Enough Lives Had Been Ruined
Summary: In December of 1888, a body was fished out of the Thames and identified as belonging to M. J. Druitt, Ripper suspect. Which leaves Will wondering whose body it was and who put it there in the first place. (Mention of past slash relationship.)
Author's Note: Okay, there I was, channeling my inner crazed fangirl intellect-groupie (okay, so I might have been online roleplaying as Will) when something occurred to me. If Druitt is still alive in the 21st century, whose body did they fish out of the Thames in December of 1888 and subsequent identify as belonging to Druitt? Which made me realize that a man who can vanish into thin air at will doesn't really need to fake his own death. Yet, obviously, someone did for some reason.
Author's Note: So Watson/Druitt isn't canon. I watched "Revelations" and saw serious subtext. I've read Sherlock Holmes and he confessed with his own mouth to never being romantically in love with a woman. And Scotland Yard always suspected that the historical Montague John Druitt was a homosexual. So this fic presupposes that everything in my fic "No Love Without Forgiveness" actually went down, but you don't have to read that one to understand this one since Magnus has to spell things out pretty clearly for Will. (And, since she does have to explain these things to him, that means this fic has no continuity with "Meeting of the Minds".)
Enough Lives Had Been Ruined
"Oh, good, you're still awake," Will said, leaning into her office. "Look, I know it's late, but do you have a minute?"
"For you, always." She nodded and gestured for him to come in. "Have a seat, Will. Can I offer you a drink?"
He shook his head, looking troubled. Sighing, she climbed to her feet and closed the office door, sitting next to him instead of across the desk from him.
"What's wrong, Will?" she asked gently.
She frowned. "What about him? He seems to be doing quite well. Is something wrong that he hasn't shared with me?"
He shook his head. "No, no. His therapy's going really well. I just… there's something about him I need to understand and he's honestly not being very forthcoming about it."
"That isn't like John at all," she answered. "He promised to make every effort to aid in his own treatment. I'll talk to him in the morning and, in the meantime, I'll be happy to help you in any way I can."
"The body they fished out of the Thames near Chiswick, the one that they identified as being Druitt's? I can't work out how it ties into the other killings. He didn't have to fake his death, not given his ability to vanish into thin air, and killing a man in no way matches his Signature, especially given the lack of knife-play…" He shook his head. "It's the one piece of the puzzle I can't make fit and, honestly, that's driving me kind of nuts."
"Have you asked him about it?"
"Yeah, which is the other thing that confuses me. He's never even attempted to deny any of his other crimes. In fact, he's gone out of his way to tell me about crimes I never asked him about if he thinks it might be important."
She sighed. "He says he wasn't involved?"
"Yeah." He nodded.
"Then perhaps he wasn't," she suggested.
Will shook his head. "It's too coincidental. The victim they fished out of the Thames looked too much like Druitt, less than two months after the last canonical murder. He's holding back for some reason and, until I can figure out why, his treatment's going to stall out."
She sighed, recognizing the look on his face. He was ready to dig in and not let go. Which she normally adored about him. Just not at times like this.
"Will, I'm going to tell you something in confidence, but it simply cannot be allowed to leave this room. Do you understand?"
He nodded readily and Magnus was inclined to trust his assurances. It was not just that Will was a remarkably honest young man. In the past almost-year, he had proven time and again that there was nothing he would not do for her. So, if he told her he would keep her secret now, he meant it. Sighing, she took both of his hands in hers, earning herself a surprised look from the young psychiatrist.
"You'll think less of me, perhaps, but if it must be this way for you to help John, then so be it. But he must never know." She closed her eyes, drawing a deep breath and admitting, "James and I put that body in the river."
Her words were met with silence and, when she opened her eyes, Will was sitting there looking as stunned as if she had admitted to committing the Ripper murders herself.
"It took us two months to find a suitable body," she continued quietly because, now that he knew, he needed to understand as well. "We knew there would be no more murders, so we faked John's death."
He considered this, looking like a man about to be ill. She wondered whether he thought she had killed the man or not. Not that it mattered. The truth was she had considered doing so if it became necessary.
"And Druitt doesn't know?" he asked.
She shook her head. "And he can't find out, for various reasons most of which are quite personal. Please, Will?"
"You told me this in confidence and it doesn't touch on his treatment. I can't tell him without your consent."
"Thank you," she whispered. "Can I offer you that drink again?"
"Please." He gave a shaky nod.
