Hey kids, I'm Bixby! Long-time Sherlockian, first-time fanfiction writer. I mean, I've been writing for a long time, but I've never done anything like this. I was browsing through this excellent section of FFNet, and didn't find any stories of this particular genre, so I thought I'd give it a shot. Hope you like it!
Sherlock Holmes belongs to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but I'll just borrow him for a while.
The Light of Pure Reason
Prologue, or The Best and the Wisest Man
Anyone would agree that the Strand was a busy thoroughfare. Since time immemorial, it had been one of London's hubs for the performing arts. It was the location of the Savoy Theatre, the Globe Theatre — not to be confused with Shakespeare's Globe — and the nearby Lyceum Theatre. It also had quite the literary history, as well; it had been a favorite gathering place of such writers as John Stuart Mills, Charles Dickens, and William Makepeace Thackeray, to name a few. And, of course, it boasted one of the most popular restaurants in London. Known far and wide for its roast beef, Simpson's-in-the-Strand could always be depended upon to be full on a Saturday night, even in the middle of winter.
One man in particular on that Saturday night, however, was in no mood for crowds.
He emerged from a hansom in front of the famous restaurant, retrieving his Gladstone bag and handing a few coins to the driver. His movements were slow and uncertain, like a man in a dream. As the two-wheeler clattered away, he stood for a long moment, staring up at the entrance, a haunted look in his faded blue eyes. Finally he sighed to himself, straightened his tie, smoothed his brown mustache, and approached the doors.
The warm, cheerful atmosphere and the sound of easy conversation which welcomed him very nearly made the man turn around and hail the next cab home to Kensington. Unfortunately, this meeting had been his own idea. But it mattered little, for the head waiter recognized him immediately and escorted him straight to his usual corner table. The other chair was already occupied, as it was accustomed to be.
But this person currently seated in it was not its usual occupant; nothing at all like him, the man thought as he rose to shake his hand. Though not entirely different from me, he observed, taking his seat across from him. He was of a stocky build, like himself, and similarly mustachioed, though his companion's was fastidiously waxed into points. Their backgrounds, he knew, were also similar, at least medically speaking. At the moment, he could not have cared less.
"You are looking well, Dr. Watson," the other man said in a Scottish brogue, clearly in an attempt at cordiality.
John Watson tried to conceal a skeptical expression. He was certain he did not, in fact, look well. "And you likewise, Dr. Doyle," he replied with a smile that felt half-hearted even to him.
"I took the liberty of ordering us both a brandy and water," said Doyle. "One must do something to stave off this miserable winter chill."
Watson nodded absently, unable to focus on the other man's words. It was almost as if they did not matter. Nothing seemed to matter anymore.
As the waiter brought their drinks, Doyle leaned back in his chair, languidly lighting a cigar. "I was overjoyed to hear from you again, Doctor," he said confidentially. "I must admit, I was worried that our correspondence had ended with..." He cleared his throat awkwardly. "Forgive me. It must still be a difficult thing to speak of."
"There is nothing to forgive, Doyle," Watson answered, staring into his glass. "God knows I have been asked about it enough these two years."
"Nevertheless, I feel compelled to express my condolences." Doyle leaned forward and spoke quietly. "I was also deeply grieved to hear of the passing of your wife, my dear fellow."
As Watson offered his thanks, he could only concentrate on his companion's last three words. There was only one man who had ever addressed him in such a way, and his clear, precise voice echoed unbidden in Watson's mind.
"My dear fellow, you have been invaluable to me in this as in many other cases..."
He brought himself back with an effort to the issue at hand. Those days were gone, he told himself, not for the first time; there was no sense in dwelling regretfully over them. It was better certainly to move on... if such a thing were possible.
At any rate, this meeting was not for social reasons, so Watson swiftly moved on to business. "As you know, Doyle," he began, "recent documents have been published which cast a very different and inaccurate light upon the fate of my friend and his arch-nemesis."
Doyle set his glass on the white tablecloth. "I assume you are referring to the letters which Colonel Moriarty has had printed in the Times."
