[identity profile] yawmin.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] catadamon
To Advance an Honest Mind (5/7)
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 5
In Which Holmes Worries Everyone

By the time the train reached the station, Watson was walking with a clear limp. The cold was taking it's toll on the good doctor's war wound. Baring that, Holmes decided–unilaterally it must be said–that Watson would return to their rooms whilst Holmes made inquires with the police and Lord Holdhurst. When Watson protested this decision, as he wanted very much to meet Lord Holdhurst. He tried to convince Holmes that the limp was nothing, nearly falling face first on the wooden station floor as he did so. Holmes would allow no further protest, and found a cab to take Watson straight home.

When he entered their rooms, Watson's foul mood was taken out on the door as he slammed it closed. How frustrating Holmes was sometimes! But his distress quickly vanished when he laid eyes on the desk drawer. It was left cracked open. Now was his chance! At least for a few days, he could rid Holmes of the awful drugs. He walked over to the desk as quickly as his limp would allow, and pulled the drawer open. The Morocco case was nowhere to be found. Of course he took it with him. The only things in the drawer were a checkbook and a leather photograph holder that was folded closed. Hesitating for only a moment, Watson picked up the photograph holder.

Watson respected Holmes' privacy, he truly did. If one were to ask him later, Watson would not be sure whether his actions were due to a mere curiosity of seeing the portrait that Holmes locked away, or whether it was an act of vengeance after Holmes had mercilessly plucked at the mystery of Watson's relationship with Percy. As he opened it, he saw a picture of a strikingly beautiful woman in an elaborate evening dress. The photograph was set-up in a classic beauty pose, however the woman had very non-traditional smug grin on her lips. She was also holding by her side some kind of air gun. It was a strange photograph indeed! Enclosed as well was a folded letter:

My dear Mr. Sherlock Holmes

You really did it very well. Until after the alarm of fire, I found how I had betrayed myself, I began to think. I had warned you months ago, but you would not heed. Yet, with all this, I have revealed the secret.

We both know the best resource for me is flight, when pursued by so formidable an antagonist; so you will find the nest empty when you call to-morrow. As to the item, you may rest in peace. I keep it only to safeguard my love and to preserve a weapon against the one I hide it from.

And as always I remain, dear Mr. Sherlock Holmes,
Very truly yours, Irene Norton, née Adler

Watson felt his stomach twist slightly at the Very truly yours, although he was not entirely sure why. Adler was a name Watson had seen writ down several times on Holmes' notes, though he did find it rather odd that the detective never mentioned her. Now he was even more curious as to why.

He was so absorbed in the revelation that Holmes had an admirer, that he did not hear Mrs. Hudson enter the room with the afternoon post and newspapers. He did, however, hear her very scandalized, "Doctor Watson! What are you doing!"

Watson nearly dropped the photograph and the letter in surprise. "M-Mrs. Hudson!" He quickly folded the letter back into place and shut the photograph holder. "I was just trying- Holmes' Morocco case-"

She quickly placed the post and newspapers on the table before walking over to Watson huffing disapprovingly. "That is Mr. Holmes' private property," she said, taking the photograph out of his hands. Although for a moment, Watson thought that he saw a look of distress on her face? "I know he can be a bit trying..." the housekeeper continued.

Embarrassed, Watson's cheeks flushed. "I was trying to hide Holmes' horrid drugs, that is all, I promise you."

She let out another huff. "He would only buy more, doctor. I stopped trying to hide his narcotics from him ages ago." She put the photo back into the desk and closed the drawer forcefully. She then gave the doctor another stern look before walking back over to the dining table and moving the newspapers to Holmes' chair. She then began to fluff the pillows on the settee.

As she did so Watson asked, "Do you know her? The woman in the photograph?"

Mrs. Hudson gave another put upon sigh. "If I tell you, will you put it all out of your mind?" Watson nodded. "Mr. Holmes calls her The Woman and that she and Mr. Holmes had some sort of falling out in years past, that is all I know of her." She shook her head. "He doesn't talk of her much, except when he is in a mood. I would rather he not come home to find you have seen it. The last time she came up in any kind of conversation in the rooms, Mr. Holmes attacked my walls with his revolver! Can I have your word you will not mention the photo?"

"Of course," Watson replied, cheeks going a bit pink again. He felt like a schoolboy being chastised by the headmaster.

"Good," she said with a nod. Mrs. Hudson then walked back over to the door. She paused as she was passing through the threshold. "Oh, doctor– you made me forget what I was going to tell you! There was something for you in the post."

