This is my first MM story. It's quite short, and my idea on how William, Crabtree and Brackenreid first met. There aren't any spoilers for episodes, but just a very slight references to Big Murderer On Campus, and Tattered And Torn. I hope you enjoy it!
He was glad to be out of the rain. Even with the length of his coat, he was still uncomfortably wet. It had also made the trunk in his arms rather slippery. Given its contents, he didn't dare to drop it.
Resting it on a nearby bench, William Murdoch smiled, in fond recognition of the bustling crowds around him. Every station-house he'd been posted to had been a hive of activity. Station four was no exception. And with just one admirably cheerful constable on desk duty, he'd have to wait a while to be seen.
Not too long, he hoped, glancing at his pocket watch as the queue in front of him shuffled forwards. It was his first day here, and it really wouldn't impress his new Inspector if he were late. But among this crowd of people, he was just another nameless face. One more anonymous visitor.
Or not, William thought. When he turned back towards the front desk, and the source of who'd just hailed him, his surprised puzzlement only increased. The constable he'd already seen there had finally been relieved by the next constables on duty, and was now striding towards him as if they were long lost friends. Yet he was a complete stranger, that he'd never seen or met before.
From the excitement on a youthfully charming face, though, that constable clearly knew him. And judging by the speed with which he'd left his post to meet him, he couldn't wait to do so. Brushing all protocols aside, a serge sleeved arm shot out, and took his hand into a hearty shake.
"So good to have you here, sir! Welcome to station four."
As flattered now as he was intrigued, William smiled back, as politely as his confusion allowed. Surely he'd remember meeting such an avid follower of his work, and… no, he had no such memory. Denied its help, it was no use. He had to ask the inevitable question, before this mystery admirer shook his arm off.
"A pleasure too, Constable, but you have me at an embarrassing disadvantage," he said at last, gently but firmly releasing his hand, and subtly rubbing some feeling back into its fingers. "This is my first visit here, yet you already know of me."
"Oh, I know, sir! And – And please forgive my presumptiveness," the young officer grinned, continuing his explanation with the same disarming enthusiasm, and startling pace of speech. "But I've read so much about you, and how you've solved the most puzzling of crimes, with all these clever inventions, and…"
Still smiling at this effusive, if not grammatically correct flattery, William then held up his hand, still wondering if he shouldn't hold up both hands, to try and stem its seemingly unstoppable tide.
"Well, thank you, Constable, but I didn't solve them alone. I did have help."
'Though not as much as I suspect I'll get from you. Whether I ask for it or not.'
Chastising himself for such an uncharitable thought, he quickly turned it into a more grateful smile.
"And I'm sure you'll provide me with the same assistance here, Constable…?"
"Crabtree, sir. George Crabtree, and… here, let me take this for you," his new friend offered, relieving him of the trunk he'd picked up again before he could object, or even think to argue.
Another admirable trait, William thought, subtly studying him while he removed his coat. He was a shade shorter than himself, and younger too. Markedly so than most of his colleagues, but from their indulgent amusement, still popular among them. Strong, too, handling that laden trunk with more ease than his slender build would suggest.
It was his eyes, though, that struck him most. Unusually large, a striking mix of hazel and green. Expressive too, studying him in turn with a kindness that perfectly matched his cheery nature.
"Right, sir, I'll get this squared away in your office, then I'd better get you to the Inspector. He's expecting you."
"Yes, I've been told it's never a good idea to keep a Yorkshireman waiting," William agreed, another uniquely cadenced accent prompting another observation as they walked through the lobby towards his new office. "And if you don't mind my saying so, Constable, you're rather far from home yourself."
Guessing from a puzzled frown that he'd been a little too cryptic, he then tactfully clarified his point.
"From that rather unique accent, I take it you're from Newfoundland?"
Delighted that someone he admired so much actually knew where he came from, George nodded – the regret of a recent discovery passing so quickly over his face that not even William noticed. Instead, he focussed his genuine pride and gratitude on the loving upbringing that he'd still enjoyed.
"Yes, sir! I – I mean, I was born here, but…well, then my family moved to St John's, and…"
"…you're right, sir. It's not a good idea to keep a Yorkshireman waiting."
Again impressed by his cheerful humour, William grinned and patted George's shoulder. He'd already promised himself more time to acquaint himself properly with this irrepressibly likeable character. First, though, he'd have to face the more dauntingly formal world of Inspector Thomas Brackenreid. And he'd already surmised that the reception he'd receive from him would be totally different to the one he'd just enjoyed.
