Dancing Suite 3: Hopscotch and Bal Musette, 1/?
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Fandom: Murdoch Mysteries
Rating: Not Rated
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Relationships: William Murdoch/James Pendrick, Julia Ogden/Other Male Character
Characters: William Murdoch, James Pendrick, Julia Ogden, Dr. Roberts (Murdoch Mysteries), Marcel Guillaume, Alphonse Bertillon, George Crabtree, Prof. Harms (Murdoch Mysteries)
Additional Tags: Established Relationship, Period-Typical Homophobia, Period-Typical Sexism, Alternate Universe - Canon Divergence, A host of historical figures, Bicycles, Dubious Science, Spiritualism, Period-Typical Science, Period-Typical Medicine, Paris (City), Historically Accurate, Murder Mystery, Dancing, Poisoning
Series: Part 3 of The Dancing Suite
When faced with strange happenings and inexplicable poisonings, former Police Detective William Murdoch and all-around genius James Pendrick see their new Paris life turned upside down. They must turn to uncertain allies and use all resources at their disposable to solve this mystery before someone loses their life. Could this all be linked to the sudden arrival of long-lost friends in the City of Lights?
Of course, James Pendrick was not one to dwell too much on past travails. The Future, and how diligent work in the Present would bring it forth, was entirely more interesting. Ordinarily, that is. In the aftermath of the Gillies Affair, as he privately called it, Pendrick was forced to admit that specific portions of the recent past occupied a disproportionate part of his thoughts. Thankfully, he no longer felt torn apart by those horrible events, by all he had lost. He had found his way out of the dark places he's allowed himself to inhabit this time last year. Now, on most days, he rooted himself firmly in the present. It would be the hight of hypocrisy to claim that all was well, but for the most part, he was in good spirits.
James Pendrick, formally Toronto's greatest civil engineer and once millionaire, was now a near anonymous forensic specialist working in the underfunded or overlooked commissariat of the yet-developping neighbourhood of La Chapelle, in Paris's tawdry 18th arrondissement. A far cry from Canada's rich and famous. Though this lowly condition should have brought his ego to its knees, Pendrick had found a kind of solace here that had eluded him in Canada. In Paris, he had found solace and certainty in someone other than himself.
He viewed it as personal growth. Before, even in his happiest days with William in Toronto, Pendrick never entirely trusted that he'd build his entire future with the love of his life. Even with the wedding rings they both wore around the neck, even with the promises they'd made and the difficulties they'd conquered, Pendrick had never fully banished the idea that he would find himself alone again. Perhaps because prison would separate them. Perhaps because public opprobrium would prevail. Or simply, perhaps, because William Murdoch would no longer wish to live a life his God deemed a capital sin and would leave him to save his immortal soul.
But William Murdoch hadn't gone. Quite the opposite. William had nursed him back to health through the bleak winter in that godforsaken French Canadian village, while his injured shoulder festered only lightly less than his mood. As fugitives, William had stuck to his side, steadfastly, got him through the darkest times in the previous year, when neither of them could even find comfort in the use of their real names.
Now, they were living legally in the City of Lights, using pseudonyms, yes, but only to facilitate their work for the Gendarmerie. Their future was assured and their almost-marriage strong.
It was simply that their life was now so small! There resided his issues. James Pendrick was not used to small. He was a visionary, a genius. He'd been one of the world's most promising inventor. His misplaced trust in Sally Hubbard had cost him his fortune, but not his greatness. His biggest flaw, trusting those who showed similar enthusiasm in invention, would certainly have led him further astray without Murdoch's guidance. They were stronger together, but the glory that was his due, the thrill of world-wide recognition, the accolades befitting his successes would now be out of reach, likely forever. He and Murdoch would be together until the end, of that he was certain, but at the cost of anonymity, at the expense of renown.
Some days, it made the walls too narrow, his skin too tight.
But he could live with it. He would live with it. James Pendrick could weather anything. With William Murdoch at his side, he could win at anything, even a small life.
Which is why he and Murdoch were currently cloistered in their dank "office," a room at the back of the commissariat's stables, ignoring the stench, attempting to use refraction and precision photography to distinguish finger marks on a piece of curved smoked glass taken from a murder scene, so they could send them for identification by Alphonse Bertillon's Signaletic Service at Headquarters. The air was proving entirely too dusty for their purpose. They could see the cursed finger marks, but they remained obscured and out of focus.
