed his hands together.  “Oh, I do love it when the most random occurrences tie together in such a satisfying way.”

John ignored Sherlock’s glee and remained silent the rest of the distance to the Blackwells’ door in Mayfair.  The knocker had been removed from the door, signifying that the occupants were not “at home,” though with several constables milling about, someone was clearly in residence.  Family friends and gossips alike were being turned away at the door.  The news of the captain’s suicide had apparently travelled faster than thoroughbreds.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2013 in Writings

 

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Teaser Morsel of Gambling!John

I’ve been sitting on the beginnings of this story for a while, and instead of whining and sobbing about how depressed I am, I thought I’d post the first two chapters on here.  I currently have just under 18K words on it right now.  I was going to save it for a special 100K word prize giveaway or some such, and I’m not sure if I’m ready to start posting it on AO3 or ff.net just yet (since Russians are already wondering if I am dead or abandoned Lazarus Machine), but I wanted someone else to read it.  So, if you’re into Johnlock smut and romance novels, here’s a tasty tidbit of Gambling!John.  (I also need a better, or actual, title.  Comment if you have a suggestion!)

Oh, and while I’m thinking of it, this is not set in the same world as Lazarus Machine.  It’s a separate Regency world with somewhat more realistic attitudes towards homosexuality, though I don’t delve TOO deeply into that for the most part.  I also must dedicate the plot of this story to the nutjob who bitched about the Sherlock Holmes movie “The Master Blackmailer” on Netflix.  Thank you.  🙂  It made me watch it and without that, I would not have gotten as far in this story without a plot to follow, and the flick takes some interesting liberties with the original story of Charles Augustus Milverton.  🙂

 

 

First Sight

The first time Sherlock Holmes saw Dr. John Watson was at Gentleman Jackson’s Boxing Saloon on Bond Street.  He was bared to the waist, displaying a reddened starburst scar on his left shoulder, muscled back slick with sweat.  Sherlock could anticipate each punch by the way the muscles of his back would tense beneath the skin, and he was inordinately appreciative of the way his torso would twist and stretch upon delivery.  The reciprocal blows were received with a guttural grunt that entered through Sherlock’s ears but seemed to sink directly into his gut and clench his insides.  Riveting.  Sherlock’s attention was more than captured.

Despite what had to be a painful assault on his shoulder, his sparring opponent displayed more signs of exhaustion and injury than Watson did.  Skill, stamina, willpower…  War, Sherlock decided, not a career in pugilism.  Lucky to have survived the wound on his shoulder.  The spread of scarring indicated infection, fever.  Building his strength at Gentleman Jackson’s, not his first time here.  At least three visits in the last two weeks alone, given the bruising patterns and fading.

Shirtless, showing off his scar.  Opponents thought it a weakness, focused on it.  However, likely nerve damage, Sherlock decided, made it a decoy.  A forceful fist hit but Watson rolled his shoulder with it and followed with a right so suddenly that his opponent was surprised right to the floor.  Victory.

The fighter, John Watson, walked past Sherlock, favoring him with a smile, perhaps because Sherlock schooled his face to look most dour much of the time, or he was just a friendly sort, or even that he was simply exhilarated from his triumph.  Or was he interested?  Sherlock couldn’t help but turn to watch him walk away.  His breeches were fitted with the most attractive buckle on the back, drawing attention to the line of his torso flaring to a firm arse and thighs.

Gentleman Jackson’s was not a place Sherlock hunted for conquests.  Too public, too full of men he may run into again, too dangerous.  Still, the man’s name wasn’t difficult to ascertain through overheard conversation and Sherlock locked away the knowledge in a new room that was swiftly filling up with tiny details:  Watson’s hair was fading from dark blond to gray though he was only in his thirties; the business of soldiering had tanned lines around his eyes and roughened his skin; and the business of being wounded and subsequently ill had made his frame more lean than it had been.

Sherlock turned away, next in the exhibition ring, more than ready to have the lust beaten out of his traitorous body.

***

The next time Sherlock saw Dr. John Watson, he was properly buttoned and laced into tight, fashionable clothes, every inch the starched, upright gentleman.  If the colors were a bit plain and not the vivid jewel tones Sherlock preferred for himself, well, that was simply an example of his respectability.  Sherlock found that somehow even more enticing, the idea of seducing an exemplary member of society.  But he would also have to be much more circumspect in his approach.

Watson took a seat at a hazard table in the Diogenes Club, a luxurious gambling hell owned and operated by one Mycroft Holmes.  Sherlock, Mycroft’s brother, was employed to keep the tables honest, relatively, and took his cut of the house rather than the amounts he won at the tables.  He preferred games of skill rather than chance, though his keen mind could calculate the odds in the latter with startling accuracy.  Fortune did not interest him, however.  The challenge of the game was enough.

The room was comfortably full; the doorman made sure that the tables were kept exclusive enough to attract discriminating players, but never let the place get that desperate, deserted feeling even in the small hours.  And when Sherlock had mentioned a certain name, just in passing, the gentleman in question had been welcomed into the club, much to his surprise.

Sherlock prowled around, observing the players and seating himself at any table but John Watson’s.  The man had not noticed Sherlock watching him, paying avid attention to the other players and each roll of the dice.  He was a serious player, then.  And he won, Sherlock was interested to note.  Watson was a cautious player, generally, but when he truly made a leap of faith, he was rewarded.  He played as if he could not afford to lose.

John Watson continued to display the combination of skill and luck as he habitually attended the hell over the next week.  Despite his steadily taking money from the other players, the gentlemen welcomed the young man to their tables.  Perhaps he regaled them with war stories or other amusements, or was simply pleasant company.  Sherlock overheard mere snippets when he was positioned at a nearby table and the raucous din of men at their entertainment momentarily lulled.

Sherlock continued to discreetly observe the man, careful that Watson remained oblivious.  He wasn’t a man Sherlock could proposition with a flick of his eyes towards an unoccupied room.  Still, at one point Sherlock was distracted from his card game long enough for one of the others at the table to draw his attention with a casual clearing of a throat.  Sherlock returned to his game until his first opportunity to excuse himself and then adjourned to his brother’s office.

 

The Offer

 

Doctor John Watson had been coming to this particular gambling hell every night for a week.  He wasn’t certain how a retired army doctor warranted entry to the exclusive building, but the steward had taken his name and bowed as he walked through the door.  The establishment was renowned for its lack of tolerance for cheats, which made it an attractive spot for those who loved the purity of a wager.  And it had proven lucky for John.  If his luck had held out, he’d have had enough of a stake to join the deeper games, the ones whose payouts would ease his financial troubles.

If it hadn’t been for that last stupid, impulsive wager based on a giddy rush of adrenaline and that calamitous throw of the dice, John would be at one of those fine tables right now.  Instead, he sat white-faced in the office of the proprietor, hoping to beg some credit, any small amount that he might turn into a healthy bank again.  John was nearly desperate enough to go to a moneylender, though that would only exacerbate his problems, delay the inevitable.

The door opened behind John and he rose up, leaning on his cane.  The gentleman who entered the room was not Mr. Mycroft Holmes, the owner of the hell.  John had only seen him once, moving deliberately to one of the tables and calmly directing the removal of one Lord Ashforth, who had apparently switched out the hazard dice for ones more favorable.  Mr. Holmes had been soft-spoken yet commanding.  With the slightest of movements, he’d had two burly bouncers escort Ashforth through the front door, but made it clear that he was the real threat, not the former prize-fighters.

No, that tall, auburn-haired gentleman was not the man who walked through the door.  The man who sauntered in, bowed very slightly to John, and stood behind the great, intricately-carved desk was raven-haired with eyes sharp as a stiletto.  In fact, nearly everything about the man was sharp: his clothing was arranged in crisp, definitive lines; his cheekbones were marble honed to a fine edge; his fingers resting lightly on the blotter were long and thin.  Only his dark curls were round and soft, though John imagined there was tension even in those coils, resilient as springs.

John flicked his eyes downward, away, remembering belatedly that he really ought to breathe.  To live, you know.  He retook his seat rather heavily at the imperious invitation, trying to avert his eyes from the rather striking man in front of him.  It wouldn’t do to have thoughts about this man.  He could, and would, control himself.

