[identity profile] yawmin.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] catadamon
To Advance an Honest Mind (6/7)
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 6
In Which A Secret Is Unveiled

A quiet knock on the door roused Watson from a sleep he did not remember succumbing to. He rubbed his eyes wearily and slowly got up from the chair where he was keeping watch within Holmes' room. His leg ached as he walked through the sitting room. He opened the door to their rooms, not even bothering to ask who it was. "Thank you for coming so quickly, Mr. Holmes."

Mycroft Holmes nodded. "It is I who must thank you for calling on me so quickly." He walked past Watson into the middle of the abandoned sitting room. He eyed the bloodied clothes that were still lying on the floor. "I trust nothing has changed since your telegram?"

"Nothing," Watson shook his head. He gestured towards Holmes' room. "Would you like to see him?"

Mycroft, in what Watson was beginning to believe was a family trait, dodged the question by posing another, "I assume Mr. Phelps has since gone home?"

"Yes," Watson nodded. "Treaty in hand. The country is safe once again."

Mycroft looked at Watson for a moment, and then began to pace the room. It was precisely what the younger Holmes' habit was when contemplating a problem. Watson felt his lips form a small smile as he observed the family similarities. "I find myself rather embarrassed to admit that I had suspected Joseph Harrison to be the thief from the beginning. However, he was far more depraved and dangerous than I anticipated. I had not said anything, because Sherlock, well," the elder Holmes paused in his pacing and looked to Watson once more. "He does not like to have hints, as he calls them, and would much rather discover facts for himself. But if I had said something, given some kind of warning–"

"I doubt anyone could have anticipated this," Watson replied, looking out of the window. The sky had grown dark. It was now Christmas Eve. Mycroft Holmes should have been in their rooms, wishing he and Holmes the season's greetings. Not apologizing for being unable to see the future.

"You must understand that I feel guilty, since it was I who gave Sherlock this commission. I did not say so at the time, but I gave the case to Sherlock for more reasons than just national security."

"What reasons?"

Mycroft looked to Watson. "However I am quite relieved that you now know." Another dodge.

"Know what precisely?" Watson sharply replied, glaring at the elder Holmes. "That your brother is a medical impossibility!"

"You must have seen several things that were unexplainable while you were serving in the East." Mycroft reasoned. With a great sigh, Mycroft planted himself in the chair where Holmes normally sat. The act only made Watson all the more frustrated, however if Mycroft noticed he took no heed of it. Taking off his hat and placing it on the arm of the chair, he continued, "Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent."

"There is strange, and then there is impossible," Watson said, indignant. "Your brother has no heartbeat and is yet lying down in that room of his, breathing and carrying on without regard to the workings normal of human life! He should be dead!"

Mycroft raised an eyebrow. "If he is not dead, as you say he should be, then what would be the logical conclusion?"

Throwing his arms up in the air, Watson replied, "There is none!"

Tilting his head to the side, Mycroft steepled his fingers in front of his face. It was a motion that was a mimicry of his younger brother's habit, without the same eloquence. The two brothers were far too similar. "There is, you just have not considering it, for you have deemed it impossible."

Watson clenched his teeth. "Which is?"

"That he has no heart," Mycroft suggested. Shrugging at the incredulous glare Watson gave him, he added, "Or, rather: he was in possession of a heart at some point in his life, but it is no longer within him."

"Impossible!" Watson scoffed.

"You have witnessed that it isn't, yet you argue what you've seen with your medical judgment?" Mycroft chortled. "How you have managed to live with Sherlock for so long without learning how to make logical conclusions, I wonder!"

"Other than the fact that is physically impossible, there is still the matter of how that could be done without killing him!"

"That," Mycroft let out a long breath, "You would have to speak to him about, for I was not present at the procedure, nor would I let it have happened if I were. If it is any consolation, I was completely against the idea from the moment I was informed it had been done. The sacrifice he made in no way equaled what he received in return. Nor has it helped him since."

"What did he receive in return?" Although it seemed a fool thing to do to believe the utter nonsense of it all, Watson could not help but wonder what his friend would have given up so precious a thing as his heart for.

Mycroft smiled wanly before heaving himself out of Holmes' chair. "I think I will look in on him now, Doctor Watson. You are more than free to join me if you wish," he added before opening the door to Holmes' room.

Watson stared after him for a full three seconds before he let out an aggravated huff and followed the eldest Holmes brother into the room. As he walked through the door, Watson heard the soft baritone of Holmes' voice. He was awake then.

"You took too much of a risk going at it alone. You knew he would find out!" Mycroft admonished.

