Chapter 1: 1
It's been 84 years...
It's been 84 years... And I can still smell the aroma of fresh paint. The fine china had never been used... The cotton sheets had never been slept in. Titanic was called, the "Ship of Dreams." And it was... It really was...
~ Southampton, England - 10th April 1912 ~
The gleaming, white superstructure of the Titanic rises above the great sea mountainously beyond its rails. Charcoal coloured funnels rise into the sapphire sky much like great pillars of marble. Crewmen glide across the newly sanded and stained decks, dwarfed by the immensity of the steamer. It is almost Noon on sailing day. A crowd of thousands of onlookers blackens the pier that stands next to Titanic. The people resemble ants on a great expanse of never-ending land. On the pier, horse drawn carriages, motorcars and lorries move at a slow pace through the dense plethora of human life. The atmosphere is thick with excitement and the giddiness of something similar to a young child witnessing a wonder. People embrace one another in tearful farewells, or they wave and shout 'Bon Voyage' wishes to friends and relatives occupying the decks above.
Back within the crowd, a red-coloured Renault leading a silver-coloured Daimler-Benz pushes through the growing crowd, leaving a rather sizable gap in the sea of people. Around the throngs of handsome cars, others press on, eager to board the ship, jostling and hustling and barking at White Star Line officials and employees. The Renault comes to a steady halt and the driver, Mr. Lovejoy, rushes to open the door for a young man dressed in a stunning charcoal-black tailored suit, which is finished off nicely with a burgundy-coloured silk cravat tie. He is seventeen years of age and handsome, regal in stature, with piercing blue eyes that could be compared to that of a blue sky being reflected upon a great expanse of ice.
The boy looks up at the great ship with cool appraisal. "I don't see what all of the fuss is about." Says the young man. "It doesn't look any bigger that the Mauretania." The personal valet and driver opens the door on the other side of the car for Mycroft Holmes, the 24-year-old heir to the Holmes family fortune. He is clever, elegant and rich beyond meaning. "You my be blase about some things, Sherlock, but not about Titanic. It is over a hundred feet longer than the Mauretania, and far more luxurious. It has Squash courts, a Parisian cafe, and even Turkish baths." Mycroft turns and offers his hand to their Mother, Catherine Holmes, who takes it and descends from the other car behind him. The woman is within her early-forties. She is a widow and she rules her household with and iron will. Especially with two sons. "Sherlock is much too difficult to impress, Mother." Says the eldest Holmes child. The man glances towards the ground, where a puddle lies. "Mind your step."
The woman gazes up. "So this is the ship that they say is unsinkable..." Mycroft laughs with mirth. "It is unsinkable. God himself could not sink this ship." He speaks with the pride of a host providing a special experience. A White Star Line employee scurries towards them, rushed by last minute loading. "Sir..." He turns to Mycroft. "You will have to check your baggage in through the main terminal, round' that way--" Mycroft nonchalantly hands the man a fiver. The other mans eyes dilate. Five pounds being a monster tip at the time. "I put my faith in you good sir." Says Mycroft, who curtly nods toward their butler-like man. "See my man..."
"Yes, sir. My pleasure, sir." The elder Holmes never tires of the effect of money on the unwashed masses.
"Brother, dear Mother, we best hurry." He indicates the way towards the first-class gateway. They move into the crowd, Trudy McLeod, Sherlock's maid, hustles behind them, laden with bags of the family's belongings. Kindly, the youngest Holmes child offers to help her. Once onto the ship, Mycroft is jostled by two yelling steerage boys who shove past him. And not moments later, he is bumped again a second time, by the boy's' father.
"Sorry, sir!' The father pushes past Mycroft after his children.
"Steerage swine. He has clearly missed his annual bath." Says the eldest Holmes brother.
Their Mother turns to face him. "Honestly, dear... If you were not forever booking things at the last instant, we could have simply gone through the terminal instead of running along the deck like some squalid steerage family."
"It is all a part of my charm, Mother." He says. "At any rate, it was my dear brother's lack of time management that made us late." His dead shark eyes meets Sherlock's. "Here I have pulled every string I could to book us on the grandest ship in history, in Her most luxurious suite..." He turns to Sherlock. "And you act as if you are going to your execution."
It was the "Ship of Dreams" to everyone else. To me, it was a slave ship, taking me to America in chains. Outwardly, I was everything that a well brought up young man should be. Inside, I was screaming.
Chapter 2: 2
A view of Titanic can be seen from several blocks away, towering above buildings and into the skyline. The steamer’s whistle echoes across Southampton. Within one of the smoky pubs, which is crowded with dock workers and ship crews, there sits a man and his friend. There is a poker game in progress. Four men in lower class garb deal a very serious hand.
John Watson and Gregory Lestrade, both of which are in their early to mid-twenties, exchange a glance as the other two players argue in irritated Swedish. John is a golden-haired drifter, his hair is a bit unkempt but, not too bad. His clothes are wrinkled from being slept in many previous nights. The man is an artist, very self-possessed and surefooted for his age, having lived in his own much of his life. The two Swedes continue their sullen argument.
“Du dumma fiskhuvud!” Says one of the men, Olaf. “Jag kan inte tro du satsar på våra biljetter!” Sven, the other, frowns. “Du förlorade våra pengar. Jag försöker få tillbaka den. Stäng nu upp. Ta ett kort!”
John’s face lights up and he flashes a grin towards the two worked up men. “Hit me again, Sven.” He takes the card and slips it into his hands. The man’s eyes betray nothing. Greg sits silently beside him, he licks his lips, refusing a card. In the centre of the table, there lies coins and bills from at least four different countries, this has been going on for a while. Sitting atop the money are two third-class tickets for the RMS Titanic.
In the distance, the Titanic’s whistle blows again. A final warning.
John takes a shaky breath. “The moment of truth, boys...” He says. Greg puts down his cards and so do the Swedes bit, John holds his cards close, as if they are precious beyond measure. He lets his eyes fall on the other cards. “Let’s See, Greg’s got... Niente. Olaf, you’ve got squat. Sven, uh oh... Two pair... Hmmm...” He turns to gaze at his friend. “Sorry, Greg...” He sighs.
The other man’s eyebrows rise. “Sorry...? What have you got?! Did you lose my money?” John grins. “Sorry, you’re not going to see your mother again for a long time.” He slaps a full house down onto the rickety wooden table. “Because we’re going to America! Full house, boys!” Not moments later, the table explodes into shouting in several languages, while Johns an Greg rake in the money and the tickets.
Olaf turns and balls up one huge fist, Greg thinks that he is going to beat John senseless but, he swings round and punches Sven, who flops down backwards onto the floor and sits there, looking depressed. Olaf seems to forget about John and Greg, who are dancing around in giddy happiness.
“We’re going to America...” They’re both shouting, when the pub keeper points to the clock. “No, mate. Titanic goes to America. In five minutes.” John glances at his friend, wild-eyed. “Shit. Come on, Greg!” It has been grand but, they run for the door.
John and Greg, carrying everything they own in the kit bags on their shoulders, sprint wildly towards the pier. They tear through immense crowds which stand next to the terminals. As they jostle and push through slow-moving gentlemen and ladies, shouts can be heard. They dodge piles of luggage, and weave through more groups of people. They both burst out onto the pier and John comes to a dead halt... Staring up at the cast wall of the hill, which towers seven stories above the wharf and is over an eighth of a mile in length. The ship is monstrous.
Greg dashes back and grabs John, and they both sprint towards the third-class gateway at E Deck. The two men reach the end of the ramp just as an officer detaches it at the top. “Wait!” John shouts, holding his hands up. “We’re passengers!” Flushed and panting, he waves ‘their’ tickers. The officer cocks an eyebrow. “Have you been through the inspection queue?” He questions. The other young man nods frantically, and his mouth produces a lie. “Of course. Anyway, we don’t have lice.” He gestures to Greg as well. “Both of us.” The officer appears testy, second guessing his decision. “Right... Come aboard.”
The two men whoop in victory as they run down the white, painted corridor. “We are the luckiest sons o’bitches in the World, you know that!?” John shouts to Greg. The two men eventually begin to walk at a steady pace, in search of their shared cabin. “G-60... G-60. G-60...” Mutters John, who occasionally looks down at ‘his’ ticket for reference. “Ah!” He points. “Right Here!”
Chapter 3: 3
In the So-called ‘Millionaire Suite’ which is an Empire style, comprised of two bedrooms, a washroom, wardrobe room, and a large sitting room. In addition, there is a private 50-foot promenade deck outside. A room service waiter pours champagne into a tulip glass of orange juice and hands the Bucks Fizz cocktail to Sherlock. He is looking through his new paintings. There is a Monet of water lilies, a Degas of dancers, and a few abstract works. They are all unknown paintings... Unknown works.
Mycroft is out on the covered deck, which has potted trees and vines on trellises, talking through the doorway to Sherlock in the sitting room. “Those mud puddles were certainly a waste of money.” He says in distain as his younger brother stares at a cubist portrait. “You’re wrong. They’re fascinating. Like being in a dream... There is truth but, no logic. Picasso...”