"Thank you," Watson replied, walking over to the dinning table. There were three letters addressed to Holmes, which were cases no doubt, and one for Watson addressed in a strangle scrawl and written in purple ink. There was no return address. Watson opened it hesitantly. Although he had been living at 221B for a few months, there were still few who knew where his new quarters were.

Inside the envelope was a half sheet of paper. The message was typed, not hand written as the envelope had been, and read:

Go and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the devil's foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy's stinging,
                And find
                What wind
Serves to advance an honest mind.

What a strange message! Watson read over the text three times before folding the paper back up and putting it in his breast pocket. Who would send him such a thing and why? The poem sounded familiar, but he couldn't place the author. He also remembered there being more to it. Watson spent the remaining afternoon searching Holmes' library for the full text. Perhaps it would be a clue to whoever wrote him this mysterious letter.

After several hours of searching, he decided to take a break and read the papers for a little while. The Times had the same front page story as they had for the entire week: Countess of Morcar's blue carbuncle was still missing. Sadly, Holmes still had no intentions of taking the case on.

Holmes did not return until the evening. After giving Mrs. Hudson a curt order for tea to be brought up, he entered the sitting room with a dusting of snow on his features.

"Welcome back, Holmes." Watson had decided that he would keep the letter to himself for now, if only to keep Holmes on Percy's case. Finding the treaty was of national importance and it was in Holmes' nature to easily be distracted by the slightest of oddities.

"Evening, Watson," Holmes replied as he took off his jacket and hat. He hung them on the rack beside the door. It was only then that Watson noticed that Holmes had an additional hat with him. It was a large, worn, bowler hat that was not Holmes' as it was a good few years out of fashion and Holmes, from what Watson had observed during his time at Baker Street, was always the pinnacle of the current men's fashions. Holmes brought the hat with him as he sat on the settee, placing the hat on the arm of it.

Raising an eyebrow, Watson asked, "What have you there, Holmes?"

"A case from my friend Commissionaire Peterson," Holmes remarked, staring at the hat intently.

"You are already on a case, remember? We need to find the Naval Treaty as soon as possible."

"Yes, that is true." The detective stretched his arms languidly over his head. "However, Peterson approached me while I was making inquires at Scotland Yard pertaining to the Phelps case. Peterson's little mystery seemed much more interesting."

"More interesting–" Watson bit his lower lip to stop him from giving Holmes a lecture. The last thing he wanted was another conversation about Percy and their former relationship. Letting out a long breath, Watson said, "What did you find out from Scotland Yard?"

"Hmm?" Holmes asked, still staring at the hat.

"About the Naval Treaty," Watson supplied, trying not to grit his teeth.

Finally, Holmes turned his attention to Watson and said. "Unsurprisingly Scotland Yard had nothing to add to Mr. Phelps' story." As Holmes continued, his attentions slowly turned back to the hat before him. "Lord Holdhurst swears that he did not tell anyone of his nephew's commission, and he suspects that Mr. Phelps is the one who stole the treaty and has been pretending to have a brain storm to cover his tracks."

"Impossible!" If there was one thing that Percy certainly wasn't, it was a liar. Watson knew Percy's nerves would tear him apart with worry over being discovered. No, there had to be a different explanation. When he looked to Holmes for a reply confirming Percy's innocence, he found that the detective once again was lost within the mystery of the tatty bowler hat. With a sigh, he abandoned the subject for now. After all, they would be visiting Woking again in the morning and Holmes would clearly see Percy's innocence then. "I suppose that, homely as it looks, you are about to tell me that this thing has some deadly story linked on to it– that it is the clue which will guide you in the solution of some mystery and the punishment of some horrible crime."

Holmes chuckled. "No, no. No crime. Only one of those whimsical little incidents which will happen when you have four million human beings all jostling each other within the space of a few square miles."

Watson struggled to see how a hat could be more interesting than the safety of the country, but this was Sherlock Holmes, and he did tend to observe more than the average man, so perhaps Watson was missing something. "So, this is Peterson's hat?"

"No, he found it. Along with a goose."

"A goose?" Watson replied incredulously.

"Yes." Holmes replied absently as he continued to stare at the hat. "It was addressed to a Mrs. Henry Baker."

"The hat and goose belong to a Mr. Baker then," Watson reasoned. After a moment he said, "But Holmes, there must be hundreds of Henry Bakers in London alone!"

"Precisely why it is a mystery, Watson!" Holmes smiled, his marble-like eyes shinning in the firelight.

"Where is the goose now?"

"Surely Peterson's family has eaten it by now."


"It would have been no good to anyone if it had not been cooked soon," Holmes defended, frowning at the doctor. "But Peterson was quite adamant about replacing the goose for Mr. Henry Baker, thus I have to deduce his identity from the clues given to me by his hat."