“Doctor John Watson.  You wished to see the owner of the Diogenes Club about extending credit.”  It was quite clearly not a question.

“Y-yes.”  John cleared his throat.

“You wagered very foolishly for a man who could lose everything.”

“Yes, I did.”  John sat up straighter and met the pale, keen eye of the man across the mahogany.  It wouldn’t do to deny it.

“You were winning a great deal of money, in a very methodical fashion.  Yet you abandoned your caution on a single throw of the dice.  Why?”

John opened his mouth, though he wasn’t quite sure what he was going to say.

“Quiet.  That was not a question for you.”  The man’s fingers steepled in front of lips that God Himself must have carved quite deliberately.  He was silent for a few minutes, moving only his eyes over John’s person.  John felt those eyes, those flinty gray eyes, probing into his every pocket and crevice.  He fought the blush that crept to his cheeks, determinedly forcing his mind to clear of everything except his purpose.

Finally, the stranger spoke so rapidly John could only just follow.

“You are a man of reasonable means, recently returned home from the war, where you had quite a reputation as a skilled physician.  No doubt many men’s lives have been saved due to your dauntless efforts, risking harm to yourself, even, to that end.  Your return home had as much to do with your inheriting the family estate due to the death of your father as with your injuries.  Unusual that the heir to an estate would be schooled in medicine or would have chosen a military career when he ought to have been learning to run the estate.  Either you were a second son unexpectedly elevated to your rank, or your father was a young, vigorous man, perhaps a second son himself, who valued service to one’s country, education, or, most unconventionally, thought that even gentlemen ought to have a proper occupation.

“No doubt the inheritance taxes were crippling, but that would not be enough to make you desperate.  After quite some years in the army, you’d be used to living simply and the modest estate left to you would be more than adequate for your needs.  No, your sudden need for money is for some other reason.

“You are a skilled gambler, doubtlessly honed among other soldiers and gambling establishments throughout Europe.  You may owe money to someone who has threatened you to collect, but that doesn’t seem quite right.  There is a threat here, though.  Interesting.  The threat doesn’t seem to be aimed at you.  Oh, protective, a sibling.  Trying to put together a proper dowry for a sister, perhaps, or pay the debts of a younger brother still at school?

“Neither of those quite add up to the desperation you’re now displaying.  Never play a game where you need to bluff, John Watson, for your face clearly shows everything going on in your head.  The sister, yes, and a wedding, but not a dowry.  Family honor?”  Those steepled fingers tapped against those sharply etched lips.

“Oh!”  The man leapt up from his seat and started pacing back and forth behind the desk.  “Extortion!”

John slumped against his seat, quite astonished.

“Amazing,” was the only thought he could force into words.

The eyes turned back to him and the pacing stopped.

“Most people are quite unnerved that I can know all their secrets, especially the ones they try to hide most.”

“I would imagine so.”

The eyes peered at John so intensely he could feel the weight of it pressing on the shoulders of his soul.  He did his soldier-best to not squirm under the scrutiny.

“Fascinating.”

The man came around to the front of the desk and leaned up against it.  His long legs stretched out perilously close to John’s.  John shifted his feet minutely, trying to hide it under the pretense of shifting uncomfortably in his seat.

“You came here to make a request.  I’ve been charged to inform you that Mr. Holmes has agreed to forward you credit of one thousand pounds, the amount you lost on your last bet.  I also have an alternative arrangement to offer.  Both options involve risk and closure to your financial difficulties.  My offer, however, will not depend on the further casting of dice, nor favors owed to the notorious Mycroft Holmes.”

“I’m listening.”  John’s hand tightened on the handle of his cane.  A million possibilities flew through his head.  This quite brilliant young man wanted something from him and he was offering the money John needed in return.  John would do almost anything short of murder to clear his current situation from his life.  And maybe even that, if he could manage to justify it.

“First, let me hear the details of the case.  How much does the extorter want?”

John named the figure, a quite debilitating sum.  After he did so, he wondered why he was confiding in this stranger, this man both pale and dark.  Granted, the man had deduced his very personal concerns after a very few minutes; hiding the truth would likely prove pointless.

“Why would he possibly think you have that much?  The sale of your estate could yield that much blunt were it not entailed, but few even of much higher rank keep that amount to hand.”

John could only shrug.

“Then it is likely that our miscreant perhaps owes debts elsewhere himself, or realizes you’re proud enough to do almost anything to get it.  What makes you think that this single payment will be the end of things?”

“I don’t.  As time passes, though, the scandal will become less harmful and perhaps less believable.”

“Once your sister is safely married, the reveal won’t matter so much.”

“Yes.”

“And you can’t just kill him, why?”

John almost laughed at the genuine sincerity of the question.  “I don’t particularly wish to be hanged or transported.  I also understand that he has a solicitor with access to the letters, which would be delivered upon an untimely end.  But thirdly, the fellow has taken great pains to remain anonymous.  I have been given a clear and undeniable threat, but I have no idea from whence it came.”

“Well, the man certainly reads enough sensational fiction to make a proper go of this, doesn’t he?”

John had to laugh at that, despite the bleak situation.

“Your offer, then.”

“You will earn my assistance, Dr. Watson, in my bed.”

John’s head jerked up in surprise.

“I… I beg your pardon?”

“You heard me, Dr. Watson.  Drink?  Mycroft keeps the finest Scotch whiskey, but rarely drinks it.”

The tall man progressed to a sideboard where he poured out a generous dram of whiskey and added a few drops of water.  John took the glass, shivering a bit at the cool brush of the man’s fingers along his own.

“You’ve caught my interest, Dr. Watson.  You can refuse, of course, giving any reason at all, whether your honor or your supposed lack of proclivities in that direction.  You may even plead a fiancée, though we’d both be aware of the lie.  But the truth of the matter is that I desire you and I have the means to offer the solution to your problem in exchange for your tolerance of those desires.”

John shot back the whiskey in his hand with a shockingly low appreciation for the fine, peaty aroma.

“What makes you think I won’t go to the magistrate with this indecent offer of yours?”  John’s voice was perhaps not as outraged as it ought to be.  “It’s madness, what you are suggesting.  Illegal.”  Whether it was the whiskey or something else he cared not to define, heat began seeping through John’s veins.

The man circled the room, always moving, never sitting still and every second demanding John’s attention.  He tugged on the lower edge of his waistcoat, making sure it was properly displayed beneath the cut of his jacket, and John’s eyes tore away before they drifted lower.  He took the glass from John’s hand to refill it, peeking over his shoulder to best display his elegant profile as he slowly returned.  When he handed John the glass, he placed a hand on John’s good shoulder, squeezed it in the most innocuous manner, but the thrill burst down John’s spine and straight into his groin.

“I observed the way your eyes shy away from lingering on my person.  Your breathing became quick and shallow when I walked into the room and again when I leaned on the front of the desk and stretched my legs near to you.  You’ve done a fine job of tamping down your reactions, but certain immediate responses to an attractive person are uncontrollable.

“You may play offended, Watson, but both you and I know better.  Legalities aside, you are at least one of the following: curious, intrigued, excited, or aroused.

“However, if the thought of a discreet dalliance with a man is too much for your nerves, you make take your credit and build your bank.  With your skill at gambling, if your luck holds, you may be able to raise the funds you need.  Precisely how long did you say you had left?”

John hadn’t.  “Two weeks.”  It had taken him that long to quadruple the small bankroll he’d been able to scrape together, which had evaporated on one foolhardy wager.  He’d have to trust that his luck would improve, for he’d have to make more reckless and impulsive wagers to make up for the lack of time.

Or he could give this man precisely what he wanted, which would be little hardship if he truly admitted it to himself, and rest easier knowing his sister could be happily married.

