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fic: Murder in May Week

Title: Murder in May Week
Author: fengirl88
Fandom: BBC Sherlock
Pairing/Characters: Sherlock/John, Lestrade, OCs
Rating: PG-13
Word count: ~1900
Warnings: none.
Notes/Acknowledgments: Written for Summer of Sherlock for the prompt "Sherlock/John, Lestrade; “I'm on a boat!”" I'm very grateful to kalypso_v for discussions about the plot; this fic is for her.

Murder in May Week

“I still don't understand why you need to go punting,” Dr, no, Professor Gibbons says.

Must be all of 35, Lestrade thinks. The professors are getting younger. He hopes Sherlock's right that you can trust this one. You need some kind of inside information, murder at a Cambridge college. And Gibbons was on the May Ball Committee, so he should know about security and the like, even if he didn't know the victim. Which he says he didn't.

Alex Grey, third year plant scientist; found stabbed just before the fireworks started. Crime scene's a nightmare, of course, with all those guests swarming everywhere.

One good thing about this Gibbons, he's not closing ranks or wringing his hands about the tragedy of a young life cut short, or any of the other pain-in-the-arse things Lestrade thought he might do.

“Alex Grey didn't have a wristband,” Lestrade says.

Gibbons gets it immediately, though Lestrade had to have it explained to him by the Head Porter, much to Sherlock's ill-concealed pleasure.

“So he wasn't at the ball officially?”

“That's right,” Lestrade says. “Apparently he was on the guest list but his girlfriend, Lucy Adams, got a text from him saying he had to go home because of a family emergency and that she should take their friend Miles Drummond instead. Which she did.”

“Why would Alex crash the ball if he was on the guest list?” Gibbons asks.

Sherlock twitches impatiently and says “He didn't crash it. The killer faked the text and dumped his body at the ball.”

“Ah,” Gibbons says. “Yes, of course. Have to come by river. Couldn't get the body over the spikes on the wall.”

Christ. Lestrade is not going to dwell on that image.

“Hell of a job, just the same,” Gibbons says, “smuggling a corpse in full evening dress into a May Ball, even from the river. Why would anyone bother?”

“Well, it can't just be to cover his tracks,” Lestrade says. “So it looks like it must have something to do with the girlfriend and the flatmate, yes all right Sherlock, the set-mate.”

Bloody Cambridge has its own private language for everything. Bad enough getting your head round the idea that a May Ball happens in June.

“Miles and Lucy found the body, didn't they?” Gibbons says, wincing.

“As they were clearly meant to do,” John says grimly.

Lestrade remembers Lucy Adams screaming and sobbing, Miles looking green in the face and saying “Alex and Luce always watched the fireworks from there, it's the best view in College”.

“The local police think Miles is the killer,” Sherlock says explosively. “Idiots.”

“It would have been easy for him to send that text,” John says.

Sherlock mutters something that sounds like dull.

“I'm not saying he did it, Sherlock. Anyway, why would he want to do that to Lucy? They're friends, aren't they?”

“Rivals,” Sherlock says, matter-of-factly. “Miles was in love with Alex.”

No idea how he worked that one out.

“He might still have killed him,” Gibbons objects.

“Yes, he might,” Sherlock snaps, “but he didn't. He wouldn't make himself the obvious suspect by sending that text, for a start.”

“So who would have wanted to kill Alex and frame Miles?” John says.

Gibbons looks blank. “I don't know. I'm not a Tutor, so I don't know a lot of the students apart from my own. I know Lucy of course, I think everybody in College does.”

Oh, it's like that, is it? Lestrade thinks.

But apparently not.

“Because of the singing,” Gibbons says. “She's in the choir, and the G and S Soc – Gilbert and Sullivan Society – and does a lot of musical stuff generally. Miles sings, too.”

“And Alex?” John asks.

“Not as far as I know. But Jamie Douglas would be the person to ask. He's Senior Treasurer of the G and S Soc, so he knows most of that crowd quite well. He's also the Fellow Librarian so he's probably in the library.”

Gibbons picks up the phone and taps in a 5-digit number.

“Hello, Clare? Is Dr Douglas around? Oh, of course – stupid of me. Could you get him to ring me when he comes back? Thanks very much. Bye. He's in a Tutors' Committee meeting,” Gibbons says, turning to Lestrade. “Should be finished in an hour or so. Do you want me to book you one of the college punts?”

“Thanks,” Lestrade says. He's still not sure what this is going to achieve, but try anything once, right?

“Don't suppose you'll be doing any punting, will you?” Gibbons says to Sherlock.

“Shut up, Orlando,” Sherlock says.

