Thursday, May 21, 2009

updated Understudy sketch

Readers of my old Holmes/Watson website will remember that I had a section entirely of sketches and unfinished stories. One of those items was a sketch called "Understudy" in which an actor impersonates Holmes after the presumed death at Reichenbach. (This was inspired by Sherlockians who claimed that the post-Return Holmes acted too differently from the pre-Return Holmes.)

Well, I recently had occasion to add to the original sketch. I put in a new beginning, fleshed out Holmes as an asexual to add a shade of gray to his actions, and had him apologize to Watson. I also was apparently inspired to include Vaseline in this, as I did in the DIM love scene after REIG.

Later I must remember to come up with an explanation for why Mycroft kept the rooms the same for three years; perhaps he thought it would comfort Watson for a while, and then was left as a memorial? I've also realized that the Porlock business may not work, since Holmes tells us in VALL that he has never met Porlock in person; however, perhaps other Moriarty henchmen, lower down in the organization, have risked meeting Holmes face to face.

Fandom: Sherlock Holmes
Story: Understudy sketch
Pairing: Watson/OC, one-sided Watson/Holmes
Warnings: slash, R

This sketch is in a more extreme form than other sketches I've posted here. It is formatted much like verse, lacks grammar, and uses many abbreviations. H is Holmes, W is Watson, and M is Moriarty.

In London in 1891-ish,
Moriarty & Moran riding in a carriage,
spot Jonathan Derrick crossing the street
and Moran mistakes him for H.
He suggests going after the blasted detective.
Moriarty halts him and peers closely,
then states that, no, it isn't H.
(He has made a careful study
of every feature of H's face and figure
based on photos captured by henchmen.)
However, this man may prove useful,
so M sends Moran out of the carriage
to find out who this lookalike is.
Moran gets his name
and learns that Derrick is an actor on the stage.
This is even better than just having
an uncanny resemblance to H.

Back at headquarters later,
Moran reports to M,
who sends out other spies
to collect further information on Derrick.
M learns that the actor has a family
(brother, sister, and parents),
and that Derrick occasionally gambles.
M orders Moran to set up a situation
to put Derrick in their power.
"Start with the gambling.
Failing that, there's always his family."

So of course Moran finds a way
to get Derrick in over his head in a card game.
Then Moran goes to "collect" Derrick
and make him obey M's orders for impersonation.

With his family held captive as well,
Derrick is forced to do M's bidding for their safety.
As FINA approaches,
M has the actor impersonate H in various locales
in order to expose Porlocks,
those members of his underworld
who have betrayed their knowledge to H.
Thus M roots out of his organization
all weak links and traitors,
while the reluctant Derrick looks on with horror
at the merciless executions.

Despite M's efforts at purging,
H still grows closer to bringing down the crime ring
and M realises that he has another use for Derrick.
He and Moran confront him with a new assignment,
taking H's place and keeping W occupied,
so that M can get the real H alone for private revenge.
Derrick is given more substantial training
and told to be ready at any moment for a switch.
He hates this, and grows increasingly anxious for his family;
he still does not know that M's organization is in crisis,
and that the family have already been murdered,
to make less work for the remaining few agents
who are still free and still trusted.
M keeps Derrick in ignorance about that.

H and W flee to the Continent,
and M follows, accompanied only by Moran and Derrick.
Travel all the way to Switzerland, and put up in a hotel.
There, M devises a new distraction plan
after seeing how talkative Peter Steiler is,
and hearing his ringing endorsement of the Falls.
Leaving Derrick locked in his room,
M sends a messenger boy with his note
and leaves with Moran for the Falls.
Moran keeps watch from a high hill,
signalling when W starts down for Meiringen again,
and M goes to meet H for a decisive encounter.

Meanwhile, seeing an opportunity,
Derrick tries desperately to escape,
finally succeeding in breaking a window
and climbing down the precarious trellis.
Across the street, he sees a horrified Watson
rushing away from the Englischer Hof
and surmises that M's plan may have worked.
Derrick departs, looking for a hideaway
and a chance to contact his family again.
Once safe, he telegrams home
but soon learns that his family is already gone,
and that he is far too late.

Moran does not seek out Derrick,
furiously pursuing H instead for revenge
and not caring in the least about carrying through
M's plans to substitute Derrick for a dead H
and have him thus destroy all H's accumulated evidence.
It is already the irreversible end, as far as Moran can see,
and he knows that he himself won't be implicated.
Thus, Derrick is free but alone.
Mourning and trying to figure out what to do,
he catches local news of an equally distraught W
who begs the papers to stop reporting rumours
of H having been sighted alive in Meiringen.
Derrick realises that he caused those rumours
when he had not yet shed the H disguise,
and feels guilty for tormenting poor W.

