[identity profile] yawmin.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] catadamon
To Advance an Honest Mind (4/7)
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 4
In Which Mycroft Holmes Pays a Visit

In a few days it became clear to Watson just how busy Sherlock Holmes, private consulting detective, was. It seemed as if every other morning he heard Mrs. Hudson knock loudly on their door far earlier in the morning than what would be considered decent, and within a few minutes, Holmes would be knocking on Watson's door asking if he would like to sit in on the case. He was not sure why Holmes would request his presence, as it seemed to the doctor that Holmes was doing just fine on his own, but he would accept the invitations. He took to writing notes during the cases, if only for his own reference, as Holmes never asked to have any details from cases repeated. When a case was over Watson took great delight in reviewing their adventures. He thought perhaps one day, if Holmes allowed it, he could chronicle their cases.

It also quickly became clear that what Holmes had told Watson the evening of their first case was true: the detective only cared for his clients while they were presenting a mystery. Once the matter was solved, there was no longer a need for them. This frustrated Watson, but it was impossible for him to make the detective understand why he should have a better relationship with clients. Holmes' reasoning was if he got emotionally involved with every client, how would he ever get anything done?

Then there was two weeks of no cases.

Watson had never witnessed a man fall apart so quickly, even in the battlefields of Afghanistan. Whenever he saw the damned Morocco case on Holmes' desk, a chill ran through his spine, for there was no telling what havoc the detective may create in his drugged state. Watson was quite sure that was how the bullet holes in the sitting room came to be, and he was not at all interested in Holmes decorating the room with further royal initials. The doctor attempted to steal the Morocco case several times, but with no avail. Holmes kept the drawer to the desk locked at all times, and despite his best efforts, Watson could not find the key, nor could he successfully pick the lock.

It was painful for Watson to watch Holmes' brilliant mind bend when under the influence of the horrid cocaine, or worse, morphine. Holmes' marble-like eyes made Watson uneasy enough normally, but under the influence of the drugs, the detective's eyes completely frightened Watson. They seemed to consume him whole, body and soul, and it was impossible to stay under their watchfulness for very long. Then came the black moods where Holmes would lash out at anything and everything as a reaction to the injection of drugs

When Holmes was without a case, besides the drugs to distract him, he worked at his chemical table, which possibly was worse. Watson stopped the rooms from burning down twice in those two weeks. There was also an incident with some kind of crystallized salt, which when exposed to flame gave out the most heinous smell. Holmes promptly evacuated himself and Watson from the sitting room as well as the vial that contained the substance. It was three hours before the detective allowed anyone back into the sitting room. The doctor wasn't sure what he preferred: Holmes at the chemistry table, happily creating mayhem that Watson would then have to quell; the drugged Holmes who would strangle his violin at three in the morning without mercy; or Holmes in a black mood, who while would make extremely scathing remarks when approached, would mostly keep to himself.

Watson realized that in order for them to live peacefully together, he would have to do one of two things. Either find Holmes cases to put his mind to work, or stay out of the rooms as much as possible while Holmes' lacked the proper mental stimulus of a case. Holmes did spend sometime working on his case notes. He began to pin them to the wall, creating an elaborate network of crime articles and photographs-- all which had the name Moriarty scrawled on them. But even that could only hold the detective's attention for so long. With Holmes' capricious nature, it was incredibly difficult to find cases that he would actually take on. Watson tried to get Holmes interested in the crime The Times covered every morning: Countess of Morcar's priceless blue carbuncle stolen from the Hotel Cosmopolitan. No one seen leaving the scene, and there was only one suspect, a chimney-sweep who proclaimed his innocence. The stone was still not located. Holmes was less than the slightest bit interested, declaring the case solved in that that the Countess' butler was sure to have been the culprit, despite the lack of any evidence indicating him. However, he would not take the case, as Scotland Yard had not bothered to call upon him.

Unable to entice Holmes with cases, Watson tried to spend time outside their rooms as frequently as his conscience would allow to keep things as peaceful as he could within their rooms. The weather turned to cold. It was December already, and the skies were threatening snow every day. The chill in the air only worsened the pain in Watson's injured leg.

