Fandoms: Sherlock Holmes (ACD) / Neverwhere (Gaiman!verse)
Pairing / Characters: Holmes/Watson (eventually); Watson, Marquis de Carabas
Word Count: ~2000
Summary: John Watson loses a bet, grants a favour, and finds himself in a world unlike anything he has ever seen before. Except for how it's all the same.
Notes / Warnings: I haven't written fanfiction in years, but I enjoy creative writing, so this pastiche is an amusing divergence from my norm.
This is only the first section so I can see what you think.
Underland - Part I
I write this, not to be published as many of my other works, nor to really be read by any other person, but more as a record for my own keeping, so as to remind my self that these events truly happened.
This is entirely taken from my journal, small notes and brief passages written over the course of the last week in an attempt to maintain some resemblance of normality in this madness. I dare say without it I should not have survived – physically perhaps but mentally, it is possible that the comprehension of the account I am about to describe might have been well beyond my grasp.
I move too far ahead of my self though. Holmes, no doubt, would berate me for blatant romanticism, but there is no place in this tale for clinical language or impersonal writing. The genuine events were too far beyond belief for that to ever properly convey what occurred.
I shall begin therefore, with the man. I now know his true name, or title rather, and truth is relative, especially considering the power of names, but for now I will tell only what I knew at the time. My notes are difficult to read considering how elaborately convoluted this story is, so I will do my best to accurately represent my thoughts of the moment.
Holmes had been called all the way out to Ipswich for some two weeks working on a peculiar missing person's case involving a stable boy, a horrific bird phobia, a dead prize stallion, and a rash of fox attacks all in the same area. Unfortunately my patients had monopolized my time so sufficiently that I could not attend him, and once I found my self available to join in on the adventure he was too caught up with the bumbling attentions of the local police force to require me along. I instead used the time, a little reluctantly I will admit, to further my connections within the medical profession and reacquaint my self with colleagues I had lost contact with.
It was on one of these nights when, bored with the mediocrity of life without the constant excitement that always revolves around Holmes, I took the time to indulge in a few of my own vices. Taking the pocket money I had acquired from tending patients in my practise at Baker Street, I moved to one of the less reputable sections of London in search of some small recreation.
While I am most often ashamed of my short comings, gambling being the most detrimental of them, I do not deny that they are present, however rarely I act on them. Thus, without the distraction of a case, and without Holmes to watch over my pocket book, I fell subject to my weakness for drink and game.
It started simply as a game of dice, wagering on the cast and roll. I am no good at guess work, nor at relying on pure luck, so I withdrew from this amusement before I lost too much. However, no matter how Holmes recapitulates on my inability to prevaricate, I have about my person a reasonable poker face, and fair much more profitably more often at the card table. I take no enjoyment in lying, and am horribly transparent when attempting to avoid telling a direct falsehood, but within the pure environment of a card game it comes naturally to not betray my hand.
When I was younger my friends would say it was my moustache that made it so, during evenings when we would find entertainment in the deck, but I choose to believe it is my cunning wit and cool exterior that throws off the opponent.
Either way, I am no easy mark when it comes to cards.
The proprietor of this establishment, if you could call him that, was in the process of gathering a private game in one of the back rooms. While the clamour and shouting that pervaded the air effectively rose my blood, the drink had gone to my head, and I felt in need of quiet lest my vague headache develop into a full blown migraine. I had no wish to leave so early, so I bought my way into the game for a few shillings, as the stakes were still fairly low.
There were three other men already in the room in addition to the dealer, all of them marginally better dressed than the other patrons. One was roughly my age – that is to say, late thirties – while the other two were well into their fifties or sixties. I nodded to them, and took my place between the young man and the older of the two. He had an almost practised air of dishevelment about him, with artfully arranged scuffs and wear on his jacket and trousers, leading me to believe that he too was seeking the anonymity of this den of iniquity over higher entertainment and social circles.
Thus, the game began.
It is a thing of note, to differentiate those who gamble for money from those who gamble for the sake of gambling. As for my self, my experience had started well before my time in Afghanistan as a mere entertainment, and a simple way to make a few shillings off my acquaintances. After though, still crippled and weak, night terrors keeping me awake, while the last ravages of enteric fever exhausted my already declined health, I fell into more desperate gambling, seeking to get away from the world that had left me bereft of life. I am ashamed to say that those months of wasting my army pension on the game rather than my rent left me forever craving the thrill and rush of the bet.
