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Title: The Keeper
Recipient: [personal profile] rachelindeed
Author: [personal profile] fridaythegowerstreetcat
Verse: Sherlock BBC
Characters/Pairings: Sherlock Holmes and John Watson (pre-slash), Mrs Hudson, Mycroft Holmes, Mike Stamford, Mrs Holmes (briefly)
Rating: General
Warnings: No Archive warnings apply (other than brief mentions of injury)
Summary: A woman who has grown so weary of burying her children that she barters her life for the sake of of her sons. Her pleas ware heard and the bargain accepted.
Four centuries on finds the Holmes brothers in need of a new Keeper for the Sigerson Institute. Across London, a former army doctor struggles to find his feet, until fate brings them together.
Historical (Post WW1) AU with elements of myth and magic.






1572
There was a woman who grew so weary burying her children that she decided she had had enough of Death. She bartered what was left of her life at midnight crossroads, more out of hope than any belief that someone would listen.

And nothing appeared to change. she watched her boys fall sick and grow unnaturally still. She remained beside them for four days as they shivered with a pain that nothing could lift. Take me, she pleaded to the dark corners of the room. Pour their suffering into me .But leave these little ones alive. I beg of you.

She never saw the unlit corners flicker briefly with light before all was extinguished.

When she woke, she was in her own bed. The sun painted a stripe of warmth across her hands. Two childish voices was singing and laughing a few feet away outside. "My boys?" She murmured, not expecting a reply.

A woman she vaguely knew approached the bed. "They're hale and hearty, thanks to your love."

"Who are you?"

Her smile was bright and genuine. "a neighbour you have yet to meet. I saw you at the crossroads. Your words had a listener, and your wish was granted. I am here to guide you on, and to protect your sons in the long, long lives that lie ahead of them." She sensed the fear in the woman's eyes and reached for her hand. "Don't be afraid. All will be well. There will be no pain for you. I will raise your boys, and tell them what they must know. Rest now."

"W-what should I call you?"

"By my name, of course. I am Martha."
– – –
Martha wove her way into the family in such a way that the time before her seemed as unfocused as ancient memory. the boys came to love her in their own ways., to the point that when their parents died on the far edge of that summer, they knew enough to understand that they would grieve the loss, but grow beyond it.

Eventually, as adults, they learned the truth . "Love is a greater power in the right hands, and a desperate weapon in the wrong ones. Your mother offered her own life up in exchange for yours, and the wish was granted. Death drank up her tears, and sealed the bargain."

"Death rarely is so merciful. " Michael's eyes needled into Martha. "What is the price we will pay?"

"You will live all the time that your descendants would have taken, until those years run out. You will age, but at the rate that the oaks do, providing your body remains whole. You will learn to hide this in plain sight, and be prepared to leave all behind as years pass, in order to hide who you truly are.”

Samuel’s eyes grew wide with thought. “But what about when we die? What happens then?”

“You will meet Death on his terms. But be aware by then he will have become you most constant visitor as you watch the lesser mortals fade. You would be wise to treat him with the grace that he deserves.”

It took some centuries for the truth to be truly understood. But in the end it was.

----
1919

Three figures stood at the graveside. Two were dressed in velvety black, the other in elephant grey, a bunch of waxen cherry bobbing defiantly in her hat band. Mrs Hudson allowed herself the luxury of one sniff before dabbing at her glassy eyes.

Holmes glared at her left ear. Sentiment. What did you expect from allowing him into your affections? It was bound to end in sorrow.

The sharp jab of Mrs Hudson’s umbrella between his ribs punctured his smugness. Even his brother winced in sympathy.

"Enough. Don't forget that I've known you long enough to understand every nuance of your thoughts. She glared across the open grave. “And don't think you are any better than him."
"I would never stoop to such a thing."

Martha Hudson gave as good as she got. "Says the man who spent the whole of dear Mullard’s funeral hoping that the good Reverend would trip over his own feet and brain himself on a gravestone." Guilt flushed his face. "Thought so," she continued grimly. "Your poor mother didn't go through all that she did to raise two ungracious, loutish heathens."

They both bristled at her tone, but they knew that she had committed all of their most sensitive points to memory long ago as the best means of keeping their collective faults in check. Neither of them dared look at her as they followed her sheepishly back to the house.
----
Euston was a mass of people all entirely sure of their destination and welcome, except Watson. He was a poorly dressed statue with a distinct tilt towards the hand which clutched a battered case. The other one clenched the fabric of his trousers through a hole in his overcoat pocket.

