ccarlet: photo of contessa fire eating in her white corset and checkered headband ([misc] in the lamplight)
[personal profile] ccarlet
Rating: PG
Character/Pairing: Holmes/Watson, some Irene/Mary
Warnings: Kissin'
Author's Note: A holiday present for [livejournal.com profile] ivyelevast (<333), wherein I experimented with non-linear storytelling, got heavily influenced by reading too many vintage adventure novels, and generally went crazy and wrote a lot. It was a good time.
Summary: 'Like a bad penny dreadful, but with more awkward social arrangements.'


Somewhere, deep below the ground, one level below London’s infamous sewers, there was a strange series of networking tunnels that formed together into a bizarre maze with the complexities of a beehive. As if built with a flair for the dramatic, it was located directly below one grand, if not exactly the grandest, opera house. One ‘honeycomb’ of this structure hung directly below the orchestra pit, reverberating with the sounds of the organ and shaking strands of dust down from the dirty, unstable looking ceiling, and making all occupants nervous, whether they would admit it or not.

One particular lady had no qualms about making this and all her other thoughts known, though considering the language that was cycling through her head it was probably fortunate she was limited to shrieking at the men around her from her gag. This is not at all to give the impression of some terrified, swooning kidnapping victim surrounding by a gang of ruffians, though the latter part was certainly true. All the lady’s muffled screams were purposeful, even if the purpose was merely to annoy her captors, and they became even more pointed when one section of the grimy wall, bricks practically blotted out by dirt so that the entrance looked as if it had been magically summoned, swung inwards, and the man she had started to identify as The Big Cheese pushed another man ahead of him- tall, sallow, hook-nosed, and bound as she was. Seeing him, her eyes widened in recognition and she tried tried to flounder across the ground like a caterpillar, smothered in ropes though she was.

“I see the two of you are already acquainted,” said The Man in Charge in an almost stereotypically oily voice, tweaking an even more cliche of a large, dark mustache, “Excellent, saves me the trouble. Tie Mr. Holmes up to his friend, Mrs. Adler.” To Mr. Holmes, he added, “She’ll be playing the role of ‘damsel in distress for you’ today,” and guffawed at his own joke.

By some miracle, Holmes managed to get his own gag far enough behind his teeth to say, with some difficulty, “Such a bad idea...”

“Tying you two together?” the villain asked, becoming more amused, “I didn’t realize there was a history.”

“No, Mrs. Adler as your damsel in distress.” Holmes was not easily subdued by anything, but the very thought seemed to make him shudder. Irene kicked and wriggled even as they were tied back-to-back, and her grunts could probably be correctly interpreted as Damn strait!

“Furthermore,” said Holmes, lisping badly through his gag, “I have no use for ‘damsels in distress’-” But he was ignored as, to both of their surprise, their guards started to vacate the room. Well, pinned down as they were, and with such peculiar doors enclosing them, perhaps escape was not considered much of a concern.

Into her gag, Irene snapped, “And there is no history! -At least, not between the two of us,” but of course, none of it was distinguishable.

“All right, this won’t work,” Mr. Holmes decided, practically choking on cloth, “Hold still, I’ll get yours.” With the backs of their heads touching, they could easily turn to be cheek-to-cheek, but Adler didn’t want to think too much about how he managed to get her gag undone with his teeth until she was forced to do the same for him.

“There!” he breathed as they both squirmed uncomfortably, ropes cutting into their circulation, “It’s a good thing we both know which side we’re playing for, isn’t it, or this would be disastrous for our reputations.”

“What are you doing here?” she broke in, trying to be a lady about it but greatly frustrated, “If you’re captured, we’re certainly dead!”

“Oh, don’t give up hope so soon,” he reassured her.

“You’ve still got some tricks up your sleeve?” she asked hopefully, “I’m fresh out of tricks.”

“We-ell,” he admitted, “I have a military man running through muck and mire to rescue my poor self, is what I have.”

“Good Lord, Dr. Watson is your backup plan? That is the best The Great Sherlock Holmes can do?”

“Ex-soldiers certainly have their perks,” he ignored her.

