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Not a Rational Organ

Title: Not a Rational Organ
Author: bluepercy
Word Count: 8299
Rating: PG, I think.
Warnings: none
Prompt: Mary/Watson/Holmes and/or pairs in any configuration -- Watson disappears one night and Mary and Holmes must work together to find him.
A/N: This is possibly very stupid but I've been looking at it so long that I can't tell anymore. I can't even tell if I like it any more but it's as done as it's going to be.

Also, I have never written any sort of mystery before this, even a really weak one like this, and it probably came out a little less Sherlock Holmes and a little more No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Apologies.

Not a Rational Organ

When it began, I admit I took it for a simple, if sordid, affair, but as it began to unravel I began to deduce a sinister, and by that time familiar presence at the centre of the web. No simple counterfeiter's ring was this, now that I saw what lay behind it. The moment I realised the truth of it all, I did what had become my habit: I sent off a telegram for Watson-I do not recall my exact words, but I believe I used the phrase "come at once, for there is no time to waste"-and settled back to wait for my friend and his service-revolver to arrive.

It never occurred to me for a moment that he would not come, for he always did, but I sat and smoked and grew increasingly vexed as time moved on and Watson did not arrive. I did not much like the prospect of facing the evening's work without him at my side.

At last, I heard a hansom stop in the street, having come from the right direction to be Watson's, and I was hopeful. The tread on the stair was not his, however, and when my guest entered the room, I admit my disappointment made me cross.

"There seems to have been a misunderstanding," I said, rising. "I sent a telegram but it seems to have summoned the wrong Watson."

"Mr. Holmes," Mary Watson protested.

I looked at her properly, then, which was something I often found myself avoiding. I could see in her unusually pallid face, in the hoarse note to her breath, in her improperly and hurriedly buttoned boots, that something was wrong-but then, a fool could have seen that. She had clearly left the house in haste, that much was certain, and she clutched a crumpled telegram in her hand. "Why, Mrs. Watson," I said in gentler tones, faced with the distress I now saw, "what has happened?"

Mary drew a breath, trying to compose herself. "Mr. Holmes, this is your telegram, is it not? You asked John to join you here?"

"Not two hours ago." A terrible fear gripped my heart, then. "Where is he?"

"That's what I've come to ask you." She drew a second telegram from her pocket, and handed it to me to read. "It arrived yesterday evening."

Unfolding it, I found, to my utmost horror, a message in an admirable imitation of the countless telegrams I had sent to Watson since his marriage to the woman now before me.

I need you, Watson. Meet me at Paddington station as soon as you possibly can, and inform Mrs. Watson you may be away for some time.
-SH


"I did not send this," I murmured, looking up into Mary's face.

"John left at once when he received it," she said. "I haven't seen him since. I thought nothing of it until the second telegram today, as he often disappears with you."

My fingers caught the chair behind me, and I gripped with all my strength, for I very much feared, then, that my legs would not hold me.

"You don't know where he is, then?" Mary ventured.

"I can guess," I groaned.

"Tell me!" Mary demanded with a sudden ferocity. "Mr. Holmes, please, if my husband is in some danger-"

"I fear," I said, surprised at how weak my voice seemed to be, "that he has been led into a trap because of my investigations. That there has been no word from his captors, no demand for ransom, suggests very strongly that it was intended for just this to happen. It was anticipated that I would call for Watson, and in so doing learn that-" I broke off, unable to complete the thought. My mouth was very dry.

Mary's face was, I suspect, a mirror of my own, all grief and horror and anxiety. "Mr. Holmes, tell me truly. Do you think he is dead?"

"I… I dearly hope not." There are no words for the terror I felt then, that my actions had thrown my dearest friend, the dearest soul in the world to me, into such peril.

And I must admit that Mary Watson was the very last person I wished to see just then. While I had to suppose that in her own way she was as good a woman as any, I had ever seen her as the woman who had taken Watson from me. A selfish thought, perhaps, but I still found myself turning away from her when she entered a room.

I had let him go, yes, but I could hardly have brought myself to prevent his happiness. If he still found room in his life for me, then I could be content.

At this moment, there was a terrible sound of breaking glass from downstairs, and Mrs. Hudson's startled cry. A moment later, she gasped out my name and began to ascend the stairs to the sitting room. I met her at the door; she was pale and waving a crumpled envelope around like a flag; in her other hand was a rock.

"Mrs. Hudson," I steered her towards a chair as gently as I could. Mary found the carafe of water on the table and was bringing Mrs. Hudson a glass before I could even glance in her direction. "Not hurt, are you? What has happened?"

She pressed the letter into my hand, and took the water from Mary with a look of thanks. "Mr. Holmes, the downstairs window! I thought it was just some ruffian throwing rocks, but this came with it!"

