[identity profile] yawmin.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] catadamon
To Advance an Honest Mind (2/7)
Fandom: Sherlock Holmes (book!verse/hints of Granada); crossover with Howl's Moving Castle. Sort of.
Pairing: Eventual H/W
Rating: PG for so much fluff it could be hazardous to small children
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters or universes. And I'm sure ACD and DWJ are happy about that.
Summary: A fanfiction universe mash-up of Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle and the Holmes universe. When Mr. John H. Watson meets a consulting detective named Mr. Sherlock Holmes, he finds himself lost within Holmes' strange adventures. Holmes has sacrificed much in his quest, including his own heart. Can Watson help restore what was once lost before it is too late?

Chapter 2
In Which Watson Joins Holmes On A Case

Mr. Jabez Wilson's problem was a very elaborate prank involving him and a mysterious red-headed league. He was inducted out for the so-called league after answering a newspaper advertisement. But after just a few weeks of reaping the benefits of his new membership, the league suddenly closed under further peculiar circumstances. While Mr. Wilson did present a strange mystery, Watson was at a loss on why the stout man had come to Holmes in the first place. His story about the red-headed league recruitment, and then sudden disbursement, was highly unusual, but it seemed counter-intuitive to reveal the story an uninvolved party, which would only serve to further his embarrassment. Why share the story at all? After their "guest" left, Watson turned to Holmes with a confused look on his face. "Mr. Holmes, are you a policeman?"

This time Holmes truly did laugh. It was a deep boom, the sound grating on Watson's already frayed nerves. "Truly doctor, you couldn't possibly think–"

"I didn't say that I did," Watson countered defensively. "I only inquired, because I am at a loss on why Mr. Wilson would have come to you with such a peculiar story. He seemed very convinced that you were the only person who could discover some sort of answer to his mystery."

"Allow me to ask you something, doctor." Striking a match, Holmes lit the pipe that sat beside him on the arm of his chair. "Why would a policeman even care about a missing, and very fictitious I might add, Red-headed League?"

"They wouldn't."

"Precisely," Holmes nodded, blowing out a large cloud of smoke. "Which is why Mr. Wilson came to speak to me. But I must say you are getting warmer in your theories by the second, doctor. I would hazard a guess that you have nearly come to the truth of the matter."

Scoffing, Watson leaned back on the settee. "You give me far more credit than I deserve. I am not as quick as you think I am." When Holmes had turned his observant eye to Mr. Jabez Wilson, he had seen far more than a normal person would have seen. 'A Freemason, that he has been in China, and that he has done a considerable amount of writing lately, I can deduce nothing else,' indeed. No normal person could so correctly identify all of the traits at one glance. But whilst Mr. Wilson felt relief when Holmes had explained the how, Watson could not help but become further intrigued. Holmes had said that his profession gave him further practice to hone his observational skills. But his were inhuman! "What if I simply asked: what is it you do Mr. Holmes?"

A smile quickly crossed Holmes' lips before he schooled his expression back into its normal position. "The direct approach," he said between his pipe, an eyebrow raised. "Very original." He let out another cloud of smoke as he leaned his head on his free hand. "I must admit, you intrigue me, Doctor Watson. The candor of your speech is not something one often experiences."

"You could address me with something less formal, Mr. Holmes. After all, we are going to be sharing the same digs for the time being."

Holmes raised an eyebrow. "One would think you would like formality after your days in the Army."

"Quite the contrary, actually," Watson replied, sighing.

"Shall I call you John then?" Holmes asked, clearly amused as he tilted his head to the side. "Why I do not think I have used anyone's Christian name since I was a schoolboy. Are we to don jumpers and run around the rooms playing tag as well?"

Watson shifted in his seat, annoyed by Holmes' obvious delight in making him feel uncomfortable (not to mention very clearly avoiding the question Watson posed to him). "Your fanciful teasing aside, if you like, you may call me John– as long as I am given the same liberty and can call you Sherlock."

At the sound of his given name, Holmes visibly tensed and winced. Grinding his teeth on the mouthpiece of his pipe, Holmes said, "There are only two people on this Earth who are allowed to call me by that name, and you are not either of them."

"Holmes, then," Watson supplied, docketing away that scrap of information.

"It would be quite uneven of me to call you John, under those circumstances, would it not?" He took the pipe away from his lips and stared at Watson. Again those haunting grey eyes of Holmes rattled Watson to the core, yet he could not find it in him to turn away. Although it was only for mere seconds, when Watson recalled the moment later, it would seem like hours.

Finally breaking the silence, Watson swallowed hard and then said, "It would not be disagreeable if you used my surname as well, then. To 'even it' as it were."

