Chapter Notes: Well here we are at the end. I choose to end it with the two men who helped me start it. Watson and Lestrade having a chat, I think John is in a better place than he was in that first chat though. What can I say about the energy and magic that these two produce?
I was able to write this rather quickly because I had written two of the scenes last year having already composed them in my mind. I guess that is cheating but oh well LOL!
If you are still with me here at the end, thanks for reading! I hope the journey has been worth while for you as it has been for me.
Without further adue...
Doctor John Watson, Police Surgeon: Scotland Yard 5
One Last War
I often contemplated that ring on my finger. I have had reason to use it since, and it has shielded me from reprisals involving some very powerful members of the upper class, making me proof for any leviathan. When the time came I passed it on to my handpicked successor to Collins. Superintendant Stanley Hopkins has been everything I could have hoped and he manages to keep this old relic around longer than most would have. I've outlasted Bradstreet, who had heart trouble and retired last year, Gregson left for a higher position North, Jones took a bullet in the line and was never the same, lost him this past winter. The new generation looks upon me with something akin to awe, not sure where they get that from but it has been at times useful. I will stay in this office as long as I am able, there will come a day when I can no longer make the stairs but I can still get up and down.
As for Watson and I...
Lestrade sat with his back to the door on barstool at the Rusty Anchor. The bartender, a mournful hound dog faced man with smiling gray-green eyes refilled his beer without being prompted.
Lestrade reckoned his black mood was as obvious as a foghorn on the Thames in the dead hours of morning. The place was full of Yarders but no one approached him. His fellow inspectors were elsewhere. He overheard the topic of discussion, why not; it was a deuce of a story!
Holmes is alive. He thought incredulously. Bully for Holmes, his mind replied bitterly.
He was happy the most singular mind he had ever encountered was back as a crime-fighting asset, but he felt the inevitable passing of a friend.
How can I compete with Holmes? He is educated, well spoken, refined and genteel. Oh and he actually enjoys that damned caterwauling opera noise!
He had come to rely on Doctor John Watson in the past months. His unerring ability to empathize with the dead, his knowledge of medical miscellanea, his gentle pawky humour in even the worse situations, his silent bedrock determination that could be both a source of strength and his most infuriating trait.
Lestrade's mind rolled back to that first moment in the graveyard near the poor man's dearly departed wife how his eyes had sparked, a fierce inner flintlock. "Why now Lestrade, why have you not come to me before? Why are you coming to me now when I have so little left?"
As it so happened, John Watson had a lot left. He had become a cornerstone to the Yards efforts in its most perplexing investigations. He had given insight to human nature, found the clue that broke the case, and had been an amenable companion.
Lestrade was also there when it ended.
When he and Watson recieved the greetings of Sherlock Holmes who had just whipped off his disguise, back from the dead after three years absence.
If Holmes was expecting Watson to faint like some wilting flower, the crack of an accurate right hook to his jaw showed him he was sadly mistaken.
Lestrade, lifted his mug and growled, "Welcome back to the fellowship of the living, Mister Holmes," then downed his drink.
It seemed that Watson was going to accept Holmes and his apologia readily enough, it was his dearest friend returned to him after all. Lestrade could not help feeling left out, all that was left for him this evening was to get back home, when he told Watson and Holmes that was his destination he did not necessarily lie; he was headed home...eventually.
He realized that he had been silently counting on Holmes being permanently gone, which is why he dared form a relationship with Watson, it would have been pointless otherwise, now he was going to miss the man's presence in his life. Oh, Lestrade had friends, the Yard was family of a sort, but that was more like brothers, Watson was so unique and complicated that Lestrade had anticipated years of association to unravel the puzzle. He finally had something in common with Holmes. Neither of them could get Watson's limits.
He drank the rest of his beer all the way down to the foam.
Suddenly a familiar hat and cane was dropped onto the bar top.
"One Australian, Tremayne, there's a lad."
Lestrade turned and saw Watson settling in, lighting up a cigarette as if nothing untoward had occurred. He was shoving an old battered brass cigarette case back into his coat.
"Unlike a mutual friend of ours, I am not a dead man recently returned, you can stop gaping like a fish tank guppy," Watson remarked as he puffed out his first drag.
"You need to be more specific, when it comes to friends back from the dead, but speaking of Holmes, weren't you supposed to be with him?" Lestrade inquired suspiciously.
Watson's moustache cocked on one end in an infuriating smirk. "This does not look like your home, Lestrade, I should know I have been there enough."
Lestrade held up a finger for another draft. "You knew I was lying, I have a tell remember."
Watson chuckled, slapped him on the back.
They sat in companionable silence.
"So where is Holmes?"
Watson acted surprised by the question. "I've never been dead for three years, but as it so happens a lot of paperwork accumulates. Why the sudden interest in Holmes and his affairs?"