The envelope had my name on it. This was not surprising. I sprang to the window, peering up an down the street in an attempt to spy the vandal, but there was no sign of him, and this was also not surprising. My hands were shaking as I ripped the envelope open, far more roughly than I should have.

Mr. Holmes:

You will cease all investigations into the present matter. If you continue to make enquiries, then I shall have no choice and it will be you who has moved my hand. As you most likely have deduced by now, I have the doctor. Attempts to either reclaim him or continue upon your present line of work will be revenged upon his person. Stay away, and he will be well.

Await further correspondence.


The note was typewritten, the paper unremarkable, the rock that Mrs. Hudson had given over to Mary looked to be merely from this very street. I drew a breath. I could not see, I could not think. "Mrs. Hudson, thank you for bringing this to my attention. I assure you I will take care of this, and I will recompense you for the window, of course."

"Mr. Holmes, that's-"

"Absolutely necessary," I insisted. "I apologise for it. I suggest you go downstairs and make yourself a cup of tea."

She left, and I passed the letter to Mary. She gave a small cry of dismay as she read it, and handed it back to me with a look of great pain upon her face, as though it were some dead thing.

"I do not trust these men to hold their word that they will not harm him as long as I stay away," I said. "I am loath to capitulate to criminals, and my first instinct is actually to track Watson down and find him myself, but he is your husband. Obviously such an action carries a great deal of risk. I will make no such move unless you wish me to."

Mary was silent for a time. "Do you believe, then, that you will be able to find him despite their threats?"

"I believe so, yes."

"Then I ask you, please, to do everything within your power to find him. If anyone can do it, you can."

I was not, then, as certain of my abilities as she was. I looked at the letter in my hand, and frowned. "I will escort you home, Mrs. Watson, and then-"

"You shall not," she interjected.

I stared at her in some dismay. "I beg your pardon?"

"If you plan on seeking John out, then I am coming with you." Mary set her hands on her hips and glared furiously at me.

"See here, now. This will be a dangerous matter, and you have no business being on it."

"I am not your wife, Mr. Holmes," Mary informed me. "I am coming."

"What," I asked in some asperity, "will your husband say to me when he learns that I brought his wife into such danger?"

"John may be injured, or even dead," her face was quite pale but the set of her jaw was astonishing to see, "and you expect me to go quietly home to wait for you to sort it out? I am coming with you, Mr. Holmes, and you shall not stop me."

I am not exactly sure what it was that made me acquiesce. I suspect that it had more than a little to do with seeing this side of Mary, seeing perhaps what it was that caused Watson to love her. I had certainly never looked before. I had done my very best not to, for in my heart I did not want to understand it.

I sighed. "Very well. I give in. Do button your boots properly, and we will be off to Paddington station to see what we can find."

*

There was no doubt in my mind as to who it was that held my friend, but the great crux was that I did not know where. I had summoned Watson for the great clarity of thought he so often brought to me, intending that we should then embark together to discover where the hub of this counterfeiter's operation lay. Instead, I was at Paddington station with the wife of the man I desired, a woman of whom I could admit to no obvious faults, but one I had never able to forgive once I had seen the first lights of affection for her grow in my dear companion's eyes.

It was unacceptably awkward.

Still, Mary Watson, to her credit, was admirably calm as I stepped up to the ticket box and smiled winningly at the seller. "My good man, I don't suppose you were here on duty yesterday evening as well?"

The ticket-seller was a gaunt man, with an unpleasant, livid bruise over his right cheek and eye. He scowled at me. "I was, sir, though I don't see what business it is of yours."

"Oh, merely a trifle," I said, paying more attention to his face than my words. "But I was to meet an old friend of mine here yesterday, and I seem to have missed him. I believe he is staying in a hotel at the moment, but which I don't know, so if you could possibly remember which train he left on it would be most useful. Strongly-built, middle-sized man, with a moustache."

He listened to this prevarication with hardly a sign. "I'm supposed to recall every traveller who comes through here, am I?"

"Perhaps not," I agreed, certain now of what I suspected at a distance, "but I would expect you to remember a man who has left so fine a mark upon your face."

Mary let out a small, hastily-covered gasp. The ticket-seller glowered. "Ah, it's he you mean," he said. "That blackguard. The man was violently drunk, and being helped off on his way by some friends of his. I offered my help and received this for my troubles." He pointed to his bruise with a sigh of disgust.

I perceived that Mary was trembling; I placed my hand on her arm without thinking. "Where did they go from there, then?"

"Ah. Eastbound, it was."

"You're most kind. On another matter, and I do hate to be a bother, but I was wondering if anyone had turned in a sapphire cufflink? I believe I may have lost it here the other day."