Mycroft strides into the sitting room, scoffing. “He’ll never amount to anything, trust me. At least they were cheap.” He says. A private porter wheels Mycroft’s private safe into the room on a hand truck. “Put that in the wardrobe.” He instructs. Sherlock enters with the Degas of dancers. He sets it on the dresser, near the bed. Trudy is already there, hanging up some of Sherlock’s clothes. She turns to him with a smile. “It smells so brand new. Like they built it just for us. I mean... Just to think that tonight, when I crawl between the sheets, I’ll be the first—“ The young man’s arranged wife walks in. “And when I crawl between the sheets tonight, I’ll be the first.” Trudy blushes at the innuendo. “S’cuse me, young sir.”
She edges around Jacqueline and makes a quick exit. Jacqueline comes up behind Sherlock and puts her hands on his shoulders. Though, it’s an act of possession, not intimacy. “The first and only, forever.” She says. Sherlock’s expression shows how bleak a prospect this is for him now.
‘By the next afternoon, we had made our final stop and we were steaming West from the coast of Ireland, with nothing out ahead of us but ocean...’
The ship glows with the warm light of the late afternoon. John and Greg stand right at the bow, gripping the curved railing. John leans over, looking down fifty feet to where the prow cuts the surface like a knife, sending up two glassy sheets of water.
On the bridge, Captain Smith turns from the binnacle to First Officer, William Murdoch. “Take Her to sea, Mister Murdoch. Let’s stretch Her legs.” Murdoch moves the engine telegraph lever to ‘ALL AHEAD FULL.’ In the engine room, the telegraph clangs.
“All ahead full!”
On the catwalk, Thomas Andrews, the shipbuilder, watches carefully as the engineers and greasers scramble to adjust valves. Towering above them are two, reciprocating engines, nearly four stories tall, their ten foot long connecting rods surging with the turning of massive crankshafts.
Back above deck, Mister Murdoch approaches Captain Smith. “Twenty-one knots, sir!” Smith turns to him. “She’s got a bone in her teeth now, eh, Mr. Murdoch.” He accepts a tea cup from Fifth officer Lowe. He contently watches the white V of water hurled outward from the bows. They are invulnerable, towering over the sea.
John and Greg lean far over, still looking down. In the glassy wave, two dolphins appear, under the water, swimming fast. John observed the dolphins and grins. They breach the water, jumping clear, and then they dive back. Greg looks forward. “I can see the Statue of Liberty already.” He holds his hand up, as if pinching the sky. “Very Small, of course.”
Chapter 4: 4
Bruce Ismay, manager of the White Star Line, sits in a chair within one of the ships dining halls. “She is the largest moving object ever made by the hand of man in all history...” He explains. “And our master shipbuilder, Mr. Andrews here, designed Her from the keel plates up...” He indicates a handsome 39-year-old Irish gentleman to his right, Thomas Andrews, of Harland and Wolf Shipbuilders. There is a group assembled for lunch. Ismay is seated with Mycroft, Sherlock, Jacqueline, Molly Brown and Thomas Andrews in the Palm Court, a beautiful sunny spot enclosed by high arched windows.
Andrews clearly dislikes the attention. “Well, I may have knocked her together but, the idea was Mr. Ismay’s. He envisioned a steamer, so grand in scale, and so luxurious in its appointments, that it’s supremacy would never be challenged. And here She is...” He slaps the table. “...Willed into solid reality.”
Molly scoffs. “Why’re ships always bein’ called “She”? Is it because men think that half the women around have big sterns and should be weighed in tonnage?” Most of the people at the table laugh. “Just another example of men settin’ the rules their way.” The waiter arrives to take orders. Sherlock lights a cigarette. His mother turns. “You know I don’t like that, Sherlock.” The young man turns and exhales the smoke into Catherine’s face.
“He knows...” Mycroft reaches forward and plucks the cigarette from his brothers hand, stubbing it out. He turns to the waiter after briefly glancing at Sherlock. “We’ll both have the lamb, rare, with very little mist sauce.” Jacqueline turns to smile at the youngest Holmes sibling. “You like lamb, right dear?” All the while, Molly is watching the dynamic between Sherlock, Mycroft and Catherine. “You gonna cut his meat for him too there, Mycroft?” She turns to Ismay. “Hey, Who came up with the name “Titanic”? Was it you, Bruce?”
“Yes, actually. I wanted to convey sheer size. And size means stability, luxury... and above all, safety—“
”Do you know of Dr. Freud, Mr. Ismay?” Sherlock interrupts. “His ideas about the male preoccupation with size may be of particular interest to you.” Mr. Andrews chokes on his bread, attempting to suppress laughter. Catherine, however, is not amused. “My, God, Sherlock... What’s gotten into you?” She says through gritted teeth.
Sherlock clears his throat and removes the cloth napkin from his lap, rising from his chair. “Excuse me...” He stalks away. Catherine is mortified. “I do apologise...”
John sits on a bench in the sun. Titanic’s wake spreads out behind him to the horizon. He has his knees pulled up, supporting a leather bound sketch book, his most valuable possession. With conte crayon, he draws rapidly, using concentrated strokes. An emigrant from Manchester named Cartmell has his 6-year-old daughter, Cora, standing on the lower rung of the railing. She is leaned back against his beer barrel of a stomach, watching the birds.
His sketch captures them perfectly, with a great sense of the humanity of the moment. John is good. Very good. Greg looks over John’s shoulder and nods appreciatively. Tommy Ryan, a scowling, young Irish emigrant, watches as a crew member comes by, walking five small dogs around the deck. One of them, a black French bulldog, is among the ugliest creatures on the planet.
“That’s typical.” Says Tommy, a cigarette in his mouth. “First-class dogs come down here to take a shite.” John looks up from his sketch. “Ah... That’s so that we know where we rank in the scheme of things.”
Tommy cracks a grin. “Like we could forget.” John glances across the well deck. At the aft railing of B deck promenade stands Sherlock, in a grey tailored suit and a white coloured cravat tie. He watched him tousle his hair, unable to take his eyes off of him. They are across from each other, 60 or so feet apart, with the well deck like a great valley between them. Sherlock is on his promontory, John on his much lower one. Sherlock stares down at the water. John is riveted by him, he looks like a figure from a romantic novel, sad and isolated.
Greg taps Tommy on the shoulder, and they look at John, who is still gazing at Sherlock. They know. Greg and Tommy grin at each other. Sherlock turns suddenly and looks right at John, who is caught staring. But he doesn’t look away. Sherlock does but, then he looks back. Their eyes meet across the space of the deck, between worlds. John sees a man come up behind Sherlock and take his arm. They argue in pantomime. Sherlock storms away and the man goes after him, disappearing along the A deck promenade. John still stares after him.
”Forget it, Boyo.” Says Tommy. “You’d as like have angels flyin’ out o’ yer arse as get next to the likes o’ him.”
Later in the night, Sherlock sits silently, flanked by people in heated conversation. Jacqueline and Catherine are laughing together, while on the other side Lady Duff-Gordon is holding fourth animatedly. They babble inconsequentially around him.
‘I saw my whole life as if I’d already lived it... An endless parade of parties and cotillions, yachts and polo matches... Always the same narrow people, the same mindless chatter. I felt like I was standing at a great precipice, with no one to pull me back, no one who cares... or even noticed.”
In Sherlock’s hand, He holds a small fork from his salad. He pokes the pointed part of the fork into the skin of his arm, harder and harder until it draws blood. He excuses himself from the dining area and finds himself on B deck. He walks along the corridor. A steward coming the other way, greets him, and he nods with a slight, forced smile. He is perfectly composed.
Once outside, Sherlock runs along the B deck promenade. He is now dishevelled, his hair, a mess of wild ebony curls. He is crying, though not loudly. His pale cheeks streaked with tears. But, he is also angry; furious. Shaking with emotions that he doesn’t understand... Hatred, self-hatred, desperation. A strolling couple watch as he passes. They are shocked at his unkempt appearance.
John is lying back on one of the benches, gazing up at the stars, which blaze gloriously overhead. He is thinking artist thoughts and smoking a cigarette. Hearing something, he turns as Sherlock runs up the stairs from the well deck. There are only the two of them on the stern deck, except for Quartermaster Rowe, who is 20-feet above them on the docking bridge catwalk. Sherlock doesn’t see John in the shadows, and he runs right past him.
Sherlock suppresses the occasional sob, and he slams against the base of the stern flagpole and clings there, panting. He stares out hopelessly at the black water. Then he starts to climb over the railing, his climbing a bit clumsy. Moving methodically, he turns his body and steps onto the white-painted gunwale, his back to the railing, facing out towards the blackness. About 60-feet below him, the massive propellers are churning, and a ghostly wake swirls off toward the horizon. He leans out, his arms straightening, looking down, as if hypnotised. Into the vortex below him. His clothes are rustled by the wind of the great ships movement. The only sound, above the rush of the water below, is the flutter and snap of the large Union Jack right above him.