Lestrade shrugged in his most surly manner.
Watson smiled. "Ah I see."
Lestrade rolled his eyes. "Took you long enough."
Watson laughed. "Well to me it is not an issue, so I apologize that I did not recognize it is for you."
"Not an issue?" Lestrade scoffed.
Watson met his eyes. "I can see that this will be a problem for years to come if it is not settled now."
"So, settle it," Lestrade replied turning to his friend. "Where does the Yard fit into your future plans?"
Watson silently studied Lestrade's face. "That is not the question you want me to answer."
Lestrade tried not to flinch, but he knew it was there in his eyes. "No, it is not."
"I thought as much," Watson remarked as he stubbed out his cigarette half smoked. "Have you ever asked why I came along with you to the Yard so easily that first day?"
Lestrade had indeed wondered that exact thing, but he said, "You call that easy?"
Watson raised an eye brow to let him know he saw through the act, and then continued. "Have you suffered bereavement, Lestrade?"
The question took Lestrade aback. "Not on the level that you have absorbed, no."
Watson studied the mug in his hands as he spoke. "There are three reactions you can expect, in my experience. There's the sympathiser who tears up anytime they see you because you are just so pitiful and they hurt so bad on your behalf, the guardian who insists that no one ask anything of you because you are in no shape to rejoin humanity, and the avoider who acts as if death is a plague that you have contracted, so they give you a wide berth. I thought those were the only reactions until you came into that grave yard."
"Oh?" Lestrade prodded, still confused about the subject.
Watson turned and his expression was fond. "You came into that graveyard interrupting my private moment then had the gall to be impertinent, blunt, unsympathetic, and demanding of me. You treated me as if I were acting a fool for letting myself deteriorate and withdraw from life. No one had ever dared talk to me in such a manner, not even when I was healthy and at my best."
Lestrade never realized that he had come across that way. "I am sorry if I..."
"Don't you dare apologize!" Watson snapped.
Lestrade stiffened, not sure where the man was headed next.
Watson placed a hand on Lestrade's shoulder. "You saved my life Giles, if you had not shaken me from my condition, given me a place to be useful once again, introduced me to the lads and to this new career, Holmes would have been visiting me either in the sanatorium or the morgue."
His eyes were steady and he meant every word, Lestrade did not know what to say. Then Watson added, "And if you speak to me that way again, I shall put you in traction."
Lestrade chuckled, "You should feel free to try."
They turned back to their beers, Watson true to his word bought the next round, Lestrade had to know so he asked, "So what is next for you and Holmes?"
Watson shrugged. "I spent three years feeling as if I were going out of my head with grief when my subconscious was telling me he was alive somewhere, it will take months maybe years before I fully trust the man again. I am not moving back into Baker Street tonight. I do not know if that will ever be an option. There are no easy answers for the damage between us but we have agreed to try to reconcile. I gave him one piece of parting advice and we intend to see each other for tea on the morrow."
"What piece of advice?" Lestrade asked curiosity peaked.
Watson winked, then remarked in a sly voice, "The location of a first rate dentist, some bloke knocked an incisor out, he's going to need a crown."
Lestrade had to snigger at that. "Whatever will you write, when you give the account of Holmes return from the dead? That his beloved Boswell nearly knocked his teeth out?"
Watson looked positively appalled. "Of course not, you were there, you saw me faint from the shock of it all until a sip of brandy brought me around!" There was a mischievous glint in his eye when he added, "I got the fainting idea from a good friend of mine."
Lestrade knew what he was referring to, but after a few moments of glaring, as he stared into Watson's smiling face he began to chuckle. Watson joined him and soon they were both laughing uproariously, which drew some eyes even in the crowded bedlam that was the Rusty Anchor on the verge of a weekend.
It is like Clea always said about John Watson, if the man gives you his word you know he'll die before he'd break it. Throughout the years I have never doubted our friendship again, there has never been reason.
Oh sure he and Holmes have always had their secrets, and that language that only the other can decipher, a lexicon of shared looks and inside humour only known to them, but then again, there have been moments when Holmes lamented that Watson was spending too much time with me and the Yard.
Watson never gave up his Police Surgeon credentials and he had reason to use them quite a bit over the years. We solved many more riddles he and I, Holmes did not always need to be involved. Holmes expressed boredom at some of our cases, others took place in times when he was away, Doctor Watson chronicled his time with Holmes, but it was in with the lads and me that he found his new regiment, and when he dies he will be buried a Yarder with full honours. His name is also spoken with reverence in these hallways, for his body of work, those lofty tones are justified.
I look back upon that year in 1894 and I have resisted thanking Holmes for being "dead" mainly because that would be poor form and seem to indicate that I wished it were so, but if he had not left us alone then Watson may have never found the work that he does better than anyone alive, and I would have missed out on the friendship that has made my second half of life more enjoyable than the first.