Holmes was now sitting up in his bed, arms crossed against his chest. His color still had not returned to normal, but the annoyed look on his face told Watson that he was at least close to feeling like his usual self. He looked to the doctor as he came into the room. "I thought you said I needed rest," he said, dramatically sighing. "Letting Mycroft into the rooms to berate me hardly would hardly allow that to happen."

"Sherlock," Mycroft said sternly. "If you continue to take such risks, then I will be forced to desist my aiding you in your little pursuit. I am your elder brother and I refuse to be the death of you. I don't care whether you have a heart or not, you can still die!"

Seeming bored with Mycroft's scolding, Holmes shrugged. Leaning over to his night stand, he made a show of pulling a cigarette out from the case that sat on the top. Watson reached out to take the cigarette out of Holmes' mouth. "Please do not–" The doctor began to say.

With a small smirk, Holmes gestured to Watson. "You see? There was nothing to worry about, brother mine. Doctor Watson–"

"Doctor Watson was just as concerned as I, if not more so. You should take that into consideration before you decide on your next fool's errand." With a put upon sigh, Mycroft sat down in the chair that Watson had been keeping watch in. The wooden chair creaked loudly in protest of the elder Holmes' girth. "Did you at least discover if your theory was correct? Was Moriarty the go between?"

At the mention of the Professor's name, Watson's eyes grew wide. Moriarty? Was he one of the 'other reasons' Mycroft had indicated? Had Holmes tired to take on Moriarty without him?

"There is no doubt in my mind," Holmes replied, taking the cigarette out of his mouth and placing it back on the night stand. "I found traces of radix pedis diaboli in Mr. Phelp's fireplace," Holmes produced a small paper square. He handed it to Mycroft, who examined it for a moment and then pocketed it. "There is only one criminal in Europe who has a ready supply of it. Moriarty must have given it to Mr. Harrison in order to assure the treaty was retrieved."

"Devil's foot root?" Watson asked, grasping at the only part of the Holmes' brothers conversation he only understood. "What is that?"

"A type of powder used in West African tribes, I've been told," Holmes explained. "When exposed to combustion, the power produces a thick smoke that causes hallucinations that lead to insanity, and eventually death. You recall a few weeks ago when I forced you to evacuate the rooms? I remember clearly how annoyed you were. I was testing the potency when burned."

"You burned that in here? Holmes!"

"I did not realize what would happen, nor did I know how strong such a small amount would be. It took hours before it was safe to return, and I did not let anyone into the rooms until it was so, if you recall."

"But you could have told–" Watson's color drained as he began to slowly understand what Holmes was inferring. "Good lord. So all this time... For nine weeks poor Percy has been exposed–"

Holmes shook his head. "In Mr. Phelp’s case, to be exposed for such a duration, he would have surely gone mad by now. But who is to say that he was not periodically exposed during his 'recovery'? It would surely explain why his 'brain storm' had lasted so long. It wasn't until yesterday when he was telling us of his little 'adventure,' as he called it, did I think to check for traces of it in the fireplace. His description was more vivid than a nightmare, but too surreal for it to have happened just in that way. Therefore," Holmes waved his hands, "The powder. Sad to say, however, Mr. Harrison's plan seemed to have backfired on itself, as the small exposure Mr. Phelps did encounter only served to have him stay in the sick room for a longer period of time. Mr. Harrison was quite unable to retrieve the treaty that he had securely hidden in the floorboards of the sick room in the area usually left to enable plumbers to get at the joints of the gas-pipes."

"If he burned this devil's foot root the night Percy saw him, Mr. Harrison risked exposing himself to the deadly stuff as well?" Watson asked, still confused over the matter.

"But recall Mr. Phelps' description that the thief's face was very well hidden. A thick scarf would probably prevent the effects of the smoke at least partially, although I am in no condition to find out at the moment." Mycroft glared at his younger brother, who only smiled in return. "Or perhaps he got one of the house staff to do it– although it would be far less risky to add the powder himself. Mr. Harrison could not risk being discovered, so why not break into the room under the illusion of being a nightmare? Then he could retrieve the treaty and take it to his go-between. One of Moriarty's men would have handled the selling, so as to not risk involving Mr. Harrison's name and being discovered. However, when you and I came to investigate the case, he became worried and moved too quickly, possibly without the consent of Moriarty. If only Mr. Harrison had not been so desperate, Moriarty would have eventually had a very powerful agent, being the brother to the soon-to be wife of Mr. Phelps." Holmes let out an amused chuckle.

Mycroft sighed again. "You know sometimes, petit frère, I think you enjoy the sound of your own voice rather too much." The elder Holmes shook his head. "This is still all conjecture. You have no hard evidence, save for the charred remains of your African powder. It's still nothing I can act upon."