On one of these afternoons, Watson returned to 221B, to find Mrs. Hudson standing at the bottom of the stairs to their rooms, listening intently while her hand was on her chest. As the front door shut, her attention snapped to Watson. "Oh! Doctor!" she said, rushing over to him. "It's Mr. Holmes, he–"

"The law cannot, as you say, touch you," Holmes' voice boomed through the hallway as the door to the sitting room slammed open. "Yet there never was a man who deserved punishment more! If the young lady had a brother or a friend, he ought to lay a whip across your shoulders!"

Watson was already rushing up the seventeen stairs to their rooms, ignoring the severe protests of his aching leg. He could see Holmes standing at the doorway, flushed with anger, and a man, some thirty years old, who was clean shaven with sallow skin. Watson had never seen the man before, but the stranger was absolutely terrified of Holmes. It was understandable. Watson had never heard Holmes speak with such malevolent tone. The voice combined with his gangly height made Holmes quite the frightening man.

The detective took a step inside the sitting room, and inspected the hanger that was next to the door. "It is not part of my duties to my client, but here's a hunting crop handy, and I think I shall just treat myself to–" He took two swift steps to grab the crop, but before he could, the man raced down the steps, pushing Watson out of the way and ran into the stairway hall. The heavy hall door slammed shut as the stranger scrambled to get away from Holmes' wrath.

"There's a cold-blooded scoundrel!" Holmes looked to Watson, and burst out into laughter. He slapped the crop lightly in his free hand. "You've come at a crisis, Watson!"

"So I see. Who on earth was that?"

With a wave of his hand, Holmes said, "No, not that! That blaggard is one who will rise from crime to crime until he does something very bad, and ends in the gallows, no doubt. At least that case was, in some respects, not entirely devoid of interest." Holmes made his way back to his chemical table, where he was working on something new. "I was referring to–"

The sight of that poor man racing down the stairs was not something Watson was going to ignore. He cleared his throat. "You solved a case while I was out?"

"It was not a very complex matter," Holmes replied, shrugging as he sat at the chemical table. "Grotesque, yes, but simple. You need not worry yourself with it." Holmes gestured for the doctor to come into the sitting room.

Raising an eyebrow, Watson replied, "Holmes, I have never seen you become so emotional over a client. What on earth did that man do?"

"He was–" Holmes lowered the beaker in his right hand and let out a long breath. "He was a man who my client entrusted something very special to," he said. The detective closed his eyes and then added, "That blaggard took advantage of the trust given to him. The human heart is something easily lost. It is much harder to recover. Since I am powerless to convince my client otherwise–"

"You mean you have not told your client? You could have at least made her aware of this... Deception whatever it may be," Watson reasoned, speaking before he absorbed everything Holmes said. During their few months together, there had been small hints that Holmes was not the calculating machine he appeared to be. But this was the first time that Watson encountered any indication that Holmes thought of his clients' feelings. Watson sat on the settee, getting his small notebook out of his breast pocket.

Holmes looked over to Watson, his eyes disbelieving, however clear. It was the first time he had not seen the traces of cocaine or morphine in Holmes' eyes in days. "There is danger for him who taketh the tiger cub, and danger also for who also snatches a delusion from a woman." Turning his attention back to the experiment before him, he added, "That is all I will divulge, Watson. I would rather not have the details of this case recorded. Besides, we have other matters to discuss. While you were out-"

"I clearly missed quite a bit. I was only gone for two hours, Holmes!"

Holmes raised an eyebrow. "Yes, and I see that even that might have been too long on your leg. Do you want me to have Mrs. Hudson fetch some hot towels for you?"

"That won't be necessary, Holmes." Watson put his notebook away, looking a bit disappointed that he would not be able to know the full story behind the fury that he had seen in the detective's eyes.

"I do not mean to be crass, my boy, but I will be requiring you to be able to move in less than an hour's time. I want to make sure that you will be able to."

"Why?" Watson asked, looking over to the table. "Where are we going?"

"I know nothing as of yet," Holmes said, still distracted by his experiment. "As I was attempting to tell you, while you were out I received a telegram from the Foreign Office. It was rather vague in its contents," he retrieved the telegram from his breast pocket and handed it to Watson while continuing his experiment.

Must see you over Naval Treaty. Coming within the hour.

"Who is MH?" Watson asked, re-reading the very short message indeed.