"You alright, mate?" Watson jumped at the proximity of the voice and lumbered around. A lanky porter stood in front of him, clearly angling for work and a tip.

He forced out a brief smile. “No, I'm quite well, thank you." There was just enough of an edge to his voice for the porter to nod sharply and back off. “No problem." He disappeared back into the crowds but it was clear to Watson that he remained under observation, even of the most benign variety.

But it was time to get moving. There was a room to claim, and a meal to find, and neither would come to him as the afternoon sank further into gloom. Taxis idled outside, and the bus stop was just across the road, but both would involve more human interaction than he was capable of tonight. The walk would do him good. So he tried to convince himself.
--
The best thing that could be said about his supper was that it didn’t run away from his knife. The best that could be said about his room was it kept out the rain and most of the wind. He took the oil lamp from Mrs Croft with a slight smile that she didn’t return.

“Breakfast is at eight fifteen sharp. You must be out of the house at nine o’clock, returning for your evening meal at six. We do not dress for dinner, but I expect my guests to be cleanly shaven and neatly dressed for all meals. You may use the bathroom at the end of this corridor, but please refrain from pulling the chain after the house has settled for the night. I keep a respectable house, which is why there will be no tobacco, no visitors and certainly no alcohol of any kind. The front door is bolted at nine thirty each evening without fail. Rent is paid one week in advance every Friday, and any damages will be added directly to it. Am I making myself completely clear?”

“Perfectly, thank you. Goodnight.”

She nodded, then turned rapidly on her heel. This wasn’t the welcome anyone could have wished for, but it was all that he could expect. He locked the door against the draught and sank cautiously onto the bed.

It could have been worse, he reminded himself. At least he wasn’t under a bridge, wrapped in soggy newspaper, wondering whether the cold or violence would take him first. His pension, such as it was, would stretch to staying here for the present, providing he kept to the rules of the house.
---
"So what now?"

Holmes looked vainly for the answer in the pattern of the hearthrug. "In what context?"

“It is imperative that the vacant keeper position is filled as soon as possible the security of the Sigerson Institute will be put in jeopardy and that is something that I cannot allow to happen."

He watched the controlled descent of his brother's cup to its saucer. "I am quite aware of the situation and the full implications of what might occur. But what is your proposal?"

"An advertisement has already been placed in the usual selection of publications."

"They must be ordinary- of sorts. Either so dim that they choose not to question the more unusual aspects of the environment and their employers, or entirely so intelligent that there will be able to understand the context of their work and the need for complete confidentiality."

"And how long can we survive without external measures?"

Mycroft swallowed his first reaction. "A week at the outer limits. We locate an appropriate individual and until we do, the Institute must remain closed. And we would do well to entirely avoid the sort of attention such an extended closure might attract."

Holmes glared down into the street. The fact that his brother's opinion could neither be ignored nor repudiated stung. He set his mind on finding the new Keeper, before one was planted on him.
----
The only overnight casualty requiring Watson’s treatment was the overset water glass lolling in a dark pool of soggy rag rug. He reached down and rescued it, thankful that his watch had escaped the deluge. He struggled in a semi vertical fashion to the window and pushed the curtain aside. A symphony of greys waited on the other side of the glass, enlivened only by the passing traffic .

So much for the eternal energies of London. He cursed the past version of himself for deciding to come here in preference to Edinburgh, where the remaining scraps of his family lived . The Army had cast him adrift in the same way that his parents had done when he was thirteen. Their bright, smiling son, full of laughter, had turned overnight into the awkwardly quiet boy, clever enough to win the scholarship, but painfully lacking the social ease of those who brayed and crowed around him. At least school had been a finite torture. HIs current situation held no such promise.

A distant clock tower chiming eight brought him back to his new reality. it wouldn’t do to miss whatever passed for breakfast on his first morning, no matter how dismal the prospect.
---

Walking proved to be the best antidote to the growing blankness in his head. He trudged through the streets, eyes sufficiently downward as to avoid colliding with others as much as could be expected.
He chose ignore others on the street as he continued walking, daring the weakness in his leg to abate. His shoulder wound had forced him out of active service; leg cramps were merely the protest of muscle wasted away after months in bed.

