Hello all! I finally realized that it's been too long since I've posted a multichapter for this fandom and this is an idea that I've had knocking about in my head for a long time. Hope that you enjoy!
Dr. John Watson pushed his glasses farther up his nose and looked out at the university students and professors that gathered before him. The students all sat in neat rows, pencils primed over paper in order to take precise notes, staring expectantly into space. Professors lined the room in straight backed chairs; indeed, they all had the appearance of royalty overseeing their kingdom.
Watson cleared his throat softly, dropping his gaze to look over his papers. He had always hated academic lectures as a young student; how in the world is a person supposed to scribble notes as fast as the teacher can talk?
And now he had been asked to give a lecture to these young students. How far he'd come in so few years…
He was sitting next to a number of medical professionals, all lined up like meat on a butcher's rack. Their chairs rested on a low dais; a speaker's podium was the only barrier between the grown men and the students. A clock chimed from elsewhere in the building and one of the professors stood and made his way to the platform.
Watson only listened distantly to the speech until a few words reached his ear and he stiffened: "Dr. John Watson, renowned medical man and biographer of Mr. Sherlock Holmes, the private detective." Applause exploded as he rose to his feet and found himself walking to the podium.
"Thank you, professor," he cordially intoned, turning to face the students. "Good afternoon." There was a dull murmur of greeting as the scholars shifted impatiently in their seats. "On Monday the 28th of August, 1854, a Mrs. Sarah Lewis initiated one of the deadliest outbreaks of cholera in recent memory."
Watson's voice echoed throughout the gigantic hall, seeming to bounce off the walls and seep through the windowpanes to resonate in the garden outside.
"Within a single day, the death toll rose to more than seventy people; with people dying left and right, the disease seemed to be unstoppable. Until one man, determined to root out the source, set out on a mission that would change medical history forever. His name was Dr. John Snow."
Watson ran his fingers through his straggly, blond hair as he removed his hat and coat, thankful that the wretched lecture was over. He was standing in the entryway of his previous residence in Baker Street.
The only light in the small corridor came from the room on his immediate right. The flickering light of the fire danced on the wood paneling, reflecting in the water that he had inadvertently dripped on the rug.
A soft rain had begun to fall during his walk from the university and it had only gotten worse by the time he arrived at his destination.
This was the first time that he had returned to his old flat since his marriage. And until this moment, however, he hadn't realized how much he missed the place. Shaking the water from his coat, he hung it carefully on the hook and stretched slightly, looking over the familiar aspects of the old flat.
The burn marks on the walls that had been caused by wayward methodical experiments. Scribbled notes of a more or less scientific nature that lined the floor and were otherwise pinned up on the walls. He smiled to himself. Baker Street had not changed.
"Good evening, Watson," came the familiar voice from the other room. "I must say that I wasn't expecting you this evening. To what do I owe this pleasure?"
"Holmes," He greeted, making his way into the sitting room. Holmes was sitting comfortably in his favorite arm chair, wrapped in his usual dressing gown and lighting his beloved pipe. "Nothing in particular, I suppose. I just wanted a chat before I went home to Mary."
Holmes motioned for Watson to take a seat in the chair opposite him. "I trust that your lecture went well, my dear Watson." He remarked, sticking his pipe between his teeth and offering his customary wry smile.
"Yes, very well." said Watson, settling himself in what used to be his preferred armchair and glancing around the familiar room. The absence of his bookshelves filled with medical encyclopedias and his familiar desk in the corner made the room feel strangely empty. He wondered briefly if Holmes had realized this fact as well. "You read about it in the paper, then?"
"Certainly I did, Watson. But, as you mention it, you would not be wearing your good shoes for nil. And I would wager that were I to venture out into the hall I would find your good hat and coat."
"You would be correct." Watson chuckled to himself.
"What, pray tell, was the subject of your lecture?"
"Why, did you not observe it in the paper?"
"Of course I did." He said sardonically. "But 'London and its Medical History' is a rather broad topic and I would wager a guess that your particular talk was much more developed and simple."
"The history of cholera in London, actually," said Watson, pulling notes from his trouser pocket and handing them over to his friend for examination. "But the medical history of London was the subject for a large group of medical men who were speaking today. The students seemed to enjoy it if nothing else."
"As well they should," chuckled Holmes, thumbing through the stack with an expression of mild interest. He held up one piece of paper to the light of the gas lamp. Squinting slightly, I realized that it was a diary page that I had obtained specifically for this lecture. For a moment, he looked intrigued. Then he replaced the paper in the stack and glanced up at his friend. "I must say, Watson, that this looks absolutely fascinating. Would you permit me to keep these notes for a few days?"
"Why, certainly, Holmes."
"Could I possibly persuade you to stay for supper tonight, Watson? It gets rather lonely eating on my own."
