A/N - Hello! This fic is dedicated to Catherine Spark as a very belated birthday present. The plot got a little out of hand. To anyone reading any of my other stories, please don't worry, they're getting written too.
Also I have no idea where this story will end up - I have a few vague ideas but hey, let's just see shall we?
This isn't supposed to be part of any particular Batman universe - I decided to just kind of roll with it and create my own, sort of-ish. Yeah.
HUGE MASSIVE ULTRA THANKS TO mrspencil FOR BETAREADING AND BEING AMAZING AND STUFF. The good sentences are probably hers.
Please review to tell me what you think.
Chapter 1 - A Death in the Family
It all began in the midst of an almighty storm. Rain poured down in sheets, and the windows rattled in their frames from the force of the gale outside. I tossed and turned in my bed, attempting in vain to gain a comfortable position in which I might be able to sleep. My shoulder and leg were throbbing dully and I had learnt over the past couple of years that both were unlikely to let up until the storm had also passed.
Giving in to the fact that I would not be sleeping tonight, I pulled on a dressing gown and headed downstairs, grateful that Mrs Hudson had decided to keep the living room fire lit. It was November, and London had been experiencing a very dismal spell of weather, culminating, (I hoped), in the storm tonight.
The living room was empty and a quick glance to the mantlepiece revealed it to be an ungodly hour of the morning. Rubbing a hand across my eyes, I went to the window and pulled back the curtains. The view was, of course, obscured by the rain pounding against the glass, but flashes of lightning were still visible, if a little blurred. I sat back in my armchair so that I might watch the storm play out before me.
A few minutes later Holmes entered and I immediately shifted from my position, guilty that I had awoken him. "So sorry Holmes, I hadn't realised-"
He raised a hand to forestall my apologies. "Not at all Watson. The storm was keeping me awake also." He spared a distasteful glance at the window, pausing as another rumble of thunder rang out. Then he cast his gaze back to me. "I take it that is why you are here, rather than your bedroom?"
"Indeed," I replied, lowering myself a little stiffly back down. He nodded and went to his own armchair, snatching his pipe up from the table as he did so.
For a short while we sat, the companionable silence between us filled only with the noises of the storm as we both watched the maelstrom outside.
"There is something about it," I remarked, as another arc of lightning flashed across the sky, "something almost... chaotically beautiful."
"Hmm." Holmes took a languid blow of his pipe, tilting his head toward the window as though to observe the view better. "I see what you mean Watson, but beautiful as it may be to look at, I do wish it weren't quite so loud."
I chuckled softly. "A point on which I must very much agree upon, my dear Holmes." I did not mention that the thunder somehow succeeded in plunging me back into thoughts of dusty plains and searing heat, and of gunshots ringing out across a dry desert...
"Sorry?" I turned my head sharply to Holmes, jolted from my memories. "What did you say?"
"Did you hear that?" he asked. His brow was furrowed, as though he were concentrating on something.
I strained my ears. "I can only make out the thunder-"
"Listen closer. It is over the sound of the storm, a sharp banging of some sort...There it is!"
And indeed now I could hear it, just faintly, over the gale outside. "It sounds," I said slowly, "as though someone is knocking at the door. But surely not at this hour..?"
"And in this weather," Holmes said, rising instantly to his feet. "Someone must be desperate indeed."
"Or mad," I muttered, but Holmes had already gone down to see who it was. I settled back into my chair, hoping that whoever it was, they would not overly disturb us. I should have known such a hope was foolish in the extreme.
"Watson!" Holmes's voice rang out, and I was on my feet in an instant, "Watson I require your assistance!"
I pounded down the seventeen steps, the pain in my leg now forgotten at the urgent edge to Holmes's voice. Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs, I understood his panic.
Wiggins, the lieutenant of the grubby bunch of street urchins whom we had dubbed The Irregulars, stood just inside the doorway. He was attempting to hold up another, younger boy, whose face was pale and sweaty and who I believed I recognised from that same group.
"I'm sorry Mr 'Olmes," Wiggins was saying, "only with Andy like this I din't know where else to take 'im and I thought the Doctor cud-"
"Take him upstairs," I cut across his apologetic ramble, going to hoist Andrew - for I remembered now that was his name - into my arms. "Holmes if you would get some blankets... Wiggins you come upstairs with me."
Watson had laid out the boy - Andrew Milton, if my memory served me right - uponthe sofa, but I could see that all was not well from his frown as he checked pulse and temperature. I was perched at the very edge of my armchair, ready to help if needed, but quite painfully aware that I could do very little in a medical setting. Wiggins was also watching the proceedings, sitting in Watson's armchair and wrapped in one of the blankets I had brought up.
"How is he Watson?" I asked quietly, as he drew out a syringe from his medical bag.
"I'm not entirely sure," he murmured, rolling up a ragged sleeve. "Once I've given him
something for the pain..." He trailed off, peering curiously at Andrew's thin arm.
"What is it?" I leant further forward and he angled the arm towards me, revealing a series of small puncture wounds.
"Someone has already injected him with something," Watson said grimly, pointing to a fresh hole in the crook of his elbow.
"Do you know what it might be?"
He shook his head ruefully. "I've never seen anything like it. His pulse is racing, he's as cold as ice but sweating profusely and seems unable to pinpoint precisely the site and nature of the pain that he's in.
As if to punctuate his last words, Andrew let out a painful moan. "H... hurts..."
Watson was at the boy's side in a flash, managing to be both caring and efficient in a way which I knew I would be unable to spoke in a low comforting murmur, at the same time re-checking pulse and temperature. He turned to me,his look of hopeless desperation one I had never witnessed before.
"His heart rate is dropping. Rapidly.".
"Is there nothing you can do?"
"Not without knowing what the drug is." Watson sighed, frustration evident, and picked up the abandoned syringe.
"Is 'e- is 'e gunna die Doctor?" Wiggins asked in a hushed voice. Before Watson could answer another voice had broken again into the conversation.
"Wig? Is-issat you?"
Wiggins looked at me and I nodded, gesturing him forward. He swallowed, pushing himself from Watson's armchair and edged toward his friend.
"Yeah Andy, I'm 'ere," he whispered.
"I'm- I'm scared Wig..." he said, in a painful whimper.
"It's alright Andy... Doctor Watson's just giving you some... some medicine," said Wiggins, even as the syringe entered Andrew's arm. "It's... it'll make you better."
I am, by no means, an emotional man. I work so closely in relation to violence and death that many have often accused me of being insensitive to it, to the point of being completely cold-blooded. Yet as I watched the two young boys in what would be their last conversation I felt the same sense of helplessness which I had seen in Watson, rise inexplicably within me. It frustrated me to know there was nothing I could do.
Andrew fell silent, and for a moment I hoped it was simply the painkillers taking hold.
I looked to Watson, but he shook his head, his hand trembling slightly as he took the pulse he already knew would not be there. When he spoke, his words were hollow.