"Watson," Holmes said, clearly trying it out on the tongue. "Watson." He considered briefly. He brought the pipe back up to his mouth, and nodded. "Indeed. Returning to the matter at hand: your question as to what it is that I 'do,' I believe was the inquiry? To put it simply, I am a consulting detective."

Leaning forward on the settee, Watson raised an eyebrow. "A consulting detective? Which entails what exactly?"

"People come to me with mysteries to solve, that are either too much, too fantastic, or too private for the police to handle," Holmes explained, sounding slightly annoyed as he waved his hand flippantly in the air. "Really Watson, after the spectacle Mr. Jabez Wilson just presented, I really thought you would have a better handle on the concept."

"Honestly, his problem sounded more like it came from one of Poe's mysteries," Watson said, with a shrug.

Holmes looked thoroughly un-amused. "Am I playing the part of Dupin then?" Visibly disgusted, Holmes turned his head away. "No doubt you think that you are complimenting me in comparing me to Poe's silly detective," he observed sharply. He got up from his chair and stood by the mantle. "Watson I think you'll find that Dupin was a very inferior fellow. That trick of his of breaking in on his friends' thoughts with an apropos remark after a quarter of an hour's silence is really very showy and superficial."

"You have shown you have the same remarkable talent," Watson interjected. "You have done nothing but read my mind since I walked into these rooms!"

"I'm merely observant," Holmes offered, shaking his head.

"Hmm, yes. Your 'Omne ignotum pro magnifico,' was it?" Although Watson's Latin abilities were never particularly strong, he could at least understand everything becomes commonplace by explanation, although it was a very lose translation.

"Nothing more. I cannot help it if your mind is quite easy for me to read, Watson. You do not guard your thoughts in any way." When Watson's face flushed and opened his mouth to speak, Holmes put up a hand to stop him. "I am not saying that is a negative trait. I can perceive that you are a very passionate man. I, however, am quite the opposite– as you no doubt have noticed. It has helped me enormously in my profession."

Watson had noticed. In fact, he was beginning to wonder whether Holmes had yet to show a genuine expression or feeling yet.

Drawing upon his Army training, Watson tried to school his features into a blank expression. "Can you deduce what am I thinking at this moment?"

With a brief chuckle, Holmes brought his pipe back up to his mouth. "While my deductive reasoning may be amusing to you, it is not a parlor trick. I really should be focusing my efforts on the problem Mr. Wilson presented to me, do you not agree? After all, I was commissioned to do so. If I do not perform my duties then providing my half of the rent money will be very difficult indeed." He let out a puff of smoke and then rested the hand holding the pipe on the mantle place. He glanced over his shoulder. "What do you make of it, Watson?"

"I make nothing of it," Watson shrugged. "It is a most mysterious business."

"As a rule, the more bizarre a thing is the less mysterious it proves to be. It is your commonplace, featureless crimes which are really puzzling, just as a commonplace face is the most difficult to identify." Holmes pressed the mouthpiece of his pipe to his forehead and tapped it against it a few times. "But I must be prompt over this matter."

"What are you going to do, then?"

Holmes looked over to Watson and smirked again. "To smoke," he declared, returning to his chair. "It is quite a three pipe problem, and I beg that you won't speak to me for fifty minutes." Snuggling into his chair, Holmes placed the pipe in his mouth and began puffing away furiously while his marble eyes stared into space.

Raising an eyebrow, Watson got up from the settee. "While you are doing that, shall I tidy up the room?"

Making an impatient noise, Holmes furiously waved for silence. Watson could only take that as an affirmative and began to pick up the papers on the floor. While Watson assumed the mess was its own sort of madness, there was a method to it all despite their carelessness from moving his trunk. While it was not sorted neatly, everything on the floor had something to do with a case of robberies over the past five years. All small matters that hardly received any coverage from the newspapers, as the articles clipped were very short indeed. Mostly the papers were notes that Watson assumed Holmes had written himself. Meticulous notes that discussed small details from the crimes. Each of the papers had a name written somewhere near the article: Adler. When Watson tried to inquire of Holmes who this Adler was, the detective ignored him and continued to smoke his pipe.

Before Watson realized it, he was reading the case notes and articles more than cleaning up. It was only a knock at the door that jolted him back to reality. He looked to Holmes, who had his eyes closed and was clearly ignoring even the knocking.

Watson maneuvered his way to the door. Stumbling the last few steps, as his foot caught on one of the open books, he then opened the door to find a smiling Mrs. Hudson, baring a tray of sandwiches. The sight of food caused Watson's stomach to growl loudly. It was only then that he remembered that he hadn't eaten since the night before. Smiling widely at the landlady, Watson said, "Mrs. Hudson, thank you so much."

