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Russian Holmes Fanfic: Observations in a Yellow House (JWP 2015 #2, PG13) - CaffieneKittySpace
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Russian Holmes Fanfic: Observations in a Yellow House (JWP 2015 #2, PG13)
Title: Observations in the Yellow House
Fandom: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Russian, 1979
Alternate Postings: AO3
Rating/Content: PG13, case-fic, google-based research.
Warnings: References to Victorian Mental Health practices and commentary on them.
Word Count: 840
Disclaimer: Not my world.
Notes: Written for watsons_woes July Writing Prompt #2: Yellow I Googled 'yellow meanings' last night and ended up with this factoid: "In Russia, a colloquial expression for an insane asylum used to be 'yellow house.'" And so, this. My first foray into this particular iteration of Holmesian canon: 1979 Russian Watson doing some surveillance for Holmes in an insane asylum. (Please note this was written on the tail end of a short but horrendous migraine and is unbetaed and so may contain all manner of horrors.)

Summary: To foil a deadly plot, Watson must keep a watchful ear on the night-time halls of Bedlam.

Observations in the Yellow House

Watson wrapped his arms around his knees, rocking back and forth on his pallet on the floor to keep up his charade of madness should anyone look in, all the while listening to footsteps in the hall as they passed. Much of the screaming and cacophony of the asylum had quieted in the night - partly due to the lack of active electric therapy sessions, partly due to the administration of the nightly bromides - but Watson remained alert.

They will meet tonight. They must. For three days he'd been living the life of a madhouse inmate with a few exceptions. No bromide for one, and no beatings or electric therapy. He was presenting himself as a borderline hysterical depressive as best he could, though neither the inmates or staff noticed much as long as he was quiet.

He and Holmes had decided that in order to catch the ring of saboteurs and assassin using the asylum as a meeting place, one of them had to be inside to observe. Holmes had initially presented himself as the infiltrant, but Watson would not have it. With Holmes's demeanor and personality, should any of the staff who were not the one they had arranged this surveillance ploy with happen to encounter Holmes for any length of time, the man's 'asylum inmate' disguise was likely to be too good and net him a hefty and painful dose of therapy. Watson had put himself forth as the infiltrant, arguing he knew the medical signs of mental conditions and could mimic them enough to be unremarkably insane. With great reluctance Holmes had agreed.

Footsteps passed in the hall and Watson listened; too brisk, alone. Not his conspirators. He continued rocking.

After only the first few hours in the place Watson had resolved to never recommend consignment to an asylum to any of his future patients unless it was a case of life or death. He could see the barbarity of how the inmates were handled, and the ineffectiveness of many recommended treatments. When he got out, he thought he might write an article for the medical journal. It would not likely be published, flying too much in the face of established treatments and practices, but he would feel as though he was doing something. He'd seen the inhumane ways the patients were treated here now. Worse than animals.

Watson was spared the worst treatment himself, though that didn't make him feel any better about it. Primarily he just wanted to go home. Watson missed his bed. He missed Mrs Hudson's porridge and boiled eggs, he missed the fire grate experiments and the smoke from Holmes's pipe. He missed Holmes. He missed any friendly face really, but Holmes's cackle and manic grin, his rough-sharp voice calling Watson's name as he flung out the door into another adventure; that he missed most of all.

Watson smiled to himself. It must be quite maddening to Holmes to be sitting at 221B, simply waiting for one of his Irregulars to bring him the information he'd need to stop the plot, whenever Watson had gathered it. Poor Mrs Hudson.

Slower footsteps in the hall now. Three pair, two from one end, one from the other, meeting and stopping several doors down from the room Watson was in. The smile slipped from his face as he stood up from the floor and silently moved to the door of his cell, standing tip-toe to see out the small observation port.

Two men and a woman in the finest house-servant garb he'd seen spoke in whispers in the hall. At the distance Watson could only make out a few words: dining-room, palace, carpenter, table, tomorrow, and then most damningly, dynamite.

