Rating 12 (non-explicit femslash)
Summary: There seems to be some confusion about Lady Smallwood's full name
“I should probably explain my rules-“
“Shouldn’t we introduce ourselves properly first? I do know who you really are, Mrs Norton and I presume you’ve identified me.”
“Of course, Lady Smallwood. Or would you prefer Elizabeth, since this is an intimate session?”
“Alicia, please. I use my middle name nowadays. After far too many years of ‘Elizabeth’ or sometimes even, God help us, ‘Lizzie’. My fault, I suppose, getting born in 1952.”
“But you still used the name?”
“George liked it, and so did the constituents, unfortunately. But George is gone, so I can put an end to ‘Lady Elizabeth Smallwood’. And fortunately my mother also liked ballet.”
“Who is something of a merry widow, in a careful way. Well, after George’s disgrace, my escutcheon’s rather blotted already. These things rub off on you, as it were. But let me make myself clear, Irene. I am aware that reports of your death have been exaggerated, but I believe some of my colleagues are not. I presume you’d like to keep it that way? So please don’t do anything rash."“Mutually assured destruction?” The Woman smiles.
“Followed by a little detente,” Alicia replies. “By the way I won a Commonwealth medal on the balance beam, and am still surprisingly flexible. So you can be imaginative with the bondage.”
Rating: G (this chapter), PG-13 eventually
Chapter 1: In which Boy climbs a tree and Jonah makes a friend
The Pleydells are an ancient family; if we cannot say for sure that our forefathers arrived with Norman William, yet in the fifteenth century there were men of our house among the great wine merchants of London. These City-men, wearying of their trade in canary and sack, came at length to love the Saxon villages and plant their own roots there. The Pleydells of White Ladies in Hampshire may have found no place in the history books, but it was men of such a breed who assembled with Good Queen Bess at Tilbury to face the Spanish menace. And even if we cannot trace our roots back before the days of Prince Hal, my cousin Berry certainly has the nose and morals of one descended from the less reputable Roman emperors.
We are an ancient family, and also a close-knit one. When my father inherited his portion in White Ladies, he thought it shame to force his co-heirs to sell even an acre of land. Instead, he and Bertram Pleydell shared the estate, although my father, since he was a MP, frequented London much, while his elder brother preferred the life of a simple country squire. My sister and I divided our youngest years between London and Shrewsbury, my father's constituency. Yet, as he always told us, White Ladies was the true home of the Pleydells and always would be. Indeed I have been told that I spent my first months there in Hampshire, since my mother sought repose after my birth somewhere closer at hand to Westminster than the borders of Wales.
The first I remember of White Ladies, however, was also the first time I met Berry. I can have been three at most, still in my knickerbockers, when I ascended the steep stairs to the nursery with my big sister Daphne.
"Why look," said their nursemaid as we entered the cosy room, "Here's your old friend Daphne and her brother. What's your name, my little man?"
"Boy," I told her proudly and the boy beside her laughed.
"Now, master Bertie, behave," the nurse-maid said reprovingly and the boy replied haughtily:
"It's Bertram, Nursey." He seemed a giant to me, already in long trousers, a tall, fair, high-coloured boy with the look of one who enjoyed his food.
"His name's Bois," my sister told him. "Be nice to him, Berry, he's the only brother I've got." She was not yet five, but wise for her years and the smile that she gave Bertram – Berry – would have melted any male's heart.
"Very well, Boy," he said. "Come with me and I'll let you play with my old toy cars. Just be sure you don't break anything."
I cannot remember whether it was during that visit that Berry ate too much cake at tea and was horribly sick afterwards. Perhaps it was the next year, when I was four and tried to kiss Madrigal, another cousin of mine, under the nursery table. She bit me on the nose. It was the first rejection I had by a member of the fairer sex and one of the more painful ones. My early memories of White Ladies largely blur together now, but one still stands proud and distinct in my mind. The brilliant heat of July and the first time I met the Mansels.
My father was in London, for the House was still sitting, but our mother wanted country air for our lungs. Daphne and I were therefore to spend three glorious weeks in Hampshire with our cousins and without our governess, before we went with our parents to the South of France. When we arrived at White Ladies, I spent a few minutes with my host and hostess and must needs go with them to the nursery to admire their new plaything. This was my baby cousin Jill Mansel, with the blonde curls already coming on her pretty head and huge grey eyes.
But I was seven and a half and wary of girl cousins, after Madrigal. When Berry promised to show me a badger sett in the woods I left Daphne playing with Jill and followed him. The sett was indeed a fine construction, but the day was so still that even in the wood the heat soon grew oppressive.
“I need some lemonade,” Berry announced. “Cook’s made some specially and if we don’t get back soon Daphne and Jonah will drink it all.”