"From his hat?"


"But you are joking! What can you gather from this old battered felt?"

Holmes stared at the hat for a few seconds as the fireplace crackled a few times. Then, with a quick swoop, Holmes took the hat into his hands and said, "That the man was highly intellectual is of course obvious upon the face of it, and also that he was fairly well-to-do within the last three years, although he has now fallen upon evil days. He had foresight, but has less now than formerly, pointing to a moral retrogression, which, when taken with the decline of his fortunes, seems to indicate some evil influence. Probably drink. This may account also for the obvious fact that his wife has ceased to love him. Those are the more patent facts which are to be deduced from his hat. It is also, by the way, extremely improbable that he has gas laid on in his house."

It was hardly Watson's prerogative to encourage this nonsense further, but he was unable to stop himself from blurting "My dear Holmes!" At this, Holmes' eyes snapped back onto Watson. For a moment there was silence, save for the crackling of the fire. Watson cleared his throat and added, "I mean to say, I have no doubt that I am very stupid, but I must confess that I am unable to follow you. For example, how did you deduce that this man was intellectual?"

Holmes placed the hat upon his head with great flourish. It settled right over his forehead and on the bridge of his nose. It was quite a comical sight seeing the unflappable Sherlock Holmes look so ridiculous with an oversized shabby hat on his head. Watson did his best to fight the laugh bubbling in his chest. "It is a question of cubic capacity," Holmes explained, still completely serious. "A man with so large a brain must have something in it!"

At that Watson could no longer hold in his laughter. Holmes took off the hat and looked at Watson curiously. As he opened his mouth to reply, the sitting room door slammed open. Both men turned their heads to see a small man, in a commissionaire uniform. Watson assumed the stranger was Peterson. He had flushed cheeks and was breathing hard from what could only been caused by excessive running.

Holmes stood up from the settee. "Peterson! What on earth-"

"Mr. Holmes, sir! It's the goose! The goose!"

"What about it man!" Holmes replied, testily. "Has it come back to life and flapped away out the window?"

"No sir, no sir," Peterson said, quickly making his way towards Holmes. It was then that Watson noticed that Peterson's right hand was balled into a tight fist. When he was in front of Holmes, he brought the balled fist forward. "See what my wife found in its crop!" Holmes looked curiously at the commissionaire as he slowly opened his palm to reveal a small, vividly blue stone. Watson blinked as he looked at the stone. The stone covered half of Peterson's palm and looked like it was carved somewhat in the likeness of a human heart.

Holmes' eyes widened. "Peterson! This is treasure trove indeed!" Hovering his fingers over the stone, the detective closed his eyes, a certain elation in his expression that Watson had not seen before. There his hand was suspended above the stone for a moment, as if he were anticipating something. Then, his eyes opened, and the detective gave a small sigh.

Peterson seemed just as perplexed as Watson. "Mr. Holmes?"

With a small shake of his head, the detective took the stone in his fingers and held it to the light. "I suppose you know what you have got here?"

"It's a bonny thing," Watson said, leaning over Holmes' shoulder to look at the stone as well. The detective glanced at Watson, blinking curiously. He maneuvered the jewel away from the doctor. With a nervous laugh, Watson took a step away and added, "Just see how it glints and sparkles."

Still confused, Peterson supplied, "I know it's a precious stone, no doubt. A diamond, sir? It cuts into glass as though it were putty."

"It's more than a precious stone," Holmes replied. He placed the stone back in Peterson's hand, now looking completely disinterested in the thing. "It is the precious stone that the entire city of London is on the lookout for."

Watson gasped. "Not the Countess of Morcar's blue carbuncle! Holmes!"

"Precisely so. I ought to know its size, seeing that Watson has shoved each newspaper containing an advertisement about it under my nose commanding my attention." Watson scoffed. But the detective continued, "It is absolutely unique, and its value can only be conjectured, but the reward offered of a thousand pounds is certainly not within a twentieth part of the market price."

"A thousand pounds! Great Lord of mercy!" The commissionaire said faintly as he ran his hand through his hair.

"That is the reward as it has been advertised," Holmes replied looking more bored than ever. "Although I have reason to know that there are other considerations in the background which would induce the Countess to part with half her fortune if she could but recover it."

Watson looked wryly at the detective. "You had said that the Countess' butler committed the theft, Holmes. Clearly, that is not the case. Here is the stone; the stone came from the goose, and the goose came from Mr. Henry Baker, the gentleman with the bad hat and all the other characteristics with which you deduced so expertly."

