Chapter 7: Penny for Your Thoughts.

by Myshawolf (myshawolf at (9/13/03)

General Disclaimer

Nightmare: (stares at a mutilated teddy bear) I thought I was bad.

Myshawolf: (walks out holding the teddy bear from last chapter) You are.

Nightmare: Wait, if that's the bear from last time, then what is this?

MW: (smiles) Katrina was visiting again, I see.

Nightmare: I don't want to know. Why didn't you kill the bear then?

MW: Northstar asked me not to. Besides I think I scared Jaka by threatening it so I decided to let it live.

Nightmare: You are a strange one.

MW: I thought you up, didn't I?

Nightmare: No comment. On with the show.

Chapter 7- Penny for Your Thoughts.

Sherlock felt himself sink deeper into the kiss. He knew that Lestrade wasn't acting of her own accord. Her breath tasted of a drug. It was just that with each of her moans, Holmes was losing a little bit of his tight control. A small part of his mind wasn't giving up on him and began to rebel. Holmes could hear a stern voice begin to scold him.

"It's not right and you know it, Sherlock," the voice stated grimly, "Besides, could you look her in the face in the morning? Pull yourself together, man! She has been drugged, for goodness' sake!"

Sherlock tried to pull away but Lestrade refused to budge from the liplock. Holmes could feel his control begin to slide away. He needed to break contact before they reached the point of no return.

"She'll hate you for it, you idiot!!" the voice screamed. Holmes could stand any type of torture or insult. However, if he lost Lestrade's trust and respect, he would be lost to the world. He pushed her away. They both were breathing deep and ragged. Lestrade went to step towards him. Her eyes never left his.

Suddenly she felt something hit the back of his neck. She slipped into unconsciousness. Before she completely blacked out, she felt Holmes catch her and beg for her forgiveness.

Holmes held Lestrade close to him. That was a close call. Sherlock absently stroked her hair as he sat on his bed. Slowly he began to examine his feelings about this whole affair. Anger was the first and strongest emotion that he felt. He was angry at whoever set Lestrade up like this. Obviously he wasn't supposed to be the one receiving the affection. The anger began to ferment into a dark rage against the Count de Chagny. After all, the Count was the last person Lestrade had been with. The drug that influenced her was ingested, since her breath held traces of it. He had almost lost her to that vile man who tried to pass himself off as a gentleman. If Sherlock weren't more afraid for his partner's safety, he would go over and challenge the Count right now. The last feeling to wash over Holmes was relief that he was the one Lestrade assaulted. He couldn't bear to think what could have happened if she had been in the presence of someone else. Holmes held her closer to protect her from that possibility.

So instead of discussing the case, Holmes cradled Lestrade in his lap. He sat there for a few hours, trying to sort everything out. During the kiss, the mask that covered his feelings for the brunette inspector had slipped from its perch and shattered when it hit the floor. Holmes made no move to pick up the pieces and put the mask back together. He wasn't sure if he could ever put that mask back on after nearly losing control. Holmes buried his face in Lestrade's hair while she slept. In the morning, they would talk. Sherlock cursed the sun for always rising. This was one talk he wouldn't enjoy.

Eventually, he stood and laid Lestrade on the bed. He tucked her in and returned to the window. He froze as a pair of sad and concerned blue eyes stared back at him. Sherlock opened the balcony door and came face to face with the Phantom.

"Nadir told Erika about Lestrade's meeting with the Count. Erika informed me," the Phantom explained, "Is she all right?"

Holmes shook his head, "She has been drugged. She is being more passionate than usual."

The Phantom nodded and produced two vials plus a syringe. He handed them to Sherlock, "Take these. One is an antidote to the drug. The other is a sedative. The antidote will take a while to work. She may still wake in a passionate mood. The sedative will allow her to rest."

"Thank you," Sherlock said meekly as he took the gifts. He turned away as the Phantom moved to sit on the railing. Sherlock noticed his position and decided that maybe this would be the time for the Phantom to talk. He closed the glass door behind him as he stepped out onto the balcony.

"You are in love with her?" the Phantom asked gently.

Sherlock was about to deny it but decided to be truthful. "I'm not sure."

"It's hard to try not to fall in love with someone when you swore to never do so again." The Phantom stated, "You respect her greatly."

Sherlock knew it wasn't a question but a statement. He smiled as he asked one of his own. "Why do you hate the Count so much?"

"He took someone very special for me. Someone I can never get back."

"Just like your ancestors."

"Just as the de Chagnies have done since the beginning. Do you know whose bloodline the current Count is from?"

Sherlock shook his head. The Phantom gave a chuckle, "All that time in the Opera library, you never figured it out? I'm disappointed in you."