“Who’s Jonah?” I asked.
“Jonathan Mansel, Jill’s brother. Wasn’t he around when you arrived?”
I shook my head and Berry went on. “He’s always wandering off on his own, but he takes good care to be back in time for tea, so he can scoff the lot. So we need to get back.”
Berry himself was not underfed, but I knew better than to arouse his wrath by saying so. Besides, I had just spotted a tree that begged to be climbed: a most ancient beech whose study limbs seemed ripe for my ascending.
“Are you coming?” Berry demanded.
“In a moment.”
Berry shook his head in exasperation. “Well I’m off. Stick to this path and it’ll bring you straight to the back of the house.”
He stumped off and soon the cathedral of nature that is an English wood was mine alone. With eagerness I rapidly ascended my ancient quarry and was soon ten feet off the ground. A few slightly more perilous movements and I was still higher, lording it over the universe, or so it seemed to me. Yet my triumph was short-lived. The desire for lemonade was beginning to awaken in me too, but as I looked down at the ground far below I felt suddenly dizzy. How had I climbed up and how could I now descend? My nerve had snapped and the descent seemed impossible.
I yelled for help then, first from Berry – long since departed, of course – and then for anyone. Hot and thirsty and dizzy, I yelled till my tongue cleaved to the roof of my mouth, then I slumped back onto the perch I had made for myself.
I took off my belt and tied it round one sturdy branch and one wrist. I was no longer in danger of falling, no matter how giddy I became. But until my absence was noticed...an hour, two hours or more perhaps, here I must remain. The boy stood on the burning deck, whence all but he had fled. I could sit down, but then my belt pulled cruelly at my wrist. Yet if I stood, I found my eyes inevitably drawn downwards, towards the temptingly soft green sward so far below me. Perhaps if I jumped, I might not break my neck...
I did not dare. Instead, I sat and bewailed my fortune for many a weary minute. The there came a rustling in the undergrowth. It could not have been the wind, for it was a still afternoon. A badger perhaps, returning to the sett. Would it see me and depart in fear again? Despite my dizziness, I looked down, scanning the ground around the beech.
What emerged was not a badger, however, but a boy of about my age. He was tall, fair-haired and extraordinarily grubby, and as I shouted – or rather croaked – he looked up. A smile lit up his pleasant face.
“Hello up there,” he yelled. “That’s a good lookout spot.”
“I’m stuck!” I wailed, and in a moment he was alert, searching out the great beech’s secrets. Then he was climbing up, as easily as a man might climb a ladder. He swung himself onto the branch beside me.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’ll have you down in no time at all.”
“I can’t...” I said, and I fear I began to weep, in my childish panic.
“If you got up here, you can get down again,” he said, untying my belt, and there was something in his voice that stilled my fears. “Only you must do what I say, because I’m better at climbing than you are. I’ll go first and tell you what to do.”
He scrambled down the tree again, and then announced.”First of all, you must stand up. Put your right hand on the branch you tied yourself to and then bring your left foot up.”
It took only a few minutes to descend, but to me enfeebled mind it seemed nearer an hour. Yet I did not lose heart, for my fair-haired friend was below me, now encouraging, now calming. When I got to the ground, my legs shook so much that I was near to sinking down to my knees, but he held me under my arms and in a moment my weakness was gone.
“And now,” he said firmly. “What villain left you alone in these woods? You’re well brought-up and I’m sure you wouldn’t have trespassed if someone else hadn’t led you astray. This land belongs to a Justice of the Peace, and he doesn’t like strangers roaming around here uninvited.”
“I was invited,” I replied indignantly and my rescuer clasped his hand to head.
“I should have known,” he said. “You look like a Pleydell, even though you’re dark.”
“I have my mother’s hair,” I said, for the Pleydells are a fair-headed breed as a rule.
“You must be Boy,” he said, and stuck out a grubby hand, which I shook gratefully. “So was it that fat swab Berry that abandoned you here? I bet he’s gone back to skulk indoors again with my sister.”
“You’re Jonathan!” I said in sudden realisation. “Jonathan Mansel.”
The boy shook his head.
“Jonah Mansel,” he replied. “They call me Jonah so I’m not mistaken for my father.”
Jonah led me back to the house, telling me about the trout he’d almost caught down in the brook and insisting that we should both go there tomorrow and have another try.
“Berry can’t keep quiet for long enough for them to come out, but I’m sure you could,” he said and I felt the warmth of his smile on me.
But Jonah’s smile abruptly faded as we entered the house, to find a tall fair-headed man picking through the post left on the hall table. He looked up as we approached and hastily slid a couple of letters into his pocket. His resemblance to Jonah was striking. This must be my Uncle Jonathan, I realised, even before he addressed Jonah languidly.