"If you'll give me a minute, I can go check the lost and found in the main office."

"Thank you! I really do appreciate it."

As he went to look, Mary breathed, "How did you know-"

"I ought to be properly familiar with the fist-marks of my friend after so many years," I said, carelessly. I was trying to watch the soles of the ticket-seller's shoes. What I saw was encouraging, for I had feared that the trail would run cold here, and I would have to try a different tack. "Besides, the mark of his wedding ring is quite distinctive, however unusual it may be that he was punching left-handed."

Mary's brow creased in what was, I had to admit, a most endearing way. "Left-handed?"

"I suspect that his assailants had him by the right arm at that point. It's also worth noting that our friend's bruise is somewhat fresher than he claims, by a good many hours. He received that mark no less than twelve hours ago, not the twenty it has been since Watson's disappearance."

A pause, then, "You believe he helped capture John, and has seen him since."

She was always a clever woman. "I do," I said, and then, as the ticket-seller arrived, "Ah, my good man! I cannot thank you enough for your help!"

"My pleasure, sir," he dismissed us with a shrug. "Madam."

As we walked away, my arm most gentlemanly through Mary's, she said quite softly, "It was a most impressive bruise, wasn't it?"

I smiled, despite myself, at this small admission from her. "Mrs. Watson, I must admit the same thought crossed my mind."

*

The mud on the ticket-seller's shoes, contrary to his eastbound directions, pointed me south in the direction of a district I had already had reason to suspect as the home for the counterfeiters. Where exactly I could not be sure, but I had some ideas as to how to start looking.

And, by God, if I had to break into every house in the district to find Watson, that was what I would do. If this act had been done to scare me off for fear of repercussions upon Watson's person, or to cloud my mind with emotion as it undoubtedly was doing… it did not matter. I would find him.

As I helped Mary into the hansom, however, I was struck with sudden misgivings. "Mrs. Watson, I must ask you one more time to let me escort you home. This will, in all likelihood, bring us into an unsavoury neighbourhood, and into contact with dangerous men."

She shook her head as she settled herself in beside me. "No, Mr. Holmes, I am still coming with you, for whatever small assistance I can offer."

"Please!"

"I can't very well shy away from such danger as you bring John into regularly."

Astonishingly, there was not a trace of censure in her face, only the anxious grief that had been there since she arrived in Baker street. "And the fact that this business is because of me doesn't worry you?"

Mary smiled sadly at me. "I knew when I married John that I would always have to share him with you."

I had set my face to be perfectly calm, but the effect this statement had upon me is not to be underestimated. I feared, for a moment, that the cab had upended around us, so shaken was I. I feared, in some panicked and highly illogical way, that she had somehow seen to the root of my deep regard for her husband, seen my perversion for what it was, and what would come of it, I did not know.

Yet Mary patted me on the arm kindly, and told me, "If ever you led John into danger, he followed you willingly and knowingly."

"And for that," I said heavily, "I apologise to you."

"No. It made him happy, and I could never bring myself to keep him from anything that made him happy."

I looked at her then, so intensely she must have wondered if I was quite mad. "Mrs. Watson," I said, with some feeling, "I believe I have been most unfair to you."

She looked puzzled. "You've never been anything but the perfect gentleman in my presence, Mr. Holmes."

I could only think that here I was, sharing a cab with possibly the only other soul in the world to love John Watson as I did, who had come to the same resigned conclusion about his time with me as I had about his with her, who also felt it necessary to barge carelessly into danger on his account. I laughed, weakly.

"Mr. Holmes, as you quite all right?" He hand was on my arm again, soothing. "You look pale."

"I'm fine," I answered, truthfully.

When I stepped out into the street, I felt as though a great weight had been lifted from me. The tiny knot of animosity I had harboured against Mary Watson these past years had somehow evaporated during that cab ride. I had observed, at long last, and I understood what it was I had been trying to avoid seeing.

Watson's marriage had done nothing to shake his unerring loyalty to me. I could not blame him for never truly choosing between Mary and myself, especially when I had never revealed myself to him. If anything, I should be flattered by his indecision, for here was Mary, apparently at peace with the fact that here was this piece of her husband's heart that she could not touch, though it was her right as his wife. Here was I, selfishly hating her because Watson, good man that he is, could not return my inappropriate feelings.

This epiphany had left me feeling light and airy, and with the vague desire to retreat into myself for some hours until I had worked it out properly, to go between the heady haze of the cocaine and the exhilaration of the bow upon my Stradivarius. Had circumstances been different, I would have done that.

But Watson needed me. I owed him that much.

*

We made a brief stop at Baker Street, where I hastily threw on clothes appropriate to a man of the working class, and made a few minor changes to Mary's dress to achieve a similar effect. I also took a moment to send off a hasty telegram to Scotland Yard.