Even so, he was thankful for the bench near the entrance of an unremarkable park a couple of turnings off Marylebone High Street. He peered at the street opposite through the drizzle, trying to remember whether he’d spotted the welcome sway of a pub sign. There had to be one somewhere amongst the grim rows of terraces where he could nurse a pint.

But the promising pub sign turned out to be nothing more than a gaudily painted advert for a garage. He turned his back on the park and its scrubby grass determined to find a better sanctuary. His feet found a path while his mind wandered, blocking out the noise of passers-by as he would the chatter of birds. No one paid him any attention other than to skirt swiftly past his stumbling gait. At least they allowed him to remain upright.

But then there was the screech of brakes followed by a heartbeat of silence before it was shattered by running feet and jostling. He found himself carried on the wave of the crowd until they deposited him in the middle of the road.

A bicycle lay crumpled next to the wheel arch of a delivery truck. Its former occupant was nowhere to be seen as the crowd grew, idly supposing with a certain glee to be witnessing such a drama. Watson followed the trajectory of the forsaken bicycle and dropped into a crouch, all his own pain forgotten. Right under the chassis, in the middle of the road, the round, pale face of a girl of perhaps thirteen stared back at him, the skeleton of a pair of glasses perching awkwardly on a bloodied nose. She was on her back, one arm curled in itself. He gave her a reassuring smile then bobbed up to his feet again.
The crowd now included a bubble of people crowded around the driver, a white-faced man who was protesting his innocence to whoever might listen.

“She darted across - didn’t even look - barely had time to slam me brakes on…”

Watson dismissed him then glanced around the edge of the crowd. Someone had to take control of the situation. The ghost of his past self stiffened his spine. ”This vehicle needs to be lifted. Either with a jack or a few of you. Three or four should do it. I will also require a stick or an umbrella which will be returned.”

The crowd bubbled with chatter, then a single volunteer emerged. Watson barely reached his shoulder. “Let me try, Sir. ‘Ad to do this once in Ypres.”

Watson acknowledged him with a nod. “Good man. What’s your name?”

“ Tom Thornley, Sir.”

“Much obliged, Tom. Now if someone could pass me a cane or umbrella…”

“Have mine, Captain.” A once fine, now battered umbrella was being passed to the front of the crowd.
He frowned at a half-familiar voice, but did not have to react. “Much obliged.”

Watson turned to him. “Ready?” Tom grasped the wheel arch with massive gloved hands. “On my count - One, two, three…”

Watson scrambled under the truck and pushed the curved handle of the umbrella under the van until it touched the girl’s hand. “Where are you hurting worst?”

“Shoulder. B-but my legs are all scraped, too.”

Watson gave her a reassuring smile. “Right. We’ll have you in a moment. Grab on tight to the umbrella and tuck your head in. I’m going to pull you out. Ready?” She drew in a hasty breath, then did as he asked.

In the end, it was all over very quickly. Watson pulled the girl out and away before Tom lowered it carefully to the ground to a rousing cheer from the crowd. Watson leant her against the wheel arch, then glared at their unwanted audience as he felt them encroaching to gawp further. His eyes turned monstrous for a moment. “The show is over. If you want to be of use, get a policeman.”

“No need.” There was that voice again. Who the hell was that? “I was passing, On duty, like. How is she, Captain Watson?”

Corporal Michael David Stamford, once his chief orderly, clearly wore a different uniform now.
---

Things moved quickly after that. Watson stood back, doing his best to ignore the burning pain in his shoulder and the sting of pavement burn on his hands. Stamford had not lost any of his unflappable calm, or his ability think on his feet. The damaged vehicles were discreetly moved to the alley and the injured parties packed off for medical attention. Witnesses were identified and their details taken and the crowd dispersed, all in the space of perhaps a quarter of an hour.

Stanford took one look at how Watson was listing to one side and took a definitive decision. "I cannot really allow my former officer to leave the scene so unsupported. Follow me, please."

"Where we’re going?"
"To visit another pillar of the community. Just the thing for a heroic doctor."

"I'm hardly either of those."

"Says the man who just orchestrated the rescue of a child run down by a truck. And don't think I didn't see how your hand shook just now. Someone I'm talking to taught me the importance of observation a long time ago. And I do believe that was what got me this job." They crossed the road as they talked. A sash window on the shaded side of the corner building was pushed up with some force. Vanilla scented steam drifted out.

