[identity profile] spacemutineer.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] acdholmesfest
Title: The Unexpected Visitor
Recipient: [livejournal.com profile] rachelindeed
Author: [livejournal.com profile] inamac
Rating: G
Characters/Pairings: Watson, Mycroft
Warnings: None
Word Count: 1400
Summary: Mycroft Holmes visits Doctor Watson with a request and an impossible task.
AN: My recipient asked for 'a series of moments in which Mycroft absolutely and indignantly refuses to do things', and also pointed me at 'The Reigate Squires'. This is the (I hope happy) result.

The Unexpected Visitor

Today the names of the Netherlands Sumatra Company and of Theodore Maupertuis are notorious, but in the early 80s they were familiar only to a select few in the realms of Government and high finance. Neither were worlds in which my friend, Mr Sherlock Holmes, habitually moved, so it was with considerable surprise that I learned of his involvement in what was to be revealed as the most audacious swindle of our age, on a warm March day in 1887. The means by which I received that intelligence were equally surprising.

Some of February's chill still lingered but the brisk March winds had the effect of dispersing the smogs which are a feature of London admired by artists and visitors but bring far too many patients to my door seeking relief for the many illnesses that bad air engenders and for which there is no cure I can offer save advice to remove to the country. The seasonal improvement had the happy effect of reducing my list, for it had been a busy winter and I had scarcely had time to call upon Holmes or to accompany him on his investigations.

I was considering repairing the omission when the decision was taken from me. I had seen only two patients that morning and was busy preparing their accounts when the clatter of hooves and creak of harness drew me to the window. London's hansom's and growlers are so common as to pass unnoticed amid the usual street hubbub, but this was a gentleman's carriage with two smart Yorkshire Greys between the shafts and a portly coachman on the box, muffled against the sharp wind in good quality tweed and a thick black cloak with touches of red at the shoulders.

The equipage drew to a halt at my door and the coachman lumbered from his seat and tossed a coin to one of the street boys who ran across to hold the horses. I had expected him to open the carriage door to allow the occupant to descend but, having assured the reliability of the boy (I could not, at that distance, hear his words, but the tone and accompanying gestures were unmistakable), he turned and made his way to my door.

Intrigued, wondering whether I was being summoned to the bedside of some ailing rich gentleman, I went to answer the ring myself. I opened the door just as the coachman was divesting himself of his muffler, to reveal a face that I recognised as that of Holmes' brother, Mycroft.

"Ah, Doctor Watson. I'm pleased to find you here. I have a favour to ask. Your office this way, is it?"

Without waiting for reply he passed along the hall and into the room he had correctly identified as my office. To say that I was surprised would be an understatement. Holmes had given me to understand that his brother rarely left the purviews of his home, his office and his club. He had only once ventured as far as Baker Street. I wondered what had brought him to Kensington. Perhaps he wished to consult me about his health, though he certainly seemed hale. I followed in some confusion.

He had divested himself of the cloak and was settling himself into my own chair when I arrived in his wake. "Mr Holmes," I said, "This is a surprise. Have you need of my professional services?"

"Pish, Doctor," he exclaimed. "That assumed naiveté of yours may pander to my brother's vanity but I credit you with more intelligence. You have deduced that I am here to consult you on matters far more important than my health. What do you know about the Netherlands-Sumatra Company?"

"Only what has been in the financial papers," I said. "I had been considering making a small investment, but..."

"But you have not? I would advise against it." He extracted a small tortoiseshell box from his pocket and took a pinch of snuff, plying a silk handkerchief in its wake. "My brother was not so cautious and I fear that he has fallen prey to the schemes of the most dangerous man in Europe."

"Moriarty!" I exclaimed, conscious of a small thrill of excitement. Holmes had spoken often of the man and I knew that he had long desired to lock horns with him.

Mycroft gave a snort of annoyance. "Otto Von Bismarck," he said, firmly. "And in this case his agent, a man who calls himself Baron Maupertuis, though there is no record of the title in Debrett. But I suspect that Sherlock is pursuing him under the misapprehension that he is this figment of his imagination 'Moriarty', so in that respect you are correct. The fact is that in blundering about Europe on his wild goose chase he may well upset some rather delicate international matters of State. I have come to request your assistance in bringing his to his senses."