"Why could it not still be the Countess' butler?" Holmes demanded, turning an icy marble-grey glare towards the doctor. "After all, what would be the best coarse of action for a thief so close to the case do? Get rid of the evidence! It seems that thief is not as clever as he thought, and misplaced the goose he entrusted with the stone."

Chuckling, Watson sat back down on the settee. "Even for you, that is far fetched, Holmes. It is more likely that your mysterious Mr. Henry Baker-"

"Mr. Henry Baker has had nothing to do with the Hotel Cosmopolitan, save that perhaps he has walked by in the morning to his work." Holmes said icily. "I think you will find, Doctor, that the Countess would have guarded her treasure well and not have been as careless as you seem to assumed she had been." Holmes turned back to Peterson, "And you Peterson? I assume you would still like to return the favor of the goose to Mr. Henry Baker, and thank him for this wild turn of events."

Peterson flushed. "Oh more than that sir! Why! What have the wife and I need for a thousand pounds? I would split the reward with him!"

A small smile formed on Holmes' lips. "There's a good man. Here," he walked over to the desk and took out a sheet of paper. As he wrote, he said aloud: "Found at the corner of Goodge Street, a goose and a black felt hat. Mr. Henry Baker can have the same by applying at 6:30 this evening-" Holmes turned to the commissionaire, handing him the pencil he was writing with, "Fill in your address here, Peterson, and then take this advertisement to every newspaper you can think of right away."

"An advertisement? But will Mr. Baker see it?" Watson asked.

Still seeming rather annoyed with Watson, Holmes retorted, "Well, he is sure to keep an eye on the papers, since, to a poor man, the loss was a heavy one. And any those who know him are sure to draw his attention to it." Holmes turned his attention back to Peterson. "Make sure you take the hat as well, as I am sure Mr. Baker is missing it. After you drop the advertisement off at the printers, take the Blue Carbuncle back to the Countess. I think you will find that she will be most relieved to have it returned to her," he said. Holmes rolled the stone in his hand for a moment, staring at it. After a long moment, he gently placed the stone back in Peterson's hand.

Watson interjected, "Holmes-!"

But Holmes ignored the doctor's protests and waved the commissionaire on. "Off you go, Peterson. You don't want to miss the printing deadline."

Uncertain, the commissionaire looked back and forth from Watson, who seemed to be holding back a great deal of anger, and Holmes, who looked as though he no longer cared about the matter. With a tip of his hat to the detective, Peterson scrambled out of the sitting room, grabbing the shabby felt hat as he left. When the door closed, Watson turned on Holmes. "Although your mind may skip from one subject to the next, you simply cannot do so in the corporal world. Especially in the matter of criminal cases! If you know without doubt that the butler-"

"Whereas I do know that the butler committed the theft, Scotland Yard does have a tendency to get a bit sore when you point out obvious lines of investigation that they have overlooked. And why should the butler admit to the crime, when the stone has been returned? No, no," Holmes shook his head and sat back on the settee, closer to the fire. "It is not worth the headache of dealing with Scotland Yard twice in one day."

"Then surely he will attempt to steal the stone again!" Watson argued.

Holmes scoffed. Walking over to the fireplace, he made a show of grabbing the tobacco from the slipper and stuffing it into the black pipe. "Seeing how badly his first attempt went, I am sure he is loathe to try it again. For who knows, he might leave an obvious enough trail for Scotland Yard to see!" He let out a sharp laugh as he lit his pipe and sat back on the settee.

It seemed to Watson that Holmes was acting peculiar, or at least more peculiar than usual. Holmes was overplaying his dramatics more than usual since he had held the stone. Even without Watson possessing the cunning deductive powers that Holmes had, he could see that something was amiss. The doctor stared at his companion for a few moments before sitting down next to him on the settee. "At first you seemed to think that the Blue Carbuncle was something else."

"Did I?" Holmes asked, the pipe still in his mouth. His focus was now on watching the flames in the fireplace, and did not seem as if he were paying much attention to what Watson was saying. A small ringlet of smoke floated above his head.

"Yes, you did. But I suppose it was because of its odd shaped cut. At first glance, it looked like a small human heart!"

Holmes closed his eyes. "Yes it did," he said quietly.

Watson was taken aback by the detective's tone. It was the first time in their acquaintance that he had heard Holmes sound so disheartened. He leaned towards the detective, placing a hand on his shoulder. "What did you think it was?"

Holmes let out a long breath. "It's getting late. And we are to visit Woking and your friend Mr. Phelps in the morning, so we should both retire for the evening. Our train leaves quite early."

"Holmes?" Watson implored.