"We need a lens with a higher vergence," Murdoch grumbled.
"Obviously," Pendrick responded with equal frustration, pulling out his new copy of Molesworth's Pocket-book Formulae, flapping its tiny pages to the correct section. "If we give Guillaume a request for a specific lens with a precise convecture, he might convince Pontailler to pay for it, without going to Bertillon." The Pocket-book's binding was not yet quite broken in, the only thing he missed about his old copy. It had finally given up the ghost soon after they took their position here, a year ago, when a thick section had flown out of his hands directly into an odorous puddle of horse urine. Finding a replacement had proven more difficult than expected. They had discovered that of the half-dozen engineering bookstores the city housed, none carried books in English, only French and German. Of those two general bookstores which sold to readers of the English language, only one had agreed to track down a copy. It was not even the latest printing, but rather the 1886 edition, used. Pendrick did not mind. He had procured his original 1872 copy un adolescence, when he'd first discovered a passion for large-scale engineering. This was an expanded and revised version, without having gained much bulk. It lived in his inner jacket pocket. This Pocket-book was already heavily annotated, with inserts and marginalia in his own hand, copied from his ruined edition. Flipping to his notes on lenses, tucked in the section on curvature formulae, he handed the book to his companion.
This. This is what made life worth living. His partnership with William Murdoch. Waking with him in his arms in the morning, blearing-eyed but smiling. Sharing meals, looks, touches. Loving. Marvelling, every day, every moment, at his keen intellect and intractable focus. Like now, Murdoch was deftly juggling equations, writing figures in his perfectly neat hand, arriving at the correct answer as always. In this glowing presence, how could anyone not experience wonder, delight, love? Desire this man?
Putting away their equipment and the evidence files strewn about allowed Pendrick to gaze upon his lover at several angles. From the evidence cabinet, the curve of William's biceps, bulging under his rolled-up sleeves. From the microscope shelf, the surety of his hands -- how he cherished these hands! From the photography nook's curtain, the width of the man's shoulders, the taper of his back at the waistline. And lower still.
But now was not the time for such carnal thoughts. "The Lab," as everyone at the station called it, was for solving mysteries, criminal and scientific both. Setting up the workspace at the onset had been expensive, but Quai des Orfèvres has footed the bill with minimal fuss, thanks to Bertillon's support. However, any additional equipment had since required endless forms and requisitions, the reams of paper French bureaucracy was famous for. Their own wages didn't go very far, but it often happened they had to pay for what they needed out of pocket, then hope for reimbursement later.
Murdoch arrived at the correct refraction index and focus length just as Pendrick closed the last drawer. In that instant, Provisional Investigator Marcel Guillaume popped his head through the door way, shouting in English: "Hop hop! You're needed!" before disappearing from view.
How Guillaume annoyed them both! While the man was an undeniably excellent detective, he was the hight of arrogance to those few yet under his supervision. He was earnest and deferential towards his hierarchical superiors. But to his subordinates, he fancied himself the unerring authority. Said subordinates included Murdoch and Pendrick, unfortunately, even has they both had once been his obvious superiors, if not in position, at least in experience. Patrolmen and Guardians of the Peace out of the station took Guillaume's superiority with resigned equanimity, as if it was perfectly expected. For Pendrick and Murdoch, however, Guillaume's unquestioning self-assurance, the man's unshakable ego, grated a little more every day. Pendrick knew, in the privacy of his thoughts, that part of his own reaction was fuelled by his ego, still bruised from their flight from Toronto. He could not deny his instinctual recognition of the lesser parts of himself in the soon-to-be-Inspecteur. But the man was not yet one, let alone a Commissaire, even if he already acted as such. Nor was he a detective genius like William Murdoch, who Pendrick knew to be Guillaume's true superior in every way that counted.
So it was with a groan and a knowing look that Pendrick and Murdoch fastened their sleeves, put on their jackets and hats, grabbed their "murder bags," and took their bicycles to follow their hierarchical superior's light carriage northward on rue Philippe-de-Girard, toward the city wall.