“Terms,” John croaked out.  He cleared his throat but couldn’t clear his embarrassment.  Of course he was insane even considering this offer.  It was illegal, for one, such desire considered immoral.  John knew this sort of thing happened, of course it did, but that it happened with such insouciance was mildly shocking.  No matter that John had more than once allowed his mind to wander in his self-pleasure (also a sin, but a lesser one rarely avoided) over bodies taut with muscle and scars instead of soft and curvaceous.  What happened in his mind was between him and God.  To actually succumb to illicit temptations…

“So you accept my offer?  I am delighted.”  John could feel the slow phrasing of the word “delighted” crawl all over his skin.  John wanted to see if the touch of that voice alone could make him reach the peak of pleasure.  Insane, he was definitely going insane.

“Not until I hear your terms for such an assignation.”

“Ah, negotiation. Not my particular forte, but I will endeavor to compensate.”  Finally, he sat, leaning back in the chair and pushing back from the desk so he could cross his long legs.  “I would have your undivided attentions for a six-month.”

John gasped.

“Six months?  But that…”

“Oh, do not worry yourself so, John.  I will likely tire of you long before and release you from your obligation.  But I do believe my compensation is more than generous for such a small window of time.”

John said nothing, feeling the heat creep up his face.  So he was to be a mistress then, for lack of a better word, a kept man.

“My sister’s wedding is in a month.  What would keep me from abandoning our agreement once the danger was over?”

“Watson, I thought so much better of you.  I would have suspected your honor would hold you to our agreement.  The arrangement is mutually beneficial.  Your extorter will cease to be a bother.  I may be in a position to recommend your services as physician to several wealthy clients.  And we will both experience pleasure behind closed doors.  But if I must threaten, you have already granted me access to enough of your secrets.”

“What if we are found out?  If the extorter, or subsequently the public, discovers the particulars of our relationship?  My reputation and occupation would be destroyed by such a scandal.”

“He could catch us in flagrante delicto and it would be nothing but his word against ours.  Simply take care not to provide written proof and show caution in front of witnesses.  My servants are well-compensated and will not tattle.”

“One month.”

“A single month, John?  I doubt that you will tire of me by that point.”

John wanted to snort at the overconfident statement, but he couldn’t.  He was too busy imagining the sordid acts in which this man might prove his self-vaunted skill.

“One month.  I will attend my sister’s wedding as a free man.”  John held himself steadily to his words.  Thirty days, he could take down his own walls and explore the desires he kept so tightly hidden.  He couldn’t imagine living with the subterfuge for longer than that, the guilt, the shame.  The end had to be foreseeable, when he could get back to his own life, to his plans for the future.

“Very well.  But we will begin immediately.”  The man rose and circled the desk like a beast tormenting his prey.

“Now?”  John jolted against the upright back of his chair as feline grace swiftly narrowed the space between them.

He leaned over John, his hands resting on the arms of the chair, his breath whispering against John’s lips.  “Now,” he said in a low voice that made John’s body thrum.  “A kiss, to seal our bargain.”

It was a bargain with a devil in a well-tailored suit, one who kissed like his lips were made for nothing else.  Well, maybe something else.  John couldn’t help but open his mouth to the man, allow him to stroke his tongue along the sensitive underside of his upper lip.  Just a quick taste, and that wicked mouth pulled back.

“Be my lover, John Watson.”  And that voice, that thick, smoky voice.  Why, oh why, did it affect him so?  Hadn’t he heard a multitude of deep voices in his life?  Why did this one make his thigh muscles clench, make his stomach jump, make his heart beat harder until there was nothing but the whoosh of his blood and that bewitching voice in his ear.

“Yes, God, yes.”

And those lips met his again and again, pulling back, tasting, pressing forth again until John’s mind was nothing but a fog of desperate need.  He moaned against those lips as slim fingers stroked the side of his neck, dipping under his cravat just behind his ear.  Holding back his response hadn’t even occurred to John; he initiated deeper contact with his tongue, flicking it over the full lower lip.

When the tall man stood again, smug and self-satisfied, John felt utterly bereft.  Despite the vainglorious attitude, John wanted to yank the man down again, push more than his lips against him.

“Go home, Dr. Watson.  Pack your belongings, leave word with your landlady.  I require you in my townhouse tomorrow afternoon.”

“I shall be residing with you?”  Had that been implied in the terms of their agreement?

“It will add credence to the premise that I have employed you as my personal physician.  The privacy of my home will aid in protecting your valued reputation, as well as our absolute discretion when in the public eye.  Also, I will require you to be available at a moment’s notice.  I do not wish to trek to your little room south of the Thames every time I desire your body.  And, trust me, Doctor Watson, I will desire your body, again and again.”

One long-fingered hand was still touching him, stroking John’s chest through his waistcoat under the lapel of his coat.  One fingertip found the sleeve edge of the waistcoat and John felt it with only the thin linen of his shirt between them.  He tamped down the impulse to strip here and now just to feel those deliberate fingertips all over his body.

“You haven’t even told me your name.”  Had John been so entranced he’d never realized the man hadn’t introduced himself until this very moment?  Apparently.  The response was a highly gratified grin.

“Sherlock Holmes, and the address is 221B Baker Street.”

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2013 in Writings

 

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A LONG Chapter, 65-66

Two weeks ago when I posted Chapter 65 on AO3 and FF.net, I said the ever-fateful words, “66 is practically done so I’ll be posting that real quick.”

Can’t believe there isn’t some giant “BULLSHIT” sign over my head.

Chapter 66 took ages.  Two weeks to piece together when it ought to have just been an easy write.  Things weren’t working in the beginning of the chapter, and I had to get that finished so I could write the end of the chapter.  I was tired or busy on my days off work and sometimes only put in an hour or two before I was so frustrated I just had to do something else.  Even this afternoon, I was getting so sick of rereading it, I was about to just post it in whatever rough state I could manage.

In the end, I pushed through it and got it written out.  I took an hour away and watched part of the Hobbit, then came back and rearranged some stuff.  I took a dinner break and watched a few episodes of Psych and came back to do final edits.  By the final readthrough, I was actually happy with it.  Possibly because I realized just how long the chapter is, just around 4900 words, which is a gigantic chapter for this story.  That is a lot of words to get right all at once, and an awful lot of words to reread over and over.

It also didn’t help that I was jonesing for a vacation, and even yesterday I had miserable vacation brain where I just couldn’t remember shit.  So today, first day of vacation, I made tacos and beat my chapter into submission.  

Now I must go attend to my other writing goals.  I want to finish at least two of the four or so Sherlock things I’ve got in the works right now.  Regency Sherlock will not be one of them, I’m sure, but hopefully Huntsman (which has been on hiatus for two months, god, I’m sorry) and Gambling John which has yet to be posted since I want to finish more (all) of it before I inflict it upon the world.

Anyway, Chapters 65 and 66, since they’re as long as about three chapters or more together anyway:

(warning for m/m smut on 66, though from what I gather, that’s more of an attraction than a deterrent, heh)

Chapter 65

 

John paced slowly near the driver, who had not yet provided himself with a word in his own defense even as Sherlock and one of the constables asked him question after question.  Sherlock wasn’t as familiar to the constables this side of the Thames, although his reputation certainly did precede him.  John was certain this was the only reason they’d been taken at their word.  To a complete neophyte, it certainly would seem more likely that the two gentlemen had been interrupted in the process of abducting an innocent hackney driver.  John was armed, after all, a fact he couldn’t hide given the shot that had attracted the attention of the watch and the ball in the brain of the dog inside the warehouse.

Sherlock explained in a flat voice that the trussed-up man was the same man who had attacked him several nights previous.  He left out that he had known precisely who the driver of their carriage was, but made much about the man’s attack on and subsequent subdual by John.  Around the point of the tale in which he’d been accosted by the guard dog, Sherlock stalked off and John took over to calmly explain the laboratory within the warehouse, the unknown chemicals, the morbid scent in the air.

A few minutes later, John caught a glimpse of Sherlock crouched down as if peering at the cobblestones, the tails of his jacket becoming dirtied with muck from the street.  John wasn’t sure if he ought to walk over there or allow Sherlock some well-deserved peace.  In the end, he let him be and kept an eye on him in case his husband showed signs of the panic he’d experienced inside the warehouse.