"Yes I am aware of that, thank you Mycroft," Holmes replied, rolling his eyes. "I am so glad to know the almost fatal wound I sustained in this investigation is mere conjecture."

"Where is Harrison now?"

Chuckling loudly, Holmes replied, "He ran away fairly quickly when he despairingly realized that trying to stab Sherlock Holmes in the heart was an unachievable task." He carefully stretched his arms above his head., but still managed to anger the wound on his chest and flinched.

Mycroft smiled. "It would have been ideal to arrest him, but I can understand why you let him escape."

"He was bleeding out–" Watson argued.

"Not so much that he could not still get on a train and then a cab from Waterloo to here. No, no, doctor," Mycroft nodded towards his brother, "Sherlock let Harrison escape, didn't you?"

"Holmes?" Watson turned to the detective.

There was a slight pause as Holmes contemplated his reply. Finally, with a sigh he said, "It seemed to be the wisest path to take. After all, Miss Harrison is not at fault for her brother's actions, but it would not be seen that way in White Hall. Mr. Phelps' name would be tarnished further as well."

"I'm sure Percy would be very grateful," Watson replied, a small smile on his face. For a man without a heart, it seemed Holmes was constantly doing nice things for his clients.

Holmes looked to Watson, a strange expression on his face that Watson couldn't quite read. "It was not for his sake that I did it."

Watson felt his ears grow warm. "I- I see. Then for Miss Harrison's happiness?"

"Not in the least."

The elder Holmes brought out his pocket watch and looked at the time. "I have a meeting at White Hall in half an hour. I must take my leave." He closed the watch and turned to his younger brother. "Happy Christmas, Sherlock. Do try to stay safe at least until the new year. I do not think my nerves can take another panicked telegram from Doctor Watson for quite some time."

"I appolo–"

"There is nothing for you to be sorry for, doctor," Mycroft interjected. "You are not the one who was injured. You acted as the situation demanded." Pushing himself up from the chair, which gave another pained creak, Mycroft showed himself out of the room, calling out "And a happy Christmas to you as well, doctor!"

As the sitting room door closed, Watson and Holmes found themselves alone, with a thick atmosphere in the air. There were a thousand questions floating through Watson's mind. He was not sure where to begin. But Holmes needed his rest, so perhaps it would have been better to wait until he had fully recovered to ask–

"I know you have questions, dear Watson," Holmes hummed, closing his eyes and leaving his head against the wall. "A man with your medical background could hardly be expected to see what you have and not wish to solicit further answers."

Watson blanched. "If you are not feeling up to it–"

"I am not," Holmes said flatly as he maneuvered his body back under the covers. Once comfortable lying down, he opened his eyes and looked to Watson. "However I believe I owe it to you after what I put you through this morning."

"Your brother explained what he could–"

"I will allow three questions, and then if we could consider the matter closed? It is a subject I prefer not to speak of."

Watson hesitated for a moment. "How- how was it done?"

Closing his eyes once more, Holmes spoke in a quiet voice. "It is a highly regarded secret, but I suppose since you already know that an exchange was done, I can tell you. There are very few people in this world who can perform such a ceremony. I had to travel to a tucked away mountain village on the continent. It requires two persons, the subject and the witness. A bargain is agreed upon for subject, a payment for the contract. I do not recall much of the ceremony of it all. Only that I had pain, and then it was gone. All of it."

"What could possibly be more important than the possession of your heart?"

"I was assured that had no need of my heart and in exchange I was able to understand the world on a much deeper, yet higher level. At the time, it seemed a reasonable offer. Indeed, the exchange heightened all of my detective senses to the point where I almost matched that of my brother's. My deductive and observational powers improved tenfold. When I am working on a case now, it is as if I can see it all play out before me. Without my heart in the way, I do not have to worry about the messy emotional side of things, because there is nothing there to feel it. The sensation is indescribable, my dear Watson. But it is magnificent." Holmes closed his eyes and took in a deep breath. "However, I was deceived by the one who witnessed my contract."

"Irene Adler," Watson supplied. "Did she take your heart?" After all, that would seem the most logical conclusion. It would also explain why Holmes was so sensitive to the clients who had their trust broken. How blind Watson had been!

"How the devil–! Not even Mycroft would–!" Watson's face immediately flushed. He tried to hide his embarrassment by looking away from the detective, but he was too slow for Holmes. A wide, knowing, smile formed on Holmes' lips. In a most imperial tone, the detective said, "Ah I see you and Mrs. Hudson have been gossiping about me."