I know these words will most likely never see the light of day, but I feel I must write them somewhere so that the truth is not lost in the moldy abandoned cellar of time. Maybe in some future moment when the truth of Prince Albert's demise and all who were really involved in the "nameless" is no longer considered too scandalous, then these pages will be released. Until then I will remain that ferret faced incompetent professional of the Yard, and Watson will be the jovial helpful simpleton ever at Holmes side in total awe of his flatmate's intellect. Forgive me while I laugh a moment.
There, that's better.
I am glad I have dredged up these memoires if only to remember how we were and to be thankful to the Almighty that he gave us that moment. I will mention this to my friend at luncheon today; it is after all, his turn to buy.
Giles Pierre Lestrade, Chief Inspector: Scotland Yard
The council sat in silence when the report was completed.
"So what did happen to Colonel Moran and the remains of the "nameless club"?" asked the grave gentleman at the head of the table.
The man giving the report checked his notes. "According to the Diogenes records, Colonel Moran had a public trial, mainly as a warning to any "nameless" collaborators that if any activities were detected they would be brought before the public as well. There were raids conducted using the Sherlock Holmes information in every major country in the Empire, decimating the operation. Those who were prominent were brought before the public eye on charges that meant jail time rather than execution, those who were not, spent the rest of their days in "the colony" that operation is still active today.
"Everyone except Hamish John Watson?"
"He was never recovered, at the request of John Watson himself."
The grave man looked around the table. "Well this issue that has been brought before us is daunting indeed, do we rewrite history, or do we let the present accounts stand?"
A lady who had spoken very little up to that time asked, "Did Watson and Moran ever meet again?"
He checked his notes. "There was an incident around the trial, something about abduction, but Watson made it and testified and that was the last they saw of one another for many years. Then just before Moran died there is an entry of a visit from a Doctor John H. Watson and Sherlock Holmes, who were at that time both retired to Sussex Downs..
His hearing had not been the best in recent years, but there was still enough left to hear the men arguing as they were permitted into the section of the prison/purgatory where he had long been confined.
"While I appreciate you coming with me, old boy, I still insist that I could have done this on my own, Holmes."
"Nonsense, Watson, your health has not been the best , this is bound to be a strain on your system, I am here in a supportive capacity only, to make sure you do not over exert."
"Why would I be bothered by a toothless tiger? The old coward took long enough to die that is truth. He outlived Lestrade at least."
"I know you wish your dear friend could have been here to see this day."
"It would have been a pleasure for him, no doubt."
The prisoner once known as Colonel Moran, the erstwhile leader of the "nameless club" successor to the great Professor Moriarty marshalled all the strength he had left to roll onto his side and struggle to a sitting position. The fluid that had settled in his lungs shifted and he found he was coughing in that death rattle way that left black spots floating across his vision.
When he could finally get it settled enough to see, there were two men in the cell with him, accompanied by a young, clearly bored guard.
They came into focus.
The tall ascetic one had crows feet bracketing his gray eyes, but little else had changed his aristocratic features, save his hair was now a sleek silver. His companion, the man Moran had called for, was thin and weak from some recent illness, leaning heavily on a cane, his moustache still held some of its brown but his hair nearly bleached by time. His face was surprisingly unlined, and his eyes blazed with bright hazel fire of vitality. This man was living on angry resolution, keeping death from his door by sheer stubborn will.
"Well, you asked to see me," he remarked with clipped even tones.
Moran took as deep a breath as his pneumonia riddle lungs would allow, "I have a question to ask, the last request of a dying man."
There was a flicker of something passing in the man's eyes. It might have been compassion, knowing what he knew of Doctor John Watson, Moran was reasonably sure that was what it was.
Mustering up some of the hauteur that was his before the man in front of him brought him low, he wheezed his query. "Those years ago, when you tricked me on the train platform, how did you know my army record was false? I fooled the great Moriarty himself, how did a lowly Police Surgeon cipher it out?" He hated the pleading tone he heard in his voice when he said, "Please, I must know, it haunts me still."
Watson stumbled a bit as he knelt, his companion reached out a steadying hand, but a glare from the Doctor caused him to drop it before it accomplished its task.
Watson made sure he was eye level with Moran.
"How many widows did you create, Moran, how many fatherless children? That boy, Ronald Adair's head nearly exploded by the bullet you fired, his mother and sister found him that way. His mother never recovered, his sister remained a lonely spinster the rest of her days, afraid to go out into society, afraid to love lest a quiet bullet find someone else she valued. Those broken lives are the result of just one death you caused, or ordered, I have no doubts there are hundreds more stories similarly told. Does the cessation of your life erase the penalty of your crimes? Is it supposed to create in me a desire to help you find peace? Is vengeance so cheap?"