“Don’t do it...” John can see tear tracks on Sherlock’s cheeks in a faint glow from the stern running lights. “Take my hand, and I’ll pull you back over.”
“No!” Sherlock shouts. “Stay where you are! I’ll let go. I mean it!” John shakes his head. “No, you won’t.” He says.
“What do you mean, “No, I won’t”? Don’t presume to tell me what I will and will not do! You don’t know me!”
“You would have done it by now. Now, come on. Take my hand.” John holds it out. Sherlock is confused now. He cannot see John very well through the tears, so he wipes them away with one hand, very nearly losing his balance. “You are distracting me. Go away!” He shouts at John, who shakes his head and steps forward ever so slightly. “I can’t. I’m involved now. If you let go, I have to jump in after you.”
“Don’t be absurd. You’ll be killed.” Sherlock replies. John removes his jacket. “I’m a good swimmer, trust me.” He says as he begins to unlace his left shoe. “The fall alone would kill you.” Sherlock counters. John chuckles. “It would definitely hurt. I’m not saying it wouldn’t. To be honest, I’m a lot more worried about that water being so cold.” He looks down, the reality of what he is doing, sinks in.
“Freezing. Perhaps a couple of degrees over.” John begins to unlace his right shoe now, his gaze never leaving Sherlock, who gulps. “Water that cold...” John begins. “Like right down there... It hits you like a thousand knives all over your body. You can’t breathe, you can’t think... At least, not about anything but the pain. Which is why I am not looking forward to jumping in after you. But, like I said. I don’t have a choice. So, I am kind of hoping that you’ll step back over that rail to get me off of the hook here.”
“With all due respect, sir, I’m not the one hanging off the back of a ship here...” He slides one step closer, Like moving up on a spooked animal. “Come on. You don’t want to do this. Give me your hand.” Sherlock stares at this madman for a long time. He looks at John’s eyes, and they somehow suddenly seem to fill his universe.
He unfastens his hand from the rail and reaches it around towards John. He reaches out and takes the man’s hand, firmly.
“I’m John Watson...”
“William Sherlock Scott Holmes...”
Sherlock starts to turn. Now that he has decided to live, the height is quite terrifying. He is overcome by vertigo as he shifts his footing, turning to face the ship. As he starts to climb but, his shoe slips, and one foot falls off the edge of the deck. He plunges, letting out a distressed shout. John, gripping his hand, is jerked toward the rail. Sherlock barely grabs a lower rail with his free hand.
Quartermaster Rowe, up on the docking bridge, hears the scream and heads for the Deck.
John grips Sherlock’s hand tightly, staring down at him. “I’ve got you. I won’t let go.”
John holds his hand with all his strength, bracing himself on the railing with his other hand. Sherlock tries to get some kind of foothold on the smooth hull. John tries to lift his body over the railing. He can’t get any footing in his attire and dress shoes, and he slips back. Sherlock shouts again. John, awkwardly clutching Sherlock by whatever he can get a grip on as he flails, gets him over the railing. They fall together onto the deck in a tangled heap, spinning in such a way that John winds up slightly on top of him. Sherlock’s nose is bleeding, perhaps from the impact.
Rowe slides down the ladder from the docking bridge like it’s a fire drill and sprints across the fantail.
“Here, what’s all this!?” He shouts.
Rowe runs up and pulls John off of Sherlock, revealing him dishevelled and sobbing on the deck. His suit jacket is torn, and the hem of his shirt ripped. He looks at John, the shaggy steerage man with his jacket off, and the first-class man clearly in distress. He starts drawing conclusions. Perhaps a robbery. Two seamen chug across the deck to join them. Rowe shouts at John. “Here you, stand back! And don’t move an inch!” He turns to the seamen. “Fetch the Master at Arms!”
A few minutes later. John is being detained by the burly Master at Arms, the closest thing to a cop on board. He is handcuffing John. Mycroft is right in front of John, and furious. He has obviously just rushed out here with his assistant, and another man, and none of them have coats over their black tie evening dress. The other man is Colonel Archibald Gracie, a moustachioed blowhard, who still has his brandy snifter. He offers it to Sherlock, who is hunched over crying on a bench nearby, but he waves it away. Mycroft is more concerned with John. He grabs him by the lapels.
“What made you think you could put your hands on my brother?! Look at me, you filth! What did you think you were doing?!”
“Mycroft, stop. It was an accident.” Sherlock protests shakily. The eldest Holmes brother turns. “An accident!?” The younger man stammers. “It was stupid really. I was leaning over and I slipped.” He looks over, making eye contact with John now. The Master at Arms turns to John with a stern glare. “Was that the way of it?” He questions. Sherlock is begging him with his eyes not to say what really happened. “Uh, yeah.” Replies John. “That was pretty much It.”
“Well!” Exclaims Colonel Gracie. “The boy’s a hero then!” He turns to John. “Good for you, son! Well done.” He then looks to Mycroft. “So if all’s well, it’s back to our brandy, eh?” John is uncuffed. Mycroft gets Sherlock to his feet and moving, shaking his head at the dried blood upon his brother’s face. He begins to leave without a second thought for John but, Gracie speaks up. “Ah... Perhaps a little something for the boy?” Mycroft turns and raises an eyebrow. “Oh, of course... Mr. Lovejoy, I think a twenty should do it...”
“Is that the going rate for saving your only brother?” Sherlock says, clearly displeased. ”Sherlock is displeased.” Says the eldest Holmes. “Mmm... what to do?” Mycroft turns back to John. And he appraises him condescendingly... a steerage ruffian, unwashed and ill-mannered. “I know... Perhaps you could join us for dinner tomorrow, to regale our group with your heroic tale?”
John nods. “Sure. Count me in.”
Chapter 5: 5
As Sherlock removes his cravat tie, he sees Jacqueline standing in the doorway, reflected in the mirror of the room’s build-in vanity. She comes toward him. Jacqueline is unexpectedly tender. “I know that you have been melancholy, Sherlock. Mycroft tells me so.” She says. “And I do not pretend to know way.” From behind her back, she hands him a large black velvet jewel case. Sherlock takes it, numbly. “Your Brother wished for me to show this to you.” Sherlock opens the box. Inside is a necklace... It is huge, a malevolent blue coloured stone glittering with an infinity of scalpel-like inner reflections. “It is a—“
“Diamond.” She nods. “Mycroft tells me that it is 56 carats, to be exact. Then, he always is.” She takes the necklace and holds it up to the light, revelling in its shimmering glory. She then turns to the mirror, staring at Sherlock’s reflection. Mycroft comes into the room. “It was worn by Louis the Sixteenth. They called it, “Le Coeur de la Mer.”
“The Heart of the Ocean...” Sherlock nods. “Yes.” Jacqueline still gazes at Sherlock in the mirror. “It is for royalty, Sherlock.” His brother speaks. “And we are royalty.” The woman standing behind the youngest Holmes sibling, caresses his neck and throat. She seems herself to be disarmed by Sherlock’s handsomeness. His emotion is, for the first time, unguarded.
‘The next Saturday, I remember how the sunlight felt. As if I hadn’t felt it’s warmth in years.’
Sherlock walks into the sunlight. He is stunningly dressed. He unlatches the gate to go down to third-class. The steerage girls on the deck stop what they’re doing and stare at him as he makes his way to the third-class general room. The social centre of steerage life. It is stark in comparison to first-class, but is a loud, boisterous place. There are mothers with babies, kids running between benches yelling in several different languages and being scolded in several more. There are old women yelling, men playing chess, girls doing needlepoint and reading dime novels. There is even an upright piano, and Tommy Ryan is noodling around it.
Three boys, shrieking and shouting, are scrambling around, chasing a rat under the benches. They are trying to trap it with a shoe, and they are causing general havoc. John is playing with 6-year-old Cora Cartmell, drawing funny faces together in his sketchbook. Greg is struggling to get a conversation going with an attractive Norwegian girl, Helga Dahl, sitting with her family as a table across the room. Helga’s eye is caught by something. Greg looks, does a take and John, curious, follows their gaze to see Sherlock, coming toward them. The activity in the room stops, a hush falls. Sherlock feels suddenly self-conscious as the steerage passengers stare openly at this prince, some with resentment, others with awe. He spots John and gives a little smile, walking straight to him. John rises to meet Sherlock, smiling.
“Hello, John...” Greg and Tommy are floored. It’s like the slipper fitting Cinderella. John smiles. “Hello, again.” He says.
“Could I speak to you in private, John?” Sherlock questions. “Uh, yes... Of course.” John replies. He motions him ahead and follows, John glances over his shoulder, one eyebrow raised, as he walks out with Sherlock, leaving a stunned silence.
John and Sherlock walk side by side. They pass people reading and talking in steamer chairs, some of whom glance curiously at the mismatched duo. He feels out of place in his rough clothes. They are both awkward, for different reasons.
“Mr. Watson, I—“
“John... I feel like such an idiot. It took me all morning to get up the nerve to face you.”He says, causing John to shrug. “Well, here you are.”