"Excellent. Just what I needed to see." He rapped on the door nearest the window. It was opened by woman with steel grey hair and dancing eyes. "Mrs Hudson, might we ask you for a favour? This is Dr Watson, formerly my commanding officer in the RAMC and the recent author of an act of heroism. Dr Watson, this is Mrs Hudson, housekeeper of the Sigerson Institute."

"Good to see you as ever, PC Stamford. And I'm delighted to meet you, Doctor Watson." She took a concerned look at his coat and trousers. “Oh dear, whatever happened? Are you hurt?”

"No he is not, bar a few grazes." A soft, deep voice, conscious of its own musicality interrupted them from a corner of the kitchen. "The dirt and mire on his clothing corresponds with that most commonly found work George Street collides with Spanish Place. The slight graze on his left hand ,along with the abrasion also on the sleeve, points to the inference that he spent a period in its gutter in the immediate past most likely in the rescue of some poor unfortunate. How is the child, by the way?"

“Very pleased to meet you, Mrs Hudson." He turned to the man who had interrupted him. "She should make a full recovery," The report came out automatically before his brain fully kicked in. "How could you know that?"

"A modicum of deduction with a pinch of observation, in addition to the fact that my work room overlooks that particular junction and the uproar entirely distracted me from my work."

"Do you do this with everyone you meet, or is it just wheeled out when you are looking to impress a visitor?"

Holmes blinked, then found he couldn't stop the grin forming on his face. "It is somewhat instinctive, but remains something that does not always produce such a positive response."

"Sherlock Holmes." Watson shook the outstretched hand. Holmes turned his wrist to the side, conscious of the graves across the back of Watson's hand.

There was a sharp fierce blow of a whistle out on the street. Stamford jumped to attention. "Duty calls." He tapped his helmet. Mrs Hudson, could I ask you assist Doctor Watson in my absence?"

"By all means." She handed him a paper bag. " Fresh scones. Originally for Himself upstairs, but he can wait for the next batch. Go well and safely, Constable."

"Much appreciated, thank you. I will, as long as you will." He turned to Watson. "Don't be a stranger. I'm only based at Marylebone, so drop past one day, will you?"

"Absolutely. Take care."
"Any time. We need more men like you, not less." And with that, Stamford was gone, closing the door behind with a discreet click.

Watson was at a loss for a moment before Mrs Hudson intervened. "That coat has taken quite a beating this morning. She walked around him almost clucking, taking note of the stains than one side. "But it's not beyond repair. If I may…?" Her hands hovered near his shoulders.

Watson hesitated "that's very kind of you, but…"

"Doctor Watson, only the foolish would refuse Mrs Hudson."

He swallowed nervously. "I'm not one for accepting charity… not a hopeless case."

Mrs Hudson folded her arms in fond exasperation. "Someone needs to show thanks for what you did today, and I don't see anyone else jumping forward. Now that we have that coat before the stains set in. Mr Holmes, show Doctor Watson the facilities…"

Watson recognise when he was outgunned stop he took of the coat, steering his features against the pain as it slipped off his arms. "That wasn't so hard was it? Now let me have a proper look at it whilst Mr Holmes shows you where to go..."

Holmes realised that he had been staring at Watson in his shirtsleeves, drinking in the detail.

"When you've quite finished analysing the very fibres of my clothing, do you want to tell me everything you've learned…?"

Holmes blinked. "Ahh. If you would follow me?"

Watson would have been grateful for merely some warm water and a bar of soap. He was not expecting extravagantly tiled bathroom tucked away in the corner of the cellars, behind a distinctly nondescript door. Holmes leaned over the bath, setting it running and adding a few drops of a citrus-scented oil to the water.

Watson frowned. "This is going a bit far. I only needed a basin of water…"

Holmes turned on his heels, all brows and sharp eyes. "Whilst Mrs Hudson will be far too polite to mention the stiffness of your shoulder, I will not. Your recent off-the-cuff heroism has clearly caused you paying, and I would warrant that the graze on your hand extends some way up your arm. A warm bath of go some way to easing the aches. I would also go as far as to deduce that the dismal boarding house in which you have taken residence has limited facilities for its so-called guests. Here the water is hot, plentiful and you will have no concerns as to the integrity of the linen." Watson flushed. Holmes softened his manner somewhat. "That is not a judgement on you Dr Watson. It is a judgement on the society that has squandered your talents, only seeing the damage and not the man beneath. You risk further injury when you went that girl's aid, and is Mrs Hudson said, such kindness should not go unrewarded."