My mind was wild, and I don't mind admitting it. I was fully aware of not being entirely rational, which was only to be expected when I was so emotional. I fancy that even so hampered I am still more logical than the average man, but I needed my wits that night.

Having reached our destination at last, I drew Mary close to me and whispered in her ear, "We must be a married couple, I think. I will call you 'Mary,' but you had better call me 'Henry.'"

She nodded. "Where are we going tonight then, Henry?"

Good woman! "There is a public house near here, which I have reason to suspect is a gathering-place for these men." Indeed, I had been planning to come to just this place with Watson. "It's not generally a place for women, but…"

"I am coming," Mary reminded me.

"Good woman." I smiled despite myself.

With some trepidation, I put my arm around her as fondly as any man ever did his wife. Mary allowed it without so much as a blink, but I was praying that Watson, if he learned of this, would forgive me. In such a fashion we moved down the street to our destination.

The public house was crowded and noisy-so much the better for us. Mary drew more than a few pairs of eyes, and truly, while she could pass as the wife of a common labourer such as I was pretending to be, she always carried herself with such a quiet dignity that she stood out like a jewel in that place. Mary paid the attention no mind, but squeezed my arm. "I think I'd like a sherry, Henry," she said. "Just a small one, I think."

With our drinks, we retired to a corner of the room to wait and give every appearance of not waiting. In this respect, Mary was at least as good as her husband, if not better. She was certainly a better actress.

We did not have long to wait. Who should come in but our bruised acquaintance from Paddington Station! I held Mary's arm in what I hoped was a reassuring manner.

The man approached the bar, ordered a whisky, and waved the proprietor over. "I've seen him," he said in a hushed voice. "Holmes, I mean. Today, at the station."

"Are you sure, Jackson?"

"Sure as I can be," Jackson returned. "It was just like he said it'd be. I think threw him off."

Ah. So someone had warned him of me. Small wonder, then, that his lie was so perfected.

"I'd sure like to give the bugger who did this a proper return," Jackson lamented, gesturing to his wounded eye. "But not yet, he says."

"You want to argue with him?" the proprietor asked, looking askance at Jackson.

"Damn well not," was the passionate reply. "Only if necessary, he says. Don't know what he's waiting for."

"I'm sure I don't know. You have business there tonight?"

"I do, but not without something to steady my nerves." Jackson took a long drink of his whisky. "This whole business has got a bit much for me."

Mary looked at me with wild eyes. "John's alive," she whispered, her hand gripping mine, trembling with emotion. I shared her feelings with full intensity, but I did not dare show them, then or ever.

When Jackson had left, I saw we had no better opportunity. I drew Mary up alongside me, and we went out into the street behind him. It is not easy to trail a man even alone, let alone with someone who does not know how to accomplish such a thing unseen. Somehow, though, by hanging back, we were unnoticed amongst the sparse, late-night traffic in that district. Jackson clearly did not expect to be followed, the more fool him.

As we came around a corner, I both saw and heard his footfalls hesitate. He had suffered one of those peculiar moments of insight that even the greatest dullard experiences, and detected us in some way.

"Quick," I gasped out, before he could turn, "this way!" I all but dragged Mary into the nearest alley, out of sight, and we rested, gasping, against the stone wall.

"Is he coming?" she asked, her eyes wide.

"Hush," I said, listening. The sound of his tread was coming around the corner. If we were found, he would undoubtedly recognize me. I could think of only one thing. "I'm most dreadfully sorry," I whispered in haste, and pressed Mary up against the wall, my lips on hers.

She struggled underneath me, as I had expected she would, but some inkling of my intentions must have occurred to her. As Jackson came into the mouth of that dark alley, Mary relaxed into my arms, one gloved hand upon my chest, the other touching the wrist of my hand upon her waist.

Jackson was still at the entrance to the street. I broke away, snarled over my shoulder without turning, in a voice quite unlike my own, "Here, clear off. Ain't your business what a man does." I bent back to Mary, captured her mouth with mine again.

Jackson moved away, muttering.

Suddenly finding myself trembling, I released Mary, and stepped back. I couldn't look at her. She was quite stunned, one hand upon her mouth.

"Mr. Holmes!"

"I'm terribly sorry," I whispered. If I had been able to dismiss the act as pure subterfuge, that would have been one thing, but I could not deny that I had enjoyed it. I wished I had not.

It is one thing to lust inappropriately after one's dearest and most intimate friend. It is another to hold inappropriate feelings for that man's wife in addition to that first damnation. Though guilty of two sins, now, I could not help but think that I was, in a sense, kissing Watson by proxy. Those dear, soft lips of Mary's had touched his, of course-

I could not think on this now. What had happened to my unemotional façade?

