rabidsamfan: (watson jude law)
[personal profile] rabidsamfan
Link to part one



"Ah, and here comes our luncheon," I said, to warn Watson, and he straightened his spine and swallowed his grief as best he could. By the time the man reached us, Watson had managed to bring his face into order, and only the tremor of his hand upon his leg and the pallor of his complexion betrayed his unquiet mind.

"Begging your pardon, sir," the sergeant said to me, as he came to attention before us. "But the barkeep at the Goat and Swan wanted sixpence extra for sake of the bottle and the pie tin and the spoons. I explained as how it was for a gentleman, but he said as how he'd had enough of gentlemen and not enough spoons nor tins, nor bottles either. But 'tis the best brandywine to be had for a bad turn. Leastwise for a military man." He offered the bottle to Watson, and I was struck by an inexplicable jealousy as I was left outside the wordless exchange of understanding between them. What qualities had the sergeant observed about my friend to tell him of Watson's past? I had not forgotten Henry Wood's recent obeisance, so there must be something crucial about a shared military history which was obvious to anyone not a civilian.

And yet why should it matter to me, if that Army connexion meant that Watson had resources to draw upon should he require them? Surely it was an advantage. Look at how readily Sergeant Murray had come to be at Watson's side when he was injured! And I had overcome a similar resentment concerning Mrs. Watson for Watson's sake; he did not deserve to be torn between loyalties. But I could not deny that there were times when I envied my biographer. Such acquaintances as I possessed were, with the single exception of Watson, persons who had a use for me, or I for them. But although he had seemed as friendless as I was myself when first we met (and now, at long last, I knew why!) I had observed the ease with which he had acquired a circle of friends beyond Baker Street.

None of whom he had told what he had just told me.

Obscurely cheered by that observation, I drew my attention to the present and lay my arm across Watson's back, resting a hand on his good shoulder, affecting interest in the bottle from which he had just imbibed. "Is it any good?" I asked.

"See what you think," Watson said, passing the bottle to me suspiciously straight-faced. "But mind your eyebrows."

I took a fair mouthful, and swallowed hastily, unwilling to allow the stuff to linger upon my tongue. The draught made me cough with surprise. "Good heavens!" I exclaimed, for the liquor was as raw and as powerful as any I had ever tasted. "How long has that had a chance to age? Three hours?"

"Perhaps even four," Watson said, taking back the bottle and drinking again. I could feel the tension in his muscles easing beneath my hand, but he was shivering, as if with cold. "Thank you, sergeant. I haven't tasted a nightmare cure like this since I left the Army."

The sergeant looked upon the two of us with an air of paternal tolerance. "Best thing in the world, sir, if you've been sleeping ill, and no offense meant, it looks to me like you have been. But some food under that rotgut won't go amiss. Eat up now, the both of you, and do your bellies a favor. The pie's as fresh as the brandy."

I broke the crust with one of the spoons and tried a bite of the curry filling within. It was, as the aroma had warned me, so highly spiced that I succumbed to a second fit of coughing. I doubted I had the intestinal fortitude to withstand a double assault upon my palate, and said so, much to the amusement of the two veterans of India.

"You'll get used to it after a bite or two," Watson said, taking up his spoon.

I obeyed the implicit instruction and took a second bite. It was worth being the object of friendly derision if it distracted Watson from his cares. And truth to tell, after a few further bites, I did grow accustomed to the taste, although I could feel the blood running high upon my face. The sergeant stood by and amused us both with a convoluted account of just how the proprietor of the Goat and Swan had come to hire a cook from Bangalore. "That pie's famous round these parts, sir," he concluded. "At least with the regiments."

"It's very good," Watson said, tugging at his collar to loosen it a bit.

"Aye, sir," the sergeant said, "Although it does make a man's eyes water, I must say." He offered a handkerchief to Watson. "Won't no one think twice about you needing one of these if you've been eating curry pie."

Watson grew slightly redder, but it was true that the flush from the spices disguised his embarrassment neatly. "An admirable subterfuge," he said, accepting the square of cloth. "Thank you."

"I've et my share of it, now and again," the sergeant said simply. "I was in Lucknow, you see."

"Candahar," Watson answered, one siege survivor to the other. For a moment they both were lost in their thoughts, but then the sergeant took a flask from his pocket to tap against Watson's bottle.

"Here's to being alive," he said. "Ghosts don't haunt the dead."

Watson shuddered, but drank the toast nonetheless. "Will we ever stop dreaming of them?" he asked in a voice gone flat and empty.

"When we do, they'll be forgotten," the sergeant said. "And that will be a sorry day indeed."

