Disclaimer: I'm pretty sure I own this version of Stamford - and any other character you don't recognize.
Author's Note: This is not precisely a response to KCS' challenge, because then I'd have to answer all her other challenges, and we all know how well that'd work out. I'm pretty sure the second half could survive on its own, but once I typed the first half, I liked it so much I had to keep it. I apologize for my completely un-Victorian writing. I also apologize to any Stamford fans.
Stamford was fairly pleased to see a familiar (if unbelievably tanned) face at the Criterion Bar. The last he'd heard, Watson had been shipped off to India. He looked rather worse for wear – the man used to play rugby, for goodness' sakes, and now he resembled nothing so much as a maple broom-handle – but at least he had come out alive. Watson seemed positively ecstatic to see him, and, reacting to his acquaintance's enthusiasm, Stamford agreed that they should lunch at Holborn. As they rode the hansom there, Watson told him horrible tales of the warfront. Stamford couldn't help but feel sympathy for the man, but when they arrived at Holborn, he began to recall certain unpleasant memories of his own.
It was true that Henry Stamford had never been any great friend of Watson's. Oh, he considered the fellow likeable enough. He remembered well their days at Bart's. Watson had been extremely talented at doctoring, not to mention amiable, tolerant, and chivalrous – an all-around good man, with few vices and fewer enemies. Everyone who knew Watson soon became fond of him – especially, as it turned out, Stamford's fiancée.
Stamford had matured since that time. Adult reasoning told him that he had been too young to know what made a good wife, that he should have chosen a less silly, flighty girl to marry, and that he was probably better off single if she were willing to break off the engagement for any handsome face. Another part of him, a smaller, but louder part, the part that everyone is ashamed of now and again, declared that Watson had stolen Catherine from him. He had even had the nerve to look surprised when she began flirting with him. How dare he! Bitter resentment reared its ugly head and battled the pity for Watson.
He dragged his focus back to the present, where Watson was admitting that he was looking for affordable lodgings. "That's a strange thing," Stamford commented absently. "You are the second man to-day that has used that expression to me." A moment later, his mind caught up with his mouth, and certain things clicked into place.
"And who was the first?" Watson inquired.
"A fellow who is working at the chemical laboratory up at the hospital," Stamford said as an idea took form. "He was bemoaning himself this morning because he could not get someone to go halves with him in some nice rooms which he had found, and which were too much for his purse."
"By Jove!" Watson said. "If he really wants someone to share the rooms and the expense, I am the very man for him. I should prefer having a partner to being alone."
Stamford paused, debating. The more he warned Watson away, the more likely the man would be to get involved in the matter. Besides, warning him would be the gentlemanly thing to do. "You don't know Sherlock Holmes yet; perhaps you would not care for him as a constant companion."
"Why, what is there against him?"
"Oh, I didn't say there was anything against him. He is a little queer in his ideas – an enthusiast in some branches of science. As far as I know he is a decent fellow enough." He was the most civilized lunatic Stamford had ever met, in any case.
"A medical student, I suppose?"
"No – I have no idea what he intends to go in for. I believe he is well up in anatomy, and he is a first-class chemist; but, as far as I know, he has never taken out any systematic medical classes. His studies are very desultory and eccentric, but he has amasses a lot of out-of-the-way knowledge which would astonish his professors."
Watson's eyes were positively gleaming with interest. "Did you never ask him what he was going in for?" he asked.
"No; he is not an easy man to draw out, though he can be communicative enough when the fancy seizes him."
"I should like to meet him," Watson said decisively, and it was all Stamford could do to keep from grinning. He offered to introduce the two of them after lunch, and Watson agreed. Stamford was careful to respond to Watson's interrogation with exactly the sort of guarded, evasive tone that would pique Watson's indefatigable curiosity.
