saki101: (Penumbra - SH stairway dark)
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Penumbra Addenda SH smoke by the door for B&C background shaded darker

Title: Penumbra (Addenda: Baskerville & Chapalu - Conclusion)
Author: [livejournal.com profile] saki101
Characters/Pairings: John Watson/Sherlock Holmes, Mrs Hudson, Greg Lestrade
Rating: NC-17 (for the series)
Genre: slash
Word Count: ~15K (Addenda: Baskerville & Chapalu - posted on LJ in two parts due to length)
Disclaimer: Neither Sherlock nor Dark Shadows is mine and no money is being made.
Preview: John is no longer sequestered. Boundaries are crossed and creatures encountered.
A/N: A gothic AU of the Sherlock universe inspired by the universe of Dark Shadows (the television series), presented in four episodes, and written for the Miniseries March Challenge at Fall TV Season Sherlock.



Penumbra


Addenda: Baskerville & Chapalu (Conclusion)




When I caught up with him, he was rapping on a low door. A faint orange glow showed at the edges of a small, oilskin-covered window next to it.

There was a grumbling from within.

Sherlock knocked more forcefully.

Something heavy fell inside.

I did not understand the words uttered next, but the tone clearly conveyed fuck-off.

Sherlock jingled the coins in his pocket. Perhaps it was the effect of the surrounding silence, but the sound seemed much louder than what a few coins might be able to produce.

I heard more grumbling and a bolt being lifted. The door creaked open and the inhabitant peered out, first at me in the light of the lantern and then at Sherlock, still half-hidden in shadow. The man's expression changed as his gaze travelled up Sherlock's long figure, pausing briefly at the hilt of the sword visible inside the open cloak. He glanced at me again, noting the weapons I carried as though for the first time.

Sherlock spoke, his voice deeper than his usual conversational tone. His Latin was too fast for me, but I caught the words for cart, fish, feast and fort.

I watched with fascination the progression of expressions on the man's face as Sherlock spoke, his words enunciated with his typical precision, their speed that of a native speaker of the tongue.

Over his shoulder the man called, "Cattus," then turned back to Sherlock and held out his hand.

Sherlock drew several coins out of his pocket, placing three tuppence coins and two pennies on the man's palm.

One of the two-pence coins was newly minted and the man held it closer to the lamplight. Apparently satisfied with what he observed, he shouted the name again. This time a youth appeared behind him, rubbing a hand across his face. He looked a younger, taller version of the man who had answered the door. The man grabbed his son's hand and placed the shiny coin in it. The youth's eyes opened at that.

The father said, "Mato."

This seemed comprehensible to the lad. He nodded, pulled a cloak from behind the door and slipped past us into the night.

Sherlock spoke again and the word fire caught my ear.

The man nodded again and stepped aside with an outstretched arm.

"Warm yourself by the fire, John," Sherlock said, reaching for the lantern. "Listen for the cart coming round. I'll check on Lestrade." He clapped me on the back, nudging me in the direction of the open door and headed back the way we had come.

I went in.

My host pointed to a stool by a smoking brazier and I sat. He added a small log to it and left me.

The room was stuffy, but the warmth felt good on my back, which was the wettest part of me other than my feet.

The man returned from a corner of the room with a mug of what turned out to be some variety of beer.

I thought it best not to drink it, but touched it to my lips and smiled in thanks. Though the coins may have included refreshments, I felt inclined to offer something in return. A packet of mints in my jacket pocket appeared to have withstood my dousing, so I peeled back the foil wrapper and took one of the candies to demonstrate its edible nature and offered the open roll to my host.

He pried the top sweet off, studied it a moment and put it in his mouth. His eyebrows went up and I thought he might spit it out when he smiled and nodded at me.


The log had burnt steadily and my jacket was fairly dry when I heard the clop of hooves and the rumble of cartwheels over stone. I took leave of my host and pressed the mints into his hand. He seemed pleased. He did not slip a knife between my ribs on my way out, in any event.

The night had turned darker. Clouds blanketed the stars; the moon was but a faint smudge low in the sky. I thought my partial drying out might soon be undone. I caught up with the cart as it turned onto the pier.

I tilted my head at Cattus when I passed him walking beside the donkey cart. On the other side, leading the animal, was a husky man I assumed was Mato. The cart's lantern lit the planks of the dock to either side and a good distance ahead. I did not care for the way it made the darkness beyond look denser.