"Yes, thank you Mrs. Hudson for interrupting my train of thought once more!" Holmes drawly replied, taking a long puff from his pipe. "I thought an hour of peace was too much to ask for!"

With a hmph! Mrs. Hudson headed back down the stairs muttering things about ungrateful tenants.

Torn on what to do, Watson hovered at the doorway for a moment, holding the tray of sandwiches. Finally, sighing, he said, "Perhaps you shouldn't snap at her so." As he spoke, Watson walked the sandwich tray over to the small dining table that was in the sitting room. He had to push a small pile of papers off of it to make room for the tray.

"Never mind Mrs. Hudson," Holmes snapped, waving his hand dismissively. "I have neither the time nor the patience to spare for her Scottish temperaments. There are more pressing matters." Holmes jumped to his feet and placed his pipe on the mantle. "Come, Watson!" He ran to the door and grabbed his top-hat and walking stick.

Bewildered, Watson stared. "But lunch–"

"Hang lunch! We have some inquiries to see to!" Holmes called, running down the stairs.

For a moment Watson was unsure of what to do. He glanced at the table and tray of sandwiches. He was rather hungry. However, the intrigue of possibly witnessing more of Holmes' talents in use–

He quickly grabbed his hat, hoping that Holmes had not gone too far ahead.

Holmes and Watson traveled together by the underground to Aldergate, following by a short walk to Saxe-Coburg Square where the shabby pawn brokerage that bared the sign "Jabez Wilson" was located. The street was not quite what Watson had imagined. It was run down, filled with shops that looked as if they were abandoned for years. What was ironic was that not one block over, the streets were with filled with commerce and bustling people. It seemed Mr. Wilson's street was the area's forgotten shadow.

Curious as to what the consulting detective was doing, Watson observed as Holmes started at the pawn brokerage and then walked in the street a few feet, tapping his walking-stick on the pavement a few times. He then returned to the entrance of the pawn brokerage. He did this five times before he stopped and smiled. "Remarkable," Holmes said.

"What is, Holmes?" Watson asked, extremely perplexed by Holmes' behavior.

Instead of answering, Holmes knocked on the door. It instantly opened to reveal the man that Mr. Jabez Wilson had described as Vincent Spaulding, acid mark and all. He invited the two gentlemen inside, but Holmes simply smiled. Holmes put on a far more charming imitation then what he had shown Mrs. Hudson not an hour previous. "Thank you, but no. I only wished to ask you how you would go from here to the Strand."

Vincent Spaulding easily gave the directions and sent them on their way. As they walked, Holmes began to chuckle. "What an incredibly smart fellow!" he exclaimed. "He is, in my judgment, the fourth smartest man in London."

Watson looked to the detective incredulously. "If you are bestowing that title because of his directions, Holmes, I am grieved to tell you that even I could have told you how to get to the Strand."

Holmes let out another laugh. "Not quite, Doctor! Not quite!" He grabbed Watson's elbow and lead him into a nearby alleyway. With a smirk, Holmes said, "It was not the directions that I was commenting on, Watson. Tell me, did you happen to notice Mr. Spaulding's knees?"

"His knees?"

"Yes, Watson. His knees. Precisely the knees on his trousers. They were stained." Holmes replied. The grin on his face grew wider. "Yes, this business is quite serious."

"Is it something to do with your striking the pavement?" Watson asked, still trying to grasp Holmes' line of thinking.

However, Holmes' attention was already turned back to the street. Watson was not sure whether Holmes had heard his question, or simply ignored it. Holmes was muttering to himself. "The little newspaper shop, the Coburg branch of City and Suburban Bank–" As Watson was about to open his mouth to ask his question again, Holmes turned to him with his grey marble-like eyes shining bright. "And now, Doctor, we've done out work, so it is time we had some play."

"But Holmes–"

Holmes once more grabbed Watson's elbow and lead him back to the main street. "My dear doctor, this is a time for observation, not for talk. We are spies in enemy territory," the detective whispered in a playful tone. Once they arrived on the main street, Holmes turned to the doctor once more. "I do believe there are some more inquiries to be made, Watson. This is definitely an evil business, and what's more we are under certain time constraints."

"Time constraints?" Watson asked, shaking his head.

For a moment, Holmes simply stared at the doctor with his penetrating eyes. Then his mouth slowly formed a very crafty smirk. "Of course! I must hasten elsewhere, you see. Sarasate is playing at St. James this afternoon with a good deal of German music on the programme, which is rather more to my taste than Italian or French. It is introspective, and I want to introspect." He hesitated for a moment, eyeing Watson. "You may join me for the concert, if you wish?"

