Author's note: Doyle's back, I couldn't help it. He got a taste of adventure in "Sherlock Holmes, at Your Service" and wanted more. Just for fun. So relax, and enjoy.
Silence fell as the four men burst into the room; I quickly pulled myself together and was up and across the room in a few seconds.
"Welcome, gentlemen!" I greeted them with a smile. "But I thought you weren't going to be able to make it."
Doctor Watson managed to give me a grin that was half amused and half remonstrating. Sherlock Holmes, on the other hand, eyed the gathering in the sitting room critically while the two inspectors slipped into neutral expressions.
It was the doctor who spoke first. "Sorry for the inconvenience, Doyle." He apologized. "We don't want to intrude."
"Nonsense!" I replied quickly; I hadn't missed the cut on the back of Holmes' hand, or the black eye that was rapidly making itself apparent on Lestrade's face. "You're just in time; we were going to play a game!"
"Excellent." Holmes replied. I led the four over to my guests and began introducing them to five of my fellow authors and their wives, although, obviously, not as themselves.
They were received cordially, but of course Mrs. Johnson had to comment on Holmes' hand. He looked down at it, as if he had forgotten. "Oh yes," he said easily, "about that deuced cat of yours, Doyle..." He trailed off, and garnered a laugh at my cat's expense.
I glared at him to let him know that I did not appreciate him blaming my poor cat for his misfortune, but Mrs. Johnson was appeased and went on to worry over Lestrade's eye.
Lestrade went to studying his feet as Holmes leaned forward. "Take it easy on the poor chap, he's going to be avoiding his wife for the next few-"
"I am not avoiding my wife." Lestrade cut him off, his face red. It did the trick, though. Everyone was convinced. At least, everyone who didn't know better.
Watson cleared his throat as he tried to get a look at Holmes' hand, and I again recovered myself. "Have a seat, gentlemen." I urged, and had to stifle my amusement as the doctor and detective predictably banded together to possess the couch and the Inspectors retreated to the armchairs.
Mrs. Phillips politely reminded us of the game we were about to play, and I stifled a groan. The ladies had gotten into a habit, recently, of picking at the works of me and my fellow authors. As a result, their favorite game happened to involve making up stories based on one of our sets of characters, and of course, it just so happened to be my turn this week.
Mr. Phillips, Percy, brightened and promptly asked who was going to be Holmes. Seeing the confused look from my four unexpected guests, I quickly explained, and felt myself going red as I did so.
"It's great fun!" Mrs. Johnson informed Holmes. "In fact, why don't you be Sherlock Holmes?" The man stared at her, but was too late in protesting as she turned and informed the doctor that he could be Watson.
Holmes shot his friend a look as she turned on the Inspectors, and my jaw dropped as she promptly labeled Lestrade and Gregson as Lestrade and Gregson, respectively. "They just fit the part, don't they?" She announced, pleased with herself.
The Inspectors exchanged a wary glance as Gregson spoke up, "Actually, since we've never done this before, I think we'd much prefer to watch."
Percy spoke up. "Well, we could do one, of course, and then let them have a turn." He suggested. I managed to hold back another groan as my guests agreed to this and Percy became the new Sherlock Holmes.
I was horrified as the whole fiasco continued, Watson's face grew continually redder, the Inspectors' continually blanker, and Holmes merely stared in fascination and horror.
I watched Holmes grow thoughtful as Percy portrayed 'Holmes in one of his moods,' caught both Inspectors flinching at his pronunciation that Samuel Johnson and Matthew Pitkins, the 'Inspectors' were "bumbling, ninny-hammered, incompetent fools,' and watched Watson bite back his own groan as the case was solved and Crites' 'Watson' proclaimed outright amazement and astonishment at Holmes' every deduction. All in all, it was an agonizing experience, and not just for the four being imitated. I wondered if it were possible to die of mortification.
It was not until the game was finished that the four lost control, and I suppose, now that I think about it, it was a wonder they lasted that long.
Watson was the first; a snicker escaped him despite his best efforts. This elicited a sharp bark of laughter from Holmes, which subsequently brought the Inspectors into fits of laughter that nearly had them falling out of their chairs. Presently the whole group was in an uproar.
When finally they had settled down, it was to realize they were getting icy looks from my guests. "Forgive us." Watson said merrily, upon catching his breath. "That was most entertaining, and we have rarely seen Doyle's characters acted out so thoroughly."
I was not sure that was a complement, but my guests seemed appeased. "Well," Mrs. Phillips finally said, "it's your turn. Go on."
The four hesitated for about a second, then proceeded to act. I didn't know if they were simply reenacting some recent case or not, but the portrayals were magnificent, not entirely expected given that they were supposed to be imitating themselves, and the case itself even more so. I, along with my guests, sat entranced, as these men hashed out a story of death, danger, and intrigue. I made a note to ask Watson about their 'play' later.
"So you think he will find us, then?" Watson, staring out the window asked, worried. Holmes nodded.
"I would not be surprised if he were at the door this very moment." Holmes replied, coming to stand beside the doctor. "Inspectors!" He turned to the two men who were standing across the room.
"Yes, Mr. Holmes?" Lestrade replied.
"Slip out the back, if you would be so kind, and see if you can nab our murderer before he bursts in upon us and these fine people." Holmes ordered. The Inspectors nodded, and I was slightly surprised as they disappeared.
Then I realized that this was not merely a game. This was a real case, and the reason they were here, of all places. Holmes had really sent those men out to apprehend a murderer.
The detective and his friend waited, saying nothing, and still their audience sat entranced.
At once a shot rang out, and my guests started. When the door burst open and Gregson popped in to announce they had him and were taking him down to the Yard, the audience gasped in delight at the gleam in his eyes. They rushed to the window as he left, straining to see.
Holmes smiled apologetically. "We really must be going, Doyle." He said. "As - ahem – entertaining as this has been…"
"Goodbye, old chap." Watson finished up eloquently. "Sorry to drop in on you with no warning, and then be off just as quickly."
"Anytime." I replied, though sometimes I wished they would leave me out of their adventures. I was supposed to publish their cases, not be in them.
They left without further ado, with my guests quiet and thoughtful.
"Strange friends of yours, Doyle, they were." Said Percy finally.
"Natural actors, though." His wife added.
I simply shook my head and turned to peer out the window.
Disclaimer: Sherlock Holmes does not belong to me.