"It simply reminded me of something of past years, that is all."

"Past years?" Watson repeated, thinking back to the note he received earlier. Tell me where all past years are... Could that letter– But no, it was mere coincidence!

However, Watson's visible hesitance could not go without drawing the detective's attention. "Watson?" he said. "Are you all right?"

"Yes, yes, I'm fine Holmes," Watson said, shaking his head. "Good night."

After a few moments of staring at the doctor, Holmes nodded and went into his room, closing the door behind him.

The day before Christmas Eve was a bleak winter morning. The grey sky loomed over the city with clouds that looked as if they were trying to touch the earth. Snow was imminent, but did not begin to fall during their train ride to Woking. Watson was thankful, as he wanted to be more help than a hindrance to Holmes during their second visit to Percy's estate, if only to deflect Holmes' clear annoyance towards Percy, or perhaps just the case in general. Holmes' black mood had not lessened from the previous day, although Watson was thankful that it had not worsened as the disappointment over the case of the Blue Carbuncle, or rather the lack of case as it were. The outcome had the potential of dragging Holmes into another one of his black periods. But that was not the case, yet.

On the train ride there, Watson mulled over the note he had received the previous day. He still had yet to remember where he had heard the poem before, and decided to engage Holmes' intellect on the matter as a distraction. "I say Holmes, I have a very strange question for you. I have a bit of poetry stuck in my mind, but I haven't the foggiest where I have read it before."

Holmes, who had been biding his time watching the small cottages fly by through the window, turned to face Watson. "I must confess my knowledge of literature is not the strongest. I would think you would be better at it than I, considering your literary hobbies."

"Even so," Watson leaned back in his seat and looked at the cloth draped ceiling of their train car. "I recall studying it as a boy, but I can't remember how the rest goes..."

"Let's hear it then," Holmes shrugged.

"Go and catch a falling star and get with child a mandrake root...? Or something like that." He laughed nervously, as he was wont to do in situations where he did not want to seem ignorant in front of Holmes. In truth, Watson had memorized the entire portion of the poem sent to him. But saying it verbatim would pique Holmes' interest, and Watson did not want the detective to lose any more focus on Percy's case.

Holmes closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them back up the cloud blanketed light shone into the car, giving Holmes an eerie glow to the grey eyes. "It's John Donne," Holmes supplied, his voice suddenly odious.

"You know it then?"

"All too well," Holmes replied, his tone very somber. "'Swear, no where lives a woman true and fair...' More truer words were never writ down, Watson."

As Watson watched Holmes' eyes drift to stare at nothingness, his mind went back to the photograph of Irene Adler, or The Woman. Was Holmes referring to her? What did this woman do that was so terrible? He now regretted that he brought the matter up, as it seemed to only worsen Holmes' mood, Watson could only shake his head. "Indeed? Well, thank you Holmes. I will have to find it when we return to London and refresh my memory of it."

But Holmes continued to stare blankly forward, and did so for the next few minutes before starting a conversation about the Bertillon system of measurements, one which Watson could barely follow. It provided enough distraction for Holmes, so Watson tried to show as much interest as possible. Having Holmes in a lighter mood when he saw Percy again would be beneficial for all.

At Briarbrae, Percy seemed to be recovering somewhat, although he was still under the care of Miss Harrison. He was anxious to see the two visitors. As soon as they took their seats in the sick room, he burst out, "We have had an adventure during the night! One which might have proved to be a serious one. Do you know that I begin to believe that I am the unconscious center of some monstrous conspiracy, and that my life is aimed at as well as my honor?"

At this, Holmes let out a soft "Ah." Watson gave the detective a warning look.

Percy's frantic rambling of the events of the night previous, with his eyes wide and his face still so very pale, did not help matters. He spent a good time describing the strange atmosphere in the air and the lighting in the room. But then he came upon the heart of the matter: "A man was crouching at the window. I could see little of him, for he was gone like a flash. He was wrapped in some sort of cloak which came across the lower part of his face. One thing only I am sure of, and that is that he had some weapon in his hand. It looked to me like a long knife. I distinctly saw the gleam of it as he turned to run." At which point Percy had then woken the household to investigate.

Holmes, who up until this point was utterly uninterested, leaned forward, his eyes sparkling. It was a look Watson had become familiar with: Sherlock Holmes had found a clue. "Indeed," he said, getting up from his seat and began pacing around the room. "Perhaps it would be beneficial for us to examine the snow outside, to see if the perpetrator has left any discernible footprints," Holmes suggested. "Mr. Phelps do you think you could accompany Watson outside?"

"Oh, yes, I should think the fresh air would do me a world of good. Joseph could come, too."