Watson nodded, even more lugubrious than before. "Yes. We've a duty to the dead."

I tapped my foot in frustration and then decided to intervene. "And to the living," I said, taking the bottle from Watson. "Your wife will have something to say to me if I return you to her in a state of inebriation." Military solace, it seemed, had disadvantages as well as advantages. And it would do Watson no good at all to have escaped morphine if he succumbed to the same addiction which had claimed his brother. "The pie is indeed an excellent subterfuge, but one which won't work if it isn't evidence. Since we've left sixpence for the tin, the publican cannot object if we take it with us on the train and send a boy up to return it and the spoons in the morning."

"That will cost you more than sixpence," Watson objected, watching the bottle as I pocketed it.

"Perhaps, but it will give the youngest Peterson lad an opportunity to ride on a train without risking arrest for sneaking onto the platform again." I rubbed my hands together at the thought, for it would take two birds with a single stone. "His father wishes him to take up a military career once he is old enough, so a chance to observe life in an Army town would not go amiss. Perhaps you would be so kind as to show him around, Sergeant...?"

"Saunders, sir." The man nearly saluted, but managed to keep his arm in place with only a small twitch, before reaching out to take the coin and card I was offering. "I can arrange to be available, but I can't promise as to time, not yet."

"Send me a telegram at that address when you know," I ordered, taking on my most masterful air. My ears pricked at the sound of a whistle in the distance, and I reached for Watson. "Come along, old fellow. We don't want to chance missing this next train."

Watson, hauled summarily to his feet, floundered for a moment, but found his balance long enough to return Saunders's handkerchief and offer his own card. "Thank you," he said hastily, as I retrieved his walking stick from the grass and pressed it into his hand. "If you are ever in London and find yourself in need of a doctor's care, please do not hesitate to call upon me."

"I will, sir!" Sergeant Saunders did salute then, and Watson might have saluted back, were his hands not occupied with both pie and walking stick. I took my friend by the elbow and began to steer him along the path.

"Holmes," he hissed at me once we were far enough away not to be overheard. "Why are we rushing? You said we had an hour before the next train."

"I said the better part of an hour, and we've used most of it," I replied. "And I wish to ensure that we get a smoking compartment. Preferably one to ourselves." I glanced sideways at him to gauge his reaction when I added, "unless you feel it would be easier to keep your composure in the company of strangers?"

He flinched, but nodded. "That might be for the best," he said reluctantly. "After all, there's hardly any need for us to bring the pie if there's no one to see us eating it."

"It will be harder to talk," I warned him.

"Haven't I already said too much?" he asked, embarrassment rising upon his cheeks.

I stopped long enough to answer him face to face. "Not to me," I vowed. "Never to me." And then I smiled and waved away the emotion which was threatening to overwhelm us both with an excessively theatrical gesture. "After all, I have heard much worse from any number of my clients. And I shall need something to occupy my time, now that the matter of Colonel Barclay's death has been resolved."

He saw through me, of course. But he did his best to smile. "I expect I should be glad of any small problem which keeps you too distracted to indulge in your cocaine," he said, not entirely grimly, before he sobered once again. "But you know I can not hope to pay you for your time. Surely you would be better served by attending to your paying clients?"

"That question postulates the existence of paying clients," I pointed out, and the sound of the train whistle, much closer, saved me any prevarication on the topic. "Come on, Watson! Quickly, now!" I took the pie from his hands and darted for the station, knowing he would follow.

----

Our trip back was kept entertaining by the presence of a quartet of young soldiers in our compartment, whose notion of the best way to pass the time was to serenade us and each other with music hall tunes. Their harmony was passable, I will concede, but I enjoyed the impromptu concert most for the sake of how it distracted Watson from his thoughts. Still by the time our train reached Waterloo, the strains of the day had compounded with his lack of sleep, and my friend was showing his exhaustion.

It was by then late afternoon, when the crowds at the station were at their thickest, and few cabs were available. A glance at my friend's grey face told me that he was in no condition to brave the Underground, nor to walk very far, although I had no doubt that if called upon to do so, he would make the attempt.

Fortunately, Sir Cadwallader Smythe of the Rivers and Smythe Bank was just climbing down from his private carriage as we left Waterloo station. I leapt upon the opportunity to exchange a promise to investigate the mundane matter of embezzlement he had been pestering me about in exchange for the use of his carriage and driver for the next three weeks while he was away in France. The bargain made, I collected Watson and deposited him onto the cushions of the carriage, and handed him the brandy bottle to pass the time whilst I collected a letter of authorisation from Sir Cadwallader to take to the bank next morning. The driver -- another Henry -- took the change in his instructions phlegmatically. He finished transferring his employer's luggage to the porter's care during the negotiations, and seemed utterly unsurprised when I gave the direction to Paddington instead of Baker Street once we had seen Sir Cadwallader off into the station.