"Not in the way you may think." Watson flustered. "I was concerned about your habits, you see, and well, I got into your desk drawer while you were interviewing Lord Holdhurst-"

"Where you had no business in prying," Holmes remarked, looking more amused than annoyed.

"It was only out of concern!" Watson defended. "After witnessing for so many weeks how the drugs change you–" he hesitated, realizing now how hopeless it had been for so many weeks to appeal to Holmes' emotions. A heartless man would never understand the worry the doctor had been suffering from. "I was distracted by Ms. Adler's photo. Mrs. Hudson came in as I was looking at it and scolded me. She also warned me not to bring the matter up with you. She was only trying to help."

"One thing that you must learn about their kind, Watson, is to never trust what a woman says at face value, especially when they are trying to 'help.' They speak in double meanings as a habit. It is impossible to know their true intentions until it is too late."

"Mrs. Hudson was genuinely concerned."

"I know that is not possible," Holmes shook his head. Closing his eyes, Holmes let out a small sigh. "Of course you fail to realize what the question you should be asking is: How is any of it possible? After all, you know as well as I that a heart is required for a great many things in the human body, and seeing as I am living proof of the opposite–"

"I was not intending to ask that," Watson replied.

"Well you should have, although I am not sure how I could answer it,” he said, looking to the ceiling. "I know that am here. I can feel my blood moving–"

"I had no intention of asking that because I think it is better I do not know," Watson said, a bit uneasily. "Think of it as one of your cases, where you leave me to make the connections myself. This is the first time I have encountered something so fantastical, Holmes. You defy everything normal in this world."

"I take that as a compliment," Holmes remarked, grinning.

"Yes, I rather thought you would," Watson replied, returning the smile. "But what I was wondering how we could go about... reversing it? Could you return your heart?"

"That would entail a great many things, the most crucial of which requiring me desiring to possess my heart once more."

Watson was taken a back slightly by this. "Don't you?"

"Not at this time," Holmes shook his head. "Not while Moriarty is still out there. That's four questions, Watson. I do believe I have been quite generous and you have had your fair amount of inquiries on the matter. Therefore, we shall call it closed."

"But, Holmes! What does the Professor have anything to do with you repossessing your heart?"

"He has everything to do with it," Holmes' seethed quickly, the tone in his voice became contemptuous. It looked as though he intended to say more, but he bit the inside of his cheek. With a steady, calming breath, the detective added, "I tell you Watson, that if I could beat that man– if I could free society of him– I should feel that my own career had reached its summit, and I should be prepared to turn to some more placid line in life. But until that happens, I shall stay as I am." He looked over to Watson, with a strange expression on his face– not quite upset but yet longing. "Now if I could have some peace? As you said, I need my rest."

Watson stared for a moment before nodding dumbly. "Yes... yes of course."

Holmes kept to himself for the remainder of the evening. Not even the temptation of Mrs. Hudson's Christmas goose would get him to leave his room. Watson managed to convince Holmes to at least take a plate of food into his room, only to have Holmes shut the door promptly after taking the plate, nearly smashing Watson's nose in the act.

For his part, Watson continued his analysis of the poem from the night previous. The line who cleft devil's foot caught Watson's attention. Could it be Holmes? After all, he had discovered the devil's foot root. He wrote that down next to the line and then proceeded to interpret the poem from actions that he knew that Holmes had undertaken. He was beginning to think that the poem could explain the process Holmes had undergone. Not that Watson was one to believe in such things. But after Holmes' revelation, he was willing to put stock in the matter that there are perhaps things of this world that go beyond the understanding of science. Perhaps that was what the anonymous sender was trying to warn him of. And if that was the intentions, who sent him the letter? Could it be Ms. Adler? For other than he, Holmes, and Mycroft, it seemed no one else knew of Holmes' condition.

The notes of his theories began to overtake several pages in the doctor's notebook. Are falling stars required for the event to take place? Or finding mandrake root? Mandrake root needed in order to create contract? Did the contract advance Holmes' honest mind? How old is Holmes? 27 years = ten thousand days and so on.

As he was writing, Watson noticed that the desk drawer was still slightly open. He slid the desk drawer open and placed Adler's photo open on the desk. Holmes could not mind now that his secret was revealed. Watson stared at it, intrigued by the mysterious beauty. "Do you have Holmes' heart?" he asked of the picture. After several moments, he sighed. "How could he not love you?" Watson mused, looking at Adler's letter again.

Meanwhile, screeching melodies came from Holmes' Stradivarius within the detective's room. Watson wanted to remind the detective that violin playing would not serve to help recently injured people without hearts to recover, but bit the comment back and focused on the poem. It was Christmas, after all.

To Be Concluded...
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