Derrick goes home to London
and mourns at his family's graves.
His life in shambles, and he doesn't know what to do.
Some part of him wants justice, closure.
He attends the trials for M's leading criminals
and sees W there, lonely and unhappy.
Somehow a kindred spirit to him
in the midst of all this tragedy.
Within a couple of months,
W's short stories start being published in the Strand,
and Derrick is touched by the friendship in them.
Wishes that he had such ties still.
Later, Derrick sees the notice of Mary's death
and feels even worse for W's bereavements.

Rumours still circulate that H may be alive,
since he often faked illness or madness in cases,
and Derrick gets an idea.
He resolves to play H again,
this time willingly, permanently.
He could pretend to have only faked Reichenbach,
and to be safe and sound after all.
He could find a new home with W,
a new life fighting the kinds of criminals
who had killed his family.
However, W knew H very well indeed
and could not be as easily fooled as M's Porlocks.
So he studies W's stories carefully
and seeks out H's obscure monographs
to balance H's mannerisms with his detective skills.
Learns the violin, how to work with chemicals,
and how to pick locks, among other things.

After three years, Derrick feels he is ready to be convincing
and nervously goes to meet W.
He chooses to "return" in the midst of the Adair mystery,
realising that now is the time to have revenge upon Moran.
He has made his arrival in Baker Street already
and has solidified his explanation of where he has been,
based upon the recently published FINA.
So in the guise of the old bibliophile,
he collides with W on the street,
and then follows him back to Kensington.
[Shall call Derrick "Holmes"
in lieu of the real Holmes being here.]

When he reveals his identity in grandiose H fashion,
W first stands there stunned, then drops in a dead faint.
H rushes forward in concern.
Too much? He must have misjudged W's unflappability.
undoing his collar, brandy to his lips
cradling W in his arms.

W comes to at last and clasps H's forearm,
staring up at him with wonder and disbelief.
H sets aside the flask and tries to smile reassuringly.
Before he can speak, though,
W impulsively kisses him, on the lips.

He blinks, startled and not sure what to do now.

W pulled away and smiled at him timidly.
"I'm--I'm sorry, Holmes.
I know that was hardly a customary greeting between us.
I don't know what came over me.
Just... seeing you again..."
He blushed and laughed at himself a little.

H exhaled with relief and arched an eyebrow.
"I feared for a moment that your memory of our relationship
was far different from mine."

W laughed heartily and shook his head,
still reclined against him and basking in his sheer presence.

H cleared his throat and sat back.
"Well then, I must apologise for the shock I gave you.
I had no idea that you would be so affected."

W sat up and firmly gripped both of H's arms,
peering closely into his face
and asking if he were really here, and how.
Seems almost like a ghost, or a wish come true.

H first questioned whether W were fully recovered yet,
but W insisted on an explanation.

so they made themselves comfortable in the chairs
and conversed at length on this subject.
W, it seemed, accepted H's explanation readily enough
and interrupted him with very few questions.
However, he winced significantly
on hearing that Mycroft had been informed of his secret,
but not W.
Not in these three long years.
W made no remark to this and was unnaturally silent.

So H changed the subject,
surprising W with his knowledge of Mrs. W's death.
"Work is the best antidote to sorrow, my dear Watson."

They talked more, mostly of W's life,
until nine-thirty, when H led the way to Camden House.

in the old sitting-room, their adventure concluded.
examined the disfigured bust and discussed Moran.
they had sat down to consume some drinks
and now W stared at H again without wavering.

H frowned and cleared his throat,
unnerved by the attention. Suspicion?

W spoke at last, "You look different."

shrugs. "Obviously. I have aged,
grown thinner, greyed a little..."

"No, I mean--" sighs and sits up.
leans close and reaches for H,
touching his face. whispers,
"It seems like I have just woken from a dream
which lasted these three dark years,
and I am at last glimpsing the sun again."

H did not know what to say to this
and averted his eyes.
started to stand and pull him up by the shoulders
"You--you are tired. You should go to bed."

W pulled out of his grasp and sat down again.
He looked away, with damp eyes,
trying to laugh casually.
"What? Stay over in Baker Street again?
Do you know, in all, I spent more nights here
than at home with my wife in Paddington?
I wasted the time while she lived."

H frowned and stood helplessly near.
silent. feeling intrusive.

W inhaled. "Yes, I'm over-emotional tonight,"
he answered the question H had not asked.
"Symptoms of shock.
Sorry, but it's hard to reverse a mourning, Holmes.
I have been through much tonight,
and you cannot expect me to simply be calm and collected."

H touched W, pressing his hands over his eyes
and feeling the warmth of his tears,
the brushing of W's eyelashes against his skin.
How odd to be here, in such a private moment,
to feel the wound as fresh as the day
that he had first wished to help soothe it.

W's breaths were ragged, faint sobs,
and he pulled H closer, down before him.
Kneeling there, H uncovered and looked into W's eyes.
"It has been a long journey, for both of us."
W swallowed and embraced H tightly,
burying his head into the shoulder of his dressing-gown.
They held on to each other
until W was able to regain his composure.