The bath was close to half full as the room clouded with aromatic steam. "I will leave you to come back up in your own time."

Watson had been reduced to gestures. Holmes's magnanimity had stolen his words, leaving him no choice other than to comply with gratitude. He watched Holmes sleeve but waited until he heard the footsteps on the stairs before starting to undress. His fingers fumbled with the buttons he on his clothes on the hooks provided leaving his boots onto the dressing bench.

Weeks of strip washes had followed the humiliation of assisted bathing at the mercy of nurses and orderlies. And he doubted he'd ever been able to take his time in such a luxurious room. He edged down gingerly, gasping with the pleasure of its warmth, then lay back. He was drifting towards a doze in less than a minute.

He woke just at the point when the water turned from warm to barely tepid. He briefly submerged his head before sliding back up and rising to his feet, feeling more refreshed than he had in weeks.

The towel was a pleasure to use as he sat on the edge of the bath and ran one hand over the glistening spikes of hair. He turned to the hooks where he had left his clothes and swore silently. What the hell?

---
"Which did you pick out for him?"

"The charcoal grey and the ivory shirt. Less showy than some of the alternatives."

"Well, how would always had a knife a smart suit. Not that did him any good in the end…" Mrs Hudson smiled at the memory. "Shame it took so long for me to catch him out."

"But worth it in the end. Sherlock leaned into to kiss her cheek. “I only wish you'd told us sooner."

She pushed him back affectionately. "Less of that now. Our guest seems to be stirring, going by the way the water is pouring down the drain. I do hope he understands that we mean well…"

"If not, he’ll save his displeasure for my ears even if he suspects as I am merely the messenger. Besides, don’t you think that he’d make an excellent addition to the Institute? Former military, medically trained, with a strong moral purpose and the ability to act decisively in a crisis? I doubt Himself could find better, for all his supposed connections."

"Don't count your chickens. He might well refuse."

Holmes arched brow at her faulty logic. "An honourable man, tossed out by the science despite risking everything, struggling to find a place in the world which cannot see his value. He deserves this chance."

"And who is the one getting all caught up in the emotions? Careful, now."

Sherlock huffed. "You sound just like my brother."

"Because he has always listened to what I told you, all those lives ago. Becoming attached to a lesser mortal only ends in pain when they die."

A stillness grew between them. "And yet you shed tears for Mullard."

"He was my friend. His kindness and humour got me through the days when was more darkness and light. I survived a hundred years before you came into this world. I have never regretted my actions, whether to act on your mother's please or to watch those I loved leave this world. Each action comes with a cost which could be demanded of you at any moment."

His hand was a soft pressure on her sleeve. "I didn't mean to upset you."

"You never do." Her smile was a break curve of regret. "Try to be kinder. Save the vitriol for those who truly deserve it." She stilled. "Our guest is returning…"

Watson felt the warmth of a smile when he returned to the kitchen. "Now, doesn't that feel better?"

"Much, thank you. But to whom do these clothes belong, and where are my own?" He was aware of Holmes’ attentive and perhaps appreciative gaze. Heat rose in his cheeks. It been quite some time since he had caused such a reaction.

Mrs Hudson grinned. "Oh, they were my Harold's. He did have a certain style, as well as away with his fists. Marrying him was one of my mistakes, but it’s ancient history now. Besides they look so much better on an honourable man."

"This is all very kind of you, and I deeply appreciate your generous act, but where are my clothes?"

"Off at the Laundry. They'll back here on Friday."

Watson acknowledged defeat graciously. “Thank you again.."

“Think nothing of it, Doctor. Now how about a spot of lunch? It's gone one o'clock, and you must be hungry. Mr Holmes, be a dear and set the table upstairs in the small parlour would you? I will need every inch of this table top to get the baking done."

"As you wish. Holmes motioned to Watson. "Follow me. With luck, Himself will still be snoozing in his eerie and won't intrude on our conversation."

"Himself?"

" He who calls himself my brother."

"And is there any chance that he isn’t?"

"Regrettably not. Such is the way of elder siblings."

Watson followed with relative meekness, taking note of his surroundings. " This is a beautiful house. All yours, I take it?"