“Here I am. I... I want to thank you for what you did. Not just for... for pulling me back. But for your discretion. Look, I know what you must be thinking! Poor little rich boy. What does he know about misery?”
“That's not what I was thinking. What I was thinking was... what could have happened to hurt this boy so much he though he had no way out.”
“I don't... it wasn't just one thing. It was everything. It was them, it was their whole world. And I was trapped in it, like an insect in amber.” Sherlock says. “I just had to get away... just run and run and run... and then I was at the back rail and there was no more ship... even the Titanic wasn't big enough. Not enough to get away from them. And before I'd really thought about it, I was over the rail. I was so furious. I'll show them. They'll be sorry! That’s what was going through my mind.”
“Uh-huh...” John nods. “They'll be sorry. 'Course you'll be dead.” He inclines his head. Sherlock shakes his head. “Oh God, I am such an utter fool.”
“That penguin last night, is he one of them?” John questions, raising an eyebrow. Sherlock looks confused for a moment. “Penguin? Oh, Mycroft! He is them.”
“And that lady I saw with you the other day... Is she your girlfriend?”
“Worse, I’m afraid.” Sherlock says with a sigh. They laugh together. A passing steward scowls at John, who is clearly not a first class passenger, but Sherlock just glares him away. “So you feel like you're stuck on a train you can't get off 'cause you're marryin' this girl.” Says John matter-of-factly.
”So don’t marry her.”
“If only it were that simple. Oh, John... please don't judge me until you've seen my world.” John shrugs and sighs. “Well, I guess I will tonight.” Looking around for another topic, any other topic, Sherlock indicates John’s sketchbook.
The question is rhetorical because Sherlock has already grabbed the book. He sits on a deck chair and opens the sketchbook. John’s sketches are fantastic... each one an expressive little bit of humanity: an old woman’s hands, a sleeping man, a father and daughter at the rail. The faces are luminous and alive. His book is a celebration of the human condition.
”Well, well...” Sherlock turns the page. He has come upon a series of nudes. Though Sherlock is transfixed by the languid beauty John has created. His nudes are soulful, real, with expressive hands and eyes. They feel more like portraits than studies of the human form... almost uncomfortably intimate. Sherlock blushes, raising the book as some strollers go by. Sherlock studies one drawing in particular, the girl posed half in sunlight, half in shadow. Her hands lie at her chin, one furled and one open like a flower, languid and graceful. The drawing is like an Alfred Steiglitz print of Georgia O'Keefe.
“You have a gift, John. You do. You see people.” Sherlock says, looking up from the sketchbook. “I see you.” Replies John. There is that piercing gaze again.
Sherlock’s Mother, Catherine is having tea with Noel Lucy Martha Dyer-Edwards, the Countess of Rothes, a 35ish English blue-blood with patirician features. Catherine sees someone coming across the room and lowers her voice. “Oh no, that vulgar Brown woman is coming this way. Get up, quickly before she sits with us.” She says. Molly Brown walks up, greeting them cheerfully as they are rising.
“Hello girls, I was hoping I'd catch you at tea.” Says Molly. Catherine feigns an apologetic smile. “We're awfully sorry you missed it. The Countess and I are just off to take the air on the boat deck.”
“That sounds great. Let's go. I need to catch up on the gossip.”
Catherine grits her teeth as the three of them head for the Grand Staircase to go up. Sherlock and John stroll aft, past people lounging on deck chairs in the slanting late-afternoon light. Stewards scurry to serve tea or hot cocoa. Painted with orange light, John and Sherlock lean on the A-deck rail aft, shoulder to shoulder. The ship's lights come on.
“Say we'll go there, sometime...” Says Sherlock. “To that pier... even if we only ever just talk about it.” John shakes his head. “Alright, we're going. We'll drink cheap beer and go on the rollercoaster until we throw up and we'll ride horses on the beach.” He says. “Right in the surf... but you have to ride like a cowboy, none of that stupid fancy stuff.” Sherlock smiles at him. He looks to the horizon. “And teach me to spit too. Like a normal person. Why should only poor men be able to spit. It's unfair.”
“Here, it's easy. Watch closely.” John spits, and it arcs out over the water. “Your turn.” Sherlock screws up his mouth and spits. A pathetic little bit of foamy spittle which mostly runs down his chin before falling off into the water
”Nope, that was pitiful. Here, like this... you hawk it down... HHHNNNK!... then roll it on your tongue, up to the front, like thith, then a big breath and PLOOOW!! You see the range on that thing?!” Sherlock watches, though he seems slightly disgusted. He goes through the steps. Hawks it down, etc. John coaches him through it while doing the steps himself. Sherlock lets fly. So does John. Two comets of gob fly out over the water. “That was great!” John exclaims. Sherlock turns to him, his face alight. Suddenly he blanches. John sees Sherlock’s expression and he turns.
Catherine, the Countess of Rothes, and Molly Brown have been watching them hawking lugees. Sherlock becomes instantly composed. “Mother! May I introduce, John Watson.”
“Charmed, I'm sure.” John has a little spit running down his chin. He doesn't know it. Molly Brown is grinning. As Sherlock proceeds with the introductions.
‘The others were gracious and curious about the man who'd saved my life. But my mother looked at him like an insect. A dangerous insect which must be squashed quickly.’
Chapter 6: 6
There is a purple sky, shot with orange, in the west. There are drifting strains of classical music. By Edwardian standards John looks badass. Dashing in his borrowed white-tie outfit, right down to his pearl studs. Thanks to Molly. A steward bows and smartly and opens the door to the First Class Entrance. “Good evening, sir.” The man says. Jack plays the role smoothly. He nods with just the right degree of disdain.
John steps in and his breath is taken away by the splendor spread out before him. Overhead is the enormous glass dome, with a crystal chandelier at its centre. Sweeping down six stories is the First Class Grand Staircase, the epitome of the opulent naval architecture of the time. And the people: the women in their floor length dresses, elaborate hairstyles and abundant jewelry... the gentlemen in evening dress, standing with one hand at the small of the back, talking quietly.
John descends to A deck. Several men nod a perfunctory greeting. He nods back, keeping it simple. He feels like a spy. Mycroft comes down the stairs, with Catherine on his arm, covered in jewelry. They both walk right past John, neither one recognising him. Mycroft nods at him, one gent to another. But John barely has time to be amused. Because just behind Mycroft and Catherine on the stairs is Sherlock, a vision in red and black, his exquisite black tailored suit complimenting him perfectly, around his neck is a beautiful crimson red silk cravat tie. John is hypnotized by his appearance.
Sherlock approaches John. He imitates the gentlemen's stance, hand behind his back. Sherlock flushes with a small bit of laughter, beaming noticeably. He can't take his eyes off John. Sherlock strides towards his brother gracefully, John at his side. “Mycroft, surely you remember Mr. Watson.” The eldest Holmes brother turns, he’s caught off guard. “Watson! I didn't recognize you.” He says, studying him. “Amazing! You could almost pass for a gentlemen.”
They encounter Molly Brown, looking good in a beaded dress, in her own busty broad-shouldered way. Molly grins when she sees John. As they are going into the dining saloon she walks next to him, speaking low: “Ain't nothin' to it, is there, John?” She asks with a smile. “Yeah.” He says. “You just dress like a pallbearer and keep your nose up.”
“Remember, the only thing they respect is money, so just act like you've got a lot of it and you're in the club.” She speaks lowly. As they enter the swirling throng, Sherlock leans close to him, pointing out several notables. “There's the Countess Rothes. And that's John Jacob Astor... the richest man on the ship. His little wifey there, Madeleine, is my age and in a delicate condition. See how she's trying to hide it. Quite the scandal.” He smirks, nodding towards another couple. “And over there, that's Sir Cosmo and Lucile, Lady Duff-Gordon. She designs naughty lingerie, among her many talents. Very popular with the royals.”
Mycroft and Jacqueline become engrossed in a conversation with Cosmo Duff-Gordon and Colonel Gracie, while Catherine, the Countess and Lucille discuss fashion. Sherlock picots
John smoothly, to show him another couple, dressed impeccably. “And that's Benjamin Guggenheim and his mistress, Madame Aubert. Mrs. Guggenheim is at home with the children, of course.”
Mycroft, meanwhile, is accepting the praise of his male counterparts, who are looking at his brother’s ‘fiancée’ like a prize show horse. “Holmes, she is splendid. Surprised your little brother agreed.” He nods. “So am I.” The entourage strolls toward the dining saloon, where they run into the Astor's going through the ornate double doors. Sherlock turns. “J.J., Madeleine, I'd like you to meet John Watson.”
J.J shakes Johns hand. “Good to meet you John. Are you of the Kensington Watsons’?” He asks. “No, the Northumberland Watsons’, actually.” J.J. nods as if he's heard of them, then looks puzzled. Madeleine Astor appraises John and whispers girlishly to Sherlock. “It's a pity we're both spoken for, isn't it?” The dining saloon is like a ballroom at a palace, alive and lit by a constellation of chandeliers, full of elegantly dressed people and beautiful music from bandleader Wallace Hartley’s small orchestra. Sherlock and John enter and move across the room to their table, Mycroft and Catherine beside them.