He spoke in a low, but finally even voice, "I'm sorry."
In a moment more, he withdrew from H's arms.

H met his eyes and shook his head.
"It is I who should apologise.
I toyed cavalierly with your fears too often."

W searched H's grey eyes
and wondered if he might be turning human at last.
He stroked H's thin cheek again,
swallowing with shame and heartache.
"I--I was beginning to forget what you looked like.
I had no photos of you to remember you by,
and Mycroft himself had only portraits from your youth.
It drove me mad that I only had
those inaccurate illustrations from my books.
For the Strand publications,
I described you as well as I could to the illustrator,
but he copied his brother instead.
I feared that with every day after your death
I was forgetting too much of you.
Why did you leave me nothing but your letter?
Why did you leave me?"
W was breaking down again,
and H tried to soothe him.

"I am here, now," he insisted. "I am here."
He was grateful in fact that there were
no photographs at all to contradict him,
to have to measure up against daily;
hiding or disposing of portraits
had been his first priority when he arrived at Baker Street
and he had worried when he couldn't find any.
This was a relief to know,
but he felt sorry for W's pain nonetheless.
"Why, we'll go sit for a photograph tomorrow,
the both of us," he said encouragingly,
"and you can give me your portrait too, my friend."
This calmed W a little,
and after a moment, H drew W to his feet.
"Come, you need your rest."
H led the way toward W's bedroom,
walking W to his door and opening it.
"I--I apologise for the barren state."

W glanced inside and found the bedroom
empty of all personal effects that had been evident
when he had inhabited it.
He entered slowly, merely commenting,
"I only need to sleep."

H retrieved a blanket of his own and gave it to W,
so that the room might not be entirely impersonal.

W thanked him for the gesture,
and then stood steadily looking at him again.

"I shall see you in the morning?"

W nodded, and H departed,
shutting the door after him.

W sniffed the scent of the blanket,
and wrapped it around his shoulders,
feeling its warmth as a substitution
for what he knew H could not give.
He heaved a lonely sigh.

H suddenly opened the door,
having changed his mind apparently,
and came face to face with W,
who still stood just on the other side.
There was something piercing and absorbing
about W's eyes that made him inhale.
They demanded attention, confession.

A strange, close silence where their eyes met,
and then W kissed him again.
Intimately, deliberately.
a low sigh "You taste... somehow familiar."
more kisses. he pulled H closer into his grasp.
grew more passionate with each taste of him.

H faltered and could not decide what to do.
Did their past warrant this present?
If he refused, would W accept it as his right
or be profoundly and irrationally hurt?
after a moment, he acquiesced,
realising that what W wanted, more than anything,
was comfort and reassurance.
"All right," he kissed back.
"On one condition..."
He drew W to the bed and pressed him down.
"I must have control," he whispered into his ear.

W nodded and kissed him intensely.
"Stay with me tonight," he pled softly.

on W's bed, with H's blanket.
trembling. moaning.
noticing H's arms free of needle scars,
whispers "You really have given it up."
gripping the sheets.

on the morning after,
they did not scurry immediately for distance
or uncomfortable denials of the night.
What they had done did not feel like an expedient,
once-only encounter for comfort.
But neither one of them said anything.

W departed after breakfast,
returning to his practice in Kensington
to make arrangements for his patients
since he wished to take a few days off
to spend in Baker Street again.
He brought back some of his personal effects
from his bedroom at home.
"You don't mind if I leave some things here?"

"No, not at all. It would feel desolate
without your own possessions."
assisted in putting up pictures on the wall,
unpacking clothes into the drawers,
and arranging books on the shelves.

W then sat down to write in his journal.

softly "You--you won't publish it?"

"No, especially not the intimate details.
But yesterday was a day
that I wish to remember every part of.
If you wish me to tell the public one day,
I shall do so with all caution."

H said nothing and withdrew to give him privacy.
wondered what he would write of that night.
practised the violin to distract himself.

W emerged from his room finally.
"I apologise for being so long secluded.
Might we spend time together now?"

H nodded and took him out to lunch
before going to take the photographs
that they had promised each other yesterday.
No secrecy, no more to hide,
unlike his posing for the wax bust,
trying not to let his presence leak out to the public.
Later they went to dinner and a concert.
inevitably, perhaps, they went to bed together again.
it seemed they were more vulnerable still
than they had been last night.

thus growing into lovers most close and happy.
free with each other.
filling up empty spaces in each other's lives.
during intervening cases that come their way,
Derrick is not bad at emulating H's detective skills, either.

after a few weeks, though, W ventured painfully,
"Where--where did you really go those three years, Holmes?"

He swallowed, looking into W's eyes.
was silent in the darkness of their bed.