My instinct, of course, was to start packing at once, but caution prevailed. "If matters of state are involved surely you yourself should go. Indeed, you would have far more influence with your brother than I."

He drew himself up indignantly. "Sherlock has undoubtedly told you that I do not travel abroad. It would be impossible."

"He has mentioned that you do not take exercise," I agreed, "but self evidently you do. Your carriage-" I gestured to the window where the equipage could be seen waiting in the street.

He gave a snort which might have been the snuff , indignation, or amusement. "Driving is hardly exercise," said he. "Sherlock and I grew up with horses, and I learned to drive at my governess' knee. Literally, in fact, since her little tub-cart was my transport about the park from the age of three."

That certainly explained his corpulence. "Your brother says that you never leave your rooms."

This retort was certainly more amused. "Well, Sherlock does not know all my habits, but he is partly correct. Like a snail I carry my home with me. You would find my carriage equipped with all the necessary home comforts, for those occasions when I must go abroad."

"Then can you not follow him in your carriage?" I confess I was teasing him, but I did not expect quite the level of indignant protest I received.

"Absolutely not! Pall Mall to Kensington is an entirely different matter from London to the continent, and a sea voyage is out of the question. Really, Doctor, have you no understanding of the implications of my... my..." He coughed and spluttered and I became really alarmed by the level of his distress.

"Calm yourself, Mr Holmes. This agitation does no good to your health. Might I prescribe something?" I half rose, making for my small dispensary, but he waved me to submission, drawing another small box from the many pockets of his tweed jacket. I recognised the distinctive blue label of the eminent Harley Street physician Sir Percival Spratt. He drew out two tablets and swallowed them without asking for water.

"You see?" he said when he had recovered his power of speech, "I am well provided for in the matter of medication. But I should not have called on you if there had been any possibility of pursuing my brother myself. Besides, he can be extremely stubborn when he is on the trail of a villain that he sees as untouchable by the law and the authorities – among which he numbers myself. No, it is you who must pursue him and persuade him to give up this case. I shall, naturally, provide you with all the necessary information and funds for the undertaking."

I made a last attempt at protest but, as he had observed, the improved weather meant that I had very little to occupy me, and I had intended to call on Holmes in any case.

Two hours later I found myself settled into a first class carriage of the Continental Express with my doctor's bag, a small valise of essentials, and a packet of letters giving me entree to the salons and government offices of three countries.

I settled back into the buttoned upholstery of the compartment with a rueful sigh. Well, a short holiday on the continent in the company of my friend would be a welcome break from the tedium of a London practice. Though I had no confidence that my presence and protestations would divert Sherlock Holmes from his quarry any more than they had diverted Mycroft.


Date: 2015-05-12 05:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thesmallhobbit.livejournal.com
An excellent description of the reaction between Watson and Mycroft Holmes. I would very much like to learn how successful Watson is in his task.

Date: 2015-06-03 10:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inamac.livejournal.com
Thank you! So would I - hopefully all will be revealed to booth of us in due course (whips muse.)

Date: 2015-05-12 05:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gardnerhill.livejournal.com
You DO know you can't leave the story like this, right?

Date: 2015-06-03 10:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inamac.livejournal.com
*G* Yes, I know. I was defeated by a deadline, but hope there will be more Thank you for your encouragement to write it.

Date: 2015-05-12 05:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] laurose8.livejournal.com
Thank you for this intriguing and enjoyable scene. Mycroft is terrific. It's all very well written, but I'll only quote He gave a snort which might have been the snuff, indignation, or amusement.

Date: 2015-06-03 10:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inamac.livejournal.com
Mycroft is great fun to write. Pleased you enjoyed him.

Date: 2015-05-12 05:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jcporter1.livejournal.com
Is this Chapter One? What happens next?

Date: 2015-06-03 10:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inamac.livejournal.com
To answer the questions in order - Yes. I don't know. (But thank you for reading and asking.)

Actually there is a Prologue, and I am trying to find out what happens next before reposting on AO3. Wish me luck!