"Forgive me," I entreated her, rather breathlessly.

She nodded, slowly. I thought, despite myself of the way she had, incredibly, responded under me, and tried to force the thought away. "Of course. I'm sure you felt it necessary." She was pale, and her voice very soft.

I drew a breath at her trusting words, so at odds with her expression, and for strength, which I sorely needed. "Come," I said, moving to leave the alley. "We must not lose him."

Our quarry led us to a rather unassuming building, a disreputable-looking home, the lights aglow against the night streets. From a distance, we watched him knock, and then be admitted.

"That's the place?" Mary seemed to have created for herself an admirable mask of normalcy. She was, however, still unusually wan, and her fingers kept trailing to her lips. "However will we get in?"

I counted down the line of houses. "We'll try the back," I announced.

We circled around to an alley, Mary perhaps a trifle more distant than she had been earlier. His was, I told myself, likely for the best, no matter the treacherous feelings in my breast.

"I should not have allowed you to convince me to let you come," I murmured. "This is no place for a woman."

"It is no place for my husband," she said stubbornly.

"Hang back," I pleaded with her. "Be wary. Please, for Watson's sake if not your own. We are dealing with dangerous criminals and I do not know how many there will be, or how desperate they will become."

She nodded. "Mr. Holmes, or Henry, or whatever it is I'm supposed to call you now… can you honestly tell me that what happened in the alley… that was only acting?"

She wanted reassurance. I was in the very act of turning to her with a cheery assurance that it had been, but her eyes! She already knew the answer, that much was evident. There was little point in lying. "No," I admitted. "It was not. I intended it to be. But I would be very much obliged if you let the matter pass."

The rear of the house was dingy and unremarkable, with a battered door and a small window, slightly ajar. Cautiously, I looked in at the window, and found a bare and empty kitchen, a door leading into the rest of the main floor, and steps heading upwards. The door onto the alley, when I tried it, was locked.

"I think I should be able to fit through the window, if you give me a step up," Mary volunteered.

I stared at her in astonishment, with a protestation for her safety on my lips, before it dawned on me that yet again, here was an argument I could not win. "Be silent," I cautioned her, and held out my hand for her foot.

In a rustle of skirts, I had a glimpse of stockinged calf and shapely ankle. While I am not the ardent admirer of womankind Watson is, and never have been and likely never shall be, in that moment I could only be aghast at myself. What sort of man was I, to entertain such thoughts?

She slithered through the window with some difficulty, landed lightly upon her feet, and opened the door for me, all smiles. I could have kissed her again, then. I recognized the impulse: it was the same affectionate feeling I had each time I witnessed the true shine of Watson's abilities. Was that all this was, then? Did Mary have sway over me in this way simply because I lacked my Watson at the moment, and some base and primitive part of my brain had latched onto her as a substitute? Something to think on, I told myself, but later, when there was time.

I put my finger to my lips and cautioned her, as best I could without words, to be still. Mary nodded, seeming to understand. I drew out my pistol, wishing fervently that I had Watson at my side now, though it could not be long until that came to pass, and I took several silent steps towards the next room.

"Oh, he's been quiet enough," said a voice, male and husky. "After last time, I've taken other steps."

"Well, I don't fancy another shiner," complained a second voice, which I could recognize as Jackson's.

"Small chance of that," said the first man. "Just you go up and relieve Baxter. You're late, you know, and he wants to go home."

An incoherent noise of annoyance, then, and the sound of someone standing. He was, I realised quickly, coming towards the kitchen. Hastily I arranged myself along the wall next to the door, and as he came into the room, I brought my pistol down upon his head; he crumpled, his forehead bleeding freely.

As Mary gave a little gasp, I turned to draw my weapon upon the second man, a swarthy and athletic fellow some years older than Jackson. He looked at me with a dreadful snarl on his face, and being unarmed, flung himself at me to wrest the pistol from my grasp.

We grappled for a minute, with Mary looking on in horror. This second man was a near match for me, physically, and if things had been different I know not how they would have gone. At that moment, a third man-the man Jackson was set to relieve, doubtlessly-came barging down the stairs into the kitchen. There was a sharp impact, a cracking sound; my opponent looked and I used his hesitation to my advantage, twisting around behind him with my forearm tight against his throat. He struggled against me, and at the last went limp in my arms as he fainted from lack of air.

As I let him down to the ground, I looked back to see the third man also in a heap on the floor, Mary standing over him with a badly-cracked wooden rolling pin. She looked dazed.

"Oh. Oh! Have I killed him?"

"He'll have quite the headache in the morning, but no worse," I assured her. She was trembling, and it seemed very natural, then, to take her hand in mine. "I admit that I am very glad you insisted on coming," I added, with a weak laugh. "It was well done. Come. There's no time to waste."