John continued to pace, keeping an eye on Sherlock’s still form as two more constables sauntered onto the scene.  The marks on his temple and chin were finally beginning to ache, the exhilaration of the fight wearing away.  Tomorrow morning, perhaps even tonight, he’d ache sharply.  It was completely worth it.  For the first time in a long time, he would deserve his aches and pains.  He’d earned them, rather than had them thrust upon him.  Perhaps he wouldn’t feel so utterly glad about it in the morning, but for now he relished the twinges when he blotted the cut on his temple or bent the knee on his bad leg just a little too far. 

A bold constable had fetched a lantern and went inside with his handkerchief folded over his nose and mouth, while others circled the building and opened boarded-up entrances at John’s suggestion that the building be may need to be cleared of dangerous gases.  The first constable, a young man with more brash than brawn, returned to the doorway requesting assistance and a crowbar or hook to pry open some suspicious crates.

Sherlock’s head popped up as someone jogged past with a flat metal bar that might do the job.  He abruptly stood and followed after those compelled to investigate.

When he walked past, John said, “Sherlock, perhaps we ought to leave this to the constabulary.”  What John really wanted to say was, Sherlock, you don’t have to go back in there to prove anything to me, but he didn’t. 

“John, if you think I’m going to leave this investigation in the hands of untrained, uneducated louts, you are an unconscionable idiot.”  Sherlock ducked back into the warehouse.

John could see Sherlock pausing by the body of the dog through the door, but he could not see his face as he walked in a full circle around it, examining it in detail.

“You’ve got this, yes?” John said to the constable who had given up on trying to get the prisoner to speak and was now simply guarding him until such time as he could be transported away from the scene.  John didn’t wait for an answer but limped straight back into the warehouse himself.  

In the light streaming from several doors, including one large enough to drive a wagon through, the dog on the floor was hardly the monstrous thing Sherlock had started to describe.  It was a beefy thing, brindled, and low to the ground with a wide mouth and plenty of sharp teeth, bred to harry bulls at market.  It had probably been a rather stalwart guard, but John could only wonder exactly what Sherlock had seen and heard as the beast loudly and aggressively advanced.

The temperature inside the building had dropped enough that John judged the air fit for human consumption.  Besides, there was no way to know if Sherlock had ingested something from one of the vials on the worktop instead.  As long as everyone, including Sherlock, kept a sane thought in their heads, John would deem it safe.

Two constables had made quick work of determining the contents of half a dozen boxes.  The crates, the ones John could see lining the walls in stacks three or four high, were filled with bodies.  Or, more accurately, body parts.  The men grimly continued their work, undaunted, for they had many times seen corpses in their line of work and gossip brought increasingly lurid stories of the last days and weeks with their morbid discoveries.  Sherlock glanced in each crate, no doubt filing away each revelation to later puzzle into a complete body.

A flurry of swearing deeper in the building sent Sherlock and several constables after the sound.  John moved as quickly as he could after the other men, past a wall slapped up between roof supports, only to see a corpse smoking from a dozen contact points with bare wires, flailing, eyes rolling, tongue lolling and finally sitting up before disengaging several of the wires and thudding back onto its marble slab.  It continued to twitch, but much less violently. 

The vast machine spouting wires was familiar to John, though this one was much larger and housed half a dozen crackling, spinning wheels.  It was like von Marum’s electrostatic generator at the Professor’s, though this improved machine may be capable of creating vastly more electricity than its predecessor.  Everyone, even Sherlock, had stopped in gut-wrenching awe, jaws dropped open at the sparking, whirring machine.

“He must have recently been here!” Sherlock declared, recovering first.  “This experiment could not have been abandoned long else the corpse would be nothing but char.  John and I blocked off one exit with our arrival, but there must have been another which was not boarded over.”

Sherlock dashed towards the back of the building.

“John, hurry, I have need of you!”

John trotted along after with one last glance at the hideous construction of wires and brass, spurred by the urgency in Sherlock’s voice.

“John, look around, tell me what you see.”

They emerged on a slightly busier street than Baskerville Road, but it was still mainly wagon traffic as opposed to foot.  Few that passed would give a second look to the warehouse, much less investigate with any curiosity.

“I’m not sure what you want me to say, Sherlock,” John hedged.  He didn’t see anything that Sherlock could not see.  “No one is running away.  There is another warehouse across the street, but the entrance on this street is closed…”

“No, John, you see but you do not observe,” Sherlock huffed.

“Well, what should I be looking for?”

“Details, John.  Our scientist likely escaped from this door within minutes of our arrival.  Where would he go?  Down the street?  Into another building?  Did he have a horse waiting?  A carriage?  I cannot trust my eyes right now.”  Sherlock sounded a bit frantic, prompting John to try his hardest.

“If I hit this door at a run and did not have a carriage waiting for me, I would want to get out of the line of sight as soon as possible.  I’d go that way,” John pointed down the street, “and down around that building to disappear from sight.”

“Good, John.  Useless, but good.”  Sherlock tapped his fingertips together and hummed.

“If you know better, Sherlock, then why did you ask?”

“I need your eyes, John, to confirm what I’m seeing.”  Sherlock tugged John a dozen feet.  “Now, do tell me if you see this rut here, or this pile of droppings?  Do you see it steaming?”

“Yes, Sherlock, so what?”  The streets of London were covered with the stuff.

“Well, our scientist is clearly an educated man, and education takes wealth.  A wealthy man, were he to enter this section of London at all, would certainly ensconce himself in a small carriage, perhaps one deliberately dilapidated to help conceal his identity.  A phaeton would attract too much notice, but a simple chaise or curricle would suit his purposes.  These ruts are freshly cut into the muck, and the manure is still steaming in the cold air from a recently present horse.  Given the relative placement of these two clues, it was likely a single horse, not a pair, so a chaise.  Clearly our quarry drove in that direction.  It is useless to try and follow as he would easily blend in with the traffic heading towards London Bridge.”

John saw all these things as Sherlock pointed them out, verified them even, but he’d never have drawn the conclusions that Sherlock wove around the facts. 

“Astounding,” he breathed.  John imagined he saw Sherlock’s lips nearly flutter into a smile, but he whipped around too soon.

“I don’t believe the scientist meant for us to find him here, or he wouldn’t have escaped.  Quite intriguing.  Has the driver said anything?”

“Not a word.”

“Fascinating.  I wonder if he can speak, or if such functions of the brain have been lost.”  Sherlock led John back inside the building to where the constables were still gaping at the massive contraption and the slightly twitching body attached to it.  Sherlock darted around it for a minute and suddenly shut it down, much to the relief of the simple parish constables unused to such spectacle.  Sherlock began to peer closely at the body and plucked away all the wires so as to absolutely confirm the failure of this experiment.  He brought John in close to confirm that the heart did not beat within the chest.  John checked the body with professionalism, though the condition of the body made it clear that he’d find no signs of life.

It surprisingly took less than an hour for the building to be flooded with constables and several runners from Bow Street, Lestrade included.  Donovan, and a contingent of river police, stopped by to gawk, as well.  Despite his fellows’ toughened natures, Donovan was the only one to walk into the building and still have the gall left in his belly to open his bloody mouth.

“Mr. Holmes, did you get tired of your toys, or did you just wish for someone else to clean up after you?”

“Tiresome, Donovan, all my doing, not a real criminal, et cetera, how utterly blasé.  Have you been unable to realize the truth by now?  I’m amazed they make a hat for a skull so thick.”

“Ah, I see, Holmes, you’re showing off for that pretty husband of yours.  Fresh and milk-fed, isn’t he?  Don’t worry.  Me and my men will be glad to make sure he’s not lonely after you’ve been hauled to the top of the scaffold.”

Though he knew that Donovan’s remarks were just to provoke him and would never come to pass, Sherlock jerked towards him, his hands curled into fists.  But John stepped up from behind him, unimposing with his gun in a constable’s custody and his cane taking some of the weight of his steps.

“I’ve grappled with a dead man already once today, Mr. Donovan,” John offered in a steely tone.  “Care to make it two?”

Donovan raised an eyebrow and sneered at John, who was a head and a half shorter and considerably narrower.

“Don’t worry, little man, I like my men to limp afterwards…”

Donovan wasn’t expecting the blurry fist that connected with his nose, though he ought to have done considering how many times it had been broken before.  The force was enough to send him to the ground.  Before he could blink away the tears that blurred his vision, (he let the blood flow freely down his chin and onto his shirt,) Lestrade wedged himself between them.