She over-filled two brandy snifters and carried them back, handing one to Will before taking her seat again. She watched him trying to absorb what she had just told him, wondering how to make him see. Wondering how much she should share with him in trying to make him understand.
Any other man, she would have told to mind his own bloody business because she never did anything without good reason, but this was Will. Her absolutely honest answers to his questions had been his sole condition for agreeing to work for her.
She sighed, taking a bigger sip of her brandy than was strictly advisable. When her throat had stopped burning, she tried to explain.
"We knew there would be no more murders and it's not as if any prison built then could have held John. We did it as much for the safety of the police as anything. He would never have allowed himself to be taken alive. Someone would have died."
He watched her thoughtfully for a moment before speaking. "That statement contradicts itself on a couple of different levels. But, let's start at the beginning. You knew there would be no more killings?"
She sighed and nodded. "John had agreed to teleport to somewhere remote when he felt the rage start to come on him, somewhere where the only person he could hurt was himself."
"He told you this? While he was still insane?"
"He told James and, mad or not, he would never have lied to James."
"He strung Watson along that whole year, Magnus," Will pointed out.
"That is both complicated and between the two of them. We had no reason to doubt John's sincerity. The Ripper murders stopped after he made that promise to James and they never resumed. That's all you need to know."
"Fair enough," Will sighed, looking dissatisfied but still dropping the subject. "No more murders. How's that translate into faking his death? He could have just vanished. You didn't need a body to keep him safe."
"We weren't the only ones touched by those murders. Enough lives had been ruined. Faking John's death eased a lot of pain and fear and uncertainty for a lot of different people. John's family, for a start. And the families of the victims needed closure. The police needed to know that there would be no more killings. The residents of Whitechapel needed to stop having to live in fear for their lives and the lives of their wives and daughters. And James…" She hesitated, but only for a moment. Neither James nor John had ever been ashamed. There was nothing to be ashamed of, especially not when the truth might help mend Will's perception of her. "His reputation was ruined when he told the Yard about John."
"Because he'd been discussing the case with him?"
"Among other things," she sighed, swallowing more brandy.
"Among other things?" he repeated, frowning thoughtfully. His eyes widened abruptly. "Scotland Yard thought Montague Druitt was a homosexual, didn't they?"
"They did." She nodded.
Will considered this. "Was he?"
"You're the man's therapist, Will. You tell me."
"I suppose it's possible he's bisexual," he answered. "Ashley's existence kind of rules out true homosexuality."
"John did love me, but he's never had a true appreciation for the female body. I was his only female lover and a number of accommodations were necessary to allow John to be that comfortable with me."
Will's response was typical in its lack of judgmental thinking. "He must have really loved you to go against his natural orientation in order to be with you."
"He called me his salvation," she admitted with a sad smile. "He wanted to be with me forever."
Will nodded slowly, expression still thoughtful. "Would it then be safe to assume that, in spite of his love for you, he and Watson had a more-than-platonic relationship?"
"Still connecting the dots almost as quickly as James, aren't you?" she asked, smiling faintly.
"That must have been very difficult for you, your fiancé and your best friend."
"Not remotely. It was a different era, Will; different moralities applied. The arrangement was comfortable and, most importantly, safe. Openly homosexual men at that time had a nasty habit of turning up beaten to death in dark alleyways. Yet no one thinks twice about two college chums spending their evenings together even if one is, by his own admission, quite passionate about the Classics."
"And you were okay with that?"
"It was my suggestion, Will."
She smiled as she watched the poor boy try to process that. Accepting or not, he had been raised in a time and place where polyamory was most decidedly not considered normal, let alone healthy.
Finally, he gave himself a little shake and asked, "But, if such a relationship had come to light at a time when practicing homosexuals could be expected to be thrown into prison, a special consultant to Scotland Yard would find himself in a pretty precarious position?" he prompted.
"James was sacked and the threat of prosecution held over his head." She sighed, coiling anger still hot in the pit of her stomach more than a hundred years after the fact. That bastard Abberline! "It was made clear that John's death was the condition for James' continued freedom."
"Jesus," Will breathed, shaking his head. "That's insane! Was it because he let Druitt play him or because…"
"The latter," she affirmed, nodding. "When the true nature of his relationship with John came to light, some were more than adequately disgusted to believe James complicit in the killings and Fredrick encouraged this. After all, he had already admitted to one perversion and done so without anything resembling shame."
"You faked Druitt's death to keep Watson out of jail?"