At the light's limit, I stretched out my hand. It disappeared before me and the tips of my fingers tingled with the cold of it. I pressed forward, arms out to either side, hands waving gently in the air to hopefully strike a post it I strayed too near the edge. I could not hear the water nor the rumble of the cartwheels any longer.

I walked tapping the heel of my left foot to the toe of my right in an effort to keep my progress in as straight a line as possible. I think it was the memory of the library corridor that brought the opening tune to my lips. I whistled softly in time to my steps.

A dim aura of light broke the darkness ahead, to my right and near the level of my shoes.

I heard the stamping of feet and a sudden whiff of river.

"What's taking that cart so long?" Lestrade asked.

I grinned in the dark at the sound of his voice and headed towards it.

"Greg," I whispered, as though calling out might alert something I did not want to hear me.

"John," Lestrade exclaimed, clearly feeling no such qualms.

An outstretched arm brushed against my thigh.

"Take care, you're near the edge," he said.

I took hold of his arm and shuffled forwards. "The cart's just behind me," I said.

"About bloody time," Lestrade replied.

"Where's..." I began to ask and stopped when I spotted Sherlock down in the boat, its benches lit by the lantern Greg was dangling over the side of the dock.

Sherlock dropped something into a sack; from the looks of it, another item that had been appropriated to our purpose. He was crouched in the bottom of the skiff, leaning over the rowing bench. He hunched lower, gripping the edge of the bench with the hand holding the sack and peering intently into the shadows.

"Bring the lantern forward a bit, Lestrade," he said.

The light shifted and I saw it. Beside Sherlock, a narrow band of darkness was curling up from the bench towards the smooth planes of his cheek.

My hand closed about my dagger. A second later there was a thud. Sherlock drew back. My blade quivered in the wood of the bench less than two fingers' breadth from where his face had been. Pinned by the point of the dagger, a small, serpentine thing writhed. It did not appear to be attached to anything other than the wood.

Sherlock looked up, his eyes gleaming. "John," he said.

It was the first time I had had a chance to show him how good I was with a knife.

***

The heavens were growing pale when we reached the northwestern gate. The walls of the fortress loomed to the north and the skies above us were nearly clear of the rain clouds that had been drifting south as we had crossed the city. We had been told that the gates would open with the dawn, so our wait would not be long. Combined with the fact that the storm had held off, I was feeling surprisingly well for having spent a sleepless night, chilled and damp.

The admiration in Sherlock's expression when he had handed my knife back to me at the dock may have been contributing to my sense of well-being.

By the gate, we dispersed to wait. Mato fed his donkey and the rest of us leaned against the wall to take a bit of rest, except for Sherlock, who checked each of the knots attaching the net we had used to lift the beast from the river to the posts of the cart. It made me wonder whether Sherlock was convinced the animal was dead and whether he thought it might be able to untie the knots if it was not.

When voices began to be heard from within the towers by the gate, Sherlock joined us to say that Mato refused to take us outside the city walls through the cemetery beyond, however, he had been amenable to exchanging the cart and the net for the rest of the pennies and our cloaks, which had been serving to cover the creature.

"Not the donkey?" Lestrade asked.

Sherlock shook his head. "She's pregnant. I didn't have enough to exchange for both of them."

I watched Mato carefully detaching the animal's harness from the cart.

"So we get to take on the donkey's role," Lestrade said, twisting his mouth to one side and scrutinising the wagon. "It's not exactly steamlined." He gestured at the hefty planks that made up the body of the cart and the thick spokes of the wheels.

"It's not even a kilometre to Bart's," Sherlock said.

"Is there a road?" Lestrade enquired.

Sherlock hummed. "There should be paths for the gravediggers and the mourners."

"And then what?" Lestrade asked. He held up his hand. "On second thought, don't tell me. I'll find out soon enough."

"Excellent," Sherlock said and strode over to the cart.

"Oh, no you don't," I called, rushing to join him. "You are not lifting anything until I have you somewhere where I can check your ribs properly."

Sherlock regarded me for a moment. "As you wish, Doctor," he said, ducking his head and smiling as he turned away.

I stopped feeling the cold completely at that point.

