NOTE: This is the second part of Chapter 20. Please make sure you read the other part first.
"So, how did you know all that? Just from how her appearance?" John was looking a bit bewildered and amused from Sherlock's description of his Windsor Castle visit.
Shrugging, Sherlock took another sip of his tea. "Well, she has been out of the public eye since Prince Albert died seven years ago. She has gained a lot of weight, and judging by her pallor, she has hardly been outside much during that time. The newspapers are full of her outings with John Brown, but going for a short ride once a day is hardly enough."
John nudged him with his shoulder. "Well, she has been in deep mourning. Give her a break."
Rolling his eyes, Sherlock didn't seem moved by the observation. "A year, maybe two, seems reasonable to me. Beyond that is just indulgent. Her actions are affecting the country. Affecting her children."
"How did you tell her all that about the Prince Consort? He wasn't there to read." John agreed with Sherlock's statements about the Queen's mourning.
Finishing his tea, Sherlock put his cup on the table and leaned back. "No, but I met him during my Grand Tour. He was visiting his brother, Ernest, in Cobourg."
John's eyes went wide. "You met him?"
Chuckling at the response, Sherlock was tempted to steal a kiss from the older man. "Aristocracy is a little club, very incestuous. During that year of travelling around Europe, I met princes, barons and earls every night. Bored, wanker gits, most of them. Usually drunk and talking loudly about things they hardly understood."
"Didn't you find anyone interesting during your travels?" John asked, exasperated.
"Actually, I did like Ernest and Albert. They were quite well educated, and appreciated art and music." Sherlock thought back on the conversations he had with them. "Albert was showing signs of illness back then even. He was pale, and looked malnourished. At meals, he stayed away from meat and rich foods, only taking the plainest potatoes and soup. He shunned wine and beer, which is almost unheard-of for Germans."
John gave a considering glance. "So, you think his illness was going on for quite a while, with the symptoms he was showing? That is surprising. He would have had access to the best medical care, the best food."
"He didn't have the best. He didn't have you." Sherlock wrapped his arm around John's shoulders, hugging him close.
Leaning into the embrace, John kissed along his jaw in a way that made Sherlock shiver in response. This man was irresistible. "Well, there are a lot of bad doctors out there, who still believe in leeches, blood letting and cupping. Those would hardly be effective against a chronic digestion condition. I wonder what it was? A tapeworm or another parasite?" He shook his head, considering the possibilities. "No, those wouldn't affect his appetite like that. But he could have had some other condition that wasn't properly treated for a long time, resulting in malnutrition and further weakness."
Sherlock looked down at the doctor, seeing his frustration at not having enough information to diagnose the long dead royal. "Would that be enough to eventually kill him? Or did it weaken him so that the typhoid fever overtook him when he was exposed to it later?"
John scrunched his lips to one side, thinking. "I have read about intestinal conditions where there are obstruction or perforation, that if not treated, would result in sepsis and death. But it's also possible he was weakened, making a secondary infection affect him more strongly than it normally would in a healthy forty year old man."
It made sense. "I hope in time she can come to peace with it all. They had a great love, and he was taken from her at far too young an age." Sherlock looked down at the man beside him, trying to imagine how he would feel if John was taken from him so suddenly. From all accounts, Alfred had been a true partner to the Queen in every way.
Lifting a hand, John laid it along his cheek, leaning in for a kiss. "I'm sure you gave her a lot to think about, and hopefully some peace in time."
He couldn't help but let a grin escape. "She asked me to come back next week."
"She wants to see you again?" John crawled over him, pushing him against the back of the sofa. "Do I need to remind you that you are taken?" His kiss was long and thorough.
Sherlock's hands kept John where he was. "Yes, please remind me again." Kisses, more kisses, please. John's kisses were the best he had ever experienced, and he tipped up his face for more.
It was a long time later when John pulled back, his look fond. "The poor woman will be just as bamboozled as Mrs. Hudson, Greg and Sally were by your session with them."