"My brother, Mycroft," Holmes replied absently as he poured a foul smelling purple liquid into a fizzing beaker.

Watson's jaw dropped. "Your brother? You never told me you had a brother!"

"Didn't I?" Holmes shrugged. "Well, it is no consequence. Whatever the problem that Mycroft is having, it will surely be worth the bother of being in his presence."

"Is he your junior, then?" Watson asked. It would be natural that such animosity would be aimed towards a much younger sibling.

Holmes shook his head. "Seven years my senior."

"And works in the Foreign Office?"

"Yes..." Holmes tilted his head. "For today." The liquid that Holmes was mixing turned an ugly brown color. He frowned at it and placed the beaker back in the rack. With a sigh, he turned away from the work. It looked as though his experiment was done for the time being. He turned his full attention to Watson. "He has his hand in a great many things, Watson. He naturally has a great capacity for facts and figures, so much that his abilities outstrip my own gifts."

Watson raised an eyebrow. "I thought that you disliked modesty."

"It is not modesty that I speak. It is simply the truth," Holmes offered as he got up from his chemical table. Strolling over to the fireplace, Holmes removed the dagger from the mantle place and added Mycroft's telegram to the stack of papers before stabbing the pile once more with the dagger, grinning as he did so. "When he arrives, you will see," he said. Easing himself into his normal chair, Holmes picked up the afternoon's newspaper that was lying beside the chair on the floor.

It was not long before there was a quick knock on the door, and a man called through the door, "Sherlock?"

"Mycroft!" Holmes called back.

The door swung open. Mycroft Holmes was nothing at all what Watson had imagined. He thought the eldest Holmes would be a copy of the detective, but with, perhaps, a sprinkling of grey in his hair. Mycroft Holmes actually was, unfathomably, taller than his younger brother, with the bulk of three or four Sherlocks. While the detective's hands were composed of graceful, long fingers, that Watson more often than not found himself mesmerized by, Mycroft had gigantic flipper hands that lacked any grace that his brother's possessed. He looked far older than seven years Holmes' senior, with a great many wrinkles etched into his face. While the features were more plump, and aged, Watson could recognize the hereditary features between the brothers. Something about the nose and chin. Mycroft's eyes were a light grey, like Holmes', but not nearly as haunted as his brother's.

Mycroft Holmes entered the room with a very put-upon sigh. He did not introduce himself, but instead walked straight over to the chair opposite of Holmes', which had become Watson's normal seat, and planted himself with yet another loud heaving sigh. The brothers sat in silence, staring at each other.

When it looked as though neither Holmes' were going to speak, Watson, who was still standing near their guest, cleared his throat. He offered his hand to the elder Holmes. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Holmes."

Mycroft looked at the doctor as if he had only just realized that he and his brother were not alone in the room. "Gracious! Sherlock, why did you not wire me you had company? I would hardly wish to interrupt an interview with one of your clients."

"The fact that you sent a telegram was an indication that it would not matter whether I had a case or not," Holmes seethed. "You should keep better informed. He is my new associate."

Mycroft let out a soft chortle. "I see. And what is the name of your brave new army doctor?"

"How did–"

"John H. Watson," Holmes announced, looking annoyed. "I told you doctor, that Mycroft's gifts outstrip my own. But while I rely on my observational skills for to make my living, Mycroft's is a merest hobby."

Watson laughed nervously. "This is the first time I have seen deductive powers to be hereditary."

"Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms." Mycroft replied, with a patronizing smile. "While our ancestors were country squires, our grandmother was the sister of the French artist Vernet." Mycroft looked to his younger brother and sighed. "I do wonder if Sherlock's deductive skills are only mimicry of my own, while his true mastery is his violin. Nevertheless, it is from her gifts, that we have thus inherited the ability to become masters of our chosen professions. Isn't that right, brother mine?"

The only reply the detective gave was a pained smile.

"If that is true, not to be inconsiderate, but how have I not heard of you, Mr. Holmes?"

A devious look came upon Holmes face as Watson spoke. "Mycroft lacks the energy," he snidely replied. "If he were able to conduct detective work from an armchair, he would be the greatest detective in the world."