***

Indeed, Lestrade and I were perspiring before long, although it would have been much worse if the way had not been paved. The nearest entrance to the graveyard was a short distance from the city gates and a stone path had cut northwesterly from it to a small central shrine. From there, several other paths radiated outwards to points on the northern side of the cemetery. We took the one heading due north.

Sherlock appeared totally confident of where St Bartholomew's walls would rise a millenium hence. I had already learned how well he knew modern London. Perhaps he knew it in every age. So, he led and Lestrade and I followed, trundling our sea monster along behind us.

The sun was not far above the horizon when we reached the low wall that marked the northern boundary of the cemetery.

"Have a rest," Sherlock said, stooping to pick a pebble from the ground. He stood, tossing it from hand to hand and pivoting slowly. He peered past us with narrowed eyes as though he would memorise every detail of the terrain as he turned.

Greg raised an eyebrow at me and shrugged his shoulders.

We released the shafts without further encouragement and pulled ourselves up onto the flat stones along the top of the wall.

"London's risen," Sherlock murmured, more to himself than to us, it seemed. "A basement level, most likely." I could not catch what he said after that. It blended into a pleasant hum as of a bee among flowers.

The sun was warm on the side of my face, my legs happy to not be supporting me. I stretched my arms out to the side and let my head fall back.

High above us, a bird circled.

Hopefully, not a vulture.

I looked to Sherlock.

He was turning faster now, jacket flaring, a hand shielding his eyes as he gazed up at sky. With a cry and a flurry of feathers, SirĂ²c landed on his shoulder, the sunlight gleaming on her wings, and then it seemed as though Sherlock opened his.

***

There was a loud crash and a shrill cry that sounded like Sherlock's name.

The floor beneath me was very hard and very white. I looked over at Greg. He was looking up. I did the same, squinting into the brightness.

Sherlock's back was to us - an ordinary, suit-jacketed back. "Ah, I have a signal," I heard him say.

A young woman in a white lab coat was crouched on the floor picking up surgical tools that were scattered all about her. She dropped several on a metal tray near her.

The sound reverberated in my head and I grimaced.

Even so, I thought I should offer to help her and leaned forward. I clapped my hand over my mouth and groaned.

Greg glanced at me. "Still new to it, eh?"

I nodded.

"Sit still. It'll pass," he said and scooted forward along the floor. "Molly," he said, picking a speculum off the floor and handing it to her. "Have you met Dr Watson yet?"

She looked up at him and smiled, then she looked at me. "No," she said, "You need water." She got up.

Greg collected more implements, setting them on the tray very quietly.

"Dr Moynihan, please," Sherlock said.

Molly was back with an open bottle of water. "Drink up," she instructed.

I obeyed.

"Molly Hooper, may I present Dr John Watson, who has just been hauling a cart full of dead, primordial beast across Londinium with me. John, Dr Hooper, my favourite pathologist."

I reached up with a hand and Molly bent down to shake it.

"Don't try to get up yet," she cautioned.

"Aidan, good morning. Can the Natural History Museum do without you for a few hours? I have something with many features of interest over at Bart's morgue," Sherlock said.

"Pleased to meet you," I said and snapped my mouth shut. Speaking and looking up had been a bit too much.

"Something very old and very recently dead. Brilliant. See you soon." Sherlock snapped his mobile shut and looked around.

"Ah, Molly, I see you've met John. Would you like to assist me while he recuperates?"


***


It was mid-morning and I was still standing. Greg had led me away for breakfast in the canteen before he left for New Scotland Yard and after several cups of tea and another bottle of water, I had not felt that bad.

Dr Moynihan had been in the morgue with Sherlock when I had returned and Molly had simply smiled and pointed towards the open doorway off the main morgue from which I could hear Sherlock exclaiming something about Christmas.

The cart appeared to have disappeared.

"People from the National Antiquities Museum came to collect it. They were extremely excited," she said.

"Did they ask what it was doing here?" I asked.

"Sherlock said one of his clients had asked him to handle their possible donation of the artifact to the museum as long as their condition of strict anonymity could be respected," she explained.

I chuckled and glanced towards the door.

"They know him. He's done this before. Their staff had it packed up and carried out of here faster than I would have thought possible," she said. "He charms them."

"Right," I said, listening to Sherlock's voice. I turned back to Molly. "Is that what it is? A charm?"