I sank into the cushions beside Watson as the carriage began to move, and my friend opened his eyes to look at me with a query hanging on his eyebrows. "Three weeks, Holmes?" he asked, dryly. The chance to sit quietly had restored some of his energy, and the brandy had restored some of the color to his face, but his bad leg was extended as far as it would go (much farther than possible in either hansom or Underground) as if it were causing him pain.

"The amount of the luggage," I replied simply, finding the carriage rug and tossing it over to him.

"That's not what I meant," Watson said, as he unfolded the rug onto his lap. "Although the deduction did impress your client. But you know his case won't take you that long to resolve, or you wouldn't have been dodging it. Three hours, more like."

"A bit longer," I said. "I do have to prove that it's the head clerk, after all, and he's been with the firm for so many years I expect that there will be more than a little resistance to my conclusion."

"Three days then," Watson amended. "So why on earth did you arrange to keep Sir Cadwallader's carriage for three weeks."

"I didn't say I needed it for his investigation," I pointed out. "I'm going to use it for yours."

"What?" Watson ran a hand through his hair. "Holmes, why on earth would you do such a thing?"

"To save myself the trouble of convincing you not to repay me for any cab fares I might incur on your behalf," I explained, and then smiled at him with all the charm within my power. "I shall, of course, suffer mightily. This vehicle being so much more primitive than my usual transport." I gestured airily at the tooled leather seats, the satin pillows, and the isinglass curtains which surrounded us, and Watson's dismayed expression melted into a rueful grin.

"You'll have to feed the driver, you know," he said. "Or Mrs. Turner will, in Mrs. Hudson's absence."

"Then I hope he likes fish!" I exclaimed, my vehemence at the reminder that I was without my usual landlady finally toppling Watson into laughter. When that fit had left him he rested against the cushions, looking out at the people as we passed them, and I did the same. The comfortable silence we shared went unbroken until we neared Watson's home.

Then at last, he spoke, still watching out the window, and his voice was calm, with none of the distress of the day lingering in it. "I should probably try to dissuade you from finding Helen -- except that it would do no good. You can't resist a mystery, and I really want to know what has become of her." He turned his head to look at me then, already drowsy-eyed. "But whether or not you ever find her, I want you to know that I shan't forget this day. I know I've forgotten far too much, but I won't forget this. Even if I have to write all night to make sure of it. How did I ever come to have so good a friend?"

"I've not done anything yet," I protested, my ears warming. Praise from Watson for my accomplishments I can accept with ease, even praise for the parlour trick of reading his thoughts upon his face, but this simple, boundless admiration seemed to me to be rooted in thin air.

"Oh, yes, you have." Watson smiled. "You listened, and you did not judge me." The smile faltered, as he looked toward the house we were approaching. "And you reminded me of my duty. I only hope Mary will be as forgiving of my failures."

I doubted the woman that my friend had married would see a confession that he had loved before her as a failure, and I knew that she had not married him for the prospect of children, but sentimental platitudes would not bring back the curve to his lips. I clapped him on his good shoulder and said, "If she isn't you can always come back to Baker Street until she changes her mind." And then to sweeten the pot, I added, "I think I can find a place to move the newspapers I've stacked on your bed," with a false moue of uncertainty.

That brought a shout of laughter, as I'd hoped it would. He was still smiling as I helped him down from the carriage, and when Mary Watson opened the door she smiled in her turn to see him so happy.

"Ah, there you are!" she exclaimed as she came down to greet us. "And in good time, too. You'll have a chance to wash and rest before your supper." Despite her carefree air, I saw the way she took Watson's arm in my stead and helped him keep his balance as he climbed the steps, and knew that she had observed the signs of his exhaustion and could see that his leg was paining him. It was a reminder, had I needed one, that here was someone whom I could trust to value Watson as highly as I did myself. Her love for him shone in her eyes. "Was it a good mystery?"

"A locked room riddle," Watson told her. "And a long lost love. But no murder at all, as it turned out."

"No desperate criminals?" she asked, mischieviously, her glance going to the kerb, and then to me. "No mad chases in well-sprung carriages?"

"Not this time," I said, bowing my head to her in mock apology. "I'll try to do better on the next occasion."

She laughed. "As long as you bring John home safe and sound," she said, and this time my bow to her was deeper and truer.

"Always, my dear Mrs. Watson. Always."











*Kipling would not make the mongoose a familiar creature to English readers until 1894, with his story "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" in "The Jungle Book."