"I abhor leg-work, if that is what you are trying to explain. Not all of us can make the sacrifices you do have, Sherlock. And look what it has made you become! The heartless detective with nothing left to lose." Mycroft glanced at Watson. "Or perhaps-"

"You did come here about a case?" Holmes snapped. "While I do love our chats, brother mine, I am quite busy just at the moment."

Mycroft frowned. "Yes, the Naval Treaty. A very annoying business. It seems Lord Holdhurst took his nephew into confidence about a secret treaty between England and Italy– of which, I regret to say, some rumors have already got into the public press."

"What sort of treaty?" Holmes asked as Watson exclaimed simultaneously, "Good lord, Percy!"

Both Holmes brothers turned to the doctor. "How did you know the name of the nephew, Dr. Watson?" Mycroft asked, looking extremely surprised.

"Well I-" Watson hesitated for a moment as a blush came over his cheeks. "Percy Phelps and I were at school together. We're the same age, but he was ahead of me by two classes." It was the truth, Watson assured himself. Just not the complete truth. There was nothing about his relationship with Percy that would help the investigation, and really, it was so long ago. Percy probably did not even remember him...

"Really?" Mycroft's mouth formed a small smile as he looked to his younger brother. It gave Watson the impression that he was being patronized by the elder Holmes brother once again, so he looked to the younger. As for Sherlock Holmes, he looked both interested and upset at this revelation, although Watson could hardly understand why.

"I must confess," Watson added. "That he had passed out of my mind. We were not the closest of acquaintances." Now that was a lie, Watson thought. But a very small one, and really it was everyone's best interest not to reveal the true nature of their friendship...

Holmes closed his eyes and let out a long breath. "What did this treaty contain, brother mine?"

"It spoke of an alliance between the two great countries." Mycroft replied. Folding his flipper hands in front of him, he added. "It is of enormous importance that nothing further should leak out. The French or the Russian embassy would pay an immense sum to learn the contents of these papers."

Raising an eyebrow, Holmes asked, "Is it missing?"

With another loud sigh, Mycroft said, "The treaty has been stolen under very peculiar circumstances. Phelps was given a commission from Lord Holdhurst to copy the treaty. While Phelps was out of the room, but still in the Foreign Office building, it was stolen. It's been missing for nine weeks now, but the matter was only brought to my attention this morning. It seems that Lord Holdhurst was trying to keep a cap on the situation to avoid putting further pressure on his nephew. Phelps, soon after the treaty was discovered missing, fell into a brain fever and has been inflicted with it all this time."

Watson sighed inwardly as Mycroft explained Percy's situation. In his youth, Percy had always been a nervous sort, constantly growing sick over his own anxieties. The contracting of a brain fever after such terrible event was not a complete surprise to Watson.

"How many people knew of the treaty?" Holmes asked.

"Not many knew the full details of the treaty, though its existence is known."

"It has been nine weeks and nothing has happened?"

Mycroft grunted. "If the treaty had been sent to France or Russia, I guarantee you, we would have heard about it in Whitehall." With a great heave Mycroft hoisted himself out of the chair. "Here is Phelps' address," Mycroft handed Holmes a small piece of paper. "He is expecting you tomorrow morning."

Looking up at his brother, Sherlock did not move to take the piece of paper. "I have not said I would take the case."

"You will take the case, Sherlock," Mycroft shook the piece of paper insistently. "It is a matter of national security. In all of your career you have never had so great a chance of serving your country."

"The treaty is as good as gone. If I had been consulted right after the event occurred–" Holmes sat back in his chair. "But you know there is no hope on retrieving the treaty. And you also know serving my country would not inspire me to take this case..." The detective slowly stood up and looked his brother in the eyes. "Why are you really here?"

"Surely, your fantastic deductive powers would have figured it out by now," Mycroft teased. "As I said before, there were very few who knew the true contents of this document. And Lord Holdhurst swears he told no one of the commission he gave Phelps. So who could possibly know that the poor boy had the treaty, much less have the time to prepare to steal it from impossible circumstances?"

Holmes' eyes grew wide, but he did not say anything. Instead, he took the piece of paper containing Percy Phelps' address from Mycroft's hand. The elder Holmes smiled triumphantly. "Very good. I know you will be able to bring a swift close to this case."

"You'll make arrangements for us to speak to Lord Holdhurst?" Holmes asked.

