Disclaimer: The characters of Sherlock are not mine, nor is the story, nor are the characters from the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I make no monetary profit from this.
Note: A modern retelling of The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton, with various elements taken from The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez and The Adventure of the Abbey Grange. And I would like to take this opportunity to say that this is my first time to write fanfiction for television instead of written material I could read and re-read (though I did watch and re-watch), so I hope I got it right.
Summary: To stop a blackmailer, Sherlock Holmes enters unfamiliar territory. But not before practicing on John Watson.
The Seduction of John S. Willoughby
There was milk in the fridge.
John Watson revised the statement in his head. For once, there was a full bottle of milk in the fridge, and he hadn't put it there. And the milk had company. There was also marmalade, a bar of chocolate and some eggs, and other various other edibles. Actual, edible food in the kitchen of 221B Baker Street, put there in all probability by Sherlock Holmes himself. It was nothing short of a miracle. John felt that the heavens should open up, complete with a chorus of singing angels. True, there was still a severed foot on the bottom shelf, but you couldn't have everything.
"Sherlock," he called, passing into the sitting room, "you did the shopping?"
The world's only consulting detective was stretched full-length on the sofa, and was not appreciably doing anything. In fact, from the way one hand was trailing limply on the floor, and the way his eyes were unfocused, he could have been mistaken for a corpse. John was briefly tempted to poke him to see if this was indeed the case.
The fingers of the hand on the floor twitched ever so slightly. "Brilliant deduction, John," he said, his voice slack, his lips barely moving.
"At least you're being productive," muttered John under his breath. "Thanks," he said a little louder.
"I figured it was my turn. And I needed drain cleaner. Molly won't let me have any more sodium hydroxide. Said the lab's on a tight budget, but I suspect she's just being petulant. Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned her shoes."
John sank down onto one of the armchairs in front of the fireplace. "And so you suddenly felt domestic? Or are you just not working on anything?" As he turned to look at his flatmate, something on the table caught his eye. "Sherlock," he said sternly, "is that my mug?"
"Hm, what, of course it is. I made you tea. It should still be acceptably warm, even if you did take that unexpected detour to the bookshop. There were biscuits, too, but I got bored."
John opened his mouth to ask how Sherlock had known about his popping in to look at a book on writing creative nonfiction, but decided it wasn't something he needed to know. It was just one of those things – like random body parts from dead people – that came with the territory of sharing a flat with Sherlock Holmes. He tried again. "Biscuits?"
"They'd still be here if you hadn't paused to read…what was it, the table of contents, or the chapter headings?" He blinked. "Yes, chapter headings, you flicked through the book instead of just looking at one page. They were the buttery kind you like so much."
"Who are you and what have you done with Sherlock Holmes?"
"I can get you buying the groceries, but, really, tea? And biscuits?"
"You don't like it?"
"Well, I – um – appreciate it, Sherlock. Just. Coming from you – it's a little…weird."
"But if it wasn't me, would it be 'weird?' No, never mind, don't answer that. If you don't want the tea, I'll take it." Sherlock sat up, suddenly bright and alert. "And, as a matter of fact, I am working on something. You might be interested since you like blogging so much. Do you know Charles A. Milverton?"
"The gossip columnist? The one with that vicious blog?"
"Has he gotten himself killed or something?"
"What? No, nothing like that. Contrary to popular belief, people don't have to die to get me interested. You lot can only think up so many ways to do each other in for only so many reasons, and it is staggering how very little imagination people can have when it comes to the everyday murder. No, no, Charles Milverton is very much alive, and that actually poses something of a problem to" – he tossed John a newspaper from the coffee table, folded to prominently display the photograph of a young, smiling, very well-dressed woman – "Lady Brackenwell, formerly Mary Fraser, married happily to Sir Edward for three years now. Milverton is trying to blackmail her with some very inappropriate pictures, taken last month, of her with a young man who is not her husband. Says he'll post them on his blog and have them printed in every London tabloid unless paid five million pounds by next Saturday."
"I thought you didn't care who was sleeping with whom."
"I don't. But Milverton challenged me."
"He did what?"
"Lady Brackenwell contacted me over the website. I told her to tell her husband, maybe some of her friends, come clean, apologize, then to tell Milverton to piss off because he had no hold over her anymore, which was what any sensible person should do, and to leave me alone. She followed my advice – though I doubt she was completely honest – and apparently told Milverton that she had me on the case. Milverton emailed back to say that the public wouldn't be as open to her indiscretion as her loved ones, and that I couldn't do a damn thing about it because he was too smart for me." Sherlock practically snarled the last sentence.
John had started on the tea, and it was actually good. Very good. And he almost choked on it at what Sherlock said. He wouldn't be surprised if Charles Milverton didn't stay alive for very much longer.
"He said that, did he?" he said shakily. "And you're going to…"
"Wonderful plan, Sherlock."