Trying to hide his embarrassment, Watson replied, "I must confess I am a bit tired from our little adventure today."

Watson expected the detective to become a bit annoyed at his refusal, but instead Holmes mealy began to walk again, still holding Watson by the elbow. "Well of course you are!" Holmes said. Watson couldn't help but hear a slight amount of condescension in his voice. "Dear me how much this little investigation of mine must have drained you!"

"It's not that, Holmes," Watson shook his head. "I am deeply fascinated, although admittedly a bit lost– while you and I have seen the same things, clearly you have deduced more than I. It is not that I am tired by this line of inquiry, it is simply..." Watson's voice trailed off as he looked to his leg.

Holmes nodded in understanding. "Say no more, Watson. You will at least accompany me for a bit longer? You see, I do believe I owe you lunch after I dragged you away so quickly from Mrs. Hudson's culinary delights. A sandwich and a cup of coffee are in order, I believe?"

Staring at Holmes for a moment, Watson then smiled. "Yes, I do believe I have the strength for that at least."

Holmes smiled as well and from the shine in the detective's eyes, Watson could have sworn it was the first genuine smile that he had witnessed from Holmes. A flush came over Watson's neck and he had to quickly turn away to spare any further embarrassment.

"Shall we?" Watson gruffly said as he pulled away from Holmes' grip and took the lead.

For Watson, lunch was a surreal event. Apparently, not only did his new acquaintance possess unearthly deduction skills, but he was quite knowledgeable in many fields. But it was strange, for all the knowledge he possessed, Watson was quite surprised by Holmes' lack of what Watson would call "practical knowledge." Such as political matters, or public figures–unless they were involved in crimes, then Holmes' knowledge would be overwhelming. It seemed that Sherlock Holmes did indeed have some limits, and that came to somewhat of a relief to Watson. It proved that the man he had just decided to share his life with (at least for the time being) was not some sort of calculating machine, devoid of any faults.

The two parted after lunch, Holmes to his inquiries and concert, Watson back to 221B. The train ride back was a bit lonely for the doctor. It wasn't as if Holmes had kept a conversation during their train ride, but it suddenly felt a bit awkward traveling alone. Exasperated with himself, Watson muttered reminders that until today, alone had been his state of being for the last two months.

Mrs. Hudson warmly welcomed Watson home, making the expected polite inquires about the journey. "I hope Mr. Holmes is not going to bring you along all of the time," she said, worriedly. "Some of his visitors– well, they look to be quite a bit rough lot. Not to mention the countless times Mr. Holmes has returned looking as if he had been on the losing end of a fisticuff fight."

"I doubt that I will be drug along all the time," Watson shrugged. "The case presented was just rather strange, that's all. It piqued my interest, so I thought I would join him in some of his inquiries." He glanced up the stairs, wondering how he could politely leave this conversation with Mrs. Hudson and retreat to one of the comfortable chairs in their sitting room.

Apparently following his line of thinking, Mrs. Hudson said, "I suppose you'll be wanting to put your feet up after all of that." Her smile faltered a little. "I haven't had a chance to pick up all of Mr. Holmes' new mess–"

Watson laughed. "Does that often to you, does he? Not to worry, Mrs. Hudson. I'll take care of it."

"Oh I couldn't possibly–"

Shaking his head, he replied, "Nonsense! I insist." As Watson began to walk up the stairs, he added, "And I will do my best to encourage Holmes to keep it that way this time! I cannot abide by messy rooms either!"

As he opened the door to their rooms, Watson was quite sure he heard Mrs. Hudson snort.

Somehow, the room was in a worse state than he remembered. But that was quite impossible, since he and Holmes left at the same time, and there was no possible way for Holmes to have beaten him home. Perhaps the mess was due to their hasty exit? Well, it didn't matter, and staring at the paper covered floor would not clean it any faster.

It took Watson longer than expected to make sense of Holmes' erratic filing system. Some articles were sorted by year, such as the crime articles without handwritten notations. Those baring notes concerning figures predominately featured in the article instead were placed in one of several journals that were kept in alphabetical order. There were some personal papers mixed in the mess. Unsure where to place them, Watson tried the drawer in the writing desk. However, it was locked. Instead he placed the papers on the top of the desk, reminding himself to tell Holmes where he placed them.

By the time he had cleared a majority of the mess, the light in the room was waning and the settee looked so comfortable. Watson had only planned to sit to relax his throbbing leg for a few minutes as he tried to sort through more of the 'Adler' papers. But, despite his best efforts, Watson drifted to sleep.

To Be Continued...
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