Within the same minute, William had seen two vastly different aspects of stationhouse four. On the one hand, there'd been George Crabtree's easy friendliness that had made him feel so welcome. And on the other, there was his Inspector's brusque dismissal of what William saw as simple courtesy.
Having seen him into the Inspector's office, the young constable had waited politely in his doorway. Judging by a blast of less than subtle sarcasm, he'd made the mistake of staying there a little too long.
"You still here, bug-a-lugs? Want me to find you some real work?"
To those not used to it, that gruffly barked question would have sounded more like a threat. But to one of his long suffering constables, it was familiar enough for him to take in his stride.
Even so, William still felt honour bound to defend him. After all, he'd shown him nothing but kindness, and really hadn't deserved such treatment.
"He seems a good sort, sir. Friendly, reliable. Naturally inclined to help others," he said at last, watching George settle to work at his desk, and frowning slightly at Brackenreid's less generous reply.
"Bloody nutcase more like, full of daft ideas. And too much of a bloody chatterbox too."
Keeping tactfully quiet on that point, William just nodded through a casual study of his new boss. He wasn't fooled at all by the Inspector's brash exterior, and easily recognizied the fondness beyond it. After all, you didn't earn such a nickname without some degree of affectionate sentiment. And he couldn't see how anyone could bear any genuine malice against such a friendly fellow.
"Right then, Murdoch. Some things you need to know about working in my station."
Pulled out of his thoughts, William schooled his face into an expression of dutiful interest – nodding where he hoped was appropriate to his new Inspector's brief but brusque expectations. He'd have no trouble at all in meeting the first two. He was never late, and… yes, he also worked hard. And despite the Inspector's doubts, he wasn't a pushover. He could be tough when he had to be.
So far so good, then, and William knew he could already count on young Crabtree's assistance. With the Inspector's back to him, he'd used the advantage to offer him an encouraging smile.
Returning it under the cover of attentive politeness, William felt himself relax a little - resolving not to do that too often, as a gruff voice brought him smartly back to Earth.
"…oh, and one last thing. Your predecessor was a bloody good copper, and he got results."
The challenge to his abilities was unmistakeable. Squaring his shoulders, William rose to meet it.
"Ah yes, sir. Malcolm Lamb was a fine detective, and I've followed his cases with great interest."
His turn now to be caught off guard, Brackenreid covered it well with a non committal nod. But if he was at all impressed by his new detective's reaction to pressure, he wasn't about to show it. Then again, William wasn't about to be fazed by this indifference either. He'd already recognized it as another silent test of his character. If he caved in now, it would simply confirm Brackenreid's thoughts that he wasn't up to the job.
So he held those probing blue eyes without flinching, for as long as the Inspector chose to meet them. Outwardly calm, he allowed himself a sigh of relief when just the merest hint of approval tugged at the Inspector's mouth.
He knew better than to rest on his laurels, though. Throughout their interview, he'd been all too aware of the attention he'd drawn from the men outside – several of them peering curiously at him through the window, before George shooed them away.
He'd have to face them eventually, of course, and… ah. Brackenreid clearly thought that time was now.
"Right then, me old mucker. I'll introduce you to the rest of the lads."
Still frowning slightly at this informally English term, William followed him out into the main office, and tried not to betray too much concern at what he said next as the men gathered around them.
"And be warned. Not all of them will be as easily impressed by what you've done as young Crabtree."
That, William thought dryly, was quite the understatement. He could see it already on their faces. Not hostility as such, just the same scepticism of those who couldn't understand or accept his methods. Even when Brackenreid introduced him, their attention was more from politeness than any real respect
"Right, lads. This is our new detective, William Murdoch. I'm sure you'll all make him welcome."
Several faces suggested that welcome would have to be earned, but… well, he'd expected nothing less. Instead, he kept his own attention focussed on a more welcoming smile, and two bright green eyes. In fond reflection, he knew young George had enough enthusiasm alone to make up for their lack of it. And yes, it took a few moments, but eventually they joined him in a more promising round of applause.
It had stopped raining too, allowing rays of sunshine to brighten the room with a welcoming warmth. William took it as a hopeful sign that maybe, just maybe, he'd be happy and settled here after all.