"And I also," said Miss Harrison.

"I am afraid not," Holmes said, stopping in front of the lady. "I think I must ask you to remain sitting exactly where you are." She did not look pleased in the slightest to do so, but she remained seated as Percy and Watson stood to leave. Holmes grabbed Watson's left arm gently as he began to exit the room. "Follow the footsteps until the wall, and observe where they go. Try not to make a scene of anything you may find."

"Why are you sending me out there to investigate, Holmes?" Watson furiously whispered in reply.

"Because I need to check the fireplace and speak to Miss Harrison."

"Check the fireplace? Holmes, he said nothing of the fireplace!"

Holmes looked quite pleased with himself. "Yes, and is that not a trifle odd?" He nodded towards Percy, who was now standing in the doorway with Mr. Harrison. "Go with them, or they will begin to suspect something."

"Holmes-" The stern look that Holmes gave Watson prevented any further argument on Watson's part. As Watson exited the room, he saw from the corner of his eye Holmes kneeling before the fireplace and examining the brickwork. For what, Watson had no idea.

It was as Holmes had said. There was a clear path of footsteps leading away from the window of Percy's sick room, that headed towards a small stone wall near the garden. However, the snow was not very deep, and several of the footprints had since been ruined by what Watson only assumed could be the rousing of the rest of the household. Since the potential attack had happened during the night, there was no way for the members of the household to see well enough to leave the footprints alone. Watson followed what he could to the stone wall, only to find that the clear track of the perpetrator disappeared. Percy joined with him as he examined the yard, telling Watson of the visibility from the road and once again recalling what had happened.

Mr. Harrison watched Watson silently. He glanced uneasily toward the direction of the sick room a few times during Watson's investigation. He has to be worried about leaving his sister alone with Holmes, Watson thought. "I can take Percy back if you would like to go back to the house, Mr. Harrison," Watson offered. "I am almost done out here."

Mr. Harrison nodded. "Thank you, Doctor Watson. My constitution does not do well in the cold," he said gruffly, before heading back towards the house.

As soon as Mr. Harrison's back was turned to them, Percy leaned into Watson, who in turn moved to take Percy's arm instead in an attempt to let Percy know that things between them were not what they were when they were schoolboys. Slowly they walked towards the house, Percy looking curious, but smiling just the same. "He seems a good man, your Sherlock Holmes. I must confess, I did not think his type would be your preference. But then I suppose our tastes change with age."

"I'm quite sure I do not know what you are talking about, Percy." Watson could feel his neck and ears heat up despite the bitter cold outside. "Have you ever had an alarm like this before?" he asked, trying to keep the subject on the case at hand.

"Never," Percy replied, the smile still on his lips.

"Do you keep valuable plates in the house, or anything else that might attract burglars?"

"No, nothing of value." Percy shrugged.

By this time they had reached the house. Percy, mercifully, let go of Watson's arm and walked forward as Holmes and Miss Harrison could readily be seen from the sickroom window, which was now open. Holmes beckoned the two men over.

"Holmes," Watson said with admonishing tone, "You really should not have opened the window to the sick room. All of the heat-"

"I believe solving this case is more important than the climate of Mr. Phelps' sick room, do you not agree Mr. Phelps?" Holmes replied with a wide, but annoyed, smile.

"What do you propose now, Mr. Holmes?" Percy asked.

"Well, in investigating this minor affair we must not lose sight of our main inquiry. It would be a very great help to me if you would come up to London with us this evening. The doctor could take care of any wants you may have, and I have already spoken to Miss Harrison about the matter and she agrees."

Percy's face lit up. "Then, if my friend of the night comes to revisit me, he will find the bird flown! How soon do we leave?"

"As soon as you readily can," Holmes replied. Watson could not help but notice the detective's eyes were still sparkling. Turning to Miss Harrison, Holmes added, "Remember your promise, Miss Harrison. It is of the utmost importance for both the case, and your safety."

Although she was not as close to the window, Watson could see Miss Harrison nod in agreement. Even from where Watson was standing, it was clear that whatever air of displeasure she felt when asked to stay behind was now gone. She looked pensive, and a tad more pale. Watson could not help but wonder what she and Holmes discussed.

Percy was far too weak to walk back to the train station, so a small carriage was brought to the house and the three rode to the station in silence. As they boarded the train, Holmes announced calmly that he had no intention of leaving Woking that evening.

"There are one or two small points which I should desire to clear up before I go," said Holmes. "Your absence, Mr. Phelps, will in some ways rather assist me."

"Holmes, what on earth–!"