“Your mother’s been looking for you, Jonah. Fool of a woman was worried you were getting into some mischief.”
“No, sir,” Jonah replied promptly. “Boy and I have been exploring in the woods.”
“We found a badger sett,” I added, grateful that Jonah hadn’t mentioned my mishap.
Jonah’s father was clearly uninterested in nature.
“I told Daffy you’d turn up like a bad penny,” he said. “Now cut along to the nursery, you two, and don’t bother me.”
I stood there for a moment, looking at him. He was a handsome man, but there was something in his face I found troubling. A puffiness in the cheeks, a gaze that lacked his son’s directness...
“Come on, Boy,” Jonah said firmly, pulling at my sleeve and I followed him as he went silently towards the nursery stairs. At the foot of the stairs, on an impulse, I turned, to see Mansel senior tearing open an envelope, before crumpling the letter inside into a ball, his face working.
I was too young, of course, to recognise the signs of dissipation for what they were. Jonathan Mansell was a man being blessed with good looks, a fine lineage and wealth. Yet there was a fatal weakness within him that even I, as a boy of seven, could already sense.
In the nursery we found Jonah’s mother with little Jill. I remember Daphne Mansel now only as a soft cloud of perfume and furs, smiling at relief at the return of her son. Of far more interest to me were Jonah and his sister.
They were a sweet sight together. Jill cried out in delight when she saw her big brother and he lifted her up tenderly, for even though she was not yet a year old, she was desperate to be up and moving. Jonah held her so that her little feet might touch the floor and she shuffled them merrily, if in wobbly fashion. Her grey eyes beaming, she was already afire to dance. I found myself wishing for a moment that I had a little sister as sweet as her. Or a brother as true as Jonah. As he gazed down protectively at his sister, I felt a strange tightness in my chest.
I find it almost impossible to believe now, but Jonah was in only his seventh summer when I met him; though he was tall as I, he was a year younger. Yet the child was already the father of the man. In that day I first saw Jonah Mansel as he would become: intelligent, devoted to his family and a man whom I, like others, would follow anywhere.
Rating: 12 (non-explicit femslash)
Summary: The opera's over, but that's not the last of Renée Adler
Many thanks to Kalypso for betaing
( Anthea wakes in the middle of the night, because there’s someone in her room, standing right next to the bed. )
Rating: 12 (non-explicit femslash)
Summary: Anthea's trip to the opera brings some strange effects
Many thanks to Kalypso for betaing
Several months ago, fengirl made some requests for the Five Acts meme. She asked for sleep and bedding themes and her pairings included Anthea/Ella or Anthea/ACD!Irene. Inspired by her Sleeping Beauty sequence, this is the result.
( It feels strange to Anthea, going to the opera without Ella, but Ella’s in London and she’s in New York, so going together isn’t a realistic option. )
Rating 12: Non-explicit het
Summary: Sherlock's still having problems figuring out Mary Watson and Appledore
Many thanks to Kalypso for betaing
Part 1, Part 2
( Another talk with Mary will probably allow some more deductions, but Sherlock has to wait, plan their next conversation correctly. )
Rating 12: Non-explicit het
Summary: Sherlock's learned some more about Mary from talking to her; now he needs to start making deductions.
Many thanks to Kalypso for betaing
( John's mood is increasingly filthy towards the end of the month and Sherlock can't immediately work out why. )
Rating 12: Non-explicit het
Summary: Sherlock has to come up with a new plan to sort out Magnussen. But he also has to solve the problem of John and Mary.
Many thanks to Kalypso for betaing
( Sherlock's second stay in hospital is much longer: several months, in fact. )
Rating 12 (gen, mild swearing and adult situations)
Summary: A French decathlete's had a breakdown, but Sherlock has a match-box that may explain it all.
Inspired by one of the cases mentioned in The Sign of Three.
Betaed by Small Hobbit.
( The thing about Sherlock is that when he says something is "baffling" or "inexplicable," that often just means that he's already worked out 90% of what's happened, but is unduly bothered by the remaining 10% of the puzzle that still doesn't fit. )
Rating: 12 (implied het)
Minor spoilers for Series 3
Sarah is surprised to get a phone call about John after all this time, but the woman who contacts her is insistent.
"I believe you previously employed him as a locum," she says. "We're thinking of taking him on, so I need to ask how you'd rate his performance."
"Would you say it was excellent, good, adequate or unsatisfactory?"
Their form almost certainly doesn't have a tick-box for Falls asleep at work, but brilliant if you're attacked by Chinese gangsters.
"Adequate," Sarah says firmly.
"And his bedside manner?"
We never got quite as far as my bed, but I suspect his performance there would have been excellent.
"Adequate," Sarah says. "No, good. He gets on well with people."
"So he's able to cope with difficult colleagues?"