Date: 2015-05-12 05:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rachelindeed.livejournal.com
Thank you so much, lovely author, for this delightful gift! The characters of Mycroft and Watson make one of my very favorite combinations, and I'm so glad to have this charming vignette of the two of them. I particularly love the care you took in creating Mycroft's physical presence and his carriage-home; what a perfect idea! A creative kind of indolence, very worthy of a Holmes. And it ties into The Final Problem, too, in which Mycroft serves as Watson's coachman in that last flight to Europe. What a marvelous backstory.

It was also a great decision to set this as a prequel to The Reigate Squires. Without having to spell out everything, you raise the suggestion here that Sherlock may be in a state of faltering mental health (that line of Mycroft's about his imaginary nemesis Moriarty reminded me of The Seven Percent Solution and the idea that cocaine may be behind the spectre of The Napoleon of Crime), and of course we know that at the beginning of Reigate Sherlock is suffering from a full-blown physical breakdown combined with black depression. This piece fills in the blanks in a very intriguing way.

Also, I simply love watching Mycroft be recalcitrant and curmudgeonly. It is always, always a hoot.

Thank you so much for this wonderful gift, it has put a huge smile on my face!

Date: 2015-06-03 10:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inamac.livejournal.com
Thank you for your delightful prompt(s). I'm so pleased you spotted the references (I've always wondered about Mycroft's ability to drive a carriage through London's traffic - at speed, it's one of the things that doesn't fit Sherlock's view of him.)

I did intend to write the whole of the 'Maupertis' case, and have a Prologue, but was defeated by the fest deadline. Hopefully I will be able to do more at leisure. But very pleased you liked what there is.

Date: 2015-05-12 05:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tripleransom.livejournal.com
Oh, well done! But...but...now what happens?

Date: 2015-06-03 10:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inamac.livejournal.com
Thank you.

I wish I knew! I await Watson's further communications with the muse.

Date: 2015-05-12 11:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] saki101.livejournal.com
Terrific characterisation and dialogue! And Mycroft's entrance is fabulous, surreptitious and ostentatious all at the same time!

Might we read of the Netherlands-Sumatra case eventually?

Date: 2015-06-03 10:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inamac.livejournal.com
Thank you, I had a lot of fun writing this - glad that came across.

I hope that you may - though have no idea of when 'eventually; may be!

Date: 2015-05-17 09:40 am (UTC)
hardboiledbaby: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hardboiledbaby
What a great way to fill your recipient's prompt! Canon is sadly lacking Mycroft+Watson interaction, and this reads very much like a missing scene right from ACD's pen. Thank you :)

Date: 2015-06-03 10:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inamac.livejournal.com
Thank you. I love this fest because it lets me be Watson - and hopefully fill in some gaps.

Date: 2015-05-17 03:58 pm (UTC)
ext_1620665: knight on horseback (Default)
From: [identity profile] scfrankles.livejournal.com
When I read rachelindeed's Mycroft prompt in her sign-up comment, I laughed out loud - and I prayed someone would write it.

I love the way you've written Mycroft, and I second the praise for his carriage. It's such a great idea. I also add to the pleas for you to continue your fic. I would love to know what happens between that "warm March day" and "the fourteenth of April" when Holmes is "lying ill in the Hotel Dulong."

Date: 2015-06-03 10:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inamac.livejournal.com
It was a wonderful prompt and I'm pleased that you feel I've done it some justice - it was great fun doing all the research, especially the trip to the Museum of London exhibition which was beautifully timed! Sadly I didn't have enough time for the full background on the politics and finance of the era - doing that now in hopes of completing Watson's quest.

Date: 2015-05-18 02:20 am (UTC)
kerravonsen: An open book: "All books are either dreams or swords." (books)
From: [personal profile] kerravonsen
Though I had no confidence that my presence and protestations would divert Sherlock Holmes from his quarry any more than they had diverted Mycroft.

Indeed, very true.

I love the atmospheric period descriptions.

Date: 2015-06-03 10:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inamac.livejournal.com
Thanks. It helps living in London.

Date: 2015-06-03 10:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inamac.livejournal.com
Thank you for all your work too.

It wasn't easy prizing Mycroft out of his shell, but pleased that I succeeded :)
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