After Mary helped me prop up the three men in chairs, lashing them in place with liberal use of some kitchen twine we discovered in a drawer, we fled up the stairs with no small amount of speed. A cursory search down the upstairs hallway revealed a pair of bedrooms, a spare room which housed the counterfeiter's press that had been the cause of this entire mess-truthfully, I hardly cared about it anymore-and then, at the end of the hallway, the gladdest sight I can recall from that entire wretched evening: my Watson.

He was bound to a chair, his mouth gagged, but upon seeing us his eyes lit up with amazement. We rushed to his side, and as I removed his bindings with my pocket knife, the first words from his lips were, "Oh, I feel a right fool, Holmes."

My throat was thick. "Never mind, old boy. You had no reason to suspect anything was amiss."

Once his arms were free, Watson's first act, before even standing, was to embrace poor Mary, who was beginning to weep. "So brave of you, Mary! I can't believe you came as well!" He kissed her, and I felt obliged to look away, and down.

"Watson," I said abruptly, "your foot."

Watson looked down at his swollen ankle and grimaced; he still had not risen from his chair, and the reason for that was very evident now. "In the scuffle, when they took me," he reported. "I fear I won't be able to walk on it for some small time."

"And otherwise?"

"Unharmed, I think." A faint glimmer of pride showed in his face. "I got myself free this morning, briefly, but they've been dosing me with laudanum since. I was due for another dose soon."

"We've seen your handiwork upon your victim. It was beautifully done." He fairly glowed under my praise, a sight which I have never quite tired of. "Come, let's get you home."

As I helped him down the stairs, he leaned heavily on me, wincing with each step, but that pressure of his weight upon my person was one of the sweetest things I have experienced, because he was alive, and relatively well. If I had failed him in this, if he had come to some permanent harm through his acquaintance with me, I do not know exactly what it was I would have done. I try not to think on it.

Mary and I brought him down to the street, wedged between us while he clung to us both. We were met almost immediately with a constable, who, recognizing us, begged us stay until he fetched Inspector Lestrade. I had expected something of the sort, and soon enough Lestrade came hurrying up to speak to me.

"Holmes! What is this all-I say, Dr. Watson!" His expression turned to one of horror as he came near enough to see how Watson leaned upon me, the pain evident in my friend's face. "And Mrs. Watson! Whatever is going on?"

"Ah, Lestrade. You did get my telegram."

"I did." Lestrade turned his attention to me, though he continued to glance nervously at Watson. "You called me down to this street and told me to wait for a sign from you! Of all the-I assume this is over the counterfeiters?"

"Indeed. You'll find them waiting for you in the kitchen of this house right behind us, here. They have been disposed of and it will be no large matter for your men to apprehend them. The press is upstairs in one of the bedrooms. I highly suggest that you occupy the house for the next few days, as it is highly likely that more of the gang will be visiting, by and by. I don't expect the true authority behind this to show his face, but that is hardly surprising."

"Why did you not send for me earlier?" Lestrade demanded. He was confused, and more than a little hurt at my treatment of him, I think, and it made him cross. Of course, there has never been anything unusual in that situation. "And what has happened to the doctor?"

"Dr. Watson has been in the custody of these men for the past twenty-four hours," I said, darkly, and was rewarded with a look of horror upon Lestrade's face. I could not bring myself to admit aloud to Lestrade, of all people, that I hadn't dared call down obvious reinforcements while Watson was so vulnerable. Perhaps he might deduce such a feeling on my part, but I would not say so. "He has sustained some small injury. If you require some statement upon my part I will be pleased to give it to you tomorrow. For now, I think it best that we get the doctor home."

Lestrade nodded and, letting us go, called to his men.

In the hansom, Watson fell into the deep and restful sleep of one who has been in danger but is now reassured of his safety. Likely enough the after-effects of his last dose of laudanum helped somewhat. His arm was around Mary, but his head rolled against my shoulder comfortably, utterly at peace between us.

Mary and I exchanged glances, and she smiled at me.

I knew for certain, then, that she knew.

*

It felt very strange at the best of times to be in Watson's home. To be invited into the bedroom he shared with his wife felt very queer indeed.

Mary had gone down to the kitchen to brew a pot of tea, declaring that all three of us needed it. I personally should have preferred something stronger. She had left me, however, watching over Watson in the bed. He hovered on the precipice between sleep and wakefulness, while I had pulled a chair up to his side.

"I am sorry, Watson," I said at last.

Watson looked at me in a mixture of surprise and impending sleep. He opened his mouth to speak, but I waved him silent, intending to explain.