He struggled to get to his feet, glaring at his tall companion, until the man gave him a hand up.
"Give Moriarty our warmest regards," Holmes remarked as they headed for the gaol door.
Moran watched them go; he lay back down on his side thwarted yet again. He listened as they proceeded down the hallway, slower now with the heavier tapping of Watson's cane showing the price his kneeling cost him.
Here is my life, so it ends, a dank little room, reduced to just a number. Moran thought wryly. He lay back down gingerly as to not cause another fit, he knew he would most likely drown from the fluid in his lungs, but he would not go whimpering, he was still a gentleman, they could not take that. He listened as his two guests departed.
"So, are you up for a show, Watson? It has been quite some time since we have been in the city."
"Cocktails at Simpsons? Well whatever they're calling it these days."
"You cannot have alcohol, old boy; you know what Doctor Pierce said."
"Doctor Pierce? I was stitching up wounds while that little shaver was still a longing glint in his father's eye."
"Nevertheless, we shall follow his advice."
"You are the most infuriating man alive!"
"Second most, and that will not change anytime soon, if I can help it."
The clanging sound of the door shut and barred cut them off.
One by one they voted around the table.
The man at the head made the count.
"It appears," he announced, "that the motion to keep this information suppressed is carried."
They all began to file out, the lady who had spoken up early made her way to the man who gave the report.
"Is that the only account of Watson's years as a Police Surgeon in the archives?"
His disappointment at the vote washed away as he saw the genuine interest in her eyes. "No, there are many more where that came from, since you have the top clearance, you are welcome to check them out."
"Shall we discuss this over dinner?" she asked, her smile hinting at another possible interest beyond what was stated.
He finished packing and offered his hand. "Of course. My name is Karl Straid by the way."
She accepted his offered hand with her manicured on. "Emma Simms-Watson."
The Holmes fanfiction community for their inspiration.
Shedoc's Observations series which first showed me the connection between Watson and a possible status as a Yarder
Argonite and her wonderful work featuring the world around Sherlock Holmes, she does more with minor characters than anyone I've ever read.
KCS and Agreement and Disputation this was the first reverse angle of Watson I had ever read and I lost an entire weekend to the goings on in the first months of Watson/Holmes. She showed me a new angle and perspective was possible and introduced me to the crew at Watson's Woes.
All the others who I have read and been challenged by! Most of you guys should be published it shows how upside down this world is that you are not!
Arthur Conan Doyle but not for the reasons you think. I'd like to thank him for leaving SO much room for a possible reinterpretation of the hiatus. Thanks Artie!
For the many internet resources that I have called upon for my research, Wikipedia especially pulled my fanny out of the fryer more than once!
For the readers who were willing to read a story without Holmes, were willing to go there with me and believe in the possibility of a Watson without his flatmate being interesting.
For Inspector Lestrade who I never expected, a character that never did what he was told, and made this story about a new duo. In some ways I think this story could be subtitled Chief Inspector Giles Lestrade: Scotland Yard. The fourth instalment especially took me for a ride inside his world and I left it respecting him even more than I thought possible.
For James Watson, the OC I never saw coming, but took over my life...on one hand you say "What a bastard!" but then you smile and shake your head secretly liking him just the same.
Lastly but not the least. For Doctor John Hamish Watson who made this journey worthwhile.
Two old men sitting by a fire.
Holmes had been contemplating his sleeping friend. Watson was quietly snoring, something to which he would never admit. He knew he should leave it alone but he just had to know.
Watson awoke with a explosion of air, "I was not snoring!"
Holmes smiled, "You were but that's not why I woke you."
Watson glared at him. "Well get on with it, and I warn you this had better be brilliant."
"Tell me Watson, how did you detect the fraud when even I thought him an ex-military man? Holmes inquired. "Moran is not the only one who has been haunted by that question over the years.
Watson let out a snort of derision. "You two think it is something complicated, but it is rather simple, really."
"Go, on," Holmes encouraged.
Watson's eyes twinkled in the fire light. "His biography, it said that he was mentioned in the dispatches, the only men who were so honored were those who stayed behind and wrote them, followed a wounded tiger down a drain? A soldier so decorated and venerated has a sense of self preservation, such an act is simply an act of fiction by an overwrought imagination."
"And you being a fiction writer with an overwrought imagination saw the discrepancy, that's remarkable Watson."
Watson smiled in that old lopsided manner when he was being deliberately annoying, "You might say it was elementary, my dear Holmes."
Holmes groaned, causing his friend to laugh softly.
It was not long before the warmth of the fire and the comfort of the companionship caused his friend to drop back off, snoring once again.
Holmes spoke to his slumbering mate. "The reason you knew Moran was a fraud, was because you are the genuine article."
"Goodnight, old boy."
Consider this a love letter for all constant readers:
Thanks to stonegnome for the assist.