Shrugging, Mycroft replied, "If you think it will be necessary. However, I suggest you visit Phelps first. He may save you the tediousness of interviewing Lord Holdhurst." Mycroft turned his attention to the doctor and nodded. "Very nice meeting you, Dr. Watson."

Watson stood up, careful of his aching leg. "It was nice to meet you as well, Mr. Holmes. Thank you for stopping by."

As his elder brother left the rooms, Holmes walked to the fireplace, tightly holding Phelps' address in his right hand. The two Holmes brothers did not exchange farewells. Watson, however, escorted the elder Holmes to the door. As Mycroft opened the front door downstairs, he turned to the doctor and said, "I know it must be difficult for you, living with Sherlock. You, with such a strong, caring heart, living with the walking clockwork machine." He let out a deep sigh. "I hope my brother will not trouble you too much, doctor."

"He's no trouble at all," Watson replied with a polite smile. Despite it being far from the truth, this was no time to unburden himself.

Mycroft simply smiled. "For now he isn't."

For reasons that were not at all clear to Watson, Holmes said nothing after Mycroft's departure. Watson assumed that this was only yet another one of Holmes' black moods, and this too would pass before long, so he did just as he would have every night; he enjoyed a quiet supper in the sitting room while Holmes poured over his chemistry table only a few feet away. There were times that Holmes would glance in Watson's direction, and stare at him for a few moments, and then turn back to the experiment before him. He did this thorough the evening. When Watson questioned him about it, Holmes ignored him.

The next morning, there was still nothing but strained silence between the two of them. This made the train ride to Woking exceptionally awkward, and Watson was beginning to question why he had bothered coming along at all if Holmes was going to pretend that he was not there. After all, if he did not go, then there would be no risk of Percy recognizing him and thus putting the two of them in a predicament. Holmes would be far too observant, and would most likely draw the correct conclusion.

But halfway to their destination, Holmes looked up at the doctor. "Your relationship with Percy Phelps..." The sound of Holmes' voice made Watson jump in surprise. "It was not quite what you described."

Watson's eyes grew incredibly wide. "How could you possibly know?"

"I told you Watson," Holmes said, looking out of the window to his right. "I know when you are lying."

"Holmes–" Watson said with a nervous laugh.

"Omission is also a type of lying," Holmes said flatly. "I know there is something you did not share last night."

"Holmes–" The tone of Watson's voice turned to pleading.

"Not to worry, old boy. I shall sniff it out once we arrive in Woking."

Watson was quite sure that was the last thing he wanted to happen. He could take the chance to tell Holmes directly what exactly had been between himself and Percy, as he did not think Holmes to be judgmental. However, it was a dangerous risk he would be taking, and dragging Percy along with him. And for what? Watson had not spoken to Percy since he went off to Cambridge, nor had they exchanged any letters. With what the war had wrought on Watson's both external and internal appearance, it was highly doubtful there would be a spark of recollection on Percy's part, as he was always a bit narcissistic in his ways.

Holmes said nothing else for the remainder of the train ride.

Percy's estate, Briarbrae, was a few minutes walk from the station. It had snowed, but only just enough to make walking difficult for Watson. After it became obvious such a short walk may turn into a long one, Holmes offered his arm to Watson. The doctor hesitated for a moment before Holmes snapped, "It's not as if I will eat you, Watson!" His face flushing, Watson grabbed Holmes' arm and on they went to Briarbrae.

As they approached the house, Holmes let go of Watson's arm and moved to walk behind the doctor. They were greeted at the door by Joseph Harrison, who introduced himself as the elder bother of Percy's fiancée, Annie. This bit of news startled Watson, but he attempted to not react to it in anyway, thus revealing himself further to Holmes.

Joseph escorted the two to the make-shift sick room, where Percy and Annie were waiting, Percy grasping Annie's hand tightly in his own. Percy's already extremely pale color, which Watson assumed was because of the brain fever and not some other terrible condition Mycroft Holmes had not mentioned, contrasted heavily against his deep maroon robe. He looked as a man about to fall to pieces. "Here are the two gentlemen you have been waiting for from Whitehall, Percy. This is Mr. Holmes and Doctor Watson," Joseph said. "This is Mr. Percy Phelps and my sister, Miss Anne Harrison."