“Sergeant Donovan, if you and your men are not going to be helpful, I believe you have patrols to return to.  I’ve got enough to do without holding a rag to your face as if you were a snot-nosed brat.  Get your arse back down to the docks and if you don’t want blood in it, keep your mouth shut.”

Donovan grumbled as he picked himself up, but did as he was told with little more than a glare in Sherlock and John’s direction.  John ignored it, wrapping his much-abused handkerchief around his bruised knuckles with enough of a smirk on his lips to make Donovan growl.

Morning turned to afternoon before the investigation turned methodical.  Lestrade took control and sent one of his compatriots to track down the current owner of the building and two others to find and question any possible witnesses about any notable comings and goings on Baskerville Street.  He ordered the local constables to take inventories, mark each crate with chalk indicating the contents, but to remove nothing.  Here was as good a place as any to store the remains for now.  Plus, despite calling upon half the constables of London (regular criminals were going to have a field day) he would like to keep this quiet as long as possible.  Lestrade strode through the building with Sherlock and John, finally witnessing the failed experiment and the giant electrostatic generator.

He peered up at it with a certain mystification.

“What does it do?”

“It creates an electrical charge.”

“Why?”

Sherlock was at odds to answer this.  “Why?  Because the human body, our very personal universe, demands investigation just like any other mystery.  The amount of knowledge we lack in this field is mind-boggling.  What we learn could extend our lives, cure infirmity and disease!  Imagine if we could instill life in a fresh corpse by harnessing the mysteries of electricity.  You could simply ask the murdered about their murderer.”  Sherlock sounded far too excited about this possibility for someone who would have far fewer puzzles to solve if this became the case.

“I believe some mysteries ought to stay just that, Holmes.”  Lestrade was looking at the body on the slab, the one that had ceased to twitch when Sherlock shut down the machine.  “You were inside the building for a period of several minutes and didn’t see anyone?”

“No.”  There was little else to say, and Sherlock’s demeanor dampened with the change in subject.  He’d informed John as the constables were arriving that he did not wish for them to know about the hallucinations, and John had kept to his word, being deliberately vague on the subject.

Lestrade grunted, peering at the corpse with narrowed eyes and a close lantern.  Sherlock ignored him and stalked about taking in every bit of information he could.  John tried to be helpful, looking for any sort of records the scientist might have kept, but found nothing of use.

“The experiments have been going on for some time,” Sherlock began.  “The man responsible is quite advanced in his work.  He has improved upon the generator here, and here, compared to the Professor’s model, do you remember, John?  I wonder if the thickness or metallurgical content of the wires makes a difference; it must.  I believe these augmentations may allow for a more intense burst of electricity…”

Lestrade interrupted him.  “This is all very fascinating, but we need to know about the culprit.  I haven’t even gotten the final number of bodies yet, but this is likely the same man who has been leaving you gifts all over London and I’ll like to put a stop to this!”  His voice had risen quickly until he shouted the final three words.

Sherlock was unfazed and simply responded, “Yes.”  Then he began pointing out the marks in the sand-strewn floor that had not been trodden over by constables, blown into miniscule dunes by the crosswinds that cooled the enclosed air, nor made by Sherlock himself as he circled close to the machine.

“Two men, one with a slightly slurred step, which could be our driver – we really need to find a name to call him now that he’s in custody – Lazarus might be appropriate, don’t you think – and another with a smaller stride but very sure.  The second is likely to be our murderer.  Educated, wealthy or a quite industrious thief to procure all this equipment, particularly the marble.  Perhaps we could trace the purchase of such an expensive item to further our investigation. 

“The work surfaces are meticulously kept, but the sand on the floor is a bit of a surprise.”  Sherlock crouched and picked up a pinch, rubbing it between his fingers, let it drift to the floor.  He touched his fingertip to his tongue, then spit.  “Sand, but mixed with a generous amount of sodium bicarbonate.  That indicates our scientist was working with acids and had either deployed the sodium bicarbonate over a spill or had prepared for such an eventuality well in advance. 

“Lestrade, if your stomach is bothering you, you could do worse than to dissolve a pinch of the stuff into a glass of water and drink it.”

Lestrade glared at the cause of his heartburn and stopped rubbing his fist into his chest.

“I think we would be better served by interrogating the man who brought you here, especially if you believe he’s been walking around inside this building.”

“Excellent!  I also wish to administer a thorough exam…”

“Not you.  You and Doctor Watson need to go home and leave this to me.  You’ve already put yourselves in enough danger.”

“Home?  Now, when we’re finally getting somewhere?”

“Yes, home.  Your brother would have my head if I let something happen to you, and that’s not just a figure of speech.  I’d be served up on a platter like John the Baptist at the next Holmes family event.”

Sherlock straightened up and looked at the slightly manic Lestrade calmly.  “It would hardly be dangerous for me to attend Bow Street.  It would also be invaluable for me to hear whatever information the man has firsthand.  Thirdly, I would like to take some samples of the man’s blood and tissues for analysis.  He is the only successful resurrection completed by our mad scientist as far as we know and we need to take advantage of that fact to increase our knowledge.”

“Holmes, absolutely not.  Am I speaking the King’s English?  Are you listening?  You will neither interrogate nor examine our prisoner.  Furthermore, I will not allow you to torture or dissect a man in my custody whether you believe him to be some sort of resurrected monster or not.”

“I don’t need to dissect him completely, Lestrade.  I simply need a few tissue samples.  You would impede furthering scientific knowledge?”

“I’m impeding your rampant disregard for the prisoner’s rights!  Holmes, he’s not dead!  I’ve indulged your deductions thus far, but no longer!”

“Yes, he is!  You see the instrument of his resurrection before you!  The multitude of failed attempts to replicate him!  If that isn’t enough to convince you, look to the cut on his neck!  There is no surviving that.  And the wound shows no sign of healing.  If you remove his shirt, I’m certain you’d see where a bullet struck him between the ribs the night he was strangling me.  I’ll wager that there’s little more than a rough stitch or two to keep the wound from seeping vital fluids, not to mention the fact that he seems to be supremely unaffected by such a mortal wound…”  Now they were both shouting at each other, attracting the curious and disapproving stares of half a dozen men.

“Holmes, he’s walking around.  He may even talk yet.  He’s not dead.  You can have him when he’s still and cold on a slab, but for now, I have to treat him like any other prisoner.  I can’t allow you to pick a man apart at the seams on a whim!”

“It’s not a whim!”  Sherlock had begun to seethe at the word “indulged,” and his temper had passed white hot in forge terms.  “I’m beginning to think that you don’t want this solved at all, Lestrade!”

“Holmes, do try to understand.  I believe you, I really do.  But not all of my superiors feel that way and I don’t want to be fired, transported, or hanged because I let you experiment on a man in my custody.”

“Who is deceased!  And your belief in the truth is irrelevant.  The truth is the truth, whether simple minds can grasp it, or no!”

“Why can I never reason logically with you?  No matter how right I am, no matter what argument I make, I just can’t win!  You don’t even listen!  I’m done with it, Sherlock Holmes.  You can get the hell out of here while I sort out this mess without your interference for once!”

Sherlock opened his mouth to tell Lestrade exactly where he’d be without Sherlock’s ‘interference,’ but John’s voice halted his own.

“Sherlock.”  John wrapped a hand around Sherlock’s elbow, around the front though, the wrong way, and his other hand stroked circles over his shoulder blade.  “It’s no use arguing.  Mr. Lestrade cannot concede on this matter.  We need to give him time to organize this mess.  We’ll go home to regroup and form a new plan of action given what we’ve found today.  The resurrected man is going nowhere.  I’m sure Lestrade will keep the man in custody for questioning, at the very least.”

John’s presence at his side did not calm Sherlock’s ire, but it did incite him to tamp it down a little.  His husband was right in that no amount of shouting at Lestrade would entice him to change his mind; he was as stubborn and obstinately contrary as Sherlock at times, even when he was wrong.