‘He must have been nervous but he never faltered. They assumed he was one of them... a young captain of industry perhaps... new money, obviously, but still a member of the club. Mother of course, could always be counted upon...’
“Tell us of the accommodations in steerage, Mr. Watson. I hear they're quite good on this ship.” John is seated opposite Sherlock, who is flanked by Mycroft, Jacqueline and Thomas Andrews. Also at the table are Molly Brown, Ismay, Colonel Gracie, the Countess, Guggenheim, Madame Aubert, and the Astors. “The best I've seen, m'am. Hardly any rats.” Sherlock motions surreptitiously for John to take his napkin off his plate. Which he does. Mycroft turns to John with amusement. “Mr. Watson is joining us from third class. He was of some assistance to my brother last night.” He looks to John, as if to a child now. “This is foie gras. It's goose liver.”
Whispers are exchanged. John becomes the subject of furtive glances. Now they’re all feeling terribly liberal and dangerous. A waiter looks to Jack. “How do you take your caviar, sir?”
“No caviar for me, thanks. Never did like it much.” He looks at Sherlock, pokerfaced, and he smiles. “And where exactly do you live, Mr. Watson?” Sherlock’s Mother asks. “Well, right now my address is the RMS Titanic. After that, I'm on God's good humor.” Salad is served. John reaches for the fish fork. Sherlock gives him a look and picks up the salad fork, prompting him with his eyes. He changes forks.
“You find that sort of rootless existence appealing, do you?”
“Well... it's a big world, and I want to see it all before I go. My father was always talking about going to see the ocean. He died in the town he was born in, and never did see it. You can't wait around, because you never know what hand you're going to get dealt next. See, my folks died in a fire when I was fifteen, and I've been on the road since. Something like that teaches you to take life as it comes at you. To make each day count.” He says. Molly Brown raises her glass in a salute. “Well said, John.”
Colonel Gracie raises a glass. “Here, here.” Sherlock raises his glass, looking at John. “To making it count.” Catherine, annoyed that John has scored a point, presses him further. “How is it you have the means to travel, Mr. Watson?”
“I work my way from place to place. Tramp steamers and such. I won my ticket on Titanic here in a lucky hand at poker.” He smiles. “A very lucky hand.”
Now, after a bit, dessert has been served and a waiter arrives with cigars in a humidor on a wheeled cart. The men start clipping ends and lighting. Sherlock looks to John. “Nest it'll be brandies in the Smoking Room.” He says. “Now they retreat into a cloud of smoke and congratulate each other on being masters of the universe.” He looks rather amused at the prospect. “Joining us, Watson, Sherlock? You don't want to stay out here with the women, do you?” Asks Gracie.
“No thanks. I'm heading back.” John replies. “John, must you go?” Sherlock speaks, to which John chuckles. “Time for my coach to turn back into a pumpkin.”He leans over to take her hand. He slips a tiny folded piece of paper into Sherlock’s palm. Catherine, scowling, watches John walk away across the enormous room. Sherlock surreptitiously opens the note below table level. It reads: "Make it count. Meet me at the clock".
Sherlock crosses the A-Deck foyer, sighting John at the landing above. Overhead is the crystal dome. John has his back to him, studying the ornate clock with its carved figures of Honor and Glory. It softly strikes the hour. Sherlock goes up the sweeping staircase toward him. He turns, sees him, smiling. “Want to go to a real party?”
The third-class general room is crawling and alive with music, laughter and raucous carrying on. A band is gathered near the upright piano, honking out lively stomping music on fiddle, accoridon and tambourine. People of all ages are dancing, drinking beer and wine, smoking, laughing, even brawling. Tommy hands Sherlock a pint of stout and he hoists it. John meanwhile dances with 6 year old Cora Cartmell, or tries to, with her standing on his feet. As the tune ends, Sherlock leans down to the little girl. “May I cut in, miss?”
“You’re still my best girl, Cora.” John says. Cora scampers off. Sherlock and John face other. Sherlock is trembling as he stands by John. “I don't know the steps.” He says. “Just copy me. Don't think.” The music starts and they are off. A little awkward at first, though Sherlock starts to get into it. He grins at John as he starts to get the rhythm of the steps. The scene is rowdy and rollicking. A table gets knocked over as a drunk crashes into it. And in the middle of it... Sherlock dancing next to John. The steps are fast and he shines with sweat. A space opens around them, and people watch them, clapping as the band plays faster and faster. Meanwhile, Greg and Helga dance. Dancing has obviated the need for a common language.
He whirls her, then she responds by whirling him. Greg’s eyes go wide when he realizes she’s stronger than he is.
The tune ends in a mad rush. John steps away from Sherlock with a flourish, allowing him to take a bow. Exhilarated and slightly tipsy, Sherlock does a graceful bow. Everyone laughs and applauds. Sherlock is a hit with the steerage folks, who’ve never had a boy like him party with them. They move to a table, flushed and sweaty. Sherlock grabs Greg’s cigarette and takes a big drag. He’s feeling cocky. Greg is grinning, holding hands with Helga.
Everybody else is dancing again, and Bjorn Gundersen crashes into Tommy, who sloshes his beer over Sherlock’s clothes. He laughs, not caring. But Tommy lunges, grabbing Bjorn and wheeling him around. “You stupid bastard!!” Bjorn comes around, his fists coming up... and John leaps into the middle of it, pushing them apart. “Boys, boys! Did I ever tell you the one about the Swede and the Irishman going to the whorehouse?” Tommy stands there, all piss and vinegar, chest puffed up. Then he grins and claps Bjorn on the shoulder. The door to the well deck is open a few inches as Lovejoy watches through the gap. He sees John laughing with Sherlock, both of them smiling.
The next day is Sunday April 14, 1912. A bright clear day. Sunlight splashing across the promenade. Sherlock and Mycroft are having breakfast in silence. The tension is palpable. Trudy Bolt, in her maid's uniform, pours the coffee and goes inside. “Jacqueline had hoped you would come to her last night.” Sherlock looks up. “I was tired.” He says, and Mycroft looks at him sternly. “Yes. Your exertions below decks were no doubt exausting.” At this, Sherlock sets his tea cup down with a loud ‘clank’. “I see you had that undertaker of a manservant follow me. How typical.”
“You will never behave like that again, Sherlock! Do you understand?” The eldest Holmes scrunches up His face.
“I’m not some foreman in your mills than you can command! I am your brother.”
Mycroft explodes, sweeping the breakfast china off the table with a crash. He moves to Sherlock in one shocking moment, glowering over him and gripping the sides of his chair, so he is trapped between his arms. “Yes! You are! And as my brother, you will listen to me, as a mere boy is required to listen to his superior! I will not be made out a fool! Is this in any way unclear?” Sherlock shrinks into the chair. He sees Trudy, frozen, partway through the door bringing the orange juice. Mycroft follows Sherlock’s glance and straightens up. He stalks past the maid, entering the stateroom.
“We—“ Sherlock stares blankly, shaken. “We... had a little accident. I'm sorry, Trudy.” He stammers.
Chapter 7: 7
At the divine service, Captain Smith is leading a group in the hymn "Almighty Father Strong To Save." Sherlock and Catherine sing in the middle of the group.
Lovejoy stands well back, keeping an eye on Sherlock. He notices a commotion at
the entry doors. John has been halted there by two stewards. He is dressed
in his third class clothes, and stands there, hat in hand, looking out of place. The steward sighs. “Look, you, you're not supposed to be in here.”
“I was just here last night...” John says. “Don't you remember?” He sees Lovejoy coming toward him and gestures. “He'll tell you.”
The approaching man begins to speak with a rather noted tone. “Mr. Mycroft Holmes and Mrs. Holmes continue to be most appreciative of your assistance. They asked me to give you this in gratitude--“ He holds out two twenty pound notes, which John refuses to take.
“I don't want your money, I--“
Lovejoy interrupts him. “--and also to remind you that you hold a third class ticket and your presence here is no longer appropriate.” John spots Sherlock but, he doesn't see him.
“I just need to talk to Sherlock for a--“
“Gentlemen...” Lovejoy sighs. “Please see that Mr. Watson gets back where he belongs.” He gives the twenties to the stewards. “And that he stays there.”
“Yes sir!” They turn to John, grabbing him by the arms. “Come along you.” Sherlock doesn’t see John being hustled out. He continues to sing with the rest of First-class. “O hear us when we cry to thee for those in peril on the sea.”
Hours later, on the deck a man is playing with his son, who is spinning a top with a string. The man's overcoat and hat are sitting on a deck chair nearby. John emerges from behind one of the huge deck cranes and calmly picks up the coat and bowler hat. He walks away, slipping into the coat, and slicks his hair back
with spit. Then puts the hat on at a jaunty angle. At a distance he could
pass for a gentlemen.