Meeting Holmes and finding a new devotion, keeping him safe, recording his cases and adventures, and acting as his liaison to the menial world of the common Londoner, all worked in tandem to distract my mind from the call of the gambling dens. It is not perfect, I have on occasion other than this been drawn into an ill advised bet on a game of dice, but the simple need for the games of chance have diminished in the face of Holmes' friendship.
I will not write extensively of the game, for it was nothing of import or commemoration. I won some, lost more, but maintained my place well until the eventual withdrawal of the third man, sitting across from me. Dejected, he slumped out of the room, not wishing to see the ending conclusion of the game, and I felt the twang of pity for his plight that I was well experienced with.
Not five minutes later though, entered the instigator of this whole tale. The man who changed my life sufficiently enough to rival the influence of Sherlock Holmes.
How shall I describe him? His visage changed over the course of these events, so I shall give first impressions only.
He swept into the dingy little room almost majestically, his frock coat billowing about his knees. He was the kind of man who attracted attention wherever he went and revelled in it. He was tall and thin, with night dark skin and shining eyes, as though laughing at some private joke. His waistcoat was well made and ornate, but worn, as were his shirt and trousers, tucked into high leather boots of the like I had not seen before.
He spoke with a deep, amused voice, his teeth flashing white.
“Good evening, gentlemen. I hear you have a vacancy.”
It was not a question.
I have not had the opportunity to meet many men of Africa outside the shipyards or servants quarters, and this man, with his remarkable coat and his well bred London accent served to positively fascinate me. We three men nodded acquiescence, and he slipped into the chair opposite me with the grace of a jungle cat.
His hair was not kinked as was usual with his black brethren, but was twisted into a hundred tiny plaits that rained down across his shoulders like a waterfall.
We played. No introductions, for there was no need, and none of us wished to know the other men as they are known outside that room.
He never seemed to look down at his cards. Every time I looked up from my own well worn cards - a four and two Jacks to match one on the table – he was watching me with those pool deep black eyes, a secret smile ghosting around the corners of his thick lips.
I raised the ante, and was astonished to find my self throwing my last coins into the centre. I was so enthralled in the game I had not even noticed my money slipping from my pocket.
The young man was the first to fold, sweat beading in a sheen upon his pale forehead, his light hair dark at the temples. The disguised old man followed shortly after, but they both remained, watching in interest as the stakes grew higher, intrigued as I was by this mysterious, fanciful man.
I swallowed, and sighed. I hadn't meant to bet so much, but the thrill was so encompassing that I felt no regret at that time.
The two observers abruptly stood and exited, much to my astonishment, for they had seemed quite invested in the outcome previously. The dealer was silent as ever, eyes cast down, barely acknowledging our presence in the room.
“You are a doctor, are you not, sir?”
I admit I jumped at the black man's sudden shattering of the silence that had settled around us.
“Yes, indeed I am. However did you know?”
“I know things.” He smiled, and took a new card. His smile was not of triumph though, only of satisfaction, as though his greater knowledge than mine was more pleasing to him than the chance of winning all my money.
So used to Holmes' seemingly preternatural deductions from the state of my shoes or shirt cuffs, and so well into the drink as I was, I did not think to question him further beyond the vague statement that he had heard of me through Scotland Yard.
I did not wonder for a moment how he knew where to find me.
At this point in the game I hesitated. I had nothing more to bet, but could not bring my self to fold my hand and simply walk away.
“You seem reluctant. Can it be you are out of coin?”
I blushed, and laughed easily. “Indeed. This is quite the intense game if you'll pardon my saying so.”
He smiled again, close lipped and secretive. “What do you say to a little deviation from the norm?”
I blinked at him. “I will not wager my shoes, sir, if that is what you are implying.”
His head tipped back with a full-throated laugh, braids dancing around his dark jawline jovially with his chuckles. “No such thing, my good man! I merely wish to increase the competition with a little more excitement.”
“Well, then. What have you in mind?” For I had exceeding amounts of Dutch courage flowing in my veins, ignited by the wager.
“A favour. Should I win, you will grant me some professional services, and the same in reverse. Is that acceptable?”
“What exactly is your profession?” I inquired, very much interested in his proposal.
“I am a – business man. I can acquire anything you need, money, men, jewellery, luck. If you win, I will provide you with any material good you feel the need for.”
I took very little time to deliberate, and acquiesced.
I replaced my four with a seven, and we finished the hand.
Needless to say, I lost. This tale would be nothing beyond an entertaining anecdote to tell Holmes about one night before the fire at Baker Street if I had won.
The man across from me had a straight flush.
It was almost like magic.
| Part XI | Part XII | Part XIII | Part XIV | Part XV | Part XVI | Part XVII |