 

Chapter 66

 

Sherlock alternately raved and sulked the entire way home, filling the enclosed carriage with his unfettered indignation.  Nothing John said helped matters.  He offered his coat since Sherlock had long been without his and could be cold, but Sherlock shrugged him off.  John’s suggestions of other avenues of investigation or stopping for a meal were rebuffed with chill rage.  He even jokingly offered to be the padded dummy so Sherlock could teach him the rudiments of fencing.  Sherlock’s rebuff was so scathing, John’s face heated and he ceased trying.  Silence reigned somewhere in the vicinity of St. Paul’s.  Each kept to his thoughts for the long remainder of their journey home.

Sherlock burst in the door upon arrival and shot directly up to the first floor, leaving his tight-sleeved jacket at the foot of the stairs to be picked up by Matthews after collecting John’s greatcoat.  It took John a minute to work off his tight gloves; his left hand had swollen.  Donovan must have a face made of stone, and he’d fought the driver as well.  The leather gloves had protected his hands somewhat, but the force of the blows had bruised his knuckles. 

By the time John had hobbled to the bottom step, tall boots exchanged for comfortable leather shoes, strains of mutilated violin began to shatter down to the ground floor.  After a few minutes of random notes, Sherlock began to systematically abuse the strings in a shrieking, Hellish version of scales.  John paused a moment, equally annoyed and worried; Sherlock had never played anything but beautifully in his presence.  Was this how he expressed upset?  That ought to prove vexatious.

“Oh, dear, was it a bad day?”  Mrs. Hudson came bustling forth from the kitchen, spied John hesitating at the foot of the stairs.  “Oh heavens, look at you.  Blood on your face and your collar, and where is your cravat?  Come back to the kitchen and I’ll set you to rights in a jiffy.  No, don’t you dare give me that ‘I’m a doctor’ look, young man.  It’s best to leave Mr. Holmes to his sulk awhile anyway.”

Mrs. Hudson fed John and tended to his minor wounds with warm water and magnesium salts.  His mood was buoyed by the older woman’s good cheer and apparent motherly adoration of Sherlock, as well as a healthy helping of jam tarts.  Still, his leg stiffened after the lazy hour being pampered in the warm kitchen; and he thought if it got much worse, he might not make it up the stairs at all.  John hoisted himself up from the straight-backed wooden chair with a bit of a groan.

“Well, I’m going to beard the dragon in his den, Mrs. Hudson.  Send tea up with Matthews, please, and a few of the tarts, and I’ll see what I can do about Sherlock.”

John had been sitting too long and his bad leg was practically numb, but he ground his teeth and stretched the weary muscles.  When he felt up to it, he headed to the stairs; but of course, the minute he stepped out of the kitchen, and certainly as he ascended the steps, Sherlock’s so-called playing increased in volume.  John mused that the catgut must be remembering its former life, yowling a stray song atop a fence.

“Sherlock!” John shouted to be heard over the cacophony that vigorously assaulted him upon reaching their upper sitting room.

“I’m thinking, John,” Sherlock shouted back, not pausing his vigorous bowing.  John only caught a quarter of Sherlock’s ensuing bitter condemnation of Lestrade, Bow Street, London magistrates, punctuated as it was with variously pitched shrieks from the violin.

“You’re brooding very loudly, Sherlock.  Do sit and have tea, or read, or, heaven forbid, even experiment if you must.  You’ll drive the servants and neighbors to madness.”

Sherlock drew the bow down the length of the strings, the instrument issuing forth an annoyed groan.

“Then what are you doing here?”

“I’m already mad, you see,” John replied.

Sherlock ignored him, moving to the window and energetically playing a discordant piece that at least vaguely resembled a melody.  John decided that was a tolerable compromise.  He went to his room and collected the wooden case that contained his cleaning set.  He laid out the items he would need and when Matthews arrived with the tea tray, John sent him back down to fetch his pistol from his greatcoat.

“Do sit and share these tarts with me, Sherlock.  I believe Mrs. Hudson has a nefarious plan to fatten me up that we must thwart.”  John smiled at Sherlock’s back, but received no response.  “Tea?  Everything is improved with tea?”  Sherlock might have sighed but it was hard to hear over the inharmonious notes.

Matthews returned and handed John the gun with care, though with no lack of familiarity. 

“I could do that, sir, if you wish.”

“No, thank you.  I prefer to do it myself.  That will be all.” 

John was glad the constable had returned his weapon before he and Sherlock had left.  The methodical cleaning process was comforting and the smell of the gun oil reminded him of his father, who had always taught him to take care of his weapons for one day his life could depend on them.  John’s life had depended on his pistol several times, and Sherlock’s twice now as well.  John went through the well-practiced motions of cleaning and oiling the pistol, and after a thought, loaded it again.

When John was done, and the items properly put away, he returned to their shared sitting room.  The frenzied playing was almost pleasant now, though not exactly relaxing.  Still, the noise and clatter of another life in the house was more than companionable.  Even if Sherlock wouldn’t talk to him, he felt a lot less lonely than he had in a long time.

John paused at the bookshelves during a turn about the room, considering what he might find interesting enough to hold his thoughts through Sherlock’s playing (brooding).  He pulled out what looked to be a medical text on rare diseases only to flip it open and find the title page written over with a bold, “Wrong!”  John smirked; this would certainly prove to be entertaining.  He perused the pages, case histories of unexplained deaths, bizarre symptoms, but Sherlock had crossed out many of the conclusions and scribbled in, “Poison – arsenic,” “Poison – hemlock, obvious” or “aspiration pneumonia due to botched asphyxiation by cheating husband; honestly, did no one check his shoes?”

John sat in his chair by the fireplace, bad leg propped up on a little footstool and angled towards the fire, and paged through the book.  He played a game with himself, trying to read each study as a puzzle and see if he could predict Sherlock’s written-in diagnosis.  Between each section, he stood and circled the room slowly twice.  It was entertaining for an hour or so, until Matthews appeared to light the lamps and stoke the fire.

Matthews vanished downstairs immediately after, probably wondering just how John could stand to remain in the room when Sherlock’s playing was so deliberately atrocious.  John considered many ways to get Sherlock out of his foul mood, including shouting him down in his Captain voice, breaking the violin and throwing it into the street hopefully to be put out of its misery by a passing horse and carriage, and physically throwing Sherlock down on the rug and shagging the annoyance from the man.

John let a little smile play on his lips; the third option did have merit.  Sherlock had been playing without pause for a good two hours.  Despite his state of semi-undress, (wearing neither a proper jacket nor his quilted banyan,) he was glowing and the hair curling over his neck cloth was damp.  And without his coattails to obscure it, his plush arse was on display.  John watched him play in his petulance, moving with emphatic gestures and sweeps of the bow.  Had the music been of a more tolerable tone, John would have been completely entranced by the sway of his body, the set of his shoulders, the arch of his back.

“Sherlock.”

“What is it, John?” Sherlock replied with no little exasperation, flinging his bow out to one side and whirling to face his husband. 

“Does that sound like proper music to you?” John enquired quite seriously.  “I only ask because I’d like to ascertain whether or not you were still being adversely affected by the chemicals in the warehouse.”

“I am unaltered.  The distortions in my vision and hearing returned to the normal range before we left the warehouse,” Sherlock answered with flat certainty.

“I’m glad to hear it.”

Sherlock turned away and, after a few limbering movements, put bow to strings yet again.  He resumed playing but his agonized exuberance was muted.  The notes he wrung from the violin were long and pure as if he intended to draw out a two minute piece into ten.  John even thought that he recognized the piece. 

John abandoned the book on his lap, though he idly turned pages without looking at them.  He shifted in his chair to more comfortably watch his husband.  He could admit that he felt more than just attraction to this man – there was quite a bit of affection.  But Sherlock eschewed his touch more often than not, leaving John uncertain as to how to approach him.  He pictured himself pressing against that long, straight back as Sherlock played, feeling the ropey muscles move against his chest.  He could press his nose just under the curls at Sherlock’s nape – surely he was tall enough to reach – and John could memorize what Sherlock smelled like, tasted like.