"Yes, excellent at that."
"I did wonder about problems in his last job. Dr Watson said the man he worked for had gone away unexpectedly..."
"I heard about it," Sarah says. "John was working privately with a consultant. I think he was very much appreciated."
"So overall, you'd recommend Dr Watson?"
"Definitely." Though Sarah supposes she should give them some warning. "John's been a soldier as well, so he's quite glamorous in his own quiet way. You should possibly keep him away from any staff at your practice who are feeling a bit bored."
I start with the assumption that they're not going to kill either Mary or the baby off in childbirth. Given how pregnant she's supposed to be by the end of His Last Vow (probably about 8 months if the wedding was in May) and even allowing for the writers' completely hopeless chronology, I don't think that leaves them sufficient time to get enough drama out of her character after the big revelations of His Last Vow. On the other hand, I'm pretty certain that Mary is eventually going to be killed off, because she is in ACD. As to what they're going to do meanwhile, I want to go back to the start of one of the lesser known ACD stories: The Boscombe Valley Mystery.
We were seated at breakfast one morning, my wife and I, when the maid brought in a telegram. It was from Sherlock Holmes and ran in this way:
Have you a couple of days to spare? Have just been wired for from the west of England in connection with Boscombe Valley tragedy. Shall be glad if you will come with me. Air and scenery perfect. Leave Paddington by the 11:15.
“What do you say, dear?” said my wife, looking across at me. “Will you go?”
“I really don’t know what to say. I have a fairly long list at present.”
“Oh, Anstruther would do your work for you. You have been looking a little pale lately. I think that the change would do you good, and you are always so interested in Mr. Sherlock Holmes’s cases.”
“I should be ungrateful if I were not, seeing what I gained through one of them,” I answered. “But if I am to go, I must pack at once, for I have only half an hour.”
There you have a picture of the ideal detective's companion's wife in Victorian times. ACD Mary not only doesn't resent Holmes' call on her husband's time, she actively supports it. The question is, how do you update such a dynamic to the twenty-first century without either making Mary look a complete doormat or John seem a negligent husband?
One ingenious answer is that you have Mary as grateful to Sherlock. What John has ended up with is a wife who, given her back story, cannot justifiably complain about anything John or Sherlock get up to henceforward. Mary also knows that John needs to run into danger periodically if he's not to start his version of "looking a little pale", but she isn't going to come along with him for his adventures now for two reasons. One is because she's given her old life up and the other is because she's got the baby to look after. Even she probably realises that storming a crack den while breastfeeding is not recommended.
I think Series 3 sets up Mrs Holmes as a possible role model for Mary: a woman who was brilliant at her original career, but who has chosen to do something different with her life and stay at home with her children. I think it's quite feasible that Mary will in fact go back to working as a nurse after the baby, especially since she's conveniently already in a part-time job. But she's through with being a spy/assassin. Will she find being a doctor's wife boring? At times, but it's a decision she's chosen to make: she can't complain about it. And what will make it easier is that John, in time, will probably manage to romanticise her past life in his own mind (as Mr Holmes does with Mrs Holmes). John will admire Mary for her bravery, resourcefulness and shooting skills and forget the murky details of her past crimes.
So I think it's quite possible that in Series 4 we will get John and Sherlock off solving crimes while Mary stays at home with Baby Watson. I think we'll also have a few scenes of hopeless/wonderful New Dad!John and Uncle!Sherlock and possibly Mary coming up with one or two useful suggestions for cases (as Sarah did in The Blind Banker). But she'll probably be mostly on the sidelines in a way that seems vaguely plausible. And then I think that she'll get killed off in Series 5, when we've got used to her, so we can have some more grieving John.
What about Baby Watson at that point, or rather toddler/young child Watson, if they're keeping very roughly to real-time chronology? A lot of fanfics seem to assume that John Watson would be the world's most devoted dad, but I see absolutely no sign of that in canon. BBC!Watson is a man who, when Sherlock has just drugged his pregnant wife, doesn't feel he has to stay with her to ensure their unborn child's OK. Instead, he chooses to go off with Sherlock on a mission that may end up with them both dead or in prison. In other words, John's priorities are still massively skewed towards adventure and away from domesticity.
So what I think will happen is that if Mary dies, those around John will realise that he's just not single parent material. There's no obvious family to take over. Mary is an "orphan"; one or both of John's parents are presumably alive but he's not close to them (and they may be elderly). Harry isn't suitable to rear a child. What I think might therefore plausibly happen in such a situation is that one of John's friends will make an informal offer to bring up/be the main caregiver for Miss Watson. The obvious person to do this would be Molly (with or without Greg's assistance). That would allow John to move back into Baker Street, but still see his daughter frequently, without having to worry about childcare if he needs to rush off with Sherlock to the West Country to help find a stolen racehorse. It also allows the writers to have some comic John and Sherlock plus adorable child scenes without either making John and Sherlock into an official couple or showing them as hopelessly negligent.