"I know you lied. Khartoum was destroyed in 1885.
No Westerner could make it into Tibet."
broken voice. "Please, tell me."

frowning, leaning close against him
"Oh, Watson, I want to tell you. I do.
I want you to know the truth..."
sighs and says finally,
"I--I read your stories of me.
Your writing was never so bad
as I used to complain it was.
I read all about us in the Strand,
and realised how dear a friend you were."
touched him tenderly.
"How I wanted to be with you.
I am truly sorry that I could not come sooner."

W kisses him and pulls him near again.
loves him with tears in his eyes.
later, when W asks about H's life, his early history,
Derrick tells him honestly about his own childhood
since he knew nothing of H's.
A permissible substitution, surely?
Thus, they trust each other intimately.

Nine years later in 1903, W publishes EMPT,
recounting their "reunion," less the private moments.
Far away, the true H reads it and returns instantly to London,
thoroughly indignant that someone is claiming to be him,
and for nearly ten years, no less. The arrogance!
He checks into the Langham hotel.
Seeks W first at Kensington,
only to be surprised by his cousin Verner settled there,
who says, "Don't you remember? You arranged it years ago."

Then H heads furiously to 221B.
Going upstairs, he is mortified to hear beyond the door
the impostor laughing and tumbling in bed with W.
"You see," W kisses him lovingly,
"I told you I could write of you again
without revealing the nature of our relationship."
"True, my dear." moans with a caress

H finishes picking the lock and bursts in,
regarding the sight of them
with even greater umbrage than the mere sound.

They look up in horror and shock.
W is utterly confused.
he sits up, staring in disbelief. "Holmes?"

folded arms.
"Apparently, you have trouble
distinguishing me from facsimiles."
H next accuses Derrick relentlessly.
"You--whoever you are--you vile wretch
who would not only steal my life
but corrupt my friend into--iniquities!"

more dispute, as the truth slowly dawns on W
and he cannot believe it.

Derrick finally argues back
"Where have you been these nine--no, twelve--years?
Apparently you intended to leave him alone the rest of his life,
even though you were alive and well.
Had I known that you were among the living,
I would have thrashed you for ever deceiving him.
You have not spoken to Mycroft, your own brother, either.
Who are you to claim W, or your life,
when you have abandoned both for so long?"
turns apologetically toward W,
explaining something of his actual history
and how sincere his love is for W.
reveals his true name too.

W is unable to respond, too upset.

Derrick dresses and departs reluctantly,
telling W that he hopes he can forgive such deception,
or at least be willing to see him again
so that he can explain fully.
He intends to ask brother Mycroft
if he can stay in the Diogenes Club for now,
and will come back to Baker Street to pack his bags soon.

"Enough!" H still fuming and highly offended.
As the door closes after Derrick,
he is left alone with W now.
W inhales and solemnly asks for an explanation.
Caught off guard, H has little excuse,
saying quietly that he had warned W during FINA
that his career would end with M's downfall.
Being convinced that crime
would be entirely uninteresting without M,
he had simply walked away and retired to Sussex.

"Retired? I thought you were dead.
I mourned you."

"I did not wish hordes of people to importune you
with requests to bring me out of retirement
for the sake of their trivial cases.
Thus I lived in seclusion,
that is until crowded queues of people clogging newsstands
and chattering about 'Sherlock Holmes alive' forced me out."
[queues for the EMPT publication]

W shut his eyes and gulped,
hearing an arrogant, insensitive H
that he had not heard in a long time.
The difference between him
and the "Holmes" that had just left his arms was stark.
But did he truly know the man
that he thought he loved?
"Get out," he finally chokes.
Throws a pillow viciously at him,
on the verge of tears.
"Get out!"

H exits.

W collapsed on the bed,
deeply distressed and sobbing with confusion.
To be robbed of H twice!
It was all so miserably unfair.
he curled up in a ball
and wondered if all these nights in this bed,
all his memories of loving, had been false.
Some cruel joke of fate.

Meanwhile in the sitting-room,
H simply sat upon the settee with a heavy sigh
and sorted through what he just discovered.
He had to hold back his disgust.
What on earth could have convinced W
that he would ever, ever wish to be intimate with him?
Who the hell was this Derrick,
and why did his words make H feel guilty and defensive?
Most of all, why on earth hadn't Mycroft
discovered and kicked out this Derrick years ago?
It did not make sense.

Deciding to find some answers,
H rose and went to see Mycroft.
At this time of day, Mycroft was due at Whitehall,
if his schedule had not changed in twelve years.
H was certain that it hadn't.
He was right, and was shown upstairs by a startled butler.
He saw the impostor Derrick
just leaving from Mycroft's private office
and bit back his fury.

Derrick did not appear to see H,
and walked past him in cold silence.
H entered then, with a scowl on his face.
Mycroft, who sat turned toward the window,
said quietly, "Do remove that unpleasant expression
from your face, Sherlock."