Stamford convinced himself that he was practically doing Watson a service. After all, the man did need lodgings. Stamford was just helping an old acquaintance. In the meantime, Watson would be stuck with the laboratory's terror until he could afford his own place. I definitely wouldn't be Stamford's fault when Sherlock Holmes drove the Doctor insane, even if the scoundrel did deserve it.
-Four Years Later-
Simpson's bustled with activity at this time of day. Though it was a very popular restaurant, it decidedly was not Stamford's favorite. However, it was Penelope's favorite, and that was what mattered. He smiled fondly at her as she told him about the best dishes to get. He found her pensive expression as she scanned the menu adorable. He opened his mouth to say something romantic – though he was still trying to figure out what – when someone bellowed, interrupting half the people in the restaurant.
Stamford turned to look and paled. Watson, whom he hadn't seen since the introduction with Mr. Holmes, was bearing down on him with incredible speed. Even worse, he had regained his rugby build.
Stamford had thought about his little scheme from a few years back, and had decided that his revenge had been rather uncalled-for. Unfortunately, by the time he'd realized this, it had been too late for any apologies. Stamford had vowed to get over his grudge against the poor man and move on.
Now it seemed that he ought to have sought Watson out and apologized, because it didn't look like he was going to get any time to do so at this point.
Watson raised his hands slightly as he rushed toward Stamford, and the latter tried to get his hands up to block any blows. However, Watson was too quick. He grasped Stamford's right hand… and began to wring it enthusiastically.
Stamford stared. He didn't try to make any sudden moves, just in case.
"Stamford!" Watson cried. "It's good to see you!"
"It's nice to see you, too," Stamford said faintly.
"And who is this lovely young lady?" Watson asked gallantly. Penelope smiled shyly.
"This is Penelope Larson, my fiancée." He said the last word a bit too loudly.
"Charmed," said Watson, half-bowing. Penelope's smile widened.
"How have you been doing? Where are you staying?" Now that he was certain his life wasn't in danger, Stamford was determined to take the lead in this conversation.
"I've never been better! I'm still at Baker Street, of course…."
Stamford's ears swore they had heard the statement, but his brain was struggling. Still at Baker Street? Perhaps Watson had gotten a practice and Holmes had moved out? No, there was the madman himself, striding across the restaurant to catch up with Watson. Judging by his raised eyebrow, he hadn't missed a bit of Stamford's reaction.
"What of you, Stamford?" Watson asked.
"Life's mostly been the same," Stamford replied.
Sherlock Holmes interrupted. "We must get down to the Yard, Watson," he said, voice laced with impatience.
"Just a moment, Holmes," Watson said, a little reproachfully. Holmes sighed, but nodded. "We have to thank you, Stamford."
"Thank me?" he repeated, bemused.
"Don't you read The Strand, man?" Holmes asked edgily.
"No. Should I?"
Watson grinned. "Holmes is the only private consulting detective in the world; he helps the Yard and other detectives with their difficult cases and such. I write up his cases for The Strand." Holmes' mouth was twisted into a slight frown. He seemed to be on the verge of correcting his associate, but remained silent. "You have no idea how grateful we are to you for arranging that we should share a flat."
Stamford gaped. He saw the ruins of his revenge scheme, still smoking, before his eyes. Holmes had learned to get along with another human being? Watson could stand him? They actually enjoyed each other's company? Watson might have gone barmy, he thought, but at least he seemed happy about it. Surely all this broke some sort of law of physics.
While Stamford was still stunned, Holmes stepped forward, gripped his unresisting hand, and shook it, once. "Thank you," he said, as expressively as Stamford had ever heard him speak. Then he was back to the cold machine he remembered. "We must be off, Watson."
"Good-bye, Stamford!" Watson shook his hand one last time, said his good-byes to a beaming Penelope, and then took his place beside Holmes as they left. Well, Stamford amended, perhaps Holmes wasn't quite the same cold machine.
"What charming gentlemen!" Penelope exclaimed. "You really should introduce me to more of your friends, Henry."
Stamford groaned and buried his face in the menu.