Anyhow, those are my guesses and I'm sticking to them – until someone comes up with a better hypothesis in the comments. Fire away!
In ACD's Sign of Four, when Dr Watson is rhapsodizing about Mary Morstan, Holmes scolds him for his biased judgement, and says:
"I assure you that the most winning woman I ever knew was hanged for poisoning three little children for their insurance-money, and the most repellent man of my acquaintance is a philanthropist who has spent nearly a quarter of a million upon the London poor. "
Meanwhile, at the end of "Charles Augustus Milverton", Milverton being shot by a woman whom he has ruined after a failed blackmail attempt (a killing which takes place while Holmes and Watson have broken into his house to try and help another of Milverton's victims). The unnamed woman is a widow, whose husband has died of grief after hearing about his wife's past.
Several people have pointed out that one of the things Sherlock sees when looking at Mary is the word "liar". We also know that she's an orphan. My wild guess therefore is that Mary is a repentant and reformed criminal, who was in some way culpable for the death of her parents. Sherlock, who can consider a garrotter to be the best man he knows, wouldn't have a problem with that if he found out, and I suspect John would be prepared to forgive her past in practice.
But Mary isn't necessarily going to realise quite what unusual moral standards the two men have, and if it leaked to the papers that John Watson was married to a criminal it'd make a devastating scandal. Mary also strikes me as a woman with enough nerve to kill someone if she was desperate enough, and she's also potentially got access to John's gun. So I think a possible plot is that Mary kills Milverton while Sherlock and John are trying to retrieve blackmail material on someone else and that they then have to help her escape, possibly taking the blame themselves. (This being Sherlock, there will probably be another three twists in the last five minutes, but it might be one of the plot points).
What I don't believe, meanwhile, is that Mycroft is going to get killed, as some of my friends are worrying. One, because Stephen Moffat is notoriously averse to killing off any of the heroes, as Doctor Who fans have been known to complain. And secondly, because Mark Gatiss is obviously enjoying playing Mycroft and presumably gets a say in the matter.
Rating 12 (non-explicit femslash)
No spoilers for Series 3
Notes: this was inspired by A Strange Adventure by fengirl88 and is a different take on the controversial opera described in that.
The advantage of working for Mycroft Holmes is that he often gets offered hospitality by his contacts, and when he doesn't want the latest treat, he passes it on to Anthea. And two free tickets to the opera means she can take Ella out somewhere; they've had to cut back recently, with their current financial situation.
The disadvantage is there's normally a reason why Mycroft doesn't want his gifts and Anthea's now realising what it is. ENO is less stuffy than Covent Garden and she'd thought Ella would enjoy Die Fledermaus. But she should have known that ENO and Strauss is a conceptual disaster waiting to happen.
Anthea's spotted Mycroft's pet policeman in the audience, so the director might yet get arrested for crimes against taste. And though she's cringing at every new revelation, Ella is surprisingly unruffled as she consults her programme at the interval.
"I see someone still loves Freud," Ella announces. "He's misunderstood him completely, of course, but that's probably the point."
"It's the director's vision that matters, everyone else just exists to serve his genius. A common pattern."
"We don't have to stay," Anthea says hastily, because she can sense where this is going.
"It's OK," Ella says more cheerfully, "but next time perhaps we should pick something ourselves, not just accept your boss's bribes."
Summary: Why does a strange case in a Sussex village leave Sherlock Holmes baffled?
For fengirl, with whom several months ago I discussed the possible existence of Sherlock/Flanders and Swann crossover fic.
( "My dear Watson, your visit is opportune," Sherlock Holmes announced. )
For those who do not know the song inspiring this, it is Bedstead Men.
Rating 12 (non-explicit slash)
This was inspired by Second Skin's Lestrade Lies and by Fengirl's Five Acts meme request for "sleeping and bedding themes". Her prompt reminded me how often in BBC Sherlock canon we see John Watson either asleep or just waking up.
Many thanks to Small Hobbit for betaing.
Set at the start of The Great Game.
Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man – Raymond Chandler, The Simple Art of Murder
( There are doubtless meaner streets than those of Hoxton, now that gentrification is creeping in. )
Rating 12 (vaguely obscene food references)
The Sherlock Holmes Picnic this year included a fabulous mystery competition that had us charging all over Regent's Park to solve a murder set in an AU in which Sherlock and John are real. In this AU, the Sherlock RPF picnic also took place in Regent's Park, featuring a cast of deluded and sometimes dangerous fans, many of whom you may recognise from the Fandom_Wank report.