Sherlock smiled. "I can't solve everything. I was guessing the original Vicomte de Chagny, but he never had any children."

"There was another de Chagny back then. Raoul de Chagny was an honorable man. He married Christine Daae to protect her from any disgrace, from a hidden danger. He died from that danger."

"What happened to them? The records didn't show me anything."

"There is a reason for that, Monsieur Holmes. A good one."

"Tell me. Let us help you."

The Phantom began to laugh loudly. It was a light and airy sound that didn't fit his voice. It was something that didn't belong. Afterwards, the Phantom stood on the railing and smiled down at Holmes.

v"You need to choose your allies a little better. The Count has marked your lady as his next conquest. You should make up your mind concerning her. Erika Noir can tell you about the Count. Maybe you should ask her."

"I will, if it is okay with you."

"It is. Thank you for your respect, Monsieur Holmes." The Phantom smiled.

"If you will answer one more question for me." Holmes took a deep breath and asked, "I know Moriarty is seeking you. Have you joined him?"

"I have joined no one. My alliances are few and very far between. My job is to protect the opera house, the last thing of true beauty in this world. You know, the theater is the one place in this cruel world where the truth is safe. No matter how many masks one wears in the theater the audience learns to see past them," the Phantom observed, "I will warn you right now. If you want to keep that mask that you wear on, don't come looking for me. You will find yourself in a difficult position of choosing. Bon soir."

"Bon soir."

The Phantom jumped off the balcony railing and into a nearby tree. Sherlock didn't even bother to follow him with his eyes. He turned and watched Lestrade sleep through the glass door. The Phantom wasn't the one Sherlock wanted to sniff out. Now the Count was going to have his mask pulled off and be exposed to the harsh world.

Erika paced the small room full of many musical instruments. She needed to think. Lestrade was safe for now. Holmes and the Phantom had made sure of that. The Count was getting too dangerous to be allowed to roam around unattended. The incident this evening proved that. Someone would need to keep a close eye on him. Erika figured after this Sherlock Holmes would do that. The Phantom had observed the love he held for Beth Lestrade, even if Sherlock didn't see it himself. Maybe this encounter would open up a few eyes over at that hotel. It wasn't hard to convince Leroux to hold the police stakeout at that hotel. Holmes would keep an eye on the inspector and the Count. Erika smiled; that was one problem she wouldn't worry too much about.

Tired from all her pacing, Erika walked out the music room and into a bigger living area. Various portraits decorated the room. Hanging over the fireplace was a beautiful portrait of a family. Erika stared at it for a bit. In this picture Christine Daae was sitting on a stool. On her lap sat a somber little boy with chestnut hair and bright blue eyes. He smiled at the painter as any seven-year-old would. Behind Christine stood a man dressed in black. He didn't look at the viewer. Instead he stared at Christine with a look of pure love and happiness. His face was hidden by a white mask, but the painter was able to catch his emerald eyes. Erika felt her lips curve up as she stared at her ancestors.

After a few moments, Erika curled herself up into the overstuffed chair. She reached for packet of papers when Ayesha jumped into her lap. Erika stroked Ayesha with her free hand while she flipped through the papers. Ayesha purred her approval and curled up into Erika's lap. Erika smiled at Ayesha. This was her most loyal friend next to Nadir. Erika looked back at her papers and pulled out the stack she wanted. She settled down for reading the reports her spies brought back to her. Moriarty wasn't the only one who was doing his homework.

Erika scanned through the reports. Well, he certainly was thorough. He checked out every lead that Paris was willing to give him. She frowned to herself. He even visited her father's grave. Erika wracked her brain trying to remember any recent intrusions. The Noir crypt was equipped with an alarm to alert the Phantom of any intruders. When could he have come?

Suddenly Erika remembered. The night before the Phantom's return to the Opera, the alarm had sounded. As her duty dictated, Erika went to investigate. She began to piece together in her mind the face of the man that she'd fought with. He was tall and muscular. That she was sure of when he grabbed her, yet he hadn't hurt her. That meant he knew his own strength and had some control over it. Erika closed her eyes as she moved to his face. The shocked look in his blueish grey eyes when he realized his attacker was a woman. Reflecting back, Erika found them to be very beautiful and sharp. In her mind, she traced out the hardened lines of his face. They gave it an edge like he was constantly on the lookout for something he wanted and calculating on getting it with as little loss as possible. His hair was black with a few white spots. It gave him a dignified look.

Erika smiled to herself. So, Professor Moriarty was finally revealed. Not bad, considering he was a dangerous criminal. Erika wasn't sure how dangerous he was, but he did have guts to come into the cellars of the Opera without any prior warning. Erika read the dossier again, trying to gleam any more information from it. Sighing, she put it back down and stared into the fire.