Chuckling, Sherlock shifted on the sofa to lie along the length, his head in John's lap, almost purring when the doctor combed his fingers through his hair. "I don't know what you are talking about."
John scoffed. "Are you saying it's pure coincidence that Mrs. Hudson is training Vanessa in her duties?"
The two women had grown close during Mrs. Hudson's recovery from her fever. Lately, she had been showing Vanessa around the house, explaining the various roles of the staff.
"Or that the teasing between Sally and Greg has shifted to being far more flirty in the recent weeks?" John added, giving Sherlock's hair a playful yank.
Smirking, Sherlock admitted to nothing. It had been easy to plant the ideas into their heads during the practice session two months ago, and had been fun to see the way Sally and Greg snuck lingering, wondering glances at each other when they thought the other wasn't looking. Within a few weeks, they were taking turns around the garden together and sitting close to each other at meals.
"And apparently I'm just as suggestible as they are. I moved in here to be closer to you, and took in a doctor who returned from army service, training him on the newest techniques and letting him get clients." John shrugged, with a self-depreciating grin.
Sherlock pulled at his shoulders, wanting him closer. "Having Dr. Phillips at your practice is great. It gives you more time to be here with me." He was able to steal a few quick kisses before John pulled back. "Besides, I doubt the Queen is as biddable as you lot. She is used to people trying to manipulate her, trying to get her to do what they want."
His main impression of the woman was that she was intelligent and strong willed. She was a little lost now, but beneath the black mourning dress was a woman who had been an advocate for her people.
"I think the difference with you is that you don't want personal gain from her. You have power and money. You have no interest in being in politics yourself." John said, calmly.
Sherlock considered it. "Parliament is a game of power between the top 25% of the men of the nation, who care about nothing for anything beyond their power base or pocketbook. Most of them are just rich gits who haven't matured much since their days in boarding school." And Mycroft ran with that crowd, catering to whoever was in power.
John shook his head at the thought. "All I truly want is for her to remember the things she and Albert did before. The Great Exhibition. The museums and arts that he brought to the people. Advocating for the less fortunate. Maybe using her influence for better conditions for her subjects."
"Well, there have been seven different prime ministers since she became Queen in 1837. None have held power more than six years in a row. She is much more stable than those fickle governments." The more he thought about it, the bigger his grin got.
John's eyes were on his smile, his look admiring. "Hmmmm…what is going on in that big brain of yours to make you smile like that?"
Happiness bubbled through Sherlock, and he jumped off the sofa, bringing John up with him to swirl around in a circle, a bastardized version of the waltz.
"Steady on…" John gasped, laughing as they almost lost their balance. He was smiling up at Sherlock, his eyes curious.
"Don't you see, John? This is so perfect!" Sherlock chuckled, stopping and putting his hands on John's shoulders. "I could become one of the Queen's advisors, if I do this right. She is a relatively healthy woman, and I doubt she will release the throne to Bertie. So, she will be a powerful figure for the foreseeable future."
John nodded, caught up in Sherlock's excitement.
"But you know what is the best part? Mycroft is a monarchist…my whole family is, really. It will kill him to know I have influence in a sphere he has never had access to." Sherlock's mind was whirling with the possibilities.
Chuckling, John put the pieces together. "He will eventually hear that the Queen is consulting with the medium, William Scott. And he knows that is you! Will he dare to reveal your identity?"
Sherlock tapped a long finger against his lips. "I can get a few friends of the house to lean on him about that. He is far too political an animal to risk upsetting men of that stature. I am protected."
Snuggling with John, his mind was running through the possibilities. Here was a great game, playing his knowledge of the aristocracy against itself. He had great respect for the Queen, and could give her inside information and insight to help her.
Opening his eyes, he blinked up at the rumpled doctor leaning over him.
Reaching out fast, his big hands yanked on John's shoulders, tilting him enough to lose his balance and fall onto the bed. Sherlock rolled him onto his back, and gave him a long kiss. "Hello."
John looked a bit winded from the tumble and the kiss, his blue eyes sparkling. "Do you know what today is?"