At the mere mention of Watson's name, Percy's eyes lit up for the briefest of moments and the dreary color of Percy's face lightened. "'Is't possible!' My dear, Watson!" he exclaimed, laughing. "You were the last man I would have expected to see in my sick room. I should never have known you under that moustache, and I daresay you would not be prepared to swear to me!" Percy grabbed Watson's hand and shook it furiously. "How are you, my dear chap?"

"Hello, Percy," was Watson's far more reserved response. He glanced over to Holmes, who looked on the scene with great interest. "Holmes here," Watson gestured to Holmes, "Is a consulting detective. He has come to investigate the stolen Naval Treaty. I am his associate."

"Ah yes," Percy offered his hand to Holmes, who looked at it and simply walked past it to an uninhabited chair. Watson turned to the detective, cheeks burning in embarrassment. Perhaps Holmes did not mind being so callous to a client, but for Watson it was impolite to act in such a way. Percy, however, did not take much offense to the detective's actions, and continued, his attention lingering towards Watson. "My uncle wrote that Whitehall would be sending someone to look into the matter."

Watson nodded. "Whitehall shared the situation with us."

"Although they were rather short on details," Holmes interjected, insinuating that he wished Percy better inform them of what truly happened. As Watson opened his mouth to admonish the detective, Holmes smiled curtly at him and motioned for Watson to sit down.

"But I don't know how much good it will do you." Percy said to Watson as the doctor sat down. "The police have been unable to help, as the thief left no clues behind."

"That would be for me to decide," Holmes replied, his tone a bit snappish.

Now it was Annie's turn to open her mouth to say something to Holmes, but Percy silenced her by squeezing her hand. "Very well, Mr. Holmes," Percy said calmly, "I shall tell you everything I know..."

It was a rather complicated affair, filled with the intrigue that Holmes always preferred in his cases. A daring thief that not only vanished along with a document that no one but the inner circle of the Foreign Office was even aware of, but who also rang the alert to draw attention to himself or herself. Only two exits, one that no one but an innocent small girl left, the other having to pass by where Percy Phelps was.

Normally, this would be the precise case to capture Holmes' interest, but as Percy was giving his full account, Watson looked over to the detective to see that he looked bored, listless. Even when Percy finished, Holmes seemed disinterested in asking many questions. Instead, after two questions he got out of his chair and walked over to the window and stared out at the snow. "It is a pity we could not be here in the spring," he observed. "Your garden looks most impressive Mr. Phelps."

"Yes, it is..." Percy replied. Both Percy and Miss Harrison looked confused by this change of topic. They looked to Watson, who could only shake his head.

"Are these all rose bushes?" the detective asked, still staring out the window.

Percy looked even more confused. "I believe so."

"What a thing a rose is..." Holmes murmured, leaning up against the shudders, still staring out at the snow. "Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But the roses are extra. Their smell and color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers."

Holmes stared out of the window for some minutes, watching the snow before Miss Harrison walked over to him. "Do you see any prospect of solving this mystery, Mr. Holmes?" she asked with some terseness to her voice.

He blinked at her for a moment, seeming lost. Then a small smile came to his face. "Yes, the case. I do not deny that the case is a very abstruse and complicated one, but I can promise you that I will look into the matter and let you know any points which may strike me."

Miss Harrison was quickly losing patience. "Do you see any clue?"

Holmes shrugged nonchalantly. "I must test them before I can pronounce upon their value."

Now her eyes narrowed. "You suspect someone?"

"I suspect..." Holmes looked over to Watson for a moment. And then smiled briefly before turning back to Miss Harrison. "...Myself."

"What?" Miss Harrison's cheeks flushed red with anger.

"Of coming to conclusions too rapidly," the detective finished, smiling genteelly at Miss Harrison.

Miss Harrison took two steps closer to Holmes, her stare turning colder. "Then go to London and test your conclusions."

"Your advice is very excellent, Miss Harrison," said Holmes, turning to Watson and smiling. "I think, Watson, we cannot do better." He walked over to the door to the sick room and pointed to Percy. "Do not allow yourself to indulge in false hopes, Mr. Phelps. The affair is a very tangled one, and I am not a magician. Come Watson."

Watson shook Percy's hand once more. "I shall be in a fever until I see you again!" Percy said, looking into Watson's eyes.