Also present, however, was the world's most clueless Sherlock RPF fan, Miss Mary Sutherland. What follows is her account of the day.
(Note: this fic does not contain major spoilers for the murder mystery. It contains minor spoilers, but only in the way that a haystack contains a needle: as the results of the competition indicate, Mary Sue Sutherland can't spot an important clue if it comes along and bites her on the ankle).
From: Mary Sue Sutherland <email@example.com>
To: SherlockHat [e-mail redacted]
Sent: Saturday, 20 July 2013, 22:24
Subject: Re: Sherlock picnic 2013
You said you wanted me to tell you the highlights of the Sherlock RPF picnic, so you could do another one of your parodies, but it was beyond parody this time. Going to a conference on the care of municipal archives sounds a lot more fun; I'd have gladly swapped places with you. But I've been going to the picnic every year, and having signed up for this year's one before Laptopgate, I thought it'd look suspicious if I didn't show up at all. My plan was to go along for a bit and then invent the need for an urgent trip to the Warburg Library if I decided to sneak off early.
I'd managed to keep a low profile online about Laptopgate (helped by the fact that even though I was recruit number 5 to CAMSIC, I'm still pretty much a no-name-fan in most quarters), but I knew I was going to have to take sides at the picnic. Which meant sticking up for Delstalker, even though you know what I think about her and about "Cold and Broken Hallelujah". (BTW, have you got any further with "You Don't Really Care For Fanfic, Do Ya?" It has to be finished, even if you then need to change your name and retreat into your archives for ten years to avoid the resulting flack).
That's the point, after all: Delstalker may have written a fic I loathe, but that doesn't mean she's responsible for people's over the top reactions to it. And I don't think it was trolling: she strikes me as absolutely sincere in her belief that Sherlock getting himself stupidly killed was the best kind of ending ever. (I do sometimes wish I could round up half of all fanficcers into re-education camps and explain to them that a good relationship involves two happy people treating each other without emotional cruelty, and why can't they write something like that for a change?)
But anyhow, you wanted to hear about the picnic. I ignored Annie's request for cupcakes, because there's only so much sugar anyone can eat, and I took along some cheese straws. Not in the shape of anything, because I am a writer, not a baker, and it was hard enough just avoiding burning them. I got there quite early, only to find no sign of Annie. But Del was there, so it was just as well I had my CAMSIC T-shirt on. Only, of course, she said it was last year's T-shirt and why didn't I buy this year's one from the store? I said I tried to make all my clothes last several years, and she said it showed (!!)
And then I got the expected interrogation about why I hadn't left comments on "Hallelujah" and what I thought of it. I gave her some vague reply about never being good at putting things in comments, and that I had found her fic very thought-provoking. I didn't say, obviously, that the main thoughts were "God, how much Sherlock would hate this romantic crap" and "John Watson writes more coherent paragraphs than Del". I really don't see why people want to turn Sherlock Holmes, who I know from meeting him is both brilliant and a prick, into some kind of emotional idiot. His eyes and his coat are really not the most interesting thing about him.
But anyhow, having, I hoped, satisfied Del, who wants acclaim from everyone, even someone she despises like me, I looked around to see who else was there. I spotted a rather uncomfortable looking bloke in a rugby shirt sitting in his own, so I wondered if he was a newbie and needed introducing to people. It turned out, however, that he was the legendary Charlie, who was a lot less appealing than Annie had made him out to be. In fact I can't really understand what she sees in him: he comes across as spectacularly boring. I also can't understand why she had thought it was a good thing dragging him along to the picnic and then abandoning him. Meeting a load of RPFers en masse isn't really a good idea for Muggles, especially when we were all starting to get hyped up on sugar and slash talk. I did manage to do Charlie one favour and divert Kate Kissinger from her obvious descent on him. Definitely taking one for the team, especially as she'd brought along penis-shaped cupcakes. (Don't ask! Please don't ask! I almost joined "They're Just Friends" on the spot from the squick alone).
I got about quarter of an hour of theories from Kate, which wasn't as bad as I expected, because I got her onto Mycroft. Since I've actually talked to him (you remember the affair of the dead cat fic), I'm quite prepared to believe the worst about him, however implausible. And I did quite like the idea that he was actually a lizard, though I'm not sure how that squares with him also being a descendant from the Merovingian royal family. (And frankly, Mycroft's a lot brighter than Clovis or Dagobert ever were).
After that, I managed to find I'm Not Your Shipper and SpeedyWoman and we had a nice peaceful chat about gender roles and the awesomeness of Mrs Hudson. Not Your said she was think of writing an AU in which it's actually Mrs Hudson who solves all the crimes using Sherlock as a front, because no-one takes older women seriously. (She thought of it as Miss Marple meets Remington Steele). I'm always a bit twitchy about RPF AUs, but she was making quite a lot of decent points about levels of reality which ties in with your ideas about parody and roman-à-clef as political weapons (because, of course, the personal is always political for women, isn't it? You can't hear the DS Donovan haters without realising that).