"Mycroft, in the name of brotherly ties--"

"What brotherly ties, Sherlock?
It is you who are the prodigal brother."
He turned to face Sherlock and assessed him coldly.
"Your absence was all the more appalling
because you knew that I cannot be shifted from my schedule
and could not, therefore, go root you out,
had I suspected your scurrilous deception.
Until your stand-in appeared, I was left without a suitable agent
for Her Majesty's most delicate assignments.
I had to post two or three agents where I used to have one.
You flouted your duty to your country."

"I pursue the work that interests me,
and the world has gone on with its tedious cycles
for centuries without either you or I!"
he leaned on the desk, levelling his eyes at Mycroft.
"Do you mean to tell me, Mycroft, that he actually fooled you?
That you entrusted him with the nation's precious security?"

Mycroft sighed at the limits of his younger brother's brain.
"No, he did not fool me, Sherlock,
nor did I entirely trust him from the beginning.
His assistance was initially limited
to training my other agents to perform as well as you.
I certainly made him prove his worth to me
before I gave him the work that you took so lightly."

H paces the room and shakes his head.
"If you knew him to be an impostor,
why did you even suffer his presence for a moment,
and not immediately toss him out?"

"For one thing, he avoided seeing me
for as long as he could after his arrival,
so that I did not at first know of his presence.
His dread of meeting me was not noticeable to W,
since you and I seldom see each other for reasons besides business,
and the fellow counted on that fact.
But when after some weeks W came to me alone,
imploring me to tell him the truth of 'your' activities,
as 'you' had told him an obviously fabricated tale on arrival,
I then had cause to be concerned.
I did not admit to W that I knew nothing of a return
and that I had received no contact from you since your death.
Instead I merely consoled him and sent him home
with the assurance that he need only wait
to receive the truth from the man himself.

"Thence I contacted the man himself
and ordered him to come instantly to Pall Mall.
The overwrought fellow quickly gave up any attempt
to deceive me about my blood relation
and instead begged me not to expose him to W,
or else to tell him how on earth to explain the truth
without making Watson reject him.
I pondered the matter, then agreed not to expose him,
provided that he receive proper training
and allow me to determine whether in time he was capable
of becoming an effective substitute for you.
He passed."

"You accepted him that easily?" he scoffed,
"How your standards have fallen!"

sharply "I thought you to be dead, Sherlock,
and was content to have at least a lesser version of you,
and one that, apparently, had discovered a method
of teaching himself to be a reasonable facsimile of you.
If he could teach others this skill, he could be of use to me.
If he could not, he could learn to be an agent himself.
In any case, the deciding criterion for my accepting him
in the role of my brother the detective, rather than special agent,
pertained more to his standing with Watson, than with the nation.
It was quite clear to me that the fellow
was desperately in love with Watson."

H looks repulsed and sits down, frowning.
"What does that have to do with anything?"

Raised an eyebrow at him.
"You yourself communicated to me before Reichenbach
that you wished me, should you be gone, to safeguard Watson,
especially from any remnants of Moriarty's organization;
Surely you meant me to shield him
from both physical and emotional harm?
Or else I was presumably wrong
to hush up Colonel James Moriarty's continued letters
so that his indignant and vilifying response to the doctor's
'Final Problem' story would never appear in public.
In any case, Sherlock, I could tell plainly
that this man Derrick was quite sincere in his regard
and would do nothing to wound Watson, ever.
In fact, the good doctor was much happier since his arrival
and would suffer much without him,
so I saw no reason to expose the man,
especially now that he had found a motive to stay
beyond exacting revenge against Moran and his like.
Allowing him to stay in your place caused no one harm."

"Harm? You let him have his way in seducing Watson!
Is that not harm enough?"

"Pshaw! You broke up W's marriage.
Should I not permit him some domestic bliss in his life?"

"I broke up--?!"

"Sherlock, you have very little understanding
for the depth of attention and the amount of time
that human relationships require to remain healthy.
I have seen many a member of Diogenes forced to quit,
because of the detriment to his household
of spending too much time here.
Your demands on Watson's time during his marriage
were certainly not conducive to their having children
or to preserving the poor lady's frail health."

"So you allow this creature to call you brother
and put him in touch with our cousin Verner?"

Mycroft simply shrugged and folded his hands.
"Tell me, when will you give me an explanation
of your whereabouts?
Must I demand it from you?"

further arguments.
H gets up and paces again
"He, the bloody impostor,
attempts to make me feel remorseful!"

"He has a point, Sherlock.
You left Watson alone for the past twelve years."

"I did not intend him to suffer for twelve years!
That Derrick acts as if I am a villain,
trying to wound Watson on purpose.
But I had not expected his wife to die, did I?
I expected him to have a full, comfortable life
after grieving me."

"Yes, but does Watson know that?
Have you said that to him?"

He frowned and realised, "Well, no.
I forgot, no doubt due to my being distracted
about Derrick seducing Watson."

"Then you should go and tell him now.
It may help him to forgive you."

Sherlock blinked. "You--you think so?"
Watson had been quite furious.