"Rest assured, Watson, that I don't believe a word of that rubbish," he hastened to add. "Others may be blinded by the Colonel's righteous indignation and, alas, I know some who have been, but not I." He shook his head in disgust. "The entire thing is utterly absurd. Imagine, the very idea that Sherlock Holmes, of all people, had been mad!"
There it was. As always, Watson unconsciously stiffened as the name was spoken. It seemed as though nothing would lessen the sense of emptiness in him. So much grief in so short a time, he mused numbly. His wife and his dearest friend, taken from him in under two years. But the loss in itself was not the only source of his pain; it was the concealment that had cut him to the quick.
Holmes had known he was going to die. He was fully prepared for it. His own illustrious life had been a trifle compared to his ultimate goal — a small price to pay for ridding society of the malignant criminal genius of Professor Moriarty. The detective had even dropped hints of his impending demise, but Watson had failed to recognize them for what they were. For that he blamed himself. But the letter from Meiringen, the hoax that had pulled Watson from his friend's side at that crucial moment — for that he blamed Holmes.
Of course, Holmes had not been the orchestrator of that plot to draw the doctor away; it was now obvious it had been Moriarty's doing. But Holmes had allowed Watson to fall for it. He had known quite well that there was no Englishwoman dying of consumption, waiting for Watson at the hotel. And he had let him leave. The one time Watson had let his friend out of his sight on that ill-fated trip, and he had lost him forever.
If he had not been so wracked with grief and self-recrimination, Watson might have noticed that his wife had been quietly slipping from him. But Mary, never thinking of herself, did not dare upset her husband by showing any hint of her illness, knowing he already mourned over the death of his friend — the friend who had brought them together in the first place. When Mary was gone, there was nothing Watson could do but mourn her as well, ashamed of his own feeling that he'd been betrayed by the two people he cared for the most in the world.
John Watson, forever left in the dark.
And now the letters. Those abominable letters with their outrageous allegations, defending the poor, maligned professor and exposing the obsessed detective's madness. The letters which now threatened to destroy the reputation of the most honourable man Watson had ever known. Any shred of resentment he had ever felt toward his friend was now buried under his duty to defend his memory. There was no choice but to set the record straight.
It was for this purpose that Watson had arranged this meeting.
"I had fully intended," he told Doyle, "to end my memoirs with the Adventure of the Naval Treaty. Being the last of Holmes' successful cases in which I shared, it seemed only fitting." The tremor in his voice was almost undetectable. "These blasted letters, however, have forced my pen. I alone know what truly happened. Therefore I have written my own, true account of the events of that black day, as well as those leading up to it. I give it to you, Doyle, to do what you will with it."
He reached into his Gladstone bag beside his chair and, pulling out a slender notebook, he dropped it unceremoniously onto the table before his companion.
Doyle took it uncertainly in his hands. "You wish me to publish it, then?" he asked, leafing through it with obvious curiosity.
"I personally wish I had never been impelled to write it," Watson replied frankly. "But now that the deed is done, I think the public should know the truth." He smiled, unaware of how cheerless it looked. "If not for their sakes, then for Holmes'."
"Say no more, my dear fellow. It shall be so." Doyle took the notebook and stowed it carefully inside his own briefcase. "I must know, Doctor," he resumed, taking another sip of brandy, "now that your... memoirs have drawn to a close, have you any thoughts of turning to fiction? I've no doubt that any future works would be very well-received."
Watson stared across the table at the man sitting in Holmes' chair, drinking his brandy, calling him "my dear fellow". It was wrong. All of it was wrong.
He shook his head with a bitter smile. "I'm no writer, Doyle. I never claimed to be anything but an old army surgeon, who occasionally gave Holmes what he magnanimously called 'assistance'. From the very beginning, the only purpose of my fanciful scribblings was to put forth to the public, in my own inadequate way, the amazing intellectual talents and the noble heart of the man who was my greatest friend."
Taking up his drink, he tossed it back in a single swallow and slammed it on the table. "With Holmes gone, there is no longer any reason to continue."
I love Watson. Let's get that out of the way right now. I don't just love Watson, I adore him. And the fact that he had to live for three years thinking Holmes was dead... that just breaks my heart. So there's a little insight into the mind of the author. The first real chapter should be up soon, but in the meantime, let me know what you think of the prologue. Cheers!