For those of you who've "author alerted" me for my Star Trek work - first, thanks! *Waves at you*

Now I'm sure you're entirely confused by what the HECK I'm doing writing Sherlock Holmes fic - but there you are. It's the other sandbox I like to play in, and now I've finally gotten up the nerve to try my hand at writing it as well as just reading it. (BTW - this is Conan Doyle, 1881 Holmes & Watson, not the BBC cute boys, just for clarification. Don't be looking for Benedict & Martin here...)

This little bit of whatever is the beginning of a story I've had in the works for a while, which I'm publishing now just to get my creative juices going again after a long dry spell. Your response will be letting me know whether or not the story is worth continuing - so I do hope you enjoy it!

Another Set of Vices - Prologue

The afternoon I met Dr. John Watson - the selfsame afternoon that the two of us decided rather precipitously to set up housekeeping together at Mrs. Hudson's house on Baker Street - I provided him with quite the laundry list of my own shortcomings. After all, I know myself to be rather an odd fellow, possessed of some habits that might make a fastidious man think twice before choosing to live with me - but I was somewhat surprised (and greatly pleased) to see that Watson seemed not to be the least bit perturbed by the mention of even my most unconventional practices.

(To be fair, I did not mention what were truly my most unconventional preferences and practices to Dr. Watson that afternoon. At that time, those were not, in fact, any of his business, and would not, I believed, have any effect on our ability to live together in comfort and convenience. Eventually, I found myself obliged to tell Watson all about them - but therein hangs a tale.)

Winding up the summary of the most blatantly annoying of my flaws, I turned to Watson with a smile. "What have you to confess now?"

I watched him minutely, awaiting his answer - knowing as I did that what he said was no less important than how he said it. The fact that he was also, despite his obviously ruined health, one of the most beautiful human beings I'd ever had the opportunity to look upon - well, that fact simply made my minute observation that much the easier and more pleasant.

"It's just as well," I continued in what I considered to be a reasonably encouraging tone, "for two fellows to know the worst of one another before they begin to live together."

He laughed at this cross-examination. "I keep a bull pup," he said, "and I object to rows because my nerves are shaken, and I get up at all sorts of ungodly hours, and I am extremely lazy. I have another set of vices when I'm well, but those are the principal ones at present."

Of course, all of what Watson said was completely unobjectionable - as, I was pleased to discover over the first few weeks of our acquaintance, was Watson himself. I had realized at our first meeting that when he said he kept a "bull pup," I did not need to anticipate the addition of a canine flatmate in addition to the human one I would be gaining - after all, neither his health, his current lodgings, nor his obvious financial straits would have permitted Watson to keep a pet of any sort at this juncture. I had not fully decided at the time, however, whether he used the term "bull pup" to refer colloquially to his service revolver, or even more colloquially to a short temper.

Such conjecture turned out to be immaterial, as John Watson did, in fact, possess both.

Needless to say, the good doctor did not go about randomly firing his revolver within our flat - no. It was always I who did that, and he who tolerated it, along with all my other quirks, with considerable aplomb. Watson did, however, have a bull pup of a temper, though it was far more frequently directed at himself and his own perceived weaknesses than at any other object. He was, in fact, the very soul of forbearance to me and to the rather interesting mix of people whom I had trotting in and out of our lodgings in the form of my early clientele - he had no such patience with himself, however.

He had described his shaken nerves, his laziness and his keeping of ungodly hours; though he had spoken of them somewhat dismissively if not with actual distaste, it became clear to me very quickly upon closer daily observation that what he quite sincerely saw his own shortcomings were in fact nothing of the sort - rather than actual character traits, Watson was simply describing the after-effects of his disastrous turn in the service of Queen and country.

I do not believe I flatter myself when I say that another observer would never have picked up this information - Watson, after all, worked most assiduously to hide his own distress - but I had not shared a roof with him for over a week before I realized that this man had doubtless suffered untold horrors in Afghanistan and India. He was still consistently in pain from a Jezail bullet to the shoulder and shrapnel in a thigh, frequently ill with relapses of the enteric fever that had nearly taken his life after he had begun to recover from his wounds, and obviously despairing of regaining any measure of the health and stamina he had enjoyed even a year ago.

John Watson did not want my sympathy, so I never gave it to him. My admiration of his stoicism and bravery, however, were not so easily withheld.

I found, moreover, that I had developed a great curiosity to know more about the nature of Watson's life before Afghanistan had destroyed his health and spirits. The day we met, he had let slip one small, thoughtless phrase that had occasioned no end of idle speculation on my own part.

"I have another set of vices when I'm well," he had said. For reasons that I could not even begin to consider at that time, I found myself desperately curious as to what the devil those other vices might be.

So - are you curious as well? Does this bear continuing? Do let me know!