Mycroft nodded.
"Although it depends on certain factors.
When did you learn that Watson's wife died?
When it happened ten years ago, or now?
If you knew before,
then why did you not return to comfort him?
Why did you wait until hearing of this impostor
to come back?
These are the things he will ask you,
so consider your answers carefully."

"I see."

After Mycroft has sufficiently humbled his brother,
H returns to Baker Street to talk to W.
W is now dressed and moping about the flat,
staring at all the photos of him and Derrick.

H enters, and says, "I-I am sorry, Watson.
I did not mean you to suffer so much after Reichenbach.
I certainly had not expected your wife to die
and add to your grief.
I only just now learned of your bereavement in your story."

W looks at H, but does not answer yet.

H came closer and sat opposite W.
"I regret that I did not check to see how you were before now.
If I had known of your life over the years,
then I certainly would have stopped this impostor
from preying upon you, Watson.
So clearly this is my fault as well.
I left you vulnerable to this Derrick's machinations."

"His machinations? What about yours?"
W still angry and hurt.
"Even if you did not anticipate Mary's death,
you still were deceiving me at Reichenbach,
and have continued to deceive me until today.
How could you do this to me?
You don't even care for me at all, do you?"

"No, I do care! I--of course I care for you, Watson.
You are my friend. I want to protect you.
Why do you think I am so outraged at what this impostor has done?
He has lied to you and taken advantage of you,
And now I find out today that my own brother Mycroft
condones it, thinks nothing of deceiving you.
He explains it away as protecting you from heartache."

W blinks and realises that Mycroft has been lying to him as well.
It almost touches him to see H outraged on his behalf.
"But that still does not excuse your false death.
That is hardly protecting me, is it?
You could have trusted me, you know.
If you had told me that you truly were done with your career,
I would have shielded you.
I know well enough that you have made other enemies besides Moriarty.
If you'd told me that you needed an anonymous retirement,
I would have agreed to lie to the public for you.
Anything to keep you out of danger.
I lie to the public all the time
when I change dates and names in my stories."

H nods. "Yes, but it was not that I distrusted you.
I distrusted your wife, Watson.
Surely you would not lie to her about me, or if you did,
she would soon notice that you were not grieving sufficiently.
She would notice if you continually sent coded messages to me
or came to visit me in Sussex.
She would suspect and finally discover the truth.
And in that way that all women do,
she would surely spread the gossip, even unintentionally.
And then my false death would have been for nothing."

W sighs. "You still should not have deceived me.
You speak of my not grieving you convincingly.
How do you think it felt to grieve you in all sincerity?
How could you think I would not be hurt by your death?
You saw how it broke me
when you pretended to be dying
to capture that abominable Culverton Smith."

"Of course I remember how my false dying hurt you!
The anger and hurt in your eyes..."
He sighs. "My dear Watson,
you have always been sensitive to any wound or illness of mine.
That was why, if I had decided to leave this way,
I knew I must leave permanently.
No matter how I might miss you or be tempted to contact you again,
I should not, because that would be toying with you.
That was the reason I never came back until today."

W stares at him,
bewildered by H's upside down logic when it came to emotions.
Then quietly, he asked,
"Did you miss me, then?
Did you really?"

"Yes I did. I do.
Many times in Sussex I find myself talking to you instead of the bees.
My housekeeper thinks me a little dotty,
and that aids in my persona as a harmless old beekeeper."

W half smiles and feels a twinge for a moment.
The old reasons why he had fallen in love with H.
The original H.
He takes H's hand, and is pleased when H presses back.

"Am I forgiven?" H asks.

W meets his eyes.
"You're outraged that Derrick has deceived me?
That we have shared a bed under false pretences?"

H nods and touches his arm.
"How horrifying, that a stranger has...
used you in my name."

W asks,
"And if it were not a stranger... if it were you?"
He leans nearer to kiss him.

H blinks and backs away, alarmed.

W frowns and pulls back, letting go.
"Then you are not jealous."

H stares at him, and stammers.
"Jealous? I--Watson--
But, but you are not a deviant.
Or at least, you were not."

W looks at the floor and tells him,
"I loved you, Holmes. Years ago.
I-I knew it first in that Culverton Smith case.
My despair at the thought of losing you,
my desire to be near you,
to treat you even if it meant I would fall ill too.
I had to convince myself
that you only refused me as your doctor
because you did not want me to die hopelessly as well.
But I wanted to, Holmes. How could I live without you?
I had no thought even of leaving my wife behind.
I knew then that I would die for you.
That I would love you, if only you'd return my feelings.
But you did not, as I soon found out.
You surely could not, to deceive me so.
To use me, for your ruse.
You broke my heart then,
long before Reichenbach."

H is stunned, sees the tears of pain in his eyes.
"I-I had no idea. Watson, I am sorry.
I-I don't know what to say."

"Then you do not love me at all?
You still do not?"

H pondered that, then answered with difficulty,
"I cannot.
I do not understand this emotion you feel for me,
let alone a physical desire.
I-I am sorry, Watson."