"So, Ayesha, what do I know about this man?" Erika spoke softly to the cat. Ayesha flicked her tail in response. Erika chuckled as the tail brushed her hand.

"He is thorough in gathering information -- even learned where the Phantom was buried. He isn't one to be trifled with, from our encounter with the Count. But he has manners and uses them even with his enemies. Very intelligent and adapts well to difficult situations. Believes in loyalty or otherwise he would have killed some of his underlings by now. Rarely shows emotions when confronted with a problem. Tends to stay composed and in control of himself. He prefers quiet intimidation over physical violence and has the presence for it," Erika listed off for the cat. Ayesha meowed at different points, just to voice her opinion.

Erika smiled. "Let's not forget that he is a very dangerous and cunning criminal mastermind who is looking for the Phantom for reasons that I still can't figure out. Did I miss anything?"

Ayesha looked up at her as if to, say, convey some unknown message. Erika scratched the cat's ears and pondered the problem of Moriarty. She really didn't fear being discovered by either party. Erika had a feeling that Holmes and Lestrade would respect her need to remain unknown. Moriarty might be a little harder to convince, but as a gentleman he would at least keep the knowledge quiet for a bit. It was the Count that concerned her. That loathsome creature should have been shot for what he did five years ago to her poor father and if Erika hadn't been injured, she would have. Erika knew she couldn't tangle with him just yet. It was too soon; he had too many friends.

However, he was back to his old tricks again. This time Erika was ready. She had had three years to develop an antidote to the Count's various poisons and drugs. Erika looked up at the portrait again and smiled. Sure she had musical talent, but she was an accomplished chemist and botanist. She played up her singing ability to cover up what she really could do. After all, the less people knew about that, the better.

Erika leaned back into her chair and closed her eyes. She was very tired from this week's events. Things weren't getting any easier. In two nights, the opera company would be holding its annual Masquerade Ball. As the new prima, Erika was required to attend. She glanced up at her ancestors. Her great-grandfather from at least six generations back would be proud of her costume.

"I just hope I can intimidate as many people as you did," Erika joked at the painting before yawning. Erika curled herself up a little tighter and promptly fell asleep.

Moriarty found himself working overtime, trying to figure out this mystery. Fenwick returned with the news that there were people gathering information on him. He had a sneaking suspicion it was the Phantom sizing up his next opponent. Moriarty picked up the New London Times and read the ad over again. The small ad only read, "Dear Prof. M, Catch me if you can. O.G." Moriarty wasn't sure if he was furious, amused or both. Erika had warned that the Phantom wouldn't be open to his proposal. Moriarty felt a pang of jealousy when he thought of the Phantom having such a beautiful ally.

Moriarty acknowledged the feeling for what it was and dismissed it. After all, Erika was a mystery. Moriarty remembered how her eyes would flash with amusement over something he'd said. Amusement that showed she knew more than she was letting on. He had yet to meet the Phantom and when he did he was going to figure out the relationship between the two. Erika was very cryptic about that and that intrigued Moriarty. She was quite blunt about everything else except that.

Moriarty paused in his thoughts. He was thinking about her a lot lately. Ever since she had appeared at the Opera and sung. He could still remember that warm feeling in his gut when she began to sing. It was the most beautiful sound he had ever heard. He was so moved by it that he wanted to stand by her and just watch her. When she sang, she seemed transformed, as if she were on a higher plane of existence.

Moriarty paused again. Why did he just think that? Certainly he admired her, especially after everything else he learned about her. But he sounded like some lovesick fool. He had a world to conquer before he even entertained any thoughts about a woman, even one as intriguing as Erika. Growling at his thoughts, Moriarty stalked off to bed. He needed to rest, since he was going to descend back into the Underworld of the Opera House.

Lestrade closed her eyes against the sunlight that streamed into the room. She turned into her pillow. Breathing in the musky scent on the pillow, she was reminded of Holmes. The pillow smelled just like him. Her mind played back scenes from a dream she had. She and Holmes were kissing passionately and he seemed to enjoy it. Lestrade chuckled softly to herself. Like that would ever happen. She moved her legs and realized she wasn't in her pajamas. Lestrade looked down and saw that she was still in her dress. Her eyes wildly searched the room for some sign as to what was going on. Soon Sherlock knelt into her line of vision.

"What happened?" Lestrade asked sleepily.

"I'll explain in a second. Tell me are you feeling any urges that are out of the ordinary?" Sherlock questioned back.

"Other than confusion, which is normal when I'm around you? Nothing. What's going on?"

"It seems the Phantom was right." Sherlock smiled to himself, "Any heaviness in your limbs is a side effect of the sedative I had to give you."