Squinting at the ceiling, Sherlock sighed. "Monday, the 19th."
"Yes, but that's not what I meant." John rolled Sherlock over onto his back, straddling his hips and looking down at him with a very pleased grin. "It's two months."
Sherlock's green gaze locked with John's dark blue. He had lost track of the time. "You mean…"
John's hands came down on either side of his head, and he lowered his face down to be right over Sherlock's. "The game was officially done as of…," he glanced to the alarm clock on the bedside table, "...fourteen minutes ago."
"And that means…" Sherlock teased, just wanting to hear John say it. Make it real.
"It means," John said slowly, shifting his legs one at a time to be between Sherlock's, "that we won." He lowered onto him, pressing his body into Sherlock's, as his lips caught his in a heated kiss.
Like all the other times they had kissed, it heated up quickly but this time they weren't pulling back. Sherlock groaned when John's incredible mouth travelled down his neck, and his hands were unbuttoning his pajama top, skimming quickly from button to button. Was this all a dream? Had John really come to his bed at fourteen minutes past midnight to seduce him?
Questions and deeper thoughts fled his mind as their clothes came off. He had always wondered if John was truly ready for the reality of sex with another man, but it only took a few minutes to be completely convinced. Another few minutes had him gasping out John's name, his moans almost constant.
"So, when you say we 'won' the game, what exactly do you mean?" Sherlock asked, feeling relaxed and probably only a few minutes away from falling asleep.
He had been dreading the last two weeks of their game, but it had gone surprisingly smoothly. John had slept in the bedroom next to Sherlock's, and just being able to share more time together was a great support.
The rest of the time, he was wonderfully occupied with thinking about his next session with the Queen. He was in contact with many people, gleaning useful information, putting it all together. He still went out to the other medium sessions Claire scheduled, but he found the work around the important weekly one almost completely satisfying on its own. It was a feast for his mind, a challenge he was perfectly suited for.
John snuggled closer, kissing his bare shoulder. "How about eating together most meals, working in the lab, going off to work, and sleeping in the same bed?"
Looking at the sleepy man in his arms, Sherlock felt a sense of wonder. This man had challenged him to rethink his comfortable existence, and now he was embarking in an exciting direction he had never considered before. One he had never dreamed it to be possible.
He knew he gave the same back to John, challenged him to do more. He had helped a housemaid get work she loved in a morgue, and was helping an army doctor brush up his medical skills and establish a private practice. Lately, he had even mentioned taking on a new medical graduate each year, one who was like John and needed a chance to build up his savings and client base.
John was everything he never realized he was missing in his life. A partner to share everything with. A lover. A best friend. Someone who challenged him to do his best. Someone who loved his home and his created family as much as he did. Someone who knew the darkest deepest secrets of his past and still kissed him like he was a treasure. Someone who loved him fully, completely.
"Together, happily ever after…" Sherlock said softly, not wanting to disturb the sleeping man. Not wanting to disturb his love.
-Disclaimer: I own nothing.
-A/N: Sorry for the long wait for this final chapter. It was a challenge to get it where I wanted it, and I hope this is a satisfying ending to my long romp around Victorian England for you. I have enjoyed writing this and delving deeper into the research than I originally intended, but you all seemed to like it as much as I did. Thanks for reading & commenting. Your feedback is very appreciated! It's a bit of a sappy ending, but I'm a sap.
-Queen Victoria: When she was born in 1819, she was fifth in line to the throne and not considered much of a contender. Her English father died when she was only one, leaving her to be raised by her German mother, her Irish advisor Lord Conroy, and her German governess, Baroness Lehzen. Her mother and Conroy raised her very strictly, isolating her from others, to make her more dependent on them. She slept in the same bed as her mother and was not even allowed to go down the stairs without holding an adult's hand. By the time she was eleven, she was the Heir Presumptive, as the king's brothers had died with no heirs. Her mother and Conroy tried to pressure her to agree to extended regency, with her mother in power, if the King died before Victoria was 18. She resisted, and came into power a month after she turned 18, distancing herself from them as much as possible.