Watson gulps and shakes his head.
"I should have known."
Tries to leave so that he may cry in private,
but H holds on to his arm.

Afraid that W is angry at him again,
H says, "Forgive me, Watson.
However inhuman I am when it comes to love,
I do care for you, truly.
I still feel friendship for you.
Can we not be friends again now?
Now that your wife is gone,
It would be safe for you to visit me in Sussex."

W considers that invitation.
Given time, if he visited H in Sussex,
could his feelings of friendship change?
Should he risk trying to melt his heart?
And yet, how could W forgive the 12-year deception?

because of W's silence, H adds,
"Please. I have missed you."

W is not sure, but then crosses to the settee
where H sits.
With a sudden embrace, he cries on H's shoulder.

H just sits there, and does his best to comfort.
They remain on the settee a while.

Then Watson gets up to remove his things
from the bedroom that he had shared with Derrick.
H assists and is glad that he is staying at the Langham.
Such things occurring in his old bedroom!

After a time he talks to Watson about Derrick,
asking how soon Watson and Derrick became intimate.
W's answer shocked him.

"The first night? The very first night you met him?
Right after capturing Moran in Camden House?
The perverted bastard!"

"It wasn't like that. It wasn't a plan.
It just... happened."
W could remember everything,
since he had recently written up and published EMPT.
"I thought he was you, Holmes.
He was very much like you, only human.
He apologised to me for Reichenbach.
He apologised for toying with my fears before,
which I took to mean the coolie disease,
and your fainting at Reigate,
and many other malingerings.
It was as if you had come home specifically
to make amends to me for everything past."

"Specifically to seduce you, then?
That cunning bastard."

W shrugs it off.
"I suppose I should have suspected something
when I found no needle marks on his arm.
I assumed that they had merely healed over with disuse,
and eventually I convinced myself
that you had spent three years beating your addiction
so that you could come to me clean.
By the way, are you still using cocaine, Holmes?"

H blinks in surprise.
"Well... the first few months with no Moriarty,
and no cases, I did over indulge in my habit.
I almost asked myself what I had gotten into, by retiring?
But then I realised I could not just come back to London,
could not hurt you again.
I eventually learned to give up the cocaine
when I retired to Sussex and began keeping bees.
Their intricate colonies are very efficient and orderly,
like Moriarty's old syndicate."

"Bees?" shaking his head bewilderedly,
that he could give up adventure and cases for bees.
"If I'd known that bees could cure you,
I'd have bought a hive to keep in Mrs. Hudson's back garden."

H shrugs and jokes,
"I suppose I should have as well,
if only to stop your nagging me about my health."

Later H still harps on Derrick,
trying to convince Watson that he is not really deviant after all,
only led there by Derrick.
"I suppose, being an actor,
he was quite experienced as a hedonist.
An expert at seduction?"

W raised an eyebrow at H's apparent disdain.
"No more, I think, than you are, Holmes.
You are an excellent actor too,
and I recall you getting engaged to Milverton's housemaid."

"But that was only leading her on, for information.
I certainly did not bed the girl."

"No, of course not." He sighed,
picturing H as out of his depth in a true seduction.
So he asked, softly,
"Have you ever bedded anyone?"

H blushes, finding the question impertinent.
"We were discussing Derrick and how he seduced you--"

"He did not seduce me. I seduced him.
I kissed him first when I woke up from my faint.
He looked unsettled and nervous,
until I dismissed it as nothing.
Then I kissed him again that night,
after the case, and kept kissing,
until he succumbed to my wishes."

H stared incredulously.
The Watson he knew and was used to,
admired women only.
"But you had not been with a man before, surely?"

W replied, "No, I had not."

"Then--then how could you be so bold?"

"I had loved you for years,
and been heartbroken by your death.
To suddenly think that were you alive again,
and to find you apologetic and kind too,
I felt almost giddy.
I could not resist the urge anymore,
particularly as he did not slap me
for the first kiss.
I thought his warmth to me
was a hint that I was welcome."

"So, so he was seducing you after all,"
H insisted.
"He deduced your love and subtly encouraged it,
for his own selfish ends."

W did not agree.
"If he'd planned to seduce me,
then surely he would have...
known what to do that first night.
But he was nervous and tentative in undressing me.
He was aware of the concept of sodomy,
but was inexperienced in choosing a position.
I asked him if he had any vaseline,
and then he comprehended me and retrieved it."


"Buggery, Holmes. It requires lubrication."

H pales. He uses vaseline for disguise.
"You--you let him... the first night?"

"I let you," W emphasises,
almost feeling a spiteful pride
at how he was making H uncomfortable.
"He had apologised thoroughly for your sins.
So I desired to give myself completely in return."

H sputters, before insisting,
"His apparent nervousness and inexperience
could have been merely an act.
He was pretending to be me,
and so must act as he thought I would act,
Or as you expected me to act."