** When Leeuwunhoek reported his discovery of spermatazoa to the Royal Society in 1677 he was careful to note that "What I here describe was not obtained by any sinful contrivance, but the observations were made upon the excess with which Nature provided me in my conjugal relations."

*** see http://users.ox.ac.uk/~peter/workhouse/Poplar&StepneySAD/Poplar&StepneySAD.shtml for
more information.

Welllll

Date: 2011-09-19 04:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kathleen cummings (from livejournal.com)
That's quite a backstory you've given our John; I'm hoping to see some more of it. I'd like to see Holmes track down Helen, and find the answers that they're looking for. I don't see Watson as the kind of man that would abandon a "girl in trouble", he's far too honorable for that...but if he was drugged out-of-his-mind...who knows what might have happened.

You are going to tell us...aren't you!?! I'm hoping the truth can be told, and reconciliation can happen between John and his sisters.

Re: Welllll

Date: 2011-09-19 05:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rabidsamfan.livejournal.com
I may, someday. If anyone ever reads through this... :/

Re: Welllll

Date: 2011-09-19 10:13 pm (UTC)
ext_24392: (Dark Fae Girl)
From: [identity profile] random-nexus.livejournal.com
*reads through, flails in woe that it's all empty pages at the end, taps foot, gives author an expectant look*
Ahem.
<3

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-19 03:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] spacefall.livejournal.com
Van Leeuwenhoek was just an amazing dude. \o/ Ultra bonus points for working this in :)

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-19 05:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rabidsamfan.livejournal.com
He was, wasn't he? I had fun sneaking that in. (Not to mention all the chronology musings...)

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-19 10:15 pm (UTC)
ext_24392: (Felix pacing)
From: [identity profile] random-nexus.livejournal.com
My dear Rabidsamfan, I require more of this, please. Expect Muse-treats and some random internets on your doorstep soon.

Much thanks in advance.
Me

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-19 10:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rabidsamfan.livejournal.com
Muse treats, hey? How can I resist those?

Thank you so much for reading and commenting. You made my day.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-20 01:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beehive-clover.livejournal.com
Both of these stories were magnificent! I LOVE your Holmes! And your Watson! And your Mary! :) They're so authentic!

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-20 03:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rabidsamfan.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm glad they ring true to you.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-21 02:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pebbles66.livejournal.com
Oh, it's amazing, it's wonderful, it's awesome! I would SO, SO love to read more!

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-21 03:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rabidsamfan.livejournal.com
I have plans for more in this AU. Definitely! Glad to know that you'll like to read more. Thanks.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-23 09:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tweedisgood.livejournal.com
What a treat, a meaty ACD canon story (doesn't feel AU so much as 'added detail') with nicely-drawn characterisations and backstory. Looking forward to continuing with this.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-23 08:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rabidsamfan.livejournal.com
Thank you. It's a bit AU, and the series may get moreso if it goes the way I'm contemplating, but I'm glad it felt close to canon for you. I'm certainly trying to keep the characters in character!

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-25 04:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mariole.livejournal.com
I'll join the chorus and say how much I've enjoyed this peep into Watson's past. I do hope you get to tell Helen's tale as well. What a pip that Henry is! But the loving, respectful relationship among Holmes, Watson and his wife is the real jewel. Thank you so much.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-29 09:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rabidsamfan.livejournal.com
Oh, I think I'll have to have Holmes find Helen, don't you? It would be awful to let Watson wonder forever.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-30 03:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mariole.livejournal.com
Yes, this is a vital mission. Although I hate to think of what you'll do to poor Helen just to make Watson suffer more!!!

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-29 06:22 am (UTC)
hagstrom: (JLaw iconomicon)
From: [personal profile] hagstrom
I finally had the time to read this! I'm so happy you're posting longer fics; I mean, don't get me wrong, the drabbles are amazing but I'm a bit greedy when it comes to fics >.<
I quite like the background you've given to Watson, and I have to say, the sisters bit was quite unexpected. I love your narrative and the characterizations were spot on.
So I'll watch out for updates on this, hope the waiting wont be too long =)

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-29 09:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rabidsamfan.livejournal.com
I'm glad you liked it! My wheels, they grind slow, though, so I won't make promises about speed of addition. I do have a story on the burner about Watson and Holmes's earliest days in Baker Street in this AU, though.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-05-13 02:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tripleransom.livejournal.com
Bummer! You never did go on with this? It's such a good story and shows so much about the relationship between Holmes and Watson and ....I was really hoping to find out what-all else went on in the backstory. Way late, I know, but I'm going to add my voice to the chorus of "please, sir, may I have some more?"

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