The Sincerest Form of Flattery
Five Ways Holmes and Watson Live On, and One Time They Just Live
1. Study In Scarlet (Due South)
"You will excuse me for a few minutes while I satisfy myself as to this floor." He threw himself down upon his face with his lens in his hand and crawled swiftly backward and forward, examining minutely the cracks between the boards.
— The Adventure of the Speckled Band
"Watson," said he, "if it should ever strike you that I am getting a little over-confident in my powers, or giving less pains to a case than it deserves, kindly whisper 'Norbury' in my ear, and I shall be infinitely obliged to you."
— The Adventure of the Yellow Face
Ray could not take Fraser anywhere.
The uniform at the door must be a new guy, because he was giving Fraser the are you sure he didn't escape the loony bin in a bright red straitjacket? look that Fraser always got from the new guys. And Fraser hadn't known his name, and Fraser always remembered names.
Anyway, Fraser was down on the floor over there, on his hands and puffy-pants-covered knees, doing the crawling-sniffing-licking Mountie thing. Except it looked like he might be done, so Ray hastily wrapped up his interview and beat a retreat over to Fraser. He was greeted with one of Fraser's I-would-look-so-smug-right-now-if-it-weren't-impolite smiles.
"Ah, Ray! An examination of the floor has revealed distinct traces of Castor canadensis urine—"
"Beaver pee, Ray, on the—"
Beaver pee. Hmm. Ray tuned out of Fraser Radio and started flipping through his notes.
"—which, as you know, Ray, implicates the diabolical activist-poachers claiming membership in the Consortium of—"
Ha! There it was, right on the third page. "Fraser," Ray said.
"—whose non-domestic animal husbandry efforts – one moment, Ray – while controversial, to be sure, prove surprisingly effective. In fact—"
"—once met a member, a young lady – well, not biologically female, but as I understand it, she prefers to be addressed—"
Fraser's big red Canadian mouth snapped shut for one blissful moment – right before it opened again. "Really, Ray. There's no need to shout."
Right. Ray smiled, nice and sharp. "I thought you might care to be informed that the beaver pee is from the traveling rodent circus which, according to the property manager, set up camp here two weeks ago." He was careful to enunc– uh, enuch– to mind his p's and t's.
"Ah." Fraser paused. Ray could tell he was kinda disappointed about the loss of his renegade Canadian killing-animals rights group theory. "That would likely explain the taste of – never mind. Hmm."
Ray did not even want to know. "C'mon, we gotta talk to the girlfriend," he said, trying to divert from the topic of urine.
Fraser lit up. "The girlfriend! Castoreum, Ray!"
2. The Professor and the Crime (Numb3rs)
"No member [of the Diogenes Club] is allowed to take the least notice of any other one. Save in the Stranger's Room, no talking is, under any circumstances, allowed.... My brother was one of the founders, and I have myself found it a very soothing atmosphere."
— The Greek Interpreter
"[Mycroft] thinks of nothing else save when, as an intellectual exercise, he unbends if I call upon him and ask him to advise me on one of my little problems."
— The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans
Charlie barged into Larry's office, mouth already opening to speak a manic stream of words. Larry held up a prohibitive finger from where he sat on the floor, and pointed at a sign typed in bold characters. It read:
11:00AM TO 12:00PM PST, INCLUSIVE
NO TALKING ALLOWED
Charlie noted the new addition, handwritten underneath in red marker:
For emphasis, Larry opened his eyes and glared until Charlie shut his mouth again. Then he shut his eyes.
Charlie sighed heavily. He didn't dare speak; he really needed Larry's help now, but it was only 11:05. Last Tuesday, he'd ignored the sign, and been summarily kicked out of the room. At 12:01 exactly, Larry had unfolded from the lotus position to help Charlie with the case, but then had refused to speak at all for the next 24 hours. (Charlie had heard interesting things about Larry's Wednesday lecture, and was currently in negotiations with a second-year grad student for the video footage.) He sighed again – that seemed to be allowed – and sat directly in front of Larry on the floor.
And then Charlie stared at Larry, putting all his years of experience as a bratty younger brother behind the gaze.
Larry continued to sit serenely, unmoved.
Charlie stood up and went to the chalkboard, where he began scrawling out his new and way-more-important-than-meditation equation, making sure the chalk squeaked and clicked as much as possible.
Then he glanced over his shoulder, and caught Larry hastily squeezing his eyes shut again.
Charlie grinned, and kept writing, underlining things pointedly and drawing arrows, until finally Larry sighed heavily himself and stood up. He walked over and snatched the chalk from Charlie's hand to write with. Charlie watched, brow furrowed. What was Larry— oh right. But that theorum had no relevance to— Hmm. Maybe if he... Oh. Oh. Yes! That meant—
That meant he had to tell Don.