Anyhow, we had an intelligent and sensible conversation for quite a long time, which is completely unsuitable for parody by you, and then we got ambushed by Parma Violet, who apparently thinks that trolling online isn't enough and that a true troll works in person. I always find her mind-bendingly frustrating, because she makes one or two good points, but if you agree with her on those she thinks you are ripe for conversion to her whole worldview. There are options in between the people who want to kidnap John Watson and force him to write slash and those who are practically stalking John's girlfriends to prove he's not gay. (I almost suggested that Violet kidnap John and wire him to a plethysmograph to check that he wasn't, but that would be completely unethical. Though I am now tempted to write a fic in which Sherlock does that to John in order to get baseline data for some case and then gets a surprise at how John reacts to him. Or is that a borderline creepy thought? When I hang around too much with the other RPFers, it gets hard to tell).
I had presumed that Violet was targeting people at random, but it turned out she'd read my Clara fic (The Solitary Fish-Cyclist) in which I hypothesise that Sherlock might be asexual. I know I'm not the first person to suggest that, but I think I'm probably the only member of CAMSIC who has done so recently, so she was pleased about that. Until I pointed out that saying Sherlock was asexual when he might not be was no less disrespectful than saying he was gay when he might not be, unless you were automatically thinking that being gay was wrong. At which point we got the usual tedious attempt by Violet to prove she isn't a homophobe. (I always feel she's protesting a bit too much, though I've no idea why. Maybe she secretly lusts after Del?)
Violet lost interest in me after a bit, and I realised that this was because Annie had finally turned up, and the queue to talk to her was promptly developing. This is the bit where I get reminded of school, because Annie is the popular girl this year and you can see it driving Del wild that she's not top anymore. I've always hated that kind of cliquey stuff, so I went off to talk to Natasha. Whom I admire not because she's got a publishing deal, but because she's a genuinely good writer. I do my best not to envy her success, even though there are times when she makes me feel I want to delete all my work and start again from scratch. But our styles are just so different that I'm probably better off trying to write as well as I can as Mary Sutherland rather than be another Sedimentary clone. It certainly took Annie a long enough time to find her own voice after writing together with Tash.
Since I knew you'd want the gossip, I did ask Tash what was the deal about her having to take down her previous stories from the net, and got something of a rant. As you suspected, Annie is refusing to allow her to do that and the sticking point is the shared stories. I suggested to Tash that she just let Annie take the whole credit for them, but that didn't go down well. I suppose since "Sherlock on the Buses" is the fic that first captured Sherlock's voice, it's not surprising that Tash is reluctant to abandon her baby. But I think she will in the end, because the publishers are insisting on it, and there must be some way of buying Annie off (possibly even literally). Tash is sensible enough to realise that, surely?
I decided after a while that I'd better distract Tash from her (justified) complaints about Annie, so I asked her about cupcakes. She said she'd just brought some chocolate ones from Tescos (having had to go herself at the last minute to get them, because her husband had bought chocolate brownies instead). That made me feel less bad about the cheese straws and we got into a discussion of the best and worst of the homemade cakes. I thought the CAMSIC ones had actually been quite clever and I also liked the look of the ones with the green gun iced on the top (though that turned out to be peppermint, when I ate it, which isn't my favourite). Tash said Kiss' penis cakes had been surprisingly good and actually not as worrying as some of the other ones around. That surprised me, because most of the rest of the designs had been relatively tame: red pants and poison pills and moustaches and the like. But Tash said someone had come with a cupcake with Annie's name actually written on it in icing.
I said that must be April, and was she really still trying to get Annie involved in her Mystrade community? I think April must have asked everyone to come and help her with it now: she even tried to get me involved at one point, although I've always made it clear to her what I think about Mycroft. (And yes, that is another reason why I was trying to avoid April even before the laptop affair. Good deduction, that. Because though I do feel a bit sorry for her – she has a rotten time in RL – she is completely unsuitable for any community except care in the community).
I'm sorry, that's getting very bitchy, but Flame's combination of intensity and helplessness always makes me uncomfortable. But Tash was saying that Annie now has another over-enthusiastic follower. I don't know where she finds them all. There was foxycop getting all peculiar about her and then April, and even Parma Violet, in an odd way, is more obsessed than Annie than you'd expect, given that Del's still head of CAMSIC. The new one is called something unmemorable, like Fan29, and no-one knows who she is, but Tash advised Annie to block her when she started posting repeatedly on all of Annie's fics.