“-Mr. Holmes, he’ll be limping through the muck and mire-” She felt him stiffen and realized that was the worst tactic to take, sighing. “How could any man hope to find us in this maze?”

“You might say he has Theseus’ ball of twine.” He had his eyes shut- he might as well have been thinking about violin cantatas.

“And that is...?”

“Well, I drew him a map.”

Irene decided to start getting used to the fact that she was probably going to die.

***

Sunshine, pigeons, and the laughter of playing children seemed to drown out and all John Watson heard was the clanging of the church bells. Unable to make the connection between their use and a Sunday morning, it felt as if they were swinging off their hinges towards him, of all people, and the ground and surrounding buildings seemed to lurch along with the noise-

“Doctor!” His companion was forced to grab him or firmly by the tweed, tugging him nearer. “Doctor Watson!” Mr. Holmes hissed in his ear, and Watson never actually managed to see his face.

“I’m sorry- Loud noises, sometimes-” he tried to explain vaguely, feeling his flatmate’s grip on him tighten.

“Right. Come on.” Being quickly dragged through the streets of London by Sherlock Holmes, who took the phrase ‘knowing them like the back of his hand’ quite literally, was always an experience, but the soldier was too dazed to really think of anything but his sudden, irrational panic and Holmes’ reassuring hand clenched around his wrist. And he told himself again and again, This is irrational, it’s irrational...

“Watson?” Holmes was peering up into his face again. Watson doubted the man’s pallid face could really hold an expression like concern, but he felt the emotion radiating from his friend nonetheless.

“Oh, Mr. Holmes,” he sighed, running a hand over his eyes, “You’ll have to forgive me. Sometimes, I just forget I’m back in London, I don’t know why-”

“And you don’t have to apologize,” Holmes told him firmly, one hand awkwardly on his back. He didn’t comfort well, not by a long shot, but Watson could sense he understood, and that was all he’d ever hoped for.

“Mr. Holmes!” called one of London’s degenerates, no doubt chummy with Watson’s unusual flatmate. Watson hadn’t glanced around the alley they’d run into, and didn’t really want to.

“Who’s your friend, then? Close, are ye?” Holmes growled and pulled his hand back, shaking his head at Watson.

“I must apologize, Doctor, my reputation is proceeding me.” Watson shivered, touching the back of his neck where Holmes’ gloved hand had been just a second ago.

“Quite all right,” he shook his head, shutting his eyes and licking his lips, “I just- you know. Don’t want to give Mary the wrong idea.” He laughed dryly, and for the rest of his days wished he’d reacted differently.


***

John Watson and Irene Adler had met once at a ball and once at a charity event, exchanged withering glances on both occasions, but had each kept admirably civil, which they secretly prided themselves on when in the privacy of their own homes. The fact that Mrs. Adler’s house was less cluttered with test tubes and broken violin strings was irrelevant.

From across the opera hall, in a rather uncalled for move by fate that had placed the detective and his lackey directly across from Irene’s opera box, the lady squinted through her opera glasses and reflected that the swooning schoolboy look was very unflattering on Dr. Watson.

On the other end, Watson thought she was unbelievably rude for so obviously staring, and between movements, when the rest of the auditorium’s attention was on bowing actors and any noise was drowned out by thunderous applause, he kept making hand gestures he hoped she could see through her glasses that conveyed just how he felt about it.

“Well, he doesn’t seem to miss you much,” Irene told her slightly younger companion with an air of smug satisfaction that instantly fell off when she realized Mary ‘Watson’ was too busy calling out enthusiastic ‘bravos!’ at the leading soprano.

Adjacent box, Watson opened his mouth once to try and say something, but instantly gave up, considering how far his companion was leaning over the railing in a highly eccentric fashion, focusing his own opera glass down in, of all places, the orchestra pit.

“Holmes!” the doctor hissed when the applause were over and the dramatic death scene commenced, with the detective still not returning to his seat, “Holmes, don’t be queer.”

Never bothering to look at him, the detective answered back with a sly smile, “I can’t believe I hear you asking me that, doctor.”

“Holmes, you know what I meant!” Propriety kept Watson from reaching out and tugging Holmes back by his coattails, though that was about all. “Where do you think we are, the zoo? Who goes to the opera to peer at the orchestra, for God’s sake?”