Thought the Prof said his name was Paul. Must be another of those Cambridge things.

Gibbons grins and says “Sherlock never lifted a punt pole in three years here, you know. Just used to lie back against the cushions looking pretty and let someone else do all the work. Usually me.”

“Fuck off,” Sherlock says, going a bit red.

John's wearing that What's he to you? look that Lestrade knows spells trouble. Might have known there'd be complications, talking to someone from Sherlock's past...

“Well, it's obviously time you learned to punt, then, isn't it, Sherlock?” Lestrade says.

As a distraction, it's a total success. Sherlock embarks on a complicated and entirely unconvincing explanation about why punting is incompatible with his centre of gravity, and the resulting argument lasts them all the way to the river.

“Right,” John says, leaning back against the cushions and looking challengingly at Sherlock. “Let's see what you can do.”

Sherlock grumbles and moans, but John isn't lifting a finger. It's clear that Sherlock is going to have to do this. Lestrade takes a firm grip on the paddle. He's not about to make an arse of himself falling in the river, thank you very much.

Just as they're pushing off, there's a yelping and a flurry on the bank and a small brown-and-white dog jumps into the punt with them.

“Sherlock, stop!” John says, but it's too late.

Lestrade's not sure Sherlock actually knows how to stop.

Certainly doesn't know how to steer.

“Pull the pole round the other way, Sherlock, you tosser!” Lestrade says.

There's a lot of swearing, mostly from Sherlock, and a certain amount of going round in circles, but they only hit the bank once, and just manage to avoid ramming a pair of lovers.

“Stupid place to moor a punt anyway,” Sherlock snarls. He's sweating now, and Lestrade doesn't trust the way he's handling that pole.

John is canoodling with the little dog and looking very pleased with himself. If ever a man had That'll teach you to flaunt your ex-boyfriends at me written all over him, JW is that man at this moment.

“What's your name, then?” John says, pulling the dog's ears affectionately. He looks at the tag round its neck and then snorts. “Oh God, only in Cambridge.”

“What's it called?” Lestrade asks.

“It says I AM A CAT,” John groans.

“Dogs aren't allowed in College. Cats are,” Sherlock says, like it all makes perfect sense. “So if someone wants to keep a dog, they ask the College Council to declare it a cat.”

Lestrade tries to clutch his head, which isn't a good idea when you're paddling a punt being steered by Sherlock.

After a bit more bad language, not all of it from their own punt, they fetch up alongside the Fellows' Garden. At which point the dog-declared-a-cat goes mad, barking and jumping up excitedly, Sherlock loses his balance and Lestrade loses his paddle.

Luckily Sherlock falls into the punt rather than into the river, and manages to keep hold of the pole. Also luckily, he manages not to brain anyone with it.

Paddle's definitely gone though.

“Oh bollocks,” Lestrade says. “I am not going in after that.”

“Too right,” John says. “Don't want you dying of Weil's disease. What are you so excited about, you silly creature?”

Takes Lestrade a minute to realize he's talking to the dog.

“Can you grab that ring and tie up the punt?” Lestrade asks. “Looks like he's spotted something.”

A tarpaulin in the bushes. And there's blood on it.

Lestrade calls Donovan and fills her in on developments.

“...No, we haven't talked to Douglas yet. Hello? Reception's crap here, must be the water or something. Yes, I'm on a boat. No, it's not funny. Bye.”

Back on dry land, thank god, they find Dr Douglas has emerged from his meeting. Typical librarian, tall, thin and bespectacled, looks like a strong wind would blow him away. He's launching into exactly the sort of spiel Lestrade feared they'd get from Gibbons when the dog-alias-cat starts acting up again, growling and tugging at Douglas's trouser-leg. Douglas aims a kick at it, which Lestrade could have told him was a bad idea with an ex-Army dog-lover around.

Next thing anybody knows, Watson has launched himself at Douglas and there's a fight going on. In which Douglas is doing a lot better than you'd think to look at him. Lestrade and Sherlock wade in and separate them, and Douglas collapses, panting, into a chair. The cat-dog is still growling from the sidelines. As is Watson.

“Did you kill him in the Fellows' Garden?” Sherlock asks.

“I don't know what you mean,” Douglas says, unconvincingly.

“Oh, I think you do,” Sherlock says. “You killed Alex Grey, put his body where you knew his girlfriend would find it, and tried to frame Miles Drummond. Why did you do that, by the way? Lucy wasn't interested in Miles – she knew he was gay.”

Douglas starts laughing. It's an ugly sound.

“Stop it,” Lestrade says roughly.

“You think this is about Lucy,” Douglas says. “Oh, that is funny. She's a sweet girl, and a good singer, if you like that sort of pure white British soprano. But she's not my type at all.”