"It's a family property. Has been for generations. Was originally merely a house full of artefacts and heaven knows what from heaven knows when, the storage of which got somewhat out of hand. The long and short of it is that we turned it into a private Institute open to visitors to earn its keep."

"We?"

"My odious sibling, the irreplaceable Mrs Hudson, myself and the ever reliable Mr Mullard, whom we sadly buried a few days ago."

"My condolences."

Holmes nodded. He paused beside a half-closed door. "We keep some rooms private on this floor and others, but the rest of the building forms the public rooms of the Sigerson Institute, open by strict appointment only on weekday afternoons, between the hours of two and five precisely."

"Why Sigerson?"

"Himself scoured the family tree for a suitable name and was obsessed with the concept that we were descended from Viking stock. I had to admit defeat on finding a better name so Sigerson it became."

"How long have you been open?"

"Almost six years now. I'll take you for a tour after lunch. Seems only fair the as no visitors are expected and we will have the place almost entirely to ourselves."

A rumble emanated from a panel on the other side of the room. Holmes lifted a concealed handle. And here’s lunch. Please take a seat."

It was a simple meal of soup and scones with an excellent coffee which was consumed in companionable silence ,as though they had been friends for a lifetime instead of acquaintances of less than a day. The plates were being tidied away when heavy footsteps sounded in the hall.

Holmes groaned." Himself has woken," he explained. "If we remain silent, we might just escape a visitation." Watson nodded, a smile creeping over his face.

In the end, it was a relatively simple matter of slinking out and into the main gallery, seemingly unobserved. Holmes pointed out his particular favourites, from the Michelangelo sketches of outstretched hands to the rather dramatic but currently unconfirmed Turner seascapes -“ I remain convinced of their veracity, but the supporting documentation has yet to emerge. “

“Is this what you do here? Investigate the origins of the art?”

“Primarily, but I’m also building a reputation of identifying lost works and repatriating them to their rightful owners with the maximum of efficiency and discretion.”

“Which is why I haven’t heard of you?”

“Precisely. That and the long arm of Himself keeping most of my exploits out of the newspapers. For the sake of the family name. Or so he says.”

“Must be a nightmare keeping this place secure.”

“Mullard did a remarkable job at maintaining the balance between welcoming visitors and ensuring that none left the building with empty walls...” Holmes stared at the grain of the parquet floor. “We haven’t been able to open since he died. The Patron Saint of Fraternal Disapproval vetoed it. Which is why I’m on the lookout for a suitable replacement.”

“And where might you find such a person?”

“I hope that I just have.” He looked up, eyes full of a strange awkwardness.” I do appreciate that Keeper of the Keys is somewhat of a step down from the heights of your previous careers, but we can offer a fair stipend, with meals on duty and pleasant conditions, with a suitable residence provided as part of the settlement.”

Watson’s initial reaction was a considered silence, followed by a frown, before a smile finally lit up his face. “You’re serious, aren’t you.” Holmes nodded a little too earnestly. He held out a slightly wavering hand.

Watson shook it, a bubble of joy filling his head. ”I would be delighted to accept. On a trial basis, of course, in case I start and you find that it is all one hideous mistake.”

“If you insist, but my judgement of character has rarely let me down.”

“Doesn’t your brother have to pass judgment first?”

“I really wouldn’t worry about that.” Watson span on his heel, coming face-to-lapel with a man in a perfectly cut pinstripe suit. “ If you have managed to pass more than an hour with the junior member of our family without wishing him either silent or absent, I am of the opinion that you will cope magnificently with the demands of our rather select visitors. So, Dr Watson, will you accept?”

“Most definitely, Mr Holmes. And thank you again.”

“My pleasure.“ He nodded at his brother. “You have my approval. Now kindly assist the good doctor with any arrangements required for a start at his earliest convenience. “ He walked up the wall, pushed on the dado rail and disappeared through the opening which revealed itself.

“You will get used to him after a while. The best tactic is never show your fear.”

Watson’s eyebrows slid up to his hairline. “Who said I was afraid of a bloke in an expensive suit? But if he’s a Holmes and you’re a Holmes what do I call you both?”

“Start with the names we chose for ourselves. The insufferable arse that you’ve just suffered to meet chose Mycroft. I prefer to be called Sherlock.”

“In that case, please call me John.”

And so it began.