He was only mildly rewarded when Holmes turned partway back, shrugging. “It is the only thing of interest to me.”

“You’re impossible!” Watson snapped, flinging himself back in his own chair and giving up for only a few seconds before he leaned forward on his knees again, trying a different angle.

“Well, Mrs. Adler, in the box across from us, seems to find your antics mighty interesting.”

“A mind such as Mrs. Adler’s would find this particular performance as dull as I do.”

A month ago, this comment would have left John seething with jealousy. As circumstances now were, and their new, awkward ‘arrangement’ firmly in place, he only went back to grumbling about Sherlock’s social cluelessness.

“You’ll offend the cast.”

“Professionals must be able to handle critique.”

“I’ll inform Mycroft all about your making a scene at the opera.”

“He will not care,” Holmes observed over the glasses.

“-I’ll inform Mrs. Hudson-”

“That would be a gross exaggeration, and is not a fair tactic!” Even so, it worked, and Sherlock flopped back into his chair. Had he less serious features, the similarity to a sulking child told to sit still and behave would have been unavoidable.

“What are they doing?” Mrs. Adler wondered from across the way, only to be shushed by Mary.

“Irene, hush! Why don’t you pay attention to the aria?”

“Because she has taken fifteen minutes to die,” Irene sighed, but as ‘The Holmeses’, as she liked to think of them, were no longer entertaining, she was left with little else to do. Unable to fix her gaze on the soprano’s Brunhilda wig for too long, she found herself listlessly wondering what Holmes had found so fascinating among the orchestra. Most likely the lead violinist, that was all he cared about, but she trained her gaze on the ensemble anyway.

“How odd,” she frowned into her glasses, cocking her head as if she weren’t fully sure what she were seeing, “Drums and no drummer?”

Stage right opera box of the two with discontent occupants, Holmes had stood up again, ignoring Watson’s attempts to subtly yank him down by the coat sleeve, once again watching the orchestra intently.

“Ah!” the detective cried, louder than was really appropriate at the opera, no matter how much the leader singer was belting, “I’ve missed it!”

“Excuse me?” Watson inquired, with a distinctive tone of voice that said his patience was nearing an end.

“I must go- one minute,” the detective stated and promised in one breath, grabbing his white scarf and looking as if he were about to sprint out the box and down the stairs. Before John could get a syllable out, he supplied, “Need a smoke, don’t want to be rude.”

“You’re just bored!” John accused, squirming around in his seat in consternation even as Sherlock decided that the darkened amphitheater made it safe to kiss him quickly on top of the head, which did nothing to improve the doctor’s temper.

“Don’t be sour, John, the game’s afoot, as they say!” With that he flew away, one of the many often nice, often frustrating, and even more frequently perplexing things of the world that rarely stay. John sat for a moment, bemused, turning the all-too-familiar phrase over in his mind and considering its significance. At length, he sighed, preparing to depart after Sherlock, with slightly less haste. This gave him time to cast one last glance at his rival opera box, just catching the sight of Irene Adler rising and silently departing on her shadowy black skirts with a haste more akin to Holmes. The doctor stiffened, picking up the pace himself as Mary, her eyes still innocently trained on the singers as they bowed, lightly applauding, remarked to the empty seat next to her, “That last movement felt rather lacking, don’t you think? None of the usual forcefulness you’d generally hear in the score for a climatic scene, wouldn’t you say, Irene?” At this point she realized she was alone and blinked. “Irene?”

***

Irene and Watson settled for glaring at everyone, not reserving their ire exclusively for each other- and why should they? Mary, on the other hand, didn’t want to catch anyone’s eye at all, and was buried in a terrible-looking book out of a sense of self-preservation. The other three all wished they were Sherlock, who was, as ever, in his own little world of violins and criminology and the impossible ways in which they somehow combined, humming, eyes closed, perfectly content, and immune to the awkwardness.

-Or perhaps not, but then, any time Holmes opened his mouth he only increased the thorniness of the situation. Even so, Watson and Adler couldn’t help but wonder if he was making some sort of attempt to break the silence.