The things I wished to say then! That it was through my carelessness such a thing had happened, my too-obvious attachment-for surely, if one wanted to wound me through another, who could one possibly choose other than Watson? I had failed him, I had caused him to come to harm, I foolishly nearly allowed his wife to come to harm, I could not be assured such a thing would not happen again, and I loved him. God help me, I loved him.

I could not say any of it, of course, even if it had been wise to say any of it.

Watson waited through my silence for some time. "I am all right, Holmes," he assured me, "or will be, soon enough. I believe my ankle is only sprained, and nothing worse."

"This won't happen again," I said, in what I was sure was a passable similarity to my usual confident tones. I did not feel it. "I won't telegram you to come. Not until the man behind this-and he is a devious one!-not until he is dealt with. I will come myself. I will-" I broke off, looking at Watson's face, every hair and freckle, every faint line around his eyes, every tiny detail I had long since memorized, and what I did not see there surprised me. There was no trace of anger, nor blame, only patience and fondness. I had seen him angry with me before, and it was not an experience I cared to repeat, but this was not it.

"No telegrams," Watson agreed. He took my hand in his, squeezed it reassuringly, and did not let go. "Really, Holmes, it's not as if you intended for any of this to happen, and I am hardly severely injured."

"You say that now, but for all I know it's the laudanum speaking."

He laughed weakly, in a huff of air, and lay back upon the pillows. "There is one thing," he said.

"And what is that?"

"When I kissed Mary," he spoke very deliberately, picking his words with care, "she tasted of tobacco."

His hand tightened around mine, and I have no doubt that I would have pulled away were it not for that, his obvious desire to have me near despite everything. "My dear Watson. I am… I am so sorry. Again."

"You did kiss her, then." The expression upon his face was not anger, but something more akin to confusion and thoughtfulness. I could not comprehend it. I was fully out of my element in this matter. The heart is not a rational organ.

"I did. It was an act of subterfuge, Watson, truly, but-"

"I always thought you did not like her."

I envied her, for she held what I could not. I wanted to love her, to bask in some kind of twisted, reflected adoration of Watson's, to kiss where Watson's lips had touched, run fingers into curves that his had already discovered. I had never had any great interest in women, but if there was any in my soul, it would be Mary who found it, and damn my heart for feeling anything at all.

"She is a good woman," I settled for saying. I rose, and while my expression must have been serene, I felt as though I would be quite ill. "No doubt you will be properly angry with me over it when you are feeling more yourself. I should leave you to your wife."

Watson still clutched my hand, and he would not now release me. "Please," he said. "Holmes, please. Stay beside me."

Such naked fear in his face, then! He began to tremble; for all his brave words, the experience of the last twenty-four hours had not been easy. When I sat again, it was on the bed, not the chair. Why I did such a thing, I will never know. "Of course, my dear. I only never wished to be in the way."

"You're never in the way, Holmes." His eyes were closed, sleep was not far away for him, but he seemed to be struggling to stay awake. He pressed our hands to his chest, and in this fashion we rested, without words, his heart fluttering under my fingers.

Mary arrived then, with the tea. I felt some trepidation at being caught on the bed, my fingers grazing her husband's bare throat, but she merely smiled at us, set the tea on the table, and began to pour it out.

She passed me a cup which I took in the trembling fingers of my free hand. It was hot and strong, but I still wished for something stronger. "John," she said, "are you awake enough for some tea?"

Watson sighed, under my hand, and he opened his eyes to look upon Mary with, to my shock, the same look of affection he had turned on me. I could scarcely believe that Watson looked on me with the same fond gaze he gave his wife. I had to be imagining it, surely. I was too emotional, too irrational to be sure of anything I observed. "You have it, Mary. I'm afraid I might fall asleep and drown in any tea you gave me." Watson closed his eyes again, continuing in a soft voice. "But… if you would just stay with me. Both of you. Please."

I experienced a sudden flare of panic, but it faded as Mary, her eyes on me, soothed him, "Of course, John. Neither of us are going anywhere."

She did know. I set my teacup aside so I could pat Watson's hand where it rested on mine. "If I am welcome, I will stay."

*

It was a strange awakening, in shirtsleeves in a strange bed, one arm thrown lightly over Watson's chest.

We three had slept in such a manner, half-dressed, Mary and I curled around this man who unwittingly commanded both our hearts. Watson slept as he had in the cab, utterly relaxed between us. Occasionally in the night he had stirred, beginning to panic before feeling us at his sides.

Mary had arisen and dressed, leaving us to sleep. Distantly in my mind I was concerned that some unwitting servant would discover us, but I could not see Mary allowing such a thing to happen. Perhaps unwisely, I continued to doze until Watson stirred under me.

"Oh. Holmes, I say."