The novelty of his arrival had passed now, and his new colleagues still had to tend to their duties. Left alone in his office, William turned back to unpack his belongings with a familiar sense of disappointment. He had so much knowledge to share with them, so many ideas to help them solve their cases. But until they learned to trust him and his methods, all these wonders of the future would lie idle – tucked away in these admittedly fine shelves, until the worst of reasons came to prove their worth.
But then William smiled, needing just one of those intuitive skills to solve his latest mystery. From intuition alone, just sensing his silent curiosity, he knew who'd come to help him settle in. Just to confirm it, though, he looked up anyway, and greeted his first visitor with a friendly grin.
As he'd expected, George was already through the door, bearing a typically thoughtful gift.
"I thought after getting caught in that rain, sir, you'd appreciate some hot tea," he said brightly, another quizzical glance towards the various devices on his desk revealing the most charming of ulterior motives.
Accepting the gesture in the same, if rather amused spirit, William then kindly returned it.
"Ah yes, one of my first inventions. Glasses with not just one but two lenses," he explained, sipping his tea while nodding permission for the young constable to sate his now open curiosity. "I call them my magni-glasses, although… well, I'm sure there must be a more suitable name."
"Yes, for something so ingenious, sir, they deserve a much better title than that," George agreed, peering through each of the lenses in turn, and so missing the rueful amusement on William's face. He was right, of course, but… well, it wouldn't have hurt to treat his ego with a bit more diplomacy.
But what he lacked in the art of tact, he more than made up for with a disarming eagerness to please. So when his head popped up again, his eyes bright with inspiration, William knew what was coming.
"As a lad, sir, I helped my Aunt Nettles name all her cows. She says I have quite the talent for it."
"Yes, George, I have no doubt that you do," William agreed through another chuckle of laughter. He couldn't help but wonder what other talents the young officer had, but wasn't sure if he wanted to know the answer.
Instead, he watched in humouring amusement as the greatest of those talents came again to the fore. In all the years he'd been using it, he'd never seen his fingermarks kit studied with such fascination – the awe on George's face causing his own to turn pensive from a sudden, totally unforeseen thought.
Not so much from choice but the lack of belief from his colleagues, he'd always worked alone. The thought of that changing into a mentoring partnership was one that he'd never considered. But as he watched George try to discreetly rub ink from his fingers, he knew it couldn't be denied. If he hadn't had a partner before, to help him solve his cases here, he most certainly had one now. And despite the challenges he'd face to curb that curiosity, to teach him how to focus it properly – no, William had to admit that having such a willing student to his craft would be more than worth it
There was an undeniable bond between himself and another naturally curious, if less experienced mind. He'd never felt such a bond before, but he still instinctively knew the best way in which to nurture it.
"You love science too, George? Hope to become a detective yourself one day?" he asked at last, frowning slightly when the cheery smile faded, into the regret of a long held, but unreachable dream.
"I'd love nothing more, sir, but… well, mine was just the most basic of educations, and… "
"…the post requires more formal qualifications, that you don't have," William finished for him, feeling his own frustration that such prejudice would always thwart the greater gift of a curious mind. But while rules and regulations might stop it from reaching its full potential, there was another way.
"Well, George, much of what I know is self taught, rather than through advanced education."
Still engrossed in studying his magnified fingers, it took several moments for George to respond. But when realization dawned, and a smile of pure delight lit up his face, it made that moment priceless.
"So – So you wouldn't mind if I helped you, sir?"
Still laughing, William nodded while giving his new protégé a proud pat on his shoulder.
"No, George, I won't mind in the slightest. In fact, I think we'll make an excellent team."
"Oh, I know we will, sir! In fact, I already have some of my own ideas, that I'm sure you'll find useful," George grinned, clearly thrilled that, after years of teasing mockery, he'd finally found someone who'd listen to them. Not just any new colleague either but, in his eyes, the greatest detective in Toronto.
That detective really didn't see himself as such an inspiring hero, but if that's how George chose to see him, he didn't see any way to deny him. All he could do was wonder what kind of monster he'd just created, and hope he could keep up with his new partner's boundless energy.
Watching them through his office window, Brackenreid shook his head in disbelief at what he was seeing. Strait laced Murdoch, and crackernut Crabtree? No, he couldn't see this working out at all. But if it did, then life at his station house was about to get a lot more interesting.
Pouring himself another generous Scotch, he then made a mental note to stock up on his supply. Something told him he was going to need it.