“Madame,” he addressed Mary politely- one did not get recognized as the world’s most brilliant detecteve and then make the mistake of forgetting whose last name she had and why that was a delicate matter, “What are you reading?”

He failed, because there was another odd pause punctuated only by the rattling of the train car while Mary furrowed her brow and wondered how she could possibly explain such a plot to someone who only ever read books on blood spatters and famous composers.

“Well, it’s- you know, it’s one of those silly penny dreadful things, I only read them every now and then,” she offered, slightly embarrassed, “A guilty pleasure.”

“Is there a murder?” he enquired, amused. She laughed, a young, tinkling laugh that used to make Watson swoon and certainly now did Irene.

“I imagine there will be, soon! The heroine is just too good to live, you know?”

“Could I guess it?” She looked at him with wide, pretty eyes, then laughed again.

“I bet you could!” Somehow, the seating arrangement was shuffled so that Watson and Irene were thrown next to each other in states of shock, and Mary and Holmes were leaning over a rather atrocious bit of literature about a girl being pursued by the devil (unless, of course, it was her uncle pretending to be the devil to frighten her to death- very difficult to tell with those sorts of things).

It was going to be very difficult to remain adamant in not liking each other when the most unpleasant person among them seemed more than eager to humor all others in the awkward arrangement they had formed to the intense embarrassment of all involved, even if it meant in depth discussions of pulp fiction.


***

“Sherlock?” John called out hoarsely as he galumphed as quietly as physically possible down the stairs, racing after his lover’s thin figure and praying they didn’t meet any suspicious staff.

“Ah, Watson!” the detective slammed to an abrupt halt around a corner that the doctor was not prepared for, sending him careening into Holmes, who caught him easily even if he got a face full of cravat and wondered if that hadn’t been intentional. “I knew you would never abandon me.” He sounded pleased as punch, patting John on the back.

“I just thought you might like to know,” John glared up at him, “-And you would have, had you paused just a minute, that Irene Adler left her seat shortly after you in a quite a hurry.”

Sherlock’s reaction was far from what he expected- the other man actually raised his eyebrows, in a very calm surprise that was all the unperturbed detective could ever manage.

“Really? No, that can’t quite be right...”

“Just because we have an ‘agreement’ between the four of us doesn’t mean she’s mended her ways,” John accused, “I rather thought Mary was going to change her, I’d be sorry if I had to say I was wrong.”

“Perhaps,” Holmes tapped his lips with his playbill thoughtfully, “She, too, noticed the absence of a percussionist rather than just saying ‘That’s sounds funny, doesn’t it?’”

“What?” John stared.

“Oh, John,” Sherlock sighed fondly, throwing an arm around his shoulders, “I was just hoping someone else would notice.”

“Um,” the doctor shifted uncertainly, before he was suddenly pulled back along the staff’s more grimy halls to passages that should have been unknown to mere opera patrons.

“But come along!” Sherlock called far too suddenly for him, “Let’s away to the lower levels!”

“What? Why?” John tried to demand, even as he was dogged by fear that they’d be arrested for trespassing, “And how the deuce do you know your way about this place? I’d say you’re going to get us lost!”

“Never!” Holmes scoffed, actually adding a spring to his run, “I spent a few seasons here, you know- as an extra.”

“Really?” Watson was only somewhat surprised, as he was by then quite used to finding out things about Holmes he’d no idea of before.

“Oh, absolutely.” Holmes somehow, miraculously managed to throw Watson a coy look and a vague impersonation of a can-can girl, even as he hurried on. “Where did you think I learned to wear a bustle so well? Don’t say it hasn’t come in handy.”

Once again, he slammed to an abrupt halt against a grimy basement wall, which was convenient, because it allowed Watson to grab his shoulder as he caught himself, jabbing an annoyed finger.

“I thought we agreed we were never going to speak of that again.”

“You’re absolutely right,” Sherlock admitted his guilt freely, scanning the darkened passageways around them, “My apologies for bringing it up.”

“So. Where the devil are we now?”

“We’re about to enter the catacombs, deeper below even the basement level,” Holmes answered with barely suppressed glee.

