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Sanctuary - Dinner at Delmonico's
Watson&helen
dbalthasar
No kittens here, alas.  Just James and Helen in York City in 1901, where James turns down a small job.  Inspired by geonncannon 's Outlaws. (And for once, no warnings should apply!)

Helen arrives just as the man is leaving, tall and somehow dusty in an old-fashioned suit and somewhat newer hat.  He tips the hat to her with an appreciative smile, murmuring something that ends with, “— Mrs. Watson?”

“Dr. Magnus,” she says, and extends her hand.

He takes it with a slightly wider smile.  “A pleasure, Doctor. And if you have any influence with Dr. Watson, I hope you can persuade him to reconsider.”

“It would all depend on the issue at hand,” Helen says.

“It’s a matter of justice,” the man answered, and behind him Helen sees James’s eyes flick upwards.  The stranger seems ready to state his case again there in the hall, but James clears his throat, and the man moves regretfully away.  James steps back, and Helen follows him into their pleasant suite.

“What was that all about?” she asks.

“A gentleman from Pinkerton’s.”  James crosses to the sideboard, busies himself with the decanters, and at her nod mixes her a whiskey soda as well.

“Wanting advice?”  Helen removes her gloves and her new hat, eyes it with satisfaction as she sets it on the table by the window.  New York is not Paris, but some of its milliners are more than expert.

“Mm.”  James is less smugly pleased than she would have expected, and she frowns as she accepts her glass.

“And you turned him down?”

“I’m afraid so.”

James’s tone is meant to be discouraging, but Helen ignores it.  “Waht was the job?”

“He wanted me to find some bank robbers,” James says reluctantly.

“Not —”  Helen’s breath catching on the name, and James shakes his head.

“No.  Nigel, is, I believe, in Chicago, and the gentlemen in question are from further west.”

“Oh.”  Helen is relieved and a little disappointed.   Western desperados are a thing of dime novels, not the streets of New York.  “I’m surprised they needed your help, then.”

“They’re not stupid men,” James says.  “Not at all.”

For an instant, Helen can’t help wondering if he means the bank robbers or the detectives, and in that moment James straightens.

“I’ve made us reservations at Delmonico’s,” he says.  “I thought you might enjoy it, after your strenuous day.”

And indeed she would, though she’s also aware that it’s intended as a distraction.  But she has spent the day at the Museum of Natural History, consulting on a skeleton that she strongly suspects belongs to something much more interesting than the Biblical giant its discoverer claimed, and she is both hungry and dusty.  She takes her drink with her to bathe and change, summons the hotel hairdresser to work a minor miracle with her hair, and allows herself to enjoy James’s appreciative glance.

They make their way through the gaslit streets, though the crowds and the noise and the smells, so different from London, and yet every bit as vibrant.  She can see why Nikola has always liked it here:  the city is as sharp as electricity, and as new.

But Delmonico’s is old, old and elegant as of course James’s choice would be.  She lets him settle her at their table, appreciating the heavy linen, the polished tableware and the elaborate china.  James studies the menu and the wine list at some length, consulting her and the waiter and the wine steward before he orders:  the famous steaks, of course, and new asparagus and potatoes gastronome, soft-shell crabs and shad roe for the fish, and salmon and a terrine de fois gras for the cold course, matched with a white bordeaux and a highly touted claret.  But they begin with oysters and champagne, ordered without a blush, and as they finish the plate, James nods toward the far side of the room.

Helen looks that way, to see a a trio taking their table, two men and a very pretty woman.  They are all very smartly dressed, but what’s most striking about them is their happiness.  They practically glow with it, the square-faced man with the bright blue eyes, his taller friend with the big moustache, the lovely woman smiling from one to the other.  She looks like a bride, Helen thinks, but she can’t tell which is the lucky husband.  The square-faced man sets the menu aside with a remark that sets the others laughing, and even across the room their good humor is contagious. Helen is smiling herself as she looks back at James.

“That,” he says, “is Robert Leroy Parker, the one with the blue eyes.  The other gentleman is Harry Longabaugh, and the young lady is Etta Place.”

Helen looks at him, wondering why, or if, he expects her to know those names, and James looks down at his plate. 

“The gentlemen are better known as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” he says.  “Leaders of a gang called the Wild Bunch.”

“Those are the people the Pinkerton man was after?  The bank robbers?”  Helen can’t help taking another look, catches them touching glasses in a toast.  The woman is laughing so hard at something Cassidy is saying that she nearly spills her wine, and Helen still can’t tell which of the men is her lover.  They are both watching with affection and perhaps desire, and she wonders abruptly whether Etta Place has refused to make a choice, if perhaps she has them both.  And what would that be like, she wonders.  What if she had not chosen among her suitors, what if she —  She stops there, because those choices are made, and there’s no point in dwelling on what might have been.  But when she looks back at James, she thinks she sees the same regrets in his eyes.

“They’re going to Argentina at the end of the week,” James says.  “They have tickets on the Herminius.  I have every reason to believe they intend to give up their life of crime, and I see no good purpose to be served by turning them in at this point.”

“No,” Helen says, though she suspects that’s not the reason for his forbearance.  “None at all.”
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Aww. :-) This is strangely charming.

Thanks! (My first fannish obsession meets my current one...)

Oh, very lovely and well-painted. I love how all this fic-inspired-by-fic has come up in fandom this week.

Thank you! I love it when fandom does this kind of positive-feedback/dialogue - it's something you don't often get in writing, not compared to more collaborative arts like, oh, theater or music, and it's so much fun when it happens.

Oh James, not sentimental, are you? That's kind of sweet. And also... very James. Law and justice are not the same thing.

I really love James and Helen at Delmonicos. Your as usual impeccable research shows! :) And is appreciated!

He is absolutely not sentimental, thank you! This was all perfectly logical, a rational summing-up of their careers and their current intentions, not to mention the promised amnesty that fell through... Yes, Helen is smirking, too.

I found a Delmonico's menu from 1899 that I cribbed from. I am dying to know what "potatoes gastronome" actually are!

(Deleted comment)
Thank you!! I think James is my favorite iteration of Sherlock Holmes ever, and I've been a Sherlockian since I was 8 or 9. (Yes, I was one of those kids.) The distinction between Law and Justice is really part of the original stories, and the show expands on that in some interesting ways. And then James is just so very... James. *g*

And I suspect Helen can be distracted by the little luxuries. Though not for long. :-)

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