"Don't be sarcastic, John, it doesn't suit you. Apparently Milverton got the pictures from an enterprising paparazzo, there is only one copy of the files – so that no-one else can blackmail Lady Brackenwell apparently – and he keeps this in an external hard drive kept under lock and key in his house. I'm going to find it and destroy it."
"And it's going to be just that easy."
"And I'll stop an odious man from ruining people's lives. He has quite the history. Yes, it will be that easy. I have a plan." Sherlock practically smirked in self-satisfaction. "John, would it be too much trouble to ask for a glass of water? I did buy the groceries after all."
John S. Willoughby, personal assistant to Charles A. Milverton, opened the front door in answer to the doorbell.
"Yes?" he said to the man standing on the doorstep.
"Afternoon, sir. Stephen Escott, sir. The plumber." He practically beamed at Willoughby, the very picture of an eager-to-please, middle-class workman. And the smile on his face fell by degrees the longer he looked at John's nonplussed, somewhat annoyed expression. "You did call for a plumber. Right? Didn't you?" The man looked around nervously, as though looking for a way out of the situation.
"No, I'm afraid we didn't."
"This isn't Mr. Alex Coram's then – is it?"
"No, it isn't. You've made a mistake, I'm afraid."
The man…Escott?...bit his lip. "Oh, fuck." He ran a hand through his dark curls, a painfully anxious gesture. "Sorry. Damn. I mean. God, I'm sorry. It's just…I'm new at this job. And new in town. I keep mixing up street names. Sorry." He laughed sheepishly and looked John Willoughby straight in the eyes, and John had to stop himself from gasping out loud. This man's eyes were the most stunning he'd ever seen in a human face. And they were looking at him as though he, Escott, knew the greatest, grandest joke in the world and wanted to share it. With him, John Willoughby. Good Lord.
"Er, would it be too much trouble to ask for a glass of water?" he asked. "Sorry, but it's been so hot, and the A/C in the truck doesn't work. Please?" He smiled winningly – God, and what a smile. John knew that he probably was doing it on purpose, but he couldn't help himself. He also couldn't help noticing that the two top buttons of Escott's cotton-and-polyester shirt were undone, maybe, yes, because of the heat.
"Well. Uh. Sure. Come in." He led the plumber through to the kitchen of Charles Milverton's house, uncomfortably aware of how he seemed to be taking everything in, how his impossible eyes were darting around, taking note of everything. John hoped that he hadn't let a burglar in his boss's house just because, oh, because he was bloody gorgeous and had smiled at him.
"Nice place you have," said Escott as John poured him his water.
"It's not mine. I just work here. For my boss. He mostly works at home, so I work at his house." John laughed. Lame, he thought, helplessly, so lame it didn't even become a proper joke before it died.
"Oh." Escott smiled at him again as he reached for the glass, his fingers – long and slender - just brushing John's as he took it from him. "Thank you."
The plumber leaned against the kitchen sink, and drank. The entire glass. In one long, long draught. John could not fathom how such a commonplace act could be so…suggestive. But it was. Stephen Escott drank with his head tilted back, fully exposing the column of his throat so that John could see how the muscles beneath the skin moved with every swallow. One hand toyed absently with an undone shirt button. A drop of water dribbled from the corner of his mouth, and trailed down his jaw to his neck. And when he was done, he closed his eyes, let out a, a satisfied sound that was almost a moan, and slowly ran his thumb along his exquisitely shaped upper lip to wipe the water off.
John Willoughby had known for quite a long time which way he was oriented, but even if he had been straight, he was preparing to bet that this would have set him batting for the other side in no time at all.
"You're a life-saver." Escott raised the glass with an inquisitive tilt of his head. "Where do you want this?"
"Just in the sink. I'll take care of it."
"All right, then." He put the glass in the sink, upset it, and set it upright again with a little chuckle and a quip about how clumsy he was.
His voice, thought Willoughby, the way his laugh sounds, warm and deep and rich, like…like a cello symphony of melted chocolate . He gave himself a mental shake. He did not know the man, probably would never meet him again, actually. He might not even want to meet him again. In all probability, the man would turn out to be perfectly vile upon further acquaintance. Must not think bad thoughts about the stranger in the kitchen. Must not.
The stranger who he wasn't supposed to be thinking bad thoughts about was saying something. "Sorry? Didn't catch that."
"I said thanks. And that it was nice to meet you, Mister…?"
It took him a while to realize that Escott was asking for his name. "Ah. John Willoughby. Just John."
"It was nice meeting you, just John." The smile. Again. It was unfair that anyone could smile like that. "I'll leave you my card. If you ever need a plumber, call me."
"Right. I'll do that. Thanks."
"Pleasure was all mine. Afternoon." And Steven Escott winked at him as he closed the front door behind him.