“Oh, my nerves,” the doctor groaned, leaning back against the wall in disbelief, “Your nerves, come to think of it-”

“Watson, don’t lean against that wall,” Sherlock yanked him up, “It is absolutely filthy. Now!” he whipped out a piece of paper that was so old it looked in danger of falling apart at the creases from somewhere deep within his opera jacket, “For this next trek, I’ll need a map.”

“Good lord, are those the catacombs?” Watson gasped anew, “More like a labyrinth!”

“Well, I’ve Theseus’ ball of twine, or rather, the map,” Sherlock waved it impatiently, “Look here, John.” He indicated a certain spot and John dutifully squinted.

“Is that the orchestra pit?”

“Indeed it is.”

“You’re telling me there’s a trap door below the orchestra pit?”

“Absolutely! Say, John, did you think the percussion section was a little weak in that last aria?”

“Percussion?” he blinked, “There was none.”

“A little odd, wouldn’t you say?” Sherlock smiled cunningly.

“Well, I don’t know, I just figured-”

“Ah, that’s the trouble, when people ‘just figure’!” his lover lamented, but quickly got over it. “Well, I was not just displaying bad social skills when I was peering so intently into the orchestra pit- I did happen to observe that they’ve a lovely set of drums, but no drummer.”

“...Is this a mystery?” Watson asked incredulously, as Sherlock started to finger the wall as if looking for- no, that was ridiculous, but as if looking for some sort of entrance...

“-Because its sounds more like a drunken musician, is what it sounds like-” John tried to start again, before he broke off into a “Good Lord...” as Sherlock seemed to find, against all probability, a hidden ‘rock’ that clicked when touched, along the seemingly stone wall to swing back and revealing and even darker and mustier passage.

“Well, actually,” Watson huffed, trying not to show how unnerving he found it all, “This is starting to feel more like a bad penny dreadful.”

“Do you think so?” Sherlock murmured vaguely, “I think so too... See, John, I know you’re capable of good observation.”

“What.”

“-But, alas, your trouble is that you never form a hypothesis from it,” Sherlock shook his head, tsking, “Well, never mind. Down we go!”

“So,” Watson whispered as he descended behind Sherlock with only a packet of matches to light the way- he wished he’d known that traipsing through dark passages would be the order of the day, because he’d have remembered to bring a lantern- Sherlock was not a details person. “Has the drummer, then, willfully vanished, or is it a kidnapping?”

“Or is there more than one?” Holmes mused.

“What! I thought there were none!”

“Shh!” The gaunt detective whirled around and clamped a pale hand over his mouth, his eyes darting about in the dark before them. Watson took the hint and blew out their current match. They were just approaching a dirty stone floor reaching off into more of the twisting labyrinth paths, and deep in the recesses of a few, lights danced, accompanied by voices.

“Hmm,” the detective frowned, “Split up.”

“What?!”

“The wheels are turning a little faster than I anticipated, I’d be most obliged if you took the left tunnel-”

“Holmes, the map!”

“Oh,” he frowned at the map as if he’d never seen it before, “Well, conveniently, it should split down the middle-” Watson could barely contain a squawk as Sherlock started to tear the fragile map down the middle.

“Holmes, I really must protest, this is a terrible idea-”

“How is it? Will you need the other half? We’ll divide the matches too.”

“But Holmes-”

“Concerned for me? Don’t be.” The detective kissed him firm on the mouth, and John flailed comically, trying to get him to be serious.

“Trust me dear,” he patted him on the cheek as Watson fumed, “It’s better if we split up- chasing two people is infinitely harder.” Or chasing three.

“Holmes,” he sighed, fingering his half of the map almost forlornly.

“Hm?” he looked expectant.

“I’m- I’m sorry for being cross in the carriage today. That’s not why you want to divide up, is it?”

As usual, the detective displayed no emotion, save one grin that said absolutely nothing.

“Don’t be ridiculous. I’ll see you soon!” And he was off.

***

“Holmes, the devil did you think you were doing?” Watson slammed his walking stick down on the carriage floor with a vengeance. His lover had been distracted by whatever he was thinking of- Wason gagged to consider it might be all about gothic romanticism. Holmes startled, looking up at him as Watson attempted to loom in the carriage, which was difficult because he had to stoop to avoid hitting his head.