On the bridge, Harold Bride, the 21 year old Junior Wireless Operator, hustles in and skirts around Andrews' tour group to hand a Marconigram to Captain Smith. “Another ice warning, sir. This one from the "Baltic.” He says. Smith takes it. “Thank you, Sparks.” He glances at the message then nonchalantly puts it in his pocket. He nods reassuringly to Sherlock and the group. “Not to worry, it's quite normal for this time of year. In fact, we're speeding up. I've just ordered the last boilers lit.”
Andrews scowls slightly before motioning the group toward the door. They
exit just as Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller comes out of the
chartroom, stopping next to First Officer Murdoch. “Did we ever find those binoculars for the lookouts?” He inquires. “Haven't seen them since Southampton.” Says First Officer Murdoch.
Now on the deck, Andrews leads the group back from the bridge along the boat deck. Sherlock looks to the man. “Forgive me but, Mr. Andrews, I did the sum in my head, and with the number of lifeboats times the capacity you mentioned... forgive me, but it seems that there are not enough for everyone aboard.”
“About half, actually. Sherlock, you miss nothing, do you? In fact, I put in these new type davits, which can take an extra row of boats here.” He gestures along the deck. “But it was thought... by some... that the deck would look too cluttered. So I was over-ruled.” Mycroft smirks, slapping the side of a boat. “Waste of deck space as it is, on an unsinkable ship!”
Andrews keeps his eyes on the youngest Holmes brother. “Sleep soundly, young Sherlock. I have built you a good ship, strong and true. She's all the lifeboat you need.” As they are passing Boat 7, a gentlemen turns from the rail and walks up behind the group. It is John. He taps Sherlock on the arm and he turns,
gasping. He motions and Sherlock cuts away from the group toward a door which John holds open. They duck into the gymnasium.
John closes the door behind him, and glances out through the ripple-glass
window to the starboard rail, where the gym instructor is chatting up the
woman who was riding the bike. Sherlock and John are alone in the room.
“John, this is impossible. I can't see you.” John takes Sherlock by the shoulders.
“Sherlock, you're no picnic... you're a spoiled little brat even, but under that
you're a strong, pure heart, and you're the most amazingly astounding boy
I've ever known and--“
“No wait. Let me try to get this out. You're amazing... and I know I have
nothing to offer you, Sherlock. I know that. But I'm involved now. You jump, I
jump, remember? I can't turn away without knowing that you're going to be
alright.” Sherlock feels the tears coming to his eyes. John is so open and real... not like anyone he has ever known.
“You're making this very hard. I'll be fine. Really.”
“I don't think so. They've got you in a glass jar like some butterfly, and
you're going to die if you don't break out. Maybe not right away, 'cause you're strong. But sooner or later the fire in you is going to go out, Sherlock.
“It's not up to you to save me, John.”
“You're right.” John says. “Only you can do that.”
“I have to get back, they'll miss me. Please, John, for both our sakes, leave me alone.”
Later that night in the first-class lounge, the most elegant room on the ship, done in Louis Quinze Versaille style.
Sherlock sits on a divan, with a group of other men and women arrayed around him. Mycroft, the Countess Rothes and Lady Duff-Gordon are taking tea. Sherlock is silent and still as a porcelain figurine as the conversation washes around him.
“Of course the invitations had to be sent back to the printers. Twice. And
the grooms outfits! Let me tell you what an odyssey that has been...” Catherine goes on.
Sherlock calmly and deliberately turns his teacup over, spilling tea all over his suit. “Oh, look what I've done.” He sighs and leaves.
In the dusk light, as if lit by the embers of a giant fire. As the ship looms, John stands near the bow, right at the apex of the bow railing, his favorite spot. He
closes his eyes, letting the chill wind clear his head. John hears ‘his’ voice, behind him...
He turns and he is standing there.
“I changed my mind.”
He smiles at Sherlock, his eyes drinking him in. Sherlock’s cheeks are red with the chill of the wind, and his eyes sparkle. His curly ebony hair blows wildly about his face.
Chapter 8: 8
Upon entering Sherlock’s suite, John is overwhelmed by the opulence of the room. He sets his sketchbook and drawing materials on the marble table. Sherlock turns to him. “Will this light do?”
“Hm?” John asks. “Don't artists need good light?” Sherlock smiles. The other man replies in a bad French accent. “Zat is true, I am not used to working in such 'orreeble conditions.” He then sees the paintings. “Hey... Monet!” He crouches next to the paintings stacked against the wall.
“Isn't he great... the use of color? I saw him once... through a hole in this garden fence in Giverny.” Sherlock goes into the adjoining walk-in wardrobe closet. Johm sees him go to the safe and start working the combination. He's fascinated.
“Mycroft insists on lugging this hideous thing everywhere.” He chuckles. At the mention of the elder Holmes, John nods and clears his throat. “Should I be expecting him anytime soon?”
“Not as long as the cigars and brandy hold out.” CLUNK! Sherlock unlocks the safe. Glancing up, he meets John’s eyes in the mirror behind the safe. Sherlock opens it and removes a large blue stone, then holds it out to John who takes it nervously.
“What is it?” He asks. “A sapphire?”
“A diamond. A very rare diamond, called the Heart of the Ocean or, Le ceour de la Mer...” John gazes at wealth beyond his comprehension. “I want you to draw me like your French men.” Sherlock says. “Holding this.” He smiles at John. “Wearing nothing.” John looks up at him, surprised, gulping. “...All right.” The young Holmes walks away momentary to his room.
In the sitting room, John is laying out his pencils like surgical tools. His sketchbook is open and ready. He looks up as Sherlock comes into the room, wearing a blue silk dressing gown. “The last thing I need...” Sherlock says, walking over to John. “...Is another picture of me looking like a ridiculous doll... As a paying customer, I expect to get what I want.” He presses twenty pence into the artist’s palm and steps back, parting the dressing gown. Sherlock’s heart is pounding as he slowly lowers the article of clothing.
John looks so stricken, it is almost comical. The dressing gown drops to the floor. Sherlock smirks ever so slightly and he lies down on the sofa. “Tell me when it looks right to you.” He poses on the divan, settling like a cat. John blinks.
“Uh... just bend your left leg a little and... and lower your head. Eyes to
me. That's it.” He motions. John starts to sketch. He drops his pencil for a moment and Sherlock stifles a laugh. “I believe you are blushing, Mr. Big Artiste. I can't imagine Monsieur Monet blushing.” Sherlock says. John is sweating. “He does landscapes.”
John’s eyes come up to look at Sherlock over the top edge of his sketchpad. Despite his nervousness, he draws with sure strokes, and what emerges is
the best thing he has ever done. Sherlock’s pose is languid, his hands beautiful, and his eyes radiate his energy. After an hour or two, John is signing the drawing. Sherlock, wearing his dressing gown again, is leaning on his shoulder, watching.
Sherlock gazes at the drawing. John has X-rayed his soul. “Date it, John. I want to always remember this night.” He does: 4/14/1912. Sherlock meanwhile scribbles a note on a piece of Titanic stationary, accepting the drawing from John, and he crosses to the safe in the wardrobe. He puts the diamond back in the safe, placing the drawing and the note on
top of it. He closes the door with a CLUNK!
In the smoking room, Lovejoy enters from the Palm Court through the revolving door and crosses the room toward Mycroft. A fire is blazing in the marble fireplace, and the usual fatcats are playing cards, drinking and talking. Mycroft sees Lovejoy and detaches from his group, coming to him. “None of the stewards have seen him.” Lovejoy says. The older Holmes speaks low but, forceful. “This is ridiculous, Lovejoy. Find him.”
Titanic glides across an unnatural sea, black and calm as a pool of oil. The ships lights are mirrored almost perfectly in the black water. The sky is brilliant with stars. A meteor traces a bright line across the heavens. On The bridge, Captain Smith peers out at the blackness ahead of the ship. Quartermaster Hitchens brings him a cup of hot tea with lemon. It steams in the bitter cold of the open bridge. Second Officer Lightoller is
next to him, staring out at the sheet of black glass the Atlantic has become. “I don't think I've ever seen such a flat calm, in 24 years at sea.”
“Yes, like a mill pond. Not a breath of wind.” The Captain responds. “It will make the bergs harder to see, with no breaking water at the base.” Lightoller says.
“Mmmmm. Well, I'm off. Maintain speed and heading, Mr. Lightoller.”
“...And wake me, of course, if anything becomes in the slightest degree doubtful.”
In the Holmes suite, Sherlock, fully dressed now, returns to the sitting room. They hear a key in the lock. Sherlock takes John's hand and leads him silently through the bedrooms. Lovejoy enters by the sitting room door. “Mister Sherlock? Hello?” He hears a door opening and goes through Mycroft’s room toward Sherlock’s.”
Sherlock and John come out of his stateroom, closing the door. He leads John quickly along the corridor toward the B deck foyer. They are halfway across
the open space when the sitting room door opens in the corridor and Lovejoy
comes out. The valet sees John with Sherlock and hustles after them.