This, then, was the moment I had dreaded. Whatever fondness Watson had for me, it surely could not withstand the revelation that was coming. I sat up halfway, removing my arm from his waist. "Good morning, old fellow. How fares the ankle?"

"I am… I am most dreadfully sorry, Holmes." He struggled to sit up, his face all fear and pain.

"I am not about to fault you for falling into a trap set by men you knew nothing about," I assured him, as airily as I could. "This was my fault, Watson, I told you. How many times must you make me admit it?"

"Not that." His expression was terrible in its fearfulness. "Holmes, I was not in my right mind last night. The drugs, the shock-I don't know. What Mary and you must think of me!"

Watson was beginning to shake; I offered him my hand, which he took gladly.

"I very much fear," he said, squeezing my fingers tightly, "that you've seen the depth of my true feelings for you, if you hadn't some time ago. I never meant for you to know, but I suppose it is best if I made a clean breast of it now."

I stared for a moment, and then began to laugh. I could not help it, but I could see no other reaction to this unprecedented turn in the conversation. I had seen everything, but not observed. Truly, my judgment counted for nothing when it came to my own heart.

Watson, disturbed by my mirth, attempted to extract his hand from mine, but I held him fast. "My dear Watson," I choked out, "I assure you that until this very moment I was quite convinced you were going to draw some conclusions about the way my arm was around you just now and express your discomfort with this revelation of the baser emotions of my own heart."

He stared at me, incredulous, and then somehow we were both laughing, foreheads resting together, clutching each other by the arms as we realised what fools, what utter fools, we both had been.

"But… but Mary!" Watson exclaimed as we recovered from our fit.

"She knows," I said. There was such euphoria in my chest, then, that I was certain I could see everything, know everything there was to see and know.

"Are you quite certain?"

"I fear she's known for some time, my dear Watson."

"Good lord," he breathed, and lay back in the bed.

I could hold back no longer. I pressed my lips upon the corner of his mouth, and a sweeter taste I have never known. It seemed to burn like liquor, intoxicating. It was a simple and chaste gesture, but he leaned up into it like a dying man desperate for water. I feared it would turn into more, and it likely would have, but there were better times and places for such things. I pulled back, and we stared at each other from what seemed a very long distance; I felt that I had never truly looked at him, never truly known him, but that small kiss had felt so unbelievably right. I cleared my throat, and decided it would be best to excuse myself as quickly as possible. "I don't know what will come of all this, Watson, as you are a married man now, after all. I think the best current course of action would be breakfast before we attempt anything else. I shall just go see what has happened to your charming wife."

I dressed and went downstairs, leaving Watson happy and dazed, with the faintest pucker of worry upon his brow. Truly, I felt the same. As for Mary, I shortly found her in the kitchen, and when she turned to me from the stove, she was all smiles.

"Mr. Holmes! Is John awake yet?"

I felt suddenly and unaccountably shy in front of this little blonde woman. "He is. Mrs. Watson, I would ask a question, if I may."

"Why, certainly." She was still smiling unerringly at me, full of the confidence of a woman who is certain she knows everything.

"How long have you known of… the regard your husband and I have for each other?"

Mary looked thoughtful. "Almost since the beginning," she said. "It bothered me quite a bit then, but as you two did not seem to be actually carrying on behind me back-"

"We were not," I interjected.

She smiled. I believe this had worried her to some degree. "Then I saw very little I could do. He knew you first, after all. I suppose I have simply become used to it, no matter how improper it may be. I cannot see that it harms anyone."

I felt a wave of affection for her: hardly romantic in nature but fond all the same. "Mary Watson," I said, "truly you are a jewel amongst women."

She shook her head. "I merely love John enough to be willing to share his affection with you. He has a great heart, and I do not doubt he can love us both. Now, I have given the staff the day off."

"Very wise." I felt a smile tugging at the corners of my mouth.

"So if you would be so good as to help me carry our breakfast upstairs?"

I took the tray she offered. "It would be my pleasure."

*

It was all a picture of easy domesticity, if a highly unorthodox one. If things were different, who knows what might occur between the three of us? I cannot understand how three people, even three unorthodox souls such as ourselves, could possibly come to any long-term arrangement. Perhaps it is for the best that we will not have the chance to try, at least not yet.

But the man who did this, the terrible spider of a man who had been behind the counterfeiter's operation, who had made that terrible attempt to hold Watson hostage against any attempts to stop them.

If something is meant to come of this strange love triangle between us, it must wait. For now, I will leave Watson to Mary, and return when my affection makes them less vulnerable, when my mind can turn to less urgent things.

I have said my goodbyes. The Professor has business in France now, and it is there I must go.

Even if it means my death, I must destroy Moriarty.


FIN.

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