It was at that comment that Holmes made an annoyed face. "We shall come out by the same train tomorrow, though it's more than likely that my report will be a negative one." And with that he stomped out of the room.

Watson followed Holmes after he gave his most sincere apologies both to Miss Harrison and Percy. He assured them that this was how Holmes usually acted, but he was very good in his profession. They looked disbelieving, not that Watson could fault them.

Holmes waited until Watson made himself comfortable on the opposite side of the train compartment before saying anything again. "You could have confided in me, you know," he said as Watson picked up the paper he had bought to read on the ride home.

Outside the train whistle blew the last warning call. Watson slowly lowered the paper, staring at Holmes. He knew playing innocent would only aggravate Holmes. At least the compartment door was shut, so this could be a private conversation. "I did not think it any of your business."

"When you were intimate with a potential client, it becomes my business."

A few loud bangs outside and one last train whistle sounded as the wheels of the train began to move. Watson stretched the paper in his hands with a great show of force. "It was a long time ago, Holmes," he retorted, trying to focus on the newsprint instead of the detective's eyes, still staring him down. "And it is a personal matter that I did not wish to share."

Holmes made an amused sound as he looked out the window to watch the scenery begin to slowly move. After a few moments, the detective added. "He still cares for you." He paused, glancing over to observe Watson's reaction. "But you already knew that, didn't you?"

Watson concentrated on his paper.

Turning his head back to look at his companion, Holmes asked, "And you plan to ignore his attentions?"

Finally, Watson put down the paper with a loud sigh. "Why should it matter to you what I do? As I said, it has no effect on this case."

"On the contrary, it may be the essence of the case. It is crucial to not upset anything in that household at the moment. Particularly Miss Harrison."

Watson sincerely doubted that was true at all, as he was quite accustomed to Holmes' flare for the dramatic and his sometimes exasperated circumstances. "And why is that? She already admitted to knowing nothing of the treaty until after the incident."

Holmes turned his head towards the window again. "I cannot be certain, and I do not wish to speculate until I have all the facts. However, a woman with a character as strong as hers... it is hard to discount her in being one of the threads in the robbery. Your former relationship with Mr. Phelps has now been added to the puzzle as well. It would have been better if you told me before we had set out for his estate."

Watson felt his cheeks grow warm. "It is not a subject talked about in the open, Holmes– but I am happy that you can speak of it so freely."

"There is no need for sarcasm, doctor. I simply wanted to know if you were planning to return his attentions." Holmes replied, pulling a cigarette out of his jacket. He took his time lighting it. "If you are, then I need to take into account how discreet you two plan to be, and how Miss Harrison's relationship with Mr. Phelps will change, and how meeting his old school flame will affect-"


"So as you can see, your relationship whether it continues or not is very important to how I approach-"

"Enough." Watson glared across the compartment at Holmes. "My time with Percy is over. There are things expected of a man in his standing, and marrying an exceptional woman like Miss Harrison is one of them." Holmes opened his mouth to say something, but Watson continued on, "Even if he approached me with such intentions, I would turn him down for his own sake." At this Holmes smiled slyly. Watson's anger surged further. "What the devil are you smiling at?"

"And here you say that you cannot read minds," Holmes replied, continuing to smile. "Yet you knew what I was intending to ask next!"

With a sigh, Watson said, "I am beginning to understand your tendency to pluck at a subject until it is as bare as a roast goose, that is all."

"Well that was certainly an impressive deduction! How far you have come in such little time."

Clearly annoyed, the doctor spoke through clenched teeth. "I am trying to give you what you want because I am uncomfortable with the subject." Watson picked up the paper at his side and once more began to read. He could feel Holmes' eyes staring at him intently, but to say anything about it would start the conversation once more.

The sound of a gentle clack-clack of the train tracks filled the compartment as the train made its way back to London. A ring of smoke from the cigarette formed around Holmes' head.

Holmes broke the silence, "There is no need to be uncomfortable with your nature."

Watson let out a slow breath. Speaking softly and very quickly, he said. "As bohemian as your attitude may be, the law takes a somewhat more conservative view. I do not wish to end up in the dock breaking rocks for two years, so can we please desist with this conversation?"

Holmes said nothing more until they reached Waterloo station.

To Be Continued...
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