Author: Professor Pangaea
Fandom: Sherlock Holmes (Mary Russell)
Spoilers: The Beekeeper's Apprentice -- the Big Bad is herein revealed.
Disclaimer: Though Mr. Holmes is in the public domain, Miss Russell and various other named characters in this piece are not. But I hasten to assure you, gentle reader, that I do this not for profit, but for love. My regards to both Sir Arthur and Ms. King.
Notes: Many thanks to watergal for her beta, especially as she has never read any of the Mary Russell series. Credit for a major proportion of coherency and proper usage of commas goes to her. All remaining errors are, of course, my own. If you aren't familiar with the characters or setting, this may be confusing; I do apologise for that. For all who read the words "Mary Russell" and let out a heart-rending groan, well, I won't apologise for her. She's unconscious the entire time in any case.
Timid grey light had begun to creep between the curtains of the pale, sterile room. It spread slowly across the interior to illuminate a wan and almost delicate form that lay underneath crisp, much-bleached sheets, and to glint off of the cold machinery leaning over it. A lean figure sat next to the bed, his head cradled in one hand, indifferent to the coming day. Apart from the steadily increasing luminescence, the tableau was much as it had been for hours -- days, perhaps: the still form on the bed, the man slumped in the chair, and the continual, quiet hum of the machines.
There was a quiet tap at the door. The man shifted slightly in his chair.
“Don’t worry, Watson. I am not asleep.”
Gentle footsteps made their way from the door to stop next to the seated man, who did not look up at his visitor. Watson laid his hand on a thin shoulder.
Holmes sighed, and rubbed a hand across his weary and unshaven face, then laid it upon the hand already on his shoulder.
“She has been unconscious for too long.”
“It is quite normal for the amount of damage that was sustained.”
Silence, but for the machinery, stretched on.
Holmes abruptly withdrew his hand and clasped at his head. “Twenty-eight years, Watson. Twenty-eight years since I sent him plunging to his doom over that awful chasm at Reichenbach Falls, and still the man cannot have done with torturing me. He may keep his claws clutched about my insides for as long as he likes, I swear he shall not do the same to Russell. I swear it, Watson."
The gunshot was like a small explosion in the tiny room; Holmes felt a sudden searing pain in his left side as an invisible force hit him, obliquely, and he staggered backwards, almost falling over the chair waiting there for him, but he grabbed the table and just as the chair clattered to the floor and before he could let loose the cry at the back of his throat there was already another explosion, and there was Russell looking back at him, looking back to see if he was all right -- to see if he was all right, by God -- while the blood spread across her back, and she made a noise before slipping down into a dead heap on the top of her motionless mathematics tutor.
The seconds it took to stumble to her side seemed like hours.
“Russell --” He fumbled with blood-slicked hands for a pulse. Ah, there it was, there it was, faint but steady, faint, but it was there. His jacket was removed without notice and pressed against her wounded shoulder, as he lifted her from on top of that loathsome creature and laid her down as comfortably as could be done on the hard tile of the laboratory floor.
There were too many thoughts, too many emotions running through his brain. Stop, wait, and think -- let reason take over. Emotion will merely cloud the mind…. Holmes couldn’t help a bitter laugh at the remembered advice of so many years ago. But his mind, accustomed to the thought and subject to the training of decades, obeyed nonetheless.
Russell is alive. Russell is hurt. She must have a doctor. What about this thing on the floor, does she still represent a threat? Is she still alive? Holmes crawled over to the bloody, crumpled mathematician and heard slight, laboured breaths. Damnation. I can’t leave her with Russell, the doctor is nearly a two miles away; who knows what could happen in the interim. Damnation!
It was as he quickly slipped into the sitting room to search for something to restrain the Donleavy woman, that Holmes heard a vague noise approach from the kitchen. Before he knew it, the gun that he did not remember picking up was levelled at the doorway and a dim figure emerged.
“Will.” The revolver was lowered and Holmes sprinted to Old Will’s side. The man clutched at his head and stared at Holmes with a sort of bewilderment, as though he had not yet thrown off the last effects of whatever drug had been used to knock him out.
“What’s hap --”
“Will, Russell’s hurt, the 'phone lines have been cut, you must run to Dr. Prendergast’s as quickly as possible.”
The gardener took a moment to wrinkle his brow as the statement made its way into his still-addled brain. “But Mrs. Hudson is still --”
“Damn it, Will, Mrs. Hudson will take care of herself! Russell needs help!” Holmes caught himself gripping Will’s arms rather desperately, and consciously took a step back. Either the tenor of his voice or the strength of his grip had reached Will, because he looked up at Holmes and nodded clearly.
“O’ course, Mr. Holmes. I’ll be as fast as I can. Faster,” he added, as he ran out the door into the breaking dawn. Holmes felt the anxiety twisting inside him lessen just a little.
Restraints for the Donleavy woman. Bandages to stop the flow of precious blood from Russell's shoulder. Now that he could stay and watch over Russell himself, restraints might not be needed, but he was not in the mood to take a chance. He threw open the drawers on the desk. He knew there was a ball of twine somewhere -- ah. He grabbed it, picked up the box containing general first aid needs from underneath the desk -- a habit from his Baker Street days -- and sprinted back to the laboratory. He felt his stomach turn over again at the sight of Russell, pale and composed, lying upon the cold tile. His jacket, still balled up upon her shoulder, almost shielded his eyes from the blood soaking through her clothes.