Date: 2017-06-17 03:25 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] rachelindeed
Dear author, thank you so much for this beautiful story! There is so much that I particularly enjoyed: the magic of Mrs. Holmes's poignant sacrifice; the historical details (I loved the boarding house rules!); seeing Watson feeling directionless after returning from Afghanistan, but then watching that apathy fall away as he instinctively took charge in a dangerous situation; and the restrained but powerful attraction between Watson and Holmes. You wove all those facets together beautifully. There were so many lovely lines throughout the fic -- here are a few of my favorites:

The best thing that could be said about his supper was that it didn’t run away from his knife. The best that could be said about his room was it kept out the rain and most of the wind. He took the oil lamp from Mrs Croft with a slight smile that she didn’t return.

You convey the comfortless atmosphere of the boarding house so effectively -- it's very vivid in my mind.

The only overnight casualty requiring Watson’s treatment was the overset water glass lolling in a dark pool of soggy rag rug.

Firstly, this is a beautiful piece of description. Secondly, I love the subtle way that it implies that Watson has just awakened from a nightmare (his thrashing has knocked the water glass over) and his groggy thoughts are still trapped in the nightmare mindset (viewing the ordinary world around him in terms of 'casualty' and perhaps even seeing blood rather than water in the 'dark pool' on the rug...)

The Army had cast him adrift in the same way that his parents had done when he was thirteen. Their bright, smiling son, full of laughter, had turned overnight into the awkwardly quiet boy, clever enough to win the scholarship, but painfully lacking the social ease of those who brayed and crowed around him. At least school had been a finite torture. His current situation held no such promise.

What a breath-taking glimpse of backstory for Watson! I don't believe I've ever read a version of his family history quite like this, but it rings instantly true to me and it opens up such amazing potential. I really want to hear more about his past.

“Have mine, Captain.” A once fine, now battered umbrella was being passed to the front of the crowd. He frowned at a half-familiar voice

This introduction of Stamford was very deftly slotted into the action, and it's a wonderful twist on their traditional canon roles. I've never seen Stamford re-imagined as a policeman, but it makes perfect sense for him in this time period - he would have seen action in the war in Europe in a way that he never would have done in the smaller Afghan war of the original stories. His interactions with Watson were perfect, so supportive and full of respect.

A soft, deep voice, conscious of its own musicality

Such a marvelous description, this instantly brings Cumberbatch's inimitable vocal performance into my mind as I read, and it also delicately hints at Watson's immediate attraction to Holmes. Lovely!

"A modicum of deduction with a pinch of observation, in addition to the fact that my work room overlooks that particular junction and the uproar entirely distracted me from my work."

"Do you do this with everyone you meet, or is it just wheeled out when you are looking to impress a visitor?"


Ha ha! I love to see snark at first sight! They're perfect together, aren't they?

Holmes realised that he had been staring at Watson in his shirtsleeves

Like Holmes, I find it delicious to dwell on these small revelations and to appreciate the eroticism that could linger even in so small a gesture as removing one's jacket. Seeing Watson's appearance reflecting a casual intimacy is arresting to Holmes, and that's delightful.

"This is all very kind of you, and I deeply appreciate your generous act, but where are my clothes?"

I appreciate Watson's courteous but determined pride throughout his interactions at the Sigerson Institute. His resistance to Holmes's overzealous generosity is very true to his character.

“In that case, please call me John.”

This is a beautiful note to end on, and it reminds me of that moment in "The Abominable Bride" where John and Sherlock's Victorian selves begin to call each other by their first names.

Also, I have been remiss to go this long without saying anything about Mrs. Hudson's role in all this! I really enjoy what you've done in making her the not-quite-human power driving this remarkable family, embracing these children as her sons and guiding them through the centuries.

As you can tell, I found so much in your story to fascinate and delight me! Thank you for this lovely gift.