John remembered their abbreviated kiss earlier that morning and sighed.  Not more than a tease, a touch, a warm feeling that lingered.  How long would it be before Sherlock would kiss him like that again?  What would it take to distract Sherlock from his pique, from his mysteries, and entice him to display some proof that he did indeed desire John in return?

Would it work if John was pressed against his back, if John stroked his hands over Sherlock’s hips?  He saw his thumbs finding the little hollows above Sherlock’s buttocks and his fingertips curling around to brush his pelvic bone.  Then if he slid his hands forward just a bit, he’d find the gap in the fall of his trousers; he could tease his fingers along the edge of the fabric, slip them inside.

Maybe this would distract Sherlock from his violin.  Maybe he’d have to stop playing, need to lean back into John’s embrace.  Maybe John would press the erection he was developing into that arse, discern whether it was soft and lush or tightly muscled.  Maybe Sherlock would open that gorgeous mouth of his and utter a moan in that honey-rich baritone of his.

John heard that moan.  His eyes leapt back into focus as he realized the sound had been a long, low note drawn from the violin, but also that Sherlock had turned and was considering him carefully.

“We could do worse things with this insipid afternoon than consummate our marriage, John.”

“I beg your pardon?” John sputtered, when he should have just stood and said, ‘God, yes.’  What was wrong with him? 

“You heard me.  I do loathe repeating myself, John.”

John had heard, but he wasn’t entirely sure he wasn’t hallucinating.  Could Sherlock read his mind?  The way those eyes penetrated him, John had little doubt that he could.  “Right now?”

“You’ve been watching me, John, for at least a quarter of an hour.  And your thoughts have been of an increasingly lascivious nature.”

John wasn’t surprised to be caught out in his lingering admiration for Sherlock’s backside.  Had it really been that long, though, that John had been lost in his fantasy about his husband?

“How…?” he stuttered, with just a hint of blush.

“The windowpanes reflect nearly as well as mirrors as the darkness falls outside and the lamps are lit within.  It was quite elementary to observe your attention.  And the way you’re shifting the book in your lap is a rather schoolboy method for hiding evidence of an erection.”

“Ah, well, I suppose I’ll have to learn to be more discreet.”  John’s face deepened in color.

“Don’t bother.”

John wasn’t certain what Sherlock meant by that, whether he needn’t bother because he could not hide from Sherlock’s heightened awareness or if Sherlock simply didn’t mind.

Sherlock reached for a cloth from his violin case and began to wipe down his violin.  He laid the instrument in its case with care then proceeded to wipe down and loosen his bow as well.  John took this to mean he was not playing any more tonight.  The heavy quiet beat in his ears.  Or maybe that was his thundering pulse.

“So by your lack of refusal, am I to understand you would be willing?”

John shivered at Sherlock’s sly tone of voice.  It would have been seductive, if he wasn’t so inclined to bluntness.  Of course he was willing, but…  

“Have I not properly expressed my resolve to not neglect you carnally, no matter what my intentions previous to our introduction might have been?”

John’s blush spread to his ears and down his neck.  Even the small of his back felt suddenly hot.  A pulse of blood ignited those “neglected” areas to fresh awareness.

“John.”

When had Sherlock gotten so close?  And since when did firelight reflect in his dark hair like that, giving him red and umber highlights?  Those eyes, though, they were the same, piercing John with their uncanny precision.

Close, so close.

Good God, Sherlock was going to his knees.  In front of John.  Moving the book to the floor.  Sliding his hands up John’s thighs.  If John hadn’t been hard before, the intensity in Sherlock’s eyes, focused on him and intending… intending to…

Sherlock’s fingers found the buttons to John’s trousers, deftly working to open the placket and bring John out right here, right now. 

John’s hands covered Sherlock’s forcefully stilling them.

“I thought you wanted this.  This morning you said…” 

“God, Sherlock, I do, but are you sure you’re ready?”  Was John imagining that Sherlock sounded slightly dejected underneath all that frustration?

“We are neither of us simpering misses, John.  We don’t need to wait for some poetic moment.  You are quite obviously aroused and it will distract my mind from the events of earlier quite effectively.”

“Well, some brilliant man did say I was exceedingly distracting.”  John’s voice, as well as his attempt at humor, was weak.

“Yes,” Sherlock agreed with just a hint of a smile.  His hands resumed their efforts.  John almost lost his conviction at the warmth of Sherlock’s hand cupping over his cock as the other disengaged two buttons.  And then he squeezed just a little.

“Sherlock, not like this, on your knees,” John gasped.  “Please, I want more.”

Sherlock blinked up at John, studying him, the question ‘More? I’m offering everything,’ obvious in the tilt of his eyebrows.  John let go of Sherlock’s hands, moving one of his own to curl around the back of Sherlock’s neck, stroking behind Sherlock’s ear with his thumb.  John shifted in his chair, leaned forward, and pulled Sherlock’s mouth to his.  The kiss itself was simple, a press of lips slightly parted, breath mingling.

“Let me take you to bed, Sherlock.  Let me pleasure you, kiss you, touch you.”  John would have given anything to know what thoughts flew through Sherlock’s mind in the minute before he rose gracefully to his feet. 

“Very well, John.”  Sherlock took up a taper and went ahead to light the two lamps in John’s bedroom.  Their bedroom.

By the time John struggled to his feet and followed, made awkward by an unflagging erection and half-unfastened trousers, the room was glowing.  The soft light would look quite well on Sherlock’s bare skin.  The thought almost made John stumble.

Sherlock kicked his shoes off before crawling onto John’s bed.  Their bed.  He sat against the headboard, plumping a pillow behind his back.  His eyes never stopped watching John, who divested himself of his coat and waistcoat.  Sherlock’s fingers hovered above his own buttons, fussing with them rather than unfastening them.  That was fine.  John made himself as comfortable next to Sherlock as he could, straightening out his bad leg and curling the other around for balance.  John noticed that Sherlock had chosen the far side of the bed, which would allow John to lie on his uninjured side facing Sherlock.

John wrapped a hand around one of Sherlock’s, pulling it to his lips and lightly kissing each knuckle.  When he was done, he guided that hand around his waist, leaning in closer.  He stroked the fine brocade of Sherlock’s waistcoat from shoulder to just below his ribcage, feeling Sherlock’s heartbeat below his fingertips.  John couldn’t believe he was allowed to touch this man, that somehow, unbelievably, this man wanted him in return. 

It took both his hands to unknot Sherlock’s cravat, but before he finished, Sherlock’s lips were upon his and John forgot momentarily how to untie a knot, unfasten a button, and breathe.  Sherlock’s lips pressed against John’s with a violent desperation very unlike the languid passion of the morning.  John held his own, though he needed to clutch Sherlock’s shoulder to steady himself. 

The kiss eased in pressure and John took the opportunity to nip and suck at Sherlock’s plush lower lip.  Sherlock’s tongue joined the game and John felt a thrill at the gentle tasting that shot all the way down his spine.  He surged up against Sherlock, one hand tangling itself in the damp curls at Sherlock’s nape.

Sherlock dragged his lips away, leaving John to pant as he pressed his nose and mouth into John’s open collar – John had not replaced his lost neck cloth, feeling no need of it in the privacy of their own home.  The exuberant attack on his neck, the licks on his collarbone, the nips on the skin under his jaw introduced a few soft gasps into the quiet.

Sherlock rent John’s shirt open instead of sparing the moment it would take to sweep the fabric over his head.  John sighed, though even he wasn’t sure whether this was caused by the loss of a perfectly good shirt or the glorious way Sherlock was sucking a mark onto his neck just there.  It didn’t occur to him until Sherlock paused that his husband had suddenly become aware that it wasn’t only John’s leg that was scarred.

“John, how did you survive?” Sherlock murmured into the thick scar tissue that crawled up from his hip and up to his bottom rib.  His tongue followed one of the pink ribbons, making John shiver.  “Can I see all of it?”

John didn’t particularly think Sherlock found the scarring attractive, intriguing maybe, but neither did he seem disturbed by it.  He may as well be allowed to see all of it.  John pushed his braces off his shoulders and tugged his destroyed shirt off.  Sherlock’s hands were at the buttons of his falls again; then he urged John to lift his hips so he could tug the trousers and smallclothes down.