“Come on!” Sherlock shouts. He and John break into a run, surprising the few ladies and gentlemen about. Sherlock leads him past the stairs to the bank of elevators. They run into one, shocking the hell out of the operator. “Take us down. Quickly, quickly!” He shouts. The Operator scrambles to comply. John even helps him close the steel gate.
Lovejoy runs up as the lift starts to descend. He slams one hand on the
bars of the gate. Sherlock makes a very rude and unpolit gesture, he flips the man off, and laughs as the older man, Lovejoy disappears above. The Operator gapes at him.
Lovejoy emerges from another lift and runs to the one John and Sherlock were
in. The Operator is just closing the door to go back up. Lovejoy runs around the bank of elevators and scans the foyer... no John and Sherlock. He tries the stairs going down to F-Deck.
“Pretty tough for a valet, this lad.” John gasps, leaning against a wall to catch his breath. “He's an ex-Pinkerton.” Sherlock says. Father hired him to keep me out of trouble... to make sure I always got back to the hotel with my wallet and watch, after some crawl through the less reputable parts of town...”
“Kind of like we're doing right now-- uh oh!” Lovejoy has spotted them from a cross-corridor nearby. He charges toward
them. John and Sherlock run around a corner into a blind alley. There is one
door, marked ‘CREW ONLY’, and John flings it open. They enter a roaring ran room, with no way out but a ladder going down. John latches the deadbolt on the door, and Lovejoy slams against it a
moment later. John grins at Sherlock, pointing to the ladder. “After you, my dear man.”
John and Sherlock come down the escape ladder into boiler room six, they look around in amazement. It is like a vision of hell itself, with the roaring furnaces and black figures moving in the smoky glow. They run the length of the boiler room, dodging amazed stokers, and trimmers with their wheelbarrows of coal. John shouts over the din. “Carry on! Don't mind us!” They run through the open watertight door into boiler room six. John pulls Sherlock through the fiercely hot alley between two boilers and they wind up in the dark, out of sight of the working crew. Watching from the shadows, they see the stokers working in the hellish glow, shovelling coal into the
insatiable maws of the furnaces. The whole place thunders with the roar of
In the first-class smoking room, amid unparalled luxury, Mycroft sits at a card game, sipping brandy. Colonel Gracie turns to him. “We're going like hell I tell you. I have fifty quid that says we make it into New York Tuesday night!” Mycroft looks at his gold pocket watch, and scowls, not listening.
In boiler room six, the furnaces roar, silhouetting the glistening stokers. John kisses Sherlock’s face, tasting the sweat trickling down from his forehead. They kiss passionately in the steamy, pounding darkness. Eventually, John and Sherlock enter the cargo hold. They run laughing between the rows of stacked cargo. Sherlock hugs himself against the cold, after the dripping heat of the boiler room.
They come upon William Carter's brand new Renault touring car, lashing down
to a pallet. It looks like a royal coach from a fairy tale, its brass trim and headlamps nicely set off by its deep burgundy colour. Sherlock climbs into the plushly upholstered back seat, acting very royal. There are cut crystals bud vases on the walls back there, each containing a rose. John jumps into the driver's seat, enjoying the feel of the leather and wood. “Where to, sir?” John turns to Sherlock.
Sherlock leans forward, letting his lips brush gently over John’s ear. “To the stars.” He whispers lowly. His hands come out of the shadows and pull John over the seat into the back. John lands next to him, and his breath seems loud in the quiet darkness. He looks at the beautiful curly-haired man, who is smiling. It is the moment of truth. “Are you nervous?” He asks.
Sherlock shakes his head, raising a dark eyebrow. “Au contraire, mon Cher.” John strokes Sherlock’s face, cherishing him. The younger man leans forward and kisses his artist's fingers, one by one. “Put your hands on me John.” John kisses him, and Sherlock slides down in the seat under his welcome weight. The heat of the moment thickens the air.
Sherlock looks up into John’s deep blue eyes; eyes that match the colour of the ocean they travel on. They hypnotise him. The artist above him, leans down and kisses his forehead, then his nose and then his lips. Sherlock is brought out of his stupor when the other man’s hips begin to press and rub into his own, creating an intensely pleasurable friction. He brings his hands up, tangling his long fingers into the artist’s golden hair.
The younger man bites his lip but, just as quickly, the pleasure ends. John’s hands come down from Sherlock’s neck, beginning to unbutton his shirt. His skilled artist hand come in contact with the other man’s thin pale chest. He gazes into Sherlock’s sparking blue eyes, which are glazed over with lust. “Beautiful...” He breathes, his hands now resting on the other man’s protruding hip bones.
His body is warm, getting hot even. John’s hands are so close, so close to where he wants them to be. Calloused hands unbutton his trousers and pull them down in a fluid motion. He then gets out of his own clothes, they’re now skin to skin. A surprised gasp comes from both of their mouths.
Titanic is steaming, hellbent through the darkness, hurling up white water at the bows.
Back in the cargo hold, the rear window of the Renault is now fogged up. Sherlock’s hand comes up and slams against the glass for a moment, making a handprint in the veil of condensation. Inside the car, John’s overcoat is like a blanket over them. It stirs and Sherlock pulls it down. They are huddled under it, intertwined. Their faces are flushed and they look at each other wonderingly. Sherlock puts his hand on John’s face, as if making sure he is real. “You're trembling.”
“It's okay.” John says. “I'm alright.” He lays his cheek against Sherlock’s chest. “I can feel your heart beating.” He murmurs. Sherlock hugs his head to his chest, and just holds on for dear life.
Chapter 9: 9
Fleet sighs, his breath swirling in front of his face due to the brisk cold. “You can smell ice, you know, when it's near.”
Lee shakes his head with a scoff. “Bollocks.” Fleet shakes his head, his arms folded. “Well I can.”
In Boiler room six, two stokers tell two stewards which way Sherlock and John went. The stewards move off toward the forward holds. Meanwhile, in the Holmes Suite, Mycroft stands at the open safe.
He stares at the drawing of Sherlock and his face clenches with fury and disgust. He reads the note again: "Brother Dear, Now you can keep us both locked in your safe". - Sherlock
Lovejoy, standing behind him, looks over his shoulder at the drawing.
Mycroft crumples Sherlock’s not, then takes the drawing in both hands as if to rip it in half. He tenses to do it but, then stops himself. “I have an idea.”
The two stewards enter in the holds.
They have electric torches and shine the beams around the hold. They spot the Renault with its fogged up rear window and approach it slowly.
The torch lights up Sherlock’s passionate handprint, still there on the fogged up glass. One steward whips open the door. “Got ya!”
Unfortunately for them, the back seat is empty. On the Well Deck, and Crow’s Nest, Sherlock and John, fully dressed, come through a crew door onto the deck.
They can barely stand, they are laughing so hard. Up above them, in the Crow’s Nest, lookout Fleet hears the disturbance
below and looks around and back down to the well deck, he can see two figures embracing. John and Sherlock stand in each others arms. Their breath clouds around them in the now freezing air, but they don't even feel the cold.
“When this ship docks, I'm getting off with you.” Sherlock says, looking at John. The other shakes his head. “This is so crazy.”
“I know.” Sherlock says. “It doesn't make any sense. That's why I trust it.” John pulls Sherlock to him and hugs him with strong arms. Fleet nudges the other lookout. “Cor... look at that, would ya.”
“They're a bloody sight warmer than we are.” Fleet raises an eyebrow. “Well, if that's what it takes for us two to get warm, I'd rather not, if it's all the same to you.”
They both have a good laugh at that one. It is Fleet whose expression falls first. Glancing forward again, he does a double take. The colour drains out of his face. A massive iceberg is right in their path, it’s 500 yards out. “Bugger me!!!” He shouts.
Fleet reaches past Lee and rings the lookout bell three times, then grabs
the telephone, calling the bridge quickly.
He waits precious seconds for it to be picket up, never taking his eyes off the black mass ahead. “Pick up, ya bastard.”
Inside the enclosed wheelhous, Sixth Officer Moody walks unhurriedly to the
telephone, picking it up, whilst Fleet panics. “Is someone there?” He asks. Moody sighs. “Yes. What do you see?”
“Iceberg right ahead!” Moody hangs up. “Thank you.” He shouts now. “Iceberg right ahead!” Murdoch sees it and rushes to the engine room telegraph.
While signaling "FULL SPEED ASTERN" He yells to Quartermaster Hitchins, who is at the wheel. “Hard a' starboard.” Says Murdoch.
“Hard'a starboard. The helm is hard over, sir.” Chief Engineer Bell is just checking the soup he is warming on a steam
manifold, when the engine telegraph clangs, then goes... incredibly... to FULL SPEED ASTERN. He and the other engineers just stare at it a second,
Then Bell reacts. “Full astern! FULL ASTERN!!!” He shouts. The engineers and greasers move like madmen to close steam valves and start braking the mighty propeller shafts, big as Sequias, to a stop.