Charlie scrambled for the cell phone in his pocket. Larry pointed dramatically to the door, arm flung out with unmistakeable meaning. Charlie hurried outside, speed-dialing Don's number as he went. He barely noticed Larry shut the door behind him.
"Don!" he said, before Don could say a word. "Come pick me up; I figured out what was wrong with my calculations—"
3. The Side Door of Music (House)
"Look here, Watson; you look regularly done. Lie down there on the sofa and see if I can put you to sleep." He took up his violin from the corner, and as I stretched myself out he began to play...
— The Sign of Four
"There is nothing more to be said or to be done to-night, so hand me over my violin and let us try to forget for half an hour the miserable weather and the still more miserable ways of our fellowmen."
— The Five Orange Pips
"Draw your chair up and hand me my violin, for the only problem we have still to solve is how to while away these bleak autumnal evenings."
— The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
Wilson heard House playing his guitar all the way down the hall. It was Jimi Hendrix, he thought; one of his blues songs.
"Hendrix, really?" Wilson said, walking into the living room. He thought he'd managed a normal tone of voice, but House looked up sharply anyway. He ran an assessing glance over Wilson, who dropped heavily onto the couch.
"I'm planning to drop some acid later and re-create the Star-Spangled Banner," House said dramatically, but he stopped playing to adjust the tuning pegs instead. "Your surgery ran late," he observed into the relative quiet.
"But not as late as it was scheduled," House said, not looking up.
"No." Wilson paused, and sighed. "She was eight."
House didn't say anything more. Wilson wasn't sure if the choice was mercy or self-preservation; he felt brittle, sharp-edged and exhausted. "You met her once, you know," he managed, before the words came to a lurching halt. He kicked off his shoes and lay flat, hard-scrubbed hands folded on his stomach. "You probably don't remember," he said to the ceiling.
Wilson remembered. House had barged in on that first peds consult, and Wilson hadn't bothered to throw him out only because Violet had been more entertained than intimidated.
He had liked that about her.
Wilson listened as House set the guitar back in its stand and kicked off the amp, turning around on the piano bench with a practiced lift of his bad leg. The lid slid back with a hollow thunk, and he began to play.
It was a sweet piece of music, warm and silvery and vaguely familiar. But Wilson could not place it, and House's improvisations gradually washed away the recognition, while the sound faded the cold memory of the OR.
"Two weeks ago. Green eyes," House said, out of nowhere. Wilson turned his head to watch House's face, which was intent on the music and uncharacteristically softened. "And she told me I was bossy. I told my team that she had more spine than any of them."
Wilson smiled tiredly, imagining. He rolled onto his side and drifted off to sleep like that, watching House's hands and surrounded by music.
He woke up the next morning, crookedly covered by a warm throw blanket, and lay there a moment, thinking of nothing more complicated than the smell of coffee and the familiar sounds of House thumping around the kitchen.
4. Respect For Your Brains (Psych)
"It's quite exciting," said Sherlock Holmes [to the police detective], with a yawn. "What happened next?"
— A Study In Scarlet
As we moved across [the room] in the direction of the window, Holmes fell back until he and I were the last of the group. Near the foot of the bed stood a dish of oranges and a carafe of water. As we passed it Holmes, to my unutterable astonishment, leaned over in front of me and deliberately knocked the whole thing over. The glass smashed into a thousand pieces and the fruit rolled about into every corner of the room.
"You've done it now, Watson," said he, coolly. "A pretty mess you've made of the carpet."
— The Reigate Puzzle
The pineapples fell to the floor amidst the broken glass in a series of hollow thumps, interrupting Lassiter's interrogation of the (wrong) suspect.
"Gus! How could you be so clumsy!" Shawn scolded. Gus knew where Shawn had acquired that particular tone of voice – from their fourth grade librarian, Mrs. Hurst, who had always chastised Shawn for talking too loudly, followed immediately by giving him a lollipop. In Gus's opinion, it was a serious miscarriage of negative reinforcement and consistent child behavior management.
Also, he was not at all astonished that Shawn was blaming the Great Spencer-Guster Pineapple Spill of 2011 on him. Not even the littlest bit. Gus sighed inwardly, and began to apologize profusely to the actual suspect, Mrs. Wilder.
With everyone in the room rushing to help clean the scene of the accident, no one but Gus noticed Shawn's bright "I'll go grab a towel!" and subsequent disappearance from the room — at least, not until his dramatic shriek (number 4, Gus thought: carefully calibrated to express horror, disgust, and a tiny bit of swooning) echoed down the hall from the kitchen.