W shrugs.

Too embarrassed to continue,
H lets go of the subject for now.
Eventually leaves for the Langham hotel
To ponder W's feelings in private.

Derrick comes by to pack his belongings.
No one answers his call at first,
so he walks on in.
Finds that Watson has moved his possessions
out of their shared bedroom.
Feels sad and hopeless.

W comes out of the other room to stare at Derrick
Mentally comparing him to his fresh mental image of Holmes,
wondering if he was a fool not to see the difference?
Was he simply seeing in Derrick what he wanted to see?

"Watson! You startled me."
offers to sit down and explain the deception to him.

W hangs back, and questions him tentatively.
"Were you pretending to be Holmes the entire time,
or were you ever... genuine?
That first night when we made love--"

"That was genuine," he answered quickly. "That night,
and all the others since then.
And so is my love for you."

touched, but "It is hard for me to trust you,
when I have evidence that you have lied to me for nine years."

"I know, and that is why I want to tell you everything.
You may prove or disprove my words
by asking Mycroft what he knows.
He made me tell him everything about me
when I met him,
and he certainly could tell if I was lying
by deducing it straight from my face.
My God he is much sharper than I am."

W pointed out,
"But Mycroft has been lying to me as well.
How am I to know which words to trust?"

Derrick frowns and feels discouraged.

in time, W also comes to Mycroft,
to ask about Derrick,
and to seek advice and counsel.
Mycroft gives it, with his apologies.
"No, I do believe my brother Sherlock
will not come to love you in the way you wish,
even if he knew how to try.
I am sorry.
But I can tell you that Derrick
was quite sincere in his regard for you,
and he continues to be.
He may have been an actor in his past life,
but this part was no act."

W starts seeing Derrick again,
trying to get to know the true him
and seeing if he had been authentic with him.
W learns in detail of Moriarty's scheme
and why Derrick had initially come,
and why he had eagerly stayed.
Derrick had been surprised
by how much he could love a man whom he had only just met,
but whom he seemed to know already, through his stories.
it was a human and warm companionship
that he had not known since the death of his family.
he had simply not known how to tell W the truth,
other than through his confessions of his own youth.

snippet of Derrick to W:
"I even idiotically thought for a moment
that Mycroft wished to blackmail me
with his knowledge of my deception.
When I had told him how I had largely trained myself
to become Holmes, he furrowed his brow
and said, 'You may be of use to me.'
I had been 'of use' to Moriarty before,
and certainly did not wish to repeat the experience.
But Mycroft assured me that he only wished me
to attempt to train his own agents in the same manner.
Yet even if I should fail being of use to him in that way,
what Mycroft truly required of me
was merely what any protective brother would demand,
that I be utterly loyal and good to you.
Then I knew that I could trust him.
That with his help I could be yours indefinitely."

snippet of Mycroft to Derrick, deliberating:
"Before his death these three years ago,
and indeed, in anticipation of it,
my brother requested that I, in his absence,
protect Dr. Watson from any possible harm.
I have honoured that request as much as I can,
out of respect for my brother's great affection for the doctor.
The physical danger to Watson was most pressing at first,
as Moriarty's network of scoundrels
struggled to escape the clutches of the law,
and to have revenge upon Sherlock and his associates.
But as the years have passed, the physical danger lessens,
and I find that the good doctor is more keenly at risk
from harmful emotions like grief and loneliness.
My staff reports to me how frequently Watson visits
the memorial I had erected for my brother.
They tell me of his state when he kneels there for hours at a time.
Young man, if you could swear to me that you can
keep the doctor from repeating such lonely vigils
not simply for now, but for always,
then, perhaps, I could grant you what you ask of me."
"I do swear. For as long as I live."

snippet of Derrick to Watson:
"I did not know that I would love you.
That you loved... him, really, not me.
That you would kiss me that first night,
and ask me to your bed.
All your published stories had indicated
that you and he were simply friends,
and that he in fact kept you at a distance,
let you closer only now and again.
When you kissed me... and touched me,
I could only respond in kind.
Could only reciprocate your passion
and wonder at the depth of your love,
to risk even this intimacy.
I gave you all that I could,
and found myself falling for your charms.
So I stayed. I loved you,
and I tried to make you love me,
as genuinely as possible.
I showed you myself, instead of him,
whenever I could."

eventually, when convinced of his love,
W moves with Derrick to Queen Anne Street,
leaving Baker Street entirely to H.
H's indignation cools as he observes their happiness together,
and he too finally decides to be accepting.
He goes back home to Sussex to his bees,
while Watson and his love remain in London.

[the date being 1903,
close to canon retirement (SECO).
perhaps Derrick lives now as himself
and still works for Mycroft discreetly.
W of course, still writes and publishes.
Are LAST, BLAN, and LION Holmes or Derrick?
maybe... H,
because of the irony, if "deserted me for a wife"
meant deserted him for Derrick.]

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