I asked the obvious question about whether Fan29 was really a sock puppet of Annie, but Tash said no, it was definitely someone else, because she was obviously more medically knowledgeable than Annie. I asked her how she knew that, and she had some complicated argument about Annie getting details of blood-flow in The Software Engineer's Thumb completely wrong and Fan29 trying to defend her, even though she obviously knew the difference between venous and arterial bleeding. Honestly, if you want to know all the sordid details, you should probably e-mail Tash. I kept on getting the feeling that she had more to spill about Annie if I'd just known the magic words. Anyhow, the main point is that Annie has another huge fan and there will doubtless now be further ructions in the fandom about who is Annie's Best Friend Forever.
By that point I was starting to get a headache, because the whole thing was so complicated that it needed diagrams. You enjoy these kind of fights: I don't. Though I suppose that if I'm in a fandom devoted to a man who is always convinced that he and he alone is right and possessing no social tact whatsoever, I shouldn't be surprised if that influences the fans. I decided I'd sit down and relax and not over-think things, and I managed to find some people who were perfectly happy to discuss Dr Watson's apparent problems in reading a calendar correctly. (What is it with that man and his inability to get to grips with dates? Double-entendre entirely intended).
So I was finally unwinding and then along came the sugary straw that broke the camel's back. Someone had made cupcakes decorated with a crossed out "RPF", alongside an almond. A person conducting a feud via cakes with a nut on the top; doesn't that kind of food fight just sum up Sherlock RPF? I had to get out of there before it did my head in completely.
I didn't even stop to say goodbye to Not Your and SpeedyWoman and the rest – and Annie was still far too busy to approach and thank for organising the picnic. I was across the Clarence Bridge practically at a run, and when I looked at my watch as I left Regent's Park I saw it was 2 p.m. I'd managed fractionally under two hours talking to Sherlock RPFs and I was already worrying about my sanity. I headed for Baker Street tube, staying well clear of Speedy's, and went straight home.
E and E were still out on their cycling trip when i got back, so I did what you've been urging me to do and watched a couple more episodes of The White Queen on the BBC iPlayer. Funny how RPF is suddenly completely acceptable when it's all heterosexual and about dead royalty, isn't it? But I didn't spot the actor you claim looks like DI Lestrade. Are you sure you're not just making that up? I can't believe that any upper class twerp called Rupert and playing a lord is going to look much like the Silver Fox of the Yard. Will have to stop for the moment because it sounds like the cyclists returning and I'd better hear how they got on.
The two Es ended up cycling for 32 miles, though they didn't get a swim because the tide in the Wash was too far out. I'm not sure Big E will ever be able to move again. I just said I'd left the picnic early because I got a bit tired talking to people and he didn't ask further. He's much happier if I don't mention the word "slash" and I know he always worries about me going off to these events. Still, I suppose this year's was relatively uneventful; no bizarre accidents or near-death experiences, unlike previous years. Even Laptopgate seems like a storm in a cupcake now I'm back home. Doubtless if you read all the LJ accounts of the picnic, you'll find there were more arguments after I'd gone, but it's all small stuff. Basically the fandom is about celebrating friendship and dreaming of being clever enough to solve crimes and we can all do that. On that cheery note I'll leave you, and good luck with finding something lurid enough for your next fandom parody.
From: MGH [e-mail redacted]
To: AZ [e-mail redacted]
Sent: Sunday, 21 July 2013, 04:34
Subject: Re: Death of Annabel Keele
I know I told you to get GCHQ checking yesterday's PRISM data urgently regarding the demise of Ms Keele, but why on earth did you send me this? The NSA's algorithms may not be smart enough to recognise that I could not possibly want to read anything by Ms Sutherland, but you ought to know that by now. Even if she had been on the scene at the relevant time, she would not have observed anything of use; she never does.
Let me make this clear: I want accounts by people alert enough to spot what actually happened and I want them immediately. We have to get this death solved before the media pick up on the Sherlock connection. He obviously cannot be involved in the case himself, given that "Death by Squee" is now a recognised phenomenon, and the police have already shown themselves to be thoroughly untrustworthy in this matter.
Provided I can get reports from as many of those present at the picnic as possible, I have no doubt I will be able to solve the case promptly: it is only the legwork involved that keeps me from being a detective genius. Prancing around Regent's Park for three hours in summer is not my idea of fun. What I need now is not sentimental tosh about friendship from a short-sighted academic: send me a gigabyte's worth of RPF gossip and not only will I find the murderer, I may have the opportunity to close down CAMSIC at last. And you know what I'm prepared to do to achieve that.
PS: the above e-mail does, however, confirm that your betaing for Ms Delamare has been a considerable success. I remain grateful that you persuaded her to the "tragic" rewrite of Chapter 96 of "Hallelujah"; we may yet destroy the RPFers from within. That is, if they don't all slaughter each other first!