"A sedative?! Why?"

"You were very forceful last night, no thanks to a drug someone slipped you."

"ZED! I thought it was a dream. Should I apologize for anything?"

"Since you weren't in control of yourself, no, you shouldn't. However, we seem to be in the Phantom's debt, since he gave me the antidote."

"So I didn't dream it all up."

"No, you didn't."

Slowly, Lestrade decided to sit up. Holmes watched her closely, as if to be sure she could do it. He had sent Watson back to London to have the Irregulars do some research into Erika Noir's past. The woman seemed to be connected with the Phantom, since she was the one to tip off the Phantom as to Lestrade's condition. Sherlock was thankful to her, but he wanted to be sure he knew who they were dealing with.

"Nadir was right." Lestrade grimaced. "I should have watched him more closely."

"Nadir Khan? He was there?"

"Yeah, he was visiting his boyfriend. I didn't catch the man's name."

"I did. Danesh Nemo is his name." Sherlock smiled and explained, "We met earlier."

"Nadir told me not to let the Count take me home. When I reminded him that you and I were rooming together, he seemed relieved."

"The Phantom may have sent him to keep an eye on the Count."

"What did the Count hit me with anyways? Nano-bots?"

"No. A simple herbal concoction designed to increase your hormonal levels that simulate your, ahem, sex drive." Holmes coughed out the last part, "I deduced as much from your behavior and the antidote the Phantom left. He suggested that we talk with Erika Noir about the Count."

"Yeah, I remember he got very nasty when I mentioned her," Lestrade stated as she stood up. "I think there is some history. Also, Erika never did answer my question about her relation to Christine Daae."

"One would think that answer would be obvious. She carries a strong resemblance to the late Madame Daae. We can add that to our list of things to talk to Mademoiselle Noir about."

"When should we go to the Opera House?"

"I was thinking of catching up with her at the Restaurant d'Harmonie. I know for a fact that the opera company goes there after rehearsal. They also confirmed that a young woman matching Mademoiselle Noir's description has been dining there for the last week."

"Wait. Erika had been in town for at least a week before showing up at the Opera?"

"For what purpose I don't know. We will most certainly find out when we question Mademoiselle Noir."

Lestrade nodded as she sat back down on the bed. That was good. She would need to rest. Her body was still fighting the last effects of the sedative. Sherlock sensed that she was still tired. He sat next to her and stated softly, "The Phantom told me that you would be sluggish for a bit. I have a feeling he didn't want to cause you any more harm."

"It just reminds of that time that Culverton Smith held my mind prisoner." Lestrade shivered. She hated remembering that incident, almost as much as that time when William Bern ambushed her when she was younger. Zed, she hated having no control over a situation. She shivered again. Lestrade stiffened, and then relaxed when she felt Sherlock pull her close and hug her tight. In that instant, she knew he had worried over her a great deal.

Erika stretched and yawned as she walked towards the rehearsal room. She hadn't gotten much sleep last night due to some disturbing dreams she'd had. Shrugging her shoulders she hoped to shake them off. Nadir fell in step beside her.

"So how did everything go last night?" Nadir asked urgently.

"She has been marked, Khan. Ruelle, that bastard, marked her as his next victim." Erika growled.

"He didn't."

"No, thankfully she got away somehow. However, Holmes had to deal with the effects of the drug. I left him an antidote and sedative to help."

"This affair is getting dangerous. A strange man has been poking around in the cellars."

"And no one has warned him off? We are losing our touch here."

"Erika, I'm being serious."

"So am I, old friend. But I didn't come back from spending five years in exile only to allow another person to fall victim to his twisted mind. Moriarty wants the Phantom for reasons I still can't understand. He certainly is intelligent enough that he doesn't need another 'genius' around. Holmes and Lestrade are trying to solve a murder and a centuries-old mystery."

"They are looking for you. Erika, how long are you going to play this game?"

"As long as it needs to be played. I will not be persuaded otherwise. The Opera needs a decent soprano right now. I have found a few in the chorus who can fill the role beautifully. All they need is training. As soon as this whole thing is done, I will start their training."

"That's not what I meant."

"I know. I want you to keep tabs on both sides for now, but don't deter them in any way. I want to see who is cleverer."

With that said, Erika turned and stalked to rehearsal. She had her opening in three days' time and needed to be ready for that. Nadir sighed as he remembered something his father said once: all Phantoms could be reasoned with unless they were in love or demanding revenge. Nadir wondered absently which one his friend was in.

MW: (holds up a katana and a package of eggs) Okay, so I didn't hurt the bear, but I haven't a qualm about destroying these eggs. So review.

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