"Watson," Holmes said sternly, "when you reach London if you would oblige me by driving at once to Baker Street with our friend here, and remaining with him until I see you again. It is fortunate that you are old school fellows, as you must have much to talk over. Do not leave the rooms. Hopefully, I will be with you in time for breakfast." Holmes shut the door to the compartment, but the windows were still lowered.

"But how about our investigation in London?" Percy asked.

"I think that just at present I can be of more immediate use here. Oh, and Watson," Holmes added, grabbing Watson's forearm, "Do be careful. And be sure to keep the rooms well-ventilated."


The departing whistle echoed through the air.

"Promise me that you will!" Holmes said, gripping Watson's arm a bit tighter.

"I promise, Holmes!" Watson replied, a bit bewildered.

Holmes let go of Watson's arm as the train whistle blew a second time. He waved goodbye as the train began to slowly pull away. A strange feeling sank in Watson's stomach as worry began to take over his thoughts.

"I suppose he wants to find out some clues as to the burglary last night, if it was indeed a burglar." Percy shrugged as he sat himself down. "For myself, I don't believe it was an ordinary thief."

Watson, who was vaguely listening to what Percy was saying, watched as Holmes turned away from the departing train. After Holmes' figure disappeared, he closed the window. "What is your own idea, then?" he asked.

Percy looked as if there was no other thing in the world that would excite him as much as to answer. "Upon my word, you may put it down to my weak nerves or not, but I believe there is some deep political intrigue going on around me, and that for some reason that passes my understanding my life is aimed at by the conspirators. It sounds high-flown and absurd, but consider the facts–" He babbled on about his so-called conspiracy for some time. Watson remembered to nod occasionally, and make approving noises as Percy spoke, all the while the doctor's mind was racing with worry over Holmes.

It was even worse once they reached Baker Street. The longer they were away from Woking, the more Percy's nerves began to eat away at him. He was worried that Holmes would not recover the treaty, and it would be the end of him. Even when Watson tried to change the subject, and bring up other matters such as telling stories about his exploits in Afghanistan or social matters, Percy would still bring the matter back to the treaty. "You have implicit faith in Holmes?" he finally asked Watson.

Despite everything Watson had witnessed, all of Holmes' vices and oddities, there was no hesitation. "I have seen him do some remarkable things," Watson replied.

"Do you think he is hopeful?" Percy pressed, "Do you think he expects to make a success of it?"

Other than he is quite bored with the case, Watson thought. He shrugged. "He has said nothing of it that I am aware of. But he can be quite the slither-outer, and he jumps from one thing to the next so much that it can be quite hard to follow his line of thinking some days."

The world looked as though it crushed down on Percy. "That is a bad sign."

"On the contrary! It is in Holmes' nature to leave me in the dark until the final moments. It can be quite frustrating at times, I will admit. However, I do believe it is part of his method and I have yet to see it fail. He is the best and wisest man I have ever met." Watson paused after saying the last part. He had not realized it until then, but it was quite true. He was so astounded by Holmes' talents, and had grown so accustomed to being around him and being included on his adventures, that he could not quite think of a life without him.

Percy raised an eyebrow at Watson, but he saw the surprised look on his friend's face and decided not to push the matter further.

That night, despite the assurances he offered to Percy, Watson found it quite difficult to sleep. So many questions about the case were floating around in his mind. Why did Holmes stay, but not want Watson there? What was the promise he had made with Miss Harrison? Why did he pretend to go with them to London? And why was Holmes so insistent about having ventilation in the rooms in Baker street? Surely they were safe from any danger there!

When the clock stuck two in the morning, Watson gave up on the prospect of sleep and instead went down the small staircase from his room to the sitting rooms. In the collections of books Holmes had, he found a collection of poems from the fifteenth century and set about finding the entirety of the poem sent to him in the note. At least then one of the mysteries floating in his head would be solved. At last, he found the poem called Song:

Go and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the devil's foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy's stinging,
        And find
        What wind
Serves to advance an honest mind.

If thou be'st born to strange sights,
Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights,
Till age snow white hairs on thee,
Thou, when thou return'st, wilt tell me,
All strange wonders that befell thee,
        And swear,
        No where
Lives a woman true and fair.

If thou find'st one, let me know,
Such a pilgrimage were sweet;
Yet do not, I would not go,
Though at next door we might meet,
Though she were true, when you met her,
And last, till you write your letter,
        Yet she
        Will be
False, ere I come, to two, or three.