“Talking about... literature?” he applied the term generously, cocking his head.

“Awfully familiar with her, weren’t you!”

The detective regarded him, squinting. “Was that too social? Lord, that’s never happened to me before. Mrs. Hudson would be proud.”

“Too bloody social for my estranged wife!” Watson finally snapped, just as the horse and driver roused themselves and he almost fell over.

“We discussed things, over tea-”

“Most sordid afternoon of my life!”

“-Irene suggested we all be friends-”

“God damn it, Holmes, that was, I’m sure, a figure of speech!”

Holmes scoffed, tossing his opera scarf back.

“I don’t see why I should have to sit around and brood, I wasn’t one of the ones tossing plates,” he accused.

“No, you were being bloody clueless, which is exactly what you’re doing now!” This seemed to have no effect, though Sherlock’s face seemed to become a bit more pinched as he absently tapped the glass of the carriage window. Watson also grouched out the window, pretending not to notice when the other stood up and made a conciliatory move towards him.

“John-”

“Don’t.” He held out his walking stick like some sort of barrier. “Let’s just listen to the opera, shall we?”


***

“Well, that’s not very excited,” Irene dismissed his tale of ‘adventure’ through the catacombs, “I actually fell down a little, underground waterfall. I don’t want to think about where it came from.”

“Well, I haven’t yet gotten to the bit where I fall into the magical land of vermin and meet the rat queen, and she makes me her king.”

She tried to stare at him, though as they could only partially turn their heads, it was difficult.

“Was that a joke? Did you actually just make a joke? Heavens, we must really be about to die.”

“My Theseus will pull through,” he smiled contentedly. “Who knows- perhaps Mary will also realize something’s amiss.”

“Ha!” she found it only partially funny, “I doubt it.”

He shrugged, which she could feel on her back. “She reads a lot of those books, doesn’t she?”

“-Which reminds me, did you steal the new Bram Stoker? She accused me of taking it, but of course I don’t read that sort of trash. I suggested you might have borrowed it, and she looked at me as if I were out of my mind- ‘Imagine, Irene! Sherlock Holmes reading all about vampires!’”

There was a pause.

“I liked the scene in the cemetery.”

“I know,” she admitted, “That was the best part. Better get all these weighty confessions off our chests if we’re really left to die here.”

“-I had hoped we could all be friends,” he threw in, ever casual and careless. She actually jumped.

“I mean, having friends other than Dr. Watson might have been... desirable...” he offered, seeming to figure it out himself as he went.

“I’m- sorry.” She couldn’t think of anything else to say- that was, until she screamed.

Where the pipe had come from, and how the water level had already risen two inches they didn’t know, but the odd structure of the room proved better at sealing the water in that they had ever expected.

“Oh, that is just melodramatic!” Holmes sounded almost disappointed.

“What does it matter if its melodramatic, it’s real!” shrieked Irene, the practical one, trying out of some instinct to squirm uselessly away from the water.

“I must confess,” her companion peered down at the floor, now completely covered in low, soupy water, “This is a little out of my expertise.”

“Well, let’s hope Dr. Watson fancies himself the action hero!”

***

“Watson?” He looked up to find Holmes offering him a glass of tonic, as if he were some sort of shock victim. He laughed bitterly.

“Oh, I don’t need that. I need something to get very drunk on.”

“And how will that help anyone?” the detective demanded, face still immobile.

“Hell if I want to do anything ‘helpful’ right now!” He ran a hand through his hair, fully aware it was a mess as if he hadn’t slept a wink last night, and didn’t at all expect to for the next few weeks. He was almost looking forward to falling into ‘desperation’ and all that entailed.

“Don’t, Watson,” Sherlock tried to catch his wrist in an oddly concerned movement, “You look like me on a bad case.”

The doctor did genuinely laugh, and it gave his ‘friend’ an ounce of hope.

“Oh, Holmes, I’ve been made a fool of.”

“No, you shan’t be. Mrs- Mary made a mistake, she doesn’t want to be cruel.”

“Doesn’t she?” He suddenly felt the urge to grasp for the glass, which Sherlock now seemed a little loath to give to him.