Date: 2017-06-28 08:01 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] fridaythegowerstreetcat
My goodness. Rachelindeed. What a lovely commentary. I’m so glad you liked the story!
The concept of a woman making a pact with Death to protect her surviving sons dropped into my head from nowhere one day and simply wouldn’t leave. I do want to extend this universe at some point, but time and tide are against me at the moment, so it will have to wait while more urgent projects grab my time.
I have a deep love of museums, and was originally trying to set it at the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge but it wouldn't settle, and so I chose the Wallace Collection, which just happens to be very close to Baker Street. It’s a fab place in real life if you ever get the chance to visit.
The other characters just dropped into place after that, although I didn’t realise Stamford was a policeman until he made himself known. I just pictured David Nellist in a period uniform, and I was off! And whilst Mrs Hudson needs the housekeeping role as cover, she is *so* much more than that in this universe, as in any other. It was fun having her tell the boys off at the graveside, despite their apparent maturity.
Watson really wrote himself in this. He might not have reached the point of casual desperation that Moffatt and Gatiss implied in ASiP, but that is only because I couldn’t bear to leave him to suffer in that dreadful boarding house. Our beloved doctor has always seemed to be a character on the outskirts of the English class system, so to make him a scholarship boy just fitted with the ongoing head canon. I set it at this particular time because I may or may not have developed a bit of a thing for this time in British history just because it was such a period of flux.
And then we come to the Holmes brothers. Both of them have loved and lost, choosing on the whole now to keep themselves apart, for fear of discovery and the memory of past pain. But there are always those who can get under their skin and remind them why such risks are worth it. I have always thought this from watching the performances of Gatiss and Cumberbatch, across the series.
Finally I must add an apology for the proofing errors which litter this piece. I was right up against the deadline due to work, only to face PC and internet issues at the very end, which was why I didn’t put it up onto AO3 at the time. I hope it didn’t impinge too much.

Date: 2017-06-29 04:08 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] rachelindeed
Thank you, Friday, I so enjoyed hearing the thoughts behind your story decisions! Your love of museums and history delights me (my training is in history as well) and your headcanons are wonderful. I would love to visit the Wallace Collection someday, I will keep that idea in my pocket and someday maybe I will be able to stand in the midst of this story in a more than purely imaginative sense! And please don't worry about the proofing, I know what it's like to be swamped right up to a deadline and in any case your elegant writing style easily shone through. Thanks again for this gift, it's full of so many of my favorite things.

Date: 2017-06-19 04:39 pm (UTC)
scfrankles: knight on horseback with lance lowered (Default)
From: [personal profile] scfrankles
This is such an engaging new world you’ve created—I was so drawn in. I must in particular echo the applause for those boarding house rules, and for your inspired version of Stamford and the way your John Watson is introduced to Sherlock Holmes. That first meeting in canon is so familiar but you’ve managed to come up with something entirely fresh and original.

You’ve included so many wonderful details. I especially loved The Patron Saint of Fraternal Disapproval—it sums up Sherlock and Mycroft's relationship perfectly and in such an amusing way.

Date: 2017-06-28 08:09 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] fridaythegowerstreetcat
Thank you so much! It’s always fun to find new ways to get these two together, and once I had a firm grasp of the early 20th Century syntax again, I was off.
I do love the character of John Watson with all of my heart. As Martin Freeman once said, he would be the most remarkable man in any room without a Sherlock(or a Mycroft) in it. I may toss him in the mire of angst and gloom on occasion, but there is always someone (or something) to pull him out again. Usually Sherlock Holmes in some guise.

Date: 2017-06-21 12:45 am (UTC)
pipmer1: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pipmer1
I love all of your worldbuilding here and how you incorporated bits from canon into your story. And how certain things are so subtly referenced w/o spelling things out, and yet they are completely understood. Thank you so much.

Date: 2017-06-21 05:23 am (UTC)
starfishstar: (Default)
From: [personal profile] starfishstar
What a fun AU world this is! I could have happily read on much longer about these otherworldly, near-immortal Holmes and delightfully (so wonderful!) magical-yet-practical-minded Mrs Hudson and this John who's the only non-magical one among the bunch, yet utterly up to the task of keeping pace with them. Excellent world-building!

Date: 2017-06-28 08:13 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] fridaythegowerstreetcat
Thank you! I do intend to do some more in this universe, once my WiP pile is suitably depleted and I have got a major piece of non-transformative writing off on its merry way, so it may be some time.

Date: 2017-06-27 12:55 am (UTC)
write_out: (Default)
From: [personal profile] write_out
I so enjoyed this! I especially love your take on Stamford and the twist to Sherlock and John's first meeting. Such great world-building- thanks for sharing this!

Date: 2017-06-28 08:16 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] fridaythegowerstreetcat
Thank you very much - it was entirely my pleasure . I really enjoy world building, mostly because I get to make the rules myself!

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