Gently, he peeled her jacket from her shoulders, then, retrieving a pair of scissors from the box beside him, he cut away at the shirt underneath just enough to give him access to the wound. Strangely, he had not very often been put in the position of attending to another's wound; he was usually the one who was foolish enough to get himself hurt and Watson had always been there to patch him up, as well as the occasional bystander. Briefly, his mind flashed to another memory, the sharp smell of gunpowder and the sudden paralysing terror of watching Watson collapsing slowly to the floor.
'You're not hurt, Watson? For God's sake, say that you're not hurt!'
Holmes forced himself to concentrate on the task in front of him. He really was not sure of what to do in the case of a wound so severe, so he fell back on cleaning it -- carefully lifting the skin and swabbing away the gore and gunpowder -- then bandaging it as well as he was able. It could do no harm, at least, and he had to do something to try and stop the steady flow of life from her thin body.
As he wiped his hands clean on the remains of his jacket, a dull throb in his side reminded him of his own hurt, and he carefully raised his stained shirt to look at it. Just a graze along his ribs. Good. It would not do to faint while he was supposed to be watching over Russell.
He sank down cross-legged upon the floor and settled his back against the wall, resting Russell's head on his left thigh to keep it from the cold, unyielding floor. There was nothing to be done now but wait for the doctor and the authorities, as Will would no doubt have contacted them as soon as he had finished with Prendergast.
Another tragedy to trace back to Moriarty. He supposed the professor would have laughed, that peculiar ironic laugh, tinged with equal parts pleasure and severity. Holmes sighed softly and brushed away a stray bit of hair from Russell's forehead.
"... How... very touching," whispered a hoarse voice. Holmes had the gun aimed at the Donleavy woman before she had even finished her sentence.
"Please, do me the favour of attempting to move, so that I will have the excuse," said Holmes. He sounded very calm.
Donleavy made a choking noise that might have been an attempt at a chuckle. "Hhghk... can't. Wouldn't... give you the pleasure, anyway."
Holmes couldn't help the contemptuous twist of his mouth. His aim was steady.
"So petty. You are nothing like your father." Donleavy's face contorted feebly with rage.
"How dare --"
"I grant that you have inherited some of his brains, but that is all. In the six years that it took you to get to this point -- namely, dying on the floor of my laboratory, choking on your own blood -- he would, if he wished, have visited every possible cruelty upon me, brought me to the brink and had me begging him to push me off the edge a dozen times over. He was never so clumsy as you have been. He did not gloat. He did not ever ruin a plan with a foolish desire to handle every aspect personally. He did not leave evidence in the form of ridiculous, incriminating taunts. He never crippled his organisation by focusing obsessively on any one goal. He knew the value of patience, and of taking one's time, but he did not linger over anything. You, while clever, have none of his absolutely clear, precise brilliance. He was a genius. You are a mere imitator. You thought that by wearing his castaway robes you could become his equal, without noticing how those clothes hang loosely about your too meagre frame."
Donleavy made an incoherent noise and Holmes watched her twitch with a cold expression of disdain.
"You..." she choked again, and Holmes was surprised to see that again, it was laughter. "You might be... surprised, at what I learned from my father... the --" she broke off for a moment, coughing. "The dynamic... of mentor, and student.... Just... ask your Miss Russell. If she... survives."
Holmes started, and his muscles tightened as a mixture of rage and dread spread through him. He clutched at Russell with his left hand, while his right gripped the revolver dangerously. Carefully, he set it on the floor, next to his knee.
"I'm not going to make it quite that easy for you," he said, voice thick with disgust. He looked down at Russell's pale, bloodless face. If anything had happened, he would know. He would know. He swallowed.
"Well," said Holmes, more gravely than he intended, "I suppose we both learned quite a bit more from your father than the principles of elementary calculus -- though I imagine my extracurricular lessons were of a completely different order than your own. Did you believe it mere professional jealousy on the part of his peers that led to Moriarty's dismissal from Oxford?" He fixed Donleavy with a penetrating gaze. "No matter what you may have done, Russell will recover. She is strong, and she is not alone. Not like we were."
Donleavy stared at him, silent but for her wheezing breaths.
Holmes thought back to that moment when he had looked into Moriarty's cold, blue eyes, and had realised, incontrovertibly, that this man, whom he had trusted and loved, was a monster. It had been, and still was, the very worst moment of his existence. Far worse even than this one now, cradling Russell's unconscious body, and looking into the eyes of her would-be murderer, because it had been a betrayal that left him utterly without hope.
"Do you remember me?" he asked suddenly. "It was a long time ago, I know. I was only sixteen, perhaps seventeen. You were four. You recited the multiplication tables for me, in front of your father."
There was a heavy silence.
"Then, I... showed you my dollhouse."
Holmes blinked at the quiet voice. "Yes."
Donleavy coughed painfully, and Holmes saw the blood that spattered her lips.
"He used to talk... about you, sometimes," she continued. "Even... after, you had gone. Even... when you... were enemies." She paused to labour for breath. "I hated... you, for taking... his... affection. When... I..."
Holmes waited, but she said no more.
He looked down again at Russell, at the fearfully still face that was usually so full of animation and life.
"He never loved me," Holmes said. "He wasn't capable of such a thing."
Donleavy again made the strangled noise that signified laughter. "Two... of a kind."
Holmes did not reply.
They said nothing for a long time, as Holmes watched Russell, and Donleavy lay on the tile and wheezed. Holmes kept his eyes on Russell even as he listened to Donleavy retch, and then choke, even as he listened to her hands grasp at the floor and her body convulse in its last struggle for air and life. He kept his eyes on Russell even during the ensuing silence.
When Prendergast finally arrived, Holmes told him that he had found Donleavy dead after he had returned with the bandages.
And when Russell recovered and left hospital, as Holmes was determined she should, it really would be over.
As always, feedback and criticism are both appreciated and cherished.