Soon John was naked, doubly so under Sherlock’s blatant appraisal.  He ought to have been chilled, naked in a cold bed, but he felt nothing but rushing heat when calloused fingertips traced each mark of his healed wound.

John opened his mouth to make a comment about how ugly the scars were, but Sherlock grumbled, “Be quiet, John,” before he could speak.  John was quiet, then, watching Sherlock’s face as the man memorized every whorl and twist where the stitching had been rough and hasty.  Sherlock pushed John onto his back to accomplish this, leaning over him still fully clothed.

“It’s incredible, John,” he breathed.  “There are spots where the line is so delicate one might have carved your clay with a knife.”  Sherlock ran his tongue along one of these places, just beneath John’s ribcage.  It tickled and John twitched, making Sherlock hum.  He ran his mouth down over John’s waist, where he could barely feel anything, and over to just below John’s navel, where he most definitely felt everything.

When he pulled back, John groaned.

“You said you didn’t want my mouth on you, John.”

And if Sherlock’s tone wasn’t so matter-of-fact, John might have thought he was being deliberately teased.

“Perhaps I’ve changed my mind.”  John’s voice was low and a bit gruff, but it caused Sherlock to smile.

“I had no idea you were so changeable, John.”  Sherlock finished unfastening his cravat with adroit fingers, tossing it to the floor before slipping out of his braces and untucking his shirt.  John watched Sherlock tug it over his head with avid interest, the long, narrow torso stretching overhead.  Sherlock exaggerated the movement as if he noticed John looking, but of course John would look.  Sherlock was simply stunning.

“You ought to be a statue in a museum.”

“If I were, I suspect you’d be arrested for indecently groping priceless works of art in public.”

John laughed, surprised at Sherlock’s joke.

“I like your laugh.”  Sherlock rushed now, rolling away to divest himself of all clothing below the waist.  When he returned, he pressed up against John’s side and kissed his still-smiling mouth with fervor.  John let his hands explore since Sherlock wasn’t patient enough to let John investigate with his eyes.   He found a smooth chest with sparse soft hairs in a diamond shape in the center.  He found flat nipples that pebbled up as soon as his palm brushed over them; a bit of gentle attention there made Sherlock’s dexterous kisses stutter.

Further explorations revealed a flat stomach with a thin line of hair leading down after circling his navel.  John curled his hand around the narrow waist, searching for and finding that lush arse.  Taut and muscular as if he rode horses all day, every day, it gave his backside an alluring curve.  John pulled Sherlock more atop him, so he could squeeze with both hands.  Sherlock gasped, his muscles clenching under John’s grasp, and pressed his hips tighter against John’s.  This made them both groan.

John could feel his husband’s cock hard against his own and he shifted his hips to introduce a bit of friction.  Sherlock took up the movement, the gentle rub and pressure desperately wonderful.  John pushed his hips up while pulling Sherlock closer, lost in kisses and the sultry heat of Sherlock’s body.

“Wait, John, wait,” Sherlock gasped, rolling away.  John blinked, bereft and lust-blown, but Sherlock was only reaching for a nearby drawer to pull out a small jar.  It was the same small jar John had left with Sherlock during his unfortunate dosing with an aphrodisiac.  The contents were somewhat depleted, but there was enough for this.

Sherlock opened the jar but now John stopped him instead.

“Not yet.  It doesn’t taste as good as it smells.”  The glint in John’s eye stopped Sherlock cold.

John pushed Sherlock down onto his back and kissed him again because kissing Sherlock was simply irresistible.  But having Sherlock splayed on his back beneath him was even more inviting, and he wanted to know every inch of him.  John’s lips moved downward.  The dip between his collarbones was sensitive to a flick of tongue.  He was a bit ticklish around the sixth and seventh ribs, but only on his left.  A fingertip tracing a straight path south from the navel was a surefire way to get his cock to twitch, as was a deliberate lick along the underside.

Sherlock may have been passive, allowing John to do as he wished, but that did not mean he was unresponsive.  He murmured his appreciation for John’s dedication to detail, and offered little suggestions of preferences when he liked something out of the norm such as being bitten along the curve of his pectoralis major.  Those whispers and soft moans, that voice alone, served to make John’s cock twitch.  So when John worked Sherlock’s foreskin back with his tongue and lips, and Sherlock twitched upwards with a rugged groan, John couldn’t help but grasp his own cock and give it a few firm tugs.

Sherlock was salty and musky and John wanted to dive into that scent, taste him everywhere. Sherlock obligingly lifted his knee, fully exposing his bollocks and darker places and John’s tongue adventured lower.

“If you don’t take me into your mouth extremely soon, John, my prick shall permanently turn to stone as if a Gorgon spied me.”

“I love the strain in your voice when you are desperate,” John chuckled, but shifted to do the task requested.  Sherlock’s cock was flushed pink, long but of a comfortable girth for John’s mouth, with a flared head that just begged for a tongue to swirl around the smoothness of it.  John did so, lapping up the pre-ejaculate as if it were the last drop of jam on the spoon.  Using his hand to control depth and speed, John moved his mouth down the shaft.

Effusive gasps and moans rewarded each downward movement as John took him progressively deeper.  It wasn’t long before a ragged breath and a hand tugging his short hair warned him to pull back.  He did, but only to look at Sherlock sprawled before him, eyes dark and heavy-lidded, lips parted, chest heaving, and bollocks pulled up tight to the base of a florid prick, glossy with saliva.  He had been right; the lamplight did favor Sherlock’s bare skin.

Only when Sherlock had calmed a bit did John slick up his hand with the contents of the jar and straddle Sherlock’s thighs.  He rubbed the cream along his own shaft, a darker shade than Sherlock’s, and enjoyed the look in Sherlock’s eyes as he watched hungrily.  When John scooped up a little more of the cream, Sherlock held out his hand and John slicked up his fingers, giving each digit the same attention he shortly gave Sherlock’s cock.  They fumbled to get their grips just right, but soon they were both snug in a cage of fingers and slick heat.  John used his upper position to rock his hips, thrusting into their grip; the pair of them found a rhythm that would be quick to bring about release.  For all John’s desire to prolong the experience, every nerve in his body was singing for the apex of it all; Sherlock wordlessly agreed.  Sherlock’s free hand wrapped around and clutched John’s arse, fingertips slipping into the crease between, finding just the right spots to rub as he encouraged their pace. 

Sherlock tensed first, grip tightening and his movements becoming frenetic.  The arch of his long white neck at the height of his pleasure was simply breathtaking.  John was compelled to bite it.

“Yes, Sherlock, yes, let yourself go,” John hummed into the crook of that gorgeous neck, as if he wasn’t going to be pulled over the edge himself the second Sherlock spilled over their fingers.

A wordless cry, several sharp movements, and Sherlock’s prick emptied itself onto Sherlock’s belly and John’s fingers.  The hot fluid, Sherlock’s flushed and sweaty skin, the throbbing shaft still pressed tight to his made John push forward twice more before spilling and mixing his seed with Sherlock’s.

They didn’t move for a few moments, couldn’t move.  Sherlock’s hand fell lifelessly to his stomach, apparently carefree about in what it landed.  John caught his breath leaning over Sherlock, braced on both hands pressed to the mattress on either side of Sherlock’s shoulders.  Sherlock’s eyes were closed and John managed to surprise him with a lingering kiss.

“Let me get a flannel to clean you up with, love.  Don’t move.”  John shifted off Sherlock, perching on the side of the bed.  The flannels and water were across the room, but John had forgotten about his cane for the moment.  He still limped, but he made it to the washbasin, washed himself, and came back without needing his cane for balance.  “Sorry, it’s cold.”  He cleaned Sherlock’s hand and stomach before flinging the cloth back towards the washbasin where it landed with a bit of a splash.  He crawled back into the bed and made himself comfortable on his back.  One arm curled up over his head; the one nearest Sherlock took the other man’s hand in his.

“Did that clear your mind enough to nap a few minutes?” 

Sherlock blinked back at him owlishly as John raised his hand and kissed the back of his wrist. 

 

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2013 in Writings

 

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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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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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