Having the poem in it's entirety did not help, but only confuse Watson more. Why would anyone send this to him in a note? It seemed to a be a poem quite against the idea of love. No wonder Holmes knew it so well, Watson mused. He read the poem over again, trying to break the meaning down, taking notes down in his notepad. The poem confused him as much as it had when he was a boy at school. Before Watson realized it, he fell asleep at the writing desk, pencil in hand.

The next morning was Christmas Eve day. The clouds still hung low in the sky, but had produced a light sprinkling of snow on the streets. Percy looked as though he managed to sleep as badly as Watson had. They sat at the dinning table, slowly eating a breakfast of buttered toast and tea when Watson heard footsteps outside the sitting room. He and Percy leapt from their chairs when the door swung open, to reveal Holmes. The detective had a disappointed look on his face. "Ah, it seems that I am too late!"

"Oh no!" Percy shouted. "It's too late?"

Holmes raised an eyebrow. "I promised Watson I would be back in time for breakfast, but it seems you have already started."

Watson cleared his throat, trying not to laugh at Percy as his face suddenly went from dread, to confusion, to anger. It was a typical reaction to Holmes' theatrics, but amusing none the less. "Were you successful?"

Nodding, Holmes slowly reached for his coat pocket and brought out a royal blue envelope with delicate tassels. "I do believe this is what you have been searching for, Mr. Phelps?" Holmes took a step over the threshold. For a brief second, he winced as he moved.

It was something so subtle, that Watson was sure Percy had missed it. But he certainly had not. On a second look, Watson noticed that Holmes looked quite more pale than usual as well. He briskly walked to over to the detective and asked, "You are not wounded, Holmes?"

"Only a scratch through my own clumsiness," Holmes shrugged nonchalantly. Now that he was closer Watson could see that Holmes' left arm was not in the sleeve of Holmes' winter coat. Watson's stomach sank. For Holmes to be holding himself in such a way, it could not be only a scratch.


"Mr. Phelps, you must excuse our mutual friend. His motherly instincts tend to outweigh his manners." Holmes made a circular motion with the hand holding the treaty, indicating he wanted Percy to take it from him.

Percy took the treaty and proceeded to kiss it. "God bless you!" he cried. "You have saved my honor! But where did you find it?"

"In your sick room," Holmes said flatly. There was another flash of pain on his face. Watson took a step closer to him.

"My what?"

"Holmes," Watson said, reaching for the detective. "You are wounded. You need to let me examine you."

Blatantly ignoring Watson, Holmes gave Percy another wide smile. "You see after I left you two at the train station I-" Letting out a grunt of pain, Holmes doubled over.

"Holmes!" Watson caught the detective in his arms and brought him down to the floor. As Watson's hand pressed on the front of Holmes' chest, he realized that the black coat Holmes was wearing was stiff with what could only be dried blood. It had been a texture he had become all too familiar with during his time in Afghanistan. The color drained from the doctor's face. He did not spare one moment, nearly ripping Holmes' winter coat in two to be able to see just how serious the wound was.

"It's all right, Watson. It's all right," Holmes said, calmingly. It was all too much for Watson that Holmes could be so calm when it was he who was wounded.

The sight of Holmes' dress shirt stained with blood was too much for Percy's delicate sensibilities, and gave a light "Oh!" before planting himself in the wicker chair and doing his best to stare out the window. Watson paid him no mind, as the detective bleeding out on the floor was more crucial. Watson ripped open the detective's white shirt and saw a bandage wrapped around Holmes' chest, soaked with dried blood. "How is this in any way a mere scratch, Holmes!" Watson said, his voice shaking. The amount of blood made Watson apprehensive. He needed to check the wound quickly.

"Really, Watson there is nothing you need concern yourself over. I have already attended the wound," Holmes replied. From the way he was trying to brush it off, it could have been some other person's blood all over his clothes.

"Sorry if I need to check for myself. After all, I am a doctor," Watson retorted. He turned to Percy, who was still swooning from the sight. "Percy, do some good and hand me the scissors off of the desk!" he barked.

Percy sprang up from the wicker chair and did as he was told. As he handed Watson the scissors, he made sure to look the other way. Watson snipped off the blood-soaked linens and to his horror saw the injury, though rather small, pierced Holmes' ribcage near his heart. The wound had not closed. He quickly grabbed Holmes' discarded jacket and applied pressure. "You daft, insufferable–! How could you just go alone–! What if–" Watson reached for Holmes' neck to see how strong his pulse was.

"Really, Watson–" Holmes insisted, sounding a bit more panicked. He attempted to push Watson's hand away, but the doctor would not have it. It was not the time to humor Holmes' antics. As Watson's fingers touched Holmes' carotid artery his eyes grew wide.

Sherlock Holmes did not have a heartbeat.

To Be Continued...
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