“Who is it about, then?” Lestrade asks, though he thinks he knows.

“Miles, of course,” Jamie Douglas says. “Who else would it be?”

As Sherlock says, there's always something.

“I never knew Jamie had been a night climber,” Gibbons says wonderingly. “You have to be pretty fit to do that.”

“Turns out he also did a stint with one of those chauffeur-punt companies the summer after he graduated,” Lestrade says.

“Where's John, by the way?” Gibbons asks.

“Gone to return the dog, sorry, cat, to its rightful owner,” Lestrade says. “Jerome somebody, I think he said.”

“Still can't believe you got Sherlock to punt,” Gibbons says. “Sorry I missed it.”

“Oh, that wasn't me,” Lestrade says, grinning. “That was John.”

“He must be quite something,” Gibbons says. “None of us ever managed it.”

“Bugger off, Orlando,” Sherlock says. “And yes, actually, he is quite something. Not that it's any of your business.”

“Who's quite something?” Watson says, coming back into the room.

“You are, apparently,” Gibbons says.

“Oh right,” says John. “Well, that's – um. Good.”

He looks at Sherlock, who has gone a bit red again.

Gibbons clears his throat.

“I was just saying I'm sorry I missed seeing Sherlock punting. I don't suppose you'd like another outing on the river?”

No need to ask the audience or phone a friend; the answer's obvious.

Three voices speaking as one say “NO!”

*** Note: Additional inspiration was provided by this picture. The tag says CAT.
Also posted at http://fengirl88.dreamwidth.org/53748.html with comments.


( 38 comments — Leave a comment )
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Aug. 24th, 2011 05:18 pm (UTC)
Aug. 24th, 2011 05:36 pm (UTC)
thank you! glad you liked it.
Aug. 24th, 2011 05:57 pm (UTC)
Gibbons grins and says “Sherlock never lifted a punt pole in three years here, you know. Just used to lie back against the cushions looking pretty and let someone else do all the work. Usually me.”

“Fuck off,” Sherlock says, going a bit red.

Ahahahah, I can just hear that exchange. Also, Orlando Gibbons's "The Silver Swan" is one of my absolute favorites <3 That was Orlando Gibbons, right? I have the nasty feeling my brain is trying to switch in "Dirge," which is by a modern composer (Shakespeare text, though), for it again.

Aug. 24th, 2011 06:09 pm (UTC)
thank you very much - really pleased you liked this!

kalypso_v suggested that Sherlock probably behaved like this and I think she is right!

and yes, "The Silver Swan" is Orlando Gibbons. I couldn't find my favourite (Consort of Musicke) recording of that on YouTube but found them performing this one by him, which I love, and which is also appropriate in the context.
(no subject) - irisbleufic - Aug. 24th, 2011 06:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fengirl88 - Aug. 24th, 2011 06:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - irisbleufic - Aug. 24th, 2011 06:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kalypso_v - Aug. 24th, 2011 06:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fengirl88 - Aug. 24th, 2011 06:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kalypso_v - Aug. 24th, 2011 06:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 24th, 2011 07:32 pm (UTC)
I absolutely love this! It was worth it for poor Sherlock's attempts at punting alone! *g* I think it's fabulous that John insists that Sherlock has to punt because he's in a jealous snit over Sherlock's ex-boyfriend. Oh, and John bonding with the dog cat is also priceless. Best of all, this is coming from Lestrade's POV -- Lestrade being the perfect choice for a narrator as he's obviously like a fish out of water at Cambridge. ;-)

Still have to catch up with your other stories and give you some feedback!
Aug. 24th, 2011 08:07 pm (UTC)
thank you very much! I wrote it in great haste, right up against the deadline, so wasn't sure about it - I'm really pleased you liked it. it is my headcanon that John (like Martin Freeman) has a soft spot for small dogs, and jealous!John is always fun to write. I wasn't sure initially whether he would narrate it, as in some ways he is the closest to J in Three Men in a Boat, but I decided it had to be Lestrade, as he'd be better for that outsider's point of view. thank you very much again!

Edited at 2011-08-24 08:19 pm (UTC)
Aug. 24th, 2011 10:09 pm (UTC)
Really great use of setting. Narrator Lestrade also did a good job. And I love the dog cat!
Aug. 24th, 2011 10:18 pm (UTC)
thank you very much - glad you enjoyed it! there had to be a dog, because there is one in Three Men in a Boat, so I was pleased when I remembered this odd piece of Cambridge lore...