In Boiler Room Six, Leading Stoker Frederick Barrett is standing with 2nd Engineer James Hesketh when the red warning light and "STOP" indicator comes on. “Shut all dampers! Shut 'em!!!”
From the bridge, Murdoch watches the burg growing... straight ahead. The bow finally starts to come left (since the ship turns the reverse of the helm setting). Murdoch’s jaw clenches as the bow turns with agonizing slowness. He holds his breath as the horrible physics play out.
In the Crow’s Nest, Frederick Fleet braces himself. The bow of the ship thunders right and... CRUNCH!!! The ship hits the berg on its starboard bow.
In the Hold, the two stewards stagger as the hull buckles in four feet with a sound like thunder. Like a sledgehammer beating along outside the ship, the berg splits the hull plates and the sea pours in, sweeping them off their feert. The icy water swirls around the Renault as the men scramble for the stairs. On G-Deck, Greg is tossed in his bunk by the impact. He hears a sound like the greatly amplified squeal of a skate on ice.
In Boiler Room Six, Barret and Hesketh stagger as they hear the rolling thunder of the collision. They see the starboard side of the ship buckle in toward them and are almost swept off their feet by a rush of water coming in about two feet above the floor. On the forward Well Deck John and Sherlock break their hug and look up in astonishment as the berg sails past, blocking out the sky like a huge mountain.
Fragments of ice break off it and crash down onto the deck, and they have to jump back to avoid flying chunks. Murdoch rings the watertight door alarm. He quicky throws the switch that closes them. “Hard a 'port!”
Judging the berg to be amidships, he is trying to clear the stern.
Barrett and Hesketh hear the door alarm and scramble through the swirling water to the watertight door between Boiler Rooms 6 and 5. The room is full of water vapor as the cold sea strikes the red hot furnaces. Barrett yells to the stokers scrambling through the door as it comes down like a slow guillotine.
“Go Lads! Go! Go!” Barrett shouts. He dives through into Boiler Room 5 just before the door rumbles down with a ‘CLANG’.
John and Sherlock rush to the starboard rail in time to see the berg moving aft down the side of the ship. In his room, surrounded by piles of plans while making notes in his ever-present book, Andrews looks up at the sound of a cut-crystal light fixture tinkling like a windchime. He feels the shudder run through the ship. And we see it in his face. Too much of his soul is in this great ship for him not to feel its mortal wound.
Fleet turns to his Lee. “Oy, mate... that was a close shave.” Lee growls. “Smell ice, can you? Bleedin' Christ!” Murdoch is stricken. The alarm bells still clatter mindlessly, seeming to reflect his inner state. He is in shock, unable to get a grip on what just happened. He just ran the biggest ship in history into an iceberg on its maiden voyage. He turns to Moody. “Note the time. Enter it in the log.”
Captain Smith rushes out of his cabin onto the bridge, tucking in his shirt. “What was that, Mr. Murdoch?”
“An iceberg, sir. I put her hard a' starboard and run the engines full astern, but it was too close. I tried to port around it, but she hit... and I--“ Smith gulps. “Close the emergency doors.”
“The doors are closed.” Together they rush out onto the starboard wing, and Murdoch points. Smith looks into the darkness aft, then wheels around to 4th Officer Bohall. “Find the Carpenter and get him to sound the ship.”
John and Sherlock are leaning over the starboard rail, looking at the hull of the ship. “Looks okay. I don't see anything.”
Sherlock looks concerned though. “Could it have damaged the ship?”
“It didn't seem like much of a bump. I'm sure we're okay.” Behind them a couple of steerage guys are kicking the ice around the deck, laughing.
In a corridor on B-Deck, Bruce Ismay, dressed in pajamas under the topcoat, hurries down the corridor, headed for the bridge. An officious steward named Barnes comes along the other direction, getting the few concerned passengers back into their rooms. “There's no cause for alarm. Please, go back to your rooms.” He is stopped in his tracks by Mycroft and Lovejoy. “Please, sir.” He says. “There's no emergency--“
“Yes there is!” Mycroft says. “I have been robbed. Now get the Master at Arms. “Now you moron!“
On the bridge, Captain Smith studies the commutator. He turns to Andrews, standing behind him. “A five degree list in less than ten minutes.” The ship’s carpenter, Johm Hutchenson enters behind him, out of breath and clearly unnerved. “She's making water fast... in the forepeak tank and the forward holds, in boiler room six.” Now, Ismay enters, his movements quick with anger and frustration. Smith glances at him with annoyance.
“Why have we stopped?” Ismay asks. “We've struck ice.” Replies Smith.
“Well, do you think the ship is seriously damaged?” Smith glares. “Excuse me.” Smith pushes past him, with Andrews and Hutchinson in tow. In Boiler Room 6, Strokers and firemen are struggling to draw the fires. They are working in waist deep water churning around as it flows into the boiler room, ice cold and swirling with grease from the machinery. Chief Engineer Bell comes partway down the ladder and shouts. “That's it, lads. Get the hell up!” They scramble like rats up the escape ladders.
Back on B-Deck, the gentlemen, now joined by another man, lean on the forward rail watching the steerage men playing soccer with chunks of ice. “I guess it’s nothing too serious, huh. I'm going back to my cabin to read.” Says one.
A 20ish Yale man pops through the door wearing a topcoat over pajamas. “Say, did I miss the fun?” Sherlock and John come up the steps from the well deck, which are right next to the three men. They stare as the two climb over the locked gate. A moment later Captain Smith rounds the corner, followed by Andrews and Carpenter Hutchinson. They have come down from the bridge by the outside stairs. The three men, their faces grim, crush right past John and Sherlock.
Andrews barely glances at him.
“Can you shore up?” Smith asks. “Not unless the pumps get ahead.” Replies Hutchenson. The inspection party goes down the stairs to the well deck.
John sighs. “It's bad.” Sherlock nods. “We have to tell Mother and Mycroft.” The other man looks down. “Now it's worse.”
“Come with me, John. I jump, you jump... Right?”
“Right.” John follows Sherlock through the door inside the ship.
John and Sherlock cross the foyer quickly, entering the corridor. Lovejoy is waiting for them in the hallway as they approach the room. “We've been looking for you sir.” The older man says.
Lovejoy follows and, unseen, moves close behind John and smoothly slips the blue
diamond into the pocket of his overcoat.
In the Holmes suite, Mycroft and Catherine wait in the sitting room, along with the Master at Arms and two stewards, Steward Elroy and Barnes. It is silent as Sherlock and John enter. Catherine closes her robe at her throat when she sees John. “Something serious has happened.” Sherlock says.
“That's right. Two things dear to me have disappeared this evening. Now that one is back...” Mycroft begins. He looks from Sherlock to John. “...I have a pretty good idea where to fine the other.” The eldest Holmes looks to Master at Arms. “Search him.” The Master at Arms steps up to John.
“Coat off, mate.”
Lovejoy pulls at John’s coat and John shakes his head in dismay, shrugging out of it. The Master at Arms pats him down. “This is horses-shit.” John exclaims. Sherlock shakes his head and turns to his brother. “Mycroft, you can't be serious! We're in the middle of an emergency and you--“ His voice halts as Steward Barnes pulls the Heart of the Ocean out of the pocket of John’s coat.
“Is this it?” Steward Barnes quips. Sherlock is stunned. Needless to say, so is John. “That's it.” Mycroft replies.
The Master At Arms huffs. “Right then. Now don't make a fuss.” He turns to John and starts to handcuff Him. The blonde-haired young man shakes his head. “Don't you believe it, Sherlock. Don't!”
Sherlock shakes his head and mutters to himself in uncertainty. “He couldn't have.” Mycroft scoffs. “Of course he could. Easy enough for a professional. He memorized the combination when you opend the safe.” Memories drift through Sherlock’s mind. Him at the safe, looking in the mirror and meeting John’s eyes as he stands behind him, watching.
The young Holmes can’t believe it; he won’t. “But I was with him the whole time.” He protests quietly. Mycroft turns to his brother and speaks to just him, low and cold. “Maybe he did it while you were putting your clothes back on.” Sherlock’s heart drops, a torrent of embarrassment and shame and anger coursing throughout his body. And pain.
All the while, John continues to shout. “They put it in my pocket!” Lovejoy finds this amusing of course, and he holds up the coat. “It's not even your pocket, son.” He eyes the label and reads: "Property of A. L. Ryerson". Lovejoy shows the coat to the Master at Arms. There is a label inside the collar with the owner's name.
The Master At Arms nods. “That was reported stolen today.” He says. Jack stammers. “I was going to return it! Sherlock--“ Sherlock feels utterly betrayed, hurt and confused. He shrinks away from John, Who starts shouting to him as Lovejoy and the Master at Arms drag him out into the hall. Sherlock can't look him in the eye.
“Sherlock, don't listen to them... I didn't do this! You know I didn't! You know it!”
The young Holmes sibling is devastated. His mother lays a comforting hand on his shoulder as the tears well up. Catherine shakes her head. “It’s no doubt that this interest in men of yours would have been your folly, sooner or later.”