"You haven't been at the Manor long, have you?" she asked.

I thought she might already know the answer to that question, but I replied anyway. "Only a few weeks," I said, shaking my head because it did seem much longer.

"Do you miss it?" I asked, realising that I had taken what should have been her job.

She gazed at the doorway. "I have the best of both worlds now," she said. "He's often at Bart's and I help out as I can."

"John!" Sherlock shouted from the other room.

"Hurry," she laughed, waving me away. "That must be the tenth time he's called for you."

"Oh," I said and with a grin went to see into how many parts they had divided the creature and to make sure that none of them were still moving.

***

I have awoken in some peculiar places, but opening my eyes and realising I was on a steel table in a morgue was definitely in the top ten, maybe even the top five. I blinked against the bright light above me, then gave up and closed my eyes again. My feet were cold. Someone had removed my socks and shoes...or perhaps I had. How I had came to be in my current position was a blank. I hoped I had not keeled over in the midst...ah, the midst of the dissection. I turned my head, felt something silky against my cheek, inhaled the scent of lavender. Perhaps I should just sleep some more. The paper sheets over me rustled.

"You missed the best part, John," Sherlock said.

I re-opened one eye for a second.

Sherlock was leaning over me.

"It's a good thing all the parts we lopped off fell into the boat," he informed me.

"Why's that?" I mumbled, my memory starting to return. There had been another bloke, old fellow, with us.

"They've begun to regenerate," he said, "every single one of them. And the parts we removed from the body this morning, may well do the same."

"Re...what!" I said, sitting up, eyes opening wide. "Where?" I asked, scanning the room.

Sherlock had stepped back fast enough to escape a head butting for which my skull and I were grateful.

"They're in the cold chamber now, except for one that I want to study further at home. That one's in a cooler. The end of the tentacle has structures similar to a leech's mouth. I believe it was intending to feed on me when you interrupted it."

"You're bringing that home?" I asked.

"I have a sub-zero freezer off the lab. It may damage the tissue, but considering the animal's adaptability, I believe I will have to keep it frozen," Sherlock explained, "so the sooner we get home, the sooner it can be frozen, too."

"So it isn't dead?" I asked.

"You missed the discussion Dr Moynihan and I had on that point. The animal's attributes challenge the definition of death. I would have appreciated your views on the matter, but you had nearly fallen into the creature's abdominal cavity just prior to our first observations of regenerative behaviour, so I installed you up here," he said, patting the table beside me, "and Dr Moynihan and I carried on."

"Naturally," I said and slipped carefully off the table. The floor was very cold. "You wouldn't know where I put my shoes?"

"You didn't put them anywhere," Sherlock said and reached under the table. "Here." He dropped the shoes onto the table. "Your socks are over the heating vent. They should be dry by now." He pointed in the pertinent direction.

I tip-toed over to the vent to retrieve the socks.

"Do you know how the creature was bringing bodies here...to now?" I asked, sitting on a stool and slipping the socks on. I tried not to think about what might be dried into them and concentrated on how warm they were.

"Lestrade hasn't been able to gather the information on excavations or repairs affecting underground waterways yet," Sherlock replied. "I may have to help him to speed that up."

"Doesn't he have staff to help with that?" I walked back to the table to retrieve my shoes and saw that it was Sherlock's jacket that I had been using as a pillow.

"Nominally, yes, but they're all idiots," Sherlock said. "Unbelievably slow and they've no imagination when it comes to thinking where to look for things. Well, you've met some of them."

"I didn't have a chance to observe their researching skills," I replied. It was true, but I also had not really been paying much attention to them.

"I have," he said and picked up his jacket and shook it out.

I looked around, still not fully awake. Something seemed to be missing.

"Weapons by the door," Sherlock said, strolling in that direction. "If you could take mine, too," he added, "I'll take this." He picked up a small, metal chest from a table on the way.

I took note of the three, wide straps circling the container. Sherlock was not underestimating the danger of the thing. I collected the swords, the crossbow and quiver and thus laden followed him into the main room of the mortuary.

"'Afternoon," he said to Molly as we passed.

She smiled at that and tilted her chin at what I was carrying. "Good luck with all that," she said.

"Ta," I replied as I backed out the doors, trying not to drop anything, but I wasn't sure that was all she was referring to.