Aug. 24th, 2011 10:40 pm (UTC)
Adore this. I can see John's mannerisms perfectly there at the end. You described the whole farcical punting scene so well. Well done!
Aug. 24th, 2011 11:04 pm (UTC)
thank you very much! I'm glad you enjoyed it - the idea of Sherlock punting was too much fun to resist.
Aug. 25th, 2011 01:15 am (UTC)
to say nothing of the dog, er, cat
This is adorable. I did think, just at the moment they all three get into the boat, 'if only they had a dog' and then there it was. :D I also like the welcome change of having someone who knew Sherlock at uni still be a bit fond of him, despite what Sebastian said.
Aug. 25th, 2011 08:27 am (UTC)
Re: to say nothing of the dog, er, cat
thank you very much! I couldn't see how else to get the dog into the fic, and obviously there had to be one...

I think Sebastian is not a reliable source about Sherlock's university years! Orlando was inspired by kalypso_v's suggestions about Sherlock's non-punting habits.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 25th, 2011 08:28 am (UTC)
thank you - glad you enjoyed it so much! I love the book, so was pleased to be able to write a fic with it in.
Aug. 25th, 2011 08:13 pm (UTC)
What can I say? Besides :D :D :D x 10000
Aug. 25th, 2011 09:12 pm (UTC)
thank you very much - I'm glad you liked it!
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 27th, 2011 12:42 pm (UTC)
thank you - glad you liked it!
Aug. 27th, 2011 04:04 pm (UTC)
Just had a chance to read this. Love it! The little mystery, and John's expression of 'That'll teach you to flaunt your ex-boyfriends at me,' made me laugh, and the image of Sherlock being all awkward was just delicious. Brilliant!
Aug. 27th, 2011 04:13 pm (UTC)
yay! so pleased you liked it - thank you very much! *beams*

I do like writing jealous!John, especially when he gets tough with Sherlock as a result. awkward Sherlock is fun to write, too...
Aug. 31st, 2011 10:39 pm (UTC)
Heee! Classy! Love it!
Aug. 31st, 2011 10:55 pm (UTC)
thank you very much - I'm glad you liked it! I'd been wanting to do a Three Men in a Boat fic so this was too good a chance to miss...
Sep. 2nd, 2011 08:37 pm (UTC)
That was great fun, and I particularly liked 'Orlando' and John as dog-protector. And Lestrade as jaundiced observer of Cambridge is also wonderful,of course.

In my head canon, meanwhile, Mycroft is pretty good at punting (tall and hefty and analytical, even if not particularly athletic). I've done one brief scene of him punting; maybe sometime I'll have to do some more.

But you know what we really need now? Holmes v Holmes croquet fic.

Sep. 2nd, 2011 10:06 pm (UTC)
thank you very much - I'm glad you liked it! it would be nice to see Mycroft punting without teenage!Sherlock spoiling his fun...

I'm sure Holmes v Holmes croquet fic would be a thing of glory, though my understanding of the game doesn't go beyond flamingoes and hedgehogs! there's a very fine croquet scene in Peter Dickinson's novel The Last House-Party.
Oct. 2nd, 2011 02:34 pm (UTC)

I really enjoyed this--was after something brisk, quirky and light-hearted (erm, not fussy at all, me), and I remembered I saw this some time ago and had the presence of mind to bookmark it. Fitted the bill perfectly! Excellent work, in such short form, too!
Oct. 2nd, 2011 04:33 pm (UTC)
thank you very much - I'm glad you enjoyed it! I know that feeling of wanting something very specific to read and I'm pleased that this fitted the bill. *grins*
Oct. 22nd, 2011 02:23 pm (UTC)
Oh, this really brightened my Saturday!! Fun and lovely and sweet and excellent. Thank you!
Oct. 22nd, 2011 04:13 pm (UTC)
thank you very much - I'm glad you liked it, and very pleased that you let me know!
Nov. 21st, 2011 01:13 am (UTC)
This was a delight to read. The interaction between Sherlock, John, and Lestrade inspired glee. Prof. Gibbons seems like a good egg, although John may disagree with me. G&S? "Orlando" Gibbons? The "Silver Swan"? All seem apropos, given the setting! Amd all three remind me of my youth: choir, drama, and branching out into art song.

The punting scene made me think of Harriet and Lord Peter Wimsey in _Gaudy NIght_, although Lord Peter actually could punt (unlike a certain Consulting Detective).

Looking forward to reading more of your work!
Nov. 21st, 2011 08:46 am (UTC)
thank you very much - I'm pleased that you enjoyed it, and glad that it brought back memories of your youth (and made you think of Gaudy Night)! I think Prof Gibbons is a good egg, but I'm sure John would indeed disagree with you... *grins*
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