She married German Prince Albert of Saxe-Colburg and Gotha three years later. Their marriage was very loving and passionate, and they had nine healthy children. He died December 14, 1861, and she went into deep mourning, withdrawing from public life and wearing black dresses the rest of her life. She passed away in 1901, with over 63 years on the throne, the longest of any monarch until Queen Elizabeth II (who has now passed 65 years).
-Prince Albert: One of his most significant achievements was the Great Exhibition of 1851, organized with Henry Cole. It was the first world's fair of manufactured products. To house it all, they built the massive Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, and the exhibition drew six million visitors during the five months it ran. Profits from the highly successful venture were used to found the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum in the area nearby, nicknamed 'Albertopolis'. The remaining surplus was used to set up an educational trust to provide grants and scholarships for industrial research, which continue today. After his death, Queen Victoria used some of the funds to built Royal Albert Hall, a concert hall that is one of the UK's most treasured and distinctive buildings, still holding over 390 events a year.
-Lady Ely was a Lady of the Bedchamber and one of Queen Victoria's most trusted attendants, from 1851 to 1889. She had a nervous disposition, and this fed into her constant illnesses. She was a loyal and devoted servant to the Queen.
-John Brown: He was an outdoor servant (gillie) at their Scottish castle, Balmoral from the 1850s. As a widow, he became a close friend of hers, often encouraging her to go riding and get out of the castle. There were rumours of a romantic relationship, and some even called her 'Mrs. Brown'. There is an excellent movie of this name starring Judi Dench as the Queen and Billy Connolly about this period of her life.
-The meeting was held in the White Drawing Room of Windsor Castle, in the Royal Apartments area. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert dined there when they didn't have dinner guests. The Blue Room was adjoining, the bedroom Prince Albert died in. When in Windsor Castle after that, she used the Oak Room instead for dining instead of the White Drawing Room.
-German Food: Sauerbraten translates to 'sour' or 'pickled' and 'roast meat', as the beef (or other meat) is marinated in vinegar and seasonings for several days to tenderize tough cuts of meat before it is cooked. It is regarded as one of the national dishes of Germany. Grünkohl is kale that is boiled, chopped up, and cooked with lard, onions and seasonings until very soft. Salzkartoffel are potatoes that are peeled, boiled, and lightly seasoned.
-Prince Albert Illness and Death: He was seriously ill for a few years before he died, with some kind of chronic stomach aliment. In 1861, Victoria's mother died in March, and he took over her duties while she dealt with her grief. In the summer, they visited their oldest son, Bertie, in Ireland where he was doing army service. There was a scandal of the young prince getting sexually involved with an Irish actress around that time. The scandal was spreading in the fall, and itdistressed Victoria and Albert. Even though he was still ill, he visited Bertie at his university to convince him to stop the affair. Three weeks later, Albert was gravely ill and diagnosed with typhoid fever and died. Modern writers have questioned the diagnosis, suspecting the chronic disease may have been Crohn's disease, renal failure or abdominal cancer.
-For the sake of this story, I am going with the Crohn's disease theory. For the timeline, Sherlock was on his Grand Tour of Europe in 1860, and met Prince Albert and his brother Ernest, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in Germany. There are reports of Albert being there at this time, as he had an incident of his carriage team bolting and having to jump for his life to avoid a collision. Prince Albert was said to have stomach issues as early as August 1859, so it is feasible that he was eating lighter foods he could tolerate better than alcohol and rich meat dishes.
-Victorian Politics: It was a time of declining power in the monarchy, and republicanism was fed by her mourning and withdrawn from public life. A constitutional monarchy gradually emerged, with voting reforms increasing the power of the House of Commons and decreasing the power of the House of Lords and the Queen. She wrote political letters extensively, and had close links with powerful families all over Europe. She was considered 'the grandmother of Europe', as many of her children and grandchildren married into the royal houses of the other countries.