Lassiter rolled his eyes profoundly, but rushed down the hall with Juliet regardless, to where Shawn was pointing a trembling hand at the garlic press (thereafter known as "the murder weapon"). The following scene proceeded much as Gus had expected, aside from a short and completely unnecessary detour into Gus's underwear choices: damning explanation, confession, quips, cuffs; exit stage left.
Juliet dragged Mrs. Wilder out the door, and Gus went over to where Shawn had artfully draped himself across the kitchen counter. "Do you need some smelling salts, Shawn?" he asked solicitously.
As expected, Shawn straightened from swooning position immediately.
"Smelling salts, Gus? Did you actually become a Victorian novelist while I wasn't looking? And if so, where is your cravat?"
"Smelling salts are used by many modern sports professionals, Shawn. Ammonia's ability to trigger an athlete's inhalation reflex is scientifically—"
"—proven to be boring, Gus. Much like our Lassie, here – a true man of science." Shawn turned to greet Detective Lassiter with a large, pseudo-gracious grin.
"Anything that distinguishes me from you, Spencer," Lassiter replied, hovering over an aggravated crime scene tech drafted into bagging the garlic press as evidence.
"What ho, a zinger! I say, Gus," Shawn said in a jovial British accent.
"You say what?"
Shawn dropped the accent. "No, it's just 'I say.' You know, like that show, the one on PBS you used to like. With the guy from House doing a fake British accent."
"Hugh Laurie is a British citizen, Shawn. That is his real accent."
"You say that, but I still don't believe you. My British accent is better than his."
Behind Shawn, Lassiter rolled his eyes. Gus couldn't agree more. Before Shawn could make an opportunity to demonstrate the awesomeness of his fake-British accent (which was atrocious, in Gus's somewhat expert opinion, as loyal patron of the BBC), Gus offered, "So. Jerk chicken, on me?"
Shawn lit up. "Gus! You are a genius."
"Yes, Shawn. I know."
5. If The Earth Told A True Story (Castle)
"Excellent!" I cried.
"Elementary," said he. "It is one of those instances where the reasoner can produce an effect which seems remarkable to his neighbour, because the latter has missed the one little point which is the basis of the deduction. The same may be said, my dear fellow, for the effect of some of these little sketches of yours, which is entirely meretricious, depending as it does upon your retaining in your own hands some factors in the problem which are never imparted to the reader."
— The Crooked Man
"And you don't want your name to appear?"
"Not at all. The work is its own reward. Perhaps I shall get the credit also at some distant day when I permit my zealous historian to lay out his foolscap once more — eh, Watson?"
— The Norwood Builder
"No! Come on, Castle, knock it off," Beckett said, rolling her eyes.
"But you solved the case! You deserve the credit."
"It's not about credit, Castle. It's about the case. The bad guy is in custody, and we have enough evidence to put him away for a very, very long time. It's better that Detective Robinson gets the press, you know that."
"I know no such thing."
"Castle. You were there when we discussed it, you do too."
Castle subsided into the car with a pout. ("It is not a pout! I'm brooding. Manfully." "Doesn't the word 'brooding' come from the way hens hatch eggs? You're right, Castle, that is manly.")
Five minutes into the drive, Castle abandoned his rambling speculation about Ryan's wedding plans with a lengthy pause. He said, "I know it's not about credit. But I still think it's important that people know the real story."
"I know the real story." She looked over at Castle, and added, "You know it, too."
Castle smiled at that, small and real. "That's true."
Beckett wanted to lean over and hug him. She womanfully resisted the urge, and said, "Anyway, you can fix it all when you write this up. Nikki Heat can get all kinds of credit when she solves the mystery."
After a moment, Castle said, "She's still not you, though," and Beckett looked out the window to hide her smile.
No Crimes and No Criminals (Sherlock Holmes)
"If I remember rightly, you on one occasion, in the early days of our friendship, defined my limits in a very precise fashion."
"Yes," I answered, laughing. "It was a singular document. Philosophy, astronomy, and politics were marked at zero, I remember. Botany variable, geology profound as regards the mud-stains from any region within fifty miles of town, chemistry eccentric, anatomy unsystematic, sensational literature and crime records unique, violin-player, boxer, swordsman, lawyer, and self-poisoner by cocaine and tobacco. Those, I think, were the main points of my analysis."
Holmes grinned at the last item.
— The Five Orange Pips
Sherlock Holmes and I looked blankly at each other and then burst simultaneously into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.
— The Sign of Four
"There are really some very unique features about this case, Watson," said he.