“Did you?” he demanded, “I wouldn’t want to say we’ve completely restrained ourselves-”

“At least we did better at hiding it!” John spat out. Sherlock gave him a sardonic look.

“John,” he said pointedly.

“Can we call each other that now? Now that it’s all out in the open?” Watson shook his head desperately, feeling as he felt. “God, the last shock I expected to see at the fair, of all places, the way they carried on-”

“John, enough.” He actually gasped in surprise when Sherlock wrapped his arm around his shoulders, tugging him to his breast and falling back onto the sofa win one swift movement so his chin rested on Watson’s head. The doctor resisted for only a moment before he sagged into the other’s embrace.

“We’ll work something out, my dear,” Sherlock nuzzled his temple.

Finally, Watson started to feel the relief he thought he should have had in place of shock and betrayal, letting his head fall against Sherlock’s shoulder without a trace of guilt.

“Yes love,” he sighed.


***

“Good lord,” Mary looked as if she wanted to kick the corpse with the toe of her dainty boot, but was barely restraining herself with all her finishing school training, “Drummers in a literal underground smuggling ring, what will there be next?”

“You tell me,” Watson snapped back, “Now what do we face up against, the mole king?”

“I think we find Mr. Holmes and Irene,” she retorted icily, picking her way over the bodies, “Do come along, Inspector Lestrade.”

Inspector Lestrade mus have turned his bowler hat over in his hands at least fifty times, eyes as wide as saucer plates. His training had not covered what to do when Mr. and Mrs. Watson actually wound up in the same room- or rather, cave- together, but he sure as hell wished it had.

“Good of him to hide the clues in the map,” she nodded, leading the way down an uncomfortably narrow passageway and glancing at the previously mysterious scrap of paper, “How was it you figured it out?”

Only Watson’s annoyance could have hidden his secret pride.

“A man who does a turn in the opera and and knows every cobblestone in London bothers to carry a map of the opera house basement? It didn’t quite add up.”

“A clever man,” she offered, feeling her way ahead and making Watson suddenly wonder why he wasn’t leading.

“Indeed, though rubbish as a romantic hero.”

“Is he not very romantic?” Although in the dark, he fancied her looking back slyly at him.

“Oh, trust me, he’s quite good on that front,” he retorted pointedly.

“I’m glad you care for him so much, John.” She blatantly ignored Lestrade’s pointed coughs, and inane comments of “It’s awful stuffy down here, isn’t it?”

Watson opened his mouth, but first considered Holmes in the carriage, remembering how often he and Mrs. Hudson were on his neck about ‘making other friends’. And every time he considered Holmes, or Mrs. Adler, he couldn’t stop himself from thinking about medieval torture chambers deep underground, and always picked up the pace, sweating a little more.

“I’m glad Mrs. Adler’s caring for you well,” he answered, conciliatory. He also fancied Mary’s smile of thanks, through the dark. “Let’s hope our respective paramours haven’t-”

“John, did you here that?” Mary froze, brushing past him and pressing her ear to the wall.

“What did we just hear?” Lestrade complained, always stuck behind them and feeling a little left out.

“Water! Water in the walls!”

Watson frowned, bringing up an actual lantern between them and trying to look reassuring, as Mary had started to quiver.

“Well, that’s strange, but what down here isn’t?” he laughed, and the easiness fell short.

“John, I don’t know,” Mary fretted, “But I just got the most terrible chill when I heard it! I fear something dreadful is happening!”

Unbeknownst to Sherlock Holmes, Irene Adler, and Mary ‘Watson’, the newest Bram Stoker installment was actually sitting in Dr. Watson’s waiting room, along with a couple other pilfered volumes. Watson had learned may things form his forays into Mary’s preferred reading material- most ‘facts’ (such as ‘wanton women are always vampires’) were not at all useful, but he had managed to gather that when in a dark, mysterious place, groups should never split up, and when a young lady said “I have a bad feeling about this!” she was usually right.

Watson thought it might be advisable to find whatever vault the prisoners were being held in just a little faster.

***

“Holmes!” In all fairness, both Holmes and Adler jumped, as one, when the ‘door’ seemed to fall inward with a resounding clang that would have made the organ embarrassed it could never summon such a racket.