***

Manoeuvring myself out of the taxi with our hardware was a struggle, but once achieved, I found the door to Baker Street already open. I would never have thought that the sight of a dim foyer could give me such joy. I hurried in, pushing the front door shut with my foot and the inner door open with my shoulder. Sherlock was at the bottom of the stairs looking through some post.

He made a dismissive noise and dropped the envelopes back on the mantelpiece. "You can leave those here," he added, pointing to the weapons. "They need to go back to the armoury. I sterilised them in the autoclave at Bart's while you were sleeping. Your dagger and the bolts, too. The harpoon's still embedded in the beast in the freezer."

"You sure you don't want these up...near the lab?"

He looked at me, scowling for a moment then nodded. "We'll go with your instinct on that, then."

"Ever thought about getting some tranquiliser guns?" I asked on the way up the stairs.



Baskerville bounded out of the shadows at the far side of the library when we entered.

I turned to drop our weapons into my chair until we decided where to stow them when I heard Baskerville bark. When I looked, he was backing away from Sherlock, alternately snarling and whining.

Sherlock lifted the chest he was carrying higher.

Baskerville backed further away, his teeth bared.

"I'm putting this straight into the freezer," Sherlock said and swept around the corner of the half-open laboratory door.

I walked to the doorway and saw Sherlock open a door just inside the supply room. It was not one I had used, or even noticed; the small freezer that was part of the refrigeration unit in the main lab had been sufficient for the experiments with which I had assisted.

A chill draft wafted past me.

Baskerville whined.

"Disrobe, John," Sherlock said, shutting the door and locking it. He toed his shoes off and kicked them towards me. "Quickly!"

I started from the top down with an efficiency I had learned in the treatment of chemical burns. Top bared, I untied my shoes, retrieved a few items from my pockets, and shucked my trousers and pants in one go.

Sherlock was walking towards me, throwing his garments ahead of him onto the same heap mine were forming. He stepped to the side, opened the hatch to the incinerator built into the wall, removed some items from his pockets and dropped the rest of his clothes in as he took them off.

I scooped up the pile of clothes at my feet, brought them to him and dumped them in. "I liked that jacket," I said as Sherlock secured the hatch after them and began the incineration cycle.

"Everything will be replaced," he said.

I held out my hand with my keys, coins and phone in it.

"Autoclave," Sherlock said, pointing. "You back up your data, don't you?"

"There wasn't much on it," I said.

"Might want to make it a routine," he replied, tapping out a message on his mobile, hitting send and handing it to me.

"Stuff like this happen often?" I asked, moving to the autoclave and placing the items inside.

Sherlock slid the items from his pockets from the table into his hand and came over to add them to the load.

"Close it," he said. "Us, next."

A fierce roar issued from the library.

I stared at Sherlock.

"Chapalu will have heard Baskerville's whining," he said.

I went to look out the door.

Chapalu was sniffing and licking Baskerville, growling low between swipes. He had stopped whining.

Her great head swung towards me, lips drawn back. Her growl deepened.

"Definitely the shower for us, right now," Sherlock said, looking over my shoulder into the library.

"Do you ever bring her hunting with you?" I asked as we crossed the lab.

Sherlock shut the door of the wet room behind us. "Does she ever come hunting with me, you mean?" he said, turning on the water.

I noted the distinction. "Yes, I guess it would be her choice to come along or not, I imagine," I said.

"Indeed," Sherlock replied, opening a cupboard and adding two jars to the shelves near the shower head. "Chapalu's territory is the Manor estate, especially the house itself. She patrols it closely, although one doesn't always see her. She likes to use the passageways between the walls."

I imagined encountering her between the library and the music room.

"Don't worry. You were well-scented. She would have known you belonged...here," Sherlock said, holding his hand out to test the temperature of the water.

"So she's always near the house?" I asked.

"She checks the perimeter sometimes, but mainly leaves the area near the riverbank to one of the cubs I mentioned earlier and the heath to the other," he replied, stepping under the spray and raising his arms. "You wanted to examine my ribs, as I recall."

I stared for a moment at him and his beautiful proportions. He looked back at me, standing still as a statue with the water sluicing over him, except that statues do not grow red and purple bruises across their perfect skin.

"Yes," I said and went to him.

~~~~~~oo0oo~~~~~~

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