— The Norwood Builder
I broke the pleasant quiet of our rooms in Baker Street with a poorly-muffled burst of laughter from behind my newspaper, causing Sherlock Holmes to look up from where he sat across from me. He had turned his remarkable energies for the day into cataloging – the maintenance of his many handmade references and compendiums on crimes and criminals. His focus was but lightly devoted to a task which, while necessary to his work, made my friend restless and easily diverted.
"Ah, I see you've reached the article on page five. I thought you might find it amusing," said he, coolly.
"Not at all," I said. "I have only read through page three."
"Indeed?" Holmes asked, lowering his notes. He pondered for a moment before inquiring if it was the article on the moral influence of food.
"No," I laughed, "though that is truly the most absurd of the articles printed. It was not the article's intrinsic humor that amused me, but rather that it recalled a memory of my own."
"I see," said Holmes. He studied me a moment longer. I knew he would ask, insatiably curious as always, and so I offered up the story freely – an anecdote from my time at St. Bart's featuring the unfortunate confluence of an alley cat, the hat of a noble lady, and my old colleague Stamford. Holmes laughed at the tale, and we fell back into our separate pursuits, silent but for the rustling papers.
A few minutes later, I did laugh out loud at the article on page five. Holmes did not look away from his own work, but I observed a slight smile on his face.
Our morning continued thus uneventfully, until we heard an arrival downstairs. It roused us both from our respective occupations to eagerly sit watch on the sitting room door; many an exciting case had started in this innocuous way in the past. Holmes once observed that it was only for the brief time between the front door and the stairs that a case could be anything at all. After that, it became a matter of facts and my friend's methods, as usual. It started always with the tread on the stairs – today it was a light, athletic step, though I was certain Holmes made more of this than I could. He set aside his work to listen and straightened in his chair as the visitor entered: a small, out of breath messenger boy, carrying a package in his arms.
"Delivery for Mr. Watson, sirs," he piped out, in the clear high pitch of the very young. Holmes raised a brow.
"Flowers for you, Watson?" he said – and the package was indeed a box for flowers. I could muster no clue as to the sender, however, and told him as much.
"No matter, the identity will be known shortly," said Holmes. "They are not a thoughtful acquaintance, or they would have addressed you by your doctorate – unless our newly-employed guest here misspoke."
The boy blushed a deep red at this. I took pity on him as my friend would not. "Perhaps the card will make all clear," I said, prompting a childish rush to hand the box over. Red roses lay within, and the great detective laughed.
"My dear doctor, another conquest? I have observed none of the usual symptoms in you, but perhaps age has mellowed your sentimentality," Holmes said. He did not seem much convinced of this hypothesis.
"Why do you think it a romantic gift?" I asked, the unopened card held loosely in hand; I admit to being curious if my friend could divine its contents sight unseen.
"Surely you are not so ignorant, Watson. A gift of red roses is commonly held to be a confession of love," he said in his superior manner. "Moreover, a person who would choose this particular flower-shop would not, due to its reputation and limited selection, be likely to express sentiments other than the conventional." The boy seemed somewhat affronted by this assessment, but did not dispute it.
"Let us examine the evidence of the card, then," I said, and suited actions to words. Upon opening the message, I began to laugh, and quickly folded it back upon itself. Holmes frowned as I ignored his outstretched hand in favor of replacing the card in the box and returning all to the boy. "I'm afraid you were more right than you know, Holmes," I said. "It is a love letter indeed, but meant for a Mister Watson, and not Doctor Watson at all."
My friend rapidly caught on, as I knew he would. "Where were you taking these?" Holmes asked the waiting boy.
"212B Baker Street," was the reply.
"Then I must inform you that you are ten houses away from your destination, and will likely find yourself late upon returning unless you hurry," he said. The boy, only just recovered from his previous blush, turned red again and rushed away at once.
"What a terribly disappointing case that was," Holmes said, settling back as the retreating footsteps clattered down the stairs.
"I am surprised that you didn't spot the mistake at once."
"The possibility was one I considered, of course," he admitted, "but I confess that I considered the affections of a sentimental woman far more likely. You are by far the most worthy man of my acquaintance." He spoke the words absently, having already returned to his work, which only caused me to feel the sincerity all the more. At loss for a response – for thanks would only elicit a dismissive remark, as I well knew – I inquired instead as to how he'd deduced the delivery boy's recent employment.
"Surely you are too accustomed to my explanations by now to be truly interested, my dear doctor," he deflected, still otherwise occupied.
"Not at all," I said. "I always wish to know how you do it, my friend, if only you care to tell me. It is by far the most remarkable privilege of my life." I smiled as Holmes looked up and considered me for a long moment.
"Of course it is," he said finally, and proceeded to lead me through the facts of the case.