“Sherlock, Sherlock, are you alright?” John hissed frantically, sloshing through the water without ever looking at anything but his lover face.

“-Actually, Watson,” said Holmes delicately, “We are only up to our waists. Not the most dramatic moment for the hero’s triumphant entrance. Have you fought the dragon yet?”

Irene settled for “Oh, thank God!”, but perked up considerably when she saw Mary tumble in behind Watson, skirts drenched.

“Mary! What the deuce are you doing here? Did you- figure it out?”

“No, you goose!” Mary took her cheeks in her hands and kissed her before setting about untying their bonds, “I ‘figured out’ that Mr. Sherlock Holmes and Mrs. Irene Adler had suddenly fled the opera, and if that doesn’t spell ‘trouble’ with a capital ‘T’, I don’t know what does.”

“Ah, Watson- the water is draining out, you don’t need to be in quite such a hurry.” As it happened, the water was sloshing out back down the tunnel and knocking the unfortunate Lestrade over, but nobody noticed his yell.

“-Oh.” Released, Sherlock then couldn’t free himself from Watson’s embrace or kisses, and didn’t particularly want to. “Well, if that’s what you’re so eager for-”

“Have a care!” Mary cautioned, but Irene patted her on the head, one arm around her waist.

“It’s just us, Mary, they’re fine.”

“I’m right here!” Lestrade objected, but he was only partway there, half fallen in through the door.

“Oh, poor Inspector Lestrade!” Mary cried, rushing over to help him and leaving Irene looking highly disappointed.

“Well,” said Holmes, once Watson had moved on to nipping his neck and he could actually talk, “That was not a highly successful case- figured it out, of course, but the execution left something to be desired.”

“We were all a bit distracted,” Irene offered generously.

“-Indeed. But- Good Lord, Watson, calm yourself- perhaps better left out of the casebook.”

“Oh, but that’s such a pity!” Mary sighed, giving up on brushing God-knew-what filth from the water off Lestrade, “It could sell for quite a penny, I thought- people would eat it up.”

“Well, change the names, and you’ve got yourself a serialized novel, Madame Mary,” Irene smiled, and Sherlock’s mouth also twitched into something resembling a smile.

“Well!” she entwined her fingers with Irene, still a bit high of adrenaline, as was everyone, “Will we see the two of you at the next Oscar Wilde reading?”

“Absolutely,” said Holmes, without an ounce of shame. Watson paused for a minute, before confessing.

“Yes, I’m rather fond of him too.”

Date: 2010-12-26 10:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ivyelevast.livejournal.com
SQUEEEEEEEEEE THIS WAS SO DELICIOUSLY AWKWARD. HOLMES TRYING TO BE FRIENDS BUT WATSON AND IRENE JUST GLARING AT EACH OTHER. AND HOLMES AND IRENE ADMITTING THAT THEY LIKED "THE GRAVEYARD SCENE". AND THE WATER JUST BEING UP TO THEIR WAISTS. AND OF COURSE POOR INSPECTOR LESTRADE. XDDD AND THE ALLUSION TO HOLMES CROSSDRESSING! AND PRAISE BE TO "THE ARRANGEMENT".

THANK YOU!!!! <3<3<3

Date: 2010-12-26 10:51 pm (UTC)
ext_444633: The dark carnival is in town... ([misc] vampires)
From: [identity profile] ccarlet.livejournal.com
I AM SO GLAD YOU LIKED IT. <3
IT'S HARD, BEING INSPECTOR LESTRADE.

Date: 2010-12-26 11:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ivyelevast.livejournal.com
ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU HAVE TO PRETEND NOT TO NOTICE ANY SPECIFIC ILLEGAL ACTIVITY WHILE TRIPPING UP ON WATER. X]

Date: 2010-12-28 07:44 am (UTC)
ext_444633: The dark carnival is in town... ([misc] good enough for me)
From: [identity profile] ccarlet.livejournal.com
ONLY INSPECTOR LESTRADE COULD SUCCEED IN TRIPPING ON WATER.

Date: 2010-12-28 07:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ivyelevast.livejournal.com
'CAUSE LESTRADE IS A BAMF LIKE THAT.

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