"Mary is expecting me home, I'm afraid. Perhaps you would come down for tea tomorrow? I know that she would love to see you."
"Please tell Mrs. Watson that I will arrive in a timely manner tomorrow evening and look forward to her company." He said, eyes sparkling slightly with contained amusement.
"I certainly will, Holmes."
The rain continued steadily throughout the afternoon, sending sheets of wet and cold onto the unprotected homeless of London. Thunder rumbled worryingly in the distance, telling the young man striding across the cobblestones that the weather was likely to only get worse.
He was a short man; the fact that he was little more than skin and bones made his stature all the more noticeable. His face appeared pale in what little light punctuated the street and his eyes had the half-starved, hollow look that told you he hadn't eaten a decent meal in weeks. And yet, a brilliant smile was on his face and he whistled a merry tune from between his teeth. His name was Oliver Kensington.
Oliver Kensington hadn't always been a beggar; in fact, he really wasn't a beggar to begin with. He was the son of a wealthy lord who resided a number of miles outside of London. Oliver had lived with his family until a few months ago when he'd had a disagreement with his father.
Although he'd never admit it, the disagreement had been over a woman. Elizabeth had been the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen and he loved her with every fiber of his being. However, love had evidently blinded him: she had only 'loved' him because of his wealth. Of course, he didn't discover this until after his father, who had seen through Elizabeth's lies, had stopped his allowance.
Admittedly, he'd asked for the money to stop; it had seemed like a good idea at the time. How was he supposed to have known that the girl wasn't really serious and that she would drop him as soon as she found out he was no longer a millionaire?
He was fully aware that the majority of London's population would feel sorry for him, though he wasn't entirely sure why.
This was because, despite it all, Oliver found his new life to be quite satisfactory. The life of a beggar wasn't as bad as some people thought. He could get at least one meal a day, two or three if he was lucky, almost for free, then he could spend the rest of his time doing whatever his heart desired. It was worth sleeping in alleys and under old crates, at least to him. And wasn't that all that mattered?
"Of all the trades that's goin', I say beggin' is the best. For when a man is tired he can sit down and rest, he can beg for his dinner he has nothin' else to do -" Oliver broke off his song when he noticed a young woman emptying a bucket into the sewer. "Good mornin', mistress!" he called out with a huge grin on his baby cheeks. "Fine day, ain't it? Could I trouble you for a glass of water?"
She jumped at the sound of his voice, whirling around to find the source. "Who are you?" Her face seemed to have a permanent sneer painted on the slim features and her jet black hair curled rebelliously around her heart shaped face.
"Oh…well…they call me Johnny." Oliver chuckled quietly to himself. He had found that it was best not to use his real name; people tended to ask ridiculous questions when they found out that he had a title and he wasn't particularly in the mood to answer.
The woman's green eyes seemed to penetrate his skin as she frowned at him, shaking her mane of hair out of her eyes. "I've not seen you around 'ere before."
"Just passing through," he shrugged, now eyeing the bucket. "What's that you've got there?"
She hastily hid the bucket behind her back. "Nothing. Mind your own business, you… vagabond." Then she brandished the bucket in front of him, displaying the fact that the contents were absent from the interior.
"Vagabond?" he feigned incredulity. "Me, good mistress? Me? I beg to differ -"
"I don't care what you say." She glared and shook her head disapprovingly.
"All right, miss, all right. But what about my water?" There was something about this woman that he distinctly didn't like. Perhaps it was the way that she scorned him. But that wasn't likely. Many people scorned him because he was a beggar. This woman was…different, somehow.
Frowning irritably, she held up her right hand and pointed to a pump that stood a few feet away. "I said for you to get! There's a pump down there if you're that desperate"
All right, miss. I'm going." He held his hands up in a gesture of surrender and backed away from her. With one last hateful glance, she hurried up the steps into her house and slammed the door.
"Some people," he muttered, jamming his hands in his trouser pockets and making his way down the road. "You'd think she'd never seen a homeless man before."
Shaking his head in annoyance, he strode over to the pump in question. It was an old, rusty thing with a great deal of corrosion marring the spout. But what was surprising about the device was that the handle was shiny and appeared brand spanking new.
Yet, this simple fact did little to arouse the any curiosity as he began to work the pump, maneuvering his lips to take in as much water as possible. When he had drunk his fill, he wiped his mouth with the back of his sleeve and straightened up, stretching contentedly.
"Best water this side of the Thames, if I do say so myself." He said with conviction, smacking his lips pleasurably.
With water that good, he could allow himself to forget the rudeness of the young woman. He could also get used to this. Maybe even stay around here a wee bit longer than he had originally intended. Why not?
I do realize that this was a bit of a slow start but worry not! Next up we'll see Mary Watson make an appearance and our dear Holmes will get a case to sink his teeth into! Please review!