Watson pulled his notebook out of its hiding place and wrote down what little he could hear, then quickly did a sketch of each person's face, adding details of dress below. When the discussion broke up and the conspirators departed, one turned toward Watson's room. Watson hid silently behind his door, listening to the uneven gait of the man as he passed by.

Limp, Watson scratched beneath the man's caricature.

When the footsteps had all departed, Watson folded his notebook and went to the high, barred window on the outside wall; another privilege necessary to the surveillance that would otherwise have not been accessible to him. He paused, reopened his notebook and drew three quick lines under 'tomorrow' before closing it again and pushing it out through the bars to fall the four stories down to whichever of Sherlock's urchin auxiliary was waiting for it.

Watson waited for the high bright voice from below to call out the agreed signal of 'Spare a penny, sir?' letting him know his book had been received and that the asylum contact would engineer Watson's release as quickly as possible. The signal came, but Watson was momentarily stunned by the familiar deep, rough-sharp timbre of the voice that delivered it.

It seems Holmes found something to do after all, Watson thought with a low chuckle, warmed by the thought that Holmes himself had been waiting under his asylum window, waiting for the information that would let his friend go free.

(that's all)

Post Notes: The plot being conspired to in the hall is a reference to the 1880 assassination plot carried out against Tsar Alexander I where a carpenter planted dynamite under the dining-table in the Winter Palace. I figured it might make it more subtly Russian, even though it is transposed to several years later and in Britain here.

Extra: I had to make a quick Russian Watson icon for posting this on LJ, so I've included it and the stills for it here in case anyone else wants or needs one.

My July Writing Prompts masterlist.

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Current Mood: sore sore

8 comments or Leave a comment
pompey01 From: pompey01 Date: July 3rd, 2015 02:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love the idea of using the prompt like that -- and asylums are never not creepy.

And that it's WATSON going into the fray, as it were, is wonderful. (Trust Holmes to make sure he's not too far away!)

And I'm glad Watson will be released soon -- I was half-dreading something would happen that would leave him there for the rest of his life.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: July 3rd, 2015 08:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
If I'd had more time (and more than a few scenes seen of the source material), poor Watson would have had a far worse time getting out of there. As whump potential goes he got away easy.
capt_facepalm From: capt_facepalm Date: July 4th, 2015 11:34 am (UTC) (Link)
This is a wonderful plot. Victorian asylums have so much sinister potential. Your rationale for why Watson was chosen to play the inmate/patient is well-founded, and having Holmes being closer than expected is perfect.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: July 4th, 2015 11:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
So much potential, yes. I'm surprised there aren't a lot more Victorian Holmes stories set in asylums.
rojo3131 From: rojo3131 Date: July 6th, 2015 04:23 am (UTC) (Link)
I have to admit that I was sick with worry over something going wrong at those last lines, because as much as I love the woes and making Watson go through not nice situations or characters, my fear for asylums is far greater.

Original plot for the prompt and loved the story; Watson rationality at offering to go and live like that instead of his friend and Holmes being at the ready, as close to the doctor as he could be without endangering his efforts. Very well done!
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: July 6th, 2015 09:47 am (UTC) (Link)
Sorry for the excess worry! Things could definitely have gone far worse for him.
methylviolet10b From: methylviolet10b Date: July 18th, 2015 08:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
EEEE!!! I loved this! I am still unfamiliar with the Russian series, but this really works for any gaslight adaptation. Your Watson voice is wonderful. And such a creative use of the prompt - bravo!
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: July 20th, 2015 07:07 am (UTC) (Link)
I haven't seen much of the 79-80's Russian series, but that Watson is adorable. There's a scene in the first one early on when Holmes is running around being Holmes in various ways and Watson is sitting there at the dining table, eating breakfast like a fastidious little cat. They are still around online somewhere I'm sure, and there are clips up on YouTube.
8 comments or Leave a comment