"James could have lived with the loss of respect but, in that era, the odds of a known homosexual surviving any length of time in prison were slim. He would have been abused with impunity by guards and prisoners alike. His only crime was loving John. We shared that in common. He punished himself every day for not seeing the truth about him. I couldn't let him suffer any more than he already had, than he already had to. So I asked Father to put out the word that I needed a body that looked like John's."
"So it was your idea, not Watson's?"
She nodded readily. "James would have been only too happy to serve prison time. He felt exceedingly guilty, not just for failing the victims but for failing John. He wanted no part of my plan."
"But you said he helped you."
"I told him the papers were hounding me, that with John 'dead' I might eventually have a chance at leading a normal life again."
Will frowned. "You lied to him?"
"It was what he needed to hear. Father found an appropriate body, James and I dressed it in John's favorite suit and filled the pockets with John's last paycheck and heavy stones so it wouldn't surface immediately. It was December so there was no hope of the body decaying at all. We… battered the face with large rocks instead, and fish and bloating took care of the rest." She sighed. "Corpse desecration. Not my proudest moment, Will, but I'd do it again."
"Understandable under the circumstances."
"John must never discover any of this," she sighed, finishing her drink. She put the empty glass on her desk, then changed her mind, getting up for a refill.
Will had not touched his drink during her recitation but, by the time she returned to her seat with her own full glass, his was empty.
"More?" she offered.
"No, thanks." He shook his head. "That was too much as it is. You should probably slow down, too."
"Yes," she admitted with a sigh. Which didn't stop her from taking a small sip. "John must never know," she told him again. "I need you to promise me that, Will."
"Okay, but I really don't think he'd think less of you. You were protecting Watson, after all."
"It's not what I did but why I did it that I don't want John finding out about. He's taking James' death quite badly."
"I noticed," Will agreed quietly, nodding and lightly touching her arm. "So are you, Helen."
Using her Christian name? He was worried about her. She could not bear sympathy at present, so she steered the subject away from her own feelings.
"John doesn't know what James suffered because of their relationship. He doesn't know that James lost his job or that he was threatened with prison. He certainly doesn't know how much worse the drug use got after that. Nor does he need to, Will. He feels guilty enough simply for breaking the man's heart. Now that James is dead, the truth could only be a burden."
"You really think it's fair to keep something that huge from him under the circumstances?"
"I don't care whether it's fair or not," she informed him firmly. "Enough people were hurt by the Ripper murders, John not least of them having to live with those memories. I won't inflict any more pain on him now that he has a chance at a half-way normal life."
"Okay," he agreed, nodding. "I obviously won't mention any of this to Druitt. But if you ever need to talk about it. Or about anything else…"
"I know, Will." She smiled at him, resting a hand on his wrist. "And thank you."
He gave her a weak smile in return. "You holding up okay? It's been a crazy time."
"Exceedingly crazy," she agreed. "I was actually thinking about trying to get some sleep tonight."
"Probably couldn't hurt. Do you need a sleeping-pill?"
"I keep a bottle in my room."
"Okay." He nodded. "It's getting late. If you plan on taking one, you should probably do it soon or plan on sleeping late."
"Soon," she agreed, reluctant as always to actually commit herself to the idea of lying down in a dark room alone. "Would you mind walking me to my room. I pass John's and, tonight…"
"I understand," he answered, climbing to his feet. "Do you need company?"
She gave a grateful smile and shook her head. "Only nepenthe, Will. But thank you."
"It's okay," he assured her, following her from the office.
They walked to her room in silence and stood at her door for several minutes in silence.
Finally, Will murmured, "I know you have me on your speed-dial. If you need anything, the hour doesn't matter."
She smiled and inclined her head. "Thank you, Will. Good night."
"Night. Call me if you need to. Post-Traumatic Stress related insomnia is something I can relate to, so the hour honestly doesn't matter."
Trust the young man to warm her heart completely, just when it was needed.
"Thank you, Will," she repeated, smiling at him. She leaned forward and kissed his cheek swiftly. "Good night."
"Night, Magnus." He gave her a reassuring smile, gave her arm a quick squeeze, then turned and wandered off.
She watched him go, sighing and shaking her head. Will was a prince among men. Prying or not, she had done well in choosing him. She had always been lucky in her choice of friends and her dear William Perry Zimmerman was no exception.
Smiling to herself, she slid into her darkened room, sure that a few hours of honest sleep would help her face the following day and all of the battles that it would bring. Because, her dear Watson gone or not, she did still have allies.
She was not alone.